THE COUNTESS CATHLEEN. THE
LAND OF HEART’S DESIRE. THE
UNICORN FROM THE STARS: BEING
THE THIRD VOLUME OF THE
COLLECTED WORKS IN VERSE
AND PROSE OF WILLIAM BUTLER
THE COLLECTED WORKS OF
WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS
THE COUNTESS CATHLEEN. THE
LAND OF HEART’S DESIRE. THE
UNICORN FROM THE STARS
THE THIRD VOLUME OF THE
COLLECTED WORKS IN VERSE
AND PROSE OF WILLIAM BUTLER
IMPRINTED AT THE
SHAKESPEARE HEAD PRESS
|THE COUNTESS CATHLEEN
|THE LAND OF HEART’S DESIRE
|THE UNICORN FROM THE STARS,|
|BY LADY GREGORY AND W. B. YEATS
|THE COUNTESS CATHLEEN
THE COUNTESS CATHLEEN
‘The sorrowful are dumb for thee.’
Lament of Morion Shehone for
Miss Mary Bourke.
To Maud Gonne.
PERSONS IN THE PLAY
- Shemus Rua, a peasant
- Teig, his son
- Aleel, a young bard
- Maurteen, a gardener
- The Countess Cathleen
- Oona, her foster-mother
- Maire, wife of Shemus Rua
- Two Demons disguised as merchants
- Peasants, Servants, &c.
- Angelical Beings, Spirits, and Faeries
The scene is laid in Ireland, and in old times.
THE COUNTESS CATHLEEN.
The cottage of SHEMUS REA. The door into the
open air is at right side of room. There is a
window at one side of the door, and a little
shrine of the Virgin Mother at the other. At
the back is a door opening into a bedroom, and
at the left side of the room a pantry door. A
wood of oak, beech, hazel, and quicken is seen
through the window half hidden in vapour and
twilight. MAIRE watches TEIG, who fills a
pot with water. He stops as if to listen, and
spills some of the water.
You are all thumbs.
Hear how the dog bays, mother,
And how the gray hen flutters in the coop.
Strange things are going up and down the land,
These famine times: by Tubber-vanach crossroads
A woman met a man with ears spread out,
And they moved up and down like wings of bats.
Shemus stays late.
By Carrick-orus churchyard,
A herdsman met a man who had no mouth,
Nor ears, nor eyes: his face a wall of flesh;
He saw him plainly by the moon.
[Going over to the little shrine.]
Bring Shemus home out of the wicked woods;
Save Shemus from the wolves; Shemus is daring;
And save him from the demons of the woods,
Who have crept out and wander on the roads,
Deluding dim-eyed souls now newly dead,
And those alive who have gone crazed with famine.
Save him, White Mary Virgin.
And but now
I thought I heard far-off tympans and harps.
[Knocking at the door.
Shemus has come.
May he bring better food
Than the lean crow he brought us yesterday.
[MAIRE opens the door, and SHEMUS comes in
with a dead wolf on his shoulder.
Shemus, you are late home: you have been lounging
And chattering with some one: you know well
How the dreams trouble me, and how I pray,
Yet you lie sweating on the hill from morn,
Or linger at the crossways with all comers,
Telling or gathering up calamity.
You would rail my head off. Here is a good dinner.
[He throws the wolf on the table.
A wolf is better than a carrion crow.
I searched all day: the mice and rats and hedgehogs
Seemed to be dead, and I could hardly hear
A wing moving in all the famished woods,
Though the dead leaves and clauber of four forests
Cling to my footsole. I turned home but now,
And saw, sniffing the floor in a bare cow-house,
This young wolf here: the crossbow brought him down.
Praise be the saints![After a pause.
Why did the house dog bay?
He heard me coming and smelt food—what else?
We will not starve awhile.
What food is within?
There is a bag half full of meal, a pan
Half full of milk.
And we have one old hen.
The bogwood were less hard.
Before you came
She made a great noise in the hencoop, Shemus.
What fluttered in the window?
Two horned owls
Have blinked and fluttered on the window sill
From when the dog began to bay.
[He fits an arrow to the crossbow, and goes
towards the door. A sudden burst of
They are off again: ladies or gentlemen
Travel in the woods with tympan and with harp.
Teig, put the wolf upon the biggest hook
And shut the door.
[TEIG goes into the cupboard with the wolf:
returns and fastens the door behind him.
Sit on the creepy stool
And call up a whey face and a crying voice,
And let your head be bowed upon your knees.
[He opens the door of the cabin.
Come in, your honours: a full score of evenings
This threshold worn away by many a foot
Has been passed only by the snails and birds
And by our own poor hunger-shaken feet.
[The COUNTESS CATHLEEN, ALEEL, who carries
a small square harp, OONA, and a little
group of fantastically dressed musicians
Are you so hungry?
[From beside the fire.]
Lady, I fell but now,
And lay upon the threshold like a log.
I have not tasted a crust for these four days.
[The COUNTESS CATHLEEN empties her purse
on to the table.
Had I more money I would give it you,
But we have passed by many cabins to-day;
And if you come to-morrow to my house
You shall have twice the sum. I am the owner
Of a long empty castle in these woods.
Then you are Countess Cathleen: you and yours
Are ever welcome under my poor thatch.
Will you sit down and warm you by the sods?
We must find out this castle in the wood
Before the chill o’ the night.
[The musicians begin to tune their instruments.
Do not blame me,
Good woman, for the tympan and the harp:
I was bid fly the terror of the times
And wrap me round with music and sweet song
Or else pine to my grave. I have lost my way;
Aleel, the poet, who should know these woods,
Because we met him on their border but now
Wandering and singing like the foam of the sea,
Is so wrapped up in dreams of terrors to come
That he can give no help.
[Going to the door with her.]
There is a trodden way among the hazels
That brings your servants to their marketing.
When we are gone draw to the door and the bolt,
For, till we lost them half an hour ago,
Two gray horned owls hooted above our heads
Of terrors to come. Tympan and harp awake!
For though the world drift from us like a sigh,
Music is master of all under the moon;
And play ‘The Wind that blows by Cummen Strand.’
Impetuous heart, be still, be still:
Your sorrowful love may never be told;
Cover it up with a lonely tune.
He who could bend all things to His will
Has covered the door of the infinite fold
With the pale stars and the wandering moon.
[While he is singing the COUNTESS CATHLEEN,
OONA, and the musicians go out.
Shut to the door and shut the woods away,
For, till they had vanished in the thick of the leaves,
Two gray horned owls hooted above our heads.
[He goes out.
[Bolting the door.]
When wealthy and wise folk wander from their peace
And fear wood things, poor folk may draw the bolt
And pray before the fire.
[SHEMUS counts out the money, and rings a
piece upon the table.
The Mother of God,
Hushed by the waving of the immortal wings,
Has dropped in a doze and cannot hear the poor:
I passed by Margaret Nolan’s; for nine days
Her mouth was green with dock and dandelion;
And now they wake her.
I will go the next;
Our parents’ cabins bordered the same field.
God, and the Mother of God, have dropped asleep,
For they are weary of the prayers and candles;
But Satan pours the famine from his bag,
And I am mindful to go pray to him
To cover all this table with red gold.
Teig, will you dare me to it?
Not I, father.
O Shemus, hush, maybe your mind might pray
In spite o’ the mouth.
Two crowns and twenty pennies.
Is yonder quicken wood?
[Picking the bough from the table.]
He swayed about,
And so I tied him to a quicken bough
And slung him from my shoulder.
[Taking the bough from him.]
What, would you burn the blessed quicken wood?
A spell to ward off demons and ill faeries.
You know not what the owls were that peeped in,
For evil wonders live in this old wood,
And they can show in what shape please them best.
And we have had no milk to leave of nights
To keep our own good people kind to us.
And Aleel, who has talked with the great Sidhe,
Is full of terrors to come.
[She lays the bough on a chair.
I would eat my supper
With no less mirth if squatting by the hearth
Were dulacaun or demon of the pit
Clawing its knees, its hoof among the ashes.
[He rings another piece of money. A sound
of footsteps outside the door.
Who knows what evil you have brought to us?
I fear the wood things, Shemus.
[A knock at the door.
Do not open.
A crown and twenty pennies are not enough
To stop the hole that lets the famine in.
[The little shrine falls.
[Crushing it underfoot.]
The Mother of God has dropped asleep,
And all her household things have gone to wrack.
O Mary, Mother of God, be pitiful!
[SHEMUS opens the door. TWO MERCHANTS
stand without. They have bands of gold
round their foreheads, and each carries
a bag upon his shoulder.
Have you food here?
For those who can pay well.
We are rich merchants seeking merchandise.
Come in, your honours.
No, do not come in:
We have no food, not even for ourselves.
There is a wolf on the big hook in the cupboard.
Forgive her: she is not used to quality,
And is half crazed with being much alone.
How did you know I had taken a young wolf?
Fine wholesome food, though maybe somewhat strong.
[The SECOND MERCHANT sits down by the fire and
begins rubbing his hands. The FIRST MERCHANT
stands looking at the quicken bough
on the chair.
I would rest here: the night is somewhat chilly,
And my feet footsore going up and down
From land to land and nation unto nation:
The fire burns dimly; feed it with this bough.
[SHEMUS throws the bough into the fire. The
FIRST MERCHANT sits down on the chair. The
MERCHANTS’ chairs are on each side of the
fire. The table is between them. Each lays
his bag before him on the table. The night
has closed in somewhat, and the main light
comes from the fire.
What have you in the bags?
Don’t mind her, sir:
Women grow curious and feather-thoughted
Through being in each other’s company
More than is good for them.
Our bags are full
Of golden pieces to buy merchandise.
[They pour gold pieces on to the table out of their
bags. It is covered with the gold pieces. They
shine in the firelight. MAIRE goes to the door of
pantry, and watches the MERCHANTS, muttering
These are great gentlemen.
[Taking a stone bottle out of his bag.]
Come to the fire,
Here is the headiest wine you ever tasted.
Wine that can hush asleep the petty war
Of good and evil, and awake instead
A scented flame flickering above that peace
The bird of prey knows well in his deep heart.
I do not understand you, but your wine
Sets me athirst: its praise made your eyes lighten.
I am thirsting for it.
Ay, come drink and drink,
I bless all mortals who drink long and deep.
My curse upon the salt-strewn road of monks.
[TEIG and SHEMUS sit down at the table and
You must have seen rare sights and done rare things.
What think you of the master whom we serve?
I have grown weary of my days in the world
Because I do not serve him.
More of this
When we have eaten, for we love right well
A merry meal, a warm and leaping fire
And easy hearts.
Come, Maire, and cook the wolf.
I will not cook for you.
Maire is mad.
[TEIG and SHEMUS stand up and stagger about.
That wine is the suddenest wine man ever tasted.
I will not cook for you: you are not human:
Before you came two horned owls looked at us;
The dog bayed, and the tongue of Shemus maddened.
When you came in the Virgin’s blessed shrine
Fell from its nail, and when you sat down here
You poured out wine as the wood sidheogs do
When they’d entice a soul out of the world.
Why did you come to us? Was not death near?
We are two merchants.
If you be not demons,
Go and give alms among the starving poor,
You seem more rich than any under the moon.
If we knew where to find deserving poor,
We would give alms.
Then ask of Father John.
We know the evils of mere charity,
And have been planning out a wiser way.
Let each man bring one piece of merchandise.
And have the starving any merchandise?
We do but ask what each man has.
Their swine and cattle, fields and implements,
Are sold and gone.
They have not sold all yet.
What have they?
They have still their souls.
[MAIRE shrieks. He beckons to TEIG
See you these little golden heaps? Each one
Is payment for a soul. From charity
We give so great a price for those poor flames.
Say to all men we buy men’s souls—away.
[They do not stir.
This pile is for you and this one here for you.
Shemus and Teig, Teig—
Out of the way.
[SHEMUS and TEIG take the money.
Cry out at cross-roads and at chapel doors
And market-places that we buy men’s souls,
Giving so great a price that men may live
In mirth and ease until the famine ends.
[TEIG and SHEMUS go out.
Destroyers of souls, may God destroy you quickly!
No curse can overthrow the immortal demons.
You shall at last dry like dry leaves, and hang
Nailed like dead vermin to the doors of God.
You shall be ours. This famine shall not cease.
You shall eat grass, and dock, and dandelion,
And fail till this stone threshold seem a wall,
And when your hands can scarcely drag your body
We shall be near you.
[To SECOND MERCHANT.
Bring the meal out.
[The SECOND MERCHANT brings the bag of
meal from the pantry.
Burn it. [MAIRE faints.
Now she has swooned, our faces go unscratched;
Bring me the gray hen, too.
The SECOND MERCHANT goes out through the door
and returns with the hen strangled. He flings
it on the floor. While he is away the FIRST
MERCHANT makes up the fire. The FIRST
MERCHANT then fetches the pan of milk from
the pantry, and spills it on the ground. He
returns, and brings out the wolf, and throws
it down by the hen.
These need much burning.
This stool and this chair here will make good fuel.
[He begins breaking the chair.
My master will break up the sun and moon
And quench the stars in the ancestral night
And overturn the thrones of God and the angels.
A great hall in the castle of the COUNTESS CATHLEEN.
There is a large window at the farther
end, through which the forest is visible. The
wall to the right juts out slightly, cutting off
an angle of the room. A flight of stone steps
leads up to a small arched door in the jutting
wall. Through the door can be seen a little
oratory. The hall is hung with ancient
tapestry, representing the loves and wars and
huntings of the Fenian and Red Branch
heroes. There are doors to the right and left.
On the left side OONA sits, as if asleep, beside
a spinning-wheel. The COUNTESS CATHLEEN
stands farther back and more to the right,
close to a group of the musicians, still in their
fantastic dresses, who are playing a merry
Be silent, I am tired of tympan and harp,
And tired of music that but cries ‘Sleep, sleep,’
Till joy and sorrow and hope and terror are gone.
[The COUNTESS CATHLEEN goes over to OONA.
You were asleep?
No, child, I was but thinking
Why you have grown so sad.
The famine frets me.
I have lived now near ninety winters, child,
And I have known three things no doctor cures—
Love, loneliness, and famine; nor found refuge
Other than growing old and full of sleep.
See you where Oisin and young Niamh ride
Wrapped in each other’s arms, and where the Fenians
Follow their hounds along the fields of tapestry;
How merry they lived once, yet men died then.
Sit down by me, and I will chaunt the song
About the Danaan nations in their raths
That Aleel sang for you by the great door
Before we lost him in the shadow of leaves.
No, sing the song he sang in the dim light,
When we first found him in the shadow of leaves,
About King Fergus in his brazen car
Driving with troops of dancers through the woods.
[She crouches down on the floor, and lays
her head on OONA’S knees.
Dear heart, make a soft cradle of old tales,
And songs, and music: wherefore should you sadden
For wrongs you cannot hinder? The great God
Smiling condemns the lost: be mirthful: He
Bids youth be merry and old age be wise.
Tympan and harp awaken wandering dreams.
A VOICE [without].
You may not see the Countess.
I must see her.
[Sound of a short struggle. A SERVANT
enters from door to R.
The gardener is resolved to speak with you.
I cannot stay him.
You may come, Maurteen.
[The GARDENER, an old man, comes in from
the R., and the SERVANT goes out.
Forgive my working clothes and the dirt on me.
I bring ill words, your ladyship,—too bad
To send with any other.
These bad times,
Can any news be bad or any good?
A crowd of ugly lean-faced rogues last night—
And may God curse them!—climbed the garden wall.
There is scarce an apple now on twenty trees,
And my asparagus and strawberry beds
Are trampled into clauber, and the boughs
Of peach and plum-trees broken and torn down
For some last fruit that hung there. My dog, too,
My old blind Simon, him who had no tail,
They murdered—God’s red anger seize them!
I know how pears and all the tribe of apples
Are daily in your love—how this ill chance
Is sudden doomsday fallen on your year;
So do not say no matter. I but say
I blame the famished season, and not you.
Then be not troubled.
I thank your ladyship.
What rumours and what portents of the famine?
The yellow vapour, in whose folds it came,
That creeps along the hedges at nightfall,
Rots all the heart out of my cabbages.
I pray against it.
[He goes towards the door, then pauses.
If her ladyship
Would give me an old crossbow, I would watch
Behind a bush and guard the pears of nights
And make a hole in somebody I know of.
They will give you a long draught of ale below.
[The GARDENER goes out.
What did he say?—he stood on my deaf side.
His apples are all stolen. Pruning time,
And the slow ripening of his pears and apples,
For him is a long, heart-moving history.
Now lay your head once more upon my knees.
I will sing how Fergus drove his brazen cars.
[She chaunts with the thin voice of age.
Who will go drive with Fergus now,
And pierce the deep woods’ woven shade,
And dance upon the level shore?
Young man, lift up your russet brow,
And lift your tender eyelids, maid,
And brood on hopes and fears no more.
You have dropped down again into your trouble.
You do not hear me.
Ah, sing on, old Oona,
I hear the horn of Fergus in my heart.
I do not know the meaning of the song.
I am too old.
The horn is calling, calling.
And no more turn aside and brood
Upon Love’s bitter mystery;
For Fergus rules the brazen cars,
And rules the shadows of the wood,
And the white breast of the dim sea
And all dishevelled wandering stars.
THE SERVANT’S VOICE [without].
The Countess Cathleen must not be disturbed.
Man, I must see her.
Who now wants me, Paudeen?
SERVANT [from the door].
A herdsman and his history.
He may come.
[The HERDSMAN enters from the door to R.
Forgive this dusty gear: I have come far.
My sheep were taken from the fold last night.
You will be angry: I am not to blame.
But blame these robbing times.
No blame’s with you.
I blame the famine.
Kneeling, I give thanks.
When gazing on your face, the poorest, Lady,
Forget their poverty, the rich their care.
What rumours and what portents of the famine?
As I came down the lane by Tubber-vanach
A boy and man sat cross-legged on two stones,
With moving hands and faces famine-thin,
Gabbling to crowds of men and wives and boys
Of how two merchants at a house in the woods
Buy souls for hell, giving so great a price
That men may live through all the dearth in plenty.
The vales are famine-crazy—I am right glad
My home is on the mountain near to God.
[He turns to go.
They will give you ale and meat before you go.
You must have risen at dawn to come so far.
Keep your bare mountain—let the world drift by,
The burden of its wrongs rests not on you.
I am content to serve your ladyship.
What did he say?—he stood on my deaf side.
He seemed to give you word of woful things.
A story born out of the dreaming eyes
And crazy brain and credulous ears of famine.
O, I am sadder than an old air, Oona,
My heart is longing for a deeper peace
Than Fergus found amid his brazen cars:
Would that like Edain my first forebear’s daughter,
Who followed once a twilight’s piercing tune,
I could go down and dwell among the Sidhe
In their old ever-busy honeyed land.
You should not say such things—they bring ill-luck.
The image of young Edain on the arras,
Walking along, one finger lifted up;
And that wild song of the unending dance
Of the dim Danaan nations in their raths,
Young Aleel sang for me by the great door,
Before we lost him in the shadow of leaves,
Have filled me full of all these wicked words.
[The SERVANT enters hastily, followed by three
men. Two are peasants.
The steward of the castle brings two men
To talk with you.
And tell the strangest story
The mouth of man has uttered.
More food taken;
Yet learned theologians have laid down
That he who has no food, offending no way,
May take his meat and bread from too-full larders.
We come to make amends for robbery.
I stole five hundred apples from your trees,
And laid them in a hole; and my friend here
Last night stole two large mountain sheep of yours
And hung them on a beam under his thatch.
His words are true.
Since then our luck has changed.
As I came down the lane by Tubber-vanach
I fell on Shemus Rua and his son,
And they led me where two great gentlemen
Buy souls for money, and they bought my soul.
I told my friend here—my friend also trafficked.
His words are true.
Now people throng to sell,
Noisy as seagulls tearing a dead fish.
There soon will be no man or woman’s soul
Unbargained for in fivescore baronies.
His words are true.
When we had sold we talked,
And having no more comfortable life
Than this that makes us warm—our souls being bartered
For all this money—
And this money here.
[They bring handfuls of money from their
pockets. CATHLEEN starts up.
And fearing much to hang for robbery,
We come to pay you for the sheep and fruit.
How do you price them?
Gather up your money.
Think you that I would touch the demons’ gold?
Begone, give twice, thrice, twenty times their money,
And buy your souls again. I will pay all.
We will not buy our souls again: a soul
But keeps the flesh out of its merriment.
We shall be merry and drunk from moon to moon.
Keep from our way. Let no one stop our way.
CATHLEEN [to servant].
Follow and bring them here again—beseech them.
[The SERVANT goes.
Steward, you know the secrets of this house.
How much have I in gold?
A hundred thousand.
How much have I in castles?
As much more.
How much have I in pastures?
As much more.
How much have I in forests?
As much more.
Keeping this house alone, sell all I have;
Go to some distant country and come again
With many herds of cows and ships of grain.
God’s blessing light upon your ladyship;
You will have saved the land.
Make no delay.
How did you thrive? Say quickly. You are pale.
Their eyes burn like the eyes of birds of prey:
I did not dare go near.
God pity them!
Bring all the old and ailing to this house,
For I will have no sorrow of my own
From this day onward.
[The SERVANT goes out. Some of the musicians
follow him, some linger in the doorway.
The COUNTESS CATHLEEN kneels beside
Can you tell me, mother,
How I may mend the times, how staunch this wound
That bleeds in the earth, how overturn the famine,
How drive these demons to their darkness again?
The demons hold our hearts between their hands,
For the apple is in our blood, and though heart break
There is no medicine but Michael’s trump.
Till it has ended parting and old age
And hail and rain and famine and foolish laughter;
The dead are happy, the dust is in their ears.
Hall of the COUNTESS CATHLEEN as before.
SERVANT enters and goes towards the oratory
Here is yet another would see your ladyship.
Who calls me?
There is a man would speak with you,
And by his face he has some pressing news,
Some moving tale.
CATHLEEN [coming to chapel door].
I cannot rest or pray,
For all day long the messengers run hither
On one another’s heels, and every message
More evil than the one that had gone before.
Who is the messenger?
Aleel, the poet.
There is no hour he is not welcome to me,
Because I know of nothing but a harp-string
That can remember happiness.
[SERVANT goes out and ALEEL comes in.
I grow forgetful of evil for awhile.
I have come to bid you leave this castle, and fly
Out of these woods.
What evil is there here,
That is not everywhere from this to the sea?
They who have sent me walk invisible.
Men say that the wise people of the raths
Have given you wisdom.
Upon the grassy margin of a lake
Among the hills, where none of mortal creatures
But the swan comes—my sleep became a fire.
One walked in the fire with birds about his head.
Ay, Aengus of the birds.
He may be Aengus,
But it may be he bears an angelical name.
Lady, he bid me call you from these woods;
He bids you bring Oona, your foster-mother,
And some few serving-men and live in the hills
Among the sounds of music and the light
Of waters till the evil days are gone.
For here some terrible death is waiting you;
Some unimaginable evil, some great darkness
That fable has not dreamt of, nor sun nor moon
And he had birds about his head?
Yes, yes, white birds. He bids you leave this house
With some old trusty serving-man, who will feed
All that are starving and shelter all that wander
While there is food and house-room.
He bids me go
Where none of mortal creatures but the swan
Dabbles, and there you would pluck the harp when the trees
Had made a heavy shadow about our door,
And talk among the rustling of the reeds
When night hunted the foolish sun away,
With stillness and pale tapers. No—no—no.
I cannot. Although I weep, I do not weep
Because that life would be most happy, and here
I find no way, no end. Nor do I weep
Because I had longed to look upon your face,
But that a night of prayer has made me weary.
[Throwing his arms about her feet.]
Let Him that made mankind, the angels and devils
And death and plenty mend what He has made,
For when we labour in vain and eye still sees
Heart breaks in vain.
How would that quiet end?
How but in healing?
You have seen my tears.
And I can see your hand shake on the floor.
I thought but of healing. He was angelical.
[Turning away from him.]
No, not angelical, but of the old gods,
Who wander about the world to waken the heart—
The passionate, proud heart that all the angels
Leaving nine heavens empty would rock to sleep.
[She goes to the chapel door; ALEEL holds his
clasped hands towards her for a moment
hesitatingly, and then lets them fall beside
Do not hold out to me beseeching hands.
This heart shall never waken on earth. I have sworn
By her whose heart the seven sorrows have pierced
To pray before this altar until my heart
Has grown to Heaven like a tree, and there
Rustled its leaves till Heaven has saved my people.
ALEEL [who has risen].
When one so great has spoken of love to one
So little as I, although to deny him love,
What can he but hold out beseeching hands,
Then let them fall beside him, knowing how greatly
They have overdared?
[He goes towards the door of the hall. The
COUNTESS CATHLEEN takes a few steps towards
If the old tales are true,
Queens have wed shepherds and kings beggar-maids;
God’s procreant waters flowing about your mind
Have made you more than kings or queens; and not you
But I am the empty pitcher.
I have said all—farewell, farewell; and yet no,
Give me your hand to kiss.
I kiss your brow,
But will not say farewell. I am often weary,
And I would hear the harp-string.
I cannot stay,
For I would hide my sorrow among the hills—
Listen, listen, the hills are calling me.
[They listen for a moment.
I hear the cry of curlew.
Then I will out
Where I can hear wind cry and water cry
And curlew cry: how does the saying go
That calls them the three oldest cries in the world?
Farewell, farewell, I will go wander among them,
Because there is no comfort under a roof-tree.
[He goes out.
[Looking through the door after him.]
I cannot see him. He has come to the great door.
I must go pray. Would that my heart and mind
Were as little shaken as this candle-light.
[She goes into the chapel. The TWO MERCHANTS enter.
Who was the man that came from the great door
While we were still in the shadow?
Aleel, her lover.
It may be that he has turned her thought from us
And we can gather our merchandise in peace.
No, no, for she is kneeling.
Shut the door.
Are all our drudges here?
[Closing the chapel door.]
I bid them follow.
Can you not hear them breathing upon the stairs?
I have sat this hour under the elder-tree.
I had bid you rob her treasury, and yet
I found you sitting drowsed and motionless,
Your chin bowed to your knees, while on all sides,
Bat-like from bough and roof and window-ledge,
Clung evil souls of men, and in the woods,
Like streaming flames, floated upon the winds
The elemental creatures.
I have fared ill;
She prayed so hard I could not cross the threshold
Till this young man had turned her prayer to dreams.
You have had a man to kill: how have you fared?
I lay in the image of a nine-monthed bonyeen,
By Tubber-vanach cross-roads: Father John
Came, sad and moody, murmuring many prayers;
I seemed as though I came from his own sty;
He saw the one brown ear; the breviary dropped;
He ran; I ran, I ran into the quarry;
He fell a score of yards.
Now that he is dead
We shall be too much thronged with souls to-morrow.
Did his soul escape you?
I thrust it in the bag.
But the hand that blessed the poor and raised the Host
Tore through the leather with sharp piety.
Well, well, to labour—here is the treasury door.
[They go out by the left-hand door, and enter
again in a little while, carrying full bags upon
Brave thought, brave thought—a shining thought of mine!
She now no more may bribe the poor—no more
Cheat our great master of his merchandise,
While our heels dangle at the house in the woods,
And grass grows on the threshold, and snails crawl
Along the window-pane and the mud floor.
Brother, where wander all these dwarfish folk,
Hostile to men, the people of the tides?
[Going to the door.]
They are gone. They have already wandered away,
I will call them hither.
[He opens the window.
Come hither, hither, hither, water-folk:
Come, all you elemental populace;
Leave lonely the long-hoarding surges: leave
The cymbals of the waves to clash alone,
And, shaking the sea-tangles from your hair,
Gather about us. [After a pause.
I can hear a sound
As from waves beating upon distant strands;
And the sea-creatures, like a surf of light,
Pour eddying through the pathways of the oaks;
And as they come, the sentient grass and leaves
Bow towards them, and the tall, drouth-jaded oaks
Fondle the murmur of their flying feet.
The green things love unknotted hearts and minds;
And neither one with angels or with us,
Nor risen in arms with evil nor with good,
In laughter roves the litter of the waves.
[A crowd of faces fill up the darkness outside the
window. A figure separates from the others
We come unwillingly, for she whose gold
We must now carry to the house in the woods
Is dear to all our race. On the green plain,
Beside the sea, a hundred shepherds live
To mind her sheep; and when the nightfall comes
They leave a hundred pans of white ewes’ milk
Outside their doors, to feed us when the dawn
Has driven us out of Finbar’s ancient house,
And broken the long dance under the hill.
[Making a sign upon the air.]
Obey! I make a sign upon your hearts.
The sign of evil burns upon our hearts,
And we obey.
[They crowd through the window, and take out of
the bags a small bag each. They are dressed in
green robes and have ruddy hair. They are a
little less than the size of men and women.
And now begone—begone! [They go.
I bid them go, for, being garrulous
And flighty creatures, they had soon begun
To deafen us with their sea-gossip. Now
We must go bring more money. Brother, brother,
I long to see my master’s face again,
For I turn homesick.
I too tire of toil.
[They go out, and return as before, with their
[Pointing to the oratory.]
How may we gain this woman for our lord?
This pearl, this turquoise fastened in his crown
Would make it shine like His we dare not name.
Now that the winds are heavy with our kind,
Might we not kill her, and bear off her spirit
Before the mob of angels were astir?
[A diadem and a heap of jewels fall from the bag.
Who tore the bag?
The finger of Priest John
When he fled through the leather. I had thought
Because his was an old and little spirit
The tear would hardly matter.
This comes, brother,
Of stealing souls that are not rightly ours.
If we would win this turquoise for our lord,
It must go dropping down of its freewill.
She will have heard the noise. She will stifle us
With holy names.
[He goes to the oratory door and opens it a little,
and then closes it.]
No, she has fallen asleep.
The noise wakened the household. While you spoke
I heard chairs moved, and heard folk’s shuffling feet.
And now they are coming hither.
A VOICE [within].
It was here.
No, further away.
It was in the western tower.
Come quickly; we will search the western tower.
We still have time—they search the distant rooms.
Call hither the fading and the unfading fires.
[Going to the window.]
There are none here. They tired and strayed from hence—
I will draw them in.
[He cries through the window.
Come hither, you lost souls of men, who died
In drunken sleep, and by each other’s hands
When they had bartered you—come hither all
Who mourn among the scenery of your sins,
Turning to animal and reptile forms,
The visages of passions; hither, hither—
Leave marshes and the reed-encumbered pools,
You shapeless fires, that were the souls of men,
And are a fading wretchedness.
They come not.
[Making a sign upon the air.]
Come hither, hither, hither.
I can hear
A crying as of storm-distempered reeds.
The fading and the unfading fires rise up
Like steam out of the earth; the grass and leaves
Shiver and shrink away and sway about,
Blown by unnatural gusts of ice-cold air.
They are one with all the beings of decay,
Ill longings, madness, lightning, famine, drouth.
[The whole stage is gradually filled with vague
forms, some animal shapes, some human, some
Come you—and you—and you, and lift these bags.
We are too violent; mere shapes of storm.
Come you—and you—and you, and lift these bags.
We are too feeble, fading out of life.
Come you, and you, who are the latest dead,
And still wear human shape: the shape of power.
[The two robbing peasants of the last scene come
forward. Their faces have withered from
Now, brawlers, lift the bags of gold.
Unwillingly, unwillingly; for she,
Whose gold we bear upon our shoulders thus,
Has endless pity even for lost souls
In her good heart. At moments, now and then,
When plunged in horror, brooding each alone,
A memory of her face floats in on us.
It brings a crowned misery, half repose,
And we wail one to other; we obey,
For heaven’s many-angled star reversed,
Now sign of evil, burns into our hearts.
When these pale sapphires and these diadems
And these small bags of money are in our house,
The burning shall give over—now begone.
[Lifting the diadem to put it upon his head.]
No—no—no. I will carry the diadem.
No, brother, not yet.
For none can carry her treasures wholly away
But spirits that are too light for good and evil,
Or, being evil, can remember good.
Begone! [The spirits vanish.] I bade them go, for they are lonely,
And when they see aught living love to sigh.
[Pointing to the oratory.] Brother, I heard a sound in there—a sound
That troubles me.
[Going to the door of the oratory and peering through it.]
Upon the altar steps
The Countess tosses, murmuring in her sleep
A broken Paternoster.
[The FIRST MERCHANT goes to the door and stands
She is grown still.
A great plan floats into my mind—no wonder,
For I come from the ninth and mightiest Hell,
Where all are kings. I will wake her from her sleep,
And mix with all her thoughts a thought to serve.
[He calls through the door.
May we be well remembered in your prayers!
[The COUNTESS CATHLEEN wakes, and comes to
the door of the oratory. The MERCHANTS descend
into the room again. She stands at the
top of the stone steps.
What would you, sirs?
We are two merchant men,
New come from foreign lands. We bring you news.
Forgive our sudden entry: the great door
Was open, we came in to seek a face.
The door stands always open to receive,
With kindly welcome, starved and sickly folk,
Or any who would fly the woful times.
Merchants, you bring me news?
We saw a man
Heavy with sickness in the Bog of Allan,
Whom you had bid buy cattle. Near Fair Head
We saw your grain ships lying all becalmed
In the dark night, and not less still than they
Burned all their mirrored lanthorns in the sea.
My thanks to God, to Mary, and the angels,
I still have bags of money, and can buy
Meal from the merchants who have stored it up,
To prosper on the hunger of the poor.
You have been far, and know the signs of things:
When will this yellow vapour no more hang
And creep about the fields, and this great heat
Vanish away—and grass show its green shoots?
There is no sign of change—day copies day,
Green things are dead—the cattle too are dead,
Or dying—and on all the vapour hangs
And fattens with disease and glows with heat.
In you is all the hope of all the land.
And heard you of the demons who buy souls?
There are some men who hold they have wolves’ heads,
And say their limbs, dried by the infinite flame,
Have all the speed of storms; others again
Say they are gross and little; while a few
Will have it they seem much as mortals are,
But tall and brown and travelled, like us, lady.
Yet all agree a power is in their looks
That makes men bow, and flings a casting-net
About their souls, and that all men would go
And barter those poor flames—their spirits—only
You bribe them with the safety of your gold.
Praise be to God, to Mary, and the angels,
That I am wealthy. Wherefore do they sell?
The demons give a hundred crowns and more
For a poor soul like his who lies asleep
By your great door under the porter’s niche;
A little soul not worth a hundred pence.
But, for a soul like yours, I heard them say,
They would give five hundred thousand crowns and more.
How can a heap of crowns pay for a soul?
Is the green grave so terrible a thing?
Some sell because the money gleams, and some
Because they are in terror of the grave,
And some because their neighbours sold before,
And some because there is a kind of joy
In casting hope away, in losing joy,
In ceasing all resistance, in at last
Opening one’s arms to the eternal flames,
In casting all sails out upon the wind:
To this—full of the gaiety of the lost—
Would all folk hurry if your gold were gone.
There is a something, merchant, in your voice
That makes me fear. When you were telling how
A man may lose his soul and lose his God,
Your eyes lighted, and the strange weariness
That hangs about you vanished. When you told
How my poor money serves the people—both—
Merchants, forgive me—seemed to smile.
Move us to laughter only, we have seen
So many lands and seen so many men.
How strange that all these people should be swung
As on a lady’s shoe-string—under them
The glowing leagues of never-ending flame!
There is a something in you that I fear:
A something not of us. Were you not born
In some most distant corner of the world?
[The SECOND MERCHANT, who has been listening
at the door to the right, comes forward, and
as he comes a sound of voices and feet is heard
through the door to his left.
SECOND MERCHANT [aside to FIRST MERCHANT].
Away now—they are in the passage—hurry,
For they will know us, and freeze up our hearts
With Ave Marys, and burn all our skin
With holy water.
Farewell: we must ride
Many a mile before the morning come;
Our horses beat the ground impatiently.
[They go out to R. A number of peasants enter
at the same moment by the opposite door.
What would you?
As we nodded by the fire,
Telling old histories, we heard a noise
Of falling money. We have searched in vain.
You are too timid. I heard naught at all.
THE OLD PEASANT.
Ay, we are timid, for a rich man’s word
Can shake our houses, and a moon of drouth
Shrivel our seedlings in the barren earth;
We are the slaves of wind, and hail, and flood;
Fear jogs our elbow in the market-place,
And nods beside us on the chimney-seat.
Ill-bodings are as native unto our hearts
As are their spots unto the woodpeckers.
You need not shake with bodings in this house.
[Oona enters from the door to L.
The treasure-room is broken in—mavrone—mavrone;
The door stands open and the gold is gone.
[The peasants raise a lamenting cry.
Be silent. [The cry ceases.
Saw you any one?
That my good mistress should lose all this money.
You three upon my right hand, ride and ride;
I will give a farm to him who finds the thieves.
[A man with keys at his girdle has entered
while she was speaking.
The porter trembles.
It is all no use;
Demons were here. I sat beside the door
In my stone niche, and two owls passed me by,
Whispering with human voices.
THE OLD PEASANT.
God forsakes us.
Old man, old man, He never closed a door
Unless one opened. I am desolate,
For a most sad resolve wakes in my heart:
But always I have faith. Old men and women,
Be silent; He does not forsake the world,
But stands before it modelling in the clay
And moulding there His image. Age by age
The clay wars with His fingers and pleads hard
For its old, heavy, dull, and shapeless ease;
At times it crumbles and a nation falls,
Now moves awry and demon hordes are born.
[The peasants cross themselves.
But leave me now, for I am desolate,
I hear a whisper from beyond the thunder.
[She steps down from the oratory door.
Yet stay an instant. When we meet again
I may have grown forgetful. Oona, take
These two—the larder and the dairy keys.
[To THE OLD PEASANT.] But take you this. It opens the small room
Of herbs for medicine, of hellebore,
Of vervain, monkshood, plantain, and self-heal
And all the others; and the book of cures
Is on the upper shelf. You understand,
Because you doctored goats and cattle once.
THE OLD PEASANT.
Why do you do this, lady—did you see
Your coffin in a dream?
Ah, no, not that,
A sad resolve wakes in me. I have heard
A sound of wailing in unnumbered hovels,
And I must go down, down, I know not where.
Pray for the poor folk who are crazed with famine;
Pray, you good neighbours.
[The peasants all kneel. The COUNTESS CATHLEEN
ascends the steps to the door of the oratory,
and, turning round, stands there motionless for
a little, and then cries in a loud voice.]
Mary, queen of angels,
And all you clouds on clouds of saints, farewell!
The cabin of SHEMUS RUA. The TWO MERCHANTS
are sitting one at each end of the table, with
rolls of parchment and many little heaps of
gold before them. Through an open door, at
the back, one sees into an inner room, in which
there is a bed. On the bed is the body of
MAIRE with candles about it.
The woman may keep robbing us no more,
For there are only mice now in her coffers.
Last night, closed in the image of an owl,
I hurried to the cliffs of Donegal,
And saw, creeping on the uneasy surge,
Those ships that bring the woman grain and meal;
They are five days from us.
I hurried East,
A gray owl flitting, flitting in the dew,
And saw nine hundred oxen toil through Meath
Driven on by goads of iron; they, too, brother,
Are full five days from us.
Five days for traffic.
[While they have been speaking the peasants have
come in, led by TEIG and SHEMUS, who take
their stations, one on each side of the door, and
keep them marshalled into rude order and encourage
them from time to time with gestures
and whispered words.
Here throng they; since the drouth they go in throngs,
Like autumn leaves blown by the dreary winds.
Come, deal—come, deal.
Who will come deal with us?
They are out of spirit, sir, with lack of food,
Save four or five. Here, sir, is one of these;
The others will gain courage in good time.
A MIDDLE-AGED MAN.
I come to deal if you give honest price.
[Reading in a parchment.]
John Maher, a man of substance, with dull mind,
And quiet senses and unventurous heart.
The angels think him safe. Two hundred crowns,
All for a soul, a little breath of wind.
I ask three hundred crowns. You have read there,
That no mere lapse of days can make me yours.
There is something more writ here—often at night
He is wakeful from a dread of growing poor.
There is this crack in you—two hundred crowns.
[THE MAN takes them and goes.
Come, deal—one would half think you had no souls.
If only for the credit of your parishes,
Come, deal, deal, deal, or will you always starve?
Maire, the wife of Shemus, would not deal,
She starved—she lies in there with red wallflowers,
And candles stuck in bottles round her bed.
What price, now, will you give for mine?
Soft, handsome, and still young—not much, I think.
[Reading in the parchment.
She has love letters in a little jar
On the high shelf between the pepper-pot
And wood-cased hour-glass.
O, the scandalous parchment!
FIRST MERCHANT [reading].
She hides them from her husband, who buys horses,
And is not much at home. You are almost safe.
I give you fifty crowns.[She turns to go.
A hundred, then.
[She takes them, and goes into the crowd.
Come—deal, deal, deal; it is for charity
We buy such souls at all; a thousand sins
Made them our master’s long before we came.
Come, deal—come, deal. You seem resolved to starve
Until your bones show through your skin. Come, deal,
Or live on nettles, grass, and dandelion.
Or do you dream the famine will go by?
The famine is hale and hearty; it is mine
And my great master’s; it shall no wise cease
Until our purpose end: the yellow vapour
That brought it bears it over your dried fields
And fills with violent phantoms of the lost,
And grows more deadly as day copies day.
See how it dims the daylight. Is that peace
Known to the birds of prey so dread a thing?
They, and the souls obedient to our master,
And those who live with that great other spirit
Have gained an end, a peace, while you but toss
And swing upon a moving balance beam.
[ALEEL enters; the wires of his harp are broken.
Here, take my soul, for I am tired of it;
I do not ask a price.
FIRST MERCHANT [reading].
A man of songs:
Alone in the hushed passion of romance,
His mind ran all on sidheoges and on tales
Of Fenian labours and the Red Branch kings,
And he cared nothing for the life of man:
But now all changes.
Ay, because her face,
The face of Countess Cathleen, dwells with me:
The sadness of the world upon her brow:
The crying of these strings grew burdensome,
Therefore I tore them; see; now take my soul.
We cannot take your soul, for it is hers.
Ah, take it; take it. It nowise can help her,
And, therefore, do I tire of it.
We may not touch it.
Is your power so small,
Must I then bear it with me all my days?
May scorn close deep about you!
Lead him hence;
He troubles me.
[TEIG and SHEMUS lead ALEEL into the crowd.
His gaze has filled me, brother,
With shaking and a dreadful fear.
And kiss the circlet where my master’s lips
Were pressed upon it when he sent us hither:
You will have peace once more.
[The SECOND MERCHANT kisses the gold circlet
that is about the head of the FIRST MERCHANT.
He is called Aleel,
And has been crazy now these many days;
But has no harm in him: his fits soon pass,
And one can go and lead him like a child.
Come, deal, deal, deal, deal, deal; you are all dumb?
They say you beat the woman down too low.
I offer this great price: a thousand crowns
For an old woman who was always ugly.
[An old peasant woman comes forward, and he
takes up a parchment and reads.]
There is but little set down here against her;
She stole fowl sometimes when the harvest failed,
But always went to chapel twice a week,
And paid her dues when prosperous. Take your money.
THE OLD PEASANT WOMAN [curtseying].
God bless you, sir. [She screams.
O, sir, a pain went through me.
That name is like a fire to all damned souls.
Begone. [She goes.] See how the red gold pieces glitter.
Deal: do you fear because an old hag screamed?
Are you all cowards?
Nay, I am no coward.
I will sell half my soul.
How half your soul?
Half my chance of heaven.
It is writ here
This man in all things takes the moderate course,
He sits on midmost of the balance beam,
And no man has had good of him or evil.
Begone, we will not buy you.
Deal, come, deal.
What, will you keep us from our ancient home,
And from the eternal revelry? Come, deal,
And we will hence to our great master again.
Come, deal, deal, deal.
THE PEASANTS SHOUT.
The Countess Cathleen comes!
And so you trade once more?
In spite of you.
What brings you here, saint with the sapphire eyes?
I come to barter a soul for a great price.
What matter if the soul be worth the price?
The people starve, therefore the people go
Thronging to you. I hear a cry come from them,
And it is in my ears by night and day;
And I would have five hundred thousand crowns,
That I may feed them till the dearth go by;
And have the wretched spirits you have bought
For your gold crowns released and sent to God.
The soul that I would barter is my soul.
Do not, do not; the souls of us poor folk
Are not precious to God as your soul is.
O! what would heaven do without you, lady?
Look how their claws clutch in their leathern gloves.
Five hundred thousand crowns; we give the price,
The gold is here; the spirits, while you speak,
Begin to labour upward, for your face
Sheds a great light on them and fills their hearts
With those unveilings of the fickle light,
Whereby our heavy labours have been marred
Since first His spirit moved upon the deeps
And stole them from us; even before this day
The souls were but half ours, for your bright eyes
Had pierced them through and robbed them of content.
But you must sign, for we omit no form
In buying a soul like yours; sign with this quill;
It was a feather growing on the cock
That crowed when Peter dared deny his Master,
And all who use it have great honour in Hell.
[CATHLEEN leans forward to sign.
[Rushing forward and snatching the parchment
Leave all things to the builder of the heavens.
I have no thoughts: I hear a cry—a cry.
[Casting the parchment on the ground.]
I had a vision under a green hedge,
A hedge of hips and haws—men yet shall hear
The archangels rolling Satan’s empty skull
Over the mountain-tops.
Take him away.
[TEIG and SHEMUS drag him roughly away so
that he falls upon the floor among the peasants.
CATHLEEN picks up the parchment and signs,
and then turns towards the peasants.
Take up the money; and now come with me.
When we are far from this polluted place
I will give everybody money enough.
[She goes out, the peasants crowding round her
and kissing her dress. ALEEL and the TWO
MERCHANTS are left alone.
Now are our days of heavy labour done.
We have a precious jewel for Satan’s crown.
We must away, and wait until she dies,
Sitting above her tower as two gray owls,
Watching as many years as may be, guarding
Our precious jewel; waiting to seize her soul.
We need but hover over her head in the air,
For she has only minutes: when she came
I saw the dimness of the tomb in her,
And marked her walking as with leaden shoes
And looking on the ground as though the worms
Were calling her, and when she wrote her name
Her heart began to break. Hush! hush! I hear
The brazen door of Hell move on its hinges,
And the eternal revelry float hither
To hearten us.
Leap, feathered, on the air
And meet them with her soul caught in your claws.
[They rush out. ALEEL crawls into the middle of
the room. The twilight has fallen and gradually
darkens as the scene goes on. There is a distant
muttering of thunder and a sound of rising
The brazen door stands wide, and Balor comes
Borne in his heavy car, and demons have lifted
The age-weary eyelids from the eyes that of old
Turned gods to stone; Barach the traitor comes;
And the lascivious race, Cailitin,
That cast a druid weakness and decay
Over Sualtam’s and old Dectora’s child;
And that great king Hell first took hold upon
When he killed Naisi and broke Deirdre’s heart;
And all their heads are twisted to one side,
For when they lived they warred on beauty and peace
With obstinate, crafty, sidelong bitterness.
[OONA enters, but remains standing by the door.
ALEEL half rises, leaning upon one arm and
Crouch down, old heron, out of the blind storm.
Where is the Countess Cathleen? All this day
She has been pale and weakly: when her hand
Touched mine over the spindle her hand trembled,
And now I do not know where she has gone.
Cathleen has chosen other friends than us,
And they are rising through the hollow world.
[He points downwards.
First, Orchil, her pale beautiful head alive,
Her body shadowy as vapour drifting
Under the dawn, for she who awoke desire
Has but a heart of blood when others die;
About her is a vapoury multitude
Of women, alluring devils with soft laughter;
Behind her a host heat of the blood made sin,
But all the little pink-white nails have grown
To be great talons.
[He seizes OONA and drags her into the middle
of the room and points downwards with vehement
gestures. The wind roars.]
They begin a song
And there is still some music on their tongues.
[Casting herself face downwards on the floor.]
O maker of all, protect her from the demons,
And if a soul must needs be lost, take mine.
[ALEEL kneels beside her, but does not seem to hear
her words; he is gazing down as if through
the earth. The peasants return. They carry
the COUNTESS CATHLEEN and lay her upon the
ground before OONA and ALEEL. She lies there
as if dead.]
O that so many pitchers of rough clay
Should prosper and the porcelain break in two!
[She kisses the hands of the COUNTESS CATHLEEN.
We were under the tree where the path turns
When she grew pale as death and fainted away,
And while we bore her hither, cloudy gusts
Blackened the world and shook us on our feet:
Draw the great bolt, for no man has beheld
So black, bitter, blinding, and sudden a storm.
[One who is near the door draws the bolt.
Hush, hush, she has awakened from her swoon.
O hold me, and hold me tightly, for the storm
Is dragging me away!
[OONA takes her in her arms. A woman begins to wail.
A PEASANT WOMAN.
ANOTHER PEASANT WOMAN.
CATHLEEN [half rising].
Lay all the bags of money at my feet.
[They lay the bags at her feet.
And send and bring old Neal when I am dead,
And bid him hear each man and judge and give:
He doctors you with herbs, and can best say
Who has the less and who the greater need.
A PEASANT WOMAN.
[At the back of the crowd.]
And will he give enough out of the bags
To keep my children till the dearth go by?
ANOTHER PEASANT WOMAN.
O Queen of Heaven and all you blessed Saints,
Let us and ours be lost, so she be shriven.
Bend down your faces, Oona and Aleel:
I gaze upon them as the swallow gazes
Upon the nest under the eave, before
He wander the loud waters: do not weep
Too great a while, for there is many a candle
On the high altar though one fall. Aleel,
Who sang about the people of the raths,
That know not the hard burden of the world,
Having but breath in their kind bodies, farewell!
And farewell, Oona, who spun flax with me
Soft as their sleep when every dance is done:
The storm is in my hair and I must go.
Bring me the looking-glass.
[A woman brings it to her out of the inner room.
OONA holds the glass over the lips of the
COUNTESS CATHLEEN. All is silent for a
moment; and then she speaks in a half scream.]
O, she is dead!
A PEASANT WOMAN.
She was the great white lily of the world.
ANOTHER PEASANT WOMAN.
She was more beautiful than the pale stars.
AN OLD PEASANT WOMAN.
The little plant I loved is broken in two.
[ALEEL takes the looking-glass from OONA and
flings it upon the floor so that it is broken in
I shatter you in fragments, for the face
That brimmed you up with beauty is no more:
And die, dull heart, for she whose mournful words
Made you a living spirit has passed away
And left you but a ball of passionate dust;
And you, proud earth and plumy sea, fade out,
For you may hear no more her faltering feet,
But are left lonely amid the clamorous war
Of angels upon devils.
[He stands up; almost everyone is kneeling, but it has
grown so dark that only confused forms can be seen.]
And I who weep
Call curses on you, Time and Fate and Change,
And have no excellent hope but the great hour
When you shall plunge headlong through bottomless space.
[A flash of lightning followed immediately by thunder.
A PEASANT WOMAN.
Pull him upon his knees before his curses
Have plucked thunder and lightning on our heads.
Angels and devils clash in the middle air,
And brazen swords clang upon brazen helms:
[A flash of lightning followed immediately by thunder.]
Yonder a bright spear, cast out of a sling,
Has torn through Balor’s eye, and the dark clans
Fly screaming as they fled Moytura of old.
[Everything is lost in darkness.
AN OLD MAN.
The Almighty, wrath at our great weakness and sin,
Has blotted out the world and we must die.
[The darkness is broken by a visionary light. The
peasants seem to be kneeling upon the rocky
slope of a mountain, and vapour full of storm
and ever-changing light is sweeping above them
and behind them. Half in the light, half in
the shadow, stand armed Angels. Their
armour is old and worn, and their drawn
swords dim and dinted. They stand as if
upon the air in formation of battle and look
downward with stern faces. The peasants
cast themselves on the ground.
Look no more on the half-closed gates of Hell,
But speak to me, whose mind is smitten of God,
That it may be no more with mortal things;
And tell of her who lies here.
[He seizes one of the Angels.] Till you speak
You shall not drift into eternity.
The light beats down: the gates of pearl are wide,
And she is passing to the floor of peace,
And Mary of the seven times wounded heart
Has kissed her lips, and the long blessed hair
Has fallen on her face; the Light of Lights
Looks always on the motive, not the deed,
The Shadow of Shadows on the deed alone.
[ALEEL releases the Angel and kneels.
Tell them who walk upon the floor of peace
That I would die and go to her I love;
The years like great black oxen tread the world,
And God the herdsman goads them on behind,
And I am broken by their passing feet.
[A sound of far-off horns seems to come from the
heart of the light. The vision melts away,
and the forms of the kneeling peasants appear
faintly in the darkness.]
THE LAND OF HEART’S DESIRE
‘O Rose, thou art sick.’—William Blake.
To Florence Farr
PERSONS IN THE PLAY
- MAURTEEN BRUIN
- SHAWN BRUIN
- FATHER HART
- BRIDGET BRUIN
- MAIRE BRUIN
- A FAERY CHILD
The scene is laid in the Barony of Kilmacowen, in the
County of Sligo, and the characters are supposed to speak
in Gaelic. They wear the costume of a century ago.
THE LAND OF HEART’S DESIRE
The kitchen of MAURTEEN BRUIN’S house. An
open grate with a turf fire is at the left side of
the room, with a table in front of it. There is
a door leading to the open air at the back, and
another door a little to its left, leading into
an inner room. There is a window, a settle,
and a large dresser on the right side of the room,
and a great bowl of primroses on the sill of the
window. MAURTEEN BRUIN, FATHER HART,
and BRIDGET BRUIN are sitting at the table.
SHAWN BRUIN is setting the table for supper.
MAIRE BRUIN sits on the settle reading a yellow
Because I bade her go and feed the calves,
She took that old book down out of the thatch
And has been doubled over it all day.
We would be deafened by her groans and moans
Had she to work as some do, Father Hart,
Get up at dawn like me, and mend and scour;
Or ride abroad in the boisterous night like you,
The pyx and blessed bread under your arm.
You are too cross.
The young side with the young.
She quarrels with my wife a bit at times,
And is too deep just now in the old book,
But do not blame her greatly; she will grow
As quiet as a puff-ball in a tree
When but the moons of marriage dawn and die
For half a score of times.
Their hearts are wild
As be the hearts of birds, till children come.
She would not mind the griddle, milk the cow,
Or even lay the knives and spread the cloth.
I never saw her read a book before;
What may it be?
I do not rightly know;
It has been in the thatch for fifty years.
My father told me my grandfather wrote it,
Killed a red heifer and bound it with the hide.
But draw your chair this way—supper is spread.
And little good he got out of the book,
Because it filled his house with roaming bards,
And roaming ballad-makers and the like,
And wasted all his goods.—Here is the wine:
The griddle bread’s beside you, Father Hart.
Colleen, what have you got there in the book
That you must leave the bread to cool? Had I,
Or had my father, read or written books
There were no stocking full of silver and gold
To come, when I am dead, to Shawn and you.
You should not fill your head with foolish dreams.
What are you reading?
How a Princess Edain,
A daughter of a King of Ireland, heard
A voice singing on a May Eve like this,
And followed, half awake and half asleep,
Until she came into the land of faery,
Where nobody gets old and godly and grave,
Where nobody gets old and crafty and wise,
Where nobody gets old and bitter of tongue;
And she is still there, busied with a dance,
Deep in the dewy shadow of a wood,
Or where stars walk upon a mountain-top.
Persuade the colleen to put by the book:
My grandfather would mutter just such things,
And he was no judge of a dog or horse,
And any idle boy could blarney him:
Just speak your mind.
Put it away, my colleen.
God spreads the heavens above us like great wings,
And gives a little round of deeds and days,
And then come the wrecked angels and set snares,
And bait them with light hopes and heavy dreams,
Until the heart is puffed with pride and goes,
Half shuddering and half joyous, from God’s peace:
And it was some wrecked angel, blind from tears,
Who flattered Edain’s heart with merry words.
My colleen, I have seen some other girls
Restless and ill at ease, but years went by
And they grew like their neighbours and were glad
In minding children, working at the churn,
And gossiping of weddings and of wakes;
For life moves out of a red flare of dreams
Into a common light of common hours,
Until old age bring the red flare again.
Yet do not blame her greatly, Father Hart,
For she is dull while I am in the fields,
And mother’s tongue were harder still to bear,
But for her fancies: this is May Eve too,
When the good people post about the world,
And surely one may think of them to-night.
Maire, have you the primroses to fling
Before the door to make a golden path
For them to bring good luck into the house?
Remember, they may steal new-married brides
After the fall of twilight on May Eve.
[MAIRE BRUIN goes over to the window and takes
flowers from the bowl and strews them outside
You do well, daughter, because God permits
Great power to the good people on May Eve.
They can work all their will with primroses;
Change them to golden money, or little flames
To burn up those who do them any wrong.
MAIRE BRUIN [in a dreamy voice].
I had no sooner flung them by the door
Than the wind cried and hurried them away;
And then a child came running in the wind
And caught them in her hands and fondled them:
Her dress was green: her hair was of red gold;
Her face was pale as water before dawn.
Whose child can this be?
No one’s child at all.
She often dreams that someone has gone by
When there was nothing but a puff of wind.
They will not bring good luck into the house,
For they have blown the primroses away;
Yet I am glad that I was courteous to them,
For are not they, likewise, children of God?
Colleen, they are the children of the Fiend,
And they have power until the end of Time,
When God shall fight with them a great pitched battle
And hack them into pieces.
He will smile,
Father, perhaps, and open His great door,
And call the pretty and kind into His house.
Did but the lawless angels see that door,
They would fall, slain by everlasting peace;
And when such angels knock upon our doors
Who goes with them must drive through the same storm.
[A knock at the door. MAIRE BRUIN opens it and
then goes to the dresser and fills a porringer
with milk and hands it through the door and
takes it back empty and closes the door.
A little queer old woman cloaked in green,
Who came to beg a porringer of milk.
The good people go asking milk and fire
Upon May Eve.—Woe on the house that gives,
For they have power upon it for a year.
I knew you would bring evil on the house.
Who was she?
Both the tongue and face were strange.
Some strangers came last week to Clover Hill;
She must be one of them.
I am afraid.
The priest will keep all harm out of the house.
The cross will keep all harm out of the house
While it hangs there.
Come, sit beside me, colleen,
And put away your dreams of discontent,
For I would have you light up my last days
Like a bright torch of pine, and when I die
I will make you the wealthiest hereabout:
For hid away where nobody can find
I have a stocking full of silver and gold.
You are the fool of every pretty face,
And I must pinch and pare that my son’s wife
May have all kinds of ribbons for her head.
Do not be cross; she is a right good girl!
The butter is by your elbow, Father Hart.
My colleen, have not Fate and Time and Change
Done well for me and for old Bridget there?
We have a hundred acres of good land,
And sit beside each other at the fire,
The wise priest of our parish to our right,
And you and our dear son to left of us.
To sit beside the board and drink good wine
And watch the turf smoke coiling from the fire
And feel content and wisdom in your heart,
This is the best of life; when we are young
We long to tread a way none trod before,
But find the excellent old way through love
And through the care of children to the hour
For bidding Fate and Time and Change good-bye.
[A knock at the door. MAIRE BRUIN opens it and
then takes a sod of turf out of the hearth in
the tongs and passes it through the door and
closes the door and remains standing by it.
A little queer old man in a green coat,
Who asked a burning sod to light his pipe.
You have now given milk and fire, and brought,
For all you know, evil upon the house.
Before you married you were idle and fine,
And went about with ribbons on your head;
And now you are a good-for-nothing wife.
Be quiet, mother!
You are much too cross!
What do I care if I have given this house,
Where I must hear all day a bitter tongue,
Into the power of faeries!
You know well
How calling the good people by that name
Or talking of them over-much at all
May bring all kinds of evil on the house.
Come, faeries, take me out of this dull house!
Let me have all the freedom I have lost;
Work when I will and idle when I will!
Faeries, come, take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the wind,
Run on the top of the dishevelled tide,
And dance upon the mountains like a flame!
You cannot know the meaning of your words.
Father, I am right weary of four tongues:
A tongue that is too crafty and too wise,
A tongue that is too godly and too grave,
A tongue that is more bitter than the tide,
And a kind tongue too full of drowsy love,
Of drowsy love and my captivity.
[SHAWN BRUIN comes over to her and leads her to
Do not blame me; I often lie awake
Thinking that all things trouble your bright head—
How beautiful it is—such broad pale brows
Under a cloudy blossoming of hair!
Sit down beside me here—these are too old,
And have forgotten they were ever young.
O, you are the great door-post of this house,
And I, the red nasturtium, climbing up.
[She takes SHAWN’S hand, but looks shyly at the
priest and lets it go.
Good daughter, take his hand—by love alone
God binds us to Himself and to the hearth
And shuts us from the waste beyond His peace,
From maddening freedom and bewildering light.
Would that the world were mine to give it you
With every quiet hearth and barren waste,
The maddening freedom of its woods and tides,
And the bewildering light upon its hills.
Then I would take and break it in my hands
To see you smile watching it crumble away.
Then I would mould a world of fire and dew
With no one bitter, grave, or over-wise,
And nothing marred or old to do you wrong;
And crowd the enraptured quiet of the sky
With candles burning to your lonely face.
Your looks are all the candles that I need.
Once a fly dancing in a beam of the sun,
Or the light wind blowing out of the dawn,
Could fill your heart with dreams none other knew,
But now the indissoluble sacrament
Has mixed your heart that was most proud and cold
With my warm heart for ever; and sun and moon
Must fade and heaven be rolled up like a scroll;
But your white spirit still walk by my spirit.
[A VOICE sings in the distance.
Did you hear something call? O, guard me close,
Because I have said wicked things to-night;
And seen a pale-faced child with red-gold hair,
And longed to dance upon the winds with her.
A VOICE [close to the door].
The wind blows out of the gates of the day,
The wind blows over the lonely of heart,
And the lonely of heart is withered away,
While the faeries dance in a place apart,
Shaking their milk-white feet in a ring,
Tossing their milk-white arms in the air;
For they hear the wind laugh, and murmur and sing
Of a land where even the old are fair,
And even the wise are merry of tongue;
But I heard a reed of Coolaney say,
‘When the wind has laughed and murmured and sung,
The lonely of heart is withered away!’
I am right happy, and would make all else
Be happy too. I hear a child outside,
And will go bring her in out of the cold.
[He opens the door. A CHILD dressed in pale green
and with red-gold hair comes into the house.
I tire of winds and waters and pale lights!
You are most welcome. It is cold out there;
Who’d think to face such cold on a May Eve?
And when I tire of this warm little house
There is one here who must away, away,
To where the woods, the stars, and the white streams
Are holding a continual festival.
O listen to her dreamy and strange talk.
Come to the fire.
I will sit upon your knee,
For I have run from where the winds are born,
And long to rest my feet a little while.
[She sits upon his knee.
How pretty you are!
Your hair is wet with dew!
I will warm your chilly feet.
[She takes THE CHILD’S feet in her hands.
You must have come
A long, long way, for I have never seen
Your pretty face, and must be tired and hungry;
Here is some bread and wine.
The wine is bitter.
Old mother, have you no sweet food for me?
I have some honey!
[She goes into the next room.
You are a dear child;
The mother was quite cross before you came.
[BRIDGET returns with the honey, and goes to the
dresser and fills a porringer with milk.
She is the child of gentle people; look
At her white hands and at her pretty dress.
I have brought you some new milk, but wait awhile,
And I will put it by the fire to warm,
For things well fitted for poor folk like us
Would never please a high-born child like you.
Old mother, my old mother, the green dawn
Brightens above while you blow up the fire;
And evening finds you spreading the white cloth.
The young may lie in bed and dream and hope,
But you work on because your heart is old.
The young are idle.
Old father, you are wise,
And all the years have gathered in your heart
To whisper of the wonders that are gone.
The young must sigh through many a dream and hope,
But you are wise because your heart is old.
O, who would think to find so young a child
Loving old age and wisdom?
[BRIDGET gives her more bread and honey.
No more, mother.
What a small bite! The milk is ready now;
What a small sip!
Put on my shoes, old mother,
For I would like to dance now I have eaten.
The reeds are dancing by Coolaney lake,
And I would like to dance until the reeds
And the white waves have danced themselves to sleep.
[BRIDGET having put on her shoes, she gets off
the old man’s knees and is about to dance, but
suddenly sees the crucifix and shrieks and
covers her eyes.]
What is that ugly thing on the black cross?
You cannot know how naughty your words are!
That is our Blessed Lord!
Hide it away!
I have begun to be afraid, again!
Hide it away!
That would be wickedness!
That would be sacrilege!
The tortured thing!
Hide it away!
Her parents are to blame.
That is the image of the Son of God.
[THE CHILD puts her arm round his neck and
Hide it away! Hide it away!
Because you are so young and little a child
I will go take it down.
Hide it away,
And cover it out of sight and out of mind.
[FATHER HART takes it down and carries it
towards the inner room.
Since you have come into this barony,
I will instruct you in our blessed faith:
Being a clever child, you will soon learn.
[To the others.] We must be tender with all budding things.
Our Maker let no thought of Calvary
Trouble the morning stars in their first song.
[Puts the crucifix in the inner room.
Here is level ground for dancing. I will dance.
The wind is blowing on the waving reeds,
The wind is blowing on the heart of man.
[She dances, swaying about like the reeds.
MAIRE [to SHAWN BRUIN].
Just now when she came near I thought I heard
Other small steps beating upon the floor,
And a faint music blowing in the wind,
Invisible pipes giving her feet the time.
I heard no step but hers.
Look to the bolt!
Because the unholy powers are abroad.
MAURTEEN BRUIN [to THE CHILD].
Come over here, and if you promise me
Not to talk wickedly of holy things
I will give you something.
Bring it me, old father!
[MAURTEEN BRUIN goes into the next room.
I will have queen cakes when you come to me!
[MAURTEEN BRUIN returns and lays a piece of
money on the table. THE CHILD makes a
gesture of refusal.
It will buy lots of toys; see how it glitters!
Come, tell me, do you love me?
I love you!
Ah, but you love this fireside!
I love you.
But you love Him above.
She is blaspheming.
THE CHILD [to MAIRE].
And do you love me?
I—I do not know.
You love that great tall fellow over there:
Yet I could make you ride upon the winds,
Run on the top of the dishevelled tide,
And dance upon the mountains like a flame!
Queen of the Angels and kind Saints, defend us!
Some dreadful fate has fallen: a while ago
The wind cried out and took the primroses,
And she ran by me laughing in the wind,
And I gave milk and fire, and she came in
And made you hide the blessed crucifix.
You fear because of her wild, pretty prattle;
She knows no better.
[To THE CHILD] Child, how old are you?
When winter sleep is abroad my hair grows thin,
My feet unsteady. When the leaves awaken
My mother carries me in her golden arms.
I’ll soon put on my womanhood and marry
The spirits of wood and water, but who can tell
When I was born for the first time? I think
I am much older than the eagle cock
That blinks and blinks on Ballygawley Hill,
And he is the oldest thing under the moon.
She is of the faery people.
I am Brig’s daughter.
I sent my messengers for milk and fire,
And then I heard one call to me and came.
[They all except MAIRE BRUIN gather about the
priest for protection. MAIRE BRUIN stays on
the settle in a stupor of terror. THE CHILD
takes primroses from the great bowl and begins
to strew them between herself and the priest
and about MAIRE BRUIN. During the following
dialogue SHAWN BRUIN goes more than once to
the brink of the primroses, but shrinks back to
the others timidly.
I will confront this mighty spirit alone.
[They cling to him and hold him back.
THE CHILD [while she strews the primroses].
No one whose heart is heavy with human tears
Can cross these little cressets of the wood.
Be not afraid, the Father is with us,
And all the nine angelic hierarchies,
The Holy Martyrs and the Innocents,
The adoring Magi in their coats of mail,
And He who died and rose on the third day,
And Mary with her seven times wounded heart.
[THE CHILD ceases strewing the primroses, and
kneels upon the settle beside MAIRE and puts
her arms about her neck.]
Cry, daughter, to the Angels and the Saints.
You shall go with me, newly-married bride,
And gaze upon a merrier multitude;
White-armed Nuala and Aengus of the birds,
And Feacra of the hurtling foam, and him
Who is the ruler of the western host,
Finvarra, and their Land of Heart’s Desire,
Where beauty has no ebb, decay no flood,
But joy is wisdom, Time an endless song.
I kiss you and the world begins to fade.
Daughter, I call you unto home and love!
Stay, and come with me, newly-married bride,
For, if you hear him, you grow like the rest:
Bear children, cook, be mindful of the churn,
And wrangle over butter, fowl, and eggs,
And sit at last there, old and bitter of tongue,
Watching the white stars war upon your hopes.
Daughter, I point you out the way to heaven.
But I can lead you, newly-married bride,
Where nobody gets old and crafty and wise,
Where nobody gets old and godly and grave,
Where nobody gets old and bitter of tongue,
And where kind tongues bring no captivity,
For we are only true to the far lights
We follow singing, over valley and hill.
By the dear name of the One crucified,
I bid you, Maire Bruin, come to me.
I keep you in the name of your own heart!
[She leaves the settle, and stooping takes up a
mass of primroses and kisses them.]
We have great power to-night, dear golden folk,
For he took down and hid the crucifix.
And my invisible brethren fill the house;
I hear their footsteps going up and down.
O, they shall soon rule all the hearts of men
And own all lands; last night they merrily danced
About his chapel belfry! [To MAIRE] Come away,
I hear my brethren bidding us away!
I will go fetch the crucifix again.
[They hang about him in terror and prevent him
The enchanted flowers will kill us if you go.
They turn the flowers to little twisted flames.
The little twisted flames burn up the heart.
I hear them crying, ‘Newly-married bride,
Come to the woods and waters and pale lights.’
I will go with you.
THE CHILD [standing by the door].
Then, follow: but the heavy body of clay
And clinging mortal hope must fall from you,
For we who ride the winds, run on the waves,
And dance upon the mountains, are more light
Than dewdrops on the banners of the dawn.
Then take my soul.
[SHAWN BRUIN goes over to her.
Beloved, do not leave me!
Remember when I met you by the well
And took your hand in mine and spoke of love.
Dear face! Dear voice!
Come, newly-married bride!
I always loved her world—and yet—and yet—
[Sinks into his arms.
THE CHILD [from the door].
White bird, white bird, come with me, little bird.
She calls my soul!
Come with me, little bird!
I can hear songs and dancing!
Stay with me!
I think that I would stay—and yet—and yet—
Come, little bird with crest of gold!
MAIRE BRUIN [very softly].
Come, little bird with silver feet!
[MAIRE dies, and THE CHILD goes.
She is dead!
Come from that image there: she is far away:
You have thrown your arms about a drift of leaves
Or bole of an ash-tree changed into her image.
Thus do the spirits of evil snatch their prey
Almost out of the very hand of God;
And day by day their power is more and more,
And men and women leave old paths, for pride
Comes knocking with thin knuckles on the heart.
A VOICE [singing outside].
The wind blows out of the gates of the day,
The wind blows over the lonely of heart,
And the lonely of heart is withered away
While the faeries dance in a place apart,
Shaking their milk-white feet in a ring,
Tossing their milk-white arms in the air;
For they hear the wind laugh, and murmur and sing
Of a land where even the old are fair,
And even the wise are merry of tongue;
But I heard a reed of Coolaney say,
‘When the wind has laughed and murmured and sung,
The lonely of heart is withered away.’
[The song is taken up by many voices, who sing
loudly, as if in triumph. Some of the voices
seem to come from within the house.]
THE UNICORN FROM THE STARS
PERSONS IN THE PLAY
THE UNICORN FROM THE STARS
Interior of a coachbuilder’s workshop. Parts of a
gilded coach, among them an ornament representing
a lion and unicorn. THOMAS working at a
wheel. FATHER JOHN coming from door of inner
I have prayed over Martin. I have prayed
a long time, but there is no move in him yet.
You are giving yourself too much trouble,
Father. It’s as good for you to leave him alone
till the doctor’s bottle will come. If there is
any cure at all for what is on him, it is likely
the doctor will have it.
I think it is not doctor’s medicine will help
him in this case.
It will, it will. The doctor has his business
learned well. If Andrew had gone to him the
time I bade him and had not turned again to
bring yourself to the house, it is likely Martin
would be walking at this time. I am loth to
trouble you, Father, when the business is not
of your own sort. Any doctor at all should be
able and well able to cure the falling sickness.
It is not any common sickness that is on him
I thought at the first it was gone to sleep he
was. But when shaking him and roaring at him
failed to rouse him, I knew well it was the falling
sickness. Believe me, the doctor will reach
it with his drugs.
Nothing but prayer can reach a soul that is
so far beyond the world as his soul is at this
You are not saying that the life is gone out
No, no, his life is in no danger. But where
he himself, the spirit, the soul, is gone, I cannot
say. It has gone beyond our imaginings.
He is fallen into a trance.
He used to be queer as a child, going asleep
in the fields, and coming back with talk of
white horses he saw, and bright people like
angels or whatever they were. But I mended
that. I taught him to recognise stones beyond
angels with a few strokes of a rod. I would
never give in to visions or to trances.
We who hold the faith have no right to
speak against trance or vision. Saint Elizabeth
had them, Saint Benedict, Saint Anthony, Saint
Columcille. Saint Catherine of Siena often lay
a long time as if dead.
That might be so in the olden time, but those
things are gone out of the world now. Those
that do their work fair and honest have no
occasion to let the mind go rambling. What
would send my nephew, Martin Hearne, into
a trance, supposing trances to be in it, and he
rubbing the gold on the lion and unicorn that
he had taken in hand to make a good job of for
the top of the coach?
FATHER JOHN [taking up ornament].
It is likely it was that sent him off. The
flashing of light upon it would be enough to
throw one that had a disposition to it into a
trance. There was a very saintly man, though
he was not of our church; he wrote a great book
called Mysterium Magnum was seven days in
a trance. Truth, or whatever truth he found,
fell upon him like a bursting shower, and he a
poor tradesman at his work. It was a ray of
sunlight on a pewter vessel that was the beginning
of all. [Goes to the door and looks in.]
There is no stir in him yet. It is either the
best thing or the worst thing can happen to
anyone, that is happening to him now.
And what in the living world can happen to
a man that is asleep on his bed?
There are some would answer you that it is
to those who are awake that nothing happens,
and it is they that know nothing. He is gone
where all have gone for supreme truth.
[Sitting down again and taking up tools.]
Well, maybe so. But work must go on and
coachbuilding must go on, and they will not
go on the time there is too much attention
given to dreams. A dream is a sort of a shadow,
no profit in it to anyone at all. A coach, now,
is a real thing and a thing that will last for
generations and be made use of to the last, and
maybe turn to be a hen-roost at its latter end.
I think Andrew told me it was a dream of
Martin’s that led to the making of that coach.
Well, I believe he saw gold in some dream,
and it led him to want to make some golden
thing, and coaches being the handiest, nothing
would do him till he put the most of his fortune
into the making of this golden coach. It turned
out better than I thought, for some of the
lawyers came looking at it at Assize time, and
through them it was heard of at Dublin Castle . . .
and who now has it ordered but the Lord
Lieutenant! [FATHER JOHN nods.] Ready it
must be and sent off it must be by the end of
the month. It is likely King George will be
visiting Dublin, and it is he himself will be
sitting in it yet.
Martin has been working hard at it, I know.
You never saw a man work the way he did,
day and night, near ever since the time six
months ago he first came home from France.
I never thought he would be so good at a
trade. I thought his mind was only set on books.
He should be thankful to myself for that.
Any person I will take in hand, I make a clean
job of them the same as I would make of any
other thing in my yard—coach, half-coach,
hackney-coach, ass-car, common-car, post-chaise,
calash, chariot on two wheels, on four
wheels. Each one has the shape Thomas Hearne
put on it, and it in his hands; and what I can
do with wood and iron, why would I not be
able to do it with flesh and blood, and it in a
way my own?
Indeed, I know you did your best for Martin.
Every best. Checked him, taught him the
trade, sent him to the monastery in France for
to learn the language and to see the wide world;
but who should know that if you did not know
it, Father John, and I doing it according to
your own advice?
I thought his nature needed spiritual guidance
and teaching, the best that could be found.
I thought myself it was best for him to be
away for a while. There are too many wild lads
about this place. He to have stopped here, he
might have taken some fancies, and got into
some trouble, going against the Government
maybe the same as Johnny Gibbons that is at this
time an outlaw, having a price upon his head.
That is so. That imagination of his might
have taken fire here at home. It was better
putting him with the Brothers, to turn it to
imaginings of heaven.
Well, I will soon have a good hardy tradesman
made of him now that will live quiet and
rear a family, and be maybe appointed coachbuilder
to the Royal Family at the last.
FATHER JOHN [at window].
I see your brother Andrew coming back from
the doctor; he is stopping to talk with a troop
of beggars that are sitting by the side of the road.
There, now, is another that I have shaped.
Andrew used to be a bit wild in his talk and
in his ways, wanting to go rambling, not content
to settle in the place where he was reared.
But I kept a guard over him; I watched the
time poverty gave him a nip, and then I settled
him into the business. He never was so good
a worker as Martin, he is too fond of wasting
his time talking vanities. But he is middling
handy, and he is always steady and civil to customers.
I have no complaint worth while to be
making this last twenty years against Andrew.
[ANDREW comes in.]
Beggars there outside going the road to the
Kinvara fair. They were saying there is news
that Johnny Gibbons is coming back from
France on the quiet; the king’s soldiers are
watching the ports for him.
Let you keep now, Andrew, to the business
you have in hand. Will the doctor be coming
himself or did he send a bottle that will cure
The doctor can’t come, for he’s down with
the lumbago in the back. He questioned me
as to what ailed Martin, and he got a book to
go looking for a cure, and he began telling me
things out of it, but I said I could not be
carrying things of that sort in my head. He
gave me the book then, and he has marks put
in it for the places where the cures are . . .
wait now. . . . [Reads] ‘Compound medicines
are usually taken inwardly, or outwardly applied;
inwardly taken, they should be either
liquid or solid; outwardly, they should be fomentations
or sponges wet in some decoctions.’
He had a right to have written it out himself
upon a paper. Where is the use of all
I think I moved the mark maybe . . . here,
now, is the part he was reading to me himself. . . .
‘The remedies for diseases belonging to
the skins next the brain, headache, vertigo,
cramp, convulsions, palsy, incubus, apoplexy,
It is what I bid you to tell him that it was
the falling sickness.
ANDREW [dropping book].
O, my dear, look at all the marks gone out
of it! Wait, now, I partly remember what he
said . . . a blister he spoke of . . . or to be
smelling hartshorn . . . or the sneezing powder . . .
or if all fails, to try letting the blood.
All this has nothing to do with the real case.
It is all waste of time.
That is what I was thinking myself, Father.
Sure it was I was the first to call out to you when
I saw you coming down from the hill-side, and
to bring you in to see what could you do. I
would have more trust in your means than in
any doctor’s learning. And in case you might
fail to cure him, I have a cure myself I heard
from my grandmother—God rest her soul!—and
she told me she never knew it to fail. A
person to have the falling sickness, to cut the
top of his nails and a small share of the hair of
his head, and to put it down on the floor, and
to take a harry-pin and drive it down with
that into the floor and to leave it there. ‘That
is the cure will never fail,’ she said, ‘to rise up
any person at all having the falling sickness.’
FATHER JOHN [hand on ear].
I will go back to the hill-side, I will go back
to the hill-side; but no, no, I must do what I
can. I will go again, I will wrestle, I will
strive my best to call him back with prayer.
[Goes in and shuts door.
It is queer Father John is sometimes, and
very queer. There are times when you would
say that he believes in nothing at all.
If you wanted a priest, why did you not get
our own parish priest that is a sensible man,
and a man that you would know what his
thoughts are? You know well the bishop
should have something against Father John to
have left him through the years in that poor
mountainy place, minding the few unfortunate
people that were left out of the last famine.
A man of his learning to be going in rags the
way he is, there must be some good cause for
I had all that in mind and I bringing him.
But I thought he would have done more for
Martin than what he is doing. To read a
Mass over him I thought he would, and to be
convulsed in the reading it, and some strange
thing to have gone out with a great noise
through the doorway.
It would give no good name to the place
such a thing to be happening in it. It is well
enough for labouring-men and for half-acre
men. It would be no credit at all such a thing
to be heard of in this house, that is for coachbuilding
the capital of the county.
If it is from the devil this sickness comes, it
would be best to put it out whatever way it
would be put out. But there might no bad thing
be on the lad at all. It is likely he was with
wild companions abroad, and that knocking
about might have shaken his health. I was
that way myself one time.
Father John said that it was some sort of a
vision or a trance, but I would give no heed
to what he would say. It is his trade to see
more than other people would see, the same
as I myself might be seeing a split in a leather
car hood that no other person would find out
If it is the falling sickness is on him, I have
no objection to that—a plain, straight sickness
that was cast as a punishment on the unbelieving
Jews. It is a thing that might attack one
of a family, and one of another family, and not
to come upon their kindred at all. A person
to have it, all you have to do is not to go between
him and the wind, or fire, or water. But
I am in dread trance is a thing might run
through the house the same as the cholera
In my belief there is no such thing as a
trance. Letting on people do be to make the
world wonder the time they think well to rise
up. To keep them to their work is best, and
not to pay much attention to them at all.
I would not like trances to be coming on
myself. I leave it in my will if I die without
cause, a holly-stake to be run through my heart
the way I will lie easy after burial, and not
turn my face downwards in my coffin. I tell
you I leave it on you in my will.
Leave thinking of your own comforts,
Andrew, and give your mind to the business.
Did the smith put the irons yet on to the shafts
of this coach?
I will go see did he.
Do so, and see did he make a good job of
it. Let the shafts be sound and solid if they
are to be studded with gold.
They are, and the steps along with them—glass
sides for the people to be looking in at
the grandeur of the satin within—the lion
and the unicorn crowning all. It was a great
thought Martin had the time he thought of
making this coach!
It is best for me to go see the smith myself
and leave it to no other one. You can be
attending to that ass-car out in the yard wants a
new tyre in the wheel—out in the rear of the
yard it is. [They go to door.] To pay attention
to every small thing, and to fill up every
minute of time shaping whatever you have to
do, that is the way to build up a business.
[They go out.
FATHER JOHN [bringing in MARTIN].
They are gone out now—the air is fresher
here in the workshop—you can sit here for a
while. You are now fully awake, you have
been in some sort of a trance or a sleep.
Who was it that pulled at me? Who
brought me back?
It is I, Father John, did it. I prayed a long
time over you and brought you back.
You, Father John, to be so unkind! O leave
me, leave me alone!
You are in your dream still.
It was no dream, it was real. Do you not
smell the broken fruit—the grapes? the room
is full of the smell.
Tell me what you have seen, where you
There were horses—white horses rushing
by, with white shining riders—there was a
horse without a rider, and someone caught me
up and put me upon him and we rode away,
with the wind, like the wind—
That is a common imagining. I know many
poor persons have seen that.
We went on, on, on. We came to a sweet-smelling
garden with a gate to it, and there
were wheatfields in full ear around, and there
were vineyards like I saw in France, and the
grapes in bunches. I thought it to be one of
the townlands of heaven. Then I saw the
horses we were on had changed to unicorns, and
they began trampling the grapes and breaking
them. I tried to stop them but I could not.
That is strange, that is strange. What is it
that brings to mind? I heard it in some place,
monoceros de astris, the unicorn from the stars.
They tore down the wheat and trampled it on
stones, and then they tore down what were left
of grapes and crushed and bruised and trampled
them. I smelt the wine, it was flowing on
every side—then everything grew vague. I
cannot remember clearly, everything was silent;
the trampling now stopped, we were all waiting
for some command. Oh! was it given!
I was trying to hear it; there was someone
dragging, dragging me away from that. I am
sure there was a command given, and there
was a great burst of laughter. What was it?
What was the command? Everything seemed
to tremble round me.
Did you awake then?
I do not think I did, it all changed—it was
terrible, wonderful! I saw the unicorns trampling,
trampling, but not in the wine troughs.
Oh, I forget! Why did you waken me?
I did not touch you. Who knows what
hands pulled you away? I prayed, that was all
I did. I prayed very hard that you might
awake. If I had not, you might have died. I
wonder what it all meant? The unicorns—what
did the French monk tell me?—strength
they meant, virginal strength, a rushing, lasting,
They were strong. Oh, they made a great
noise with their trampling.
And the grapes, what did they mean? It puts
me in mind of the psalm, Et calix meus inebrians
quam præclarus est. It was a strange vision, a
very strange vision, a very strange vision.
How can I get back to that place?
You must not go back, you must not think
of doing that. That life of vision, of contemplation,
is a terrible life, for it has far more of
temptation in it than the common life. Perhaps
it would have been best for you to stay under
rules in the monastery.
I could not see anything so clearly there.
It is back here in my own place the visions
come, in the place where shining people used
to laugh around me, and I a little lad in a bib.
You cannot know but it was from the Prince
of this world the vision came. How can one ever
know unless one follows the discipline of the
Church? Some spiritual director, some wise
learned man, that is what you want. I do not
know enough. What am I but a poor banished
priest, with my learning forgotten, my books
never handled and spotted with the damp!
I will go out into the fields where you cannot
come to me to awake me. I will see that townland
again; I will hear that command. I cannot
wait, I must know what happened, I must
bring that command to mind again.
[Putting himself between MARTIN and the door.]
You must have patience as the saints had it.
You are taking your own way. If there is a
command from God for you, you must wait
His good time to receive it.
Must I live here forty years, fifty years . . .
to grow as old as my uncles, seeing nothing but
common things, doing work . . . some foolish
Here they are coming; it is time for me to
go. I must think and I must pray. My mind
is troubled about you. [To THOMAS as he and
ANDREW come in.] Here he is; be very kind to
him for he has still the weakness of a little
Are you well of the fit, lad?
It was no fit. I was away—for awhile—no,
you will not believe me if I tell you.
I would believe it, Martin. I used to have
very long sleeps myself and very queer dreams.
You had, till I cured you, taking you in
hand and binding you to the hours of the clock.
The cure that will cure yourself, Martin, and
will waken you, is to put the whole of your
mind on to your golden coach; to take it in
hand and to finish it out of face.
Not just now. I want to think—to try and
remember what I saw, something that I heard,
that I was told to do.
No, but put it out of your mind. There is no
man doing business that can keep two things in
his head. A Sunday or a holy-day, now, you
might go see a good hurling or a thing of the
kind, but to be spreading out your mind on
anything outside of the workshop on common
days, all coachbuilding would come to an end.
I don’t think it is building I want to do. I
don’t think that is what was in the command.
It is too late to be saying that, the time you
have put the most of your fortune in the business.
Set yourself now to finish your job, and
when it is ended maybe I won’t begrudge you
going with the coach as far as Dublin.
That is it, that will satisfy him. I had a
great desire myself, and I young, to go travelling
the roads as far as Dublin. The roads are
the great things, they never come to an end.
They are the same as the serpent having his
tail swallowed in his own mouth.
It was not wandering I was called to. What
was it? what was it?
What you are called to, and what everyone
having no great estate is called to, is to work.
Sure the world itself could not go on without
I wonder if that is the great thing, to make
the world go on? No, I don’t think that is
the great thing—what does the Munster poet
call it?—‘this crowded slippery coach-loving
world.’ I don’t think I was told to work for that.
I often thought that myself. It is a pity the
stock of the Hearnes to be asked to do any
work at all.
Rouse yourself, Martin, and don’t be talking
the way a fool talks. You started making that
golden coach, and you were set upon it, and
you had me tormented about it. You have
yourself wore out working at it, and planning it,
and thinking of it, and at the end of the race,
when you have the winning-post in sight, and
horses hired for to bring it to Dublin Castle,
you go falling into sleeps and blathering about
dreams, and we run to a great danger of letting
the profit and the sale go by. Sit down on the
bench now, and lay your hands to the work.
MARTIN [sitting down].
I will try. I wonder why I ever wanted to
make it; it was no good dream set me doing
that. [He takes up wheel.] What is there in a
wooden wheel to take pleasure in it? Gilding
it outside makes it no different.
That is right, now. You had some good
plan for making the axle run smooth.
[Letting wheel fall and putting his hands to his head.]
It is no use. [Angrily.] Why did you send
the priest to awake me? My soul is my own
and my mind is my own. I will send them to
where I like. You have no authority over my
That is no way to be speaking to me. I am
head of this business. Nephew, or no nephew,
I will have no one come cold or unwilling to
I had better go; I am of no use to you. I
am going—I must be alone—I will forget if I
am not alone. Give me what is left of my
money and I will go out of this.
[Opening a press and taking out a bag and
throwing it to him.]
There is what is left of your money! The
rest of it you have spent on the coach. If you
want to go, go, and I will not have to be
annoyed with you from this out.
Come now with me, Thomas. The boy
is foolish, but it will soon pass over. He has
not my sense to be giving attention to what
you will say. Come along now, leave him for
awhile; leave him to me I say, it is I will get
inside his mind.
[He leads THOMAS out. MARTIN bangs door
angrily after them and sits down, taking up
lion and unicorn.
I think it was some shining thing I saw.
What was it?
[Opening door and putting in his head.]
Listen to me, Martin.
Go away, no more talking; leave me alone.
O, but wait. I understand you. Thomas
doesn’t understand your thoughts, but I understand
them. Wasn’t I telling you I was just
like you once?
Like me? Did you ever see the other things,
the things beyond?
I did. It is not the four walls of the house
keep me content. Thomas doesn’t know. Oh,
no, he doesn’t know.
No, he has no vision.
He has not, nor any sort of a heart for a
He has never heard the laughter and the
He has not, nor the music of my own little
flute. I have it hidden in the thatch outside.
Does the body slip from you as it does from
me? They have not shut your window into
Thomas never shut a window I could not
get through. I knew you were one of my own
sort. When I am sluggish in the morning,
Thomas says, ‘Poor Andrew is getting old.’
That is all he knows. The way to keep young
is to do the things youngsters do. Twenty
years I have been slipping away, and he never
found me out yet!
That is what they call ecstasy, but there is
no word that can tell out very plain what it
means. That freeing of the mind from its
thoughts, those wonders we know when we
put them into words; the words seem as little
like them as blackberries are like the moon and
I found that myself the time they knew me
to be wild, and used to be asking me to say
what pleasure did I find in cards, and women,
You might help me to remember that vision
I had this morning, to understand it. The
memory of it has slipped from me. Wait, it
is coming back, little by little. I know that I
saw the unicorns trampling, and then a figure,
a many-changing figure, holding some bright
thing. I knew something was going to happen
or to be said, something that would make my
whole life strong and beautiful like the rushing
of the unicorns, and then, and then—
JOHNNY BACACH’S voice at window.
A poor person I am, without food, without
a way, without portion, without costs, without
a person or a stranger, without means, without
hope, without health, without warmth—
ANDREW [looking towards window].
It is that troop of beggars. Bringing their tricks
and their thieveries they are to the Kinvara Fair.
There is no quiet—come to the other room.
I am trying to remember.
[They go to door of inner room, but ANDREW stops him.
They are a bad-looking fleet. I have a mind
to drive them away, giving them a charity.
Drive them away or come away from their
I put under the power of my prayer
All that will give me help.
Rafael keep him Wednesday,
Sachiel feed him Thursday,
Hamiel provide him Friday,
Cassiel increase him Saturday.
Sure giving to us is giving to the Lord and
laying up a store in the treasury of heaven.
Whisht! He is entering by the window!
[JOHNNY climbs up.
That I may never sin, but the place is empty.
Go in and see what can you make a grab at.
JOHNNY [getting in].
That every blessing I gave may be turned
to a curse on them that left the place so bare!
[He turns things over.] I might chance something
in this chest if it was open.
[ANDREW begins creeping towards him.
Hurry on, now, you limping crabfish you!
We can’t be stopping here while you’ll boil
[Seizing bag of money and holding it up high in
Look at this, now, look!
[ANDREW comes behind, seizes his arm.
JOHNNY [letting bag fall with a crash].
Destruction on us all!
[Running forward, seizes him. Heads disappear.]
That is it! O, I remember. That is what
happened. That is the command. Who was
it sent you here with that command?
It was misery sent me in, and starvation,
and the hard ways of the world.
It was that, my poor child, and my one son
only. Show mercy to him now and he after
leaving gaol this morning.
MARTIN [to ANDREW].
I was trying to remember it—when he spoke
that word it all came back to me. I saw a bright
many-changing figure; it was holding up a
shining vessel [holds up arms]; then the vessel
fell and was broken with a great crash; then I
saw the unicorns trampling it. They were
breaking the world to pieces—when I saw the
cracks coming I shouted for joy! And I heard
the command ‘Destroy, destroy, destruction is
the life-giver! destroy!’
What will we do with him? He was thinking
to rob you of your gold.
How could I forget it or mistake it? It has
all come upon me now; the reasons of it all,
like a flood, like a flooded river.
It was the hunger brought me in and the
Were you given any other message? Did
you see the unicorns?
I saw nothing and heard nothing; near dead
I am with the fright I got and with the hardship
of the gaol.
To destroy, to overthrow all that comes between
us and God, between us and that shining
country. To break the wall, Andrew, to break
the thing—whatever it is that comes between,
but where to begin—
What is it you are talking about?
It may be that this man is the beginning.
He has been sent—the poor, they have nothing,
and so they can see heaven as we cannot. He
and his comrades will understand me. But how
to give all men high hearts that they may all
It’s the juice of the grey barley will do that.
To rise everybody’s heart, is it? Is it that
was your meaning all the time? If you will
take the blame of it all, I’ll do what you want.
Give me the bag of money then. [He takes it up.]
O, I’ve a heart like your own. I’ll lift the world,
too. The people will be running from all parts.
O, it will be a great day in this district.
Will I go with you?
No, you must stay here; we have things to
do and to plan.
Destroyed we all are with the hunger and
Go, then, get food and drink, whatever is
wanted to give you strength and courage. Gather
your people together here, bring them all in.
We have a great thing to do. I have to begin—I
want to tell it to the whole world. Bring them
in, bring them in, I will make the house ready.
[He stands looking up as if in ecstasy; ANDREW
and JOHNNY BACACH go out.
The same workshop. MARTIN seen arranging mugs
and bread, etc., on a table. FATHER JOHN comes
in, knocking at open door as he comes; his mind
Come in, come in, I have got the house ready.
Here is bread and meat—everybody is welcome.
[Hearing no answer, turns round.
Martin, I have come back. There is something
I want to say to you.
You are welcome, there are others coming.
They are not of your sort, but all are welcome.
I have remembered suddenly something that
I read when I was in the seminary.
You seem very tired.
FATHER JOHN [sitting down].
I had almost got back to my own place
when I thought of it. I have run part of the
way. It is very important; it is about the trance
that you have been in. When one is inspired
from above, either in trance or in contemplation,
one remembers afterwards all that one has
seen and read. I think there must be something
about it in St. Thomas. I know that I
have read a long passage about it years ago. But,
Martin, there is another kind of inspiration, or
rather an obsession or possession. A diabolical
power comes into one’s body, or overshadows
it. Those whose bodies are taken hold of in this
way, jugglers, and witches, and the like, can
often tell what is happening in distant places,
or what is going to happen, but when they
come out of that state they remember nothing.
I think you said—
That I could not remember.
You remembered something, but not all.
Nature is a great sleep; there are dangerous
and evil spirits in her dreams, but God is above
Nature. She is a darkness, but He makes
everything clear; He is light.
All is clear now. I remember all, or all that
matters to me. A poor man brought me a
word, and I know what I have to do.
Ah, I understand, words were put into his
mouth. I have read of such things. God
sometimes uses some common man as his messenger.
You may have passed the man who brought
it on the road. He left me but now.
Very likely, very likely, that is the way it
happened. Some plain, unnoticed man has
sometimes been sent with a command.
I saw the unicorns trampling in my dream.
They were breaking the world. I am to destroy,
destruction was the word the messenger spoke.
To bring again the old disturbed exalted life,
the old splendour.
You are not the first that dream has come to.
[Gets up, and walks up and down.] It has been
wandering here and there, calling now to this
man, now to that other. It is a terrible dream.
Father John, you have had the same thought.
Men were holy then, there were saints everywhere.
There was reverence; but now it is all
work, business, how to live a long time. Ah, if
one could change it all in a minute, even by
war and violence! There is a cell where Saint
Ciaran used to pray; if one could bring that
Do not deceive me. You have had the
Why are you questioning me? You are
asking me things that I have told to no one
but my confessor.
We must gather the crowds together, you
I have dreamed your dream, it was long ago.
I had your vision.
And what happened?
FATHER JOHN [harshly].
It was stopped; that was an end. I was sent
to the lonely parish where I am, where there
was no one I could lead astray. They have
left me there. We must have patience; the
world was destroyed by water, it has yet to be
consumed by fire.
Why should we be patient? To live seventy
years, and others to come after us and live
seventy years it may be; and so from age to
age, and all the while the old splendour dying
more and more.
[A noise of shouting. ANDREW, who has been
standing at the door, comes in.
Martin says truth, and he says it well.
Planing the side of a cart or a shaft, is that
life? It is not. Sitting at a desk writing
letters to the man that wants a coach, or to
the man that won’t pay for the one he has got,
is that life, I ask you? Thomas arguing at
you and putting you down—‘Andrew, dear
Andrew, did you put the tyre on that wheel
yet?’ Is that life? Not, it is not. I ask you
all, what do you remember when you are dead?
It’s the sweet cup in the corner of the widow’s
drinking-house that you remember. Ha, ha,
listen to that shouting! That is what the lads
in the village will remember to the last day
Why are they shouting? What have you
Never you mind; you left that to me. You
bade me to lift their hearts and I did lift them.
There is not one among them but will have
his head like a blazing tar-barrel before morning.
What did your friend the beggar say?
The juice of the grey barley, he said.
You accursed villain! You have made them
Not at all, but lifting them to the stars.
That is what Martin bade me to do, and there
is no one can say I did not do it.
[A shout at door, and beggars push in a barrel.
They cry, ‘Hi! for the noble master!’ and
point at ANDREW.
It’s not him, it’s that one! [Points at MARTIN.
Are you bringing this devil’s work in at the
very door? Go out of this, I say! get out!
Take these others with you!
No, no; I asked them in, they must not be
turned out. They are my guests.
Drive them out of your uncle’s house!
Come, Father, it is better for you to go.
Go back to your own place. I have taken the
command. It is better perhaps for you that
you did not take it.
[FATHER JOHN and MARTIN go out.
It is well for that old lad he didn’t come
between ourselves and our luck. Himself to
be after his meal, and ourselves staggering with
the hunger! It would be right to have flayed
him and to have made bags of his skin.
What a hurry you are in to get your enough!
Look at the grease on your frock yet, with the
dint of the dabs you put in your pocket!
Doing cures and foretellings is it? You starved
That you may be put up to-morrow to take
the place of that decent son of yours that had
the yard of the gaol wore with walking it till
If he had, he had a mother to come to, and
he would know her when he did see her; and
that is what no son of your own could do and
he to meet you at the foot of the gallows.
If I did know you, I knew too much of you
since the first beginning of my life! What
reward did I ever get travelling with you?
What store did you give me of cattle or of
goods? What provision did I get from you
by day or by night but your own bad character
to be joined on to my own, and I following at
your heels, and your bags tied round about me!
Disgrace and torment on you! Whatever
you got from me, it was more than any reward
or any bit I ever got from the father you had,
or any honourable thing at all, but only the
hurt and the harm of the world and its shame!
What would he give you, and you going
with him without leave! Crooked and foolish
you were always, and you begging by the side
of the ditch.
Begging or sharing, the curse of my heart
upon you! It’s better off I was before ever I
met with you to my cost! What was on me
at all that I did not cut a scourge in the wood
to put manners and decency on you the time
you were not hardened as you are!
Leave talking to me of your rods and your
scourges! All you taught me was robbery, and
it is on yourself and not on myself the scourges
will be laid at the day of the recognition of
’Faith, the pair of you together is better than
Hector fighting before Troy!
Ah, let you be quiet. It is not fighting we
are craving, but the easing of the hunger that
is on us and of the passion of sleep. Lend me
a graineen of tobacco now till I’ll kindle my
pipe—a blast of it will take the weight of the
road off my heart.
[ANDREW gives her some, NANNY grabs at it.
No, but it’s to myself you should give it. I
that never smoked a pipe this forty year without
saying the tobacco prayer. Let that one
say did ever she do that much.
That the pain of your front tooth may be in
your back tooth, you to be grabbing my share!
[They snap at tobacco.
Pup, pup, pup! Don’t be snapping and
quarrelling now, and you so well treated in this
house. It is strollers like yourselves should be
for frolic and for fun. Have you ne’er a good
song to sing, a song that will rise all our hearts?
Johnny Bacach is a good singer, it is what
he used to be doing in the fairs, if the oakum of
the gaol did not give him a hoarseness within
Give it out so, a good song, a song will put
courage and spirit into any man at all.
Come, all ye airy bachelors,
A warning take by me,
A sergeant caught me fowling,
And fired his gun so free.
His comrades came to his relief,
And I was soon trepanned,
And bound up like a woodcock
Had fallen into their hands.
The judge said transportation,
The ship was on the strand;
They have yoked me to the traces
For to plough Van Dieman’s Land!
That’s no good of a song but a melancholy
sort of a song. I’d as lief be listening to a saw
going through timber. Wait, now, till you will
hear myself giving out a tune on the flute.
[Goes out for it.
It is what I am thinking there must be a
great dearth and a great scarcity of good comrades
in this place, a man like that youngster,
having means in his hand, to be bringing ourselves
and our rags into the house.
You think yourself very wise, Johnny Bacach.
Can you tell me, now, who that man is?
Some decent lad, I suppose, with a good way
of living and a mind to send up his name upon
You that have been gaoled this eight months
know little of this countryside. It isn’t a limping
stroller like yourself the Boys would let
come among them. But I know. I went to
the drill a few nights and I skinning kids for
the mountainy men. In a quarry beyond the
drill is—they have their plans made—it’s the
square house of the Brownes is to be made an
attack on and plundered. Do you know, now,
who is the leader they are waiting for?
How would I know that?
Oh, Johnny Gibbons, my five hundred healths to you.
It is long you are away from us over the sea!
JOHNNY [standing up excitedly].
Sure that man could not be Johnny Gibbons
that is outlawed!
I asked news of him from the old lad, and I
bringing in the drink along with him. ‘Don’t
be asking questions,’ says he; ‘take the treat he
gives you,’ says he. ‘If a lad that has a high
heart has a mind to rouse the neighbours,’ says
he, ‘and to stretch out his hand to all that pass
the road, it is in France he learned it,’ says he,
‘the place he is but lately come from, and where
the wine does be standing open in tubs. Take
your treat when you get it,’ says he, ‘and make
no delay or all might be discovered and put an
He came over the sea from France! It is
Johnny Gibbons, surely, but it seems to me they
were calling him by some other name.
A man on his keeping might go by a hundred
names. Would he be telling it out to us that
he never saw before, and we with that clutch
of chattering women along with us? Here he
is coming now. Wait till you see is he the lad
I think him to be.
MARTIN [coming in].
I will make my banner, I will paint the unicorn
on it. Give me that bit of canvas, there
is paint over here. We will get no help from the
settled men—we will call to the lawbreakers,
the tinkers, the sievemakers, the sheepstealers.
[He begins to make banner.
That sounds to be a queer name of an army.
Ribbons I can understand, Whiteboys, Rightboys,
Threshers, and Peep o’ Day, but Unicorns
I never heard of before.
It is not a queer name but a very good name.
[Takes up lion and unicorn.] It is often you saw
that before you in the dock. There is the unicorn
with the one horn, and what it is he is
going against? The lion of course. When he
has the lion destroyed, the crown must fall and
be shivered. Can’t you see it is the League of
the Unicorns is the league that will fight and
destroy the power of England and King George?
It is with that banner we will march and the
lads in the quarry with us, it is they will have
the welcome before him! It won’t be long till
we’ll be attacking the Square House! Arms
there are in it, riches that would smother the
world, rooms full of guineas we will put wax
on our shoes walking them; the horses themselves
shod with no less than silver!
MARTIN [holding up banner].
There it is ready! We are very few now,
but the army of the Unicorns will be a great
army! [To JOHNNY.] Why have you brought me
the message? Can you remember any more?
Has anything more come to you? You have
been drinking, the clouds upon your mind have
been destroyed. . . . Can you see anything or
hear anything that is beyond the world?
I can not. I don’t know what do you want
me to tell you at all?
I want to begin the destruction, but I don’t
know where to begin . . . you do not hear
any other voice?
I do not. I have nothing at all to do with
Freemasons or witchcraft.
It is Biddy Lally has to do with witchcraft.
It is often she threw the cups and gave out
prophecies the same as Columcille.
You are one of the knowledgeable women.
You can tell me where it is best to begin, and
what will happen in the end.
I will foretell nothing at all. I rose out of it
this good while, with the stiffness and the swelling
it brought upon my joints.
If you have foreknowledge you have no right
to keep silent. If you do not help me I may
go to work in the wrong way. I know I have
to destroy, but when I ask myself what I am
to begin with, I am full of uncertainty.
Here now are the cups handy and the leavings
[Taking cups and pouring one from another.]
Throw a bit of white money into the four
corners of the house.
There! [Throwing it.]
There can be nothing told without silver.
It is not myself will have the profit of it. Along
with that I will be forced to throw out gold.
There is a guinea for you. Tell me what
comes before your eyes.
What is it you are wanting to have news of?
Of what I have to go out against at the beginning . . .
there is so much . . . the whole
world it may be.
[Throwing from one cup to another and looking.]
You have no care for yourself. You have been
across the sea, you are not long back. You are
coming within the best day of your life.
What is it? What is it I have to do?
I see a great smoke, I see burning . . . there
is a great smoke overhead.
That means we have to burn away a great
deal that men have piled up upon the earth.
We must bring men once more to the wildness
of the clean green earth.
Herbs for my healing, the big herb and the
little herb, it is true enough they get their great
strength out of the earth.
Who was it the green sod of Ireland belonged
to in the olden times? Wasn’t it to the ancient
race it belonged? And who has possession of
it now but the race that came robbing over the
sea? The meaning of that is to destroy the big
houses and the towns, and the fields to be given
back to the ancient race.
That is it. You don’t put it as I do, but
what matter? Battle is all.
Columcille said, the four corners to be burned,
and then the middle of the field to be burned.
I tell you it was Columcille’s prophecy said that.
Iron handcuffs I see and a rope and a gallows,
and it maybe is not for yourself I see it, but
for some I have acquaintance with a good way
That means the law. We must destroy the
law. That was the first sin, the first mouthful
of the apple.
So it was, so it was. The law is the worst
loss. The ancient law was for the benefit of all.
It is the law of the English is the only sin.
When there were no laws men warred on
one another and man to man, not with machines
made in towns as they do now, and they grew
hard and strong in body. They were altogether
alive like him that made them in his image,
like people in that unfallen country. But presently
they thought it better to be safe, as if
safety mattered or anything but the exaltation
of the heart, and to have eyes that danger had
made grave and piercing. We must overthrow
the laws and banish them.
It is what I say, to put out the laws is to put
out the whole nation of the English. Laws for
themselves they made for their own profit, and
left us nothing at all, no more than a dog or a
An old priest I see, and I would not say is
he the one was here or another. Vexed and
troubled he is, kneeling fretting and ever-fretting
in some lonesome ruined place.
I thought it would come to that. Yes, the
Church too—that is to be destroyed. Once
men fought with their desires and their fears,
with all that they call their sins, unhelped, and
their souls became hard and strong. When we
have brought back the clean earth and destroyed
the law and the Church all life will become
like a flame of fire, like a burning eye . . . Oh,
how to find words for it all . . . all that is not
life will pass away.
It is Luther’s Church he means, and the
humpbacked discourse of Seaghan Calvin’s
Bible. So we will break it, and make an end of it.
We will go out against the world and break
it and unmake it. [Rising.] We are the army
of the Unicorn from the Stars! We will trample
it to pieces.—We will consume the world, we
will burn it away—Father John said the world
has yet to be consumed by fire. Bring me fire.
ANDREW [to Beggars].
Here is Thomas. Hide—let you hide.
[All except MARTIN hurry into next room.
THOMAS comes in.
Come with me, Martin. There is terrible
work going on in the town! There is mischief
gone abroad. Very strange things are happening!
What are you talking of? What has happened?
Come along, I say, it must be put a stop to.
We must call to every decent man. It is as if
the devil himself had gone through the town
on a blast and set every drinking-house open!
I wonder how that has happened. Can it
have anything to do with Andrew’s plan?
Are you giving no heed to what I’m saying?
There is not a man, I tell you, in the parish and
beyond the parish but has left the work he
was doing whether in the field or in the mill.
Then all work has come to an end? Perhaps
that was a good thought of Andrew’s.
There is not a man has come to sensible
years that is not drunk or drinking! My own
labourers and my own serving-men are sitting
on counters and on barrels! I give you my
word, the smell of the spirits and the porter
and the shouting and the cheering within, made
the hair to rise up on my scalp.
And yet there is not one of them that does
not feel that he could bridle the four winds.
THOMAS [sitting down in despair].
You are drunk too. I never thought you had
a fancy for it.
It is hard for you to understand. You have
worked all your life. You have said to yourself
every morning, ‘What is to be done to-day?’
and when you are tired out you have thought
of the next day’s work. If you gave yourself
an hour’s idleness, it was but that you might
work the better. Yet it is only when one has
put work away that one begins to live.
It is those French wines that did it.
I have been beyond the earth. In Paradise,
in that happy townland, I have seen the shining
people. They were all doing one thing or another,
but not one of them was at work. All
that they did was but the overflowing of their
idleness, and their days were a dance bred of
the secret frenzy of their hearts, or a battle
where the sword made a sound that was like
You went away sober from out of my hands;
they had a right to have minded you better.
No man can be alive, and what is paradise
but fulness of life, if whatever he sets his hand
to in the daylight cannot carry him from exaltation
to exaltation, and if he does not rise into
the frenzy of contemplation in the night silence.
Events that are not begotten in joy are misbegotten
and darken the world, and nothing
is begotten in joy if the joy of a thousand years
has not been crushed into a moment.
And I offered to let you go to Dublin in the
MARTIN [giving banner to PAUDEEN].
Give me the lamp. The lamp has not yet
been lighted and the world is to be consumed!
[Goes into inner room.
THOMAS [seeing ANDREW].
Is it here you are, Andrew? What are these
beggars doing? Was this door thrown open too?
Why did you not keep order? I will go for
the constables to help us!
You will not find them to help you. They
were scattering themselves through the drinking-houses
of the town, and why wouldn’t they?
Are you drunk too? You are worse than
Martin. You are a disgrace!
Disgrace yourself! Coming here to be making
an attack on me and badgering me and disparaging
me! And what about yourself that turned
me to be a hypocrite?
What are you saying?
You did, I tell you! Weren’t you always at
me to be regular and to be working and to be
going through the day and the night without
company and to be thinking of nothing but the
trade? What did I want with a trade? I got
a sight of the fairy gold one time in the mountains.
I would have found it again and brought
riches from it but for you keeping me so close
to the work.
Oh, of all the ungrateful creatures! You
know well that I cherished you, leading you to
live a decent, respectable life.
You never had respect for the ancient ways.
It is after the mother you take it, that was too
soft and too lumpish, having too much of the
English in her blood. Martin is a Hearne like
myself. It is he has the generous heart! It is
not Martin would make a hypocrite of me and
force me to do night-walking secretly, watching
to be back by the setting of the seven stars!
[He begins to play his flute.
I will turn you out of this, yourself and this
filthy troop! I will have them lodged in gaol.
Filthy troop, is it? Mind yourself! The
change is coming. The pikes will be up and
the traders will go down!
All seize THOMAS and sing.
When the Lion will lose his strength,
And the braket-thistle begin to pine,
The harp shall sound sweet, sweet at length,
Between the eight and the nine!
Let me out of this, you villains!
We’ll make a sieve of holes of you, you old
bag of treachery!
How well you threatened us with gaol, you
skim of a weasel’s milk!
You heap of sicknesses! You blinking hangman!
That you may never die till you’ll get
a blue hag for a wife!
[MARTIN comes back with lighted lamp.
Let him go. [They let THOMAS go, and fall
back.] Spread out the banner. The moment
has come to begin the war.
Up with the Unicorn and destroy the Lion!
Success to Johnny Gibbons and all good men!
Heap all those things together there. Heap
those pieces of the coach one upon another.
Put that straw under them. It is with this
flame I will begin the work of destruction. All
nature destroys and laughs.
Destroy your own golden coach!
MARTIN [kneeling before THOMAS].
I am sorry to go a way that you do not like
and to do a thing that will vex you. I have
been a great trouble to you since I was a child
in the house, and I am a great trouble to you
yet. It is not my fault. I have been chosen for
what I have to do. [Stands up.] I have to free
myself first and those that are near me. The love
of God is a very terrible thing! [THOMAS tries
to stop him, but is prevented by Beggars. MARTIN
takes a wisp of straw and lights it.] We will destroy
all that can perish! It is only the soul
that can suffer no injury. The soul of man is
of the imperishable substance of the stars!
[He throws wisp into heap—it blazes up.
Before dawn. A wild rocky place, NANNY and
BIDDY LALLY squatting by a fire. Rich stuffs, etc.,
strewn about. PAUDEEN watching by MARTIN,
who is lying as if dead, a sack over him.
NANNY [to PAUDEEN].
Well, you are great heroes and great warriors
and great lads altogether, to have put down the
Brownes the way you did, yourselves and the
Whiteboys of the quarry. To have ransacked
the house and have plundered it! Look at the
silks and the satins and the grandeurs I brought
away! Look at that now! [Holds up a velvet
cloak.] It’s a good little jacket for myself will
come out of it. It’s the singers will be stopping
their songs and the jobbers turning from their
cattle in the fairs to be taking a view of the
laces of it and the buttons! It’s my far-off
cousins will be drawing from far and near!
There was not so much gold in it all as what
they were saying there was. Or maybe that
fleet of Whiteboys had the place ransacked
before we ourselves came in. Bad cess to them
that put it in my mind to go gather up the full
of my bag of horseshoes out of the forge. Silver
they were saying they were, pure white silver;
and what are they in the end but only hardened
iron! A bad end to them! [Flings away horseshoes.]
The time I will go robbing big houses
again it will not be in the light of the full moon
I will go doing it, that does be causing every
common thing to shine out as if for a deceit
and a mockery. It’s not shining at all they are
at this time, but duck yellow and dark.
To leave the big house blazing after us, it was
that crowned all! Two houses to be burned to
ashes in the one night. It is likely the servant-girls
were rising from the feathers and the cocks
crowing from the rafters for seven miles around,
taking the flames to be the whitening of the
It is the lad is stretched beyond you have to
be thankful to for that. There was never seen
a leader was his equal for spirit and for daring.
Making a great scatter of the guards the way
he did. Running up roofs and ladders, the fire
in his hand, till you’d think he would be apt to
strike his head against the stars.
I partly guessed death was near him, and the
queer shining look he had in his two eyes, and
he throwing sparks east and west through the
beams. I wonder now was it some inward wound
he got, or did some hardy lad of the Brownes
give him a tip on the skull unknownst in the
fight? It was I myself found him, and the troop
of the Whiteboys gone, and he lying by the
side of a wall as weak as if he had knocked a
mountain. I failed to waken him trying him
with the sharpness of my nails, and his head fell
back when I moved it, and I knew him to be
spent and gone.
It’s a pity you not to have left him where he
was lying and said no word at all to Paudeen or
to that son you have, that kept us back from
following on, bringing him here to this shelter
on sacks and upon poles.
What way could I help letting a screech out
of myself, and the life but just gone out of him
in the darkness, and not a living Christian by
his side but myself and the great God?
It’s on ourselves the vengeance of the red
soldiers will fall, they to find us sitting here the
same as hares in a tuft. It would be best for us
follow after the rest of the army of the Whiteboys.
Whisht! I tell you. The lads are cracked
about him. To get but the wind of the word of
leaving him, it’s little but they’d knock the
head off the two of us. Whisht!
Enter JOHNNY BACACH with candles.
JOHNNY [standing over MARTIN].
Wouldn’t you say now there was some malice
or some venom in the air, that is striking down
one after another the whole of the heroes of
It makes a person be thinking of the four
last ends, death and judgment, heaven and hell.
Indeed and indeed my heart lies with him. It
is well I knew what man he was under his by-name
and his disguise.
[Sings.] Oh, Johnny Gibbons, it’s you were the prop to us.
You to have left us, we are put astray!
It is lost we are now and broken to the end
of our days. There is no satisfaction at all but
to be destroying the English, and where now
will we get so good a leader again? Lay him
out fair and straight upon a stone, till I will
let loose the secret of my heart keening him!
[Sets out candles on a rock, propping them up
Is it mould candles you have brought to set
around him, Johnny Bacach? It is great riches
you should have in your pocket to be going to
those lengths and not to be content with dips.
It is lengths I will not be going to the time
the life will be gone out of your own body. It
is not your corpse I will be wishful to hold in
honour the way I hold this corpse in honour.
That’s the way always, there will be grief and
quietness in the house if it is a young person
has died, but funning and springing and tricking
one another if it is an old person’s corpse
is in it. There is no compassion at all for the old.
It is he would have got leave for the Gael to
be as high as the Gall. Believe me, he was in
the prophecies. Let you not be comparing yourself
with the like of him.
Why wouldn’t I be comparing myself? Look
at all that was against me in the world. Would
you be matching me against a man of his sort,
that had the people shouting him and that had
nothing to do but to die and to go to heaven?
The day you go to heaven that you may
never come back alive out of it! But it is not
yourself will ever hear the saints hammering at
their musics! It is you will be moving through
the ages, chains upon you, and you in the form
of a dog or a monster. I tell you that one will
go through Purgatory as quick as lightning
through a thorn-bush.
That’s the way, that the way.
[Croons.] Three that are watching my time to run,
The worm, the devil, and my son,
To see a loop around their neck
It’s that would make my heart to lep!
Five white candles. I wouldn’t begrudge
them to him indeed. If he had held out and
held up it is my belief he would have freed
Wait till the full light of the day and you’ll
see the burying he’ll have. It is not in this
place we will be waking him. I’ll make a call
to the two hundred Ribbons he was to lead on
to the attack on the barracks at Aughanish.
They will bring him marching to his grave
upon the hill. He had surely some gift from
the other world, I wouldn’t say but he had
power from the other side.
ANDREW [coming in very shaky].
Well, it was a great night he gave to the
village, and it is long till it will be forgotten.
I tell you the whole of the neighbours are up
against him. There is no one at all this morning
to set the mills going. There was no bread
baked in the night-time, the horses are not fed
in the stalls, the cows are not milked in the
sheds. I met no man able to make a curse this
night but he put it on my head and on the head
of the boy that is lying there before us . . .
Is there no sign of life in him at all?
What way would there be a sign of life and
the life gone out of him this three hours or
He was lying in his sleep for a while yesterday,
and he wakened again after another while.
He will not waken, I tell you. I held his hand
in my own and it getting cold as if you were
pouring on it the coldest cold water, and no
running in his blood. He is gone sure enough
and the life is gone out of him.
Maybe so, maybe so. It seems to me yesterday
his cheeks were bloomy all the while, and
now he is as pale as wood ashes. Sure we all
must come to it at the last. Well, my white-headed
darling, it is you were the bush among
us all, and you to be cut down in your prime.
Gentle and simple, everyone liked you. It is
no narrow heart you had, it is you were for
spending and not for getting. It is you made
a good wake for yourself, scattering your estate
in one night only in beer and in wine for the
whole province; and that you may be sitting
in the middle of Paradise and in the chair of
Amen to that. It’s pity I didn’t think the
time I sent for yourself to send the little lad of
a messenger looking for a priest to overtake him.
It might be in the end the Almighty is the best
man for us all!
Sure I sent him on myself to bid the priest
to come. Living or dead I would wish to do
all that is rightful for the last and the best of
my own race and generation.
BIDDY [jumping up].
Is it the priest you are bringing in among us?
Where is the sense in that? Aren’t we robbed
enough up to this with the expense of the
candles and the like?
If it is that poor starved priest he called to
that came talking in secret signs to the man
that is gone, it is likely he will ask nothing for
what he has to do. There is many a priest is
a Whiteboy in his heart.
I tell you, if you brought him tied in a bag
he would not say an Our Father for you, without
you having a half-crown at the top of your
There is no priest is any good at all but a
spoiled priest. A one that would take a drop
of drink, it is he would have courage to face
the hosts of trouble. Rout them out he would,
the same as a shoal of fish from out the weeds.
It’s best not to vex a priest, or to run against
them at all.
It’s yourself humbled yourself well to one the
time you were sick in the gaol and had like to
die, and he bade you to give over the throwing
of the cups.
Ah, plaster of Paris I gave him. I took to
it again and I free upon the roads.
Much good you are doing with it to yourself
or any other one. Aren’t you after telling that
corpse no later than yesterday that he was coming
within the best day of his life?
Whisht, let ye. Here is the priest coming.
FATHER JOHN comes in.
It is surely not true that he is dead?
The spirit went from him about the middle
hour of the night. We brought him here to
this sheltered place. We were loth to leave him
Where is he?
JOHNNY [taking up sacks].
Lying there stiff and stark. He has a very
quiet look as if there was no sin at all or no
great trouble upon his mind.
FATHER JOHN [kneels and touches him].
He is not dead.
BIDDY [pointing to NANNY].
He is dead. If it was letting on he was, he
would not have let that one rob him and search
him the way she did.
It has the appearance of death, but it is not
death. He is in a trance.
Is it Heaven and Hell he is walking at this
time to be bringing back newses of the sinners
I was thinking myself it might away he was,
riding on white horses with the riders of the
He will have great wonders to tell out the
time he will rise up from the ground. It is a
pity he not to waken at this time and to lead
us on to overcome the troop of the English.
Sure those that are in a trance get strength, that
they can walk on water.
It was Father John wakened him yesterday
the time he was lying in the same way. Wasn’t
I telling you it was for that I called to him?
Waken him now till they’ll see did I tell
any lie in my foretelling. I knew well by the
signs, he was coming within the best day of his
And not dead at all! We’ll be marching to
attack Dublin itself within a week. The horn
will blow for him, and all good men will gather
to him. Hurry on, Father, and waken him.
I will not waken him. I will not bring him
back from where he is.
And how long will it be before he will waken
Maybe to-day, maybe to-morrow, it is hard
to be certain.
If it is away he is he might be away seven
years. To be lying like a stump of a tree and
using no food and the world not able to knock
a word out of him, I know the signs of it well.
We cannot be waiting and watching through
seven years. If the business he has started is to
be done we have to go on here and now. The
time there is any delay, that is the time the
Government will get information. Waken him
now, Father, and you’ll get the blessing of the
I will not bring him back. God will bring
him back in his own good time. For all I know
he may be seeing the hidden things of God.
He might slip away in his dream. It is best
to raise him up now.
Waken him, Father John. I thought he was
surely dead this time, and what way could I go
face Thomas through all that is left of my lifetime,
after me standing up to face him the way
I did? And if I do take a little drop of an odd
night, sure I’d be very lonesome if I did not
take it. All the world knows it’s not for love
of what I drink, but for love of the people that
do be with me! Waken him, Father, or maybe
I would waken him myself. [Shakes him.]
Lift your hand from touching him. Leave
him to himself and to the power of God.
If you will not bring him back why wouldn’t
we ourselves do it? Go on now, it is best for
you to do it yourself.
I woke him yesterday. He was angry with
me, he could not get to the heart of the command.
If he did not, he got a command from myself
that satisfied him, and a message.
He did—he took it from you—and how do
I know what devil’s message it may have been
that brought him into that devil’s work, destruction
and drunkenness and burnings! That
was not a message from heaven! It was I
awoke him, it was I kept him from hearing
what was maybe a divine message, a voice of
truth, and he heard you speak and he believed
the message was brought by you. You have
made use of your deceit and his mistaking—you
have left him without house or means to
support him, you are striving to destroy and to
drag him to entire ruin. I will not help you,
I would rather see him die in his trance and
go into God’s hands than awake him and see
him go into hell’s mouth with vagabonds and
outcasts like you!
JOHNNY [turning to BIDDY].
You should have knowledge, Biddy Lally, of
the means to bring back a man that is away.
The power of the earth will do it through
its herbs, and the power of the air will do it
kindling fire into flame.
Rise up and make no delay. Stretch out and
gather a handful of an herb that will bring him
back from whatever place he is in.
Where is the use of herbs, and his teeth
clenched the way he could not use them?
Take fire so in the devil’s name, and put it
to the soles of his feet.
[Takes a lighted sod from fire.
Let him alone, I say! [Dashes away the sod.
I will not leave him alone! I will not give
in to leave him swooning there and the country
waiting for him to awake!
I tell you I awoke him! I sent him into
thieves’ company! I will not have him wakened
again and evil things it maybe waiting to take
hold of him! Back from him, back, I say! Will
you dare to lay a hand on me! You cannot do
it! You cannot touch him against my will!
Mind yourself, do not be bringing us under
the curse of the Church.
[JOHNNY steps back. MARTIN moves.
It is God has him in His care. It is He is
awaking him. [MARTIN has risen to his elbow.]
Do not touch him, do not speak to him, he may
be hearing great secrets.
That music, I must go nearer—sweet marvellous
music—louder than the trampling of
the unicorns; far louder, though the mountain
is shaking with their feet—high joyous music.
Hush, he is listening to the music of Heaven!
Take me to you, musicians, wherever you
are! I will go nearer to you; I hear you better
now, more and more joyful; that is strange, it
He is getting some secret.
It is the music of Paradise, that is certain,
somebody said that. It is certainly the music
of Paradise. Ah, now I hear, now I understand.
It is made of the continual clashing of swords!
That is the best music. We will clash them
sure enough. We will clash our swords and our
pikes on the bayonets of the red soldiers. It
is well you rose up from the dead to lead us!
Come on, now, come on!
Who are you? Ah, I remember—where are
you asking me to come to?
To come on, to be sure, to the attack on the
barracks at Aughanish. To carry on the work
you took in hand last night.
What work did I take in hand last night?
Oh, yes, I remember—some big house—we
burned it down—but I had not understood the
vision when I did that. I had not heard the
command right. That was not the work I was
sent to do.
Rise up now and bid us what to do. Your
great name itself will clear the road before you.
It is you yourself will have freed all Ireland
before the stooks will be in stacks!
Listen, I will explain—I have misled you.
It is only now I have the whole vision plain.
As I lay there I saw through everything, I know
all. It was but a frenzy that going out to burn
and to destroy. What have I to do with the
foreign army? What I have to pierce is the
wild heart of time. My business is not reformation
If you are going to turn back now from leading
us, you are no better than any other traitor
that ever gave up the work he took in hand.
Let you come and face now the two hundred
men you brought out daring the power of the
law last night, and give them your reason for
I was mistaken when I set out to destroy
Church and Law. The battle we have to fight
is fought out in our own mind. There is a fiery
moment, perhaps once in a lifetime, and in that
moment we see the only thing that matters.
It is in that moment the great battles are lost
and won, for in that moment we are a part of
the host of heaven.
Have you betrayed us to the naked hangman
with your promises and with your drink? If
you brought us out here to fail us and to ridicule
us, it is the last day you will live!
The curse of my heart on you! It would be
right to send you to your own place on the flagstone
of the traitors in hell. When once I have
made an end of you I will be as well satisfied
to be going to my death for it as if I was going
Father John, Father John, can you not hear?
Can you not see? Are you blind? Are you deaf?
What is it? What is it?
There on the mountain, a thousand white
unicorns trampling; a thousand riders with
their swords drawn—the swords clashing! Oh,
the sound of the swords, the sound of the clashing
of the swords!
[He goes slowly off stage. JOHNNY takes up a
stone to throw at him.
FATHER JOHN [seizing his arm].
Stop—do you not see he is beyond the world?
Keep your hand off him, Johnny Bacach. If
he is gone wild and cracked, that’s natural.
Those that have been wakened from a trance on
a sudden are apt to go bad and light in the head.
If it is madness is on him, it is not he himself
should pay the penalty.
To prey on the mind it does, and rises into
the head. There are some would go over any
height and would have great power in their
madness. It is maybe to some secret cleft he is
going, to get knowledge of the great cure for
all things, or of the Plough that was hidden in
the old times, the Golden Plough.
It seemed as if he was talking through honey.
He had the look of one that had seen great
wonders. It is maybe among the old heroes of
Ireland he went raising armies for our help.
God take him in his care and keep him from
lying spirits and from all delusions!
We have got candles here, Father. We had
them to put around his body. Maybe they
would keep away the evil things of the air.
Light them so, and he will say out a Mass
for him the same as in a lime-washed church.
[They light the candles.
THOMAS comes in.
Where is he? I am come to warn him. The
destruction he did in the night-time has been
heard of. The soldiers are out after him and
the constables—there are two of the constables
not far off—there are others on every side—they
heard he was here in the mountain—where
He has gone up the path.
Hurry after him! Tell him to hide himself—this
attack he had a hand in is a hanging
crime. Tell him to hide himself, to come to
me when all is quiet—bad as his doings are, he
is my own brother’s son; I will get him on to
a ship that will be going to France.
That will be best, send him back to the
Brothers and to the wise Bishops. They can
unravel this tangle, I cannot. I cannot be sure
of the truth.
Here are the constables, he will see them and
get away. Say no word. The Lord be praised
that he is out of sight.
Constables come in.
The man we are looking for, where is he?
He was seen coming here along with you. You
have to give him up into the power of the law.
We will not give him up. Go back out of
this or you will be sorry.
We are not in dread of you or the like of you.
Throw them down over the rocks!
Give them to the picking of the crows!
Down with the law!
Hush! He is coming back. [To Constables.]
Stop, stop—leave him to himself. He is not
trying to escape, he is coming towards you.
There is a sort of a brightness about him. I
misjudged him calling him a traitor. It is not
to this world he belongs at all. He is over on
the other side.
[Standing beside the rock where the lighted
Et calix meus inebrians quam præclarus est!
I must know what he has to say. It is not
from himself he is speaking.
Father John, Heaven is not what we have
believed it to be. It is not quiet, it is not singing
and making music, and all strife at an end.
I have seen it, I have been there. The lover
still loves but with a greater passion, and the
rider still rides but the horse goes like the wind
and leaps the ridges, and the battle goes on
always, always. That is the joy of Heaven, continual
battle. I thought the battle was here,
and that the joy was to be found here on earth,
that all one had to do was to bring again the
old wild earth of the stories—but no, it is not
here; we shall not come to that joy, that battle,
till we have put out the senses, everything that
can be seen and handled, as I put out this candle.
[He puts out candle.] We must put out the whole
world as I put out this candle [puts out another
candle]. We must put out the light of the stars
and the light of the sun and the light of the
moon [puts out the rest of the candles], till we
have brought everything to nothing once again.
I saw in a broken vision, but now all is clear to
me. Where there is nothing, where there is
nothing—there is God!
Now we will take him!
We will never give him up to the law!
Make your escape! We will not let you be
[They struggle with Constables; the women help
them; all disappear struggling. There is a shot.
MARTIN stumbles and falls. Beggars come
back with a shout.
We have done for them, they will not meddle
with you again.
Oh, he is down!
He is shot through the breast. Oh, who has
dared meddle with a soul that was in the tumults
on the threshold of sanctity?
It was that gun went off and I striking it
from the constable’s hand.
[Looking at his hand, on which there is blood.]
Ah, that is blood! I fell among the rocks.
It is a hard climb. It is a long climb to the
vineyards of Eden. Help me up. I must go on.
The Mountain of Abiegnos is very high—but
the vineyards—the vineyards!
[He falls back dead. The men uncover their heads.
PAUDEEN [to BIDDY].
It was you misled him with your foretelling
that he was coming within the best day of his
Madness on him or no madness, I will not
leave that body to the law to be buried with a
dog’s burial or brought away and maybe hanged
upon a tree. Lift him on the sacks, bring him
away to the quarry; it is there on the hillside
the boys will give him a great burying, coming
on horses and bearing white rods in their hands.
[NANNY lays the velvet cloak over him.
They lift him and carry the body away singing:
Our hope and our darling, our heart dies with you,
You to have failed us, we are foals astray!
He is gone and we can never know where
that vision came from. I cannot know—the wise
Bishops would have known.
THOMAS [taking up banner].
To be shaping a lad through his lifetime, and
he to go his own way at the last, and a queer
way. It is very queer the world itself is, whatever
shape was put upon it at the first.
To be too headstrong and too open, that is
the beginning of trouble. To keep to yourself
the thing that you know, and to do in quiet
the thing you want to do. There would be no
disturbance at all in the world, all people to
bear that in mind!
THE COUNTESS CATHLEEN.
Preface to the Fourth Edition.
The present version of The Countess Cathleen is not quite
the version adopted by the Irish Literary Theatre a couple
of years ago, for our stage and scenery were capable of little;
and it may differ still more from any stage version I make
in future, for it seems that my people of the waters and my
unhappy dead, in the third act, cannot keep their supernatural
essence, but must put on too much of our mortality,
in any ordinary theatre. I am told that I must abandon a
meaning or two and make my merchants carry away the
treasure themselves. The act was written long ago, when I
had seen so few plays that I took pleasure in stage effects.
Indeed, I am not yet certain that a wealthy theatre could not
shape it to an impressive pageantry, or that a theatre without
any wealth could not lift it out of pageantry into the mind,
with a dim curtain, and some dimly robed actors, and the
beautiful voices that should be as important in poetical as in
musical drama. The Elizabethan stage was so little imprisoned
in material circumstance that the Elizabethan imagination
was not strained by god or spirit, nor even by Echo
herself—no, not even when she answered, as in The Duchess
of Malfi, in clear, loud words which were not the words
that had been spoken to her. We have made a prison-house
of paint and canvas, where we have as little freedom as
under our own roofs, for there is no freedom in a house that
has been made with hands. All art moves in the cave of the
Chimæra, or in the garden of the Hesperides, or in the more
silent house of the gods, and neither cave, nor garden, nor
house can show itself clearly but to the mind’s eye.
Besides re-writing a lyric or two, I have much enlarged
the note on The Countess Cathleen, as there has been some
discussion in Ireland about the origin of the story, but the
other notes[A] are as they have always been. They are short
enough, but I do not think that anybody who knows modern
poetry will find obscurities in this book. In any case, I must
leave my myths and symbols to explain themselves as the
years go by and one poem lights up another, and the stories
that friends, and one friend in particular, have gathered for
me, or that I have gathered myself in many cottages, find
their way into the light. I would, if I could, add to that
great and complicated inheritance of images which written
literature has substituted for the greater and more complex
inheritance of spoken tradition, to that majestic heraldry of
the poets some new heraldic images gathered from the lips
of the common people. Christianity and the old nature
faith have lain down side by side in the cottages, and I
would proclaim that peace as loudly as I can among the
kingdoms of poetry, where there is no peace that is not
joyous, no battle that does not give life instead of death;
I may even try to persuade others, in more sober prose, that
there can be no language more worthy of poetry and of the
meditation of the soul than that which has been made, or can
be made, out of a subtlety of desire, an emotion of sacrifice,
a delight in order, that are perhaps Christian, and myths
and images that mirror the energies of woods and streams,
and of their wild creatures. Has any part of that majestic
heraldry of the poets had a very different fountain? Is it
not the ritual of the marriage of heaven and earth?
These details may seem to many unnecessary; but after
all one writes poetry for a few careful readers and for a few
friends, who will not consider such details very unnecessary.
When Cimabue had the cry it was, it seems, worth thinking
of those that run; but to-day, when they can write as well
as read, one can sit with one’s companions under the hedgerow
contentedly. If one writes well and has the patience,
somebody will come from among the runners and read what
one has written quickly, and go away quickly, and write out
as much as he can remember in the language of the highway.
W. B. YEATS.
The Countess Cathleen.—I found the story of the Countess
Cathleen in what professed to be a collection of Irish folklore
in an Irish newspaper some years ago. I wrote to the
compiler, asking about its source, but got no answer, but
have since heard that it was translated from Les Matinées de
Timothé Trimm a good many years ago, and has been drifting
about the Irish press ever since. Léo Lespès gives it as an
Irish story, and though the editor of Folklore has kindly
advertised for information, the only Christian variant I know
of is a Donegal tale, given by Mr. Larminie in his West
Irish Folk Tales and Romances, of a woman who goes to hell
for ten years to save her husband and stays there another
ten, having been granted permission to carry away as many
souls as could cling to her skirt. Léo Lespès may have
added a few details, but I have no doubt of the essential
antiquity of what seems to me the most impressive form of
one of the supreme parables of the world. The parable came
to the Greeks in the sacrifice of Alcestis, but her sacrifice
was less overwhelming, less apparently irremediable. Léo
Lespès tells the story as follows:—
‘Ce que je vais vous dire est un récit du carême Irlandais.
Le boiteux, l’aveugle, le paralytique des rues de Dublin ou
de Limerick, vous le diraient mieux que moi, cher lecteur,
si vous alliez le leur demander, un sixpence d’argent à la
main.—Il n’est pas une jeune fille catholique à laquelle on ne
l’ait appris, pendant les jours de préparation à la communion
sainte, pas un berger des bords de la Blackwater qui ne le
puisse redire à la veillée.
‘Il y a bien longtemps qu’il apparut tout-à-coup dans la
vieille Irlande deux marchands inconnus dont personne
n’avait ouï parler, et qui parlaient néanmoins avec la plus
grande perfection la langue du pays. Leurs cheveux étaient
noirs et ferrés avec de l’or et leurs robes d’une grande
Tous deux semblaient avoir le même âge: ils paraissaient
être des hommes de cinquante ans, car leur barbe grisonnait
Or, à cette époque, comme aujourd’hui, l’Irlande était
pauvre, car le soleil avait été rare, et des récoltes presque
nulles. Les indigents ne savaient à quel saint se vouer, et la
misère devenait de plus en plus terrible.
Dans l’hôtellerie où descendirent les marchands fastueux
on chercha à pénétrer leurs desseins: mais ce fut en vain, ils
demeurèrent silencieux et discrets.
Et pendant qu’ils demeurèrent dans l’hôtellerie, ils ne cessèrent
de compter et de recompter des sacs de pièces d’or, dont
la vive clarté s’apercevait à travers les vitres du logis.
Gentlemen, leur dit l’hôtesse un jour, d’où vient que vous
êtes si opulents, et que, venus pour secourir la misère publique,
vous ne fassiez pas de bonnes œuvres?
—Belle hôtesse, répondit l’un d’eux, nous n’avons pas
voulu aller au-devant d’infortunes honorables, dans la crainte
d’être trompés par des misères fictives: que la douleur frappe
à la porte, nous ouvrirons.
Le lendemain, quand on sut qu’il existait deux opulents
étrangers prêts à prodiguer l’or, la foule assiégea leur logis;
mais les figures des gens qui en sortaient étaient bien diverses.
Les uns avaient la fierté dans le regard, les autres portaient
la honte au front. Les deux trafiquants achetaient des âmes
pour le démon. L’âme d’un vieillard valait vingt pièces d’or,
pas un penny de plus; car Satan avait eu le temps d’y former
hypothèque. L’âme d’une épouse en valait cinquante quand
elle était jolie, ou cent quand elle était laide. L’âme d’une
jeune fille se payait des prix fous: les fleurs les plus belles et
les plus pures sont les plus chères.
Pendant ce temps, il existait dans la ville un ange de
beauté, la comtesse Ketty O’Donnor. Elle était l’idole du
peuple, et la providence des indigents. Dès qu’elle eut appris
que des mécréants profitaient de la misère publique pour
dérober des cœurs à Dieu, elle fit appeler son majordome.
—Master Patrick, lui dit elle, combien ai-je de pièces
d’or dans mon coffre?
—Combien de bijoux?
—Pour autant d’argent.
—Combien de châteaux, de bois et de terres?
—Pour le double de ces sommes.
—Eh bien! Patrick, vendez tout ce qui n’est pas or et
apportez-m’en le montant. Je ne veux garder à moi que ce
castel et le champ qui l’entoure.
Deux jours après, les ordres de la pieuse Ketty étaient
exécutés et le trésor était distribué aux pauvres au fur et à
mesure de leurs besoins.
Ceci ne faisait pas le compte, dit la tradition, des commis-voyageurs
du malin esprit, qui ne trouvaient plus d’âmes à
Aidés par un valet infâme, ils pénétrèrent dans la retraite
de la noble dame et lui dérobèrent le reste de son trésor . .
en vain lutta-t-elle de toutes ses forces pour sauver le contenu
de son coffre, les larrons diaboliques furent les plus
forts. Si Ketty avait eu les moyens de faire un signe de
croix, ajoute la légende Irlandaise, elle les eût mis en fuite,
mais ses mains étaient captives—Le larcin fut effectué. Alors
les pauvres sollicitèrent en vain près de Ketty dépouillée, elle
ne pouvait plus secourir leur misère;—elle les abandonnait
à la tentation. Pourtant il n’y avait plus que huit jours à
passer pour que les grains et les fourrages arrivassent en
abondance des pays d’Orient. Mais, huit jours, c’était un
siècle: huit jours nécessitaient une somme immense pour
subvenir aux exigences de la disette, et les pauvres allaient
ou expirer dans les angoisses de la faim, ou, reniant les saintes
maximes de l’Evangile, vendre à vil prix leur âme, le plus
beau présent de la munificence du Seigneur tout-puissant.
Et Ketty n’avait plus une obole, car elle avait abandonné
son château aux malheureux.
Elle passa douze heures dans les larmes et le deuil, arrachant
ses cheveux couleur de soleil et meurtrissant son sein couleur
du lis: puis elle se leva résolue, animée par un vif sentiment
Elle se rendit chez les marchands d’âmes.
—Que voulez-vous? dirent ils.
—Vous achetez des âmes?
—Oui, un peu malgré vous, n’est ce pas, sainte aux yeux
—Aujourd’hui je viens vous proposer un marché, reprit
—J’ai une âme a vendre; mais elle est chère.
—Qu’importe si elle est précieuse? l’âme, comme le diamant,
s’apprécie à sa blancheur.
—C’est la mienne, dit Ketty.
Les deux envoyés de Satan tressaillirent. Leurs griffes
s’allongèrent sous leurs gants de cuir; leurs yeux gris étincelèrent:—l’âme,
pure, immaculée, virginale de Ketty! . . .
c’était une acquisition inappréciable.
—Gentille dame, combien voulez-vous?
—Cent cinquante mille écus d’or.
—C’est fait, dirent les marchands; et ils tendirent à
Ketty un parchemin cacheté de noir, qu’elle signa en
La somme lui fut comptée.
Dès qu’elle fut rentrée, elle dit au majordome:
—Tenez, distribuez ceci. Avec la somme que je vous
donne les pauvres attendront la huitaine nécessaire et pas une
de leurs âmes ne sera livrée au démon.
Puis elle s’enferma et recommanda qu’on ne vint pas la
Trois jours se passèrent; elle n’appela pas; elle ne sortit
Quand on ouvrit sa porte, on la trouva raide et froide: elle
était morte de douleur.
Mais la vente de cette âme si adorable dans sa charité fut
déclarée nulle par le Seigneur: car elle avait sauvé ses
concitoyens de la mort éternelle.
Après la huitaine, des vaisseaux nombreux amenèrent à
l’Irlande affamée d’immenses provisions de grains.
La famine n’était plus possible. Quant aux marchands,
ils disparurent de leur hôtellerie, sans qu’on sût jamais ce
qu’ils étaient devenus.
Toutefois, les pêcheurs de la Blackwater prétendent qu’ils
sont enchaînés dans une prison souterraine par ordre de
Lucifer jusqu’au moment où ils pourront livrer l’âme de
Ketty qui leur a échappé. Je vous dis la légende telle que je
—Mais les pauvres l’ont raconté d’âge en âge et les
enfants de Cork et de Dublin chantent encore la ballade dont
voici les derniers couplets:—
Pour sauver les pauvres qu’elle aime
Son esprit, sa croyance même;
Cette âme au dévoûment sublime,
En écus d’or,
Disons pour racheter son crime
Mais l’ange qui se fit coupable
Au séjour d’amour ineffable
Satan vaincu n’eut pas de prise
Sur ce cœur d’or;
Chantons sous la nef de l’église,
N’est ce pas que ce récit, né de l’imagination des poètes
catholiques de la verte Erin, est une véritable récit de carême?
The Countess Cathleen was acted in Dublin in 1899
with Mr. Marcus St. John and Mr. Trevor Lowe as the
First and Second Demon, Mr. Valentine Grace as Shemus
Rua, Master Charles Sefton as Teig, Madame San Carola as
Maire, Miss Florence Farr as Aleel, Miss Anna Mather as
Oona, Mr. Charles Holmes as the Herdsman, Mr. Jack
Wilcox as the Gardener, Mr. Walford as a Peasant, Miss
Dorothy Paget as a Spirit, Miss M. Kelly as a Peasant
Woman, Mr. T. E. Wilkenson as a Servant, and Miss May
Whitty as the Countess Cathleen. They had to face a
very vehement opposition stirred up by a politician and a
newspaper, the one accusing me in a pamphlet, the other in
long articles day after day, of blasphemy because of the
language of the demons in the first act, and because I made
a woman sell her soul and yet escape damnation, and of a
lack of patriotism because I made Irish men and women,
who it seems never did such a thing, sell theirs. The
politician or the newspaper persuaded some forty Catholic
students to sign a protest against the play, and a Cardinal,
who avowed that he had not read it, to make another, and
both politician and newspaper made such obvious appeals to
the audience to break the peace, that some score of police[B]
were sent to the theatre to see that they did not. I have,
however, no reason to regret the result, for the stalls, containing
almost all that was distinguished in Dublin, and a
gallery of artisans, alike insisted on the freedom of literature,
and I myself have the pleasure of recording strange events.
The play has since been revived in New York by Miss
Wycherley, but I did not see her performance.
The Land of Heart’s Desire.—This little play was produced
at the Avenue Theatre in the spring of 1894, with
the following cast:—Maurteen Bruin, Mr. James Welch;
Shawn Bruin, Mr. A. E. W. Mason; Father Hart, Mr. G.
R. Foss; Bridget Bruin, Miss Charlotte Morland; Maire
Bruin, Miss Winifred Fraser; A Faery Child, Miss Dorothy
Paget. It ran for a little over six weeks. It was revived in
America in 1901, when it was taken on tour by Mrs.
Lemoyne. It was again played, under the auspices of the
Irish Literary Society of New York, in 1903, and has lately
been played in San Francisco.
The Unicorn from the Stars.—Some years ago I wrote in a
fortnight with the help of Lady Gregory and another friend
a five act tragedy called Where there is Nothing. I wrote at
such speed that I might save from a plagiarist a subject that
seemed worth the keeping till greater knowledge of the stage
made an adequate treatment possible. I knew that my first
version was hurried and oratorical, with events cast into the
plot because they seemed lively or amusing in themselves,
and not because they grew out of the characters and the
plot; and I came to dislike a central character so arid and so
dominating. We cannot sympathise with a man who sets
his anger at once lightly and confidently to overthrow the
order of the world; but our hearts can go out to him, as
I think, if he speak with some humility, so far as his daily
self carries him, out of a cloudy light of vision. Whether
he understand or know, it may be that the voices of Angels
and Archangels have spoken in the cloud and whatever wildness
come upon his life, feet of theirs may well have trod
the clusters. I began with this new thought to dictate the
play to Lady Gregory, but since I had last worked with
her, her knowledge of the stage and her mastery of dialogue
had so increased that my imagination could not go neck to
neck with hers. I found myself, too, with an old difficulty,
that my words flow freely alone when my people speak in
verse, or in words that are like those we put into verse; and
so after an attempt to work alone I gave my scheme to her.
The result is a play almost wholly hers in handiwork, which
I can yet read, as I have just done after the stories of The
Secret Rose, and recognize thoughts, a point of view, an
artistic aim which seem a part of my world. Her greatest
difficulty was that I had given her for chief character a man
so plunged in trance that he could not be otherwise than all
but still and silent, though perhaps with the stillness and the
silence of a lamp; and the movement of the play as a whole,
if we were to listen to hear him, had to be without hurry or
violence. The strange characters, her handiwork, on whom he
sheds his light, delight me. She has enabled me to carry out
an old thought for which my own knowledge is insufficient
and to commingle the ancient phantasies of poetry with
the rough, vivid, ever-contemporaneous tumult of the road-side;
to create for a moment a form that otherwise I could
but dream of, though I do that always, an art that prophesies
though with worn and failing voice of the day when Quixote
and Sancho Panza long estranged may once again go out
gaily into the bleak air. Ever since I began to write I have
awaited with impatience a linking, all Europe over, of the
hereditary knowledge of the country-side, now becoming
known to us through the work of wanderers and men of
learning, with our old lyricism so full of ancient frenzies and
hereditary wisdom, a yoking of antiquities, a Marriage of
Heaven and Hell.
The Unicorn from the Stars was first played at the Abbey
Theatre on November 23rd, 1907, with the following
cast:—Father John, Ernest Vaughan; Thomas Hearne, a
coachbuilder, Arthur Sinclair; Andrew Hearne, brother of
Thomas, J. A. O’Rourke; Martin Hearne, nephew of
Thomas, F. J. Fay; Johnny Bacach, a beggar, W. G. Fay;
Paudeen, J. M. Kerrigan; Biddy Lally, Maire O’Neill;
Nanny, Brigit O’Dempsey.
W. B. YEATS.
THE MUSIC FOR USE IN THE PERFORMANCE
OF THESE PLAYS.
All the music that is printed here, with the exception of
Mr. Arthur Darley’s, is of that kind which I have described
in Samhain and in Ideas of Good and Evil. Some of it is old
Irish music made when all songs were but heightened speech,
and some of it composed by modern musicians is none the
less to be associated with words that must never lose the
intonation of passionate speech. No vowel must ever be prolonged
unnaturally, no word of mine must ever change into
a mere musical note, no singer of my words must ever cease
to be a man and become an instrument.
The degree of approach to ordinary singing depends on
the context, for one desires a greater or lesser amount of
contrast between the lyrics and the dialogue according to
situation and emotion and the qualities of players. The words
of Cathleen ni Houlihan about the ‘white-scarfed riders’
must be little more than regulated declamation; the little
song of Leagerie when he seizes the ‘Golden Helmet’ should
in its opening words be indistinguishable from the dialogue
itself. Upon the other hand, Cathleen’s verses by the fire,
and those of the pupils in the Hour-Glass, and those of the
beggars in the Unicorn, are sung as the country people understand
song. Modern singing would spoil them for dramatic
purposes by taking the keenness and the salt out of the words.
The songs in Deirdre, in Miss Farr’s and in Miss Allgood’s
setting, need fine speakers of verse more than good singers;
and in these, and still more in the song of the Three Women
in Baile’s Strand, the singers must remember the natural
speed of words. If the lyric in Baile’s Strand is sung slowly
it is like church-singing, but if sung quickly and with
the right expression it becomes an incantation so old that
nobody can quite understand it. That it may give this sense
of something half-forgotten, it must be sung with a certain
lack of minute feeling for the meaning of the words, which,
however, must always remain words. The songs in Deirdre,
especially the last dirge, which is supposed to be the creation
of the moment, must, upon the other hand, at any rate
when Miss Farr’s or Miss Allgood’s music is used, be sung or
spoken with minute passionate understanding. I have rehearsed
the part of the Angel in the Hour-Glass with recorded
notes throughout, and believe this is the right way; but in
practice, owing to the difficulty of finding a player who did
not sing too much the moment the notes were written
down, have left it to the player’s own unrecorded inspiration,
except at the ‘exit,’ where it is well for the player
to go nearer to ordinary song.
I have not yet put Miss Farr’s Deirdre music to the test
of performances, but, as she and I have worked out all this
art of spoken song together, I have little doubt but I shall
find it all I would have it. Mr. Darley’s music was used at
the first production of the play and at its revival last spring,
and was dramatically effective. I could hear the words perfectly,
and I think they must have been audible to anyone
hearing the play for the first or second time. They had not,
however, the full animation of speech, as one heard it in the
dirge at the end of the play set by Miss Allgood herself, who
played the principal musician. It is very difficult for a
musician who is not a speaker to do exactly what I want.
Mr. Darley has written for singers not for speakers. His
music is, perhaps, too elaborate, simple though it is. I have
not had sufficient opportunity to experiment with the play
to find out the exact distance from ordinary speech necessary
in the first two lyrics, which must prolong the mood of the
dialogue while being a rest from its passions. Miss Farr’s
music will be used at the next revival of the play.
Mr. Darley’s music for Shadowy Waters was supposed to
be played upon Forgael’s magic harp, and it accompanied
words of Dectora’s and Aibric’s. It was played in reality
upon a violin, always pizzicato, and gave the effect of harp
playing, at any rate of a magic harp. The ‘cues’ are all
given and the words are printed under the music. The
violinist followed the voice, except in the case of the ‘O’,
where it was the actress that had to follow.
W. B. YEATS.
THE KING’S THRESHOLD.
Transcriber's Note: To hear this song and any song in this section
click on the song title.
THE FOUR RIVERS.
Through well-mown level ground
Have come out of a blessed well
That is all bound and wound
By the great roots of an apple,
And all fowls of the air
Have gathered in the wide branches
And Keep singing there.
ON BAILE’S STRAND. THE FOOL’S SONG.
THE FOOL’S SONG.
Cuchulain has killed kings,
Kings and sons of kings,
Dragons out of the water and witches out of the air,
Banachas and Bonachas and people of the woods.
Witches that steal the milk,
Fomor that steal the children,
Hags that have heads like hares,
Hares that have claws like witches,
All riding a-cock-horse,
Out of the very bottom of the bitter black north.
ON BAILE’S STRAND.—SONG OF THE WOMEN.
SONG OF THE WOMEN.
May this fire have driven out
The shape-changers that can put
Ruin on a great king’s house,
Until all be ruinous.
Names whereby a man has known
The threshold and the hearthstone,
Gather on the wind and drive
Women none can kiss and thrive,
For they are but whirling wind,
Out of memory and mind.
They would make a prince decay
With light images of clay
Planted in the running wave;
Or for many shapes they have,
They would change them into hounds
Until he had died of his wounds
Though the change were but a whim;
Or they’d hurl a spell at him,
That he follow with desire
Bodies that can never tire
Or grow kind, for they anoint
All their bodies joint by joint
With a miracle-working juice
That is made out of the grease
Of the ungoverned unicorn;
But the man is thrice forlorn
Emptied, ruined, wracked, and lost,
That they follow, for at most
They will give him kiss for kiss
While they murmur “After this
Hatred may be sweet to the taste;”
Those wild hands that have embraced
All his body can but shove
At the burning wheel of love
Till the side of hate comes up.
Therefore in this ancient cup
May the sword-blades drink their fill
Of the home-brew there, until
They will have for master none
But the threshold and hearthstone.
THE FOOL’S SONG.—II.
When you were an acorn on the tree top,
Then was I an eagle-cock;
Now that you are a withered old block,
Still am I an eagle-cock.
DEIRDRE. MUSICIANS’ SONG.—I.
“Why is it,” Queen Edain said,
“If I do but climb the stair
To the tower overhead
When the winds are calling there,
Or the gannets calling out,
In waste places of the sky,
There is so much to think about,
That I cry, that I cry?”
But her goodman answered her:
“Love would be a thing of naught
Had not all his limbs a stir
Born out of immoderate thought.
Were he any thing by half,
Were his measure running dry,
Lovers, if they may not laugh,
Have to cry, have to cry.”
The Three Musicians together.
But is Edain worth a song
Now the hunt begins anew?
Praise the beautiful and strong;
Praise the redness of the yew;
Praise the blossoming apple-stem.
But our silence had been wise.
What is all our praise to them
That have one another’s eyes?
DEIRDRE. MUSICIANS’ SONG.—II.
Love is an immoderate thing
And can never be content
Till it dip an ageing wing,
Where some laughing element
Leaps and Time’s old lanthorn dims.
What’s the merit in love-play,
In the tumult of the limbs
That dies out before ’tis day,
Heart on heart or mouth on mouth
All that mingling of our breath,
When love-longing is but drouth
For the things that follow death?
DEIRDRE. MUSICIANS’ SONG.—III. Farr.
They are gone, they are gone
The proud may lie by the proud.
Though we were bidden to sing, cry nothing Loud.
They are gone, they are gone.
Into the secret wilderness of their love.
A high grey cairn.
What more to be said?
Eagles have gone into their cloudy bed.
DEIRDRE. MUSICIANS’ SONG.—III. ALLGOOD.
They are gone:
They are gone; the proud may lie by the proud.
Though we are bidden to sing, cry nothing loud.
They are gone, they are gone.
Into the secret wilderness of their love.
A high grey cairn.
What more is to be said?
Eagles have gone into their cloudy bed.
Sailors. And I! And I! And I!
Dectora. Protect me now, gods, that my people swear by.
I will end all your magic on the instant.[C]
This sword is to lie beside him in the grave.
It was in all his battles.
I will spread my hair, and wring my hands, and wail him bitterly,
For I have heard that he was proud and laughing, blue-eyed, and a quick runner on bare feet,
And that he died a thousand years ago.
O! O! O!
But no, that is not it.
I knew him well, and while I heard him laughing they killed him at my feet.
O! O! O! O!
For golden-armed Iollan that I loved.
Forgael. Have buried nothing by my golden arms.
Forgael. And knitted mesh to mesh we grow immortal.
THE UNICORN FROM THE STARS “The Airy Bachelor.”
THE UNICORN FROM THE STARS
IRISH TRADITIONAL AIRS.
Oh come all ye airy bachelors,
come listen unto me.
A sergeant caught mefowling,
and he fired his gun so free . . .
His comrades came to his relief,
And I was soon trapanned. . .
And bound up like a wood-cock
That had fallen into their hands.
THE UNICORN FROM THE STARS “Johnnie Gibbons.”
Oh Johnnie Gibbons my five hundred healths to you,
Its long you’re away from us over the sea.
Oh Johnnie Gibbons its you were the prop to us,
You to have left us, we’re fools put astray.
THE UNICORN FROM THE STARS “The Lion shall lose his strength.”
Oh the Lion shall lose his strength,
And the bracket thistle pine . . .
And the harp shall sound sweet, sweet at length
Between the eight and nine.
TRADITIONAL ARAN AIR.
I was going the road one day . . .
O! the brown and the yellow beer,
And I met with a man that was no right man, . . .
Oh my dear, my dear.
CATHLEEN NI HOULIHAN.
CATHLEEN NI HOULIHAN.
I will go cry with the woman,
For yellow-haired Donough is dead,
With a hempen rope for a neck-cloth,
And a white cloth on his head.
Do not make a great keening
When the graves have been dug tomorrow.
They shall be remembered forever
[repeat 3 times]
The people shall hear them forever.
MUSIC FOR LYRICS.
Three of the following settings are by Miss Farr, and she
accompanies the words upon her psaltery for the most part.
She has a beautiful speaking-voice, and, an almost rarer thing,
a perfect ear for verse; and nothing but the attempting of
it will show how far these things can be taught or developed
where they exist but a little. I believe that they should be
a part of the teaching of all children, for the beauty of the
speaking-voice is more important to our lives than that of
the singing, and the rhythm of words comes more into the
structure of our daily being than any abstract pattern of notes.
The relation between formal music and speech will yet
become the subject of science, not less than the occasion of
artistic discovery; for I am certain that all poets, even all
delighted readers of poetry, speak certain kinds of poetry to
distinct and simple tunes, though the speakers may be,
perhaps generally are, deaf to ordinary music, even what
we call tone-deaf. I suggest that we will discover in this
relation a very early stage in the development of music, with
its own great beauty, and that those who love lyric poetry
but cannot tell one tune from another repeat a state of mind
which created music and yet was incapable of the emotional
abstraction which delights in patterns of sound separated from
words. To it the music was an unconscious creation, the
words a conscious, for no beginnings are in the intellect, and
no living thing remembers its own birth.
I give after Miss Farr’s settings three others, two taken
down by Mr. Arnold Dolmetsch from myself, and one from
a fine scholar in poetry, who hates all music but that of
poetry, and knows of no instrument that does not fill him
with rage and misery. Mr. Arnold Dolmetsch, when he
took up the subject at my persuasion, wrote down the
recitation of another lyric poet, who like myself knows nothing
of music, and found little tunes that delighted him;
and Mr. George Russell (‘A.E.’) writes all his lyrics, a musician
tells me, to two little tunes which sound like old
Arabic music. I do not mean that there is only one way
of reciting a poem that is correct, for different tunes will
fit different speakers or different moods of the same speaker,
but as a rule the more the music of the verse becomes a
movement of the stanza as a whole, at the same time detaching
itself from the sense as in much of Mr. Swinburne’s
poetry, the less does the poet vary in his recitation. I mean
in the way he recites when alone, or unconscious of an
audience, for before an audience he will remember the imperfection
of his ear in note and tone, and cling to daily speech,
or something like it.
Sometimes one composes to a remembered air. I wrote
and I still speak the verses that begin ‘Autumn is over the
long leaves that love us’ to some traditional air, though I
could not tell that air or any other on another’s lips, and
The Ballad of Father Gilligan to a modification of the air
A Fine Old English Gentleman. When, however, the rhythm
is more personal than it is in these simple verses, the tune
will always be original and personal, alike in the poet and
in the reader who has the right ear; and these tunes will
now and again have great beauty.
NOTE BY FLORENCE FARR.
I made an interesting discovery after I had been elaborating
the art of speaking to the psaltery for some time. I had tried
to make it more beautiful than the speaking by priests at
High Mass, the singing of recitative in opera and the speaking
through music of actors in melodrama. My discovery
was that those who had invented these arts had all said about
them exactly what Mr. Arnold Dolmetsch and Mr. W. B.
Yeats said about my art. Anyone can prove this for himself
who will go to a library and read the authorities that describe
how early liturgical chant, plain-song and jubilations
or melismata were adapted from the ancient traditional music;
or if they read the history of the beginning of opera and the
‘nuove musiche’ by Caccini, or study the music of Monteverde
and Carissimi, who flourished at the beginning of the
seventeenth century, they will find these masters speak of
doing all they can to give an added beauty to the words of
the poet, often using simple vowel sounds when a purely
vocal effect was to be made whether of joy or sorrow. There
is no more beautiful sound than the alternation of carolling
or keening and a voice speaking in regulated declamation.
The very act of alternation has a peculiar charm.
Now to read these records of music of the eighth and
seventeenth centuries one would think that the Church and
the opera were united in the desire to make beautiful speech
more beautiful, but I need not say if we put such a hope to
the test we discover it is groundless. There is no ecstasy in
the delivery of ritual, and recitative is certainly not treated by
opera-singers in a way that makes us wish to imitate them.
When beginners attempt to speak to musical notes they
fall naturally into the intoning as heard throughout our lands
in our various religious rituals. It is not until they have been
forced to use their imaginations and express the inmost
meaning of the words, not until their thought imposes itself
upon all listeners and each word invokes a special mode of
beauty, that the method rises once more from the dead and
becomes a living art.
It is the belief in the power of words and the delight in
the purity of sound that will make the arts of plain-chant
and recitative the great arts they are described as being by
those who first practised them.
THE WIND BLOWS OUT OF THE GATES OF THE DAY.
The wind blows out of the gates of the day,
The wind blows over the lonely of heart,
And the lonely of heart is withered away,
While the fairies dance in a place apart,
Shaking their milkwhite feet in a ring,
Tossing their milkwhite arms in the air
For they hear the wind laugh and murmur and sing
Of a land where even the old are fair
And even the wise are merry of tongue.
But I heard a reed of Coolaney say,
When the wind has laughed and murmured and sung,
The lovely of heart must wither away.
THE HAPPY TOWNLAND.
O Death’s old bony finger
Will never find us there
In the high hollow townland
Where love’s to give and to spare;
Where boughs have fruit and blossom
at all times of the year;
Where rivers are running over
With red beer and brown beer.
An old man plays the bagpipes
In a gold and silver wood;
Queens, their eyes blue like the ice,
Are dancing in a crowd.
The little fox he murmured,
‘O what of the world’s bane?’
The sun was laughing sweetly,
The moon plucked at my rein;
But the little red fox murmured,
‘O do not pluck at his rein,
He is riding to the townland
That is the world’s bane.’
I HAVE DRUNK ALE FROM THE COUNTRY OF THE YOUNG.
I have drunk ale from the Country of the Young
And weep because I know all things now:
I have been a hazel tree and they hung
The Pilot Star and the Crooked Plough
Among my leaves in times out of mind:
I became a rush that horses tread:
I became a man, a hater of the wind,
Knowing one, out of all things, alone, that his head
Would not lie on the breast or his lips on the hair
Of the woman that he loves, Until he dies;
Although the rushes and the fowl of the air
Cry of his love with their pitiful cries.
THE SONG OF WANDERING AENGUS.
I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream,
And caught a little silver trout.
THE HOST OF THE AIR.
O’Driscoll drove with a song
The wild duck and the drake
From the tall and tree tufted reeds
Of the drear Hart Lake.
THE SONG OF THE OLD MOTHER.
I rise in the dawn, and I kneel and blow
Till the seed of the fire flicker and glow;
And then I must scrub and bake and sweep
Till stars are beginning to blink and peep;
And the young lie long and dream in their bed
Of the matching of ribbons for bosom and head,
And their day goes over in idleness,
And they sigh if the wind but lift a tress;
While I must work because I am old,
And the seed of the fire gets feeble and cold.
Printed by A. H. Bullen, at The Shakespeare Head Press, Stratford-on-Avon.