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Ancient Egypt: Love songs
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Love songs

Memphite official and wife, 5th Dynasty
A Memphite functionary and his wife
Ca.2500 BCE, Wood, Memphis
My boat sails downstream
In time to the stroke of the oarsmen.
 
A bunch of reeds is on my shoulder,
And I am travelling to Memphis, "Life of the Two Lands".
And I shall say to the god Ptah, Lord of Truth:
"Give me my fair one tonight."
The god Ptah is her tuft of reeds,
The goddess Sekhmet is her posy of blossoms,
The goddess Earit is her budding lotus,
The god Nefertum is her blooming flower,
My love will be happy!
The dawn irradiates her beauty.
 
Memphis is a crop of pomegranates,
Placed before the god with the handsome countenance.
19th Dynasty [1]

 
(Woman:)
Come, my brother, swim to me!
The water is deep in my love
Which carries me to you.
 
We are in the midst of the stream,
I clasp the flowers to my breast
Which is naked and drips with water.
But the moon makes them bloom like the lotus.
 
I give you my flowers
because they are beautiful,
And you are holding my hand
In the middle of the water.
After J.M.Kellner Under the protection of Hathor
Couple, 5th Dynasty
Couple
ca 2500 BCE, limestone, 85 cm tall
(Man:)
The little sycamore
That she planted with her own hand
Opens its mouth to speak.
Its rustling is as sweet
As a draught of honey.
How beautiful its graceful branches
In their greenness.
On it hangs young fruit and fruit that is ripe,
Redder than the blood-red jasper.
 
The love of my loved one is on the other shore.
An arm of the river lies between us,
And crocodiles lurk on the sand-banks.
But I enter the water, I plunge into the flood;
My eager heart carries me swiftly over the waves;
I swim as surely as though I were walking on solid ground.
Love, it is love that gives me strength,
Averting the perils of the river.
18th Dynasty [1]

 
(Woman:)
O, my god, my lotus ...
The north wind is blowing ...
It is pleasant to go down to the river
My heart longs to enter it
To bathe with you.
I let you see my beauty
in a shirt of finest royal linen,
moist with balsam.
My hair is plaited with reeds
I enter the water to be with you
And leave it to join you
With a red fish.
It is beautiful on my fingers
I lay it down before you
Contemplating your beauty.
O my hero, my lover!
Come and look at me!
 
(Woman:)
Your love shall endure
Day and night
during the hours when I am asleep
And when I wake by day.
Your form animates hearts
The yearning for your voice
Gives strength to my body
When it is tired.
Always I shall say:
There is no one else
Who is in harmony
With your heart,
But me only!
 
(Man:)
My lover has come
My heart rejoices,
My arms are opened
To embrace her.
The heart in my breast is happy
As a fish in its waters.
O night, you belong to me forever
Since my mistress has come to me.
 
Alas, were I her little signet-ring
The companion of her finger,
I would see her love
At all times every day.
I would have conquered her heart.
After Hermann A. Schlögl Gärten der Liebe , 2000
Ptah-khenuwi and wife - source: bmfa
Ptah-khenuwi and wife
5th dynasty
Source: bmfa
couple, 18th Dynasty
Couple
18th Dynasty, Schist, 12 cm tall

(Man:)
My loved one is unique, without a peer,
More beautiful than any other,
See, she is like the star that rises on the horizon
At the dawn of an auspicious year.
She moves in a shimmer of perfection, her complexion is superb,
Her eyes are marvellously seductive,
On her lip linger persuasive words.
Never does she speak one word too many!
 
Her neck is slender, ample her breast,
Her hair is lapis-lazuli;
Her arms more splendid than gold
And her fingers like lotus petals.
Her robe is tightly caught in around her waist.
Revealing the most beautiful legs in all the world...
You cannot help following her with your eyes wherever she goes,
She is such an unrivalled goddess in appearance.
14th century BCE [1]

(Woman:)
... "Am I not here with [you]?"
Where have you set your heart (upon going)?"
Should you not embrace [me]?"
Has my deed come back [upon me]?"
... the amusement.
If you seek to caress my thighs
...
 
Is it because you have thought of eating that you would go forth?
Is it because you are a slave to your belly?
Is it because you [care about] clothes?
I have a bedsheet!
Is it because you are hungry that you would leave?
(Then) take my breasts
That their gift may flow forth to you.
 
Better a day in the embrace [of] my brother ...
Than a thousand myriads while ---.
P. Harris 500, 19th dynasty
Michael V. Fox, Song of Songs & Ancient Egyptian Love Songs
Menkaure and queen - source: bmfa
Menkaure and his wife
4th dynasty
Source: bmfa
Seneb and wife - Source: Jon Bodsworth
Seneb and his family
4th dynasty
Source: Jon Bodsworth
Seven days to yesterday
I have not seen the sister,
And a sickness has invaded me

 
My body has become heavy,
Forgetful of my own self,
If the chief of physicans come to me,
my heart is not content with their remedies;
the lector priests, no way out is in them-
My sickness will not be probed.

 
To say to me:
"Here she is!" is what will revive me;
Her name is what will lift me up;
The going in and out of her messengers
is what will revive my heart.
More beneficial to me is the sister
than any remedies;

She is more to me than collected writings
My health is her coming in from outside
When I see her, then I am well.
If she opens her eye,
my body is young again
If she speaks, then I am strong again
When I embrace her,
she drives evil away from me -

 
But she has been gone forth from me for seven days!
Chester Beatty papyrus

Picture source:
Les merveilles du Louvre, Hachette
 
Footnotes:
[1] Source: Samivel, The Glory of Egypt, 1955

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-Love songs from Ramesside Egypt (UCL)

 

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February 2004

 

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