Lament to the Spirit of War
by Enheduanna (circa 2285-2250 BCE)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
You hack down everything you see, War God!
Rising on fearsome wings
you rush to destroy our land:
raging like thunderstorms,
howling like hurricanes,
screaming like tempests,
thundering, raging, ranting, drumming,
Men falter at your approaching footsteps.
Tortured dirges scream on your lyre of despair.
Like a fiery Salamander you poison the land:
growling over the earth like thunder,
vegetation collapsing before you,
blood gushing down mountainsides.
Spirit of hatred, greed and vengeance!
******* of heaven and earth!
Your ferocious fire consumes our land.
Whipping your stallion
with furious commands,
you impose our fates.
You triumph over all human rites and prayers.
Who can explain your tirade,
why you carry on so?
Enheduanna, the daughter of the famous King Saragon the Great of Akkad, is the first ancient writer whose name remains known today. She appears to be the first named poet in human history and the first known author of prayers and hymns. Enheduanna, who lived circa 2285-2250 BCE, is also one of the first women we know by name. She was the entu (high priestess) of the goddess Inanna (Ishtar/Astarte/Aphrodite) and the moon god Nanna (Sin) in the Sumerian city-state of Ur. Enheduanna's composition Nin-me-šara ("The Exaltation of Inanna") details her expulsion from Ur, located in southern Iraq, along with her prayerful request to the goddess for reinstatement. Enheduanna also composed 42 liturgical hymns addressed to temples across Sumer and Akkad. And she was the first editor of a poetry anthology, hymnal or songbook. Now known as the Sumerian Temple Hymns, this was the first collection of its kind; indeed, Enheduanna so claimed at the end of the final hymn: "My king, something has been created that no one had created before." And poems and songs are still being assembled today via the model she established over 4,000 years ago! Enheduanna may also have been the first feminist, as she made Inanna the supreme deity. Keywords/Tags: Enheduanna, translation, Akkad, Sumer, Nanna, Inanna, Ur, Sumerian temple hymns