Columba’s Island Paradise (12th century, translated from the Gaelic)
in THE TRIUMPH TREE, Scotland’s earliest poetry AD 550-1350
Delight I find in an island’s breast,
on a rock’s peak,
that there I might often gaze
at the sea’s calm.
That I might see its heavy waves
over the brilliant sea
as it sings music to the Father
on its constant way.
Might see its smooth bright-caped strand
(no dismal tryst);
might hear the strange bird’s calls,
a joyful strain.
Might hear the shallow waves’ crash
against the rocks;
might hear the cry beside the graves,
the ocean’s roar.
Might see its splendid birdflocks
over the teeming sea;
might see its whales,
greatest of all marvels.
Than I might see its ebb and flow
in their sequence………
The poem concludes with the lines
That this might be my name, a secret I tell
'Back towards Ireland'
That help of heart might come to me
gazing on it
that I might lament all my wrongshard to mention
St Columba, who died in the year 597 AD, was an abbot and a prince who had fled his native Ireland after standing up against one of that islands warrior kings. Upon fleeing, he decided to go to the west coast of Scotland. However, as he felt that seeing the Irish coast on the horizon would be an irresistible temptation to return, Columba (or Colum Cille) vowed that he would settle on the first island where he could not see Ireland on a clear day. That first island was Iona, off the west coast of Mull. Nonetheless, the yearning for his native land would be pulling his heart strings for good.