Forgaill's Praise Of Columcille

A poem by Isabella Augusta

This now is the poem of praise and of lamentation that was made for Columcille, Speckled Salmon of the Boyne, High Saint of the Gael, by Forgaill that was afterwards called Blind Forgaill, Chief Poet of Ireland:

It is not a little story this is; it is not a story about a fool it is; it is not one district that is keening but every district, with a great sound that is not to be borne, hearing the story of Columcille, without life, without a church.

It is not the trouble of one house, or the grief of one harp-string; all the plains are heavy, hearing the word that is a wound.

What way will a simple man tell of him? Even Nera from the Sidhe could not do it; he is not made much of now; our learned one is not the light of our life, now he is hidden away from us.

He that used to keep us living is dead; he that was our rightful head has died from us; he has died from us that was God's messenger.

The knowledgeable man that used to put fear from us is not here; the teller of words does not return to us; the teacher is gone from us that taught silence to the people.

The whole world was his; it is a harp without its strings; it is a church without its abbot.

Colum rose very high the time God's companies rose to meet him; it is bright the angels were, attending on him.

It is short his life was, it is little used to satisfy him; when the wind blew the sheet against him on the sand, the shape of his ribs could be seen through it. He was the head of every gathering; he was a dun of the book of the law; he put a flame in the district of the north, he lightened the district of the west; the east was his along with it; he did not open his heart to every company. Good his death; he went with God's angels that came to meet him.

He has reached to Axal of his help and to the troops of the archangels; he has reached to a place where night is not seen; he has reached to a plain where music has not to be born; where no one listens to oppression. The King of priests has done away with his troubles.

He knew the way he was going; he gave kindness for hatred; he learned psalms; he broke the battle against hunger.

He knew seasons and storms; he read the secrets of the great wisdom; he knew the course of the moon; he took notice of its race with the branching sun. He was skilful in the course of the sea; to tell every high thing we have heard from Colum, would be to count the stars of heaven.

A healer of the heart of the wise; a full satisfier of guests; our crowned one who spoke with Axal; a shelter to the naked; a comforter to the poor; he was eager, he was noble, it is high his death was. We hope great honour will be given to him on the head of these deeds.

And when Forgaill had made that lament he said, "It is a great shaping and a great finish I have given to these words, and I cannot make a praise beyond this, for my eyes have been taken from me."

It was Aodh, King of Ireland gave seven cumhals for his name to be given in the praising of Columcille; and Aodh laid it down to Forgaill that this song should be above every other song.

But it was after death the reward and the praise were given to blind Forgaill for it was Heaven that was given to him as the price of the praising of the King.

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