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Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 20

There were two dialects in ancient Sumeria, and the invocatory hymns were composed in what was known as "the women's language". It must not be inferred, however, that the ladies of Sumeria had established a speech which differed from that used by men. The reference would appear to be to a softer and homelier dialect, perhaps the oldest of the two, in which poetic emotion found fullest and most beautiful expression. In these ancient days, as in our own, the ideal of womanhood was the poet's chief source of inspiration, and among the hymns the highest reach of poetic art was attained in the invocation of Ishtar, the Babylonian Venus. The following hymn is addressed to that deity in her Valkyrie-like character as a goddess of war, but her more feminine traits are not obscured:--

HYMN TO ISHTAR
To thee I cry, O lady of the gods,
Lady of ladies, goddess without peer,
Ishtar who shapes the lives of all mankind,
Thou stately world queen, sovran of the sky,
And lady ruler of the host of heaven--
Illustrious is thy name.... O light divine,
Gleaming in lofty splendour o'er the earth--
Heroic daughter of the moon, oh! hear;
Thou dost control our weapons and award
In battles fierce the victory at will--
crown'd majestic Fate. Ishtar most high,
Who art exalted over all the gods,
Thou bringest lamentation; thou dost urge
With hostile hearts our brethren to the fray;
The gift of strength is thine for thou art strong;
Thy will is urgent, brooking no delay;
Thy hand is violent, thou queen of war
Girded with battle and enrobed with fear...
Thou sovran wielder of the wand of Doom,
The heavens and earth are under thy control.
Adored art thou in every sacred place,
In temples, holy dwellings, and in shrines,
Where is thy name not lauded? where thy will
Unheeded, and thine images not made?
Where are thy temples not upreared? O, where
Art thou not mighty, peerless, and supreme?
Anu and Bel and Ea have thee raised
To rank supreme, in majesty and pow'r,
They have established thee above the gods
And all the host of heaven... O stately queen,
At thought of thee the world is filled with fear,
The gods in heaven quake, and on the earth
All spirits pause, and all mankind bow down
With reverence for thy name.... O Lady Judge,
Thy ways are just and holy; thou dost gaze
On sinners with compassion, and each morn
Leadest the wayward to the rightful path.
Now linger not, but come! O goddess fair,
O shepherdess of all, thou drawest nigh
With feet unwearied... Thou dost break the bonds
Of these thy handmaids... When thou stoopest o'er
The dying with compassion, lo! they live;
And when the sick behold thee they are healed.
Hear me, thy servant! hearken to my pray'r,
For I am full of sorrow and I sigh
In sore distress; weeping, on thee I wait.
Be merciful, my lady, pity take

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