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- The Legends of Saint Patrick - 1/30 -


THE LEGENDS OF SAINT PATRICK BY AUBREY DE VERE, LL.D.

CONTENTS.

INTRODUCTION BY HENRY MORLEY.

SAINT PATRICK--FROM "ENGLISH WRITERS," BY HENRY MORLEY.

PREFACE BY THE AUTHOR.

POEMS:- THE BAPTISM OF SAINT PATRICK. THE DISBELIEF OF MILCHO. SAINT PATRICK AT TARA. SAINT PATRICK AND THE TWO PRINCESSES. SAINT PATRICK AND THE CHILDREN OF FOCHLUT WOOD. SAINT PATRICK AND KING LAEGHAIRE. SAINT PATRICK AND THE IMPOSTOR. SAINT PATRICK AT CASHEL. SAINT PATRICK AND THE CHILDLESS MOTHER. SAINT PATRICK AT THE FEAST OF KNOCK CAE. SAINT PATRICK AND KING EOCHAID. SAINT PATRICK AND THE FOUNDING OF ARMAGH CATHEDRAL. THE ARRAIGNMENT OF SAINT PATRICK. THE STRIVING OF SAINT PATRICK ON MOUNT CRUACHAN. EPILOGUE. THE CONFESSION OF SAINT PATRICK.

INTRODUCTION BY HENRY MORLEY.

Once more our readers are indebted to a living poet for wide circulation of a volume of delightful verse. The name of Aubrey de Vere is the more pleasantly familiar because its association with our highest literature has descended from father to son. In 1822, sixty-seven years ago, Sir Aubrey de Vere, of Curragh Chase, by Adare, in the county of Limerick--then thirty-four years old--first made his mark with a dramatic poem upon "Julian the Apostate." In 1842 Sir Aubrey published Sonnets, which his friend Wordsworth described as "the most perfect of our age;" and in the year of his death he completed a dramatic poem upon "Mary Tudor," published in the next year, 1847, with the "Lamentation of Ireland, and other Poems." Sir Aubrey de Vere's "Mary Tudor" should be read by all who have read Tennyson's play on the same subject.

The gift of genius passed from Sir Aubrey to his third son, Aubrey Thomas de Vere, who was born in 1814, and through a long life has put into music only noble thoughts associated with the love of God and man, and of his native land. His first work, published forty- seven years ago, was a lyrical piece, in which he gave his sympathy to devout and persecuted men whose ways of thought were not his own. Aubrey de Vere's poems have been from time to time revised by himself, and they were in 1884 finally collected into three volumes, published by Messrs. Kegan Paul. Left free to choose from among their various contents, I have taken this little book of "Legends of St. Patrick," first published in 1872, but in so doing I have unwillingly left many a piece that would please many a reader.

They are not, however, inaccessible. Of the three volumes of collected works, each may be had separately, and is complete in itself. The first contains "The Search after Proserpine, and other Poems--Classical and Meditative." The second contains the "Legends of St. Patrick, and Legends of Ireland's Heroic Age," including a version of the "Tain Bo." The third contains two plays, "Alexander the Great," "St. Thomas of Canterbury," and other Poems.

For the convenience of some readers, the following extract from the second volume of my "English Writers," may serve as a prosaic summary of what is actually known about St. Patrick. H. M.

ST. PATRICK.

FROM "ENGLISH WRITERS."

The birth of St. Patrick, Apostle and Saint of Ireland, has been generally placed in the latter half of the fourth century; and he is said to have died at the age of a hundred and twenty. As he died in the year 493--and we may admit that he was then a very old man--if we may say that he reached the age of eighty-eight, we place his birth in the year 405. We may reasonably believe, therefore, that he was born in the early part of the fifth century. His birthplace, now known as Kilpatrick, was at the junction of the Levin with the Clyde, in what is now the county of Dumbarton. His baptismal name was Succath. His father was Calphurnius, a deacon, son of Potitus, who was a priest. His mother's name was Conchessa, whose family may have belonged to Gaul, and who may thus have been, as it is said she was, of the kindred of St. Martin of Tours; for there is a tradition that she was with Calphurnius as a slave before he married her. Since Eusebius spoke of three bishops from Britain at the Council of Arles, Succath, known afterwards in missionary life by his name in religion, Patricius (pater civium), might very reasonably be a deacon's son.

In his early years Succath was at home by the Clyde, and he speaks of himself as not having been obedient to the teaching of the clergy. When he was sixteen years old he, with two of his sisters and other of his countrymen, was seized by a band of Irish pirates that made descent on the shore of the Clyde and carried him off to slavery. His sisters were taken to another part of the island, and he was sold to Milcho MacCuboin in the north, whom he served for six or seven years, so learning to speak the language of the country, while keeping his master's sheep by the Mountain of Slieve Miss. Thoughts of home and of its Christian life made the youth feel the heathenism that was about him; his exile seemed to him a punishment for boyish indifference; and during the years when young enthusiasm looks out upon life with new sense of a man's power--growing for man's work that is to do--Succath became filled with religious zeal.

Three Latin pieces are ascribed to St. Patrick: a "Confession," which is in the Book of Armagh, and in three other manuscripts; {10a} a letter to Coroticus, and a few "Dieta Patricii," which are also in the Book of Armagh. {10b} There is no strong reason for questioning the authenticity of the "Confession," which is in unpolished Latin, the writer calling himself "indoctus, rusticissimus, imperitus," and it is full of a deep religious feeling. It is concerned rather with the inner than the outer life, but includes references to the early days of trial by which Succath's whole heart was turned to God. He says, "After I came into Ireland I pastured sheep daily, and prayed many times a day. The love and fear of God, and faith and spirit, wrought in me more and more, so that in one day I reached to a hundred prayers, and in the night almost as many, and stayed in the woods and on the mountains, and was urged to prayer before the dawn, in snow, in frost, in rain, and took no harm, nor, I think, was there any sloth in me. And there one night I heard a voice in a dream saying to me, 'Thou hast well fasted; thou shalt go back soon to thine own land;' and again after a little while, 'Behold! thy ship is ready.'" In all this there is the passionate longing of an ardent mind for home and Heaven.

At the age of twenty-two Succath fled from his slavery to a vessel of which the master first refused and finally consented to take him on board. He and the sailors were then cast by a storm upon a desert shore of Britain, possibly upon some region laid waste by ravages from over sea. Having at last made his way back, by a sea passage, to his home on the Clyde, Succath was after a time captured again, but remained captive only for two months, and went back home. Then the zeal for his Master's service made him feel like the Seafarer in the Anglo-Saxon poem; and all the traditions of his home would have accorded with the rise of the resolve to cross the sea, and to spread Christ's teaching in what had been the land of his captivity.

There were already centres of Christian work in Ireland, where devoted men were labouring and drew a few into their fellowship. Succath aimed at the gathering of all these scattered forces, by a movement that should carry with it the whole people. He first prepared himself by giving about four years to study of the Scriptures at Auxerre, under Germanus, and then went to Rome, under the conduct of a priest, Segetius, and probably with letters from Germanus to Pope Celestine. Whether he received his orders from the Pope seems doubtful; but the evidence is strong that Celestine sent him on his Irish mission. Succath left Rome, passed through North Italy and Gaul, till he met on his way two followers of Palladius, Augustinus and Benedictus, who told him of their master's failure, and of his death at Fordun. Succath then obtained consecration from Amathus, a neighbouring bishop, and as Patricius, went straight to Ireland. He landed near the town of Wicklow, by the estuary of the River Varty, which had been the landing-place of Palladius. In that region he was, like Palladius, opposed; but he made some conversions, and advanced with his work northward that he might reach the home of his old master, Milcho, and pay him the purchase- money of his stolen freedom. But Milcho, it is said, burnt himself and his goods rather than bear the shame of submission to the growing power of his former slave.

St. Patrick addressed the ruling classes, who could bring with them their followers, and he joined tact with his zeal; respecting ancient prejudices, opposing nothing that was not directly hostile to the spirit of Christianity, and handling skilfully the chiefs with whom he had to deal. An early convert--Dichu MacTrighim--was a chief with influential connections, who gave the ground for the religious house now known as Saul. This chief satisfied so well the inquiries of Laeghaire, son of Niall, King of Erin, concerning the stranger's movements, that St. Patrick took ship for the mouth of the Boyne, and made his way straight to the king himself. The result of his energy was that he met successfully all the opposition of those who were concerned in the maintenance of old heathen worship, and brought King Laeghaire to his side.

Then Laeghaire resolved that the old laws of the country as established by the judges, whose order was named Brehon, should be revised, and brought into accord with the new teaching. So the Brehon laws of Ireland were revised, with St. Patrick's assistance, and there were no ancient customs broken or altered, except those that could not be harmonised with Christian teaching. The good sense of St. Patrick enabled this great work to be done without offence to the people. The collection of laws thus made by the chief lawyers of the time, with the assistance of St. Patrick, is known as the "Senchus Mor," and, says an old poem -


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