This translation is taken from 'Sources and Analogues of Old English Poetry - The Major Latin Texts in Translation', translated by Michael J.B. Allen and Daniel G. Calder. It is published here by permission of Boydell & Brewer Ltd., and may not be redistributed without their permission.
Text: CC, 122.439-44
While I sat sad and alone under the covering of a shady tree, among the flowering grasses of the fertile earth, with the branches echoing on every side from the wind's breath, I was suddenly disturbed by a bitter lament. I sang these mournful songs because my mind was sad when I remembered the sins I had committed, the blotches on my life and the loveless time of death, the great Judgment Day with its fearful trial, the strict Judge's eternal wrath towards the guilty, all humanity on separate benches, and the joys of the saints as well as the punishments of the wicked. When I recalled these things to myself, I said under the quiet murmur [of the leaves}, "O eyes, I ask you now to open your warm fountains. While I strike my guilty breast with my fists, while I prostrate my limbs on the ground and call for the pains I deserve, I beseech you, do not spare your copious tears! Pour the salt drops down my sorrowing face! Reveal my sins with groaning voice to Christ, and do not hide any fault in my heart's cave! Let all be brought to light and declared openly: the fierce crimes of the heart, the tongue and the flesh. The soul's only salvation and the certain hope for him who grieves is to show his wounds tearfully to the heavenly Doctor. He is accustomed to heal the sick and free those in chains; He does not want to break us like quivering reeds with His right hand, nor quench us like the lamp wick’s faint smoke with water. Isn't the thief who hanged on the Cross an example for you of how much sin's true confession is worth? Until he was crucified, he was a wicked man who had committed evil deeds; but at the point of death, he cried out with words of prayer. With one word of faith he merited salvation and entered the open gates of paradise with Christ. I ask you, my spirit, why are you so slow to reveal yourself completely to the Doctor? My tongue, why are you silent when there is still time for forgiveness? The Almighty listens to you now with open ears. The day will come when the world's Judge will arrive and you must render an account of yourself. I urge you to prevent the Judge's wrath now with tears. Why do you lie in filth, O flesh, full of guilt and crime? Why don't you purge away your sins with plentiful tears and beg for yourself the comfort of a gentle remedy? While you have been given the grace to weep with incessant tears, it is pleasant to repent now and wholesome to weep. The eternal Judge will be mild if you submit your claim to Him now, but heavenly God will not deliver anyone from his crimes twice.
Do not scorn the times of forgiveness you have for certain. Remember how great the torments are that await the wicked and how the high-throned, fearful Judge will come from the heights of heaven to give everyone his due. Remember what signs will precede Him: suddenly the earth will tremble and the mountains crumble down; the hills will melt and the sea confound men’s' minds with its terrible roar; the sky will be covered sorrowfully with black shadows; the stars will fall and the sun grow dark in the crimson east; the pale moon will not uncover her nightly lamp, and signs threatening death will come from the sky. Having surrounded the heavenly King with its angelic hosts, the wakened might of heaven will suddenly arrive; sublime, He sits on His high throne, ablaze with light. When the crowds have been assembled from all regions, we are brought before Him so each may be judged according to his deeds. Remember the fear which will strike the hearts of everyone brought to the tribunal, and which will make them plead in vain. At that time the angelic troops will come with all the innumerable throngs of heaven, accompanying the King of the sky. All men alike will be forced to go there: those who are, have been, or will be in the future; and everyone's every secret will be universally revealed. What the heart or tongue or hand has done in shadowy caverns, what I am ashamed and afraid for anyone to know, everyone alike will then be allowed to know openly. The air will be filled with avenging flames; and fire, its reins broken, will rule everywhere. Where the air now spreads its empty lap, the fiery flame will pour its terrible thunder and hurry to avenge the fierce causes of crimes. Then avenging heat will not care to spare anyone, unless he comes there cleansed of every stain. Then the tribes and people will strike their guilty breasts with fists and all will stand there together: the proud man and the pauper, the strong man, the beggar and the rich man will all fear the same authority. The fire-belching river will torture men grievously and worms will gnaw at the inmost recesses of sinners' hearts. No one present will be able to rely on his own merits before the Judge; but a great terror will run through every breast and the wicked throng will be struck dumb at the same time with dread fear.
What, flesh, what will you do, weeping at that hour? The hour you now rejoice to serve, alas, with wretched lust, will vex you then with the sharp stings of your luxury. Why aren't you afraid of the fiery torments which evil demons have long prepared for you, and which exceed the perceptions and descriptions of any man alive? No voice can declare the miserable punishments, the regions of eternal hell filled with black fires and the icy colds mingled with burning flames, the eyes weeping from the furnace's great heat on the one hand, and the teeth gnashing from the bitter cold on the other. With these wretched alternations the wretched wander forever in pitch darkness and night's obscurity. No voice sounds there unless it is the dreadful weeping all around, and no face is seen except for the faces of those in torture. Nothing is felt except the cold and the flames. The stench of overwhelming decay fills your nostrils and your lamenting mouth will be filled with flame-belching fire. With fiery teeth the worms will tear at your bones. Your breast will be tormented too with bitter thoughts about why the flesh briefly surrendered to its own desire and incurred eternal punishment in the black prison, where no spark of light shines on wretched men, where no peace or mercy, or indeed hope of peace, smiles upon those who weep. All comforts flee away. No one will be there to help you in your grievous afflictions; no happy face will ever be seen there, only pain and lamentation, gnashing of teeth and fear, trembling dread, weariness, sorrow, fierce indignation and listlessness, and souls wandering among the flames in the blind prison. Then this world's injurious pleasures will cease: drunkenness, banquets, laughter, wantonness, jesting, fierce desire, clinging lust, wicked passion, idle sleep, heavy torpor and lazy sloth. Now, delight seduces all the flesh and plunges the soul into the blind whirlpool of sins; then, it will sink wretches into the dark flames forever.
How greatly and perpetually happy is the man lucky enough to flee from these disastrous punishments. He will rejoice together with the saints, world without end. United to Christ, he will live in the kingdoms of heaven where no night exists to snatch away the splendour of the pleasing light; and no grief or lamentation will come, nor feeble old age. No thirst is present there, no hunger, sleep, or any labour; no fevers, diseases, or injuries; no frosts, flames, weariness, sadness, anxieties, thunder, snow, hail, tempests, anguish, poverty, sorrow, death, accidents or need. Rather there reign peace and love, goodness and wealth, and joy, happiness, virtue, light, eternal life, glory, praise, tranquillity, honour and sweet concord. God Himself provides every good thing for all; God is always present. He cherishes, fulfils and honours all. He glorifies, preserves, esteems, loves, adorns and places the happy on heaven's high throne. He bestows celestial rewards and everlasting gifts in the midst of angelic hosts and sacred throngs, joined with the prophetic patriarchs and prophets. He bestows them in the midst of apostolic citadels and happy souls; in the midst of splendid fortresses and rosy triumphs. He bestows them in the midst of the white ranks and their maiden flower, ranks which the loving Mother of God, the holy Virgin Mary, in shining raiment, draws through the Father's blessed kingdoms. He bestows them in the midst of the saints of the Church, its fathers and sons, and in the midst of the heavenly senate with its celestial peace.
What, I ask, can we consider harsh in this world, when it permits us to live with the heavenly throngs, to rejoice always on the blessed thrones of those above and to bless the Lord Christ forever? May Christ keep you safe for my sake, my dearest brother [Acca], and make you always and forever happy. Following your commands, lo, I have sung songs of lamentation for you. I ask you to do what you promised faithfully to do: commend me now to Christ with your prayers, I who have sung for you. Live happy in God and say farewell to the kind brothers, Father Acca; remember your anxious, fearful servant, and commend me in your bounteous prayers to Christ.