The Celtic Literature Collective

The two sorrows of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Translation and Notes by Nicole Volmering
De Finibus Project, Dept. of Early and Medieval Irish, UCC

Note to the translation: This translation represents the text as closely as possible without allowing the meaning to suffer. Square brackets have been retained to indicate elements supplied in order to render a better translation.

The two sorrows of the Kingdom of Heaven.

§1 Why does one speak of sorrow in Heaven? [That] is not difficult. Elijah and Enoch prayed to the Lord to carry them in their bodies to Heaven. Due to the excellence, then, of their merit to God [while] on earth, they were carried to Paradise in their earthly bodies. Consequently, bright, pure, light, aerial souls are flying all around them in the shape of angels. They, that is, Elijah and Enoch, however, are in their heavy, sluggish, earthly bodies and they may not accompany [them]. This is a sorrow and a great pain to them, [to be] unable to accompany the angels, so that they [themselves] are the two sorrows of the Kingdom of Heaven.

§2 Elijah goes to sit under the Tree of Paradise [with] the Gospels in his hand to preach to the birds and the souls in Paradise. The birds then come to eat the fruit of the tree. Great berries are they, sweeter than any honey and more intoxicating than wine. They eat the fruit. After this Elijah opens his Gospels. At that they press their wings and feet against them, moving foot nor wing, until the preaching is finished. Teachings of Doomsday is what he preaches to them, that is, that which is brought down as tortures upon the souls of men on Doomsday, for instance, the four rivers around the mountain - that is, around the mountain of Zion - burning the souls. Long - that is, the thousand long years - is the danger for anyone who will be sinful. It is better for anyone who is well-deserving, even though it would be on that day only1. Even if there were no suffering in store for the souls except on Doomsday, it would be meet that no-one should sleep thinking about it for as long as he should live2.

§3 In addition [to this] there is the coming of Christ with the nine orders of Heaven, with all mortal men who have been born and will be born up to the Last Judgment, and with the hosts of Hell. It is thus that he, Jesus Christ, will come to them, with his red cross on [his] back to avenge his crucifixion on the Devil by coming to deliver them from his mouth. The host and the crowd which will be there will be great. [It] is in front of that host then [that] everyone will show his deeds both good and bad. Everyone in turn [is] to reveal that which their eyes have seen, that which their lips and their tongues have said and their hands have made, and where their feet have been. Christ son of God and Heaven’s angels and [the] men of Earth and Hell listen to him until he finishes speaking. His accompanying devil [will be] reminding him of every evil thing he has done, for he used to be on his left hand side continually watching him. A guardian angel on his right hand side [will be] reminding him of the good he has done.

§4 After all that has finished, Christ says: “Behold this [man], O judges! What is it which is heavier, this man’s goodness or badness?”

“His goodness is heavier indeed.”

“Let him go, then, with his goodness to the community he has chosen”, says Christ, “to the angels and archangels”.

The angels come to fetch him [with] their hands outstretched towards him. “Welcome, come with me.” “He will come with me”, says the other.

§5 “The goodness and badness of this man are equal.”

“Half of this man [is] ours then” says the Devil.

“The soul will not be divided,” says Christ “since my might is stronger [than yours] he will come with me”.

§6 “The man’s evil is heavier, indeed.”

“Let him go then with his evil to the community he has chosen.”

The demons come to fetch him. “Alas for you,” they say, “Misery and suffering await you.” There will be sorrow to anyone3: one man with his fist, the other man with his scourge, another [is] at his mouth with spikes and shouting at him. Miserable indeed [is he who] has earned the Devil’s welcome while he was in his body.

§7 When, afterwards, they have finished the judging of Adam’s offspring, it is then that Christ will tell them to go with the Devil and his vulgar crowd, that is, those who have chosen [him] and placed [themselves] in his community in hell forever. They will rise after that and they will cry their unanimous cry as the Devil forces them into Hell.

§8 There are three cries in the world, that is, [the first is] the cry of God’s people when they were forced by the Egyptians and the Pharaoh towards the Red Sea, to their death and destruction, and to give [into slavery] their sons and daughters forever, unless God would save them. And the cry of the men of Hell and the souls of Adam’s offspring who died before Christ’s crucifixion, that is, he brought them [out of Hell], to spite the Devil, into the environs of the Kingdom of Heaven. [This is] the cry, then, which the souls uttered on account of eagerness to escape from the Devil and the cry of the men of Hell in pursuit of them. The third cry, that is the cry of the sinners as they are cast into Hell to live forever in torment and punishment without [any] atonement at all.

§9 Afterwards, the community which has chosen God4 will go towards the everlasting kingdom with Christ son of the living God in the hosts of the archangels. The horrors, indeed, of that day - that is, Doomsday -, is what Elijah preaches under the Tree of Paradise, but this [is only] a selection of it.

§10 As Elijah closes his book, the birds utter their cries and beat their wings against their sides, so that streams of blood come out of their sides for fear of Doomsday. If it is birds who do this, it would be fitting for us mortals to prepare [ourselves] for it [too]. The Elijah and Enoch mentioned here, moreover, they will go to their martyrdom. For the Holy Spirit said: “Who is the man that shall live, and not [see] death?” that is, who experiences life and will not see death? They come to the Antichrist at the end of the world, and by him they are put to the sword, that is, that Antichrist [is] the Devil in the guise of a man. He comes into the world as if he were to bring faith. [He will be] wearing a number on his forehead; this is the sign that will be on him. Anyone who will believe in him will be cut down by him, until Michael comes from heaven, so that it is he who will fight the Antichrist.

1. That is, even those who only repent on the very last day will be better off than sinners.

2. I have interpreted this sentence as a jussive subjunctive. It could also be translated ‘it would be likely that no-one would sleep thinking about it [for] as long as he should live.’ See also line 54.

3. The correct translation of ‘do neoch’ here is open to interpretation.

4. Grammatically the opposite is also a possibility, but theological argument of the text speaks against it.

Volmering, N.J.B. Dá brón flatha nime: A semi-diplomatic edition, translation and verbal analysis of version LL fol. 280a-281a. MPhil dissertation. University of Dublin, Trinity College. Dublin (2009)

I'd like to thank Nicole for offering this new translation to the site. --Mary Jones