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St. Coemgen, ("fair-begotten") [in Irish, “Caoimhín”and in Latin,“Coemgenus,” but popularly Anglicized as Kevin)] was a 6th-century religious figure. Of royal descent, the son of Coemlog and Coemell of Leinster, he was born at the Fort of the White Fountain, and was fed milk from a mysterious white cow that went to his home twice a day. He was baptized by St. Crónán of Roscrea, who kept the sun shining 40 days straight to allow one Six years before he was born, St. Pedrod [Petroc, Petrocus] returned to Ireland and founded a school. One of the 22 children of Glywys, the founder of the Welsh principality of Glywysing (modern Glamorgan) who claimed to have been descended from Flavius Magnus Maximus Augustus the Roman commander in Britain who had usurped the imperial throne in 383, and Gwawl the granddaughter of the legendary Cunedag [Cunedda], he was the brother of St. Gwynllyw Milwr (Gwynllyw Farfog) [Gundleus, Woolos the Warrior or the Bearded], a quarrelsome and piratical ruler who Gwladys (Gladys) after her father king Brychan of Brycheiniog refused to let him marry her, but Gwynllyw’s ally king Arthur mediated peace. Their children included Saints Cynidr, Bugi, Egwine, and Cattwg [Cadocus, Cadoc the Wise], who persuaded Gwynllyw to abandon his violent life and seek forgiveness. The king dreamed of a white ox with a black spot on its forehead; when he found the ox he founded a hermitage on the spot (on Stow Hill in Newport), abdicated, and became a recluse with Gwladys, who later founded her own hermitage at Pencarn. Pedrod had himself studied in Ireland before establishinghimself as one of the most important priests in Cornwall, founding monasteries at Petrocs-Stow (Padstow) and Bodmin. He converted Custennin Corneu (Constantine of Cornwall) to Christianity and allegedly visited India. When Coemgen was seven he began studying under Pedrog and lived with the monks for five years. After his ordination by bishop Lugidus, an angel led him to”St. Kevin's Bed,” a small man-made cave cut into the rock face at Glendalough (the Glen of two Lakes), where he lived alone for seven years. After establishing a monastic community there, he again retired into solitude for another four years before returning to Glendalough at the behest of his followers. The Dubliners recorded a folk song about him ("In Glendalogh there lived an auld saint, renowned for his learning and piety, his manners were curious and quaint, and he looked upon girls with disparity"), which claimed that he drowned a woman who tried to seduce him, but Seamus Heaney more fondly remembered him in the poem, “St Kevin and the Blackbird”And then there was St Kevin and the blackbird.The saint is kneeling, arms stretched out, insideHis cell, but the cell is narrow, soOne turned-up palm is out the window, stiffAs a crossbeam, when a blackbird landsAnd lays in it and settles down to nest.Kevin feels the warm eggs, the small breast, the tuckedNeat head and claws and, finding himself linkedInto the network of eternal life,Is moved to pity: now he must hold his handLike a branch out in the sun and rain for weeksUntil the young are hatched and fledged and flown.*And since the whole thing’s imagined anyhow,Imagine being Kevin. Which is he?Self-forgetful or in agony all the timeFrom the neck on out down through his hurting forearms?Are his fingers sleeping? Does he still feel his knees?Or has the shut-eyed blank of underearthCrept up through him? Is there distance in his head?Alone and mirrored clear in love’s deep river,‘To labour and not to seek reward,’ he prays,A prayer his body makes entirelyFor he has forgotten self, forgotten birdAnd on the riverbank forgotten the river’s name.
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