Dominion of Dreams, by Fiona Macleod


After the great and terrible Battle of the Field of Spears, Aodh the Harper, who was called Aodh-of-the-Songs, left the camps of men and went into the woods.
For a year and another season of snow he drifted hither and thither therein, a blown leaf. When he was seen again of his scattered folk, his brown hair was grey, and his eyes were as a woman's tired with weeping, and as a young man's weary with vain love, and as an old man's weary with life.
He came forth clad in a slit deerskin, and in his long grey locks were sprays of mistletoe, the moon-white berries like river-pearls in the grey ashes of his hair. Behind him lolled two gaunt wolves, staring ever upward at him with famished eyes.
When he came before the King, where Congal the Silent sat in his rath, listening to Barach the blind Druid, he stood still, looking out from his eyes as a man on a hill staring through the dusk at once familiar lands.
Congal looked at him.
"This is a good day that we see you again, Aodh-of-the Songs."
Aodh said nothing.
"It is a year and a fourth part of a year since you went into the forest and were lost there as a shadow is lost."
Aodh answered nothing.
"In all that time have you known what we have not known?"
Aodh stirred and looked intently upon the king and upon the white hair and white face of Barach the Blind. Then he looked at the two gaunt wolves at his side, and he smiled.
"Aye, Congal, son of Artan, I have seen and I have heard."
"And what will you have seen and what heard?"
"I have heard the crying of wind."
"That, too, we have heard. What is there in the crying of the wind that we have not heard?"
"I have heard the sigh of the grass."
"That, too, we have heard. What is there in the sigh of the grass that we have not heard?"
"I have seen the dew falling from the stars, and like pale smoke the dew rising again to the stars, till they were wet and bright as the scales of a salmon leaping in the moonshine.
"That also we have seen, Aodh-of-the Harp."
"I have seen the coming and going of the stars."
"That also we have seen, Aodh."
"There is no more."
"Is there in truth no more to tell?"
"Only the crying of wind."
Congal the King sat in his place with brooding eyes. Aodh stood before him, seeing that which he had seen between the coming and going of stars.
"Play to us, Aodh-of-the-Woods."
Then Aodh took his harp and touched the strings, and sang:

I have fared far in the dim woods;
And I have known sorrow and grief,
And the incalculable years
That haunt the solitudes.
Where now are the multitudes
Of the Field of Spears?
Old tears
Fall upon them as rain,
Their eyes are quiet under the brown leaf.

I have seen the dead, innumerous:
I too shall lie thus,
And thou, Congal, thou too shalt lie
Still and white
Under the starry sky,
And rise no more to any Field of Spears,
But, under the brown leaf,
Remember grief
And the old, salt, bitter tears.

And I have heard the crying of wind.
It is the crying that is in my heart:
Oona of the Dark Eyes, Oona of the Dark Eyes,
Oona, Oona, Oona, Heart of my Heart!
But there is only the crying of wind
Through the silences of the sky,
Dews that fall and rise,
The faring of long years,
And the coverlet of the brown leaf.
For the old familiar grief
And the old tears.

No man spoke, when Aodh ceased singing and harping. All knew that when he had come back to the smoking, wasted rath of the King, after the Battle of the Field of Spears, he had found Oona of the Dark Eyes, whom he loved, slain with a spear betwixt the breasts. He had looked long upon her, but said nothing; and when that night she was put in the brown earth, white-robed, with white apple-blooms in her dusky hair, standing erect and proud as though she saw wise eyes fixed upon her, he made a song and a music for her, and then was silent till dawn. No man had heard so strange and wild music, and never had any listened to a song wherein the words clanged and clashed heedlessly as the din of falling swords. On the morrow, Duach, a druid, had graven, in Ogam, her name on a stone. Aodh had stood by from dawn till the rising of the sun. Then he laughed low, and smoothed the stone with his hand, and whispered, "Come, White One, come." With that he passed into the woods.
On this day of his return he had gone straightway to the stone in the oak glade. "I come, White One, I come," he whispered there, smoothing the white stone with a slow, lingering hand.
When Aodh had turned thence to the rath, and was brought before Congal the Ardrigh, there was a shining in his face.
All knew what Aodh had sung of when he sang that song of grief at the bidding of the King. Thus it was that no man spoke. There was silence while slowly, as one in a dream, he touched now one string of his harp, now another.
Suddenly it was as though he awoke.
"Where are my three hounds? " he asked.
Congal looked at him with grave eyes.
"Great was your love, Aodh. None ever had greater love for a woman than was your love for Oona the Beautiful. But great sorrow has put a mist against your eyes."
"I hear the crying of wind, Congal."
"And fair is the moon that I see sailing white and wonderful among the stars."
"There is no star yet but the Star of Fionn, and there is no moon, Aodh-of-the-Songs."
"Fair is the moon that I see sailing white and wonderful among the stars. Ah, white wonderful face of Beauty! Oona, Oona, Oona! "
The King was silent. None spoke.
"I hear the crying of wind, Congal."
" Ay?"
"Where are my three hounds, O King?
"There were two wolves which came out of the forest with you---a wolf and a she-wolf. They are gone."
"There were three."
None answered.
"There were three, O King. And now one only abides with me."
"I see none, Aodh-of-the-Songs."
"There were three hounds with me, Congal, son of Artan. They are called Death, and Life, and Love."
"Two wolves only I saw."
"I hear the crying of wind, Congal the Silent."
"In that crying I hear the baying of the two wolves whom ye saw. They are Death and Life. They roam the dark wood."
"Is there a wolf or a hound here now, Aodh-of-the-Songs? "
Aodh answered nothing, for his head was sideway, and he listened, as a hart at a well.
Barach the Blind rose and spoke.
"There is a white hound beside him, O King."
"Is it the hound Love?
"It is the hound Love."
There was silence. Then the King spoke.
"What is it that you hear, Aodh-of-the-Songs?"
"I hear the crying of wind."