The Jester

As quoted in 'Before the Muses' by Benjamin Foster.

The source is probably Akkadian, but definitely Mesopotamian, according to Katy. (Thanks! ^_^)





Foster's text:

This text may record the routine of a buffoon or jester. The performer cracks a variety of jokes, some of them presumably of double entendre. In a satire on professions, the jester acts the exorcist by burning down a house to rid it of its haunt. Next an unappetizing religious diet is set forth in prescriptive form. Other, fragmentary, portions of the text dealt with a heroic quest and bizarre omens, but these are too fragmentary for connected translation.



(a)
The lion can terrify,
I can make a roar too!
The lion can switch his tail,
I can wag my tail too!
I'm as trustworthy as a sieve,
I hold on to my followers like a net.
I sing like a she-ass.
I can't stand a thief, whatever I see doesn't stay where it was.
I've gotten large from starvation, enormous from eating.
I breakfast on ten quarts, I dine on thirty,
I don't leave off till I've filled the 'bushel'¹ to the brim.
The long, the short of them, there's none like me among the girls!
My limbs are elephantine, my face a hyena's,
I tower like a tortoise, I have no rival:
So much would my lover be loving me,
He keeps turning over, front and back, like a snared crab.
He wouldn't herd his ewes within a league² of the city gate because of me,
I've used up all the plants for my [    ]!
I'm frisky, I'm a lively one!


1. His stomach?
2. Text: '400 acres.'




(fragmentary lines, then gap)


(b)
"Jester, what can you do?"
[I can...] and sing laments,
I can squeeze out apple juice and brew beer.

"Jester, what can you do?"
I can snatch on the run pod-weeds from turnips, groats from stink-wort.

"Jester, what can you do?"
Of the whole exorcist's craft, nothing's beyond me.

"Jester, how do you exorcise?"
Here's how: I take over the haunted house, I set up the holy water,
I tie up the scape goat,
I skin a donkey and stuff it with straw.
I tie a bundle of reeds, set it on fire, and toss it inside.
I spared the boundaries of the house and its surroundings,
But the haunt of the house, the serpent, the scorpion, are not spared.


(gap)


(c)
"In October what is your diet?"
Thou shalt dine on spoiled oil in onions, and goose pluckings in porridge.

"In November what is your diet?"
Thou shalt dine on pod-weed in turnips, and 'cleanser-plant' in crowfoot(?)¹

"In December what is your diet?"
Thou shalt dine on wild donkey dung in bitter garlic,
And emmer chaff in sour milk.

"In January what is your diet?"
Thou shalt dine on goose eggs and dung(?) embedded in sand,
And cumin infused with Euphrates water in ghee.

"In February what is your diet?"
Thou shalt dine on hot bread and donkey's ass,
Stuffed with dog turds and fly dirt.

(fragmentary lines, then gap)



1. Or: 'asafoetida powder.'






Quoted in Benjamin Foster, 'Before the Muses'. Kindly donated to me by Katy Greaves, the only Egyptologist I know. :-)







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