Sunday, February 14, 2010

On Adam's Lament (St. Romanos the Melodist)


INTRODUCTION

The anonymous Kontakion on Adam’s Lament is one of the earliest we possess and is probably of the fifth century and pre-dates those of St Romanos. It is still used in the office of Matins for the Sunday before Lent, where the Proemium is followed not, as is usual, by the first stanza of the hymn only, but by four, numbers 1 to 3 and 7. The text in the Triodion differs in places from that of the critical edition, notably in the refrain, which is in the first person, ’Have mercy on me who have fallen’. In the third line of stanza 7 the Triodion has, ’Implore God for the one who has fallen’, which does not scan.

The last four stanzas, which correspond to the word ADAM in the acrostic, are almost certainly spurious, though they occur in all but one of the MSS. Stanza 18, which begins, ’Now therefore, Saviour’ forms a concluding prayer, which is feature of the classic kontakion and the following stanzas are not really about Adam at all, but are simply a series of commonplaces of inferior quality.



ON ADAM’S LAMENT

Acrostic: On The First-Formed, [Adam]

Proemium

Guide of wisdom, Giver of prudence,
Teacher of the foolish and Defender of the poor,
Establish, give understanding to my heart, Master;
Give me a word, Word of the Father;
For see, my lips I shall not restrain from crying to you:
O Merciful, have mercy on the fallen.

1

Then Adam sat and wept opposite[1]
The delight of Paradise beating his eyes with his hands
And he said:
O Merciful, have mercy on the one who has fallen.

2

As Adam saw the Angel pushing and shutting
The door of God’s garden he groaned aloud
And said:
O Merciful, have mercy on the one who has fallen.

3

Share in the pain, O Paradise, of your beggared master
And with the sound of your leaves implore the Creator
Not to shut you:
O Merciful, have mercy on the one who has fallen.

4

Bend down your trees like living beings and fall before
Him who holds the key, that thus you may remain open
For one who cries:
O Merciful, have mercy on the one who has fallen.

5

I breathe the fragrance of your beauty and I melt as I recall
How I delighted there from the sweet scent
Of the flowers:
O Merciful, have mercy on the one who has fallen.

6

Now I have learnt what I suffered, now I have understood what God
Said to me in Paradise, ‘In taking Eve
You steal away from Me’:
O Merciful, have mercy on the one who has fallen.

7

Paradise, all virtue, all holiness, all happiness,
Planted because of Adam, shut because of Eve,
How shall I lament for you?
O Merciful, have mercy on the one who has fallen.

8

I am polluted, I am ruined, I am enslaved to my slaves;
For reptiles and wild beasts, whom I subjected by fear,
Now make me tremble;
O Merciful, have mercy on the one who has fallen.

9

No longer do the flowers offer me pleasure,
But thorns and thistles[2] the earth raises for me,
Not produce:
O Merciful, have mercy on the one who has fallen.

10

The table without toil I overthrew by my own will;
And now in the sweat of my brow I eat
My bread:[3]
O Merciful, have mercy on the one who has fallen.

11

My throat, which holy waters had made sweet,
Has become bitter from the multitude of my groans,
As I cry out:
O Merciful, have mercy on the one who has fallen.

12

How have I fallen? Where have I arrived? From a pedestal to the ground;
From a divine admonition to a wretched existence
I have been reduced:
O Merciful, have mercy on the one who has fallen.

13

Now Satan rejoices having stripped me of my glory;
But this gives him no joy; for see, my God
clothes me:
O Merciful, have mercy on the one who has fallen.

14

God himself pitied me, clothes my nakedness;
By this He shows me that He too cares
For me, the transgressor:
O Merciful, have mercy on the one who has fallen.

15

The clothing signifies for me the state that is to come,
For the One who has now clothed me in a little while wears me
And saves me:
O Merciful, have mercy on the one who has fallen.

16

Swiftly Adam you have understood the wish of My compassion;
Therefore I do not deprive you of this your hope
As you cry:
O Merciful, have mercy on the one who has fallen.

17

I do not wish nor do I will the death of the one I fashioned;
But having chastened him enough I will glorify eternally
The one who cries:
O Merciful, have mercy on the one who has fallen.’

18

Now therefore, Saviour, save me also who seek for you with longing;
I do not wish to take you in, but I wish to be taken in by you
And to cry to you:
O Merciful, have mercy on the one who has fallen.[4]

[19][5]

O incomparable, all-holy, all-immaculate, look down
From heaven as compassionate and save me as unworthily
I shout:
O Merciful, have mercy on the one who has fallen.

[20]

Rouse my mind to praise, raise up
The one who lies sick in bed, who unworthily, Saviour,
Cries to you:
O Merciful, have mercy on the one who has fallen.

[21]

Raise up, make firm, O Lover of mankind, the one who has now
Stumbled as a profligate in life; draw near me, Saviour,
As I cry:
O Merciful, have mercy on the one who has fallen.

[22]

Unity, Trinity undivided unseparated, at the prayers
Of the Mother of God take pity on me and overlook the sins
Of those who cry:
O Merciful, have mercy on the one who has fallen.]

Notes

[1] Cf. Gen. 3:25 (LXX). The first line of Stanza 1 echoes the LXX text of Genesis 3:24, which reads ’And [God] settled Adam opposite the Paradise of pleasure and set in place the Cherubim’. This rendering has influenced both the liturgical and the iconographic traditions. The Hebrew has only one verb, 'And [God] settled east of the garden of Eden the Cherubim’. The Catholic New American Bible has adopted the LXX reading as the correct one.

[2] Cf. Gen. 3:18.

[3] Cf. Gen. 3:20.

[4] The trope in the second line of Stanza 18 is almost impossible to translate. The verb I have translated ’take in’ in both clauses is the same, and means both ’cheat’ and ’steal’.

[5] These stanzas, 19-22, are considered spurious by the editor, though they are present in all but one ms. 18 forms a final prayer, which is feature of the classic kontakion, and the final stanzas, which form the word ADAM in the acrostic seem to be an unnecessary addition. They are not really about Adam at all and greatly inferior in quality, being simply a collection of commonplaces.

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