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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Love Songs
Egyptian Literature
 
Translation of W. Max Müller

SOME of the prettiest Egyptian poetry is contained in a papyrus of the XVIIIth Dynasty at the British Museum. The verses are written in hieratic, and are extremely difficult to translate, but their beauty is apparent to the translator even when he cannot fix the sense. A new edition of these and other poems of a kindred nature is being prepared by Professor W. Max Müller of Philadelphia, who kindly permits us to make some extracts from the advance sheets of his publication.  1
  The songs are collected in small groups, generally entitled ‘Songs of Entertainment.’ The lover and his mistress call each other “brother” and “sister.” In one song the girl addresses her lover in successive stanzas under the names of different plants in a garden, and plays on these names. Others are as follows:—

  
Love-Sickness
  
I WILL lie down within.
Behold, I am sick with wrongs.
Then my neighbors come in
To visit me.
This sister of mine cometh with them;
She will make a laughing-stock of the physicians;
She knoweth mine illness.
  
The Lucky Doorkeeper
  
THE VILLA of my sister
Hath its gates in the midst of the estate;
[So often as] its doors are opened,
[So often as] the bolt is withdrawn,
My beloved is angry.
If I were set as the gatekeeper,
I should cause her to chide me;
Then should I hear her voice [when she is] angry:—
A child before her!
  
Love’s Doubts
  
[MY brother] hath come forth [from mine house];
[He careth not for] my love;
My heart standeth still within me.
  
Behold, honeyed cakes in my mouth.
They are turned into salt;
Even must, that sweet thing,
In my mouth is as the gall of a bird!
  
The breath of thy nostrils alone
Is that which maketh my heart live.
I found thee! Amen grant thee unto me,
Eternally and for ever!
  
The Unsuccessful Bird-Catcher
  
THE VOICE of the wild goose crieth,
For she hath taken her bait;
[But] thy love restraineth me,
I cannot loose it. 1
  
So I must gather my net together.
What then shall I say to my mother,
To whom I come daily
Laden with wild-fowl?
  
I have not laid my net to-day,
For thy love hath seized me.
  2
 
Note 1. “Loose,” i.e., take the bird out of the snare to carry home to her mother. [back]
 
 
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