XVI. THE BREAKING OF THE CARRIAGE-AXLE (LA, LC)
Unlike LA, LC seems to imply that the injury to the axle was not repaired. This would be parallel to the story of Aed, who, when his carriage met with a similar mishap, was able to continue his journey on one wheel only (CS, 336; VSH, i, 36).
The blessing of the Cow.—In this story we again note the prominence of the materfamilias: it is she who in most of the versions withholds the desired boon. Note how LB endeavours to tone down the disobedience of the saint by making the cow follow him of her own accord, or, rather, upon a direct divine command. The Annals of Clonmacnois presents the story in a similar form: “He earnestly entreated his parents that they would please to give him the cow [which had been stolen and recovered; ante, p. 108], that he might go to school to Clonard to Bishop Finnan, where Saint Colum Cille ... and divers others were at school: which his parents denied: whereupon he resolved to go thither as poor as he was, without any maintenance in the world. The cow followed him thither with her calf; and being more given to the cause of his learning than to the keeping of the cows, having none to keep the calf from the cow, [he] did but draw a strick of his bat between the calf and cow. The cow could not thenceforth come no nearer [sic] the calf than to the strick, nor the calf to the cow, so as there needed no servant to keep them one from another but the strick.” A totally different version of the story of the cow is recorded in the glosses to the Martyrology of Oengus (9th September). Here Ciaran applied to his father, who, so far from refusing his request, bade him go through the herd and take whatever beast would follow him. “The Dun Cow of Ciaran” yielded to the test. Further, the same cow followed him when he left Clonard, instead of remaining with Ninned as in the Lives before us.
Note how the author of LA has been unable to keep a very human touch out of his arid record: matri displicebat, uolebat enim eum secum semper habere. This is our last glimpse of poor Darerca, and it does much to soften the rather lurid limelight in which our homilists place her.
The Division of Kine and Calves.—This miracle is one of the most threadbare commonplaces of Irish hagiographical literature; it is most frequently, as here, performed by drawing a line on the ground between the animals with the saint’s wonder-working staff. It is attributed, inter alia, to Senan (LL, 1958), Fintan (CS, 229), Ailbe (with swine, CS, 240), and Finan (CS, 305).
A miraculous abundance of milk was also given by kine belonging to Brigit (CS, 44) and to Samthann (VSH, ii, 255).