Synesius, Hymn 9

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 9, which must have been meant to be sung during the Easter celebrations and strikes the modern reader by its use of all kinds of pagan symbols, is offered here in the translation by A. Fitzgerald.

Hymn 9: Easter

[1] Most beloved august Offspring of the Virgin of Solyma,
to Thee, Blessed One, I sing.

Thou has expelled the serpent of the earth,
that fountain-head of treachery, from the garden of the Father,
even the serpent who offered the abjured fruit,
nourisher of troublous destiny, to the primal youth.

[2] To Thee I sing, Illustrious Father, that wearest the crown,
Son of the Virgin of Solyma.

Thou didst descend even to the earth, sojourner of a day,
bearing a mortal body, and didst go down beneath to Tartarus,
where death reigned over nations of souls in thousands.
And then shuddered at Thee the aged ancient Hades,
and his hound, the devourer of man, drew back from the threshold;
and Thou, delivering choirs of righteous souls from their woes,
dost raise, with unpolluted bands, hymns to the Father.

[3] To Thee I sing, Illustrious Father that wearest the crown,
Son of the Virgin of Solyma.

The boundless races of demons throughout the air trembled
at Thy ascent, O King. The ambrosial choir of the stars immaculate
was seized with awe; and ether laughing, wise father of harmony,
blended upon the seven-stringed lyre a hymn of victory to Thy might.

[4] The harbringer of dawn smiled, the messenger of day,
and golden Hesperus, the star of Cythera.
The moon filling with a stream of fire its horned light,
led the way, the shepherd of the gods of night.

Titan spread out his far-flaming hair under the ineffable track,
and recognized the Offspring of God, Mind,
the Artificer of all that is best, and the origin of his own flame.

[5] But Thou, in winged flight, didst leap over the black of the azure sky,
and didst take Thy place amongst the inviolate spheres of the Mind,
wherein is the fountain of good things, the heaven that is kept secret,
where there is neither deep-flowing time that draggeth
with untiring foot the offspring of the earth,
nor the shameless destinies of matter's billowy depths,
but an age born of the distant past, though ageless itself,
old and yet withal ever young,
is to the gods the guardian of their eternal mansion.