DIARMUID AND GRAINNE

sound sample:
 
Final scene [with piano accompaniment]    http://www.mediafire.com/download.php?fsbucwahe70yo3p
 
performed by Dolores Cambridge (soprano: Gráinne) and Bernard Lyon (baritone: Fionn) with Mary Norton (piano)
 
the relevant passage is highlighted in red in the text below
 
 
 
The score of Diarmuid and Gráinne, with words by Michéal Mac Liammóir adapted from his unpublished English translation of his play Diarmuid agus Gráinne, has required some revision, because when sections of the full score were detached to be sent to Radio Telefís Éireann for a proposed performance in the 1970s that section of the score became lost; and the vocal score prepared at that time contained a number of cuts with the results that the music of those sections was never copied. Extensive searches by RTÉ, the heirs of Gerard Victory (at that time the head of RTÉ music), Aloys Fleischmann (who had sent the score there with a recommendation for performance) and in the papers of Michéal Mac Liammóir in the National Library of Ireland have failed to locate the original material.

   The vocal score was complete insofar as some of the missing extracts were concerned, and some parts of the vocal score which had been omitted in the original manuscript were restored by reference to the full score. The only passage which had to be entirely recomposed was that in the Third Act during the chess game; at that point the vocal score only contained a piano reduction of the original orchestral parts, and the vocal lines were altogether lost (although no bars of music were actually missing). The vocal lines were then recomposed by reference to the original text.

   At one time a proposal was made that the whole opera might be set, and performed, in the original Irish text by the author. However this proved to be impracticable, because the original Irish text was wildly rhythmically different from the author’s English translation which had been employed for the musical setting. Two pages of the projected Irish setting (the opening of the first scene) are given as an appendix to the vocal score, and from this the substantial alterations to the score that would have been necessary may be noted.
 
 
 
above: cover design for the score by Betty Godfrey
 
ACT ONE

 

Scene One

A curtained room in Tara. The Wise Woman of the Hills and the old Nurse are talking together. They are old women in long black cloaks

WISE WOMAN   And is it tonight the betrothal feast will be held?

NURSE   It is tonight surely. They are preparing rich meats and dishes, ale and mead, bowls of sweetmeats and loaves of fine white bread in all the kitchens of Tara. It will be a grand night. The newest of all foods, the oldest of all drinks.

WISE WOMAN   Aye, that is so. [She chuckles]

NURSE   Why are you laughing, Wise Woman? [The chuckles grow louder] Why are you laughing? By the Gods, your laughter is thin and high like the clashing of battle swords and blades in the wars of old times.

WISE WOMAN   I laugh because of the secrets I have.

NURSE   And what are they?

WISE WOMAN   Och, my secrets are…my secrets. Dark and terrible they are, like the great woods of Connacht in a twilight of November.

NURSE   Have they to do with the High King?

WISE WOMAN   They have not, nor yet with the Queen.

NURSE   Then it is of Gráinne you are speaking? Of the child I nursed at my breast?

WISE WOMAN   Gráinne the fair may be one of those who are in my thoughts, one of those three great wayward ones who are in my secret thoughts.

NURSE   Ah,  see  now,  there     are three great ones who live in your secret thoughts, Wise Woman of the Hills.

WISE WOMAN   Aye, that is so.

NURSE   Oh, you are thinking of Fionn Mac Cool.

WISE WOMAN   That is true for you, old Nurse. And now, can you guess the third?

NURSE   The third…the third…ah now…no, by the Gods, I can think of no one.

WISE WOMAN [mysteriously, coming closer] Then I will tell you.  The third is Diarmuid, grandson of Duibhne.

NURSE   Oh, that will be one of the men of the Fianna.

WISE WOMAN   One of the men of the Fianna?  That is a strange way to speak of the pulse of Fionn’s heart, for Diarmuid is different from all the other men of the Fianna. Indeed he is different from all the other men of the five parts of Ireland.

NURSE   How is he different, Wise Woman?

WISE WOMAN   I will tell you. On his brow there is a star. A little shining star.

NURSE   Oh, that should have been put there by the Green People of the Raths.

WISE WOMAN   Listen, and I will tell you. [lowering her voice] One time, when Diarmuid with three others of the men of the Fianna were hunting, they came at the full of night to an old cabin in the woods, and a light shining out through the door of the cabin.

NURSE   Ah, that’s wonderful. You’d think it was out of an old tale.

WISE WOMAN   They went into the cabin, and who should be in it but an old man, and he bade them welcome. And in company with the old man there was a young beautiful girl and a cat. 

NURSE   The Gods look down upon us!

WISE WOMAN   The old man gave them a room to sleep in, and no sooner were they inside their beds than a young girl came into the room, and the brightness of her beauty shone out through the darkness like the light of the moon.

NURSE   And what was the name of the young girl?

WISE WOMAN [with a chuckle] Her name was Youth. And the three men that were with Diarmuid were speaking with her and whispering. But to each of them she said: I belonged to you once, I never will belong to you again.

NURSE   Oh, she was right surely.

WISE WOMAN   Then Diarmuid himself went over to her, and whispered to her with words of sweet honey and fine melodious songs. But this is what she said to him: I belonged to you once, I never will belong to you again.

NURSE   She was hard and cold indeed, like the high waves of the sea.

WISE WOMAN   And then she said: But come nearer to me, Diarmuid, and I will put a star of love on your brow, the way no woman will ever see it shining there without giving you her love.

NURSE   That is a wonderful thing now…

She is interrupted by the entrance of Sive, the tiring maid of Gráinne: a dark-looking woman. She carries a jewel box and some ornaments in her hands

SIVE   What is this, old Nurse? You are gossiping here with the Wise Woman while Fionn Mac Cool and his men are coming nearer to Tara with every minute that passes. My shame on you, old Nurse.

NURSE   Oh Sive, the Wise Woman of the Hills has grand talk. She could tame the red foxes of the woods with her stories, she would coax the birds from the branches with her tales.

SIVE   Fine talk she has, that’s true!... [she is drawn into the gossip] Was it of Fionn and Gráinne you were speaking, Wise Woman?

WISE WOMAN   It was, maybe.

NURSE   Of Fionn and Gráinne, and of Diarmuid O Duibne as well.

SIVE   Of Diarmuid O Duibhne! Is it he that has the star?... [Two slaves walk across the stage bearing wine and fruits] Hush! Hush now, I say! For in Tara every word that is spoken over the fires at twilight has grown to be a fabulous story at the dawn of day. And let you cease your gossip! I know well it was of Diarmuid’s love star you were speaking!

NURSE   Ay, that is true, Sive, and what I’d like to know…

WISE WOMAN   Will you cease your talk, old Nurse! Oh, why will you be telling everything I say to you to every prattling serving boy and woman in the Halls of Tara?

SIVE   Indeed, and if it’s of myself…

NURSE  Diarmuid would have a strange and a wild life, if every woman that sees him would give her love to him.

WISE WOMAN   It’s easy to see that you never laid an eye on the son of Donn, or heard any stories of his fame at all.

NURSE   Why do you say that?

SIVE   Doesn’t the world know of the cap of feathers Diarmuid wears? Doesn’t all the world know of the cap of blue eagles’ feathers he wears, pulled down over his brow? Ah, if Gráinne knew of the story of that star and of the way he has hidden it under the blue cap of feathers, it’s little love she’d give to Fionn Mac Cool.

WISE WOMAN   Hush, Sive! Silence! You speak rashly about things you cannot understand when you speak of Gráinne and Diarmuid. Because you have a learned a little of the wisdom of the green hills and of the hollow hills, because I myself have taught you to brew charms and drugs and sleepy draughts, you think you know all…But you do not know all…You do not even know how soon your share of knowledge may be called for. You are a child yet, a child without knowledge, without wisdom…

SIVE   Yet I know some things, Wise Woman.

WISE WOMAN   Aye, you are learning. But of what is stirring in Tara tonight you know nothing. But hush! Let us part! I hear a stir and a murmur in the air, and soon the betrothal feast will begin. Do not forget these words of mine tonight, and when Gráinne calls you to her aid be ready with the strongest brew you have.

SIVE   When Gráinne calls me to her aid? I do not understand, Wise Woman.

WISE WOMAN   You do not understand. But look to the feast tonight. Look to the feast, I’m saying! And when young Diarmuid enters, mark him well! [to Nurse] Come now, old Nurse, the feast begins and old crows must fly away and not disturb the game. Oh! I am weary tonight. My grief for Fionn Mac Cool… [absently] Outside the walls of Tara the night creeps softly down. The wind is rising among the gaps of the hills. A red star…hangs low among the branches of the trees without these walls…

She and the Nurse walk slowly off together. Sive watches them and walks out in the other direction. Then the two slaves come, and when they have placed the two braziers into the two opposite corners of the stage they draw back the curtains before which the scene has been played and disclose the Middle Court of Tara

 

Scene Two

The Middle Court of Tara. Banquet spread. At the back of the stage stand Gráinne and Sorcha looking through the curtained window

SORCHA   They are gathering together on the green below. [Silence] Your father is putting welcome before each man. The nobles are all making a circle about him where he stands.

GRÁINNE [after a pause] I see a red star hanging low among the branches of a tree.

SORCHA   How the torches flare! Look, Gráinne, look well! The flower and the pick of the men of Ireland!

GRÁINNE   Wind is stirring the grasses of the hillside. Wind is crying among the gaps of the hills.

SORCHA   The light of the flames puts the colour of wine onto everything. The helmets of the warriors seem to be made of shadow and fire.

GRÁINNE     Ah,  the wind is quieter now.  The night is

very dark.

SORCHA  Their cloaks are heavy with fine ornaments; their shirts are of linen that is whiter than milk; they have claps of bronze and brooches of gold…It is a handsome company we will have in Tara tonight, my daughter.

GRÁINNE   What a great space the darkness makes. There is no end to it, no end. To run…to run like a hare…away through the darkness.

SORCHA   Have you forgotten that you are to be betrothed tonight to Fionn? Ah, but your blood is cold, like ice.

GRÁINNE [smiling] My blood is cold?

SORCHA   Ay, cold. For do you not know this, that there is no woman in Ireland who would not give her two eyes to be in the place you stand tonight. To be the wife of Fionn!

GRÁINNE   I have no mind for marriage.

SORCHA   Gráinne! My shame you are!

GRÁINNE   I have no mind for marriage, I say. I have no wish for it. What is Fionn Mac Cool to me? He has grey hair; his eyes are losing their fire, and his tongue its ready wit…I know he is no longer young. He will be slow and stern and harsh, and puffed up with pride…no, but I have no mind for marriage.

SORCHA   You are a foolish child…You are like a young hare running on the green hills with no thought at all of tomorrow. [She turns impatiently away and looks through the window again] But hush, hush!...

GRÁINNE  What is it you see?

SORCHA   I see Óisin, son of Fionn. [she points] The man in a long green cloak with metal clasps, his shirt white and fine, and a fillet of red gold round his head, who stands by a pillar of the house, that is Óisin, son of Fionn.

GRÁINNE   He is a comely man.

SORCHA  Oh Gráinne, Gráinne! There is Fionn himself! Do you not see?

GRÁINNE   Where is he?

SORCHA   He stands near Óisin now, his hand upon his shoulder. Now he talking to your father. [Pause]

GRÁINNE   I see a grey-haired man with deep eyes, a long mantle of purple on him, and a helmet of shining bronze fashioned with great wings. His fingers are covered with jewels and now he is smiling, but I think for all that he is a hard and a heavy man.

SORCHA [engrossed] Oh, he has moved away. Maybe he is coming into the house. No, for the others follow him…Oh, I must be ready to greet them!

She goes off hurriedly. Enter Dirring the Druid. The Queen, as she passes, motions him towards Gráinne

DIRRING   Your life and health, daughter of the High King of Ireland! Hail, Gráinne, daughter of the King!

GRÁINNE   Hail, Dirring!

She kneels before him and receives his blessing. Then she turns back to the window

DIRRING  What are you looking at from the window, Gráinne?

GRÁINNE   I am looking at the darkness.

DIRRING  At the darkness?

GRÁINNE   Yes. I see a red star shining through the darkness of   a   tree.   I   see   the   grasses   stirring   in   the   wind on the side of the hill. I see blackness rising up out of the earth like a raven. All these things I see, Dirring, and yet I see them not. For the light of the torches spills like blood upon my father’s guests, and they stand in front of the darkness in shapes of ruddy flesh and forms of gleaming bronze, with eyes that glow in the fireshine. I am watching first the darkness of the night, and then the great men of the Fianna who are coming to Tara for my betrothal feast.

DIRRING [coming closer to her and pointing out of the window] And do you know who that man is?

GRÁINNE   Which man is that?

DIRRING   That fine and noble man who wears a robe of purple and a helmet fashioned with wings?

GRÁINNE   Yes. I know.

DIRRING   Well, Gráinne?

GRÁINNE   That is Fionn Mac Cool, the man who is to be my husband. [The murmur of voices outside swells into a cheer] Oh, my grief! my grief! that I am not as free as the birds of the air, or with wild things of the woods! Oh, isn’t it a great wonder and a great shame that it was not for his son Óisin that Fionn asked me, and not for himself at all? For Óisin would be more fitting for me than a man who is older than my own father.

DIRRING   Be calm now, little fawn. Be a good child.

GRÁINNE   Tell me now, Dirring, tell me…Who is that dark-browed white-skinned man who stands on Óisin’s right hand?

DIRRING   That is Goll, the son of Morna. He is called Goll the Ready Fighter.

GRÁINNE   And who is the brown-haired slim-bodied man who stands and talks with Óisin?

DIRRING   That is Osgar, the son of Óisin…It is a fine company of men…

GRÁINNE [after a slight pause] And tell me, Dirring, tell me…Who is that tall young sweet-worded man, whose cheeks are like the rowan-berry, whose brows are like the stroke of a pen, whose eyes are like mountainy pools at evening, he who wears a cap of blue feathers on his head and stands between Óisin and Fionn?

DIRRING [shocked by the look in her eyes] That is the apple of Fionn’s eye, the greatest (next to himself) in all the battalions of the Fianna, the man most beloved of women in all Ireland.

GRÁINNE   And what is his name?

DIRRING   His name is Diarmuid, the grandson of Duibhne.

GRÁINNE [turns from the window and sits, preoccupied] That is a goodly company, indeed.

DIRRING [watching her curiously] And at the head of all that company, Gráinne, is Fionn, he who is to be betrothed to you in Tara tonight. [He is startled by the look in her eyes] The blessing of the Gods be with you, daughter of the King!

He leaves. Gráinne rises abruptly, moves downstage and claps her hands three times. Sive and the Nurse enter, carrying a cloak, a headdress, a little copper mirror, jewels and paints for the face

GRÁINNE     Put on my cloak and crown, Sive and old Nurse.

Business of dressing Gráinne. They hand her the mirror and the paints. She looks intently at her face and begins touching her lips and eyes with colour, and hanging the jewels about her neck

NURSE  Oh my thousand treasures, how fine you will be with your shining jewels and crown!

GRÁINNE   No, the amber rings, Sive.

SIVE   And the brooch of yellow gold.

NURSE   And the bracelets of findrinny.

GRÁINNE   Come, tell me Sive and my old Nurse, are you envious of me tonight?

NURSE   Ah Gráinne, little moon of the sky, would not the stars and the sun themselves be envious of your light? Would not the silver trout be envious of your joy, and he leaping with strength of his own joy in the stream?

SIVE   Why, who could breathe the air without being envious of beauty like your beauty? Of strength like your strength? Of happiness like your happiness?

GRÁINNE   Happiness? Do you think that I am happy, Sive?

SIVE   How could you be otherwise, unless…

GRÁINNE   Yes…unless…?

SIVE [confused]  No, no…I meant to say another thing…

NURSE   Of course you are happy, child, like the speckled thrushes in the month of May!

SIVE   You have everything in the world that heart can desire!

GRÁINNE   Ah, you don’t understand. Even you, Sive, even you do not understand. You are all the same in this place. To be fine and handsome, proud and laughing, to have jewels and rich stuffs and mirrors of polished bronze or copper, and to live in Tara…you all think that is enough…to live in Tara by the Gods! Where you’d watch the sun lying motionless on the wall and hear the minutes and the hours crawl by with feet of heavy stone and see the clouds that are free chasing each other on the hillside without, or see the torches flaming on the drinking horns and pots of mead at evening time, or a great shadow—the shadow of a watchman it may be—passing your door at night, and how all your life is watched and watched, and how it slips out and slides away from you like a great shadow itself…and they say: Oh fortunate Gráinne! to be so loved of Fionn Mac Cool! Fionn Mac Cool! From one prison to another! From one greybeard to another…Oh, isn’t it a great thing to be the bride of an old man whose fame is ranked and raved over the fire by the companies of bloody and brutish hunters or of grey-haired lisping women?

NURSE and SIVE   Ah, noble Gráinne!

SORCHA [enters] What, you are looking in the mirror still? My jewels are so heavy round my throat! So, is everything in order? Gráinne, you are pale tonight. [Gráinne is silent] You are pale, I say, Gráinne. Too pale, it may be, with those amber braids. And silent too…This is strange for your betrothal night. You should be glad and laughing. [Sounds of talking and laughter outside]  Hush  now,  they are coming in.  [She

seats herself on the throne] Take her aside until the moment of betrothal.

   Gráinne goes out with Sive and the Nurse

 

Scene Three

Enter High King with slaves, followed by Óisin, Goll, Osgar, Caoilte, Dirring and other men and youths. They go on one knee before the Queen and then break into groups around the throne

KING [taking Sorcha’s hand] Men of Fianna!

MEN   Hail, High King of Ireland, hail!

KING   I put a hundred thousand welcomes before you once more, men of the Fianna. May be the blessings of the Gods be on you all.

MEN   The blessings of the Gods on the High King of Ireland!

KING   Bring Gráinne forth! [Two slaves go out] Tonight I ask a special blessing of love on my daughter and on your great chief.

Gráinne enters in a cloak of ceremony and is saluted by the company. She bows her head to the High King and stands motionless. The messenger to Fionn returns and stands aside. The company face the door

MEN   Fionn! Fionn Mac Cool!

Fionn enters; his eyes meet the eyes of Gráinne. He turns without a word and bows to the King, then takes his place by the throne with folded arms. His face is expressionless

KING   Bow down your heads now, Gráinne and Fionn Mac Cool. Receive the blessing of Angus, Lord of Love!

The harps play; they kneel. Dirring the Druid passes before the King and holds a branch of hazel over the bowed heads of Fionn and Gráinne. Pause. Gráinne raises her head shyly and meets the fixed gaze of Fionn. She shrinks back at first but then tosses her head and looks at him half-mockingly

DIRRING [half audible] By the sun and the moon and by the secret of the earth will these two be bound…and may the blessings of joy and peace flow from the great Lord of Love, from him who is crowned with flaming light, from him whose hair is molten gold, whose limbs are mighty…Rise up now, Fionn and Gráinne. Rise up, I say. [He leads them aside]

KING [to Sorcha] Did you see his face when he first looked upon my daughter?

SORCHA [looking round the room] Often are great men turned to fools by any lovely face. You are always talking of your daughter…

DIARMUID [at the door: the men of the Fianna salute him] Hail, High King of Ireland! Hail, wife of the High King! [He goes on one knee and receives blessing from the King and Druid] May the Gods bless and save you all.

KING   You are late, Diarmuid?

DIARMUID   Your pardon.

KING  Is Fionn satisfied? I give you your pardon, Diarmuid.

FIONN   Diarmuid.

DIARMUID [rising and going to him] Your pardon that I am late, Fionn Mac Cool.

FIONN  What kept you so long from my side?

DIARMUID  A strange thing it was. A wise woman that met me in the shadows of         a great thorn tree where I stood, and she spoke to me of love, and of a broken friendship.

FIONN  What did she say?

DIARMUID   She said that sorrow was at hand. I told her that I must be present at the betrothal of my friend. She said…

FIONN  What did she say?

DIARMUID   She said there was no need. She said my time was not yet come. [Pause]

FIONN   Forget those words. But Diarmuid, I must speak with you. Stay with me a little, for I am chilled with ecstasy and fear.

DIARMUID   Fear, say you, Fionn?

FIONN  Aye…aye…Diarmuid, do you see this women here? [He indicated Gráinne, who all this time has been watching them]

DIARMUID   I see a young girl straight and tall, a young girl more beautiful than a bough of the apple tree under blossom, one lighter and more swift than a golden fawn of the woods, softer and more sweet than the honey of the bees, wilder and more frail than the cold clouds of dawn.

FIONN   Frail?

DIARMUID   Aye Fionn, for there is that in the glance of her eyes that tells of fleeting wishes and of passions lighter than a moment’s thought…but her hair is like the blossom of the furze and her skin is warm and white like new milk, and her lips are as red as red roses in the land of the Sidhe…she is a golden candlestick on the table of kings…Why should you be afraid?

FIONN   Diarmuid, pulse of my heart, I am afraid. For there are women in the world whose beauty is wrapped in disaster, women who have death in the honey of their lips. When she is near I hear a strange music playing in the air about my head…

DIARMUID   Hush, she is coming towards us. She would speak with you alone, maybe.

FIONN   No, do not leave me for a little while. Stay with me, Diarmuid, for a short time only.

GRÁINNE   You were speaking of me, Fionn and Diarmuid?

FIONN   We… [he stammers and stops]

DIARMUID  We were praising your beauty, daughter of the High King.

GRÁINNE   Oh, do not praise my beauty. Praise my strength.

DIARMUID   Strength, Gráinne, is one of the treasures of a man…not a woman.

GRÁINNE [smiling] And yet it is the hidden strength of women that bids men to run hither and thither for their sakes.

FIONN   You speak in riddles, Gráinne.

GRÁINNE   No, but I speak plainly.

FIONN   You speak in riddles. I cannot understand riddles.

DIARMUID   And yet it may be, daughter of the King, that Fionn Mac Cool could ask you some riddles himself that would pet even your wits to the test.

GRÁINNE   I am ready for them.

DIARMUID   Ask her those riddles, Fionn.

FIONN   I will. Tell me, if you can, those three things that I will ask you, Gráinne.

GRÁINNE   I am waiting, Fionn Mac Cool.

FIONN   What is the best of jewels?

GRÁINNE [swiftly] The knife, Fionn Mac Cool.

FIONN  What is sharper than a spear’s head?

GRÁINNE [crossing between them, then looking from one man to another] The wit of a woman…between two men.

FIONN   What is swifter than the wind?

GRÁINNE   A woman’s mind, O Fionn.

DIARMUID   Those were well answered, Gráinne the fair.

GRÁINNE   I would answer seven times as many…but why should I be asked these questions, Fionn Mac Cool? Is it not enough that I am beautiful? Is it not enough that my lips are like blood spilt on the snow, that my hair…how do the words of the old song go? [She looks mockingly at Diarmuid]…that my hair is like the blossom of the furze and my skin like new milk? Is it not enough [in a lower tone, a little bitterly] that I am to belong to you?

FIONN   Be silent. Be silent. Your beauty troubles me.

He puts his arm round Diarmuid, and they go upstage together. Enter Sive: Gráinne stops her

GRÁINNE   Sive!

SIVE   Princess?

GRÁINNE   Oh Sive, is it not a pitiful thing that I should be given in marriage to Fionn. For indeed I feel a great coldness in my heart when he is speaking to me, and no flame of love at all.

SIVE [glibly] Oh Gráinne, oh daughter of kings and oh honey mouth, those are strange words for the bride of Fionn.

GRÁINNE   Why must I marry him? Why must I marry him? A man of grey hair and of slow heavy thoughts like the mountain fogs.

SORCHA [coming over from throne] Oh what are you speaking, Gráinne, to your tiring-woman? Come away! Come with me into the second court, for there are ladies there and warriors from Allen who would speak with you. [Laughter. They go out]

FIONN   Oh Óisin, oh Diarmuid and oh Goll! The beauty of this woman troubles me. For her head is thrown back high and proud, and if her voice is gentle itself her lips and her eyes have all the scorn and all the laughter of the world.

DIARMUID  And her hands, Fionn…her hands are restless and swift like the flight of white birds over the sea’s breast, like the rushing of the wind through the green shadow of a wood.

FIONN   No, but she troubles me.

ÓISIN   Do not let your heart be shaken by these fantasies, my father. All will be well.

GOLL   These are but dreams and shadows. The beauty of this woman has disturbed your brain, and your thoughts are driven like a flock of geese to the rim of the world.

DIARMUID   And there lies madness, Fionn… [Fionn leads Diarmuid aside and they talk together]

FIONN   Her beauty and her scorn are the cloaks of disaster. Danger like a wild thing of the wind looks out of her eyes and laughs at me. [Laughs suddenly]

DIARMUID        Why     should     we     not     be     happy,      Fionn? Listen, the air shakes like a purple flower. There is laughter and the murmur of festivity, and red wine waiting in the drinking horns. And Gráinne waits for you. Why should we not be happy?

FIONN   Stay with me for a little, Diarmuid, stay with me here, and tell me of the strange and wonderful things. Tell me of lovely faithless women.

DIARMUID   Of whom should I speak to you tonight? Of all the beautiful treacherous women of the world? The people of Munster have a story of a woman of the eastern world who…

CAOILTE [while the above conversation continues] He is disturbed indeed.

GOLL   He is raving like a fool at the rising of the moon. Do you see him now, Óisin? Who would think the blood would burn so yet in Fionn Mac Cool?

CAOILTE   What are you saying, Goll?

ÓISIN   Do you mean that my father is old?

GOLL   He is no longer young.

ÓISIN   And he speaks like one out of his wits?

GOLL   Aye. For who but one whose wits were gone would cry out for beauty and for peril? Who but a fool would say disaster looked out of the eyes of Gráinne?

ÓISIN   Be silent, Goll! or by my hand, I’ll strike the head from your shoulders with my sword!

CAOILTE   For shame! We are guests in Tara.

GOLL   You shall find me ready for a fight, Óisin! Be we at home in Allen, or in the halls of Tara, or in the courts of the kings of the Eastern World itself!

ÓISIN   Oh listen now! Listen, men of Ireland, the treacherous coward of the world! Stand back now away from me…stand back well, I say, for if you come any further towards me on the floor maybe the stars themselves would be quenched and dimmed with the red spurts of blood I’d send hurtling from my sword’s point through the high air.

GOLL   By my sword, Óisin, it’s wild bad talk you have spoken on this night, and take care now that it’s not my sword you’ll feel yourself, thrust in like a thin flame of anger through your cold trembling rat-headed body!

ÓISIN   By the sun and moon! [They fight]

MEN [crowding about them] Shame, shame! To brawl at Tara!

KING   Come now! What is this tumult? Your men are wrangling, Fionn.

FIONN   Óisin and Goll, my shame upon you both!

DIARMUID   Put up your hands, the two of you! This is a feast of love, not the red field of battle!

CAOILTE   They will bring blood and shame upon us all in Tara.

SORCHA [entering with Gráinne] What is this noise?

OSGAR   They are beside themselves.

GRÁINNE   What are they fighting for?

OSGAR   Who can tell, daughter of the King?

CAOILTE   For a mad trifle.

FIONN  Oh, they are like wild beasts. Part them, Diarmuid!

DIARMUID   I will do that. Put up your swords now, Óisin and Goll Mac Morna. [They fight still] Put up your swords, I say! [He draws his own sword] Is it the fire   of     battle   you   would      be   kindling   in   place   of   the     fire of friendship and love, the way you’d have Tara laid bare with your quarrellings and bickerings and the wind and the wolves howling in the darkness. Where before there was wine and bronze torchlight and red gold and the company of kings?

ÓISIN   Do not meddle with us, Diarmuid!

GOLL   Make a great space about us!

DIARMUID   No, but you shall stop!

Diarmuid knocks down the sword of Óisin, and knocks Goll’s sword to the ground. He picks up the second sword from the floor and hands it back to Goll. As he does so the cap of blue feathers drops from his head, revealing the star of love on his brow

FIONN   That was a shameful brawl, Óisin and Goll Mac Morna.

DIARMUID   Shameful it was indeed.

FIONN   Come now, Óisin my son. Come, Goll Mac Morna. I will have no hatred or fierce looks on this night of all nights. Let you make a new bond of friendship now. That is the wish of Fionn. [He joins their hands] The pardon of the High King for this offence!

He leads them upstage to the King. Gráinne, who has crept round the wall to watch the fight, seizes the feathered cap and offers it to Diarmuid, who has just sheathed his sword. He turns and sees Gráinne with the cap. Instinctively he hides his brow with his left hand, but she has seen the star of love and starts back with a wild gesture. He takes the cap from her with his free hand, replaces it on his head and bows his thanks, then turns and joins the group of men. Gráinne sinks back towards the wall, and remains there lost in thought. Sive joins her

KING [coming forward] We’ll speak of it no more. I put a hundred thousand welcomes before you all in Tara tonight. Let us move to the table. Cuan and Darrach, pour out wine for us. [They take their places. Gráinne remains by the wall] Gráinne, you will take your place for us.

GRÁINNE   I will come presently, my father. I am preparing a toast for the feast.

The slaves pour out the wine. The company drink together. Gráinne claps her hands

Sive!

SIVE   I am here, noble lady.

GRÁINNE   Sive, you are wise in the matter of drugs and potions.

SIVE [starting and then smiling slyly] There are some secrets that I know…

GRÁINNE   Sive, all these people here are tiring me tonight…I wish for them to go.

SIVE   If that were possible.

GRÁINNE   It must be possible. If they will not go from me, then I will go from them. But I will not go alone.

SIVE   Princess?...

GRÁINNE   I will do as I wish. And you, Sive, you must help me…What must I do to cast these people into sleep?

SIVE   I have a potion…

GRÁINNE   Then give it to me.

SIVE  [looking             craftily      at      her]   What       reward       will      you give me, princess?

GRÁINNE   Ach! [She tears a necklace from her throat and throws it at the feet of Sive, who snatches it up] Now, speak.

SIVE [producing a phial] I have it here.

GRÁINNE [taking it in her hand] Ah!...how must I use it, Sive?

SIVE   You must pour it into the wine they are drinking…

GRÁINNE   Will that mean death?

SIVE   It will not, but a long and deep slumber. When they have drunk deeply of this potion, one has but to strike upon the little harp of sleep, and they will fall like stones into a trance as deep as the shadows of the sea.

GRÁINNE   The little harp of sleep?

SIVE   That is the harp I was given by a man of enchantments that came from the North. It is made of apple-wood, and its strings are of fine silver that is woven in a country of the Eastern World. When they hear that chord they’ll sleep until the dawn whitens in the sky.

GRÁINNE   And then we shall be far away from Tara.

SIVE   What are these words, princess?

GRÁINNE   It is nothing. Bring me the great golden cup, and when I make this signal strike upon the harp. [She takes her place at the centre of the table. Exit Sive]

KING   More wine, more wine for my guests, Cuan and Darrach! Pour out more wine and mead, and set fruits and meats upon the table! Fionn, I drink to you. I drink with all my heart to your happiness and to my daughter’s joy.

FIONN   I drink to you, High King of Ireland, to your life and health. And to the life and health of your Queen. And I drink…to Gráinne of the golden hair…I drink…

DIARMUID   These are good toasts indeed, and I will make another. I praise the High King of Ireland, and I praise his Queen. Men of the Fianna, let us drink now to Fionn and Gráinne, to the strength and loveliness of all Ireland.

ALL   To Fionn and Gráinne.

GRÁINNE [when the tumult has died down, softly] Oh, my love, my love! Oh, thousand treasures and oh pulse of my heart!

   The murmur of voices rises a little again

OSGAR   The mead is even better than the red wine or the ale…

CAOILTE   Ah, who remembers the story of the cloak of grey feathers now?

KING   A story, a story out of the old days! A story out of the old days…

SORCHA   Diarmuid should know a hundred thousand of them…

GOLL   Where are the story tellers and the bards?

FIONN   Gráinne is pale and silent.

ÓISIN   These ripe cool fruits slip down the throat like wine…

GRÁINNE   Why does she not bring the cup? [looks at phial] This should be a powerful and a sleepy draught! Ah! [Enter Sive with the golden cup] Is there wine in it?

SIVE   There is, princess.

GRÁINNE    Then   hold   it   here.  [Pours  drug  into  the cup] That fills it to the brim. [She rises]

Voices from the table   Gráinne…

GRÁINNE [in a loud clear voice] Give this cup now to Fionn Mac Cool. Say it is myself that sends it to him, and bid him drink deep for love of me. [lowering her voice] Then when I make the sign do as I bade you.

SIVE   I obey, princess. [goes to Fionn with cup]

FIONN [rising and lifting the great cup] Oh Gráinne the beautiful, I drink first to yourself, who are my share of the world and the thousand treasures of my heart. And I drink to all this company of bravery and of love. May all the blessings of the earth and air fall too upon my comrade and my friend, upon Diarmuid the grandson of Duibhne. [He drinks]

KING   Let the great cup be passed from lip to lip that every one may join in that toast. Then let the harpers play!

The drink is circulated with cheers and cries. It reaches Diarmuid last of all. Gráinne has risen and is watching him closely. She makes a gesture with her hands and her cloak falls to the ground. The harp is struck. At the sound all the feasters except Diarmuid and Gráinne sink into sleep, their heads in their hands

 

Scene Four

Diarmuid and Gráinne are left alone at the table: both are standing. The lighting darkens from amber to deep red like the light of dying torches. Silence

GRÁINNE   Put down the cup!

DIARMUID [putting down cup slowly] What does this mean? [No answer] Gráinne, daughter of the High King of Ireland, what does this mean? Why have all these people fallen at the feast as though the wine they drank contained some subtle poison? They fell without a struggle, without a cry…Oh! you are smiling, Gráinne. You know more than your eyes or your lips will tell. But I will know your secret. I will pluck it out of your mouth. [Sternly] What have you done, daughter of the King? What have you poured into the wine? Come… answer me. You will not speak? Then I will waken Tara. [turns to go]

GRÁINNE   Stay! [He stops and turns round again to look at her. Hesitates. They move closer towards each other. Pause] Diarmuid O Duibhne. [Pause] Diarmuid O Duibhne.

DIARMUID   I hear your voice, Gráinne the beautiful.

GRÁINNE   You hear my voice, but you will not listen to my words.

DIARMUID   I may not listen.

GRÁINNE   But hear me, son of Donn. Hear my words. Give me an hour, a minute…

DIARMUID   I may not hear you.

GRÁINNE [coming closer to him] Do you see all these sleeping people, Diarmuid? Do you see them? They are heavy and helpless with the magical draught I have poured into their wine, and they will be there without a stir, without a movement, until the grey ones of the eastern sky bring the dawn, until the birds wake among the leaves and the wind sighs through the hills, until the day is come…

DIARMUID   And then?

GRÁINNE   And then we will be far away from Tara.

DIARMUID   You look at me strangely, daughter of the King.

GRÁINNE   Can you read my eyes?

DIARMUID   I may not look at them.

GRÁINNE   Can you read my eyes?

DIARMUID   I dare not look at them.

GRÁINNE   What do you read in my eyes?

DIARMUID   No, but I will not look…I will not look…I have no wish to read the thing that is written in your eyes.

GRÁINNE   Then tell me, what is the thing that is hidden in my heart? Can you not tell me that? Can you not tell me that, Diarmuid of the sweet words? Then I will tell you.

She leans her head upon his breast: slowly he puts his arms around her. She looks up at him

When the sky grows pale in the east, and the grasses on the hills are blown slantwise by the winds of dawn, we will be far away, Diarmuid. When the morning brightens we will be far away from Tara.

DIARMUID [taking her hands and suddenly holding her at arm’s length] Set me free, Gráinne. For though there is sweetness in your touch it is a sweetness that is slumb’rous with poisonous warmth, and there is the glimmer of poison in your eyes.

GRÁINNE [draws him down upon the seat she has vacated, and kneels at his feet] Take me out of this house, Diarmuid. Take me away from my father, away from Fionn, away…to some desolate place where there is nothing but the wind and the shadows of great hills, and the moon smiling at herself in dark waters, and your two eyes like stars in the emptiness of a dream.

DIARMUID   I will not bring you away with me. I will not meddle with any woman that is promised to Fionn.

GRÁINNE   Ah! what is Fionn Mac Cool to me?

DIARMUID   Your love is promised to him.

GRÁINNE   And what is he to you?

DIARMUID   He is my captain and the friend of my heart. My word is pledged to him. I will not bring you away with me. [He rises to his feet]

GRÁINNE   Then, if that is so… [She rises and suddenly makes a gesture with both hands outstretched, a mystical sign] I put you under Druid bonds to come with me out of Tara tonight, before the awakening of these people from their sleep. I put you under Druid bonds to do this thing.

DIARMUID [aghast and helpless] What are these bonds you are putting on me, daughter of the King? Is it not a strange thing that you should choose myself from all the warriors and sons of Kings that are here tonight?

GRÁINNE   It is not without cause that I have given you my love, Diarmuid

DIARMUID   What was the cause?

GRÁINNE   I was standing by the door there when you parted the men that were fighting together, and your cap of eagles’ feathers fell to one side, and my eyes were opened then and I gave you the love that I have never given to any man…Ah! you have taken my love from me, Diarmuid; you hold it now in your two hands. You may break my life on the green stones like a hawk’s egg if  you      will.  Do  what  you  choose  with  it!  You  have poured wine into my veins and filled my heart with fire…Do with my life what you will, I’m saying, for already you’ve taken all my peace from me. Stars and moon you have taken, and east and west, aye and the golden sun itself out of the sky you have taken…

DIARMUID   Oh Gráinne, these are wild and terrible words you are speaking here tonight.

GRÁINNE   What is it that is terrible in my words?

DIARMUID   You are betrothed to Fionn!

GRÁINNE   But I do not love Fionn! It is you that I love, Diarmuid. Oh, why will you not take me away from this place?

DIARMUID   I do not love you, Gráinne.

GRÁINNE   Yet you put your arms about me, son of Donn.

DIARMUID   Yes, you are very beautiful.

GRÁINNE   And you shall kiss my mouth.

DIARMUID   Gráinne!

GRÁINNE   And though you will not take me, you shall follow me this night out of Tara. [Pause]

DIARMUID   Oh Gráinne, the heart of a woman is like the tangled twilight of a great wood, where the boughs and the leaves and the branches entwine the hands and feet and lead the poor wanderer into dim and unknown places. The heart of a woman is mysterious and wayward surely. And why should you give this love to me and not to Fionn Mac Cool, the best lover of women in Ireland?

GRÁINNE   Oh, why will you be for ever talking of Fionn Mac Cool? Always and always of Fionn Mac Cool. I tell you Diarmuid, it is you that I love; and you will follow me this night out of Tara, for I have put you under Druid bonds to do it.

DIARMUID   Daughter of the High King!

GRÁINNE   I am listening.

DIARMUID   I cannot do this thing.

GRÁINNE   You are under bonds, Diarmuid.

DIARMUID   It is true. [Pause]

GRÁINNE   Look into my eyes, Diarmuid.

He slowly raises his eyes. Then suddenly he takes her in his arms and kisses her mouth

DIARMUID   Oh, my share of the world!... [Suddenly he thrusts her away] Oh, you are terrible, terrible! You are shameless and terrible! And when you are in my arms I become wild and forgetful, and now I will never know peace again. I have kissed your lips, Gráinne of the enchantments, and everything is changed―it is all terrible now, a world of endless darkness and pitiless ravening winds. What have you done to me this night, in Tara? What have you done to me this night? Oh my grief, my grief that I am not a hundred thousand miles away, my grief that I ever set eyes upon your hair of amber and gold or on your white sweet throat or on your curving treacherous lips. Ah, don’t touch me! Don’t touch me, I say! Stand back away from me, for there is that in your touch, Gráinne, that would make me mad. Ah! you are shameless, shameless I say, to do what you have done tonight, and I do not know any gap or cave or western corner of Ireland that will hide your shame or mine. Go out now from the door and let the darkness fall about you as a cloak might fall. And if I do     follow you,  it is not as a lover I will come, but I will keep my word to Fionn Mac Cool.

GRÁINNE   Follow me, Diarmuid O Duibhne…

She opens the curtains and disappears, beckoning and smiling. Bewildered and like one in a dream, Diarmuid follows her out. The light falls on the empty cloak of Gráinne. Curtain

 

ACT TWO

 

Scene One

A dark place in Faery. Two tall figures, fantastically dressed, stand one at each side of a great tree whose branches disappear into a faintly coloured twilight. A third figure, carrying a lighted taper, runs swiftly past them and vanishes into the shadow. There is a murmur of wind

First FIGURE   One passes me in the wind just now who knows all about the mortal clan.

Second FIGURE   About their loves and hates?

First FIGURE   Aye, their loves and hates, their friendships and their battles.

Second FIGURE   One who knows of Fionn Mac Cool and of the Fianna of Ireland?

First FIGURE   Of more than that it may be. Tales of the lovers he knows, stories of Diarmuid and Gráinne the fair.

Second FIGURE   Oh, we must catch him! We must pluck his secret from him!

A third figure of the people of Faery enters running and dancing. As he runs he sings to himself

Third FIGURE   Nine days and nights, nine days and nights, and still they leave unbroken bread behind them everywhere.

First FIGURE   There he goes! There he goes!

Second FIGURE   Catch him! Catch him, as he passes, by the hair.

Third FIGURE   Unbroken bread they leave behind for Fionn in every cave and wood, unbroken bread.

Second FIGURE   There, catch him now!

First FIGURE [running after the third, and dragging him back by the hair] Stay! Stay with us here and tell us more. Is it of Diarmuid you are speaking, of the friend of Fionn?

Third FIGURE   Oh, let my hair go! You will pull it from my head!

Second FIGURE   But tell us more. Is it of Diarmuid you are speaking, of the friend of Fionn?

Third FIGURE   Oh, it is surely not of Diarmuid alone, but of Gráinne, of beautiful white Gráinne.

First FIGURE   And what is that you were saying about unbroken bread?

Second FIGURE  Aye, what was that?

Third FIGURE   Unbroken bread? The son of Donn leaves unbroken bread behind him where they have slept.

Second FIGURE   Why does he do that?

First FIGURE   Yes, it is strange. Why does he do that?

Third FIGURE   Nine days and nights, nine days and nights, nine days full of the golden blossoms of the sun, nine nights pale with the silver blossoms of the moon, and     still    they  leave  unbroken  bread,    still  they  leave unbroken bread.

First FIGURE   You do not answer our question.

Second FIGURE   No, you run and dance and call out your words to the wind and cry out your stories to the air, and laugh and mutter of unbroken bread, and yet you will not tell us what it means.

First FIGURE   Tell us now! Tell us now! Why does he leave unbroken bread behind him where he and Gráinne have slept?

Third FIGURE   Why, I will tell you if you do not pull my hair…Diarmuid has kept his word to Fionn Mac Cool. He has kept his word to Fionn Mac Cool, and to prove that he has never made his own wife of Gráinne, daughter of the King, he leaves unbroken bread for Fionn to find in every place.

Second FIGURE   Go tell it to the players of the pipes, tell it to the dancers of the wind.

First FIGURE   Diarmuid has kept his word to Fionn Mac Cool.

Third FIGURE   But will it always be so?

First FIGURE   Whisper it in the dark places under the raths.

Second FIGURE   Whisper it in the rushes in the pool.

Third FIGURE   Will it always be so? Will it always be so? The children of the earth are wild and passionate too.

Second FIGURE   And in a hut among the leaves of a wood… [The Third Figure shakes his head]

First FIGURE   Or in a cavern by the green waves of the sea?

Third FIGURE [nodding his head] Ah, will he change, will he change to her then?  Will he always keep his word to Fionn Mac Cool?

Second FIGURE   Or will the dewy leaves or branches of great trees whisper secret thoughts in his ear?

First FIGURE   Or the dim, storm-loud shadows put secret love into his breast?

Third FIGURE   Ah, ah, ah! will he change to her then?

Angus, the God of Love, goes swiftly past them in the twilight

All Three FIGURES   Hush! Hush! Hush!

First FIGURE   Angus is passing on his way to earth.

Third FIGURE   Angus of the birds is passing on his way to them.

Second FIGURE   Look, look! The plumes of his wings are like pale petals of flame.

First FIGURE   Why is he masked and cloaked in shadows of dim silver?

Third FIGURE   Ah, who can tell, who can tell?

First FIGURE   But love should wear no mask?

Second FIGURE   Love should wear no mask.

Third FIGURE   To Diarmuid and Gráinne love is unborn. Unmasked his face would terrify them.

Second FIGURE   Is it to Diarmuid and Gráinne he is going?

Third FIGURE   Aye, he is going towards the lovers of the hills and the woods.

First FIGURE   He is on his way to them.

Second FIGURE   Love is on his way to them.

Third FIGURE   The birds are singing in the fire about his head.

First FIGURE   Come, come away! Let us follow him.

Second FIGURE   Let us follow him. Through the dim air let us follow him; up through the air to where the mortal clan fight their hard battles, and kiss softly when the darkness fades.

Third FIGURE   Come! Come!

   The scene fades

 

Scene Two

A hut in a wood. Gráinne is lying on a pile of skins, stitching a strip of embroidery with a needle of bone. She is humming to herself. At the back of the hut there are three doors, the middle door being open, and through it one sees the leaves of the wood hanging in a silver twilight. There is a suggestion of loneliness and desolation. Diarmuid enters with a spear which he throws down in a corner; then he sits down and watches Gráinne. Presently she speaks without lifting her eyes from her work

GRÁINNE   Nine days and nights we are travelling together, Diarmuid.

DIARMUID [watching her, idly] Aye, that is so.

GRÁINNE   Nine days and nights we are travelling together, and you have never given me your love.

DIARMUID [turning away] You know well I’ll never break my word to Fionn Mac Cool.

GRÁINNE   Nine golden days and nine black nights of stars we have wandered through the woods and glens, and yet you have not changed to me, Diarmuid O Duibhne.

DIARMUID   I will never change, I say. I will keep my word to Fionn. Nine times I have left unbroken bread behind us whenever we have been together, you and I, to prove to Fionn that my word still binds me. I will always leave unbroken bread.

GRÁINNE   No.

DIARMUID   You think your will is stronger than my own, Gráinne?

GRÁINNE   I know my passion is stronger than your will, son of Donn. It is stronger than the will of all the men of Ireland. It is stronger than myself, Diarmuid.

DIARMUID   Stronger than yourself?

GRÁINNE   Yes, it is stronger than myself. The black wind out of the north is not so strong as is the desire in my heart for your love. The green mountains of the waves when they leap towards the moon are not so strong. There is nothing under the sun, Diarmuid, that is as strong as my desire for you.

DIARMUID   Hush!

GRÁINNE   Ah, why will you never listen to my words?

DIARMUID   Hush, I say!

GRÁINNE   What is it that you hear?

DIARMUID   I hear nothing but the whispering of the leaves, the murmuring of the boughs about the walls of this hut.

GRÁINNE   Then why is it that you bid me hush?

DIARMUID   Because I know…

GRÁINNE   Oh, what is coming to you, Diarmuid?

DIARMUID   I know that one is drawing nearer to us through the twilight. One that is stronger and more fair than mortal man.

GRÁINNE   A man of the Sidhe?

DIARMUID   Be still, daughter of the King.

Angus appears in a dim rose-coloured light at the door in the middle of the hut. He stretches his arms out in blessing

Angus! Angus of the birds!

GRÁINNE   Angus! Great God of Love! [They kneel at his feet]

ANGUS   Rise up, oh wandering children of the earth. Rise up and be prepared for what I have to say to you this night, I who have travelled through the flaming silence of the twilight to this secret place among the shadows of great trees where you are living with your fear, I who have travelled from dim lands beyond the world to tell you of your danger, I who have travelled down through haunted woods and glens to save you. Rise up, for I will tell you what is coming.

DIARMUID   My foster-father!

ANGUS   I bring you tidings of grief and sorrow. Stories of danger I bring you, and tales of bloody peril.

GRÁINNE   It is of Fionn he is speaking.

ANGUS   Stories of Fionn I bring to you this night.

DIARMUID   Oh, what are the stories of Fionn?

GRÁINNE [sitting down and covering her face with her hands] What stories would they be but stories of revenge? Stories of hatred and battle? Tales of hunting and pursuit and blood?

ANGUS   He is in pursuit.

DIARMUID   And he is near?

ANGUS   He is in this wood whose boughs and leaves rustle against your walls.

GRÁINNE   My grief, my grief! he will kill us if he finds us here, and our blood will flow in red streams, and our bodies be thrown like stones into holes and caves of the earth, or flung to the wild things of the woods.

ANGUS   My sorrow for you, Diarmuid, my sorrow for you this night.

DIARMUID   Oh, I am not afraid of Fionn. I would meet him in any place at all. I would meet him on the summit of the hills, or in the darkness of the glens, or in this little hut itself. I would meet him face to face without fear, without shame, and I would tell him the truth.

ANGUS   And the truth, my foster-son?

DIARMUID   I have never broken my trust with him. I have never made my own woman of the daughter of the King.

ANGUS   I will help you, Diarmuid. I will give protection to yourself and the daughter of the High King.

Suddenly a horn blows three blasts outside, and there is a distant sound of swords and axes and of marching feet. Diarmuid and Gráinne start and look at each other

GRÁINNE   It is Fionn! It is Fionn Mac Cool!

DIARMUID   He is approaching us, and there are others with him, armed men and warriors.

GRÁINNE   I will never go back to him.

ANGUS   Listen to my words, wandering children of the earth.

GRÁINNE   Oh, Angus! Angus of the birds!

ANGUS   Listen to my words, and I will save you.

DIARMUID   We are listening, my foster-father.

ANGUS   This is what you have to do. Let each of you come under my cloak, and you will be invisible to the eye of man, and I will bring you with me out of this place. I will bring you away by dark forgotten paths to secret places of the waters where you will be safe.

GRÁINNE   Oh, we will go with you.

   Angus stretches out his arms under his cloak

DIARMUID [suddenly] I will not go.

GRÁINNE   Diarmuid!

DIARMUID   I will not go, I say. I will stay in the place. I will meet Fionn face to face.

   The tumult outside comes nearer and grows louder

GRÁINNE   Oh, he will kill you. He will kill you, my share of the world!

DIARMUID   I will stay here, daughter of the King. [to Angus] But let Gráinne come under your cloak, my foster-father. Take her and give her shelter and peace. Give her the shelter than I could not make for her, and the peace that I could not give her. Take her far from this place to the great cavern that is by the sea under Ben Adair, and if I am alive I will follow you; and…if I am killed tonight…bring Gráinne back with you to Tara and give her to her father, the High King of Ireland, and he will do well with her, or ill.

GRÁINNE   Oh, why will you stay in the wood of misfortune and death?

DIARMUID   I will not come.

GRÁINNE  Diarmuid! [He looks at her without moving] Diarmuid! [She moves a step nearer to him; he makes no move] Diarmuid, son of Donn… [She puts her arms about him]

DIARMUID [forcing her hands to her side] May you go well, daughter of the King.

GRÁINNE   Oh!...

Pause. Then she straightens herself and walks slowly towards Angus, who holds out his arms;  she creeps under his great cloak

ANGUS   Farewell, my foster-son.

   He vanishes from the door of the hut

 

Scene Three

Diarmuid stands motionless for a while, then crosses over and shuts the door and bars it heavily as the two side doors are barred. Then he picks up his helmet and takes his armoured belt and sword in his hand and looks at them silently

DIARMUID   Strange! Strange and pitiful! [He fastens his belt about him, and takes up his shield and spear] That I should deck my body about with the bright cold armour against the friend of my heart. Strange and pitiful, aye, and wild and terrible. That we should meet as enemies in this lonesome house among the trees, where there is no sound but the wind crying among the boughs outside, or the stoats and the weasels making a stir among the dead leaves. Oh, Fionn Mac Cool! Fionn Mac Cool of the Fianna of Ireland! That we should meet in battle and in hatred, as though this field were the red field of battle and of death. That we should meet with hard cold eyes and with lips pressed tight with rage…My  curses,  my  curses on                 the          love              that       Gráinne gave me on that night of feasting in Tara! My curses on the bonds of Gráinne that dragged me out into the wilderness of the hills, and my curses on the beauty of Gráinne that will never let me be at peace! The grief in my heart is like the highest waves of the sea when they break into foam against the black rocks on a night of storm, or like the voice of a hound in the shadows when the moon is full, or like the endless clouds of a twilight of November when there is no sound but the curlews crying in the wind, and all the wine and honey and all the ale and mead of the Country of the Young would not cure my sorrow, my sharp bitter grief this night!

   Blows are struck on the left hand door of the cabin

What is that noise? [He picks up shield and spear and crosses to the door] Who is there? Who is there?

Voices of MEN [outside]  No enemies of yours are here, Diarmuid O Duibhne, but Óisin and Osgar and their men.

DIARMUID   No enemies of mine?

Voices of MEN   No enemies but friends, for we know well, Diarmuid, that whatever you have done has some reason and cause we cannot understand.

DIARMUID   Aye, you are right surely.

Voices of MEN   We are your friends, Diarmuid. We will believe nothing but the story from your own mouth.

DIARMUID   You are my friends, you say?

Voices of MEN   Come out to us, Diarmuid, and you shall pass through our ranks as a friend.

DIARMUID   I will not come.

Voices of MEN   Come out to us! Come out to us!

DIARMUID   I will not come. I will wait till I see at which of these three doors stands Fionn himself.

   Tumult at the door on right. Diarmuid cross to it

Who is there?

Voices of MEN   Friends of your own we are, Diarmuid son of Donn. Caoilte and Goll and their men stand here at this door.

DIARMUID   You are my friends?

Voices of MEN   Come out to us, Diarmuid, and we will let you pass as a friend.

DIARMUID   I will not come!

Voices of MEN   Why will you not come, Diarmuid? We are your true friends.

DIARMUID   It is because of that, and because Óisin and Osgar are my true friends as well, that I will not come. I will not have it that the wrath of Fionn fall upon you for my sake.

Voices of MEN   Come out to us, come out to us!

DIARMUID   I will not come! [Tumult and clashing of arms at middle door. Diarmuid crosses to it] Who is there?

FIONN and Voices of MEN  No friends of yours are here, Diarmuid of the treacherous lips, but Fionn Mac Cool of the Fianna of Ireland and three hundred fighting men along with him who will make a thousand red and bloody wounds in your white body.

FIONN   And let you open the door, Diarmuid, or we shall break it open with our axes and our spears, and let you come out and face us now, or we shall know that you are not treacherous and false alone but a coward as well.

DIARMUID   Fionn Mac Cool of the Fianna of Ireland, these are words of wild hatred to one who was your friend.

FIONN and Voices of MEN   Open the door! Open the door!

DIARMUID   I will do that and I will pass among your ranks without fear.

He flings the door open. Fionn appears with his spear ready in his hand; behind him are many armed men with wild  faces. They face each other, Fionn with his spear still raised

FIONN   Oh treacherous son of Donn! Oh false friend whose lips never spoke the truth. Oh worthless comrade whose lips I have always believed. I have found you at last. [He lets the spear drop a little and Diarmuid watches narrowly] You stand before me in all your shame and all your treachery, you who have lied and smiled at me, you who have spoken sweet words with your honeyed lips and tricked me while I was asleep, you who have sold my love and stolen my beloved. I have found you at last.

DIARMUID   You do not speak the truth.

FIONN   Oh, is it not a great wonder that the earth does not shake beneath your feet to hear these words, that the sea does not rise in floods and torrents higher than the mountain tops, that the sun does not topple out of the sky like a fallen torch! I do not speak the truth when I say that you are smooth and false and treacherous, I that was drugged at the feast of my betrothal in Tara and that woke to find my thousand treasures stolen from my side, and you yourself vanished like a thief at the break of day from a house he had robbed.

DIARMUID   You wrong me, Fionn.

FIONN   Would that were true, Diarmuid. I would that there were any words or deeds in me that could wrong you, that could make what you have done to me less terrible than the truth. But there are no words…there are no deeds…you have betrayed me.

DIARMUID   Fionn, you wrong me.

FIONN   No! Diarmuid, you have betrayed me as no man in Ireland or in the great world has ever betrayed his friend. You have taken all sight out of my eyes and all strength out of my hands, and my fear is great that you have taken all trust out of my heart. You have left me hard and cold, like a stone of the hills.

DIARMUID   Fionn, Fionn Mac Cool, you will listen to me.

FIONN   Ah, your voice! that was like the sweet harp-string to my ears, it is cruel and sharp to me now like a knife.

DIARMUID   You will listen to my words, Fionn!

FIONN   Like a knife your voice is, that once was warmer than wine.

DIARMUID   Fionn! You must listen to my story!

FIONN   Jagged and gleaming it is, like a cold knife that stabs and stabs at my heart.

DIARMUID   Fionn!

FIONN   Oh, do not speak to me, Diarmuid. Do not speak to me. Let me keep my cold heart and hard thoughts, for indeed when a man has been broken and shattered by treachery as I have been, what can he do but     to become cold and     grey and dumb,      like   a   stone   of the hills?

DIARMUID   I have never broken my trust with you. I have never used Gráinne for love.

FIONN   Oh, you are lying to me. You are more treacherous than the wind that blows out of the east.

DIARMUID   The unbroken bread I have left behind me in every place is my proof to you that Gráinne still belongs to you.

FIONN   How can I believe these words, Diarmuid?

DIARMUID   These are true words that I have spoken.

FIONN   Ah, I would kill you with my own hands, faithless friend, treacherous enemy, secret shameful lover!

DIARMUID [with sudden anger] Don’t touch me!― Ah, what is it to me if you believe me or not? What is it to me if you stand there shaking like an old tree in a great wind, with anger against me that was your friend? What is it to me if your eyes are filled with tears and your hands twitching with rage because you think that I have done you wrong? What is it to me, I say? I who have been faithful and true to you always, who have never broken my word to you, who have told no lies but the truth only. But what is the truth to your mind this night, Fionn Mac Cool? What is the truth to your mind this night? A poor useless ragged thing you’d fling away from you like a bone at a feast, a thing you’d despise and mock and fling away as you would bruise and break and fling away your love for me and mine for you. You have no care for the truth. You will not listen to the truth. You will listen only to the anger and bitterness of your own heart. But what is that to me? What is it all to me now? It is less to me than the trampled mud and the broken twigs of the earth under my feet. I will become cold and hard like yourself, Fionn Mac Cool, and if it is like a stone your heart has become towards me, my heart for you shall be like flint, like ice-bound rock, like the swords of the fierce gods of Lochlann! You to have spoken this night of your love that you say you have betrayed, you that will not believe my sacred pledge to you, you that will not listen to my words, you that pursue me with three hundred fighting men to hack me to pieces before you have heard my story, you have called me false friend, treacherous enemy, secret shameful lover. You lie, you lie, you lie! And the liar is seven times a fool, Fionn, when he lies about his friend, for he can never know but that one day his lies may become the truth.

FIONN   Oh Diarmuid son of Donn, why do you speak these bitter words against me?

DIARMUID   I? Bitter against you?

FIONN   You are terrible, Diarmuid, when you speak with such anger against me.

DIARMUID   And you, Fionn, are terrible when you march down upon me with three hundred fighting men at your heels who would make a thousand words in my body at a word from you. You are terrible, when you will not believe I speak the truth. You are terrible when you will not listen to my story.

FIONN  You do not understand the pain I have endured.

DIARMUID   And you do not understand the grief I have suffered.

FIONN   Diarmuid!

DIARMUID   I have no other thing to say.

FIONN   Diarmuid!

DIARMUID   All that was in my mind I have said.

FIONN   Diarmuid, listen to me!

DIARMUID   And now let your tell your men to do with me what they will.

FIONN   Listen to me, Diarmuid!

DIARMUID   You will do that.

FIONN   Understand me…

DIARMUID   You will do that, Fionn.

FIONN   Listen to me, Diarmuid!

DIARMUID   You will do that, Fionn Mac Cool.

A pause. They look steadfastly at each other. Finally Fionn’s eyes waver and fall. He bows his head, then lifts his hand

FIONN [in a loud lifeless voice] Let Diarmuid O Duibhne pass through your ranks without hurt, without harm, warriors and fighting men. Let him pass through your ranks now a friend, and let no man lay a hand upon his body for his harm. That is the wish of Fionn.

He drops his arms. Diarmuid walks past him across the stage, then suddenly turns round facing him

DIARMUID   All that is finished. I am cold now, and strong and swift like a young hound that follows the deer on the hills when the wind is high. I am free and unfettered and I am full of desire. I will go out now and break off the leaves and the flowers of the wood with my two hands. I will climb the branches; I will scale the boughs. I will pluck the topmost blossom and the sweetest fruit of the tree, and I will taste it with my mouth.

FIONN   Gráinne…

Diarmuid looks at him triumphantly and passes out, his shield and spear raised. He disappears among the men outside the middle door. A pause

FIONN [suddenly] Let him not pass! Let him not pass, warriors and fighting men! Let you hack him to pieces! Let his blood flow in red streams on the naked earth!

Voices of MEN   He is gone! He has escaped us, Fionn! He has gone! He has gone!

CAOILTE   He rose on the staves of his spear and went like a flame!

Voices of MEN   He has gone!

FIONN   He rose on the staves of his spear and went like a flame!

His back to the audience, he raises his two arms in a great gesture of despair

 

ACT THREE

 

Scene One

A sea cavern. Gráinne is lying on a rock watching through the mouth of the cavern the dark starless evening. Behind her stands Angus, impassively watching her. The waves break softly at intervals outside the cavern

ANGUS   You are silent, Gráinne. For a long while I have watched you through all the pale hours of this day, lying there on the rocks, and since the dawn broke you have been silent. You have spoken no word. You have offered no prayer. [Gráinne looks  at  him               dreamily            and holds up one hand. A long wave breaks outside the cave] And your body is shaken by desire, Gráinne. It is shaken by desire and passion as the waves are shaken by the wind.

GRÁINNE   Oh Angus, Master of Love!

ANGUS   You call me by my name, and yet it is not love that speaks through your words, Gráinne.

   The wind gives a sudden cry

GRÁINNE   Listen!

ANGUS   Desire is gnawing at your heart. Desire and fear are eating your heart away, and in the dim tumult of your soul there is no peace.

GRÁINNE   The waves would destroy the black rocks. They would bruise them with their lips; they would kiss them into dust.

ANGUS   Ah, white daughter of the human clan, why will you never look in my face?

GRÁINNE   The waves are kissing the black rocks. They are falling on them with long sweet murmurings; they are swooning as they fall with loud dark battle-cries of love. But for me there are no kisses, no dark murmurings, no sweet battle-cries. I must lie in this sea-haunted place in loneliness, and wait…Oh, why does he not come? Why does he not come to me, Angus? Why must I wait and wait in this dark place, where there is no sound but the roaring of the wind and the beating of the waves and the far lonely music of your voice that seems an echo of their voices, telling me of things that I can never understand?

ANGUS   Diarmuid is on his way to you, daughter of the King.

GRÁINNE  Angus, Angus! oh, speak again!

ANGUS   He is on his way to you. He is threading the narrow lonely paths of danger in the darkness of the night. He is thrusting aside the matted thorny boughs of the blackberry and the furze; he is fighting his way through the stormy gaps of the hills; and though the storm rises with angry cries from the sea, and though the wind and the rain tangle his hair over his eyes, and the shapeless evil spirits of the night pull at his cloak with cold crooked fingers as he passes, he is on his way to you, Gráinne, he is coming to you.

GRÁINNE   He is coming? He is coming to me?

ANGUS   He fights his way through the clamour of the wind and the storm as they rise together out of the secret places of the dark. He runs shouting along the strand where the foam hisses at his feet and the fog writhes about his head and his eyes are fixed always on the cave where you lie waiting for him, Gráinne the fair.

GRÁINNE   He is coming to me!

ANGUS   And yet there is no love for him in your heart, Gráinne. There is no love in your heart but only desire, and desire makes your voice tremble and shake like a torch flame in the storm.

GRÁINNE   Oh, he is coming! He is coming to me!

Gráinne is in an ecstasy of expectation, her finger held up as though she actually heard the footsteps of Diarmuid. Angus goes slowly out of the cave unseen by Gráinne

DIARMUID [his voice is heard outside mingled with the wind]    Out!  Out!  Out  and  away     from  me,     green witches of the sea, grey witches of the air!

GRÁINNE   Diarmuid! Diarmuid!

He appears with blowing cloak at the mouth of the cave. Gráinne rushes to meet him and sinks slowly to her knees in front of him. Her hands stretch out towards him. He holds her two hands and looks down at her, his face changing slowly from an expression of desire to one of grief

GRÁINNE   Diarmuid, pulse of my heart!

DIARMUID   The storm is rising still without.

GRÁINNE   Diarmuid of the sweet words!

DIARMUID   The winds and the waves are roaring in loud battle, and the night is full of evil shadows. I have travelled far.

GRÁINNE   But you have come to me, Diarmuid.

DIARMUID   There were loud voices in the storm, loud voices crying and calling to me of the vengeance of Fionn.

GRÁINNE   But you have escaped from Fionn, my thousand treasures! You have escaped from Fionn at the end of it all, and we are safe together. Is there no joy in your heart, Diarmuid, that we are together again?

DIARMUID [breaking from her] Ah, would that my eyes had never seen your hair of golden light and golden shadows! Would that my ears had never heard your voice softer than the song of the birds! Would that my mouth had never known the red sweetness of your lips!

GRÁINNE [following him softly and crouching at his side] My heart cries out to you, Diarmuid.

DIARMUID   My grief! my grief upon the world!

GRÁINNE   Why are the shadows so upon you, Diarmuid? Why are the clouds so low upon your heart?

DIARMUID   I have seen Fionn,

GRÁINNE   You have seen him? Seen him face to face?

DIARMUID   Aye.

GRÁINNE   And…and… [she puts her hand timidly on his arm, as though to convince herself of his safety] Ah, my great joy!

DIARMUID   Joy?

GRÁINNE   Diarmuid, show me your great spear?

DIARMUID   My spear? [He gives it to her]

GRÁINNE   No…no…Diarmuid, show me your sword. [He draws it and gives it to her] No blood? There is no blood?

DIARMUID   What is this talk of blood?

GRÁINNE   Why did you dry your spear? Why did you wipe your sword? Why did you clean your knife?

DIARMUID  I do not understand, daughter of the King. What is in your thoughts?

GRÁINNE   Oh, I would laugh and dance and clap my hands to see Fionn’s blood upon your sword. Why did you wipe his blood away? Why did you wipe away the rust that was our happiness?

DIARMUID    What are you saying? I will hear no more.

GRÁINNE   Or was it with an axe you did it, Diarmuid? Or with your own two hands? My thousand treasures, was it with your hands you did it? How did you rid us both of Fionn Mac Cool?

DIARMUID   Be silent. Fionn is not dead.

GRÁINNE   Not dead?

DIARMUID   Those are my words.

GRÁINNE   Fionn is not dead?

DIARMUID   He and three hundred fighting men are in pursuit. They will track us down for all his broken words of sorrow. They will track us down and hack us into pieces.

GRÁINNE   What, he was sorrowful when you spoke to him?

DIARMUID   He said that I was false and treacherous; that I had betrayed his love and stolen his beloved like a thief.

GRÁINNE [bitterly] Fionn sorrowful! And you, what did you say?

DIARMUID   Who knows what savage words I spoke to him?

GRÁINNE   But when you fought…what then?

DIARMUID   There was no fight between us, Gráinne.

GRÁINNE   What?  [she starts away from him in disgust]

DIARMUID   Why is this anger on you, Gráinne?

GRÁINNE   Oh, don’t speak to me. Don’t speak to me.

DIARMUID   But tell me what it is, Gráinne.

GRÁINNE   Ah! if the black ones of the storm were here in this cave with me, I would get more love and more happiness from them than I will ever get from you, Diarmuid of the sweet words. If Muadhan the young fighting lad were here, or the three fierce champions of Muir-na-Iocht were here, I would get strong love and deep kisses from them. But I am weary of the world, Diarmuid. I am weary of the slow timid sons of the earth. If the black ones of the storm were here in this cave tonight, if the green ones out of the sea…

Thunder drowns her words and frightens her. She puts her hands over her ears. When it has died away she looks dumbly at Diarmuid

DIARMUID [with sudden anger] Then come! Come! [Lightning] Come, black ones of the storm, green ones of the sea!

   Thunder peals closer to the cave

GRÁINNE   Diarmuid! Diarmuid!

DIARMUID   Come out of the darkness of the storm! Come into this cave where there is torchlight and warmth, meat and drink in pots of red bronze, and the white flesh of an amorous daughter of Kings! Come in out of the storm! Come in out of the sea!

   Lightning and thunder

 

Scene Two

Suddenly at the mouth of the cave appears a figure of a man clothed in fantastic green. He carries a square jewelled board and a closed bag that glimmers faintly in his hands. His appearance is strange and wild and scarcely human

CIACH   Out of the sea I come and out of the blackness of the storm.

DIARMUID   There is a welcome before you in this place.

CIACH  There is a welcome for me from you, Diarmuid of the Fianna of Ireland, but what of my welcome from this daughter of kings?

GRÁINNE    Oh, he is of the people of the dark places.

DIARMUID   But bid him welcome, Gráinne, bid him welcome. Bid him welcome, I say.

GRÁINNE   Why, he might fill this lonely cavern by the tide with every sort of evil. His friends might flow in out of the tossing waters, out of the howling storm!

DIARMUID   Who knows? Who knows what hides behind the curtains of the dark?

CIACH   You wrong me, noble people. No shape of wickedness or evil am I, but Ciach a warrior, and I have come to shelter from the darkness of the storm.

GRÁINNE   No shape of wickedness? Ah, his long green hands! What darkness can he need to shelter from with us?

DIARMUID   To shelter from the storm? That’s enough. Why, you are welcome here. Gráinne, put a welcome before him. Put a welcome before this man.

GRÁINNE   He knew our names and we had never told him what they were. How pale he is! How strangely he is dressed! Yet I will welcome him…

DIARMUID   You are dreaming, Gráinne. Do the thing that I have bid you do.

GRÁINNE [she looks coldly at Ciach]  You are welcome here.

CIACH   Hark! The winds are lashing the waves till they leap and roar like angry hounds. There is no quietness in the night. [He listens and chuckles quietly to himself]

DIARMUID   What is it that you hear in the storm?

CIACH   Hush! There are voices in the storm.

DIARMUID   What voices are they?

CIACH   Voices rising up out of the sea…

DIARMUID   What do they speak of?

CIACH   Of love they speak.

GRÁINNE   Voices crying on the wind…

DIARMUID   Of love they speak… [A long silence]

CIACH [with a sudden laugh] Why, what is this silence falling like a cloud between us here? I am welcome here…there is shelter in this place…shelter from the bitter storm. Will you play chess with me, son of Donn?

GRÁINNE   Do not play with him.

CIACH   Will you play chess with me, Diarmuid O Duibhne?

DIARMUID   There is no board, there are no men in this place.

CIACH   I have a chessboard of white bronze that is set with pale cold stones of the sea. I have chessmen of green bronze and findrinny in a bag that is made of the scales of a fish. [He spreads out the board and empties the chessmen onto a flat-topped rock]

GRÁINNE   Do not play with him.

CIACH   Will you play with me, Diarmuid?

DIARMUID   Are you a good player?

CIACH   A game will tell you that.

GRÁINNE   Oh, do not play with him, Diarmuid.

CIACH   We will play chess together, Diarmuid of the women. [He sets up the men on the board]

DIARMUID   I will play with you.

CIACH   But we will not play without stakes, Diarmuid.

GRÁINNE [tonelessly] Ah!...

DIARMUID   What stake would you play for?

CIACH   Listen! Listen to the wind, how it cries and calls across the sea! It is speaking of love…

DIARMUID   What stake would you play for?

CIACH   …and when the thunder rolls, it is telling of the anger of love that is not satisfied.

DIARMUID   What stake would you play for, man of the Fomor?

CIACH   Why, we can speak of that when the game is played.

DIARMUID   Let it be so.

They sit down to play. Gráinne crouches on the floor near to them and watches the game. The light grows dimmer and the figures of Ciach, Diarmuid and Gráinne become almost invisible in the shadow. A greenish twilight brightens slowly outside the mouth of the cave and the roaring of the wind and waves grows less. In the twilight Angus appears, and with him are the three people of Faery. They carry green rushes in their arms and they are peering into the cave

ANGUS   The hour draws near.

First FIGURE   Pull down the curtains of the night.

Second FIGURE   Make a dim sheltered sweetness of the dark for love.

Third FIGURE   These are the shadows that shall watch their love tonight.

ANGUS   The hour draws near.

First FIGURE   Pull down the curtains of the night.

Second FIGURE   Strew the cold floor with rushes for their bed.

Third FIGURE   These are the green waves that shall sing their bridal song.

ANGUS   The chessmen move across the little squares of bronze. The cave is dark and still. The players’ thoughts are cold and quiet as pearl and findrinny, but for all that blood and death hang smiling overhead, and love all pale and trembling shall follow them.

   It darkens

First FIGURE   Oh, see! Oh, see!

Second FIGURE   The curtains of the night are drawing down.

Third FIGURE   The shadows of the waves are pale like love.

ANGUS   The hour draws near. Away, away! Hover above them in the hollows of the air and watch over their sleep of love with song and music until the dawn whitens the gates of the East. Away, away! [Figures vanish] Diarmuid, my foster-son, my joy and my grief for you this night. My joy and my grief for you and for this woman of ivory and gold who has given that which is sweeter, redder and more terrible than the blood of an enemy spilt on the snow by murderous hawks.

Angus goes. The warm dull light in the cavern steals back and reveals the three figures by the big rock. The hand of Ciach is upraised and holds a chessman. He puts it triumphantly on the board and watches Diarmuid maliciously. At last he rises

CIACH   The game is finished, Diarmuid.

DIARMUID   Aye, that is so.

CIACH   The game is finished and it is I who have won.

DIARMUID   It was a good game and well played.

GRÁINNE   Why has the wind ceased crying in the air? [rising] There is a silence in the cave as though the night held its breath.

CIACH   And my stake, Diarmuid?

DIARMUID [rising and facing him] What is your stake, Fomorian?

A slight pause; they look steadfastly at each other. Then Ciach springs away with a laugh, and goes swiftly towards Gráinne. He slides his arms around her waist

CIACH   Give Gráinne to me, son of Donn. Give me white Gráinne for a wife. That is my stake.

DIARMUID   Take your hands from her body!

CIACH   That is my stake.

DIARMUID   Take your cold dark hands from her body, I say!

CIACH [without moving]  That is my stake, Diarmuid of the sweet words.

DIARMUID [drawing his sword] Take your hands from her, Ciach of the Fomor, or by the Gods I will strike at you with my sword!

CIACH   Give me white Gráinne for a wife, Diarmuid. That is my stake. [He caresses her and laughs defiantly]

DIARMUID   Gráinne, will you put this man from you.

GRÁINNE [suddenly angry] Why should I put him from me, Diarmuid? Why should I put him from me? Am I not going with yourself for many golden days and for many black nights of stars, and you have never shown me as much desire for love as this cold man out of the storm is showing me now.

DIARMUID   Take your green otter’s hands from her body, Ciach, or I swear I will stretch you out dead on the floor of this cave, and the great crabs shall come sidling out of the sea to feast on your flesh, and the evil ones of the waves shall rot your bones and marrow into cold slime.

CIACH   Give me white Gráinne for a wife.

DIARMUID   Draw and defend yourself!

He rushes forward; Ciach draws and they fight. Gráinne with a strange cry, half of fear and half of joy, goes to the back of the cave and watches them. Ciach falls with a scream on his lips; Diarmuid places one foot on his body and drives his sword through his heart. There is a short struggle

CIACH [dying] I see the marks of tusks upon your throat, Diarmuid…I see the marks of a great boar’s tusks upon your proud white throat…

He dies. The wind gives a sudden cry, and a peal of high far-away laughter is heard outside the cave

GRÁINNE   What is that laughter?

DIARMUID   That is the laughter of the Fomor who keen his death.

GRÁINNE   He is dead! He is dead!

DIARMUID   Let the waves of the sea take back his body to themselves.

He drags the body to the mouth of the cave and throws it outside. The thin high piercing laughter is heard now faintly and with it confused and distant singing

 

Scene Three

 As Diarmuid returns Gráinne creeps close to him

GRÁINNE [softly] Why did you kill him, Diarmuid?

DIARMUID   He was my enemy.

GRÁINNE   Was there no other cause that you killed him?

DIARMUID   What other cause?

GRÁINNE   Did you not kill him…because…

DIARMUID   Because?

GRÁINNE   Because you were jealous, Diarmuid? Because when you saw his cold green hands upon my body you were jealous?

DIARMUID   I killed him because he was my enemy.

GRÁINNE   Diarmuid… [in a low voice] Oh, you anger me. You anger me.

DIARMUID   And why is that, daughter of the King?

GRÁINNE   Oh, I could kill you. I would see you dead, my grief! Cold and dead at my feet!

She rushes at him suddenly and sticks a knife into his side. He staggers slightly, then straightens up and continues without moving the knife

DIARMUID   Oh Gráinne, woman who never took a step aright, though you are as beautiful as a tall blossoming tree in the Country of the Young, though your hair is the colour of yellow flag-flowers in the summer and your body is white like the foam and your eyes clearer than the dew of the grass, yet your love is as frail as smoke and your hatred as nimble as flame. I have lost my own people by you and by your Druid bonds, Gráinne, and the friends of my heart and the friends that used to hunt with me and fight with me and play with me. I have lost the peace of the hills and the music of the woods and the freedom of the waters by you. Oh Gráinne, little white fawn of the mountains, it was a bad night that you gave your love to me in Tara of the Kings, and not to Fionn Mac Cool to whom you were given for a wife.

GRÁINNE   Oh Diarmuid of the sweet words, whose voice is like wine to me, or like the sleepy music of harps that are played in a wood of silver and gold, I had no power over the love I gave you on that night of feasting in Tara, for I saw the little shining star on your forehead, and my heart fell down before you at that moment, and when you came near me it was as though great fires were kindled in the darkness of my mind, and as though honey were flowing through my body in golden sweet streams.

DIARMUID   Oh Gráinne, beautiful daughter of the King, I am weary of the fight.

GRÁINNE   My love and my thousand treasures…if you are weary…

DIARMUID   I am weary indeed, Gráinne.

GRÁINNE   Why, I will cut heather and rushes and spread them for your bed.

DIARMUID   Will you do that for me, daughter of the King?

GRÁINNE   I will go out into the night, Diarmuid; I will climb over the rocks and the stones, until I come to where green rushes grow. I’ll cut them for your bed and spread them softly…Give me a knife, Diarmuid, to cut the rushes with.

DIARMUID [pointing to the floor] Why, there are rushes spread.

GRÁINNE   Then I will gather heather and more rushes.

DIARMUID   There is no need.

GRÁINNE   Give me a knife, son of Donn.

DIARMUID   Oh Gráinne of the ready tongue and of the wayward forgetful mind, why do you not look for the knife in its sheath?

GRÁINNE   What do you mean?

DIARMUID   The knife is in its sheath where you yourself placed it.

GRÁINNE   Ah!

She sees, as if for the first time, the knife in Diarmuid’s side and staggers back as though blinded, her hands to her face. A long pause

DIARMUID   Draw the knife from its sheath with your own hands, Gráinne.

She comes towards him slowly, shaking with sudden tears. She draws the knife out and looks at it. Then, shuddering, she throws it far away from her. She sinks to the ground at his feet and puts her arms about him. His face changes as he bends towards her; slowly he takes her into his arms

GRÁINNE   Diarmuid, Diarmuid!

DIARMUID   Hush, my share of the world. The waves shall sing our bridal song tonight.

GRÁINNE   You will leave broken bread behind us in the place tomorrow, Diarmuid. You will leave broken bread behind us in the place for Fionn Mac Cool…

Diarmuid bends towards her and kisses her lips. The waves break softly at intervals outside the cave. They turn away to the cavern entrance, through which the moonlight floods, and meet in a warm embrace

 

 

ACT FOUR

 

Scene One

A great room in Rath Gráinne, the home of Diarmuid and Gráinne many years later. There are copper shields and tapestries and great skins hanging on the walls, and a long settle covered with figured cloth occupies one side of the stage. A huge window is at the back, and in front of this stands Sive, her back to the audience. Outside the night is falling and the room is in shadow. A red moon is rising slowly out of the mist. Sive draws a curtain half across the window so that only a portion of the darkening sky remains visible

SIVE   The colour of rust is on the moon. The colour of rust or of blood that was spilled long ago is on the moon tonight. How cold the air is!

A sound of men’s voices, talking and shouting, and of laughter, is heard from another room. Sive turns and lights two great torches, and heaps coal into the braziers. Luan suddenly rushes into the room, wild and dishevelled. He nearly collides with Sive, then sees who it is and starts back

LUAN   Oh Sive, great stories I have heard tonight. Strange wonderful things I have seen on the hillside, and on the side of Ben Bulben in the twilight.

SIVE   What is your talk? Have you no thought at all to be rushing in on me like this? For all you know your master might have been here, or his lady, aye or Fionn Mac Cool himself.

LUAN   Ah, but you must listen, Sive!

SIVE   You must learn to be more gentle. You must learn to have manners.

LUAN   But I have something to tell you!

SIVE   What is it?

LUAN   A strange thing I’ve seen on the hills tonight. A strange fearful thing I’ve seen. A big fierce long-tusked boar I’ve seen, running wild on the shoulder of the hill and raising his snout to the moon.

SIVE [with a very slight start] A wild boar you’ve seen? Is that so strange and wonderful?

LUAN   Strange and wonderful he was if you could have seen him, Sive. He was bigger than all the boars of Ireland, and when I saw him first standing there without a movement on the ridge of the hill and his eyes on the moon rising up out of the fog, I thought there was like a dark curl of flame about his head and a cloud of green smoke twisting up from the ground where he stood…

SIVE [half whispering] What did you do then?

LUAN   Great fear I had, and I made a rush to get away, and I cut down through the two dark woods of the old well till I got home again. Ah, it’s a good thing to be safe in the rath to watch the torchlight shining on the walls, and see the doors shutting out the bad thing of the night.

SIVE   A great boar with flame and smoke about him, standing alone on the side of Ben Bulben…

LUAN   Aye, spears of flame there were about him, and big curling clouds of smoke…

SIVE [abruptly] Cease your chatter. What made you come into this room at all? Whom are you seeking?

LUAN   My master Diarmuid and his lady.

SIVE   And why do you wish to see them?

LUAN   A message I have to them from Fionn.

SIVE   A message? What message?

LUAN   The message is from Fionn Mac Cool to Diarmuid and to Gráinne. It is not for your ears, Sive.

SIVE   What is this talk? Not for my ears?

LUAN   It is not.

SIVE [half to herself] Why should Fionn send a message to his hosts? Will he not be at the feast tonight? At the last feast of their new friendship?

LUAN   Their new friendship?

SIVE   May the Gods look down upon your ignorance that didn’t know of the bitterest quarrel Ireland ever saw.

LUAN   A quarrel? Between whom?

SIVE   Between Fionn and your master, who else?

LUAN   Oh, tell me of that quarrel.

SIVE   I will not. Isn’t that an old story now, and isn’t it a better thing to forget a quarrel than to remember it?

LUAN   Aye, maybe.

SIVE   And they themselves have forgotten it. It is better so. Diarmuid is a rich man, aye and a powerful man, and our mistress could well see that he and Fionn must be friends again.

LUAN   Why did she see that?

SIVE   Our mistress   is a   woman.  Fionn  is  the     greatest fighting man in Ireland. He is the most powerful friend in the world…aye, and the worst enemy… [She turns away and busies herself about the room]

LUAN   Fionn is a great man surely.

SIVE   Gráinne was wise to remake the friendship between himself and Diarmuid… [She breaks off] What is that you have in your hand? [pointing to a ring in his hand] That is a ring of Fionn Mac Cool’s. Isn’t it often I saw it on his hand. Give it to me.

LUAN   I will not.

SIVE   Give it to me.

LUAN   I will not.

SIVE   Give it to me, I say.

LUAN   I will not.  I will not.

SIVE  Was it Fionn gave it you?

LUAN   Maybe it was.

SIVE   Maybe it was? [She threatens him] How dare you?

LUAN   It was for Gráinne he gave it me, and a message along with for my master.

SIVE   And you won’t tell me that message?

LUAN   I will not.

SIVE   Where was it you saw Fionn?

LUAN   In a clearing of the great wood of Eas Dara he was, talking with three strangers.

SIVE   Strangers?

LUAN   Aye, big black men they were in shirts of green and long straight cloaks of black, and they were talking of Diarmuid and…

SIVE   And of what else?

LUAN   Talking and whispering they were of the great boar of Ben Bulben.

SIVE   Hush!

LUAN   Why, what is the matter?

SIVE [suddenly, after a pause] Tell nothing of that story to your master or his lady. Tell nothing of that story of the strangers, or of the wild boar you saw lifting his snout to the moon on the shoulder of the hill.

LUAN  But…but Diarmuid will hear that story of the boar I saw if I tell him or if I don’t.

SIVE   Why?

LUAN   Didn’t I tell you all the Fianna were there as I came in through the hall of the seven doors, Óisin and Osgar and all of them; and they said they would have great sport tomorrow chasing and hunting him on the side of the hill.

Sive looks at him with impotent fury for a moment. Then she goes over to the window

SIVE   You are a fool, Luan. A fool…  [She turns and looks out into the night] The moon is high up in the sky now, but the colour of rust is on it still. Ah! the air is very cold.

LUAN [turning to look at her] Aye, it is the last night of the year. Ah! there are bad things crying out in the darkness tonight. It’s a good thing to see the torchlight shining on the bronze and the copper, and to shut out the cold and the blackness with a door of fine strong oak.

 

Scene Two

Diarmuid enters with Gráinne. He leads her to the long   settle,      where   she   lies   back   among   the   cushions. Half smiling he watches her for a moment, stroking her hair

GRÁINNE   Is all ready for the feast tonight?

SIVE   It is, princess.

DIARMUID [turning to Luan] What is your business?

LUAN   Out in the woods at the hunt I was today, noble person, on the side of the hill where the deer were gathered and in the hollows of Eas Dara, and I bring you a message from Fionn Mac Cool.

DIARMUID   From Fionn?

GRÁINNE   Is Fionn out here in the rath? You have been running hard.

DIARMUID   Aye, your hair is tossed and your clothes are torn…Where did you see Fionn?

LUAN   In the clearing of the wood of Eas Dara I saw him, noble person.

GRÁINNE   Why did you run so fast?

LUAN   I ran because…

DIARMUID   Why did you run?

LUAN [after a warning glance from Sive] Ah, it was nothing, master…a fear I had of the bad things that wait in the shadows on the last night of the year.

Gráinne looks straight at him and then glances over her shoulder. She is silent

DIARMUID   Come, you must have no fear of the shadows. What is the message from Fionn?

FIONN   He bade me tell you, noble person, that a messenger of his own people came westward from Allen of Leinster with news that have troubled him, and asks you to forgive him that he left the hunt today.

GRÁINNE [looking at Diarmuid] When will he be here?

LUAN   Soon, princess, very soon he will be here, for he was on horseback and I was on foot. He will be here tonight before you sit down to eat and drink, and he will tell you his story.

DIARMUID   It is well.

LUAN [crosses and kneels before Gráinne. He offers the ring] Fionn Mac Cool sends you this ring, lady.

GRÁINNE [taking ring] May you go well.

Diarmuid looks at her keenly for a moment; she meets his eyes and slowly draws the ring onto her finger. Luan looks boldly at Sive, bows to Diarmuid and Gráinne and goes

SIVE   That is a fine ring, princess.

GRÁINNE   Fine indeed.

SIVE   The stones are coloured like wine, or like red gold that has the light of flames going through it.

GRÁINNE   They are red like the sun that goes down in the west on an evening of storm, or like the moon that rises out of the mist when the night is dark and blood is to be spilt on the earth.

SIVE [starts slightly and glances at the window] Will you dress in the cloak of ceremony for the last feast tonight, noble lady?

GRÁINNE   No…

SIVE   But Gráinne…princess…are you not feasting tonight? Will you not wear the cloak of gold with the pale stones?

DIARMUID [suddenly] Leave us, Sive.

Sive goes out. Gráinne removes her cloak and stretches  languidly  on  the  settle  and  examines  the ring. Diarmuid comes slowly to her from behind, bends down and looks at the ring on her finger. He sighs and turns to look out of the window

GRÁINNE   There is something you forgot to tell me tonight, Diarmuid.

DIARMUID   What is that?

GRÁINNE   You did not tell me that Fionn had left the hunt.

DIARMUID   Why, it was such a small thing. Why should I tell you?

GRÁINNE   Yes, it was a small thing. Did he leave suddenly?

DIARMUID  He rode away through the trees of Colooney as the twilight fell, and eastward to the great wood of the quicken trees.

GRÁINNE   He is a strange man.

DIARMUID   He is our friend.

GRÁINNE   Yes, he is our friend now. We are no longer lovers that wander without shelter through the wild woods where the rain lashes the boughs about our heads, and the darkness of the night makes our feet to stumble among the stones of the hills. [She twists the ring on her finger]

DIARMUID   I would not lose his friendship for all the riches of Ireland, for all the cattle of the plain of Meath, for all the gold and bronze and copper shields of the south.

GRÁINNE   No, why should you? We have so much power already; we have so many silks and shields, cattle and horses and lands, and bowls of gold and polished copper.

DIARMUID   Gráinne!

GRÁINNE   Ah, I know…I laugh too much at the world.

DIARMUID   You laugh too much at Fionn.

GRÁINNE   I do not laugh at Fionn.

DIARMUID [suddenly] Why do you twist that ring upon your finger? Let me see it.

   She passes it to him; he hands it back

No, I wish to see it on your hand.

She puts it back; he takes her hand and gazes intently at the ring

GRÁINNE   Why do you sigh, my share of the world?

DIARMUID   I was troubled last night by evil dreams.

GRÁINNE [startled] By evil dreams?

DIARMUID   Aye…there came a wild thing into my dreams that snatched you from me, and I saw you then as though you were far away, yet close and bright and clear like the flowers of the grass, and by your side…

GRÁINNE   Speak!

DIARMUID   By your side stood Fionn.

   Gráinne suddenly rises and goes over to the window

Gráinne, where are you? Where are you, Gráinne?

GRÁINNE   How red the moon is tonight! She is like a shield that has been stained with blood. There are long cold fingers of cloud that are stretched across her face. They cut away her light as though they were black battle knives. They are like stains of anger on a shield, like stains of bloody anger on a shield of rust.

 

Scene Three

As   Fionn    enters  Diarmuid   starts,  then   rises mechanically and bows his head. Gráinne turns from the window

FIONN [at the door] Your life and your health, Diarmuid. Gráinne, my greeting to you this night.

GRÁINNE   Happiness from the gods on you, Fionn.

FIONN  Diarmuid, you will forgive me for this day… you will forgive me that I left the hunt without warning.

DIARMUID  It was nothing.

FIONN   Did you get my message?

DIARMUID   I did…you are troubled, Fionn, with news from Allen?

FIONN   Aye, there is trouble in Allen, and trouble in Sliebh Cua.

DIARMUID   What is the trouble?

FIONN [hesitating] Raids on my cattle there are, and tales of unrest, stories of discontent from Conan Maol and…

DIARMUID [smiling] Stories of discontent from Conan Maol? That is no new thing at all.

FIONN   Ah, there are things that trouble me now, Diarmuid, more than they would have troubled me at one time. There is weariness over my mind, a mist over my thoughts.

DIARMUID   And these rumours from Allen and Sliebh Cua have disturbed you?

FIONN   Aye, they have…they have…

GRÁINNE   There is something else in your thoughts, Fionn.

FIONN [looks at her for a moment in silence] That is true.

GRÁINNE   Yes, it is true. Your eyes are restless and mournful, like one whose dreams are too vivid not to seem terrible when the dawn whitens in the sky.

FIONN   My dreams trouble me.

DIARMUID   Dreams! Dreams!...

FIONN   When the night goes away from us, she takes with her our dreams like shining dragons with their starry eyes and scales of glittering fire…then the dawn comes and we awake; and with the dawn ride down the dragons of new dreams with scales of lead and eyes like frozen coins. And youth…

DIARMUID   Youth is the bright dragon of your dreams.

FIONN  Youth is the bright dragon that the darkness brings. Youth is like the night.

GRÁINNE   And age? Is that not like the night? Like the darkness of night that falls on the mountains when the earth is tired.

FIONN   No, age is like the grey and rain-washed break of day. Age is like the dawn. That is the sorrow of life.

DIARMUID   The dragon of the dawn with scales of lead.

FIONN   Diarmuid, I cannot feast tonight. Give me your pardon for that…I cannot feast tonight.

DIARMUID   Why, Fionn, if you have no mind to feast let it be so.

GRÁINNE   Have you a mind for sleep, Fionn Mac Cool?

FIONN   For sleep? Aye, for sleep.

DIARMUID   Then there will be no feast tonight.

FIONN   But Diarmuid…

DIARMUID   It shall be so. There shall be no feast while my friend, my chief guest, is not at the table.

FIONN   You are my friend, Diarmuid.

DIARMUID   I think that I am nearer to you than before. Our friendship was broken by an evil chance. It is remade by a new understanding. It is sealed by a new bond. It has been through the fire and flames have made it firm.

FIONN   That is true. Is it not true, Gráinne?

GRÁINNE   It is true indeed.

DIARMUID   Why do you smile, Gráinne?

GRÁINNE   I smile because our friendship is remade.

FIONN   Is it not well? Should we not all be happy?

GRÁINNE   I must give you thanks, Fionn.

FIONN  For what?

GRÁINNE   For this ring. It has given me great joy.

FIONN   It is a small token only.

GRÁINNE   Come, tell me…will you not feast with us tonight?

Fionn, who has been looking at her intently, starts as though he were suddenly reminded of something

FIONN   Your pardon, Gráinne. Your pardon, both. I am troubled and weary. I would sleep. Your pardon.

DIARMUID   We understand it well. [He claps his hands: his slaves appear] Let food and drink be brought to the men of the Fianna in the room of the seven doors. There will be no feast tonight. [The slaves go out]

FIONN   I will go now.

DIARMUID   You go with our love and blessing, Fionn. And may the Gods give you a sound sleep. May your sleep be sound and sweet this night.

FIONN   My blessing be with you, Diarmuid, and with your Gráinne of the undying beauty.

GRÁINNE   A sound sleep to you, Fionn.

FIONN   Diarmuid, I…

DIARMUID   What is it, my friend?

FIONN   Diarmuid, if…

DIARMUID   If?

FIONN   No, it is nothing. My blessing be with you both.

He looks at them sadly for a moment and goes out

 

Scene Four

 Diarmuid and Gráinne are left alone

GRÁINNE   He is strange tonight.

DIARMUID   How, strange?

GRÁINNE   He is full of secrets. Troubled by dreams and visions and wrapped in a cloud of grief he is, and yet there is a fierceness in his eyes, a wildness, something that waits and watches and will not be at peace.

DIARMUID   Age is coming upon him. His mind is shaken and unquiet.

GRÁINNE   But why is that?

DIARMUID   Who knows? Who knows? Because the world changes, and hope flickers, and light fades out of the sky, and the hair grows grey, and lines and shadows creep about the brows and lips. Because all things must change and wither, and the leaves fall from the tree, and mist covers the tops of the hills, and the tide wears away the stones of the strand, and the shadows droop and  gather  in  the  glens.  Because  every day   when     we awake we have forgotten the dreams of the night, and because every night when we sleep the dreams of the day are like a troop of thin shadows in our minds, without sense, without meaning.

GRÁINNE   You speak as though these words came from your own thoughts, Diarmuid, and not from Fionn’s at all.

DIARMUID   The thoughts are my own, and they are Fionn’s, and they are every man’s when the night is dark and the flare falters in the torches and the day is done.

GRÁINNE   Or when the wine has been left untested at the feast. And the year is done. This is the last night of the year.

DIARMUID   Aye, the last night of the year.

GRÁINNE   Diarmuid, why should you be sad tonight?

DIARMUID [caressing her] Aye, why should I be sad? I who have houses and lands and cattle and a woman of beauty at my side, shields of red bronze on the walls, and wine and meat and linen in the cupboards.

GRÁINNE   Why are you sad, my pulse?

DIARMUID   I, sad? I who have won back the good will of the High King and the friendship of Fionn Mac Cool. I am not sad, Gráinne, I am not sad.

GRÁINNE   Yes, you are sad.

DIARMUID   There was a song made by Daire of the poems, and in that poem he made a great keening and lamenting because of a young boy that was changed by a woman of the Sidhe into a white hound running and leaping on the hills, and when he came back to his own shape again he was grey and withered and his friend…

GRÁINNE   Yes, his friend, Diarmuid?

DIARMUID   He had forgotten him.

GRÁINNE   Why do you think of this song tonight?

DIARMUID   I do not know, I do not know.

GRÁINNE   I do not trust Fionn.

DIARMUID   Why is that?

GRÁINNE   I do not trust him, his eyes are restless. They watch me always. I do not trust him.

DIARMUID   Ah, you are dreaming, Gráinne.

GRÁINNE    No, no, he watches us. He watches us both. Always he is watching. Watching and waiting, Diarmuid.

DIARMUID   What is in your thoughts?

GRÁINNE   I am afraid, Diarmuid.

DIARMUID   You afraid, little fawn?

GRÁINNE    Do you remember when we were in the woods together, in the thick woods of Dubhros where the stars looked through the leaves and saw us lying in a shadowy place. Your head was in my lap and I made a sleepy song for you out of the secret words of the wind, and you looked up and smiled though no bird sang.

DIARMUID   You had no fear then.

GRÁINNE   And there was a day high on the summit of Ben Adair when the sun was warm. We lay on the heather in an open place. I heard the bees drone in the tall blue air, and under us low blue waves lapped and lapped. We heard the baying of Fionn’s hounds and turned and ran and hid in a great cave close to the water’s edge.

DIARMUID   You had no fear then.

GRÁINNE    I   had   no  fear   then   though        we          were betrayed. I had no fear in the caves or in the bogs, in the hills or in the plains, because I knew…

DIARMUID   You knew?

GRÁINNE   Who was our enemy.

DIARMUID   And now you know no longer?

GRÁINNE   I am afraid, Diarmuid, I am afraid…

DIARMUID   Aye, why should I be sad? When we slept among hills and woods and lonely rocks on beds of rushes or of soft green boughs, when the stars shone above us in the sky or the wind tangled the hair over our eyes. I know…I know, white Gráinne. I know that longing when the blood turns wild at the calling of the cuckoo in deep woods, or at the rushing of the rain through slanted blowing grass, or at the hot still perfume of the yellow furze.

GRÁINNE   Your lips were on my lips one twilight when the curlew cried and the wind was hushed, and though Fionn’s fighting men has run us down and we were hiding in a barren place where there was nothing but grey clouds and greyer colder stones, yet we were happy and I knew no fear.

DIARMUID   And now—you are afraid?

A slave enters with a bowl of wine which he puts on the table; as he passes Gráinne she starts. He is about to go

GRÁINNE   Put out the torches.

He puts the torches out, leaving the stage in a dimness which makes the space of sky beyond the window seem fairly luminous

Go. [He goes out]

DIARMUID   Why do you have the torches quenched?

GRÁINNE   Give me your lips, Diarmuid. Bend down your head towards me. Give me your lips.

Diarmuid takes her into his arms. As their lips are about to meet, he starts as though he had heard some sound

DIARMUID   Hush! [He half pushes her away]

GRÁINNE   Your lips, Diarmuid.

DIARMUID   Did you not hear a call?

GRÁINNE   Bend down your head to me, son of Donn.

DIARMUID   A call out of the blackness it was, a hunting horn and the voice of a hound calling out of the dark.

GRÁINNE   Your lips, give me your lips, Diarmuid.

DIARMUID   Calling me to follow it is.

GRÁINNE   You will not go. There is no sound in the night. Give me your lips, my treasure, my life, give me your lips! You will not go from me into the blackness of the night where all the evil shapes of November would take you from me.

DIARMUID   I must follow the voice of the hound.

GRÁINNE   Stay with me, stay with me, Diarmuid!

DIARMUID   Bring me my spears!

GRÁINNE   You are going from me!

DIARMUID   Bring me my spears!

GRÁINNE   You will take the big spears with you, Diarmuid. You will take the great fierce one with you, and the spear of Red Victory.

DIARMUID   Bring me the Little Wild One and the Spear of Swift Death.

GRÁINNE   Take the big spears with you, Diarmuid! Take the big spears with you!

DIARMUID   Do as I bid you!

His eyes are fixed on the door. Gráinne looks at him for a moment, then fetches the two spears and his hunting coat

Call my hound to me! Call Mac an Chuill!

GRÁINNE   Do not go, Diarmuid, do not go from me into the darkness!

   He rushes out

 

Scene Five

   There are three great blasts on a horn outside

GRÁINNE   That is the call of Fionn! Óisin! Osgar! Caoilte! Goll! [She wheels round in terror] Sive! Sive!

   She claps her hands; Sive enters

Go out, Sive, and strike upon the shield of battle! Awake the house! Drag out the men of the Fianna from their beds! Go, Sive, go quickly!...Stay! Go into the sleeping room of Fionn Mac Cool and tell me…what is there…

   Sive goes. Gráinne remains motionless

The last night of the year!...

   A tumult of voices outside. Sive enters

SIVE   Princess!

GRÁINNE   Speak!

SIVE   The sleeping room of Fionn is empty.

GRÁINNE   Yes, it is empty. [suddenly beside herself] The shield of battle! The shield of warning! Why do you not strike upon the shield?

SIVE   They are striking, princess.

GRÁINNE   To me it is all silent.

   Enter hastily Óisin, Osgar, Caoilte and Goll

ÓISIN   What is the matter?

CAOILTE   Who strikes upon the shield of battle?

OSGAR [pointing at Gráinne] Look! Look! Look!

CAOILTE   What is it, Gráinne the fair?

OSGAR   What is the matter?

GOLL   She is pale, like death,

GRÁINNE   There was a horn that blew in the darkness of the night, and a wild thing that passed on the side of Ben Bulben.

OSGAR   What are you saying?

GRÁINNE   The sleeping room of Fionn is empty.

   Horns backstage, very distant

GOLL   What was that?

CAOILTE   Who is it that follows a chase in the blackness of the night?

SIVE   That was the call of Fionn. [She is silent, looking at Gráinne]

GOLL   Did you hear?

CAOILTE   Let us go to the window. [They rush to the window]

OSGAR   Look!

ÓISIN   I see a torch that flames through the mist…

GOLL  …and something that moves swiftly in the shadow.

CAOILTE  There are three shapes that move swiftly…

GOLL   Look!

ÓISIN   There are two men and a beast…

OSGAR   Oh!

CAOILTE   Oh! The torch has burnt out. There is nothing now but the black shape of the hill.

ÓISIN   It  is  Diarmuid  and  my  father who   are out on Ben Bulben.

GOLL  What is it that they fight?

The others are about to speak when Sive holds up her hand as a signal for silence. All turn to look at Gráinne

GRÁINNE [her voice passionless and cold, her face the face of a sleep-walker] It is the wild boar of Ben Bulben out there in the blackness, and Diarmuid fighting him.

ALL [variously] That cannot be true! The wild boar of Ben Bulben!—May the Gods look down upon us! That is no hunt at all!—That would be a fight, a bloody and terrible fight!—Diarmuid is a strong man.—Why did Fionn go?—There is one that holds a torch. It is no hunt but a fight.—A fight! A fight between a man and a beast!—There is one that tilts at the beast with a spear. —The green boar of Ben Bulben!—The last night of the year it is.—A dark bad night it is and the moon is red. —The moon is coloured like blood.

SIVE   Have no fear, princess.

ÓISIN  Diarmuid will win the fight.

CAOILTE   They are cheering on the hill.

Óisin turns from the window and stands watching Gráinne; the others remain watching impatiently

GRÁINNE   He is fighting the boar of Ben Bulben and the night is dark. Fionn it was that called him in the shadow. Fionn Mac Cool it was.

OSGAR   Let us go! Let us see Diarmuid as he kills the boar! Let us go to the hill.

CAOILTE   Come, Óisin, come! Let us watch the fight! Let us see how Diarmuid kills the great boar of the west.

ÓISIN    I will not leave Gráinne.

GRÁINNE  Mac an Chuill, the hound of Diarmuid, has fled in terror from the boar. Diarmuid is alone.

ÓISIN   Fionn Mac Cool is with him, princess.

CAOILTE [half turning from the window, to Osgar]   She speaks as though she stood upon the hill and watched the fight.

GRÁINNE   Diarmuid has loosed the Spear of Swift Death. He aims it now at the face of the boar.

GOLL [also turning, to Caoilte] Terror has made her mad.

OSGAR  Come, let us watch the fight!

ÓISIN   I will not leave…

OSGAR and CAOILTE   Oh, let us watch!

ÓISIN   I will not leave her alone.

GRÁINNE   A-ah! The wild boar has rushed at him… The earth is out from under his feet…He has fallen…he has fallen…

CAOILTE   How can she tell what happens when the night is so dark?

GOLL   And she does not even look into the darkness.

SIVE   She is looking into the darkness with the eyes of her love.

OSGAR [still looking out from the window] Look! The clouds have hidden the moon. [peers out] I can see nothing now.

GOLL [turns to join Osgar] No, the night is like a great black cave.

GRÁINNE   Diarmuid has risen…He has caught the boar    with      his  two hands.  His    grip is              terrible.   It is like a ring of iron, or like the cold sharp fingers of a winter’s night. He has caught the boar with his two hands. [Faint sounds of cheering on the hill] The boar rushes round and round the hill in a huge circle, but he cannot free himself.

ÓISIN   Gráinne! Gráinne! Where do you see this thing?

SIVE   Hush!

GRÁINNE   Angus, Lord of Love, where are you this night? Angus of the Birds, where are you hiding this night?

OSGAR   The clouds are passing away from the moon.

GOLL   Look! Look! Do you see that?

CAOILTE   I see nothing but a dim shape that rushes in great circles on the mountain top. It is too dark to see rightly.

GRÁINNE   Ah! the boar has freed himself…he stands there in the red moonlight, waiting…

CAOILTE   Can you see anything?

OSGAR   No, but I think there is nothing stirring.

GRÁINNE   Ah!

She staggers; Óisin and Sive rush to help her, but she motions them away. There is a cry of horror from the hill

ÓISIN   Oh, what is on you, Gráinne?

SIVE   What is that mournful cry that rises from the hill?

CAOILTE   Why does Gráinne cry out?

OSGAR   Someone is coming to the rath.

GOLL   Who is it?

CAOILTE   What is it they carry?

GRÁINNE [cold and pale but now with passion in her voice] Open the great gates of bronze that he may pass.

All look at her in amazement. The two slaves go out. Soon is heard the drawing of heavy bolts and the opening of the gates, The light grows dim

 

Scene Six

Diarmuid is brought in on a stretcher; blood is streaming from his throat and chest

GRÁINNE [kneeling by him] My soul, my soul! Look into my eyes, my soul!

DIARMUID   Oh golden fawn, oh share of the world, oh honey-mouth…

   All the others come and kneel beside him

Oh my brothers and my friends, why do you bow your heads? Why do you kneel and weep? Did I not kill the wild boar of the mountain? Though it went hard with me there in the blackness of the night, in the red dazzle of the moon, and my throat and my breast streaming with blood.

GOLL   See his breast, how it bleeds!

CAOILTE   It is torn like a ragged sail in the wind.

ÓISIN   His eyes are wide with pain.

OSGAR   There are red tusk-wounds in his throat.

DIARMUID   Take your cold green hands from her body, Ciach of the Fomor! The chessmen are scattered!

GRÁINNE   Go, leave him to me.

The back of the stage is now in almost total darkness; only the red glow of the night illuminates the room. The men of the Fianna withdraw from the bier to the back. Óisin hesitates and then follows

DIARMUID  Cool, cool your fingers are…

GRÁINNE   Ah, do not speak, my soul.

DIARMUID   Why…who is it that looks over your shoulder?

GRÁINNE   No-one.

DIARMUID   Who is it that looks over your shoulder?

GRÁINNE   Diarmuid, my pulse, there is no-one.

DIARMUID   Ah, I know now who stands behind you.

GRÁINNE   Whom do you see?

DIARMUID   I see…Fionn Mac Cool. Look into my eyes.

A movement at the back. Fionn has entered. He comes slowly forward and gazes at Diarmuid over Gráinne’s shoulder

Who is it that looks over your shoulder?

GRÁINNE   There is no-one there…Ah!

She glances over her shoulder and meets Fionn’s eyes

FIONN [grimly] There is joy in my heart tonight, Diarmuid, to see you as you lie there tonight. Your beauty is destroyed and your comely face is marred. I look at you now between the eyes and I laugh at your wounds and I tell you with my own lips that my heart is glad to see the blood on your breast and the gashes on your white throat, you that were proud and beautiful and that now are broken and beaten, lying there before me like a fine blossoming tree that was struck down by the storm.

DIARMUID   Those are hard words to be speaking to me, Fionn, you that have the power to heal me if you would use it.

FIONN  How could I heal you, Diarmuid?

DIARMUID   There was a time when you were given great knowledge at the Boinn, and with it you were given this gift, Fionn, that anyone to whom you would give a drink of water out of your two hands would be young and well and strong again from sickness and from wounds…Fionn…Fionn Mac Cool…

FIONN   You deserve no drink from me. You have earned nothing from me but the thing you have found this night: the ruin of your beauty, the withering of your strength and the coming of your death.

DIARMUID   Fionn!

FIONN   Your death you have earned from me, I say. You that went to Tara with me as my friend and stole white Gráinne from me.

DIARMUID [struggling to speak] Fionn…

FIONN   I  have  never  forgotten  what  you did to me, Diarmuid.

OSGAR   See how his breath comes fast.

ÓISIN   His face is white.

CAOILTE   It is whiter than water at evening time.

GOLL   Why is Gráinne so still?

   They come slowly forward

DIARMUID   Not for myself or for Gráinne will I weep, nor for you, Fionn Mac Cool, but for Óisin and Osgar and Caoilte and Goll and my comrades…I see Goll stretched out in a lonely place where the wind lifts his hair from his cold white brow; I see Osgar lying dead, his body that was comely and whiter than milk torn like a tree in the wind with a thousand battle-wounds; I see Caoilte an old man fretting after his sons, and death coming upon him in a lonesome house; I see Óisin who will live after you all, an old withered man making a lament for the Fianna in a time when Ireland shall be changed, an old white broken man bending low with the burden of his sorrow beneath the heavy clouds, listening to the voice of the bells…in a time when Ireland shall be changed…Fionn!...Water!...Bring me water!...

Fionn motions to Óisin who brings water in a copper bowl. He pours some of the water into Fionn’s hands

Gráinne!...

Gráinne crosses and kneels by the bier. Fionn who is bringing the water sees the look that passes between them. He lets the water fall. Long silence

It is well. Look into my eyes, Gráinne…

Gráinne bends over him. Diarmuid dies. The men of the Fianna go on their knees. Gráinne, still kneeling, half turns from the body of Diarmuid; Fionn stretches out his hand to her. She starts back in horror, her hand to her mouth; seeing the ring of Fionn on her finger, her eyes remain fixed on it. The expression of hatred on her face turns slowly to one that is half mockery, half despair. She drags herself slowly to her feet and moves deliberately to Fionn

GRÁINNE   Who is it that you hold in your arms, Fionn Mac Cool?

FIONN   Who but Gráinne the fair?

GRÁINNE   No, no! Do you not see? [she points to the body triumphantly] Gráinne is there!...

Fionn with fear in his eyes folds his cloak about her and they go out together. It grows slowly dark. Diarmuid is left alone; the men are kneeling about him in a half circle. No light remains except the red glow of the sky; this too fades. Total darkness

Comments