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tr., John Brownlie

Κύριε, ἠ ἐν πολλαῖς ἁμαρτίας.

This Idiomelon, the original of which may be seen at p. 384 of the Athens edition of the Triodion, bears the title, ποίημα Κασσιαννῆς Μοναχῆς ("A poem of Kassia the Recluse"). It is still sung on Wednesday of Holy Week.

Kassia had been chosen as consort by the Emperor Theophilos the Iconoclast (A.D. 829-843), son of Michael II. the Stammerer, and when she was brought into his presence, the Emperor greeted her, exclaiming, "Woman is the source of all evil;" to which Kassia replied, "And also of all good." Trifling as the circumstance may seem, it roused the anger of the monarch, and the match was broken off.

Thereupon Kassia devoted herself to religion, and founded a nunnery, in which she remained till her death. In the quiet and seclusion of her life, she wrote many idiomela, which are scattered over the Greek Office Books, chiefly The Menaea.

None of her poetry, so far as the present writer has been able to discover, has ever been rendered into English. Certainly this, which is one of the finest of her idiomela, appears here for the first time in English verse. It is brimful of pathos and tinged with melancholy, without doubt traceable to the sad experiences of her life. May it not be that in the second line of the first stanza there is a suggestion of her own name? κᾰσία (kasia) is sometimes written κάσσια (kassia), the sweet herb. The sweetness of cassia had been changed to the bitterness of myrrh.



Burdened with sin, more, Lord, than I can tell,

I bear the myrrh with those that loved Thee well;

And to the grave lamenting, lo, I bring,

For this last solemn rite, my offering.


The love of sin, ah, that it should be so,

That held my truant spirit long ago,—

That love of sin my foolish heart hath found,

And moonless night now circles me around.


O Thou, Who by the clouds that drape the sky,

Bearest the waters of the sea on high,

Accept the offering of my bitter tears,

From springs that issue in a night of fears.


O Thou, Who mad'st the heavens of old to bow,

Incline Thine ear and hear Thy servant now,

And let my sighing and my grievous moan,

Enter Thine ear, O God, my God alone.


Prostrate I fall, and in my worship meet,

Would kiss amid my tears Thy stainless feet,

And wipe them with my hair, that by Thy grace,

I with the penitent may take my place.


To Thy fair Paradise, when eve has come,

Take Thou Thy servant in Thy mercy home;

From fear of Judgment, and from evil free,

There let me dwell for evermore with Thee.

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