Siduri Whose Drinks Refresh the Soul, The Boatman, Urshanabi, Gilgamesh Implores Utnapishtim Columns I - VI

Column I
This gentle girl is called Siduri
and she sits by the sea
where she sways from side to side.
She made the water pale; she crafted the first gold bowl
while peeking at the sun
through a slit across her face veil.
King Gilgamesh approached the girl's small cottage by the sea
dressed as a mountain man,
a meat-eater,
10. with an aching heart
and the stare of one setting out upon some
arduous, horrid trek.
The girl who gives her men lifesaving drinks
said to herself, "Beware of the one
coming now. He walks as if he'd kill."
And so Siduri locked the door,
put stones in place, lay on the floor.
When Gilgamesh heard sounds inside
he yelled at her. "Why do you hide?
20. Shall I have to break through this door?"
The girl whose drinks refresh the soul
then said these words to Gilgamesh:
"Is there a simple reason, sir, why you're so sad
or why your face is drawn and thin?
Has chance worn out your youth or did some
wicked sorrow consume you like food?
You look like one setting out on some arduous, horrid trek,
like one exposed to extremes of hot and cold,
like one who searches everywhere for grace."
30. He responded then to her who gives her men
lifesaving drinks:
"Girl, there is no simple reason why I'm so sad
or why my face is drawn and thin.
Chance alone did not wear out my youth. Some
wicked sorrow consumes me like food.
But I do look like one setting out on some
arduous, horrid trek, like one exposed
to extreme hot or cold,
like one who searches everywhere
40. for the breath of life
because my brother, my only true friend, met death;
he who raced wild horses there,
who caught orange tigers here.
This was Enkidu, my soul's good half,
who raced wild horses there,
who caught orange tigers here;
who did all things while he conquered mountains
and divine bulls that race
across the sky like clouds;
50. who gave Humbaba, the woodland god,
reason to weep when he stole through
the wooded path to slaughter lions."
Column II
Gilgamesh continued:
"I greatly loved my friend who was always there for me.
I loved Enkidu who was always there for me.
What awaits us all caught him first
and I did thirst for one whole week to
see him once again in splendor until his body decomposed.
Then I wept for my future death
60. and I fled home for mountaintops to breathe
when my friend's death choked off my wind.
On mountaintops I roamed content to breathe
again when my friend's death choked off my wind.
Walking. Walking. Walking over hills.
Could I sit down to rest?
Could I stop crying then
when my best friend had died
as I will someday do?"
Then Gilgamesh said to the fair girl
70. whose saving drinks gave life to men:
"Tell me, girl, how to get to Utnapishtim.
Where do I look for signs? Show me directions. Help,
Please let me have safe passage over seas.
Give me advice to guide me on my way."
She said to him in swift reply:
"No man has ever gone that way
and lived to say he crossed the sea.
Shamash only ventures there,
only Shamash would dare
80. to stare into the sun.
Pain joins the voyager soon,
and soon the traveler grows weary
where death surrounds the path
on every side with danger."
Column III
The girl whose drinks refresh the soul
then said these words to Gilgamesh:
"Remember always, mighty king,
that gods decreed the fates of all
many years ago. They alone are let
90. to be eternal, while we frail humans die
as you yourself must someday do.
What is best for us to do
is now to sing and dance.
Relish warm food and cool drinks.
Cherish children to whom your love gives life.
Bathe easily in sweet, refreshing waters.
Play joyfully with your chosen wife."
"It is the will of the gods for you to smile
on simple pleasure in the leisure time of your short days."
100. "And what, after all, my fellow man,
would you do when you got to that
far side where Urshanabi dwells
among the hills of Utnapishtim?
He knows only the dead weight of what is dead
and he is one who plays with deadly snakes.
Would you put your lips near his?
if he befriends you then, go on.
But if he walks away, return to me."
With that in mind
110. Gilgamesh took up his chore,
unsheathed his sword, slipped toward the shore
and there joined one who rows the seas of death.
Gilgamesh sliced through the underbrush as an arrow goes through air
while cracking the stones of the sacred columns.
And Urshanabi barely saw the arrow's glint
and too late heard the ax's thud.
And so surprised was he that
there was never any chance to
hide or to deny the daring man
120. at least a chance at
some safe passage.
Gilgamesh traveled on to where he next
found the ferryman of Utnapishtim. This man,
Urshanabi, said to Gilgamesh:
"Your face seems tense; your eyes do not glance well
and Hell itself is part of how you look.
Grief hangs from your shoulders.
You look like one who's been without a home, without a bed
or roof for a long time, wandering the wilds on some random search."
130. Gilgamesh replied to the ferryman:
"Yes sir, it's true my face is tense
and that my eyes seem harsh.
My looks are now so hellish,
for I wear my grief as ill as any other.
I'm not this way as some refugee
without a bed or roof for a long time,
and I don't wander the wilds randomly.
I grieve for Enkidu, my fair companion and true friend,
who chased the strongest mule, the swiftest horse
140. on mountain high, the quickest panther of the flatland.
Together we did all things, climbing sky-high peaks,
stealing divine cattle, humbling the gods, killing Humbaba
and the precious lions, guardians of the sky.
All this I did with my best friend who now is dead.
Mortality reached him first and I am left this week
to weep and wail for his shriveling corpse which scares me.
I roam aloft and alone now, by death enthralled,
and think of nothing but my dear friend.
I roam the lonely path with death upon my mind
150. and think of nothing but my dear friend.
Over many seas and across many mountains I roam.
I can't stop pacing. I can't stop crying.
My friend has died and half my heart is torn from me.
Won't I soon be like him, stone-cold and dead,
for all the days to come?"
Urshanabi replied as he had done before:
"Your face seems tense; your eyes do not glance well
and Hell itself is part of how you look.
Grief hangs from your shoulders.
You look like one who's been without a home, without a bed
160. or roof for a long time, wandering the wilds on some random search."
And Gilgamesh said to him then in swift reply:
"Of course my face seems tense and my eyes seem harsh.
Of course I'm worn out weeping. Why should I not cry?
I've come to ask directions to Utnapishtim, who lives so
free beyond death's deep, deep lake. Where can he be?
Tell me how to venture there where I may learn his secrets."
Finally, Urshanabi uttered these last words to Gilgamesh:
"You yourself have hurt this effort most, sir,
by blasphemy and sacrilege,
170. by breaking idols and by holding the untouchably sacred stones.
You broke stone images!
So now, Mr. Gilgamesh, raise high your ax."
Thus chastised, Gilgamesh
raised high his ax, unsheathed his sword,
did penance too as he chopped down many trees;
prepared them then, and then brought them
to Urshanabi.
After this, they cast off together,
with push and pull they launched the skiff
180. upon the waving sea.
They leaped quick, in three short days
covering a span that any other would
traverse only after months of passage
and soon they sailed on to Death's own sea.
Column IV
Still directing the king's new efforts, Urshanabi called:
"Give me another pull, Gilgamesh, upon the mighty oar
and then another. Give ten times twenty
and then give twenty times ten pulls upon the
mighty oars; then ten more twice; then twice
190. more ten and then confuse the number of
the pulls you put upon the oar
by losing count aloud and starting over."
Halfway through all that pulling,
Gilgamesh had worn the oars to bits
and torn his shirt from off his back
to raise a helping sail upon the mast.
Then Utnapishtim glared down from stars and clouds
and mused aloud, as if to coach the world:
"How could any human dare to break the idols
200. or steer the craft that gods and goddesses use?
This stranger is not fit to tie the shoes of servants.
I do see, but I am blind.
I do know, but cannot understand
how he behaves like
the beasts of here and there."
Column V
Gilgamesh spoke many words to Utnapishtim
and told of strife-in-life and
battles rare. He hailed his friend Enkidu,
acclaimed their pride and grieved the
210. death that saddened his great heart.
Gilgamesh raised his prayer to the remote Utnapishtim:
"oh myth-filled god,
I have traveled many roads,
crossed many rivers and mountains.
I never rested. I never slept. Grief consumed me.
My clothing was ragged by the time I met
the girl who would help me.
I killed all manner of animal in order
to eat and clothe myself.
220. When I was rejected, I stooped to squalor.
Cursed I went,
being unholy."
Utnapishtim replied:
"Why cry over your fate and nature?
Chance fathered you. Your conception was
an accidental combination
of the divine and mortal.
I do not presume to know how to help
the likes of you."
Column VI
230. Utnapishtim continued:
"No man has ever seen Death.
No one ever heard Death's voice
but Death is real and Death is loud.
How many times must a home be restored
or a contract revised and approved?
How many times must two brothers agree
not to dispute what is theirs?
How many wars and how many floods must there be
with plague and exile in their wake?
240. Shamash is the one who can say.
But there is no one else who can
see what Shamash only can see within the sun.
Behold the cold, cold corpse from a distance,
and then regard the body of one who sleeps.
There seems no difference. How can we say
which is good and which is bad?
And it is also like that with other things as well.
Somewhere above us, where the goddess Mammetum decides
all things,
Mother Chance sits with the Anunnaki
250. and there she settles all decrees of fable and of fortune.
There they issue lengths of lives;
then they issue times of death.
But the last, last matter
is always veiled from human beings.
The length of lives can only be guessed."
Thus spoke Utnapishtim.
Tablet I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII
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