The Courtship of Inanna and Damuzi
The courtship of Inanna and Dumuzi is one of the oldest love poems from the ancient world. It is a story of love between the gods (although some argue that Dumuzi was a real person, who rose to power, and so attained mythical divine status). When the gods consummate their love the result is fecundity on earth, particularly for their worshipers.
This Sumerian text is often compared to the Song of Songs. The Egyptian love poetry makes a better parallel, but there are some connections. However, a word of warning, this is much more explicitly sexual than the Song of Songs, and, of course, it is about divine lovers.
Here it is:
The brother spoke to this younger sister
The Sun God, Utu, spoke to Inanna, saying:
‘Young Lady, the flax in its fullness is lovely,
Inanna, the grain is glistening in the furrow.
I will hoe it for you, I will bring it to you
A piece of linen, big or small, is always needed.
Inanna, I will bring it to you.’
‘Brother, after you’ve brought me the flax, who will comb it for me?
Sister, I will bring it to you combed.’
‘Utu, after you’ve brought it to me combed, who will spin it for me?
‘Sister, I will bring it to you spun.’
‘Brother, after you’ve brought the flax to me spun, who will braid it for me?
‘Sister, I will bring it to you braided.’
‘Utu, after you’ve brought it to me braided, who will warp it for me?’
‘Inanna, I will bring it to you warped.’
‘Brother, after you’ve brought the flax to me warped, who will weave it for me?’
‘Sister, I will bring it to you woven.’
‘Utu, after you’ve brought it to me woven, who will bleach it for me?’
‘Inanna, I will bring it to you bleached.’
‘Brother, after you’ve brought my bridal sheet to me,
Who will go to bed with me?
Utu, who will go to bed with me?’
‘Sister, your bridegroom will go to be with you
He who was born from a fertile womb,
He who was conceived on the sacred marriage throne
Dumuzi, the shepherd! He will go to bed with you.’
Inanna bathed and anointed herself with scented oil.
She covered her body with the royal robe
She arranged her precious lapis beads around her neck
She took the royal seal in her hand
Dumuzi waited expectantly
Inanna opened the door for him
Inside the house she shone before him
Like the light of the moon
Dumuzi looked at her joyously
He pressed his neck close against hers
He kissed her
‘Let the bed that rejoices the heart be prepared!
Let the bed that sweetens the loins be prepared!
Let the bed of kingship be prepared!
Let the bed of queenship be prepared!
Let the royal bed be prepared!’
‘The bed is ready!’
‘The bed is waiting!’
‘What I tell you, let the singer weave into song
What I tell you, let it flow from ear to mouth
Let it pass from old to young.
‘My vulva, the horn, the Boat of Heaven,
Is full of eagerness like the young moon
As for me, Inanna, who will plow my vulva?
Who will plow my high field?
Who will plow my wet ground?
As for me, the young woman, who will plow my vulva?
‘Great Lady, the king will plow your vulva.
I, Dumuzi, the King, will plow your vulva!’
‘Then plow my vulva, man of my heart!
Plow my vulva!’
‘O Lady, your breast is your field
Inanna, your breast is your field.
Your broad field pours out plants
Your broad field pours out grain.
Water flows from on high for your servant
Bread flows from on high for your servant
Pour it out for me, Inanna,
I will drink all you offer!
‘I bathed for the wild bull
I bathed for the shepherd Dumuzi
Now I will caress my high priest on the bed
I will caress the faithful shepherd Dumuzi
I will decree a sweet fate for him!’
The Queen of Heaven who was presented the Sacred Measures by Enki
Inanna, the first daughter of the moon, decreed the fate of Dumuzi.
‘In battle, I am your leader
In combat, I am your armor-bearer
In the assembly, I am your advocate
On the campaign, I am your inspiration
You, the chosen shepherd of the holy shrine
You, the king, the faithful provider of Uruk,
You, the light of An’s great shrine
In all ways you are fit
To hold your head high on the lofty dais
To sit on the lapis lazuli throne
To cover your head with the holy crown
To wear long clothes on your body
To bind yourself with the garment of kingship
To race on the road with the holy sceptre in your hand
And the holy sandals on you feet
You, the sprinter, the chosen shepherd
In all ways I find you fit
May your heart enjoy long days.
That which An determined for you – may it not be altered
That which Enlil has granted – may it not be altered
You are the favorite of Ningal
Inanna holds you dear.’
Ninshubur, the faithful servant of the holy shrine of Uruk
Led Dumuzi to the sweet thighs of Inanna and spoke:
‘My queen, here is the choice of your heart
The king, your beloved bridegroom
May he spend long days in the sweetness of your holy loins
Give him a favorable and glorious reign!
O my Queen of Heaven and Earth
Queen of all the Universe
May he enjoy long days in the sweetness of your holy loins!’
The king went with lifted head on the holy loins
Dumuzi went with lifted head to the loins of Inanna
He went to the Queen with lifted head
He opened his arms to the holy Priestess of Heaven