Samizdat

"Samizdat: Publishing the Forbidden."

The Ancient Egyptian Book of Gates

“The BOOK OF GATES.

–This book was also written to be a Guide to the Tuat, and has much in common with the Book of the Two Ways and with the Book Am Tuat.

In it also the Tuat is divided into ten sections and has two vestibules, the Eastern and the Western, but at the entrance to each section is a strongly fortified Gate, guarded by a monster serpent-god and by the gods of the section.

The Sun-god of night, as in the Book Am Tuat, makes his journey in a boat, and is attended by a number of gods, who remove all opposition from his path by the use of words of power.

As he approaches each Gate, its doors are thrown open by the gods who guard them, and he passes into the section of the Tuat behind it, carrying with him light, air, and food for its inhabitants.

The Book of Gates embodies the teaching of the priests of the cult of Osiris, and the Book Am Tuat represents the modified form of it that was promulgated by the priests of Amen.

From the Book of Gates we derive much information about the realm of Osiris, and the Great Judgment of souls, which took place in his Hall of Judgment once a day at midnight.

Then all the souls that had collected during the past twenty-four hours from all parts of Egypt were weighed in the Balance; the righteous were allotted estates in perpetuity in the “land of souls,” and the wicked were destroyed by Shesmu, the executioner of the god, and by his assistants.

The texts that describe the various “Gates” of the Book of Gates, explain who are the beings represented in the pictures, and state why they were there.

And the Book proves conclusively that the Egyptians believed in the efficacy of sacrifices and offerings, and in the doctrine of righteous retribution; liars and deceivers were condemned, and their bodies, souls, spirits, doubles, and names destroyed, and the righteous were rewarded for their upright lives and integrity upon earth by the gift of everlasting life and happiness.

The most complete copy of this interesting work in England is cut on the alabaster sarcophagus of Seti I, about 1350 B.C.

This unique sepulchral monument is exhibited gratis in Sir John Soane’s Museum at 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and every student of the religion of the Egyptians should examine it.”

—E.A. Wallis Budge, The Literature of the Ancient Egyptians, p. 111-2.

The Ancient Egyptian “Song of the Harper”

“More interesting than any of the above songs is the so-called “Song of the Harper,” of which two copies are known: the first is found in the papyrus Harris 500, already mentioned, and the second in a papyrus at Leyden.

Extracts of this poem are also found on the walls of the tomb of Nefer-hetep at Thebes. The copy in the papyrus reads:

THE POEM THAT IS IN THE HALL OF THE TOMB OF [THE KING OF THE SOUTH, THE KING OF THE NORTH], ANTUF, [He was one of the kings of the eleventh dynasty, about 2700 B.C.] WHOSE WORD IS TRUTH, [AND IS CUT] IN FRONT OF THE HARPER.

“O good prince, it is a decree, And what hath been ordained thereby is well, That the bodies of men shall pass away and disappear, Whilst others remain.

Since the time of the oldest ancestors, The gods who lived in olden time, Who lie at rest in their sepulchres, The Masters and also the Shining Ones, Who have been buried in their splendid tombs, Who have built sacrificial halls in their tombs, Their place is no more. Consider what hath become of them!

I have heard the words of Imhetep [A high official of Tcheser, a king of the third dynasty] and Herutataf, [Son of Khufu, the builder of the Great Pyramid (fourth dynasty)].

Which are treasured above everything because they uttered them. Consider what hath become of their tombs! Their walls have been thrown down; Their places are no more; They are just as if they had never existed.

Not one [of them] cometh from where they are. Who can describe to us their form (or, condition), Who can describe to us their surroundings, Who can give comfort to our hearts, And can act as our guide To the place whereunto they have departed?

Give comfort to thy heart, And let thy heart forget these things; What is best for thee to do is To follow thy heart’s desire as long as thou livest.

Anoint thy head with scented unguents. Let thine apparel be of byssus Dipped in costly [perfumes], In the veritable products (?) of the gods.

Enjoy thyself more than thou hast ever done before, And let not thy heart pine for lack of pleasure.

Pursue thy heart’s desire and thine own happiness. Order thy surroundings on earth in such a way That they may minister to the desire of thy heart; [For] at length that day of lamentation shall come, Wherein he whose heart is still shall not hear the lamentation. Never shall cries of grief cause To beat [again] the heart of a man who is in the grave.

Therefore occupy thyself with thy pleasure daily, And never cease to enjoy thyself.

Behold, a man is not permitted To carry his possessions away with him. Behold, there never was any one who, having departed, Was able to come back again.”

–E.A. Wallis Budge, The Literature of the Ancient Egyptians, pp. 109-10.

The Moral Precepts of Ptah-hetep

Moral Precepts of Ptah-hetep, Governor of Memphis, Advisor to King Pharaoh Assa, 5th Dynasty, 3500 BCE

CHAPTER XIII
MORAL AND PHILOSOPHICAL LITERATURE

Side by side with the great mass of literature of a magical and religious character that flourished in Egypt under the Ancient Empire, we find that there existed also a class of writings that are remarkably like those contained in the Book of Proverbs, which is attributed to Solomon, the King of Israel, and in “Ecclesiasticus,” and the “Book of Wisdom.”

The priests of Egypt took the greatest trouble to compose Books of the Dead and Guides to the Other World in order to help the souls of the dead to traverse in safety the region that lay between this world and the next, or Dead Land, and the high officials who flourished under the Pharaohs of the early dynasties drew up works, the object of which was to enable the living man to conduct himself in such a way as to satisfy his social superiors, to please his equals, and to content his inferiors, and at the same time to advance to honours and wealth himself.

These works represent the experience, and shrewdness, and knowledge which their writers had gained at the Court of the Pharaohs, and are full of sound worldly wisdom and high moral excellence. They were written to teach young men of the royal and aristocratic classes to fear God, to honour the king, to do their duty efficiently, to lead strictly moral, if not exactly religious, lives, to treat every man with the respect due to his position in life, to cultivate home life, and to do their duty to their neighbours, both to those who were rich and those who were poor.

The oldest Egyptian book of Moral Precepts, or Maxims, or Admonitions, is that of Ptah-hetep, governor of the town of Memphis, and high confidential adviser of the king; he flourished in the reign of Assa, a king of the fifth dynasty, about 3500 B.C. His work is found, more or less complete, in several papyri, which are preserved in the British Museum and in the National Library in Paris, and extracts from it, which were used by Egyptian pupils in the schools attached to the temples, and which are written upon slices of limestone, are to be seen in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and elsewhere.

The oldest copy of the work contains many mistakes, and in some places the text is unintelligible, but many parts of it can be translated, and the following extracts will illustrate the piety and moral worth, and the sagacity and experience of the shrewd but kindly “man of the world” who undertook to guide the young prince of his day. The sage begins his work with a lament about the evil effects that follow old age in a man–

“Depression seizeth upon him every day, his eyesight faileth, his ears become deaf, his strength declineth, his heart hath no rest, the mouth becometh silent and speaketh not, the intelligence diminisheth, and it is impossible to remember to-day what happened yesterday.

“The bones are full of pain, the pursuit that was formerly attended with pleasure is now fraught with pain, and the sense of taste departeth. Old age is the worst of all the miseries that can befall a man. The nose becometh stopped up and one cannot smell at all.”

At this point Ptah-hetep asks, rhetorically, “Who will give me authority to speak? Who is it that will authorise me to repeat to the prince the Precepts of those who had knowledge of the wise counsels of the learned men of old?”

“In answer to these questions the king replies to Ptah-hetep, “Instruct thou my son in the words of wisdom of olden time. It is instruction of this kind alone that formeth the character of the sons of noblemen, and the youth who hearkeneth to such instruction will acquire a right understanding and the faculty of judging justly, and he will not feel weary of his duties.”

Immediately following these words come the “Precepts of beautiful speech” of Ptah-hetep, whose full titles are given, viz. the Erpa, the Duke, the father of the god (i.e. the king), the friend of God, the son of the king. Governor of Memphis, confidential servant of the king.

These Precepts instruct the ignorant, and teach them to understand fine speech; among them are the following:

“Be not haughty because of thy knowledge. Converse with the ignorant man as well as with him that is educated.

“Do not terrify the people, for if thou dost, God will punish thee. If any man saith that he is going to live by these means, God will make his mouth empty of food. If a man saith that he is going to make himself powerful (or rich) thereby, saying, ‘I shall reap advantage, having knowledge,’ and if he saith, ‘I will beat down the other man,’ he will arrive at the result of being able to do nothing. Let no man terrify the people, for the command of God is that they shall enjoy rest.

“If thou art one of a company seated to eat in the house of a man who is greater than thyself, take what he giveth thee [without remark]. Set it before thee. Look at what is before thee, but not too closely, and do not look at it too often. The man who rejecteth it is an ill-mannered person.

“Do not speak to interrupt when he is speaking, for one knoweth not when he may disapprove. Speak when he addresseth thee, and then thy words shall be acceptable.

“When a man hath wealth he ordereth his actions according to his own dictates. He doeth what he willeth…. The great man can effect by the mere lifting up of his hand what a [poor] man cannot. Since the eating of bread is according to the dispensation of God, a man cannot object thereto.

“If thou art a man whose duty it is to enter into the presence of a nobleman with a message from another nobleman, take care to say correctly and in the correct way what thou art sent to say; give the message exactly as he said it. Take great care not to spoil it in delivery and so to set one nobleman against another. He who wresteth the truth in transmitting the message, and only repeateth it in words that give pleasure to all men, gentleman or common man, is an abominable person.

“If thou art a farmer, till the field which the great God hath given thee. Eat not too much when thou art near thy neighbours…. The children of the man who, being a man of substance, seizeth [prey] like the crocodile in the presence of the field labourers, are cursed because of his behaviour, his father suffereth poignant grief, and as for the mother who bore him, every other woman is happier than she. A man who is the leader of a clan (or tribe) that trusteth him and followeth him becometh a god.

“If thou dost humble thyself and dost obey a wise man, thy behaviour will be held to be good before God. Since thou knowest who are to serve, and who are to command, let not thy heart magnify itself against the latter. Since thou knowest who hath the power, hold in fear him that hath it….

“Be diligent at all times. Do more than is commanded. Waste not the time wherein thou canst labour; he is an abominable man who maketh a bad use of his time. Lose no chance day by day in adding to the riches of thy house. Work produceth wealth, and wealth endureth not when work is abandoned.

“If thou art a wise man, beget a son who shall be pleasing unto God.

“If thou art a wise man, be master of thy house. Love thy wife absolutely, give her food in abundance, and raiment for her back; these are the medicines for her body. Anoint her with unguents, and make her happy as long as thou livest. She is thy field, and she reflecteth credit on her possessor. Be not harsh in thy house, for she will be more easily moved by persuasion than by violence. Satisfy her wish, observe what she expecteth, and take note of that whereon she hath fixed her gaze. This is the treatment that will keep her in her house; if thou repel her advances, it is ruin for thee. Embrace her, call her by fond names, and treat her lovingly.

“Treat thy dependants as well as thou art able, for this is the duty of those whom God hath blessed.

“If thou art a wise man, and if thou hast a seat in the council chamber of thy lord, concentrate thy mind on the business [so as to arrive at] a wise decision. Keep silence, for this is better than to talk overmuch. When thou speakest thou must know what can be urged against thy words. To speak in the council chamber [needeth] skill and experience.

“If thou hast become a great man having once been a poor man, and hast attained to the headship of the city, study not to take the fullest advantage of thy situation. Be not harsh in respect of the grain, for thou art only an overseer of the food of God.

“Think much, but keep thy mouth closed; if thou dost not how canst thou consult with the nobles? Let thy opinion coincide with that of thy lord. Do what he saith, and then he shall say of thee to those who are listening, ‘This is my son.'”

The above and all the other Precepts of Ptah-hetep were drawn up for the guidance of highly-placed young men, and have little to do with practical, every-day morality. But whilst the Egyptian scribes who lived under the Middle and New Empires were ready to pay all honour to the writings of an earlier age, they were not slow to perceive that the older Precepts did not supply advice on every important subject, and they therefore proceeded to write supplementary Precepts.

–E.A. Wallis Budge, The Literature of the Ancient Egyptians, pp. 101-3.

The Ancient Egyptian Maxims of Ani

The Maxims of Ani

A very interesting collection of such Precepts is found in a papyrus preserved in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. They are generally known as the “Maxims of Ani,” and the following examples will illustrate their scope and character:

“Celebrate thou the festival of thy God, and repeat the celebration thereof in its appointed season. God is wroth with the transgressor of this law. Bear testimony [to Him] after thy offering….

“The opportunity having passed, one seeketh [in vain] to seize another.

“God will magnify the name of the man who exalteth His Souls, who singeth His praises, and boweth before Him, who offereth incense, and doeth homage [to Him] in his work.

“Enter not into the presence of the drunkard, even if his acquaintance be an honour to thee.

“Beware of the woman in the street who is not known in her native town. Follow her not, nor any woman who is like her. Do not make her acquaintance. She is like a deep stream the windings of which are unknown.

“Go not with common men, lest thy name be made to stink.”

“When an inquiry is held, and thou art present, multiply not speech; thou wilt do better if thou holdest thy peace. Act not the part of the chatterer.

“The sanctuary of God abhorreth noisy demonstrations. Pray thou with a loving heart, and let thy words be hidden (or secret). Do this, and He will do thy business for thee. He will hearken unto thy words, and He will receive thy offering.

“Place water before thy father and thy mother who rest in their tombs…. Forget not to do this when thou art outside thy house, and as thou doest for them so shall thy son do for thee.”

“Frequent not the house where men drink beer, for the words that fall from thy mouth will be repeated, and it is a bad thing for thee not to know what thou didst really say. Thou wilt fall down, thy bones may be broken, and there will be no one to give thee a hand [to help thee]. Thy boon companions who are drinking with thee will say, ‘Throw this drunken man out of the door.’ When thy friends come to look for thee, they will find thee lying on the ground as helpless as a babe.

“When the messenger of [death] cometh to carry thee away, let him find thee prepared. Alas, thou wilt have no opportunity for speech, for verily his terror will be before thee. Say not, ‘Thou art carrying me off in my youth.’ Thou knowest not when thy death will take place. Death cometh, and he seizeth the babe at the breast of his mother, as well as the man who hath arrived at a ripe old age.

Observe this, for I speak unto thee good advice which thou shalt meditate upon in thy heart. Do these things, and thou wilt be a good man, and evils of all kinds shall remove themselves from thee.”

“Remain not seated whilst another is standing, especially if he be an old man, even though thy social position (or rank) be higher than his.

“The man who uttereth ill-natured words must not expect to receive good-natured deeds.

“If thou journeyest on a road [made by] thy hands each day, thou wilt arrive at the place where thou wouldst be.

“What ought people to talk about every day? Administrators of high rank should discuss the laws, women should talk about their husbands, and every man should speak about his own affairs.

“Never speak an ill-natured word to any visitor; a word dropped some day when thou art gossiping may overturn thy house.

“If thou art well-versed in books, and hast gone into them, set them in thy heart; whatsoever thou then utterest will be good. If the scribe be appointed to any position, he will converse about his documents. The director of the treasury hath no son, and the overseer of the seal hath no heir. High officials esteem the scribe, whose hand is his position of honour, which they do not give to children….

“The ruin of a man resteth on his tongue; take heed that thou harmest not thyself.

“The heart of a man is [like] the store-chamber of a granary that is full of answers of every kind; choose thou those that are good, and utter them, and keep those that are bad closely confined within thee. To answer roughly is like the brandishing of weapons, but if thou wilt speak kindly and quietly thou wilt always [be loved].

“When thou offerest up offerings to thy God, beware lest thou offer the things that are an abomination [to Him]. Chatter not [during] his journeyings (or processions), seek not to prolong (?) his appearance, disturb not those who carry him, chant not his offices too loudly, and beware lest thou…. Let thine eye observe his dispensations. Devote thyself to the adoration of his name. It is he who giveth souls to millions of forms, and he magnifieth the man who magnifieth him….

“I gave thee thy mother who bore thee, and in bearing thee she took upon herself a great burden, which she bore without help from me. When after some months thou wast born, she placed herself under a yoke, for three years she suckled thee…. When thou wast sent to school to be educated, she brought bread and beer for thee from her house to thy master regularly each day. Thou art now grown up, and thou hast a wife and a house of thy own. Keep thine eye on thy child, and bring him up as thy mother brought thee up. Do nothing whatsoever that will cause her (i.e. thy mother) to suffer, lest she lift up her hands to God, and He hear her complaint, [and punish thee].

“Eat not bread, whilst another standeth by, without pointing out to him the bread with thy hand….

“Devote thyself to God, take heed to thyself daily for the sake of God, and let to-morrow be as to-day. Work thou [for him]. God seeth him that worketh for Him, and He esteemeth lightly the man who esteemeth Him lightly.

“Follow not after a woman, and let her not take possession of thy heart.

“Answer not a man when he is wroth, but remove thyself from him. Speak gently to him that hath spoken in anger, for soft words are the medicine for his heart.

“Seek silence for thyself.”

–E.A. Wallis Budge, The Literature of the Ancient Egyptians, pp. 103-5.

Ozymandias

“I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Percy Bysshe Shelley, “Ozymandias” in Miscellaneous and Posthumous Poems of Percy Bysshe Shelley (London: W. Benbow, 1826), 100.

https://play.google.com/books/reader2?id=MZY9AAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&output=reader&hl=en&pg=GBS.PA100

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ozymandias

%d bloggers like this: