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Temple Hymn 26: an Excerpt

to the Zabalam Temple of Inanna
by Enheduanna (circa 2285-2250 BCE)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

O house illuminated by beams of bright light,
dressed in shimmering stone jewels,
awakening the world to awe!

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 high priestess of the goddess Inanna (Ishtar/Astarte/Aphrodite) and the moon god Nanna (Sin) in the Sumerian city-state of Ur. Keywords/Tags: Enheduanna, translation, Zabalam, Inanna, Akkad, Sumer, Ur, Sumerian temple hymns
The Exaltation of Inanna: Opening Lines, an Excerpt

Nin-me-šara
by Enheduanna (circa 2285-2250 BCE)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Lady of all divine powers,
Lady of the all-resplendent light,
Righteous Lady clothed in heavenly radiance,
Beloved Lady of An and Uraš,
Mistress of heaven with the holy diadem,
Who loves the beautiful headdress befitting the office of her high priestess,
Powerful Mistress who has seized all seven divine powers,
My lady, you are the guardian of the seven divine powers!
You have seized the divine powers,
You hold the divine powers in your hand,
You have gathered up the divine powers,
You have clasped the divine powers to your breast!
Like a dragon you have spewed venom on foreign lands that know you not!
When you roar like Iškur at the earth, nothing can withstand you!
Like a flood descending on alien lands, O Powerful One of heaven and earth, you will teach them to fear Inanna!

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
Temple Hymn 15

to the Gishbanda Temple of Ningishzida
by Enheduanna (circa 2285-2250 BCE)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Most ancient and terrible shrine,
set deep in the mountain
like a mother's womb ...

Dark shrine,
like a mother's wounded breast,
blood-red and terrifying ...

Though approaching through a safe-seeming field,
our hair raises as we near you!

Gishbanda,
like a neck-stock,
like a fish net,
like a foot-shackled prisoner's manacles ...
your ramparts are massive,
like a trap!

But once we’re inside,
as the sun rises,
you yield widespread abundance!

Your prince
is the pure-handed priest of Inanna, heaven's holy one,
Lord Ningishzida!

Oh, see how his thick, lustrous hair
cascades down his back!

Oh Gishbanda,
he has built this beautiful temple to house your radiance!
He has placed his throne upon your dais!

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, Gishbanda, Ningishzida, Inanna, translation, Akkad, Ur, Sumerian temple hymns, Sumer
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,
whiplashing whirlwinds!

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
The Love Song Of Shu-Sin
Earth’s Oldest Love Song (circa 2,000 BC)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Darling of my heart, my belovéd,
your enticements are sweet, far sweeter than honey.
Darling of my heart, my belovéd,
your enticements are sweet, far sweeter than honey.

You have captivated me; I stand trembling before you.
Darling, lead me swiftly into the bedroom!
You have captivated me; I stand trembling before you.
Darling, lead me swiftly into the bedroom!

Sweetheart, let me do the sweetest things to you!
My precocious caress is far sweeter than honey!
In the bedchamber, dripping love's honey,
let us enjoy life's sweetest thing.
Sweetheart, let me do the sweetest things to you!
My precocious caress is far sweeter than honey!

Bridegroom, you will have your pleasure with me!
Speak to my mother and she will reward you;
speak to my father and he will award you gifts.
I know how to give your body pleasure—
then sleep, my darling, till the sun rises.

To prove that you love me,
give me your caresses,
my Lord God, my guardian Angel and protector,
my Shu-Sin, who gladdens Enlil's heart,
give me your caresses!
My place like sticky honey, touch it with your hand!
Place your hand over it like a honey-*** lid!
Cup your hand over it like a honey cup!

This is a balbale-song of Inanna.

NOTE: This may be earth’s oldest love poem, written around 2,000 BC, long before the Bible’s “Song of Solomon,” which had been considered to be the oldest extant love poem by some experts. “The Love Song of Shu-Sin” was discovered when the archaeologist Austen Henry Layard began excavations at Kalhu in 1845, assisted by Hormuzd Rassam. Layard’s account of the excavations, published in 1849 CE, was titled "Nineveh and its Remains." Due to Nineveh’s fame from the Bible, the book became a best seller. But it turned out that the excavated site was not Nineveh, after all!

Shu-Sin was a Mesopotamian king who ruled over the land of Sumer close to four thousand years ago. The poem seems to be part of a rite, performed each year, known as the “sacred marriage” or “divine marriage,” in which the king would symbolically marry the goddess Inanna, mate with her, and so ensure fertility and prosperity for the coming year. The king would accomplish this amazing feat by marrying and/or having *** with a priestess or votary of Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of love, fertility and war. Her Akkadian name was Istar or Ishtar, and she was also known as Astarte. Whichever her name, she was the most prominent Mesopotamian female goddess. Inanna's primary temple was the Eanna, located in Uruk. But there were many other temples dedicated to her worship. The high priestess would choose a young man who represented the shepherd Dumuzid, the consort of Inanna, in a hieros gamos or sacred marriage, celebrated during the annual Akitu (New Year) ceremony, at the spring Equinox. The name Inanna derives from the Sumerian words for “Lady of Heaven.” She was associated with lions–a symbol of power–and was frequently depicted standing on the backs of two lionesses. Her symbol was an eight-pointed star or a rosette. Like other female love and fertility goddesses, she was associated with the planet Venus. The Enlil mentioned was Inanna’s father, the Sumerian storm god, who controlled the wind and rain. In an often-parched land, the rain god would be ultra-important, and it appears that one of the objects of the “divine marriage” was to please Enlil and encourage him to send rain rather than destructive storms!
Aphrodite, Xochiquetzal, Vénus, Ishtar, Astarté !
Oxum, Inanna, Erzulie Freda
Mes muses en Kâlî polycéphale réunies,
Venez vous ébattre et débattre avec moi !

Et vêtez le masque des savantes hétaïres,
Des nagaravadhu, des femmes matadore
Des tayu, des ahuianime, des harots
Et autres courtisanes de lumière,
Rhétoriciennes scandaleuses d'antan,
Pour m'initier à l'Intime quintessence
Des mystères de vos fils Kama, Eros, Cupidon.

J'ai choisi pour vous, les Immortelles,
La tenue mortelle des Métèques :

Entre Shamhat, la Joyeuse sumérienne
Amrapali , Vasantasena,
Basaui, Kulika, les tantriques
Shinano, Sakura et Bunsui
Diotime, prêtresse Mantinéote
Aspasie, la belle Milésienne,
Omphale, la Lydienne qui domina Hercule,
Lasthénéia, Nicarété, les grandes maquerelles,
Phryné, de son vrai nom Mnésarétè, la demoiselle,
La pudibonde muse de Praxitèle,
Puis encore Thargélia, qui devint reine
Impéria qui vécut en beauté pendant vingt-six ans et douze jours
Veronica, Lamia, Nééra,
Laïs qui vous dédia son miroir,
Toutes érudites catins de haute volée,
Porte-paroles d'Eros,
Indomptables et puissantes concubines
D'amour et d'intelligence,
Je ne peux décider
Avec qui convoler au Banquet des Sophistes ?
Certaines m'enflamment la chair
D'autres l'esprit et l 'âme
Et pour toutes cependant sans exception
Je bande d'égale vigueur.
"Amour, ont assuré ces maîtresses
Au disciple fervent que je suis,
N 'est ni divin ni humain
Ni beau ni laid
Ni bon ni méchant
Amour est un démon, un sorcier
Un magicien, un entremetteur...

Si j 'en crois ces rhétoriciennes,
Honorer l 'Amour
C'est désirer le Beau, assouvir
L 'impérissable désir d'immortalité.
On aime car on engendre
On aime car on féconde
On aime car on se reproduit
Pour les siècles des siècles.
Et c'est Ilithyie qui nous accouche
et nous délivre de la mortalité par la conception et l'enfantement.
Le Beau est éternel
Ce n'est pas un Beau physique
Mais métaphysique
Qu 'il nous faut reproduire
Par des joutes sensuelles
Pour tendre vers l 'immortalité.

Fécondez-moi donc et en honorant la courtisane,
La Métèque, qui vibre sous chacun de vos masques
J 'honore l 'Amour à travers vous,
Mes Etrangères,
Peu importe si mon amour est socratique,
Aristotélicien, platonique ou épicurien
Pour peu que j 'accouche de mes pensées lubriques.
Et si je meurs en couches
Qu'on me célèbre à travers tous vos panthéons
Comme le plus valeureux des guerriers !

— The End —