Hymn of the pearl

The Hymn of the Pearl (also Hymn of the SoulHymn of the Robe of Glory or Hymn of Judas Thomas the Apostle) it’s one of the most famous gnostic hymns, describing the exile and redemption of the soul. In this work, originally written in Syriac, the Apostle Thomas sings the hymn while praying for himself and fellow prisoners.  The author of the Hymn is unknown, though there is a belief that it was composed by the Syriac gnostic Bardaisan due to some parallels between his life and that of the hymn.”

Hymn of the pearl

—– Translated by G.R.S. Mead

I.

When, a quite little child, I was dwelling
In the House of my Father’s Kingdom,

And in the wealth and the glories
Of my Up-bringers I was delighting,

From the East, our Home, my Parents
Forth-sent me with journey-provision.

Indeed from the wealth of our Treasure,
They bound up for me a load.

Large was it, yet was it so light
That all alone I could bear it.

II.

Gold from the Land of Beth-Ellaya,
Silver from Gazak the Great,
Chalcedonies of India,
Iris-hued [Opals?] from Kãshan.

They girt me with Adamant [also]
That hath power to cut even iron.

My Glorious Robe they took off me
Which in their love they had wrought me,

And my Purple Mantle [also]
Which was woven to match with my stature.
III.

And with me They [then] made a compact;
In my heart wrote it, not to forget it:

“If thou goest down into Egypt,
And thence thou bring’st the one Pearl –

“[The Pearl] that lies in the Sea,
Hard by the loud-breathing Serpent –

“[Then] shalt Thou put on thy Robe
And thy Mantle that goeth upon it,

“And with thy Brother, Our Second,
Shalt thou be Heir in our Kingdom.”

IV.

I left the East and went down
With two Couriers [with me];

For the way was hard and dangerous,
For I was young to tread it.

I traversed the borders of Maish~ n,
The mart of the Eastern merchants,

And I reached the Land of Babel,
And entered the walls of Sarbãg.

Down further I went into Egypt;
And from me parted my escorts.

V.

Straightway I went to the Serpent;
Near to his lodging I settled,

To take away my Pearl
While he should sleep and should slumber.

Lone was I there, yea, all lonely;
To my fellow-lodgers a stranger.

However I saw there a noble,
From out of the Dawn-land my kinsman,

A young man fair and well favoured,
Son of Grandees; he came and he joined me.

VI.

I made him my chosen companion,
A comrade, for sharing my wares with.

He warned me against the Egyptians,
’Gainst mixing with the unclean ones.

For I had clothed me as they were,
That they might not guess I had come

From afar to take off the Pearl,
And so rouse the Serpent against me.

VII.

But from some occasion or other
They learned I was not of their country.

With their wiles they made my acquaintance;
Yea, they gave me their victuals to eat.

I forgot that I was a King’s son,
And became a slave to their king.

I forgot all concerning the Pearl
For which my Parents had sent me;

And from the weight of their victuals
I sank down into a deep sleep.

VIII.

All this that now was befalling,
My Parents perceived and were anxious.

It was then proclaimed in our Kingdom,
That all should speed to our Gate –

Kings and Chieftains of Parthia,
And of the East all the Princes.

And this is the counsel they came to:
I should not be left down in Egypt.

And for me they wrote out a Letter;
And to it each Noble his Name set:

IX.

“From Us – King of Kings, thy Father,
And thy Mother, Queen of the Dawn-land,

“And from Our Second, thy Brother –
To thee, Son, down in Egypt, Our Greeting!

“Up an arise from thy sleep,
Give ear to the words of Our Letter!

“Remember that thou art a King’s son;
See whom thou hast served in thy slavedom.

Bethink thyself of the Pearl
For which thou didst journey to Egypt.

X.

“Remember thy Glorious Robe,
Thy Splendid Mantle remember,

“To put on and wear as adornment,
When thy Name may be read in the Book of the Heroes,

“And with Our Successor, thy Brother,
Thou mayest be Heir in Our Kingdom.”

My Letter was [surely] a Letter
The King had sealed up with His Right Hand,

’Gainst the Children of Babel, the wicked,
The tyrannical Daimons of Sarbãg.

XI.

It flew in the form of the Eagle,
Of all the winged tribes the king-bird;

It flew and alighted beside me,
And turned into speech altogether.

At its voice and the sound of its winging,
I waked and arose from my deep sleep.

Unto me I took it and kissed it;
I loosed its seal and I read it.

E’en as it stood in my heart writ,
The words of my Letter were written.

XII.

I remembered that I was a King’s son,
And my rank did long for its nature.

I bethought me again of the Pearl,
For which I was sent down to Egypt.

And I began [then] to charm him,
The terrible loud-breathing Serpent.

I lulled him to sleep and to slumber,
Chanting o’er him the Name of my Father,

The Name of our Second, [my Brother],
And [Name] of my Mother, the East-Queen.

XIII.

And [thereon] I snatched up the Pearl,
And turned to the House of my Father.

Their filthy and unclean garments
I stripped off and left in their country.

To the way that I came I betook me,
To the Light of our Home, to the Dawn-land.

On the road I found [there] before me,
My Letter that had aroused me –

As with its voice it had roused me,
So now with its light it did lead me –

XIV.

On fabric of silk, in letter of red [?],
With shining appearance before me [?],

Encouraging me with its guidance,
With its love it was drawing me onward.

I went forth; through Sarbãg I passed;
I left B~ bel-land on my left hand;

And I reached unto Maishan the Great,
The meeting-place of the merchants,

That lieth hard by the Sea-shore.

XV.

My Glorious Robe that I’d stripped off,
And my Mantle with which it was covered,

Down from the Heights of Hyrcania,
Thither my Parents did send me,

By the hands of their Treasure-dispensers
Who trustworthy were with it trusted.

Without my recalling its fashion, –
In the House of my Father my childhood had left it,–

At once, as soon as I saw it,
The Glory looked like my own self.

XVI.

I saw it in all of me,
And saw me all in [all of] it, –

That we were twain in distinction,
And yet again one in one likeness.

I saw, too, the Treasurers also,
Who unto me had down-brought it,

Were twain [and yet] of one likeness;
For one Sign of the King was upon them –

Who through them restored me the Glory,
The Pledge of my Kingship [?].

XVII.

The Glorious Robe all-bespangled
With sparkling splendour of colours:

With Gold and also with Beryls,
Chalcedonies, iris-hued [Opals?],

With Sards of varying colours.
To match its grandeur [?], moreover, it had been completed:

With adamantine jewels
All of its seams were off-fastened.

[Moreover] the King of Kings’ Image
Was depicted entirely all o’er it;

And as with Sapphires above
Was it wrought in a motley of colour.

XVIII.

I saw that moreover all o’er it
The motions of Gnosis abounding;

I saw it further was making
Ready as though for to speak.

I heard the sound of its Music
Which it whispered as it descended [?]:

“Behold him the active in deeds!
For whom I was reared with my Father;

“I too have felt in myself
How that with his works waxed my stature.”

XIX.

And [now] with its Kingly motions
Was it pouring itself out towards me,

And made haste in the hands of its Givers,
That I might [take and] receive it.

And me, too, my love urged forward
To run for to meet it, to take it.

And I stretched myself forth to receive it;
With its beauty of colour I decked me,

And my Mantle of sparkling colours
I wrapped entirely all o’er me.

XX.

I clothed me therewith, and ascended
To the Gate of Greeting and Homage.

I bowed my head and did homage
To the Glory of Him who had sent it,

Whose commands I [now] had accomplished,
And who had, too, done what He’d promised.

[And there] at the Gate of His House-sons
I mingled myself with His Princes;

For He had received me with gladness,
And I was with Him in His Kingdom;

XXI.

To whom the whole of His Servants
With sweet-sounding voices sing praises.

* * * * *
He had promised that with him to the Court
Of the King of Kings I should speed,

And taking with me my Pearl
Should with him be seen by our King.

The Hymn of Judas Thomas the Apostle,
which he spake in prison, is ended.

 


Hymn of the pearl

—– Translated by William Wright

DRESSING FOR THE JOURNEY

 

When I was a little child living
in my father’s palace in his kingdom,
happy in the glories and riches
of my family that nurtured me,
my parents gave me supplies
and sent me out on a mission
from our home in the east.
From their treasure house
they made up a cargo for me.
It was big though light enough
so I could carry it myself,
holding gold from the highest houses
and silver of Gazzak the Great
and rubies of India
and opals from the land of Kushan,
and they girded me with adamant
that can crush iron.
They took off my bright robe of glory,
which they had made for me out of love,
and took away my purple toga,
which was woven to fit my stature.
They made a covenant with me
and wrote it in my heart so I would not forget:
“When you go down into Egypt
and bring back the one pearl
that lies in the middle of the sea
and is guarded by the snorting serpent,
you will again put on your robe of glory
and your toga over it,
and with your brother, our next in rank,
you will be heir in our kingdom.”

 

THE DRAGON AND THE DEEP SLEEP

 

I left the east and traveled down
to Egypt with my two royal guides,
since the way was dangerous and harsh
and I was very young to walk alone.
I crossed the borders of Maishan,
the gathering place of merchants of the east,
came into the land of the Babylonians,
and entered the walls of Sarbug.
When I went down into Egypt
my companions left me.
I went straight to the serpent
and settled close by him in an inn,
waiting for him to sleep
so I could take my pearl from him.
Since I was alone
I was a stranger to others in the inn,
yet I saw one of my own people there,
a nobleman from the east,
young, handsome, lovable,
a son of kings — an anointed one,
and he came and was close to me.
And I made him my confidante
with whom I shared my mission.
I warned him against the Egyptians
and of contact with the unclean ones.
Then I put on a robe like theirs,
lest they suspect me as an outsider
who had come to steal the pearl,
lest they arouse the serpent against me.
Somehow they learned I was not
their countryman, dealt with me cunningly,
and gave me their food to eat.
I fell into a deep sleep.
I forgot that I was a son of kings
and served their king.
I forgot the pearl
for which my parents had sent me.
Through the heaviness of their food
I fell into a deep sleep.

 

“REMEMBER THE PEARL”

 

When all these things happened
my parents knew and grieved for me.
It was proclaimed in our kingdom
that all should come to our gate.
And the kings and princes of Parthia
and all the nobles of the east
wove a plan on my behalf
so I would not be left in Egypt.
And they wrote me a letter
and every noble signed it with his name:
“From your father, the king of kings,
and your mother, the mistress of the east,
and from your brother, our next in rank,
and to you, our son in Egypt, peace!
Awake and rise from your sleep
and hear the words of our letter!
Remember that you are a son of kings
and see the slavery of your life.
Remember the pearl
for which you were sent into Egypt!
Remember your robe of glory
and your splendid mantle, which you may wear
when your name is called in the book of life,
when it is read in the book of heroes,
when you and your brother inherit our kingdom.”

 

THE BIRD OF SPEECH [SOUND]

 

And serving as messenger,
the letter was a letter sealed by the king
with his right hand
against the evil children of Babylon
and the savage demons of the Sarbug labyrinth.
It rose up in the form of an eagle,
the king of all winged fowl;
it flew and alighted beside me
and became Speech.
At its Voice and the Sound of its rustling
I awoke and rose from my sleep.
I took it, kissed it, broke its seal, and read.
And the words written on my heart
were in the letter for me to read.
I remembered that I was the son of kings
and my free soul longed for its own kind.
I remembered the pearl
for which I was send down into Egypt,
and I began to enchant
the terrible and snorting serpent.
I charmed him into sleep
by calling the Name of my Father over him
and of my mother, the queen of the east.
I seized the pearl
and turned to carry it to my father.
Those filthy and impure garments
I stripped off, leaving them in the fields,
and went straight on my way
into the light of our homeland in the east.

 

THE LETTER’S VOICE

 

On my way the letter that awakened me
was lying like a woman on the road.
And as she had awakened me with her voice
so she guided me with her light
as if she were an oracle.
She was written on Chinese silk
and shone before me in her own form.
Her voice soothed my fear
and its love urged me on.
I hurried past the labyrinth walls of Sarbug
and Babylon on the left
and came to Maishan, the haven of merchants,
perched over the coast of the sea.
My robe of glory that I had taken off
and the toga over it were sent by my parents
from the heights of Hyrcania.
They were in the hands of treasurers
to whom they were committed
because of their faith,
and I had forgotten the robe’s splendor,
for as a child I had left it
in my father’s house.

 

THE GARMENT OF GNOSIS

 

As I gazed on it, suddenly the garment
like a mirror reflected me,
and I saw myself apart
as two entities in one form.
The treasurers had brought me one robe,
yet in two halves I saw one shape
with one kingly seal.
They gave me wealth,
and the bright embroidered robe
was colored with gold and beryls,
with rubies and opals,
and sardonyxes of many colors
were fastened to it in its high home.
All its seams were fastened
with stones of adamant,
and the image of the king of kings
was embroidered on it
as it rippled with sapphires
of many colors.
I saw it quiver all over,
moving with gnosis, in a pulsing knowledge,
and as it prepared to speak
it moved toward me,
murmuring the sound of its songs.
It descended and said,
“I am the one who acted for him.
For him I was brought up in my father’s house.
I saw myself growing in stature
in harmony with his labors.”

 

THE TOGA AND THE PEARL

 

With regal movements
the robe was spreading toward me,
urging me to take it,
and love urged me to receive it,
and I stretched forth and received it
and put on the beauty of its hues.
I cast my toga of brilliant colors
all around me.
Therein I clothed myself and ascended
to the gate of salutation and adoration.
I bowed my head and adored
the majesty of my father, who sent it to me.
I had fulfilled his commands
and he fulfilled what he had promised.
At the gate of his princes
I mingled with his nobles.
He was happy through me and received me,
and I was with him in his kingdom,
and his slaves praised him resoundingly.
He promised me that I would journey soon
with him to the gate of the king of kings,
and with my gifts and my pearl
I would appear with him before our king.

 


Both translations are offered by http://gnosis.org/library/hymnpearl.htm

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