Now there never was born to the Gael offspring nobler, not wiser, nor of better kin, than Colombcille. There hath not come of them another who was meeker, or humbler, or lowlier. Surely it was great lowliness in Colombcille that he himself used to take off his monks’ sandals and wash their feet for them. He it was that often carried his quota of corn on his back to the mill, and ground and brought it home to his house. He it was that never put flax not wool against his skin. He it was that slept not until his side came against the bare mould: nought was under his head save a pillar-stone for a bolster. And he slept only so long as Diarmait his fosterling used to be chanting three chapters of the Beatus. He would rise up after that, and would cry and beat his hands together like a loving mother lamenting her only son. He would chant thrice fifty (psalms) after that, till morning in the sand of the strand, ut dixit poeta—
- The three fifties—sore the watching—in the night—great was the pain.
In the sea beside Scotland before the sun had risen,
Clear … in the sand, it was great labour,
The trace of his ribs through his raiment was manifest when the wind blew.
– On the Life of St. Columba, Anonymous.