Samuel Barber – The Heavenly Banquet (verses by St Brigid of Kildare)


Hermit Songs, op. 29 (1953), no. 4

Composer: Samuel Barber (1910-1981)
Baritone: Gerald Finley
Piano: Julius Drake

The Heavenly Banquet

I would like to have the men of Heaven in my own house;
with vats of good cheer laid out for them.
I would like to have the three Mary’s,
their fame is so great.
I would like people from every corner of Heaven.
I would like them to be cheerful in their drinking.
I would like to have Jesus sitting here among them.
I would like a great lake of beer for the King of Kings.
I would like to be watching Heaven’s family
Drinking it through all eternity.

Verses attributed to St Brigid (10th century), translation by Seán Ó Faoláin

1 February – Feast of St Brigid of Kildare

St Brigid of Kildare

On 1 February, the beginning of Celtic Spring,  the western Church, particularly in the Celtic lands, is celebrating the feast of St Brigid of Kildare – c. 451–525 (also called Brigit or Bridget). A controversial feature of her life, to which the staff in the picture above alludes, is that she might have been inadvertently ordained as a bishop. This may have not been true, but historians agree that Brigit enjoyed tremendous authority in the Celtic Church of her time.

Most probably, the Celtic Church chose this day to celebrate one of its most venerated women saints, in order to Christianise the traditional Celtic festival called Imbolc.

In the old Celtic tradition, ‘Imbolc, also known as the Feast of Brigid, on February 1 celebrates the arrival of longer, warmer days and the early signs of spring. It is one of the four major “fire” festivals (quarter days), referred to in Irish mythology from medieval Irish texts. The other three festivals on the old Irish calendar are Beltane, Lughnasadh and Samhain. The word Imbolc means literally “in the belly” in the Old Irish Neolithic language, referring to the pregnancy of ewes. In ancient Irish mythology Brigid was a fire goddess.’ (Source, HERE).

St. Brigid is ‘patron of babies; blacksmiths; boatmen; cattle farmers; children whose parents are not married; children whose mothers are mistreated by the children’s fathers; Clan Douglas; dairymaids; dairy workers; fugitives; infants; Ireland; Leinster, mariners; midwives; milk maids; nuns; poets; poor; poultry farmers; poultry raisers; printing presses; sailors; scholars; travelers; watermen’, and beer makers.

Samuel Barber has composed one of his Hermit Songs, Op 26, on poetry attributed to St. Brigid, which I will post separately (see HERE). Continue reading “1 February – Feast of St Brigid of Kildare”