THE HOUSE OF USNA
SCENE THE SAME.--Ultonian Warriors have brought Cravetheen the Harper--a
misshapen savage figure, held by two warriors--before the king, so that Concobar may
decree what manner of death the man is to die, because of having murdered Cormac by
setting fire to the Dûn, where he and Eilidh lay, and burning him and his love and all
that were within the Dûn.
I have heard all. Let him go. What is death?
[Cravetheen is released
Have you no mercy, O king?
Harper, you have your life. Go!
Have you no mercy, O king?
What is your desire?
I have but one desire, Concobar, King of Ulla.
It is that I may know death.
[Rising, and smiling strangely
Brother, I, too--I, too, have that one desire.
You . . . the king . . .
[Lying under an oak, makes a clear note on his reed-flute, and chants
slowly with wailing rise and fall
Deirdrê is dead! Deirdrê the Beautiful is
dead, is dead!
Ah, now I know! Now I know! [Moving slowly towards the king.] That cry is the
cry of the House of Usna! The gods do not sleep, O king. That cry is the cry of the House
[With sudden fury, reaching out his arms as though cursing or
abhorring the speaker
Take him away! To death! . . .to death!
Away with him!
[Eagerly and triumphantly
I am the voice of the House of Usna, O king!
Tie him to the saplings! Let him die the death of the oaks!
To the Death-tree! To the Death-tree!
[They seize Cravetheen and drag him away into the wood
[Staring about him confusedly
Who spoke? [Lower, in a hoarse whisper.]
O king, there is no evil done upon the world that the wind does not bring back to the
feet of him who wrought it.
The wind! . . . The wind!
O king, the gods abhor most the evil that is wrought unworthily by the great.
Who are the great . . . I have lost love, and my kinglihood, and my son, and all, all
my hopes. Who are the great?
O king, you have slain youth, and love, and beauty.
Life. . . . Life. . . . Life for ever slays youth, and love, and beauty.
Take not the brute law to be the divine law. O king, are prophecies idle ways of an
idle wind? Long, long ago it was foretold that evil would come upon you and your house
because of your uncontrolled desire, but what avail? Your ears were deaf.
Why do the gods pursue me? I am old, I am old.
At the kindling of the light they look into the silent earth, and they behold the slain
bodies of Naysha and Ailnê and Ardan, and a shade stands at their grave calling night and
day--I am the House of Usna!
Druid, is there no evil done upon the world, is there no slaying of young men, is there
no falling of heroic names into the dust, save what I have done?
Because of your desire you slew your kinglihood.
More terrible than the fate of Usna is the fall of royal honour. More terrible than the
death of Naysha is the shame put upon those who blindly did your will. More terrible than
the death of Deirdrê is the undoing of the great wonder and mystery of beauty. The gods
call . . ." Concobar, Concobar, thy thirst shall be for shadows, and the rose of
thy desire shall be dust within thy mouth!"
It was because of love. . . . It was because of love.
Yes, O king . . . love of thine own love.
Evil can be undone.
Where are the sons of Usna?
I tell you, Druid, evil can be undone. I repent me of my evil. . . . I repent me of my
Where are the sons of Usna? Where is the word of the king? Where is Deirdrê, the too
great beauty of this evil time? Where is Emain Macha, the beautiful city? Where is the
glory of the Red Branch? Where is Cormac, Cormac Conlingas, who was to be king! Where
stands Eiré that was to be one nation?
[In a hoarse whisper
Have all these evils come upon me because I was a king and because I loved?
Because you were a king and chose the unkingly way.
Good blooms like a flower that has its day: evil like a weed that endures, and grows
and grows and grows.
But the evil that is done of kings shall cover the whole land.
[Starting, and furiously
Enough! Enough, Druid! I have heard enough. I am the king. [Raising his sword, and
looking towards the Warriors, shouts.] Ultonians, awake! I am the king. I am the Red
Branch. On the morrow we march. I shall lead you, with Conaill Carna and with Cuchulain.
The armies of Queen Meave shall be scattered like dry leaves. Fear not the gods! The gods
follow the victorious sword! Before the new moon all the gods of the Gael will be on our
side! The Red Branch! The Red Branch!
[Clashing swords and spears
The Red Branch! The Red Branch,
Up with the Sunburst! Up with the banner of the Sunburst!
The Sunburst ! The Sunburst!
The gods are with us! (Lower, and turning to Duach, exultantly.) The gods are
with us. Druid, it is the will of man that compels the gods, not the gods who compel man.
[After a momentary pause, and laying his hand on the king's arm
The gods are the will of man. For good and for evil the gods are the will
Stand back, Druid. I am weary of your subtleties. (Shouts.) Warriors, go! On the
morrow I shall lead you--I, and Conaill the Victorious, and Cuchulain the greatest
champion of Eiré!
[Go shouting, and after they have gone their voices are heard
repeating the acclaim
Concobar! Concobar! Conaill Carna! Cuchulain ! Cuchulain !
[Looking sombrely at Duach
Druid, go! I would be alone.
I go. But truly, yea, truly, O king, you shall be alone from this hour.
Enough. I am the king. I have great dreams. The gods are with me. They have forgotten,
for they do not long remember the dead!
[Meaningly, as he moves slowly away
The gods neither sleep nor do they forget.
[A long pause. Silence
I am the king. I have great dreams.
[A wailing voice from the wood. The
king starts, raising his sword.
Who is that? . . . what is that?
[Unseen, on the Death-tree
It is I, Cravetheen, in my hour of death.
[Silence. , The king stands listening.
Again a long wailing cry.
The gods do not sleep, O king! . . . Farewell.
[Slowly Concobar lowers his sword.
It falls with a crash to the ground.
He stands as though spellbound.
[In an awed whispering voice
It is the cry of the House of Usna!
[Silence. Slowly the king lifts his hand to his face, and bows his
From the wood the boy Mainé breathes three poignant notes on his reed-flute, and
chants slowly with long rise and fall:
Deirdrê is dead. Deirdrê the Beautiful is dead, is dead!