“Madonna of the Roses,” William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1903, WikiArt.

Part 1: Vision of Holy Mother

Alarms rang loud at Inis Fathlinn, Irish
Southwestern coast, fishing clans, farms
And firths, black smoke plumes distant
Rising, raiding Northmen, five longboats
Landing, clanging swords and shields,
Plundering for silver and coins, women
As slaves taken, all this I, Sister Muriel,
Premonition received at stone-wall abbey,
Church treasures monks hiding, scriptural
Texts hand-copied, crucifix and chalice,
Rosary clutched to breast, to Mother
Mary for our protection I prayed.

Whilst monks were fixed on darkness, fear,
And impending hoards, hovering light on
Nearby lake attracted me, wind-shimmering
Waters, Mary’s voice I heard, heart and
Mind touched, she beckoned me to her
Before descending Norse storm. Tears
Bursting forth, to divine light I strove,
Holy Mother at lake edge, her thoughts
Becoming mine. “Sister, Northmen come
To seize wealth conquer land. Under Roman
Rule, I so suffered, our temples and religion
Trampled by ten thousand Roman soldiers.”

Kneeling at her feet, I asked, “Holy Mother
What shall I do?” “Rise and let my words
And voice be yours. Norsemen will approach
Abbey grounds. As sister in Christ, do not be
Afraid, for I am with you always.” Gates wide-
Opening, Norse arrived, 100 fighting men and
Women, across green fields rolling, to high-
Arched stone abbey. Trembling in fear and
Faith, I stood shore-ground, before arrows
Struck, I laid face down on stone walkway,
Arms outstretched in sign of holy cross,
Mary steadfast-standing at my side.

“Harmonie,” Henri Martin, WikiArt.

“Sister, let me speak through you,” said Holy
Mother, enveloped in her light. “Shaved head,
Tattooed face, he is their leader. He will listen
To you.” And so he came to me face-to face,
Eye on abbey silver, stopped mid-stride, when
We or I said, “Hilsen, Gunnolf, velkommen til
Gud’s hus, du og din brudekriger, Dyrfinna.”
Odor of leather armor, sea-sour bodies, Gunnolf,
Fighting Wolf, sword in hand, peered into my
Eyes. “Hvordan kjenner du meg og min brud?”
“Min herre, vi deler samme havet kjærlighet
Til øya liv, det vi har er gitt i Jesu Kristi navn.”

Setting if oft considered another character, and in this new series of Sister Muriel poems, setting is the ancient abbey on Innisfallen Island, Ireland (not Innisfree of Yeats and Wordsworth). For more information, see this link:

For more on Sister Muriel, Poetic Character, see this link:

Language of Gunnolf is modern-day Norwegian. Enjoy translating, and thanks for reading…or takk for at du leste.  

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