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A hymn to Nisaba (Nisaba A)

Old Babylonian version

1-6. Lady coloured like the stars of heaven, {holding} {(3 mss. have instead:) perfectly endowed with} a lapis-lazuli tablet! Nisaba, great wild cow born by Uraš, 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!

7-13. Dragon 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!

14-20. In 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.

21-26. In 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.

27-35. He (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-zagin at her disposal. You have built up Ereš in abundance, founded from little …… bricks, you who are granted the most complex wisdom!

36-50. In 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-engura, and when he builds up the Abzu of Eridug; when he takes counsel in Ḫal-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!"

56-57. Because 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 Lagaš perhaps dating to the Ur III period

1-9. Lady coloured as the stars, holding a lapis-lazuli tablet! Nisaba, born by Uraš 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!

Revision history JAB, editor: adapting translation
10.viii.2000: GC, editor: proofreading
11.viii.2000: GC, editor: SGML tagging
08.xii.2000: ER, editor: proofreading SGML
20.x.2000: ER, editor: web publication GC/JE, editor/technical developer: XML/TEI conversion

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