Standish O'Grady.

Finn and his companions / by Standish O'Grady online

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were in perpetual rivalry, the Clan Basna
and the Clan Morna.

Some years before the time at which our
Masque begins Clan Basna was in the pre-
eminence under a great captain, whose name
was Cumall — Cumall, son of Trenmore, son
of Basna. For many years he reigned pros-
perously over both clans, hunted all Ireland
joyfully, and dispensed magnificent hospi-
talities in the capital or chief camp of all
the Fians, which was on the Hill of Allen,
in the County of Kildare. We call it
Almain in the Masque, following the
ancient spelling of the name.

Then Clan Morna rebelled, declaring
their own chief, Luchat Mael, should be
captain, and invested with the High Fian-
ship of Ireland.

The two hostile clans met at Cnucha,
now Castle Knock, near Dublin. There, in
a great battle, Clan Basna was defeated,
and their chief, Cumall, slain by Luchat
Mael, captain of Clan Morna.

Then the victorious Clan Morna sent
bands of men all over Ireland to search for
and slay all the sons of the late chief. This


they did, slaying all, with one exception;
that exception being the youngest son of
Cumall, the renowned Finn, concerning
whom there are, both in Scotland and Ire-
land, such an infinity of stories and tradi-

Finn was at the time an infant in the
cradle, slumbering tranquilly in his father's
palace, and guarded only by nurses and
slaves. As the slaughterers of Clan Morna
drew nigh these fled in panic, and the child
was left alone and without defence. A few
minutes more and a savage spear would
have ended the lad's life. Then, at the last
moment, and just as the warriors of Clan
Morna were rushing towards the palace,
those who listened heard the roar of wheels
and the trampling of the hoofs of horses,
and a chariot drew up suddenly at the door
of the palace. In the chariot were two
beautiful women of a size and dignity more
than human. One of the women sprang
from the chariot, hastened into the empty
palace, snatched the infant from the cradle
to her bosom, and, returning, sprang back
into the chariot. The other, the charioteer,
gave the steeds rein, and in a moment
chariot and horses, the women and their


infant, disappeared swiftly into the night,
followed by a roar of disappointment and
rage from the warriors, who by a few
seconds only had missed their expected

The child Finn, thus preserved, was car-
ried away by the two heroines to the forests,
which at that time clothed the Slieve Bloom
Mountains in the North of Tipperary and
the borders of the King's County. Here,
deep in the woods, they built a sylvan booth,
and here, hiding from the trackers and
searchers of Clan Morna, they educated the
lad with a purpose that at some time he
should avenge his father's death, and revive
in him.self the high Fianship of the Fianna.

To return to the battle of Cnucha. Such
of the Clan Basna as escaped from the
slaughter fled out of the battle, following a
brave chief called Crimall, whom you will
see presently in the play. They, too, took
to the woods as outlaws and suffered much
from want and hardship, growing old be-
fore their time, but loyally obeying their
lord Crimall as the true surviving represen-
tative of the overthrown family, and trust-
ing to his promise of the coming at last of
a saviour and avenger.


It is here, with Crimall and his fellow-
outlaws in the forest, that our story begins.
The story is told in Scotland as well as in
Ireland; but in the Scotch, or Highland,
form, Crimall and the remnant of Clan
Basna keep themselves alive by gathering
shell-fish along the strands of the sea-shore.

In the Irish form of the tradition,
Crimall and the remnant are shown hunting
and trapping a little by stealth in the
depths of the great forests. Of course our
Masque follows the Irish tradition.

I may mention here that eventually the
two great clans — Clan Basna and Clan
Morna — came together under the common
captainship of Finn, and lived so together
harmoniously and joyfully for an immense
number of years. Nearly all the innumer-
able stories about the Fianna Eireann relate
to a time when Clan Basna and Clan Morna
were united, with Finn, son of Cumall —
that is to say, Finn MacCool, ruling over all
with an uncontested and incontestable

In the end, as you know, the ancient feud
broke out again between the rivals, who ex-
terminated each other in the great battle of
Gabra, fought on the East side of Tara in


the third century, in the reign of Cairbry
of the Liffey, son of Cormac Mac Art. This
battlo was the end of the famous hero
hunters of ancient Ireland, the Fianna
Eireann. They perished, but their fame
did not perish with them. Finn and his
mighty hunters, Ossian, Oscur, Caolta,
Diarmid, MacLewy, and their women,
Mong-Fion, More, Grania, and their great
hounds, Bran, Sceolan, Adnuaill, have not
been forgotten during the seventeen cen-
turies which have elapsed since their day of
power, nor are likely to be forgotten for a
long time to come.

Were I to hazard an opinion of my own,
I would suggest that the Fians were origin-
ally the gods of some very ancient pagan
Irish religion — Finn and Clan Basna the
celestial gods, and the Clan Morna the earth
gods, personifications of the ruder forces of

Be that, however, as it may, still it is
true that in all the existing stories, the
Fians are all not only human, but exceed-
ingly human ; hence the great and enduring
influence which they exert over the imagina-
tions and affections of men, even to-day.

Standish O'Grady.



(A hut in the forest. A group of old men,
Fians, the remnant of the defeated Clan
Basna, gathered at a poor fire, sittingt
One old man, armed, stands near door as
door-keeper. The hut made of upright
trees, with interlacings of branches.
See ''Finn and His Companions,'^ by the

First Fian : Comrades, this is our last
night together. The years of our promise
are ended and the prophecy is unfulfilled.
To-morrow we are at liberty to go, each man
to his own kindred, wherever they may be.

Second Fian : Promise or no promise, be
the prophecy fulfilled or not fulfilled, / go
not, not while our chief still breathes.
(Stands and reaches an arm towards an
inner chamber). Not whilst thou art above
the ground, Crimall, son of Trenmore.

Voices : Nor I ; nor I.



First Fian : Why, that was well and
bravely said. Promise or no promise, we
hold together while our Chief is above the

Voices : All; all.

Second Fian : Art thou quite sure,
Cairbry, son of Con, that this is the seven-
teenth anniversary of the great battle that
was broken upon us at Cnucha by Luchat
Mael and Clan Morna ?

First Fian : Certain sure. Every anni-
versary of the same I have observed with
weeping, weeping for the death of our thrice
noble Captain — Cumall, son of Trenmore,
son of Basna. Well I know the dark day,
the end of every passing year. The seven-
teenth year hath sped. (More cheerfully).
Comrades, we have kept our faith. Since
that day when we laid our hands in the
hands of Crimall and gave him a sure
promise that for seventeen years we would
follow him wherever he went and defy Clan
Morna, believing his word that a saviour
and avenger would arise in the time that
now hath an end. {A knocking).

Door-keeper : Who art thou ?


A Voice : Glass, son of Owen.

Door-keeper : Enter Glass, son of Owen.
(He enters).

Second Fian : Hast found aught in the
springes ?

Glass : Nought, alas ! The birds and
beasts here grow few and wary.

First Fian : Nevertheless, keep the fire
alive. {A Fian feeds the fire). Two more
searchers are yet to come. Some bird or
beast they will surely bring us. If not,
then, friends, it will not be the first time
that we have gone to bed supperless. {Enter
Third Fian from an inner chamber).

First Fian {eagerly) : How is he ? Doth
he sleep or wake ?

Third Fian : Neither. He neither sleeps
nor, as you would say, wakes. Hour after
hour he lies still as a felled tree, breathing
quietly, but with wide-open eyes as though
he watched some glorious night.

First Fian : The noble Crimall ! His
thoughts wander and his mind is gone from
him. Alas, alas, what can I do ? Fergus,
take my cloak and lay it upon him.


Voices : And mine, and mine. {Fergus
takes two cloaks).

First Fian : My thrice noble chief. His
strong heart is broken owing to the failure
of that prophecy in which he trusted as men
trust in the rising of the sun.

Second Fian : It was a fairy-woman who
prophesied, was it not? They are often
deceitful, making a sport of men.

First Fian : Nay, it was Cumall himself,
and on the eve of the great battle, prophesy-
ing, too, his own death. Yet the wisest
often fail to distinguish between false
dreams and a truly prophetic vision. The
phophecy is unfulfilled, and our dear lord
passes from life. Friends, we have had
good days together, and also evil. We have
ever met both like brave men and true com-
rades. {Knocking).

Door-keeper : Who art thou ?

Voice : Fergananim and I.

Door-keeper : Enter Fergananim. {He

First Fian : Hast found aught ?
Fergananim : Nought truly.


First Fian : Nevertheless, keep the fire
burning. There is one yet to come. {Re-
enter Third Fian excitedly).

Third Fian : He is on foot : he comes.

FiANS : How is this ?

Third Fian : While I waited for the last
breath, suddenly he sat upright, and looked
sternly at me. He flung aside all rugs and
wrappings, and rose and stood on his feet
with the alertness of a youth. He comes.
{All stand wp). {Enter Crimall).

Crimall : Nay, comrades, not so much of
ceremony. Sit you down. {Looks round).
Why so dim and dark? Torches there.
{Fians light some torches). And why this
paltry fire? Lay on sticks. {Abstractedly).
The hour : the hour is at hand. {Looks
round on Fians). Not for nothing, brave
remnant, have you followed so faithfully the
cause of great Clan Basna, and kept alive in
Erin the spirit of rebellion against tyrants.
We are outlaws and hunted indeed and
shorn of our strength, but we are here, and
unsubdued. The deliverer is at hand.
{Fians shake their heads sadly. Crimall
seems to listen).

(D 448) C


Crimall : Those are the steps of Art
Darig. I know his footfall, a brave youth
and cunning trapper. Door-keeper, unbar.
{Enter Art Darig, also an old man).

Crimall {cheerfully) : Welcome, Art

Crimall : Hast found any small thing
in the springes ?

FiAN : A few rails only, my lord ; wasted
with the frost.

Crimall : Is there aught else in the
house ?

FiAN : Nought else, my lord.

Crimall : Roast the rails, and make an
equal division of the same. Set aside no
part for me. {Fians iwpidly fluck the birds
and set on the fire).

FiANS : ! my lord.

Crimall : Set aside no part for me in the
division. I feel no hunger to-night, and if
I did, where there is famine the chief bears
the first brunt of it.

A FiAN {aside) : Ever high, stubborn, and


Crimall {to that Fian who has come in
with the birds) : What of the night ?

Fian : The night is fine, clear, and
frosty ; all the stars are scintillating. There
are strange flames that come and go in the
sky — with palpitations and sudden out-
breakings and withdrawals of the light.

Crimall : That is well. My comrades,
what night of all the year is this ?

Fians All : Midwinter's night, my lord.
{Crimall starts, hut resumes his high and
resolute asfect).

Crimall : But not yet midnight ?

Fians : No, my lord.

{The Fians, all through, look dejected.
Crimall only sits wpright and looks strong
and resolute).

Crimall : Why so cast down ?

First Fian : O Crimall, when hope has
flickered and gone out in men's hearts, with
difficulty they maintain a cheerful counten-

Crimall : Then you have forgotten that
sure prophecy which I announced to you ?


First Fian : Nay, Crimali ; right well
do we remember it. When we, the Clan
Basna, were utterly overthrown by Clan
Morna, and when our Lord Cumall was
slain in the great battle of Cnucha, we fled,
following thee into the wilderness, the while
Clan Morna went through Ireland slaying
all the kindred of our chief.

Crimall {sneaking very dramatically) :
All ? Nay, nay, and a thousand times nay.
Not all ; for there was one miraculously pre-
served ; a perfect flower of infantine grace
and beauty. Many a time he sat upon this
rough knee, his little fair head against this
hreast. {Pause, while Crimall wears a
retrospective look). That flower was un-
plucked by the wasters; that star was un-
submerged by the black clouds disastrous
which then rolled over the heaven of Clan
Morna's glory. {Speaking rapidly). Women
— strange, great, beautiful, chariot riding
— rapt the lad away from Almain as in a
whirlwind. Thou knowest the tale. {First
Fian nods assent, though sadly). But say
on, old friend.

First Fian : That night in the forest
thou badst us make peace with Clan


Morna, if we would, or live with thee
as outlaws. Thou didst promise us sore
affliction, chased to and fro from forest
to forest, but that in the seventeenth
year one would come to us as a helper,
armed with irresistible power, who would
rend the sovereignty of Clan Morna, rein-
stating Clan Basna, and that Almain's Hill
would again be ours, with prosperity and
happiness and great fame. And we, every
man, threw in our lot with thee, preferring
the great cause of Clan Basna, than to
share in the tyranny of Clan Morna.

Crimall : What then ? Doth not the
prophecy stand ?

FiAN : Crimall, we have looked and
waited and waited and looked, and never,
till this night, have we spoken one word of
doubt concerning the prophecy. But this
is the last day of the seventeenth year, and
since break of day, from the near hill- top,
our youngest have scanned the horizon
round to see if any w^ould come to our relief.
And at last, O noble Crimall, hope sinks in
our hearts.

Crimall — This is the year of our salva-
tion, in truth, and this is the last day of the


last year, and this is the last hour of the last
day. It is midwinter night, but to-morrow-
is the beginning of his new power to the sun
and the first day of the coming summer. It
is the last hour of the last day, yet the
prophecy stands; sure, certain, indefeas-

First Fian : Crimall, Crimall, mock
us not.

Crimall : It is the last hour of the last
day, but he who prophesied to me is sure,
and not to be doubted, and his word is like
deep foundations of the world, unshaken
and unshakable for ever.

A Fian {near the door, where he seems to
stand sentinel) : Hark; steps. I hear the
crackling of dry twigs in the forest. Com-
rades, stand to your weapons, for friends in
broad Erin we have none. {The old men
stand badly to their weapons).

{A knocking; silence. Crimall stands
with arms extended to heaven. Knocking
repeated; door splintered with the blow; the
butt end of a spear pushes through).

Crimall : Who knocks ?

Voice outside : A friend.


A FiAN {whispering) : Crimall, the Clan
Mcrna have trackers and searchers all Ire-
land over. This may be one of them.

Crimall : Unbar the door. Deceit is
not an attribute of Clan Morna. There v^as
no treachery found amongst them at any
time. Unbar the door.

FiAN {at door) : There is mockery in the

Crimall : Nay, not mockery, laughter
only. It is the laughter of some young and
happy heart. Unbar the door, {Enter the
young Finn).

Finn to Crimall : Noble elder, I am a
hunter having lost my v^ay in these woods.
I seek a supper and a bed, being to-night
hom^eless and supperless.

Crimall : Thou art right welcome, O
youth. We, too, are hunters, but good for-
tune has not been ours to-day. Neverthe-
less what we have with us in the house is
thine. {The rails are given to Finn on a
large splatter. Finn sits with the flatter on
his knees).

Crimall : Would we had better to offer
thee, youth. Eat now, though not, alas !


to thy full satisfaction. We can give thee,
too, pure water from the spring and a bed
of heather and rushes, and in the morning
our young men will search the springes.
Haply some birds or animals may be taken
therein on which thou mayest break thy fast
well. With music we can not supply thee,
but there is one amongst us who is a good
historian, and will relate tales of heroes till
sweet sleep makes heavy thine eyelids.
(Finn lays aside the platter and weeps).

Finn (standing up and with a cheerful
air) : Noble old men, good fortune in hunt-
ing doth not fall to every one each day ; but
sometimes to one man and sometimes to
another. Ill fortune was yours to-day and
may be mine to-morrow, but this day success
hath attended my hunting, and there is with
me a sufficiency of food for all. Put now
upon the fire, I pray you, not little sticks,
but great logs, and make a good blaze, for
we shall all feast well to-night.

(Fin7i keeps bringing in game as de-
scribed in the story — birds, small beasts,
and a deer).

Crimall : Truly thou art a mighty hun-
ter, brave and generous youth. But bring


in now thy hounds. Why shouldst thou
leave them without ? We, too, alas ! love
hounds, and thine will be most welcome at
our hearth.

Finn : Truly there are no hounds with
me. Whatever be the powers that fashioned
me, they have made my limbs swift and tire-
less, so that even the red deer are not apt to
escape from me when I get upon their
traces. Yet why should I boast ? You too,
doubtless, in your time have run down swift
game. Verily, the tongue of youth is apt to
be loud in declaring its own glory. Here, I
think, noble seniors, is a sufficiency of meat ;
and I chance to have with me bread too; for
I am not a hunter only, but also a warrior
and a spoiler. I sacked a lime-white noble
Dun to-day, and have brought with me a
portion of the plunder. {Finn brings in
cakes ufon his spear).

Crimall : Art Darig, fetch in now, I
pray thee, a sufficiency of pure water.

Finn : A sufficiency of pure water, noble
seniors, is right welcome at times, and a
good and profitable beverage for the hunter
and the warrior while engaged in their pas-
times. But at night, and when friends meet


and feast together joyfully, old strong ale
bears the bell, if I, a mere lad, may
speak thus confidently before seniors and

Crimall : Truly, my son, thou hast
spoken aright and according to the tradi-
tions of the ancients.

(What follows might be intoned a little
by the actor, being poetry).

" For the hunter in his glad labours,
The pure, cold, glittering spring,

And for the warrior when he bends
His knee to the conflict,

And his brow to the pale, fierce fight.
But there is no feasting without ale."

Nevertheless on this occasion pure water
must serve our needs.

Finn {cheerfully) : Say not so, father.

(Finn brings in the ale barrels, kicking
them before him, and a sack full of goblets;
plants some goblets on the barrels, and kicks
th'fi rest into the back of the hut).

Crimall (with a cry) : Hast thou any
other surprises in store for us, youth be-
loved of the gods ?


Finn {with a cry) : What thing above all
other things in the world wouldst thou see
with greatest joy, O Crimall, son of Tren-
more, son of Basna ?

Crimall {with a cry) \ The satchel that
was at the girdle of my brother Cumall in
the great battle of Cnucha, with his jewels
of sovereignty and power within it, and the
head of Luchat Mael who slew him, and
both of these, the satchel and the head, in
the hands of my brother's son, the son of
Cumall, son of Basna.

Finn {throwing hack or off his great
cloak of skin and shoiving the satchel and
the head with great animation) : I have
them with me, Crimall. Here is the
satchel with all the instruments of power
within it, and here is the head of Luchat
Mael, my father's slayer, whom I met and
defeated this day in most fair fight and
honourable combat. And I am CumalFs
youngest son, whom the Druidesses bore
awa}?^ with them after the battle into the
mountains of Slieve Bloom, and I am cap-
tain of a host {martial music in the dis-
tance) and waging war on Clan Morna, and
rending their tyranny, and all Ireland is a


shaking sod under my feet. {Flings head
into hack fart of tent and lays satchel at
feet of Crimall).

{Old men weey and wail with joy and
crowd around him, kissing and embracing).




The Steward of Nod.

Nod's Wife.

Nod, a wealthy miser who has become rich
by oppression.

OssiAN, the Poet, son of Finn, and one of
his companions.

Finn, Chief of the Fianna.

OscuR, Son of Ossian.

CoNAN Mael, a companion of Finn.

FiNOLA AND EiTHNE, Attendants on Nod's

Episode I.

Outside Nod's House.

(Enter Steward from house, pauses and
looks at distant fields).

Steward : Woe the day. {Looks again).
How shall I meet my angry lord ?



{Enter Nod's wife, after short pause,
speaking from doorway).

Wife {eagerly). Are the people re-
turned ? I have detained him in the house
by every pretext I could devise.

Steward : Alas ! no, lady.

Wife : Then I fear for the thralls, but
list, he comes.

{Exit into house).

Steward : 'Tis an evil day for me.

{Hides behind bush).

{Enter Nod in sad-coloured clothes).

Nod {looks as if scanning distant fields).
How now ! What is this ? The sun well
risen and not one slave at work in all my
fields. {Stamps in anger). I shall have
blood for this. Somebody will be whipt —
and to the bone. {Sees Steward). Ho there!
Steward ! What is this ? All my people
slugging in bed, and the sun well risen.
Thou shalt suffer for it.

Steward {sinks on knees) : Hear me, if
for a moment. Never hath there been any-
thing like this at Rath Nod. Blame me not,
my master, and I shall explain.


Nod : Explain. But thou shalt not
escape whipping.

Steward (rising and pointing to fields) :
In the dawning of the day every thrall of
thine was in his place and working with a
will, while I watched all from my tower.

Nod : Then why didst quit it coming

Steward : That I would tell. For while
the dew was wet on the grass, in the twi-
light of the dawning day, there passed by
thy borders, the mighty huntars, the Fiana
Eireann, with their huge hounds, and in the
midst of them, Finn himself, the great and
glorious, to hunt this territory.

Nod : What then ? Did they slay my
people or press them into their service ? I
shall have vengeance for this.

Steward : Not so, my lord; but as they
passed all thy thralls forsook their labour
and followed them. Their going was like
the going of one man and I sent the over-
seers to whip them back, but they went after
the chase too, forgetting their duty. {Finn's
young man, starts to enter here, having 60
yards to ivalk). So that now all, both old

(D 448) D


and young, are scattered over the hills
watching the hounds and shouting and hal-
looing, like a people intoxicated.

Nod : Go after them. Scourge them
back to their work. Let them know that if
they return not, I shall hang every tenth
man among them upon a tree ere set of sun
and whip the rest till they long to die ; tell
them that !

Steward : Master, it would be like a
turning back of the Slaney to its springs.

Nod : I will not be flouted. I shall have
blood for this.

{Enter one of Finn's young men, gracious
and graceful).

Young Man : Noble sir ! My lord, who
this day hunts the adjoining forests and
wild territories, hath sent me to crave thy
hospitality for the coming night, if it be not
burdensome to you and yours ; so he will hold
thee ever in grateful remembrance.

Nod : Young man ! I know not your lord
nor his wild companions, and it is not my
intention to squander my wealth upon his
barbarous folk and their greedy dogs. Go


back, young man, to thine idle lord and his
idle men and tell them to hie elsewhere for
entertainment, and that for sleeping accom-
modation they may couch in the heather, for
by all I hear, they are healthy and hardy.

{Young man looks astonished, bows
slightly, ironically, and strides away and

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