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“Sinking in the sea of sin”, pt. II: Ephraem Armeniacus Adorator   Leave a comment

Some time ago I pointed out an Arabic/Garšūnī colophon with the phrase, “sinking in the sea of sin,” and I have since found another example from the fourteenth century (SMMJ 250, dated 1352, f. 246r, image below; sim. on f. 75r of the same manuscript).

SMMJ 250, f. 246r

SMMJ 250, f. 246r

Ephrem the Syrian, Mosaic in Nea Moni, 11th cent. Source. The lines at the bottom are from Lk 6:21: "Blessed are those who weep now, because you will laugh."

Ephrem the Syrian, Mosaic in Nea Moni, 11th cent. Source. The lines at the bottom are from Lk 6:21: “Blessed are those who weep now, because you will laugh.”

From the pen of my colleague, Edward G. Mathews, Jr., has recently appeared a little book of the collection of Armenian prayers attributed to Ephrem (vol. 4 of the Mekhitarist ed., [Venice, 1836], pp. 227-276; the prayers are also in an edition from Jerusalem [1933], and others), with Armenian text and facing English translation: The Armenian Prayers (Աղօթք) attributed to Ephrem the Syrian, TeCLA 36 (Gorgias Press, 2014). A concise and helpful introduction opens the book, and it concludes with indices for scripture and subject.

There is a lot of sin in the Armenian prayers attributed to Ephrem the Syrian. And there are a lot metaphors for sin in them, too, which may be wholesome fodder for certain classes of philologist. As I was going through this new book, it seemed like a fine idea to highlight some of the places in these ps.-Ephremian prayers that are similar to the Arabic phrase mentioned above. Some of the lines below have vocabulary similar to the “peaceful harbor” imagery that is used in colophons, on which see my paper, “The Rejoicing Sailor and the Rotting Hand: Two Formulas in Syriac and Arabic Colophons, with Related Phenomena in some Other Languages,” Hugoye 18 (2015): 67-93 (available here). This kind of language also reaches beyond biblical, patristic, and scribal texts. We hear Jean Valjean uttering “whirlpool of my sin” in “What Have I Done?” from Les Misérables.

Now for our examples from these Armenian prayers attributed to Ephrem. For these few lines I’m giving the Armenian text, Mathews’ English translation, and for fellow students of Armenian, a list of vocabulary.

I.1

…եւ ի յորձանս անօրէնութեան տարաբերեալ ծփին,

եւ առ քեզ ապաւինիմ,

որպէս Պետրոսին՝ ձեռնարկեա ինձ։

  • յորձան, -աց torrent, current, whirlpool
  • անօրէնութիւն iniquity, impiety
  • տարաբերեմ, -եցի to shake, agitate, move, stir
  • ծփեմ, -եցի to agitate, trouble
  • ապաւինիմ, -եցայ to trust, rely, take refuge, take shelter
  • ձեռնարկեմ, -եցի to put one’s hand to

…I am floundering and tossed about in torrents of iniquity.

But I take refuge in You,

Reach out Your hand to me as You did to Peter.

I.2

Ո՛վ խորք մեծութեան եւ իմաստութեան,

փրկեա՛ զըմբռնեալս՝

որ ի խորս մեղաց ծովուն անկեալ եմ.

  • խորք, խրոց pit, depth, bottom, abyss
  • փրկեմ, -եցի to save, deliver
  • ըմբռնեմ, -եցի to seize, trap, catch
  • մեղ, -աց sin
  • ծով, -ուց sea

O depths of majesty and of wisdom,

Deliver me for I am trapped,

and I have fallen into the depths of the sea of sin.

I.7

նաւապետ բարի Յիսուս՝ փրկեա՛ զիս

ի բազմութենէ ալեաց մեղաց իմոց,

եւ տո՛ւր ինձ նաւահանգիստ խաղաղութեան։

  • նաւապետ captain
  • ալիք, ալեաց wave, surge, swell
  • տո՛ւր impv 2sg տամ, ետու to give, provide, make
  • նաւահանգիստ port, haven, harbor
  • խաղաղութիւն peace, tranquility, rest, quiet

O Good Jesus, my Captain, save me

from the abundant waves of my sins,

and settle me in a peaceful harbor.

I.20

Ձգեա՛ Տէր՝զձեռս քո ի նաւաբեկեալս՝

որ ընկղմեալս եմ ի խորս չարեաց,

եւ փրկեա՛ զիս ի սաստիկ ծովածուփ բռնութենէ ալեաց մեղաց իմոց։

  • ձգեմ, -եցի to stretch, extend, draw
  • նաւաբեկիմ to run aground, founder, be shipwrecked
  • ընկղմեմ, -եցի to sink, submerge, drown, bury
  • շարիք, -րեաց, -րեօք evil deeds, iniquity; disaster
  • սաստիկ, սաստկաց extreme, intense, violent, strong
  • ծովածուփ tempestuous, stormy
  • բռնութիւն violence, fury (< բուռն, բռանց fist, with many other derivatives)

Stretch forth, O Lord, Your hand to me for I am shipwrecked

and I am drowning in the abyss of my evil deeds.

Deliver [me] from the stormy and violent force of the waves of my sins.

I.64

Խաղաղացո՛ զիս Տէր՝ ի ծփանաց ալեաց խռովութեանց խորհրդոց,

եւ զբազմւոթեան յորձանս մեղաց իմոց ցածո՛,

եւ կառավարեա՛ զմիտս իմ ժամանել

յանքոյթ եւ ի խաղաղ նաւահանգիստն Հոգւոյդ սրբոյ։

  • Խաղաղացո՛ impv 2sg խաղաղացուցանեմ, խաղաղացուցի to calm
  • ծփանք wave, billow
  • ձորձան, -աց current, torrent, whirlpool
  • ցածո՛ impv 2sg ցածուցանեմ, ցածուցի to reduce, diminish, soften, calm, humiliate
  • կառավերեմ, -եցի to guide, direct, govern
  • միտ, մտի, զմտաւ, միտք, մտաց, մտօք mind, understanding
  • ժամանեմ, -եցի to arrive, be able, happen
  • անքոյթ safe, secure

Grant me peace, O Lord, from the billowy waves of my turbulent thoughts,

Abate the many whirlpools of my sins.

Steer my mind that it may come

To the safe and peaceful harbor of Your Holy Spirit.

In I.81, we have, not the sea, but, it seems, a river (something fordable):

Անցո՛ զիս Տէր՝ ընդ հուն անցից մեղաց…

  • Անցո՛ impv 2sg անցուցանեմ, անցուցի to cause to pass, carry back, transmit
  • հուն, հնի ford, shallow passage
  • անցք, անցից passage, street, channel, opening

Bring me, O Lord, through the ford of the river of sins…

The sea and drowning are by no means the only metaphors for sin in these prayers. Others from pt. I include ice (15), dryness (21), thorn (23; also p. 120, line 8), sleep (25), darkness (39, 102), nakedness (44-45), bondage and prison (54, 93), a quagmire (62), an abyss (71), “dung and slime” (72), and a weight and burden (123, 125, 129). From pt. III, p. 106, ll. 29-30:

հա՜ն զիս ի տղմոյ անօրէնութեան իմոյ,

զի մի՛ ընկլայց յաւիտեան։

  • հա՜ն impv 2sg հանեմ, հանի to remove, dislodge, lift up
  • տիղմ, տղմոյ mire, mud, filth
  • ընկլայց aor subj m/p 1sg ընկլնում, -կլայ (also ընկղմիմ, -եցայ!) to founder, sink, be plunged
  • յաւիտեան, -ենից eternity

Remove me from the mire of my iniquity

lest I sink in forever.

Metaphors from nature for things other than sin are “the ice of disobedience,” “the fog of mistrust,” “the raging torrents of desires for pleasures,” and ” the spring of falsehood” in pt. VI, p. 136, ll. 23-26.

Whether these places are of interest to you spiritually, conceptually, philologically, or some combination of those possibilities, I leave you to ponder them.

A short scholion on Scylla and Hydra in Armenian   Leave a comment

Another short passage from ACC 119, f. 348v (cf. this post) is a scholion on Scylla and Hydra, unrelated to the surrounding texts.

ACC 119, f. 348v.

ACC 119, f. 348v.

So it reads,

Գի՛րք ասեն սիկղ՛ եւ հիդրայն ծով<ա>յինք սիկղ՛ն շու՛ն ասի գ գլխի եւ հիդրայն չար եւ՛ս քան զնայ

  • ծովային adj < ծով, -ուց sea
  • շուն, շանց dog

Books say Scylla and Hydra are sea-creatures. Scylla is said to be a dog with three heads, and Hydra to be more dangerous than that.

I have not found in Greek any lines exactly corresponding to these, but for what they’re worth, here are a few loosely related places from Greek literature. (Translations my own.) The following line from Anaxilas (= fr. 22) is quoted in Athenaeus, Deipn. 13.6:

τρίκρανος Σκύλλα, ποντία κύων.

three-headed Scylla, a dog of the sea

The Hydra is canonically described in Ps.-Apoll., Bibliotheca 2.77:

εἶχε δὲ ἡ ὕδρα ὑπερμέγεθες σῶμα, κεφαλὰς ἔχον ἐννέα, τὰς μὲν ὀκτὼ θνητάς, τὴν δὲ μέσην ἀθάνατον.

The Hydra had a huge body with nine heads, eight of them mortal and the middle one immortal.

The Hydra is described as ἀμφίκρανος in Eur., Her. fur. There (1274-1278) Herakles (also mentioning Cerberus) says

τὴν τ᾽ ἀμφίκρανον καὶ παλιμβλαστῆ κύνα

ὕδραν φονεύσας μυρίων τ᾽ ἄλλων πόνων

διῆλθον ἀγέλας κἀς νεκροὺς ἀφικόμην,

Ἅιδου πυλωρὸν κύνα τρίκρανον ἐς φάος

ὅπως πορεὐσαιμ᾽ ἐντολαῖς Εὐρυσθέως.

Having killed the dog with re-sprouting heads all around, the Hydra, Ι completed scores οf countless other toils and reached the dead, to bring to light at Eurystheus’ command Hades’ porter, the three-headed dog.

Hesychius says the Hydra is a water-snake (ὁ ὕδρος ὄφις. οἱ δὲ τὸν χέρσυδρον), and much later a specific description as “wicked” we find in Joannes Tzetzes, Chil. 2.36.263,

Καὶ πεντηκοντακέφαλος ὕδρα τις ἡ κακία.

And a Hydra, the evil with fifty heads.

Finally, the Ps.-Nonnos Scholia (surviving in Greek, Armenian, Syriac, and Georgian) have paragraphs on both creatures: Scholia Inv I 49 (Arm 46 [Manandian, p. 264]) on the Hydra, and 52 (Arm 49 [Manandian, pp. 264-265]), on Scylla. (I hope to offer a post on both of these paragraphs soon.)

Reading challenge, April 2015   2 comments

The study of spoken and (ancient) written languages intersect perhaps less than might be desirable, but sic semper erat, sic semper erit. Nevertheless, I would like to take a cue from Olle Linge’s Hacking Chinese (http://challenges.hackingchinese.com/) and suggest an intentional, focused reading effort for ancient language students.

For the month of April 2015, let’s take an opportunity to push reading limits, or at least to re-kindle reading habits in this or that language. It is no secret that wide exposure to multitudes of lines is a boon to philological understanding and enjoyment. By “exposure” I mean reading with understanding. And there’s the rub. This is what makes it possible for an advanced student to do 100 pages of text (or more) in a month, and a novice to do much less: the novice requires far more frequent recourse to the lexicon, grammatical tables, perhaps a translation, etc. than the more experienced user. But the payoff is experience itself. Here is some counsel from the great sinologist George A. Kennedy:

The value of a reference work is its capacity to furnish facts quickly, and a good reference work must be a well-ordered affair. But the quickness with which these facts are appropriated depends in large part on the skill of the user. And this skill results only from diligent practice. It is not enough to know about a book of reference; one must handle it, thumb the pages, know where the index is, know what sort of information it gives. You are not qualified for research unless you can locate the facts that are available quickly.

DO NOT SKIP ANY SUGGESTED EXERCISE

MAKE UP MORE OF THEM FOR YOURSELF

from his Introduction to Sinology: Being a Guide to the Tz’u Hai (Ci hai), (New Haven, 1981), 1 (emphasis in original)

He has the 辭海 cí hăi in mind, here as a reference work for students of Chinese history, but his advice is equally applicable to textual experience in a language, or philological experience.

Here, then, is the challenge for the month: not a contest, but an individual exhortation to purposefully spend a given amount of time and effort moving — or more picturesquely, plowing, sailing, crunching, &c. — through a text or texts, with understanding. You pick the language, the genre, the text(s), the length. The unique thing is to read carefully more than you might normally do for this month. It might be an opportunity to work especially hard on a language you’re now closely involved with, or it might be an opportunity to return to a language you’ve not read in a while. Simply to be not too vague, here are some language suggestions in no particular order (I assume that if you know the language well enough to do this, you know some texts to read, but in any case, the Bible is usually a good place to start due to the accessibility of texts and the ease of comparison with other versions):

  • Armenian
  • Christian Palestinian Aramaic
  • Syriac
  • Arabic
  • Jewish Babylonian Aramaic
  • Greek
  • Sogdian
  • Persian
  • Georgian
  • Turkish
  • Coptic
  • Gǝʿǝz
  • Uyghur

Do more than one language, if you like. How about reading the same text in more than one language? Read from printed editions, read from manuscripts, read from chrestomathies, whatever suits you. Quant à moi, my reading goals for the month include the following texts:

  1. Persian. 10 pages in the so-called Persian Diatessaron
  2. Turkish. Ali Bey’s Bible: Jonah 1-2; Mt 4:1-11; 11:17-19; 15:21-28
  3. Coptic. “Marina” (pp. 27-33) and “Siebenschläfer” (pp. 21–24) in W. Till, Koptische Heiligen- Und Martyrerlegenden: Texte, Übersetzungen Und Indices, vol. 1, Orientalia Christiana Analecta 102 (Rome: Pont. Institutum Orientalium Studiorum, 1935); volumes available here. Further on this story in Coptic, see here from my hagiography bibliography.
  4. Georgian. The five texts on David & Constantine in I. Abuladze and E. 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), 359-366; and the Parable of the Man & Elephant in the two versions of Barlaam and Ioasaph.
  5. Old Turkic/Uyghur. The text on p. 53 of  W. Bang, “Türkische Bruchstücke einer Nestorianischen Georgspassion,” Le Muséon 39 (1926): 41–75 (cf. Gabain, Gr., p. 264); and the text in P. Zieme, “Ein uigurisches Sündenbekenntnis,” Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 32 (1969): 107-121.
  6. Arabic/Garšūnī. Epistle of Ps.-Dionysius to Timothy, SMMJ 263

If you like, share what you plan to read in the comments below. And any thoughts on this enterprise generally are welcome, too. Happy studying!

Old Georgian phrases and sentences 37 (Visramiani § 14)   Leave a comment

The following selection from the Visramiani (on which see briefly in this earlier post) is a list of gifts. As such, it’s good for vocabulary, and simple on grammar. No verbs this time.

Visramiani, § 14 (p. 68.34-39)

მრავალი ბროლისა ჯამი, ტაბაკნი და ოქროისა ჭურჭელი, ყუელა თუალითა შეკაზმული და მრავალთერი სურნელი და ყუელასთანა ტყავი და მრავალნი მონა-მჴევალნი: ბერძენნი, ჩინელნი, [პირ-მთუარენი] ყუელანი კეკლუცნი, ვითა ველურნი თხანი სიქსუითა და ჯერეთ სიქალითა და სიშუენიერითა, ვითა ფარშამანგნი, ლამაზნი.

Vocabulary

  • ბროლი crystal (cf. βήρυλλος)
  • ჯამი bowl
  • ტაბაკი serving dish
  • ოქროჲ gold
  • ჭურჭელი vessel, container
  • თუალი precious stone (also, eye)
  • შეკაზმული prepared, fixed up, dressed
  • მრავალთერი of many kinds
  • სურნელი scent, aroma (სურნელობა to smell)
  • ტყავი skin, hide, fur
  • მონა-მჴევალი (male and female) servants, attendants, slaves (a dvandva compound: მონაჲ + მჴევალი, the latter specifically for females, but the rest of the passage speaks only in terms of women)
  • ბერძენი Greek
  • ჩინელი Chinese
  • პირ-მთუარეი with moon-like face (cf. several sim. compounds in Persian: māh-paikar, māh-čihr, māh-sīmā, māh-liqā, māh-dīdār, qamar-čihra)
  • კეკლუცი pretty, lovely
  • ველური wild, rough, raw
  • თხაჲ goat
  • სიქსუეჲ wildness
  • ჯერეთ yet
  • სიქალეჲ womanliness (< ქალი woman)
  • სიშუენიერეჲ beauty
  • ფარშამანგი peacock (cf. Middle Persian fraš(a)murw, [MacKenzie, A Concise Pahlavi Dictionary, p. 33])
  • ლამაზი beautiful

Wardrop, translating from a slightly different text, has the following (p. 57):

…many a cup of crystal, trays, and golden vessels, all inlaid with jewels; and scents of many kinds and withal furs; and many slaves and handmaidens Greeks, Chinese, and Balkhians, all pretty and untamed as wild goats, and yet as fair as peacocks in womanliness and beauty.

The dearness of home: Arabic verse attributed to Maysūn bint Baḥdal al-Kalbiyya   1 comment

The poem below is one of Heimweh. The poetess credited with the poem, whether rightly or wrongly, is Maysūn bint Baḥdal b. Unayf al-Kalbiyya, the mother of Yazīd I and wife of Muʿāwiya, and she is said to have sung these lines after her husband brought her to Syria (al-Šām) from the desert home of her family. She came from a tribe predominantly Christian. (See the brief article about her by Lammens in EI² 6: 924. On her father, Baḥdal, see EI² 1: 919-920.) After the Arabic text, an English translation follows, together with a list of some vocabulary.

The poem’s rhyme-letter (rawī) is f, which is preceded by ī or ū, these two vowels being considered as rhyming (Wright, Grammar of the Arabic Language, vol. 2, § 196b). The text of the poem is given in Nöldeke-Müller, Delectus veterum carminum arabicorum, Porta Linguarum Orientalium 13 (Berlin, 1890), p. 25, and in Heinrich Thorbecke’s edition of Al-Ḥarīrī’s (EI² 3: 221-222) Durrat al-ġawwāṣ fī awhām al-ḫawwāṣ (Leipzig, 1871), pp. 41-42. (Nöldeke and Müller dedicated their Delectus to the memory of the recently departed Thorbecke.) The images below are from the latter book.

al-hariri_durrat_p41al-hariri_durrat_p42

English’d:

Aye, dearer to me is a tent where the winds roar than a lofty palace.
Dearer to me is a rough woolen cloak with a happy heart than clothes of well-spun wool.
Dearer to me is a morsel of food at the side of the tent than a cake to eat.
Dearer to me are the sounds of winds in every mountain path than the tap of the tambourine.
Dearer to me is a dog barking at my night visitors than a familiar cat.
Dearer to me is a young, unyielding camel following a litter than an active mule.
And dearer to me is a thin generous man from among my cousins than a strong lavishly fed man.

Vocabulary and notes:

  • ḫafaqa i to beat; (of wind) to roar
  • qaṣr citadel, palace (on which see Jeffery, Foreign Vocabulary of the Qurʾān, 240)
  • munīf lofty, sublime, projecting
  • ʿabāʾa cloak made of coarse wool
  • qarra a i to be cool; with ʿayn eye, to be joyful, happy (Lane 2499c)
  • šaff a garment of fine wool
  • kusayra (dimin.) a small piece of something
  • kisr side (of a tent). Note in this line the jinās, the use of two words of the same root but different meaning (see Arberry, Arabic Poetry, 21-23).
  • raġīf cake
  • faǧǧ wide path in the mountains
  • naqr beat, crack, tap
  • duff tambourine
  • ṭāriq, pl. ṭurrāq someone who comes at night
  • dūn here, before, opposite (Lane 938c)
  • alūf familiar, sociable
  • bakr young camel
  • ṣaʿb difficult, unyielding
  • baġl mule
  • zafūf agile, active, quick
  • ẓaʿīna a woman’s litter carried by camels
  • ḫirq liberal, generous, bountiful
  • naḥīf thin, slight, meager
  • ʿilǧ “strong, sturdy man” (Lane)
  • ʿalīf fatted, stuffed, fed

Old Georgian phrases and sentences 22 (Visramiani)   2 comments

For Valentine’s Day, there may be no better Georgian text to turn to than the Visramiani, the Georgian version of the Persian poem Vis o Rāmin. In addition to the prose version, there is an adaptation in verse, both fortunately available at TITUS. Here is where Ramin happens to see the face of Vis, and what the sight does to him, from ch. 12 of the prose version (p. 61, ll. 19-24 in the edition of Gvakharia and Todua).

ანაზდად ღმრთისა განგებისაგან ადგა დიდი ქარი და მოჰგლიჯა კუბოსა სახურავი ფარდაგი. თუ სთქუა, ღრუბლისაგან ელვა გამოჩნდა ანუ ანაზდად მზე ამოვიდა: გამოჩნდა ვისის პირი და მისისა გამოჩენისაგან დატყუევდა რამინის გული. თუ სთქუა, გრძნეულმან მოწამლა რამინ, რომელ ერთითა ნახვითა. სული წაუღო.

Suddenly, by the providence of God, a great wind arose, and it tore the covering curtain of the sedan chair: as if lightning shone forth from a cloud, or the sun suddenly arose, the face of Vis appeared, and at her appearance the heart of Ramin was taken captive, as if a sorcerer had poisoned him; at one look he had his soul taken away. [Adapted from Wardrop’s ET, p. 50]

Some vocabulary

  • ანაზდად all of a sudden
  • განგებაჲ guidance, direction, decision, order
  • ადგომა to arise (ადგა)
  • ქარი wind
  • მოგლეჯა to tear, rip (მოჰგლიჯა)
  • კუბოჲ sedan chair
  • სახურავი covering
  • ფარდაგი curtain
  • ღრუბელი cloud (ღრუბლისაგან)
  • ელვაჲ lightning
  • გამოჩინება to appear (გამოჩნდა)
  • მზეჲ sun
  • ამოსლვა to come up (ამოვიდა)
  • დატყუენვა to apprehend, usurp, conquer (დატყუევდა) (cf. Šaniże, Gramm., § 22 for ვ after a consonant, and § 27 for the falling away of ნ)
  • გრძნეული magician, sorcerer, witch
  • მოწამვლა to poison (მოწამლა) (cf. მოწამლეჲ sorcerer)
  • ნახვაჲ sight, glimpse
  • წაღება to take away (წაუღო)

Even after this, the narrator continues for many lines describing the ravishing and intoxicating effect on Ramin of having seen Vis, but the few lines here and the supplied vocabulary will have to serve us for now.

Bibliography

*See further bibliography at Giunashvili 2013.

Gippert, J. (1994). Towards and Automatical Analysis of a Translated Text and its Original: The Persian Epic of Vīs u Rāmīn and the Georgian Visramiani. Studia Iranica, Mesopotamica et Anatolica, 1, 21–59.

Giunashvili, J. (2013). Visramiani. In Encyclopaedia Iranica. Retrieved from http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/visramiani

Gvakharia, A. (2001). Georgia iv. Literary Contacts with Persia. In Encyclopaedia Iranica. Retrieved from http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/georgia-iv–1

Lang, D. M. (1963). Rev. of Alexander Gvakharia and Magali Todua, Visramiani (The Old Georgian Translation of the Persian Poem Vis o Ramin): Text, Notes, and Glossary. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 26(2), 480.

Vashalomidze, S. G. (2008). Ein Vergleich georgischer und persischer Erziehungmethoden anhand literarischer Quellen der Hofliteratur am Beispiel von Vīs u Rāmīn und Visramiani. In A. Drost-Abgarjan, J. Kotjatko-Reeb, & J. Tubach (Eds.), Von Nil an die Saale: Festschrift für Arafa Mustafa zum 65. Geburtstag am 28. Februar 2005 (pp. 463–480). Halle (Saale). Retrieved from http://menadoc.bibliothek.uni-halle.de/ssg/content/titleinfo/642205

Wardrop, O. (1914). Visramiani: The Story of the Loves of Vis and Ramin, a Romance of Ancient Persia (Vol. 23). London: Royal Asiatic Society. Retrieved from http://gwdspace.wrlc.org:8180/xmlui/handle/38989/c011c5b27

An Arabic version of The Pilgrim’s Progress   2 comments

From p. 13 of the English edition mentioned at left.

From p. 13 of the English edition mentioned at left.

Lately I stumbled upon an Arabic translation of John Bunyan’s (1628-1688) classic work of English religious literature, The Pilgrim’s Progress, on Google Books, in Arabic called Kitāb siyāḥat al-masīḥī. I don’t know the translator, but the date of the translation seems to be 1868. Now there is a copy here at archive.org; one of many English editions is available here.

To give an idea of the Arabic version, here are a few passages from the beginning of the book, with page numbers for the Arabic copy. The first paragraph is particularly fine.

As I walk’d through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place where was a Den, and I laid me down in that place to sleep; and as I slept, I dreamed a Dream. I dreamed, and behold I saw a Man cloathed with Rags, standing in a certain place, with his face from his own house, a Book in his hand, and a great Burden upon his back. I looked, and saw him open the Book, and read therein; and as he read, he wept and trembled; and not being able longer to contain, he brake out with a lamentable cry, saying, What shall I do?
p. 3
بينما انا عابر في تيه هذا العالم وجدت كهفًا في مكان فاستظلت به. ثم اخذتني سنة النوم فنمت واذا برجل قد ترآءى لي في الحلم لابسًا رثّة ووجهه منحرف عن بيته وعلى ظهره حمل ثقيل وفي يده كتاب قد فتحه وطفق يقرأ فيه. وعند ذلك بكى مرتعدًا ولم يقدر ان يضبط نفسه فصرخ مولولًا وقال ماذا اعمل

___________________

So I saw in my Dream that the Man began to run. Now he had not run far from his own door, but his Wife and Children, perceiving it, began to cry after him to return, but the Man put his fingers in his ears, and ran on, crying, Life! Life! Eternal Life! So he looked not behind him, but fled towards the middle of the Plain.
pp. 7-8
قال صاحب الرؤيا ثم رايت ذلك الرجل وكان يقال له المسيحي قد اخذ في الركض وما ابعد الا قليلًا عن داره حتى راته زوجته واولاده فصاحوا به يريدون ان يردّوه فسدّ اذنيه واشتدّ في عدوه وهو يقول الحيوة الحيوة حيوة الابد ولم يلتفت الى ورائه بل هرب الى وسط تلك البقعة

___________________

Chr. I seek an Inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away, and it is laid up in Heaven, and safe there, to be bestowed at the time appointed, on them that diligently seek it. Read it so, if you will, in my book.
Obst. Tush, said Obstinate, away with your Book; will you go back with us or no?
Chr. No, not I, said the other, because I have laid my hand to the Plow.
Obst. Come then, Neighbor Pliable, let us turn again, and go home without him; there is a company of these craz’d-headed coxcombs, that, when they take a fancy by the end, are wiser in their own eyes than seven men that can render a reason.
pp. 9-10
قال اني اطلب ميراثًا لا يبلى ولا يتدنس ولا يضمحلّ وهو مذخور في السماء بامن ليعطى في المقت المعيَّن لمن يطلبه باجتهاد. وان كنت في ريب من ذلك فافحص عنه في كتابي هذا تجده.
فقال اسكت ودعنا من كتابك اترجع معنا ام لا
قال كلّا لاني وضعت يدي على المحرث
فقال المعاند لصاحبه اذن نرجع وحدنا لانه يوجد جماعة من هولاء المجانين الذين اذا تخيّلوا سيـٔا يكونون عند انفسهم احكم من سبعة رجال متفلسفين

___________________

I can better conceive of them with my Mind, than speak of them with my Tongue: but yet, since you are desirous to know, I will read of them in my Book.
p. 12
قال المسيحي ان تصوّرها بالفكر ايسر عليّ من وصفها باللسان ولكن لاجل اهتمامك في معرفتها اقرأ لك شرحها في كتابي

Saint Christopher the Dogheaded (Syriac)   5 comments

It being Hallowe’en, I thought it appropriate to do something hagiographic, and since misshapen and monstrous prodigies may surround the day, what better saint to consider than one with a doghead, Christopher (aka Reprebus; BHO 190-192, BHG 309-311). I’ve chosen only two episodes near the beginning of the saint’s story to give in a draft translation here, episodes that touch on his character as a sanctus informis. I’m using the Syriac text (translated from Greek), an edition of which Johann Popescu prepared based on three manuscripts (from Berlin, Cambridge, and the BL) for his Inaugural-Dissertation at Strassburg in 1903: Die Erzählung oder das Martyrium des Barbaren Christophorus und seiner Genossen.

These two parts of the story are from 2.4-3.14 and 5.6-6.13 in Popescu’s edition. There are several printer’s errors in the text. Here are the corrections (with only the consonantal form given for the mistakes):

  • 2.5 read ḥzātā (not ḥʔtʔ)
  • 5.9 read gabbāw(hy) (not gbwh)
  • 5.13 read mezdayyaḥ (not mʔdyḥ)
  • 5.16 read bnaynāšā (not bnnšʔ)
  • 6.7 add space to get lā yādʕā
  • 6.8 add syāmē to r(h)omāyē

2.4-3.14

This man was quite a sage. He was of the barbarian stock of cannibals, and he had an ugly appearance: his head was like that of a dog (which in Greek is translated κυνοκέφαλος), so that everyone knows [p. 3] that God helps not only the Christians, but he is the rewarder even of those from foreign nations who turn to the true faith, and he sets them up as select and skillful with his knowledge. This man was faithful in the knowledge [of God], and he meditated with God’s words in praise of him, for he was unable to use our language. When he saw the distress that the Christians were enduring, he was very sad and grieved. So he went outside the city and he cast himself before God in prayer and said, “Lord, God almighty, look upon my humility and show the abundance of your mercy with me. Renew my tongue with the language of this people, that I might go and rebuke this rebel.” Right then a man in multi-colored aspect [?] appeared to him and said, “Reprebus, your prayer has been heard before God. Get on your feet.” Then he approached his lips and breathed on them, and just then he was given the language as he had asked.

5.6-6.13

The blessed Reprebus went to the gate of the church, stuck his staff in the ground, and sat down  with his head bent between his knees, and the hair of his head hung down from both sides. He prayed and spoke thus: “Lord, God almighty, who heard the three youths from within the furnace of fire, whose habitation is in heaven, praised by the heavenly creatures, exalted and worshipped by the saints on earth, who is celebrated by the cherubim, and at whose appearance the angels are terrified: hear the sound of my prayer, incline your ear to my petition, and perform a favorable sign for me, and your grace upon me will be known to everyone, because I was dumb to the language of the[se] people, and you have granted me to speak. And now, cause [p. 6] this wood[en staff] in my hands to sprout by your power, that thus even I might approach and be made worthy of your praise.” Just then the staff sprouted and strengthened the man.

While he had been praying, a woman came into the garden to pick a rose. When she saw him sitting and weeping, she turned around in fear and went and told the people, “Today I saw something at the church [hayklā] and I think it was a dragon [tanninā], thanks to the ugly mark it has, but I don’t know the reason it was crying so much.” While she was speaking, the Romans looking for him arrived there, and when they heard the woman’s words, they asked her and said, “What is he like, and where did you see him?” She showed them, and because of the report of his frightful appearance, they did not dare approach him, but rather went up to a high spot across from him, that they might look at him.

That’s all for now! Be on the lookout today for κυνοκέφαλοι, saintly or otherwise!

The original manuscript of ʿAbdišoʿ of Nisibis’ Gospel in Rhymed Prose?   2 comments

One of the more interesting texts of Arabic Christian literature that has hitherto escaped a close philological study of the whole is the Gospel text of ʿAbdišoʿ bar Brikhā of Nisibis (d. 1318; see further Childers 2011). The work is interesting especially because of its form: it is a translation (or better, a paraphrase) of Gospel readings together with a general preface and some prologues to the four Gospels individually, but not in bare prose, but rather in saǧʿ, typically called “rhymed prose” in English (see the bibliography below for works touching saǧʿ). In at least four articles, Fr. Samir has focused on this particular work, including an edition and French translation of the prologues (1981) and the same for the general preface (1983). As far as I know, there is no translation of this very interesting, not to mention elegant, prefatory material in English, nor is there a complete edition of ʿAbdišoʿ’s Gospel text itself. Fr. Samir has laid excellent groundwork for this interesting text. My friend Salam Rassi has informed me about the edition from 2007 by Sami Khoury, but unfortunately I have not seen it and have no access to it. It is apparently fully vocalized, a welcome fact.

This work of ʿAbdišoʿ’s deserves to be more fully known by arabists, biblical scholars, and perhaps theologians. Students of Arabic can benefit from the aforementioned vocalized text of the work, if they have access to it; a dedicated lexicon would be an additional help. An English translation at least of the prefatory material if not the whole text would be appreciated by other readers.

NEST AC 11, f. 83v, with Mt 12:1-14

NEST AC 11, f. 83v, with Mt 12:1-14

Fr. Samir (1972: 176) says ten manuscripts (only seven in GCAL) of the work are known, but he does not list them there. Samir 1981 is based on USJBO 431 (341 in the article must be a misprint), NEST AC-11, BnF arabe 204, and Vat. arab. 1354. The first two manuscripts are available for study from HMML. (We might also mention USJBO 432, a kind of revision of ʿAbdišoʿ’s work that has also put the Gospels in their biblical, as opposed to lectionary, order.) But thanks to HMML’s partner, the Centre numérique des manuscrits orientaux (CNMO), there is yet another manuscript of this work available. It is not a manuscript that has been unknown, but it is a manuscript that has for some time been difficult, if not impossible, to access otherwise: Diyarbakır 127 = Macomber 12.37 = (now) CCM 91. For the history of the Chaldean collections of Mardin and Diyarbakır, now joined together, see Scher 1907, Scher 1908, Vosté 1937 (only Syriac), Macomber 1969 (only Syriac), and Macomber N.d. As to this collection, which has a number of important manuscripts across several genres — again, not necessarily unknown, but hardly accessible in recent decades, with even its existence and whereabouts uncertain — about which you will hear more, I hope, in the coming months, it is now being cataloged anew as it presently stands. As to this manuscript itself, Scher (1907: 411-412) rightly notes that we may have here the autograph of ʿAbdišoʿ’s rhymed Gospel, and if not the autograph, an early copy. In any case, it is a very early witness to the work, and no one in the future who works on the text will want to neglect a close study of it.

Following the bibliography below are some images from the manuscript, so that readers may get an idea of the text, and I have included a few transliterated lines so that even readers without Arabic can see some examples of the line-ending rhymes.

Bibliography

(A glance at the index to Sidney H. Griffith’s recently published The Bible in Arabic [Princeton and Oxford, 2013] reveals no references to ʿAbdišoʿ.)

Beeston, A.F.L. 1983. “The Role of Parallelism in Arabic Prose”. In Beesont et al. 1983: 180-185 (esp. 185).

Beeston, A.F.L. et al., eds. 1983. Arabic Literature to the End of the Umayyad Period. Cambridge.

Childers, J.W. 2011. “ʿAbdishoʿ bar Brikha”. In GEDSH 3-4.

Fahd, T., W.P. Heinrichs, and Afif Ben Abdesselem. 1995. “Sadjʿ”. In Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2d ed.: 732-738.

Graf, Georg. GCAL I 165-166.

Khoury, Sami. 2007. ʿAbdīshōʿ al-Ṣūbāwī. Anājīl ʿAbdīshūʿ al-Ṣūbāwī (d. 1318) al-musajjaʿa. 2 vols. Beirut: CEDRAC, 2007.

Latham, J.D. 1983. “The Beginnings of Arabic Prose Literature: The Epistolary Genre”. In Beeston et al. 1983: 154-179 (esp. 175-176).

Macomber, William F. 1969. “New Finds of Syriac Manuscripts in the Middle East”. ZDMG Suppl. I.2: 473-482 (esp. 479-482).

Macomber, William F. N.d. “A Checklist of the Manuscripts of the Combines Libraries of the Chaldean Cathedrals of Mardin and Diarbekir.” Not published.

Paret, R. 1983. “The Qurʾān — I”. In Beeson et al. 1983: 186-227 (esp. 196-198).

Samir, Samir Khalil Samir. 1972. “Date de composition de l’évangéliaire rimé de ʿAbdišuʿ”. Mélanges de l’Université Saint-Joseph 47: 175-181.

Samir, Samir Khalil Samir. 1981. “Les prologues de l’évangéliaire rimé de ʿAbdishuʿ de Nisibe”. Proche-orient chrétien 31: 43-70.

Samir, Samir Khalil Samir. 1983. “La Préface de l’évangéliaire rimé de ʿAbdishuʿ de Nisibe”. Proche-Orient chrétien 33: 19-33.

Samir, Samir Khalil Samir. 1985. “Une réponse implicite à l’iʿgâz du Coran”. Proche-orient chrétien 35: 225-237.

Scher, Addai. 1907. “Notice sur les manuscrits syriaques et arabes conservés à l’archevêché chaldéen de Diarbékir”. Journal asiatique 10: 331–362, 385–431.

Scher, Addai. 1908. “Notice des mss. syriaques et arabes conservés dans la bibliothèque de l’évêché chaldéen de Mardin”. Revue des bibliothèques 18: 64–95.

El-Tayib, Abdulla. 1983. “Pre-Islamic Poetry”. In Beeston et al. 1983: 27-113 (esp. 33).

Vosté, J.-M. 1937. “Notes sur les manuscrits syriaques de Diyarbékir et autres localités d’Orient”. Le Muséon 50: 345-351.

Images

CCM 91, f. 10r: title

CCM 91, f. 10r: title

“The translation of the sinner ʿAbdišoʿ…; he made the translation into Arabic in the year 699 AH and 1611 AG.” (= 1299/1300 CE; cf. Samir 1972)

CCM 91, f. 11v

CCM 91, f. 11v: from the preface

Lines 6-10 from the page above:

ʔamma baʕdu fa-lammā kāna al-naqlu min luɣatin ilá luɣatin ʔuxrá
min ɣayri ʔifsādin wa-lā tabdīlin li-l-maʕná
wa-lā taxlīṭin li-ǧumali ‘l-kalāmi wa-maqāṭiʕih
wa-lā taḥrīfin li-l-qawli ʕan ʔīrādi mubdiʕih
maʕa muḥāwalati ‘l-faṣāḥati fī ‘l-luɣati ‘l-manqūli ʔilayhā
wa-luzūmi ‘l-šurūṭi ‘l-muʕawwali fī ‘l-ʔiḥāṭati bi-ɣarībi ‘l-luɣatayni ʕalayhā

CCM 91, f. 12r

CCM 91, f. 12r: from the preface

The last five lines on this page:

wa-ʔanā fa-maʕa ‘ʕtirāfī b-quṣūrī wa-ǧalālati ‘l-ʔamr
wa-taḍāʔulī ʕan xawḍi ðā ‘l-ɣamr
fa-ʔinnanī iǧtaðaytu ‘l-šarāʔiṭa ‘l-maðkūrata fī-mā tarǧamtuh
wa-ʔaxraǧtu ʔilá ‘l-arʕabiyyati ‘l-fuṣūla ‘l-muqaddasata ‘l-ʔinǧīliyyata ʕalá mā qaddamtuh
wa-badaʔtu bi-ʔinšāʔi ‘l-muqaddimāti ‘l-θamān
(cont. on 12v: li-kulli mina ‘l-ʔarbaʕati ‘l-rusuli ‘θnatān)

CCM 91, f. 14r

CCM 91, f. 14r: first prologue to Mk

CCM 91, f. 19v

CCM 91, f. 19v: rubric and Lk 1

CCM 91, f. 120r

CCM 91, f. 120r: beginning of Jn 14

CCM 91, f. 158r

CCM 91, f. 158r: Lk 19:8-10 (Zacchaeus and Jesus) and the beginning of Mt 13 (Parable of the Sower)

CCM 91, f. 175r

CCM 91, f. 175r: colophon

The colophon essentially repeats the words of the title page (given above), but at the end it adds: “May God be pleased with whoever reads in [this book].” The year at the bottom is unfortunately illegible due to some holes in the paper, but we can see “the beginning of the blessed month Šaʕbān.”

Constrained writing in Syriac poetry   1 comment

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/2/28/Gadsby.jpgA 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

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 [28] (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.

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