Translator’s Note: “Adiutor Laborantium” is an Irish poem attributed to Colum Cille (521-597), founder of the monastic community on Iona. It is an ABC poem, with the exception of two C-beginning lines in the middle, and a changed triplet at the end, where the rhyme also changes. In the Latin, each line has eight syllables and ends with the rhyme, -ium or um. In this amplified translation, I have tried to capture the dynamics of this teaching poem, necessarily enlarging the Latin meanings of each line to accommodate rendering into English. The original Latin is below the translation.

Adiutor Laborantium

by Colum Cille

Ah! Helper of all workers and
Blessed Ruler of all good; You stand
Continuous guard throughout the land,
Defending every faithful man,
Extending lowly ones Your hand,
Frustrating those who in pride stand;
Great Ruler of the faithful and
Hosts who in sin prefer to stand;
In justice ruling every man,
Condemning sin by Your command;
Cascading light on every hand,
Light of the Father of lights, and
Magnificent throughout the land;
No one will You Your helping hand
Or strength deny, who in hope stand:
Please, Lord – though I am little and
Quail wretchedly before Your hand,
Resisting stormy tempests and
Strong tumults and temptations grand –
That Jesus may reach out His hand
Unto me, I implore – His land,
Verdant and lovely, be my land!
Yes, make my life a hymn to stand
Zealous against those You withstand.
Please grant that paradise my land
In Jesus Christ by grace may be,
Both now and in eternity.


Translator’s Note: Noli Pater, also attributed to Colum Cille, is usually longer than what you see below, but I have chosen to do this amplified translation without the two stanzas on John the Baptist (many scholars think they were later additions anyway, and they do not fit the 8 syllable per line and tight end rhyme format of the stanzas below).


Father, Do Not

O Father, hear our earnest plea,
that we may not unsettled be:
Loud thunder’s threats let us not fear,
nor lightning’s fire when it comes near.

We fear You, God, the dreadful One;
besides You, other gods are none.
As angels raise their voice in praise,
we sing with them through all our days.

Let heaven praise You from the heights,
and roaming lightning’s brilliant lights.
O loving Jesus, King of kings,
Your righteousness creation sings.



Original Latin below

Adiutor Laborantium

Adiutor laborantium,
Bonorum rector omnium,
Custos ad propugnaculum,
Defensorque credentium,
Exaltator humilium,
Fractor superbientum,
Gubernator fidelium,
Hostis impoenitentium,
Index cunctorum iudicum,
Castigator errantium,
Costa vita viventium,
Lumen et pater luminum,
Magna luce lucentium,
Nulli negans sperantium,
Opem atque auxilium,
Precor ut me homunculum,
Quassatum ac miserrimum,
Remigantem per tumultum
Saeculi istius infinitum
Trahat post se ad supernum
Vitae portum pulcherimum
Xristus;… infinitum
Ymnum sanctum in seculum
Zelo subtrahas hostium
Paradisi in gaudium.
Per te, Christe Ihesu,
Qui vivis at regnas


Noli Pater

Noli Pater indulgere tonitrua cum fulgore
ne frangamur formidine huis atque uridine.

Te timemus terribilem nullum credentes similem
te cuncta canunt carmina angelorum per agmina.

Teque exultant culmina caeli vaga per fulmina
O Iesu amantissime, O rex regime rectissime.


T.M. Moore’s poetry has appeared in numerous journals, and he has published five volumes of verse through his ministry’s imprint, Waxed Tablet Publications. He is Principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, he and his wife, Susie, reside in Essex Junction, VT.

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7 Responses

  1. James A. Tweedie

    Colum Cille, more commonly known as St. Columba, brought the Christian faith to Scotland from Ireland. I was privileged to be on the Isle of Iona just last week. George MacLeod, the founder of the present Iona Community, once described Iona as “a thin place where only tissue paper separates the material from the spiritual.” I commend Mr. Moore for his excellent recreation of Columba’s poetry into English and for making it possible for a small piece of the spirit of Iona–and the Christian faith it represents–to pass through the tissue paper so we might be touched by it.

    • Christina

      James, I am so pleased that you were able to visit Iona, one of the places on this earth where it is said (more succinctly) that ‘the veil is thin’.
      T. M. Moore, thank you for these beautiful translations of two of St. Columba’s prayers.

  2. C.B. Anderson

    T.M., this was not my usual cup of broth, but I loved every word of it. The courage to rhyme “and” several times over, since “and” is rarely stressed, put the entire translation over the top. Of course, for anyone not impressed by the figure of the Lord, Jesus Christ, this effort will either fly above their heads or below their radar. I’m glad I’m not one of those, for otherwise I would have missed a totally satisfactory reading experience.

    • T. M.

      They are kind of fun, aren’t they? Thanks for the encouragement.

  3. John Hartley

    Dear Mr Moore,

    I am a clergyman, vicar of Eccleshill (Bradford, UK), and came across these two poems in a search for hymns by St Columba which I could use at Morning Prayer on 9th June, the day on which the Church of England commemorates Columba. During Lockdown our worship is on YouTube rather than being in the church building. I would like to use “O Father hear our earnest plea” as the opening hymn (I plan on using the tune “Hawkhurst” by H J Gauntlett), and to make reference to the other during the service.

    Although I’ve been trying to put biblical texts, and Psalms in particular, into meter for singing for some while now, I have only recently attempted acrostic poems, and I’d be interested to hear if you have other such poems I could read?

    Yours – JOHN HARTLEY.


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