Thursday, August 6, 2009

Dies Irae

Dies Irae (Day of Wrath) is a 13th century Latin liturgical poem or hymn (which is still used in Tridentine Latin liturgy today) about the Last Judgment whose authorship is traditionally attributed to Thomas of Celano. It has influenced many composers and poets since, including Michael Wigglesworth's epic poem, The Day of Doom. One of the best English translations of this poem (although it does differ from the original) is that of Richard Crashaw, called The Hymn, Dies Irae Dies Illa. In Meditation of the Day of Judgment (1646), who was raised a Protestant but during the English Civil Wars converted (Alexander Pope says he was "outwitted") to Roman Catholicism while in France. Protestants have acknowledged Crashaw's greatness as a poet while lamenting his apostacy to Rome.

Richard Alleine quoted extracts from this poetical meditation in his classic on spiritual warfare entitled, The World Conquered by the Faithful Christian (1668, 1995 SDG ed.), pp. 149-150, as follows:

Oh! that fire, before whose face
Heaven and earth shall find no place:
Oh, those eyes! whose angry light
Must be the day of that dread night.

Oh, that trump! whose blast shall run
An even round with the circling sun,
And from the murmuring graves shall bring
The risen dead to meet their King.

Oh, that book! whose leaves so true
Will set the world in judgment due:
Oh, that Judge! whose hand, whose eye
None can endure; yet none can fly.

Mercy, O Lord! mercy I cry,
With blushing cheek and streaming eye;
Great though my sin, love can forgive;
Oh, may my soul through Jesus live!

Those mercies, Lord, thy saints have found,
Who've been by Him confess'd and crown'd,
Hope tells my heart the same may be
Through Him obtained, and that by me.

Though both my prayers and tears combine,
Both worthless are, for they are mine.
But Thou thy bounteous self still be;
And show Thou art, by saving me.

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