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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
‘The Negative Confession’
Egyptian Literature
 
        
Translation of Francis Llewellyn Griffith
  
  [It may be thought that the fundamental ideas of Egyptian morality would be most succinctly expressed in the so-called ‘Negative Confession’ contained in the ‘Book of the Dead.’ When the deceased appeared before Osiris he was supposed to recite this confession, in which he alleged his freedom from a long catalogue of sins: he repeated it in two forms. After the XVIIIth Dynasty, B.C. 1500, it was considered as perhaps the most essential of all the texts deposited in the tomb with the mummy, for the guidance of the deceased person before his fate was finally settled. It is therefore to be found in thousands of copies, but unfortunately this much-worn text is as corrupt as most of the other sections of the Book of the Dead. The hack scribes and calligraphists were content to copy without understanding it, often bungling or wresting the sense according to their very imperfect lights. It is seldom that different copies agree precisely in their readings: often the differences are very material and leave the true sense altogether uncertain. Again, even where the reading seems comparatively sure, the meaning remains obscure, owing to the occurrence of rare words or expressions. All the phrases begin with the negative “not.”]


First Confession

I HAVE not done injury to men.
I have not oppressed those beneath me. 1
I have not acted perversely [prevaricated?], instead of straightforwardly.
I have not known vanity. 2
I have not been a doer of mischief.
*        *        *        *        *
*        *        *        *        *
*        *        *        *        *
*        *        *        *        *
        5
I have not done what the gods abominate.
I have not turned the servant against his master.
I have not caused hunger.
I have not caused weeping.
I have not murdered.        10
I have not commanded murder.
I have not caused suffering to men.
I have not cut short the rations of the temples.
I have not diminished the offerings of the gods.
I have not taken the provisions of the blessed dead.        15
I have not committed fornication nor impurity in what was sacred to the god of my city.
I have not added to nor diminished the measures of grain.
I have not diminished the palm measure.
I have not falsified the cubit of land.
I have not added to the weights of the balance.        20
I have not nullified the plummet of the scales.
I have not taken milk from the mouth of babes.
I have not driven cattle from their herbage. 3
I have not trapped birds, the bones of the gods.
I have not caught fish in their pools.[?]        25
I have not stopped water in its season.
I have not dammed running water.
I have not quenched fire when burning. 4
I have not disturbed the cycle of gods when at their choice meats.
I have not driven off the cattle of the sacred estate.        30
I have not stopped a god in his comings forth.
 
Second Confession

I have not done injustice.
I have not robbed.
I have not coveted.[?]
I have not stolen.        35
I have not slain men.
I have not diminished the corn measure.
I have not acted crookedly.
I have not stolen the property of the gods.
I have not spoken falsehood.        40
I have not taken food away.
I have not been lazy.[?]
I have not trespassed.
I have not slain a sacred animal.
I have not been niggardly in grain.        45
I have not stolen….
I have not been a pilferer.
My mouth hath not run on.
I have not been a talebearer in business not mine own.
I have not committed adultery with another man’s wife.        50
I have not been impure.
I have not made disturbance.
I have not transgressed.
My mouth hath not been hot. 5
I have not been deaf to the words of truth.        55
I have not made confusion.
I have not caused weeping.
I am not given to unnatural lust.
I have not borne a grudge.
I have not quarreled.        60
I am not of aggressive hand.
I am not of inconstant mind.
I have not spoiled the color of him who washeth the god.[?]
My voice has not been too voluble in my speech.
I have not deceived nor done ill.        65
I have not cursed the king.
*        *        *        *        *
My voice is not loud.
I have not cursed God.
I have not made bubbles.[?]
I have not made [unjust] preferences.        70
I have not acted the rich man except in my own things.
I have not offended the god of my city.
 
Note 1. Or perhaps “my kindred.” [back]
Note 2. Or what is “unprofitable” or “treason.” [back]
Note 3. This and the two following asseverations seem rather to read: “I have not caught animals by a bait of their herbage.” “I have not trapped birds by a bait of ‘gods’ bones.’” “I have not caught fish by a bait of fishes’ bodies.” [back]
Note 4. Lit., “in its moment.” [back]
Note 5. I.e., “I am not hot of speech.” [back]
 
 
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