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Diarmait
King of Tara

- A Tragedy in Five Acts -


DRAMATIS PERSONÆ

Diarmait, High King of Erin
Máelmór, his brother

DIARMAIT'S WIVES
Mugain
Mairend
Ethne

DIARMAIT'S SONS
Aedh Dubh
Aedh Sláine
Breasal

DIARMAIT'S DRUIDS
Becc mac Dé
Deirdre
Cáirid
Fraechan

CHIEFS OF CONNAUGHT
Fergus
Dobhnall

Flann Finn, commander
Maelodrán, warrior
Gabhran, commander
Curnán, commander
Niamh, his fiancée
Bruide, King of Alba
Broichan, his druid
Banbán, warrior
Nemain, his daughter
Fingín, druid

CLERICS
Ciarán
Finnian
Columcille
Aedh Gúaire
Senach
Ruadán
Molaise
Brendan of Birr
Brendan of Clonfert
Ita
Bronách
Cainnech
Gabhnet
Dabeog
Kevin

Clerics, shepherds, peasants, footmen, guards, chiefs, commanders, noblemen, hostages, artists, musicians, warriors and soldiers (both male and female)

Scene: Tara of the Kings, Erin and Inverness


ACT I

Scene I

Druimm Tibrat. Diarmait sitting on a stone in front of a simple hut in the moors by the river. Ciarán and clerics approaching in a boat.

Diarmait (rising from his seat):
Hail Ciarán! Friend, what are you doing here?
A man of our good Lord in such a place,
avoided by all gods and enemies,
seems very strange - be welcome anyway!
There isn't much that I could offer you
and all the servants of the holy Church,
but what I have is yours, and He who sent you
will know a way to feed His people, too!
Sit on my stone - there's nothing else to sit on -
and tell me, man of God: what brings you here?

The clerics collect branches onto a heap.

Ciarán:
The Lord has sent me here to build a church,
and Ecclais Beg shall be the name of it,
because He wants His gospel to be spread
wherever human beings may be found:
He doesn't fear the desert nor the moors,
for it was He who once created them!

Diarmait:
So you will settle at my final refuge:
I hope you'll let me stay beside your house
as least of all your servants, for you know
that there's no other place for me to dwell!
Cast out from where my heart is and my home
and far away from my beloved ones,
I live a life of grief and misery,
and still I'm grateful that this life remains.

The clerics light the fire.

Ciarán:
We now shall light a fire to praise our saviour,
a fire that nevermore shall be extinguished
as long as God and Jesus reign in Heaven!

Diarmait:
I beg you to extinguish it right now,
because it might be seen behind the woods -
dear Ciarán, please, you know what's bound to happen
if anyone discovers where I hide.
The tyrant Tuathal is pursuing me
all over Erin, and a great reward
is promised to the man who brings my heart
to him upon his spear. - Who is my friend?
Whom can I trust? Who's there who would refuse to
betray his child if he could name the prize?
It is unjust: one never knows one's friends
before it comes to trouble - when it does,
one cannot risk to have the friendship proved.

Ciarán:
God is your friend, and He will prove it soon!
So have no fear and let your trembling hand
be under mine, for at this hour tomorrow
this hand of yours will rule the whole of Erin:
the tyranny of Tuathal shall have ceased,
and peace and justice once again shall reign!

Diarmait:
How could I doubt the joyful words that come
from holy lips, the words that come from God?
But as I have no warriors nor arms
while Tuathal's army is the strongest one
that's known in Erin since the mighty Fianna,
how should it come to pass that I'll be king?

Ciarán:
Leave this to our good Lord and to His allies!
Set up the post with me: the post of justice
shall be the pillar of government and Church
to make them homes for people and for God.

They set up the post. Enter Máelmór.

Diarmait:
Dear brother! What a joy to see you, Máelmór!
How is my clann? Are they all still alive,
or have they captured Colman Mór and Becc,
Aedh Dubh, Aedh Sláine and Breasal, my dear sons?
Or have they even dared to touch my wives
and threatened Mugain, Mairend or young Ethne?

Máelmór (triumphantly smiling, embracing Diarmait):
No, none of that! Your clann is very well,
your sons are growing stronger every day,
your wives are safe and as beautiful as ever:
they're flowering like roses in the spring
with petals gilded by the morning dew.
And yet this is not all, for better news
I come to bring to my beloved brother:
the snake of tyranny that poisoned Erin,
the vicious viper has now lost its teeth -
its venom nevermore shall harm a man!
We heard that Tuathal went to Grellach-eilte
with all his noblemen to have a feast,
and I went there to join him with my men.
From Muirchertach mac Bran I took the armour,
so that the tyrant would not recognise
me from the time when you and I were flanking
his side as bodyguards in olden days.
His mighty hound was furiously barking
when we approached the building where they stayed,
but with some bacon we could tame the beast,
and I chopped off its head. Then, with its heart
upon my spear, up to the banquet hall
I went. The noblemen made way for me:
of course they thought the heart I brought was yours,
and triumphantly smiling Tuathal rose
with gleaming eyes and said, 'Is this the cur
that was supposed to be my guard and took
the meat from enemies of his great master?'
'It is indeed, my King,' said I. 'Well done,'
he laughed and gladly took the spear and heart.
'There are not many men whom I can trust;
you're one of them, and grateful I shall be
to him who lets me come to rest again.
Have what you want from me!' - 'I'll have your head then,'
said I and struck it off with just one blow!
The others didn't put up much resistance,
and none of them resisted us for long:
most noblemen were gladly cheering us
and started shouting, 'Go and bring the King!'
They well remembered when you fled from Tara,
how you, a hundred warriors at your back,
still found the time to mount Lia Fáil before them,
the Stone of Kings, while they hurled spears at you,
and how the stone beneath your feet was roaring,
announcing you'd be King of Tara soon,
while everybody knows that it was silent
when Tuathal stood on it: the only sound
that could be heard came from his growling dogs.
So now there is no need for you to stay here:
let's go at once, your people wait for you!

Both turn around to Ciarán.

Diarmait:
Farewell, beloved Ciarán! God be with you,
and I shall meet you soon to pay my debts!


Scene II

A narrow path between some trees and a house. Flann Finn hidden behind a tree with two spears in his hand.
Enter Diarmait and Máelmór. After they passed Flann Finn, he throws a spear into Máelmór's back.

Diarmait (turning around):
My brother slain? Whose deed was that?

Flann Finn (aiming at him):
Watch out,
the next one is for you, the King of Tara,
enforcing your career by foul murder!

Diarmait (escaping it, drawing his sword):
You dare to talk of foul murder, Finn,
and fear to fight your victims face to face?
Aye, proud would Tuathal be to be revenged
by such a brave commander as Flann Finn!

Flann Finn draws his sword and they fight, until finally he is fatally wounded and runs into the house.

Diarmait:
Hey, you brave hero! Was that it? - Come on,
your home is not a fort, and there's no cure
for deadly wounds and none for cowardice!
(Diarmait sets the house on fire.)
You won't escape revenge, and if the iron
should fail to make you pay for Máelmór's death,
the flames shall take you for your vicious deed!
(There's a loud splash, and Diarmait looks through the window.)
A valiant warrior has lost his life!
Though deadly wounded, with his clothes on fire,
he still did not give up and leapt into
the bathtub to prevent himself from burning -
from there he never raised his head again.


Scene III

Cnoc-brecáin overlooking the remains of Flann Finn's house.
Ciarán waiting on the hill.
Enter Diarmait.

Diarmait:
Hail Ciarán! Finally we meet again
since through your benediction I was crowned.
My people are now living free from fear,
there's no more war or despotism there,
but still a shadow's covering the country:
it's almost summer and it hasn't rained!
The fields are dry, the cattle starve, and now
it seems we have to face another famine,
for peace and justice will not feed my subjects.

Ciarán (kneeling down, folding his hands):
Creator of the heavens and the earth,
good Lord above, look down upon this man:
he helped the poor and bravely fought all evil;
thy holy word was always guiding him,
and yet he has to see his people starve.
Have mercy on the High King and thy children
and show them what thy wondrous love can do!

Suddenly the blue sky is filled with clouds and it starts to rain.

Diarmait (falling on his knees):
Thank God and Ciarán for this miracle
and praise the Lord for all the good He's done!
Dear Ciarán, gladly I submit to you:
you shall be given every tithe in Erin,
my clann and I shall always be your servants.
(rising again:)
So now before we leave to join the Feís
of Beltain, I will give this plain to you
right as it stands there, with its sheep and cattle,
as altar sod for all that you have done.

Ciarán:
That cannot be! This ground is violated;
the blood of Finn is dropping from the hands
that offer now this land to God and Church!

Diarmait:
He was but an assassin, for he threw
a spear into my brother's back, and then
he tried to murder me as well - what else
was there for me to do but kill the man
to save my life?

Ciarán:
My friend, this is no question
of right or wrong. There's blood upon this soil,
that's all that matters, and because you've tried
to sacrifice this violated ground,
the Lord has cursed you, though He will not take
Heaven nor Earth from you or from your children.
But when you die, you'll die just like Flann Finn,
that is by being wounded, drowned and burnt!

Diarmait:
Have mercy, please! Take what you want from me,
deprive me of my kingdom and my crown
and send me back into the moors again -
do anything but let me die like that!

Ciarán:
There's no way back! His word stands like a rock,
and if it should not happen as I said,
then I myself shall die like that at once!

Diarmait:
You're still alive, so I shall not escape
this terrifying curse, but let me know
the time that's left for me until that day.

Ciarán:
You still have many years to live on earth,
but I have not - we shall not meet again;
the mac an t-sair must die at thirty-three.
Now let us leave to join the great assembly,
the Feís is waiting. It will be my last one -
the day that I'll return to Ecclais Beg
I will lie down to rest and sleep forever.
Always remember what I taught and told you:
to uphold peace and justice in your kingdom
and to obey the servants of the Lord,
and if you do so, History will call you
a peaceful High King and a righteous judge!


Scene IV

Courtroom. Diarmait, two shepherds, two guards with long staffs at the door.

1st shepherd:
Your Majesty, my sheep are starving now,
because this shepherd didn't watch his flock.
One day I went to look after my lambs
and found his sheep were grazing in my fields,
and since those sheep were fed at my expense,
I now demand that they be given to me!

2nd shepherd:
That cannot be! I'm sorry for the trouble,
and I agree I have to pay for it,
but to expect me to repair the loss
of some ounces of grass by a whole flock
and be a beggar hence can not be just!

Diarmait (to 1st):
The growth of this one year was taken from you
and shall by one year's growth be now repaid.
You must return the sheep to him who owns them,
but you're allowed to shear them all before.

Shepherds rise and bow before Diarmait. Guards open doors. Exeunt shepherds.
Guards stamp their staffs on the ground.

1st guard:
Now Columcille and Finnian of Clonard!

Guards open doors. Enter Finnian and Columcille.

Finnian:
Your Majesty, we heard about your wisdom,
your just decisions and your noble mind,
we heard that no one walked away from you
who was not satisfied with your award.

Columcille:
Your Majesty, ordained by God to be
the High King over Erin, help the cause
of justice as you often did before:
they say that everybody gets his right,
and some compare you to King Solomon...

Diarmait:
What is the matter?

Finnian:
I am sure, my King,
that you will settle this annoying quarrel
between us clerics to our satisfaction.
My student Columcille has violated
my hospitality: while I was sleeping
he sneaked into my library and wrote
a copy of the Psalter which is mine.
One night I took him by surprise, and he
refused to give the copy back to me -
we had an argument and finally
agreed to come and follow your advice.
So here we are, and I want nothing more
than this one book he wrote without permission.

Columcille:
The word of our great Lord needs no permission:
He wants it to be spread all o'er the world!
How selfish must one be to keep this book
in secret, only known to some close friends,
instead of writing copies of the Psalter
and share them with the other monasteries!
The Bible is a book for everybody,
and as I wrote the work with my own hand,
it can't be claimed by anybody else!

Diarmait:
The calf's place always is beside the cow,
and as the owner of a cow that calves
is naturally the owner of the calf,
the owner of a written book must be
the owner of the copy just as well.

Columcille (rising angrily, shaking his fist against Diarmait):
God has condemned your pagan law and you!
The whole of Erin knows of Christ, while you're
still dancing round the tombstones of the gods
who in the name of Christ were swept away!
Your heathen rule shall soon come to an end,
and henceforth Christian Kings shall rule this country.
I'll be the tool, the sword of the Almighty:
I swear to God that we shall meet again!

Guards open doors, exeunt Finnian and Columcille. An old woman comes running into the courtroom, guards try to keep her out, but Diarmait gives a sign to let her in.

Woman:
My King, your son has killed my only cow!
Your royal insolence has gone too far:
you may collect the tributes and the taxes
from those who still are working for their living,
but to deprive the people of their cattle
is wantonness, not worthy of a king!

Diarmait:
Calm down, old woman. Have a seat and tell
me everything that happened from the start.

Breasal is brought in by some angry peasants.

Woman:
There was a feast of Breasal and his friends;
he was supposed to organise a cow,
but neither any of the royal cattle
nor those sold at the market really pleased him,
until he saw my cow. He came to me
and asked if I would sell it for the feast,
but I replied that I would never sell it,
because it's all I have, and I depend on
the milk it gives each day. Then Breasal offered
a bull and seven other cows for mine,
but I declined because I loved this cow
and wouldn't have exchanged it anyway.
Without a word he turned away from me,
and later he returned with all his friends
to have it slaughtered on my lawn.

Diarmait:
That's true?
The High King's son an ordinary robber
who's plundering old women on their lawns?
(He shakes Breasal, banging his head against the wall from time to time.)
My God, what have you done? The King is calling
for peace and justice, while his son becomes
the least of all the felons of this country!
My God, what have you done? You live in wealth,
your father is the richest man in Erin
and would have granted all of your requests!
But you go out to steal the poor man's cattle:
you are not worthy of the name Uí Néill!

Breasal sinks to the floor.

2nd guard (kneeling beside Breasal, feeling his pulse):
There's no more need to shout, my King. He's dead.

Diarmait (sinking down, embracing Breasal):
My God, what have I done? My dearest son -
I killed my son because he killed a cow!
(to the guards:) Go out and fetch my druid Becc mac Dé,
and see if you can find the childish clerics;
they can't be far, and if they have the power
to fight over a book , they should be able
to help a desperate father. Get them, quick!
(Exeunt guards.)
Who ever heard of anything like this?
I never put a cattle-thief to death,
and now I've killed my son who stole a cow!
(Enter 1st guard with Becc mac Dé, then 2nd guard with Finnian, while Columcille stays at the door with crossed arms, maliciously watching the scene.)
Oh God and Finnian, help! My son is dead,
I killed him in my fury - God forgive me!
(Becc mac Dé and Finnian deliberate shortly and turn to Breasal. Finnian puts a crucifix on his chest and prays while Becc covers him with a yew branch and casts a spell on him. Finally Breasal opens his eyes.)
So now you are restored to life, my son,
but still the woman's cow you killed is dead.
You took the best she had; now she shall pick
the best of all your cattle, and as many
as she desires from you!

Breasal:
Nay, that's unjust;
it wouldn't be a sacrifice at all,
as I have more than I could ever count.
I took the dearest thing this woman had,
and I shall give the dearest back to her:
my father! Take this woman with you now
and let her live in Tara as your child,
grant everything that she requests from you,
while I shall leave to go into the forest
and henceforth lead a modest hermit's life.

Diarmait:
Now stop that talk! Of course you're still my son,
and you shall live in Tara like your brothers,
but you are right about this woman. (to her:) Woman,
be welcome to the household of the King!

Woman:
Oh no, my King! I'm sorry to decline,
but I am used to living in the forest;
I need the silence and the recreation,
the meditation and the solitude,
I love to breathe the air of wood and freedom
and stay away from people if I can.
So I'll just pick a cow from Breasal's cattle
and then return to where I feel at home.

Exeunt all except Diarmait and Breasal.

Diarmait:
Strange days are these: a prince becomes a robber,
two adult clerics quarrel over books,
and thieves are now acquitted by their plaintiffs.

Exit Diarmait.

Breasal (looking directly at the audience):
Are we not all but thieves? Is not our bread
the bread a hungry beggar doesn't get,
is not the slice of meat on our full dishes
the slice that possibly could feed a mother
and all her starving sons and daughters, too?
Why is it we are giving the leftovers
to our fat sows and not to our poor people?
Are not our dresses, jewellery and castles,
the thousand things we do not need to live,
an insult to the ones who cannot share it?
Is he who keeps his riches back no robber
and he who keeps his food no murderer?
How could he fill his stomach and relax
who's starving with the poor in every land,
how could he be content and feel at ease
whose troubled heart knows everybody's pain,
how could he dare to use it if his wealth
is a collection of this world's poverties,
how could he live and still enjoy his life
who's dying every death there is on earth?


Scene V

The lawn of Tara. Diarmait feasting with his noblemen and druids, a whole pig on a spit is ready to be served. There's a clamour, and soldiers try to keep the crowd away. Four soldiers guard the table of the King.

Diarmait:
Tell me, what is this clamour all about?

1st soldier:
The people starve because there is a famine,
the worst we've had since Ciarán passed away,
and now they march against the Hill of Tara,
because they've heard that no one's starving here.

Diarmait:
What can I do? Invite them to the meal?
The pig we have won't feed this massive crowd,
and even if I slaughtered all my cattle,
it wouldn't be enough to help them all!

Meanwhile Becc mac Dé rose from his seat and collected some herbs which he spreads on the pig, then he sprinkles it with a liquid from his flask and puts a hazel on top of it.

Becc mac Dé:
No one returns from Tara hungrily!
There is enough for all.(to the cook:)Now tell the people
to form a queue and come here one by one,
give everyone an ample portion of
the part that he desires, and you will see
that after feeding them there'll be enough
left for the High King and his noblemen.

1st soldier (to 2nd):
They call this man the High King of the druids.
He works great miracles throughout the country,
he calls the rain and even cures the dead.

3rd soldier:
And he's supposed to be the greatest seer
who knows the future and the past alike.

Becc mac Dé approaches them.

1st soldier:
Hail Becc! As you are here, could you please tell me
the time that still is left for me to live?

2nd soldier:
And say how deep the brook will be tomorrow.

3rd soldier:
What will the harvest of the next year bring?

4th soldier:
What is your aim?

Becc mac Dé:
One day two feet some more.

Aedh Dubh arrives with his troops and approaches Diarmait.

Diarmait:
Aedh Dubh is back, my son and battle chief,
the noblest man and greatest warrior
all over Erin. Welcome back at Tara!

Becc mac Dé:
I see the wolf dog that shall spoil this mansion!

Diarmait:
What is it, Becc?

Becc mac Dé:
Perhaps yourself, my King.

Diarmait:
What do you mean?

Becc mac Dé:
This man, your son Aedh Dubh,
will meet you in the door of Banbán's house
and let him pass a poisoned drink to you.
On that occasion you will wear a shirt
that's woven from the flax of just one seed and
a woollen mantle from a single sheep.
The poisoned ale that you'll be drinking there will
be brewed from just one single grain of corn,
the bacon on the dish that you will eat will
be from a piglet that was never farrowed.

Aedh Dubh:
I can't believe the words that you are saying:
I love my father and I never would
do anything to hurt or trouble him!

Noblemen (with few exceptions):
Aedh Dubh must die!

Diarmait:
I think there's a mistake,
for neither Becc nor my own son I doubt.
I can't believe my druid could be erring,
I won't believe my son would murder me!

Becc mac Dé:
Of course, my King, of course you have to doubt me:
if you'd believe me, you would kill Aedh Dubh -
that cannot be, for if indeed you did,
the prophecy could never be fulfilled.
But we all know that it shall be fulfilled,
for otherwise I never would have made it.

Noblemen (with few exceptions):
So put Aedh Dubh to death!

Diarmait:
He is not guilty
of any crime - I hope he'll never be!
But for my own security I have to
expel you from the island of our fathers,
not to return as long as I'm alive.
So now farewell, beloved son and friend:
you'll be a hero and a noble High King
when you'll succeed me and return to Erin;
I pray to God I'll meet you at Dún Scaith!


Scene VI

Tara. Diarmait, thoughtful, sitting alone over his drinking horn.
Enter warrior.

Warrior:
I am afraid there's more bad news, my King,
for Colman Mór and Colman Becc are slain.
We went to Leinster with your sons, and there
a man called Maelodrán attacked them both.
Your sons fought bravely, but eventually
he had them cornered on a slope by the brook -
from there he threw them down into the water
where by a watermill their bones were crushed.
We tried to help them, but they were too far
away - when we arrived the man already
had fled; we followed him until we reached
a house where he found hospitality.
The house was then surrounded, and we asked
them to deliver the assassin to us,
we even threatened to burn down the house
and fight the country with the High King's troops,
but they refused. We finally lit the torch,
and just before we set the house on fire,
the evil murderer surrendered to us.

Diarmait:
Pray tell, What business did you have in Leinster?
Exploring birds and flowers? Anyway,
bring in the man who dared to kill my sons.

Warriors bring Maelodrán in.

Diarmait (rising):
This is the man? All right, leave me alone
with him.

Exeunt warriors.

Diarmait:
What is your name?

Maelodrán :
A silly question!
Or don't you know that I am Maelodrán
who just killed Colman Mór and Colman Becc?

Diarmait:
Why did you do it?

Maelodrán:
There's a simple reason:
they burnt my fields and barns and raped my wives,
and as my servant went to fetch the horse
for me to stop them, they approached the boy
and killed him with a spear. I followed them -
they tried to run, but finally were trapped on
a slope beside the river where I caught them.
I drew my sword and fought with them until
they both lost ground and fell into the river.
They dropped into a mill wheel, and the woman
who worked there tried to stop it, but I told her
I'd chop her hand off if she dared to do it.

Diarmait:
And why should I believe you?

Maelodrán :
Go to Leinster –
you still can find my servant on the hill,
and still their spear that nailed him to the ground.

Diarmait:
I know them.

Silence.

Diarmait:
Where's your sword?

Maelodrán :
A silly question,
of course your soldiers took my sword from me.

Diarmait draws his sword, walks towards Maelodrán , hands the sword over to him and walks slowly backwards to the place he stood before, while Maelodrán rests on the sword. Silence.

Diarmait:
It needs a tough man to defeat my sons.

Maelodrán :
This tough man wouldn't hesitate a moment
to kill as well the father of this scroblach .

Diarmait:
But he should think it over: if he did,
he would not be the High King's battle chief.

Silence. They don't move.


Scene VII

Same place. Breasal (reading a book) and Diarmait. Enter Cáirid.

Cáirid:
My King, I wrote a splendid hymn for you
to praise your wisdom and nobility
and to increase your fame and your esteem.
I know I can be sure of a reward
that will do justice to a brilliant poem!

Diarmait:
You know, dear Cáirid, that I'm always grateful
to every poet who can cheer me up,
and I'll pay even more than it is worth.

Cáirid (reciting the poem while playing his harp):
Praise be to our beloved High King
and praise to all the sons of Diarmait!
Guess who's the one who will succeed him,
who'll be the High King over Erin?

He killed the first one in his fury
who then arose from death to madness,
he spared the one who once will kill him
and who will plan his deed in exile.

Two other sons were famous soldiers -
they're dead, ennobled their assassin,
but all the mornings coming up now
will never bring another sunrise.

The sickly child Aedh Sláine's left now
to be the High King's fit successor,
but as his wives each day grow younger,
they'll still give birth to some more children.

This is the hymn I wrote for you, my King;
name the reward that I shall get for it!

Diarmait:
I promised you that I'd pay even more
than it is worth; I always keep my word,
and so I'll leave your head between your shoulders.

Cáirid (rising angrily):
You'll have to pay for this reward, my King!
From now on you shall nevermore be able
to keep up peace and justice in your kingdom!

Exit Cáirid.

Diarmait:
How frightening is the power of the filid,
but I could not allow him to insult me.
Should I have paid for it? - Perish the thought!

Exit Diarmait.

Breasal:
In the beginning was the thought - and now?
How dreadful is the thought that there's no more,
that like a brilliant genius somehow
it built the world around around its core,
yet in itself; the thought is new each day,
but still the same it's ever been before.
If I could only think that thought away
that forces all the trees to be the trees,
that forces May to be the month of May
without a single thought if it may please,
that forces all the brothers to be brothers,
hands to be hands and knees to be the knees,
me to be me and others to be others.
But are there any others? Is there me?
Or is it but the thought that itself bothers?
Thus independent, never to be free,
I'll leave that thought and maybe me behind,
for everything I think I feel or see
is but the dream of a perverted mind.


ACT II

Scene I

Front of Ruadán's house. Enter Senach and Aedh Gúaire knocking at the door. Ruadán opens.

Senach:
Hail Ruadán! This young brother needs your help now:
three days ago the herald of the High King,
Aedh Baclamh, had to make a proclamation.
You know that on occasions like this one
the royal spear is horizontally
carried across the city gates by him,
but these ones were too narrow for the spear,
and so Aedh Baclamh had to make a breach.
Aedh Gúaire who witnessed it became upset -
he drew his sword and killed the man at once.
I brought him to your sisters afterwards,
but Diarmait looks for him all over Erin:
today their house was searched by twenty soldiers -
it was by grace of God he could escape.

Ruadán:
Be welcome, Senach and Aedh Gúaire. I'll try
to help you, but I think it's not convenient
to let you stay in Erin at the moment.
Go with my servant, for he knows a way
to get to Alba without meeting soldiers.

Enter servant.

Ruadán:
He'll bring you to another cleric's household
where you'll be safe until you can return.
Be careful on your trip. God be with you!

Aedh Gúaire:
Farewell, my friend. God bless you for your help!

Exeunt servant and Aedh Gúaire.


Scene II

Same place. Enter Aedh Gúaire knocking at the door. Ruadán opens.

Aedh Guaire:
I'm sorry to disturb your peace again,
but I'm not safe in Alba nor in Britain,
for everywhere the High King's soldiers hunt me.
I had to run from place to place to shun them,
but none of them could shelter me for long.

Ruadán:
This man is mad! Has he no other job
to do than hunting faithful Christian brothers
all over Erin, even out of it?
Watch out! Here comes the High King with his army;
behind the roses you will find a hole
which leads you to a pit below my house.

Aedh Gúaire goes down the pit.
Enter Diarmait with his soldiers, two of them at his side.

Diarmait (to 1st soldier):
Go in and fetch him! He must be in there!

Ruadán:
You'll lose your eyesight if you dare to enter!

1st soldier runs into the house, cries out loud and comes back, holding his hands over his eyes.

Diarmait:
Instead of helping me to keep up justice
in Erin, you abuse your given power
to hurt an honest servant of the law!
I'm told that in your house you hide Aedh Gúaire,
the vicious man who slew the royal herald!

Ruadán:
My King, I swear to God that I don't know
where he is hiding now except he'd be
beneath your feet this very moment.

Diarmait (to soldiers): Come,
if he's not here, I think he will be hiding
in Bishop Senach's place. Let's get him there!

Diarmait and soldiers turn around and leave.

Diarmait:
'Except he'd be beneath your feet this moment...'
We must go back! He's hidden in the ground!

They turn back.

Diarmait:
There's smoke behind the roses!
(to 2nd soldier:)Go and get him!

2nd soldier climbs into the hole and returns with stiff arms.

2nd soldier:
I can't because my arms are paralysed!

Diarmait:
So I will fetch the killer on my own!

Diarmait goes down the hole and returns with Aedh Gúaire, tying his arms behind his back.

Ruadán:The moment that you take Aedh Gúaire to Tara
God will condemn you for opposing Him!

Diarmait:
God gave the law and I'm supposed to keep it!
You clerics won't prevail against His order:
this murderer will go with me and hang!

Ruadán:
You took this man by force from his asylum:
God's servant will be rescued from your hands!

Diarmait (to soldiers):
Let us go back and bring this man to trial!

2nd soldier:
We'll stay right here to serve the Lord and Ruadán.

1st soldier:
One cannot fight the Lord!

Diarmait:As you desire.

Exeunt Diarmait, Aedh Gúaire and other soldiers.


Scene III

Open field in front of a house. Brendan of Birr sowing wheat.
Enter Ruadán.

Ruadán:
Hail Brendan! Leave this job to our good Lord:
the wind will spread the seeds upon your field,
for you and I have other work to do!
Aedh Gúaire, our brother who was tracked by Diarmait,
came to my house and asked for shelter from
the High King's soldiers, but the King himself
in violation of his sanctuary
went down the pit and captured him by force.
So now Aedh Gúaire is brought from his asylum
to Tara where the King will have him hanged!
We shall assemble now the other saints:
with Erin's twelve apostles we shall march
against the Hill of Tara and demand
the prisoner's deliverance at once!

Brendan of Birr:
I'm sorry that I have to disappoint you:
Brendan of Clonfert and some other clerics
put out to sea to seek the Promised Land,
but I shall go with you and fetch the others
to free our brother from the godless' hands.


Scene IV

Ráth of the Synods: the yard with a building on its left side, behind the yard a huge wall that divides the ráth from the Royal Enclosure. Ita, Molaise, Finnian, Gabhnet, Columcille, Brendan of Birr, Bronách, Cainnech, Dabeog and Kevin sitting in the yard, Ruadán ringing the bell on the outside of the building.
Enter Diarmait on the wall.

Diarmait:
What is that noise? I couldn't sleep all night,
I couldn't close my eyes nor watch my dreams,
because this nuisance terrorised my ears!

Ruadán:
We ring the bell, we ring the bell of Tara
against the High King, for you have opposed
the Church and God by capturing our brother,
and you despised his right of sanctuary!
And so we ring the bell and fast against you
until the matter of the Lord prevails!

Diarmait:
You talk of sanctuary? - There's no such thing
for murderers who fear to face the law!
How could a country be a land of justice
if felons were allowed to get away?
Would you not be afraid that people turned
from Christ if every church were full of thugs?
As every unkind word is brought to trial
these days, I cannot think of one good reason
why I should let a murderer go free!

Ruadán:
When Moses led his people through the desert
from Egypt home into the Promised Land,
the Lord advised him that in Canaan
they had to build a lot of cities of refuge
where everybody should be safe from foes
and vengeance, and what were the places of refuge
are now the churches and the clerics' homes.

Diarmait:
They were a refuge from their victims' avenger
for those who killed someone without intent,
for those guilty of manslaughter in order
to save their lives from vengeance till the day
they had to face the congregation's judgement!
Aedh Gúaire is safe until he's brought to trial,
and his intention was to kill the herald -
according to God's law I have no choice:
'But if he slew him with an instrument
of iron, he is but a murderer;
the murderer shall thus be put to death!'

Columcille:
The law is on our side! You took Aedh Gúaire
by force while he was under the protection
of Ruadán; you're supposed to bring him back there,
and if Aedh Gúaire is not with us tonight,
you'll be the sorriest man all over Erin!

Diarmait:
You threaten me? I do not fear the clergy
as long as God Himself is on my side!
You may be ringing, shouting, even fasting,
and I will fast against you just as well:
I know for sure the victory'll be given
to him who serves the Lord despite the wicked.

Exit Diarmait.

Cainnech:
I think the King is right. My ears are ringing:
this horrid noise disturbs my meditation.
Columcille, don't you think the Lord could hear us
much better if we didn't ring that bell?
Our fasting and our prayers should suffice
to reach our aim and to release our brother.

Columcille:
My dearest Cainnech, I can understand you,
but not for God alone we ring the bell:
it shall remind the King of His commandments
to make him change his ways and turn from sin.

Kevin:
I wish that Brendan could be here! I'm sure
that he would find a cunning way to settle
this matter in an instance.

Bronách: Kevin's right;
Brendan of Clonfert is the only one
to deal with Diarmait's knowledge and his power.

Finnian:
Dear Bronách, we would all appreciate
the company of Brendan, but the Lord
will help our righteous cause in any case;
He won't allow the godless to prevail
against His faithful servants and the law!

Ruadán:
My friends, just wait until tomorrow morning,
for if Aedh Gúaire should not be free by then,
the High King will wake up to a surprise!


Scene V

Dining room. Diarmait sitting at the table with a drinking horn and a dish of sliced bread.

Diarmait:
What is a drinking horn that's full of water?
What is a dish full of unsalted bread?
No meat, no ale - this life is but a nuisance
for those who fast for justice. Oh, how long
shall this go on? The cows, the pigs, the lambs,
the corn - they were not made for decomposing,
and, God, this body was not made to fast.

Enter guard.

Guard (very excited):
My King, I fear we have to face a war!
This morning all the hostages were dead;
the reason is not known. No sword nor blood
was to be seen: they weren't even wounded.

Diarmait:
All dead? All twelve? That was the clerics' deed!
I fostered these young boys just like a father,
I loved them like a father loves his sons,
and now the clerics killed them all. What next?
The noblemen will now rise up against me
in order to revenge their sons who died
while living in my custody. Go quick,
I need to see my druid Becc mac Dé!

Exit guard.

Diarmait:
Is this the end? If he can't bring them back,
their fathers soon will fight against me, and
the unity of Erin would be ended.
Would they believe the clerics killed their sons,
although they didn't touch the victims' bodies?

Enter guard with Becc mac Dé.

Diarmait:
I'm glad you're here! I think you've heard what happened -
is there a way to bring them back to life?
You know yourself I'll lose my life and kingdom
if Erin's chiefs and rulers turn against me -
what can I do? Please help me, help me quick!

Becc mac De:
My King, I have a mistletoe in store,
the one I brought when I came back from Britain:
it grew upon an oak tree, and I cut it
the sixth night after full moon, when the sky
was clear and cloudless, with my golden sickle.
To sacrifice this mistletoe to Ogma
before the sunset of the day that follows,
before they are delivered unto Bilé,
could make him change his mind and bring them back.

Diarmait:
If this can help, why do you hesitate?
It's time to act - what are you waiting for?

Becc mac De:
I kept this mistletoe for you, my King,
to bring you back to life when you'll be slain,
and thus I baulk at using it for others;
it was supposed to save your life, not theirs.

Diarmait:
If they don't live, I'll be as dead as them,
and if indeed you want to save my life,
you've got to save it now!

Becc mac Dé: As you request.
At Ogma's altar I shall meet you then -
you need to bring clean water from a spring,
fetched in the skull of a white bull, a curl
of every hostage, and a torch to kindle
the holy fire. Then place the hostages
around the stone so that they form a star,
and let their heads be pointing towards the altar.

Exit Becc mac Dé.


Scene VI

A lawn. In the centre the altar of Ogma, a large flat stone. The skull in front of it, the twelve hostages placed around it.
Diarmait, Breasal and two guards (one of them holding the torch, the other one cutting off the hostages' curls).
Enter Becc mac Dé with the mistletoe and a silver bowl. He puts the curls and the mistletoe into the bowl and spreads some herbs over it. Then he puts the bowl on the altar, lights the contents with the torch, bows westwards, covers his face with his hood and raises his arms.

Becc mac Dé:
This mistletoe is sacrificed to thee,
oh Ogma, with the finest-smelling herbs.
It grew upon an oak, and it was cut
according to the druids' old tradition;
may now its smell and that of all the spices
be blown across the sea to reach thy nose,
and may thine ears be open to my plea!
The twelve young men that thou art sailing with
are sons of noblemen and hostages
of Diarmait: if thou shouldst convey these men
unto the Otherworld, their angry fathers
will turn against the High King in a battle;
the best of Erin's sons would fall by sword,
and our beloved country would once more
break into pieces as in olden days.
Therefore, almighty Ogma, I beseech thee:
bring back the souls of Diarmait's foster-sons
into their bodies now, for Erin's sake!

Becc mac Dé fills the ashes from the bowl into the bull's skull and spreads the water on the dead bodies. A strong wind from the west starts to blow, and the hostages rise one after another.

1st hostage:
Is this the High King's hospitality
that Diarmait's guests now have to sleep outside?

Becc mac Dé (uncovering his face):
It's almost noon and you did not wake up -
we thought that some fresh air might do you good.

2nd hostage:
It did, indeed, but what a strange procedure:
this looks just like a ceremony does.

Diarmait:
I bet you're hungry! Come inside, there is
a lot to eat for those who do not fast.

Exeunt all except Breasal.

Breasal:
They were not dead and they are not alive -
nobody is. I once seemed dead myself,
but did I really live before I died,
and did I really die before I lived?
At least I know that I am not alive:
nobody seems to notice I am here.
Maybe that I'm still dead; still dead, and only
the Otherworld has closed her gates on me.
This world is made of mere imagination:
why can I not imagine that I live
or that I'm dead, or only that I am?
Imagination is a poisonous viper,
and she exists because she thinks she does,
while all her lifeless creatures have to suffer,
because she thinks them into life. How long,
how long will this exhausting play continue?
Could it be stopped if that malicious snake
bit her own tail to pass the lethal venom
to her own thought, or leads the thought itself
a separate life and thus survives the thinker?
It's worth a try: to free the world by dying
is not a new but still a tempting thought.


Scene VII

Ráth of the Synods. The eleven saints.
Enter Diarmait on the wall.

Diarmait:
Wrong have you done to kill my foster-sons,
and God the Lord shall make you pay for it!
You call yourselves His servants, and you slay
the innocent to save a murderer -
oh, that His lightning and His fire from Heaven
would fall upon you, that the Earth would open
her mouth to swallow all of you at once
who dare to take His holy name in vain!

Columcille:
The pagan King became a Christian preacher,
and God condemns His saints through heathen rulers?
You are ridiculous, my King: the Lord
will never turn His back on faithful servants!

Diarmait:
You are not faithful nor are you his servants:
He won't allow you to pervert His law!

Exit Diarmait.

Ruadán (chanting mightily):
The kings and rulers of the earth take counsel
against the Lord and His anointed, saying,
'Let's burst their bonds and cast their cords from us!'
The Lord in Heaven laughs at their attempts
and answers in His wrath and in His fury.
He said to me, 'You are my son! The nations
shall be your heritage, and all the ends of
the earth shall evermore be your possession.
And you shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them into pieces like a vessel!'
Now therefore, all you kings on earth, be wise,
now therefore, rulers of the earth, be warned:
obey and fear the Lord and all his servants,
lest He be angry and destroys your kingdoms,
for easily the wrath of God is kindled!

Diarmait (re-entering the wall, chanting mightily):
Oh, how I love thy law, thy righteous law!
It is my meditation every day
and makes me wiser than mine enemies,
for thy commandment always is with me;
I do not turn aside as thou hast taught me.
As sweet as honey is thy word to me,
and through thy precepts I've got thine understanding:
therefore I hate every false way.

What I have done is just, and it is right,
so don't deliver me to my oppressors.
Mine eyes are looking out for thy salvation:
make haste, and let the godless not oppress me.
Thou knowest that it's time for thee to act:
thy law and thy commandment have been broken.
I love thy law above the finest gold:
therefore I hate every false way.

Righteous art thou, my Lord, and right thy judgements,
and righteous are and faithful thy commandments.
My foes forget thy word and turn against me:
I am despised, and yet I don't forget
thy guiding precepts and thy truthful law.
Forever righteous are thy testimonies,
thy righteousness is righteous evermore:
therefore I hate every false way.

Exit Diarmait.

Molaise (chanting mightily):
Don't worry if you have to face the wicked,
and do not fear the evildoers' arms:
they soon will fade like grass and herbs in autumn!
The wicked draw their swords and bend their bows
against the law to slay the upright man
for his refusal to refrain from justice;
just as they turn God's word against the righteous,
their spears and swords shall enter their own hearts,
and all their bows and arrows shall be broken.
The righteous man shall be preserved forever,
his mouth speaks wisdom and his tongue speaks justice,
God's law dwells in his heart; he cannot slip.
The righteous man's salvation comes from God,
and He's his refuge in his times of trouble;
He shall release him from the wicked's arms,
for he takes refuge in our Lord and God!

Gabhnet:
I think that this psalm doesn't fit, Molaise.

Molaise:
A psalm that doesn't fit? What do you mean?
The Psalter, Gabhnet, is God's servants' fortress!
A psalm is right in any situation:
the holy word can never be misplaced.

Gabhnet:
At least the word might be misunderstood;
to chant that psalm on such a strange occasion
makes one believe you think the King is right.

Molaise:
The King is right - there cannot be a doubt,
because he strives for nothing more than justice
according to the written law of God!

Columcille:
His judgements are not based on written law:
they're based on made-up pagan allegories -
one never knows whether one's right or wrong!

Ita:
The King's afraid to lose his crown and kingdom,
depending on his arbitrary judgements.

Finnian:
As Ita says: he feels his rule is threatened
if he obeys the clergy, for he fears
the power of his druids and his bards!

Dabeog:
But still I think it was a great mistake
to cause the blameless hostages to suffer
because their host has sinned against the Church.

Ruadán:
What you are saying, Dabeog, is blasphemous:
what sacrifice would be too dear for God,
what offering too big? Did Abraham
refuse to sacrifice his only son?

Dabeog:
But why is such a curse not put on Diarmait?
Why kill the mouse if we can catch the eagle?
Can we not cast a spell upon the High King
so that he cannot move until the moment
he lets Aedh Gúaire go free?

Ruadán:
Oh no, we can't,
for Diarmait is now fasting just like us,
and thus we can't prevail against his power.

Columcille:
And if we killed him? Standing on the wall
he'd be a perfect aim for any spear,
or we could slay this pagan idolater
if everybody threw a stone at him!
Christ says, 'Take all the enemies of mine
who don't accept my reign and government,
and have them slaughtered right before mine eyes!'

Ruadán:
It would suffice if we could harm his body:
to take his eyesight or to make him limp,
to wound his mighty shoulders, or to leave
a scar across his face; the slightest blemish
must cause him to resign. That is the law
of Tara: that the High King has to be of
a healthy body and a healthy spirit.

Ita:
You're young, but you don't need to talk like children
who'd sell their birthright for a battle axe.
Our Jesus is no god of war, for in the
beginning was the word and not the sword:
St Peter once was censured cause he used it,
and you'll repeat his error? - Just like him
you've got the fire, but still the heat is missing
that fills your soul with love for all mankind.
The flame you've got within shall not destroy
but be the light and fireplace of the world;
when you're as aged as Finnian and Molaise
or even me, you might be wise enough
to realise the Christian mission is
a matter of the heart, not of the fist!


Scene VIII

Tara. Diarmait sitting over his bread and water, Breasal in a dark corner, not to be noticed before he speaks.
Enter Mugain in a very excited and disordered state, looking as if she just got out of bed, running towards Diarmait.

Diarmait:
What is the matter, Mugain? What has happened?

Mugain:
I had a horrifying dream, my King:
a mighty tree stood on the Hill of Tara,
its shadow covering the whole of Erin,
in fullest bloom, its branches full of leaves
and blossoms in the colours of the rainbow.
A thousand lovely birds dwelled in that tree:
they built their nests and whistled merrily
the sweetest melodies I've ever heard.
Then came eleven strangers, and they tried
to fell the tree whose top was in the sky,
but after every blow of their sharp axes
the splinters that they cut returned at once
into the trunk so that the tree stayed whole.
One year they chopped and chopped and could not harm
the solid tree which stood there like a rock,
but suddenly another man appeared
out of the ocean with a shiny axe.
It had the size of Tara's city gates,
and it was wholly made of purest gold.
This man went up the hill to join the others
who stood aside to let him lift his arm,
and, aiming at the everblooming tree,
the stranger swung his golden axe against it,
and with a single blow he hewed it down!

Diarmait (getting pale):
This is the end of all! I know that tree,
I know the birds, and well I know the axe man!
The tree is Tara, watching over Erin,
the birds are my commanders and my people
who still are living peacefully in its shelter.
The strangers are the clerics who are trying
to bring an end to justice in this country
but failed in their attempts to fight the law.
The axe man coming from the sea is Brendan
of Clonfert who'll prevail against the law!

Exeunt Diarmait and Mugain.

Breasal (rising from his seat):
Last night I was alone, and there was nothing:
no world, no sky, there was no sun nor moon,
no man nor beast and neither light nor darkness;
there was just me - my spirit, if you will,
because there was no body left to bear.
But then I thought it might be nice to have one,
a handsome body that could move and speak -
and there it was! And so I kept on thinking;
I thought myself a world to stand upon,
some light to see by, some fresh air to breathe,
some living creatures for my company:
some men and women, flowers, butterflies
and many more. I saw that it was good,
but I was getting bored after a while,
and so I went to sleep upon the ground.
When I awoke I was a puppeteer,
and masterly I pulled the others' strings:
they did exactly what I did with them
while they all thought they acted on their own
and I was one of them. But then I saw
that many strings were tied to my own joints,
and looking up I had to realise
a puppeteer who looked a lot like me:
he smiled at me and dropped the strings with laughter!
When I awoke I stood amidst the clouds on
a mountain's top; the silence was my song,
the earth my platform and the sun my pillow,
the mighty eagles were my company:
I closed my eyes and thought I wasn't there,
and everything around me ceased to be.
When I awoke just like a worm I lay
upon the ground, defeated by two men
who had great powers from their deities.
They were the last to look at me; since then
I am pretending that the images
that I created do not see their master.
(He draws his sword.)
When I awake, what will I be and see? -
It's time to change my lodging anyway.
I know: I am the life, I am the dream -
but will my creatures like myself decline,
will they endure without their master's thought,
or will they only think that they endure?
But if I do not stay, what do I care? -
Farewell, beloved images of mine:
I'll be no more or in another dream.
(He falls into his sword.)


Scene IX

Ráth of the Synods. The eleven clerics.
Enter Aedh Sláine, very pale and sickly, with servants who bring a lot of food.

Ruadán:
What a surprise! The High King sends his son
to celebrate our anniversary:
it is one year now that we wait for justice
and fast here on the matter of the Lord.
Aedh Sláine, does your father really think
we were that stupid to refrain from it
and let him get this one decisive advantage?

Aedh Sláine (insecure):
This is no trap. My father is suggesting
that on this day both parties stop their fasting
until tomorrow for a special reason...

Columcille:
...and that is to defeat us! You can tell him
he's got to find another way to fool us!

Gabhnet:
We know that he's malicious, that he's wicked,
but we had never thought he was that plain!

Finnian:
Now leave that boy in peace!
(to Aedh Sláine:) What was he saying?

Aedh Sláine (almost crying):
He said that you should have a celebration
today, a hearty welcome feast for Brendan
of Clonfert who will join you very soon.

Brendan of Birr:
But Brendan sails across the Western Sea -
he can't be here!

Aedh Sláine:
My father says he is,
and he seems very sure about his coming.

Ruadán:
I don't know what came o'er the son of Cerrbél.
Pray tell, is Diarmait also among the prophets?

The clerics burst out laughing. Aedh Sláine blushes, turns around and exits with servants. The clerics watch him leaving.
Enter Brendan of Clonfert without being noticed.

Brendan of Clonfert:
Hail brothers! Can I join your great assembly,
and can you tell me what it is about?

The clerics turn around and look puzzled.

Brendan of Birr:
Be welcome, Brendan! God has heard our prayers
to send you - rather late, but not too late!

Brendan of Clonfert:
I know my presence is required, but not
the reason for this matchless all-saints' meeting -
would you please tell me what is going on?

Molaise:
There's time for that! You'll have to tell us first
about your journey to the Promised Land:
where is it? What's it like? What have you seen?

Brendan of Clonfert:
We sailed for nearly one whole year to get there,
and after we put out there was not much
to see and to explore, just sky and water.
But after we'd been sailing for some weeks,
we came into a wild and biting storm:
the wind was strong and almost broke our mast,
but with some prayers we could calm the ocean.
The sun broke through the clouds again, and then
we saw Hy-Brasil, island of the dead,
and though the man who sees it has to die,
by mercy of the Lord we did survive.
Its shores looked like the ruins of the gods
who had to leave their homes to flee from Christ,
and Purgatory mountains spat their dreadful fire
upon the souls they have to purify.
Large whales, much bigger than the Hill of Tara,
then led us to an island made of ice:
of ice were made its palace and its dens,
but not a living creature could we find.
One day we finally approached the shore
of what I think must be the Promised Land,
with trees and flowers that you would not dream of
and animals that you would not believe in.
We were saluted by the feathered people
who dwell there in the skins of mighty beasts
and dye themselves with wet and reddish earth.
They are hospitable and quite polite,
although they worship horrifying gods.
We've lived with them for quite a while; at last,
and though we could not understand their language,
we had some christ'nings and a few communions.
One day an angel of the Lord appeared
to tell me that I had to go to Tara,
and so we left at once. Now I am here;
please tell me, brothers, why I had to come.

Columcille:
We all are fasting here against the High King...

Brendan of Clonfert (looking at the food):
I see that you are fasting, and it seems
that you are very serious about it.

Ruadán:
This comes from Diarmait - he foresaw your coming
and thinks that we would interrupt our fasting
to let him gain advantage over us.

Brendan of Clonfert:
And on what issue do you fast against him?

Ruadán:
To free Aedh Gúaire who slew the royal herald
because the man broke down the city walls.
He came to me, but from his sanctuary
the High King seized him, and he'll have him hanged.

Brendan of Clonfert:
I think that all this food will serve our purpose.

Bronách:
And how? You mean that we should sacrifice it?

Brendan of Clonfert:
Kind of. Just come a little closer, brothers,
and I will tell you what we'll have to do.


Scene X

Tara. Diarmait sitting at a laid table with some commanders, his druids and his wives.
Behind them Breasal's corpse is removed.
Enter footman.

Footman:
My King, the clerics eat as you expected;
they look just like a pack of hungry wolves.

Diarmait:
So bring the bacon and the ale! Tonight
I shall be feasting as in olden days -
my friends, I feel like I am born again!

Exit footman.

Becc mac Dé:
My King, I would suggest you keep on fasting
for one more night - thus you could end the struggle
against the lawless clerics and defeat them.

Diarmait:
I have been fasting an entire year now,
I've learned to hate the taste of bread and water,
and I refuse to live on it if it's
not necessary for the sake of justice.
Besides, it's Imbolg and I have some guests:
not only would these people be insulted
but quite suspicious if I didn't eat.
The Lord in Heaven knows that I am right,
and well He knows that I can't fast today,
and well He knows I won't deceive the clergy,
and so I know that He won't let me down.

Becc mac Dé:
A caring father tends to be quite partial
towards his own children, even when they're wrong -
but now you've got the one and only chance
to gain the favour of the clerics' god
if he can see that you obey his rules
while his beloved clergymen do not.

Diarmait:
Just figure what my credit would be like
if people said, 'The High King won his battle
against the clerics by deceiving them;
he sent them food and promised them that he
would not fast either, but in fact he did.'

Deirdre:
Their god is not much different from the others:
the gods cheat one another all the time
and give their favours to their chosen men -
the more that one betrays, the more they love one.

Diarmait:
Yes, Deirdre, but I'm neither god nor saint -
so I can be at least an honest man.
I've never lied to friends nor enemies:
I told the clerics I would eat, and if
one can not trust the High King's word, whom else?

Cáirid:
Now you have heard two druids on that issue;
the other two will tell you just the same.

Fraechan:
The clerics would deceive you if they could,
and you should do the same - that's our advice,
and if you won't accept it, tell me why
you don't employ those clerics in our place.

Diarmait:
Well, Fraechan, Cáirid, I know very well
you both would never dare oppose your wife:
repeating Deirdre's words is all you do,
and that's why I don't ask for your opinion.

Enter servant with food.

Cáirid (after Diarmait took the first bite):
Not only have you just despised our word,
you also have offended me and Fraechan,
and therefore I will put a geis on you:
you never shall reject an invitation!

Enter footman.

Footman:
My King, I hope you have not eaten yet -
the clerics changed their scapulars and washed
the others in the brook; their food is heaped
into a corner of the ráth!

Diarmait:
Too late;
hand me the bacon and the ale! Too late
to save the law from enemies, too late
to think of peace and justice - it's too late!


Scene XI

Ráth of the Synods. The twelve clerics.
Enter Diarmait on the wall.

Diarmait:
Wrong have you clerics done to cheat the High King:
may God condemn you for your evil deed!
The Church should be the temple of His glory
and righteousness, but you have turned it into
a den of robbers and of murderers!
May soon the day approach when Christ Himself
comes back to cleanse His temple once again!

Brendan of Clonfert:
My King, we heard that you have stopped your fasting,
and thus your power has declined - if you
should not return Aedh Gúaire to us today,
the Lord will take your soul this very night!

Enter guards with Aedh Gúaire whom they deliver to the clerics.

Brendan of Clonfert:
I see you understand me. Tell me now
the ransom for the prisoner, my King.

Diarmait:
I won't take any, due to God's commandment:
'You shall accept no ransom for the life
of murderers; they shall be put to death!'
But as you force me to despise His law,
I only pray He may forgive my sin.
And as to Ruadán who put up the fight
against the law both royal and divine
and took away my sovereignty from me:
I pray to Jesus that your diocese
shall be the first of all to be deserted,
and hence a herd of swine shall dwell in it!

Ruadán:
Before that day your kingship shall be over,
and Tara shall be empty and destroyed:
none of your seed shall rule it any more,
no stone of it shall stay upon another,
no smoke shall rise from it from soon till doom!

Diarmait:
The Lord shall take one of your limbs from you,
and He shall take one of your eyes as well!

Ruadán's right eye bursts and starts bleeding. He covers it with his hand.

Ruadán:Your body shall be torn apart, so that
your head and limbs are spread all over Erin!

Diarmait looks at a beam on the outside of the building.

Ruadán (pointing at it):
This beam is hostile unto you, my King,
because the next time that you'll look at it,
it shall be falling on your head and kill you!

Exeunt all except Diarmait.

Diarmait:
Woe to the man contending with the clergy,
woe to the man who gives them blow for blow:
now Tara will be ruined and deserted
because the wicked clerics fought the law!
Woe to the man upholding peace and justice,
thus pleasing both his people and the Lord,
woe to the man obeying God's commandments
and placing them above the clerics' will!


ACT III

Scene I

Northern part of Tara's Banquet Hall. Diarmait sitting at the top of the table, flanked by his druids, his son Aedh Sláine, his wives, his chiefs and commanders and some clerics. Among his guests (in sitting order) Gabhran, Columcille, an old commander with his daughter Niamh, Curnán (her fiancé), Fergus and Dobhnall. Behind the table artists are performing, an enormous cauldron is about to be emptied, a pig is roasting on a spit, jugglers entertain the guests, and a band is playing a merry song. While they play, Gabhran and Niamh smile at each other. During the last stanza Gabhran walks up to Niamh.

Band:
Come to Tara, come to Tara,
old and young and rich and poor,
from the farthest parts of Erin
come to Tara, join the Feís.

Join the Feís, the Feís of Samhain,
meet the living and the dead:
now the Otherworld has opened
once again her mighty gates.

All the dead have now permission
to return to us tonight,
to advise their friends and people
or to take revenge on us.

Everybody come and join us
and be merry with the King,
be the royal guests of Diarmait,
dining in the Banquet Hall.

Here is mutton, here is bacon,
bread and ale for everyone;
artists, jugglers, singers, poets
entertain the King and you.

But you have to leave your weapons,
for this is no place of war,
and be patient with your debtors,
for this is no market place.

He who brings his arms or weapons,
he who's putting up a fight,
he who's threatening his debtors
shall be put to death at once!

He might join the great assembly,
coming from the Otherworld
when we celebrate next Samhain,
and take vengeance on the King.

Come to Tara, come to Tara,
old and young and rich and poor,
from the farthest parts of Erin
come to Tara, join the Feís!

Gabhran:
Please, may I ask you for a dance, sweet Niamh?

Curnán:
She's mine, and so you better get away
and keep your hands off her - she'll marry me!

Gabhran:
I only asked this lady for a dance
and nothing more; a dance won't harm a man
who can be sure of his own woman's love.

Curnán:
You say she doesn't love me? Look, my friend,
I know the kind of dance that you are up to:
you'll cross the dance floor for a single song,
talk sweet to her, then walk out of the hall
and finally seduce her on the lawn.

Niamh:
And if he does? - We are not married yet!
I am allowed to do what I desire,
and I can give my love to whom I want!

Curnán:
You keep your tongue! If Gabhran wants a fight,
we'll settle it between the two of us!

Niamh:
No, Curnán! If you fight, you will be hanged
for disobeying Tara's royal law!

Curnán:
What do I care? We both have been offended,
and Gabhran even tried to violate you:
it is your honour I'll be fighting for!

Curnán draws a dagger, the guards rush up to him.

Curnán:
Take this, you bastard, for your sick attempt!

Curnán stabs the dagger into Gabhran's heart and Gabhran sinks on the floor. Before the guards reach Curnán, Columcille jumps up and stands in front of him.

Columcille:
He's under my protection! He who dares
to touch this man shall be deprived of Heaven!

The guards hesitate and finally withdraw.

Diarmait (leaping up from his seat):
You cowards! What's the use of any guard
who's threatened by the words of lawless clerics?

Diarmait runs over to Curnán, ready to fight him.

Diarmait:
Come on, you murderer, and drop your dagger
if you're no coward; keep it if you are!

Curnán tries to stab Diarmait. Diarmait gets hold of his hand and squeezes his wrist until he drops the dagger which is kicked away by Diarmait. After a short fight Diarmait prevails. He chains Curnán and tries to lead him out of the hall, when Columcille steps in his way.

Columcille:
You better think about what you are doing,
my King! You've tried to fight the Lord before;
now you're supposed to listen to his servants,
lest He should lose the patience that He showed.

Diarmait:
You shall not win against the law again!
For those who carry weapons at the Feís,
for those who start a fight in Tara's halls,
for those who kill my guests there is a law:
my duty is to prosecute transgressors,
and that's what I will do to show my people
that justice still is practised in this land!

Columcille:
This man was only fighting for his honour
and for the honour of his noble bride.
The fight was caused by Gabhran; he is dead,
and so there's no one left to be accused!

Diarmait:
No, Curnán was transgressing royal law:
he brought a dagger, caused a fight and killed
a man - three times he shall be put to death!

Columcille:
Thus says the Lord: should he be executed,
this Feís will be the last one celebrated
at Tara, and your days of royal power,
false gods and sovereignty will hence be numbered,
and after you no pagan king shall rule!

Exit Columcille.

Deirdre:
I see that you are weak again, my King,
but should you set another killer free,
your people would be laughing at the High King,
and you would lose the rest of their respect.

Becc mac De:
Be wise, my King, and listen to your druids
this time: should you obey the faithless saint,
no one would ever take you seriously;
your name would henceforth be a mockery,
for should a criminal be sentenced and
- although his guilt is rather obvious -
the sentence not be executed, people
will say about him: he was judged by Diarmait!

Fraechan:
Should you betray this land to enemies
like Columcille and thus become the slave
of foreign gods and priests, your rule shall end
and with it, too, the rule of Church and clerics,
that no more Christian king might reign in Tara!

Cáirid:
If you should let the murderer go free,
nobody will respect your law and power
in Erin any more, for if a thief
or killer is convicted, he will call for
the clerics and the Church to shelter him!

Diarmait:
I know quite well what's to be done: this time
I won't surrender to the lawless cleric!
A killer must be put to death: that is
the law of Tara and the Bible, too!
He'll come with me - I'll be in charge of him
tonight, lest someone tries to rescue him;
tomorrow morning he'll be brought to trial!

Exeunt Diarmait and Curnán.


Scene II

Sleeping chamber of Diarmait.
Diarmait alone.

Diarmait:
My brother Máelmór, as the Otherworld
has opened all her doors to us tonight:
appear to me to give me some advice!

Máelmór appears.

Diarmait:
My brother Máelmór , as you know my troubles,
appear to me and tell me what to do!

Máelmór:
Do what you think is right! You charged this man
because he slew another, and there is
a law that tells you how to deal with him.
Will you allow a man like Columcille
to end the age of justice in this land?

Diarmait:
My brother Máelmór , tell me what to do!

Máelmór:
You know, dear brother, that there is no way
to uphold peace and justice in your kingdom:
should you deliver Curnán to the cleric,
you would maintain the peace in Erin, but
there'd be no faith in justice any more.
But should you sentence him and have him hanged,
you'd have to face a war against the cleric
and all his fellowmen; you'll be the king
who gave up justice to maintain the peace
or who was fighting to maintain the law!

Diarmait:
My brother Máelmór , tell me what to do!

Máelmór:
As everybody fears the cleric's curse,
you'll have to execute him on your own,
and when you put the noose around his neck,
my spirit and my soul shall be with you!

Exit Máelmór.


Scene III

Courtroom. Diarmait with Curnán in chains, his wives, druids, Columcille and some other clerics, chiefs (among them Fergus and Dobhnall), commanders and his guards.

Diarmait:
You are accused of three most heavy crimes:
that you put up a fight the week of Samhain,
that you have brought a weapon to the Feís
and that you murdered Gabhran, my commander.
Each single one would mean your execution -
what do you have to say in your defence?

Curnán:
I didn't start the fight, for it was Gabhran
who was insulting Niamh and me and tried to
seduce the virgin on the lawn of Tara.

Diarmait:
We all have witnessed that he only asked her
to dance with him. There's nothing wrong with that;
then it was you and Niamh who talked of more,
and I assure you that she is no virgin.

Columcille:
It was his duty to defend his honour:
therefore I put him under my protection.
You had no right to capture him from there;
as you despised the law of sanctuary,
your court and sentence have no jurisdiction!

Diarmait:
Why is it that you preach the word of God,
but violate His name to shelter outlaws
and ask the High King to refrain from justice?
I was ordained by God to be the High King,
which also means that I'm the judge of Erin;
I've always kept the laws of God and Tara
and never left the ways of our good Lord.
Is it the Psalter still that causes you to
obstruct the righteous cause?

Columcille:
You're mad, my King:
it's not a private matter that I strive for,
although I once was victim of your false
and godless judgements; it's the law of God
that I am fighting for against all kings
and rulers who will not accept His ways!

Fergus:
He is our cousin, and should Curnán die,
you'll have to face the army of Connaught, too!

Dobhnall:
The unity of Erin would be ended
by such a battle; there'd be no more High King,
for I and Fergus would refuse to be
the chiefs of such a High King any longer,
and both of us would share the kingship of Connaught!

Diarmait (to guards):
Put them in chains! For Columcille and Fergus
and Dobhnall are the enemies of Erin,
obstructing peace and justice in this country,
and I will judge them for their treachery!

Columcille (to approaching guards):
Don't dare to touch us! Should you raise your arms
against us, they shall dry like twigs in summer,
and you could never use them any more!

Guards withdraw.
Exeunt Columcille, Fergus and Dobhnall.

Diarmait:
This is the sentence: Curnán is convicted
of having murdered Gabhran, and according
to both the law of Tara and of God
I have to put the murderer to death -
tomorrow morning he'll be executed!


Scene IV

Cúil Dreimhne. The army of Connaught, led by Fergus, Dobhnall and Columcille, facing the armies of Mide and Leinster, led by Diarmait, his druids and Maelodrán who stays behind with his commanders, reckoning the size of the Connaught army.

Diarmait:
I had a dream last night: two men approached me -
the first one wore the garment of the clerics,
the second was a layman. They walked up
to me and took my crown which they divided
between them. Then they took the halves and made
a diadem of each before they left.

Becc mac Dé:
This means your reign is finished. Nevermore
shall you be ruling all of Erin; now
your grip of sovereignty has come to end.
The separation of the crown forebodes
that royal sovereignty over this country
shall be divided hence twixt Church and state.

Cáirid:
A time will come to see the Church enslaved:
the state will take her rights and privileges,
worshippers will not be allowed to meet,
the clerics will be slain, their temples burnt!

Becc mac Dé:
At other times the state will be enslaved:
the Church will force her own decisions on it,
and every leader must obey the clergy.

Cáirid:
The people soon will turn against their kin,
and no one will be safe from slaughter: son
and father will be slaying one another,
and every weapon will be red with blood.

Becc mac Dé:
By treachery the fruits and crops will perish,
the forest and the trees will be chopped down,
and all the brooks and rivers will dry up.

The Connaught army prepares for the battle, Maelodrán approaches Diarmait.

Maelodrán:
This battle is as good as lost, my King,
if we cannot delay the fight until
the other troops arrive. We are too few:
three thousand is our number, while the foe
is marching with ten thousand warriors.
By now the Munster and the Ulster forces
are on their way to join us in the battle,
and should the fight begin before they're here,
we would be routed and Connaught lost forever!

Diarmait:
What can we do? The enemy is ready
and hardly waits until our friends arrive.
We need a miracle to save us now,
a sign of God to show He helps His servants!

Maelodrán:
Why don't you ask the cleric's troops to wait
until the other armies will be here? -
He can't refuse it for the sake of fairness.

Diarmait:
How could the sake of fairness be of interest
to him declaring war on law and justice
and saving criminals from prosecution?
We certainly need something more effective
than Columcille's outstanding sense of fairness.
He wants this battle to destroy my kingdom,
and Curnán's sentence serves him as a pretext:
he couldn't save the murderer at all
because he is already executed,
but he won't miss this opportunity
to end the unity of Erin and
with it my reign and title as the High King.

Maelodrán:
Why would he do this? Still I cannot see
what profit he would gain by fighting you.

Diarmait:
It's nothing but revenge - I hurt his pride,
a fatal thing to do. He still is bitter
because in court I told him to return
the copy of the Psalter that he wrote
to Finnian as the owner of the book.
The clerics are at peace now; Finnian gave
the Psalter back to Columcille, and yet
the man is desperate to see my kingship ended
and doesn't care for justice and for lives.
He found two forceful allies who will help him
to finally destroy the High King's rule,
but even then he'll neither rest nor sleep
till I'll be standing in the pile of stones.
(turning to Becc mac Dé:)
Becc, is there not a way to keep the host
away from us until our troops arrive?

Becc mac De:
I am afraid that there is none. His god
will give the victory to Columcille
to punish him for his self-righteousness;
none of your soldiers will survive this battle,
but just a single Connaughtman will die!
Your power over Erin has declined,
and merely as a king you will return
to Tara where you'll rule the provinces
of Mide and Leinster, Munster and of Ulster.
When you will die, Connaught shall be united
with them again, but only for some time.

Diarmait (to his other druids):
Aren't you the first and best of Erin's druids
who have achieved their skills for many years
to share the wisdom of the gods, to know
the future and the past alike, to rule
the elements and every living creature,
to serve your people and the king who pays you?
And now you are not able to hold back
our enemy for just one single hour?

Deirdre:
I am, my King, for I could send the moon
way up into the sky to hide the sun,
thus covering this hostile land in darkness
until the other armies have arrived.

Diarmait:
How could the others possibly arrive
if they can't see their hands before their eyes?
We must hold back the enemy and not
the friends and soldiers coming to support us.

Cáirid:
I'll call the wind to keep the host away;
a storm that no one's ever seen before
shall blow against them, so they won't be able
to make a step or move in our direction.

Diarmait:
And how about the others? Do you think
they'll be blown in to join us in the battle?
For even if the wind blew from behind,
I'd rather say that marching through a storm
would cause some more delay for them and us.

Fraechan:
I could set up a wall between the armies,
a barrier of mist; the enemy
would not be able to assess our number
nor could they fight against our warriors,
for everyone who'd dare to leap that wall
would lose his life at once.

Diarmait:
That sounds much better:
with such a wall we would be safe enough
to patiently await the reinforcements
from Munster and from Ulster - go ahead!

Fraechan lights the twig of an oak and walks along the dividing line, hitting the burning twig on the ground. Wherever the twig touches the ground, a cloud of smoke appears.
There's confusion amongst the Connaught soldiers. One of them lifts his spear and walks towards the wall.

Soldier:
You will not get away with that! A fog
will hardly hinder us from fighting you.
The Lord is on our side - our enemies
are His as well, and they shall not prevail!

He leaps over the wall and - reaching the other side - is struck down by Maelodrán's spear.

Columcille (chanting):
Oh Lord, why dost thou not fend off from us
the druid's mist enveloping the host,
so we might see and fight the enemy?
Oh Lord, why dost thou not disperse the fog
that hides the number of the warriors
who in thy name shall be exterminated?
A raging son of storms betrayed these men:
he caused them to proceed around the cairns
and to ignore thy laws and thy commandments!
My only druid is the son of God,
and He will not betray His faithful servant,
but give him strength and victory in battle!

The fog clears and the battle begins.


Scene V

Tara. Diarmait and his druids.

Diarmait:
Three thousand slain! Is this supposed to be
the justice of the Lord, the God of Love?
Three thousand slain, Benbulben red with blood,
surrounded by three thousand champions' skulls!
Three thousand slain to satisfy the cleric
who thus took vengeance on the righteous people
to have his arbitrariness enforced.
He claims to be the judge instead of me,
but all his judgements that he battles for
are based on bias and not on the law.
Oh Lord, if you're the God of peace and justice,
take Columcille away from Erin's ground,
so that his selfishness, his rage and blood lust
may never harm my faithful men again!
Three thousand slain! Connaught is lost forever
and separated from the rest of Erin,
for two rebellious leaders took advantage
of their alliance with the vengeful cleric.
Shall Erin thus be evermore divided,
and shall a border tear apart the island?
Shall Erin's people battle Erin's people
as in the olden days of savagery?
Three thousand slain - that's what I will be known for,
not for my toil for justice and for peace.
My reign is a disaster - what a price
is this to pay for but one act of justice?
What is the value of justice being done
upon a single man when in return
three thousand others have to die? How could
my people trust a stubborn king like me?

Becc mac Dé:
There's nothing they could blame you for: you judged
according to divine and royal law,
but as the cleric sought a mere excuse
to have your rule extinguished, anything
you would have done had finally proved wrong.
You did the only thing to save your face:
you faced the traitors' army and you lost.

Diarmait is restlessly walking up and down, running his fingers through his hair. For a moment nobody says a word.

Diarmait:
How could a king expect to be respected
who is not able to protect his people
from lawless clerics and from selfish traitors?
A king who sends three thousand into battle
although he knows it's lost? A king who can't
maintain the unity? - When I was crowned
I was the High King over Erin, but
the country that God laid into my hands
is crumbling now and running through my fingers -
am I supposed to go and tell him, 'Master,
here's what thou hast entrusted unto me?'
The very moment Curnán murdered Gabhran
Erin was doomed; I had no chance to save her -
is this a temporary separation
or but the very start of her decay?
And then, when finally I'll pass away,
what will this land be like? Will it improve,
will better kings enforce a better harvest,
will greater kings enforce a greater time,
will stronger kings enforce a stronger land,
and will a king unite it once again?

Becc mac Dé:
A wicked world is now at hand: the women
will be as free as ever, but the men
will be enslaved, though earnestly pretending
that he who draws the yoke leads plough and ploughman.
The forests will be smooth when they're hewn down,
the blossom will be bad, the meadows green
because of heavy rains and many winds
and humid summers to destroy the harvest.
Although this land will see an excess of cattle,
dependants shall be starving everywhere
for lack of milk and beef, and furthermore
there will be wicked chiefs and evil faith
to lead the people into constant killing.
This land will have to suffer wars and famines
and foreign rules: a poor and withered world.
These are the princes that will follow you:
from Niall to Niall, a Niall from land to land,
a Niall at sea, a Niall in war and slaying,
a Niall in fire and storm, a Niall by day,
a Niall to be struck down and torn to pieces
each night as soon as Ailech is deserted.

Diarmait:
My rule is finished, as you said, and there
is nothing left for me to do. Now tell me,
as I'm about to leave the mess I caused
to my successors: which way shall I die?

Becc mac Dé:
There is no doubt about it. As I told you:
you'll go away from Tara to submit
to enemies of Erin; you will be
invited to the house of Banbán where
you'll drink from poisoned ale, an ale that's brewed
from just one single grain of unknown corn.

Diarmait:
What do my other druids say? Is this
the way that I shall die, or do you have
a different vision of my death?

Becc mac Dé (standing up):
My King,
do you remember any time I've lied
to you, or any time I've erred? I've been
your chief of druids now for twenty years,
and you know well that I have never failed!
You do not trust me, though you have no reason
to doubt the words I say, and you'll be slain
because you rather trust your enemies!

Exit Becc mac Dé.

Deirdre:
When you'll be murdered, you will wear a shirt
that's woven from the flax of just one seed,
and you will perish in a mantle made
of wool that comes from but one single sheep.

Diarmait:
It's easy to avoid a thing like that!

Fraechan:
And you will drown in a massive vat of ale
that night, brewed from a single grain of corn.

Diarmait:
This is the strangest thing I've ever heard.

Cáirid:
You will be burnt, and on your dish there'll be
the bacon of a pig that wasn't farrowed.

Diarmait:
Now everything you told me is unlikely!
I have four druids in my house - they tell
four different stories; Ruadán told one more.
So why should I believe a word you say?
Why don't you just admit you have no power
to see the future? No, you try instead
to worry me and make my life a nightmare!


Scene VI

Yard of the Drumcliff monastery. Becc mac Dé lying on the ground, his head resting on a stone.
Enter Columcille.

Columcille:
The druids' chief! What are you doing here?
You walk on Christian ground and risk your life
since you're the druid of the King of Tara.
You are a preacher of the gods St Padraig
has sent away from Erin to make room
for Christ our Lord; you are the friend of Diarmait
who is a foe of God and His commandments
and caused a war against the Lord and us:
you know you are an enemy, my friend!

Becc mac Dé:
If you will kill me now, don't hesitate,
for I have certain knowledge that we both
must leave this land before the sun declines:
you will be going to the east and shall
not see this land again for many years,
while I'll go west and see this land no more,
as I shall reach Hy-Brasil of the dead.
So I returned to where I'm from to close
the circle and to die where I was born.

Columcille:
Not everybody knows the day he dies,
and if indeed you have this certain knowledge,
this certain knowledge comes from God our Lord.

Becc mac Dé:
I think I should be grateful if indeed
this knowledge should be coming from your god.

Columcille:
So you still doubt the one and only God?

Becc mac Dé:
How could the god of war be god of love,
how could the god of death be god of life?
None of our gods would claim to reign alone
and try to send the other gods away -
there's space and there is need for all of them.

Columcille:
Our Lord is God of Love and God of Life,
and war and death are caused by men themselves
because they are opposing Jesus Christ!

Becc mac Dé:
This god of love and life is thus opposed
by people who do not respect these values.
It seems your god is different from your people
and that he didn't make you in his image;
our gods are like our people: good and evil,
malicious, truthful, beautiful and ugly.

Columcille:
Your gods won't stand a chance, for the Almighty
will rule the whole of Erin in a while,
and all your gods will leave and be forgotten.

Becc mac Dé:
They will not leave! They'll hide in peaceful places,
some even will be dwelling in the Church,
and people still will look for them and find them,
in time although they may forget their names.

Columcille:
May God forgive you! You were led astray
by false traditions and by evil gods,
but as you are a straight and honest man
I'll bury you, and for your soul I'll pray!

Becc mac Dé:
I'm sorry, Columcille, to disappoint you;
I must confess that I have lied to you.

Columcille:
Say, when was that?

Becc mac Dé:
It was this very statement.

Columcille:
I do not understand what you refer to.

Becc mac Dé:
I feel my life is flowing out of me,
and I desire to be baptised by you.

Columcille (confused):
You are not serious.

Becc mac Dé:
I hardly am,
my friend, but I’m obliged to tell two lies
before my passing.

Becc mac Dé sinks back.

Coulumcille (realising he is dead):
Three, am I correct?


Scene VII

Same place. Columcille piling stones on Becc mac Dé's grave.
Enter Molaise.

Molaise:
Hail Columcille! The Lord has sent me up
to hear your sins' confession. He'll forgive you,
should you confess the greatest one that you
committed in your life; but if you don't,
you shall be sent away not to return
until you understand the ten commandments!

Columcille:
What's this supposed to mean? I can remember
one single sin some twenty years ago,
while I was studying God's word: whenever
it was my turn to grind the corn, He sent
His angels down to do my work, and I
was failing to insist on doing my duty.

Molaise:
God doesn't tempt you, and He sent His angels
to you because He wanted you to prove
your greatness by rejecting them, as Christ
explained, 'If any one would be the first,
he must be last and servant of the others!'
You failed to use this opportunity,
but still it is no sin to take advantage
of any service that the Lord provides.

Columcille:
When we were fasting on the Hill of Tara,
I got excited about the way that Gabhnet
was speaking of the High King and his deeds.
I watched her graceful hands, her moving lips,
I looked into her fiery eyes, I heard
her clear determined voice, and suddenly
I felt a thrill no saint should ever feel.

Molaise:
You would not be a man without that thrill!
You can't prevent a bird from dropping muck
upon your head, but certainly you can
prevent a bird from laying eggs on it;
you can't prevent the thoughts from coming to you,
but they can do no harm as long as you
are in control of them - just be aware
that they will never gain control of you.

Columcille:
Now tell me what you want from me! You've heard my
confession, and you say I haven't sinned.
Apart from these events I have a very
clear conscience, and the Lord may be my witness:
I cannot think of any other sin!

Molaise:
Thus says the Lord: as you despised my law
again to take revenge for your hurt pride,
as vanity has tempted you to kill
three thousand men in order to destroy
the one you hate, and as you even are
too obstinate to repent and to confess
the sin that you committed, you shall leave
today and go to Alba; there I'll cure
your selfishness and your conceit. The boat
is lying in the bay and waits for you.
You're not allowed to carry anything
with you except the clothes you wear: no food
nor water, neither weapons nor a book.
You eyes shan't see the blood-soaked soil of Erin
again until you win as many souls
for me in Alba as you have destroyed
in Erin through your vain self-righteousness!


ACT IV

Scene I

Tara. Diarmait, Deirdre, Cáirid and Fraechan.

Diarmait:
As nothing happens, something must be done!
I'm growing old, my power is declining;
I've ruled this land for more than twenty years -
what have I done for Erin and my people?
When I was King, most savage wars were fought,
under my hands the law became a farce,
and all that I will be remembered for
is the partition of our noble country.
I shall not leave a separated island
when I depart; at least I'll claim the merit
of leaving it the way I took it over!

Deirdre:
You can't defeat the Connaught army, Diarmait!
You would be routed once again, your people
would all be slaughtered as they were before,
and you would even lose the rest of Erin!

Diarmait:
You know that I am not a man of war,
and never ever did I start a battle!
I'll come in peace to Dobhnall and to Fergus
and offer them a deal: should they unite
Connaught again with Erin under me,
accepting me as High King like before,
they shall succeed me after I have died.

Fraechan:
Did you not tell us that your exiled son
Aedh Dubh should be your heir?

Diarmait:
That's what I thought,
but every king must place his people's welfare
before his pedigree; the unity
of Erin is of more importance than
the person of the king or of the high king.

Deirdre:
You'd be the weakest king who ever reigned
in Tara if you should submit to foes;
the generations after you would mention
your name but with disgust.

Diarmait:
I shall not think
about the sound my name may have in future;
I have to do what's best for Erin's people,
and Erin's unity is most important
for them to live their lives in peace.

Fraechan:
My King,
are you not shrinking from the thought of breaking
the word you gave your exiled son Aedh Dubh?

Diarmait:
I never gave my word nor made a promise;
I just assumed that he'd be my successor,
and still I do so, for I had a vision:
the little tree I planted at Ráth Cruachan
never bore fruit - it paled and dried and withered
before it saw the summer. This would mean
that even if the traitors should survive me,
their rule would end before a year is over.
I'll send a messenger to Inverness
who will explain this matter to Aedh Dubh,
and I am sure that he will understand
I have no other choice; in fact, it might
be him to end their high-kingship in Tara
and take revenge for what they've done to me!

Deirdre:
It seems that you forgot the prophecy
of Becc mac Dé: it will be you he'll kill,
and now you're ready to provide him with
the motive which has been an unsolved riddle
for many years.

Diarmait:
I still do not believe it:
Aedh Dubh is but a reasonable man
and would not turn against me for the crown!

Fraechan:
You would commit a serious mistake
should you submit to Dobhnall and to Fergus.

Diarmait:
Negotiations with the enemy
are no submission, and it is my duty
to do whatever is the best for Erin!
It proved a failure listening to the clergy,
it proved a failure listening to my druids -
why shouldn't I commit an own mistake?

Deirdre:
If you submit, we shall not go with you,
lest people think that it was our advice
you should surrender to the faithless traitors.

Exeunt druids.

Diarmait:
One noble deed! One selfless noble deed
that I could always be remembered for;
besides the many failures and the shame
my name has brought upon the Hill of Tara -
one noble deed, one selfless noble deed!
I saw a golden age for me and Erin
about to dawn when I returned to Tara,
I saw my people living free from fear
in peace and justice, and I saw a land
where no one had to starve or run away,
a blooming country prospering with its High King!
The expectation is a boar, prepared
to swallow all the evil of this world
and ready to destroy the devil's servants.
The deed is but a flea: it can't be seen,
it is too tiny to be recognised,
though itches still remind us that it's there.
They both may live together, yet they are
too different to take notice of each other.
The future that shone brightly into the present
is blackest darkness at its other end:
the life to come seemed full of pride and glory,
the life behind seems nothing but a waste.
The day that I was crowned I made the vow
to give my best to serve my land and people;
I thought a noble honest mind like mine
could easily restore the peace and justice
of olden days, and I could overshadow
all my successors and my predecessors.
I thought that I could set a good example,
I thought that I could set the mark at which
each future high king would be measured; now
I'm standing at the ruins of my kingship,
and all that there is left for me to do
is to repair the damage I have caused.


Scene II

Inverness. King Bruide, his commanders, his druid Broichan and Aedh Dubh. A cauldron hanging over the fire.
Enter footman.

Footman:
My King, there is a man outside who wants
to speak to you. He just arrived from Erin,
and he's a druid of this fishy religion
that claims that there is but one single god.

Bruide:
What is his name?

Footman: I think it's Columcille.

Aedh Dubh:
Don't let him in! He is my father's foe -
he killed three thousand men in order to
divide my father's kingdom, and his prayers
bring slaughter and disaster everywhere.
He is a warrior against the law
who shelters outlaws, thieves and murderers
and doesn't hesitate to call an army
to take revenge for executed killers.
He is an enemy of every king
who dares to disobey his own commandments,
because he thinks his god entitled him
to be the master of all kings and rulers.
He is a savage tyrant without kingdom,
he is a battle chief without an army;
wherever he may go, he leaves a trace
of bloodshed and destruction right behind him.

Bruide:
We do not need a man like him in Alba!
Go, tell him to return again to Erin
as quick as he can manage; if he does
not leave at once, I want to have his head!

Exit footman.

Aedh Dubh:
I do not know what he is doing here,
but Columcille presents a threat to all
who want to live their lives in peace and justice.

Re-enter footman.

Footman:
He will not leave and says if you refuse
to let him in, the walls will tumble down,
and that his god would instantly destroy
your castle and the buildings that surround it.

Bruide:
That sounds just like the man Aedh Dubh described,
but he could not get into Inverness
if he had hundred armies. Close the gates!

The gates are closed and barred.

Columcille (chanting from outside):
Our God's our refuge and our guide and strength,
a very present help in times of trouble.
We will not fear, although the earth shall change,
although the mountains shake into the sea,
although its waters roar and foam against us,
although the mountains tremble with its tumult.

There is a river, and its stream shall gladden
the holy city of our Lord and God.
Our God is in the midst of her, she shall not
be moved, for He will help her right in time.
The nations rage, and all the kingdoms totter,
He's uttering his voice, the earth is melting!
The mighty God, the Lord of hosts is with us,
the God of Jacob is our certain refuge.

Come and behold the works of God the Lord
who wrought the desolations in the earth,
who ends the wars and finally the world,
who breaks the bow and shatters every spear,
who burns the pagan chariots with fire!
'Be still, be still and know that I am God,
I am exalted by the kings and nations,
I am exalted in the earth and heaven!'
The mighty God, the Lord of hosts is with us,
the God of Jacob is our certain refuge.

During the first stanza the bars withdraw, during the second the gates open, and during the third Columcille enters.

Bruide:
Could I refuse to welcome any druid
of those outstanding powers?

Broichan: Yes, you should;
he's not as powerful as you may think
because this druid only has one god.
As you shall see, he even won't be able
to move the chair that you will offer him.

Columcille (after unsuccessfully trying to move the chair):
Your pagan witchcraft won't prevail against
the power of the Lord, the God of gods,
and He will prove His strength: your arm shall wither,
and you shall never lift it any more!

Broichan's right arm sinks down, and he is unable to move it.

Broichan:
May all your golden curls fall off at once,
so that your Christian tonsure disappears
and no one sees which god you came to serve!

Columcille's hair falls off.

Columcille:
Your wicked eye may burst and leave your head,
so it can never harm a man again!

Broichan's eye bursts, and he covers it with his left hand.

Broichan:
And may the staff that you are holding now
become a poisonous viper in your hand!

The staff turns into a viper, and Columcille throws it on the floor and crushes its head.
Broichan lifts his glass with his left hand.

Columcille:
The glass that you are holding in your hand
shall break and all its splinters cut your throat,
so that you die and nevermore may dare
to curse a faithful servant of the Lord!

Broichan's glass breaks, the splinters cut his throat, and he falls backwards with his chair.

Bruide (leaping up from his chair):
This goes too far! I'll have you executed:
you entered Inverness without permission,
you challenged my respected druid Broichan,
and finally you killed him with your witchcraft!

Columcille:
Calm down, King Bruide. He who has the power
to take a life can give it back as well,
and at the moment that this stone is swimming
your druid shall awake to life again!

Columcille throws a stone into the cauldron, and after a few moments it swims on top of it. Broichan stands up, gets seated again and wipes the blood off his neck.

Bruide:
Now we have seen some samples of your power,
but still you didn't tell us what you want.

Columcille:
An angel of the Lord appeared to me
and told me there are many souls in Alba
who want to hear His holy word and long
to get the sacraments, and so I came
to still their hunger for the bread of life.
I wish to build a monastery in Alba
to teach the people how to serve the Lord
and tell them of His love and righteousness.

Bruide:
How could I keep you from your mission? Yes,
you'll be allowed to build your monastery,
lest you should give me battle and destroy
my kingdom and my people, but I will
not let you stay in Inverness for longer
than hospitality demands; tomorrow
you'll have to leave the castle and the city!

Aedh Dubh:
Don't let him stay in Alba any longer,
don't let him stay in Inverness tonight!
You witnessed that this cleric is a hazard
to every human being who objects him:
the very ground he walks upon is doomed,
the movement of his lips is causing bloodshed,
the raising of his hands is bringing murder;
his house is occupied by thieves and killers,
his residence exposed to close destruction!

Columcille:
You do not seem to be too glad to see me,
Aedh Dubh, although we both are proud descendants
of Niall, related thus by royal blood.

Aedh Dubh:
What do I care about our blood? You've spilt
enough of it, and still you starve for more!
You have destroyed my father's men and kingdom,
so how can you expect me to salute you
as if you were a kinsman and a friend?

Columcille:
You talk about the man who has expelled you
from Erin, even though you've done no wrong!

Aedh Dubh:
You know that this was due to Becc mac Dé's
false prophecy, and all his noblemen
suggested that he kill me, but my father
decided that I had to go to Alba -
so shouldn't I be grateful to the man
who saved my life and therefore risked his own?

Columcille:
You know that Becc mac Dé has never erred,
and not before the death of you or Diarmait
can you be sure his prophecy was wrong.

Aedh Dubh:
Why should I kill my father? He's the noblest
of all the kings who ever reigned in Tara,
he is a peaceful chief and righteous judge,
and it is only you and other clerics
who try to keep up war and crime in Erin!
Why should I slay a king who loves his people
more than himself, who has no other worry
than being worthy of his title - why?
He always kept his word, and so will I:
I told my father I would never kill him,
and I shall be as honest as he is.

Columcille:
What would you say if I informed you that
this noble honest man was not your father?

Aedh Dubh:
You lie to me! You're trying to divide us,
but your attempts to make me kill my father
will fail!

Columcille: Your mother died when you were born,
your father Suibhne was at war with Diarmait;
his army was defeated, and your father
was slain by Diarmait. When he left the scene,
from the abandoned house of Suibhne came
a baby's cry, and so he turned around
and took you from the cradle in his arms.
He brought you home to Mugain, and he asked her
to care for you as if you were their son.

Aedh Dubh:
I don't believe a word! Why should I trust
conspiring clerics rather than my father?
If you want me to turn against the King,
you should make up a better story. Tell me,
as you are not much older than I am,
how do you know about all these events?

Columcille:
Our fathers had been friends, and I was there:
a child myself, I witnessed how they battled,
I saw how Diarmait took you from the cradle
and walked away with you; I realised
that on your back you had the giant birthmark
your father Suibhne had been famous for,
and where your name derives from.

Aedh Dubh:
If that's true,
I never shall forgive him for this deed!

Columcille:
You must remember that they were at war;
your father might have killed him just as well.

Aedh Dubh:
I do not blame him for my father's death,
for as a battle chief I am aware
you can't avoid the killing in a battle.
But he deceived me for a lifetime by
pretending that I was his son, and therefore
I now shall be his fiercest enemy!

Exit Aedh Dubh.


Scene III

Inverness. Columcille eating, footman serving him.
Enter Bruide.

Bruide:
Good morrow, Columcille! Your horse is ready,
my soldiers wait to guard you to Iona
where you're allowed to build your monastery -
but I will never see the sight of you
at Inverness again, and if I should,
I will not hesitate to have you killed!
Be off now, lest I should make up my mind
and keep your head to show it to my friends!

Columcille:
Where is Aedh Dubh today?

Bruide:
He left this morning
because he heard that British troops are marching
against the wall, and if they should approach it,
he'll fight them with his army.

Columcille:
He will not:
there are no British troops that march against you.
Aedh Dubh is heading for the Hill of Tara
to kill King Diarmait with your soldiers' help!

Bruide:
He would not do a thing like that! Why are
you so convinced that he has lied to me?

Columcille:
You saw how furious he was when I
explained to him that he was not the son
of Diarmait, and he swore that he would not
forgive him but he'd be his fiercest foe!
Let me return to Erin with your guards,
and I shall hope that we won't be too late
to cause him to refrain from what he plans!


ACT V

Scene I

Ráth Cruachan. Dobhnall, Fergus and their commanders.
Enter footman.

Footman:
The poet Cáirid wants to talk to you.

Enter Cáirid.

Dobhnall:
What are you doing here? You are the poet
of Diarmait, known to be our enemy.

Cáirid:
His reign is at an end. He's on his way
to you to offer you a deal: you should
unite Connaught again with Erin under
his rule, and in return he wants you both
to be successors to the High King's title.

Fergus:
So what exactly do you want from us?
If Diarmait is already on his way,
we will discuss this matter personally.

Cáirid:
I would suggest that you accept his offer;
you know I am a druid, and I see that
the end of Diarmait's reign is very near -
in fact, I know he won't return to Tara.

Dobhnall:
Is that the truth? Of course we will accept,
and if you want to remain the High Kings' poet
after King Diarmait has been slain, we would
be glad to have you at our service, and
you can be sure we'll pay you properly.
But if he should return to Tara's Hill,
you'll wish that you were never born! I think
you understand that we can not allow you
to leave the inner circle of Ráth Cruachan
until we know that what you've said is true!


Scene II

Forest in front of the Hill of Tara. Aedh Dubh and his soldiers camping in a clearing.
Enter Columcille, blindfolded and led by a guard.

Sentry:
What is the password?

Columcille:
It's the holy Bible,
for every word of God shall come to pass!

Aedh Dubh:
Let him pass through; he is a friend of mine,
and he will help our course against the man
who said he was my father - now be welcome,
we know your prayers help the righteous cause!

Columcille:
I did not come to help you but to warn you;
you know that you should not return to Erin
again as long as Diarmait is alive!

Aedh Dubh:
He will not live much longer since I'm here,
for even if it was his only lie
to say I was his son, he'll have to pay
for his deceit, and Becc mac Dé was right;
your work be finished now, the prophecy
be now fulfilled, and sweet revenge be mine!

Columcille:
He loves you like a father loves his son,
and he wants you to be his own successor;
you are his pride and joy, and I am sure
that he forgot you were his foster son.

Aedh Dubh:
How could a man forget a thing like that?
He always knew it, and he never told me.
Could you be lying to the ones you love?
This man betrayed me all my life, and he
won't get away with it - he'll have to die!

Columcille:
Should you slay Diarmait, brother, you'll be cursed
for disobeying God's commandments.

Aedh Dubh:
Strange,
I never knew you valued Diarmait's life!

Columcille:
I never valued it, and certainly
I never will, but you must not forget
he was ordained by God to be the High King
of Erin; you'll succeed him in a while
if you return to Alba and stay there
until your time has come - but should you kill him,
you will not even rule a part of Erin,
but like a dog returning to its vomit
continue with your killing and your slaughter!

Aedh Dubh:
I do not care about his crown and kingship,
I care about the honour I have lost
because of his deceit, and I can only
retrieve it by revenge!

Columcille:
If you should slay
the King whose power comes from God alone,
you'll be an outlaw, shunned by man and beast,
and finally, pierced with a spear, you'll fall
from wood into the water where you'll drown.
The choice is yours, and you should think it over
before you throw your life away like this.

Aedh Dubh:
You brought me here, and now I shall refrain
from what you sent me for? Did you not know
what consequences your intrigue would have?
Don't tell me it was not your clear intention
to cause me to return and slay King Diarmait;
mine is the deed, but yours is the command!

Columcille:
If I had known that you would slay the King,
misusing soldiers of the army that
your host entrusted unto you, I'd never
have mentioned who your father was. You can
not blame me for the slaughter that you plan!
I cannot stop you, but at least I warned you;
farewell, and what you want to do, do quick!

Exeunt Columcille and guard.
Enter soldier.

Sentry:
What is the password?

Soldier:
Not my father!

Sentry:
Enter.

Aedh Dubh:
I didn't think that you'd be back so soon.
What did you find out there? Will we be able
to walk up to the Royal Enclosure without
being discovered by his guards?

Soldier:
May be,
but it would be of little use as Diarmait
has left the Hill of Tara.

Aedh Dubh:
Where's he gone?

Soldier:
They say he's at Ráth Cruachan to submit
to Dobhnall and to Fergus who defeated
him in the savage battle of Cúil Dreimhne.

Aedh Dubh:
He won't return from there! I think I know
where we can wait for him on his return.
(to soldiers:)Does anybody know a man called Banbán?

A soldier:
He is a famous warrior of Ulster,
and he is living at Ráthbeg.

Aedh Dubh:
That's where
we will expect the King to meet his fate,
and nothing shall be left that could remind
the world of Diarmait's reign! Come with me now,
we'll go to Tara to destroy the city -
burn everything you find and devastate
the place completely, and whatever should
survive the flames shall vanish in the Boyne;
no one shall ever realise that there
were human dwellings on the Hill of Tara!

The soldiers light torches and march up the hill. A few moments later Tara stands in flames.


Scene III

Ráth Cruachan. Dobhnall and Fergus.
Enter footman.

Footman:
Diarmait mac Cerrbél, King of Tara!

Enter Diarmait.

Fergus:
Diarmait,
I see that finally you decided to
submit to those defeating you in battle!

Diarmait:
I never will submit, but I will offer
you an agreement that you can't decline.
I'm growing old, and soon I'll have to die,
and if you should accept my rule as High King
for the few years that might be left for me,
you shall succeed me and be Erin's High Kings.

Dobhnall:
It seems you have no sons who could succeed you,
so you are offering your kingship to
your enemies. Or is it vanity,
that for the time when you'll grow old and wither
upon your cursèd holy hill, the whole
of Erin shall be withering with you?

Diarmait:
You'd be the last whom I would like to see
to reign in Tara's city, and I have
a lot of enemies I would prefer.
It isn’t for your sake and not for mine,
it's for the sake of Erin that I make
this sacrifice; you know as well as I do
that borders are the greatest threat to peace!

Fergus:
But borders also can secure the freedom
of all those people living in their shelter,
where they are safe from arbitrariness
of tyrants who do not respect the law.

Diarmait:
Yes, it is true my people live in freedom,
but still the threat of war hangs over Erin
as long as there are borders. This is why
I offer you to rule the whole of it:
your tyranny would be but temporary,
the unity of Erin would remain!

Dobhnall:
We'll think about your offer. Still I baulk at
the thought we'd be delivering our people
into the hands of pagan idolaters
who gravely fight the ways and laws of God!

Fergus:
I think that we should risk it. Just imagine
that we'd be High Kings, ruling every part
of Erin soon instead of just a province!

Dobhnall:
I do not think that we can trust this man.
What's going to happen if the King grows old?
He might survive us, and we would have given
Connaught away without the slightest gain!

Fergus:
I think we hardly can expect King Diarmait
to promise us that he would die in time.

Dobhnall:
And if he kills us? We are still his foes,
and after he succeeded in regaining
his kingdom, he might very well be able
to get rid of us.

Diarmait:
I swear I wouldn't do that!
You know I never lied nor broke my vow,
nor did I kill a man maliciously!

Dobhnall:
Then be it so! You shall return to Tara
as High King who regained his royal power,
and we will be the next ones on the throne!


Scene IV

Ráth Cruachan. Diarmait with his wives, body-guards and footmen leaving the ráth.
Enter warrior.

Warrior:
My King, my master heard of your success in
uniting Connaught once again with Erin’s
remaining provinces, and he is glad
to know that you're the High King as before;
therefore he has prepared a splendid feast
to celebrate your famous victory!
He would be honoured if you could attend
his merry celebration with your wives,
and I'm supposed to bring you to his house.

Diarmait:
Would that be far from here?

Warrior: It's in Ráthbeg,
a journey of two days or maybe three,
but as the feast will last for seven days,
it should be worth the trouble.

Ethne: Who's your master?

Warrior:
I'm sorry I am not allowed to tell you.

Ethne:
We know the name of that mysterious host,
and we will not accept his invitation!

Diarmait:Who has entitled you to make decisions
on my behalf?

Mairend:
Have you gone mad, my King?
Do you intend to go with him, accepting
an invitation from an unnamed host,
when you know well you'll be assassinated
on such an occasion? Are you not aware
of all the prophecies that have been made?

Diarmait:
I am, and I remember all of them:
first my friend Ciarán told me I would die
by being wounded, burnt and lastly drowned.
Then Becc mac Dé foretold me that Aedh Dubh
would poison me in Banbán's house. Thereafter
Ruadán expected that a falling beam
would strike and kill me on the Hill of Tara,
while Deirdre told me that I would be slain,
and Fraechan was convinced that I would drown
while swimming in a vat, and finally
my poet Cáirid saw that I'd be burnt.
Am I supposed to shun the Hill of Tara,
to stay away from water and from ale,
should I avoid all weapons and all fires
and spurn each invitation to a feast
to prove that all those prophecies were wrong?

Mugain:
You can't be serious about going with him!
You know that Becc mac Dé was ne'er mistaking,
and as the unknown warrior refuses
to tell us whom he comes from, it is clear
that he's from Banbán's house, and he will bring
you to the place where you shall meet your death.

Diarmait:
I don't believe that Becc mac Dé was right,
but even if he was, I'd have no choice;
there is a geis on me, and if I should
decline an invitation, I'd be cursed -
avoided and despised by human beings,
I'd die an outcast somewhere in the moors.
This is a joyful day; I've just retrieved
my kingdom, I'm invited to a feast,
and as I have no chance but to accept,
I shall be merry and not think of death!

Mugain:
Do what you want! We shall not go with you,
and if you travel to Ráthbeg, we know
that we will never meet again, my King!

Diarmait:
Ask Fergus for some guards to bring you back
to Tara then, as my own people shall
be going with me to the celebration!


Scene V

Banbán's house. Banbán, his wife, Fingín, noblemen and warriors sitting at a large table, footmen serving them. Artists on a high stage mutely performing Diarmait's famous deeds (i.e. the slaying of Flann Finn, the seizing of Aedh Gúaire, the arrest of Curnán and the visit to Ráth Cruachan), the horizontal front beam being the one shown to Diarmait by Ruadán (Act II, Scene XI). Under the stage a huge vat, beside the stage musicians playing.
Enter Diarmait with his guards, footmen and the warrior.

Banbán:
Here comes the High King! Welcome to Ráthbeg -
it is the greatest honour of this house
to have you here, and everything's arranged
to satisfy and entertain our champion.
We'll celebrate a joyous feast that you
will not forget as long as you shall live!
(to his wife:) Now show the King the room prepared for him,
and give him a new mantle and a shirt.

Exeunt Banbán's wife and Diarmait.

Banbán:
This is a day which will not be forgotten
as long as Tara of the Kings will stand,
for Diarmait has succeeded in regaining
the power over Erin as its High King.
No border shall divide our island hence,
and peace and justice now have found their place
on our beloved island once again!

Enter Banbán's wife and Diarmait, taking the place at the head of the table between Banbán and Fingín.

All except Diarmait:
Hail Diarmait! Hail! Long live the High King!

Diarmait:
Thank you,
I'm glad that I am here with you today
to celebrate our motherland's reunion.
You see our host has taken every care
to make this day a memorable date
for us and for the coming generations!

endl All except Diarmait:
Hail Diarmait! Hail! Long live our noble High King!

Fingín:
My King, I am the druid Fingín; I
have heard about your wisdom and your judgement,
and I would like to put you to the test.

Diarmait:
I'm not afraid; I'll answer all your questions.

Fingín:
A warrior is told he would not die
unless the soil of Alba were below him
and he were in the air, and there he could
be slain when caught between the fire of hate and
the water of knowledge. Let us say he is
your prisoner already - tell me, Diarmait:
how would you kill the man?

Diarmait:
That is not hard
to answer: I would chain him to his horse
and lead the horse into a boat whose bottom
is filled with sand from Alba. Then I'd set
the boat out on the Boyne, and I would throw
a burning torch in it.

Fingín:
This one was easy,
the next one is more difficult: imagine
I told you that one of these warriors
would lead a host against the Hill of Tara.
The battle would be lost if he approached
the hill, but you don't know where he would come from;
he only could be overwhelmed by him
who has the power of this warrior's dog,
but there would be a geis on you that says
that you must never eat the meat of dogs.

Diarmait:
I'd kill his dog and take its heart, and that
would cause this warrior to rage against me.
Then I would put a geis on him that he
could never cross the water; I would feed
the dog's heart to a pig, and after it
received the strength and power of the dog,
I'd have it slaughtered and I'd eat its bacon.
Then I would wait for him and for his host
in the defile between the Boyne and Barrow
where I could easily defeat his army. -
Now here is one for you: if you were told
your son would kill you on an invitation,
and if there were a geis on you that says
that you can not decline an invitation;
when finally you were invited, Fingín,
what would you do?

Fingín:
There's no way out of that –

Enter Nemain. Suddenly everybody is silent and gazes at her.

Diarmait (after staring at her for some time, not taking his eyes off her):
Who is that girl? My friend, I'll worship her;
she is a goddess, and I'll worship her.
She is as tall and noble as a crane
who strides along the strand - I'll worship her.
Her full black hair looks like a flock of ravens
whom from the clouds descend - I'll worship her.
Her dark black eyes are like the eagle's eyes
that overlook the land - I'll worship her.
Her lips are blood-red like the bullfinch's plumage,
yet of a sweeter blend - I'll worship her.
Her neck is white and long as of a swan,
and it is just as grand - I'll worship her.
Her breasts move up and down like flutt'ring sparrows
whom gladly I'd attend - I'll worship her.
Her arms are slim and graceful as an egret,
and slender is her hand - I'll worship her.
So at her endless heron legs I'll kneel,
wherever she will stand - I'll worship her.
Who is that girl? She was from heaven sent,
on her I must depend - I'll worship her.

Nemain (pouring ale into Diarmait's horn):
My King, I'm Nemain, daughter of your host,
and as you're here without your wives today,
I shall be your companion and your lover
tonight, according to the noble custom
of hospitality; I'm looking forward
to it! Your poem was as sweet as honey,
I'm sure your worship will be just as sweet:
a gifted poet is a gifted lover!

Diarmait:
This is the day that I've been living for!
What more can any man request from life
than being loved and tempted by a goddess?
Without delay I will submit to you,
my rose of roses, song of songs, my idol:
I'm yours, I'm yours tonight - then come what may!
Now Death, where is thy sting and victory,
now Hell, what do thy fires and horrors matter
if one can rest in Heaven's lap for once?
(raising his horn:) Here's to the Queen of Beauty and of Love!

All at the table raise their horns and drink to her.

Nemain (standing behind Diarmait, putting her hands on his chest):
How do you like the shirt?

Diarmait (holding her hands): It's wonderful!

Nemain:
It's worthy of a king, for it was woven
from flax deriving from a single seed:
I sowed it, and I sowed its fruits again
until I had a sheaf, and from the stems
I span the threat that it is woven from.

Diarmait:
This mantle's of outstanding quality!

Nemain:
It's worthy of a king, for it was made
from wool of our best sheep: we stored the wool
we sheared off it each year until we had
enough to make a mantle out of it.

Diarmait:
I never tasted liquor like this ale!

Banbán:
I'm sure you never did, for it was brewed
from just one single grain of corn. When I
was hunting once I killed a turtledove,
and in its crop I found a grain of corn
that is not known in Erin; so I sowed it
and sowed its fruits again until it was
sufficient for the brewing of this ale.

Diarmait:
This bacon is the best I've ever had!
How come the piglet never has been farrowed?

Banbán:
The sow that was with it was dead before
it brought the piglets forth, and so they were
removed by cutting them out of the womb;
this was the only piglet that survived,
and it was fed and fattened for this day.

Diarmait:
Where did you get the beam that fronts the stage?

Banbán:
I found that timber floating in the sea
when I was fishing, and I thought that such
a curiosity would nicely fit for
the stage we were preparing for the feast.

Diarmait:
Indeed you've got a most outstanding sense
for curiosities.
(leaping up from his chair, to his men:) Get out of here!
This is the cursèd place that was appointed
for me to meet my death!

He gets pale and runs to the door, holding his stomach in pain. As he opens the door, Aedh Dubh stands before him.

Aedh Dubh (throwing his spear through Diarmait's heart):
This is your way!

Diarmait stumbles backwards, all others leave the house.

Aedh Dubh:
Now set the house on fire! He shan't escape!

His soldiers throw their burning torches through the door and windows. Diarmait's clothes catch fire, and he mounts the stage and jumps into the vat. A few moments later the stage burns, and the said beam falls down and smashes the vat.


Scene VI

Driumm Tibrat. Aedh Sláine burying the head of Diarmait in front of Ecclais Beg.

Aedh Sláine:
So this is all that's left of you, my father;
at least your head shall share the grave of Ciarán
while all the rest is spread all over Erin.
Nobody loved as much as you: the welfare
of land and people always was your purpose,
you struggled for the sake of peace and justice,
just as you swore to Ciarán when he left you.
Nobody failed as much as you: defeated
and cursed by your own druids and the clergy
you have been doomed to lose the fight for Erin.
Nobody died as much as you; the traitors
remain unharmed, and with the fiends' survival
inevitably comes this land's destruction.
Thus nevermore the flower of our country
will see a spring again, no smoke from Tara
will rise as in the golden days of old.
Here rests the High King, lies the head of Erin:
the age of gods and heroes is now over
and Tara's glory lost and gone forever.


© 6236-6237 RT (1995-1996 CE) by Frank L. Ludwig