Straying Thoughts

I found this ancient Gaelic poem, translated by early 20th century British scholar Robin Flowers, in an anthology of Celtic Christian writings. It was so good, I was surprised to find virtually no reference to it anywhere while searching the internet, and no text except locked in Google Books. That’s no good, so I am reposting it here so that others might enjoy it as well.

Straying Thoughts

My thought it is a wanton ranger,
It skips away;
I fear ’twill bring my soul in danger
On Judgment Day.

For when the holy psalms are singing
Away it flies,
Gambolling, stumbling, lightly springing
Before God’s eyes.

‘Mongst giddypated folk it rambles,
Girls light of mind;
Through forests and through cities gambols
Swifter than wind.

Now in rich raths and jewels glowing
‘Mid goodly men;
Now to the ragged pauper going
‘Tis fled again.

Without a boat it skims the ocean,
‘Tis swift to fly
Heavenward with unimpeded motion
From earth to sky.

Through all the courses of all folly
It runs, and then
Lightly, untouched of melancholy
Comes home again.

Vain is the hope to hold or bind it,
The unfettered thought
Wanton, unresting, idle-minded,
Sets chains at nought.

The sword’s keen edge, the whip’s sharp chiding
It scorns, grown bold;
Like an eel’s tail it wriggles, sliding
Out of my hold.

No bolt, no bar, no lock, no fetter,
No prison cell
Can stay its course; they serve no better
Pits deep as Hell.

O fair, chaste Christ! who in all places
Seest all men’s eyes
Check by the Spirit’s sevenfold graces
Thought’s wandering wise.

Terrible Lord of earth and heaven!
Rule Thou my heart!
My faith, my love to Thee be given,
My every part!

So in thy companies to-morrow
I too may go;
Loyal and leal are they. My sorrow!
I am not so.