Sumerian poems and lamentations – 02 In Praise of Shulgi
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
From A praise poem of Shulgi (Shulgi C) Segment A
I am greatly expert in assigning work with the pickaxe and the brick-mould, in drawing plans, in laying foundations, and in writing cuneiform inscriptions on pedestals; I can make things absolutely clear on tablets of lapis lazuli. I also have a solidly based knowledge of the intelligent implementation of the counting, accounting and planning of the Land.
From A praise poem of Shulgi (Shulgi B)
When I was small, I was at the academy, where I learned the scribal art from the tablets of Sumer and Akkad. None of the nobles could write on clay as I could. There where people regularly went for tutelage in the scribal art, I qualified fully in subtraction, addition, reckoning and accounting. The fair Nanibgal, Nisaba, provided me amply with knowledge and comprehension. I am an experienced scribe who does not neglect a thing.
Let me boast of what I have done. The fame of my power is spread far and wide. My wisdom is full of subtlety. Do not my achievements surpass all qualifications?
I stride forward in majesty, trampling endlessly through the esparto grass and thickets, capturing elephant after elephant, creatures of the plain; and I put an end to the heroic roaring in the plains of the savage lion, dragon of the plains, wherever it approaches from and wherever it is going. I do not go after them with a net, nor do I lie in wait for them in a hide; it comes to a confrontation of strength and weapons. I do not hurl a weapon; when I plunge a bitter-pointed lance in their throats, I do not flinch at their roar. I am not one to retreat to my hiding-place but, as when one warrior kills another warrior, I do everything swiftly on the open plain. In the desert where the paths peter out, I reduce the roar at the lair to silence. In the sheepfold and the cattle-pen, where heads are laid to rest, I put the shepherd tribesmen at ease.
I, Culgi, king of Urim, have also devoted myself to the art of music. Nothing is too complicated for me; I know the full extent of the tigi and the adab, the perfection of the art of music. When I fix the frets on the lute, which enraptures my heart, I never damage its neck; I have devised rules for raising and lowering its intervals. On the gu-uc lyre I know the melodious tuning. I am familiar with the sa-ec and with drumming on its musical soundbox. I can take in my hands the miritum, which ....... I know the finger technique of the aljar and sabitum, royal creations. In the same way I can produce sounds from the urzababitum, the harhar, the zanaru, the ur-gula and the dim-lu-magura. Even if they bring to me, as one might to a skilled musician, a musical instrument that I have not played previously, when I strike it up I make its true sound known; I am able to handle it just like something that has been in my hands before. Tuning, stringing, unstringing and fastening are not beyond my skills. I do not make the reed pipe sound like a rustic pipe, and on my own initiative I can wail a sumunca or make a lament as well as anyone who does it regularly.
Before Utu son of Ningal, I, Culgi, declare that in my long life in which I have achieved great things since the day that my kingly destiny was determined, in my life in which everything was richly provided in contentment, I have never lacked anything. Until the distant future may this song bless the name of me, the king, with a life of long days. As I am musical, as I am eloquent, I am a heavenly star of steadfastness. It is an awe-inspiring brow that establishes palaces, just as a peg and a measuring cord are the builders of cities. With the awesomeness that radiates from my forehead, which I make the foreign lands wear like a nose-rope, and the fear-inspiring lustre, my personal weapon, which I impose on the Land like a neck-stock, I am able to root out and undo crime. I have the ability to reconcile great matters with one word.
When I ...... like a torrent with the roar of a great storm, in the capture of a citadel in Elam ......, I can understand what their spokesman answers. By origin I am a son of Sumer; I am a warrior, a warrior of Sumer. Thirdly, I can conduct a conversation with a man from the black mountains. Fourthly, I can do service as a translator with an Amorite, a man of the mountains ....... I myself can correct his confused words in his own language. Fifthly, when a man of Subir yells ......, I can even distinguish the words in his language, although I am not a fellow-citizen of his. When I provide justice in the legal cases of Sumer, I give answers in all five languages. In my palace no one in conversation switches to another language as quickly as I do.
When I pronounce a completed verdict, it is heartily welcomed, since I am wise and exalted in kingship. So that my consultative assemblies, sitting together to care for the people, inspire respect in their hearts when the chief herald sounds the horn, they should deliberate and debate; and so that the council should decide policy properly, I have taught my governors to deliberate and to debate.
While the words at their dining tables flow like a river, I tackle crime, so that the foundations are securely established for my wide dominions. I vanquish a city with words as weapons, and my wisdom keeps it subjected just as violence with burning torches would. I have taught them the meaning of the words "I have no mother".
My words can be words smooth as the finest quality oil; I know how to cool hearts which are hot as fire, and I know how to extinguish a mouth set on fire like a reed-bed. I weigh my words against those of the braggart. I am a man of the very highest standards of value. The importance of the humble is of particular value to me, and they cannot be counter-productive to any of my activities.
Grand achievements that I have accomplished which bring joy to my heart I do not cast negligently aside; therefore I give pride of place to progress. I give no orders concerning the development of waste ground, but devote my energies to extensive building plots. I have planted trees in fields and in agricultural land; I devote my powers to dams, ......, ditches and canals. I try to ensure a surplus of oil and wool. Thanks to my efforts flax and barley are of the highest quality.
I am no fool as regards the knowledge acquired since the time that mankind was, from heaven above, set on its path: when I have discovered tigi and zamzam hymns from past days, old ones from ancient times, I have never declared them to be false, and have never contradicted their contents. I have conserved these antiquities, never abandoning them to oblivion.
Whatever is acquired is destined to be lost. What mortal has ever reached the heavens? At some time in the distant future, a man of Enlil may arise, and if he is a just king, like myself, then let my odes, prayers and learned songs about my heroic courage and expeditions follow that king in his good palace. He should take to heart the benefit that has been conferred on him; he should exalt the power of my odes, absorb the exuberance of my songs, and value highly my great wisdom. Just as a strong person can consider on an equal basis even those things which he has not brought about by his own efforts, let him applaud and welcome my achievements. Let him call upon my good name.
An eminent example deserves eternal fame. What is the use of writing lies without truth? For me, the king, the singer has recorded my exploits in songs about the strength of the protective deity of my power; my songs are unforgettable, and my words shall not fall into oblivion.
Now, I swear by Utu on this very day -- and my younger brothers shall be witnesses of it in foreign lands where the sons of Sumer are not known, where people do not have the use of paved roads, where they have no access to the written word -- that the firstborn son is a fashioner of words, a composer of songs, a composer of words, and that they will recite my songs as heavenly writings, and that they will bow down before my words as a ......
The source of the experienceMesopotamian system
Concepts, symbols and science items
Activities and commonsteps
SuppressionsListening to beating sounds
Listening to music