The Epic of Gilgamesh
How we cite our quotes:
I am going to die!—am I not like Enkidu?!
Deep sadness penetrates my core,
I fear death, and now roam the wilderness—
I will set out to the region of Utanapishtim, son of Ubartutu, and will go with utmost dispatch! (9.2-5)
This is major, Shmoopers: Gilgamesh is actually changing. For starters, he's shifting from lamenting his friend to lamenting for himself, because he will have to die too someday. This also shows a shift from his attitude near the beginning of the poem (see the first quotation from this section), when he seemed to think that death really wasn't a big deal. But accepting death is the last thing on Gilgamesh's mind at this point. Instead, he is determined to do something about it: he will go see Utanapishtim, the one human being who received immortality. Does Gilgamesh's decision to go see Utanapishtim make sense, or is it just another way of refusing to accept the inevitable?
Six days and seven nights I mourned over him
and would not allow him to be buried
until a maggot fell out of his nose.
I was terrified by his appearance(?),
I began to fear death, and so roam the wilderness. (10.61-72)
This is Gilgamesh filling in Siduri, the tavern-keeper in the underworld. What's cool here is the complicated interweaving of feelings of grief over his friend and grief for himself—plus, check out that gritty realism. Maggots!
No one can see death,
no one can see the face of death,
no one can hear the voice of death,
yet there is savage death that snaps off mankind.
For how long do we build a household?
For how long do we seal a document?
For how long do brothers share the inheritance?
For how long is there to be jealousy in the land(?)? (10.290-301)
Utanapishtim is trying—and failing—to satisfy Gilgamesh's curiosity about death. Basically, it's impossible to know what death is, and human life is incredibly brief, so you've just got to deal. But Gilgamesh isn't listening—not yet.