A CELTIC PSALTERY
Being Mainly Renderings in English Verse from Irish & Welsh Poetry
ALFRED PERCEVAL GRAVES
The F. A. Stokes Company 443-449 Fourth Avenue New York
Published in England by The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge 68 Haymarket, London
RIGHT HON. DAVID LLOYD GEORGE
PRIME MINISTER OF GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND
This Psaltery of Celtic Songs To you by bounden right belongs; For ere War's thunder round us broke, To your content its chord I woke, Where Cymru's Prince in fealty pure Knelt for his Sire's Investiture.
Nor less these lays are yours but more, In memory of the Eisteddfod floor You flooded with a choral throng That poured God's praise a whole day long.
But most, O Celtic Seer, to you This Song Wreath of our Race is due, Since high o'er hatred and division, You have scaled the Peak and seen the Vision Of Freedom, breaking into birth From out an agonising Earth.
I have called this volume of verse a Celtic Psaltery because it mainly consists of close and free translations from Irish, Scotch Gaelic, and Welsh Poetry of a religious or serious character. The first half of the book is concerned with Irish poems. The first group of these starts with the dawning of Christianity out of Pagan darkness, and the spiritualising of the Early Irish by the wisdom to be found in the conversations between King Cormac MacArt—the Irish ancestor of our Royal Family—and his son and successor, King Carbery. Here also will be found those pregnant ninth-century utterances known as the "Irish Triads."
Next follow poems attributed or relating to some of the Irish saints—Patrick, Columba, Brigit, Moling; Lays of Monk and Hermit, Religious Invocations, Reflections and Charms and Lamentations for the Dead, including a remarkable early Irish poem entitled "The Mothers' Lament at the Slaughter of the Innocents" and a powerful peasant poem, "The Keening of Mary." The Irish section is ended by a set of songs suggested by Irish folk-tunes.
Of the early Irish Religious Poetry here translated it may be observed that the originals are not only remarkable for fine metrical form but for their cheerful spirituality, their open-air freshness and their occasional touches of kindly humour. "Irish religious poetry," it has been well said, "ranges from single quatrains to lengthy compositions dealing with all the varied aspects of religious life. Many of them give us a fascinating insight into the peculiar character of the early Irish Church, which differed in so many ways from the Christian world. We see the hermit in his lonely cell, the monk at his devotions or at his work of copying in the scriptorium or under the open sky; or we hear the ascetic who, alone or with twelve chosen companions, has left one of the great monasteries in order to live in greater solitude among the woods or mountains, or on a lonely island. The fact that so many of these poems are fathered upon well-known saints emphasises the friendly attitude of the native clergy towards vernacular poetry."[A]
I have endeavoured as far as possible to preserve in my translations both the character of these poems and their metrical form. But the latter attempt can be only a mere approximation owing to the strict rules of early Irish verse both as regards alliteration and vowel consonance. Still the use of the "inlaid rhyme" and other assonantal devices have, it is to be hoped, brought my renderings nearer in vocal effect to the originals than the use of more familiar English verse methods would have done.
The same metrical difficulties have met me when translating the Welsh sacred and spiritual poems which form the second division of this volume. But they have been more easy to grapple with—in part because I have had more assistance in dealing with the older Cymric poems from my lamented friend Mr. Sidney Richard John and other Welsh scholars, than I had in the case of the early Irish lyrics—in part because the later Welsh poems which I have rendered into English verse are generally in free, not "strict," metres, and therefore present no great difficulty to the translator.
The poems in the Welsh section are, roughly speaking, arranged in chronological order. The early Welsh poets Aneurin and Llywarch Hen are represented by two singular pieces, Llywarch Hen's curious "Tercets" and Aneurin's "Ode to the Months." In both of these, nature poetry and proverbial philosophy are oddly intermingled in a manner reminiscent of the Greek Gnomic Poets. Two examples are given of the serious verse of Dafydd ab Gwilym, a contemporary of Chaucer, who though he did not, like Wordsworth, read nature into human life with that spiritual insight for which he was so remarkable, yet as a poet of fancy, the vivid, delicate, sympathetic fancy of the Celt, still remains unmatched. Amongst Dafydd's contemporaries and successors, Iolo Goch's noble poem, "The Labourer," very appropriate to our breadless days, Lewis Glyn Cothi's touching elegy on his little son John, and Dr. Sion Cent's epigrammatic "The Noble's Grave" have been treated as far as possible in the metres of the originals, and I have gone as near as I could to the measures of Huw Morus' "The Bard's Death-Bed Confession," Elis Win's "Counsel in view of Death," and the Vicar Pritchard's "A Good Wife."
A word or two about these famous Welsh writers: Huw Morus (Hugh Morris) was the leading Welsh poet of the seventeenth century and a staunch Royalist, who during the Civil War proved himself the equal if not the superior of Samuel Butler as a writer of anti-Republican satire. He was also an amatory lyrist, but closed his career as the writer of some fine religious verses, notably this "Death-Bed Confession." Elis Win (Ellis Wynne) was not only an excellent writer of verse but one of the masters of Welsh prose. His "Vision of the Sleeping Bard" is, indeed, one of the most beautifully written works in the Welsh language. Though in many respects indebted to "Quevedo's Visions," the matter of Elis Win's book is distinctly original, and most poetically expressed, though he is none the less able to expose and scourge the immoralities of his age.
The Vicar Pritchard, otherwise the Rev. Rhys Pritchard, was the author of the famous "Welshmen's Candle," "Cannwyll y Cymry," written in the free metres, first published in 1646—completed in 1672. This consisted of a series of moral verses in the metres of the old folk-songs (Penillion Telyn) and remained dear to the hearts of the Welsh people for two centuries. Next may be mentioned Goronwy Owen, educated by the poet Lewis Morris, grandfather of the author of "Songs of Two Worlds" and "The Epic of Hades." As the Rev. Elvet Lewis writes of him: "Here at once we meet the true artist lost in his art. His humour is as playful as if the hand of a stern fate had never struck him on the face. His muse can laugh and make others laugh, or it can weep and make others weep." A specimen is given of one of his best known poems, "An Ode on the Day of Judgment," reproducing, as far as my powers have permitted, its final and internal rhymes and other metrical effects.
We now reach the most individual of the modern Welsh religious and philosophical poets, Islwyn (William Thomas), who took his Bardic title from the hill of Islwyn in his native Monmouthshire. He was greatly influenced by the poetry of Wordsworth, but was in no sense an imitator. Yet whilst, in the words of one of the Triads, he possessed the three things essential to poetic genius, "an eye to see nature, a heart to feel nature: and courage that dares follow nature"—he steadfastly refused to regard poetry as an art and, by declining to use the pruning-knife, allowed the finest fruits of his poetic talents to lie buried beneath immense accumulations of weedy and inferior growth. Yet what his powers were may not be ill judged of, even in translation, by the passage from his blank verse poem, "The Storm," entitled "Behind the Veil," to be found on p. 94.
Pantycelyn (the Rev. William Williams) was a co-worker with Howel Harris and Daniel Rowlands in the Methodist revival. Professor W.J. Gruffyd writes of him: "It is not enough to say he was a hymnologist—he was much more. He is the National Poet of Wales. He had certainly the loftiest imagination of all the poets of five centuries, and his influence on the Welsh people can be gauged by the fact that a good deal of his idiom or dialect has fixed itself indelibly in modern literary Welsh." The Hymn, "Marchog Jesu!" which represents him was translated by me at the request of the Committee responsible for the Institution Ceremony of the Prince of Wales at Carnarvon Castle.
Of the more modern Welsh poets represented in this volume let it be said that Ceiriog (John Hughes), so called from his birth in the Ceiriog Valley, is the Burns of Welsh Poetry. Against the spirit of gloom that the Welsh Revival cast over the first half of the nineteenth century he threw himself in sharp revolt. But while the joy of life wells up and overflows in his song he was also, like all Welshmen, serious-minded, as the specimens given in my translation from his works go to prove.
According to Professor Lewis Jones, no poem in the strict metre is more read than Eben Farrd's "Dinistur Jerusalem" ("The Destruction of Jerusalem"), translated into kindred verse in this volume, unless indeed its popularity is rivalled by Hiraethog's ode on "Heddwch," ("Peace"). Two extracts from the former poem are dealt with, and Hiraethog is represented by a beautiful fancy, "Love Divine," taken from his "Emanuel."
Finally, three living poets are represented in the Welsh section—Elvet Lewis by his stirring and touching "High Tide"; Eifion Wyn, upon whom the mantle of Ceiriog has fallen, by two exquisitely simple and pathetic poems, "Ora pro Nobis" and "A Flower-Sunday Lullaby"; and William John Gruffydd, the bright hope of "Y Beirdd Newydd" ("The New Poets"), by his poignant ballad of "The Old Bachelor of Ty'n y Mynydd."
There is no need for me to dwell upon the rest of the verse in this volume beyond stating that "The Prodigal's Return" is a free translation from a poem on that theme by an anonymous Scotch Gaelic Bard to be found in Sinton's "The Poetry of Badenoch"; that "Let there be joy!" is rendered from a Gaelic poem in Alexander Carmichael's "Carmina Gadelica," and that, finally, "Wild Wine of Nature" is a pretty close English version of a poem hardly to have been expected from that far from teetotal Scotch Gaelic Bard, Duncan Ban McIntyre.
ALFRED PERCEVAL GRAVES
RED BRANCH HOUSE LAURISTON ROAD, WIMBLEDON July 11, 1917
[Footnote A: From "The Ancient Poetry of Ireland," by Professor Kuno Meyer, to whose beautiful prose translations from Irish verse in that volume, and in his "Hail, Brigit!" I am greatly indebted.]
I. IRISH POEMS
THE ISLE OF THE HAPPY THE WISDOM OF KING CORMAC IRISH TRIADS
LAYS OF THE IRISH SAINTS
ST. PATRICK'S BLESSING ON MUNSTER THE BREASTPLATE OF ST. PATRICK ST. PATRICK'S EVENSONG ST. COLUMBA'S GREETING TO IRELAND ST. COLUMBA IN IONA HAIL, BRIGIT! THE DEVIL'S TRIBUTE TO MOLING THE HYMN OF ST. PHILIP
LAYS OF MONK AND HERMIT
THE SCRIBE THE HERMIT'S SONG CRINOG KING AND HERMIT ON AENGUS THE CULDEE THE SHAVING OF MURDOCH ON THE FLIGHTINESS OF THOUGHT THE MONK AND HIS WHITE CAT INVOCATIONS AND REFLECTIONS
A PRAYER TO THE VIRGIN MAELISU'S HYMN TO THE ARCHANGEL MICHAEL MAELISU'S HYMN TO THE HOLY SPIRIT EVE'S LAMENTATION ALEXANDER THE GREAT THE KINGS WHO CAME TO CHRIST QUATRAINS CHARMS AND INVOCATIONS
THE SONG OF CREDE, DAUGHTER OF GUARE THE DESERTED HOME THE MOTHERS' LAMENT AT THE SLAUGHTER OF THE INNOCENTS THE KEENING OF MARY CAOINE
SONGS TO MUSIC
BATTLE HYMN THE SONG OF THE WOODS THE ENCHANTED VALLEY REMEMBER THE POOR
II. WELSH POEMS
THE ODES TO THE MONTHS THE TERCETS HAIL, GLORIOUS LORD! MY BURIAL THE LAST CYWYDD THE LABOURER THE ELEGY ON SION GLYN THE NOBLE'S GRAVE THE BARD'S DEATH-BED CONFESSION QUICK, DEATH! COUNSEL IN VIEW OF DEATH FROM "THE LAST JUDGMENT" A GOOD WIFE "MARCHOG JESU!" THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM LOVE DIVINE BEHIND THE VEIL THE REIGN OF LOVE PLAS GOGERDDAN ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT DAVID OF THE WHITE ROCK THE HIGH TIDE "ORA PRO NOBIS" A FLOWER-SUNDAY LULLABY THE BALLAD OF THE OLD BACHELOR OF TY'N Y MYNYDD THE QUEEN'S DREAM THE WELSH FISHERMEN
III. OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT STUDIES
DAVID'S LAMENT OVER SAUL AND JONATHAN THE FIERY FURNACE RUTH AND NAOMI THE LILIES OF THE FIELD AND THE FOWLS OF THE AIR THE GOOD PHYSICIAN THE SOWER THE PRODIGAL'S RETURN ST. MARY MAGDALEN
IV. CHURCH FESTIVALS
A CHRISTMAS COMMUNION HYMN A CHRISTMAS CAROL OF THE EPIPHANY A FOURTEENTH-CENTURY CAROL EARTH'S EASTER EASTER DAY, 1915 THE ASCENSION WHITSUNTIDE HARVEST HYMN
V. GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANTS
FATHER O'FLYNN LADY GWENNY OLD DOCTOR MACK TO THE MEMORY OF JOHN OWEN SAINT CUTHBERT ALFRED THE GREAT SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON "MEN, NOT WALLS, MAKE A CITY" FIELD-MARSHAL EARL KITCHENER INSCRIPTION FOR A ROLL OF HONOUR IN A PUBLIC SCHOOL AN EPITAPH AN INTERCESSIONAL ANSWERED
VI. PERSONAL AND VARIOUS
LET THERE BE JOY! A HOLIDAY HYMN SUMMER MORNING'S WALK SNOW-STAINS REMEMBRANCE SANDS OF GOLD THE MOURNER DE PROFUNDIS IMMORTAL HOPE WE HAD A CHILD BY THE BEDSIDE OF A SICK CHILD HE HAS COME BACK SPRING'S SECRETS THE LORD'S LEISURE SPRING IS NOT DEAD AIM NOT TOO HIGH WILD WINE OF NATURE BRIDAL INVOCATION THE COMING OF SIR GALAHAD AND A VISION OF THE GRAIL ASK WHAT THOU WILT
I. IRISH POEMS
THE ISLE OF THE HAPPY
(From the Early Irish)
Once when Bran, son of Feval, was with his warriors in his royal fort, they suddenly saw a woman in strange raiment upon the floor of the house. No one knew whence she had come or how she had entered, for the ramparts were closed. Then she sang these quatrains of Erin, the Isle of the Happy, to Bran while all the host were listening:
A branch I bear from Evin's apple-trees Whose shape agrees with Evin's orchard spray; Yet never could her branches best belauded Such crystal-gauded bud and bloom display.
There is a distant Isle, deep sunk in shadows, Sea-horses round its meadows flash and flee; Full fair the course, white-swelling waves enfold it, Four pedestals uphold it o'er the sea.
White the bronze pillars that this Fairy Curragh,[A] The Centuries thorough, glimmering uphold. Through all the World the fairest land of any Is this whereon the many blooms unfold.
And in its midst an Ancient Tree forth flowers, Whence to the Hours beauteous birds outchime; In harmony of song, with fluttering feather, They hail together each new birth of Time.
And through the Isle glow all glad shades of colour, No hue of dolour mars its beauty lone. 'Tis Silver Cloud Land that we ever name it, And joy and music claim it for their own.
Not here are cruel guile or loud resentment, But calm contentment, fresh and fruitful cheer; Not here loud force or dissonance distressful, But music melting blissful on the ear.
No grief, no gloom, no death, no mortal sickness, Nor any weakness our sure strength can bound; These are the signs that grace the race of Evin. Beneath what other heaven are they found?
A Hero fair, from out the dawn's bright blooming, Rides forth, illuming level shore and flood; The white and seaward plain he sets in motion, He stirs the ocean into burning blood.
A host across the clear blue sea comes rowing, Their prowess showing, till they touch the shore; Thence seek the Shining Stone where Music's measure Prolongs the pleasure of the pulsing oar.
It sings a strain to all the host assembled; That strain untired has trembled through all time! It swells with such sweet choruses unnumbered, Decay and Death have slumbered since its chime.
Thus happiness with wealth is o'er us stealing, And laughter pealing forth from every hill. Yea! through the Land of Peace at every season Pure Joy and Reason are companions still.
Through all the lovely Isle's unchanging hours There showers and showers a stream of silver bright; A pure white cliff that from the breast of Evin Mounts up to Heaven thus assures her light.
Long ages hence a Wondrous Child and Holy, Yet in estate most lowly shall have birth; Seed of a Woman, yet whose Mate knows no man To rule the thousand thousands of the earth.
His sway is ceaseless; 'twas His love all-seeing That Earth's vast being wrought with perfect skill. All worlds are His; for all His kindness cares; But woe to all gainsayers of His Will.
The stainless heavens beneath His Hands unfolded, He moulded Man as free of mortal stain, And even now Earth's sin-struck sons and daughters His Living Waters can make whole again.
Not unto all of you is this my message Of marvellous presage at this hour revealed. Let Bran but listen from Earth's concourse crowded Unto the shrouded wisdom there concealed.
Upon a couch of languor lie not sunken, Beware lest drunkenness becloud thy speech! Put forth, O Bran, across the far, clear waters. And Evin's daughters haply thou may'st reach.
[Footnote A: Plain or tableland such as the Curragh of Kildare.]
THE WISDOM OF KING CORMAC
(From the Early Irish)
THE DEPTHS OF KING CORMAC'S HEART
"Cormac, Conn's grandson, and son of great Art Declare to me now from the depths of thy heart, With the wise and the foolish, With strangers and friends, The meek and the mulish, The old and the young, With good manners to make God amends— How I must govern my tongue, And in all things comport myself purely, The good and the wicked among."
"The answer thereto is not difficult surely. Be not too wise nor too scatter-brained, Not too conceited nor too restrained, Be not too haughty nor yet too meek, Too tattle-tongued or too loth to speak, Neither too hard nor yet too weak. If too wise you appear, folk too much will claim of you, If too foolish, they still will be making fresh game of you, If too conceited, vexatious they'll dub you, If too unselfish, they only will snub you, If too much of a tattler, you ne'er will be heeded, If too silent, your company ne'er will be needed, If overhard, your pride will be broken asunder, If overweak, the folk will trample you under."
THE HOUSE OF HOSPITALITY
"Cormac, grandson of Conn, what dues hath a Chief and an ale-house?" Said Cormac: "Not hard to tell! Good behaviour around a good Chief; Lamps to light for the eye's relief; Exerting ourselves for the Company's sake, Seats assigned with no clownish mistake, Deft and liberal measuring carvers; Attentive and nimble-handed servers; Moderation in music and song; A telling of stories not too long; The Host, to a bright elation stirred, Giving each guest a welcoming word. Silence during the Bard's reciting— Each chorus in sweet concent uniting."
HOW KING CORMAC ORDERED HIS YOUTH
"O Cormac, grandson of Conn, say sooth, How didst thou order thy days in youth?"
"Into the woods I went a-listening, I was a gazer when stars were glistening; Blind when secrets were plain to guess; A silent one in the wilderness; I was talkative with the many, Yet, in the mead-hall, milder than any; I was stern amid battle cries; I was gentle towards allies; I was a doctor unto the sick; On the feeble I laid no stick. Not close lest burdensome I should be; Though wise not given to arrogancy. I promised little, though lavish of gift; I was not reckless though I was swift; Young, I never derided the old; And never boasted though I was bold; Of an absent one no ill would I tell; I would not reproach, though I praised full well; I never would ask but ever would give, For a kingly life I craved to live!"
THE WORST WAY OF PLEADING
"O Cormac Mac Art, of Wisdom exceeding, What is the evilest way of pleading?" Said Cormac: "Not hard to tell! Against knowledge contending; Without proofs, pretending; In bad language escaping; A style stiff and scraping; Speech mean and muttering, Hair-splitting and stuttering; Uncertain proofs devising; Authorities despising; Scorning custom's reading; Confusing all your pleading; To madness a mob to be leading; With the shout of a strumpet Blowing one's own trumpet."
KING CORMAC'S WORST ENEMY
"O Cormac Mac Art, of your enemies' garrison, Who is the worst for your witty comparison?" Said Cormac: "Not hard to tell! A man with a satirist's nameless audacity; A man with a slave-woman's shameless pugnacity; One with a dirty dog's careless up-bound, The conscience thereto of a ravening hound. Like a stately noble he answers all speakers From a memory full as a Chronicle-maker's, With the suave behaviour of Abbot or Prior, Yet the blasphemous tongue of a horse-thief liar And he wise as false in every grey hair, Violent, garrulous, devil-may-care. When he cries, 'The case is settled and over!' Though you were a saint, I swear you would swear!"
(By an unknown Author of the ninth century)
Three signs whereby to mark a man of vice Are hatred, bitterness, and avarice.
Three graceless sisters in the bond of unity Are lightness, flightiness, and importunity.
Three clouds, the most obscuring Wisdom's glance, Forgetfulness, half-knowledge, ignorance.
Three savage sisters sharpening life's distress, Foul Blasphemy, Foul Strife, Foul-mouthedness.
Three services the worst for human hands, A vile Lord's, a vile Lady's, a vile Land's.
Three gladnesses that soon give way to griefs, A wooer's, a tale-bearer's, and a thief's.
Three signs of ill-bred folk in every nation— A visit lengthened to a visitation, Staring, and overmuch interrogation.
Three arts that constitute a true physician: To cure your malady with expedition. To let no after-consequence remain, And make his diagnosis without pain.
Three keys that most unlock our secret thinking Are love and trustfulness and overdrinking.
Three nurses of hot blood to man's undoing— Excess of pride, of drinking, and of wooing.
Three the receivers are of stolen goods: A cloak, the cloak of night, the cloak of woods.
Three unions, each of peace a proved miscarriage, Confederate feats, joint ploughland, bonds of marriage.
Three lawful hand-breadths for mankind about the body be, From shoes to hose, from ear to hair, from tunic unto knee.
Three youthful sisters for all eyes to see, Beauty, desire, and generosity.
Three excellences of our dress are these— Elegance, durability, and ease.
Three idiots of a bad guest-house are these— A hobbling beldam with a hoicking wheeze, A brainless tartar of a serving-girl, For serving-boy a swinish lubber-churl.
Three slender ones whereon the whole earth swings— The thin milk stream that in the keeler sings; The thin green blade that from the cornfield springs; That thin grey thread the housewife's shuttle flings.
The three worst welcomes that will turn a guest-house For weary wayfarers into a Pest-house— Within its roof a workman's hammer beat; A bath of scalding water for your feet; With no assuaging draught, salt food to eat.
Three finenesses that foulness keep from sight— Fine manners in the most misfeatured wight; Fine shapes of art by servile fingers moulded; Fine wisdom from a cripple's brain unfolded.
Three fewnesses that better are than plenty: A fewness of fine words—but one in twenty; A fewness of milch cows, when grass is shrinking; Fewness of friends when beer is best for drinking.
Three worst of snares upon a Chieftain's way: Sloth, treachery, and evil counsel they!
Three ruins of a tribe to west or east: A lying Chief, false Brehon, lustful Priest.
The rudest three of all the sons of earth: A youngster of an old man making mirth; A strong man at a sick man poking fun; A wise man gibing at a foolish one.
Three signs that show a fop: the comb-track on his hair; The track of his nice teeth upon his nibbled fare; His cane-track on the dust, oft as he takes the air.
Three sparks that light the fire of love are these— Glamour of face, and grace, and speech of ease.
Three steadinesses of wise womanhood— steady tongue through evil, as through good; A steady chastity, whoso else shall stray; Steady house service, all and every day.
Three sounds of increase: kine that low, When milk unto their calves they owe; The hammer on the anvil's brow, The pleasant swishing of the plough.
Three sisters false: I would! I might! I may! Three fearful brothers: Hearken! Hush! and Stay!
Three coffers of a depth unknown Are his who occupies the throne, The Church's, and the privileged Poet's own.
Three glories of a gathering free from strife— Swift hound, proud steed, and beautiful young wife.
The world's three laughing-stocks (be warned and wiser!)— An angry man, a jealoused, and a miser.
Three powers advantaging a Chieftain most Are Peace and Justice and an Armed Host.
Lays of the Irish Saints
ST. PATRICK'S BLESSING ON MUNSTER
(From the Early Irish)
Blessing from the Lord on High Over Munster fall and lie; To her sons and daughters all Choicest blessing still befall; Fruitful blessing on the soil That supports her faithful toil.
Blessing full of ruddy health, Blessing full of every wealth That her borders furnish forth, East and west and south and north; Blessing from the Lord on High Over Munster fall and lie!
Blessing on her peaks in air, Blessing on her flagstones bare, Blessing from her ridges flow To her grassy glens below! Blessing from the Lord on High Over Munster fall and lie!
As the sands upon her shore Underneath her ships, for store, Be her hearths, a twinkling host, Over mountain, plain and coast; Blessings from the Lord on High Over Munster fall and lie!
THE BREASTPLATE OF ST. PATRICK
Otherwise called "The Deer's Cry." For St. Patrick sang this hymn when the ambuscades were laid against him by King Leary that he might go to Tara to sow the Faith. Then it seemed to those lying in ambush that he and his monks were wild deer with a fawn, even Benen (Benignus) following him.
I invoke, upon my path To the King of Ireland's rath, The Almighty Power of the Trinity; Through belief in the Threeness, Through confession of the Oneness Of the Maker's Eternal Divinity.
I invoke, on my journey arising, The power of Christ's Birth and Baptizing, The powers of the hours of His dread Crucifixion, Of His Death and Abode in the Tomb, The power of the hour of His glorious Resurrection From out the Gehenna of gloom, The power of the hour when to Heaven He ascended, And the power of the hour when by Angels attended, He returns for the Judgment of Doom! On my perilous way To Tara to-day, I, Patrick, God's servant, Invoke from above The Cherubim's love! Yea! I summon the might of the Company fervent Of Angel obedient, ministrant Archangel To speed and to prosper my Irish Evangel. I go forth on my path in the trust Of the gathering to God of the Just; In the power of the Patriarchs' prayers; The foreknowledge of Prophets and Seers; The Apostles' pure preaching; The Confessors' sure teaching; The virginity blest of God's Dedicate Daughters, And the lives and the deaths of His Saints and His Martyrs!
I arise to-day in the strength of the heaven, The glory of the sun, The radiance of the moon, The splendour of fire and the swiftness of the levin, The wind's flying force, The depth of the sea, The earth's steadfast course, The rock's austerity.
I arise on my way, With God's Strength for my stay, God's Might to protect me, God's Wisdom to direct me, God's Eye to be my providence, God's Ear to take my evidence, God's Word my words to order, God's Hand to be my warder, God's Way to lie before me, God's Shield and Buckler o'er me, God's Host Unseen to save me, From each ambush of the Devil, From each vice that would enslave me. And from all who wish me evil, Whether far I fare or near. Alone or in a multitude.
All these Hierarchies and Powers I invoke to intervene, When the adversary lowers On my path, with purpose keen Of vengeance black and bloody On my soul and my body; I bind these Powers to come Against druid counsel dark, The black craft of Pagandom, And the false heresiarch, The spells of wicked women, And the wizard's arts inhuman, And every knowledge, old and fresh, Corruptive of man's soul and flesh.
May Christ, on my way To Tara to-day, Shield me from prison, Shield me from fire, Drowning or wounding By enemy's ire, So that mighty fruition May follow my mission. Christ behind and before me, Christ beneath me and o'er me, Christ within and without me, Christ around and about me, Christ on my left and Christ on my right, Christ with me at morn and Christ with me at night; Christ in each heart that shall ever take thought of me, Christ in each mouth that shall ever speak aught of me; Christ in each eye that shall ever on me fasten, Christ in each ear that shall ever to me listen.
I invoke, upon my path To the King of Ireland's rath, The Almighty Power of the Trinity; Through belief in the Threeness, Through confession of the Oneness Of the Maker's Eternal Divinity.
ST. PATRICK'S EVENSONG
Christ, Thou Son of God most High, May thy Holy Angels keep Watch around us as we lie In our shining beds asleep.
Time's hid veil with truth to pierce Let them teach our dreaming eyes, Arch-King of the Universe, High-Priest of the Mysteries.
May no demon of the air, May no malice of our foes, Evil dream or haunting care Mar our willing, prompt repose!
May our vigils hallowed be By the tasks we undertake! May our sleep be fresh and free, Without let and without break.
ST. COLUMBA'S GREETING TO IRELAND
(An old Irish poem recounting the Saint's voyage from Erin to Alba (Scotland), from which he but once returned)
Delightful to stand on the brow of Ben Edar, Before being a speeder on the white-haired sea! The dashing of the wave in wild disorder On its desolate border delightful to me!
Delightful to stand on the brow of Ben Edar, After being a speeder o'er the white-bosomed sea, After rowing and rowing in my little curragh! To the loud shore thorough, O, Och, Ochonee!
Great is the speed of my little wherry, As afar from Derry its path it ploughs; Heavy my heart out of Erin steering And nearing Alba of the beetling brows.
My foot is fast in my chiming curragh, Tears of sorrow my sad heart fill. Who lean not on God are but feeble-minded, Without His Love we go blinded still.
There is a grey eye that tears are thronging, Fixed with longing on Erin's shore, It shall never see o'er the waste of waters The sons and daughters of Erin more.
Its glance goes forth o'er the brine wave-broken, Far off from the firm-set, oaken seat; Many the tears from that grey eye streaming, The faint, far gleaming of Erin to meet.
For indeed my soul is set upon Erin, And all joys therein from Linnhe to Lene, On each pleasant prospect of proud Ultonia, Mild Momonia and Meath the green.
In Alba eastward the lean Scot increases, Frequent the diseases and murrain in her parts, Many in her mountains the scanty-skirted fellows, Many are the hard and the jealous hearts.
Many in the West are our Kings and Princes noble, Orchards bend double beneath their fruitage vast; Sloes upon the thorn-bush shine in blue abundance, Oaks in redundance drop the royal mast.
Melodious are her clerics, melodious Erin's birds are, Gentle her youths' words are, her seniors discreet; Famed far her chieftains—goodlier are no men— Very fair her women for espousal sweet.
'Tis within the West sweet Brendan is residing, There Colum MacCriffan is indeed abiding now; And 'tis unto the West ruddy Baithir is repairing And Adamnan shall be faring to perform his vow.
Salute them courteously, salute them all and single, After them Comgall, Eternity's true heir, Then to the stately Monarch of fair Navan Up from the haven my greeting greatly bear.
My blessing, fair youth, and my full benediction Without one restriction be bearing to-day— One half above Erin, one half seven times over, And one half above Alba to hover for aye.
Carry to Erin that full load of blessing, For sorrow distressing my heart's pulses fail, If Death overtake me, the whole truth be spoken! My heart it was broken by great love for the Gael.
"Gael, Gael," at that dear word's repeating, Again with glad beating my heart takes my breast. Beloved is Cummin of the tresses most beauteous, And Cainnech the duteous and Comgall the Blest.
Were all of Alba mine now to enter, Mine from the centre and through to the sea; I would rather possess in deep-leaved Derry The home that was very very dear to me.
To Derry my love is ever awarded, For her lawns smooth-swarded, her pure clear wells, And the hosts of angels that hover and hover Over and over her oak-set dells.
Indeed and indeed for these joys I love her, Pure air is above her, smooth turf below; While evermore over each oak-bough leafy A beautiful bevy of angels go.
My Derry, my little oak grove of Erin! My dwelling was therein, my small dear cell. Strike him, O Living God out of Heaven, With Thy red Levin who works them ill.
Beloved shall Derry and Durrow endure, Beloved Raphoe of the pure clear well, Beloved Drumhome with its sweet acorn showers, Beloved the towers of Swords and Kells!
Beloved too at my heart as any Art thou Drumcliffe on Culcinne's strand, And over Loch Foyle—'tis delight to be gazing— So shapely are her shores on either hand.
Delightful indeed, is the purple sea's glamour, Where sea-gulls clamour in white-winged flight, As you view it afar from Derry beloved, O the peace of it, the peace and delight!
ST. COLUMBA IN IONA
(From an Irish Manuscript in the Burgundian Library, Brussels)
Delightful would it be to me From a rock pinnacle to trace Continually The Ocean's face: That I might watch the heaving waves Of noble force To God the Father chant their staves Of the earth's course. That I might mark its level strand, To me no lone distress, That I might hark the sea-bird's wondrous band— Sweet source of happiness. That I might hear the clamorous billows thunder On the rude beach. That by my blessed church side I might ponder Their mighty speech. Or watch surf-flying gulls the dark shoal follow With joyous scream, Or mighty ocean monsters spout and wallow, Wonder supreme! That I might well observe of ebb and flood All cycles therein; And that my mystic name might be for good But "Cul-ri. Erin." That gazing toward her on my heart might fall A full contrition, That I might then bewail my evils all, Though hard the addition; That I might bless the Lord who all things orders For their great good. The countless hierarchies through Heaven's bright borders— Land, strand, and flood, That I might search all books and from their chart Find my soul's calm; Now kneel before the Heaven of my heart, Now chant a psalm; Now meditate upon the King of Heaven, Chief of the Holy Three; Now ply my work by no compulsion driven. What greater joy could be? Now plucking dulse upon the rocky shore, Now fishing eager on, Now furnishing food unto the famished poor; In hermitage anon: The guidance of the King of Kings Has been vouchsafed unto me; If I keep watch beneath His wings, No evil shall undo me.
An old Irish poem on the Hill of Alenn recording the disappearance of the Pagan World of Ireland and the triumph of Christianity by the establishment at Kildare of the convent of Brigit, Saint and Princess.
Safe on thy throne, Triumphing Bride, Down Liffey's side, Far to the coast, Rule with the host Under thy care Over the Children of Mighty Cathair.
God's hid intents At every time, For pure Erin's clime All telling surpass. Liffey's clear glass Mirrors thy reign, But many proud masters have passed from his plain.
When on his banks I cast my eyes thorough The fair, grassy Curragh, Awe enters my mind At each wreck that I find Around me far strown Of lofty kings' palaces gaunt, lichen-grown!
Laery was monarch As far as the Main; Vast Ailill's reign! The Curragh's green wonder Still grows the blue under, The old rulers thereon One after other to cold death have gone.
Where is Alenn far-famed, How dear in delights! Beneath her what Knights What Princes repose How feared by her foes When Crimthan was Chief— Crimthan of Conquests—now passes belief!
Proudly the triumph-shout Rang from his victor lords, Round their massed shock of swords; While their foes' serried, blue Spears they struck through and through; Blasts of delight Blared from their horns over hundreds in flight.
Blithe, on their anvils Even-hued, blent The hammers' concent; From the Brugh the bard's song Brake sweet and strong; Proud beauty graced The field where knights jousted and charioteers raced.
There in each household Ran the rich mead; Steed neighed to steed; Chains jingled again Unto Kings among men Under the blades Of their five-edged, long, bitter, blood-letting spear-heads.
There, at each hour, Harp music o'erflowed; The wine-galleon rode The violet sea, Whence silver showered free, And gold torques without fail, From the land of the Gaul to the Land of the Gael.
To Britain's far coasts The renown of those kings On a meteor's wings O'er the waters had flown. Yea! Alenn's high throne, With its masterful lore, Made sport of the pomp of each palace before.
But where, oh, where is mighty Cathair? Before him or since No shapelier Prince Ruled many-hued Erin. Though round the rath, wherein They laid him, you cry, The Champion of Champions can never reply.
Where is Feradach's robe, Where his diadem famed, Round which, as it flamed, Plumed ranks deployed? His blue helm is destroyed, His shining cloak dust. Overthrower of kings, in whom now is thy trust?
Alenn's worship of auguries Now is as naught! None thereof takes thought. All in vain is each spell The dark future to tell! All is vain, when 'tis probed, And Alenn lies dead of her black arts disrobed.
Hail, Brigit! whose lands To-day I behold, Whither monarchs of old Came each in his turn. Thy fame shall outburn Their mightiest glory; Thou art over them all, till this Earth ends its story.
Yea! Thy rule with the King Everlasting shall stand, Apart from the land Of thy burial-place. Child of Bresal's proud race, O triumphing Bride,[A] Sit safely enthroned upon Liffey's green side.
[Footnote A: Brigit; hence St. Bride's Bay.]
THE DEVIL'S TRIBUTE TO MOLING
(From the Early Irish)
Once, when St. Moling was praying in his church, the Devil visited him in purple raiment and distinguished form. On being challenged by the saint, he declared himself to be the Christ, but on Moling's raising the Gospel to disprove his claim, the Evil One confessed that he was Satan. "Wherefore hast thou come?" asked Moling. "For a blessing," the Devil replied. "Thou shalt not have it," said Moling, "for thou deservest it not." "Well, then," said the Devil, "bestow the full of a curse on me." "What good were that to thee?" asked Moling. "The venom and the hurt of the curse will be on the lips from which it will come." After further parley, the Devil paid this tribute to Moling:
He is pure gold, the sky around the sun, A silver chalice brimmed with blessed wine, An Angel shape, a book of lore divine, Whoso obeys in all the Eternal One.
He is a foolish bird that fowlers lime, A leaking ship in utmost jeopardy, An empty vessel and a withered tree, Who disobeys the Sovereign Sublime.
A fragrant branch with blossoms overrun, A bounteous bowl with honey overflowing, A precious stone, of virtue past all knowing Is he who doth the will of God's dear Son.
A nut that only emptiness doth fill, A sink of foulness, a crookt branch is he Upon a blossomless crab-apple tree, Who doeth not his Heavenly Master's will.
Whoso obeys the Son of God and Mary— He is a sunflash lighting up the moor, He is a dais on the Heavenly Floor, A pure and very precious reliquary.
A sun heaven-cheering he, in whose warm beam The King of Kings takes ever fresh delight, He is a temple, noble, blessed, bright, A saintly shrine with gems and gold a-gleam.
The altar he, whence bread and wine are told, While countless melodies around are hymned, A chalice cleansed from God's own grapes upbrimmed, Upon Christ's garment's hem the joyful gold.
THE HYMN OF ST. PHILIP
(From the Early Irish)
Philip the Apostle holy At an Aonach[A] once was telling Of the immortal birds and shapely Afar in Inis Eidheand dwelling.
East of Africa abiding They perform a labour pleasant; Unto earth there comes no colour That on their pinions is not present.
Since the fourth Creation morning When their God from dust outdrew them, Not one plume has from them perished, And not one bird been added to them.
Seven fair streams with all their channels Pierce the plains wherethrough they flutter, Round whose banks the birds go feeding, Then soar thanksgiving songs to utter.
Midnight is their hour apportioned, When, on magic coursers mounted, Through the starry skies they circle, To chants of angel choirs uncounted.
Of the foremost birds the burthen Most melodiously unfolded Tells of all the works of wonder God wrought before the world He moulded.
Then a sweet crowd heavenward lifted, When the nocturn bells are pealing, Chants His purposes predestined Until the Day of Doom's revealing.
Next a flock whose thoughts are blessed, Under twilight's curls dim sweeping, Hymn God's wondrous words of Judgment When His Court of Doom is keeping.
One and forty on a hundred And a thousand, without lying, Was their number, joined to virtue, Put upon each bird-flock flying.
Who these faultless birds should hearken, Thus their strains of rapture linking, For the very transport of it, Unto death would straight be sinking.
Pray for us, O mighty Mary! When earth's bonds no more are binding, That these birds our souls may solace, In the Land of Philip's finding.
[Footnote A: A fair, or open-air assembly.]
Lays of Monk and Hermit
(From the Early Irish)
For weariness my hand writes ill, My small sharp quill runs rough and slow; Its slender beak with failing craft Gives forth its draught of dark blue flow.
And yet God's blessed wisdom gleams And streams beneath my fair brown palm, The while quick jets of holly ink The letters link of prayer or psalm.
So still my dripping pen is fain To cross the plain of parchment white, Unceasing, at some rich man's call, Till wearied all am I to-night.
THE HERMIT'S SONG
(See Eriu, vol. I, p. 39, where the Irish text will be found. It dates from the ninth century)
I long, O Son of the living God, Ancient, eternal King, For a hidden hut on the wilds untrod, Where Thy praises I might sing; A little, lithe lark of plumage grey To be singing still beside it, Pure waters to wash my sin away, When Thy Spirit has sanctified it. Hard by it a beautiful, whispering wood Should stretch, upon either hand, To nurse the many-voiced fluttering brood In its shelter green and bland. Southward, for warmth, should my hermitage face, With a runnel across its floor, In a choice land gifted with every grace, And good for all manner of store. A few true comrades I next would seek To mingle with me in prayer, Men of wisdom, submissive, meek; Their number I now declare, Four times three and three times four, For every want expedient, Sixes two within God's Church door, To north and south obedient; Twelve to mingle their voices with mine At prayer, whate'er the weather, To Him Who bids His dear sun shine On the good and ill together. Pleasant the Church with fair Mass cloth, No dwelling for Christ's declining To its crystal candles, of bees-wax both, On the pure, white Scriptures shining. Beside it a hostel for all to frequent, Warm with a welcome for each, Where mouths, free of boasting and ribaldry, vent But modest and innocent speech. These aids to support us my husbandry seeks, I name them now without hiding— Salmon and trout and hens and leeks, And the honey-bees' sweet providing. Raiment and food enow will be mine From the King of all gifts and all graces; And I to be kneeling, in rain or shine, Praying to God in all places.
This poem relates "to one who lived like a sister or spiritual wife with a priest, monk, or hermit, a practice which, while early suppressed and abandoned everywhere else, seems to have survived in the Irish Church till the tenth century."
Crinog of melodious song, No longer young, but bashful-eyed, As when we roved Niall's Northern Land, Hand in hand, or side by side.
Peerless maid, whose looks ran o'er With the lovely lore of Heaven, By whom I slept in dreamless joy, A gentle boy of summers seven.
We dwelt in Banva's broad domain, Without one stain of soul or sense; While still mine eye flashed forth on thee Affection free of all offence.
To meet thy counsel quick and just, Our faithful trust responsive springs; Better thy wisdom's searching force Than any smooth discourse with kings.
In sinless sisterhood with men, Four times since then, hast thou been bound, Yet not one rumour of ill-fame Against thy name has travelled round.
At last, their weary wanderings o'er, To me once more thy footsteps tend; The gloom of age makes dark thy face, Thy life of grace draws near its end.
O, faultless one and very dear, Unstinted welcome here is thine. Hell's haunting dread I ne'er shall feel, So thou be kneeling at my side.
Thy blessed fame shall ever bide, For far and wide thy feet have trod. Could we their saintly track pursue, We yet should view the Living God.
You leave a pattern and bequest To all who rest upon the earth— A life-long lesson to declare Of earnest prayer the precious worth.
God grant us peace and joyful love! And may the countenance of Heaven's King Beam on us when we leave behind Our bodies blind and withering.
KING AND HERMIT
Marvan, brother of King Guare of Connaught, in the seventh century, had renounced the life of a warrior prince for that of a hermit. The King endeavoured to persuade his brother to return to his Court, when the following colloquy took place between them:
Now Marvan, hermit of the grot, Why sleep'st thou not on quilted feathers? Why on a pitch-pine floor instead At night make head against all weathers?
I have a shieling in the wood, None save my God has knowledge of it, An ash-tree and a hazelnut Its two sides shut, great oak-boughs roof it.
Two heath-clad posts beneath a buckle Of honeysuckle its frame are propping, The woods around its narrow bound Swine-fattening mast are richly dropping.
From out my shieling not too small, Familiar all, fair paths invite me; Now, blackbird, from my gable end, Sweet sable friend, thy notes delight me.
With joys the stags of Oakridge leap Into their clear and deep-banked river, Far off red Roiny glows with joy, Muckraw, Moinmoy in sunshine quiver.
With mighty mane a green-barked yew Upholds the blue; his fortress green An oak uprears against the storms, Tremendous forms, stupendous scene.
Mine apple-tree is full of fruit From crown to root—a hostel's store— My bonny nutful hazel-bush Leans branching lush against my door.
A choice, pure spring of cooling draught Is mine. What prince has quaffed a rarer? Around it cresses keen, O King, Invite the famishing wayfarer.
Tame swine and wild and goat and deer Assemble here upon its brink, Yea! even the badger's brood draw near And without fear lie down to drink.
A peaceful troop of creatures strange, They hither range from wood and height, To meet them slender foxes steal At vesper peal, O my delight!
These visitants as to a Court Frequent resort to seek me out, Pure water, Brother Guare, are they The salmon grey, the speckled trout;
Red rowans, dusky sloes and mast— O unsurpassed and God-sent dish— Blackberries, whortleberries blue, Red strawberries to my taste and wish;
Sweet apples, honey of wild bees And after them of eggs a clutch, Haws, berries of the juniper; Who, King, could cast a slur on such?
A cup with mead of hazelnut Outside my hut in summer shine, Or ale with herbs from wood and spring Are worth, O King, thy costliest wine.
Bright bluebells o'er my board I throw— A lovely show my feast to spangle— The rushes' radiance, oaklets grey, Brier-tresses gay, sweet, goodly tangle.
When brilliant summer casts once more Her cloak of colour o'er the fields, Sweet-tasting marjoram, pignut, leek, To all who seek, her verdure yields.
Her bright red-breasted little men Their lovely music then outpour, The thrush exults, the cuckoos all Around her call and call once more.
The bees, earth's small musicians, hum, No longer dumb, in gentle chorus. Like echoes faint of that long plaint The fleeing wild-fowl murmur o'er us.
The wren, an active songster now, From off the hazel-bough pipes shrill, Woodpeckers flock in multitudes With beauteous hoods and beating bill.
With fair white birds, the crane and gull The fields are full, while cuckoos cry— No mournful music! Heath-poults dun Through russet heather sunward fly.
The heifers now with loud delight, Summer bright, salute thy reign! Smooth delight for toilsome loss 'Tis now to cross the fertile plain.
The warblings of the wind that sweep From branchy wood to beaming sky, The river-falls, the swan's far note— Delicious music floating by.
Earth's bravest band because unhired, All day, untired make cheer for me. In Christ's own eyes of endless youth Can this same truth be said of thee?
What though in Kingly pleasures now Beyond all riches thou rejoice, Content am I my Saviour good Should on this wood have set my choice.
Without one hour of war or strife Through all my life at peace I fare; Where better can I keep my tryst With our Lord Christ, O brother Guare?
My glorious Kingship, yea! and all My Sire's estates that fall to me, My Marvan, I would gladly give, So I might live my life with thee.
ON AENGUS THE CULDEE
Author of the Felire AEngusa or Calendar of Church Festivals. He was a Saint, his appellation Culdee [Ceile de] meaning "Servant of God." He lived at the end of the eighth and beginning of the ninth century.
Delightful here at Disert Bethel, By cold, pure Nore at peace to rest, Where noisy raids have never sullied The beechen forest's virgin vest.
For here the Angel Host would visit Of yore with AEngus, Oivlen's son, As in his cross-ringed cell he lauded The One in Three, the Three in One.
To death he passed upon a Friday, The day they slew our Blessed Lord. Here stands his tomb; unto the Assembly Of Holy Heaven his soul has soared.
'Twas in Cloneagh he had his rearing; 'Tis in Cloneagh he now lies dead, 'Twas in Cloneagh of many crosses That first his psalms he read.
THE SHAVING OF MURDOCH
(From the Early Irish)
(By Muiredach O'Daly, late twelfth century, when he and Cathal More of the Red Hand, King of Connaught, entered the monastic life together.)
Murdoch, whet thy razor's edge, Our crowns to pledge to Heaven's Ardrigh! Vow we now our hair fine-tressed To the Blessed Trinity!
Now my head I shear to Mary; 'Tis a true heart's very due. Shapely, soft-eyed Chieftain now Shear thy brow to Mary, too!
Seldom on thy head, fair Chief, Hath a barbing-knife been plied; Oft the fairest of Princesses Combed her tresses at thy side.
Whensoever we did bathe, We found no scathe, yourself and I, With Brian of the well-curled locks, From hidden rocks and currents wry.
And most I mind what once befell Beside the well of fair Boru— I swam a race with Ua Chais The icy flood of Fergus through.
When hand to hand the bank we reached, Swift foot to foot we stretched again, Till Duncan Cairbre, Chief of Chiefs, Gave us three knives—not now in vain.
No other blades such temper have; Then, Murdoch, shave with easy art! Whet, Cathal of the Wine Red Hand, Thy Victor brand, in peaceful part!
Then our shorn heads from weather wild Shield, Daughter mild of Joachim! Preserve us from the sun's fierce power, Mary, soft Flower of Jesse's Stem!
ON THE FLIGHTINESS OF THOUGHT
(A tenth-century poem. See Eriu, vol. iii, p. 13)
Shame upon my thoughts, O shame! How they fly in order broken, Therefore much I fear for blame When the Trump of Doom has spoken.
At my psalms, they oft are set On a path the Fiend must pave them; Evermore, with fash and fret, In God's sight they misbehave them.
Through contending crowds they fleet, Companies of wanton women, Silent wood or strident street, Swifter than the breezes skimming.
Now through paths of loveliness, Now through ranks of shameful riot, Onward evermore they press, Fledged with folly and disquiet.
O'er the Ocean's sounding deep Now they flash like fiery levin; Now at one vast bound they leap Up from earth into the Heaven.
Thus afar and near they roam On their race of idle folly; Till at last to reason's home They return right melancholy.
Would you bind them wrist to wrist— Foot to foot the truants shackle, From your toils away they twist Into air with giddy cackle.
Crack of whip or edge of steel Cannot hold them in your keeping; With the wriggle of an eel From your grasp they still go leaping.
Never yet was fetter found, Never lock contrived, to hold them; Never dungeon underground, Moor or mountain keep controlled them.
Thou whose glance alone makes pure, Searcher of all hearts and Saviour, With Thy Sevenfold Spirit cure My stray thoughts' unblessed behaviour.
God of earth, air, fire and flood, Rule me, rule me in such measure, That to my eternal good I may live to love Thy pleasure.
Christ's own flock thus may I reach, At the flash of Death's sharp sickle, Just in deed, of steadfast speech, Not, as now, infirm and fickle.
THE MONK AND HIS WHITE CAT
(After an eighth- or early ninth-century Irish poem. Text and translation in Thesaurus Palaeohibernicus.)
Pangar, my white cat, and I Silent ply our special crafts; Hunting mice his one pursuit, Mine to shoot keen spirit shafts.
Rest, I love, all fame beyond, In the bond of some rare book; Yet white Pangar from his play Casts, my way, no jealous look.
Thus alone within one cell Safe we dwell—not dull the tale— Since his ever favourite sport Each to court will never fail.
Now a mouse, to swell his spoils, In his toils he spears with skill; Now a meaning deeply thought I have caught with startled thrill.
Now his green full-shining gaze Darts its rays against the wall; Now my feebler glances mark Through the dark bright knowledge fall.
Leaping up with joyful purr, In mouse fur his sharp claw sticks, Problems difficult and dear, With my spear I, too, transfix.
Crossing not each other's will, Diverse still, yet still allied, Following each his own lone ends, Constant friends we here abide.
Pangar, master of his art, Plays his part in pranksome youth; While in age sedate I clear Shadows from the sphere of Truth.
Invocations and Reflections
A PRAYER TO THE VIRGIN
(Edited by Strachan in Eriu, vol. i, p. 122. Tenth or perhaps ninth century)
Gentle Mary, Noble Maiden, Hearken to our suppliant pleas! Shrine God's only Son was laid in! Casket of the Mysteries!
Holy Maid, pure Queen of Heaven, Intercession for us make, That each hardened heart's transgression May be pardoned for Thy sake.
Bent in loving pity o'er us, Through the Holy Spirit's power, Pray the King of Angels for us In Thy Visitation hour.
Branch of Jesse's tree whose blossoms Scent the heavenly hazel wood, Pray for me for full purgation Of my bosom's turpitude.
Mary, crown of splendour glowing, Dear destroyer of Eve's ill, Noble torch of Love far-showing, Fruitful stock of God's good will;
Heavenly Virgin, Maid transcendent, Yea! He willed that Thou shouldst be His fair Ark of Life Resplendent, His pure Queen of Chastity.
Mother of all good, to free me, Interceding at my side, Pray Thy First-Born to redeem me, When the Judgment books are wide;
Star of knowledge, rare and noble, Tree of many-blossoming sprays, Lamp to light our night of trouble, Sun to cheer our weary days;
Ladder to the Heavenly Highway, Whither every Saint ascends, Be a safeguard still, till my way In Thy glorious Kingdom ends!
Covert fair of sweet protection, Chosen for a Monarch's rest, Hostel for nine months' refection Of a Noble Infant Guest;
Glorious Heavenly Porch, whereunder, So the day-star sinks his head, God's Own Son—O saving wonder! Jesus was incarnated;
For the fair Babe's sake conceived In Thy womb and brought to birth, For the Blest Child's sake, received Now as King of Heaven and Earth;
For His Rood's sake! starker, steeper Hath no other Cross been set, For His Tomb's sake! darker, deeper There hath been no burial yet;
By His Blessed Resurrection, When He triumphed o'er the tomb, By The Church of His affection 'During till the Day of Doom,
Safeguard our unblest behaviour, Till behind Death's blinding veil, Face to face, we see our Saviour. This our prayer is: Hail! All Hail!
MAELISU'S HYMN TO THE ARCHANGEL MICHAEL
(By Maelisu ua Brochain, a writer of religious poetry both in Irish and Latin who died in 1051. Mael-Isu means "the tonsured of Jesus.")
Angel and Saint, O Michael of the oracles, O Michael of great miracles, Bear to the Lord my plaint!
Hear my request! Ask of the great, forgiving God, To lift this vast and grievous load Of sin from off my breast.
Why, Michael, tarry My fervent prayer with upward wing Unto the King, the great High King Of Heaven and Earth, to carry?
Unto my soul Bring help, bring comfort, yea bring power To win release, in death's black hour, From sin, distress, and dole.
Till, as devoutly My fading eyes seek Heaven's dim height, To meet me with thy myriads bright, Do thou adventure stoutly.
Captain of hosts, Against earth's wicked, crooked clan To aid me lead thy battle van And quell their cruel boasts.
Archangel glorious, Disdain not now thy suppliant urgent, But over every sin insurgent Set me at last victorious.
Thou art my choosing! That with my body, soul, and spirit Eternal life I may inherit, Thine aid be not refusing.
In my sore need O thou of Anti-Christ the slayer, Triumphant victor, to my prayer Give heed, O now give heed!
MAELISU'S HYMN TO THE HOLY SPIRIT
O Holy Spirit, hasten to us! Move round about us, in us, through us! All our deadened souls' desires Inflame anew with heavenly fires!
Yea! let each heart become a hostel Of Thy bright Presence Pentecostal, Whose power from pestilence and slaughter Shall shield us still by land and water.
From bosom sins, seducing devils, From Hell with all its hundred evils, For Jesus' only sake and merit, Preserve us, Thou Almighty Spirit!
(From the Early Irish)
I am Eve, great Adam's wife, 'Twas my guilt took Jesus' life. Since of Heaven I robbed my race, On His Cross was my true place.
In His Paradise, God placed me, Then a wicked choice disgraced me. At the counsel of the Devil, My pure hand I stained with evil;
For I put it forth and plucked, Then the deadly apple sucked. Long as woman looks on day, Shall she walk in folly's way.
Winter's withering icy woe, Whelming wave and smothering snow, Hell to fright and death to grieve— Had been never, but for Eve!
ALEXANDER THE GREAT
(From the Early Irish)
Four Sages stood to chant a stave Above the proud Earth Conqueror's grave; And all their words were words of candour Above the urn of Alexander.
The first began: "But yesterday, When all in state the Great King lay, Myriads around him made their moan, To-day he lieth all alone!"
"But yesterday," the second sang, "O'er Earth his charger's hoof outrang; To-day its outraged soil instead Is riding heavy o'er his head!"
"But yesterday," the third went on, "All Earth was swayed by Philip's son: To-day, to shroud his calcined bones, Seven feet thereof is all he owns!"
"But yesterday, so liberal he, Silver and gold he scattered free; To-day," the last outsighed his thought, "His wealth abounds but he is naught!"
Thus sentence gave these Sages four, Above the buried Emperor; It was no foolish women's prate That held them thus in high debate.
THE KINGS WHO CAME TO CHRIST
(From the Early Irish)
Three Kings came to the Babe's abode, With faces that like bright moons glowed, From out the learned Eastern world, Where o'er wide plains slow streams are curled.
The three sought out the lovely Child, On whom, white-blossomed Bethel smiled, Three, o'er all knowledge granted sway, Three Seers of the Vision they.
The Promise of the Great All-wise Was present to their prescient eyes, A Vision beckoning from afar, The Christ Child cradled on a star;
A lofty star of lucent ray, It swam before them through the day, And when earth's hues were lost in night, It still led on with loving light.
And still the lucky Royal Three Went following it full readily; And still across the firmament An arch of blessed might it went.
So rushing radiant, round and soft, Past every star that paced aloft, Right joyously it stayed for them At last o'er blessed Bethlehem.
O, then each Monarch of the Three With worship fell upon his knee, And gave, while God he loud extolled, His frankincense and myrrh and gold.
They recognised the Babe's bright face And Mary in her Virgin grace. 'Twas thus the Star's Epiphany Showed Christ their King to the Kings three.
Whether my house is dark or bright, I close it not on any wight, Lest Thou, hereafter, King of Stars, Against me close Thy Heavenly bars.
If from a guest who shares thy board Thy dearest dainty thou shalt hoard, 'Tis not that guest, O never doubt it, But Mary's Son shall do without it.
Ah, Blackbird, that at last art blest Because thy nest is on the bough, No Hermit of the clinking bell, How soft and well thy notes fall now.
MOLING SANG THIS
With the old when I consort Jest and sport they straight lay by; When with frolic youth I am flung, Maddest of the young am I.
THE CHURCH BELL IN THE NIGHT
Sweet little bell, sweet little bell, Struck long and well upon the wind, I'd rather tryst with thee to-night Than any maiden light of mind.
At the first bird's early crying, They began Thy Crucifying, O Thou of face as woeful wan, As the far-flown winter swan.
Sore the suffering and the shame Put upon Thy Sacred Frame; Ah! but sorer the heartache For Thy stricken Mother's sake.
THE PILGRIM AT ROME
Unto Rome wouldst thou attain, Great the toil is, small the gain, If the King thou seekest therein Travel not, with thee, from Erin.
ON A DEAD SCHOLAR
Dead is Lon Of Kilgarrow, O great sorrow! Dead and gone. Dire the dolour, Erin, here and past thy border, Dire the dolour and disorder, To the schools and to the scholar, Since our Lon Is dead and gone.
CHARMS AND INVOCATIONS
CHARMS AGAINST SORROW
A charm whereunto grief must yield— The Charm of Michael with the Shield.
Charms before which all sorrows fail— The Palm-branch of Christ and Brigit's Veil.
The charm Christ set for Himself, when the Godhead within Him darkened; And when He cried from the Cross that His Father no longer hearkened. When you are bound down by the Cross and night is blackest before you, A charm that shall lift off sorrow's weight and to joyful hope restore you. A charm to be said at sunrise when your hands your heart are crushing, When the eyes are red with weeping and the madness of grief outrushing. A charm with not even a whisper to spare, But only the silent prayer.
ON COVERING THE FIRE FOR THE NIGHT
Let us preserve this seed of fire as Christ preserves us all, Himself a-watch above the house, Bride at its middle wall, Below the Twelve Apostles of highest heavenly sway, Guarding and defending it until the dawn of day.
O Jesu! in the morning I cry and call thee early, Blest only Son of God on high who purchased us so dearly. O guard me in the shelter of Thy most Holy Cross, All through the courses of the day keep me from sin and loss.
A CHARM AGAINST ENEMIES
Three powers are of the Evil One to curse mankind; An Evil Eye, an Evil Tongue, an Evil Mind. Three words are God's own breath and Mary's to her Son, For she in heaven had heard them, told them every one. The word of Mercy free, the singing word of Joy, The binding word of Love He gives us to employ. O may the saving might of these three holy words On Erin's men and women light, and keep them still the Lord's.
CHARM FOR A PAIN IN THE HEART
"God save you my three brothers! God save you! Now how far Have ye on foot to travel, by sun and moon and star?"
"To Olivet's own Mount we fare till we have gotten gold, Therefrom a cup to fashion the tears of Christ to hold."
"So do! And when those Precious Tears drop down into the bowl Into thy very heart they'll fall and cure thee body and soul."
THE SAFE-GUARDING OF MY SOUL
My succour from all sinful harms Be Thou, Almighty Father! And Mary, who, within her arms The King of Kings did gather! And Michael, messenger to earth From out the Heavenly City, The Twelve of Apostolic worth, And last the Lord of Pity! That so my soul, encircled by their care, Into Heaven's Golden Halls with joy may fare!
THE WHITE PATERNOSTER.
On going to sleep, think that it is the sleep of Death and that you may be summoned to the Day of the Mountain of Judgment and say:
I lay me down with God; May He rest here also, His Guardian arms around my head, Christ's Cross my limbs below.
Where wouldst, thou lay thee down? 'Twixt Mary and her Son— Brigit and her bright mantle, Colomb and his shield handle, God and His strong Right Hand.
At morn where wouldst thou rise? With Patrick to the skies.
THE SONG OF CREDE, DAUGHTER OF GUARE
In the Battle of Aidne, Crede, the daughter of King Guare of Aidne, beheld Dinertach of the HyFidgenti, who had come to the help of Guare with seventeen wounds upon his breast. Then she fell in love with him. He died and was buried in the cemetery of Colman's Church.
"These are the arrows that murder sleep," At every hour in the night's black deep; Pangs of Love through the long day ache All for the dead Dinertach's sake.
Great love of a hero from Roiny's plain Has pierced me through with immortal pain, Blasted my beauty and left me to blanch, A riven bloom on a restless branch!
Never was song like Dinertach's speech, But holy strains that to Heaven's gate reach. A front of flame without boast or pride, Yet a firm, fond mate for a fair maid's side.
A growing girl—I was timid of tongue, And never trysted with gallants young, But, since I won on into passionate age, Fierce love-longings my heart engage.
I have every bounty that life could hold, With Guare, arch-monarch of Aidne cold, But fallen away from my haughty folk, In Irluachair's field my heart lies broke.
There is chanting in glorious Aidne's meadow Under St. Colman's Church's shadow; A hero flame sinks into the tomb— Dinertach, alas, my love and my doom!
Chaste Christ! that unto my life's last breath I trysted with Sorrow and mate with Death; At every hour of the night's black deep, These are the arrows that murder sleep!
THE DESERTED HOME
(An eleventh-century poem)
Keenly cries the blackbird now; From the bough his nest is gone. For his slaughtered mate and young Still his tongue talks on and on.
Such, alas! not long ago Was the woe my heart befell; Therefore, wherefore thine so grieves It perceives, O bird, too well!
Poor heart burnt with grief within By the sin of that rash band! Little could they guess thy care, Crying there, or understand.
From afar at thy clear call Fluttered all thy new-fledged brood. Now thy nest of love lies hid Down amid the nettles rude.
In one day the herd-boy crew Careless slew thy fledgelings fine. One the fate to thine and thee, One the fate to me and mine.
As thy mate upon the mead Chirruped, feeding at thy side, Taken in their snaring strands, At the herd-boy's hands she died.
O Thou Framer of our fates, Not an equal lot have all! Neighbour's wife and child are spared, Ours, as though uncared for, fall.
Fairy hosts with blasting death Breathed on mine a breath abhorred; Bloodless though their evil ire, It was direr than the sword.
Woe our wife! and woe our young! Sorrow-wrung our hearts complain! Of each fair and faithful one Tidings none or trace remain!
THE MOTHERS' LAMENT AT THE SLAUGHTER OF THE INNOCENTS
(Probably a poem of the eleventh century. It is written in Rosg metre, and was first published in The Gaelic Journal, May 1891.)
Then, as the executioner plucked her son from her breast, one of the women said:
"Why are you tearing Away to his doom The child of my caring, The fruit of my womb. Till nine months were o'er, His burthen I bore, Then his pretty lips pressed The glad milk from my breast, And my whole heart he filled, And my whole life he thrilled.
"All my strength dies; My tongue speechless lies; Darkened are my eyes; His breath was the breath of me; His death is the death of me!"
Then another woman said:
"Tis my own son that from me you wring, I deceived not the King. But slay me, even me, And let my boy be. A mother most hapless, My bosom is sapless. Mine eyes one tearful river, My frame one fearful shiver, My husband sonless ever, And I a sonless wife To live a death in life. O, my son! O, God of Truth! O, my unrewarded youth! O, my birthless sicknesses, Until doom without redress! O, my bosom's silent nest! O, the heart broke in my breast!"
Then said another woman:
"Murderers, obeying Herod's wicked willing, One ye would be slaying, Many are ye killing. Infants would ye smother? Ruffians ye have rather Wounded many a father, Slaughtered many a mother. Hell's black jaws your horrid deed is glutting, Heaven's white gate against your black souls shutting.
"Ye are guilty of the Great Offence! Ye have spilt the blood of innocence."
And yet another woman said:
"O Lord Christ come to me! Nay, no longer tarry! With my son, home to Thee My soul quickly carry! O Mary great, O Mary mild, Of God's One Son the Mother, What shall I do without my child, For I have now no other. For Thy Son's sake my son they slew, Those murderers inhuman; My sense and soul they slaughtered too, I am but a crazy woman. Yea! after that most piteous slaughter, When my babe's life ran out like water, The heart within my bosom hath become A clot of blood from this day till the Doom!"
THE KEENING OF MARY
Taken down by Patrick H. Pearse from Mary Clancy of Moycullen, who keened it with great horror in her voice, in a low sobbing recitative.
MARY. "O Peter, O Apostle, my bright Love, hast thou found him?" "M'ochon agus m'ochon, O!"
PETER. "Even now in the midst of His foemen I found Him." "M'ochon agus m'ochon, O!"
MARY. "Come hither, ye two Marys, and my bright love be keening." "M'ochon agus m'ochon, O!"
THE TWO MARYS. "If His body be not with us, sure our keene had little meaning." "M'ochon agus m'ochon, O!"
MARY. "Who is yonder stately Man on the Tree His passion showing?" "M'ochon agus m'ochon, O!"
CHRIST. "O Mother, thine own son, can it be thou art not knowing." "M'ochon agus m'ochon, O!"
MARY. "And is that the little son whom nine months I was bearing?" "M'ochon agus m'ochon, O!" "And is that the little son in the stall I was caring? And is that the little son this Mary's breast was draining?" "M'ochon agus m'ochon, O!"
CHRIST. "Hush thee, hush thee, Mother, and be not so complaining."
MARY. "And is this the very hammer that struck the sharp nails thro' thee?" "M'ochon agus m'ochon, O!" "And this the very spear that thy white side pierced and slew thee?" "M'ochon agus m'ochon, O!" "And is that the crown of thorns that thy beauteous head is caging?" "M'ochon agus m'ochon, O!"
CHRIST. "Hush, Mother, for my sake thy sorrow be assuaging." "M'ochon agus m'ochon, O!" "For thy own love's sake thy cruel sorrow smother!" "M'ochon agus m'ochon, O!" "The women of my keening are unborn yet, little Mother!" "M'ochon agus m'ochon, O!" "O woman, why weepest thou my death that leads to pardon?" "M'ochon agus m'ochon, O!" "Happy hundreds, to-day, shall stray through Paradise Garden." "M'ochon agus m'ochon, O!"
(From the eighteenth-century Irish)
Cold, dark, and dumb lies my boy on his bed; Cold, dark, and silent the night dews are shed; Hot, swift, and fierce fall my tears for the dead!
His footprints lay light in the dew of the dawn As the straight, slender track of the young mountain fawn; But I'll ne'er again follow them over the lawn.
His manly cheek blushed with the sun's rising ray, And he shone in his strength like the sun at midday; But a cloud of black darkness has hid him away.
And that black cloud for ever shall cling to the skies: And never, ah, never, I'll see him arise, Lost warmth of my bosom, lost light of my eyes!
Songs to Music
(Written to an old Irish Air)
Above the thunder crashes, Around the lightning flashes: Our heads are heaped with ashes But Thou, God, art nigh! Thou launchest forth the levin, The storm by Thee is driven, Give heed, O Lord, from Heaven, Hear, hear our cry!
For lo, the Dane defaces With fire Thy holy places, He hews Thy priests in pieces, Our maids more than die. Up, Lord, with storm and thunder, Pursue him with his plunder, And smite his ships in sunder, Lord God Most High!
THE SONG OF THE WOODS
(To an Irish Air of the same name)
Not only where Thy blessed bells Peal afar for praise and prayer, Or where Thy solemn organ swells, Lord, not only art Thou there. Thy voice of many waters From out the ocean comfort speaks, Thy Presence to a radiant rose Thrills a thousand virgin peaks.
And here, where in one wondrous woof— Aisle on aisle and choir on choir— To rear Thy rarest temple roof, Pillared oak and pine aspire; Life-weary here we wander, When lo! the Saviour's gleaming stole! 'Tis caught unto our craving lips, Kissed and straightway we are whole.
THE ENCHANTED VALLEY
(To an Irish Air of the same name)
I will go where lilies blow Beside the flow of languid streams, Within that vale of opal glow, Where bright-winged dreams flutter to and fro, Fain am I its magic peace to know.
Beware! beware of that valley fair! All dwellers there to phantoms turn, For joys and griefs they have none to share, Tho' ever they yearn life's burdens to bear, Ah! of that valley beware, beware!
REMEMBER THE POOR
(Founded on an Irish Ballad of the name)
Oh! remember the poor when your fortune is sure, And acre to acre you join; Oh! remember the poor, though but slender your store And you ne'er can go gallant and fine. Oh! remember the poor when they cry at your door In the raging rain and blast; Call them in! Cheer them up with the bite and the sup, Till they leave you their blessing at last.
The red fox has his lair, and each bird of the air With the night settles warm in his nest, But the King Who laid down His celestial crown For our sakes—He had nowhere to rest. Oh! the poor were forgot till their pitiful lot He bowed Himself to endure; If your souls ye would make, for His Heavenly sake, Oh! remember, remember the poor.
II. WELSH POEMS
THE ODES TO THE MONTHS
(After Aneurin, a sixth-century warrior bard)
Month of Janus, the coom is smoke-fuming; Weary the wine-bearer; minstrels far roaming; Lean are the kine; the bees never humming; Milking-folds void; to the kiln no meat coming; Gaunt every steed; no pert sparrows strumming; Long the night till the dawn; but a glimpse is the gloaming. Sapient Cynfelyn, this was thy summing; "Prudence is Man's surest guide, by my dooming."
* * * * *
Month of Mars; the birds become bolder; Wounding the wind upon the cape's shoulder; Serene skies delay till the young crops are older; Anger burns on, when grief waxes colder; Every man's mind some dread may unsolder; Each bird wins the may that hath long been a scolder; Each seed cleaves the clay, though for long months amoulder, Yet the dead still must stay in the tomb, their strong holder.
* * * * *
Month of Augustus—the beach is a-spray; Blithesome the bee and the hive full alway; Better work than the bow hath the sickle to-day; Fuller the stack than the House of the Play; The Churl who cares neither to work nor to pray Now why should he cumber the earth with his clay? Justly St. Breda, the sapient, would say "As many to evil as good take the way."
* * * * *
Month of September—benign planets shiver; Serene round the hamlet are ocean and river; Not easy for men and for steeds is endeavour; Trees full of fruit, as of arrows the quiver. A Princess was born to us, blessed for ever, From slavery's shackles our land's freedom-giver. Saith St. Berned the Saint, ripe Wisdom's mouth ever; "In sleep shall God nod, Who hath sworn to deliver?"
Month of October—thin the shade is showing; Yellow are the birch-trees; bothies empty growing; Full of flesh, bird and fish to the market going; Less and less the milk now of cow and goat is flowing, Alas! for him who meriteth disgrace by evil-doing; Death is better far than extravagance's strowing. Three acts should follow crime, to true repentance owing— Fasting and prayer and of alms abundance glowing.
* * * * *
Month of December—with mud the shoe bemired; Heavy the land, the sun in heaven tired; Bare all the trees, little force now required; Cheerful the cock; by dark the thief inspired.
Whilst the Twelve Months thus trip in dance untired, Round youthful minds Satan still weaves his fetter. Justly spake Yscolan, Wisdom's sage begetter, "Than an evil prophecy God is ever better."
(After Llywarch Hen, a sixth-century prince and poet)
Set is the snare, the ash clusters glow, Ducks plash in the pools; breakers whiten below; More strong than a hundred is the heart's hidden woe.
Long is the night; resounding the shore, Frequent in crowds a tumultuous roar, The evil and good disagree evermore.
Long is the night; the hill full of cries; O'er the tree-tops the wind whistles and sighs, Ill nature deceives not the wit of the wise.
The greening birch saplings asway in the air Shall deliver my feet from the enemy's snare. It is ill with a youth thy heart's secrets to share.
The saplings of oak in yonder green glade Shall loosen the snare by an enemy laid. It is ill to unbosom thy heart to a maid.
The saplings of oak in their full summer pride Shall loosen the snare by the enemy tied. It is ill to a babbler thy heart to confide.
The brambles with berries of purple are dressed; In silence the brooding thrush clings to her nest, In silence the liar can never take rest.
Rain is without—wet the fern plume; White the sea gravel—fierce the waves spume. There is no lamp like reason man's life to illume.
Rain is without, but the shelter is near; Yellow the furze, the cow-parsnip is sere, God in Heaven, how couldst Thou create cowards here!
HAIL, GLORIOUS LORD!
(From a twelfth-century MS., "The Black Book of Carmarthen")
Hail, all glorious Lord! with holy mirth May Church and chancel bless Thy good counsel! Each chancel and church, All plains and mountains, And ye three fountains— Two above wind, And one above earth! May light and darkness bless Thee! Fine silk, green forest confess Thee! Thus did Abraham father Of faith with joy possess Thee. Bird and bee-song bless Thee, Among the lilies and roses! All the old, all the young Laud thee with joyful tongue, As Thy praise was once sung By Aaron and Moses. Male and female, The days that are seven, The stars of heaven, The air and the ether, Every book and fair letter; Fish in waters fair-flowing, And song and deed glowing! Grey sand and green sward Make your blessing's award! And all such as with good Have satisfied stood! While my own mouth shall bless Thee And my Saviour confess Thee. Hail, glorious Lord!
(After Dafydd ab Gwilym, the most famous Welsh lyrical poet, 1340-1400)
When I die, O, bury me Within the free young wild wood; Little birches, o'er me bent, Lamenting as my child would! Let my surplice-shroud be spun Of sparkling summer clover; While the great and stately treen Their rich rood-screen hang over! For my bier-cloth blossomed may Outlay on eight green willows! Sea-gulls white to bear my pall Take flight from all the billows. Summer's cloister be my church Of soft leaf-searching whispers, From whose mossed bench the nightingale To all the vale chants vespers! Mellow-toned, the brake amid, My organ hid be cuckoo! Paters, seemly hours and psalm Bird voices calm re-echo! Mystic masses, sweet addresses, Blackbird, be thou offering; Till God His Bard to Paradise Uplift from sighs and suffering.
THE LAST CYWYDD
(After Dafydd ab Gwilym)
Memories fierce like arrows pierce; Alone I waste and languish, And make my cry to God on high To ease me of mine anguish. If heroic was my youth, In truth its powers are over; With brain dead and force sped, Love sets at naught the lover! The Muse from off my lips is thrust, 'Tis long since song has cheered me; Gone is Ivor, counsellor just, And Nest, whose grace upreared me! Morfydd, all my world and more, Lies low in churchyard gravel; While beneath the burthen frore Of age alone I travel.
Mute, mute my song's salute, When summer's beauties thicken; Cuckoo, nightingale, no art Of yours my heart can quicken! Morfydd, not thy haunting kiss Or voice of bliss can save me From the spear of age whose chill Has quenched the thrill love gave me. My ripe grain of heart and brain The sod sadly streweth; Its empty chaff with mocking laugh The wind of death pursueth! Dig my grave! O, dig it deep To hide my sleeping body, So but Christ my spirit keep, Amen! ab Gwilym's ready!
(After Iolo Goch, "Iowerlt the Red," a fourteenth-century bard and son of the Countess of Lincoln)
When the folk of all the Earth, For the weighing of their worth, Promised by his Ancient Word, Freely flock before The Lord— And His Judgment-seat is set High on mighty Olivet, Forthright then shall be the tale Of the Plougher of the Vale, If so be his tithes were given Justly to the King of Heaven; If he freely shared his store With the sick or homeless poor— When his soul is at God's feet Rich remembrance it shall meet.
He who turns and tills the sod Leans by Nature on his God. Save his plough-beam naught he judgeth, None he angereth, or grudgeth, Strives with none, takes none in toils, Crushes none and none despoils; Overbeareth not, though strong, Doth not even a little wrong.
"Suffering here," he saith, "is meet, Else were Heaven not half so sweet." Following after goad and plough, With unruffled breast and brow, Is to him an hundred-fold Dearer than, for treasured gold, Even in King Arthur's form, Castles to besiege and storm.
If the labourer were sped, Where would be Christ's Wine and Bread? Certes but for his supply, Pope and Emperor must die, Every wine-free King and just, Yea! each mortal turn to dust.
Blest indeed is he whose hands Steer the plough o'er stubborn lands. How through far-spread broom and heath Tear his sharp, smooth coulter's teeth— Old-time relic, heron-bill, Rooting out fresh furrows still, With a noble, skilful grace Smoothing all the wild land's face, Reaching out a stern, stiff neck Each resisting root to wreck.
* * * * *
Behind his oxen on his path Thus he strides the healthy strath, Chanting many a godly rhyme To the plough-chain's silver chime. All the crafts that ever were With the Ploughman's ill compare. Ploughing, in an artful wise, Earth's subduing signifies, Far as Baptism and Creed, Far as Christendom hath speed.
By God, who is man's Master best, And Mary may the plough be blest.
THE ELEGY ON SION GLYN, A CHILD OF FIVE YEARS OF AGE
(By his Father, Lewis Glyn Cothi, 1425-1486)
One wee son, woe worth his sire! My treasure was and heart's desire; But evermore I now must pine, Mourning for that wee son of mine, Sick to the heart, day out and in, Thinking and thinking of Johnny Glynn, My fairy prince for ever fled, Leaving life's Mabinogion dead.
A rosy apple, pebbles white, And dicky-birds were his delight, A childish bow with coloured cord, A little brittle wooden sword. From bagpipes or the bogy-man Into his mother's arms he ran, There coaxed from her a ball to throw With his daddy to and fro.
His own sweet songs he'd then be singing, Then for a nut with a shout be springing; Holding my hand he'd trot about with me, Coax me now, and now fall out with me, Now, make it up again, lip to lip, For a dainty die or a curling chip. Would God my lovely little lad A second life, like Lazarus, had! St. Beuno raised from death at once St. Winifred and her six nuns; Would to God the Saint could win An eighth from death in Johnny Glynn!
Ah, Mary! my merry little knave, Coffined and covered in the grave! To think of him beneath the slab Deals my lone heart a double stab.
Bright dream beyond my own life's shore, Proud purpose of my future's store, My hope, my comfort from annoy, My jewel and my glowing joy, My nest of shade from out the sun, My lark, my soaring, singing one, My golden shaft of faithful love Shot at the radiant round above, My intercessor with Heaven's King, My boyhood's second blossoming, My little, laughing, loving John, For you I'm sunk in shadow wan!
Good-bye, good-bye, for evermore My little lively squirrel's store, The happy bouncing of his ball, His carol up and down the hall! Adieu, my little dancing one, Adieu, adieu, my son, my son!
THE NOBLE'S GRAVE
(After Sion Cent, 1386-1420, priest of Kentchurch, in Hereford)
Premier Peer but yesterday, Lone within the tomb to-morrow; For his silken garments gay, Grave-clothes in a gravelled furrow.
No love-making, homage none; From his mines no golden mintage; No rich traffic in the sun; No more purple-purling vintage.
No more usherings out of Hall By obsequious attendant; No more part, however small, In the Pageant's pomp resplendent!
Just a perch of churchyard clay All the soil he now possesses; Heavily its burthen grey On his pulseless bosom presses.
THE BARD'S DEATH-BED CONFESSION
(After Huw Morus, 1622-1709, a Welsh Cavalier poet)
Lord, hear my confession of life-long transgression! Weak-willed and too filled with Earth's follies am I To reach by the strait way of faith to Heaven's gateway, If Thou light not thither my late way.
From Duty's hard high road by Beauty's soft by-road To Satan's, not Thy road, I wandered away. Thou hast seen, Father tender, Thou seest what a slender Return for Thy Talents I render.
Thy pure Eyes pierced through me and probed me and knew me, Not flawless but lawless, when put to the proof. In ease or in cumber, day-doings or slumber, What ills of mine wouldst Thou not number!
From Thy Holy Hand's Healing, contrition annealing And Faith's oil of healing grant, Lord, I beseech; These only can cure me and fresh life assure me, These only Thy Peace can procure me!