Columba’s Island Hermitage

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

Delightful I think it to be in the bosom of an isle,
on the peak of a rock
that I might often see there the calm of the sea.

That I might see its heavy waves over the glittering ocean,
as they chant a melody
to the Father on their eternal course.

That I might see its smooth strand of clear headlands, no gloomy thing;
that I might hear the voice of the wondrous birds,
a joyful tune.

That I might hear the sound of the shallow waves against the rocks;
that I might hear the cry by the graveyard,
the noise of the sea.

That I might see its splendid flocks of birds over the full-watered ocean;
that I might see its mighty whales,
greatest of wonders.

That I might see its ebb and its flood tide in their flow;
that this might be my name, a secret I tell,
'He who turned his back on Ireland.'

That contrition of heart should come upon me as I watch it;
that I might bewail my sins,
difficult to declare.

That I might bless the Lord who has power over all,
Heaven with its pure host of angels,
earth, ebb, flood tide.

That I might pore on one of my books, good for my soul;
a while kneeling for beloved heaven,
a while at the psalms.

A while gathering dulse from the rock,
a while fishing, a while giving food to the poor,
a while in my cell.

A while meditating upon the Kingdom of Heaven, holy is the redemption;
a while at labour not too heavy;
it would be delightful.

Anonymus Twelfth century.
Translated by Kenneth Jackson (ed.): A Celtic Miscellany, revd edn, Harmondsworth 1971, p. 80

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