Saturday, 2 February 2013

Pro Nobis Precetur Brigida

I would like to mark the Feast of Saint Brigid with an octave of posts in her honour. I will begin with a series of medieval hymns in honour of the saint as translated by the 19th-century writer, Mary Frances Cusack, 'The Nun of Kenmare'. She used this material in both her 1877 biography of Saint Brigid and in an 1881 volume Cloister Songs and Hymns for Children.  I was disappointed that there was no foreword to this latter volume as it is intriguing to see such relatively high-brow sources included in a collection aimed at a young audience and I would like to have had an insight into her thinking. We begin with a translation of the concluding verses of the first and metrical Life of Saint Brigid, for an overview of the various Lives see the summary here:


Pro Nobis Precetur Brigida.

The first and metrical life of the Saint is too long for insertion here, but we give a few of the concluding verses.

For us may holy Brigit pray,
And keep us safe from harm,
Until we see God's Spirit blest,
Where fears no more alarm.

Against the demons may she be
A fiery sword and strong,
Until her prayers shall bring us safe
To join the angel throng.

To praise God in His Holy Church,
Be still our constant task:
Like holy Brigit, let us not
For earthly pleasures ask.

With all Kildare's holy ones,
To Brigit I will pray,
That she may save from pain and loss
On the great judgment-day.

O holy Saint! who Currah's plains
Hast in thy lifetime trod;
There's none but Mary ever blessed
Has come so near to God.

In Brigit, then, oh let us trust,
She will protect us all;
For not in vain shall Erin's hosts
On holy Brigit call.

To praise Christ is a glorious work —
Then louder be our lays,
And special grace be given to all
Who thus St. Brigit praise.

And they who praise God and His Saints
From God and Brigit too,
In Heaven above shall have reward,
And honour as is due.

Two virgins are in heaven above,
Their client I would be;
Mary and Brigit I invoke,
Protection give to me.

With exaltation see she scorns
The world, and all its joys! 
With exaltation see she scorns
Earth's passing shows and toys! 

She dreaded earthly pomp and state.
Its riches she despised;
She dreaded earthly pomp and state,
For God alone she prized.

She looked for everlasting joys,
She sought a great reward;
She looked for everlasting joys
With Christ, her love and Lord.

She heard the echoing shouts of heaven,
The triumph of the blest!
She heard the echoing shouts of heaven-
Of those with Christ at rest!

Oh! pray for us; kind virgin, pray
That we may joy with thee.
Oh! pray for us; kind virgin, pray
That Christ we too may see. *

*The repetition of the first line is in the original.

Sister Mary Francis Clare, Cloister Songs and Hymns for Children (London and Dublin, 1881), 36-38.

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