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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Ireland: Vol. V. 1876–79.


Seven Churches of Clonmacnoise

By Robert Leighton (1822–1869)

THERE ’s a place in the middle of Ireland called

Seven Churches of Clonmacnoise,—

As noisy a place as ever squalled,

If the churches have each a different voice.

I never was there myself, or mayhap

I ’d say something authentic of my own,

Only, I see the place on the map,

Some miles on the south side of Athlone;

And it strikes me, as the name I read,

That it must be a very queer place indeed.

In what year of our Lord did it get such a name?

When the ranting Protestant sects began?

Or farther back, when St. Patrick came,

And fashioned the heathen on the Roman plan?

And for what good reason was such a name given?

Did he actually seven churches raise?

Was the necromantic number seven

Supposed to be all essential for praise?

No; Patrick had too much equipoise

To pitch the whole seven at Clonmacnoise.

I rather think place and name arose

Subsequent to Luther, Calvin, and Knox,—

Three of the Pope’s most terrible foes,

Who broke up his fold into many flocks.

Then seven of the sects, for all one knows,

Had made their way to this central spot,

And seven churches, we may suppose,

Might then be built as well as not.

Hence Clonmacnoise when the noisy seven

Sang each in a different key to Heaven.