Guest Post: Anthony Alcock – Triadon. English version of a 14th cent. religious poem written in Coptic and Arabic (Part 2)

Here is the 2nd part of Dr. Alcock’s translation of the Triadon. 1st part here. PDF version of the document HERE.

 gospel ms dedicated to the church of the holy virgin am 988 ad 1272

The following is a translation stanzas 460 to 732, with the omission of stanzas 535 to 582,1, which have not been preserved.

It is known if Stanza 732 was meant to be the final one,  but the last two lines (cf. plates after p. 250 of Lemm’s edition) are written in such that suggests that the writer did not want to start a new page. For my own part, the final question seems a stylish way to end the work, but this is of course purely personal taste. Since this is not intended to be a work of scholarship, I feel at liberty to say this.


Truly the God of your prayer has received it

He has made you worthy to take a place[1] at his great banquet

Of a thousand years which cannot be counted,

For it has not entered in the counting of the  years of the ‘tonthion’.[2]


Who is the wise one that he will know this

And find an illuminated mind to count this

And solve the mystery of the measure of the step,

Which is written in the wonderful vision ?[3]


One has seen the vision in the island, another in the field.

First the book became sweet in his mouth, in his heart it became bitter.

The second told us about the furnace which was lit with tow

In the time of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of the Chaldeans.


This man whom the three saints[4] rebuked,

They did not hear his command and they did not accept his[5]

But they trusted in God with all their heart, for his

Is the power over the corporeal and spiritual.


After these things this man knew the condemnation.

His sin was revealed to him. He cursed his birth.

He became strong in his heart, for it has to be

That God[6] appears in the flesh.


He then said: These men have not accepted mine.

I the wretched said: Mine

Is the power over them, and now I know that this one

Who is the fourth is the true son  of God.


The one who saw my outrageous deeds,

He wanted these children for my sake.

It was also he who created woman from the rib

Which he had first taken from Adam’s side.


I know now that the prayer of these saints was accepted

Before God the almighty who is,[7]

The one in whose grip is heaven, earth and everything in them,

From the beginning for all time.


See this man who fell from his position,

How he spoke with these great words.

He became worthy to obtain this great rank

That he might prophesy these great mysteries.


Come with me, my brothers, to Babylon that

You may see those sitting in the shade of the willow trees,

Grieving when they hear the people singing

With all musical instruments.


I now wish to go to Rhama

And seek there many men

And go with them to the  city of Rome

And dwell in it like Paul the architect.


Everyone who sees me says that this is an Alexandrian.

How have I become like vagabonds ?[8]

I have decided in all my thoughts to turn

From city to city, according to the word of the Gospel.


How have I abandoned my country

And been like children in the market place

And have not been compared to the works of the widow

Whom the judge of injustice judged justly.


I need to take for myself knowledge and understanding

And power like the simple widow

To whom the judge gave what belonged to her

In his true judgement, after a long time.


I wish to ascend the tree

To see the one who rescued our father Noah.

He also said to his disciples: Leave

The dust of your feet upon the lawless cities.


Come, my fathers, and let us divide the booty

Before  they bind the weeds in bundles

And burn them in the place of the gnashing of teeth,

According to the commandment of the lord.


My beloved, I have not spoken to you about Mammon.

But let us all say: God,  give us

Your elevated grace,  for without[9]

Your help we would be food for the  animals.


Let us then say: God, do not leave us

Completely, we the wretched. And even if

We seize this transient life which will come to an end,

You know that the thought of man inclines to evil.


My brothers, let us sit and shed our tears

Until they flow like water streams

For what we did in our first years,

Which have passed in this life full of suffering.


Let us remove ourselves, my beloved,  from deceit

And seize Christ, for he is the head[10]

And the one who knows how great the number is

Of my years, I this wretched one.


 He who cured the one with the lame hand,

He saw the harlot, that she believed,

And had mercy on her. He made her

Free from sin in the house of Simon.


He is also the one who gave speech to the one without it.

He died for us and was wrapped in a linen sheet

And rose from the dead in his divinity.

His bandages were not unwrapped, but rolled together like clay.[11]


He is the one who sat on the boat near the bank.

He taught in this way: When you pray, close your mouth.

Woe to me, the wretch, that I did not make use of

A single word of his blessed teachings.


He is also the one who said: Not a single iota nor a single

Stroke will be removed from the Law or broken.

As Micha said: Bethlehem, you are not small

Or insignificant in Judea and its governorship.


He is also the one who created the Horus Star and the Great Bear.

He ordered the priests to burn the liver and the stomach,

As the remainder is burned that is left over

From the Paschal lamb in uncontentiousness.


He is also the one who came from the field to sow.

The good field produced thirty, sixty and a hundredfold from its seed.

His sweat flowed like blood from his armpit

At the time when he prayed the prayer of his sufferings.


The angel appeared to him and said to him: You have continued[12]

To show weakness, though you are[13] and continue to be.

And yours is the power and the glory and lasting victory

And your authority until the completion of eternity.


Let us sing praises to him with instruments and choirs

For he is the one whose side was pierced with a javelin, for this is

The implement in the hand of the Cherubim in place of a carving knife.

It opened the way for us to the tree of eternal life.


Let us look upon Christ at the time when he turned

To his disciples. He berated the Jews for what they had built.

He compared his kingdom with the fishermen who collected

The good fish in their nets and threw back the bad ones.


Let us hear his word, you being quite different from sparrows,

And hear his word that he said to the head

Of the apostles: I will give you the keys

Of the kingdom of heaven that you may close and open.


What am I to say about the one who settled their spirits and their nerves

With his divine body  and wrote their names

In the book of life and gave them an immeasurable thing

That they might sit on the day of judgement on the twelve thrones ?


Truly, no human is like

These people who have eaten dinner and (the last) supper.[14]

My beloved, let us strive to  liken

Our souls to these great blessed people.


We now know that the just one will rise like a date palm,

Like an eagle, and he will not be like a swallow,

And he will grow until he reaches the great rank

And becomes king of the aeons in his perfect growth.


Woe is me, the poor one, for I have become a horror.

In place of wheat bread I have eaten dinkel bread.

Some have striven in writing, but I to delete it.

Where will the destroyer and his creator be found ?


Woe to me even more, the wretched, when people

Know that I love this old woman who has lentigo

And learn that I sleep with her under a blanket

And have congress with her in her great sufferings.


The strict teachings have not been able to turn

My dark reasoning from this threshold,

But I slept in the bedchamber full of fleas

And scorpions with this great whore of Babylon.


How I did leave behind me the way of the southern monks,

Those who eat salt and vinegar and dry bread and endives.

I followed my evil thoughts. I filled my heart with must.

I became heavy with food and drink and the cares of life.


I was like the wild carnivorous beasts.

I resembled the domestic animals eating lettuce.[15]

Evil rose against the demons in the love of silver and gold,

For arrogance with me was a major resource.


I entered the garden. I desired nothing but pears.

I left behind me sweet fruit as I was satisfied.

I did not heed the word of the one who said: Do not drink

Water, but a little wine for the sake of your stomach.


I am a minor one among my brothers. In the house of my father I am small.

I beg you, God, to count me as someone you have converted

To your faith, namely Paul, and count me with those who buried

Your divine body, Joseph and Nicodemus.


Look upon my wretchedness, my God, and look

Upon my miserable soul sunk

In the mire of sin. The enemy has approached …

That he is … like a lion and he is the dragon.


My good God, give me what I desire

That I may find the ability to rebuke him.

Your love allows me to persuade him[16]

That I may find benefit in the business of your money.


Lord, look out from your heaven upon your servant who has sought refuge

In the protection of your shade. Give strength to him that he may cross

The high sea of this life and let him recite

The ode of Moses and Mariham and Aaron.


I will say to you, God, with a psaltery[17] of ten strings

And go into your house and secretly withdraw

And reveal to you all my thoughts which are  hidden

About people and they will appear before your face.


Make me worthy, my God, to come to your upright house

And worship before your holy temple and kiss your atrium[18]

And see you, son of God, sitting on your throne

In your great glory upon the chariot of the Cherubim.


My God, make me for you a juniper tree, that is, the cypress

And four-sided wood and make me sit on Mount Ararat.

Make me an olive branch which was the first to grow

Of any tree after the Flood.


Purify my heart that it may become for a

Pure tablet and write on it with your finger your columns

That your words may take root in me in truth

And I may preserve the Ten Blessed Commandments.


If I keep them, I will become a dwelling place for your contemplation

And consider all the mysteries of your creation

And receive the authority to loosen and to bind

And become king over ten cities in the heavens.


I know that I will achieve this if I abandon the works of pollution

And light wicks of my lamp and strengthen its stand

And see the queen standing swathed in the glory of Hesbon,[19]

The queen of women and the mother of  God, the coeval Logos.[20]


I have said these things, Lord, because the zeal to be in your house has consumed me

Bring me, my God, to your holy mountain which is fat[21]

That I may consider the entire creation with its height and depth

And speak in it words of truth.


Bring my soul from the field of Tanis

That I may see your ark which is called ‘Box’

That I may look upon you as you heal the lame and the sick

And give light to the blind and cast out demons.


My God, do not cast my words upon me like a judgement,

But let them be for me glory and praise.[22]

Save me from the tribulations of this place of sojourn and this region

For the power over all things is yours, eternal ruler.


Give me my request through the intercession of those you have placed in her womb.

Your beloved apostle saw upon her head a diadem [23]

Of the twelve stars. And he also bore witness

That she is clothed in light, the moon under her  feet.


You, Christ our God, in your love you became flesh

From the daughter of the one tread upon the lion and the bear.[24]

We offer up to you censers, incense and styrax.

We bring you offerings of blessing upon the altar.


And we say : The year of your goodness, [25] bless its crown

Give the earth to drink from your dew until its furrows drink,

Increasing its fruit in without loss and decay.

Give the rams pleasure with  the sheep in its good pastures.


Grant us all that we may find mercy before you

On the day of the great trumpet and the great earthquake.

Give us strength that we may swim  in the great flood

And the river of burning fire may be extinguished before us.


God, sprinkle our souls with hyssop from your vessel.[26]

Write our name with your saints on your board.

Give us an inheritance in Jerusalem and Zion.

You have not cast us from the number of your great horde.


My brother, do not say to me: You have said many things. What does it mean ?

I have not said many words, but I gather my young, like a hen,

Because I am afraid of the beaker of wine which he passes from one to another

And which all sinners will drink unmixed.


Now I am sad, my brothers, and mourn

For this people to which all vows and offerings belong.

How it is fallen gradually into error throughout its life

Until its soul has robbed it of the return to the place of rest.


Come to me now, you spinning women,

And tell me the news of your husbands

Who slaughter sheep when the moon is at its tail end,

Which is called the Descending Node[27]


Tell me now, you women who spin in the moonlight,

What has prevented you from working in daylight ?

Loitering in the alleys, in the houses, on the roads,

To set a bad example.


What shall I say about you, fig-tree, that has no gardener ?

The people who did not know the burning of the sheep’s bones from head to foot

Or the secret of sprinkling its blood on the doorposts

Of their houses so that the destroyer of the first born might not destroy them.


You are like your mother, who concealed the idols

Under the saddle of her camel. She was not afraid  of Jacob and the oath,

So she gave birth to Benjamin, her soul departed.

She died in Ephratha after a just judgement.


You are the woman rebuked by the prophet for their hairstyle, adornment and fringe,

The locks of their hair and anointing their lap.

They abandoned their hymns and singing

And embraced necklaces and armbands.


They are the women who liked cushions and pillows,

Who left their husbands and married merchants,

Who in turn killed the wives after they had taken their pleasure from them,

In spite of their beauty and beloved children.


This is the retribution for those who indulge in drunkenness and gluttony,

Who luxuriate in revelry, baths and washing,

So that those with whom they luxuriate pierce them with sharp spears

And see their enemies and rejoice over the downfall of the godless.


This is the retribution for those who have walked in great luxuriance,

And boasting, pride and drunkenness.

Their fire will be lit with tow and sulphur and brushwood

And they will be forever lifeless in the outer darkness.


This is the revenge for those who continue in strife

And abandon discernment[28] and counsel

And kick up dust at the gates

And walk in the way of Balaam the ventroloquist.[29]


I am speaking of the man whom God shamed with a donkey,

Which held fast to the wall, as when one drives in a dowel rod.

The donkey taught him that the angel of the Lord wanted retribution from him,

As he commemorated his people in evils.


When this man heard this, he became sad,

But the gifts and the silver robbed him of his intelligence.

Then God gave him great understanding.

He prophesied about the star that was clearly to rise from Judah.


Let us leave this man and look upn the cedar[30] becoming green

And distinguish between leprosy and the still unhealed scar[31]

And sing in this Psalm, i.e. to the end, about the wine presses

And be angry without sinning so that we may see the good.


Let us distinguish between common scratches and the scar

And recognize the rash and pock marks and the scar

And the abscess and the wound so that we are not harmed

And the wise among us do not become stupid without knowledge.


If we are able to distinguish between leprosy, the rash and the scar,

And divide the light from the darkness, we will be saved from harm

And worthy to celebrate our holy Pasch on the 16th day

After the new moon of the month of Parmoute, called April.


Come with me, my brothers, to Golgotha, until

You see the one on whose head the Jews set a crown of thorns.

For he is the one who has borne our sins that are like woven barbs

And for our sake took up the curse on his cross in the Place of Skulls.


Come and let us bring the offering

And cut out the roots that bear no fruit with hoes[32]

And make music with trumpets and bells

With strings and psalters.[33]

Stanzas 535 to 582,1 are missing



But he called Lazarus. He came forth with covered face

And as he passed by walked on the grave, which the sons of Hemor

Had sold to Abraham for a thousand.[34]


He speaks to us in the Bible

And we all know that He is the one

Who has promised to give us the crown and the diadem

And who lets us sit on the spiritual thrones.


He gave Moses the offering of bulls

And instituted the office of priest of Aaron for a long time.[35]

When it was finished, he gave to his apostles on their side

The mercy of the Paraclete spirit.


He said to the old ones: You should not steal,

But to us he said: Love your enemies.

He also said: Those who dare to blaspheme the holy spirit

Will not be forgiven in both  aeons.


He also prepared our ways.

He taught those nearby and far away

Not to be angry with those who curse them

And strike them in the face, as he himself showed us.


He taught us all these teachings for these times

So that all our branches might blossom and not wither

And we might bring good cargo and enter

The house of God with our first offerings and tithes.


And that we might bring our pomegranate and figs[36]

And our oil and wine in jars

And bring our requests and prayers

And put them up on feast days to the horns of the altar.


He who was swathed in linen bandages

Revealed the great wonders.

He knows all my works which I have done

And my thoughts, the crooked and the straight.


I beg his goodness that he save me

Listen to my prayer and heed me

And send his mercy that it may feed me

And that I may be sated with the fruits of his benevolence.


I beg him to give strength to my bones

And protect me that my light may not be extinguished

And to grant me the oil of mercy that

The door may not close upon me on the day of the terrible judgement.


I beg him to give strength to my bones,

To loosen my chains that bind me

That I may follow him and leave the dead who should bury

Their own dead and inter them in graves.


I beg him to save me from a fall and a demon of midday

And forgive me most of my sins, as I

Love his holy name amd say in my heart:

Will my soul not submit to the true God ?


I now know, I the miserable one, I am

Like the one who stained his garment and, when he

Tried to remove the stain, called to his soul: Arise !

And desist immediately from evil deeds.


Why  did you (fem.) allow evil desires to seduce you

Did you put on garments that are more contemptible than a pack saddle ?

Arise with me now, for I want to divide Sichem

And count the valley of the true tent.


Why. my soul,  have you fallen to earth and attached yourself

To the earth like two pieces of wood pierced by nails ?

Arise now and sing with the Praise of the Steps.

I have lifted my eyes to you, invisible God.


If you do this, you will receive the mercy of God

And he will send you his help and strength, and they will be with you.

He will illuminate you with the light of a true spirit,

Which is the Paraclete spirit.


Arise (fem) and bring your oath to the Lord

And be like the one who covered the feet of the Lord

With her tears, and say: If the Lord does not

Build a house, the effort of a builder is in vain.


Call and say: sprinkle me

With your hyssop so that I can

See your mysteries and receive the key

To your heavenly kingdoms.


My brothers,  come and see the jubilation and joy

Which I have obtained in abstemiousness and self-sufficiency,[37]

For I have heard the one who says: The sun has risen

And the animals have gathered and have fallen asleep in their holes.


The man comes out to his work and seeks nourishment

From the herbs of the field, which one throws into the oven.

So I said: Will God

Forget the works of his hands ?


Then I said: You, God, have created me

You have tested my works and known me,

And in your mercy have saved and liberated me,

Have guaranteed me everlasting life.


When I multiplied my errors

And wove the chain of my sins, you behaved to me in your own way,

You had mercy on me and were not angry with me

Because of my evil deeds.


So I know, you are God and turn from your anger,

And you will have mercy and not be angry.

I have truly learned that you have not omitted

Your acts of mercy before the aeons.


Have mercy on me, God, and forgive

The multitude of my sins and do not spit me

Out of your mouth, you who openly forgave

The wrongs of the people of Niniveh.


I know, my God that you want mercy

More than sacrifice. In this you know all my ways.

So I have tried

To tear out all my limbs from the worldly body.


God, you are my help and protection,

My salvation and my oath,

By which I swore in my great distress,

Help me to fulfill it in honour.


Help me, my God, in your strength until

My feet are able to walk on the thorns

And I receive from your goodness this great incense[38]

And heal the sufferings of my innards.[39]


Look, what is better or more pleasant than if

Two or three brothers live in a house

Whose love comes down in its balm

Like that on the head of Aaron


That comes down on the beard and the seam of

His clothes until his mouth breaks into laughter.

These are compared with the wise virgins.

They have become like the dew of Hermon.


Save me. my God, from the illness of jaundice

For I have become old and bennt.

Make me young that I might stretch like the cedar of Lebanon

That is planted in the house of the true God.


Raise me, my God, like the date palm, planted

In your house and count me with the one who has sown

The good seed and torn up weeds

From his land, and it has become clear.


In this I will rejoice in my good works

And be jubilant when I see my many fruits

And be glad about my land, which will be left,

After it is cultivated and has borne spiritual fruits.


But if I see that my field is tilled,

I prepare my net and hunt

The phoenix, the large long-lived bird

That truly has in it the mystery of the resurrection.


So I will go forth and gather up the seams

Of my garments and humiliate the gates

And see how they carry sacks on their necks,

Filled with sand because of their evil deeds.


My brother,  try to give what you owe

So that the mercy of God seeks you and hastens to you

And numerous peoples bend down before you

And the sons of kings adore you with gifts.


Then you will see them all, how they have bent

Their knee to you and are clothed

With their best garments, but you will clothe yourself

In luminous white garments


And wear a gold chain around your neck and brooches

Of precious stones and walk in your finery, full of peace,

Until the help of God raises you and carries you

To the sublime ones in the eternal tents.


Then you will have a seed in Zion

And will be worthy to reach Zion

And will dare to sing

New spiritual hymns in Zion


Then a seed will be given to you in Zion,

And you will overcome the wicked who are envious of Zion

And rejoice when you put in Zion

All your possessions that are kept in the other aeon.


You will obtain this if you learn about the kingdom of God and do what is acceptable

And bring forth from your intellectual treasure new and old.

If the wisdom of God says to you: You have known this, you will say that

You hear through them the sweet blessed voice.


Blessed are the watchful servants, for I am coming

At an hour which they do not know. And I will give them

My kingdom because I am among those on high and I see

Those humble in their heart and the upright.


My brother, make your way to God and do not be hesitant,

For the one who makes his way to him will receive some of his grace.

Through this the soul which has wisdom,sees

The good things of the kingdom of heaven.


This is the part of those who have looked for heavenly goods

And followed Christ and taken his burden upon them.

They have imitated him who said: The brilliance of the sun

Is one thing, but the brilliance of the moon something else.


They are the people who have received a share of the wage and recompense

From the one who appeared to his disciples and took honey

And fried fish in lowliness

And explained to them all the thoughts of the prophets.


This is the part of the man who attaches himself

To God and acts according to the law which he set.

God blessed him and made him rich

With many days and taught him his true healing.


And he gave him strength to tread on snakes and basilisks[40]

And fly up on high like an eagle and a falcon

And to hear Philip say: Unless there two hundred

Staters of bread, I will not be able to satisfy this large crowd.


And he sees the one who overcame the temptations of Satan

And with five loaves satisfied a large crowd

In the desert. Then he showed Thomas the twin

The nail wounds and spear marks in the divine side.


And we may believe that there is no separation

Between his divinity and his humanity.

He is the one whose divine light has diffused

Over those who sit in the dark and the shadow of death.


We also believe that his divinity has become one

With his humanity and that he is the one who answered

The man who went sadly and was far

From the kingdom of God because he liked Mammon.


“If you keep the commandments and if

You really want to become perfect and receive

The nutrition of the kingdom of heaven and hasten

To receive what is due to you,


Go and sell all your possessions

And give to the poor, and you will be saved from damnation

And turn your thoughts from this place

To the place your treasure is true.”[41]


But when he heard all these words, which we write down,

He went sadly away, for they became a curse to him

Through the one who said: You have seen in what way

The rich remove themselves from the kingdom of heaven.


Then he said: It is easier for the camel

To pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person, as I teach you,

To enter the kingdom of God with you,

You poor in spirit, you rich in spiritual goods.


When they heard these words from both sides,

Namely, those who had left their boats and netsm,

Christ called them his companions and brothers.

He blessed them, for they had seen his secrets.


These are the men whom he called wise.

He granted them various gifts.

He gave them joy and caused their hearts to laugh,

For he promised them that they would sit on twelve thrones.


These are the men who made their way to Christ with a broken heart.

He caused their senses to wake up from their sleep.

He caused his words to light up in them through his answer.

He illuminated them with his beaming light.


My beloved, come,  for we collect

Beautiful precious stones and spices

And receive from the 80 eggs

And catch the falcon and the crane.


So let us catch the great antelope

And smell the fragrance which

Diffuses over us and thresh

On our threshing floor and take the wheat into our granary.


My beloved, let us thresh on our threshing floor

And call our friends and ask them

To remove themselves from the works of the idler,

That is, the worthless ne’er-do-well.


So we want to gather, my brothers, and shed

Our tears and transfer our fragrance to the persea[42] tree

So that we can escape and remove ourselves

From all thoughts that shock.


Let us hear the one who says: Honour the widows !

The widows truly perform the service we require,

The service of the saints which makes use of them

Who practise it in true love.


But we,  if we follow the words of this great teacher,

Will be saved from the great conflagration,

Which is ready for the sinners, as it is written:

They will be subjected to eternal punishments.


This is the true word, written in the

Gospel about those who stain themselves

With pitilessness, and they will be like stained graves,

Over which people will walk and not know them.


They are the people about whom  he said:

They hated the light, because their works were bad.

So their years and days have disappeared.

They have passed with their impure thoughts.


As they hated the light, God hated them.

He knew their thoughts beforehand and examined them.

Before they were conceived and born

They were prepared for the great tribunal.


These are the ones who prepared their souls for the fiery flames

In the outer darkness. Even if the light shines in the fire,

This fire is darkness that casts flaming arrows

And penetrates the hearts of the godless with its glowing heat.


Did you, my brother, know this great fiery flame

And really understand it ? Although the light shines in the fire,

It is still fire, which is dark and casts fiery flame,

An extreme darkness below at the bottom of the underworld.


If this truly is my thought and knowledge, why

Do I spend day after day looking after

Wordly desires, even though I do not know

At what hour death will overtake me.


Why did I let my enemies steal my money ?

I have said before: If they catch me, they will throw me to the ground.

I have failed and not said: The zeal for my house will consume me,

And I will drive the merchants and dealers from my temple with a whip.


How could I forget until my enemies took my property ?

What shall I reply when the judge asks me

About the talent and says to me :

Was it the right thing for you to throw my money before the money changer and lender ?


I have come to get my money with interest

And to receive the one human being I have chosen,

To pasture Jacob, the people of many crowds

That he may become king over their leaders and armies.


Woe to me, who have become more wretched as I change,

I became violent in my measure and weight.

I was hated in the midst of my men and my tribe.

I was like someone from another tribe before them.


So  I was very gloomy and my heart was afflicted.

I said: God, you can take away my iniquity

And loosen the chains of my crimes

And make my wretched soul free.


Let you angel say to my soul: Why

Do you weep ? And give me the pleasure of this young girl called Rhode,

To whom those gathered in the house of Mary said: You realize

That you are saying that Peter has come out of prison ?


My God, give me strength and resilience

And a fate like that of the one who has afraid of the gatekeeper (f.)

And then announced the magnitude of your divinity,

Until he died on the cross in the time of Nero. with his head down.


This is your vicar, to whom you have given the keys

Of the kingdom of heaven. So he did not bore and dig

His way through the roof, but went in through the gate and saw

What many prophets and just people wanted to see.


My God, you are the gate and the shepherd and the gatekeeper.

I beg your goodness to kill

The limbs of my sins from the heels to the neck

And let your life take root in my skull.


Woe to my poor soul, for it did not think

Of the praise of the mother of God on her feast day.

This was not genuine forgetting,  but it was conscious of

Its weakness while making the  great encomium to her.


How will I forget this virgin whose fragrance

Is everywhere,  while fragrant women[43]

Make plaits for their garments,  their insatiability having found

A way to make their clothes colourful  and gilded.


This is the ark and the lamp and the incense.

It too is the  tent and the measure of manna and the daughter

Of Joakhim and the Anna, the seed of Jesse, whose

Parents became for her chidren, whom she cared for in her piety.


This is the virgin and chosen[44] lady.

She too is the fragrant lily and the staff of the hazel[45]

Who has found openness of speech and a great opportunity[46]

To become an ambassador for humanity.


This is the holy and special Theotokos

Above heaven and earth. She is a vine laden

With her fruit of truth. I ask her to receive me

To her to give me to drink of her true wine of reason.


As a stag likes to linger at the spring,

My soul likes to drink the must

Of the true vine and cut the branches of the date palm,

And I sing before the one who moves into Zion.


I praise him with the children of the Hebrews in songs of praise

And watch him mount the donkey’s child

And see his sublime works, which he will do,

While he throws away the gold of the money changer.


I see him, as he drives[47] the sheep and cattle with a whip,[48]

And as he bores through the hearts of the priests and Jews

With his words, that they have made

The house of his father into a trading place of evil.


The he said a true word to them with his tongue:

Each one who falls on this stone is bruised.

None of you was able to bear this excuse

For it is the stone enviously rejected by the builders.


For he, our Lord, knew their thoughts and moves

And he destroyed the structure that they built.

No stone remained on another. Their captivity could not be turned.

They became rejected[49] in the two aeons.


The word spoken over them by our saviour was fulfilled.

It drove the spear of revenge into their entrails and pierced

Their pit full of lions. But their enemy he dug out

For them and directed him against them that they might remain in peace.


Then he made a structure[50] for them so that on it

Their bodies would be crushed until their flesh was decimated

And their bodies were dismantled into pieces for what they had done

Of evil with all the previous prophets.


Christ said about them: They saw and looked

And hated me and my father and stopped me.

So I will take away their priesthood and the keys

Of knowledge, prophecy and the kingdom too.


This is the wrong race that has not recognized the extent

Of the prophetic word, which is mighty and decisive.

Their soul has shunned the sweet water in the winepress

Which flows from the true rocks.


These are the children who complained about the one who fed them

With manna and who longed for the fruit of the cedar.

So they fell into troublesome traps and went down.

They were robbed of their entry into the promised land.


They are the ones who liked living in the land of Goshen

And did not think of the grave that Abraham had acquired in Sichem

From the sons of Hemor, who followed Ham,

These who are called the children of Canaan.


I want to leave the subject of these men and

Gain some knowledge, insight and ability to judge

And measure the holy city which no-one was able to enter,

Except those who had followed the true lamb.


This is the city from the which the dogs and swine are driven

And the blemished and the adulterers, and everything is cast into the furnace

That burns with fire and cleanses their streets and alleys

From the poisoners and the nuisance makers.


Blessed is the soul which has not loved

Works that are evil but has loved only love,

Which has become very worthy in the endurance of its place

Of rest in this city of reason.


Blessed are those who have become worthy of spiritual

Nourishment. They have taken up their place of rest in paradise of good things.

Their bodies will rise and be nourished

In the church of the first-born and the spiritual shelters.


My fathers, come and see that I have dug down to

The roots of the earth. Then I measured another thousand

Cubits down beyond the hole to loose sand,

Where there was no stone or clay.


So my fathers, think of the time when I came upon you.

You met me and said

To me:  Do you wish to test us

With your words which you throw at us ?


I said to you: I want to go to Armenia[51]

And learn in that place the skill of interpreting

The whole meaning of the hot washing

Of the feet on the day of the Lord’s dinner.


One stood with you. She bent her neck

Upon me and sneered at me in the form

Of one laughing at me or one whispering at my form

That she took my word like vain words.


I Looked at her and bent my head

To her and said to her: Woman, you are the one[52]

Who will laugh at me, and you do not know the number

Of the thoughts which I have gathered in this Triadon.


I then said to her: Now I  beseech you,

My sister, to leave

All my errors, as you left

The milk of your mother to eat perfect food.


Then I said to her: I wish to go with you to phoenix,

Woman who has adorned herhair with garlands

And stand with you before the tribunal of the Felix

Until I hear him say to me: You have become delusional with books.[53]


And I will answer: I am not delusional, but rather my defence I have balanced it

With an equitable balance. Accept it now

And take it and know the word that says: It is necessary for

The son of man to be raised so that the faithful can obtain rest.


I beseech you, Apa Barsouma,

Save me fom the temptations that are stronger than the body.

Cover my shame with the garment

That you wear, wise one of our time.


I beseech you, teacher of Saint Besa,[54]

Grant me the strength of the prophet

Destroyed by the Jews, that I may be with the wise

Virgins who entered with their bridegroom.


There are people who have kept the commandments

And become worthy to enter paradise.

God looked on them and did not ignore

Their good[55] works.


These are the people who have weaved

The garland of their works by testing

The straight and uneven ways,

And have run into their arena.


These are the virgins who overcame

The arrows of the flames of the fire.

They never menstruated.

They became louder and pure.


These, whose passions died completely,

Followed the one who  died for his people.

They filled the people with the oil of their mercy

As the wise ones filled their vessels.


Come, my brothers, see these great deeds

Of the wise virgins, which we too wish to execute,

And teach me how  to do them

And how I negligent I am in the neglect of those who are idle.


But now I know that the salvation of my appearance is my God.

That the salvation of my lifespan is my God and

That the salvation of my trial is my God

And that my soul is saved by his invisible power.


But God is the one who also rescues my soul.

He did not deliver me to those who wished to corrupt my soul.

How could God corrupt a soul

That has trusted his mercy ?


Therefore I have presented myself to bear

The burden of our saviour, who came

To save us and relieve us of the burden

That oppresses us.


He has provided us with access

To the sheepfold he has pastured

And in his mercy has also guaranteed them

Pasture alongside us.


This one who chose the young David and took him

From the flock, tested his heart and measured him,

He took him from among the babies and transformed him

Into a king over wise men and princes.


This is the man intended by God

To be king over his people and compared by him

With the loyal man who has attached himself

To God with his  works of light.


This is the man who became neither angry nor aggressive,

Who did not eat sour grapes so that the teeth of his sons

Did not become dulled and they were not thrown with her

Who was thrown out of the house of her virginity with her pimps.[56]


Hail to the one who went to the place near the desert

And saw the ascetes in the desert.

Some of you recite Jeremiah,

Others read the Paralipomena.


Others dispute about the great oven.

Some research into the great wine press.

But I say to you: Why, you great men,

Do you think about these great secrets ?


They said to me:  Do not speak to us in anger

And think about what Thomas did

With our saviour, until he saw the nail marks

And the spear cuts in his divine side.


I said to them: I believe that Christ is alive in me

And I am confident that Christ also in my heart

And I hope that Christ reveals in me

The meaning of the great mysteries.


They said to me: Explain

These questions to us with spears

Directed at the the hearts of opponents, for  without

Arrows strung the conflict is not finished.


I said to them: I will go to those who wash.[57]

Perhaps I will find among them or happen upon

Clothes that are white and clean,

That I may wear white clothes.


And that I may raise myself to the house of the heron

Who is very high and not be weak

At heart with those whose hearts have been weak

And have not been steadfast with this temptation.


I will utter these words with a broken heart

And I beseech God to send

His help to us that we may find a way

To his eternal kingdom.


Those who said to me:  Annas is coming,

I said to them: No,[58]my brothers.

But now, my beloved brothers, Anna is coming,

For she is the mother of the Theotokos.


This woman who has become a sign for us like the winnowing fan [59]

She has produced for us the one who purified the threshing floor with the winnowing fan.

He took his wheat to make face-bread with it.

The chaff he burned in the unquenchable fire.[60]


He instructed his disciples to invite the Samaritans,

And even though the Jews had nothing to do with the Samaritans,

He wanted to have to do with them

To save the one who had fallen among thieves.


He took him up to the innkeeper.

He sent Barnabas and Saul to the Antiochenes.

He made the successor of his people the leader

Of the new Israel through his sublime teachings.


This is the man who taught me to cut my hair

And instructed me to find a cool place under the shade of my tree.

He taught me to set out my net

And catch the birds that find shade under its branches.


If we, my beloved brothers, long for

Great strength and protection,

Let us catch the eagle in its nests,

For they gather where the carrion[61] is.


Then let us climb the high tree

That grows in the middle of the citadel[62]

And look at the women, whose long hair hangs loose

And who go along the roofs of the citadel.


Some of the wear dresses with delicate fringes.

They sing songs and hymns.

They dance rondos and clap

Their hands and are joyful in their hearts.


Some tap out the rhythm with their feet,

While others lift up baskets.

They have taken these up and enter the sanctuary

After they have walked through the pastophoria.[63]


Then I saw the king, how he entered the great bark.

He is the the great shepherd and the great overseer[64]

He received me and made me an overseer over them

So that I might graze them on the wide meadow.


It is right for me, my father, henceforth to take off

The old garment and prepare myself to climb the sycamore

And to do  as Zacchaeus did, the descendant of Shem, the son of Noah,

Who was a tax collector.


It is right for me not to become an object of ridicule

And henceforth to become a wise man

And to take spruce and cedar wood with me

And with them and cypress to make a roof.


I want to look  for people who hate people

And bring them to me so that I can take them in and employ them

In my vineyard like the sons of my body

And pay them a holokottinos[65] each.


I am now an administrator.

It is right for me to pay workers a suitable wage

And to begin with the new before the old

And the last before the first.


If I do this, I will be able to neutralize the arrows

That glow in the fire and achieve salvation

And with my right hand grasp the fan

And drive away the small animals from the altar.


I want to make this fan from feathers

Verses 724,2 to 728,3 are missing


They ate from the true hidden man.


For they were made worth to lie in the lap of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

I am now imitating their change by doubling and multiplying myself through it

And I heed the words of Ezra, who recalled Akob

And gathered the divine statutes together.


This is the man whose old skin is removed and taken off,

Because God anointed him with the salve of his oil.[66]

He went on the straight path and did not take off

The white garment which he had put on.


He was blessed by God, his saviour.

He received mercy when he was taken to his own people.

His soul did not die, even if some thought he was dead.

I do not know. God is the one who knows secrets.


I am not saying this for no reason, but  when I read the book

Of Ezra the man of truth and how he instructed the wife to go to her husband,

Who saw her looking depressed on their piece of land,

And he thought in his heart: What does this wonderful vision mean ?

[1]The vb is lit. ‘throw oneself’. Ar. ‘recline’

[2]This word is unknown in Coptic or Greek. Similarly the Arabic word as written is unknown. Lemm’s Arabic expert, Baron Rosen, suggests that it is the Greek ™pakt-, a reference to the intercalary 5 days required by the Egyptian calendar, though Lemm does not put the word into his Greek indexexpert suggests that it is a metathesized of ‘al aqbâty’, Coptic. Nagel does not mention Rosen’s suggestion. It is difficult to imagine that anyone familiar with the Arabic form of ‘Coptic’ would miswrite it. ‘Year of the Copts’ might conceivably an alternative to Year of the Martyrs (284 AD)

[3]‘wonderful vision’  is also the final phrase of the poem.

[4]Ar. ‘young men’

[5]Presumably ‘command’, as also in 465, 1. Ar. ‘saying’ (463) and ‘command’ (465)

[6]Ar. ‘son of God’

[7]Ar. ‘the eternal’

[8]Ar. ‘wanderers’. The Coptic word has been the subject of several studies and is generally understood as a term of abuse.  The instances are given in CD 354b, but I do not know if more have appeared since the Coptic Dictionary was published in 1939. The element sa often means a ‘man of’, the following noun being either concrete or abstract. The  element ra– can mean ‘state, condition’. The third element is most probably the verb ‘turn’. The Arabic word used here  is used elsewhere to translate this word, and this would seem at least to point in that direction as the meaning of it. One suspects that ‘wanderers’, like the Roma, Sinti and Travellers today, did not enjoy a favourable reputation, though it may also be pointed out that there is a term for those forced to live away from their home, viz. mnt¥mmo (condition of being a stranger), which generally excites a certain sympathy for those compelled to endure it.

[9]Coptic word is misspelled.

[10]This is one of the instances pointed out by Lemm (p. xii) where the writer adds a meaningless word in order to achieve the required rhyme.

[11]Ar. ‘pipe’

[12]The use of the verb form here is grammatically uncoventional , but necessary for the rhyme. Ar. makes a question of it ‘How do you show weakness …’, which makes better sense than the Coptic.

[13]Ar. understands this phrase as in 417,2 and 467,2 as ‘you are eternal’

[14]The Coptic is slightly difficult here, because the word means ‘similarity’. Nagel suggests ‘communion’. Ar. ‘supper’. The similarity intended is probably between the real and the symbolic meals.

[15]In the Ancient Egyptian story known as the Contending of Horus and Seth the lettuce is an aphrodisiac.

[16]Ar. ‘I agree to it’

[17]The Arabic word for Psalms, oddly enough, is one associated with a wind and not  a string instrument.

[18]The Greek word used in probably and adaptation of the Latin word. Ar. ‘threshold’.

[19]Nagel has an elaborate note about this passage, with a reference to 310,1. Both passages seem to have their origin in Ps. 45,10 and Ps. 45,14.

[20]Ar. ‘self-created’.

[21]The Coptic word has to be emended to produce this meaning.

[22]It looks as if the writer has tried to make a noun from the Gk κλέω

[23]The Gk word in the sense of ‘diadem’ is attested in Callimachus Hymn to Delos 166.

[24]Ar. ‘lioness’.

[25]Ar. ‘anointing’

[26] Ar. ‘of basil’

[27]The term used in astronomy:  the point at which the ecliptic orbit crosses the plane going south.

[28]I  Cor. 12,10

[29]Ar. ‘soothsayer’.

[30]Ar. ‘Christ’s Thorn’.

[31]Ar. ‘living scar’.

[32]Ar. ‘fuels’. .

[33]The Ar. form means ‘psalms’

[34]The Coptic is ‘meliarison’. Ar. has two words: ‘paper’ and ‘dirhems’.

[35]Lit. ‘days’

[36]AR. ‘walnuts’

[37]    The Coptic  rw¥e can mean either ‘care’ or ‘sufficiency’.  It is not clear to me why Nagel thinks that the Arabic word has to be translated and not the Coptic.

[38]   A. ‘antidote’ from ‘theriaca’.

[39]   Ar. ‘extremities of the body’.

[40]   Ar., not surprisingly, has understood this word, a mythical creature wearing what looks like a crown, as ‘king’

[41]Both Coptic and Arabic indicate that stanzas 631 and 632 are direct speech.

[42]It seems odd that the Ar. translator has not understood this word.

[43]Ar. ‘weavers’ (f.)

[44]Ar. ‘noble’

[45]Ar. ‘almond’

[46]Ar. ‘means’

[47]Coptic uses the same verb here and in verse 2, while Ar. has two different verbs.

[48]Ar. ‘stick’

[49]Crum (CD) does not cite this example, though he obviously used the Triadon extensively for his dictionary.

[50]Ar. ‘threshing machine’.

[51]Ar. ‘Romania’. The sound connection between the final words of vv. 1 and 2:Armenia-Hermeneia (interpreting); the rhyme in v.3 is achieved by two words pronounced as one: ‘therme neia’.

[52]Grammatical accuracy has had to yield here to the exigencies of the rhyming scheme. It is the only self-referential stanza in the parts of the work that have survived.

[53]One of the meanings of the Ar. word is ‘lectures’

[54]Probably a reference to  Shenoute, abbot of the White Monastery near Sohag (Upper Egypt) in the 5th cent. AD.

[55]In Coptic and Greek.

[56]Ar. ‘fornications’

[57]Ar. ‘fullers’

[58]The negative particle has been slightly dislocated here, but the sound required by the writer makes this necessary.

[59]Ar. ‘flag’ Two variants: ‘banner’ and ‘spear’.

[60]The same negative word as used in 709, unnecessary for the meaning but necessary for the rhyme.

[61]Ref. to Mat 24,28.  Ar. ‘body’.

[62]      Ar. ‘balcony’.

[63] Rooms on the east side of the church where offerings are normally kept. The Ar. zuqâq al beit probably refers to a narrow passage through which lateral access to the church is possible.

[64]The word used is ‘episkopos’ but  the Arabic text understands ‘overseer’.

[65]A hybrid word meaning ‘whole’ (Greek) and ‘cooked’ (Latin), a solid gold coin.

[66]   ‘Oil’ can be literal and metaphorical.


About Alin Suciu

I am a researcher at the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities. I write mostly on Coptic literature, Patristics, and apocryphal texts.
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