domingo, 7 de marzo de 2010

The Maxims of Good Discourse by Wim van den Dungen

The Maxims of Good Discourse
by vizier Ptahhotep (ca. 2200 BCE)
after two Middle Kingdom copies

adjacent pages :

notes on the translation
lexicon of special concepts
hieroglyphic text of the Maxims

by Wim van den Dungen


I PROLOGUE

Written teachings of
the overseer of the city, the vizier Ptahhotep,
(1)
under the Majesty of Pharaoh Izezi,
King of Upper and Lower Egypt, may he live for ever and ever !

The overseer of the city, the vizier Ptahhotep, he says :

"Sovereign, my Lord !
Old age is here, old age arrives !
Exhaustion comes, weakness is made new.
One lies down in discomfort all day,
eyes are dim, ears deaf,
strength wanes, the heart is weary.
The mouth, silent, speaks not,
the heart, ended, recalls not the past,
the bones ache throughout.
Good becomes evil,
all taste is gone.
What age does to people
is evil in everything.
The nose clogged, breathes not,
difficult are standing and sitting.
(2)

May this servant be commanded to make a 'Staff of Old Age' !(3)
so as to speak to him the words of the judges,
(4)
the ways of those before,
who listened to the gods.
(5)
May the like be done for You,
so that strife may be removed from the people,
and the Two Shores
(6) may serve You."

The Majesty of this god said :

"As for You, teach him then the sayings of the past,
so that he may become a good example for the children of the great.
(7)
May hearing enter him and
the exactness of every heart that speaks to him.
(8)
No one is born wise."

II THE TEACHING

Beginning of the maxims of good discourse,(9)
spoken by the prince, count, god's father, beloved of god,
eldest son of the King, of his body,
(10)
overseer of the city, vizier Ptahhotep,
teaching the ignorant in knowledge,
and in the standard of good discourse,
(11)
beneficial to him who hears,
but woe to him who neglects them.

So he spoke to his son :

1

"Don't let your heart get big because of your knowledge.
Take counsel with the ignorant as well as with the scholar.

(For) the limits of art are not brought,
(and) no artisan is equipped with perfection.(12)
Good discourse is more hidden than green stone,(13)
yet may be found among the maids at the grindstones.(14)

2

If You meet a disputant in his moment (of action),
(15)
one who directs his heart, superior to You,
fold your arms (16) and bend your back.
Do not seize your heart against him,
(for) he will never agree with You.
Belittle the evil speech,
by not opposing him while he is in his moment.
He will be called a know-nothing,
when your control of heart will match his piles (of words).

3

If You meet a disputant in his moment (of action)

who is your equal, your peer,
You will make your excellence exceed his by silence,
(even) while he is speaking wrongly.
There will be much talk among the hearers,
(and) the knowledge the magistrates have of your name will be good.(17)

4

If You meet a disputant in his moment (of action),

a man of little, not at all your equal,
do not be aggressive of heart because he is weak,
give him land (for) he will refute himself.(18)
Do not answer him to relieve your heart.
Do not wash the heart against your opponent.
Wretched is he who injures a man of little heart.
One will wish to do what your heart desires.
You will strike him with the reproof of the magistrates.

5

If You are a man who leads,
charged to direct the affairs of a great number,
seek out every well adjusted deed,
so that your conduct may be blameless.
Great is Maat, lasting in effect.
Undisturbed since the time of Osiris.
One punishes the transgressor of laws,
though the heart that robs overlooks this.

Baseness may seize riches,
yet crime never lands its wares.
(19)
He
(20) says : 'I acquire for myself.'
He does not say : 'I acquire for my function.'
In the end, it is Maat that lasts, (and)
man
(21) says : 'It is my father's domain.'

6

Do not scheme against people,
(for) god punishes accordingly.
If a man (nevertheless) says : 'I shall live that way.',
he will lack bread for his mouth.
If a man says : 'I shall be rich.'
He will have to say : 'My cleverness has snared me.'
(22)
If a man says : 'I will rob someone.',
he will, in the end, make a gift to a stranger !
(23)
People's schemes do not prevail.
God's command is what prevails.

Live then in the midst of peace (with what You have),
(for) what they give comes by itself.

7

If You get to be among guests,
at the dining table of one greater than You,
accept what he gives, in the way it is set before your nose.
Look at what is before You,
do not pierce it with lots of glances :
it offends the Ka to be molested.
(24)
Do not speak until he summons,

(since) one does not know whether he has evil on his heart.
Speak when he addresses You,
and may your words please the heart.

The nobleman, sitting behind the breads,
behaves as his Ka commands him.
(25)
He will give to him whom he favors,
(for) that is the custom when the night has come.
(26)
It is the Ka that makes his hands reach out.(27)
The great man gives to the lucky man.
Thus the breads are eaten under the plan of god,

a fool is who complains of it.

8

If You are a man of trust,
sent by one great man to another,
be exact when he sends You.

Give his message as he said it.
Guard against slanderous speech,
which embroils one great with another.
Keep to Maat, do not exceed it.

But the washing of the heart should not be repeated.
Do not speak against anyone,
great or small, the Ka abhors it.

9

If You plow and there is growth in the field,

(because) god lets it prosper in your hand,
do not boast about it at your neighbour's side,
for one has great respect for the silent man.
If a man of good character is a man of wealth,

he takes possession like a crocodile,(28) even in court.
Do not impose on one who is childless :
neither criticize, nor boast of it.
(29)
There is many a father who has grief,

and a mother of children less content than another (without).
It is the lonely whom god fosters,
while the family man prays for a follower.
(30)

10

If You are a weakling, serve a man of quality, worthy of trust,

(so) that all your conduct may be well with god.
Do not recall if once he was of humble condition,
do not let your heart become big towards him,
for knowing his former state.

Respect him for what has accrued to him,
for surely goods do not come by themselves.
They are their laws for him whom they love.
His gain, he gathered it himself,

(but) it is god who makes him worthy,
and protects him while he sleeps.

11

Follow your heart as long as You live.

Do no more than is required.
Do not shorten the time of 'follow-the-heart',
(for) trimming its moment offends the Ka.
Do not waste time on daily cares

beyond providing for your household.
When wealth has come, follow your heart !
Wealth does no good if one is annoyed !

12

If You are a man of quality, worthy of trust,

may You produce a son, by the favour of god.
If he is straight, turns around your character,
takes care of your possessions in good order,
(then) accomplish for him all that is good.

He is your son, belonging to the seed of your Ka,(31)
(so) do not withdraw your heart from him.
But an offspring can make trouble :

if he goes into the wrong direction, neglects your counsel,
with insolence disobeys all that is said,
if his mouth sprouts evil speech,
(then) put him to work for the totality of his talk !

They disfavour him who crosses You,
(for) his obstacle was fated in the womb.
He whom they guide can not go astray,
(but) whom they make boatless can not cross.
(32)

13

If You are in a court of justice,

stand or sit as fits your rank,
assigned to You on the first day.
(33)
Do not force your way in, (for) You will be turned back.
Keen is the face of him who enters announced,

spacious the seat of him who has been called.(34)
The court of justice has a correct method,
all behavior is by the plumb-line.
(35)
It is god who gives the seat.
He who uses elbows
(36) is not helped.

14

If You are among the people,

gain allies through being trustful of heart.
The trustful of heart does not vent his belly's speech.
(37)
He will himself become a man who commands,
a man of means thanks to his behavior.

May your name be good without You talking about it.
You body is sleek, your face turns towards your people,
and one praises You without You knowing (it).

(But) him whose heart obeys his belly disappears ; (38)
he raises contempt of himself in place of love.
His heart is denuded, his body unanointed.

The great of heart is a gift of god.
He who obeys his belly, obeys the enemy.
(39)

15

Report your commission without swallowing the heart,
and give your advise in your master's council.

If he is fluent in his speech,
it will not be hard for the envoy to report,
nor will he be answered : 'Who is he to know it ?'

As to the master, his affairs will fail,
if he plans to punish him for it.
(40)
He should be silent and conclude : 'I have spoken.'

16

If You are a man who leads,

that your way to govern may freely travel.(41)
You should do outstanding things.

Remember the day that comes after,(42)
(so that) no strife will occur in the midst of honors.(43)
(Indeed), where a hiding crocodile emerges, hatred arises.(44)

17

If You are a man who leads,
calmly hear the speech of one who pleads,

(and) do not stop him from purging his body (45)
of that which he planned to tell.

A man in distress wants to wash his heart
more than that his case be won.
About him who stops a plea,

one says : 'Why does he reject it ?'
Not all one pleads for can be granted,
but a good hearing calms the heart.

18

If You want friendship to endure
in the house You enter,

as master, brother, or friend,
or in whatever place You enter,
beware of approaching the women !
Unhappy is the place where it is done.
(Their) face is not keen on he who intrudes on them.

A thousand men are turned away from their good.
A short moment like a dream,
then death comes for having known them.
(46)
Poor advice is 'shoot the opponent' !
(47)
When one goes to do it, the heart rejects it.
(But) as for him who fails through lust of them,
no affair of his can prosper.

19

If You want your conduct to be perfect,
deliver yourself from every evil,

(and) combat against the greed of the heart.
It is a grievous sickness without cure,
impossible to penetrate.
It causes disaster among fathers and mothers,
among the brothers of the mother,
and parts wife from husband.

It is an amalgam of all evils,
a bundle of all hateful things.
That man endures who correctly applies Maat,

and walks according to his stride.(48)
He will make a will by it.
The greedy of heart has no tomb !
(49)

20

Do not be greedy of heart in the division (of goods).
(50)
Do not covet more than your share.

Do not be greedy of heart toward your kin.
The kind has a greater claim than the rude.
The family of the latter reveals very little,(51)
(for) he is deprived of what speech brings.(52)
Even a little of what is craved,
makes conflict rise in a cool-bellied man.
(53)

21

When You prosper, found your house,
love your wife with ardor,
fill her belly, clothe her back,

ointment is a remedy for her body.
Gladden her heart as long as You live.
She is a fertile field, useful to her master.
Do not contend with her in a court of justice,
(and) keep her from power, restrain her.
Her eye is her storm when she gazes.
(54)
You will make her stay in your house.
If You push her back, see the tears !
Her vagina is one of her forms of action.

What she enforces, is that a canal be made for her.(55)

22

Satisfy those who enter, and in whom You trust, with what You make,
(for) You make it by the favour of god.
Of him who fails to satisfy those who enter, and in whom he trusts,

one says : 'A Ka too pleased with itself !'.(56)
What will come is unknown, even if one understands tomorrow.
The (proper) Ka is a correct Ka at peace with itself.
(57)
If praiseworthy deeds are done,
trustworthy friends will say : 'Welcome !'
One does not bring supplies to town,
one brings friends when there is need.

23

Do not repeat calumny,
neither hear it.
It is the way of expression of the hot-bellied.
(58)
Report a thing observed, not heard.
If it is negligible, do not say anything,
(and) see : he who is before You recognizes (your) worth.
Let it be ordered to seize what it produces.
(59)
In accordance with the law,
hatred will arise against him who seizes it to use it.(60)
Calumny is like a vision against which one covers the face.
(61)

24

If You are a man of quality, worthy of trust,
who sits in his master's council,
bring your whole heart together towards excellence.
Your silence is more useful than chatter.
Speak when You know how to untie the knot.
(62)
It is the skilled who speak in council.
Speaking is harder than all other work.

He who unties it makes it serve.

25

If You are mighty, gain respect through knowledge
and gentleness of speech.
Do not command except as is fitting.
He who provokes gets into trouble.
Do not be high of heart, lest You be humbled.
Do not be mute, lest You be reprimanded.
When You answer one who is fuming,
avert your face, control yourself,
(for) the flames of the hot of heart sweep across.
(63)
He who steps gently finds his path paved.
All day long the sad of heart has no happy moment.

All day long the frivolous of heart can not keep house.
The archers complete the aim,
as one who holds the rudder untill (it) touches land.
(64)
The opposant is imprisoned.
He who obeys his heart is equipped to order.


26

Do not oppose a great man's action.
Do not vex the heart of one who is burdened.

His anger manifests against him who combats him.
The Ka {of the great one} will part from him who loves him.
(65)
(Yet) he who provides is together with god.
What he wishes will be done for him.
When he turns his face back to You after raging,
there will be peace from his Ka,
(66)
(and) hostility from the enemy.
To provide increases love.

27

Teach the great what is useful to him,
be his aid before the people.
Let his knowledge fall back on his master,
(67)
(and) your sustenance will come from his Ka.
(68)
As the favorite's belly is filled,
so your back is clothed by it,
and his help will be there to sustain You.
For your superior whom You love,
and who lives by it,
he in turn will give You good support.
Thus will love of You endure,
in the belly of those who love You.
(69)
Behold : it is the Ka that loves to listen.
(70)

28

If You are a magistrate of standing,
commissioned to appease the many,
remove stupidity from the record.
(71)
When You speak, do not lean to one side,
(72)
beware lest one complain :

'Judges, he puts his speech on the side he likes !'
In court, your deeds will (then) turn against You.

29

If You are angered by a misdeed,
(then) lean toward the man (only) on account of his rectitude.
Pass over the old error, do not recall it,
since he was silent to You on the first day.
(73)

30

If You are great after having been humble,
have gained wealth after having been poor in the past,
in a town which You know,
(then) knowing your former condition,
do not put the trust of your heart in your heaps,
which came to You as gifts of god,
so that You will not fall behind one like You,
(74)
to whom the same has happened.

31

Bend your back to your superior,
your overseer from the palace,
then your house will endure in its wealth,

and your rewards (will be) in their right place.(75)
Wretched is he who opposes a superior,
(for) one lives as long as he is mild ...
Baring the arm does not hurt it !
(76)
Do not plunder a neighbour's house,
(and) do not steal the goods of one near You,
so that he does not denounce You,
before You are heard.
(77)
A quarreler lacks in heart,
so if he is known as an aggressor,
the hostile will have trouble in the neighbourhood.

32

Do not copulate with a woman-boy,
(78)
for You know that one will fight
against the water upon her heart.
What is in her belly will not be refreshed.
(79)
That during the night she does not do what is repelled,
(80)
(but) be calmed after having ended the offence of her heart.
(81)

33

If You seek to probe the true nature of a friend,
do not inquire (after him), but approach him (yourself).
(Then) deal with him alone,
until You are no longer uncertain about his condition.
After a time, dispute with him.
Test his heart in dialogue.
If what he has seen (of himself) escapes him,
(82)
if he does a thing that irritates You,
be yet friendly with him or be silent,
but do not turn away your face.
(83)
Restrain yourself and open dialogue
.
Do not answer with an act of hostility.
Neither counter him, nor humiliate him.
His time does not fail to come ...
(for) one does not escape what is fated.
(84)

34

Be bright-faced as long as You exist !
(85)
(But) what leaves the storehouse does not return.
It is the food to be distributed which is coveted.
(But) one whose belly is empty is an accuser,
(and) one deprived becomes an opponent.
Do not have him for a neighbour.
Kindness is a man's memorial
(86)
for the years after the function.

35

Know those at your side, then your goods endure.
(87)
Do not be weak of character toward your friends,
(they are) a riverbank to be turned and filled,
(88)
more important than its riches ...
For what belongs to one (also) belongs to another !
The good deed profits the son-of-man.
(89)
An accomplished nature is a memorial.

36

Punish as a commander-in-chief, (but) teach the complete form !
(90)
The act of stopping crime is an enduring good example.

Crime, except for misfortune,(91)
turns the complainer into an aggressor.

37

If You take to wife a woman of good quality,
who is unbound of heart and known by her town,
conform her to the double law.
(92)
Be pleasant to her when the moment is right,
do not separate yourself from her and let her eat,
(for) the joyful of heart confer an exact balance."

III THE EPILOGUE

On Hearing & Listening


"If You hear my sayings,(93)
all your plans will go forward.
In their act of Maat lies their value.
Their memory lingers on in the speech of men,
because of the accomplishment of their command !
(94)
If every word is carried on,
they will not perish in this land.
That an advice be given for the good,
(so that) the great will speak accordingly.
It is teaching a man to speak to what comes after (him).
He who hears this becomes a master-hearer.
(95)
It is good to speak to posterity,
it will hear it.

If a good example is set by him who leads,
he will be beneficient for ever,
(and) his wisdom will be for all time.
He who knows, feeds his Ba with what endures,
so that it is happy with him on earth.
He who knows is known by his wisdom,
(and) the great by his good actions.
(That) his heart twines his tongue,
(and) his lips (be) precise when he speaks.
That his eyes see !
That his ears be pleased to hear what profits his son.
(For) acting with Maat, he is free of falsehood.
(96)

Useful is listening to a son who hears !
If hearing enters the hearer, the hearer becomes a listener.
To listen well is to speak well.
He who listens is a master of what is good.

Splendid is listening to one who hears !
Listening is better than all else.
It manifests perfect love.
How good it is for a son to grasp his father's words !
Underneath them, he will reach old age.
(97)

On the Listener and the Non-Listener

He who listens is beloved of god,
he who does not listen is hated by god.
(It is) the heart (which) makes of its owner a listener or a non-listener.
Life, prosperity & health are a man's heart.

It is the hearer who listens to what is said.
He who loves to listen, is one who does what is said.
How good for a son to obey his father !
How happy is he (the son) to whom it is said :

'The son pleases as a master of listening.'(98)
He (the son) who hears the one (the father) who said this,
is well adjusted in his inner being,
(99)
and honored by his father.

His remembrance is in the mouth of the living,
those on earth and those who will be.

If the son-of-man accepts his father's words,
no plan of his will go wrong.
Teach your son to be a hearer,
one who will be valued by the heart of the nobles,
one who guides his mouth by what he was told,
(100)
one regarded as a listener.
This son excels, his deeds stand out,
while failure enters him who listens not.
The knower wakes early to his lasting form,
while the fool is hard pressed.
(101)

The fool who does not listen,
can accomplish nothing at all.
He sees knowledge as ignorance,
usefulness as harmfulness.
He does all that is detestable,
and is blamed for it each day.
He lives on that by which one dies,
he feeds on damned speech.
His sort is known to the officials,

to wit : 'A living death each day !'(102)
One passes over his doings,
because of his many daily troubles.

A son who listens, is a Follower of Horus.(103)
It goes well with him when he listens.
(104)
When he is old and reaches veneration,
(105)
(may) he speak likewise to his children,
renewing the teaching of his father.
Every man teaches as he acts.
(106)
May he speak to the children,

so that they may speak to their children.
Set an example, do not give offense.
If Maat stands firm, your children live !
As to the first who comes as a carrier of evil,
(107)
may people say to what they see :
'That is then just like him !'
(108)
And may they say to what they hear :
'That is then just like him !'
Let everyone see them
(109) to appease the multitudes.
Without them, riches are useless.

On Speaking

Do not take a word and then bring it back.
Do not put one thing in place of another.
Beware of loosening the cords in You,
(110)
lest a man of knowledge say :
'Hear ! If You want to endure in the mouth of the listeners,
speak (only) after You have mastered the craft !'
If You speak in a refined way,
all your plans will be in place.

Immerge your heart, control your mouth,
then You are known among the officials.
Be quite exact before your master,
act so that he says : 'He is a son !'
(111)
And those who hear it will say :

'Blessed is he to whom he was born !'

Be patient of heart the moment You speak,
so as to say elevated things.
In this way, the nobles who hear it will say :
'How good is what comes from his mouth !'
(112)

Act so that your master will say of You :
'How accomplished is he whom his father taught.
When he came forth from him, issued from his body,
he (the father) spoke to him when he was in the belly (of his mother),
and he (the son) accomplished even more than he was told.'

Lo, the good son, the gift of god,
exceeds what is told to him by his master,
he does Maat and his heart matches his steps.
(O my son) as You succeed me, with a sound body,

the King at peace with all what is done,
may You obtain many years of life !

Concluding Remarks

Not small is what I did on Earth ...
I had hundred and ten years of life,
as a gift of the King, (and)
honors exceeding those of the ancestors.
For by doing Maat for the King,
the venerated place comes."

Colophon
(D645)

From its beginning to its end,
in accordance with (how it was) found in writing.

Notes on the Maxims of Good Discourse

adjacent pages :

plain text of the Maxims
lexicon of special concepts
hieroglyphic text of the Maxims

by Wim van den Dungen

(1) Phonetically, the name Ptahhotep (meaning "Ptah is pleased, happy, satisfied") consists of two symmetrical parts, centering upon a central axis, like the two scales of a balance : "ptH" - "Htp". The central "H" ("pt-HH-tp") is the uniliteral sign "H" (V28), representing a wick of twisted flax (used in candles). It is an emphatic sound, which is lost in the English "Ptahhotep". Hence, there are egyptologists who wrote this name as "Ptah-hotpe" (or more rigorous as "Pteh-hetpe"), which does not allow for a non-emphatic pronunciation of the "h", on the contrary, a pause is needed. Compare the vertical nature of V28 ("H") with a vertical pole on top of which is the central pivot of the balance, the middle point of the beam and its two scales : "Ptah" and "Hotep" ("Ptah" as "Feather of Maat" and "Hotep" as the justified heart).
(2) This whole passage is part of a literary device. The biographical details are presented to sketch the context : even in his old age, Ptahhotep pleads to be commanded to teach. For only by teaching wisdom are the defects of old age ineffective enough to still allow for creative speech. But the same has to be done to Pharaoh. Before his throne, Ptahhotep puts his life to rest. But Pharaoh is pleased with him and commands him to teach, for wisdom is not acquired by birth, but by the direct experience of life itself. Although old and lacking memory, Ptahhotep starts teaching ...
(3) the teaching and a son or a disciple - wisdom by itself saves, but a son and/or one or more disciples (hence a teaching) is a necessary preparation to it - "him" refers to his son or successor ;
(4) those able to listen - before judgement, the judges (assessors) hear, question and listen
(5) the judges also listened to the gods, which could suggest their priestly status (those able to see the statue of the city-god in its "naos", learn their will) ;
(6) like the Two Lands, another name for Egypt as a whole ;
(7) the good example influencing important people may have major effects ;
(8) may the precise, correct information given by the teacher reach his disciple ;
(9) "Ts", "maxim", may also be rendered as : "utterance, formulation, articulation, speech". "Nfr", "good" also implies "excellent, accomplished". As the context of the examples is largely moral, I've preferred "good" - an alternative would be : "the articulation of excellent speech".
(10) the "body" referred to is the "corporate" body of Egyptian society, embodied by the "majesty" of Pharaoh, a Follower of Horus but also a god, for son of the creator - Pharaoh appointed his representatives (viziers, high priests, judges) and they acted in his name. A document was valid only when it bore Pharaoh's seal. This complete organization is called "a body", and Ptahhotep, as vizier, was of course part of it too ;
(11) the word "Hsb" has other connotations as well : "to count, to enumerate, to reckon". Budge (1978 - 510b) translated it as "in the very best examples", but Faulkner (1999, p.297) proposed "norm, standard", which seems to fit the context better ;
(12) "Ax", "equip" and "Axw.f", "his mastery" - "his power" (of a god) : no artisan's skills are perfect ;
(13) "wAD", a triliteral represented by a stem of papyrus (M13), means "be green" and derivatives. Green being the colour of Osiris' resurrection. "Green stone" may be malachite, emerald or feldspath. The underlying implication being the force of growth which mysteriously emerged every year (after the inundation). Wise discourse is more hidden than this most sacred and hidden power ;
(14) "Hmt", a female servant, has the root "Hm", also used for "majesty" (Pharaoh being the master-servant) - commoners are not excluded from wisdom, quite on the contrary, for the good discourse is democratic and foremost manifest when simplicity and dedication meet ;
(15) when he is in his moment of strength ;
(16) a mark of respect a great and/or superior man commands ;
(17) various renderings possible - I've adapted the order of the words to comfort sense ;
(18) make space between You and your opponent ;
(19) the criminal is unable to reach a safe harbor - the thief will be discovered when he tries to sell the stolen goods - crime does not pay ;
(20) the criminal does only acquire wealth for himself, and so does not teach (has no son) ;
(21) the one who is a son who received from his father says : "I got it all from my father." ;
(22) it seems clever to decide to become rich, but if that is all one does, one ends up being poor of heart, because rectitude is far more clever and rewarding ;
(23) the thief is stolen - if one steals, one ends up being one's own victim, doing the opposite of what one intended in the first place (the free gift) - the wealthy fool themselves ;
(24) to gaze at one's food might suggest that something is wrong with it - to gaze at someone is like entering a foreigner's land, privacy & intimacy - it offends the vital energy of that person (cf. the "evil" eye which can destroy with just a gaze) - note that food has a Ka too (i.e. its vitality & energy) ;
(25) the great one are in harmony with themselves, and apply the correct energy in every situation ;
(26) a ritual at the end of the day ?
(27) to offer is to do more than to give away material things, for the natural course of the energetical "double" is to communicate and reach out (the hieroglyph used for the Ka is precisely this : two hands reaching upwards) - to offer is to give away (and receive) vital energy ;
(28) enigmatic - a wealthy man who has a good character is not attached to his possessions, not even when he is in court ;
(29) of the fact that You do have children ;
(30) the solitary is the friend of god, and the family man prays for a successor, a son (his "Staff of Old Age") ;
(31) the son is the best of the vital energy (its "seed") of the father (just as "semen" is the best of the physical body of the male) ;
(32) teaching and education (nurture) and unavoidable determination (nature) walk hand in hand. As nature is the pantheon, magic is the "via regia" to change fate. But when the gods have decided, nothing can change what they have decreed - a good son is therefore also a "gift" of the gods (besides the outcome of the good discourse or the teachings of the father, his good examples) - note that determinism does not outweigh free will and the influence of the effort to rectify and return to Maat ;
(33) the first day is a metaphor for the moment when the original, true and eternal order of things was established, i.e. when nature was created (for at that moment did Maat come into existence too) - by knowing were one stands in the order of things, the wise are able to invest in that what endures ;
(34) one has to wait until one is called and not try to get in anyway - those who are called get a spacious seat and can follow the procedures with ease, whereas the others have to stand with the crowds and are unsure whether they will be heard at all (?) ;
(35) in the famous "Judgement Scene" from the Papyrus of Ani, the left arm of Anubis is above Maat's Feather, while his right touches the plumb-line of the balance. On top of the balance sits the Baboon of Thoth, the recorder, and beneath the right beam we find these words (explaining how Anubis is watching the pumb-line) : "Words spoken by he who is in the chamber of embalment : 'Pay attention to the decision of truth and the plummet of the balance according to its stance." This exhortation summarized the practice of wisdom found in Ancient Egypt, as well as their philosophy of well-being and art of living happily & light-heartedly. Here we encounter it as the guiding principle of the legal system ;
(36) "qaH" is both "elbow" and "shoulder" and "rdiw" could be eiter active or passive, so other images are : "he who rubs shoulders", or "steered by the elbow" (Lichtheim) ;
(37) does not put into words the emotional, uncontrolled passions, desires & appetites represented by the "belly". The latter is distinguished from "heart", the seat of thinking, control, will-power, conscience and conscious presence & expression (the "mind") ;
(38) under no circumstance should a human being degenerate to the point of being the belly's servant or slave, for then the humanity of a person (rooted in a heart free to master & steer itself as a follower of Pharaoh) vanishes ;
(39) the opposite of Maat, Osiris & Horus (the deities mentioned by name) is Seth, the arch-fiend of order, truth & justice, the murderous brother of Osiris & the injurer of the (left, black) Eye of Horus (restored by the Moon-god Thoth) - Ptahhotep adds that the belly is the region of Seth and hence to be mastered by the wise ;
(40) namely to punish the messenger in the case the master is not fluent and errors are spoken and repeated - these mistakes are not part of the responsibilities of the messenger (in other words : don't shoot the messenger), be responsible for what You say (for it will be repeated and maybe used against You !) ;
(41) experience no or only slight hinderances on the way, no sudden stops and long periods of inactivity, continuous flow of activity & production, ongoing creativity ;
(42) namely in the place of silence, the beautiful West, the abode of Osiris, the afterlife ;
(43) if one is not detached from the applause one gets by working for one's afterlife, one is bound to meet misfortune while having succes ;
(44) here a hiding crocodile is suggested, an image of the "build-up" of negativity resulting from one's continuous disregard for one's place in the West - being "greedy" in the here and now causes one to forget one's tomb, resulting in the lack of a memorial (the end of the Ka) ;
(45) giving expression to emotional, affective and erratic (uncontrolled) contents (note the use of "body" and "belly" for uncontrolled -unmastered- affects) ;
(46) adultery, punished by death ;
(47) in love-affairs, one has only oneself to blame. One has to accept that other people may fall in love with what fancies You ;
(48) moves in harmony with who he is and what he can ;
(49) in the process of possessing this world, one looses the next ;
(50) i.e. in situations when You have to share material goods ;
(51) no great deeds come forth from that stock ;
(52) they lack the vital education given by a wise father ;
(53) even a "cool" man, who has few instinctual & affective outbursts, feels things move inside when he observes only a glimps of what he craves after (of what makes him "kick") ;
(54) the female eye can be terrible, as evidenced by the Cobra-goddess Wadjet of Buto in the Delta, preserver of royal authority over Lower Egypt. She is the "green one", and is represented as a cobra rearing up to strike with lethal force any enemy of Pharaoh. She also appears as a lioness, the "Eye of Ra". Here, the context is the power of the feminine to be restrained and confined ;
(55) the central word "kAt", "vagina" has the necessary determinative (M51) - the context is erotical, so "to make a canal" is nothing less than the image of opening up the readiness to be penetrated, or in other words : a woman enforces that the man makes love to her ;
(56) here a twisted Ka is put on stage - so instead of answering the natural outward flow of the energy of life, it is perverted and kept inside at the service of one person only ;
(57) clearly when the Ka is disconnected from the outside (like a tomb without offerings), it becomes depleted and miserable. To restore itself, the Ka must reestablish a correct, precise balance (cf. the plumb-line) and maintain its focus on both scales (as does the Baboon, facing the Feather of Maat) and continuously steer well. Then "peace" (a "tertium comparationis") will be found ;
(58) the hot-bellied has a natural inclination towards violence (the cold-bellied one towards inactivity) ;
(59) let us grasp the damage that calumny has caused ;
(60) those who make use of it will eventually be hated ;
(61) one runs away from it, shields oneself from it, for it hurts one's Ka or vital energy ;
(62) when You know to solve the problem at hand ;
(63) the hot-tempered person (a condition of the heart and not of the belly) explodes and his anger is like flames that sweep across and which may trigger violence in those who they touch ;
(64) the arrows reach their target and the rudder is left behind when it has become obsolete ;
(65) the Ka of the master will detach its vital, psycho-energetical link or bond ;
(66) the link will be reestablished ("peace" as a metaphor for harmonious, balanced communication) ;
(67) the knowledge the great receives from the sage must always benefit his superior too ;
(68) the great man (and everybody else in the Old Kingdom) is sustained by Pharaoh plenty (he who is able to multiply and vitalize through his Ka) ;
(69) apparently love runs very deep (cf. Hathor and the primeval goddess) : not only is the phenomenon associated with the heart, but also with the Ka and material sustenance, yes, even with a person's uncontrolled, blind (wild) affects (represented as "the belly" as opposed to "the heart"). We see that Ancient Egyptian anthropology describes both "belly" and "heart", as well as their vital characteristics (or "Ka") ;
(70) we read that the Ka loves to listen, i.e. representing (grasping) the true nature of what is said, as it were desciphering the sense "behind", "beyond", "next to", "together with", etc. what is actually said with the tongue. Some words have power (wise discourse), others not (foolish chatter). Good discourse is also an excellent mastership of the use of words of power, i.e. being able to steer well the rudder of authoritative speech that commands service and that "de opere operato" fashions what it means (cf. "Hu" & Heka). Note that in my reading, "listening" (as opposed to "hearing") also and foremost refers to an inner, vital, energetical, subtle, "double" process (involving a grasping of and a reflecting on what has been heard) ;
(71) remove what is not useful - the sentence (P417) is read as : "Sda mAdw nw a", and "mAdw" (an unknown word) is rendered as "stupidity, ignorance" (B276b) ;
(72) be impartial ;
(73) since before the misdeed there was no conflict between you - here I conjecture that "the first day" points to the original state of Maat (the first day of creation), or, analogically, to any original state of affairs before the crime (or Seth-event) happened ;
(74) if heaps of weath are the only thing that count, then competition is endless - again Ptahhotep warns against material attachment ;
(75) You will receive your wage only when You respect your superiors ;
(76) stretching the arm out of its sleeve to greet someone ;
(77) the thief may be known before he has the possibility to defend himself ;
(78) "Hmt", "woman, wife" and "Xrd", "boy, child" has been rendered in various ways. Instead of "child-woman" (Jacq), I propose "woman-boy" and read the maxim as a rejection of sexual intercourse between a man and an effeminate, unmanly, womanish man. We know that anal penetration was associated with Seth (supposed to have subjected Horus to it). Note that in the whole passage, this boy is referred to as "she" ;
(79) Both "heart" and "belly" of a woman-boy are unclean, as the images of the "water" upon her heart, which is rejected, and her belly, which is not refreshed, indicate. To refresh is also "to satisfy", and so the desires and appetites of the woman-boy can not be fulfilled ;
(80) there are more dark, hidden and secret desires, tendencies and repulsive perversions associated with this woman-boy, and one should restrain her from satisfying them ;
(81) when her deliberate indecency ("an offence of her heart") ends, one should calm her by not fulfilling her desires, for the only way to calm the passions is not to feed them ;
(82) if he himself has not grasped the bottom of his own heart ;
(83) face up to your possible friend, even if this implies tragic disappointments ;
(84) man is free to do Maat or to make his heart heavy, but her law is unavoidable, fated : one reaps what one has sown ;
(85) a generous person ;
(86) people remember the kind man but forget the harsh ;
(87) know who your helpers are, then your affairs will prosper ;
(88) the well-born who does good multiplies the good with the good ;
(89) punish as one who commands respect and never withhold vital information ;
(90) even the wicked know that misfortune may happen to everybody ;
(91) misfortune (fate) and crime (evil will) are distinguished - crime degenerates the criminal, whereas misfortune falls outside the order of affairs one is able to control (in the hands of the gods) ;
(92) this Maxim raises three points : (1) the word "Spnt" ("good quality") is unknown ; (2) in the sentence "iw.s m hpwii" (P501), "hpwii" comes from "hp" or "law, order, regulation, restriction, custom" - the plural points to the common laws of both Upper and Lower Egypt, not to Maat (the "double law" of judgment, i.e. "divine" (Feather) versus "human" (heart) ; (3) the word "aqAA" in "sAp.s aqAA" (P506) is accompanied by the determinative for water or actions connected with water (N35), whereas "aqA" implies "keeping the true mean, to be right, exact, proper", hence the translation "exact balance" (necessary to steer a boat ?) ;
(93) here "hearing" is used : the passive, recording aspect of the auditive process steering the transmission of the wisdom-teachings ;
(94) the words as such have power and accomplish their meaning in those who hears them ;
(95) when "hearing" is perfect, one has heard a good teaching which did not perish - perfect hearing is also (cf. Kagemni) a perfect recitation (reproduction of what was heard) - the master-hearer is one who works with what he heard as an artisan (adds emphasis and timbre but does not change the schematics of the examples received) ;
(96) the principle of contradiction in proto-rational format : truth = - falsehood {A = - (-A)} ;
(97) the son (who hears & listens) "grasps" his father's words and they are like the roof of his house ;
(98) the son himself became a good example - here "nb" is "master", someone who exceeds in excellence (cf. "nb" as "master" or a person with superior authority) ;
(99) hearing the words of good discourse adjust one's inner being (wisdom heals) ;
(100) who is able to repeat exactely what he heard (an accomplished reciter) ;
(101) has no moment of peace, jumps around and is always busy ;
(102) each day he wakes as a living dead ;
(103) to listen is a higher faculty, acquired when one is a master-hearer and decides to open one's heart ;
(104) hearing blesses, but listening compels - the expression is : "when he follows ("xt") what he listens to", which sounds twisted ;
(105) when he has attained the stage of wisdom ;
(106) genuine teachings reflect a person's actions ;
(107) a person with evil intentions - the word "isefet" also means : "disorder, turmoil, trouble" or the opposite of Maat - the word "chaos" is also suggested, although it is usually associated with the "primordial waters" ("Nun") ;
(108) the evil one is unable to move beyond his evil deeds and repeats them over and over again - people recognize it immediately ;
(109) your good children, the incarnations of their father's good examples and beyond ;
(110) do not say this and another time that - do not confuse - make sure not to loose restraint - seal your heart ;
(111) he is a disciple, one who heard & listened to wisdom-teachings ;
(112) how excellent and accomplished did he speak !











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