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The Story of Nefrekepta from a demotic papyrus   By: (1866-1957)

The Story of Nefrekepta from a demotic papyrus by Gilbert Murray

First Page:

The Story of



Put into Verse by



Henry Frowde, M.A. Publisher to the University of Oxford London, Edinburgh, New York Toronto and Melbourne



The original of this tale is in Demotic Egyptian, in prose, on a fragmentary papyrus dated 'the first month of winter, in the fifteenth year' of some king unnamed. Palaeographical evidence suggests some date about 100 B.C. My own education has been neglected in the matter of Demotic, and I know the tale only from the literal translation which accompanies the text in Dr. Griffith's Stories of the High Priests of Memphis . In that form, however, it so fascinated me that I presently found myself, to the neglect of more urgent duties, putting it into English verse and filling up the gaps in the narrative. I have tried to preserve the style and often the exact words of the original, as rendered by Dr. Griffith, but in other respects temptations have been great and I have not resisted them.

The names present some difficulties. In Demotic, if I understand aright, the vowels are not written and the consonants often do not mean what they seem to mean. The hero's name is spelt, roughly speaking, N('y) nfr k' Pth, the phantom lady's Ty bwbwe; the priest's is written Stne, but was probably pronounced, so Dr. Griffith tells me, S[)e]tôn or S[)e]tân.

While doing the verses I was constantly reminded of certain Egyptian illuminations by Miss Florence Kingsford, now Mrs. Sydney Cockerell, which I had seen some years ago, and she has been so kind as to provide the book with a frontispiece and tail piece.

Those who desire further information about Setne will find it in the introduction to Dr. Griffith's learned and delightful book (Clarendon Press, 1900).

G. M.



SETNE KHAMUAS, son of RAMESES, High Priest of PTAH, beneath his garden trees Dwelt with his wife and children; wise was he In Books of power and ancient Masteries.

And much he pondered on a tale they told, How NEFREKEPTA, dead in days of old, Held still the Book of HERMES which is THOTH Hid in his tomb, and never loosed his hold.

And longing for that Book so pierced him through He called to him his brother AN HERRU, The son of MENKH ART, saying: 'Brother mine, Be with me in a deed I have to do.'

And he said: 'I am with thee till my doom Find me.' And SETNE said: 'I seek the tomb Of NEFREKEPTA dead, and take the Book, The Book of THOTH hid in its inmost room.'

That night they found the tomb, and AN HERRU Stayed at the door, but SETNE passing through On seven great doors and seven windings spake His spells, and found the room; and all was true.

For there lay NEFREKEPTA in his pride, The Book beneath his head; and at his side The ghosts sate of a woman and a boy, Shadows beside the dead; and SETNE cried:

'Ye thronèd Shadows, whosoe'er ye be, And thou, dead PHARAOH, tombed in majesty, All hail! I, SETNE, scribe and Priest of PTAH, Command thy Book be rendered up to me,

The Book of THOTH which lies beneath thy head.' Then never word nor sign came from the dead, But the two Shadows lifted up their arms Lamenting, and the woman swift outspread

Her hand to save the Book, and cried: 'Aha! SETNE KHAMUAS, is the will of RA Not yet fulfilled upon us? This is I, AHURE of the race of MERNAB PTAH.

Ahure's Story

Therefore give ear, and let the Book of Gold Tempt thee no more, till all my tale be told... Continue reading book >>

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