--- In email@example.com
, "John Uebersax"
> A blog gives this English translation of the hymn, apparently
> transcribed from Hans Lewy's 1946 article:
> Almighty, borne by age-old heavens,
> amid Thy myriad virtues Thou art ever One,
> and no one can measure Thee with number or with time.
> Now (if by any name it is meet to invoke Thee)
> Thou shalt be invoked by the unknown name
> in which Thou, the Holy One, dost rejoice,
> whereat the mighty earth trembles,
> and the wandering stars stand in their swift course.
> Thou art One and likewise Many, Thou art First and Last,
> Thou art at once the Center and the Survivor of the universe.
> For Thou art without end,
> yet Thou bringest an end to the swift passage of time,
> and on high, from eternity, Thou dost behold harsh fate
> swept on with immutable whirl,
> Thou dost behold lives enclosed in time
> and again led back and returned to the upper spheres
> so that the vitality,
> exhausted by births,' which the universe has lost
> may return to it and may again
> circulate through the (celestial) bodies.
> If indeed we may turn our mind to Thee
> to assay Thy holy form wherewith Thou,
> the Immeasurable, dost gird the stars
> and dost embrace all at once the vast ether,
> with limbs, perchance, swift as the flash of lightning
> Thou art as it were a fiery radiance, by whose blaze
> Thou dost see all and dost rule our sun and day.
> Thou art the whole race of gods,
> Thou the cause and strength of all things,
> Thou art all nature, one god innumerable,
> in Thee are both male and female,
> to Thee was once born this god, this universe,
> the home of both men and gods,
> gleaming and sparkling with the sublime flower of youth.
> Breathe Thy favor on my prayer, and grant me to know
> how this universe was created, how born or made.
> Grant, O Father, that I may know the sublime causes,
> by what bond Thou hast sustained the cosmic mass,
> with what insubstantial numbers, even and odd,
> Thou hast, in Thy greatness, woven the Soul,
> and what vigorous force lives in the Swift Bodies.
> Source: http://www.arcanology.com/2005/10/09/a-platonic-hymn-to-the-
> John Uebersax
I was aided by a couple of Neoplatonic angels who sent me a copy of
the article, and was thinking it would be nice to share Lewy's
translation, which I prefer to the Loeb, so thanks for doing it
already. For those interested, here is the Latin, in the text of
Riese from his edition of the Anthologia Latina, again from Lewy's
Omnipotens, annosa poli quem suscipit aetas,
Quem sub millenis semper virtutibus unum
Nec numero quisquam poterit pensare nec aevo,
Nunc esto affatus, si quo te nomine dignum est,
Quo, sacer, ignoto gaudes, quod maxima tellus
Intremit et sistunt rapidos vaga sidera cursus.
Tu solus, tu multus item, tu primus et idem
Postremus mediusque simul mundique superstes.
Nam sine fine tui labentia tempora finis,
Altus ab aeterno spectans fera turbine certo
Rerum fata rapi vitasque involvier aevo
Atque iterum reduces supera in convexa referri.
Scilicet ut mundo redeat, quod partibus (h)austum
Perdiderit, refluumque iterum per corpora fiat.
Tu (siquidem fas est in temet tendere sensum
Et speciem temptare sacram, qua sidera cingis
Immensus longamque simul complecteris aethram
Fulmineis forsan rapida sub imagine membris)
Flammifluum quoddam iubar es, quo cuncta coruscans
Ipse vides nostrumque premis solemque diemque. 20
Tu genus omne deum, tu rerum causa viporque,
Tu natura omnis, deus innumerabilis unus,
Tu sexu plenus toto, tibi nascitur olim
Hic deus, hic mundus, domus hic hominumque deumque,
Lucens, august0 stellatus flore iuventae.
Quem (precor, aspires), qua sit ratione creatus,
Quo genitus factusve modo, da nosse volenti.
Da, pater, augustas ut possim noscere causas,
hlundanas olim moles quo foedere rerum
Sustuleris animamque levi quo maximus olim 30
Texueris numero, quo congrege dissimilique,
Quidque id sit vegetum, quod per cita corpora vivit.
There is much to be gleaned from Lewy's article, which I am still
digesting. One thing of note not included in the Loeb is the
information from the headings in the two oldest MS of the poem: one
has "versus Platonis de deo" and the other "versus Platonis a quodam
Tiberiano de greco in latinum translati." I assume we should be very
hesitant to give full credence to this ascription, that these verses
are actually the words of Plato, but I can certainly imagine a later
writer composing them in his persona, as if he had written them. But
tthis does at least make it all a little more interesting, if nothing
The poem was in fact also noted early on by Kern in his Orphic
fragments, and the notion of Zeus first, middle, and last, certainly
is Orphic, and aside from appearing in the one form in the Derveni
papyrus and the lines quoted in de Mundo, also interestingly enough
appears in those same lines again quoted by Porphyry in one of the
fragments of de cultu simulacrorum, reported by Eusebius. I checked
in the Latin de Mundo, and the same verses are not translated there
into Latin, rather left in Greek. But the more exact formulation of
Zeus first, middle, and last, can be found actually in Plato in the
Laws, which Kern also cites as a fragment. So it's hard to know
exactly what was Tiberianus' source in his poem, maybe just Plato in
the Laws, it must be admitted. As Lewy points out in his artice, we
are much in the world of the Timaeus here in this poem.
I did have a wild idea about the poem, which I suppose is maybe not
that wild. When I first read it I was reminded of the circle of
around Plotinus, including the senator Rogatianus, not that
Tiberianus himself could have been in that circle, if his dates are
correct, since he is later 4th century, but he still must have been
that sort erudite Roman aristocrat, as Prof Dillon described him in
his posting. Then I was considering the possibility of Porphyrean
influence on him, and I thought about those birthday celebrations
held in Plotinus' circle for Plato and Socrates, and Porphyry's
account of his recitation of his poem on the Hieros Gamos that
impressed Plotinus but made another of their circle call him mad -
all this related in his Life of Plotinus.
So my wild speculation: what if this poem were actually a translation
of such an original Greek poem from their circle, via Porphyry? I
haven't been able to track down any secondary literature, if there is
any, on Porphyry's own Hieros Gamos, though if it dealt with the
marriage of Zeus and Chthonie as in Pherecydes, that hieros gamos, it
well could itself had Orphic overtones, I would think.
No, I certainly wouldn't say this poem itself is Porphyry's Hieros
Gamos. But, again, a really wild idea, perhaps: could Tiberianus'
poem actually be a translation of some other poem by Porphyry like
it? Recited perhaps at one of those birthday parties for Plato, with
Plato speaking for himself through the poem - ?!?