"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Monday, June 6, 2011

Syriac Poetry and Ephraim's Vita

As I have noted before, we are living in a happy time for those interested in what some have called the "third lung" of apostolic Christianity, viz., the Syriac tradition. Peeters continues our exploration of that tradition with two new publications released only last month: A. Mengozzi, ed., Religious Poetry in Vernacular Syriac from Northern Iraq (17th-20th Centuries). An Anthology (Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium) (Peeters, 2011), 163pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
The present publication ideally continues the CSCO 589-590, in which 17th-century religious poems in Vernacular Syriac (i.e., Neo-Aramaic or Sureth) were published. It offers the reader a rich anthology and the most complete historical sketch of the dorektha genre, surveying published and unpublished works by Chaldean and Assyrian authors. Texts dating from 1607/08 to 1980 AD are critically edited and translated into English, with linguistic, philological and literary comments: On Repentance by Hormizd of Alqosh (17th cent.); the poetic diptych On the Torments of Hell and On the Delights of the Kingdom by Damynanos of Alqosh, which shows the author's indebtedness to Italian Baroque sermons; On a Famine in the Year 1898 by the poetess Anne of Telkepe, probably the first work by a woman to enter the CSCO; the fascinating and living story of the Hermit Barmalka by Joseph 'Abbaya of Alqosh; On an Attack by the Mongols at Karamlish, in which Thomas Hanna of Karamlish elaborates on classical sources such as Gewargis Warda and Barhebreus; the touching and beautiful elegy On Exile by Yohannan Cholagh, who deals with the Christian emigration from Iraq, a contemporary social problem that is even more pressing today than in 1980, when the poem first appeared in Qala Suryaya.
The second book is about him whom the Syriac tradition unashamedly lauds as its greatest harp of the Holy Spirit, viz., Ephraim:  J.P. Amar, The Syriac Vita Tradition of Ephrem the Syrian (Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium) (Peeters, 2011), 118pp.

About this scholarly work, Peeters tells us:
This monograph is a synoptic presentation of the texts of all the recensions of the Syriac Life of Ephrem. Working from the manuscript sources, the author corrects previously published recensions of the Life and presents heretofore unpublished recensions. A critical introductory study traces the Life to its sources among Byzantine ecclesiastical writers who were promoters of the monastic ideal and who seized upon the reputation of Ephrem in native Syriac tradition to authorize a way of life he never practiced. By anachronistically associating Ephrem with leading figures in the movement, such as Pisoes and Basil the Great, these authors, aided by later generations of Syriac-speaking churchmen, sought to bring Ephrems poetic expression of the truths of the faith within the canonical authority of the Byzantine imperial church.

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