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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 7 is offered here in the translation by A. Fitzgerald.

Hymn 7: Christmas

I was the first to find the measure established in new harmonies
wherewith to smite the strings of the lyre in praise of Thee,
Blessed One Immortal, illustrious Offspring of the Virgin, Jesus of Solyma.
Be propitious, O King, and accept my strain of sacred melody.

We shall sing of the imperishable God, the great Son of God,
the world-creating Son of the Father, Who hath given birth to the ages,
the nature mingled of all things, the boundless wisdom,
a God to heavenly beings, a curse to those of the underworld.

What time Thou wert poured forth on the earth,
even out of a mortal womb, the inventive art of the Magus was helpless,
and he wondered from the rising star, what manner of infant had been born,
who might be this God concealed, God, or nether shade or king.

Come, bring Thy gifts, offerings of myrrh, presents of gold,
fine perfume of frankincense.
God Thou art, receive Thou the incense;
I bring gold to my Kin, His grave will befit the myrrh.

Thou has purified the land, the wavers of the sea, and the paths of the demons,
the swift outflow of air, and the recesses of the internal regions.
Thou wert sent, being God, to Hades, to the assistance of the dead.
But be propitious, O King, and accept my strains of sacred songs.
Online 2007
Revision: 21 August 2007
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