FOUR SONGS CONTAINED IN AN EGYPTIAN PAPYRUS IN THE BRITISH MUSEUM
By C. W. Goodwin, M,A.

[Extracted from TSBA, 3, 380-88.]

Read 7th April, 1874.

 

The Papyrus Harris 500 contains, upon the side which I have designated as the front, from its being rather less chafed and frayed than the other side, portions of eight pages of writing. The first page wants the beginnings of all the lines, but its purport is to some extent ascertainable. The last page has nothing but the initial words of the lines, and is practically useless. The remaining six pages are legible, with the exception of a few lines and words wanting here and there.

The text consists of four songs, of which three are of an amatory kind, bearing no inconsiderable resemblance to parts of Solomon's Song. The remaining one is a composition, intended to be sung to the harp; and its theme is the words which Herodotus tells us were pronounced at feasts when a mummied image was carried round and presented to each of the guests— "Look upon this! Then drink, and rejoice, for thou shalt be as this is." The song in our papyrus is said to be taken from the House of King Antuf, and must, therefore, be as early as the 11th Dynasty. It bears a great resemblance to the song of the harper in the tomb of Nefer-hotep, published by M. Dumichen, II Historical Inscriptions. Pl. XL, which has lately been translated in the Zeitschrift fur Egyptische Sprache, by Herr Ludwig Stern, from a copy [p.381] made by himself in the tomb. A fragment of the identical song in our papyrus is found in the Leyden Monuments, prime partie, Pl. XII, and has enabled me to supply a word or two illegible in our text.

The style of these pieces is evidently poetical, and many peculiarities of spelling and of language occur which are not found in the two plain prosaic pieces on the other side of the papyrus, of which I have in previous papers given an account. Without giving a complete transcription of the text, it would be hardly possible for me to comment advantageously on these peculiarities, and such remarks or explanations as I may be able to give must be reserved for separate notes on some other occasion. My object at present is to give something approaching to a translation of the four songs, in order to convey a general idea of their contents.

The first song is so fragmentary, that nothing but detached phrases can be given. The piece is divided into sections or paragraphs by an arm, or rather the leg and claws of a bird [glyph] written in red ink, and in some cases the claw is surmounted by an eye [glyph]. I cannot say whether there is any distinction between these marks of division. The song seems to be in the mouth of a woman addressing her lover, or perhaps soliloquizing about him. Beyond this I can give little explanation, and must leave the fragments which I have endeavoured to translate to speak for themselves.

The First Song (wanting the commencement).
Papyrus Harris 500 — recto.

Page 1.

1. ... I am with (thee). Give thy heart (to me) ....
2. .... amusement. Thou seekest to touch my leg, whilst I was
3.  ... didst thou not come, seeking food? Wast thou not empty (?) of stomach ? Wast thou not

[p.382]

4. .... of clothes, while I was rich in clothes ? Didst thou not come to ....
5. .... thou tookest my breast; thou didst revel in its abundance, in the day of ... .
6. .... millions .... Section. Thy love penetrated ....
7. .... on the water like rerem (?), abounding m gums of all kinds, with essences ....
8. .... runnest quickly to behold thy brother, like a mare spying
9. .... his axles (?) ; he exalts her love, like ....
10. .... like the wings of a hawk. Section .... grass for the mares
11. .... sister, one of the lilies, her breast of rerem (?), her arm
12. ......... ......... ....  ....

Page 2.

1. I am like a bird .... his nestling .... Section.
2. Do I not turn my heart to thy love, my wolf's cub? .... is thy bathing (?). I will not
3. leave him, for .... on the vigil of the inundation (?) for the land of Khara (Syria) with staves
4. and rods; for the land of Kash (Ethiopia) with masts (?); for the high-land with khai (wood of some kind) for the ...
5. with tauisati (wood of some kind). I will not listen to them to leave my love. Section .... boats ....
6. with .... of him who provides my path with flowers .... 
7. lord of truth .... Let me in the night, the flood, what is it?
8. ... of shrubs, .... his lilies, Nefer-Tum the
9. enlightening the earth with her beauties. Memphis, a vessel of rerem (?) set before Nefer-ha (the beautiful-faced. Section. I lie down in the chamber.
10. Yea 1 (I am) vexed with injuries; yea! my neighbours come to (console?) .... come amongst

[p.383]

11. them; they apply remedies with .... voice; yea! they know my pain. Section. The tower of ... .
12. her pool is m the midst of her house; her doors open . . . my sister issues forth angry, (uttering) all sorts of exclamations at the
13. porter. She is irritated. Yea! listen to her voice, the youth is in dread of offending her. Section. I sail down

Page 3.

1. I came to ... .
2. ....  the Sun. My desire is to go to watch the
3. barges (?) upon .... the pool of waters.
4. I began to run; I spoke not, my
5. heart remembered .... Yea ! behold
6. the coming of the ....
7. I stood with thee at the mouth of the pool of waters; thou
8. (didst turn) my desire to An (Heliopolis). Yea ! turn back ....
9 of acacias, to the houses ....
10. I took the acacias of the houses ....
11. .... with my fan. I beheld ....
12. his doings. My face was towards the .... His bosom
13. was full of persea-fruit. I . . . . with

Page 4.

1. gums; . . . . the king .... Section.

Here ends the first song. The second commences on the first line of the fourth page, and extends to the first line of page 6. The text is now far more perfect ; but there are several words which I do not understand.

Page 4.

1. The beginning of the song of joy and beauty of thy sister, beloved
2. of thy heart. Come to the meadows, my brother, beloved of my heart, (come) after me, thou who art beloved in all thy doings. (I) say to thee, see what (I) have done ! I have come prepared.

[p.384]

3. my net (?) in my hand, in my hand is my teh (some instrument used in bird-catching?), and my cage of all birds of Arabia,
4. which alight in Egypt. One who anoints with precious oils comes with the choicest (spices), carrying my uai (?); he brings his odours
5. from Arabia. His claws are full of gums. My desire, thou knowest, is that we may unloose them together. I am with thee alone. Do thou listen to the voice
6. of the singing of my anointer with choice oils. Thou art near me, art with me. I bring the net (?)
7. thou fair one, thou who comest to the garden of one who loves him. Section. The voice of the bud resounds, occupied with his uai (?); thy love
8. draws me back; I know not how to unloose it; I prepare (?) my nets (?). Shall I call to my mother that she may come to me? Every day
9. I am laden with birds. The net is not ready to-day. I burn with thy love. Section. The bird flies
10. and perches. He feeds on the granaries. The many birds gyrate around
11. (thou) art my love alone; my heart is bound to thy heart ; go not far (from me). Section. (I) go forth ....

Page 5.

1. my love. The desire rises within me that I may behold the food .... the salt, the strong liquors ....
2. that which is sweet in the mouth is like the gall of a bird. I smell, I snuff up. Solitary is he who .... my heart, I find him whom Amen hath given to me for
3. ever and ever. Section. Thou fair one ! my heart .... when thou wast in thy chamber. Thy arm was laid upon my arm; thou didst survey
4. thy love. I (poured forth) my heart to thee, in the .... my .... in the night. I was as one in my
5. bower. Yea! art not thou the strength of (my) life, the joy thou didst strengthen my heart, to seek
6. thee. Section. The voice of the swallow resounds. It saith the earth is enlightened. How do I wait for thee, thou bird, whilst thou chirpest (?)
7. I found my brother in his bed-chamber. My heart .... go not far from me. Let thy hand be in my hand. When I go to walk
8. let me be with thee, in every pleasant place. Give me the choicest of fair things, they .... not my heart. Section.
9. Ah! turn thy face towards the gate of going forth. Behold, my brother comes to me. My eyes look forth, my ears listen to the growling (?) of the dog (?)
10. Give me the love of my Nothu at once my feet hasten
11. to go. to proclaim how he has deceived me. Yea I say thou hast found another woman; she .... looking in his face. Ah! his heart turns (?) to another, so that he despises me.
12. Section. My heart .... thou lovest me ... . running to seek thee

Page 6.

1. I put aside my spinning I finish my web....
2. .... I end all my work.

This is the close of the song. From the number of new words, to the meaning of which I have been only directed more or less imperfectly by the context, the above translation must be taken as only a rough draft, susceptible of much amendment.

The third song is of a very different character, being (as before mentioned) one of those solemn and lugubrious compositions by which the Egyptians in the midst of their feasts were reminded of the shortness of human joys. Probably there were numerous varieties of this class of song.

The Theban tombs, if well explored, would most likely furnish us with other examples besides those given in M. Dumichen's work, Historische Inschriften, Vol. II, Pl. XL and XLa.

[p,385]

Page 6.

2. The Song of the house of King Antuf, deceased, which is (written) in front of
3. the player on the harp. All hail to the good prince, the worthy good (man). The body is fated (?) to pass away, the atoms (? or perhaps the little ones, the children?)
4. remain, ever since the time of the ancestors. The gods who were before time rest in their tombs; the mummies
5. of the saints likewise are enwrapped in their tombs. They who built houses, and they who have no houses, see!
6. what becomes of them. I have heard the words of Imhotep and Hartataf. It is said in their sayings,
7. "After all, what is prosperity? Their fenced walls are dilapidated. Their houses are as that which has never existed.
8. No man comes from thence, who tells of their sayings, who tells of their affairs, who encourages (?) our hearts. Ye go
9. to the place whence they return not. Strengthen thy heart to forget how thou has enjoyed thyself. Fulfil thy desire whilst thou livest.
10. Put oils upon thy head, clothe thyself with fine linen adorned with precious metals
11. with the gifts (?) of God. Multiply thy good things; yield to thy desire, fulfil thy desire with thy good things
12. (whilst thou art) upon earth, according to the dictation of thy heart. The day will come to thee, when one hears not the voice, when the one who is at rest hears not

Page 7.

1. their voices (i.e. of the mourners). Lamentations deliver not him who is in the tomb ....
2. Feast in tranquillity, seeing that there is no one who carries away his goods with him. Yea, behold, none who goes (thither) comes back again."

[p.387]

The allusion to the sayings of Imhotep and Hartataf is very interesting. Imhotep, the son of the primeval god Ptah. was the mythical author of various arts and sciences. In an inscription copied by M. Dumichen (Tempel Inschriften, I, Pl. 97), a certain part of the Temple of Edfou is said to have been restored, "as it is in the book of the model of a temple, composed by the chief, Kher-heb Prince Imhotep, eldest son of Ptah." The Greeks spelt the name [Greek], but more often substituted the name [Greek] or Æsculapius. One of the Hermetic books entitled [Greek] (quoted in Fabricius Bibl. Graeca, p. 52), puts the following words in the mouth of Isis, who addresses her son Horus: [Greek]

From this it appears that not only architecture, but the healing art and poetry were amongst the inventions of Imouthes. The name Arnebaskenis, which occurs in this passage, requires elucidation. It appears to me to refer to the elder Horus, Aroeris Har-neb .... Horus, lord of some attribute or place, the Egyptian word for which I am unable to suggest.

The name Hartataf in our papyrus is that of the son of King Menkara, to whom the discovery of the 64th Chapter of the Ritual is attributed, and whose name is also mentioned in Papyrus I Anastasi, as the author of some mystical work.

The fourth song is of the amatory kind. Only ten lines of it remain, of which the following partial translation will give some idea.

Page 7.

3. The beginning of the song of joys— of the fragrant flowers. Thou enchainest my heart, thou hast caused me to be as one who

[p.388]

4. seeks, that I may be in thy bosom. My prayer (is) to bear the of his heart. That I may behold the brightness
5. of (his) eyes. I fawn upon thee, to behold thy love! man of my heart! Most delightful is my hour
6. of going forth; an born of eternity, when I lie down with thee, and thou .... my heart ...... Section. ... I am thy eldest sister. I am unto thee like the garden which I have planted with flowers
8. with all sorts of sweet herbs and sweet odours. It is watered by thy hand
9. refreshed by the breezes, a pleasant place to walk in. Thy hand is in my band, I remember, and my heart is joyful at our walking,
10. drinking together, how I listened to thy voice. It was life to me to hear it. All the sights which I beheld they were
11. better than eating and drinking. Section. ....  I bring thy garlands, when thou comest
12. drinking. Thou best down on thy couch. I behold thy feet ....

In the commencing and concluding words of each of the sections of this song, there is a species of alliteration which appears not to be unintentional.

In concluding this account of the Harris Papyrus 500, based upon a somewhat rapid inspection, I would express a hope that the text may be soon published, and made accessible to Egyptologists. Mature consideration would doubtless develop many points of interest which have escaped me.