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ANNOTATIONS TO THE FOREGOING LIVES
THE HOMILETIC INTRODUCTION (VG)
The three Latin lives plunge in medias res at the beginning; but VG prefixes an introduction borrowed from a Homily on Charity. The Irish text of this homily, with the original Latin, will be found printed from the fifteenth-century MS. called Leabhar Breac ("The speckled book") in Atkinson's Passions and Homilies (Dublin 1887). The text announced by the preacher is clearly suggested by incident XXII. It has already been shown in the Introduction, that this Life, with its homiletic preface, was a sermon written to be preached or read on the festival of the saint (9th September) at Clonmacnois.
The keynote of the Irish homily is struck in this first section. It is the work of some scholar of Clonmacnois, with a warm enthusiasm for the dignity of his alma mater. The sermon is as much a eulogy of Clonmacnois as of Ciaran. In the preacher's view, Clonmacnois is the chief and central church of Ireland, and the source of all ecclesiastical discipline in the country. Its founder excelled his fellow-saints as the sun excels the stars (Sec. 2). His pre-eminence was recognised by angels, who relieved him of labour when his turn came (Sec. 13): and on several occasions Findian showed a like favouritism (Sec.Sec. 18, 20, a, d, 23). Clonmacnois was superior to the rival house at Birr (Sec. 20 b); and possessed in the hide of the Dun Cow an infallible passport to heaven (Sec. 20 c). The vision of the tree seen by Enda and by Ciaran prophesied the pre-eminence of Clonmacnois (Sec. 24). The other saints were envious of his renown and of the glory of his monastery (Sec. 40).
The Hymn of Colum Cille.--Following the usual practice of Irish prose literary composition, the homilist intersperses his work throughout with verse extracts, appealed to as the authority for the various statements which he has occasion to make. In the present section he draws upon a hymn made by Colum Cille in honour of Ciaran. To this hymn, and to its surviving fragments, we shall return in commenting upon incident LI, where the composition of the hymn is alluded to.
The Ante-natal Prophecies.--Patrick is said also to have prophesied the advent of Senan (LL, 1845) and of Alban (CS, 505); and Becc mac De that of Brenainn (LL, 3343). But the parallels drawn between the Life of Ciaran and that of Christ have made such prophecies especially appropriate in the present case.
The prophecy of Saint Patrick took place under the following circumstances (VTP, p. 84 ff.). The leper whom, in accordance with a custom frequent in early Irish monasticism, Patrick is said to have maintained--partly for charity and partly for self-abasement--departed from Patrick when the latter was on the holy mountain of Cruachan Aigli (Croagh Patrick, Co. Mayo). He made his way to the then empty site of Clonmacnois, and sat in the split trunk of a hollow elm tree. A stranger made his appearance, and the leper, having assured himself that he was a Christian, requested him to uproot a bundle of rushes and to give him in a clean vessel of the water that would burst forth. Then the leper begged of the stranger to bring tools for digging, and to bury him there; and he was the first dead man to be buried in Clonmacnois. Now after this had taken place, the nephew of Patrick, Bishop Muinis, chanced to be benighted on the same spot, when returning from a mission to Rome on which the apostle had sent him. There were angels hovering over the leper's grave, and thus Muinis recognised it as the burial-place of a man of God. He deposited the relics which he was bearing back from Rome, for the night, in the hollow elm; but he found in the morning that the tree had closed upon them, and that they could not be recovered. In sorrow for their loss, he related the event to Patrick, and for his comfort he was told that a Son of Life--to wit Ciaran, son of the wright--was destined to come thither, and that he would need the relics. These relics are mentioned in VG 41, though "Benen and Cumlach" [the leper] are there said to have left them, not Muinis. From this reference we learn that they were attributed to Saints Peter and Paul.
It is quite clear that this curious story has reached us in a fragmentary and expurgated form, and that if we had the whole narrative before us it would afford us an indication that Clonmacnois was the site of an earlier, Pagan, sanctuary. It will most probably be found to be an invariable rule that the early Christian establishments in Ireland occupy the sites of Pagan sanctuaries; the monastery having been founded to re-consecrate the holy place to the True Faith. The hollow elm was doubtless a sacred tree; the well which miraculously burst forth was a sacred well: the buried leper may have been a foundation sacrifice, like Oran on Iona. The old pre-Christian name of the site is suggestive--Ard Tiprat, "the high place of the [holy] well." By no stretch of language can the site of Clonmacnois be called physically high; as in the stanza quoted in VG 30, the word Ard must be used in the sense of distinguished, eminent, or sacred.
Of the prophecy attributed to Brigit there appears to be no record in any of her numerous Lives: nor can I identify with certainty the story of "the fire and the angel." There were "Crosses of Brigit" at Armagh; but as there were probably many other crosses throughout the country dedicated to this popular saint we cannot infer that Armagh was the scene of the prophecy.
Becc mac De was chief soothsayer to King Diarmait mac Cerrbeil. Very little is certainly known of him; most of the traditions relating to him consist of tales of his remarkable gift of foretelling the future--tales similar to those related of the Covenanter Alexander Peden in Scotland, or of the seventeenth-century Mayo peasant Red Brian Carabine. He died in or about the year A.D. 555 (the annalists waver between 552 and 557); and the Annals of Clonmacnois tell us that he began to prophesy in 550. As Ciaran is said to have died in 548, the statement that Becc mac De foretold his coming is anachronistic. The prophecy here attributed to him does not appear in the list of prognostications attributed to him (given in the MS. Harleian 5280, British Museum, edited in Zeitschrift fuer Celtische Philologie, ix, 169), or in Leabhar Breac, p. 260, where some further particulars about him are given.
I have ventured to emend the passage regarding Becc mac De slightly, restoring the verse form which the prophecy seems to have had originally. As it appears in the Lismore Lives printed text it is given in prose; an insignificant transposition of the words, and the taking of the word andsin out of the inverted commas is all that is necessary. In the rendering in the text an attempt is made to reproduce to some extent the elaboration of alliteration, but the end-rhymes and the vowel-assonances cannot be imitated without sacrificing the sense. The metre resembles that known as mibhasc (four-syllable and six-syllable lines alternating, but with trisyllabic rhyme in the short lines).
The person to whom Colum Cille uttered his prophecy was Aed mac Brenainn, Prince of Tethba (Teffia), the region comprising various baronies in the modern Co. Westmeath and part of Co. Longford. This Aed gave Dermag (Durrow) to Colum Cille a few years before the latter's departure for Scotland. There is, however, no record of the prophecy in the lives of Colum Cille; probably his visit to Clonmacnois from Durrow is in the writer's mind. Ard Abla, identified by O'Donovan with Lissardowlin, Co. Longford, was in the territory of Tethba. The Lismore scribe has written the name of Aed's father incorrectly (Brandub); the correction ("or Brenainn") is a marginal note.
THE ORIGIN AND BIRTH OF CIARAN: THE WIZARD'S PROPHECIES (LA, LB, LC, VG)
The Pedigree (VG).--The pedigree in VG traces Ciaran's descent from Tigernmas, fabled to have reigned in Tara 3580-3657 Anno Mundi (1620-1543 B.C.). Through Tigernmas the line is traced to Mil of Spain, the eponymous ancestor of the "Milesians," or Celtic-speaking inhabitants of Ireland.
There is another pedigree, totally different, which connects the saint, not with the Tara kings, but with those of the Ulaid or Ulster folk, through the dethroned Fergus who figures so prominently in the epic tale Tain Bo Cualnge. This pedigree appears in the Book of Leinster (facsimile, pp. 348, 349) and Leabhar Breac (facsimile, p. 16), the Bodleian MS. Rawlinson B 506, p. 154 d, and in the MS. in Marsh's Library containing LA, at the foot of the column where LA begins; with an added note stating that Ciaran was "of the true Ultonains of Emain": its authenticity is adopted by Keating (I.T.S. edition, vol. iii, p. 48). Correcting one copy with another this genealogy runs as follows--
Ciaran son of Coscrach son of Aislithe son of Beodan " Mesinsuad " Modruad " Bolcan " Mesinsulad " Follomain " Linned " Erce " Deoda " Corc " Erc (or Oscar) " Eochaid " Daig " Mechon " Corc " Cunneda " Nechtan " Fergus " Cass " Aed Corb " Ros " Froech " Aed Gnoe " Rudraige
Thus both genealogies claim a royal descent for the saint. This is an instance of a widespread policy, of which many traces are to be found in the old Irish Genealogies. The whole country was divided into territories of different clans, under which were subordinate and tributary septs. The latter bore the chief burden of taxation; and they were for the greater part composed of descendants of the aboriginal pre-Celtic tribes, who had been reduced to vassalage on the coming of the Celtic-speaking invaders (about the third or fourth century B.C.). When a tributary sept became strong enough to resist the pressure of these imposts, exemption was claimed by a sort of legal fiction, by which they were genealogically affiliated to the ruling sept. This practice led to the fabrication of spurious links, and even of whole pedigrees.
In point of fact several indications show that Ciaran belonged to a tributary sept, and was of pre-Celtic blood. These tributary septs were distinguished from their Celtic conquerors by social organisation, racial character, and probably still to some extent by religion and language. They had much the same position as the perioeci in ancient Sparta. The following are the evidences of his pre-Celtic nationality--
(a) The tribal names of his parents (Latharna, Glasraige). There are two forms of tribal names in ancient Ireland; those consisting of two words, and those consisting of one. The first are in such formulae as "tribe of NN," "seed of NN" or the like--NN being the name of a more or less legendary ancestor. The second are either simple names which cannot be analysed, or else are derived from an ancestral name by adding the suffix -rige or -raige. As a rule the names consisting of one word only are fundamentally pre-Celtic, or denote pre-Celtic septs, though in many cases they have been fitted with Celticising genealogies.
(b) The names of Ciaran himself and his brothers, and of one of his sisters. Donnan, Ciaran, Odran, Cronan are all diminutives founded upon colours--the little brown, black, grey, and tawny one. These indicate that the family was dark complexioned, which would also accord with a pre-Celtic origin. The Celts were fair, their predecessors dark. One of the sisters was called Pata, with an initial P. This is impossible in a Gaelic name.
(c) The subordinate position of Ciaran's father, and his liability to taxation. In the Book of Leinster and, in part, in Leabhar Breac, after the genealogy, we read "He [i.e. Ciaran] was of one of the seven clans of the Latharna of Molt. His father was originally in slavery in Britain; he went thereafter to Ireland to Cenel Conaill [north of Co. Donegal], and after that to Connacht to avoid a heavy tax, so that Ciaran was born at Raith Cremthainn in Mag Ai." LA describes Ciaran's father as "a rich man," and certainly the family seems to have been comfortably provided with cattle, the chief wealth of their time. In reference to his father's trade Ciaran is regularly called mac in tsair, "son of the wright." The Rabelaisian extravaganza called Imtheacht na Tromdhaimhe ("The Adventures of the Burdensome Company") introduces Ciaran as himself practising smith's craft; but no importance can be attached to so irresponsible a production. Analogous in this respect are the references to our saint in The Adventures of Leithin, which also introduces Ciaran and his monks; but as Dr. Hyde points out in his edition, these are merely a kind of framework for the legend, and the story, though in itself extremely curious and interesting, tells us nothing about either Ciaran or Clonmacnois.
(d) The fact, specially mentioned in LA, that Ciaran was reared by his parents, not put out to fosterage as would have been done had he been of gentle birth.
(e) The pre-eminent position of Ciaran's mother in the home. The pre-Celtic tribesmen of Ireland, like their Pictish kinsmen in Scotland, were organised on the system of mother-right, in which property and descent and kinship are all traced through the maternal side of the ancestry. Throughout the Lives, Beoit is a cypher: the house and its contents and appurtenances are almost invariably treated as Darerca's property. Matriarchate usually implies exogamy, a man choosing his wife from a sept differing from his own; and the children are related to the mother's, not the father's kin. The male responsible for the education of the child is not so much the father as the maternal uncle. The law of exogamy was strictly followed in the case before us. Beoit comes from north-east Ulster; Darerca belonged to a family which drew its origin from the south-east of the present county Kerry, though she seems to have settled in Cenel Fiachach at the time when Beoit met her. Incidents VIII and X of Ciaran's Life are laid in that territory, which falls in with a tradition, presently to be noted, that the dwelling-place of the family of the saint was not Raith Cremthainn, but the place where the parents had first met--which would be an instance of the husband dwelling with the wife's people, as is frequent under the matriarchate. The Celtic authors of the Lives have transferred the kinship of the son to the father's clan, in accordance with their own social system; but an older tradition has left an unmistakable trace in the confusion of the relationships of "father" and "uncle" in LA, Sec.Sec. 9, 10.
It is possible that the prominence of the mother in the household, and Ciaran's birth away from his ancestral home as the result of a taxation, are specially emphasised because they offer obvious parallels with the Gospel story. The character of Darerca is, however, by no means idealised, as we might have expected it to be, had this been the chief purpose of the narrator.
The Parents of Ciaran, their Names and Origins.--The name of Ciaran's father is variously Latinised in the Latin Lives. The Irish lives call him Beoit, a name analysed in the Book of Leinster, p. 349, into Beo-n-Aed, which would mean something like "Living Fire." The -n- is inserted, according to a law of Old Irish accidence, because aed, "fire," is a neuter word. Thus arises the Latin form Beonnadus. By metathesis the name further becomes transformed to Beodan or Beoan. The Latharna were the people who dwelt around the site of the modern town of Larne, which preserves their name; Mag Molt ("the plain of wethers") is probably the plain surrounding the town. The Aradenses, to whom LB ascribes the origin of Beoit, were the people known in Irish record as Dal n-Araide, the pre-Celtic people of the region now called Antrim.
Dar-erca, "daughter of brightness" or "of the sky," was a common female name in ancient Ireland. The Glasraige to whom she belonged was a tribe with divisions scattered in various parts of Ireland. Irluachra was south-east Kerry with adjoining parts of Cork and Limerick. Of her poet grandfather Glas nothing is known.
It would perhaps be too far-fetched to see a hint at a mythological element in the traditions of Ciaran in the signification of his parents' names. Indeed, considering the Tendenz of the Ciaran Lives, it is remarkable that there is no supernormal element in the account of the birth of this particular saint; supernatural births are almost a commonplace in Irish saints' lives as a rule.
The saint's own name is regularly spelt with an initial K or Q in the Latin texts, doubtless because Latin c was pronounced as s before e and i in mediaeval Ireland.
The Annals of Clonmacnois preserves for us a totally different tradition of the origin and upbringing of the saint. Modernising the haphazard spelling and punctuation of the seventeenth-century English translation (the original Irish of this valuable book is lost), we may note what it tells us. "His father's name was Beoit, a Connacht man (sic) and a carpenter. His mother Darerca, of the issue of Corc mac Fergusa mic Roig of the Clanna Rudraige. He in his childhood lived with his father and mother in 'Templevickinloyhe' [wherever that may have been] in Cenel Fiachach; until a thief of the country of Ui Failge stole the one cow they had, which, being found, he forsook together with his father and mother the said place of the stealth [= theft], fearing of further inconvenience." Here note: (1) that Darerca is given the ancestry attributed in the Book of Leinster pedigree to Beoit, thus hinting at an originally matrilinear form of the official pedigree: (2) that the settlement of the family in Cenel Fiachach, i.e. the place of Darerca's dwelling, is definitely stated; (3) that the migration of the family does not take place till after Ciaran's birth; (4) that a totally different reason is assigned for the migration; (5) that incident X of the Lives is directly referred to; (6) that we hear nothing in this passage about the rest of the numerous family of Beoit; and (7) that the family is poor, having but one cow.
Cenel Fiachach (the clan of Fiachu) occupied a territory covering parts of the present counties of Westmeath and King's Co. VG erroneously writes this Cenel Fiachrach, which occupied a territory of the modern Co. Sligo. See further, p. 171.
The Princes.--Unfortunately Ainmire mac Colgain, lord of Ui Neill, and Cremthann, a chieftain of Connacht, are not otherwise known; we cannot therefore test the chronological truth of this part of the story. Ainmire reappears as an oppressor in the life of Aed (VSH, ii, 295). LA anachronistically confuses this Ainmire with Ainmire mac Setna, King of Tara, A.D. 564-566.
It is noteworthy that VG calls Cremthann "King of Ireland." This is in accordance with the fact that the dynasty which united Ireland under the suzerainty of the King of Tara was of Connacht origin.
The Wizard's Prophecy.--The phrase "the noise of a chariot under a king" is a stock formula in this connexion; compare, with Stokes, Vita Sancti Aedui in Rees' Lives of Cambro-British Saints, p. 233 (also VSH, ii, 295). With the incident compare the story of the druid rising to welcome the parents of Saint Senan, and when ridiculed for thus showing honour to peasants explaining that it was to their unborn child that he was paying honour (LL, 1875). Observe that in both tales the druid is mocked. This touch doubtless belongs to the Christian chronicler, taking the opportunity of putting the minister of the rival creed in an invidious position.
Deacon Iustus, according to VTP (p. 104) and Tirechan's Collections regarding Saint Patrick (edited in VTP, see pp. 305, 318) was consecrated by Saint Patrick, who left with him his ritual book and his office of baptism, in Fidarta (Fuerty, Co. Roscommon). It was in his old age that he baptized Ciaran, out of Patrick's book--he was, indeed, according to the documents quoted, no less than 140 years of age. The glossators of the Martyrology of Oengus (Henry Bradshaw Society edition, p. 128) confuse him with Euthymius, the deacon, martyred at Alexandria. The play on words ("it were fitting that the just one should be baptized by a Just One") is lost in the Irish version, whence Plummer (VSH, i, p. xlix) infers that this document is a translation from a Latin original: but the fact proves nothing more than that the author of VG borrowed this particular incident, as he borrowed his preface, from a Latin writing. All these Lives are patchworks, and their component elements are of very different origins and dates.
The date of Ciaran's birth was 25 February, A.D. 515. The Annals of Ulster says 511, or "according to another book," 516. The Annals of Clonmacnois has the correct date, 515.
The Geographical Names in this Incident.--Temoria (LA) is Tara (Irish Teamair), Co. Meath, the site of the dwelling of the Kings of Ireland. Midhe (LA) means the province of Meath; LA is, however, in error in placing the Latronenses therein. The Connachta are the people who give their name to the province of Connacht. Mag Ai, variously spelt, is the central plain of Co. Roscommon; Raith Cremthainn ("the fort of Cremthann") was somewhere upon it, presumably near the royal establishment of Rathcroghan, but the exact site is unknown. Isel Chiarain (VG), a place reappearing later in the Life, is unknown, but doubtless it was close to Clonmacnois. Cluain maccu Nois, the "Meadow of the Descendants of Nos," now Clonmacnois, stands on the right bank of the Shannon about twelve miles below Athlone. Extensive remains of the monastery founded by Ciaran are still to be seen there. As for Tech meic in tSaeir, "the house of the wright's son," we might have inferred that this place was also somewhere near or in Clonmacnois; but a note among the glosses of the Martyrology of Oengus (under 9th September) says that it was "in the house of the son of the wright" that Ciaran was brought up. It is therefore to be identified with the mysterious place corruptly spelt "Templevickinloyhe" (church of the son of the ----?) in the extract from the Annals of Clonmacnois printed above.
The Verses in this Section of VG.--The epigram on Ciaran's parents is found in many MSS. The rendering here given expresses the sense and reproduces the rhythm of the stanza, but does not attempt to copy the metre in every detail. This is known as cro cummaisc etir casbairdne ocus lethrannaigecht, and consists of seven-syllable lines with trisyllabic rhymes, alternating with five-syllable lines having monosyllabic rhymes. Literally translated the sense would run, "Darerca my mother / she was not a bad woman // Beoit the wright my father / of the Latharna of Molt."
The second stanza is misplaced, and should properly have been inserted in the following paragraph. Its metre is ae freslige--seven-syllable lines in a quatrain, rhyming abab: a being trisyllabic, b dissyllabic rhymes. The stanza is obscure and probably corrupt; so far as it can be rendered at all, the literal translation is: "He healed the steed of Oengus / when he was in a swathe, in a cradle // there was given ... / from God this miracle to Ciaran."
HOW CIARAN RAISED THE STEED OF OENGUS FROM DEATH (LA, LB, LC, VG)
The Four Versions.--This incident is told in all four lives, and it is instructive to note the differences of detail which they display. In LA Oengus goes to fetch Ciaran, after consulting with his friends. In LB he sends for him. In LC he goes to him, and in VG Ciaran comes without being fetched. The stanza interpolated in the preceding section of VG introduces us to another variant of the tradition, in which Ciaran was a swaddled infant when the miracle was wrought. In LB the incident is given a homiletic turn, by being told to illustrate the saint's care for animals.
Parallels.--A similar but not identical miracle is attributed to Saint Patrick (VTP, 228; LL, 565). Here the saint resuscitates horses with holy water; but in this case the saint's own curse had originally caused the horses' deaths, because they grazed in his churchyard. Saint Lasrian also restored a horse to life (CS, 796).
Tir na Gabrai ("the land of the horse") is unknown, though it presumably was near Raith Cremthainn. The story was probably told to account for the name of the field. It has been noticed that the Latin Lives are less rich in details as to names of places and people than the Irish Life. This is an indication of a later tradition, when the recollection of names had become vague, or, rather, when names which had been of interest to their contemporaries had ceased to rouse such feelings.
HOW CIARAN TURNED WATER INTO HONEY (LA, LB, LC, VG)
One of the numerous imitations of the story of the Miracle of Cana. Compare incident XLIV. An identical story is told of Saint Patrick (LL, 108). Note the variety of reasons given for sending the honey to Iustus.
HOW CIARAN WAS DELIVERED FROM A HOUND (LA, LB, LC, VG)
Parallels.--The same story is told of Saint Patrick, in Colgan's Tertia Vita, cap. xxxi, Septima Vita, I, cap. xlvii. Patrick likewise quoted the verse Ne tradas bestiis animus confitentes tibi (Ps. lxiv, [Vulgate lxiii] 19).
The Fate of the Hound.--This varies in the different versions. In the Patrick story just quoted it was struck immovable, as a stone. In LA it thrusts its head in circo uituli, which I have rendered conjecturally as the context seems to require, but I can find no information as to the exact nature of this adjunct to the cattle-stall. Du Cange gives arcus sellae equestris as one of the meanings of circus.
LB and LC, which have many points of affinity, are in this incident almost word for word identical. They agree in saying that the men setting on the hound were spurred (uexati) by an evil spirit. The misplacing of this incident in LB is probably due to a transposition of the leaves of the exemplar from which it was copied.
HOW CIARAN AND HIS INSTRUCTOR CONVERSED, THOUGH DISTANT FROM ONE ANOTHER (LA, VG)
Topography of the Story.--Assuming that Raith Cremthainn was somewhere near Rathcroghan, the distance between this and Fuerty would be about fourteen miles. There is no indication on the Ordnance map of any rock that can be identified with the cross-bearing stone on which Ciaran used to sit, though it clearly was a landmark well known to the author of LA. (Pace LA, Rathcroghan is north of Fuerty.)
Parallels.--The closest parallel is the story of Brigit, who heard a Mass that was being celebrated in Rome, though unable to hear a popular tumult close by (TT, 539). Something resembling the action of a wireless telephone is contemplated, the voices being inaudible to persons between the speakers. Thus the tales of saints with preternaturally loud voices are not quite in point. Colum Cille was heard to read his Psalms a mile and half away (LL, 828); Brenainn also was heard at a long distance (LL, 3419). The burlesque Vision of MacConglinne parodies such voices (ed. Meyer, pp. 12, 13).
CIARAN AND THE FOX (VG)
Parallels.--There are endless tales of how saints pressed wild animals into their service; indeed the first monastic establishment of Ciaran's elder namesake, Ciaran of Saigir, consisted of wild animals only: a boar, a badger, a wolf, and a stag (VSH, i, 219; Silua Gadelica, i, p. 1 ff.). Moling also kept a number of wild and tame animals round his monastery--among them a fox, which, as in the tale before us, attempted to eat a book (VSH, ii, 201); otherwise, however, the stories differ. Aed rescued a stag from hunters, and used its horns as a book-rest (VSH, ii, 296); Coemgen similarly rescued a boar (VSH, i, 244). So, in Wales, Saint Brynach caused stags to draw his carriage, and committed his cow to the charge of a wolf (Cambro-British Saints, pp. 10, 296). Saint Illtyd tamed a stag which he had rescued from hunters (ibid., pp. 164, 473).
Herding of Cattle.--There is abundant evidence from the Lives of the saints that the herding of the cattle while pasturing was an important duty of the children of the household. There was no little risk in this, owing to the prevalence of wolves.
Reading the Psalms.--The Psalms seem to have been the first subject of instruction given to young students; LB, 4, indicates that Ciaran's lessons with Iustus did not go beyond the mere rudiments of learning. There is in the National Museum, Dublin, a tablet-book containing six leaves of wax-covered wood, on which are traced a number of the Psalms in the Vulgate version; this was most likely a lesson-book such as is here described. The story evidently grew up around an actual specimen, that bore injuries, explained as being the tooth-marks of the fox.
Versions of the Tale.--It would appear that this story was originally an account of how Ciaran and his distant tutor could communicate, quite independent of incident VI. It has become awkwardly combined with VI into a conflate narrative, as is shown by the silence about the fox in LA. According to the one story, they used their supernatural "wireless telephone." According to the other, the fox trotted back and forth with the book. In the conflate version, it would appear that Iustus dictated Psalms to Ciaran by "telephone," Ciaran then wrote them on his tablets, and the fox waited till he was finished and then carried them for correction to Iustus. (As is observed in the footnote in loc, p. 73, we must read "Iustus" for "Ciaran" in the passage describing the proceedings of the fox).
The Homiletic Pendant.--The unexpected homiletic turn given to this story in VG may perhaps find its explanation in facts now lost to us; the passage reads like a side-thrust at some actual person or persons. It may possibly refer to the act of sacrilege committed by Toirdelbach o Briain, in 1073, who carried away from Clonmacnois the head of Conchobar o Maeil-Shechlainn; but being attacked by a mysterious disease--imparted to him, it was said, by a mouse which issued from the head and ran up under his garment--he was obliged to return it, with two gold rings by way of compensation. He did not recover from the disease, however, but died in 1086 (Annals of Four Masters).
HOW CIARAN SPOILED HIS MOTHER'S DYE (VG)
I have found no parallel to this most remarkable story. It displays the following noteworthy points--
1. It belongs to the Ciaran-tradition which places the home of the family in Cenel Fiachach.
2. It preserves what has every appearance of being an authentic tradition of a prohibition against the presence of males, even of tender years, when dyeing was being carried on.
3. Most likely the saint's curse--indeed, the whole association of the tale with Ciaran--is a late importation into the story: it was probably originally a [Pagan] tale, told as a warning of what would happen if males were allowed to be present at the mystery. The different colours which the garments assumed are perhaps not without significance; Sullivan, in his introduction to O'Curry's Manners and Customs (i, p. 405), says "the two failures ... are simply the failures which result from imperfect fermentation and over-fermentation of the woad-vat."
4. There is an intentionally droll touch given to the end of the Maerchen.
5. The independence of parental control which the youthful Ciaran displays will not escape notice.
The Stanza.--This is written in a peculiar metre; two seven-syllable lines, with trisyllabic rhymes, followed by two rhyming couplets of five-syllable lines with monosyllabic rhymes.
Iarcain is a word of uncertain meaning: it probably denotes the waste stuff left behind in the vat.
HOW CIARAN RESTORED A CALF WHICH A WOLF HAD DEVOURED (LA, LB, LC, VG)
Parallels.--Practically the same story is told of Abban (VSH, i, 24; CS, 508) and of Colman (CS, 828). A similar story is told of Saint Patrick (LL, 91), but it is not quite identical, inasmuch as here the wolf voluntarily restored a sheep which it had carried off. Something like this, however, is indicated in the Latin verse rendering of the story (No. 2 of the Latin verse fragments at the end of LB). More nearly parallel is the tale of Brigit (LL, 1250; CS, 19) who gave bacon which she was cooking to a hungry dog; it was miraculously replaced. A converse of this miracle is to be found in the Life of Ailbe, who first restored two horses killed by lions, and then miraculously provided a hundred horses for the lions to devour (CS, 239). Aed gave eight wethers to as many starving wolves, and they were miraculously restored to save him from the indignation of his maternal aunt (VSH, ii, 296). It is obvious, but hypercritical, to complain that in these artless tales the kindness shown to the beasts is illogically one-sided!
The Process of Resuscitation.--The important point in the tale, though the versions do not all recognise this, is the collection of the bones of the calf. VG preserves the essential command to the wolf not to break these. Colum Cille reconstituted an ox from its bones (LL, 1055). Coemgen gave away to wayfarers the dinner prepared for the monastic harvestmen, and when the latter naturally protested, he collected the bones and re-clothed them with flesh, at the same time turning water to wine (VSH, i, 238). Aed performed a similar miracle in the nunnery at Clonmacnois, replacing Ciaran's dinner which he himself had eaten (VSH, i, 39). There is here no mention of the bones, but very likely this has become lost in the process of transmission. By all these tales we are reminded of the boar Saehrimnir, on whose flesh the blessed ones in Valhalla feast daily--sodden every evening and reconstituted from its bones every morning. In a Breton folk-tale, La princesse Troiol, the hero has been burnt by the wiles of his enemy, but his sorceress fiancee seeks among the ashes till at last she finds a tiny splinter of bone. With this she is able to restore her betrothed; without it she would have been powerless.
Very probably the practice of "secondary interment" of human bones, which we find so far back as the later stages of the Palaeolithic age, is based upon the same belief; that if the bones are preserved, their owner has a chance of a fresh lease of life.
There is a curious variant of the story in the Life of Coemgen. Here the cow is driven home, and Coemgen, called upon to soothe its lamentations, fetches, not the bones of the eaten calf, but the culprit wolf, which comes and plays the part of the calf to the satisfaction of all concerned (VSH, i, 239). It is evident that in this case there is another element of belief indicated: the personality of the calf has passed into the wolf which has devoured it--in fact, the wolf is the calf re-incarnate.
Resurrection of Beasts.--Calling dead animals back to life is a not infrequent incident in the lives of Irish saints. We have already seen Ciaran resuscitating a horse. Mo-Chua restored twelve stags (VSH, ii, 188); but perhaps the most remarkable feat was that of Moling, who, having watched a wren eating a fly, and a kestrel eating the wren, revived first the wren and then the fly (VSH, ii, 200). Saint Brynach's cow having been slain by a tyrannical king, was restored to life by the saint (Cambro-British Saints, pp. 11, 297).
The Stanza in VG.--The metre is ae freslige. The rendering in the text is close to the literal sense.
The Ejaculation "Mercy on us"--or, more literally, "mercy come to us." The sentence recording this habitual ejaculation, in VG, breaks so awkwardly into the sense of the passage in which it is found, that it must be regarded as a marginal gloss which has become incorporated with the text. It has dislodged a sentence that must have legitimately belonged to the text, restored in the foregoing translation by conjecture. Probably the lost sentence, like the intrusive one, ended with the word trocuire, "mercy," which, indeed, may have suggested the interpolation; this might easily have caused the scribe's eye to wander. An habitual expletive is also attributed to St. Patrick (modebroth, apparently "My God of Judgment!").
Here, again, the versions in LB and LC are very closely akin.
HOW CIARAN WAS DELIVERED FROM ROBBERS (LA, LC, VG)
Parallels.--Robbers were smitten with blindness (cf. Genesis xix. II) by Darerca (CS, 179) and restored on repentance. The same fate befell a man who endeavoured to drive Findian from a place where he had settled (CS, 198). Robbers who attempted to attack Cainnech (CS, 364, 389; VSH, i, 153), Colman (VSH, i, 264), and Flannan (CS, 669), were struck motionless. The story before us is a conflation of the two types of incident, blindness and paralysis being accumulated on the robbers. The same accumulation befell a swineherd who attempted to slay Saint Cadoc (Cambro-British Saints, pp. 31, 321).
Note that this incident, like No. VIII, belongs to the Cenel Fiachach tradition. We have already seen that it was known to the compiler of the Annals of Clonmacnois, though he ignores the miraculous element.
HOW CIARAN GAVE CERTAIN GIFTS (LA): XIV. HOW CIARAN GAVE THE KING'S CAULDRON TO BEGGARS AND WAS ENSLAVED (LA, LC, VG)
These four incidents may be considered together: they are all variants of one formula.
Parallels.--Brigit took "of her father's wealth and property, whatsoever her hands would find, ... to give to the poor and needy" (LL, 1308). A story is told in the Life of Aed which is evidently a combination of our incidents XII and XIII: to the effect that when ploughing he made a gift of one of his oxen and of the coulter, and continued to plough without either (VSH, i, 36).
The angels grinding for Ciaran reappear in incident XVIII: this is a frequent type of favour shown to saints. Angels ground for Colum Cille at Clonard (LL, 850), swept out a hearth for Patrick (LL, 121), and harvested for Ailbe (CS, 241).
Beoit an Uncle.--This is an important link between incidents XII and XIII in LA. Its bearing upon the question of the origin of Ciaran's family has already been noticed.
The Oxen ploughing.--Incident XIII would be meaningless if we did not understand from it that at the time of the formation of the story it was not customary to use horses in the plough. This is an illustration of the way in which these documents, unhistorical though they may be in the main, yet throw occasional sidelights, which may be accepted as authentic, on ancient life.
King Furbith.--I have not succeeded in tracing this personage, who reappears in incident XXVII. But the story of his cauldron is found in the Life of Ciaran of Saigir (CS, 815), in a rather different form--to the effect that he deposited his considerable wealth for safe-keeping with Ciaran, who was already abbot of Clonmacnois. Ciaran promptly distributed it to the poor. Furbith was human enough to be annoyed at this breach of trust, and ordered Ciaran to be summoned before him in bonds. This done, he addressed him "insultingly," as the hagiographer puts it, in these words: "Good abbot, if thou wilt be loosed from bonds, thou must needs bring me seven white-headed red hornless kine: and if thou canst not find them, thou shalt pay a penalty for my treasures which thou hast squandered." Ciaran undertook to provide the required cattle, "not to escape these thy bonds, which are a merit unto me, but to set forth the glory of my God"; and therefore he was set free to obtain them. Another variant of these stories--a common type, in which the saint gives away the property of other people in alms, but has his own face miraculously saved--is illustrated by the tale of Coemgen, who, when a boy was pasturing sheep. He gave four of them to beggars, but when the sheep were led home at night the number was found complete "so that the servant of Christ should not incur trouble on account of his exceeding charity" (VSH, i, 235).
The site of Cluain Cruim (LA) is unknown (perhaps Clooncrim, Co. Roscommon). The Desi (VG), or Dessi, were a semi-nomadic pre-Celtic people once established in the barony of Deece, Co. Meath, but afterwards in the baronies of Decies in Waterford: both these baronies still bear their name. A branch of them settled in Wales. Evidently the donors of the cauldrons which purchased the freedom of the saint were of the Decies; they are said to have been Munster folk (the name of the province is variously spelled).
HOW CIARAN REPROVED HIS MOTHER (LA, LC)
I have found no parallel to this story; it contains no miraculous element, and may quite possibly be at least founded on fact. Its chief importance is the prominence given to the materfamilias.
THE BREAKING OF THE CARRIAGE-AXLE (LA, LC)
Unlike LA, LC seems to imply that the injury to the axle was not repaired. This would be parallel to the story of Aed, who, when his carriage met with a similar mishap, was able to continue his journey on one wheel only (CS, 336; VSH, i, 36).
HOW CIARAN WENT WITH HIS COW TO THE SCHOOL OF FINDIAN (LA, LB, LC, VG)
The blessing of the Cow.--In this story we again note the prominence of the materfamilias: it is she who in most of the versions withholds the desired boon. Note how LB endeavours to tone down the disobedience of the saint by making the cow follow him of her own accord, or, rather, upon a direct divine command. The Annals of Clonmacnois presents the story in a similar form: "He earnestly entreated his parents that they would please to give him the cow [which had been stolen and recovered; ante, p. 108], that he might go to school to Clonard to Bishop Finnan, where Saint Colum Cille ... and divers others were at school: which his parents denied: whereupon he resolved to go thither as poor as he was, without any maintenance in the world. The cow followed him thither with her calf; and being more given to the cause of his learning than to the keeping of the cows, having none to keep the calf from the cow, [he] did but draw a strick of his bat between the calf and cow. The cow could not thenceforth come no nearer [sic] the calf than to the strick, nor the calf to the cow, so as there needed no servant to keep them one from another but the strick." A totally different version of the story of the cow is recorded in the glosses to the Martyrology of Oengus (9th September). Here Ciaran applied to his father, who, so far from refusing his request, bade him go through the herd and take whatever beast would follow him. "The Dun Cow of Ciaran" yielded to the test. Further, the same cow followed him when he left Clonard, instead of remaining with Ninned as in the Lives before us.
Note how the author of LA has been unable to keep a very human touch out of his arid record: matri displicebat, uolebat enim eum secum semper habere. This is our last glimpse of poor Darerca, and it does much to soften the rather lurid limelight in which our homilists place her.
The Division of Kine and Calves.--This miracle is one of the most threadbare commonplaces of Irish hagiographical literature; it is most frequently, as here, performed by drawing a line on the ground between the animals with the saint's wonder-working staff. It is attributed, inter alia, to Senan (LL, 1958), Fintan (CS, 229), Ailbe (with swine, CS, 240), and Finan (CS, 305).
A miraculous abundance of milk was also given by kine belonging to Brigit (CS, 44) and to Samthann (VSH, ii, 255).
The Hide of the Cow.--Plummer quotes other illustrations of such mechanical passports to the Land of the Blessed (VSH, i, p. xciii). The main purpose of this whole incident is doubtless to explain the origin of a precious relic, preserved at Clonmacnois. Its history is involved in some doubt: it is complicated by the fact that there exists a well-known manuscript, now preserved in the library of the Royal Irish Academy, written at Clonmacnois about A.D. 1100, and called the Book of the Dun Cow, from the animal of whose hide the vellum is said to have been made. But whether this book has any connexion with the Dun Cow of Ciaran may be considered doubtful. For down to the comparatively late date at which our homilies were put together, the hide of Ciaran's Dun was evidently preserved as a hide, on or under which a dying man could lie: therefore it cannot have been made into a book. Yet Imtheacht na Tromdhaimhe (p. 124 of the printed text) tells us, for what it may be worth, that Ciaran wrote the great epic tale called Tain Bo Cualnge upon the hide of the Dun Cow. There is actually a copy of this tale in the existing book; but the book was written not long after the time when our homilists were describing the relic as an unbroken hide. Either there were two dun cows, or the name of the Manuscript has arisen from a misunderstanding.
The stanza in VG is another example of ae freslige metre. The literal translation is "Fifty over a hundred complete / the Dun of Ciaran used to feed, // guests and lepers / people of the refectory and of the parlour."
The School of Findian.--Findian was born in the fifth century. He went to Tours for study, and afterwards to Britain; he then felt a desire to continue his studies in Rome, but an angel bade him return to Ireland and there continue the work begun by Patrick. After spending some time with Brigit at Kildare, and establishing various religious houses, he settled at Cluain Iraird, in the territory of Ui Neill: now called Clonard, in Co. Meath. His establishment there became the chief centre of instruction in Ireland in the early part of the sixth century. He died in 549, at an advanced age: indeed, he is traditionally said to have lived 140 years. Nothing now remains of the monastery, though there were some ruins a hundred years ago.
THE ANGELS GRIND FOR CIARAN (LA, LC, VG)
The angels grinding have already been seen in incident XIV.
The Stanza in VG.--This is in the metre known as rannaigecht mor, seven syllables with monosyllabic rhymes, usually abab. The translation adequately expresses the sense and, approximately, the metre. The number of saints enumerated is thirteen, not twelve, but the master, Findian of Clonard, is not counted in the reckoning. The names, the principal monasteries, and the obits of these saints are as follows--
Findian of Cluain Iraird (Clonard, Co. Meath), 12 December 548. Findian of Mag-bile (Moville, Co. Donegal), 12 September 579. Colum Cille of I Choluim Cille (Iona), 9 June 592. Colum of Inis Cealtra (Holy Island, Loch Derg), 13 December 549. Ciaran of Cluain maccu Nois (Clonmacnois), 9 September 548. Cainnech of Achad Bo (Aghaboe, Queen's Co.), 11 October 598. Comgall of Beannchor (Bangor, Co. Down), 10 May 552. Brenainn of Birra (Birr, King's Co.), 29 November 571. Brenainn of Cluain Fearta (Clonfert, King's Co.), 16 May 576. Ruadan of Lothra (Lorrha, Co. Tipperary), 15 April 584. Ninned of Inis Muighe Saimh (Inismacsaint in Loch Erne), 18 January 5..(?). Mo-Bi of Glas Naoidhean (Glasnevin, Co. Dublin) 12 October 544. Mo-Laise mac Nad-Fraeich of Daimhinis (Devenish, Loch Erne), 12 September 563.
CIARAN AND THE KING'S DAUGHTER (LA, VG)
Parallels.--Maignenn never would look on a woman, "lest he should see her guardian devil" (Silua Gadelica, i, 37). The story has some affinity with the curious Maerchen of the Mill and the Bailiff's Daughter (incident XXIV). Cuimmin of Connor, in his poem on the characters of the different Irish saints, spoke thus of Ciaran, doubtless in reference to this incident: "Holy Ciaran of Clonmacnois loved humility that he did not abandon rashly; he never spoke a word that was untrue, he never looked at a woman from the time when he was born."
The Stanza in VG.--Metre ae freslige. Literally thus: "With Ciaran read / a girl who was stately with treasures // and he saw not / her form or her shape or her make."
In LA the father of the maiden is king in Tara: in VG he is king of Cualu, the strip of territory between the mountains and the sea from Dublin southward to Arklow.
HOW CIARAN HEALED THE LEPERS (VG)
Leprosy, or at least a severe cutaneous disease so called, was common in ancient Ireland; and there are numerous stories, some of them extremely disagreeable, that tell how the saints associated with its victims as an act of self-abasement. We have already seen how Patrick was said to have kept a leper. Brigit also healed lepers by washing (LL, 1620), and Ruadan cleansed lepers with the water of a spring that he opened miraculously (VSH, ii, 249). Contrariwise, Munnu never washed except at Easter after contracting leprosy (VSH, ii, 237). The miraculous opening of a spring is a common incident in Irish hagiography; we have already seen an example, in the annotations to incident I.
Whitley Stokes points out (LL, note ad loc.) that the "three waves" poured over the lepers are suggested by the triple immersion in baptism.
CIARAN AND THE STAG (VG)
Parallels.--We have already noted the use of wild animals by Irish saints. Findian yoked stags to draw wood (LL, 2552). Patrick kept a tame stag (TT, p. 28, cap. lxxxii, etc.). In incident XXXVII, Ciaran is again served by a stag. Cainnech, like Ciaran, made a book-rest of the horns of a stag (CS, 383), and books which Colum Cille had lost were restored to him by a stag (TT, Quinta Vita, p. 407). In the life of Saint Cadoc we read an incident which combines docile stags drawing timber and a forgotten book untouched by rain (Cambro-British Saints, pp. 38, 329).
For Ciaran's prompt obedience to the summoning sound of the bell, compare what is told of Cainnech, who happened to be summoned by the head of the monastic school when he was writing, and left the letter O, which at the moment he was tracing, unfinished, to obey the call (VSH, i, 153).
There is a parallel in incident XXXVI for the book unwet by rain. Books written by Colum Cille could not be injured by water (LL, 956). It is perhaps hardly necessary to infer with Plummer (VSH, i, p. cxxxviii) that this was a myth of solar origin.
THE STORY OF CIARAN'S GOSPEL (LA, VG)
This striking anecdote is unique, and probably founded on an authentic incident. The two versions before us differ in some respects, as a comparison will show. The story is told in another form in the Quinta Vita Columbae (TT, p. 403) to the effect that "Once Saint Kieranus, whom they call the Son of the Wright, on being asked, promised Columba that as he was writing a book of the Holy Gospels, he would write out the middle part of the book. Columba, in gratitude to him, said, 'And I,' said he, 'on behalf of God, promise and foretell that the middle regions of Ireland shall take their name from thee, and shall bring their taxes or tribute to thy monastery.'" The same version appears in O'Donnell's Life of Colum Cille (printed text, p. 128). Yet another version appears in the glosses to the Martyrology of Oengus (9th September), according to which Colum Cille wished to write a gospel-book, but no one except Ciaran had an exemplar from which to make the copy. Colum Cille went to Ciaran's cell and asked for the loan of the book; Ciaran, who was preparing his lesson, and had just come to the words Omnia quaecumque, etc., presented him with it. "Thine be half of Ireland!" said Colum Cille. It is worth passing notice that the verse in question, here treated as the central verse of the gospel, is not one-fifth of the way through the book. Had the original narrator of the tale a copy with misplaced or missing leaves?
The Stanza in VG.--This is apparently slightly corrupt, but the metre is evidently meant to be ae freslige. It probably belongs to one poem with the previous stanzas in the same metre: its first line echoes the stanza in incident XIX. Literally, "With Findian read / Ciaran the pious, with diligence // he had half a book without reading / half of Ireland his thereafter."
The Saying of Alexander.--I regret to have to acknowledge that I have been unable to get on the track of any explanation of this appendix to the incident, as related in VG. It is probably a marginal gloss taken into the text. The "Alexander" is presumably one of the popes of that name, and if so, must be Alexander II (1061-1073), as the first Pope Alexander is too early, and the remaining six are too late. I have, however, searched all the writings bearing his name without discovering anything like this saying, nor can I trace it with the aid of the numerous indexes in Migne's Patrologia.
THE BLESSING OF CIARAN'S FOOD (LA, LC)
I cannot find any authority for the ritual indicated by this curious story, in which the blessing of a second person is necessary before food can be consumed. There is a Jewish formula described by Lightfoot, in which, when several take their meals together, one says Let us bless, and the rest answer Amen. But it is not clear why a response should have been required by a person eating alone.
THE STORY OF THE MILL AND THE BAILIFF'S DAUGHTER (LB, VG)
The full details of this narrative have evidently been offensive to the author of LB, who has heroically bowdlerised it. It is obviously an independent Maerchen, which has become incorporated in the traditions of Ciaran.
The Famine.--Famines are frequently recorded in the Irish Annals: and it is noteworthy that they were usually accompanied by an epidemic of raids on monasteries. The wealth of the country was largely concentrated in these establishments, so that they presented a strong temptation to a starving community. The beginning of the story is thus quite true to nature and to history, though I have found no record of a famine at the time when we may suppose Ciaran to have been at Clonard.
Transformation of Oats to Wheat, and of other Food to Flour.--Such transformations are common in the saints' Lives. We read of swine turned to sheep (CS, 879), snow to curds (LL, 127), sweat to gold (TT, 398) flesh to bread (CS, 368). The later peculiarities of the food--bread or some other commonplace material having the taste of more recondite dainties, and possessing curative properties--are not infrequently met with in folk-lore. Saint Illtyd placed fish and water before a king, who found therein the taste of bread and salt, wine and mead, in addition to their proper savours (Cambro-British Saints, pp. 165, 474).
The Resistance of the Saint to amorous Advances.--The reader may be referred to Whitley Stokes's note ad loc., in LL. We may recall the well-known story of Coemgen (Kevin) at Glendaloch: though it must be added that the version of the tale popularised by Moore, in which the saint pushed his importunate pursuer into the lake and drowned her, has no ancient authority. On the rather delicate subject of the arrangement made between Ciaran and the maiden's family, consult the article Subintroductae in Smith and Cheetham's Dictionary of Christian Antiquities. This feature of the story is enough to show its unhistorical character, at least so far as Ciaran is concerned: for Ciaran did not belong to the Primus Ordo of Irish saints, who mulierum administrationem et consortia non respuebant, quia super petram Christum fundati ventum temptationis non timebant, but to the Secundus Ordo, who mulierum consortia et administrationes fugiebant, atque a monasteriis suis eas excludebant (CS, 161, 162). The description of Ciaran as transcending his contemporaries in beauty is probably suggested by Ps. xlv, 2, and is another illustration of the Tendenz already referred to.
The Eavesdropper and the Crane.--This incident reappears in the Life of Flannan (CS, 647). Wonder-workers do not like to be spied upon by unauthorised persons. This is especially true in the Fairy mythology surviving to modern times. Compare a tale in the Life of Aed (VSH, ii, 308). A quantity of wood had been cut for building a church, but there was no available labour. Angels undertook the work of transportation on condition that no one should spy upon them. One man, however, played the inevitable "Peeping Tom," and the work ceased immediately. The reader may be referred for further instances to the essay on "Fairy Births and Human Midwives" in E.S. Hartland's Science of Fairy Tales.
There is a touch of intentional drollery at the end of the story where the brethren are shown as having so thoroughly enjoyed the feast miraculously provided for them that their observance of the canonical hours was disjointed. For other instances of intoxication as resulting from saints' miracles see VSH, i, p. ci.
The Stanzas in VG.--These are in ae freslige metre, so that they are probably another fragment of the poem already met with. The translation in the text reproduces the sense with sufficient literalness.
On the whole the impression which this unusually long and very confused incident makes on the reader is that originally it was an anti-Christian narrative concocted in a Pagan circle, which has somehow become superficially Christianised.
THE STORY OF CLUAIN (VG)
One of the numerous tales told of the danger of crossing the will of a saint. It is possibly suggested by Matt, xxi, 28; but it may also be a pre-Christian folk-tale adapted to the new Faith by substituting a saint for a druid. On the cursing propensities of Irish saints see Plummer, VSH, i, pp. cxxxv, clxxiii. A curse said to have been pronounced by Ciaran on one family remained effective down to the year 1151, where it is recorded by the Annals of the Four Masters (vol. ii, p. 1096). Another curse of the same saint, and its fulfilment, is narrated in Keating's History (Irish Texts Society's edn., iii, 52 ff.), and at greater length in the life of the victim, Cellach (Silua Gadelica, no. iv).
Note that Ciaran sends a messenger with his rod to revive Cluain. This is probably imitated from Elisha sending Gehazi similarly equipped to raise the Shunammite's son (2 Kings iv, 29).
Cluain's thanks at being delivered from the pains of hell may be contrasted with the protest of the monk resurrected by Colman (VSH, i, 260, 265) at being recalled from the joys of heaven--an aspect of resurrection stories frequently overlooked by the narrators.
The Stanza in VG.--The metre is rannaigecht gairit dialtach (a line of three syllables followed by three of seven, with monosyllabic rhymes aaba). The literal rendering is "Cluain agreed to come / to me to-day for reaping // for an oppressive disease / caused him living in his house to be dead."
HOW CIARAN FREED WOMEN FROM SERVITUDE (LA, LB, VG)
Tuathal Moel-garb ("the bald-rough") was king in Tara A.D. 528-538. We have already met with Furbith in incident XIV.
Interceding for captives, with or without miracle, was one of the most frequent actions attributed to Irish saints: as for instance Brigit (LL, 1520) and Fintan (CS, 300). Doors opened of their own accord to Colum Cille (CS, 850). Paulinus of Nola gave himself as a captive in exchange for a widow's son at the time of the invasion of Alaric in A.D. 410 (see Smith's Dictionary of Christian Biography, vol. iv, p. 239, col. ii, and references there). This explains the allusion in LB. The woman passing through her enemies is perhaps suggested by Luke iv, 30. The prisoner Fallamain, rescued by Saint Samthann, also passed unscathed through a crowd of jailers (VSH, ii, 255; compare ibid., p. 259); his chains opened of their own accord, like the doors in incident XXVI. Compare Acts xii, 7 ff.
ANECDOTES OF CLUAIN IRAIRD (VG)
These four petits conies, found in VG only, are clearly designed to set forth the superiority of Clonmacnois above its rival establishments.
(a) This story tells how Findian ranked Ciaran above all the notable saints and scholars of his time, and how they had to acknowledge his pre-eminence by their very jealousy. Colum Cille is the only saint whom the homilist will allow to approach his hero.
(b) This is a thrust at the monastery of Birr. It says, in effect, "Clonmacnois is situated on the great river Shannon, Birr on the insignificant Brosna; and the relative importance of the two establishments is to be estimated by the size of their respective rivers--even Brenainn, the founder of Birr, said this himself!" There was a contest between the people of Clonmacnois and those of Birr at a place now unknown, Moin Coise Bla (the bog at the foot of Bla) in the year 756, according to the Annals of Clonmacnois and of Tigernach. The circumstances which led to this event are not on record; but it is not far-fetched to see an echo of it in the story before us. This would give us an approximate date for the construction of the story, though the compilation in which it is now embedded is considerably later.
(c) This story further exalts Clonmacnois as the place containing a valuable relic that ensures eternal happiness in the hereafter. Of this relic we have already spoken.
(d) Again exalts Clonmacnois by relating a dream in which the founder is put on a level with the great Colum Cille. This vision is related also in the Lives of the latter saint (see, for instance, LL, 852). An analogous vision, not related in the Lives of Ciaran, is that of the three heavenly chairs, seen by Saint Baithin. He saw a chair of gold, a chair of silver, and a chair of crystal before the Lord. As interpreted by Colum Cille, the first was the seat destined for Ciaran, on account of the nobility and firmness of his faith; the silver chair was for Baithin, on account of the firmness and brightness and rigour of his faith; and the third was for Colum Cille himself, on account of the brightness and purity--and brittleness--of his faith.
THE PARTING OF CIARAN AND FINDIAN (VG)
Compare with this narrative the parting of Senan and Notal (LL, 2031). The metre of the stanza is cummasc etir rannaigecht mor ocus leth-rannaigecht (seven-syllable and five-syllable lines alternately, with monosyllabic rhymes abab). The translation is literal.
THE ADVENTURES OF THE ROBBERS OF LOCH ERNE (LB, LC)
LA and VG know nothing of the visit to Loch Erne of which this is the chief incident. Ninned here appears as an abbot, which is scarcely consistent with his previous appearance as a junior fellow-student of Ciaran. There is, however, a possible hint at this tradition in the statement in VG that when Ciaran departed from Clonard he left the Dun Cow with Ninned. Ninned's island, as we learn from an entry in the Martyrology of Donegal (18th January) was Inis Muighe Samh, now spelt Inismacsaint, in Loch Erne. The reading in both MSS. of LB, silua for insula, evidently rests on a false interpretation of a word or a contraction in the exemplar from which R1 was copied. This seems to have been hard to read at the incident before us. Later on there is a word, which the sense shows us must have been potentes. The scribe of R1 could not read it, and left a blank, which he afterwards tentatively filled in with the meaningless word fatentes--a word which his copyist, the scribe of R2, emended by guesswork into fac(i)entes.
Parallels.--There are several cases of the restoration to life of persons who had been decapitated. Coemgen restored two women who had been thus treated (VSH, i, 239). The famous Welsh holy well of Saint Winefred in Flintshire is associated with a similar miracle (see Rees' Cambro-British Saints, pp. 17, 304). The story of the three murdered monks is also told of Saint Aed (VSH, i, 38), but there the blood-mark round their necks is absent. Ciaran seems to have been less expert than some of his brethren in replacing severed heads on decapitated bodies; for according to a tale preserved in the Book of Lismore, there was a certain lord of the region of Ui Maine (the region west of the Shannon), who was called Coirpre the Crooked, for the following reason: he was an evil man who did great mischief to every one, in consequence of which he was murdered and beheaded. But Ciaran had shriven him, and in order to deliver his soul from demons he restored him to life, replacing his head--so clumsily, however, that it was ever afterwards crooked.
A certain man called Ambacuc, having perjured himself on the hand of Ciaran, his head fell off. He was taken to Clonmacnois, and not only lived there headless for seven years, but became the father of a family!
HOW CIARAN FLOATED A FIREBRAND ON THE LAKE (LB)
The Harbour of the Island.--It must be remembered, in reading this and other island stories, that as a rule "the harbour of the island" is not, as might be expected, the landing-stage on the island itself, but the port on the mainland from which ships depart to visit the island. Thus Portraine, a place on the coast north of Dublin, is properly Port Rachrann, the Port of Rachra--the port from which voyagers sailed to Rachra, the island now called by its Norse name Lambay.
Parallels.--I have not found an exact parallel, but the story belongs to the same family as that related of Coemgen, who kindled a fire with the drops of water that fell from his fingers after washing his hands (CS, 839).
CIARAN IN ARAN (LA, LB, VG)
The Aran Islands.--The marvellous isles of Aran, still a museum of all periods of ancient Irish history, with their immense prehistoric forts and their strange little oratories, were from an early date chosen as the site of Christian communities. Enda ruled over a community at the southern end of the Great Island; the church still survives, in ruin, and bears his name. Ciaran must have remained long enough in Aran to make a permanent impression there, for one of the ancient churches--much later than his time, however--is dedicated under his invocation. The reference to saints "known to God only" reminds us of the dedications to saints "whose names the Lord knows" in Greek on the font of the Church of the Nativity at Bethlehem, and in Armenian on a mosaic pavement at Jerusalem.
Prophecy by Vision.--This is not an infrequent incident in the saints' Lives. It often appears at the beginning of a Life, the saint's mother having a dream interpreted by some one, whom she consults, as indicative of the future greatness and holiness of her unborn son. I have not hit upon another case in these documents of the same dream appearing to two persons at once.
Ciaran's visit to Enda is described at length in the Vita Endei (VSH, ii, 71-2). We are there told that he was seven years in Aran, serving faithfully in the monastic threshing-barn, so that in the chaff-heaps it would have been impossible to discover a single grain; and that the walls of his threshing-barn were still standing in Aran when the hagiographer wrote. He then saw the vision of the tree, which, however, we are not told was seen by Enda also. Enda interpreted the vision as in the texts before us, and bade him go forth to fulfil the divine will. Ciaran then went to found Clonmacnois. He besought Enda before he departed that he (Enda) should accept him and his parochia under his protection: but Enda answered, "God hath not ordained it so for thee, that thou shouldst in this narrow island be under my authority. But because of thy wondrous humility and thy perfect charity, Christ thy Lord giveth thee a half of Ireland as thine inheritance." Here there is another version of the claim of Clonmacnois to legislate ecclesiastically for half of the island. They then erected a cross as a token of their fraternal bond, putting a curse upon whomsoever should make a breach in their agreement. In a Life of Saint Enda, quoted by the Bollandists (September, vol. iii, p. 376 C), it is further averred that Enda saw in a vision all the angels that haunted Aran departing in the company of Ciaran as he went on his way. Distressed at this desertion of his heavenly ministrants, he fasted and prayed; but an angel appeared to him and comforted him, saying that the angels were permitted to accompany Ciaran on account of his holiness, but that they would return again to Aran.
HOW A PROPHECY WAS FULFILLED (LA, VG)
The versions of this incident differ considerably both in detail and in the setting of the incident.
"Cluain Innsythe," where LA sets the story, is unknown. There is no river in Aran, where VG places the incident; in this version, therefore, the ship is placed on the sea.
Lonan the Left-handed.--Nothing further is recorded of this person, so far as I know. The parenthesis describing how he "was ever contradictious of Ciaran" is probably a gloss; so far as the incident goes, the contradictiousness is the other way.
Note the interesting sidelights upon the practice of artificially drying grain in LA. There are some technical terms in the Latin of this incident in the LA version. Thus, the word here translated "hut" is zabulum; this I presume is another way of spelling stabulum, for the meanings given in Du Cange to zabulum or similar words are here quite unsuitable. The word which I have rendered "platter" is rota, and the word translated "shed" is canaba.
HOW CIARAN VISITED SENAN
Senan.--This is an extremely interesting personality. His island, Inis Cathaigh (now corrupted to "Scattery") is said to derive its name from Cathach, a monster (mentioned in LA) which had formerly inhabited it, and which Senan had slain or charmed away. There are obvious pagan elements in the legends of this saint, and there can be little doubt that the unknown hermit who founded the monastery, of which the remains are still to be seen, has entered into the inheritance of the legends of an ancient deity, most likely worshipped on the island. This deity was probably the god of the Shannon river: and the name of the saint is clearly reminiscent of the name of the river. In their present form the two names are not philologically compatible: the name of the saint may be explained as an arbitrary modification, designed to differentiate the Christian saint from the pagan river-god. That pagan names should survive (modified or otherwise) in ancient holy places re-consecrated to Christianity is only natural.
There may be some foundation in fact for apparently supernatural knowledge such as Senan displays in this incident of the personality of a coming guest. In reading documents such as this, we are not infrequently tempted to suspect that we have before us the record of actual manifestations of the even yet imperfectly understood phenomena of hypnotism, telepathy, "second sight," and similar psychical abnormalities.
The story of the cloak is told again in the Life of Senan (LL, 2388). From the version there contained, we learn that Ciaran gave his cloak to lepers. There is another version of the visit of Ciaran to Senan in the metrical Life of the latter saint (CS, 750). According to this story, Ciaran was not travelling alone, but with his disciples; and they had no means of transport to the island except an oarless boat woven of osiers. Trusting themselves to this doubtful craft (as Cybi voyaged in a skinless coracle, Cambro-British Saints, pp. 186, 499), they were ferried over in safety, no water finding its way into the boat. Then follows the episode of the cloak, omitting, however, Senan's jest of carrying it secretly. A glossator has added in LA the marginal note "Priests formerly wore cowls." There are slight discrepancies between the versions as to the precise garment given by Ciaran and restored by Senan.
Another episode connecting Ciaran and Senan is narrated in the metrical Life of Senan (though the passage is absent from the CS copy; it will be found in the Bollandist edition, March, vol. ii, p. 766). Briefly, this tale is to the effect that Ciaran and Brenainn went to Senan for confession. They were received with fitting honour, but the steward of Inis Cathaigh told his superior that he had no provision to set before the guests. "The Lord will provide," answered Senan; and in point of fact, a prince for whom a feast was at the time being prepared on the mainland was divinely inspired to send it as a gift to the sacred island. The saints partook of the banquet thus bestowed upon them; and while they were doing so, a small bell fell from heaven into their midst. None of the three was willing to assert a claim to this gift over the other two; and after discussion they agreed to advance in different directions, and he who should continue longest to hear the sound of the bell was to be its possessor. This test assigned the bell to Senan. The shrine of this sacred relic (the bell itself is lost) is now preserved in the museum of the Royal Irish Academy, having been acquired from the last hereditary keeper by a generous donor.
The Geographical Names.--Besides "the island of Cathi" (Inis Cathaigh, Scattery) LA refers to "Luim-nich" (Limerick), Kiarraighi (properly Ciarraige, [North] Kerry), and Corco Baiscind (the southern barony of Co. Clare), now spelt "Corcovaskin."
CIARAN IN ISEL (LA, LB, VG)
Cobthach son of Brecan.--This person, who is said in VG to have made over Isel to Ciaran, was probably a local chieftain; but he has escaped the notice of the Annalists. In any case the statement that he made over Isel to Ciaran is so obviously incongruous with the sense of the passage, that it can be safely rejected as an interpolation. Its purpose is to claim for Clonmacnois the possession of the land called Isel, the site of which is no longer known, though it cannot have been far from Clonmacnois. Conn of the Poor, the great and charitable benefactor of Clonmacnois in the early years of the eleventh century, established an almshouse at Isel; and some fifty-six years later, in the year 1087, his son Cormac, then abbot, purchased Isel in perpetuity from the king of Meath.
Parallels.--We have already (incident XXI) seen an example of the rescue of a book from rain; compare also incident XLI. The garment of Finan (CS, 316) and of Cainnech (CS, 371) were preserved from rain, and snow did not injure a book belonging to Abban (CS, 530). The forgetfulness attributed to the saint with regard to his precious volume is a regular feature of this type of incident: it is no doubt meant to honour him, as indicating that the fulfilment of his monastic duties were yet more precious in his eyes. Moling forgot his book when reading by the sea-shore, and though the tide arose and covered it, it remained uninjured (VSH, ii, 191). There are numerous illustrations of the paramount need of attending to guests scattered through the saints' Lives.
The story of the grain cast into the breast of a poor man has come down to us in confusion: it is not clear why the chariot is introduced at all. Probably we have a conflation of two incidents. In the one (which is the version followed by LA, for which see Sec. 26 of that document) Ciaran gave to a pauper a chariot and horses which the prince Oengus son of Cremthann had given him: as that prince belongs to the boyhood stories, it is probable that this incident should be transferred to that section of the Life. In the other incident, which may belong to the Isel period, Ciaran flings grain into the breast of the poor man, where it turns into gold: and we may suppose that the pointless re-transformation of the gold to grain did not take place. A similar tale is told of Saint Aed (VSH, ii, 308). The weird story of the jester who stopped the funeral of Guaire, king of Connacht, famous for his abounding liberality, and demanded a gift of the dead man, is of the same type; we are told that the dead king scooped up some earth with his hand, and flung it into the jester's lap, where it became pure gold.
THE REMOVAL OF THE LAKE (LA, LB, VG)
The island in the lake was probably a crannog, or artificial fortified island, such as are common on the lakes of Ireland. Fundamentally the story is an evident aetiological myth, intended to account for the existence of some curious swampy hollow. In its present form it is obviously suggested by Matt, xvii, 20. Note that VG does not seem to contemplate the wholesale removal of the lake.
Parallels are not wanting. Findian dried up a lake by prayer (CS, 192); and houses were shifted from the west side to the east side of a flood for the convenience of Colum Cille (LL, 858). Saint Cainnech, finding the excessive singing of birds on a certain island to be an interruption to his devotions, compelled them to keep silence (CS, 376; VSH, i, 161).
CIARAN DEPARTS FROM ISEL (LA, VG)
Parallels.--The nuns of Brigit made a similar complaint against the excessive charity of their abbess (LL, 1598). For the stag compare incident XXI; also the tale of how Brenainn was on one occasion guided by a hound (CS, 116). Ruadan, having given in alms his chariot-horses to lepers, found two stags to take their place (CS, 328).
The Stanza in VG.--The metre is one of the numerous forms of debide, seven-syllable lines with echo-rhymes in which the rhyme-syllable is stressed in the first line, unstressed in the second (as men, taken). The stanza before us is in debide scailte, where the two couplets of the stanza are not linked by any form of sound assonance. The literal translation is: "Although it be low it would have been high / had not the murmuring come // the murmuring, had it not come / it would have been high though it be low."
The Geographical Names in LA.--Loch Rii (properly Loch Rib) is Loch Ree on the Shannon, above Athlone. The island called Inis Aingin has now the name of Hare Island; it is at the south end of the lake near the outlet of the river. There are some scanty remains of a monastic establishment to be seen upon it.
CIARAN IN INIS AINGIN (LA, LB, VG)
The Presbyter Daniel.--For the presence here of a Welsh or British priest, see the remarks in Plummer, VSH, i, p. cxxiv. But it is probable that in the original form of the story the presbyter Daniel was a fictitious ecclesiastic, perhaps the Evil One disguised. We may compare the two false bishops that came to expel Colum Cille from Iona (LL, 1007). Biblical names were sometimes used in the early Irish Church, though native names were preferred. There is actually the monument of a person called Daniel at Clonmacnois; it is a slab, bearing an engraved cross and inscription, probably of the ninth or tenth century.
The Gift.--This is said in VG to have been a cup adorned with birds. Such forms of decoration seem to have been common, and are sometimes referred to in Irish romances, though few, if any, examples that may be compared with the descriptions have come down to us. In LA a word antilum is used, which does not appear to occur anywhere else, and is unknown to our lexicographers. It is possibly a corruption for an(n)ulum, "a ring." Naturally this tale of the gift must be a later accretion to the story, if it had the origin just suggested.
Note, in the long eulogy of the saint which the author of LB gives us here, that the writer has not hesitated to introduce reminiscences of Phil, ii, 7, 8, thus hinting at the general Tendenz of the Lives of Saint Ciaran. The rest of the eulogy is a free paraphrase of Rom. xii, 9 ff. There is extant a metrical "Monastic Rule" attributed to Saint Ciaran, which was edited by the late Prof. Strachan in Eriu (The journal of the Dublin "School of Irish Learning") vol. ii, p. 227. The subject-matter of this composition is a series of regulations on morality and mortification of the flesh, but the language is so obscure, and the text of the single MS. which alone contains it is so corrupt, that even the pre-eminent Celtist who edited the poem would not venture on a translation.
THE COMING OF OENNA (LA, LB, VG)
Parallels.--As Ciaran recognised Oenna by his voice, so Colman picked out by his voice one of a number of soldiers destined for a religious life (VSH, i, 261). With the incident of the consecration, as successor, of an unprepossessing intruder, compare the tale of Findian consecrating for the same purpose a raider whom he caught hiding in the furnace-chamber of his kiln (LL, 2628 ff.; CS, 198). The version in LB conveys the impression that Oenna's learning was imparted to him miraculously, as Oengus the Culdee inspired an idle boy with a miraculous knowledge of his neglected lesson.
The story of Oenna is told rather differently in the glosses to the Martyrology of Oengus (Bradshaw edn., pp. 48 ff.). Oenna with two companions was going for military service to the King of Connacht. They came to the embarking-place, not of Inis Aingin, but the larger Inis Clothrann (now sometimes called Quaker Island), where there are extensive ancient monastic remains. Ciaran was at the time in Inis Clothrann. He summoned Oenna to him, and asked him whither he was faring. "To the King of Connacht," answered Oenna. "Were it not better rather to contract with the King of Heaven and earth?" asked Ciaran. "It were better," said Oenna, "if it be right to do so." "It is right," answered Ciaran. Then Oenna was tonsured and began his studies. Here the miraculous insight which recognised in the warrior youth the future abbot is ignored. The tract De Arreis tells us of the penance which Ciaran imposed upon Oenna: briefly stated it was as follows. He was to remain three days and three nights in a darkened room, not breaking his fast save with three sips of water each day. Every day he was to sing the whole Psalter, standing, without a staff to support him, making a genuflexion at the end of each Psalm, reciting Beati after each fifty, and Hymnum dicat after every Beati in cross-vigil (i.e., standing upright with his arms stretched out sideways horizontally). He was not to lie down but only to sit, was to observe the canonical hours, and was to meditate on the Passion of Christ and upon his own sins.
The author of LA betrays his Irish personality by a phrase which he uses of Oenna. Ciaran bids his followers to fetch materiam abbatis uestri--"the makings of your abbot." This is a regular idiom for an heir-apparent, and it shows that if the writer be not actually translating from an Irish document, he is at least thinking in Irish as he writes in Latin.
HOW CIARAN RECOVERED HIS GOSPEL (LA, VG)
There is another story of a gospel recovered from a lake, but without any mention of a cow as the agent for its rescue (CS, 556). The tale may be founded on fact. The "Port of the Gospel" is now forgotten.
Books preserved as relics (e.g. the gospels belonging to a sainted founder) were kept in metal shrines, and valuable books which were in use were hung in satchels of leather on the walls of the library or scriptorium. Two specimens of such satchels still remain.
HOW CIARAN WENT FROM INIS AINGHIN TO CLONMACNOIS (LA, LB, VG)
Parallels.--As Ciaran gave up his monastery to Donnan, in like manner Munnu surrendered his settlement to the virgin Emer (CS, 495). The list of equipments delivered by Ciaran to Donnan introduces us to the "human beast of burden," Mael-Odran, a servile functionary occasionally met with in Irish literature. A well-known incident of St. Adamnan introduces him travelling "with his mother on his back" (see Reeves, Vita Columbae, p. 179). As to the bell, it may be worth noting that my friend Mr. Walter Campbell, formerly of Athlone, has informed me that an ancient bronze ecclesiastical bell, found on the lake shore opposite Hare Island, was long preserved, and used as a domestic bell, in the cottage of a man named Quigley. The owner believed that it was the bell of St. Ciaran, possibly that mentioned in VG: this is not impossible, though hardly likely, as a bell of such antiquity would most probably be of iron, and rendered useless by corrosion. Unfortunately, the bell in question is no longer forthcoming: it disappeared one day from Quigley's house, stolen, he believed, by a tourist who chanced to pass by.
Note Donnan's relationship to Senan as set forth in VG. He was brother's-son of Senan, but had the same mother as Senan. Clearly this indicates a menage such as that indicated by Caesar as existing among the wilder tribes of Britain; a polyandry in which the husbands were father and sons (De Bello Gallico, V, xiv). These people were probably pre-Celtic, and this strengthens the arguments already put forward for a pre-Celtic origin for the Protagonist of our narrative.
On the subject of the burial of the chieftains of Ui Neill and the Connachta at Clonmacnois, see Plummer, i, p. cx. Neill is the genitive of Niall.
Ard Manntain is now unknown.
The chronological indications contained in VG are sufficiently close to accuracy to show that they have been calculated, though the computor has made a miscount of a year. The eighth of the calends of February (25th January) in A.D. 548 was actually a Saturday, but it was two days before new moon. The same day in A.D. 549 was the tenth day of the moon, but it fell on a Monday.
Of the companions of Ciaran, Oengus (properly Oenna) succeeded him as abbot, dying in A.D. 569; Mac Nisse, who was an Ultonian, followed him, and died 13 June 584 (aliter 587). The others, however, do not appear to have found a place in the martyrologies. Mo-Beoc is a different person from the famous Mo-Beog of Loch Derg in Co. Donegal.
THE FOUNDATION OF THE CHURCH (LA, VG)
The two versions are independent. But though there are no wizards or druids in the VG version, they appear in another story connecting Diarmait with the foundation of Clonmacnois. This is to the effect that Diarmait was at a place on the Shannon near Clonmacnois, called Snam da En, and saw the glow of the first camp-fire lighted on the site of the future monastery by Ciaran and his followers. The druids who were with Diarmait told him that unless that fire were forthwith quenched, it would never be put out. "It shall be quenched immediately," said Diarmait; so with hostile purpose he advanced on Clonmacnois, but instead of doing what he proposed, he suffered himself to be pressed into the service of the builders, as the story in VG narrates. The tale in LA is interesting, as showing (1) the existence of a calendar of seasons lucky and unlucky for various enterprises, and (2) a spirit of kindly tolerance on the part of the pagan wizard.
The wiles of wizards were exposed by various saints, e.g. by Aed and by Cainnech. These tales are curious; the wizard in each case appeared to pass through a tree, but the saint opened the eyes of the spectators, so that they saw him actually passing round it (CS, 353, 368; VSH, i, 156). This reads like the exposure of hypnotically induced hallucinations.
Diarmait mac Cerrbeil, or more properly mac Fergusa Cerrbeil, was grandson of Conall Cremthainne, son of Niall Noi-giallach, the ancestor of the royal line of Ui Neill. The reigning king, Tuathal Moel-Garb, of whom we have already heard, was grandson of Coirpre, another son of Niall. As a possible rival for the kingship, Tuathal had driven him into banishment. Mael-Moire, or Mael-Morda, who murdered Tuathal, was Diarmait's foster-brother. When Diarmait was installed on the throne, he summoned the convention of Uisnech--one of the places where from time immemorial religious Pan-Iernean assemblies, resembling in character the Pan-Hellenic Olympic gatherings, had been held. How Diarmait afterwards offended Ciaran, was cursed by him, and met his death in consequence of that curse, may be read in the tale printed in Silua Gadelica, No. vi, from which we have just quoted the version of the story of setting up of the corner-post.
There are chronological discrepancies, difficult if not impossible to reconcile, between the annalist's dates for Diarmait and those for Ciaran. The Annals of Ulster places the death of Tuathal in 543, the accession of Diarmait in 544, and the death of Ciaran in 548, seven years after founding Clonmacnois. Some MSS. of these Annals, however, omit the reference to the seven years, and place the accession of Diarmait in 548, evidently to reconcile the stories. According to the Annals of the Four Masters, Tuathal was slain in 538, Diarmait succeeded in 539, and Ciaran died in 548. The Annals of Clonmacnois is more consonant with the chronology of the Life of Ciaran. It tells the tale so picturesquely that we transcribe it here, as before modernising the spelling--
"535. Tuathal Moel-Garb began his reign, and reigned eleven years.... He caused Diarmait mac Cerrbeil to live in exile and in desert places, because he claimed to have right to the crown....
"547. King Tuathal having proclaimed throughout the whole kingdom the banishment of Diarmait mac Cerrbeil, as before is specified, with a great reward to him that would bring him his heart, the said Diarmait for fear of his life lived in the deserts of Clonmacnois, then called Ard Tiprat: and meeting with the abbot Saint Ciaran, in the place where the church of Clonmacnois now stands, who was but newly come thither to live or dwell from Inis Aingin, and having no house or place to reside or dwell in, the said Diarmait gave him his assistance to make a house there, and in thrusting down in the earth one of the pieces of the timber or wattles of the house, the said Diarmait took Saint Ciaran's hand and did put it over his own head or hand in sign of reverence to the saint: whereupon the saint humbly besought God of His great goodness that by that time to-morrow ensuing that [sic] the hands of Diarmait might have superiority over all Ireland. Which fell out as the saint requested, for Mael-Moire o hArgata, foster-brother of Diarmait, seeing in what perplexity the nobleman was in [sic], besought him that he might be pleased to lend him his black horse, and that he would make his repair to Greallach da Phuill, where he heard King Tuathal to have a meeting with some of his nobles; and there would present him with a whelp's heart on a spear's head, instead of Diarmait's heart, and so by that means get access to the king, whom he would kill out of hand and by the help and swiftness of the horse save his own life whether they would or no. Diarmait, listing to the words of his foster-brother was amongst two extremities, loath to refuse him and far more loath to lend it him, fearing he should miscarry and be killed, but between both, he granted him his request; whereupon he prepared himself, and went as he was resolved, mounted on the said black horse, a heart besprinkled with blood on his spear, to the place where he heard the king to be; the king and his people seeing him come in that manner, supposed that it was Diarmait's heart that was to be presented by the man that rode in post-haste; the whole multitude gave him way to that king, and when he came within reach to the king as though to tender him the heart, he gave the king such a deadly blow of his spear that the king instantly fell down dead in the midst of his people, whereupon the man was beset on all sides and at last taken and killed, so as speedy news came to Diarmait, who incontinently went to Tara, and there was crowned king as Saint Ciaran prayed and prophesied before.... Diarmait was not above seven months king, when Saint Ciaran died in Clonmacnois, where he dwelt therein but seven months before, in the thirty-third year of his age, on the 9th of September."
The Stanzas in VG.--The metre is ae freslige. Literally: "I shall speak witness truly / though single is thy numerous train // thou shalt be a king pleasant, dignified / of Ireland this time to-morrow /// The slaying of chosen Tuathal / Moel-Garb, it was a crying without glory // thence is the choice saying / 'it was the deed of Moel-Moire' /// Without rout and without slaughter / he took Uisnech, it was not after an assembly // Diarmait the eminent gave / a hundred churches to God and to Ciaran."
The Episode of Tren (VG).--This story illustrates a belief in sympathetic magic. What Tren had done to deserve this punishment is unknown, nor is the site of Cluain Iochtar identified. Possibly he had endeavoured to prevent Ciaran from founding his church; compare the story of Findian and Baeth (LL, 2624). Patrick had a dispute with a certain Trian, but the details of the story are different (TT, p. 45, ch. lxxx, etc.). It is difficult for us to put ourselves into the position of people who thought to honour their saint by telling a story about him which we should consider not only silly but immoral. But such an attempt must be tried if we are to understand anything of ancient writings, in whatever language and from whatever countries they may come down to us. Even when we read so modern and so universal an author as Shakspere we must for the moment imagine ourselves sixteenth-century Elizabethans; the more we succeed in doing so, the better do we understand what we read. So, in criticising a story like this, we must rid ourselves of all our twentieth-century prejudices, and accept it in the simple faith of those to whom it was intended to be told.
On one of the great carved crosses still to be seen in Clonmacnois--that erected in memory of Flann King of Ireland (ob. 914)--there is a panel representing an ecclesiastic and a layman holding an upright post between them. It has been plausibly conjectured that this represents the erection of the corner-post of the church, as described in our text.
HOW CIARAN SENT A CLOAK TO SENAN (LA, VG)
The "Cloak of Senan" must have been an actual relic preserved on Inis Cathaig; tradition said that it had been floated on the river to the saint of the island, though there were various opinions as to which saint had done the miracle; it is attributed to Brigit daughter of Cu Cathrach (LL, 2399) and to Diarmait (CS, 753). For parallels to the automatic transfer of objects by water, see Plummer, VSH, i, p. clxxxvi, note 2.
CIARAN AND THE WINE (LA, LB, VG)
The choice laid before the monks is curious, and hardly consonant with the usual spirit of abjuring the world; it may be aetiological, designed to explain, and perhaps to excuse, the opulence and temporal importance of Clonmacnois at the time when it was written. A similar but not identical story appears in the life of Munnu (VSH, ii, 227).
It is quite obvious that the story as we have it is a conflation of two versions of the anecdote. In the one version the wine was brought by Frankish merchants and acquired by purchase; in the other it was provided by miracle. The composite story appears in LA and VG; LB knows the miraculous version only.
That Frankish merchants should have sailed up the Shannon and delivered a cargo of wine at a settlement in the heart of Ireland in the middle of the sixth century, is no mere extravagance. The subject of ancient Irish trade has been very fully investigated by the late Prof. Zimmer, and he has brought a large number of facts together which show that such an episode is a quite credible fragment of history.
The second version, though LB calls it miraculum insolitum, is one of the commonplaces of hagiography. Water was turned to wine by a host of saints, such as Colum Cille (LL, 839), Fursa (CS, 111), Findian (CS, 205), Lugaid (CS, 283), Aed (CS, 339), and others needless to specify. Fintan (CS, 404), and Munnu (CS, 503), blessed a cup in such wise that one of their followers, while appearing, in self-abnegation, to drink nothing but water for thirty years, was in reality enjoying the best wine! Saint Brynach drew wine from a brook and fishes from its stones (Cambro-British Saints, pp. 12, 298), Brigit (LL, 1241) and Colman Elo (CS, 441) turned water into ale; the former (LL, 1368) as well as Lugaid (CS, 269, 280) and Fintan (CS, 404) turned water into milk.
I have not found any exact parallel to the incident of the scented thumb.
There is a cognate tale in the Life of Colman, in which monks, thirsty with labour, expressed a doubt as to the reality of the heavenly reward, whereupon their eyes were opened to see a vision of the joys of the after-life (VSH, i, 265).
The Tendenz of the biographies of Ciaran is clearly marked in the hint at a parallel between the last supper of Ciaran and the Last Passover of Our Lord.
THE STORY OF CRITHIR (LA, VG)
On the consecrated Paschal fire, see Frazer, Balder the Beautiful, vol. i, p. 120 ff.
Parallels.--Coemgen carried fire in his bosom (CS, 837, VSH, i, 236). Cadoc also carried fire in his cloak without injury (Cambro-British Saints, pp. 30, 319). Elsewhere we hear of flames which do not consume, as in the burning bush of Moses, and probably in imitation of it (Exod. iii, 2). Thus the magic fire that delivered Samthann from a forced marriage appeared to ignite a whole town, which, however, suffered no injury (VSH, ii, 253). The fall of fire from heaven in answer to prayer is most likely imitated from 1 Kings xviii, 38.
The verse extracts at the end of LB (which see) contain a form of this story incompatible with the prose narratives.
The boy slain but not torn by wolves is, of course, imitated from the Prophet whose story is told in 1 Kings xiii, which is directly quoted in LA.
The mutual blessings of the two saints may be compared with the prophecy said to have been uttered by Ciaran of Saints Cronan and Molan who visited him at Clonmacnois (CS, 542). The one (Cronan) took away with him the remains of his repast for distribution to the poor, the other left them behind in the monastery; whereupon Ciaran said that the monastery of the one should be rich in wealth and in charity, that of the other should always maintain the rule (of poverty). Such tales as this, of compacts between saints, are probably based on mutual arrangements of one kind or another between the monasteries which claimed the saints as founders; we have already seen leagues established between Clonard and Aran on one side and Clonmacnois on the other, expressed as leagues made by Ciaran with Findian and Enda respectively. Contrariwise, we read of the disagreement of saints when their monasteries were at feud with one another. Ciaran was not always so successful in making treaties with his ecclesiastical brethren. Thus, he is said to have made overtures to Colman mac Luachain of Lann (now Lynn, Co. Westmeath)--a remarkable feat in itself, as Colman died about a century after his time--but not only did Colman refuse, but he sent a swarm of demons in the shape of wasps to repel Ciaran and his followers, who were journeying towards him. Ciaran then made a more moderate offer, which Colman again refused. Lann was in the territory of the Delbna, who, although friendly to Clonmacnois in the middle of the eleventh century, plundered it towards its close (Chronicon Scotorum, 1058, 1090; Annals of Four Masters, 1060).
The chronology of Ciaran the Elder is entirely uncertain. He is said to have been one of the pre-Patrician saints, in which case he could hardly have been a contemporary of Ciaran the Younger, unless we believe in the portentous length of life with which the hagiographers credit him (over three centuries, according to the Martyrology of Donegal, though others are content with a more moderate estimate).
The story of Crithir is told again in the Lives of Ciaran the Elder (see Silua Gadelica, vol. i, p. 14, and corresponding translation). The culprit is there called Crithid, and the version adds that the event took place in a time of snow.
The Geographical Names in LA.--Saigyr, properly Saigir, is now Seir-Kieran in King's Co. Hele, properly Eile, was a region comprising the baronies of Clonlisk and Ballybrit in King's Co., and Eliogarty and Ikerrin in Tipperary.
HOW AN INSULT TO CIARAN WAS AVERTED (LB)
For parallels to this story see Plummer, VSH, i, p. clxxxvii, note. Compare also the third of the metrical fragments with which LB closes. It is clear that the purpose of the robbers was to efface the tonsure of the saint; very likely ecclesiastics were on occasion subjected to such rough treatment during the period of transition between Paganism and Christianity.
HOW CIARAN WAS SAVED FROM SHAME (LB)
Contemporary representations (e.g. on the sculptured crosses) show that at this time two garments were normally worn, a lene or inner tunic, and a bratt or mantle. These, with the addition of a cape, something like a university hood, which could be thrown over the head, made up the complete equipment, and if all these were given to beggars the owner would be left completely destitute. So, in the story of the Battle of Carn Conaill, as narrated in the Book of the Dun Cow, Guaire, king of Connacht, of whom we have already heard, on one occasion would, if permitted, have divested himself of all clothing to satisfy importunate beggars. The device of the water-covering is remarkable.
HOW A MAN WAS SAVED FROM ROBBERS (LB)
This story, summarily and rather obscurely told in the text before us, is related more clearly in the Life of Brenainn (VSH, i, 101). The saint, seeing a man hard pressed by his enemies, bade him take up his position beside a standing stone; he then transformed the victim into the stone, and the stone into the victim. The assailants, thus deceived, cut off the head of the stone, and departed in triumph: the saint then reversed the transformation, leaving the man to go his way in peace. An analogous story is that of Cadoc, who turned raided cattle into bundles of fern, and transformed them back to cattle when the raiders had retired discomfited (Cambro-British Saints, pp. 49, 342).
THE DEATH OF CIARAN (LA, LB, VG)
This impressive story, which is as remote as possible in style from the ordinary stock incident, is probably authentic. The chronological indications in VG are quite wrong: the 9th of September A.D. 548 was a Wednesday, and was the twentieth day of the moon. They are, however, so far accurate for the year 556, that 9th September in that year was Saturday, and was the nineteenth day of the moon. As the observation of new moon, if not astronomically calculated, is often wrong by a day, owing to the faint crescent not being seen at its very first appearance, this is sufficiently close to allow us to enquire legitimately whether 556 may not have been the true date of Ciaran's death.
The Bollandists cite from the Life of Saint Cellach a tale to the effect that Cellach was son of Eogan Bel King of Connacht, and was a monk at Clonmacnois; but on the death of his father he secretly absconded, in order to secure the kingdom for himself. Becoming convinced of the sinfulness of this proceeding, he returned and submitted to Ciaran once more, who received him fraternally after he had spent a year in penance. As the Bollandists point out, this story (quite independently of its historical authenticity) reveals a tradition other than that of Ciaran spending but seven months on earth after founding Clonmacnois. The Annals of Ulster also gives him a longer time at Clonmacnois, dating the foundation 541, and the death of the saint 548: a space of seven years. This would make the saint only twenty-six years old when he founded Clonmacnois, which is perhaps improbable. We may suggest another way of reconciling the traditions, taking the orthodox date for the foundation of Clonmacnois (548) but postponing the death of the saint to 556, in accordance with the astronomical indications. Some one noticed that if his life were retrenched to the year of the foundation of the monastery, it would be brought into conformity in length with the Life of Christ.
With Ciaran's indifference as to the fate of his relics, contrast the dying injunction of Cuthbert to his monks, that they should dig up his bones and transport them whithersoever they should go.
The Little Church intended by the author is presumably the small chapel, of which the ruins still remain at Clonmacnois, called Saint Ciaran's chapel. It is a century or two later than Ciaran's time, but may very probably stand on the site of Ciaran's wooden church. Hard by is the end of a raised causeway leading to the Nunnery; this may be the "Little Height" referred to.
THE VISIT OF COEMGEN (LA, VG)
Coemgen's petulance at the preoccupation of the bereaved monks (VG) is in keeping with other traditions of that peppery saint. The resurrection of Ciaran after three days is another touch in imitation of the Gospel story: it is, however, also told of Saint Darerca, who appeared to her nuns three days after her death (CS, 185).
The story before us is thus related in the Life of Coemgen: "At another time most blessed Coemgenus made his way to visit most holy Kyaranus the abbot, who founded his settlement Cluayn meic Noys, which is in the western border of the territory of Meath, on the bank of the river Synna over against the province of the Connachta. But Saint Cyaranus on the third day before Saint Coemgenus arrived, passed from this world to Christ. His body was laid in a church on a bier, till Saint Coemgenus and other saints should come to bury him. And Saint Coemgenus coming late to the monastery of Saint Chyaranus, he entered the church in which was the holy body and commanded all the brethren to go forth, wishing to spend that night alone beside the sacred body. And when all the brethren had gone out, Saint Coemgenus carefully closed the door of the church, and remained there alone till the following day; but some of the brethren were watching till morning before the doors of the church. And as Saint Coemgenus prayed there, the most blessed soul of Saint Chiaranus returned to his body, and he rose and began to speak in health-giving words to Saint Coemgenus. The brethren remaining outside heard the voice of each of them clearly. Saint Kyaranus asked blessed Coemgenus that they should interchange their vesture, as a sign of everlasting fellowship: and so they did. On the following day when the door of the church was opened, the brethren found Saint Coemgenus clad in the vesture of Saint Kyaranus, and Kyaranus wrapped in the vestments of Saint Coemgenus. The body of Saint Kyaranus was warm, having a ruddy tinge in the face. Saint Coemgenus pointed out to the monks of Saint Kyaranus the brotherhood and fellowship which he and Saint Kyaranus had established for ever between themselves and their places and their monks; and the brethren who watched that night bore testimony thereto. When the body of Saint Kyaranus was honourably committed to the ground, Saint Coemgenus returned to his own settlement." (VSH, i, 248).
In this story we see as before the explanation of a treaty between Clonmacnois and Glendaloch.
The Annals of Clonmacnois narrates the story of the death of Ciaran and the visit of Coemgen, with an interesting additional miracle. "Dying, he desired his monks that they would bury his body in the Little Church of Clonmacnois, and stop the door thereof with stones, and let nobody have access thereunto until his companion Coemgen had come; which they accordingly did. But Saint Coemgen dwelling at Glendaloch in Leinster then, it was revealed to him of the death of his dear and loving companion Saint Ciaran, whereupon he came suddenly to Clonmacnois: and finding the monks and servants of Saint Ciaran in their sorrowful and sad dumps after the death of their said lord and master, he asked them of the cause of their sadness. They were so heartless for grief as they gave no answer; and at last, fearing he would grow angry, they told him Saint Ciaran was dead and buried, and ordered or ordained the place of his burial should be kept without access until his coming. The stones being taken out of the door, Saint Coemgen entered, to whom Saint Ciaran appeared: and [they] remained conversing together for twenty-four hours, as is very confidently laid down in the Life of Saint Ciaran; and afterwards Saint Coemgen departed to the place of his own abiding, [and] left Saint Ciaran buried in the said Little Church of Clonmacnois. But king Diarmait most of all men grieved for his death, insomuch that he grew deaf, and could not hear the causes of his subjects, by reason of the heaviness and troublesomeness of his brains. Saint Colum Cille being then banished into Scotland, king Diarmait made his repair to him, to the end [that] he might work some means by miracles for the recovery of his health and hearing: and withal told Saint Colum Cille how he assembled all the physicians of Ireland, and that they could not help him. Then said Saint Colum: 'Mine advice unto you is to make your repair to Clonmacnois, to the place where your ghostly father and friend Saint Ciaran is buried: and there to put a little of the earth of his grave or of himself in your ears, which is the medicine which I think to be most available to help you.' The king having received the said instructions of Saint Colum, took his journey immediately to Clonmacnois; and finding Oenna maccu Laigsi, who was abbot of the place after Saint Ciaran, absent, he spoke to Lugaid, then parish priest of Clonmacnois, and told him of Saint Colum's instructions unto him. Whereupon priest Lugaid and king Diarmait fasted and watched that night in the Little Church where Saint Ciaran was buried, and the next morning the priest took the bell that he had, named then the White Bell, and mingled part of the clay of Saint Ciaran therein with holy water, and put the same in the king's ears, and immediately the king had as good hearing as any in the kingdom, and the whole sickness and troubles of his brains ceased at that instant, which made the king to say, Is feartach an ni do ni an clog orainn, which is as much as to say in English, 'The bell did do us a miraculous turn.' Which bell Saint Lugna conveyed with him to the church of Fore, where he remained afterwards. King Diarmait bestowed great gifts of lands on Clonmacnois in honour of Saint Ciaran, for the recovery of his health."
The bell, called the boban of Coemgen, reappears much later in history as a relic on which oaths were taken (Annals of Clonmacnois, anno 1139; Four Masters, anno 1143). It was doubtless a relic preserved at Glendaloch, in which the people of Clonmacnois rightly or wrongly claimed a part-proprietorship. The name is obscure: it means, according to O'Davoren's Glossary, a calf or little cow: and Plummer (VSH, i, p. clxxvii) suggests that this name may be an allusion to its small size. But why "calf"? Is it an allusion to the original use of the type of bells used for ecclesiastical purposes in Ireland, as cow-bells?
Angels were seen by Saint Colman to fill the space between heaven and earth to receive the soul of Pope Gregory (VSH, i, 264).
THE EARTH OF CIARAN'S TOMB DELIVERS COLUM CILLE FROM A WHIRLPOOL (LA, LB)
This is perhaps an imitation of the tale of the Empress Helena, who, when returning after her discovery of the True Cross, was delivered from a storm by casting one of the Nails into the sea. Colum Cille was saved from the whirlpool of Coire Bhreacain (Corrievreckan, between Jura and Scarba) on another (?) occasion, by reciting a hymn to Brigit (LL, 1706).
The Visit of Colum Cille to Clonmacnois.--This took place during the rule of Ailithir, the fourth abbot of Clonmacnois (A.D. 589-595). It is described in Adamnan's Vita Columbae, where we read of the honour paid to the distinguished visitor, and how he was greeted with hymns and praises, while a canopy was borne over him on his way to the church, to protect him from inconvenient crowding. A humble boy, a useless servitor in the monastery, came behind Columba to touch the hem of his garment: the saint, miraculously apprised of this, caught him by the neck and held him, despite the protests of the brethren that he should dismiss this "wretched and noxious boy." Then he bade the boy stretch forth his tongue, and blessed it, prophesying his future increase in wisdom and knowledge, and his eminence as a preacher. The boy was Ernin or Ernoc, the patron saint of Kilmarnock; and Adamnan had the tale from Failbe, who was standing by as Ernin himself related the incident to Abbot Segine of I. Colum Cille also prophesied the Easter controversy, and told of angelic visitations that he had had within the precincts of Clonmacnois: but Adamnan says nothing about the hymn to Ciaran, or the wonder-working clay from his tomb, although elsewhere in his book the terrors of Corrievreckan are alluded to. According to a prophecy of Colum Cille narrated in O'Donnell's Life of that saint, Patrick is to judge the men of Ireland on the Last Day at Clonmacnois.
The Hymn of Colum Cille.--This composition has not been preserved in its entirety. Fragments of it are introduced into the Homiletic Introduction of VG, which are enough to identify it with a short hymn to be found in the Irish Liber Hymnorum, and published by Bernard and Atkinson in their edition of that compilation. It is as follows--
Alto et ineffabile apostolorum coeti celestis Hierosolimae sublimioris speculi sedente tribunalibus solis modo micantibus Quiaranus sanctus sacerdos insignis nuntius
inaltatus est manibus angelorum celestibus consummatis felicibus sanctitatum generibus quem tu Christe apostolum mundo misisti hominem gloriosum in omnibus nouissimis temporibus
rogamus Deum altissimum per sanctorum memoriam sancti Patrici episcopi Ciarani prespeteri Columbaeque auxilia nos deffendat egregia ut per illorum merita possideamus premia
Obviously the third stanza, with its reference to Colum Cille himself, is a later addition, so that only the first two stanzas belong to the original hymn. The sixth line, quem tu Christe, is quoted in the section of VG referred to; but the three other excerpts, lucerna..., custodiantur..., propheta..., do not appear in the text before us: nor do the surviving stanzas justify the extravagant praise said to have been heaped on the composition at Clonmacnois--though no doubt a composition by Colum Cille, had it only the artless simplicity of a nursery jingle, would have been sure of an appreciative audience. However, the text seems to indicate something much more elaborate, and probably the original composition was an acrostic, like Colum Cille's great Altus Prosator. The two authentic stanzas of the Liber Hymnorum are incorporated in the metrical patchwork at the end of LB.
Another version of the hymn was known to Colgan, and is given by him in TT, p. 472. Unfortunately he quotes only one couplet--
Quantum Christe O Apostolum mundo misisti hominem Lucerna huius insulae lucens lucerna mirabilis
which is evidently corrupt, and (as Colgan seems to regard it as the opening stanza) must show that the whole text had become disturbed by the time when Colgan wrote. Indeed, it does not appear that Colgan knew any more of the hymn than these two lines.
THE ENVY OF THE SAINTS (VG)
Note how the Latin texts soften down the saying attributed in VG to Colum Cille. A curious incident of disagreement between Ciaran and Colum Cille is thus related by Colgan (TT, p. 396). "Once there arose a petty quarrel between Kieranus and Columba, in which perhaps Kieranus, jealous for the divine honour, appeared either to prefer himself to Columba, or not to yield him the foremost place. But a good Spirit, descending from heaven, easily settled the quarrel, whatever it may have been, in this wise. He held out an awl, a hatchet, and an axe, presenting them to Kieranus: 'These things,' said he, 'and other things of this kind, with which thy father used to practise carpentry, hast thou abjured for the love of God. But Columba renounced the sceptre of Ireland, for which he might have hoped from his ancestral right and the power of his clan, before he made offering.'" The same tale is told in Manus O'Donnell's Life (ed. O'Kelleher, p. 60).
The authorities differ as to the attitude which Colum Cille adopted with regard to Ciaran. But as regards the other saints of Ireland there is no ambiguity. The cutting-short of Ciaran's life was one of the "three crooked counsels of Ireland" according to the glosses to the Martyrology of Oengus (9th September): the same authority adds that the saints "fasted for Ciaran's death," as otherwise all Ireland would have been his. The ancient legal process of fasting was an inheritance from Pagan times. If A had a case against B, he might, and under certain circumstances was obliged to, abstain from food till the case was settled; he was then said to "fast upon B." The idea probably was that if a litigant permitted his adversary to starve to death, the angry ghost would ever afterwards disturb his rest. Parallels have been found in ancient Indian practice. Sometimes B performed a counter-fast; in such a case he who first broke his fast lost his cause. But the process seems to have been strangely extended, even in Christian times, to obtain boons from the supernatural Powers. We read of a saint "fasting upon God" that a king might lose a battle; and in Revue celtique, vol. xiv, p. 28, there is printed a story of a childless couple who fasted with success upon the Devil, that he might send them offspring. Two of the saints--Odran of Letrecha Odrain and Mac Cuillind of Lusk--went and told Ciaran for what they were fasting: Ciaran simply replied, "Bless ye the air before me"--the air through which I must travel in passing heavenwards--"and what ye desire shall be given you." The Book of Leinster contains a poem attributed to Saint Ciaran relating to the shortness of his life: as it has apparently never been printed it is given here with a translation, so far as the obscurity of the language permits--
An rim, a ri richid rain corbom etal risin dail: co cloister cech ni atber i sanct cech sen, a De mair.
(Stay for me, O King of glorious heaven, till I be pure before the assembly; till everything that I shall speak be heard in the sanctuary of every blessing, O great God.)
A Mic Maire, miad cen on ammochomde corric nem, a ruiri na nangel find, innanfa frim corbom sen?
(O Son of Mary, a dignity without blemish, O my Lord as far as Heaven, O King of the white angels, wilt Thou stay for me till I am old?)
Attchimse mo guide rutt arbaig Maire diandit Macc menbad tacrad latt a Ri condernaind ni bud maith latt
(I make my prayer unto Thee, for the love of Mary to whom Thou are Son, if it be not displeasing in Thy sight, O King, that I may do somewhat pleasing to Thee.)
Maccan berair rian a re ni fintar feib ar a mbe asaoete lenta baeis aggaes cach aes bes nithe
(A young man who is taken before its time, the honour in which he may be is not discovered: from his youth of following folly, to his age every company ... (?).)
Ni horta laeg rianaes daim ar cach sen as tressiu achach, ni horta uan na horc maith ni coilte cr ...  a blath
(A calf is not slaughtered till it is of ox's age, 'tis the ploughing (?) of every old one which waxes stronger: a lamb or a good pigling is not slaughtered, the (saffron?) is not plucked till its flower.)
Buain guirt riasiu bas abbuig is m ... cacaid, a Ri rind? is e in longud riana thrath blath do choll in tan bas find
(To reap a field before it is ripe, is it a right (thing), O King of stars? It is eating before the time to violate a flower while it is white.)
Fuiniud immedon laa ni hord baa rian ... matan in aidche, in dedoil ria na medon cia mo col
(Sunset in midday, no order of profit before...; morning in night, twilight before its noon, though it be greatest wrong.)
Cluinti itgi notguidiu is mo chridiu deroil duir a Mic mo De cianomrodba is bec mo thorba donduir
(Hear Thou the prayer I pray Thee in the depth of my wretched hard heart, O Son of my God, although Thou cuttest me off, small is my profitableness ... )
Duitsi a Mic motholtu cen cope sentu dom churp, cenambera cen taithlech no co bia maith fe[in] fort
(To Thee, O Son, ... (?), that without my body becoming aged, I be not taken without reason till I shall myself be good in Thy sight.)
Is fort shnadud cach ambi ria ndula m' chri, a Ri slan, ic do guide dam cen dichil, an rimm a Ri richid ran
(On Thy protection is every one whereso he is; before departure of my body, O Perfect King, I am praying Thee without negligence, stay for me, O King of glorious heaven.)
THE PANEGYRICS (LA, VG)
There is little that need be said about these paragraphs, which are of conventional type. There are two references in VG which may, however, be noted. The first is to the relics left in the hollow elm, of which we have already heard at the beginning of these annotations: here said to have been deposited by Benen (the pupil of Patrick, and his successor in Armagh) and by Cumlach (the leper of Saint Patrick). The second is an allusion, on which I am unable to throw any light, to some evidently well-known story of a certain Peca and his blind pupil.
THE METRICAL PANEGYRIC IN LB
This is a patchwork of extracts from different sources.
1. Fifteen-syllable lines, with caesura at eighth syllable; every line ending in a trisyllabic word, rhyming (not always) with a word preceding the caesura. A dissyllable or trisyllable precedes the caesura. Rhythm of Tennyson's Locksley Hall, proceeding by stress only, independent of vowel-quantity or hiatus. In line seven, 'Keranus' must be pronounced in four syllables, Kiaranus. Refers to the wizard's prophecy, incident II.
2. Four lines, in Locksley Hall rhythm, with a dissyllabic rhyme running through the quatrain. Relates incident IX.
3. Four lines, twelve syllables trochaic, caesura at seventh syllable. Each line ends with a trisyllable or a tetrasyllable, with dissyllabic rhyme running through the quatrain. The rhythm is that of the following line (which is intentionally misquoted to serve the present purpose)--
"Gather roses while you may, time is still a-flying."
The incident is not recorded in the prose lives; but it appears in the Book of the Dun Cow, in the story of the Birth of Aed Slaine (son of King Diarmait, reigned A.D. 595-600). Diarmait, it appears, had two wives (for, notwithstanding his friendship to Ciaran, he was but a half-converted pagan), by name Mugain and Muireann. Muireann had the misfortune to be bald, and Mugain, who, as is usual in polygamous households, was filled with envy of her, bribed a female buffoon to remove her golden headgear in public at the great assembly of Tailltiu (Telltown, Co. Meath), so as to expose the poor queen's defect to the eyes of the mob. The messenger accomplished her purpose, but Muireann cried out, "God and Saint Ciaran help me in this need!" and forthwith a shower of glossy curling golden hair flowed from her head over her shoulders, before a single eye of the assembly had rested upon her. Compare Ciaran's own experience, incident XLVI.
4. Three lines in the same metre, but apparently with three instead of four lines in each rhyming stanza. Refers to incident XVIII.
5. Three lines in the same rhythm as extract 1, but with a different rhyme-scheme; apparently three lines from a quatrain rhyming abab. Refers to incident XLI.
6. Six lines in elegiac couplets. This probably refers to XLVI, but without their original context the lines must remain obscure. In any case the versifier has the story in a rather different form from the prose writers, and appears to regard it as an incident of the boyhood period.
7. Eight lines from the hymn of Colum Cille, already commented upon.
ADDITIONAL NOTE ON CIARAN'S BIRTHPLACE
Some place-names in the barony of Moycashel (S. Co. Westmeath), which lies in Cenel Fiachach, support the tradition that Ciaran's birthplace is to be sought there, and not in Mag Ai at all. I can find nothing in the local nomenclature to suggest Raith Cremthainn; but "Templemacateer" (Teampull mhic an tsaoir, the "Church of the Wright's son") may be compared with, and perhaps equated to the similarly named "house" (p. 111); "Ballynagore" (Baile na ngabhar, the "town of the goats," or "horses") perhaps echoes the "Tir na Gabrai" of VG 3. About half a mile to the west is Tulach na crosain, the "Mound of the crosslet"--possibly the missing cross of Ciaran (LA 4). At the outflow of the Brosna from Loch Ennell is "Clonsingle," which it is tempting to equate to the place-name corrupted to "Cluain Innsythe," in LA 12.
An additional suggestion may here be made to the effect that the eldest son and daughter of Beoit were twins. Their names, Lug-oll "big Lug," and Lug-beg "little Lug," are in correspondence, as twins' names often are.
[Footnote 1: For brevity we shall refer to certain books, frequently quoted in these Annotations, by the following symbols--
LL. Lives of Saints from the Book of Lismore, ed. Stokes. CS. Codex Salmaticensis (Acta Sanctorum Hiberniae), ed. de Smedt and de Backer. VTP. Vita Tripartita Patricii, ed. Stokes. VSH. Plummer's Vitae Sanctorum Hiberniae. TT. Trias Thaumaturga (Colgan's collection of the lives of SS. Patrick, Brigid, and Colum Cille).]
[Footnote 2: There is a different version, which need not be given here, in the Martyrology of Oengus (Henry Bradshaw Society edition, p. 204).]
[Footnote 3: Mentioned in Annals of Ulster, anno 1166, Annals of Loch Ce, anno 1189, Annals of the Four Masters, annis 1121, 1166.]
[Footnote 4: A collection (in Irish) of the traditions of this person will be found in Targaireacht Bhriain ruaidh ui Chearbhain, by Micheal o Tiomhanaidhe (Dublin, 1906).]
[Footnote 5: The passage would then read thus--Rothircan Bec mac De condebairt andsin--
"A maic in tsaeir, cot clasaib, cot coraib, It casair chaeim, cot cairpthib, cot ceolaib."
The transposition has probably been caused by the error of some scribe who copied first the parts of the two lines preceding the caesura.]
[Footnote 6: The roll of the Kings of Tara was evolved from various sources by the Irish historians of the early Christian Period. Tigernmas was properly a pagan culture-hero, to whom was traditionally attributed the introduction of gold-smelting and of other arts, and who was said to have perished, apparently as a human sacrifice, at some great religious assembly.]
[Footnote 7: This is certainly the reading, curiously misread in LL p. 356, (Irish text), and in VSH i, p. li, note 3.]
[Footnote 8: Ossianic Society's Transactions, vol. v, p. 84 ff.]
[Footnote 9: Edited by Dr. Hyde in Celtic Review, vol. x, p. 116 ff.]
[Footnote 10: On this whole subject see Chapter IV of MacNeill's Phases of Irish History, a book which may be unreservedly recommended as giving a clear and accurate view of the early history of the country.]
[Footnote 11: It may be noted for the benefit of the reader unaccustomed to Irish nomenclature, that persons are named in one of the following formulae: "A mac B" (mac, genitive mic, in syntactic relation mhic [pronounced vic] = son): "A o B" (o or ua, genitive ui = grandson or descendant): and "A maccu B" (maccu = descendant, denoting B as the name of a remote ancestor). Of course the name B will in every case be in the genitive.]
[Footnote 12: For division of labour between the sexes, see Frazer, Spirits of the Corn and of the Wild, ii, 129. For prohibitions of the presence of males when specifically female work was being transacted, Plummer quotes Grimm, Teutonic Mythology, Eng. Trans., iv, 1778 ("Men shall not stay in the house while women are stuffing feathers in the beds, otherwise the feathers will prick through the bed-ticking"). O'Curry (Manners and Customs, iii, p. 121), commenting on this story, refers to times and seasons deemed unlucky for dyeing, at the time when he wrote; but the prohibition of the presence of males was forgotten.]
[Footnote 13: Vafthrudnismal 41; Grimnismal 18. (Edda, ed. Hafn, 1787, vol. i, pp. 24, 48.)]
[Footnote 14: F.M. Luzel, Contes populaires de Basse-Bretagne (Paris, 1887), vol. i, p. 219 ff. Some other parallels are quoted by Plummer, VSH, i, p. cxliii, note 5.]
[Footnote 15: There is evidence from various literary sources that cattle thus peculiarly coloured were accounted sacred in ancient Ireland.]
[Footnote 16: There should be no hypermetric syllables, but I have been unable to avoid them.]
[Footnote 17: Horae Hebraicae in Evangel. Matt., xv, 36, following the tract Berakoth.]
[Footnote 18: O'Donnell's Life of St. Columba, ed. O'Kelleher, p. 120.]
[Footnote 19: For the story of Coirpre, see Lismore Lives, ed. Stokes, preface p. xvi; Revue celtique, xxvi, 368. For the story of Ambacuc, see Silua Gadelica, no. xxxi; Eriu, vol. vi, p. 159.]
[Footnote 20: A fully illustrated description of this relic by Mr. E.C.R. Armstrong will be found in Journal, Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, vol. xlix, p. 132.]
[Footnote 21: Book of the Dun Cow, printed in Zeitschrift fuer Celtische Philologie, iii, 218.]
[Footnote 22: Feilire Oengusso, Henry Bradshaw Society edition, p. 12.]
[Footnote 23: Revue celtique, xv, at p. 491.]
[Footnote 24: I should here have quoted as a parallel the oft-described Indian rope-trick, which is alleged to be a hypnotic feat, had I not been recently assured by a relative who knows India well that no one has yet been discovered who has actually seen this trick performed, and that it is probably nothing more than a piece of folk-lore.]
[Footnote 25: See his important series of papers, Ueber directe Handelsverbindungen Westgalliens mit Irland im Altertum und frueher Mittelalter, published in Sitzungsberichte der koenigliche preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1909, vol. i.]
[Footnote 26: Life of Colman mac Luachain, Todd Lectures Series, Royal Irish Academy, vol. xvii, p. 86.]
[Footnote 27: Bede's Life of Cuthbert, Sec. xxxix.]
[Footnote 28: This is evidently a mistranslation of boban, the translator having in mind the word ban, "white."]
[Footnote 29: Henry Bradshaw Society edition, vol. i, p. 157.]
[Footnote 30: Although the sense appears to run continuously from one stanza to the next in their present collocation.]
[Footnote 31: MS. illegible.]
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