|Title(s)||Ἕτεροι στίχοι εἰς τὴν ἀρχὴν τοῦ αὐτοῦ Κλίμακος, ἐν σχήματι ἐγκωμίου, παραίνεσιν παρεισάγοντες καὶ κλίμακα παριστῶντες ἑτέραν, ἧς μία ἑκάστη ἀνάβασις δι’ ἓξ στίχων συνίσταται. Προοίμιον τῆς διὰ στίχων κλίμακος|
|Text source||R. Meesters, R. Ricceri 2018, A Twelfth-Century Cycle of Four Poems on John Klimax. Editio princeps, in A. Rhoby, N. Zagklas (eds.), Middle and Late Byzantine Poetry. Texts and Contexts, Turnhout, 285-386: 322-343|
|Text status||Text completely known|
|Editorial status||Critical text|
Other verses on the opening of the same Ladder, in the form of an eulogy,
introducing an exhortation and presenting another ladder, of which each
single step consists of six verses.
Preface to the ladder in verses
The story goes that gold dust flowed for the Lydians
out of the Paktolos, the river lying at the base of Mount Tmolos.
Misled by the gold, Kroisos was puffed up with pride,
being foolish and stupid, leaning upon the sandy ground.
As the flux of the Paktolos, he perished later on.
The ruler of the Persians, having even a golden beard,
made of gold leaf,
praised himself to have the honour of the blessed ones.
Ants enriched the race of the black mortal Indians
from the sand from deep under the ground.
The Nile, flowing seasonally over
the Egyptian lands, made sure that the Pharaonic people
had a large richness from the granaries.
One exults in birds, another one in plants,
in precious stones another one, another one in pearls.
But you, wise man, do not love nor cherish
anything perishable or anything fleeting with time,
but something incorruptible and greater than anyone could put into words.
‘What?’, an ignorant might ask.
The word: the greatest thing of those things the Word granted you,
which was strengthened by the mortal mind,
by a lot of sweat, toil and by the purest faith.
Τhe cure for both passions:
the shining light, the very highest light,
the light that enlightens everything, immediately and mediately.
Through the Word you know the double result of the light:
the world which flows by and which passes away,
the world which remains and which is fixed,
their nature, their end
or rather, the goal, the origin of both.
Through the Word you have learned what is useful for good conduct
having a right attitude of mind,
you have learned and loved them, preferring those things.
Beginning of the ladder in verses
You escaped from darkened Egypt,
the luxurious life, the laziness of the flesh
and from the pharaoh, the great tyrant of Egypt,
the carnal mind, the vain life,
from the commanders, the brutal dispatchers of tasks,
those who arouse evil thoughts, those who assent to passions.
You do not first hate (the world), and then change your mind,
as Lot’s wife, because even when you turn back along the way,
you have, along your way, the highest dispassion.
There are no remains of sorrow in your heart
because of the deprivation of matters of depravity
and you offer your belongings voluntarily.
You alienate yourself from what is yours;
you estrange yourself from what is extraneous;
in order to become a stranger amongst strangers, you become a stranger
to those who estrange strangers from their own strangers.
You live an unknown, hidden life in a good way,
a life difficult to discern, which escapes from the notice of numberless people.
You catch and banish disobedience,
subjugating the flesh to your spirit.
You have only your consciousness as control.
Even before you walk the road of visible obedience,
you have reached that of mental obedience.
You run secretly, you climb firmly.
You recognise the causes of the passions,
you condemn Novatian’s foolery,
you put him to shame, into deep shame
and you put his foolery to shame by shame,
while you escape from the persistent shame,
because of which all hidden things are disclosed to all.
You wet, moisten and soak your cheeks,
because of the remembrance of death and the last judgment,
and you mumble softly to yourself, saying:
“Now be prepared at any moment for the grave”,
because even though you are still breathing,
you do not know if you might take another breath.
You moan deeply, you picture in your heart
the subterranean chaos, the unquantifiable depth,
the inextinguishable, unilluminated, boundless flame,
the descent into the underground fissures
the pitiable, obscure, painful and tormented
images of all the eternal tortures.
By these (moans) you appease, quench and extinguish
the flame of irascibility and anger.
When you give ear, you do not rage as Nabal,
when you talk, you speak like Abigail.
Nothing unpleasant, nothing resentful
you say when you seethe, you put in your gaze when you boil.
Neither do you keep inside, like a camel, evil,
which is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a snake at your breast,
a worm in rotten wood, resentment in a mild person,
concealing something in the depth of the heart,
saying something else with sweet lips,
sinning in the sweetness of bitterness.
So, what you say corresponds with what you have inside,
and if you slip a little bit, you get it right immediately,
not wasting in false silence
the bundle, the part of the Word,
nor staining it by the simulation of love
or by the care for the person whom you slander.
Weaving a jesting, wanton,
delightful, pleasant, sweet and varied word,
you do not broaden it with fringes of linen.
Unless your mind is removed from its seat,
permitting to see one’s own deviations,
it is not inclined to judge others.
From talkativeness the lie receives boldness in speech,
which destroys love from the roots.
It is a honey cake, sweets, dinner: deceit and arrow.
The one who has love and compunction
is able to avoid the bad lie;
while, if need be, looking at Rahab.
Now, tell me how I shall use the word,
now that I come to the examination of despondency.
You mourn for yourself, as I said before.
Does the mournful heart know despondency,
as it wrestles with the remembrance of the last judgment?
Anyone who remembers death would firmly deny this.
You banish the languid, flabby, flaccid, relaxed
life and far away you chase
also the life which makes your mind dark,
cowardly and grumpy because of fasting,
gloomy, depressed, terrifying, hostile towards words.
Knowing these things, you walk the middle path.
This well-balanced road is revealed
by chastity, by the purity of the flesh,
by the perfect purification of carnal pollutions,
by the incorruptibility of the body, by the strength of purity,
which demonstrates the eunuch even without the sword:
the Levitical dignity of the Lord.
Well then, after having prevailed, supernaturally, over nature,
after having escaped from the physical danger,
you are not suffocated by the strangling of avarice, are you?
It is possible to deny. I have many witnesses,
in particular that forerunner of freedom from avarice,
the great proclaimer of numberless gifts.
I have come to know well your blessed passion,
I classify your forms of generosity:
when you give, you rejoice; when you do not give, you suffer deeply.
You are fond of many goods, not to lock them up inside,
but to scatter many goods among many people.
And this escapes the mind of many.
Likewise you enjoy beautiful chant,
to sing psalms, to chant hymns, to praise the Lord,
in evening-, day - and nocturnal
prayers and supplications, in extraordinary standings,
so a licentious dance does not have place in you,
but a song sung for the Lord.
The wakeful eye purified the mind and the heart
and subjugates the indomitable flesh to the Word,
makes it (i.e. the body) into a pure servant,
a dextrous attendant of God’s table,
who shares the mysteries with others,
rightly showing to many people that you are a mystery.
By perfect faith and the orthodox dogma,
by the established sound devotion;
hereby you frighten the earthly rulers of darkness,
who are hostile, unfaithful, malevolent, opposed to God,
while you do not accept childish behaviour
in an old soul.
These things conceive a viper-like offspring:
the sea or the flood of evil,
the abode or the dwelling of Satan,
the shipwreck, the billow, the vortex,
the deceiving destroyer of virtues,
which shows its nature by its name.
From which derives the denial of God and the envy of men,
the contempt for stronger beings and for beings that are not stronger,
the precursor of foulness and madness,
the source of anger and the root of blasphemy,
the bitter judge, the door of hypocrisy,
the buttress, tower and labyrinth of demons.
You have heard that an evil root brings forth similar shoots,
useless, putrid and utterly evil fruits
of pride: blasphemy,
concealment of sin, indecent words.
Indeed, nothing strengthens the demons
and bad thoughts so much as having them in secret.
I realized that wickedness really took from there
its strength, power, and force;
demoniac deformity, cunning,
estrangement from mourning, agent of falls,
a self-opinionated, foolish way of life.
How does this wickedness disappear?
By being meek, humble and moderate at heart,
hating anger and hating irascible envy,
being compassionate and possessing compunction,
being bright, gentle and rejoicing,
docile, delighted and not darkened,
being very attentive towards your own faults.
This is for you a rule, a standard, a law for souls
and for those piously aiming at perfection of their bodies:
to judge those things which pertain to yourself, and only those things,
to do what is necessary with a well-considered judgement,
to find evil and to hate it with all your heart,
to turn yourself away from disobedience.
To turn to the stillness of words,
to close the door to speech or to the tongue entirely,
to close the gate within to the spirit or to the soul entirely:
that is stillness; precisely these things.
By this stillness Paul, travelling to several cities,
tread the untraveled, untrodden road.
This stillness is established by a single trinity and a pair:
an unshakeable standing of a condemned body,
an unutterable groaning, one short word,
a guard of the mind and anguish of the heart.
This is the only crying of the spirit I know,
not the one through the mouth, not the one through the lips.
When you act like this, you will attain dispassion:
you may reach a heaven of the mind within the heart,
you will correctly consider the wiles of the demons
as pranks, as trifles;
you will trample underfoot the lion, the big dragon,
the horned snake, the basilisk, the asp.
To God alone you will devote your time and you will be close.
You will see God in the better devotion
and to God you will attach the image of God.
The mind, the spirit of the immaculate Word
you will not divide between God and the deceiver
but, with the Trinity you will join your trinity.
May the Trinity, today, in this life,
appear to be benevolent and utterly compassionate to you
towards the threefold sins of the tripartite time,
bringing prosperity to your plans,
guiding your steps,
accomplishing your beggings
and uniting (you) in the world to come with Christ’s forefathers
thanks to the prayers of my very holy father,
who is a practitioner of a radiant and fiery shaped tongue
and who has a fiery, radiant way of speaking,
and who is a plaiter of a golden crown with precious stones and pearls,
who is adorned with the mind, the word and the spirit.
Amen, amen, amen, may it happen again and again.
|Comment||This is the longest book epigram in Byzantine literature known so far. It offers the readers a content-based preparation for the main text (cf. Meesters - Ricceri (2018: 293)).
Meesters - Ricceri (2018: 294): "Contrary to the actual number of verses in the manuscripts, a note in prose at the end of the poem, preserved in all five manuscripts, mentions that the poem consists of 222 vv. As the central section of the poem (vv. 34–213) is articulated in six lines per step, if four verses were indeed added, they should be either part of the praise of Klimax at the beginning (vv. 1–33), or of the epilogue at the end (vv. 214–226)."
On the authorship of this cycle of poems, see Meesters - Ricceri (2018: 299-303).
|Number of verses||226|
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|Identification||Vassis ICB 2005, 876: "In gradus Scalae Paradisi Ioannis Climaci: cf. (...) ; (...) "|