Records of the Past, 2nd series, Vol. III, ed. by A. H. Sayce, , at sacred-texts.com
Precepts of the prefect the feudal lord 1 Ptah-hotep, under the majesty of the king of the South and North, Assa, living eternally for ever.
The prefect, the feudal lord Ptah-hotep says: O God with the two crocodiles, 2 my lord, the progress of age changes into senility. Decay falls [upon man] and decline takes the place of youth. 3 A vexation weighs upon him every day; sight fails, the ear becomes deaf; his strength dissolves without ceasing. 4 The mouth is silent, speech fails him; the mind 5 decays, remembering not the day before. The whole body 6 suffers. That which is good
becomes 1 evil; taste completely disappears. Old age makes a man altogether miserable; the nose is stopped up, breathing no more from exhaustion. 2 Standing or sitting there is here a condition (?) of … 3 Who will cause me to have authority to speak? 4 that I may declare to him the words of those who have heard the counsels of former days? And the counsels heard of the gods, who (will give me authority to declare them?) Cause that it be so and that evil be removed from those that are enlightened; send the double … 5
The majesty of this god says: Instruct him in the sayings of former days. It is this which constitutes the merit of the children of the great. All that which makes the soul equal penetrates him who hears it, and that which it says produces no satiety.
Beginning of the arrangement of the good saying(s), 6 spoken by the noble lord, the divine father, beloved of God, the son of the king, the first-born of his race, 7 the prefect (and) feudal lord Ptah-hotep, so as to instruct the ignorant in the knowledge of the arguments of the good saying(s). It is profitable for him who hears them, it is a loss to him who shall transgress them.
He says to his son: Be not arrogant because of that which thou knowest; deal with the ignorant as with the learned; for the barriers of art are not closed, no artist being in possession of the perfection to which he should aspire. 8 [But] good word(s) are more difficult to find than
the emerald, 1 for it is by slaves that that is discovered among the rocks of pegmatite. 2
If thou findest a disputant while he is hot, 3 and if he is superior to thee in ability, lower the hands, bend the back, do not get into a passion with him. As he will not let thee destroy his words, it is utterly wrong to interrupt him; that proclaims that thou art incapable of keeping thyself calm, when thou art contradicted. 4
If then thou hast to do with a disputant while he is hot, imitate one who does not stir. 5 Thou hast the advantage over him if thou keepest silence when he is uttering evil words. "The better (of the two) is he who is impassive," say the bystanders, and thou art right in the opinion of the great.
If 6 thou findest a disputant while he is hot, do not despise him, because thou art not of the same opinion. 7 Be not angry against him when he is wrong; away with such a thing. He fights against himself; require him not [further] to flatter thy feelings. 8 Do not amuse thyself with the spectacle which thou hast before thee; it is odious, [it is] mean, [it is the part] of a despicable soul [so to do].
[paragraph continues] As soon as thou lettest thyself be moved by thy feelings, combat this [desire] as a thing that is reproved by the great.
If thou hast, as leader, to decide on the conduct of a great number of men, seek the most perfect manner (of doing so) that thy [own] conduct may be without reproach. Justice is great, invariable and assured; it has not been disturbed since the age of Osiris. To throw obstacles in the way of the laws, is to [open] the way before violence. Shall that which is below gain the upper hand, if the unjust does not attain to the place of justice? 1 even he who says: I take for myself, of my own free-will; 2 but says not: I take by [virtue of] my authority. 3 The limitations of justice are invariable; such is the instruction which every man receives from his father.
[Inspire not men with fear, [else] God will fight against thee] in the same manner. If any one asserts that he lives by such means, [God] will take away the bread from his mouth; if any one asserts that he enriches himself [thereby], [God] says: I may take [these riches] to myself. If any one asserts that he beats others, [God] will end by reducing him to impotence. Let no one inspire men with fear, this is the will of God. Let one provide sustenance for [them] in the lap of peace; it will [then] be that they will freely give [what has been torn from them by terror].
If thou art among the persons seated [at meat] in the house of a greater man than thyself, 4 take that which he
gives [thee], bowing to the ground. 1 Regard that which is [placed] before thee, [but] point not at it; regard it not 2 frequently; he is a blameworthy person who departs from this rule. Speak not to [the great man] more than he requires, for one knows not what may be displeasing [to him]. 3 Speak when he invites thee and thy word will be pleasing. 4
As for the great man who has plenty of means of existence his conduct is as he himself wishes. He does that which pleases him; if he desires to repose, he realises his [intention]. The great man stretching forth his hand does that to which [other] men do not attain. [But] as the means of existence are under the will of God, one cannot rebel against it.
If thou art one of those who bring the messages of one great man to another, conform thyself exactly to that wherewith he has charged thee; perform for him the commission as he hath enjoined thee. Beware of altering in speaking the offensive words which one great person addresses to another; he who perverts the truthfulness of his way, in order to repeat only what produces pleasure in the words of every man, great or small, is a detestable person.
If thou art an agriculturist, gather the crops (?) in the field which the great God has given thee, fill not thy mouth in the house of thy neighbours; 5 it is better to make oneself dreaded by the possessor. 6 As for him who, master of his own way of acting, being all-powerful, 7 seizes [the goods of
others] like a crocodile in the midst [even] of watchmen, his children are an object of malediction, of scorn and of hatred on account of it, while [his] father is grievously distressed, and [as for] the mother who has borne [him], happy is another rather than herself. 1 [But] a man becomes a god when he is chief of a tribe which has confidence in following him.
If thou abasest thyself 2 in obeying a superior, thy conduct is entirely good before God. Knowing who ought to obey and who ought to command, do not lift up thy heart against him. As thou knowest that in him is authority, be respectful towards him as belonging to him. Fortune comes only at her own good-will, and her caprice only is her law; as for him who … 3 God, who has created his superiority, turns himself from him and he is overthrown.
Be active, 4 during the time of thy existence, doing more than is commanded. Do not spoil the time of thy activity; he is a blameworthy person who makes a bad use of his moments. Do not lose the daily opportunity of increasing that which thy house possesses. Activity produces riches and riches do not endure when it slackens.
If thou art a wise man, bring up a son who shall be pleasing 5 to God. If he conforms his conduct to thy way and occupies himself with thy affairs as is right, do to him all the good thou canst; he is thy son, a [person] attached [to thee] whom thine own self hath begotten. Separate
not thy heart from him. … [But] if he conducts himself ill and transgresses thy wish, 1 if he rejects all counsel, if his mouth goes according to the evil word, strike him on the mouth in return. 2 Give orders without hesitation to those who do wrong, 3 to him whose temper is turbulent; and he will not deviate from the straight path, and there will be no obstacle to interrupt the way.
If thou art [employed] in the larit, stand or sit rather than walk about. Lay down rules for thyself from the first: not to absent thyself even when weariness overtakes thee. Keep an eye on him who enters announcing that what he asks is secret; 4 what is entrusted to thee 5 is above appreciation and all contrary argument is a matter to be rejected. He is a god who penetrates into a place where no relaxation [of the rules] is made for the privileged.
If thou art with people who display for thee an extreme affection, [saying]: "Aspiration of my heart, aspiration of my heart, where there is no remedy! That which is said in thy 6 heart, let it be realised by springing up spontaneously. Sovereign master, I give myself to thy opinion. Thy name is approved without speaking. Thy body is full
of vigour, 1 thy face is above thy neighbours." 2 [If then thou art accustomed to this excess of flattery], and there be an obstacle to thee in thy desires, then thine impulse is to obey thy passion. 3 [But] he who … according to his caprice, his soul is …, his body is … 4 While [the man who is] master of [his] soul is superior to those whom God has loaded with his gifts; 5 the man who obeys his passion is under the power of his wife (?).
Declare thy line of conduct without reticence; give thy opinion in the council of thy lord; while there are people who turn back upon their own [words] when they speak, so as not to offend him who has put forward a statement, and answer not in this fashion: 6 "He is the great man who will recognise the error of another; and when he shall raise his voice to oppose the other 7 about it he will keep silence after what I have said." 8
If thou art a leader, setting forward thy plans 9 according to that which thou decidest, perform perfect actions which posterity may remember, without letting the words prevail [with thee] which multiply flattery, [which] excite pride and produce vanity.
If thou art a leader of peace, listen to the discourse of the petitioner. Be not abrupt with him; that would trouble him. Say not to him: "Thou hast [already] recounted this." Indulgence will encourage him to accomplish the
object of his coming. As for being abrupt with the complainant because he described what passed when the injury was done, instead of complaining of the injury itself, 1 let it not be! The way to obtain a clear explanation is to listen with kindness. 2
If thou desirest to excite respect within [the house] thou enterest, for example [the house] of a superior, a friend 3 or any person of consideration, [in short] everywhere where thou enterest, keep thyself from making advances to a woman, for there is nothing good in so doing. There is no prudence in taking part in it, and thousands of men destroy themselves in order to enjoy a moment, brief as a dream, while they gain death, so as to know it. It is a villainous intention (?), that of a man who [thus] excites himself (?); if he goes on to carry it out, his mind abandons him. For as for him who is without repugnance for such an [act], there is no good sense at all in him.
If thou desirest 4 that thy conduct should be good and preserved from all evil, keep thyself from [every] attack of bad humour. 5 It is a fatal malady which leads to discord, and there is no longer any existence for him who gives way to it. 6 For it [introduces] discord (?) between fathers and mothers, as well as between brothers and sisters; 7 it causes the wife [and] the husband to hate each other; it contains all kinds of wickedness, it embodies all kinds of wrong. 8 When a man has established his just equilibrium and walks in this path, there where he makes his dwelling, there is no room 9 for bad humour.
Be not of an irritable temper as regards that which happens beside thee; 1 grumble (?) not over thy [own] affairs. Be not of an irritable temper in regard to thy neighbours; better is a compliment to that which displeases than rudeness. It is wrong to get into a passion with one's neighbours, to be no longer master of one's words. 2 When there is only a little irritation, one creates for oneself an affliction for the [time when one will again be] cool. 3
If thou art wise, look after thy house; love thy wife without alloy. Fill her stomach, clothe her back, these are the cares [to be bestowed] on her person. Caress her, 4 fulfil her desires during the time of her existence; it is a kindness which does honour to its possessor. Be not brutal (?); tact (?) will influence her better than violence; her … behold to what she aspires, at what she aims, what she regards. It is that which fixes her in thy house; if thou repellest her, it is an abyss (?). Open thy arms (?) for her, [respondent] to her arms; call her, display to her 5 [thy] love.
Treat 6 thy dependants well, in so far as it belongs to thee [to do so]; [and] it belongs to those whom God has favoured. If any one fails in treating his dependants well it is said: "He is a person …" As we do not know the events which may happen to-morrow, he is a wise
person by whom one is well treated. 1 When there comes the necessity of showing zeal, it will [then] be the dependants [themselves] who say: "Come on, come on," it good treatment has not quitted (?) the place; if it has quitted it, the dependants are defaulters.
Do not repeat any extravagance of language; do not listen to it; it is a thing which has escaped from a hasty mouth. If it is repeated, look, without hearing it, towards the earth; say nothing in regard to it. Cause him who speaks to thee to know what is just, even him who provokes to injustice; 2 cause that [which is just] to be done, cause it to triumph. As for that which is hateful according to the law, condemn it by unveiling it. 3
If thou art a wise man, sitting in the council of thy lord, direct thy thought towards that which is wise. Be silent rather than scatter thy words. When thou speakest, know that which can be brought against thee. To speak in the council is an art, and speech is criticised more than any [other] labour; it is contradiction which puts it to the proof. 4
If thou art powerful, respect knowledge and calmness of language. Command only to direct; to be absolute is to run into evil. Let 5 not thy heart be haughty, neither let it be mean. Do not let thy orders remain unsaid and cause thy answers to penetrate; but speak without heat, assume a serious countenance. As for the vivacity of an ardent heart, temper it; the gentle man penetrates [all] obstacles.
[paragraph continues] He who agitates himself all the day long has not a good moment; and he who amuses himself all the day long keeps not his fortune. Aim at fulness like pilots; 1 once one is seated another works, and seeks to obey [one's] orders.
Disturb not a great man; 2 weaken not the attention of him who is occupied. 3 His care is to embrace [his task], and he strips his person through the love which he puts into it. That transports men to God, [even] the love for the work which they accomplish. Compose [then thy] face (?) [even] in trouble, that peace may be with thee, when agitation is with … These are the people who succeed in what they desire. 4
Teach [others] to render homage to a great man. 5 If thou gatherest the crop for him among men, 6 cause it to return fully to its owner, at whose hands is thy subsistence. [But] the gift of affection is worth more than the provisions 7 with which thy back is covered. For that which [the great man] receives from thee will enable thy house to live, without speaking of the maintenance thou enjoyest, which thou desirest to preserve; 8 it is thereby [that] he extends a beneficent hand, and that in thy home good things are
added to good things. 1 Let thy love pass into the heart of those who love thee; cause those about thee to be loving and obedient.
If 2 thou art a son of the guardians deputed to watch over the public tranquillity, execute [thy commission] without knowing [its meaning], and speak with firmness. 3 Substitute not for that which the instructor has said [what thou believest to be] his intention; the great use words as it suits [them]. 4 Thy part is to transmit rather than to comment upon.
If thou art annoyed at a thing, 5 if thou art tormented by some one who is acting within his right, get out of his sight, and remember him no more 6 when he has ceased to address thee.
If thou hast become great after having been little, [if] thou hast become rich after having been poor, [when thou art at the] head of the city, know 7 how not to take advantage of the fact that thou hast reached the first rank, harden (?) not thy heart because of thy elevation; thou art become [only] the steward of the good things of God. 8 Put not behind thee the neighbour 9 who is like unto thee; be unto him as a companion.
Bend thy back before thy superior. Thou art attached to the palace of the king; thy house is established
in its fortune, and thy profits (?) are as is fitting. Yet a man is annoyed at having an authority above himself, 1 and passes the period of life in being vexed thereat. Although that hurts not thy 2… "Do not plunder 3 the house of thy neighbours, seize not by force the goods which are beside [thee]." Exclaim not then against that which thou hearest, and do not feel humiliated. It is necessary to reflect 4 when one is hindered (?) by it that the pressure of authority is felt [also] by one's neighbour.
Do not make … thou knowest that there are obstacles to the water [which comes] to its hinder part, and that there is no trickling of that which is in its bosom. Let it not … after having corrupted his heart.
If thou aimest at polished manners, call not him whom thou accostest. Converse with him especially in such a way as not to annoy him. Enter on a discussion with him only after having left him time to saturate his mind with the subject of the conversation. If he lets his ignorance display itself, and if he gives thee an opportunity to disgrace him, treat him with courtesy rather; proceed not to drive him [into a corner]; do not … the word to him; answer not in a crushing manner; crush him not; worry him not; in order that in his turn he may not return [to the subject], but depart to the profit of thy conversation. 5
Let thy countenance be cheerful during the time of thy
existence. When we see one departing from the storehouse who has entered in order to bring his share of provision, 1 with his face 2t contracted, it shows 3 that his stomach is empty and that authority is offensive [to him]. Let not that happen to thee; it is …
Know those who are faithful to thee when thou art in low estate. Thy merit [then] is worth more than those who did thee honour. His …, behold that which a man possesses completely. That is of more importance than his high rank; [for] this is a matter [which passes] from one to another. The merit of one's son is advantageous to [the father], and that which he really is is worth more than the remembrance [of his father's rank (?)].
Distinguish the superintendent who directs from the workman, for manual labour is little elevated; the inaction [of the hands] is honourable. If a man is not in the evil way, that which places him [there] is the want of subordination to authority.
If thou takest a wife, do not … Let her be more contented than any of her fellow-citizens. She will be attached [to thee] doubly, if her chain is pleasant. 4 Do not repel her; grant that which pleases her; it is to her contentment that she appreciates [thy] direction. 5
If thou hearest those things which I have said to thee, 1 thy wisdom will be fully advanced. Although they are the means which are suitable for arriving at the Ma, 2 and it is that which makes them precious, their memory would recede from the mouth of men. [But] thanks to the beauty of their arrangement [in rhythm] all their words will [now] be carried without alteration over this earth eternally. 3 That will create a canvass (?) to be embellished, whereof the great will speak, in order to instruct men in its sayings. 4 After having listened to them [the pupil] will become a master, 5 even he who shall have properly listened to the sayings because he shall have heard them. Let him win success by placing himself in the first rank 6; that is for him a position perfect and durable, 7 and he has nothing [further] to desire for ever. 8 By knowledge his path (?) is assured, and he is made happy by it on the earth. The wise man is satiated by knowledge; he is a great man through his own merits. 9 His tongue is in accord with his
mind 1; just are 2 his lips when he speaks, his eyes when he gazes, his ears when he hears. The advantage of his son is to do that which is just without deceiving himself.
To attend [therefore] profits the son of him who has attended. To attend 3 is the result of the fact that one has attended. A [teachable] auditor is formed, because I have attended. Good when he has attended, good when he speaks, 4 he who has attended has profited, and it is profitable to attend to him who has attended. To attend is worth more than anything [else], for it produces love, the good thing that is twice good. The son who accepts the instruction of his father will grow old on that account. 5
What God loves is that one should attend; if one attends not, it is abhorrent to God. The heart makes itself its own master when it attends and when it does not attend; [but] if it attends, then his heart is a beneficent [master] to a man. 6 In attending to instruction, a man loves what he attends to, and to do that which is prescribed is pleasant. When a son attends to his father, it is a twofold joy [for both]; when [wise] things are prescribed to him, the son is gentle towards [his] master. Attending to him who has attended when such [things] have been prescribed to him, he engraves upon [his] heart that which is approved by his father; and the recollection of it is preserved in the mouth of the living who exist upon this earth.
When a son receives the instruction of his father, there is no error in all his plans. Train thy son to be a teachable
man whose wisdom 1 is agreeable to the great. Let him direct his mouth 2 according to that which has been said to him; in the docility of a son is discovered his wisdom. His conduct is perfect, while error carries away the unteachable. 3 To-morrow knowledge will support him, while the ignorant will be destroyed.
As for the man without experience who listens not, he effects nothing whatsoever. He sees knowledge in ignorance, profit in loss; he commits all kinds of error, always accordingly choosing the contrary of what is praiseworthy. He lives on that which is mortal, in this fashion. His food are evil words whereat he is filled with astonishment. That which the great know to be mortal he lives upon every day, flying from that which would be profitable to him, 4 because of the multitude of errors which present themselves before him every day.
A son who attends is like a follower of Horus; he is happy after having attended. He becomes great, he arrives at dignity, he gives the same lesson to his children. Let none innovate upon the precepts of his father; let the same precepts form his lessons to his children. "Verily," will his children say to him, "to accomplish 5 what thou sayest works marvels."
Cause [therefore] that to flourish which is just, in order to nourish thy children [with it]. If the teachers allow themselves to be led towards evil principles verily the people who understand them not will speak accordingly, 6 and that being said to those who are docile, they will act accordingly. Then all the world considers them [as masters] and they inspire confidence in the public; but their glory endures not so long as would please them. Take not away [then] a word [from the ancient teaching], and add one not; put
not one thing in place of another; beware of uncovering [the rebellious ideas] which arise 1 in thee; but teach according to the words of the wise. Attend [if] thou wishest to dwell in the mouth of those who shall attend to thy words, when thou hast entered upon the office of master, that thy words may be upon our lips … and that there may be a chair from which to deliver thy arguments. 2
Let thy thoughts be abundant [but] let thy mouth be under restraint, and thou shalt argue with the great. Put thyself in unison with the ways of thy master; cause him to say: "He is my son," so that 3 those who shall hear it shall say: "Praise be to [her who] has borne him to him!" Apply thyself while thou speakest; speak [only] of perfect things; and let the great who shall hear thee say: "Twice good [is] that which issues from his mouth! "
Do that which thy master bids thee. Twice good is the precept of our 4 father, from whom we have issued, from his flesh. What he tells us, let it be [fixed in our] heart; to satisfy him greatly let us do for him more than he has prescribed. Verily a good son is one of the gifts of God, [a son] who does [even] better than he has been told [to do]. 5 For his master he does what is satisfactory, putting himself with all his heart on the part [of right]. 6
So 7 I shall bring it about that thy body shall be healthful, that the king shall be satisfied [with thee] in all circumstances, and that thou shalt obtain years of life without default.
It has caused me on earth to obtain 110 years of life,
along with the gift of the favour of the king among the first of those whom their works (?) have ennobled, 1 satisfying the king in a place of dignity.
Colophon. It is finished, from its beginning to its end, according to that which is found in writing.
16:1 See Maspero: Un Manuel de Hiérarchie égyptienne. Maisonneuve, Paris 1889.
16:2 Honhen or Osiris, as is shown by the 43d invocation of the 142d chapter of the Book of the Dead: "O Osiris, god with the two crocodiles!" But it is Osiris reborn and regaining, after decline and death, rejuvenescence and vigour. Chabas (Zeitschrift, 1868, p. 10s), studying the stelæ of Horus standing on the crocodiles, and noticing that this god is named "the aged who becomes young in his hour, the old man who becomes a child," very justly recalls the passage of the Papyrus Prisse where Ptah-hotep invokes the aid of the god with the two crocodiles against the evils of old age.
16:3 Literally "comes upon newness." Doubtful translation; but I believe with Chabas that mau expresses here the idea of "flourishing" or "brilliant youth" (as in the Book of the Dead, eh. 87, line 2). Ahu seems to be the contrary of mau, so I render it "decline."
16:4 We must read an urd and take no account of the het which follows and has been erroneously added by the scribe, accustomed to write the name of the god Urd-het. Similarly the termination n Ra is frequently added erroneously to sotep through the influence of the consecrated formula sotep n Ra "chosen of Ra."
16:5 Papyrus Prisse, pl. v.
16:6 The carcase.
17:1 "Is transformed."
17:2 This translation of the word tennu, which I borrow from Chabas, is conjectural.
17:3 I cannot read this passage with certainty.
17:4 I am not sure that I have understood this difficult passage.
17:5 I can neither read nor translate the word.
17:6 Ptah-hotep arranges the good sayings of the past in verses in order to render them unalterable.
17:7 "Of his loins," that is "legitimate." The meaning of the title has been explained in the introduction.
17:8 Literally "endowed with his perfections."
18:1 Literally "the good word hides itself more than the emerald." Teha, "to hide," is found, with a slight variation of spelling, in the story of Sinuhit (ll. 4–5 of the ostrakon discovered by Prof. Maspero).
18:2 Literally "being found by female slaves." The emerald is usually found in pegmatite, a compound of feldspath and quartz, out of which it was picked. The Papyrus Ebers (lxxxix. 3) informs us that the powder of pegmatite was used in the composition of a dentifrice.
18:3 Literally "in his hour." A god is said to be "in his hour" when he is warlike. I suppose the author ridicules the warlike disposition of disputants.
18:4 Literally "that proclaim: it is not to know inaction as regards that which crosses thee, to maintain it." This inversion is perhaps due to the exigencies of the rhythm.
18:5 Literally "who is in thy inaction of thy arms."
18:6 Papyrus Prisse, pl. vi.
18:7 "If thou art not like [him]."
18:8 Literally "Call him not to flatter thy feelings."
19:1 Literally "the part of it" where the feminine pronoun must refer to justice. The phrase seems to mean that revolutions are occasioned by forgetfulness of the principles of justice on which society is based.
19:2 Literally "I catch for myself, myself, spontaneously."
19:3 Translation very uncertain.
19:4 Comp. Proverbs xxiii. 1. "When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before thee."
20:1 Literally "put thyself on thy nose."
20:2 Papyrus Prisse, pl. vii.
20:3 "That which is bad to the heart."
20:4 "Is thy word for being good to the heart."
20:5 That is, do not steal to live.
20:6 See ch. vi., where those are condemned who "fleece" men by terrifying them. It seems that theft is here considered more blameworthy even than these extortions.
20:7 Literally "for the master of the manner of acting as master of the things." The author means the powerful man who abuses his power in order to plunder openly and to place himself above the laws.
21:1 This inversion of the words may be attributed to the exigencies of the rhythm.
21:2 Or perhaps "if thou doest evil."
21:3 I have not ventured to translate this passage, because a study of the rhythm leads me to suppose that some words are omitted. I believe that half a verse is lost.
21:4 I translate shes ab "activity" because the sense seems to require it. The translation is necessarily conjectural.
21:5 Translation doubtful.
22:1 Or "thy counsels."
22:2 Literally "Strike him on the mouth according to that which it is, such as it behaves itself, in consequence." It is probable that there is here a sort of play upon the words, and that the sense is "strike directly against a bad direction." The sequel seems to state that with disobedient subordinates it is necessary to give precise and positive orders without consideration.
22:3 Literally "throw, on account of the 'they act ill,' the order:" Papyrus Prisse, pl. viii.
22:4 Literally "the usekh is the place of that which he demands." The usekh was the hall in the centre of a building, and consequently protected from intruders. A "communication usekh" would accordingly be a secret communication.
22:5 Literally "the larit, the guardianship of the larit."
22:6 "In his heart."
23:1 "Thy flesh is well nourished (?)."
23:2 That is, thou art superior to thy neighbours.
23:3 "A contradiction being to thee in that which pleases thee, thy desire is to obey its passion.
23:4 There are three words here which I cannot translate.
23:5 Literally "has provided for."
23:6 Literally "knowing this."
23:7 When the great man shall oppose him, who has put forward an error.
23:8 He will not be able to oppose me, because there is no motion in my speech.
23:9 Papyrus Prisse, pl. ix.
24:1 "And does not complain of the whole matter on the subject of that,"
24:2 "Causing him to represent the heart is the listening with kindness,"
24:3 "Of a lord, of a brother, and by extension companion, friend."
24:4 Papyrus Prisse, pl. x.
24:5 Literally "time of bad humour."
24:6 "There being no existence to him who enters into it."
24:7 Literally "the fathers, men [and] women, as well as the brothers, men [and] women."
24:8 Compare "It is a net of iniquity."
24:9 Not a house of bad humour."
25:1 "On the subject [of things which are] in two halves, on two sides, right and left, at the side of thee."
25:2 Literally "deprived of the conduct of one's words."
25:3 Literally "is a little difficulty in that, affliction is created in coolness." But the translation is doubtful.
25:4 Literally "anoint her."
25:5 "Make to her." The translation of the two last lines is uncertain.
25:6 Papyrus Prisse, pl. xi.
26:1 Literally "the person is a person well balanced, good treatments [are] in him."
26:2 Literally "the unjust being commanded."
26:3 Literally "it is raising the veil from its face."
26:4 "Which puts it according to the measure."
26:5 Papyrus Prisse, pl. xii.
27:1 I do not know whether this is the precise rendering, but the object of the chapter is clear. It is necessary to be moderate in everything; excess of work is to be avoided like excess of pleasure.
27:2 "Let not a great man be diverted from his hour."
27:3 "Of him who is charged."
27:4 "Who cause that which is loved to prosper." I am not sure of the sense of these last two phrases.
27:5 Literally "teach the great man that one may honour him, that one may do him honour."
27:6 This probably means: if thou collectest the taxes in the provinces for the governor.
27:7 The word also signifies "offerings."
27:8 "With the consideration, thou lovest that it lives." The taxes levied by the government pay for the maintenance of its officers, who thereby maintain their position.
28:1 Literally "the possession."
28:2 Papyrus Prisse, pl. xiii.
28:3 "Express what thou dost not comprehend, affirm thy speech."
28:4 "As for these great men, he puts the word in its proper place."
28:5 "At a time arrived."
28:6 That is, hear no rancour after being deservedly blamed.
28:7 Translation very doubtful.
28:8 "Thou art become the administrator, the prefect, of the provisions [which belong] to God."
28:9 "Let there be no other behind."
29:1 "In vexations a governor in quality of superior, one lives a time of distaste for him."
29:2 The text here seems faulty, some words being wanting as regards both rhythm and sense.
29:3 Papyrus Prisse, pl. xiv.
29:4 Literally "being one who knows that …"
29:5 Literally "in order that it may not be his turn not to come, [and] that one does not steal away to the profit of that same."
30:1 Literally "the loaves of communion," probably the part which each had to contribute from the crops. It is possible, however, that the reference is to distributions of food by the authorities; the malcontents would then be those who find that too little is given to them instead of contributors who think that too much is required from them. But I prefer the first explanation, since the verb an means "to bring" rather than "to carry away."
30:2 Papyrus Prisse, pl. xv.
30:3 "It is the making known the emptiness of his stomach."
30:4 "She being in the attachment doubly, sweet to her the bond."
30:5 "Being her contentment, she appreciates the work."
31:1 The author has concluded his exposition of the wisdom of the ancients. He now speaks in his own name, and while eulogising the doctrines he has repeated, notices with satisfaction the perfect form he has given to them to prevent them from being effaced from the memory of men and to preserve them from alteration. Their rhythmic form allows neither omissions nor variations.
31:2 That is to cause truth and justice to reign.
31:3 I do not think that a clearer statement can be found of the existence of a poetical language, rhythmically arranged, among the ancient Egyptians.
31:4 "The great will speak above; it is by explaining to a man the word." It therefore appears that the Precepts of Ptah-hotep were intended to be commented on by professors, and that there were schools of philosophy.
31:5 Abuu, "artist," or "master-workman." Perhaps something analogous to the degree of magister artium.
31:6 "Being produced a good time by being at the head." The reference is possibly to a competitive examination among the students in order to obtain a public post.
31:7 "Is to him perfection which endures."
31:8 "His complete satisfaction being for ever."
31:9 "Through his good" or "fortunate time."
32:1 With his mind is his tongue.
32:2 Papyrus Prisse, pl. xvi.
32:3 Literally "To listen penetrates by one who has listened."
32:4 "Good, listening; good, speaking." To "listen" includes the idea of "obeying."
32:5 Compare Exod. xx. 12. "Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee."
32:6 Literally "life-health-strength of some one is his heart when listening."
33:1 Papyrus Prisse, pl. xvii.
33:2 Compare chap. xii.
33:3 "His ways are perfect, the bad way takes away the unteachable."
33:4 "Departing from his times because of the multitude of errors."
33:5 Papyrus Prisse, xviii.
33:6 "Just as that is [said]."
34:1 "That which flows in thee."
34:2 Literally "Thy arguments being on their chair."
34:3 Papyrus Prisse, pl. xix.
34:4 Literally "The precept of his father, from whom he has issued."
34:5 "Making increase on that which is said to him."
34:6 "He does the Ma, putting himself with all his heart on its ways."
34:7 That is, by means of these precepts.
35:1 "The two hands have made them noble." The whole expression signifies "the first" or "ancients."