"The Epic of Gilgamesh"

"The Epic of Gilgamesh"

by Alex Boehmke

 

I.

 

How can I rest;

How can I be at peace?

 

Why have you come on so great a journey;

for what have you traveled so far,

crossing dangerous waters?

 

Now that I have toiled and strayed so far over

the wilderness, am I to sleep, and

let the earth cover my head forever?

 

If you are the great Gilgamesh,

why is despair in your heart and your face

like the face of one who has made a long journey?

 

Why should not my cheeks be starved and my face drawn?
 

Where are you hurrying to?

 

How can I be silent,

how can I rest, when the brother whom I love is dust, and

I too shall die and be

laid in the earth? You live by the sea shore and

look into the heart of it; young woman,

tell me which is the way to man who

survived the flood?

 

Why are your cheeks so starved and your face drawn?

Why is despair in your heart and your face

like the face of one who has made a long journey?

 

Why should not my cheeks be starved and my face drawn?

How can I be silent,

how can I rest?

 

What is your name, you whose cheeks are starved and face drawn?

Where are you hurrying to now?

For what reason have you made this great journey,

crossing the seas whose passage is difficult?

 

How shall I find the life for which I am searching?

 

Do we build a house to stand forever,

do we seal a contract to hold for all time,

do the flood-time rivers endure?

What is there between

the master and the servant

when both have fulfilled their doom?

 

Tell me truly, how is it that you came to enter

the company of the gods and possess

everlasting life?

 

As for you, Gilgamesh, who will

assemble the gods

for your sake, so that you may

find the life

for which you are searching?

II.

 

What my brother is

now shall I be when

I am dead. Because

I am afraid of death,

I seek the Faraway,

the man who survived

the flood and joined

the assembly of the gods.

 

The common lot of man has taken my brother.

I have wept for him day and night,

I would not give up his body for burial,

I thought my friend would come back because of weeping.

Since he went, my life is nothing.

That is why I have travelled here in search of the Faraway,

the man who survived

the flood, my father.

I have a desire to question him

concerning the living and the dead.

 

You will never find the life for which you are searching.

 

Let my eyes see the sun until they are

dazzled with looking. Although I am no better than

a dead man, still

let me see the light of the sun.

 

The end of mortality has overtaken my brother, whom I loved.

I wept for him seven days and nights

‘till the worm was in his mouth. Because of my brother

I am afraid of death, because of my brother

I stray through the wilderness and cannot rest.

 

You will never find the life for which you are looking.

 

Give me directions. I will

cross the ocean if it is possible. If it is not, I will

wander still further in the wilderness.

 

Despair is in my heart, and my face is

the face of one who has made a long journey.

My friend, my younger brother, who was very dear to me, whom I loved, the end of

mortality

has overtaken him. I wept for him seven days and nights

‘till the worm was in his mouth. Because of my brother

I stray through the wilderness.

 

His fate lies heavy on me.

He is dust and

I too shall die and be

laid in the earth forever.

I am afraid of death, therefore,

give me directions to the Faraway. If it is possible, I will

cross the waters of death; if it is not I will

wander still farther through the wilderness.

 

I am Gilgamesh of Uruk, from the house of Anu. I wish to question you concerning

the living and the dead.

III.

 

You will never

find the life for which you are looking. When the gods

created man they allotted him

death, but life they retained for their own keeping. Though

you are two-thirds god,

you are one-third man, so as for you, Gilgamesh,

fill your belly with good things;

day and night,

night and day,

dance and be merry,

feast and rejoice.

Let your clothes be fresh,

bathe yourself in water,

cherish the little child

that holds your hand, and

make your wife happy in your embrace;

for this too is the lot of man.

 

There is no permanence.

From the days of old,

there is no permanence. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nancy K. Sandars, The Epic of Gilgamesh an English version with an introduction. Harmondsworth Penguin Books, 1962.


Alex Boehmke is a resident of NYC, is studying physics at Wellesley College.