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Discourses

Partially preserved reflective wisdom poems include the magnificent but tattered Discourse of the Scribe Sasobek. A narrative prologue describes how a scribe was imprisoned wrongfully, and then released without full restitution, to his grief. His lament is introduced with the title:

Discourse spoken by the scribe Hotephathor's son Sasobek, his mouth moving according to what had happened, and what was presented to mankind:9 A grandiose way of saying ‘according to his experience’. ‘This life of a span—what happens in it is unknowable; [its beginning] happens suddenly; its end is destruction.’

Only short sections can be read, but the sage's speeches seem to have been similar to those of The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant, and full of reflections on the uncertainty of life:

‘Behold! it cannot happen—yet it happens! Hidden are the counsels of God.’

The same style occurs in The Discourse of the Fowler. In this a countryman is left helpless as his countryside is destroyed, and he petitions a superior to restore him to his former state:

‘May you renew action, according to your knowledge! Look, our condition is before you— the water-meadow has flowed away into the land, but there is no leaving it. Its margins and districts are now under the herdsmen of the foreign countries,10 The quiet marsh that was once an idyllic hunting ground is now pasture and agricultural land. The huts are the hiding places used in catching fowl. the stillness now under cattle byres, the huts for hiding now under town-dwellers’ grain.’

Some forty verses of this are preserved, very faintly, on the back of a manuscript of The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant. Of another reflective work, The Discourse of the Priest Renseneb, only the opening title remains.

Notes:

9. A grandiose way of saying ‘according to his experience’.

10. The quiet marsh that was once an idyllic hunting ground is now pasture and agricultural land. The huts are the hiding places used in catching fowl.

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