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A hymn to Nisaba (Nisaba A): translation

Old Babylonian version

1-6Lady coloured like the stars of heaven, holding (3 mss. have instead: perfectly endowed with) a lapis-lazuli tablet! Nisaba, great wild cow born by Urac, wild sheep nourished on good milk among holy alkaline plants, opening the mouth for seven ...... reeds! Perfectly endowed with fifty great divine powers, my lady, most powerful in E-kur!

7-13Dragon emerging in glory at the festival, Aruru (mother goddess) of the Land, ...... from the clay, calming ...... (1 ms. has instead: the region with cool water), lavishing fine oil (3 mss. have instead: plenty) on the foreign lands, engendered in wisdom by the Great Mountain (Enlil)! Good woman, chief scribe of An, record-keeper of Enlil, wise sage of the gods!

14-20In order to make barley and flax grow in the furrows, so that excellent corn can be admired; to provide for the seven great throne-daises by making flax shoot forth and making barley shoot forth at the harvest, the great (1 ms. has instead: august) festival of Enlil -- in her great princely role she has cleansed her body and has put (1 ms. has instead: draped) the holy priestly garment on her torso.

21-26In order to establish bread offerings where none existed, and to pour forth great libations of alcohol, so as to appease the god of grandeur, Enlil, and to appease merciful Kusu and Ezina, she will appoint a great en priest, and will appoint a festival; she will appoint a great en priest of the Land.

27-35He (Enki (?)) approaches the maiden Nisaba in prayer. He has organised pure food-offerings; he has opened up Nisaba's house of learning, and has placed the lapis-lazuli tablet on her knees, for her to consult the holy tablet of the heavenly stars. In Aratta he has placed E-zagina at her disposal. You have built up Erec in abundance, founded from little ...... bricks, you who are granted the most complex wisdom!

36-50In the abzu, the great crown of Eridug, where sanctuaries are apportioned, where elevated ...... are apportioned -- when Enki, the great princely farmer of the awe-inspiring temple, the carpenter of Eridug, the master of purification rites, the lord of the great en priest's precinct, occupies E-engur, and when he builds up the abzu of Eridug; when he takes counsel in Hal-an-kug, when he splits with an axe the house of boxwood; when the sage's hair is allowed to hang loose, when he opens the house of learning, when he stands in the street of the door of learning; when he finishes (?) the great dining-hall of cedar, when he grasps the date-palm mace, when he strikes (?) the priestly garment with that mace, then he utters seven ...... to Nisaba, the supreme nursemaid:

51-55"O Nisaba, good woman, fair woman, woman born in the mountains (1 ms. has instead: by the mountains)! Nisaba, may you be the butter in the cattle-pen, may you be the cream in the sheepfold, may you be keeper of the seal in the treasury, may you be a good steward in the palace, may you be a heaper up of grain among the grain piles and in the grain stores!"

56-57Because the Prince Enki cherished Nisaba, O father Enki, it is sweet to praise you!

A version of the beginning, preserved on a stone tablet from Lagash perhaps dating from the Ur III Period

1-9Lady coloured as the stars, holding a lapis-lazuli tablet! Nisaba, born by Urac in the great sheepfold (?), ...... nourished on good milk among holy alkaline plants, opening the mouth on seven ...... reeds! Perfectly endowed with fifty great divine powers, my lady, the most powerful in E-kur! Aruru (mother goddess) of the Land, ...... from the clay!

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Revision history : JAB : adapting translation
10.viii.2000 : GC : proofreading
11.viii.2000 : GC : tagging
20.x.2000 : ER : proofreading SGML
20.x.2000 : ER : converting to HTML 4.0
7.ix.2001 : ER : header and footer reformatted; substantive content of file not changed