Legends of Saint Patrick – Saint Patrick at Tara

detail of stained glass window of Saint Patrick, date and artist unknown; Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Knoxville, Tennessee; photographed on 16 September 2016 by Nheyob; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsThe King is wroth with a greater wrath
  Than the wrath of Nial or the wrath of Conn!
From his heart to his brow the blood makes path,
  And hangs there, a red cloud, beneath his crown.

Is there any who knows not, from south to north,
  That Laeghaire to-morrow his birthday keeps?
No fire may be lit upon hill or hearth
Till the King’s strong fire in its kingly mirth
  Up rushes from Tara’s palace steeps!

Yet Patrick has lighted his Paschal fire
  At Slane–it is holy Saturday –
And blessed his font ‘mid the chaunting choir!
  From hill to hill the flame makes way;
While the king looks on it his eyes with ire
  Flash red, like Mars, under tresses grey.

The chiefs and the captains with drawn swords rose:
  To avenge their Lord and the Realm they swore;
  The Druids rose and their garments tore;
“The strangers to us and our Gods are foes!”
Then the king to Patrick a herald sent,
  Who spake, ‘Come up at noon and show
Who lit thy fire and with what intent:
  These things the great king Laeghaire would know.”

But Laeghaire had hid twelve men by the way,
Who swore by the sun the Saint to slay.

When the waters of Boyne began to bask
  And fields to flash in the rising sun
The Apostle Evangelist kept his Pasch,
  And Erin her grace baptismal won:
Her birthday it was: his font the rock,
He blessed the land, and he blessed his flock.

Then forth to Tara he fared full lowly:
  The Staff of Jesus was in his hand:
Twelve priests paced after him chaunting slowly,
  Printing their steps on the dewy land.
It was the Resurrection morn;
The lark sang loud o’er the springing corn;
The dove was heard, and the hunter’s horn.

The murderers twelve stood by on the way;
Yet they saw nought save the lambs at play.

A trouble lurked in the monarch’s eye
When the guest he counted for dead drew nigh:
He sat in state at his palace gate;
  His chiefs and nobles were ranged around;
The Druids like ravens smelt some far fate;
  Their eyes were gloomily bent on the ground.
Then spake Laeghaire: “He comes–beware!
Let none salute him, or rise from his chair!”

Like some still vision men see by night,
  Mitred, with eyes of serene command,
Saint Patrick moved onward in ghostly white:
  The Staff of Jesus was in his hand;
Twelve priests paced after him unafraid,
And the boy, Benignus, more like a maid;
Like a maid just wedded he walked and smiled,
To Christ new plighted, that priestly child.

They entered the circle; their anthem ceased;
  The Druids their eyes bent earthward still:
On Patrick’s brow the glory increased
  As a sunrise brightening some sea-beat hill.
The warriors sat silent: strange awe they felt:
The chief bard, Dubtach, rose and knelt:

Then Patrick discoursed of the things to be
When time gives way to eternity,
Of kingdoms that fall, which are dreams not things,
And the Kingdom built by the King of kings.
Of Him he spake who reigns from the Cross;
Of the death which is life, and the life which is loss;
How all things were made by the Infant Lord,
And the small hand the Magian kings adored.
His voice sounded on like a throbbing flood
That swells all night from some far-off wood,
And when it ended–that wondrous strain –
Invisible myriads breathed “Amen!”

While he spake, men say that the refluent tide
  On the shore by Colpa ceased to sink:
They say that the white stag by Mulla’s side
  O’er the green marge bending forbore to drink:
That the Brandon eagle forgat to soar;
  That no leaf stirred in the wood by Lee:
Such stupor hung the island o’er,
  For none might guess what the end would be.

Then whispered the king to a chief close by,
“It were better for me to believe than die!”

Yet the king believed not; but ordinance gave
  That whoso would might believe that word:
So the meek believed, and the wise, and brave,
  And Mary’s Son as their God adored.
And the Druids, because they could answer nought,
Bowed down to the Faith the stranger brought.
That day on Erin God poured His Spirit:
Yet none like the chief of the bards had merit,
Dubtach! He rose and believed the first,
Ere the great light yet on the rest had burst.