The Great Hymn to Aten

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“The Great Hymn to Aten”

Student Worksheet

Historical Background:
This poem was written by pharaoh Akhenaten of Egypt. This poem is the longest of those attributed to him. It was found on the wall of a tomb built for a royal scribe named Ay and his wife.
Akhenaten was originally named Amenhotep IV. Amenhotep means Amen is satisfied. Amen was the god of the city, Thebes, and when Thebes became the capital of Egypt, all Egyptians adopted the worship of Amen as a part of showing their allegiance to their capital city.
Akhenaten broke with the traditional polytheism and devoted himself to the worship of Aten, whom he called the “Sole God.” He built a new capital city at Tell El Amarna and dedicated that city to Aten. Akhenaten was extremely interested in the arts, encouraging innovations in architecture, painting, and sculpture. Where other pharaohs had been depicted in stylized poses intended to emphasize their power (as well as their divine status), Akhenaten’s artists depicted him naturalistically. We have pitures of him walking with his wife, sitting with his daughters on his lap. Akhenaten eventually outlawed the worship of all the other gods previously (and traditionally) worshipped by the Egyptians. For this act, he was called “the Heretic Pharaoh” after his death.

Literary Elements of the Poem:
The original poem has complex meter, but the translation has neither rhyme nor meter. Instead, the translator has used other poetic devices. Look for the following:
Repeated words or use of parallel structures:
Important words or ideas will be repeated. Mark these in some distinctive way. Similar ideas are repeated, but the wording will be different. These devices give the writer an effective way to emphasize the importance of a statement.
Often, the same use of parallel structures is used to contrast things. (EX. I am a carnivore, I am not a pig!”
Figurative Language: imaginative comparison between unlike things (simile, metaphor, personification)
Apostrophe: a figure of speech in which a writer addresses some thing, concept or absent person. Apostrophes are written in the second person, using the pronouns you and yours.
Epithet: a brief descriptive name, title, or adjective that qualifies a person, place or thing. An epithet appears in line number 4, living Aten, creator of life!”

As you read and study:

  1. Number each of the stanzas in the poem. (You should have seven stanzas.)

  1. Read through the entire poem once. What is your general impression of the poem?

  1. Read through the poem again. Read slowly this time, focusing on each stanza. Look at the chart and answer the following questions for each stanza. Record your observations.

What words or ideas are repeated throughout the poem? Mark them distinctively in the poem. What do these things tell you about Aten?

Find examples of figurative language in the poem. List them on the chart. How does the use of imagery affect the tone of the poem? How does it affect y our attitude toward Aten?

Mark the apostrophes and epithets in the poem. List them. What do they tell you about Aten’s character? What do they tell you about Aten’s relationship with his people? With all people?
What is being discussed in your assigned stanza?
“The Great Hymn to Aten
Splendid you rise in heaven's lightland,
O living Aten, creator of life!
When you have dawned in eastern lightland,
You fill every land with your beauty.
You are beauteous, great, radiant,
High over every land;
Your rays embrace the lands,
To the limit of all that you made.
Being Re, you reach their limits,
You bend them for the son whom you love;
Though you are far, your rays are on earth,
Though one sees you, your strides are unseen.
When you set in western lightland,
Earth is in darkness as if in death;
One sleeps in chambers, heads covered,
One eye does not see another.
Were they robbed of their goods,
That are under their heads,
People would not remark it.
Every lion comes from its den,
All the serpents bite;
Darkness hovers, earth is silent,
As their maker rests in lightland.

Earth brightens when you dawn in lightland,

When you shine as Aten of daytime;
As you dispel the dark,
As you cast your rays,
The Two Lands are in festivity.
Awake they stand on their feet,
You have roused them;
Bodies cleansed, clothed,
Their arms adore your appearance.
The entire land sets out to work,
All beasts browse on their herbs;
Trees, herbs are sprouting,
Birds fly from their nests,
Their wings greeting your ka.
All flocks frisk on their feet,
All that fly up and alight,
They live when you dawn for them.
Ships fare north, fare south as well,
Roads lie open when you rise;
The fish in the river dart before you,
Your rays are in the midst of the sea…

How many are your deeds,

Though hidden from sight,
O Sole God beside whom there is none!
You made the earth as you wished, you alone,
All peoples, herds, and flocks;
All upon earth that walk on legs,
All on high that fly on wings, The lands of Khor and Kush,
The land of Egypt. You set every man in his place,
You supply their needs;
Everyone has his food,
His lifetime is counted.
Their tongues differ in speech,
Their characters likewise;
Their skins are distinct,
For you distinguished the peoples.

You made Hapy in dat,

You bring him when you will,
To nourish the people,
For you made them for yourself.
Lord of all who toils for them,
Lord of all lands who shines for them,
Aten of daytime, great in glory!
All distant lands, you make them live,
You made a heavenly Hapy descend for them;
He makes waves on the mountains like the sea,
To drench their fields and their towns.
How excellent are your ways, O Lord of eternity!
A Hapy from heaven for foreign peoples,
And all lands' creatures that walk on legs,
For Egypt the Hapy who comes from dat.
Your rays nurse all fields,
When you shine they live, they grow for you;
You made the seasons to foster all that you made,
Winter to cool them, heat that they taste you.
You made the far sky to shine therein,
To behold all that you made;
You alone, shining in your form of living Aten,
Risen, radiant, distant, near.
You made millions of forms from yourself alone,
Towns, villages, fields, the river's course;
All eyes observe you upon them,
For you are the Aten of daytime on high. . .

Those on earth come from your hand as you made them,

When you have dawned they live,
When you set they die;
You yourself are lifetime, one lives by you.
All eyes are on your beauty until you set,
All labor ceases when you rest in the west;
When you rise you stir everyone for the King,
Every leg is on the move since you founded the earth.
You rouse them for your son who came from your body,
The King who lives by Maat, the Lord of the Two Lands,
Neferkheprure, Sole-ane-of-Re,
The Son of Re who lives by Maat, the Lord of crowns,
Akhenaten, great in his lifetime;
And the great Queen whom he loves, the Lady of the Two Lands, Nefer-nefru-Aten Nefertiti, living forever



Stanza #

repeated words or ideas

figurative language











1 Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty.

2 Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment: who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain:
3 Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters: who maketh the clouds his chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind:
4 Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire:
5 Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever.
6 Thou coveredst it with the deep as with a garment: the waters stood above the mountains.
7 At thy rebuke they fled; at the voice of thy thunder they hasted away.
8 They go up by the mountains; they go down by the valleys unto the place which thou hast founded for them.
9 Thou hast set a bound that they may not pass over; that they turn not again to cover the earth.
10 He sendeth the springs into the valleys, which run among the hills.
11 They give drink to every beast of the field: the wild asses quench their thirst.
12 By them shall the fowls of the heaven have their habitation, which sing among the branches.
13 He watereth the hills from his chambers: the earth is satisfied with the fruit of thy works.
14 He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth;
15 And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man’s heart.
16 The trees of the LORD are full of sap; the cedars of Lebanon, which he hath planted;
17 Where the birds make their nests: as for the stork, the fir trees are her house.
18 The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats; and the rocks for the conies.
19 He appointed the moon for seasons: the sun knoweth his going down.
20 Thou makest darkness, and it is night: wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth.
21 The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God.
22 The sun ariseth, they gather themselves together, and lay them down in their dens.
23 Man goeth forth unto his work and to his labour until the evening.
24 O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.
25 So is this great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts.
26 There go the ships: there is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein.
27 These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season.
28 That thou givest them they gather: thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good.
29 Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust.
30 Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth.
31 The glory of the LORD shall endure for ever: the LORD shall rejoice in his works.
32 He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth: he toucheth the hills, and they smoke.
33 I will sing unto the LORD as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.
34 My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the LORD.
35 Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more. Bless thou the LORD, O my soul. Praise ye the LORD.

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