The Quest for Immortality The Scorpion
Columns I - VI
Column I
Then Gilgamesh wept some more
for his dead friend. He wandered
over barren hills, mumbling to his own spirit:
"Will you too die as Enkidu did?
Will grief become your food? Will we both
fear the lonely hills, so vacant?
I now race from place to place,
dissatisfied with wherever I am and
turn my step toward Utnapishtim,
10. godchild of Ubaratutu,
who lives a pious life in fair Dilmun
where the morning sun arises as it
does in paradises lost and won.
As if in sleep I come upon the mountain door at midnight
where I face wild-eyed lions and I am afraid.
Then to Sin, the god of mighty light,
I raise my solemn chant to beg:
'Save me, please, my god."'
Despite respite

20. he could not sleep or dream that night.

Instead he wandered through the woods
so like a savage beast just then
did he bring death again and again
upon the lions' heads
with an ax he drew
from off his belt.
Column II
When he finally reached the base of
Mt. Mashu, Gilgamesh began to
climb the double cliff
30. that guides the rising and setting of Shamash.
Now these identical towers touch
the distant, distant sky,
and far below, their breasts descend toward Hell.
Those who guard the gate are
poison scorpions
who terrorize all, whose spells bring death.
And then resplendent power
thrives all across the town
where I was born
40. and rises farther still to
mountain tops.
At dawn and dark they shield Shamash.
And when he sensed them there,
Gilgamesh could not dare to look
upon their threat;
but held his glance away,
suspended fear,
and then approached in dread.
One among the guardians there
50. said this to his wife:
"The one who comes toward us
is partly divine, my dear."
And then the same one said
to the god-like part of Gilgamesh:
"Eternal heart, why make
this long, long trip
trying to come to us
through travail? Speak now."
Column III
Gilgamesh said: "I come by here
60. to visit my elder, my Utnapishtim,
the epitome of both life everlasting and
death that is eternal."
The poison scorpion guardian said:
"No mortal man has ever
come to know what you seek
here. Not one of all your kind
has come so far, the distance
you would fall if you fell
all day and all night into the pit
70. and through great darkness
where there is no light
without Shamash who raises
and lowers the sun;
to where I let no one go,
to where I forbid anyone to enter."
Column IV
Heartache pain abounds
with ice or fire all around.
The scorpion one,
I do not know whether a man or a woman,
80. said then:
"Gilgamesh, I command you
to proceed
to highest peaks
over hills toward heaven.
With all permissions given here, I approve your venture."
So Gilgamesh set out then over
that sacred, sacred path within the mountains of Mashu,
near that incarnate ray of sunshine
90. precious to Shamash.
Oh dark, dark, dark, dark.
Oh the night, unholy and blind,
that wrapped him as soon as he stepped
forth upon that path.
Column V
Beneath a moonless, starless sky,
Gilgamesh was frozen and unseeing
by time before midnight;
by midnight's hollow eye
100. he was unseen and frozen.
At 1 a.m. he tripped and fell
blinded and frozen.
At 2 a.m. he staggered on
blinded and frozen.
At 3 a.m. he faltered not
blinded and frozen.
By 4 a.m. his second wind warmed him who still was
blinded and frozen.
And at your final dawn,
110. son of man, you will see only
a heap of broken images in an ascending
light that gives you sight you may not want,
for you will then behold all precious goods
and gardens sweet as home to you, as exile,
boughs of blue, oh unforgotten gem,
as true as any other memory from any other previous life.
Column VI
Then along the path
Gilgamesh traveled fast
and came at length to
120. shorelines fresh with dew.
And there he met a maiden,
one who knows the secrets of the sea.
Tablet I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII
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