DURHOLME - the ley home of the Prince Bishop's Men

Cuthberts Cross

The Life and Death of Cuthbert

A monk in exile once again,
Driven on by axe of Dane.
In sleep I lie beside the Wear
And I am wrung of every tear.
O! Cuthbert! Oswald! Come! Arise!
O! Fill the night with fireflies!

In hills of Lothian Cuthbert stands,
Shepherd's crook held in his hands.
His flock about him bleat and cry
While tearful monks watch Aidan die:
Cuthbert sees him mount the skies;
The dark night burns with fireflies.

Crook laid down, good Cuthbert goes
Before the Prior of Melrose.
The Prior trembles, overawed,
"Behold the Spirit of the Lord!"
Angelic Cuthbert stills his cries;
His eyes burn soft like fireflies.

Cuthbert with consumption wracked -
Yet with blessed wit and tact
He bids the storm at Whitby calm,
And shepherds monks at Lindisfarne,
Then on a hermit island lies.
And all around burns fireflies.

A humble shelter builds he there;
With crow and eagle does he share
His simple fare amid the squalls,
Then sleeps within his rough-hewn walls.
He contemplates the Northern skies:
The stars aglow like fireflies.

To Holy Island he returns
As Bishop, tho' the pomp he spurns:
No armies at his footstool stand,
No servants waiting at his hand.
No glory and no false disguise
For saints aglow like fireflies.

Yet for his island Cuthbert yearns,
Where the sea swell torrid churns.
His fretful flock behold him float
Away inside a cockle-boat.
They fill the air with moans and sighs;
Their tears burn like fireflies.

One disciple, gaunt with concern,
Cries, "Cuthbert! When wilt thou return?"
"O! When you bring my body hither,
For all flesh must wilt and wither!"
His body frail, yet still his eyes
Burn in the dark like fireflies.

The waves lash the little shore;
The monks' fond hopes arise no more.
The pulse of Cuthbert soon will cease,
His dying breath now urges peace.
In pain his broken body writhes,
Yet burns his breath like fireflies:

"Bear me with thee where ye go!
Let not hail, storm nor snow
Prevent you when destruction's near!
Banish sadness! Banish fear!"
Consumed at last, St. Cuthbert dies
With the winking-out of fireflies.

On Lindisfarne they wait forlorn
For some sign, or shout, or horn:
Then with the death, burning soft
Comes light of torches held aloft!
Above the ground where Cuthbert lies
The torches burn like fireflies.

His cross of garnets and of gold
Is laid upon his body cold.
Twice broken was it, twice repaired,
And now its memory is shared:
The cross exalted in our eyes -
Its garnets burn like fireflies!

His corp'rax bears the self-same sign,
And so the priests of Cuthbert's line
Elevate the holy Host
And in the Cross of Cuthbert boast,
And at each Mass like myriad eyes
The candles burn like fireflies.

And now I dream on banks of Wear
Exhausted, driven hence by fear:
"Build my Church upon this rock
And bring all St. Cuthbert's flock!
Let the might of Durholme rise:
The dark night burns with fireflies!"

Song and Music written by Alias Ye Bard and Meg Madrigal, based on a quote from Sir Timothy Eden's book "Durham"

"..St. Cuthbert was one of the true lineage of Scottish monks. In its simplicity,
gentleness and serenity his character confirmed with those of Aidan and Columba...
One thing is certain: this remarkable trio, [King] Oswald, Aidan and Cuthbert, were all alive
at the same time in one little corner of the British Isles, like fireflies in a dark night....
Soon after he had seen the soul of St. Aidan ascending to heaven
Cuthbert rode to the abbey of Melrose and asked to become a monk.
The prior of the monastery was standing at the gate when the young man arrived.
"Behold the servant of the Lord!" he said to a monk..
"forseeing in spirit how great the man whom he saw was going to be"
...his loving and persuasive manner brought men to confess and repent
and "the bright light of his angelic countenance" excited those who saw him to a love of virtue."

Sir Timothy Eden "Durham" Vol. 1 p.29-30