A Book of Myths

Page: 148

“Thou art not more sorrowful at parting from us than we are to part with you, dear Kemoc,” they said. And Finola said, “Bury us, I pray you, together.”

“As oft in life my brothers dear
Were sooth’d by me to rest—
Ficra and Conn beneath my wings,
And Aed before my breast;
So place the two on either hand—
Close, like the love that bound me;
Place Aed as close before my face,
And twine their arms around me.”


So Kemoc signed them in Holy Baptism with the blessed Cross, and even as the water touched their foreheads, and while his words were in their ears, death took them. And, as they passed, Kemoc looked up, and, behold, four beautiful children, their faces radiant with joy, and with white wings lined with silver, flying upwards to the clouds. And soon they vanished from his sight and he saw them no more.

He buried them as Finola had wished, and raised a mound over them, and carved their names on a stone.

And over it he sang a lament and prayed to the God of all love and purity, a prayer for the pure and loving souls of those who had been the children of Lîr.


[11] The North Channel.

[12] Erris, in Mayo.

[13] A small island off Benmullet.

[Pg 306]


“Her beauty filled the old world of the Gael with a sweet, wonderful, and abiding rumour. The name of Deirdrê has been as a harp to a thousand poets. In a land of heroes and brave and beautiful women, how shall one name survive? Yet to this day and for ever, men will remember Deirdrê....”

Fiona Macleod.

So long ago, that it was before the birth of our Lord, so says tradition, there was born that

“Morning star of loveliness,
Unhappy Helen of a Western land,”

who is known to the Celts of Scotland as Darthool, to those of Ireland as Deirdrê. As in the story of Helen, it is not easy, or even possible in the story of Deirdrê, to disentangle the old, old facts of actual history from the web of romantic fairy tale that time has woven about them, yet so great is the power of Deirdrê, even unto this day, that it has been the fond task of those men and women to whom the Gael owes so much, to preserve, and to translate for posterity, the tragic romance of Deirdrê the Beautiful and the Sons of Usna.

In many ancient manuscripts we get the story in more or less complete form. In the Advocates’ Library of Edinburgh, in the Glenmasan MS. we get the best and the fullest version, while the oldest and the shortest is to be found in the twelfth-century Book of Leinster.

[Pg 307] But those who would revel in the old tale and have Deirdrê lead them by the hand into the enchanted realm of the romance of misty, ancient days of our Western Isles must go for help to Fiona Macleod, to Alexander Carmichael, to Lady Gregory, to Dr. Douglas Hyde, to W. F. Skene, to W. B. Yeats, to J. M. Synge, and to those others who, like true descendants of the Druids, possess the power of unlocking the entrance gates of the Green Islands of the Blest.