attributed to
                     Tomaso de Celano


		Dies Irae, Dies Illa,
		Solvet Saeclum In Favilla;
		Teste David Cum Sibilla.

		Quantus Tremor Est Futurus,
		Quando Judex Est Venturus,
		Cuncta Stricte Discussurus.

		Tuba Mirum Spargens Sonum,
		Per Sepulchra Regionum,
		Coget Omnes Ante Thronum.

		Mors Stupebit Et Natura,
		Cum Resurget Creatura,
		Judicanti Responsura.

		Liber Scriptus Proferetur,
		In Quo Totum Continetur,
		Unde Mundus Judicetur.

		Judex Ergo Cum Sedebit,
		Quidquid Latet Apparebit,
		Nil Inultum Remanebit.

		Quid Sum Miser Tunc Dicturus?
		Quem Patronum Rogaturus?
		Cum Vix Justus Sit Securus.

		Rex Tremendae Majestatis,
		Qui Salvandos Salvas Gratis,
		Salve Me, Fons Pietatis.

		Recordare Jesu Pie,
		Quod Sum Causa Tuae Viae
		Ne Me Perdas Illa Die.

		Quarens Me Sedisti Lassus,
		Redemisti Crucem Passus,
		Tantus Labor Sit Cassus.

		Juste Judex Ultionis,
		Donum Fac Remissionis,
		Ante Diem Rationis.

		Ingemisco Tanquam Reus,
		Culpa Rubet Vultus Meus,
		Supplicanti Parce, Deus!

		Qui Mariam Absolvisti,
		Et Latronem Exaudisti,
		Mihi Quoque Spem Dedisti.

		Preces Meae Non Sunt Digne:
		Sed Tu Bonus Fac Benigne,
		Non Perenni Cremer Igne.

		Inter Oves Locum Praesta,
		Et Ab Hoedis Me Sequestra,
		Statuens In Parte Dextra.

		Confutatis Maledictis,
		Flammis Acribus Addictis,
		Voca Me Cum Benedictis.

		Oro Supplex Et Acclinis,
		Cor Contritum Quasi Cinis,
		Gere Curam Mei Finis.

		Lacrymosa Dies Illa!
		Qua Resurget Ex Favilla
		Judicandus Homo Reus;
		Huic Ergo Parce, Deus.

		  Pie Jesu Domine,
		  Dona Eis Requiem.

Translations of poems are abominations and travesties; learn Latin.

About Tomaso de Celano, a monk of the 13th century little is known, except that he was one of the twelve disciples of Francis of Assisi. He apparently became the apostle of the Franciscan order, and having been the Superior of Convents at Cologne (Koeln), Worms (Wurms) and elsewhere, died in Italy circa 1255 AD, only a few years before the great Italian poet Dante was born. Saying that the 13th century was a time of turbulence is the gentlest of sayings.

The oldest known inscription of the poem is in a Dominican missal dating from late 14th century, and contained in the Bodeleian Library at Oxford. This is the ultimate source of the text above.

By the end of the 15th century, the poem had come into accepted and general liturgical use by the RC church. It was orginally an Advent hymn but soon became a section of the requiem mass. It was also set for the service of All Soul's day, November 2d.

The original musical setting was a chant in the Aeolian (minor) mode sung, ironically in high tessitura and at rapid tempo, in utter contradistinction to the poem's hammerlike blows. The sweeping imagery and relentless trochaic tetrameter is sublimated in the chant.

On page 191 of of musical references. You will find:

"The approach to the hymn form is represented by the sequence of the Mass for the Dead, Dies irae, attributed to Thmas of Celano (d. c. 1250). This famous sequence - the melody of which was to be used centuries later by Belioz and Liszt [Note by me: and *many* movie music composers :-)], among others - grew out of a rhymed trope added to the responsory Libera me, Domine. The melodic pattern is: aa bb cc aa bb cc aa bb cc de (d being derived from b). The group aa bb cc, appearing three times in succession, as a unit performs the function of a hymn melody; it is by virtue of the internal structure of the unit and because of the postlude that the piece ranks as a sequence."

   The above aa bb ... stuff is structural not pitches.
   The pitches (in A minor) go, for the first verse:

                  Di-es I-rae Di-es Il -a
                  C  B  C  A   B  G  A  A

                  Solvet Saeclum in fa-vil-la
                  C   B    C  A  B   G  A  A

                  Tes-te   Da--vid cum Sy--bil-la
                  C    C-D C-B A-G  B  C-B  A  A

   Online References:

   The Requiem Web 
   Dies Irae and my English translation
   Liturgical Terms in Choral Music

The setting of the poem by Mozart, in his most sublime Requiem Mass, foreshadowed by the Requiem of Cherubini (Thank you Daniel Smith), already foreshadows the treatment by composers of the Romantic and modern Eras. (Berlioz, Verdi, Ligeti)

In Mozart's Requiem and these later compositions, the emotional context of the imagery is written to, with all the despair, fire and sweetness that was available in their musical language.

Muscians of the romatic era, clearly felt and understood the iconic and sonic power of the poem, composing music that illustrated and reinforced the innate qualities of the poetic structure in a language whose vocabulary extended far beyond that of Mozart. The chant melody without the words (the reference assumed to be known) is basis of the variations that constitute Liszt's "Todtentanz" for piano and orchestra, allegedly inspired by the wood cuts of Hieronymous Bosch.

The modern RC church, in it's quest for ecumenism and even "commonness", has not only dismissed the sacred Latin language, but dismissed the psychological need for grief in great loss: the "mass for the dead" is now done in white vestments and becomes a celebration of life, and at the same time, a veritable nadir of psychological stupidity and ignorance.

Needless to say, "The Great Dirge" no longer has a place in RC Liturgy. If it could, it would probably have to be used in some execrable English translation fit only for swine to hear: the rhythms lost, the sonics lost lost, the potency of the original Latin semantics lost with only a hint of meaning remaining. The sacred Latin, that somehow made the mass something special both esthetically and spiritually, is gone, leaving the experience being no different than a social trip to MacDonald's. The Great Dirge is gone, and will clearly be preserved and understood only by musicians literate in legacy of Western Music, a dwindling population.

Literate modern composers, even film composers such as Patrick Doyle, Hans Zimmer and others, who are too often artistically dismissed, and unjustifiably so, are often literate in the western musical legacy, have been drawn by the musical legacy inspired by this poem. It, and its musical chant have become a reference and gesture of the western musical tradition. One frequently hears at appropriate moments in film scores, quotes and variations of the Gregorian melody; a musico-dramatic reference, in the spirit of a Wagnerian Leitmotiv, that is there with the full knowledge that the reference will be lost to all but the musical illuminati.

	The Great Dirge of Thomas De Celano,
	Melancthon Woolsey Stryker,
	Fleming H. Revell Company (1892)

	Dictionary of Hymnology
	Rev. John Julian, M.A. (ed)
	Sheffield, England - [cited in the above]

	Berlioz Requiem
	Cherubini Requiem
	Ligeti Requiem
        Liszt "Todtentanz"
	Mozart Requiem
        Rachmaninoff "Isle of the Dead"
        Rachmaninoff "Variations on a Theme of Paganini"
	Verdi Requiem
        Who's afraid of Virginia Wolff? -
	     Richard Burton reading

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Created: 1997
Last Updated: May 28, 2000
Last Updated: July 20, 2003
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Last Updated: March 31, 2007