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Writers Through the Ages

Shakespeare (Hamlet)

In reference to the appearance of his father’s unquiet spirit.
‘Yes, by St. Patrick!
Touching his vision here,
It is an honest ghost, that let me tell you

Dante’s Divine Comedy

Caxton- Mirror of the World (1480)

In reference to the extraordinary tales from the pilgrimage

‘an high Canon of Waterford, which told me, hath been therin 5 or 6 times. And he saw nor suffered no such things. He saith that with procession, the religious men that be there bring him into the Hole and shut the door after him….And there he was all night in contemplation and prayer and also slept there; and on the morn he came out again…And other thing he saw not’

Donnchath Mór ó Dálaigh (+1244)-Truagh mo thuras ar Loch Dearg-

Truagh mo thuras ar loch dearg
a Rí na gceall is na gclog
do chaoineadh do chneadh’s do
‘s nach faghaim déar thar mo rosg.
Sad is my pilgrimage to Lough Derg, O King of the cells and bells; I came to mourn your sufferings and wounds, but no tear will cross my eye.’

Seamus Heaney- Station Island

How well I know that fountain, filling,
although it is the night.
That eternal fountain, hidden away,
I know its haven and its secrecy
although it is the night.
But not its source because it does not have
which is all sources’ source and origin
although it is the night…
I know no sounding-line can find its bottom,
nobody ford or plumb its deepest fathom
although it is the night
And its current so in flood it overspills
to water hell and heaven all peoples
although it is the night.
And the current that is generated there,
as far as it wills to, it can flow that far
although it is the night

Patrick Kavanagh

Lough Derg, St. Patrick’s Purgatory in Donegal,
Christendom’s purge. Heretical
Around the edges: the centre’s hard
As the commonplace of a flamboyant bard.
The twentieth century blows across it now
But deeply it has kept an ancient vow.

WB Yeats (The Pilgrim)

I fasted for some forty days on bread and butermilk,
For passing round the bottle with girls in rags or silk,
In country shawl or Paris cloak, had put my wits astray,
And what’s good of women, for all that they can say ‘Is fol de rol de rolly O.’

Round Lough Derg’s holy island I went upon the stones,
I prayed at all the Stations upon my matrow-bones,
And there I found an old man beside me, nothing would he say
‘But fol de rol de rolly O.’

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