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The song of the hoe: translation

In this composition, the word al 'hoe' is used as often as possible, as well as many nouns or verb forms beginning with -- or merely containing -- the syllable al (occasionally also ar).

1-7Not only did the lord make the world appear in its correct form -- the lord who never changes the destinies which he determines: Enlil, who will make the human seed of the Land come forth (3 mss. have instead: up) from the earth (2 other mss. have instead: chamber) -- and not only did he hasten to separate heaven from earth, and hasten to separate earth from heaven, but, in order to make it possible for humans to grow in 'Where Flesh Came Forth' (2 mss. have instead: 'Where Flesh Grew') [the name of a cosmic location], he first suspended (2 mss. have instead: raised) the axis of the world at Dur-an-ki.

8-17He did this with the help of the hoe (al) -- and so daylight broke forth (aled). By distributing (altare) the shares of duty he established daily tasks, and for the hoe (al) and the carrying-basket wages were even established. Then Enlil praised his hoe (al), his hoe (al) wrought in gold, its top inlaid with lapis lazuli, his hoe (al) whose blade was tied on with a cord, which was adorned with silver and gold, his hoe (al), the edge of whose point (?) was a plough of lapis lazuli, whose blade was like a battering ram standing up to a great (gal) wall (1 ms. has instead: born for a great (gal) person (?)). The lord evaluated the hoe (al), determined its future destiny and placed a holy crown on its head .......

18-27Here, in 'Where Flesh Came Forth' (1 ms. has instead: 'Where Flesh Grew') [the name of a cosmic location], he set this very hoe (al) to work; (1 other ms. has instead: in 'Where Flesh Grew' the unassailable (?),) he had it place the first model of mankind in the brick mould. His Land started to break through the soil towards Enlil. He looked with favour at his black-headed people. Now the Anuna gods stepped forward to him, and did (jal) obeisance to him. They calmed Enlil with a prayer, for they wanted to demand (al-dug) the black-headed people from him. Ninmena, the lady who had given birth to the ruler, who had given birth to the king, now set (aljaja) human reproduction going.

28-34The leader of heaven and earth, lord Nunamnir, named the important persons and valued (kal) persons. He ...... these persons, and recruited them to provide for the gods. Now Enki praised Enlil's hoe (al), and the maiden Nisaba was made responsible for keeping records of the decisions. And so people took (jal) the shining hoes (al), the holy hoes (al), into their hands.

35-42The E-kur, the temple of Enlil, was founded by the hoe (al). By day it was building (aldue) it, by night it caused the temple to grow (almumu). In well-founded Nibru, the hero Ninurta entered into the presence of Enlil in the inner chamber of the Tummal -- the Tummal, the bread basket (?) (1 ms. has instead: ...... masterpiece (?)) of mother Ninlil -- the innermost chamber of the Tummal, with regular food deliveries. Holy Ninisina entered into the presence of Enlil with black kids and fruit offerings for the lord.

43-45Next comes the Abzu, with the lions before it, where the divine powers may not be requested (al-dug): the hoe wielder (?) (altar), the good man, lord Nudimmud was building (aldue) the Abzu, Eridug having been chosen as the construction site (altar).

46-48The mother of the gods, Ninhursaja, had the mighty (?) (altar) light of the lord live with her in Kec; she had Cul-pa-eda, no less, help her with the construction work (altar).

49-51The shrine E-ana was cleaned up by means of the hoe (al) for the lady of E-ana, the good cow (immal) (2 mss. have instead: woman). The hoe (al) deals with ruin mounds, the hoe (al) deals with weeds.

52-55In the city of Zabalam, the hoe (al) is Inana's workman (?). She determined the destiny of the hoe (al), with its projecting lapis-lazuli beard (1 ms. has instead: tooth). Utu was ready to help her with her building project (altar); it is the renowned (?) building project (altar) of youthful Utu.

56-58The lady with broad (dajal) intelligence, Nisaba, ordered the measuring of the E-ana for a construction project (altar), and then designed her own E-hamun for construction (altar).

59-70The king who measured up the hoe (al) and who passes (zal) his time in its tracks, the hero Ninurta, has introduced working with the hoe (altar) into the rebel (bal) lands. He subdues (aljaja) any city that does not obey its lord. Towards heaven he roars (algigi) like a storm, earthwards he strikes (aljaja) like a dragon (ucumgal). Cara sat down on (1 ms. has instead: got onto) Enlil's knees, and Enlil gave him what he had desired (al-dug): he had mentioned the mace, the club, arrows and quiver, and the hoe (al) (3 mss. have instead: he desired (al-dug) the mace, the club, arrows and quiver). Dumuzid is the one who makes the upper land fertile (allumlum). Gibil made his hoe (al) raise its head towards the heavens -- he caused the hoe (al), sacred indeed, to be refined with fire. The Anuna were rejoicing (alhulhuledec).

71-82The temple of Jectin-ana resembled an aljarsur instrument, the aljarsur of mother Jectin-ana that makes a pleasant sound. The lord [Enlil] bellowed at his hoe (al) like a bull. As for the grave (irigal): the hoe (al) buries people, but dead people are also brought up from the ground by the hoe (al) [This may allude to Enkidu's ghost being put in contact with Gilgamec.]. With the hoe (al), the hero honoured by An, the younger brother of Nergal, the warrior Gilgamec is as powerful as a hunting net. The (1 ms. adds: sage) son of Ninsumun is pre-eminent with oars (jisal) [This may allude to Gilgamec rowing across the waters of death.]. With the hoe (al) he is the great barber (kindajal) of the watercourses. In the chamber (1 ms. has instead: place) of the shrine, with the hoe (al) he is the minister (sukkal). The wicked (huljal) ...... are sons of the hoe (al); they are born in sleep from heaven.

83-93In the sky there is the altirigu bird, the bird of the god. On the earth there is the hoe (al): a dog in the reed-beds, a dragon (ucumgal) in the forest. On the battlefield, there is the dur-allub battle-axe. By the city wall there is the battle-net (alluhab). On the dining-table there is the bowl (maltum). In the waggon shed, there is the sledge (mayaltum). In the donkey stable there is the cupboard (argibil). The hoe (al)! -- the sound of the word is sweet: it also occurs (munjal) on the hillsides: the tree of the hillsides is the allanum oak. The fragrance of the hillsides is the arganum balm. The precious stone of the hillsides is the algamec steatite.

94-106The hoe (al) makes everything prosper, the hoe makes everything flourish. The hoe (al) is good barley, the hoe (al) is a hunting net (1 ms. has instead: an overseer). The hoe (al) is brick moulds, the hoe (al) has made people exist (jal). It is the hoe (al) that is the strength of young manhood. The hoe (al) and the basket are the tools for building cities. It builds (aldue) the right kind of house, it cultivates (aljaja) the right kind of fields. It is you, hoe, that extend (dajal) the good agricultural land! The hoe (al) subdues for its owner (lugal) any agricultural lands that have been recalcitrant (bal) against their owner (lugal), any agricultural lands that have not submitted to their owner (lugal). It chops the heads off the vile esparto grasses, yanks them out at their roots, and tears at their stalks. The hoe (al) also subdues (aljaja) the hirin weeds.

107-109The hoe (al), the implement whose destiny was fixed by father Enlil -- the renowned hoe (al)! Nisaba be praised!

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Revision history : JAB : adapting translation : GC : proofreading
29.viii.2001 : GC : tagging
21.ix.2001 : ER : Proofreading SGML
21.ix.2001 : ER : converting to HTML 4.0