The Island of the Birds

Patrick Kennedy
1891 (2nd Edition)

St. Brendain's barque having sailed long in a southwesterly direction in beautiful weather, came to anchor by a delightful island in which the fragrant turf came down to the very water.

There were hills in the centre of the isle, where some grey rocks appeared among strips of green turf and red flowered heath; the rest of the island was occupied by delightful woods and sloping meadows, the trees furnished with the finest fruit, and shrubs everywhere presenting the loveliest flowers.

No cloud obscured the sunshine, and the trees and shrubs were filled with birds of varied and beautiful plumage, whose voices united in forming music that entranced the souls of the listeners.

St. Brendain felt that there was something supernatural about the little creatures; so he adjured them to explain the mystery.

“Welcome, sainted man!” cried out one of them, who at that moment perched on his arm. “It is delightful to us to hear the voice of one of God's creatures who loves and fears Him as we do ourselves. When the rebel angels were plotting their evil designs in heaven, we were tempted by the arch-fiend to join his party; and, though we yielded not, we dallied with the temptation. So when the unfortunate and wicked legions were flung headlong into the lower sea of fire, this island mercifully received us; and since then we have never ceased night and day to sing hymns of joy and gratitude for being spared. We can still see the glorious companions of our former happiness gliding fleetly through space on their heavenly errands, and we wait with patience for our own release.”

The saint and his eleven companions sometimes sitting down to listen to the choristers, at an early hour in the morning, would find the sun about to set when no more than half an hour seemed to have gone by.

All the incidents of the voyage were not of this agreeable character.

Once landing on a sort of purplish-grey slippery island, with a kind of tough hard reeds springing up here and there, they lighted a fire; but as it blazed up they were amazed to find the isle shaking itself uncomfortably, and moving away.

It was a very large fish, which, finding itself incommoded by the fire, thus showed its discontent.

The reader will remember the same incident in the voyages of Sinbad, in the Arabian Nights.