Friday, 22 June 2012

Patrons in Poetry: High Heaven's Noble Seal


Below is a translation of a poem, originally composed in Irish by Mugrón, a 10th-century successor to Saint Columcille as abbot of Iona and head of the Columban family in Ireland and Scotland. This is not the only work attributed to Mugrón which survives, he is perhaps best known for his lorica prayer 'Christ's cross'. In the short poem below he praises his monastery's founder, interestingly the translator remarks that Mugrón's name seems to mean 'seal-slave' and asks 'does this help to explain the odd imagery of the first poem, in which Colum Cille is called high heaven's noble seal?'

Colum Cille, Alba's head,
keen for fierce fame over rough seas,
matchless barque of bards' rewards,
eager author, high heaven's noble seal.

Our high apostle of Aran,
unhindered by the world's gold;
blameless sun, fine stride of Cualann,
shoulder bird of the flood's God.

From Conall, Christ brought desire,
sorrowless for fervent free knowledge,
the son of Heaven's King - he broke great chains:
chief of Conn's household is Colum.

T.O. Clancy (ed.), The Triumph Tree - Scotland's Earliest Poetry AD 550-1350 (Edinburgh, 1998), 158.

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