Gilgamesh's Lament, The Specter of Mortality, Farewell to Enkidu Columns I - III, V

Column I
Then once again at break of day
did Gilgamesh conclude the silent night
by being first to raise his hands and voice
and he said:
"Oh Enkidu, whose own mother's grace
was every bit as sweet as any deer's
and whose father
raced just as swift and stood as strong
as any horse that ever ran,
10. accept all natural customs
within the limitless confines of the wild
where you were raised by those with
tails, by those with hooves, by
those with fur and whiskers.
All the roads in and out of your great forest
now lie silent, but for the sobbing done by your wild friends.
The aged men and women of Uruk mourn today
and raise their withered palms in prayer
as we carry you by, toward Mount Kur.
20. Grottos weep for you and valleys too
and so do those great trees
upon the shore where you loved to run.
And also crying now are
large bears, little dogs, baby cubs
of lions and of tigers, and even
the hyena now has ceased its laugh.
Wild bull and the rapidest of deer
All, all, all sigh,
All, all, all cry for you.
30. Ulay's lovely riverbanks are swollen on this day
where you did walk as boys alone can do
upon the banks of rivers that mother
their young thoughts about life and death.
Yes, that great brown god, the river Ulay,
today mourns for you as does the
true Euphrates eternal and silent.
Uruk's rugged men mourn for you
who killed that sacrificial bull.
They all weep tears today
40. and those in Eridu, who loved your fame,
and say your name aloud,
they too weep tears today
and all in days to come, even those who knew you not, all may weep tears someday
for your sad lot.
Your favorite aunt, your blessed servant,
your first girlfriend,
your inspiration, your companion, your darling
dear and she you feared to be alone with,
50. all women who ever sat and ate with you,
all men you ever helped with food or drink,
every one and all,
lovers fast and strangers slow.
Those you touched or who touched you
and those who never knew just how you felt.
All and every burst into tears
today because they heard that
you were suddenly dead."
Column II
"I'll cry now, citizens of Uruk, and you
60. will finally hear what no one else
has ever had the nerve to say in sorrow.
I was family and friend to Enkidu and I shall
fill the woodlands where we stalked with loud, sad sobs today.
I cry now, Enkidu, like some crazed woman. I howl.
I screech for you because you were the ax upon my belt
and the bow in my weak hand; the sword within my sheath,
the shield that covered me in battle; my happiest robe,
the finest clothes I ever wore,
the ones that made me look best in the eyes of the world.
70. That is what you were; that is what you'll always be
What devil came to take you off from me?
Brother, you chased down the strongest mule,
the swiftest horse on mountains high,
the quickest panthers in the flatlands.
And they in turn will weep for you.
Birds in the air cry aloud.
Fish in the lake gather together near the shore.
What else heeds this sorrow?
The leaves of the trees and the paths you loved
80. in the forest grow dark.
Night itself murmurs and so too does the day.
All the eyes of the city that once saw your kind face begin to weep.
Why? Because you were my brother and you died.
When we met and fought and loved,
we went up on mountains high to where we dared to capture
god's own strength in one great beast and then to cut its throat,
thus humbling Humbaba, green god of woodlands steep.
Now there is a sleep-like spell on you, and you
are dark as well as deaf."
90. Enkidu can move no more.
Enkidu can lift his head no more.
"Now there is a sound throughout the land
that can mean only one thing.
I hear the voice of grief and I know that you have been taken
somewhere by death.
Weep. Let the roads we walked together flood themselves
with tears.
Let the beasts we hunted cry out for this:
the lion and the leopard, the tiger and the panther.
Let their strength be put into their tears.
100. Let the cloud-like mountain where you killed
the guardian of woodland treasures
place grief upon its sky-blue top.
Let the river which soothed our feet overflow its banks
as tears do that swell and rush across my dusty cheeks.
Let the clouds and stars race swiftly with you into death.
Let the rain that makes us dream
tell the story of your life tonight.
Who mourns for you now, Brother?
Everyone who knew you does.
110. The harvesters and the farmers who used to bring you grain
are standing alone in their fields.
The servants who worked in your house
today whispered your name in empty rooms.
The lover who kissed every part of you
touches her chilled lips with scented fingers.
The women of the palace sit
and stare at the queen of the city.
She sobs and sobs and sobs.
The men with whom you played so bold
120. speak fondly of your name.
Thus they deal with this misfortune.
But what do I do? I only know that a cruel fate robbed me
of my dearest friend too soon.
What state of being holds you now? Are you lost forever?
Do you hear my song?"
"I placed my hand upon your quiet heart."
One brother covered the set face of another
with a bride-white veil.
"I flew above you then as if I were an eagle."
130. Then, like some great cat whose darling young have sadly died
Gilgamesh slides back and forth fixed mindlessly on grief.
He commands many men to erect statues of honor, saying:
"Make his chest a noble blue and on his honored body place a jewel
as will allow all viewers then to see how great he was,
how great he'll always be."
Next day, Gilgamesh rose from a restless sleep.
Column III
Then Gilgamesh continued with his bird-like words:
"On a pedestal I will honor your corpse
by setting you
140. above all earthly princes who will celebrate you
when people from all distant lands
both rich and poor in spirit
acclaim your memory.
And when you are gone,
never again to wear good clothes or care for food,
I'll still remember how you dressed and how you ate.
" When day did break again next morn,
Gilgamesh stripped off the lion's cloak and
rose to say this prayer:
150. "Your funeral is a precious
gesture I made to hide my own guilt."
Goodbye, dear brother
Ave atque vale, frater (1)
Sat sell akai meripra (2)
Debna bune wood wordema (3)
Slan agat, seancbara (4)
Shalom. (5)
Shlama / Shlomo. (6)
Column V
Still grieving reverently
160. after he arose next day, Gilgamesh imagined the Annunaki
who decide the fate of
those who go to the underworld.
After learning how to pause his heart,
Gilgamesh created just the same image
in the face of a river.
At break of day,
on the sacred table made of special wood,
the grieving king placed a consecrated bowl of blue
filled with butter and with honey too
170. and this he offered up in solemn prayer
to Shamash, lord god.
Tablet I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII
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