Sunday 17 March 2024

Saint Patrick's Day

Research for this blog has led me to read a great deal of amateur poetry published in the popular religious press of the Victorian era. Whilst much of it is of no great literary merit, I am nevertheless interested in the sentiments expressed as they indicate attitudes towards the Irish saints held at the time. What struck me about the offering below, published in the American monthly The Pilgrim of Our Lady of Martyrs in 1899, was that although the poem is entitled Saint Patrick's Day, our national patron is curiously not the main protagonist. Instead the author, known only as M. L. M., starts off by praising the Irish saints collectively and the fame they have brought to the insula sanctorum. I am not sure where the number 500 for the saints has originated, since that can be multiplied by three, but I like how s/he then goes on to see the innumerable Irish  martyrs and confessors clustering around them.  The final verse reminds us this piece was written in the days of the national revival as the poet addresses Ireland itself as a 'brave motherland' and asks the Irish saints to hasten the dawning of freedom: 


HAIL, Saints of Ireland, peerless band!
A brighter crown than that which gleams
Upon St. Patrick's brow.
Five hundred names are flashing there
Of heroes, faith-renowned;
Thro’ them thy fame, O Isle of Saints,
Has circled earth around.

But who may count those other lights
That cluster round each star —
The Martyrs and Confessors brave
Through centuries of war?
Unknown to earth their humble names;
But well do angels know,
And chant them in the strains that blend
Their Church with ours below.

Mother of many nations! Thou
To God hast brought them forth;
No King, or Caesar's patronage,
Has helped that second birth.
The Irish priest worked in the strength
Born of St. Patrick's sod —
His title held from Rome, his wealth,
A boundless trust in God.

Like Mary in rude Bethlehem,
Thy glory is unseen;
Like Mary, too, on Calvary,
Thy tears have made thee Queen.
Brave Mother-land, full long thou'st borne
The Cross, with patient pain!
O Saints of Erin, speed from God
The dawn of Freedom's reign!

M. L. M.

The Pilgrim Of Our Lady Of Martyrs Vol. XV, 1899, 114

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