Celebre canto gregoriano
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It is a medieval Latin poem characterized by its accentual stress and its rhymed lines. The metre is trochaic. The poem describes the day of judgment, the last trumpet summoning souls before the throne of God, where the saved will be delivered and the unsaved cast into eternal flames.
The hymn is best known from its use as a sequence in the Roman Catholic Requiem Mass (Mass for the Dead or Funeral Mass). An English version is found in various Anglican Communion service books.
The melody is one of the most quoted in musical literature, appearing in the works of many diverse composers.
Use in the Roman liturgy
The "Dies Irae" was used in the Roman liturgy as the sequence for the Requiem Mass for centuries, as evidenced by the important place it holds in musical settings such as those by Mozart and Verdi. It appears in the Roman Missal of 1962, the last edition before the implementation of the revisions that occurred after the Second Vatican Council. As such, it is still heard in churches where the Tridentine Latin liturgy is celebrated. It also formed part of the traditional liturgy of All Souls' Day.
In the reforms to the Roman Catholic liturgy ordered by the Second Vatican Council, it was retained only in part by the "Consilium for the Implementation of the Constitution on the Liturgy"—the Vatican body charged with drafting and implementing the reforms (1969–70). It remains as a hymn ad libitum in the Liturgy of the Hours during the last week before Advent, divided into three parts for the Office of Readings, Lauds and Vespers.
Nevertheless, the Consilium felt that the funeral rite was in need of reform and eliminated the sequence as such from the Masses for the Dead. A leading figure in the post-conciliar liturgical reforms, Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, explains the mind of the cardinals and bishops who were members of the Consilium:
They got rid of texts that smacked of a negative spirituality inherited from the Middle Ages. Thus they removed such familiar and even beloved texts as the "Libera Me, Domine", the "Dies Irae", and others that overemphasized judgment, fear, and despair. These they replaced with texts urging Christian hope and arguably giving more effective expression to faith in the resurrection.
in the resurrection.
TextThe Latin text below is taken from the Requiem Mass in the 1962 Roman Missal. The first English version below, translated by William Josiah Irons in 1849, albeit from a slightly different Latin text, replicates the rhyme and metre of the original. This translation, edited for more conformance to the official Latin, is approved by the Catholic Church for use as the funeral Mass sequence in the liturgy of the Anglican ordinariate. The second English version is a more formal equivalence translation.
|1||Dies iræ, dies illa|
Solvet sæclum in favilla,
Teste David cum Sibylla.
|Day of wrath and doom impending.|
David's word with Sibyl's blending,
Heaven and earth in ashes ending.
|The day of wrath, that day|
Will dissolve the world in ashes
As foretold by David and the Sibyl!
|2||Quantus tremor est futurus,|
Quando Judex est venturus,
Cuncta stricte discussurus!
|Oh, what fear man's bosom rendeth,|
When from heaven the Judge descendeth,
On whose sentence all dependeth.
|How much tremor there will be,|
when the Judge will come,
investigating everything strictly!
|3||Tuba mirum spargens sonum,|
Per sepulchra regionum,
Coget omnes ante thronum.
|Wondrous sound the trumpet flingeth;|
Through earth's sepulchres it ringeth;
All before the throne it bringeth.
|The trumpet, scattering a wondrous sound|
through the sepulchres of the regions,
will summon all before the Throne.
|4||Mors stupebit et natura,|
Cum resurget creatura,
|Death is struck, and nature quaking,|
All creation is awaking,
To its Judge an answer making.
|Death and nature will marvel,|
when the creature arises,
to respond to the Judge.
|5||Liber scriptus proferetur,|
In quo totum continetur,
Unde mundus judicetur.
|Lo, the book, exactly worded,|
Wherein all hath been recorded,
Thence shall judgement be awarded.
|The written book will be brought forth,|
in which all is contained,
from which the world shall be judged.
|6||Judex ergo cum sedebit,|
Quidquid latet apparebit:
Nil inultum remanebit.
|When the Judge his seat attaineth,|
And each hidden deed arraigneth,
Nothing unavenged remaineth.
|When therefore the Judge will sit,|
whatever hides will appear:
nothing will remain unpunished.
|7||Quid sum miser tunc dicturus?|
Quem patronum rogaturus,
Cum vix justus sit securus?
|What shall I, frail man, be pleading?|
Who for me be interceding,
When the just are mercy needing?
|What am I, miserable, then to say?|
Which patron to ask,
when [even] the just may [only] hardly be sure?
|8||Rex tremendæ majestatis,|
Qui salvandos salvas gratis,
Salva me, fons pietatis.
|King of Majesty tremendous,|
Who dost free salvation send us,
Fount of pity, then befriend us!
|King of tremendous majesty,|
Who freely savest those that have to be saved,
save me, Source of mercy.
|9||Recordare, Jesu pie,|
Quod sum causa tuæ viæ:
Ne me perdas illa die.
|Think, kind Jesu! – my salvation|
Caused Thy wondrous Incarnation;
Leave me not to reprobation.
|Remember, merciful Jesus,|
That I am the cause of Thy way:
Lest Thou lose me in that day.
|10||Quærens me, sedisti lassus:|
Redemisti Crucem passus:
Tantus labor non sit cassus.
|Faint and weary, Thou hast sought me,|
On the Cross of suffering bought me.
Shall such grace be vainly brought me?
|Seeking me, Thou sattest tired:|
Thou redeemedst [me] having suffered the Cross:
let not so much hardship be lost.
|11||Juste Judex ultionis,|
Donum fac remissionis,
Ante diem rationis.
|Righteous Judge, for sin's pollution|
Grant Thy gift of absolution,
Ere the day of retribution.
|Just Judge of revenge,|
give the gift of remission
before the day of reckoning.
|12||Ingemisco, tamquam reus:|
Culpa rubet vultus meus:
Supplicanti parce, Deus.
|Guilty, now I pour my moaning,|
All my shame with anguish owning;
Spare, O God, Thy suppliant groaning!
|I sigh, like the guilty one:|
my face reddens in guilt:
Spare the supplicating one, God.
|13||Qui Mariam absolvisti,|
Et latronem exaudisti,
Mihi quoque spem dedisti.
|Through the sinful woman shriven,|
Through the dying thief forgiven,
Thou to me a hope hast given.
|Thou who absolvedst Mary,|
and heardest the Robber,
gavest hope to me, too.
|14||Preces meæ non sunt dignæ;|
Sed tu bonus fac benigne,
Ne perenni cremer igne.
|Worthless are my prayers and sighing,|
Yet, good Lord, in grace complying,
Rescue me from fires undying.
|My prayers are not worthy:|
however, Thou, Good [Lord], do good,
lest I be burned up by eternal fire.
|15||Inter oves locum præsta.|
Et ab hædis me sequestra,
Statuens in parte dextra.
|With Thy sheep a place provide me,|
From the goats afar divide me,
To Thy right hand do Thou guide me.
|Grant me a place among the sheep,|
and take me out from among the goats,
setting me on the right side.
Flammis acribus addictis,
Voca me cum benedictis.
|When the wicked are confounded,|
Doomed to flames of woe unbounded,
Call me with Thy saints surrounded.
|Once the cursed have been rebuked,|
sentenced to acrid flames:
Call Thou me with the blessed.
|17||Oro supplex et acclinis,|
Cor contritum quasi cinis,
Gere curam mei finis.
|Low I kneel, with heart's submission,|
See, like ashes, my contrition,
Help me in my last condition.
|I meekly and humbly pray,|
[my] heart is as crushed as the ashes:
perform the healing of mine end.
|18||Lacrimosa dies illa,|
Qua resurget ex favilla,
Judicandus homo reus.
Huic ergo parce, Deus:
|Ah! that day of tears and mourning,|
From the dust of earth returning
Man for judgement must prepare him,
Spare, O God, in mercy spare him.
|Tearful will be that day,|
on which from the ash arises
the guilty man who is to be judged.
Spare him therefore, God.
|19||Pie Jesu Domine,|
Dona eis requiem. Amen.
|Lord, all-pitying, Jesus blest,|
Grant them Thine eternal rest. Amen.
|Merciful Lord Jesus,|
grant them rest. Amen.
Because the last two stanzas differ markedly in structure from the preceding stanzas, some scholars consider them to be an addition made in order to suit the great poem for liturgical use. The penultimate stanza Lacrimosa discards the consistent scheme of rhyming triplets in favor of a pair of rhyming couplets. The last stanza Pie Iesu abandons rhyme for assonance, and, moreover, its lines are catalectic.