A Book of Myths

Page: 162

[Pg 332] And with him she went to where the head of Naoise lay, and tenderly she cleansed it from blood and from the stains of strife and stress, and smoothed the hair that was black as a raven’s wing, and kissed the cold lips again and again. And as she held it against her white breast, as a mother holds a little child, she chanted for Naoise, her heart, and for his brothers, a lament that still lives in the language of the Gael.

“Is it honour that ye love, brave and chivalrous Ultonians?
Or is the word of a base king better than noble truth?
Of a surety ye must be glad, who have basely slain honour
In slaying the three noblest and best of your brotherhood.

Let now my beauty that set all this warring aflame,
Let now my beauty be quenched as a torch that is spent—
For here shall I quench it, here, where my loved one lies,
A torch shall it be for him still through the darkness of death.”

Fiona Macleod’s Translation.

Then, at the bidding of Cuchulainn, the Ultonian, three graves were dug for the brothers, but the grave of Naoise was made wider than the others, and when he was placed in it, standing upright, with his head placed on his shoulders, Deirdrê stood by him and held him in her white arms, and murmured to him of the love that was theirs and of which not Death itself could rob them. And even as she spoke to him, merciful Death took her, and together they were buried. At that same hour a terrible cry was heard: “The Red Branch perisheth! Uladh passeth! Uladh passeth!” and when he had so spoken, the soul of Cathbad the Druid passed away.

[Pg 333] To the land of the Ultonians there came on the morrow a mighty host, and the Red Branch was wiped out for ever. Emain Macha was cast into ruins, and Conor died in a madness of sorrow.

And still, in that land of Erin where she died, still in the lonely cleuchs and glens, and up the mist-hung mountain sides of Loch Etive, where she knew her truest happiness, we can sometimes almost hear the wind sighing the lament: “Deirdrê the beautiful is dead ... is dead!”

“I hear a voice crying, crying, crying: is it the wind
I hear, crying its old weary cry time out of mind?
The grey wind weeps, the grey wind weeps, the grey wind weeps:
Dust on her breast, dust on her eyes, the grey wind weeps.

Fiona Macleod.