Monday, March 13, 2006

Just as we secular folk do not pray as naturally as our forebearers did, so also our curses and complaints are pale and flacid imitations of their talent for full blooded poetic invective. I don't know that the following is at all edifying for Lent, as the wish for vengeance is one of those things we should really try to overcome in this season, but I give it to you anyhow. Perhaps the early Gaels prayed with such intensity because they lived the rest of their lives, for better or worse, with the same passion. Strange to us, but not so different from the world of the Psalms or the Prophets. It may be that we who are content with our small lives and small sins and petty grievences are further from real holiness than those who live (and sin) largely. It is a truism that great sinners, having learned the meaning of repentence, make great saints. If that is so, a blessing from the author of the following curse would be a great thing indeed.

THE wicked who would do me harm
May he take the throat disease,
Globularly, spirally, circularly,
Fluxy, pellety, horny-grim.

Be it harder than the stone,
Be it blacker than the coal,
Be it swifter than the duck,
Be it heavier than the lead.

Be it fiercer, fiercer, sharper, harsher, more malignant,
Than the hard, wound-quivering holly,
Be it sourer than the sained, lustrous, bitter, salt salt,
Seven seven times.

Oscillating thither,
Undulating hither,
Staggering downwards,
Floundering upwards.

Drivelling outwards,
Snivelling inwards,
Oft hurrying out,
Seldom coming in.

A wisp the portion of each hand,
A foot in the base of each pillar,
A leg the prop of each jamb,
A flux driving and dragging him.

A dysentery of blood from heart, from form, from bones,
From the liver, from the lobe, from the lungs,
And a searching of veins, of throat, and of kidneys,
To my contemners and traducers.

In name of the God of might,
Who warded from me every evil,
And who shielded me in strength,
From the net of my breakers
And destroyers.

(From the Carmina Gadelica)