“St. Patrick of Armagh, Deliver Me From Writing.”

I grew up in a home with Book of Kells illustrations on the wall. During a recent trip to Ireland, I bought a couple of illustrations from Trinity College, got them framed, and they now sit on my eastern wall, and pick up the sunlight. Seeing the Book of Kells in person is a daunting and emotional experience, something I highly recommend. Not only is the book extraordinarily beautiful, but it is a pure example of the devotion of these monks to keep language/education alive during a difficult era. You cannot believe the detail in this work, and generations of monks worked on it.

And so this is extremely moving to me: complaints scribbled in the margins of illuminated manuscripts by the monks, hunched over their work by candlelight.

One reads: “This is sad! O little book! A day will come in truth when someone over your page will say, ‘The hand that wrote it is no more.”

But then, one reads: “Now I’ve written the whole thing; for Christ’s sake give me a drink.”

I have a deep love of marginalia as well, something I shared with my father. I’ve written about it before. It is difficult for me to even provide this link here, but I will, because it is related. Written in a dark dark time.

And while I share this wonderful link of monk complaints with you, certain that some of you out there will glory in it as I do, it is only because the one I want to send it to the most is not here anymore.

As the harbor is welcome to the sailor, so is the last line to the scribe.

Thanks so much, to Maud Newton, for linking to that piece.

This entry was posted in Books and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to “St. Patrick of Armagh, Deliver Me From Writing.”

  1. Desirae says:

    Oh, these are just lovely. I have book my grandfather gave me that is a collection of Newspaper articles from the beginning of the 20th century to the end of the 80’s or early 90’s. There’s an article in there about that woman that claimed to be Anastasia Romanov and my uncle has written “This was dispproven in [such and such year]” next to it. I know it is my uncle because he has helpfully signed his name.

  2. sheila says:

    Desirae – I have tears in my eyes. I just … love that. I can’t explain why I do. But I love it.

  3. sheila says:

    Desirae – I think it’s the impulse to communicate that I find so moving. The impulse to communicate not only with a book, the author of the book (or article) – but also to anyone else who comes after. Little snippets of communication thrust out into the universe, to be picked up later on. I just love these things, these remnants of other voices.

  4. Kent says:

    This is wonderful Sheila! Just don’t do it in the public library!

  5. Paul H. says:

    These are wonderful!

    “Thank God it will soon be dark” – This one really touched me – it brought a long dead and forgotten monk roaring back to life.

  6. sheila says:

    I also like “Oh my hand”. Any time I’ve seen one of these medieval manuscripts that’s always the first thing I think: “Their hands must have been hurting.” The second thing I think is always of their eyesight.

  7. bethann says:

    You have such a rich and interesting culture. There aren’t many Irish folks around where I live and it is very interesting to read about yours. AND you’ve been back to Ireland also which only makes it that much sweeter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *