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- The Legends of Saint Patrick - 4/30 -

That lived and died like things that laughed at time, On gliding 'neath those many-centuried boughs. But, midmost, Patrick slept. Then through the trees, Shy as a fawn half-tamed now stole, now fled A boy of such bright aspect faery child He seemed, or babe exposed of royal race: At last assured beside the Saint he stood, And dropped on him a flower, and disappeared: Thus flower on flower from the great wood he brought And hid them in the bosom of the Saint. The monks forbade him, saying, "Lest thou wake The master from his sleep." But Patrick woke, And saw the boy, and said, "Forbid him not; The heir of all my kingdom is this child." Then spake the brethren, "Wilt thou walk with us?" And he, "I will:" and so for his sweet face They called his name Benignus: and the boy Thenceforth was Christ's. Beneath his parent's roof At night they housed. Nowhere that child would sleep Except at Patrick's feet. Till Patrick's death Unchanged to him he clave, and after reigned The second at Ardmacha.

Day by day They held their course; ere long the hills of Mourne Loomed through sea-mist: Ulidian summits next Before them rose: but nearer at their left Inland with westward channel wound the wave Changed to sea-lake. Nine miles with chant and hymn They tracked the gold path of the sinking sun; Then southward ran 'twixt headland and green isle And landed. Dewy pastures sunset-dazed, At leisure paced by mild-eyed milk-white kine Smiled them a welcome. Onward moved in sight Swiftly, with shadow far before him cast, Dichu, that region's lord, a martial man And merry, and a speaker of the truth. Pirates he deemed them first and toward them faced With wolf-hounds twain that watched their master's eye To spring, or not to spring. The imperious face Forbidding not, they sprang; but Patrick raised His hand, and stone-like crouched they chained and still: Then, Dichu onward striding fierce, the Saint Between them signed the Cross; and lo, the sword Froze in his hand, and Dichu stood like stone. The amazement past, he prayed the man of God To grace his house; and, side by side, a mile They clomb the hills. Ascending, Patrick turned, His heart with prescience filled. Beneath, there lay A gleaming strait; beyond, a dim vast plain With many an inlet pierced: a golden marge Girdled the water-tongues with flag and reed; But, farther off, a gentle sea-mist changed The fair green flats to purple. "Night comes on;" Thus Dichu spake, and waited. Patrick then Advanced once more, and Sabhall soon was reached, A castle half, half barn. There garnered lay Much grain, and sun-imbrowned: and Patrick said, "Here where the earthly grain was stored for man The bread of angels man shall eat one day." And Patrick loved that place, and Patrick said, "King Dichu, give thou to the poor that grain, To Christ, our Lord, thy barn." The strong man stood In doubt; but prayers of little orphaned babes Reared by his hand, went up for him that hour: Therefore that barn he ceded, and to Christ By Patrick was baptised. Where lay the corn A convent later rose. There dwelt he oft; And 'neath its roof more late the stranger sat, Exile, or kingdom-wearied king, or bard, That haply blind in age, yet tempest-rocked By memories of departed glories, drew With gradual influx into his old heart Solace of Christian hope.

With Dichu bode Patrick somewhile, intent from him to learn The inmost of that people. Oft they spake Of Milcho. "Once his thrall, against my will In earthly things I served him: for his soul Needs therefore must I labour. Hard was he; Unlike those hearts to which God's Truth makes way Like message from a mother in her grave: Yet what I can I must. Not heaven itself Can force belief; for Faith is still good will." Dichu laughed aloud: "Good will! Milcho's good will Neither to others, nor himself, good will Hath Milcho! Fireless sits he, winter through, The logs beside his hearth: and as on them Glimmers the rime, so glimmers on his face The smile. Convert him! Better thrice to hang him! Baptise him! He will film your font with ice! The cold of Milcho's heart has winter-nipt That glen he dwells in! From the sea it slopes Unfinished, savage, like some nightmare dream, Raked by an endless east wind of its own. On wolf's milk was he suckled not on woman's! To Milcho speed! Of Milcho claim belief! Milcho will shrivel his small eye and say He scorns to trust himself his father's son, Nor deems his lands his own by right of race But clutched by stress of brain! Old Milcho's God Is gold. Forbear him, sir, or ere you seek him Make smooth your way with gold."

Thus Dichu spake; And Patrick, after musings long, replied: "Faith is no gift that gold begets or feeds, Oftener by gold extinguished. Unto God, Unbribed, unpurchased, yearns the soul of man; Yet finds perforce in God its great reward. Not less this Milcho deems I did him wrong, His slave, yet fleeing. To requite that loss Gifts will I send him first by messengers Ere yet I see his face."

Then Patrick sent His messengers to Milcho, speaking thus: "If ill befell thy herds through flight of mine Fourfold that loss requite I, lest, for hate Of me, thou disesteem my Master's Word. Likewise I sue thy friendship; and I come In few days' space, with gift of other gold Than earth concedes, the Tidings of that God Who made all worlds, and late His Face hath shown, Sun-like to man. But thou, rejoice in hope!"

Thus Patrick, once by man advised in part, Though wont to counsel with his God alone.

Meantime full many a rumour vague had vexed Milcho much musing. He had dealings large And distant. Died a chief? He sent and bought The widow's all; or sold on foodless shores For usury the leanest of his kine. Meantime, his dark ships and the populous quays With news still murmured. First from Imber Dea Came whispers how a sage had landed late, And how when Nathi fain had barred his way, Nathi that spurned Palladius from the land, That sage with levelled eyes, and kingly front Had from his presence driven him with a ban Cur-like and craven; how on bended knee Sinell believed, the royal man well-loved Descending from the judgment-seat with joy: And how when fishers spurned his brethren's quest For needful food, that sage had raised his rod, And all the silver harvest of blue streams Lay black in nets and sand. His wrinkled brow Wrinkling yet more, thus Milcho answer made: "Deceived are those that will to be deceived: This knave has heard of gold in river-beds, And comes a deft sand-groper; let him come! He'll toil ten years ere gold enough he finds To make a crooked torque."

From Tara next The news: "Laeghaire, the King, sits close in cloud Of sullen thought, or storms from court to court, Because the chiefest of the Druid race Locru, and Luchat prophesied long since That one day from the sea a Priest would come With Doctrine and a Rite, and dash to earth Idols, and hurl great monarchs from their thrones; And lo! At Imber Boindi late there stept A priest from roaring waves with Creed and Rite, And men before him bow." Then Milcho spake: "Not flesh enough from thy strong bones, Laeghaire, These Druids, ravens of the woods, have plucked, But they must pluck thine eyes! Ah priestly race, I loathe ye! 'Twixt the people and their King Ever ye rub a sore!" Last came a voice: "This day in Eire thy saying is fulfilled, Conn of the 'Hundred Battles,' from thy throne Leaping long since, and crying, 'O'er the sea The Prophet cometh, princes in his train, Bearing for regal sceptres bended staffs, Which from the land's high places, cliff and peak, Shall drag the fair flowers down!'" Scoffing he heard: "Conn of the 'Hundred Battles!' Had he sent His hundred thousand kernes to yonder steep And rolled its boulders down, and built a mole To fence my laden ships from spring-tide surge, Far kinglier pattern had he shown, and given More solace to the land."

He rose and turned With sideway leer; and printing with vague step Irregular the shining sands, on strode Toward his cold home, alone; and saw by chance A little bird light-perched, that, being sick, Plucked from the fissured sea-cliff grains of sand; And, noting, said, "O bird, when beak of thine From base to crown hath gorged this huge sea-wall, Then shall that man of Creed and Rite make null The strong rock of my will!" Thus Milcho spake, Feigning the peace not his.

The Legends of Saint Patrick - 4/30

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