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The Words of Neferti

1 (P 1) Now, there was once a time when the Majesty of the Dual King Sneferu, the justified,1 The poem opens as a simple tale. Sneferu was the first king of the Fourth Dynasty (c.2575–2551 BC). He also features in The Tale of King Cheops’ Court (q.v., n. 14) as a jolly monarch. was the worthy king of this entire land. On one of those days the Council of the Residence entered into the Great House (l.p.h.!) to pay their respects. They then went out, having paid their respects,2 This morning levée was an occasion for the Vizier to report to the king about the state of the kingdom. The functionary (literally ‘sealer’) is an attendant to do with palace business, in waiting on the king. as was their daily custom. And his Majesty (l.p.h.!) said to the functionary who was beside him, ‘Go bring me the Council of the Residence, who have just left here from today's respects!’ And they were ushered in to him immediately. And they were once again prostrate in front of his Majesty (l.p.h.!). And his Majesty (l.p.h.!) said to them, ‘Lads!3 The king has already broken the stately pattern of daily custom, by recalling the council (anticipating the more drastic changes to come), and he now goes further in adopting a lively tone in describing his whim (Lads). There is a sharp contrast between this and the formality of the court which demands that all prostrate themselves before him. His speech, nevertheless, retains a certain grandeur in its threefold pattern, and in its references to high ethical qualities: clever, perfect, and choice wisdom. Look, I've had you called to make you seek me out a son of yours who is a man of understanding, a brother of yours who is a clever man, a friend of yours who can achieve a perfect deed, who will tell me a few perfect words, choice verses, which my Majesty will be entertained to hear.’ And they once again prostrated themselves, in front of his Majesty (l.p.h.!).

2 (P 9) And they said unto his Majesty (l.p.h.!), ‘Bastet has a chief lector priest,4 Bastet is the feline goddess of Bubastis, a city of the eastern Delta. She is a protectress of Egypt's borders (a feature relevant to what follows). For the role of the lector priest, see The Tale of King Cheops’ Court, n. 1. Neferti is a fictional character, whose name is carefully chosen: nefer means ‘perfect’ and is an element common to the names Neferti and Sneferu, as well as the phrase ‘perfect speech’; Sneferu is literally ‘He who makes perfect’ the ‘perfect’ words of the ‘perfect’ sage (which will describe the loss and regaining of perfection (7c) ). King, sage, and poetry are well matched. sovereign, our lord, called Neferti. He is a strong armed commoner,5 The courtiers reply to the king's threefold request with a threefold description. Like many literary protagonists Neferti is a free commoner, and his wealth is a tangible result of his wisdom. With clever fingers is a standard epithet for scribes (see The Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor, n. 31). a scribe with clever fingers. He is a wealthy man, who has greater riches than any of his equals. O let him be brought for your Majesty to see!’ And his Majesty (l.p.h.!) said, ‘Go bring him to me!’ And he was ushered in to him immediately. And he was prostrate in front of his Majesty (l.p.h.!). And his Majesty (l.p.h.!) said, ‘Come now,6 Although the king's address to his obedient subject is still strikingly chatty, it is a little less informal than his address to the courtiers (1j and n. 3), as is appropriate. The commoner answers back with a question. Neferti, my friend, and tell me a few perfect words, choice verses, which my Majesty will be entertained to hear!’ And the lector priest Neferti said, ‘Of what has happened, or of what will happen, sovereign, my lord?’ And his Majesty (l.p.h.!) said, ‘But of what will happen,7 As Egyptian texts generally pay respect to yesterday, the king's remark is slightly flippant, although it has a charming irony, given that Sneferu's past fame is being recounted to the audience. His writing-down of Neferti's speech is startlingly informal and a great favour (in funerary texts the king aspires to be the scribe of the gods); this shows his joviality, as well as the respect that is due to the poem: a famous king guarantees its textual transmission, and this stresses the truth and importance of what Neferti says. The scene acts out the wordplay on nefer (see n. 4). for today happens and then it is passed by!’ Then he stretched his hand out to a box of writing equipment. Then he took for himself a roll and a palette. And he was writing down what the lector priest Neferti said. He was a sage of the East;8 No title introduces the following discourse, but a prelude describes what is to ensue. The description of the sage is once again threefold (see n. 5), and emphasizes that Neferti comes from the East (already implied in 2b, see n. 4). The province of Heliopolis, the city of the Sungod, was at the eastern apex of the Delta (see also n. 23). he belonged to Bastet in her Orient. He was a child of the Heliopolitan nome. 3 (P 17) He ponders the happenings in the land.9 After the threefold description of the sage (see n. 8), the description of his thoughts goes beyond this numerical pattern with a sequence of five verses, in which his speech is characterized as a reflective lament. The East was vulnerable to invasion from the Asiatics, who represent the chaos that always threatened the state. He recalls the sad state of the East, the Asiatics journeying in their strength, terrorizing the hearts of the harvesters, and seizing the cattle from ploughing. He says, ‘Stir, my heart,10 The sage addresses his heart, not the king. Past, present, and future are combined as he speaks in a visionary present tense about the future of the land in which he began: his meditation is of timeless veracity. He urges his heart to react, since silence in the face of evil is reprehensible—a common theme in Egyptian laments; there is a play between the water of weeping and the overwhelming flood of evil. The final couplet provides a précis of the following prophecy, in which order is reversed and authority is destroyed. The prime importance of authority is a constant theme, and the consequences of its absence are developed in the next stanza. and beweep this land, in which you began, for silence is what overwhelms! Look, what should be denounced will be respected, and look, the official will be laid low in the land!

4 (P 21) Do not tire! Look, this is in front of you!11 The prophecy proper opens with another injunction to his heart to respond. ‘Tiredness of heart’ is a euphemism for the despair of death. The sage describes the future as an immediate visionary present (cf. 5f). The chaotic state of the land—an often repeated word in the poem—is expressed in antithetical statements, which show the breadth of Neferti's concern, ranging from the Sun to a fingernail. The following stanzas present a vision that covers the social (officials), environmental (the land), and cosmic (Sungod) disruption mentioned here. There is an implied rebuke to the creator-god: his creation is so flawed that he should recreate it. This wish will be answered in the final stanzas (13a–15g, esp. 15e). May you attend to what is before you! Look, there will be no officials in the affairs of the land, and what is done will be what is undone. May the Sungod begin to recreate! For the land has been ruined entirely, no remnant exists. Not even the total of one fingernail will survive its fate.

5 (P 24) Destroyed is this land, and no one cares about it,12 Destroyed is a word that acts as a sort of refrain, as does the phrase ‘I shall show you’: like the various thematic motifs, these elements counterpoint the stanza divisions, and so create complex, superficially chaotic patterns. One sign of the world's ruin is the lack of any response to, or care about, evil, such as is expressed by Neferti. The world is indescribable, and left darkling by the sun's invisibility. The stanza ends with an assurance that his description of this inexpressible horror is true. no one speaks out, no one sheds tears. What is this land like? For the sun is covered, and will not shine for folk to see. They will not stay alive, when clouds cover. And everyone will be numb for lack of it. I will say what is in front of me; I prophesy nothing that will not come.

6 (P 26) And the river of Egypt is dry,13 After the absence of light, this stanza describes the absence of other basic necessities for life: water and (calm) air. In the first half of the stanza, drought leads to an almost apocalyptic description of terrestrial mutability, reversing the basic elements of the Egyptian landscape, land and river. Here there is a flood, although the river was dry earlier (6a)—chaos is formulated in increasingly antithetical and contradictory expressions. so that water is crossed on foot; water will be sought for ships to sail on, for its course has become a sandbank. The bank will be a flood, and the water's place will be what was once the bank's. The south wind will oppose the north wind;14 In the second half of the stanza, the confusion of winds allows the invasion of alien birds, a metaphor for the foreigners mentioned earlier (3c). This image introduces the motif of ‘invasion’, which is central to the Egyptian concept of chaos, and brings out the foreigners’ symbolic aspect as wild and bestial representatives of chaos. The people are Egyptians, who are forced to beg from this cuckoo race. there is no sky with a single wind. An alien bird will breed in the lagoons of the Delta, having made its nest upon its neighbours, and the people will have to approach it through want.

7 (P 30) Destroyed indeed are those things of happiness—the fishpools,15 This stanza develops the animal motif and the marsh setting of the previous stanza, but provides a more vivid description of the invasion, contrasting past pleasures with present dangers. Fishing and fowling are not just recreational activities or means of hunting food, but are symbolic of the destruction of chaos; past feeding is contrasted with present predators. The numerically central couplet of the stanza (7c) curtly summarizes the problem of invasion: the enemies from the East. which were full of people gutting fish, which overflowed full of fish and fowl; all happiness has fled, and the land is laid low with pain, by those feeding Syrians who go throughout the land. Enemies have arisen in the East! Asiatics have come down to Egypt; a secure stronghold is lacking: someone else is close by without the guards hearing;16 In the second half of the stanza, invasion is expressed in vivid detail as a surreptitious military attack on an insecure stronghold. All is phrased in passive terms, with sinister effect, and the description is ominously left hanging, as the half-awake guards are brutally woken. (The passage implies the guards are negligent). a ladder will be waited for in the night, the stronghold will be entered, and slumber in the eyes will be swept away just as the sleeper says, “I am awake!”

8 (P 35) And the flock of the foreign countries will drink17 Invasion is now represented with desert animals which are symbols of chaos, like fowl (see n. 14). Literally they are the flocks of the invaders driven to the Nile by drought, but metaphorically they are the invaders themselves (as opposed to the Egyptians, who are often described as ‘the flock of God’ (cf. The Teaching for King Merikare, 46a and n. 50) ). This description contradicts what was said earlier about the river of Egypt (cf. 6a and n. 13), and the following triplet describes the confusion of this self-contradictory world. All authority is reversed; the stanza moves from geophysical change to governmental anarchy (hearer can mean ‘judge’). at the river of Egypt. They will cool themselves on their banks, lacking anything to make them fearful. This land will go to and fro; the consequence is unknown, and what will happen is hidden, like the saying, “See how the hearer is deaf! The mute takes the lead!” I shall show you the land in catastrophe,18 The refrain I shall show you begins a series of verses about internal troubles without any reference to the invaders; social responsibility disintegrates into conflict. The verses are full of strong reversals and antitheses. what should not happen, happening: arms of war will be taken up, and the land will live by uproar.

9 (P 40) Arms will be made out of copper;19 In this stanza the prophecy of uproar is exemplified with specific human examples (as in 7f–i and n. 16). The copper was presumably meant for other peaceable purposes. These conflicts lead into descriptions of how funeral rites are disregarded; this is a sign not only of personal selfishness, but also of impiety, and a break with the past. The stanza moves from war to death and murder (which is greeted with gestures of respect), and climaxes in a savage reversal of how familial funerary rites should be. This is the ultimate expression of society's disintegration. bread will be asked for with blood; a sick man will be laughed at out loud; death will not be wept at; the night will not be spent fasting for death, for a man's heart is concerned only with himself. Mourning will not be done today, for the heart has turned away from it entirely. A man will sit and bow his back while one person is killing another. I shall show you a son as a foe, a brother as an enemy, a man killing his own father.

10 (P 45) Every mouth is full of “I want!”,20 This stanza begins and ends with selfishness as expressed in speech and hostile reactions to it. Ruin is described in personal terms, with abstract generalizing descriptions and with specific examples—a full range of descriptive possibilities. Antithetical expressions predominate, and there are echoes of earlier passages (the second verse echoes 7c exactly—‘goodness’ and ‘happiness’ are homonymous—and what is done … echoes 4c). In the final four verses communication breaks down in the chaos, and wisdom is rejected. Like the previous stanza, this one ends with a death (cf. 9f), as communication is replaced by violence. all goodness has fled. The land is ruined, though laws are decreed against it, for destruction is what is done, and loss is what is found, and what is done is what is undone: a man's belongings have been taken from him, and given to someone who was an outsider. I shall show you the lord in sorrow, and the outsider at peace, the man who did nothing, helping himself, and the man who did something, in want. With hatred, they will give something only to silence a mouth that speaks, and answer a phrase with an arm thrusting a stick, and speak back by killing.

11 (P 49) To the heart, spoken words seem like fire;21 The loss of communication continues from the previous stanza. This stanza moves from a personal sense of loss, through social collapse (excessive taxes and loss of grain, the basic foodstuff), to a cosmic level. what comes from the mouth cannot be endured. Shrunk is the land—many its controllers. It is bare—its taxes are great. Little is the grain—large is the measure, and it is poured out in rising amounts. The Sungod separates Himself from mankind.22 Wordplay with rising links these verses to the preceding one (11c). The lack of the sun (cf. 5c) is now not simply on a physical level. This verse alludes to the belief that, after the creation, mankind became so rebellious that the creatorgod withdrew from the world. The imperfection of the sundered cosmos is reenacted by the sun's virtual eclipse, which may presage the end of the cosmos. Time (midday) and space (shadow) dissolve. The lack of tears (moisture) is because there is no dazzling sun, and echoes the earlier lack of pious weeping (9b). The cosmic lack of the sun, and the chaotic fact that it looks like the moon, are presented as individual experiences—all is bound together in chaos. Neferti returns to the loss of yesterday's happiness (as in 7a–b). He will rise when it is time, but no one knows when midday occurs, no one can distinguish His shadow. No one's face is bright when He is glimpsed; no one's eyes are moist with water. He is in the sky, but like the moon. His times of nightfall will not stray, but His rays on the face are now a thing of the past.

12 (P 54) I shall show you the land in calamity,23 The refrain I shall show you now introduces a concluding description of the reversals in society, in which authority is supplanted by anarchy and the wealthy by the poor. This death-in-life is epitomized by having to live in the cemeteries. Heliopolis is relevant as being part of the invaded east (Neferti's home (2r–s and n. 8)) and the city sacred to the Sungod, who has abandoned the world; this last couplet is a grand climax, as the environmental catastrophe renders Egypt a godless and unprotected land. the weak man as the lord of force, and he who did the greeting greeted. I shall show you the lowermost uppermost, the man who followed after, now the man leading a generation. They will live in the necropolis. The wretched will make riches; the great will [beg] to exist. Only the poor will eat bread, while forced labourers are exultant. The land will have no Heliopolitan nome, the birthplace of every God.

13 (P 57) In fact, a king from the south will come,24 In fact announces a new sudden turn of events. Ameny is an abbreviation of the royal name Amenemhat; it also means ‘He who is hidden’. The king is thus also the ‘hidden’ god who withdrew from mankind (see n. 22) now made manifest. The contrast between the chaos and the redeemer is pointed by the geographical contrast between the northern Heliopolis of the preceding stanza (12g) and the southern king, and between the child of the north-east, Neferti (2r–s), and this royal child of the south. The origin of the king is developed in the following verses: Bowland is the name of the southernmost nome of Egypt, and can also be a name for the whole far south of Upper Egypt; Southern Egypt refers to the seven southern nomes (it is literally the ‘Interior of Hieraconpolis’, the capital of the 3rd Upper Egyptian nome and a city associated with kingship from the earliest periods). In Egyptian orientation, the south took precedence over the north. The reference to the king's southern mother also develops the motif of the divine as something distant with an allusion to the myth (the ‘Distant Goddess’) in which the creator's daughter withdrew from Egypt into the far south and had to be lured back for order to be restored. called Ameny. He is the son of a woman of Bowland; he is a child of Southern Egypt. He will take the White Crown; he will uplift the Red Crown.25 The second half of the stanza describes the redeemer's triumphant assumption of the kingship. The White and Red crowns are the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt respectively. The pair, fused as the double crown, are known as the Two Powers and are associated with the Two Lords, the antithetical gods Horus and Seth, who share Egypt between them. The union of these represents the order of the whole land, and the reconciliation of discordant elements. The accession to the throne seems to have included a ritual run (the motion) by which the king symbolically encircled his domain. During this he carried two ritual objects, an Oar (symbol of government) and another piece of nautical steering equipment, here apparently called, from this ritual, the Field-encircler. The stanza describes the political unity of the whole land in an ancient and stately ritual, with the blessing and presence of the gods. He will unite the Two Powers; he will appease the Two Lords with what they wish, with the Field-encircler grasped, and the Oar in motion.

14 (P 61) The people of his time will be joyful,26 After the king's assumption of the throne, this stanza reaffirms the social status quo in perpetuity, in general (people) and individual terms (gentleman). A couplet then dismisses the internal evil of rebellion, and the distortion of communication (rebellious speech). Before the king, evil is no longer dominant but self-defeating. Another couplet turns to the enemies of the east (Asiatics) and west (Libyans). His flame comes from the fiery uraeus, which is part of the royal and divine diadem (mentioned in 13c–d). The concluding quatrain dispatches both internal and external disruption. This re-enacts on a terrestrial level the Sungod's destruction of rebellious mankind as he withdrew from the world (see n. 22). and the gentleman will make his name, for eternity and all time! Those who fall into evil and those who plot rebellion have felled their own speech for fear of him. Asiatics will fall to his slaughtering, and Libyans will fall to his flame. Rebels belong to his rage, and malcontents to his awesomeness. The uraeus which is on his forehead now quietens the malcontents for him.

15 (P 66) And The Walls of the Ruler will be built.27 The final stanza presents the negation of chaos both in specific and in universal terms. The Walls of the Ruler was a fortress on the eastern border, near the present Suez canal, built by Amenemhat I (see The Tale of Sinuhe, B 17 and n. 11). All Egypt is now a secure walled enclosure, in contrast to the earlier lack of a secure stronghold (7f–i). This leads to a final reprise of the motif of invasion by Asiatics and foreign animals. There will be no letting Asiatics come down to Egypt, so they will ask for water as suppliants do, to let their flocks drink. Truth will return to its proper place,28 A central couplet presents the restoration in abstract terms. The phrase is typical of royal eulogies, like much of the final three stanzas. with Chaos driven outside. He who will witness, and who will follow the king, will be joyful!29 This verse echoes 14a. The restoration is a personal and social triumph for those who witness it, and Neferti concludes by describing his own standing with distant posterity, at the hands of those who will witness his prophecy. The water offerings are libations poured by the poem's audience, who are made sage by hearing it, in memory of the author; unlike the foreigners (15b–d) Neferti will have no need to beg for water. The poem's prophecy of its reception by its audience provides a conclusion to the framing narrative about how the poem was commissioned; no epilogue is needed to the poet's meditation. The sage will pour an offering of water for me, when he sees that what I have said has come about.’

So it ends, from start to finish, as found in writing.

Notes:

1. The poem opens as a simple tale. Sneferu was the first king of the Fourth Dynasty (c.2575–2551 BC). He also features in The Tale of King Cheops’ Court (q.v., n. 14) as a jolly monarch.

2. This morning levée was an occasion for the Vizier to report to the king about the state of the kingdom. The functionary (literally ‘sealer’) is an attendant to do with palace business, in waiting on the king.

3. The king has already broken the stately pattern of daily custom, by recalling the council (anticipating the more drastic changes to come), and he now goes further in adopting a lively tone in describing his whim (Lads). There is a sharp contrast between this and the formality of the court which demands that all prostrate themselves before him. His speech, nevertheless, retains a certain grandeur in its threefold pattern, and in its references to high ethical qualities: clever, perfect, and choice wisdom.

4. Bastet is the feline goddess of Bubastis, a city of the eastern Delta. She is a protectress of Egypt's borders (a feature relevant to what follows). For the role of the lector priest, see The Tale of King Cheops’ Court, n. 1. Neferti is a fictional character, whose name is carefully chosen: nefer means ‘perfect’ and is an element common to the names Neferti and Sneferu, as well as the phrase ‘perfect speech’; Sneferu is literally ‘He who makes perfect’ the ‘perfect’ words of the ‘perfect’ sage (which will describe the loss and regaining of perfection (7c) ). King, sage, and poetry are well matched.

5. The courtiers reply to the king's threefold request with a threefold description. Like many literary protagonists Neferti is a free commoner, and his wealth is a tangible result of his wisdom. With clever fingers is a standard epithet for scribes (see The Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor, n. 31).

6. Although the king's address to his obedient subject is still strikingly chatty, it is a little less informal than his address to the courtiers (1j and n. 3), as is appropriate. The commoner answers back with a question.

7. As Egyptian texts generally pay respect to yesterday, the king's remark is slightly flippant, although it has a charming irony, given that Sneferu's past fame is being recounted to the audience. His writing-down of Neferti's speech is startlingly informal and a great favour (in funerary texts the king aspires to be the scribe of the gods); this shows his joviality, as well as the respect that is due to the poem: a famous king guarantees its textual transmission, and this stresses the truth and importance of what Neferti says. The scene acts out the wordplay on nefer (see n. 4).

8. No title introduces the following discourse, but a prelude describes what is to ensue. The description of the sage is once again threefold (see n. 5), and emphasizes that Neferti comes from the East (already implied in 2b, see n. 4). The province of Heliopolis, the city of the Sungod, was at the eastern apex of the Delta (see also n. 23).

9. After the threefold description of the sage (see n. 8), the description of his thoughts goes beyond this numerical pattern with a sequence of five verses, in which his speech is characterized as a reflective lament. The East was vulnerable to invasion from the Asiatics, who represent the chaos that always threatened the state.

10. The sage addresses his heart, not the king. Past, present, and future are combined as he speaks in a visionary present tense about the future of the land in which he began: his meditation is of timeless veracity. He urges his heart to react, since silence in the face of evil is reprehensible—a common theme in Egyptian laments; there is a play between the water of weeping and the overwhelming flood of evil. The final couplet provides a précis of the following prophecy, in which order is reversed and authority is destroyed. The prime importance of authority is a constant theme, and the consequences of its absence are developed in the next stanza.

11. The prophecy proper opens with another injunction to his heart to respond. ‘Tiredness of heart’ is a euphemism for the despair of death. The sage describes the future as an immediate visionary present (cf. 5f). The chaotic state of the land—an often repeated word in the poem—is expressed in antithetical statements, which show the breadth of Neferti's concern, ranging from the Sun to a fingernail. The following stanzas present a vision that covers the social (officials), environmental (the land), and cosmic (Sungod) disruption mentioned here. There is an implied rebuke to the creator-god: his creation is so flawed that he should recreate it. This wish will be answered in the final stanzas (13a–15g, esp. 15e).

12. Destroyed is a word that acts as a sort of refrain, as does the phrase ‘I shall show you’: like the various thematic motifs, these elements counterpoint the stanza divisions, and so create complex, superficially chaotic patterns. One sign of the world's ruin is the lack of any response to, or care about, evil, such as is expressed by Neferti. The world is indescribable, and left darkling by the sun's invisibility. The stanza ends with an assurance that his description of this inexpressible horror is true.

13. After the absence of light, this stanza describes the absence of other basic necessities for life: water and (calm) air. In the first half of the stanza, drought leads to an almost apocalyptic description of terrestrial mutability, reversing the basic elements of the Egyptian landscape, land and river. Here there is a flood, although the river was dry earlier (6a)—chaos is formulated in increasingly antithetical and contradictory expressions.

14. In the second half of the stanza, the confusion of winds allows the invasion of alien birds, a metaphor for the foreigners mentioned earlier (3c). This image introduces the motif of ‘invasion’, which is central to the Egyptian concept of chaos, and brings out the foreigners’ symbolic aspect as wild and bestial representatives of chaos. The people are Egyptians, who are forced to beg from this cuckoo race.

15. This stanza develops the animal motif and the marsh setting of the previous stanza, but provides a more vivid description of the invasion, contrasting past pleasures with present dangers. Fishing and fowling are not just recreational activities or means of hunting food, but are symbolic of the destruction of chaos; past feeding is contrasted with present predators. The numerically central couplet of the stanza (7c) curtly summarizes the problem of invasion: the enemies from the East.

16. In the second half of the stanza, invasion is expressed in vivid detail as a surreptitious military attack on an insecure stronghold. All is phrased in passive terms, with sinister effect, and the description is ominously left hanging, as the half-awake guards are brutally woken. (The passage implies the guards are negligent).

17. Invasion is now represented with desert animals which are symbols of chaos, like fowl (see n. 14). Literally they are the flocks of the invaders driven to the Nile by drought, but metaphorically they are the invaders themselves (as opposed to the Egyptians, who are often described as ‘the flock of God’ (cf. The Teaching for King Merikare, 46a and n. 50) ). This description contradicts what was said earlier about the river of Egypt (cf. 6a and n. 13), and the following triplet describes the confusion of this self-contradictory world. All authority is reversed; the stanza moves from geophysical change to governmental anarchy (hearer can mean ‘judge’).

18. The refrain I shall show you begins a series of verses about internal troubles without any reference to the invaders; social responsibility disintegrates into conflict. The verses are full of strong reversals and antitheses.

19. In this stanza the prophecy of uproar is exemplified with specific human examples (as in 7f–i and n. 16). The copper was presumably meant for other peaceable purposes. These conflicts lead into descriptions of how funeral rites are disregarded; this is a sign not only of personal selfishness, but also of impiety, and a break with the past. The stanza moves from war to death and murder (which is greeted with gestures of respect), and climaxes in a savage reversal of how familial funerary rites should be. This is the ultimate expression of society's disintegration.

20. This stanza begins and ends with selfishness as expressed in speech and hostile reactions to it. Ruin is described in personal terms, with abstract generalizing descriptions and with specific examples—a full range of descriptive possibilities. Antithetical expressions predominate, and there are echoes of earlier passages (the second verse echoes 7c exactly—‘goodness’ and ‘happiness’ are homonymous—and what is done … echoes 4c). In the final four verses communication breaks down in the chaos, and wisdom is rejected. Like the previous stanza, this one ends with a death (cf. 9f), as communication is replaced by violence.

21. The loss of communication continues from the previous stanza. This stanza moves from a personal sense of loss, through social collapse (excessive taxes and loss of grain, the basic foodstuff), to a cosmic level.

22. Wordplay with rising links these verses to the preceding one (11c). The lack of the sun (cf. 5c) is now not simply on a physical level. This verse alludes to the belief that, after the creation, mankind became so rebellious that the creatorgod withdrew from the world. The imperfection of the sundered cosmos is reenacted by the sun's virtual eclipse, which may presage the end of the cosmos. Time (midday) and space (shadow) dissolve. The lack of tears (moisture) is because there is no dazzling sun, and echoes the earlier lack of pious weeping (9b). The cosmic lack of the sun, and the chaotic fact that it looks like the moon, are presented as individual experiences—all is bound together in chaos. Neferti returns to the loss of yesterday's happiness (as in 7a–b).

23. The refrain I shall show you now introduces a concluding description of the reversals in society, in which authority is supplanted by anarchy and the wealthy by the poor. This death-in-life is epitomized by having to live in the cemeteries. Heliopolis is relevant as being part of the invaded east (Neferti's home (2r–s and n. 8)) and the city sacred to the Sungod, who has abandoned the world; this last couplet is a grand climax, as the environmental catastrophe renders Egypt a godless and unprotected land.

24. In fact announces a new sudden turn of events. Ameny is an abbreviation of the royal name Amenemhat; it also means ‘He who is hidden’. The king is thus also the ‘hidden’ god who withdrew from mankind (see n. 22) now made manifest. The contrast between the chaos and the redeemer is pointed by the geographical contrast between the northern Heliopolis of the preceding stanza (12g) and the southern king, and between the child of the north-east, Neferti (2r–s), and this royal child of the south. The origin of the king is developed in the following verses: Bowland is the name of the southernmost nome of Egypt, and can also be a name for the whole far south of Upper Egypt; Southern Egypt refers to the seven southern nomes (it is literally the ‘Interior of Hieraconpolis’, the capital of the 3rd Upper Egyptian nome and a city associated with kingship from the earliest periods). In Egyptian orientation, the south took precedence over the north. The reference to the king's southern mother also develops the motif of the divine as something distant with an allusion to the myth (the ‘Distant Goddess’) in which the creator's daughter withdrew from Egypt into the far south and had to be lured back for order to be restored.

25. The second half of the stanza describes the redeemer's triumphant assumption of the kingship. The White and Red crowns are the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt respectively. The pair, fused as the double crown, are known as the Two Powers and are associated with the Two Lords, the antithetical gods Horus and Seth, who share Egypt between them. The union of these represents the order of the whole land, and the reconciliation of discordant elements. The accession to the throne seems to have included a ritual run (the motion) by which the king symbolically encircled his domain. During this he carried two ritual objects, an Oar (symbol of government) and another piece of nautical steering equipment, here apparently called, from this ritual, the Field-encircler. The stanza describes the political unity of the whole land in an ancient and stately ritual, with the blessing and presence of the gods.

26. After the king's assumption of the throne, this stanza reaffirms the social status quo in perpetuity, in general (people) and individual terms (gentleman). A couplet then dismisses the internal evil of rebellion, and the distortion of communication (rebellious speech). Before the king, evil is no longer dominant but self-defeating. Another couplet turns to the enemies of the east (Asiatics) and west (Libyans). His flame comes from the fiery uraeus, which is part of the royal and divine diadem (mentioned in 13c–d). The concluding quatrain dispatches both internal and external disruption. This re-enacts on a terrestrial level the Sungod's destruction of rebellious mankind as he withdrew from the world (see n. 22).

27. The final stanza presents the negation of chaos both in specific and in universal terms. The Walls of the Ruler was a fortress on the eastern border, near the present Suez canal, built by Amenemhat I (see The Tale of Sinuhe, B 17 and n. 11). All Egypt is now a secure walled enclosure, in contrast to the earlier lack of a secure stronghold (7f–i). This leads to a final reprise of the motif of invasion by Asiatics and foreign animals.

28. A central couplet presents the restoration in abstract terms. The phrase is typical of royal eulogies, like much of the final three stanzas.

29. This verse echoes 14a. The restoration is a personal and social triumph for those who witness it, and Neferti concludes by describing his own standing with distant posterity, at the hands of those who will witness his prophecy. The water offerings are libations poured by the poem's audience, who are made sage by hearing it, in memory of the author; unlike the foreigners (15b–d) Neferti will have no need to beg for water. The poem's prophecy of its reception by its audience provides a conclusion to the framing narrative about how the poem was commissioned; no epilogue is needed to the poet's meditation.

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