Blessed Patrick of the Bells

Book Three of A Book of Saints and Wonders Put Down Here according to the Old Writings and the Memory of the People of Ireland [1906] by Lady Gregory Isabella Augusta, Lady Gregory (15 March 1852–22 May 1932), née Isabella Augusta Persse, was an Irish dramatist and folklorist. With William Butler Yeats and others, she co-founded the Irish Literary Theatre and the Abbey Theatre, and wrote numerous short works for both companies. Lady Gregory produced a number of books of retellings of stories taken from Irish mythology.

The Four Households

There were many great saints among the Gael, but Patrick was the bush among them all. It was beyond the sea he was born, and his mother was a sister of Saint Martin of Tours; and he dreamed in Rome, and walked all Ireland barefoot. It was in his young youth he was brought from France to Ireland as a slave, and he was to set to serve four households, and he did his work so well that every one of the households thought him to be servant to itself alone and it was by an angel the ashes used to be cleared away from the hearth for him.

He gets his Freedom

He was sent out after a while minding swine & he went through great hardships; but Victor the angel used to come to visit him and to teach him the order of prayer. And he had no way to buy his freedom, but one time a wild boar came rooting in the field, and brought up a lump of gold; and Patrick brought it to a tinker and the tinker said “It is nothing but solder, give it here to me.” But then he brought it to a smith, and the smith told him it was gold and with that gold he brought his freedom. And from that time the smiths have been lucky, taking money every day and never without work; but as for the tinkers, every man’s face is against them and their face is against every man, and they get no ease or rest, but are ever and always travelling the world.

The Man and Woman that were always Young

After that he went out to sea with foreigners and he went back to his own country, and his people asked him to stop there with them. But he would not; for always in his sleep he could see the island of the Gael, and he could hear the singing of the children of the Wood of Fochlad. He went over the sea of Icht then, and he fasted in the islands of the Torrian sea, and then he went to learn from Germanus, and after that again to Rome. And then he and his people went out to sea, nine in all, and they came to an island where they saw a new house, and a young man and a young woman in it; and they saw a withered old hag by the door of the house. “What happened this old woman?” said Patrick. “It is great her weakness is” “She is my own grandchild, old as she is,” said the young man. “What way did that happen?” said Patrick. “It is not hard to say that” said the young man; “For we are here from the time of Christ” he said “and he came to visit us when he was here among men, and we made a feast for him and he blessed our house and be blessed ourselves, but the blessing did not reach to our children. And this is the way we will be, without age coming upon us, to the Judgement. And it is a long time your coming is foretold to us” be said “and it is the will of God for you to go and to preach in the country of the Gael; and Christ left a token with us, a bent staff to be given to you.”

Patrick goes back to Ireland

Patrick took the staff with him then & went back to Germanus. And Victor the angel came and said to him “It was God’s bidding to you to go back and to teach in the country of the Gael.” But Patrick was not willing to go and he complained to God of the hardheartedness of the Gad. And God said “I myself will be your helper.” Then Patrick went back to Rome and he was made a bishop, and when they were making a bishop of him the three quires answered to them, the quire of the people of Heaven, the quire of the Romans and the quire of the children of the Wood of Fochlad. It was in the east of Ireland he landed, at Inis Patrick; and three times before that the druids had foretold his coming, and it is what they said, “Adzeheads will come over an angry sea; their cloaks hole-headed; their staves crooked; their tables to the east of their houses; they will all answer Amen.” At the time he landed it was the feast of Beltaine, and on that day every year the High King lighted a fire in Teamhuir, and there was geasa, that is a bond, upon the men of Ireland not to kindle a fire in any place before the kindling of that fire in Teamhuir. Patrick, now, struck the flame of the Paschal fire, and all the people saw it and it lighted up the whole of Magh Breg. “That is a breaking of bonds” said the king to his druids; “and find out for me” he said “who was it kindled that fire.” And it is what the druids said, “Unless that fire is quenched before morning in the same night it was kindled, it will never be quenched.” And when the fire was not quenched in that night, there was great anger on the king.

The Deer’s Cry

Patrick made this hymn one time he was going to preach the Faith at Teamhuir, and his enemies lay in hiding to make an attack on him as he passed. But as he himself and Benen his servant went by, all they could see passing was a wild deer and a fawn. And the Deer’s Cry is the name of the hymn to this day. [….]

Patrick and the Big Men

It is often told by the people of Ireland how Oisin, son of Finn, came back to Ireland in the time of Patrick; and the poets of Ireland have put into verses the arguments they used to be having with one another. And there are some say Caoilte of the Fianna and a troop of his people were m Ireland at that same tune; and whether or not that story is true, this is the way the meeting between himself and Patrick is put down in the old writings.

Patrick was one time singing the Mass at the Rath of the Red Ridge where Finn, son of Cumhal, used to be, and his clerks were with him. And the clerks saw Caoilte and his people coming towards them, and fear and terror fell on them before the great men and the great hounds that were with them; for they were not of the one time with themselves. It is then there rose up that high herdsman, that angel of the earth, Patrick son of Calpurn, Apostle of the Gael, and sprinkled holy water upon the big men, and with that every bad thing that was about them made away into the hills and the scalps and the borders of the country on every side, and the big men sat down. And there was great wonder on the clerks as they looked at them, for the tallest of themselves reached but to their waist or to their shoulders, and they sitting. “What name have you?” said Patrick then. “I am Caoilte, son of Ronan of the Fianna.” “Was it not a good lord you were with” said Patrick “that is Finn, son of Cumhal?” And Caoilte said “If the brown leaves falling in the woods were gold, if the waves of the sea were silver, Finn would have given away the whole of it.” “What was it kept you through your lifetime?” said Patrick. “Truth that was in our hearts, and strength in our hands, and fulfilment in our tongues” said Caoilte. Then Patrick gave them food and drink and good treatment and talked with them. And on the morning of the morrow his two protecting angels came to him out on the green, and he asked them was it any harm before the King of Heaven and earth, for him to be listening to the stories of the Fianna. And it is what the angels answered him: “Holy Clerk” they said “it is no more than a third of their stories these old fighting-men can tell, by reason of forgetfulness and their memory that fails them; but whatever they tell, let you write it down on poet’s boards and in the words of poets, for it will be a diversion to the companies and the high people of the latter times to be listening to them.” And Patrick did as they bade him, and he bade Brogan the scribe to write down all the stories told by Caoilte; and Brogan did that, and they are in the world to this day.

The Hidden Well of Usnach

One time Diarmuid king of Ireland was with Patrick on the Hill of Usnach, and there was no water to be had; and one of the big men of the Fianna, it might have been Caoilte and it might have been Oisin, asked for a vessel that he might go and get it. And as he went he was looking back to see were they watching him, and when he was out of their sight he went to the Well of Usnach that was called the Whitebrimmed, and since the time of the battle of Gabra it had never been found by any man in Ireland. And when he came to the brink of the well he saw in it eight beautiful speckled salmon, for it was such a hidden place there was nothing for them to be in dread of. He took then eight sprigs of watercress and eight of brook-lime, and he put down the vessel into the well and he took the eight salmon alive and leaping like mad things. And then he went back and set the vessel before the King of Ireland, and there was wonder on them all seeing that; and the stalk of every one of the sprigs of the watercress reached as high as Diarmuid’s knee. “They must be divided into two shares” he said “a half to Patrick and a half ourselves.” “Not so” said Patrick “for there are more of you than of ourselves. But make three parts” he said “and give one to the church for that is her own share;” and so it was done. “That is well, King of Ireland” he said then “but do not lose your share in heaven through these big men.” “What do you mean saying that?” said Diarmuid. “I mean that you have your thoughts too much taken up with them” said Patrick.