The Epic of Ishtar and Izdubar

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Invocation - Alcove 1, Tablet 1: Column 1

O Love, my queen and goddess, come to me;
My soul shall never cease to worship thee;
Come pillow here thy head upon my breast,
And whisper in my lyre thy softest, best,
And sweetest melodies of bright Sami,[1]
Our Happy Fields[2]above dear Subartu;[3]
Come nestle closely with those lips of love
And balmy breath, and I with thee shall rove
Through Sari[4]past ere life on earth was known,
And Time unconscious sped not, nor had flown.
Thou art our all in this impassioned life:
How sweetly comes thy presence ending strife,
Thou god of peace and Heaven's undying joy,
Oh, hast thou ever left one pain or cloy
Upon this beauteous world to us so dear?
To all mankind thou art their goddess here.
To thee we sing, our holiest, fairest god,
The One who in that awful chaos trod
And woke the Elements by Law of Love
To teeming worlds in harmony to move.
From chaos thou hast led us by thy hand,
[5]Thus spoke to man upon that budding land:
"The Queen of Heaven, of the dawn am I,
The goddess of all wide immensity,
For thee I open wide the golden gate
Of happiness, and for thee love create
To glorify the heavens and fill with joy
The earth, its children with sweet love employ."
Thou gavest then the noblest melody
And highest bliss grand nature's harmony.
With love the finest particle is rife,
And deftly woven in the woof of life,
In throbbing dust or clasping grains of sand,
In globes of glistening dew that shining stand
On each pure petal, Love's own legacies
Of flowering verdure, Earth's sweet panoplies;
By love those atoms sip their sweets and pass
To other atoms, join and keep the mass
With mighty forces moving through all space,
'Tis thus on earth all life has found its place.
Through Kisar,[6] Love came formless through the air
In countless forms behold her everywhere!
Oh, could we hear those whispering roses sweet,
Three beauties bending till their petals meet,
And blushing, mingling their sweet fragrance there
In language yet unknown to mortal ear.
Their whisperings of love from morn till night
Would teach us tenderly to love the right.
O Love, here stay! Let chaos not return!
With hate each atom would its lover spurn
In air above, on land, or in the sea,
O World, undone and lost that loseth thee!
For love we briefly come, and pass away
For other men and maids; thus bring the day
Of love continuous through this glorious life.
Oh, hurl away those weapons fierce of strife!
We here a moment, point of time but live,
Too short is life for throbbing hearts to grieve.
Thrice holy is that form that love hath kissed,
'And happy is that man with heart thus blessed.
Oh, let not curses fall upon that head
Whom love hath cradled on the welcome bed
Of bliss, the bosom of our fairest god,
Or hand of love e'er grasp the venging rod.
Oh, come, dear Zir-ri,[7] tune your lyres and lutes,
And sing of love with chastest, sweetest notes,
Of Accad's goddess Ishtar, Queen of Love,
And Izdubar, with softest measure move;
Great Samas'[8] son, of him dear Zir-ri sing!
Of him whom goddess Ishtar warmly wooed,
Of him whose breast with virtue was imbued.
He as a giant towered, lofty grown,
As Babil's[9] great pa-te-si[10] was he known,
His armed fleet commanded on the seas
And erstwhile travelled on the foreign leas;
His mother Ellat-gula[11] on the throne
From Erech all Kardunia[12] ruled alone.

The Fall of Erech - Tablet 1: Column 2

O Moon-god,[13] hear my cry! With thy pure light
Oh, take my spirit through that awful night
That hovers o'er the long-forgotten years,
To sing Accadia's songs and weep her tears!
'Twas thus I prayed, when lo! my spirit rose
On fleecy clouds, enwrapt in soft repose;
And I beheld beneath me nations glide
In swift succession by, in all their pride:
The earth was filled with cities of mankind,
And empires fell beneath a summer wind.
The soil and clay walked forth upon the plains
In forms of life, and every atom gains
A place in man or breathes in animals;
And flesh and blood and bones become the walls
Of palaces and cities, which soon fall
To unknown dust beneath some ancient wall.
All this I saw while guided by the stroke
Of unseen pinions:

Then amid the smoke
That rose o'er burning cities, I beheld
White Khar-sak-kur-ra's[14] brow arise that held
The secrets of the gods - that felt the prore
Of Khasisadra's ark; I heard the roar
Of battling elements, and saw the waves
That tossed above mankind's commingled graves.
The mighty mountain as some sentinel
Stood on the plains alone; and o'er it fell
A halo, bright, divine; its summit crowned
With sunbeams, shining on the earth around
And o'er the wide expanse of plains; - below
Lay Khar-sak-kal-ama[15] with light aglow,
And nestling far away within my view
Stood Erech, Nipur, Marad, Eridu,
And Babylon, the tower-city old,
In her own splendor shone like burnished gold.
And lo! grand Erech in her glorious days
Lies at my feet. I see a wondrous maze
Of vistas, groups, and clustering columns round,
Within, without the palace; - from the ground
Of outer staircases, massive, grand,
Stretch to the portals where the pillars stand.
A thousand carved columns reaching high
To silver rafters in an azure sky,
And palaces and temples round it rise
With lofty turrets glowing to the skies,
And massive walls far spreading o'er the plains,
Here live and move Accadia's courtly trains,
And see! the pit-u-dal-ti[16] at the gates,
And masari[17] patrol and guard the streets!
And yonder comes a kis-ib, nobleman,
With a young prince; and see! a caravan
Winds through the gates! With men the streets are filled!
And chariots, a people wise and skilled
In things terrestrial, what science, art,
Here reign! With laden ships from every mart
The docks are filled, and foreign fabrics bring
From peoples, lands, where many an empire, king,
Have lived and passed away, and naught have left
In history or song. Dread Time hath cleft
Us far apart; their kings and kingdoms, priests
And bards are gone, and o'er them sweep the mists
Of darkness backward spreading through all time,
Their records swept away in every clime.
Those alabaster stairs let us ascend,
And through this lofty portal we will wend.
See! richest Sumir rugs amassed, subdue
The tiled pavement with its varied hue,
Upon the turquoise ceiling sprinkled stars
Of gold and silver crescents in bright pairs!
And gold-fringed scarlet curtains grace each door,
And from the inlaid columns reach the floor:
From golden rods extending round the halls,
Bright silken hangings drape the sculptured walls.

But part those scarlet hangings at the door
Of yon grand chamber! tread the antique floor!
Behold the sovereign on her throne of bronze,
While crouching at her feet a lion fawns;
The glittering court with gold and gems ablaze
With ancient splendor of the glorious days
Of Accad's sovereignty. Behold the ring
Of dancing beauties circling while they sing
With amorous forms in moving melody,
The measure keep to music's harmony.
Hear! how the music swells from silver lute
And golden-stringed lyres and softest flute
And harps and tinkling cymbals, measured drums,
While a soft echo from the chamber comes.
But see! the sovereign lifts her jewelled hand,
The music ceases at the Queen's command;
And lo! two chiefs in warrior's array,
With golden helmets plumed with colors gay,
And golden shields, and silver coats of mail,
Obeisance make to her with faces pale,
Prostrate themselves before their sovereign's throne;
In silence brief remain with faces prone,
Till Ellat-gula[18] speaks: " My chiefs, arise!
What word have ye for me? what new surprise?"
Tur-tau-u,[19] rising, says, "O Dannat[20] Queen!
Thine enemy, Khum-baba[21] with Rim-siu[22]
With clanging shields, appears upon the hills,
And Elam's host the land of Sumir fills."
"Away, ye chiefs! sound loud the nappa-khu![23]
Send to their post each warrior bar-ru![24]
The gray embattlements rose in the light
That lingered yet from Samas'[25] rays, ere Night
Her sable folds had spread across the sky.
Thus Erech stood, where in her infancy
The huts of wandering Accads had been built
Of soil, and rudely roofed by woolly pelt
O'erlaid upon the shepherd's worn-out staves,
And yonder lay their fathers' unmarked graves.
Their chieftains in those early days oft meet
Upon the mountains where they Samas greet,
With their rude sacrifice upon a tree
High-raised that their sun-god may shining see
Their offering divine; invoking pray
For aid, protection, blessing through the day.
Beneath these walls and palaces abode
The spirit of their country - each man trod
As if his soul to Erech's weal belonged,
And heeded not the enemy which thronged
Before the gates, that now were closed with bars
Of bronze thrice fastened.

See the thousand cars
And chariots arrayed across the plains!
The marching hosts of Elam's armed trains,
The archers, slingers in advance amassed,
With black battalions in the centre placed,
With chariots before them drawn in line,
Bedecked with brightest trappings iridine,
While gorgeous plumes of Elam's horses nod
Beneath the awful sign of Elam's god.
On either side the mounted spearsmen far
Extend; and all the enginery of war
Are brought around the walls with fiercest shouts,
And from behind their shields each archer shoots.

Thus Erech is besieged by her dread foes,
And she at last must feel Accadia's woes,
And feed the vanity of conquerors,
Who boast o'er victories in all their wars.
Great Subartu[26] has fallen by Sutu[27]
And Kassi,[28] Goim[29] fell with Lul-lu-bu,[30]
Thus Khar-sak-kal-a-ma[31] all Eridu[32]
O'erran with Larsa's allies; Subartu
With Duran[33] thus was conquered by these sons
Of mighty Shem and strewn was Accad's bones
Throughout her plains, and mountains, valleys fair,
Unburied lay in many a wolf's lair.
Oh, where is Accad's chieftain Izdubar,
Her mightiest unrivalled prince of war?

The turrets on the battlemented walls
Swarm with skilled bowmen, archers --- from them falls
A cloud of winged missiles on their foes,
Who swift reply with shouts and twanging bows;
And now amidst the raining death appears
The scaling ladder, lined with glistening spears,
But see! the ponderous catapults now crush
The ladder, spearsmen, with their mighty rush
Of rocks and beams, nor in their fury slacked
As if a toppling wall came down intact
Upon the maddened mass of men below.
But other ladders rise, and up them flow
The tides of armed spearsmen with their shields;
From others bowmen shoot, and each man wields
A weapon, never yielding to his foe,
For death alone he aims with furious blow.
At last upon the wall two soldiers spring,
A score of spears their corpses backward fling.
But others take their place, and man to man,
And spear to spear, and sword to sword, till ran
The walls with slippery gore; but Erech's men
Are brave and hurl them from their walls again.
And now the battering-rams with swinging power
Commence their thunders, shaking every tower;
And miners work beneath the crumbling walls,
Alas! before her foemen Erech falls.
Vain are suspended chains against the blows
Of dire assaulting engines.

     Ho! there goes
The eastern wall with Erech's strongest tower!
And through the breach her furious foemen pour:
A wall of steel withstands the onset fierce,
But thronging Elam's spears the lines soon pierce,
A band of chosen men there fight to die,
Before their enemies disdain to fly;
The masari[34] within the breach thus died,
And with their dying shout the foe defied.
The foes swarm through the breach and o'er the walls,
And Erech in extremity loud calls
Upon the gods for aid, but prays for naught,
While Elam's soldiers, to a frenzy wrought,
Pursue and slay, and sack the city old
With fiendish shouts for blood and yellow gold.
Each man that falls the foe decapitates,
And bears the reeking death to Erech's gates.
The gates are hidden 'neath the pile of heads
That climbs above the walls, and outward spreads
A heap of ghastly plunder bathed in blood.
Beside them calm scribes of the victors stood,
And careful note the butcher's name, and check
The list; and for each head a price they make.
Thus pitiless the sword of Elam gleams
And the best blood of Erech flows in streams.
From Erech's walls some fugitives escape,
And others in Euphrates wildly leap,
And hide beneath its rushes on the bank
And many 'neath the yellow waters sank.

The harper of the Queen, an aged man,
Stands lone upon the bank, while he doth scan
The horizon with anxious, careworn face,
Lest ears profane of Elam's hated race
Should hear his strains of mournful melody:
Now leaning on his harp in memory
Enwrapt, while fitful breezes lift his locks
Of snow, he sadly kneels upon the rocks
And sighing deeply clasps his hands in woe,
While the dread past before his mind doth flow.
A score and eight of years have slowly passed
Since Rim-a-gu, with Elam's host amassed,
Kardunia's ancient capital had stormed.
The glorious walls and turrets are transformed
To a vast heap of ruins, weird, forlorn,
And Elam's spears gleam through the coming morn.
From the sad sight his eyes he turns away,
His soul breathes through his harp while he doth play
With bended head his aged hands thus woke
The woes of Erech with a measured stroke:

O Erech! dear Erech, my beautiful home,
   Accadia's pride, O bright land of the bard,
Come back to my vision, dear Erech, oh, come!
   Fair land of my birth, how thy beauty is marred!
The horsemen of Elam, her spearsmen and bows,
   Thy treasures have ravished, thy towers thrown down,
And Accad is fallen, trod down by her foes.
   Oh, where are thy temples of ancient renown?

Gone are her brave heroes beneath the red tide,
   Gone are her white vessels that rode o'er the main,
No more on the river her pennon shall ride,
   Gargan-na is fallen, her people are slain.
Wild asses[35] shall gallop across thy grand floors,
   And wild bulls shall paw them and hurl the dust high
Upon the wild cattle that flee through her doors,
   And doves shall continue her mournful slave's cry.
 
Oh, where are the gods of our Erech so proud,
   As flies they are swarming away from her halls,
The Sedu[36] of Erech are gone as a cloud,
   As wild fowl are flying away from her walls.
Three years did she suffer, besieged by her foes,
   Her gates were thrown down and defiled by the feet
Who brought to poor Erech her tears and her woes,
   In vain to our Ishtar with prayers we entreat.
 
To Ishtar bowed down doth our Bel thus reply,
   "Come, Ishtar, my queenly one, hide all thy tears,
Our hero, Tar-u-man-i izzu Sar-ri,[37]
   In Kipur is fortified with his strong spears.
The hope of Kardunia,[38] land of my delight,
   Shall come to thy rescue, upheld by my hands,
Deliverer of peoples, whose heart is aright,
   Protector of temples, shall lead his brave bands.
 
Awake then, brave Accad, to welcome the day!
   Behold thy bright banners yet flaming on high,
Triumphant are streaming on land and the sea!
   Arise, then, O Accad! behold the Sami![39]
Arranged in their glory the mighty gods come
   In purple and gold the grand Tam-u[40] doth shine
Over Erech, mine Erech, my beautiful home,
   Above thy dear ashes, behold thy god's sign!


References


[1] "Samu" heaven.

[2] "Happy Fields," celestial gardens, heaven.

[3] "Subartu," Syria.

[4] "Sari," plural form of "saros," a cycle or measurement of time used by the Babylonians, 3,600 years.

[5] From the "Accadian Hymn to Ishtar," terra-cotta tablet numbered "S, 954," one of the oldest hymns of a very remote date deposited in the British Museum by Mr. Smith. It comes from Erech, one of the oldest if not the oldest, city of Babylonia. We have inserted a portion of it in its most appropriate place in the epic. See translation in "Records of the Past," vol. 5. P. 157

[6] "Kisar," the consort or queen of Sar, father of all the gods

[7] " Zir-ri " (Pronounced "zeer-ree") short form of "Zi-aria," spirits of the running rivers - naiads or water-nymphs.

[8] "Samas," the sun-god.

[9] Babil, Babylon; the Accadian name was "Diu-tir" or "Duran."

[10] "Pa-te-si," prince.

[11] "Ellat-gula," one of the queens or sovereigns of Erech, supposed to have preceded Nammurabi or Nimrod on the throne. We have identified Izdubar herein with Nimrod.

[12] "Kardunia," the ancient name of Babylonia.

[13] "O Moon-god, hear my cry!" ("Siu lici unnini!") the name of the author of the Izdubar epic upon which our poem is based.

[14] "Khar-sak-kur-ra," the Deluge mountain on which the ark of Khasisadra (the Accadian Noah) rested.

[15] "Khar-sak-kal-ama" is a city mentioned in the Izdubar epic, and was probably situated at the base of Khar-sak-kur-ra, now called Mount Elwend. The same mountain is sometimes called the "Mountain of the World" in the inscriptions, where the gods were supposed to sometimes reside.

[16] "Pit-u-dal-ti," openers of the gates.

[17] "Masari," guards of the great gates of the city, etc.

[18] "Ellat-gula" the queen of Erech the capital of Babylonia.

[19] "Tur-tan-u" was the army officer or general who in the absence of the sovereign took the supreme command of the army, and held the highest rank next to the queen or king.

[20] "Dannat" (the "Powerful Lady") was a title applied to the Queen, the mother of Izdubar (Sayce's ed. Smith's "Chal. Acc. of Gen.," p. 184).  We have here identified her with Ellat-gula, the Queen of Babylon, who preceded Ham-murabi or Nammurabi, whom the inscriptions indicate was an Accadian.  The latter we have identified with Nimrod, following the suggestion of Mr. George Smith.

[21] "Khumbaba" was the giant Elamitic king whom Izdubar overthrew.  We identify him with the King of the Elamites who, allied with Rimsin or Rimagu, was overthrown by Nammurabi or Izdubar.

[22] "Rim-siu," above referred to, who overthrew Uruk, or Karrak, or Erech.  He was King of Larsa, immediately south of Erech.

[23] "Nap-pa-khu," war-trumpet.

[24] "Bar-ru," army officer.

[25] "Samas," the sun-god.

[26] "Subartu" is derived from the Accadian "subar" ("high"), applied by the Accadians to the highlands of Aram or Syria. It is probable that all these countries, viz., Subartu, Goim, Lullubu, Kharsak-kalama, Eridu, and Duran, were at one time inhabited by the Accadians, until driven out by the Semites.

[27] "Sutu" is supposed to refer to the Arabians.

[28] "Kassi," the Kassites or Elamites. The Kassi inhabited the northern part of Elam.

[29] "Goim," or "Gutium," supposed by Sir Henry Rawlinson to be the Goyim of Gen. xiv, ruled by Tidal or Turgal ("the Great Son").

[30] "Lul-lu-bu," a country northward of Mesopotamia and Nizir.

[31] "Kharsak-kala-ma," the city supposed to lie at the base of Kharsakkurra, or Mount Nizir or Mount Elwend. The same city was afterward called Ecbatana.

[32] "Eridu" the land of Ur or Erech.

[33] "Duran" Babylonia.

[34] "Masari," guards of the palace, etc.

[35] See Sayce's translation in the "Chal. Acc. of Gen.," by Smith, p. 193.

[36] "Sedu," spirits of prosperity.

[37] "Tar-u-mani izzu Sarri," son of the faith, the fire of kings, or fire-king.

[38] "Kardunia," the ancient name of Babylon

[39] "Sami," heavens (plural).

[40] "Tamu," dawn or sunrise, day.


Last Update:    07/14/2001
Copyright (c) 2001 by Bruce J. Butterfield.
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