Gerald Finzi's Dies natalis

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Read the text for Gerald Finzi's Dies natalis, one of the work's on this month's cover CD

Dies Natalis

Words by Thomas Traherne (1637?-1674)

I. Intrada

II. Rhapsody

Will you see the infancy of this sublime and celestial greatness? I was a stranger, which at my entrance into the world was saluted and surrounded with innumerable joys: my knowledge was divine. I was entertained like an angel with the works of God in their splendour and glory. Heaven and Earth did sing my Creators praises, and could not make more melody to Adam than to me. Certainly Adam in Paradise had not more sweet and curious apprehensions of the world than I. All appeared new, and strange at first, inexpressibly rare and delightful and beautiful. All things were spotless and pure and glorious.

The corn was orient and immortal wheat, which never should be reaped nor was ever sown. I thought it had stood from everlasting to everlasting. The green trees, when I saw them first, transported and ravished me, their sweetness and unusual beauty made my heart to leap, and almost mad with ecstasy, they were such strange and wonderful things.

O what venerable creatures did the aged seem!  Immortal cherubims! and the young men glittering and sparkling angels, and maids strange seraphic pieces of life and beauty! I knew not that they were born or should die ; but all things abided eternally. I knew not that there were sins or complaints or laws. I dreamed not of poverties, contentions or vices. All tears and quarrels were hidden from mine eyes. I saw all in the peace of Eden. Everything was at rest, free and immortal.

III. The Rapture

Sweet Infancy!
O heavenly fire! O sacred Light!
How fair and bright!
How great am I
Whom the whole world doth magnify!

O heavenly Joy!
O great and sacred brightness
Which I possess!
Sao great a joy
Who did into my arms convey?

From God above
Being sent, the gift doth me inflame,
To praise his name.
The stars do move,
The sun doth shine, to show his love.

O how divine
Am I! To all this sacred wealth
This life and health
Who raised?  Who mine
Did make the same?  What hand divine!

IV. Wonder

How like an angel I came down!
How bright are all things a here!  
When first among his works I did appear
O how their glory did me crown!
The world resembled his eternity
In which my soul did walk;
And everything that I did see
Did with me talk.

The skies in their magnificence
The lovely, lively air,
O how divine, how soft, how sweet, how fair!
The stars did entertain my sense;
And all the works of God so bright and pure,
So rich and great, did seem,
As if they ever must endue
In my esteem.

A native health and innocence
Witihin my bones did grow,
And while my God did all his glories show,
I felt a vigour in my sense
That was all spirit:  within I did flow
With seas of life, like wine:
I nothing but the world did know
But t'was Divine.

V. The Salutation

These little limbs, these eyes and hands which I here find,
This panting heart wherewith my life begins;
Where have ye been?  Behind what curtain were ye from me hid so long?
Where was, in what abyss, my new made tongue?

When silent I so many thousand thousand years
Beneath the dust did in a chaos lie, how could I smiles, or tears,
Or lips, or hands, or eyes, or ears perceive?
Welcome, ye treasures which I now receive.

From dust from I rise and out of nothing now awake,
These brighter regions which salute my eyes,
A gift from God I take, the earth, the seas, the light, the lofty skies,
The sun and stars are mine: if these I prize.

A stranger here, strange things doth meet, strange glory see,
Strange treasures lodged in this fair world appear,
Strange, all, and new to me: But that they mine should be who nothing was,
That strangest is of all; yet brought to pass.