The World’s Oldest Poems

papyrus-63004_960_720.jpgPoetry is the language we use to express ourselves. It has been a part of us throughout time. There is probably so much more to be discovered, sitting preserved under buried grounds. There have been many writings found that pre-date even the Bible, and historians continue to search for these lost treasures to find out more about humanity. Some share similarities to events in the Bible, some are heroic tales in a quest to fight evil, while others shed light onto rituals of love.

Here are a few excerpts from the world’s oldest poems:

Known as the oldest surviving work of literature from ancient Mesopotamia, The Epic of Gilgamesh follows the story of a mythical hero undertaking a few quests and adventures.


 The Epic of Gilgamesh (c. 20th-10th Century BC)

From Tablet XI…

Utanapishtim spoke to Gilgamesh, saying:

“I will reveal to you, Gilgamesh, a thing that is hidden,

a secret of the gods I will tell you!

Shuruppak, a city that you surely know,

situated on the banks of the Euphrates,

that city was very old, and there were gods inside it.

The hearts of the Great Gods moved them to inflict the Flood.

Their Father Anu uttered the oath (of secrecy),

Valiant Enlil was their Adviser,

Ninurta was their Chamberlain,

Ennugi was their Minister of Canals.

Ea, the Clever Prince(?), was under oath with them

so he repeated their talk to the reed house:

‘Reed house, reed house! Wall, wall!

O man of Shuruppak, son of Ubartutu:

Tear down the house and build a boat!

Abandon wealth and seek living beings!

Spurn possessions and keep alive living beings!

Make all living beings go up into the boat.

The boat which you are to build,

its dimensions must measure equal to each other:

its length must correspond to its width.

From a class of literature known as Sanskrit poetry, The Ramayana is the story of a prince on a quest to rescue his beloved wife from a demon king.

Ramayana (c. 4th Century BC)

From Verse II: Mithila and the Breaking of the Bow…

Janak monarch of Videha spake his memage near and far,

He shall win my peerless Sita who shall bend my bow of war,

Suitors came from farthest regions, warlike princes known to fame,

Vainly strove to wield the weapon, left Videha in their shame.

Viswa-mitra royal rishi, Rama true and Lakshman bold,

Came to fair Mithila’s city from Ayodhya famed of old,

Spake in pride the royal rishi: “Monarch of Videha’s throne,

Grant, the wondrous bow of Rudra be to princely Rama shown.”

Janak spake his royal mandate to his lords and warriors bold:

“Bring ye forth the bow of Rudra decked in garlands and in gold,”

And his peers and proud retainers waiting on the monarch’s call,

Brought the great and goodly weapon from the city’s inner hall.

A Sumerian tablet Translated in 1951, turned out to be not just a love poem, but a part of a “sacred marriage” where the king symbolically married the goddess Inanna.


The Love Song for Shu-Sin (c.2000 BC)

Bridegroom, dear to my heart,

Goodly is your beauty, honeysweet,

Lion, dear to my heart,

Goodly is your beauty, honeysweet.

You have captivated me, let me stand tremblingly before you.

Bridegroom, I would be taken by you to the bedchamber,

You have captivated me, let me stand tremblingly before you.

Lion, I would be taken by you to the bedchamber.

Bridegroom, let me caress you,

My precious caress is more savory than honey,

In the bedchamber, honey-filled,

Let me enjoy your goodly beauty,

Lion, let me caress you,

My precious caress is more savory than honey.

Bridegroom, you have taken your pleasure of me,

Tell my mother, she will give you delicacies,

My father, he will give you gifts.

Your spirit, I know where to cheer your spirit,

Bridegroom, sleep in our house until dawn,

Your heart, I know where to gladden your heart,

Lion, sleep in our house until dawn.

You, because you love me,

Give me pray of your caresses,

My lord god, my lord protector,

My Shu-Sin, who gladdens Enlil’s heart,

Give my pray of your caresses.

Your place goodly as honey, pray lay your hand on it,

Bring your hand over like a gishban-garment,

Cup your hand over it like a gishban-sikin-garment


20161107_133412-2Written by: Donna J. Sanders

Donna is a freelance writer and blogger in West Palm Beach, FL. She is the author of Ataraxia, Cardboard Signs, Devour Me and Charcoal Kisses.

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Photo Credit: © Donna J. Sanders

Categories: Creative Talents Unleashed

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