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Love Songs of the New Kingdom [Hardcover]

Nina M. Davies , John Foster
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 120 pages
  • Publisher: University of Texas Press; 1st University of Texas Press Ed edition (1 Jun 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0292724764
  • ISBN-13: 978-0292724761
  • Product Dimensions: 24.3 x 16.3 x 1.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,665,746 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
The poems that I read in this book are unlike anything I have ever encountered. The poems are a true reflection of the time of the pharoahs. The translations are very readable that reflect thoughts that are very relevant to the present. Take the time to read this book of poetry.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Love this book 10 Nov 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A beautiful book full of poetry you want to read over and over again.
My husband and I had poems from this book read at our wedding 15 years ago, we then lost the book to someone we lent it to and never got back. I bought it for my husbands birthday, much to his delight!!!
Because it is now out of print we didn't think we would ever get another copy!!
If you have ever been in love, you should own this book!
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Amazon.com: 4.9 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love and lust among the Pyramids 6 Mar 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Let's go way back to the New Kingdom of Ancient Egypt, specifically the reign of the Ramesside pharaohs (roughly 1305-1080 BC). To put the era in its proper historical perspective, this was half a millennium before the blind Greek poet Homer composed The Iliad and The Odyssey.
Literature, mainly for moral instruction or in praise of deities, already thrived in the days of the pharaohs. We have some poems and stories inscribed on papyri and ostraca (bits of pottery or limestone). There are temple inscriptions. In terms of size, the most impressive achievement is The Book of the Dead, a bewildering mish-mash of myth and ritual incantation which remains essential reading for morbid-minded folks till today.
Ancient writing can seem intimidating and arcane to our impatient modern sensibilities. There are all these references to gods and demi-gods, whose hierarchic structure and tangled web of familial relations would put any soap opera to shame. You feel that you should just chuck it all aside and down a few cappuccinos instead.
But wait! We have with us today about 60 secular love poems,translated from Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics by the American John L. Foster. They are delightfully accessible, and more entertaining than a month of TV dramas. Some of these poems were discovered in archeological digs conducted just a few decades ago. What's even more amazing is that they read as if they were written not in the 12th century BC but yesterday.
Yes, the poems are all about love. But this isn't the hackneyed,soppy mush that you can get today. This is love not just as sweetness 'n' light but as game-playing and subterfuge, as sexual warfare, as delicious torment. In terms of psychological complexity, they match the blues and torch songs recorded early in our own ravaged century. There's no moralising here. Foster's book is called Love Songs of the New Kingdom (1974) but it could have been tagged "Papyri Don't Preach".
Instead of being goody-goody, love poetry should acknowledge the violence, kinkiness and deception which exist in any reasonably interesting relationship. The Ancient Egyptians knew this, for they were wise.
An example? Listen to this young man's melancholic cry:
"I think I'll go home and lie very still / Feigning terminal illness / Then the neighbours will all troop to stare / My love, perhaps among them / How she'll smile when the specialists / Snarl in their teeth! - / She perfectly well knows what ails me."
Appreciate the startling, passive-aggressive psychodrama being played out here. Although the authors in all cases are unknown, their works range freely through the human sensorium. The agony and the ecstasy brought about by lust, affection, jealousy and longing get full play.
The poetic personae are men and women but, unlike in some ancient Greek and Persian poetry, entirely heterosexual. Despite this handicap, there's a whole lot of kinkiness going on. Check out this guy's sado-masochistic relationship with his dominatrix girlfriend:
"How clever my love with a lasso / She'll never need a kept bull! / She lets fly the rope at me / (from her dark hair) / Draws me in with her come-hither eyes / wrestles me down between her bent thighs / Branding me hers with her burning seal / (cowgirl, the fire from those thighs!)"
Something even more delightfully perverse can be found in this straight man's transvestite fantasy, which reminds me of the great Prince song If I Was Your Girlfriend:
"I wish I were her Nubian girl, / one to attend her (bosom companion), / Confidante, and a child of discretion: / Close hidden at nightfall we whisper / As (modest by day) she offers / breasts like ripe berries to evening - / Her long gown settles, then, bodiless, / hangs from my helping hand."
This touching fantasy reminds me of the way I spent Valentine's Day ... but I digress.
Poetry from the Ramesside period is significant as the oldest extant literature spoken by non-deitic females. Some of the personae are worldly and sexually explicit ("Would your fingers follow the line of my thighs/ Learn the curves of my breast, and the rest?") but others are artfully naive and ingenuous, like this voyeuristic girl who is "accidentally" at the right place:
"I just chanced to be happening by / in the neighbourhood where he lives / His door, as I hoped, was open - / and I spied on my secret love."
Some of the poems may seem sweet and simple, but they already use striking similes ("Love of you is mixed deep in my vitals/ Like water stirred into flour for bread"). Nature, represented by flowers,gardens, orchards and, of course, the Nile, also provides poetic settings and metaphors in a way which anticipates the Western pastoral literature that emerged centuries later.
The fact that the poets are so good is surprising without being surprising, if you catch my drift. I mean, their ancestors built the Pyramids (in the era known as, ahem, The Old Kingdom), which are structures of such weirdness, ingenuity and complexity that we still haven't found out everything about them.
The poems, too, are creatures of remarkable engineering. They teach us about the twisty, turbulent, uncanny mysteries of love and lust, which still survive in today's blessedly pagan pop culture. Read them instead of writing to newspaper agony-aunts about your tacky little problems. The poets show us that love is a battlefield, sex is a weapon, and we all sleep alone. Confused? But that's the story of, that's the glory of, love.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You must buy this for your lady 1 Aug 2002
By "graybosch84" - Published on Amazon.com
If you want to warm your lady's heart through her mind, the potency of this book has no equal. I bought this for my girlfriend two years ago and she still reads it over regularly. You know guys, the gift you are looking for to prove that your mind functions outside of the physical? If she is even remotely open to ancient civilization this is the ticket, this is "The Gift." I am not usually into poetry but I like this a lot. This is the Total Recall of poetry: just enough plot, just enough action. Seriously, she will love this and you will not mind it yourself ;).
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What can I say? 30 Sep 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
I LOVED it! I bought it on an impulse, having found it on the backshelf at a bargain store. I wasn't sure if I would like it, but, like I said, I loved it! It is SO romantic! "when I hold you close, and your arms steal around me, I am like a man transplanted to Punt, or like someone out in the reedflats, when the whole world bursts into flower. In this land of south-sea fragrances, my love, you are the essence of roses!" HOW ROMANTIC! I would love to have been that woman to whom the poet was saying such things! I highly reccomend this book to anybody, especially those wo are just getting into poetry, like me. It is truly a beautiful book.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Egyptian poetry in dual-language format! 8 May 2000
By M. J. Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Finally a book of Egyptian love poetry for people with enough of Budge to recognize a hieroglyph or two :-) More seriously the hieroglyphs are primarily "atmosphere" in this text. Curiously, the hieroglyphs are not the original but rather transcriptions of the original cursive hieratic ... a bit of posturing that mildly concerned me when I first saw the book. Fortunately, the quality of the translated poetry more than compensated for my qualms.
Having been introduced to Egyptian love poetry by the use of Michael Fox's work in a class on the Song of Songs (aka Song of Solomon), I was delighted to find this gem. The poetry is translated without footnotes - a feature I appreciate.
An example of the joys of the poems: "He had made a hushed sell in the thicket, for worship / to dedicate this day / To holy elevation of flesh"
Because of the relationship of Egyptian love poetry to the Song of Songs, this scarely known poetry has had an effect on our culture - one as worth exploring as the Greek or Latin.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Didn't know if I would like this book but wound up loving it 15 Nov 1997
By xdlcx@msn.com - Published on Amazon.com
The poems that I read in this book are unlike anything I have ever encountered. The poems are a true reflection of the time of the pharoahs. The translations are very readable that reflect thoughts that are very relevant to the present. Take the time to read this book of poetry.
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