Volume VII ~Poems & Dramas by Fiona Macleod

THE IMMORTAL HOUR

A DRAMA

 

ACT I

 

DRAMATIS PERSONĈ

EOCHAIDH. High King of Ireland.
ETAIN. A Lost Princess, afterwards Eochaidh's Queen.
MIDIR. A Prince of the Hidden People.
DALUA. The Amadan-Dhu.

Two Peasants, Manus and Maive, and Harpers, Warriors, etc.

 

ACT I

A forest glade at the rising of the moon. In the background is the hazel-shadowed pool of a wide waste of water. As the moonshine falls upon an ancient oak to the right, the tall figure of DALUA is seen leaning against the bole. He is clad in black, with a small black cap from which hangs a black hawk's feather.

 

DALUA

[Slowly coming out of the shadow

By dim moon-glimmering coasts and dim grey wastes
Of thistle-gathered shingle, and sea-murmuring woods
Trod once but now untrod . . . under grey skies
That had the grey wave sighing in their sails,
And in their drooping sails the grey sea-ebb,
And with the grey wind wailing evermore
Blowing the dun leaf from the blackening trees,
I have travelled from one darkness to another.

VOICES IN THE WOOD

Though you have travelled from one darkness to another
Following the dun leaf from the blackening trees
That the grey wind harries, and have trodden the woods
Where the grey-hooded crows'that once were men
Gather in multitude from the long grey wastes
Of thistled shingle by sea-murmurous coasts,
Yet you have come no further than a rood,
A little rood of ground in a circle woven.

DALUA

My lips have lost the salt of the driven foam,
Howbeit I hear no more the long dull roar,
Of the long grey, beaches of the Hebrides.

VOICES

Behind the little windless leaves of the wood
The sea-wastes of the wind-worn Hebrides,
With thunderous crashes falling wave on wave
Are but the troubled sighs of a great silence.

DALUA

To the world's end I have come, to the world's end.

VOICES

You have come but a little way who think so far
The long uncounted leagues to the world's end:
And now you are mazed because you stand at the edge
Where the last tangled slope leans over the abyss.

DALUA

You know not who I am, sombre and ancient voices.

[Silence

And if I tread the long, continuous way
Within a narrow round, not, thinking it long,
And fare a single hour thinking it many days,
I am not first or last of the Immortal Clan,
For whom the long ways of the world are brief
And the short ways heavy with unimagined time.

VOICES IN THE WOOD

There is no first or last, or any end.

DALUA

I have come hither, led by dreams and visions,
And know not why I come, and to what end,
And wherefore, mid the noise of chariot wheels
Where the swung world roars down the starry ways,
The Voice I know and dread was gone with me
As the uplifted grain an wind are one.

VOICES

Above you is the light of a wandering star . . .
O Son of the Wandering Star, we know you now!

DALUA

Like great black birds the demons haunt the woods . . .
Hail, ye unknown who know me ! . . .

A VOICE

Hail, Son of Shadow!

VOICES

Hail, Brother of the strong, immortal gods,
And of the gods who have passed into a sleep
In sandless hollows of forgotten hills,
And of the homeless, sad, bewildered gods
Who as grey wandering mists lickt up of the wind
Pass slowly in the dull unfriendly light
Of the cold, curious, eyes of envious men.

OTHER VOICES

. . . . . . . . . Ai! Ai!

Who yet have that which gives their mortal play
A light and, a power and a wonder that none has
Of all the Clans of the Shee, save only those
who are not spriing of Orchil and Kail,
The mother and father of the earth-wrought folk
Greater than men, but less than 0rchil and Kail,
As they in turn are less than sky-set Lu,
Or Oengus who is keeper of the four great keys . . .

OTHER VOICES

Than sky-set Lu who leads the hosts of the stars . . .

OTHER VOICES

Than Dagda, Lord of Thunder and of Silence,
And Ana, the ancient Mother of the gods.

OTHER VOICES

Than Mánan of the innumerable waters.

OTHER VOICES

Than moon-crown'd Brigid of the undying flame. . . .

OTHER VOICES

Than Midir of the Dew and, the Evening Star.

OTHER VOICES

Than Oengus, keeper of the East: of Birth, of Song;
The keeper of the South: of Passion, and of War;
The keeper of the West: of Sorrow, of Dreams;
The keeper of the North: of Death, of Life.

DALUA

Yet one more ancient even than the god of the sun,
Than flame-haired Oengus, lord of Love and Death,
Holds the last dreadful key . . . Oblivion.

VOICES

Dim age that are dust are but the loosened laughters
Spilt in the youth of Oengus the Ever-Young!

DALUA

I am old, more old, more ancient than the gods,
For I am son of Shadow, eldest god
Who dreamed the passionate and terrible dreams
We have called Fire and Light, Water and Wind,
Air, Darkness, Death, Change, and Decay, and Birth
And all the infinite bitter range that is.

A VOICE

Brother and kin to all the twilit gods,
Living, forgot, long dead: sad Shadow of pale hopes,
Forgotten dreams, and madness of men's minds:
Outcast among the gods, and called the Fool,
Yet dreaded even by those immortal eyes
Because thy fateful touch can wreck the mind,
Or lay a frost of silence on the heart:
Dalua, hail! . . .

DALUA

I am but what I am.
I am no thirsty evil lapping life.

[Loud laughters from the wood

Laugh not, ye outcasts of the invisible world,
For Lu and Oengus laugh not, nor the gods
Safe set above the perishable stars.

[Silence

They laugh not, nor any in the high celestial house.
Their proud immortal eyes grow dim and clouded
When as a morning shadow I am gathered
Into their holy light, for well they know
The dreadful finger of the Nameless One,
That moves as a shadow falls. For I Dalua
Am yet the blown leaf of the unknown powers.

VOICES

[Tumultuously

We too are the blown leaves of the unseen powers.

DALUA

Demons and Dreams and Shadows, and all ye
Invisible folk who haunt the darkling ways,
I am grown weary, who have stooped and lain
Over the green edge o' the shaken world
And seen beneath the whirling maze of stars
Infinite gulfs of silence, and the obscure
Abysmal wastes where Time hath never Trod.

VOICES

We too are weary: we are Weariness.

DALUA

[Listening intently

Voices of shadowy things, be still! I hear
The feet of one who wanders through the wood.

VOICES

We who are the children of the broken way,
The wandered wind, the idle wave, blown leaves,
The wild distempered hour and swirling dust,
Hail thee, Dalua, Herdsman of fallen stars,
Shepherd of Shadows! Lord of the Hidden Way!

DALUA

[Going back to the oak

Voices be still! The woods are suddenly troubled.
I hear the footfall of predestined things.

[Enter ETAIN, in a coiled robe of pale green, with mistletoe intertwined in her long, dark, unloosened hair. She comes slowly forward, and stands silent, looking at the moon-shine on the water.

ETAIN

[Singing to a slow monotonous air

Fair is the moonlight
And fair the wood,
But not so fair
As the place I come from.

Why did I leave it,
The beautiful country,
Where Death is only
A drifting Shadow?

O face of Love,
Of Dream and Longing,
There is sorrow upon me
That I am here.

I will go back
To the Country of the Young,
And see again
The lances of the Shee

As they keep hosting
With laughing cries
In pale places
Under the moon

[ETAIN turns, and walks slowly forward. She starts as she hears a peculiar cry from the wood

ETAIN

None made that cry who has not known the Shee.

DALUA

[Coming forward and bowing low with
fantastic grace

Hail, daughter of kings, and star among the dreams
Which are the lives and souls of whom have won
The Country of the Young!

ETAIN

I know you not:

But though I have not seen your face before,
I think you are of those who have not kept
The bitter boney of mortality,
But are among the deathless folk who dwell
In hollow hills, or isles far off, or where
Flatheanas lies, or cold Ifurin is.

DALUA

I have come far, led here by dreams and visions.

ETAIN

By dreams and visions led I too have come
But know not whence or by what devious way,
Nor to what end I am come through these dim woods
To this grey lonely loch.

DALUA

[Touching her lightly with the shadow of
his hand

Have you forgot

The delicate smiling land beneath the arcs
Which day and night and momently are wove
Between its peaceful shores and the vast gulf
Of dreadful silence and the unpathwayed dark?

ETAIN

If somewhat I remember, more is lost.
Have I come here to meet with you, fair sir,
Whose name I do not know, whose face is strange?

DALUA

Can you remember. . . . .

ETAIN

I have forgotten all . . .

I can remember nothing: no, not this
The little song I sang ev'n now, or what sweet thought,
What ache of longing lay behind the song.
All is forgot. And this has come to me
The wind-way of.the leaf. But now my thoughts
Ran leaping through the green ways of my mind
Like fawns at play: but now I know no more
That this: that I am Etain White o' the Wave,
Etain come hither from the lovely land
Where the Immortal Shee fill up their lives
As flowers with honey brewed of summer airs,
Flame of the sun, dawn-rains, and evening dews.

DALUA

[Somberly

How knew you not that, once, where the unsetting moon
The grassy elf mounds fills with drowsy gold,
I kissed your shadowy lips beneath the thorn
Heavy with old foam of changeless blossom?

ETAIN

[Leaning forward and looking into his
face

You loved me once? I have no memory
Of this: if once you loved me, have you lost
The subtle breath of love, the sudden fire?
For you are cold as are .your shadowy eyes.

DALUA

[Unstirring

When, at the last, amid., the o'erwearied Shee--
Weary of long delight and deathless joys--
One you shall love may fade before your eyes,
Before your eyes may fade, and be as mist
Caught in the sunny hollow of Lu's hand,
Lord of the Day. . . .

ETAIN

[Eagerly, with her left hand pressed
against her heart

What then?

DALUA

It may be then, white dove,

Your eyes may dwell on one on whom falls not
The first chill breath blown from the Unknown Land,
Of which the tender poets of the Shee
Sing in the dewy eves when the wild deer
Are milked, and 'neath the evening-star moths rise
Grey-gold against a wave-uplifted moon.

ETAIN

Well?

DALUA

Then I, Dalua, in that fateful hour,
Shall know the star-song of supreme desire,
And placing hand upon the perfect fruit
Shall taste and die . . .

[A Pause

. . . or, if I do not die,

Shall know the sweet fruit mine, then see it slip
Down through dim branches into the abyss
Where all sweet fruit that is, the souls of men,
The joyous Shee, old gods, all beautiful words,
Song, music, dreams, desires, shall in the end
Sway like blown moths against the -rosewhite flame
That is the fiery plume on the brows
Of Him called Silence.

ETAIN

I do not understand:
Your love shall fall about me like sweet rain
In drouth of death: so much I hear and know.
But how can death o'ertake the immortal folk
With whom I dwell? And if you love me thus,
Why is there neither word nor smile nor glance
Of love, nor , any little sign that love
Shakes like windy reed within your heart?

DALUA

[Somberly

I am Dalua.

ETAIN

I have heard lips whisper
Of one Dalua, but with sucked-in breath,
As though the lips were fearful of the word
No more than this I know, no more recall.

DALUA

I cannot give you word of love, or kiss,
Sweet love, for in my fatal breath there lies
The subtle air of madness: from my hand
Death shoots in arrowy tongue, if I but touch
The unsuspecting clay with bitter heed,
With hate darkling as the swift winter hail,
Or sudden malice such as lifts and falls
A dreadful shadow of ill within my mind.
Nor could I if I would. We are sheep led
By an unknown Shepherd, we who are the Shee,
For all we dream we are as gods, and far
Upgathered from the little woes of men.

ETAIN

Then why this meeting, here in this old wood?
By moonlight, by this melancholy water?

DALUA

I knew not: now I know. A kin of men
Has wooed the Immortal Hour. He seeks to know
The joy that is more great than joy
The beauty of the old green earth can give.
He has known dreams, and because bitter dreams
Have sweeter been than honey, he has sought
The open road that lies mid shadowy things.
He hath sought and found and called upon the Shee
To lead his love to one more beautiful
Than any mortal maid, so fair that he
Shall know a joy beyond all mortal joy,
And stand silent and rapt beside the gate,
The rainbow gate of her whom none may find,
The Beauty of all Beauty.

ETAIN

Can this be?

DALUA

Nay, but he doth not know the end . There is
But one way to that Gate: it is not Love
Aflame with all desire, but Love at peace.

ETAIN

Who is this poet, this king?

DALUA

Led here by dreams,

By dreams and visions led as you and I,
His feet are nearing us. When you are won
By love and adoration, Star of dreams,
And take sweet mortal clay, and have forgot
The love-sweet whisper of the King of The Shee,
And, even as now, hear Midir's name unmov'd;
When you are won thus, Etain, and none know,
Not any of your kindred, whence unknown
As all unknowing you have come, for you
The wayward thistledown of fate shall blow
On the same idle wind--the doom of him
Who blindfold seeks you.

ETAIN

But he may not love?

DALUA

Yes, he shall love. Upon him I shall lay
My touch, the touch of him men dread and call
The Amadan-Dhu, the Dark One, Fairy Fool.
He shall have madness even as he wills,
And think it wisdom. I shall be his thought
A dream within a dream, the flame wherein
The white moths of his thought shall rise and die.

[A blast of a horn is heard

DALUA

[Abruptly

FAREWELL.

[Touches her lightly with the shadow
of his hand, and whispers in her ear

Now go. The huntsman's lodge is near.
I have told all that need be told, and given
Bewilderment and dreams, but dreams that are
The fruit of that sweet clay of which I spoke.

[ETAIN slowly goes, putting her hand to her head bewilderedly. Before she passes into and
out of sight in the wood, she sings plaintively

I would go back
To the Country of the Young,
And see again
The lances of the Shee,

As they keep their hosting
With laughing cries
In pale places
Under the moon.

 

The Immortal Hour Act 1, Scene2

  Contents: Dramas