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Great Hymn to the Aten

Great Hymn to the Aten.

Akhenaten, heretical King of Egypt, founder of Monotheism but  also a philosopher and a poet. In his adoration of the sun-disk he is thought to have written a hymn to the “one and only real god”, the Aten. This hymn shows clearly that the Aten was looked upon as the creator of all things and the Egyptians as its favorite people. The Great hymn of the Aten goes like this:

The Great Hymn to the Aten.

Thou arisest fair in the horizon of Heaven, O living Aten, Beginner of Life.
When thou dawnest in the East, thou fillest every land with thy beauty.
Thou art indeed comely, great, radiant and high over every land.
Thy rays embrace the lands to the full extent of all that thou hast made,
for thou art Re and thou attainest their limits and subduest them for thy beloved son.
Thou art remote yet thy rays are upon the earth.
Thou art in the sight of men, yet thy ways are not known.

When thou set test in the Western horizon, the earth is in darkness after the manner of death.
Men spend the night indoors with the head covered, the eyes not seeing its fellow.
Their possessions might be stolen, even when under their heads, and they would be unaware of it.
Every lion comes forth from its lair and all snakes bite.
Darkness lurks, and the earth is silent when their Creator rests in his habitation.

The earth brightens when thou arisest in the Eastern horizon and shinest forth as Aten in the daytime.
Thou drivest away the night when thou givest forth thy beams.
The Two Lands are in festival.
They awake and stand upon their feet for thou hast raised them up.
They wash their limbs, they put on raiment and raise their arms in adoration at thy appearance.
The entire earth performs its labours.
All cattle are at peace in their pastures.
The trees and herbage grow green.
The birds fly from their nests, their wings (raised) in praise of thy spirit.
All animals gambol on their feet, all the winged creation live when thou hast risen for them.
The boats sail upstream, and likewise downstream.
All ways open at thy dawning.
The fish in the river leap in thy presence.
Thy rays are in the midst of the sea.

Temple relief: falcon-headed sungod Aten and king Akhenaten. (Neues Museum Berlin)

Temple relief: falcon-headed sungod Aten and king Akhenaten. (Neues Museum Berlin)

Thou it is who causest women to conceive and makest seed into man,
who givest life to the child in the womb of its mother,
who comfortest him so that so he cries not therein, nurse that thou art, even in the womb,
who givest breath to quicken all that he hath made.
When the child comes forth from the body on the day of his birth,
then thou openest his mouth completely and thou furnishest his sustenance.
When the chick in the egg chirps within the shell, thou givest him the breath within it to sustain him.
Thou createst for him his proper term within the egg, so that he shall break it and come forth from it to testify to his completion as he runs about on his two feet when he emergeth.

How manifold are thy works!
They are hidden from the sight of men, O Sole God, like unto whom there is no other!
Thou didst fashion the earth according to thy desire when thou wast alone – all men, all cattle great and small, all that are upon the earth that run upon their feet or rise up high flying with their wings.
And the lands of Syria and Kush and Egypt – thou appointest every man to his place and satisfies his needs.
Everyone receives his sustenance and his days are numbered.
Their tongues are diverse in speech and their qualities likewise, and their colour is differentiated for thou hast distinguished the nations.

Thou makest the waters under the earth and thou bringest them forth at thy pleasure to sustain the people of Egypt even as thou hast made them live for thee, O Devine Lord of them all, toiling for them, the Lord of every land, shining forth for them, the Aten Disk of the day time, great in majesty!

Plaque with the early cartouches of Aten (Neues Museum Berlin)

Plaque with the early cartouches of Aten (Neues Museum Berlin)

All distant foreign lands also, thou createst their life.
Thou hast placed a Nile in heaven to come forth for them all and make a flood upon the mountains like the sea in order to water the fields of their villages.
How excellent are thy plans, O Lord of Eternity! – a Nile in the sky is thy gift to foreigners and to beasts of their lands; but the true Nile flows from under the earth for Egypt.

Thy beams nourish every field and when thou shinest they live and grow for thee.
Thou makest the seasons in order to sustain all that thou hast made, the winter to cool them, the summer heat that they may taste thee.
Thou hast made heaven afar off that thou mayest behold all that thou hast made when thou wast alone, appearing in the aspect of the Living Aten, rising and shining forth.
Thou makest millions of forms out of thyself, towns, villages, fields, roads, the river.
All eyes behold thee before them, for thou art the Aten of the daytime, above all that thou has created.
Thou  art in my heart, but there is none other who knows thee save thy son Akhenaten.
Thou hast made him wise in thy plans and thy power.

Akhenaten (Neues Museum Berlin)

Akhenaten (Neues Museum Berlin)

Sources used:
Akhenaten, King of Egypt – Cyril Aldred
Toet-Ank-Amon – Otto Neubert 

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