more the bird sang, the more the monk was
enchanted by the music it made.
The story of the little
Crofton Croker (Ireland)
Once long ago in a
monastery in Ireland there lived a holy man. He was walking one
day in the garden of his monastery, when he decided to kneel
down and pray, to give thanks to God for the beauty of the
flowers and plants and herbs around him. As he did so, he heard
a small bird singing, and never before had he heard any song as
sweet. When his prayers were finished, the monk stood up and
listened to the bird, and when the creature flew away from the
garden singing as it went, he followed it.
In a while they came to a small grove of trees outside the
monastery grounds, and there the bird continued its song. As the
bird hopped from tree to tree, still singing all the while, the
monk carried on following the little creature, until they had
gone a great distance. The more the bird sang, the more the monk
was enchanted by the music it made.
Eventually, the two had traveled far away from the monastery,
and the monk realised that it would soon be nighttime. So
reluctantly, he left the bird behind and retraced his steps,
arriving back home as the sun was going down in the west. As the
sun set, it lit up the sky with all the colours of the rainbow,
and the monk thought that the sight was almost as beautiful and
heavenly as the song of the little bird he had been listening to
all afternoon long.
But the glorious sunset was not the only sight that surprised
the monk. As he entered the monastery gates, everything around
him seemed changed from before. In the garden grew different
plants, in the courtyard the monks had different faces, and even
the monastery buildings seem to be different. The monk knew he
was in the right place, but how could all these changes have
taken place in just one afternoon?
The monk walked across the courtyard and greeted the first monk
he saw. "Brother, how is it that our monastery has changed so
much since this morning? There are new plants in the garden, new
faces amongst the other monks, and even the stones of the
monastery seem different.
The second monk looked at the first monk very carefully. Why do
you ask these questions? There have been no changes here since
this morning. And we have no new monks except for yourself, for
even though you wear the habit of our order, I have not seen you
before. The two monks looked at each other in wonder, neither
could understand what had happened. So the first monk started to
tell his story. He said that he had gone for a walk in the
monastery garden. He had heard the song of a little bird and
then had followed it into the countryside.
As the first monk told his story, the second monk's expression
turned from puzzlement to awe and surprise. He said, ¡°There's a
tale in our order about a brother like you who went missing one
day after a bird was heard singing. He was never seen again and
no-one knew what had happened to him. All this happened two
hundred years ago.
The first monk looked at the second monk and said - well, that
is indeed my story and the time of my death has finally arrived.
Praised be the lord for his mercies on me.¡± And the monk begged
the second monk to take his confession and give him absolution
for the hour of his death was near. All this was done, the holy
man died before midnight, and he was buried with great solemnity
in the monastery graveyard.
Ever since then, the monks have retold this story. They say the
little bird was an angel of the Lord, and that this was God's
way of taking the soul of a man who was known for his holiness
and his love for the beauties of nature.
Originally Attributed to T. Crofton Croker
who says he wrote it word for word as he heard it from an old
woman at a holy well. This version is edited and adapted from
Traditional Tales from Long , Long Ago retold by Philip Wilson.
It's also retold by W. B Yeats in his famous book Fairy and Folk
Tales of the Irish Peasantry(1888).
Why did everything change
greatly when the monk entered the monastery gates?