The Heavenly Kingdom

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The Heavenly Kingdom  (1912) 
by Oengus the Culdee, translated by Eleanor Hull
Published in the Saltair na Rann in the 10th century, denoting lineage to the Irish bishop Oengus the Culdee. Translation from 1912.

KING who formed the pure Heaven,
with its boundaries, according to His pleasure,
a habitation choice, songful, safe,
for the wondrous host of Archangels.

Heaven with its multitude of hosts,
noble, durable, exceeding spacious,
a strong mighty city with a hundred graces,
a tenth of it the measure of the world.

Therein are three ramparts undecaying,
fixedly they surround heaven,
a rampart of emerald crystal,
a rampart of gold, a rampart of amethyst.[1]

A wall of emerald, without obscurity, outside,
a wall of gold next to the city,
between the two, with bright fair glory,
a mighty rampart of stainless purple.

There, with a strong-flowing sea (?)
is a spacious, perfect city,
in it, with the light of peace, 1
is the eternal way of the four chief doors.

The measure of each door severally
of the four chief doorways,
(placed) side by side, by calculation,
is a mile across each single door.

In each doorway a cross of gold
before the eyes of the ever-shining host ;
the King wrought them without effort,
they are massive, very lofty.

Overhead, on each cross, a bird of red gold,

full- voiced, not unsteady ;

in every cross

a great gem of precious stone.

Every day an archangel
with his host from Heaven's king,
with harmony, with pure melody,
(gather) around each several cross.

Before each doorway is a lawn,
fair . . ., of sure estimation,
I liken each one of them in extent 2
to the earth together with its seas.

1 Or peaceful light.

2 This is the L. B. reading; the text gives " excellence " or
" fertility," which does not niakt* good sense.

THE HEAVENLY KINGDOM 13

The circuit of each single lawn

with its silvern soil, 1

with its swards, covered with goodly blossom,

with its beauteous plants.

Vast though you may deem

the extent of the spacious lawns,

a rampart of silver, undecaying,

has been formed about each several lawn.

The portals of the walls without
around the fortress on every side,
with its dwellings soundly placed,
affording abodes (?) for many thousands.

Eight portals in a series
so that they come together around the city,
I have not, in the way of knowledge, 2
a simile for the extent of each portico.

Each portal abounding in plants,

with their bronze foundations,

a rampart of fair clay has been established

strongly about each portal.

Twelve ramparts perfect the boundary (?)

of the portals, of the lawns,

without counting the three ramparts that are outside

around the chief city.

1 The L. B. reading is/ond dargutfuthib, which seems to point
to some such meaning as " base," " foundation."

2 Reading uncertain.

I 4 THE SALTAIR NA RANN

There are forty gateways in the heavenly habitation
with its kingly thrones ;
three to each tranquil lawn,
and three to each portal.

Gratings (or doors) of silver, fair in aspect, 1. 409

to each gateway of that lawn,

gracious bronze doors

to the gateways of the portals.

The corresponding walls from the fortress outwards

of all the portals

are comparable in height 1

(to the distance) from the earth to the moon.

The ramparts of the lawns, as is meet,

wrought of white bronze,

their height mighty in brilliance

is as that from the earth to the pure sun.

The measure of comparison of the three ramparts

which surround the chief city,

their height shows (a distance equal

to that) from the earth to the firmament.

The entrance bridges 2 of the perfect gates, 1. 465

a fair way, shining with red gold,

they are irradiated pure the gathering

each step ascending above the other.

1 This is the L. B. reading; our text seems to mean "in
renown."

2 Or " thresholds."

THE HEAVENLY KINGDOM 15

From step to step brave the progress,
pleasant the ascent into the high city ;
fair is that host, on the path of attainment (?)
many thousands, a hundred of hundreds.

In the circuit of the ramparts great its strength (?)
in the interior of the chief city,
bright glossy galleries,
firm red-gold bridges.

Therein are flowering lands

ever fresh in all seasons,

with the produce of each well-loved fruit

with their thousand fragrances.

The nine grades of heaven, 1. 553.

around the King of all causation,
without loss of glory, with vigour of strength,
without pride, without envy.

In abundant profusion (?) under the lawful King
this their exact number,
seventy- two excellent hosts
in each grade of the grades.

The number of each host, unmeasured gladness,
there is none that could know it,
except the King should know it
who created them out of nothing.

A majestic King over them all,

King of flowery heaven,

a goodly, righteous, steadfast King,

King of royal generosity in His regal dwelling.

16 THE SALTAIR NA RANN

King very youthful, King aged long ago, 1

King who fashioned the heavens about the pure sun,

King of all the gracious saints,

a King gentle, comely, shapely.

The King who created the pure heavenly house
for the angels without transgression,
land of holy ones, of the sons of life, 2
a plain fair, long, spacious.

He arranged a noble, peaceful 3 abode,
stable, under the regal courses,
a comely, clear, perfect, bright circuit,
for the wondrous folk of penitence.

My King from the beginning over the host,

" sanctus Dominus Sabaoth,"

to whom is chanted upon the heights, with loving

guidance, (?)
the melody of the four-and-twenty white-robed saints.

The King who ordained the perfect choir
of the four-and-twenty holy ones,
sweetly they chant the chant to the host
" sanctus Deus Sabaoth."

1 Perhaps Ancient of Days.

2 Mac bethad may mean " a sinless man," as mac bdis, " son of
death," means a sinful man.

3 We take sid to be an adjective ; it might also mean ' ' a fairy
mound," but this is hardly applicable here.

THE HEAVENLY KINGDOM 17

King steadfast, bountiful, goodly, noble,
abode of peace, . . . (?)
with whom is the flock of lambs
around the Pure Spotless Lamb.

Bright King, who appointed the Lamb

to move forward upon the Mount (of Sion) l

four thousand youths following Him,

(with) a hundred and forty (thousand) in a pure progress.

A perfect choir, with glories of form,
of the stainless virgins,
chants pure music along with them
following after the shining Lamb.

Equal in beauty, in swiftness, in brightness,

across the Mount surrounding the Lamb ;

the name inscribed on their countenances, with grace,

is the name of the Father.

The King who ordained the voice
of the heavenly ones by inspiration,
full, strong-swelling,
as the mighty wave of many waters ;

Or like the voice of sound-loving harps

they sing, without fault, full tenderly,

(like) multitudinous great floods over every land,

or like the mighty sound of thunder. 2

1 Rev. xiv. i.

  • " I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters,

and as the voice of a great thunder ; and I heard the voice of
harpers harping with their harps" (Rev. xiv. 2).

B

i8 THE SALTAIR NA RANN

King of the flowering tree of life,

a way for the ranks of the noble grades ;

its top, its droppings, on every side,

have spread across the broad plain of heaven.

On which sits the splendid bird-flock
sustaining a perfect melody of pure grace,
without decay, with gracious increase
of fruit or of foliage.

Beauteous the bird-flock which sustains it, (i.e. the

melody)

each choice bird with a hundred wings ;
they chant without guile, in bright joyousness,
a hundred melodies for every wing.

King who created many splendid dwellings, 1

many comely, just, perfect works,

through (the care of) my rich King, 2 over every sphere,

no lack is felt by any of the vast array.

His are the seven heavens, perfect in might,
without prohibition, without evil, whitely moving
around the earth, great the wonder (?)
with the names of each heaven.

Air, ether, over all

Olympus, the firmament,

heaven of water, heaven of the perfect angels,

the heaven where is the fair-splendid Lord.

1 " In my Father's house are many mansions " (John xiv. 3).

2 Rogmar (mod. Ir. roghmhar) means "bulky" or "fortunate*
or " fat " ; here it refers to God as possessor of all.

THE HEAVENLY KINGDOM 19

The amount of good which our dear God, 1. 649.

has for His saints in their holy dwelling,

according to the skill of the wise (?)

there is none who can relate a hundredth part of it.

The Lord, the head of each pure grade,

who gathered (?) the host to everlasting life,

may He save me after my going out of the body of

battles,
the King who formed Heaven.

King who formed the pure Heaven.

III. THE FORBIDDEN FRUIT, (vii.)

RINCE who gave a clear admonition
to Eve and to Adam, 1. 1081

that they should eat of the produce of

Paradise
according to God's command :

" Eat ye of them freely,

of the fruits of Paradise sweet the

fragrance
many, all of them (a festival to be

shared) l
are lawful for you save one tree.

" In order that you may know that you are under

authority,

without sorrow, without strife,
without anxiety, without long labour,
without age, evil, or blemish ;

" Without decay, without heavy sickness ;
with everlasting life, in everlasting triumph
on your going to heaven (joyous the festival)
at the choice age of thirty years."

1 Lit. " share of a festival" ; this is one of those chevilles which
are frequent in this poem, often introduced without much sense to
fill out a line, or to give a rhyming word. We have omitted a
few of them in the translation.


  1. Lit. " green," " gold," and " purple," but they seem to imply special stones.