Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. IV. The Higher Life
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume IV. The Higher Life.  1904.
 
VII. Death: Immortality: Heaven
Praise of the Celestial Country
Bernard de Morlaix (12th Century)
 
From the Latin by John Mason Neale

   [The poem De Contemptu Mundi was written by Bernard de Morlaix, Monk of Cluni. The translation following is of a portion of the poem distinguished by the sub-title “Laus Patriæ Cœlestis.”]

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,        5
  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,        10
Let man, the guilty, tremble,
  For Man, the God, shall doom!
 
Arise, arise, good Christian,
  Let right to wrong succeed;
Let penitential sorrow        15
  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.        20
 
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        25
  Shall shed abroad its ray,
Resolving all enigmas,
  An endless Sabbath-day.
 
For thee, O dear, dear Country!
  Mine eyes their vigils keep;        30
For very love, beholding
  Thy happy name, they weep.
The mention of thy glory
  Is unction to the breast,
And medicine in sickness,        35
  And love, and life, and rest.
 
O one, O only Mansion!
  O Paradise of Joy,
Where tears are ever banished,
  And smiles have no alloy!        40
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,        45
  Thy streets with emeralds blaze,
The sardius and the topaz
  Unite in thee their rays;
Thine ageless walls are bonded
  With amethyst unpriced;        50
Thy Saints build up its fabric,
  And the corner-stone is Christ.
 
The Cross is all thy splendor,
  The Crucified thy praise;
His laud and benediction        55
  Thy ransomed people raise:
“Jesus, the gem of Beauty,
  True God and Man,” they sing,
“The never-failing Garden,
  The ever-golden Ring;        60
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!        65
  Thou hast no time, bright day!
Dear fountain of refreshment
  To pilgrims far away!
Upon the Rock of Ages
  They raise thy holy tower;        70
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 sweetest kisses,        75
  The Prince’s loveliest smile;
Unfading lilies, bracelets
  Of living pearl thine own;
The Lamb is ever near thee,
  The Bridegroom thine alone.        80
The Crown is he to guerdon,
  The Buckler to protect,
And he himself the Mansion,
  And he the Architect.
 
The only art thou needest—        85
  Thanksgiving for thy lot;
The only joy thou seekest—
  The Life where Death is not.
And all thine endless leisure,
  In sweetest accents, sings        90
The ill that was thy merit,
  The wealth that is thy King’s!
 
Jerusalem the golden,
  With milk and honey blest,
Beneath thy contemplation        95
  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!        100
 
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 Zion,        105
  Conjubilant with song,
And bright with many an angel,
  And all the martyr throng;
The Prince is ever in them,
  The daylight is serene;        110
The pastures of the Blessèd
  Are decked in glorious sheen.
 
There is the Throne of David,
  And there, from care released,
The song of them that triumph,        115
  The shout of them that feast;
And they who, with their Leader,
  Have conquered in the fight,
Forever and forever
  Are clad in robes of white!        120
 
O holy, placid harp-notes
  Of that eternal hymn!
O sacred, sweet reflection,
  And peace of Seraphim!
O thirst, forever ardent,        125
  Yet evermore content!
O true peculiar vision
  Of God cunctipotent!
Ye know the many mansions
  For many a glorious name,        130
And divers retributions
  That divers merits claim;
For midst the constellations
  That deck our earthly sky,
This star than that is brighter—        135
  And so it is on high.
 
Jerusalem the glorious!
  The glory of the Elect!
O dear and future vision
  That eager hearts expect!        140
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 only,        145
  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,        150
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        155
  Of beautiful device!
Thy loveliness oppresses
  All human thought and heart;
And none, O peace, O Zion,
  Can sing thee as thou art!        160
 
New mansion of new people,
  Whom God’s own love and light
Promote, increase, make holy,
  Identify, unite!
Thou City of the Angels!        165
  Thou City of the Lord!
Whose everlasting music
  Is the glorious decachord!
 
And there the band of Prophets
  United praise ascribes,        170
And there the twelvefold chorus
  Of Israel’s ransomed tribes.
The lily-beds of virgins,
  The roses’ martyr-glow,
The cohort of the Fathers        175
  Who kept the faith below.
 
And there the Sole-Begotten
  Is Lord in regal state,—
He, Judah’s mystic Lion,
  He, Lamb Immaculate.        180
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        185
  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        190
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        195
  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,        200
When in his strength I struggle,
  For very joy I leap,
When in my sin I totter,
  I weep, or try to weep:
Then grace, sweet grace celestial,        205
  Shall all its love display,
And David’s Royal Fountain
  Purge every sin away.
 
O mine, my golden Zion!
  O lovelier far than gold,        210
With laurel-girt battalions,
  And safe victorious fold!
O sweet and blessèd Country,
  Shall I ever see thy face?
O sweet and blessèd Country,        215
  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!        220
 
Exult! O dust and ashes!
  The Lord shall be thy part;
His only, his forever,
  Thou shalt be, and thou art!
Exult, O dust and ashes!        225
  The Lord shall be thy part;
His only, his forever,
  Thou shalt be, and thou art!
 
 
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