Thursday, June 24, 2010
89. Herein is seen how greatly Columcille loved Derry, and how loth he was to cut or fell the grove of trees there. When he was building the oratory that men call today Dubhreigles, because of the nearness of that grove, he could not find a place to build the oratory in such wise that the front of the altar should be toward the east. And so loth was he to cut down the grove, that he bade the side of the oratory be toward the east. In proof hereof the altar where he was wont to say the mass is on the side thereof, and it is manifest to all today that thus is the site of the oratory. And he charged his successors to chop no tree that fell of itself or that was blown down by the wind, till the end of nine days, and then to divide it among all the folk of the place, good and bad; a third part of it to be put in the guest-house for the guests, and a tenth part as a share for the poor. And this is the quatrain he made after going into exile in Alba, and it proveth that naught was so grievous to him as to cut the grove of Derry.Cf. also these lines from a poem in Gaelic attributed to St. Columba, edited and translated by William Reeves among the notes to his edition of The Life of St. Columba, Founder of Hy; written by Adamnan (Dublin: Irish Archaeological and Celtic Society, 1857), pp. 285-289 (at 288):"Though I am affrighted, truly,
By death and by Hell;
I am more affrighted, frankly,
By the sound of an ax in Derry in the West."
The reason why I love Derry is,
For its quietness, for its purity,
Crowded full of heaven's angels
Is every leaf of the oaks of Derry.
My Derry, my little oak-grove,
My dwelling, and my little cell;
O eternal God, in heaven above,
Woe be to him who violates it!