William Bell Scott

(1811-1890 / Scotland)

St. Columbia - Poem by William Bell Scott

When Columba brought his band
From old Erin's Christian land
To Iona's rock-bound strand,
He brought for each a sack of corn
And a grinding-stone, as well
As book and bell.
Then every morn
Each one alternate, great or small,
From the saint to little Saul,
Ground the daily meal for all:
For Christ said once in Galilee,
The greatest shall the servant be.
Now when it came the master's turn,
Little Saul's kind heart did burn
To see him shut his book and go
Alone into that granarie;
Alone, but lo
Once in, an angel shut the door,
And set him down the quern before,

Saying, ‘My father, I am here
Even as a son,
To do for thee as thou hast done
For the heathen dark and poor,
Whereby ye gave our Lord good cheer.
I am strong, but thou art great,
So thus at thy right hand I wait,
And here I be,
To grind this morning's meal for thee,
If thou wilt read the morning's psalm,
I too may need the balm.’

These words the brethren heard below,
The quern then with great force did go,
And the saint began also
To read the psalter sweetly slow:
Jesu pie auctor lucis
Sis dux nobis viâ crucis.
Crowding around the planken door,
Through hinge and seam, upon the floor
They saw the angel: wing and hair,
And the garment that he wore,
Were all one colour they declare,

Yellow as flowers the sea-flags bear.
Supplicantem audi chorum,
O rex Jesu angelorum.
In joyful silence, one and all
Upon their knees these brethren fall,
Till ceased the noisy grinding-stone,
And lo! Columba was alone.

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 22, 2010

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