An Ancient Egyptian Poem


An ancient Egyptian poem
I wish I were your mirror so that you always looked at me.
I wish I were your garment so that you would always wear me.
I wish I were the water that washes your body.
I wish I were the ungent, O woman,
that I could annoint you, and the band around your breasts,
and the beads around your neck.
I wish I were your sandal that you would step on me. (Anonymous)
Above is an ancient Egyptian poem that could well be thousands of years old. I am not sure of the exact period or poet. What struck me most were the brazen innuendoes, representing the raw lust that old Egyptian romantics were famous for. I may think of the poet in question as choosing to call the object of his desire…a broad instead of a lady, so biting is his thirst for a bodily desire that suggests through sharp interwined images; the locking of his whole being into a tight framework with his enraptured one.
His tone is set to one of daring and coyness.
For love, he is willing to endure pain, playacting the role of her sandal and being appropriately trampled upon.
In this vein, the poet’s secret revelations may be described as masochistic in effect and sensual by turns. At one moment, he desires her vision never to leave his face. From the start, he would rather she stare at him transfixed. This suggests a loss of individual liberation and a sacrificial ambition to bow to her every whim.
He would rather be her labourer signifying a stricken desire..with the danger of heartbreak leading to fatalism. For here, is the kind of crude sacrifice carved up by a heart-struck lover from where logic may have fled.
With trademark tools of water, salve, garment, beads,sandals and a band on the lover’s breasts, the poet hinges on images that must come into contact with human skin and desires to live in that fluid colourless form. He is no longer content to admire the physical figure from afar.
The roles of the lover and loved are clear. The poet hides in the shadows and his sweetheart basks in the limelight. His carefully thought-out masquerade bears similarities with a ghostly apparition.
There is a yearning for an invisible form, so he could play tricks and games…offer a wholehearted devotion and hang about with a closeness that would denounce any signs of separation. He would see all and know all.
At last, his lust would be satisfied. No doubt, the composition calls for a fairly straightforward technique, with the use of objects meant to highlight various parts of a physique. The high entertainment would probably lie in the poet’s quest to shock the reader with content that depicts his hankering.
I wonder if these words took refuge as a harboured secret or if they were presented with much aplomb as a romantic gift on a papyrus scroll. – susan abraham

Credit: Picture of ancient Egypt is taken from

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2 thoughts on “An Ancient Egyptian Poem

  1. Sue, I love the poem. As another perspective, one could imagine a love so deep and real, that the poet would do or give up even his life just to have a moment of any kind in the presence of his beloved. The love expressed in the poem brings to mind the “City of Angels.” The angel fell in love with a woman and gave up eternity to be with her…She died shortly thereafter, and he said “I would rather have had one breath of her hair, one kiss from her mouth, one touch of her hand, than eternity without it.” –Pamela


    • That’s right, Pam. How have you been? Ever lovely to see you here. That’s right, Pam. It actually makes me want to cry reading about both the poet and your remembrance of the angel. Do keep coming back. xx


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