DOOMSDAY

[This impressive poem is adapted from a Latin poem, De Die Judicii, which has been attributed to Bede and also to Alcuin. The English poem, however, is nearly twice as long as the Latin and is in no way a slavish translation.]

Lo! I sat alone within a grove covered with foliage, amidst a wood, where the streams made music and ran in the midst of a meadow, even as I say. Pleasant plants also grew there and bloomed amid the throng in the excellent field, and the trees of the forest tossed and murmured. The sky was troubled with the dread strength of the wind, and my poor mind was all in distress. Then of a sudden, in terror and sadness, I began to sing these gloomy verses, even such as thou mightest speak when mindful of sins, of the vices of life, of the long time, of the coming of dark death to earth. I felt fear too of the great judgment for my evil deeds here on earth, and also I dreaded the eternal wrath for myself and for each sinful one before God Himself, and how the mighty Lord will part all mankind and pass sentence by His secret power. I remembered too the glory of the Lord and of the holy ones in the heavenly kingdom; likewise the evil and torments of the wretched. I remembered this within myself, and I mourned exceedingly, and mourning I spoke, distressed in mind:

'Now I pray all ye veins quickly to open wide your gushing springs hot upon my cheeks in tears. Then in my sin I strike hard with my fist, I beat my breast in the place of prayer and lay my body on the ground, and I invoke all the agonies which I have deserved. Now I entreat you earnestly to hold not back because of tears, but vex the sad face with weeping, and straightway shed salt drops upon it; and lay bare sin to the eternal Lord. Nor let aught remain there in the heart's recess of miserable guilt, that is not clear as day; let that which was hidden, everything of breast and tongue and flesh, be also disclosed with open words. This is the only salvation for a wretched soul and the best of hopes to the sorrowing, that by weeping here he should make known his wounds to the heavenly Physician. He alone can cure guilty crimes with good and swiftly unbind the prisoners; nor will the Lord of angels with His right hand harshly bruise the careless heart, nor will Christ the Ruler

-284-

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Anglo-Saxon Poetry
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Introduction v
  • Contents xiii
  • Beowulf 1
  • Finnesburh 63
  • Waldhere 65
  • Widsith 67
  • Deor 71
  • The Wanderer 73
  • The Seafarer 76
  • The Wife's Lament 79
  • The Husband's Message 81
  • Wulf and Eadwacer 83
  • The Ruin 84
  • Charms 85
  • Genesis 95
  • Exodus 112
  • Daniel 121
  • Christ and Satan 127
  • Juliana 165
  • The Fates of the Apostles 178
  • Andreas 181
  • Elene 211
  • The Dream of the Rood 235
  • The Phoenix 239
  • Physiologus 252
  • Guthlac 256
  • The Soul's Address to the Body 280
  • Doomsday 284
  • Riddles 289
  • Gnomic Poetry 309
  • The Arts of Men 316
  • The Fates of Men 318
  • Judith 320
  • The Battle of Brunanburh 327
  • The Battle of Maldon 329
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