Three sälam-verses (Gǝʿǝz hagiography)   Leave a comment

It occurred to me that it’s been a while since we’ve looked at any Gǝʿǝz texts, so here are few lines with vocabulary and English translation for some saints (chosen relatively randomly). These are sälam-verses, the five-line rhyming poems that occur in the Ethiopian synaxarion.

Faith, Hope, and Charity/Pistis, Elpis, and Agape PO 9:450

These famous female martyr-saints named after the virtues are often, but not here, named with Wisdom/Sophia (BHO 1082-1085; cf. here).

ሰላም ፡ ሰላም ፡ ደናግል ፡ ሠላስ፤

ጲስ ፡ ጢስ ፡ አላጲስ ፡ ወአጋጲስ፨

አመ ፡ ኮና ፡ ስምዓ ፡ በእንተ ፡ ኢየሱስ ፡ ክርስቶስ፨

ኢያውዓየ ፡ ሥጋሆን ፡ ነበልባለ ፡ እሳት ፡ መብዕስ፨

ወኢያድመነ ፡ ላህዮን ፡ ጢስ፨

Greetings, greetings, three virgins,

Pistis, Elpis, and Agape!

When they became martyrs for Jesus Christ,

The harmful flame of fire did not consume them,

And the smoke did not cloud their beauty.

  • አውዐየ፡ to burn, consume (the form here i- + awʿayä > iyawʿayä [see Dillmann § 48.6, p. 92])
  • ነበልባል፡ flame
  • መብዕስ፡ (i.e. መብእስ፡) harmful, tormenting, severe
  • አድመነ፡ (also አደመነ፡) to cloud, cover with a cloud (i- + admänä > iyadmänä)
  • ላህይ፡ (i.e. ላሕይ፡) beauty
  • ጢስ፡ smoke

Matthew/Mattai/Matewos PO 9: 268

The sälam is straightforward in its details, but it is a good example of how the Gǝʿǝz word order can be moved around in this literary form. This Matewos celebrated here is associated with the conversion of the sibling saints Behnam and Sara.

ሰላም ፡ ለማቴዎስ ፡ ነቢረ ፡ ገዳም ፡ ዘአንኃ፨

አምሳለ ፡ በግዕ ፡ ጸጕረ ፡ እስከ ፡ ተሞጥሐ፨

ከመ ፡ ያርኢ ፡ ጽድቆ ፡ ወተአምሪሁ ፡ ስቡሐ፨

ሐፀበ ፡ በማየ ፡ ጥምቀት ፡ አባለ ፡ መርምህናም ፡ ርሱሐ፨

ወአባለ ፡ ሳራ ፡ እምለምጽ ፡ በህየ ፡ አንጽሐ፨

Greetings to Matewos, who dwelt in the desert a long time,

To the point that he clothed himself in fleece like a sheep!

To show glorious his uprightness and miracles

He washed the filthy flesh of Mar Behnam in the water of baptism

And there cleansed of leprosy the flesh of Sara.

  • አንኀ፡ (also አኖኀ፡, C √nwḫ) to do for a long time
  • በግዕ፡ sheep
  • ጸጕር፡ hair, fleece
  • ተሞጥሐ፡ to clothe o.s., wear
  • ሐፀበ፡ (ኀፀበ፡) to wash away
  • አባል፡ flesh, limb, body part
  • ርሱሕ፡ dirty, defiled, impure (antonym: ንጹሕ፡, from which root we have a verb below)
  • ለምጽ፡ leprosy
  • አንጽሐ፡ to cleanse, purify

Bikabes (spelled ቢከብስ፡ or ቢካቦስ፡) PO 9:499-501

The saint, a soldier, is said to come from Ašmūn Ṭanāh. His Christianity was revealed to a ruler. With others he confesses his Christianity before this ruler, who then gives them a chance to renounce their faith and to sacrifice to the gods: they don’t, and tortures ensue, which the saint survives.

ወለቅዱስሰ ፡ አባ ፡ ቢከብስ ፡ ኰነኖ ፡ ኵንኔ ፡ ዓቢየ ፡ ወብዙኃ ፡ ወሞቅሖ ፡ በሐጺን ፡ ወወደዮ ፡ ውስተ ፡ መንኰራኵራት ፡ ወሰቀሎ ፡ ቍልቍሊተ ፡ ወመተሮ ፡ መለያልያቲሁ።

As for Abba Bikabes, he tortured him severely and much: he chained him with iron, put on the torture wheels, hung him upside down, and cut his limbs.

  • መንኰራኵር፡ (pl. መንኵራኵር፡ and as above) (torture) wheel (see here)
  • ሰቀለ፡ to hang, crucify
  • ቍልቍሊተ፡ upside down
  • መተረ፡ to cut
  • መሌሊት፡ (pl. መለያልይ፡ and as above) limb, body part

Next, the ruler puts these Christians into a boat headed to Baramuni* for 27 days in which they had naught to eat or drink, followed by further tortures, which this time bring an end to the saint. A rich man takes the saint’s body, prepares it for burial, and sends it to Ašmūn Ṭanāh, where a church is built in his name. The sälam at the end is as follows:

ሰላም ፡ ለአባ ፡ ቢካቦስ ፡ ዘኮኖሙ ፡ ተባያጼ፨

ለ፺ወ፭ሰማዕታተ ፡ ክርስቶስ ፡ እንበለ ፡ ግጋፄ፨

ጣዖተ ፡ አሕዛብ ፡ ይዝልፍ ፡ ወንጉሦሙ ፡ ዓማፄ፨

ለዘ ፡ ጥቡዕ ፡ ኢመጽኦ ፡ ድንጋፄ፨

እንዘ ፡ ይመትሩ ፡ ሥጋሁ ፡ በማኅፄ፨

Greetings to Abba Bikabes, who became a companion

To the ninety-five martyrs of Christ without fear,

Reviling the idols of the peoples and their lawless king!

No terror came upon the steadfast [saint]

As they cut his flesh with an axe.

  • ተባያጺ፡ companion
  • ግጋጼ፡ fear
  • ዘለፈ፡ to revile, refute, disprove
  • ዓማፂ፡ unjust, lawless, wicked
  • ጥቡዕ፡ steadfast, eager, bold
  • ደንጋፄ፡ terror, dread, amazement
  • ማኅፄ፡ (i.e. ማሕጼ፡) axe

*For both toponyms mentioned here see Amélineau, Géographie, p. 88; (and note the story for John of Ašmūn Ṭanāh there; cf. p. 170 and 457).

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