Archive for September 2013
Today is the commemoration of Queen K’et’evan (1565-1624, დედოფალი ქეთევან), whose martyrdom is related by contemporary and near contemporary sources, Georgian and otherwise. The details of the events of her martyrdom are available in several other places (e.g. here, here, here, and here; see a fine, modern icon here), and I shall not recount them all here. The story can be found in English, translated from a report of some Augustinian missionaries, at the end of Lang’s Live of the Georgian Saints (171-172), but there is also a poem on the queen by her son T’eimuraz, a play in German by Andreas Gryphius (1614-1664; Catharina von Georgien oder Bewähre Standhaftigkeit, 1657), a narrative in Georgian found in manuscript Tbilisi H-1370 — I don’t know whether there is an edition yet, but there apparently was not one at the time Tarchnishvili’s work was published in 1955 — and there are two shorter versions of the story from synaxarion manuscripts, both published in Abuladze and Gabidzashvili, ძველი ქართული აგიოგრაფიული ლიტერატურის ძეგლები, წიგნი IV სვინაქსარული რედაქციები (XI-XVIII სს.) (Monuments of Old Georgian Hagiographic Literature, vol. 4, Synaxarion Redactions, [11th-18th centuries]), (Tbilisi, 1968), 429-433. While a reading across all of these versions of Ketevan’s martyrdom would, no doubt, be an interesting exercise, here we turn our attention only to one short passage, the end of the shorter synaxarion reading just mentioned (432-433). This text was edited on the basis of four manuscripts (A-425, A-220, A-515, H-970) ranging in date from 1718-1742. (The longer story has a broader base of manuscripts.) Following a look at an icon and a list of a few more relevant resources I give the excerpted text below from Abuladze’s edition, an English translation, and a list of some of the vocabulary in the passage, which is especially replete with verbs, mostly with 3p agents (i.e. the torturers).
One icon of Queen K’et’evan was mentioned above, and there are many others. This one reads in asomtavruli (except the last letter of the first word, which is mxedruli), with the abbreviations resolved, Ⴜ(ႫႨႣ)Ⴀ Ⴃ(Ⴄ)Ⴃ(Ⴍ)Ⴔ(Ⴀ)ႪႨ Ⴕ(Ⴄ)Ⴇ(Ⴄ)Ⴅ(Ⴀ)Ⴌ Ⴜ(Ⴀ)Ⴋ(Ⴄ)Ⴁ(ႭჃ)ႪႨ (in mxedruli, წმიდა დედოფალი ქეთევან წამებული), “Holy Queen K’et’evan, martyr(ed).”
Avalishvili, Z. “Teimuraz I and His Poem ‘The Martyrdom of Queen Ketevan’.” Georgica 3 (1937): 17-42. [non vidi!]
Tamarati, M. L’église géorgienne des origines jusqu’à nos jours. Rome, 1910. Pp. 482-485. [Despite the age of the book, I can find no copy online.]
Tarchnišvili, M. Geschichte der kirchlichen georgischen Literatur. Studi e testi 185. Vatican City, 1955. P. 418.
და დაასხნეს ჴელნი ბილწთა მათ, განაშიშულეს, განურთხნეს ჴელნი, განბასრეს და მოიხუნეს განჴურვებულნი მარწუხნი, დააჴლიჩნეს (v.l. დახლიჩნეს) ძუძუნი და მერმე მკლავნი დაგლიჯნეს და ნაკუერცხალი აღგზნებული დააყარეს სისხლ-მწთოლვარესა ჴორცსა. და მერმე მოიღეს განჴურვებული სიავი და დახურეს თავსა მისსა [და] შეჰვედრა სული თჳსი ღმერთსა. მოვიდა ნათელი ბრწყინვალე და მოეფინა გუამსა ზედა წმიდისასა.
ხოლო იყვნეს მას ქალაქსა შინა მღდელნი ფრანგთანი ფურტუგეზელნი, მიიპარეს გუამი და წარიღეს ფურტუკს. და მერმე მოიღეს მარჯუენა ჴელი და თხემი თავისა და მიართუეს ძესა მისსა მეფესა თეიმურაზს ფრანგთა მათ.
Some vocabulary (in order of occurrence):
დასხმა to throw, lay, set, prepare
ბილწი impure, unclean, vile
განშიშეულბა to expose, bare
განრთხმა to stretch
განბასრება to deride
მოხუმა to take, bring
განჴურვებული burning hot
მარწუხი tongs, pincers
დაჴლეჩნა / დახლეჩა (not in Sarjveladze-Fähnrich, but cf. Rayfield et al., 611) to split, carve
დაგლეჯა to break, tear, shred
[აღგზნება to ignite, light; for the participle Sarjveladze-Fähnrich 45 has only a form without -ნ-]
დაყრა to throw down, away; take away; leave
სისხლ-მწთოლვარეჲ dripping blood
ჴორცი flesh, body
სიავი kettle, bowl, basin
დახურვა to cover, close
შევედრება to commit, commend, entrust
მოფენა to spread out
ფრანგი Frank (i.e. Latin Christian)
მიპარვა to steal, take away
წარღება to take with, take away, loot
მარჯუენაჲ right, right hand
თხემი skull, cranium
მირთუმა to present, give
This translation is merely a preliminary attempt, and corrections and suggestions by readers of Georgian are welcome!
Those vile people held her hands, exposed her, stretched her hands, and laughed at her. They took burning-hot pincers and split her breasts. They then tore at her arms and threw burning embers on her blood-dripping body. Then they brought a burning-hot bowl and covered her head [with it]. She commended her soul to God and a bright light came and spread over the saint’s body.
Now some Latin priests, Portuguese, were present in the city, and they stole her body and took it with them to Portugal. Later the Latins took the right hand and the top of her head [i.e. the cranium] and presented them to her son, King T’eimuraz.
Lately I have been cataloging a group of manuscripts from Saint Mark’s Monastery, Jerusalem, that have homiletic contents, especially the mēmrē of Jacob of Serug, including some that are hitherto unpublished. One of these manuscripts is SMMJ 162, from the late 19th or early 20th century. I don’t mention it here so much for the texts the scribe penned into it, but rather for a little colophon left at the end of Jacob’s Mēmrā on Love (cf. Bedjan, vol. 1, 606-627), f. 181r:
SMMJ 162, f. 181r
Pray for the sinner who has written [it], a fool, lazy, slothful, deceitful, a liar, wretched, stupid, blind of understanding, with no knowledge of these things, [nor] more than these things, but pray for me for our Lord’s sake!
Almost from the beginning of my time cataloging at HMML, I have been collecting excerpts of scribal notes and colophons that I found interesting for some reason or other, one such reason being the extreme self-loathing and self-deprecation that scribes not uncommonly trumpet. The cases in which scribes go on and on with adjectives or substantives of negative sentiment can elicit almost a humorous reaction, but scribes who do this do give their readers some semantically related vocabulary examples all in one spot!
NB: If interested, see my short article in Illuminations, Spring 2012, pp. 4-6, available here, for a popular presentation on colophons.
At the website ქართული ხელნაწერი წიგნი (in Georgian) is available the book ქართული ხელნაწერი წიგნი V-XIX სს.: ელექტრონული ალბომი [The Georgian Manuscript Book, 5th-19th centuries: Electronic Album] (Tbilisi, 2010), edited by Nestan Chkhikvadze, with contributions by Maia Karanadze, Lela Shatirishvili, and Tamar Abuladze. (Click the picture in the left column at the link above to see the book.) The book is in Georgian, but there is a description in English in its front matter, as follows:
An on-line album of Georgian manuscript book was created within the Grant project “Georgian Manuscript Book (including website)” financed by Rustaveli research fund. N. Chkhikvadze (scientific research manager), M. Karanadze, L. Shatirishvili were working on this project with participation of T. Abuladze.
In the album there are represented 5th-19th cent. Georgian manuscript books preserved in the fonds of National Centre of Manuscripts (A, H, S, Q) as well as some items belonging to foreign funds and National Manuscript Centre has the legal right of using photo copies of them.
Artistic copy of Adishi gospel is accomplished on the bases of authors’ descriptions and instructions. All this manuscripts show the origin and the development of the book as a cultural-historical phenomenon.
Album consists of four chapters. Common informational texts and photos with annotation come with every collected material, as well as main bibliography.
This album will be helpful for readers who are interested in written culture.
There are introductory chapters on the history of writing Georgian (up to p. 12), on theological (სასულიერო) manuscripts (pp. 13-90), secular (საერო) manuscripts (pp. 91-134), writing materials (pp. 135-148), and covers and binding (ყდა, pp. 149-185). A bibliography, mostly of works written in Georgian, is on pp. 186-188. The book is full of relatively high-quality color photographs, and thus may have some interest for all students and scholars of manuscript and book history, whether they read Georgian or not. (NB in the captions, a Roman numeral followed by ს. indicates the century [საუკუნე] and an Arabic numeral followed by წ. indicates the exact year [წელი]. At the end of the captions is the shelfmark: A, H, S, or Q followed by a number.)
The photographs give very many examples of varieties of script, as well as manuscript decoration, including images of scribes at work. The book is hardly intended as something along the lines of the paleographic textbooks of Ivane Javakhishvili or Ilia Abuladze, but this shorter and more humble offering has great value for a variety of readers, not least thanks to its open access, but also for the number and quality of the images it includes. Many thanks to the authors and the National Centre of Manuscripts for making this work available!
In his excellent article, “Georgian Palaeography”, J. Neville Birdsall (1928-2005), after listing some reproductions of Georgian manuscripts, has the following to say (p. 95):
The aspirant in Georgian palaeography must use these and every available photographic reproduction, but it cannot be too much emphasized that acquaintance with manuscripts themselves is irreplaceable. A manuscript, said patristic scholar and Armenologist, Robert Pierce Casey, is “something between a gadget and a personality”. This is as true of manuscripts as paleographical evidence as it is of any other aspect of their use and value. The external technicalities of the manuscript may be learnt from pictures: the individuality of the scribe, even in technical matters such as thickness of pen, can be known best only from the examination of the manuscript itself.
Birdsall’s survey dates from a time not too distant, at least in terms of the slow-moving world of manuscript studies, but even so, the quality and the quantity of easily available, if not freely available, manuscript images online would probably have been inconceivable at the time of its writing. In other words, Birdsall, while acknowledging the value of often bitonal manuscript reproductions — if for no other reason than that that is sometimes all that was (and is!) available — seems to imply that one should always wish for a real, tactile encounter with “the manuscript itself”. This kind of autopsy today probably happens no more frequently than when Birdsall made the statement above, but it is likely that a great many more students and scholars have nevertheless seen manuscripts, and not bitonal images, but color photographs of such resolution that one might enlarge only a few lines and fill an entire screen without any loss of image quality. There are doubtless some things we miss when look at a manuscript on a screen, rather than on a library table — a notable one being an easily grasped perception of a manuscript’s actual size, something we can forget, even if we know the exact measurements, when reading on a screen and manipulating the size — but at least with very high quality digital reproduction, what do we lack that especially matters codicologically or paleographically speaking? Birdsall as an example mentions the thickness of the scribe’s pen. Is that still something “known best” only from immediate manuscript autopsy, is it something we cannot properly give attention to in digital manuscript facsimiles as available nowadays? On this question, see the image below and note the easily noticeable varieties of thickness as the scribe has turned the pen in different directions to form the letters.
If someone had access only to manuscript reproductions, even if bitonal and perhaps grainy, Birdsall, based the tone of his essay, would, I believe, encourage that person to go ahead and make the most of what they have. Those of us at work on manuscripts in various languages, not only Georgian, have the boon of much better images than were common fare even a couple of decades ago, and were he writing today, I wonder if Birdsall would have phrased his sentiments in quite the way as above.
A few lines from CFMM 309, p. 55, at full resolution. Each page has two columns and the ms measures 26.5x18x9 cm.
 A.C. Harris, ed. The Indigenous Languages of the Caucasus, vol. 1, The Kartvelian Languages. Delmar, New York: Caravan Books, 1991. Pp. 85-128. It remains really the only thing of its kind in English. Unfortunately, it was published in a rather out-of-the-way book, not to mention the less than appealing typography.
 There is an obituary for Birdsall by J.K. Elliott from The Independent here.
While cataloging an undated, late manuscript from Saint Mark’s Monastery (Jerusalem) today, I came across this page spread, each page showing a correction in the scribe’s hand.
SMMJ 165, ff. 6v-7r
Homer nods and copyists sleep: scribes old and new, like typesetters and typists, have been bound to occasionally slip into error, whether by letter, word, or line. Here on the right (f. 6v), four lines from the bottom, the scribe indicates that he — the odds are that the scribe was male, but it could have been a female scribe — first erroneously copied the word tešbḥātēh by transposing B and Ḥ, so it was a mistake of a letter leading to an incorrect word. On the left (f. 7r), the scribe at first omitted (probably) two lines, and he adds them into the margin. Both mistakes are signaled by a variously oriented sign similar to ÷. Although their function is not the same, it is easy to be reminded a little of the Aristarchian or Hexaplaric signs (Field, Origenis Hexaplorum quae supersunt, vol. 1, lii-lx; Swete, Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek, 69-73).
Proofreading is hardly relished by any one, whether a centuries-old scribe or today’s or tomorrow’s writer with a keyboard and screen, but seizing and adequately rectifying an error, whether by marking the error and pointing to the correction, as here, or by wholly obliterating the mistake and only giving the proper reading, at least goes a long way toward repaying the time spent doing it!
Our next Old Georgian excerpt comes from an episode in the story of Symeon the Stylite, § 21 (Garitte, CSCO 171-172, with text also available at TITUS here), two sentences reporting a fiendish onslaught by some devil-inspired beasts.
და ბრძოლა სცა ეშმაკმან მას შინა ბრძოლითა დიდითა, და მოიყვანნა მის ზედა მრავალნი მჴეცთაგანნი, გუელნი და ვეშაპნი, რომელნი ჰბერვიდეს და ისტუენდეს მის ზედა…
…et pugnam dedit ei diabolus in eo pugna magna, et adduxit super eum multas e bestiis, lupos [!] et dracones, qui sufflabant et sibilabant super eum… (Garitte’s LT)
…and the devil gave him a fight with a great fight within him, and brought against him many beasts, snakes and dragons, which were breathing and hissing at him…
Here are a few grammatical and lexical helps for those that might want them:
- ს-ც-ა aor 3sg O3 ცემაჲ to give (the phrase with მას შინა here strikes me as a little strange, and that strangeness is also reflected in my translation, as well as Garitte’s LT)
- მო-ი-ყვან-ნ-ა aor 3sg + N-infix მოყვანება to bring in
- ჰ-ბერვ-ი-დ-ეს impf 3pl O3 ბერვა to breathe, blow (Z. Sarjweladze and H. Fähnrich, Altgeorgisch-Deutsches Wörterbuch , 101: “blasen, hauchen, einhauchen”)
- ი-სტუენ-დ-ეს impf 3pl სტუენა to hiss (cf. სტუენა “hissing” in Rayfield et al., Comprehensive Georgian-English Dict.,1197, which also agrees with Garitte’s LT, but Sarjweladze-Fähnrich, 1116, “pfeifen”!)
- ბრძოლაჲ fight, struggle
- ეშმაკი devil, demon
- მჴეცი wild animal, beast (here analyzed as მჴეც-თა-გან-ნი)
- გუელი snake (e.g. ὄφις in versions of Mt 7:10 and Jn 3:14; but compare Garitte’s LT!)
- ვეშაპი δράκων (cf. Arm. վիշապ, etc.; see H. Ačaṙian, Arm. Etym. Dict., IV 341-342)
A conversation at the breakfast table this morning led to mention of E.V. Wright’s Gadsby (1939), a novel of no insignificant length that gets by without the letter E throughout its 50,000+ words. (I’ve not read it, but it’s apparently in print and buyable. Note also Georges Perec’s 1969 French novel, La Disparition, with several translations.) Avoiding this or that letter is a kind of constrained writing called a lipogram, but other kinds of constraint include palindromes, alliteratives, univocalism, attention to etymological source (e.g. avoiding latinate words in English), and acrostics. Meter and rhyme are the most typical constraints in much poetry.
These and other constraints, of course, are generally not limited to one particular language, although their application might be more difficult in some languages than others. Other than the meter (5-syllable, 7-syllable, and 12-syllable) and, more occasionally, rhyme, Syriac poetry offers (at least) two kinds of constrained writing, one common and the other rare: 1. the acrostic and 2. having lines or line-pairs that begin and end with the same letter. (I have tried but failed to come up with a concise name for № 2.)
Acrostic poems are well known in various languages, including English, but here we are mainly concerned with alphabetic acrostics. (For Hebrew, see the discussion, with several examples, of W.G.E. Watson, Classical Hebrew Poetry, 190-200, with bibliography, and for later examples see T. Carmi, The Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse, e.g. 206-207, 221-223, 223-224, 233-234, 235-238.) In Syriac, alphabetic acrostic poems, both mēmrē and madrāšē, are plentiful. Ephrem provides many early examples of strophic (as opposed to stichic) acrostics, and Andrew Palmer has studied them (see bibliography below). The hymn Res. 1 is not an alphabetic acrostic, but actually spells out Ephrem’s own name in the beginning strophes and then follows with strophes that all begin with M (vocalized text and ET in Brock and Kiraz, 80-95). The hymn Nis. 1 is an alphabetic acrostic, but it generally skips every other letter, the exception being the sequence P-Q (ʾ g h z ṭ k m s p q š; text and ET in Brock and Kiraz, 224-245). There are also other patterns, even reaching across several poems: № 7-15 of the hymns on Abraham of Qidun (ed. Beck, CSCO 322) follow the alphabet from start to finish with varying numbers of stanzas given to each letter.
We also find acrostics in dialogue poems, e.g. in text 3 of the collection published by Brock (pp. 13-14) we have, after a proem, each speaker beginning a line following the order of the alphabet up to ḥ, at which point the rest of the poem is lost. Several other texts in the collection (e.g. texts 8, 9) follow the same pattern and are complete. There are countless other acrostic poems in later Syriac literature, many still unpublished.
The other kind of constrained writing in Syriac poetry I would like to point out has two examples from the hand of Yaʿqub (Severos) bar Šakko (d. 1241) of Barṭelle. (See Martin and Sprengling in the bibliography for his discussions of poetry.) These verse letters have been known about, but they have not been published or translated, as far as I know. There are two copies of them both at HMML in almost identical manuscripts, even down to the pagination, copied by Dolabani (ZFRN 40 and CFMM 144). The first (pp. 261-263 in the mss) is “A Letter to Rabban Mar Faḫr al-Dawla bar Tomā” and the second (pp. 264-268) is “A Letter to Rabban Abū Ṭāhir Ṣāʿid, known as Tāǧ Al-Dawla bar Tomā of Baghdad”. The constraint in both texts, aside from the 7-syllable meter, is that each poem has each of its couplets beginning with the same letter, P in the first case, T in the second. Here is the beginning of the P-poem:
CFMM 144, p. 261
Here are the first four 7-syllable lines (copied two to a line in the manuscript) in English:
I have stretched out my neck in righteousness,
That I might bow before [his] feet.
I have opened my mouth that I might greet
Him who chases away every bad thing.
And now an example from the T-poem:
tāgāra (h)w da-myattrātā
d-šuprēh nābaʿ galyāʾit
tēʾaṭron (h)u d-ḥasyutā
wa-gmir b-kol-znā mpattkāʾit
He is a merchant of excellent goods,
Whose virtue springs up openly.
He is a theater of holiness,
And perfect in every way with variety.
The T-poem has its lines ending in adverbs in -āʾit, and similarly pp. 205-208 of these same two manuscripts have a mēmrā on fasting by John Ismaʿil (d. 1365 according to the manuscript), Patriarch of Antioch and nephew of Ignatius b. Wahīb (on whom see Graf, GCAL II: 271), in which every line of the poem ends with an adverb in -āʾit.
These Syriac authors show the depth of their knowledge of the language in being able to construct poems in these forms, and students may find their practice sharpened by studying these texts more closely. It may be easy to get caught up in the formalism of poetry with acrostic or other letter-focused features, but as a reading of the examples singled out here will show, this is not mere form — not that that’s always a bad thing. Plenty is still said here, and said well.
Bibliography (incl. basics for Syriac poetry)
Bickell, G. “Noch ein Wort über alphabetische und akrostichische Lieder Ephräms.” ZDMG 26 (1872): 809-811.
Brock, S.P. “The Dispute Poem: From Sumer to Syriac.” Bayn al-Nahrayn 7  (1979): 417-426.
________. Sogyātā mgabbyātā. Holland, 1982.
________. “Syriac Dialogue Poems: Marginalia to a Recent Edition.” Le Muséon 97:1-2 (1984): 28-58.
________. “An Acrostic Poem on the Soul by Jacob of Serugh.” Sobornost 23:1 (2001): 40-44.
________. “Poetry and Hymnography (3): Syriac.” Pages 657-671 in The Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Studies. Edited by S.A. Harvey and D.G. Hunter. Oxford, 2008.
Brock, S.P. and G.A. Kiraz. Ephrem the Syrian: Select Poems. Eastern Christian Texts 2. Provo, 2006.
Cardahi, G. Liber thesauri de arte poëtica Syrorum nec non de eorum poetarum vitis et carminibus. Rome, 1875.
Geiger, Abraham, “Alphabetische und akrostichontische Lieder bei Ephräm.” ZDMG (1867): 469-476.
Hölscher, G. Syrische Verskunst. Leipzig, 1932. Rev. by G. Bergsträsser in Orientalistische Literaturzeitung 36 (1933): 748-754.
Kirschner, B. “Alfabetische Akrosticha in der syrischen Kirchenpoesie.” OC I, 6 (1906): 1-69; 7 (1907), 254-291. (As a monograph: Alfabetische Akrosticha in der syrischen Kirchenpoesie. [Rome, 1907].)
Martin, J.-P.P. De la métrique chez les Syriens. Abhandlungen für die Kunde des Morgenlandes 7.2. Leipzig, 1879.
Palmer, A. “St Ephrem of Syria’s Hymn on Faith 7: An Ode on His Own Name.” Sobornost / Eastern Churches Review 17:1 (1995): 28-40.
________. “Words, Silences, and the Silent Word: Acrostics and Empty Columns in Saint Ephraem’s Hymns on Faith.” PdO 20 (1995): 129-200.
________. “Akrostich Poems: Restoring Ephraim’s Madroshe.” The Harp 15 (2002): 275-287.
________. “Restoring the ABC in Ephraim’s Cycles on Faith and Paradise.” JECS 55:3-4 (2003): 147-194.
Schlögl, N. “Das Alphabet des Siraciden (Eccl. 51, 13-29). Eine textkritische Studie.” ZDMG 53 (1899): 669-682.
Sprengling, M. “Antonius Rhetor on Versification, with an Introduction and Two Appendices.” American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures 32:3 (1916): 145-216.
________. “Severus bar Shakko’s Poetics, Part II.” American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures 32:4 (1916): 293-308.