St. Fiacc's Metrical Life of St. Patrick

This is the earliest biography of the Saint, and the most important, and was written in pure Irish.

St. Fiacc was the disciple and nephew of St. Dubtach, arch-poet of Erin.

On Patrick’s visit to Tara the king gave orders that none of the royal company should rise to give honour to the Saint.

Dubtach refused to obey, and when St. Patrick came before the king all remained seated except Dubtach and Fiacc.

Some time after this St. Patrick wished to make provision for his converts in Leinster by appointing a bishop over them, and as Dubtach was a Leinster man he visited him in his own home to obtain his advice concerning a proper person for the office.

“Fiacc is the very man you require,” said Dubtach, “but at present he is in Connaught.”

Very soon Fiacc came in sight.

“There is the man himself,” said Dubtach.

“But he may not wish to receive orders,” said Patrick.

“Proceed as if to tonsure me,” replied the poet.

St. Patrick prepared to tonsure the old poet, whereupon Fiacc said, “It would be a great loss to the bardic order to lose so great a poet”; and he offered himself for the service of the Church instead of Dubtach.

St. Fiacc was Bishop of Sletty, near Carlow, and died about the year 510.

In his memoir he says St. Patrick was born at Emptur, and studied under Germanus.

The Scholiast on St. Fiacc supplies us with the following information:—

“This was the cause of the servitude of Patrick: They all went from the Britons of Alcluaid across the Iccian sea, southwards on a journey to the Britons who are on the sea of Icht, namely, the Britons of Letha, because they had brethren (relatives) there at the time. Now, the mother of these children, namely, Conches, was of the Franks, and she was a sister to Martin. At that time came seven sons of Sectmaide, King of Britain, in ships from the Britons, and they made great plunder on the Britons, viz., the Britons of Armoric Letha, where Patrick with his family was, and they wounded Calpuirn there and carried off Patrick and Lupait with him to Ireland.”

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