The Flood, Trial of Sleepessness, Foiled by the Serpent, Triumphant Return
Columns I - VI
Column I
To the most distant and removed of semi-gods, to Utnapishtim,
Gilgamesh said: "When I regard you now, my god-like man,
it's like seeing my own face on calm water
where I dare to study myself.
Like me, you are first of all a fighter who prefers to war-no-more.
How could one like you, so human, all-too-human,
ascend to be at one with other gods?"
10. Utnapishtim said to him in swift reply:
"Only one as bold as you would dare expect
such knowledge. But I shall tell you what
no person has ever been told.
High up the constant Euphrates
there rests a place you call Shuruppak
where gods and goddesses recline.
Then came the flood, sent by gods' intent.
Mama, Anu, and Enlil were at Shuruppak.
So too was their coachman, Ninurta,
20. and Ennugi, the beastiarilis,
and one who watches over precious infants,
the ever vigilant Ea.
And Ea refrained their chant to the higli-grown reeds
upon the shore, giving this advice to me:
'Arise! Arise! Oh wall-like reeds.
Arise and hear my words:
Citizen of Shurtippak, child of Ubaratutu,
abandon your home and build a boat.
Reject the corpse-like stench of wealth.
Choose to live and choose to love;
30. choose to rise above and give back
what you yourself were given.
Be moderate as you flee for survival
in a boat that has no place for riches.
Take the seed of all you need aboard
with you and carefully weigh anchor
after securing a roof that will let in no water.'
"Then I said back in reverent prayer:
'I understand, great Ea.
I shall do just as you say to honor god,
40. but for myself
I'll have to find a reason to give the people.'
"Then Ea voiced a fair reply:
'Tell those who'll need to know
that Enlil hates you.
Say: "I must flee the city now
and go by sea to where Enlil waits to take my life.
I will descend to the brink of Hell
to be with Ea, god,
who will send riches to you like the rain:
50. all manner of birds;
birds ... bonds ... burds...
and the rarest of rare fish.
The land will fill with crops full grown at break of day.
Ea will begin to shower
gifts of life upon you all"."'
Column II
Then Utnapishtim continued, saying words like these:
"By week's end I engineered designs
for an acre's worth of floor upon the ark we built
so that its walls rose straight toward heaven;
60. with decks all round did I design its space;
120 cubits measured its deck.
With division of six and of seven
I patterned its squares and stairs;
left space for portals too,
secured its beams and stockpiled
all that ever could be used.
Pitch for the hull I poured into the kiln
and ordered three full volumes of oil
to start with and two times three more yet.
For what is security?
70. Each day I sacrificed the holy bulls
and chosen sheep for the people
and pushed the laborers to great fatigue
and thirst, allayed alone by wine
which they drank as if it were water running
from barrels set up for holding cheer
in preparation for a New Year's party they expected.
I set up an ointment box
and cleaned my fingers with its cream.
"After one week, the ark was done,
80. though launching was more work than fun
since hull boards caught and snapped
until the water burst most of its great ton.
I supplied the craft with all I owned
of silver, gold, and seed.
My clan brought on the food they'd eat
and all the things we thought we'd need.
At last, it was my turn just then
to shepherd beasts and birds and
babies wet and loud.
90. It was Shamash who ordained the time, saying:
'Prepare the way for your whole boat
and set to sail when the storm
begins to threaten you.'
"The Anunnaki too then cried for them.
The gods themselves, finally suffering, sat up
and let their first tears flow down
cheeks and over lips pressed closed.
Column III
"For the whole next week
the sky screamed and storms wrecked the earth
100. and finally broke the war
which groaned as one in labor's throes.
Even Ishtar then bemoaned the
fates of her sad people.
Ocean silent.
Winds dead.
Flood ended.
Then I see a dawn so still;
all humans beaten to dirt
and earth itself like some vast roof.
110. I peeked through the portal into a morning sun
then turned, knelt and cried.
Tears flooded down my face.
"Then I searched high and low for the shoreline,
finally spotting an island near and dear.
Our boat stuck fast beside Mt. Nimush.
Mt. Nimush held the hull that could not sway
for one whole week.
"I released the watch-bird, to soar in search of land.
The bird came back within a day
exhausted, unrelieved from lack of rest.
120. I then released a swallow, to soar in search of land,
The bird came back within a day
exhausted, unrelieved from lack of rest.
I then released a raven, to soar in search of land.
The bird took flight above more shallow seas,
found food and found release and found no
need to fly on back to me.
"These birds I then released to carth's four corners
and offered sacrifice,
a small libation to the heights of many mountains,
130. from numbered chalices that I arranged.
Under these I spread the scents that gods favored
and when the gods smelled the sweet perfume of sacrifice,
they gathered in flight all above, like apparitions.
Column IV
"From distant heights with heavenly sights,
the female of all female gods descended then;
Aruru who aroused the wry thought
that Anu made for intercourse.
'Great gods from far and wide
keep always in my mind
140. this thought for intercourse,
tokened by the sacred blue medallion on my neck,
Let me recall with smiles
these days in days to come.
Gods of my shoreline, gods of my sky,
come round this food that I prepared for you;
but do not let Enlil enjoy this too,
since he's the one who drowned my relatives
without telling the gods what he set out to do.'
When Enlil saw the boat, he released
150. his calm reason and let in the lgigi, monsters of blood.
'What force dares defy my anger!?
How dare a man be still alive!?'
Then with these words Ninurta said to Enlil:
'Can any of us besides Ea, maker of words,
create such things as speech?'
Then with these words Ea himself said to Enlil:
'Sly god,
sky darkener,
and tough fighter,
160. how dare you drown so many little people
without consulting me?
Why not just kill the one who offended you,
drown only the sinner?
Keep hold of his lifecord; harness his destiny.
Rather than killing rains, set cats at people's throats.
Rather than killing rains, set starvation on dry, parched throats.
Rather than killing rains, set sickness on the minds and hearts
of people.
I was not the one who revealed our god-awful secrets.
Blame Utnapishtim, Mr. Know-it-all,
170. who sees everything,
who knows everything."
"Reflect on these stories, my Gilgamesh."
"Then Enlil swooped down around my boat;
he gently raised me from the slime,
placed my wife beside my kneeling form
and blessed us both at once with hands upon our bowed heads.
So was it ordained.
So we were ordained."
Earlier than that time, Utnapishtim was not divine.
180. Then with his wife he was deified
and sent to rule the place where rivers start.
"Gods sent me everywhere to rule the place where rivers start."
"As for you, Gilgamesh, which gods will be called on
to direct your path and future life?
Arise! Be alert! Stay up with stars for
seven long and sleepless nights!"
But even as he tried to stay awake,
fog-like sleep rolled over his eyes.
Then Utnapishtim said these words:
190. "Dear wife, behold the one who tries to pray
while fog-like sleep rolls over his eyes."
She said to him who rarely talks:
"Arouse him now and let him
leave unharmed. Permit that one
to go back home at last."
Column V
Then Utnapishtim said these words:
"An upset soul can upset many gods.
Be kind with food and generous to him.
But keep a count of how he
200. sleeps and what he eats."
She was kind with food and gentle with the man
and she kept count of how he slept.
"One, two, three, abate,
he slept with death~the-fairy.
Four, five, six, abate,
he looked so cold and wary."
Then he returned from death to breath!
210. So Gilgamesh said to the One-who-rarely-spoke:
"Just as I slipped toward sleep,
you sent my dream."
And to him in reply, Utnapishtim said these words:
"One, two, three, alarie,
you slept with death-the-fairy.
Four, five, six, alarie,
you looked so cold and wary.
Then you arose from death to breath."
So Gilgamesh said to the One-who-rarely-speaks:
"Help me, Utnapishtim. Where is
home for one like me whose self
220. was robbed of life? My own
bed is where death sleeps and
I crack her spine on every line
where my foot falls."
Utnapishtim calls out to the sailor-god:
"Urshanabi, dear, you will never land
again easily or easily sail the seas
to shores where you no more will find safe harbor.
Sandy and disheveled hair does not become
the one you nearly drowned.
230. Shingles now spoil his hidden beauty.
Better find a place to clean him up.
Better race to pools of saltless water soon
so that by noon he'll shine again for all of us to see.
Tie up his curly hair with ribbon fair.
Place on his shoulders broad the happy robe
so that he may return to his native city easily in triumph.
Allow him to wear the sacred elder's cloak
and see that it is always kept as clean
as it can be."
The sailor-god brought Gilgamesh
240. to where they cleaned his wounds.
By noon he shone again for all to see.
He tied his curly hair with ribbon fair,
and placed upon his shoulder broad the happy robe
so he would return to Uruk easily in triumph
with a cloak unstained and unstainable.
Urshanabi and Gilgamesh launched the boat
over the breakers on the beach and
started to depart across the seas.
Column VI
To her distant husband, Utnapishtim's wife said:
250. "This Gilgamesh has labored much to come here.
Can you reward him for traveling back?"
At that very moment, Gilgamesh used paddles
to return his craft along the shore.
Then Utnapishtim called out to him:
"Gilgamesh! You labored much to come here.
How can I reward you for traveling back?
May I share a special secret, one
that the gods alone do know?
There is a plant that hides somewhere among the rocks
260. that thirsts and thrusts itself deep
in the earth, with thistles that sting.
That plant contains eternal life for you."
Immediately, Gilgamesh set out in search.
Weighed down carefully, he dove beneath
the cold, cold waters and saw the plant.
Although it stung him when he grabbed its leaf,
he held it fast as he then slipped off his weights
and soared back to the surface.
Then Gilgamesh said this to Urshanabi, the sailor-god:
270. "Here is the leaf that begins
all life worth having.
I am bound now for Uruk,
and there I'll dare to give
this plant to aged men as food
and they will call it life-giving.
I too intend to eat it
and to be made forever young."
After 10 miles they ate.
280. After 15 miles they set up camp
where Gilgamesh slipped into a pool;
but in the pool, a cruel snake slithered by
and stole the plant from Gilgamesh
who saw the snake grow young again,
as off it raced with the special, special plant.
Right there and then Gilgamesh began to weep
and, between sobs, said to the sailor-god who held his hand:
"Why do I bother working for nothing?
Who even notices what I do?
290. I don't value what I did
and now only the snake has won eternal life. in minutes, swift currents will lose forever
that special sign that god had left for me."
Then they set out again,
this time upon the land.
After 10 miles they stopped to eat.
After 30 miles they set up camp.
Next day they came to Uruk, full of shepherds.
300. Then Gilgamesh said this to the boatman:
"Rise up now, Urshanabi, and examine
Uruk's wall. Study the base, the brick,
the old design. is it permanent as can be?
Does it look like wisdom designed it?
The house of Ishtar in
Uruk is divided into three parts:
the town itself, the palm grove, and the prairie."
Tablet I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII
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