Sunday Poem

“It is the unforeseen end
and the nothing before.
I am in everything, and nothing is still
just the port of my dreams.”

………………….. —Juan Ramón Jiménez

Gilgamesh – Tablet IX

……………………….. iii

“Who is it comes here? Why have you journeyed
through fearful wilderness making your way though dangers

To come to the mountain no mortal has ever come to?”
Gilgamesh answered, his body seized in terror:

“I come to seek the answer to the question
that I must ask concerning life and death.

This is the way Gilgamesh must go,
weeping and fearful, struggling to keep breathing,

whether in heat or cold, companionless.
Open the gate to the center of the mountain.”

Then the Male Twin Monster said to Gilgamesh:
“The gate to the entrance of the mountain is open…”

After the Scorpion Dragon Being spoke,
Gilgamesh went to the entrance of the mountain

and entered the darkness alone, without a companion.
By the time he reached the end of the first league

the darkness was total, nothing behind or before.
He made his way, companionless, to the end

of the second league. Utterly lightless, black.
There was nothing behind or before, nothing at all.

Only, the blackness pressed upon his body.
He felt his blind way through the mountain tunnel,

struggling for breath, through the third league, alone,
and companionless through the fourth, making his way,

and struggling for every breath, to the end of the fifth,
in the absolute dark, nothing behind or before,

the weight of the blackness pressing in upon him.
Weeping and fearful he journeyed a sixth league,

and, blind, to the end of the seventh league, alone,
without a companion, seeing nothing at all,

weeping and fearful, struggling to keep breathing.
At the end of the eighth league he cried aloud

and tried to cry out something against the pressure
of blackness: “Two people who are companions, they…!”

There was nothing behind or before him in the darkness;
utterly lightless, the way of the sun’s night journey.

He struggled to breathe, trying to breathe the darkness
He was weeping and fearful, alone, without a companion.

Just then, at the end of the ninth league, just once
the rough tongue of the North Wind licked his face.

It was like the tongue of a wild bull or lion.
He struggled on through darkness, trying to breathe.

The darkness pressed in upon him, both nothing and something.
After he struggled, blind, his companionless way

through eleven leagues of darkness, nothing at all
and something, ahead of him, a league ahead

a little light, a grayness, began to show.
Weeping and fearful, struggling to keep breathing,

he made his way through the last league of the journey,
twelve leagues in the darkness, alone, companionless,

weeping and fearful, struggling to keep breathing,
he made his way and finally struggled out free

into the morning air and the morning sunlight.

………………………. iv

He emerged from the mountain into a wonderful garden.
Gilgamesh looked and the garden and wondered at it.

The fruit and foliage of the trees were all
the colors of the jewels of the world,

carnelian, and lapis lazuli,
jasper, rubies, agate, and hematite,

emerald, and all the other gems the earth
has yielded for the delight and pleasure of kings.

And beyond the garden Gilgamesh saw the sea.

by David Ferry
excerpts from  Gilgamesh, An English verse rendering of the Epic of Gilgamesh
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, NY 1992