Hoe (tool)

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A hoe is an ancient and versatile agricultural and horticultural hand tool used to shape soil, remove weeds, clear soil, and harvest root crops. Shaping the soil includes piling soil around the base of plants (hilling), digging narrow furrows (drills) and shallow trenches for planting seeds or bulbs.


Bowed by the weight of centuries he leans Upon his hoe and gazes on the ground, The emptiness of ages in his face, And on his back the burden of the world. ~ Edwin Markham
  • We go in withering July
    To ply the hard incessant hoe;
    Panting beneath the brazen sky
    We sweat and grumble, but we go.

Debate between the Hoe and the Plough (3rd millennium BCE)[edit]

English translation of the story, at the Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature - University of Oxford.
  • O the Hoe, the Hoe, the Hoe, tied together with thongs;
    the Hoe, made from poplar, with a tooth of ash;
    the Hoe, made from tamarisk, with a tooth of sea-thorn;
    the Hoe, double-toothed, four-toothed;
    the Hoe, child of the poor.
  • Hoe, digging miserably, weeding miserably with your teeth; Hoe, burrowing in the mud; Hoe, putting its head in the mud of the fields, spending your days with the brick-moulds in mud with nobody cleaning you, digging wells, digging ditches, digging! Wood of the poor man's hand, not fit for the hands of high-ranking persons, the hand of a man's slave is the only adornment of your head.

The Hoe[edit]

The abundance I create spreads over all the lands. ~ Debate between the Hoe and the Plough
  • I build embankments, I dig ditches. I fill all the meadows with water. When I make water pour into all the reed-beds, my small baskets carry it away. When a canal is cut, or when a ditch is cut, when water rushes out at the swelling of a mighty river, creating lagoons on all sides, I, the Hoe, dam it in. Neither south nor north wind can separate it. The fowler gathers eggs. The fisherman catches fish. People empty bird-traps. Thus the abundance I create spreads over all the lands.
  • I plant a garden for the householder. When the garden has been encircled, surrounded by mud walls and the agreements reached, people again take up a hoe. When a well has been dug, a water lift constructed and a water-hoist hung, I straighten the plots. I am the one who puts water in the plots. After I have made the apple-tree grow, it is I who bring forth its fruits. These fruits adorn the temples of the great gods: thus I enable the gardener to support his wife and children.
  • After I have worked on the watercourse and the sluices, put the path in order and built a tower there on its banks, those who spend the day in the fields, and the field-workers who match them by night, go up into that tower. These people revive themselves there just as in their well-built city. The water-skins I made they use to pour water. I put life into their hearts again.

Song of the Hoe (3rd millennium BCE)[edit]

English translation of the story, at the Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature - University of Oxford.
  • Not only did the lord make the world appear in its correct form, the lord who never changes the destinies which he determines – Enlil – who will make the human seed of the Land come forth from the earth – and not only did he hasten to separate heaven from earth, and hasten to separate earth from heaven, but, in order to make it possible for humans to grow in "where flesh came forth" [the name of a cosmic location], he first raised the axis of the world at Dur-an-ki. He did this with the help of the hoe -- and so daylight broke forth. By distributing the shares of duty he established daily tasks, and for the hoe and the carrying-basket wages were even established. Then Enlil praised his hoe, his hoe wrought in gold, its top inlaid with lapis lazuli, his hoe whose blade was tied on with a cord, which was adorned with silver and gold. ... The lord evaluated the hoe, determined its future destiny and placed a holy crown on its head. Here, in 'Where Flesh Came Forth', he set this very hoe to work; he had it place the first model of mankind in the brick mould. His Land started to break through the soil towards Enlil.
  • The E-kur, the temple of Enlil, was founded by the hoe. By day it was building it, by night it caused the temple to grow.
  • The king who measured up the hoe and who passes his time in its tracks, the hero Ninurta, has introduced working with the hoe into the rebel lands.
  • The hoe buries people, but dead people are also brought up from the ground by the hoe. With the hoe, the hero honoured by An, the younger brother of Nergal, the warrior Gilgamesh – is as powerful as a hunting net. The sage son of Ninsumun is pre-eminent with oars. With the hoe, he is the great barber of the watercourses. In the chamber of the shrine, with the hoe he is the minister.
  • In the sky there is the altirigu-bird, the bird of the god. On the earth there is the hoe: a dog in the reed-beds, a dragon in the forest.
  • The hoe makes everything prosper, the hoe makes everything flourish. ... The hoe has made people exist. It is the hoe that is the strength of young manhood. The hoe and the basket are the tools for building cities. It builds the right kind of house, it cultivates the right kind of fields. It is you, hoe, that extend the good agricultural land!
  • The hoe, the implement whose destiny was fixed by father Enlil -- the renowned hoe! Nisaba be praised!

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