"The Hermit's Song": An Old Irish Poem

"The Hermit's Song" is an old Irish poem, probably 9th century. The manuscript was first brought to light by John Stratchan and translated by Kuno Meyer. The original and the English translation were first published in the British scholarly journal Eriu: Journal of the School of Irish Learning, 1905, vol. 2., pt. 1, p. 55-57.

"The Hermit's Song" presents a hermit reflecting on the solitude of his daily existence and contemplating his death and judgment. Its tone and ascetic atmosphere are reminiscent of the Old English poems "Seafarer," "Doer," and "Ruin." Stanzas here parsed for readability.

The Hermit's Song

All alone in my little cell,
without a single human being in my company;
beloved has been the pilgrimage before going
to the tryst with Death.

A hidden secluded little hut,
that my evil may be forgiven:
a straight unblemished conscience
towards holy Heaven.

Sanctifying the body by good habits,
trampling like a man upon it:
with eyes feeble and tearful
for the forgiveness of my passions.

Passions weak and withered;
renouncing this wretched world;
pure living thoughts,
as it were a prayer to God.

Wailings with eagerness
towards cloudy Heaven,
sincere truly devout confessions,
swift showers of tears.

A couch cold and fearful,
as it were the lying down of a doomed man:
a short sleep as in danger,
frequent early outcries.

My food with my station,
beloved has been the bondage:
my dinner, doubtless,
would not make me bloody.

Dry bread weighed out,
well we lower the face;
water of the many-coloured slope,
that is the drink I would quaff.

A bitter meagre dinner;
diligently feeding the sick;
keeping off strife; keeping off visits;
a radiant smooth conscience.

'Twas a beloved token,
pure blemishes of saints:
cheeks withered and thin,
a shrivelled emaciated skin.

Stepping along the paths of the Gospel;
psalm-singing at every Hour;
an end to talk, to long stories;
constant bending of knees.

My Creator to visit me, my Lord, my King;
my mind to go out to Him
in the everlasting Kingdom
in which He is.

This were the end to sins
among the mansions of the land:
a delightful little spot full of tombs,
and I alone therein.

All alone in my little cell,
all alone thus;
alone I came into the world,
alone I shall go from it.

If by myself I have transgressed
from pride of this world,
hear me wail for it
all alone, O God!