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- The Legends of Saint Patrick - 6/30 -

Around him spread: the wan sea and grey rocks; And he was 'ware that on that self-same ledge He, Milcho, thirty years gone by, had stood, While pirates pushed to sea, leaving forlorn On that wild shore a scared and weeping boy, (His price two yearling kids and half a sheep) Thenceforth his slave.

Not sole he mused that hour. The Demon of his House beside him stood Upon that iron coast, and whispered thus: "Masterful man art thou for wit and strength; Yet girl-like standst thou brooding! Weave a snare! He comes for gold, this prophet. All thou hast Heap in thy house; then fire it! In far lands Build thee new fortunes. Frustrate thus shall he Stare but on stones, his destined vassal scaped."

So fell the whisper; and as one who hears And does, the stiff-necked man obsequious bent His strong will to a stronger, and returned, And gave command to heap within his house His stored up wealth--yea, all things that were his - Borne from his ships and granaries. It was done. Then filled he his huge hall with resinous beams Seasoned for far sea-voyage, and the ribs Of ocean-sundering vessels deep in sea; Which ended, to his topmost tower he clomb, And therein sat two days, with face to south, Clutching a brand; and oft through clenched teeth hissed, Hissed long, "Because I will to disbelieve." But ere the second sunset two brief hours, Where comfortless leaned forth that western ridge Long patched with whiteness by half melted snows, There crept a gradual shadow. Soon the man Discerned its import. There they hung--he saw them - That company detested; hung as when Storm-boding cloud on mountain hangs half way Scarce moving, and in fear the shepherd cries, "Would that the worse were come!" So dread to him Those Heralds of fair Peace! He gazed upon them With blood-shot eyes; a moment passed: he stood Sole in his never festal hall, and flung His lighted brand into that pile far forth, And smiled that smile men feared to see, and turned, And issuing faced the circle of his serfs That wondering gathered round in thickening mass, Eyeing that unloved House.

His place he chose Beside that blighted ash, fronting those towers Palled with red smoke, and muttered low, "So be it! Worse to be vassal to the man I hate," With hueless lips. His whole white face that hour Was scorched; and blistered was the dead tree's bark; Yet there he stood; and in that fiery light His life, no more triumphant, passed once more In underthought before him, while on spread The swift, contagious madness of that fire, And muttered thus, not knowing it, the man, "The mighty flame into itself takes all," Mechanic iteration. Not alone Stood he that hour. The Demon of his House By him once more and closer than of old, Stood, whispering thus, "Thy game is now played out; Henceforth a byword art thou--rich in youth - Self-beggared in old age." And as the wind Of that shrill whisper cut his listening soul, The blazing roof fell in on all his wealth, Hard-won, long-waited, wonder of his foes; And, loud as laughter from ten thousand fiends, Up rushed the fire. With arms outstretched he stood; Stood firm; then forward with a wild beast's cry He dashed himself into that terrible flame, And vanished as a leaf.

Upon a spur Of Sleemish, eastward on its northern slope, Stood Patrick and his brethren, travel-worn, When distant o'er the brown and billowy moor Rose the white smoke, that changed ere long to flame, From site unknown; for by the seaward crest That keep lay hidden. Hands to forehead raised, Wondering they watched it. One to other spake: "The huge Dalriad forest is afire Ere melted are the winter's snows!" Another, "In vengeance o'er the ocean Creithe or Pict, Favoured by magic, or by mist, have crossed, And fired old Milcho's ships." But Patrick leaned Upon his crosier, pale as the ashes wan Left by a burned out city. Long he stood Silent, till, sudden, fiercelier soared the flame Reddening the edges of a cloud low hung; And, after pause, vibration slow and stern Troubling the burthened bosom of the air, Upon a long surge of the northern wind Came up--a murmur as of wintry seas Far borne at night. All heard that sound; all felt it; One only know its import. Patrick turned; "The deed is done: the man I would have saved Is dead, because he willed to disbelieve."

Yet Patrick grieved for Milcho, nor that hour Passed further north. Three days on Sleemish hill He dwelt in prayer. To Tara's royal halls Then turned he, and subdued the royal house And host to Christ, save Erin's king, Laeghaire. But Milcho's daughters twain to Christ were born In baptism, and each Emeria named: Like rose-trees in the garden of the Lord Grew they and flourished. Dying young, one grave Received them at Cluanbrain. Healing thence To many from their relics passed; to more The spirit's happier healing, Love and Faith.


The King is wroth with a greater wrath Than the wrath of Nial or the wrath of Conn! From his heart to his brow the blood makes path, And hangs there, a red cloud, beneath his crown.

Is there any who knows not, from south to north, That Laeghaire to-morrow his birthday keeps? No fire may be lit upon hill or hearth Till the King's strong fire in its kingly mirth Up rushes from Tara's palace steeps!

Yet Patrick has lighted his Paschal fire At Slane--it is holy Saturday - And blessed his font 'mid the chaunting choir! From hill to hill the flame makes way; While the king looks on it his eyes with ire Flash red, like Mars, under tresses grey.

The chiefs and the captains with drawn swords rose: To avenge their Lord and the Realm they swore; The Druids rose and their garments tore; "The strangers to us and our Gods are foes!" Then the king to Patrick a herald sent, Who spake, 'Come up at noon and show Who lit thy fire and with what intent: These things the great king Laeghaire would know."

But Laeghaire had hid twelve men by the way, Who swore by the sun the Saint to slay.

When the waters of Boyne began to bask And fields to flash in the rising sun The Apostle Evangelist kept his Pasch, And Erin her grace baptismal won: Her birthday it was: his font the rock, He blessed the land, and he blessed his flock.

Then forth to Tara he fared full lowly: The Staff of Jesus was in his hand: Twelve priests paced after him chaunting slowly, Printing their steps on the dewy land. It was the Resurrection morn; The lark sang loud o'er the springing corn; The dove was heard, and the hunter's horn.

The murderers twelve stood by on the way; Yet they saw nought save the lambs at play.

A trouble lurked in the monarch's eye When the guest he counted for dead drew nigh: He sat in state at his palace gate; His chiefs and nobles were ranged around; The Druids like ravens smelt some far fate; Their eyes were gloomily bent on the ground. Then spake Laeghaire: "He comes--beware! Let none salute him, or rise from his chair!"

Like some still vision men see by night, Mitred, with eyes of serene command, Saint Patrick moved onward in ghostly white: The Staff of Jesus was in his hand; Twelve priests paced after him unafraid, And the boy, Benignus, more like a maid; Like a maid just wedded he walked and smiled, To Christ new plighted, that priestly child.

They entered the circle; their anthem ceased; The Druids their eyes bent earthward still: On Patrick's brow the glory increased As a sunrise brightening some sea-beat hill. The warriors sat silent: strange awe they felt: The chief bard, Dubtach, rose and knelt:

Then Patrick discoursed of the things to be When time gives way to eternity, Of kingdoms that fall, which are dreams not things, And the Kingdom built by the King of kings. Of Him he spake who reigns from the Cross; Of the death which is life, and the life which is loss; How all things were made by the Infant Lord, And the small hand the Magian kings adored.

The Legends of Saint Patrick - 6/30

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