The Voyage Of St. Brendan. A.D. 545. - Ara Of The Saints.

A poem by Denis Florence MacCarthy

Hearing how blessed Enda lived apart,
Amid the sacred caves of Ara-mhor,
And how beneath his eye, spread like a chart,
Lay all the isles of that remotest shore;
And how he had collected in his mind
All that was known to man of the Old Sea,[2]
I left the Hill of Miracles[3] behind,
And sailed from out the shallow, sandy Leigh.

Betwixt the Samphire Isles swam my light skiff,
And like an arrow flew through Fenor Sound,
Swept by the pleasant strand, and the tall cliff,
Whereon the pale rose amethysts are found.
Rounded Moyferta's rocky point, and crossed
The mouth of stream-streaked Erin's mightiest tide,
Whose troubled waves break o'er the City lost,
Chafed by the marble turrets that they hide.

Beneath Ibrickan's hills, moory and tame,
And Inniscaorach's caves, so wild and dark,
I sailed along. The white-faced otter came,
And gazed in wonder on my floating bark.
The soaring gannet, perched upon my mast,
And the proud bird, that flies but o'er the sea,
Wheeled o'er my head: and the girrinna passed
Upon the branch of some life-giving tree.[4]

Leaving the awful cliffs of Corcomroe,
I sought the rocky eastern isle, that bears
The name of blessed Coemhan, who doth show
Pity unto the storm-tossed seaman's prayers;
Then crossing Bealach-na-fearbach's treacherous sound,
I reached the middle isle, whose citadel
Looks like a monarch from its throne around;
And there I rested by St. Kennerg's well.

Again I sailed, and crossed the stormy sound
That lies beneath Binn-Aite's rocky height--
And there, upon the shore, the Saint I found
Waiting my coming though the tardy night.
He led me to his home beside the wave,
Where, with his monks, the pious father dwelled,
And to my listening ear he freely gave
The sacred knowledge that his bosom held.

When I proclaimed the project that I nursed,
How 'twas for this that I his blessing sought,
An irrepressible cry of joy outburst
From his pure lips, that blessed me for the thought.
He said that he, too, had in visions strayed
Over the untracked ocean's billowy foam;
Bid me have hope, that God would give me aid,
And bring me safe back to my native home.

Oft, as we paced that marble-covered land,
Would blessed Enda tell me wondrous tales--
How, for the children of his love, the hand
Of the Omnipotent Father never fails--
How his own sister,[5] standing by the side
Of the great sea, which bore no human bark,
Spread her light cloak upon the conscious tide,
And sailed thereon securely as an ark.

And how the winds become the willing slaves
Of those who labour in the work of God;
And how Scothinus walked upon the waves,
Which seemed to him the meadow's verdant sod.
How he himself came hither with his flock,
To teach the infidels from Corcomroe,
Upon the floating breast of the hard rock,
Which lay upon the glistening sands below.

But not alone of miracles and joys
Would Enda speak--he told me of his dream;
When blessed Kieran went to Clonmacnois,
To found the sacred churches by the stream--
How he did weep to see the angels flee
Away from Arran as a place accursed;
And men tear up the island-shading tree,
Out of the soil from which it sprung at first.

At length I tore me from the good man's sight,
And o'er Loch Lurgan's mouth[6] took my lone way,
Which, in the sunny morning's golden light,
Shone like the burning lake of Lassarae;
Now 'neath heaven's frown--and now, beneath its smile--
Borne on the tide, or driven before the gale;
And, as I passed MacDara's sacred Isle,
Thrice bowed my mast, and thrice let down my sail.

Westward of Arran as I sailed away;
I saw the fairest sight eye can behold--
Rocks which, illumined by the morning's ray,
Seemed like a glorious city built of gold.
Men moved along each sunny shining street,
Fires seemed to blaze, and curling smoke to rise,
When lo! the city vanished, and a fleet,
With snowy sails, rose on my ravished eyes.

Thus having sought for knowledge and for strength,
For the unheard-of voyage that I planned,
I left these myriad isles, and turned at length
Southward my bark, and sought my native land.
There made I all things ready, day by day,
The wicker-boat, with ox-skins covered o'er--
Chose the good monks companions of my way,
And waited for the wind to leave the shore.

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