Dies iræ in English
  • Richard R.
    Posts: 731
    This is by way of a follow-on to Fr. Eric Andersen's paper, delivered to the CMAA conference in Minneapolis in 2013, and available in the NLM archives, entitled "The Celebration of Sorrow in the Roman Rite." At his request, I have set to the traditional melody the English text of the sequence as found in "Our Parish Prays and Sings Hymnbook", Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 1966, in its (dubiously titled) section, "Mass for Resurrection and Glory". [With apologies, I cannot seem to load the scanned PDF here.]

    The difficulties in reconciling the natural English word rhythms with the traditional Gregorian melody are especially obvious with this adaptation, and Collegeville responded with a typically heavy editorial hand to rectify the problems. This is a shame. I may be alone in thinking the problem is artificial, or perhaps stemming from a grotesque understanding of chant rhythm vs. textual rhetoric. The English clearly needs a very high and subtle degree of sensitivity when rendered to the authentic melody, especially in the third phrase (vv. 6, 7, 12, 13 and 17). Nevertheless, I think it far from impossible, if one adopts a free approach to the rhythm (which Gajard himself would advocate, despite his more fundamentalist disciples who can't seem to get beyond those 2s and 3s). If nothing else, it helps us better appreciate the treatment of accented vs. unaccented syllables in the Latin texts, and render them more sensitively.

    Fr. Andersen's argument in favor of the traditional sequence in the context of the modern funeral liturgy is certainly not above debate, though I don't think this is the place for that debate. Nevertheless, this fairly suave translation of the great medieval Latin text goes a long way toward deepening my understanding of this chant, which I have sung dozens of times. I predict the Dies iræ issue, like black vestments, etc., will be revisited in a future iteration of the Roman Missal. Its (overt) restoration could provide yet another means to recapture the traditional Catholic approach to mourning, and yet another brick in rebuilding Catholic liturgy.
  • cdruiz
    Posts: 26
    Richard,

    This looks great!

    You implied that this was not your favorite English translation. Until today, the only other poetic translation I knew of was the one on Wikipedia.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dies_Irae

    It starts:
    Day of wrath and doom impending.
    David's word with Sibyl's blending,
    Heaven and earth in ashes ending.

    It seems to be written to fit the Gregorian melody, but I have never been able to find music sheets with this text. Do you know of any?

    -Cesar
  • Richard R.
    Posts: 731
    I don't know others, and this seems to be what was official in 1966. It appears both in the Ecclesia Dei booklet and in The Catholic Hymnal and Service Book of 1966, though the latter reorders some of the verses. Wiki says its text is used by the Anglican ordinariate; I imagine it appears typeset in Palmer-Burgess, but can't confirm that.

    [Along those lines, I am told by a reliable source that the new Ordinariate Missal, when complete, will be notated in the same perverse (Ruffian?) fashion as the 2010 Roman Missal, with round notes acting like neumes to no good effect. Better start your petitions now.]
  • cdruiz
    Posts: 26
    Stupid me. The translation you set is almost word for word the one Wikipedia attributes to William Josiah. The biggest departure is in the first three lines, but after that it is almost identical. Wow! I finally found the music sheet, and it was yours!!!
  • CGM
    Posts: 525
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  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,379
    The Plainchant Gradual has the Mass for Nov. 2 (Vol. 4 p. 231) with all the propers save one, replaced by the rubric "Dies Irae: see English Hymnal p. 351."
  • aldine
    Posts: 31
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  • Richard R.
    Posts: 731
    1940 sets it authentically; I can't tell whether the last phrase is an underlay error, or just cramming the text in the space, but the three beamed notes should fall on "e" of "eternal". Anyway, square notes were requested.