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Life of St. Declan of Ardmore and Life of St. Mochuda of Lismore   By:

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Vol. XVI. [1914.]

LIFE OF ST. DECLAN OF ARDMORE, (Edited from MS. in Bibliotheque Royale, Brussels),


LIFE OF ST. MOCHUDA OF LISMORE, (Edited from MS. in the Library of Royal Irish Academy),

With Introduction, Translation, and Notes,


Rev. P. Power, M.R.I.A., University College, Cork.



Preface Introduction General St. Declan St. Mochuda Map of Ireland Life of Declan Life of Mochuda [Transcriber's Note]


It is solely the historical aspect and worth of the two tracts herewith presented that appealed to their edition and first suggested to him their preparation and publication. Had preparation in question depended for its motive merely on considerations of the texts' philologic interest or value it would, to speak frankly, never have been undertaken. The editor, who disclaims qualification as a philologist, regards these Lives as very valuable historical material, publication of which may serve to light up some dark corners of our Celtic ecclesiastical past. He is egotist enough to hope that the present "blazing of the track," inadequate and feeble though it be, may induce other and better equipped explorers to follow.

The present editor was studying the Life of Declan for quite another purpose when, some years since, the zealous Hon. Secretary of the Irish Texts Society suggested to him publication of the tract in its present form, and addition of the Life of Carthach [Mochuda]. Whatever credit therefore is due to originating this work is Miss Hull's, and hers alone.

The editor's best thanks are due, and are hereby most gratefully tendered, to Rev. M. Sheehan, D.D., D.Ph., Rev. Paul Walsh, Rev. J. MacErlhean, S.J., M.A., as well as to Mr. R. O'Foley, who, at much expense of time and labour, have carefully read the proofs, and, with unselfish prodigality of their scholarly resources, have made many valuable suggestions and corrections.




A most distinctive class of ancient Irish literature, and probably the class that is least popularly familiar, is the hagiographical. It is, the present writer ventures to submit, as valuable as it is distinctive and as well worthy of study as it is neglected. While annals, tales and poetry have found editors the Lives of Irish Saints have remained largely a mine unworked. Into the causes of this strange neglect it is not the purpose of the present introduction to enter. Suffice it to glance in passing at one of the reasons which has been alleged in explanation, scil.: that the "Lives" are uncritical and romantic, that they abound in wild legends, chronological impossibilities and all sorts of incredible stories, and, finally, that miracles are multiplied till the miraculous becomes the ordinary, and that marvels are magnified till the narrative borders on the ludicrous. The Saint as he is sketched is sometimes a positively repulsive being arrogant, venomous, and cruel; he demands two eyes or more for one, and, pucklike, fairly revels in mischief! As painted he is in fact more a pagan deity than a Christian man.

The foregoing charges may, or must, be admitted partially or in full, but such admission implies no denial of the historical value of the Lives. All archaic literature, be it remembered, is in a greater or less degree uncritical, and it must be read in the light of the writer's times and surroundings. That imagination should sometimes run riot and the pen be carried beyond the boundary line of the strictly literal is perhaps nothing much to be marvelled at in the case of the supernatural minded Celt with religion for his theme. Did the scribe believe what he wrote when he recounted the multiplied marvels of his holy patron's life? Doubtless he did and why not! To the unsophisticated monastic and mediaeval mind, as to the mind of primitive man, the marvellous and supernatural is almost as real and near as the commonplace and natural... Continue reading book >>

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