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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ancient Egyptian Love Poetry

You may not think of ancient Egypt as being the most romantic of societies (hard to think of candlelit dinners when candles hadn't been invented yet), but a fair bit of ancient Egyptian love poetry has actually survived the archaeological record. Today I have a little taste for you dating from the 15th-10th centuries BCE.

The little sycamore she planted
prepares to speak- the sound of rustling leaves
sweeter than honey.

On its lovely green limbs
is new fruit and ripe fruit red as blood jasper,
and leaves of green jasper.

Her love awaits me on a distant shore.
The river flows between us,
crocodiles on the sandbars.

Yet I plunge into the river,
my heart slicing currents, steady
as if I were walking.

O my love, it is love
that gives me strength and courage,
love that fords the river.

My imagination soars with this poem, written by some man (probably a scribe) 3,500 years ago. I wonder who the woman was he loved and if they ever got together. I certainly hope so.

Do you have a favorite poet? Do you ever wonder what an artist was thinking when you read a poem or look at a painting?