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Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East

The Poem of the Righteous Sufferer (Ludlul bēl nēmeqi), Tablet II, entire tablet, read by Karl Hecker

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By kind permission of Professor B. R. Foster, the translation below is taken from his work Before the Muses: an Anthology of Akkadian Literature (Bethesda, 2005), with minor modifications (most of which follow the translation of W. G. Lambert).

The transcription is based on the transliteration provided in the editio princeps by W. G. Lambert, Babylonian Wisdom Literature (Oxford, 1960 repr. Winona Lake, 1996), with minor modifications.

Owing to differences in Babylonian and English word order, it is not always easy for the English translation to mirror the two half lines of the Babylonian original. When the match is not exact, the translation begins with an asterisk (as e.g. in line 07).

Original TranscriptEnglish Translation
1 akšudma ana balāṭ | adanna ītiq1 I survived to the next year, | the appointed time passed.
2 asaḫḫurma | lemun lemunma
3 zapurtī ūtaṣṣapa | išartī ul uttu
2 As I turned around, | it was more and more terrible;
3 My ill luck was on the increase, | I could find no good fortune.
4 ila alsīm | ul iddina pānīšu
5 usalli ištarī | ul ušaqqâ rēšīša
4 I called to my god, | but he did not show me his face,
5 I prayed to my goddess, | but she did not raise her head.
6 bārû ina bīr | arkat ul iprus
7 ina maššakka šāˀilu | ul ušāpi dīnī
6 The diviner with his inspection | did not get to the bottom of it,
7 *Nor did the dream priest with his incense | clear up my case
8 zaqīqu abālma | ul upatti uznī
9 mašmaššu ina kikiṭṭê | kimiltī ul ipṭur
8 I beseeched a dream spirit, | but it did not enlighten me;
9 And the incantation priest with his ritual | did not appease the divine wrath against me.
10 ayyīte epšēti | šanāti mātitān
11 āmurma arkat | ridâti ippīru
10 What bizarre actions | there were everywhere!
11 I looked behind, | there was persecution, trouble.
12 kī ša tamqītum ana ili lā uktinnu
13 u ina mākalê ištari lā zakru
12 *Like one who has not | made libations to his god,
13 *nor with a food offering | invoked his goddess,
14 appi lā enû | šukînni lā amru
15 ina pîšu ipparkû | suppû teslītu
16 ibṭilu ūmu ili | išēṭu eššēšī
17 iddû ahšuma | mēšunu imēšu
18 palāhu u itˀudu | lā ušalmidu nišīšu
14 who is not wont to prostrate himself, | nor has been seen to bow down,
15 from whose mouth there has been no issue | of prayer or supplication
16 who has skipped holy days | and despised festivals,
17 who has been neglectful | and scorned the god's rites,
18 who has not taught his people | reverence and worship,
19 ilšu lā izkur | īkul akalšu
20 īzib ištartašu | mashatu lā ubla
19 who has not invoked his god | but eaten his food offering,
20 who has snubbed his goddess | by not bringing a flour offering,
21 ana ša imhû | bēlšu imšû
22 nīš ilīšu kabti | qalliš izkur
21 like one possessed | who has forgotten his lord,
22 who has casually sworn | a solemn oath by his god,
22a anāku amšal22a (like such a one) did I seem!
23 aḫsusma raman | suppû teslīti
24 teslītī tašīmat | niqû sakkûˀa
23 I, for my part, was mindful | of supplication and prayer:
24 to me prayer was the natural recourse, | sacrifice my rule.
25 ūmu palāh ilī |ṭūb libbīya
26 ūmu ridûti ištar | nēmeli tatturu
25 The day for reverencing the gods | was a joy to my heart;
26 The day of the goddess's procession | was my profit and return.
27 ikribi šarri | šī hidûtī
28 u nēgûtašu | ana damiqti šumma
27 Praying for the king, | that was my joy,
28 His fanfare | was as if for (my own) good omen.
29 uššar ana māti | mê ili naṣāri
30 šumi ištar šūqur | nišīya uštāhiz
29 I instructed my land | to observe the god's rites,
30 the goddess's precious name | did I teach my people to value.
31 tanādāti šarri | iliš umaššil
32 u puluhti ekalli | ummān ušalmid
31 Praise for the king | I made like a god's
32 And reverence for the palace | I taught the populace.
33 lū idi kī itti ili | itamgur annâti33 *I wish I knew that these things | were pleasing to a god!
34 ša damqat ramānuš | ana ili gullultu[m]
35 ša ina libbīšu mussukat | eli ilīš damqat
34 What seems good to oneself | could be an offence to a god,
35 What in one's own heart seems abominable | could be good to a god!
36 ayyu ṭēm ilī | qirib šamê ilammad
37 milik ša zanunzê | ihakkim mannu
38 ēkamma ilmadā | alakti ilī apâti
36 *Who can learn the reasoning | of the gods in heaven?
37 *Who understands the plans | of the underworld gods?
38 *Where might humans | have learned the way of a god?
39 ša ina amšat ibluṭu | imūt uddiš
40 surriš uštādir | zamar uḫtabbar
39 He who was alive yesterday | is dead today.
40 For a minute someone is downcast, | then suddenly full of cheer.
41 ina ṣibit appi | izammur elīla
42 ina pīt purīdi | uṣarrap lallāriš
41 One moment | he sings in exaltation,
42 Another | he groans like a professional mourner.
43 kī pitê u katāmi | ṭēnšina šitni43 *The people's condition changes | like opening and shutting (the legs) (i.e. in a twinkling).
44 immuṣāma | immâ | šalamtiš
45 išebbâma | išannâ  | ilšin
44 *When starving they become like corpses,
45 *When sated they rival their gods.
46 ina ṭâbi itammâ | ili šamāˀī
47 ūtaššašāma idabbubā | arād irkalla
48 [The line is fragmentary; not read]
46 In good times they speak | of scaling heaven
47 When it goes badly, they complain | of going down to hell.
48 [The line is fragmentary; not read]
49 [u] yâti šūnu[hu] | ireddi mehû
50 murṣu munnišu | elīya innešra
51 imhullu [ištu išid] | šamê izīqa
52 [u]ltu irat erṣētim | išīha ṭīˀi
53 šūlu lemnu | ittaṣâ apsuššu
54-59 [These lines are fragmentary; not read]
49 As for me, the exhausted one, | a whirlind is driving me!
50 Debilitating Disease | is let loose upon me;
51 *An evil wind has blown | [from the ends] of the sky,
52 *Headache has surged upon me | from the breast of the underworld,
53 An malignant spectre | has come forth from its hidden depth.
54-59 [These lines are fragmentary; not read]
60 [būnēya] ikkilū | inaˀˀilū īnāya
61 labânī ētiqū | urammû kišādu
62 irtī imhaṣū | tūlê iṭṭirû
63 šīrī ilputū | raˀība iddû
64 [ina r]ēš libbīya | ippuhū išāt[u]
65 qerbīya idluhū | u<bā>nātīya utti[kū]
66 šūlu u hahhu | ulaˀˀibū ha[šêya]
67 mešrêtīya ulaˀˀibā | uniššū pitrī
60 [My face] was gloomy, | my eyes were in flood.
61 They wrenched my neck muscles | made my neck limp.
62 They thwacked my chest, | pounded my breast.
63 They affected my flesh | and caused convulsions,
64 [In] my epigastrium | they kindled a fire.
65 They churned up my bowels, | they tw[isted] my fingers
66 With coughing and hacking | they infected [my lungs].
67 They wasted my limbs | and made my fat quake.
68 lāna zaqru | ībutū igāriš
69 gattī rapšat | urubāˀiš ušnīla
70 kī ulilte annābik | buppāniš annadi
68 My lofty stature | they toppled like a wall,
69 My robust figure | they laid down like a bulrush,
70 I was throw down like a dried fig, | I was tossed onto my face.
71 alû zumrī | ītediq ṣubātī
72 kīma šuškalli | ukattimanni šittu
71 *The alû-demon had clothed himself | in my body for a garment.
72 *Drowsiness covered me | like a net.
73 palṣāma | ul inaṭṭal | īnāya
74 petâ | ul išemmâ | uznāya
73 *My eyes stared, but did not see,
74 *My ears were open, but did not hear.
75 kal pagrīya | ītahaz | remûtu
76 mišittu | imtaqut | eli šīrīya
75 *Numbness had grasped my whole body,
76 Paralysis | had fallen | upon my flesh
77 mangu | iṣbat | idīya
78 luˀtu | imtaqut | eli birkīya
79 mašâma | nammuššīša | šēpāya
80-83 [These lines are fragmentary; not read]
77 Stiffness | had seized | my arms,
78 Impotence | had fallen | on my loins,
79 *My feel had forgotten their motion.
80-83 [These lines are fragmentary; not read]
84 ina pîya | nahbal | nadīma
85 u napraku | sekir | šaptīya
84 *A snare was laid on my mouth,
85 And a bolt | barred | my lips,
86 [b]ābī edil | pehi mašqûˀa
87 arkat bubūtī | katim urˀudī
86 My way in was barred, | my 'drinking place' blocked,
87 My hunger was chronic, | my gullet constricted.
88 ašnan šumma | daddāriš alaˀˀut
89 siriš napšat nišī | elīya imtarṣu
88 When grain is served, | I choke it down like stinkweed.
89 Beer, the sustenance of mankind, | is sickening to me.
90 appūnāma | ēterik silītu90 Truly, | the malady drags on.
91 ina lā mākalê | zīmūˀa itta[krū]
92 šīrī ištahha | dāmī izzū[ba]
93 eṣettum ussuqat | arimat maš[kī]
94 šerˀānūˀa nuppuhū | uriqtum mah[rū]
91 Through lack of food | my features changed,
92 My flesh was wasted, | my blood had run dry.
93 My bones were loose, | they were covered (only) with my skin.
94 My tissues were inflamed, | they had caught the uriqtum-disease.
95 āhuz erši mēsiri | mūṣê tānīh[u]
96 ana kisukkīya | itūra bītum
95 I took to a bed of bondage; | going out was exhausting;
96 *My house turned into a prison
97 illurtu šīrīya | nadâ idāya
98 maškan ramnīya | muqqutā šēpāya
97 My flesh was a shackle, | my arms being useless;
98 My self was a fetter, | my feet being limp.
99 niṭâtūˀa šumruṣā | mihiṣtu danna[t]
100 qinnazu iṭṭânni | malâti ṣillātum
101 paruššu usahhilanni |
ziqata labšat
99 My afflictions were grievous, | the blow was severe.
100 A scourge has whipped me, | one full of barbs.
101 A crop pierced me, | one covered in stings.
102 kāl ūmu | ridû ireddâ[nni]
103 ina šāt mūši | ul unappašanni surriš
102 All day long | the tormentor tormented [me],
103 (Even) in the middle of the night | he would not let me breathe freely for an instant.
104 ina ittablakkuti | puṭṭurū riksūˀa
105 mešrētūˀa suppuhā | ittaddâ ahītum
104 From writhing, | my joints were separated
105 My limbs were splayed | and knocked about.
106 ina rubṣīya | abīt | kī alpi
107 ubtallil | kī immeri | ina tabaštāniya
106 *I spent the night in my dung like an ox,
107 *Like a sheep I wallowed in my excrement.
108 sakīkīya | išhuṭū | mašmaššu
109 u têrētīya | bārû | ūtešši
108 *The exorcist recoiled from my symptoms,
109 *And the diviner has been perplexed by my omens.
110 ul ušāpi āšipu | šikin murṣiya
111 u adanna siliˀtīya | bārû ul iddin
110 The exorcist could not diagnose | the nature of my illness,
111 *Nor could the diviner | put a time limit on my illness.
112 ul irūṣa ilī | qātī ul iṣbat
113 ul irēmanni ištarī | idāya ul illik
112 My god has not come to the rescue | nor taken me by the hand,
113 My goddess has not shown me pity | nor gone at my side.
114 piti kimahhu | ersû šukānūˀa
115 adi lā mītūtīya | bikītī gamrat
114 My grave was open, | my funerary goods were ready,
115 (Even) before I was dead, | laments for me were over.
116 kāl mātīya | kī habil iqbûni116 All of my country | said "How he was crushed!".
117 išmēma hādûˀa | immerū pānūšu
118 hādītī ubassirū | kabattašu ipperdu
117 When anyone who gloated at me heard, | his features lit up,
118 *The tidings reached her who gloated at me, and her heart rejoiced.
119 īdi ūmu | ša gimir kimtīya
120 ša qirib mūdê | šamassun irêm
119 But I know the day | for my whole family,
120 When, among my friends, | their Sun-god will have mercy.