A Sumerian Legend

by Mark Anthony Signorelli (May 2010)

The sun that rose in Kish for many hours
Had seered the walls that ringed the royal quad,
And burned the timeless rituals on the towers,
Imprinted in the dessicated sod
In olden days, to appease some arcane god.
Unsheltered from that painful radiance
Lay regal Nansin – or her remnant clay –
Provided every rich appertunance
That eases souls on their reluctant way
Into the kingdom of unwaking day.
And there beside her Lugalbanda sat,
Her lord and husband, just beyond the peaks
Of the unrelieving shade of the ziggurat,
Dispensing from the tears that washed his cheeks
The only rain that place had known for weeks.
Then suddenly, before the broken king
Appeared the gods, to offer consolation –
Terrestial Ki, the queen of flourishing,
And her consort in mankind’s adoration,
Enlil, the lord of ruin and creation.
But the monarch was not pleased to see them there;
He only said, “I see how vain it was
To honor your sacrarium’s with prayer
And sacrifice, and keep your arduous laws,
Since you have proved indifferent to my cause.”
To which Enlil replied, “Though now you rue
The loss you have of death’s persistent blight,
Later will come a time, when time is through,
When she will be restored to your new sight,
And walk by you in fields of perfect light.”
And thus the king: “There cannot rise a dawn
So lustrous in its early glimmering;
There cannot grow a flower on the lawn
So lovely in its splendid burgeoning
Which could redeem the outrage of this thing.” 
And thus the god: “You speak as men must speak
Who lack the vision of the promised end,
And thus cannot account for the unique
And holy recompense that we intend,
But in the later days you will comprehend.”
Once more the monarch answered to the god:
“Most certainly I speak as men must speak,
And understand as such a wretched clod
As you have fashioned, ignorant and weak,
Must understand the truth we mortals seek.
I only know that since your mastery
Is unassailable and infinite,
There’s not a single sad calamity
But falls as your almighty wills permit,
Which out of righteousness might stymie it.
Look there – deprived of all her lively grace,
As cold and pallid as the stone she lies,
And if you thought it wrong death should efface
The beauty in the sweetest pair of eyes
That ever smiled, this would be otherwise.
So now I want none of your consolation,
In this world or in one to be prepared,
You did not exercise your domination
The hour that suffering our lives ensnared-
And who can comfort pains he might have spared?”
This said, then Lugulbanda like one vexed
Rose and departed through the palace way –
Enlil observed his going, quite perplexed,
And florid Ki, struck with a new dismay,
Fumbled the flowers from her rich bouquet.

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