|Title(s)||Ἀρχὴ τῶν στίχων τοῦ τέλους|
|Text source||R. Meesters, R. Ricceri 2018, A Twelfth-Century Cycle of Four Poems on John Klimax. Editio princeps, in A. Rhoby, N. Zagklas (eds.), Middle and Late Byzantine Poetry. Texts and Contexts, Turnhout, 285-386: 348-359|
|Text status||Text completely known|
|Editorial status||Critical text|
Beginning of the verses of the end
Giver of good things, of all these good things,
almighty Trinity, totally powerful strength,
countable unity and one nature,
indivisible, three in number, one might,
one activity, one thought and glory,
oh Father, ungenerated and ruler over everything,
oh Light from the Father, Son, right hand, power,
oh divine Spirit, coming forth from the Father,
sun and light, most unsullied beam.
Trinity out of a unity and unity out of a Trinity,
uncreated, having the same will, breathing together as one,
give action, protection and stability,
assist and help Your worshipper,
because no one can do anything without You.
Bind my tripartite being together with the triple Trinity,
put it safe, in order that my tripartite being devotes itself
to the only service of the contemplation of You.
Give a remembrance of death that never fades away,
the memory of the long journey of Kedar
and of the exile of the tabernacle,
while boring the spear of death right through
blindness, obtuseness and insensitivity,
right through passion without tears, without pain, without grief,
while hitting those things with hostile bolts;
and give the might to bear the weight of undesirable things
such as You command † … †, Great One.
I will speak, with courage, even of involuntarily acts,
because one should not force the stream of the rivers completely,
one should give at the right time an account even of those things.
May you neither bear me entirely unpunished,
nor again full of groaning when I am pierced with thorns,
nor then have me as an unbridled horse,
nor moreover fully distressed because of passions.
Prick me with a spur, I mean with a bit of education,
do not strike me with a spear, do not hit me with an arrow.
O Trinity, I want your reproofs without anger.
May the sea of dark life
transport me in every way, neither as a light ship,
nor exceedingly grievous because of the weight of the loads.
Disdain is evil, satiety is insolent:
such things are the consequence of a smooth sailing, of a light ship.
But nothing good are also the misfortunes that bring darkness,
imitating the vehemence of waves.
May You compensate the weakness that I have,
may You carry out the well-counterbalanced punishment.
Show that my mind, which is a cavern for who is lying in wait at night,
is Your beautified church itself.
Transform (my mind), which is shown to be dark as a cave and weak,
into an abode shaped with light.
In order that I have only You as a queen,
an immaterial foundation inside of the heart,
so that, when, because of clear bolts of the light of hurling lightings,
I see, investigate, observe, examine and look at
traces, snares, traps, ambushes
of a malicious, hostile, destructive wild beast,
I escape from the thistles of wickedness.
The sly snake, knowing no rest, does not stop at all
sowing secretly all around these thistles
and raging against us with the necessities of life.
Cunningly, he retires frequently
and pretends to flee, but he hits with the sting of death.
He is a manifest thief, a deceiver being a hunter of souls,
he hides deceit by what seems to be a beautiful appearance.
Being rich in all kinds of bad plans,
he adorns himself with false manners,
like the proverbial jackdaw with forged plumes.
Like as a fisher who lets a fish hook with food sink
for the fishes that live in the sea,
and they, full of desire for the grace that brings life,
draw an unforeseen, a wretched death,
so Satan wickedly comes upon us.
He comes as a darkness resembling light,
so that he appears as light that resembles darkness.
O what a terribleness he spits out in words,
o what a perversity he hides in deceit.
While clearly limping as the famed craftsman,
he points to his straight foot.
I am not able to see all his traps,
but I found a few proper names for them,
“(to recognise) the lion by his claws” as one would say.
They emphasize the nastiness,
they display the mischiefs,
they disclose the brutalities.
As he invented all kinds of pleasure: (he is called) snake,
fire: as he is an inflamer of the fleshly passions,
Beliar: as he moves the arrows of wrath and anger,
evil: as he was the first to conceive illegal action,
death: as he is the cause of death for us,
gap: as he is the great mouth, the gate of the underworld,
as he swallows down someone whom he spotted: dragon,
wild beast: as he is entirely full of wrath towards us,
night: as he is the shadowy counterpart of day,
as he mostly rushes in secretly: trap,
as he is the bites of death: raging dog,
chaos, Charybdis: as he is a place of ruin,
and an envier: as he is jealous in vain towards everyone,
murderer: as he killed Abel with deceit:
Cain, who unlawfully envied the mind of Abel,
took him to the broad plain
and there he killed the divine sacrificer of God,
in order that he would never sacrifice a pleasing sacrifice again,
in order that he would never again bring offerings to the Lord,
impeccable, welcome, pure, beloved (sacrifices),
in exchange for which he would receive something bigger,
he would bless the blessing of the Lord.
What kind of wise word-monger,
spectator of light, worker for the better,
encompassing sensibly the splendour of the soul,
reflecting in his labours the brilliance of the soul,
showing nobility in his deeds
and thence, in short, bringing honour to action,
what kind of commander, leader, driver of the mind
would understand both the hostility of the crooked chief
and his direct intentions, concealed in deceit?
Or who might perceive the hidden traps,
or who might distinguish the wicked evils,
which the bearer of trickery sets up every day,
which in various ways he devises every day,
the deviser of lies, forgeries and tricks?
If I were Paul, practiced in boxing,
whose shadow the leaders of the gentiles feared,
I would strike (him) with fists as Achilles stroke Thersites.
But since I am weak and slack,
inconsiderate, foolish, ignorant, without weapons,
completely feeble, impotent, defeated,
I expose my worthless tongue to You,
which asks the devil’s deserved cutting.
Rebuke the beast in the reeds
and it will be refrained from stripping off my mind or behaviour.
Withdraw me from the deceit of life
and place me in the abodes of the saints,
in order that I also praise You together with the angels,
I, the unmarried monk John, Your servant
and branch of the earthly Komnenian root.
|Comment||Meesters (2018: 397): "the poem follows upon the treatise To the Shepherd. However, there is no further link with this text."
On the authorship of this cycle of poems, see Meesters - Ricceri (2018: 299-303).
|Number of verses||134|