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Synesius of Cyrene


Mosaic depicting an angel. Museum of Ptolemais. Photo Marco Prins.
Mosaic depicting an angel. Museum of Ptolemais
Synesius of Cyrene (c.370-c.413) was a Neo-Platonic philosopher who became bishop of Ptolemais in the Cyrenaica. He left behind a small corpus of texts that offer much information about daily life in Late Antiquity, and about the christianization of the Roman world.

Hymn 2 is offered here in the translation by A. Fitzgerald. It offers a description of the universe as God's creation. 

Hymn 2: Prayer at Dawn

Again light shines forth, again dawn,
again day, after the darkness that roams by night.

Again make supplication to God,
O my heart, in songs of the morning,
He who has given light to the dawn,
who has given stars to the night,
the dancing company that encircles the universe.

Ether has enveloped
the expanse of billowy matter,
mounting on the glory of flame,
that the queenly rotation of the moon
may divide her last phase.

Above the eight rotations of star-borne worlds
a stream bereft of stars drives onwards,
hidden within its bosom,
layers (of matter) in contrary currents,
and circles about the great Mind,
which bends with wings
down to the confines of the lordly universe.

A blessed silence covers all beyond,
an indivisible division alike
of the perceptive and the perceived.
One is the fountain-head, one the root.

Lo, a thrice resplendent shape
has blazed forth,
for where the profundity of the Father is,
there is the august Son,
offspring as it were of the Heart.

Wisdom, the Creator of the universe
and the unified flame of the Holy Spirit,
has shone forth.

One fountain-head, one root,
did raise up a rich plenty of good things,
a progeny that passeth all being,
glowing with desire of generation,
and the wondrous flames
of the blessed in existence burn brightly.

Whence there has now entered
into the universe a choir of immortal rulers,
who sing in songs of the mind
the renown of the Creator,
and the first conceived form.

Near to their benign progenitors
an ageless army of angels,
now looking upon Mind,
plucks therefrom the principle of beauty,
and again, looking upwards the spheres,
directeth the deep places of the universe,
drawing the world that is above
even unto the extreme confines of matter,
where nature subsiding, giveth birth
to a horde of demons turbulent and full of guile.

Thence a hero; thence now a spirit
sown as seed through the lands,
has filled earthly destinies with life,
with cunningly devised forms.

All things hang upon Thy Will,
and Thou art the root of things present, past, future and within.

Thou art Father, art Mother,
Thou Male, Thou Female,
Thou Voice, Thou Silence,
of nature the fruitful Nature.

All hail Thee, O King,
whenever it be lawful to cry this aloud,
Age of ages,
Root of the universe.

All hail to Thee, Centre of existing things,
Monad of numbers immortal,
of kings that existed not before thee.

Mayest Thou rejoice greatly,
mayest Thou rejoice greatly,
for it is with God that joy is found.

Lend a propitious ear to the hymns of my choirs.
Open the light of wisdom,
pour down the glorious plenty of a calm life,
pour down its shining grace.
Drive poverty from our midst,
and the earthly calamity of wealth.

Drive illness from my limbs,
the disorderly urge of the passions from my life,
and soul-gnawing cares,
to the end that the destiny of earth
may not weigh down the wings of my soul,
but lifting a free pinion,
may I dance in the ineffable rites
of Thy offspring.
Online 2007
Revision: 10 August 2007
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