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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 11 page 10


You go, girl!

A New English Version

translations by Kim Echlin
Penguin Canada;
ISBN 978-0-14-319458-3;
eBook ISBN 978-0-14-319806-2

reviewed by
Clement Peddington

Inanna was insatiable, as a goddess is entitled to be. The following is extracted from Kim Echlin’s translation, from Sumerian cuneiform circa 2500 BCE, of the poem “Make Love Fifty Times.” The speaker is Inanna. Her lover is the shepherd god Dumuzi. They call each other brother and sister, in the sense of being kin in the vast divine family:

My brother brought me into his house
and laid me down
on a bed dripping with honey

My sweet precious
lies next to my heart

Over and over
tongue to tongue

Over and over
my brother of the beautiful eyes
did it fifty times

I could not resist
I waited for him
trembling under him
I was silent for him
my hands on his hips

With my brother
with my precious sweet
I passed the whole day
with him

Inanna was the bright star of the pantheon of ancient Sumer, a straggly series of city states along the great Euphrates and Tigris Rivers in southern Mesopotamia. Her name means “Lady Sky,” or some put it "Sky's lady" while others prefer "Queen of Heaven." She shone in the night sky as the planet Venus. She was a goddess of warfare and sex, if you can imagine that combination, but most accounts focus on the sex aspect. It's plain, as we shall see, that sex was her path to the top. That was what kept her cult one of the most popular — perhaps the most popular — in all Mesopotamia. Inanna in turn bestowed her energy upon human mating activities and the fertility of the fields. Domesticity, however, was not one of her interests.

In later times, in the glory days of the Akkadian and Babylonian empires that usurped Sumer, Inanna was called Ishtar and had a reputation as “the courtesan of the gods.” In the Levant, where her name evolved into Astarte, she became consort to such boss gods as El, Baal, and Yahweh. In Greece she was Aphrodite, in Rome, Venus.