Monday, August 12, 2019

Thomas of Celano

Thomas of Celano (c.1185—c.1265) is famous for his biographies of Francis of Assisi, the first of which was written at the request of Pope Gregory IX. He joined the Franciscans around 1215, and was acquainted with Francis personally. He is considered a likely author for a life of Clare of Assisi as well.

Thomas is also believed to be the author of the following Latin hymn — Dies Irae — which has been set to music for the Requiem Mass by many including Mozart and Verdi. It is unusual in that it was written in rhyme, which was not common for Latin in the classical period.

I have taken the liberty of slightly modernizing the following English version, which was translated by William J. Irons.

Day of Wrath (Dies Irae)

Day of wrath, O day of mourning!
See fulfilled the prophet's warning:
Heaven and earth in ashes burning.
Wondrous sound the trumpet flings,
Through earth's sepulchers it rings,
All before the throne it brings.
O what fear man's bosom rends
When from heaven the Judge descends
On whose sentence all depends.

Death is struck and nature quaking;
All creation is awaking,
To its Judge an answer making.
Lo, the book, exactly worded,
Wherein all has been recorded;
So shall judgment be awarded.
When the Judge His seat attains,
And each hidden deed arraigns,
Nothing unavenged remains.

What shall I, frail man, be pleading,
Who for me be interceding
When the just are mercy needing?
King of Majesty tremendous,
Who does free salvation send us,
Fount of pity, then befriend us!
Righteous Judge, for sin's pollution
Grant your gift of absolution
Ere the Day of Retribution.

Faint and weary you have sought me,
On the cross of suffering bought me;
Shall such grace be vainly brought me?
Think, good Jesus, my salvation
Caused your wondrous incarnation;
Leave me not to sin's damnation!
Guilty now I pour my moaning,
All my shame with anguish owning:
Hear, O Christ, your servant's groaning!

Bows my heart in meek submission,
Strewn with ashes of contrition;
Help me in my last condition!
Worthless are my prayers and sighing;
Yet, Good Lord, in grace complying,
Rescue me from fires undying.
You the sinful woman saved;
You the dying thief forgave;
And to me true hope vouchsaved!

With your favored sheep then place me,
Nor among the goats abase me,
But to your right hand upraise me.
While the wicked are confounded,
Doomed to flames of woe unbounded,
Call me, with your saints surrounded.
To the rest you did prepare me
On your cross; O Christ, upbear me!
Spare, O God, in mercy spare me.

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.