As for you, Gilgamesh, let your belly be full,
Make merry day and night.
Of each day make a feast of rejoicing.
Day and night dance and play!
Let your garments be sparkling fresh,
Your head be washed; bathe in water.
Pay heed to a little one that holds on to your hand,
Let a spouse delight in your bosom.
After Gilgamesh braves the dark passage under the twin-peaked mountain through which the sun passes on its daily travels, he emerges into a magical garden by the sea, which represents a kind of second birth. The garden belongs to Siduri the veiled bar maid, the goddess of wine-making and brewing. With some trepidation, she permits the disreputable-looking Gilgamesh to enter her tavern. Then she gives him some pointed advice: he should give up his futile quest for eternal life and make the most of the life he’s living now. For unknown reasons, Sin-Leqi-Unninni did not include Siduri’s famous speech in his version of The Epic of Gilgamesh. Fortunately, it survived in an old Babylonian text. While Siduri’s words anticipate by thousands of years the “Carpe Diem” of the Roman Horace, and the famous words “Make the most of what we yet may spend / Before we too into the Dust descend” of the medieval Persian astronomer poet Omar Khayyam, they evoke a similar spirit of making the most of the present moment.
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