Thespis: Ritual, Myth, and Drama in the Ancient Near East

By Theodor H. Gaster | Go to book overview

2. The Poem of Dawn and Sunset

INTRODUCTION

A. SYNOPSIS

§1 . IN THE case of the Poem of Baal, the contours of the Seasonal Pattern are discernible only beneath the overlay of an essentially literary composition. The more primitive form is preserved, however, in another Canaanite text from Ras Shamra known as the Poem of Dawn and Sunset. Inscribed on either side of a clay tablet unearthed in 1930, this text (unfortunately incomplete) may best be described as the libretto of a religious performance.

It divides clearly into two parts. The first (lines 1-22) enumerates the ritual acts and quotes the accompanying chants of a cultic ceremony. The second (lines 23-76) presents the 'book of words' of a traditional mummery or miracle play.

§2 . The ritual portion of the text is divided into episodes by means of horizontal lines drawn across the tablet. It is introduced by an invocatory prologue addressed to certain "gods comely and fair," who are described as "princes" and "celestial beings." They are invited to partake of food and drink, while a blessing of peace is called down upon their worshipers (1-7).

After this prologue, the real business of the ceremony begins. A typical vinedressers' chanty is sung in which the lopping and trimming of the vine is likened symbolically to the emasculation and discomfiture of some dionysiac spirit (8-11). This song obviously accompanied the viticultural operation. Its style is paralleled in occupational chanties from many parts of the world (see Comm., Ritual §II), and it is so constructed as to mark the rhythm of the concerted labor, the word "vine" being repeated with emphasis at the end of each line.

There follows a rite each element of which is repeated seven times to the accompaniment of a chant. First, a kid is cooked in milk, and finally some ceremony is performed involving the use of a basin. The accompanying chant refers to the divine breasts of the goddesses Asherat and the Virgin 'Anat (12-15).

The ceremonies now reach their climax. Statues of the two great female deities, Asherat and 'Anat, duly arrayed in sumptuous and gorgeous attire, are paraded before the congregation and are subsequently enthroned along with those of other gods -- that is, they prepared pedestals or in prepared niches (16-20).

The ritual part of the proceedings closes with the recitation of a hymn beginning "I am jealous for the names of the Princes" (21-22).

-225-

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Thespis: Ritual, Myth, and Drama in the Ancient Near East
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Foreword vii
  • Author's Preface ix
  • Table of Contents xiii
  • Part One 1
  • Chapter One - The Components of Drama 3
  • Chapter Two - The Seasonal Pattern in Ritual 6
  • Chapter Three - The Seasonal Pattern in the Ancient Near East 34
  • Chapter Four - The Seasonal Pattern in Myth 49
  • Chapter Five - The Seasonal Pattern in Literature 73
  • Part Two 109
  • Canaanite Texts 113
  • Appendix - Unplaced Fragments 223
  • Introduction 225
  • Introduction 257
  • Hittite Texts 315
  • Appendix 336
  • Introduction 337
  • 3. the Myth of Telipinu 353
  • Egyptian Texts 381
  • Introduction 405
  • Act One 407
  • Act Four 409
  • Act Six 410
  • Hebrew Texts 413
  • Greek Texts 429
  • The English Mummers' Play 439
  • Appendix - Philological Notes 445
  • Index of Motifs 461
  • Index of Subjects and Authors 467
  • Bibliography 483
  • Abreviations 497
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