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my death v/ould come swift and bloody in
any year in which I might neglect to take
that leap both backwards and forv/ards on
the first day of May, from the East to the
West at the rising of the sun, and from the
West to the East at his setting."

When Finn lay down and slept that
night the old men conversed with each other
joyfully in low tones, but indeed that pre-
caution was not necessary, for Finn's sleep
could not be disturbed or broken by the
voices of friends.




It was the Eve of Samhain, which we
Christians call All Hallows' Eve. From of
old it was a night on which many strange
things used to happen. In fact it was a
great festival with our pagan ancestors.

The King of Ireland sat at supper in his
palace at Tara. All his chiefs and mighty-
men were with him. This king was called
Conn, and surnamed the Hundred-Fighter.
He was a celebrated king, very big and
strong, red-haired and blue-eyed. On his
right hand was his only son. Art the
Solitary, so called because he had no
brothers. The sons of Morna, who kept the
boy Finn out of his rights and were at the
time trying to kill him if they could, were
there too. Chief amongst them was Goll
mac Morna, a huge and strong warrior, and
captain of all the Fians ever since that
battle in which Finn's father had been
killed. There is a heroic story told about
this Goll which shows that he was as brave

(D 436) I


as he was strong. Once he was about to
engage in a great battle, and his generals
pointed out to him that by making a night
attack upon the enemy's camp, an easy
victory might be won. Goll answered :
"When as a boy I first took arms of chivalry
and was presented with my weapons, I
swore that I would never attack an enemy
by night, or use against him any stratagem
or unfair advantage. That promise I have
kept down to the present time; I will not
break it now, and I will not break it while
I live."

You may remember that when Finn
knocked at the door of the booth in which
the old Fians were assembled, and called
himself their " friend," Crimall ordered
the door to be opened, for he knew that
neither Goll nor any of his people could use
the deceit of calling himself a friend in
order to gain an unfair advantage. In fact,
none of the Fians at any time were ever
accused of telling a lie. " We, the Fians,
never lied," sang Ossian; " falsehood was
never attributed to us."

Goll and his mightiest men were there
that night. The great long table was spread
for supper. A thousand wax candles shed


their light through the chamber, and caused
the vessels of gold, silver and bronze to shine.
Yet, though it was a great feast, none of
these warriors seemed to care about eating
or drinking ; every face was sad, and there
was little conversation, and no music. It
seemed as if they w^ere expecting some
calamity. Conn's sceptre, which was a
plain staff of silver, lay beside him on the
table, and there was a canopy of bright
bronze over his head. Goll mac Morna,
captain of the Fians, sat at the other end of
the long table. Every warrior wore a bright
banqueting mantle of silk or satin, scarlet
or crimson, blue, green, or purple, fastened
on the breast either with a great brooch or
with a pin of gold or silver. Yet though
their raiment was bright and gay, and
though all the usual instruments of festivity
were there, and a thousand tall candles shed
their light over the scene, no one looked

Then was heard a low sound like thunder,
and the earth seemed to tremble, and after
that they distinctly heard a footfall like the
slow, deliberate tread of a giant. These
footfalls sent a chill into every heart, and
every face, gloomy before, was now pale.

i.V 436) 12


The king leaned past his son Art the
Solitary, and said to a certain druid who
sat beside Art, " Is this the son of Midna
come before his time?" '' It is not," said
the druid, ' ' but it is the man who is to con-
quer Midna. One is coming to Tara this
night before whose glory all other glory
shall wax dim."

Shortly after that they heard the voices
of the doorkeepers raised in contention, as
if they would repel from the hall someone
who wished to enter, then a slight scuffle,
and after that a strange figure entered the
chamber. He was dressed in the skins of
wild beasts, and wore over his shoulders a
huge thick cloak of wild boars* skins,
fastened on the breast with a white tusk of
the same animal. He wore a shield and two
spears. Though of huge stature his face
was that of a boy, smooth on the cheeks and
lips. It was white and ruddy, and very
handsome. His hair was like refined gold.
A light seemed to go out from him, before
which the candles burned dim. It v/as Finn.




He stood in the doorway and cried out in
a strong and sonorous but musical voice :

" O Conn the Hundred-Fighter, son of
Felimy, the righteous son of Tuathal the
legitimate, King of the Kings of Erin, a
wronged and disinherited youth, possessing
nowhere one rood of his patrimony, a wan-
derer and an outlaw, a hunter of the wilder-
nesses and mountains, claims hospitality of
thee, illustrious prince, on the eve of the
great festival of Samhain."

*' Thou art welcome whoever thou art,"
answered the King, " and doubly v\^elcome
because thou art unfortunate. I think,
such is thy face and form, that thou art the
son of some mighty king on whom disaster
has fallen undeserved. The high gods of
Erin grant thee speedy restoration, and
strong vengeance of thy many wrongs. Sit


here, O noble youth, between me and my only
son, Art, heir to my kingdom."

An attendant took his weapons from the
youth and hung them on the wall with the
rest, and Finn sat down between the King
of Ireland and his only son. Choice food
was set before him which he ate, and old ale
which he drank. From the moment he
entered no one thought of anything but of
him. When Finn had made an end of eat-
ing and drinking he said to the King —

'' illustrious prince, though it is not
right for a guest to seem even to observe
aught that may be awry, or not as it should
be in the hall of his entertainer, yet the
sorrow of a kindly host is a sorrow too to his
guest, and sometimes unawares the man of
the house finds succour and help in the
stranger. There is sorrow in this chamber
of festivity. If anyone who is dear to thee
and thy people happens to be dead, I can do
nothing. But I say it, and it is not a vain
boast, that even if a person is at the point of
death, I can restore him to life and health,
for there are marvellous powers of life-
giving in my two hands."

Conn the Hundred-Fighter answered,
** Our grief is not such as you suppose, and


why should I not tell a cause of shame,
which is known far and wide ? This, then,
is the reason of our being together, and of
the gloom which is over us. There is a
mighty enchanter whose dwelling is in the
haunted mountains of Slieve Gullion in the
North. His name is Allen, son of Midna,
and his enmity to me is as great as his
power. Once every year, at this season, it
is his pleasure to burn Tara. Descending
out of his wizard haunts, he standeth over
against the city and shoots balls of fire out
of his mouth against it till it is consumed.
Then he goes away mocking and trium-
phant. This annual building of Tara, only
to be annually consumed, is a shame to me,
and till this enchanter declared war against
me, I have lived without reproach."

" But," said Finn, " how is it that thy
young warriors, valiant and swift, do not
repel him, or kill him?"

" Alas !" said Conn, " all our valour is
in vain against this man. Our hosts en-
compass Tara on all sides, keeping watch
and ward when the fatal night comes. Then
the son of Midna plays on his druidic in-
struments of music, on his magic pipe and
his magic lyre, and as the fairy music falls


on our ears, our eyelids grow heavy, and
soon all subside upon the grass in deep
slumber. So comes this man against the
city and shoots his fire-balls against it, and
utterly consumes it. Nine years he has
burnt Tara in that manner, and this is the
tenth. At midnight to-night he will come
and do the same. Last year (though it was
a shame to me that I, who am the high king
over all Ireland, should not be able myself
to defend Tara) I summoned Goll mac
Morna and all the Fians to my assistance.
They came, but the pipe and lyre of the son
of Midna prevailed over them too, so that
Tara w^as burned as at other times. Nor
have we any reason to believe that the son
of Midna will not burn the city again to-
night, as he did last year. All the women
and children have been sent out of Tara this
day. We are only men of war here, v^Aaiting
for the time. That, O noble youth, is why
we are sad. The ' Pillars of Tara' are
broken and the might of the Fians is as
nought before the power of this man."

" What shall be my reward if I kill this
man and save Tara?" asked Finn.

" Thy inheritance," answered the King,
* * be it great or small, and whether it lies in


Ireland or beyond Ireland ; and for securi-
ties I give you my son Art and Goll mac
Morna and the chiefs of the Fians."

Goll and the captains of the Fianna
consented to that arrangement, though
reluctantly, for their minds misgave them
as to who the great youth might be.



After that all arose and armed themselves
and ringed Tara round v^ith horse and foot,
and thrice Conn the Hundred-Fighter
raised his awful regal voice, enjoining
vigilance upon his people, and thrice Goll
mac Morna did the same, addressing the
Fians, and after that they filled their ears
with wax and wool, and kept a stern and
fierce watch, and many of them thrust the
points of their swords into their flesh.

Now Finn was alone in the banqueting
chamber after the rest had gone out, and he
washed his face and his hands in pure


water, and he took from the bag that was at
his girdle the instruments of divination
and magic, which had been his father's, and
what use he made of them is not known, but
ere long a man stood before him, holding a
spear in one hand and a blue mantle in the
other. There were twenty nails of gold of
Arabia in the spear. The nails glittered
like stars, and twinkled with live light as
stars do in a frosty night, and the blade of
it quivered like a tongue of white fire. From
haft to blade-point that spear was alive.
There were voices in it too, and the war-
tunes of the enchanted races of Erin, whom
they called the Tuatha De Danann,
sounded from it. The mantle too, twinkled
in the blue, and the likeness of clouds
passed through it. The man gave these
things to Finn, and when he had instructed
him in their use he was not seen.

Then Finn arose and armed himself,
and took the magic spear and mantle and
went out. There was a ring of flame round
Tara that night, for the Fians and the
warriors of Conn had torches in their
hands, and all the royal buildings of Tara
showed c'ear in the light, and also the dark
fcjorpentine course of the Boyne, which


flowed past Tara on the north; and there,
standing silent and alert, were the innumer-
able warriors of all Erin, with spear and
shield, keeping watch and ward against the
son of Midna, also the Four Pillars of Tara
in four dense divisions around the high
king, even Conn the Hundred-Fighter.

Finn stood with his back to the palace,
which was called the House-of-the-going-
round-of-]^.Iead, between the palace and
Conn, and he grasped the magic spear
strongly with one hand, and the mantle
with the other.

As midnight drew nigh, he heard far
away in the north, out of the mountains of
Slieve Gullion, a fairy tune played, soft,
low, and slow, as if on a silver flute; and
at the same time the roar of Conn the
Hundred-Fighter, and the voice of Goll like
thunder, and the responsive shouts of the
captains, and the clamour of the host, for
the host shouted all together, and clashed
their swords against their shields in fierce
defiance, when in spite of all obstructions
the fairy music of the enchanter began to
steal into their souls. That shout was heard
all over Ireland, echoing from sea to sea,
and the hollow building of Tara reverber-


ated to the uproar. Yet through it all could
be heard the low, slow, delicious music that
came from Slieve Gullion. Finn put the
point of the spear to his forehead. It
burned him like fire, yet his stout heart did
not fail. Then the roar of the host slowly
faded away as in a dream, though the cap-
tains were still shouting, and two-thirds of
the torches fell to the ground. And now
succeeding the flute music, sounded the
music of a stringed instrument exceedingly
sweet. Finn pressed the cruel spear-head
closer to his forehead, and saw every torch
fall, save one which wavered as if held by
a drunken man, and beneath it a giant
figure that reeled and tottered, and strove
in vain to keep its feet. It w^as Conn the
Hundred-Fighter. As he fell there was a
roar as of many waters; it was the ocean
mourning for the high king's fall. Finn
passed through the fallen men and stood
alone on the dark hill-side. He heard the
feet of the enchanter splashing through the
Boyne, and saw his huge form ascending
the slopes of Tara. When the enchanter
saw that all was silent and dark there he
laughed, and from his mouth blew a red
fire-ball at the Tech-Midcuarta, which he


was accustomed first to set in flames. Finn
caught the fire-ball in the magic mantle.
The enchanter blew a second and a third,
and Finn caught them both. The man
saw that his power over Tara was at
an end, and that his magic arts had
been defeated. On the third occasion
he saw Finn's face, and recognised his
conqueror. He turned to flee, and though
slow^ was his coming, swifter than the
wind was his going, that he might recover
the protection of his enchanted palace
before the " fair-faced youth clad in
skins" should overtake him. Finn let fall
the mantle as he had been instructed, and
pursued him, but in vain. Soon he per-
ceived that he could not possibly overtake
the swift enchanter. Then he was aware
that the magic spear struggled in his hand
like a hound in the leash, " Go then if thou
wilt," he said, and, poising, cast the spear
from him. It shot through the dark night
hissing and screaming. There was a track
of fire behind it. Finn followed and on the
threshold of the enchanted palace he found
the body of Midna. He was quite dead,
with the blood pouring through a wound in
the middle of his back, but the spear was


gone. Finn drew his sword and cut off the
enchanter's head and returned with it to
Tara. When he came to the spot where he
had dropped the mantle, it was not seen,
but smoke and flame issued there from a
hole in the ground. That hole was twenty
feet deep in the earth, and at the bottom of
it there was a fire always from that night,
and it was never extinguished. It was
called the fire of the son of Midna. It was
in a depression on the north side of the hill
of Tara, called the Glen of the Mantle,

Finn, bearing the head, passed through
the sleepers into the palace and spiked the
head on his own spear, and drove the spear-
end into the ground at Conn's end of the
great hall. Then the sickness and faint-
ness of death came upon Finn, also a great
horror and despair overshadowed him, so
that he was about to give himself up for
utterly lost. Yet he recalled one of his
marvellous attributes, and approaching a
silver vessel, into which pure water ever
flowed and which was always full, he made
a cup with his two hands, and, lifting it to
his mouth, drank, and the blood began to
circulate in his veins, and strength returned


to his limbs, and the cheerful hue of rosy
health to his cheeks.

Having rested himself sufficiently he
went forth and shouted to the sleeping host,
and called the captains by their names,
beginning with Conn. They awoke and
rose up, though dazed and stupid, for it
was difficult for any man, no matter how he
had stopped his ears, to avoid hearing Finn
when he sent forth his voice of power. They
were astonished to find that Tara was still
standing, for though the night was dark,
the palaces and temples, all of hewn timber,
were brilliantly coloured, and of many hues,
for in those days men delighted in splendid
colours. When the captains came together
Finn said, " I have slain Midna." " Where
is his head ?" they asked, not that they dis-
believed him, but because the heads of men
slain in battle were always brought away
for trophies. " Come and see," answered
Finn. Conn and his only son and Goll mac
Morna followed the young hero into the
Tech-Midcuarta where the spear-long
waxen candles were still burning, and when
they saw the head of Midna impaled there
at the end of the hall, the head of the man
whom they believed to be immortal and not


to be wounded or conquered, they were filled
with great joy, and praised their deliverer
and paid him many compliments.

" Who art thou, brave youth?" said
Conn. " Surely thou art the son of some
great king or champion, for heroic feats
like thine are not performed by the sons of
inconsiderable and unknown men."

Then Finn flung back his cloak of wild
boars' skins, and, holding his father's
treasure-bag in his hand before them all,
cried in a loud voice —

" I am Finn, the son of Cool, the son of
Trenmor, the son of Basna, I am he, whom
the sons of Morna have been seel^ing to
destroy from Vie time that I was born ; and
here to-night, O king of the kings of Erin,
I claim the fulfilment of thy promise, and
the restoration of my inheritance, which is
the Fian leadership of Fail." Thereupon
Goll mac Morna put his right hand into
Finn's, and became his man. Then his
brothers and his sons, and the sons of his
brothers did so in succession, and after that
all the chief men of the Fians did the same,
and that night Finn was solemnly and
surely installed in the Fian leadership of
Erin, and put in possession of all the woods



and forests, and waste places, and all the
hills, and mountains, and promontories,
and all the streams and rivers of Erin, and
the harbours and estuaries, and the har-
bour dues of the merchants, and all ships,
and boats, and galleys with their mariners,
and all that pertained of old time to the
Fian leadership of Fail.




Arthur, a mythical King of Britain, chief of the
Knights of the Round Table. See Tennyson's
Morte d^ Arthur.

Bru-fhear, a farmer, a husbandman.
Caelta = Caoilte Mac Ronain (pr. Kweelta Mac

Clairseach (pr. Clawrshach) , a harp.
Cnoca (Irish Cnucha, now Castleknock, near
Dublin) battle of, fought in the reign of Conn the
Hundred-Fighter. The contending parties were,
on the one side, Conn the King, aided by the Fianna
of Connacht; on the other side, Cool, the father of
Finn, with the Fianna of Leinster, aided by Owen
More, with a large army of Munstermen. The
Leinster and Munster forces were defeated. Goll
slew Cool with his own hand.
Crimhthann (pr. Crivhann).
Danann Maiden, Niamh (pr. Niav) of the golden
hair, with whom Oisin went to Tirnanoge.

Diarmuid O'Duibhne, the Achilles of the Gael,
the noblest character among the Fianna.
Dord, a humming ; bass in music.
Eocha Moymheodhoin (pr. Eochy Moijvyone),
King of Ireland, died a.d. 365.

** Fasted upon him." This fasting process was
an old custom of the Irish, and was regarded with
superstitious awe. " He who does not grant a
request to fasting is an evader of all."



Gabhra (pr. Gowra). Battle fought a.d. 284 at
Garristown, Co. Dublin, between the King of Ire-
land aided by the Clanna Moma on the one side
and the Southern Fianna on the other. The
Southerners were defeated. Oscur and the King
were slain.

Imbos-for-osna, a mystical rite used when mak-
ing a certain kind of verse. The rite was called
** Imhos^* from " bos,^* the palm of the hand.
" Palm-knowledge of enlightening."

Laeghaire (pr. Laerya), King of Ireland at the
coming of St. Patrick.

Mether (Irish Meadar), a drinking-cup.

Ossian, Oisin (pr. V sheen), son of Finn. He
was the chief File or poet of the Fianna.

Rushy Ciarrai (Ciarraidhe Luachra), a district
in Kerry.

Samhain (pr. Sou-in), All Hallows' Eve.

Slieve Crot (the mountain of harps), now Mount
Grad in barony of Clanwilliam, Co. Tipperary.

Slieve GuUion, in Co. Armagh.

Talkend (Irish Tdilcheann), adze-head, a name
given to St. Patrick. The meaning is doubtful. The
Seanchus Mor says the Tailcheann is the party to
whom all persons will humble their heads in genu-

Tech brae (Irish Teach hreac), speckled house.

Tefiia, an ancient territory partly in Westmeath,
partly in Longford.

Urus, a kind of wild ox.








I AM not sure what is the exact definition of a
Masque, but have always understood that it meant
a play having supernatural elements and of a
generally open air character. Like many others, I
never hear the word without thinking of Milton's
Comus. Finn and his Fians are certainly very
open-air personages ; we seldom hear of them
except in connection with field and forest, lake and
hillside, with the cry of the hounds and the sound of
the horn heard or just waiting to be heard.

This Masque was written years since in Kilkenny
for Lady Desart, and was acted in her grounds at
Aut-Evin, on the banks of the Nore. The stage
was raised upon a level mead behind which rose
a wooded ridge. The wood was illuminated with
lights hanging from the branches of the trees, for
the acting was by night, and here were the tiring
booths of the actors whence they came down and
on to the stage. Local talent supplied, and sup-
plied very well too, all the acting that was necessary
under the leadership of the late Captain Otway
Cuffe, whose early death was, I believe, a national
calamity. Then we had real hounds, which helped
much to deepen the illusion — two splendid Russian
boar-hounds whose yowling in the woods kept us all

(D 448) 5 B


reminded that we were dealing with a race of
hunters. I remember vividly the fine effect of the
descent of Finn and his men as they came by a
winding path down through the illuminated wood
to punish the insolence of Nod and the grand yowl-
ing of the dogs making everything else so real. A
girl sitting near me cried out in intense excitement :
** O Glory, but sure they're coming down to kill
him." It is a pleasant characteristic of our Irish
rural audiences that they always come to enjoy an
entertainment and never to criticize.

Lady Desart gave this entertainment and had the
Masque printed. I told her at the time that she
should regard it as her property and that no one
should re-enact it without her permission. Who-
ever then desires to do so must first write to her for
permission to Aut-Evin, Kilkenny.




Foreword ... 9

Part I. The Coming of Finn ... 17

II. The Redemption of Nod... 35

III. The Transformation of

Finn ... 75


St. Patrick, in his conversations with
Caolta, the Fian, questioned him concerning
the origin and history of his singular

Said Caolta, ' ' My Lord Patrick, know
that there was once a king of all Ireland
who had two sons. The elder was steady
and regular in his habits, the other wild and
pleasure-loving; delighting in sport of all
kinds, and especially in hunting, much more
than in the cares and labours of govern-

The old King, observing their different
dispositions, divided Ireland between them
in such a way that all the untilled land, the
mountains, moors and forests, with their
game, fell to the wild and idle lad, and all
the fertile inhabited land to the other ; and
so both were content."

From that wild young prince, according
to Caolta, sprang all the Fianna Eireann,
the famous hunters of ancient Ireland.


In process of time the Fianna divided
into two powerful clans or nations, who

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