The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Day of Anger, That Dread Day

Alternate Title: The Day of Wrath

For Second Advent

Words: “Dies iræ, dies illa,” Thomas of Celano, 13th cent., from the Paris Missal.

Translation: Henry Alford (7 October 1810 – 12 January 1871) , Dean of Canterbury

Source: Henry Alford, Psalms and Hymns (London: Francis & John Rivington, 1844), pp. 149-152.

Meter: Trochaic dimeter.


Judgment Hymn.

Part I.


1. Day of anger, that dread day
Shall the sign in Heav'n display,
And the earth in ashes lay.
O what trembling shall appear,
When His coming shall be near,
Who shall all things strictly clear !
When the Trumpet shall command,
Through the tombs of every land,
All before the Throne to stand!

2. Death shall shrink and nature quake,
When all creatures shall awake,
Answer to their Judge to make.
See the Book divinely penn'd,
In which all is found contain'd,
Whence the world shall be arraign'd !
When the Judge is on His throne,
All that's hidden shall be shown,
Nought unpublish'd or unknown !

3. What shall I before Him say ?
How shall I be safe that day,
When the righteous scarcely may ?
King of awful majesty,
Saving sinners graciously,
Fount of mercy, save Thou me !
Leave me not, my Saviour! one
For whose soul thy course was run.
Lest I be that day undone.

Part II.

Hymn CXIX.

1. Thou didst toil my soul to gain,
Didst redeem me with thy pain,
Be such labour not in vain !
Thou just Judge of wrath severe,
Grant my sins remission here,
Ere Thy reckoning day appear.
My transgressions grievous are,
Scarce look up for shame I dare :
Lord, thy guilty suppliant spare !

2. Thou didst heal the sinner's grief,
And didst hear the dying thief: –
Even I may hope relief.
All unworthy is my prayer ;
Make my soul thy mercy's care,
And from fire eternal spare.
Place me with thy sheep – that band
Who shall separated stand
From the goats, at thy right hand !

3. When Thy voice in wrath shall say,
Cursed ones, depart away !
Call me with the blest, I pray !
Lord, thine ear in mercy bow ;
Broken is my heart and low :
Guard of my last end be Thou.
In that day, that mournful day,
When to judgment wakes our clay,
Show me mercy, Lord, I pray !


Similar is the hymn for the Second Sunday in Advent, Hymn III, “That Day of Wrath, That Dreadful Day.” Although similar, it is not the same hymn as the above. Other similar hymns are:

Also occurs in The Book of Christmas Hymns (London: T. Nelson and Sons, 1868), pp. 125-128.

The Latin hymn, “Dies Iræ, dies illa,” was immensely popular. Estimates of translations into English exceed 200. As is the common practice among editors of hymnals, numerous alterations to original compositions have been made.

John Julian notes:

Day of anger, that dread day. By H. Alford, from the Paris Missal. The opening stanza of this translation [of Dies irae, dies illa] is:—

”Day of anger, that dread day
Shall the sign in Heav'n display,
And the earth in ashes lay."

It appeared in his Psalms & Hymns, 1844, in two parts, the second beginning, "Thou didst toil my soul to gain"; and was repeated in his Year of Praise, 1867. In Windle's Hymnal, No. 83, there is given a cento from this translation into which many alterations are introduced, and a refrain is added to each stanza which is altogether new to the hymn. The cento in the Marlborough School Collection, 1869, No. 49, beginning with the first line from I. Williams, is from this translation but greatly altered. Dean Alford's translation is also given in a few American hymn-books.

--Excerpt from John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)

Alford, Henry. D.D., son of the Rev. Henry Alford, Rector of Aston Sandford, b. at 25 Alfred Place, Bedford Row, London, Oct. 7, 1810, and educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, graduating in honours, in 1832. In 1833 he was ordained to the Curacy of Ampton. Subsequently he held the Vicarage of Wymeswold, 1835-1853,--the Incumbency of Quebec Chapel, London, 1853-1857; and the Deanery of Canterbury, 1857 to his death, which took place at Canterbury, Jan. 12, 1871. In addition he held several important appointments, including that of a Fellow of Trinity, and the Hulsean Lectureship, 1841-2.

His literary labours extended to every department of literature, but his noblest undertaking was his edition of the Greek Testament, the result of 20 years' labour.

His hymnological and poetical works, given below, were numerous, and included the compiling of collections, the composition of original hymns, and translations from other languages. As a hymn-writer he added little to his literary reputation. The rhythm of his hymns is musical, but the poetry is neither striking, nor the thought original. They are evangelical in their teaching, but somewhat cold and conventional. They vary greatly in merit, the most popular being "Come, ye thankful people, come," "In token that thou shalt not fear," and "Forward be our watchword." His collections, the Psalms and Hymns of 1844, and the Year of Praise, 1867, have not achieved a marked success. His poetical and hymnological works include—

    (1) Hymns in the Christian Observer and the Christian Guardian, 1830.
    (2) Poems and Poetical Fragments (no name), Cambridge, J. J. Deighton, 1833.
    (3) The School of the Heart, and other Poems, Cambridge, Pitt Press, 1835.
    (4) Hymns for the Sundays and Festivals throughout the Year, &c.,Lond., Longman ft Co., 1836.
    (5) Psalms and Hymns, adapted for the Sundays and Holidays throughout the year, &c, Lond., Rivington, 1844.
    (6) Poetical Works, 2 vols., Lond., Rivington, 1845.
    (7) Select Poetical Works, Lond., Rivington, 1851.
    (8) An American ed. of his Poems, Boston, Ticknor, Reed & Field, 1853
    (9) Passing away, and Life's Answer, poems in Macmillan's Magazine, 1863.
    (10) Evening Hexameters, in Good Words, 1864.
    (11) On Church Hymn Books, in the Contemporary Review, 1866.
    (12) Year of Praise, London, A. Strahan, 1867.
    (13) Poetical Works, 1868.
    (14) The Lord's Prayer, 1869.
    (15) Prose Hymns, 1844.
    (16) Abbot of Muchelnaye, 1841.
    (17) Hymns in British Magazine, 1832.
    (18) A translation of Cantemus cuncti, q.v.

-- John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)

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