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

A poem by Denis Florence MacCarthy

At length the long-expected morning came,
When from the opening arms of that wild bay,
Beneath the hill that bears my humble name,
Over the waves we took our untracked way;
Sweetly the morning lay on tarn and rill,
Gladly the waves played in its golden light,
And the proud top of the majestic hill
Shone in the azure air, serene and bright.

Over the sea we flew that sunny morn,
Not without natural tears and human sighs:
For who can leave the land where he was born,
And where, perchance, a buried mother lies;
Where all the friends of riper manhood dwell,
And where the playmates of his childhood sleep:
Who can depart, and breathe a cold farewell,
Nor let his eyes their honest tribute weep?

Our little bark, kissing the dimpled smiles
On ocean's cheek, flew like a wanton bird,
And then the land, with all its hundred isles,
Faded away, and yet we spoke no word.
Each silent tongue held converse with the past,
Each moistened eye looked round the circling wave,
And, save the spot where stood our trembling mast,
Saw all things hid within one mighty grave.

We were alone, on the wide watery waste--
Nought broke its bright monotony of blue,
Save where the breeze the flying billows chased,
Or where the clouds their purple shadows threw.
We were alone--the pilgrims of the sea--
One boundless azure desert round us spread;
No hope, no trust, no strength, except in THEE,
Father, who once the pilgrim-people led.

And when the bright-faced sun resigned his throne
Unto the Ethiop queen, who rules the night,
Who with her pearly crown and starry zone,
Fills the dark dome of heaven with silvery light;--
As on we sailed, beneath her milder sway,
And felt within our hearts her holier power,
We ceased from toil, and humbly knelt to pray,
And hailed with vesper hymns the tranquil hour!

For then, indeed, the vaulted heavens appeared
A fitting shrine to hear their Maker's praise,
Such as no human architect has reared,
Where gems, and gold, and precious marbles blaze.
What earthly temple such a roof can boast?--
What flickering lamp with the rich starlight vies,
When the round moon rests, like the sacred Host,
Upon the azure altar of the skies?

We breathed aloud the Christian's filial prayer,
Which makes us brothers even with the Lord;
Our Father, cried we, in the midnight air,
In heaven and earth be thy great name adored;
May thy bright kingdom, where the angels are,
Replace this fleeting world, so dark and dim.
And then, with eyes fixed on some glorious star,
We sang the Virgin-Mother's vesper hymn!

Hail, brightest star! that o'er life's troubled sea
Shines pitying down from heaven's elysian blue!
Mother and Maid, we fondly look to thee,
Fair gate of bliss, where heaven beams brightly through.
Star of the morning! guide our youthful days,
Shine on our infant steps in life's long race,
Star of the evening! with thy tranquil rays,
Gladden the aged eyes that seek thy face.

Hail, sacred Maid! thou brighter, better Eve,
Take from our eyes the blinding scales of sin;
Within our hearts no selfish poison leave,
For thou the heavenly antidote canst win.
O sacred Mother! 'tis to thee we run--
Poor children, from this world's oppressive strife;
Ask all we need from thy immortal Son,
Who drank of death, that we might taste of life.

Hail, spotless Virgin! mildest, meekest maid--
Hail! purest Pearl that time's great sea hath borne--
May our white souls, in purity arrayed,
Shine, as if they thy vestal robes had worn;
Make our hearts pure, as thou thyself art pure,
Make safe the rugged pathway of our lives,
And make us pass to joys that will endure
When the dark term of mortal life arrives.[7]

'Twas thus, in hymns, and prayers, and holy psalms,
Day tracking day, and night succeeding night,
Now driven by tempests, now delayed by calms,
Along the sea we winged our varied flight.
Oh! how we longed and pined for sight of land!
Oh! how we sighed for the green pleasant fields!
Compared with the cold waves, the barest strand--
The bleakest rock--a crop of comfort yields.

Sometimes, indeed, when the exhausted gale,
In search of rest, beneath the waves would flee,
Like some poor wretch who, when his strength doth fail,
Sinks in the smooth and unsupporting sea:
Then would the Brothers draw from memory's store
Some chapter of life's misery or bliss,
Some trial that some saintly spirit bore,
Or else some tale of passion, such as this:

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