Child's Book of Saints - William Canton

The Dream of the White Lark

This was a thing that happened long and long ago, in the glimmering morning of the Christian time in Erinn. And it may have happened to the holy Maedog of Ferns, or to Enan the Angelic, or it may have been Molasius of Devenish—I cannot say. But over the windy sea in his small curragh of bull's hide the Saint sailed far away to the southern land; and for many a month he travelled afoot through the dark forests, and the sunny corn-lands, and over the snowy mountain horns, and along the low shores between the olive-grey hills and the blue sea, till at last he came in sight of a great and beautiful city glittering on the slopes and ridges of seven hills.

"What golden city may this be?" he asked of the dark-eyed market folk whom he met on the long straight road which led across the open country.

"It is the city of Rome," they answered him, wondering at his ignorance. But the Saint, when he heard those words, fell on his knees and kissed the ground.

"Hail to thee, most holy city!" he cried; "hail, thou queen of the world, red with the roses of the martyrs and white with the lilies of the virgins; hail, blessed goal of my long wandering!"

And as he entered the city his eyes were bright with joy, and his heart seemed to lift his weary feet on wings of gladness.

There he sojourned through the autumn and the winter, visiting all the great churches and the burial-places of the early Christians in the Catacombs, and communing with the good and wise men in many houses of religion. Once he conversed with the great Pope whose name was Gregory, and told him of his brethren in the beloved isle in the western waters.

When once more the leaf of the fig-tree opened its five fingers, and the silvery bud of the vine began to unfurl, the Saint prepared to return home. And once more he went to the mighty Pope, to take his leave and to ask a blessing for himself and his brethren, and to beg that he might bear away with him to the brotherhood some precious relic of those who had shed their blood for the Cross.

As he made that request in the green shadowy garden on the Hill CŠlian, the Pope smiled, and, taking a clod of common earth from the soil, gave it to the Saint, saying, "Then take this with thee," and when the Saint expressed his surprise at so strange a relic, the Servant of the Servants of God took back the earth and crushed it in his hand, and with amazement the Saint saw that blood began to trickle from it between the fingers of the Pope.

Saint in Rome


Marvelling greatly, the Saint kissed the holy pontiff's hand, and bade him farewell; and going to and fro among those he knew, he collected money, and, hiring a ship, he filled it with the earth of Rome, and sailed westward through the Midland Sea, and bent his course towards the steadfast star in the north, and so at last reached the beloved green island of his home.

In the little graveyard about the fair church of his brotherhood he spread the earth which had drunk the blood of the martyrs, so that the bodies of those who died in the Lord might await His coming in a blessed peace.

Now it happened that but a few days after his return the friend of his boyhood, a holy brother who had long shared with him the companionship of the cloister, migrated from this light, and when the last requiem had been sung and the sacred earth had covered in the dead, the Saint wept bitterly for the sake of the lost love and the unforgotten years.

And at night he fell asleep, still weeping for sorrow. And in his sleep he saw, as in a dream, the grey stone church with its round tower and the graveyard sheltered by the woody hills; but behold! in the graveyard tall trees sprang in lofty spires from the earth of Rome, and reached into the highest heavens; and these trees were like trees of green and golden and ruddy fire, for they were red with the blossoms of life, and every green leaf quivered with bliss, like a green flame; and among the trees, on a grassy sod at their feet, sat a white lark, singing clear and loud, and he knew that the lark was the soul of the friend of his boyhood.

As he listened to its song, he understood its unearthly music; and these were the words of its singing: "Do not weep any more for me; it is pity for thy sorrow which keeps me here on the grass. If thou wert not so unhappy I should fly."

And when the Saint awoke his grief had fallen from him, and he wept no more for the dead man whom he loved.