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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

After 4,000 Years, Love Keeps Poem Alive

It is as small as a cellphone, but its message is anything but modern. A small tablet in a special display this month at the Istanbul Museum of the Ancient Orient is thought to be the oldest love poem ever found, the words of a lover from more than 4,000 years ago.
The Sumerian tablet was unearthed in the late 1880s in Nippur, an ancient city in what is now Iraq, and had been resting quietly in a modest corner of the museum until it was brought back to the limelight this year by a company that made it part of a Valentine's Day promotion.
The poem sits among Sumerian documents such as a court verdict from 2030 B.C. breaking an engagement, a property sale and documentation of a murder.
Despite the tablets' ancient lineage, they had gone relatively unnoticed by most museum visitors until the company provided the money to make the tablet with the poem the centerpiece of a special exhibit.
"It must be written by a man desperately in love with the rich princess," guessed Choi Na Kyong, 27, a tourist from South Korea, examining the love poem on clay on a recent day. But she was mistaken.
The tablet in fact contains a daring. and risqué, ballad in which a priestess professes her love for a king, though it is believed that the words are in fact a script for a ceremonial recreation of a fable by the priestess and the king, Su-Sin. The priestess represents Inanna, the Goddess of Love and Fertility, and the king represents Dumuzi, the God of Shepherds, on the eve of their union.
"Bridegroom, dear to my heart, Goodly is your beauty, honeysweet,"' the first line in the cuneiform tablet reads. "'You have captivated me, let me stand trembling before you; Bridegroom, I would be taken to the bedchamber."
He apparently does.
"Bridegroom, you have taken your pleasure of me," the poem continues. "Tell my mother, she will give you delicacies; my father, he will give you gifts."
Turkey is second only to the United States in its collection of Sumerian documents. Muazzez Hilmiye Cig, 93, a retired historian at the museum who is one of only a few people in Turkey who can read the text, said she was fascinated by the way Sumerians perceived love.

To read the rest of this tale of romance, go here


At 9:55 PM, Blogger said...

Nice reflection on such a romantic day. The literature, and poems, from this area are pretty good reading, it is amazing how weel constructed they are considering they are so old.

Raymond B

At 11:44 PM, Blogger Jeff said... is a cool poem. Having read a bunch of stuff from many years ago (what there is to read anyway), I wonder sometimes when I look at stuff written, and even the constructs and technology of the ancients, if we are actually so advanced. I think we are not. I think we just have fancier toys.


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