A world without beginning or end,
A world without war, or greed or sin,
A world as it was at the beginning
A crystal world of poetry and dreaming,Just waiting to be explored
A world that will never grow old,
That can neither be bought or sold,
For it is the world of each eternal soul
Of all that’s priceless and whole.A world that is tender and kind, never cold,
Where angel wings fold and unfold,
And the seraphim sing before the divine throne.
A world of green lands unpolluted and undefiled,
Of fertile fields of plum and vine,
Both in and out of time.
The world of the perfect and the sublime,
And the inner divine told in paint and rime,
Yet never fully told even in all the finest poems of men.
Let me go to you
World of the graceful and true,
Before my time on earth is through,
Let my poems be a door,
To the touchless blue heaven of the soul,
And there let me also take you, reader.
For art is a vocation,
Full of vision and inspirations
Situated in the white heart of the soul
Where God, all truth and all good is.
If we only delve deep enough
Into the pearly stuff of which we’re made.
Within the shell of belief,
And art beyond death and grief,
In the life beyond thought that is wisdom
And a door into forever more
Whose white light inside the door,
Beckons us ever from shores
Of the saints and poet who’ve gone before
Us into the greatness of humane being,
Made in the likeness of the divine.
Where everything is seen
And understood in a moment beyond time.
Where everything is clean and right and whole.
It is the world within the inscape of nature,
Of the prophetic insight into the future,
Of the visionary communication with perfection.
Where everything is bright clear reflection,
And we are beings of unfolding light.
For we are born innocent,
And with God within each of us,
And to stay so fine, is to be wise
The Island Chapters 7 to 9
The Opening of the Treasure Hoard
That night, with the box under the bed, like a lurking tiger in a cage about to break out and wreck havoc, I didn’t sleep a wink. Grainne, with the boundless energy and enthusiasm of the young had gone swarming home to alert the whole parish to our find. Soon it was even on the evening news, with speculation about all the millions it would bring to the area, no mention of its cultural value, that didn’t count in any view; would be finder be entitled to the millions, or would it belong to the state. I feared my relationship with Grainne and her family would not survive all this; where money was involved sentiment usually went out the window, hard greed tended to take over the heart. I though of a duo who won the lotto some years ago, good friends, but one claimed it all and then the other, it was a mess, and everyone ended up sworn enemies; I feared this would happen here too; all the peace and love I had been building up would go out the window; bodies and hearts would be cut up here too.
As I lay in bed I stared in horror at the glib announcer of the late night TV news. I had installed a small TV in my room for major news, it was generator powered, and I seldom used it, but it now came in very handy:
“Sensational discovery of hidden treasure in Sharken na Mainistere, off the western coast, discovered by Dublin doctor, Donal Daly, who has a retirement home on the island, and his young neighbor, Grainne O’Feitheartaigh. Dr.Daly is refusing to talk to the media, but our western correspendent speaks to Grainne now from the very spot of the discovery. Eamon have you any further news about this discovery”,
“Well, I have here with me Grainne O’Feigherty, one of the finders (I had locked my door to all comers but as I feared she was revelling in the limelight), Grainne can you tell us how you found this treasure box and what are its contents”.
“Well we found it when I was helping Donie, Dr.Donal I mean, dig the floor of an old cave near the monastery for to put down a new floor. Its a big metal box, but we couldn’t open it easily and we were afraid to break it open lest we destroy the contents; but there seems to be Celtic decorations so we think it might be very old. So its in Donie’s, Dr.Daly’s house (the camera switches to a shot of the house), until we can get an expert to open it properly and examine the contents, so he says. But we’re very excited to see what it contains, it may be nothing or it may contain something very valuable, tomorrow should tell. We’re so anxious, I could scream. I don’t think I’ll sleep much tonight”.
“Well there you have, a mysterious treasure. I’m sure the whole of Ireland will be on tenderhooks to see what it contains. You remember the last great find of this kind was Derrynaflan and some experts think this may be as significant. We will wait and see; Eamon Morgan, Sharken na Mainistere, Co. Galway”.
I knew I would also be barraged by phone calls from every Tom, Dick and harry, so I had turned off my mobile phone and there was no house phone so I was safe for the moment; I had locked and barracaded the doors, but I knew I would have to let in the “opener”, a locksmith was coming from Ballynascullogue, but the Museum in Dublin were to dispatch an expert to appraise the contents; they forbid any tampering until a qualified archaeologist could be present. I was both excited to see what was inside and at the same time very terrified at what it would do to me and the area, not to mention my relations with the natives; even the badger Murphy, the millionaire of the island, seemed determined to get in on the act, contacting some expert in Brussels who wanted to be present, for he said this was an international event and we were part of the EU now, even our heritage apparently wasn’t our own; probably they’ll take it to Brussels and lock it up somewhere there; God forbid; and our ministers would trade it for better terms on the debt.
I tossed and turned all night in my “prison” and woke early to prepare for the expected invasion; I dare not even open the door to go and see Grainne, for hoards of photographers and reporters were encamped outside the house to get the first shot of the box and the doctor on whose grounds it had been found. A mysterious recluse, I was being called, a Dublin colleague, an ass that I had always despised, described the shock that had ensued there when I up and left a very senior and “lucrative” job on the staff; there were tut tuts from the interviewer. I was being put under the microscope in a way I didn’t like, my very soul was being exposed to the gaze of all and sundry and I felt defiled. My God, I said, when we have something good why does the world always intrude to destroy it, the old fall over and over again.
The morning broke bright and dry with a warm sun and a promise of fair weather on the sea. I had a light breakfast, rolled the box out into the middle of the floor and waited for the invaders. Grainne was the first to arrive accompanied by Nora, Paddy was busy ferrying the hoards of invaders to the newly famous island. I opened the door for my neighbors and shut it firmly again against the swarm of reporters, apparently the whole country was hanging on the new of the content of the box.
Nora and Grainne prepared a solider breakfast, for want of anything better to pass the time, and we ate it and felt better. By ten o’clock the first of the officials began to arrive, the official opener, and a Museum type with a starched official air; then some guards to ensure that we behaved ourselves and finally the main archeological group. They first examined, protographed and wrote a detailed description of the outside of the box; dampening our expectations by saying it was in fact quite modern, certainly a twentieth century artefact. Then the moment we all waited for, the official opening took place, with extreme care the lid was prised open, and the contents exposed to the air for the first time in ages.
On top lay layers of protective leather strips. Once these were stripped away one by one and charted, we saw deep down in the trunk a collection of what seemed to be yellowed but again what seemed to be Twentieth century notebooks and manuscripts. These were lifted and charted; two medium size notebooks of poems, all in Irish, and one small manuscript diary also in Irish.
The Museum suit addresses us and said:
“I say to you now what I will say to the waiting media. I address you two, especially, Donal and Grainne, since you are the finders. These manuscripts seem too modern to be described as buried treasure, so you have a strong case for retaining these, since the original owner is deceased, like a finders keepers rule in relation to found material which reverts to the finder if not claimed by the original owner”.
“I’m OK with that”, I said, “no doubt the Mannach thought to bury his work for future generations to find and learn from; I think in some way I was destined to find them, that why I was drawn to the island; I’m delighted really, though I’m surprised that this is all there is of his work; its quite small for over forty years of work”, I glanced at Grainne who was far from delighted and whose face had fallen.
“It seems to me”, he said, “that the File Mannach was a wise man. Indeed, looking up his history last night, it seems he did send a letter to his abbot saying that there were valuable manuscripts buried in the cave. After his death they found a few of his own works under boards in the corner and assumed that’s what he was referring to; that’s all of his work that has been available to the public before now. Its wasn’t a professional search. I advise you to get a modern professional literary scholar, proficient in Irish, to examine his manuscripts, translate them, and make them available to the general public. from our point of view I doubt that they are of any ancient or historical value or monetary value”, he said this with a great dismissive wave of his hand.
“No monetary value”, Grainne said, disappointment written all over her face, “just a small collection of old useless documents by an old hermit who was probably crazy in any case. I am so disappointed, aren’t you Donie”.
“No!”, I said emphatically, “I am happy, and I think these may turn out to the be the real treasure of the island after all. I’m afraid Grainne you are back to being just the humble boat conductor, and you may have to put up with me for a little bit longer”, I said embracing her in sympathy.
“No, Donie”, she said, “I didn’t mean it like that, I’m happy as I am, I assure you, for better or for worse”, she added with a grin and a returned embrace. I drew away not wanted to spoil it all and get up her hopes, there was more in the world for her than a poor washed up Dublin doctor, without even the consolation of buried treasure and the fortune it might have brought. You old cynic you, I thought, realizing that what was to me a great relief, was to her a deep loss. But at least the reporters would go away now and leave us in peace; no treasure in a quaint poetry collection, just useless literature and spiritual literature at that and to top it all “in Irish”; making them of less value, wouldn’t sell well, even though they were works of a man of wisdom. But now what most seem to want is money, not wisdom.
The phrase kept echoing in my head, in the hard tones of the Dublin beaurocrat, “of no monetary value”; thank God, we could keep them and treasure them and learn untold things of the soul from them, “of no monetary value” but there were other deeper values.
As soon as the news went out the gang of reporters dispersed fairly quickly, no news in buried literature of the early part of the Twentieth century, by a mad recluse and a spiritual quack at that. I listened to the reports on the TV that night with great satisfaction.
“It seems the Mannach box was a damp squib, mostly his old poems and most of them in Irish”, he said this with a note of hidden disgust in his voice, apparently nothing in Irish could have even remote value. “The story had petered out, but the locals seem to think that a legend of the Island has been resurrected, for the rest of us, I suppose, it remains just and arcane island legend, of little monetary value to tourism or any other part of our economy. This is Eamon Morgan, Sharken na mainistere, Co, Galway”.
“Good for you Eamon”, I thought, for I couldn’t imagine him reading anything greater than the Times, or the latest glossy porn magazines, and more luck to him; let the dead bury their dead.
The officer in charge spoke to the press afterwards and so did Grainne, expressing her satisfaction with the arrangements, and saying nothing about any of our expectations. Then they asked me what I would do with the Mannach’s writings, for they might elicit some interest from Irish literary scholars and specialist publishers. The publicity would help, but I doubted if we would get the outlay back from having them translated and prepared for publication, a labor of love for me.
“Yes”, I said. “I myself will catalogue them and get them translated, for I am interested in their content from a personal perspective, how he lived, what his theology was, how be viewed the literary endeavour and so on. It should be a fascinating study, and give me much interesting work to do during the coming winter. There are several people I have in mind for the translations, though Irish was my second subject at university and I might attempt some of translations myself. I was also part of the literature society in college and published some poems, so I may try a few of the poems myself; back to my first love, as it were, and this is the perfect place for a poetic life”, I laughed and they seemed very happy with this. They asked me some other questions about my life on the island, why I came there, and I explained my alienation and concern to start a new more spirtual and fruitful and fulfilled life here.
After some more dissultory protographing now of the house and the cave and the two of us for local papers mainly, at nighfall we were left alone, the last boat having left from the island, and it was getting dark for the helicopters that had flown in so many of the reporters. So finally we were left alone and I was greatly relieved, it hadn’t turned out so bad at all. Sure, for some of the faithful this would become a tourist attraction, and maybe even a place of pilgrimage; the place where the holy Sharken monk and poet lived and the finders who found him for the enlightenment of the modern world.
What I had found most probing and embarassing were the questions as to whether there was any romance between Grainne and I; I was really too old and hardened by my first experience of love to start a new love affair; Grainne and I were just neighbors, and she would soon see that when she met some nice young man on one of the boat journeys.
But those questions evaded, we eventually reverted to relative peace again. And I really looked forward to delving into the manuscripts that had been left with me. I little thought what further trouble would ensure from those manuscripts and the efforts of various institutions to get hold of them for their own profit. Even the work of a holy prophet couldn’t escape the attention of the grasping world that existed outside the confines of my mystic island of all dreams come true.
Comings and Goings
After the furore about the find, peace descended on the island once again, peace for my preparation for my visitors, and for winter on the island. I now had a further incentive to invite Jim Quigley, he too had done his degree in the Irish language as well as theology so he would be a valuable advisor in my new work, as would Grainne as a kind of secretary, transcribing our labors, and enjoying it I’m sure, though the pay would be small. Companionship and comradery would be our treasure for now on, whether beyond infatuation anything deeper would develop remained to be seen, I could wait and my experiences in love had made me wary of jumping in too soon before the waters had been properly tested, for otherwise it was cold out there and the new property laws made much of living together a far from joyous undertaking, things had to be “signed” first now. So much for romance and “when I give my heart it will be forever”, but that was curiously see as progress in our world. All hard business as if one almost expected that couldn’t be eternal love, how cynical!.
I also waited patiently for the school holidays so that Patrick could come, or my pearl Paid as I called him affectionately; he would have grown and I hoped not further away from me, or too contemptious of the island, after the bright lights of Dublin. Indeed, I changed my plans for the cave. It would no longer house the animals, that would be sacrilege. Instead we made it into a kind of cave of fun and wisdom with all sorts of interesting spiritual quotations, from saints and sages, and lights and spiritual touchy things, physical touchstones that would make his life here more interesting, for I knew children always wanted their secret tree house or little retreat away from the world, that was uniquely their own, their spiritual world too. I had a little set of binoculars there too for watching the birds which with the seals and animals had been the hermit’s close friends.
These extras in the cave would also entertain the pilgrims who came there to pray and savor the wisdom of the old File Mannach, one of the few hermits of modern Ireland, a rare life indeed, and one that required great dedication like the early hermits who fled the moral corruption of a crumbling Roman world for the perfection of the desert, like the Mannach fled to redeem our western world sunk in decadence and unbelievable war and secularist genocide. I intended to learn from him to enrich my soul, away from that rat race where the rats were winning, for children have a natural innocence and grace at a young age before the world scrubbed it out of them, a link with the heavenly world they came from, as the old poets would put it. And the world they were going back to, or should be going back to as they got older, as Shakespeare said, “thou shouldst not be old before thou hadst been wise”. I hoped to become wise here.
On the day Patrick was coming, my heart was in my mouth, how would he react to me now, could we bond as before, had he forgotten all I had meant to him as his father? True, I hadn’t been around as much as I would have liked due to my work; would he hold that against me? I would make up for that now, this would be our time for total togetherness and exploring together the natural playground of the heart, the wild nature that was life on the island as nowhere else; here one had time for what matterd.
I went over with Paddy and Grainne in the boat. Siobhan would be coming with him; I didn’t exactly look forward to that; too much water under the bridge, my heart was not yet ready to forgive; the Mannach was to teach my heart how to do that later, but for now all was bitterness and gall.
Apparently all the publicity, a source of boasting to her posh friends, had attracted Siobhan’s romantic attention enough to make her “pigrimage” to me on the island more that just a coming to settle Patrick in. Perhaps there was some spark still left in her of goodness, simplicity, beauty and truth, the divine spark that is never fuly extinguished by the cruel world of which the evil one is lord. Or was her coming just another vain show; to show off my quaint island to her hoity toity set, another fashionable show off, in a world where vanity reigned and all was vanity.
But I soon learned that she still had little concern for wisdom of the deeper things that really satisfy and save us in the passing emphemeral whorl of being that is our brief moment in time; as Keats said that is the time, in suffering and striving to shape our souls, the souls we will have for all eternity led by the great masters of the soul and of man’s final journey to peace and perfection and salvation.
In fact I was soon pretty sure that Siobhan expected nothing other than a few diverting days in the quaint romance of the sadly backward island; plenty of pictures to take home; Oh! There is my ex partner, he was involved in that publicity in Sharken, the finding of the hermit poet’s works; lives there now as kind of hermit himself; cracked of course and getting more as he gets older, had to go down with Patrick to make sure he’d be OK with that old mad recluse, didn’t get him out of our house soon enough. Now where will we go for lunch today, to Maxi’s, they have the most wonderful smoked salmon sandwitches there, and real cream bulee for desert, come on girls, lets live it up!
As we came to the pier, Siobhan and Patrick were already there, she absurdly dressed for island life in a thin cream frock, and he decked in the latest child fashion and looking thin and pale; a few days on the island I thought would bring the color back into his cheeks and the boy life back into his soul, for it seemed to me she was turning him into a namby pamby mother’s boy, a frail image of herself and her girly lifestyle. We’d soon have him doing what boys ought to be doing I thought, out running in the open spaces, fishing in the sea, gathering seagull’s eggs and playing football in our little stony fields; and finding a personal place of peace in going back to the primitive cave of his ancestors where he would find mystery.
Yes that was my wish for Patrick but as regards Siobhan, my wish, maybe unfairly, was just to get rid of her as soon as possible, she was out of place here and would only complain the whole time of the primitive conditions and the primitive natives and no good restaurant to patronize, or beauty shop to gossip with the patrons and the painted ladies preening them and pandering to their every needs, at a price of course. The accountant was working overtime now, most of the time to keep her in what she was accustomed to; my bitter spleen was rising. I would learn from the hermit to get rid of all that, but for the moment she drove me bonkers. But she’d have to rough it here or lump it, when in Rome do as the natives do, and if she couldn’t cope with that she could lump it back to her pretty dead set; I thought of the Biblical saying, “let the dead bury their dead”.
So I was thinking as we pulled in to the pier. Patrick ran to me and I grasped him close as if I would never let him go, I had missed him so much.
“Let him go, dear”, Siobhan said, “you’ll crush the poor boy to death”, embarasseed at the show of emotion, it wasn’t the done thing in her high society, stiff upper lip and all that.
“Its all right mum”, Patrick said, more than happy to get a real cuddle for a change, he must have been starved of real affection.
I introduced Paddy and Grainne. She looked at the girl and looked through her: as if to say, these primitive country girls, no sense of taste or dress, awful dirty-colored pullover and canvas skirt; pretty in a way but his taste has certainly gone down here, never was a good judge of women, I’m sure she has him wound around her little finger, the poor ape.
To defuse the situation I said hurriedly,
“Grainne this is my ex partner Siobhan” (with emphasis on the ex and partner for we had never married, there was no obstacle to my marrying again in church if I wanted to; she would be conscious of such distinctions as a good Catholic. Siobhan believed in nothing except herself, I thought bitterly).
“And this is my son Patrick”, I continued, showing him off proudly, “the pearl Paid of my heart, I call him”, I gave him another hug and a good warm kiss on the cheek”, let Siobhan complain all she liked, I thought with satisfaction.
Grainne shook hands with Siobhan, a cold handshake, no kiss, but she took Patrick in her arms and kissed him tenderly;
“I hope you will have a very happy time here, you and Patrick”, she said graciously, “we are Donie’s troublesome neighbors”, she laughed nervously, “and he’s been boasting since he came to the island of his fine strong son, and how eager he was to get him down here and let him get a flavour of the fresh air of the country for the holidays”.
“Yes”, Siobhan said brusquely, “and get every bug that is going too no doubt”, she loved to always put a damper on any good sentiment. “He’s led such a sheltered life I don’t know how he’ll be able to endure the rough life here; we’re city people as you know in essence, the bright lights and all that; I’m sure he’ll be anxious to get back to that before long, won’t you dearie, and back to those video games you love. He’s especially fond of that very realistic one about a modern war, used to spend hours playing it, didn’t you dear, very violent of course but that’s what people seem to like now”, she said, ruffling his hair.
So it was going to be a competition was it, I thought, which of us could win him over. I didn’t want that, just a time to be with him and show him real warm love and all the island had to offer of more natural and healthy outdoor activities. If that was returning to the primitive, as Siobhan would call it, then there was a lot to be said for returning to the primitive, return to contact with the sacred earth that is our real sustenance.
The Hermit’s Secrets
Indeed, the following day while Siobhan slept in, she said she was feeling feverish after the boat journey, we took the chance to introduce Patrick to the joys of the island and the neighbor’s children. I don’t think she let him play with anyone in Dublin, apart from his mates in school. He enjoyed romping around in the fields with Molly and Mairead, and Cormac introduced him to the donkey and they became best friends. He stroked him and fed him carrots and rode him around the field, as I egged him on and encouraged him every step of the way. He also made friends with the goat and the calf, feeding them with feed nuts, and fussing around them, as if they were the seventh wonder of the world, which they were to him who had never had recourse to animals of any kind up to then. Above all I introduced him to the cave, we had floored it and hung up all sorts of interesting quotes of the wise and decorative oddities from the ceiling:
“Cool, Dad”, he said, drawing close and hugging me in gratitude, “did a man really live in this cave. I want to have a play house in the garden when I get home, can I?”, he’d forgot that I no longer had a say in such things.
“Mummy said I couldn’t build one out of old boards we had”, he went on, “she said that it would just be dirty and smelly but this isn’t like that, no! I’d love to have a little donkey of my own too. I could wear clothes like I have here and it wouldn’t matter if they got dirty”.
I had banished all the fine clothes, and white shirts and bow ties, she like to dress him up in, all the latest child fashion. I rather decked him in wellington boots and a rough shirts and sweater, and an old short pants from the charity clothes we had gathered for the church bazzar, which I paid for.
The sky was grey off and on, and there were showers, so I gave him an old fisherman’s yellow coat and cap to wear. Siobhan was horrified when she saw him, rising from her bed at one o’clock, and she upbraided me for allowing him on the donkey when Patrick boasted to her about it:
“He might have been thrown off and killed, or did you ever think of that”, she said angrily.
“Look here, Siobhan”, I said, my temper rising, also thinking of how wrong it was that children are molly coddled like this nowadays: “while he’s here I want him to act like a real boy, and you can like it or lump it. I don’t want a son whose wrapped up in cotton wool all the time like a toy boy, you’ll ruin him with all that nonsense. Let him rough it, God damn it!” she glared at me and grabbed him and held him protectively.
“It will be good for his character”, I said, “let him mix with the neighbors children and learn how real children live and act and even play in the mud”.
“I’ve a mind to take him away immediately”, she shouted angrily, “I knew this was a mistake, I should never have brought him, you’ll just make him into a mad recluse like yourself”, and she stormed out of the room to take aspirin for her headache, said it was all the damp and the sea air, bad for her sinuses.
“To hell with the sinuses”, I said as she left for the loft, “Maybe you should act like a real woman also and not like a spoilt primadonna, those parents of yours have a lot to answer for”. She muttered some obsenity that I couldn’t catch.
Luckily for us, she came down later clutching a mobile phone to say that she had to leave in the morning, one of her friends had died in an accident and she had to rush back to console the family.
“I’ll leave Patrick with you for another while”, she said, “I don’t think the funeral would do him any good and he’d be moping at leaving his playground here; I know, I asked him, and he likes it here, though he misses the TV and his video games. Why can’t you get up to date here, you’re like throwbacks to a lost age”.
I made no reply, I was so heartened by the news, I didn’t want her to change her mind. All were delighted, though polite enough not to say so, when she left on the first boat in the morning, warning me severly to keep Patrick safe, and keep him away from those rough local children.
“The muddy fields are no place for a gentle city boy from a good family, and don’t let him out on the sea; it can be stormy around here, and don’t be feeding him that superstitious nonsense about that old mad hermit, as mad as yourself, locked away in this old backward part of the world”, she said.
“He’s my son too”, I said, “and I’ve a right to give him all the natural boy’s life you are denying him, already his cheeks are beginning to grow red with natural health, in another few weeks he might even become a real human being, maybe you should try it sometime”.
She stormed onto the boat without even a glance back or a wave.
That night Patrick also sat with me as I started my first work on the Mannach’s poetry, Patrick had passed the age of reason, which in the old catechism we used to give as seven.
“Sure I’ll be making my holy communion next year”, he said proudly, proud of how grown up he was becoming.
I recounted to him the joy of my own first communion for things were harder then, more poverty. How I loved the chance to get all dressed up and be treated like a lord for a day, it was all a wonder of wonders for us. And we revelled in all the mystery of the ceremony and the prayers and the singing; we were in high heaven afterwards. And the money we got, half-crowns from every aunt and uncle and cousin who had crawled out of the woodwork for the day to share in the feasting. Patrick listened to my story with his mouth wide open. Then his face fell.
“Mum is getting a special suit made for me”, he said, “but I hate it, its so showy, all the boys will laughing at me, and Clara, my friend in school, has this awful dress, its like a wedding dress, but girls don’t seem to mind, they like dressing up I think, and showing off. Mammy does anyway, she’s getting a special dress from Paris for the event, wherever that is”. He paused to draw his breathe after this long speech.
“Lets forget about that now”, I said, “and concentrate on this trunk with its buried treasure, you know we found it buried in the cave”, his mouth opened wide again with awe at this.
“Real buried treasure! Mummy says it was just old books with no value, and about an old man as mad as yourself, but I think it was great finding what someone had buried after all the years. I think I’ll keep a diary and bury it for someone to find later, that would be exciting wouldn’t it Da?”.
“Yes my pearl of great price”, I said, patting him on the head and he glowed with satisfaction, someone was listening to him for a change, he wasn’t just a boy to be shown off and told to be seen and not heard at Siobhan’s gathering of the grand dames.
“Now”, I said, “tell me what you think of this poem of the Mannach, its the simplest one I could find, so its the first one I translated. Its set during the winter, and I think it was one of his first, when he started to become the holy man doing winter penance for the world, feeling life beginning to mean something.
I suddenly forgot Patrick for the moment, as I marked this poem of the Mannach as one of his early works, from the time of grace when he first felt the urge to leave it all and retire to the island to pray for the whole world, peace and harmony, in imitation, he said, of the monks on Scellig Rock who saw their work as the salvation of the violent and godless world through prayer. It seems, I noted in the margins, as a possible piece of commentary for the published collection, that the Mannac’s theory also was that prayer is the yeast of all the world’s sodden dough, raising it up to good bread; my poor attempt at the translation went as follows:
Tonight at midnight alone,
In the silence of the white stars
In the blue of nothingness,
In the cold of a winter world
Seeping under my rough door.
I shore myself up
With your consolation, O Lord!
In the frost white on my pain,
Amid the bones of trees
In the shadows that haunt
The night outside and inside,
I divest myself of my pride
And my vain self-sufficiency.
O Christ of my heart’s best
I place all at your feet,
As the sleet batters
My shattering door,
As the snow sprinkles my hair,
I declare, I am mortal by myself,
And immortal in You, O lord.
As I grow blue and wax-like
In the dying lamp light,
I cry out, I am happy again.
I also noted down the unusual structure, three verses of seven lines and then a final verse of three lines. Seven, I noted, was the number of fullness in the Bible, and three of course denoted all that fullness of the Trinity that powered the world. I must discuss this interpretation with Quigley when he came.
I looked around and then suddenly recalled Patrick, I had been so absorbed in the writing and the laborious translations, I had forgotten completely about him. He was asleep, the entonation of the poem in my sonorous voice had put him to sleep by my side. I lifted him and took him into the room and laid him in the bed and covered him gently and kissed his forehead. The bed was rich with the heavy perfume scent Siobhan had left in the room. It was a perfume I remembered well, recalling the happier times we had spent together; I wished, standing there in the island dark, it could be like that again; the three of us together in and island of all our dreams come true; for in my heart of hearts I wanted Siobhan here too, the Siobhan of our early life together.