The Instructions of Amenemope
--excerpted from The Literature of Ancient Egypt by William Kelly Simpson


The beginning of the instruction about life,
The testimony for well-being,
All the principles of official procedure,
The duties of the courtiers;
To know how to refute the accusation of one who made it,
And to send back a reply to one who wrote;
To set one straight on the paths of life,
And to make him prosper on earth;
To let his heart settle down in its chapel,
And steer clear of evil;
To save him from the talk of others,
As one who is respected in the speech of men.

Written by the superintendent of the land, experienced in his office,
The offspring of a scribe of the Beloved Land,
The superintendent of produce, who fixes the the grain measure,
Who sets the grain tax amount for which appear as new his lord,
Who registers the islands which appear as new land over the cartouche of His Majesty,
And sets up the land mark at the boundary of the arable land,
Who protects the king by his writings,
And makes register of the Black Land.
The scribe who places the land divine offerings for all the gods,\par
The donor of grants to the people,
The superintendent of grain who administers the food offerings,
Who supplies the storerooms with grain.
A truly silent man in Tjeni in the Ta-wer nome,
One whose verdict is "acquitted" in Ipu,
The owner of a pyramid tomb on the west of Senut,
As well as the owner of a memorial chapel in Abydos,
Amenemope, the son of Kanakht,
Whose verdict is "acquitted" in the Ta-wer nome.
For his son, the youngest of his children,
The least of his family,
Initiate of the mysteries of Min-Kamutef,
Libation pourer of Wennofre;
Who introduces Horus upon the throne of his father,
His stolist in his august chapel,
The seer of the Mother God,
The inspector of the black cattle of the terrace of Min,
Who protects Min in his chapel,
Horemmaakheru is his true name,
A child of an official of Ipu,
The son of the sistrum player of Shu and Tefnut,
The chief singer of Horus, the lady Tawosret.

Chapter 1

Give your ears and hear what is said,
Give your mind over to their interpretation:
It is profitable to put them in your heart,
But woe to him that neglects them!
Let them rest in the shrine of your insides
That they may act as a lock in your heart;
Now when there comes a storm of words,
They will be a mooring post for your tongue.
If you spend a lifetime with these things in your heart,
You will find it good fortune;
You will discover my words to be a treasure house of life,
And your body will flourish upon earth.

Chapter 2

Beware of stealing from a miserable man
And of raging against the cripple.
Do not stretch out your hand to touch an old man,
Nor snip at the words of an elder.
Don't let yourself be involved in a fraudulent business,
Nor desire the carrying out of it;
Do not get tired because of being interfered with,
Nor return an answer on your own account.
The evildoer, throw him in the canal,
And he will bring back its slime.
The north wind comes down and ends his appointed hour,
It is joined to the tempest;
The thunder is high, the crocodiles are nasty,
O hot-headed man, what are you like?
He cries out, and his voice reaches heaven.
O Moon, make his crime manifest!
Row that we may ferry the evil man away,
For we will not act according to his evil nature;
Lift him up, give him your hand,
And leave him in the hands of God;
Fill his gut with your own food
That he may be sated and ashamed.
Something else of value in the heart of God
Is to stop and think before speaking.

Chapter 3

Do not get into a quarrel with the argumentative man
Nor incite him with words;
Proceed cautiously before an opponent,
And give way to an adversary;
Sleep on it before speaking,
For a storm comes forth like fire in hay.
The hot-headed man in his appointed time:
May you be restrained before him;
Leave him to himself,
And God will know how to answer him.
If you spend your life with these things in your heart,
Your children shall behold them.

Chapter 4

The hot-headed man in the temple
Is like a tree grown outdoors;
Suddenly it loses its branches,
And it reaches its end in the carpentry shop;
It is floated away far from its place,
Or fire is its funeral pyre.
The truly temperate man sets himself apart,
He is like a tree grown in sandy soil,
But it flourishes, it doubles its yield,
It stands before its owner;
Its fruit is something sweet, its shade is pleasant,
And it reaches its end in a garden.

Chapter 5

Do not take by violence the shares of the temple,
Do not be grasping, and you will find overabundance;
Do not take away a temple servant
In order to do a favor for someone else.
Do not say today is the same as tomorrow,
Or how will matters come to pass?
When tomorrow comes and today is past,
The deep waters sink from the canal bank,
Crocodiles are uncovered, the hippopotamuses are on dry land,
And the fishes gasping for air;
The wolves are fat, the wild fowl in festival,
And the nets are drained.
Every temperate man in the temple says,
"Great is the benevolence of Ra."
So hold fast to the temperate man, you will find life,
And your body will flourish upon earth.

Chapter 6

Do not displace the surveyor's mark on the boundaries of the arable land,
Nor alter the position of the measuring line;
Do not be greedy for a plot of land,
Nor overturn the boundaries of a widow.
As for the road in the field worn down by time,
He who takes it violently for fields,
If he traps by deceptive attestations, [false witness?]
Will be lassoed by the might of the Moon.
To one who has done this on earth, pay attention,
For he is a tormentor to the weak;
He is an enemy overturning all within you,
Taking away life is in his eye;
His household is hostile to the community,
[So] His storerooms are toppled over,
His property taken from his children,
And to someone else his possessions given.
Take care not to topple over the boundary marks of the arable land,
Not fearing that you will be brought to court;
Man propitiates God by the might of the Lord
When he sets straight the boundaries of the arable land.
Desire, then, to make yourself,
And take care for the Lord of All;
Do not trample on the furrow of someone else,
Their good order will be profitable for you.
So plough the fields, and you will find whatever you need,
And receive the bread from your own threshing floor:
Better is the bushel which God gives you
Than five thousand deceitfully gotten;
They do not spend a day in the storehouse or warehouse,
They are no use for dough for beer;
Their stay in the granary is short-lived,
When morning comes they will be swept away.
Better, then, is poverty in the hand of God
Than riches in the storehouse;
Better is bread when the mind is at ease
Than riches with anxiety.

Chapter 7

Do not set your heart upon seeking riches,
For there is no one who can ignore Shay (Destiny) and Renutet (Fortune);
Do not set your thoughts on external matters:
For every man there is his appointed time.
Do not exert yourself to seek out excess
So that your wealth will prosper for you;
If riches come to you by theft
They will not spend the night with you;
As soon as day breaks they will not be in your household;
Although their places can be seen, they are not there.
When the earth opens up its mouth, it reckons him [the thief] and swallows him up,
And it drowns them in the deep;
They have made for themselves a great slit in their measure,
And they have sunk themselves in the tomb;
Or they have made themselves wings like geese,
And they fly up to the sky.
Do not be pleased with yourself because of riches acquired through robbery,
Neither complain about poverty.
If an officer commands one who goes in front of him,
His company leaves him;
The boat of the covetous is abandoned in the mud,
While the skiff of the truly temperate man sails on.
When He rises you shall offer to the Aton,
Saying, Grant me prosperity and health."
And He will give you your necessities for life,
And you will be safe from fear.

Chapter 8

Set your good deeds throughout the world
That every man may greet you;
They make rejoicing for the Uraeus,
And spit against the Apophis.
Keep your tongue safe from words of detraction,
And you will be the loved one of the people;
Then you will find your place within the temple
And your offerings among the bread deliveries of your lord;
You will be revered, and you will be concealed in your grave...

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