This week we have two poetic pieces that have found their way into the Church and the hearts of countless Christians both Catholics and Protestants. These two Poems, Songs, and Hymns I encountered in my days with the Catholics in San Diego in the mid 70s. They are both from the Middle Ages, and have very important historical value and influence. I will only add to the citations given below that both these Hymns and Poems are Songs that were productions of their times, that were believed by Scripture and world events, and the Church’s condition, to be the end of the age, and the Lord’s advent and the judgment day to follow was about to occur and manifest. The Holy Spirit no doubt at work in all of it in many ways.
1. Day of Wrath & Doom & Judgment
From Schaff’s Library of Library of Religious Poetry: (That Day of Wrath!” Dies Irae, Dies Illa.”
The “Dies Irae” is an act of humiliation and prayer for mercy in view of the impending day of judgment, based upon Zeph. 1:15,16; Matt 25. ; 2 Peter 3:10-12. It was written for private devotion, in a lonely monastic cell, about 1250, by Thomas of Celano, the friend and biographer of St. Francis of Assist. It is the acknowledged masterpiece of Latin poetry, and the most sublime of all uninspired hymns, often translated, reproduced, and imitated, but never equalled. It is one of those rare productions which can never die, which increase in value as the ages advance. It has commanded the admiration of poets and men of letters, like Goethe, Walter Scott, and Macau lay. and has inspired some of the greatest musicians, from Palestrina down to Mozart. The secret of the irresistible power of the ” Dies Ira:” lies in the awful grandeur of the theme, the intense earnestness and pathos of the poet, the simple majesty and solemn music of its language, the stately metre, the triple rhyme, and the vowel assonances chosen in striking adaptation to the sense, — all combining to produce an overwhelming effect, as if we heard the final crash of the universe, the commotion of the
opening graves, the trumpet of the archangel that summons the quick and the dead, and as if we saw the ” King of tremendous majesty ” seated on the throne of justice and mercy, and ready to dispense everlasting life or everlasting woe. Goethe describes its effect upon the guilty conscience in the Cathedral scene of ‘ ‘ Faust ” : —” Horror seizes thee ! The trump sounds ! The grave trembles ! And thy heart From the repose of its ashes, For fiery torment Brought to life again, Trembles up ! ” The opening line, which is literally borrowed from the Vulgate version of Zeph. 1:15, strikes the key-note to the whole with a startling sound, and brings up at once the judgment scene as an awful, impending reality. The feeling of terror
occasioned by the contemplation of that event culminates in the cry of repentance, verse 7, “Quid sum, miser, tunc dicturus” ; but from this the poet rises at once to the prayer of faith, and takes refuge from the wrath to come in the infinite mercy of Him who suffered nameless pain for a guilty world, who pardoned the sinful Magdalene, and saved the dying robber. —This note is taken substantially from Schaff’s ” Christ in Song.” For further information, see Lisco’s “Dies Irae,” Berlin, 1840; and two articles by Dr Schaff, in the Hours at Home, New York, May and July, 1868, with specimens of many translations.)
Day of Wrath & Doom & Judgment
(by Thomas of Celano. Translated by W. J. Irons, D.D., 1848. This is the accepted version of the “Dies Ira” in Great Britain [and America].)
Day of wrath and doom impending.
David’s word with Sibyl’s blending,
Heaven and earth in ashes ending.
Oh, what fear man’s bosom rendeth,
When from heaven the Judge descendeth,
On whose sentence all dependeth.
Wondrous sound the trumpet flingeth;
Through earth’s sepulchres it ringeth;
All before the throne it bringeth.
Death is struck, and nature quaking,
All creation is awaking,
To its Judge an answer making.
Day of wrath and doom impending.
David’s word with Sibyl’s blending,
Heaven and earth in ashes ending.
When the Judge his seat attaineth,
And each hidden deed arraigneth,
Nothing unavenged remaineth.
What shall I, frail man, be pleading?
Who for me be interceding,
When the just are mercy needing?
King of Majesty tremendous,
Who dost free salvation send us,
Fount of pity, then befriend us!
Think, kind Jesu! – my salvation
Caused Thy wondrous Incarnation;
Leave me not to reprobation.
Faint and weary, Thou hast sought me,
On the Cross of suffering bought me.
Shall such grace be vainly brought me?
Righteous Judge, for sin’s pollution
Grant Thy gift of absolution,
Ere the day of retribution.
Guilty, now I pour my moaning,
All my shame with anguish owning;
Spare, O God, Thy suppliant groaning!
Through the (sinful woman shriven),
Through the dying thief forgiven,
Thou to me a hope hast given.
Worthless are my prayers and sighing,
Yet, good Lord, in grace complying,
Rescue me from fires undying.
With Thy sheep a place provide me,
From the goats afar divide me,
To Thy right hand do Thou guide me.
When the wicked are confounded,
Doomed to flames of woe unbounded,
Call me with Thy saints surrounded.
Low I kneel, with heart’s submission,
See, like ashes, my contrition,
Help me in my last condition.
Ah! that day of tears and mourning,
From the dust of earth returning
Man for judgement must prepare him,
(Spare, O God, in mercy spare (him).
Lord, all-pitying, Jesus blest,
Grant them Thine eternal rest.
2. Celestial Country. World Contempt. New Jerusalem
From Wikipedia: (Bernard of Cluny (or, of Morlaix or Morlay) was a twelfth-century French Benedictine monk. Bernard’s family of origin and place of birth are not known for certain; Bernard, of Cluny, is sometimes known as Bernard of Morlaix, in Brittany, where he was bom of English parents.. It is believed that he was at first a monk of Saint-Sauveur d’Aniane and that he entered the monastery of Cluny during the administration of Abbot Pons (1109–1122).
The first monastery in Burgundy was at Cluny, started by the Benedictine monks in 940 AD. With over 1,000 monks in residence, more than the population of most towns of that time, large buildings had to be erected to house everyone and 40 farms produced the food. The abbey became grander and grander as its power over the whole of Europe increased. It was the largest church in Christendom, only succeeded later by St. Peter’s in Rome, dominating for hundreds of years. It organized pilgrimages, oversaw hundreds of other monasteries and governed by the power of excommunication. Bernard is best known as the author of De Contemptu Mundi (On Contempt for the World), a 3,000 verse poem of stinging Latin satire directed against the secular and religious failings he observed in the world around him. He spares no one; priests, nuns, bishops, monks, and even Rome itself are mercilessly scourged for their shortcomings. For this reason it was first printed by Matthias Flacius in Varia poemata de corrupto ecclesiae statu (Basle, 1557) as one of his testes veritatis, or witnesses of the deep-seated corruption of medieval society and of the Church, and was often reprinted by Protestants in the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
St. Bernard’s writings acquired for him the title of the ” Last of the Fathers,” so great was their authority.”)
From Julian’s Hymnology: (Hora Novissima. tempoTM pessima sunt, trigilemus. Bernard of Ct
luny [The Heavenly Jerusalem.’] This magnificent poem, evidently inspired by the last two chapters of the Revelation of St. John, was composed in the Abbey of Cluny, about 1145, and extends to about 3000 lines. It is found in a 13th cent. Ms….. In Trench’s Sac. Latin Poetry, 1849, 96 lines were given, beginning with “Hie breve vivitur” (from which Dr. Neale’s first translation was made); and m Dr. Neale’s Rhythm of Bernard de Morlaix, Monk of Cluny, on the Celestial Country, 1858, there are 218 lines. The original is dedicated to Peter the Venerable, the General of the Order to which St. Bernard belonged, and is entitled, ” De contemptu mnndi.” (Dr. Schaff, in his Lib. of Religious Poetry, 1883, p. 981, says this poem was printed in Paris in 1483. We have not seen this edition.) (Schaff’s: “De Contemptu Mundi,” intended to persuade to the contempt of the world, and to the seeking of those things that are above. Dr. Neale says that he looks upon these verses as the most lovely in the same way that the “Dies Ira: ” is the most sublime and the ” Stabat Mater” the most pathetic of mediaeval hymns. The poem of Bernard was printed in 1483, at Paris In 1865 Mr. William C. Prime, in editing “The Seven Great Hymns of the Mediaeval Church,” stated that no copy of ” De Contemptu Mundi” was known to exist in the United States: but Dr. Philip Schaff owns a copy of the edition printed at Basel in 1557….The original was written about 1145, and was divided into three books. Dr. Neale has freely reproduced the principal portions. It is a severe satire on the vices of the age.)
Bernard’s words in his dedicatory epistle are:—
“Often and of long time I had heard the Bridegroom, but had not listened to Him, saying—’Thy voles; is pleasant in Mine ears.’ And again the Beloved cried out, ‘Open to Me, My sister.’ What then? I arose, that I might open to my Beloved. And I said, Lord, to the end that my heart may think, that my pen may write, and that my mouth may set forth Thy praise, pour both into my heart and pen and mouth Thy grace.’ And the Lord said, ‘Open thy mouth.’ Which He straightway filled with the spirit of wisdom and understanding; that by one I might speak truly, by the other perspicuously. And I say it in nowise arrogantly, but with all humility, and therefore boldly: that unless that Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding had been with me, and flowed in upon so difficult a metre, I could not have composed so long a work. For that kind of metre, continuous dactylic (except the final trochee or spondee), preserving also, as it does, the Leonine sonorousness, had almost, not to sav altogether, grown obsolete through its difficulty. For Hildebert of Laverdin, who from his immense learning was first raised to the Episcopate and to the Metropolitan dignity; and Vuichard, Canon of Lyons, excellent versifiers, how little they wrote in this metre, is manifest to all.” (Neale’s Rhythm, arc, Preface.)
The poem is written in dactylic hexameters, with the leonine (sometimes a trisyllable or dactylic), and tailed rhyme, each line being broken up into three parts…)
Celestial Country. World Contempt. New Jerusalem
(St, Bernard of Cluny, Morlaix; translated from Latin by J.M. Neale,Dr.)
The world is very evil! The times are waxing late;
Be sober and keep vigil, The judge is at the gate-
The judge that comes in mercy, The judge that comes with might,
To terminate the evil, To diadem the right.
When the just and gentle Monarch Shall summon from the tomb,
Let man, the guilty, tremble, For Man, the God, shall doom!
Arise, arise, good Christian, Let right to wrong succeed;
Let penitential sorrow To heavenly gladness lead-
To the light that hath no evening, That knows nor moon nor sun,
The light so new and golden, The light that is but one.
And when the Sole-Begotten Shall render up once more
The kingdom to the Father, Whose own it was before,
Then glory yet unheard of Shall shed abroad its ray,
Resolving all enigmas, An endless Sabbath-day.
Then, then from his oppressors The Hebrew shall go free,
And celebrate in triumph The year of jubilee;
And the sunlit Land that recks not Of tempest nor of fight,
Shall fold within its bosom Each happy Israelite–
The Home of fadeless splendor, Of flowers that fear no thorn,
Where they shall dwell as children, Who here as exiles mourn.
Midst power that knows no limit, And wisdom free from bound,
The Beatific Vision Shall glad the Saints around-
The peace of all the faithful, The calm of all the blest,
Inviolate, unvaried, Divinest, sweetest, best.
Yes, peace! for war is needless- Yes, calm! for storm is past–
And goal from finished labor, And anchorage at last.
That peace-but who may claim it? The guileless in their way,
Who keep the ranks of battle, Who mean the thing they say-
The peace that is for heaven, And shall be for the earth;
The palace that re-echoes With festal song and mirth;
The garden, breathing spices, The paradise on high;
Grace beautified to glory, Unceasing minstrelsy.
There nothing can be feeble, There none can ever mourn,
There nothing is divided, There nothing can be torn.
‘Tis fury, ill, and scandal, ‘Tis peaceless peace below;
Peace, endless, strifeless, ageless, The halls of Syon know.
O happy, holy portion, Refection for the blest,
True vision of true beauty, Sweet cure of all distrest!
Strive, man, to win that glory; Toil, man, to gain that light;
Send hope before to grasp it, Till hope be last in sight;
Till Jesus gives the portion Those blessed souls to fill-
The insatiate, yet satisfied, The full, yet craving still.
That fulness and that craving Alike are free from pain,
Where thou, midst heavenly citizens, A home like theirs shalt gain.
Here is the warlike trumpet; There, life set free from sin,
When to the last Great Supper The faithful shall come in;
When the heavenly net is laden With fishes many and great
(So glorious in its fulness, Yet so inviolate);
And perfect from unperfected, And fall’n from those that stand,
And the sheep-flock from the goat-herd Shall part an either hand.
And these shall pass to torment, And those shall triumph then-
The new peculiar nation, Blest number of blest men.
Jerusalem demands them; They paid the price on earth,
And now shall reap the harvest In blissfulness and mirth-
The glorious holy people, Who evermore relied
Upon their Chief and Father, The King, the Crucified–
The sacred ransomed number Now bright with endless sheen,
Who made the Cross their watchword Of Jesus Nazarene,
Who (fed with heavenly nectar Where soul-like odors play)
Draw out the endless leisure Of that long vernal day.
And, through the sacred lilies And flowers on every side,
The happy dear-bought people Go wandering far and wide;
Their breasts are filled with gladness, Their mouths are tun’d to praise,
What time, now safe for ever, On former sins they gaze:
The fouler was the error, The sadder was the fall,
The ampler are the praises Of Him who pardoned all.
Their one and only anthem, The fulness of His love,
Who gives instead of torment, Eternal joys above-
Instead of torment, glory; Instead of death, that life
Wherewith your happy Country, True Israelites, is rife.
Brief life is here our portion, Brief sorrow, short-liv’d care;
The life that knows no ending- The tearless life, is there.
O happy retribution! Short toil, eternal rest;
For mortals and for sinners A mansion with the blest!
That we should look, poor wand’rers, To have our home on high!
That worms should seek for dwelling, Beyond the starry sky!
To all one happy guerdon Of one celestial grace;
For all, for all, who mourn their fall, Is one eternal place.
And martyrdom hath roses Upon that heavenly ground;
And white and virgin lilies For virgin-souls abound.
There grief is turned to pleasure– Such pleasure as below
No human voice can utter, No human heart can know;
And after fleshly scandal, And after this world’s night,
And after storm and whirlwind, Is calm, and joy, and light.
And now we fight the battle, But then shall wear the crown
Of full and everlasting And passionless renown:
And now we watch and struggle, And now we live in hope,
And Syon, in her anguish, With Babylon must cope;
But He whom now we trust in Shall then be seen and known,
And they that know and see Him Shall have Him for their own.
The miserable pleasures Of the body shall decay;
The bland and flattering struggles Of the flesh shall pass away;
And none shall there be jealous, And none shall there contend;
Fraud, clamor, guile-what say I? All ill, all ill shall end!
And there is David’s Fountain, And life in fullest glow;
And there the light is golden, And milk and honey flow-
The light that hath no evening, The health that hath no sore,
The life that hath no ending, But lasteth evermore.
There Jesus shall embrace us, There Jesus be embraced-
That spirit’s food and sunshine Whence earthly love is chased.
Amidst the happy chorus, A place, however low,
Shall shew Him us, and shewing, Shall satiate evermore.
By hope we struggle onward: While here we must be fed
By milk, as tender infants, But there by Living Bread.
The night was full of terror, The morn is bright with gladness;
The Cross becomes our harbor, And we triumph after sadness.
And Jesus to His true ones Brings trophies fair to see;
And Jesus shall be loved, and Beheld in Galilee-
Beheld, when morn shall waken, And shadows shall decay,
And each true-hearted servant Shall shine as doth the day;
And every ear shall hear it– “Behold thy King’s array,
Behold thy God in beauty, The Law hath pass’d away!”
Yes I God my King and Portion, In fulness of Thy grace,
We then shall see for ever, And worship face to face.
Then Jacob into Israel, From earthlier self estranged,
And Leah into Rachel For ever shall be changed;
Then all the halls of Syon For aye shall be complete,
And in the Land of Beauty, All things of beauty meet.
For thee, O dear, dear Country! Mine eyes their vigils keep;
For very love, beholding Thy happy name, they weep.
The mention of thy glory Is unction to the breast,
And medicine in sickness, And love, and life, and rest.
O One, O only Mansion! O Paradise of Joy!
Where tears-are ever banished, And smiles have no alloy,
Beside thy living waters All plants are, great and small,
The cedar of the forest, The hyssop of the wall;
With jaspers glow thy bulwarks, Thy streets with emeralds blaze,
The sardius and the topaz Unite in thee their rays;
Thine ageless walls are bonded With amethyst unpriced;
Thy Saints build up its fabric, And the corner-stone is Christ.
The Cross is all thy splendor, The Crucified thy praise;
His laud and benediction Thy ransomed people raise:
“Jesus, the Gem of Beauty, True God and Man,” they sing,
“The never-failing Garden, The ever-golden Ring;
The Door, the Pledge, the Husband, The Guardian of His Court;
The Day-star of Salvation, The Porter and the Port!”
Thou hast no shore, fair ocean! Thou hast no time, bright day!
Dear fountain of refreshment To pilgrims far away!
Upon the Rock of Ages They raise thy holy tower;
Thine is the victor’s laurel, And thine the golden dower!
Thou feel’st in mystic rapture, O Bride that know’st no guile,
The Prince’s sweetest kisses, The Prince’s loveliest smile;
Unfading lilies, bracelets Of living pearl thine own;
The Lamb is ever near thee, The Bridegroom thine alone.
The Crown is He to guerdon, The Buckler to protect,
And He Himself the Mansion, And He the Architect.
The only art thou needest- Thanksgiving for thy lot;
The only joy thou seekest- The Life where Death is not.
And all thine endless leisure, In sweetest accents, sings
The ill that was thy merit, The wealth that is thy King’s!
Jerusalem the golden, With milk and honey blest,
Beneath thy contemplation Sink heart and voice oppressed.
I know not, O I know not. What social jays are there!
What radiancy of glory, What light beyond compare!
And when I fain would sing them, My spirit fails and faints;
And vainly would it image The assembly of the Saints.
They stand, those halls of Syon, Conjubilant with song,
And bright with many an angel, And all the martyr throng;
The Prince is ever in them, The daylight is serene;
The pastures of the Blessed Are decked in glorious sheen.
There is the Throne of David, And there, from care released,
The song of them that triumph, The shout of them that feast;
And they who, with their Leader, Have conquered in the fight,
For ever and for ever Are clad in robes of white!
O holy, placid harp-notes Of that eternal hymn!
O sacred, sweet refection, And peace of Seraphim!
O thirst, for ever ardent, Yet evermore content!
O true peculiar vision Of God cunctipotent!
Ye know the many mansions For many a glorious name,
And divers retributions That divers merits claim;
For midst the constellations That deck our earthly sky,
This star than that is brighter- And so it is on high.
Jerusalem the glorious! The glory of the Elect!
O dear and future vision That eager hearts expect!
Even now by faith I see thee, Even here thy walls discern;
To thee my thoughts are kindled, And strive, and pant, and yearn.
Jerusalem the only, That look’st from heaven below,
In thee is all my glory, In me is all my woe;
And though my body may not, My spirit seeks thee fain,
Till flesh and earth return me To earth and flesh again.
O none can tell thy bulwarks, How gloriously they rise!
O none can tell thy capitals O beautiful device!
Thy loveliness oppresses All human thought and heart;
And none, O peace, O Syon, Can sing thee as thou art!
New mansion of new people, Whom God’s own love and light
Promote, increase, make holy, Identify, unite!
Thou City of the Angels! Thou City of the Lord!
Whose everlasting music Is the glorious decachord!
And there the band of Prophets United praise ascribes,
And there the twelvefold chorus Of Israel’s ransomed tribes,
The lily-beds of virgins, The roses’ martyr-glow,
The cohort of the Fathers Who kept the Faith below.
And there the Sole-Begotten Is Lord in regal state-
He, Judah‘s mystic Lion, He, Lamb Immaculate.
O fields that know no sorrow! O state that fears no strife!
O princely bowers! O land of flowers! O realm and home of Life!
Jerusalem, exulting On that securest shore,
I hope thee, wish thee, sing thee, And love thee evermore!
I ask not for my merit, I seek not to deny
My merit is destruction, A child of wrath am I;
But yet with Faith I venture And Hope upon my way;
Far those perennial guerdons I labor night and day.
The best and dearest Father, Who made me and Who saved,
Bore with me in defilement, And from defilement laved,
When in His strength I struggle, For very joy I leap,
When in my sin I totter, I weep, or try to weep:
But grace, sweet grace celestial, Shall all its love display,
And David’s Royal Fountain Purge every sin away.
O mine, my golden Syon! O lovelier far than gold,
With laurel-girt battalions, And safe victorious fold!
O sweet and blessed Country, Shall I ever see thy face?
O sweet and blessed Country, Shall I ever win thy grace?
I have the hope within me To comfort and to bless!
Shall I ever win the prize itself? O tell me, tell me, Yes!
Exult, O dust and ashes! The Lord shall be thy part;
His only, His for ever, Thou shalt be, and thou art!
Exult, O dust and ashes! The Lord shall be thy part;
His only, His for ever, Thou shalt be, and thou art!