The Epic of Gilgamesh
Man and the Natural World Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
When Shamash heard what his mouth had uttered,
he suddenly called out to him from the sky:
"Enkidu, why are you cursing the harlot, Shamhat,
she who fed you bread fit for a god,
she who gave you wine fit for a king,
she who dressed you in grand garments,
and she who allowed you to make beautiful Gilgamesh your brother comrade?" (7.122-128)
Shamash doesn't like what he's hearing from Enkidu. Here, he reminds Enkidu of all the good things that have come with civilization—like Enkidu's new friendship with Gilgamesh. But notice that Shamash never breathes a word in support of the trapper. Why do you think the god doesn't stick up for him?
"May the Roads of Enkidu to the Cedar Forest mourn you
and not fall silent night or day.
May the Elders of the broad city of Uruk-Haven mourn you.
May the peoples who gave their blessing after us mourn you.
May the men of the mountains and hills mourn you.
May the …
May the pasture lands shriek in mourning as if it were your mother." (8.2-13)
These lines come from Gilgamesh's lamentations over the body of Enkidu. In them, he calls on not only human beings to mourn for Enkidu, but the natural world as well. And not only animals from the natural world, but even inanimate entities, like mountains and hills and pasture lands. What is Gilgamesh thinking when he calls on these entities? Is he just talking metaphorically, or does he really think that these parts of the non-human world will join in mourning for his friend? (And if they do—does anyone make tissues big enough for a weeping pasture?)
"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. (8.14-25)
Gilgamesh doesn't only call on the human world to lament his friend, but on the natural world as well. Is the idea that he wants the whole world to be lamenting his friend? Note that, in these lines, Gilgamesh also emphasizes some very specific parts of human technology, like butter and beer, and the actions of a harlot who rubbed Enkidu with oil. Based on these details, would you say that Gilgamesh agrees or disagrees with the curse Enkidu placed on the trapper and Shamhat (before the god Shamash helped him change his mind)?