Ephrem Mtsire as the Translator of the Hymns
Abstract : Ephrem Mtsire’s numerous translations have been investigated only partially. Particularly scarce is the information about his activities is the sphere of hymnography.The investigation of Georgian manusiripts has made it obvious that the new redaction of Georgian “Triodion” belongs to Ephrem Mtsire. This redaction serves as a new, important stage in the formation of this Collection and Georgian hymnographical - liturgical traditions. It contains a vast hymnographical repertoire - hundreds of hymns, the majority of which must have been translated by Eprem Mtsire. Ephrem Mtsire creates the new redaction of “Triodion” in order to thoroughly present his contemporary Greek tradition.
Key words : Ephrem Mtsire, Hymnography, Stichera, Translations
Ephrem Mtsire occupies a distinguished position in the history of Georgian culture. With his name is connected the new stage in the Georgian thought. Ephrem Mtsire has rendered a great service to the development of Georgian philosophical thought by translating John Damascene’s and Areopagitic works and the commentaries added to them. Ephrem Mtsire has supplied us with the unique information about Byzantine literary works. He worked out his own principles and methods and used them is his translations of various samples of Byzantine literature( Kekelidze 1960: 256-269 ).
Like Eqvtime and George Athonites Ephrem displayed his skill in every branch of ecclesiastical literary work. Ephrem Mtsire’s versatile activities are scientific by nature in the modern meaning of the word. His creative work determined greatly the level of the XI century Georgian science and social thought.
Ephrem Mtsire’s numerous translations have been investigated only partially. Particularly scarce is the information about his activities is the sphere of hymnography- ecclesiastical poetry of the middle ages. Our work deals with this part of his vast inheritance.
The study of Georgian “Triodions” has made it evident that this important liturgical - hymnographi-cal collection was considered particularly interesting in Old Georgian literature. At first the material that had been created for “Triodion” was developped in the universal collection - “Tropologion”. In the first part of the X century as it becomes obvious, the first Georgian “Triodion” was separated from “Tropolo-gion” as an independent collection and its creator and editor was the great Georgian hymn-writer – Ioan-ne Minchkhi.These hymns are considered the best samples of the christian poetry and are performed du-ring the whole period of the Lent.
The act of compiling the cycle of stichera for the first Georgian “Triodion”( 88 small – size hymns) was a rare and successful attempt. The first Georgian “Triodion” was of the Jerusalem type and contained four authors – Elias of Jerusalem, Stephanus Sabbaites, Theodore Studites and Ioanne Minchkhi himself (Khachidze 1987: 19-37).
This collection served as foundation of the Georgian “Triodions” following redactions that were worked out by the outstanding representatives of Georgian culture- Eqvtime and George Athonites. Those redactions of “Triodions” display Jerusalemian as well as Coustantinoplean traditions.
Georg. 5 manuscript which is an autographic “Triodion” by George Athonite completely reflects the Greek liturgical practice of those days and enables to identify the authors of numerous hymns. We have specially studied and showed the particular importance of George Athonite’s redaction underlining the role it plays in the history of Byzantine and Georgian hymnography (Khachidze 2000: 38-64 ).
The investigation of Georgian manusiripts has made it obvious that the next redaction of Georgian “Triodion” belongs to Ephrem Mtsire. This redaction serves as a new, important stage in the formation of Georgian “Triodions”. It contains a vast hymnographical repertoire - hundreds of hymns, the majority of which must have been translated by Eprem Mtsire. This redaction of “Triodion” must have been done in Antioch, on the “Black Mountain”.
The new redaction of “Triodion” was found in the second part (219r-292r) of Georg. 5 manuscript and it has not been investigated up to now. This redaction has been compiled with the autographic “Triodion” by George Antonite which is found in the first part of the same manuscript Georg.5 (1-216v).
Ephrem Mtsire creates the new redaction of “Triodion” in order to thoroughly present his contemporary Greek tradition.
It is known that the main principle for Ephrem Mtsire is to give the most exact picture of the Byzantine traditions of his time( Blake 1926 ).
The innovations connected with the new redaction of “Triodion” contains all kinds of hymns – Kanons, Stichera, Three-Odes. To them are added liturgical servises of Holy Thursday, Holy Friday and John Baptist’s beheading which made the important elements of the liturgy. All the three of them must have been newly translated from Greek by Ephrem Mtsire.
The new redaction of the “Triodion” contains the vast hymnograplical repertoire that bas been translated newly from Greek. Among them are 6 hymnographical Kanons belonging to the outstanding representatives of Byzantine hymnography – Andrew Crete, Theodore Studites, Kosmas of Jerusalem, John Damascene and Theophanus Graptos.
To the Georgian translations of these Kanons are added the titles where the authors, translators as well as the nature of the translation, the liturgical rule used while creating it and in some cases the names of the people who ordered them are indicated. Such kind of exactness is typical of Ephrem Mtsire.
Among these translations special attention should be paid to “St. Virgin’s Lament” by Theophanus Graptos which serves as the best sample of the art of old Georgian translations.
The Greek original of this masterpiece of Byzantine hymnography has been lost and its restoration is possible only by Ephrem Mtsire’s translation.
To Ephrem Mtsire belongs the fourth Georgian translation of the famous hymn - “The Resurrection Kanon” which word for word correspondences to the original, makes a kind of “double” and that was why it was created (Khachidze 2000:127-139). The first translation of this kanon is preserved in the Ancient Georgian Tropologion. This translation is fulfilled in prose (The Ancient Tropologion 1980: 220-224 ). The second one is a part of the New Tropologion.The third translation belongs to George Athonite. The author of the fourth translation is Ephrem Mtsire.
The new redaction of the Georgian “Triodion” contains the translations by Arsen Ikaltoeli who was Ephrem Mtsire’s pupil. Among them is “The Great Kanon” by Andrew of Crete which is considered the masterpiece of Byzantine hymnography (Wellesz 1980: 152 ). Arsen is the third Georgian translator of it.
In this new redaction Georgian translation of the Kanon devoted to the Judgement Day is preserved.
The Kanon belongs to Theodore Studites – the famous representative of Byzantine Hymnography.The Greek original of this Kanon is studied by scientists while its Geogian translations are unknown for the scholars.
The first translation of the Hymn is preserved in Geogian manuscripts – Sin.5( 1051) and Sin.75( XI c.). Euthimius Athonite can probably be the translator of the Hymn.
An autographic “Triodion” by George Athonite – Georgica 5 consists the next translation of this Hymn. The translaror - George Athonite makes some changes.
The third Geogian translation of the Hymn was found in the new redaction of Georgian “Triodion”. It belongs to Arsen Ikaltoeli and it deserves attention for the ascertainment of the Greek original. In this ver-sion the Greek text, terms and even constructions are precisely reflected. This version represents Arsen Ikaltoeli as the translator of the Hymns.
Ephrem Mtsire’s redaction does not contain the repertoire characteristic of Jerusalemian traditions, among them Sunday Kanons by Elias III and the cycle of hymns by Stephanus Sabbaites. In this respect Ephrem continues the traditions of his contemporary Greek “Triodions”.The same explanation must be given to the fact that the most important period of the Lent –Holy week contains the newly translated re-pertoire of hymns. Among them the hymns by Kosmas of Jerusalem deserve special attention (Karabinov 1910: 117-120 ). This author is represented by a great deal of new translations in Ephrem Mtsire’s “Triodion”. For Holy Week Saint Kosmas composed 5 ‘’three-odes’’ which contain short acrostics. All these hymns were created according to the Gospel readings established by Jerusalem system for relevant days. Each of St. Kosmas ‘’three-odes’’ intended for chanting during Holy Week was translated into Georgian several times.
One of the most important innovations of this redaction is the introduction and settling down of the repertoire of swall-size hymns - Stichera. Alongside with the hymns having different forms this colle-ction contains 542 small-size hymns some of which entered from the “Triodion”under George Athonite’s redaction and others were trasnslated from Greek.
“Triodion” by Ephrem Mtsire contains new translations of the small-size hymns of VII-IX century By-zantian hymn-writers: Sophronius of Jerusalem, Andrew of Crete, Stephanus Sabbaites, Theodore Studi-tes, Theophanus Graptos, Joseph of Sicily, John Damascene, Kosmas of Jerusalem. They can not be found in the previous Georgian manuscripts.Their translation is one of the innovations of “Triodion” by Ephrem Mtsire.
These translations are important for the ascertainment of the texts which are Greek originals and for the identification of the authors.
In this redaction are given the new translations of a series of Stichera - “Automela”. Inspite of the dif-ficulties characteristic of the translation of this type of hymns, their Georgian translations are perfect from the artistic point of view. Among these hymns are Kontakions by Romanus Melodos that were once more translated by Ephrem Mtsire.
Small – size hymns are one of the most important elements of liturgy. Unlike the complex hymns - Kanons, small – size hymns have not been sufficiently investigated. For the study of this vast repertoire, Georgian manuscripts deserve particular attention.
Alongside with the innovations this redaction of “Triodion” contains the unchanged important repertoire from the “Triodion” under George Ahonite’s redaction: 17 hymnographical Kanons, a series of “Three-Odes’’ and numerous small – size hymns. In all those cases Ephrem Mtsire must have approved of the previous translations.
The “Triodion” under Ephrem Mtsire’s redaction is the end of the complicated and interesting history of the formation of old Georgian “Triodions”.
Blake 1926: Blake R. Towards the Literary Works by Ephrem Mtsire, “Receiver”.Tbilisi: Tbilisi University Press,1926.
Kekelidze 1960: Kekelidze K. A History of Old Georgian Literature. Tbilisi: Publishing house “Science”, 1960
Metreveli 1959: Metreveli E. Ephrem Mtsire’s Autograph, “Messenger of the Institute of Georgian Manuscripts”, I , Tbilisi: Publishing house “Science”,1959.
The Ancient Tropologion: The Ancient Tropologion - studied and prepared for publication by El. Metreveli, Ts. Chankiev and L. Khevsuriani. Tbilisi: Publishing house “Science”, 1980.
Khachidze 1987: Khachidze L. Ioanne Minchkhi’s Poetry. Tbilisi: Publishing house “Science”, 1987.
Khachidze 2000: Khachidze L. Towards the History of Georgian Christian Culture. Tbilisi: Sulkhan – Saba Orbeliani Tbiisi State Pedagogical University Press, 2000.
Karabinov 1910: Karabinov I. Triodion. St. Peterburg, 1910.
Wellesz 1980: Wellesz E. A History of Byzantine Music and Hymnography. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980.
Volume 5, Issue 2