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

Updated on September 10, 2018
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

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

Bust of Nefertiti

Source

Introduction and Text of "Your Love, Dear Man, Is as Lovely to Me"

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."

Your Love, Dear Man, Is as Lovely to Me

Your love, dear man, is as lovely to me
As sweet soothing oil to the limbs of the restless,

As clean ritual robes to the flesh of gods,
As fragrance of incense to one coming home
Hot from the smells of the street.

It is like nipple-berries ripe in the hand,
Like the tang of grainmeal mingled with beer,
Like wine to the palate when taken with white bread.

While unhurried days come and go,
Let us turn to each other in quiet affection,
Walk in peace to the edge of old age.
And I shall be with you each unhurried day,
A woman given her one wish; to see
For a lifetime the face of her Lord.

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

Commentary

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 readers have to rely on a translation, it will remain uncertain whether the images reflect accurately what those ancient people experienced.

First Versagraph: Celebrating Feelings for a Mate

Your love, dear man, is as lovely to me
As sweet soothing oil to the limbs of the restless,

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: Pagan Influence

As clean ritual robes to the flesh of gods,
As fragrance of incense to one coming home
Hot from the smells of the street.

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.

The speaker 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: The Pleasures of Physicality

It is like nipple-berries ripe in the hand,
Like the tang of grainmeal mingled with beer,
Like wine to the palate when taken with white bread.

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.

The speaker 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: Hoping the Remain a Couple

While unhurried days come and go,
Let us turn to each other in quiet affection,
Walk in peace to the edge of old age.
And I shall be with you each unhurried day,
A woman given her one wish; to see
For a lifetime the face of her Lord.

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.

The speaker 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."

The Uncertainty of Translation

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.

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes

Comments

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  • Maya Shedd Temple profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda Sue Grimes 

    2 months ago from U.S.A.

    This piece has many fine qualities and remains an interesting little drama.

    Thank you for your comment, Ges!

  • Ges Jaicten profile image

    Ges Jaicten 

    2 months ago from Iloilo City

    I love the piece you chose and the interpretation. Good work.

  • Maya Shedd Temple profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda Sue Grimes 

    3 months ago from U.S.A.

    Thank you, Shadrack2!

    It is always interesting to experience ancient poems, even though we often must remain a bit skeptical of particulars. The interesting features though always shine through; for instance, the love the woman has for her husband is recognizable in any time period in any culture.

  • Shadrack2 profile image

    Shadrack2 

    2 years ago

    great piece. I really like. Keep more coming.

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