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Poem by Thomas D'Arcy McGee

St. Cormac the Navigator

A Legend of the Island of Lewis

One of the first evangelizers of the Western Islands is known in Gaelic story as St. Cormac the Navigator. He was among the first missionaries sent out from Iona.

First Islander

LOOK out! look out! on the waves so dark,
And tell me dost thou see a bark
  Riding the tempest through?
It bears a cross on its slender spar,
And a lamp that glances like a star,
  And three men make the crew!

Second Islander

I see a bark far off at sea,
With cross and lamp and crew of three,
  But sooth it labors sore;
I see it rise, I see it fall,
Now the angry ocean swallows all,
  And I see the bark no more.

First Islander

T is he! t is he! I know his sail,
T is the holy man of the distant Gael,
  True to his plighted word,
Be t storm or calm, or foul or fair,
He said, I will be surely there
  On the birthday of our Lord!

He is the saint whose hymn soars loud
Oer shifting sail and crackling shroud;
  Who resteth on his oar
In the summer midnights silent hour
May haply hear that voice of power
  Oer Coryvrekans roar.

He knoweth how to steer aright,	
By the yard, and plough, and northern light,
  Through the battling Shetland Seas,
Knoweth of every port the sign
From Westra to Saint Columbs shrine
  In the southern Hebrides.

A host will throng to cape and bay
To meet him each appointed day,
  Be it festival or fast,
And if his bark comes not in sight
They deem they have not reckoned right,	
  Or that the day is past.

His psalm hath wakened Osmunwall,
And from the cavern of Fingall
  Hath shaken down the spar;
The fishers on the midnight waves,
And the otter-hunters from their caves
  Salute his cross and star.

Second Islander

I see, I see through the nightfall dark
Saint Cormac sitting in his bark,
  And now he draweth near!
Dear Father of the island men,
Welcome to Wallis Isle again,
  And to our Christmas cheer!

Thomas D'Arcy McGee

Poem Theme: Islands of Scotland

Thomas D'Arcy McGee's other poems:
  1. Feagh MHugh
  2. The Gobhan Saer
  3. The River Boyne
  4. The Four Masters
  5. Cathals Farewell to the Rye

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