Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 11.djvu/218

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Coemgen
Coemgen
212

'he remained here in fasting and prayer, without fire or proper shelter, nor is it known how he subsisted.' His monks, following there, erected a cell on the south side of the upper lake between it and the mountain, which was known as Disert Coemgin, the desert or hermitage of Coemgen. This is now known as the Rlfert Church, or the church of the graves of the kings. By the influence of many saints who assembled for the purpose, he was induced to leave his hermit life and to dwell with his monks in this cell. Again, however, overcome by his absorbing passion for solitude, he left them, and built himself a rude shelter of branches and twigs, where he lived quite unknown. One day the huntsman of Bran dubh, king of Leinster, in pursuit of a wild boar, entered his solitude, the boar having rushed for shelter into his little hut. During the tumult St. Coemgen remained in prayer under a spreading tree, while 'many birds perched on his hands, arms, and shoulders, or flew about him singing.' To the imaginative spirit of St. Coemgen it seemed as though ' the branches and leaves of the trees sometimes sang sweet songs to him, and celestial music alleviated the severity of his life.' It seems to have been during this retirement that he took refuge in the cave since known as 'St. Coemgen's bed.' Here he had a narrow escape from being killed by the fall of an overhanging rock, but was warned in time, divinely as he thought, to leave it. To this occurrence allusion is made in the 'Calendar of Oengus Céle dé : '

Free me, Jesu, for I am a thrall of thine,
As thou freedst Coemgen from the falling of the
mountain.

Now and then, however, the thought would occur to him to leave this rugged district, which then appeared to him the 'fit abode of demons;' but he regarded such a feeling as a suggestion of Satan. Eventually he was admonished by an angel, according to the usual statement on such occasions, to remove to the east end of the smaller lake, 'where there was an abundance of earthly goods,' and a site having been made over to him, he erected a church and consecrated a cemetery there, and in course of time this settlement grew into 'a great city' whose fame extended far and wide.

One of the observances practised at his monastery during the festival of St. Patrick was the recital of St. Patrick's hymn. According to Tighernac, who flourished at the close of the seventh century, two of the honours paid to the memory of St. Patrick in his time throughout Ireland were ' to sing his hymn during the whole time of the festival, which lasted three days, and to sing his Irish chant always.' The latter was the Irish hymn called the ' Feth Fiadha,' and also the ' Lorica ' (or corselet), from its supposed virtue in protecting against demons. The former was the Hymn of St. Sechnall in praise of St. Patrick, and it is probably the one referred to here, as St. Coemgen is represented as ordering it to be recited three times, viz. on each day of the festival. Soon after his settlement in his latest monastery he paid a visit to Usny Hill in Westmeath, where SS. Columba, Comgall, and Cainnech were assembled, and then went on to see St. Ciaran of Clonmacnoise, who, however, had died three days before his arrival. He would have again gone forth into the wilderness but for the remonstrance of a holy hermit named Garbhan, who told him ' it was more becoming for him to fix himself in one place than to ramble here and there in his old age, as he could not but know that no bird could hatch her eggs while flying.' Garbhan lived at Swords, not far from where Dublin now stands, and on leaving him he paid a visit on his way home to St. Mobhi of Glas Naoidhen, now Glasnevin, of whose monastery an interesting description is given as consisting of a group of huts or cells and an oratory, situated on either bank of the Finglas, or fair stream, now the Tolka, from which Glasnevin (the stream of Naoidhen) derives its name. At this time took place the invasion of Leinster by the king of Ireland, Aedh Mac Ainmire, in order to exact the boruma, or cow tribute imposed on Leinster by a former king of Ireland, which Bran-dubh, the reigning king of Leinster, refused to pay. When the invading army entered his territory he resolved to proceed to Glendalough to consult St. Coemgen as to the course he ought to pursue, and no doubt to encourage his followers by obtaining the sanction of the famous saint to his resistance. But St. Coemgen would not suffer him to enter the precinct of his sacred city. He was compelled to halt on the summit of the mountain on the south, where he received the saint's answer, 'A king by human right ought to fight for the country committed to his charge, if he cannot otherwise defend it.' This was enough for the warrior king. He met the forces of the king of Ireland and his northern allies at Dunbolg, now Dunboyke, near Hollywood, in the county of Wicklow, where he utterly defeated them, and slew and beheaded King Aedh. A curious description of the contest and the ingenious stratagem of Brandubh is given in the 'Annals of the Four Masters.' When at length St. Coemgen's end approached, he received the holy communion at the hands of Mochuarog, a Briton who lived