Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Moment of Silence: Miguel Civil and "The Scribe of the Evening"

Miguel Civil has passed away. He was a renowned scholar of ancient Sumerian. He will be deeply missed.


"The Scribe of the Evening"
-- elegy for Miguel Civil (Miquel Civil i Desveus; May 7, 1926 - January 13, 2019)


In the garden of Inanna,
Ninshubur comes running.

"O My Lady, attend, for
the Scribe of the Evening
is coming!" she cries.

"Roll out the carpet of reeds,
and open up the doors of
the House of Books,"
Inanna commands,
and so it is done.

The Scribe of the Evening
is not an imposing soul, and
he looks a bit bewildered
to find himself there -- perhaps
he was expecting to wind up
somewhere else -- but he
is not lost, no, he knows
this place as his own face.

He goes into the House of Books
and takes down the first tablet.

He reads it from beginning to end,
then returns it to its place and
takes down the second tablet.

Now and then, his fingers trace
a line across the crisp clear clay.

"Here is where it was broken,"
he says. "This is new to me."

The Scribe of the Evening
is reading the fourteenth tablet
when a sound comes up
from the Great Below.

He sets his ear to it and says,
"What is this that I hear?"

"Those are the cries of
Erishkegal, my sister,"
says Inanna. "Beware
if you go to see her, for then
the Servants of the Seven Gates
will take from you all that you have."

The Scribe of the Evening laughs.
"I have only my soul and my knowledge
left to me, and she cannot take those.
I will go and see your sister."

So he goes down to the Great Below,
and the Servants of the Seven Gates smile
to see him already bared before them.

The lapis palace is cool and beautiful.
Erishkegal is wailing away on her throne,
where the galatur and the kurgarra sit
close by to keep her company.

"Oh! Oh! My belly!" she wails.

"Oh! Oh! Your belly!" says the scribe,
and they all turn to stare at him.

"Oh! Oh! My liver!" yells Erishkegal.

"Oh! Oh! Your liver!" says the scribe.

"Beautiful creature, you are only
the third being to care for my suffering,"
says the Goddess of the Great Below.
"Ask me anything, and it shall be yours."

"O My Lady, tell me everything,"
says the Scribe of the Evening.

Erishkegal is greatly pleased,
for she loves nothing more than
to wail about the woes of the world,

and so she does.
Tags: history, linguistics, moment of silence, spirituality
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