Friday, November 8, 2013

Running with the buffaloes

     “There was an anchorite in the desert grazing with the buffaloes and he prayed to God, saying:  ‘Lord, let me know if I am falling behind in anything.’  A voice came to him, saying:  ‘Enter this coenobion and, if they tell you to do anything, do it.’  He went into the coenobion and stayed there, but he had no idea how to serve the brothers.  The junior monks began teaching him how to serve, saying:  ‘Do this, idiot; do that, crazy old man.’  Hurt, he began to say to God:  ‘I have no idea how to serve men; release me back to the buffaloes.’  Released by God again, he went to a village to graze with the buffaloes.  Men used to set traps [in which] they caught buffaloes and the elder was caught [in one].  The thought suggested itself:  ‘Put your hand out and release yourself’, to which thought he said:  ‘If you are a man, release yourself then go to the men.  If, on the other hand, you are a buffalo, you do not have hands’, and he stayed in the trap, safe and sound, until dawn.  The men were alarmed on seeing the elder caught when they came to take the buffaloes.  For his part, he said nothing.  They released him and let him go; out he went into the desert, running with the buffaloes.”

     Ἦν τις ἀναχωρητὴς ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ βοσκόμενος μετὰ τῶν Βουβάλων καὶ ηὔξατο τῷ Θεῷ λέγων·  Κύριε, ἔι τι ὑστερῶ, δίδαξόν με.  Καὶ ἦλθεν αὐτῷ φωνὴ λέγουσα·  Εἴσελθε εἰς τόδε τὸ κοινόβιον, καὶ εἴ τι ἐπιτάσσουσι σοι, ποίησον.  Εἰσελθὼν δὲ εἰς τὸ κοινόβιον ἔμεινε καὶ οὐκ ἤδει τὴν ὑπηρεσίαν τῶν ἀδελφῶν.  Καὶ ἤρξαντο οἱ μοναχοὶ οἱ μικροὶ διδάσκειν αὐτὸν τὴν ὑπαρεσίαν λέγοντες·  Τοῦτο ποίησον, ἰδιῶτα, καὶ τοῦτο ποίησον, σαλὲ γέρων.  Καὶ θλιβόμενος ἠρξατο λέγειν πρὸς τὸν θεόν*·  Οὐκ οἶδα τὴν ὑπερεσίαν τῶν ἀνθρώπων·  ἀπόλυσόν με πάλιν εἰς τοὺς βουβάλους.  Καὶ ἀπολυθεὶς πάλιν ἀπὸ τοῦ Θεοῦ ἀπῆλθεν εἰς χωρίον βοσκηθῆναι μετὰ τῶν βουβάλων καὶ ἔστησαν παγίδας οἱ ἄνθρωποι ἐκεῖ καὶ ἐπίασαν βουβάλια.  Ἐπιάσθη δὲ καὶ ὁ γέρων καὶ λέγει αὐτῶ ὁ λογισμός·  Βάλε τὴν κεῖρα σου καὶ λῦσον σεαυτόν.  Εἴπεν δὲ πρὸς τὸν λογισμόν·  Εἰ μὲν ἄνθρωπος εἶ, λῦσον σεαυτὸν καὶ ὕπαγε πρὸς τοὺς ἀνθρώπους, εἰ δὲ βούβαλος εἶ, οὐκ ἔχεις χεῖρας.  Καὶ ἔμεινεν εἰς τὴν παγίδα σῶος ἕως πρωΐ.  Ἐλθόντες δὲ οἱ ἄνθρωποι πιᾶσαι τοὺς βουβάλους καὶ ἰδόντες τὸν γέροτα πεπιασμένον ἐφοβήθησαν.  Καὶ αὐτὸς οὐκ ἐλάλησεν οὐδέν.  Καὶ λύσαντες αὐτὸν ἀφῆκαν, καὶ ἐξῆλθε τρέχων ὀπισω τῶν βουβάλων εἰς τὴν ἔρημον.

* S:  Κύριον
C omits Οὐκ οἶδα τὴν ὑπερεσίαν τῶν ἀνθρώπων·

     Anonymous saying of the Desert Fathers no. 516.  The anonymous sayings of the Desert Fathers:  a select edition and complete English translation, ed. & trans. John Wortley (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 2013), 348-351.
     No. 62, on p. 55, is very similar:
     "There was an anchorite grazing with the antelopes [(Βουβάλων)] and he prayed to God saying:  'Lord, teach me in what I am lacking.'  A voice came to him saying:  'Go to such-and-such a coenobion and do whatever they order you.'  He entered the coenobion and stayed, but he did not know how to serve the brothers.  The junior monks started instructing him how to serve the brothers, saying to him:  'Do this, stupid' and:  'Do that, crazy old man.'  Distressed, he prayed to God saying:  'Lord, I do not know how to serve men; send me back to the antelopes again.'  Released by God, he went off again into the countryside to graze with the antelopes [(Βουβάλων)]."
     Why does Worley translate these so differently?  The French translation by Lucien Regnault (Les sentences des pères du désert:  série des anonymes, Spiritualité orientale 43 (Solesmes & Bellefontaine, 1985), pp. 188-189 and 34 respectively) seems more consistent.