Thursday, December 24, 2015


Who and What You Are

Gregory of Nyssa, Homilies on the Beatitudes 1.5-6 (tr. Stuart George Hale, with Greek interspersed by me):
Do you not see at each end the limits of human life,
how it begins and where it ends?

οὐχ ὁρᾷς εἰς ἀμφότερα τῆς ζωῆς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου τὰ πέρατα,
καὶ ὅπως ἄρχεται καὶ εἰς ὅτι λήγει;

Yet you glory in your youth,
you look to the blossom of your fresh years,
and you boast of your full bloom,
because your hands are strong for lifting,
your feet agile for jumping,
your curls blow about in the wind,
the first beard lines your cheek,
and because your clothes grow bright with purple dye,
and your dresses of silk are embroidered,
with embroidery of wars or hunts or legends.

ἀλλὰ γαυριᾷς τῇ νεότητι,
καὶ πρὸς τὸ ἄνθος τῆς ἡλικίας βλέπεις,
καὶ ἐγκαλλωπίζῃ τῇ ὥρᾳ,
ὅτι σοι ὑπερσφριγῶσιν αἱ χεῖρες πρὸς κίνησιν,
καὶ κοῦφοι πρὸς τὸ ἅλμα οἱ πόδες,
καὶ περισοβεῖ ταῖς αὔραις ὁ βόστρυχος,
καὶ τὴν παρειὰν ὑπογράφει ὁ ἴουλος,
καὶ ὅτι σοι ἡ ἐσθὴς τῇ βαφῇ τῆς πορφύρας ὑπερανθίζεται,
καὶ πεποίκιλταί σοι τὰ ἐκ σηρῶν ὑφάσματα,
πολέμοις ἢ θήραις ἤ τισιν ἱστορίαις πεποικιλμένα.

Yes, perhaps you look even to your shoes, carefully polished with blacking
and smart with extravagantly stitched lines,
yet do you not look at yourself?
I will shew you your reflection, who you are and what you are.

ἢ τάχα καὶ πρὸς τὰ πέδιλα βλέπεις ἐπιμελῶς ἐν τῷ μέλανι στίλβοντα,
καὶ περιέργως ταῖς ἀπὸ τῶν ῥαφίδων γραμμαῖς ἐπιτέρποντα;
πρὸς ταῦτα βλέπεις, πρὸς δὲ σεαυτὸν οὐχ ὁρᾷς;
δείξω σοι ὥσπερ ἐν κατόπτρῳ, τίς εἶ καὶ οἷος εἶ.

Have you not seen in the burial ground the mysteries of our existence?
Have you not seen the heap of bones piled on each other,
skulls stripped of flesh,
staring fearsome and horrible from empty eye-sockets?
Have you seen the grinning mouths
and the rest of the limbs lying casually about?
If you have seen those things, then in them you have observed yourself.

οὐκ εἶδες ἐν πολυανδρίῳ τὰ τῆς φύσεως ἡμῶν μυστήρια;
οὐκ εἶδες τὴν ἐπάλληλον τῶν ὀστέων σωρείαν,
κρανία σαρκῶν γεγυμνωμένα,
φόβερόν τι καὶ εἰδεχθὲς ἐν διακένοις δεδορκότα τοῖς ὄμμασιν;
εἶδες στόματα σεσηρότα,
καὶ τὰ λοιπὰ τῶν μελῶν πρὸς τὸ συμβὰν πεφορημένα;
εἰ ἐκεῖνα εἶδες, σεαυτὸν ἐν ἐκείνοις τεθέασαι.

Where are the signs of your present flowering?
Where is the colour on your cheek?
Where is the bloom on your lips?
Where are the lovely eye-lashes pointed up by the curve of the eyebrows?
Where is the straight nose fixed between the beautiful cheeks?
Where is the hair upon the neck?
Where the curls round the temples?

ποῦ τοῦ παρόντος ἄνθους τὰ σύμβολα;
ποῦ ἡ εὔχροια τῆς παρειᾶς;
ποῦ τὸ ἐπὶ τοῦ χείλους ἄνθος;
ποῦ τὸ βλοσυρὸν ἐν τοῖς ὄμμασι κάλλος τῇ περιβολῇ τῶν ὀφρύων ὑπολαμπόμενον;
ποῦ ἡ εὐθεῖα ῥὶς, ἡ τῷ κάλλει τῶν παρειῶν μεσιτεύουσα;
ποῦ αἱ ἐπαυχένιοι κόμαι;
ποῦ οἱ περικροτάφιοι βόστρυχοι;

Where are the archer's arms,
the rider's legs,
the purple, the linen, the fine wool, the girdle, the shoes,
the horse, the race, the snorting,
all that now goes to swell your pride?

ποῦ αἱ τοξαζόμεναι χεῖρες;
οἱ ἱππαζόμενοι πόδες;
ἡ πορφύρα; ἡ βύσσος; ἡ χλανίς; ἡ ζώνη; τὰ πέδιλα;
ὁ ἵππος; ὁ δρόμος; τὸ φρύαγμα;
πάντα, δι' ὧν σοι νῦν ὁ τῦφος αὔξεται;

Where among the bones, tell me, are the things over which you are now conceited and arrogant?
What dream is so insubstantial?
What fantasies from sleep are like these?
What faint shadow so escapes our grasp
as the dream of youth, no sooner appearing than instantly flown?

ποῦ ταῦτα ἐν ἐκείνοις, εἰπὲ, ὑπὲρ ὧν νῦν ἐπαίρῃ καὶ μεγαλοφρονεῖς;
ποῖον οὕτως ἀνυπόστατον ὄναρ;
ποῖα τοιαῦτα ἐξ ὕπνου φαντάσματα;
τίς οὕτως ἀδρανὴς σκιὰ τὴν ἁφὴν ὑποφεύγουσα,
ὡς τὸ τῆς νεότητος ὄναρ ὁμοῦ τε φαινόμενον καὶ εὐθὺς παριπτάμενον;
For his translation Hale used the Greek text as edited by John F. Callahan, Gregorii Nysseni De Oratione Dominica, De Beatitudinibus (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1992), which is unavailable to me. The Greek text above is substantially that found in Patrologia Graeca, vol. 44, cols. 1204 C - 1205 A.

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