In the first days, in the very first days

From Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth by Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Noah Kramer. The text is a curious collaboration between an Assyriologist (Kramer) who first reconstructed and translated The Descent of Inanna episode (see his essay at the end of the book) and a folklorist and ‘storyteller’ (Wolkstein) who is more responsible for the final form. Wolkstein’s interpretive commentaries at the end of the work are a bit new-age Jungian in dress (in the 1980s sense) and more than a bit overconfident- especially given that her knowledge of Sumerian is second-hand – but they are sensitive readings and her renderings are everywhere beautiful, especially in capturing the stateliness of repetition and parallelism. Below is the introit to the first section, the Huluppu Tree.

The Huluppu Tree
In the first days, in the very first days,
In the first nights, in the very first nights,
In the first years, in the very first years,

In the first days when everything needed was brought into being,
In the first days when everything needed was properly nourished,
When bread was baked in the shrines of the land,
And bread was tasted in the homes of the land,
When heaven had moved away from earth,
And earth had separated from heaven,
And the name of man was fixed;
When the Sky God, An, had carried off the heavens,
And the Air God, Enlil, had carried off the earth,
When the Queen of the Great Below, Ereshkigal, was given the underworld for her domain,

He set sail; the Father set sail,
Enki, the God of Wisdom, set sail for the underworld.
Small windstones were tossed up against him;
Large hailstones were hurled up against him;
Like onrushing turtles, They charged the keel of Enki’s boat.
The waters of the sea devoured the bow of his boat like wolves;
The waters of the sea struck the stern of his boat like lions.

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