Thursday 6 November 2014

'The Prayers of the Saints I have Loved' -The Hymn of Cuimin of Connor

To mark the Feast of All the Saints of Ireland, here is a translation of the text of a hymn, attributed to Saint Cuimin of Connor. I first encountered this text through reading the entries for the feastdays of the saints in the Martyrology of Donegal, where individual verses from the hymn were appended to the calendar. I longed to be able to read the entire work and have finally tracked down two different translations of it. Both were made in the nineteenth century, the first by Eugene O'Curry, and the second some years later by Whitley Stokes. In the O'Curry translation below you will see that each stanza begins with a promise to tell us what an individual saint loved, and being early Irish saints what they all loved, of course, was the practice of the ascetical life. This translation was published as an appendix to The Calendar of Irish Saints, an edition of The Martyrology of Tallaght issued in 1857 by Irish priest and scholar Father Matthew Kelly. I have taken this copy though from the diocesan history of Down and Connor by Father O'Laverty. So, on this happy day (and every day) may Patrick of Ard Macha's city, Colum Cille, the famous and Brigid of the benedictions, together with all the saints of Ireland, bless and protect this country and her people!

Patrick of Ard Macha's city, loved
The son of Calphurnn, a noble rule,
From Shrovetide to Easter to refrain from food,
No penance of his was a greater penance.

Colum Cille, the famous, loved,
Son of Feidhlimidh, in his pilgrimage,
Never to take in a week into his body.
As much as would serve a pauper at one meal

Bridget of the benedictions, loved
Perpetual mortification beyond womanhood.
Watching and early rising,
Hospitality to saintly men.

Mochta of Lugh-magh loved,
By law and by rule,
That no rich food his body should enter.
For the space of one hundred years.

The hospitable Feichin of Fabhar loved,
It was not a false mortification
To lay his fleshless ribs
Upon the hard rocks without clothes.

Ciaran the famous, of Cluain, loved
Humility from which he did not rashly swerve,
And he never spoke that which was false;
Nor looked upon a woman from his birth.

Beo-Aedh loved friendship
With all the saints of Erinn;
A strangers' home, and presents
He would give to every person.

Molaise of the lake loved
To be in a hard stone cell;
Strangers' home for the men of Erinn,
Without refusal, without a sign of inhospitality.

Brendan loved perpetual mortification
In obedience to his synod and his flock,
Seven years upon the great whale's back
It was a distressing mode of mortification.

Mide loved much of fosterage,
Firm humility without dejection;
Her cheek to the floor she laid not,
Ever, ever, for love of the Lord.

Since she bound the girdle upon her body,
And what I know is what I hear.
She ate not a full or sufficient meal,
Monuinne of Sliabh Cuilinn.

Caoimhghin loved a narrow cell,
It was a work of mortification and religion,
In which perpetually to stand,
It was a great shelter against demons.

Scuithin of the sweet legends loved —
Blessings on him who hath done so -
Beautiful and pure maidens.
And among them preserved his virtue.

Cainnech of the mortifications loved
To be in a bleak woody desert,
Where there was none to attend on him
But only the wild deer.

Ailbhe loved hospitality;
That was not a false devotion
There came not into a body of clay
One who gave more food and raiment.

Fionnchu of Bri-Gobhann loved,
The blessing of Jesus upon his soul,
Seven years upon his chains,
Without ever touching the ground.

Dalbhach, the beautiful of Cuil, loved
To practice firm repentance;
He put not his hand to his side
As long as he retained his soul.

Barra, the torch of wisdom, loved
Humility towards all men;
He never saw in pressing distress
Any person whom he would not relieve.

Mochuda of the mortification loved,
Admirable every chapter of his history.
That before his time no person shed
Half as many tears as he shed.

Colman, the comely, of Cluain loved
Poetry by the sweet rules of art;
No one whom he praised as faultless
Ever came to evil afterwards.

Fachtna, the generous and steadfast, loved
To instruct the crowds in concert;,
He never spoke that which was mean
Nor aught but what was pleasing to his Lord.

Senan, the noble invalid, loved —
Good was every response of his responses —
To have thirty diseases in his body,
A sufficient mortification to the sage.

Enda loved glorious mortification
In Arann, triumphant virtue!
A narrow dungeon of flinty stone,
To bring the people to heaven.

Fursa, the truly pious loved,
Nothing more admirable are we told of,
In a well as cold as the snow.
Accurately to sing his psalms.

Neassan, the holy deacon, loved
An angelical, pure mortification.
There never came past his lips
Anything that was false or deceitful.

Mac Creiche, the devout, loved
A hard and undefiled dungeon,
From Shrovetide to Easter would he subsist
Upon only bread and cresses.

Lachtain, the champion, loved
Humility, perfect and pure.
Stand through perpetual time
Did he in defence of the men of Munster.

Mobeog, the gifted, loved,
According to the Synod of the learned,
That often in bowing his head.
He plunged it under water.

Jarlathe, the illustrious, loved —
A cleric he, who practised not niggardliness —
Three hundred genuflexions each night,
Three hundred genuflexions eaeh evening.

Ulltan loved his children,
A dungeon to his lean side.
And to bathe in the cold water,
And the sharp wind he loved.

Ceallach Mac Commaic loved
Mortifications which afflicted his body,
Blindness, deafness, lameness.
Were assigned to him— an unhappy case.

Ruadhan, king of Lothra, loved
A malediction which was merited.
No angels displeasure attended
Any cause which he loved.

Fiachna loved true devotion,
To instruct the people in multitudes,
He never spoke a despicable word.
Nor aught but what pleased his Lord.

Benignus, the illustrious, loved —
The noble, perfect teacher —
That so as he could repeat a prayer.
He spent not without reciting Latin.

Molua of Cluain-fearta loved
Humility, glorious and pure.
Submission to tutor, submission to parents,
Submission to all men, and under distempers.

I am Cumin of Connaire,
Who hath practised mortification and chastity,
The party in which I trust are the best,
The prayers of the saints I have loved.

Rev. James O’Laverty, An Historical Account of Down and Connor, Ancient and Modern, Volume V (Dublin, 1895), 233-245.

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