The Dream of Gerontius, Part 8

 

angelsThe Dream of Gerontius reaches its high point in which angels praise God while they recount the history of mankind.

A first choir of angels sings:

“Praise to the Holiest in the height,
And in the depth be praise:
In all His words most wonderful;
Most sure in all His ways!

To us His elder race He gave
To battle and to win,
Without the chastisement of pain,
Without the soil of sin.

The younger son He will’d to be
A marvel in His birth:
Spirit and flesh his parents were;
His home was heaven and earth.

The Eternal bless’d His child, and arm’d,
And sent him hence afar,
To serve as champion in the field
Of elemental war.

To be His Viceroy in the world
Of matter, and of sense;
Upon the frontier, towards the foe
A resolute defence.”

Gerontius’ angel next explains:

“We now have pass’d the gate, and are within
The House of Judgment” and in instead of costly materials of which temples and palaces or earth are made, in heaven everything consists of life:

“The very pavement is made up of life—
Of holy, blessed, and immortal beings,
Who hymn their Maker’s praise continually.”

A second choir of angels sings:

“Praise to the Holiest in the height,
And in the depth be praise:
In all His words most wonderful;
Most sure in all His ways!

Woe to thee, man! for he was found
A recreant in the fight;
And lost his heritage of heaven,
And fellowship with light.

Above him now the angry sky,
Around the tempest’s din;
Who once had Angels for his friends,
Had but the brutes for kin.

O man! a savage kindred they;
To flee that monster brood
He scaled the seaside cave, and clomb
The giants of the wood.

With now a fear, and now a hope,
With aids which chance supplied,
From youth to eld, from sire to son,
He lived, and toil’d, and died.

He dreed his penance age by age;
And step by step began
Slowly to doff his savage garb,
And be again a man.

And quicken’d by the Almighty’s breath,
And chasten’d by His rod,
And taught by angel-visitings,
At length he sought his God;

And learn’d to call upon His Name,
And in His faith create
A household and a father-land,
A city and a state.

Glory to Him who from the mire,
In patient length of days,
Elaborated into life
A people to His praise!”

For the soul “The sound is like the rushing of the wind—
The summer wind—among the lofty pines”

And a third choir of angels sings:

“Praise to the Holiest in the height,
And in the depth be praise:
In all His words most wonderful;
Most sure in all His ways!

The Angels, as beseemingly
To spirit-kind was given,
At once were tried and perfected,
And took their seats in heaven.

For them no twilight or eclipse;
No growth and no decay:
‘Twas hopeless, all-ingulfing night,
Or beatific day.

But to the younger race there rose
A hope upon its fall;
And slowly, surely, gracefully,
The morning dawn’d on all.

And ages, opening out, divide
The precious, and the base,
And from the hard and sullen mass
Mature the heirs of grace.

O man! albeit the quickening ray,
Lit from his second birth,
Makes him at length what once he was,
And heaven grows out of earth;

Yet still between that earth and heaven—
His journey and his goal—
A double agony awaits
His body and his soul.

A double debt he has to pay—
The forfeit of his sins:
The chill of death is past, and now
The penance-fire begins.

Glory to Him, who evermore
By truth and justice reigns;
Who tears the soul from out its case,
And burns away its stains!”

The angel explains to Gerontius:
The Dream of Gerontius reaches its high point in which angels praise God while they recount the history of mankind.

A first choir of angels sings:

“Praise to the Holiest in the height,
And in the depth be praise:
In all His words most wonderful;
Most sure in all His ways!

To us His elder race He gave
To battle and to win,
Without the chastisement of pain,
Without the soil of sin.

The younger son He will’d to be
A marvel in His birth:
Spirit and flesh his parents were;
His home was heaven and earth.

The Eternal bless’d His child, and arm’d,
And sent him hence afar,
To serve as champion in the field
Of elemental war.

To be His Viceroy in the world
Of matter, and of sense;
Upon the frontier, towards the foe
A resolute defence.”

Gerontius’ angel next explains:

“We now have pass’d the gate, and are within
The House of Judgment” and in instead of costly materials of which temples and palaces or earth are made, in heaven everything consists of life:

“The very pavement is made up of life—
Of holy, blessed, and immortal beings,
Who hymn their Maker’s praise continually.”

A second choir of angels sings:

“Praise to the Holiest in the height,
And in the depth be praise:
In all His words most wonderful;
Most sure in all His ways!

Woe to thee, man! for he was found
A recreant in the fight;
And lost his heritage of heaven,
And fellowship with light.

Above him now the angry sky,
Around the tempest’s din;
Who once had Angels for his friends,
Had but the brutes for kin.

O man! a savage kindred they;
To flee that monster brood
He scaled the seaside cave, and clomb
The giants of the wood.

With now a fear, and now a hope,
With aids which chance supplied,
From youth to eld, from sire to son,
He lived, and toil’d, and died.

He dreed his penance age by age;
And step by step began
Slowly to doff his savage garb,
And be again a man.

And quicken’d by the Almighty’s breath,
And chasten’d by His rod,
And taught by angel-visitings,
At length he sought his God;

And learn’d to call upon His Name,
And in His faith create
A household and a father-land,
A city and a state.

Glory to Him who from the mire,
In patient length of days,
Elaborated into life
A people to His praise!”

For the soul “The sound is like the rushing of the wind—
The summer wind—among the lofty pines”

And a third choir of angels sings:

“Praise to the Holiest in the height,
And in the depth be praise:
In all His words most wonderful;
Most sure in all His ways!

The Angels, as beseemingly
To spirit-kind was given,
At once were tried and perfected,
And took their seats in heaven.

For them no twilight or eclipse;
No growth and no decay:
‘Twas hopeless, all-ingulfing night,
Or beatific day.

But to the younger race there rose
A hope upon its fall;
And slowly, surely, gracefully,
The morning dawn’d on all.

And ages, opening out, divide
The precious, and the base,
And from the hard and sullen mass
Mature the heirs of grace.

O man! albeit the quickening ray,
Lit from his second birth,
Makes him at length what once he was,
And heaven grows out of earth;

Yet still between that earth and heaven—
His journey and his goal—
A double agony awaits
His body and his soul.

A double debt he has to pay—
The forfeit of his sins:
The chill of death is past, and now
The penance-fire begins.

Glory to Him, who evermore
By truth and justice reigns;
Who tears the soul from out its case,
And burns away its stains!”

The angel explains to Gerontius:

“They sing of thy approaching agony,
Which thou so eagerly didst question of:
It is the face of the Incarnate God
Shall smite thee with that keen and subtle pain;
And yet the memory which it leaves will be
A sovereign febrifuge to heal the wound;
And yet withal it will the wound provoke,
And aggravate and widen it the more.”

Thus inspired by the angels’ words we marvel at God’s plans and join in his praise.

“They sing of thy approaching agony,
Which thou so eagerly didst question of:
It is the face of the Incarnate God
Shall smite thee with that keen and subtle pain;
And yet the memory which it leaves will be
A sovereign febrifuge to heal the wound;
And yet withal it will the wound provoke,
And aggravate and widen it the more.”

Thus inspired by the angels’ words we marvel at God’s plans and join in his praise.

2 Comment(s)
  • Virginia Haddad Posted January 21, 2017 9:04 pm

    “…that keen and subtle pain;
    And yet the memory which it leaves will be
    A sovereign febrifuge to heal the wound;
    And yet withal it will the wound provoke,
    And aggravate and widen it the more.”

    Lots of irony here! However and first of all, in case anyone else needs to know what a “febrifuge” is (a machine that spins away the second month?) the definition I found is “a medicine used to reduce fever.”
    Now to how the memory of the wound both heals and widens it…
    Should the focus be on how it provokes the wound…

    • Fr. Juan Velez Posted January 22, 2017 7:54 am

      Yes, I don’t understand well the use of the word “febrifuge” but the adjective makes us think that author is referring of God’s loving touch on the soul. Newman wrote the poem in a short time, and it would have been good to read more about God provokes the wound and heals it. However, Newman does tell us earlier, that the look of Christ “gladdens” while it burns.

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