Ancient Egyptian texts: Hymn to the Nile
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Hapi, god of the Nile
Two translations of the
Hymn to the Nileca. 2100 BCE
Hail to thee, O Nile! Who manifests thyself over this land, and comes to give life to Egypt! Mysterious is thy issuing forth from the darkness, on this day whereon it is celebrated! Watering the orchards created by Re, to cause all the cattle to live, you give the earth to drink, inexhaustible one! Path that descends from the sky, loving the bread of Seb and the first-fruits of Nepera, You cause the workshops of Ptah to prosper!
1 Hail to thee O Nile!
2 Thou showest thyself in this land,
3 Coming in peace, giving life to Egypt:
4 O Ammon, (thou) leadest night into day,
5 A leading that rejoices the heart!
6 Overflowing the gardens created by Ra.
7 Giving life to all animals;
8 Watering the land without ceasing:
9 The way of heaven descending:
10 Lover of food, bestower of corn,
11 Giving light to every home, O Ptah!
Lord of the fish, during the inundation, no bird alights on the crops. You create the grain, you bring forth the barley, assuring perpetuity to the temples. If you cease your toil and your work, then all that exists is in anguish. If the gods suffer in heaven, then the faces of men waste away.
1 Lord of fishes, when the inundation returns
2 No fowls fall on the cultures.
3 Maker of spelt; creator of wheat:
4 Who maintaineth the temples!
5 Idle hands he loathes
6 For myriads, for all the wretched.
7 If the gods in heaven are grieved,
8 Then sorrow cometh on men.
Then He torments the flocks of Egypt, and great and small are in agony. But all is changed for mankind when He comes; He is endowed with the qualities of Nun. If He shines, the earth is joyous, every stomach is full of rejoicing, every spine is happy, every jaw-bone crushes (its food).
1 He maketh the whole land open to the oxen,
2 And the great and the small are rejoicing;
3 The response of men at his coming!
4 His likeness is Nun!
5 He shineth, then the land exulteth!
6 All bellies are in joy!
7 Every creature receives nourishment!
8 All teeth get food.
He brings the offerings, as chief of provisioning; He is the creator of all good things, as master of energy, full of sweetness in his choice. If offerings are made it is thanks to Him. He brings forth the herbage for the flocks, and sees that each god receives his sacrifices. All that depends on Him is a precious incense. He spreads himself over Egypt, filling the granaries, renewing the marts, watching over the goods of the unhappy.
1 Bringer of food! Great lord of provisions!
2 Creator of all good things!
3 Lord of terrors and of choicest joys!
4 All are combined in him.
5 He produceth grass for the oxen;
6 Providing victims for every god.
7 The choice incense is that which he supplies.
8 Lord in both regions,
9 He filleth the granaries, enricheth the storehouses,
10 He careth for the state of the poor.
He is prosperous to the height of all desires, without fatiguing Himself therefor. He brings again his lordly bark; He is not sculptured in stone, in the statutes crowned with the uraeus serpent, He cannot be contemplated. No servitors has He, no bearers of offerings! He is not enticed by incantations! None knows the place where He dwells, none discovers his retreat by the power of a written spell.
1 He causeth growth to fulfil all desires,
2 He never wearies of it.
3 He maketh his might a barker,
4 He is not graven in marble,
5 As an image bearing the double crown.
6 He is not beheld:
7 He hath neither ministrants nor offerings:
8 He is not adored in sanctuaries:
9 His abode is not known:
10 No shrine is found with painted figures.
No dwelling (is there) which may contain you! None penetrates within your heart! Your young men, your children applaud you and render unto you royal homage. Stable are your decrees for Egypt before your servants of the North! He stanches the water from all eyes and watches over the increase of his good things.
1 There is no building that can contain him!
2 There is no counsellor in thy heart!
3 Thy youth delight in thee, thy children:
4 Thou directest them as King.
5 Thy law is established in the whole land,
6 In the presence of thy servants in the North:
7 Every eye is satisfied with him:
8 He careth for the abundance of his blessings.
Where misery existed, joy manifests itself; all beasts rejoice. The children of Sobek, the sons of Neith, the cycle of the gods which dwells in him, are prosperous. No more reservoirs for watering the fields! He makes mankind valiant, enriching some, bestowing his love on others. None commands at the same time as himself. He creates the offerings without the aid of Neith, making mankind for himself with multiform care.
1 The inundation comes, (then) cometh rejoicing;
2 Every heart exulteth:
3 The tooth of the crocodiles, the children of Neith
4 (Even) the circle of gods who are counted with thee.
5 Doth not its outburst water the fields,
6 Overcoming mortals (with joy):
7 Watering one to produce another.
8 There is none who worketh with him;
9 He produces food without the aid of Neith.
10 Mortals he causes to rejoice.
He shines when He issues forth from the darkness, to cause his flocks to prosper. It is his force that gives existence to all things; nothing remains hidden for him. Let men clothe themselves to fill his gardens. He watches over his works, producing the inundation during the night. The associate of Ptah . . . He causes all his servants to exist, all writings and divine words, and that which He needs in the North.
1 He giveth light on his coming from darkness:
2 In the pastures of his cattle
3 His might produceth all:
4 What was not, his moisture bringeth to life.
5 Men are clothed to fill his gardens:
6 He careth for his laborers.
7 He maketh even and noontide,
8 He is the infinite Ptah and Kabes.
9 He createth all works therein,
10 All writings, all sacred words,
11 All his implements in the North.
It is with the words that He penetrates into his dwelling; He issues forth at his pleasure through the magic spells. Your unkindness brings destruction to the fish; it is then that prayer is made for the (annual) water of the season; Southern Egypt is seen in the same state as the North. Each one is with his instruments of labor. None remains behind his companions. None clothes himself with garments, The children of the noble put aside their ornaments. His night remains silent, but all is changed by the inundation; it is a healing-balm for all mankind.
1 He enters with words the interior of his house,
2 When he willeth he goeth forth from his mystic fane.
3 Thy wrath is destruction of fishes.
4 Then men implore thee for the waters of the season.
5 That the Thebaid may be seen like the Delta.
6 That every man be seen bearing his tools,
7 No man left behind his comrade!
8 Let the clothed be unclothed,
9 No adornment for the sons of nobles,
10 No circle of gods in the night!
11 The response (of the god) is refreshing water,
12 Filling all men with fatness.
Establisher of justice! Mankind desires you, supplicating you to answer their prayers; You answer them by the inundation! Men offer the first-fruits of corn; all the gods adore you! The birds descend not on the soil. It is believed that with your hand of gold you make bricks of silver! But we are not nourished on lapis-lazuli; wheat alone gives vigor.
1 Establisher of justice! Men rejoice
2 With flattering words to worship thee,
3 Worshipped together with the mighty water!
4 Men present offerings of corn,
5 Adoring all the gods:
6 No fowls fall on the land.
7 Thy hand is adorned with gold,
8 As moulded of an ingot of gold,
9 Precious as pure lapis lazuli,
10 Corn in its state of germination is not eaten.
A festal song is raised for you on the harp, with the accompaniment of the hand. Your young men and your children acclaim you and prepare their (long) exercises. You are the august ornament of the earth, letting your bark advance before men, lifting up the heart of women in labor, and loving the multitude of the flocks.
1 The hymn is addressed to thee with the harp;
2 It is played with a (skilful) hand to thee!
3 The youths rejoice at thee!
4 Thy own children.
5 Thou hast rewarded their labor.
6 There s a great one adorning the land;
7 An enlightener, a buckler in front of men,
8 Quickening the heart in depression.
9 Loving the increase of all his cattle.
When you shine in the royal city, the rich man is sated with good things, the poor man even disdains the lotus; all that is produced is of the choicest; all the plants exist for your children. If you have refused (to grant) nourishment, the dwelling is silent, devoid of all that is good, the country falls exhausted.
1 Thou shinest in the city of the King;
2 Then the householders are satisfied with good things,
3 The poor man laughs at the lotus.
4 All things are perfectly ordered.
5 Every kind of herb for thy children.
6 If food should fail,
7 All enjoyment is cast on the ground,
8 The land falls in weariness.
O inundation of the Nile, offerings are made unto you, men are immolated to you, great festivals are instituted for you. Birds are sacrificed to you, gazelles are taken for you in the mountain, pure flames are prepared for you. Sacrifice is mettle to every god as it is made to the Nile. The Nile has made its retreats in Southern Egypt, its name is not known beyond the Tuau. The god manifests not his forms, He baffles all conception.
1 O Inundation of Nile, offerings are made to thee:
2 Oxen are slain to thee:
3 Great festivals are kept for thee;
4 Fowls are sacrificed to thee;
5 Beasts of the field are caught for thee
6 Pure flames are offered to thee;
7 Offerings are made to every god,
8 As they are made unto Nile.
9 Incense ascends unto heaven,
10 Oxen, bulls, fowls are burnt!
11 Nile makes for himself chasms in the Thebaid;
12 Unknown is his name in heaven,
13 He doth not manifest his form!
14 Vain are all representations!
Men exalt him like the cycle of the gods, they dread him who creates the heat, even him who has made his son the universal master in order to give prosperity to Egypt. Come (and) prosper! Come (and) prosper! O Nile, come (and) prosper! O you who make men to live through his flocks and his flocks through his orchards! Come (and) prosper, come, O Nile, come (and) prosper!
1 Mortals extol (him), and the cycle of gods!
2 Awe is felt by the terrible ones;
3 His son is made Lord of all,
4 To enlighten all Egypt.
5 Shine forth, shine forth, O Nile! Shine forth!
6 Giving life to men by his oxen:
7 Giving life to his oxen by the pastures!
8 Shine forth in glory, O Nile.
From: Oliver J. Thatcher, ed., The Library of Original Sources (Milwaukee: University Research Extension Co., 1907), Vol. I: The Ancient World, pp. 79-83.
Translated by Rev. F. C. Cook (1901)
 Corn in the context of ancient Egypt generally refers to wheat or barley.
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