To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Stuart Kendall: from “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” newly revisioned (with a note on the translation)


He who saw the depths
the wellspring
the foundation
Who experienced all things
went everywhere
Saw the hidden
Returned with word
from before the flood
Who made a distant journey
in peace
Left his story
in stone

He built the walls of Uruk-the-Sheepfold
Sacred Eanna
the storehouse
the sanctuary

See the upper wall gleam
the inner wall unequaled
Scale the ancient stone
stairs to Eanna
house of Ishtar

Unmatched by later kings
Study the foundations
the bricks
Kiln fired
laid by seven sages
A square sar each
of city
and quarry
one half sar
Three and a half sar square

Find the copper tablet box
Release its bronze lock
Raise the lid of secrets
Take and read the tablet of lapis lazuli
The travails of Gilgamesh

. . . . . . .

[The Dream of Enkidu]

Enkidu spoke to Gilgamesh:

‘My friend
I had a dream last night
The skies thundered
The earth echoed the call
And I was in between them
A man with a somber face
like Anzu
a lion-headed thunderbird
His hands
            the paws of a lion
His nails
            eagle talons
Seized my hair
            capsized me
                        like a raft
I struck him but he swung
Like a rope
Like a raft
He overturned me
like a bull
He trampled me
My body in a slaver
I cried out
‘Save me
my friend’
But you did not save me
You were afraid and did not save me

He turned me into a dove
Bound my limbs like a bird
Brought me to the house of darkness
seat of Irkalla
That none ever leave
Down the road
            without return 
To the house without light
Where dust is food
And clay bread
Where they are clad as feathered birds
Dwelling in darkness
Dust thick on the door
I entered
Saw crowns in a heap
Those crowned who once ruled the lan
Once served roasts
 breads and cool libations
To Anu and Enlil
I entered the house of dust
Of priests and acolytes
Prophets and mystics
Those who sang in praise of the gods
Old King Etana
The Queen of the Underworld
The scribe
beside her
Holding a tablet
Reading it
‘Who brought this man?’

The day of the dream
His strength ran out

Enkidu on his sickbed
One day
Two days
Three days
Four days
Five days
Six days
Seven days
Enkidu worsened

Eight days
Nine days
Ten days
Enkidu worsened

Eleven days
Twelve days
Enkidu on his sickbed

He called Gilgamesh:
‘My friend
Against me
The greatest curse
I feared the fight
My friend in the fight
I …

The death of Enkidu

A note on the translation

It is very difficult to be both a poet and an historian.
Charles Olson, Mayan Letters

This new version of Gilgamesh should not be mistaken for a new scholarly translation of the ancient work. Rather, following Stephen Mitchell’s distinction between versions and translations, it is a new version of the text that aspires to be more faithful to the original texts, more thoroughly grounded in a wider range of scholarship, and more emotionally satisfying, in a deeper way than the other available versions. The originality of this Gilgamesh, I hope, consists in its poetics and theology rather than in its philology, which derives from the work of the leading scholars of ancient Mesopotamian life and language.

Composed, copied, and passed down over more than 2,500 years, the Gilgamesh poems present a palimpsest of ancient Middle Eastern cultic and courtly lyrics and lore. Their earliest figures echo experiences that may be Paleolithic in origin. Their final transcriptions were transformations into Egyptian, Greek, Hebrew, and Islamic myths and scriptures. Modern scholarly translations of Gilgamesh often dilute the expressive force of the material through scrupulous erudition or textual dispersion, providing too much information or too little. Modern popular versions frequently gloss over gaps in the text with accessible, ecumenical language. In this new version, I have attempted to inform the latest scholarship with a contemporary poetic sensibility, inspired by the pagan worldview of the ancient work. I have drawn upon transcriptions of all of the available tablets and tales to present a holistic Gilgamesh, which aspires to be true to the archaic mind.

Stuart Kendall
Oakland, California


Ed Baker said...

even pre-Paleolithic ? I mean
myths do/did precede any writing (on those cave walls)

via an oral-ality... out beyond and back into our collective unconscious
the reality of the mind
compliments just a real as "the material/scientific" world ?

we just might gather our "selves" around a 30,000 year-old fire-in-a-cave

re:claim our basic shamanistic humanity ?

sounds like an actual getting beyond the "literal'physical" as not being the only criterion of truth

(as Jung writes) ""there are also psychic truths which can neither be explained nor proved not contested in any physical way."

Homer did not sprain full blown... the stores were already there ... they just came-through-him

Ed Baker said...

pee est:

ever hear Charles Olson read (I think it is called) ENIALION


read it out loud in an empty room?

imagine that room a cave deep down in and the words/voice BOOMING off of the walls...

all around SACRED SOUND
as what you excerpts here...

(I first "heard" this sound via my own writing in Song of Chin especially the "preface to Song of Chin"



this opens OPENS hittingtheground run

A miricle
more ordinary than
the grass
under our feet
the hot sun
as it dazzles
eyes & skin