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- The Legends of Saint Patrick - 3/30 -


great character had been built on the foundations of a devout childhood, and of a youth ennobled by adversity. Everywhere we trace the might and the sweetness which belonged to it, the versatile mind yet the simple heart, the varying tact yet the fixed resolve, the large design taking counsel for all, yet the minute solicitude for each, the fiery zeal yet the genial temper, the skill in using means yet the reliance on God alone, the readiness in action with the willingness to wait, the habitual self-possession yet the outbursts of an inspiration which raised him above himself, the abiding consciousness of authority--an authority in him, but not of him--and yet the ever-present humility. Above all, there burned in him that boundless love, which seems the main constituent of the Apostolic character. It was love for God; but it was love for man also, an impassioned love, and a parental compassion. It was not for the spiritual weal alone of man that he thirsted. Wrong and injustice to the poor he resented as an injury to God. His vehement love for the poor is illustrated by his "Epistle to Coroticus," reproaching him with his cruelty, as well as by his denunciations of slavery, which piracy had introduced into parts of Ireland. No wonder that such a character should have exercised a talismanic power over the ardent and sensitive race among whom he laboured, a race "easy to be drawn, but impossible to be driven," and drawn more by sympathy than even by benefits. That character can only be understood by one who studies, and in a right spirit, that account of his life which he bequeathed to us shortly before its close--the "Confession of Saint Patrick." The last poem in this series embodies its most characteristic portions, including the visions which it records.

The "Tripartite Life" thus ends: --"After these great miracles, therefore, after resuscitating the dead, after healing lepers, and the blind, and the deaf, and the lame, and all diseases; after ordaining bishops, and priests, and deacons, and people of all orders in the Church; after teaching the men of Erin, and after baptising them; after founding churches and monasteries; after destroying idols and images and Druidical arts, the hour of death of Saint Patrick approached. He received the body of Christ from the Bishop Tassach, according to the counsel of the Angel Victor. He resigned his spirit afterwards to Heaven, in the one hundred and twentieth year of his age. His body is still here in the earth, with honour and reverence. Though great his honour here, greater honour will be to him in the Day of Judgment, when judgment will be given on the fruit of his teaching, as of every great Apostle, in the union of the Apostles and Disciples of Jesus; in the union of the Nine Orders of Angels, which cannot be surpassed; in the union of the Divinity and Humanity of the Son of God; in the union, which is higher than all unions, of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost." A. DE VERE.

THE LEGENDS OF SAINT PATRICK.

THE BAPTISM OF ST. PATRICK.

"How can the babe baptised be Where font is none and water none?" Thus wept the nurse on bended knee, And swayed the Infant in the sun.

"The blind priest took that Infant's hand: With that small hand, above the ground He signed the Cross. At God's command A fountain rose with brimming bound.

"In that pure wave from Adam's sin The blind priest cleansed the Babe with awe; Then, reverently, he washed therein His old, unseeing face, and saw!

"He saw the earth; he saw the skies, And that all-wondrous Child decreed A pagan nation to baptise, To give the Gentiles light indeed."

Thus Secknall sang. Far off and nigh The clansmen shouted loud and long; While every mother tossed more high Her babe, and glorying joined the song.

THE DISBELIEF OF MILCHO, OR, SAINT PATRICK'S ONE FAILURE.

ARGUMENT.

Fame of St. Patrick goes ever before him, and men of goodwill believe gladly; but Milcho, a mighty merchant, and one given wholly to pride and greed, wills to disbelieve. St. Patrick sends him greeting and gifts; but he, discovering that the prophet welcomed by all had once been his slave, hates him the more. Notwithstanding, he fears that when that prophet arrives, he, too, may be forced to believe, though against his will. He resolves to set fire to his castle and all his wealth, and make new fortunes in far lands. The doom of Milcho, who willed to disbelieve.

When now at Imber Dea that precious bark Freighted with Erin's future, touched the sands Just where a river, through a woody vale Curving, with duskier current clave the sea, Patrick, the Island's great inheritor, His perilous voyage past, stept forth and knelt And blessed his God. The peace of those green meads Cradled 'twixt purple hills and purple deep, Seemed as the peace of heaven. The sun had set; But still those summits twinned, the "Golden Spears," Laughed with his latest beam. The hours went by: The brethren paced the shore or musing sat, But still their Patriarch knelt and still gave thanks For all the marvellous chances of his life Since those his earlier years when, slave new-trapped, He comforted on hills of Dalaraide His hungry heart with God, and, cleansed by pain, In exile found the spirit's native land. Eve deepened into night, and still he prayed: The clear cold stars had crowned the azure vault; And, risen at midnight from dark seas, the moon Had quenched those stars, yet Patrick still prayed on: Till from the river murmuring in the vale, Far off, and from the morning airs close by That shook the alders by the river's mouth, And from his own deep heart a voice there came, "Ere yet thou fling'st God's bounty on this land There is a debt to cancel. Where is he, Thy five years' lord that scourged thee for his swine? Alas that wintry face! Alas that heart Joyless since earliest youth! To him reveal it! To him declare that God who Man became To raise man's fall'n estate, as though a man, All faculties of man unmerged, undimmed, Had changed to worm and died the prey of worms, That so the mole might see!"

Thus Patrick mused Not ignorant that from low beginnings rise Oftenest the works of greatness; yet of this Unweeting, that his failure, one and sole Through all his more than mortal course, even now Before that low beginning's threshold lay, Betwixt it and that Promised Land beyond A bar of scandal stretched. Not otherwise Might whatsoe'er was mortal in his strength Dying, put on the immortal.

With the morn Deep sleep descended on him. Waking soon, He rose a man of might, and in that might Laboured; and God His servant's toil revered; And gladly on that coast Erin to Christ Paid her firstfruits. Three days he preached his Lord: The fourth embarking, cape succeeding cape They passed, and heard the lowing herds remote In hollow glens, and smelt the balmy breath Of gorse on golden hillsides; till at eve, The Imber Domnand reached, on silver sands Grated their keel. Around them flocked at dawn Warriors with hunters mixed, and shepherd youths And maids with lips as red as mountain berries And eyes like sloes, or keener eyes, dark-fringed And gleaming like the blue-black spear. They came With milk-pail, and with kid, and kindled fire And spread the genial board. Upon that shore Full many knelt and gave themselves to Christ, Strong men, and men at midmost of their hopes By sickness felled; old chiefs, at life's dim close That oft had asked, "Beyond the grave what hope?" Worn sailors weary of the toilsome seas, And craving rest; they, too, that sex which wears The blended crowns of Chastity and Love; Wondering, they hailed the Maiden-Motherhood; And listening children praised the Babe Divine, And passed Him, each to each.

Ere long, once more Their sails were spread. Again by grassy marge They rowed, and sylvan glades. The branching deer Like flying gleams went by them. Oft the cry Of fighting clans rang out: but oftener yet Clamour of rural dance, or mart confused With many-coloured garb and movements swift, Pageant sun-bright: or on the sands a throng Girdled with circle glad some bard whose song Shook the wild clan as tempest shakes the woods. Still north the wanderers sailed: at evening, mists Cumbered the shore and on them leaned the blast, And fierce rain flashed mingling with dim-lit sea. All night they toiled; next day at noon they kenned A seaward stream that shone like golden tress Severed and random-thrown. That river's mouth Ere long attained was all with lilies white As April field with daisies. Entering there They reached a wood, and disembarked with joy: There, after thanks to God, silent they sat In thought, and watched the ripples, dusk yet bright,


The Legends of Saint Patrick - 3/30

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