When Saint Columba landed on the island of Iona
His friend Oran landed with him
Though some say Saint Oran waited
In the shadows of the island, waiting for the saint to land there,
I believe they came together, came from Ireland, were like brothers
Were the blond and brave Columba and the dark man they called Oran.
He was odran, like the otter, was the other. There were others
And they landed on Iona, and they said, We'll build a chapel.
It's what saints did when they landed. (Oran: priest of sun or fire
Or from Odhra, meaning dark haired.) But their chapel kept on crumbling.
And Columba took the answer from a dream or revelation,
That his building needed Oran, needed death in the foundations.
Others claim it was doctrinal, and Saints Oran and Columba
Were debating, as the Irish love debating, about Heaven;
Since the truth is long-forgotten, we are left with just their actions
(By their actions shall ye know them): Saint Columba buried Oran
Still alive, with earth about him, buried deep, with earth upon him.
Three days later they returned there, stocky monks with spades and mattocks
And they dug down to Saint Oran, so Columba could embrace him
Touch his face and say his farewells. Three days dead. They brushed the mud off
When Saint Oran's eyes blinked open. Oran grinned at Saint Columba.
He had died but now was risen, and he said the words the dead know,
In a voice like wind and water.
He said, Heaven is not waiting for the good and pure and gentle
There's no punishment eternal, there's no hell for the ungodly
nor is God as you imagine--
Saint Columba shouted "Quiet!"
and to save the monks from error shoveled mud onto Saint Oran,
So they buried him forever. And they called the place Saint Oran's.
In its churchyard Kings of Scotland, Kings of Norway, all were buried
On the island of Iona.
Some folks claim it was a druid priest of sunlight that was buried
In the earth of good Iona just to hold the church foundations,
But for me that's much too simple, and it libels Saint Columba
(who cried "Earth! Throw earth on Oran, stop his mouth with mud this moment,
lest he bring us to perdition!") They imagine it a murder
as one saint entombed another underneath that holy chapel.
While Saint Oran's name continues,
Martyred heretic, his bones still hold the chapel stones together,
And we join them, kings and princes, in his graveyard, in his chapel,
For it's Oran's name they carry. He's embraced in his damnation
by the simple words he uttered. There's no Hell to spite the sinners
There's no Heaven for the blessed. God is not what you imagine.
And perhaps he kept on preaching, for he'd died and he had risen,
Until silenced, crushed or muffled by the soil of Iona.
Saint Columba, he was buried on the Island of Iona
Decades later. But they disinterred his body and they took it
to Downpatrick, where it's buried with Saint Patrick and Saint Brigid.
So the only saint is Oran on the island of Iona.
Don't go digging in the graveyard for the kings of old, the mighty,
Or Archbishops and their riches. They are guarded by Saint Oran
Who will rise up from the grave dirt like the darkness, like an otter,
For he sees the sun no longer. He will touch you,
He will taste you, he will leave his words inside you.
(God is not what you imagine. Nor is Hell nor is Heaven).
Then you'll leave him and his graveyard, and forget the shadow's terror,
As you rub your neck, remember only this: He died to save us.
And that Saint Columba killed him on the island of Iona.