The sky is a dark bowl, the stars die and fall.
The celestial bows quiver,
The bones of the earthgods shake and planets come to a halt
When they sight the king in all his power,
The god who feeds on his father and eats his mother.
The kin is such a tower of wisdom
Even his mother can’t discern his name.
His glory is in the sky, his strength lies in the horizon
Like that of his father the sungod Atum who conceived him….
He cooks the leftover gods into a bone soup.
Their souls belong to him
And their shadows as well.
In his pyramid among those who live on the earth of Egypt,
The dead king ascends and appears
Forever and forever. — from “The Cannibal Hymn,” The Pyramid Texts (Tony Barnstone and Willis Barnstone, trans.)
Egyptian poetry — Along with Sumerian, Akkadian, and Babylonian verse, Egyptian poetry is considered some of the oldest literature in the world, flourishing from about 3000 BC until Egypt’s decline and fall to the Roman Empire in 36 BC. The “Cannibal Hymn” is part of the Pyramid Texts, a collection of ancient religious texts from the Old Kingdom (2686 BC–2181 BC) and are considered the oldest known religious texts in the world. Carved on the walls and sarcophagi of the pharaohs, the texts were meant to protect the kings on their journey to the next world.