(The Boatman Of The Seer Khasisadra–They Build A Ship And Embark On An Unknown Sea, And On Their Voyage Pass Through The Waters Of Death)
And Izdubar turned from the Halls and goes
Toward a fountain in the park, whence flows
A merry stream toward the wood.
He finds An axe beside the fount, and thoughtful winds,
Through groves of sandal-wood and mastic-trees
And algum, umritgana. Now he sees
The sig-a-ri and ummakana, pines,
With babuaku; and ri-wood brightly shines
Among the azuhu; all precious woods
That man esteems are grown around, each buds
Continuous in the softened, balmy air.
He stops beneath a musrilkanna where
The pine-trees spread toward the glowing sea,
Wild mingled with the surman, sa-u-ri.
The King, now seated, with himself communes,
Heeds not the warbling of the birds, and tunes
Of gorgeous songsters in the trees around,
But sadly sighing gazes on the ground:
“And I a ship must build; alas! I know
Not how I shall return, if I thus go.
The awful Flood of Death awaits me there,
Wide-stretching from this shore–I know not where.”
He rests his chin upon his hand in thought,
Full weary of a life that woe had brought;
He says: “When I remember Siduri,
Whose heart with fondest love would comfort me
Within these Happy Halls, why should I go
To pain and anguish, death, mayhap, and woe?
But will I thus desert my kingdom, throne?
For one I know not! What! my fame alone!
Mine honor should preserve! and royal state!
Alas! this Fame is but a dream of–Fate!
“A longing after that which does not cheer
The heart. Applause of men, or thoughtless sneer,
Is naught to me, I am alone! alone!
This Immortality cannot atone
For my hard fate that wrings mine aching heart.
I long for peace and rest, and I must start
And find it, leave these luring bright abodes,–
I seek the immortality of gods.
This Fame of man is not what it doth seem,
It sleeps with all the past, a vanished dream.
My duty calls me to my kingdom, throne!
To Khasisadra go, whose aid alone
Can save my people from an awful fate
That hangs above them, born of Fiends of hate.
And I shall there return without my seer!
I live; and he is dead. Why did I hear
His words advising me to come? Alas!
I sadly all my weary days shall pass;
No one shall love me as my seer, my friend.
“But what said Siduri?–There comes an end
At last to sorrow, joy will hopeful spring
On wings of Light! Oh, how my heart will sing!
I bless ye all, ye holy spirits here!
Your songs will linger with me, my heart cheer;
Upon my way I turn with joy again!
How true your joyful song! your memory then
Will keep me hopeful through yon darkened way;
How bright this land doth look beside the sea!”
He looks across the fields; the river glows
And winds beside taprani-trees, and flows
By teberinth and groves of tarpikhi
And ku-trees; curving round green mez-kha-i,
Through beds of flowers, that kiss its waves and spring
Luxuriant,–with songs the groves far ring.
Now thinking of the ship, he turns his eyes,
Toward the fountain,–springs up with surprise!
“‘Tis he! the boatman comes! Ur-Hea comes!
And, oh! at last, I’ll reach the glistening domes
Of Khasisadra’s palaces,–at last
My feet shall rest,–upon that land be placed.”
And now Ur-Hea nearer makes his way,
And Izdubar addressing him, doth say:
“Ur-Hea is thy name? from yonder sea
Thou comest, from the seer across the way?”
“Thou speakest truth, great Sar, what wouldst thou have?”
“How shall I Khasisadra reach? The grave
He hath escaped, Immortal lives beyond,
For I to him upon my way am bound;
Shall I the waters cross or take my way
Through yon wide desert, for I start this day?”
“Across the sea we go, for I with thee
Return to him,–I know the winding way.
Thine axe of bronze with precious stones inlaid
With mine, we’ll use beneath the pine-trees’ shade.”
And now, within the grove a ship they made,
Complete and strong as wise Ur-Hea bade.
They fell the pines five “gar” in length, and hew
The timbers square, and soon construct a new
And buoyant vessel, firmly fixed the mast,
And tackling, sails, and oars make taut and fast.
Thus built, toward the sea they push its prow,
Equipped complete, provisioned, launch it now.
An altar next they raise and thus invoke
The gods, their evil-workings to revoke:
“O Lord of Charms, Illustrious! who gives
Life to the Dead, the Merciful who lives,
And grants to hostile gods of Heaven return,
To homage render, worship thee, and learn
Obedience! Thou who didst create mankind
In tenderness, thy love round us, oh, wind!
The Merciful, the God with whom is Life,
Establish us, O Lord, in darkest strife.
O never may thy truth forgotten be,
May Accad’s race forever worship thee.”
One month and fifteen days upon the sea,
Thus far the voyagers are on their way;
Now black before them lies a barren shore,
O’ertopped with frowning cliffs, whence comes a roar
Of some dread fury of the elements
That shakes the air and sweeping wrath foments
O’er winds and seas.
And see! a yawning cave,
There opens vast into a void dislave,
Where fremed shadows ride the hueless waves.
Dread Ninazu whose deathless fury craves
For hapless victims lashes with a roar
The mighty seas upon that awful shore.
The Fiends of Darkness gathered lie in wait,
With Mammitu, the goddess of fierce hate,
And Gibil with his spells, and Nibiru
The twin-god of black Fate, and grim Nusku
The keeper of red thunders, and Urbat
The dog of Death, and fiend of Queen Belat;
And Nuk-khu, and the black-browed Ed-hutu
The gods of darkness here with Tsi-lat-tu.
And see! Dark Rimmon o’er a crag alone!
And Gibil with his blasting malisoun,
Above with his dark face maleficent,
Who wields a power o’er men omnipotent
Forlore! forlore! the souls who feel that blast
Which sweeps around that black forbidding coast!
Fierce whirling storms and hurricanes here leap,
With blasting lightnings maltalent and sweep
The furious waves that lash around that shore,
As the fierce whirl of some dread maelstrom’s power!
Above the cavern’s arch! see! Ninip stands!
He points within the cave with beckoning hands!
Ur-Hea cries: “My lord! the tablets say,
That we should not attempt that furious way!
Those waters of black death will smite us down!
Within that cavern’s depths we will but drown.”
“We cannot go but once, my friend, that road,”
The hero said, “‘Tis only ghosts’ abode!”
“We go, then, Izdubar, its depths will sound,
But we within that gloom will whirl around,
Around, within that awful whirlpool black,–
And once within, we dare not then turn back,–
How many times, my friend, I dare not say,
‘Tis written, we within shall make our way.”
The foaming tide now grasped them with its power,
And billowed round them with continuous roar;
Away! they whirl! with growing speed, till now
They fly on lightnings’ wings and ride the brow
Of maddened tempests o’er the dizzy deep.
So swift they move,–the waves in seeming sleep
Beneath them, whirling there with force unseen.
But see! Updarting with a sulphurous gleen,
The hag of Death leaps on the trembling prow!
Her eyes, of fire and hate, turns on them now!
With famine gaunt, and haggard face of doom,
She sits there soundless in the awful gloom.
“O gods!” shrieked Izdubar in his despair,
“Have I the god of Fate at last met here?
Avaunt, thou Fiend! hence to thy pit of Hell!
Hence! hence! and rid me of thy presence fell!”
And see! she nearer comes with deathless ire,
With those fierce, moveless, glaring eyes of fire!
Her wand is raised! she strikes!
“O gods!” he screams;
He falls beneath that bolt that on them gleams,
And she is gone within the awful gloom.
Hark! hear those screams!
“Accurst! Accurst thy doom!”
And lo! he springs upon his feet in pain,
And cries: “Thy curses, fiend! I hurl again!”
And now a blinding flash disparts the black
And heavy air, a moment light doth break;
And see! the King leans fainting ‘gainst the mast,
With glaring eyeballs, clenched hands,–aghast!
Behold! that pallid face and scaly hands!
A leper white, accurst of gods, he stands!
A living death, a life of awful woe,
Incurable by man, his way shall go.
But oh! the seer in all enchantments wise
Will cure him on that shore, or else he dies.
And see! the vessel’s prow with shivering turns,
Adown the roaring flood that gapes and churns
Beneath like some huge boiling cauldron black,
Thus whirl they in the slimy cavern’s track.
And spirit ravens round them fill the air,
And see! they fly! the cavern sweeps behind!
Away the ship doth ride before the wind!
The darkness deep from them has fled away,
The fiends are gone!–the vessel in the spray
With spreading sails has caught the glorious breeze,
And dances in the light o’er shining seas;
The blissful haven shines upon their way,
The waters of the Dawn sweep o’er the sea!
They proudly ride up to the glowing sand,
And joyfully the King springs to the land.
[Footnote 1: This remarkable prayer is to be found among a collection of prayers which are numbered and addressed to separate deities. It seems that the prayers were originally Accadian, and were afterward adopted by the Assyrians, and made to apply to one god (Hea). Professor Oppert and Professor Sayce think, however, that they are connected in one hymn to Hea. This may have been so after the Assyrians adopted them, but they are distinct, and addressed to separate gods. The one we have selected is addressed to Hea, the Creator of Mankind, Sayce edition Smith’s “C.A.G.,” pp. 75 to 80. The one we have selected is found at the top of page 77, idem.]–[Footnote 2: “Gibil,” the god of fire, of spells and witchcraft.]–[Footnote 3: “Nibiru,” the god of fate, and ruler of the stars.]–[Footnote 4: “Nusku,” the gatekeeper of thunders.]–[Footnote 5: “Urbat,” the dog of Death.]–[Footnote 6: “Belat” or “Allat,” the Queen of Hades.]–[Footnote 7: “Ed-hutu,” god of darkness.]–[Footnote 8: “Tsi-lat-tu,” shades of night.]–[Footnote 9: “Rimmon,” god of storms.]–[Footnote 10: “Ninip,” god of bravery and war.]–[Footnote 11: “Tablets.” This may mean charts or scrolls similar to the charts used by modern navigators. Babylon communicated with all nations in commerce.]
SOURCE: Babylonian and Assyrian Literature; Alcove II, Tablet VIII (1901): Translated by Leonidas Le Cenci Hamilton, M.A.