Wake, wake, I pray thee, shrill-toned lyre!
No more to fan the Teïan88Anacreon was of Teos. fire,
No more the Lesbian99Sappho of Lesbos. strain to raise,
Wake, wake to hymn of nobler praise!
Sound Dorian1010The Dorian dialect was generally used for graver and sublimer subjects. ode, in other guise,
Than once to maid with laughing eyes,
Or youth whose form and golden tresses
Might woo the wanton air’s caresses!
A better theme inspires my song,
10And bears my soul far hence along.
A Virgin’s God-conceiving throes,
Wisdom’s own cure for mortal woes–
This bids me now my harp-strings ply,
And earth’s black loves and miseries fly.
For what is strength, or beauty’s sway,
Or gold, or fame–what doth it weigh–
Or royal honours–in the scale?
What these ‘gainst search for God avail?
Let this man urge the well-horsed car,
20That shoot the true-aimed arrow far;
Another watch o’er golden heap,
And safe his hoarded treasure keep;
To one be pride of glossy hair
Flowing o’er neck in wavelets fair;
Another court the favouring glances
Of boys and girls in hymns and dances.
Not such for me! But this I pray,
Unknown to spend life’s quiet day;
To this vain world unmarked, unknown,
30But God’s truth knowing as my own.
Wisdom present herself to me!
Good guide of youth and age is she,
Of wealth good stewardess and queen,
Alike in poverty serene;
Beyond earth’s sorrows smiling gay,
To calm content she points the way.
That priceless wisdom first I ask,
To guide and sweeten all life’s task,
And then sufficient humble store
40To keep me from my neighbour’s door;
That I may ne’er, oppressed with need,
Harbour dark thoughts of selfish greed.
Hark! ’tis the sweet cicada’s song:
He drinks the dew, and chirps along.
And, lo! my strings unbidden sound,
And here and there a voice around!
What in the world–what melody
Will pang divine bring forth to me?
‘Tis so! Self-sprung Beginning He,
50Father and Lord of all that be:
Not made, not born, on high alone
He hath o’er lofty heaven His throne.
There glory changeless He displays,
And sceptre there eternal sways;
Of unities pure Unity,
And Sole of sole existence He!
High ether pure He did combine,
And quicken into Life Divine.
He then, ere yet the ages ran,
60In mode ineffable to man,
The Godhead through the Firstborn poured:1111Lit.: The Sole Unity poured forth through the first-sown Form in an ineffable way had a threefold supreme help.
Hence Three, yet One, the Triune Lord.
And now the heavenly fount around
Behold, with children’s beauty crowned,
Forth from the centre as they spring,
Or round it flow in joyous ring.
But stop, rash lyre, thy lofty flight,
Nor touch things hid from mortal sight!
To men below it is not given
70To tell high mystic rites of heaven.
The things beneath do thou reveal;
The things above let silence seal.
But Mind now cares for worlds alone,
In which reflected mind is shown:
A good beginning this we sing,
For thence man’s spirit hath its spring:
For now to matter came there down
Mind incorruptible, high crown,
Severed in each, and fragment small,
80Yet true descent from God of all.
This whole, in every part one-centred,
Whole into whole as it hath entered,
Takes station at the eternal poles,
And heaven’s resplendent circle rolls.
Divided next, to those again,
In given form who yet retain
Their dowry unimpaired of mind,
There are high offices assigned;
The chariot race of stars one guides,
90One o’er the angelic choir presides.
But, ah! another, empty, vain,
Self-dragged by down-inclining chain,
Hath found a form of lower earth,
Deep fallen from his heavenly birth:
From home apostate far he flew,
And cups of Lethe’s darkness drew;
Of eyeless soul and murky mind,
To heaven’s true joy and glory blind;
Fain he to joyless earth repaired,
100A god by mortal things ensnared.
All dark! yet, lo! to mortal eyes
A ray of cheering light doth rise!
A door of hope is opened high,
And helping hand is stretched out nigh,
To lift the fallen here on earth
Back to the honours of their birth,
When they, emerging from the strife
And din and cares of storm-tossed life,
To holy paths have turned indeed,
110Which to their Father’s palace lead.
Blest he who from the entangling mesh
Of matter and of greedy flesh
Hath fled, and on with springing bound
The upward way to God hath found!
Blest he who, after fates severe,
And toils and many a bitter tear,
And all the crowd of anxious cares
Which earth to all her votaries shares,
To mind’s true course at length restored,
120Hath God’s own shining depth explored!
A task it is, to lift above
Whole outstretched soul in new-born love
Yet only make determined start,
With wings of mind and honest heart,
And nigh to thee will He appear
With stretched-forth hands, thy Father dear.
Before will run a shining light,
And all thy upward paths make bright:
Fields of sweet thought thou now shalt tread,
130Pledge of true beauty, for thee spread!
Come, O my soul, and drink of this,
A fountain flowing with all bliss;
And to thy Father, lifting prayer,
Without delay, up-mount the air.
Leaving to earth the things of earth,
In God assert thy godlike birth;
And mingling with thy Father, Friend,
Taste joys above that never end.
Translator: Allen W. Chatfield; Author: Synesius of Cyrene, Bishop of Ptolemais