Sechnall, “Audite Omnes Amantes” (9)
The just will be remembered forever,
he will have no fear of bad repute.
We will utter Patrick’s praises forever,
that together with him God may protect us.
Translation John Carey, King of Mysteries
Sechnall’s poem celebrating Patrick and his ministry ends with this brief “prayer.” But it doesn’t look much like a prayer, does it? In Latin, “prayer” is absolutely the last definition assigned to oratio, the word John Carey translates, “A prayer”.
It begins with a confident assertion: “The just will be remembered forever…” This was the purpose for Sechnall’s composing this poem in the first place, to recount in brief the character and achievement of Patrick, and to keep his work alive in the memory of readers in every age.
This is followed by what sounds like a benediction: “he will have no fear of bad repute.” Was this included as a personal word to Patrick, still alive at the time of the poem’s composition? A word of assurance and comfort to one who, in his later years, was being slandered and harassed by jealous religious leaders in Britain?
The next line sounds like an affirmation: “We will utter Patrick’s praises forever…” Here Sechnall encourages readers to spread the word about Patrick. His poem could be easily memorized, sung, and shared.
Then, finally, a kind of fervent wish, “…that together with him God may protect us”, that is, that the protection and blessing God poured out on Patrick may attend to all who take up the challenge and follow the example of his life. This is really as close to a prayer as this coda or envoi gets in John Carey’s translation, and even then, God is not addressed, but spoken of in the third person.
Exactly what is this concluding part?
I think it is a prayer, one that involves, first, a supplication, then a declaration and petition to the Lord. By translating the Latin erit and timebit, both subjunctive forms, in a jussive sense, expressing a wish or desire, we end up with something like this in the first couplet:May the just be remembered forever,
may have no fear of bad repute.
Since Sechnall entitles this section, “A prayer”, we can assume he is expressing the desire of these two verbs to God. He pleads with God to preserve the story and honor of Patrick, and he invites readers to join with him in this prayer.
In that same prayerful mood, therefore, Sechnall takes up his own challenge: He and his contemporaries will do their part in keeping the true story of Patrick alive. Thus, by their testimony, will God protect the praise and honor of Patrick. And Sechnall expresses the desire that God will remember and protect him and those who read him as well.
This desire for a legacy is laudable: “I will cause Your Name to be remembered in all generations” (Ps. 45.17). “Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be created may praise the LORD…” (Ps. 102.18). Sechnall has focused his account on the grace and mercy of God and Patrick’s faithfulness in proclaiming and extoling Him. Why would he not want that to continue? What Patrick had accomplished in his day, as he obeyed the grace and leading of the Lord, blessed many people, including Sechnall. It only makes sense that he would want others to benefit as well, even unto generation after generation forever.
Reading this poem can do many things: inspire, delight, inform, instruct, exhort, admonish, and encourage among them. It provides a unique combination of historical and creational theology to nurture and strengthen us in our faith. As a work of historical theology, it recounts in brief the character and achievement of one man, Patrick, who launched the first phase of the Celtic Revival (ca. 430-800 AD). As a work of creational theology it employs a very strict poetic form to create a song which, in the original, could be easily remembered and frequently sung in order strengthen faith in the Lord.
We may join Sechnall in praising God for the amazing work of grace He accomplished through Patrick. And we may learn from Sechnall how we, too, should prepare ourselves to be used of God as vessels of His grace and truth to our own unbelieving age.
T. M. Moore
Want to learn more about Patrick and the impact of his ministry? Order T. M.’s book, The Legacy of Patrick, from our online store.