“The strife is o’er, the battle won”—18th c. Hymn

As hapless hope and hopelessness collide
The mid-day sun looms black above the cross;
A dies irae bearing bitter loss
Where life and death each breathed their last, and died.

With undried, grief-wept tears creation cried
As God’s pure gold was alchemized to dross;
As righteousness transmogrified to gloss;
And Immortality was crucified.

A battlefield where all who fought were slain;
The Lord of Life and Lord of Death, as well.
Where each descended to his place in hell;
From whence the Lord alone arose again.

Where hopeless death once sealed his doom
The sun now shines upon his empty tomb.


dies irae: “Day of Wrath” or “Judgment Day”



James A. Tweedie is a retired pastor living in Long Beach, Washington. He has written and published six novels, one collection of short stories, and three collections of poetry including Mostly Sonnets, all with Dunecrest Press. His poems have been published nationally and internationally in The Lyric, Poetry Salzburg (Austria) Review, California Quarterly, Asses of Parnassus, Lighten Up Online, Better than Starbucks, WestWard Quarterly, Society of Classical Poets, and The Chained Muse.

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10 Responses


    This is a wonderful, sad but ultimately triumphant poem! I especially like the line “a dies irae bearing bitter loss” which carries the weight of the latin and amplifies it with assonance and alliteration.
    I note that the first line of the final couplet is four feet rather five. This puzzled me at first and I wondered if it was an error, but upon rereading it I think it’s a very clever, subtle way of suggesting a life that has been prematurely cut short. When the line then segues into a final five-foot line this reinforces the sense of a triumphant restoration. I love it. Happy Easter!

    • James A. Tweedie

      Brian, I’m glad you noted and appreciated the four-foot opening to the couplet. No doubt it “works” but in retrospect I believe a normal pentameter line would have served equally well without being a distraction to those who are fine-tuned/sensitive to metrical consistency. Happy Easter to you.

  2. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    James, this atmospheric poem captures the sheer intensity of emotion vested in the darkness of death and the sunshine of eternity. I especially like the line; “Where life and death each breathed their last, and died”. You have conveyed the sadness and the hope Easter brings with it, admirably. A very happy Easter to you.

  3. James A. Tweedie

    Thank you all for your thoughtful comments affirming both the poem and the victory that Christ won for us.

  4. Margaret Coats

    I agree with Brian Yapko that the tetrameter line 13 is effective, though perhaps risky because it depends entirely on meaning and isn’t otherwise noticeable as your plan for the poem’s shape. I actually didn’t notice it, because I was concentrating on something you did plan, namely the rhyme scheme. You start out with a Petrarchan octet, which conventionally has “closed” quatrains, but then the third quatrain too is “closed,” rhyming cddc (the d’s being confined by the c’s). This one, though, is closed because it represents the tomb, from which the Lord of the Cross breaks out in line 12. And the poem’s final line truly opens the poem’s structure to correspond to that opening of the tomb. I like the third quatrain very much because of the reflection that all combatants die in this apocalyptic battle (which of course you prepared for in line 4). Still, there is just one winner who is able to rise from his place in hell, and to prevent others from falling thereto. Good planning, and very enjoyable Easter poem.

  5. Cynthia Erlandson

    This is really exquisite, especially the fourth and eighth lines!

    • James A. Tweedie

      Thank you, Cynthia. Those lines do indeed offer much to meditate on.


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