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EGYPTIAN LOVE POEMS

 
The New Kingdom (1570-1085) in Egypt was a highly sophisticated period marked by the last great flowering of ancient Egyptian culture.  It was a time of expansion abroad-the Egyptian empire reached to the Euphrates River-and increased opportunity at home.  Women enjoyed a greater prestige in New Kingdom society than they did in perhaps any other ancient culture.  With a legal status equal to that of men, they could will property, initiate a lawsuit and probably divorce a husband.

 

Ancient Egyptian Poetry

1 Your Love Dear Man, is as Lovely to Me

2 My love is one and only without peer

3 Love, how I would love to slip down to the pond

4 I was just off to see Nefrus, my friend

5 I think I'll go home and lie very still

Questions to Ponder

                           

 

Translated by John Foster

 

1:Your Love Dear Man, is as Lovely to Me

Your love, dear man, is as lovely to me

As sweet soothing oil to the limbs of the restless,

as clean ritual robes to the flesh of gods,

As fragrance of incense to one coming home

hot from the smells  of the street.

 

It is like nipple-berries ripe in the hand,

like the tang of grain meal mingled with beer,

Like wine to the palate when taken with white bread.

While unhurried days come and go,

Let us turn to each other in quiet affection,

walk in peace to the edge of old age.

And I shall be with you each unhurried day,

a woman given her one wish: 

to see for a lifetime the face of her lord.

2: My love is one and only, without peer

My love is one and only, without peer, lovely above all Egypt's lovely girls.

On the horizon of my seeing, see her, rising,

Glistening goddess of the sunrise star bright in the forehead of a lucky year.

So there she stands, epitome of shining, shedding light,

Her eyebrows, gleaming darkly, marking eyes which dance and wander.

Sweet are those lips, which chatter (but nerver a word too mush),

And the line of hte long neck lovely, dropping (since son's notes slide that way)

To young breasts firm in the boundcing light which simmers that blueshadowed sidefall of hair,

And slim are those arms, kovertoned with gold, those fingers which touch like a brush of lotus.

And (ah) how the curve of her back slips gently by a whisper of waist of god's plenty below,

Such thighs as hers pass knowledge of loveliness known in the old days.)

Dressed in the perfect flesh of woman (heart would run captive to such slim arms),she ladies it over the earth.

Schooling the neck of each schoolboy male to swing on a swivel to see her move.

(He who could hold that body tight would know at last

perfection of delight-

Best of the bullyboys, first among lovers.)

Look you, all men, at that golden going, like Our Lady of Love, without peer.

3:Love, how I'd love to slip down to the pond

Love, how I love to slip down to the pond,

bathe with you close by on the bank.

Just for you I'd wear my new Memphis swimsuit,

made of sheer linen, fit for a queen-

Come see how it looks in the water!

Couldn't I coax you to wade in with me?

Let the cool creep slowly around us?

Then I dive deep down and come up for you dripping,

Let you fill your eyes with the little red fish that I'd catch.

And I'd say, standing there tall in the shallows:

Look at my fish, love,

how itles in my hand.

How my fingers caress it, slip sown its sides...

But then I'd say softer, eyes bright with your seeing:

A gift, love. No words.

Come closer and look, it's all me.

4:I was simply off to see Nefrus my friend

I was simply off to see Nefrus my friend,

Just to sit and chat at her place (about men),

When thesre, hot on his horses, comes Mehy

(oh god, I said to myself, it's Mehy!)

Right over the crest of the road wheeling along with the boys.

Oh Mother Hathor, what shall I do?

Don't let him see me!

Where can I hide?

Make me a small creeping thing to slip by his eye

(sharp as Horus') unseen.

Oh look at you, feet-

(this road is a river!)

you walk me out of my depth!

Someone, silly heart, is exceedingly ignorant here-

aren't you a little too easy near Mehy?

If he sees that I see him, I know

he will know how my heart flutters (Oh Mehy!)

I know I will blurt out, "Please take me!" (I musn't)

No, all he would do is brag out my name,

Just one of the many. . . .(I know)

Mehy would make me just one of the girls

for all of the boys in the palace.

(Oh Mehy)

5:I think I'll go home and lie very still

I think I'll go home and lie very still,

Feigning terminal illness.

Then the neighbors will all troop over to stare,

my love, perhaps, among them.

How she'll smile while the specialists

snarl in their teeth!-

she perfectly well know what ails me.

Questions to Ponder:

1.  What is the mood of this poem?  Identify specific words that contribute to this mood.

2.  This poem is filled with similes-figurative comparisons between unlike things.  What inferences do you make about the speaker based on the things to which she compares her love?

3.  In what ways is this poem timeless?  In what ways is rooted in a specific time and place?

4.  What does this poem reveal about life in Egypt at the time of the New Kingdom?

5.  Identify a modern poem or song that is similar to this one and explain your choice.

     

     

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