The Story of Sanehat

The text of this very interesting story is found written in the hieratic character upon papyri which are preserved in Berlin. The narrative describes events which are said to have taken place under one of the kings of the twelfth dynasty, and it is very possible that the foundation of this story is historical. The hero is himself supposed to relate his own adventures thus:

The Erpā, the Duke, the Chancellor of the King of the North, the smer uati, the judge, the Āntchmer of the marches, the King in the lands of the Nubians, the veritable royal kinsman loving him, the member of the royal bodyguard, Sanehat, saith: I am a member of the bodyguard of his lord, the servant of the King, and of the house of Neferit, the feudal chieftainess, the Erpāt princess, the highly favoured lady, the royal wife of Usertsen, whose word is truth in Khnemetast, the royal daughter of Amenemhāt, whose word is truth in Qanefer. On the seventh day of the third month of the season Akhet, in the thirtieth year [of his reign], the god drew nigh to his horizon, and the King of the South, the King of the North, Sehetepabrā,[1] ascended into heaven, and was invited to the Disk, and his divine members mingled with those of him that made him. The King's House was in silence, hearts were bowed down in sorrow, the two Great Gates were shut fast, the officials sat motionless, and the people mourned.

[1] i.e. Amenemhāt II.

Now behold [before his death] His Majesty had despatched [156]an army to the Land of the Themehu, under the command of his eldest son, the beautiful god Usertsen. And he went and raided the desert lands in the south, and captured slaves from the Thehenu (Libyans), and he was at that moment returning and bringing back Libyan slaves and innumerable beasts of every kind. And the high officers of the Palace sent messengers into the western country to inform the King's son concerning what had taken place in the royal abode. And the messengers found him on the road, and they came to him by night and asked him if it was not the proper time for him to hasten his return, and to set out with his bodyguard without letting his army in general know of his departure. They also told him that a message had been sent to the princes who were in command of the soldiers in his train not to proclaim [the matter of the King's death] to any one else.

Sanehat continues: When I heard his voice speaking I rose up and fled. My heart was cleft in twain, my arms dropped by my side, and trembling seized all my limbs. I ran about distractedly, hither and thither, seeking a hiding-place. I went into the thickets in order to find a place wherein I could travel without being seen. I made my way upstream, and I decided not to appear in the Palace, for I did not know but that deeds of violence were taking place there. And I did not say, "Let life follow it," but I went on my way to the district of the Sycamore. Then I came to the Lake (or Island) of Seneferu, and I passed the whole day there on the edge of the plain. On the following morning I continued my journey, and a man rose up immediately in front of me on the road, and he cried for mercy; he was afraid of me. When the night fell I walked into the village of Nekau, and I crossed the river in an usekht boat without a rudder, by the help of the wind from the west. And I travelled eastwards of the district of Aku, by the pass of the goddess Herit, the Lady of the Red Mountain. Then I allowed my feet to take the road downstream, and I travelled on to Anebuheq, the fortress that had been built to drive back the Satiu (nomad marauders), and to hold in check [157]the tribes that roamed the desert. I crouched down in the scrub during the day to avoid being seen by the watchmen on the top of the fortress. I set out again on the march, when the night fell, and when daylight fell on the earth I arrived at Peten, and I rested myself by the Lake of Kamur. Then thirst came upon me and overwhelmed me. I suffered torture. My throat was burnt up, and I said, "This indeed is the taste of death." But I took courage, and collected my members (i.e. myself), for I heard the sounds that are made by flocks and herds. Then the Satiu of the desert saw me, and the master of the caravan who had been in Egypt recognised me. And he rose up and gave me some water, and he warmed milk [for me], and I travelled with the men of his caravan, and thus I passed through one country after the other [in safety]. I avoided the land of Sunu and I journeyed to the land of Qetem, where I stayed for a year and a half.

And Āmmuiansha, the Shēkh of Upper Thennu, took me aside and said unto me, "Thou wilt be happy with me, for thou wilt hear the language of Egypt." Now he said this because he knew what manner of man I was, for he had heard the people of Egypt who were there with him bear testimony concerning my character. And he said unto me, "Why and wherefore hast thou come hither? Is it because the departure of King Sehetepabrā from the Palace to the horizon hath taken place, and thou didst not know what would be the result of it?" Then I spake unto him with words of deceit, saying, "I was among the soldiers who had gone to the land of Themeh. My heart cried out, my courage failed me utterly, it made me follow the ways over which I fled. I hesitated, but felt no regret. I did not hearken unto any evil counsel, and my name was not heard on the mouth of the herald. How I came to be brought into this country I know not; it was, perhaps, by the Providence of God."

And Āmmuiansha said unto me, "What will become of the land without that beneficent god the terror of whom passed through the lands like the goddess Sekhmet in a year of pestilence?" Then I made answer unto him, saying, "His [158]son shall save us. He hath entered the Palace, and hath taken possession of the heritage of his father. Moreover, he is the god who hath no equal, and no other can exist beside him, the lord of wisdom, perfect in his plans, of good will when he passeth decrees, and one cometh forth and goeth in according to his ordinance. He reduced foreign lands to submission whilst his father [sat] in the Palace directing him in the matters which had to be carried out. He is mighty of valour, he slayeth with his sword, and in bravery he hath no compeer. One should see him attacking the nomads of the desert, and pouncing upon the robbers of the highway! He beateth down opposition, he smiteth arms helpless, his enemies cannot be made to resist him. He taketh vengeance, he cleaveth skulls, none can stand up before him. His strides are long, he slayeth him that fleeth, and he who turneth his back upon him in flight never reacheth his goal. When attacked his courage standeth firm. He attacketh again and again, and he never yieldeth. His heart is bold when he seeth the battle array, he permitteth none to sit down behind. His face is fierce [as] he rusheth on the attacker. He rejoiceth when he taketh captive the chief of a band of desert robbers. He seizeth his shield, he raineth blows upon him, but he hath no need to repeat his attack, for he slayeth his foe before he can hurl his spear at him. Before he draweth his bow the nomads have fled, his arms are like the souls of the Great Goddess. He fighteth, and if he reacheth his object of attack he spareth not, and he leaveth no remnant. He is beloved, his pleasantness is great, he is the conqueror, and his town loveth him more than herself; she rejoiceth in him more than in her god, and men throng about him with rejoicings. He was king and conqueror before his birth, and he hath worn his crowns since he was born. He hath multiplied births, and he it is whom God hath made to be the joy of this land, which he hath ruled, and the boundaries of which he hath enlarged. He hath conquered the Lands of the South, shall he not conquer the Lands of the North? He hath been created to smite the hunters of the desert, and to crush the tribes [159]that roam the sandy waste...." Then the Shēkh of Upper Thennu said unto me, "Assuredly Egypt is a happy country in that it knoweth his vigour. Verily, as long as thou tarriest with me I will do good unto thee."

And he set me before his children, and he gave me his eldest daughter to wife, and he made me to choose for myself a very fine territory which belonged to him, and which lay on the border of a neighbouring country, and this beautiful region was called Aa. In it there are figs, and wine is more abundant than water. Honey is plentiful, oil existeth in large quantities, and fruits of every kind are on the trees thereof. Wheat, barley, herds of cattle, and flocks of sheep and goats are there in untold numbers. And the Shēkh showed me very great favour, and his affection for me was so great that he made me Shēkh of one of the best tribes in his country. Bread-cakes were made for me each day, and each day wine was brought to me with roasted flesh and wild fowl, and the wild creatures of the plain that were caught were laid before me, in addition to the game which my hunting dogs brought in. Food of all kinds was made for me, and milk was prepared for me in various ways. I passed many years in this manner, and my children grew up into fine strong men, and each one of them ruled his tribe. Every ambassador on his journey to and from Egypt visited me. I was kind to people of every class. I gave water to the thirsty man. I suppressed the highway robber. I directed the operations of the bowmen of the desert, who marched long distances to suppress the hostile Shēkhs, and to reduce their power, for the Shēkh of Thennu had appointed me General of his soldiers many years before this. Every country against which I marched I terrified into submission. I seized the crops by the wells, I looted the flocks and herds, I carried away the people and their slaves who ate their bread, I slew the men there. Through my sword and bow, and through my well-organised campaigns, I was highly esteemed in the mind of the Shēkh, and he loved me, for he knew my bravery, and he set me before his children when he saw the bravery of my arms.

[160]Then a certain mighty man of valour of Thennu came and reviled me in my tent; he was greatly renowned as a man of war, and he was unequalled in the whole country, which he had conquered. He challenged me to combat, being urged to fight by the men of his tribe, and he believed that he could conquer me, and he determined to take my flocks and herds as spoil. And the Shēkh took counsel with me about the challenge, and I said, "I am not an acquaintance of his, and I am by no means a friend of his. Have I ever visited him in his domain or entered his door, or passed through his compound? [Never!] He is a man whose heart becometh full of evil thoughts, whensoever he seeth me, and he wisheth to carry out his fell design and plunder me. He is like a wild bull seeking to slay the bull of a herd of tame cattle so that he may make the cows his own. Or rather he is a mere braggart who wisheth to seize the property which I have collected by my prudence, and not an experienced warrior. Or rather he is a bull that loveth to fight, and that loveth to make attacks repeatedly, fearing that otherwise some other animal will prove to be his equal. If, however, his heart be set upon fighting, let him declare [to me] his intention. Is God, Who knoweth everything, ignorant of what he hath decided to do?"

And I passed the night in stringing my bow, I made ready my arrows of war, I unsheathed my dagger, and I put all my weapons in order. At daybreak the tribes of the land of Thennu came, and the people who lived on both sides of it gathered themselves together, for they were greatly concerned about the combat, and they came and stood up round about me where I stood. Every heart burned for my success, and both men and women uttered cries (or exclamations), and every heart suffered anxiety on my behalf, saying, "Can there exist possibly any man who is a mightier fighter and more doughty as a man of war than he?" Then mine adversary grasped his shield, and his battle-axe, and his spears, and after he had hurled his weapons at me, and I had succeeded in avoiding his short spears, which arrived harmlessly one after the other, he became filled with fury, [161]and making up his mind to attack me at close quarters he threw himself upon me. And I hurled my javelin at him, which remained fast in his neck, and he uttered a long cry and fell on his face, and I slew him with his own weapons. And as I stood upon his back I shouted the cry of victory, and every Āamu man (i.e. Asiatic) applauded me, and I gave thanks to Menthu;[1] and the slaves of my opponent mourned for their lord. And the Shēkh Āmmuiansha took me in his arms and embraced me. I carried off his (i.e. the opponent's) property. I seized his cattle as spoil, and what he meditated doing to me I did unto him. I took possession of the contents of his tent, I stripped his compound, I became rich, I increased my store of goods, and I added greatly to the number of my cattle.

[1] The War-god of Thebes.

Thus did God prosper the man who made Him his support. Thus that day was washed (i.e. satisfied) the heart of the man who was compelled to make his escape from his own into another country. Thus that day the integrity of the man who was once obliged to take to flight as a miserable fugitive was proven in the sight of all the Court. Once I was a wanderer wandering about hungry, and now I can give bread to my neighbours. Once I had to flee naked from my country, and now I am the possessor of splendid raiment, and of apparel made of the finest byssus. Once I was obliged to do my own errands and to fetch and carry for myself, and now I am the master of troops of servants. My house is beautiful, my estate is spacious, and my name is repeated in the Great House. O Lord of the gods, who hath ordered my goings, I will offer propitiatory offerings unto Thee: I beseech Thee to restore me to Egypt, and O be Thou pleased most graciously to let me once again look upon the spot where my mind dwelleth for hours [at a time]! How great a boon would it be for me to cleanse my body in the land of my birth! Let, I pray, a period of happiness attend me, and may God give me peace. May He dispose events in such a way that the close of the career of the man who hath suffered misery, whose heart hath seen sorrow, who hath [162]wandered into a strange land, may be happy. Is He not at peace with me this day? Surely He shall hearken to him that is afar off.... Let the King of Egypt be at peace with me, and may I live upon his offerings. Let me salute the Mistress of the Land (i.e. the Queen) who is in his palace, and let me hear the greetings of her children. O would that my members could become young again! For now old age is stealing on me. Infirmity overtaketh me. Mine eyes refuse to see, my hands fall helpless, my knees shake, my heart standeth still, the funerary mourners approach and they will bear me away to the City of Eternity, wherein I shall become a follower of Nebertcher. She will declare to me the beauties of her children, and they shall traverse it with me.

Behold now, the Majesty of the King of Egypt, Kheperkarā, whose word is truth, having spoken concerning the various things that had happened to me, sent a messenger to me bearing royal gifts, such as he would send to the king of a foreign land, with the intention of making glad the heart of thy servant now [speaking], and the princes of his palace made me to hear their salutations. And here is a copy of the document, which was brought to thy servant [from the King] instructing him to return to Egypt.

"The royal command of the Horus, Ānkh-mestu, Lord of Nekhebet and Uatchet, Ānkh-mestu, King of the South, King of the North, Kheperkarā, the son of Rā, Amenemhāt, the everliving, to my follower Sanehat. This royal order is despatched unto thee to inform thee. Thou hast travelled about everywhere, in one country after another, having set out from Qetem and reached Thennu, and thou hast journeyed from place to place at thine own will and pleasure. Observe now, what thou hast done [unto others, making them to obey thee], shall be done unto thee. Make no excuses, for they shall be set aside; argue not with [my] officials, for thy arguments shall be refuted. Thy heart shall not reject the plans which thy mind hath formulated. Thy Heaven (i.e. the Queen), who is in the Palace, is stable and flourishing at this present time, her head is crowned with the sovereignty of the earth, and her children are in the [163]royal chambers of the Palace. Lay aside the honours which thou hast, and thy life of abundance (or luxury), and journey to Egypt. Come and look upon thy native land, the land where thou wast born, smell the earth (i.e. do homage) before the Great Gate, and associate with the nobles thereof. For at this time thou art beginning to be an old man, and thou canst no longer produce sons, and thou hast [ever] in thy mind the day of [thy] burial, when thou wilt assume the form of a servant [of Osiris]. The unguents for thine embalmment on the night [of mummification] have been set apart for thee, together with thy mummy swathings, which are the work of the hands of the goddess Tait. Thy funerary procession, which will march on the day of thy union with the earth, hath been arranged, and there are prepared for thee a gilded mummy-case, the head whereof is painted blue, and a canopy made of mesket wood. Oxen shall draw thee [to the tomb], the wailing women shall precede thee, the funerary dances shall be performed, those who mourn thee shall be at the door of thy tomb, the funerary offerings dedicated to thee shall be proclaimed, sacrifices shall be offered for thee with thy oblations, and thy funerary edifice shall be built in white stone, side by side with those of the princes and princesses. Thy death must not take place in a foreign land, the Āamu folk shall not escort thee [to thy grave], thou shalt not be placed in the skin of a ram when thy burial is effected; but at thy burial there shall be ... and the smiting of the earth, and when thou departest lamentations shall be made over thy body."

When this royal letter reached me I was standing among the people of my tribe, and when it had been read to me I threw myself face downwards on the ground, and bowed until my head touched the dust, and I clasped the document reverently to my breast. Then [I rose up] and walked to and fro in my abode, rejoicing and saying, "How can these things possibly be done to thy servant who is now speaking, whose heart made him to fly into foreign lands [where dwell] peoples who stammer in their speech? Assuredly it is a good and gracious thought [of the King] to deliver me from death [164][here], for thy Ka (i.e. double) will make my body to end [its existence] in my native land."

Here is a copy of the reply that was made by the servant of the Palace, Sanehat, to the above royal document:

"In peace the most beautiful and greatest! Thy Ka knoweth of the flight which thy servant, who is now speaking, made when he was in a state of ignorance, O thou beautiful god, Lord of Egypt, beloved of Rā, favoured of Menthu, the Lord of Thebes. May Amen-Rā, lord of the thrones of the Two Lands, and Sebek, and Rā, and Horus, and Hathor, and Tem and his Company of the Gods, and Neferbaiu, and Semsuu, and Horus of the East, and Nebt-Amehet, the goddess who is joined to thy head, and the Tchatchau gods who preside over the Nile flood, and Menu, and Heru-khenti-semti, and Urrit, the Lady of Punt, and Nut, and Heru-ur (Haroeris), and Rā, and all the gods of Tamera (Egypt), and of the Islands of the Great Green Sea (i.e. Mediterranean), bestow upon thee a full measure of their good gifts, and grant life and serenity to thy nostrils, and may they grant unto thee an eternity which hath no limit, and everlastingness which hath no bounds! May thy fear penetrate and extend into all countries and mountains, and mayest thou be the possessor of all the region which the sun encircleth in his course. This is the prayer which thy servant who now speaketh maketh on behalf of his lord who hath delivered him from Ament.

"The lord of knowledge who knoweth men, the Majesty of the Setepsa abode (i.e. the Palace), knoweth well that his servant who is now speaking was afraid to declare the matter, and that to repeat it was a great thing. The great god (i.e. the King), who is the counterpart of Rā, hath done wisely in what he hath done, and thy servant who now speaketh hath meditated upon it in his mind, and hath made himself to conform to his plans. Thy Majesty is like unto Horus, and the victorious might of thine arms hath conquered the whole world. Let thy Majesty command that Maka [chief of] the country of Qetma, and Khentiaaush [chief of] Khent-Keshu, and Menus [chief of] the lands of the Fenkhu, be brought hither, and these Governors will testify that these [165]things have come to pass at the desire of thy Ka (i.e. double), and that Thenu doth not speak words of overboldness to thee, and that she is as [obedient as] thy hunting dogs. Behold, the flight, which thy servant who is now speaking made, was made by him as the result of ignorance; it was not wilful, and I did not decide upon it after careful meditation. I cannot understand how I could ever have separated myself from my country. It seemeth to me now to have been the product of a dream wherein a man who is in the swamps of the Delta imagineth himself to be in Abu (Elephantine, or Syene), or of a man who whilst standing in fertile fields imagineth himself to be in the deserts of the Sūdān. I fear nothing and no man can make with truth [accusations] against me. I have never turned my ear to disloyal plottings, and my name hath never been in the mouth of the crier [of the names of proscribed folk]; though my members quaked, and my legs shook, my heart guided me, and the God who ordained this flight of mine led me on. Behold, I am not a stiff-necked man (or rebel), nay, I held in honour [the King], for I knew the land of Egypt and that Rā hath made thy fear to exist everywhere in Egypt, and the awe of thee to permeate every foreign land. I beseech thee to let me enter my native land. I beseech thee to let me return to Egypt. Thou art the apparel of the horizon. The Disk (i.e. the Sun) shineth at thy wish. One drinketh the water of the river Nile at thy pleasure. One breatheth the air of heaven when thou givest the word of command. Thy servant who now speaketh will transfer the possessions which he hath gotten in this land to his kinsfolk. And as for the embassy of thy Majesty which hath been despatched to the servant who now speaketh, I will do according to thy Majesty's desire, for I live by the breath which thou givest, O thou beloved of Rā, Horus, and Hathor, and thy holy nostrils are beloved of Menthu, Lord of Thebes; mayest thou live for ever!"

And I tarried one day in the country of Aa in order to transfer my possessions to my children. My eldest son attended to the affairs of the people of my settlement, and [166]the men and women thereof (i.e. the slaves), and all my possessions were in his hand, and all my children, and all my cattle, and all my fruit trees, and all my palm plantations and groves. Then thy servant who is now speaking set out on his journey and travelled towards the South. When I arrived at Heruuatu, the captain of the frontier patrol sent a messenger to inform the Court of my arrival. His Majesty sent a courteous overseer of the servants of the Palace, and following him came large boats laden with gifts from the King for the soldiers of the desert who had escorted me and guided me to the town of Heruuatu. I addressed each man among them by name and every toiler had that which belonged to him. I continued my journey, the wind bore me along, food was prepared for me and drink made ready for me, and the best of apparel (?), until I arrived at Athettaui.[1] On the morning of the day following my arrival, five officials came to me, and they bore me to the Great House, and I bowed low until my forehead touched the ground before him. And the princes and princesses were standing waiting for me in the umtet chamber, and they advanced to meet me and to receive me, and the smeru officials conducted me into the hall, and led me to the privy chamber of the King, where I found His Majesty [seated] upon the Great Throne in the umtet chamber of silver-gold. I arrived there, I raised myself up after my prostrations, and I knew not that I was in his presence. Then this god (i.e. the King) spake unto me harshly, and I became like unto a man who is confounded in the darkness; my intelligence left me, my limbs quaked, my heart was no longer in my body, and I knew not whether I was dead or alive. Then His Majesty said unto one of his high officials, "Raise him, and let him speak unto me." And His Majesty said unto me, "Thou hast come then! Thou hast smitten foreign lands and thou hast travelled, but now weakness hath vanquished thee, thou hast become old, and the infirmities of thy body are many. The warriors of the desert shall not escort thee [to thy grave] ... wilt thou not speak and declare thy name?" And I was afraid to contradict [167]him, and I answered him about these matters like a man who was stricken with fear. Thus did my Lord speak to me.

[1] A fortified town a little to the south of Memphis.

And I answered and said, "The matter was not of my doing, for, behold, it was done by the hand of God; bodily terror made me to flee according to what was ordained. But, behold, I am here in thy presence! Thou art life. Thy Majesty doeth as thou pleasest." And the King dismissed the royal children, and His Majesty said unto the Queen, "Look now, this is Sanehat who cometh in the guise of an Asiatic, and who hath turned himself into a nomad warrior of the desert." And the Queen laughed a loud hearty laugh, and the royal children cried out with one voice before His Majesty, saying, "O Lord King, this man cannot really be Sanehat"; and His Majesty said, "It is indeed!"

Then the royal children brought their instruments of music, their menats and their sistra, and they rattled their sistra, and they passed backwards and forwards before His Majesty, saying, "Thy hands perform beneficent acts, O King. The graces of the Lady of Heaven rest [upon thee]. The goddess Nubt giveth life to thy nostrils, and the Lady of the Stars joineth herself to thee, as thou sailest to the South wearing the Crown of the North, and to the North wearing the Crown of the South. Wisdom is stablished in the mouth of Thy Majesty, and health is on thy brow. Thou strikest terror into the miserable wretches who entreat thy mercy. Men propitiate thee, O Lord of Egypt, [as they do] Rā, and thou art acclaimed with cries of joy like Nebertcher. Thy horn conquereth, thine arrow slayeth, [but] thou givest breath to him that is afflicted. For our sakes graciously give a boon to this traveller Sanehat, this desert warrior who was born in Tamera (Egypt). He fled through fear of thee, and he departed to a far country because of his terror of thee. Doth not the face that gazeth on thine blench? Doth not the eye that gazeth into thine feel terrified?" Then His Majesty said, "Let him fear not, and let him not utter a sound of fear. He shall be a smer official among the princes of the palace, he shall be a member of the company of the [168]shenit officials. Get ye gone to the refectory of the palace, and see to it that rations are provided for him."

Thereupon I came forth from the privy chamber of the King, and the royal children clasped my hands, and we passed on to the Great Door, and I was lodged in the house of one of the King's sons, which was beautifully furnished. In it there was a bath, and it contained representations of the heavens and objects from the Treasury. And there [I found] apparel made of royal linen, and myrrh of the finest quality which was used by the King, and every chamber was in charge of officials who were favourites of the King, and every officer had his own appointed duties. And [there] the years were made to slide off my members. I cut and combed my hair, I cast from me the dirt of a foreign land, together with the apparel of the nomads who live in the desert. I arrayed myself in apparel made of fine linen, I anointed my body with costly ointments, I slept upon a bedstead [instead of on the ground], I left the sand to those who dwelt on it, and the crude oil of wood wherewith they anoint themselves. I was allotted the house of a nobleman who had the title of smer, and many workmen laboured upon it, and its garden and its groves of trees were replanted with plants and trees. Rations were brought to me from the palace three or four times each day, in additions to the gifts which the royal children gave me unceasingly. And the site of a stone pyramid among the pyramids was marked out for me. The surveyor-in-chief to His Majesty chose the site for it, the director of the funerary designers drafted the designs and inscriptions which were to be cut upon it, the chief of the masons of the necropolis cut the inscriptions, and the clerk of the works in the necropolis went about the country collecting the necessary funerary furniture. I made the building to flourish, and provided everything that was necessary for its upkeep. I acquired land round about it. I made a lake for the performance of funerary ceremonies, and the land about it contained gardens, and groves of trees, and I provided a place where the people on the estate might dwell similar to that which is provided for a smeru nobleman [169]of the first rank. My statue, which was made for me by His Majesty, was plated with gold, and the tunic thereof was of silver-gold. Not for any ordinary person did he do such things. May I enjoy the favour of the King until the day of my death shall come!

Here endeth the book; [given] from its beginning to its end, as it hath been found in writing.

The Story of the Educated Peasant Khuenanpu

The text of this most interesting story is written in the hieratic character on papyri which are preserved in the British Museum and in the Royal Library at Berlin. It is generally thought that the story is the product of the period that immediately followed the twelfth dynasty.

Once upon a time there lived a man whose name was Khuenanpu, a peasant of Sekhet-hemat,[1] and he had a wife whose name was Nefert. This peasant said to this wife of his, "Behold, I am going down into Egypt in order to bring back food for my children. Go thou and measure up the grain which remaineth in the granary, [and see how many] measures [there are]." Then she measured it, and there were eight measures. Then this peasant said unto this wife of his, "Behold, two measures of grain shall be for the support of thyself and thy children, but of the other six thou shalt make bread and beer whereon I am to live during the days on which I shall be travelling." And this peasant went down into Egypt, having laden his asses with aaa plants, and retmet plants, and soda and salt, and wood of the district of ..., and aunt wood of the Land of Oxen,[2] and skins of panthers and wolves, and neshau plants, and anu stones, and tenem plants, and kheperur plants, and sahut, and saksut seeds (?), and masut plants, and sent and abu stones, and absa and anba plants, and doves and naru and ukes birds, and tebu, uben and tebsu plants, and kenkent seeds, and the plant "hair of the earth," and anset seeds, and all kinds of beautiful [170]products of the land of Sekhet-hemat. And when this peasant had marched to the south, to Hensu,[3] and had arrived at the region of Perfefa, to the north of Metnat, he found a man standing on the river bank whose name was Tehutinekht, who was the son of a man whose name was Asri; both father and son were serfs of Rensi, the son of Meru the steward. When this man Tehutinekht saw the asses of this peasant, of which his heart approved greatly, he said, "Would that I had any kind of god with me to help me to seize for myself the goods of this peasant!" Now the house of this Tehutinekht stood upon the upper edge of a sloping path along the river bank, which was narrow and not wide. It was about as wide as a sheet of linen cloth, and upon one side of it was the water of the stream, and on the other was a growing crop. Then this Tehutinekht said unto his slave, "Run and bring me a sheet of linen out of my house"; and it was brought to him immediately. Then he shook out the sheet of linen over the narrow sloping path in such a way that its upper edge touched the water, and the fringed edge the growing crop. And when this peasant was going along the public path, this Tehutinekht said unto him, "Be careful, peasant, wouldst thou walk upon my clothes?" And this peasant said, "I will do as thou pleasest; my way is good." And when he turned to the upper part of the path, this Tehutinekht said, "Is my corn to serve as a road for thee, O peasant?" Then this peasant said, "My way is good. The river-bank is steep, and the road is covered up with thy corn, and thou hast blocked up the path with thy linen garment. Dost thou really intend not to let us pass? Hath it come to pass that he dareth to say such a thing?" [At that moment] one of the asses bit off a large mouthful of the growing corn, and this Tehutinekht said, "Behold, thy ass is eating my corn! Behold, he shall come and tread it out." Then this peasant said, "My way is good. Because one side of the road was made impassable [by thee], I led my ass to the other side (?), and now thou hast seized my ass because [171]he bit off a large mouthful of the growing corn. However, I know the master of this estate, which belongeth to Rensi, the son of Meru. There is no doubt that he hath driven every robber out of the whole country, and shall I be robbed on his estate?" And this Tehutinekht said, "Is not this an illustration of the proverb which the people use, 'The name of the poor man is only mentioned because of his master?' It is I who speak to thee, but it is the steward [Rensi, the son of Meru] of whom thou art thinking." Then Tehutinekht seized a cudgel of green tamarisk wood, and beat cruelly with it every part of the peasant's body, and took his asses from him and carried them off into his compound. And this peasant wept and uttered loud shrieks of pain because of what was done to him. And this Tehutinekht said, "Howl not so loudly, peasant, or verily [thou shalt depart] to the domain of the Lord of Silence."[4] Then this peasant said, "Thou hast beaten me, and robbed me of my possessions, and now thou wishest to steal even the very complaint that cometh out of my mouth! Lord of Silence indeed! Give me back my goods. Do not make me to utter complaints about thy fearsome character."

And this peasant spent ten whole days in making entreaties to this Tehutinekht [for the restoration of his goods], but Tehutinekht paid no attention to them whatsoever. At the end of this time this peasant set out on a journey to the south, to the city of Hensu, in order to lay his complaint before Rensi, the son of Meru, the steward, and he found him just as he was coming forth from the door in the courtyard of his house which opened on the river bank, to embark in his official boat on the river. And this peasant said, "I earnestly wish that it may happen that I may make glad thy heart with the words which I am going to say! Peradventure thou wilt allow some one to call thy confidential servant to me, in order that I may send him back to thee thoroughly well informed as to my business." Then Rensi, the son of Meru, the steward, caused his confidential servant to go to this peasant, who sent him back to him thoroughly well [172]informed as to his business. And Rensi, the son of Meru, the steward, made inquiries about this Tehutinekht from the officials who were immediately connected with him, and they said unto him, "Lord, the matter is indeed only one that concerneth one of the peasants of Tehutinekht who went [to do business] with another man near him instead of with him. And, as a matter of fact, [officials like Tehutinekht] always treat their peasants in this manner whensoever they go to do business with other people instead of with them. Wouldst thou trouble thyself to inflict punishment upon Tehutinekht for the sake of a little soda and a little salt? [It is unthinkable.] Just let Tehutinekht be ordered to restore the soda and the salt and he will do so [immediately]." And Rensi, the son of Meru, the steward, held his peace; he made no answer to the words of these officials, and to this peasant he made no reply whatsoever.

And this peasant came to make his complaint to Rensi, the son of Meru, the steward, and on the first occasion he said, "O my lord steward, greatest one of the great ones, guide of the things that are not and of these that are, when thou goest down into the Sea of Truth,[5] and dost sail thereon, may the attachment (?) of thy sail not tear away, may thy boat not drift (?), may no accident befall thy mast, may the poles of thy boat not be broken, mayest thou not run aground when thou wouldst walk on the land, may the current not carry thee away, mayest thou not taste the calamities of the stream, mayest thou never see a face of fear, may the timid fish come to thee, and mayest thou obtain fine, fat waterfowl. O thou who art the father of the orphan, the husband of the widow, the brother of the woman who hath been put away by her husband, and the clother of the motherless, grant that I may place thy name in this land in connection with all good law. Guide in whom there is no avarice, great man in whom there is no meanness, who destroyest falsehood and makest what is true to exist, who comest to the word of my mouth, I speak that thou mayest hear. Perform justice, O thou [173]who art praised, to whom those who are most worthy of praise give praise. Do away the oppression that weigheth me down. Behold, I am weighted with sorrow, behold, I am sorely wronged. Try me, for behold, I suffer greatly."

[1] A district to the west of Cairo now known as Wādi an-Natrūn.

[2] The Oasis of Farāfrah.

[3] The Khānēs of the Hebrews and Herakleopolis of the Greeks, the modern Ahnās al-Madīnah.

[4] i.e. Osiris. This was a threat to kill the peasant.

[5] The name of a lake in the Other World; see Book of the Dead, Chap. 17, l. 24.

Now this peasant spake these words in the time of the King of the South, the King of the North, Nebkaurā, whose word is truth. And Rensi, the son of Meru, the steward, went into the presence of His Majesty, and said, "My Lord, I have found one of these peasants who can really speak with true eloquence. His goods have been stolen from him by an official who is in my service, and behold, he hath come to lay before me a complaint concerning this." His Majesty said unto Rensi, the son of Meru, the steward, "If thou wouldst see me in a good state of health, keep him here, and do not make any answer at all to anything which he shall say, so that he may continue to speak. Then let that which he shall say be done into writing, and brought unto us, so that we may hear it. Take care that his wife and his children have food to live upon, and see that one of these peasants goeth to remove want from his house. Provide food for the peasant himself to live upon, but thou shalt make the provision in such a way that the food may be given to him without letting him know that it is thou who hast given it to him. Let the food be given to his friends and let them give it to him." So there were given unto him four bread-cakes and two pots of beer daily. These were provided by Rensi, the son of Meru, the steward, and he gave them to a friend, and it was this friend who gave them to the peasant. And Rensi, the son of Meru, the steward, sent instructions to the governor of [the Oasis of] Sekhet-hemat to supply the wife of the peasant with daily rations, and there were given unto her regularly the bread-cakes that were made from three measures of corn.

Then this peasant came a second time to lay his complaint [before Rensi], and he found him as he was coming out from the ..., and he said, "O steward, my lord, the greatest of the great, thou richest of the rich, whose greatness is true greatness, whose riches are true riches, thou rudder of heaven, thou pole of the earth, thou measuring rope for heavy [174]weights (?)! O rudder, slip not, O pole, topple not, O measuring rope, make no mistake in measuring! The great lord taketh away from her that hath no master (or owner), and stealeth from him that is alone [in the world]. Thy rations are in thy house—a pot of beer and three bread-cakes. What dost thou spend in satisfying those who depend upon thee? Shall he who must die die with his people? Wilt thou be a man of eternity (i.e. wilt thou live for ever?) Behold, are not these things evils, namely, the balance that leaneth side-ways, the pointer of the balance that doth not show the correct weight, and an upright and just man who departeth from his path of integrity? Observe! the truth goeth badly with thee, being driven out of her proper place, and the officials commit acts of injustice. He who ought to estimate a case correctly giveth a wrong decision. He who ought to keep himself from stealing committeth an act of robbery. He who should be strenuous to arrest the man who breaketh the word (i.e. Law) in its smallest point, is himself guilty of departing therefrom. He who should give breath stifleth him that could breathe. The land that ought to give repose driveth repose away. He who should divide in fairness hath become a robber. He who should blot out the oppressor giveth him the command to turn the town into a waste of water. He who should drive away evil himself committeth acts of injustice."

Then Rensi, the son of Meru, the steward, said [to the peasant], "Doth thy case appear in thy heart so serious that I must have my servant [Tchutinekht] seized on thy account?" This peasant said, "He who measureth the heaps of corn filcheth from them for himself, and he who filleth [the measure] for others robbeth his neighbours. Since he who should carry out the behests of the Law giveth the order to rob, who is to repress crime? He who should do away with offences against the Law himself committeth them. He who should act with integrity behaveth crookedly. He who doeth acts of injustice is applauded. When wilt thou find thyself able to resist and to put down acts of injustice? [When] the ... cometh to his place of [175]yesterday the command cometh: 'Do a [good] deed in order that one may do a [good] deed [to thee],' that is to say, 'Give thanks unto everyone for what he doeth.' This is to drive back the bolt before it is shot, and to give a command to the man who is already overburdened with orders. Would that a moment of destruction might come, wherein thy vines should be laid low, and thy geese diminished, and thy waterfowl be made few in number! [Thus] it cometh that the man who ought to see clearly hath become blind, and he who ought to hear distinctly hath become deaf, and he who ought to be a just guide hath become one who leadeth into error. Observe! thou art strong and powerful. Thine arm is able to do deeds of might, and [yet] thy heart is avaricious. Compassion hath removed itself from thee. The wretched man whom thou hast destroyed crieth aloud in his anguish. Thou art like unto the messenger of the god Henti (the Crocodile-god). Set not out [to do evil] for the Lady of the Plague (i.e. Sekhmet).... As there is nothing between thee and her for a certain purpose, so there is nothing against thee and her. If thou wilt not do it [then] she will not show compassion. The beggar hath the powerful owner of possessions (or revenues) robbed, and the man who hath nothing hath the man who hath secreted [much] stolen goods. To steal anything at all from the beggar is an absolute crime on the part of the man who is not in want, and [if he doth this] shall his action not be inquired into? Thou art filled full with thy bread, and art drunken with thy beer, and thou art rich [beyond count]. When the face of the steersman is directed to what is in front of him, the boat falleth out of its course, and saileth whithersoever it pleaseth. When the King [remaineth] in his house, and when thou workest the rudder, acts of injustice take place round about thee, complaints are widespread, and the loss (?) is very serious. And one saith, 'What is taking place?' Thou shouldst make thyself a place of refuge [for the needy]. Thy quay should be safe. But observe! Thy town is in commotion. Thy tongue is righteous, make no mistake [in judgment]. The abominable behaviour of a man is, as it were, [one of] his members. Speak no lies [176]thyself, and take good heed that thy high officials do not do so. Those who assess the dues on the crops are like unto a ..., and to tell lies is very dear to their hearts. Thou who hast knowledge of the affairs of all the people, dost thou not understand my circumstances? Observe, thou who relievest the wants of all who have suffered by water, I am on the path of him that hath no boat. O thou who bringest every drowning man to land, and who savest the man whose boat hath foundered, art thou going to let me perish?"

And this peasant came a third time to lay his complaint [before Rensi], and he said, "O my Lord Rensi, the steward! Thou art Rā, the lord of heaven with thy great chiefs. The affairs of all men [are ruled by thee]. Thou art like the water-flood. Thou art Hep (the Nile-god) who maketh green the fields, and who maketh the islands that are deserts to become productive. Exterminate the robber, be thou the advocate of those who are in misery, and be not towards the petitioner like the water-flood that sweepeth him away. Take heed to thyself likewise, for eternity cometh, and behave in such a way that the proverb, 'Righteousness (or truth) is the breath of the nostrils,' may be applicable unto thee. Punish those who are deserving of punishment, and then these shall be like unto thee in dispensing justice. Do not the small scales weigh incorrectly? Doth not the large balance incline to one side? In such cases is not Thoth merciful? When thou doest acts of injustice thou becomest the second of these three, and if these be merciful thou also mayest be merciful. Answer not good with evil, and do not set one thing in the place of another. Speech flourisheth more than the senmit plants, and groweth stronger than the smell of the same. Make no answer to it whilst thou pourest out acts of injustice, to make to grow apparel, which three ... will cause him to make. [If] thou workest the steering pole against the sail (?), the flood shall gather strength against the doing of what is right. Take good heed to thyself and set thyself on the mat (?) on the look-out place. The equilibrium of the earth is maintained by the doing of what is right. Tell not lies, for thou art a great man. Act [177]not in a light manner, for thou art a man of solid worth. Tell not lies, for thou art a pair of scales. Make no mistake [in thy weighing], for thou art a correct reckoner (?). Observe! Thou art all of a piece with the pair of scales. If they weigh incorrectly, thou also shalt act falsely. Let not the boat run aground when thou art working the steering pole ... the look-out place. When thou hast to proceed against one who hath carried off something, take thou nothing, for behold, the great man ceaseth to be a great man when he is avaricious. Thy tongue is the pointer of the scales; thy heart is the weight; thy lips are the two arms of the scales. If thou coverest thy face so as not to see the doer of violent deeds, who is there [left] to repress lawless deeds? Observe! Thou art like a poor man for the man who washeth clothes, who is avaricious and destroyeth kindly feeling (?). He who forsaketh the friend who endoweth him for the sake of his client is his brother, who hath come and brought him a gift. Observe! Thou art a ferryman who ferriest over the stream only the man who possesseth the proper fare, whose integrity is well attested (?). Observe! Thou art like the overseer of a granary who doth not at once permit to pass him that cometh empty. Observe! Thou art among men like a bird of prey that liveth upon weak little birds. Observe! Thou art like the cook whose sole joy is to kill, whom no creature escapeth. Observe! Thou art like a shepherd who is careless about the loss of his sheep through the rapacious crocodile; thou never countest [thy sheep]. Would that thou wouldst make evil and rapacious men to be fewer! Safety hath departed from [every] town throughout the land. Thou shouldst hear, but most assuredly thou hearest not! Why hast thou not heard that I have this day driven back the rapacious man? When the crocodile pursueth.... How long is this condition of thine to last? Truth which is concealed shall be found, and falsehood shall perish. Do not imagine that thou art master of to-morrow, which hath not yet come, for the evils which it may bring with it are unknown."

And behold, when this peasant had said these things to [178]Rensi, the son of Meru, the steward, at the entrance to the hall of the palace, Rensi caused two men with leather whips to seize him, and they beat him in every member of his body. Then this peasant said: "The son of Meru hath made a mistake. His face is blind in respect of what he seeth, he is deaf in respect of what he heareth, and he is forgetting that which he ought to remember. Observe! Thou art like unto a town that hath no governor, and a community that hath no chief, and a ship that hath no captain, and a body of men who have no guide. Observe! Thou art like a high official who is a thief, a governor of a town who taketh [bribes], and the overseer of a province who hath been appointed to suppress robbery, but who hath become the captain of those who practise it."

And this peasant came a fourth time to lay his complaint before Rensi, and he met him as he was coming out from the door of the temple of the god Herushefit, and said, "O thou who art praised, the god Herushefit, from whose house thou comest forth, praiseth thee. When well-doing perisheth, and there is none who seeketh to prevent its destruction, falsehood maketh itself seen boldly in the land. If it happen that the ferry-boat is not brought for thee to cross the stream in, how wilt thou be able to cross the stream? If thou hast to cross the stream in thy sandals, is thy crossing pleasant? Assuredly it is not! What man is there who continueth to sleep until it is broad daylight? [This habit] destroyeth the marching by night, and the travelling by day, and the possibility of a man profiting by his good luck, in very truth. Observe! One cannot tell thee sufficiently often that 'Compassion hath departed from thee.' And behold, how the oppressed man whom thou hast destroyed complaineth! Observe! Thou art like unto a man of the chase who would satisfy his craving for bold deeds, who determineth to do what he wisheth, to spear the hippopotamus, to shoot the wild bull, to catch fish, and to catch birds in his nets. He who is without hastiness will not speak without due thought. He whose habit is to ponder deeply will not be light-minded. Apply thy heart earnestly and thou shalt know the truth. [179]Pursue diligently the course which thou hast chosen, and let him that heareth the plaintiff act rightly. He who followeth a right course of action will not treat a plaintiff wrongly. When the arm is brought, and when the two eyes see, and when the heart is of good courage, boast not loudly in proportion to thy strength, in order that calamity may not come unto thee. He who passeth by [his] fate halteth between two opinions. The man who eateth tasteth [his food], the man who is spoken to answereth, the man who sleepeth seeth visions, but nothing can resist the presiding judge when he is the pilot of the doer [of evil]. Observe, O stupid man, thou art apprehended. Observe, O ignorant man, thou art freely discussed. Observe, too, that men intrude upon thy most private moments. Steersman, let not thy boat run aground. Nourisher [of men], let not men die. Destroyer [of men], let not men perish. Shadow, let not men perish through the burning heat. Place of refuge, let not the crocodile commit ravages. It is now four times that I have laid my complaint before thee. How much more time shall I spend in doing this?"

This peasant came a fifth time to make his complaint, and said, "O my lord steward, the fisherman with a khut instrument ..., the fisherman with a ... killeth i-fish, the fisherman with a harpoon speareth the āubbu fish, the fisherman with a tchabhu instrument catcheth the paqru fish, and the common fishermen are always drawing fish from the river. Observe! Thou art even as they. Wrest not the goods of the poor man from him. The helpless man thou knowest him. The goods of the poor man are the breath of his life; to seize them and carry them off from him is to block up his nostrils. Thou art committed to the hearing of a case and to the judging between two parties at law, so that thou mayest suppress the robber; but, verily, what thou doest is to support the thief. The people love thee, and yet thou art a law-breaker. Thou hast been set as a dam before the man of misery, take heed that he is not drowned. Verily, thou art like a lake to him, O thou who flowest quickly."

[180]This peasant came the sixth time to lay his complaint [before Rensi], and said, "O my lord steward ... who makest truth to be, who makest happiness (or, what is good) to be, who destroyest [all evil]; thou art like unto the satiety that cometh to put an end to hunger, thou art like unto the raiment that cometh to do away nakedness; thou art like unto the heavens that become calm after a violent storm and refresh with warmth those who are cold; thou art like unto the fire that cooketh that which is raw, and thou art like unto the water that quencheth the thirst. Yet look round about thee! He who ought to make a division fairly is a robber. He who ought to make everyone to be satisfied hath been the cause of the trouble. He who ought to be the source of healing is one of those who cause sicknesses. The transgressor diminisheth the truth. He who filleth well the right measure acteth rightly, provided that he giveth neither too little nor too much. If an offering be brought unto thee, do thou share it with thy brother (or neighbour), for that which is given in charity is free from after-thought (?). The man who is dissatisfied induceth separation, and the man who hath been condemned bringeth on schisms, even before one can know what is in his mind. When thou hast arrived at a decision delay not in declaring it. Who keepeth within him that which he can eject?... When a boat cometh into port it is unloaded, and the freight thereof is landed everywhere on the quay. It is [well] known that thou hast been educated, and trained, and experienced, but behold, it is not that thou mayest rob [the people]. Nevertheless thou dost [rob them] just as other people do, and those who are found about thee are thieves (?). Thou who shouldst be the most upright man of all the people art the greatest transgressor in the whole country. [Thou art] the wicked gardener who watereth his plot of ground with evil deeds in order to make his plot to tell lies, so that he may flood the town (or estate) with evil deeds (or calamities)."

This peasant came the seventh time in order to lay his complaint [before Rensi], and said, "O my lord steward, thou art the steering pole of the whole land, and the land [181]saileth according to thy command. Thou art the second (or counterpart) of Thoth, who judgeth impartially. My lord, permit thou a man to appeal to thee in respect of his cause which is righteous. Let not thy heart fight against it, for it is unseemly for thee to do so; [if thou doest this] thou of the broad face wilt become evil-hearted. Curse not the thing that hath not yet taken place, and rejoice not over that which hath not yet come to pass. The tolerant judge rejoiceth in showing kindness, and he withholdeth all action concerning a decision that hath been given, when he knoweth not what plan was in the heart. In the case of the judge who breaketh the Law, and overthroweth uprightness, the poor man cannot live [before him], for the judge plundereth him, and the truth saluteth him not. But my body is full, and my heart is overloaded, and the expression thereof cometh forth from my body by reason of the condition of the same. [When] there is a breach in the dam the water poureth out through it: even so is my mouth opened and it uttereth speech. I have now emptied myself, I have poured out what I had to pour out, I have unburdened my body, I have finished washing my linen. What I had to say before thee is said, my misery hath been fully set out before thee; now what hast thou to say in excuse (or apology)? Thy lazy cowardice hath been the cause of thy sin, thine avarice hath rendered thee stupid, and thy gluttony hath been thine enemy. Thinkest thou that thou wilt never find another peasant like unto me? If he hath a complaint to make thinkest thou that he will not stand, if he is a lazy man, at the door of his house? He whom thou forcest to speak will not remain silent. He whom thou forcest to wake up will not remain asleep. The faces which thou makest keen will not remain stupid. The mouth which thou openest will not remain closed. He whom thou makest intelligent will not remain ignorant. He whom thou instructest will not remain a fool. These are they who destroy evils. These are the officials, the lords of what is good. These are the crafts-folk who make what existeth. These are they who put on their bodies again the heads that have been cut off."

[182]This peasant came the eighth time to lay his complaint [before Rensi], and said, "O my lord steward, a man falleth because of covetousness. The avaricious man hath no aim, for his aim is frustrated. Thy heart is avaricious, which befitteth thee not. Thou plunderest, and thy plunder is no use to thee. And yet formerly thou didst permit a man to enjoy that to which he had good right! Thy daily bread is in thy house, thy belly is filled, grain overfloweth [in thy granaries], and the overflow perisheth and is wasted. The officials who have been appointed to suppress acts of injustice have been rapacious robbers, and the officials who have been appointed to stamp out falsehood have become hiding-places for those who work iniquity. It is not fear of thee that hath driven me to make my complaint to thee, for thou dost not understand my mind (or heart). The man who is silent and who turneth back in order to bring his miserable state [before thee] is not afraid to place it before thee, and his brother doth not bring [gifts] from the interior of [his quarter]. Thy estates are in the fields, thy food is on [thy] territory, and thy bread is in the storehouse, yet the officials make gifts to thee and thou seizest them. Art thou not then a robber? Will not the men who plunder hasten with thee to the divisions of the fields? Perform the truth for the Lord of Truth, who possesseth the real truth. Thou writing reed, thou roll of papyrus, thou palette, thou Thoth, thou art remote from acts of justice. O Good One, thou art still goodness. O Good One, thou art truly good. Truth endureth for ever. It goeth down to the grave with those who perform truth, it is laid in the coffin and is buried in the earth; its name is never removed from the earth, and its name is remembered on earth for good (or blessing). That is the ordinance of the word of God. If it be a matter of a hand-balance it never goeth askew; if it be a matter of a large pair of scales, the standard thereof never inclineth to one side. Whether it be I who come, or another, verily thou must make speech, but do not answer whether thou speakest to one who ought to hold his peace, or whether thou seizest one who cannot seize thee. Thou art not merciful, [183]thou art not considerate. Thou hast not withdrawn thyself, thou hast not gone afar off. But thou hast not in any way given in respect of me any judgment in accordance with the command, which came forth from the mouth of Rā himself, saying, 'Speak the truth, perform the truth, for truth is great, mighty, and everlasting. When thou performest the truth thou wilt find its virtues (?), and it will lead thee to the state of being blessed (?). If the hand-balance is askew, the pans of the balance, which perform the weighing, hang crookedly, and a correct weighing cannot be carried out, and the result is a false one; even so the result of wickedness is wickedness.'"

This peasant came the ninth time to lay his complaint [before Rensi], and said, "The great balance of men is their tongues, and all the rest is put to the test by the hand balance. When thou punishest the man who ought to be punished, the act telleth in thy favour. [When he doeth not this] falsehood becometh his possession, truth turneth away from before him, his goods are falsehood, truth forsaketh him, and supporteth him not. If falsehood advanceth, she maketh a mistake, and goeth not over with the ferry-boat [to the Island of Osiris]. The man with whom falsehood prevaileth hath no children and no heirs upon the earth. The man in whose boat falsehood saileth never reacheth land, and his boat never cometh into port. Be not heavy, but at the same time do not be too light. Be not slow, but at the same time be not too quick. Rage not at the man who is listening to thee. Cover not over thy face before the man with whom thou art acquainted. Make not blind thy face towards the man who is looking at thee. Thrust not aside the suppliant as thou goest down. Be not indolent in making known thy decision. Do [good] unto him that will do [good] unto thee. Hearken not unto the cry of the mob, who say, 'A man will assuredly cry out when his case is really righteous.' There is no yesterday for the indolent man, there is no friend for the man who is deaf to [the words of] truth, and there is no day of rejoicing for the avaricious man. The informer becometh a poor man, and the poor [184]man becometh a beggar, and the unfriendly man becometh a dead person. Observe now, I have laid my complaint before thee, but thou wilt not hearken unto it; I shall now depart, and make my complaint against thee to Anubis."

Then Rensi, the son of Meru, the steward, caused two of his servants to go and bring back the peasant. Now this peasant was afraid, for he believed that he would be beaten severely because of the words which he had spoken to him. And this peasant said, "This is [like] the coming of the thirsty man to salt tears, and the taking of the mouth of the suckling child to the breast of the woman that is dry. That the sight of which is longed for cometh not, and only death approacheth."

Then Rensi, the son of Meru, the steward, said, "Be not afraid, O peasant, for behold, thou shalt dwell with me." Then this peasant swore an oath, saying, "Assuredly I will eat of thy bread, and drink of thy beer for ever." Then Rensi, the son of Meru, the steward, said, "Come hither, however, so that thou mayest hear thy petitions"; and he caused to be [written] on a roll of new papyrus all the complaints which this peasant had made, each complaint according to its day. And Rensi, the son of Meru, the steward, sent the papyrus to the King of the South, the King of the North, Nebkaurā, whose word is truth, and it pleased the heart of His Majesty more than anything else in the whole land. And His Majesty said, "Pass judgment on thyself, O son of Meru." And Rensi, the son of Meru, the steward, despatched two men to bring him back. And he was brought back, and an embassy was despatched to Sekhet Hemat.... Six persons, besides ... his grain, and his millet, and his asses, and his dogs.... [The remaining lines are mutilated, but the words which are visible make it certain that Tehutinekht the thief was punished, and that he was made to restore to the peasant everything which he had stolen from him.]


The Journey of the Priest Unu-Amen into Syria to buy Cedar Wood to make a new Boat for Amen-Rā

The text of this narrative is written in the hieratic character upon a papyrus preserved in St. Petersburg; it gives an excellent description of the troubles that befell the priest Unu-Amen during his journey into Syria in the second half of the eleventh century before Christ. The text reads:

On the eighteenth day of the third month of the season of the Inundation, of the fifth year, Unu-Amen, the senior priest of the Hait chamber of the house of Amen, the Lord of the thrones of the Two Lands, set out on his journey to bring back wood for the great and holy Boat of Amen-Rā, the King of the Gods, which is called "User-hat," and floateth on the canal of Amen. On the day wherein I arrived at Tchān (Tanis or Zoan), the territory of Nessubanebtet (i.e. King Smendes) and Thent-Amen, I delivered unto them the credentials which I had received from Amen-Rā, the King of the Gods, and when they had had my letters read before them, they said, "We will certainly do whatsoever Amen-Rā, the King of the Gods, our Lord, commandeth." And I lived in that place until the fourth month of the season of the Inundation, and I abode in the palace at Zoan. Then Nessubanebtet and Thent-Amen despatched me with the captain of the large ship called Menkabuta, and I set sail on the sea of Kharu (Syria) on the first day of the fourth month of the Season of the Inundation. I arrived at Dhir, a city of Tchakaru, and Badhilu, its prince, made his servants bring me bread-cakes by the ten thousand, and a large jar of wine, and a leg of beef. And a man who belonged to the crew of my boat ran away, having stolen vessels of gold that weighed five teben, and four vessels of silver that weighed twenty teben, and silver in a leather bag that weighed eleven teben; thus he stole five teben of gold and thirty-one teben of silver.

On the following morning I rose up, and I went to the place where the prince of the country was, and I said unto him, [186]"I have been robbed in thy port. Since thou art the prince of this land, and the leader thereof, thou must make search and find out what hath become of my money. I swear unto thee that the money [once] belonged to Amen-Rā, King of the Gods, the Lord of the Two Lands; it belonged to Nessubanebtet, it belonged to my lord Her-Heru, and to the other great kings of Egypt, but it now belongeth to Uartha, and to Makamāru, and to Tchakar-Bāl, Prince of Kepuna (Byblos)." And he said unto me, "Be angry or be pleased, [as thou likest], but, behold, I know absolutely nothing about the matter of which thou speakest unto me. Had the thief been a man who was a subject of mine, who had gone down into thy ship and stolen thy money, I would in that case have made good thy loss from the moneys in my own treasury, until such time as it had been found out who it was that robbed thee, and what his name was, but the thief who hath robbed thee belongeth to thine own ship. Yet tarry here for a few days, and stay with me, so that I may seek him out." So I tarried there for nine days, and my ship lay at anchor in his port. And I went to him and I said unto him, "Verily thou hast not found my money, [but I must depart] with the captain of the ship and with those who are travelling with him." ... [The text here is mutilated, but from the fragments of the lines that remain it seems clear that Unu-Amen left the port of Dhir, and proceeded in his ship to Tyre. After a short stay there he left Tyre very early one morning and sailed to Kepuna (Byblos), so that he might have an interview with the governor of that town, who was called Tchakar-Bāl. During his interview with Tchakar-Bāl the governor of Tyre produced a bag containing thirty teben of silver, and Unu-Amen promptly seized it, and declared that he intended to keep it until his own money which had been stolen was returned to him. Whilst Unu-Amen was at Byblos he buried in some secret place the image of the god Amen and the amulets belonging to it, which he had brought with him to protect him and to guide him on his way. The name of this image was "Amen-ta-mat." The text then proceeds in a connected form thus:]

[187]And I passed nineteen days in the port of Byblos, and the governor passed his days in sending messages to me each day, saying, "Get thee gone out of my harbour." Now on one occasion when he was making an offering to his gods, the god took possession of a certain young chief of his chiefs, and he caused him to fall into a fit of frenzy, and the young man said, "Bring up the god.[1] Bring the messenger who hath possession of him. Make him to set out on his way. Make him to depart immediately." Now the man who had been seized with the fit of divine frenzy continued to be moved by the same during the night. And I found a certain ship, which was bound for Egypt, and when I had transferred to it all my property, I cast a glance at the darkness, saying, "If the darkness increaseth I will transfer the god to the ship also, and not permit any other eye whatsoever to look upon him." Then the superintendent of the harbour came unto me, saying, "Tarry thou here until to-morrow morning, according to the orders of the governor." And I said unto him, "Art not thou thyself he who hath passed his days in coming to me daily and saying, 'Get thee gone out of my harbour?' Dost thou not say, 'Tarry here,' so that I may let the ship which I have found [bound for Egypt] depart, when thou wilt again come and say, 'Haste thee to be gone'?"

[1] i.e. the figure of Amen-ta-mat.

And the superintendent of the harbour turned away and departed, and told the governor what I had said. And the governor sent a message to the captain of the ship bound for Egypt, saying, "Tarry till the morning; these are the orders of the governor." And when the morning had come, the governor sent a messenger, who took me to the place where offerings were being made to the god in the fortress wherein the governor lived on the sea coast. And I found him seated in his upper chamber, and he was reclining with his back towards an opening in the wall, and the waves of the great Syrian sea were rolling in from seawards and breaking on the shore behind him. And I said unto him, "The grace of Amen [be with thee]!" And he said unto me, [188]"Including this day, how long is it since thou camest from the place where Amen is?" And I said unto him, "Five months and one day, including to-day." And he said unto me, "Verily if that which thou sayest is true, where are the letters of Amen which ought to be in thy hand? Where are the letters of the high priest of Amen which ought to be in thy hand?"

And I said unto him, "I gave them to Nessubanebtet and Thent-Amen." Then was he very angry indeed, and he said unto me, "Verily, there are neither letters nor writings in thy hands for us! Where is the ship made of acacia wood which Nessubanebtet gave unto thee? Where are his Syrian sailors? Did he not hand thee over to the captain of the ship so that after thou hadst started on thy journey they might kill thee and cast thee into the sea? Whose permission did they seek to attack the god? And indeed whose permission were they seeking before they attacked thee?" This is what he said unto me.

And I said unto him, "The ship [wherein I sailed] was in very truth an Egyptian ship, and it had a crew of Egyptian sailors who sailed it on behalf of Nessubanebtet. There were no Syrian sailors placed on board of it by him." He said unto me, "I swear that there are twenty ships lying in my harbour, the captains of which are in partnership with Nessubanebtet. And as for the city of Sidon, whereto thou wishest to travel, I swear that there are there ten thousand other ships, the captains of which are in partnership with Uarkathar, and they are sailed for the benefit of his house." At this grave moment I held my peace. And he answered and said unto me, "On what matter of business hast thou come hither?" And I said unto him, "The matter concerning which I have come is wood for the great and holy Boat of Amen-Rā, the King of the Gods. What thy father did [for the god], and what thy father's father did for him, do thou also." That was what I said unto him. And he said unto me, "They certainly did do work for it (i.e. the boat). Give me a gift for my work for the boat, and then I also will work for it. Assuredly my father and my grandfather [189]did do the work that was demanded of them, and Pharaoh, life, strength, and health be to him! caused six ships laden with the products of Egypt to come hither, and the contents thereof were unloaded into their storehouses. Now, thou must most certainly cause some goods to be brought and given to me for myself."

Then he caused to be brought the books which his father had kept day by day, and he had them read out before me, and it was found that one thousand teben of silver of all kinds were [entered] in his books. And he said unto me, "If the Ruler of Egypt had been the lord of my possessions, and if I had indeed been his servant, he would never have had silver and gold brought [to pay my father and my father's father] when he told them to carry out the commands of Amen. The instructions which they (i.e. Pharaoh) gave to my father were by no means the command of one who was their king. As for me, I am assuredly not thy servant, and indeed I am not the servant of him that made thee to set out on thy way. If I were to cry out now, and to shout to the cedars of Lebanon, the heavens would open, and the trees would be lying spread out on the sea-shore. I ask thee now to show me the sails which thou hast brought to carry thy ships which shall be loaded with thy timber to Egypt. And show me also the tackle with which thou wilt transfer to thy ships the trees which I shall cut down for thee for.... [Unless I make for thee the tackle] and the sails of thy ships, the tops will be too heavy, and they will snap off, and thou wilt perish in the midst of the sea, [especially if] Amen uttereth his voice in the sky,[1] and he unfettereth Sutekh[2] at the moment when he rageth. Now Amen hath assumed the overlordship of all lands, and he hath made himself their master, but first and foremost he is the overlord of Egypt, whence thou hast come. Excellent things have come forth from Egypt, and have reached even unto this place wherein I am; and moreover, knowledge (or learning) hath come forth therefrom, and hath reached even unto this place [190]wherein I am. But of what use is this beggarly journey of thine which thou hast been made to take?"

[1] i.e. if there is thunder.

[2] Here the Storm-god.

And I said unto him, "What a shameful thing [to say]! It is not a beggarly journey whereon I have been despatched by those among whom I live. And besides, assuredly there is not a single boat that floateth that doth not belong to Amen. To him belong the sea and the cedars of Lebanon, concerning which thou sayest, 'They are my property.' In Lebanon groweth [the wood] for the Boat Amen-userhat, the lord of boats. Amen-Rā, the King of the Gods, spake and told Her-Heru, my lord, to send me forth; and therefore he caused me to set out on my journey together with this great god.[1] Now behold, thou hast caused this great god to pass nine and twenty days here in a boat that is lying at anchor in thy harbour, for most assuredly thou didst know that he was resting here. Amen is now what he hath always been, and yet thou wouldst dare to stand up and haggle about the [cedars of] Lebanon with the god who is their lord! And as concerning what thou hast spoken, saying, 'The kings of Egypt in former times caused silver and gold to be brought [to my father and father's father, thou art mistaken].' Since they had bestowed upon them life and health, they would never have caused gold and silver to be brought to them; but they might have caused gold and silver to be brought to thy fathers instead of life and health. And Amen-Rā, the King of the Gods, is the Lord of life and health. He was the god of thy fathers, and they served him all their lives, and made offerings unto him, and indeed thou thyself art a servant of Amen. If now thou wilt say unto Amen, 'I will perform thy commands, I will perform thy commands,' and wilt bring this business to a prosperous ending, thou shalt live, thou shalt be strong, thou shalt be healthy, and thou shalt rule thy country to its uttermost limits wisely and well, and thou shalt do good to thy people. But take good heed that thou lovest not the possessions of Amen-Rā, the King of the Gods, for the lion loveth the things that belong unto him. And now, I pray thee to allow my scribe [191]to be summoned to me, and I will send him to Nessubanebtet and Thent-Amen, the local governors whom Amen hath appointed to rule the northern portion of his land, and they will send to me everything which I shall tell them to send to me, saying, 'Let such and such a thing be brought,' until such time as I can make the journey to the South (i.e. to Egypt), when I will have thy miserable dross brought to thee, even to the uttermost portion thereof, in very truth." That was what I said unto him.

[1] i.e. the figure of Amen already referred to.

And he gave my letter into the hand of his ambassador. And he loaded up on a ship wood for the fore part and wood for the hind part [of the Boat of Amen], and four other trunks of cedar trees which had been cut down, in all seven trunks, and he despatched them to Egypt. And his ambassador departed to Egypt, and he returned to me in Syria in the first month of the winter season (November-December). And Nessubanebtet and Thent-Amen sent to me five vessels of gold, five vessels of silver, ten pieces of byssus, each sufficiently large to make a suit of raiment, five hundred rolls of fine papyrus, five hundred hides of oxen, five hundred ropes, twenty sacks of lentils, and thirty vessels full of dried fish. And for my personal use they sent to me five pieces of byssus, each sufficiently large to make a suit of raiment, a sack of lentils, and five vessels full of dried fish. Then the Governor was exceedingly glad and rejoiced greatly, and he sent three hundred men and three hundred oxen [to Lebanon] to cut down the cedar trees, and he appointed overseers to direct them. And they cut down the trees, the trunks of which lay there during the whole of the winter season. And when the third month of the summer season had come, they dragged the tree trunks down to the sea-shore. And the Governor came out of his palace, and took up his stand before the trunks, and he sent a message to me, saying, "Come." Now as I was passing close by him, the shadow of his umbrella fell upon me, whereupon Pen-Amen, an officer of his bodyguard, placed himself between him and me, saying, "The shadow of Pharaoh, life, strength, and health, be to him! thy Lord, falleth [192]upon thee."[1] And the Governor was wroth with Pen-Amen, and he said, "Let him alone." Therefore I walked close to him.

[1] Pen-Amen means to say that as the shadow of the Governor had fallen upon the Egyptian, Unu-Amen was henceforth his servant. The shadow of a man was supposed to carry with it some of the vital power and authority of the man.

And the Governor answered and said unto me, "Behold, the orders [of Pharaoh] which my fathers carried out in times of old, I also have carried out, notwithstanding the fact that thou hast not done for me what thy fathers were wont to do for me. However, look for thyself, and take note that the last of the cedar trunks hath arrived, and here it lieth. Do now whatsoever thou pleaseth with them, and take steps to load them into ships, for assuredly they are given to thee as a gift. I beg thee to pay no heed to the terror of the sea voyage, but if thou persistest in contemplating [with fear] the sea voyage, thou must also contemplate [with fear] the terror of me [if thou tarriest here]. Certainly I have not treated thee as the envoys of Khā-em-Uast[1] were treated here, for they were made to pass seventeen (or fifteen) years in this country, and they died here."[2]

[1] Otherwise known as Rameses IX, a king of the twentieth dynasty.

[2] i.e. they were kept prisoners in Syria until their death.

Then the Governor spake to the officer of his bodyguard, saying, "Lay hands on him, and take him to see the tombs wherein they lie." And I said unto him, "Far be it from me to look upon such [ill-omened] things! As concerning the messengers of Khā-em-Uast, the men whom he sent unto thee as ambassadors were merely [officials] of his, and there was no god with his ambassadors, and so thou sayest, 'Make haste to look upon thy colleagues.' Behold, wouldst thou not have greater pleasure, and shouldst thou not [instead of saying such things] cause to be made a stele whereon should be said by thee:

"Amen-Rā, the King of the Gods, sent to me Amen-ta-mat, his divine ambassador, together with Unu-Amen, his human ambassador, in quest of trunks of cedar wood [193]for the Great and Holy Boat of Amen-Rā, the King of the Gods. And I cut down cedar trees, and I loaded them into ships. I provided the ships myself, and I manned them with my own sailors, and I made them to arrive in Egypt that they might bespeak [from the god for me] ten thousand years of life, in addition to the span of life which was decreed for me. And this petition hath been granted.

"[And wouldst thou not rather] that, after the lapse of time, when another ambassador came from the land of Egypt who understood this writing, he should utter thy name which should be on the stele, and pray that thou shouldst receive water in Amentet, even like the gods who subsist?"

And he said unto me, "These words which thou hast spoken unto me are of a certainty a great testimony." And I said unto him, "Now, as concerning the multitude of words which thou hast spoken unto me: As soon as I arrive at the place where the First Prophet (i.e. Her-Heru) of Amen dwelleth, and he knoweth [how thou hast] performed the commands of the God [Amen], he will cause to be conveyed to thee [a gift of] certain things." Then I walked down to the beach, to the place where the trunks of cedar had been lying, and I saw eleven ships [ready] to put out to sea; and they belonged to Tchakar-Bāl. [And the governor sent out an order] saying, "Stop him, and do not let any ship with him on board [depart] to the land of Egypt." Then I sat myself down and wept. And the scribe of the Governor came out to me, and said unto me, "What aileth thee?" And I said unto him, "Consider the kashu birds that fly to Egypt again and again! And consider how they flock to the cool water brooks! Until the coming of whom must I remain cast aside hither? Assuredly thou seest those who have come to prevent my departure a second time."

Then [the scribe] went away and told the Governor what I had said; and the Governor shed tears because of the words that had been repeated to him, for they were full of pain. And he caused the scribe to come out to me again, and he brought with him two skins [full] of wine and a goat. [194]And he caused to be brought out to me Thentmut, an Egyptian singing woman who lived in his house, and he said to her, "Sing to him, and let not the cares of his business lay hold upon his heart." And to me he sent a message, saying, "Eat and drink, and let not business lay hold upon thy heart. Thou shalt hear everything which I have to say unto thee to-morrow morning."

And when the morning had come, he caused [the inhabitants of the town] to be assembled on the quay, and having stood up in their midst, he said to the Tchakaru, "For what purpose have ye come hither?" And they said unto him, "We have come hither seeking for the ships which have been broken and dashed to pieces, that is to say, the ships which thou didst despatch to Egypt, with our unfortunate fellow-sailors in them." And he said unto them, "I know not how to detain the ambassador of Amen in my country any longer. I beg of you to let me send him away, and then do ye pursue him, and prevent him [from escaping]." And he made me embark in a ship, and sent me forth from the sea-coast, and the winds drove me ashore to the land of Alasu (Cyprus?). And the people of the city came forth to slay me, and I was dragged along in their midst to the place where their queen Hathaba lived; and I met her when she was coming forth from one house to go into another. Then I cried out in entreaty to her, and I said unto the people who were standing about her, "Surely there must be among you someone who understandeth the language of Egypt." And one of them said, "I understand the speech [of Egypt]." Then I said unto him, "Tell my Lady these words: I have heard it said far from here, even in the city of [Thebes], the place where Amen dwelleth, that wrong is done in every city, and that only in the land of Alasu (Cyprus?) is right done. And yet wrong is done here every day!" And she said, "What is it that thou really wishest to say?" I said unto her, "Now that the angry sea and the winds have cast me up on the land wherein thou dwellest, thou wilt surely not permit these men who have received me to slay me! Moreover, I am an ambassador of Amen. And consider carefully, for I am a [195]man who will be searched for every day. And as for the sailors of Byblos whom they wish to kill, if their lord findeth ten of thy sailors he will assuredly slay them." Then she caused her people to be called off me, and they were made to stand still, and she said unto me, "Lie down and sleep...." [The rest of the narrative is wanting].