The Love Songs of the Chester Beatty

Papyrus I

Chester Beatty I is a papyrus containing songs for entertainment. Included on it is a collection of seven love songs each alternating between the voice of a man and the voice of a woman. They were all probably written by a man. We are only concerned with one of the poems here refered to as Stanza The Third.

    "In the cycle of poems called "The Great Dispenser of Pleasure," each stanza contains a word play on the number it is assigned in the cycle. In this story a boy and girl fall for each other but fail to connect. This is poem three of seven. The boy is downcast by his lack of success and decides to go out of town to Nefrusy, a centre of the cult of Hathor, the goddess of love. How this text is to understood is the subject of much debate." - Robyn Gillam

The Mehy Poem In P. Chester Beatty I



My heart purposed to see its beauty,
Sitting within it.
I found Mehy a-riding on the road,
Together with his lusty youths.
I knew not how to remove myself from before him. Should I pass by him boldly?
Lo, the river is the road,
I know not a place for my feet.
Witless art thou, O my brave heart, exceedingly, Why wilt thou brave Mehy?
Behold, if I pass before him,
I shall tell him of my turnings;
Behold, I am thine, I shall say to him,
And he will boast of my name,
Alloting me to the first-come hareem of some one among his followers.

A.H.Gardiner, The Library of A. Chester Beatty, The Chester Beatty Papyri, No. 1 (London: Oxford University Press, 1931).



I decided to go to Nefrusy
And while I was staying there
I came across Mehy in his chariot on the road with his buddies
I did not know whether to avoid him (or)
pass by, nonchalant-like
Look, the river was like a road
I couldn't place my feet.
My heart is clueless:
"Why should you pass by Mehy?"
If I stroll past him
I would blurt out my moves(i.e.with the girl) 'Look I am yours!' I will say to him.
Then he will shout out my name
And he will assign me to the mess of the first one of his entourage

Robyn Gillam, Chronique d'Egypte no. 75 fasc. 150 (2000).

The Mehy Papers: Text and Lifestyle in Translation

Gardiner's hieroglyphic transcription of this poem may be viewed by clicking  HERE! 

As Robyn Gillam has said "There is no mistaking the emotional upheaval that takes place in the speaker when he  meets Mehy on the road".  (personal email correspondence) 
Thus the poem involves the relationship between the speaker (a man) and his girlfriend and the charioteer Mehy.

For more on this poem see Simpson in The Literature of Ancient Egypt pg 315 ( the song is on page 317 "Third Stanza") Lichtheim is in agreement that it is the voice of a man. ( Ancient Egyptian Literature vol.II p. 183 and note 4, p186). Gardiner thought the voice a woman's and Foster insists so in spite of the construction of the set, see Love Songs of the New Kingdom , John L. Foster ,page 50.

Who was Mehy?

We do not know exactly. He may have been a son of Seti I or maybe just a favorite from outside the family. But at some point he fell into disfavor. Below are some other words that mention Mehy but again it just adds to the mystery of who he was.

Deir el Medina Fragments

DM 1079


Beer is sweet,
when I sit at his side
[and my] hands have not been far away.
The wind blows as I say in my heart,
"_____...with sweet wine.
I am given of [love (?)]." ...

My voice is hoarse from saying,
"(King) Mehi! Life,prosperity, health!"
He is in his fortress.

DM 1078 verso


The lady sails north while [drinking] beer
An island is before him...
...pure gold.
We will cast the heel...
We will place (gifts) before
(King) Mehi,
Spend the day.

For more on Mehy (Mehi) see

EEF's Online Library - Ramses and Rebellion: Showdown of False and True Horus by Peter Feinman

"A paper presented at the April 24-26, 1998 ARCE Conference at the University of California at Berkeley and the November 22, 1998 conference of the Society of Biblical Literature. The paper gives an overview of what is known about the shadowy figure Mehy (dyn. 19) and adds a hypothesis of what became of him."