This is the final piece in the series on Clonmacnoise. O'Donovan again adverts to his old friend Mr. Monck now of Banagher "who first taught me Irish".
"There flourished at Clonmacnoise a renowned Bishop named Carbry Curvus (Crom) who was the head of religion, almost of all the Irish, in his time. It happened as he was engaged at prayer one time in his Church after Vespers that he saw a certain figure appearing and standing before him in the blackest form (specie) and that in this form he had a bright circle around his neck, and that he was clad with his indusium (shirt) ? only, which wanted one sleeve.
"To whom the holy man said: Who art thou? I know thee not. He replied: I am a spirit. What, said the Bishop, hath blackened thee thus? The multitude of my sins and the severity of my pains. Were not, said the Bishop, prayers offered for thee? And hadst thou not spiritual friends among the clergy while living? It would, replied he, have profited me more to have been interred at Cluain-Mic-Nosia than what they have done for me, for I will appear at (on) the Day of Judgement according to the intercession of St. Kieran. It is wretched, said the Bishop, if thou hadst not a confessor or spiritual director, by whose direction (guidance) thou couldst have done good works! I had, said the spirit, a confessor, a Priest of the clergy of Cluain (i.e., Muc Nois) but I have not compiled much with his directions excepting that I took care to have a gold ring made, which I bestowed upon him. But what has this availed when I am now tormented with excruciating tortures. Wo to the man who has put on flesh and who has not a spiritual director to guide him to do good works! To what purpose these words, said the Bishop (i.e., what dost thou mean by all this?) Is it that thou hadst the means to do good works? Ah, wo, wo to me, my Lord Bishop, said the spirit; I am Malachy (grandson of Dunchadh by his son Malrony) King of Ireland, who wanted not the means to do good works. Oh! wretchedness! said the Bishop, in what state is the Priest who was thy confessor? have alms profited nothing? He, said the King, is punished with great torments and the ring which I bestowed him surrounds his neck like (as) a circle of fire. He can, alas, be of no succour to me, being himself in the above state. And why hast thou, also, says the Bishop, that bright circle around thy neck? This, he said, is the reward and pledge of the ring which I gave unto the Priest. But why, said he, art thou clad in (with) such a garment? The King replied: On one occasion certain scholars of this Church came unto me suppliantly requesting that I should provide a certain poor and half naked student, whom they brought unto me, with a covering of his nakedness, and I (not having at hand aught else wherewith to succour him) ordered the Queen that she should take care that a certain precious garment of my garments should be given him. And this is the cause of my being covered with such a garment as this. But what is the cause of thy appearing in this manner, said the holy man? The King answered: When a short time since I was tortured in the air among the demons, who were flagellating me on every side, I heard the sound of your psalmody praising the Lord of Lords, by which the demons were hence dispersed and banished through the air, for the malignant (evil) spirits cannot remain in any place, whether on the earth or in the air, where they hear your psalmodies.
"After this colloquy the King said: Oh! wo, wo unto me! I must return now to the same tormentors! But I would return thee some renumeration for so small (short) a relief, shouldst thou be pleased to accept of it. On one occasion when I went to Dublin to engage the Norwegian enemies I received, among the spoils, one hundred ounces of gold and one thousand ounces of silver, which I hid in a certain place in the earth and I afterwards caused one of my servants, who was then present, to be put to death lest he might reveal unto others where this treasure was or take it away himself. This money lies there to this day, no one living knowing where, but I will point out the place unto thee and dispose of the money as thou likest. I protest, says the holy man, that I will not accept a larger (large?) gift from one to whom a minor one, which he granted during his life, has profited nothing and therefore I absolutely refuse to accept of thy treasure. The spirit ther. vanished, howling (moaning) and saying wo, wo unto him who doth not good works while the time of doing good is granted him.
After this the holy man assembled the Priests of his Church, who were twelve in number, and, deploring the misfortune, related unto them the whole story and he requested that they would co-operate with him in prayers and intercession that the King and his confessor might be liberated from such great torments. They answered that the Bishop should undertake to release the King and the Priests their fellow Priest, from pain. This was agreed upon, and to this end prayers and fasts were enjoined. After they had persevered in this for half a year, the King appeared unto the Bishop again, presenting a figure bright and splendid from the waist up, but the other half dark and black. And when the holy man asked him what state he was then in he replied that he was better but still that he was inflicted with such punishments as to be placed on the top of a certain tree over the horrid precipice of a subjected abyss, without quiet or intermission from the blasts and colds of the winds and that it is wonderful that there should be any one among those who were sent to suffer (purgatorial) punishments, be they ever so small, in the other world, who would not imagine himself tortured in hell. Having spoken these words, he disappeared.
"But the holy man persevered in his prayers and fasts to the end of the year. And when the year was completed, while he was praying alone in the same place, the same spirit appeared to him the third time, now in a bright and beautiful form, and knowing that he was the King just mentioned who appeared thus, he asked him what state he was then in. He answered that he was now in the best state and would presently ascend to Heaven in a beautiful and brilliant form and that the Priest, his confessor, would follow him on the next day. And when the man of God asked why he should not rather accompany him he answered: that the excellency of his merits and prayers above the merits and prayers of the Priests who interceded for this confessor was the cause of this anticipation. Then the King, returning him thanks and blessing him, ascended to Heaven before his eyes."
This Carbry Crom died on the 6th of March in the year 889. This story, which was Gospel in its day, was evidently written in comparatively modern times to draw the attention of the nobles of Ireland upon Clonmacnoise, for the King says, or is made to say: "It would have profited me more to have been interred at Clonmacnoise etc., for I will appear on the last day according to the intercession of St. Kieran.
It was, no doubt, much in St. Kieran's favour to have this acknowledgement from the spirit of Malachy I, who drowned Torgesius and freed the Irish from the thraldom of the Danes. It is heresy in me to attempt to impugn the veracity of this narration, which gained so much honor and profit for the burial ground of St. Kieran and I therefore do not attempt to pronounce it a pure fabrication. It might have been a dream of holy Carbry, which was enlarged and put in the shape of a real occurrence in after ages.
But the Registry of Clonmacnoise, as translated by Dudley Mac Firbisse for the use of Sir James Ware, states that St. Kieran obtained from God that no soul that had inhabited any body interred at Clonmacnoise should be damned! and this is believed by the untaught peasantry of the neighbourhood at this day. This belief raised the value of the Churchyard to any price the ecclesiastics thought proper to demand for, as it ensured a post-mortem salvation, its clay was more valuable than gold itself.
This audacious assertion of the remodeller of the Life of St. Kieran induces me to think that his reference to Hebrew characters on a stone in the Churchyard is a fabrication also. There is no ancient Hebrew inscription to be found anywhere in Ireland and there is no probability that the dues of St. Kieran, such as the prices of graves, according to the dignity of the body to be interred etc., would be registered in the Hebrew language. Mulloy says that Mr. Petrie has left no ancient inscription in this cemetery unexamined except one, which has been thrown up lately and of which Mr. Petrie has got a fac simile from Dr. ?
But among Mr. Petrie's collection
no Hebrew or Greek inscription is to be found.
Mr. Monck, now of Banagher, the first who taught me Irish, does not believe that the inscriptions at Clonmacnoise are ancient, because they all begin with oradh do i.e., pray for. He thinks that the ancient Irish did not pray for the dead and that, therefore, these stones must have been inscribed since the introduction of Popery by the early English settlers. This, I acknowledge, is a sound Protestant argument, but it is no argument to me who have every evidence for proving that the ancient Irish did believe in Purgatory and did offer prayers for the dead, as well as the Jews. There are two flags in the Churchyard, one inscribed Suibne and the other Maolbrigde. Now Suibhne was Abbot of Clonmacnoise and died in 811, and Maolbrigde was Abbot of the same Monastery and died in 888.
But Mr. Monck argues that it is not certain that the Suibhne and Maolbrigde for whom these stones were inscribed were these Abbots, or Abbots at all, and he would argue from the nature of the stones that they could not have retained the letters from so remote a period. How would Mr. Petrie convert this sceptic in antiquities?