From Tablet VII of Gilgamesh in the Andrew George translation. Enkidu has learned of his coming death and recounts his dream vision of the underworld awaiting him. The text unfortunately breaks off in the middle of the scene but we still get what must be literature’s first version of the Danse Macabre motif.
[As for Enkidu], his mind was troubled,
he lay on his own and [began to ponder.]
What was on his mind he told to his friend:
‘My friend, in the course of the night I had such a dream!
‘The heavens thundered, the earth gave echo,
and there was I, standing between them.
A man there was, grim his expression,
just like a Thunderbird his features were frightening.
‘His hands were a lion’s paws, his claws an eagle’s talons,
he seized me by the hair, he overpowered me.
I struck him, but back he sprang like a skipping rope,
he struck me, and like a raft capsized me.
‘Underfoot [he] crushed me, like a mighty wild bull,
[drenching] my body with poisonous slaver.
“Save me, my friend! …… ”
You were afraid of him, but you ….. .
‘[He struck me and] turned me into a dove.
‘[He bound] my arms like the wings of a bird,
to lead me captive to the house of darkness, seat of Irkalla:
to the house which none who enters ever leaves,
on the path that allows no journey back,
‘to the house whose residents are deprived of light,
where soil is their sustenance and clay their food,
where they are clad like birds in coats of feathers,
and see no light, but dwell in darkness.
‘On door [and bolt the dust lay thick,]
on the House [of Dust was poured a deathly quiet.]
In the House of Dust that I entered,
‘I looked around me, saw the “crowns” in a throng,
there were the crowned [heads] who’d ruled the land since days
who’d served the roast [at the] tables of Anu and Enlil,
who’d proffered baked bread, and poured them cool water from
‘In the House of Dust that I entered,
there were the en-priests and lagar-priests,
there were lustration-priests and lumahhu-priests,
there were the great gods’ gudapsu-priests,
‘there was Etana, there was Shakkan,
[there was] the queen of the Netherworld, the goddess
Before her sat [Belet]-~eri, the scribe of the Netherworld,
holding [ a tablet], reading aloud in her presence.
‘[She raised] her head and she saw me:
“[Who was] it fetched this man here?
[Who was it] brought here [this fellow?]” ,