Before I moved, a friend lent me a few books. One of them is called Victories of the Martyrs, and it is by my favourite Catholic author, St. Alphonsus de Liguori. It tells the stories of the most celebrated martyrs of the Church. It was published in 1954, and I am not sure if it is still in circulation. One of the little gems this book contains is a collection of hymns that were written by the Holy Doctor. I have never seen these in print before. This one is called Eternal Maxims, a subject on which St Alphonsus wrote much. Here is the hymn:
Why serve the world, the enemy,
And from thy thankless heart dethrone
That God whose love created thee-
To love and serve Himself alone.
Slave of a tyrant thou dost live;
He promises and breaks his word,
And for thy service nought can give
But bitter thorns as thy reward.
Remember death will come one day;
His touch thy fragile life destroys;
Then, then, alas! will fade away
Earth`s cheating hopes and empty joys.
All worldly pleasures then will be
To thee but weariness and woe;
The scene of life must close for thee,
Thy part is played and thou must go.
That body thou hast oft caressed
Such noisome stench shall send around,
That all will fly the loathsome pest,
And hide the carrion in the ground.
Forth flies the spirit from this clay,
Alone before its God to stand;
The soul scarce yet has passed away,
The judge already is at hand.
Sinner! Sinner! What will thou do,
Standing before the awful throne?
In vain for mercy wouldst thou sue-
Stern Justice triumphs there alone.
Ah, miserable, thoughtless one!
Say, what excuse thou darest bring?
Before that gaze of brightest sun,
The face of they offended King.
What horror then the soul shall pierce,
When, spurned away by heavenly ire,
'Tis hurled into the torment fierce
Of never-never ending fire!
The shall be closed upon thy pain
The gates of hope and liberty;
Thou seekest death - in vain, in vain;
It flies and mocks thy misery.
That moment when this life shall fail,
Or heaven or hell thy lot must be;
Eternal joys or endless wail
O moment, O eternity!
Think then, ere yet this life is over,
On that whereon thy all depends;
That evermore or nevermore,
Eternity which never ends!