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Ancient Egyptian Literature: Volume III: The…

Ancient Egyptian Literature: Volume III: The Late Period

by Miriam Lichtheim

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Literature from the Late Kingdom of Ancient Egypt.
Volume III spans the last millennium of Pharaonic civilization, from the tenth century B.C. to the beginning of the Christian era. ( )
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  Tutter | Feb 17, 2015 |
Beautiful translation of literary works from the Late Period of Ancient Egypt. Is far more than just religious texts, has wisdom literature, some letters and other personal glimpses at life. ( )
  drj | Jul 10, 2008 |
Ancient Egyptian Literature is, of course, not "literature" as we understand it today. It is inscriptions transcribed from columns and plinths. Some are autobiographical in nature, some historical with an astonishing amount of information on the reigns of kings, some are propaganda pieces intended to further or confirm the authority of priests, some are hymns to gods from the walls of temples, and a couple are complete stories of certain lives, with detailed aphorisms on how to live life. The "late period" runs from 1070 to about 30B.C.

Unless you are an expert in the area, or have an abiding interest, this is a book to skim through rather than to read in detail. Nevertheless, it is fascinating in some respects. The autobiographical, funerary inscriptions were the most interesting, in my view, because they echo the commonalities of the human condition across the millennia. I also found interesting the values reflected in the funerary inscriptions, for example:

I kept my mouth clean of harming him who harmed me,
My patience turned my foes into my friends,
I ruled my mouth...

No one reviled my parents on account of me
They found me helpful while they were on the earth

I did not give praise to him who flattered me,
I prevented expenses beyond the king's orders,
I protected the goods of its poor,
I restrained the arms of its robbers

Do not be tightfisted with what you own,
Do not act empty-handed with your wealth!

I have done what people love and gods praise,
As One truly revered who had no fault,
Who gave bread to the hungry, clothes to the naked,
Removed pain, suppressed wrongdoing;
Who buried the revered ones, supported the old...

Funny how these pagans seemed to have developed and esteemed values that we could almost describe as "Christian" without the intermediary of that church.

I reproduce below, because I find it quite moving, part of a funerary lament, from a husband for his wife who died early at the age of thirty. It reads as if she were speaking from the grave:

O my brother, my husband,
Friend, high priest!
Weary not of drink and food,
Of drinking deep and loving!

Celebrate the holiday,
Follow your heart day and night,
Let not care into your heart,
Value the years spent on earth!

The west, it is a land of sleep,
Darkness weighs on the dwelling-place,
Those who are there sleep in their mummy-forms.

They wake not to see their brothers,
They see not their fathers, their mothers,
Their hearts forgot their wives, their children.

The water of life which has food for all,
It is thirst for me;
It comes to him who is on earth,
I thirst with water beside me!

I do not know the place it is in,
Since I came to this valley,
Give me water that flows!

Say to me: "You are not far from water!"
Turn my face to the northwind at the edge of the water,
Perhaps my heart will then be cooled in its grief!

As for death, "Come!" is his name,
All those that he calls to him
Come to him immediately,
Their hearts afraid through dread of him.

Of gods or men no one beholds him,
Yet great and small are in his hand,
None restrains his finder from all his kin.

He snatches the son from his mother
Before the old man who walks by his side;
Frightened they all plead before him,
He turns not his ear to them.

He comes not to him who prays for him,
He hears not him who praises him,
He is not seen that one might give him any gifts.

O you all who come to this graveyard,
Give me incense on the flame,
Water on every feast of the west!
1 vote John | Sep 4, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0520040201, Paperback)

Chronologically arranged translations of ancient Egyptian writings shed light upon the development of diverse literary forms. Bibliogs.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:34 -0400)

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