War, the Liberator, and Other Pieces/The Remembered Gods
CHARACTERS IN THE PLAY
|Lior, God of the Sea.|
|Balor, God of War.|
|Angus, God of Love.|
|Alastair, a young stranger.|
|Mairi, daughter of Ian.|
Looks from another maiden’s eyes,
Where on the hills of Morven move
The kings too proud for Paradise;
Though to your ears the autumn brings
No sounds of crying, you will know
The murmur of immortal things
In this dark tale of long ago.
The song of Angus calls no more,
If all the sea is ringed with lights
And no waves moaning on the shore.
Though Balor, sleeping on the hills,
Forgets the dew in his drenched hair,
You will remember ancient ills,
Pitying another Alastair.
THE REMEMBERED GODS
Time: A long time ago.
Are the gods forgotten in Morven of the hinds,
The beauty that slew men, the golden eyes that shone,
The gods that would be walking on the rocks of the winds,
That little men would die for the love of looking on?
The old gods, the fair gods, that were too high for love,
The white feet pressing on the grasses of the crags,
The black hair hidden in the black clouds above?
The sun shines clearly, and gentle is the day.
Like snow in summer corries, like mist upon the bens,
The lovely gods of darkness are vanished away.
[Day dawns, and the stage is empty.
Calum. I thought I heard one of the men of peace,
Singing alone within the narrow glen.
A man of peace and he at sorrowing.
God’s pity on the people of the hills,
For they have lost the changing love of men,
And won their fear.
That when a man would walk the darkened hills,
The men of peace would take his soul from him
And use it for their pleasure. As they did,
My mother said, in the old misty times,
Before the word of God came into Alba.
God’s peace upon you. Make your peace with Him.
Lose your sad pride to win His ready grace,
And stand upon the golden floor of Heaven
With other song than this. And yet, who knows,
May be your pride is of more worth to you
Than all the melodies of Paradise,
And these sad songs of yours more beautiful
Than any you could sing with happier lips.
Perhaps our Lord’s sweet face might make you dumb.
Summer is gone at last, and autumn leaves are falling,
And through the naked trees the wind is breathing low.
Let us arise and go, for the old gods are calling,
The beautiful cruel gods we loved so long ago.
We hear the old gods singing the years from which we came,
The merry heartless years that knew not pain or pity,
The happy lustful years that knew not fear or shame.
Back through the gentler years to the old time again,
To wake their lovely mirth, to move the gods to laughter,
This is the end of man, the full reward of pain.
Shall we not suffer pain for lovely things as these?
Let us arise and go, for the old gods are singing,
The beautiful cruel gods that mock our miseries.
May God protect us!
Though all the beaten fairies of the air
Rise against heaven, we can cast them down,
But it were better save them with a kiss.
[Raising his voice.
Whoe’er you be that sing to us this morn,
Whether your dwelling be below the hills
Or in the mazy fastness of the air,
Draw near in peace. For I have learned too well
The lesson of Christ’s love, to hate the sad
Discrownèd gods that are His enemies.
Alastair. Christ’s love? Then even here men pray to Christ,
The pitiful intruder; even here
In Western Morven of the windy rocks,
Where once the old gods would be wandering
Along the outer fringes of the world,
The loving god is master.
The loving god is master. Ay and you,
With love and pity shining from your eyes,
Can you not mind upon your fathers’ swords,
Anger and hate and pride and cruelty?
And has set all your gods below His feet.
Anger and hate more dear to you than love,
What god would you be praying to at all?
That will be walking on the darkened cliffs,
Lior the haunter of the roaring tides,
Whose emerald eyes the drowning sailors see
For one sweet instant, and are swallowed up.
And Balor panoplied in shining rain,
And armoured with the lightnings of the hills
That fire our hearts to war. And chief of all,
Angus the white-foot conqueror of men,
The mist that would destroy the moon with love
If she could hold him, the eternal mist
That wanders still within our quiet hearts,
Stirring the bitter love we may not sate
Save with his own white beauty. These are they
That were your father’s gods in the old days.
They walk and sorrow for the olden times.
And on the surf-beat rocks the whole night through
Lior is moaning for his vanished loves,
For we have girdled all the seas with flame,
And our new night is gentle as the day.
And the apostles’ swords have pierced the rain
That armoured Balor, and the angels’ hands
Have rent the fiery lightnings from his grasp,
And war is dying, dying in our hearts.
And the white feet of Angus walk the hill,
But with him go no beautiful young men,
And the young maidens bide within the house.
And you may be, that walk the city ways,
Dream that the gods are mighty yet. But we
In Western Morven, by the winter fires,
Hear all night long above the talk of men
Our broken masters wailing on the hills.
In the invisible desires of men.
Below the quiet current of our lives
They move and labour to destroy the chains
Your saints have cast upon our memory.
Still in our hearts the ancient fires burn high,
And Balor, tempest-armoured, calls to us.
And you with gentle prayer and song adore
Your pitiful, sad-god the whole day long.
But in the echoing nights when none is by,
In the lone nights do they not burn you still?
And lusts awaking in the frozen night,
White maidens dancing underneath the moon,
And the long roll and tumble of the waves.
The little baby god new-born on earth,
With soft lips sucking at his mother’s breast.
The lovely gods of darkness rise in your heart anew.
Beautiful gods and mighty, in dreams they stand around you,
Kneel down in dreams and worship as once you used to do.
And the fierce glow of battle on the hills,
And red, wet blood upon the slayer’s hands.
The worn sad face, the pitiful sweet eyes,
And the feet torn and bloody from the stones.
The way-worn feet and bloody, the eyes too dim with tears.
Dream of the lords of beauty, for you shall see to-morrow
The older day returning and the forgotten years.
And all the little waves of night afire,
And the cool emerald depths of Lior’s eyes,
That none may look upon and live again.
Oh beautiful cool depths to drown my life,—
I have remembered Lior, and the moon
Is full again and there is mist abroad,
And Angus singing clear upon the hills.
Oh young men follow Angus of the Birds,
Young maidens dance with him below the moon.
You will grow old and hear his song no more.
Oh, follow Angus now while you are young.—
Angus has passed me by, but Balor’s fires
Burn fiercely in my bosom as of old,
The lust of slaying, and the bitter blood,
And the cold smile upon the foeman’s face.
The poor feet that the nails were driven through,
The piercèd hands and the spear-riven side,
And the heroic brow false-crowned with thorns?
The memory that dreamers may forget,
But I will yet dream on a little while,
Before day claims me for its own again,
And the soft fetters close about my soul.
Am I awake, and you that bade me dream
Bid me remember in the eye of day?
Is there an end of the new heaven and hell,
And all save earth and the immortal isle,
They used to tell of in the olden times?
I have been dreaming, as I dream alone
In the dim nights; but after them the day
Brings back to me anew the face of Christ.
I am afraid of this new dawn that brings
No Christ, but memories of older things.
For we have strangers in the house to-night.
From older gods and greater lords than he.
Pale lily of Morven, to the beaten god,
Who should be following the mist of love
Over the hills beneath a summer moon?
For I have heard the coronach for Christ
Wail up the corries of the windy hills,
And high and clear above them Angus sang.
But the apostles’ souls fled crying, crying
Over the hills across the boundless sea.
I heard the noise of their lament grow faint,
As the waves stilled it; and on the hills of Morven,
Among the unseen secrets of the world,
Christ that we knelt to once is lying dead.
Of Angus that I cannot follow now,
And the fierce music of the lords of war,
When fighting heroes meet in the glad ring
Of sword on sword and cries of wounded men.
Mairi put meat and drink before the stranger.
I must be going with the sheep again.
[He goes out. Mairi bursts into tears.
My sorrow on the heart that could forget,
My sorrow on you, stranger, who have cast
A misty spell before my father’s eyes,
So that the face of Christ grows dark to him.
Oh beautiful in sorrow still weep on,
Shrouding your face within a veil of tears.
Weep, for your grief will roll away the years
That have drawn long forgetfulness between us.
[She turns away.
Hear me, forgetting for a little while
That I am he who woke the gods again.
Think I am Alastair, who would awake
The drowsy loveliness that sleeps too long.
You are too beautiful for me to hate,
And yet too evil for my love.
For in my heart remembrance is awake
Of the old time when we went hand in hand,
Following the harp a thousand years ago.
And I will make a song of memory,
That shall call love to your dim eyes again.
In a corrie of the hills
We forgot our ancient ills
Dancing to a wizard tune.
We remembered song and spell
Chanted in a Lochlainn rune.
Flower of Morven, it was well
Long ago beneath the moon.
And the song of Angus cries
Underneath the Summer skies
Till the nights of Summer wane.
Follow now while still you may,
Ere his music calls in vain,
Where the harps of Angus play,
Now the moon is full again.
In the corrie where we met,
Did you think you could forget,
Did you dream you would not know
Lips that sang the lovers’ tune,
And the heart that loved you so?
Did forgetfulness come soon,
Flower of Morven long ago?
Now the mist is on the hills
And the harp of Angus stills
Moaning waves along the shore,
For the songs I made for you,
For the love that was before,
For the heart that still is true
Oh remember me once more.
That burns me so, or if the heart of love
Looks out from eyes I never saw till now.
The darkened years since our young souls, new-made,
Looked out through other eyes on other lands.
For you and I spoke with a hundred tongues,
And saw a hundred lives passing us by,
Before we came to Morven of the stags.
They have fled by like the light winds that blow
Swift shadows o’er a waveless loch. But we,
Like the loch water, bide the same for ever,
Since first the gods fashioned our souls of mist,
That at the end will take them back again.
For over my poor heart they have no power.
Here in the changing world we stand alone,
Ourselves forever. I am Mairi Bain,
And you are Alastair, my love. Forget
The gods that haunted you, for they were dreams,
And I hold truth for you in these two hands,
Oh draw me close and help me to forget,
As though there were no gods in all the world.
All the delight of living, all the beauty
That lingers in the depths of mountain pools
Is in your eyes, and on your dewy lips
The joy of lying in the grass at morning,
Before the sun is risen in the sky.
You brought me heather-honey and blue flowers,
And wild raspberries picked in an upland glen,
That are below the hills. I will forget
All, and grow old and happy, loving you.
We will not care now for the flying shadows,
For we have come into the heart of the world.
[They kiss. Outside a faint music is heard. Alastair starts and turns round.
Calling across the misty hills to me.
END OF ACT II
A grassy place in the clachan. In the middle an altar with peats and some sacrifice burning. Around it the people are standing. They sing.
Cry for the saints that go,
Cry for the altars burning,
And the beacon lights burnt low.
Now in the hills above us
The masters of joy and pain,
Our loves that will not love us,
The gods are come again.
Cry for the happy dead,
The dooms of men and the water
Over the drowning head.
Cry for the lightnings gleaming,
And the thunder answering,
The things that we longed for dreaming,
And the songs we could not sing.
And for his magic tune,
And dances that weave and linger
Under a summer moon.
Cry for the fight and tourney,
The harp the mother of tears,
And the world that with backward journey
Moves down the older years.
When Balor gave us victory in Appin.
Of those that were the guard of Fionnagal.
And in the houses they are wailing him,
And the wife dumb with sorrow.
To hear the way the Appin men were crying,
And though Bean-Uisdean will be sorrowing,
The gods love slaying and the clash of swords.
Alastair. Oh praise the gods that have renewed the world,
Until our old desires are young again.
The sun is growing weary, and draws on
The fairy-haunted stillness of the night,
That is the end of all my wandering.
For you have heard the voices that were crying
Through the long years of your forgetfulness,
And known the end of prisoning.
And known the end of prisoning. But I
Bid you farewell, for the last chain of all
Must be destroyed, and the last honour paid.
The gods are calling for the sacrifice,
And on the hills the fairy harps are playing,
That I must follow at the end of all.
Here at the altar of the king of love
I give myself the first-fruits of his fires
To die to-night upon the sacred tree.
And tread behind you in the way of death.
That ends beyond the sight of human eyes
But turn again to see the face of Christ,
And love that brought us into the bright heaven.
Pale lily that I would not pluck, farewell.
A greater love than yours is calling me,
And I must follow where the harper plays
Through the short bitterness into the joy
That none may know save those who see the eyes,
The golden eyes of Angus opening.
Farewell. Our love was soiled with mortal clay,
And I am seeing the white feet of the mist.
That the desires of hell have stolen away.
Oh love of mine, that the dark gods have charmed
To follow down the misty path that leads
To the eternal gloom of the abyss.
It is a farewell for us two evermore.
The gods have conquered, and the heart of love
Is bruisèd with the beating of their wings.
But in the end our Lord will come again
With all the host of Heaven for His guard.
Have forgot all the sorrow of the world,
But the swift agony upon the tree
And the immortal pain of him I love.
[She is silent a while. Then she raises her head.
There is an end of joy, for I have bowed
My spirit to the harsh commands of love.
God will forget me who have cast Him off.
The doors of heaven are shut, and the dark fires
Burn high to-night for me.
[She turns to Calum.
Burn high to-night for me. But you will know
The sorrow of my love that I must die
For him I set above the joy of heaven.
[She stretches out her arms to where Alastair has gone out.
Oh you that brought the bitter gift to me,
Rejoice. Angus will have his sacrifice.
END OF ACT III
Let the gods awake, for memory has woken,
The little men that loved us remember us again,
The chains that were wrought of the love of Christ are broken,
And little men come back to our beauty and their pain.
The little hearts that warmed us when we were a-cold.
The old time is back again, the old day is breaking—
What is man’s forgetting to us who wax not old?
And little men remember the words they used to pray.
In all the lands of Morven our lovers are returning,
The gentle chains that bound them are vanished away.
The master of waters to waken again?
In my ears is the noise of the waves that are falling,
And over my head is the sound of the rain.
Who will be crying, who will be crying’
To Lior the watcher, the emerald-eyed?
Is there a story that men will be dying
For me, as their fathers, my lovers, have died?
Of waking to me who awaken no more?
For men have forgot me, and no winds are bringing
The lives for my drowning they brought me before.
The hearts of men remember the haunter of the waves;
Let your tides awake, for soon they will be keeping
The watch they kept of old time upon your lovers’ graves.
From the new god to the lord of the tide.
On the rocks of drowning no watch-fires are burning,
For men have remembered the emerald-eyed.
And seaward the sailors are toiling in vain,
We are the lords of their coming and going,
Men have remembered the sea-god again.
The master of fear, has been silent for long.
The rain-clouds that armed me are riven asunder,
I will sleep still for the new god is strong.
Of lightnings that burned in my servants of yore.
War is gone from me, I only have left me
Sleep that is good at the ending of war.
Balor that strode on the heads of the slain.
Anger is dead, and the old day is setting;
My servants will turn to me never again.
Remember Balor striding above the battle-cry.
The old fires are lit, for the old lusts are stronger;
And men are born to slay again, and born again to die.
[Lightning flashes across the sky, and the thunder rolls.
The houses of feasting my trumpet shall hear.
The winds of the hills will come back with me bringing
The rouser of battle, the master of fear.
In the hearts of the dying I will lie down.
In the houses of Morven new widows are wailing,
For men have remembered my ancient renown.
Now the lightnings flash above the rain,
Now the hymns are chanted, and the stories told,
For the ancient faith has come again.
Pity buried with forgotten things.
High among the mountains, low along the bay
Men are praying to the older kings.
Now the victim bleeds upon the sod.
The gods are remembered in Morven of the hinds,
And men have forgotten God.
As full of terror as they are to-night,
When you are herding in the nights of spring?
For men have loosed them. Now the hollow caves
Send forth a thousand walkers of the hills,
And all along the beach the voices call,
And fairy torches move among the rocks.
Now the old gods are masters of the world,
And wait to-night the keystone of their power.
The cruel, lovely faces. From the sea
I hear the voices of a thousand sorrows
Crying the coronach along the beach
For them that will be drowned in years to come.
And in the houses there is wailing too,
And moaning of strong fighters on the hill,
And maidens weeping their virginity,
And old men sorrowing for lost desires.
And the gods sit for ever cold and still,
Mocking the sorrows of the heart of men
With cruel, lovely faces.
I remember Alastair’s face and I am brave again,
And all the fairies of the lower air
Powerless as autumn leaves before the wind
Against the burning purpose of my heart.
I wish that I might live the summer through,
Milking the cattle in the upland glens,
And singing songs before the sheiling door,
Careless and happy as I used to be.
Eilidh will miss my hand at milking-time,
But you will tell them to be soft with her.
When they are herded in the upland glens.
I shall be happy if I hear them weep,
And see their tears across the flames of Hell.
But the soft grass that is the floor of Heaven,
With lilies of the south between each blade,
And angels to go with you hand in hand,
And God the Father at the end of all.
To hearts that know the end of happiness;
For I will never press the floor of Heaven,
Nor hear the angels’ voices sweet and clear,
Nor ever kiss the piercèd feet of Christ.
But sometimes I shall hear them far away
Singing the melodies of Paradise,
While I lie torn and anguished evermore,
The mate of demons in the lower Hell.
Not only this poor body, oh my God,
But all my soul’s eternal ecstasy
I cast away to-night of my own will.
Go now, but kiss me once before you go,
That the last kiss may cool my lips in Hell.
Alone and weak within the fairy ring.
For I am dead and lost by my own will.
But go, for I am weakening again,
And dreaming of my life’s lost happiness;
It is a lonely thing for me to die.
[He goes out. She turns away to the tree.
Mairi. Darkness, and all around the waiting gods.
Oh Alastair, your heart will comfort me
If you remember me a little while,
As in the darkness I remember you.
Since all is done that I was sent to do,
Down in the clachan there is wailing now
For son and husband stricken in their pride.
And on the hills lie the unburied dead
With hate and anger cold upon their lips,
Or terror still upon the frozen face.
And on the rocks the beacons are burnt out,
And in all Morven no man tends the fire,
And Lior takes his lovers back again.
Along the hills the song of Angus calls
White maidens and the beautiful young men
To dance with him to-night below the moon.
White maidens, and will Mairi go with them,
The pale lily of Morven I have held
Within my hands, and left to grow alone,
Because I love the beauty of the mist
More than the heavy fragrance of her hair,
And the dim soul that looks from her two eyes.
Oh, the pale shadows of immortal love,
That shiver in the eyes of mortal maids,
Cannot drink up the waters of desire,
That eddy stormily, until my heart
Is borne upon them to the last of isles,
The spring of life, the love of all the world.
Oh Angus, oh white haunter of the world,
Wandering mist that hides the heart of earth,
I come at last back to the king of love,
And cast my soul into the endless sea.
[He turns to the tree. Seeing Mairi’s figure in the branches he starts.
There is a shadow in the lower branches
Too dark to be the bright wraith of the mist.
[He goes towards the tree and sees who it is.
[He is silent. Then he realizes.
Mairi! And did you cast away your life,
Lily of Morven, cast your soul away
For me, oh love?
And in the flames great temples crashing down,
The houses of the gods are rent asunder,
And through them sweep the angels triumphing,
And over all I see
[The light reaches the face.
And over all I see The face of Christ!
[He clasps her hanging feet.
Oh heart of earthly lovers keep me safe,
Oh blessed anguished feet, let me hold you still.
The sun shines clearly, and gentle is the day;
Like snow in summer corries, like the mist upon the bens,
The lovely gods of darkness are vanished away.
END OF THE PLAY