Ancient Irish Monk's Poem:
by Manchan of Offaly, a Celtic Monastic; one of St. Patrick's Converts
(In this poem Manchan tells how he went off to be a Hermit, but disciples gathered around him, and he found himself the head of a small group of monks! This is how Celtic monasteries often began in the time period of 500-1100 A.D. The poem describes what these early type of monastic communities were like. They were small in number, twelve monks being considered the right size. We first read this poem in the Visitor's Center at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, where the Book of Kells is on display. It is also found along with a wonderful stanza by stanza explanatory commentary in: How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill.)
St. Manchan of Offaly's Poem:
(Composed Circa 450-550 A.D.)
Grant me sweet Christ the grace to find---
Son of the Living God!---
A small hut in a lonesome spot
To make it my abode.
A little pool but very clear
To stand beside the place
Where all men's sins are washed away
By sanctifying grace.
A pleasant woodland all about
To shield it from the wind
And make a home for singing birds
Before it and behind.
A southern aspect for the heat
A stream along its foot,
A smooth green lawn with rich topsoil
Propitious to all fruit.
My choice of men to live with me
And pray to God as well;
Quiet men of humble mind---
Their number I shall tell.
Four files of three or three of four
To give the psalter forth;
Six to pray by the south church wall
And six along the north.
Two by two my dozen friends---
To tell the number right---
Praying with me to move the King
Who gives the sun its light.
A lovely church, a home for God
Bedecked with linen fine,
Where over the white Gospel page
The Gospel candles shine.
A little house where all may dwell
And body's care be sought,
Where none shows lust or arrogance,
None thinks an evil thought.
And all I ask for housekeeping
I get and pay no fees,
Leeks from the garden, poultry, game,
Salmon and trout and bees.
My share of clothing and of food,
From the King of fairest face,
And I to sit at times alone,
And pray in every place.
Photo of lone monk, and Layout, Copyright © 2002 S.G.P. All rights reserved.
Photo of Skellig Michael Copyright © Irish Tourist Board.