Goodreads.com
back to The Crock of Gold »
read reviews
previous chapter
next chapter
-
+
i


Chapter 1

 

CAITILIN NI MURRACHU was sitting alone in the little cave behind Gort na Cloca Mora. Her companion had gone out as was his custom to walk in the sunny morning and to sound his pipe in desolate, green spaces whence, perhaps, the wanderer of his desire might hear the guiding sweetness. As she sat she was thinking. The last few days had awakened her body, and had also awakened her mind, for with the one awakening comes the other. The despondency which had touched her previously when tending her father's cattle came to her again, but recognizably now. She knew the thing which the wind had whispered in the sloping field and for which she had no name—it was Happiness. Faintly she shadowed it forth, but yet she could not see it. It was only a pearl-pale wraith, almost formless, too tenuous to be touched by her hands, and too aloof to be spoken to. Pan had told her that he was the giver of happiness, but he had given her only unrest and fever and a longing which could not be satisfied. Again there was a want, and she could not formulate, or even realize it with any closeness. Her new-born Thought had promised everything, even as Pan, and it had given—she could not say that it had given her nothing or anything. Its limits were too quickly divinable. She had found the Tree of Knowledge, but about on every side a great wall soared blackly enclosing her in from the Tree of Life—a wall which her thought was unable to surmount even while instinct urged that it must topple before her advance; but instinct may not advance when thought has schooled it in the science of unbelief; and this wall will not be conquered until Thought and Instinct are wed, and the first son of that bridal will be called The Scaler of the Wall.

So, after the quiet weariness of ignorance, the unquiet weariness of thought had fallen upon her. That travail of mind which, through countless generations, has throed to the birth of an ecstasy, the prophecy which humanity has sworn must be fulfilled, seeing through whatever mists and doubtings the vision of a gaiety wherein the innocence of the morning will not any longer be strange to our maturity.

While she was so thinking Pan returned, a little disheartened that he had found no person to listen to his pipings. He had been seated but a little time when suddenly, from without, a chorus of birds burst into joyous singing. Limpid and liquid cadenzas, mellow flutings, and the sweet treble of infancy met and danced and piped in the airy soundings. A round, soft tenderness of song rose and fell, broadened and soared, and then the high flight was snatched, eddied a moment, and was borne away to a more slender and wonderful loftiness, until, from afar, that thrilling song turned on the very apex of sweetness, dipped steeply and flashed its joyous return to the exultations of its mates below, rolling an ecstasy of song which for one moment gladdened the whole world and the sad people who moved thereon; then the singing ceased as suddenly as it began, a swift shadow darkened the passage, and Angus Og came into the cave.

Caitilin sprang from her seat Frighted, and Pan also made a half movement towards rising, but instantly sank back again to his negligent, easy posture.

The god was slender and as swift as a wind. His hair swung about his face like golden blossoms. His eyes were mild and dancing and his lips smiled with quiet sweetness. About his head there flew perpetually a ring of singing birds, and when he spoke his voice came sweetly from a centre of sweetness.

"Health to you, daughter of Murrachu," said he, and he sat down.

"I do not know you, sir," the terrified girl whispered.

"I cannot be known until I make myself known," he replied. "I am called Infinite Joy, O daughter of Murrachu, and I am called Love."

The girl gazed doubtfully from one to the other.

Pan looked up from his pipes.

"I also am called Love," said he gently, "and I am called Joy."

Angus Og looked for the first time at Pan.

"Singer of the Vine," said he, "I know your names-they are Desire and Fever and Lust and Death. Why have you come from your own place to spy upon my pastures and my quiet fields?"

Pan replied mildly.

"The mortal gods move by the Immortal Will, and, therefore, I am here."

"And I am here," said Angus.

"Give me a sign," said Pan, "that I must go."

Angus Og lifted his hand and from without there came again the triumphant music of the birds.

"It is a sign," said he, "the voice of Dana speaking in the air," and, saying so, he made obeisance to the great mother.

Pan lifted his hand, and from afar there came the lowing of the cattle and the thin voices of the goats.

"It is a sign," said he, "the voice of Demeter speaking from the earth," and he also bowed deeply to the mother of the world.

Again Angus Og lifted his hand, and in it there appeared a spear, bright and very terrible.

But Pan only said, "Can a spear divine the Eternal Will?" and Angus Og put his weapon aside, and he said: "The girl will choose between us, for the Divine Mood shines in the heart of man."

Then Caitilin Ni Murrachu came forward and sat between the gods, but Pan stretched out his hand and drew her to him, so that she sat resting against his shoulder and his arm was about her body.

"We will speak the truth to this girl," said Angus Og.

"Can the gods speak otherwise?" said Pan, and he laughed with delight.

"It is the difference between us," replied Angus Og. "She will judge."

"Shepherd Girl," said Pan, pressing her with his arm, "you will judge between us. Do you know what is the greatest thing in the world?—because it is of that you will have to judge."

"I have heard," the girl replied, "two things called the greatest things. You," she continued to Pan, "said it was Hunger, and long ago my father said that Commonsense was the greatest thing in the world."

"I have not told you," said Angus Og, "what I consider is the greatest thing in the world."

"It is your right to speak," said Pan.

"The greatest thing in the world," said Angus Og, "is the Divine Imagination."

"Now," said Pan, "we know all the greatest things and we can talk of them."

"The daughter of Murrachu," continued Angus Og, "has told us what you think and what her father thinks, but she has not told us what she thinks herself. Tell us, Caitilin Ni Murrachu, what you think is the greatest thing in the world."

So Caitilin Ni Murrachu thought for a few moments and then replied timidly.

"I think that Happiness is the greatest thing in the world," said she.

Hearing this they sat in silence for a little time, and then Angus Og spoke again-

"The Divine Imagination may only be known through the thoughts of His creatures. A man has said Commonsense and a woman has said Happiness are the greatest things in the world. These things are male and female, for Commonsense is Thought and Happiness is Emotion, and until they embrace in Love the will of Immensity cannot be fruitful. For, behold, there has been no marriage of humanity since time began. Men have but coupled with their own shadows. The desire that sprang from their heads they pursued, and no man has yet known the love of a woman. And women have mated with the shadows of their own hearts, thinking fondly that the arms of men were about them. I saw my son dancing with an Idea, and I said to him, 'With what do you dance, my son?' and he replied, 'I make merry with the wife of my affection,' and truly she was shaped as a woman is shaped, but it was an Idea he danced with and not a woman. And presently he went away to his labours, and then his Idea arose and her humanity came upon her so that she was clothed with beauty and terror, and she went apart and danced with the servant of my son, and there was great joy of that dancing—for a person in the wrong place is an Idea and not a person. Man is Thought and woman is Intuition, and they have never mated. There is a gulf between them and it is called Fear, and what they fear is, that their strengths shall be taken from them and they may no longer be tyrants. The Eternal has made love blind, for it is not by science, but by intuition alone, that he may come to his beloved; but desire, which is science, has many eyes and sees so vastly that he passes his love in the press, saying there is no love, and he propagates miserably on his own delusions. The finger-tips are guided by God, but the devil looks through the eyes of all creatures so that they may wander in the errors of reason and justify themselves of their wanderings. The desire of a man shall be Beauty, but he has fashioned a slave in his mind and called it Virtue. The desire of a woman shall be Wisdom, but she has formed a beast in her blood and called it Courage: but the real virtue is courage, and the real courage is liberty, and the real liberty is wisdom, and Wisdom is the son of Thought and Intuition; and his names also are Innocence and Adoration and Happiness."

When Angus Og had said these words he ceased, and for a time there was silence in the little cave. Caitilin had covered her face with her hands and would not look at him, but Pan drew the girl closer to his side and peered sideways, laughing at Angus.

"Has the time yet come for the girl to judge between us?" said he.

"Daughter of Murrachu," said Angus Og, "will you come away with me from this place?"

Caitilin then looked at the god in great distress. "I do not know what to do," said she. "Why do you both want me? I have given myself to Pan, and his arms are about me."

"I want you," said Angus Og, "because the world has forgotten me. In all my nation there is no remembrance of me. I, wandering on the hills of my country, am lonely indeed. I am the desolate god forbidden to utter my happy laughter. I hide the silver of my speech and the gold of my merriment. I live in the holes of the rocks and the dark caves of the sea. I weep in the morning because I may not laugh, and in the evening I go abroad and am not happy. Where I have kissed a bird has flown; where I have trod a flower has sprung. But Thought has snared my birds in his nets and sold them in the market-places. Who will deliver me from Thought, from the base holiness of Intellect, the maker of chains and traps? Who will save me from the holy impurity of Emotion, whose daughters are Envy and Jealousy and Hatred, who plucks my flowers to ornament her lusts and my little leaves to shrivel on the breasts of infamy? Lo, I am sealed in the caves of nonentity until the head and the heart shall come together in fruitfulness, until Thought has wept for Love, and Emotion has purified herself to meet her lover. Tir-nanOg is the heart of a man and the head of a woman. Widely they are separated. Self-centred they stand, and between them the seas of space are flooding desolately. No voice can shout across those shores. No eye can bridge them, nor any desire bring them together until the blind god shall find them on the wavering stream—not as an arrow searches straightly from a bow, but gently, imperceptibly as a feather on the wind reaches the ground on a hundred starts; not with the compass and the chart, but by the breath of the Almighty which blows from all quarters without care and without ceasing. Night and day it urges from the outside to the inside. It gathers ever to the centre. From the far without to the deep within, trembling from the body to the soul until the head of a woman and the heart of a man are filled with the Divine Imagination. Hymen, Hymenaea! I sing to the ears that are stopped, the eyes that are sealed, and the minds that do not labour. Sweetly I sing on the hillside. The blind shall look within and not without; the deaf shall hearken to the murmur of their own veins, and be enchanted with the wisdom of sweetness; the thoughtless shall think without effort as the lightning flashes, that the hand of Innocence may reach to the stars, that the feet of Adoration may dance to the Father of Joy, and the laugh of Happiness be answered by the Voice of Benediction."

Thus Angus Og sang in the cave, and ere he had ceased Caitilin Ni Murrachu withdrew herself from the arms of her desires. But so strong was the hold of Pan upon her that when she was free her body bore the marks of his grip, and many days passed away before these marks faded.

Then Pan arose in silence, taking his double reed in his hand, and the girl wept, beseeching him to stay to be her brother and the brother of her beloved, but Pan smiled and said: "Your beloved is my father and my son. He is yesterday and to-morrow. He is the nether and the upper millstone, and I am crushed between until I kneel again before the throne from whence I came," and, saying so, he embraced Angus Og most tenderly and went his way to the quiet fields, and across the slopes of the mountains, and beyond the blue distances of space.

And in a little time Caitilin Ni Murrachu went with her companion across the brow of the hill, and she did not go with him because she had understood his words, nor because he was naked and unashamed, but only because his need of her was very great, and, therefore, she loved him, and stayed his feet in the way, and was concerned lest he should stumble.