The Celtic Literature Collective

The dialogue of Columcille and Cormac in Hy, after escaping from the Coire Breccain and after searching the boundless ocean, until he reached the cold region, here follows:
MS Laud Misc 615

Colam first spoke:
Thou art welcome, O comely Cormac,
From over the all-teeming sea;
what sent thee forth; where hast thou been,
Since the time we were on the same path?
Two years and a month to this night
Is the time thou hast been wandering from port to port,
From wave to wave resolute the energy,
To traverse the wide ocean!
Since the sea hath sent thee hither,
Thou shalt have friendship and counsel
Were it not for Christ’s sake, Lord of the fair world,
Thou hast merited satire and reproach.

Let there be no reproach now,
O descendant of Niall, for we are a noble race:
The sun shines in the west as in the east.
A righteous guest is entitled to reception.

Thou art welcome, since thou hast come,
From the waves of the mighty sea:
hast thou for ever abandoned thy home,
Thou descendant of the illustrious Liathan?

O Columcille, descendant of Conn,
Erin, on which I have turned my back,
I shall not touch in the west or cast,
Any more than the monster-full pit of hell.

Though thou travel the world over,
East, west, south, ebb, flood,
Thou noble son of high-born Dimma,
It is in Durrow thy resurrection shall be.

Alas for my labour, O Son of God,
Thou Father of all mercies,
And all my work beyond the full brine,
If my last end shall be in Erin!

I pledge thee my unerring word,
Which it is not possible to impugn,
Death is better in reproachless Erin,
Than perpetual life in Alba.

If it is better to be in noble Erin
Than in inviolate Alba,
I shall be in Alba by turns,
And go thou into Erin.

That which thou sayest is not meet,
O Cormac of spotless purity.
Turn on thy right, go to thy home,
Unto Laisren, son of Feradhach.

I and Laisren of untarnished lustre,
Bad are our joint neighbours;
Eile and Delbhna will yield us gifts,
Uí Failghe, and Cenel Fiachach.

My cousins are by thee on the north,
The Clann Colman of reddened swords;
They will not abandon me on any account,
Nor will they permit outrage on me.

Wert thou there thyself,
No stranger should insult thee;
No king, nor apparent king- making,
Nor bond, nor free, nor secret.

O Cormac, of powerful strength,
Woe to him who shall do violence to thee;
Evil shall be the reward he shall receive,
Shortness of life, and hell;
From high exalted Erin shall he be cut off;
Nor shall he be left roof or habitations.

O Columcille of a hundred graces,
For, thou art a prophet, thou art a true poet,
Thou art learned, a scribe, happy, perfect,
And a devout accomplished priest;
Thou art a king’s son, of reddened valour,
Thou art a virgin, thou art a pilgrim:
We shall abide in the west if thou desire it.
Christ will unfold his mysterious intentions.

O Cormac, beautiful is thy church,
With its books, and learning;
A devout city with a hundred crosses,
Without blemish, without transgression;
A holy dwelling confirmed by my verse,
The green of Aedh, son of Brenann,
The Oak-plain of far-famed Ros-grencha
The night, upon which her pilgrims collect,
The number of her wise – a fact wide spread –
Is unknown to any but the only God.


Translator: Eugene O’Curry

Edition: W. Reeves (ed.), Life of Saint Columba, Founder of Hy. Written by Adamnan, Ninth Abbot of that Monastery (Dublin, 1857)

This text scanned by: Jonathan M. Wooding (29/5/2002) – re-use permitted with acknowledgement

Web Source:

As the Celtic Christian E-Library website is no longer active, I have taken them up on their fair-use permission and reposted the text here.--Mary.