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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 8, apparently written on the occasion of his marriage, is offered here in the translation by A. Fitzgerald.

Hymn 8: To Christ, Requesting a Blessed Life

In a somewhat Dorian cadence,
I will lift up a clear song on my ivory-laid lyre,
in Thy honor, Blessed Immortal [Christ],
Offspring Illustrious of the Virgin [Mary];
and do Thou, O Ruler, save my harmless life,
granting me night and day alike inaccessible to griefs.

Make Thy light to shine in my heart
from out Thy source of Mind.
Apportion to my youth the strength
of sound limbs and to my actions renown;
bring Thou a brilliant year even to the joy of my old age,
augmenting previous wisdom with health.

And mayst Thou preserve my brother [Euoptius] to me,
whom e'en now in his youth, O Immortal One, Thou didst bring back,
when already passing on foot beyond the portals of this earth.
Thou didst extinguish then my cares, my griefs,
my tears, and the burning fire of my heart.
Thou didst make even a dead body to live, O Father,
for Thy supplicant's sake.

Preserve Thou my sister [Stratonice], and a pair of children.[1]

All the house of the sons of Hesychius do Thou hide under Thy hand,
and the partner of my marriage bed, O King,
keep Thou from illness and harm,
united to me, of one mind with me.
Preserve my wife in ignorance of clandestine associates.
May she maintain a holy couch,
unsullied, pious, inaccessible to unlawful desires.

Take Thou my soul away from evils and from the piteous anguish,
freed from the fetters of earthly life;
and grant me to raise hymns with the choirs of the holy,
in honor of Thy Father, and to Thy supreme power,
O Blessed One, I will chant my hymns  again,
I will sing a song to Thee again, and again, perchance,
I shall attune this unstained lyre to Thee.

Note 1:
It is possible that this refers to Synesius' own children, in which case this hymn can not have been a marriage song.
Online 2006
Revision: 6 November 2006
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