The Desert Fathers

Helen Waddell
The words of the 4th-century monastics who founded the Desert Rule


The Desert has bred fanaticism and frenzy and fear; but it has also bred heroic gentleness. The words of those quiet men who in the fourth century A.D. founded the Desert rule are here translated by Miss Waddell.

Sentence after sentence falls on the ear with a dangerous enchantment: the remoteness of death is in the lovely rhythms of the old hermit's questioning. "Tell me, I pray thee, how fares the human race: If new roofs be risen in the ancient cities: whose empire is it that now sways the world?"

"Miss Waddell has scored again. This facile scholar . . . has chosen perhaps the most enticing of all medieval texts . . ."
—Grant Loomis, Speculum

"It is an astonishment as well as a triumph to come upon such matter as this in such a time as ours."
The Universe

"It is a jewel of a book . . ."
G.K.'s Weekly

Look Inside

Introduction          I
The Life of St. Paul the First Hermit
by St. Jerome          26
History of the Monks of Egypt
Translated from the Greek by Rufinus of Aquileia          40
The Sayings of the Fathers
Translated from the Greek by Pelagius the Deacon and John the Subdeacon          58
The Sayings of the Fathers
From the  Greek by an unknown translator          130
The Sayings of the Fathers
Translated from the Greek by Paschasius the Deacon for the Abbot of Dumes          147
Of Accidie: Of Mortification
by Cassian of Marseilles          156
Fragments from the "Paradisus" of Palladius
From the Greek by an unknown translator         163
The "Pratum Spirituale" of John Moschus
Translated from the Greek by Ambrose of Camaldoli          166
The Life of St. Pelagia the Harlot
by James the Deacon, translated from the Greek by Eustochius          173
The Life of St. Mary the Harlot
by St. Ephraem of Edessa: translator unknown          189
Notes          203

Product Details

  • 5 x 8.
  • 216pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 1957
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-06008-5

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  • $19.95 U.S.