St. Fiacc’s Metrical Life of St. Patrick

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This is the earliest biography of the Saint, and the most important, and was written in pure Irish. St. Fiacc [alt: Feich] was the disciple and nephew of St. Dubtach, arch-poet of Erin. On Patrick’s visit to Tara the king gave orders that none of the royal company should rise to give honour to the Saint. Dubtach refused to obey, and when St. Patrick came before the king all remained seated except Dubtach and Fiacc.

Some time after this St. Patrick wished to make provision for his converts in Leinster by appointing a bishop over them, and as Dubtach was a Leinster man he visited him in his own home to obtain his advice concerning a proper person for the office. “Fiacc is the very man you require,” said Dubtach, “but at present he is in Connaught.” Very soon Fiacc came in sight. ” There is the man himself,” said Dubtach. “But he may not wish to receive orders,” said Patrick. ” Proceed as if to tonsure me,” replied the poet. St. Patrick prepared to tonsure the old poet, whereupon Fiacc said, ” It would be a great loss to the bardic order to lose so great a poet”; and he offered himself for the service of the Church instead of Dubtach. St. Fiacc was Bishop of Sletty, near Carlow, and died about the year 510. In his memoir he says St. Patrick was born at Emptur, and studied under Germanus.

The Scholiast on St. Fiacc supplies us with the following information: ” This was the cause of the servitude of Patrick: They all went from the Britons of Alcluaid across the Iccian sea, southwards on a journey to the Britons who are on the sea of Icht, namely, the Britons of Letha, because they had brethren (relatives) there at the time. Now, the mother of these children, namely, Conches, was of the Franks, and she was a sister to Martin. At that time came seven sons of Sectmaide, King of Britain, in ships from the Britons, and they made great plunder on the Britons, viz., the Britons of Armoric Letha, where Patrick with his family was, and they wounded Calpuirn there and carried off Patrick and Lupait with him to Ireland.”

Written about 1400 years ago

I

At Nemthur Saint Patrick was born,   As history handed it down;   And when but sixteen years of age,   A captive was led from that town.

II.

Siccoth was Saint Patrick’s first name;   His father Calphurn without miss;   His grandfather Otide was styled;   He was nephew of Deacon Odisse.

III.

Six years did he live in dark bonds,   And the food of the Gentile ate not;   And Cathraige by men he was called,   Since to work for four homes was his lot.

IV.

To the servant of Milcho ’twas said   To pass o’er the seas and the plain;   Then stood angel Victor on rock,   And his footprints to this day remain.

V.

Departed Saint Patrick o’er Alps–   On his way all successful he hies;   And with German remained in the South   ‘Neath Letavia’s wide-spreading skies.

VI.

In the isles of the Tyrrhenian sea   Saint Patrick some period awaits,   And as canon with German he reads,   As his history still to us states

VII.

To Hibernia Saint Patrick returned,   By visions from angels induced;   For visions to him appeared oft,   And his mind to subjection reduced.

VIII.

Soul-saving was Patrick’s intent,   For ’twas to far Foclut’s dark flood;   He had heard the entreaty and wail   Of children in Foclut’s far woods.

IX.

For asked they the saint to make haste   And Letavia’s wide lands desert,   That from error’s dark ways Eire’s men   He might in life’s pathways direct.

X.

Foretold Eire’s seers years of peace,   Which were to remain through all time;   But the grandeurs of Tara the proud   Were to vanish in dust, as earth’s slime.

XI.

To Leary, the monarch, Druids told   Of the advent of Patrick the saint;   And their visions were true, as we know   From the facts which his histories paint.

XII.

Renowned was Saint Patrick through life,   And of error he was a dire foe;   Hence for ever his name shall be grand   Among the nations, as ages shall flow.

XIII.

The Apocalypse sang he, and hymns,   And three fifty full psalms, day by day;   He instructed and praised and baptized,   And all time he continued to pray.

XIV.

Nor could any cold e’er prevent   That he stayed in the water o’er nights;   And to gain the grand kingdom of heaven,   Through the day he used preach on the heights.

XV.

By the far-famous fount of the North,   Benibarka! thy waters sha’n't cease;   For a hundred full psalms he used sing   Each night the Lord’s praise to increase.

XVI.

Then he slept on a cold bed of stone,   And with a wet cover was dressed;   A stone was his pillow each night,   Such, such was the saint’s nightly rest.

XVII.

To the people the Gospel was preached,   With power and with miracles signed;   The blind and the lepers were cured,   And Death his dead subjects resigned.

XVIII.

Saint Patrick did preach to the Scots,   And in Letavia much he endured,   That whom he had won to the Lord   In Judgment’s dread day be secured.

XIX.

Emir’s and proud Erimon’s sons   A demon contrived to ensnare;   And them did dread Satan engulf   In the dark, fearful depths of his lair,

XX.

Until our apostle arrived,   Who rescued and set them all free,   Through sixty long years of his life   To Christ’s cross the brave Fenians flee.

XXI.

Great darkness o’er Eire was spread,   And its people their idols adored,   Nor in the true Godhead believed,   Nor the Trinity, too, of the Lord.

XXII.

At Armagh the realm’s throne has been placed,   To Emania a glory to be;   And far-famed is Dundalethglas church,   Nor let fame from Temoria flee.

XXIII.

To Armagh, in his infirm old age,   Saint Patrick desired much to go;   But God’s angel at noon met the saint,   And induced him his wish to forego.

XXIV.

Southward to the angel he came   (For Victor had been his good guide),   And the bush in which Victor appeared   Burned bright, and a voice from it cried:

XXV.

“At Armagh let the government be,   And to Christ let all glory be brought;   Indeed, thou shalt come unto heaven;   Thou obtainedst, because thou hadst sought.”

XXVI.

“A hymn which you sing while alive   Shall to Celts a proud armament be;   And at judgment the Irish surround   Their father, their patron, in thee.”

XXVII.

After Patrick, good Tassach remained;   When Patrick to Tassach Christ gave,   Tassach said: “He from me shall receive”;   And the prediction of Tassach was grave.

XXVIII.

For the night was installed a bright day,   And that day for one year did remain;   So that over all Eire the fair   Light’s brilliance and brightness did reign.

XXIX.

Bethoron a battle beheld   Of great Nun against Chanaan’s sons,   In which Gabaon saw the sun stand,   As the Scriptural narrative runs.

XXX.

For brave Josue stood the bright sun   To witness the wicked all slain;   Why not for Saint Patrick thrice more   To illumine Hibernia’s plain?

XXXI.

For all Eire’s good clergy were come   To bury Saint Patrick with pride;   And the sounds of the singing from heaven   Cast them sleeping all round, far and wide.

XXXII.

Saint Patrick’s pure soul fled his frame   (His works immortality make);   And on the first night after death,   The angels of God watched his wake.

XXXIII.

And when Patrick departed from life,   To the other Saint Patrick came he;   And to Jesus, of Mary the Son,   The two passed, bright and pure, great and free.

XXXIV.

In Patrick pride’s stain was not found;   And great were the works that adorn   This good son of Christ, Mary’s Son!   With God’s blessing Saint Patrick was born.