Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 96

At this point the narrative breaks off, for the tablet is mutilated. When it is resumed a reference is made to "the head of Chumbaba", who has apparently been slain by the heroes. Erech was thus freed from the oppression of its fierce enemy.

Gilgamesh and Ea-bani appear to have become prosperous and happy. But in the hour of triumph a shadow falls. Gilgamesh is robed in royal splendour and wears his dazzling crown. He is admired by all men, but suddenly it becomes known that the goddess Ishtar has been stricken with love for him. She "loved him with that love which was his doom". Those who are loved by celestials or demons become, in folk tales, melancholy wanderers and "night wailers". The "wretched wight" in Keats' "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" is a typical example.

O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge is withered from the lake
And no birds sing.
* * * * *
I met a lady in the meads,
Full beautiful--a faery's child;
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes were wild.
* * * * *
She found me roots of relish sweet,
And honey wild and manna dew;
And sure in language strange she said,
"I love thee true".

Having kissed her lover to sleep, the fairy woman vanished. The "knight" then saw in a dream the ghosts of knights and warriors, her previous victims, who warned him of his fate.

I saw their starved lips in the gloam,
With horrid warning gaped wide;
And I awoke and found me here
On the cold hill's side.

The goddess Ishtar appeared as "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" before Gilgamesh and addressed him tenderly, saying: "Come, O Gilgamesh, and be my consort. Gift thy strength unto me. Be thou my husband and I will be thy bride. Thou shalt have a chariot of gold and lapis lazuli with golden wheels and gem-adorned. Thy steeds shall be fair and white and powerful. Into my dwelling thou shalt come amidst the fragrant cedars. Every king and every prince will bow down before thee, O Gilgamesh, to kiss thy feet, and all people will become subject unto thee."

Gilgamesh feared the fate which would attend him as the lover of Ishtar, and made answer saying: "To what husband hast thou ever remained faithful? Each year Tammuz, the lover of thy youth, is caused by thee to weep. Thou didst love the Allala bird and then broke his wings, and he moans in the woods crying, 'O my wings!' Thou didst love the lion and then snared him. Thou didst love the horse, and then laid harness on him and made him gallop half a hundred miles so that he suffered great distress, and thou didst oppress his mother Silili. Thou didst love a shepherd who sacrificed kids unto thee, and then thou didst smite him so that he became a jackal (or leopard); his own herd boy drove him away and his dogs rent him in pieces. Thou didst love Ishullanu, the gardener of Anu, who made offerings unto thee, and then smote him so that he was unable to move. Alas! if thou wouldst love me, my fate would be like unto the fates of those on whom thou hast laid affliction."