Monday, June 22, 2020

Patrick's Rune

Patrick’s Rune was written by an unidentified author, in the ancient Bearla Feine Irish dialect, as part of a longer piece called “St. Patrick’s Hymn Before Tarah” in the Liber Hymnorum ― a manuscript from the 11th Century (or earlier) ― which is preserved in the Trinity College Library in Dublin. It was also known as "The Faedh Fiada" or "The Cry of the Deer."

When Madeleine L’Engle was beginning to work on A Swiftly Tilting Planet (1978) ― her third novel in the series that began with A Wrinkle In Time (1962) ― a friend who was visiting Iona in Scotland sent her a card which included Patrick’s Rune. L’Engle soon realized that she could organize all the plot details, she had already sketched out, around this poem. It became central to the novel’s organizational structure.

Perhaps because of how skilfully she wove the poem into the text of her story, many who post this fragment on the internet attribute the poem to her. It was, however, translated by J.C. Mangan.

Some early sources even attribute the poem to Patrick of Ireland, himself ― saying he composed it “on Easter Saturday, A.D. 433, on his way from Slane to the royal palace of Leogaire, at Tara, with seven clerical companions and the youthful St. Benignus, to shield himself and them against the wiles and plots of the druids and assassins appointed to compass his destruction.” More likely, it was written to commemorate this event, and may have been skilfully woven into a larger text.

Patrick’s Rune

At Tara today in this fateful hour
I place all Heaven with its power,
And the sun with its brightness,
And the snow with its whiteness,
And fire with all the strength it hath,
And lightning with its rapid wrath,
And the winds with their swiftness along their path,
And the sea with its deepness,
And the rocks with their steepness,
And the earth with its starkness
All these I place,
By God’s almighty help and grace,
Between myself and the powers of darkness.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.