Volume VII~Poems & Dramas by Fiona Macleod

THE IMMORTAL HOUR

 

SCENE II.-The same.

EOCHAIDH

[Rising abruptly, followed by MIDIR more slowly

So, you have won! For the first time the king
Has known one subtler than himself. Fair sir, Your boon?

MIDIR

O king, it is a little thing.
All that I ask is this, that I may touch
With my own lips the white hand of the queen:
And that sweet Etain whom you love so well
Should listen to the distant shell-sweet song,
A little echoing song that I have made
Down by the foam on sea-drown'd shores to please
Her lovelier beauty.

EOCHAIDH

Sir, I would that boon
Were other than it is: for the queen sleeps
Grown sad with weariness and many dreams:
But as you have my kingly word, so be it.

[Calls to the young minstrel

Go boy, to where the women sleep, and call
Etain, the Queen.

[The minstrel goes, to left
HARPERS (Play a low delicate music).

[Enter ETAIN, in a robe of tale green, with mistletoe intertwined in her long loose hair

EOCHAIDH

Welcome, fair lovely queen.
But, Etain, whom I love as the dark wave
Loves the white star within its travelling breast,
Why do you come thus clad in green, with hair
Entangled with the mystic mistletoe, as when
I saw you first, in that dim, lonely wood
Down by forgotten shores, where the last clouds
Slip through grey branches into the grey wave?

ETAIN

I could not sleep. My dreams came close to me
And whispered in my ears. And someone played
A vague perplexing air without my room.
I was as dim and silent as the grass,
Till a faint wind moved over me, and dews
Gathered, and in the myriad little bells
I saw a myriad stars.

EOCHAIDH

This nameless lord
Has won a boon from me. It is to touch
The whiteness of this hand with his hot lips,
For he is fevered with a secret trouble,
From rumour of that beauty which too well
I know a burning flame. And he would sing
A song of echoes caught from out the foam
Of sea-drown'd shores, a song that he has made,
Dreaming a foolish idle dream, an idle dream.

ETAIN

[Looking long and lingeringly at MIDIR, slowly gives him her hand. When he ha raised it to his lips, bowing, and let it go, she starts, puts it to her brow bewilderingly, and again looks fixedly at MIDIR

Fair nameless lord, I pray you sing that song.

MIDIR

[Slowly chanting and looking steadfastly at ETAIN

How beautiful they are,
The lordly ones
Who dwell in the hills,
In the hollow hills.

They have faces like flowers,
And their breath is wind
That stirs amid grasses
Filled with white clover.

Their limbs are more white
Than shafts of moonshire:
They are more fleet
Than the March wind.

They laugh and are glad
And are terrible;
When their lances shake
Every green reed quivers.

How beautiful they are,
How beautiful,
The lordly ones
In the hollow hills.

[Silence. ETAIN again puts her hand to her brow bewilderdly

ETAIN

[Dreamily

I have heard. . . . I have dreamed. . . .I,
too, have heard,
Have sung . . . that song: O lordly ones that
dwell
In secret places in the hollow hills,
Who have put moonlit dreams into my mind
And filled my noons with visions, from afar
I hear sweet dewfall voices, and the clink,
The delicate silvery spring and clink
Of faery lances underneath the moon.

MIDIR

I am a song
In the land of the Young,
A sweet song:
I am Love.

I am a bird
With white wings
And a breast of flame,
Singing, singing.

The wind sways me
On the quicken-bough:
Hark! Hark!
I hear laughter.

Among the nuts
On the hazel-tree
I sing to the Salmon
In the faery pool.

What is the dream
The Salmon dreams,
In the Pool of Connla
Under the hazels?

It is: There is no death
Midir, with thee,
In the honeysweet land
Of Heart's Desire.

It is a name wonderful,
Midir, Love:
It was born on the lips
Of Oengus Og.

Go, look for it:
Lost name, beautiful:
Strayed from the honeysweet
Land of Youth.

I am Midir, Love:
But where is my secret
Name in the land of
Heart's desire?

I am a bird
With white wings
And a breast of flame
Singing, singing:

The Salmon of knowledge
Hears, whispers:
Look for it, Midir,
In the heart of Etain:

Etain, Etain,
My Heart's Desire:
Love, love, love,
Sorrow, Sorrow!

[ETAIN moves a little nearer, then stops. She puts both hands before her eyes, then withdraws them

ETAIN

I am a small green leaf in a great wood
And you, the wind o' the South!

[Silence. EOCHAIDH, as though spellbound, cannot advance, but stretches his arms towards ETAIN

EOCHAIDH

Etain, speak!
What is this song the harper sings, what
tongue
It this he speaks? for in no Gaelic lands
Is speech like this upon the lips of men.
No word of all these honey-dripping words
Is known to me. Beware, beware the words
Brewed in the moonshine under ancient oaks
White with pale banners of the mistletoe
Twined round them in their slow and stately
death.
It is the Feast of Sáveen.¹

ETAIN

All is dark
That has been light.

EOCHAIDH

Come back:, come back, O love that slips away!

ETAIN

I cannot hear your voice so far away:
So far away in that dim lonely dark
Whence I have come. The light is gone.
Farewell!

EOCHAIDH

Come back, come back! It is a dream that calls,
A wild and empty dream! There is no light
Within that black and terrible abyss
Whereon you stand. Etain, come back, come
back,
I give you life and love.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
¹Samhain. The Celtic Festival of Summerend Hallowe'en.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

ETAIN

I cannot hear
Your strange forgotten words, already dumb
And empty sounds of dim defeated shows.
I go from dark to light.

MIDIR

[Slowly whispering

From dark to light.

EOCHAIDH

O, do not leave me, Star of my Desire!
My love, my hope, my dream: for now I know
That you are part of me, and I the clay,
The idle mortal clay that longed to gain,
To keep, to hold, the starry Danann fire,
The little spark that lives and does not die.

ETAIN

Old, dim, wind-wandered lichens on a stone
Grown grey with ancient age: as these thy words,
Forgotten symbols. So, farewell: farewell.

MIDIR

Hasten, lost love, found love! Come, Etain, come!

ETAIN

What are the sounds I hear? The wild deer call
From the hill-hollows: and in the hollows sing,
Mid waving birchen bows, brown wandering streams:
And through the rainbow'd spray flit azure birds
Whose song is faint, is faint and far with love:
O, home-sweet, hearth-sweet, cradle-sweet it is,
The song I hear!

MIDIR

[Slowly moving backward

Come, Etain, come! Afar

The hillside maids are milking the wild deer;
The elf-horns blow green harpers on the shores
Play a wild music out across the foam:
Rose-flusht on one long wave's pale golden front,
The moon of faery hangs, low on that wave.
Come! When the vast full yellow flower is swung
High o'er the ancient woods wherein old gods,
Ancient as they, dream their eternal dreams
That in the faery dawns as shadows rise
And float into the lives and minds of men
And are the tragic, pulses of the world,
Then shall we two stoop by the Secret Pool
And drink, and salve our sudden eyes with dew
Gathered from foxglove and the moonlit fern,
And see. . . .

[Slowly chanting and looking steadfastly at ETAIN

How beautiful they are,
The lordly ones
Who dwell in the hills,
In the hollow hills.

They have faces like flowers,
And their breath is wind
That stirs amid grasses
Filled with white clover.

Their limbs are more white
Than shafts of moonshine:
They are more fleet
Than the March wind.

They laugh and are glad
And are terrible:
When their lances shake
Every green reed quivers.

How beautiful they are,
How beautiful,
The lordly ones
In the hollow hills.

ETAIN

Hush! Hush!

Who laughed?

MIDIR

None laughed. All here are in a spell
Of frozen silence.

ETAIN

Sure, sure, one laughed.
Tell me, sweet Voice, which, one among the
Shee
Is he who plays with shadows, and whose
laugh
Moves like a bat through silent-haunted
woods?

MIDIR

He is not here: so fear him not: Dalua.
It is the morta1 name of him whose age
Was idle laughing youth when Time was born.
He is not here: but come with me, and where
The falling stars spray down the dark Abyss,
There, on a quicken, growing from mid-earth
And hanging like a spar across the depths,
Dalua sits: and sometimes through the dusk
Of immemorial congregated time,
His laughter rings: and then he listens long,
And when the echo swims up from the deeps
He springs, from crag to crag, for he is mad,
And like a lost lamb crieth to his ewe,
That ancient, dreadful Mother of the Gods
Whom men call Fear.

When he has wandered thence

Whether among the troubled lives of men or mid
The sacred Danann ways, dim wolflike shapes
Of furtive shadow follow him and leap
The windway of his thought: or sometimes
dwarfed, more dread
The stealthy moonwhite weasels of life and death
Glide hither and thither. "Even the high gods
Who laugh and mock the lonely Fairy Fool
When in his mortal guise, he haunts the earth,
Shrink from the Amadan Dhu when in their ways
He moves, silent, unsmiling, wearing a dark star
Above his foamwhite brows and midnight eyes.

Come, Etain, come: and have no fear, wild fawn,
For I am Midir, Love, who loved you well
Before this mortal veil withheld you here.
Come!

In the Land of Youth
There are pleasant places:
Green meadows, woods,
Swift grey-blue waters.

There is no age there,
Nor any sorrow:
As the stars in heaven
Are the cattle in the valleys.

Great rivers wander
Through flowery plains,
Streams of milk, of mead,
Streams of strong ale.

There is no hunger
And no thirst
In the Hollow Land,
In the Land of Youth.

How beautiful they are,
The lordly ones
Who dwell in the hills,
In the hollow hills.

They Play with lances
And are proud and terrible,
Marching in the moonlight
With fierce blue eyes.

They love and are loved:
There is no sin there:
But slaying without death,
And loving without shame.

Every day a bird sings:
It is the Desire of the Heart.
What the bird sings,
That is it that one has.

Come, longing heart,
Come, Etain, come!
Wild Fawn, I am calling
Across the fern!

 

[Slowly ETAIN, clasping his hand, moves away with MIDIR. They pass the spell-bound guards and disappear. A sudden darkness falls. Out of the shadow DALUA moves rapidly to the side of EOCHAIDH, who starts, and peers into the face of the stranger

EOCHAIDH

It is the same Dalua whom I met
Long since, in that grey shadowy wood
About the verge of the old broken earth
Where, at the last, moss-clad it hangs in cloud.

DALUA

I am come.

EOCHAIDH

My dreams! my dreams! Give me my dream!

DALUA

There is none left but this--

[Touches the king, who stands stiff and erect, sways, and falls to the ground

DALUA

. . . . . . . .the dream of Death.

 

THE END

Contents: Dramas