Sumerian poems and lamentations – 07 The Lament for Sumer and Urim
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
From The Lament for Sumer and Urim
To overturn the appointed times,
to obliterate the divine plans,
the storms gather to strike like a flood.
to overturn the divine powers of Sumer,
to lock up the favorable reign in its home,
to destroy the city, to destroy the house,
to destroy the cattle-pen, to level the sheepfold;
that the cattle should not stand in the pen,
that the sheep should not multiply in the fold,
that watercourses should carry brackish water,
that weeds should grow in the fertile fields,
that mourning plants should grow in the open country,
that the mother should not seek out her child,
that the father should not say "O my dear wife!",
that the junior wife should take no joy in his embrace,
that the young child should not grow vigorous on his knee,
that the wet-nurse should not sing lullabies;
that on the two banks of the Tigris and of the Euphrates
bad weeds should grow,
that no one should set out on the road,
that no one should seek out the highway,
that the city and its settled surroundings
should be razed to ruin-mounds;
that its numerous black-headed people should be slaughtered;
that the hoe should not attack the fertile fields,
that seed should not be planted in the ground,
that the melody of the cowherds' songs
should not resound in the open country,
that butter and cheese should not be made in the cattle-pen,
that dung should not be stacked on the ground,
that the shepherd should not enclose
the sacred sheepfold with a fence,
that the song of the churning should not resound in the sheepfold;
to decimate the animals of the open country,
to finish off all living things,
that the four-legged creatures of Cakkan
should lay no more dung on the ground,
that the marshes should be so dry
as to be full of cracks and have no new seed,
that sickly-headed reeds should grow in the reed-beds,
that they should be covered by a stinking morass,
that there should be no new growth in the orchards,
that it should all collapse by itself—
so as quickly to subdue Urim like a roped ox,
to bow its neck to the ground: the great charging wild bull,
confident in its own strength,
the primeval city of lordship and kingship,
built on sacred ground.
The people, in their fear, breathed only with difficulty.
The storm immobilized them,
the storm did not let them return.
There was no return for them,
The extensive countryside was destroyed,
no one moved about there.
The dark time was roasted by hailstones and flames.
The bright time was wiped out by a shadow.
On that bloody day,
mouths were crushed, heads were crashed.
The storm was a harrow coming from above,
the city was struck by a hoe.
Large trees were uprooted, the forest growth was ripped out.
The orchards were stripped of their fruit,
they were cleaned of their offshoots.
The crop drowned while it was still on the stalk,
the yield of the grain diminished.
There were corpses floating in the Euphrates,
brigands roamed the roads.
The father turned away from his wife
without saying "O my wife!"
The mother turned away from her child
without saying "O my child!"
He who had a productive estate neglected his estate
without saying "O my estate!"
The rich man took an unfamiliar path away from his possessions.
In those days the kingship of the Land was defiled.
The tiara and crown that had been on the king's head
were both spoiled.
The lands that had followed the same path were split into disunity.
As the day grew dark, the eye of the sun was eclipsing,
the people experienced hunger.
There was no beer in the beer-hall,
there was no more malt for it.
There was no food for him in his palace,
it was unsuitable to live in.
Grain did not fill his lofty storehouse,
he could not save his life.
The grain-piles and granaries of Nanna held no grain.
Wine and syrup ceased to flow in the great dining hall.
The butcher's knife that used to slay oxen and sheep
lay hungry in the grass.
Its mighty oven no longer cooked oxen and sheep,
it no longer emitted the aroma of roasting meat.
The mortar, pestle and grinding stone lay idle;
no one bent down over them.
The Shining Quay of Nanna was silted up.
the sound of water against the boat's prow ceased,
there was no rejoicing.
The rushes grew, the rushes grew,
the mourning reeds grew.
Boats and barges ceased docking at the Shining Quay.
Nothing moved on your watercourse which was fit for barges.
Its watercourse was empty, barges could not travel.
There were no paths on either of its banks,
long grass grew there.
The reed huts were overrun, their walls were breached.
The cows and their young were captured
and carried off to enemy territory.
The munzer-fed cows took an unfamiliar path
in an open country that they did not know.
Gayau, who loves cows, dropped his weapon in the dung.
Cuni-dug, who stores butter and cheese,
did not store butter and cheese.
Those who are unfamiliar with butter were churning the butter.
Those who are unfamiliar with milk were curdling the milk.
The sound of the churning vat did not resound in the cattle-pen.
The trees of Urim were sick, its reeds were sick.
Laments sounded all along its city wall.
Daily there was slaughter before it.
Large axes were sharpened in front of Urim.
The spears, the arms of battle, were prepared.
The large bows, javelin and shield gathered together to strike.
The barbed arrows covered its outer side like a raining cloud.
Large stones, one after another, fell with great thuds.
Urim, confident in its own strength,
stood ready for the murderers.
Its people, oppressed by the enemy,
could not withstand their weapons.
In the city, those who had not been felled by weapons
succumbed to hunger.
Hunger filled the city like water, it would not cease.
This hunger contorted people's faces, twisted their muscles.
Its people were as if drowning in a pond,
they gasped for breath.
Its king breathed heavily in his palace, all alone.
Its people dropped their weapons,their weapons hit the ground.
They struck their necks with their hands and cried.
They sought counsel with each other,
they searched for clarification:
"Alas, what can we say about it?
What more can we add to it?
How long until we are finished off by this catastrophe?
Inside Urim there is death, outside it there is death.
Inside it we are to be finished off by famine.
Outside it we are to be finished off by Elamite weapons.
In Urim the enemy oppresses us, oh, we are finished."
The people took refuge behind the city walls.
They were united in fear.
The palace that was destroyed by onrushing water was defiled,
its doorbolts were torn out.
Elam, like a swelling flood wave, left only the ghosts.
In Urim people were smashed as if they were clay pots.
Its refugees were unable to flee,
they were trapped inside the walls.
Like fish living in a pond, they tried to escape.
Its mighty cows with shining horns were captured,
their horns were cut off.
Its unblemished oxen and grass-fed sheep were slaughtered.
The palm-trees, strong as mighty copper, the heroic strength,
were torn out like rushes, were plucked like rushes,
their trunks were turned sideways.
Their tops lay in the dust, there was no one to raise them.
The midriffs of their palm fronds were cut off
and their tops were burnt off.
Their date spadices that used to fall on the well were torn out.
The great tribute that they had collected was hauled off to the mountains.