A balbale is a difficult-to-quantify-and-qualify type of Sumerian poetical format, one in which hymns are frequently written. Those of my readers who are familiar with my Mesopotamian Revivalist practices know that I prefer to use names, forms, and conventions that came into existence after the transition to Akkadian language — that is, after 2000 BCE. However, it was not uncommon for Akkadian-speakers to defer to older names, forms, and conventions in such religious compositions as these. Indeed, Mesopotamian groups maintained Sumerian as a liturgical language for a number of centuries, long after it had ceased being a “living,” commonly-spoken language. In other words, Sumerian (a language isolate) became to Semitic, Akkadian-speaking Mesopotamian peoples what Latin had become to Medieval and Modern Westerners.

That is precisely what I am doing in the following religious composition. Rather than using “Akkadianized” forms, as is more characteristic of me (“Anu(m)” versus Sumerian “An,” “Šamaš” versus Sumerian “Utu,” etc.), I am using Sumerian names and stylisms.

Like many balbale-hymns, this one pertains to the God Dumuzi, consort to the Goddess Inanna of Uruk. It does not perfectly mirror historical balbale-hymns, of course; it is merely a humble tribute to that style, and to the God Dumuzi.

A pen and pencil drawing I made for the Mesopotamian deity Dumuzi.

An ink and pencil drawing I made for the Mesopotamian deity Dumuzi, early in March, 2014.

Like one with a shepherd’s staff over the folds of the cattle of An,
You keep guard.

Like a shepherd over the folds of the sheep of An,
You keep guard.

The fold from which the milk has been taken away, with milk You supply it.
The fold from which the cream has been taken away, with cream You supply it.

Who provides as Dumuzi provides? Who is as sweet as Dumuzi?

The cattle seek You out, O True Shepherd of An, Enlil’s son. The sheep seek You out. They seek You out and You wield the crook o’er them.
Who wields as You know how to wield? Who protects and sustains as You do?

O You True Shepherd of An, Enlil’s son, Lord Dumuzi, coming forth from Arali failing to detain You, You protect and sustain mankind!

You are a Lord with Holy Dignity, shining with the blessing of Utu,
radiant in Your beauty, exalted by Inanna, adorned with Your Mē.

Sweet bull, beloved of Inanna, how She loves and exalts You!
You bring Her milk; You bring Her cream. How She delights in You!
You sweeten Inanna, You sweeten the Lady of Heaven!
Sweet bull, darling of Inanna, how She pines for You
when You are out in Your pasturage.
How sullen and disposed toward anger is She e’er Her husbandman is away!

You sweeten Inanna, You sweeten the Lady of Heaven!
You whisper in Her ear; Her love is upon Your lips.
How Her ear bends to the sweetness of Your lips!

None dare speak foul to You, sweet bull of Inanna, blessed of Utu!
Who would dare speak foul to Dumuzi, Enlil’s son?
It is upon Your sweetness the petitioner relies!
It is the True Shepherd of An Who with His sweetness
makes the petition of the one who praises Him into milk and cream.

Lord Dumuzi, Your praise is sweet!
How sweet it is to sing Your praises!

It is a balbale for the Lord Dumuzi, Sweetest of the Gods.