Betha Phatraic [“On the Life of Patrick”], in Lebar Brecc.

[Source: Three Middle-Irish Homilies on The Lives of Saints Patrick, Brigit and Columba, edited by Whitley Stokes (priv. Calcutta 1877), xii, 140pp. Transcribed from lithographic facsimile of Lebar Brecc, a 15th c. MS in the RIA. Available at Internet Archive online; accessed 12.05.2012.

Title page ...
Stokes, trans., Homilies

Note: The printed edition is bilingual on facing pages with the English translation on the right, so that the pagination given below - indicating the end of each the page - proceeds in twos, omitting the Irish text. ]


Betha Phatraic incipit
Lebar Brecc p.24,b, ll 1-29 [i.e., page 2 of this text.]

Populus qui sedebat in tenebris vidit lucem magnam. [Is. 9:2.]

The people that sat in darkness beheld a great light. Et sedentibus in regione et in umbra mortis lux orta eis. They that were in the land and in the shadow of death found a light whence came their illumination. The Holy Spirit, the spirit which is nobler than every spirit, the spirit which inspired both churches of the Old Law and of the New Testament with the grace of wisdom and prophecy, it was that spirit which spake those words through the mouth of the chief prophet Isaiah son of Amoz; de cujus laude dicitur quod non tam dicendus esset propheta quam evangelista. - To praise him, St. Jerome said that it were meeter to call him an evangelist than a prophet, because of the clearness and the fitness for the New Testament wherewith he told the tidings of Christ. Ita enim universa Christi ecclesiaeque mysteria ad lucidum prosecutus est ut non eum putes defuturo vaticinari sed de praeterito historiam texere. For such was the clearness wherewith he told all the mysteries of Christ and the Holy Church that one would not think that it was a prophecy of things to come he was making, but a declaration of things already foregone after they had been done completely. Now one of his manifest prophecies is what is here set forth through a narrative of what is past. Populus qui sedebat in tenebris vidit lucem magnam. The people that sat in darkness beheld a great light. Now the prophet has a parallel passage as far as the place where previously in the same story he said primo tempore allevata terra Zabulon et terra Neptalim, there came with ... of time, great glory and renown to the tribe of Zabulon and to the tribe of Naphtali. Inde dicitur, after these, words he said, Populus qui sedebat in tenebris. The people who sat in darkness if [we go] according to history, this was the people [3] of Israel who were brought into the gloom of slavery by the Assyrians. They beheld the light of their redemption from that captivity, to wit, Hesdras and Nehemias, Jeshua and Zembbabel. But if [we go] according to the spiritual sense, the people men tioned here are the people of the gentiles who were in the darkness of ignorance, adoring idols and images until the true Light arose, to wit, Jesus Christ with his apostles. Nox enim erat in mundo usque dum Christus, qui soljustitia est, radios suos aspersit in mundum. For there was great darkness and dimness over the hearts of the heathen until the Sun of righteousness, Jesus Christ, scattered his splen dors throughout the four quarters of the world to enlighten it. Now one of the splendors which the Sun of righteousness shed upon the world was the splendor, and the flame, the pre cious stone and shining lamp which enlightened the west of the world, Sanctus Patricius Episcopus, to wit, holy Patrick, high bishop of the west of the world, father of the baptism and belief of the men of Ireland. Now the day whereon they tell and set forth, in the churches of the Christians, somewhat of his miracles and marvels, and of the parents of whom he was born, and of the earthly stock of the holy Patrick, is the sixteenth of the Kalends of April as to the day of the solar month. Now Patrick s race was of the Britons of Dumbarton. Cal- purn was his father s name, a high priest was he. [... 5].

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Extract on the contest at Tara

Patrick went thereafter to Ferta Fer Feicc. [Ftn.: Mahee Island. The Eittech or “winged” croxier of Mochoa os so called from the belief that it was coelitus missus, Reeves’ Columba 460.] Fire is kindled by him at that place on the eve of Easter. Loegaire is enraged when he sees the fire. For that was a prohibition of Tara which the Gael had, and no one durst kindle a fire in Ireland on that day until [22] it had been kindled first at Tara at the solemnity. And the wizards said “unless that fire be quenched before this night, he whose fire it is shall have the kingdom of Ireland for ever.”

Tunc dixit rex: “it shall not be so, but we will go to him and kill him.” The king arises with his host to seek Patrick and kill him; but they did not arrive before the end of night. When the king drew nighhis wizards said to him, “go not thou to him,” said they, “that it may be be a token of honour to him. But let him come to thee and let none rise up before him.” Thus was it done. When Patrick saw the horses and the chariots, he then sang this verse: “Hi in curribus et hi in equis, nos autem in nomine domini Dei nostri magni”. But, when Patrick came in to the assembly, only the son of Deg rose up before him, that is, Bishop Ere, who is (venerated) at Slane.

Then came one of the wizards, to wit, Lochru, fiercely and angrily against Patrick, and reviled the Christian faith. Tunc sanctus Patricius dixit: “O my Lord, it is Thogh that canst do all things: in They power they are: it is Though that sentest us hither. Let this impious one, who is blaspheming They name, be destroyed in the presence of all.

 Swifter than speech, at Patrick’s word, the demons raised the wizard into the air, and they let him go (down) against the earth, and his head stuck against a stone, and dust and ashes were made of him in the presence of all, and trembling and intolerable dread seized the hosts that were there. (p.23.)

Loegaire was enraged with Patrick, and went to kill him. When Patrick perceived the attack of the heathen upon him, he then said, with a mighty voice, “Exsurgat Deus et dissipentur inimici ejus.” Came a great earthquake and thunder there, and a wind, and scattered the chariots and the horses afar on every side, so that they came even to Bríg Graide and Sliab Moenuirnn [ftn. ad montem Monduirn’, Lib. Armach., 4 a 2.] and they were all slaughtering each other through Patrick s curse, and here were left along with the king but four persons only in that place, to wit, himself and his wife and two of his priests.

When terror seized the queen she went to Patrick and said to him, “O Righteous one and O mighty one, kill not the king, for he shall submit to thee, and give thee thine own will.” The king came and gave his will to Patrick by word of mouth, but gave it not from his heart; and he told Patrick to go after him to Tara that he might give him his will before the men of Ireland. That, [23] however, was not what he had in mind but to kill Patrick, for he left ambushes before him on every road from that to Tara.

Thereafter went Patrick (and his train of) eight, together with a gillie Benén, past all the ambushes, in the shape of eight deer and behind them one fawn with a white bird on its shoulder, that is, Benen with Patrick’s book-satchel on his back; and there after he went into Tara, the doors being shut, to the middle of the palace. The king was then feasting with the kings of Ireland around him at this festival, for that was the Feast of Tara.

No one rose up before Patrick at Tara except the king’s poet, Dubthach Macculugair, and he believed and was baptized, and Patrick gave him a blessing.

Patrick is then called to the king’s couch that he might eat food, and Patrick refused not that. The wizard Lucatmael put a drop of poison in Patrick’s cruse, and gave it into Patrick’s hand: but Patrick blessed the vessel, and the poison fell thereout, and not even a little of the ale fell. And Patrick afterwards drank the ale.

Then said the king to his gillie Crunnmael, “Go out on the causeway of Tara, and lay thee down thereon and let them rub dough mixed with blood about thy head, and let them say that thou fellest [ftn.: lit. that it is a fall thou fellest] upon the stones and that thou diedst, and I will tell the cleric to come to bring thee to life, and though he tell thee to rise, arise not.” Thus was it done. When Patrick saw the body, God made manifest to him that guile was practised on him, wherefore he said

O my Crunnmael, O my bald youth, O my hero,
Though thou attainedst one thing, though thou hast not
         attained, thou hast not arisen,
Though thou hast fallen, though thou hast not fallen
         upon the stones a final deed,
Thou thou attainedst one thing, though thou hast not
attained, thou art not healed.

It is certain that Crunnmael was not healed by Patrick’s word, and from that time forth he arose not.

Thereafter the hosts fared forth out of Tara. Then said the wizards, “Let us work miracles together that we may know which of us is the stronger.” “So be it done,” said Patrick. Then [25] the wizard brought snow over the plain till it reached men’s shoulders. Dixit Patricius to him, “Put it away now if thou canst.” Dixit magus, “I cannot till the same time to-morrow.” “By my debroth (that is, “by my God of Judgement,”) saith Patrick, “it is in eveil they power lieth, and nowise in good.” Patrick blessed the plain, and the snow melted at once.

The wizard invoked demons, and over the plain he brought darkness [ftn.: Tenebrae .. tam densae, ut palpari queant. Exod. x, 21.] that could be felt, and trembling and terror seized every one. Dixit Patricius, “Take away the darkness si potes.” The wizard replied, “I cannot till the same time to-morrow.” Patrick blessed the plain and the darknesses at once depart, and the sun shone forth ..... All who were there gave thanks to God and to Patrick.

Tunc dixit rex, “Put your books into water, and him of you whose books escape we will adore.” “I am ready for that,” saith Patrick. Said the wizard, “a god of water this man adores, and I will not submit to the ordeal of water.” That was the grace of Baptism which he had perceived with Patrick.

Said the king, “Put your books into fire.” “I am ready for that,” saith Patrick. “I will not do thus,” saith the wizard, “for this man adores a god of fire every two years,” that is, it was the grace of the Holy Ghost he perceived with Patrick. Then another counsel was taken, that is, to build a house in that hour the half thereof fresh and the other withered, and to put the wizard into the fresh half with Patrick’s raiment about him, (and) to place Patrick’s gillie, Benén, into the withered half, with the wizard’s tunic about him.

Then came to Patrick three striplings, who were kept in hostageship with Loegaire. They weep unto Patrick. Patrick asked, “What is that, my sons?” “In the chief city of the Gael a prince’s truth,” say they, “hath to-day been broken.” “Where is this?” saith Patrick. “The house which is abuilding for the wizard and thy gillie, in this wise is it abuilding: half thereof fresh and half withered; the fresh half for the wizard and the withered for thy gillie.”

Patrick put his finger on the right cheek of each of those boys, and on his left palm he put a tear (which had trickled) over the right cheek of each boy; and he breathed on the tears, and made thereof three gems. “Swallow,” saith Patrick, “the gems.” “We will swallow (them),” say they. “Good, now,” saith Patrick: [27] “three noble venerable gems shall be born of you, that is, Colomb Cille, and Congall of Bennchor [Bangor in Ulster] , and Finden of Magbile [Movilla, Co. Down].*

It was done as the striplings had said; and fire was put into the house, and the fresh half is burnt with the wizard therein, and Patrick’s raiment which was about him was not burnt. But the withered half was not burnt, nor the gillie, but the wizard s tunic which was about him was burnt.

The king grows terrible (?) at the killing of the wizard, and he proceeds to kill Patrick. But God’s anger came against the impious folk, so that a multitude of them (twelve thousand) perished.

Terror then seized Loegaire, and he knelt to Patrick, and believed in God with (his) lips only, and not with a pure heart. All the rest, moreover, believe and were baptized.

Patrick said to Loegaire, “Since thou hast believed in God, length of life shall be given to thee in the kingdom, but in guerdon of thy disobedience aforetime, and because thou hast not received the baptism with desire, though thou believedst with thy lips, Hell shalt thou have, and from thy race till Doom there shall be neither sovranty nor chieftainship.”

But the queen besought Patrick not to curse the child that was in her womb, namely, Lugaid, son of Loegaire. Patrick said: “I will not curse him till he opposes me.” Now Lugaid took the realm of Ireland; and thereafter he came to Achad farcha, and there he said “is not that the church of the cleric who said there would never be king nor crownprince of our seed?” Swifter than speech a bolt of fire was hurled against him and killed him. Wherefore thence is called Achad farcha in Ui Cremthainne. [Ftn: In the parish of Enniskeen, in the north part of Meath diocese. See Mr. Hennessy’s note to his translation of the Tripartite Life, p.391.]

Patrick then goes to the Assembly of Telltown, to the sons of Niall. [...; 29.]

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