St. Patrick’s Purgatory
Now here’s some authentic Celtic spirituality for ya! St. Patrick’s Purgatory, where you get to pray and repent for a night and a day while walking barefoot for hours on cold hard stones, doing a near-total fast, and trying desperately to stay awake while standing around underground on a chilly damp stone floor. Sometimes all weekend. Yes, it’s St. Patrick’s Purgatory! And here’s some cheery Celtic thoughts by a medieval pilgrim. Clearly a hard case. I know I’d’ve been crying from sheer tiredness and hunger, but the medievals were stronger stuff….
If you scroll down, Chamber’s Book of Days gives a fairly good (if hostile) account of the history of the pilgrimage, along with a description of conditions there in his time.
But why read about the legend of the island? Read Sir Owain, a medieval English verse romance on the theme! Starring St. Patrick, of course, but introducing Sir Owain, a repentant knight who has a vision of Hell, Purgatory and Heaven.
Here’s a little slice of Hell for all us bloggers!
And sum in forneise wern ydon,
And some in a furnace were put in
With molten ledde and quic brunston
With molten lead and acid brimstone
Boiland above the fer,
Boiling above the fire;
And sum bi the tong hing,
And some by the tongue hanging;
“Allas!” was ever her brocking,
“Alas!” was ever their crying,
And no nother preiere.
And no other prayer.
And sum on grediris layen there,
And some were on the gridiron laying there
Al glowand ogains the fer,
All glowing against the fire
That Owain wele yknewe,
Whom Owain well knew:
That whilom were of his queyntaunce,
Who once were of his acquaintance
That suffred ther her penaunce:
Who suffered there their penance:
Tho chaunged al his hewe!
Those made his face change hue!
And tho that henge bi the tong,
And those that hung by the tongue
That “Allas!” ever song,
Who “Alas!” ever sung
And so loude crid,
And so loudly cried —
That wer bacbiters in her live:
Those were backbiters in their lives.
Bewar therbi, man and wive,
Thereby beware, man and woman,
That lef beth for to chide.
Who are lief to chide.
We also get the bridge to Paradise, which works perfectly fine with modern spelling.
The bridge was as high as a tower,
And as sharp as a razor,
And narrow it was also;
And the water that there ran under
Burned with lightning and with thunder.
Those he thought mickle woe.
But he gets across and sees the gate into Eden:
Furthermore he ‘gan to see
A gate, none fairer might be
In this world a-wrought;
Tree nor steel was thereon none,
But red gold and precious stone,
And all God made of nought:
Jaspers, topaz, and crystal,
Marguerites and coral,
And rich sapphire-stones,
Rubies and celadones,
Onyxes and chalcedones,
And diamonds for the nones.
By as much as our Savior
Is quainter than goldsmith or painter,
That lives in any land,
So far the gates of Paradise
Are richer wrought, I truly know,
As you may understand.
There’s a lot more nifty stuff here. Enjoy.