I just ran across a quote attributed to an Egyptian scribe named Khakheperresenb (Walter Jackson Bate, in The Burden of the Past and the English Poet, says 2000 BC, Wikipedia says ca. 1900 BC) that I found irresistible:
Would I had phrases that are not known, utterances that are strange, in new language that has not been used, free from repetition, not an utterance which has grown stale, which men of old have spoken.
A lot of other people have found it irresistible, too (four thousand years ago they were already complaining everything had been written!); if you put “Would I had phrases that are not known” into Google Books search you get a whole lot of hits. But it’s very odd that the Wikipedia article linked above cites no references other than Bate; at first I had the uncharitable suspicion Bate might have invented both scribe and saying, but then I found it in Thomas Eric Peet’s A Comparative Study of the Literatures of Egypt, Palestine, and Mesopotamia: Egypt’s Contribution to the Literature of the Ancient World (Oxford University Press, 1931). Peet attributes it to “the Complaint of Khakheperresenb, of which a fragment has come down to us on a pupil’s writing-tablet now in the British Museum,” but if you search on “Khakheperresenb” at the museum’s site you get no results. So I ask the Varied Reader: do you happen to know anything more about this elusive author, fragment, and quote? Is there a currently more favored form of the name Khakheperresenb? The thanks of a grateful Hat await you.
Update. The thanks of a grateful Hat go to MMcM, who points out that the name is better spelled Khakheperraseneb. See thread below for British Museum link and translation.