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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Scotland: Vols. VI–VIII. 1876–79.


St. Cormac the Navigator

By Thomas D’Arcy McGee (1825–1868)

  • A Legend of the Island of Lewis
  • One of the first evangelizers of the Western Islands is known in Gaelic story as “St. Cormac the Navigator.” He was among the first missionaries sent out from Iona.

  • First Islander
    LOOK out! look out! on the waves so dark,

    And tell me dost thou see a bark

    Riding the tempest through?

    It bears a cross on its slender spar,

    And a lamp that glances like a star,

    And three men make the crew!

    Second Islander
    I see a bark far off at sea,

    With cross and lamp and crew of three,

    But sooth it labors sore;

    I see it rise, I see it fall,

    Now the angry ocean swallows all,

    And I see the bark no more.

    First Islander
    ’T is he! ’t is he! I know his sail,—

    ’T is the holy man of the distant Gael,

    True to his plighted word,—

    “Be ’t storm or calm, or foul or fair,”

    He said, “I will be surely there

    On the birthday of our Lord!”

    He is the saint whose hymn soars loud

    O’er shifting sail and crackling shroud;

    Who resteth on his oar

    In the summer midnight’s silent hour

    May haply hear that voice of power

    O’er Coryvrekan’s roar.

    He knoweth how to steer aright,

    By the yard, and plough, and northern light,

    Through the battling Shetland Seas,—

    Knoweth of every port the sign

    From Westra to Saint Columb’s shrine

    In the southern Hebrides.

    A host will throng to cape and bay

    To meet him each appointed day,

    Be it festival or fast,

    And if his bark comes not in sight

    They deem they have not reckoned right,

    Or that the day is past.

    His psalm hath wakened Osmunwall,

    And from the cavern of Fingall

    Hath shaken down the spar;

    The fishers on the midnight waves,

    And the otter-hunters from their caves

    Salute his cross and star.

    Second Islander
    I see, I see through the nightfall dark

    Saint Cormac sitting in his bark,

    And now he draweth near!

    Dear Father of the island men,

    Welcome to Wallis’ Isle again,

    And to our Christmas cheer!