The specimens of Ephraim's compositions offered in these selections are: --
(1) The Nisibene Hymns, (2) The Hymns of the Nativity, (3) The Hymns for the Epiphany, (4) Three Homilies (i., On our Lord; ii., On Reproof and Repentance; iii., On the Sinful Woman).
Of (2) the Nativity Hymns, the first thirteen are reprinted from the version by the Rex. J. B. Morris (Oxford, 1847), made from the Roman Edition of the Syriac Works of Ephraim. The rest of the series as translated (six in number, making nineteen in all) were unknown when that edition was completed in 1743. These latter, and also (3) the Epiphany Hymns (with one exception) have since come to light in the Nitrian collection of the British Museum, and were printed by Professor Lamy in his St. Ephraim (Tom. I, cc.1-144; Tom. II., cc.427-504), 1882-1889. In the same edition (Tom. I., cc.145-274; 311-338) were first printed (4) the three Homilies. Our translations of these follow Lamy's text, with here and there a slight variation where errors seem to exist. These two series of Hymns belong to the ecclesiastical class: their titles appropriate them to two great Festivals of the Church, and portions of these are embodied in Syriac Rituals still in use. Of the two Homilies, the former was written for the Feast of the Epiphany, like the Hymns which precede it.
The Nisibene Hymns (1) are translated from the text as first printed by Dr. Bickell (1866), whose edition, like that of Dr. Lamy, rests upon mss. of the Nitrian collection. They also were unknown to the Roman editors of the last century, and to the English translator of 1847; and they have not till now appeared in English. The series when complete consisted of 77 Hymns. Of these the first division (I.-XXXIV.) treat of the fortunes of the Church in Nisibis, Carrhena [Haran], and an unnamed city (probably Edessa). The remainder (XXXV. to end) deal with the topics of Death and the Resurrection. The present selection comprises 46 of these, namely: -- of the first division, the first 21, those which relate to Nisibis and which are the Nisibene Hymns proper; of the second division, two series -- one of 8 hymns (XXXV.-XLII.) in which Death and Satan hold monologue or dialogue, -- the other of 17 (LII.-LXVIII.), similar in character, but with Man as a third interlocutor.