Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. IV. The Higher Life
Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume IV. The Higher Life.  1904.
I. The Divine Element—(God, Christ, the Holy Spirit)
Dies Iræ
Thomas à Celano (c. 1200–c. 1265)
From the Latin by John A. Dix 1

   “That day, a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers!”
—ZEPHANIAH i. 15, 16.    

DAY of vengeance, without morrow!
Earth shall end in flame and sorrow,
As from Saint and Seer we borrow.
Ah! what terror is impending,
When the Judge is seen descending,        5
And each secret veil is rending!
To the throne, the trumpet sounding,
Through the sepulchres resounding,
Summons all, with voice astounding.
Death and Nature, mazed, are quaking,        10
When, the grave’s long slumber breaking,
Man to judgment is awaking.
On the written Volume’s pages,
Life is shown in all its stages—
Judgment-record of past ages.        15
Sits the Judge, the raised arraigning,
Darkest mysteries explaining,
Nothing unavenged remaining.
What shall I then say, unfriended,
By no advocate attended,        20
When the just are scarce defended?
King of majesty tremendous,
By thy saving grace defend us,
Fount of pity, safety send us!
Holy Jesus, meek, forbearing,        25
For my sins the death-crown wearing,
Save me, in that day, despairing!
Worn and weary, thou hast sought me;
By thy cross and passion bought me—
Spare the hope thy labors brought me!        30
Righteous Judge of retribution,
Give, O give me absolution
Ere the day of dissolution!
As a guilty culprit groaning,
Flushed my face, my errors owning,        35
Hear, O God, Thy suppliant moaning!
Thou to Mary gav’st remission,
Heard’st the dying thief’s petition,
Bad’st me hope in my contrition.
In my prayers no worth discerning,        40
Yet on me Thy favor turning,
Save me from that endless burning!
Give me, when Thy sheep confiding
Thou art from the goals dividing,
On Thy right a place abiding!        45
When the wicked are rejected,
And by bitter flames subjected,
Call me forth with Thine elected!
Low in supplication bending,
Heart as though with ashes blending;        50
Care for me when all is ending.
When on that dread day of weeping
Guilty man in ashes sleeping
Wakes to his adjudication,
Save him, God! from condemnation!        55
Note 1. General Dix’s first translation of the “Dies Iræ” was made in 1863; the revised version (given above) appeared in 1875. Bayard Taylor wrote of the earlier one: “I have … heretofore sought in vain to find an adequate translation. Those which reproduced the spirit neglected the form, and vice versa. There can be no higher praise for yours than to say that it preserves both.” [back]

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