Posted by: anna | November 23, 2010

St. Elaeth the Poet

Today (10 November) we commemorate St. Elaeth (Eleth, misspelled Eleath) the Poet (6th C).
from Baring-Gould & Fisher: S. ELAETH, King, Confessor

ELAETH, king, saint, and bard, was the son of Meurig ab Idno, of the race of Coel Hen, by Onen Greg (“Ash-tree the Hoarse”), daughter of Gwallog ab Lleenog, one of the three “Battle-pillars of Britain.” Gwallog is sometimes also given as father of Dwywai, wife of Dunawd.

Elaeth Frenin [Elaeth the king] seems to have been in the earlier part of his life king or chieftain of a district somewhere in the north of England, but having been overpowered by his enemies, and having lost his territory, he sought refuge in Anglesey, and became a Saint or monk of Bangor Seiriol at Penmon. Whilst there he founded the church of Llan Elaeth Frenin, now known as Amlwch, in that island.

His Holy Well there, Ffynnon Elaeth, was formerly held in high repute for its cure of various ailments, and also for its fish divination. An eel was kept in it, and a person living close by, acting as “priest,” drew his auguries from the motions and actions of the eel when it appeared. Sometimes it remained out of sight for days, and the inquirer was in consequence detained there until it thought good to make its appearance.

The festival of S. Elaeth, November 10, is given in the Calendars in Peniarth MS. 187, the Grammar of John Edwards of Chirkland (1481), and Additional MS. 14,882, and by Browne Willis, but on the 11th in the Calendar in Peniarth MS. 219, no doubt by mistake. There are two poems, of seven stanzas each, ascribed to Elaeth as author in the twelfth century Black Book of Carmarthen. The first is headed Cynghogion, from a complicated metre so-called, though the poem itself is simple enough in its construction. The second is more intricate and less intelligible. Both pieces are of a religious character and written in a strain of deepest piety. If Elaeth be their author, they were no doubt composed by him after he had become a monk. The key-note of the first poem is contained in the first triplet:

Now gone are my ardour and liveliness :
If I have erred I truly acknowledge it ;
May the Lord not inflict upon me severe pain !

The second poem cannot, we think, reflect sixth or seventh century Celtic theology in the following stanzas:

I love to praise Peter, who can bestow true peace,
And, with him, his far-extending virtues ;
In every language he is, with hope, acknowledged
As the gentle, high-famed, generous porter of Heaven.
Of God I will ask another request,
That my soul, to be safe from the torments of enemies,
And held in remembrance, may have
The protection of the Virgin Mary and the holy maidens.


More about St Elaeth
Troparion of St Elaeth tone 8

Thou didst exchange armed combat with the heathen for the spiritual warfare of the monastic life, O Father Eleath./ Look on those who now hymn thee, O thou who didst praise God with thy poetic talents He gave thee,/ and intercede with Christ our God that our souls may be saved.

Holy Father Elaeth, pray to God for us.

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