An Ode to Sophia

The Acts of Thomas features the popular poem “Hymn of the Pearl”, but also features another poem that does not get enough recognition and that is the “Hymn to Wisdom” aka “An Ode to Sophia”. I am going to present two different translations of this poem. The first one will be the one I like the most and that is done by G.R.S. Mead and is featured in his book “Fragments of a Faith Forgotten”.

The Maiden is Light's daughter; in her the King's radiance is treasured. Majestic her look, and delightsome; in radiant beauty she shineth.

"Like to spring flowers are her garments; from them streameth scent of sweet odours. Throned o’er her head the King sitteth, with food free from death feeding them at His table.

"Truth crowneth her head; Joy sports at her feet. She openeth her mouth as becomes her; all songs of praise she lets stream forth.

"Two and thirty are they who sing praises; . . . Her tongue is like the entrance veil, moved by them who enter in only.

"Her neck towereth step-like; the first world-builder did build it. Her hands suggest the band of blessed Æons, proclaiming them (?); her fingers point toward the City's Gates.

"Her bridal chamber (παστός) doth stream with light, and pour forth scent of balsam and sweet herbs, delicious scents of myrrh and savoury plants; with myrtle wreaths and masses of sweet flowers ’tis strewn within. Her bridal couch is decked with reeds (?).

"Her bridesmen are grouped round her; seven are they in number; she hath picked them herself. Seven, too, are her bridesmaids dancing before her.

"Twelve are they who serve and attend her; their eyes ever look for the Bridegroom, that He may fill them with light.

"For ever with Him will they be in joy everlasting; and will take their seats at that feast where the Great Ones assemble, and remain at that banquet of which the Eternal (αἰώνιοι) alone are deemed worthy.

"In kingly dress shall they be clad, and put on robes of light, and both shall joy in bliss and exultation, singing praise to the Father.

"For of His glorious radiance they've received; and at the sight of Him, their Lord, they have been filled with light. They have received from Him immortal food that knows no waste.

"They've drunk of wine that makes men thirst no more, nor suffer fleshly lust. So with the Living Spirit they glorify Truth's Father, and sing their praise to Wisdom's Mother."

The “Acts of Thomas” survives in a few different manuscripts / languages, so I’m not entirely sure which one Mead pulled from. The next translation is by M. R. James and appears in the book “The Apocryphal New Testament”. His translation is based mostly on a Greek manuscript with references to a Syriac version.

The damsel is the daughter of light, in whom consisteth and dwelleth the proud brightness of kings, and the sight of her is delightful, she shineth with beauty and cheer. 

Her garments are like the flowers of spring, and from them a waft of fragrance is borne; and in the crown of her head the king is established which with his immortal food (ambrosia) nourisheth them that are founded upon him; 

and in her head is set truth, and with her feet she showeth forth joy. And her mouth is opened, and it becometh her well: 

thirty and two are they that sing praises to her. Her tongue is like the curtain of the door, which waveth to and fro for them that enter in: 

her neck is set in the fashion of steps which the first maker hath wrought, and her two hands signify and show, proclaiming the dance of the happy ages, and her fingers point out the gates of the city. 

Her chamber is bright with light and breatheth forth the odour of balsam and all spices, and giveth out a sweet smell of myrrh and Indian leaf, and within are myrtles strown on the floor, and [GARLANDS] of all manner of odorous flowers, and the door-posts(?) are adorned with freedst. 

And surrounding her, her groomsmen keep her, the number of whom is seven, whom she herself hath chosen. And her bridesmaids are seven, and they dance before her. 

And twelve in number are they that serve before her and are subject unto her, which have their aim and their look toward the bridegroom, that by the sight of him they may be enlightened; 

and for ever shall they be with her in that eternal joy, and shall be at that marriage whereto the princes are gathered together and shall attend at that banquet whereof the eternal ones are accounted worthy, 

and shall put on royal raiment and be clad in bright robes; and in joy and exultation shall they both be and shall glorify the Father of all, 

whose proud light they have received, and are enlightened by the sight of their lord; whose immortal food they have received, that hath no failing (excrementum, Syr.), 

and have drunk of the wine that giveth then neither thirst nor desire. And they have glorified and praised with the living spirit, the Father of truth and the mother of wisdom.

If you are viewing this via a desktop, I am going to put them side by side (similar to my Repentances of Pistis Sophia blog entries from a few years back). If you are not reading this via desktop, then it will not display the two side by side.

This will give you a good example on how translations are very important.

G.R.S. Mead translation:

The Maiden is Light's daughter; in her the King's radiance is treasured. Majestic her look, and delightsome; in radiant beauty she shineth.


"Like to spring flowers are her garments; from them streameth scent of sweet odours. Throned o’er her head the King sitteth, with food free from death feeding them at His table.



Truth crowneth her head; Joy sports at her feet. She openeth her mouth as becomes her; all songs of praise she lets stream forth.


"Two and thirty are they who sing praises; . . . Her tongue is like the entrance veil, moved by them who enter in only.


"Her neck towereth step-like; the first world-builder did build it. Her hands suggest the band of blessed Æons, proclaiming them (?); her fingers point toward the City's Gates.


"Her bridal chamber (παστός) doth stream with light, and pour forth scent of balsam and sweet herbs, delicious scents of myrrh and savoury plants; with myrtle wreaths and masses of sweet flowers ’tis strewn within. Her bridal couch is decked with reeds (?).


"Her bridesmen are grouped round her; seven are they in number; she hath picked them herself. Seven, too, are her bridesmaids dancing before her.


"Twelve are they who serve and attend her; their eyes ever look for the Bridegroom, that He may fill them with light.



"For ever with Him will they be in joy everlasting; and will take their seats at that feast where the Great Ones assemble, and remain at that banquet of which the Eternal (αἰώνιοι) alone are deemed worthy.


"In kingly dress shall they be clad, and put on robes of light, and both shall joy in bliss and exultation, singing praise to the Father.

"For of His glorious radiance they've received; and at the sight of Him, their Lord, they have been filled with light. They have received from Him immortal food that knows no waste.

"They've drunk of wine that makes men thirst no more, nor suffer fleshly lust. So with the Living Spirit they glorify Truth's Father, and sing their praise to Wisdom's Mother."
M.R. James translation:

The damsel is the daughter of light, in whom consisteth and dwelleth the proud brightness of kings, and the sight of her is delightful, she shineth with beauty and cheer. 

Her garments are like the flowers of spring, and from them a waft of fragrance is borne; and in the crown of her head the king is established which with his immortal food (ambrosia) nourisheth them that are founded upon him; 

and in her head is set truth, and with her feet she showeth forth joy. And her mouth is opened, and it becometh her well: 


thirty and two are they that sing praises to her. Her tongue is like the curtain of the door, which waveth to and fro for them that enter in: 

her neck is set in the fashion of steps which the first maker hath wrought, and her two hands signify and show, proclaiming the dance of the happy ages, and her fingers point out the gates of the city. 

Her chamber is bright with light and breatheth forth the odour of balsam and all spices, and giveth out a sweet smell of myrrh and Indian leaf, and within are myrtles strown on the floor, and [GARLANDS] of all manner of odorous flowers, and the door-posts(?) are adorned with freedst. 


And surrounding her, her groomsmen keep her, the number of whom is seven, whom she herself hath chosen. And her bridesmaids are seven, and they dance before her. 

And twelve in number are they that serve before her and are subject unto her, which have their aim and their look toward the bridegroom, that by the sight of him they may be enlightened; 

and for ever shall they be with her in that eternal joy, and shall be at that marriage whereto the princes are gathered together and shall attend at that banquet whereof the eternal ones are accounted worthy, 


and shall put on royal raiment and be clad in bright robes; and in joy and exultation shall they both be and shall glorify the Father of all, 

whose proud light they have received, and are enlightened by the sight of their lord; whose immortal food they have received, that hath no failing (excrementum, Syr.), 

and have drunk of the wine that giveth then neither thirst nor desire. And they have glorified and praised with the living spirit, the Father of truth and the mother of wisdom.

The “Fragments of a Faith Forgotten” book does give a commentary on the poem if you are curious to Mead’s thoughts. I will link it below:

http://www.gnosis.org/library/grs-mead/fragments_faith_forgotten/fff60.htm

http://gnosis.org/library/actthom.htm

-bP

Published by bP

A gnostic wanderer

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