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The Words of Khakheperreseneb

rt. 1 The collection of words, the gathering of verses,1 The title introduces a text which concerns the search for speech; the reference to heart-searching is paradoxical, as the sage is seeking how to address his heart. He is associated with various positive allusions: his name includes a reference to King Khakheperre Senwosret II (it means ‘Khakheperre is healthy’); Heliopolis is the city of the creator Sungod, near modern Cairo. Ankhu is the priest's common name; it means ‘Living one’, and make him an ‘everyman’ figure. the seeking of utterances with heart-searching, made by the priest of Heliopolis, Seni's son Khakheperreseneb, called Ankhu. He says, ‘If only I had unknown utterances2 In a rhetorical introduction the sage laments the inability of poetry to express his woe adequately; he needs a fresh and esoteric style. His approach contrasts with many other attitudes to past wisdom, but this aim of surpassing the ancestors is not unique in Egyptian texts. Renown is the usual aim of speech, which it is hoped will not pass away so that the future will find it good; his aim is no empty boasting such as is found in ancient inscriptions that cannot now be trusted. and extraordinary verses, in a new language that does not pass away, free from repetition, without a verse of worn-out speech spoken by the ancestors! I shall wring my body for what is in it, —a release of all my speech. For what is already said can only be repeated; what is said once has been said; this is no vain boast of the ancients’ speech that those who are later should find it good.

rt. 5 No speaker has spoken yet—may one who will speak now speak3 The opening of this stanza echoes the end of the preceding one (rt. 4). The sage now announces his intention to begin speaking, with virtuosic wordplay on speak. He will neither speak of what has already been spoken, or of what might be spoken of in the future, but will produce actual vivid speech. The description of intended speech ironically echoes the title (searching: rt. 1). and another find what he will speak good! No one has spoken yet for a matter spoken afterwards, as they have done long before. Here is no speaking what is only planned to be said: this is searching after ruin, this is falsehood— there is none who will remember his name to others! I have said these things as I have seen them;4 In a triplet, he states that he will speak with direct experience, whereas all other speakers are concerned with things that pass away; his aim is to emulate what endures. The last verse is ambiguous: the generations both are like (i.e. resemble), but also emulate (in speech) transient things. from the first generation until those who come after, they are now like what has passed away. If only I knew what was unknown to others, what is still unrepeated!5 In the rest of the stanza, he reveals the motives for his search: he is seeking to express his despair effectively, so that his heart will respond. The heart's lack of understanding is the source of his agony, and new effective expression will bring relief. This stanza about the difficulties of speaking ends, appropriately, with an inarticulate cry of relief. I would speak this and then my heart would answer me; and I would enlighten it about my anguish. I would unload onto it the weight which is on my back, the utterances that make me helpless. I would announce to it the anguish I feel because of it. I would say “Ah!” on account of my relief. rt. 10 I am meditating on what has happened,6 After the introduction, the sage now denounces the present evil state of affairs in antithetical statements characteristic of the subject (the first verse recurs later like a refrain, in vs. 1). The wordplay is no longer about speaking but about the subject he is articulating, the happenings (the word changes is a form of the verb happen). The need for a new speech is ironically caused by people's neglect of the past (last year), which is a common theme of literary laments. the state of things that have happened throughout the land; changes are happening—it is not like last year. Each year is more burdensome than its fellow. The land is in uproar, has become what destroys me, has been made into what rests in peace. Truth is put outside,7 This abstract description recalls those of chaotic interregnums in royal commemorative inscriptions. The cosmic aspect is taken up in the Gods of the next line; their counsels are Truth. These verses are flanked by more concrete descriptions of the land. The Lords of Silence are the blessed dead, representatives of past order and the virtue of quietness; they are desecrated, literally as well as metaphorically, but humanity goes on regardless. Men shun past values and, unlike the sage, cannot face the reality of what is happening. Chaos within the council. The counsels of the Gods are thrown into tumult, and Their directives are neglected. The land is 〈in〉 calamity, mourning in every place, towns and districts in woe, and everyone alike is wronged. The back is turned on reverence; the Lords of Silence are violated; morning still happens every day, but the face shrinks from what happens. I shall give voice to these things, for my limbs are weighed down.8 In the next part of this stanza, the sage returns to his speech and places the responsibility for his suffering on his heart more directly than hitherto. In an earlier stanza he lacked a speech to reach his heart (rt. 7–8), but now the problem is expressed from the other side: if his heart were obedient (and showed respect), his suffering would end. He lacks a responsive and sympathetic heart (that knew suffering) which could save him. I am in distress because of my heart. It is a cause of suffering, yet I keep quiet about it! Another heart would show respect. A brave heart amid pain is a companion for its lord. If only I had a heart which knew suffering! Then I should alight on it, load it with words of misery, and drive away my anguish onto it.’

vs. 1 He says to his heart: ‘O come, my heart, that I may speak to you,9 The verso contains a single excerpt, at the start of which the sage addresses his heart directly. This section unites the two themes of the preceding stanzas: the problem of speaking to the heart, and the lament at what has happened. Both result from the human heart. An injunction to come often marks the start of a prayer to a god: here he prays to his heart in a prelude to explain things to him. The bright ones represent the past authority that is now overturned; the image is from the radiance of the white linen worn by the élite. and you shall answer me my verses, explain to me what is throughout the land, how the once bright ones are cast down! I am meditating on what has happened:10 The sage again laments the invasion of strangers, and the omnipresence of wrong which is as inevitable as morning. Another theme is everyone's refusal to accept what is happening (and what the sage is saying): people's roles in society are reversed, but this is accepted without complaint. The sage describes the relentless daily drudgery of suffering: evil is so ingrained that the past (yesterday) is no longer a model of virtue, and people imitate only past evil. misery has appeared today— a morning when strangers have not passed away; everyone is silent about it; the whole land is in an extreme state. There is no person free from wrong, and everyone alike is doing it; breasts are saddened; he who commands is as he who is commanded, and yet the hearts of both of them are calm. Each day one must wake to it. Hearts cannot put it aside; yesterday's share of it is like today's, because the many imitate it, because of harshness. There is no one clever enough to understand;11 No one (except the sage) speaks out against the happenings. This lack of any communication among people parallels the same lack within the sage: his problems in expressing himself are symptomatic of all humanity's difficulties. He hopes to break the pattern of destructive interaction and lack of attention. there is no one angry enough to give voice. Every day one wakes to suffering. Long and heavy is my anguish. The pauper has no strength to 〈save himself〉 from the more powerful man. Silence against what is heard is a disease, vs. 5 but to answer the ignorant is sorrow, to oppose an utterance now creates enmity. The heart cannot accept Truth. They have had no patience with the reply to a speech; all a man loves is his own phrase; everyone is based on crookedness, and honest speech is abandoned. I speak to you, my heart, so that you shall answer me.12 The final quatrain returns to the sage's heart. He urges that both the heart and its lord (himself) are together in suffering, then presses the claim further, saying that the heart is responsible for much of their suffering. These verses are not necessarily the end of the original text, although here the sage seems more optimistic that the heart will have been touched by his speech; the second verse recalls the title: there the heart was searched for (rt. 1), but now it is touched. The phrase the servant's lot … recalls the end of rt. 13, where a ‘brave heart’ was ‘a companion to its lord’, and suggests the interdependence of the sage and his heart. A heart which is touched cannot be silent. Look, the servant's lot is like the lord's, and many things are burdensome for you.’

Notes:

1. The title introduces a text which concerns the search for speech; the reference to heart-searching is paradoxical, as the sage is seeking how to address his heart. He is associated with various positive allusions: his name includes a reference to King Khakheperre Senwosret II (it means ‘Khakheperre is healthy’); Heliopolis is the city of the creator Sungod, near modern Cairo. Ankhu is the priest's common name; it means ‘Living one’, and make him an ‘everyman’ figure.

2. In a rhetorical introduction the sage laments the inability of poetry to express his woe adequately; he needs a fresh and esoteric style. His approach contrasts with many other attitudes to past wisdom, but this aim of surpassing the ancestors is not unique in Egyptian texts. Renown is the usual aim of speech, which it is hoped will not pass away so that the future will find it good; his aim is no empty boasting such as is found in ancient inscriptions that cannot now be trusted.

3. The opening of this stanza echoes the end of the preceding one (rt. 4). The sage now announces his intention to begin speaking, with virtuosic wordplay on speak. He will neither speak of what has already been spoken, or of what might be spoken of in the future, but will produce actual vivid speech. The description of intended speech ironically echoes the title (searching: rt. 1).

4. In a triplet, he states that he will speak with direct experience, whereas all other speakers are concerned with things that pass away; his aim is to emulate what endures. The last verse is ambiguous: the generations both are like (i.e. resemble), but also emulate (in speech) transient things.

5. In the rest of the stanza, he reveals the motives for his search: he is seeking to express his despair effectively, so that his heart will respond. The heart's lack of understanding is the source of his agony, and new effective expression will bring relief. This stanza about the difficulties of speaking ends, appropriately, with an inarticulate cry of relief.

6. After the introduction, the sage now denounces the present evil state of affairs in antithetical statements characteristic of the subject (the first verse recurs later like a refrain, in vs. 1). The wordplay is no longer about speaking but about the subject he is articulating, the happenings (the word changes is a form of the verb happen). The need for a new speech is ironically caused by people's neglect of the past (last year), which is a common theme of literary laments.

7. This abstract description recalls those of chaotic interregnums in royal commemorative inscriptions. The cosmic aspect is taken up in the Gods of the next line; their counsels are Truth. These verses are flanked by more concrete descriptions of the land. The Lords of Silence are the blessed dead, representatives of past order and the virtue of quietness; they are desecrated, literally as well as metaphorically, but humanity goes on regardless. Men shun past values and, unlike the sage, cannot face the reality of what is happening.

8. In the next part of this stanza, the sage returns to his speech and places the responsibility for his suffering on his heart more directly than hitherto. In an earlier stanza he lacked a speech to reach his heart (rt. 7–8), but now the problem is expressed from the other side: if his heart were obedient (and showed respect), his suffering would end. He lacks a responsive and sympathetic heart (that knew suffering) which could save him.

9. The verso contains a single excerpt, at the start of which the sage addresses his heart directly. This section unites the two themes of the preceding stanzas: the problem of speaking to the heart, and the lament at what has happened. Both result from the human heart. An injunction to come often marks the start of a prayer to a god: here he prays to his heart in a prelude to explain things to him. The bright ones represent the past authority that is now overturned; the image is from the radiance of the white linen worn by the élite.

10. The sage again laments the invasion of strangers, and the omnipresence of wrong which is as inevitable as morning. Another theme is everyone's refusal to accept what is happening (and what the sage is saying): people's roles in society are reversed, but this is accepted without complaint. The sage describes the relentless daily drudgery of suffering: evil is so ingrained that the past (yesterday) is no longer a model of virtue, and people imitate only past evil.

11. No one (except the sage) speaks out against the happenings. This lack of any communication among people parallels the same lack within the sage: his problems in expressing himself are symptomatic of all humanity's difficulties. He hopes to break the pattern of destructive interaction and lack of attention.

12. The final quatrain returns to the sage's heart. He urges that both the heart and its lord (himself) are together in suffering, then presses the claim further, saying that the heart is responsible for much of their suffering. These verses are not necessarily the end of the original text, although here the sage seems more optimistic that the heart will have been touched by his speech; the second verse recalls the title: there the heart was searched for (rt. 1), but now it is touched. The phrase the servant's lot … recalls the end of rt. 13, where a ‘brave heart’ was ‘a companion to its lord’, and suggests the interdependence of the sage and his heart.

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