The seven great hymns of the mediaeval church/The Celestial Country/Neale

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
For other English-language translations of this work, see De contemptu mundi.





THE world is very evil,
The times are waxing late;
Be sober and keep vigil,
The Judge is at the gate—
The Judge that comes in mercy,
The Judge that comes with might,
To terminate the evil,
To diadem the right.
When the just and gentle Monarch
Shall summon from the tomb,
Let man, the guilty, tremble,
For Man, the God, shall doom!


Arise, arise, good Christian,
Let right to wrong succeed;
Let penitential sorrow
To heavenly gladness lead—
To the light that hath no evening,
That knows nor moon nor sun,
The light so new and golden,
The light that is but one.


And when the Sole-Begotten
Shall render up once more
The kingdom to the Father,
Whose own it was before,
Then glory yet unheard of
Shall shed abroad its ray,
Resolving all enigmas,
An endless Sabbath-day.


Then, then from his oppressors
The Hebrew shall go free,
And celebrate in triumph
The year of Jubilee;
And the sunlit Land that recks not
Of tempest nor of fight,
Shall fold within its bosom
Each happy Israelite—
The Home of fadeless splendor,
Of flowers that fear no thorn,
Where they shall dwell as children,
Who here as exiles mourn.


Midst power that knows no limit,
And wisdom free from bound,
The Beatific Vision
Shall glad the Saints around—
The peace of all the faithful,
The calm of all the blest,
Inviolate, unvaried,
Divinest, sweetest, best.
Yes, peace! for war is needless—
Yes, calm! for storm is past—
And goal from finished labor,
And anchorage at last.


That peace—but who may claim it?
The guileless in their way,
Who keep the ranks of battle,
Who mean the thing they say—
The peace that is for heaven,
And shall be for the earth;
The palace that re-echoes
With festal song and mirth;
The garden, breathing spices,
The paradise on high;
Grace beautified to glory,
Unceasing minstrelsy.


There nothing can be feeble,
There none can ever mourn,
There nothing is divided,
There nothing can be torn.
'Tis fury, ill, and scandal,
'Tis peaceless peace below;
Peace, endless, strifeless, ageless,
The halls of Syon know.


O happy, holy portion,
Refection for the blest,
True vision of true beauty,
Sweet cure of all distrest!
Strive, man, to win that glory;
Toil, man, to gain that light;
Send hope before to grasp it,
Till hope be lost in sight;
Till Jesus gives the portion
Those blessed souls to fill—
The insatiate, yet satisfied,
The full, yet craving still.


That fulness and that craving
Alike are free from pain,
Where thou, midst heavenly citizens,
A home like theirs shalt gain.
Here is the warlike trumpet;
There, life set free from sin,
When to the last Great Supper
The faithful shall come in;
When the heavenly net is laden
With fishes many and great
(So glorious in its fulness,
Yet so inviolate);
And perfect from unperfected,
And fall'n from those that stand,[1]
And the sheep-flock from the goat-herd
Shall part on either hand.


And these shall pass to torment,
And those shall triumph then—
The new peculiar nation,
Blest number of blest men.
Jerusalem demands them;
They paid the price on earth,
And now shall reap the harvest
In blissfulness and mirth—
The glorious holy people,
Who evermore relied
Upon their Chief and Father,
The King, the Crucified—
The sacred ransomed number
Now bright with endless sheen,
Who made the Cross their watchword
Of Jesus Nazarene,
Who (fed with heavenly nectar
Where soul-like odors play)
Draw out the endless leisure
Of that long vernal day.


And, through the sacred lilies
And flowers on every side,
The happy dear-bought people
Go wandering far and wide;
Their breasts are filled with gladness,
Their mouths are tun'd to praise,
What time, now safe for ever,
On former sins they gaze:
The fouler was the error,
The sadder was the fall,
The ampler are the praises
Of Him who pardoned all.


Their one and only anthem,
The fulness of His love,
Who gives instead of torment,
Eternal joys above—
Instead of torment, glory;
Instead of death, that life
Wherewith your happy Country,
True Israelites, is rife.


Brief life is here our portion,
Brief sorrow, short-liv'd care;
The life that knows no ending—
The tearless life, is there.


O happy retribution!
Short toil, eternal rest;
For mortals and for sinners
A mansion with the blest!
That we should look, poor wand'rers,
To have our home on high!
That worms should seek for dwelling,
Beyond the starry sky!
To all one happy guerdon
Of one celestial grace;
For all, for all, who mourn their fall,
Is one eternal place.


And martyrdom hath roses
Upon that heavenly ground;
And white and virgin lilies
For virgin-souls abound.
There grief is turned to pleasure—
Such pleasure as below
No human voice can utter,
No human heart can know;
And after fleshly scandal,
And after this world's night,
And after storm and whirlwind,
Is calm, and joy, and light.


And now we fight the battle,
But then shall wear the crown
Of full and everlasting
And passionless renown:
And now we watch and struggle,
And now we live in hope,
And Syon, in her anguish,
With Babylon must cope;
But He whom now we trust in
Shall then be seen and known,
And they that know and see Him
Shall have Him for their own.


The miserable pleasures
Of the body shall decay;
The bland and flattering struggles
Of the flesh shall pass away;
And none shall there be jealous,
And none shall there contend;
Fraud, clamor, guile—what say I?
All ill, all ill shall end!


And there is David's Fountain,
And life in fullest glow;
And there the light is golden,
And milk and honey flow—
The light that hath no evening,
The health that hath no sore,
The life that hath no ending,
But lasteth evermore.


There Jesus shall embrace us,
There Jesus be embraced—
That spirit's food and sunshine
Whence earthly love is chased.
Amidst the happy chorus,
A place, however low,
Shall shew Him us, and shewing,
Shall satiate evermo.


By hope we struggle onward:
While here we must be fed
By milk, as tender infants,
But there by Living Bread.
The night was full of terror,
The morn is bright with gladness;
The Cross becomes our harbor,
And we triumph after sadness.


And Jesus to His true ones
Brings trophies fair to see;
And Jesus shall be loved, and
Beheld in Galilee—
Beheld, when morn shall waken,
And shadows shall decay,
And each true-hearted servant
Shall shine as doth the day;
And every ear shall hear it—
"Behold thy King's array,
Behold thy God in beauty,
The Law hath pass'd away!"


Yes! God my King and Portion,
In fulness of Thy grace,
We then shall see for ever,
And worship face to face.
Then Jacob into Israel,
From earthlier self estranged,
And Leah into Rachel
For ever shall be changed;[2]
Then all the halls of Syon
For aye shall be complete,
And in the Land of Beauty,
All things of beauty meet.


For thee, O dear, dear Country!
Mine eyes their vigils keep;
For very love, beholding
Thy happy name, they weep.
The mention of thy glory
Is unction to the breast,
And medicine in sickness,
And love, and life, and rest.


O one, O onely Mansion!
O Paradise of Joy!
Where tears are ever banished,
And smiles have no alloy,
Beside thy living waters
All plants are, great and small,
The cedar of the forest,
The hyssop of the wall;
With jaspers glow thy bulwarks,
Thy streets with emeralds blaze,
The sardius and the topaz
Unite in thee their rays;
Thine ageless walls are bonded
With amethyst unpriced;
Thy Saints build up its fabric,
And the corner-stone is Christ.[3]


The Cross is all thy splendor,
The Crucified thy praise;
His laud and benediction
Thy ransomed people raise:
"Jesus, the Gem of Beauty,
True God and Man," they sing,
"The never-failing Garden,
The ever-golden Ring;
The Door, the Pledge, the Husband,
The Guardian of his Court;
The Day-star of Salvation,
The Porter and the Port!"


Thou hast no shore, fair ocean!
Thou hast no time, bright day!
Dear fountain of refreshment
To pilgrims far away!
Upon the Rock of Ages
They raise thy holy tower;
Thine is the victor's laurel,
And thine the golden dower!


Thou feel'st in mystic rapture,
O Bride that know'st no guile,
The Prince's sweeteft kisses,
The Prince's loveliest smile;
Unfading lilies, bracelets
Of living pearl thine own;
The Lamb is ever near thee,
The Bridegroom thine alone.
The Crown is He to guerdon,
The Buckler to protect,
And He Himself the Mansion,
And He the Architect.


The only art thou needest—
Thanksgiving for thy lot;
The only joy thou seekest—
The Life where Death is not.
And all thine endless leisure,
In sweetest accents, sings
The ill that was thy merit,
The wealth that is thy King's!


Jerusalem the golden,
With milk and honey blest,
Beneath thy contemplation
Sink heart and voice oppressed.
I know not, O I know not,
What social joys are there!
What radiancy of glory,
What light beyond compare!


And when I fain would sing them,
My spirit fails and faints;
And vainly would it image
The assembly of the Saints.


They stand, those halls of Syon,
Conjubilant with song,
And bright with many an angel,
And all the martyr throng;
The Prince is ever in them,
The daylight is serene;
The pastures of the Blessed
Are decked in glorious sheen.


There is the Throne of David,
And there, from care released,
The song of them that triumph,
The shout of them that feast;
And they who, with their Leader,
Have conquered in the fight,
For ever and for ever
Are clad in robes of white![4]


O holy, placid harp-notes
Of that eternal hymn!
O sacred, sweet refection,
And peace of Seraphim!
O thirst, for ever ardent,
Yet evermore content!
O true peculiar vision
Of God cunctipotent!
Ye know the many mansions
For many a glorious name,
And divers retributions
That divers merits claim;
For midst the constellations
That deck our earthly sky,
This star than that is brighter—
And so it is on high.


Jerusalem the glorious!
The glory of the Elect!
O dear and future vision
That eager hearts expect!
Even now by faith I see thee,
Even here thy walls discern;
To thee my thoughts are kindled,
And strive, and pant, and yearn.


Jerusalem the onely,
That look'st from heaven below,
In thee is all my glory,
In me is all my woe;
And though my body may not,
My spirit seeks thee fain,
Till flesh and earth return me
To earth and flesh again.


O none can tell thy bulwarks,
How gloriously they rise!
O none can tell thy capitals
Of beautiful device!
Thy loveliness oppresses
All human thought and heart;
And none, O peace, O Syon,
Can sing thee as thou art!


New mansion of new people,
Whom God's own love and light
Promote, increase, make holy,
Identify, unite!
Thou City of the Angels!
Thou City of the Lord!
Whose everlasting music
Is the glorious decachord![5]


And there the band of Prophets
United praise ascribes,
And there the twelvefold chorus
Of Israel's ransomed tribes,
The lily-beds of virgins,
The roses' martyr-glow,
The cohort of the Fathers
Who kept the Faith below.


And there the Sole-Begotten
Is Lord in regal state—
He, Judah's mystic Lion,
He, Lamb Immaculate.
O fields that know no sorrow!
O state that fears no strife!
O princely bowers! O land of flowers!
O realm and home of Life!


Jerusalem, exulting
On that securest shore,
I hope thee, wish thee, sing thee,
And love thee evermore!
I ask not for my merit,
I seek not to deny
My merit is destruction,
A child of wrath am I;
But yet with Faith I venture
And Hope upon my way;
For those perennial guerdons
I labor night and day.


The best and dearest Father,
Who made me and who saved,
Bore with me in defilement,
And from defilement laved,
When in His strength I struggle,
For very joy I leap,
When in my sin I totter,
I weep, or try to weep:
But grace, sweet grace celestial,
Shall all its love display,
And David's Royal Fountain
Purge every sin away.


O mine, my golden Syon!
O lovelier far than gold,
With laurel-girt battalions,
And safe victorious fold!
O sweet and blessed Country,
Shall I ever see thy face?
O sweet and blessed Country,
Shall I ever win thy grace?
I have the hope within me
To comfort and to bless!
Shall I ever win the prize itself?
O tell me, tell me, Yes!


Exult, O dust and ashes!
The Lord shall be thy part;
His only, His for ever,
Thou shalt be, and thou art!
Exult, O dust and ashes!
The Lord shall be thy part;
His only, His for ever,
Thou shalt be, and thou art![6]

  1. These two lines are taken from the last London edition. In some editions they are thus given:

    "And the perfect from the shattered,
    and the fallen from them that stand."

  2. "Leah and Rachel are allegorized in three different ways by mediæval poets. First, of the active and contemplative life; and thence also, by an easy transition, to the toil we endure on earth, and the eternal contemplation of God's glory in Heaven as here. So again, in a fine but rugged prose in the Nuremberg Missal for St. Jerome's Day:

    Then, when all carnal strife hath ceased,
    And we from warfare are released,
    O grant us in that Heavenly Feast
    To see Thee as Thou art:
    To Leah give, the battle won,
    Her Rachel's dearer heart;
    To Martha, when the strife is done,
    Her Mary's better part.

    "The parallel symbol of Martha and Mary is, however, in this sense far more common, and is even found in epitaphs, as in that of Gundreda de Warren, daughter of William the Conqueror:

    A Martha to the houseless poor, a Mary in her love;
    And though her Martha's part be gone, her Mary's lives above.

    "Bernard, in the passage we are considering, has a double propriety in the changes of which he speaks. Israel, according to St. Augustine's rendering, means, He that beholds God; Rachel, according to the unwarrantable mediæval explanation, That beholds the Beginning, i. e, Christ. Thus, the change spoken of is from earth to the Beatific Vision; and has a reference also to the New Name and White Stone of the Apocalypse.

    "The second allegory of Leah and Rachel expounds them of the Synagogue and the Church; the third makes them to represent earthly affliction patiently endured "—Mediæval Hymns. 2d Edition.

  3. "It is not without a deep mystical meaning that these stones are selected by the poet.

    "The twelve foundation stones of the Apocalypse gave rise, as might be expected, to an infinite variety of mystical interpretations. 'Jasper,' says the comment of Marbodus, 'is the first foundation of the Church of God, and is of a green color.' 'It signifies those who always hold the Faith of God and never depart from it, or wither, but are always flourishing therein, and fear not the assaults of the devil.' 'The emerald is exceeding green, surpassing all gems and herbs in greenness.' 'By the emerald we understand those who excel others in the vigor of their faith, and dwell among infidels who be frigid and arid in their love.' 'The sardius, which is wholly red, signifies the martyrs who pour forth their blood for Christ.' 'The topaz is rare, and therefore precious. It has two colors, one like gold, the other clearer. In clearness it surpasses all gems, and nothing is more beautiful. It signifies those who love God and their neighbor.' 'The amethyst is entirely red, and shoots out rosy flames. Its color signifies earthly suffering; its emissions, prayers for those that cause it.'"—Mediæval Hymns. 2d Edition.

  4. These stanzas are evidently considered by Dr. Neale his best. See page 37. In deference to that opinion, they are given here in the form in which they appear in the last edition of Mediæval Hymns.

  5. "Decachord, with reference to the mystical explanation, which, seeing in the number ten a type of perfection, understands the 'instrument of ten firings' of the perfect harmony of heaven."

  6. "I have been so often asked to what tune the words of Bernard may be sung, that I may here mention that of Mr. Ewing, the earliest written, the best known, and with children the most popular; that of my friend, the Rev. H. L. Jenner, perhaps the most ecclesiastical; and that of another friend, Mr. Edmund Sedding, which, to my mind, best expresses the meaning of the words."—Mediæval Hymns. 2d Edition.


NOTE, that in this edition of The Celestial Country these changes have been made:

1st. The poem has been divided into irregular stanzas. This change of form is partly for the convenience of those who love to refer and re-refer to favorite passages; partly to enable children readily to select from it stanzas to be learned or sung; but chiefly to render its intermingling sentences more clear to those who have not become familiar with its construction.

2d. The punctuation has been materially remodelled and changed.

3d. The author's text has been altered in three instances, wherein the errors corrected seem manifestly slips of the pen or blunders of the compositor, viz., in the ninth stanza, line fourteen, "those" is substituted for "them;" in the twenty-second stanza, line two, "Thy" is substituted for "His," and in the forty-first stanza, line nine, "But" is substituted for "And."