Thursday 21 July 2016

The Testament of Saint Arbogast

July 21 is the feast of Saint Arbogast, an Irish saint who laboured in Strassburg. Below is a poem in his honour composed by the Irish born poet, Thomas D'Arcy McGee (1825-1868). It deals with the final testament of Saint Arbogast, as he lay on his deathbed:


St. Arbogast, the bishop, lay
On his bed of death in Strasburg Palace,
And, just at the dawn of his dying day,
Into his own hands took the chalice;
And, praying devoutly, he received
The blessed Host, and thus address'd
His chapter who around him grieved.
And sobbing, heard his last request.

Quoth he; — "The sinful man you see
Was born beyond the western sea.
In Ireland, whence, ordain'd, he came,
In Alsace, to preach in Jesus' name.
There, in my cell in Hagueneau,
Many unto the One I drew;
There fared King Dagobert one day,
With all his forestrie array,
Chasing out wolves and beasts unclean,
As I did errors from God's domain;
The king approached our cell, and he
Esteem'd our assiduity:
And, when the bless'd St. Amand died.
He called us to his seat and sighed.
And charged us watch and ward to keep
In Strasburg o'er our Master's sheep.

“Mitre of gold we never sought
Cope of silver to us was nought —
Jewel'd crook and painted book
We disregarded, but, perforce, took.
Ah! oft in Strasburg's cathedral
We sighed for one rude cell so small,
And often from the bishop's throne
To the forest's depths we would have flown.
But that one duty to Him who made us
His shepherd in this see, forbade us.

"And now "— St. Arbogast spoke slow
But words were firm, tho' voice was low —
"God doth require His servant hence.
And our hope is His omnipotence.
But bury me not, dear brethren, with
The pomp of torches or music, sith
Such idle and unholy slate
Should ne'er on a Christian bishop wait; -
Leave cope of silver and painted book
Mitre of gold and jewel'd crook
Apart in the vestry's darkest nook;
But in Mount Michael bury me.
Beneath the felon's penal tree -
So Christ our Lord lay at Calvary.
This do, as ye my blessing prize.
And God keep you pure and wise! "
These were the words, they were the last,
Of the blessed Bishop Arbogast.


Daniel Connolly. Ed., The Household Library of Ireland’s Poets, with Full and Choice Selections from the Irish-American Poets (New York, 1887), 703.

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