The Poem-book of the Gael/The Saltair na Rann/The Death of Adam

The Death of Adam (10th century)
by Oengus the Culdee, translated by Eleanor Hull

Published in the Saltair na Rann in the 10th century, denoting lineage to the Irish bishop Oengus the Culdee. Translation from 1912.

Oengus the Culdee557658The Death of Adam10th centuryEleanor Hull

ADAM'S lifetime was not short; that ye may know, without risk (of error),

thirty years had he, it was exactly

with nine hundred years. 1

Then came a complete sickness to


such as comes to everyone,
his wife Eve with every goodness
was receiving his last bequests.

Adam knew his destiny,

he spake to splendid Eve :

" I have parted fromthee and from thy children;

of this sickness I die."

" It is hard of God,"

said she, said Eve, to Adam,

" that thou art not sojourning here, (?)

that it is not I who go first.

1 i.e. 930 years ; see Gen. v. 3.



" My grief ! that thou should'st change,"

said she, said Eve to Adam ;

" that I should be here sorrowful without strength,

that thou should'st go first."

" O Eve of the pure clear form,
understand clearly in thy mind ;
thou wilt not be any length, it is clear,
here in pain after my departure.

" Short was the time, though it be without deception,
between thy creation and mine,

thou wilt not be in danger of attack, 1 bright is the outlook,
but nine months after me."

" Tell me without error, O Husband,
what I shall do with thy fair dear body ?
since thou deemest thy death is certain,

my Lord, O Adam ! "

" Let not foot or hand touch me,
let not any interfere with me,
till one is sent from God from heaven
to arrange my fair dear body.

" Leave my body (fair the fashion),
in its bonds without disturbance ;

1 am certain that the noble Artificer who formed me
will provide for the needs of my body.

1 Fogrls means " under attack " or " under warmth," "ardour,"
"heat"; could it mean "under the warmth of the sun," i.e.


" Arise, O Eve, cheerfully,

and begin a ' cross-vigil ' ; *

send them from thee, O Wife, to God's right hand

my pure soul to holy heaven.

" The soul that God created in me,
it is He who recalled it in its uncleanliness ;
let it go to him perfectly to His dwelling
with the accompanying of angel-hosts.

" O Wife, I am not bold, in truth,
concerning the actions of my good King ;
the wrath that He showed (pure His sway),
was an act of affection and mercy."

(Eve kneels and prays to God. A heavenly messenger
is sent to her, to tell her that the soul of Adam is parted
from the body, and that it is safe in the charge of the
hosts of the archangel Michael.)

Then Eve went 1. 2105

quickly towards Adam ;

until she found Adam (great the love)

no longer inhaling breath.

When she heard not

the voice of Adam speaking to her with fair beauty,
her senses out of measure overpowered her,
with long lamentations, with lasting sorrow.

1 A cross-vigil was a prayer uttered with the arms extended in
the form of a cross, or sometimes with the body flat on the ground
in the same position ; such prayers were common in the ancient
Irish Church.


(The heavenly messenger speaks)

" O Eve, lift up thine eyes,

and suffer us to instruct thee ;

set thy keen pure glance

upwards clearly to the heavenly ones.

" O Woman, raise thy pure face,
to behold the soul of Adam,
as it is uplifted brightly
between hosts of archangels."

On that Eve turned

to behold the soul of Adam,

and she saw the beautiful peaceful soul

of Adam in the company of Michael.

While Eve was thus

recognising the soul of Adam,

she beheld coming towards it along the way

hosts of angels chorus-singing.

Eve beheld a Seraph

moving nobly in front of the host

on three golden wings ;

fair was the beloved thing 1 which he bore.

Then Eve beheld

three white shining birds

(which) across the sky from holy heaven

had arrived (?) in their lustre.

1 "Pet," or " champion.


While she was watching the birds,
Eve herself without great trouble,
as with a flash of the full sun,
she became unable to look at them.

Up unto cloudy heaven was heard
the choir of the holy angels around Michael ;
they spread their pleasant ranks then
circling about the altar of Adam.

The angels sustained a fitting harmony
round about the altar ;
before all the host they burned a herb
which is called " ornamentum."

The strong smoke 1 spread
directly through the air ;
the doors of the firmament opened
without any force (?) 2

God came in holiness from heaven
to the service of Adam's soul ;
the Soverain King over every sphere
sat down on His royal throne.

There went before the pure King
a noble angel of the angels ;
he sounded melodiously a clear, shrill note,
its beautiful report was heard throughout the seven
heavens. 3

1 Or " incense. " 2 Without guardians or keepers ?

8 See p. 18. God is frequently called the " King of the Seven
Heavens," cf. p. 120.


Towards the sound of the trumpet, purely splendid,
went the host of the nine holy grades ;
truly strong were their clear numbers,
before the royal throne of the Creator !

(The hosts unite in praising the Lord for His
mercy to Adam)

Then the King of Wisdom l 1. 2177

sent from Him quickly a Seraph

across the slopes of the great mass of the hosts

with wings of red gold.

Until they took the soul of Adam without pain,
so that it was bathed

in the unpassable (?) river of the ever-living host 2
" indatinum ciriasu."

So that he brought with him Adam's pure, clear soul

thus out of the stream,

then he placed himself as at the first

before the presence of the Creator.

Then the King laid His hand,

without any consuming (?) upon the soul of Adam.

He commended it to Michael,

fair is the tale !

" Be thou not harsh, O Michael,
towards its great bliss,
place thou the soul of Adam here
in Paradise.

1 Or " King of Victories."

2 In the Vision of Adamnan the river is of fire. In Dante's
Purgatorio (Canto xxxi.) the soul is bathed in the river of Lethe,


" Bear the bright pure soul

of splendid Adam with his accompanying bands,

place it

in the third kingly division of Paradise."

" ' In the third heaven,' said God,
which is called Ficconicia ;
let it be there without sign of pain
till the time of the Resurrection/ "

All the grades in every sphere
both of angels and archangels,
sweet was their pure chorus
praising the Creator ;

For the remission to the soul of Adam
from its sins, from its vices ;
that it should be brought
again to Paradise.

Let the oil of mercy

and the herb " ornamentum " be bestowed

about the body of Adam

to cleanse it from its vileness.

Around the body of Adam

let three wholesome linen cloths, of special honour, be

arranged ;

and let it be buried exactly
at the side of Abel's sepulchre.


The body of our fore-father Adam,

according to writings of manifold genius,

from afar, under the heavy, sorrowful bonds of death,

was buried in Hebron.

It was there under a strong, firm tower l
till the coming of the wave-strength of the flood,
the body of Adam, with honours in its sepulchre,
under assemblies of the strong.

The flood of the deluge over every land,
many countries did it upturn,
it carried his head from Adam
and brought it to Jerusalem.

There the head remained

before Jerusalem ; 2

without grief the cross of Christ afterwards

was planted in the flesh 3 of Adam.

High King of the Sun, clearly hath it been heard, 1. 2385

He it was who created Paradise ;

He who is better than all kings, royal His form,

there is no limit to His existence.

1 Tromthur, in 1. 906 of the poem, seems to refer to waves.

2 Lit. "before the gate of Jerusalem," but see Rev. Celt., vi.
p. 104.

3 i.e. in his skull : this is a curious tradition.