At Saint Patrick's Purgatory


"At Saint Patrick's Purgatory" is the first song of Samuel Barber's song cycle Hermit Songs. The cycle was composed in 1953 and published in 1954. The premiere was sung by soprano Leontyne Price.

The poem is a translation of a text by an anonymous Irish monk who lived sometime between the 8th and 13th centuries. The English translation used by Barber is by Irish writer Seán Proinsias Ó Faoláin.

At Saint Patrick's Purgatory

Pity me on my pilgrimage to Loch Derg!
O King of the churches and the bells—
bewailing your sores and your wounds,
but not a tear can I squeeze from my eyes!

Not moisten an eye
after so much sin!
Pity me, O King! What shall I do
with a heart that seeks only its own ease?

O only begotten Son by whom all men were made,
who shunned not the death by three wounds,
pity me on my pilgrimage to Loch Derg
and I with a heart not softer than a stone!

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