Make your own free website on Tripod.com

 The Prophecies of Neferti

Although dating to the end of the 11th / beginning of the 12th Dynasties, this story is set in the Fourth Dynasty and concerns a sage Neferti who is summoned to the court to entertain King Snefru. Instead of telling stories of Egypt past he tells of the future - a prophecy of Egypt's decline and of a state of chaos in the land, but he does name the saviour: Ameny (a short form of Amenemhet, founder of the 12th Dynasty), a king who re-unite the land and turn back the evil forces:

There was a time when the majesty of King Snefru, the justified, was beneficent king in this whole land. On one of those days the magistrates of the residence entered the palace to offer greetings. And they went out having offered greetings in accordance with their daily custom. Then his majesty said to the seal-bearer at his side: "Go, bring me the magistrates of the residence who have gone from here after today's greetings."

They were ushered in to him straightway and were on their bellies before his majesty a second time. His majesty said to them: "Comrades, I have had you summoned in order that you seek out for me a son of yours who is wise, or a brother of yours who excels, or a friend of yours who has done a noble deed, so that he may speak to me some fine words, choice phrases at the hearing of which my majesty may be entertained."

They were on their bellies before his majesty once more. Then they spoke before his majesty: "There is a great rector-priest of Bastet, O king, our lord, Neferti by name. He is a citizen with valiant arm, a scribe excellent with his fingers, a gentleman of greater wealth than any peer of his. May he be brought for your majesty to see!" Said his majesty: "Go, bring him to me!" He was ushered in to him straightway, and he was on his belly before his majesty.

His majesty said: "Come, Neferti, my friend, speak to me some fine words, choice phrases at the hearing of which my majesty may be entertained!" Said the rector-priest Neferti: "Of what has happened or of what will happen, O king, my lord?" Said his majesty: "Of what will happen. As soon as today is here, it is passed over." He stretched out his hand to a box of writing equipment, took scroll and palette and began to put into writing the words of the rector-priest Neferti, that wise man of the East, servant of Bastet in her East, and native of the nome of On.

As he deplored what had happened in the land, evoked the state of the East, with Asiatics roaming in their strength, frightening those about to harvest and seizing cattle from the plough, he said:

Stir, my heart,
Bewail this land, from which you have sprung!
When there is silence before evil,
And when what should be chided is feared,
Then the great man is overthrown in the land of your birth.
Tire not while this is before you,

Rise against what is before you!
Lo, the great no longer rule the land,
What was made has been unmade,
Re should begin to recreate!
The land is quite perished, no remnant is left,
Not the black of a nail is spared from its fate.
(Yet) while the land suffers, none care for it,
None speak, none shed tears: "How fares this land!"
The sundisk, covered, shines not for people to see,
One cannot live when clouds conceal,
All are numb from lack of it.

I shall describe what is before me,
I do not foretell what does not come:
Dry is the river of Egypt,
One crosses the water on foot;
One seeks water for ships to sail on,
Its course having turned into shoreland.
Shoreland will turn into water,
Watercourse back into shoreland.
Southwind will combat northwind,
Sky will lack the single wind.

A strange bird will breed in the Delta marsh,
Having made its nest beside the people,
The people having let it approach by default.
Then perish those delightful things,
The fishponds full of fish-eaters,
Teeming with fish and fowl.
All happiness has vanished,
The land is bowed down in distress,
Owing to those feeders,5
Asiatics who roam the land.
Foes have risen in the East,
Asiatics have come down to Egypt.
If the fortress is [crowded] . . .
..
Desert flocks will drink at the river of Egypt,
Take their ease on the shores for lack of one to fear
For this land is to-and-fro, knowing not what comes,
What-will-be being hidden according as one says:
"When sight and hearing fail the mute leads."
I show you the land in turmoil,
What should not be has come to pass.
Men will seize weapons of warfare,
The land will live in uproar.
Men will make arrows of copper,
Will crave blood for bread,
Will laugh aloud at distress.
None will weep over death,
None will wake fasting for death,
Each man's heart is for himself.
Mourning is not done today,
Hearts have quite abandoned it.
A man sits with his back turned,
While one slays another.
I show you the son as enemy, the brother as foe,
A man slaying his father.

Every mouth is full of "how I wish"
All happiness has vanished;
The land is ruined, its fate decreed,
Deprived of produce, lacking in crops,
What was made has been unmade.
One seizes a man's goods, gives them to an outsider,
I show you the master in need, the outsider sated,
The lazy stuffs himself, the active is needy.
One gives only with hatred,
To silence the mouth that speaks;
To answer a speech the arm thrusts a stick
One speaks by killing him.
Speech falls on the heart like fire,
One cannot endure the word of mouth.

The land is shrunk-its rulers are many,
It is bare-its taxes are great;
The grain is low-the measure is large,
It is measured to overflowing.
Re will withdraw from mankind:
Though he will rise at his hour,
One will not know when noon has come;
No one will discern his shadow,
No face will be dazzled by seeing [him],
No eyes will moisten with water.
He will be in the sky like the moon,
His nightly course unchanged,
His rays on the face as before.

I show you the land in turmoil:
The weak-ammed is strong-ammed,
One salutes him who saluted.
I show you the undermost uppermost,
What was fumed on the back turns the belly.
Men will live in the graveyard,
The beggar will gain riches,
The great [will rob] to live.
The poor will eat bread,
The slaves will be exalted.
Gone from the earth is the nome of On,
The birthplace of every god.

Then a king will come from the South,
Ameny, the just)fied, by name,
Son of a woman of Ta-Seti, child of Upper Egypt.
He will take the white crown,
He will wear the red crown;
He will join the Two Mighty Ones,
He will please the Two Lords with what they wish,
With field-circler in his fist, oar in his grasp.
Rejoice, O people of his time,
The son of man will make his name for all eternity!
The evil-minded, the treason-plotters,
They suppress their speech in fear of him;
Asiatics will fall to his sword,
Libyans will fall to his flame,
Rebels to his wrath, traitors to his might,
As the serpent on his brow subdues the rebels for him.
One will build the Walls-of-the-Ruler,
To bar Asiatics from entering Egypt;
They shall beg water as supplicants,
So as to let their cattle drink.
Then Order will return to its seat,
While Chaos is driven away.
Rejoice he who may behold, he who may attend the king! And he who is wise will libate for me,
When he sees fulfilled what I have spoken!