The Glory of Paradise

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For other English-language translations of this work, see De gloria et gaudiis Paradisi.
The Glory of Paradise  (1857) 
by Peter Damian, translated by Herbert Kynaston





Peter Damiani.


BY Herbert Kynaston, D. D.




The Hymn "De Gloriâ Paradisi," ascribed usually to Cardinal Peter Damiani, and printed in the Rome, Leyden, and Paris editions of his works, is unquestionably the noblest literary production of the century in which he lived. It is described in the title as being gathered out of the writings of Augustine of Hippo; from the "Liber Meditationum," no doubt, in which it is included, though under protest, by the Benedictine editors. Yet a much larger portion of its contents is found in the Cardinal's own prose works, "Institutio Monialis," cap. xvi. The subject being, "De cœlestis Hierusalem beatitudine sempiternâ," we find as follows, "contemplari præsentissimæ speciem Veritatis."—"Illic vitæ fontem et sitientes hauriunt, et haurientes sitiunt; quia ibi non potest, vel aviditas passionem gignere, vel satietas fastidire. Ex eo plane, quod Auctori vitæ semper assistunt, omnem vim beatitudinis trahunt. Hinc floridæ juventutis æterna viriditas, hinc venustas est pulchritudinis, et indeficiens vigor incolumitatis. Ex illo itaque æternitatis fonte percipiunt, ut æternaliter vivant, ineffabiliter gaudeant."—"Tunc mors absorpta est in victoriâ; omnisque humanæ naturæ corruit corruptela;"—"natura humana, quæ vitiata fuerat, cunctis passionum squaloribus defæcata, et azyma facta;"—"cum spiritu caro spiritualis facta concordat."—"Illic arcana singulorum patent oculis omnium; illic omnium mentes in mutui amoris unione conflatæ, nullâ invicem varietate dissentiunt, sed in communi voluntatis studio omnes unanimiter fœderantur. Apud nos, cum una festivitas colitur, altera non habetur; illic autem omnium solemnitatum semper est coacervata lætitia, quia illi præsentes assistunt qui solemnitatum sunt proculdublo causa. Deest illic ignorantia—quia in Sapientiâ cui uniti sunt, cuncta sciunt"—"Illic odoris suavitas cunctorum excedit rites aromatum, omnem superat fragrantiam pigmentorum. Illic Beatorum aures harmoniæ dulcedinis organa meloda permulcent. Illic pratis jucundâ satis amœnitate vernantibus, candentia lilia nunquam decidunt, rosæque purpureæ cum croceis floribus non marcescunt." We find also, "pressuras et ærumnas," in the eighth book of the Cardinal's Letters, (Ep. vi.) This identity of expression, hitherto unnoticed, so far as I am aware, proves beyond a doubt the authorship of the Hymn, which might otherwise with less certainty be supposed to be the work of Damiani rather than of Augustine, whose style its singular terseness and beauty resemble much more nearly than anything we find in the general writings, prose or verse, of the Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia.

The composition is styled by the Benedictine editors of Augustine, in one place, a "Hymnus," in another, "Rhythmus." The Cardinal himself speaks of his "Rhythmici Versus;" so we may conclude "Hymnus Rhythmicus" to be the title the author would have himself approved. The distinction, however, between rhythm and verse, thus seemingly assumed, cannot be maintained as regards the Trochaic measure, which at no period of Latin literature submitted itself of necessity to the trammels of regular scansion, as it always did in the written poetry of the Greeks. We have, indeed, the regular tetrameters of Prudentius, "rotatiles trochæos" as he styles them, (Cathemerinon IX, and Peristephanon I,) which so far excel the Greek models that they do not admit quadrisyllabic and trisyllabic violations of the rhythm. Such also is the celebrated "Pange lingua gloriosi prœlium certaminis" of Venantius Fortunatus, written in the sixth century, and other trochaic hymns earlier than the time of Damiani. But the truth is, that Latin verse composition in general, except when it forced itself to the adoption of Greek models, retained its own native rhythmical character, subject to no rule but that of accentual pronunciation. Such are the trochaics of the Latin dramatists, tragic and comic alike; as, for instance, the familiar line of Terence:—

"Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto;"

or, still more resembling the smooth rhythms of later times:—

"Summum bonum esse heræ putavi hunc Pamphilum."

The hymns, therefore, of Damiani, and those of the few following centuries which precede the revival of classical literature, are to be regarded, not as unshackling themselves from the fetters of verse, but as continuing uninterruptedly, and developing to nobler uses indigenous Latin poetry, now that, with the decay of ancient learning, the authors of Greece, and their Roman imitators, had almost wholly disappeared from view. The addition of rhyme was a natural consequence of the entire abandonment of quantity, and is by no means to be attributed to Saracenic or Gothic influence. In Damiani's trochaics, as in Spanish verse, it is confined mostly to the final vowel; but the construction of all such tetrameter metre requires that it be limited, at all events, to the catalectic and final syllable. When, indeed, as soon afterwards, the verse was divided, the change required the disyllabic or trochee rhyme, which gives new grandeur to such hymns as the "Dies iræ," with the optional reservation of the latter portion of the line, consisting of seven syllables, for an intermitted cadence resembling the parœmiac of the Greek anapæstic system, as in the "Stabat Mater." Besides the happy addition of rhyme, these rhythmical trochaics possess this superiority over those constructed on the Grecian model, that, losing at the same time a great deal of its monotony, they adapt themselves more readily to every emotion of the mind, by elevating or lowering the intensity of the arsis, though the character of the thought may be contemplative, sorrowful, or jubilant by turns. Severely addicted, as I must be supposed to be, to versification of the stricter and more classical order, I must confess my sympathy with those who take extreme delight in the sacred Latin poetry of the Middle Ages, in which that language seems for the first time to have put forth its full power, and, in wholly discarding imitation, to have become inimitable itself. Theologically such compositions are entirely unobjectionable; for the finest examples, like Damiani's Hymn, are as uniformly evangelical, and as purely scriptural, as the readers of the pious effusions of Watts, or Wesley, or John Newton, of which we are here so perpetually reminded, could themselves desire. They have little in common with the Church of Rome. They reflect none of her manifold corruptions; and she has done what she could to diminish their surpassing purity and power.

The trochaic is deservedly what Mr. Hallam calls it,—"the favourite of all nations." It is the rhythm which constitutes in general, the power of prose and verse alike; accommodating itself, as it does, to that instinctive elevation of the voice which Professor Masson rightly judges to be the expression of passion in either case, and in the language of ordinary life. Our Bible and Prayer-book supply abundant illustrations of this remark. The Professor instances David's lamentation for Absalom; though he does not point out that it contains, as it stands, two beautiful trochaic lines:—

"O my son, my son Absal-om, Absalom, my son, my son:
Would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!"

It is, of course, merely accidental when, as in numerous instances, whole tetrameters can be thus evolved from impassioned prose; it is enough for our argument to observe that such rhythmical sentences perpetually occur in any elevated language, and that, in accordance with such elevation of thought, the tendency to run into trochaic, and other measures developed from it—the dactylic, for instance—is proportionably increased. The translation of Jerome, commonly called the Vulgate, furnished probably in this respect much of the very materials, as also of the life and spirit of these sacred Latin hymns. The writer measured himself by no standard, and conformed his style to no rule of ancient or contemporary composition. The subject-matter had no parallel on earth, and a new speech must, as it were, be created to fit itself, by an entire disconnection of all heathen associations, to be the very transcript and echo of the written word and the spoken voice of heaven. And as our versions of the Holy Scriptures were composed at a time when our language was more spoken than written, and both spoken and written more than it was printed or read; when the echo of these glorious hymns, continued often in the dialogue of the Mysteries and Miracle-plays, still lingered, spite of the Reformation, in the nation's ear; when men expressed themselves as they felt, rather than as others expressed themselves or felt, without premeditation or rule, and therefore, when the subject-matter essentially required it, rhythmically, melodiously, powerfully, and well—how much may thus have been contributed towards inspiring and sustaining a poetic life in the English language, which an entire revision would both destroy in the Scriptures, and cut off in our people for ever? A somewhat similar experiment was tried, it is well known, on many of these very hymns, with the view of rearranging them in accordance with more classical rules as regards metre and expression; with what success let those judge who compare the recasting of the Roman and Paris Breviaries with the authenticated editions of ancient days.

Damiani's Hymn has been republished in the "Thesaurus Hymnologicus" of Daniel, where it is, of course, not generally accessible, and in the Dean of Westminster's elegant selection of "Sacred Latin Poetry." It is mentioned also, with deserved commendation, by the Dean of St. Paul's, in his learned and eloquent "History of Latin Christianity," a considerable portion of the poem being given in a note (vol. vi. p.492). It seems entitled to a separate, and more conspicuous publication, after lying so long embedded in the tertiary strata of a doubtful treatise of Augustine. It is more in accordance with the rules of the rhythm formerly adopted to arrange the poem in triplets, as is done by Prudentius, Fortunatus, and all the trochaic tetrameter writers, save, so far as I recollect, the author of the "Dies Judicii," where the alphabetic arrangement of the alternate lines precludes the application of the rule. Damiani's triplets do not, however, always keep themselves entirely distinct as regards their subject-matter; and I venture to print them as I find them arranged in the Cardinal's works, and in the Benedictine editions of Augustine: the more so because they better adapt themselves thus for translation, rhymed triple trochaics being a less suitable medium, and the alternative of eight and seven syllable divisions of the lines, which Mr. Wackerbarth adopts, giving an appearance of that prolixity which was the rock on which so many of the ancient hymn writers—Prudentius, Bernard, Hildebert, for instance—lost half the beauty of their poems.

We are left to surmise when and for what purpose these lines were written, whether as a relief from the author's own terrible thoughts of death, perpetuated in that fearful hymn,—

"Oravi me terrore pulsas, vitro dies ultima;"

or as a consolation to his sisters, Rodelinda and Sufficia, when mourning for their husbands;[1] or as supplemental to the benedictory letter addressed to a sick friend, shortly expecting the hour of his soul's departure,[2] the substance of which forms now the Commendatory Prayer used for the Dying by the Church of Rome; or for the encouragement of the Countess Blanche, devoting herself to convent life;[3] or when he was himself returning to the monastic seclusion, from which he had been reluctantly dragged to his Episcopate, and when leaving Hildebrand "to complete the subdual of the world without," he retired to subdue it, "with more utter aversion, with more concentred determination, within himself."[4]

The Cardinal's description of Paradise may, perhaps, in one or two places, be open to Daniel's objection of being "nimis suavis;" but it will be, upon the whole, pronounced by all readers to be not only grand in style, but in its matter solemnly affecting, beautiful, and true. The unseen, unheard, inconceivable joys can be faintly expressed by the reproduction in one of the three most glorious revelations of Scripture—The Garden of Eden, the Holy Land with its Temple, the Church of Christ; the three most beautiful sights of earth—rivers, cities, and mountains; and the three most precious things beneath the earth—gold, crystal, jewels. There may be also a slight admixture here of Gentile imagery, reminding us of the "Sedes quietæ" of Homer and Lucretius—the Hyperborean felicities of Pindar—the Elysium of Virgil; but what is this but the reabsorption of dispersed traditions to the holy source from which they flowed? Better far than the triple cord of mingled mythology, scholasticism, and Scripture with which Dante seeks to lift our thoughts to heaven. Damiani justly observes, in the passage of his prose works, from which I have made several extracts already, that "there is more in the thing itself than the mind can conceive, yet more in the mind conceived than can by any language be expressed." With this remark we may well close our prefatory introduction to such a subject, and with the aposiopesis with which Hildebert so appropriately breaks off his description of the Heavenly Jerusalem:—

"Feasts how bright her Saints are keeping,
Without wasting, without weeping;
Heart to heart what love entwining,
With what stones the City shining;
Jacinth or chalcedon be it,
They shall know who live to see it."







This Publication



For the fount of living waters panting, like the weary hart,
Prison'd beats my soul its barriers, madly striving to depart;
Walks about, and frets, and struggles homes forsaken to regain,
Drags at each remove untravell'd, pilgrim still, a lengthen'd chain:
Pines the blessing by transgressing lost to earth, in dreary mood,
Bitter makes a present sorrow thinking of departed good.

Who can count the rays of glory, jewell'd on the Priestly vest,
Where, with living pearls uplifted, soar the mansions of the blest?
Roofs all gold, and golden conches for the saintly presence meet,
Gold, like crystal seas pellucid, shining pathways for their feet;
Only gems the star-like fabric "fitly join'd together" hold,
Nought that staineth now remaineth in the unpolluted fold.

Winters horrid, summers torrid, vex no more the stilly clime,
But the purple bloom of roses sheds an everlasting prime;
Pales the lily, glows the crocus, balms their drowsy sweets distil,
Smile the meadows, sing the corn-fields, honied dew-drops swell the rill;
Odorous clouds of fragrant incense spice the aromatic breeze,
Autmn's fruits, and spring's first promise, bend the ever-blossom'd trees.

Pale-sick moons no more are waning, stars bespangle not the night,
God is now that City's sunshine, and the Lamb its living light;
Eve and morn divide no longer, noons dispense a deepening ray,
For each Saint is now in glory, shining to the perfect day:
Crown'd they shout their Jubilates, joyous now the fight is done,
Safely, now the foe is prostrate, boast them how the field was won.

Purified of inwrought leaven, warring sin they know no more,
Spirit now is flesh, and spirit what was only flesh before;
Peace, intensest peace, enjoying, stumbling ways no more to scan,
Changed from every shift of changing, mount they where their life began;
Present, not through glasses darkly, see the Glory, face to face,
Lift their pitchers to the fountain welling with eternal grace.

Bathed anew in heavenly lavers, hence they keep their first estate,
Vivid, jocund, brightly sitting o'er the water-floods of fate.
Sickness comes not to the healthy, lovely youth fears no decay,
Hence they grasp eternal essence, for to pass hath pass'd away;
Thus, decay itself declining, in celestial vigour rife,
Mortal with immortal blending, death they swallow up in life.

Knowing Him who knoweth all things, what to them shall not be known?
Heart to heart unbars its secrets lock'd within the fleshly zone,
One thing choosing, one refusing, one way all their currents fall;
Divers though the crowns of glory, meted at the Judgment Throne,
What she loves in others' brightness, charity hath made her own,
So the gifts of one excelling are the common joy of all.

Where the body, there the eagles thick their broad-wing'd pinions thrust,
Serried throngs of Angels mingle with the Spirits of the Just;
Banquet on one Heavenly Manna Citizens of either State,
Ever fill'd, and ever longing, satisfied, insatiate;
Filling hath for them no fulness, hungring still they know no pain,
Part their holy lips for feasting, feast and part them yet again.

Heavenly strains melodious voices echo each to other's notes,
With the pent-up roar of organs, swelling in a thousand throats;
How they chant the Song of Moses, now the Lamb is all their praise,—
"God, Thy works how great, how wondrons, King of Saints, how just Thy ways!"
Happy while they see the Glory, yet beneath the Throne sublime
Watch the sun and planets whirling earthward on the grooves of time.

Only might in them that conquer, only blessing of the blest,
Girt no more for battle lead me, Jesu, to Thy City's rest!
Make me sharer of Thy bounty with those Heavenly legions bright;
Lend me strength or e'er I perish in this never-ending fight;
Finish now my course with gladness, loose the helmet from my brow;
All things to Thyself subduing, Saviour, let me win Thee now! Amen.


Damian's works were first collected and edited by Constantine Cajetan, Rome, 1606–1615, out of zeal, no doubt, for the reputation of the Benedictine Order, a fourth volume being added in 1640. The three volumes were reprinted, with some additions, at Leyden, 1623, and the whole was republished at Paris, 1642 and 1643. In the readings of this Hymn there is a considerable variety. I have adopted, for the most part, those of the Leyden edition; but great improvements are obtained in vv. 14 and 40, by referring to the MS. preserved in the Imperial Library at Paris (Daniel, Th. H. vol iv. p. 203). V. 1. Trench reads avida; all other editions arida (Psa. xlii i. 2). The author of "The Story of a Hymn," Excelsior, vol. i. p. 270 (Nisbet, 1854), quotes the following ancient translation, dated 1601:—

"My thirsty soul desires her drought
At heavenly fountaines to refesh."

He traces to Damiani's hymn, as the first source, all those relating to "The New Jerusalem" in modern times. Strange that, though the "De Gloriâ" was never chanted in the Church of Rome, its poetry should thus have been perpetuated, and in such a variety of forms, in the worship of congregations so far removed from her communion. V. 7 (Tr.) The precious stones of the foundations of the walls of the city (Rev. xxi. 19, 20) are to be compared with those of the high priest's breast-plate (Exod. xxxix. 10–14). V. 14. All editions, save the "Liber Meditationum" of Augustine, have "flos perptuuas rosarum." The Paris MS. has purpureus, which is much better, and agrees with Damiani's own words, quoted in our preface, p. iv. V. 21 (Tr.) I have here illustrated the Cardinal's words with a beautiful thought of his own. In the history of the creation he says there is no mention of "the evening and the morning" of the seventh day. The Sabbath, like Melchisedec, was to be without beginning of days or end of life. "Nam et in ipso mundi nascentis exordio, cum unumquemque diem Scriptura mane præfigat, et vespere; jam cum ad Sabbatum pervenit, neutrum horum nominat, ut illud quasi sine initio esso vel fine prorsus ostendat." Letter to Hildebrand and Stephen, (Ep. II. v.) V. 30. Compare Isaiah xii. 3:—"With joy shall ye draw water out of the well of salvation;" also John iv. 10, and vii. 37, 38. V. 31. All but the Leyden edition have existendi; exeuntes is to be preferred, the meaning being "going forth out of that fountain, by perpetual renewal of its heavenly washing, they keep their state of unsullied purity, and unceasing happiness." Compare Jude 6, and Matthew iii. 16. … See also Damiani, in our Preface, p. 1.

Vv. 37–39. There is a great variety in the reading of the first of these lines. That of all the editions, except those of Leyden and Paris, scarcely gives any sense,—quid nescire nequeunt. By reading qui, and taking the three lines together, we elicit that "those who know Him who knoweth all things, and, therefore, are ignorant themselves of nothing, who read the secrets of each other's hearts, have the same will, and are perfectly unanimous always." Our disagreement is owing to our ignorance; if we knew more, there would be less difference of opinion; if we knew all things, there would be none at all. 1 Cor. iv. 5. V. 40. All editions have mertium. The Paris MS. præmium, which makes the sense clearer. The passage beautifully reconciles the idea of diversity of rewards with that of equal happiness for all.

V. 43. The fathers in general understand, and Matt. xxiv. 28, and Luke xvii. 37, of the gathering of the faithful to the Lord's coming. So Chrysostom, Homil. in M. LXXVI.:—Λέγει δὲ καὶ ἕτερον σημεῖον· ὅπου τὸ πτῶμα, ἐκεῖ καὶ οἱ ἀετοί· τὸ πλῆθος τῶν ἀγγέλων, τῶν μαρτύρων, τῶν ἁγίων ἁπάντων δηλῶν. The notion of the Roman eagles may be the more classical, but this is infinitely more Scriptural, more beautiful, and more to the purpose of the context. Damiani, taking the text from Luke, where it is σῶμα, not πτῶμα,—body, not carcase,—understands it of the Lord's Body, to which, as to a heavenly feast, the Church should be guided, at His coming, with an instinct as unerring, and a flight as soaring and as strong as that of eagles. Exodus xix. 4. V. 53. (Tr.) Rev. xv. 3. "And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; true and just are thy ways, thou King of saints."


  1. Ep. viii. 14.
  2. Ibid. Ep. 15.
  3. In Institutione Moniali. Opusc. L.
  4. Dean Milman, H. L. C. vol. iii. pp. 103, 104.

Copyright.svg PD-icon.svg This work is a translation and has a separate copyright status to the applicable copyright protections of the original content.

This work was published before January 1, 1926, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.


This work was published before January 1, 1926, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.