The Happy March

Caitilin Ni Murrachu sat alone in the Brugh of Angus much as she had sat on the hillside and in the cave of Pan, and again she was thinking. She was happy now. There was nothing more she could desire, for all that the earth contained or the mind could describe was hers. Her thoughts were no longer those shy, subterranean gropings which elude the hand and the understanding. Each thought was a thing or a person, visible in its own radiant personal life, and to be seen or felt, welcomed or repulsed, as was its due. But she had discovered that happiness is not laughter or satisfaction, and that no person can be happy for themselves alone. So she had come to understand the terrible sadness of the gods, and why Angus wept in secret; for often in the night she had heard him weeping, and she knew that his tears were for those others who were unhappy, and that he could not be comforted while there was a woeful person or an evil deed hiding in the world. Her own happiness also had become infected with this alien misery, until she knew that nothing was alien to her, and that in truth all persons and all things were her brothers and sisters and that they were living and dying in distress; and at the last she knew that there was not any man but mankind, nor any human being but only humanity. Never again could the gratification of a desire give her pleasure for her sense of oneness was destroyed⁠—she was not an individual only; she was also part of a mighty organism ordained, through whatever stress, to achieve its oneness, and this great being was threefold, comprising in its mighty units God and Man and Nature⁠—the immortal trinity. The duty of life is the sacrifice of self: it is to renounce the little ego that the mighty ego may be freed; and, knowing this, she found at last that she knew Happiness, that divine discontent which cannot rest nor be at ease until its bourne is attained and the knowledge of a man is added to the gaiety of a child. Angus had told her that beyond this there lay the great ecstasy which is Love and God and the beginning and the end of all things; for everything must come from the Liberty into the Bondage, that it may return again to the Liberty comprehending all things and fitted for that fiery enjoyment. This cannot be until there are no more fools living, for until the last fool has grown wise wisdom will totter and freedom will still be invisible. Growth is not by years but by multitudes, and until there is a common eye no one person can see God, for the eye of all nature will scarcely be great enough to look upon that majesty. We shall greet Happiness by multitudes, but we can only greet Him by starry systems and a universal love.

She was so thinking when Angus Óg came to her from the fields. The god was very radiant, smiling like the young morn when the buds awake, and to his lips song came instead of speech.

“My beloved,” said he, “we will go on a journey today.”

“My delight is where you go,” said Caitilin.

“We will go down to the world of men⁠—from our quiet dwelling among the hills to the noisy city and the multitude of people. This will be our first journey, but on a time not distant we will go to them again, and we will not return from that journey, for we will live among our people and be at peace.”

“May the day come soon,” said she.

“When thy son is a man he will go before us on that journey,” said Angus, and Caitilin shivered with a great delight, knowing that a son would be born to her.

Then Angus Óg put upon his bride glorious raiment, and they went out to the sunlight. It was the early morning, the sun had just risen and the dew was sparkling on the heather and the grass. There was a keen stir in the air that stung the blood to joy, so that Caitilin danced in uncontrollable gaiety, and Angus, with a merry voice, chanted to the sky and danced also. About his shining head the birds were flying; for every kiss he gave to Caitilin became a bird, the messengers of love and wisdom, and they also burst into triumphant melody, so that the quiet place rang with their glee. Constantly from the circling birds one would go flying with great speed to all quarters of space. These were his messengers flying to every fort and dun, every rath and glen and valley of Eiré to raise the Sluaige Shee (the Fairy Host). They were birds of love that flew, for this was a hosting of happiness, and, therefore the Shee would not bring weapons with them.

It was towards Kilmasheogue their happy steps were directed, and soon they came to the mountain.

After the Thin Woman of Inis Magrath had left the god she visited all the fairy forts of Kilmasheogue, and directed the Shee who lived there to be in waiting at the dawn on the summit of the mountain; consequently, when Angus and Caitilin came up the hill, they found the six clans coming to receive them, and with these were the people of the younger Shee, members of the Tuatha da Danaan, tall and beautiful men and women who had descended to the quiet underworld when the pressure of the sons of Milith forced them with their kind enchantments and invincible valour to the country of the gods.

Of those who came were Aine Ni Eogáil of Cnoc Aine and Ívíl of Craglea, the queens of North and South Munster, and Una the queen of Ormond; these, with their hosts, sang upon the summit of the hill welcoming the god. There came the five guardians of Ulster, the fomentors of combat:⁠—Brier Mac Belgan of Dromona-Breg, Redg Rotbill from the slopes of Magh-Itar, Tinnel the son of Boclacthna of Slieve Edlicon, Grici of Cruachán-Aigle, a goodly name, and Gulban Glas Mac Grici, whose dun is in the Ben of Gulban. These five, matchless in combat, marched up the hill with their tribes, shouting as they went. From north and south they came, and from east and west, bright and happy beings, a multitude, without fear, without distraction, so that soon the hill was gay with their voices and their noble raiment.

Among them came the people of the Lupra, the ancient Leprecauns of the world, leaping like goats among the knees of the heroes. They were headed by their king Udán Mac Audain and Beg Mac Beg his tanist, and, following behind, was Glomhar O’Glomrach of the sea, the strongest man of their people, dressed in the skin of a weasel; and there were also the chief men of that clan, well known of old, Conán Mac Rihid, Gaerku Mac Gairid, Mether Mac Mintán and Esirt Mac Beg, the son of Bueyen, born in a victory. This king was that same Udán the chief of the Lupra who had been placed under bonds to taste the porridge in the great cauldron of Emania, into which pot he fell, and was taken captive with his wife, and held for five weary years, until he surrendered that which he most valued in the world, even his boots: the people of the hills laugh still at the story, and the Leprecauns may still be mortified by it.

There came Bove Derg, the Fiery, seldom seen, and his harper the son of Trogáin, whose music heals the sick and makes the sad heart merry; Rochy Mac Elathán, Dagda Mór, the Father of Stars, and his daughter from the Cave of Cruachán; Credh Mac Aedh of Raghery and Cas Corach son of the great Ollav; Mananaan Mac Lir came from his wide waters shouting louder than the wind, with his daughters Cliona and Aoife and Etain Fair-Hair; and Coll and Cecht and Mac Greina, the Plough, the Hazel, and the Sun came with their wives, whose names are not forgotten, even Banba and Fodla and Eiré, names of glory. Lugh of the Long Hand, filled with mysterious wisdom, was not absent, whose father was sadly avenged on the sons of Turann⁠—these with their hosts.

And one came also to whom the hosts shouted with mighty love, even the Serene One, Dana, the Mother of the gods, steadfast forever. Her breath is on the morning, her smile is summer. From her hand the birds of the air take their food. The mild ox is her friend, and the wolf trots by her friendly side; at her voice the daisy peeps from her cave and the nettle couches his lance. The rose arrays herself in innocence, scattering abroad her sweetness with the dew, and the oak tree laughs to her in the air. Thou beautiful! the lambs follow thy footsteps, they crop thy bounty in the meadows and are not thwarted: the weary men cling to thy bosom everlasting. Through thee all actions and the deeds of men, through thee all voices come to us, even the Divine Promise and the breath of the Almighty from afar laden with goodness.

With wonder, with delight, the daughter of Murrachu watched the hosting of the Shee. Sometimes her eyes were dazzled as a jewelled forehead blazed in the sun, or a shoulder-torque of broad gold flamed like a torch. On fair hair and dark the sun gleamed: white arms tossed and glanced a moment and sank and reappeared. The eyes of those who did not hesitate nor compute looked into her eyes, not appraising, not questioning, but mild and unafraid. The voices of free people spoke in her ears and the laughter of happy hearts, unthoughtful of sin or shame, released from the hard bondage of selfhood. For these people, though many, were one. Each spoke to the other as to himself, without reservation or subterfuge. They moved freely each in his personal whim, and they moved also with the unity of one being: for when they shouted to the Mother of the gods they shouted with one voice, and they bowed to her as one man bows. Through the many minds there went also one mind, correcting, commanding, so that in a moment the interchangeable and fluid became locked, and organic with a simultaneous understanding, a collective action⁠—which was freedom.

While she looked the dancing ceased, and they turned their faces with one accord down the mountain. Those in the front leaped forward, and behind them the others went leaping in orderly progression.

Then Angus Óg ran to where she stood, his bride of beauty⁠—

“Come, my beloved,” said he, and hand in hand they raced among the others, laughing as they ran.

Here there was no green thing growing; a carpet of brown turf spread to the edge of sight on the sloping plain and away to where another mountain soared in the air. They came to this and descended. In the distance, groves of trees could be seen, and, very far away, the roofs and towers and spires of the Town of the Ford of Hurdles, and the little roads that wandered everywhere; but on this height there was only prickly furze growing softly in the sunlight; the bee droned his loud song, the birds flew and sang occasionally, and the little streams grew heavy with their falling waters. A little further and the bushes were green and beautiful, waving their gentle leaves in the quietude, and beyond again, wrapped in sunshine and peace, the trees looked on the world from their calm heights, having no complaint to make of anything.

In a little they reached the grass land and the dance began. Hand sought for hand, feet moved companionably as though they loved each other; quietly intimate they tripped without faltering, and, then, the loud song arose⁠—they sang to the lovers of gaiety and peace, long defrauded⁠—

“Come to us, ye who do not know where ye are⁠—ye who live among strangers in the house of dismay and self-righteousness. Poor, awkward ones! How bewildered and bedevilled ye go! Amazed ye look and do not comprehend, for your eyes are set upon a star and your feet move in the blessed kingdoms of the Shee. Innocents! in what prisons are ye flung? To what lowliness are ye bowed? How are ye ground between the laws and the customs? The dark people of the Fomor have ye in thrall; and upon your minds they have fastened a band of lead, your hearts are hung with iron, and about your loins a cincture of brass impressed, woeful! Believe it, that the sun does shine, the flowers grow, and the birds sing pleasantly in the trees. The free winds are everywhere, the water tumbles on the hills, the eagle calls aloud through the solitude, and his mate comes speedily. The bees are gathering honey in the sunlight, the midges dance together, and the great bull bellows across the river. The crow says a word to his brethren, and the wren snuggles her young in the hedge.⁠ ⁠… Come to us, ye lovers of life and happiness. Hold out thy hand⁠—a brother shall seize it from afar. Leave the plough and the cart for a little time: put aside the needle and the awl⁠—Is leather thy brother, O man?⁠ ⁠… Come away! come away! from the loom and the desk, from the shop where the carcasses are hung, from the place where raiment is sold and the place where it is sewn in darkness: O bad treachery! Is it for joy you sit in the broker’s den, thou pale man? Has the attorney enchanted thee?⁠ ⁠… Come away! for the dance has begun lightly, the wind is sounding over the hill, the sun laughs down into the valley, and the sea leaps upon the shingle, panting for joy, dancing, dancing, dancing for joy.⁠ ⁠…”

They swept through the goat tracks and the little boreens and the curving roads. Down to the city they went dancing and singing; among the streets and the shops telling their sunny tale; not heeding the malignant eyes and the cold brows as the sons of Balor looked sidewards. And they took the Philosopher from his prison, even the Intellect of Man they took from the hands of the doctors and lawyers, from the sly priests, from the professors whose mouths are gorged with sawdust, and the merchants who sell blades of grass⁠—the awful people of the Fomor⁠ ⁠… and then they returned again, dancing and singing, to the country of the gods.⁠ ⁠…