Sunday 16 June 2013

The Death of Saint Columba


The last faint glimmer of sunset gold
Hath sunk in the western wave;
Over the isle the night-winds blow,
Tenderly sighing, moaning low,
Like mourners o'er a grave.

'Tis only meet that his life should close
Where he watched and toiled so well;
How is he keeping this last, sad night,
That the taper burns so late, so bright
In his sternly simple cell?

A scribe sits there with parchment scroll —
“Now haste thee, my son, and write!
Take thou no rest till the death-rest fall,
And watch thou, too, for the Master's call,
That Cometh so oft at night."

The monk wrote on, with eager hand.
No other sound was there;
For the grief in his soul might find no breath
In the presence of work — in the presence of Death,
Till the bell should sound for prayer.

"I would thou hadst closed the golden psalm
With the close of this passing life;
But these words are meet for my last farewell —
They will call the next brother like matin bell
To pray for the holy strife."

The words that looked from the speaking page,
That had touched so deep a chord
In the old man's heart, would thine eyes, too, see ?
They were, "Come, ye children, hearken to me,
I will teach you the fear of the Lord "

Tis the midnight bell! I will enter in
Where my children kneel, once more;"
And there followed one, with torch a-light,
To guide his way through the gusty night
To the lowly entrance-door.

Alone he passed that portal dark,
For the storm had quenched the lights,
And there, as he knelt on the ground to pray,
His soul with the midnight soared away
To its home on the holy heights.

They found him there, the smile of God
Gleamed calm on his saintly face;
And when the deep hush of their pain was o'er,
And they bare him out through the lowly door,
A sweet anthem filled the place.

They laid him low for his quiet sleep
By the Church's western bound —
And few were there that had loved him best!
For the storm beat wild; and of all the rest
No boat could cross the Sound.

The days grew calm, and they bore him back
To the land of his earliest love;
And a coffin was laid in his own green Isle,
For her balmy tears, and her proud, sweet smile,
For her saint in the rest above.


Born in County Tyrone, Ireland.

Daniel Connolly. Ed., The Household Library of Ireland’s Poets, with Full and Choice Selections from the Irish-American Poets (New York, 1887), 649-650.

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