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In the Name of God بسم الله

The Courtship Of Shamhat

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gteverette

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Ninshubu said, " Where have you been?

The bath is ready, night lamps lit,

The night watch is set, the maids wait,

You look so pale, is something wrong?"

I drink dark wine and go to bed.

Over the great sheep folds of Uruk,

Over the great clay pits of Uruk,

Over the market and craft streets,

Over the gardens, the workers homes,

Uruk's high temples reach for our Gods.

Ninshubu is sent for my scribe

To know what I say to any God,

To sit nearby should I travel,

To catch any utterance that falls,

From sleep, this poor vessel of hers.

The lolling of the sheep now quiet,

A mother sings to her newborn,

An old maid gets up the first time,

The second watch replaces the first,

Mars moves near the horn of the moon.

A breeze picks up off the Tigress ,

The rich heady smell of marsh reeds,

The Watch Commander hums a tune,

His manly form masking Venus

Ninshubu said his name is Tummuz.

Through the ripening wheat and barley

Along the great twin river's banks,

Around rival great city states,

Gilgamesh and Enkidu march.

In mine dreams I travel with them.

At the end of the guards third watch,

At first light on the east horizon,

When the roosters announce the day,

Mine scribe come to me to report,

I moved in sleep but did not speak.

At sun up the astrologers

Report and record their night readings,

Venus ascends high in the sky,

Mars is near the horns of the moon,

Potent portents of love and war.

While grinding mine days wheat and oats

Before the temple offerings,

I ask Ninshubar about Tummuz,

The second night watch commander,

The man who hums Shamhat to sleep.

Ninshubar said, “he’s from the marshes

Where they fish and make our baskets.

What is it to Ishtar’s Priestess?

Well, he does carry a manly form,

With a merry tune on his reed pipe.”

His sister is young Geshtinana,

His mother is old Belili,

She makes sure he is never late

To attending his guard duties,

Both lobbied for his station here.”

I said, let both women attend me.

Let Tummuz command mine night watch.

I’ve seen him in Ishtar’s heavens light,

Broad shoulders, strong arms, he carries me away

His melodies sang Shamhat to sleep.

That night, Geshtinana made my bath

Belili lit the night’s scented lamps

Ninshubar anointed my body

Set outside mine seeing, hearing.

Tummuz post mine temple guards.

On the beyond the evening star,

On the beyond the roaming star,

Never horizon to horizon,

Venus visits all the other stars,

Ishtar’s light, mine heaven’s star.

Over the great sheep folds of Uruk,

Over the great clay pits of Uruk,

Over the market and craft streets,

Over the gardens, the worker’s homes,

Uruk’s high temples reach for our Gods.

The lolling of the sheep now quiet

The second watch replaces the first

Mars moves near the horn of the moon

Venus ascends ever higher

Tummuz brings his reed willow pipe

Belili uses her night pot

Geshtinana leaves with her

Ninshubar long dismissed

Tummuz has brought his reed pipe

He plays the words I say to you.

What I tell you weave to music

Let this song pass between lovers

Let it flow from mother to child

Let it pass from old to the young

This song is the soul of Ishtar.

Tummuz the fisherman sang of

Tummuz the Shepherd song of

The Courtship of Goddess Ishtar

His a courtship of her vessel

A song for her woman Shamhat.

Shamhat spoke, “without your mother

Without your sister Geshtinana

You’d be driven into the marsh

Who gave you Isthar’s lover’s name,

You think you are as good as he?”

Tummuz spoke: “do not quarrel lady.

My mother Belili honors her

With the name of Ishtar’s lover

She has taught me Tummuz’s love songs

I sing to honor her, great lady.”

From the starting of the quarrel

Came the passion of two lovers

Hot words melting their heated hearts

In the passion of marsh reed song

Man and woman’s voices bending.

Shamhat answered, “Ishtar’s courtship,

In the song she choose the shepherd

Are you going to sing verse praise,

Of fisherman over shepherds,

Are fisherman better than shepherds?”

“Why do you sing of the shepherd?

Why do you speak of THAT Tummuz?

If he had lamb, I have fresh fish

If he had wool, I have white pearls

I do not sow, I do not herd, I reap.

Let me cast my net for you Lady

Dip my oar in your wet ocean

With measured strokes driving

Ishtar’s vessel on swelling oceans

Fresh, salty, rocking, wild passions.

Open the house, my lady, open up

I have reed baskets filled with grain

I have reed baskets filled with wool

The surplus of farmer and shepherd

Traded for my sister’s baskets.

Open the temple, lady, open up

I have reed baskets of fresh fish

I have reed baskets of fresh shrimp

I have reed baskets of fresh clams

My surplus is for you my lady.

Open your temple great lady,

I cast nets, I throw the harpoon,

But I am not like the hunter

My bounty does not hid from me

My plenty does not run from me.

Open your temple great lady

I dig clams, I harvest oysters

But I am not like the farmer

My bounty does not need plowing

My plenty does not need sowing.

Open your temple great Lady

I fish for the white and silver fish

But I am not like the shepherd

My bounty does not need herding

My plenty does not need watching.

Open your house great lady, open

I have reed baskets of oysters

I have reed baskets of white shrimp

I have reed baskets of white clams

I do not sow, I do not herd, I fish.

Your maid Ninshubar will tell you:

I will treat you like your father

I will treat you like your mother

I will be as close as your brother

I will be as close as your sister”

Shamhat jumped up and ran quickly

Jumped up and ran to Ninshubar

Fanning her breast heat she told all

Ninshubar listened, then counseled.

Fanning herself, Shamhat listened.

“He will treat you like your father

He will treat you like your mother

He will be as close as your brother

He will be as close as your sister

Open your temple door to him.

I will bath and scent your hair

Arrange precious colored lapis beads

I will braid your long black tresses

Enter with the moons light on you

Ishtar’s light shines ever brighter.”

In moon’s light she shone before him

She pressed her neck close against his

Shamhat murmured, “play your reed pipe

Play with your arms around me love

Ishtar opens her door to Tummuz.”

Shamhat crooned, “my boat of heaven

Rocks on the waves of your passion

The wind of your reed pipe music

Fills the sails of my heart’s desire

Sweet man, I have lost my anchor.”

Tummuz replied, “I’m led by stars,

Let me guide this rocking vessel

Let me breathe your fresh ocean sea,

Plowing through waves of your passion

Let me captain Ishtar’s vessel.”

Her high ocean rose to meet him

Then fell with him into her trough

And rose again higher, ever higher

Waves of their passion rolling on

Hands holding her to his set course.

She cried; “reap from my wet sea

Fill my baskets with your treasure

Follow my star to safe harbor

I am the queen of her temple

You may captain Ishtar’s vessel.

Sweet man, I am caught in your net.

Sweet man, lose you fish spear in me.

Come into my boat of heaven.

Plow the waves like the ox plows fields,

Come fisherman, take my rudder.”

I am the fish out of water.

I am caught in your fish net.

Oh sweet man rise in my ocean,

Like the great fish, spouting fountain,

Come fisherman throw your fish spear.

Tummuz held the boat of heaven

He plowed her towering waves

His arms holding her to his course.

He pulled Shamhat in to him

Piloting her ship of heaven.

In the calm after the sea storm

Shamhat lay with her man, Tummuz.

His, the delight of all Sumner.

He watched over Ishtar’s great priestess,

I, Ishtar pulled their boats ashore.

At the end of the guards third watch,

After first light on the east horizon,

After roosters announce the day,

Mine scribe did not come to report,

Old Belili brought our breakfast.

At sun up the astrologers

Report and record their night readings,

Venus ascends high in the sky,

Mars is near a horn of the moon,

Portents of war and crossed lovers.

The pale men’s voices shake with fear

“In the land of the two rivers

Her glance can overthrow an army

Her glance can overthrow cities

Shamhat, you must betray your lover.”

Ninshubar said, “he’s from the marshes

Where they fish and make our baskets.

You are Ishtar’s greatest priestess,

The astrologers speak the truth,

Gilgamesh is king of Uruk.”

That night, Geshtinana made my bath

Belili lit the night’s scented lamps

A young maid anointed my body

Set outside mine seeing, hearing.

Tummuz post mine temple guards.

Shamhat spoke, “without your mother

Without your sister Geshtinana

You’d be driven into the marsh

Who gave you Isthar’s lover’s name,

You think you are as good as he?”

“He replied: “do not quarrel lady.

Why do you speak of the shepherd?

Open up your door great lady

I have brought you fresh oysters.

This is my offering to your temple.

Shamhat said, “you have fresh oysters,

Who will steam them my open my love?

Tummuz said, I will steam them open

Who will shuck the meat my love?

Tummuz said, I will shuck them love

(Shamhat) Come, you open Ishtar’s reed door.

Tummuz held the boat of heaven

He plowed her towering waves

His arms holding her to his course.

He pulled Shamhat in to him

Piloting her ship of heaven.

In the calm after the sea storm

Shamhat lay with her man, Tummuz.

His, the delight of all Sumner.

He watched over Ishtar’s great priestess,

I, Ishtar pulled their boats ashore.

The next night Tummuz at my door

Shamhat warned, “without your mother

Without your loving family

You’d be driven into the marsh

Who gave you Ishtar’s lover’s name?

“He replied: “do not quarrel lady.

Why do you speak of the shepherd?

Open up your door great lady

I have brought you fresh white marsh shrimp.

This is my offering to Shamhat.

Shamhat said, “you have marsh white shrimp?

Who will cook until they are red?”

Tummuz said, I will cook them red.

(Shamhat)“Who will shuck the shell my sweet Love?”

(Tummuz)“I will shell, salt, and butter them”

(Shamhat) “Come into my reed temple door.”

Tummuz held the boat of heaven

He plowed her towering waves

His arms holding her to his course.

He pulled Shamhat in to him

Piloting her ship of heaven.

In the calm after the sea storm

Shamhat lay with her man, Tummuz.

His, the delight of all Sumner.

He watched over Ishtar’s great priestess,

I, Ishtar pulled their boats ashore.

The next night Tummuz at my door

Shamhat spoke, “without your mother

Without your loving family

You’d be driven into the marsh

Who gave you Isthar’s lover’s name,

“He replied: “do not quarrel lady.

Why do you speak of the shepherd?

Open up your door great lady

I have brought you fresh river clams.

My offering to you, Shamhat.

Shamhat said, you have river clams,

Who will steam the clams open love?

Tummuz said, I will steam them love

(Shamhat) Who will pry them open my love?

(Tummuz) My clam knife will open them love.

(Shamhat) Come into my open door man.

Tummuz held the boat of heaven

He plowed her towering waves

His arms holding her to his course.

He pulled Shamhat in to him

Piloting her ship of heaven.

In the calm after the sea storm

Shamhat lay with her man, Tummuz.

His, the delight of all Sumner.

He watched over Ishtar’s great priestess,

I, Ishtar, envious of Shamhat.

At the end of the guards third watch,

After first light on the east horizon,

After roosters announce the day,

Ninshubar said, “your scribe is gone.”

And great Uruk, your city, quakes with fear.

The pale men’s voices also shake

“In the land of the two rivers

Her glance can overthrow an army

Her glance can overthrow cities

Save us, you must betray your lover.

Great lady, have you not seen it!

Venus rids a comets long tail,

Mars is on the horn of the moon,

Certain disaster great lady.”

Save us, you must betray your lover.”

The next night, Tummuz at my door,

Shamhat spoke, “Isthar’s lover’s gift,

Sheep’s pure white wool, her bridal dress,

What do you have that is as pure?”

(Tummuz), “Pearls white as Ishtar’s bridal dress.

Rare even at the lowest tide,

A thousand shells opened for one.

Release me from temple duty,

And your pure bridal dress will gleam,

With treasures from my wide blue seas.

I will be like the great hunter,

seeking that which hides from me.

I will be like the poor farmer,

plowing the low tide oyster beds.

I will be like the shepherd,

who finds the sacrificial lamb.”

Crying tears Shamhat called for it

She called for the Bed of Kingship,

She called for the Bed of Queenship,

Sobbing she made love with passion

Her mind had lost its stone anchor.

The bed that sweetens men’s loins,

Shamhat spread white cotton sheets.

She said, “the bed is ready.”

She said, “the bed is waiting.”

“I will hold to you dear husband.”

The aromatic cedar post

He laid me down on my Queen’s Bed

He laid me down on his King’s Bed

Under the Huluppu tree

Our bridal sheets lost at our feet.

After the morn roosters crowing,

Ninshubar said, “Tummuz is gone.”

He left his sword, he left his shield

Left his mother and his sister

Left with his marsh reed willow song.

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