On the Life of St. Patrick


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front of the door of the church, and foretold that many kings over Ireland would spring from him, and many noble laymen and clerics. And of his seed are the Clann-Colmain, and the seed of Aed Slaine. And Patrick blessed the Assembly of Telltown, so that no one should ever be killed thereat, and that only one should be killed at Rath Airthir, and he left his altar at Domnach Patraic. And Patrick went from thence into the territory of Ui Meith in Mendait Tire, and he tarried not in Armagh at that season, and he left holy elders of his people at Tech-talain.

Then three of Ui Meith Mendait Tire stole (and ate) one of the two goats that used to carry water for Patrick, and came to swear a lie. It bleated from the bellies of the three. ‘My debroth’ said Patrick, ‘the goat himself hides not the stead wherein he is.’

He afterwards went to the men of Bregia and mightily preached the word of God unto them, and baptized and blessed them.

He visited the Ford of Hurdles (Dublin) and found great welcome there, and Patrick said that there would be rank and primacy in that place, even as shall be still fulfilled.

Patrick went a round of the Leinstermen, and preacheth the word of God to them, and baptized and blessed them; and the sons of Dunlaing with mighty hosts believed in the Lord and in Patrick, and they gave him his will, wherefore they have the kingship thence for ever.

Drichú was king of Ui Garrchon before Patrick, and a daughter of Loeguire, son of Niall, he had to wife. He rejecteth Patrick at Rath Inbir for Loeguire’s sake, but Cillíne welcomed him and killed his only cow for Patrick and gave him a cup which had been bestowed upon him in the king’s house. Then Patrick said to the cooking woman—

    1. O woman, cherish thy child!A great boar cometh of a piglingFrom a spark groweth a flame.Thy child shall be alive, shall be safe.
    2. The corn
      That is best of earth’s plantsIs Marcan, son of Cillíne:
      he will be the best of the Ui Garrchon.

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Patrick afterwards went into Ossory and founded churches and church-buildings there, and said there would be noble laymen and clerics of the men of Ossory, and that no province would prevail against them as long as they should obey Patrick.

Patrick afterwards bade farewell to the men of Ossory at Belach Gabrain, and he left with them Martin, an elder, and a party of his people where Martharthech is at this day in Mag Raigne.

Patrick passed afterwards by Belach Gabrain into the province of Munster, and preached to the territories and to the churches, so that they believed and were baptized, and he blessed them. And with them he left priests instructing (them) and practising piety.

When he reached Mag Femin, he was received by Oengus, son of Natfraech, King of Munster. Oengus made him great welcome and brought him to his house to Cashel. Patrick preached to him. The hinder end of the crozier went through his foot, and wounded it greatly. Patrick said, ‘Why didst thou not protect thyself?’ ‘Methought,’ saith Oengus, ‘that it was a rite of religion.’ Said Patrick, ‘Blood shall not be shed in this place from to-day till Doom, and of all those that shall succeed thee but one king shall be slain.’

Oengus is baptized with great hosts along with him. Patrick blessed Oengus upon Lia Cathraige (Cathraige’s stone), whereon the kings were appointed to office at Cashel.

Patrick blessed the Eoganacht and went to Ormond. Patrick preached to them and baptized them, and left with them blessing and prosperity. He goes the rounds of all the Munstermen, and preached to them and baptized them and blessed them, and leaves churches and clerics with them. Patrick bade them farewell and gave them a fervent blessing, ut dixit -

    1. God’s blessing on Munster, men, children, women.Blessing on the land which gives them fruit,Blessing on each wealth which is brought forth on their marchesWithout any need (?) of help. God’s blessing on Munster.
    2. Blessing on their peaks, on their bare flagstones,Blessing on their glens, blessing on their ridges,

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      Sand of sea under ships be their hearths’ number,

      On slopes, on plains, on mountains, on peaks!

Thereafter Patrick came to Armagh at the angel’s word, and he arrived at Rath Daire, the fort of Daire, a wealthy, venerable man, who was in Oriors, to wit, Daire, son of Findchad, son of Eogan, son of Niallan. He gave a site for a high church to Patrick in the stead where the Ferta is to-day.

When the building of the close was finished, and its grass grew greatly, Daire’s gillie brought his good horse into the close to the grassplot (?) This vexed Patrick greatly, and the gillie came on the morrow in the morning, and found his horse dead in the close. The gillie went away sorrowfully, and told Daire that his horse was killed by the cleric. Daire ordered the cleric himself to be killed for it, Daire died anon at that word. Said Daire’s wife, ‘The cause of this death is the wrong which he wrought against the cleric. Go quickly and give him his will.’ The messengers went to Patrick, and they told him what had happened therein. Patrick sained water and puts it over the horse and over the man, and both arise from death.

Said Daire to twain of his people, ‘Take my caldron of copper to the cleric.’ Patrick said when the caldron had come to him, ‘Gratzacham,’ that is, Deo gratias ago. Daire asked of his servants what the cleric had said. ‘Gratzacham,’ say the servants. ‘That is a good price for a copper caldron!’ saith Daire, ‘go ye and bring it back from him.’ The caldron is brought back from Patrick. ‘Gratzacham,’ saith Patrick. Daire asked of the servants what Patrick said at the taking away of the caldron from him. ‘The same gratzacham,’ say they. ‘The word is a good one with him,’ saith Daire, ‘the gratzacham on taking it from him and the gratzacham in giving it to him.’

Daire himself went with his caldron, and gave Patrick his will, bestowing on him the stead wherein Armagh is at this day (now Ard Sailech had been its name till then), and Daire afterwards went round the land.

On the night thereafter Patrick beheld in a vision Victor, an angel, coming to him with Ireland’s elders along with him, and they marked out the city in his presence, and the place of the temple and of the kitchen and of the guest-house, and he went right-hand-wise round the rampart, and Patrick behind him with his bachaill Ísu—Jesu’s crozier—in his hand, and Ireland’s elders chanting around him.

Patrick afterwards built the city in the same wise as it had appeared to him. And the angel said to him: ‘Abundant


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will God’s grace be in this place and upon every one who will do good therein.’ The angel said to Patrick, ‘God will heal for thee here twelve persons every Saturday and seven every Thursday, so long as their perfect faith of the people abideth.’

Overmany to recount and declare are all the wonders and miracles which Patrick wrought around Armagh.

Thereafter Patrick went to Rome for the third time, and he brought relics of Paul and Peter and Stephen and Lawrence and many martyrs besides, and reliquaries and books and a sheet with Christ’s blood thereon, and they were laid up here by Patrick in Paul and Peter’s shrine.

Thereafter Patrick gat him into the wilderness, that is, to Cruachan Oigle, after the manner of Moses and Elias and Christ, and for forty days and forty nights he fasted in that place, having four stones about him and a stone under him, even as Moses fasted on Mount Sinai when the Law was delivered unto him. For they, Moses and Patrick, were alike in many ways. One hundred and twenty years was the age of them both. Each was a leader of people: forty nights on mountains they fasted, and the burial-places of both are uncertain.

Now when [the solemn festival of] Easter was at hand, the mountain was filled against him with devils in the shapes of black birds. Patrick sings psalms of cursing against them, and he weeps and strikes his bell, until a gap broke in it, ut dixit Patricius -

    1. I fear go to the round (?) Rick:
      bands without piety (are) against me,Fear has seized me for a time,ten hundred heads (are) contending with me.

The devils flee at once upon the sea, as far as eye can reach, and drown themselves in that place, and no devil visited the land of Ireland from that time to the end of seven days and seven months and seven years.

Then there came a great host of angels in the shapes of white birds, and they sang noble music to the Lord to comfort Patrick. Some say that it is an equal number he will take with him to heaven.

Then the angel Victor said to him, ‘Go to thy people for the solemn festival of Easter.’ Patrick said, ‘Since I was tormented,


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I will not go till I am satisfied, and until seven things are given to me by the Lord, namely, that at Doomsday hell be not shut upon whichsoever of the men of Ireland repenteth before death, were it even for the space of a single hour; that outlanders may not inhabit this island; that the sea may come over it seven years before Doomsday; that seven persons every Thursday and twelve every Saturday I may free from the pains of hell; that whoever shall sing my hymn on the day of his death may be a dweller in heaven, as I promised unto Sechnall; and that on Doomsday I may bring from the pains of hell for every hair of my chasuble, seven of those that shall visit it; and that I myself may be judge over the men of Ireland on Doomsday.’ ‘All this shall be granted to thee.’ said the angel ‘for all the family of heaven have besought Him for thee’ ‘A blessing upon the King [of heaven],’ said Patrick, ‘and upon the family [of heaven].’

Patrick struck his bell, so that all the men of Ireland, both living and dead, heard it. Thereafter he blessed the men of Ireland from the Rick, and he orders seven of his household (who are still) alive to guard the men of Ireland, to wit, a man at Cruachan Aigle, and a man at Benn Gulbain, and a man in Sliab Bethad, and a man in Sliab Cua, and the married pair at Cluain Iraird and Domangort of Sliab Slangai.

He went from the Rick thereafter, and celebrated Easter at Achad Fobair.

Patrick and Brigit along with him went to Essruaid, and he was minded to erect a church and a holy dwelling there at a place wherein to-day is Disert Patraic. Cairbre, son of Niall, rejected him, and he sent two of his people to cast him forth, Carbaic and Cuangus (were) their names. ‘What thou hast done is not good,’ said Patrick; ‘hadst thou permitted me to settle here, my city, with its [river of] Essruaid through the middle thereof, would have been a second Rome of Latium with its Tiber flowing through it and thy descendants would have been (my) successors therein.’ But Coirpre refused that. Now Patrick blessed Conall, son


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of Niall, on Síth Aeda. Then Patrick’s hands were falling on the head of Fergus, and Conall had wonder thereat, ut dixit Patricius -

    1. A man-child shall be born of his family:He will be a sage, a prophet, a poet.Dear the luminary, pure, bright,Who will never utter falsehood.

Saith Brigit -

    1. Man-child of Ethne, the white-sided,He is bright, he is a blossoming (?)Colomb Cille, fair without blemish,It was not oversoon to perceive him.

Now after that Patrick blessed Conall, son of Niall, and he foretold that sovranty over Ireland (would descend) from him, and also noble laics and clerics, and he left a blessing on his people and on his rivermouths, and he afterwards came into Tyrone, and there Patrick and Sechnall promised a reward to Muiredach, son of Eogan, if he would prevail on his father to believe in God. ‘What reward?’ saith Muiredach. ‘Kingship shall be from thee for ever,’ saith Sechnall. ‘Thus will I do,’ saith Muiredach; and thus it was done, and Eogan believed in God and in Patrick.

Patrick fared thence to Ailech of the Kings, and he blessed it, and left his flagstone there, and foretold that the kingship and supremacy of Ireland would be out of Ailech, and he left blessing of valour upon Eogan and his sons, saying to them—

    1. A blessing on the territories
      I give from Belach Ratha:There shall be of Eogan’s racepilgrims till Doomsday;
    2. So long as plain shall be under crops,victory of battle shall be with their men:The head of the host of men of Fál (be) to their place:power (?) to them over every hearth:
    3. The race of Eogan, son of Niall,sain, O fair Brigit!Provided they do gooda king [will be] of them for ever.

Brigit said—

    1. The blessing of us bothupon Eogan, son of Niall,Upon every one who shall be born of himprovided they be wholly at our will.

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Thereafter Patrick fared into the province of Ulster to Maginis, and there Patrick met a ruthless man who was spoiling and killing the congregation—MacCuill was his name, ut dixit to his people ‘This is Adzehead, let us go and make an attack upon him, to see if perchance his god will help him.’ They afterwards brought one of their people upon a bier, as though he were dead, to be raised from death by Patrick. Garván was the name of that man. ‘Heal for us,’ they say ‘this man of our family.’ Ut dixit Patricius—

    1. Garván’s mantleShall be upon a dead man’s body,But this, besides, I will make known to youIt is Garván that shall be under it.

Then his people put the mantle off Garván’s face and thus they found him, dead. So the heathen believed and were baptized, and Garván was raised to life from death by Patrick’s word.

What God wrought of wonders and miracles for the holy Patrick are over-many to recount or declare; for there were sixty books and seven written of them, and still they are not all (set forth).

Now Patrick hath been likened to the patriarchs—for first, (he was) a true pilgrim, like Abraham; meek, forgiving, like Moses; a psalmist of God’s praise was he like David son of Jesse; studious of wisdom, like Solomon,; a chosen vessel to proclaim the truth, like apostle Paul; a man full of the grace and loving-kindness of the Holy Ghost, like John son of Zebedee; a lion in strength and courage to bring the impious and wicked of the world to faith and belief; a serpent in cunning and prudence for observing every attack; a dove, mild and gentle in heart’s desire and perfect word and righteous deed; a laborious servant to the Creator as to piety and humility, and instruction in every goodness, as many relate.

Now, this was the rule of his piety, to wit, he used to sing all the psalms with their hymms and canticles and apocalypse, and other prayers every day. He used to baptize, to preach, and to celebrate the hours according to their due order: he used to offer Christ’s Body and his Blood. He used to make the sign of the cross over his face a hundred times from one (canonical) hour to another. In the first watch of the night he used to sing a hundred psalms and make two hundred genuflexions. In


p.45

second watch (he used to be) in bare water: the third watch in contemplation: the fourth watch on the cold clay, with a stone under his head and a wet quilt about him. He used to ordain, anoint, and consecrate. He used to bless and cure lepers, the blind, the lame, the deaf, the dumb, and folk of every disease besides. He used to cast out devils; he used to raise the dead to life.

Now when Patrick came to the ending days, while he was at Saball in Mag-inis in the province of Ulster, he sets out on the road to Armagh that he might die therein. He sees the brake blazing before him, and the fire was not burning the brake, and Victor an angel (was) speaking to him thereout, ut dixit to him—

    1. Thou shalt not go to Armagh,for thou promisedstTo Trechem’s sonsthat with them thy resurrection would be.

Then Patrick said—

    1. If here be my resurrection,Armagh will be my church:My freedom is not in my own power,it is the common bondage.

Dixit Patricius:

    1. Armagh I used to love:a dear thorpe, a dear hill,
      A fort which my soul haunteth.Emain of the heroes shall be waste.

Dixit angelus:

    1. Since thy resurrection is here,thou shalt have what is better-All Ireland from top to bottom,Armagh thy church.

that is, ‘Thy grace, and thy dignity, and thy primacy (will be) in Armagh’ said the angel, ‘though thy resurrection will be here.’

Thereafter Patrick sent (forth) his spirit, and he received communion and sacrifice from Bishop Tassach’s hand, after gaining victory and triumph over the world and the Devil and vices. And he sent his spirit to the Lord, for whom he had done service and warfare on earth.

A great host of heaven’s angels came with a great light to attend him, wherefore it was they that waked the body on that night. And Ireland’s elders heard the quiring of the angels on that night. Ireland’s elders came for twelve nights with psalms and hymns, and the light and the angelic odour failed them not, but abode in the whole land to a year’s end.

There grew up a great strife between the men of Oriel and the men of Ulster about the body, and an arm of sea arose


p.47

between them, so that they might not kill each other. They saw before them in the east two stags, with a wain between them and the body therein. They went forward to Armagh and they were thankful to God.

Patrick was buried, with honour and veneration, with daily wonders and miracles, in Dunlethglasse.

And though great is his honour still among men, his honour will be still greater at the meeting of Doom, where he will be like every chief apostle, passing judgement on the men of Ireland unto whom he preached. It is there he will shine forth like the sun in the union of saints and holy virgins of the world; in union of patriarchs and prophets; in the union of apostles and disciples of Jesus Christ, Son of living God; in the union of the Manhood of Jesus Christ son of God; in the union which is nobler than every (other) union; in the union of the holy, noble, venerable Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

I implore God’s mercy through Patrick’s intercession! May we all attain to that union, may we deserve it, may we dwell there in saecula saeculorum! Amen!


Background details and bibliographic information

compiled by Ruth Murphy
Funded by University College, Cork and Professor Marianne McDonald via the CELT Project

CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts: a project of University College, Cork
College Road, Cork, Ireland (2000)

Sources

Manuscript sources.

  1. Lebar Brecc, p. 24b-29b, Royal Irish Academy.
  2. Egerton 93, London, British Library.
  3. Rawlinson B 512, Oxford, Bodleian Library.

Editions.

  1. Leabhar Breac, the Speckled Book, otherwise styled Leabhar Mór Dúna Doighre, the Great Book of Dun Doighre. lithographic facsimile. Dublin 1876.

Editions and Translations.

  1. W.M. Hennessy, The Tripartite life of Saint Patrick, apostle of Ireland. Translated from the original Irish, by W.M. Hennessey. In: M. F. Cusack: Life of Saint Patrick, London, 1870, 371-502, 4to.
  2. Whitley Stokes (ed.), Three Middle-Irish Homilies, Calcutta 1877. [For the English translation the editor made use of a manuscript version by John O'Donovan, which Stokes corrected in a few instances mentioned in his edition.]
  3. Whitley Stokes, The Tripartite Life of Patrick, with other documents relating to the Saint. Edited with translations and indexes. D.C.L., L.L.D., Rolls Ser. 8vo, London. Part I. cxcix + 267 [8] pp. facs. Part II. 269-676, 1887.
  4. Whitley Stokes, Lives of Saints from the Book of Lismore. Edited with translation and notes. Oxford, 1890.
  5. R.I. Best, Betha Pátraic. From MS. 10 King’s Inns Library, Dublin. (Anecdota from Irish MSS. III., 29-42, Halle, 1909).
  6. C. Plummer, Vitae Sanctorum Hiberniae partim hactenus ineditae ad fidem codicum manuscriptorum recognovit prolegomis notis indicibus instruxit Carolus Plummer. Tom. I.-II., Oxonii, 1910. [Introduction deals with the relation of the Latin and Irish lives, content, folklore, mythology, etc.]
  7. Sir John T. Gilbert, Facsimiles of National manuscripts of Ireland. Pt. I [Pl. xvi-xxvii Book of Armagh, fol. 18. Text and translation] Dublin, 1874.
  8. Kathleen Mulchrone, Bethu Phátraic. The Tripartite Life of Patrick. Ed. with translation and indexes. I. Text and Sources. Dublin: Royal Irish Academy, 1939. [Text based on Egerton 93 and Rawl. B. 512.]
  9. J. Gwynn, Liber Ardmachanus. The Book of Armagh. Ed. with introduction and glosses. Dublin, 1913. [Irish notes, glosses, names on persons and places, etc. with indices, revised by E.J. Gwynn.]

Secondary literature.

  1. Whitley Stokes, St Patrick’s Doctrines. Academy XXXIV. 26, 1888, 54-55,104.
  2. Ludwig Bieler (comp). Codices Patriciani Latini. A descriptive catalogue of Latin manuscripts relating to St. Patrick. Dublin: D.I.A.S., 1942.
  3. Ludwig Bieler, The Life and Legend of St. Patrick. The Irish Ecclesiastical Record, 5th series 70, 1948, 1087-1091.
  4. Ludwig Bieler, The life and legend of St. Patrick. Problems of modern scholarship. Dublin: Clonmore & Reynolds, 1949.
  5. John Ryan (Ed. and introduction), Saint Patrick. Dublin: (for Radio Eireann) Stationery Office, 1958. (Thomas Davis lectures 1957) 6 lectures by various scholars.
  6. John Ryan, St. Patrick, Apostle of Ireland. Studies 50, 1961, 113-151.
  7. Robert E. McNally, St Patrick 461-1961. The Catholic Historical Review 47, 1961/62. 1962, 305-324.
  8. B.A. Binchy, Patrick and his biographers: ancient and modern. Studia Hibernica 2, 1962, 7-173.
  9. Robert McNally (Ed. and introduction) Old Ireland, Dublin: Gill, 1965.
  10. Ludwig Bieler, St Patrick and the coming of Christianity. Dublin, Melbourne: Gill, 1967. (A history of Irish catholicism vol.1, no. 1).
  11. Ludwig Bieler, The mission of Palladius. A comparative study of sources. Traditio 6, 1948 1-32.
  12. Paul S. Grosjean, Patrice d’Irlande et quelques homonymes dans les anciens martyrologes. Journal of Ecclesiastical History 1, 1950 125-129.
  13. James Carney, Studies in Irish Literature and History. Dublin: D.I.A.S. 1995.
  14. R.P.C. Hanson, Saint Patrick. His origins and career. Oxford: Clarendon, 1968.
  15. Thomas F. O’Rahilly, The two Patricks. A lecture on the history of Christianity in fifth-century Ireland. Dublin: D.I.A.S., 1942, repr. 1971.
  16. J.F. Kenny, St Patrick and the Patrick Legend. Thought VIII. 1-34, 1933, 213-229.
  17. E. MacNeill, The earliest lives of St. Patrick. Royal Society of Antiq. Journ. LVIII, 1928, 1-21.
  18. E. MacNeill, The native place of St. Patrick. Royal Irish Academy Proceedings XXXVII Sect.C No.6, 1926, 118-40
  19. E.A. Thompson, Who Was Saint Patrick? Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1985.
  20. Review of E. A. Thompson. [1] Michael E. Jones, Albion 19 (1987), 209-210.
  21. Review of E. A. Thompson. [2] E. A. Overgaauw, Le Moyen-Age 94/3-4 (1988), 481-482.
  22. Review of E. A. Thompson. [3] Alan Dierkens, Latomus 48 (1989), 46.
  23. R.P.C. Hanson, The Life and Writings of the Historical St. Patrick. New York: Seabury Press, 1983.
  24. Review of R.P.C. Hanson. [1] Keith J. Egan, Church History 53 (1984), 548-549.
  25. Review of R.P.C. Hanson. [2] Joseph F. Kelly, Speculum 59 (1984), 652-653.
  26. Review of R.P.C. Hanson. [3] Robert T. Meyer, Theological Studies 45 (1984), 208.
  27. Review of R.P.C. Hanson. [4] D. Ó Cróinín, Irish Historical Studies 24 (1984-85), 398-399.
  28. Review of R.P.C. Hanson. [5] Tarlach Ó Raifeartaigh, Irish Theological Quarterly 50 (1984), 276-280.
  29. Liam De Paor, (Ed. and trans.) Saint Patrick’s World. The Christian Culture of Ireland’s Apostolic Age. Blackrock and Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1993.
  30. Review of Liam De Paor. [1] Claire Stancliffe, Early Medieval Europe 4 (1995) 220-221.
  31. Review of Liam De Paor. [2] Colmán Etchingham, Éigse 29 (1996), 214-220.
  32. Alannah Hopkin. The Living Legend of St Patrick. London: Grafton Books, 1989.
  33. Review of Alannah Hopkin. Richard Sharpe. Folklore 102/1 (1991), 120-121.
  34. Laurence J. Maney, “When Brigit Met Patrick.” Proceedings of the Harvard Celtic Colloquium 14 (1994), 175-194.
  35. Frédéric Kurzawa, Petite vie de saint Patrick. Paris: Desclée de Brouwer, 1995. Rev. Gwenaël Le Duc. Annales de Bretagne et des Pays de l’Ouest (Anjou, Maine, Touraine) 102/4 (1995), 129.
  36. David N. Dumville with Lesley Abrams, T. M. Charles-Edwards, Alicia Corrêa, K. R. Dark, K. L. Maund, and A. P. McD. Orchard, Saint Patrick A.D. 493-1993. Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Boydell Press, 1993.
  37. Review of Dumville et al. [1] Ann Hamlin. Medieval Archaeology 39 (1995), 296-297.
  38. Review of Dumville et al. [2] N. J. Higham. Britannia 26 (1995), 399-400.
  39. Review of Dumville et al. [3] Dáibhí Ó Cróinín. Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies 29 (1995), 72.
  40. Review of Dumville et al. [4] Jane Stevenson. Early Medieval Europe 4 (1995), 114-115.
  41. Cormac Bourke. Patrick: the archaeology of a saint. Belfast: HMSO, 1993.
  42. K. W. Hughes, The Church in Early Irish Society, London 1966.

The edition used in the digital edition.

  1. Betha Patraic. On the life of Saint Patrick, Three Middle-Irish Homilies. Whitley Stokes (ed), First edition [45 pp.] (100 copies privately printed) Calcutta (1877.)

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