The Life of Saint David (Dewi)

written in about1090 by Rhygyvarch
(Life of St. David, Arthur W. Wade-Evans (1923))

See Reconstructing the Life of St. David for determining his correct date of his birth and death.

Here begins the Life of the Blessed David, who also is Dewi, Bishop and Confessor. March 1st.


Our Lord, although he loved and foreknew all his own before the creation of the world, has foretold some by many clear revelations. Thus that saint, whom baptism calls David but the people Dewi, became famous, not only because, thirty years before he was born, he was foretold by truth-telling oracles of angels, first to his father, then to Saint Patrick, but also because he was enriched with donations of mystical gifts.


For on a certain occasion, his father, Sant by name and merits, who relied on his royal power over the people of Ceredigion, which subsequently he laid aside to procure a heavenly kingdom, was warned in dreams by an angelic voice, which he heard, Tomorrow on waking you shalt find there three gifts by the river Teivi, namely, the stag which you pursue, a fish, and a swarm of bees settled in a tree in the place which is called Llyn Henllan. Of these three, therefore, reserve a honeycomb, a part of the fish, and of the stag, which send to be kept for a son, who shall be born to you, to the Monastery of Maucannus, which till now is called the Monastery of the Deposit. These gifts foretell his life, for the honeycomb proclaims his wisdom, for as honey in wax, so he held a spiritual mind in a temporal body. And the fish declares his aquatic life, for as a fish lives in water, so he, rejecting wine and beer and everything that can intoxicate, led a blessed life in God on bread and water only, wherefore David is also named of the Aquatic Life. The stag signifies his power over the Old Serpent, for as a stag, having deprived serpents of their food, seeks a fountain of water and is refreshed as in youth with the strength received, so he, borne on high as on stags' feet, deprived the Old Serpent of the human race of his power of hurting him and fled to the fountain of life with constant flowings of tears, and, being renewed from day to day, so brought it to pass that in the name of the Holy Trinity, by the frugality of moderate repasts, he began to have saving knowledge [and] the power of governing demons.


Then Patrick, polished with Roman learning and teeming with excellences, having been made a bishop, sought the people from whom he had lived in exile, among whom he might by unwearied toil replenish the lamp of fruitful endeavor by a double portion of the oil of charity, unwilling to place the same under a bushel, but on a stand that it might shine on all to the glory of the universal Father. He came to the country of the people of Ceredigion, wherein he sojourned a little while. He enters Demetica rura, the country of Dyved, and there wandering about arrived at length at the place which was named Vallis Rosina; and perceiving that the place was pleasant, he vowed to serve God faithfully there. But when he was revolving these things in his mind, an angel of the Lord appeared to him. God, said he, has not disposed this place for you, but for a son who is not yet born, nor will he be born until thirty years are past. On hearing these words Saint Patrick grieved and was confounded, and in anger he exclaimed, Why has the Lord despised his servant who has served him from his infancy with fear and love? Why has he chosen another not yet born into this light nor will be born for thirty years? And he prepared to fly, and to abandon his Lord, Jesus Christ, saying, Inasmuch as my labour is reduced to nothing in the sight of my Lord, and one is preferred before me, who is not yet born, I will go and submit no longer to such toil. But the Lord loved Patrick much, and sent to him his angel to coax him with kindly words, saying to him, Rejoice, Patrick, for the Lord hath sent me to you that I may show you the whole of the island of Ireland from the seat which is in Vallis Rosina, which now is named the Seat of Patrick. And the angel says to him, Exult, Patrick, for you shall be the apostle of the whole of that island which you see, and you shall suffer many things in it for the name of the Lord your God, but the Lord will be with you in all things which you shall do, for as yet it has not received the word of life; and there you ought to do good; there the Lord has prepared a seat for you; there you shall shine in signs and miracles, and you shall subdue the whole people to God. Let this be to you for a sign. I will show you the whole island. Let the mountains be bent; the sea shall be made smooth; the eye bearing forth across all things, looking out from [this] place, shall behold the promise. At these words he raised his eyes from the place in which he was standing, which now is called the Seat of Patrick, and beheld the whole island. At length the mind of Patrick was appeased, and he cheerfully quitted the sacred spot for holy David; and preparing a ship in Porth Mawr, he raised from the dead a certain old man, Criumther by name, who for twelve years had lain buried by that shore; and Patrick sailed for Ireland, taking with him the man he had just raised from the dead, who afterwards was made a bishop.


When the aforesaid thirty years were done, divine power sent Sant, king of the country of Ceredigion, as far as a community of the people of Dyved. And the king met a nun, a virgin called Nonnita, a very beautiful and graceful girl, whom desiring he took by force and violated. And she conceived her son, holy David, who neither before nor after knew a man, but, continuing in chastity of mind and body, led a most faithful life, for from that time of conception she lived on bread and water only. In the place wherein she conceived on being forced, there lies a small level space, pleasing to the sight, and well supplied with moisture from above. On this level space at that time of her conception two great stones appeared, one for the head and the other for the feet, which had not formerly been seen. For the earth, rejoicing at her conception, opened its breast that it might both preserve the modesty of the girl and foretell the importance of her offspring.


As her womb was growing, the mother, for the purpose of offering alms and oblations for childbirth according to correct custom, enters a certain church to hear the preaching of the Gospel, which Saint Gildas, son of Caw, used to preach in the time of King Triphunus and his sons. When the mother had entered, Gildas became suddenly dumb, as if his throat were closed, and was silent. When asked by the people why he had stopped preaching and was mute, he replied, I am able to speak to you in ordinary conversation, but preach I cannot. But go you out, and cause me to abide alone that so perhaps I may be able to preach. When, therefore, the congregation had gone outside, the mother secreted herself in a corner and lay hid, not that she would disobey the order, but thirsting with vehement desire for the precepts of life she remained to demonstrate the status of her mighty offspring. Then even a second time, trying with all the effort of his heart, restrained from heaven he prevailed nothing. Being frightened at this he speaks out in a high voice. I adjure you, says he, if any one lies hid from me, that you should show yourself from your hiding place. Then she answering said, I lie hid here between the door and the wall. But he relying on divine providence said, Go outside, but let the people re-enter the church. And every one came into his seat as before, and Gildas preached clearly as from a trumpet. And the congregation asked holy Gildas saying, Why could you not the first time preach the Gospel of Christ to us, anxious to listen? And Gildas answered and said, Call hither the nun, who went outside the church. And when the mother was questioned, she confessed that she was pregnant, and Saint Nonnita said, Lo, I am with you. But he said, The son, who is in the womb of that nun, has grace and power and rank greater than I, because God has given him status and sole rule and primacy over all the saints of Britannia for ever, before and after judgment. Farewell, brothers and sisters. I am not able to abide here longer owing to the son of this nun, because to him is delivered sole rule over all the people of this island, and it is necessary for me to go to another island, and to leave the whole of Britannia to this woman's son. One thing was clearly manifest to all, that she was about to bring forth into the world one who in honourable status, effulgent wisdom, and eloquent speech would excel all the doctors of Britannia.


In the meantime there was a certain tyrant in the neighbourhood, who had heard from a prophecy of the druids, that a son was about to be born within his borders, whose power would fill the whole country. He, who, intent on earthly things only, deemed his highest good to consist in these lowest, was tortured with black envy. And so the place, where subsequently the son was born, being made known by the revelation of the druids, he said, Alone will I sit above the spot for so many days, and whomsoever I shall find resting there or thereabouts shall fall and die by my sword. These things being so determined upon, and the nine months having elapsed whereby the time of birth was at hand, the mother on a day went forth along that path where the place of childbearing was, which the tyrant was watching in accordance with the druid's prognostic. And as the time for bringing forth was urgent, the mother sought the aforesaid spot. But on that day there prevailed such a storm of wind that none could even go out of doors, for there was a vast display of lightning, a dreadful clangor of thunder, and great floods caused by hailstorms and rain. But the place, wherein the mother cried in her travail, shone with so serene a light that it glistened as though the sun was visible and God had brought it in front of the clouds. The mother in her labour had a certain stone close by, whereon, when urged by pain, she had leaned with her hands, for which reason the stone shows to those who examine it traces impressed as on wax. Dividing in the middle, it condoled with the sorrowing mother, one part leaping above the nun's head as far as her feet, when the child-bearer was bringing forth. In this place a church is situated, and in the foundation of its altar this stone lies covered.


Again, when he was baptized by Aelvyw, bishop of the people of Mynyw (or of the people of Munster), a fountain of clearest water, bursting forth, suddenly appeared in that place for the administration of baptism, which had never been seen before. Moreover, it cured the eyes of a blind monk, who held him while he was baptized; for that blind saint, who, so it is said, had been born from his mother's womb without nostril and without eyes, perceiving that the infant, which he held in his bosom, was full of the grace of the Holy Ghost, took the water, wherein the body of the holy infant had been thrice dipped, and sprinkled his own face with it three times, and, sooner than said, he joyfully received the sight of his eyes and the full complement of his countenance. And all who were present glorified the Lord and holy David on that day.


The place where holy David was educated is called Vetus Rubus, Hen Vynyw; and he grew up full of grace, and lovely to behold. And there it was that holy David learned the alphabet, the psalms, the lessons for the whole year, the masses, and the synaxis; and there his fellow-disciples saw a pigeon with a gold beak playing at his lips, and teaching him, and singing hymns of God.


But it was at a subsequent time, when his virtuous merits had increased, he having preserved his flesh pure from the embraces of a wife, that he was made priest and raised to sacerdotal dignity.


After this he went to Paulens (or Paulinus) the scribe, a disciple of St. Germanus the bishop, who in a certain island was leading a life pleasing to God, and who taught him in the three parts of reading until he was a scribe. And Saint David tarried there many years reading and fulfilling what he read.


And it happened that while the holy David was with the master, Paulens, that the latter lost the sight of his eyes by reason of an intense pain in them. And he summoned all his disciples in succession that they might look into his eyes and bless them, and they did as he had commanded them, and received relief from none of them. At last he invited the holy David to him, and said to him, Holy David, examine my eyes, for they pain me much. And the holy David answered and said, My father, bid me not to look on thy countenance, for these ten years I have laboured at scripture with you, and so far I have not glanced at your face. And Paulens, admiring his excessive modesty, says, As it is so, it will suffice that you bless my eyes with a touch and I shall be well. And straightway, as he touched them, they were healed in the twinkling of an eye; and when the blindness of his eyes had been expelled, the master received the light which had been removed. Then thanks are rendered to God; and Paulens (or Paulinus) blessed holy David with all the blessings which are written in the Old Testament and in the New.


Not long after an angel appeared to Paulens. It is time (said he) that holy David should double his talents by merchandise, and consign the talent of wisdom entrusted to him not to the earth, digging indolently with the slow languor of sloth, but augment the money which he has received of his Lord, with a larger increment of gain, so that he, appointed thereto, might, by amassing bundles of souls for the heavenly barns of eternal blessedness, bring them into the joy of the Lord. For from what numbers, after ploughing with the nail of exhortation and sowing with the seed of wheat, did he obtain the fruit of good harvest, of some indeed a hundred-fold, of others sixty-fold, of others thirty-fold! For not ploughing equally, with much force in the case of an ox and with less in the case of an ass, administering the strong meat of life to some and the milk of pious exhortation to others, confining some within the barriers of a monastic cloister and weaning others, who followed a broader life and whom he exhorted with divers instructions, from the deceitful lusts of worldly pleasures, he became all things to all men.


For he founded twelve monasteries to the praise of God: first, arriving at Glastonbury, he built a church there; then he came to Bath, and there causing deadly water to become salutary with a blessing, he endowed it with perpetual heat, rendering it fit for people to bathe; afterwards he came to Croyland, and Repton; thence to Colva, and Glascwm, and he had with him a two-headed altar; after that he founded the monastery of Leominster; afterwards in the region of Gwent, in a place which is called Raglan, he built a church; then he founded a monastery in a place which is called Llan Gyvelach, in the region of Gower, in which, afterwards, he received the altar, which was sent to him. Also he cured Peibio, the blind king of Erging, by restoring light to his eyes. Moreover, two saints, Boducat and Maitrun, in the province of Cedweli, submitted to him.


When, therefore, these had been founded in the usual way, and what was of use for canonical discipline had been arranged, and a rule for the monastic life had been established, he returned to the place, whence he had previously started forth on his wanderings, that is, to Vetus Rubus, Hen Vynyw. And bishop Guistilianus, his fratruelis, sojourned there; and as they comforted one another with religious talk, Saint David said, An angel of the Lord has spoken to me saying, ‘From the place where thou dost propose to serve, scarcely one in a hundred will be able to escape to the kingdom of God.' And he has shown me a place whence few shall go to hell, for everyone who shall have been buried in the cemetery of that place in sound faith shall obtain mercy.


On a certain day David and his three most faithful disciples, accompanied by a great throng of fellow-disciples, meet together, to wit, Aeddan, Eiludd and Ysvael, and with one mind they go together to the place which the angel had mentioned beforehand, that is, Vallis Rosina, which the Britons commonly call Hodnant, in which place, when the first hearth had been kindled in the name of the Lord, the smoke rose upwards, and circling round filled, as it seemed, the whole of the island and Ireland besides.


In the vicinity near the spot there was a certain chieftain and druid, called Bwya, an Irishman, who sitting within the walls of his citadel while the beams of the sun were scattered over the world, trembled at the sight of such a portent and was overcome; and he was stirred with such resentment that he forgot his meal and spent the whole day grieving. To whom his wife came and asked why in so unwonted a manner he had forgotten his repast. Why so sad and cast down, said she, are you grieving in yourself? To this he answered, I grieve to have seen smoke rising from Vallis Rosina, which encircled the whole country, for I hold it as certain that the kindler of that fire shall excel all in power and renown in every part that the smoke of his sacrifice has encircled even to the end of the world, for that smoke as by a token predicts his fame. His wife, enraged, said to him, Arise, and take a troop of servants, and with drawn swords follow up that man and his servants who have dared such an offence as to kindle fire on your lands without your bidding, and destroy them all. Bwya and his followers arrived to slay David and his disciples, but a fever suddenly took them as they proceeded on their way, and they were powerless to kill David or his attendants, but they blasphemed the Lord and holy David, and uttered evil words, for the wish to injure was not wanting, although the power to act was thwarted by the will of the Eternal and rendered void. When they had returned thence home, they met his wife, who said, Our cattle and beasts of burden and sheep and all the stock are dead. And Bwya and his wife and all his household lamented bitterly, and they all wailed together and said, That saint and his disciples, whom we blasphemed, have caused the death of our cattle. Let us, therefore, turn back and asking for mercy on bended knees, let us pray the servant of God that he may so perchance pity us and the cattle. And they return and approach the servant of God, and ask for mercy with tears and entreaties. The land, say they, whereon you are, shall be yours forever. And Bwya gave that day to holy David the whole of Vallis Rosina for a perpetual possession. And David, the servant of God, answered kindly, Your cattle, said he, shall be restored to life. And Bwya, when he returned home, found his cattle alive and well.


Next day his wife, inflamed by malicious envy, called together her female slaves. Go you, said she, to the river which is called Alun, and display your naked bodies in the sight of the saints, and indulge in lewd talk. The female slaves obey, they make shameless sport, they simulate coition, they display love's alluring embraces. They entice the minds of some of the monks to wanton thoughts, and cause unrest in those of others. But all his disciples, unable to endure this intolerable affront, said to holy David, Let us fly from this place because we cannot dwell here owing to the molestation of these spiteful sluts. But the father, Saint David, firm in patient longsuffering, whose purpose was neither dissolved when softened by prosperity, nor terrified when weakened by adversity, Know, said he, that the world hates you, but understand that the people of Israel, accompanied by the ark of the covenant, when they entered the land of promise, having been beaten in successive perilous battles but not overcome, destroyed the people dwelling near and the uncircumcised, which struggle by a clear token indicates our victory. For he, who seeks the promise of the heavenly country, must needs be wearied with adversities and yet not overcome, but at the last with Christ as comrade conquer the unclean stain of vices. We ought, therefore, not to be overcome of evil, but to overcome evil with good, because if Christ is for us, who is against us? Be strong, therefore, in a war which may be won, lest your enemy rejoice in your flight. We ought to remain, and Bwya to leave. With these words he strengthened the hearts of the disciples, and that night David fasted and his disciples till the morning.


That day Bwya's wife said to her stepdaughter, Let us go together to the valley of the Alun and let us look for its cucumeri, that we may find nuts in them. And she humbly answered her stepmother, Behold, I am ready. They went together to the bottom of the aforesaid valley, and when they had arrived there, the stepmother sat down and spoke softly to her stepdaughter, Dunod by name: Place your head in my lap, for I wish quietly to examine your locks. And the guileless girl, who from her infancy had lived piously and chastely amid crowds of the worst women, bends her inoffensive head on the lap of her stepmother. But that savage stepmother quickly drew forth her knife, and cut off the head of that most happy virgin. Her blood flowed on the earth, and there sprang up from that spot a clear running fountain, which has healed in abundance many human sicknesses; which spot the people call to this day Merthyr Dunod. The stepmother fled from Bwya, and no one under heaven knows by what death she ended her life. And so Bwya the chieftain wept bitterly, but David with his disciples sang praises to the eternal God.


And so Bwya resolved to destroy holy David, but his enemy, Lisci by name, the son of Paucaut, cut off his head in his citadel, for his gate lay open at daybreak, when his enemy arrived unexpectedly from his ship; and soon fire fell from heaven and speedily burnt up the whole of his building. Let no one doubt that it was the Lord for his servant, David's, sake, who struck down Bwya and his wife. For it is meet that destruction should overtake him, who was threatening with slaughter the man of God, and that he who was pitiless to the servants of God should suffer vengeance without pity.


The malice of enemies having thus been expelled by the good God, the monastic community in the Lord built a notable monastery in the place, which the angel had foreshown.


And when everything was completed, the saintly father decreed with fervour such rigour of cenobitical purpose that every monk should toil at daily labour, and spend his life in common, working with his hands, for he who labours not, says the apostle, let him not eat. For knowing that untroubled rest was the fomenter and mother of vices, he subjected the shoulders of the monks to divine fatigues. For those, who bend thought and time to leisurely repose, generate an unstable spirit of apathy and restless incitements to lust.


Therefore with increasing zeal they labour with hand and foot; they place the yoke on their shoulders; with unwearied arm they dig into the ground mattocks and spades; they carry in their saintly hands hoes and saws for cutting; they provide with their own labour all the necessities of the community. Possessions they regard with disdain; they reject the gifts of the unjust; they detest riches. No care of oxen is introduced for ploughing. Each to himself and the brethren is riches, each too an ox. When work was done, no complaint was heard, no conversation was held beyond what was necessary. But each did the task enjoined either with prayer or well-directed meditation.


When outside labour was finished, they returned to the cells of the monastery, and spent the whole day till evening in reading or writing or praying. On the approach of evening, when the stroke of the bell was heard, each one left his study, for if the stroke should sound in the ears of anyone, the top of a letter having been written or even half the form of that letter, they rose up the more quickly and left their tasks, and thus in silence proceeded to church without any idle talk. When the chanting of the psalms is done, the voice being in accord with the intention of the heart, they worship on bended knees until the stars are seen in heaven bringing the day to a close. The father alone, after all had gone out, poured forth a prayer in secret to God for the state of the Church.


At length they assemble at table. They relieve, each one, their wearied limbs, refreshed by partaking of supper, not however to excess, for too much, though it be of bread only, produces wantonness, but on that occasion they all take supper in accordance with the varying condition of their bodies and ages. Not dishes of various tastes lie before them or too dainty provisions, but having fed on bread and herbs seasoned with salt, they assuage ardent thirst with a temperate sort of drink. On that occasion they provide for the sick and those advance in age, and even those wearied with a long journey, some refreshments of a more appetising sort, for one must not weight out to all in equal measure.


After giving of thanks, they go to the church at the canonical ringing, and there they are insistent in watchings, prayers, and genuflections for about three hours. As long as they prayed in church, none dared unrestrainedly to yawn, none to sneeze, none to spit.


These things being so done, they compose their limbs for sleep. Waking and cockcrow, they devote themselves to prayer on bended knee, and then spend the whole day without sleep from morning to night. And in like manner they serve through other nights.


From the eve of the sabbath until after dawn light shall have begun in the first hour of the Lord's Day they apply themselves to watchings, prayers, and genuflections, one hour then being excepted after the matins of the sabbath.


They open out their thoughts to the father, and obtain the father's permission even for the requirements of nature. All things are common. Nothing is mine or yours, for anyone who should say either my book or whatnot, would straightway be subjected to hard penance. They were wont to wear mean garments, especially skins. Obedience was not lacking to the father's order. There was exceeding perseverance in doing what was to be done. There was uprightness in all.


For he who, desiring this manner of saintly living, should ask to enter the community of the brethren, would first remain for ten days at the doors of the monastery as one rejected, being subjected also to reproachful words. But if he stood his ground, duly exercising patience till the tenth day, he was first received under the elder who by authority presided over the entrance and served him. And when he had toiled there for a long time, many antipathies of his soul being broken, he was at length deemed worthy of entering the society of the brethren.


No superfluity was allowed; voluntary poverty was loved. For whosoever desired their mode of life, the saintly father would receive none of his substance, which he had parted with in renouncing the world, not even one penny, so to speak, for the use of the monastery. But being received naked, as one escaping from shipwreck, he might in no way extol or raise himself among the brethren, or relying on his wealth fail to enter upon equal toil with the brethren. Nor, vacillating as to the way of religion, might he extort by force what he left to the monastery, and move to wrath the patience of the brethren.


The father himself pouring forth fountains of tears daily, irradiating with censed holocausts of prayers, and blazing with a double flame of charity, consecrated with pure hands the due oblation of the Lord's Body, and thus after matins proceeded alone to angelic discourse. After this he immediately used to seek cold water, in which by lingering a long while wet he subdued every heat of the flesh. Afterwards he was wont to spend the whole day, unshaken and unwearied, in teaching, praying, and genuflecting, in care for the brethren, and also in feeding a multitude of the bereft, orphans, widows, the needy, the weak, the infirm, and pilgrims. So he began, continued, and ended. As for the rest of his severe living, although necessary for imitation, the intended shortness of this little work forbids us to set it forth. But imitating the Egyptian monks he led a life similar to theirs.


When, therefore, the report of holy David's good name was heard, kings and princes of this world abandon their kingdoms and seek his monastery. Hence it was that Constantine, king of the Cornishmen, abandoned his kingdom and bent the necks of his pride, untamed before, in humble obedience in the monastery of this father. And when he had followed this mode of life for a long time in faithful service, he at length founded a monastery in another far-off country.


On a certain day when the brethren were assembled together, they complain, saying, This place of yours, say they, has waters in winter, but in summer scarcely does the river flow in a tiny stream. Having heard this, the holy father started out and arrived at a place very near, where an angel was wont to talk with him; and praying there hard and long, with eyes raised to heaven, he asked for the water needed. With the voice of his praying there flowed a fountain of clearest water. And because the country was not fruitful in vines, it was turned into wine for the use of the sacrament of the Lord's Body and Blood so that in his time it never lacked pure wine, a most worthy gift to such a man from the Lord God. But we know of other sweet waters too, given by the disciples in imitation of the father, serviceable for human use and health.


Also, on a day, a certain rustic, named Terdi, praying and beseeching much, sought from him services of love, saying, Our land is drained dry of water, wherefore we have a laborious journey to get water, for the river is a long way off. The holy father, pitying the need of his neighbours, humbly started forth, believing that he could find water by the suppliant request of his prayer and by his most humble compassion. Starting out, therefore, and opening a little bit of the surface of the soil with the point of his bachall, a most clear fountain gushed forth, which, bubbling up in a continual vein, supplies the coldest water in time of heat.


On another occasion while Saint Aeddan, his disciple, chanced to be reading out of doors to confirm what he had received of doctrine, the prior of the monastery came and bade him take two oxen and go bring timber from the valley, for the wood was situated at a distance. Aeddan, the disciple, obeyed sooner than the word, without even stopping to close the book, and made for the wood. When the timber was made ready and placed on the animals, he took the road back. Now as the road on which he traveled led to a steep precipice, the oxen were hurled into the sea together with the vehicle. As they are rushing over, he makes the sign of the cross over them, and so it was that he received the oxen safe and sound from the waves, together with the vehicle, and joyfully proceeded on his way. While he journeyed, there begins such a deluge of rain that the ditches flowed in torrents. When the journey was done, and the oxen released from toil, he goes where he had left the book and finds it open and uninjured by the rain even as he left it. While the brethren were listening to these events, both the grace of the father and the humility of the disciple were equally extolled. For the grace of the father pointed to the book, untouched by the rain and preserved for the obedient disciple, while the humility of the disciple preserves the oxen safe for the father.


When Saint Aeddan had been fully instructed, being potent in virtues and thoroughly purified from vices, he made for Ireland. And having constructed a monastery there, which in the Irish language is called Guernin, Ferns, he led a most holy life.


When on an Easter Eve he was the more earnestly engaged in prayer, an angel appeared to him, saying, Do you know that tomorrow at mealtime poison will be placed by certain of the brethren before the venerable Saint David, to wit, your father? Saint Aeddan answered and said, I know it not. The angel said to him, Send one of the servants to the father to tell him. Saint Aeddan answered and said, Neither is there a ship ready, nor is the wind right for sailing. The angel said to him, Let your fellow disciple, called Scutinus, proceed to the seashore, for I will bear him across thither. The disciple obeys and goes to the shore, and enters the water to his knee. And a monster took him and carried him across to the confines of the monastery.


When the solemnities of Easter were over, the holy father, Saint David, goes to the refectory to a meal with the brethren. There met him his former disciple, Scutinus, who told him all the things which had been done against him and what the angel had enjoined concerning him. They joyfully recline together in the refectory, giving thanks to God. When prayer was ended, up rose the deacon, who had been wont to minister to the father, and placed on the table the bread prepared with poison, the cellarer and the prior consenting to the same. Scutinus, who has also another name, Scolanus, stood up and said, Today, brother, you will perform no service to the father, for I myself will do it. The deacon withdrew in confusion, being conscious of the crime, and rigid with astonishment. And holy David took the poisoned bread, and dividing it into three parts, gave one to a little dog which stood outside by the door, and as soon as it had tasted the bit it died a wretched death, for in the twinkling of an eye all its hair fell off, so that its entrails burst forth, its skin splitting all over; and all the brethren who saw it were astonished. And holy David threw the second part to a raven, which was in its next in an ash, which was between the refectory and the river on the south side, and as soon as it touched it with its beak, it fell lifeless from the tree. But the third part holy David held in his hand, and blessed, and ate it with giving of thanks, and all the brethren looked at him, amazed with wonder, for about three hours. He dauntless preserved his life intact, no sign of the deadly poison appearing. And holy David told his brethren everything which had been done by the three men aforesaid. And all the brethren stood up and lamented aloud, and cursed those treasonous men, to wit, the prior, the cellarer, and the deacon, and damned them and their successors, declaring with one voice that they should never have a part in the heavenly kingdom throughout eternity.


At another time too, when among others that most faithful abbot of the Irish, whose name was Barre, had an unquenchable desire to visit the relics of the holy apostles, Peter and Paul, and undertook with unwearied feet the journey devoted to pilgrimage, after he had completed his salutary vow and was returning to the enclosures of his monastery, he visited the holy man, Saint David; and having sojourned there a little while by request in holy intercourse, he was delayed for a longer period, for the ship, wherein he had made ready to revisit his native land, was hindered by lack of winds. Fearing lest there should arise contentions, strifes, and quarrels among the brethren in the absence of their abbot, the bond of charity being relaxed, even as bees, when the king is destroyed, pull asunder and ruin the stores of honeycombs, which they had secured with firm fastening, he searched with anxious mind and found a wondrous path. For on a day he asked for the horse whereon the holy father, David, had been wont to ride for ecclesiastical purposes, and obtained leave. Having received the father's blessing he goes to the harbour, enters the sea, and putting his trust in the blessing of the father and the support of the horse he uses it for a ship, inasmuch as the horse ploughed through the swelling masses of the waves as through a level field.


As he was proceeding further into the sea, he appeared where Saint Brendan was leading a wondrous life on a marine animal. When Saint Brendan saw a man horse-riding in the sea, he was astonished and said, God is wonderful in his saints. The horseman drew near where he was, so that they were able to exchange greetings. When they had saluted one another, Brendan asked whence he was, and from whom he had come, and how he rode a horse in the sea. Barre, after having narrated to him the causes of his pilgrimage, said, Since the vessel's delay kept me from my brethren, the holy father, David, gave me the horse whereon he had been wont to ride that thereby I might satisfy my need, and so, fortified by his blessing, I entered on such a journey. Brendan said to him, Go in peace, I will come and see him. Barre arrived in his native land, his journey unbroken, and narrated to the brethren who met him what things had been done. They kept the horse in the service of the monastery till its death. But after its death they made a painted image of the horse as a memorial of the miracle, which even till now may be found in the island of the Irish, covered with gold. It is also renowned for the number of its miracles.


On another occasion also, his other disciple, Modomnoc by name, was excavating a road with the brethren on the steep near the confines of the monastery, whereby an easier access might be made for wayfarers to convey their burdens of necessities. He said to one of those who were working, Why do you work so lazily and so slowly? The man, stirred by the spirit of anger against him who said the words, lifted up the iron which he held in his hand, to wit, a two-edged axe, and attempted to strike him on the head. The holy father, David, saw this from a distance, and raised his hand towards them, making the sign of the cross; and so the hand of him striking was withered.


But almost a third part or fourth of Ireland is subject to David the Waterman, where Maeddog was, who also from infancy is Aeddan, to whom Saint David gave a little bell, which is called Cruedin. But he, sailing to Ireland, forgot his little bell. And Maeddog sent a messenger to holy David that he might send the dear little bell across to him. And Saint David said, Go, boy, to your master. And it was done while that messenger was returning. And lo, the little bell on the morrow was alongside of the renowned Aeddan, an angel carrying it across the sea before his messenger had arrived.


After that the aforesaid Modomnoc had devoted himself for a long lapse of years to the humility of obedience, his virtuous merits increasing, he sought the island of Ireland. The whole multitude of bees followed the ship which he had entered and settled with him in the ship, where he had sat down, on the ship's prow. For as he attended on the bees' quarters, he paid heed with the rest of the work of the brotherhood to the hives in rearing the young of the swarms, whereby he might procure some luxuries of sweeter food for those in need. He, loath to defraud the fraternal community, returned, reappearing in the presence of the holy father, and attended by the swarm of bees, which flew to their own quarters. David blessed him for his humility. Then bidding farewell to the father and brethren, and being saluted, he went away, but again the bees follow him. And so it happened that, whenever he started forth, they also followed. Again, a third time, he sailed for a while, and it happened as before. The swarms followed him, and he returned to David thrice. On the third occasion holy David dismissed Modomnoc to sail with the bees, and he blessed them, saying, May the land to which you hasten abound with your offspring. Never may your progeny be wanting in it. Our monastery will be deserted forever by you. Never shall your offspring grow up in it. That this has continued till now we have learnt by experience, for we find swarms imported into the monastery of this father, but they, remaining there a little while, gradually cease. Ireland, however, wherein never could bees exist till that time, is enriched with abundance of honey. And so by the blessing of the holy father they have multiplied in the land of Ireland, since it is agreed that they could by no means exist there at first, for if you should cast Irish earth or stone in the midst of bees, they would shun it greatly, being scattered and flying away.


As his merits increased, his offices of honour increased also. For one night an angel visited him, and said to him, Tomorrow you will gird yourself. Put on your shoes. Start to go to Jerusalem. Undertake the desired journey. But two others will I call also to be your companions on the way, to wit Eiludd, who is now commonly called Teilo, who formerly was a monk in his monastery, and Padarn, whose life and miracles are contained in his history. The holy father, wondering at the word of command, said, How shall this be, for the comrades whom you promise are at a distance of three days, or s many more, from us and from themselves? By no means, therefore, shall we come together tomorrow. The angel informs him, I will go this night to each of them, and they shall assemble at the place appointed, which I now show. Saint David, making no delay, settled what was necessary for the monastery, received the blessing of the brethren, and started on his way early in the morning. He arrives at the appointed place, finds there the promised brethren, and together they enter on the journey. Their pilgrimage is on terms of equality, for none in mind is prior to another, each of them being servant, each being master. They persevere in prayer, and water the way with tears. The further the foot proceeded, the reward increased, they being one as to their mind, one in joy, one in sorrow.


When they had sailed over the Britannic sea and were come into the Gauls and were hearing the strange languages of diverse nations, father David was endowed with the gift of tongues like that apostolic gathering of old, lest when in need, among foreign peoples they might want an interpreter, and also that they might confirm the faith of others with the word of truth.


At length they arrive at the confines of the desired city, Jerusalem. On the night before their arrival an angel appeared to the Patriarch in a dream, saying, Three catholic men are coming from the limits of the west, whom you are to receive with joy and the grace of hospitality, and to consecrate for me to the episcopate. The Patriarch made ready three most honourable seats, and when the saints came into the city he rejoiced with great joy and received them graciously into the seats which had been prepared. After indulging in spiritual conversation, they return thanks to God. Then supported by the divine choice, he promotes holy David to the archepiscopate.


When these things were ended, the Patriarch addressed them and said, Obey my voice, and attend to what I direct. The power of the Jews (says he) grows strong against the Christians. They alarm us, they reject the faith. Attend, therefore, and go preach daily that their vehemence, being confuted, may quiet down, knowing that the Christian faith is spread abroad to the limits of the west and sounded forth to the utmost parts of the earth. They obey his command. They preach, each of them, every day. Their preaching becomes acceptable. Many come together to the faith. Others they strengthen.


When all things are done, they undertake to return to their native land. Then it was that the Patriarch presented father David with four gifts, to wit, a consecrated altar, whereon he was wont to consecrate the Lord's Body, which, potent in innumerable miracles, has never been seen by men from the death of its pontiff, but covered with skin lies hidden away. Also, a remarkable bell, which too is renowned for miracles. A bachall. And a Tunic woven with gold. The bachall, resplendent with glorious miracles, is extolled throughout the whole of our country for its wonders. But because, said the Patriarch, they are a labour for you to carry on the journey, while going back to your country, return in peace. I shall send them over after you. They bid farewell to the father, and come to their native land. They severally await the promise of the Patriarch and receive their gifts sent to them through angels, David in the monastery called Llan Gyvelach, Padarn and Eiludd in their respective monasteries. Therefore it is that the common people call them gifts from heaven.


Because after the aid of Saint Germanus for the second time the Pelagian heresy was reviving, introducing the vigor of its stubbornness, like the venom of a poisonous serpent, into the inmost joints of the country, there gathers a universal synod of all the bishops of Britannia. Accordingly, one hundred and eighteen bishops having assembled, there came an innumerable multitude of presbyters, abbots, and other orders, kings, princes, laics, men and women, so that this vast army covered all the places round about. The bishops whisper among themselves, saying, So great is the multitude that not only a voice, but even a trumpet's call will fail to sound into the ears of everybody. Consequently almost the whole of the people will be unaffected (or alienated) by the preaching, and will carry the heretical taint back with them as they return home. It is arranged, therefore, to preach to the people in this manner, that a heap of garments should be piled up on high ground, whereon one should stand and preach from above; and whosoever should be endowed with such gift of speech that his discourse sounded into the ears of all, who stood afar off, should be made with universal consent metropolitan archbishop. Then at the appointed place, the name of which is Brevi, they endeavor to preach on a heaped tower of garments, but scarcely does speech, being swallowed as it were in the throat, reach the very nearest. The people wait for the word, but the most part hear it not. One after another tries to expound, but they avail nothing. The difficulty increases. They fear the people will return to their homes with the heresy undiscussed. We have preached, say they, and have no gain. And so our labour is rendered void. One of the bishops, called Paulinus, rises, with whom the pontiff, Saint David, had formerly read, and says, There is one, made bishop by the Patriarch, who has not yet appeared at our synod, an eloquent man, full of grace, approved in religion, who has an angel as comrade, a lovable man, pleasing in feature, distinguished in form, upright in stature of four cubits. My advice, therefore, is that you invite him.


Messengers are forthwith sent. They come to the holy bishop. They announce for what purpose they had arrived. The holy bishop refuses, saying, Let no one tempt me. What they cannot do, who am I that I can do it? I acknowledge my lowliness. Depart in peace. Messengers are sent a second and third time, but neither so does he consent. At last the most holy men and the most faithful brethren, Daniel and Dubricius, are sent. Saint David, the bishop, foreseeing this by the spirit of prophecy, says to his brethren, Today, brethren, most holy men are visiting us. Receive them with a joyful mind. Procure fishes with bread and water. The brethren arrive. They salute one another. They enter into holy conversation. A meal is placed before them. They affirm that never will they eat in this monastery unless he returns with them to the synod. To this the saint replies, Refuse you I cannot. Eat, and we will visit the synod together, but I am unable to preach on the occasion. Yet with prayers I shall bring what little help I may.


They start out and arrive at a place very near to the synod, and lo! they hear lamentable mourning close by. Says the saint to his companions, I will go where this great wailing may be. His companions answered and said, We will go to the assembly lest our delay vexes those who are waiting for us. But the man of God went forward and came to the place where the lamentation was, by the river Teivi. And lo! a widowed mother was watching over the body of her dead boy, who was called Magnus. Blessed David consoled the mother and comforted her with salutary admonitions, but she, having heard of his fame, threw herself at his feet, and begged with distressing appeals atht he should have pity on her. The man of God, having compassion on human weakness, went near to the body of the deceased, and watered the face with tears, and threw himself on the body of the dead, and prayed to the Lord, and said, O Lord, my God, who did descend into this world for us sinners from the bosom of the Father to redeem us from the jaws of the old enemy, have pity on this widow, and restore life to her only son, and breathe into him the breath of life, that thy name may be magnified in all the earth. Then the limbs became warm, the soul returned, the body stirred. And taking the boy's hand, he restored him alive and well to his mother. The mother turns her sad weeping into joyful tears and says, To me my son was dead, but to you and God let him live henceforth. The holy man took the boy and placed on his shoulders the copy of the Gospel which he always carried on his breast, and caused him to go with him to the synod. Afterward, as long as he lived, he led a holy life for many years. And all, who beheld that miracle, praised the Lord and holy David.


Then he enters the synod. The company of bishops rejoices. The people are glad. The whole army exults. He is asked to preach. He rejects not the wish of the council. They bid him mount the pile of garments, but he refused. So he orders the boy newly raised from the dead to spread his handkerchief under his feet. On this he stands, and expounded the gospel and the law as from a trumpet. In the presence of all a snow-white pigeon, sent from heaven, settled on his shoulders, which remained as long as he preached. While he was holding forth in a voice clear to all, both to those nearest to him and equally to those who were far off, the ground beneath him swells upward and is raised into a hill. Placed on the top he is seen by all, so that standing on a high hill he might lift his voice like a trumpet. On the top of this hill a church is situated. The heresy is expelled. The faith is confirmed in sound hearts. All are in agreement. They pay thanks to God and to Saint David.


Then, blessed and extolled by the mouth of all, he is with the consent of all the bishops, kings, princes, nobles, and all grades of the whole Britannic race, made archbishop, and his monastery too is declared the metropolis of the whole country, so that whoever ruled it should be accounted archbishop.


The heresy, therefore, having been expelled, decrees of catholic and ecclesiastical rule are confirmed, which, owing to the frequent and cruel attacks of enemies, have become void, and, being almost forgotten, have ceased to be. By these, as though roused from heavy slumber, they one and all zealously waged the battles of the Lord. They are found in part in the oldest writings of the father, enjoined in his own sacred hand.


Then, when a number of seasons were gone, another synod assembles, called Victory, in which a crowd of bishops, priests, and abbots, having come together, renew what they had confirmed in the former, after a close and severe scrutiny, some useful matters being added. So from these two synods, all the churches of our country take their standard and rule by Roman authority. The decrees which he had affirmed with his mouth, the bishop alone committed to writing with his own sacred hand.


Consequently in every place throughout the whole country the brethren built monasteries. Everywhere indications of churches are heard. Everywhere sounds of prayers are raised to the stars. Everywhere miracles are reported to the bosom of the Church on unwearied shoulders. Everywhere offerings of charity are distributed to the needy with an open hand. Saint David, the bishop, was made the chief overseer of all, the chief protector, the chief spokesman, from whom all received the rule and model of right living. He was the standard for all, he was consecration, he was benediction, he was absolution and correction, learning to readers, life to the needy, nourishment to orphans, support to widows, head to the country, rule to the monks, a way to seculars, all things to all men. What swarms of monks he engendered! With what advantage he profited all! With what blaze of miracles he shone!


All the bishops surrendered to holy David both monarchy and primacy, and they agreed to the granting of his right of sanctuary, that it should apply to every ravisher and homicide and sinner, and to every evil person flying from place to place, in priority to every saint and kings and persons of the whole Britannic island, in every kingdom and in each region, wherever there may be land consecrated to holy David. And let no kings or elders or governors, or even bishops or superiors and saints, dare to provide right of sanctuary in priority to holy David. Indeed he provides right of sanctuary before every person, and there is none prior to him, because he is head and leader and primate over all the Britons. And all the saints ordained that whosoever should not observe that decree, namely Saint David's right of sanctuary, should be anathema and accursed.


And thus continuing into old age he was renowned as the head of all the Britannic race and the honour of his country, which old age he completed in around one hundred and forty-seven years.


When the day was drawing nigh for compensating the hallowed rewards of good deeds, on the eighth day before the first of March, while the brethren were observing matins, an angel addressed him, announcing in a loud voice, The long-desired day, said he, is now reckoned near at hand. The holy bishop recognised the friendly voice, and said to him with a joyful mind, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace. The brethren merely received the sound into their ears without distinguishing the words, for they had heard them conversing together and were fallen to the earth in terror. Then the whole monastery is filled with angelic harmonies and sweet-smelling fragrance. The holy bishop calling with a loud voice, with mind intent on heaven, says, Lord Jesus Christ, receive my spirit. Again the angel speaks in a clear voice, the brethren understanding the same, Prepare and gird yourself. On the first of March the Lord Jesus Christ, accompanied by a great host of angels, will come to meet you.


When these things were heard, the brethren made great lamentation with violent sobs. There begins a great sorrowing. The monastery overflows with tears, saying, O Saint David, bishop, remove our sadness. He, caressing them and sustaining them with comforting consolations, said, Brothers, be constant. The yoke, which with single mind you have taken, bear to the end; and whatsoever you have seen with me and heard, keep and fulfill. From that hour, therefore, to the day of his death he remained in the church and preached to all.


The report, therefore, was carried most swiftly in one day throughout the whole of Britannia and Ireland by the angel, saying, Let it be known that next week your master, holy David, will migrate from this light to the Lord.


Then there arrive from all sides assemblies of saints, like bees to a hive on the approach of a storm, who hasten with speed to visit the holy father. The monastery overflows with tears. Lamentation resounds to the stars. Youths mourn him as a father, old men as a son. On the intervening Sunday, while a very great multitude is listening, he preached a most noble sermon, and consecrated the Lord's Body with pure hands. Having partaken of the Body and Blood of the Lord, he was immediately seized with pain and became unwell. When he had finished the office and blessed the people, he addressed them all, saying, My brethren, persevere in these things which you have learnt from me and which you have seen with me. I on the third day of the week on the first of March shall go the way of my fathers. Farewell in the Lord. I shall depart. Never shall we be seen on this earth again. Then the voice of all the faithful was raised in lamentation and in wailing, saying, O that the earth would swallow us, the fire consume us, the sea cover us! O that death by a sudden irruption would overtake us! Would that the mountains would fall upon us! Almost all yielded themselves to death. From Sunday night till the fourth day of the week when he was dead, all who came remained weeping, fasting and watching.


And so when the third day of the week was come, at cock crowing the monastery is filled with angelic choirs, and is melodious with heavenly songs, and is full of sweetest fragrance. At the hour of matins, when the clerks were replying to the songs with psalms and hymns, the Lord Jesus deigned to bestow his presence for the consolation of the father, as he had promised by the angel. When he saw him, he altogether rejoiced in spirit. Take me, said he, after thee. With these words he gave back his life to God, Christ being his companion, and accompanied by the angelic host he went to the abodes of Heaven.


O, who then could bear the weeping of the saints, the sad sighs of the anchorites, the groaning of the priests, the wailing of the disciples, who exclaimed, By whom shall we be taught?, the grief of the pilgrims, saying, By whom shall we be aided?, the despair of kings, who said, By whom shall we be appointed, corrected and established? Who so very mild a father as David? Who shall intercede for us to the Lord?, the lamentations of peoples, the grief of paupers, the crying of sick folk, the clamor of monks, the tears of virgins, married people, penitents, young men, young women, boys, girls, infants sucking breasts? Why do I delay? The voice of all was one of mourners, for kings grieved for him as an arbiter, old men wailed for him as a brother, adults honoured him as a father, nay, he was one whom all venerated as God.


And so his body, carried in the arms of holy brethren, and accompanied by a great throng, is honourably committed to the earth and buried in his own monastery. But his soul without any limit of passing time is crowned for ever and ever.

May he, whose festival we devoutly celebrate on earth, unite us by his intercessions to the angelic citizens, God being over all and our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom is honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.


These and many other things did the holy father, David, do, while a corruptible and burdensome habitation carried his soul. But out of many we have in a mean form of speech supplied a few to assuage the thirst of the ardent. Even as none can exhaust to dryness in the hollow of a shallow vessel a stream flowing from a perpetual fountain, so none can commit to writing even with an iron pen all his miraculous signs, his most devoted practice of the virtues, and his observance of the commandments. But these few things out of many, as we have said, we have collected together into one place for example to all and for the glory of the father. They have been found scattered in very old writings of the country, especially of the monastery itself, which have survived until now, eaten away by the constant devouring of moths and the yearly boring of ages through the hours and seasons, and written according to the old style of the ancients. Having brought them together into one place, as from a flowery garden of diverse plants, I, sucking most discriminatingly as it were with the mouth of a bee, have collected them to the glory of so great a father and for the use of others, lest they should perish. But those things, now that he has laid aside the burden of the flesh and sees God face to face, which he does and has done at constant intervals of time, so much the more effectively as he adheres closer to God, he, who would wish to know of them, can do so from the relation of many.


And as for me, who am named Rhygyvarch, and who, although rashly, have applied the capacity of my small intelligence to these things, let those who shall have perused them with a devout mind, render assistance by their prayers that, because the clemency of the father, like that of spring, has conducted me in the summer heat of the flesh to a tiny flower of intelligence, it may at length lead me by mature works before the end of my course, when the vapours of concupiscence are exhausted, to the fruit of a good harvest. So that, when the reapers shall separate the tares of the enemy and fill the barns of the heavenly country with most carefully picked bundles, they may place me as a tiny sheaf of the latest harvest within the hall of the heavenly gate to behold God forever, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.


Here begins the genealogy of Saint David, archbishop of all Britannia by the grace and predestination of God. David was the son of Sant, Sant son of Cheretic, Cheretic son of Cuneda, Cuneda son of Etern, Etern son of Patern, Patern son of Peisrud, Peisrud son of Doeil, Doeil son of Gurdeil, Gurdeil son of Dumn, Dumn son of Guordumn, Guordumn son of Amguoil, Amguoil son of Amguerit, Amguerit son of Omid, Omid son of Perum, Perum son of Dobun, Dobun son of Iouguen, Iouguen son of Abalach, Abalach son of Eugen, Eugen son of Eudolen, Eudolen son of Eugen, Eugen son of Mary's sister. Here ends the Life of Saint David, Bishop and Confessor


God, who did foretell thy blessed confessor and pontiff, David, by the announcement of an angel to Patrick, prophecying thirty years before he was born, we beseech thee that by his intercession, whose memory we celebrate, we may come to the eternal joys, through thy Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.


Almighty God, be pleased to regard the sacrifices of praise and the devout prayers, which we offer to thee in honour of thy blessed confessor and pontiff, David; and what our merit may not obtain, may thy mercy and his frequent intercession for us effect, through thy Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.


O Lord, being replenished with the partaking of the Sacrament, we beseech thee that by the merits of Saint David, thy confessor and pontiff, whose glorious festival we do celebrate, we may be sensible of the patronage of thine ineffable mercy, through thy Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

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