ST. BRIGID AND THE HARPS

From Legendary Fictions of the Irish Celts by Patrick Kennedy

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It was not in the nature of things that a Celtic saint should despise music or poetry. St. Brigid being once on a journey, sought hospitality for herself and her sisters in the lios of a petty king. This king and his chief officers, including his harpers, were absent, but some of his sons did all that religious reverence and a hospitable spirit could for the suitable reception of their honoured guests. After a frugal meal the hosts and guests continued an interesting conversation, during which Brigid, observing the harps suspended on the wall, requested the princes to favour her with some of the ancient melodies of the country. "Alas, honoured lady!" said the eldest, "our father and the bard are absent, as we have mentioned, and neither my brothers nor myself have practised the art. However, bless our fingers, and we will do all in our power to gratify you." She touched their fingers with the tips of her own, saying some prayers in a low voice; and when the young men sat down to the instruments, they drew from them such sweet and powerful melody as never before was heard in that hall. So enthralling was the music that it seemed as if they never could tire of playing, nor their audience of listening. While the performance was still proceeding the king and his suite entered the large hall, and were amazed at hearing sweet and skilful strains from the untaught fingers of the princes. Recognizing the saint and her daughters, their wonder ceased. The gift was not conferred for the occasion, for the princely performers retained their power over the harp-strings while they lived.

At one time the three isles in the Bay of Galway were ruled by Corbanus, who acknowledged Aongus King of Munster for his liege lord. St. Enda, brother to Aongus, considered the wild lonely condition of Arranmore the best possibly suited to the needs and spiritual discipline of one or more religious houses. So the king purchased the largest isle from Corbanus, and bestowed it on his pious brother: thus far we are within the historic limits.

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