The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

In Thee Will I Begin To Speak

For Christmas

Hymn 10 of
Nineteen Hymns of the Nativity by Saint Ephraem the Syrian

Words: Saint Ephream of Syria
Born at Nisibis, then under Roman rule, early in the fourth century; died June, 373.
Translated into Prose by Rev. J. B. (John Brandl) Morris, M. A.
(Late) Fellow of Exeter College, Oxford.
Translated from Thomas Joseph Lamy, S. Ephraemi Syri Opera Syriaca (Rome, 1743)

Music: Not Stated

Source: John Gwynn, ed., Hymns and Homilies of Ephraim The Syrian, Trans. A. Edward Johnston, from Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, eds., A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers. Second Series, Volume 13, Part 2. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1905), pp. 244-245.

The Rhythms of Saint Ephrem the Syrian on the Nativity

Rhythm The Tenth

In Thee will I begin to speak, Thou Head that didst begin all created things.1 I, even I will open my mouth, but it is Thou that fillest my mouth.2 I am the earth to Thee, and Thou art the husbandman. Sow Thy voice in me,3 Thou that sowedst Thyself in the womb of thy Mother.

"All the chaste daughters of the Hebrews,4 and the virgins' daughters of the chief men, are astonished at me! For Thee doth the daughter of the poor meet with envy, for Thee, the daughter of the weak with jealousy. Who hath given Thee to me?

"O Son of the Rich One, Who abhorred the bosom of the rich women, who led Thee to the poor? for Joseph was needy and I also in want, yet Thy merchants have come, and brought gold, to the house of the poor."

She saw the Magi: her songs increased at their offerings; "Lo! Thy worshippers have surrounded me, yea thy offerings have encircled me. Blessed be the Babe who made His Mother a harp for His words:

"And as the harp waiteth for its master, my mouth waiteth for Thee. May the tongue of Thy Mother bring what pleases Thee; and since I have learnt a new Conception by Thee, let my mouth learn in Thee, O new born Son, a new song of praise.

"And if hindrances are no hindrances to Thee, since difficulties are easy to Thee, as a womb without marriage conceived Thee, and a belly without seed brought Thee forth, it is easy for a little mouth to multiply Thy great glory.

"Lo! I am oppressed and despised, and yet cheerful: mine ears are filled with reproof and scorn; and it is a small thing to me to bear, for ten thousand troubles can a single comfort of Thine chase away.

"And since I am not despised by Thee, O Son, my countenance is bright; and I am slandered for having conceived, and yet have brought forth the Truth who justifies me. For if Tamar was justified by Judah, how much more shall I be justified by Thee!"

David Thy father sung in a psalm of Thee before Thou hadst come, that to Thee should be given the gold of Sheba.5 This psalm that he sung of Thee, lo! it, whilst Thou art yet a child, in reality heaps before thee myrrh and gold.

And the hundred and fifty Psalms that he wrote, in Thee were seasoned, because all the sayings of prophecy stood in need of Thy sweetness, for without Thy salt all manner of wisdom were tasteless.6


Editor's Notes:

These footnotes are from the source identified above, and may include some footnotes from the original publication of Hymns 1 through 13, inclusive, which was by Rev. Edward B. Pusey, et al., eds., Rhythms of Saint Ephrem The Syrian / Select Works of S. Ephrem the Syrian. Trans. Rev. J. B. (John Brandl) Morris, from A Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, Anterior to the Division of the East and West. Volume 41. (Oxford: John Henry Parker; London: F. and J. Rivington, 1847), pp. 1-60.

Text from the Holy Bible was not originally included in these texts, and has been added by an editor for The Hymns and Carols of Christmas. All quotations are from the Revised Version, Standard American Edition of the Bible, more commonly known as the American Standard Version (ASV), which was the most recent translation at the time of publication of these poems. The American Standard Version has been termed “the bedrock translation” due to its fidelity to ancient sources known to exist at that time.

Rev. 3. 14. "And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God:" Return

Ps. 81. 10. "I am Jehovah thy God,
Who brought thee up out of the land of Egypt:
Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it." Return

Heb. 6. 7. "For the land which hath drunk the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them for whose sake it is also tilled, receiveth blessing from God:" Return

The Virgin Mother here speaks. Return

Ps. 72. 15. "And they shall live; and to him shall be given of the gold of Sheba:
And men shall pray for him continually;
They shall bless him all the day long." Return

Job. 6. 6.  "Can that which hath no savor be eaten without salt?
Or is there any taste in the white of an egg?" Return


Additional Editor's Notes:

St. Ephraem of Syria was also the author of Fifteen Hymns of the Epiphany, as well as other hymns of the Christmas-tide, hymns against heresies, hymns for the faith, etc.

See generally Christmas-tide Hymns from the Eastern Churches.

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