SCENE.--Hall in the house of COUNTESS CATHLEEN. At the Left an
oratory with steps leading up to it. At the Right a tapestried
wall, more or less repeating the form of the oratory, and a great
chair with its back against the wall. In the Centre are two or
more arches through which one can see dimly the trees of the
garden. CATHLEEN is kneeling in front of the altar in the
oratory; there is a hanging lighted lamp over the altar. ALEEL
ALEEL. I have come to bid you leave this castle and fly
Out of these woods.
CATHLEEN. What evil is there here?
That is not everywhere from this to the sea?
ALEEL. They who have sent me walk invisible.
CATHLEEN. So it is true what I have heard men say,
That you have seen and heard what others cannot.
ALEEL. I was asleep in my bed, and while I slept
My dream became a fire; and in the fire
One walked and he had birds about his head.
CATHLEEN. I have heard that one of the old gods walked so.
ALEEL. It may be that he is angelical;
And, lady, he bids me call you from these woods.
And you must bring but your old foster-mother,
And some few serving men, and live in the hills,
Among the sounds of music and the light
Of waters, till the evil days are done.
For here some terrible death is waiting you,
Some unimagined evil, some great darkness
That fable has not dreamt of, nor sun nor moon
CATHLEEN. No, not angelical.
ALEEL. This house
You are to leave with some old trusty man,
And bid him shelter all that starve or wander
While there is food and house room.
CATHLEEN. He bids me go
Where none of mortal creatures but the swan
Dabbles, and there 'you would pluck the harp, when the trees
Had made a heavy shadow about our door,
And talk among the rustling of the reeds,
When night hunted the foolish sun away
With stillness and pale tapers. No-no-no!
I cannot. Although I weep, I do not weep
Because that life would be most happy, and here
I find no way, no end. Nor do I weep
Because I had longed to look upon your face,
But that a night of prayer has made me weary.
ALEEL (.prostrating himself before her)
Let Him that made mankind, the angels and devils
And death and plenty, mend what He has made,
For when we labour in vain and eye still sees
Heart breaks in vain.
CATHLEEN. How would that quiet end?
ALEEL. How but in healing?
CATHLEEN. You have seen my tears
And I can see your hand shake on the floor.
ALEEL. (faltering) I thought but of healing. He was angelical.
CATHLEEN (turning away from him)
No, not angelical, but of the old gods,
Who wander about the world to waken the heart
The passionate, proud heart--that all the angels,
Leaving nine heavens empty, would rock to sleep.
(She goes to chapel door; ALEEL holds his clasped hands towards
her for a moment hesitating, and then lets them fall beside him.)
CATHLEEN. Do not hold out to me beseeching hands.
This heart shall never waken on earth. I have sworn,
By her whose heart the seven sorrows have pierced,
To pray before this altar until my heart
Has grown to Heaven like a tree, and there
Rustled its leaves, till Heaven has saved my people.
ALEEL. (who has risen)
When one so great has spoken of love to one'
So little as I, though to deny him love,
What can he but hold out beseeching hands,
Then let them fall beside him, knowing how greatly
They have overdared?
(He goes towards the door of the hall. The COUNTESS CATHLEEN
takes a few steps towards him.)
CATHLEEN. If the old tales are true,
Queens have wed shepherds and kings beggar-maids;
God's procreant waters flowing about your mind
Have made you more than kings or queens; and not you
But I am the empty pitcher.
ALEEL. Being silent,
I have said all, yet let me stay beside you.
CATHLEEN.No, no, not while my heart is shaken. No,
But you shall hear wind cry and water cry,
And curlews cry, and have the peace I longed for.
ALEEL. Give me your hand to kiss.
CATHLEEN. I kiss your forehead.
And yet I send you from me. Do not speak;
There have been women that bid men to rob
Crowns from the Country-under-Wave or apples
Upon a dragon-guarded hill, and all
That they might sift men's hearts and wills,
And trembled as they bid it, as I tremble
That lay a hard task on you, that you go,
And silently, and do not turn your head;
Goodbye; but do not turn your head and look;
Above all else, I would not have you look.
I never spoke to him of his wounded hand,
And now he is gone.
(She looks out.)
I cannot see him, for all is dark outside.
Would my imagination and my heart
Were as little shaken as this holy flame!
(She goes slowly into the
chapel. The two MERCHANTS enter.)
FIRST MERCHANT. Although I bid you rob her treasury,
I find you sitting drowsed and motionless,
And yet you understand that while it's full
She'll bid against us and so bribe the poor
That our great Master'll lack his merchandise.
You know that she has brought into this house
The old and ailing that are pinched the most
At such a time and so should be bought cheap.
You've seen us sitting in the house in the wood,
While the snails crawled about the window-pane
And the mud floor, and not a soul to buy;
Not even the wandering fool's nor one of those
That when the world goes wrong must rave and talk,
Until they are as thin as a cat's ear.
But all that's nothing; you sit drowsing there
With your back hooked, your chin upon your knees.
SECOND MERCHANT. How could I help it? For she prayed so hard
I could not cross the threshold till her lover
Had turned her thoughts to dream.
FIRST MERCHANT, Well, well, to labour.
There is the treasury door and time runs on.
(SECOND MERCHANT goes Out. FIRST MERCHANT sits cross-legged
against a pillar, yawns and stretches.)
FIRST MERCHANT. And so I must endure the weight of the world,
Far from my Master and the revelry,
That's lasted since--shaped as a worm--he bore
The knowledgable pippin in his mouth
To the first woman.
(SECOND MERCHANT returns with bags.)
Where are those dancers gone?
They knew they were to carry it on their backs.
SECOND MERCHANT. I heard them breathing but a moment since,
But now they are gone, being unsteadfast things.
FIRST MERCHANT. They knew their work. It seems that they imagine
We'd do such wrong to our great Master's name
As to bear burdens on our backs as men do.
I'll call them, and who'll dare to disobey?
Come, all you elemental populace
From Cruachan and Finbar's ancient house.
Come, break up the long dance under the hill,
Or if you lie in the hollows of the sea,
Leave lonely the long hoarding surges, leave
The cymbals of the waves to clash alone,
And shaking the sea-tangles from your hair
Gather about us.
(The SPIRITS gather under the arches.)
SECOND MERCHANT. They come. Be still a while.
(SPIRITS dance and sing.)
FIRST SPIRIT. (singing) Our hearts are sore, but we come
Because we have heard you call.
SECOND SPIRIT. Sorrow has made me dumb.
FIRST SPIRIT. Her shepherds at nightfall
Lay many a plate and cup
Down by the trodden brink,
That when the dance break up
We may have meat and drink.
Therefore our hearts are sore;
And though we have heard and come
Our crying filled the shore.
SECOND SPIRIT. Sorrow has made me dumb.
FIRST MERCHANT. What lies in the waves should be indifferent
To good and evil, and yet it seems that these,
Forgetful of their pure, impartial sea,
Take sides with her.
SECOND MERCHANT. Hush, hush, and still your feet.
You are not now upon Maeve's dancing-floor.
A SPIRIT. O, look what I have found, a string of pearls!
(They begin taking jewels out of bag.)
SECOND MERCHANT. You must not touch them, put them in the bag,
And now take up the bags upon your backs
And carry them to Shemus Rua's house
On the wood's border.
SPIRITS. No, no, no, no!
FIRST SPIRIT. No, no, let us away;
From this we shall not come
Cry out to' us who may.
SECOND SPIRIT. Sorrow has made me dumb.
SECOND MERCHANT. They're gone, for little do they care for me,
And if I called they would but turn and mock,
But you they dare not disobey.
FIRST MERCHANT (rising) These dancers
Are always the most troublesome of spirits.
(He comes down the stage and stands facing the arches. He makes a
gesture of command. The SPIRITS come back whimpering. They lift
the bags and go out. Three speak as they are taking ub the bags.
FIRST SPIRIT. From this day out we'll never dance again.
SECOND SPIRIT. Never again.
THIRD SPIRIT. Sorrow has made me dumb.
SECOND MERCHANT (looking into chapel door)
She has heard nothing; she has fallen asleep.
Our lord would be well pleased if we could win her.
Now that the winds are heavy with our kind,
Might we not kill her, and bear off her spirit
Before the mob of angels were astir?
FIRST MERCHANT. If we would win this turquoise for our lord
It must go dropping down of its free will
But I've a plan.
SECOND MERCHANT. To take her soul to-night?
FIRST MERCHANT. Because I am of the ninth and mightiest hell
Where are all kings, I have a plan.
SECOND MERCHANT. Too late;
For somebody is stirring in the house; the noise
That the sea creatures made as they came hither,
Their singing and their endless chattering,
Has waked the house. I hear the chairs pushed back,
And many shuffling feet. All the old men and women
She's gathered in the house are coming hither.
A VOICE. (within) It was here.
ANOTHER VOICE. No, farther away.
ANOTHER VOICE. It was in the western tower.
ANOTHER VOICE. Come quickly, we will search the western tower.
FIRST MERCHANT. We still have time--they search the distant rooms.
SECOND MERCHANT. Brother, I heard a sound in there--a sound
That troubles me.
(Going to the door of the oratory and peering through it.)
Upon the altar steps The Countess tosses, murmuring in her sleep
A broken Paternoster.
FIRST MERCHANT. Do not fear,
For when she has awaked the prayer will cease.
SECOND MERCHANT. What, would you wake her?
FIRST MERCHANT. I will speak with her,
And mix with all her thoughts a thought to serve.--
Lady, we've news that's crying out for speech.
(CATHLEEN wakes and comes to door of the chapel.)
Cathleen. Who calls?
FIRST MERCHANT. We have brought news.
CATHLEEN. What are you?
We are merchants, and we know the book of the world
Because we have walked upon its leaves; and there
Have read of late matters that much concern you;
And noticing the castle door stand open,
Came in to find an ear.
CATHLEEN. The door stands open,
That no one who is famished or afraid,
Despair of help or of a welcome with it.
But you have news, you say.
FIRST MERCHANT. We saw a man,
Heavy with sickness in the bog of Allen,
Whom you had bid buy cattle. Near Fair Head
We saw your grain ships lying all becalmed
In the dark night; and not less still than they,
Burned all their mirrored lanthorns in the sea.
CATHLEEN.. My thanks to God, to Mary and the angels,
That I have money in my treasury,
And can buy grain from those who have stored it up
To prosper on the hunger of the poor.
But you've been far and know the signs of things,
When will this yellow vapour no more hang
And creep about the fields, and this great heat
Vanish away, and grass show its green shoots?
FIRST MERCHANT. There is no sign of change--day copies day,
Green things are dead--the cattle too are dead
Or dying--and on all the vapour hangs,
And fattens with disease and glows with heat.
In you is all the hope of all the land.
CATHLEEN. And heard you of the demons who buy souls?
There are some men who hold they have wolves' heads,
And say their limbs--dried by the infinite flame--
Have all the speed of storms; others, again,
Say they are gross and little; while a few
Will have it they seem much as mortals are,
But tall and brown and travelled--like us--lady,
Yet all agree a power is in their looks
That makes men bow, and flings a casting-net
About their souls, and that all men would go
And barter those poor vapours, were it not
You bribe them with the safety of your gold.
CATHLEEN. Praise be to God, to Mary, and the angels
That I am wealthy! Wherefore do they sell?
FIRST MERCHANT. As we came in at the great door we saw
Your porter sleeping in his niche--a soul
Too little to be worth a hundred pence,
And yet they buy it for a hundred crowns.
But for a soul like yours, I heard them say,
They would give five hundred thousand crowns and more.
CATHLEEN. How can a heap of crowns pay for a soul?
Is the green grave so terrible a thing?
FIRST MERCHANT. Some sell because the money gleams, and some
Because they are in terror of the grave,
And some because their neighbours sold before,
And some because there is a kind of joy
In casting hope away, in losing joy,
In ceasing all resistance, in at last
Opening one's arms to the eternal flames,
In casting all sails out upon the wind;
To this--full of the gaiety of the lost--
Would all folk hurry if your gold were gone.
CATHLEEN. There is something, Merchant, in your voice
That makes me fear. When you were telling how
A man may lose his soul and lose his God
Your eyes were lighted up, and when you told
How my poor money serves the people, both--
Merchants forgive me--seemed to smile.
FIRST MERCHANT. Man's sins
Move us to laughter only; we have seen
So many lands and seen so many men.
How strange that all these people should be swung
As on a lady's shoe-string,--under them
The glowing leagues of never-ending flame.
CATHLEEN. There is a something in you that I fear;
A something not of us; but were you not born
In some most distant corner of the world?
(The SECOND MERCHANT, who has been listening at the door, comes
forward, and as he comes a sound of voices and feet is heard.)
SECOND MERCHANT. Away now--they are in the passage--hurry,
For they will know us, and freeze up our hearts
With Ave Marys, and burn all our skin
With holy water.
FIRST MERCHANT. Farewell; for we must ride
Many a mile before the morning come;
Our horses beat the ground impatiently.
(They go out. A number of PEASANTs enter by other door.)
FIRST PEASANT. Forgive us, lady, but we heard a noise.
SECOND PEASANT. We sat by the fireside telling vanities.
We heard a noise, but though we have searched the house
We have found nobody.
CATHLEEN. You are too timid.
For now you are safe from all the evil times.
There is no evil that can find you here.
OONA (entering hurriedly)
Ochone! Ochone! The treasure room is broken in,
The door stands open, and the gold is gone.
(PEASANTS raise a lamentable cry.)
CATHLEEN. Be silent.
(The cry ceases.)
Have you seen nobody?
That my good mistress should lose all this money.
CATHLEEN. Let those among you--not too old to ride--
Get horses and search all the country round,
I'll give a farm to him who finds the thieves.
(A man with keys at his girdle has come in while she speaks.
There is a general murmur of The Porter! the porter!")
PORTER. Demons were here. I sat beside the door
In my stone niche, and two owls passed me by,
Whispering with human voices.
OLD PEASANT. God forsakes us.
CATHLEEN. Old man, old man, He never closed a door
Unless one opened. I am desolate,
For a most sad resolve wakes in my heart
But I have still my faith; therefore be silent
For surely He does not forsake the world,
But stands before it modelling in the clay
And moulding there His image. Age by age
The clay wars with His fingers and pleads hard
For its old, heavy, dull and shapeless ease;
But sometimes--though His hand is on it still--
It moves awry and demon hordes are born.
(PEASANTS cross themselves.)
Yet leave me now, for I am desolate,
I hear a whisper from beyond the thunder.
(She comes from the oratory door.)
Yet stay an instant. When we meet again
I may have grown forgetful. Oona, take
These two--the larder and the dairy keys.
(To the PORTER.)
But take you this. It opens the small room
Of herbs for medicine, of hellebore,
Of vervain, monkshood, plantain, and self-heal.
The book of cures is on the upper shelf.
PORTER. Why do you do this, lady; did you see
Your coffin in a dream?
CATHLEEN. Ah, no, not that.
A sad resolve wakes in me. I have heard
A sound of wailing in unnumbered hovels,
And I must go down, down--I know not where--
Pray for all men and women mad from famine;
Pray, you good neighbours.
(The PEASANTS all kneel. COUNTESS CATHLEEN ascends the steps to
the door of the oratory, and turning round stands there
motionless for a little, and then cries in a loud voice :)
Mary, Queen of angels,
And all you clouds on clouds of saints, farewell!
END OF SCENE 3.