Yesterday I posted a literal translation of Thomas of Celano's poem, DIES IRAE. Here Richard Crashaw makes a more musical translation of the same poem. Originally written in Latin in the early thirteenth century, Crashaw made his translation into English about four hundred years later, in 1646. Since then over two hundred other English translations of the poem have been published.
I am struck by how very different the two versions are, not only in word choices, but in the whole structure of the verse. Yet on closer inspection they are clearly working from the same text, and indeed remaining true to it. There is a lesson somewhere in this about how very different the Church looks in different times and cultures, yet still we are working from one text and may even be remaining true to Him.
Hear'st thou, my soul, what serious things
Both the Psalm and Sybyl sings
Of a sure Judge, from whose sharp ray
The world in flames shall fly away!
O that Fire! before whose face
Heaven and earth shall find no place:
O those Eyes! whose angry light
Must be the day of that dread night.
O that Trump! whose blast shall run
An even round with th' circling Sun,
And urge the murmuring graves to bring
Pale mankind forth to meet his King.
Horror of Nature, Hell, and Death!
When a deep groan from beneath
Shall cry, "We come, we come!" and all
The caves of night answer one call.
O that book! whose leaves so bright
Will set the world in severe light.
O that Judge whose hand, whose eye
None can endure, yet none can fly.
Ah the, poor soul! what wilt thou say?
And to what patron choose to pray,
When stars themselves shall stagger, and
The most firm foot no more then stand?
But Thou giv'st leave, dread Lord, that we
Take shelter from Thyself in Thee;
And with the wings of Thine own dove
Fly to Thy scpepter of soft love!
Dear Lord, remember in that day
Who was the cause Thou cam'st this way;
Thy sheep was strayed, and Thou would'st be
Even lost Thyself in seeking me!
Shall all that labor, all that cost
Of love, and even that loss, be lost?
And this loved soul judged worth no less
Than all that way and weariness?
Just mercy, then, Thy reck'ning be
With my price, and not with me;
'Twas paid at first with too much pain
To be paid twice, or once in vain.
Mercy, my Judge, mercy I cry,
With blushing cheek and bleeding eye;
The conscious colors of my sin
Are red without, and pale within.
O let Thine own soft bowels pay
Thyself, and so discharge that day!
If Sin can sigh, Love can forgive,
O, say the word, my soul shall live!
Those mercies which Thy Mary found,
Or who Thy cross confess'd and crowned,
Hope tells my heart the same loves be
Still alive, and still for 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.
O when Thy last frown shall proclaim
The flocks of goats to folds of flame,
And all Thy lost sheep found shall be,
Let "Come ye blessed" then call me!
When the dread "Ite" shall divide
Those limbs of death from Thy left side,
Let those life-speaking lips command
That I inherit Thy right hand!
O, hear a suppliant heart all crush'd
And crumbled into contrite dust!
My hope, my fear--my Judge, my Friend!
Take charge of me, and of my end!