“Martin of Tours” a Poem by Charles L. O’Donnell, C.S.C.

On this feast day of St. Martin of Tours, I came upon this delightful poem penned by Father Charles L. O’Donnell. It is an account of Martin’s charitable act of giving a beggar half of his cloak. As it turned out, Martin would have a dream that the beggar was in fact Our Lord.

Father O’Donnell, a priest and former president of the University of Notre Dame (1928-1934), renders this event to us in elegantly simple verse from the point of view of Our Lord. I think it goes well with the portrait of this act of charity brought to life by Hans von Marées.

That Father O’Donnell also served as a chaplain in World War One makes it appropriate to share on this anniversary of Armistance Day (now Veterans Day) as well.

Martin of Tours by Charles L. O’Donnell

“As I today was wayfaring”—
Holy, Holy, Holy!—low—
Said Christ in heaven’s evening—
The Holies yet more hushed and slow—
“I met a knight upon the road;
A plumed charger he bestrode.

“He saw the beggar that was I—
Holy, Holy, Holy I—long—
Head and foot one beggary—
Holy, Holy, Holy!—song—
One that shivered in the cold
While his horse trailed cloth of gold.

“Down he leaped, his sword outdrawn—
Holy, Holy, Holy!—swells—
Cleaved his cloak, laid half upon—
Holy! now a peal of bells—
Shoulders that the cross had spanned;
And I think he kissed my hand.

“Then he passed the road along,
Holy, Holy, Holy!—laud—
Caroling a knightly song—
Holy! in the face of God.
Yea, Father, by Thy sovereign name,
Begging is a goodly game.”

An appreciation of Father O’Donnell, written by Jacqueline Vaught Brogan, can be read here.


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