A DRAMA IN THREE ACTS
CONCOBAR … … Ardrie of Ulla.
Ardan… … … Brothers of Naisi.
Ilann … … Sons of Fergus.
Cathvah … … A Druid.
Lavarcam … … A Druidess.
❦ ❦ A DRAMA IN THREE ACTS ❦ ❦
Scene.—The dun of Deirdre’s captivity. Lavarc m, a Druidess, sits
before the door in the open air. Deirdre comes out of the dun.
Deirdre. Dear fostermother, how the spring is begin-
ning ! The music of the Father’s harp is awaken-
ing the flowers. Now the winter’s sleep is over,
and the spring flows from the lips of the harp. Do
you not feel the thrill in the wind—a joy answering
the trembling strings ? Dear fostermother, the
spring and the music are in my heart!
Lavarcam. The harp has but three notes; and, after
sleep and laughter, the last sound is of weeping.
Deirdre. Why should there be any sorrow while I am
with you? I am happy here. Last night in a
dream I saw the blessed Shee upon the mountains,
and they looked on me with eyes of love. (An old
herdsman enters who bows before Lavarcam.)
Herdsman. Lady, the High King of Ulla is coming
through the woods.
Lavarcam. Deirdre, go to the grianan for a little. You
shall tell me your dream again, my child.
Deirdre. Why am I always hidden from the King’s
Lavarcam. It is the King’s will you should see no one
except these aged servants.
Deirdre. Am I indeed fearful to look upon, foster-
mother? I do not think so, or you would not love
Lavarcam. It is the King’s will.
Deirdre. Yet why must it be so, fostermother? Why
must I hide away? Why must I never leave
Lavarcam. It is the King’s will. (While she is speaking
Concobar enters. He stands still and looks on Deirdre.
Deirdre gazes on the King for a moment, and then covering
her face with her hands, she flies into the dun. The
herdsman goes out. Lavarcam sees and bows before the
Concobar. Lady, is all well with you and your charge?
Lavarcam. All is well.
Concobar. Is there peace in Deirdre’s heart?
Lavarcam. She is happy, not knowing a greater happi-
ness than to roam the woods or her dreams of the
immortal ones can bring her.
Concobar. Fate has not found her yet hidden in this
Lavarcam. Her happiness is to be here. But she asks
why must she never leave the glen. Her heart
quickens within her. Like a bird she listens to the
spring, and soon the valley will be narrow as a cage.
Concobar. I cannot open the cage. Less ominous the
Red Swineherd at a feast than this beautiful child
in Ulla. You know the word of the Druids at her
Lavarcam. Aye, through her would come the destruc-
tion of the Red Branch. But sad is my heart,
thinking of her lonely youth.
Concobar. The gods did not guide us how the ruin
might be averted. The druids would have slain her,
but I set myself against the wise ones, thinking in
my heart that the chivalry of the Red Branch would
be already gone if this child were slain. If we are
to perish, it shall be nobly, and without any depar-
ture from the laws of our order. So I have hidden
her away from men, hoping to stay the coming of
Lavarcam. King, your mercy will return to you, and if
any of the Red Branch fall, you will not fall.
Concobar. If her thoughts turned only to the Shee,
her heart would grow cold to the light love that
warriors give. The Birds of Angus cannot breathe
or sing their maddening song in the chill air that
enfolds the wise. For this, Druidess, I made thee
her fosterer. Has she learned to know the beauty
of the ever-living ones, after which the earth fades,
and no voice can call us back?
Lavarcam. The immortals have appeared to her in
vision, and looked on her with eyes of love.
Concobar. Her beauty is so great it would madden
whole hosts, and turn them from remembrance of
their duty. We must guard well the safety of the
Red Branch. Druidess, you have seen with subtle
eyes the shining life beyond this. But through the
ancient traditions of Eri, which the bards have kept
and woven into song, I have seen the shining law
enter men’s minds, and subdue the lawless into love
of justice. A great tradition is shaping a heroic
race; and the gods who fought at Moytura are
descending and dwelling in the hearts of the Red
Branch; and deeds will be done in our time as
mighty as those wrought by the giants who battled
at the dawn; and through the memory of our days
and deeds, the gods will build themselves an eternal
empire in the mind of the Gael. Wise woman,
guard well this beauty which fills my heart with
terror. I go now, and will doubly warn the spear-
men at the passes, but will come hither again, and
speak with thee of these things; and with Deirdre
I would also speak.
Lavarcam. King of Ulla, be at peace. It is not I who
will break through the design of the gods. (Concobar
goes through the woods, after looking for a time at the door
of the dun.) But Deirdre is also one of the immortals.
What the gods desire will utter itself through her
heart. I will seek counsel from the gods. (Deirdre
comes slowly through the door.)
Deirdre. Is he gone? I fear this stony king with his
Lavarcam. He is implacable only in his desire for
Deirdre. No ! No ! There is a hunger in his eyes
for I know not what.
4 THE GREEN SHEAF SUPPLEMENT TO No. 7.
Lavarcam. He is the wisest king who ever sat on the
chair of Macha.
Deirdre. He has placed a burden on my heart. Oh!
fostermother, the harp of life is already trembling
Lavarcam. Do not think of him. Tell me your dream,
my child. (Deirdre comes from the door of the dun and
sits on a deerskin at Lavarcam’s feet.)
Deirdre. Tell me, do happy dreams bring happiness,
and do our dreams of the Shee ever grow real to us
as you are real to me? Do their eyes draw nigh to
ours, and can the heart we dream of ever be a refuge
for our hearts?
Lavarcam. Tell me your dream.
Deirdre. Nay ; but answer me, first of all, dear foster-
mother—you who are wise, and who have talked
with the Shee.
Lavarcam. Would it make you happy to have your
dream real, my darling?
Deirdre. Oh, it would make me happy! (She hides
her face on Lavarcam’s knees.)
Lavarcam. If I can make your dream real, I will, my
Deirdre. Dear fostermother, I think my dream is
coming near to me. It is coming to me now.
Lavarcam. Deirdre, tell me what hope has entered
Deirdre. In the night I saw in a dream the top of the
mountain yonder, beyond the woods, and three
hunters stood there in the dawn. The sun sent its
breath upon their faces, but there was a light about
them never kindled at the sun. They were surely
hunters from some heavenly field, or the three gods
whom Lu condemned to wander in mortal form, and
they are come again to the world to seek some
Lavarcam. Describe to me these immortal hunters. In
Eire we know no gods who take such shape
appearing unto men.
Deirdre. I cannot now make clear to thee my remem-
brance of two of the hunters; but the tallest of the
three—oh, he stood like a flame against the flameless
sky, and the whole sapphire of the heavens seemed
to live in his fearless eyes ! His hair was darker
than the raven’s wing; his face dazzling in its fair-
ness. He pointed with his great flame-bright spear
to the valley. His companions seemed in doubt,
and pointed east and west. Then in my dream I
came nigh him, and whispered in his ear, and
pointed the way through the valley to our dun. I
looked into his eyes, and he started like one who
sees a vision; and I know, dear fostermother, he
will come here; and he will love me. Oh, I would
die if he did not love me!
Lavarcam. Make haste, my child, and tell me, was
there aught else memorable about this hero, and
Deirdre. Yes, I remember each had the likeness of a
torch shedding rays of gold embroidered on the
Lavarcam. Deirdre, Deirdre, these are no phantoms,
but living heroes ! O wise King, the eyes of the
spirit thou wouldst open have seen further than
the eyes of the body thou wouldst blind! The druid
vision has only revealed to this child her destiny.
Deirdre. Why do you talk so strangely, fostermother?
Lavarcam. Concobar, I will not fight against the will
of the immortals. I am not thy servant, but theirs.
Let the Red Branch fall! If the gods scatter it,
they have chosen to guide the people of Ulla in
Deirdre. What has disturbed your mind, dear foster-
mother? What have I to do with the Red Branch?
And why should the people of Ulla fall because of
Lavarcam. O Deirdre! there were no warriors created
could overcome the Red Branch. The gods have
but smiled on this proud chivalry through thine
eyes, and they are already melted. The waving of
thy hand is more powerful to subdue than the silver
rod of the king to sustain. Thy golden hair shall be
the flame to burn up Ulla.
Deirdre. Oh, what do you mean by these fateful
prophecies? You fill me with terror. Why should
a dream so gentle and sweet portend sorrow?
Lavarcam. Dear golden head, cast sorrow aside for a
time. The Father has not yet struck the last chords
on the harp of life. The chords of joy have but
begun for thee.
Deirdre. You confuse my mind, dear fostermother,
with your speech of joy and sorrow. It is not your
wont. Indeed, I think my dream portends joy.
Lavarcam. It is love, Deirdre, which is coming to thee.
Love, which thou hast never known.
Deirdre. But I love thee, dearest and kindest of
Lavarcam. Oh, in this love heaven and earth will be
forgotten, and your own self unremembered, or dim
and far off, as a home the spirit lives in no longer.
Deirdre. Tell me, will the hunter from the hills come
to us? I think I could forget all for him.
Lavarcam. He is not one of the Shee, but the proudest
and bravest of the Red Branch, Naisi, son of Usna.
Three lights of valour among the Ultonians are
Naisi and his brothers.
Deirdre. Will he love me, fostermother, as you love
me, and will he live with us here?
Lavarcam. Nay, where he goes you must go, and he
must fly afar to live with you. But I will leave you
now for a little, child: I would divine the future.
(Lavarcam kisses Deirdre and goes within the dun.
Deirdre walks to and fro before the door, Naisi enters.
He sees Deirdre, who turns and looks at him, pressing
her hands to her breast, Naisi bows before Deirdre.)
Naisi. Goddess, or enchantress, thy face shone on me
at dawn on the mountain. Thy lips called me
hither, and I have come.
Deirdre. I called thee, dear Naisi.
Naisi. Oh, knowing my name, never before having
spoken to me, thou must know my heart also.
Deirdre. Nay, I know not. Tell me what is in thy
THE GREEN SHEAF SUPPLEMENT TO No. 7. 5
Naisi. O enchantress! thou art there. The image of
thine eyes is there, and thy smiling lips; and the
beating of my heart is muffled in a cloud of thy
Deirdre. Say on, dear Naisi.
Naisi. I have told thee all. Thou only art in my heart.
Deirdre. But I have never ere this spoken to any man.
Tell me more.
Naisi. If thou hast never before spoken to any man,
then indeed art thou one of the immortals, and my
hope is vain. Hast thou only called me to thy
world to extinguish my life hereafter in memories of
Deirdre. What wouldst thou with me, dear Naisi?
Naisi. I would carry thee to my dun by the sea of
Moyle, O beautiful woman, and set thee there on an
ivory throne. The winter would not chill thee there,
nor the summer burn thee, for I would enfold thee
with my love, enchantress, if thou earnest to my
world. Many warriors are there of the clan Usna,
and two brothers I have who are strong above any
hosts, and they would all die with me for thy sake.
Deirdre (taking the hands of Naisi). I will go with thee
where thou goest. (Leaning her head on Naisi’s
shoulder.) Oh, fostermother, too truly hast thou
spoken! I know myself not. My spirit has gone
from me to this other heart for ever.
Naisi. Dost thou forego thy shining world for me?
Lavarcam (coming out of the dun). Naisi, this is the
Deirdre of the prophecies.
Naisi. Deirdre!—Deirdre!—I remember in some old
tale of my childhood that name. (Fiercely.) It was
a lying prophecy. What has this golden head to do
with the downfall of Ulla?
Lavarcam. Thou art the light of the Ultonians, Naisi,
but thou art not the star of knowledge. The druids
spake truly. Through her, but not through her sin,
will come the destruction of the Red Branch.
Naisi. I have counted death as nothing battling for the
Red Branch; and I would not, even for Deirdre,
war upon my comrades. But Deirdre I will not
leave nor forget for a thousand prophecies made by
druids in their dotage. If the Red Branch must
fall, it will fall through treachery; but Deirdre I
will love, and in my love is no dishonour, nor any
Lavarcam. Remember, Naisi, the law of the king. It
is death to thee to be here. Concobar is even now
in the woods, and will come hither again.
Deirdre. Is it death to thee to love me, Naisi? Oh,
fly quickly, and forget me. But first, before thou
goest, bend down thy head—low—rest it on my
bosom. Listen to the beating of my heart. That
passionate tumult is for thee ! There—I have
kissed thee. I have sweet memories for everlasting.
Go now, my beloved, quickly. I fear—I fear for
thee this stony king.
Naisi. I do not fear the king, nor will I fly hence. It
is due also to the chief of the Red Branch that I
should stay and face him, having set my will against
Lavarcam. You cannot remain now.
Naisi. It is due to the king.
Lavarcam. You must go; both must go. Oh, do not
cloud your heart with dreams of a false honour. It
is not your death only, but Deirdre’s, which will
follow. Do you think the Red Branch would spare
her, after your death, to extinguish another light of
valour, and another who may wander here?
Naisi. I will go with Deirdre to Alba.
Deirdre. Through life, or to death, I will go with thee,
(Voices of Ainle and Ardan are heard in the wood.)
Ardan. I think Naisi went this way.
Ainle. He has been wrapt in a dream since the dawn.
See! this is his footstep in the clay.
Ardan. I heard voices.
Ainle (entering with Ardan). Here is our dream-led
Naisi. Ainle and Ardan, this is Deirdre, your sister. I
have broken through the command of the king, and
fly with her to Alba, to avoid warfare with the Red
Ardan. Our love to thee, beautiful sister.
Ainle. Dear maiden, thou art already in my heart with
Lavarcam. You cannot linger here. With Concobar
the deed follows swiftly the counsel; to-night his
spearmen will be on your track.
Naisi. Listen, Ainle and Ardan. Go you to Emain
Macha. It may be, the Red Branch will make
peace between the king and myself. You are guilt-
less in this flight.
Ainle. Having seen Deirdre, my heart is with you,
brother, and I also am guilty.
Ardan. I think, being here, we, too, have broken the
command of the king. We will go with thee to
Alba, dear brother and sister.
Lavarcam. Oh, tarry not: tarry not! Make haste
while there is yet time. The thoughts of the king
are circling around Deirdre as wolves around the
fold. Try not the passes of the valley—but over
the hills. The passes are all filled with the spear-
men of the king.
Naisi. We will carry thee over the mountain, Deirdre,
and to-morrow will see us nigh to the isles of Alba.
Deirdre. Farewell, dear fostermother. I have passed
the faery sea since dawn, and have found the Island
of Joy. Oh, see ! what bright birds are around us,
with dazzling wings! Can you not hear their sing-
ing? Oh, bright birds, make music for ever around
my love and me!
Lavarcam. They are the Birds of Angus. Their sing-
ing brings love—and death.
Deirdre. Nay, death has come before love, dear foster-
mother, and all I was has vanished like a dewdrop
in the sun. Oh, beloved, let us go. We are leaving
death behind us in the valley. (Deirdre and the
brothers go through the wood. Lavarcam watches, and,
when they are out of sight, sits by the door of the dun with
her head bowed to her knees. A fter a little Concobar enters.)
6 THE GREEN SHEAF SUPPLEMENT TO No. 7.
Concobar. Where is Deirdre?
Lavarcam (not lifting hev head). Deirdre has left death
behind her, and has entered into the kingdom of her
Concobar. Do not speak to me in portents. Lift up
your head, Druidess. Where is Deirdre?
Lavarcam (looking up). Deirdre is gone!
Concobar. By the high gods, tell me whither; and
who has dared to take her hence?
Lavarcam. She has fled with Naisi, son of Usna, and
is beyond your vengeance, king.
Concobar. Woman, I swear by Balor, Tethra, and all
the brood of demons, I will have such a vengeance
a thousand years hereafter shall be frighted at the
tale. If the Red Branch is to fall, it will sink at
least in seas of the blood of the clan Usna.
Lavarcam. O king, the doom of the Red Branch had
already gone forth, when you suffered love for
Deirdre to enter your heart.
Scene.—In the dun by Loch Etive. Through the open door can be
seen the lakes and wooded islands in a silver twilight. Deirdre
stands at the door looking over the lake. Naisi is within binding
a spear-head to the shaft.
Deirdre. How still is the twilight! It is the sunset,
not of one, but of many days—so still, so still, so
living! The enchantment of Dana is upon the
lakes and islands and woods, and the Great Father
looks down through the deepening heavens.
Naisi. Thou art half of their world, beautiful woman,
and it seems fair to me, gazing on thine eyes. But
when thou art not beside me, the flashing of spears
is more to be admired than a whole heavenful of
Deirdre. O Naisi! still dost thou long for the Red
Branch, and the peril of battles and death.
Naisi. Not for the Red Branch, nor the peril of battles,
nor death, do I long. But—
Deidre. But what, Naisi? What memory of Eri hast
thou hoarded in thy heart?
Naisi (bending over his spear). It is nothing, Deirdre.
Deirdre. It is a night of many days, Naisi. See, all
the bright day had hidden is revealed! Look,
there! A star! and another star! They could not
see each other through the day, for the hot mists of
the sun were about them. Three years of the sun
have we passed in Alba, Naisi; and now, O star of
my heart, truly do I see you, this night of many
Naisi. Though my breast lay clear as a crystal before
thee, thou couldst see no change in my heart.
Deirdre. There is no change, beloved; but I see there
one memory warring on thy peace.
Naisi. What is it then, wise woman?
Deirdre. O Naisi, I have looked within thy heart, and
thou hast there imagined a king with scornful eyes
thinking of thy flight.
Naisi. By the gods, but it is true! I would give this
kingdom I have won in Alba to tell the proud
monarch I fear him not.
Deirdre. O Naisi, that thought will draw thee back to
Eri, and to I know not what peril and death beyond
Naisi. I will not war on the Red Branch. They were
ever faithful comrades. Be at peace, Deirdre.
Deirdre. Oh, how vain it is to say to the heart, “Be
at peace,” when the heart will not rest! Sorrow is
on me, beloved, and I know not wherefore. It has
taken the strong and fast place of my heart, and
sighs there hidden in my love for thee.
Naisi. Dear one, the songs of Ainle and the pleasant
tales of Ardan will drive away thy sorrow.
Deirdre. Ainle and Ardan! Where are they? They
Naisi. They were watching a sail that set hitherward
from the south.
Deirdre. A sail!
Naisi. A sail! What is there to startle thee in that?
Have not a thousand galleys lain in Loch Etive
since I built this dun by the sea?
Deirdre. I do not know, but my spirit died down in
my heart as you spake. I think the wind that
brings it blows from Eri, and it is it has brought
sorrow to me.
Naisi. My beautiful one, it is but a fancy. It is some
merchant comes hither to barter Tyrian cloths for
the cunning work of our smiths. But glad would I
be if he came from Eri, and I would feast him here
for a night, and sit round a fire of turves, and hear
of the deeds of the Red Branch.
Deirdre. Your heart for ever goes out to the Red
Branch, Naisi. Were there any like unto thee, or
Ainle, or Ardan?
Naisi. We were accounted most skilful, but no
one was held to be braver than another. If there were
one, it was great Fergus, who laid aside the silver
rod which he held as Ardrie of Ulla; but he is in
himself greater than any king.
Deirdre. And does one hero draw your heart back to
Naisi. A river of love, indeed, flows from my heart
unto Fergus, for there is no one more noble. But
there were many others, Conal, and the boy we
called Cuculain, a dark, sad child, who was the
darling of the Red Branch, and truly he seemed
like one who would be a world-famous warrior.
There were many held him to be a god in exile.
Deirdre. I think we, too, are in exile in this world.
But tell me, who else among the Red Branch do you
think of with love?
Naisi. There was the Ardrie, Concobar, whom no man
knows, indeed, for he is unfathomable. But he is a
wise king, though moody and passionate at times,
for he was cursed in his youth for a sin against one
of the Shee.
Deirdre. Oh, do not speak of him! My heart falls at
the thought of him as into a grave; and I know I
will die when we meet.
THE GREEN SHEAF SUPPLEMENT TO No. 7. 7
Naisi. I know one who will die before that, my fawn.
Deirdre. Naisi! You remember when we fled that
night; as I lay by thy side—thou wert yet strange
to me—I heard voices speaking out of the air. The
great ones were invisible, yet their voices sounded
solemnly. “Our brother and our sister do not
remember,” one said; and another spake: “They
will serve the purpose all the same”; and there
was more which I could not understand, but I knew
we were to bring some great gift to the Gael.
Yester-night, in a dream, I heard the voices again;
and I cannot recall what they said, but as I woke
from sleep my pillow was wet with tears falling
softly, as out of another world; and I saw before me
thy face, pale and still, Naisi, and the king, with his
implacable eyes. Oh, pulse of my heart, I know
the great gift we will give to the Gael will be a
memory to pity and sigh over; and I shall be the
priestess of tears. Naisi, promise me you will never
go back to Ulla—swear to me, Naisi.
Naisi. I will, if—(Here Ainle and Ardan enter).
Ainle. Oh, great tidings, brother!
Deirdre. I feel fate is stealing on us with the footsteps
of those we love. Before they speak, promise me,
Ainle. What is it, dear sister? Naisi will promise
thee anything, and if he does not, we will make him
do it, all the same.
Deirdre. Oh, let me speak! Both Death and the Heart’s
Desire are speeding to win the race. Promise me,
Naisi, you will never return to Ulla.
Ardan. Naisi, it were well to hear what tale may come
from Emain Macha. One of the Red Branch
displays our banner on a galley from the south. I
have sent a boat to bring this warrior to our door.
It may be Concobar is dead.
Deirdre. Why should we return? Is not the Clan
Usna greater here than ever in Eri?
Ainle. Dear sister, it is the land which gave us birth;
which ever like a mother whispered to us, and its
whisper is sweeter than the promise of beloved lips.
Though we are kings here in Alba, we are exiles,
and the heart is afar from its home.
(A distant shout is heard.)
Naisi. I hear a call like the voice of a man of Eri.
Deirdre. It is only a herdsman calling home his cattle.
(She puts her arms round Naisi’s neck.) Beloved, am
I become so little to you that your heart is empty,
and sighs for Eri?
Naisi. Deirdre, in my flight I have brought with me
many whose desire is afar, while you are set as a
star by my side. They have left their own land,
and many a maiden sighs for the clansmen who
never return. There is also the shadow of fear on
my name, because I fled, and did not face the king.
Shall I swear to keep my comrades in exile, and let
the shame of fear rest on the chieftain of their clan?
Deirdre. Can they not go? Are we not enough for
each other, for surely to me thou art hearth and
home, and where thou art, there the dream ends,
and beyond it there is no other dream.
(A voice is heard without , more clearly calling.)
Ainle. It is a familiar voice that calls! And I thought
I heard thy name, Naisi.
Ardan. It is the honey-sweet speech of a man of Eri.
Deirdre. It is one of our own clansmen. Naisi, will
you not speak? The hour is passing, and soon
there will be naught but a destiny.
Fergus (without). Naisi! Naisi!
Naisi. A deep voice, like the roar of a storm god! It
is Fergus who comes from Eri.
Ardan. He comes as a friend. There is no treachery
in the Red Branch.
Ainle. Let us meet him, and give him welcome! (The
brothers go to the door of the dun. Deirdre leans against
the wall with terror in her eyes.)
Deirdre (in a low, broken voice). Naisi! (Naisi returns to
her side, Ainle and Ardan go out. Deirdre rests one
hand on Naisi’s shoulders, and with the other points
upwards.) Do you not see them? The bright
birds which sang at our flight! Look, how they
wheel about us as they sing! What a heart-rending
music! And their plumage, Naisi! It is all
dabbled with crimson; and they shake a ruddy dew
from their wings upon us! Your brow is stained
with the drops. Let me clear away the stains.
They pour over your face and hands. Oh! (She
hides her face on Naisi’s breast.)
Naisi. Poor frightened one, there are no birds! See,
how clear are my hands! Look again on my face.
Deirdre (looking up for an instant). Oh! blind, staring
Naisi. Nay, they are filled with love, light of my heart.
What has troubled your mind? Am I not beside
you, and a thousand clansmen around our dun?
Deirdre. They go—and the music dies out. What
was it Lavarcam said?—“Their singing brings love
Naisi. What matters death, for love will find us among
the Ever Living Ones? We are immortals, and it
does not become us to grieve.
Deirdre. Naisi, there is some treachery in the coming
Naisi. I say to you, Deirdre, that treachery is not to be
spoken of with Fergus. He was my fosterer, who
taught me all a chieftain should feel, and I shall not
now accuse him on the foolish fancy of a woman.
(He turns from Deirdre, and as he nears the door
Fergus enters with hands laid affectionately on a
shoulder of each of the brothers; Buinne and Ilann
follow.) Welcome, Fergus! Glad is my heart at
your coming, whether you bring good tidings or ill!
Fergus. I would not have crossed the sea of Moyle to
bring thee ill tidings, Naisi. (He sees Deirdre.) My
coming has affrighted thy lady, who shakes like the
white wave trembling before its fall. I swear to
thee, Deirdre, that the sons of Usna are dear to me
as children to a father.
Deirdre. The Birds of Angus showed all fiery and
crimson as you came!
Buinne. If we are not welcome in this dun, let us
Fergus. Be still, hasty boy.
8 THE GREEN SHEAF SUPPLEMENT TO No. 7.
Ilann. The lady Deirdre has received some omen or
warning on our account. When the Shee declare
their will, we should with due awe consider it.
Ardan. Her mind has been troubled by a dream of
some ill to Naisi.
Naisi. It was not by dreaming evils that the sons of
Usna grew to be champions in Ulla. And I took
thee to my heart, Deirdre, though the druids
trembled to murmur thy name.
Fergus. If we listened to dreamers and foretellers, the
sword would never flash from its sheath. In truth,
I have never found the Shee send omens to warriors,
they rather bid them fly to herald our coming.
Deirdre. And what doom comes with thee now, that
such omens fled before thee? I fear thy coming,
warrior. I fear the Lights of Valour will be soon
Fergus. Thou shalt smile again, pale princess, when
thou hast heard my tale. It is not to the sons of
Usna I would bring sorrow. Naisi, thou art free to
return to Ulla.
Naisi. Does the king, then, forego his vengeance?
Deirdre. The king will never forego his vengeance. I
have looked on his face—the face of one who never
changes his purpose.
Fergus. He sends forgiveness and greetings.
Deirdre. O Naisi, he sends honied words by the mouth
of Fergus, but the pent-up death broods in his own
Buinne. We were tempest-beaten, indeed, on the sea of
Moyle—but the storm of this girl’s speech is more
fearful to face.
Fergus. Your tongue is too swift, Buinne. I say to
you, Deirdre, that if all the kings of Eri brooded ill
to Naisi, they dare not break through my protection.
Naisi. It is true indeed, Fergus, though I have never
asked any protection save my own sword. It is a
chill welcome you give to Fergus and his sons,
Deirdre. Ainle, tell them within to make ready the
(Ainle goes into an inner room.)
Deirdre. I pray thy pardon, warrior. Thy love for
Naisi I do not doubt. But in this holy place there
is peace, and the doom that Cathvah the druid cried
cannot fall. And oh, I feel, too, there is One here
among us who pushes us silently from the place of
life; and we are drifting away—away—from the
world on a tide which goes down into the darkness!
Ardan. The darkness is in your mind alone, poor
sister. Great is our joy to hear the message of
Naisi. It is not like the king to change his will. Fergus,
what has wrought upon his mind?
Fergus. He took counsel with the druids and Lavar-
cam, and thereafter spake at Emain Macha, that for
no woman in the world should the sons of Usna be
apart from the Red Branch. And so we all spake
joyfully: and I have come with the king’s message
of peace, for he knew that for none else wouldst
Naisi. Surely, I will go with thee, Fergus. I long for
the shining eyes of friends, and the fellowship of the
Red Branch, and to see my own country by the sea
of Moyle. I weary of this barbarous people in
Deirdre. O children of Usna, there is death in your
going! Naisi, will you not stay the storm-bird of
sorrow? I forehear the falling of tears that cease
not, and in generations unborn the sorrow of it all
that will never be stilled!
Naisi. Deirdre! Deirdre! It is not right for you,
beautiful woman, to come with tears between a
thousand exiles and their own land! Many battles
have I fought, knowing well there would be death
and weeping after. If I feared to trust to the word of
great kings and warriors, it is not with tears I would
be remembered. What would the bards sing of Naisi
—without trust! afraid of the outstretched hand!
frightened by a woman’s fears! By the gods, before
the clan Usna were so shamed I would shed my
blood here with my own hand.
Deirdre. O stay—stay your anger! Have pity on me,
Naisi. Your words, like hot lightnings, sear my
heart. Never again will I seek to stay thee. But
speak to me with love once more, Naisi. Do not
bend your brows on me with anger; for, oh! but a
little time remains for us to love!
Fergus. Nay, Deirdre, there are many years. Thou
shalt yet smile back on this hour in thy old years,
thinking of the love and laughter between.
Ainle (entering). The feast is ready for our guests.
Ardan. The bards shall sing of Eri to-night. Let the
harpers sound their gayest music. Oh, to be back
once more in royal Emain!
Naisi. Come, Deirdre, forget thy fears. Come, Fergus,
I long to hear from thy lips of the Red Branch and
Fergus. It is geasa with me not to refuse a feast offered
by one of the Red Branch. (Fergus, Buinne, Ilann,
and the sons of Usna go into the inner room. Deirdre
remains silently standing for a time, as if stunned. The
sound of laughter and music floats in. She goes to the
door of the dim, looking out again over the lakes and
Deirdre. Farewell, O home of happy memories.
Though thou art bleak to Naisi, to me thou art
bright. I shall never see thee more, save as shadows
we wander here, weeping over what has gone.
Farewell, O gentle people, who made music for me
on the hills. The Father has struck, the last chord
on the Harp of Life; and the music I shall hear
hereafter will be only sorrow. O Mother Dana,
who breathed up love through the dim earth to my
heart, be with me where I am going. Soon shall
I lie close to thee for comfort, where many a broken
heart has lain, and many a weeping head.
(Music of harps and laughter again floats in.)
Voices. Deirdre! Deirdre! Deirdre!
(Deirdre leaves the door of the dun, and the scene closes as she
flings herself on a couch burying her face in her arms.)
Scene.—The house of the Red Branch at Emain Macha. There is a
door covered with curtains, through which the blue light of evening
can be seen. Concobar sits at a table on which is a chessboard,
with figures arranged. Lavarcam stands before the table.
Concobar. The air is dense with omens, but all is
uncertain. Cathvah, for all his druid art, is uncer-
tain, and cannot foresee the future; and in my
dreams, too, I again see Macha, who died at my
feet, and she passes by me with a secret exultant
smile. O Druidess, is the sin of my boyhood to be
THE GREEN SHEAF SUPPLEMENT TO No. 7. 9
avenged by this woman, who comes back to Eri in
a cloud of prophecy?
Lavarcam. The great beauty has passed from Deirdre in
her wanderings from place to place, and from island
to island. Many a time has she slept on the bare
earth ere Naisi won a kingdom for himself in Alba.
Surely, the prophecy has already been fulfilled, for
blood has been shed for Deirdre, and the Red
Branch divided on her account. To Naisi the Red
Branch are as brothers. Thou hast naught to fear.
Concobar. Well, I have put aside my fears, and taken
thy counsel, Druidess. For the sake of the Red
Branch I have forgiven the sons of Usna. Now, I
will call together the warriors of Ulla, for it is my
purpose to bring the five provinces under the sway
of the Red Branch, and there shall be but one king-
dom in Eri between the seas.
(A distant shouting of many voices is heard. Lavarcam starts,
clasping her hands.)
Why dost thou start, Druidess? Was it not fore-
told from of old that the gods would rule over one
people in Eri? I sometimes think the warrior soul
of Lu shines through the boy Cuculain, who after
me shall guide the Red Branch; aye, and with him
are many of the old company who fought at
Moytura, come back to renew the everlasting battle.
Is not this the Isle of Destiny, and the hour at hand?
(The clamour is again renewed.)
What is this clamour as if men hailed a king?
(Calls.) Is there one without there? (Ilann enters.)
Ah! returned from Alba with the fugitives!
Ilann. King, we have fulfilled our charge. The sons
of Usna are with us in Emain Macha. Whither is
it your pleasure they should be led?
Concobar. They shall be lodged here in the House of
the Red Branch. (Ilann is about to withdraw.) Yet,
wait, what mean all these cries as of astonished
Ilann. The lady Deirdre has come with us, and her
beauty is a wonder to the gazers in the streets, for
she moves among them like one of the Shee, whiter
than ivory, with long hair of gold, and her eyes,
like the blue flame of twilight, make mystery in
Concobar (starting up). This is no fading beauty who
returns! You hear, Druidess!
Ilann. Ardrie of Ulla, whoever has fabled to thee that
the beauty of Deirdre is past has lied. She is
sorrowful, indeed, but her sadness only bows the
heart to more adoration than her joy, and pity for
her seems sweeter than the dream of love. Fading!
Yes, her yesterday fades behind her every morning,
and every changing mood seems only an unveiling
to bring her nearer to the golden spirit within. But
how could I describe Deirdre? In a little while she
will be here, and you shall see her with your own
eyes. (Ilann bows and goes out.)
Concobar. I will, indeed, see her with my own eyes.
I will not, on the report of a boy, speak words that
shall make the Red Branch to drip with blood. I
will see with my own eyes. (He goes to the door.)
But I swear to thee, Druidess, if thou hast plotted
deceit a second time with Naisi, that all Eri may
fall asunder, but I will be avenged. (He holds the
curtain aside with one hand and looks out. As he gazes,
his face grows sterner, and he lifts his spear above his head
in menace. Lavarcam looks on with terror, and as he
drops the curtain and looks back on her, she lets her face
sink in her hands.)
Concobar (scornfully). A druid makes prophecies, and a
druidess schemes to bring them to pass! Well
have you all worked together! A fading beauty
was to return, and the Lights of Valour to shine
again in the Red Branch! And I, the Ardrie of
Ulla and the head of the Red Branch, to pass by
the broken law and the after deceit! I, whose sole
thought was of the building up of a people, to be
set aside! The high gods may judge me hereafter,
but to-night shall see the broken law set straight,
and vengeance on the traitors to Ulla.
Lavarcam. It was all my doing! They are innocent!
I loved Deirdre, O king! let your anger be on me
Concobar. Oh, tongue of falsehood ! Who can believe
you! The fate of Ulla was in your charge, and
you let it go forth at the instant wish of a man and
a girl’s desire. The fate of Ulla was too distant,and
you must bring it nigher—the torch to the pile!
Breakers of the law, and makers of lies, you
shall all perish together! (Concobar leaves the
room. Lavarcam remains, her whole being shaken with
sobs. After a pause, Naisi enters with Deirdre. Ainle,
Ardan , Ilann, and Buinne follow. During the dialogue
which ensues, Naisi is inattentive, and is curiously ex-
amining the chess-board.)
Deirdre. We are entering a house of death! Who is
it that weeps so? I, too, would weep, but the
children of Usna are too proud to let tears be seen
in the eyes of their women. (She sees Lavarcam, who
raises her head from the table.) O fostermother, for
whom do you sorrow? Ah! it is for us. You
still love me, dear fostermother; but you, who are
wise—could you not have warned the Lights of
Valour? Was it kind to keep silence, and only
meet us here with tears?
Lavarcam. O Deirdre, my child! my darling! I have
let love and longing blind my eyes. I left the
mountain home of the gods for Emain Macha, and
to plot for your return. I—I deceived the king. I
told him your loveliness was passed, and the time of
the prophecy gone by. I thought when you came
all would be well. I thought wildly, for love had
made a blindness in my heart; and now the king
has discovered the deceit; and, oh! he has gone
away in wrath, and soon his terrible hand will fall!
Deirdre. It was not love made you all blind, but the
high gods have deserted us, and the demons draw
us into a trap. They have lured us from Alba, and
they hover here above us in red clouds—cloud
upon cloud—and await the sacrifice.
Lavarcam. Oh,it is not yet too late! Where is Fergus?
The king dare not war on Fergus. Fergus is our
Deirdre. Fergus has bartered his honour for a feast.
He remained with Baruch, that he might boast he
never refused the wine cup. He feasts with Baruch,
and the Lights of Valour who put their trust
in him—must die.
Buinne. Fergus never bartered his honour. I do pro-
test, girl, against your speech. The name of
Fergus alone would protect you throughout all Eri;
how much mere here, where he is champion in
10 THE GREEN SHEAF SUPPLEMENT TO No. 7.
Ulla. Come, brother, we are none of us needed
here. (Buinne leaves the room.)
Deirdre. Father and son alike desert us! O foster-
mother, is this the end of all? Is there no way
out? Is there no way out?
Ilann. I will not desert you, Deirdre, while I can still
thrust a spear. But you fear overmuch without a
Lavarcam. Bar up the door, and close the windows. I
will send a swift messenger for Fergus. If you
hold the dun until Fergus comes, all will yet be well.
(Lavarcam hurries out.)
Deirdre (going to Naisi). Naisi, do you not hear?
Let the door be barred! Ainle and Ardan, are you
still all blind? Oh! must I close them with my
own hand? (Deirdre goes to the window, and lays her
hand on the bars. Naisi follows her.)
Naisi. Deirdre, in your girlhood you have not known
of the ways of the Red Branch. This thing you
fear is unheard of in Ulla. The king may be wrath-
ful; but the word, once passed, is inviolate. If he
whispered treachery to one of the Red Branch he
would not be Ardrie to-morrow. Nay, leave the
window unbarred, or they will say the sons of Usna
have returned timid as birds! Come; we are
enough protection for thee. See, here is the chess-
board of Concobar, with which he is wont to divine,
playing a lonely game with fate. The pieces are
set. We will finish the game, and so pass the time
until the feast is ready. (He sits down.) The golden
pieces are yours, and the silver mine.
Ainle (looking at the board). You have given Deirdre
the weaker side.
Naisi. Deirdre always plays with more cunning skill.
Deirdre. O fearless one, if he who set the game played
with fate, the victory is already fixed, and no skill
Naisi. We will see if Concobar has favourable omens.
It is geasa for him always to play with silver pieces.
I will follow his game. It is your move. Dear one,
will you not smile? Surely, against Concobar you
will play well.
Deirdre. It is too late. See, everywhere my king is
Ardan. Nay, your game is not lost. If you move your
king back all will be well.
Messenger (at the door). I bear a message from the
Ardrie to the sons of Usna.
Naisi. Speak out thy message, man. Why does thy
voice tremble? Who art thou? I do not know
thee. Thou art not one of the Red Branch. Con-
cobar is not wont to send messages to kings by such
Messenger. The Red Branch are far from Emain
Macha—but it matters not. The king has com-
manded me to speak thus to the sons of Usna. You
have broken the law of Ulla when you stole away
the daughter of Felim. You have broken the law
of the Red Branch when you sent lying messages
through Lavarcam plotting to return. The king
commands that the daughter of Felim be given up,
Ainle. Are we to listen to this?
Ardan. My spear will fly of itself if he does not depart.
Naisi. Nay, brother; he is only a slave. (To the
Messenger.) Return to Concobar, and tell him that
to-morrow the Red Branch will choose another
chief. There; why dost thou wait? Begone! (To
Deirdre.) Oh, wise woman, truly did you see the
rottenness in this king!
Deirdre. Why did you not take my counsel, Naisi?
For now it is too late—too late.
Naisi. There is naught to fear. One of us could hold
this dun against a thousand of Concobar’s house-
hold slaves. When Fergus comes to-morrow, there
will be another king in Emain Macha.
Ilann. It is true, Deirdre. One of us is enough for
Concobar’s household slaves. I will keep watch at
the door, while you play at peace with Naisi.
(Ilann lifts the curtain of the door and goes outside.
The play at chess begins again. Ainle and Ardan
Ainle. Naisi, you play wildly. See, your queen will
be taken. (A disturbance without, and the clash of
Ilann (without). Keep back! Do you dare?
Naisi. Ah! the slaves come on, driven by the false
Ardrie! When the game is finished, we will sweep
them back, and slay them in the Royal House,
before Concobar’s eyes. Play! You forget to
move, Deirdre. (The clash of arms is renewed.)
Ilann (without). Oh! I am wounded. Ainle! Ardan!
To the door! (Ainle and Ardan rush out. The
clash of arms renewed.)
Deirdre. Naisi, I cannot. I cannot. The end of all has
come. Oh, Naisi! (She flings her arms across the
table, scattering the pieces over the board.)
Naisi. If the end has come, we should meet it with calm.
It is not with sighing and tears the Clan Usna
should depart. You have not played this game as it
ought to be played.
Deirdre. Your pride is moulded and set like a pillar of
bronze. O warrior, I was no mate for you. I am
only a woman, who has given her life into your
hands; and you chide me for my love.
Naisi (caressing her head with his hands). Poor timid
dove, I had forgotten thy weakness. I did not mean
to wound thee, my heart. Oh, many will shed hotter
tears than these for thy sorrow! They will perish
swiftly who made Naisi’s queen to weep! (He
snatches up a spear, and rushes out. There are cries,
and then a silence.)
Lavarcam (entering hurriedly). Bear Deirdre swiftly
away through the night. (She stops and looks around.)
Where are the sons of Usna? Oh! I stepped over
many dead bodies at the door. Surely the Lights
of Valour were not so soon overcome! Oh, my
darling! come away with me out of this terrible
Deirdre (slowly). What did you say of the Lights of
Valour? That—they—were dead—? (Naisi, Ainle,
and Ardan re-enter. Deirdre clings to Naisi.)
Naisi. My gentle one, do not look so pale, or wound
me with those terror-stricken eyes. Those base
slaves are all fled! Truly, Concobar is a mighty
king, without the Red Branch!
Lavarcam. Oh, do not linger here. Bear Deirdre away
while there is time. You can escape through the
city in the silence of the night. The king has called
for his druids: soon the magic of Cathvah will
enfold you, and your strength will be all withered
Naisi. I will not leave Emain Macha until the head of
this false king is apart from his shoulders. A spear
THE GREEN SHEAF SUPPLEMENT TO No. 7. 11
can pass as swiftly through his druid as through one
of his slaves. Oh, Cathvah, the old mumbler of
spells and of false prophecies, who caused Deirdre
to be taken from her mother’s breast! Truly, I
owe a deep debt to Cathvah, and I will repay it.
Lavarcam. If you love Deirdre, do not let pride and
wrath stay your flight. You have but an instant to
fly. You can return with Fergus and a host of
warriors in the dawn. You do not know the power
of Cathvah. Surely, if you do not depart, Deirdre
will fall into the king’s hands, and it were better she
had died in her mother’s womb.
Deirdre. Naisi, let us leave this house of death. (The
sound of footsteps without.)
Lavarcam. It is too late. (Ainle and Ardan start to the
door, but are stayed at the sound of Cathvah’s voice.
Deirdre clings to Naisi.)
Cathvah (chanting without.)
Let the Faed Fia fall;
Mananaun Mac Lir.
Take back the day
Amid days unremembered.
Over the warring mind
Let thy Faed Fia fall,
Mananaun Mac Lir.
Naisi. Why dost thou weep, Deirdre, and cling to me
so? The sea is calm. To-morrow we will rest
safely at Emain Macha, with the great Ardrie, who
has forgiven all.
Lavarcam. The darkness is upon his mind. Oh, poor
Let thy waves rise,
Mananaun Mac Lir.
Let the earth fail
Beneath their feet.
Let thy waves flow over them,
Lord of ocean.
Naisi. Our galley is sinking—and no land in sight! I
did not think the end would come so soon. O pale
love, take courage. Is death so bitter to thee? We
shall go down in each other’s arms; our hearts
shall beat out their love together; and the last of
life we shall know will be our kisses on each other’s
lips. (Ainle and Ardan stagger outside. There is a
sound of blows and a low cry.) Ainle and Ardan have
sunk in the waters! We are alone. Still weeping!
My bird, my bird, soon we shall fly together to the
bright kingdom in the West, to Hy Brazil, amid the
Deirdre. Naisi, Naisi, shake off the magic dream. It
is here in Emain Macha we are. There are no
waters. The spell of the druid and his terrible
chant have made a mist about your eyes.
Naisi. Her mind is wandering. She is distraught with
terror of the king. There, rest your head on my
heart. Hush ! hush! The waters are flowing
upward swiftly. Soon, when all is over, you will
laugh at your terror. The great Ardrie will sorrow
over our death.
Deirdre. I cannot speak. Lavarcam, can you
not break the enchantment?
Lavarcam. My limbs are fixed here by the spell.
Naisi. There was music a while ago. The swans of
Lir, with their slow, sweet, faery singing. There
never was a sadder tale than theirs. They must
roam for ages, driven on the Sea of Moyle, while
we shall go hand in hand through the country of
immortal youth. And there is Mananaun, the dark
blue king, who looks at us with a smile of welcome.
Ildathach is lit up with its shining mountains, and
the golden phantoms are leaping there in the dawn.
There is a path made for us! Come, Deirdre, the
god has made for us an island on the sea. (Naisi
goes through the door, and falls back smitten by a spear-
thrust.) The druid Cathvah! The king! O
Deirdre! (He dies. Deirdre bends over the body,
taking the hands in hers.)
Lavarcam. O gentle heart, thy wounds will be more
bitter than his. Speak but a word. That silent
sorrow will kill thee and me. My darling, it was
fate, and I was not to blame. Come, it will comfort
thee to weep beside my breast. Leave the dead for
vengeance, for heavy is the vengeance that shall fall
on this ruthless king.
Deirdre. I do not fear Concobar any more. My spirit
is sinking away from the world. I could not stay
after Naisi. After the Lights of Valour had
vanished, how could I remain? The earth has
grown dim and old, fostermother. The gods have
gone far away, and the lights from the mountains,
and the Lions of the Flaming Heart are still. O
fostermother, when they heap the cairn over him,
let me be beside him in the narrow grave. I will
still be with the noble one. (Deirdre lays her head
on Naisi’s body. Concobar enters, standing in the
doorway. Lavarcam takes Deirdre’s hand and drops it.)
Lavarcam. Did you come to torture her with your
presence? Was not the death of Naisi cruelty
enough? But now she is past your power to wound.
Concobar. The death of Naisi was only the fulfilling of
the law. Ulla could not hold together if its ancient
laws were set aside.
Lavarcam. Do you think to bind men together when you
have broken their hearts? O fool, who would conquer
Eri! I see the Red Branch scattered, and all Eri
rent asunder, and thy memory a curse after many
thousand years. The gods have overthrown thy
dominion, proud king, with the last sigh from this
dead child; and of the pity for her they will build up
an eternal kingdom in the spirit of man. (An
uproar without and the clash of arms.)
Voices. Fergus! Fergus! Fergus!
Lavarcam. The avenger has come! So perishes the
Red Branch. (She hurries out wildly.)
Concobar (slowly, after a pause). I have two divided
kingdoms, and one is in my own heart. Thus do I
pay homage to thee, O Queen, who will rule, being
dead. (He bends over the body of Deirdre and kisses
Fergus (without.) Where is the traitor Ardrie? (Con-
cobar starts up, lifting his spear. Fergus appears at the
doorway, and the scene closes.)
Farncombe ＆ on, Printers, 76 Southbridge Road, Croydon.
A.E. [George Russell]. Deirdre: A Drama in Three Acts,” illustrated by Cecil French and Pamela Colman Smith. Supplement (np) to The Green Sheaf, No. 7, 1903. Green Sheaf Digital Edition, edited by Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, Yellow Nineties 2.0, Toronto Metropolitan University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2022. https://1890s.ca/GSV7-supplement1/