Tales of St. Patrick "Of the Bells"
From: Lady Gregory
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 St. 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 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 and 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 bought his freedom.
And from that time the smiths have been lucky, taking money everyday 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 traveling 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 he 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 Judgment.
And it is a long time your coming is foretold to us” he 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 and 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 Gael. 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 of
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 on 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.
I bind myself today to a strong strength, to a calling on the Trinity.
I believe in a Threeness with confession of a Oneness in the Creator
of the World.
“I bind myself today to the strength of Christ’s birth and his baptism;
To the strength of his resurrection with his ascension
In stability of earth, in steadfastness of rock,
I bind to myself today God’s strength to pilot me;
“God’s power to uphold me;
God’s wisdom to guide me;
God’s eye to look before me;
God’s ear to hear me;
“God’s word to speak for me;
God’s hand to guard me;
God’s path to lie before me;
God’s shield to protect me ;
God’s host to save me;
“Against snares of demons;
against the begging of sins;
against the asking of nature;
against all my ill-wishers near me and far from me;
alone and in a crowd.
“So I have called on all these strengths, to
come between me and every fierce and merciless strength that may come
between my body
and my soul;
“Against incantations of false prophets;
against black laws of heathens;
against false laws of heretics;
against craft of idolatry;
against spells of women and smiths and druids;
against every knowledge forbidden to the souls of men;
“Christ for my protection today against poison,
that a multitude of rewards may come to me.
“Christ with me,
Christ before me;
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ under me,
Christ over me;
Christ to the right of me,
Christ to the left of me;
Christ in lying down,
Christ in sitting,
Christ in rising up;
“Christ in the heart of everyone that thinks of me;
Christ in the mouth of everyone that speaks to me;
Christ in every eye that sees me;
Christ in every ear that hears me.
“I bind myself today a strong strength to a calling upon the Trinity;
I believe in a Threeness with confession
Of a Oneness in the Creator of the World.
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 in Ireland at that same time; and whether or not that story is true,
is the way the meeting between himself and Patrick is put down in the old
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. An 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 of 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 fulfillment 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 was 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 brooklime, 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 to 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,”
Patrick and Cascorach the Musician
One time the King of Ulster went up with Caoilte to a great liss that
was called Foradh-na-Feinne, the Resting place of the Fianna.
And when they were there they saw coming towards them a young man that
was wearing a beautiful green cloak having in it a silver brooch; a shirt
of yellow silk next to his skin he had; a coat of soft satin, and a harp
from his neck. “Where do you come from and who are you yourself?” said
the King. “ I come from the South from the hill of Bodb Dearg son of the
Dagda.” said he ; “and I am Cascorach, son of Cainchen that is poet
to the Tuatha de Danaan and I am the makings of a poet myself.
And it is what I am come for now,” he said “to get true knowledge and the
stories of the Fianna and their great deeds from Caoilte son of Ronan.”
With that he took his harp and made music for them till he had put them
all into their sleep. “Well Caoilte my soul,” he said then, “what answer
will you give me?” “I will give you all you are asking” said Chalet. “if
you have skill and understanding to learn all the Fianna did of arms and
of bravery. and it was a great fighting man used to be in this
place” he said, “that was Finn, son of Cumhal, and it is great riches and
great wages you would have got from him for your music; although this day
the place is empty.” And he made them this lament:
“The Resting place of the Fianna is bare tonight where Finn of the
naked sword used to be; through the death of the king that was without
gloom, wide Almhuin is deserted;
The right company are not living; Fionn the very prince is not alive;
no armies to be seen, no captains with the King of the Fiann.
They are all gone, the people of Finn, they that used to be going from
valley to valley;
it is a pity the life I have now, to be left after Diarmuid and Conan,
after Gollson of Morna from the plain.
It is the truth I am telling you; all that I say is true; it is great
our losses were there beyond. They are gone, the armies and
the hundreds; it is a pity. I myself not to have found death; they
are all gone now; they used to be together from border to border.”
Then Caoilte brought to mind the loss of the heroes and of the
great companies he used to be going among, and he cried miserably, sorrowfully,
till all his breast was wet with him. He set out after that and Cascorach
with him and they went up by hills and rocks to the top of green grassed
Slieve Fuad, to the rowan tree of the Meadow of the Two Stags and
to the place where the men of Ulster left their chariots after the last
battle of the War for the Bull of Cuailgne. And Patrick was there
before him, having with him three times fifty bishops and three times fifty
priests and three times fifty deacons and three times fifty singers of
psalms. And they sat down there, and Patrick kept his Hours with
praising the Maker of the world. Then he gave a welcome to Caoilte.
“Well , my soul” he said “who is that well looking dark eyed browed curly
headed young man that is with you having a harp with him?” “He is Cascorach
son of the musician of the Tuatha De.Danann, that is come to find news
and knowledge of the Fianna from me.” “ It is a good road he has chosen,”
said Patrick. “And O Caoilte” he said “it is great good you yourself
have waited for, the time of belief and of saints and of holiness, and
to be in friendship with the King of Heaven and earth. And play to
us now Cascorach,” he said ,“till we hear your music and your skill. “
“I will do that,” said Cascorach; “and I never was better pleased, holy
Clerk, to do it for any man than for yourself.” He took his harp
then and readied it, and played a strain of music, and the clerks had never
heard the like of that music for sweetness, unless it might be the
praises of the King of Heaven sung according to the Rule. And they
all fell into their sleep listening to the continuous music of the Sidhe.
And when Cascorach had made an end of playing, he asked a reward of Patrick.
“What reward are you asking, my soul?” said Patrick. “Heaven
for myself “ said he “for that is the reward is best; and good luck to
go with my art and with all that will follow it after me.” “I give you
heaven,” said Patrick, “and I give this to your art, it to be one of the
three arts by which a man can find profit to the last in Ireland.
And however great the grudgingness a man of your art may meet with, let
him but make his music and no one will begrudge him anything. “And
that they may have all happiness,” he said, “so long as they are not slothful
in their trade.” After that Cascorach put back his harp in its covering.
“That was good music you gave us,” said Brogan the scribe. “It was good
indeed ,“ said Patrick; “and but for a taste of the music of the Sidhe
that was in it I never heard anything nearer to the music of heaven.” “If
there is music in heaven why should it not be on earth?” said Brogan. “And
so it is not right to banish it away”. “I do not say we should banish it,”
said Patrick, “but only that we should not hold to it out of measure.”
Patrick’s Farewell to Caoilte
But after a good while Caoilte said “Holy Patrick, my soul,
I am thinking it is time for me to be going tomorrow.” “Why would you go?”
said Patrick. “To be searching out the hills and the hollows of every place
where my comrades and the King of the Fianna used to be together with me,
for it seems long for me to be in the one place.” And when they rose
up on the morrow, Caoilte laid his hand in Patrick’s bosom and it is what
Patrick said..” From myself to yourself, in the house or out of the house,
in whatever place God will lay his hand on you, I give you Heaven".
Bodb Dearg’s Daughter
Aedh King of Connacht was at Dun Leoda Loingsig one time giving a great
feast. And it happened at the fall of the clouds of evening he came
out on the green .lawn, and as he was there and the people of his household
with him, he saw on one side a girl of wonderful appearance, having yellow
hair, and she not looking at the people but only at the king. “Where
do you come from girl?” said the king. “You are my sweetheart.” said she.
“Whose daughter are you and what name have you? “ said the king. “I am
Ailleann of the man shapes, daughter to Bodb Dearg, son of the Dagda. “
I have never seen a woman I would sooner have as a wife than yourself.”
said the king “but that I am under the rule of Blessed Patrick and of the
King of Heaven and earth. And Patrick bound me” he said “ to have
one wife only, that is Aife daughter of Eoghan, King of Leinster.
And would you wish to be seen by the great men of my kingdom?, he said
“I would like it indeed,” said she “ for I am not an everliving woman of
the Sidhe, but I am of the Tuatha de Danaan, having my own body about me.
“ Then she showed herself to the whole gathering of the people and they
never saw before or after a woman more beautiful than herself. “And what
judgment do you put upon me King?” she said “Whatever judgment Blessed
Patrick gives I will give it” said he. Then Aedh sent messengers
to Patrick where he was in the south, and they brought him to Benn Gulbain
in Maenmag. And Aedh the King went to meet him there and knelt before him
and told him the whole story. “Are you the girl” said Patrick “that
gave her love to the King of Connacht?” “I am “ said she. “Well girl”
said Patrick “it is good your shape is and your appearance. And what
is it keeps you like this,” he said “at the every height of your comeliness?”
“Everyone that drank at Giobniu’s Feast,” she said, “no sickness or wasting
comes upon them. And tell me now holy Clerk,” she said “what is your
judgment on myself and on the King of Connacht?” “It is a good one” said
Patrick; “it is settled by God and myself that a man must have one wife
only.” “And I myself” said the girl “what am I to do?” " Go back to your
house among the Sidhe” said Patrick “and if it should happen the King of
Leinster’s daughter to die before yourself, let the man you have given
your love to take you as his only wife. But if you should try to
harm Aedh or his wife by day or by night,” he said “ I will destroy you
the way neither your father or your mother or your fosterers will like
to be looking at you.” Then the girl cried pitifully heavily, and
the King said “I am dear to you.” “You are dear to me indeed", said she,
“There is not one of the people of the world is dearer to me than yourself”
said the king; “but I must not go beyond the conditions of the Adzehead
and of God.” With that the girl went back to her hidden house among the
Sidhe. And after a while the wife of the King of Connacht died at
Uaran Garaid and was buried on the hill that is called the High Place of
the Angels. And after that again there was a gathering made of all
the five provinces of Ireland to hold the feast of Teamhuir. And
Patrick and Aedh King of Connacht were out on the green; and they saw coming
towards them Aillenn daughter of Bodb Dearg, having with her three fifties
of the women of the Tuatha de Danaan, and she sat down on the grass
beside Patrick and the King of Connacht, and she gave her message.
Then Patrick said to the King “I will give her to you if you will
take her as your wife” “Whatever you are willing for me to do I will do
it” said the king. “I promised you would take her” said Patrick,
“ if she would give up her false druid belief and kneel to the King of
heaven and earth.” “Do you agree to that Ailenn?” said the king. “I agree
to it “ said she. Then she rose up, and her women, and they all kneeled
to Patrick, and Patrick joined her and the King in marriage. That
now was the first marriage made by the Adzehead in Ireland.
Ethne the Beautiful and Fedelm the Rosy-Red
Patrick was one time at Cruchan of Connacht, and he went up to the
well that is called Cibach and that is opposite the rising of the
sun, and he sat down beside the well, and his clerks with him. There were
two daughters of Laoghaire the High King who were living at Rath
Cruchan at that time, getting their learning from the druids, and the name
of the one was Ethne and the other was Fedelm the Rosy-Red. And it
was their custom every morning to come and to wash themselves in the well.
And on this day when they came they saw a company of men having white clothes,
and books before them beside the well. And there was great
wonder on them and they thought them to be of the people of the Sidhe.
And they questioned Patrick and said to him “Where do you come from? And
where are you going? And is it gods you are” they said “or men from
the hills of the Sidhe?” “ It would be better for you to believe in God
than to be asking who we ourselves are” said Patrick. “Who is your
god?” said Ethne then. “And where is he?” she said “Is it in the skies
he is, or in the earth, or under the earth, or upon the earth, or in the
seas or in the streams, or in the mountains or in the valleys? Is he beautiful?
Has he sons and daughters? Is he of the everliving ones?” Patrick
took in hand then to answer their questions and to teach them the true
faith; and he told them it was fitting that they should join with the King
of Glory being as they were the daughters of an earthly king. And
when they had heard the whole story a great desire came upon them to serve
Him. “And it is the desire of our hearts” they said “to see his Son, our
husband.” “That is not possible” said Patrick “but through taking
the body of Christ and through death.” “We would die surely” they said
“if we might see Christ on the moment.” Then Patrick baptized them and
gave them the Body of Christ, and put a white veil upon their heads, and
they were filled with peace and with the friendship of God. And when
they were sleeping in death, his people put them on a little bed, and laid
coverings over them, and keened them there.
The Soul and the Body
The Saviour told Patrick one time to go and prepare a man that was
going to die. And Patrick said “I would sooner not go for I never
yet saw the soul part from the body.” But after that he went and prepared
the man. And when he was lying there dead, he saw the soul go from
the body, and three times it went to the door and three times it came back
and kissed the body. And Patrick asked the Saviour why it did that
and he said “That soul was sorry to part from the body because it
had kept it so clean and so honest.”
Patrick’s Rush Candles
Patrick went one time into a house in the south, and the people
of it were poor, and they had not a candle or a rush light or turf
or sticks for a fire, but when the daylight was done what they had to do
was to go to their bed. And when Patrick came in and saw the house
so dark he said “Are there no green rushes growing in the bog?” So they
went out and brought him in a bundle of green rushes and he took them in
his hand and blessed them, and they gave out light through the whole of
the night time.
His Church At Ardmacha
Patrick was walking up the hill of Ardmacha one time with his people
and they found a doe resting on the ground, and a fawn beside her.
And his people were going to kill the fawn, but Patrick forbade them and
he took it in his arms and carried it, and the doe came following after
him. And it was in the place where he put down the fawn, the church
of Ardmacha was built for him afterwards.
He is Waked by Angels
When the time came for Patrick to die it is to Ardmacha he had a desire
to go. But Victor the angel went to meet him on the road at midday
and said “Go back to the place you came from, to the barn, for it is there
your death will be. And give thanks to Christ” he said “for your
prayers are granted; it is to Heaven you will soon be going,” And when
his soul parted from his body, there was no candle wasted with him, but
it was the angels of God kept lasting watch over him until the end of twelve
nights, and through all that time there was no night in Magh Inis with
the light of the angels. It is that was a long day of peace! And
after his death there was near being a great battle between the men of
Ulster and the Ua Neill, fighting for his body. But at the last it
seemed to them that his body was brought by each of them to his own country,
and so they were separated by God.
- Source: Lady Augusta Gregory., A book of Saints and
Wonders put Down here by Lady Gregory According to the old Writings
and the Memory of the People of Ireland., London, John Murray, MCMVII
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