Ishtar's Proposal, A scathing Rejection, Ishtar's Revenge: The Bull of Heaven, The Slaughter of the Bull, Enkidu's Ominous Dream

Gilgamesh bathed himself and cleaned his hair,
as beautiful as it was long.
He cast off bloodied robes and put on his favorite gown,
secured the cincture and stood royal.
Then Gilgamesh put on his crown.
Ishtar looked up at Gilgamesh's handsome pride.
"Come to me," she whispered. "Come to me and be my groom.
Let me taste all parts of you,
treat you as husband, be treated as your wife.
10. And as a gift I'd give to you
one regal coach of gold and blue
with wheels of yellow and all so new
that I would flatter all your might
with the sight of demons driven off
by my own god, by my own man.
Come to my home, most sweetly scented of all places,
where holy faces wash your feet with tears as
do the priests and priestesses of gods like Anu.
All mighty hands of kings and queens
20. will open doors for you.
So too will all the countryside donate
in duplicate to your fold.
And the slow will race ahead for you,
so that by association, all that you touch
will turn to gold."
Gilgamesh replied to mighty Ishtar thus:
"But how could I repay you as a wife
and still avoid the bitterness and strife that follow you?
Is it perfume for a dress you want, or me?
30. My self or something wrapped around a tree?
Do I offer you food, sweet nuts or grapes?
Are those for gods or for the savage apes?
And who will pour a treat to us in bed,
you dressed for life and me as if I'm dead?
Here's a song I made for you
Ishtar's the hearth gone cold,
a broken door, without the gold;
a fort that shuts its soldiers out,
40. a water well that's filled with doubt;
tar that can't be washed away,
a broken cup, stained and gray;
rock that shatters to dust and sand,
a useless weapon in the hand;
and worse than that or even this,
a god's own sandal filled with piss.
You've had your share of boys, that's true,
but which of them came twice for you?
Let me now list the ones that you just blew away.
50. First was Tammuz, the virgin boy you took
after a three-year-long seductive look.
Then you lusted for a fancy, colored bird
and cut its wing so it could not herd.
Thus in the lovely woods at night
bird sings, 'I'm blind. I have no sight.'
You trapped a lion, too, back then.
Its cock went in your form-as-hen.
And then you dug him seven holes
in which to fall on sharpened poles.
60. You let a horse in your back door
by laying on a stable floor;
but then you built the world's first chain
to choke his throat and end his reign.
You let him run with all his might,
as boys will sometimes do at night,
before you harnessed his brute force
with labor fierce, a mean divorce.
So did his mother weep and wail
to see her child's foot set with a nail.
70. You fondled once a shepherd boy
who baked buns for your tongue's joy
and daily killed his lambs so coy.
So in return for gifts like those
you chose to lupinize his toy.
And when his brothers saw his penis
they knew you'd done something heinous.
Ishullanu trimmed your father's trees
and brought you carrots, dates and peas.
So mighty you sat down to feasts,
80. then turned your thoughts to raping beasts.
You saw him naked once and said:
'Come, Ishullanu, into my bed
and force your force into my head.
Place your fingers where men dread
to touch a girl who's dead.'
And he in turn said this to you:
'What is it that you'd have me do?
I know, kind mother, I won't eat
if I can't match your female heat.
90. But would you have me sing and sin
as my whistle goes both out and in?'
So since he balked to play that role,
you switched his jewel into a mole;
stuck in the muck of a marshy town
his pleasure can't go up or down.
And that is how you'd deal with me
if we got friendly, warm, and free."
When Ishtar heard his words so cruel,
she lost her cool and played the fool
loo by blasting off for daddy's distant star,
where she said: "Daddy, daddy, daddy, please,
Gilgamesh called me a tease."
"Gilgamesh said I sinned and lived
without faith in myself or others," she pouted.
Her father, Anu, said these exact words to Ishtar:
"Now, daughter, did you first insult him,
this Gilgamesh who then began to taunt you
with jibes about your inclinations?"
Ishtar shouted back at him-who-is-her-father:
110. "You! Now! Make him stop! Loose the
bull who could trample him at once.
Let the bull spill his blood.
And you'd better do this now or I'll
wreak havoc of my own right down to Hell.
I'll loose the goddamn devil. I'll rain corpses.
I'll make zombies eat infants and there will be
more dead souls than living ones!".
Her father, Anu, said these exact words to Ishtar:
"But if I do what you seem now to want,
120. there would be long years of drought
and sorrow. Have you stored enough
reserve to feed the people who
deserve your close protection?"
And she said:
"Yes, I have reserved a plan for those I love. Now do as I demand
and punish all who insult me."
Then her father, Anu, heard Ishtar's cry
and Ishtar forced her will.
130. Anu set loose a bull from out of the sky and,
at the bull's proclamation, there cracks the
earth to swallow up nine dozen citizens of Uruk!
An earthquake fixed a grave for nine dozen citizens of Uruk.
Two or three or four hundred victims,
maybe more than that, fell into Hell.
And when the quake returned for a third time,
it was near to Enkidu,
he who fell upon the Abyss so wide and grim.
Enkidu collapsed near the earth-shaking bull.
140. Then he leaped to grab the bull by his long horns
even with spit upon his face from out the savage mouth, .
even with the stench of bowels near his nose.
Then Enkidu said to Gilgamesh:
"Brother, you and I are now hailed as one.
How could we defeat a god?
Brother, I see great challenge here, but can we dare defy such force?
Let's kill it if we can right now.
Be unrelenting and hope that god
gives us the strength.
150. We must be cold and strong
to cut our enemy's weak neck."
Enkidu surrounds the bull, pursuing Heaven's beast
and finally catches him.
So Gilgamesh, like a bull dancer,
svelte and mighty then,
plunged his sword into the throat held fast by Enkidu.
They butchered and bled the bull and then cut out its heart
to offer as sacrifice before Shamash.
Then Gilgamesh and Enkidu retreated
160. from the altar itself and stood afar
in deep respect as they did pray.
At last the two sat down, bound by war, bound by worship.
Ishtar appeared upon Uruk's walls
looking like a wailing widow.
She shrieked this curse aloud:
"Damn Gilgamesh, who injured me,
by slaughtering a divine bull."
Enkidu reacted to these words of Ishtar quick
by hurling at her head a hunk of meat from the bull's thigh.
170. And from afar he shouted up to her:
"This bloody mess of a plain bull would
be about what I could make of you
if you came near. I'd tie
your hands with these rope-like intestines."
Ishtar signaled then for her attendants:
coiffured bishops, cantors, and girls
whose charms keep worshippers coming.
Then atop the great wall above the city high
standing by the severed part of its right thigh,
180. she had them shriek laments for the bull who'd died.
So to complete this ritual and adorn his throne
Gilgamesh summoned artisans of all kinds.
Some measured the diameter of the bull's horns,
each containing thirty pounds of lapis lazuli.
Together those horns could hollow hold
half a dozen quarts of oil.
And that is what Gilgamesh brought as potion
to the altar of Lugalbanda, his special protector.
He carried the horns and enshrined them in a palace
190. of honor where his clan held rites.
Then Enkidu and Gilgamesh absolved their
bloody hands in the forgiving river,
the deep, eternal Euphrates that does not change.
At last relieved of such a stain, the friends renew
their vows with a brief embrace
before riding through Ur-uk's crowded streets
amid acclaim. There Gilgamesh stops to
give this speech to gathered girls:
"What man is most impressive now?
200. Who is finest, firmest, and most fair?
Isn't Gilgamesh that man above men
and isn't Enkidu the strongest of all?"
Then they party loudly throughout the day
so that, come night, they drop down dead in sleep.
But Enkidu is resurrected quickly
to relieve his soul of fright
and sadly he asks Gilgamesh in tears:
"Oh brother, why would I dream that gods sat round to set my fate?"
Tablet I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII
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