Composed close to the saint’s own lifetime. The poem is an acrostic in the original Latin.
Hear all ye who love God, the holy merits
Of the Bishop Patrick, a man blessed in Christ;
How, on account of his good actions, he is likened unto the angels,
And for his perfect life, is counted equal to the Apostles.
He keepeth the commandments of the blessed Christ in all things;
His works shine brightly before men,
Who follow his holy and admirable example,
Whence also they glorify the Lord his Father which is in heaven.
Steadfast in the fear of the Lord, and immovable in faith,
On whom, as on Peter, the Church is built;
Who received his apostleship from God.
The gates of hell shall not prevail against him.
The Lord chose him to teach the barbarous nation
To fish [for men] with the nets of doctrine,
To draw believers from the world unto grace,
That they might follow the Lord to the heavenly seat.
He trades with the choice Gospel talents of Christ,
Which he puts out at usury among the Hibernian nations,
Destined hereafter, along with Christ, to possess the joy of the heavenly kingdom,
As a recompense for this labor.
A faithful minister and distinguished messenger of God,
He shows to the good an apostolic example and pattern;
Who preaches to the people of God, as well by deeds by words,
So that by good works he may provoke those to imitation, whom he does not convert by his word
He has glory with Christ, and honor in this world,
Being venerated by all as the angel of God;
Whom God sent, even as Paul, to be an apostle to the gentiles,
To guide men unto the kingdom of God.
Humble, through fear of God, both in spirit and behavior,
Upon whom an account of his good actions rests the Spirit of the Lord:
Who beareth in his righteous flesh the marks of Christ,
In whose cross alone he glories and sustains himself
He diligently feedeth believers with heavenly food
Lest those who are seen with Christ should faint by the way:
To whom he distributes the words of the Gospel like the loaves
In whose hands they are multiplied like the manna.
Who, through the love of God, keepeth his flesh pure,
Having prepared it to be a temple for the Holy Spirit,
By whom it is constantly possessed with good motions;
And who offers up his body a living sacrifice, well pleasing to the Lord.
He is a great and burning evangelical light of the world,
Set upon a candlestick, shining unto the whole world;
A strong city of the king, set upon a hill,
In which is much store of the riches of the Lord.
He shall be called the greatest in the kingdom of heaven
Who fulfills, by good works, what he teaches in his holy discourses.
He goes before with a good example, and a pattern to the faithful,
And in a pure heart has faith towards God.
He boldly preaches the name of the Lord to the Gentiles,
To whom he gives the eternal grace of the laver of salvation;
For whose offenses he daily prays to God:
For whom also he offers up sacrifices worthy of God.
He despises all the glory of the world, in comparison with the divine law,
Counting all things as but chaff, compared with Christ's table;
Nor is he disturbed by the violence of the thunder of this world
But rejoices in tribulation when he suffers for Christ.
A good and faithful shepherd of the Gospel-flock,
Chosen by God, to watch the people of God,
And to feed, with divine doctrines, the nation;
For which, after the example of Christ, he is giving his life.
Whom the Savior advanced for his merits, to be a bishop,
That he might exhort the clergy in the heavenly warfare,
To whom he distributes the bread from heaven, along with garments,
Which is fulfilled in his divine and holy discourses.
A messenger of the king, inviting believers to the marriage,
Who is arrayed in the wedding garment;
Who draws the heavenly wine in heavenly vessels,
Pledging the people of God in the spiritual cup.
He finds in the sacred volume a sacred treasure,
Which he purchases with his holy and perfect merits.
He discerns also the Godhead of the Savior in the flesh.
He is named Israel, beholding God in his spirit.
A faithful witness of God in the catholic doctrine,
Whose words are seasoned with the divine oracles,
So that they are not corrupted, like human flesh, and eaten of worms;
But are salted with a heavenly savor for the sacrifice.
A true and excellent cultivator of the Gospel field,
Whose seeds are seen to be the Gospels of Christ,
Which he sows from his divine mouth in the ears of the wise,
And tills their hearts and minds with the Holy Spirit.
Christ chose him to be his vicar on the earth,
Who liberates captives from a two-fold bondage;
And of the many whom he has redeemed from the bondage of men,
Releases numberless persons from the dominion of the devil.
He sings hymns, with the Apocalypse, and the Psalms of God,
On which also he discourses, for the edification of the people of God;
Which scripture he believes in the Trinity of the sacred Name,
And teaches the one substance in three Persons.
Girt with the girdle of the Lord, by day and night,
He prays without ceasing to the Lord God,
Receiving the reward of which great labor,
He shall reign with the holy apostles over Israel.
Translation by Thomas Olden, in The Epistles and Hymn of Saint Patrick, with the Poem of Secundinus, translated into English. Published in 1876 by Hodges, Foster, & Co., Grafton St., Dublin
Medieval tales of Saint Patrick’s miracles have led many scholars to automatically assume that all literature about the saint must be legendary. But in this case, the suspicion seems ungrounded. The only serious objection to the poem’s authenticity is that the praises of Patrick are extravagant; but while the writer’s testimony is unreserved, it is not exaggerated.
The poem is written in what most closely resembles fifth-century Gallic Latin, not the later Irish Latin of the later writings about St Patrick. This suggests a writer from the Continent, not an Irish hagiographer.
Although it is clearly related to Patrick’s own Confession, the poem has nothing in common with Patrick’s own writing; this would be the case if it were written by a companion, not by a later reader of the Confession.
The poem does not dwell on miracles, unlike the later Irish hagiographies in which Patrick is primarily a wonderworker. Rather, the poem emphasizes the difficulties and effectiveness of Patrick’s missionary episcopate.
In “The Hymn of St. Secundinus in Honour of St. Patrick” Eoin MacNeill writes, “If there were no traditional ascription, there would be sufficient grounds for holding that the poem was composed in Patrick’s lifetime and not by an Irish author.” This is the conclusion of his fascinating article published in Irish Historical Studies Vol. 2, No. 6 (Sep., 1940), pp. 129-153 (25 pages)