267. The Monk Dawud (David) of Hims (d. 1500)

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The Monk Dawud (David) of Hims
(d. 1500)

Dawud is son of Abd al-Karim, son of Salah known as the Himsi (or the Phoenician).566 He was born at al-Qaryatayn in 1431 and moved to Hims when he was a young boy. He studied under the priest Musa Mukaysif and entered the Monastery of Mar Musa in al-Nabk where he became a monk and concentrated on learning. He was ordained a deacon. While still young he went to the Zafaran Monastery in 1459 to study. He remained at the monastery for a while, was ordained a priest and then he moved to the Monastery of the Cross near Hisn Kifa. For a time he became the secretary of the maphrian Aziz (Ibn al-Ajuz) and experienced changing vicissitudes until he reached Constantinople in 1481. He met with misfortune until he died around 1490 or about 1500.
Dawud was a man of learning. His verse and prose style are of good and bad quality, particularly his prose which is saturated with rhetorical techniques like paronomasia and juxta position of contrasting ideas.

Of his excellent writing are five husoyos for the saints Stephen and Aaron and three for Easter. One of these three, which is rather lengthy, is on the eighth Sunday after Easter. It closes with a supplicatory prayer arranged alphabetically. It has entered the church rite.567 He also has commentaries on the Chronicle, the seven times of prayer and the Psalms. He wrote his autobiography until his middle age568 and the biography of Yuhanna Dalyatha the Nestorian ascetic as related by his master.570 Furthermore, he abridged the commentary on the Psalms by Daniel of Salh, adding unto it some commentaries of Bar Salibi and Bar Hebraeus. In this abridged commentary he punctuated the Biblical verses following the method of Bar Hebraeus in his The Treasure-house of Secrets, and wrote an excellent introduction to it. Chabot thought that this abridgement was written in the tenth century. It has three old copies571 as well as new copies, the most recent of which are two in Boston.572 In this abridged commentary on the Psalms he related some of the affairs of Muhammad Bey ibn al-Rumi the philosopher.573
Of his excellent verse are two odes: the first on sojourn574 in ten pages in the heptasyllabic meter and rhymed; the second on repentance, alphabetically arranged,575 two odes in the twelve-syllabic meter on a eulogy of Patriarch Aziz Ibn al-Ajuz (Sobto),576 the second is a dismissary prayer at the end of the Mass;577 a few lines censuring those who seek learning because of their failure in life,578 an ode in the heptasyllabic meter composed in 1466 praising his contemporary ascetics of Tur Abdin,579 and a song to the tune of Qum Faulos (“Rise, O Paul”), lamenting the sciences of the Syrians and the loss of their manuscripts.580
Of his strange verse are two odes in the twelve-syllabic meter he composed in 1462. The words which begin the lines of these odes are arranged according to the letters of the alphabet. They also could be read forward and backward following the practice of al-Subawi,581 which is, in fact, a trivial ornamental style, in which he failed.582 He also wrote eulogies of this style to be said during their reading of the Gospel called Koruzutha which he filled with Greek terms, making them unpalatable. Thank goodness that these eulogies were dropped a long time ago. Finally he translated into mediocre Arabic two or three husoyos and wrote in Arabic a treatise on the priest, the Mass, vows, tithes which are not free from grammatical mistakes.