A Poetic Life of St. Patrick

March 16, 2021
Source: District of the USA
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The story of St. Patrick's life as recorded by a contemporary of his, St. Fiacc, originally written in Old Irish just after the Saint's death. 

 

Verily, it is worthy, and fit, and right, and profitable, that the people should tell the wisdom of the saints, and that the congregation should speak of their praise; but yet is it more becoming that the subject of our praise should not be praised until after his death. Praise thou therefore the clearness of the day, but not until the evening cometh; the courage of the soldier, but not until he hath triumphed; the fortune of the sailor, but not until he hath landed; for the Scripture saith, Thou shalt praise no man in his lifetime.”

- St. Patrick.

 

The Life of St. Patrick as told by St. Fiacc
 

Patrick was born at Emptur:
    That it is that history relates to us.
    A child of sixteen years he was
    When he was taken into bondage.

Succat was his name, it is said;
    Who was his father is thus told:
    He was son of Calpurn, son of Otidus,
    Grandson of Deochain Odissus.

He was six years in slavery;
    Human food he ate it not.
    Cothraige he was called,
    For as slave he served four families.

Victor said to Milcho's slave:
    "Go thou over the sea:"
    He placed his foot upon the stone:
    Its trace remains, it wears not away.

He sent him across all the Alps;
    Over the sea marvellous was his course,
    Until he stayed with Germanus in the south,
    In southern Letha.

In the islands of the Tyrrhene Sea he stayed;
    Therein he meditated:
    He read the canon with Germanus:
    It is this that history relates.

To Ireland he was brought back
    In visions by the angels of God:
    Often was he in vision
    Solicited to return thither again.

Salvation to Ireland
    Was the coming of Patrick to Fochlaidh;
    Afar was heard the sound
    Of the call of the youths of Caill-Fochladh.

They prayed that the saint would come,
    That he would return from Letha,
    To convert the people of Erin
    From error to life.
 
The Tuatha of Erin were prophesying
    That a new kingdom of faith would come,
    That it would last for evermore:
    The land of Tara would be waste and silent.

The druids of Loegaire concealed not from him
    The coming of Patrick;
    Their prophecy was verified
    As to the kingdom of which they spoke.

Patrick walked in piety till his death:
    He was powerful in the extirpation of sin:
    He raised his hands in blessing
    Upon the tribes of men.

Hymns, and the Apocalypse, and the thrice fifty
    He was wont to sing;
    He preached, baptized and prayed;
    From the praise of God he ceased not.

The cold of the weather deterred him not
    From passing the night in ponds:
    By heaven his kingdom was protected;
    He preached by day on the hills.

In Slan, in the territory of Benna-Bairche,
    Hunger or thirst possessed him not.
    Each night he sang a hundred psalms,
    To adore the King of angels.

He slept on a bare stone,
    And a wet sack-cloth around him;
    A bare rock was his pillow;
    He allowed not his body to be in warmth.

He preached the Gospel to all;
    He wrought great miracles in Letha;
    He healed the lame and the lepers;
    The dead he restored to life.

Patrick preached to the Scoti:
    He endured great toil in Letha:
    With him will come to judgment
    Everyone whom he brought to the life of Faith.

The sons of Emer, the sons of Eremon,
    All went to Cisal,
    To the abode of Satan
    They were swallowed up in the deep abyss,

Until the apostle came to them: 
    He came despite the raging tempests:
    He preached, for three-score years,
    The cross of Christ to the tribes of Feni.

On the land of Erin there was darkness;
    The Tuatha adored the sidhi;
    They believed not
    In the true Deity of the true Trinity.

In Armagh there is sovereignty;
    It is long since Emain passed away;
    A great church is Dun-Lethglasse;
    I wish not that Tara should be a desert.

Patrick, when he was in sickness,
    Desired to go to Armagh:
    An angel went to meet him on the road
    In the middle of the day.

Patrick came southwards towards Victor;
    He it was that went to meet him;
    The bush in which Victor was, was in a blaze;
    From the flame (the angel) spoke.

He said:  Thy dignity (shall be) at Armagh;
    Return thanks to Christ;
   To heaven thou shalt come;
    Thy prayer is granted thee.

The hymn which thou chosest in life
    Shall be corselet of protection to all.
    Around thee on the Day of Judgment
    The men of Erin will come for judgment.

Tassach remaineth after him (in Sabhall),
    Having given the communion to him:
    He said that Patrick would return: 
    The word of Tassach was not false.

He (St. Patrick) put an end to night;
    Light ceased not with him:
    To a years' end there was radiance;
    It was a long day of peace.

At the battle fought around Beth-horon
    Against the Canaanites by the son of Nun,
    The sun stood still at Gaboan;
    That it is that the Scripture tells us.

The sun lasted with Josue unto the death of the wicked:
    This indeed was befitting;
    It was more befitting that there should be radiance
    At the death of the saints.

The clergy of Erin went from every part
   To watch around Patrick;
   The sound of harmony fell upon them,
   So that they slept enchanted on the way.

Patrick's body from his soul
     Was severed after pains;
     The angels of God on the first night
     Kept choir around it unceasingly.

When Patrick departed (from life)
     He went to visit the other Patrick;
     Together they ascended
     To Jesus, Son of Mary.

Patrick, without arrogance or pride,
     Great was the good which he proposed to himself,
     To be in the service of Mary's Son;
    Happy the hour in which Patrick was born.