Early Irish Lyric Poetry

Translated by Kuno Meyer


The Deer's Cry

Patrick sang this hymn when the ambuscades were laid against him by King Loeguire (Leary) that he might not go to Tara to sow the faith. Then it seemed to those lying in ambush that he and his monks were wild deer with a fawn, even Benen, following them. And its name is 'Deer's Cry.'
I arise to-day
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

I arise to-day
Through the strength of Christ's birth with His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of Doom.

I arise to-day
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preachings of apostles,
In faiths of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise to-day
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendour of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

I arise to day
Through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might 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 way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptations of vices,
From every one who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in a multitude.

I summon to-day all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of women and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.

Christ to shield me to-day
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every one who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise to-day
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.


An Even-Song

Patrick Sang This

May Thy holy angels, O Christ, son of living God,
Guard our sleep, our rest, our shining bed.

Let them reveal true visions to us in our sleep,
O high-prince of the universe, O great king of the mysteries!

May no demons, no ill, no calamity or terrifying dreams
Disturb our rest, our willing, prompt repose.

May our watch be holy, our work, our task,
Our sleep, our rest without let, without break.


Patrick's Blessing on Munster

God's blessing upon Munster,
Men, women, children!
A blessing on the land
Which gives them fruit!

A blessing on every wealth
Which is brought forth on their marches!
No one to be in want of help:
God's blessing upon Munster!

A blessing on their peaks,
On their bare fiagstones,
A blessing on their glens,
A blessing on their ridges!

Like sand of sea under ships
Be the number of their hearths:
On slopes, on plains,
On mountain-sides, on peaks.


The Hermit"s Song

I wish, O Son of the living God, O ancient, eternal King,
For a hidden little hut in the wilderness that it may be my dwelling.

An all-grey lithe little lark to be by its side,
A clear pool to wash away sins through the grace of the Holy Spirit.

Quite near, a beautiful wood around it on every side,
To nurse many-voiced birds, hiding it with its shelter.

A southern aspect for warmth, a little brook across its floor,
A choice land with many gracious gifts such as be good for every plant.

A few men of sense we will tell their number
Humble and obedient. to pray to the King :

Four times three, three times four, fit for every need,
Twice six in the church, both north and south :

Six pairs besides myself
Praying for ever the King who makes the sun shine.

A pleasant church and with the linen altar-cloth, a dwelling for God from Heaven;
Then, shining candles above the pure white Scriptures.

One house for all to go to for the care of the body,
Without ribaldry, without boasting, without thought of evil.

This is the husbandry I would take, I would choose, and will not hide it:
Fragrant leek, hens, salmon, trout, bees.

Raiment and food enough for me from the King of fair fame,
And I to be sitting for a while praying God in every place.


The Monk and His Pet Cat

(Pangur Ban)

I and my white Pangur
Have each his special art :
His mind is set on hunting mice,
Mine is upon my special craft.

I love to rest better than any fame!
With close study at my little book;
White Pangur does not envy me:
He loves his childish play.

When in our house we two are all alone
A tale without tedium!
We have sport never-ending!
Something to exercise our wit.

At times by feats of derring-do
A mouse sticks in his net,
While into my net there drops
A difficult problem of hard meaning.

He points his full shining eye
Against the fence of the wall:
I point my clear though feeble eye
Against the keenness of science.

He rejoices with quick leaps
When in his sharp claw sticks a mouse:
I too rejoice when I have grasped
A problem difficult and dearly loved.

Though we are thus at all times,
Neither hinders the other,
Each of us pleased with his own art
Amuses himself alone.

He is a master of the work
Which every day he does:
While I am at my own work
To bring difficulty to clearness.


Colum Cille's Greeting to Ireland

Delightful to be on the Hill of Howth
Before going over the white-haired sea:
The dashing of the wave against its face,
The bareness of its shores and of its border.

Delightful to be on the Hill of Howth
After coming over the white-bosomed sea;
To be rowing one's little coracle,
Ochone! on the wild-waved shore.

Great is the speed of my coracle,
And its stern turned upon Derry:
Grievous is my errand over the main,
Travelling to Alba of the beetling brows.

My foot in my tuneful coracle,
My sad heart tearful :
A man without guidance is weak,
Blind are all the ignorant.

There is a grey eye
That will look back upon Erin:
It shall never see again
The men of Erin nor her women.

I stretch my glance across the brine
From the firm oaken planks:
Many are the tears of my bright soft grey eye
As I look back upon Erin.

My mind is upon Erin,
Upon Loch Lene, upon Linny,
Upon the land where Ulstermen are,
Upon gentle Munster and upon Meath.

Many in the East are lanky chiels,
Many diseases there and distempers,
Many they with scanty dress,
Many the hard and jealous hearts.

Plentiful in the West the fruit of the apple-tree,
Many kings and princes;
Plentiful are luxurious sloes,
Plentiful oak-woods of noble mast.

Melodious her clerics, melodious her birds,
Gentle her youths, wise her elders,
Illustrious her men, famous to behold,
Illustrious her women for fond espousal.

It is in the West sweet Brendan is,
And Colum son of Criffan,
And in the West fair Baithin shall be,
And in the West shall be Adamnan.

Carry my greeting after that
To Comgall of eternal life:
Carry my greeting after that
To the stately king of fair Navan.

Carry with thee, thou fair youth,
My blessing and my benediction:
One half upon Erin, sevenfold,
And half upon Alba at the same time.

Carry my blessing with thee to the West,
My heart is broken in my breast:
Should sudden death overtake me,
It is for my great love of the Gael.

Gael! Gael! beloved name!
It gladdens the heart to invoke it:
Beloved is Cummin of the beauteous hair,
Beloved are Cainnech and Comgall.

Were all Alba mine
From its centre to its border,
I would rather have the site of a house
In the middle of fair Derry.

It is for this I love Derry,
For its smoothness, for its purity,
And for its crowd of white angels
From one end to another.

It is for this I love Derry,
For its smoothness, for its purity,
All full of angels
Is every leaf on the oaks of Derry.

My Derry, my little oak-grove,
My dwelling and my little cell,
O living God that art in Heaven above,
Woe to him who violates it!

Beloved are Durrow and Derry,
Beloved is Raphoe with purity,
Beloved Drumhome with its sweet acorns,
Beloved are Swords and Kells!

Beloved also to my heart in the West
Drumcliff on Culcinne's strand:
To gaze upon fair Loch Foyle
The shape of its shores is delightful.

Delightful it is,
The deep-red ocean where the sea-gulls cry,
As I come from Derry afar,
It is peaceful and it is delightful.