Dies Irae, Day of Wrath

One of the most famous melodies of the Gregorian Chant, Dies Irae was traditionally ascribed to Thomas of Celano (d 1260), but now is usually attributed to an unknown Franciscan of that period. The piece is based upon Zep 1:14-16, a reflection upon the final judgment.

It was printed and widely distributed during the U.S. Civil War.

The following two translations are three of the best ones I have seen. The first translation from the 1962 Missal, which is partially based upon the work of Fr. James Ambrose Dominic Aylward (1813-1872) and William F. Wingfield (1813-1874).

The second translation is translated from the Latin by William J. Irons, 1849.

There are several translations of this poem/hymn on the internet. Some by William J. Irons has a few words different.

THAT day of wrath, that dreadful day,
shall heaven and earth in ashes lay,
as David and the Sybil say.

What horror must invade the mind
when the approaching Judge shall find
and sift the deeds of all mankind!

The mighty trumpet’s wondrous tone
shall rend each tomb’s sepulchral stone
and summon all before the Throne.

Now death and nature with surprise
behold the trembling sinners rise
to meet the Judge’s searching eyes.

Then shall with universal dread
the Book of Consciences be read
to judge the lives of all the dead.

For now before the Judge severe
all hidden things must plain appear;
no crime can pass unpunished here.

O what shall I, so guilty plead?
and who for me will intercede?
when even Saints shall comfort need?

O King of dreadful majesty!
grace and mercy You grant free;
as Fount of Kindness, save me!

Recall, dear Jesus, for my sake
you did our suffering nature take
then do not now my soul forsake!

In weariness You sought for me,
and suffering upon the tree!
let not in vain such labor be.

O Judge of justice, hear, I pray,
for pity take my sins away
before the dreadful reckoning day.

You gracious face, O Lord, I seek;
deep shame and grief are on my cheek;
in sighs and tears my sorrows speak.

You Who did Mary’s guilt unbind,
and mercy for the robber find,
have filled with hope my anxious mind.

How worthless are my prayers I know,
yet, Lord forbid that I should go
into the fires of endless woe.

Divorced from the accursed band,
o make me with Your sheep to stand,
as child of grace, at Your right Hand.

When the doomed can no more flee
from the fires of misery
with the chosen call me.

Before You, humbled, Lord, I lie,
my heart like ashes, crushed and dry,
assist me when I die.

Full of tears and full of dread
is that day that wakes the dead,
calling all, with solemn blast
to be judged for all their past.

Lord, have mercy, Jesus blest,
grant them all Your Light and Rest. Amen.

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Day of wrath! O day of mourning!
See fulfilled the prophets’ warning,
Heaven and earth in ashes burning!

Oh what fear man’s bosom rendeth,
when from heaven the Judge descendeth,
on whose sentence all dependeth.

Wondrous sound the trumpet flingeth;
through earth’s sepulchers it ringeth;
all before the throne it bringeth.

Death is struck, and nature quaking,
all creation is awaking,
to its Judge an answer making.

Lo! the book, exactly worded,
wherein all hath been recorded:
thence shall judgment be awarded.

When the Judge his seat attaineth,
and each hidden deed arraigneth,
nothing unavenged remaineth.

What shall I, frail man, be pleading?
Who for me be interceding,
when the just are mercy needing?

King of Majesty tremendous,
who dost free salvation send us,
Fount of pity, then befriend us!

Think, good Jesus, my salvation
cost thy wondrous Incarnation;
leave me not to reprobation!

Faint and weary, thou hast sought me,
on the cross of suffering bought me.
shall such grace be vainly brought me?

Righteous Judge! for sin’s pollution
grant thy gift of absolution,
ere the day of retribution.

Guilty, now I pour my moaning,
all my shame with anguish owning;
spare, O God, thy suppliant groaning!

Thou the sinful woman savedst;
thou the dying thief forgavest;
and to me a hope vouchsafest.

Worthless are my prayers and sighing,
yet, good Lord, in grace complying,
rescue me from fires undying!

With thy favored sheep O place me;
nor among the goats abase me;
but to thy right hand upraise me.

While the wicked are confounded,
doomed to flames of woe unbounded
call me with thy saints surrounded.

Low I kneel, with heart submission,
see, like ashes, my contrition;
help me in my last condition.

Ah! that day of tears and mourning!
From the dust of earth returning
man for judgment must prepare him;
Spare, O God, in mercy spare him!

Lord, all pitying, Jesus blest,
grant them thine eternal rest. Amen.

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This one was done by a soldier during the second year of the U.S. Civil War while at Fortress Monroe. I believe it to be the best translation of the three on this web site. (See above for the other two.)

Day of vengance lo! that morning
On the earth in ashes dawning,
David with the sibyl warning.

Ah! what terror is impending
When the Judge is seen descending,
And each secret veil is rending.

To the thrown the trumpet sounding,
Through the sepulcher’s resounding,
Summon all with voice astounding.

Death and nature mazed, are quaking,
When the graves’ deep slumber breaking,
Man to judgment is awaking.

Now the written book containing,
Record to all time pertaining,
Opens for the world’s arraigning,

See the Judge his seat attaining,
Darkest mysteries explaining,
Nothing unavenged remaining.

What shall I then say, unfriended,
By what advocate attended,
When the just are scarce defended?

King of Majesty temendous,
By Thy saving grace defend us;
Fount of pity, safety send us.

Jesus, think of Thy wayfaring,
For my sins the death crown wearing,
Save me in that day despairing.

Worn and weary, Thou hast sought me,
By the cross and passion bought me;
Spare the hope Thy labor brought me!

Righteous Judge of retribution,
Give, oh, give me absolution.
Ere that day of Resolution!

As a guilty culprit groaning,
Flushed my face, my errors owning,
Spare, O God, Thy suppliant moaning!

Thou to Mary gave remission,
Heardst the dying thief’s petition,
Bad’st me hope in my contrition.

In my prayer no worth descerning,
Yet o n me Thy favor turning,
Save me from that endless burning!

Give me, when Thy sheep confiding,
Thou art from the goat’s dividing,
On Thy right a place abiding.

When the wicked are rejected,
And to bitter flame subjected,
Call me forth with Thine elected!

Low in supplication bending,
Heart as though with ashes blending,
Care for me when all is ending!

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