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THE BOYNE VALLEY
DROGHEDA, at the mouth of the Boyne, first calls to mind the memorable siege by Cromwell, and the “Battle of the Boyne.” In 1649 Cromwell landed at Dublin with an army of twelve thousand men besides artillery. Drogheda was the first place he attacked. The assailants were twice repulsed, but the third attack, led by Cromwell in person, was successful; and then commenced that indiscriminate slaughter which has rendered the name of the Protector execrated throughout Ireland.
It was a plain, matter-of-fact, brutal warfare, this, but the battle of the Boyne — associated with the doubly historic little river which rises out of one of Ireland’s famous “holy wells,” in the county of Kildare — possesses more largely the elements of romance than many another, though they were more bloody and the results of greater moment.
Here, within a mile of Drogheda, where the unlovely obelisk still marks the spot, was fought, in 1690, the celebrated battle between the Prince of Orange and his father-in-law, James II. The armies were nearly equal in strength, thirty thousand men. Five hundred were killed on the side of William of Orange, and one thousand on the other. The account of the flight of James II., taken from Köhl’s “Ireland,” is interesting:
“James II. displayed but little courage in this memorable battle. He abandoned the field even before the battle was decided, and made a ride of unexampled rapidity through Ireland. In a few hours he reached the castle of Dublin, and in the following day he rode to Waterford, a distance of one hundred English miles. Nevertheless, James sought to throw the whole blame of the defeat on the Irish. On arriving at the castle of Dublin, he met the Lady Tyrconnel, a woman of ready wit, to whom he exclaimed, ‘Your countrymen, the Irish, madam, can run very fast, it must be owned.’ ‘In this, as in every other respect, your Majesty surpasses them, for you have won the race,’ was the merited rebuke of the lady.”
An obelisk to-day marks the spot where William commenced the attack, and where Schomberg fell. The inscription which it bears is significant, sectarian, and sentimental, it is true; but it is explanatory of much that makers of guide-books have often neglected or ignored.
“Sacred to the glorious memory of King William the Third, who, on the first of July, 1690, passed the river near this place to attack James the Second at the head of a Popish army, advantageously posted on the south side of it, and did on that day, by a single battle, secure to us, and to our posterity, our liberty, laws, and religion. In consequence of this action James the Second left this kingdom and fled to France.
“This memorial of our
deliverance was erected in the 9th year of the reign of King George
the Second, the first stone being laid by Lionel Sackville, Duke of
Dorset, Lord Lieutenant of the Kingdom of Ireland.
The entire Boyne valley, restricted though its area is, encompasses much more of the historic past of Ireland than any other spot. There may elsewhere be grander scenery, — admittedly there is, — and there may even be more numerous historic remains, and of greater magnitude; but from Drogheda to its source in Kildare is a grand succession of spots which have made much history for Ireland, and great fame for those who figured in the events that took place.
The great figure of prechristian Erin is undoubtedly that of Cormac-Ard-ri-Cormace the First, who reigned in the early years of the third century.
“His reign,” says Haverty, the historian, “is generally looked upon as the brightest epoch in the entire history of pagan Ireland.” He established three colleges; one for war, one for history, and the third for jurisprudence. He collected and remodelled the laws, and published the code which remained in force throughout all Ireland until the English invasion (a period extending beyond nine hundred years), and which, outside the English pale, lingered for many centuries after! He assembled the bards and chroniclers at Tara, and directed them to collect the annals of Ireland, and to write out the records of the country from year to year, making them agree with the history of other countries, by collating events with the reigns of contemporary foreign potentates, Cormac himself having been the inventor of this kind of chronology. If this be so, the modern historians who claim to have been the originators of this cochronological scheme have an apology to make. These annals formed the “Psalter of Tara,” which also contained full details of the boundaries of provinces, districts, and small divisions of land throughout Ireland. Unfortunately, this great record has been lost, no vestige of it being now, it is believed, in existence.
The magnificence of Cormac’s palace at Tara was commensurate with the greatness of his power and the brilliancy of his actions. He fitted out a fleet which he sent to harass the shores of Alba or Scotland, until that country also was compelled to acknowledge him as sovereign. He wrote a book, or tract, called “Teagusc-na-Ri,” or the “Institutions of a Prince,” which is still in existence, and which contains admirable maxims on manners, morals, and government. He died A.D. 266, at Cleitach, on the Boyne, a salmon-bone, it is said, having fastened in his throat while dining, and defied all efforts at extrication. He was buried at Ross-na-Ri, the first of the pagan monarchs for many generations who was not interred at Brugh, the famous burial-place of the prechristian kings.
Ferguson’s poem, classically entitled “The Burial of King Cormac,” recounts the incident of his death at length, and picturesquely.
Cormac must have been altogether a glorious personage, judging from a description which has come down to us from an ancient Irish MS.:
“Beautiful was the appearance of Cormac (this was before he lost his eye) in that assembly. Flowing, slightly curling hair upon him; a red buckler with stars and animals of gold and fastening of silver upon him; a crimson cloak in wide, descending folds upon him, fastened at his breast by a golden brooch set with precious stones; a neck-torque of gold around his neck; a white shirt with a full collar, and intertwined with red-gold thread upon him; a girdle of gold inlaid with precious stones around him; two wonderful shoes of gold with runnings of gold upon him; two spears with golden sockets in his hand.”
This, then, is the description of the royal Cormac with his curling, golden hair and opulence of barbaric trappings, and the scenes over which he presided were surely in keeping with his magnificence, though only by a strong effort of imagination can they now be recalled.
The chief and most splendid structures of the interior of Ireland in ancient times were Emania and Tara. The former, the one-time palace of the kings of Ulster, was alleged to have been built about three hundred and fifty years before the Christian era. It existed as late as Columba’s time, though it had ceased to be a royal residence; and the antiquarians, Camden and Speed, attest that fragmentary remains of this splendid establishment existed even in their day (seventeenth century). If this be really so, the ruin, if it could even be called by so explicit a name, must have been one of the most ancient existing in northern climes.
Tara was a place of greater, and yet more modern, celebrity. It was situated in the plain of Bregia, which extended between the Boyne, the Liffey, and the sea, and was preëminent above all other edifices as having been the residence of Irish kings for upwards of a thousand years.
The Stone of Destiny, Tara
A contributor to the “Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy,” writing in 1830, has described Tara as it appeared to him on a recent visit:
“Only when one finds himself at the base of the venerable mount does it present an attitude of much interest. At the left are the gloomy remains of the church of Screen and the once noble mansion and demesne of Lord Tara, back of which are the remains of several old stone edifices and of a particularly narrow bridge which still spans a weedy rivulet. Passing through the villages and by the church, one identifies some large rocks as having exercised the strength or yielded to the sword of Fin MacComhal (Fingal). Here one finds himself on the summit of Tara; and if he goes there with none of that wild enthusiasm which requires towers and battlements and draw-bridges and bower-windows, and donjon-keeps, to gratify it, he will feel most awfully the unalterable royalty of the prospect it commands.
“When the natural advantages of the scene have obtained their due homage, let the visitor look for vestiges of the past, and there he will not be disappointed; for the place seemeth to bear the shew of an ancient and famous monument.”
All of which observations are sufficiently noncommittal to be undisputed; and unless one is an arrant idol-breaker, — and we haven’t many in these days, — he will be quite willing to accept the description as being sufficiently explicit to permit of his putting himself in the same place, and making the same observations.
The site is assuredly authentic, and the link of history which binds its past with the present is something more than a suggestion; though by no means need we seek or envy the emotions which inspired Moore’s verses:
“The harp that once through Tara’s Halls
The soul of music shed,
Now hangs as mute on Tara’s walls,
As if that soul were fled, —
So sleeps the pride of former days,
So glory’s thrill is o’er,
And hearts that once beat high for praise,
Now feel that pulse no more.
“No more to chiefs and ladies bright
The harp of Tara swells,
The chord alone, that breaks at night,
Its tale of ruin tells.
Thus freedom now so seldom wakes
The only throb she gives,
Is when some heart indignant breaks
To show that she still lives.”
Near Drogheda is Monasterboice, a collection of celebrated ecclesiastical ruins. Within an enclosed churchyard, which stands quite apart from any settlement of to-day, are two tiny chapels, a round tower of considerable proportions (110 feet high and 50 feet in circumference at its base), and three stone crosses, the principal of which, known as St. Boyne’s Cross, is reputedly the most ancient religious relique now standing in Ireland. Among its rude sculptures, there is an inscription in Irish characters, in which is plainly legible the name of Murelach, a king of Ireland who died in 534, about one hundred years after the arrival of St. Patrick. The height of this cross is twenty-seven feet, and it is composed of two stones. The shafts are divided into compartments ornamented with figures. One group represents “a couple of harpers in paradise,” of which Köhl says: “No Irishman of the olden times would have thought paradise complete without his beloved national instrument.”
This recalls Lover’s verses, but whether or no so rude a symbolism inspired them it is impossible to state.
“Oh! give me one strain
Of that wild harp again,
In melody proudly its own,
Sweet harp of the days that are gone.”
The entire region of the Boyne valley is rich in tradition and history, far more so than any other area of its size in Ireland.
From Drogheda, at the river’s mouth, to Trim, just beyond Tara, and to Kells on the Blackwater (not to be confounded with the Blackwater of the south), the Boyne’s chief tributary, is scarce fifty miles; but there are a succession of shrines of history of which even the most unfamiliar are household words.
At Trim one is in the midst of military and ecclesiastical ruins which will make the lover of architectural remains long for the opportunity of knowing them better. There is the usual “King John’s Castle,” in reality Dangan Castle, an ancient military erection of the De Lacys, commonly called, and apparently with justification, “the finest example of Anglo-Norman military architecture in Ireland.”
It was founded in 1170 by the De Lacy who was given, by Henry II., the lordship of Meath, one of the five original kingdoms of Ireland.
The original structure was burnt to prevent its falling into the hands of Roderic, King of Connaught. The present remains date from 1220, and, though locally known as “King John’s Castle,” the records tell us that the monarch himself is only known to have visited Trim for but two days; hence his occupancy, if not his actual proprietorship, was very brief.
It must, truly, have been formerly a magnificent work of its kind, its shape being triangular, as is that noblest of all Anglo-Norman castles, Chateau Gaillard in Normandy.
Ten flanking towers protected its gateways, which, in their turn, were preceded each by a barbican. The most imposing of its details, which is more or less intact, is the keep, a massive tower sixty-four feet square and sixty feet in height. In this detail it differed greatly from its Norman brothers and sisters: in that at Chateau Gaillard, and others in Normandy, the keep was invariably circular.
Trim’s ecclesiastical history dates back to the foundation of a church here by St. Patrick in the fifth century. Its site is perpetuated to-day by the famous Yellow Tower of the church of St. Mary’s Abbey, the most lofty Anglo-Norman erection in Ireland (125 feet). Its outlines and stages were reduced nearly to ruin by Cromwell’s warriors, but enough remains to-day to suggest that its former functions of watch-tower and refuge must have been most efficient.
“Literary pilgrims” will be more interested perhaps in visiting the tiny parish of Laracar, so indelibly associated with the lives of Swift and his “Stella.” It lies but two short miles south of Trim, and is still one of those delightful, unspoiled, old-time villages which one occasionally comes across. Swift was the incumbent of this parish in 1699, and “Stella,” chaperoned by Mrs. Dingley, was quartered here in lodgings. The ladies moved into the glebe-house, so literary gossip says, when Swift was on his travels, and the “Journal to Stella” was addressed there. Swift’s house, now but a fragment of a ruin, remains, as also the church in which “dearly beloved Roger” was clerk.
Down the Boyne from Trim one comes first to Bective Abbey, which, according to a local authority, differs from every other monastic establishment in the kingdom, in that it was a monastic castle or fortress. It was a Cistercian foundation of the twelfth century, first endowed by O’Melaghlin, a prince of Meath. It is a fine ruin to-day, and, although the parts of its original outlines are somewhat lost, the pointed fenestration is remarkable and unusually well preserved. Hugh de Lacy, after his assassination at Durrow Castle, was brought here for burial, but his head was interred in the tomb of Rosa de Monmouth in the Abbey of St. Thomas at Dublin.
Here one is in the immediate vicinity of Tara and its famous hill, the site of Ireland’s most celebrated and splendid kingly residence.
Between Tara and Kells is Navan, which, of itself, is an ordinary “market town,” with nothing to commend it to the lover of beauty and history but its immediate vicinity to the junction of the rivers Blackwater and Boyne. This particular spot, just below Navan, is one of exceptional charm, though, as has been truly said, “the people of Navan have turned their backs upon it,” and from scarce a spot in the town itself can a glimpse of either stream be had.
Navan has a past decidedly more interesting than its present. Its ancient patronymic was Nuachongbhail, and it was one of the earliest fortified places in the county of Meath. Hugh de Lacy walled it around; but remains of this work have now almost disappeared, though there are still some very tangible evidences of the “earliest style of fortifications known in Erin” in the Great Moat of Navan.
The Round Tower of Donaghmore, the most perfect of its kind in Ireland, and the ruins of Donaghmore church, are near by. Professor Flinders Petrie ascribes the date of the tower to the tenth century. It is one hundred feet in height, and its base circumference is sixty-six and a half feet. He further describes the remarkable doorway as having “a figure of Our Saviour, crucified, sculptured in relief on its keystone and the stone immediately above it.” This fact should establish beyond all doubt that the motive of these great round towers of Ireland, or at least of this particular one, was Christian and not pagan.
The Round Tower, Kells
One is bound to visit Kells if only to take cognizance of its famous market-cross. Kells, in the county of Meath, is, or should be, coupled, in the minds of visitors, with the name of Tara. They have nothing in common, but they are neighbours, and properly should be seen in connection with each other. Tara presents, at first glance, nothing more than a small conical elevation rising above the Boyne; but its memories as the residence of the magnificent Cormac, St. Patrick, the Druids, the law-givers, the bards, and all the ancient prehistoric civilization which centred around it, are very great.
Kells is a dozen or more miles from Tara, and should not be confounded with Kells in Kilkenny. Kells was granted to St. Columba in the sixth century, and a small house still exists which is fondly believed to have been either the oratory or the residence of the saint.
In the market-place of Kells was built a castle, in 1178, and opposite to it was erected a stone cross, reputedly the most beautiful of its class known. As to just what was the precise and full significance of these famous crosses, which abound in Ireland, authorities, self-styled ecclesiastical experts, and genuine archæologists alike, fail to agree. Certainly nothing has puzzled people more than the scenes depicted on the bases of some of the crosses. At Kells, for instance, there is, on one side of the base, a hunting-scene, where a man with a shield and spear, preceded by a dog, pursues a collection of animals, among which we may distinguish two stags, a pig, a monstrous bird, and three other animals. On another side there are two centaurs, one armed with a trident, the other with bow and arrow, and having a bird on its back. There also is a bird with a fish in its talons, and another bird on a quadruped of some kind. On the third side there is a contest between foot-soldiers, and on the fourth a procession of four mounted warriors.
Primarily, of course, the significance of these crosses was Christian, but whether or not of the superstitious order, as were the gargoyles and grotesque water-spouts seen so frequently on continental churches, is apparently a matter of doubt.
THE CROSS OF KELLS.
The subjects pictured on many of these crosses can hardly be assumed to be Scriptural, and are certainly not appropriate to the ideas of Christian art of our own time, nor indeed with those which were put to use in churches and monasteries in the Middle Ages. It has been suggested that they represent lingering pagan notions of the Happy Otherworld of the Celts, since hunting and fighting were among their principal joys; but this again is mere conjecture, and, though pagan influences had perhaps not wholly died out when this cross of Kells was first set up, it is hardly likely that pagan enthusiasm would express itself on a Christian symbol.
The crosses of Monasterboice, Kells, Clonmacnois, and Durrow were all either in, or on the very border of, the ancient kingdom of Meath, and may perhaps be grouped together as belonging to a local school which ranked perhaps above all others in the magnitude and beauty of its sculpture.
Many other crosses, which once existed throughout Ireland, are now known only by a broken fragment of the shaft, or a base, which may or may not preserve the inscription; and it seems quite probable that no ecclesiastical centre existed which did not, at one time, boast of its Celtic cross standing as a dominant monument of art among all other memorials.
The great question which the antiquaries have apparently yet to settle among themselves is as to whether the decoration of these stone crosses, so different from other sculptured stone work to be seen in churches and elsewhere, is really the result of Celtic inspiration, or not.
It certainly is partly Roman and partly Byzantine in its motive, though unquestionably the development of the idea was distinctively Celtic or Irish.
From ancient records one learns that the Irish craftsmen first worked out their ideas, not on stone, but on parchment, and that these were transferred from illuminated MSS. to the crosses, and again in metal work, where so many similar designs are seen.
CROSSES OF CLONMACNOIS, DONEGAL,
SLANE, AND MOONE ABBEY.
It is a popular supposition that these motives, spirals, frets, and interlaced bands originated in Ireland or were peculiar to Celtic art. But really the origin of these ornaments and their travels from one country to another show quite the contrary to be the case. Investigation has shown that early civilization, advancing along primitive trade routes, or, more generally, on the lines of communication between different countries or races, was responsible for the diffusion of many arts that have been wrongly ascribed as having been born in one locality or another. Scandinavia, Greece, Egypt, and even farther east, all contributed something, no doubt, to what afterward became known as Celtic art; just how much, or by what process, is the question to decide.
At any rate, the result achieved by the artisans who carved these ancient Irish crosses, whatever may have been their source of inspiration, indicates that they were the work of no “‘prentice hand.” It is evident that no mere underling or stone-cutter chiseled out spiral, fret, and knot, and twisted zoomorph, which one sees on these crosses. It was a master-mind that planned and a master-hand that drew the same patterns on many an Irish vellum. And it was in the depth of the dark ages, too, that Ireland set this bright example to Europe. In the twelfth century one of her books, then perhaps four hundred years old, compelled the admiration of Gerald of Wales, in most things her detractor. “If you examine the drawings closely,” he says, “you will find them so delicate and exquisite, so finely drawn, and the work of interlacing so elaborate, while the colours with which they are illuminated are so blended, and still so fresh, that you will be ready to assert that all this is the work of angelic, and not human skill.” This is certainly high praise; but, within its limits, the early Irish school of decorative art, in its best products, whether on parchment, metal, or stone, has, of its kind, been hitherto unsurpassed by man.
Though the market-cross of Kells is not perfectly preserved — its top is broken off — it may be considered, with that at Monasterboice, to be a remarkable expression of the art of stone-carving. There are a notable richness and elaboration of detail most curious and quite unique.
In the churchyard are three other crosses of lesser importance, though one of them is over eleven feet in height.
HOLY WELL, KELLS.
The famous “Book of Kells,” a manuscript copy of the Gospels in Latin, dating from the eighth century and described as the “most elaborately executed monument (sic) of early Christian art now extant,” is preserved in the library of Trinity College, Dublin.
Next to the idyllic and vague figure of Erin, and the more definite, but still apocryphal, one of St. Patrick, that of St. Columba, the real founder of the religious community of Kells, stands out the most prominently. To his era belonged a glorious race of scholars, all of whom gained their learning from the many universities, convents, and monasteries which covered the island. Among those most prominent are the names, first of all, of St. Columba, or Columcille (Dove of the Cell); St. Columbanus; St. Gall, who evangelized Helvetia; St. Livinus, who suffered martyrdom in Flanders; St. Argobast, who became Bishop of Strasburg; and St. Killian.
Columba’s history is well set forth in sundry places, and is too extended to recount here. Suffice to say that the events of his life were most dramatic, and his attachment to learning, poetry, and literature, in particular, most profound.
Montalembert, the historian, says:
“He was a poet and writer of a high order of genius, and to an advanced period of his life remained an ardent devotee of the muse, ever powerfully moved by whatever affected the weal of the minstrel fraternity. His passion for books (all manuscript, of course, in those days, and of great rarity and value) was destined to lead him into that great offence of his life, which he was afterward to expiate by a penance so grievous. He went everywhere in search of volumes which he could borrow or copy; often experiencing refusals which he resented bitterly.”
In the following manner occurred what Montalembert calls “the decisive event which changed the destiny of Columba, and transformed him from a wandering poet and ardent bookworm into a missionary and apostle.”
“While visiting one of his former tutors, Finian, he found means to copy clandestinely the abbot’s Psalter by shutting himself up at nights in the church where the book was deposited. Indignant at what he considered as almost a theft, Finian claimed the copy when it was finished by Columba, on the ground that a copy made without permission ought to belong to the master of the original, seeing that the transcription is the son of the original book. Columba refused to give up his work, and the question was referred to the king in his palace of Tara.”
What immediately followed, and its sequel, should be read in the words of Montalembert. The accusation of theft, or something akin to burglary, was followed by Columba’s withdrawal to his native province of Tyrconnell, where he set to work to excite the natives to proceed against King Diarmid, who had decided against him.
“Diarmid marched to meet them in battle at Cul-Dreimhne, upon the borders of Ultonia and Connacia. He was completely beaten, and was obliged to take refuge at Tara. The victory was due, according to the annalist Tighernach, to the prayers and songs of Columba, who had fasted and prayed with all his might to obtain from Heaven the punishment of the royal insolence, and who, besides, was present at the battle, and took upon himself before all men the responsibility of the bloodshed.”
As for the manuscript which had been the object of this strange conflict of copyright, elevated into a civil war, it was afterward venerated as a kind of natural military and religious palladium. Under the name of Cathach or Fightu, the Latin Psalter transcribed by Columba, enshrined in a sort of portable altar, became the national relic of the O’Donnell clan. For more than a thousand years it was carried with them to battle as a pledge of victory, on the condition of being supported on the breast of a clerk free from all mortal sin.
Still struggling with a stubborn self-will, Columba found his life miserable, unhappy, and full of unrest; yet remorse had even now “planted in his soul the germs at once of a startling conversion and of his future apostolic mission.” Various legends reveal him to us at this crisis of his life, wandering long from solitude to solitude, and from monastery to monastery, seeking out holy monks, masters of penitence and Christian virtue, and asking them anxiously what he should do to obtain the pardon of God for the murder of so many victims as was caused by the battle of Cul-Dreimhne.
At length, after many wanderings in contrition and mortification, “he found the light which he sought from a holy monk, St. Molaise, famed for his studies of Holy Scripture, and who had already been his confessor.
“This severe hermit confirmed the decision of the synod; but, to the obligation of converting to the Christian faith an equal number of pagans as there were of Christians killed in the civil war, he added a new condition, which bore cruelly upon a soul so passionately attached to country and kindred. The confessor condemned his penitent to perpetual exile from Ireland!”
This was more hard than to bare his breast to the piercing sword; less welcome than to walk in constant punishment and suffering, so long as his feet pressed the soil of his worshipped Erin!
But it was even so. Thus ran the sentence of Molaise: “Perpetual exile from Ireland!”
Staggered, stunned, struck to the heart, Columba could not speak for a moment. But God gave him in that great crisis of his life the supreme grace to bear the blow and embrace the cross presented to him. At last he spoke, and in a voice choked by emotion he answered: “Be it so; what you have commanded shall be done.” From that instant his life was one long penitential sacrifice. For thirty years he lived and laboured in the distant Iona, and the fame of his sanctity and devotion filled the world.
As a farewell gift to some Irish visitors at Iona, Columba presented the following verses, deservedly classed among the world’s beautiful poetic compositions. The literal translation into English doubtless loses much of the original beauty, but enough, at least, is left to indicate the charm of the original Gaelic thought and sentiment.
“What joy to fly upon the white-crested sea; and watch the waves break upon the Irish shore!
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
“My foot is in my little boat; but my sad heart ever bleeds!
“There is a gray eye which ever turns to Erin; but never in this life shall it see Erin, nor her sons, nor her daughters!
“From the high prow I look over the sea; and great tears are in my eyes when I turn to Erin —
“To Erin, where the songs of the birds are so sweet, and where the clerks sing like the birds;
“Where the young are so gentle, and the old are so wise; where the great men are so noble to look at, and the women so fair to wed!
“Young traveller! carry my sorrows with you; carry them to Comgall of eternal life!
“Noble youth, take my prayer with thee, and my blessing; one part for Ireland — seven times may she be blest — and the other for Albyn.
“Carry my blessings across the sea; carry it to the West. My heart is broken in my breast!
“If death comes suddenly to me, it will be because of greatest love I bear to the Gael!”
It was to the rugged and desolate Hebrides that Columba turned his face when he accepted the terrible penance of perpetual exile.
Columba did return to Ireland, as history tells. But, though this may be traditional, he returned blindfolded. “The Dove of the Cell” made a comparatively long stay in Ireland, visiting with scarf-bound brow the numerous monastic establishments subject to his rule. At length he returned to Iona, where, far into the evening of life, he waited for his summons to the beatific vision. The miracles he wrought, attested by evidence of sufficient weight to move the most callous skeptic, the myriad wondrous signs of God’s favour that marked his daily acts, filled all the nations with awe. The hour and the manner of his death had long been revealed to him. The precise time he concealed from those about him until close upon the last day of his life; but the manner of his death he long foretold to his attendants. “I shall die,” he said, “without sickness or hurt; suddenly, but happily, and without accident.” At length one day, while in his usual health, he disclosed to Diarmid, his “minister,” or regular attendant monk, that the hour of his summons was nigh. A week before he had gone around the island, taking leave of the monks and labourers; and when all wept, he strove anxiously to console them. Then he blessed the island and the inhabitants. “And now,” said he to Diarmid, “here is a secret; but you must keep it till I am gone. This is Saturday, the day called Sabbath, or day of rest: and that it will be to me, for it shall be the last of my laborious life.” In the evening he retired to his cell, and began to work for the last time, being then occupied in transcribing the Psalter. When he had come to the thirty-third Psalm, and the verse, “Inquirentes autem Dominum non deficient omni bono,” he stopped short. “I cease here,” said he; “Baithin must do the rest.”
The above is an abridgment of Montalembert’s chronicle which must be accepted as truthful. It certainly is as profound and interesting an account of Christian martyrdom and devotion as any extant.