01 February 2016

McGee's Lines on a Once Famous Festival Day

Verse written by son of Erin and Father of Confederation Thomas D'Arcy McGee in celebration of Saint Bridget of Kildare (a/k/a Saint Brigid, Saint Brigit), patron of poets, printing presses and scholars.

The Poems of Thomas D'Arcy McGee
Montreal: D & J Sadlier, 1870
Good Catholics and Anglicans will recognize the first of February as St Brigid's Feast Day; bad Anglicans like myself will not, which is why I reach for Sean Kelly and Rosemary Rogers' Saints Preserve Us! First published in 1993 and in print to this day, it has long served as a spiritual guide.

The story of this chaste result of unholy union between a pagan chieftain and a slave girl shows itself to be both fantastical and a touch titillating:
She hated her own beauty, for it attracted numerous lusty suitors, despite her well-known vow of perpetual chastity. Finally, her constant prayers to become ugly were answered – miraculously, one of her eyes became grotesquely huge, while the other disappeared – so her father consented to her becoming a nun. It is said that, during the ceremony, Angels shoved aside the attending priest and presented her with the veil, the wooden steps of the altar burst into leaf, and her good looks were instantly restored.
You can't make that stuff up. Not always, anyway. Later in the entry, Kelly and Rogers inform:
Since she was born sixty-six years after the death of Saint Patrick, reports of their intimate friendship are doubtless exaggerated. Nor is it necessarily true that the holy but drunken Saint Mel consecrated her a full-fledged bishop. Some facts we may be sure of, though. Her bath water was sometimes transformed into beer for the sake of thirsty clerics…
There's much more, but the image of a naked virgin turning bathwater into beer should be inspiration enough for today's poets.

Need more?

She also taught a fox to dance.

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