April 23, 2019

An Anacreontic Hymn of St. John of Damascus

An Anacreontic Hymn

By St. John of Damascus

From my lips in their defilement,
From my heart in its beguilement,
From my tongue which speaks not fair,
From my soul stained everywhere,
O my Jesus, take my prayer!
Spurn me not for all it says,
Not for words and not for ways,
Not for shamelessness endued!
Make me brave to speak my mood,
O my Jesus, as I would!
Or teach me, which I rather seek,
What to do and what to speak.

I have sinned more than she,
Who learning where to meet with Thee,
And bringing myrrh, the highest-priced,
Anointed bravely, from her knee,
Thy blessed feet accordingly,
My God, my Lord, my Christ!
As Thou saidest not 'Depart'
To that suppliant from her heart,
Scorn me not, O Word, that art
The gentlest one of all words said!
But give Thy feet to me instead
That tenderly I may them kiss
And clasp them close, and never miss
With over-dropping tears, as free
And precious as that myrrh could be,
T'anoint them bravely from my knee!
Wash me with Thy tears: draw nigh me,
That their salt may purify me.
Thou remit my sins who knowest
All the sinning to the lowest --
Knowest all my wounds, and seest
All the stripes Thyself decreest;
Yea, but knowest all my faith,
Seest all my force to death,
Hearest all my wailings low,
That mine evil should be so!
Nothing hidden but appears
In Thy knowledge, O Divine,
O Creator, Saviour mine --
Not a drop of falling tears,
Not a breath of inward moan,
Not a heart-beat -- which is gone!

Translated by Elizabeth Barrett Browning in 1842.