Poem of the Week: The Hermit’s Song

My most popular poem on Instagram this week was “The Hermit’s Song”

Early Gaelic (a.k.a. Old Irish) is the form of Gaelic used in Ireland and parts of Scotland from roughly 600–900 AD. A 9th century manuscript of The Hermit’s Song in old Irish was discovered by John Stratchan at the beginning of the 20th century, translated and published in 1905.

This version harks back, to an earlier kind of hermit, before the coming of patriarchal christianity.

The Hermit’s Song

Alone in my lair,
no man in my living,
well I transgress now
the pride of the world.

I arrived on a pilgrimage
eyes feeble and tearful.
The castles of our lands
a gathering of tombs.

The women and children
pastured and pillaged.
No more telling stories.
An end to our talk.

Stone couch in a dugout
cold and first fearful.
So hidden my hideout.
Swift showers of tears.

Now a psalm on each hour.
knee bent to the chanting.
Ten genuflections
return then to prayer.

Berries and seeds,
dry dinner foraged.
Weeds and wild oats
cheeks withered thin.

Water of the slopes,
the only drink for drinking.
Well lowered my face
to the spring, towards the well.

A ration for my station,
from the forest in daylight.
By dark waking hourly.
to psalm the night through.

Waking or sleeping,
only one caller,
through the hound
and the songbirds
the trees and the flower.

I breathe in their breath
breath of her sanctum.
earth’s tryst with heaven,
her spirit, my way.

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