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The Life And Writings Of Saint Patrick -Saint Patrick

The Fourth Life is very similar to the Second and Third Lives, and many sections in the three seem to point to a common origin. It was printed by Colgan from a manuscript belonging to the monastery of Alna in Hannonia. He attributes its composition to St. Aileran the Wise; but the only reason he had for this opinion seems to be the better style of the Latinity; and we know, from the fragments of his writings still remaining, that Aileran was an accomplished Latin scribe. It is quite obvious, however, that it is a later Life than the Second or the Third, and the author implies as much, for he states that he heard certain things—veracium relatione virorum—from the narrative of truthful men.

Lanigan caustically observes that if Aileran the Wise were the author he hardly deserves his surname when he wrote such foolish things. But Lanigan himself was not always wise; and, even at his best, we cannot accept his judgment as the standard of wisdom.

The Life is complete, and in some points valuable. The leading facts of St. Patrick’s history are given in these three Lives in the same order, and sometimes almost in the same words, so that the conclusion almost forces itself upon us that they are all derived from a common original, but, at the same time, composed by different writers, who, whilst faithfully adhering to the facts of the common narrative, added here and there some things of their own. The author of this Fourth Life, whilst professing to adhere to what he found in the ‘old books,’ or heard from trustworthy witnesses, adds reflections of his own from time to time, and undertakes to give the narrative in a somewhat more elegant style than his predecessors. He points out, for instance, how much more necessary miracles were in those ‘priscis temporibus’ than in his own time—a statement which goes to show that he lived long after the time of St. Patrick, and cannot have been one of the contemporaries of the Saint, who, according to Jocelyn, wrote the Life of our great Apostle. It is a pity we have no clue to the identity of the author; but, as he mentions Brendan, Columba, and other saints, he cannot have flourished earlier than the end of the sixth century.






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