Volume VII~Poems and Dramas by Fiona Macleod

THE HOUSE OF USNA

A DRAMA

by Fiona Macleod


NOTE

Concobar MacNessa was King of Ulster and Ard-Righ or High-King of Ireland at the beginning of the Christian era. By some chroniclers his reign is said to be synchronous with the mortal years of Christ.

Concobar had founded the knightly order of "The Red Branch" - the forerunner, though on a more epical scale, of the Round Table of the Arthurian Chivalry-and by his force of will and the power of his nation (the Ultonians, the people of Uladh, or Ulster) had become not only High-King of Ireland, but dreamed to make of its nations one nation, and that he and his sons and his son's sons should be its kings. In this he disregarded both the prophecies of the seers and the will of the gods; for he had long schemed, and at last accomplished, a deed of evil and treachery upon three of the champions of the Alban or Scottish Gael, Naysha (Naois) and his two brothers, the sons of Usna, though the hero Usna had been allied to him and was bondbrother in war and courtesy.

The period of this drama is about four years after the elopement of Deirdrê, as told in the old tale of Deirdrê and the Sons of Usna. More explicitly, the actual period is the year following the triumph of Concobar's inveterate hate in his treacherous murder of Naysha (Naois) and his brothers Ailne (Ainnle) and Ardan, because of the love of Naysha for Deirdrê (the High King's ward and most beautiful woman of her time, and by Concobar destined to be his queen, despite the prophecies at her birth) and of Deirdrê for Naysha. Because of broken kingly honour, and the slaying of the sons of Usna and the death of Deirdrê, Cormac Conlingas, Concobar's son and heir, with other champions, seceded and joined the dread enemy Queen Meave, then advancing against the Ultonian Kingdom from the middle provinces and the west.¹ Conaill Carna and the youthful Setanta (already famous as the Hound (Cù), or Cuchulain, the Hound of Chulain) were among those who in their loyalty remained with Concobar to fight with vain magnificent heroism against the will of the gods.

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¹ As the names have everywhere been anglicised.. . . e.g. Medb or Medbh into Meave, pronounced Mave; and Naois into Naysha . . . I need add only that Cuchulain is pronounced Coohoolin, and Eilidh Eily.
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It is at this juncture that Cormac Conlingas, suddenly deciding to return to Uladh to rejoin Concobar and the Red Branch, is seduced by his great love for the wife of Cravetheen the Harper, and with her is burned to death by Cravetheen.

When the drama opens, Concobar (already, as was presaged, brought to the verge of madness by his thwarted and inconsolable passion for Deirdrê, and by his unkingly and treacherous revenge and its outcome) does not know that this new evil is come upon him and his house and nation, though in truth the end is at hand when the star of Ireland shall set in blood from the north to the south and from the east to the west.

The House of Usna, Scene 1

Contents: Volume VII

© 1998, 1999, 2000 copyright by Mary Ann Dobratz  All Rights Reserved
With the exception of Vol. II, The Collected Works of Fiona Macleod and
Vol. V, The Selected Writings of Wm. Sharp (now in print)
the writings of the above author are in the public domain.
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