4000 years old love poem..

 

 

After 4,000 years, love keeps poem alive 

By Sebnem Arsu The New York Times

 

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2006

 

 

ISTANBUL It is as small as a cellphone, but its message is anything but modern. A small tablet in a special display this month at the Istanbul Museum of the Ancient Orient is thought to be the oldest love poem ever found, the words of a lover from more than 4,000 years ago.

 

The Sumerian tablet was unearthed in the late 1880s in Nippur, an ancient city in what is now Iraq, and had been resting quietly in a modest corner of the museum until it was brought back to the limelight this year by a company that made it part of a Valentine's Day promotion.

 

The poem sits among Sumerian documents such as a court verdict from 2030 B.C. breaking an engagement, a property sale and documentation of a murder.

 

Despite the tablets' ancient lineage, they had gone relatively unnoticed by most museum visitors until the company provided the money to make the tablet with the poem the centerpiece of a special exhibit.

 

"It must be written by a man desperately in love with the rich princess," guessed Choi Na Kyong, 27, a tourist from South Korea, examining the love poem on clay on a recent day. But she was mistaken.

 

The tablet in fact contains a daring. and risqué, ballad in which a priestess professes her love for a king, though it is believed that the words are in fact a ****** for a ceremonial recreation of a fable by the priestess and the king, Su-Sin. The priestess represents Inanna, the Goddess of Love and Fertility, and the king represents Dumuzi, the God of Shepherds, on the eve of their union.

 

"Bridegroom, dear to my heart, Goodly is your beauty, honeysweet,"' the first line in the cuneiform tablet reads. "'You have captivated me, let me stand trembling before you; Bridegroom, I would be taken to the bedchamber."

 

He apparently does.

 

"Bridegroom, you have taken your pleasure of me," the poem continues. "Tell my mother, she will give you delicacies; my father, he will give you gifts."

 

Turkey is second only to the United States in its collection of Sumerian documents. Muazzez Hilmiye Cig, 93, a retired historian at the museum who is one of only a few people in Turkey who can read the text, said she was fascinated by the way Sumerians perceived love.

 

"They did not have sexual taboos in love," she said. "Instead, they believed that only love and passion could bring them fertility and therefore praised pleasures."

 

In the agriculture-based Sumerian community, she said, lovemaking between the king and the priestess would have been seen as a way to ensure the fertility of their crops, and therefore the community's welfare, for another year.

 

Cig said she worked with Samuel Noah Kramer, a professor, in 1951, and that he had identified the tablet, among 74,000 others, during years of studies in the Istanbul museum. Their translation of this tablet also shed light on the Song of Solomon in the Old Testament, she said, because some phrases are similar to poems sung during Sumerian weddings and fertility feasts. "This filled the missing link between religious texts of the different periods," she said.

 

In today's world, of course, Valentine's Day combines love with commerce. Bisse, a Turkish shirtmaker known for its support for archeological studies, provided the funds for the special display and promoted the exhibit by giving away replicas of the love poem at its stores.

 

"We need such financial support," said Ismail Karamut, director of the museum, adding that he would like to have more financial autonomy, as many European museums do.

 

As she held the tran******ion of the poem, Cig smiled. "After all these years, very little has changed," she said. "There's still jealousy, unfaithfulness and sexuality in affairs of love as in the times of Sumerians. I just wished whoever has written the poem could see how popular the tablet has now become."

 

 ISTANBUL It is as small as a cellphone, but its message is anything but modern. A small tablet in a special display this month at the Istanbul Museum of the Ancient Orient is thought to be the oldest love poem ever found, the words of a lover from more than 4,000 years ago.

 

The Sumerian tablet was unearthed in the late 1880s in Nippur, an ancient city in what is now Iraq, and had been resting quietly in a modest corner of the museum until it was brought back to the limelight this year by a company that made it part of a Valentine's Day promotion.

 

The poem sits among Sumerian documents such as a court verdict from 2030 B.C. breaking an engagement, a property sale and documentation of a murder.

 

Despite the tablets' ancient lineage, they had gone relatively unnoticed by most museum visitors until the company provided the money to make the tablet with the poem the centerpiece of a special exhibit.

 

"It must be written by a man desperately in love with the rich princess," guessed Choi Na Kyong, 27, a tourist from South Korea, examining the love poem on clay on a recent day. But she was mistaken.

 

The tablet in fact contains a daring. and risqué, ballad in which a priestess professes her love for a king, though it is believed that the words are in fact a ****** for a ceremonial recreation of a fable by the priestess and the king, Su-Sin. The priestess represents Inanna, the Goddess of Love and Fertility, and the king represents Dumuzi, the God of Shepherds, on the eve of their union.

 

"Bridegroom, dear to my heart, Goodly is your beauty, honeysweet,"' the first line in the cuneiform tablet reads. "'You have captivated me, let me stand trembling before you; Bridegroom, I would be taken to the bedchamber."

 

He apparently does.

 

"Bridegroom, you have taken your pleasure of me," the poem continues. "Tell my mother, she will give you delicacies; my father, he will give you gifts."

 

Turkey is second only to the United States in its collection of Sumerian documents. Muazzez Hilmiye Cig, 93, a retired historian at the museum who is one of only a few people in Turkey who can read the text, said she was fascinated by the way Sumerians perceived love.

 

"They did not have sexual taboos in love," she said. "Instead, they believed that only love and passion could bring them fertility and therefore praised pleasures."

 

In the agriculture-based Sumerian community, she said, lovemaking between the king and the priestess would have been seen as a way to ensure the fertility of their crops, and therefore the community's welfare, for another year.

 

Cig said she worked with Samuel Noah Kramer, a professor, in 1951, and that he had identified the tablet, among 74,000 others, during years of studies in the Istanbul museum. Their translation of this tablet also shed light on the Song of Solomon in the Old Testament, she said, because some phrases are similar to poems sung during Sumerian weddings and fertility feasts. "This filled the missing link between religious texts of the different periods," she said.

 

In today's world, of course, Valentine's Day combines love with commerce. Bisse, a Turkish shirtmaker known for its support for archeological studies, provided the funds for the special display and promoted the exhibit by giving away replicas of the love poem at its stores.

 

"We need such financial support," said Ismail Karamut, director of the museum, adding that he would like to have more financial autonomy, as many European museums do.

 

As she held the translation of the poem, Cig smiled. "After all these years, very little has changed," she said. "There's still jealousy, unfaithfulness and sexuality in affairs of love as in the times of Sumerians. I just wished whoever has written the poem could see how popular the tablet has now become."

 

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