Dies Irae

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Dies Irae

That black smoke drawn cross the road

Like the veil

In the Temple that separates God from Man.  

Dies irae, dies illa

solvet saeclum in favilla:

teste David cum Sibylla.

The blast furious

Like the words of Creation

Spoken into formless Night, the silent mother of all things.

Quantus tremor est futurus,

quando judex est venturus,

cuncta stricte discussurus!

The acrid burning tang

Sharp like the very Holy Spear itself

Tearing soul from body.

Tuba mirum spargens sonum

per sepulcra regionum,

coget omnes ante thronum.

Into the smoke

Black as the Pit

In Tartarus’ domain below.

Mors stupebit et natura,

cum resurget creatura,

judicanti responsura.

And out again into harsh sunlight

Bright as on the road to Damascus

On Saul’s day of redemption.  

Liber scriptus proferetur,

in quo totum continetur,

unde mundus judicetur.

But no Voice from heaven

Did I hear

Only the cries of men here on earth.

Judex ergo cum sedebit,

quidquid latet apparebit:

nil inultum remanebit.

St. Sebastian facedown on the road

Pierced one hundred times

By steel arrows’ jagged ridges.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus?

Quem patronum rogaturus,

cum vix justus sit securus?

We bore his broken body up

Our brave Patroclus on his shield

And tried to give him succor.

Rex tremendae majestatis,

qui salvandos salvas gratis,

salva me fons pietatis.

I cried for deliverance from the sky,

But I was Ahab

And the heavens were shut.

Recordare, Jesu pie,

quod sum causa tuae viae:

ne me perdas illa die.

In anguish there we watched

As the blood and water flowed

And cried we all Eli Eli lama sabachthani.

Quaerens me, sedisti lassus:

redemisti Crucem passus:

tantus labor non sit cassus.

Vainly we stretched our our hands for vengeance

But like Polyphemus

I could find no man to slay.   

Juste judex ultionis,

donum fac remissionis

ante diem rationis.

And in that helpless state, finally!

Apollo drew near, or in so we hoped

To bear Aeneas away to safety.

Ingemisco, tamquam reus:

culpa rubet vultus meus:

supplicanti parce, Deus.

And as he left

To each other, each of us a Peter

Who denied what he knew was Truth.

Qui Mariam absolvisti,

et latronem exaudisti,

mihi quoque spem dedisti.

But in our hearts we knew

That Charon ferries men but one way

And from the River Lethe no man returns.

Preces meae non sunt dignae:

sed tu bonus fac benigne,

ne perenni cremer igne.

Returning to our camp

Like the Myrmidons to their black ships

We waited for the word.

Inter oves locum praesta,

et ab haedis me sequestra,

statuens in parte dextra.

“He is gone.”

They said, as the angel spoke to Mary

But instead of rejoicing, we wept.

Confutatis maledictis,

flammis acribus addictis:

voca me cum benedictis.

The dead bury the dead

And so we did

And so we do.

Oro supplex et acclinis,

cor contritum quasi cinis:

gere curam mei finis.

And weep we still do

Like Greeks on the shores of Troy

A decade thence.   

Lacrimosa dies illa,

qua resurget ex favilla

judicandus homo reus.

Because on that Day of Wrath

The living died

And only the dead remain.

Huic ergo parce, Deus:

pie Jesu Domine,

dona eis requiem. Amen.

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