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Reflections at the Old Churchyard of Colmcille

Reflections at the Old Churchyard of Colmcille

In 1935, William Macphail (Uilleam Neil 'ic Phail), of 19 Gravir, visited St.Colm's Isle, in Loch Erisort. He composed the following poem. We are indebted to his daughter, Ishbel Macphail of Stornoway for permission to use it.

Reflections at the Old Churchyard of Colmcille, Loch Erisort

Can storied urn, or animated bust,
Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?
Can honour's voice provoke the silent dust,
Or flattery soothe the dull, cold ear of death?
--Thomas Gray

Stranger, tread softly o'er each mound
This spot, this dust, 'tis hallowed ground
Disturb thou not the peace profound
Within these beds of day.
"God's acre", this, all sown around
The shrine in ruins grey.

Nor dream to 'scape the common doom
Of those who sleep within the tomb
In this lone Isle, the shrine and home
Of saints in days of yore
Whose faith illumed the mystic gloom
Of pagan rites and lore.

Tread lightly here, 'tis sacred all
The sod, the shrine, the mouldering wall
'Mong crumbling dust thy footsteps fall
Scoff not, nor yet profane
The dead: asleep 'till the trumpets call
To judgement wakes again.

Thy step with-hold, dread thou to lay
Impious foot 'pon mortal clay
Presumptions man their fate to-day
Tomorrow will be thine
Death is the debt mankind must pay
'Tis nature's law divine.

Exemption, none can urge or claim
The rich and poor, this fate the same
All must submit -- man's mortal frame.
The grave -- the dust -- his bed
'Tis Heaven's decree can wealth or fame
Revoke the edict dread?

Within this spot, "God's acre" sown
The rank weeds hide each old tombstone
The name, the year inscribed thereon
Time's wasting hand well nigh
Hath blotted out, scarce ought is shown
That records would supply.

Scarce relic left, or script to show
Whose ashes moulder here below
Ye who their lineage fain would know
Approach with reverence near
The turf that veils their mansion low
O! moisten with a tear.

Your kindred rest in this remote
Neglected, rude, sad, silent spot
Unknown, obscure, unsung, forgot
Wrapped by the sacred soil
Oblivions dreamless sleep their lot
And destiny the while.

They lie unhonoured and unknown
In this rude, Island Churchyard lone
Their names effaced, their records gone
The meek, the sage, the just
Each underneath the cold, grey stone
Forgotten in the dust.

The victims of the stormy wave
Are gathered to earth's breast -- the grave
Therein the ancient ruined nave
Of yonder shrine they sleep
Your kith and kin, whom none could save
From death upon the deep.

Yet shall they live: let none gainsay
What "Holy Writ" the Scriptures say
The dead shall rise and hopes bright ray
All radiant from on high
Shall usher in eternal day
O'er faith's triumphant sky


Title: Reflections at the Old Churchyard of Colmcille
Record Type: Stories, Reports and Traditions
Type: Poem
Date: 1935
Record Maintained By: CEP
Subject Id: 47151