The Epic of Gilgamesh
Death Quotes Page 2
How we cite our quotes:
On entering the House of Dust,
everywhere I looked there were royal crowns gathered in heaps,
everywhere I listened, it was the bearers of crowns who in the past had ruled the land,
but who now served Anu and Enlil cooked meats,
served confections, and poured cool water from waterskins.
In the House of Dust that I entered
there sat the high priest and acolyte,
there sat the purification priest and ecstatic,
there sat the anointed priests of the Great Gods.
There sat Etana, there sat Sumukan,
there sat Ereshkigal, the Queen of the Netherworld.
Beletseri, the Scribe of the Netherworld, knelt before her,
she was holding the tablet and was reading it out to her (Ereshkigal). (7.183-195)
Here, Enkidu is still going on about his spooky dream. This time, the emphasis isn't so much on how the underworld totally stinks, as much as on the fact that absolutely everybody has to go there. When the most powerful people on earth are reduced to the role of table servants in the underworld … well, that's a powerful message about the equalizing power of death.
May the …, the cypress, and the cedar which we destroyed(?) in our anger mourn you.
May the bear, hyena, panther, tiger, water buffalo(?), jackal, lion, wild bull, stag, ibex, all the
creatures of the plains mourn you.
May the holy River Ulaja, along whose banks we grandly used to stroll, mourn you.
May the pure Euphrates, to which we would libate water from our wineskins, mourn you.
May the men of Uruk-Haven, whom we saw in our battle when we killed the Bull of Heaven,
May the farmer …, who extols your name in his sweet work song, mourn you.
May the … of the broad city, who … exalted your name, mourn you.
May the herder …, who prepared butter and light beer for your mouth, mourn you.
May …, who put ointments on your back, mourn you.
May …, who prepared fine beer for your mouth, mourn you.
May the harlot, … you rubbed yourself with oil and felt good, mourn you.
May …, … of the wife placed (?) a ring on you …, mourn you.
May the brothers go into mourning over you like sisters;
… the lamentation priests, may their hair be shorn on your behalf.
Enkidu, your mother and father are in the wastelands,
I mourn you … (8.14-30)
Is someone cutting onions nearby? This is Gilgamesh mourning Enkidu, obvs, and boy does it bring a tear to our eye. Does the fact that Gilgamesh is calling on animals and plants to lament his friend undercut his argument that being remembered after you die makes dying OK? After all, if Gilgamesh is calling on the entire universe to lament Enkidu, doesn't that suggest that it isn't enough for ordinary people to lament him?
My friend, the swift mule, fleet wild ass of the mountain, panther of the wilderness,
after we joined together and went up the mountain,
fought the Bull of Heaven and killed it,
and overwhelmed Humbaba, who lived in the Cedar Forest,
now what is this sleep which has seized you?
You have turned dark and do not hear me!"
But his (Enkidu's) eyes do not move,
he touched his heart, but it beat no longer. (8.38-46)
Even though Gilgamesh's words are about how Enkidu is dead, it still doesn't seem like he totally accepts this fact—he is still talking to a dead guy, after all. This becomes even more clear at the end of this passage, when Gilgamesh touches Enkidu's heart—as though he were trying to see if, by some miracle, Enkidu wasn't actually dead. Ancient Sumerians: they're just like us.