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The General Overview of The “Hymn to the Nile”

Hymn to the Nile

Hymn to the Nile

The “Hymn to the Nile” is an ancient sacred hymn that dates back more than 4,000 years.

The ancient Egyptians held the Nile River in high regard and considered it an immensely significant aspect of their culture.

They sought blessings and abundant floods from the Nile River by offering prayers to multiple deities.

The hymn reflects the Egyptians’ deep connection with the Nile River and highlights its central role in shaping their culture, religion, and arts.

The Nile River was the lifeblood of ancient Egypt. Every year, it flooded and deposited nutrient-rich silt on the riverbanks, allowing for the cultivation of crops and the flourishing of civilization.

As such, the Nile was highly revered and celebrated in ancient Egyptian culture. One of the most well-known tributes to the Nile is the Hymn to the Nile.

In this blog post, we will explore the history and significance of this ancient ode.

History and Authorship

The “Hymn to the Nile” is a Middle Egyptian literary composition of uncertain date, popular during the New Kingdom.

It serves as a significant example of Egyptian religion and offers insights into the social structure and economy of ancient Egypt.

The “Hymn to the Nile” is believed to have been written by Khety around 2100 BCE.

The hymn refers to the relationship between Egyptian religion and the Nile. Specifically, it serves as a tribute to the Nile and its importance in sustaining life in Egypt.

It suggests that religion had a significant influence on Egyptian society, with the Nile being central to their way of life.

The Nile was considered a form of god, or at least a servant of a god.

Early Egyptians gave the Nile human characteristics such as the desire to accept offerings, the “establisher of justice,” the ability to conquer, and the ability to “give” to the people.

The Egyptian calendar was even divided into three seasons based on the cycles of the Nile.

The yearly flooding of the Nile was critical to the formation of the Egyptian way of life, as it made the land fertile and suitable for agriculture.

The Egyptians recognized that if the water rose too high, villages would be destroyed. Conversely, they believe that if the water remained too low, the land would turn to dust and bring famine.

The Nile was therefore seen as a source of life itself. Although considered a god, there are no surviving temples dedicated to the Nile Flood.

The attraction of the river was evident, and the ancient Egyptians looked upon their river with reverence and awe given its comparative behavior.

Structure and Content

The Hymn to the Nile is structured in a call-and-response form. Thus, one voice sings out a line or phrase, and the other voice responds with a similar phrase.

The hymn is also divided into three sections, each dedicated to a different aspect of the Nile’s importance.

The first section of the hymn celebrates the Nile’s life-giving properties and its role in ensuring fertility and prosperity.

The second section emphasizes the Nile’s connection to the gods and its spiritual significance in Ancient Egyptian religion.

The third and other sections of the hymn praise the Nile for its role in providing transportation and trade opportunities.

Significance and Legacy

The Hymn to the Nile was not only a tribute to the river itself but also to the gods and goddesses that were associated with it.

The hymn reflects the complex and deeply spiritual worldview of the Ancient Egyptians. These people saw the world around them as imbued with divine significance.

The Hymn to the Nile also provides insight into the practical realities of life in ancient Egypt. This is in addition to its cultural and religious significance.

The hymn emphasizes the importance of the Nile in facilitating transportation and trade. It also highlights the river’s role in facilitating communication and exchange between different parts of the country.

Today, the Hymn to the Nile remains a powerful tribute to the enduring importance of this life-giving river.

It is a testament to the ingenuity and reverence of the ancient Egyptians, whose civilization was sustained by the fertile banks of the Nile for thousands of years.

Text Of The Hymn

Hail to thee, O Nile!
Who manifests thyself over this land, and comes to give life to Egypt!
Mysterious is thy issuing forth from the darkness, on this day whereon it is celebrated!
Watering the orchards created by Re, to cause all the cattle to live, you give the earth to drink, inexhaustible one!
Path that descends from the sky, loving the bread of Seb and the first-fruits of Nepera,
You cause the workshops of Ptah to prosper!

Hymn to the Nile Stanza Two

Lord of the fish, during the inundation, no bird alights on the crops.
You create the grain, you bring forth the barley, assuring perpetuity to the temples.
If you cease your toil and your work, then all that exists is in anguish.
If the gods suffer in heaven, then the faces of men waste away.

Hymn to the Nile Stanza Three

Then He torments the flocks of Egypt, and great and small are in agony.
But all is changed for mankind when He comes;
He is endowed with the qualities of Nun.
If He shines, the earth is joyous, every stomach is full of rejoicing,
every spine is happy, every jaw-bone crushes (its food).

Hymn to the Nile Stanza Four

He brings the offerings, as chief of provisioning;
He is the creator of all good things, as master of energy, full of sweetness in his choice.
If offerings are made it is thanks to Him.
He brings forth the herbage for the flocks, and sees that each god receives his sacrifices.
All that depends on Him is a precious incense.
He spreads himself over Egypt, filling the granaries, renewing the marts, watching over the goods of the unhappy.

Hymn to the Nile Stanza Five

He is prosperous to the height of all desires, without fatiguing Himself therefor.
He brings again his lordly bark;
He is not sculptured in stone, in the statutes crowned with the uraeus serpent,
He cannot be contemplated.
No servitors has He, no bearers of offerings!
He is not enticed by incantations!
None knows the place where He dwells, none discovers his retreat by the power of a written spell.

Hymn to the Nile Stanza Six

No dwelling (is there) which may contain you!
None penetrates within your heart!
Your young men, your children applaud you and render unto you royal homage.
Stable are your decrees for Egypt before your servants of the North!
He stanches the water from all eyes and watches over the increase of his good things.

Hymn to the Nile Stanza Seven

Where misery existed, joy manifests itself; all beasts rejoice.
The children of Sobek, the sons of Neith, the cycle of the gods which dwells in him, are prosperous.
No more reservoirs for watering the fields!
He makes mankind valiant, enriching some, bestowing his love on others.
None commands at the same time as himself.
He creates the offerings without the aid of Neith, making mankind for himself with multiform care.

Hymn to the Nile Stanza Eight

He shines when He issues forth from the darkness, to cause his flocks to prosper.
It is his force that gives existence to all things; nothing remains hidden for him.
Let men clothe themselves to fill his gardens.
He watches over his works, producing the inundation during the night.
The associate of Ptah . . .
He causes all his servants to exist, all writings and divine words, and that which He needs in the North.

Hymn to the Nile Stanza Nine

It is with the words that He penetrates into his dwelling;
He issues forth at his pleasure through the magic spells.
Your unkindness brings destruction to the fish; it is then that prayer is made for the (annual) water of the season;
Southern Egypt is seen in the same state as the North.
Each one is with his instruments of labor.
None remains behind his companions.
None clothes himself with garments,
The children of the noble put aside their ornaments.

He night remains silent, but all is changed by the inundation; it is a healing-balm for all mankind.

Hymn to the Nile Stanza Ten

Establisher of justice! Mankind desires you, supplicating you to answer their prayers;
You answer them by the inundation!
Men offer the first-fruits of corn; all the gods adore you!
The birds descend not on the soil. It is believed that with your hand of gold you make bricks of silver!
But we are not nourished on lapis-lazuli; wheat alone gives vigor.

Hymn to the Nile Stanza Eleven

A festal song is raised for you on the harp, with the accompaniment of the hand.
Your young men and your children acclaim you and prepare their (long) exercises.
You are the august ornament of the earth, letting your bark advance before men,
lifting up the heart of women in labor, and loving the multitude of the flocks.

Hymn to the Nile Stanza Twelve

When you shine in the royal city, the rich man is sated with good things,
the poor man even disdains the lotus;
all that is produced is of the choicest;
all the plants exist for your children.
If you have refused (to grant) nourishment, the dwelling is silent, devoid of all that is good, the country falls exhausted.

Hymn to the Nile Stanza Thirteen

O inundation of the Nile, offerings are made unto you, men are immolated to you, great festivals are instituted for you.
Birds are sacrificed to you, gazelles are taken for you in the mountain, pure flames are prepared for you.
Sacrifice is metle to every god as it is made to the Nile.
The Nile has made its retreats in Southern Egypt, its name is not known beyond the Tuau.
The god manifests not his forms, He baffles all conception.

Hymn to the Nile Stanza Fourteen

Men exalt him like the cycle of the gods,
they dread him who creates the heat,
even him who has made his son the universal master in order to give prosperity to Egypt.
Come (and) prosper!
Come (and) prosper!
O Nile, come (and) prosper!
O you who make men to live through his flocks and his flocks through his orchards!
Come (and) prosper, come,
O Nile, come (and) prosper!

Final Thought

The Hymn to the Nile is a remarkable tribute to the enduring importance of the Nile River in ancient Egyptian culture.

The “Hymn to the Nile” provides a significant example of Egyptian religion and offers insights into the social structure and economy of ancient Egypt.

The hymn is a call-and-response structure, with an emphasis on the river’s life-giving properties, spiritual significance, and practical importance. It provides valuable insights into the complex worldview and daily realities of the ancient Egyptians.

The Egyptians’ deep connection with the Nile River and their belief that it was a form of god or servant of a god are evident in the hymn’s content.

Even today, the Hymn to the Nile serves as a testament to the enduring power of this life-giving river.

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