THE HERMIT’S SONG (Ireland 9th C.)

See Eriu, vol. i, p. 39, where the Irish text will be found. Transcribed from A Celtic Psaltery by Alfred Perceval Graves (1917)

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.

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Filed under Bardic Poetry & Christian Verse, Celtic Miscellany

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