Archive for the ‘Old English’ Tag

Saint Christopher the Dog-headed (Armenian & Georgian; Old English)   2 comments

Some time ago I shared some excerpts in English translation from the Syriac version of the Martyrdom of Christopher. One of my favorite aspects of hagiographic study is the fact that so many texts are available in some form or other in more than one language (an aspect investigated by Paul Peeters and others): translators active in the languages of the Christian east spared little effort in effectively broadcasting these versions across the lands of the eastern Mediterranean, in Africa as far as Nubia and Ethiopia, at least, and along the Silk Road further east (in Syriac, Sogdian, and other languages). An incomplete picture of this translation activity can be seen in the outdated but still essential Bibliotheca hagiographica orientalis (1910), incomplete because of its age, because it reflects only published (as opposed to manuscript) resources, and because not all languages were included, the almost complete absence of Georgian being especially noteworthy. (See the bibliography I am compiling here.) These translated texts offer readers a lot to compare, whether in terms of content — how are the versions different or the same, for example, and why? — or in terms of specific linguistic categories, i.e. within the study of translation technique. Editions and studies of hagiographic text materials often take place along the lines of a single language (whether the original or a translation), less frequently with texts in two languages, but a great many hagiographic texts offer the possibility and promise of multilingual synoptic editions.

That said, nothing so grand here and now: without going into detail about the possible textual relationships of the versions of this story, here is only a short look at an Armenian and Georgian version of the martyrdom-tale, with a bit on Old English at the end. What follows is a single paragraph from the beginning about the saint’s appearance, origins, and first impulse towards martyrdom; the text is from Kekelidze’s edition of the Christopher tale (§ 2) from manuscript Tbilisi A-95, which is thankfully available electronically at TITUS here, along with bitonal, and unfortunately quite small, images of the manuscript itself. Even a quick comparison with the published Greek text (ed. G. van Hooff in the very first issue of AB [1882], this part on pp. 122-123) shows that an exact alignment of the two is impossible, and so, too, with the Armenian (here in Վարք եւ վկայաբանւթիւնք, vol. 2; “dog-headed” in Armenian is շանագլուխ, in case you’re wondering). Here are the beginnings of the aforementioned Armenian and Georgian texts with English translation and, for students of those languages, some lexical and grammatical notes. For comparison, note these synaxarion-readings: Arm. in PO 21: 429-433; Arab. in PO 16: 278-280; Gǝʿǝz in PO 46: 490-493.

Armenian

Եւ էր այր մի Շանագլուխ, գտեալ զնա կոմսի մի ի պատերազնի, եւ ած զնա առ թագաւորն եւ զինուորեցոյց զնա ընդ զօրս իւր. որոյ անուն էր Մարգարիտ։ Եւ տեսեալ զգործս ամպարըշտութեանն՝ խռովէր, եւ շարժեալ սիրտ նորա ի շնորհաց սուրբ Հոգւոյն՝ աղաչէր զԱստուած լինել ձեռնտու եւ օգնական յամենայնի, զի համարձակեսցի խօսել զբանն կենաց նովին բարբառով եւ լեզուաւ, եւ ոչ էր տեղեակ լեզուին։

There was a dog-headed man, whom a count, after having found him in battle, brought him to the king and enlisted him in his army, the name of which was Margarit [Greek ἐν τῷ νουμέρῳ τῶν μαρμαριτῶν]. Having seen the works of wickedness [there], [the dog-headed man] was troubled, and his heart having been moved by the grace of the Holy Spirit, he would ask God to be favorable and assisting in everything, that he might be permitted to speak the word of life with the same language and speech, and he was not skilled in speech.

  • գտեալ root ptcp գտանեմ to find
  • կոմէս, կոմսի count (< Gr.)
  • պատերազն, -ի, -ունք, -աց war, battle, fight, combat
  • ած aor 3sg ածեմ, ածի to lead, bring
  • զինուորեցոյց aor 3sg զինուորեցուցանեմ, -ուցի to enlist, train as a soldier, arm (analogous to ցուցանեմ to show [aor 1sg ցուցի, 3sg եցոյց], ուսուցանեմ to teach [aor 1sg ուսուցի, 3sg ուսոյց]) (for the root, cf. ultimately Middle Persian zēn, also Aramaic zēnā/zaynā, “weapon”)
  • զօր, -ու, -աց army
  • տեսեալ root ptcp տեսանեմ, տեսի to see
  • գործ, -ոյ work, thing, matter, action
  • ամպարըշտութիւն (ամբարշտութիւն) impiety, ungodliness, wickedness
  • խռովէր impf 3sg խռովեմ, -եցի to trouble, vex, disturb (here passive)
  • շարժեալ root ptcp շարժեմ, -եցի to move, agitate
  • սիրտ, սրտից heart
  • շնորհ, -ի, -ք, -աց grace, favor, pardon, mercy
  • աղաչէր impf 3sg աղաչեմ, -եցի to implore, ask
  • լինել inf. լինիմ to become
  • ձեռնտու helping, aiding, favorable
  • օգնական assisting, aiding
  • համարձակեսցի aor subj m/p 3sg համարձակեմ, -եցի to embolden; permit, allow
  • խօսել inf խօսիմ, -եցայ to speak, talk
  • բան, -ից speech, word, discourse
  • կեանք, կենաց life
  • նովին inst sg նոյն the same, the very
  • բարբառ, -ոյ speech, voice, language, dialect; cry; sound
  • լեզու, -ի/-ոյ, -աց tongue, language, speech
  • տեղեակ skilled, expert, well-versed

Georgian

იყო ვინმე კაცი მდაბალი და მოშიში ღმრთისაჲ. უცხოთესლთა ნათესავი, და ძაღლის-თავი იყო იგი. რამეთუ იყო იგი სოფლისაგან კაცის-მჭამელთაჲსა ტყუედ მოყვანებული გუნდისა ერთისაგან; და იქცეოდა იგი წინაშე მეფისა, და ნაქმევსა პირისა მისისასა შესცხრებიან. ხოლო ხედვიდა იგი დაჭრასა მას ქრისტიანეთასა და დევნასა ეკლესიათასა. და რამეთუ არა იცოდა მან ჩუენებრი სიტყუაჲ, ამისთჳს ფრიად და მწრაფლ მას-ცა ეგულებოდა მარტჳლობაჲ და ღუაწლი ქრისტჱსათჳს.

There was a certain man, humble and God-fearing, of barbarian stock, and he was dog-headed, since he was from the region of cannibals, brought as a prisoner from a troop. He would spend time before the king, and they enjoyed looking on the appearance of his face. But he noticed with concern the injury being done to the Christians and the persecution of the churches. Since he did not know speech like ours, for this reason he was greatly and quickly desiring martyrdom and a struggle for Christ.

  • მდაბალი humble
  • უცხოთესლი barbarian
  • ნათესავი relative, related
  • ძაღლი dog
  • მჭამელი eating (კაცის-მჭამელი man-eating, cannibal)
  • ტყუეჲ prisoner
  • მოყვანებული brought
  • გუნდი troop (cf. Middle Persian gund, Armenian գունդ, Aramaic gundā; see Jeffery, Foreign Vocabulary of the Qurʾān, 104-105, and more briefly, Fraenkel, Die aramäischen Fremdwörter im Arabischen, 238-239)
  • ი-ქც-ე-ოდ-ა impf 3sg ქცევა to go, move, walk around
  • ნაქმევი form, appearance
  • პირი face, mouth
  • შე-ს-ცხრ-ებ-ი-ან pres 3pl O3 შეცხრომა to take pleasure in, look on fondly
  • ხედ-ვ-იდ-ა impf 3sg ხედვა to see, care for, look after
  • დაჭრაჲ cutting, hurting
  • დევნაჲ persecution
  • იცოდა impf 3sg “to know”. An irregular verb, it takes, not only in the aor (3sg იცნა), but also in the impf (as here), subjects in the ergative and objects in the nominative. (This particular irregularity, manifest as such in assuming იცოდა is Series I — it thus being peculiar in having an ergative subject — points to this verb’s complex history, one in which the ending -ოდა has caused a Series II form to be taken as Series I [imperfect].)
  • მწრაფლ quick
  • ე-გულებ-ოდ-ა impf 3sg (indirect verb) გულება to wish, want
  • მარტჳლობაჲ martyrdom (also მარტჳრობაჲ < μάρτυς)
  • ღუაწლი struggle

Old English

Finally, and for fun, here is mention of dog-headed people, this time in Egypt, in The Wonders of the East in the famous Old English manuscript, Cotton MS Vitellius A XV, f. 100r (see here), presented essentially as in the manuscript, with a few vocabulary items.

Eac swẏlce þær beoð cende
healf hundingas ða syndon
hatene conopenas hẏ hab-
bað horses mana & eoferes
tuxas & hunda heafda & heo-
ra oruð bið swẏlce fẏres leg
þas land beoð neah ðæm bur-
gu(m) þe beoð eallum worldwe-
lum gefylled þ(æt) is on þa suðhealfe egẏpta-
na landes.

  • cennan give birth
  • healf-hunding cynocephalus
  • syndon = sind are
  • hātan to call, name
  • eofor wild board (cf. L. aper)
  • tux = tusc (NB the variability of cs [x] and sc)
  • oroþ breath
  • līg, lēg flame
  • weorld-wela worldly wealth
BL, Cotton Vitell. A XV, f. 100r

BL, Cotton Vitell. A XV, f. 100r

Note that immediately preceding this text is a life of Saint Christopher (ff. 94r-98r; mod. ET here), but it is acephalous (pun intended), and Christopher’s dog-head is not mentioned, it seems, but in the Old English Martyrology (April 28; pp. 66-69 in Herzfeld’s ed.), we find the description on Christopher as above (and as in Syriac), and with vocabulary similar to that of the passage in The Wonders of the East. Herzfeld’s text and modern ET):

…of þære þeode þær men habbað hunda heofod ond of þære eorðan on þære æton men hi selfe. he hæfde hundes heofod, ond his loccas wæron ofer gemet side, ond his eagan scinon swa leohte swa morgensteorra, ond his teð wæron swa scearpe swa eofores tuxas. he wæs gode geleaffull on his heortan, ac he ne mihte sprecan swa mon.

…from the nation where men have the head of a dog and from the country where men devour each other. He had the head of a dog, his locks were exceedingly thick, his eyes shone as brightly as the morning star, and his teeth were as sharp as a boar’s tusk. In his heart he believed in God, but he could not speak like a man.

Old Georgian phrases and sentences 56 (Lk 1:15)   1 comment

In the foretelling of John the Baptist’s birth, the archangel Gabriel tells John’s father-to-be, Zacharias, that John should abstain from drinking alcohol (Luke 1:15):

ἔσται γὰρ μέγας ἐνώπιον [τοῦ] κυρίου,
καὶ οἶνον καὶ σίκερα οὐ μὴ πίῃ,
καὶ πνεύματος ἁγίου πλησθήσεται
ἔτι ἐκ κοιλίας μητρὸς αὐτοῦ

This is all seemingly simple enough, but I was surprised to find an interesting reading here in one of the Old Georgian versions of the text. Here it is in the Adishi, Pre-Athonite, and Athonite texts (this verse not extant in ms A-89 or Vind. georg. 2):

Adishi რამეთუ იყოს დიდ წინაშე უფლისა და ღჳნოჲ და სათრობელი და იყი არა სუას და სულითა წმიდითა სავსე იყოს მიერვე მუცლით დედისა თჳსისაჲთ.

  • ღჳნოჲ wine
  • სათრობელი intoxicating drink
  • იყი strong drink
  • სუას aor conj 3s სუმა to drink
  • სავსეჲ full
  • მუცელი belly

PA რამეთუ იყოს დიდ წინაშე უფლისა და ღჳნოჲ და თაფლუჭი არა სუას და სულითა წმიდითა აღივსოს მიერვე დედისმუცლით მისითგან.

  • თაფლუჭი mead (cf. თაფლი honey; see excursus below)
  • აღ-ი-ვს-ოს aor conj 3s აღვსება to fill (NB the CV -ი- > to be filled)

At რამეთუ იყოს დიდ წინაშე უფლისა და ღჳნოჲ და თაფლუჭი არა სუას და სულითა წმიდითა აღივსოს მიერვე დედისმუცლით მისითგან.

In addition, here is an image from the Gospel manuscript BnF géo. 28, f. 111v, col. b., ll. 14-20, which is a 13th-cent. witness to the Athonite version:

bnf_geo_28_f111v_lk1_15

Here is the text from transcribed from nusxuri into mxedruli and with abbreviations resolved:

რ(ამეთუ) იყოს დიდ წ(ინაშ)ე ო(ჳფლ)ისა და ღჳნოჲ და თაფლოჳჭი არა სუას და ს(უ)ლითა წ(მიდ)ითა აღივსოს მიერვე დედისმოჳცლით მისითგ(ა)ნ.

The Adishi text, then, has three in the list of prohibited drinks, while the Pre-Athonite and Athonite have two, just like the Greek. Furthermore, neither the second nor the third in the Adishi list is თაფლუჭი, which we find elsewhere paired with ღჳნოჲ in the “wine and strong drink” passages of the Bible (e.g. Lev 10:9, Num 6:3). (Of the same root as the second word in the Adishi list, სათრობელი, we see დამათრობელი in Jdg 13:4, which also has ძმარი “vinegar” and ყურძენი “grape”.)

Since, alongside Greek, both Armenian and Syriac enter into discussions of the textual lineage of the Georgian Gospels, I’ll give them both here, too. For Syriac, the Old Syriac (Sinaiticus), the Peshitta, and the Ḥarqlean all have simply ḥamrā w-šakrā lā neštē. In Armenian, this part of the verse reads, գինի եւ աւղի մի́ արբցէ. So the witnesses for this verse in both of these languages give simply a bipartite prohibition, just like the two later Georgian versions, not a tripartite one like that of the Adishi text.

********************

On honey-water, or mead

As pointed out above, the word that stands sometimes in the Georgian versions for σίκερα (traditionally “strong drink”, but probably better, “beer”) is თაფლუჭი “mead”, derived from the word თაფლი “honey”. As is well known, mead is a thing and a word with a long history in at least some Indo-European societies (see Pokorny; Buck, Synonyms, §§ 5.84, 5.91). The modern English “mead” goes back to medu in Old English, where there are many derivatives appearing in Beowulf and elsewhere (all of these in Bosworth-Toller), e.g.

  • medoærn banquet-house, place to drink mead
  • medubenc mead-bench
  • medoburg city of mead-drinkers
  • medudrēam mead-revelry
  • medoful mead-cup
  • medoheal mead-hall
  • meoduscenc mead-draft
  • meodosetl mead-seat
  • medostīg path to the mead-hall

(“Honey” itself in OE is unrelated: hunig; see PIE *kₑnəkó- “golden” in Pokorny.) Here are a few other words of the same origin as this word medu in other IE languages (PIE *médhu-). Sanskrit madhu- was used for sweet drinks, including soma, and in line with Avestan maδu- is the Middle and later Persian may “wine” (Mackenzie 55, Steingass 1357). Greek μέθυ (> μεθύω to be drunk > μεθύσκω to make drunk) is a poetic word for wine; it does not mean “mead”. (The latter is μελίτειον, as in Plut. Quaest. Conv. 672b: καὶ μέχρι νῦν τῶν τε βαρβάρων οἱ μὴ ποιοῦντες οἶνον μελίτειον πίνουσιν. Mod. Gr. has ὑδρόμελι like Latin hydromeli, with derivatives in the Romance languages). In Russian, “honey” is мёд (for the color, cf. медь “copper”). The Slavic words for “bear” derive partly from this root, e.g. Russian медведь (honey-eater; cf. Buck, § 3.73). (In Old Georgian, “bear” is დაფჳ [modern დაფვი], as in 1Sam 17:34 JerLect. The word does not sound dissimilar to თაფლი “honey”: should we posit a direct etymological link?) Note that Chubinov/ჩუბინაშვილი (Грузинско-Русско-Французскій Словаръ/Dictionnaire géorgien-russe-français [Saint Petersburg, 1840], 220) defines თაფლუჭი with “сикера” — σίκερα! — and “медовика”.

Lastly, for one more (non-mead) term for drinks, to return to Lk 1:15, Gothic has

jah wein jah leiþu ni drigkid

The first noun is, of course, “wine”, and the second is cognate with OE līþ, “strong drink” (cf. the first element in German Leithaus).

Labīd’s poem from the Muʿallaqāt   1 comment

A 16th/17th-century Arabic manuscript belonging to the Near East School of Theology in Beirut (on which see pp. 5-6 of Illuminations, Spring 2011) contains the old Arabic poems known as Al-Muʿallaqāt along with some brief commentary on individual words. The Muʿallaqāt, usually deemed to be seven in number but sometimes more, are the most famous collection of classical Arabic poems. They have, of course, long excited interest and enjoyment in arabophone and arabophile places, and 19th- and 20th-century European orientalists toiled over these long and often difficult poetic works with manuscript-hunting, editions, commentaries, and translations. An edition with Arabic commentary appeared in Leipzig in 1850 by F.A. Arnold (see the poem of Labīd, with commentary, beginning here).

The image below shows the end of the poem of Imruʾ al-Qays and the beginning of Labīd’s; the latter poem is actually the second poem in this copy, but it is often the fourth poem in others. A prose translation into English of Labīd’s poem survives from the hand of William Wright and it was published in 1961 (see reference below).

NEST AP 6, ff. 62v-63r

These opening lines of the poem in Wright’s translation are:

1. Effaced are the dwelling-places at Minā, whether temporary or permanent; desolate are their Ghaul and their Rijām,

2. and the slopes of ar-Raiyān; their traces are laid bare, but old and worn, just as the rocks retain the letters graven on them.

3. Sites of dwellings are these, over which, since they were last inhabited, many a long year has passed with its full tale of sacred and profane months.

4. They have been gifted with the showers of the constellations of spring, and the rains of the thunderclouds have fallen on them in torrents and in drizzle;

5. rains from every cloud of the night, and morning cloud that covers the sky, and evening cloud whose thunderpeals answer one another.

6. And so the shoots of the wild rocket have sprung up over them, and the gazelle and the ostrich have their young on the two sides of the valley;

7. and the antelopes lie quietly by their young, to which they have newly given birth, while their fawns roam in flocks over the plain.

8. And the torrents have newly laid bare the marks of the tents, as if they were lines of writing whose text the pens retrace;

9. or the lines which a woman tattooing traces afresh, rubbing in her lampblack in circles, on which her pattern reappears.

A more thorough comparison would clarify the relationship, but it is notable that several of the explanatory words in the NEST manuscript agree exactly with the commentary published by Arnold, reflecting a tradition of comment on the poem(s).

Lamentation for the lost past, in particular as tied to a specific place, is a hallmark of old Arabic poetry, and these nine lines illustrate the theme well. This kind of writing can, to be sure, on occasion lean toward tedium, but the variety of similes, not to mention the language itself, can also to one in the right mood for it offer worthwhile evocative amusement. When reading these lines I thought of Aragorn’s mournful recitation of the lament for the old days of Rohan in chapter six of Book III of The Lord of the Rings (see The Two Towers [i.e. part two of the whole work], pp. 496-497) and beginning “in the Common Speech” — Legolas does not understand the language but knows that it is that of the Rohirrim and that the song “is laden with the sadness of Mortal Men” — with the words “Where now the horse and the rider? Where now the horn that was blowing?” It is widely known that Tolkien took as models for many aspects of The Lord of the Rings things literary, linguistic, and historical from Anglo-Saxon and other adjacent cultures, and this is the case with this piece of poetry, too. The source is the well-known Old English poem The Wanderer, beginning at line 92 (full text, with translation, available here, along with a note linking this part to Tolkien’s poem):

Hwær cwom mearg? Hwær cwom mago?

Hwær cwom maþþumgyfa?

Hwær cwom symbla gesetu?

Hwær sindon seledreamas?

Eala beorht bune!

Eala byrnwiga!

Eala þeodnes þrym!

Hu seo þrag gewat,

genap under nihthelm,

swa heo no wære.

The “where? …where? …where?” (hwær) is in both the Old English poem and in Tolkien’s, with characteristic sound repetition, and in The Wanderer there is yet more repetition with eala (“alas”). There is sound repetition, too, in Labīd’s poem, but of a different kind: each line (bayt) ends in -hā (usually -āmuhā), and in some cases not only the second hemistich (called ʿaǧuz al-bayt, the back-end of the line), but also the first hemistich (ṣadr al-bayt, the front of the line). In all of these poems, whatever the language and whatever the sound repetition, the sadness they’re laden with is palpable, and when you’re in a melancholic mood, or some worse kind of temperament, it makes for something of a balm to hear and read yourself of the melancholic remembrances of others.

Bibliography

F.A. Arnold, Septem Mo‘allaḳât Carmina Antiquissima Arabum (Leipzig, 1850).

Carl Brockelmann, Geschichte der arabischen Literatur I (Weimar, 1898), 17-19, with Supplementband I (Leiden, 1937), 34-36.

Ursula Schedler, “A Prose Translation of the Mo‘allaqah of Labid by William Wright,” Journal of Semitic Studies 6 (1961): 97-104.

%d bloggers like this: