Early Ride Upon Sumir’s Plain, And Hand-To-Hand Conflict on The Banks Of The Euphrates
The night is fleeing from the light of dawn,
Which dimly falls upon the palace lawn;
The King upon his royal “dum-khi” sleeps,
And to his couch again Queen Ishtar creeps.
In spite his dream to dismal thoughts she turns,
Her victim tosses, now with fever burns:
He wildly starts, and from his “dum-khi” springs,
While loud his voice throughout the palace rings:
“Ho! vassals! haste to me! your King!” he cries,
And stamping fiercely while his passions rise.
The “sukhu-li” and “masari” rush in:
“What trouble, Sar? have foes here come within?”
Then searching around they in his chamber rush,
And eagerly aside the curtains push.
The King yet paces on the floor with strides
That show the trouble of his mind, and chides
Them all as laggards; “Soon the sun will rise:
My steed prepared bring hence!” he turning cries.
He mounts and gallops through the swinging gates,
Nor for attendance of his vassals waits.
Nor turns his face toward the “nam-za-khi”,
Who quickly opened for the King to fly
Without the gates; across the plains he rides
Away unmindful where his steed he guides.
The horse’s hoofs resound upon the plain
As the lone horseman with bewildered brain,
To leave behind the phantoms of the night,
Rides fiercely through the early morning light,
Beyond the orange orchards, citron groves,
‘Mid feathery date-palms he reckless roves.
The fields of yellow grain mid fig-trees flash
Unseen, and prickly pears, pomegranates, dash
In quick succession by, till the white foam
From his steed’s mouth and quiv’ring flanks doth come;
Nor heeds the whitened flowing mane, but flies,
While clouds of dust him follow, and arise
Behind him o’er the road like black storm clouds,
While Zu the storm-bird onward fiercely goads
The seven raven spirits of the air,
And Nus-ku opens wide the fiery glare
Of pent-up lightnings for fierce Gibil’s hand,
Who hurls them forth at Nergal’s stern command,
And Rimmon rides triumphant on the air,
And Ninazu for victims doth prepare,
The King rides from the road into the wild,
Nor thought of danger, his stern features smiled
As the worn steed from a huge lion shied,
Which turning glanced at them and sprang aside;
Now Zi-pis-au-ni fly before the King.
And yellow leopards through the rushes spring.
Upon Euphrates’ banks his steed he reins,
And views the rosy wilds of Sumir’s plains.
He looked toward the east across the plain
That stretched afar o’er brake and marshy fen,
And clustering trees that marked the Tigris’ course;
And now beyond the plain o’er fields and moors,
The mountain range of Zu o’er Susa’s land.
Is glowing ‘neath the touch of Samas’ hand;
For his bright face is rising in the east,
And shifting clouds from sea and rising mist,
The robes of purple, violet and gold,
With rosy tints the form of Samas fold.
The tamarisk and scarlet mistletoe,
With green acacias’ golden summits glow,
And citron, olives, myrtle, climbing vine,
Arbutus, cypress, plane-tree rise divine;
The emerald verdure, clad with brilliant hues,
With rose-tree forests quaffs the morning dews.
The King delighted bares his troubled brow,
In Samas’ golden rays doth holy bow.
But see! a shadow steals along the ground!
And trampling footsteps through the copses sound,
And Izdubar, his hand placed on his sword,
“Who cometh o’er mine Erech’s sward?”
An armed warrior before him springs;
The King, dismounted, his bright weapon swings.
“‘Tis I, Prince Dib-bara, Lord Izdubar,
And now at last alone we meet in war;
My soldiers you o’erthrew upon the field,
But here to Nuk-khu’s son thine arm shall yield!”
The monarch eyes the warrior evil-born,
And thus replies to him with bitter scorn:
“And dost thou think that Samas’ son shall die
By a vile foe who from my host did fly?
Or canst thou hope that sons of darkness may
The Heaven-born of Light and glory slay?
As well mayst hope to quench the god of fire,
But thou shalt die if death from me desire.”
The giant forms a moment fiercely glared,
And carefully advanced with weapons bared,
Which flash in the bright rays like blades of fire,
And now in parry meet with blazing ire.
Each firmly stood and rained their ringing blows,
And caught each stroke upon their blades, till glows
The forest round with sparks of fire that flew
Like blazing meteors from their weapons true;
And towering in their rage they cautious sprung
Upon each, foiled, while the deep Suk-ha rung.
At last the monarch struck a mighty blow,
His foeman’s shield of gold, his blade cleft through;
And as the lightning swung again his sword,
And struck the chieftain’s blade upon the sward,
A Sedu springs from out the tangled copse,
And at his feet the sword still ringing drops.
The King his sword placed at his foeman’s throat
“Hal-ca to yon waiting boat!
Or I will send thy body down this stream!
“Ca is-kab-bu! va kal-bu!” whence you came!”
The chief disarmed now slunk away surprised,
And o’er the strength of Sar-dan-nu surmised.
The King returns, and rides within the gate
Of Erech, and the council entered late.
[Footnote 1: “Dum-khi,” couch.]—-[Footnote 2: “Su-khu-li rabi,” attendants of the King.]—-[Footnote 3: “Masari,” guards of the palace.]—-[Footnote 4: “Nam-za-ki,” openers of the gates.]—-[Footnote 5: “Zu,” the divine bird of the storm-cloud, the god worshipped by Izdubar, the god who stole the tablets of heaven.]—-[Footnote 6: The seven wicked spirits in the form of men with faces of ravens.]—-[Footnote 7: “Nus-ku,” the gate-keeper of thunder.]—-[Footnote 8: “Gibil,” the god of fire and spells and witchcraft.]—-[Footnote 9: “Ner-gal,” director of the storms, the giant King of War, the strong begetter.]—-[Footnote 10: “Rimmon,” the god of storms and hurricanes.]—-[Footnote 11: “Nin-a-zu,” the goddess of fate and death.]—-[Footnote 12: “Zi-pis-au-ni,” spirits of the papyri, or reeds.]—-[Footnote 13: Mountain range of Zu. The ancient name is unknown, but as Susa takes its name from Zu, the divine bird of the storm-cloud, we have given the mountains of Susiana their probable ancient name.]—-[Footnote 14: “Dib-bara” (“the darkening one”), the son of Nuk-khu. He is supposed to have been the viceroy of Khumbaba, and led the attack upon Erech.]—-[Footnote 15: “Nuk-hu,” or “Nuk-khu,” the god of darkness and sleep. He is sometimes called “Cus-u.”]—-[Footnote 16: “Suk-ha,” wood or grove, or a forest.]—-[Footnote 17: “Hal-ca!” “Go!”]—-[Footnote 18: “Ca is-kab-bu! va kal-bu!” “Thou fool and dog!” “Ca” (“thou”) is the short form of “cat-ta” or “ca’a”; generally it appears as “at-ta.”]—-[Footnote 19: “Sar-dan-nu,” the great King.]
THE COMMENTARY GAZETTE®
SOURCE: Babylonian and Assyrian Literature (1901); Translated by Leonidas Le Cenci Hamilton, M.A.
CONTRIBUTOR: John Hague