SCENE.--The house of SHEMUS RUA. There is an alcove at the back
with curtains; in it a bed, and on the bed is the body of MARY
with candles round it. The two MERCHANTS while they speak put a
large book upon a table, arrange money, and so on.
FIRST MERCHANT. Thanks to that lie I told about her ships
And that about the herdsman lying sick,
We shall be too much thronged with souls to-morrow.
SECOND MERCHANT. What has she in her coffers now but mice?
FIRST MERCHANT. When the night fell and I had shaped myself
Into the image of the man-headed owl,
I hurried to the cliffs of Donegal,
And saw with all their canvas full of wind
And rushing through the parti-coloured sea
Those ships that bring the woman grain and meal.
They're but three days from us.
SECOND MERCHANT. When the dew rose
I hurried in like feathers to the east,
And saw nine hundred oxen driven through Meath
With goads of iron, They're but three days from us.
FIRST MERCHANT. Three days for traffic.
(PEASANTS crowd in with TEIG and SHEMUS.)
SHEMUS. Come in, come in, you are welcome.
That is my wife. She mocked at my great masters,
And would not deal with them. Now there she is;
She does not even know she was a fool,
So great a fool she was.
TEIG. She would not eat
One crumb of bread bought with our master's money,
But lived on nettles, dock, and dandelion.
SHEMUS. There's nobody could put into her head
That Death is the worst thing can happen us.
Though that sounds simple, for her tongue grew rank
With all the lies that she had heard in chapel.
Draw to the curtain.
(TEIG draws it.)
You'll not play the fool
While these good gentlemen are there to save you.
Since the drought came they drift about in a throng,
Like autumn leaves blown by the dreary winds.
Come, deal--come, deal.
FIRST MERCHANT. Who will come deal with us?
SHEMUS. They are out of spirit, Sir, with lack of food,
Save four or five. Here, sir, is one of these;
The others will gain courage in good time.
MIDDLE-AGED-MAN. I come to deal--if you give honest price.
FIRST MERCHANT (reading in a book)
John Maher, a man of substance, with dull mind,
And quiet senses and unventurous heart.
The angels think him safe." Two hundred crowns,
All for a soul, a little breath of wind.
THE MAN. I ask three hundred crowns. You have read there
That no mere lapse of days can make me yours.
There is something more writ here--"often at night
He is wakeful from a dread of growing poor,
And thereon wonders if there's any man
That he could rob in safety."
A PEASANT. Who'd have thought it?
And I was once alone with him at midnight.
ANOTHER PEASANT. I will not trust my mother after this.
FIRST MERCHANT. There is this crack in you--two hundred crowns.
A PEASANT. That's plenty for a rogue.
ANOTHER PEASANT. I'd give him nothing.
SHEMUS. You'll get no more--so take what's offered you.
(A general murmur, during which the MIDDLE-AGED-MAN takes money,
and slips into background, where he sinks on to a seat.)
FIRST MERCHANT. Has no one got a better soul than that?
If only for the credit of your parishes, Traffic with us.
A WOMAN. What will you give for mine?
FIRST MERCHANT (reading in book)
"Soft, handsome, and still young "--not much, I think."
It's certain that the man she's married to
Knows nothing of what's hidden in the jar
Between the hour-glass and the pepper-pot."
THE WOMAN. The scandalous book.
FIRST MERCHANT. "Nor how when he's away
At the horse fair the hand that wrote what's hid
Will tap three times upon the window-pane."
THE WOMAN. And if there is a letter, that is no reason
Why I should have less money than the others.
FIRST MERCHANT. You're almost safe, I give you fifty crowns
(She turns to go.)
A hundred, then.
SHEMUS. Woman, have sense-come, Come.
Is this a time to haggle at the price?
There, take it up. There, there. That's right.
(She takes them and goes into the crowd.)
FIRST MERCHANT. Come, deal, deal, deal. It is but for charity
We buy such souls at all; a thousand sins
Made them our Master's long before we came.
ALEEL. Here, take my soul, for I am tired of it.
I do not ask a price.
SHEMUS. Not ask a price?
How can you sell your soul without a price?
I would not listen to his broken wits;
His love for Countess Cathleen has so crazed him
He hardly understands what he is saying.
ALEEL. The trouble that has come on Countess Cathleen,
The sorrow that is in her wasted face,
The burden in her eyes, have broke my wits,
And yet I know I'd have you take my soul.
FIRST MERCHANT. We cannot take your soul, for it is hers.
ALEEL. No. but you must. Seeing it cannot help her
I have grown tired of it.
FIRST MERCHANT. Begone from me
I may not touch it.
ALEEL. Is your power so small?
And must I bear it with me all my days?
May you be scorned and mocked!
FIRST MERCHANT. Drag him away.
He troubles me.
(TEIG and SHEMUS lead ALEEL into the crowd.)
SECOND MERCHANT. His gaze has filled me, brother,
With shaking and a dreadful fear.
FIRST MERCHANT. Lean forward
And kiss the circlet where my Master's lips
Were pressed upon it when he sent us hither;
You shall have peace once more.
(SECOND MERCHANT kisses the gold circlet that is about the
head of the FIRST MERCHANT.)
I, too, grow weary,
But there is something moving in my heart
Whereby I know that what we seek the most
Is drawing near--our labour will soon end.
Come, deal, deal, deal, deal, deal; are you all dumb?
What, will you keep me from our ancient home
And from the eternal revelry?
SECOND MERCHANT. Deal, deal.
SHEMUS. They say you beat the woman down too low.
FIRST MERCHANT. I offer this great price: a-thousand crowns
For an old woman who was always ugly.
(An Old PEASANT WOMAN comes forward, and he takes up a book and
There is but little set down here against her.
"She has stolen eggs and fowl when times were bad,
But when the times grew better has confessed it;
She never missed her chapel of a Sunday
And when she could, paid dues." Take up your money.
OLD WOMAN. God bless you, Sir.
Oh, sir, a pain went through me!
FIRST MERCHANT. That name is like a fire to all damned souls.
(Murmur among the PEASANTS, who shrink back from her as she goes
A PEASANT. How she screamed out!
SECOND PEASANT. And maybe we shall scream so.
THIRD PEASANT. I tell you there is no such place as hell.
FIRST MERCHANT. Can such a trifle turn you from your profit?
Come, deal; come, deal,
MIDDLE-AGED MAN. Master, I am afraid.
FIRST MERCHANT. I bought your soul, and there's no sense in fear
Now the soul's gone.
MIDDLE-AGED MAN. Give me my soul again.
WOMAN (going on her knees and clinging to MERCHANT)
And take this money too, and give me mine.
SECOND MERCHANT. Bear bastards, drink or follow some wild fancy;
For sighs and cries are the soul's work,
And you have none.
(Throws the woman off.)
PEASANT. Come, let's away.
ANOTHER PEASANT. Yes, yes.
ANOTHER PEASANT. Come quickly; if that woman had not screamed
I would have lost my soul.
ANOTHER PEASANT. Come, come away.
(They turn to door, but are stopped by shouts of "Countess
Cathleen! Countess Cathleen!")
CATHLEEN (entering) And so you trade once more?
FIRST MERCHANT. In spite of you.
What brings you here, saint with the sapphire eyes?
CATHLEEN. I come to barter a soul for a great price.
SECOND MERCHANT. What matter, if the soul be worth the price?
CATHLEEN. The people starve, therefore the people go
Thronging to you. I hear a cry come from them
And it is in my ears by night and day,
And I would have five hundred thousand crowns
That I may feed them till the dearth go by.
FIRST MERCHANT. . It may be the soul's worth it.
CATHLEEN. There is more:
The souls that you have bought must be set free.
FIRST MERCHANT. We know of but one soul that's worth the price.
CATHLEEN. Being my own it seems a priceless thing.
SECOND MERCHANT. You offer us--
CATHLEEN. I offer my own soul.
A PEASANT. Do not, do not, for souls the like of ours
Are not precious to God as your soul is.
O! what would Heaven do without you, lady?
Look how their claws clutch in their leathern gloves.
FIRST MERCHANT. Five hundred thousand crowns; we give the price.
The gold is here; the souls even while you speak
Have slipped out of our bond, because your face
Has shed a light on them and filled their hearts.
But you must sign, for we omit no form
In buying a soul like yours.
SECOND MERCHANT. Sign with this quill.
It was a feather growing on the cock
That crowed when Peter dared deny his Master,
And all who use it have great honour in Hell.
(CATHLEEN leans forward to sign.)
ALEEL (rushing forward and snatching the parchment from her)
Leave all things to the builder of the heavens.
CATHLEEN. I have no thoughts; I hear a cry--a cry.
ALEEL (casting the parchment on the ground)
I have seen a vision under a green hedge,
A hedge of hips and haws-men yet shall hear
The Archangels rolling Satan's empty skull
Over the mountain-tops.
FIRST MERCHANT. Take him away.
(TEIG and SHEMUS drag him roughly away so that he falls upon the
floor among the PEASANTS. CATHLEEN picks up parchment and signs,
then turns towards the PEASANTS.)
CATHLEEN. Take up the money, and now come with me;
When we are far from this polluted place
I will give everybody money enough.
(She goes out, the PEASANTS crowding round her and kissing her
dress. ALEEL and the two MERCHANTS are left alone.)
SECOND MERCHANT. We must away and wait until she dies,
Sitting above her tower as two grey owls,
Waiting as many years as may be, guarding
Our precious jewel; waiting to seize her soul.
FIRST MERCHANT. We need but hover over her head in the air,
For she has only minutes. When she signed
Her heart began to break. Hush, hush, I hear
The brazen door of Hell move on its hinges,
And the eternal revelry float hither
To hearten us.
SECOND MERCHANT. Leap feathered on the air
And meet them with her soul caught in your claws.
(They rush Out. ALEEL crawls into the middle of the room. The
twilight has fallen and gradually darkens as the scene goes on.
There is a distant muttering of thunder and a sound of rising
ALEEL. The brazen door stands wide, and Balor comes
Borne in his heavy car, and demons have lifted
The age-weary eyelids from the eyes that of old
Turned gods to stone; Barach, the traitor, comes
And the lascivious race, Cailitin,
That cast a druid weakness and decay
Over Sualtem's and old Dectera's child;
And that great king Hell first took hold upon
When he killed Naisi and broke Deirdre's heart,
And all their heads are twisted to one side,
For when they lived they warred on beauty and peace
With obstinate, crafty, sidelong bitterness.
(He moves about as though the air was full of spirits. OONA
Crouch down, old heron, out of the blind storm.
OONA. Where is the Countess Cathleen? All this day
Her eyes were full of tears, and when for a moment
Her hand was laid upon my hand it trembled,
And now I do not know where she is gone.
ALEEL. Cathleen has chosen other friends than us,
And they are rising through the hollow world.
Demons are out, old heron.
OONA. God guard her soul.
ALEEL. She's bartered it away this very hour,
As though we two were never in the world.
And they are rising through the hollow world.
(He Points downward.)
First, Orchill, her pale, beautiful head alive,
Her body shadowy as vapour drifting
Under the dawn, for she who awoke desire
Has but a heart of blood when others die;
About her is a vapoury multitude
Of women alluring devils with soft laughter
Behind her a host heat of the blood made sin,
But all the little pink-white nails have grown
To be great talons.
(He seizes OONA and drags her into the middle of the room
and Points downward with vehement gestures. The wind roars.)
They begin a song
And there is still some music on their tongues.
OONA (casting herself face downwards on the floor)
O, Maker of all, protect her from the demons,
And if a soul must need be lost, take mine.
(ALEEL kneels beside her, but does not seem to hear her words.
The PEASANTS return. They carry the COUNTESS CATHLEEN and lay
her upon the ground before OONA and ALEEL. She lies there as if
OONA. O, that so many pitchers of rough clay
Should prosper and the porcelain break in two!
(She kisses the hands of CATHLEEN.)
A PEASANT. We were under the tree where the path turns,
When she grew pale as death and fainted away.
And while we bore her hither cloudy gusts
Blackened the world and shook us on our feet
Draw the great bolt, for no man has beheld
So black, bitter, blinding, and sudden a storm.
(One who is near the door draws the bolt.)
CATHLEEN. O, hold me, and hold me tightly, for the storm
Is dragging me away.
(OONA takes her in her arms. A WOMAN begins to wail.)
PEASANT WOMEN Hush!
OTHER PEASANT WOMEN Hush!
CATHLEEN (half rising) Lay all the bags of money in a heap,
And when I am gone, old Oona, share them out
To every man and woman: judge, and give
According to their needs.
A PEASANT WOMAN. And will she give
Enough to keep my children through the dearth?
ANOTHER PEASANT WOMAN.
O, Queen of Heaven, and all you blessed saints,
Let us and ours be lost so she be shriven.
CATHLEEN. Bend down your faces, Oona and Aleel;
I gaze upon them as the swallow gazes
Upon the nest under the eave, before
She wander the loud waters. Do not weep
Too great a while, for there is many a candle
On the High Altar though one fall. Aleel,
Who sang about the dancers of the woods,
That know not the hard burden of the world,
Having but breath in their kind bodies, farewell
And farewell, Oona, you who played with me,
And bore me in your arms about the house
When I was but a child and therefore happy,
Therefore happy, even like those that dance.
The storm is in my hair and I must go.
OONA. Bring me the looking-glass.
(A WOMAN brings it to her out of the inner room. OONA holds it
over the lips Of CATHLEEN. All is silent for a moment. And then
she speaks in a half scream:)
O, she is dead!
A PEASANT. She was the great white lily of the world.
A PEASANT. She was more beautiful than the pale stars.
AN OLD PEASANT WOMAN. The little plant I love is broken in two.
(ALEEL takes looking-glass from OONA and flings it upon the floor
so that it is broken in many pieces.)
ALEEL. I shatter you in fragments, for the face
That brimmed you up with beauty is no more:
And die, dull heart, for she whose mournful words
Made you a living spirit has passed away
And left you but a ball of passionate dust.
And you, proud earth and plumy sea, fade out!
For you may hear no more her faltering feet,
But are left lonely amid the clamorous war
Of angels upon devils.
(He stands up; almost every one is kneeling, but it has grown so
dark that only confused forms can be seen.)
And I who weep
Call curses on you, Time and Fate and Change,
And have no excellent hope but the great hour
When you shall plunge headlong through bottomless space.
(A flash of lightning followed immediately by thunder.)
A PEASANT WOMAN. Pull him upon his knees before his curses
Have plucked thunder and lightning on our heads.
ALEEL. Angels and devils clash in the middle air,
And brazen swords clang upon brazen helms.
(A flash of lightning followed immediately by thunder.)
Yonder a bright spear, cast out of a sling,
Has torn through Balor's eye, and the dark clans
Fly screaming as they fled Moytura of old.
(Everything is lost in darkness.)
AN OLD MAN. The Almighty wrath at our great weakness and sin
Has blotted out the world and we must die.
(The darkness is broken by a visionary light. The PEASANTS seem
to be kneeling upon the rocky slope of a mountain, and
vapour full of storm and ever-changing light is sweeping above
them and behind them. Half in the light, haff in the shadow,
stand armed angels. Their armour is old and worn, and their
drawn swords dim and dinted. They stand as if upon the air
in formation of battle and look downward with stern faces.
The PEASANTS cast themselves on the ground.)
ALEEL. Look no more on the half-closed gates of Hell,
But speak to me, whose mind is smitten of God,
That it may be no more with mortal things,
And tell of her who lies there.
(He seizes one of the angels.)
Till you speak
You shall not drift into eternity.
THE ANGEL. The light beats down; the gates of pearl are wide.
And she is passing to the floor of peace,
And Mary of the seven times wounded heart
Has kissed her lips, and the long blessed hair
Has fallen on her face; The Light of Lights
Looks always on the motive, not the deed,
The Shadow of Shadows on the deed alone.
(ALEEL releases the ANGEL and kneels.)
OONA. Tell them who walk upon the floor of peace
That I would die and go to her I love;
The years like great black oxen tread the world,
And God the herdsman goads them on behind,
And I am broken by their passing feet.
(A sound of far-off horns seems to come from the heart of the
Light. The vision melts away, and the forms of the kneeling
PEASANTS appear faintly in the darkness.)