CHAPTER 5 TO 8 (Kitab al-Lulu al-Manthur fi Tarikh al-Ulum wal-Adab al-Suryaniyya) (History of Syriac Literature and Sciences) by Patriarch Ignatius Aphram Barsoum Translated By Dr. Matti Moosa

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SYRIAC CALLIGRAPHY /MORPHOLOGY AND GRAMMAR / GENERAL RULES OF THE LANGUAGE AND DICTIONARIES;

RHETORIC AND POETRY / THEMES OF SYRIAC POETRY

CHAPTER FIVE
Since the art of calligraphy is obviously connected with the language and literature, we have chosen to devote an earlier chapter to this question, which has been neglected by historians. Some scholars are of the opinion that Syriac calligraphy antedates that of the other peoples of the world, and that the Syrians taught mankind the early method of writing, from which the Phoenicians and other nations borrowed their scripts. Although we cannot positively assert such a belief, because of the seriousness of the question and the conflicting arguments of scholars, and because it is impossible to present a conclusive discussion, we can, however, briefly state that our Syriac calligraphy is one of the most ancient calligraphies. The form of the characters of our Syriac script has changed throughout the ages, and there are no vestiges of its existence in the pre-Christian era, except a few insignificant lines found inscribed on stones in Edessa and other places. They were published separately by J. B. Chabot and Henry Pognon .1
In the Christian era, we have the Estrangelo, which is the best and noblest of the Syriac scripts. Also called the “open” or the “heavy” or the “Ruhawi” (Edessene), it was invented by Paul bar Arqa or Anqa of Edessa at the beginning of the third century, as shall be seen later. The Estrangelo is considered the source of the Arabic Kufi script. Most of our oldest manuscripts surviving today are written in this script, which was in continuous use until the fourteenth century.
The second type is the Western Syriac script, devised in the ninth century and mixed with Estrangelo for the simplicity of its use. The Syrians kept modifying it until it became distinct from the Estrangelo during the twelfth century. I believe that it is the same script, called “Sarta,” which was used in writing prose and is still used for this purpose, while the Estrangelo was strictly used for decorating the title heads.2
Among us there flourished a great number of calligraphers that perfected and beautified their art. All of them were either monks, hermits or clerics whose works was an adornment of knowledge. They undertook the copying of the most voluminous works with great patience and perpetuated many types of sciences and arts in their works.
To be sure, ancient Syriac books preserved today in the libraries of the Orient and Europe are the oldest books in the world.3 We have personally seen and studied most of them. However, the quantity that has reached us is very little, in comparison with the great numbers that have been lost through time. Even among these surviving works, we have found a considerable number either mutilated or lacking the name of the scribe. We have counted nearly one hundred and thirty skillful scribes from 462 A.D. to 1264 A.D. who used three types of Estrangelo, the thick, the medium, and the fine, with slight difference of beauty among them. In many manuscripts that they copied, there is found a creative embellishment and elegance and an overwhelming degree of perfection and uniformity. They usually wrote on special glossy parchments and seldom on thick paper, whose manufacture began in Baghdad at the end of the eighth century, shortly after the establishment of this city; this process was introduced from China and spread to other countries. The last known manufacturing of paper was in Damascus in the middle of the sixteenth century.4

From these calligraphers we except a group mentioned in some of the biographies of the saints of Tur Abdin, none of whose works were found, due to the lapse of time, the successive tribulations which afflicted their countries, and catastrophes and destructive invasions. These scribes are Samuel and Jonathan, the ascetics, who flourished in the first quarter of the fifth century;5 Daniel the Kundayraybi, the Chief copyist of Tur Abdin, and his pupils in the middle of the ninth century; and a few others.
In his Ecclesiastical History, the most learned Bar Hebraeus stated that “John of Basibrina, metropolitan of the Monastery of Qartamin (998-1034), restored the use of the Estrangelo script in Tur Abdin and its neighborhood almost a hundred years after the destruction of the monastery. He taught this art to his nephews, the monks Emmanuel, Peter and Yaish, after he had learned it himself by careful study of books. The first of them, the deacon-monk Emmanuel, copied seventy volumes of both testaments according to the Pshitto, the Septuagint and the Harqalite versions. He also transcribed homilies in three columns and thus adorned the monastery of Qartamin with books which have no equal in the world.”6 A copy of one of the Gospels belonging to the patriarchal seat is preserved at our St. Mark’s library in Jerusalem, under number 1.
Also famous in the art of calligraphy was Patriarch Yuhanna (John) XII, known as Yeshu the scribe (d. 1220), who, during his monastic life, transcribed about eighteen books; one of these was a Gospel, decorated with aqua aurum which had been in the Monastery of the Cross. I have seen three copies of the gospels in Aleppo and in Paris (MS. 40). Of the more than fourteen fanqiths (service books of prayer) transcribed by the monk-priest Zebina the Shalibdini (d. 1227), only three survived at our Church of Diyarbakr. Also, a pictorial Bible is found in the Jerusalem library7 (MS. 28), and another copy of the Bible in Paris, transcribed by the monk-priest Bacchus of Beth Khudayda al-Tawwaf (“wanderer”), 1213-1257. Further, Patriarch Michael the Great (d. 1199) had beautifully transcribed a valuable copy of the Bible, adorned each page with gold and silver, and bound it with a silver cover. In the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, (MSS. 113 and 167) are also in Michael’s own handwriting.
Iyawannis Yeshu, metropolitan of Raban (1210), whose handwriting was extremely good, transcribed many books, of which a Bible is found at St. Thomas Catholic Church in Mosul. Also, Dioscorus Theodorus bar Basil, metropolitan of Hisn Ziyad (d. 1273), transcribed books which are now preserved at the libraries of al-Zafaran Monastery, Diyarbakr and Kharput. The deacon Abd Allah of Bartulli transcribed three books that are in the libraries of Jerusalem, Aleppo and al-Sharfa.8
Bar Hebraeus relates that “an Edessan monk-priest named Kasrun retreated to the town of Maragha, in Persia, together with people from al-Sham (Syria), who had been transported there by the Persians. He adorned our Church at Maragha with books in his own handwriting, which remain preserved until this time in Nineveh.9 He was a skillful calligrapher that spent most of his days at St. Behnam’s Monastery. He died in 1139.”10 The surviving work in his handwriting is the Book of Psalms in the Estrangelo and the Western script, copied according to the Pshitto version and the variant readings of the Septuagint, with his commentaries on it, which he finished at Maragha in 1127. This volume is preserved at the Chaldean Patriarchate in Mosul, under No. 4.

Distinguished for their art of engraving and decorating, apart from their calligraphy, were the deacon Joseph of Melitene (d. 997), the monk Yaish of Basibrina (formerly mentioned), the monk-priest Peter, son of the deacon Abu al-Faraj Saba of Basibrina, the monk-priest Sahdu Tuma of Tur Abdin (1241), the monk Mubarak bar Dawid of Bartulli (1239), the monk-priest Bacchus of Beth Khudayda (formerly mentioned), the monk-priest Joseph of Arnas (d. 1449), and the monk Daniel Qusuri (d. 1577). Of lesser talent was Dioscorus, metropolitan of Hisn Ziyad.
From the thirteenth century until our time, about one hundred and seventy calligraphers improved the Western script and used three types of it, the thick, the medium, and the fine. The latter is exceptionally elegant, especially the type known as the Karkari, after the town or the citadel of Karkar, situated between Diyarkakr and Edessa and their neighboring villages. From 1577 to 1820 the calligraphers of these districts developed a fine script of extreme beauty and brilliant lines.
Of those who perfected the Western script, we would like to mention specifically the monk Yeshu Shini of Bedlis (1298), the monk-priest Saliba bar Khayrun of Hah (1340), the monk-priest Jacob of Manimim (1404), the monk Joseph of the Natif Monastery (1443), the metropolitan Simon of Aynward (d. 1490), George bar Qurman, metropolitan of Mardin (1504), the metropolitan Sergius of Hah (1508), the patriarch Nuh the Lebanese (d. 1509), Musa Ubayd of Sadad, metropolitan of Hims (d. 1510), the monk-priest Ibrahim Zanbur of Basibrina, who transcribed nearly twenty volumes (d. 1512), Joseph, metropolitan of Kafr Hawwar (1513), the patriarch Jacob I (d. 1517), the maphrian Sulayman of Mardin (d. 1518), the priest Simon of Hirrin (d. 1523), Yusuf the Iberian, metropolitan of Jerusalem (d. 1537), the patriarch Pilate (d. 1597), the monk-priest Ibrahim bar Ghazwi the Qusuri (1607), Behnam of Arbu, metropolitan of Jerusalem (d. 1614), the monk-priest Abd al-Azim of Klaybin (1612), the metropolitan Dionysius Abd al-Hayy of Mardin(1621), the monk-priest Abd Allah al-Mashlul of Mardin (1621), the metropolitan Yuhanna of Beth Khudayda (d. 1625), the maphrian Isaiah of Inhil (d. 1635), the maphrian Behnam Bati (d. 1655), Aslam, metropolitan of Amid (d. 1741), the metropolitan John Shahin of Amid (d. 1755), the chorepiscopus Jacob of Qutrubul (d. 1783), Iliyya (Elijah) Shlah of Mardin, metropolitan of Bushayriyya (d. 1805), the metropolitan Abd al-Nur of Arbu (d. 1841), Metropolitan Saliba of Basibrina (d. 1885), George Kassab of Sadad, metropolitan of Jerusalem (d. 1896), the monk-priest Yeshu of Manimim (d. 1916), the deacon Matta Bulus (Paul) of Mosul, who transcribed more than forty volumes of different subjects, including commentaries on the Pentateuch, theology, ecclesiastical jurisprudence, history, literature and asceticism. They are preserved in different libraries. He is still living and has passed his eighty-sixth year of age.11 Moreover, a number of our clerics still perfect the Syriac calligraphy.
The first calligrapher known to have embellished the fine Karkari script was Gregory Vaness Najjar of Wank, metropolitan of Cappadocia and then Edessa (1577-1607). He transcribed about twenty volumes of different writings. He also transcribed with extreme precision several copies of the Gospels and the Psalms, in an extremely fine and compact handwriting. Each copy not more than seven centimeters long. Three of these copies are preserved – one in the library of St. Mark’s Monastery in Jerusalem, another in the Boston Library,12 and the third in the possession of one of the priests in Mosul. From the artistic point of view, these manuscripts are considered a marvel.
Other calligraphers are Michael Barsoum of Urbaysh, metropolitan of Karkar (1590-1630), who transcribed the history of Michael the Great; his uncle, the monk Pilate Mukhtar (1584); the two monks Sahdu of Karkar (1599) and Micha of Wank (1606).

At the end of this book the reader will find a chronological catalogue of the names of these excellent men that were extracted from the invaluable manuscripts they copied. These manuscripts that survived destruction attest to their excellence. We have arranged them according to their dates of transcription beginning with the oldest dates.
CHAPTER SIX

MORPHOLOGY AND GRAMMAR

The Syrians mastered the speaking and writing of their language by instinct and by custom. They did not need rules to guide them into eloquence or protect them from error. They remained in this state for an exceedingly long time. But when they familiarized themselves with the principles of Greek grammar written by Dionysius of Corinth,1 they translated it into their own language. According to Bar Zubi,2 the oldest Syriac grammar is attributed to Ahudemeh, Metropolitan of Takrit and all the East (d. 575), who based it on the principles of Greek grammar.
To Jacob of Edessa, however, belongs the credit for delineating the path of Syriac grammar and explaining its methods. Jacob wrote the first systematic book on grammar. Bar Hebraeus cited significant parts from it that indicate the voluminousness of the original that has been lost to us. There remained only fragments of it, in which the author alluded to the defects of Syriac writing because of its concern with the consonants rather than vowels. And when the priest Paul of Antioch requested him to correct this faulty method, he answered that he had given some thought to this question. In fact, it had occurred to his predecessors, but their fear of the loss of these ancient books prevented them from attempting to do it. However, Jacob invented seven vowels to eliminate the deficiency. But the Syrians kept using the five vowels known to us today, which were instituted by the Magdalene Syrian monks of Qarqafta (“the Skull”) Monastery, who vocalized the language of the Scriptures. In order to attain a correct reading, Jacob of Edessa also used thirty-six diacritical points, by which he completed the forms of letters.3 It is believed that the stylite ascetic John of Atharib wrote a grammar book that had been mentioned by the Subawi,4 and partly cited by Bar Zubi. The abbot David bar Paul produced another work on grammar, of which only small portions remained. We notice, however, that Anton Rhetor does not mention these grammarians.
The grammar that we have today is represented by The Dialogue (in prose as well as in metrical form) by Jacob of Bartulli. His sources are the Greek philosophers, the teachers of the Syrian schools, and the Book of Light (or Rays) by Bar Hebraeus. This book, divided into four parts, deals with the dialects of the western Syrians, who are members of our communion, as well as those of the eastern Syrians (Chaldeans and Nestorians). He also incorporated in it a chapter on Arabic grammar. It is considered the best, most complete, and most exact work on grammar. It became a constitution for the students, an authority for the grammarians, and a reliable source for the Syriac-speaking people. He also composed the chapters of his grammar in the heptasyllabic meter with commentaries in Syriac, in order to make it easier for the students to read. A third grammar, the Book of the Spark, was left unfinished by the author and is lost to us.

Another short treatise, composed by the patriarch Ignatius bar Wuhayb, dealt with the “hard” and “soft” letters in grammar. Both Patriarch Isaac Azar (d. 1724) and Bishop Rizq Allah (d. 1772) left small works on morphology. In 1764 the chorepiscopus Jacob of Qutrubul wrote an excellent book entitled Zahrat al-Maarif (“The Flower of Knowledge”) on Syriac grammar and morphology; this was later abridged either by him or by some of his contemporaries.

CHAPTER SEVEN

GENERAL RULES OF THE LANGUAGE AND DICTIONARIES;
RHETORIC AND POETRY
After Edessa, Melitene became the destination of the students of Syriac. In its Cathedral flourished professors of grammar and philology, some of whom were mentioned by Bar Hebraeus in his Semhe (“The Book of Lights”). One of these grammarians was Eupdox of Melitene, who flourished in the eleventh or the twelfth centuries. He composed for his students a philological collection containing reading lessons, which he dictated to them. He marked these lessons with diacritical points and special signs to avoid confusion in reading. Later he collected them in a book which he published under his own name. Another grammarian, Jacob of Bartulli, in his very useful book The Dialogue, devoted a special chapter to the Syriac language, its eloquence, and the changes which came upon it.
The western Syrians did not compile dictionaries, but relied on those of the eastern Syrians, namely, the physicians, Hunayn ibn Ishaq (d. 873), Yeshu bar Ali (d. 1001), and particularly al-Hasan bar Bahlul al-Awani al-Tirhani (963). This latter work was interpolated by some of our writers, who borrowed many useful philological themes from the works of their predecessors. An insignificant abridgement of Bar Bahlul’s dictionary was made in 1724 by the maphrian Simon of Manimim. We found a Syriac-Armenian copy of Bar Bahlul’s dictionary, with few Arabic terms, at the Boston Museum (MS. 3980),1 copied by Bishop Ephraim Wanki of Karkar, and completed in the year 1659. Undoubtedly it was translated into Armenian by a Syrian writer from Karkar.2
Between 825 and 840, the monk Anton of Takrit (Anton Rhetor) composed his splendid work, The Knowledge of Rhetoric, in five treatises;3 it has not been equalled by anyone before or since. Four of these treatises are devoted to eloquence, lucidity of composition, and partly to philology which shows his creative ability. The fifth treatise is devoted to the art of poetry, its genres and meters. By this work he remedied a deficiency, created a hope for future works, and made an excellent achievement.
The previously mentioned work, The Dialogue, contains a chapter on rhetoric and a unique treatise on the art of poetry, confined to the conditions of poetry up to the lifetime of the author, who died in 1241. It contains also a portion of the Syriac translation of Aristotle’s Poetics, particularly concerned with tragedy, which had been translated by Abu Bishr into Arabic.4
Syriac poetry was composed mainly to imprint religious teachings in the minds of the people and bestow upon the different types of prayer an aura of solemnity created by its melody. And when St. Ephraim achieved success through his poetry, he was followed and imitated by the succeeding generations. Syriac poetry falls into two classifications, odes and songs. The odes are composed in three types of meter: the heptasyllabic meter, or the Ephraimite, created by St. Ephraim; the pentasyllabic meter or Balaite meter, invented by Mar Balai, bishop of Balsh; and the twelve-syllable meter, or the Sarujite, devised by Jacob of Saruj, bishop of Batnan.

According to Anton of Takrit (in the fifth treatise of his book), our poets composed poetry in other meters of different syllables, right through the sixteen-syllable meter. The octosyllabic meter was invented by Anton himself, but it did not become universally used.
Most of these odes were, however, composed for the purpose of recitation or chanting during the performance of worship, and also to instill the people with religious principles and virtuous life. They were usually lengthy; for example, the two poems of Jacob of Saruj about the creation and the passion of Christ contained more than three thousand lines, and the poem of Isaac of Edessa on the Parrot which chanted the Trisagion contained two thousand one hundred and thirty-six lines.
The madrash (metrical hymn)5 resembles lyric poetry and is composed in lines of four to ten syllables. Some scholars have counted seventy-five melodies used for the authentic hymns or for those falsely attributed to St. Ephraim; some of them contain refrains. These madrashes were preceded by a few opening words for a well-known hymn, to indicate the tune to be used.
One type of the madrash is the sughith, written in a dialogue form. The sughith is composed in the heptasyllabic meter and alphabetically arranged, like the sughiths between the angel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary, between Mary and the Wise Men, and between Abraham and the sacrificial lamb, written by George, bishop of the Arabs.
After they studied and mastered the Arabic language, the Syrians introduced rhyme into their poetry in the beginning of the ninth century to imitate the Arabs. The wrote their poems following one rhyme or using the same rhyme for every two or four lines. Later they used rhymed prose. At the end of the thirteenth century, the extremists among these poets began to imitate with exaggeration the Arabic rhetorical devices, such as paranomasia and antithesis. They forced themselves to compose poetry and thus marred their work with pretension and complexity, disrupting the delicate balance of form and content. Apparently, they were deceived by the poetry of Khamis Qirdahi6 and Abd Yeshu Subawi (1290-1318), both Nestorian men of letters, and by imitating them made their poetry become appallingly poor and colorless.
Some of our later poets in the middle of the fifteenth, sixteenth and eighteenth centuries followed the path of Subawi. They were the monk-priests Thomas and David of Hims, the two patriarchs Nuh the Lebanese in some of his poetry and Nimat Allah in his poor rhythmic prose, the two bishops Sergius of Hah and Joseph the Iberian and the chorepiscopus Jacob of Qutrubul. Opposed to these, however, other poets, such as Patriarch Behnam of Hidl (d. 1454), Maphrian Simon of Tur Abdin (d. 1740), the bishop John of Manimim (d. 1825) and Bishop Zaytun of Inhil (d. 1855), imitated the old poets.

CHAPTER EIGHT

THEMES OF SYRIAC POETRY
The themes and purposes of Syriac poetry are:
1. The renunciation of worldly things and the call for repentance and the way of salvation. To these principles the greatest part of poetry, especially that of the immortal St. Ephraim, and later that of Isaac and Jacob of Saruj, was devoted. Each one of them had his own masterpieces and gems of poetry. Likewise Bar Qiqi, in his very moving poem based on the Sarujite meter, lamented himself and portrayed his penitence.
2. Description. Theological themes and commentaries on the Bible, as well as the versification of most of its subjects, prevail in this kind of poetry. The eminent poet Jacob of Saruj was most important in this field. To David bar Paul belongs a beautiful poem on the description of trees, their kinds and fruits. George, bishop of the Arabs, and Lazarus bar Subto wrote two distinguished poems describing the sacrament of the holy Chrism. In one of his poems, Anton of Takrit described the charm of the city of Ras al-Ayn. Moreover, Bar Hebraeus composed magnificent poetry in which he described springs and flowers. Another poet, David of Hims, wrote a splendid poem on nostalgia.
3. Praise, used by our poets to exalt our Lord Christ, the Holy Church, its Sacraments and mysteries, the virtues of the Virgin Mary, and the categories of saints and martyrs. The poems of St. Ephraim, describing the Sacraments of the Church and the virtue of celibacy, combined subtlety of impression, descriptive charm, artistic splendor and beauty of theme. In this regard his poem on the bishops of Nisibin is unique. Also unique are the poems of St. Jacob of Saruj praising the two prophets Moses and Elijah, St. Ephraim, John the Baptist, the Apostles Peter and Paul, and the martyrs of Edessa. Beside their beauty and charm, these poems reveal the artistic proficiency and rhetorical mastery of their composers. Of the same category are the two poems of George, bishop of the Arabs, praising the martyrs of Sebaste and St. Severus, the poem of Bar Paul in praise of Bishop John, highly artistic in its use of rhetoric, and the two poems of Anton Rhetor praising Sergius and Joseph of Ras al-Ayn.
One of the finest poems is by Bar Sabuni in praise of Jacob of Saruj. But the most immortal one is the poem of Timothy of Karkar (composed in the Ephraimite or heptasyllablic meter) praising the Virgin Mary, distinguished for its lucid style, eloquence and fine composition. Further, Bar Hebraeus praised some of the church fathers of his time with poems of lasting charm and fluency. The poem of Abu Nasr of Bartulli, praising Mar Matta (Matthew) the ascetic, was a great work of rhetoric indicating the ability of its composer to utilize all the various techniques of the art of poetry. To Behnam of Hidl belong three excellent poems in praise of the martyrs Behnam and Basus and their companions.

Of a mediocre quality are the two poems by Bar Wahbun in praise of Michael the Great and his nephew Yeshu of Melitene, the poem of Michael the Great himself, praising John, metropolitan of Mardin, and the two poems of Gabriel of Bartulli on the lives of Bar Hebraeus and his brother al-Safi. Much inferior, however, are the two poems of Jacob of Bartulli in praise of the noble physicians Fakhr al-Dawla and Taj al-Dawla of the Tuma family; their colorless and unnatural style is obvious. You find the good mingled with the bad in the poetry of Zaytun of Inhil in praise of St. Gabriel of Qartamin, and a good introductory verse with well-formulated lines by Jacob Saka, praising the dignitaries of his time.
4. Elegy. In one area of our Syriac poetry we find a touch of lamentation for the sinning soul and grief for the calamities which afflicted our country because of invasions or wars. Some of these elegies expressed lamentation over a sequence of events, such as the poems of Bar Madani, describing the catastrophe of Edessa; Yeshu bar Khayrun, on the ordeal of the church of the Forty Martyrs in Mardin and the eastern countries; Isaiah of Basibrina, on the calamities of Tur Abdin in the time of Tamerlane; the priest of Habsnas and John of Basibrina, on the Kurdish invasion of their country, Dawud (David) of Hims in lamenting the loss of Syriac books; and the poems of Nimat Allah of Mardin lamenting his ordeal. The panegyrics of Joseph of Melitene and those of bar Shushan lamenting the city of Melitene are lost to us.
In eulogizing men, none other than the masterful poet Bar Hebraeus has attained the high point of this genre of poetry, by the thoroughly moving sentiments of sorrow which he expressed in mourning his brothers Muwaffaq and Michael. In these eulogies he poured forth his soul and uttered his verse with an unpretentious sincerity which rendered his efforts in this genre first-class, highly artistic poetry. His two panegyrics eulogizing the maphrian Saliba and the patriarch John bar Madani are exemplary. Other poets also wrote eulogies, like the patriarch Nuh, who composed a good poem eulogizing his master the ascetic priest Tuma (Thomas) of Hims, and the priest Jacob Saka, eulogizing Behnam, the metropolitan of Mosul and Joseph, the Metropolitan of Malabar in two poems of good style.
5. Satire. The Syrians did not write satirical poetry; thus their poetry was free from obscene and worthless language. However, one finds only a few poems censuring the heretics in support of religion and adherence to the Orthodox faith. Of this type are the songs in which St. Ephraim rebuked Bar Daysan and Jacob of Saruj censured Nestorius. Connected with satire is censure and expostulation, represented by the poems of Anton of Takrit dispraising calumny and ingratitude. Moreover, the poem of bar Andrew may be considered a sharp criticism of some clergymen in his days, similar to what Isaiah of Basibrina and Simon of Manimim did in their two lengthy poems. Bar Hebraeus has few lines dispraising some of his contemporary leaders, but they are of a remonstrative, rather than a derogatory nature.
6. Aphorism and philosophy. A great deal of Syriac poetry contains aphorisms and enduring moral sentiments. Philosophical odes are to be found in the anthologies of Bar Madani and Bar Hebraeus, such as those on the soul, perfection and the ways of the perfect. The poetry of Bar Hebraeus contains an exposition of the principles of Socrates. A twentieth-century Syrian, Naum Faiq, translated into Syriac, in metrical form, portions of the Rubaiyyat (Quatrains) of Umar al-Khayyam.
7. Friendly ties and longing. A selection of poems of this sort is to be found in the poetry of Bar Hebraeus, which is full of tenderness and sweetness. They deal masterfully with the description of true friendship, communication with friends and enjoyment of their company. These poems are vivacious and colorful pictures, adorned with exquisite introductory verses and lucid style, especially the poems in which he remonstrated with his schoolmate Maphrian Saliba of Edessa. Patriarch Nuh also has written a few eloquent lines of this nature.

8. Poetry of self-praise, heroism (hamasa),1 and erotic love (nasib),2 had no place among the Syrians. However, Bar Hebraeus excelled in spiritual love, and his ode on divine wisdom which he adorned with splendid metaphors and charming similitude, is considered his most superb masterpiece. It is a choice ode, unequalled for its rich and profound meaning. Part of it was translated in a metrical form into Arabic by Master Butrus al-Bustani. It begins thus:
So brightly wisdom shone in our world
That even the sun was eclipsed by her light;
Comely maiden, full-blown matron, rather, an old woman,
She combined attributes no mortal might.
Many poets of a later period, like Jacob of Qutrubul, Yuhanna (John) al-Bustani of Manimim, and Jacob Saka, tried to imitate Bar Hebraeus but failed to match his talents.