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An Ancient Egyptian Poem: "Your Love, Dear Man, is as Lovely to Me"

Updated on October 8, 2017
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

After I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962, poetry became my passion.

Bust of Nefertiti


The name of the poet is unknown, but it was translated by John L. Foster; this poem offers a glimpse of an ancient culture, but because it is a translation of an ancient work, it must be taken with a grain of salt.

Somewhat amateurish, this ancient Egyptian poem, "Your Love, Dear Man, is as Lovely to Me," consists of four unevenly sectioned versagraphs; the first versagraph contains two lines, the second and third three, and the final consists of six lines. The original poem was probably written in an Egyptian language, so it could be the translator's discretion that accounts for some of the anomalies of the poem, such as the "flesh of Gods" and the term "nipple-berries."

First Versagraph: "Your love, dear man, is as lovely to me"

In the first versagraph, the speaker addresses her mate, celebrating her feelings for him. She tells him that her feelings for him give her comfort as a tired person feels when being rubbed with oil. Of course, she dramatizes his "love," calling it "as lovely to me." The oil is "sweet" and "soothing." A tired, dusty, "restless" individual would be restored and comforted by the likes of such sweet oil as his love.

Second Versagraph: "As clean ritual robes to the flesh of Gods"

The speaker continues in the second versagraph to relate to her beloved how lovely his love is to her. Not only is it as lovely as the sweet oil, but it is also "[a]s clean ritual robes to the flesh of Gods." That she would put "flesh" on "Gods" reminds the reader that this is a woman writing in ancient Egypt under the influence of a pagan religion.

Still, it is an anomaly that the translator chose to capitalize "gods." She then brings herself squarely back to the material level by asserting that his love is as lovely to her as the pleasant odor of "incense to one coming home." After experiencing the "smells of the street," the individual coming home to the "fragrance of incense" again will be comforted and refreshed. His love makes her feel comfortable in all these ways.

Third Versagraph: "It is like nipple-berries ripe in the hand"

In the third versagraph, the speaker begins a new sentence: "It is like nipple-berries ripe in the hand." "It" refers to that lovely love she has thus far been describing. Here she brings in the physicality of the body. She has enjoyed him carnally: his nipples are like ripe berries in her hand. He tastes "like grainmeal mingled with beer" and "[l]ike wine to the palate when taken with white bread." "White bread" used to be a delicacy only the rich could afford.

Fourth Versagraph: "While unhurried days come and go"

In the final versagraph, the speaker states rather prosaically that she hopes they will stay together their whole lives. But as she promulgates this wish, she qualifies the life she hopes to lead with "her lord," that is, the head of her household, her husband. She hopes that their life will be leisurely with "unhurried days." She hopes their affection will be "quiet" and that they "[w]alk in peace to the edge of old age." She will be a "woman given her wish" if she can see his face "[f]or a lifetime."

Final Comment

When experiencing a translated poem this old, it is good to remember that time and cultural differences may be at play and that the poem may have lost many special attributes and may have taken on nuances not originally featured by the poet. The amateurishness may not be entirely the fault of the poet; the translator might have undone some of the poet's fine work.

Reading of "Your Love, Dear Man, is as Lovely to Me"

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes


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