Life of St. Columb – Poems

July 31, 2011

Dear Friends,

Fr. Damian ZuerlienWe continue learning about our patron saint this summer. St. Columbkille was not only a scribe, a copier of ancient texts, but he was also a poet and writer of hymns. He is one of the first Irish poets; beginning a fine and long tradition in the land that has known many great writers. There are poems and prayers associated with Patrick, the more ancient and famous Irish saint, but most likely these were written by others and just attributed to Patrick.

Columb, on the other hand, did write poems and hymns. Most likely he wrote them for his monks at Iona and the other monasteries he established for use in prayer in the mornings and evenings. He was described as possessing the gift of “second sight.” This meant that he was able to see through the surface of things to the deeper, divine meanings inscribed there.

Those who recorded his life shortly after he died say that he wrote over 300 books, but only a couple of them survived. Not much of his poetry remains and what does is written in a combination of the ancient Irish language and Latin. Some of his work is available today loosely translated and appearing in hymnals in Ireland and England.

Here are two of his more famous surviving poem/hymns:

In te Christe credentium

Have mercy, Christ, have mercy
On all that trust in thee,
For thou art God in glory
To all eternity.

O God, make speed to save us
In life’s abounding throes:
O God, make haste to help us
In all our weary woes.

O God, thou art the Father
Of all that have believed:
From whom all hosts of angels
Have life and power received.

Christ is the world’s redeemer,
The lover of the pure,
The font of heavenly wisdom,
Our trust and hope secure.

The armor of his soldiers,
The Lord of earth and sky;
Our health while we are living,
Our life when we shall die.
Alone With None but Thee


Alone with none but thee, my God

Alone with none but thee, my God,
I journey on my way.
What need I fear when
thou art near,
O King of night and day?
More safe am I within thy hand than if a
host should round me stand.My destined time is known to thee,
and death will
keep his hour;
did warriors strong around me throng,
they could not stay his
no walls of stone can man defend when thou thy messenger dost send.My life I yield to thy decree,
and bow to thy control
in peaceful calm, for from thine arm
no power can wrest my soul.
Could earthly omens e’er appal
a man that
heeds the heavenly call!The child of God can fear no ill,
his chosen dread no foe;
we leave our fate with thee, and wait
thy bidding when to go.
‘Tis not from
chance our comfort springs.
thou art our trust, O King of kings.

From these two poems you can get a sense of talent Columb possessed and some of the impact he had on the culture of his day. Amazingly, he could establish monasteries through Scotland and still have time to write songs and poetry. Truly, he was a gifted man of God. St. Columbkille is the patron saint of poets. saint of poets.


Fr. Damian

Printable PDF Document
Printable PDF Document

A series of writings from his biography by Fr Damian Zuerlein: