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Tales of the Enchanted Islands of the Atlantic

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Author Topic: Tales of the Enchanted Islands of the Atlantic  (Read 2321 times)
Lisa Wolfe
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« Reply #60 on: January 27, 2009, 11:14:25 pm »

by Madden from the book called "Layamon's Brut"; "Innumerable folk it came toward the host, riding and on foot, as the rain down falleth! Arthur marched to Cornwall, with an immense army. Modred heard that, and advanced against him with innumerable folk,--there were many fated! Upon the Tambre they came together; the place hight Camelford, evermore lasted the same word. And at Camelford was assembled sixty thousand, and more thousands thereto; Modred was their chief. Then thitherward ’gan ride Arthur the mighty, with innumerable folk,--fated though it were! Upon the Tambre they encountered together; elevated their standards; advanced together; drew their long swords; smote on the helms; fire outsprang; spears splintered; shields ’gan shiver; shafts brake in pieces. There fought all together innumerable folk! Tambre was in flood with blood to excess; there might no man in the fight know any warrior, nor who did worse, nor who better, so was the conflict mingled! For each slew downright, were he swain, were he knight.

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[paragraph continues] There was Modred slain, and deprived of life-day, and all his knights slain in the fight. There were slain all the brave, Arthur's warriors, high and low, and all the Britons of Arthur's board, and all his dependents, of many kingdoms. And Arthur wounded with broad slaughter-spear; fifteen dreadful wounds he had; in the least one might thrust two gloves! Then was there no more remained in the fight, of two hundred thousand men that there lay hewed in pieces, except Arthur the king alone, and two of his knights. Arthur was wounded wondrously much. There came to him a lad, who was of his kindred; he was Cador's son, the earl of Cornwall; Constantine the lad hight, he was dear to the king. Arthur looked on him, where he lay on the ground, and said these words, with sorrowful heart: 'Constantine, thou art welcome; thou wert Cador's son. I give thee here my kingdom, and defend thou my Britons ever in thy life, and maintain them all the laws that have stood in my days, and all the good laws that in Uther's days stood. And I will fare to Avalon,

p. 89

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« Reply #61 on: January 27, 2009, 11:14:42 pm »

to the fairest of all maidens, to Argante the queen, an elf most fair, and she shall make my wounds all sound, make me all whole with healing draughts. And afterwards I will come to my kingdom, and dwell with the Britons with mickle joy.' Even with the words there approached from the sea that was a short boat, floating with the waves; and two women therein, wondrously formed; and they took Arthur anon, and bare him quickly, and laid him softly down, and forth they ’gan depart. Then was it accomplished that Merlin whilom said, that mickle care should be of Arthur's departure. The Britons believe yet that he is alive, and dwelleth in Avalon with the fairest of all elves; and the Britons ever yet expect when Arthur shall return. Was never the man born, of any lady chosen, that knoweth, of the sooth, to say more of Arthur. But whilom was a sage hight Merlin; he said with words,--his sayings were sooth,--that an Arthur should yet come to help the English."

Another traditional account which Tennyson has mainly followed in a poem, is this: The king

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bade Sir Bedivere take his good sword Excalibur and go with it to the water-side and throw it into the water and return to tell what he saw. Then Sir Bedivere took the sword, and it was so richly and preciously adorned that he would not throw it, and came back without it. When the king asked what had happened, Sir Bedivere said, "I saw nothing but waves and wind," and when Arthur did not believe him, and sent him again, he made the same answer, and then, when sent a third time, he threw the sword into the water, as far as he could. Then an arm and a hand rose above the water and caught it, and shook and brandished it three times and vanished.

Then Sir Bedivere came back to the king; he told what he had seen. "Alas," said Arthur, "help me from hence, for I fear I have tarried over long." Then Sir Bedivere took King Arthur upon his back, and went with him to the water's side. And when they had reached there, a barge with many fair ladies was lying there, with many ladies in it, and among them three queens, and they all had

p. 91

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« Reply #62 on: January 27, 2009, 11:14:59 pm »

black hoods, and they wept and shrieked when they saw King Arthur.

"Now put me in the barge," said Arthur, and the three queens received him with great tenderness, and King Arthur laid his head in the lap of one, and she said, "Ah, dear brother, why have ye tarried so long, until your wound was cold?" And then they rowed away, and King Arthur said to Sir Bedivere, "I will go unto the valley of Avalon to heal my grievous wound, and if I never return, pray for my soul." He was rowed away by the weeping queens, and one of them was Arthur's sister Morgan le Fay; another was the queen of Northgalis, and the third was the queen of Waste Lands; and it was the belief for years in many parts of England that Arthur was not dead, but would come again to reign in England, when he had been nursed long enough by Morgan le Fay in the island of Avalon.

The tradition was that King Arthur lived upon this island in an enchanted castle which had the power of a magnet, so that every one who came near it was drawn thither and could

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not get away. Morgan le Fay was its ruler (called more correctly Morgan la fée, or the fairy), and her name Morgan meant sea-born. By one tradition, the queens who bore away Arthur were accompanied in the boat by the bard and enchanter, Merlin, who had long been the king's adviser, and this is the description of the island said to have been given by Merlin to another bard, Taliessin:--

"'We came to that green and fertile island which each year is blessed with two autumns, two springs, two summers, two gatherings of fruit,--the land where pearls are found, where the flowers spring as you gather them--that isle of orchards called the "Isle of the Blessed." No tillage there, no coulter to tear the bosom of the earth. Without labor it affords wheat and the grape. There the lives extend beyond a century. There nine sisters, whose will is the only law, rule over those who go from us to them. The eldest excels in the art of healing, and exceeds her sisters in beauty. She is called Morgana, and knows the virtues of all the herbs of the meadow. She can change her

p. 93

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« Reply #63 on: January 27, 2009, 11:25:01 pm »

form, and soar in the air like a bird; she can be where she pleases in a moment, and in a moment descend on our coasts from the clouds. Her sister Thiten is renowned for her skill on the harp.'

"'With the prince we arrived, and Morgana received us with fitting honour. And in her own chamber she placed the king on a bed of gold, and with delicate touch, she uncovered the wound. Long she considered it, and at length said to him that she could heal it if he stayed long with her, and willed her to attempt her cure. Rejoiced at this news, we intrusted the king to her care, and soon after set sail.'"

Sir Thomas Malory, who wrote the book called the "Historie of King Arthur," or more commonly the "Morte d’Arthur," utters these high thoughts concerning the memory of the great king:--

"Oh, yee mightie and pompeous lords, shining in the glory transitory of this unstable life, as in raigning over great realmes and mightie great countries, fortified with strong castles and toures, edified with many a rich citie; yee also,

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yee fierce and mightie knights, so valiant in adventurous deeds of armes; behold, behold, see how this mightie conquerour king Arthur, whom in his humaine life all the world doubted, see also the noble queene Guenever, which sometime sat in her chaire adorned with gold, pearles, and precious stones, now lye full low in obscure fosse or pit, covered with clods of earth and clay; behold also this mightie champion Sir Launcelot, pearelesse of all knighthood, see now how hee lyeth groveling upon the cold mould, now being so feeble and faint that sometime was so terrible. How and in what manner ought yee to bee so desirous of worldly honour so dangerous! Therefore mee thinketh this present booke is right necessary often to be read, for in it shall yee finde the most gracious, knightly, and vertuous war of the most noble knights of the world, whereby they gat praysing continually. Also mee seemeth, by the oft reading thereof, yee shall greatly desire to accustome your selfe in following of those gracious knightly deedes, that is to say, to dread God, and to love righteousnesse, faithfully

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and couragiously to serve your soveraigne prince; and the more that God hath given you the triumphall honour, the meeker yee ought to bee, ever feareing the unstablenesse of this deceitfull world."



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« Reply #64 on: January 27, 2009, 11:25:46 pm »

p. 96

XI
MAELDUIN'S VOYAGE

AN Irish knight named Maelduin set forth early in the eighth century to seek round the seas for his father's murderers. By the advice of a wizard, he was to take with him seventeen companions, neither less nor more; but at the last moment his three foster brothers, whom he had not included, begged to go with him. He refused, and they cast themselves into the sea to swim after his vessel. Maelduin had pity on them and took them in, but his disregard of the wizard's advice brought punishment; and it was only after long wanderings, after visiting multitudes of unknown and often enchanted islands, and after the death or loss of the three foster brothers, that Maelduin was able to return to his native land.

One island which they visited was divided into four parts by four fences, one of gold, one

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of silver, one of brass, one of crystal. In the first division there dwelt kings, in the second queens, in the third warriors, and in the fourth maidens. The voyagers landed in the maidens' realm; one of these came out in a boat and gave them food, such that every one found in it the taste he liked best; then followed an enchanted drink, which made them sleep for three days and three nights. When they awakened they were in their boat on the sea, and nothing was to be seen either of island or maidens.

The next island had in it a fortress with a brazen door and a bridge of glass, on which every one who ascended it slipped and fell. A woman came from the fortress, pail in hand, drew water from the sea and returned, not answering them when they spoke. When they reached at last the brazen door and struck upon it, it made a sweet and soothing sound, and they went to sleep, for three days and nights, as before. On the fourth day a maiden came who was most beautiful; she wore garments of white silk, a white mantle with a

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brooch of silver with studs of gold, and a gold band round her hair. She greeted each man by his name, and said, "It is long that we have expected you." She took them into the castle and gave them every kind of food they had ever desired. Maelduin was filled with love for her and asked her for her love; but she told him that love was sin and she had no knowledge of sin; so she left him. On the morrow they found their boat, stranded on a crag, while lady and fortress and island had all vanished.

Another island on which they landed was large and bare, with another fortress and a palace. There they met a lady who was kinder. She wore an embroidered purple mantle, gold embroidered gloves, and ornamented sandals, and was just riding up to the palace door. Seventeen maidens waited there for her. She offered to keep the strangers as guests, and that each of them should have a wife, she herself wedding Maelduin. She was, it seems, the widow of the king of the island, and these were her seventeen daughters. She ruled the island and went every day to judge the people and direct

 

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« Reply #65 on: January 27, 2009, 11:26:24 pm »



''The brazen door made a sweet and soothing sound, and they went to sleep for three days and nights. On the fourth day a maiden came who was most beautiful. She greeted each man and said, 'It is long that we have expected you.'''--p. 98



 
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« Reply #66 on: January 27, 2009, 11:26:43 pm »

p. 99

their lives. If the strangers would stay, she said that they should never more know sorrow, or hardships, or old age; she herself, in spite of her large family, being young and beautiful as ever. They stayed three months, and it seemed to all but Maelduin that the three months were three years. When the queen was absent, one day, the men took the boat and compelled Maelduin to leave the island with them; but the queen rode after them and flung a rope, which Maelduin caught and which clung to his hand. She drew them back to the shore; this happened thrice, and the men accused Maelduin of catching the rope on purpose; he bade another man catch it, and his companions cut off his hand, and they escaped at last.

On one island the seafarers found three magic apples, and each apple gave sufficient food for forty nights; again, on another island, they found the same apples. In another place still, a great bird like a cloud arrived, with a tree larger than an oak in its claws. After a while two eagles came and cleaned the feathers of the

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larger bird. They also stripped off the red berries from the tree and threw them into the ocean until its foam grew red. The great bird then flew into the ocean and cleaned itself. This happened daily for three days, when the great bird flew away with stronger wings, its youth being thus renewed.

They came to another island where many people stood by the shore talking and joking. They were all looking at Maelduin and his comrades, and kept gaping and laughing, but would not exchange a word with them. Then Maelduin sent one of his foster brothers on the island; but he ranged himself with the others and did as they did. Maelduin and his men rowed round and round the island, and whenever they passed the point where this comrade was, they addressed him, but he never answered, and only gaped and laughed. They waited for him a long time and left him. This island they found to be called The Island of Joy.

On another island they found sheep grazing, of enormous size; on another, birds, whose eggs when eaten caused feathers to sprout all over the

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« Reply #67 on: January 27, 2009, 11:27:13 pm »

bodies of those who eat them. On another they found crimson flowers, whose mere perfume sufficed for food, and they encountered women whose only food was apples. Through the window flew three birds: a blue one with a crimson head; a crimson one with a green head; a green one with a golden head. These sang heavenly music, and were sent to accompany the wanderers on their departing; the queen of the island gave them an emerald cup, such that water poured into it became wine. She asked if they knew how long they had been there, and when they said "a day," she told them that it was a year, during which they had had no food. As they sailed away, the birds sang to them until both birds and island disappeared in the mist.

They saw another island standing on a single pedestal, as if on one foot, projecting from the water. Rowing round it to seek a way into it they found no passage, but they saw in the base of the pedestal, under water, a closed door with a lock--this being the only way in which the island could be entered. Around another island there was a fiery rampart, which constantly moved in a

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circle. In the side of that rampart was an open door, and as it came opposite them in its turning course, they beheld through it the island and all therein; and its occupants, even human beings, were many and beautiful, wearing rich garments, and feasting with gold vessels in their hands. The voyagers lingered long to gaze upon this marvel.

On another island they found many human beings, black in color and raiment, and always bewailing. Lots were cast, and another of Maelduin's foster brothers was sent on shore. He at once joined the weeping crowd, and did as they did. Two others were sent to bring him back, and both shared his fate, falling under some strange spell. Then Maelduin sent four others, and bade them look neither at the land nor at the sky; to wrap their mouths and noses with their garments, and not breathe the island air; and not to take off their eyes from their comrades. In this way the two who followed the foster brother on shore were rescued, but he remained behind.

Of another island they could see nothing but

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a fort, protected by a great white rampart, on which nothing living was to be seen but a small cat, leaping from one to another of four stone pillars. They found brooches and ornaments of gold and silver, they found white quilts and embroidered garments hanging up, flitches of bacon were suspended, a whole ox was roasting, and vessels stood filled with intoxicating drinks. Maelduin asked the cat if all this was for them; but the cat merely looked at him and went on playing. The seafarers dined and drank, then went to sleep. As they were about to depart, Maelduin's third foster brother proposed to carry off a tempting necklace, and in spite of his leader's warnings grasped it. Instantly the cat leaped through him like a fiery arrow, burned him so that he became ashes, and went back to its pillar. Thus all three of the foster brothers who had disregarded the wizard's warning, and forced themselves upon the party, were either killed or left behind upon the enchanted islands.

Around another island there was a demon horse-race going on; the riders were just riding in over the sea, and then the race began; the

p. 104

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« Reply #68 on: January 27, 2009, 11:27:38 pm »

voyagers could only dimly perceive the forms of the horses, but could hear the cries of their riders, the strokes of the whips, and the words of the spectators, "See the gray horse!" "Watch the chestnut horse!" and the voyagers were so alarmed that they rowed away. The next island was covered with trees laden with golden apples, but these were being rapidly eaten by small, scarlet animals which they found, on coming nearer, to be all made of fire and thus brightened in hue. Then the animals vanished, and Maelduin with his men landed, and though the ground was still hot from the fiery creatures, they brought away a boat load of the apples. Another island was divided into two parts by a brass wall across the middle. There were two flocks of sheep, and those on one side of the wall were white, while the others were black. A large man was dividing and arranging the sheep, and threw them easily over the wall. When he threw a white sheep among the black ones it became black, and when he threw a black sheep among the white ones, it became white instantly. The voyagers thought

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of landing, but when Maelduin saw this, he said, "Let us throw something on shore to see if it will change color. If it does, we will avoid the island." So they took a black branch and threw it toward the white sheep. When it fell, it grew white; and the same with a white branch on the black side. "It is lucky for us," said Maelduin, "that we did not land on this island."

They came next to an island where there was but one man visible, very aged, and with long, white hair. Above him were trees, covered with great numbers of birds. The old man told them that he like them had come in a curragh, or coracle, and had placed many green sods beneath his feet, to steady the boat. Reaching this spot, the green sods had joined together and formed an island which at first gave him hardly room to stand; but every year one foot was added to its size, and one tree grew up. He had lived there for centuries, and those birds were the souls of his children and descendants, each of whom was sent there after death, and they were all fed from

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heaven each day. On the next island there was a great roaring as of bellows and a sound of smiths' hammers, as if striking all together on an anvil, every sound seeming to come from the strokes of a dozen men. "Are they near?" asked one big voice. "Silence!" said another; and they were evidently watching for the boat. When it rowed away, one of the smiths flung after them a vast mass of red-hot iron, which he had grasped with the tongs from the furnace. It fell just short, but made the whole sea to hiss and boil around them as they rowed away.

Another island had a wall of water round it, and Maelduin and his men saw multitudes of people driving away herds of cattle and sheep, and shouting, "There they are, they have come again;" and a woman pelted them from below with great nuts, which the crew gathered for eating. Then as they rowed away they heard one man say, "Where are they now?" and another cried, "They are going away." Still again they visited an island where a great stream of water shot up into the air and made an arch like a rainbow that spanned the land.

p. 107

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« Reply #69 on: January 27, 2009, 11:27:53 pm »

[paragraph continues] They walked below it without getting wet, and hooked down from it many large salmon; besides that, many fell out above their heads, so that they had more than they could carry away with them. These are by no means all of the strange adventures of Maelduin and his men.

The last island to which they came was called Raven's Stream, and there one of the men, who had been very homesick, leaped out upon shore. As soon as he touched the land he became a heap of ashes, as if his body had lain in the earth a thousand years. This showed them for the first time during how vast a period they had been absent, and what a space they must have traversed. Instead of thirty enchanted islands they had visited thrice fifty, many of them twice or thrice as large as Ireland, whence the voyagers first came. In the wonderful experiences of their long lives they had apparently lost sight of the search which they had undertaken, for the murderers of Maelduin's father, since of them we hear no more. The island enchantment seems to have banished all other thoughts.



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« Reply #70 on: January 27, 2009, 11:28:46 pm »

p. 108

XII
THE VOYAGE OF ST. BRANDAN

The young student Brandan was awakened in the morning by the crowing of the **** in the great Irish abbey where he dwelt; he rose, washed his face and hands and dressed himself, then passed into the chapel, where he prayed and sang until the dawn of the day. "With song comes courage" was the motto of the abbey. It was one of those institutions like great colonies,--church, library, farm, workshop, college, all in one,--of which Ireland in the sixth century was full, and which existed also elsewhere. Their extent is best seen by the modern traveller in the remains of the vast buildings at Tintern in England, scattered over a wide extent of country, where you keep coming upon walls and fragments of buildings which once formed a part of a single great institution, in which all the life

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of the community was organized, as was the case in the Spanish missions of California. At the abbey of Bangor in Wales, for instance, there were two thousand four hundred men,--all under the direction of a comparatively small body of monks, who were trained to an amount of organizing skill like that now needed for a great railway system. Some of these men were occupied, in various mechanic arts, some in mining, but most of them in agriculture, which they carried on with their own hands, without the aid of animals, and in total silence.

Having thus labored in the fields until noonday, Brandan then returned that he might work in the library, transcribing ancient manuscripts or illustrating books of prayer. Having to observe silence, he wrote the name of the book to give to the librarian, and if it were a Christian work, he stretched out his hand, making motions with his fingers as if turning over the leaves; but if it were by a pagan author, the monk who asked for it was required to scratch his ear as a dog does, to show his contempt, because, the regulations said, an unbeliever might well be compared to

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that animal 1. Taking the book, he copied it in the Scriptorium or library, or took it to his cell, where he wrote all winter without a fire. It is to such monks that we owe all our knowledge of the earliest history of England and Ireland; though doubtless the hand that wrote the histories of Gildas and Bede grew as tired as that of Brandan, or as that of the monk who wrote in the corner of a beautiful manuscript: "He who does not know how to write imagines it to be no labor; but though only three fingers hold the pen, the whole body grows weary." In the same way Brandan may have learned music and have had an organ in his monastery, or have had a school of art, painting beautiful miniatures for the holy missals. This was his early life in the convent.

Once a day they were called to food; this consisting for them of bread and vegetables with no seasoning but salt, although better fare was furnished for the sick and the aged, for


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« Reply #71 on: January 27, 2009, 11:29:12 pm »

travellers and the poor. These last numbered, at Easter time, some three or four hundred, who constantly came and went, and upon whom the monks and young disciples waited. After the meal the monks spent three hours in the chapel, on their knees, still silent; then they confessed in turn to the abbot and then sought their hard-earned rest. They held all things in common; no one even received a gift for himself. War never reached them; it was the rarest thing for an armed party to molest their composure; their domains were regarded as a haven for the stormy world. Because there were so many such places in Ireland, it was known as The Isle of Saints.

Brandan was sent after a time to other abbeys, where he could pursue especial studies, for they had six branches of learning,--grammar, rhetoric, dialectics, geometry, astronomy, and music. Thus he passed three years, and was then advised to go to an especial teacher in the mountains, who had particular modes of teaching certain branches. But this priest--he was an Italian--was suffering from poverty,

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and could receive his guest but for a few weeks. One day as Brandan sat studying, he saw, the legend says, a white mouse come from a crack in the wall, a visitor which climbed upon his table and left there a grain of wheat. Then the mouse paused, looked at the student, then ran about the table, went away and reappeared with another grain, and another, up to five. Brandan, who had at the very instant learned his lesson, rose from his seat, followed the mouse, and looking through a hole in the wall, saw a great pile of wheat, stored in a concealed apartment. On his showing this to the head of the convent, it was pronounced a miracle; the food was distributed to the poor, and "the people blessed his charity while the Lord blessed his studies."

In the course of years, Brandan became himself the head of one of the great abbeys, that of Clonfert, of the order of St. Benedict, where he had under him nearly three thousand monks. In this abbey, having one day given hospitality to a monk named Berinthus, who had just returned from an ocean voyage, Brandan learned

p. 113

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« Reply #72 on: January 27, 2009, 11:29:29 pm »

from him the existence, far off in the ocean, of an island called The Delicious Isle, to which a priest named Mernoc had retired, with many companions of his order. Berinthus found Mernoc and the other monks living apart from one another for purposes of prayer, but when they came together, Mernoc said, they were like bees from different beehives. They met for their food and for church; their food included only apples, nuts, and various herbs. One day Mernoc said to Berinthus, "I will conduct you to the Promised Isle of the Saints." So they went on board a little ship and sailed westward through a thick fog until a great light shone and they found themselves near an island which was large and fruitful and bore many apples. There were no herbs without blossoms, he said, nor trees without fruits, and there were precious stones, and the island was traversed by a great river. Then they met a man of shining aspect who told them that they had without knowing it passed a year already in the island; that they had needed neither food nor sleep. Then they returned to the Delicious Island, and every one

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knew where they had been by the perfume of their garments. This was the story of Berinthus, and from this time forward nothing could keep Brandan from the purpose of beholding for himself these blessed islands.

Before carrying out his plans, however, he went, about the year 560, to visit an abbot named Enda, who lived at Arran, then called Isle of the Saints, a priest who was supposed to know more than any one concerning the farther lands of the western sea. He knew, for instance, of the enchanted island named Hy-Brasail, which could be seen from the coast of Ireland only once in seven years, and which the priests had vainly tried to disenchant. Some islands, it was believed, had been already disenchanted by throwing on them a few sparks of lighted turf; but as Hy-Brasail was too far for this, there were repeated efforts to disenchant it by shooting fiery arrows towards it, though this had not yet been successful. Then Enda could tell of wonderful ways to cross the sea without a boat, how his sister Fanchea had done it by spreading her own cloak upon the waves,

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« Reply #73 on: January 27, 2009, 11:29:45 pm »

and how she and three other nuns were borne upon it. She found, however, that one hem of the cloak sank below the water, because one of her companions had brought with her, against orders, a brazen vessel from the convent; but on her throwing it away, the sinking hem rose to the level of the rest and bore them safely. St. Enda himself had first crossed to Arran on a large stone which he had ordered his followers to place on the water and which floated before the wind; and he told of another priest who had walked on the sea as on a meadow and plucked flowers as he went. Hearing such tales, how could St. Brandan fear to enter on his voyage?

He caused a boat to be built of a fashion which one may still see in Welsh and Irish rivers, and known as a curragh or coracle; made of an osier frame covered with tanned and oiled skins. He took with him seventeen priests, among whom was St. Malo, then a mere boy, but afterwards celebrated. They sailed to the southwest, and after being forty days at sea they reached a rocky island furrowed with streams, where they received the kindest hospitality, and

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took in fresh provisions. They sailed again the next day, and found themselves entangled in contrary currents and perplexing winds, so that they were long in reaching another island, green and fertile, watered by rivers which were full of fish, and covered with vast herds of sheep as large as heifers. Here they renewed their stock of provisions, and chose a spotless lamb with which to celebrate Easter Sunday on another island, which they saw at a short distance.

This island was wholly bare, without sandy shores or wooded slopes, and they all landed upon it to cook their lamb; but when they had arranged their cooking-apparatus, and when their fire began to blaze, the island seemed to move beneath their feet, and they ran in terror to their boat, from which Brandan had not yet landed. Their supposed island was a whale, and they rowed hastily away from it toward the island they had left, while the whale glided away, still showing, at a distance of two miles, the fire blazing on his back.

The next island they visited was wooded and fertile, where they found a multitude of birds,

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« Reply #74 on: January 27, 2009, 11:30:33 pm »

which chanted with them the praises of the Lord, so that they called this the Paradise of Birds.

This was the description given of this island by an old writer named Wynkyn de Worde, in "The Golden Legend":--

"Soon after, as God would, they saw a fair island, full of flowers, herbs, and trees, whereof they thanked God of his good grace; and anon they went on land, and when they had gone long in this, they found a full fayre well, and thereby stood a fair tree full of boughs, and on every bough sat a fayre bird, and they sat so thick on the tree that uneath [scarcely] any leaf of the tree might be seen. The number of them was so great, and they sang so merrilie, that it was an heavenlie noise to hear. Whereupon St. Brandan kneeled down on his knees and wept for joy, and made his praise devoutlie to our Lord God, to know what these birds meant. And then anon one of the birds flew from the tree to St. Brandan, and he with the flickering of his wings made a full merrie noise like a fiddle, that him seemed he never heard so joyful a melodie. And then St. Brandan commanded

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the foule to tell him the cause why they sat so thick on the tree and sang so merrilie. And then the foule said, some time we were angels in heaven, but when our master, Lucifer, fell down into hell for his high pride, and we fell with him for our offences, some higher and some lower, after the quality of the trespasse. And because our trespasse is so little, therefore our Lord hath sent us here, out of all paine, in full great joy and mirthe, after his pleasing, here to serve him on this tree in the best manner we can. The Sundaie is a daie of rest from all worldly occupation, and therefore that day all we be made as white as any snow, for to praise our Lorde in the best wise we may. And then all the birds began to sing evensong so merrilie that it was an heavenlie noise to hear; and after supper St. Brandan and his fellows went to bed and slept well. And in the morn they arose by times, and then those foules began mattyns, prime, and hours, and all such service as Christian men used to sing; and St. Brandan, with his fellows, abode there seven weeks, until Trinity Sunday was passed."

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Having then embarked, they wandered for months on the ocean, before reaching another island. That on which they finally landed was inhabited by monks who had as their patrons St. Patrick and St. Ailbée, and they spent Christmas there. A year passed in these voyages, and the tradition is that for six other years they made just the same circuit, always spending Holy Week at the island where they found the sheep, alighting for Easter on the back of the same patient whale, visiting the Isle of Birds at Pentecost, and reaching the island of St. Patrick and St. Ailbée in time for Christmas.

But in the seventh year they met with wholly new perils. They were attacked, the legend says, first by a whale, then by a griffin, and then by a race of cyclops, or one-eyed giants. Then they came to an island where the whale which had attacked them was thrown on shore, so that they could cut him to pieces; then another island which had great fruits, and was called The Island of the Strong Man; and lastly one where the grapes filled the air with

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If nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do. The smallest act of kindness can be the greatest thing in the world.
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