The Honey-man

The song of the lettuce: a balbale to Inana (Dumuzid-Inana E)

English interpretation by Alan Humm

There are a number of Sumerian texts which describe the official marriage of the king (physical, human) to Inanna, told from the perspective of her representative, the priestess. Kramer assumes that this text falls into that category, in spite of the fact that no king is named, and nor is Inanna. By all exterior indications, it could just be a generic love song of the general variety as those found in Egypt. That, however, would make it unique among Sumerian texts. In addition, the musical indication (last line) suggests that either the author or the scribal tradition associated it with Inanna, although that could be honorific. For the present it is safer to assume, although with reserve, that Kramer is right in his assessment.
In any case, there are three strophs. The first two are four lines each structured a-b-a-a (this is not a rhyming scheme, but the ‘a’ lines end with the same phrases). The final, two line, stroph picks its line endings from the previous two strophs.

This version is a combination of the translation by S. N. Kramer (1969) with that of a consortium of Oxford scholars associated with ETCSL (2003). I cannot, in this case, claim to have improved the language very much (as is usually my goal in such ‘retranslation’ efforts).
The linked line numbers will take you to the Sumerian text at ETCSL.

Please report errors to me (link at end of page). -Alan Humm


Kramer, Samuel Noah (1969). The Honey-man. Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament with Supplement. Pritchard, James B. (Ed.). Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press. P. 645.

The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature [ETCSL] (2003). The song of the lettuce: a balbale to Inana (Dumuzid-Inana E). Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford. Accessed 6/2011.

1   He has sprouted, he has mushroomed, he is well-watered lettuce,
     my shaded garden of the plain, his mother's favorite,
my grain luxuriant in its furrows, he is well-watered lettuce;
my fruit-filled apple tree, he is well-watered lettuce.

5   The honey-man, the honey-man will sweeten me always;
     my lord, the honey-man of the gods, his mother's favorite,
with honey-hands, with honey-feet, will sweeten me always.
His honey-sweet limbs, will sweeten me always.

9   The one who altogether sweetens my navel, my favorite of his mother,
     with beautiful thighs, and powerful arms! My ......, he is well-watered lettuce.

11   A balbale of Inana.

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