The Writings of Saint Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland/The Hymn, or 'Breastplate'

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For other English-language translations of this work, see St. Patrick's Breastplate.

The Genuine Writings of Patrick.



I[1] BIND myself[2] to-day,
To a strong power, an invocation[3] of the Trinity,
I believe in a Threeness with confession of a Oneness in[4] the Creator of Judgment.[5]


I bind myself to-day,
To the power[6] of the birth of Christ, with His baptism,
To the power of the crucifixion, with His burial,
To the power or His resurrection, with His ascension.
To the power of His coming to the judgment of doom.


I bind myself to-day,
To the power of the ranks of cherubim,[7]Col. i. 16.
In the obedience of angels,Heb. i. 14.
In the service of archangels,[8]Rev. xxii. 9.
In the hope of resurrection unto reward,Acts xxiii. 6.
In the prayers of patriarchs,[9]Gen. xxviii. 20.
In the predictions of prophets,1 Pet. i. 12.
In the preachings of apostles.Matt. xxviii. 19, 20
In the faiths of confessors,[10]Acts vii. 55–60.
In the purity of holy virgins.Rev. xiv. 4.
In the acts of righteous men.Matt. V. 16.


I bind myself to-day,
To the power of heaven, Psa. cxlviii. 1.
The light of sun,
The brightness of moon,[11]Psa. cxlviii. 3.
The splendour of fire,
The speed of lightning,[12] Psa. cxlviii. 7, 8.
The swiftness of wind, Psa. civ. 4.
The depth of the sea,
The stability of earth, Psa. civ. 5.
The firmness of rocks.[13]


I bind myself to-day,
To the power of God to guide me, Deut. xxxiii. 27.
The might of God to uphold me,
The wisdom of God to teach me, Col. iii. 16.
The eye of God to watch over me,
The ear of God to hear me,
The word of God to speak for me,[14]1 Pet. iv. 11.
The hand of God to protect me,
The way of God to lie before me,[15]
The shield of God to shelter me,Psa. xviii. 1, 2.
The host of God to defend me,2 Kings vi. 17.
Against the snares of demons,
Against the temptations of vices,
Against [the lusts[16]] of nature, Eph. vi. 10-17.
Against every man who meditates injury to me,
Whether far or near,
Alone and in a multitude.[17]


I summon to-day[18] around me all these powers,
Against every hostile merciless power directed against my body and my soul.Jude 20.
Against the incantations of false prophets,Acts xiii. 8–12.
Against the black laws of heathenism,
Against the false laws of heretics,[19]
Against the deceit of idolatry,1 John v. 21.
Against the spells of women, and smiths, and Druids,
Against all knowledge which hath defiled man's body and soul.[20]Jude 10.


Christ protect me to-day,
Against poison, against burning, Mark xvi. 18.
Against drowning, against wound, Acts xxviii. 22–25.

That I may receive a multitude of rewards. Heb. x. 35.


Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ in breadth, Christ in length, Christ in height.[21] Eph. iii. 18, 19.


Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks to me,
Christ in the eye of every man that sees me,
Christ in the ear of every man that hears me.


I bind myself to-day.
To a strong power, an invocation of the Trinity,
I believe in a Threeness with confession of a Oneness in the Creator of Judgment.[22]


Salvation is the Lord's,Psa. iii. 8.
Salvation is the Lord's,
Salvation is Christ's,Rev. vii. 10.
Let Thy salvation, O Lord, be ever with us.[23]Isa. xxv. 9.

  1. The figures refer to the notes at the end of the book.

    The following is the Irish preface to the Hymn found in the Liber Hymnorum, Trinity College, Dublin, folio 196. The translation is given, with the original Irish, on p. 381 of the Rolls Triparite Life of St. Patrick. We quote it as a curiosity, and nothing more, not, of course, endorsing the truth of the legend referred to.

    'Patrick made this hymn. In the time of Loegaire, son of Niall, it was made. Now, the cause of making it was to protect himself with his monks against the deadly enemies who were in ambush against the clerics. And this is a corslet of faith for the protection of body and soul against devils and human beings and vices. Whosoever shall sing it every day, with pious meditation on God, devils will not stay before him. It will be a safeguard to him against all poison and envy. It will be a defence to him against sudden death. It will be a corslet to his soul after dying. Patrick chanted this when the ambushes were set against him by Loegaire, that he might not go to Tara to sow the faith, so that there they seemed before the liers-in-wait to be wild deer, with a fawn behind them, to wit, Benén. And Fâed Fiada ("Deer's Cry") is its name.'

    According to the story set forth in the Rolls Tripartite Life (p. 48), Patrick, with eight young clerics and Benén, his faithful servant or gillie, sometimes called his 'foster-son' (Tripartite, p. 144), passed safely through all the men who were lying in wait for them on the occasion of his visit to Tara. The persons lying in ambush saw only eight deer running away, and a fawn after them, which was Benén.
  2. 'The first word of this hymn Atomriug was mistaken by Dr. Petrie and Dr. O'Donovan for an obsolete form of the dative of Temur, Temoria or Tara, and was by them translated "At Tara." We cannot now regret this error, as to it we owe the publication of this curious poem in the Essay on Tara. But it is certainly a mistake, and was acknowledged as such by Dr. O'Donovan before his death. The word is a verb; ad-domriug, i.e., ad-riug, adjungo, with the infixed pronoun dom, "to me" (see Zeuss, Gram. Celt. p. 336); the verb riug, which occurs in the forms ad-riug, con-riug, signifies "to join."' (Dr. Todd's St. Patrick, p. 426.) The true analysis of the word was first pointed out by Dr. Whitley Stokes in the Saturday Review, September 5, 1857, p. 225.
  3. 'Drs. O'Donovan and Petrie translate the original word togairm, invoco, but it is a substantive, not a verb.' (Todd, p. 46.)
  4. Dr. Todd thought cretim in this line was a noun, but it is obviously the common verb, i.e., the Latin credo. The word for 'Threeness' is different from that for 'Trinity,' hence we have followed Dr. Whitley Stokes' new version. The sense is the same as that given in our former edition, 'the faith of the Trinity in Unity,' only fuller in expression. Fóisin in this line was rendered by Petrie 'under the.' But the correct reading is fóisitin, the instrumental sing. 'with the confession.' (See the Rolls Tripartite Life, pp. 48, 650.)
  5. The original is dail, genitive sing. of dal, 'judgment,' 'doom,' as in dal bâis, 'doom of death,' Leber na hUidre, p. 118 b., not dúile, 'elements,' as generally given. (See the Rolls Tripartite, pp. 566, 645.) Patrick seems to have had in mind the passage in Isaiah xlv. 7, where the words 'I make peace and create evil' [Vulg. et creans malu,] are used of God as 'the Creator of judgment.' Comp. Amos iii. 6.
    The expression in the Hymn 'the Creator of Judgment' or 'Creator of Doom,' appears to afford an undesigned evidence of the Patrician authorship of the poem. 'God of Judgment' (dar moDla mbratha—Lebar Brecc in the Rolls Tripartite, p. 460) was a favourite expression of Patrick (compare Isaiah xxx. 18, Malachi ii. 17, Deus judicii). Compare his saying: 'I cannot judge, but God will judge.' (Rolls Tripartite, p. 288.) Another expression, 'My God's doom!' or 'judgment' (mo debrod, mo debroth), was constantly in his mouth. (See the Rolls Tripartite, pp. 132, 138, 142, 168, 174, &c.) It is explained in the extraft from Cormac's Glossary, p. 571. The thoughts of the saint, on his way to Tara, must necessarily have dwelt much on the judgment and doom of idolaters in 'the day of vengeance of our God' (Isa. lxi. 2). The Irish for the 'judgment of doom' in the last line of the second stanza of the Hymn is brethemnas bratha. Hence we have used a different English word in these places to express the difference in the original Irish.
  6. Dr. Whitley Stokes has throughout 'virtue' in place of 'power.'
  7. The original is grad hiruphin, which is thus rendered by Dr. Whitley Stokes. The former translation was 'the love of seraphim.'
  8. This line is not in the Trinity College Liber Hymnorum. It is taken from the Bodleian copy.
  9. Dr. Todd renders 'in the prayers of the noble fathers.' Hennessy and Dr. Whitley Stokes, 'patriarchs.'
  10. The original has 'in the preachings' of apostles and 'in the faiths of confessors' in the plural, instead of 'preaching' and 'faith.'
  11. So the Bodleian copy. The Trinity College MS. has etrochta snechtai, i.e., 'whiteness of snow.'
  12. The line was formerly translated 'the force of tire, the flashing of lightning.
  13. Dr. Whitley Stokes would render 'firmness' or 'steadiness of rock.'
  14. So Dr. Whitley Stokes. The former translation was 'to give me speech.' Comp. 1 Peter iv. 11.
  15. So Dr. Whitley Stokes. The former version was 'to prevent me.'
  16. The translation of the word 'the lusts' is uncertain, and consequently there is a blank left here in Dr. Whitley Stokes' version.
  17. So Dr. Whitley Stokes. The former translation was 'with few or with many,' which gives almost the same sense.
  18. Dr. Whitley Stokes has 'I summon to-day all these virtues between me [and these evils].' Dr. Todd's translation is 'I have set around me.'
  19. So Dr. Whitley Stokes, as the Irish is heretecda. There are slight verbal changes in his translation here which are of little importance.
  20. Dr. Todd's translation is 'which blinds the soul of man,' the Trinity College MS. saying nothing of man's body (corp).
  21. So Dr. Whitley Stokes renders. The words are an imitation of Eph. iii, 18, 19, 'That ye being rooted and grounded in love, may be strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge.' The original in the Trinity College MS. is Crist illius, Crist issius [ipsius in the Bodleian MS.], Crist inerus. Dr. Whitley Stokes, in his Goidelica (2nd edit., London, 1872, p. 153), regards lius as a derivative of leth 'breadth'; sius as derived from sith, 'long'; and erus as a derivative of 'er,' which is glossed by uasal. This Irish gloss is decisive, and shows the reference to be to Eph. iii. The words in the original have not yet been discovered elsewhere in old Irish. The former version was 'Christ in the fort, Christ in the chariot-seat, Christ in the poop,' and was explained to mean: Christ with me when I am at home; Christ with me when I am travelling by land, and in the ship when I am travelling by water. The Irish words were formerly explained: lius as dat. sing. of les, 'fort'; sius as dat. of ses cognate with suidim, 'I sit'; erus as dat. sing. of eross, 'poop.'
  22. See note 5.
  23. The original of this antiphon is in Latin, the rest of the hymn is in Irish. The last stanza is—

    Domini est salus, Domini est salus, Christi est salus,
    Salus tua, Domine, sit semper nobiscum.