Deirdre of the Sorrows


                                 Acrylic by Gillian E. Beaton


A tear that fell far below

       Awakening the eye of the shadow,

The old one who saw

       What could not be seen,

The old one foretold

       To others a dream,

Of a child born

       To the childless ones.

“Too long you have waited

       And now no more,

The gods have heard

       Your deep despair,

A golden light child

       You shall bear,

One more dazzling

       Than the sun

Whose beauty sublime

       Blinds the eyes

Of all earth’s sons

       And she shall be

Your daughter.”


So happy were they

       And danced till the day

Foretold by the old one

       Who saw,

Joy erupted

       But then interrupted

By further voice

       From the gods,

“Your daughter shall be

       The cause celebre

Of more streams

       Turned to blood

For your innocent one,

       More swords

Stained to scarlet

       Over your light child

Than this isle

       Has ever known.

Three brothers tall,

       Bronzed and bold,

Three brave warriors,

       Joined as one,

Will die as heroes

       After many tomorrows

For the sake of

       Your lovely one.”


Agonized cries

       Screeched as hawk,

Descending upon prey,

       The voice of the childless ones

So raw and so cold,

       Deadened with darkness

As meat thrown to birds,

       Eyes cast in shadows

While voice swiftly rose,

       “What can be done

For our child of love,

       What once was our blessing

Is now our curse.”

       So seer who had seen

As if in a dream

       Spoke quietly as waves

Caressing the sea,

       “Pray listen, my old ones,

And mark my words

       Though gods may have spoken,

Fate may be queried.

       What once we ask for

May be blessing or curse,

       The vantage point is wanting

Yet may be reversed.

       Pray do not despair,

We’ll change our position

       To obscure our lair.”

And so she spoke softly

       As if in a trance

“Let no gaze behold,

       This child without guile,

She must remain hidden

       Where no man can advance,

Raised deep in the woods

       By flowers and fairies,

Embraced by the soft

       Kiss of the dew,

Alone to fly free

       As the eagle that soars,

Far, far away

       From the eyes of man.”


By the end of the year

       With birth drawing near,

Songs long turned to sadness,

       Mother’s grief turned to madness,

She gazed not upon

       Her Venus of child,

But father as panther

       Stole through the night,

Stealthily carrying

       The child of light,

Deep into darkness,

       Far into earth

To fulfill one desire

       That babe not be seen

By man, woman, nor child

       But raised in the woods

By the hand of a nursemaid,

       This artisan of child

Would weave to perfection

       Her most beautiful design.


So father and midwife

       Made straight for the woods,

Soil’s dark dungeon

       Was deeply dug,

Covered by wood and mud

       Made a mound

Most magnificent babe

       Must not be found

But obscured far away

       From the vision of mankind

Where revealers of secrets

       Could not find

The innocent one lying

       Deep inside.


The father departed

       With these words

“Let no eye behold

       My most beloved child

For blood will befall

       This whole isle

If you keep

       Not your word.”

And before he departed

       He lamented his fate,

The final words spoken

       Were only a dirge

For the child he had hoped for

       And the child he still loved,

And then with a hasty

       Hand to the eye

He spoke quietly as the wind

       Whispering to the sky,

“My daughter she is and

       Shall always remain,

And you shall call her Deirdre,

       For Deirdre’s her name.”

Then father as dragonfly

       To pond,

Darted alone

       To the beyond,

Carried by wings

       Of magical dreams

Back to where beginnings

       And endings are one.


Lithe, lovely sprite

       Hidden at night

In earthen embrace

       On a faraway hill,

Covered by earth

       As a mole in a mound,

The little babe grew

       Happy and sound,

No friends but for flowers

       No song but for birds

The bees and the honeycomb

       Sweeten the woods,

The scent of the willow

       The softness of air

Act as a pillow

       To cradle her hair,

Deirdre lies in stillness,

       Alone with her dreams,

The luminescent

       Deirdre of the Sorrows.


A green mount touching sky,

       A home in the woods

Away from the prying

       Eyes of mankind,

For all knew nothing

       And what no one knew,

No one knew not,

       Proof of existence

Affirmed or denied

       Was as a dream


       Perhaps not.


In the coldness of winter

       When white dusted the ground

Alone with her keeper

       Deirdre heard the sound

Of the hunters that hunted

       Deep into dawn.

No longer a child

       But pure luminescent light,

A goddess had become.

       Unsullied by passion,

Devoid of lust,

       In the whitest of winter

She heard in the dusk

       The bellowing of horns

And she felt in her heart

       The terror of the deer

Being stalked in the dark.

       Her nursemaid, now old,

That tender, faithful one

       Knew of the hunters

But told of the birds,

       She knew of the hunters,

Stalkers of life,

       Wild men of Cernunnos

Wandering the night.

       Deirdre’s lair still lay hidden,

And hidden must remain

       From the ways of the hunter,

From the desires of man.

       Deirdre had run with the deer

And lain down with the wolf,

       No need to awaken

The harsh ways of earth.


One such night

       When clouded thieves stole

The light of the stars

       And a blizzard hurled snow spears

Deep into the sky,

       The bellow of horns drifted away

The moon was darkened

       The hunter lost his way

And so crept beside

       The mound in the earth

Seeking shelter from

       The wind’s blistering tongue.

And so he slept, cradled by cold,

       While dreams of the magical

Danced in his head.

       He dreamt of a fairy,

He dreamt of a song,

       Played as an ode

On the light fingered dawn,

       And when he awoke

He opened his eyes

       And moaned for the sanctuary

Of the Sidhe inside.


Now Deirdre heard all creatures

       In the night,

Felt their sorrows

       And divined their light,

Then she heard

       The most pitiful of cries

But nursemaid replied

       “‘Tis only the birds,

Lost in the wind”

       For if Deirdre be discovered

Then the deluge would flow

       Blood covering the isle

As the prophecy foretold,

       And so to her vow

Faithful she would hold,

       And so the nursemaid spoke softly

Of blizzards and birds,

       “Sleep peacefully, my child,

Be not afraid,

       Soon dawn will caress

This crucified night

       Casting light on the shadows,

Awakening the day,

       So sleep, my dear child,

Soon it will be light.”


Voiceless vision

       Filled the air,

The voiceless vision of despair.

       Then young one replied,

“I fear that we are needed

       If the birds lost their way,

All creatures need comfort

       The great and the small,

The deer and the rabbit,

       The fox and the dove.”

So Deirdre drew aside quickly

       The bolt from the door

And the snow crashing quietly

       Soon melted to man.

His eyes gazed in wonder

       But he spoke not a word,

Silence descended

       As a mist in the morn,

Sleep swallowed sight

       And he slept as the dead

While Deirdre and the old one

       Cradled his head

And nursed him to warmth

       By fire’s embers

And the breath of the hearth.


Upon awakening he let out a sigh

       At the vision of the goddess

That danced before his eyes.

       Was it a dream,

A visit from the gods?

       Were he to keep seeing

He would have spoke not a word,

       But feeling time’s talons

Tighter around his throat,

       He spoke on,

His words were as warriors,

       Victorious at night,

Exhausted yet rejoicing

       Released from their plight,

The journey homeward

       Led towards their throne,

By day the pawn,

       By night the drone,

“Oh, magnificent maiden,

       Are you but a dream?

Can I touch your hand?

       Are you vapor or steam?”


Then the old nursemaid,

       That tender, faithful one,

Spoke sharply as sword

       Striking the stone,

“So we have helped you,

       Lost hunter in the woods,

So we have helped you,

       Now you must keep your word,

Pray, speak to no other,

       Man, woman, nor child,

Reward us with silence

       About what has transpired,

We live quietly with nature

       No need to reveal

What must remain hidden,

       Now give me your oath.”

But brazened hunter,

       Emboldened by warmth,

Ventured forward with words

       As if closing in on his prey,

“I beg pardon to say

       A fair request, indeed,

For saving my life.

       But a man who could keep quiet

Is not a man but a god,

       For I fear to keep quiet

I would lose more than my life,

       I would betray my King.

Can one hide the moon

       When the moon waxes full,

Forever and ever

       Till hours dwindle to dawn?

Can one disguise the rays

       Of a shimmering sun

On the hottest of deserts

       Till moments touch no more?

Even with eyes blind,

       The heat of the sun

Is felt in the shadows

       Though the day be gone,

So this maiden as fire

       Held by the gods,

Once discovered

       Cannot be denied

Even by gods.

       So I shall return

To my Lord and my King,

       The oath that I’ve taken

To this I’ll remain true,

       No secret shall come

Between my master and me,

       My word is my oath

And I honor the King,”

       And with a deep bow

He made swift retreat,

       Back to the forest

On the fleetest of feet,

       Straightway as a marksman

Taking his aim,

       He fairly flew as an arrow

Toward his mark, the king.


As dog before master

       Dropping his prey,

For the praise of his master,

       The hunter quickly told

The secret of his journey

       Into silvery snow,

The tale as his bounty

       He offered to the king.

How snow took sight

       And death came near

And hovered around, yet

       Still he could hear

The voice of the fairies,

       Whispering disguised

By cold’s fingered icicles

       Touching his eyes,

Though he was lost,

       He was not alone,

He felt in the hillside

       The voice of the dawn.

Softly he called and was embraced

       By the woods

And handed gently over

       To the hollow in the hill.

Though he was dreaming

       And slept as the dead,

Warmth renewed his spirit

       And he saw within

The most golden of goddess’s,

       Whose whisper inspired mirth,

Whose echo evaporated sorrow,

       Whose smile shadowed earth.

Was this a godess?

       So bright were her rays,

He was blinded and awed

       And hastened to tell

His king and his master

       Where the wild lily grew,

Where the bulb buried

       Deepest in the earth,

Yielded the rarest of flowers.


King Connachar listened in rapture,

       As if hearing a bell,

Achingly distant in darkness,

       Yet so sweet and so clear,

Knowing fell upon him,

       Fortitude seized his mind

And amassing his horseman,

       Stomping steeds under rein,

Waiting to let loose

       As a pregnant cloud

Breaks torrential rain,

       Connachar bellowed,

“On you must ride!”

       So soldiers and steeds

Galloped deep into the woods,

       Flooding the earth,

They rode swiftly on.

       Faster and faster,

Barely touching ground,

       They fairly flew

To uncover the hillock

       Where the grail was hid.


Snow now all melted

       While spring’s voice

Lingered long,

       Awakening the seedling,

Awakening the song,

       Heard deep in the woods,

The murmur of trees

       And the whispering of wind,

The huntsman wavered

       He could not find

The mound in the springtime

       That winter’s snow had disguised.

Circling around, aimless design

       Mesmerizing movement

Leading ever on,

       As moth driven in darkness

Moves toward the light,

       So the horsemen and hunter

Rode quickly on

       Listening for the whisper,

The voiceless song

       The hunter once heard

In the early morning dawn.

       Closing his eyes

To the sea of mankind,

       He fell silent and felt

A most holy sign,

       The sigh of the sacred

In the mouth of the wind,

       Then hunter bowed deeply

And led the way

       To the enclave in the

Gnarled fingered woods,

       To the earthen bothy

Where the goddess was hid.


Pounding on portal

       The hunter demanded

“Open wide”,

       While nursemaid and Deirdre

Quivered inside,

       Double bolting the door

To the clamoring outside.

       The nurse gathered courage

And made bold reply,

       “I would not open

To man nor beast,

       Mortal man has

No power here,

       Except thou wert King.”

Then the king’s voice

       Rose up as a black swan,

Softly at first

       As if flying towards dawn,

“I command you to open,

       Madam, if I may,

I command you to open,

       King Connachar’s my name.”

Then old one’s eyes widened,

       Deep pools of fear,

Welled up to uncover

       One single tear,

Nothing to be done,

       She bowed to her fate,

Her secret unsealed

       By command of the king.


Slowly the nursemaid unbolted

       The door and drew nigh,

Piercing eyes peered outward,

       The sun blinded her eyes,

Opening the door fully,

       The king’s horsemen drew nigh

And gasped in amazement

       At the brighter sun inside,

With one glance

       They were smitten with love.

But only one was king

       Whose bidding must be obeyed,

King Connacher was he

       And their king would remain.

His vision unveiled eternal love

       For the golden one

Hidden deep inside.

       Deirdre only stared

At the fire in men’s eyes,

       Red petaled rose,

She blushed scarlet

       And lowered her head,

While nursemaid’s torturous cries

       Cremated the sky,

Silencing the shadows

       Where wan mysteries lie.


Then Deirdre was taken,

       Taken but not tamed,

As a wild horse is captured,

       But the wildness remains.

So Deirdre was taken

       To the castle in Ulster,

Amidst the riches of man,

       The silks and the gold,

The perfumes and the gems,

       Amidst tapestries woven

With the finest of thread,

       She was taught in

The fine manner of queens

       And dressed in a gown

Spun with gold

       While the rarest of pearls

Circled her head,

       Still despair haunted Deirdre

For the king’s one demand,

       That one day she would

Belong to him,

       Forever and then,

On into eternity

       They would be one.

Yet she remained lonely

       For the friends of her youth,

Gold and ebony paled

       Beside her love for the earth.

Can a vine yield berries,

       When the branches have died,

When the leaves have all fallen

       And the soil is cracked and dried?

So the berries of Deirdre’s youth,

       Though no longer held,

Stained her heart with longing

       And she dropped a tear

For the flowers and fairies,

       And the sweet kiss of dew,

She longed for the warm

       Embrace of the sun,

The pearls that encircled her head

       Now strangled,

And lowering her eyes,

       She softly said,

“Most kind sir,

       Give me one year and a day

To decide and then

       Ask me again.”

So the king

       Promised his beloved,

For in his conceit

       He believed

She would be his,

       And so replied calmly

With no thought of tomorrow

       Without knowing

The soil was barren

       And the vine was dead.

“Beloved you may

       Have a year and a day,

But in one year

       You must promise to be mine.”

So Deirdre gazed softly

       And lowered her eyes,

Shading her sorrow,

       Inflaming her heart,

Gone, no, but out of sight.


One day while wandering the fields

       To hear wind’s whispering

And the soft chatter of bees,

       With her ladies in waiting

Deirdre heard thundering laughter

       From the tallest of mankind,

And turning around

       She saw gods in the flesh,

Three brothers tall,

       Bronzed and bold,

Three brave warriors

       Joined as one,

And looking she saw

       The tallest of three

And with one glance

       Love pierced her heart,

As a gazelle running

       So swift and so fleet,

She ran to the three

       Bold ones

And kissed their cheeks

       But lingered tenderly

On the tallest of three,

       The son of Uisnech,

Naois by name,

       Then she blushed

Fiery as scarlet

       In a late summer sky,

She knew true love had

       Ensnared her

As the snake charmer,

       The snake,

True love had befallen her

       She could not deny

And so three brothers tall,

       Bold and brave

Saw love pass

       As the wings of the dove,

When passing the sun

       Cast shadows of shade

Upon the earth below,

       So love cast a shadow

On the heart of the son

       The oldest of Uisnech,

For this goddess of gold,

       No denying the love

Burning inside,

       What love joins together

Let no man deny.


So quickly they retreated,

       The brothers and Naois’ beloved,

No vows had been taken,

       Deirdre remained free.

Across the sea

       To Alba they landed,

To some known as Scotland,

       To others Caledonia

And here they lived quietly

       In a tower beside waters,

Water that wakened

       Soft secrets of the sea.

The shore of Loch Ness

       Upon which they wandered,

Deirdre and Naois

       Were happy and free.

Again Deirdre ran

       With the fairies,

Communing with flowers,

       Her sisters, she knew

Them all by name,

       And with the most

Gentle of natures,

       Renowned for her beauty,

More so for her knowledge

       Of all that is natural,

Of all that is free,

       For reading the stars

And for murmuring to trees,

       And keeping their secrets

When they’d lost all their leaves,

       For feeling the earth

In the palm of her hand

       And gently crumbling,

Returning to land

       Soil richer than Midas,

Land pregnant with promise,

       Her touch healed the hollows

Of earth’s sunken trove,

       She knew breezes as brothers

Calmed thunder’s temper

       While lying her head upon

The soft currents at sea,

       And when waves were restless

She spoke three words

       To calm waters

Watery, whispery chant of

       “Peace be still,”

Liquid’s voice seeping under

       The now slumbering sea.

And whatever Naois desired

       Deirdre would discover

Seeds, roots and berries

       From earth’s tender stalks.

All hastened to grow

       To be held in her gaze

And cradled in the palm

       That healed the earth.

So happily they spent

       One year and a day

By the shore of Loch Ness

       Where again Deirdre ran free.


All the while the King of Ulster,

       Connachar by name,

Anxiously awaited for

       His betrothed to return,

That in one year and a day,

       Deirdre would honor

The promise he had made,

       That she would be his.

So days turned to months

       And months to a year,

Yet still no Deirdre did appear.

       Connachar schemed

For her sweet return,

       Upon only one condition,

That her beauty remain

       As flower’s first bloom

On the tender tendrils of spring.


King Connachar sent horsemen

       To invite his kin

To a most splendid banquet

       Fit for a king.

Yet Deirdre knew

       A trap had been laid,

As a bear senses danger

       And then steals away,

Deirdre sensed danger

       And made haste to Naois

To beg her beloved

       “Pray do not partake

Of dainties that sweeten

       Only to defeat,

For Connachar wants not peace,

       But only revenge,

For the paradise we’ve shared,

        He wants me to be his.”

Then she broke into song

       “I dreamt of three white doves soaring

On the blanket of south wind’s breeze

       And I slept as sound as a fledging

With the warm wind cradling me.

       But the weaver of dreams had not finished,

The chill of the north wind blew on,

       My spine trembled in darkness

For he carried three hawks in his arms,

       But upon waking I remembered,

Though the hawks had long disappeared,

       The tears that woke me this morning,

Were the blood dripping from their claws.”

       But Naois laughed at her

Birds of ill omen and

       Answered her lightly in song,

“A dream is a dream is a dream

       And in the morning ’tis gone,

As crushing stone felt in darkness

       Crumbles to dust in the day,

Fear as the most fair bluebird,

       In the morning flies, far, far away.”

Gently he held her face in his hands

       And dried with his kisses

The tears of his swan.

       Then the tallest of mankind

Nobly spoke on,

       “We cannot deny the king

For this would belie

       That cousins we are

And cousins shall remain.

       We’ll partake of this banquet

To honor his name,”

       So gentle Naois

Blinded by fate

       Could not detect darkness

He’d never felt,

       For his heart was too pure

To sully his name,

       So if death was the price,

Then with death he would pay.


Broodingly, Deirdre travelled

       As her tears fell into the sea.

Most loyally she followed

       The brave warriors three,

But Deirdre’s sorrowful lament

       Could be heard beyond the deep,

The earth bent its head in sorrow

       While the skies poured

Tears on the sea,

       “Gentle waters lap softly around you,

Dear Alba, where once I ran free.

       I ache for the touch of your shadows,

I long for the sound of your breeze.

       The face of the moon is whiter here

Where morning’s breath sweetens dawn,

       But beside my beloved I’m standing

For with dear Naois I belong.

       So farewell sacred soil of Scotland,

My heart has been broken in two.”

       Somberly they set sail for Erin,

To the white, white shores of their kin,

       Naois paying homagae to his cousin,

Deirdre’s sorrow hidden within,

       But upon his bosom she rested

And in the darkness of night

       Two tears dropped in the shadows,

The sorrow of Deirdre had begun.


The brave warriors three

       Journeyed in silence,

With the luminescent

       Deirdre by their side,

Galaxies radiating splendor

       As the goddess and gods passed by

Upon horses majestic

       Riding swiftly as meteor’s shower,

To brace the banquet with their presence,

       They made haste to be received by the king.


As ants scurrying to surrender,

       An artifact to their queen,

Arrangements were quickly rendered

       To prepare a feast for the King,

While his kin lodged in splendor

       Awaiting the appointed hour.

The king could not rest

       Till his wonder

Had been satiated

       By proof that his bride,

Had grapes as tender in morning,

       As he first saw on the vine.

He sent for an accomplice to discover

       What he could not surmise.

Was Deirdre like the flower

       That blossoms and dies?

Had wry winds blown softly

       Her petals to leering skies?

So he sent for the Prince of Lochlin,

       Gelban the Charmer by name,

“Pray, pay a visit to the sons of Uisnech

       To see if Deirdre has remained

As fair as the morn

       I first saw her in spring.

For the sword of my kin

      No blood will defy

If Deirdre’s beauty has withered

       Under a sinister sky.”

So Gelban the Charmer

       Hastened to behold

The maid in early morning

       Before the break of dawn.

Stealthily as a cat

       Crouching before prey,

He crept silently and peered

       Through a hole

Where he found,

       The whirlpool of winter,

Willowy nymph of the skies,

       The sun’s face paled in darkness

Before the light of her eyes.

       Deirdre felt with a blush

The gaze of a man,

       Waves of rose now crashed scarlet

Upon her cheeks’ radiant shore,

       Then Naois felt intuitively

The eyes of a man

       That feasted upon

The delicacies of his beloved

       And so upon gaming table,

Naois seized a dice

       And executing his aim

With the sinewy strength of the warrior,

       And the sleight of his hand,

He threw swiftly at the hole,

       Hollowing out the eye

Of the most faithless of charmers,

       Gelban the charmless he became.

Though blinded by pain

       And the absence of light,

Gelban’s sight was now severed

       Though not for naught

For the beauty of Deirdre remained

       Emblazoned on his heart


Now the king

       Who had hoped

To avoid the fight,

       To avoid the bloodshed

Over love’s delight,

       When he heard from Gelban

It could not be denied

       “Deirdre’s more sublime

Than the sun,

       Were I to have

Ten thousand eyes to give

       I would sacrifice them all

To gaze once more upon

       The goddess within.”

And so King Connachar

       Pulled out his hair,

His brazen blood burned

       He felt such desire.

His noble cousin Naois,

       He, too, must die

For the king wanted to be with

       His heart’s one desire.

And so the king

       That monster of man,

That let appearances

       Rule his fate,

For his eyes only

       Dictated the path

He would follow,

       If only born blind

The snake may have died. (1)

                  (1)coiled up the divine


Blood thicker than water,

       Yet steam rising above,

Though bound by blood,

       Naois and the king,

The king’s eyes gazed upward

       At the vapor of his beloved.

He felt entitlement

       To his desired queen.

As a butterfly

       Clasped in a hand

Ceases to flutter,

       So Deirdre fell silent

Fearing the dreaded

       Clutch of the king.

The blood of his father’s nephews

       Were as dust to this sovereign

Deceit was the crown

       He wore on his head.


Revenge woven to madness

       The spider of a king,

Spinning a web of deception,

       He commanded his men

To gallop swiftly, swiftly into the night,

       To pierce swords into the sides

Of those noble three.

       And so Connachar roused hastily

Three thousand men to defeat

       Three brothers tall,

Bronzed and bold,

       Three brave warriors

Enjoined as one

       And so in the night

With three thousand coming near,

       Naois and his brothers

And his Deirdre most dear,

       Too, roused hastily

In the night to depart,

       For by cousins

They’d been warned

       Of the king’s ill intent.

And now Naois knew

       What Deirdre had divined,

The design of the king

       Would bring evil to mankind,

No banquet for cousins

       But a hasty retreat

For death was the delicacy

       Being served at this feast.


Darkness drives darkness

       And despair led on

Swiftly they galloped

       Three thousand strong

Into the blackest of the dawns.

       Stars drowned in darkness

And swallowed by skies,

       Blackness as ink

Saturated their eyes.

       Arrows flew wildly

Through darkened heavens.

       The madness of the king

Only hastened to disguise

       The pursuer as the pursued

As the fox chases the hounds

       And jumping upon prey

They killed their own men.

       Dark ebony vision

Draping the eyes

       Brought bloodiest of battles

Three thousand died,

       But noble brothers

Moved swiftly on.

       The king who commanded

Cried out in despair,

       ‘Where is the Druid

With the sorcerer’s hand

       Who has been trained

In the wizard’s enchanted ways,

       Great he is called, Duanan the Great,

He must stop these brothers three.

       I fear nothing but dark magic

May bar their escape.”

       So Duanan Gacha,

With a flourish of hand,

       Sprouted a forest where

A meadow had once lain,

       An impenetrable maze

Right where the brothers

       Were crossing the land.

But brave sons of Uisnech

       Born chasing the boar

Across tangled thickets

       Thicker than these,

Trampled the forest

       As if it were dew

On the earliest of mornings

       Before sun had risen.

And so Connachar, that vilest of men,

       Cried to the Druid

“What can be done

       For my most beloved one,

Your arts have no magic

       Over these noble three”

As a lightning bolt striking,

       The Druid sharply replied,

“No man is unstoppable,

       I will find the way,

Some break for madness,

       Others for love,

Some break for sadness,

       Others revenge,

I will find out their weakness

       The recipe is there,

The mixture is wanting,

       Yet do not despair,

There is no fault in my magic,

       Most honorable king.

I will capture these brothers,

       Of you they will sing

Throughout all time

       Your exploits shall be known,

Throughout Erin

       And the Isle of Man.”


So Duanan Gacha of Druidic lore,

       Whose powers were masterful,

Whose lineage was pure,

       In line to succeed the Druidic priests,

Noble ones of honor

       Who venerated peace,

Was seduced by a crown.

       If he’d have looked further,

He would have found

       Heart veiled in darkness

Surrounding the king

       But thirty pieces of silver

With more silver to come

       Was all he could see

For his vision had grown dim

       In the service of the throne.

And waving his hand

       The forest turned to sea

Mountains of water

       Cascading around

Those warriors three.

       With Deirdre on his shoulders,

Naois and his brothers

       Laughed with the sea,

Cajoling the waterfalls

       Crashing beneath.

Now cries of anguish

       Strangled the king,

Glass eyes of madness

       Foaming to see

Death to his cousins,

       More blood to shed,

Isle of blood came coursing

       Through his head.

And Connachar despaired

       Of ever seeing again

His most radiant moon goddess

       Shining at him.

But clever Duanan Gacha

       With a wave of the hand,

Solidified the sea’s waves

       Into boulders upon land,

Crawling with vipers,

       Their poisonous sting,

Brought to despair

       The youngest of three,

Arden by name,

       Crying as a wolf pup

In distress,

       Naois as mother

Nuzzled him up

       Onto his shoulders

And so carried two,

       Deirdre and brother,

And hurried on.

       But Arden, the baby,

Poisoned by adders,

       Fell in Naois’ arms,

Yet loyal brother

       Carried him on.

Death could not part

       Those two brothers’ hearts,

The serpent’s sting only

       Loosened his grip.

The venom of vipers

       Coursed through the veins

Of the oldest of brothers,

       Allen by name.

He, too, fell from the poison

       Of the viper’s fang

And falling, was lifted

       Onto the shoulders

Of his brother.

       Strength cradled the warrior

And so Naois carried three,

       Yet the bane that gripped brother,

Now gripped the other,

       And Allen’s hand loosed

As a child in sleep.

       But where dreams awaken,

No dream could o’ertake them

       For sleepless dreams found them

Far, far away.

       Naois cried in anguish,

Unearthly scream,

       Love was the venom

Coursing through his veins.

       And so brokenhearted,

Death could now embrace

       What the forest, the sea,

And the serpents were denied.

       The sorcery of the magician

Was powerless at his feet,

       Only love could bring to stillness

The drumming of Naois’ heart.

       The bond with his brothers, in life

Savored, even death could not

       Sever those valiant three.


Strutting peacock, the proud Druid gloated,

       As cock, King Connachar crowed,

“Clear away the veil of magic

       That I may plainly see

My fair one, my love,

       With the eyes of the dove,

Who has ravished my heart,

       Let me taste her pomegranate lips

Sweeter than wine,

       Let me touch her ivory skin,

Bathed in the milk and honey of love,

       Let me hold her in my arms,

To feel the softness of her breath

       And smell the scent of her thighs

Let me go to the garden

       Of my love’s delight

And eat the fruit of her vines.”(2)

                             (2) Song of Solomon


So sordid one’s spell was lifted,

       Revealing a vision abhorred

Of three sons of Uisnech

       Immobile as stone,

Lying side by side.

       Deirdre knelt

In the midst of darkness,

       Her tears as streams

Bathed the earth,

       Her dreams shrouded in wilfire,

Scorched the edge of her heart,

       Her fiery lips drank from still waters,

To quench the thirst of her love.

       “My most beautiful warrior

Has now been set free,

       May you run with your brothers

And dance with the breeze,

       But when raven’s flight has o’ertaken

And dark voices call to morn,

       In dawn when stillness whispers

Will you still hold me in your arms?”


And so Deirdre was captured,

       Captured but not tamed,

The wild longing of love

       Would always soar,

Upon the wind

       As the eagle flies,

Though doors be locked

       And windows be barred,

Air’s ether would carry

       Her heart beyond

As the soft scent of jasmine

       Perfumes the air,

Though petals may fall

       The scent lingers on,

So Deirdre’s love as incense

       Permeated the skies,

The redolence of longing

       Smoldering on high.


So the king delighted

       At Deirdre’s return

And in joy commanded

       A pit to be dug,

To lay side by side

       The fallen heroes three,

A burial site along a loch

       By the sea,

While Deirdre’s voice

       Rose plaintively,

An angelic elegy of love,

       A dirge fluttering tenderly

Over the land of the dead,

       “May Arden and Allen

And Naois, towering three,

       In death lie together

As they once stood in life,

       But beloved warrior,

Noble Naois by name,

       Pray save a sacred space

By your side,

       So in death, as in life

Together we shall lie

       Forever and a day,

Till earth swallows shadows

       And storms are no more,

Till stars fall silently

       Into lovers’ arms

And ocean’s tongue touches

       Tenderly the wounds

Of the heart,

       And the song of the swan

Is heard once again,

       Hovering through hollows

Over the isle of mankind.”

       Then Deirdre leapt lightly

As a doe over brook,

       When startled suddenly

By the rustling leaf,

       Into the arms of her tender one

For death was the friend

       That healed with her touch.


In death, so in life

       King Connachar could

Never embrace

       That Deirdre was ever other

Than his enchanted bride,

       The fate of his blossom

And her exquisite fruits

       Must not be tarnished

Near darkened roots.

       So King Connachar ordered

Another pit dug

       To bury his beloved

Far across the loch

       From the one she loved.


Yet earth could not deny

       Fated lovers’ embrace,

The pining of the water sprite

       And the lingering kiss of love.

Two trees sprang up

       Over two lovers’ tombs,

Quiet boughs reaching

       Across silent waters,

Delicate fingers of fir touching

       Above still waters,

A knot of love

       Petrified to stone.


The sphere and the circle

       Of Connachar’s reign,

The ruler that rules

       In a ruthless vein,

The king who visited

       His Deirdre fair,

Who cared not for her sorrow

       But that she was his,

Cut the gentle bough,

       Of the finest of firs,

Pale, Venus shadowed sorrow

       And earth heard her cries,

The knot could not be broken

       By the sword of desire.


So the king saw in death

       What he saw not in life,

The love of two lovers

       Resisting the knife,

The knot over the loch

       Could not be undone,

The sword could not sever

       The strong cords of love.


Darkness drives darkness

       And so despair,

Enveloped in sadness,

       Followed the king,

Though sight was now clear

       And love lifted the veil

But, alas, too late,

       The folly was done,

Madness descended

       And he wandered as dead.


Still the people rejoiced

       For they loved Erin’s kin

And they sang in ballad

       Of the brave lovers’ fate,

Of the knot intertwined

       Never to break,

And if one listens closely,

       On the blackest of nights,

When stars have all fallen

       And light leaves the earth,

An echo keeps murmuring

       Throughout Erin’s glen,

The voice of shadows,

       Whispering through wind,

“What is blood

       When true love it is wed?

And death cannot part

       Two loving hearts,

So Deirdre and Naois

       And all kingdoms of humankind,

Though sorrow may sadden,

       It may not overcome.”

                           S. K. Lindeman