Gods and Fighting Men

The Wanderers

   And they went on wandering after that, all through Ireland, hiding from Finn in every place, sleeping under the cromlechs, or with no shelter at all, and there was no place they would dare to stop long in. And wherever they went Finn would follow them, for he knew by his divination where they went. But one time he made out they were on a mountain, for he saw them with heather under them; and it was beside the sea they were, asleep on heather that Diarmuid had brought down from the hills for their bed; and so he went searching the hills and did not find them.
   And Grania would be watching over Diarmuid while he slept, and she would make a sleepy song for him, and it is what she would be saying:
   "Sleep a little, a little little, for there is nothing at all to fear, Diarmuid, grandson of Duibhne; sleep here soundly, soundly, Diarmuid, to whom I have given my love.
   "It is I will keep watch for you, grandchild of shapely Duibhne; sleep a little, a blessing on you, beside the well of the strong field; my lamb from above the lake, from the banks of the strong streams.
   "Let your sleep be like the sleep in the South, of Dedidach of the high poets, the time he took away old Morann's daughter, for all Conall could do against him.
   "Let your sleep be like the sleep in the North, of fair comely Fionnchadh of Ess Ruadh, the time he took Slaine with bravery as we think, in spite of Failbhe of the Hard Head.
   "Let your sleep be like the sleep in the West, of Aine, daughter of Gailian, the time she went on a journey in the night with Dubbthach from Doirinis, by the light of torches.
   "Let your sleep be like the sleep in the East, of Deaghadh the proud, the brave fighter, the time he took Coincheann, daughter of Binn, in spite of fierce Decheall of Duibhreann.
   "O heart of the valour of the lands to the west of Greece, my heart will go near to breaking if I do not see you every day. The parting of us two will be the parting of two children of the one house; it will be the parting of life from the body, Diarmuid, hero of the bright lake of Carman."
   And then to rouse him she would make another song, and it is what she should say:
   "Caoinche will be loosed on your track; it is not slow the running of Caoilte will be; do not let death reach to you, do not give yourself to sleep for ever.
   "The stag to the east is not asleep, he does not cease from bellowing; though he is in the woods of the blackbirds, sleep is not in his mind; the hornless doe is not asleep, crying after her speckled fawn; she is going over the bushes, she does not sleep in her home.
   "The cuckoo is not asleep, the thrush is not asleep, the tops of the trees are a noisy place; the duck is not asleep, she is made ready for good swimming; the bog lark is not asleep to-night on the high stormy bogs; the sound of her clear voice is sweet; she is not sleeping between the streams."
   One time they were in a cave of Beinn Edair, and there was an old woman befriending them and helping them to keep a watch. And one day she chanced to go up to the top of Beinn Edair, and she saw an armed man coming towards her, and she did not know him to be Finn; and when he was come near she asked what was he looking for. "It is looking for a woman I am come," he said, "and for a woman's love. And will you do all I will ask you?" he said.
   "I will do that," she said; for she thought it was her own love he was asking.
   "Tell me then," he said, "where is Diarmuid, grandson of Duibhne?"
   So she told him where he was hiding, and he bade her to keep him in the cave till such time as he would come back with his men.
   The old woman went back then, and it is what she did, she dipped her cloak in the sea-water before she went into the cave; and Diarmuid asked her why was her cloak so wet. "It is," she said, "that I never saw or never heard of the like of this day for cold and for storms. There is frost on every hillside," she said, "and there is not a smooth plain in all Elga where there is not a long rushing river between every two ridges. And there is not a deer or a crow in the whole of Ireland can find a shelter in any place." And she was shaking the wet off her cloak, and she was making a complaint against the cold, and it is what she said:
   "Cold, cold, cold to-night is the wide plain of Lurg; the snow is higher than the mountains, the deer cannot get at their share of food.
   "Cold for ever; the storm is spread over all; every furrow on the hillside is a river, every ford is a full pool, every full loch is a great sea; every pool is a full loch; horses cannot go through the ford of Ross any more than a man on his two feet.
   "The fishes of Inisfail are going astray; there is no strand or no pen against the waves; there are no dwellings in the country, there is no bell heard, no crane is calling.
   "The hounds of the wood of Cuan find no rest or no sleep in their dwelling-place; the little wren cannot find shelter in her nest on the slope of Lon.
   "A sharp wind and cold ice have come on the little company of birds; the blackbird cannot get a ridge to her liking or shelter for her side in the woods of Cuan.
   "It is steady our great pot hangs from its hook; it is broken the cabin is on the slope of Lon; the snow has made the woods smooth, it is hard to climb to the ridge of Bennait Bo.
   "The ancient bird of Glen Ride gets grief from the bitter wind; it is great is her misery and her pain, the ice will be in her mouth.
    "Mind well not to rise up from coverings and from down, mind this well; there would be no good sense in it. Ice is heaped up in every ford; it is for that I am saying and ever saying 'Cold.' "
   The old woman went out after that, and when she was gone, Grania took hold of the cloak she had left there and she put her tongue to it, and found the taste of salt water on it. "My grief, Diarmuid," she said then, "the old woman has betrayed us. And rise up now," she said, "and put your fighting suit upon you."
   So Diarmuid did that, and he went out, and Grania along with him. And no sooner were they outside than they saw Finn and the Fianna of Ireland coming towards them. Then Diarmuid looked around him and he saw a little boat at hand in the shelter of the harbour, and he himself and Grania went into it. And there was a man before them in the boat having beautiful clothes on him, and a wide embroidered golden-yellow cloak over his shoulders behind.
   And they knew it was Angus was in it, that had come again to help them to escape from Finn, and they went back with him for a while to Brugh na Boinne, and Osgar came to them there.

Deidre of the Sorrows, by John Duncan