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Ancient Egyptian: Death is before me today

Howard.GeeNewsteadPS

Death is before me today:
  like the recovery of a sick man,
  like going forth into a garden after sickness.
Death is before me today:
  like the odor of myrrh,
  like sitting under a sail in a good wind.
Death is before me today:
  like the course of a stream;
  like the return of a man from the war-galley to his house.
Death is before me today:
  like the home that a man longs to see,
  after years spent as a captive.

            --From "Dialogue of a Misanthrope with His Soul" (ca 2000 BC), now called "Dispute between a man and his Ba," from a papyrus of the Middle Kingdom of Egypt. Cited in The Masks of God: Oriental Mythology (1962), p. 138, by Joseph Campbell (1904-1987), who slightly changed the original quotation in Development of Religion and Thought in Ancient Egypt (1912) p. 195, by James Henry Breasted (1865-1935). Breasted himself had translated a German translation of the papyrus by Adolf Erman (1854-1937) in 1896, Gespräch eines Lebensmüden mit seiner Seele (Conversation of a life-weary person with his soul), in the Abhandl. der königl. Preuss. Akad. (Papers of the Royal Prussian Academy) Berlin, 1896. Originally from Lepsius' book Denkmäler aus Aegypten und Aethopien (Monuments from Egypt and Ethiopia), VI, Taf., 111-112.

A papyrus of the Middle Kingdom in Berlin (P. 3024), first published by Karl Richard Lepsius (1810-1884) in 1859; Lepsius had bought the papyrus in Egypt in 1843. It is now in the Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection of the Berlin Museum, no. 3024.


It is one of the oldest documents in the world to speak of a state of mind. This is only a small part of it.

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Quoted in "The Sound of her Wings", a Sandman story by Neil Gaiman.

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