Some of Hines' writing is exquisite, such as this early passage where the author acknowledges the unimaginable newness of writing and poetry occuring in the creation of Gilgamesh:
For the cut of every thought hereHe continues:
is new for our race, and tart with novelty.
Then look: footprints of the mind's bird
in its take-off scramble across wet clay tablets.
Have there been two suchThere are other sections that amuse me with their combination of the timeless and the technological, the ancient and the new. Take this section discussing the temple prostitute's efforts to civilize Enkidu through sex:
as Gilgamesh and Enkidu
who released our first imagination
to map the new interior spaces we still
scribble on the backs of envelopes, of lives?
Finally Shamhat gasped a full-throated
praise of male hydraulics,
entering her like the stiff shaduf
that lifts night's constellations off the river's face,
spilling the wet start-seed into the splayed canals.
Many of his images hold an even greater contrast of old and new, such as his description of the "high-velocity blip on the radar screen" when a goddess appears, or his versions of the very twentieth-century military battles against Humbaba. Hines twists the traditional picture if the temple prositute and turns Shamhat into a very different image more in line with modern stereotypes of prostitutes. And he explains magical elements in the story through more believable means--drugs. Some of these twists are highly effective, and some are less so.
Hines's deliberate dating of this timeless story left me somewhere between fascinated and--well, honestly, kind of irritated.
* * *
Although overall I enjoyed Hines version, it is in no way a substitute for reading a more traditional translation such as Mitchell's. I suspect you will appreciate this version far more if you've first thought through the themes and characterizations of the ancient epic.
What fascinates me most is how much such ancient texts as Gilgamesh can innervate contemporary poets. The oldest of our stories express what we consider most deeply human--and most completely relevant.