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Title: The Divine Adventure Volume IV
Author: Macleod, Fiona
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  The Works of






    _The Gods approve the depth and not the tumult of
  the soul._

        _It is loveliness I seek, not lovely things._

[Illustration: From the original by L. Y. Cameron
Iona Cathedral]








  _First published 1910. New Edition 1912_

  _Copyright 1895, 1910._




  THE DIVINE ADVENTURE                                               1

  IONA                                                              91


      BY SUNDOWN SHORES                                            253

      THE WIND, SILENCE, AND LOVE                                  263

      BARABAL: A MEMORY                                            268

      THE WHITE HERON                                              276

      THE SMOOTHING OF THE HAND                                    292

      THE WHITE FEVER                                              298

      THE SEA-MADNESS                                              303

      EARTH, FIRE, AND WATER                                       308


      THE HERDSMAN                                                 319

      FRAGMENTS                                                    383

  A DREAM                                                          405

  NOTES                                                            411

  BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE                                             433
      By Mrs. William Sharp.


  "_Let the beginning, I say, of this little book, as if it were some
  lamp, make it clear that a divine miracle was manifested._"

                                       _St. Adamnan_, Book II. c. I.

The Divine Adventure


  "We were three: the Body, the Will, and the Soul.... The Will, the
  Soul, which for the first time had gone along outside of our common
  home, had to take upon themselves bodily presences likewise."--_The
  Divine Adventure._

I remember that it was on St. John's Eve we said we would go away
together for a time, but each independently, as three good friends. We
had never been at one, though we had shared the same home, and had
enjoyed so much in common; but to each, at the same time, had come the
great desire of truth, than which there is none greater save that of

We had long been somewhat weary. No burden of years, no serious ills, no
grief grown old in its own shadow, distressed us. We were young. But we
had known the two great ends of life--to love and to suffer. In deep
love there is always an inmost dark flame, as in the flame lit by a
taper: I think it is the obscure suffering upon which the Dancer lives.
The Dancer!--Love, who is Joy, is a leaping flame: he it is who is the
son of that fabled planet, the Dancing Star.

On that St. John's Eve we had talked with friends on the old mysteries
of this day of pagan festival. At last we withdrew, not tired or in
disagreement, but because the hidden things of the spirit are the only
realities, and it seemed to us a little idle and foolish to discuss in
the legend that which was not fortuitous or imaginary, since what then
held up white hands in the moonlight, even now, in the moonlight of the
dreaming mind, beckons to the Divine Forges.

We left the low-roofed cottage room, where, though the window was open,
two candles burned with steadfast flame. The night was listeningly
still. Beyond the fuchsia bushes a sighing rose, where a continuous
foamless wave felt the silences of the shore. The moonpath, far out upon
the bronze sea, was like a shadowless white road. In the dusk of the
haven glimmered two or three red and green lights, where the
fishing-cobles trailed motionless at anchor. Inland were shadowy hills.
One of the St. John's Eve fires burned on the nearest of these, its cone
blotting out a thousand eastern stars. The flame rose and sank as
though it were a pulse: perhaps at that great height the sea-wind or a
mountain air played upon it. Out of a vast darkness in the south swung
blacker abysses, where thunders breathed with a prolonged and terrible
sighing; upon their flanks sheet-lightnings roamed.

There was no sound in the little bay. Beyond, a fathom of
phosphorescence showed that mackerel were playing in the moonshine. Near
the trap-ledges, which ran into deep water sheer from the goat-pastures,
were many luminous moving phantoms: the medusæ, green, purple, pale
blue, wandering shapes filled with ghostly fire.

We stood a while in silence, then one of us spoke:

"Shall we put aside, for a brief while, this close fellowship of ours;
and, since we cannot journey apart, go together to find if there be any
light upon those matters which trouble us, and perhaps discern things
better separately than when trying, as we ever vainly do, to see the
same thing with the same eyes?"

The others agreed. "It may be I shall know," said one? "It may be I
shall remember," said the other.

"Then let us go back into the house and rest to-night, and to-morrow,
after we have slept and eaten well, we can set out with a light heart."

The others did not answer, for though to one food meant nothing, and to
the other sleep was both a remembering and a forgetting, each
unwittingly felt the keen needs of him whom they despised overmuch, and
feared somewhat, and yet loved greatly.


Thus it was that on a midsummer morning we set out alone and afoot, not
bent for any one place, though we said we would go towards the dim blue
hills in the west, the Hills of Dream, as we called them; but, rather,
idly troubled by the very uncertainties which beset our going. We began
that long stepping westward as pilgrims of old who had the Holy City for
their goal, but knew that midway were perilous lands.

We were three, as I have said: the Body, the Will, and the Soul. It was
strange for us to be walking there side by side, each familiar with and
yet so ignorant of the other. We had so much in common, and yet were so
incommunicably alien to one another. I think that occurred to each of
us, as, with brave steps but sidelong eyes, we passed the fuchsia
bushes, where the wild bees hummed, and round by the sea pastures, where
white goats nibbled among the yellow flags, and shaggy kine with their
wild hill-eyes browsed the thyme-sweet salted grass. A fisherman met us.
It was old Ian Macrae, whom I had known for many years. Somehow, till
then, the thought had not come to me that it might seem unusual to those
who knew my solitary ways, that I should be going to and fro with
strangers. Then, again for the first time, it flashed across me that
they were so like me--or save in the eyes I could myself discern no
difference--the likeness would be as startling as it would be

I stood for a moment, uncertain. "Of course," I muttered below my
breath, "of course, the others are invisible; I had not thought of
that." I watched them slowly advance, for they had not halted when I
did. I saw them incline the head with a grave smile as they passed Ian.
The old man had taken off his bonnet to them, and had stood aside.

Strangely disquieted, I moved towards Macrae.

"Ian," I whispered rather than spoke.

"Ay," he answered simply, looking at me with his grave, far-seeing eyes.

"Ian, have you seen my friends before?"

"No, I have never seen them before."

"They have been here for--for--many days."

"I have not seen them."

"Tell me; do you recognise them?"

"I have not seen them before."

"I mean, do you--do you see any likeness in them to any you know?"

"No, I see no likeness."

"You are sure, Ian?"

"Ay, for sure. And why not?" The old fisherman looked at me with
questioning eyes.

"Tell me, Ian, do you see any difference in me?"

"No, for sure, no."

Bewildered, I pondered this new mystery. Were we really three
personalities, without as well as within?

At that moment the Will turned. I heard his voice fall clearly along the
heather-fragrant air-ledges.

"We, too, are bewildered by this mystery," he said.

So he knew my thought. It was _our_ thought. Yes, for now the Soul
turned also; and I heard his sunwarm breath come across the
honeysuckles by the roadside.

"I, too, am bewildered by this mystery," he said.

"Ian," I exclaimed to the old man, who stared wonderingly at us; "Ian
tell me this: what like are my companions; how do they seem to you?"

The old man glanced at me, startled, then rubbed his eyes as though he
were half-awakened from a dream.

"Why are you asking that thing?"

"Because, Ian, you do not see any likeness in them to myself. I had
thought--I had thought they were so like."

Macrae put his wavering, wrinkled hand to his withered mouth. He gave a
chuckling laugh.

"Ah, I understand now. It is a joke you are playing on old Ian."

"Maybe ay, and maybe no, Ian; but I do want to know how they seem to
you, those two yonder."

"Well, well, now, for sure, that friend of yours there, that spoke
first, he is just a weary, tired old man, like I am myself, and so like
me, now that I look at him, that he might be my wraith. And the other,
he is a fine lad, a fisher-lad for sure, though I fear God's gripped
his heart, for I see the old ancient sorrow in his eyes."

I stared: then suddenly I understood.

"Good-day, Ian," I added hurriedly, "and the blessing of Himself be upon
you and yours, and upon the nets and the boats."

Then I moved slowly towards my companions, who awaited me. I understood
now. The old fisherman had seen after his own kind. The Will, the Soul,
which for the first time had journeyed outside our common home, had to
take upon themselves bodily presences likewise. But these wavering
images were to others only the reflection of whoso looked upon them. Old
Ian had seen his own tired self and his lost youth. With a new fear the
Body called to us, and we to him; and we were one, yet three; and so we
went onward together.


We were silent. It is not easy for three, so closely knit, so intimate,
as we had been for so many years, suddenly to enter upon a new
comradeship, wherein three that had been as one were now several. A new
reticence had come to each of us. We walked in silence--conscious of
the beauty of the day, in sea and sky and already purpling moors; of the
white gulls flecking the azure, and the yellowhammers and stonechats
flitting among the gorse and fragrant bog-myrtle--we knew that none was
inclined to speak. Each had his own thoughts.

The three dreamers--for so we were in that lovely hour of dream--walked
steadfastly onward. It was not more than an hour after noon that we came
to an inlet of the sea, so narrow that it looked like a stream, only
that a salt air arose between the irises which thickly bordered it, and
that the sunken rock-ledges were fragrant with sea-pink and the
stone-convolvulus. The moving tidal water was grass-green, save where
dusked with long, mauve shadows.

"Let us rest here," said the Body. "It is so sweet in the sunlight, here
by this cool water."

The Will smiled as he threw himself down upon a mossy slope that reached
from an oak's base to the pebbly margins.

"It is ever so with you," he said, still smiling. "You love rest, as the
wandering clouds love the waving hand of the sun."

"What made you think of that?" asked the Soul abruptly, who till that
moment had been rapt in silent commune with his inmost thoughts.

"Why do you ask?"

"Because I, too, was thinking that just as the waving hand of the sun
beckons the white wandering clouds, as a shepherd calls to his scattered
sheep, so there is a hand waving to us to press forward. Far away,
yonder, a rainbow is being woven of sun and mist. Perhaps, there, we may
come upon that which we have come out to see."

"But the Body wishes to rest. And, truly, it is sweet here in the
sunflood, and by this moving green water, which whispers in the reeds
and flags, and sings its own sea-song the while."

"Let us rest, then."

And, as we lay there, a great peace came upon us. There were hushed
tears in the eyes of the Soul, and a dreaming smile upon the face of the
Will, and, in the serene gaze of the Body, a content that was exceeding
sweet. It was so welcome to lie there and dream. We knew a rare
happiness in that exquisite quietude.

After a time, the Body rose, and moved to the water-edge.

"It is so lovely," he said, "I must bathe"--and with that he threw
aside his clothes, and stood naked among the reeds and yellow flags
which bordered the inlet.

The sun shone upon his white body, the colour of pale ivory. A delicate
shadow lightly touched him, now here, now there, from the sunlit green
sheaths and stems among which he stood. He laughed out of sheer joy and
raised his arms, and made a splashing with his trampling feet.

Looking backward with a blithe glance, he cried:

"After all, it is good to be alive: neither to think nor to dream, but
just content _to be_."

Receiving no answer, he laughed merrily, and, plunging forward, swam
seaward against the sun-dazzle.

His two companions watched him with shining eyes.

"Truly, he is very fair to look upon," said the Soul.

"Yes," added the Will, "and perhaps he has chosen the better part
elsewhere as here."

"Can it be the better part to prefer the things of the moment of those
of Eternity?"

"What is Eternity?"

For a few seconds the Soul was silent. It was not easy for him to
understand that what was a near horizon to him was a vague vista,
possibly a mirage, to another. He was ever, in himself, moving just the
hither side of the narrow mortal horizon which Eternity swims in upon
from behind and beyond. The Will looked at him questioningly, then spoke

"You speak of the things of Eternity. What is Eternity?"

"Eternity is the Breath of God."

"That tells me nothing."

"It is Time, freed from his Mortality."

"Again, that tells me little. Or, rather, I am no wiser. What is
Eternity to _us_?"

"It is our perpetuity."

"Then is it only a warrant against Death?"

"No, it is more. Time is our sphere: Eternity is our home."

"There is no other lesson for you in the worm, and in the dust?"

"What do you mean, brother?"

"Does dissolution mean nothing to you?"

"What is dissolution?"

It was now the Will who stared with wondering eyes. To him that question
was as disquieting as that which he had asked the Soul. It was a minute
before he spoke again.

"You ask me what is dissolution? Do you not understand what death means
to _me_?"

"Why to you more than to me, or to the Body?"

"What is it to you?"

"A change from a dream of Beauty, to Beauty."

"And at the worst?"

"Freedom: escape from narrow walls--often dark and foul."

"In any case nothing but a change, a swift and absolute change, from
what was to what is?"

"Even so."

"And you have no fear?"

"None. Why should I?"

"Why should you not?"

Again there was a sudden silence between the two. At last the Soul

"Why should I not? I cannot tell you. But I have no fear. I am a Son of

"And we?"

"Ah, yes, dear brother: you, too, and the Body."

"But we perish!"

"There is the resurrection of the Body."


"As it is written. In God's hour."

"Is the worm also the Son of God?"

The soul stared downward into the green water, but did not answer. A
look of strange trouble was in his eyes.

"Is not the Grave on the hither side of Eternity?"

Still no answer.

"Does God whisper beneath the Tomb?"

At this the Soul rose, and moved restlessly to and fro.

"Tell me," resumed the Will, "what is Dissolution?"

"It is the returning into dust of that which was dust."

"And what is dust?"

"The formless: the inchoate: the mass out of which the Potter makes new
vessels, or moulds new shapes."

"But _you_ do not go into dust?"

"I came from afar: afar I go again."

"But we--we shall be formless: inchoate?"

"You shall be upbuilded."


The Soul turned, and again sat by his comrade.

"I know not," he said simply.

"But if the Body go back to the dust, and the life that is in him be
blown out like a wavering flame; and if you who came from afar, again
return afar; what, then, for me, who am neither an immortal spirit nor
yet of this frail human clan?"

"God has need of you."


"How can I tell what I cannot even surmise?"

"Tell me, tell me this: if I am so wedded to the Body that, if he
perish, I perish also, what resurrection can there be for me?"

"I do not know."

"Is it a resurrection for the Body if, after weeks, or years, or scores
of years, his decaying dust is absorbed into the earth, and passes in a
chemic change into the living world?"

"No: that is not a resurrection: that is a transmutation."

"Yet that is all. There is nothing else possible. Dust unto dust. As
with the Body, so with the mind, the spirit of life, that which I am,
the Will. In the Grave there is no fretfulness any more: neither any
sorrow, or joy, or any thought, or dream, or fear, or hope whatsoever.
Hath not God Himself said it, through the mouth of His prophet?"

"I do not understand," murmured the Soul, troubled.

"Because the Grave is not your portion."

"But I, too, must know Death!"

"Yes, truly--a change what was it?--a change from a dream of Beauty, to

"God knows I would that we could go together--you, and he yonder, and I;
or, if that cannot be, he being wholly mortal, then at the least you and

"But we cannot. At least, so it seems to us. But I--I too am alive, I
too have dreams and visions, I too have joys and hopes, I too have
despairs. And for me--_nothing_. I am, at the end, as a blown flame."

"It may not be so. Something has whispered to me at times that you and I
are to be made one."

"Tell me: can the immortal wed the mortal?"


"Then how can we two wed, for I am mortal. My very life depends on the
Body. A falling branch, a whelming wave, a sudden ill, and in a moment
that which was is not. He, the Body, is suddenly become inert,
motionless, cold, the perquisite of the Grave, the sport of the maggot
and the worm: and I--I am a subsided wave, a vanished spiral of smoke, a
little fugitive wind-eddy abruptly ended."

"You know not what is the end any more than I do. In a moment we are

"Ah, is it so with you? O Soul, I thought that you had a profound

"I know nothing: I believe."

"Then it may be with you as with us?"

"I know little: I believe."

"When I am well I believe in new, full, rich, wonderful life--in life in
the spiritual as well as the mortal sphere. And the Body, when he is
ill, he, too, thinks of that which is your heritage. But if _you_ are
not sure--if _you_ know nothing--may it not be that you, too, have fed
upon dreams, and have dallied with Will-o'-the-wisp, and are an
idle-blown flame even as I am, and have only a vaster spiritual outlook?
May it not be that you, O Soul, are but a spiritual nerve in the dark,
confused, brooding mind of Humanity? May it not be that you and I and
the Body go down unto one end?"

"Not so. There is the word of God."

"We read it differently."

"Yet the Word remains."

"You believe in the immortal life?--You believe in Eternity?"


"Then what is Eternity?"

"Already you have asked me that!"

"You believe in Eternity. What is Eternity?"


"And what are the things of Eternity?"

"Immortal desires."

"Then what need for us who are mortal to occupy ourselves with what must
be for ever beyond us?"

Thereat, with a harsh laugh, the Will arose, and throwing his garments
from him, plunged into the sunlit green water, with sudden cries of joy
calling to the Body, who was still rejoicefully swimming in the
sun-dazzle as he breasted the tide.

An hour later we rose, and, silent again, once more resumed our way.


It was about the middle of the afternoon that we moved inland, because
of a difficult tract of cliff and bouldered shore. We followed the
course of a brown torrent, and were soon under the shadow of the
mountain. The ewes and lambs made incessantly that mournful crying,
which in mountain solitudes falls from ledge to ledge as though it were
no other than the ancient sorrow of the hills.

Thence we emerged, walking among boulders green with moss and grey with
lichen, often isled among bracken and shadowed by the wind-wavering
birches, or the finger-leafed rowans already heavy with clusters of
ruddy fruit. Sometimes we spoke of things which interested us: of the
play of light and shadow in the swirling brown torrent along whose banks
we walked, and by whose grayling-haunted pools we lingered often, to
look at the beautiful shadowy unrealities of the perhaps not less
shadowy reality which they mirrored: of the solemn dusk of the pines; of
the mauve shadows which slanted across the scanty corn that lay in green
patches beyond lonely crofts; of the travelling purple phantoms of
phantom clouds, to us invisible, over against the mountain-breasts; of a
solitary seamew, echoing the wave in that inland stillness.

All these things gave us keen pleasure. The Body often laughed joyously,
and talked of chasing the shadow till it should turn and leap into him,
and he be a wild creature of the woods again, and be happy, knowing
nothing but the incalculable hour. It is an old belief of the Gaelic

"If one yet older be true," said the Will, speaking to the Soul, "you
and Shadow are one and the same. Nay, the mystery of the Trinity is
symbolised here again--as in us three; for there is an ancient forgotten
word of an ancient forgotten people, which means alike the Breath, the
Shadow, and the Soul."[1]

As we walked onward we became more silent. It was about the sixth hour
from noon that we saw a little coast-town lying amid green pastures,
overhung, as it seemed, by the tremulous blue band of the sea-line. The
Body was glad, for here were friends, and he wearied for his kind. The
Will and the Soul, too, were pleased, for now they shared the common lot
of mortality, and knew weariness as well as hunger and thirst. So we
moved towards the blue smoke of the homes.

"The home of a wild dove, a branch swaying in the wind, is sweet to it;
and the green bracken under a granite rock is home to a tired hind; and
so we, who are wayfarers idler than these, which blindly obey the law,
may well look to yonder village as our home for to-night."

So spoke the Soul.

The Body laughed blithely. "Yes," he added, "it is a cheerier home than
the green bracken. Tell me, have you ever heard of The Three Companions
of Night?"

"The Three Companions of Night? I would take them to be Prayer, and
Hope, and Peace."

"So says the Soul--but what do _you_ say, O Will?"

"I would take them to be Dream, and Rest, and Longing."

"We are ever different," replied the Body, with a sigh, "for the Three
Companions of whom I speak are Laughter, and Wine, and Love."

"Perhaps we mean the same thing," muttered the Will, with a smile of
bitter irony.

We thought much of these words as we passed down a sandy lane hung with
honeysuckles, which were full of little birds who made a sweet

Prayer, and Hope, and Peace; Dream, and Rest, and Longing; Laughter, and
Wine, and Love: were these analogues of the Heart's Desire?

When we left the lane, where we saw a glow-worm emitting a pale fire as
he moved through the green dusk in the shadow of the hedge, we came upon
a white devious road. A young man stood by a pile of stones. He stopped
his labour and looked at us. One of us spoke to him.

"Why is it that a man like yourself, young and strong, should be doing
this work, which is for broken men?"

"Why are you breathing?" he asked abruptly.

"We breathe to live," answered the Body, smiling blithely.

"Well, I break stones to live."

"Is it worth it?"

"It's better than death."

"Yes," said the Body slowly, "it is better than death."

"Tell me," asked the Soul, "why is it better than death?"

"Who wants not to want?"

"Ah--it is the need to want, then, that is strongest!"

The stone-breaker looked sullenly at the speaker.

"If you're not anxious to live," he said, "will you give me what money
you have? It is a pity good money should be wasted. I know well where I
would be spending it this night of the nights," he added abruptly in

The Body looked at him with curious eyes.

"And where would you be spending it?" he asked, in the same language.

"This is the night of the marriage of John Macdonald, the rich man from
America, who has come back to his own town, and is giving a big night of
it to all his friends, and his friends' friends."

"Is that the John Macdonald who is marrying Elsie Cameron?" demanded the
Body eagerly.

"Ay, the same; though it may be the other daughter of Alastair Rua, the
girl Morag."

A flush rose to the face of the Body. His eyes sparkled.

"It is Elsie," he said to the man.

"Belike," the stone-breaker muttered indifferently.

"Do you know where Alastair Rua and his daughters are?"

"Yes, at Beann Marsanta Macdonald's big house of the One-Ash Farm."

"Can you show me the way?"

"I'm going that way."

Thereat the Body turned to his comrades:

"I love her," he said simply; "I love Morag Cameron."

"She is not for your loving," answered the Will sharply; "for she has
given troth to old Archibald Sinclair."

The Body laughed.

"Love is love," he said lightly.

"Come," interrupted the Soul wearily; "we have loitered long enough. Let
us go."

We stood looking at the stone-breaker, who was gazing curiously at us.
Suddenly he laughed.

"Why do you laugh?" asked the Soul.

"Well, I'm not for knowing that. But I'll tell you this: if you two wish
to go into the town, you have only to follow this road. And if _you_
want to come to One-Ash Farm, then you must come this other way with

"Do not go," whispered the Soul.

But the Body, with an impatient gesture, drew aside. "Leave me," he
added: "I wish to go with this man. I will meet you to-morrow morning at
the first bridge to the westward of the little town yonder, just where
the stream slackens over the pebbles."

With reluctant eyes the two companions saw their comrade leave. For a
long time the Will watched him with a bitter smile. Redeeming love was
in the longing eyes of the Soul.

When the Body and the stone-breaker were alone, as they walked towards
the distant farm-steading, where already were lights, and whence came a
lowing of kye in the byres, for it was the milking hour, they spoke at

"Who were those with you?" asked the man.

"Friends. We have come away together."

"What for?"

"Well, as you would say, to see the world."

"To see the world?" The man laughed. "To see the world! Have you money?"

"Enough for our needs."

"Then you will see nothing. The world gives to them that already have,
an' more than have."

"What do you hope for to-night?"

"To be drunk."

"That is a poor thing to hope for. Better to think of the laugh and the
joke by the fireside; and of food and drink, too, if you will: of the
pipes, and dancing, and pretty girls."

"Do as you like. As for me, I hope to be drunk."


"Why? Because I'll be another man then. I'll have forgotten all that I
now remember from sunrise to sundown. Can you think what it is to break
a hope in your heart each time you crack a stone on the roadside?
That's what I am, a stone-breaker, an' I crack stones inside as well as
outside. It's a stony place my heart, God knows."

"You are young to speak like that, and you speak like a man who has
known better days."

"Oh, I'm ancient enough," said the man, with a short laugh.

"What meaning does that have?"

"What meaning? Well, it just means this, that I'm as old as the Bible.
For there's mention o' me there. Only there I'm herding swine, an' here
I'm breaking stones."

"And is _your_ father living?"

"Ay, he curses me o' Sabbaths."

"Then it's not the same as the old story that is in the Bible?"

"Oh, nothing's the same an' everything's the same--except when you're
drunk, an' then it's only the same turned outside in. But see, yonder's
the farm. Take my advice, an' drink. It's better than the fireside, it's
better than food, it's better than kisses, ay it's better than love,
it's as good as hate, an' it's the only thing you can drown in except

Soon after this the Body entered the house of the Beann Marsanta
Macdonald, and with laughter and delight met Morag Cameron, and others
whom his heart leaped to see.

At midnight, the Will sat in a room in a little inn, and read out of two
books, now out of one, now out of the other. The one was the Gaelic
Bible, the other was in English and was called _The One Hope_.

He rose, as the village clock struck twelve, and went to the window. A
salt breath, pungent with tide-stranded seaweed, reached him. In the
little harbour, thin shadowy masts ascended like smoke and melted. A
green lantern swung from one. The howling of a dog rose and fell. A
faint lapping of water was audible. On a big fishing-coble some men were
laughing and cursing.

Overhead was an oppressive solemnity. The myriad stars were as the
incalculable notes of a stilled music, become visible in silence. It was
a relief to look into unlighted deeps.

"These idle lances of God pierce the mind, slay the spirit," the Will
murmured, staring with dull anger at the white multitude.

"If the Soul were here," he added bitterly, "he would look at these
glittering mockeries as though they were harbingers of eternal hope. To
me they are whited sepulchres. They say _we live_, to those who die;
they say _God endures,_ to Man that perisheth; they whisper the Immortal
Hope to Mortality." Turning, he went back to where he had left the
books. He lifted one, and read:--

"_Have we not the word of God Himself that Time and Chance happeneth to
all: that soon or late we shall all be caught in a net, we whom Chance
hath for his idle sport, and upon whom Time trampleth with impatient
feet? Verily, the rainbow is not more frail, more fleeting, than this
drear audacity._"

With a sigh he put the book down, and lifted the other. Having found the
page he sought, he read slowly aloud:--

"_... but Time and Chance happeneth to them all. For man also knoweth
not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the
birds that are caught in the snare, even so are the sons of men snared
in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them._"

He went to the window again, brooding darkly. A slight sound caught his
ear. He saw a yellow light run out, leap across the pavement and pass
like a fan of outblown flame. Then the door closed, and we heard a step
on the stone flags. He looked down. The Soul was there.

"Are you restless? Can you not sleep?" he asked.

"No, dear friend. But my heart is weary because of the Body. Yet before
I go, let me bid you read that which follows upon what you have just
read. It is not only Time and Chance upon which to dwell; but upon this,
that God knows that which He does, and the hour and the way, and sees
the end in the beginning."

And while the Soul moved softly down the little windy street, the Will
opened the Book again, and read as the Soul had bidden.

"It may be so," he muttered, "it may be that the dreamer may yet wake to
behold his dream--As thou knowest not what is the way of the wind, even
so thou knowest not the work of God Who doeth all?"

With that he sighed wearily, and then, afraid to look again at the
bitter eloquence of the stars, lit a candle as he lay down on his bed,
and watched the warm companionable flame till sleep came upon him, and
he dreamed no more of the rue and cypress, but plucked amaranths in the

Meanwhile the Soul walked swiftly to the outskirts of the little town,
and out by the grassy links where clusters of white geese huddled in
sleep, and across the windy common where a tethered ass stood, with
drooping head, his long, twitching ears now motionless. In the
moonlight, the shadow of the weary animal stretched to fantastic
lengths, and at one point, when the startled Soul looked at it, he
beheld the shadow of the Cross.

When he neared One-Ash Farm he heard a loud uproar from within. Many
couples were still dancing, and the pipes and a shrill flute added to
the tumult. Others sang and laughed, or laughed and shouted, or cursed
hoarsely. Through the fumes of smoke and drink rippled women's laughter.

He looked in at a window, with sad eyes. The first glance revealed to
him the Body, his blue eyes aflame, his face flushed with wine, his left
arm holding close to his heart a bright winsome lass, with hair
dishevelled, and wild eyes, but with a wonderful laughing eagerness of

In vain he called. His voice was suddenly grown faint. But what the ear
could not hear, the heart heard. The Body rose abruptly.

"I will drink no more," he said.

A loud insensate laugh resounded near him. The stone-breaker lounged
heavily from a bench, upon the servant's table.

"I am drunk now, my friend," the man cried with flaming eyes. "I am
drunk, an' now I am as reckless as a king, an' as serene as the Pope,
an' as heedless as God."

The Soul turned his gaze and looked at him. He saw a red flame rising
from grey ashes. The ashes were his heart. The flame was his impotent,
perishing life.

Stricken with sorrow, the Soul went to the door, and entered. He went
straight to the stone-breaker, who was now lying with head and arms
prone on the deal table.

He whispered in the drunkard's ear. The man lifted his head, and stared
with red, brutish eyes.

"What is that?" he cried.

"Your mother was pure and holy. She died to give you her life. What will
it be like on the day she asks for it again?"

The man raised an averting arm. There was a stare of horror in his eyes.

"I know you, you devil. Your name is Conscience."

The Soul looked at the Speaker. "I do not know," he answered simply;
"but I believe in God."

"In the love of God?"

"In the love of God."

"He dwells everywhere?"


"Then I will find Him, I will find His love, _here_"--and with that the
man raised the deathly spirit to his lips again, and again drank. Then,
laughing and cursing, he threw the remainder at the feet of his unknown

"Farewell!" he shouted hoarsely, so that those about him stared at him
and at the new-comer.

The Soul turned sadly, and looked for his strayed comrade, but he was
nowhere to be seen. In a room upstairs that friend whom he loved was
whispering eager vows of sand and wind; and the girl Morag, clinging
close to him, tempted him as she herself was tempted, so that both stood
in that sand, and in the intertangled hair of each that wind blew.

The Soul saw, and understood. None spoke to him, a stranger, as he went
slowly from the house, though all were relieved when that silent,
sad-eyed foreigner withdrew.

Outside, the cool sea-wind fell freshly upon him. He heard a corncrake
calling harshly to his mate, where the corn was yellowing in a little
stone-dyked field; and a night-jar creeping forward on a juniper,
uttering his whirring love-note; and he blessed their sweet, innocent
lust. Then, looking upward, he watched for a while the white procession
of the stars. They were to him the symbolic signs of the mystery of God.
He bowed his head. "Dust of the world," he muttered humbly, "dust of
the world."

Moving slowly by the house--so doubly noisy, so harshly discordant,
against the large, serene, nocturnal life--he came against the gable of
an open window. On the ledge lay a violin, doubtless discarded by some
reveller. The Soul lifted it, and held it up to the night-wind. When it
was purified, and the vibrant wood was as a nerve in that fragrant
darkness, he laid it on his shoulder and played softly.

What was it that he played? Many heard it, but none knew what the strain
was, or whence it came. The Soul remembered, and played. It is enough.

The soft playing stole into the house as though it were the cool
sea-wind, as though it were the flowing dusk. Beautiful, unfamiliar
sounds, and sudden silences passing sweet, filled the rooms. The last
guests left hurriedly, hushed, strangely disquieted. The dwellers in the
farmstead furtively bade good-night, and slipt away.

For an hour, till the sinking of the moon, the Soul played. He played
the Song of Dreams, the Song of Peace, the three Songs of Mystery. The
evil that was in the house ebbed. Everywhere, at his playing, the
secret obscure life awoke. Nimble aerial creatures swung, invisibly
passive, in the quiet dark. From the brown earth, from hidden
sanctuaries in rocks and trees, green and grey lives slid, and stood
intent. Out of the hillside came those of old. There were many eager
voices, like leaves lapping in a wind. The wild-fox lay down, with red
tongue lolling idly: the stag rose from the fern, with dilated nostrils;
the night-jar ceased, the corncrake ceased, the moon-wakeful thrushes
made no single thrilling note. The silence deepened. Sleep came stealing
softly out of the obscure, swimming dusk. There was not a swaying reed,
a moving leaf. The strange company of shadows stood breathless. Among
the tree-tops the loosened stars shone terribly--lonely fires of

The Soul played. Once he thought of the stone-breaker. He played into
his heart. The man stirred, and tears oozed between his heavy lids. It
was his mother's voice that he heard, singing-low a cradle-sweet song,
and putting back her white hair that she might look earthward to her
love. "Grey sweetheart, grey sweetheart," he moaned. Then his heart
lightened, and a moonlight of peace hallowed that solitary waste place.

Again, at the last, the Soul thought of his comrade, heavy with wine in
the room overhead, drunken with desire. And to him he played the
imperishable beauty of Beauty, the Immortal Love, so that, afterwards,
he should remember the glory rather than the shame of his poor frailty.
What he played to the girl's heart only those women know who hear the
whispering words of Mary the Mother in sleep, when a second life
breathes beneath each breath.

When he ceased, deep slumber was a balm upon all. He fell upon his knees
and prayed.

"Beauty of all Beauty," he prayed, "let none perish without thee."

It was thus that we three, who were one, realised how Prayer and Hope
and Peace, how Dream and Rest and Longing, how Laughter and Wine and
Love, are in truth but shadowy analogues of the Heart's Desire.


At dawn we woke. A movement of gladness was in the lovely tides of
morning--delicate green, and blue, and gold. The spires of the grasses
were washed in dew; the innumerous was as one green flower that had lain
all night in the moonshine.

We had agreed to meet at the bridge over the stream where it lapsed
through gravelly beaches just beyond the little town.

There the Soul and the Will long awaited the Body. The sun was an hour
risen, and had guided a moving multitude of gold and azure waters
against the long reaches of yellow-poppied sand, and to the bases of the
great cliffs, whose schist shone like chrysolite, and whose dreadful
bastions of black basalt loomed in purple shadow, like suspended
thunder-clouds on a windless afternoon.

The air was filled with the poignant sweetness of the loneroid or
bog-myrtle, meadow-sweet, and white wild-roses. The green smell of the
bracken, the delicate woodland odour of the mountain-ash, floated
hitherward and thitherward on the idle breath of the wind, sunwarm when
it came across the sea-pinks and thyme-set grass, cool and fresh when it
eddied from the fern-coverts, or from the heather above the
hillside-boulders where the sheep lay, or from under the pines at the
bend of the sea-road where already the cooing of grey doves made an
indolent sweetness.

The Soul was silent. He had not slept, but, after his playing in the
dark, peace had come to him.

Before dawn he had gone into the room where the Will lay, and had
looked long at his comrade. In sleep the Will more resembled him, as
when awake he the more resembled the Body. A deep pity had come upon the
Soul for him whom he loved so well, but knew so little.

Why was it, he wondered, that he felt less alien from the Body? Why was
it that this strange, potent, inscrutable being, whom both loved, should
be so foreign to each? The Body feared him. As for himself, he, too,
feared him at times. There were moments when all his marvellous
background of the immortal life shrank before the keen gaze of his
friend. Was it possible that Mind could have a life apart from mortal
substances? Was it possible? If so----

It was here that the Will awoke, and smiled at his friend.

He gave no greeting, but answered his thought.

"Yes," he said gravely, and as though continuing an argument, "it is
impossible, if you mean the mortal substance of our brother, the Body.
But yet not without material substance. May it not be that the Mind may
have an undreamed-of shaping power, whereby it can instantly create?"

"Create what?"

"A new environment for its need? Drown it in the deepest gulfs of the
sea, and it will, at the moment it is freed from the body, sheathe
itself in a like shape, and habit itself with free spaces of air, so
that it may breathe, and live, and emerge into the atmosphere, there to
take on a new shape, to involve itself in new circumstances, to live

"It is possible. But would that sea-change leave the mind the same or

"The Mind would come forth one and incorruptible."

"If in truth, the Mind be an indivisible essence?"

"Yes, if the mind be one and indivisible."

"You believe it so?"

"Tell me, are you insubstantial? You, yourself, below this accident of

"I know not what you mean."

"You were wondering if, after all, it were possible for me to have a
life, a conscious, individual continuity, apart from this mortal
substance in which you and I now share--counterparts of that human home
we both love and hate, that moving tent of the Illimitable, which at
birth appears a speck on sands of the Illimitable, and at death again
abruptly disappears. You were wondering this. But, tell me: have you
yourself never wondered how you can exist, as yourself, apart from
something of this very actuality, this form, this materialism to which
you find yourself so alien in the Body?"

"I am spirit. I am a breath."

"But you are you?"

"Yes, I am I."

"The surpassing egotism is the same, whether in you, the Soul, who are
but a breath; or in me, the Will, who am but a condition; or in our
brother, the Body, a claimant to Eternal Life while perishing in his

"I live in God. Whence I came, thither shall I return."

"A breath?"

"It may be."

"Yet you shall be you?"

"Yes; I."

"Then that breath which will be you must have form, even as the Body
must have form."

"Form is but the human formula for the informulate."

"Nay, Form _is_ life."

"You have ever one wish, it seems to me, O Will: to put upon me the
heavy yoke of mortality."

"Not so: but to lift it from myself."

"And the Body?"

"Where did you leave him last night?"

"You remember what he said about the Three Companions of Night:
Laughter, and Wine, and Love? I left him with these."

"They are also called Tears, and Weariness, and the Grave. He has his
portion. Perhaps he does well. Death intercepts many retributions."

"He, too, has his dream within a dream."

"Yes, you played to it, in the silence and the darkness."

"You heard my playing--you here, I there?"

"I heard."

"And did you sleep or wake, comforted?"

"I heard a Wind. I have heard it often. I heard, too, my own voice
singing in the dark."

"What was the song?"


    In the silences of the woods
    I have heard all day and all night
    The moving multitudes
    Of the Wind in flight.
    He is named Myriad:
    And I am sad
    Often, and often I am glad;
    But oftener I am white
    With fear of the dim broods
    That are his multitudes."

"And then, when you had heard that song?"

"There was a rush of wings. My hair streamed behind me. Then a sudden
stillness, out of which came moonlight; and a star fell slowly through
the dark, and as it passed my face I felt lips pressed against mine, and
it seemed to me that you kissed me."

"And when I kissed you, did I whisper any word?"

"You whispered: '_I am the Following Love._'"

"And you knew then that it was the Breath of God, and you had deep
peace, and slept?"

"I knew that it was the Following Love,--that is the Breath of God, and
I had deep peace, and I slept."

The Soul crossed from the window to the bed, and stooped, and kissed the

"Beloved," he whispered, "the star was but a dewdrop of the Peace that
passeth understanding. And can it be that to you, to whom the healing
dew was vouchsafed, shall be denied the water-springs?"

"Ah, beautiful dreamer of dreams, bewilder me no more with your lovely
sophistries. See, it is already late, and we have to meet the Body at
the shore-bridge over the little stream!"

It was then that the two, having had a spare meal of milk and new bread,
left the inn, and went, each communing with his own thoughts, to the
appointed place.

They heard the Body before they saw him, for he was singing as he came.
It was a strange, idle fragment of a song--"The Little Children of the
Wind"--a song that some one had made, complete in its incompleteness, as
a wind-blown blossom, and, as a blossom discarded by a flying bird,
thrown heedlessly on the wayside by its unknown wandering singer:--

    I hear the little children of the wind
    Crying solitary in lonely places:
    I have not seen their faces,
    But I have seen the leaves eddying behind,
    The little tremulous leaves of the wind.

The Soul looked at the Will.

"So he, too, has heard the Wind," he said softly.


All that day we journeyed westward. Sometimes we saw, far off, the pale
blue films of the Hills of Dream, those elusive mountains towards which
our way was set. Sometimes they were so startlingly near that, from
gorse upland or inland valley, we thought we saw the shadow-grass shake
in the wind's passage, or smelled the thyme still wet with dew where it
lay under the walls of mountain-boulders. But at noon we were no nearer
than when, at sunrise, we had left the little sea-town behind us: and
when the throng of bracken-shadows filled the green levels between the
fern and the pines--like flocks of sheep following fantastic
herdsmen--the Hills of the West were still as near, and as far, as the
bright raiment of the rainbow which the shepherd sees lying upon his
lonely pastures.

But long before noon we were glad because of what happened to one of us.

The dawn had flushed into a wilderness of rose as we left the bridge by
the stream. Long shafts of light, plumed with pale gold, were flung up
out of the east: everywhere was the tremulous awakening of the new day.
A score of yards from the highway a cottage stood, sparrows stirring in
the thatch, swift fairy-spiders running across the rude white-washed
walls, a redbreast singing in the dew-drenched fuchsia-bush. The blue
peat-smoke which rose above it was so faint as to be invisible beyond
the rowan which stood sunways. The westward part of the cottage was a
byre: we could hear the lowing of a cow, the clucking of fowls.

In every glen, on each hillside, are crofts such as this. There was
nothing unusual in what we saw, save that a collie crouched whimpering
beyond a dyke on the farther side of the rowan.

"All is not well here," said the Will.

"No," murmured the Soul, "I see the shadowy footsteps of those who serve
the Evil One. Await me here."

With that the Soul walked swiftly towards the cottage, and looked in at
the little window. His thought was straightway ours, and we knew that a
woman lay within and was about to give birth to a child. We knew, also,
that those who had dark, cruel eyes, and wore each the feather of a
hawk, had no power within, but were baffled, and roamed restlessly
outside the cottage on the side of shadow. The _Fuath_ himself was not
there, but when his call came the evil spirits rose like a flock of
crows and passed away. Then we saw our comrade stand back, and bow down,
and fall upon his knees.

When he rejoined us we were for a moment as one, and saw seven tall and
beautiful spirits, starred and flame-crested, hand-clasped and standing
circlewise round the cottage. They were Sons of Joy, who sang because in
that mortal hour was born an immortal soul who in the white flame and
the red of mortal life was to be a spirit of gladness and beauty. For
there is no joy in the domain of the Spirit like that of the birth of a
new joy.

A long while we walked in silence. In the eyes of the Soul we saw a
divine and beautiful light: in the eyes of the Will we saw
rainbow-spanned depths: in the eyes of the Body we saw gladness.

"We are one!"

None knew who spoke. For a moment I heard my own voice, saw my own
shadow in the grass; then, in the twinkling of an eye, three stood,
looking at each other with startled gaze.

"Let us go," said the Soul; "we have a long way yet to travel."

Each dreaming his own dream, we walked onward. Suddenly the Soul turned
and looked in the eyes of the Body.

"You are thinking of your loneliness," he said gravely.

"Yes," answered the Body.

"And I too," said the Will.

For a time no word more was said.

"I am indeed alone." This I murmured to myself after a long while, and
in a moment the old supreme wisdom sank, and we were not one but three.

"But you, O Soul," said the Will, "how can you be alone when in every
hour you have the company of the invisible, and see the passage of
powers and influence, of demons and angels, creatures of the triple
universe, souls, and the pale flight of the unembodied?"

"I do not know loneliness because of what I see or do not see, but
because of what I feel. When I walk here with you side by side it is as
though I walked along a narrow shore between a fathomless sea and
fathomless night."

The thought of one was the thought of three. I shivered with that great
loneliness. The Body glanced sidelong at the Will, the Will at the Soul.

"It is not good to dwell upon that loneliness," said the last.

"To you, O Body, and to you, O Will, as to me, it is the signal of Him
whom we have lost. Listen, and in the deepest hollow of loneliness we
can hear the voice of the Shepherd."

"I hear nothing," said the Body.

"I hear an echo," said the Will: "I hear an echo; but so, too, I can
hear the authentic voice of the sea in a hollow shell. Authentic! ...
when I know well that the murmur is no eternal voice, no whisper of the
wave made one with pearly silence, but only the sound of my flowing
blood heard idly in the curves of ear and shell?"

"Ah!" ... cried the Body, "it is a lie, that cruel word of science. The
shell must ever murmur of the sea; if not, at least let us dream that it
does. Soon, soon we shall have no dream left. How am I to know that
_all_, that everything, is not but an idle noise in my ears? How am I to
know that the Hope of the Will, and the Voice of the Soul, and the
message of the Word, and the Whisper of the Eternal Spirit, are not one
and all but a mocking echo in that shell which for me is the Shell of
Life, but may be only the cold inhabitation of my dreams?"

"Yet were it not for these echoes," the Soul answered, "life would be
intolerable for you, as for you too, my friend."

The Will smiled scornfully.

"Dreams are no comfort, no solace, no relief from weariness even, if one
knows them to be no more than the spray above the froth of a distempered

Suddenly one of us began in a low voice a melancholy little song:--

    I hear the sea-song of the blood in my heart,
    I hear the sea-song of the blood in my ears;
    And I am far apart,
    And lost in the years.

    But when I lie and dream of that which was
    Before the first man's shadow flitted on the grass--
    I am stricken dumb
    With sense of that to come.

    Is then this wildering sea-song but a part
    Of the old song of the mystery of the years--
    Or only the echo of the tired Heart
    And of Tears?

But none answered, and so again we walked onward, silent. The wind had
fallen, and in the noon-heat we began to grow weary. It was with relief
that we saw the gleam of water between the branches of a little wood of
birches, which waded towards it through a tide of bracken. Beyond the
birks shimmered a rainbow; a stray cloud had trailed from glen to glen,
and suddenly broken among the tree-tops.

"There goes Yesterday!" cried the Body laughingly--alluding to the
saying that the morning rainbow is the ghost of the day that passed at
dawn. The next moment he broke into a fragment of song:--

    Brother and Sister, wanderers they
    Out of the Golden Yesterday--
    Thro' the dusty Now and the dim To-morrow
    Hand-in-hand go Joy and Sorrow.

"Yes, joy and sorrow, O glad Body," exclaimed the Will--"but it is the
joy only that is vain as the rainbow, which has no other message. It
should be called the Bow of Sorrow."

"Not so," said the Soul gently, "or, if so, not as you mean, dear

    It is not Love that gives the clearest sight:
    For out of bitter tears, and tears unshed,
    Riseth the Rainbow of Sorrow overhead,
    And 'neath the Rainbow is the clearest light.

The Will smiled:--

"I too must have my say, dear poets:--

    Where rainbows rise through sunset rains
      By shores forlorn of isles forgot,
    A solitary Voice complains
      'The World is here, the World is not.'

    The Voice may be the wind, or sea,
      Or spirit of the sundown West:
    Or, mayhap, some sweet air set free
      From off the Islands of the Blest:

    It may be; but I turn my face
      To that which still I hold so dear;
    And lo, the voices of the days--
      'The World is not, the World is here.'

    'Tis the same end whichever way
      And either way is soon forgot:
    The World is all in all, To-day:
      'To-morrow all the World is not.'


In the noon-heat we lay, for rest and coolness, by the pool, and on the
shadow-side of a hazel. The water was of so dark a brown that we knew it
was of a great depth, and, indeed, even at the far verge, a heron,
standing motionless, wetted her breast-feathers.

In the mid-pool, where the brown lawns sloped into depths of
purple-blue, we could see a single cloud, invisible otherwise where we
lay. Nearer us, the water mirrored a mountain-ash heavy with ruddy
clusters. That long, feathery foliage, that reddening fruit, hung in a
strange, unfamiliar air; the stranger, that amid the silence of those
phantom branches ever and again flitted furtive shadow-birds.

We had walked for hours, and were now glad to rest. With us we had
brought oaten bread and milk, and were well content.

"It was by a pool such as this," said one of us, after a long interval,
"that dreamers of old called to Connla, and Connla heard. That was the
mortal name of one whose name we know not."

"Call him now," whispered the Body eagerly.

The Soul leaned forward, and stared into the fathomless brown dusk.

"Speak, Connla! Who art thou?"

Clear as a Sabbath-bell across windless pastures we heard a voice:

"I am of those who wait yet a while. I am older than all age, for my
youth is Wisdom; and I am younger than all youth, for I am named

We heard no more. In vain, together, separately, we sought to break that
silence which divides the mortal moment from hourless time. The Soul
himself could not hear, or see, or even remember, because of that mortal
raiment of the flesh which for a time he had voluntarily taken upon

"I will tell you a dream that is not all a dream," he said at last,
after we had lain a long while pondering what that voice had uttered,
that voice which showed that the grave held a deeper mystery than

The Will looked curiously at him.

"Is it a dream wherein we have shared?" he asked slowly.

"That I know not: yet it may well be so. I call my dream 'The Sons of
Joy.' If you or the Body have also dreamed, let each relate the dream."

"Yes," said the Body, "I have dreamed it. But I would call it rather
'The Sons of Delight.'"

"And I," said the Will, "The Sons of Silence."

"Tell it," said the Soul, looking towards the Body.

"It was night," answered the Body at once: "and I was alone in a waste
place. My feet were entangled among briars and thorns, and beside me was
a quagmire. On the briar grew a great staff, and beside it a circlet of
woven thorn. I could see them, in a soft, white light. It must have been
moonlight, for on the other side of the briar I saw, in the moonshine, a
maze of wild roses. They were lovely and fragrant. I would have liked to
take the staff, but it was circled with the thorn-wreath; so I turned to
the moonshine and the wild roses. It was then that I saw a multitude of
tall and lovely figures, men and women, all rose-crowned, and the pale,
beautiful faces of the women with lips like rose-leaves. They were
singing. It was the Song of Delight. I, too, sang. And as I sang, I
wondered, for I thought that the eyes of those about me were heavy with
love and dreams, as though each had been pierced with a shadowy thorn.
But still the song rose, and I knew that the flowers in the grass
breathed to it, and that the vast slow cadence of the stars was its
majestic measure. Then the dawn broke, and I saw all the company, winged
and crested with the seven colours, press together, so that a rainbow
was upbuilded. In the middle space below the rainbow, a bird sang. Then
I knew I was that bird; and as the rainbow vanished, and the dawn grew
grey and chill, I sank to the ground. But it was all bog and swamp. I
knew I should sing no more. But I heard voices saying: 'O happy,
wonderful bird, who has seen all delight, whose song was so rapt, sing,
sing, sing!' But when I could sing no more I was stoned, and lay dead.

"That was my dream."

The Soul sighed.

"It was not thus I dreamed," he murmured; "but thus:--

"I stood, at night, on the verge of the sea, and looked at the maze of
stars. And while looking and dreaming, I heard voices, and, turning,
beheld a multitude of human beings. All were sorrowful; many were heavy
with weariness and despair; all suffered from some grievous ill. Among
them were many who cried continually that they had no thought, or dream,
no wish, but to forget all, and be at rest:

"I called to them, asking whither they were bound?

"'We are journeying to the Grave,' came the sighing answer.

"Then suddenly I saw the Grave. An angel stood at the portals. He was so
beautiful that the radiance of the light upon his brow lit that
shoreless multitude; in every heart a little flame arose. The name of
that divine one was Hope.

"As shadow by shadow slipt silently into the dark road behind the Grave,
I saw the Angel touch for a moment every pale brow.

"I knew at last that I saw beyond the Grave. Infinite ways traversed the
universe, wherein suns and moons and stars hung like fruit. Multitude
within multitude was there.

"Then, again, suddenly I stood where I had been, and saw the Grave
reopen, and from it troop back a myriad of bright and beautiful beings.
I could see that some were souls re-born, some were lovely thoughts,
dreams, hopes, aspirations, influences, powers and mighty spirits too.
And all sang:

"'We are the Sons of Joy.'

"That was my dream."

We were still for a few moments. Then the Will spoke.

"This dream of ours is one thing as the Body's, and another as the
Soul's. It is yet another, as I remember it:--

"On a night of a cold silence, when the breath of the equinox sprayed
the stars into a continuous dazzle, I heard the honk of the wild geese
as they cleft their way wedgewise through the gulfs overhead.

"In the twinkling of an eye I was beyond the last shadow of the last

"Before me lay a land solemn with auroral light. For a thousand years,
that were as a moment, I wandered therein. Then, far before me, I saw an
immense semi-circle of divine figures, tall, wonderful, clothed with
moonfire, each with uplifted head, as a forest before a wind. To the
right they held the East, and to the left the West.

"'Who are you?' I cried, as I drifted through them like a mist of pale

"'We are the Laughing Gods,' they answered.

"Then after I had drifted on beyond the reach of sea or land, to a
frozen solitude of ice, I saw again a vast concourse stretching
crescent-wise from east to west: taller, more wonderful, crowned with
stars, and standing upon dead moons white with perished time.

"'Who are you?' I cried, as I went past them like a drift of pale smoke.

"'We are the Gods who laugh not,' they answered.

"Then when I had drifted beyond the silence of the Pole, and there was
nothing but unhabitable air, and the dancing fires were a flicker in the
pale sheen far behind, I saw again a vast concourse stretching
crescent-wise from east to west. They were taller still; they were more
wonderful still. They were crowned with flaming suns, and their feet
were white with the dust of ancient constellations.

"'Who are you!' I cried, as I went past them like a mist of pale smoke.

"'We are the Gods,' they answered.

"And while I waned into nothingness I felt in my nostrils the salt
smell of the sea, and, listening, I heard the honk of the wild geese
wedging southward.

"That was my dream."

When the Will ceased, nothing was said. We were too deeply moved by
strange thoughts, one and all. Was it always to be thus ... that we
might dream one dream, confusedly real, confusedly unreal, when we three
were one; but that when each dreamed alone, the dream, the vision, was
ever to be distinct in form and significance?

We lay resting for long. After a time we slept. I cannot remember what
then we dreamed, but I know that these three dreams were become one, and
that what the Soul saw and what the Will saw and what the Body saw was a
more near and searching revelation in this new and one dream than in any
of the three separately. I pondered this, trying to remember: but the
deepest dreams are always unrememberable, and leave only a fragrance, a
sound as of a quiet footfall passing into silence, or a cry, or a sense
of something wonderful, unimagined, or of light intolerable: but I could
recall only the memory of a moment ... a moment wherein, in a flash of
lightning, I had seen all, understood all.

I rose ... there was a dazzle on the water, a shimmer on every leaf, a
falling away as of walls of air into the great river of the wind ... and
there were three, not one, each staring dazed at the other, in the ears
of each the bewilderment of the already faint echo of that lost "I."


Towards sundown we came upon a hamlet, set among the hills. Our hearts
had beat quicker as we drew near, for with the glory of light gathered
above the west the mountains had taken upon them a bloom soft and
wonderful, and we thought that at last we were upon the gates of the
hills towards which we had journeyed so eagerly. But when we reached the
last pines on the ridge we saw the wild doves flying far westward.
Beyond us, under a pale star, dimly visible in a waste of rose, were the
Hills of Dream.

The Soul wished to go to them at once, for now they seemed so near to us
that we might well reach them with the rising of the moon. But the
others were tired, nor did the Hills seem so near to them. So we sat
down by the peat-fire in a shepherd's cottage, and ate of milk and
porridge, and talked with the man about the ways of that district, and
the hills, and how best to reach them. "If you want work," he said,
"you should go away south, where the towns are, an' not to these lonely
hills. They are so barren, that even the goatherds no longer wander
their beasts there."

"It's said they're haunted," added the Body, seeing that the others did
not speak.

"Ay, sure enough. That's well known, master. An' for the matter o' that,
there's a wood down there to the right where for three nights past I
have seen figures and the gleaming of fire. But there isn't a soul in
that wood--no, not a wandering tinker. I took my dogs through it to-day,
an' there wasn't the sign even of a last-year's gypsy. As for the low
bare hill beyond it, not a man, let alone a woman or child, would go
near it in the dark. In the Gaelic it's called Maol Dè, that is to say,
the Hill of God."

For a long time we sat talking with the shepherd, for he told us of many
things that were strange, and some that were beautiful, and some that
were wild and terrible. One of his own brothers, after an evil life, had
become mad, and even now lived in caves among the higher hills, going
ever on hands and feet, and cursing by day and night because he was made
as one of the wild swine, that know only hunger and rage and savage
sleep. He himself tended lovingly his old father, who was too frail to
work, and often could not sleep at nights because of the pleasant but
wearying noise the fairies made as they met on the dancing-lawns among
the bracken. Our friend had not himself heard the simple people, and in
a whisper confided to us that he thought the old man was a bit mazed,
and that what he heard was only the solitary playing of the Amadan-Dhu,
who, it was known to all, roamed the shadows between the two dusks.
"Keep away from the river in the hollow," he said at another moment,
"for it's there, on a night like this, just before the full moon got up,
that, when I was a boy, I saw the Aonaran. An' to this day, if I saw you
or any one standing by the water, it 'ud be all I could do not to thrust
you into it and drown you: ay, I'd have to throw myself on my face, an'
bite the grass, an' pray till my soul shook the murder out at my throat.
For that's the Aonaran's doing."

Later, he showed us, when we noticed it, a bit of smooth coral that hung
by a coarse leathern thong from his neck.

"Is that an amulet?" one of us asked.

"No: it's my lassie's."

We looked at the man inquiringly.

"The bairn's dead thirty years agone."

In the silence that followed, one of us rose, and went with the shepherd
into the little room behind. When the man came back it was with a
wonderful light in his face. Our comrade did not return ... but when we
glanced sidelong, lo, the Soul was there, as though he had not moved.
Then, of a sudden, we knew what he had done, what he had said, and were

When we left (the shepherd wanted us to stay the night, but we would
not), the stars had come. The night was full of solemn beauty.

We went down by the wood of which the shepherd had spoken, and came upon
it as the moon rose. But as a path bordered it, we followed that little
winding white gleam, somewhat impatient now to reach those far hills
where each of us believed he would find his heart's desire, or, at the
least, have that vision of absolute Truth, of absolute Beauty, which we
had set out to find.

We had not gone a third of the way when the Body abruptly turned, waving
to us a warning hand. When we stood together silent, motionless, we saw
that we were upon a secret garden. We were among ilex, and beyond were
tall cypresses, like dark flames rising out of the earth, their hither
sides lit with wavering moonfire. Far away the hill-foxes barked.
Somewhere near us in the dusk an owl hooted. The nested wild doves were
silent. Once, the faint churr of a distant fern-owl sent a vibrant
dissonance, that was yet strangely soothing, through the darkness and
the silence.

"Look!" whispered the Body.

We saw, on a mossy slope under seven great cypresses, a man lying on the
ground, asleep. The moonshine reached him as we looked, and revealed a
face of so much beauty and of so great a sorrow that the heart ached.
Nevertheless, there was so infinite a peace there, that, merely gazing
upon it, our lives stood still. The moonbeam slowly passed from that
divine face. I felt my breath rising and falling, like a feather before
the mystery of the wind is come. Then, the further surprised, we saw
that the sleeper was not alone. About him were eleven others, who also
slept; but of these one sat upright, as though the watchman of the dark
hour, slumbering at his post.

While the Body stooped, whispering, we caught sight of the white face of
yet another, behind the great bole of a tree. This man, the twelfth of
that company which was gathered about the sleeper in its midst, stared,
with uplifted hand. In his other hand, and lowered to the ground, was a
torch. He stared upon the Sleeper.

Slowly I moved forward. But whether in so doing, or by so doing, we
broke some subtle spell, which had again made us as one, I know not.
Suddenly three stood in that solitary place, with none beside us,
neither sleeping nor watching, neither quick nor dead. Far off the
hill-foxes barked. Among the cypress boughs an owl hooted, and was

"Have we dreamed?" each asked the other. Then the Body told what he had
seen, and what heard; and it was much as is written here, only that the
sleepers seemed to him worn and poor men, ill-clad, weary, and that
behind the white face of the twelfth, who hid behind a tree, was a
company of evil men with savage faces, and fierce eyes, and drawn

"I have seen nothing of all this," said the Will harshly, "but only a
fire drowning in its own ashes, round which a maze of leaves circled
this way and that, blown by idle winds."

The Soul looked at the speaker. He sighed. "Though God were to sow
living fires about you, O Will," he said, "you would not believe."

The Will answered dully: "I have but one dream, one hope, and that is to
believe. Do not mock me." The Soul leaned and kissed him lovingly on the

"Look," he said; "what I saw was this: I beheld, asleep, the Divine
Love; not sleeping, as mortals sleep, but in a holy quiet, brooding upon
infinite peace, and in commune with the Eternal Joy. Around him were the
Nine Angels, the _Crois nan Aingeal_ of our prayers, and two
Seraphs--the Eleven Powers and Dominions of the World. And One stared
upon them, and upon Him, out of the dark wood, with a face white with
despair, that great and terrible Lord of Shadow whom some call Death,
and some Evil, and some Fear, and some the Unknown God. Behind him was a
throng of demons and demoniac creatures: and all died continually. And
the wood itself--it was an infinite forest; a forest of human souls
awaiting God."

The Will listened, with eyes strangely ashine. Suddenly he fell upon his
knees, and prayed. We saw tears falling from his eyes.

"I am blind and deaf," he whispered in the ear of the Body, as he rose;
"but, lest I forget, tell me where I am, in what place we are."

"It is a garden called Gethsemane," answered the other--though I know
not how he knew--I--we--as we walked onward in silence through the dusk
of moon and star, and saw the gossamer-webs whiten as they became
myriad, and hang heavy with the pale glister of the dews of dawn.


The morning twilight wavered, and it was as though an incalculable host
of grey doves fled upward and spread earthward before a wind with
pinions of rose: then the dappled dove-grey vapour faded, and the rose
hung like the reflection of crimson fire, and dark isles of ruby and
straits of amethyst and pale gold and saffron and April-green came into
being: and the new day was come.

We stood silent. There is a beauty too great. We moved slowly round by
the low bare hill beyond the wood. No one was there, but on the summit
stood three crosses; one, midway, so great that it threw a shadow from
the brow of the East to the feet of the West.

The Soul stopped. He seemed as one rapt. We looked upon him with awe,
for his face shone as though from a light within. "Listen," he
whispered, "I hear the singing of the Sons of Joy. Farewell: I shall
come again."

We were alone, we two. Silently we walked onward. The sunrays slid
through the grass, birds sang, the young world that is so old smiled:
but we had no heed for this. In that new solitude each almost hated the
other. At noon a new grief, a new terror, came to us. We were upon a
ridge, looking westward. There were no hills anywhere.

Doubtless the Soul had gone that way which led to them. For us ... they
were no longer there.

"Let us turn and go home," said the Body wearily.

The Will stood and thought.

"Let us go home," he said.

With that he turned, and walked hour after hour. It was by a road
unknown to us, for, not noting where we went, we had traversed a path
that led us wide of that by which we had come. At least we saw nothing
of it. Nor, at dusk, would the Will go further, nor agree even to seek
for a path that might lead to the garden called Gethsemane.

"We are far from it," he said, "if indeed there be any such place. It
was a dream, and I am weary of all dreams. When we are home again, O
Body, we will dream no more."

The Body was silent, then abruptly laughed. His comrade looked at him

"Why do you laugh?"

"Did you not say there would be no more tears? And of that I am glad."

"You did not laugh gladly. But what I said was that there shall be no
more dreams for us, that we will dream no more."

"It is the same thing. We have tears because we dream. If we hope no
more, we dream no more: if we dream no more, we weep no more. And I
laughed because of this: that if we weep no more we can live as we like,
without thought of an impossible to-morrow, and with little thought even
for to-day."

For a time we walked in brooding thought, but slowly, because of the
gathering dark. Neither spoke, until the Body suddenly stood still,
throwing up his arms.

"Oh, what a fool I have been! What a fool I have been!"

The Will made no reply. He stared before him into the darkness.

We had meant to rest in the haven of the great oaks, but a thin rain had
begun, and we shivered with the chill. The thought came to us to turn
and find our way back to the house of the shepherd, hopeless as the
quest might prove, for we were more and more bewildered as to where we
were, or even as to the direction in which we moved, being without pilot
of moon or star, and having already followed devious ways. But while we
were hesitating, we saw a light. The red flame shone steadily through
the rainy gloom, so we knew that it was no lantern borne by a
fellow-wayfarer. In a brief while we came upon it, and saw that it was
from a red lamp burning midway in a forest chapel.

We lifted the latch and entered. There was no one visible. Nor was any
one in the sacristy. We went to the door again, and looked vainly in all
directions for light which might reveal a neighbouring village, or
hamlet, or even a woodlander's cottage.

Glad as we were of the shelter, and of the glow from the lamp, a
thought, a dream, a desire, divided us. We looked at each other
sidelong, each both seeking and avoiding the other's eyes.

"I cannot stay here," said the Body at last; "the place stifles me. I am
frightened to stay. The path outside is clear and well trodden; it must
lead somewhere, and as this chapel is here, and as the lamp is lit, a
village, or at least a house, cannot be far off."

The Will looked at him.

"Do not go," he said earnestly.


"I do not know. But do not let us part. I dare not leave here. I feel as
though this were our one safe haven to-night."

The Body moved to the door and opened it.

"I am going. And--and--I am going, too, because I am tired both of you
and the Soul. There is only one way for me, I see, and I go that way.

The door closed. The Will was alone. For a few moments he stood, smiling
scornfully. With a sudden despairing gesture he ran to the door, flung
it open, and peered into the darkness.

He could see no one; could hear no steps. His long beseeching cry was
drowned among these solitudes. Slowly he re-closed the door; slowly
walked across the stone flags; and with folded arms stood looking upon
the altar, dyed crimson with the glow from the great lamp which hung
midway in the nave.

There was a choir-stall to the right. Here he sat, for a time glad
merely to be at rest.

Soon all desire of sleep went from him, and he began to dream. At this
he smiled: it was so brief a while ago since he had said he would dream
no more.

Away now from his two lifelong comrades, and yet subtly connected with
them, and living by and through each, he felt a new loneliness. Life
could be very terrible. Life ... the word startled him. What life could
there be for him if the Body perished? That was why he had cried out in
anguish after his comrade had left, with that ominous word "farewell."
True, now he lived, breathed, thought, as before: but this, he knew, was
by some inexplicable miracle of personality, by which the three who had
been one were each enabled to go forth, fulfilling, and in all ways
ruled and abiding by, the natural law. If the Body should die, would he
not then become as a breath in frost? If the Soul ... ah! he wondered
what then would happen.

"When I was with the Body," he muttered, "I was weary of dreams, or
longed only for those dreams which could be fulfilled in action. But now
... now it is different. I am alone. I must follow my own law. But what
... how ... where ... am I to choose? All the world is a wilderness with
a heart of living light. The side we see is Life: the side we do not see
we call Hope. All ways--a thousand myriad ways--lead to it. Which shall
I choose? How shall I go?"

Then I began to dream ... I ... we ... then the Will began to dream.

Slowly the Forest Chapel filled with a vast throng, ever growing more
dense as it became more multitudinous, till it seemed as though the
walls fell away and that the aisles reached interminably into the world
of shadow, through the present into the past, and to dim ages.

Behind the altar stood a living Spirit, most wonderful, clothed with
Beauty and Terror.

Then the Will saw, understood, that this was not the Christ, nor yet the
Holy Spirit, but a Dominion. It was the Spirit of this world, one of the
Powers and Dominions whom of old men called the gods. But all in that
incalculable throng worshipped this Spirit as the Supreme God. He saw,
too, or realised, that, to those who worshipped, this Spirit appeared
differently, now as a calm and august dreamer, now as an inspired
warrior, now as a man wearing a crown of thorns against the shadow of a
gigantic cross: as the Son of God, or the Prophet of God, or in manifold
ways the Supreme One, from Jehovah to the savage Fetich.

Turning from that ocean of drowned life, he looked again at the
rainbow-plumed and opal-hued Spirit: but now he could see no one,
nothing, but a faint smoke that rose as from a torch held by an
invisible hand. The altar stood unserved.

Nor was the multitude present. The myriad had become a wavering shadow,
and was no more.

A child had entered the church. The little boy came slowly along the
nave till he stood beneath the red lamp, so that his white robe was warm
with its glow. He sang, and the Will thought it was a strange song to
hear in that place, and wondered if the child were not an image of what
was in his own heart.

    When the day darkens,
    When dusk grows light,
    When the dew is falling,
      When Silence dreams...
    I hear a wind
    Calling, calling
    By day and by night.

    What is the wind
    That I hear calling
    By day and by night,
      The crying of wind?
    When the day darkens,
    When dusk grows light,
    When the dew is falling?

The Will rose and moved towards the child. No one was there, but he saw
that a wind-eddy blew about the altar, for a little cloud of rose-leaves
swirled above it. As in a dream he heard a voice, faint and sweet:--

    Out of the Palace
    Of Silence and Dreams
    My voice is falling
      From height to height:
    I am the Wind
    Calling, calling
    By day and by night.

The red flame waned and was no more. Above the altar a white flame, pure
as an opal burning in moonfire, rose for a moment, and in a moment was
mysteriously gathered into the darkness.

Startled, the Will stood moveless in the obscurity. Were these symbols
of the end--the red flame and the white ... the Body and the Soul?

Then he remembered the ancient wisdom of the Gael, and went out of the
Forest Chapel and passed into the woods. He put his lips to the earth,
and lifted a green leaf to his brow, and held a branch to his ear: and
because he was no longer heavy with the sweet clay of mortality, though
yet of the human clan, he heard that which we do not hear, and saw that
which we do not see, and knew that which we do not know. All the green
life was his. In that new world he saw the lives of trees, now pale
green, now of woodsmoke blue, now of amethyst: the grey lives of stone:
breaths of the grass and reed: creatures of the air, delicate and wild
as fawns, or swift and fierce and terrible, tigers of that undiscovered
wilderness, with birds almost invisible but for their luminous wings,
their opalescent crests.

With these and the familiar natural life, with every bird and beast
kindred and knowing him kin, he lived till the dawn, and from the dawn
till sunrise, and from sunrise till noon. At noon he slept. When he woke
he saw that he had wandered far, and was glad when he came to a
woodlander's cottage. Here a woman gave him milk and bread, but she was
dumb, and he could learn nothing from her. She showed him a way which he
followed; and by that high upland path, before sundown, he came again
upon the Forest Chapel, and saw that it stood on a spur of blue hills.

Were it not for a great and startling weakness that had suddenly come
upon him, he would have gone in search of his lost comrade. While he lay
with his back against a tree, vaguely wondering what ill had come upon
him, he heard a sound of wheels. Soon after a rough cart was driven
rapidly towards the Forest Chapel, but when the countryman saw him he
reined in abruptly, as though at once recognising one whom he had set
out to seek. "Your friend is dying," he said; "come at once if you want
to see him again. He sent me to look for you."

In a moment all lassitude and pain went from the Will, and he sprang
into the cart, asking (while his mind throbbed with a dreadful anxiety)
many questions. But all he could learn from his taciturn companion was
that yester eve his comrade had fallen in with a company of roystering
and loose folk, with whom he had drunk heavily over-night and gamed and
lived evilly; that all this day he had lain as in a stupor, till the
afternoon, when he awoke and straightway fell into a quarrel about a
woman, and, after fierce words and blows, had been mortally wounded
with a knife. He was now lying, almost in the grasp of death, at the Inn
of the Crossways.

In the whirl of anxiety, dread, and a new and terrible confusion, the
Will could not think clearly as to what he was to say or do, what was to
be or could be done for his friend. And while he was still swayed
helplessly, this way and that, as a herring in a net drifted to and fro
by wind and wave, the Inn was reached.

With stumbling eagerness he mounted the rough stairs, and entered a
small room, clean, though almost sordid in its bareness, yet through its
western window filled with the solemn light of sunset.

On a white bed lay the Body, and the Will saw at a glance that his
comrade had not long to live. The handkerchief the sufferer held on his
breast was stained with the bright crimson of the riven lungs; his white
face was whiter than the pillow, the more so, as a red splatch lay on
each cheek.

The dying man opened his eyes as the door opened. He smiled gladly when
he saw who had come.

"I am glad indeed of this," he whispered. "I feared I was to die alone,
and in delirium or unconsciousness. Now I shall not be alone till the
end. And then----"

But here the Will sank upon his knees by the bedside. For a few minutes
his tears fell upon the hand he clasped. The sobs shook in his throat.
He had never fully realised what love he bore his comrade, his second
self; how interwrought with him were all his joys and sorrows, his
interests, his hopes and fears.

Suddenly, with supplicating arms, he cried, "Do not die! Oh, do not die!
Save me, save me, save me!"

"How can I save you, how can I help you, dear friend?" asked the Body in
a broken voice; "my sand is all but run out; my hour is come."

"But do you not know, do you not see, that I cannot live without
you!--that I must _die_--that if you perish so must I also pass with
your passing breath!"

"No--no--no!--for, see, we are no longer one, but three. The Soul is far
from us now, and soon you too will be gone on your own way. It is only I
who can go no more into the beautiful dear world. O Will, if I could, I
would give all your knowledge and endless quest of wisdom and all your
hopes, and all the dreams and the white faith of the Soul, for one
little year of sweet human life--for one month even--ah, what do I say,
for a few days even, for a day, for a few hours! It is so terrible thus
to be stamped out. Yesterday I saw a dog leaping and barking in delight
as it raced about a wagon, and then in a moment a foot caught and it was
entangled, and the wagon-wheel crushed it into a lifeless mass. There
was no dog; for that poor beast it was the same as though it had never
been, as though the world had never been, as though nothing more was to
be. He was a breath blown unremembering out of nothing into nothing.
That is what death is. That is what death is, O Will!"

"No, no, it is too horrible--too cruel--too unjust."

"Yes, for you. But not for me. Your way is not the way of death, but of
life. For me, I am as the beasts are, their sorry lord, but akin--oh
yes, akin, akin. I follow the natural law in all things. And I know this
now, dear comrade: that without you and the Soul I should have been no
other than the brutes that know nothing save their innocent lusts and
live and die without thought."

The Will slowly rose.

"It was madness for us to separate and come upon this quest," he said,
looking longingly at the Body.

"Not so, dear friend. We should have had to separate soon or late,
whatsoever we had done. If I have feared you at times, and turned from
you often, I have loved you well, and still more the Soul. I think you
have both lied to me overmuch, and you mostly. But I forgive what I know
was done in love and hope. And you, O Will, forgive me for all I have
brought, what I now bring, upon you; forgive the many thwartings and
dull indifference and heavy drag I have so often, oh, so often been to
you. For now death is at hand. But I have one thing I wish to ask you."


"Before my life was broken, there was one whom I loved. Every hope,
every dream, every joy, every sorrow that I had came from this love. It
was her death which broke my life--not only for the piteous loss and all
it meant to me, but because death came with tragic heedlessness--for she
was young, and strong, and beautiful. And before she died, she said we
should meet again. I was never, and now am far the less worthy of her;
and yet--and yet--oh, if only that great, beautiful love were all I had
to doubt or fear, I should have no doubt or fear! But no--no--we shall
never meet. How can we? Before to-morrow I shall be like that crushed
dog, and not be: just as if I had never been!"

The blood rose, and sobs and tears made further words inaudible. But
after a little the Body spoke again.

"But you, O Will, you and the Soul both resemble me. We are as flowers
of the same colour, as clay of the same mould. It may be you shall meet
her. Tell her that my last thought was of her: take her all my dreams
and hopes--and say--and say--say----"

But here the Body sat up in the bed, ash-white, with parted lips and
straining eyes.

"What? Quick, quick, dear Body--say?----"

"Say that I loved best that in her which I loved best in myself--the
Soul. Tell her I have never wholly despaired. Ah, if only the Soul were
here, I would not even now despair! Tell her I leave all to the
Soul--and--and--love shall triumph----"

There was a rush of blood, a gurgling cry, and the Body sank back
lifeless. In the very moment of death the eyes lightened with a
wonderful radiance--it was as though the evening stars suddenly came
through the dark.

The Will looked to see whence it came. The Soul stood beside him, white,
wonderful, radiant.

"I have come," he said.

"For me?" said the Will, shaking as with an ague, yet in bitter irony.

"Yes, for you, and for the Body too."

"For the Body?--see, he is already clay. What word have you to say to
_that_, to _me_ who likewise am already perishing?

"This--do you remember what so brief a while ago we three as one
wrote--wrote with my spirit, through your mind, and the Body's
hand--these words: _Love is more great than we conceive, and Death is
the keeper of unknown redemptions?_"

"Yes--yes--O Soul! I remember, I remember."

"It was true there: it is true here. Have I not ever told you that Love
would save?"

With that the Soul moved over to the bedside, and kissed the Body.

"Farewell, fallen leaf. But the tree lives--and beyond the tree is the
wind, the breath of the eternal."

"Look," he added, "our comrade is still asleep, though now no mortal
skill could nourish the hidden spark"; and with that he stooped and
kissed again the silent lips and the still brow and the pulseless
heart, and suddenly a breath, an essence, came from the body, in form
like itself, a phantom, yet endued with a motion of life.

As the faintest murmur in a shell we heard him whisper, _Life! Life!
Life!_ Then, as a blown vapour, he was one with us. A singular change
came upon the clay which had once been so near and dear to us: a frozen
whiteness that had not been there before, a stillness as of ancient

The Will stood, appalled, with wild eyes. Some dreadful invisible power
was upon him.

"Lost!" he cried; and now his voice, too, was faint as a murmur in a
shell. But the Soul smiled.

Then the Will grew grey as a willow-leaf aslant in the wind; and as the
shadow of a reed wavered in the wind; and as a reed's shadow is and is
not, so was he suddenly no more.

But, in the miracle of a moment, the Soul appeared in the triple mystery
of substance, and mind, and spirit. In full and joyous life the Will
stood re-born, and now we three were one again.

I looked for the last time on that which had been our home. The lifeless
thing lay, most terribly still and strange; yet with a dignity that
came as a benediction, for this dead temple of life had yielded to a
divine law, allied not to shadow and decay, but to the recurrent spring,
to the eternal ebb and flow, to the infinite processional. It is we of
the human clan only who are troubled by the vast waste and refuse of
life. There is not any such waste, neither in the myriad spawn nor the
myriad seed: a Spirit sows by the law we do not see, and reaps by a law
we do not know.

Then I turned and went to the western window. I saw that the Inn stood
upon the Hills of Dream, yet, when I looked within, I knew that I was
again in my familiar home. Once more, beyond the fuchsia bushes, the sea
sighed, as it felt the long shore with a continuous foamless wave. In
the little room below, the lamp was lit; for the glow fell warmly upon
the gravel path, shell-bordered, and upon the tufted mignonette,
sea-pinks, and feathery southernwood. The sound of hushed voices rose.

And now the dawn is come, and I have written this record of what we, who
are now indeed one, but far more truly and intimately than before, went
out to seek. In another hour I shall go hence, a wayfarer again. I have
a long road to travel, but am sustained by joy, and uplifted by a great
hope. When, tired, I lay down the pen, and with it the last of mortal
uses, it will be to face the glory of a new day. I have no fear. I shall
not leave all I have loved, for I have that in me which binds me to this
beautiful world, for another life at least, it may be for many lives.
And that within me which dreamed and hoped shall now more gladly and
wonderfully dream, and hope, and seek, and know, and see ever deeper and
further into the mystery of beauty and truth. And that within me which
_knew_, now _knows_. In the deepest sense there is no spiritual dream
that is not true, no hope that shall for ever go famished, no tears that
shall not be gathered into the brooding skies of compassion, to fall
again in healing dews.

What the Body could not, nor ever could see, and what to the Will was a
darkness, or at best a bewildering mist, is now clear. There are
mysteries of which I cannot write; not from any occult secret, but
because they are so simple and inevitable, that, like the mystery of day
and night, or the change of the seasons, or life and death, they must be
learned by each, in his own way, in his own hour. It is not out of their
light that I see; it is by these stars that I set forth, where else I
should be as a shadow upon a trackless waste.

But Love, I am come to realise, is the supreme deflecting force. Love
"unloosens sins," unites failure, disintegrates the act; not by an
inconceivable conflict with the immutable law of consequence, but by
deflection. For the divine love follows the life, and turns and meets it
at last, and in that meeting deflects: so that that which is mortal,
evil, and what is of the mortal law, the act, sinks; and on the forehead
of the divine law that which is alone inevitable survives and moves
onward in the rhythm that is life. When we understand the mystery of
Redemption, we shall understand what Love is. The expiatory is an
unknown attribute in the Divine. Expiation is but the earthly
burnt-offering of that in us that is mortal: Redemption, which is the
spiritual absorption of the expiation due to others, and the measureless
restitution in love of wrong humbly brought to the soul and consumed
there--so that it issues a living force to meet and deflect--is the
living witness in that of us which is immortal. Those who wrong us do
indeed become our saviours. It is _their_ expiation that we make _ours_:
they must go free of us; and when they come again and discrown us, then
in love we shall be at one and equal. So far, words may clothe thought;
but, beyond, the soul knows there is no expiation. Except you redeem
yourself, there is no God. Forgiveness is the dream of little children:
beautiful because thus far we see and know, but no farther.

I see now what madness it was, as so often happened, to despise the
body. But one mystery has become clear to me through this strange quest
of ours--though when I say "I," or "our," I know not whether it is the
Body or the Will or the Soul that speaks, till I remember that triune
marriage at the deathbed, and know that while each is consciously
each--the one with memory, the other with knowledge and hope, the third
with wisdom and faith--we are yet one, as are the yellow and the white
and the violet in the single flame in this candle beside me. And this
mystery is, that the body was not built of life-warmed clay merely to be
the house of the soul. Were it so, were the soul unwed to its mortal
comrades, it would be no more than a moment's uplifted wave on an
infinite sea. Without memory, without hope, it would be no more than a
breath of the Spirit. But before the Divine Power moulded us into
substance, we were shaped by it in form. And form is, in the spiritual
law, what the crystal is in the chemic law.

For now I see clearly that the chief end of the body is to enable the
soul to come into intimate union with the natural law, so that it may
fulfil the divine law of Form, and be at one with all created life and
yet be for ever itself and individual. By itself the soul would only
vainly aspire; it has to learn to remember, to become at one with the
wind and the grass and with all that lives and moves; to take its life
from the root of the body, and its green life from the mind, and its
flower and fragrance from what it may of itself obtain, not only from
this world, but from its own dews, its own rainbows, dawn stars and
evening stars, and vast incalculable fans of time and death. And this I
have learned: that there is no absolute Truth, no absolute Beauty, even
for the Soul. It may be that in the Divine Forges we shall be so moulded
as to have perfect vision. Meanwhile only that Truth is deepest, that
Beauty highest which is seen, not by the Soul only, or by the Mind, or
by the Body, but all three as one. Let each be perfect in kind and
perfect in unity. This is the signal meaning of the mystery. It is so
inevitable that it has its blind descent to fetich as well as its divine
ascension. But the ignoble use does not annul the noble purport, any
more than the blindness of many obscures the dream of one.

There could be no life hereafter for the soul were it not for the body,
and what were that life without the mind, the child of both, whom the
ancient seers knew and named Mnemosynê? Without memory life would be a
void breath, immortality a vacuum.

Ah, the glory of the lifting light! The new day is come. Farewell.


[1] The Aztec word _Ehecatl_, which signifies alike the Wind (or
Breath), Shadow, and Soul.


  "_There are moments when the soul takes wings: what it has to
  remember, it remembers: what it loves, it loves still more: what it
  longs for, to that it flies._"


A few places in the world are to be held holy, because of the love which
consecrates them and the faith which enshrines them. Their names are
themselves talismans of spiritual beauty. Of these is Iona.

The Arabs speak of Mecca as a holy place before the time of the prophet,
saying that Adam himself lies buried here: and, before Adam, that the
Sons of Allah, who are called Angels, worshipped; and that when Allah
Himself stood upon perfected Earth it was on this spot. And here, they
add, when there is no man left upon earth, an angel shall gather up the
dust of this world, and say to Allah, "There is nothing left of the
whole earth but Mecca: and now Mecca is but the few grains of sand that
I hold in the hollow of my palm, O Allah."

In spiritual geography Iona is the Mecca of the Gael.

It is but a small isle, fashioned of a little sand, a few grasses salt
with the spray of an ever-restless wave, a few rocks that wade in
heather and upon whose brows the sea-wind weaves the yellow lichen. But
since the remotest days sacrosanct men have bowed here in worship. In
this little island a lamp was lit whose flame lighted pagan Europe, from
the Saxon in his fens to the swarthy folk who came by Greek waters to
trade the Orient. Here Learning and Faith had their tranquil home, when
the shadow of the sword lay upon all lands, from Syracuse by the
Tyrrhene Sea to the rainy isles of Orcc. From age to age, lowly hearts
have never ceased to bring their burthen here. Iona herself has given us
for remembrance a fount of youth more wonderful than that which lies
under her own boulders of Dûn-I. And here Hope waits.

To tell the story of Iona is to go back to God, and to end in God.

But to write of Iona, there are many ways of approach. No place that has
a spiritual history can be revealed to those who know nothing of it by
facts and descriptions. The approach may be through the obscure glens of
another's mind and so out by the moonlit way, as well as by the track
that thousands travel. I have nothing to say of Iona's acreage, or
fisheries, or pastures: nothing of how the islanders live. These things
are the accidental. There is small difference in simple life anywhere.
Moreover, there are many to tell all that need be known.

There is one Iona, a little island of the west. There is another Iona,
of which I would speak. I do not say that it lies open to all. It is as
we come that we find. If we come, bringing nothing with us, we go away
ill-content, having seen and heard nothing of what we had vaguely
expected to see or hear. It is another Iona than the Iona of sacred
memories and prophecies: Iona the metropolis of dreams. None can
understand it who does not see it through its pagan light, its Christian
light, its singular blending of paganism and romance and spiritual
beauty. There is, too, an Iona that is more than Gaelic, that is more
than a place rainbow-lit with the seven desires of the world, the Iona
that, if we will it so, is a mirror of your heart and of mine.

History may be written in many ways, but I think that in days to come
the method of spiritual history will be found more suggestive than the
method of statistical history. The one will, in its own way, reveal
inward life, and hidden significance, and palpable destiny: as the
other, in the good but narrow way of convention, does with exactitude
delineate features, narrate facts, and relate events. The true
interpreter will as little despise the one as he will claim all for the

And that is why I would speak here of Iona as befalls my pen, rather
than as perhaps my pen should go: and choose legend and remembrance, and
my own and other memories and associations, and knowledge of my own and
others, and hidden meanings, and beauty and strangeness surviving in
dreams and imaginations, rather than facts and figures, that others
could adduce more deftly and with more will.

In the _Félire na Naomh Nerennach_ is a strangely beautiful if fantastic
legend of one Mochaoi, Abbot of n'-Aondruim in Uladh. With some
companions he was at the edge of a wood, and while busy in cutting
wattles wherewith to build a church, "he heard a bright bird singing on
the blackthorn near him. It was more beautiful than the birds of the
world." Mochaoi listened entranced. There was more in that voice than in
the throat of any bird he had ever heard, so he stopped his
wattle-cutting, and, looking at the bird, courteously asked who was
thus delighting him. The bird at once answered, "A man of the people of
my Lord" (that is, an angel). "Hail," said Mochaoi, "and for why that, O
bird that is an angel?" "I am come here by command to encourage you in
your good work, but also, because of the love in your heart, to amuse
you for a time with my sweet singing." "I am glad of that," said the
saint. Thereupon the bird sang a single surpassing sweet air, and then
fixed his beak in the feathers of his wing, and slept. But Mochaoi heard
the beauty and sweetness and infinite range of that song for three
hundred years. Three hundred years were in that angelic song, but to
Mochaoi it was less than an hour. For three hundred years he remained
listening, in the spell of beauty: nor in that enchanted hour did any
age come upon him, or any withering upon the wattles he had gathered;
nor in the wood itself did a single leaf turn to a red or yellow flame
before his eyes. Where the spider spun her web, she spun no more: where
the dove leaned her grey breast from the fir, she leaned still.

Then suddenly the bird took its beak from its wing-feathers, and said
farewell. When it was gone, Mochaoi lifted his wattles, and went
homeward as one in a dream. He stared, when he looked for the little
wattled cells of the Sons of Patrick. A great church built of stone
stood before his wondering eyes. A man passed him, and told the stranger
that it was the church of St. Mochaoi. When he spoke to the assembled
brothers, none knew him: some thought he had been taken away by the
people of the Shee, and come back at fairy-nightfall, which is the last
hour of the last day of three hundred years. "Tell us your name and
lineage," they cried. "I am Mochaoi, Abbot of n'-Aondruim," he said, and
then he told his tale, and they knew him, and made him abbot again. In
the enchanted wood a shrine was built, and about it a church grew, "and
surpassingly white angels often alighted there, or sang hymns to it from
the branches of the forest trees, or leaned with their foot on tiptoe,
their eyes on the horizon, their ear on the ground, their wings
flapping, their bodies trembling, waiting to send tidings of prayer and
repentance with a beat of their wings to the King of the Everlasting."

There are many who thought that Mochaoi was dead, when he was seen no
more of his fellow-monks at the forest monastery of n'Aondruim in Uladh.
But his chronicler knew: "a sleep without decay of the body Mochaoi of
Antrim slept."

I am reminded of the story of Mochaoi when I think of Iona. I think she
too, beautiful isle, while gathering the help of human longing and tears
and hopes, strewn upon her beaches by wild waves of the world, stood,
enchanted, to listen to a Song of Beauty. "That is a new voice I hear in
the wave," we can dream of her saying, and of the answer: "we are the
angelic flocks of the Shepherd: we are the Voices of the Eternal: listen
a while!"

It has been a long sleep, that enchanted swoon. But Mochaoi awoke, after
three hundred years, and there was neither time upon his head, nor age
in his body, nor a single withered leaf of the forest at his feet. And
shall not that be possible for the Isle of Dreams, whose sands are the
dust of martyrs and noble and beautiful lives, which was granted to one
man by "one of the people of my Lord?"

When I think of Iona I think often, too, of a prophecy once connected
with Iona; though perhaps current no more in a day when prophetical
hopes are fallen dumb and blind.

It is commonly said that, if he would be heard, none should write in
advance of his times. That I do not believe. Only, it does not matter
how few listen. I believe that we are close upon a great and deep
spiritual change. I believe a new redemption is even now conceived of
the Divine Spirit in the human heart, that is itself as a woman, broken
in dreams, and yet sustained in faith, patient, long-suffering, looking
towards home. I believe that though the Reign of Peace may be yet a long
way off, it is drawing near: and that Who shall save us anew shall come
divinely as a Woman, to save as Christ saved, but not, as He did, to
bring with Her a sword. But whether this Divine Woman, this Mary of so
many passionate hopes and dreams, is to come through mortal birth, or as
an immortal Breathing upon our souls, none can yet know.

Sometimes I dream of the old prophecy that Christ shall come again upon
Iona, and of that later and obscure prophecy which foretells, now as the
Bride of Christ, now as the Daughter of God, now as the Divine Spirit
embodied through mortal birth in a Woman, as once through mortal birth
in a Man, the coming of a new Presence and Power: and dream that this
may be upon Iona, so that the little Gaelic island may become as the
little Syrian Bethlehem. But more wise it is to dream, not of hallowed
ground, but of the hallowed gardens of the soul wherein She shall appear
white and radiant. Or, that upon the hills, where we are wandered, the
Shepherdess shall call us home.

From one man only, on Iona itself, I have heard any allusion to the
prophecy as to the Saviour who shall yet come: and he in part was
obscure, and confused the advent of Mary into the spiritual world with
the possible coming again to earth of Mary, as another Redeemer, or with
a descending of the Divine Womanhood upon the human heart as a universal
spirit descending upon awaiting souls. But in intimate remembrance I
recall the words and faith of one or two whom I loved well. Nor must I
forget that my old nurse, Barabal, used to sing a strange "oran," to the
effect that when St. Bride came again to Iona it would be to bind the
hair and wash the feet of the Bride of Christ.

One of those to whom I allude was a young Hebridean priest, who died in
Venice, after troubled years, whose bitterest vicissitude was the
clouding of his soul's hope by the wings of a strange multitude of
dreams--one of whom and whose end I have elsewhere written: and he told
me once how, "as our forefathers and elders believed and still believe,
that Holy Spirit shall come again which once was mortally born among us
as the Son of God, but, then, shall be the Daughter of God. The Divine
Spirit shall come again as a Woman. Then for the first time the world
will know peace." And when I asked him if it were not prophesied that
the Woman is to be born in Iona, he said that if this prophecy had been
made it was doubtless of an Iona that was symbolic, but that this was a
matter of no moment, for She would rise suddenly in many hearts, and
have her habitation among dreams and hopes. The other who spoke to me of
this Woman who is to save was an old fisherman of a remote island of the
Hebrides, and one to whom I owe more than to any other spiritual
influence in my childhood, for it was he who opened to me the three
gates of Beauty. Once this old man, Seumas Macleod, took me with him to
a lonely haven in the rocks, and held me on his knee as we sat watching
the sun sink and the moon climb out of the eastern wave. I saw no one,
but abruptly he rose and put me from him, and bowed his grey head as he
knelt before one who suddenly was standing in that place. I asked
eagerly who it was. He told me that it was an Angel. Later, I learned (I
remember my disappointment that the beautiful vision was not winged with
great white wings) that the Angel was one soft flame of pure white, and
that below the soles of his feet were curling scarlet flames. He had
come in answer to the old man's prayer. He had come to say that we could
not see the Divine One whom we awaited. "But you will yet see that Holy
Beauty," said the Angel, and Seumas believed, and I too believed, and
believe. He took my hand, and I knelt beside him, and he bade me repeat
the words he said. And that was how I first prayed to Her who shall yet
be the Balm of the World.

And since then I have learned, and do see, that not only prophecies and
hopes, and desires unclothed yet in word or thought, foretell her
coming, but already a multitude of spirits are in the gardens of the
soul, and are sowing seed and calling upon the wind of the south; and
that everywhere are watching eyes and uplifted hands, and signs which
cannot be mistaken, in many lands, in many peoples, in many minds; and,
in the heaven itself that the soul sees, the surpassing signature.

I recall one whom I knew, a fisherman of the little green island: and I
tell this story of Coll here, for it is to me more than the story of a
dreaming islander. One night, lying upon the hillock that is called
Cnoc-nan-Aingeal, because it is here that St. Colum was wont to hold
converse with an angel out of heaven, he watched the moonlight move like
a slow fin through the sea: and in his heart were desires as infinite as
the waves of the sea, the moving homes of the dead.

And while he lay and dreamed, his thoughts idly adrift as a net in deep
waters, he closed his eyes, muttering the Gaelic words of an old line,

_In the Isle of Dreams God shall yet fulfil Himself anew_.

Hearing a footfall, he stirred. A man stood beside him. He did not know
the man, who was young, and had eyes dark as hill-tarns, with hair light
and soft as thistledown; and moved light as a shadow, delicately
treading the grass as the wind treads it. In his hair he had twined the
fantastic leaf of the horn-poppy.

The islander did not move or speak: it was as though a spell were upon

"God be with you," he said at last, uttering the common salutation.

"And with you, Coll mac Coll," answered the stranger. Coll looked at
him. Who was this man, with the sea-poppy in his hair, who, unknown,
knew him by name? He had heard of one whom he did not wish to meet, the
Green Harper: also of a grey man of the sea whom islesmen seldom alluded
to by name: again, there was the Amadan Dhû ... but at that name Coll
made the sign of the cross, and remembering what Father Allan had told
him in South Uist, muttered a holy exorcism of the Trinity.

The man smiled.

"You need have no fear, Coll mac Coll," he said quietly.

"You that know my name so well are welcome, but if you in turn would
tell me your name I should be glad."

"I have no name that I can tell you," answered the stranger gravely;
"but I am not of those who are unfriendly. And because you can see me
and speak to me, I will help you to whatsoever you may wish."

Coll laughed.

"Neither you nor any man can do that. For now that I have neither father
nor mother, nor brother nor sister, and my lass too is dead, I wish
neither for sheep nor cattle, nor for new nets and a fine boat, nor a
big house, nor as much money as MacCailein Mòr has in the bank at

"What then do you wish for, Coll mac Coll?"

"I do not wish for what cannot be, or I would wish to see again the dear
face of Morag, my lass. But I wish for all the glory and wonder and
power there is in the world, and to have it all at my feet, and to know
everything that the Holy Father himself knows, and have kings coming to
me as the crofters come to MacCailein Mòr's factor."

"You can have that, Coll mac Coll," said the Green Harper, and he waved
a withe of hazel he had in his hand.

"What is that for?" said Coll.

"It is to open a door that is in the air. And now, Coll, if that is your
wish of all wishes, and you will give up all other wishes for that wish,
you can have the sovereignty of the world. Ay, and more than that: you
shall have the sun like a golden jewel in the hollow of your right hand,
and all the stars as pearls in your left, and have the moon as a white
shining opal above your brows, with all knowledge behind the sun, within
the moon, and beyond the stars."

Coll's face shone. He stood, waiting. Just then he heard a familiar
sound in the dusk. The tears came into his eyes.

"Give me instead," he cried, "give me a warm breast-feather from that
grey dove of the woods that is winging home to her young." He looked as
one moon-dazed. None stood beside him. He was alone. Was it a dream, he
wondered? But a weight was lifted from his heart. Peace fell upon him as
dew upon grey pastures. Slowly he walked homeward. Once, glancing back,
he saw a white figure upon the knoll, with a face noble and beautiful.
Was it Colum himself come again? he mused: or that white angel with whom
the Saint was wont to discourse, and who brought him intimacies of God?
or was it but the wave-fire of his dreaming mind, as lonely and cold and
unreal as that which the wind of the south makes upon the wandering
hearths of the sea?

I tell this story of Coll here, for, as I have said, it is to me more
than the story of a dreaming islander. He stands for the soul of a race.
It is because, to me, he stands for the sorrowful genius of our race,
that I have spoken of him here. Below all the strife of lesser desires,
below all that he has in common with other men, he has the livelong
unquenchable thirst for the things of the spirit. This is the thirst
that makes him turn so often from the near securities and prosperities,
and indeed all beside, setting his heart aflame with vain, because
illimitable, desires. For him, the wisdom before which knowledge is a
frosty breath: the beauty that is beyond what is beautiful. For, like
Coll, the world itself has not enough to give him. And at the last, and
above all, he is like Coll in this, that the sun and moon and stars
themselves may become as trampled dust, for only a breast-feather of
that Dove of the Eternal, which may have its birth in mortal love, but
has its evening home where are the dews of immortality.

"The Dove of the Eternal." It was from the lips of an old priest of the
Hebrides that I first heard these words. I was a child, and asked him if
it was a white dove, such as I had seen fanning the sunglow in

"Yes," he told me, "the Dove is white, and it was beloved of Colum, and
is of you, little one, and of me."

"Then it is not dead?"

"It is not dead."

I was in a more wild and rocky isle than Iona then, and when I went
into a solitary place close by my home it was to a stony wilderness so
desolate that in many moods I could not bear it. But that day, though
there were no sheep lying beside boulders as grey and still, nor
whinnying goats (creatures that have always seemed to me strangely
homeless, so that, as a child, it was often my noon-fancy on hot days to
play to them on a little reed-flute I was skilled in making, thwarting
the hill-wind at the small holes to the fashioning of a rude furtive
music, which I believed comforted the goats, though why I did not know,
and probably did not try to know): and though I could hear nothing but
the soft, swift, slipping feet of the wind among the rocks and grass and
a noise of the tide crawling up from a shore hidden behind crags
(beloved of swallows for the small honey-flies which fed upon the
thyme): still, on that day, I was not ill at ease, nor in any way
disquieted. But before me I saw a white rock-dove, and followed it
gladly. It flew circling among the crags, and once I thought it had
passed seaward; but it came again, and alit on a boulder.

I went upon my knees, and prayed to it, and, as nearly as I can
remember, in these words:--

"O Dove of the Eternal, I want to love you, and you to love me: and if
you live on Iona, I want you to show me, when I go there again, the
place where Colum the Holy talked with an angel. And I want to live as
long as you, Dove" (I remember thinking this might seem disrespectful,
and that I added hurriedly and apologetically), "Dove of the Eternal."

That evening I told Father Ivor what I had done. He did not laugh at me.
He took me on his knee, and stroked my hair, and for a long time was so
silent that I thought he was dreaming. He put me gently from him, and
kneeled at the chair, and made this simple prayer which I have never
forgotten: "O Dove of the Eternal, grant the little one's prayer."

That is a long while ago now, and I have sojourned since in Iona, and
there and elsewhere known the wild doves of thought and dream. But I
have not, though I have longed, seen again the White Dove that Colum so
loved. For long I thought it must have left Iona and Barra too, when
Father Ivor died.

Yet I have not forgotten that it is not dead. "I want to live as long as
you," was my child's plea: and the words of the old priest, knowing and
believing were, "O Dove of the Eternal, grant the little one's prayer."

It was not in Barra, but in Iona, that, while yet a child, I set out one
evening to find the Divine Forges. A Gaelic sermon, preached on the
shoreside by an earnest man, who, going poor and homeless through the
west, had tramped the long roads of Mull over against us, and there fed
to flame a smouldering fire, had been my ministrant in these words. The
"revivalist" had spoken of God as one who would hammer the evil out of
the soul and weld it to good, as a blacksmith at his anvil: and
suddenly, with a dramatic gesture, he cried: "This little island of Iona
is this anvil; God is your blacksmith: but oh, poor people, who among
you knows the narrow way to the Divine Forges?"

There is a spot on Iona that has always had a strange enchantment for
me. Behind the ruined walls of the Columban church, the slopes rise, and
the one isolated hill of Iona is, there, a steep and sudden wilderness.
It is commonly called Dûn-I (_Doon-ee_), for at the summit in old days
was an island fortress; but the Gaelic name of the whole of this
uplifted shoulder of the isle is Slibh Meanach. Hidden under a wave of
heath and boulder, near the broken rocks, is a little pool. From
generation to generation this has been known, and frequented, as the
Fountain of Youth.

There, through boggy pastures, where the huge-horned shaggy cattle
stared at me, and up through the ling and roitch, I climbed: for, if
anywhere, I thought that from there I might see the Divine Forges, or at
least might discover a hidden way, because of the power of that water,
touched on the eyelids at sunlift, at sunset, or at the rising of the

From where I stood I could see the people still gathered upon the dunes
by the shore, and the tall, ungainly figure of the preacher. In the
narrow strait were two boats, one being rowed across to Fionnaphort, and
the other, with a dun sail burning flame-brown, hanging like a bird's
wing against Glas Eilean, on the tideway to the promontory of Earraid.
Was the preacher still talking of the Divine Forges? I wondered; or were
the men and women in the ferry hurrying across to the Ross of Mull to
look for them among the inland hills? And the Earraid men in the
fishing-smack: were they sailing to see if they lay hidden in the
wilderness of rocks, where the muffled barking of the seals made the
loneliness more wild and remote?

I wetted my eyelids, as I had so often done before (and not always
vainly, though whether vision came from the water, or from a more
quenchless spring within, I know not), and looked into the little pool.
Alas! I could see nothing but the reflection of a star, too obscured by
light as yet for me to see in the sky, and, for a moment, the shadow of
a gull's wing as the bird flew by far overhead. I was too young then to
be content with the symbols of coincidence, or I might have thought that
the shadow of a wing from Heaven, and the light of a star out of the
East, were enough indication. But, as it was, I turned, and walked idly
northward, down the rough side of Dun Bhuirg (at Cul Bhuirg, a furlong
westward, I had once seen a phantom, which I believed to be that of the
Culdee, Oran, and so never went that way again after sundown) to a
thyme-covered mound that had for me a most singular fascination.

It is a place to this day called Dûn Mananain. Here, a friend who told
me many things, a Gaelic farmer named Macarthur, had related once a
fantastic legend about a god of the sea. Manaun was his name, and he
lived in the times when Iona was part of the kingdom of the Suderöer.
Whenever he willed he was like the sea, and that is not wonderful, for
he was born of the sea. Thus his body was made of a green wave. His hair
was of wrack and tangle, glistening with spray; his robe was of windy
foam; his feet, of white sand. That is, when he was with his own, or
when he willed; otherwise, he was as men are. He loved a woman of the
south so beautiful that she was named Dèar-sadh-na-Ghréne (Sunshine). He
captured her and brought her to Iona in September, when it is the month
of peace. For one month she was happy: when the wet gales from the west
set in, she pined for her own land: yet in the dream-days of November,
she smiled so often that Manaun hoped; but when Winter was come, her
lover saw that she could not live. So he changed her into a seal. "You
shall be a sleeping woman by day," he said, "and sleep in my dûn here on
Iona: and by night, when the dews fall, you shall be a seal, and shall
hear me calling to you from a wave, and shall come out and meet me."

They have mortal offspring also, it is said.

There is a story of a man who went to the mainland, but could not see to
plough, because the brown fallows became waves that splashed noisily
about him. The same man went to Canada, and got work in a great
warehouse; but among the bales of merchandise he heard the singular note
of the sandpiper, and every hour the sea-fowl confused him with their

Probably some thought was in my mind that there, by Dûn Mananain, I
might find a hidden way. That summer I had been thrilled to the inmost
life by coming suddenly, by moonlight, on a seal moving across the last
sand-dune between this place and the bay called Port Ban. A strange
voice, too, I heard upon the sea. True, I saw no white arms upthrown, as
the seal plunged into the long wave that swept the shore; and it was a
grey skua that wailed above me, winging inland; yet had I not had a
vision of the miracle?

But alas! that evening there was not even a barking seal. Some sheep fed
upon the green slope of Manaun's mound.

So, still seeking a way to the Divine Forges, I skirted the shore and
crossed the sandy plain of the Machar, and mounted the upland district
known as Sliav Starr (the Hill of Noises), and walked to a place, to me
sacred. This was a deserted green airidh between great rocks. From here
I could look across the extreme western part of Iona, to where it
shelved precipitously around the little Port-na-Churaich, the Haven of
the Coracle, the spot where St. Columba landed when he came to the

I knew every foot of ground here, as every cave along the wave-worn
shore. How often I had wandered in these solitudes, to see the great
spout of water rise through the grass from the caverns beneath, forced
upward when tide and wind harried the sea-flocks from the north; or to
look across the ocean to the cliffs of Antrim, from the Carn cul Ri
Eirinn, the Cairn of the Hermit King of Ireland, about whom I had woven
many a romance.

I was tired, and fell asleep. Perhaps the Druid of a neighbouring mound,
or the lonely Irish King, or Colum himself (whose own Mound of the
Outlook was near), or one of his angels who ministered to him, watched,
and shepherded my dreams to the desired fold. At least I dreamed, and

The skies to the west beyond the seas were not built of flushed clouds,
but of transparent flame. These flames rose in solemn stillness above a
vast forge, whose anvil was the shining breast of the sea. Three great
Spirits stood by it, and one lifted a soul out of the deep shadow that
was below; and one with his hands forged the soul of its dross and
welded it anew; and the third breathed upon it, so that it was winged
and beautiful. Suddenly the glory-cloud waned, and I saw the multitude
of the stars. Each star was the gate of a long, shining road. Many--a
countless number--travelled these roads. Far off I saw white walls,
built of the pale gold and ivory of sunrise. There again I saw the three
Spirits, standing and waiting. So these, I thought, were not the walls
of Heaven, but the Divine Forges.

That was my dream. When I awaked, the curlews were crying under the

When I reached the shadowy glebe, behind the manse by the sea, I saw the
preacher walking there by himself, and doubtless praying. I told him I
had seen the Divine Forges, and twice; and in crude, childish words told
how I had seen them.

"It is not a dream," he said.

I know now what he meant.

It would seem to be difficult for most of us to believe that what has
perished can be reborn. It is the same whether we look upon the dust of
ancient cities, broken peoples, nations that stand and wait, old
faiths, defeated dreams. It is so hard to believe that what has fallen
may arise. Yet we have perpetual symbols; the tree, that the winds of
Autumn ravage and the Spring restores; the trodden weed, that in April
awakes white and fragrant; the swallow, that in the south remembers the
north. We forget the ebbing wave that from the sea-depths comes again:
the Day, shod with sunrise while his head is crowned with stars.

Far-seeing was the vision of the old Gael, who prophesied that Iona
would never wholly cease to be "the lamp of faith," but would in the end
shine forth as gloriously as of yore, and that, after dark days, a new
hope would go hence into the world. But before that (and he prophesied
when the island was in its greatness)--

    "Man tig so gu crich
    Bithidh I mar a bha,
    Gun a ghuth mannaich
    Findh shalchar ba ..."

quaint old-world Erse words, which mean--

    "Before this happens,
    Iona will be as it was,
    Without the voice of a monk,
    Under the dung of cows."[2]

And truly enough the little island was for long given over to the
sea-wind, whose mournful chant even now fills the ruins where once the
monks sang matins and evensong; for generations, sheep and long-horned
shaggy kine found their silent pastures in the wilderness that of old
was "this our little seabounded Garden of Eden."

But now that Iona has been "as it was," the other and greater change may
yet be, may well have already come.

Strange, that to this day none knows with surety the derivation or
original significance of the name Iona. Many ingenious guesses have been
made, but of these some are obviously far-fetched, others are impossible
in Gaelic, and all but impossible to the mind of any Gael speaking his
ancient tongue. Nearly all these guesses concern the Iona of Columba:
few attempt the name of the sacred island of the Druids. Another people
once lived here with a forgotten faith; possibly before the Picts there
was yet another, who worshipped at strange altars and bowed down before
Shadow and Fear, the earliest of the gods.

The most improbable derivation is one that finds much acceptance. When
Columba and his few followers were sailing northward from the isle of
Oronsay, in quest, it is said, of this sacred island of the Druids,
suddenly one of the monks cried _sud i_ (_? siod e!_) "yonder it!" With
sudden exultation Columba exclaimed, _Mar sud bithe I, goir thear II_,
"Be it so, and let it be called I" (I or EE). We are not the wiser for
this obviously monkish invention. It accounts for a syllable only, and
seems like an effort to explain the use of _I_ (II, Y, Hy, Hee) for
"island" in place of the vernacular Innis, Inch, Eilean, etc. Except in
connection with Iona I doubt if _I_ for island is ever now used in
modern Gaelic. Icolmkill is familiar: the anglicised Gaelic of the Isle
of Colum of the Church. But it is doubtful if any now living has ever
heard a Gael speak of an island as _I_; I doubt if an instance could be
adduced. On the other hand, _I_ might well have been, and doubtless is,
used in written speech as a sign for Innis, as _'s_ is the common
writing of _agus_, and. As for the ancient word _Idh_ or _Iy_ I do not
know that its derivation has been ascertained, though certain Gaelic
linguists claim that _Idh_ and Innis are of the same root.

I do not know on what authority, but an anonymous Gaelic writer, in an
account of Iona in 1771, alludes to the probability that Christianity
was introduced there before St. Columba's advent, and that the island
was already dedicated to the Apostle St. John, "for it was originally
called _I'Eoin_, i.e. the Isle of John, whence Iona." _I'eoin_ certainly
is very close in sound, as a Gael would pronounce it, to Iona, and there
can be little doubt that the island had druids (whether Christian monks
also with or without) when Columba landed. Before Conall, King of Alba
(as he was called, though only Dalriadic King of Argyll), invited Colum
to Iona, to make that island his home and sanctuary, there were
certainly Christian monks on the island. Among them was the
half-mythical Odran or Oran, who is chronicled in the _Annals of the
Four Masters_ as having been a missionary priest, and as having died in
Iona fifteen years before Colum landed. Equally certainly there were
druids at this late date, though discredited of the Pictish king and his
people, for a Cymric priest of the old faith was at that time Ard-Druid.
This man Gwendollen, through his bard or second-druid Myrddin (Merlin),
deplored the persecution to which he was subject, in that now he and his
no longer dared to practise the sacred druidical rites "in raised
circles"--adding bitterly, "the grey stones themselves, even, they have

Again, Davies in his _Celtic Researches_ speaks of Colum as having on
his settlement in Iona burnt a heap of druidical books. It is at any
rate certain that druidical believers (helots perhaps) remained to
Colum's time, even if the last druidic priest had left. In the explicit
accounts which survive there is no word of any dispossession of the
druidic priests. It is more than likely that the Pictish king, who had
been converted to Christianity, and gave the island to Columba by
special grant, had either already seen Irish monks inhabit it, or at
least had withdrawn the lingering priests of the ancient faith of his
people. Neither Columba nor Adamnan nor any other early chronicler
speaks of Iona as held by the Druids when the little coracle with the
cross came into Port-na-Churaich.

Others have derived the name from _Aon_, an isthmus, but the objections
to this are that it is not applicable to the island, and perhaps never
was; and, again, the Gaelic pronunciation. Some have thought that the
word, when given as _I-Eoin_, was intended, not for the Isle of John,
but the Isle of Birds. Here, again, the objection is that there is no
reason why Iona should be called by a designation equally applicable to
every one of the numberless isles of the west. To the mountaineers of
Mull, however, the little low-lying seaward isle must have appeared the
haunt of the myriad sea-fowl of the Moyle; and if the name thus derives,
doubtless a Mull man gave it.

Again, it is said that Iona is a miswriting of _Ioua_, "the avowed
ancient name of the island." It is easy to see how the scribes who
copied older manuscripts might have made the mistake; and easy to
understand how, the mistake once become the habit, fanciful
interpretations were adduced to explain "Iona."

There is little reasonable doubt that _Ioua_ was the ancient Gaelic or
Pictish name of the island. I have frequently seen allusions to its
having been called Innis nan Dhruidnechean, or Dhruidhnean, the Isle of
the Druids: but that is not ancient Gaelic, and I do not think there is
any record of Iona being so called in any of the early manuscripts.
Doubtless it was a name given by the Shenachies or bardic story-tellers
of a later date, though of course it is quite possible that Iona was of
old commonly called the Isle of the Druids. In this connection I may put
on record that a few years ago I heard an old man of the western part of
the Long Island (Lewis), speak of the priests and ministers of to-day as
"druids"; and once, in either Coll or Tiree, I heard a man say, in
English, alluding to the Established minister, "Yes, yes, that will be
the way of it, for sure, for Mr. ---- is a wise druid." It might well
be, therefore, that in modern use the Isle of Druids signified only the
Isle of Priests. There is a little island of the Outer Hebrides called
Innis Chailleachan Dhubh--the isle of the black old women; and a legend
has grown up that witches once dwelt here and brewed storms and evil
spells. But the name is not an ancient name, and was given not so long
ago, because of a small sisterhood of black-cowled nuns who settled

St. Adamnan, ninth Abbot of Iona, writing at the end of the seventh
century, invariably calls the island _Ioua_ or the _Iouan Island_.
Unless the hypothesis of the careless scribes be accepted, this should
be conclusive.

For myself I do not believe that there has been any slip of _n_ for _u_.
And I am confirmed in this opinion by the following circumstance. Three
years ago I was sailing on one of the sea-lochs of Argyll. My only
companion was the boatman, and incidentally I happened to speak of some
skerries (a group of sea-set rocks) off the Ross of Mull, similarly
named to rocks in the narrow kyle we were then passing; and learned with
surprise that my companion knew them well, and was not only an Iona man,
but had lived on the island till he was twenty. I asked him about his
people, and when he found that I knew them he became more confidential.
But he professed a strange ignorance of all concerning Iona. There was
an old Iona iorram, or boat-song, I was anxious to have: he had never
heard of it. Still more did I desire some rendering or even some lines
of an ancient chant of whose existence I knew, but had never heard
recited, even fragmentarily. He did not know of it: he "did not know
Gaelic," that is, he remembered only a little of it. Well, no, he
added, perhaps he did remember some, "but only just to talk to fishermen
an' the like."

Suddenly a squall came down out of the hills. The loch blackened. In a
moment a froth of angry foam drove in upon us, but the boat righted, and
we flew before the blast, as though an arrow shot by the wind. I noticed
a startling change in my companion. His blue eyes were wide and
luminous; his lips twitched; his hands trembled. Suddenly he stooped
slightly, laughed, cried some words I did not catch, and abruptly broke
into a fierce and strange sea-chant. It was no other than the old Iona
rann I had so vainly sought!

Some memory had awakened in the man, perhaps in part from what I had
said--with the old spell of the sea, the old cry of the wind.

Then he ceased abruptly, he relapsed, and with a sheepish exclamation
and awkward movement shrank beside me. Alas, I could recall only a few
lines; and I failed in every effort to persuade him to repeat the rann.
But I had heard enough to excite me, for again and again he had called
or alluded to Iona by its ancient pre-Columban name of Ioua, and once at
least I was sure, from the words, that the chant was also to Ioua the

That night, however, he promised to tell me on the morrow all he could
remember of the old Ioua chant. On the morrow, alas, he had to leave
upon an unexpected business that could not be postponed, and before his
return, three days later, I was gone. I have not seen him again, but it
is to him I am indebted for the loan of an ancient manuscript map of
Iona, a copy of which I made and have by me still. It was an heirloom:
by his own account had been in his family, in Iona, for seven
generations, "an it's Himself knows how much more." He had been to the
island the summer before, because of his father's death, and had brought
this coarsely painted and rudely framed map away with him. He told me
too, that night, how the oldest folk on the island--"some three or four
o' them, anyway; them as has the Gaelic"--had the old Ioua chant in
their minds. As a boy he had heard it at many a winter _ceilidh_. "Ay,
ay, for sure, Iona was called Ioua in them old ancient days."

My friend also had a little book of his mother's which contained, in a
neat hand, copies of Gaelic songs, among them some of the old Islay and
Skye oar-chants of the _iorram_ kind. I recall an iorram that had
hardly a word in it, but was only a series of barbaric cries, sometimes
full of lament (_hò-ro-aroo-aròne_, _ho-ro_, _ah-hòne_, _ah-hòne_!),
which was the Iona fisherman's song to entice seals to come near. I
remember, too, the opening of a "maighdean-mhara" or mermaid song, by a
little-known namesake of my own, a sister of Mary Macleod, "the sweet
singer of the Hebrides," because it had as a heading (perhaps put there
by the Iona scribe) some lines of Mary's that I liked well.

I quote from memory, but these were to the effect that, in his home,
what the Macleod loved, was playing at chess

    _Agus fuaim air a chlarsaich
    Gus e h'eachdraidh na dheigh sin
    Greis air ursgeul na Fèine_

[_and the music of the harp, and the telling of tales of the feats of
the Féinn_ (the Fingalians).] There are not many now, I fear, who could
find entertainment thus, or care to sit before the peat-fires.

On one other occasion I have heard the name Ioua used by a fisherman. I
was at Strachnr, on Loch Fyne, and was speaking to the skipper of a
boat's crew of Macleods from the Lews, when I was attracted by an old
man. He knew my Uist friend, then at Strachur, who told me more than one
strange legend of the Sliochd-nan-Ron, the seal-men. I met the old man
that night before the peat-glow, and while he was narrating a story of a
Princess of Spain who married the King of Ireland's son, he spoke
incidentally of their being wrecked on Iona, "that was then called Ioua,
ay, an' that for one hundred and two hundred and three hundred years and
thrice a hundred on the top o' that before it was Icolmkill."

I did not know him, but a friend told me that the late Mr. Cameron, the
minister of Brodick, in Arran, had the M.S. of an old Iona (or
Hebridean) iorram, in the refrain of which _Ioua_ was used throughout.

Neither do I think the name the island now bears has anything in common
with _Ioua_. In a word, I am sure that the derivations of Iona are
commonly fanciful, and that the word is simply Gaelic for the Isle of
Saints, and was so given it because of Columba and the abbots and monks
who succeeded him and his. In Gaelic, the letters _sh_ at the beginning
of a word are invariably mute; so that _I-shona_, the Isle of Saints,
would be pronounced _Iona_. I think that any lingering doubt I had
about the meaning of the name went when I got the old map of which I
have spoken, and found that in the left corner was written in large rude
letters _II-SHONA_.

How great a man was the Irish monk Crimthan, called Colum, the Dove:
Columcille, the Dove of the Church. One may read all that has been
written of him since the sixth century, and not reach the depths of his
nature. I doubt if any other than a Gael can understand him aright. More
than any Celt of whom history tells, he is the epitome of the Celt. In
war, Cuchullin himself was not more brave and resourceful. Finn, calling
his champions to the pursuit of Grania, or Oìsin boasting of the Fianna
before Patrick, was not more arrogant, yet his tenderness could be as
his Master's was, and he could be as gentle as a young mother with her
child, and had a child's simplicity. He knew the continual restlessness
of his race. He was forty-two when he settled in Iona, and had led a
life of frequent and severe vicissitude, often a wanderer, sometimes
with blood against him and upon his head, once in extremity of danger,
an outlaw, excommunicated. But even in his haven of Iona he was not
content. He journeyed northward through the Pictish realms, a more
dangerous and obscure adventure then than to cross Africa to-day. He
sailed to "the Ethican island" as St. Adamnan calls Tiree, and made of
it a sanctuary, where prayer might rise as a continual smoke from quiet
homes. No fear of the savage clans of Skye--where a woman had once
reigned with so great a fame in war that even the foremost champion of
Ireland went to her in his youth to learn arms and
battle-wisdom--restrained him from facing the island Picts. Long before
Hakon the Dane fought the great seafight off Largs on the mainland,
Colum had built a church there. In the far Perthshire wilds, before
Macbeth slew Duncan the king, the strong abbot of Iona had founded a
monastery in that thanedom. At remote Inbhir Nis, the Inverness of
to-day, he overcame the King of the Picts and his sullen Druids, by his
daring, the fierce magnetism of his will, his dauntless resource. Once,
in a savage region, far north-eastward, towards the Scandinavian sea, he
was told that there his Cross would not long protect either wattled
church or monk's cell: on that spot he built the monastery of Deir, that
stood for a thousand years, and whose priceless manuscript is now one of
the treasures of Northumbria.

Columba was at once a saint, a warrior, a soldier of Christ, a great
abbot, a dauntless explorer, and militant Prince of the Church; and a
student, a man of great learning, a poet, an artist, a visionary, an
architect, administrator, law-maker, judge, arbiter. As a youth this
prince, for he was of royal blood, was so beautiful that he was likened
to an angel. In mature manhood, there was none to equal him in stature,
manly beauty, strength, and with a voice so deep and powerful that it
was like a bell and could be heard on occasion a mile away, and once,
indeed, at the court of King Bruidh, literally overbore and drowned a
concerted chorus of sullen druids. These had tried to outvoice him and
his monks, little knowing what a mighty force the sixty-fourth Psalm
could be in the throat of this terrible Culdee, who to them must have
seemed much more befitting his house-name, Crimthan (Wolf), than "the

This vocal duel was a characteristic device of the Druids. I recall one
notable instance long before Colum's time, though the _Leabhar na
H'Uidhre_ in which it is to be found was not compiled till A.D. 1000. In
the story of the love of Connla, son of Conn of the Hundred Battles, for
a woman of the other world, a druid asks her whence she has come, and
when she answers that it is from the lands of those who live a beautiful
and deathless life, he knows that she is a woman of the _Sidhe_. So he
chants against the fair woman till the spell of her voice is overcome,
and she goes away as a mist that falls on the shore, as a Hebridean poet
would say.[3]

Later, she comes again, and now invisible to all save Connla. Conn the
king hears her chanting to Connla that it is no such lofty place he
holds "amid short-lived mortals awaiting fearful death" that he need
dread to leave it, "the more as the ever-living ones invite thee to be
the ruler over Tethra (a Kingdom of Joy)." So once more the king calls
upon the Ard-Druid to dispel the woman by his incantations. For a moment
Connla wavers, but the Fairy Woman, with a music of mockery, sings to
him that Druidism is in ill-favour "over yonder," little loved and
little honoured "there," for, in effect, the nations of the Shee do not
need that idle dream. Connla's longing is more great to him than his
kingdom or the fires of home, and he goes with his leannanshee in a
boat, till those on the strand see him dimly and then no more in that
sundown glow, nor ever again. Columba, a poet and scholar familiar with
the old tables of his beloved Eiré, probably did not forget on occasion
to turn this druidic tale against Druidism itself, repeating how, in its
own time, before the little bell of the tonsured folk was heard in
Ireland (so little a bell to be the tocsin of fallen gods and broken
nations), "Druidism is not loved, for little has it progressed to honour
on the great Righteous Strand."

For one thing of great Gaelic import, Columba has been given a singular
pre-ëminence--not for his love of country, pride of race, passionate
loyalty to his clan, to every blood-claim and foster-claim, and
friendship-claim, though in all this he was the very archetype of the
clannish Gael--but because (so it is averred) he was the first of our
race of whom is recorded the systematic use of the strange gift of
spiritual foresight, "second-sight." It has been stated authoritatively
that he is the first of whom there is record as having possessed this
faculty; but that could only be averred by one ignorant of ancient
Gaelic literature. Even in Adamnan's chronicle, within some seventy
years after the death of Columba, there is record of others having this
faculty, apart from the perhaps more purely spiritual vision of his
mother Aithnê, when an angel raimented her with the beauty of her unborn
son, or of his foster-father, the priest Cruithnechan, who saw the
singular light of the soul about his sleeping pupil, or of the abbot
Brendan who redeemed the saint from excommunication and perhaps death by
his vision of him advancing with a pillar of fire before him and an
angel on either side. (When, long years afterwards, Brendan died in
Ireland, Colum in Iona startled his monks by calling for an immediate
celebration of the Eucharist, because it had been revealed to him that
St. Brendan had gone to the heavenly fatherland yesternight: "Angels
came to meet his soul: I saw the whole earth illumined with their
glory.") Among others there is the story of Abbot Kenneth, who, sitting
at supper, rose so suddenly as to leave without his sandals, and at the
altar of his church prayed for Colum, at that moment in dire peril upon
the sea: the story of Ernan, who, fishing in the river Fenda, saw the
death of Colum in a symbol of flame: the story of Lugh mac Tailchan,
who, at Cloinfinchoil, beheld Iona (which he had never visited), and
above it a blaze of angels' wings, and Colum's soul. In the most ancient
tales there is frequent allusion to what we call second-sight. The
writers alluded to could not have heard of the warning of the dread
Mor-Rigân to Cuchullin before the fatal strife of the Táin-Bó-Cuailgne;
or Cuchullin's own pre-vision (among a score as striking) of the
hostings and gatherings on the fatal plain of Muirthemne; or the
Amazonian queen, Scathach's, fore-knowledge of the career and early
death of the champion of the Gaels:

    "(At the last) great peril awaits thee ...
    Alone against a vast herd:
    Thirty years I reckon the length of thy years
      (literally, the strength of thy valour);
    Further than this I do not add;"

or of Deirdre's second-sight, when by the white cairn on Sliav Fuad she
saw the sons of Usna headless, and Illann the Fair headless too, but
Buimne the Ruthless Red with his head upon his shoulders, smiling a grim
smile--when she saw over Naois, her beloved, a cloud of blood--or that,
alas, too bitter-true a foreseeing, when in the Craebh Derg, the House
of the Red Branch, she cried to her lover and his two brothers that
death was at the door and "grievous to me is the deed O darling
friends--and till the world's end Emain will not be better for a single
night than it is to-night." Or, again, of that pathetic, simultaneous
death-vision of Bailê the Sweet-Spoken and Aillinn, he in the north, she
in the south, so that each out of a grief unbearable straightway died,
as told in one of the oldest as well as loveliest of ancient Gaelic
tales, the _Scél Baili Binnbérlaig_.

There is something strangely beautiful in most of these "second-sight"
stories of Columba. The faculty itself is so apt to the spiritual law
that one wonders why it is so set apart in doubt. It would, I think, be
far stranger if there were no such faculty.

That I believe, it were needless to say, were it not that these words
may be read by many to whom this quickened inward vision is a
superstition, or a fantastic glorification of insight. I believe; not
only because there is nothing too strange for the soul, whose vision
surely I will not deny, while I accept what is lesser, the mind's
prescience, and, what is least, the testimony of the eyes. That I have
cause to believe is perhaps too personal a statement, and is of little
account; but in that interior wisdom, which is no longer the flicker of
one little green leaf but the light and sound of a forest, of which the
leaf is a part, I know that to be true, which I should as soon doubt as
that the tide returns or that the sap rises or that dawn is a ceaseless
flashing light beneath the circuit of the stars. Spiritual logic demands

It would ill become me to do otherwise. I would as little, however, deny
that this inward vision is sometimes imperfect and untrustworthy, as I
would assert that it is infallible. There is no common face of good or
evil; and in like fashion the aspect of this so-called mystery is
variable as the lives of those in whom it dwells. With some it is a
prescience, more akin to instinct than to reason, and obtains only among
the lesser possibilities, as when one beholds another where in the body
none is; or a scene not possible, there, in that place; or a face, a
meeting of shadows, a disclosure of hazard or accident, a coming into
view of happenings not yet fulfilled. With some it is simply a larger
sight, more wide, more deep; not habitual, because there is none of us
who is not subject to the law of the body; and sudden, because all tense
vision is a passion of the moment. It is as the lightning, whose
sustenance is sure for all that it has a second's life. With a few it is
a more constant companion, a dweller by the morning thought, by the
noon reverie, by the evening dream. It lies upon the pillow for some:
to some it as though the wind disclosed pathways of the air; a swaying
branch, a dazzle on the wave, the quick recognition in unfamiliar eyes,
is, for others, sufficient signal. Not that these accidents of the
manner need concern us much. We have the faculty, or we do not have it.
Nor must we forget that it can be the portion of the ignoble as well as
of those whose souls are clear. When it is in truth a spiritual vision,
then we are in company of what is the essential life, that which we call

It was this that Columba had, this serene perspicuity. That it was a
conscious possession we know from his own words, for he gave this answer
to one who marvelled: "Heaven has granted to some to see on occasion in
their mind, clearly and surely, the whole of earth and sea and sky."

It is not unlikely that in the seventy years which elapsed between
Colum's death and the writing of that lovely classic of the Church,
Adamnan's _Vita St. Columbæ_, some stories grew around the saint's
memory which were rather the tribute of childlike reverence and love
than the actual experiences of the holy man himself. What then? A field
in May is not the less a daughter of Spring, because the
cowslip-wreaths found there may have been brought from little wayward
garths by children who wove them lovingly as they came.

Many of these strange records are mere coincidences; others reveal so
happy a surety in the simple faith of the teller that we need only
smile, and with no more resentment than at a child who runs to say he
has found stars in a wayside pool. Others are rather the keen insight of
a ceaseless observation than the seeing of an inward sense. But, and
perhaps oftener, they are not inherently incredible. I do not think our
forebears did ill to give haven to these little ones of faith, rather
than to despise, or to drive them away.

I have already spoken of Columba as another St. Francis, because of his
tenderness for creatures. I recall now the lovely legend (for I do not
think Colum himself attributed "second-sight" to an animal) which tells
how the old white pony which daily brought the milk from the cow-shed to
the monastery came and put its head in the lap of the aged and feeble
abbot, thus mutely to bid farewell. Let Adamnan tell it: "This creature
then coming up to the saint, and knowing that his master would soon
depart from him, and that he would see his face no more, began to utter
plaintive moans, and, as if a man, to shed tears in abundance into the
saint's lap, and so to weep, frothing greatly. Which when the attendant
saw, he began to drive away that weeping mourner. But the saint forbade
him, saying, 'Let him alone? As he loves me so, let him alone, that into
this my bosom he may pour out the tears of his most bitter lamentation.
Behold, thou, a man, that hast a soul, yet in no way hast knowledge of
my end save what I have myself shown thee; but to this brute animal the
Master Himself hath revealed that his master is about to go away from
him.' And so saying, he blessed his sorrowing servant the horse."

If there be any to whom the aged Colum comforting the grief of his old
white pony is a matter of disdain or derision, I would not have his soul
in exchange for the dumb sorrow of that creature. One would fare further
with that sorrow, though soulless, than with the soul that could not
understand that sorrow.

If one were to quote from Adamnan's three Books of the Prophecies,
Miracles, and Visions of Columba, there would be another book. Amid much
that is childlike, and a little that is childish, what store of
spiritual beauty and living symbol in these three books--the Book of
Prophetic Revelations, the Book of Miracles of Power, the Book of
Angelic Visitations. But there, as elsewhere, one must bear in
remembrance that, in spiritual sight, there is symbolic vision as well
as actual vision. When Colum saw his friend Columbanus (who, unknown to
any on Iona, had set out in his frail coracle from the Isle of Rathlin)
tossed in the surges of Corryvrechan; or when, nigh Glen Urquhart, he
hurried forward to minister to an old dying Pict "who had lived well by
the light of nature," and whose house, condition, and end had been
suddenly revealed to him: then we have actual vision. When Aithnê, his
mother, dreamed that an angel showed her a garment of so surpassing a
loveliness that it was as though woven of flowers and rainbows, and then
threw it on high, till its folds expanded and covered every mountain-top
from the brows of Connaught to the feet of the Danish sea, and so
revealed to her what manner of son she bore within her womb; or when, in
the hour of Colum's death, the aged son of Tailchan beheld the whole
expanse of air flooded with the blaze of angels' wings, which trembled
with their songs: then we have symbolic vision. And sometimes we have
that which partakes of each, as when (as Adamnan tells us in his third
book) Colum saw angels standing upon the rocks on the opposite side of
the Sound which divides Iona from the Ross of Mull, calling to his soul
to cross to them, yet, as they assembled and beckoned, mysteriously and
suddenly restrained, for his hour was not come.

And in all actual vision there is gradation; from what is so common,
premonition, to what is not common, prescience, and to what is rare,
revelation. Thus when the labourers on Iona looked up from the fields
and saw the aged abbot whom they so loved, borne in a wagon to give them
benediction at seed-sowing, many among them knew that they would not see
Colum again, and Colum knew it, and so shared that premonition. And
when, many years before, he and the abbot Comgell, returning from a
futile conference of the kings Aedh and Aidan, rested by a spring,
concerning which Colum said that the day would come when it would be
filled with human blood, "because my people, the Hy-Neill, and the
Pictish folk, thy relations according to the flesh, will wage war by
this fortress of Cethirn close by," Comgell learned, through Colum's
foreknowledge, of what did in truth come to pass. Again, when Colum
bade a brother go three days thence to the sea-shore on the west side of
Iona, and lie in readiness to help "a certain guest, a crane to wit,
beaten by the winds during long and circuitous and aerial flights, which
will arrive after the ninth hour of the day, very weary and sore
distressed," and bade him to lift it and tend it lovingly for three days
and three nights till it should have strength to return to "its former
sweet home," and to do this out of love and courtesy because "it comes
from our fatherland"--and when all happens and is done as the saint
foretold and commanded, then we have revelation, the vision that is
absolute, the knowledge that is the atmosphere of the inevitable. It
would take a book indeed to tell all the stories of Columba's visionary
and prophetic powers. That I write at this length concerning him,
indeed, is because he is himself Iona. Columba is Christian Iona, as
much as Iona is Icolmkill. I have often wondered (because of a passage
in Adamnan) if the island be not indeed named after him, the Dove: for
as Adamnan says incidentally, the name Columba is identical with the
Hebrew name Jonah, also signifying a Dove, and by the Hebrews pronounced

It is enough now to recall that this man, so often erring but so human
always, in whose life we see the soul of Iona as in a glass, is become
the archetype of his race, as Iona is the microcosm of the Gaelic world.
That he came into this life heralded by dreams and visions, that from
his youth onward to old age he knew every mystery of dream and vision,
and that before and after his death his soul was revealed to others
through dreams and visions, is but an added hieratic grace: yet we do
well to recall often how these dreams before and these visions after
were angelical, and nobly beautiful: how there was left of him, and to
his little company, and to us for remembrance, that last signal vision
of a blaze of angelic wings, more intolerable than the sun at noon, the
tempestuous multitude trembling with the storm of song.

Columba and Oran ... these are the two great names in Iona. Love and
Faith have made one immortal; the other lives also, clothed in legend. I
am afraid there is not much definite basis for the popular Iona legend
of Oran. It is now the wont of guides and others to speak of the Réilig
Odhrain, Oran's burial-place, as that of Columba's friend (and victim),
but it seems likelier that the Oran who lies here is he who is spoken
of in the _Annals of the Four Masters_ as having died in the year 548,
that is fifteen years before Colum came to the island. This, however,
might well be a mistake: what is more convincing is that Adamnan never
mentions the episode, nor even the name of Oran, nor is there mention of
him in that book of Colum's intimate friend and successor, Baithene,
which Adamnan practically incorporated. On the other hand, the Oran
legend is certainly very old. The best modern rendering we have of it is
that of Mr. Whitley Stokes in his _Three Middle-Irish Homilies_, and
readers of Dr. Skene's valuable _Celtic Scotland_ recollect the
translation there redacted. The episode occurs first in an ancient Irish
life of St. Columba. The legend, which has crystallised into a popular
saying, "Uir, ùir, air sùil Odhrain! mu'n labhair e tuille
comhraidh"--"Earth, earth on Oran's eyes, lest he further blab"--avers
that three days after the monk Oran or Odran was entombed alive (some
say in the earth, some in a cavity), Colum opened the grave, to look
once more on the face of the dead brother, when to the amazed fear of
the monks and the bitter anger of the abbot himself, Oran opened his
eyes and exclaimed, "There is no such great wonder in death, nor is Hell
what it has been described." (Ifrinn, or Ifurin--the word used--is the
Gaelic Hell, the Land of Eternal Cold.) At this, Colum straightway cried
the now famous Gaelic words, and then covered up poor Oran again lest he
should blab further of that uncertain world whither he was supposed to
have gone. In the version given by Mr. Whitley Stokes there is no
mention of Odran's grave having been uncovered after his entombment. But
what is strangely suggestive is that both in the oral legend and in that
early monkish chronicle alluded to, Columba is represented as either
suggesting or accepting immolation of a living victim as a sacrifice to
consecrate the church he intended to build.

One story is that he received a divine intimation to the effect that a
monk of his company must be buried alive, and that Odran offered
himself. In the earliest known rendering "Colum Cille said to his
people: 'It is well for us that our roots should go underground here';
and he said to them, 'It is permitted to you that some one of you go
under the earth of this island to consecrate it.' Odran rose up readily,
and thus he said: 'If thou wouldst accept me,' he said, 'I am ready for
that.' ... Odran then went to heaven. Colum Cille then founded the
Church of Hii."

It would be a dark stain on Columba if this legend were true. But apart
from the fact that Adamnan does not speak of it or of Oran, the
probabilities are against its truth. On the other hand, it is, perhaps,
quite as improbable that there was no basis for the legend. I imagine
the likelier basis to be that a druid suffered death in this fashion
under that earlier Odran of whom there is mention in the _Annals of the
Four Masters_: possibly, that Odran himself was the martyr, and the
Ard-Druid the person who had "the divine intimation." Again, before it
be attributed to Columba, one would have to find if there is record of
such an act having been performed among the Irish of that day. We have
no record of it. It is not improbable that the whole legend is a
symbolical survival, an ancient teaching of some elementary mystery
through some real or apparent sacrificial rite.

Among the people of Iona to-day there is a very confused idea about St.
Oran. To some he is a saint: to others an evil-doer: some think he was a
martyr, some that he was punished for a lapse from virtue. Some swear by
his grave, as though it were almost as sacred as the Black Stone of
Iona: to others, perhaps most, his is now but an idle name.

By the Black Stone of Iona! One may hear that in Icolmkill or anywhere
in the west. It used to be the most binding oath in the Highlands, and
even now is held as an indisputable warrant of truth. In Iona itself,
strangely enough, one would be much more likely to hear a statement
affirmed "by St. Martin's Cross." On this stone--the old Druidic Stone
of Destiny, sacred among the Gael before Christ was born--Columba
crowned Aidan King of Argyll. Later, the stone was taken to
Dunstaffnage, where the Lords of the Isles were made princes: thence to
Scone, where the last of the Celtic Kings of Scotland was crowned on it.
It now lies in Westminster Abbey, a part of the Coronation Chair, and
since Edward I. every British monarch has been crowned upon it. If ever
the Stone of Destiny be moved again, that writing on the wall will be
the signature of a falling dynasty; but perhaps, like Iona in the island
saying, this can be left to the Gaelic equivalent of Nevermas, "gus am
bi MacCailein na' rìgh," "till Argyll be a king."

In my childhood I well recall meeting in Iona an old man who had come
from the glens of Antrim, to me memorable because he was the last
Gaelic minstrel of the old kind I have seen. "It was a poor land,
Antrim," he said, "with no Gaelic, a bitter lot o' protestantry, an'
little music."

I remember, too, his adding in effect:

"It is in the west you should be if you want music, an' men and women
without coldness or the hard mouth. In Donegal an' Mayo an' all down
Connemara-way to the cliffs of Moher you'll hear the wind an' the voices
o' the Shee with never a man to curse the one or the other." I asked him
why he had come to Iona. It was to see the isle of Colum, he said, "St.
Bridget's brother, God bless the pair av' thim." He was on his way to
Oban, thence to go to a far place in the Athole country, where his
daughter had married a factor who had returned to his own land from the
Irish west, and was the more dear to the old man because his only living
blood-kin, and because she had called her little girl by the name of the
old harper's long-lost love, "my love an' my wife."

The last harper, though he had not his harp with him. He had come from
Drogheda in a cattle-boat to Islay (whence he had sailed in a
fishing-smack to Iona), and his friend the mate had promised to leave
the harp and his other belongings at Oban in safe keeping. He had with
him, however, a small instrument that he called his little clar. It was
something between a guitar and a cithern, suggestive of a primitive
violin, and he played on it sometimes with his fingers, sometimes with a
short bit of wood like a child's tipcat; and, he said, could make good
music with a hazel-wand or "the dry straight rod of a quicken when
that's to be had." He said this quaint instrument had come down to him
through fifty-one generations: literally, "eleven and twice twenty
_sheanairean_ (grandfathers, or elders or forebears)," of whom he could
at any moment give the pedigree of _ceithir deug air 'fhichead_, "four
and ten upon twenty"--that is, to translate the Gaelic method of
enumeration, "thirty-four."

This was at the house of a minister then lodging in the island, and it
was he who hosted the old harper. He told me, later, that he had no
doubt this was the old-world cruit, the Welsh _crwth_ of to-day, and the
once colloquial Lowland "crowther," akin to the Roman _canora cythara_,
the "forebear" of the modern Spanish guitar. To this day, I may add,
Highlanders (at least in the west) call the guitar the
_Cruit-Spànteach_. There seems to have been four kinds of "harp" in the
old days: the clar or clarsach, the kairneen (ceirnine), the
kreemtheencrooth (cream-thine-cruit), and the cionar cruit. The clarsach
was the harp proper; that is, the small Celtic harp. The ceirnine was
the smaller hand-harp. The "creamthine cruit" had six strings, and was
probably used chiefly at festivals, possibly for a strong sonance to
accentuate chants; while the cionar cruit had ten strings, and was
played either by a bow or with a wooden or other instrument. It must
have been a cionar-cruit, ancient or a rude later-day imitation, that
the old harper had.

Poor old man, I fear he never played on his harp again; for I learned
later that he had found his Athole haven broken up, and his daughter and
her husband about to emigrate to Canada, so that he went with them, and
died on the way--perhaps as much from the mountain-longing and
home-sickness as from any more tangible ill.

I have a double memento of him that I value. In Islay he had bought or
been given a little book of Gaelic songs (the Scoto-Gaelic must have
puzzled him sorely, poor old _eirionnach_), and this he left behind him,
and my minister friend gave it to me, with much of the above noted down
on its end-pages. The little book had been printed early in the century,
and was called _Ceilleirean Binn nan Creagan Aosda_, literally
"Melodious Little Warblings from the Aged Rocks"; and it has always been
dear to me because of one lovely phrase in it about birds, where the
unknown Gaelic singer calls them "clann bheag' nam preas," the small
clan of the bushes, equivalent in English to "the children of the
bushes." This occurs in a lovely verse--

    "Mu'n cuairt do bhruachaibh ard mo glinn,
    Biodh luba gheuga 's orra blath,
    's clann bheag' nam preas a' tabhairst seinn
    Do chreagaibh aosd oran graidh."

("Along the lofty sides of my glen let there be bending boughs clad in
blossom, and the children of the bushes making the aged rocks re-echo
their songs of love")--truly a characteristic Gaelic wish,
characteristically expressed.

And though this that I am about to say did not happen on Iona, I may
tell it here, for it was there and from an islander I heard it, an old
man herding among the troubled rocky pastures of Sguir Mòr and Cnoc na
Fhiona, in the south of that western part called Sliav Starr--one
translation of which might be Wuthering Heights, for the word can be
rendered wind-blustery or wind-noisy; though I fancy that _starr_ is, on
Iona, commonly taken to mean a strong coarse grass. (Fhiona here I take
to be not the genitive of a name, nor that of "wine," but a mis-spelling
of _fionna_, grain.)

When he was a boy he was in the island of Barra, he said, and he had a
foster-brother called Iain Macneil. Iain was born with music in his
mind, for though he was ever a poor creature as a man, having as a child
eaten of the bird's heart, he could hear a power o' wonder in the
wind.[4] He had never come to any good in a worldly sense, my old
herdsman Micheil said; but it was not from want of cleverness only, but
because "he had enough with his music." "Poor man, he failed in
everything he did but that--and, sure, that was not against him, for _is
ann air an tràghadh a rugadh e_--wasn't he born when the tide was
ebbing?" Besides, there was a mystery. Iain's father was said to be an
Iona man, but that was only a politeness and a play upon words ("_The
Holy Isle of the Western Sea_" could mean either Iona or the mystic
Hy-Bràsil, or Tir-na-thonn of the underworld); for he had no mortal
father, but a man of the Smiling Distant People was his father. Iain's
mother had loved her Leannan-shee, her fairy sweetheart, but that love
is too strong for a woman to bear, and she died. Before Iain was born
she lay under a bush of whitethorn, and her Leannan appeared to her. "I
can't give you life," he said, "unless you'll come away with me." But
she would not; for she wished the child to have Christian baptism.
"Well, good-bye," he said, "but you are a weak love. A woman should care
more for her lover than her child. But I'll do this: I'll give the child
the dew, an' he won't die, an' we'll take him away when we want him. An'
for a gift to him, you can have either beauty or music." "I don't want
the dew," she said, "for I'd rather he lay below the grass beside me
when his time comes: an' as for beauty, it's been my sorrow. But because
I love the songs you have sung to me an' wooed me with, an' made me
forget to hide my soul from you--an' it fallen as helpless as a broken
wave on damp sand--let the child have the _binn-beul_ an' the _làmh
clarsaireachd_ (the melodious mouth an' the harping hand)."

And truly enough Iain Macneil "went away." He went back to his own
people. It must have been a grief to him not to lie under the grass
beside his mother, but it was not for his helping. For days before he
mysteriously disappeared he went about making a _ciucharan_ like a
November wind, a singular plaintive moaning. When asked by his
foster-brother Micheil why he was not content, he answered only "_Far am
bi mo ghaol, bidh mo thathaich_" (Where my Love is, there must my
returning be). He had for days, said Micheil, the mournful crying in the
ear that is so often a presage of death or sorrow; and himself had said
once "Tha 'n éabh a' m' chenais"--the cry is in my ear. When he went
away, that going was the way of the snow.

It is no wonder that legends of Finn and Oisein, of Oscur and Gaul and
Diarmid, of Cuchullin, and many of the old stories of the Gaelic
chivalry survive in the isles. There, more than in Ireland, Gaelic has
survived as the living speech, and though now in the Inner Hebrides it
is dying before "an a' Beurla," the English tongue, and still more
before the degraded "Bheurla leathan" or Glasgow-English of the lowland
west, the old vernacular still holds an ancient treasure.

The last time I sailed to Staffa from Ulva, a dead calm set in, and we
took a man from Gometra to help with an oar--his recommendation being
that he was "cho làidir ri Cuchullin," as strong as Coohoolin. But
neither in Iona nor in the northward isles nor in Skye itself, have I
found or heard of much concerning the great Gaelic hero. Fionn and Oisìn
and Diarmid are the names oftenest heard, both in legend and proverbial
allusion. An habitual mistake is made by writers who speak of the famous
Cuchullin or Cuthullin mountains in Skye as having been named after
Cuchullin; and though sometimes the local guides to summer tourists may
speak of the Gaelic hero in connection with the mountains north of
Coruisk, that is only because of hearsay. The Gaelic name should never
be rendered as the Cuthullin or Cohoolin mountains, but as the Coolins.
The most obvious meaning of the name _Cuilfhion_ (Kyoolyun or Coolun),
is "the fine corner," but, as has been suggested, the hills may have got
their name because of the "cuillionn mara" or sea-holly, which is
pronounced _Ku' l'-unn_ or _coolin_. This is most probably the origin
of the name.

In fine weather one may see from Iona the Coolins standing out in lovely
blue against the northern sky-line, their contours the most beautiful
feature in a view of surpassing beauty. How often I have watched them,
have often dreamed of what they have seen, since Oisìn passed that way
with Malvina: since Cuchullin learned the feats of war at Dûn Scaaiah,
from that great queen whose name, it is said, the island bears in
remembrance of her; since Connlaoch, his son, set sail to meet so tragic
a death in Ireland. There are two women of Gaelic antiquity who above
all others have always held my imagination as with a spell: Scathach or
Sgathàith (_sky-ah_), the sombre Amazonian queen of the mountain-island
(then perhaps, as now, known also as the Isle of Mist), and Meave, the
great queen of Connaught, whose name has its mountain bases in gigantic
wars, and its summits among the wild poetry and romance of the Shee.

My earliest knowledge of the heroic cycle of Celtic mythology and
history came to me, as a child, when I spent my first summer in Iona.
How well I remember a fantastic legend I was told: how that these far
blue mountains, so freaked into a savage beauty, were due to the
sword-play of Cuchullin. And this happened because the Queen o' Skye had
put a spear through the two breasts of his love, so that he went in
among her warrior women and slew every one, and severed the head of
Sgàyah herself, and threw it into Coruisk, where to this day it floats
as Eilean Dubh, the dark isle. Thereafter, Cuchullin hewed the
mountain-tops into great clefts, and trampled the hills into a craggy
wilderness, and then rushed into the waves and fought with the
sea-hordes till far away the bewildered and terrified stallions of the
ocean dashed upon the rocks of Man and uttermost shores of Erin.

This magnificent mountain range can be seen better still from Lunga near
Iona, whence it is a short sail with a southerly wind. In Lunga there is
a hill called Cnoc Cruit or Dun Cruit, and thence one may see, as in a
vast illuminated missal whose pages are of deep blue with bindings of
azure and pale gold, innumerable green isles and peaks and hills of the
hue of the wild plum. When last I was there it was a day of cloudless
June. There was not a sound but the hum of the wild bee foraging in the
long garths of white clover, and the continual sighing of a wave.
Listening, I thought I heard a harper playing in the hollow of the hill.
It may have been the bees heavy with the wine of honey, but I was
content with my fancy and fell asleep, and dreamed that a harper came
out of the hill, at first so small that he seemed like the green stalk
of a lily and had hands like daisies, and then go great that I saw his
breath darkening the waves far out on the Hebrid sea. He played, till I
saw the stars fall in a ceaseless, dazzling rain upon Iona. A wind blew
that rain away, and out of the wave that had been Iona I saw thousands
upon thousands of white doves rise from the foam and fly down the four
great highways of the wind. When I woke, there was no one near. Iona lay
like an emerald under the wild-plum bloom of the Mull mountains. The
bees stumbled through the clover; a heron stood silver-grey upon the
grey-blue stone; the continual wave was, as before, as one wave, and
with the same hushed sighing.

Two or three years ago I heard a boatman using a singular phrase, to the
effect that a certain deed was as kindly a thought as that of the piper
who played to St. Micheil in his grave. I had never heard of this
before, or anything like it, nor have I since, on lip or in book. He
told me that he spoke of a wandering piper known as Piobaire Raonull
Dall, Blind Piper Ronald, who fifty years or so ago used to wander
through the isles and West Highlands; and how he never failed to play a
spring on his pipes, either to please or to console, or maybe to air a
lament for what's lost now and can't come again, when on any holy day he
stood before a figure of the Virgin (as he might well do in Barra or
South Uist), or by old tombs or habitations of saints. My friend's
father or one of his people, once, in the Kyles of Bute, when sailing
past the little ruinous graveyard of Kilmichael on the Bute shore, had
come upon Raonull-Dall, pacing slowly before the broken stones and the
little cell which legend says is both the hermitage and the grave of St.
Micheil. When asked what he was playing and what for, in that lonely
spot, he said it was an old ancient pibroch, the Gathering of the
Clerics, which he was playing just to cheer the heart of the good man
down below. When told that St. Micheil would be having his fill of good
music where he was, the old man came away in the boat, and for long sat
silent and strangely disheartened. I have more than once since then
sailed to that little lonely ancient grave of Kilmichael in the Kyles of
Bute, from Tignabruaich or further Cantyre, and have wished that I too
could play a spring upon the pipes, for if so I would play to the kind
heart of "Piobaire Raonull Dall."

Of all the saints of the west, from St. Molios or Molossius (Maol-Iosa?
the servant by Jesus?) who has left his name in the chief township in
Arran, to St. Barr, who has given his to the largest of the Bishop's
Isles, as the great Barra island-chain in the South Hebrides used to be
called, there is none so commonly remembered and so frequently invoked
as St. Micheil. There used to be no festival in the Western Isles so
popular as that held on 29th September, "La' Fheill Mhicheil," the Day
of the Festival of Michael; and the Eve of Michael's Day is still in a
few places one of the gayest nights in the year, though no longer is
every barn turned into a dancing place or a place of merry-making or, at
least, a place for lovers to meet and give betrothal gifts. The day
itself, in the Catholic Isles, was begun with a special Mass, and from
hour to hour was filled with traditional duties and pleasures.

The whole of the St. Micheil ceremonies were of a remote origin, and
some, as the ancient and almost inexplicable dances, and their archaic
accompaniment of word and gesture far older than the sacrificial slaying
of the Michaelmas Lamb. It is, however, not improbable that this latter
rite was a survival of a pagan custom long anterior to the substitution
of the Christian for the Druidic faith.

The "Iollach Mhicheil"--the triumphal song of Michael--is quite as much
pagan as Christian. We have here, indeed, one of the most interesting
and convincing instances of the transmutation of a personal symbol. St.
Michael is on the surface a saint of extraordinary powers and the patron
of the shores and the shore-folk: deeper, he is an angel, who is upon
the sea what the angelical saint, St. George, is upon the land: deeper,
he is a blending of the Roman Neptune and the Greek Poseidon: deeper, he
is himself an ancient Celtic god: deeper, he is no other than Manannan,
the god of ocean and all waters, in the Gaelic Pantheon: as, once more,
Manannan himself is dimly revealed to us as still more ancient, more
primitive, and even as supreme in remote godhead, the Father of an
immortal Clan.

To this day Micheil is sometimes alluded to as the god Micheil, and I
have seen some very strange Gaelic lines which run in effect:--

    "It was well thou hadst the horse of the god Micheil
    Who goes without a bit in his mouth,
    So that thou couldst ride him through the fields of the air,
    And with him leap over the knowledge of Nature"--

presumably not very ancient as they stand, because of the use of "steud"
for horse, and "naduir" for nature, obvious adaptations from English and
Latin. Certainly St. Michael has left his name in many places, from the
shores of the Hebrides to the famous Mont St. Michel of Brittany, and I
doubt not that everywhere an earlier folk, at the same places, called
him Manannan. In a most unlikely place to find a record of old hymns and
folk-songs, one of the volumes of Reports of the Highlands and Islands
Commission, Mr. Carmichael many years ago contributed some of his
unequalled store of Hebridean reminiscence and knowledge. Among these
old things saved, there is none that is better worth saving than the
beautiful Catholic hymn or invocation sung at the time of the midsummer
migration to the hill-pastures. In this shealing-hymn the three powers
who are invoked are St. Micheil (for he is a patron saint of horses and
travel, as well as of the sea and seafarers), St. Columba, guardian of
Cattle, and the Virgin Mary, "Mathair Uain ghil," "Mother of the White
Lamb," as the tender Gaelic has it, who is so beautifully called the
golden-haired Virgin Shepherdess.

It is pleasant to think of Columba, who loved animals, and whose care
for his shepherd-people was always so great, as having become the patron
saint of cattle. It is thus that the gods are shaped out of a little
mortal clay, the great desire of the heart, and immortal dreams.

I may give the whole hymn in English, as rendered by Mr. Carmichael:


    "Thou gentle Michael of the white steed,
    Who subdued the Dragon of blood,
    For love of God and the Son of Mary,
    Spread over us thy wing, shield us all!
    Spread over us thy wing, shield us all!


    "Mary beloved! Mother of the White Lamb,
    Protect us, thou Virgin of nobleness,
    Queen of beauty! Shepherdess of the flocks!
    Keep our cattle, surround us together,
    Keep our cattle, surround us together.


    "Thou Columba, the friendly, the kind,
    In name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
    Through the Three-in-One, through the Three,
    Encompass us, guard our procession,
    Encompass us, guard our procession.


    "Thou Father! Thou Son! Thou Holy Spirit!
    Be the Three-One with us day and night,
    On the machair plain, on the mountain ridge,
    The Three-one is with us, with His arm around our head,
    The Three-One is with us, with his arm around our head."

I have heard a paraphrase of this hymn, both in Gaelic and English, on
Iona; and once, off Soa, a little island to the south of Icolmkill, took
down a verse which I thought was local, but which I afterwards found
(with very slight variance) in Mr. Carmichael's Governmental
Uist-Record. It was sung by Barra fishermen, and ran in effect "O
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost! O Holy Trinity, be with us day and night.
On the crested wave as on the mountain-side! Our Mother, Holy Mary
Mother, has her arm under our head; our pillow is the arm of Mary, Mary
the Holy Mother."

It is perhaps the saddest commentary that could be made on what we have
lost that the children of those who were wont to go to rest, or upon any
adventure, or to stand in the shadow of death, with some such words as

    "My soul is with the Light on the mountains,
    Archangel Micheil shield my soul!"

now go or stand in a scornful or heedless silence, or without
remembrance, as others did who forgot to trim their lamps.

Who now would go up to the hill-pastures singing the Beannachadh
Buachailleag, the Herding Blessing? With the passing of the old language
the old solemnity goes, and the old beauty, and the old patient, loving
wonder. I do not like to think of what songs are likely to replace the
Herding Blessing, whose first verse runs thus:

    "I place this flock before me
    As ordained by the King of the World,
    Mary Virgin to keep them, to wait them, to watch them.
      On hill and glen and plain,
      On hill, in glen, on plain."

In the maelstrom of the cities the old race perishes, drowns. How common
the foolish utterance of narrow lives, that all these old ways of
thought are superstitious. To have a superstition is, for these, a
worse ill than to have a shrunken soul. I do not believe in spells and
charms and foolish incantations, but I think that ancient wisdom out of
the simple and primitive heart of an older time is not an ill heritage;
and if to believe in the power of the spirit is to be superstitious, I
am well content to be of the company that is now forsaken.

But even in what may more fairly be called superstitious, have we surety
that we have done well in our exchange?

A short while ago I was on the hillside above one of the much-frequented
lochs in eastern Argyll. Something brought to my mind, as I went farther
up into the clean solitudes, one of the verses of the Herding Blessing:

    "From rocks, from snow-wreaths, from streams,
    From crooked ways, from destructive pits,
    From the arrows of the slim fairy women,
      From the heart of envy, the eye of evil,
        Keep us, Holy St. Bride."

"From the arrows of the slim fairy women." And I--do I believe in that?
At least it will be admitted that it is worth a belief; it is a pleasant
dream; it is a gate into a lovely world; it is a secret garden, where
are old sweet echoes; it has the rainbow-light of poetry. Is it not
poetry? And I--oh yes, I believe it, that superstition: a thousand-fold
more real is it, more believable, than that coarse-tongued,
ill-mannered, boorish people, desperate in slovenly pleasure. For that
will stay, and they will go. And if I am wrong, then I will rather go
with it than stay with them. And yet--surely, surely the day will come
when this sordidness of life as it is so often revealed to us will sink
into deep waters, and the stream become purified, and again by its banks
be seen the slim fairy women of health and beauty and all noble and
dignified things.

This is a far cry from Iona! And I had meant to write only of how I
heard so recently as three or four summers ago a verse of the Uist
Herding Chant. It was recited to me, over against Dûn-I, by a friend who
is a crofter in that part of Iona. It was not quite as Mr. Carmichael
translates it, but near enough. The Rann Buachhailleag is, I should add,
addressed to the cattle.

    "The protection of God and Columba
    Encompass your going and coming,
    And about you be the milkmaid of the smooth white palms,
    Briget of the clustering hair, golden brown."

On Iona, however, there is, so far as I remember, no special spot sacred
to St. Micheil: but there is a legend that on the night Columba died
Micheil came over the waves on a rippling flood of light, which was a
cloud of angelic wings, and that he sang a hymn to the soul of the saint
before it took flight for its heavenly fatherland. No one heard that
hymn save Colum, but I think that he who first spoke of it remembered a
more ancient legend of how Manannan came to Cuchullin when he was in the
country of the Shee, when Liban laughed.

I spoke of Port-na-Churaich, the Haven of the Coracle, a little ago. How
strange a history is that of Iona since the coming of the Irish priest,
Crimthan, or Crimmon as we call the name, surnamed Colum Cille, the Dove
of the Church. Perhaps its unwritten history is not less strange. God
was revered on Iona by priests of a forgotten faith before the Cross was
raised. The sun-priest and the moon-worshipper had their revelation
here. I do not think their offerings were despised. Colum, who loved the
Trinity so well that on one occasion he subsisted for three days on the
mystery of the mere word, did not forego the luxury of human sacrifice,
though he abhorred the blood-stained altar. For, to him, an obstinate
pagan slain was to the glory of God. The moon-worshipper did no worse
when he led the chosen victim to the dolmen. But the moon-worshipper was
a Pict without the marvel of the written word; so he remained a heathen,
and the Christian named himself saint or martyr.

None knows with surety who dwelled on this mysterious island before the
famous son of Feilim of Clan Domnhuil, great-grandson of Niall of the
Nine Hostages, came with his fellow-monks and raised the Cross among the
wondering Picts. But the furthest record tells of worship. Legend itself
is more ancient here than elsewhere. Once a woman was worshipped. Some
say she was the moon, but this was before the dim day of the
moon-worshippers. (In Gaelic too, as with all the Celtic peoples, it is
not the moon but the sun that is feminine.) She may have been an
ancestral Brighde, or that mysterious Anait whose Scythian name survives
elsewhere in the Gaelic west, and nothing else of all her ancient glory
but that shadowy word. Perhaps, here, the Celts remembered one whom they
had heard of in Asian valleys or by the waters of Nilus, and called upon
Isis under a new name.

The Haven of the Coracle! It was not Colum and his white-robe company
who first made the isle sacred. I have heard that when Mary Macleod (our
best-loved Hebridean poet) was asked what she thought of Iona, she
replied that she thought it was the one bit of Eden that had not been
destroyed, and that it was none other than the central isle in the
Garden untouched of Eve or Adam, where the angels waited.

Many others have dreamed by that lonely cairn of the Irish king, before
Colum, and, doubtless, many since the child who sought the Divine

Years afterwards I wrote, in the same place, after an absence wherein
Iona had become as a dream to me, the story of St. Briget, in the
Hebrides called Bride, under the love-name commonly given her, Muime
Chriosd--Christ's Foster-Mother. May I quote again, here, as so apposite
to what I have written, to what indirectly I am trying to convey of the
spiritual history of Iona, some portion of it?

In my legendary story I tell of how one called Dùghall, of a kingly
line, sailing from Ireland, came to be cast upon the ocean-shore of
Iona, then called Innis-nan-Dhruidhneach, the Isle of the Druids--for
this was before the cry of the Sacred Wolf was heard, as an old-time
island-poet has it, playing upon Colum's house-name, Crimthan,
signifying a wolf. The frail coracle in which he and others had crossed
the Moyle had been driven before a tempest, and cast at sunrise like a
spent fish upon the rocks of the little haven that is now called
Port-na-Churaich. All had found death in the wave except himself and the
little girl-child he had brought with him from Ireland, the child of so
much tragic mystery.

When, warmed by the sun, they rose, they found themselves in a waste
place. Dùghall was ill in his mind because of the portents, and now to
his fear and amaze the child Briget knelt on the stones, and, with
claspt hands, frail and pink as the sea-shells round about her, sang a
song of words which were unknown to him. This was the more marvellous,
as she was yet but an infant, and could say few words even of Erse, the
only tongue she had heard.

At this portent, he knew that Aodh the Arch-Druid had spoken seeingly.
Truly this child was not of human parentage. So he, too, kneeled; and,
bowing before her, asked if she were of the race of the Tuatha de
Danann, or of the older gods, and what her will was, that he might be
her servant. Then it was that the kneeling child looked at him, and sang
in a low sweet voice in Erse:

    "I am but a little child,
    Dùghall, son of Hugh, son of Art,
    But my garment shall be laid
    On the lord of the world,
    Yea, surely it shall be that He,
    The King of Elements Himself,
    Shall lean against my bosom,
    And I will give him peace,
    And peace will I give to all who ask
    Because of this mighty Prince,
    And because of his Mother that is the Daughter of Peace."

And while Dùghall Donn was still marvelling at this thing, the
Arch-Druid of Iona approached, with his white-robed priests. A grave
welcome was given to the stranger. While the youngest of the servants of
God was entrusted with the child, the Arch-Druid took Dùghall aside and
questioned him. It was not till the third day that the old man gave his
decision. Dùghall Don was to abide on Iona if he so willed; but the
child was to stay. His life would be spared, nor would he be a bondager
of any kind, and a little land to till would be given him, and all that
he might need. But of his past he was to say no word. His name was to
become as nought, and he was to be known simply as Dùvach. The child,
too, was to be named Bride, for that was the way the name Briget is
called in the Erse of the Isles.

To the question of Dùghall, that was thenceforth Dùvach, as to why he
laid so great stress on the child, who was a girl, and the reputed
offspring of shame at that, Cathal the Arch-Druid replied thus: "My
kinsman Aodh of the golden hair, who sent you here, was wiser than Hugh
the king, and all the Druids of Aoimag. Truly, this child is an
Immortal. There is an ancient prophecy concerning her: surely of her who
is now here, and no other. There shall be, it says, a spotless maid born
of a virgin of the ancient divine race in Innisfail. And when for the
seventh time the sacred year has come, she will hold Eternity in her lap
as a white flower. Her maiden breasts shall swell with milk for the
Prince of the World. She shall give suck to the King of the Elements. So
I say unto you, Dùvach, go in peace. Take unto yourself a wife, and live
upon the place I will allot on the east side of Ioua. Treat Bride as
though she were your soul, and leave her much alone, and let her learn
of the sun and the wind. In the fulness of time the prophecy shall be

So was it, from that day of the days. Dùvach took a wife unto himself,
who weaned the little Bride, who grew in beauty and grace, so that all
men marvelled. Year by year for seven years the wife of Dùvach bore him
a son, and these grew apace in strength, so that by the beginning of the
third year of the seventh circle of Bride's life there were three
stalwart youths to brother her, and three comely and strong lads, and
one young boy fair to see. Nor did any one, not even Bride herself,
saving Cathal the Arch-Druid, know that Dùvach the herdsman was Dùghall
Donn, of a princely race in Innisfail.

In the end, too, Dùvach came to think that he had dreamed, or at the
least that Cathal had not interpreted the prophecy aright. For though
Bride was of exceeding beauty, and of a holiness that made the young
druids bow before her as though she were a bàndia, yet the world went on
as before, and the days brought no change. Often, while she was still a
child, he had questioned her about the words she had said as a babe, but
she had no memory of them. Once, in her ninth year, he came upon her on
the hillside of Dûn-I singing these self-same words. Her eyes dreamed
far away. He bowed his head, and, praying to the Giver of Light, hurried
to Cathal. The old man bade him speak no more to the child concerning
the mysteries.

Bride lived the hours of her days upon the slopes of Dûn-I, herding the
sheep, or in following the kye upon the green hillocks and grassy dunes
of what then, as now, was called the Machar. The beauty of the world was
her daily food. The spirit within her was like sunlight behind a white
flower. The birdeens in the green bushes sang for joy when they saw her
blue eyes. The tender prayers that were in her heart were often seen
flying above her head in the form of white doves of sunshine.

But when the middle of the year came that was (though Dùvach had
forgotten it) the year of the prophecy, his eldest son, Conn, who was
now a man, murmured against the virginity of Bride, because of her
beauty and because a chieftain of the mainland was eager to wed her. "I
shall wed Bride or raid Ioua," was the message he had sent.

So one day, before the Great Fire of the Summer Festival, Conn and his
brothers reproached Bride.

"Idle are these pure eyes, O Bride, not to be as lamps at thy

"Truly, it is not by the eyes that we live," replied the maiden gently,
while to their fear and amazement she passed her hand before her face
and let them see that the sockets were empty.

Trembling with awe at this portent, Dùvach intervened:

"By the sun I swear it, O Bride, that thou shalt marry whomsoever thou
wilt and none other, and when thou wilt, or not at all, if such be thy

And when he had spoken, Bride smiled, and passed her hand before her
face again, and all there were abashed because of the blue light as of
morning that was in her shining eyes.

It was while the dew was yet wet on the grass that on the morrow Bride
came out of her father's house, and went up the steep slope of Dûn-I.
The crying of the ewes and lambs at the pastures came plaintively
against the dawn. The lowing of the kye arose from the sandy hollows by
the shore, or from the meadows on the lower slopes. Through the whole
island went a rapid, trickling sound, most sweet to hear: the myriad
voices of twittering birds, from the dotterel in the seaweed, to the
larks climbing the blue slopes of heaven.

This was the festival of her birth, and she was clad in white. About her
waist was a girdle of the sacred rowan, the feathery green leaves
flickering dusky shadows upon her robe as she moved. The light upon her
yellow hair was as when morning wakes, laughing in wind amid the tall
corn. As she went she sang to herself, softly as the crooning of a dove.
If any had been there to hear he would have been abashed, for the words
were not in Erse, and the eyes of the beautiful girl were as those of
one in a vision.

When, at last, a brief while before sunrise, she reached the summit of
the Scuir, that is so small a hill and yet seems so big in Iona, where
it is the sole peak, she found three young druids there, ready to tend
the sacred fire the moment the sunrays should kindle it. Each was clad
in a white robe, with fillets of oak leaves; and each had a golden
armlet. They made a quiet obeisance as she approached. One stepped
forward, with a flush in his face because of her beauty, that was as a
sea-wave for grace and a flower for purity, as sunlight for joy and
moonlight for peace.

"Thou mayst draw near if thou wilt, Bride, daughter of Dùvach," he said,
with something of reverence as well as of grave courtesy in his voice;
"for the holy Cathal hath said that the breath of the Source of All is
upon thee. It is not lawful for women to be here at this moment, but
thou hast the law shining upon thy face and in thine eyes. Hast thou
come to pray?"

But at that moment a cry came from one of his companions. He turned, and
rejoined his fellows. Then all three sank upon their knees, and with
outstretched arms hailed the rising of God.

As the sun rose, a solemn chant swelled from their lips, ascending as
incense through the silent air. The glory of the new day came
soundlessly. Peace was in the blue heaven, on the blue-green sea, and on
the green land. There was no wind, even where the currents of the deep
moved in shadowy purple. The sea itself was silent, making no more than
a sighing slumber-breath round the white sands of the isle, or a dull
whisper where the tide lifted the long weed that clung to the rocks.

In what strange, mysterious way, Bride did not see; but as the three
druids held their hands before the sacred fire there was a faint
crackling, then three thin spirals of blue smoke rose, and soon dusky
red and wan yellow tongues of flame moved to and fro. The sacrifice of
God was made. Out of the immeasurable heaven He had come, in His golden
chariot. Now, in the wonder and mystery of His love, He was re-born upon
the world, re-born a little fugitive flame upon a low hill in a remote
isle. Great must be His love that He could die thus daily in a thousand
places: so great His love that he could give up His own body to daily
death, and suffer the holy flame that was in the embers He illumined to
be lighted and revered and then scattered to the four quarters of the

Bride could bear no longer the mystery of this great love. It moved her
to an ecstasy. What tenderness of divine love that could thus redeem the
world daily: what long-suffering for all the evil and cruelty done
hourly upon the weeping earth: what patience with the bitterness of the
blind fates! The beauty of the worship of Be'al was upon her as a golden
glory. Her heart leaped to a song that could not be sung.

Bowing her head, so that the tears fell upon her hands, she rose and
moved away.

Elsewhere I have told how a good man of Iona sailed along the coast one
Sabbath afternoon with the Holy Book, and put the Word upon the seals of
Soa: and, in another tale, how a lonely man fought with a sea-woman
that was a seal; as, again, how two fishermen strove with the sea-witch
of Earraid: and, in "The Dan-nan-Ron," of a man who went mad with the
sea-madness, because of the seal-blood that was in his veins, he being a
MacOdrum of Uist, and one of the Sliochd nan Ron, the Tribe of the Seal.
And those who have read the tale, twice printed, once as "The Annir
Choille," and again as "Cathal of the Woods," will remember how, at the
end, the good hermit Molios, when near death in his sea-cave of Arran,
called the seals to come out of the wave and listen to him, so that he
might tell them the white story of Christ; and how in the moonshine,
with the flowing tide stealing from his feet to his knees, the old saint
preached the gospel of love, while the seals crouched upon the rocks,
with their brown eyes filled with glad tears: and how, before his death
at dawn, he was comforted by hearing them splashing to and fro in the
moon-dazzle, and calling one to the other, "We, too, are of the sons of

What has so often been written about is a reflection of what is in the
mind: and though stories of the seals may be heard from the Rhinns of
Islay to the Seven Hunters (and I first heard that of the MacOdrums, the
seal-folk, from a Uist man), I think that it was because of what I
heard of the sea-people on Iona, when I was a child, that they have been
so much with me in remembrance.

In the short tale of the Moon-child, I told how two seals that had been
wronged by a curse which had been put upon them by Columba, forgave the
saint, and gave him a sore-won peace. I recall another (unpublished)
tale, where a seal called Domnhuil Dhu--a name of evil omen--was heard
laughing one Hallowe'en on the rocks below the ruined abbey, and calling
to the creatures of the sea that God was dead: and how the man who heard
him laughed, and was therewith stricken with paralysis, and so fell
sidelong from the rocks into the deep wave, and was afterwards found
beaten as with hammers and shredded as with sharp fangs.

But, as most characteristic, I would rather tell here the story of Black
Angus, though the longer tale of which it forms a part has been printed

One night, a dark rainy night it was, with an uplift wind battering as
with the palms of savage hands the heavy clouds that hid the moon, I
went to the cottage near Spanish Port, where my friend Ivor Maclean
lived with his old deaf mother. He had reluctantly promised to tell me
the legend of Black Angus, a request he had ignored in a sullen silence
when he and Padruic Macrae and I were on the Sound that day. No tales of
the kind should be told upon the water.

When I entered, he was sitting before the flaming coal-fire; for on Iona
now, by decree of MacCailein Mòr, there is no more peat burned.

"You will tell me now, Ivor?" was all I said.

"Yes; I will be telling you now. And the reason why I never told you
before was because it is not a wise or a good thing to tell ancient
stories about the sea while still on the running wave. Macrae should not
have done that thing. It may be we shall suffer for it when next we go
out with the nets. We were to go to-night; but, no, not I, no, no, for
sure, not for all the herring in the Sound."

"Is it an ancient _sgeul_, Ivor?"

"Ay. I am not for knowing the age of these things. It may be as old as
the days of the Féinn, for all I know. It has come down to us. Alasdair
MacAlasdair of Tiree, him that used to boast of having all the stories
of Colum and Brigdhe, it was he told it to the mother of my mother, and
she to me."

"What is it called?"

"Well, this and that; but there is no harm in saying it is called the
Dark Nameless One."

"The Dark Nameless One!"

"It is this way. But will you ever have heard of the MacOdrums of Uist?"

"Ay; the Sliochd-nan-ròn."

"That is so. God knows. The Sliochd-nan-ron ... the progeny of the
Seal.... Well, well, no man knows what moves in the shadow of life. And
now I will be telling you that old ancient tale, as it was given to me
by the mother of my mother."

On a day of the days, Colum was walking alone by the sea-shore. The
monks were at the hoe or the spade, and some milking the kye, and some
at the fishing. They say it was on the first day of the _Faoilleach
Geamhraidh_, the day that is called _Am Fhéill Brighde_, and that they
call Candlemas over yonder.

The holy man had wandered on to where the rocks are, opposite to Soa. He
was praying and praying; and it is said that whenever he prayed aloud,
the barren egg in the nest would quicken, and the blighted bud unfold,
and the butterfly break its shroud.

Of a sudden he came upon a great black seal, lying silent on the rocks,
with wicked eyes.

"My blessing upon you, O Ròn," he said, with the good kind courteousness
that was his. "_Droch spadadh ort_," answered the seal, "A bad end to
you, Colum of the Gown."

"Sure now," said Colum angrily, "I am knowing by that curse that you are
no friend of Christ, but of the evil pagan faith out of the north. For
here I am known ever as Colum the White, or as Colum the Saint; and it
is only the Picts and the wanton Normen who deride me because of the
holy white robe I wear."

"Well, well," replied the seal, speaking the good Gaelic as though it
were the tongue of the deep sea, as God knows it may be for all you, I,
or the blind wind can say; "well, well, let that thing be: it's a
wave-way here or a wave-way there. But now, if it is a druid you are,
whether of fire or of Christ, be telling me where my woman is, and where
my little daughter."

At this, Colum looked at him for a long while. Then he knew.

"It is a man you were once, O Ròn?"

"Maybe ay and maybe no."

"And with that thick Gaelic that you have, it will be out of the north
isles you come?"

"That is a true thing."

"Now I am for knowing at last who and what you are. You are one of the
race of Odrum the Pagan?"

"Well, I am not denying it, Colum. And what is more, I am Angus
MacOdrum, Aonghas mac Torcall mhic Odrum, and the name I am known by is
Black Angus."

"A fitting name too," said Colum the Holy, "because of the black sin in
your heart, and the black end God has in store for you."

At that Black Angus laughed.

"Why is the laughter upon you, Man-Seal?"

"Well, it is because of the good company I'll be having. But, now, give
me the word: Are you for having seen or heard of a woman called Kirsteen

"Kirsteen--Kirsteen--that is the good name of a nun it is, and no

"O, a name here or a name there is soft sand. And so you cannot be for
telling me where my woman is?"


"Then a stake for your belly, and nails through your hands, thirst on
your tongue, and the corbies at your eyne!"

And, with that, Black Angus louped into the green water, and the hoarse
wild laugh of him sprang into the air and fell dead upon the shore like
a wind-spent mew.

Colum went slowly back to the brethren, brooding deep. "God is good," he
said in a low voice, again and again; and each time that he spoke there
came a daisy into the grass, or a bird rose, with song to it for the
first time, wonderful and sweet to hear.

As he drew near to the House of God he met Murtagh, an old monk of the
ancient race of the isles.

"Who is Kirsteen M'Vurich, Murtagh?" he asked.

"She was a good servant of Christ, she was, in the south isles, O Colum,
till Black Angus won her to the sea."

"And when was that?"

"Nigh upon a thousand years ago."

"But can mortal sin live as long as that?"

"Ay, it endureth. Long, long ago, before Oisìn sang, before Fionn,
before Cuchullin, was a glorious great prince, and in the days when the
Tuatha-de-Danann were sole lords in all green Banba, Black Angus made
the woman Kirsteen M'Vurich leave the place of prayer and go down to
the sea-shore, and there he leaped upon her and made her his prey, and
she followed him into the sea."

"And is death above her now?"

"No. She is the woman that weaves the sea-spells at the wild place out
yonder that is known as Earraid: she that is called the sea-witch."

"Then why was Black Angus for the seeking her here and the seeking her

"It is the Doom. It is Adam's first wife she is, that sea-witch over
there, where the foam is ever in the sharp fangs of the rocks."

"And who will he be?"

"His body is the body of Angus, the son of Torcall of the race of Odrum,
for all that a seal he is to the seeming; but the soul of him is Judas."

"Black Judas, Murtagh?"

"Ay, Black Judas, Colum."

But with that, Ivor Macrae rose abruptly from before the fire, saying
that he would speak no more that night. And truly enough there was a
wild, lone, desolate cry in the wind, and a slapping of the waves one
upon the other with an eerie laughing sound, and the screaming of a
seamew that was like a human thing.

So I touched the shawl of his mother, who looked up with startled eyes
and said, "God be with us"; and then I opened the door, and the salt
smell of the wrack was in my nostrils, and the great drowning blackness
of the night.

When I was a child I used to throw offerings--small coins, flowers,
shells, even a newly caught trout, once a treasured flint
arrow-head--into the sea-loch by which we lived. My Hebridean nurse had
often told me of Shony, a mysterious sea-god, and I know I spent much
time in wasted adoration: a fearful worship, not unmixed with
disappointment and some anger. Not once did I see him. I was frighted
time after time, but the sudden cry of a heron, or the snort of a
pollack chasing the mackerel, or the abrupt uplifting of a seal's head,
became over-familiar, and I desired terror, and could not find it by the
shore. Inland, after dusk, there was always the mysterious multitude of
shadow. There too, I could hear the wind leaping and growling. But by
the shore I never knew any dread, even in the darkest night. The sound
and company of the sea washed away all fears.

I was amused not long ago to hear a little girl singing, as she ran
wading through the foam of a troubled sunlit sea, as it broke on those
wonderful white sands of Iona--

    "Shanny, Shanny, Shanny,
    Catch my feet and tickle my toes!
    And if you can, Shanny, Shanny, Shanny,
    I'll go with you where no one knows!"

I have no doubt this daintier Shanny was my old friend Shony, whose more
terrifying way was to clutch boats by the keel and drown the sailors,
and make a death-necklace of their teeth. An evil Shony; for once he
netted a young girl who was swimming in a loch, and when she would not
give him her love he tied her to a rock, and to this day her long brown
hair may be seen floating in the shallow green wave at the ebb of the
tide. One need not name the place!

The Shanny song recalls to me an old Gaelic alphabet rhyme, wherein a
_Maigh-deann-M'hara_, or Mermaid, stood for M, and a Suire (also a
mermaid) stood for S; and my long perplexities as to whether I would
know a shuera from a midianmara when I saw either. It also recalls to me
that it was from a young schoolmaster priest, who had come back from
Ireland to die at home, that I first heard of the Beth-Luis-Nuin, the
Gaelic equivalent of "the A B C." Every letter in the Gaelic alphabet
is represented by a tree, and Beithe and Luis and Nuin are the Birch,
the Rowan, and the Ash. The reason why the alphabet is called the
Beth-Luis-Nuin is that B, L, N, and not A, B, C, are its first three
letters. It consists of eighteen letters--and in ancient Gaelic
seventeen, for H (the Uath, or Whitethorn) does not exist there, I
believe: and these run, B, L, N, F, S (H), D, T, C, M, G, P, R, A, O, U,
E, I--each letter represented by the name of a tree, Birch, Rowan, Ash,
etc. Properly, there is no C in Gaelic, for though the letter C is
common, it has always the sound of K.

Since this page first appeared I have had so many letters about the
Gaelic alphabet of to-day that I take the opportunity to add a few
lines. To-day as of old all the letters of the Gaelic alphabet are
called after trees, from the oak to the shrub-like elder, with the
exception of G, T, and U, which stand for Ivy, Furze and Heather. It no
longer runs B, L, N, etc., but in sequence follows the familiar and
among western peoples, universal A, B, C, etc. It is, however, short of
our Roman alphabet by eight letters J, K, Q, V, W, X, Y and Z. On the
other hand, each of these is represented, either by some other letter
having a like value or by a combination: thus K is identical with C,
which does not exist in Gaelic as a soft sound any more than it does in
Greek, but only as the C in English words such as _cat_ or _cart_, or in
combination with h as a gutteral as in _loch_--while v as common a sound
in Gaelic as the hiss of s in English exists in almost every second or
third word as _bh_ or _mh_. The Gaelic A, B, C of to-day, then, runs as
follows: Ailm, Beite, Coll, Durr, Eagh, Fearn, Gath, Huath, Togh, Luis,
Muin, Nuin, Oir, Peith, Ruis, Suil, Teine, Ur--which again is equivalent
to saying Elm, Birch, Hazel, Oak, Aspen, Alder, Ivy, Whitethorn, Yew,
Rowan or Quicken, Vine, Ash, Spindle-tree, Pine, Elder, Willow, Furze,

The little girl who knew so much about Shanny knew nothing about her own
A B C. But I owe her a debt, since through her I came upon my good
friend "Gunainm." From her I heard first, there on Iona, on a chance
visit of a few summer days, of two of the most beautiful of the ancient
Gaelic hymns, the Fiacc Hymn and the Hymn of Broccán. My friend had
delineated them as missals, with a strangely beautiful design to each.
How often I have thought of one, illustrative of a line in the Fiacc
Hymn: "There was pagan darkness in Eiré in those days: the people
adored Faerie." In the Broccán Hymn (composed by one Broccán in the time
of Lugaid, son of Loegaire, A.D. 500) is one particularly lovely line:
"Victorious Bride (Briget) loved not this vain world: here, ever, she
sat the seat of a bird on a cliff."

In a dream I dream frequently, that of being the wind, and drifting over
fragrant hedgerows and pastures, I have often, through unconscious
remembrance of that image of St. Bride sitting the seat of a bird on the
edge of the cliff that is this world, felt myself, when not lifted on
sudden warm fans of dusk, propelled as on a swift wing from the edge of
a precipice.

I would that we had these winds of dream to command. I would, now that I
am far from it, that this night at least I might pass over Iona, and
hear the sea-doves by the ruins making their sweet mournful croon of
peace, and lift, as a shadow gathering phantom flowers, the pale orchis
by the lapwing's nest.

One day, walking by a reedy lochan on the Ross of Mull, not far inland
from Fionnaphort, where is the ferry for Baile-Mòr of Iona, I met an old
man who seemed in sorrow. When he spoke I was puzzled by some words
which were not native there, and then I learned that he had long lived
in Edinburgh and later in Dunfermline, and in his work had associated
with Hollanders and others of the east seas.

He had come back, in his old age, to "see the place of his two
loves"--the hamlet in Earraid, where his old mother had blessed him
"forty year back," and the little farm where Jean Cameron had kissed him
and promised to be true. He had gone away as a soldier, and news reached
them of his death; and when he came out of the Indies, and went up Leith
Walk to the great post-house in Edinburgh, it was to learn that the
Earraid cottage was empty, and that Jean was no longer Jean Cameron.

There was not a touch of bitterness in the old man's words. "It was my
name, for one thing," he said simply: "you see, there's many a 'J.
Macdonald' in the Highland regiments; and the mistake got about that
way. No, no--the dear lass wasna to blame. And I never lost her love.
When I found out where she was I went to see her once more, an' to tell
her I understood, an' loved her all the same. It was hard, in a way,
when I found she had made a loveless marriage, but human nature's human
nature, an' I could not but be proud and glad that she had nane but
puir Jamie Macdonald in her heart. I told her I would be true to her,
and since she was poor, would help her, an' wi' God's kindness true I
was, an' helped her too. For her man did an awfu' business one day, and
was sentenced for life. She had three bairns. Well, I keepit her an'
them--though I ne'er saw them but once in the year, for she had come
back to the west, her heart brast with the towns. First one bairn died,
then another. Then Jean died."

The old man resumed suddenly: "I had put all my savings into the Grand
North Bank. When that failed I had nothing, for with the little that was
got back I bought a good 'prenticeship for Jean's eldest. Since then
I've lived by odd jobs. But I'm old now, an' broke. Every day an' every
night I think o' them two, my mother an' Jean."

"She must have been a leal fine woman," I said, but in Gaelic. With a
flash he looked at me, and then said slowly, as if remembering, "_Eudail
de mhnathan an domhain_," "Treasure of all the women in the world."

I have often thought of old "Jamie Macdonald" since. How wonderful his
deep love! This man was loyal to his love in long absence, and was not
less loyal when he found that she was the wife of another; and gave up
thought of home and comfort and companionship, so that he might make
life more easy for her and the children that were not his. He had no
outer reward for this, nor looked for any.

We crossed to Baile-Mòr together, and when I came upon him next day by
the Reilig Odhrain, I asked him what he thought of Iona.

He looked at the grey worn stones, "the stairway of the kings," the
tombs, the carved crosses, the grey ruins of the wind-harried cathedral,
and with a wave of his hand, said simply, "_Comunn mo ghaoil_," "'Tis a
companionship after my heart."

I do not doubt that the old man went on his way comforted by the grey
silence and grey beauty of this ancient place, and that he found in Iona
what would be near him for the rest of his days.

As a child I had some wise as well as foolish instruction concerning the
nations of Faerie. If, in common with nearly all happy children, I was
brought up in intimate, even in circumstantial, knowledge of "the
fairies"--being charitably taught, for one thing, so that I have often
left a little bowl of milk, a saucerful of oatcake and honey, and the
like, under a wooden seat, where they would be sure to see it--I was
told also of the Sìdhe, often so rashly and ignorantly alluded to as the
fairies in the sense of a pretty, diminutive, harmless, natural folk;
and by my nurse Barabal instructed in some of the ways, spells,
influences, and even appearances of these powerful and mysterious clans.

I do not think, unless as a very young child, I ever confused them. I
recollect well my pleasure at a sign of gratitude. I was fond of making
little reed or bulrush or ash flutes, but once I was in a place where
these were difficult to get, and I lost the only one I had. That night I
put aside a small portion of my supper of bread and milk and honey, and
remember also the sacrifice of a gooseberry of noble proportions,
relinquished, not without a sigh, in favour of any wandering fairy lad.

Next morning when I ran out--three of us then had a wild morning
performance we called some fantastic, forgotten name, and ourselves the
Sun-dancers--I saw by the emptied saucer my little reed-flute! Here was
proof positive! I was so grateful for that fairy's gratitude, that when
dusk came again I not only left a larger supper-dole than usual, but,
decked with white fox-glove bells (in which I had unbounded faith), sat
drenched in the dew and played my little reed. Any moment (I was sure) a
small green fellow would appear, and with wild indignation I found
myself snatched from the grass, and my ears dinned now with reproaches
about the dew, now with remonstrances against "that frightfu'
reed-screeching that scared awa' the varry hens."

Ah, there are souls that know nothing of fairies, or music!

But the Sìdhe are a very different people from the small clans of the
earth's delight.

However (though I could write of both a great volume), I have little to
say of either just now, except in one connection.

It is commonly said that the People of the Sìdhe dwell within the hills,
or in the underworld. In some of the isles their home, now, is spoken of
as Tir-na-thonn, the Land of the Wave, or Tir-fo-Tuinn, the Land under
the Sea.

But from a friend, an Islander of Iona, I have learned many things, and
among them, that the Shee no longer dwell within the inland hills, and
that though many of them inhabit the lonelier isles of the west, and in
particular The Seven Hunters, their Kingdom is in the North.

Some say it is among the pathless mountains of Iceland. But my friend
spoke to an Iceland man, and he said he had never seen them. There were
Secret People there, but not the Gaelic Sìdhe.

Their Kingdom is in the North, under the _Fir-Chlisneach_, the Dancing
Men, as the Hebrideans call the polar aurora. They are always young
there. Their bodies are white as the wild swan, their hair yellow as
honey, their eyes blue as ice. Their feet leave no mark on the snow. The
women are white as milk, with eyes like sloes, and lips like red rowans.
They fight with shadows, and are glad; but the shadows are not shadows
to them. The Shee slay great numbers at the full moon, but never hunt on
moonless nights, or at the rising of the moon, or when the dew is
falling. Their lances are made of reeds that glitter like shafts of ice,
and it is ill for a mortal to find one of these lances, for it is tipped
with the salt of a wave that no living thing has touched, neither the
wailing mew nor the finned sgádan nor his tribe, nor the narwhal. There
are no men of the human clans there, and no shores, and the tides are

Long ago one of the monks of Columba sailed there. He sailed for thrice
seven days till he lost the rocks of the north; and for thrice thirty
days, till Iceland in the south was like a small bluebell in a great
grey plain; and for thrice three years among bergs. For the first three
years the finned things of the sea brought him food; for the second
three years he knew the kindness of the creatures of the air; in the
last three years angels fed him. He lived among the Sìdhe for three
hundred years. When he came back to Iona, he was asked where he had been
all that long night since evensong to matins. The monks had sought him
everywhere, and at dawn had found him lying in the hollow of the long
wave that washes Iona on the north. He laughed at that, and said he had
been on the tops of the billows for nine years and three months and
twenty-one days, and for three hundred years had lived among a deathless
people. He had drunk sweet ale every day, and every day had known love
among flowers and green bushes, and at dusk had sung old beautiful
forgotten songs, and with star-flame had lit strange fires, and at the
full of the moon had gone forth laughing to slay. It was heaven, there,
under the Lights of the North. When he was asked how that people might
be known, he said that away from there they had a cold, cold hand, a
cold, still voice, and cold ice-blue eyes. They had four cities at the
four ends of the green diamond that is the world. That in the north was
made of earth; that in the east, of air; that in the south, of fire;
that in the west, of water. In the middle of the green diamond that is
the world is the Glen of Precious Stones. It is in the shape of a heart,
and glows like a ruby, though all stones and gems are there. It is there
the Sìdhe go to refresh their deathless life.

The holy monks said that this kingdom was certainly Ifurin, the Gaelic
Hell. So they put their comrade alive in a grave in the sand, and
stamped the sand down upon his head, and sang hymns so that mayhap even
yet his soul might be saved, or, at least, that when he went back to
that place he might remember other songs than those sung by the
milk-white women with eyes like sloes and lips red as rowans. "Tell that
honey-mouthed cruel people they are in Hell," said the abbot, "and give
them my ban and my curse unless they will cease laughing and loving
sinfully and slaying with bright lances, and will come out of their
secret places and be baptized."

They have not yet come.

This adventurer of the dreaming mind is another Oran, that fabulous Oran
of whom the later Columban legends tell. I think that other Orans go
out, even yet, to the Country of the Sìdhe. But few come again. It must
be hard to find that glen at the heart of the green diamond that is the
world; but, when found, harder to return by the way one came.

Once when I was sailing to Tiree, I stopped at Iona, and went to see an
old woman named Giorsal. She was of my own people, and, not being
Iona-born, the islanders called her the foreigner. She had a daughter
named Ealàsaidh, or Elsie as it is generally given in English, and I
wanted to see her even more than the old woman.

"Where is Elsie?" I asked, after our greetings were done.

Giorsal looked at me sidelong, and then shifted the kettle, and busied
herself with the teapot.

I repeated the question.

"She is gone," the old woman said, without looking at me.

"Gone? Where has she gone to?"

"I might as well ask you to tell me that."

"Is she married ... had she a lover ... or ... or ... do you mean that
she ... that you ... have lost her?"

"She's gone. That's all I know. But she isn't married, so far as I know:
an' I never knew any man she fancied: an' neither I nor any other on
Iona has seen her dead body; an' by St. Martin's Cross, neither I nor
any other saw her leave the island. And that was more than a year ago."

"But, Giorsal, she must have left Iona and gone to Mull, or maybe gone
away in a steamer, or----"

"It was in midwinter, an' when a heavy gale was tearing through the
Sound. There was no steamer an' no boat that day. There isn't a boat of
Iona that could have taken the sea that day. And no--Elsie wasna
drowned. I see that's what's in your mind. She just went out o' the
house again cryin'. I asked her what was wrong wi' her. She turned an'
smiled, an' because o' that terrifying smile I couldna say a word. She
went up behind the Ruins, an' no one saw her after that but Ian Donn. He
saw her among the bulrushes in the swamp over by Staonaig. She was
laughing an' talking to the reeds, or to the wind in the reeds. So Ian
Donn says."

"And what do _you_ say, Giorsal?"

The old woman went to the door, looked out, and closed it. When she
returned, she put another bit on the fire, and kept her gaze on the red

"Do you know much about them old Iona monks?" she asked abruptly.

"What old monks?"

"Them as they call the Culdees. You used to be askin' lots o' questions
about them. Ay? well ... they aye hated folk from the North, an'
women-folk above all."

I waited, silent.

"And Elsie, poor lass, she hated them in turn. She was all for the wild
clansmen out o' Skye and the Long Island. She said she wished the Siól
Leoid had come to Iona before Colum built the big church. And for why?
Well, there's this, for one thing: For months a monk had come to her o'
nights in her sleep, an' said he would kill her, because she was a
heathen. She went to the minister at last, an' said her say. He told her
she was a foolish wench, an' was sore angry with her. So then she went
to old Mary Gillespie, out by the lochan beyond Fionnaphort on the Ross
yonder--her that has the sight an' a power o' the old wisdom. After that
she took to meeting friends in the moonshine."


"Ay. There's no call to name names. One day she told me that she had
been bidden to go over to them. If she didn't, the monks would kill her,
they said. The monks are still the strongest here, they told her, or she
me, I forget which. That is, except over by Staonaig. Up between Sgéur
Iolaire and Cnoc Druidean there's a path that no monk can go. There, in
the old days, they burned a woman. She was not a woman, but they thought
she was. She was one o' the Sorrows of the Sheen, that they put out to
suffer for them, an' get the mortal ill. That's the plague to _them_.
It's ill to any that brings harm on _them_. That's why the monks arena
strong over by Staonaig way. But I told my girl not to mind. She was
safe wi' me, I said. She said that was true. For weeks I heard no more
o' that monk. One night Elsie came in smiling an' pluckin' wild roses.
'_Breisleach_!' I cried, 'what's the meanin' o' roses in January?' She
looked at me, frighted, an' said nothin', but threw the things on the
fire. It was next day she went away."


"An' that's all. Here's the tea. Ay, an' for sure here's my good man.
_Whist_, now! Rob, do you see who's here?"

Nothing is more strange than the confused survival of legends and pagan
faiths and early Christian beliefs, such as may be found still in some
of the isles. A Tiree man, whom I met some time ago on the boat that was
taking us both to the west, told me there's a story that Mary Magdalene
lies in a cave in Iona. She roamed the world with a blind man who loved
her, but they had no sin. One day they came to Knoidart in Argyll. Mary
Magdalene's first husband had tracked her there, and she knew that he
would kill the blind man. So she bade him lie down among some swine, and
she herself herded them. But her husband came and laughed at her. "That
is a fine boar you have there," he said. Then he put a spear through the
blind man. "Now I will take your beautiful hair," he said. He did this
and went away. She wept till she died. One of Colum's monks found her,
and took her to Iona, and she was buried in a cave. No one but Colum
knew who she was. Colum sent away the man, because he was always mooning
and lamenting. She had a great wonderful beauty to her.

It is characteristic enough, even to the quaint confusion that could
make Mary Magdalene and St. Columba contemporary. But as for the story,
what is it but the universal Gaelic legend of Diarmid and Grania? They
too wandered far to escape the avenger. It does not matter that their
"beds" are shown in rock and moor, from Glenmoriston to Loch Awe, from
Lora Water to West Loch Tarbert, with an authenticity as absolute as
that which discovers them almost anywhere between Donegal and Clare; nor
that the death-place has many sites betwixt Argyll and Connemara. In
Gaelic Scotland every one knows that Diarmid was wounded to the death on
the rocky ground between Tarbert of Loch Fyne and the West Loch. Every
one knows the part the boar played, and the part Finn played.

Doubtless the story came by way of the Shannon to the Loch of Shadows,
or from Cuchullin's land to Dûn Sobhairce on the Antrim coast, and
thence to the Scottish mainland. In wandering to the isles, it lost
something both of Eiré and Alba. The Campbells, too, claimed Diarmid;
and so the Hebrideans would as soon forget him. So, there, by one byplay
of the mind or another, it survived in changing raiment. Perhaps an
islesman had heard a strange legend about Mary Magdalene, and so named
Grania anew. Perhaps a story-teller consciously wove it the new way.
Perhaps an Iona man, hearing the tale in distant Barra or Uist, in Coll
or Tiree, "buried" Mary in a cave of Icolmkill.

The notable thing is, not that a primitive legend should love fantastic
raiment, but that it should be so much alike, where the Syrian wanders
from waste to waste, by the camp-fires of the Basque muleteers, and in
the rainy lands of the Gael.

In Mingulay, one of the south isles of the Hebrides, in South Uist, and
in Iona, I have heard a practically identical tale told with striking
variations. It is a tale so wide-spread that it has given rise to a
pathetic proverb, "Is mairg a loisgeadh a chlarsach dut," "Pity on him
who would burn the harp for you."

In Mingulay, the "harper" who broke his "harp" for a woman's love was a
young man, a fiddler. For three years he wandered out of the west into
the east, and when he had made enough money to buy a good share in a
fishing-boat, or even a boat itself, he came back to Mingulay. When he
reached his Mary's cottage, at dusk, he played her favourite air, an
"oran leannanachd," but when she came out it was with a silver ring on
her left hand and a baby in her arms. Thus poor Padruig Macneill knew
Mary had broken her troth and married another man, and so he went down
to the shore and played a "marbh-rann," and then broke his fiddle on the
rocks; and when they came upon them in the morning he had the strings of
it round his neck. In Uist, the instrument is more vaguely called a
"tiompan," and here, on a bitter cold night in a famine time, the
musician breaks it so as to feed the fire to warm his wife--a sacrifice
ill repaid by the elopement of the hard woman that night. In Iona, the
tale is of an Irish piper who came over to Icolmkill on a pilgrimage,
and to lay his "peeb-h'yanna"[5] on "the holy stones"; but, when there,
he got word that his young wife was ill, so he "made a loan of his
clar," and with the money returned to Derry, only to find that his dear
had gone away with a soldier for the Americas.

The legendary history of Iona would be as much Pagan as Christian.
To-day, at many a _ceilidh_ by the warm hearths in winter, one may hear
allusions to the Scandinavian pirates, or to their more ancient and
obscure kin, the Fomór.... The Fomór or Fomórians were a people that
lived before the Gael, and had their habitations on the isles: fierce
prowlers of the sea, who loved darkness and cold and storm, and drove
herds of wolves across the deeps. In other words, they were elemental
forces. But the name is sometimes used for the Norse pirates who ravaged
the west, from the Lews to the town of the Hurdle-ford.

In poetic narration "the men of Lochlin" occurs oftener: sometimes the
Summer-sailors, as the Vikings called themselves; sometimes, perhaps
oftenest, the Danes. The Vikings have left numerous personal names among
the islanders, notably the general term "summer-sailors," _somerlédi_,
which survives as Somerled. Many Macleods and Macdonalds are called
Somerled, Torquil (also Torcall, Thorkill), and Mànus (Magnus), and in
the Hebrides surnames such as Odrum betray a Norse origin. A glance at
any good map will reveal how largely the capes and promontories and
headlands, and small bays and havens of the west, remember the lords of
the Suderöer.

The fascination of this legendary history is in its contrast of the
barbaric and the spiritual. Since I was a child I have been held
spellbound by this singular union. To see the Virgin Mary in the sombre
and terrible figure of the Washer of the Ford, or spiritual destiny in
that of the Woman with the Net, was natural: as to believe that the
same Columba could be as tender as St. Bride or gentle as St. Francis,
and yet could thrust the living Oran back into his grave, or prophesy,
as though himself a believer in the druidic wisdom, by the barking of a
favourite hound that had a white spot on his forehead--_Donnalaich chon

Of this characteristic blending of pagan and Christian thought and
legend I have tried elsewhere to convey some sense--oftener, perhaps,
have instinctively expressed: and here, as they are apposite to Iona, I
would like to select some pages as representative of three
phases--namely, of the barbaric history of Iona, of the primitive
spiritual history which is so childlike in its simplicity, and of that
direct grafting of Christian thought and imagery upon pagan thought and
imagery which at one time, and doubtless for many generations (for it
still survives), was a normal unconscious method. Some five years ago I
wrote three short Columban stories, collectively called _The Three
Marvels of Iona_, one named "The Festival of the Birds," another "The
Sabbath of the Fishes and the Flies," and the third "The Moon-Child." It
is the second of these that, somewhat altered to its present use by
running into it part of another Columban tale, I add now.

Before dawn, on the morning of the hundredth Sabbath after Colum the
White had made glory to God in Hy, that was theretofore called Ioua, or
the Druid Isle, and is now Iona, the saint beheld his own sleep in a

Much fasting and long pondering over the missals, with their golden and
azure and sea-green initials and earth-brown branching letters, had made
Colum weary. He had brooded much of late upon the mystery of the living
world that was not man's world.

On the eve of that hundredth Sabbath, which was to be a holy festival in
Iona, he had talked long with an ancient greybeard out of a remote isle
in the north, the wild Isle of the Mountains, where Scathach the queen
hanged the men of Lochlin by their yellow hair.

This man's name was Ardan, and he was of the ancient people. He had come
to Iona because of two things. Maolmòr, the king of the northern Picts,
had sent him to learn of Colum what was this god-teaching he had brought
out of Eiré: and for himself he had come when old age was upon him, to
see what manner of man this Colum was, who had made Ioua, that was
"Innis-nan-Dhruidhnean"--the Isle of the Druids--into a place of new

For three hours Ardan and Colum had walked by the sea-shore. Each
learned of the other. Ardan bowed his head before the wisdom. Colum knew
in his heart that the Druid saw mysteries.

In the first hour they talked of God.

"Ay, sure: and now," said the saint, "O Ardan the wise, is my God thy

At that Ardan turned his eyes to the west. With his right hand he
pointed to the sun that was like a great golden flower. "Truly, He is
thy God and my God." Colum was silent. Then he said: "Thee and thine, O
Ardan, from Maolmòr the Pictish king to the least of his slaves, shall
have a long weariness in Hell. That fiery globe yonder is but the Lamp
of the World: and sad is the case of the man who knows not the torch
from the torch-bearer."

In the second hour they talked of Man. While Ardan spoke, Colum smiled
in his deep, grey eyes.

"It is for laughter that," he said, when Ardan ceased.

"And why will that be, O Colum Cille?" Ardan asked. Then the smile went
out of Colum's grey eyes, and he turned and looked about him.

He saw near, a crow, a horse, and a hound.

"These are thy brethren," he said scornfully.

But Ardan answered quietly, "Even so."

The third hour they talked about the beasts of the earth and the fowls
of the air.

At the last Ardan said: "The ancient wisdom hath it that these are the
souls of men and women that have been, or are to be." Whereat Colum
answered: "The new wisdom, that is old as eternity, declareth that God
created all things in love. Therefore are we at one, O Ardan, though we
sail to the Isle of Truth from the west and the east. Let there be peace
between us." "Peace," said Ardan.

That eve, Ardan of the Picts sat with the monks of Iona.

Colum blessed him and said a saying. Cathal of the Songs sang a hymn of
beauty. Ardan rose, and put the wine of guests to his lips, and chanted
this rann:

    O Colum and monks of Christ,
    It is peace we are having this night:
    Sure, peace is a good thing,
    And I am glad with the gladness.

    We worship one God,
    Though ye call him Dia--
    And I say not, O Dè!
    But cry _Bea'uil Bêl_!

    For it is one faith for man,
    And one for the living world,
    And no man is wiser than another--
    And none knoweth much.

    None knoweth a better thing than this:
    The Sword, Love, Song, Honour, Sleep.
    None knoweth a surer thing than this:
    Birth, Sorrow, Pain, Weariness, Death.

    Sure, peace is a good thing;
    Let us be glad of peace:
    We are not men of the Sword,
    But of the Rune and the Wisdom.

    I have learned a truth of Colum,
    And he hath learned of me:
    All ye on the morrow shall see
    A wonder of the wonders.

Ardan would say no more after that, though all besought him. Many
pondered long that night. Cathal made a song of mystery. Colum brooded
through the dark; but before dawn he fell asleep upon the fern that
strewed his cell. At dawn, with waking eyes, and weary, he saw his Sleep
in a vision.

It stood grey and wan beside him.

"What art thou, O Spirit?" he said.

"I am thy Sleep, Colum."

"And is it peace?"

"It is peace."

"What wouldst thou?"

"I have wisdom. Thy mind and thy soul were closed. I could not give what
I brought. I brought wisdom."

"Give it."


And Colum, sitting upon the strewed fern that was his bed, rubbed his
eyes that were heavy with weariness and fasting and long prayer. He
could not see his Sleep now. It was gone as smoke that is licked up by
the wind....

For three days thereafter Colum fasted, save for a handful of meal at
dawn, a piece of rye-bread at noon, and a mouthful of dulse and
spring-water at sun-down. On the night of the third day, Oran and Keir
came to him in his cell. Colum was on his knees lost in prayer. No sound
was there, save the faint whispered muttering of his lips and on the
plastered wall the weary buzzing of a fly.

"Holy One!" said Oran in a low voice, soft with pity and awe; "Holy

But Colum took no notice. His lips still moved, and the tangled hairs
below his nether lip shivered with his failing breath.

"Father!" said Keir, tender as a woman; "Father!"

Colum did not turn his eyes from the wall. The fly droned his drowsy hum
upon the rough plaster. It crawled wearily for a space, then stopped.
The slow hot drone filled the cell.

"Father," said Oran, "it is the will of the brethren that thou shouldst
break thy fast. Thou art old, and God has thy glory. Give us peace."

"Father," urged Keir, seeing that Colum kneeled unnoticingly, his lips
still moving above his grey beard, with the white hair of him falling
about his head like a snowdrift slipping from a boulder. "Father, be
pitiful! We hunger and thirst for thy presence. We can fast no longer,
yet we have no heart to break our fast if thou art not with us. Come,
holy one, and be of our company, and eat of the good broiled fish that
awaiteth us. We perish for the benediction of thine eyes."

Then it was that Colum rose, and walked slowly towards the wall.

"Little black beast," he said to the fly that droned its drowsy hum and
moved not at all; "little black beast, sure it is well I am knowing
what you are. You are thinking you are going to get my blessing, you
that have come out of hell for the soul of me!"

At that the fly flew heavily from the wall, and slowly circled round and
round the head of Colum the White.

"What think ye of that, brother Oran, brother Keir?" he asked in a low
voice, hoarse because of his long fast and the weariness that was upon

"It is a fiend," said Oran.

"It is an angel," said Keir.

Thereupon the fly settled upon the wall again, and again droned his
drowsy hot hum.

"Little black beast," said Colum, with the frown coming down into his
eyes, "is it for peace you are here, or for sin? Answer, I conjure you
in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost!"

"_An ainn an Athar, 's an Mhic, 's an Spioraid Naoimh_," repeated Oran
below his breath.

"_An ainn an Athar, 's an Mhic, 's an Spioraid Naoimh_," repeated Keir
below his breath.

Then the fly that was upon the wall flew up to the roof and circled to
and fro. And it sang a beautiful song, and its song was this:

    Praise be to God, and a blessing too at that, and a blessing!
    For Colum the White, Colum the Dove, hath worshipped;
    Yea, he hath worshipped and made of a desert a garden,
    And out of the dung of men's souls have made a sweet savour of

    A savour of burning, most sweet, a fire for the altar,
    This he hath made in the desert; the hell-saved all gladden.
    Sure he hath put his benison, too, on milch-cow and bullock,
    On the fowls of the air, and the man-eyed seals, and the otter.

    But high in His Dûn in the great blue mainland of heaven,
    God the All-Father broodeth, where the harpers are harping His
    There where He sitteth, where a river of ale poureth ever,
    His great sword broken, His spear in the dust, He broodeth.

    And this is the thought that moves in his brain, as a cloud filled
      with thunder
    Moves through the vast hollow sky filled with the dust of the
    "What boots it the glory of Colum, when he maketh a Sabbath to bless
    And hath no thought of my sons in the deeps of the air and the sea?"

And with that the fly passed from their vision. In the cell was a most
wondrous sweet song, like the sound of far-off pipes over water.

Oran said in a low voice of awe, "O God, our God!"

Keir whispered, white with fear, "O God, my God!"

But Colum rose, and took a scourge from where it hung on the wall. "It
shall be for peace, Oran," he said, with a grim smile flitting like a
bird above the nest of his grey beard; "it shall be for peace, Keir!"

And with that he laid the scourge heavily upon the bent backs of Keir
and Oran, nor stayed his hand, nor let his three days' fast weaken the
deep piety that was in the might of his arm, and because of the glory of

Then, when he was weary, peace came into his heart, and he sighed

"Amen!" said Oran the monk.

"Amen!" said Keir the monk.

"And this thing has been done," said Colum, "because of your evil wish
and the brethren, that I should break my fast, and eat of fish, till God
will it. And lo, I have learned a mystery. Ye shall all witness to it on
the morrow, which is the Sabbath."

That night the monks wondered much. Only Oran and Keir cursed the fishes
in the deeps of the sea and the flies in the deeps of the air.

On the morrow, when the sun was yellow on the brown seaweed, and there
was peace on the isle and upon the waters, Colum and the brotherhood
went slowly towards the sea.

At the meadows that are close to the sea, the saint stood still. All
bowed their heads.

"O winged things of the air," cried Colum, "draw near!"

With that the air was full of the hum of innumerous flies, midges, bees,
wasps, moths, and all winged insects. These settled upon the monks, who
moved not, but praised God in silence.

"Glory and praise to God," cried Colum, "behold the Sabbath of the
children of God that inhabit the deeps of the air! Blessing and peace be
upon them."

"Peace! Peace!" cried the monks, with one voice.

"In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost!" cried Colum
the White, glad because of the glory to God.

"_An ainn an Athar, 's an Mhic, 's an Spioraid Naoimh_," cried the
monks, bowing reverently, and Oran and Keir deepest of all, because they
saw the fly that was of Colum's cell leading the whole host, as though
it were its captain, and singing to them a marvellous sweet song.

Oran and Keir testified to this thing, and all were full of awe and
wonder, and Colum praised God.

Then the saints and the brotherhood moved onward and went upon the
rocks. When all stood ankle-deep in the seaweed that was swaying in the
tide, Colum cried:

"O finny creatures of the deep, draw near!"

And with that the whole sea shimmered as with silver and gold. All the
fishes of the sea, and the great eels, and the lobsters and the crabs,
came in a swift and terrible procession. Great was the glory.

Then Colum cried, "O fishes of the deep, who is your king?" Whereupon
the herring, the mackerel, and the dogfish swam forward, and each
claimed to be king. But the echo that ran from wave to wave said, _The
Herring is King_!

Then Colum said to the mackerel, "Sing the song that is upon you."

And the mackerel sang the song of the wild rovers of the sea, and the
lust of pleasure.

Then Colum said, "But for God's mercy, I would curse you, O false fish."

Then he spoke likewise to the dogfish, and the dogfish sang of slaughter
and the chase, and the joy of blood.

And Colum said, "Hell shall be your portion."

Then there was peace. And the herring said:

"In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost."

Whereat all that mighty multitude, before they sank into the deep, waved
their fins and their claws, each after its kind, and repeated as with
one voice:

"_An ain ann Athar, 's an Mhic, 's an Spioraid Naoimh!_"

And the glory that was upon the Sound of Iona was as though God trailed
a starry net upon the waters, with a shining star in every little
hollow, and a flowing moon of gold on every wave.

Then Colum the White put out both his arms, and blessed the children of
God that are in the deeps of the sea and that are in the deeps of the

That is how Sabbath came upon all living things upon Ioua that is
called Iona, and within the air above Ioua, and within the sea that is
around Ioua.

And the glory is Colum's.

To illustrate the history of the island I select the following episode
from _Barbaric Tales_. It deals with The Flight of the Culdees. The name
culdee is somewhat loosely used both by mediæval and modern writers, for
it does not appear to have been given to the Brotherhood of the Columban
Church till two hundred years after Columba's death. The word may be
taken to mean the Cleric of God; perhaps, later, it was the equivalent
of anchorite. This episode is, in date, about A.D. 800 or soon after.

On the wane of the moon, on the day following the ruin of Bail'-tiorail,
sails were seen far east of Stromness.

Olaus the White called his men together. The boats coming before the
wind were doubtless his own galleys which he had lost when the
south-gale had blown them against Skye; but no man can know when and how
the gods may smile grimly, and let the swords that whirl be broken, or
the spears that are flat become a hedge of death.

An hour later, a startled word went from viking to viking. The galleys
in the offing were the fleet of Sweno the Hammerer. Why had he come so
far southward, and why were oars so swift and the stained sails
distended before the wind? They were soon to know.

Sweno himself was the first to land. A great man he was, broad and
burly, with a sword-slash across his face that brought his brows in a
perpetual frown above his savage blood-shot eyes.

In few words he told how he had met a galley, with only half its crew,
and of these many who were wounded. It was the last of the fleet of Haco
the Laugher. A fleet of fifteen war-birlinns had set out from the Long
Island, and had given battle. Haco had gone into the strife, laughing
loud as was his wont, and he and all his men had the berserk rage, and
fought with joy and foam at the mouth. Never had the Sword sung a
sweeter song.

"Well," said Olaus the White grimly, "well, how did the Raven fly?"

"When Haco laughed for the last time, his sword waving out of the
death-tide where he sank, there was only one galley left. No more than
nine vikings lived thereafter to tell the tale. These nine we took out
of their boat, which was below waves soon. Haco and his men are all
fighting the sea-shadows by now."

A loud snarling went from man to man. This became a cry of rage. Then
savage shouts filled the air. Swords were lifted up against the sky; and
the fierce glitter of blue eyes and the bristling of tawny beards were
fair to see, thought the captive women, though their hearts beat in
their breasts like eaglets behind the bars of a cage.

Sweno the Hammerer frowned a deep frown when he heard that Olaus was
there with only the _Svart-Alf_ out of the galleys which had gone the
southward way.

"If the islanders come upon us now with their birlinns we shall have to
make a running fight," he said.

Olaus laughed.

"Ay, but the running shall be after the birlinns, Sweno."

"I hear there are fifty and nine men of these Culdees yonder under the
sword-priest, Maoliosa?"

"It is a true word. But to-night, after the moon is up, there shall be

At that, all who heard laughed, and were less heavy in their hearts
because of the slaying and drowning of Haco the Laugher and all his

"Where is the woman Brenda that you took?" Olaus asked, as he stared at
Sweno's boat and saw no woman there.

"She is in the sea."

Olaus the White looked. It was his eyes that asked.

"I flung her into the sea because she laughed when she heard of how the
birlinns that were under Somhairle the Renegade drove in upon our ships,
and how Haco laughed no more, and the sea was red with viking blood."

"She was a woman, Sweno--and none more fair in the isles, after Morna
that is mine."

"Woman or no woman, I flung her into the sea. The Gael call us Gall:
then I will let no Gael laugh at the Gall. It is enough. She is drowned.
There are always women: one here, one there--it is but a wave blown this
way or that."

At this moment a viking came running across the ruined town with
tidings. Maoliosa and his culdees were crowding into a great birlinn.
Perhaps they were coming to give battle: perhaps they were for sailing
away from that place.

Olaus and Sweno stared across the fjord. At first they knew not what to
do. If Maoliosa thought of battle he would hardly choose that hour and
place. Or was it that he knew the Gael were coming in force, and that
the vikings were caught in a trap?

At last it was clear. Sweno gave a great laugh.

"By the blood of Odin," he cried, "they come to sue for peace!"

Filled with white-robed culdees, the birlinn drew slowly across the
loch. A tall, old man stood at the prow, with streaming hair and beard,
white as sea-foam. In his right hand he grasped a great Cross, whereon
Christ was crucified.

The vikings drew close to one another.

"Hail them in their own tongue, Sweno," said Olaus.

The Hammerer moved to the water-edge, as the birlinn stopped, a short
arrow-flight away.

"Ho, there, priests of the Christ-faith!"

"What would you, viking?" It was Maoliosa himself that spoke.

"Why do you come here among us, you that are Maoliosa?"

"To win you and yours to God, Pagan."

"Is it madness that is upon you, old man? We have swords and spears
here, if we lack hymns and prayers."

All this time Olaus kept a wary watch inland and seaward, for he feared
that Maoliosa came because of an ambush.

Truly the old monk was mad. He had told his culdees that God would
prevail, and that the pagans would melt away before the Cross. The
ebb-tide was running swift. Even while Sweno spoke, the birlinn touched
a low sea-hidden ledge of rock. A cry of consternation went up from the
white-robes. Loud laughter came from the vikings.

"Arrows!" cried Olaus.

With that threescore men took their bows. A hail of death-shafts fell.
Many pierced the water, but some pierced the necks and hearts of the

Maoliosa himself, stood in death transfixed to the mast. With a scream
the monks swept their oars backward. Then they leaped to their feet, and
changed their place, and rowed for life.

The summer-sailors sprang into their galley. Sweno the Hammerer was at
the bow. The foam curled and hissed. The birlinn of the culdees grided
upon the opposite shore at the moment when Sweno brought down his
battle-axe upon the monk who steered. The man was cleft to the shoulder.
Sweno swayed with the blow, stumbled, and fell headlong into the sea. A
culdee thrust at him with an oar, and pinned him among the sea-tangle.
Thus died Sweno the Hammerer.

Like a flock of sheep the white-robes leaped upon the shore. Yet Olaus
was quicker than they. With a score of vikings he raced to the Church of
the Cells, and gained the sanctuary. The monks uttered a cry of despair,
and, turning, fled across the sands. Olaus counted them. There were now
forty in all.

"Let forty men follow," he cried.

The monks fled this way and that. Olaus, and those who watched, laughed
to see how they stumbled, because of their robes. One by one fell,
sword-cleft or spear-thrust. The sand-dunes were red.

Soon there were fewer than a score--then twelve only--ten!

"Bring them back!" Olaus shouted.

When the ten fugitives were captured and brought back, Olaus took the
crucifix that Maoliosa had raised, and held it before each in turn.

"Smite!" he said to the first monk. But the man would not.

"Smite!" he said to the second; but he would not. And so it was to the

"Good!" said Olaus the White; "they shall witness to their God."

With that he bade his vikings break up the birlinn, and drive the planks
into the ground and shore them up with logs. When this was done he
crucified each culdee. With nails and with ropes he did unto each what
their God had suffered. Then all were left there by the water-side.

That night, when Olaus the White and the laughing Morna left the great
bonfire where the vikings sang and drank horn after horn of strong ale,
they stood and looked across the strait. In the moonlight, upon the dim
verge of the island shore, they could see ten crosses. On each was a
motionless white splatch.

Once more, for an instance of the grafting of Christian thought and
imagery on pagan thought and imagery, I take a few pages of the
introductory part to the story of "The Woman with the Net," in a later
volume.[6] They tell of a young monk who, inspired by Colum's holy
example, went out of Iona as a missionary to the Pictish heathen of the

When Artân had kissed the brow of every white-robed brother on Iona, and
had been thrice kissed by the aged Colum, his heart was filled with

It was late summer, and in the afternoon-light peace lay on the green
waters of the Sound, on the green grass of the dunes, on the domed
wicker-woven cells of the culdees over whom the holy Colum ruled, and on
the little rock-strewn hill which rose above where stood Colum's wattled
church of sun-baked mud. The abbot walked slowly by the side of the
young man. Colum was tall, with hair long and heavy but white as the
canna, and with a beard that hung low on his breast, grey as the moss on
old firs. His blue eyes were tender. The youth--for though he was a
grown man he seemed a youth beside Colum--had beauty. He was tall and
comely, with yellow curling hair, and dark-blue eyes, and a skin so
white that it troubled some of the monks who dreamed old dreams and
washed them away in tears and scourgings.

"You have the bitter fever of youth upon you, Artân," said Colum, as
they crossed the dunes beyond Dûn-I; "but you have no fear, and you will
be a flame among these Pictish idolaters, and you will be a lamp to show
them the way."

"And when I come again, there will be clappings of hands, and hymns,
and many rejoicings?"

"I do not think you will come again," said Colum. "The wild people of
these northlands will burn you, or crucify you, or put you upon the
crahslat, or give you thirst and hunger till you die. It will be a great
joy for you to die like that, Artân, my son?"

"Ay, a great joy," answered the young monk, but with his eyes dreaming
away from his words.

Silence was between them as they neared the cove where a large coracle
lay, with three men in it.

"Will God be coming to Iona when I am away?" asked Artân.

Colum stared at him.

"Is it likely that God would come here in a coracle?" he asked, with
scornful eyes.

The young man looked abashed. For sure, God would not come in a coracle,
just as he himself might come. He knew by that how Colum had reproved
him. He would come in a cloud of fire, and would be seen from far and
near. Artân wondered if the place he was going to was too far north for
him to see that greatness; but he feared to ask.

"Give me a new name," he asked; "give me a new name, my father."

"What name will you have?"

"Servant of Mary."

"So be it, Artân Gille-Mhoire."

With that Colum kissed him and bade farewell, and Artân sat down in the
coracle, and covered his head with his mantle, and wept and prayed.

The last word he heard was, _Peace_!

"That is a good word, and a good thing," he said to himself; "and
because I am the Servant of Mary, and the Brother of Jesu the Son, I
will take peace to the _Cruitnè_, who know nothing of that blessing of
the blessings."

When he unfolded his mantle, he saw that the coracle was already far
from Iona. The south wind blew, and the tides swept northward, and the
boat moved swiftly across the water. The sea was ashine with froth and
small waves leaping like lambs.

In the boat were Thorkeld, a helot of Iona, and two dark wild-eyed men
of the north. They were Picts, but could speak the tongue of the Gael.
Myrdu, the Pictish king of Skye, had sent them to Iona, to bring back
from Colum a culdee who could show wonders.

"And tell the chief Druid of the Godmen," Myrdu had said, "that if his
culdee does not show me good wonders, and so make me believe in his two
gods and the woman, I will put an ash-shaft through his body from the
hips and out at his mouth, and send him back on the north tide to the
Isle of the White-Robes." The sun was already among the outer isles when
the coracle passed near the Isle of Columns. A great noise was in the
air: the noise of the waves in the caverns, and the noise of the tide,
like sea-wolves growling, and like bulls bellowing in a narrow pass of
the hills.

A sudden current caught the boat, and it began to drift towards great
reefs white with ceaseless torn streams.

Thorkeld leaned from the helm, and shouted to the two Picts. They did
not stir, but sat staring, idle with fear.

Artân knew now that it was as Colum had said. God would give him glory

So he took the little clarsach he had for hymns, for he was the best
harper on Iona, and struck the strings, and sang. But the Latin words
tangled in his throat, and he knew too that the men in the boat would
not understand what he sang; also that the older gods still came far
south, and in the caves of the Isle of Columns were demons. There was
only one tongue common to all; and since God has wisdom beyond that of
Colum himself, He would know the song in Gaelic as well as though sung
in Latin.

So Artân let the wind take his broken hymn, and he made a song of his
own, and sang:

    O Heavenly Mary, Queen of the Elements,
    And you, Brigit the fair with the little harp,
    And all the saints, and all the old gods
    (And it is not one of them I'd be disowning),
    Speak to the Father, that he may save us from drowning.

Then seeing that the boat drifted closer, he sang again:

    Save us from the rocks and the sea, Queen of Heaven!
    And remember that I am a Culdee of Iona,
    And that Colum has sent me to the _Cruitnè_
    To sing them the song of peace lest they be damned for ever!

Thorkeld laughed at that.

"Can the woman put swimming upon you?" he said roughly. "I would rather
have the good fin of a great fish now than any woman in the skies."

"You will burn in hell for that," said Artân, the holy zeal warm at his

But Thorkeld answered nothing. His hand was on the helm, his eyes on the
foaming rocks. Besides, what had he to do with the culdee's hell or
heaven? When he died, he, who was a man of Lochlann, would go to his own

One of the dark men stood, holding the mast. His eyes shone. Thick words
swung from his lips like seaweed thrown out of a hollow by an ebbing

The coracle swerved, and the four men were wet with the heavy spray.

Thorkeld put his oar in the water, and the swaying craft righted.

"Glory to God," said Artân.

"There is no glory to your god in this," said Thorkeld scornfully. "Did
you not hear what Necta sang? He sang to the woman in there that drags
men into the caves, and throws their bones on the next tide. He put an
incantation upon her, and she shrank, and the boat slid away from the

"That is a true thing," thought Artân. He wondered if it was because he
had not sung his hymn in the holy Latin.

When the last flame died out of the west, and the stars came like sheep
gathering at the call of the shepherd, Artân remembered that he had not
said his prayers and sang the vesper hymn.

He lay back and listened. There were no bells calling across the water.
He looked into the depths. It was Manann's kingdom, and he had never
heard that God was there; but he looked. Then he stared into the
dark-blue star-strewn sky.

Suddenly he touched Thorkeld.

"Tell me," he said, "how far north has the Cross of Christ come?"

"By the sea way it has not come here yet. Murdoch the Freckled came with
it this way, but he was pulled into the sea, and he died."

"Who pulled him into the sea?"

Thorkeld stared into the running wave. He had no words.

Artân lay still for a long while.

"It will go ill with me," he thought, "if Mary cannot see me so far away
from Iona, and if God will not listen to me. Colum should have known
that, and given me a holy leaf with the fair branching letters on it,
and the Latin words that are the words of God."

Then he spoke to the man who had sung.

"Do you know of Mary, and God, and the Son, and the Spirit?"

"You have too many Gods, Culdee," answered the Pict sullenly: "for of
these one is your god's son, and the other is the woman his mother, and
the third is the ghost of an ancestor."

Artân frowned.

"The curse of the God of Peace upon you for that," he said angrily; "do
you know that you have hell for your dwelling-place if you speak evil of
God the Father, and the Son, and the Mother of God?"

"How long have they been in Iona, White-Robe?"

The man spoke scornfully. Artân knew they had not been there many years.
He had no words.

"My father worshipped the Sun on the Holy Isle before ever your great
Druid that is called Colum crossed the Moyle. Were your three gods in
the coracle with Colum? They were not on the Holy Isle when he came."

"They were coming there," answered Artân confusedly. "It is a long, long
way from--from--from the place they were sailing from."

Necta listened sullenly.

"Let them stay on Iona," he said: "gods though they be, it would fare
ill with them if they came upon the Woman with the Net." Then he turned
on his side, and lay by the man Darach, who was staring at the moon and
muttering words that neither Artân nor Thorkeld knew.

A white calm fell. The boat lay like a leaf on a silent pool. There was
nothing between that dim wilderness and the vast sweeping blackness
filled with quivering stars, but the coracle, that a wave could crush.

At times, I doubt not, there must have been weaker brethren among these
simple and devoted Culdees of Iona, though in Colum's own day there was
probably none (unless it were Oran) who was not the visible outward
shrine of a pure flame.

Thinking of such an one, and not without furtive pagan sympathy, I wrote
the other day these lines, which I may also add here as a further
side-light upon that half-Pagan, half-Christian basis upon which the
Columban Church of Iona stood.

    Balva the old monk I am called: when I was young, Balva Honeymouth.
    That was before Colum the White came to Iona in the West.
    She whom I loved was a woman whom I won out of the South.
    And I had a good heaven with my lips on hers and with breast to

    Balva the old monk I am called: were it not for the fear
    That the soul of Colum the White would meet my soul in the Narrows
    That sever the living and dead, I would rise up from here,
    And go back to where men pray with spears and arrows.

    Balva the old monk I am called: ugh! ugh! the cold bell of the
      matins--'tis dawn!
    Sure it's a dream I have had that I was in a warm wood with the sun
    And that against me in the pleasant greenness was a soft fawn,
    And a voice that whispered "Balva Honeymouth, drink, I am thy wine!"

As I write,[7] here on the hill-slope of Dûn-I, the sound of the furtive
wave is as the sighing in a shell. I am alone between sea and sky, for
there is no other on this bouldered height, nothing visible but a single
blue shadow that slowly sails the hillside. The bleating of lambs and
ewes, the lowing of kine, these come up from the Machar that lies
between the west slopes and the shoreless sea to the west; these ascend
as the very smoke of sound. All round the island there is a continuous
breathing; deeper and more prolonged on the west, where the open sea
is; but audible everywhere. The seals on Soa are even now putting their
breasts against the running tide; for I see a flashing of fins here and
there in patches at the north end of the Sound, and already from the
ruddy granite shores of the Ross there is a congregation of
seafowl--gannets and guillemots, skuas and herring-gulls, the
long-necked northern diver, the tern, the cormorant. In the sunblaze,
the waters of the Sound dance their blue bodies and swirl their flashing
white hair o' foam; and, as I look, they seem to me like children of the
wind and the sunshine, leaping and running in these flowing pastures,
with a laughter as sweet against the ears as the voices of children at

The joy of life vibrates everywhere. Yet the Weaver does not sleep, but
only dreams. He loves the sun-drowned shadows. They are invisible thus,
but they are there, in the sunlight itself. Sure, they may be heard: as,
an hour ago, when on my way hither by the Stairway of the Kings--for so
sometimes they call here the ancient stones of the mouldered princes of
long ago--I heard a mother moaning because of the son that had had to go
over-sea and leave her in her old age; and heard also a child sobbing,
because of the sorrow of childhood--that sorrow so unfathomable, so
incommunicable. And yet not a stone's-throw from where I lie, half
hidden beneath an overhanging rock, is the Pool of Healing. To this
small, black-brown tarn, pilgrims of every generation, for hundreds of
years, have come. Solitary, these; not only because the pilgrim to the
Fount of Eternal Youth must fare hither alone, and at dawn, so as to
touch the healing water the moment the first sunray quickens it--but
solitary, also, because those who go in quest of this Fount of Youth are
the dreamers and the Children of Dream, and these are not many, and few
come now to this lonely place. Yet, an Isle of Dream Iona is, indeed.
Here the last sun-worshippers bowed before the Rising of God; here
Columba and his hymning priests laboured and brooded; and here Oran or
his kin dreamed beneath the monkish cowl that pagan dream of his. Here,
too, the eyes of Fionn and Oisìn, and of many another of the heroic men
and women of the Fiànna, may have lingered; here the Pict and the Celt
bowed beneath the yoke of the Norse pirate, who, too, left his dreams,
or rather his strangely beautiful soul-rainbows, as a heritage to the
stricken; here, for century after century, the Gael has lived, suffered,
joyed, dreamed his impossible, beautiful dream; as here, now, he still
lives, still suffers patiently, still dreams, and through all and over
all, broods upon the incalculable mysteries. He is an elemental, among
the elemental forces. He knows the voices of wind and sea: and it is
because the Fount of Youth upon Dûn-I of Iona is not the only wellspring
of peace, that the Gael can front destiny as he does, and can endure.
Who knows where its tributaries are? They may be in your heart, or in
mine, and in a myriad others.

I would that the birds of Angus Òg might, for once, be changed, not, as
fabled, into the kisses of love, but into doves of peace, that they
might fly into the green world, and nest there in many hearts, in many
minds, crooning their incommunicable song of joy and hope.

A doomed and passing race. I have been taken to task for these words.
But they are true, in the deep reality where they obtain. Yes, but true
only in one sense, however vital that is. The Breton's eyes are slowly
turning from the enchanted West, and slowly his ears are forgetting the
whisper of the wind around menhir and dolmen. The Manxman has ever been
the mere yeoman of the Celtic chivalry; but even his rude dialect
perishes year by year. In Wales, a great tradition survives; in Ireland,
a supreme tradition fades through sunset-hued horizons; in Celtic
Scotland, a passionate regret, a despairing love and longing, narrows
yearly before a dull and incredibly selfish alienism. The Celt has at
last reached his horizon. There is no shore beyond. He knows it. This
has been the burden of his song since Malvina led the blind Oisìn to his
grave by the sea: "Even the Children of Light must go down into
darkness." But this apparition of a passing race is no more than the
fulfilment of a glorious resurrection before our very eyes. For the
genius of the Celtic race stands out now with averted torch, and the
light of it is a glory before the eyes, and the flame of it is blown
into the hearts of the stronger people. The Celt fades, but his spirit
rises in the heart and the mind of the Anglo-Celtic peoples, with whom
are the destinies of generations to come.

I stop, and look seaward from this hillslope of Dûn-I. Yes, even in this
Isle of Joy, as it seems in this dazzle of golden light and splashing
wave, there is the like mortal gloom and immortal mystery which moved
the minds of the old seers and bards. Yonder, where that thin spray
quivers against the thyme-set cliff, is the Spouting Cave, where to this
day the Mar-Tarbh, dread creature of the sea, swims at the full of the
tide. Beyond, out of sight behind these craggy steeps, is
Port-na-Churaich, where, a thousand years ago, Columba landed in his
coracle. Here, eastward, is the landing-place, for the dead of old,
brought hence out of Christendom for sacred burial in the Isle of the
Saints. All the story of the Gael is here. Iona is the microcosm of the
Gaelic world.

Last night, about the hour of the sun's going, I lay upon the heights
near the Cave, overlooking the Machar--the sandy, rock-frontiered plain
of duneland on the west side of Iona, exposed to the Atlantic. There was
neither bird nor beast, no living thing to see, save one solitary human
creature. The man toiled at kelp-burning. I watched the smoke till it
merged into the sea-mist that came creeping swiftly out of the north,
and down from Dûn-I eastward. At last nothing was visible. The mist
shrouded everything. I could hear the dull, rhythmic beat of the waves.
That was all. No sound, nothing visible.

It was, or seemed, a long while before a rapid thud-thud trampled the
heavy air. Then I heard the rush, the stamping and neighing, of some
young mares, pasturing there, as they raced to and fro, bewildered or
perchance in play. A glimpse I caught of three, with flying manes and
tails; the others were blurred shadows only. A swirl, and the mist
disclosed them; a swirl, and the mist enfolded them again. Then, silence
once more.

Abruptly, though not for a long time thereafter, the mist rose and
drifted seaward.

All was as before. The kelp-burner still stood, straking the smouldering
seaweed. Above him a column ascended, bluely spiral, dusked with shadow.

The kelp-burner: who was he but the Gael of the Isles? Who but the Gael
in his old-world sorrow? The mist falls and the mist rises. He is there
all the same, behind it, part of it; and the column of smoke is the
incense out of his longing heart that desires Heaven and Earth, and is
dowered only with poverty and pain, hunger and weariness, a little isle
of the seas, a great hope, and the love of love.

But ... to the island-story once more!

Some day, surely, the historian of Iona will appear.

How many "history-books" there are like dead leaves. The simile is a
travesty. There is no little russet leaf of the forest that could not
carry more real, more intimate knowledge. There is no leaf that could
not reveal mystery of form, mystery of colour, wonder of structure,
secret of growth, the law of harmony; that could not testify to birth,
and change, and decay, and death; and what history tells us more?--that
could not, to the inward ear, bring the sound of the south wind making a
greenness in the woods of Spring, the west wind calling his brown and
red flocks to the fold.

What a book it will be! It will reveal to us the secret of what Oisìn
sang, what Merlin knew, what Columba dreamed, what Adamnan hoped: what
this little "lamp of Christ" was to pagan Europe; what incense of
testimony it flung upon the winds; what saints and heroes went out of
it; how the dust of kings and princes were brought there to mingle with
its sands; how the noble and the ignoble came to it across long seas and
perilous countries. It will tell, too, how the Danes ravaged the isles
of the west, and left not only their seed for the strengthening of an
older race, but imageries and words, words and imageries so alive to-day
that the listener in the mind may hear the cries of the viking above
the voice of the Gael and the more ancient tongue of the Pict. It will
tell, too, how the nettle came to shed her snow above kings' heads, and
the thistle to wave where bishops' mitres stood; how a simple people out
of the hills and moors, remembering ancient wisdom or blindly cherishing
forgotten symbols, sought here the fount of youth; and how, slowly, a
long sleep fell upon the island, and only the grasses shaken in the
wind, and the wind itself, and the broken shadows of dreams in the minds
of the old, held the secret of Iona. And, at the last--with what lift,
with what joy--it will tell how once more the doves of hope and peace
have passed over its white sands, this little holy land! This little
holy land! Ah, white doves, come again! A thousand thousand wait.


[2] A more polished later version, though attributed to Columba, runs:--

    "An I mo chridhe, I mo ghràidh
    An àite guth mhanach bidh géum ba;
    Ach mu'n tig an saoghal gu crich,
    Bithidh I mar a bha."

(In effect: _In Iona that is my heart's desire, Iona that is my love,
the lowing of cows shall yet replace the voices of monks: but before the
end is come Iona shall again be as it was._)

[3] In a beautiful old Scoto-Gaelic ballad, the "Bàs Fhraoich," occurs
the line, _Thuit i air an tràigh na neul_, "she fell on the shore as a
mist," though here finely used for a swoon only.

[4] An allusion to the Hebridean proverb, _Ma dh' itheas tu cridh an
eòin, bidh do chridhe air chrith ri d' bheò_ ("If you eat the bird's
heart, your heart will palpitate for ever.")

[5] The Irish pipes are called "Piob-theannaich" to distinguish them
from the "Piob" or "Piob-Mhòr" of the Highlands.

[6] _The Dominion of Dreams_, 1st Ed.

[7] See Notes, p. 429.


    "_Cette âme qui se lamente
    En cette plaine dormante
      C'est la nôtre n'est-ce pas?
    La mienne, dis, et la tienne,
    Dont s'exhale l'humble antienne
      Par ce tiède soir, tout, bas?_"

By Sundown Shores

    "_'N hano ann Tad, ar Mab hac ar Spered-Zantel,
    Homan' zo'r ganaouenn zavet en Breiz-Izel!
    Zavet gant eur paour-kèz, en Ar-goat, en Ar-vor,
    Kanet anez-hi, pewienn, hac ho pezo digor._"

    "In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit
    This song of mine was raised in my Breton Fatherland,
    In Argoat forest-clad, in Arvor of the grey wave:
    Sing it, wayfarers, and all gates will open before you."

I do not know the name of the obscure minstrel who sang this song, as he
passed from village to village, by the coasts, along the heath-lands of
Brittany. But there are poets who have no name and no country, because
they are named by the secret name of the longing of many minds, and
mysteriously come from and pass to the Land of Heart's Desire, which is
their own land. This wandering Breton minstrel is of that company. His
sône is familiar. I have heard it where Connemara breaks in grey rock
and sudden pastures to the sea: where only the wind and the heather
people the solitudes of Argyll: where the silent Isles shelve to
perpetual foam. He speaks for all his brotherhood of Armorica: he speaks
also for the greater brotherhood of his race, the broken peoples who now
stand upon the sundown shores, from wild Ushant to the cliffs of Achil,
from St. Bride's Bay to solitary St. Kilda. He is not only the genius of
Arvor, daughter of dreams, but the genius of a race whose farewell is in
a tragic lighting of torches of beauty around its grave. For it is the
soul of the Celt who wanders homeless to-day, with his pathetic burthen
that his _sône_ was made by ancestral woods, by the unchanging sea;
dreaming the enchanted air will open all doors. Alas! few doors open:
the wayfarer must not tarry. Memories and echoes he may leave, but he
must turn his face. Grey dolmen and grey menhir already stand there, by
the last shores, memorials of his destiny.

The ancient Gaels believed that in the western ocean there was an island
called Hy Bràsil, where all that was beautiful and mysterious lived
beyond the pillars of the rainbow. The legendary romances of the Celtic
races may be described as the Hy Bràsil of literature.

In the Celtic commune there are many legendary tales which, but for the
accident of names and local circumstances, are identical. The familiar
Highland legend of the children who, bathing in a mountain loch, were
carried off by a water-horse, has its counterpart in Connemara, in
Merioneth, and in Finistère, though in the Welsh recital the children
are the victims of a dragon, and in the Breton legend the monster is a
boar. For that matter, this elemental tale has its roots in the east,
and Macedonia and the Himalaya retain the memory of what Aryan wagoners
told by the camp-fires during their centuries-long immigration into
Europe. Whether, however, a tale be universal or strictly Celtic,
generally it has a parallel in one or all of the racial dialects. True,
there are legendary cycles which are local. The Arzur of Brittany is a
mere echo in the Hebrides, and the name of Cuculain or the fame of the
Red Branch has not reached the dunes of Armorica. Nevertheless, even in
the mythopoeic tales there is a kindred character. Nomënoë may have been
a Breton Fionn, though he had no Oìsin to wed his deeds to a deathless
music; and Diarmid and Grainne have loved beneath the oaks of
Broceliande or the beech-groves of Llanidris, as well as among the hills
of Erin, or in the rocky fastnesses of Morven. It is characteristic,
too, how Celtland has given to Celtland. Scotland gave Ireland St.
Patrick; Ireland gave Scotland St. Columba; the chief bard of Armorica
came from Wales; and Cornwall has the Arthurian fame which is the meed
of Kymric Caledonia. To this day no man can say whether Oìsin, old and
blind, wandered at the last to Drumadoon in Arran, or if indeed he
followed out of Erin the sweet voice from Tirnan-Òg, and was seen or
heard of by none, till three centuries later the bells of the clerics
and the admonitions of Patrick made his days a burden not to be borne.
Did not the greatest of Irish kings die in tributary lands by the banks
of the Loire, and who has seen the moss of that lost grave in
Broceliande where Merlin of the North lay down to a long sleep?

Even where there seems no probability of a common origin, there is often
a striking similarity in the matter and the manner of folk-tales,
particularly those which narrate the strange experiences of the saints.
Thus, for example, in one of the most beautiful of the legendary stories
given in _The Shadow of Arvor_[8] there is an account of how Gradlon,
"the honoured chief of Kerne, the monarch who built Ys, and on whose
brow were united the crowns of Armorica," having voluntarily become a
wandering beggar, arrived at last in the heart of an ancient forest:
"towering moss-clad pillars bearing a heavy roof of foliage, full of the
mystery of a cathedral aisle by night." Here the king vowed to build a
great temple, but before he could fulfil his vow he died. Gwennole the
monk had missed Gradlon, and had followed him to the forest, to find him
there on the morrow, lying on a bed of moss which the fallen leaves had
flecked with gold. Near him crouched a human figure. This was Primel the
anchorite. Note how the king speaks to the Christian monk Gwennole
concerning this ancient hermit. "Have mercy on this poor old man beside
me: the length of three men's lives has been his, and he has known the
deeps of sorrow. The sorrows which have come upon me are nothing to his;
for while I have wept over the fate of my royal city, and while for Ahez
my heart has been broken, this man has lost his gods. There is no sorrow
that is so great a sorrow. He is a Druid lamenting a dead faith. Show
him tenderness." Therewith Gradlon dies. Over the dead king "Gwennole
murmured a Latin chant; the druid in a tremulous voice intoned a
refrain in an unknown tongue; and Gradlon, ruler of the sea, slept in
that glade watched over by the priest of Christ and by the last
surviving servant of Teutates.... There, amid the majestic solitudes of
the forest, the two religions of the ancient race joined hands and were
at one before the mystery of death." Later, the druid bids Gwennole
build a Christian sanctuary on the spot where "the belated ministrant of
a fallen faith" died beside Gradlon Maur, the Great King. One strange
touch of bitterness occurs. "But," exclaims Gwennole, "if the sanctuary
be reared here, we shall invade thy last refuge." "As for me ...!"
replies the old man; then, after a silence he adds, with a gesture of
infinite weariness, "it is my gods who should protect me. Let them save
me if they can." The dying druid turns away to seek his long rest under
the sacred oaks: "Gwennole, his heart full of a tender love and pity
which he could not understand, moved slowly towards the sea." A fitting
close to a book full of interest, charm, and spiritual beauty.

In the third book of St. Adamnan's _Life of St. Columba_, there is an
episode entitled "Of a manifestation of angels meeting the soul of one
Emchath." Columba, "making his way beyond the Ridge of Britain
(Drum-Alban), near the lake of the river Nisa (Loch Ness), being
suddenly inspired by the Holy Spirit, says to the brethren who are
journeying with him at that time: 'Let us make haste to meet the holy
angels who, that they may carry away the soul of a certain heathen man,
who is keeping the moral law of nature even to extreme old age, have
been sent out from the highest regions of heaven, and are waiting until
we come thither, that we may baptize him in time before he dies.'
Thereafter the aged saint made as much haste as he could to go in
advance of his companions, until he came to the district which is named
Airchartdan (Glen Urquhart)." There he found "the holy heathen man,"
Emchath by name.

Here, then, is an instance of a Celtic priest in Armorica and of a
Celtic priest in Scotland acting identically towards an upright heathen.
A large book would be necessary to relate the correspondence between the
folk-tales, the traditional romances, and the Christian legends of the
four great branches of the Celtic race.

On the seventh day, when God rested, says a poet of the Gael, He dreamed
of the lands and nations he had made, and out of that dreaming were
born Ireland and Brittany. Truly, within Christian days, there were more
saints, there were more lamps of the spirit lit in that grey peninsula,
in that green land, in the little sand-cinctured isle Iona, than
anywhere betwixt the Syrian deserts and the meads of Glastonbury. It
takes nothing from, it adds much to these lands where spiritual ecstasy
has longest dreamed, that the old gods have not perished but merge into
the brotherhood of Christ's company; that the old faiths, and the
ancient spirit, and the pagan soul were not given to the wave for foam,
to the pastures for idle sand. Ireland and Brittany! Behind the
sorrowful songs of longing and regret, behind the faint chime of bells
which some day linger as an echo in the towers of Ys where she lies
under the wave, are the cries of the tympan and the forgotten music of
druidic harps. What song the oaks knew in Broceliande, what song
Taliesin heard, what chant Merlin the Wild raised among dim woods in
Caledon: these may be lost to us for ever, or live only through our
songs and dreams as shadows live in the hollows of the sunrain: but
Broceliande and Gethsemane are in symbol akin, Taliesin is but another
name of him who ate the wild honey and listened to the wind, and
Merlin, with the nuts of wisdom in his hand, stands hearkening to the
same deep murmur of the eternal life which was heard upon the Mount of

It has occurred to me often of late, from what I have seen, and read,
and heard from others, that the Celtic mythopoëic faculty is still
concerning itself largely with an interweaving of Pagan and Christian
thought, of Pagan and Christian symbol, of the old Pagan tales of a day
and of mortal beauty with the Christian symbolic legends that are of no
day and are of immortal beauty.

A fisherman told me the story of Diarmid and Grainne, in the guise of a
legend of the Virgin Mary and her Gaelic husband. Three years ago, in
Appin, an old woman, Jessie Stewart, told me that when Christ was
crucified He came back to us as Oìsin of the Songs. From a ferryman on
Loch Linnhe, near the falls of Lora, a friend heard a confused story of
Oìsin (confused because the narrator at one moment spoke of Oìsin, and
at another of "Goll"), how on the day that Christ was crucified Oìsin
slew his own son, and knew madness, crying that he was but a shadow, and
his son a shadow, and that what he had done was but the shadow of what
was being done in that hour "to the black sorrow of time and the
universe (_domhain_)." In this connection, Celtic students will recall
the story of Concobar mac Nessa, the High King of Ulster: how on that
day he rose suddenly and fled into the woods and hewed down the branches
of trees, crying that he slew the multitudes of those who at that moment
were doing to death the innocent son of a king.

Out of this confusion may arise a new interpretation of certain great
symbolic persons and incidents in the old mythology. As this legendary
lore is being swiftly forgotten, it is well that it should be saved to
new meanings and new beauty, by that mythopoëic faculty which, in the
Celtic imagination, is as a wing continually uplifting fallen dreams to
the imaging wind of the Spirit.


[8] _Vide_ Notes, p. 431.


I know one who, asked by a friend desiring more intimate knowledge as to
what influences above all other influences had shaped her inward life,
answered at once, with that sudden vision of insight which reveals more
than the vision of thought, "The Wind, Silence, and Love."

The answer was characteristic, for, with her who made it, the influences
that shape have always seemed more significant than the things that are
shapen. None can know for another the mysteries of spiritual
companionship. What is an abstraction to one is a reality to another:
what to one has the proved familiar face, to another is illusion.

I can well understand the one of whom I write. With most of us the
shaping influences are the common sweet influences of motherhood and
fatherhood, the airs of home, the place and manner of childhood. But
these are not for all, and may be adverse, and in some degree absent.
Even when a child is fortunate in love and home, it may be spiritually
alien from these: it may dimly discern love rather as a mystery dwelling
in sunlight and moonlight, or in the light that lies on quiet meadows,
woods, quiet shores: may find a more intimate sound of home in the wind
whispering in the grass, or when a sighing travels through the
wilderness of leaves, or when an unseen wave moans in the pine.

When we consider, could any influences be deeper than these three
elemental powers, for ever young, yet older than age, beautiful
immortalities that whisper continually against our mortal ear. The Wind,
Silence, and Love: yes, I think of them as good comrades, nobly
ministrant, priests of the hidden way.

To go into solitary places, or among trees which await dusk and storm,
or by a dark shore; to be a nerve there, to listen to, inwardly to hear,
to be at one with, to be as grass filled with, as reeds shaken by, as a
wave lifted before, the wind: this is to know what cannot otherwise be
known; to hear the intimate, dread voice; to listen to what long, long
ago went away, and to what now is going and coming, coming and going,
and to what august airs of sorrow and beauty prevail in that dim empire
of shadow where the falling leaf rests unfallen, where Sound, of all
else forgotten and forgetting, lives in the pale hyacinth, the
moon-white pansy, the cloudy amaranth that gathers dew.

And, in the wood; by the grey stone on the hill; where the heron waits;
where the plover wails: on the pillow; in the room filled with
flame-warmed twilight; is there any comrade that is as Silence is? Can
she not whisper the white secrecies which words discolour? Can she not
say, when we would forget, forget; when we would remember, remember? Is
it not she also who says, Come unto me all ye who are weary and heavy
laden, and I will give you rest? Is it not she who has a lute into which
all loveliness of sound has passed, so that when she breathes upon it
life is audible? Is it not she who will close many doors, and shut away
cries and tumults, and will lead you to a green garden and a fountain in
it, and say, "This is your heart, and that is your soul; listen."

That third one, is he a Spirit, alone, uncompanioned? I think sometimes
that these three are one, and that Silence is his inward voice and the
Wind the sound of his unwearying feet. Does he not come in wind, whether
his footfall be on the wild rose, or on the bitter wave, or in the
tempest shaken with noises and rains that are cries and tears, sighs
and prayers and tears?

He has many ways, many hopes, many faces. He bends above those who meet
in twilight, above the cradle, above dwellers by the hearth, above the
sorrowful, above the joyous children of the sun, above the grave. Must
he not be divine, who is worshipped of all men? Does not the wild-dove
take the rainbow upon its breast because of him, and the salmon leave
the sea for inland pools, and the creeping thing become winged and

The Wind, Silence, and Love: if one cannot learn of these, is there any
comradeship that can tell us more, that can more comfort us, that can so
inhabit with living light what is waste and barren?

And, in the hidden hour, one will stoop, and kiss us on the brow, when
our sudden stillness will, for others, already be memory. And another
will be as an open road, with morning breaking. And the third will meet
us, with a light of joy in his eyes; but we shall not see him at first
because of the sunblaze, or hear his words because in that summer air
the birds will be multitude.

Meanwhile they are near and intimate. Their life uplifts us. We cannot
forget wholly, nor cease to dream, nor be left unhoping, nor be without
rest, nor go darkly without torches and songs, if these accompany us; or
we them, for they go one way.



I have spoken in "Iona" and elsewhere of the old Highland woman who was
my nurse. She was not really old, but to me seemed so, and I have always
so thought of her. She was one of the most beautiful and benignant
natures I have known.

I owe her a great debt. In a moment, now, I can see her again, with her
pale face and great dark eyes, stooping over my bed, singing "Wae's me
for Prince Charlie," or an old Gaelic Lament, or that sad, forgotten,
beautiful and mournful air that was played at Fotheringay when the Queen
of Scots was done to death, "lest her cries should be heard." Or, later,
I can hear her telling me old tales before the fire; or, later still,
before the glowing peats in her little island-cottage, speaking of men
and women, and strange legends, and stranger dreams and visions. To her,
and to an old islander, Seumas Macleod, of whom I have elsewhere spoken
in this volume, I owe more than to any other influences in my childhood.
Perhaps it is from her that in part I have my great dislike of towns.
There is no smoke in the lark's house, to use one of her frequent
sayings--one common throughout the west.

I never knew any one whose speech, whose thought, was so coloured with
the old wisdom and old sayings and old poetry of her race. To me she
stands for the Gaelic woman, strong, steadfast, true to "her own," her
people, her clan, her love, herself. "When you come to love," she said
to me once, "keep always to the one you love a mouth of silk and a heart
of hemp."

Her mind was a storehouse of proverbial lore. Had I been older and
wiser, I might have learned less fugitively. I cannot attempt to reach
adequately even the most characteristic of these proverbial sayings; it
would take overlong. Most of them, of course, would be familiar to our
proverb-loving people. But, among others of which I have kept note, I
have not anywhere seen the following in print. "You could always tell
where his thoughts would be ... pointing one way like the hounds of
Finn" (_i.e._ the two stars of the north, the Pointers); "It's a
comfort to know there's nothing missing, as the wren said when she
counted the stars"; "The dog's howl is the stag's laugh"; and again, "I
would rather cry with the plover than laugh with the dog" (both meaning
that the imprisoned comfort of the towns is not to be compared with the
life of the hills, for all its wildness); "True love is like a
mountain-tarn; it may not be deep, but that's deep enough that can hold
the sun, moon, and stars"; "It isn't silence where the lark's song
ceases"; "St. Bride's Flower, St. Bride's Bird, and St. Bride's Gift
make a fine spring and a good year." (_Am Beàrnan Bhrigde, 'us
Gille-Bhrigde, 'us Lunn-Bata Bhrigde, etc.--the dandelion, the
oyster-catcher, and the cradle_[9]--because the dandelion comes with the
first south winds and in a sunny spring is seen everywhere, and because
in a fine season the oyster-catcher's early breeding-note fortells
prosperity with the nets, and because a birth in spring is good luck for
child and mother.) "It's easier for most folk to say _Lus Bealtainn_
than _La' Bealtainn_": i.e. people can see the small things that
concern themselves better than the great things that concern the world;
literally, "It's easier to say marigold than may-day"--in Gaelic, a
close play upon words; "_Cuir do lamh leinn_," "Lend us a hand," as the
fox in the ditch said to the duckling on the roadside; "_Gu'm a slàn
gu'n till thu_," "May you return in health," as the young man said when
his conscience left him; "It's only a hand's-turn from _eunadair_ to
_eunadan_" (from the bird-snarer to the cage); "Saying _eud_ is next
door to saying _eudail_," as the girl laughed back to her sweetheart
(_eud_ is jealousy and _eudail_ my Treasure); "The lark doesn't need
_broggan_ (shoes) to climb the stairs of the sky."

Among those which will not be new to some readers, I have note of a
rhyme about the stars of the four seasons, and a saying about the three
kinds of love, and the four stars of destiny. Wind comes from the spring
star, runs the first; heat from the summer star, water from the autumn
star, and frost from the winter star. Barabal's variant was "wind (air)
from the spring star in the east; fire (heat) from the summer star in
the south; water from the autumn star in the west; wisdom, silence and
death from the star in the north." Both this season-rhyme and that of
the three kinds of love are well known. The latter runs:--

    _Gaol nam fear-dìolain, mar shruth-lìonaidh na mara;
    Gaol nam fear-fuadain, mar ghaoith tuath 'thig o'n charraig;
    Gaol nam fear-posda, mar luing a' seòladh gu cala._

    _Lawless love is as the wild tides of the sea;
    And the roamer's love cruel as the north wind blowing from barren
    But wedded love is like the ship coming safe home to haven._

I have found these two and many others of Barabal's sayings and rhymes,
except those I have first given, in collections of proverbs and
folklore, but do not remember having noted another, though doubtless
"The Four Stars of Destiny (or Fate)" will be recalled by some. It ran
somewhat as follows:--

    _Reul Near_ (Star of the East), Give us kindly birth;
    _Reul Deas_ (Star of the South), Give us great love;
    _Reul Niar_ (Star of the West), Give us quiet age;
    _Reul Tuath_ (Star of the North), Give us Death.

It was from her I first heard of the familiar legend of the waiting of
Fionn and the Fèinn (popularly now Fingal and the Fingalians),
"fo-gheasaibh," spellbound, till the day of their return to the living
world. In effect the several legends are the same. That which Barabal
told was as an isleswoman would more naturally tell it. A man so pure
that he could give a woman love and yet let angels fan the flame in his
heart, and so innocent that his thoughts were white as a child's
thoughts, and so brave that none could withstand him, climbed once to
the highest mountain in the Isles, where there is a great cave that no
one has ever entered. A huge white hound slept at the entrance to the
cave. He stepped over it, and it did not wake. He entered, and passed
four tall demons, with bowed heads and folded arms, one with great wings
of red, another with wings of white, another with wings of green, and
another with wings of black. They did not uplift their dreadful eyes.
Then he saw Fionn and the Fèinn sitting in a circle.

Their long hair trailed on the ground; their eyebrows fell to their
beards; their beards lay upon their feet, so that nothing of their
bodies was seen but hands like scarped rocks that clasped gigantic
swords. Behind them hung an elk-horn with a mouth of gold. He blew this
horn, but nothing happened, except that the huge white hound came in,
and went to the hollow place round which the Fèinn sat, and in silence
ate greedily of treasures of precious stones. He blew the horn again,
and Fionn and all the Fèinn opened their great, cold, grey, lifeless
eyes, and stared upon him; and for him it was as though he stood at a
grave and the dead man in the grave put up strong hands and held his
feet, and as though his soul saw Fear.

But with a mighty effort he blew the horn a third time. The Fèinn leaned
on their elbows, and Fionn said, "Is the end come?" But the man could
wait no more, and turned and fled, leaving that ancient mighty company
leaning upon its elbow, spellbound thus, waiting for the end. So they
shall be found. The four demons fled into the air, and tumultuous winds
swung him from that place. He heard the baying of the white hound, and
the mountain vanished. He was found lying dead in a pasture in the
little island that was his home. I recall this here because the legend
was plainly in Barabal's mind when her last ill came upon her. In her
delirium she cried suddenly, "The Fèinn! The Fèinn! they are coming down
the hill!"

"I hear the bells of the ewes," she said abruptly, just before the end:
so by that we knew she was already upon far pastures, and heard the
Shepherd calling upon the sheep to come into the fold.


[9] It is probably in the isles only that the pretty word _Lunn-Bata_ is
used for _cr[=a]-all (creathall)_, a cradle. It might best be rendered as
boat-on-a-billow, _lunn_ being a heaving billow.


It was in summer, when there is no night among these Northern Isles. The
slow, hot days waned through a long after-glow of rose and violet; and
when the stars came, it was only to reveal purple depths within depths.

Mary Macleod walked, barefoot, through the dewy grass, on the long
western slope of Innisròn, looking idly at the phantom flake of the moon
as it hung like a blown moth above the rose-flush of the West. Below it,
beyond her, the ocean. It was pale, opalescent; here shimmering with the
hues of the moonbow; here dusked with violet shadow, but, for the most
part, pale, opalescent. No wind moved, but a breath arose from the
momentary lips of the sea. The cool sigh floated inland, and made a
continual faint tremor amid the salt grasses. The skuas and guillemots
stirred, and at long intervals screamed.

The girl stopped, staring seaward. The illimitable, pale, unlifted wave;
the hinted dusk of the quiet underwaters; the unfathomable violet gulfs
overhead;--these silent comrades were not alien to her. Their kin, she
was but a moving shadow on an isle; to her, they were the veils of
wonder beyond which the soul knows no death, but looks upon the face of
Beauty, and upon the eyes of Love, and upon the heart of Peace.

Amid these silent spaces two dark objects caught the girl's gaze. Flying
eastward, a solander trailed a dusky wing across the sky. So high its
flight that the first glance saw it as though motionless; yet, even
while Mary looked, the skyfarer waned suddenly, and that which had been
was not. The other object had wings too, but was not a bird. A
fishing-smack lay idly becalmed, her red-brown sail now a patch of warm
dusk. Mary knew what boat it was--the _Nighean Donn_, out of Fionnaphort
in Ithona, the westernmost of the Iarraidh Isles.

There was no one visible on board the _Nighean Donn_, but a boy's voice
sang a monotonous Gaelic cadence, indescribably sweet as it came, remote
and wild as an air out of a dim forgotten world, across the still
waters. Mary Macleod knew the song, a strange _iorram_ or boat-song made
by Pòl the Freckled, and by him given to his friend Angus Macleod of
Ithona. She muttered the words over and over, as the lilt of the boyish
voice rose and fell--

    It is not only when the sea is dark and chill and desolate
      I hear the singing of the queen who lives beneath the ocean:
    Oft have I heard her chanting voice when moon o'erfloods his golden
      Or when the moonshine fills the wave with snow-white mazy motion.

    And some day will it hap to me, when the black waves are leaping,
      Or when within the breathless green I see her shell-strewn door,
    That singing voice will lure me where my sea-drown'd love lies
      Beneath the slow white hands of her who rules the sunken shore.

    For in my heart I hear the bells that ring their fatal beauty.
      The wild, remote, uncertain bells that chant their lonely sorrow:
    The lonely bells of sorrow, the bells of fatal beauty,
      Oft in my heart I hear the bells, who soon shall know no morrow.

The slow splashing of oars in the great hollow cavern underneath her
feet sent a flush to her face. She knew who was there--that it was the
little boat of the _Nighean Donn_, and that Angus Macleod was in it.

She stood among the seeding grasses, intent. The cluster of white
moon-daisies that reached to her knees was not more pale than her white
face; for a white silence was upon Mary Macleod in her dreaming
girlhood, as in her later years.

She shivered once as she listened to Angus's echoing song, while he
secured his boat, and began to climb from ledge to ledge. He too had
heard the lad Uille Ban singing as he lay upon a coil of rope, while the
smack lay idly on the unmoving waters; and hearing, had himself taken up
the song--

    _For in my heart I hear the bells that ring their fatal beauty,
      The wild, remote, uncertain bells that chant their lonely sorrow:
    The lonely bells of sorrow, the bells of fatal beauty,
      Oft in my heart I hear the bells, who soon shall know no morrow._

Mary shivered with the vague fear that had come upon her. Had she not
dreamed, in the bygone night, that she heard some one in the sea singing
that very song--some one with slow, white hands which waved idly above a
dead man? A moment ago she had listened to the same song sung by the lad
Uille Ban; and now, for the third time, she heard Angus idly chanting
it as he rose invisibly from ledge to ledge of the great cavern below.
Three idle songs yet she remembered that death was but the broken
refrain of an idle song.

When Angus leaped onto the slope and came towards her, she felt her
pulse quicken. Tall and fair, he looked fairer and taller than she had
ever seen him. The light that was still in the west lingered in his
hair, which, yellow as it was, now glistened as with the sheen of
bronze. He had left his cap in the boat; and as he crossed swiftly
towards her, she realized anew that he deserved the Gaelic name given
him by Pòl the poet--Angus the yellow-haired son of Youth. They had
never spoken of their love, and now both realized in a flash that no
words were needed. At midsummer noon no one says the sun shines.

Angus came forward with outreaching hands. "Dear, dear love!" he
whispered. "Mhairi mo rùn, muirnean, mochree!"

She put her hands in his; she put her lips to his; she put her head to
his breast, and listened, all her life throbbing in response to the
leaping pulse of the heart that loved her.

"Dear, dear love!" he whispered again.

"Angus!" she murmured.

They said no more, but moved slowly onward, hand in hand.

The night had their secret. For sure, it was in the low sighing of the
deep when the tide put its whispering lips against the sleeping sea; it
was in the spellbound silences of the isle; it was in the phantasmal
light of the stars--the stars of dream, in a sky of dream, in a world of
dream. When, an hour--or was it an eternity, or a minute?--later, they
turned, she to her home near the clachan of Innisròn, he to his boat, a
light air had come up on the forehead of the tide. The sail of the
_Nighean Donn_ flapped, a dusky wing in the darkness. The penetrating
smell of sea-mist was in the air.

Mary had only one regret as she turned her face inland, when once the
invisibly gathering mist hid from her even the blurred semblance of the
smack--that she had not asked Angus to sing no more that song of Pòl the
Freckled, which vaguely she feared, and even hated. She had stood
listening to the splashing of the oars, and, later, to the voices of
Angus and Uille Ban; and now, coming faintly and to her weirdly through
the gloom, she heard her lover's voice chanting the words again. What
made him sing that song, in that hour, on this day of all days?

    For in my heart I hear the bells that ring their fatal beauty,
      The wild, remote, uncertain bells that chant their lonely sorrow:
    The lonely bells of sorrow, the bells of fatal beauty,
      Oft in my heart I hear the bells, who soon shall know no morrow.

But long before she was back at the peat-fire again she forgot that sad,
haunting cadence, and remembered only his words--the dear words of him
whom she loved, as he came towards her, across the dewy grass, with
outstretched hands--

"Dear, dear love!--Mhairi mo rùn, muirnean, mochree!"

She saw them in the leaping shadows in the little room; in the red glow
that flickered along the fringes of the peats; in the darkness which,
like a sea, drowned the lonely croft. She heard them in the bubble of
the meal, as slowly with wooden spurtle she stirred the porridge; she
heard them in the rising wind that had come in with the tide; she heard
them in the long resurge and multitudinous shingly inrush as the hands
of the Atlantic tore at the beaches of Innisròn.

After the smooring of the peats, and when the two old people, the father
of her father and his white-haired wife, were asleep, she sat for a
long time in the warm darkness. From a cranny in the peat ash a
smouldering flame looked out comfortingly. In the girl's heart a great
peace was come as well as a great joy. She had dwelled so long with
silence that she knew its eloquent secrets; and it was sweet to sit
there in the dusk, and listen, and commune with silence, and dream.

Above the long, deliberate rush of the tidal waters round the piled
beaches she could hear a dull, rhythmic beat. It was the screw of some
great steamer, churning its way through the darkness; a stranger,
surely, for she knew the times and seasons of every vessel that came
near these lonely isles. Sometimes it happened that the Uist or Tiree
steamers passed that way; doubtless it was the Tiree boat, or possibly
the big steamer that once or twice in the summer fared northward to
far-off St. Kilda.

She must have slept, and the sound have passed into her ears as an echo
into a shell; for when, with a start, she arose, she still heard the
thud-thud of the screw, although the boat had long since passed away.

It was the cry of a sea-bird which had startled her. Once--twice--the
scream had whirled about the house. Mary listened, intent. Once more it
came, and at the same moment she saw a drift of white press up against
the window.

She sprang to her feet, startled.

"It is the cry of a heron," she muttered, with dry lips; "but who has
heard tell of a white heron?--and the bird there is white as a

Some uncontrollable impulse made her hesitate. She moved to go to the
window, to see if the bird were wounded, but she could not. Sobbing with
inexplicable fear, she turned and fled, and a moment later was in her
own little room. There all her fear passed. Yet she could not sleep for
long. If only she could get the sound of that beating screw out of her
ears, she thought. But she could not, neither waking nor sleeping; nor
the following day; nor any day thereafter; and when she died, doubtless
she heard the thud-thud of a screw as it churned the dark waters in a
night of shrouding mist.

For on the morrow she learned that the _Nighean Donn_ had been run down
in the mist, a mile south of Ithona, by an unknown steamer. The great
vessel came out of the darkness, unheeding; unheeding she passed into
the darkness again. Perhaps the officer in command thought that his
vessel had run into some floating wreckage; for there was no cry heard,
and no lights had been seen. Later, only one body was found--that of the
boy Uille Ban.

When heartbreaking sorrow comes, there is no room for words. Mary
Macleod said little; what, indeed, was there to say? The islanders gave
what kindly comfort they could. The old minister, when next he came to
Innisròn, spoke of the will of God and the Life Eternal.

Mary bowed her head. What had been, was not: could any words, could any
solace, better that?

"You are young, Mary," said Mr. Macdonald, when he had prayed with her.
"God will not leave you desolate."

She turned upon him her white face, with her great, brooding, dusky

"Will He give me back Angus?" she said, in her low, still voice, that
had the hush in it of lonely places.

He could not tell her so.

"It was to be," she said, breaking the long silence that had fallen
between them.

"Ay," the minister answered.

She looked at him, and then took his hand. "I am thanking you, Mr.
Macdonald, for the good words you have put upon my sorrow. But I am not
wishing that any more be said to me. I must go now, for I have to see
to the milking, an' I hear the poor beasts lowing on the hillside. The
old folk too are weary, and I must be getting them their porridge."

After that no one ever heard Mary Macleod speak of Angus. She was a good
lass, all agreed, and made no moan; and there was no croft tidier than
Scaur-a-van, and because of her it was; and she made butter better than
any on Innisròn; and in the isles there was no cheese like the
Scaur-a-van cheese.

Had there been any kith or kin of Angus, she would have made them hers.
She took the consumptive mother of Uille Ban from Ithona, and kept her
safe-havened at Scaur-a-van, till the woman sat up one night in her bed,
and cried in a loud voice that Uille Ban was standing by her side and
playing a wild air on the strings of her heart, which he had in his
hands, and the strings were breaking, she cried. They broke, and Mary
envied her, and the whispering joy she would be having with Uille Ban.
But Angus had no near kin. Perhaps, she thought, he would miss her the
more where he had gone. He had a friend, whom she had never seen. He was
a man of Iona, and was named Eachain MacEachain Maclean. He and Angus
had been boys in the same boat, and sailed thrice to Iceland together,
and once to Peterhead, that maybe was as far or further, or perhaps upon
the coast-lands further east. Mary knew little geography, though she
could steer by the stars. To this friend she wrote, through the
minister, to say that if ever he was in trouble he was to come to her.

It was on the third night after the sinking of the _Nighean Donn_ that
Mary walked alone, beyond the shingle beaches, and where the ledges of
trap run darkly into deep water. It was a still night and clear. The
lambs and ewes were restless in the moonshine; their bleating filled the
upper solitudes. A shoal of mackerel made a spluttering splashing sound
beyond the skerries outside the haven. The ebb, sucking at the weedy
extremes of the ledges, caused a continuous bubbling sound. There was no
stir of air, only a breath upon the sea; but, immeasurably remote,
frayed clouds, like trailed nets in yellow gulfs of moonlight, shot
flame-shaped tongues into the dark, and seemed to lick the stars as
these shook in the wind. "No mist to-night," Mary muttered; then,
startled by her own words, repeated, and again repeated, "There will be
no mist to-night."

Then she stood as though become stone. Before her, on a solitary rock, a
great bird sat. It was a heron. In the moonshine its plumage glistened
white as foam of the sea; white as one of her lambs it was.

She had never seen, never heard of, a white heron. There was some old
Gaelic song--what was it?--no, she could not remember--something about
the souls of the dead. The words would not come.

Slowly she advanced. The heron did not stir. Suddenly she fell upon her
knees, and reached out her arms, and her hair fell about her shoulders,
and her heart beat against her throat, and the grave gave up its sorrow,
and she cried--

"Oh, Angus, Angus, my beloved! Angus, Angus, my dear, dear love!"

She heard nothing, saw nothing, felt nothing, knew nothing, till, numbed
and weak, she stirred with a cry, for some creeping thing of the sea had
crossed her hand. She rose and stared about her. There was nothing to
give her fear. The moon rays danced on a glimmering sea-pasture far out
upon the water; their lances and javelins flashed and glinted merrily. A
dog barked as she crossed the flag-stones at Scaur-a-van, then suddenly
began a strange furtive baying. She called, "Luath! Luath!"

The dog was silent a moment, then threw its head back and howled,
abruptly breaking again into a sustained baying. The echo swept from
croft to croft, and wakened every dog upon the isle.

Mary looked back. Slowly circling behind her she saw the white heron.
With a cry, she fled into the house.

For three nights thereafter she saw the white heron. On the third she
had no fear. She followed the foam-white bird; and when she could not
see it, then she followed its wild, plaintive cry. At dawn she was still
at Ardfeulan, on the western side of Innisròn; but her arms were round
the drowned heart whose pulse she had heard leap so swift in joy, and
her lips put a vain warmth against the dear face that was wan as spent
foam, and as chill as that.

Three years after that day Mary saw again the white heron. She was alone
now, and she was glad, for she thought Angus had come, and she was

Yet neither death nor sorrow happened. Thrice, night after night, she
saw the white gleam of nocturnal wings, heard the strange bewildering

It was on the fourth day, when a fierce gale covered the isle with a
mist of driving spray. No Innisròn boat was outside the haven; for that,
all were glad. But in the late afternoon a cry went from mouth to mouth.

There was a fishing-coble on the skerries! That meant death for all on
board, for nothing could be done. The moment came soon. A vast drowning
billow leaped forward, and when the cloud of spray had scattered, there
was no coble to be seen. Only one man was washed ashore, nigh dead, upon
the spar he clung to. His name was Eachain MacEachain, son of a Maclean
of Iona.

And that was how Mary Macleod met the friend of Angus, and he a ruined
man, and how she put her life to his, and they were made one.

Her man ... yes, he was her man, to whom she was loyal and true, and
whom she loved right well for many years. But she knew, and he too knew
well, that she had wedded one man in her heart, and that no other could
take his place there, then or for ever. She had one husband only, but it
was not he to whom she was wed, but Angus, the son of Alasdair--him whom
she loved with the deep love that surpasseth all wisdom of the world
that ever was, or is, or shall be.

And Eachain her man lived out his years with her, and was content,
though he knew that in her silent heart his wife, who loved him well,
had only one lover, one dream, one hope, one passion, one remembrance,
one husband.


Glad am I that wherever and whenever I listen intently I can hear the
looms of Nature weaving Beauty and Music. But some of the most beautiful
things are learned otherwise--by hazard, in the Way of Pain, or at the
Gate of Sorrow.

I learned two things on the day when I saw Seumas McIan dead upon the
heather. He of whom I speak was the son of Ian McIan Alltnalee, but was
known throughout the home straths and the countries beyond as Seumas
Dhu, Black James, or, to render the subtler meaning implied in this
instance, James the Dark One. I had wondered occasionally at the
designation, because Seumas, if not exactly fair, was not dark. But the
name was given to him, as I learned later, because, as commonly
rumoured, he knew that which he should not have known.

I had been spending some weeks with Alasdair McIan and his wife Silis
(who was my foster-sister), at their farm of Ardoch, high in a remote
hill country. One night we were sitting before the peats, listening to
the wind crying amid the corries, though, ominously as it seemed to us,
there was not a breath in the rowan-tree that grew in the sun's way by
the house. Silis had been singing, but silence had come upon us. In the
warm glow from the fire we saw each other's faces. There the silence
lay, strangely still and beautiful, as snow in moonlight. Silis's song
was one of the _Dana Spioradail_, known in Gaelic as the Hymn of the
Looms. I cannot recall it, nor have I ever heard or in any way
encountered it again.

It had a lovely refrain, I know not whether its own or added by Silis. I
have heard her chant it to other runes and songs. Now, when too late, my
regret is deep that I did not take from her lips more of those
sorrowful, strange songs or chants, with their ancient Celtic melodies,
so full of haunting sweet melancholy, which she loved so well. It was
with this refrain that, after a long stillness, she startled us that
October night. I remember the sudden light in the eyes of Alasdair
McIan, and the beat at my heart, when, like rain in a wood, her voice
fell unawares upon us out of the silence:

    _Oh! oh! ohrone, arone! Oh! oh! mo ghraidh, mo chridhe!
    Oh! oh! mo ghraidh, mo chridhe!_[10]

The wail, and the sudden break in the second line, had always upon me an
effect of inexpressible pathos. Often that sad wind-song has been in my
ears, when I have been thinking of many things that are passed and are

I know not what made Silis so abruptly begin to sing, and with that
wailing couplet only, or why she lapsed at once into silence again.
Indeed, my remembrance of the incident at all is due to the circumstance
that shortly after Silis had turned her face to the peats again, a knock
came to the door, and then Seumas Dhu entered.

"Why do you sing that lament, Silis, sister of my father?" he asked,
after he had seated himself beside me, and spread his thin hands against
the peat glow, so that the flame seemed to enter within the flesh.

Silis turned to her nephew, and looked at him, as I thought,
questioningly. But she did not speak. He, too, said nothing more, either
forgetful of his question, or content with what he had learned or
failed to learn through her silence.

The wind had come down from the corries before Seumas rose to go. He
said he was not returning to Alltnalee, but was going upon the hill, for
a big herd of deer had come over the ridge of Mel Mòr. Seumas, though
skilled in all hill and forest craft, was not a sure shot, as was his
kinsman and my host, Alasdair McIan.

"You will need help," I remember Alasdair Ardoch saying mockingly,
adding, "_Co dhiubh is fhearr let mise thoir sealladh na fàileadh
dhiubh?_"--that is to say, Whether would you rather me to deprive them
of sight or smell?

This is a familiar saying among the old sportsmen in my country, where
it is believed that a few favoured individuals have the power to deprive
deer of either sight or smell, as the occasion suggests.

"_Dhuit ciàr nan carn!_--The gloom of the rocks be upon you!" replied
Seumas, sullenly: "mayhap the hour is come when the red stag will sniff
at my nostrils."

With that dark saying he went. None of us saw him again alive.

Was it a forewarning? I have often wondered. Or had he sight of the

It was three days after this, and shortly after sunrise, that, on
crossing the south slope of Mel Mòr with Alasdair Ardoch, we came
suddenly upon the body of Seumas, half submerged in a purple billow of
heather. It did not, at the moment, occur to me that he was dead. I had
not known that his prolonged absence had been noted, or that he had been
searched for. As a matter of fact, he must have died immediately before
our approach, for his limbs were still loose, and he lay as a sleeper

Alasdair kneeled and raised his kinsman's head. When it lay upon the
purple tussock, the warmth and glow from the sunlit ling gave a fugitive
deceptive light to the pale face. I know not whether the sun can have
any chemic action upon the dead. But it seemed to me that a dream rose
to the face of Seumas, like one of those submarine flowers that are said
to rise at times and be visible for a moment in the hollow of a wave.
The dream, the light, waned; and there was a great stillness and white
peace where the trouble had been. "It is the Smoothing of the Hand,"
said Alasdair McIan, in a hushed voice.

Often I had heard this lovely phrase in the Western Isles, but always as
applied to sleep. When a fretful child suddenly falls into quietude and
deep slumber, an isleswoman will say that it is because of the Smoothing
of the Hand. It is always a profound sleep, and there are some who hold
it almost as a sacred thing, and never to be disturbed.

So, thinking only of this, I whispered to my friend to come away; that
Seumas was dead weary with hunting upon the hills; that he would awake
in due time.

McIan looked at me, hesitated, and said nothing. I saw him glance
around. A few yards away, beside a great boulder in the heather, a small
rowan stood, flickering its feather-like shadows across the white wool
of a ewe resting underneath. He moved thitherward, slowly, plucked a
branch heavy with scarlet berries, and then, having returned, laid it
across the breast of his kinsman.

I knew now what was that passing of the trouble in the face of Seumas
Dhu, what that sudden light was, that calming of the sea, that ineffable
quietude. It was the Smoothing of the Hand.


[10] Pronounce mogh-r[=a]y, mogh-r[=e]e (my heart's delight--_lit._ my dear
one, my heart).


One night, before the peats, I was told this thing by old Cairstine
Macdonald, in the isle of Benbecula. It is in her words that I give it:

In the spring of the year that my boy Tormaid died, the moon-daisies
were as thick as a woven shroud over the place where Giorsal, the
daughter of Ian, the son of Ian MacLeod of Baille 'n Bad-a-sgailich,
slept night and day.[11]

All that March the cormorants screamed, famished. There were few fish in
the sea, and no kelp-weed was washed up by the high tides. In the island
and in the near isles, ay, and far north through the mainland, the
blight lay. Many sickened. I knew young mothers who had no milk. There
are green mounds in Carnan kirkyard that will be telling you of what
this meant. Here and there are little green mounds, each so small that
you might cuddle it in your arm under your plaid.

Tormaid sickened. A bad day was that for him when he came home, weary
with the sea, and drenched to the skin, because of a gale that caught
him and his mates off Barra Head. When the March winds tore down the
Minch, and leaped out from over the Cuchullins, and came west, and lay
against our homes, where the peats were sodden and there was little
food, the minister told me that my lad would be in the quiet havens
before long. This was because of the white fever. It was of that same
that Giorsal waned, and went out like a thin flame in sunlight.

The son of my man (years ago weary no more) said little ever. He ate
nothing almost, even of the next to nothing we had. At nights he couldna
sleep because of his cough. The coming of May lifted him awhile. I hoped
he would see the autumn; and that if he did, and the herring came, and
the harvest was had, and what wi' this and what wi' that, he would
forget his Giorsal that lay i' the mools in the quiet place yonder.
Maybe then, I thought, the sorrow would go, and take its shadow with

One gloaming he came in with all the whiteness of his wasted body in his
face. His heart was out of its shell; and mine, too, at the sight of

This was the season of the hanging of the dog's mouth.

"What is it, Tormaid-a-ghaolach?" I asked, with the sob that was in my

"_Thraisg mo chridhe_," he muttered (My heart is parched). Then, feeling
the asking in my eyes, he said, "I have seen her."

I knew he meant Giorsal. My heart sank. But I wore my nails into the
palms of my hands. Then I said this thing, that is an old saying in the
isles: "Those who are in the quiet havens hear neither the wind nor the
sea." He was so weak he could not lie down in the bed. He was in the big
chair before the peats, with his feet on a _claar_.

When the wind was still I read him the Word. A little warm milk was all
he would take. I could hear the blood in his lungs sobbing like the
ebb-tide in the sea-weed. This was the thing that he said to me:

"She came to me, like a grey mist, beyond the dyke of the green place,
near the road. The face of her was grey as a grey dawn, but the voice
was hers, though I heard it under a wave, so dull and far was it. And
these are her words to me, and mine to her--and the first speaking was
mine, for the silence wore me:

    Am bheil thu' falbh,
      O mo ghraidh?
        _B'idh mi falbh,

    C'uin a thilleas tu,
      O mo ghraidh?
      _Cha till mi an rathad so;
      Tha an't ait e cumhann--
        O Mùirnean, Mùirnean!
      B'idh mi falbh an drùgh
      Am tigh Pharais,

    Sèol dhomh an rathad,
      Mo ghraidh!
        _Thig an so, Mùirnean-mo,
          Thig an so!_

    Are you going,
      My dear one?
        _Yea, now I am going,

    When will you come again,
      My dear one?
      _I will not return this way;
      The place is narrow--
        O my Darling!
      I will be going to Paradise,
        Dear, my dear one!_

    Show me the way,
      Heart of my heart!
        _Come hither, dearest, come hither,
          Come with me!_

"And then I saw that it was a mist, and that I was alone. But now this
night it is that I feel the breath on the soles of my feet."

And with that I knew there was no hope. "_Ma tha sin an dàn!_ ... if
that be ordained," was all that rose to my lips. It was that night he
died. I fell asleep in the second hour. When I woke in the grey dawn,
his face was greyer than that, and more cold.


[11] _Baille 'n Bad-a-sgailich_: the Farm of the Shadowy Clump of Trees.
_Cairstine_, or _Cairistine_, is the Gaelic for _Christina_ (for
_Christian_), as _Tormaid_ is for Norman, and _Giorsal_ for Grace. "The
quiet havens" is the beautiful island phrase for graves. Here, also, a
swift and fatal consumption that falls upon the doomed is called "The
White Fever." By "the mainland," Harris and the Lewis are meant.

[12] _A cockall a' chridhe_: his heart out of its shell--a phrase often
used to express sudden derangement from any shock. The ensuing phrase
means the month from the 15th of July to the 15th of August, _Mios
crochaidh nan con_, so called as it is supposed to be the hottest, if
not the most waterless, month in the isles. The word _claar_, used
below, is the name given a small wooden tub, into which the potatoes are
turned when boiled.


I know a man who keeps a little store in a village by one of the lochs
of Argyll. He is about fifty, is insignificant, commonplace, in his
interests parochial, and on Sundays painful to see in his sleek
respectability. He lives within sight of the green and grey waters,
above which grey mountains stand; across the kyle is a fair wilderness;
but to my knowledge he never for pleasure goes upon the hills, nor
stands by the shore, unless it be of a Saturday night to watch the
herring-boats come in, or on a Sabbath afternoon when he has word with a

Yet this man is one of the strangest men I have met or am like to meet.
From himself I have never heard word but the commonest, and that in a
manner somewhat servile. I know his one intimate friend, however. At
intervals (sometimes of two or three years, latterly each year for three
years in succession) this village chandler forgets, and is suddenly
become what he was, or what some ancestor was, in unremembered days.

For a day or two he is listless, in a still sadness; speaking, when he
has to speak, in a low voice; and often looking about him with sidelong
eyes. Then one day he will leave his counter and go to the shed behind
his shop, and stand for a time frowning and whispering, or perhaps
staring idly, and then go bareheaded up the hillside, and along tangled
ways of bog and heather, and be seen no more for weeks.

He goes down through the Wilderness locally called The Broken Rocks.
When he is there, he is a strong man, leaping like a goat--swift and
furtive. At times he strips himself bare, and sits on a rock staring at
the sun. Oftenest he walks along the shore, or goes stumbling among
weedy boulders, calling loudly upon the sea. His friend, of whom I have
spoken, told me that he had again and again seen Anndra stoop and lift
handfuls out of the running wave and throw the water above his head
while he screamed or shouted strange Gaelic words, some incoherent, some
old as the grey rocks. Once he was seen striding into the sea, batting
it with his hands, smiting the tide-swell, and defying it and deriding
it, with stifled laughters that gave way to cries and sobs of broken
hate and love.

He sang songs to it. He threw bracken, and branches, and stones at it,
cursing: then falling on his knees would pray, and lift the water to his
lips, and put it on his head. He loved the sea as a man loves a woman.
It was his light o' love: his love: his God. Than that desire of his I
have not heard of any more terrible. To love the wind and the salt wave,
and be for ever mocked of the one and baffled of the other; to lift a
heart of flame, and have the bleak air quench it; to stoop, whispering,
and kiss the wave, and have its saltness sting the lips and blind the
eyes: this indeed is to know that bitter thing of which so many have
died after tears, broken hearts, and madness.

His friend, whom I will call Neil, once came upon him when he was in
dread. Neil was in a boat, and had sailed close inshore on the flow.
Anndra saw him, and screamed.

"I know who you are! Keep away!" he cried. "_Fear faire na h'aon
sùla_--I know you for the One-Eyed Watcher!"

"Then," said Neil, "the salt wave went out of his eyes and he knew me,
and fell on his knees, and wept, and said he was dying of an old broken
love. And with that he ran down to the shore, and lifted a palmful of
water to his lips, so that for a moment foam hung upon his tangled
beard, and called out to his love, and was sore bitter upon her, and
then up and laughed and scrambled out of sight, though I heard him
crying among the rocks."

I asked Neil who the One-Eyed Watcher was. He said he was a man who had
never died and never lived. He had only one eye, but that could see
through anything except grey granite, the grey crow's egg, and the grey
wave that swims at the bottom. He could see the dead in the water, and
watched for them: he could see those on the land who came down near the
sea, if they had death on them. On these he had no pity. But he was
unseen except at dusk and in the grey dawn. He came out of a grave. He
was not a man, but he lived upon the deaths of men. It was worse to be
alive, and see him, than to be dead and at his feet.

When the man Anndra's madness went away from him--sometimes in a week or
two weeks, sometimes not for three weeks or more--he would come back
across the hill. In the dark he would slip down through the bracken and
bog-myrtle, and wait a while among the ragged fuchsias at the dyke of
his potato-patch. Then he would creep in at the window of his room, or
perhaps lift the door-latch and go quietly to his bed. Once Neil was
there when he returned. Neil was speaking to Anndra's sister, who kept
house for the poor man. They heard a noise, and the sudden flurried
clucking of hens.

"It's Anndra," said the woman, with a catch in her throat; and they sat
in silence, till the door opened. He had been away five weeks, and hair
and beard were matted, and his face was death-white; but he had already
slipped into his habitual clothes, and looked the quiet respectable man
he was. The two who were waiting for him did not speak.

"It's a fine night," he said; "it's a fine night, an' no wind.--Marget,
it's time we had in mair o' thae round cheeses fra Inverary."


In "The Sea-Madness" I have told of a man--a quiet dull man, a chandler
of a little Argyll loch-town--who, at times, left his counter, and small
canny ways, and went out into a rocky wilderness, and became mad with
the sea. I have heard of many afflicted in some such wise, and have
known one or two.

In a tale written a few years ago, "The Ninth Wave," I wrote of one whom
I knew, one Ivor MacNeill, or "Carminish," so called because of his farm
between the hills Strondeval and Rondeval, near the Obb of Harris in the
Outer Hebrides. This man heard the secret calling of the ninth wave.
None may hear that, when there is no wave on the sea, or when perhaps he
is inland, and not follow. That following is always to the ending of all
following. For a long while Carminish put his fate from him. He went to
other isles: wherever he went he heard the call of the sea. "Come," it
cried, "come, come away!" He passed at last to a kinsman's croft on
Aird-Vanish in the island of Taransay. He was not free there. He
stopped at a place where he had no kin, and no memories, and at a
hidden, quiet farm. This was at Eilean Mhealastaidh, which is under the
morning shadow of Griomabhal on the mainland. His nights there were a
sleepless dread. He went to other places. The sea called. He went at
last to his cousin Eachainn MacEachainn's bothy, near Callernish in the
Lews, where the Druid Stones stand by the shore and hear nothing for
ever but the noise of the waves and the cry of the sea-wind. There,
weary in hope, he found peace at last. He slept, and none called upon
him. He began to smile, and to hope.

One night the two were at the porridge, and Eachainn was muttering his
_Bui 'cheas dha 'n Ti_, the Thanks to the Being, when Carminish leaped
to his feet, and with a white face stood shaking like a rope in the

In the grey dawn they found his body, stiff and salt with the ooze.

I did not know, but I have heard of another who had a light tragic end.
Some say he was witless. Others, that he had the Friday-Fate upon him. I
do not know what evil he had done, but "some one" had met him and said
to him "_Bidh ruith na h'Aoin' ort am_ _Feasda_," "The Friday-Fate will
follow you for ever." So it was said. But I was told this of him: that
he had been well and strong and happy, and did not know he had a
terrible gift, that some have who are born by the sea. It is not well to
be born on a Friday night, within sound of the sea; or on certain days.
This gift is the "_Eòlas na h'Aoine_," the Friday-Spell. He who has this
gift must not look upon any other while bathing: if he does, that
swimmer must drown. This man, whom I will call Finlay, had this eòlas.
Three times the evil happened. But the third time he knew what he did:
the man who swam in the sunlight loved the same woman as Finlay loved;
so he stood on the shore, and looked, and laughed. When the body was
brought home, the woman struck Finlay in the face. He grew strange after
a time, and at last witless. A year later it was a cold February. Finlay
went to and fro singing an old February rhyme beginning:

    _Feadag, Feadag, mathair Faoillich fhuair!_

(Plover, plover, Mother of the bleak Month). He was watching a man
ploughing. Suddenly he threw down his cromak. He leaped over a dyke, and
ran to the shore, calling, "I'm coming! I'm coming! Don't pull me--I'm
coming!" He fell upon the rocks, which had a blue bloom on them like
fruit, for they were covered with mussels; and he was torn, so that his
hands and face were streaming red. "I am your red, red love," he cried,
"sweetheart, my love"; and with that he threw himself into the sea.

More often the sea-call is not a madness, but an inward voice. I have
been told of a man who was a farmer in Carrick of Ayr. He left wife and
home because of the calling of the sea. But when he was again in the far
isles, where he had lived formerly, he was well once more. Another man
heard the sobbing of the tide among seaweed whenever he dug in his
garden: and gave up all, and even the woman he loved, and left. She won
him back, by her love; but on the night before their marriage, in that
inland place where her farm was, he slipt away and was not seen again.
Again, there was the man of whom I have spoken in "Iona," who went to
the mainland, but could not see to plough because the brown fallows
became waves that splashed noisily about him: and how he went to Canada
and got work in a great warehouse, but among the bales of merchandise
heard continually the singular note of the sandpiper, while every hour
the sea-fowl confused him with their crying.

I have myself in lesser degree, known this irresistible longing. I am
not fond of towns, but some years ago I had to spend a winter in a great
city. It was all-important to me not to leave during January; and in one
way I was not ill-pleased, for it was a wild winter. But one night I
woke, hearing a rushing sound in the street--the sound of water. I would
have thought no more of it, had I not recognised the troubled noise of
the tide, and the sucking and lapsing of the flow in weedy hollows. I
rose and looked out. It was moonlight, and there was no water. When,
after sleepless hours, I rose in the grey morning I heard the splash of
waves. All that day and the next I heard the continual noise of waves. I
could not write or read; at last I could not rest. On the afternoon of
the third day the waves dashed up against the house. I said what I could
to my friends, and left by the night train. In the morning we (for a
kinswoman was with me) stood on Greenock Pier waiting for the Hebridean
steamer, the _Clansman_, and before long were landed on an island,
almost the nearest we could reach, and one that I loved well. We had to
be landed some miles from the place I wanted to go to, and it was a
long and cold journey. The innumerable little waterfalls hung in icicles
among the mosses, ferns, and white birches on the roadsides. Before we
reached our destination, we saw a wonderful sight. From three great
mountains, their flanks flushed with faint rose, their peaks, white and
solemn, vast columns of white smoke ascended. It was as though volcanic
fires had once again broken their long stillness. Then we saw what it
was: the north wind (unheard, unfelt, where we stood) blew a hurricane
against the other side of the peaks, and, striking upon the leagues of
hard snow, drove it upward like smoke, till the columns rose gigantic
and hung between the silence of the white peaks and the silence of the

That night, with the sea breaking less than a score yards from where I
lay, I slept, though for three nights I had not been able to sleep. When
I woke, my trouble was gone.

It was but a reminder to me. But to others it was more than that.

I remember that winter for another thing, which I may write of here.

From the fisherman's wife with whom I lodged I learned that her daughter
had recently borne a son, but was now up and about again, though for
the first time, that morning. We went to her, about noon. She was not in
the house. A small cabbage-garden lay behind, and beyond it the mossy
edge of a wood of rowans and birches broke steeply in bracken and
loneroid. The girl was there, and had taken the child from her breast,
and kneeling, was touching the earth with the small lint-white head.

I asked her what she was doing. She said it was the right thing to do;
that as soon as possible after the child was born, the mother should
take it--and best, at noon, and facing the sun--and touch its brow to
the earth. My friends (like many islanders of the Inner Hebrides, they
had no Gaelic) used an unfamiliar phrase; "It's the old Mothering." It
was, in truth, the sacrament of Our Mother, but in a far ancient sense.
I do not doubt the rite is among the most primitive of those practised
by the Celtic peoples.

I have not seen it elsewhere, though I have heard of it. Probably it is
often practised yet in remote places. Even where we were, the women were
somewhat fearful lest "the minister" heard of what the young mother had
done. They do not love these beautiful symbolic actions, these
"ministers," to whom they are superstitions. This old, pagan,
sacramental earth-rite is, certainly, beautiful. How could one better be
blessed, on coming into life, than to have the kiss of that ancient
Mother of whom we are all children? There must be wisdom in that first
touch. I do not doubt that behind the symbol lies, at times, the old
miraculous communication. For, even in this late day, some of us are
born with remembrance, with dumb worship, with intimate and uplifting
kinship to that Mother.

Since then I have asked often, in many parts of the Highlands and
Islands, for what is known of this rite, when and where practised, and
what meanings it bears; and some day I hope to put these notes on
record. I am convinced that the Earth-Blessing is more ancient than the
westward migration of the Celtic peoples.

I have both read and heard of another custom, though I have not known of
it at first-hand. The last time I was told of it was of a crofter and
his wife in North Uist. The once general custom is remembered in a
familiar Gaelic saying, the English of which is, "He got a turn through
the smoke." After baptism, a child was taken from the breast, and handed
by its mother (sometimes the child was placed in a basket) to the
father, across the fire. I do not think, but am not sure, if any signal
meaning lie in the mother handing the child to the father. When the rite
is spoken of, as often as not it is only "the parents" that the speaker
alludes to. The rite is universally recognised as a spell against the
dominion, or agency, of evil spirits. In Coll and Tiree, it is to keep
the Hidden People from touching or singing to the child. I think it is
an ancient propitiatory rite, akin to that which made our ancestors
touch the new-born to earth; as that which makes some islanders still
baptize a child with a little spray from the running wave, or a
fingerful of water from the tide at the flow; as that which made an old
woman lift me as a little child and hold me up to the south wind, "to
make me strong and fair and always young, and to keep back death and
sorrow, and to keep me safe from other winds and evil spirits." Old
Barabal has gone where the south wind blows, in blossom and flowers and
green leaves, across the pastures of Death; and I ... alas, I can but
wish that One stronger than she, for all her love, will lift me, as a
child again, to the Wind, and pass me across the Fire, and set me down
again upon a new Earth.


  _Be not troubled in the inward Hope. It lives in beauty, and the
  hand of God slowly wakens it year by year, and through the many ways
  of Sorrow. It is an Immortal, and its name is Joy._

                                                               F. M.

The Herdsman

On the night when Alan Carmichael with his old servant and friend, Ian
M'Ian, arrived in Balnaree ("Baile'-na-Righ"), the little village
wherein was all that Borosay had to boast of in the way of civic life,
he could not disguise from himself that he was regarded askance.

Rightly or wrongly, he took this to be resentment because of his having
wed (alas, he recalled, wed and lost) the daughter of the man who had
killed Ailean Carmichael in a duel. So possessed was he by this idea,
that he did not remember how little likely the islanders were to know
anything of him or his beyond the fact that Ailean MacAlasdair Rhona had
died abroad.

The trouble became more than an imaginary one when, on the morrow, he
tried to find a boat for the passage to Rona. But for the Frozen Hand,
as the triple-peaked hill to the south of Balnaree was called, Rona
would have been visible; nor was it, with a fair wind, more than an
hour's sail distant.

Nevertheless, he could detect in every one to whom he spoke a strange
reluctance. At last he asked an old man of his own surname why there was
so much difficulty.

In the island way, Seumas Carmichael replied that the people on Elleray,
the island adjacent to Rona, were unfriendly.

"But unfriendly at what?"

"Well, at this and at that. But for one thing, they are not having any
dealings with the Carmichaels. They are all Macneills there, Macneills
of Barra. There is a feud, I am thinking; though I know nothing of it;
no, not I."

"But Seumas mac Eachainn, you know well yourself that there are almost
no Carmichaels to have a feud with! There are you and your brother, and
there is your cousin over at Sgòrr-Bhan on the other side of Borosay.
Who else is there?"

To this the man could say nothing. Distressed, Alan sought Ian and bade
him find out what he could. He also was puzzled and uneasy. That some
evil was at work could not be doubted, and that it was secret boded

Ian was a stranger in Borosay because of his absence since boyhood; but,
after all, Ian mac Iain mhic Dhonuill was to the islanders one of
themselves; and though he came there with a man under a shadow (though
this phrase was not used in Ian's hearing), that was not his fault.

And when he reminded them that for these many years he had not seen the
old woman, his sister Giorsal; and spoke of her, and of their long
separation, and of his wish to see her again before he died, there was
no more hesitation, but only kindly willingness to help.

Within an hour a boat was ready to take the homefarers to the Isle of
Caves, as Rona is sometimes called. Before the hour was gone, they, with
the stores of food and other things, were slipping seaward out of
Borosay Haven.

The moment the headland was rounded, the heights of Rona came into view.
Great gaunt cliffs they are, precipices of black basalt; though on the
south side they fall away in grassy declivities which hang a greenness
over the wandering wave for ever sobbing round that desolate shore. But
it was not till the Sgòrr-Dhu, a conical black rock at the south-east
end of the island, was reached, that the stone keep, known as
Caisteal-Rhona, came in sight.

It stands at the landward extreme of a rocky ledge, on the margin of a
green _àiridh_. Westward is a small dark-blue sea loch, no more than a
narrow haven. To the north-west rise precipitous cliffs; northward,
above the green pasture and a stretch of heather, is a woodland belt of
some three or four hundred pine-trees. It well deserves its poetic name
of I-monair, as Aodh the Islander sang of it; for it echoes ceaselessly
with wind and wave. If the waves dash against it from the south or east,
a loud crying is upon the faces of the rocks; if from the north or
north-east, there are unexpected inland silences, but amid the pines a
continual voice. It is when the wind blows from the south-west, or the
huge Atlantic billows surge out of the west, that Rona is given over to
an indescribable tumult. Through the whole island goes the myriad echo
of a continuous booming; and within this a sound as though waters were
pouring through vast hidden conduits in the heart of every precipice,
every rock, every boulder. This is because of the sea-arcades of which
it consists, for from the westward the island has been honeycombed by
the waves. No living man has ever traversed all those mysterious,
winding sea-galleries. Many have perished in the attempt. In the olden
days the Uisteans and Barrovians sought refuge there from the marauding
Danes and other pirates out of Lochlin; and in the time when the last
Scottish king took shelter in the west, many of his island followers
found safety among these perilous arcades.

Some of them reach an immense height. These are filled with a pale green
gloom which in fine weather, and at noon or toward sundown, becomes
almost radiant. But most have only a dusky green obscurity, and some are
at all times dark with a darkness that has seen neither sun nor moon nor
star for unknown ages. Sometimes, there, a phosphorescent wave will
spill a livid or a cold blue flame, and for a moment a vast gulf of
dripping basalt be revealed; but day and night, night and day, from year
to year, from age to age, that awful wave-clamant darkness is unbroken.

To the few who know some of the secrets of the passages, it is possible,
except when a gale blows from any quarter but the north, to thread these
dim arcades in a narrow boat, and so to pass from the Hebrid Seas to the
outer Atlantic. But for the unwary there might well be no return; for in
that maze of winding galleries and sea-washed, shadowy arcades,
confusion is but another name for death. Once bewildered, there is no
hope; and the lost adventurer will remain there idly drifting from
barren passage to passage, till he perish of hunger and thirst, or,
maddened by the strange and appalling gloom and the unbroken
silence--for there the muffled voice of the sea is no more than a
whisper--leap into the green waters which for ever slide stealthily from
ledge to ledge.

Now, as Alan approached his remote home, he thought of these
death-haunted corridors, avenues of the grave, as they are called in the
"Cumha Fhir-Mearanach Aonghas mhic Dhonuill"--the Lament of mad Angus

When at last the unwieldy brown coble sailed into the little haven, it
was to create unwonted excitement among the few fishermen who put in
there frequently for bait. A group of eight or ten was upon the rocky
ledge beyond Caisteal-Rhona, among them the elderly woman who was sister
to Ian mac Iain.

At Alan's request, Ian went ashore in advance in a small punt. He was to
wave his hand if all were well, for Alan could not but feel
apprehensive on account of the strange ill-will that had shown itself at

It was with relief that he saw the signal when, after Ian had embraced
his sister, and shaken hands with all the fishermen, he had explained
that the son of Ailean Carmichael was come out of the south, and had
come to live a while at Caisteal-Rhona.

All there uncovered and waved their hats. Then a shout of welcome went
up, and Alan's heart was glad. But the moment he had set foot on land he
saw a startled look come into the eyes of the fishermen--a look that
deepened swiftly into one of aversion, almost of fear.

One by one the men moved away, awkward in their embarrassment. Not one
came forward with outstretched hand, or said a word of welcome.

At first amazed, then indignant, Ian reproached them. They received his
words in shamed silence. Even when with a bitter tongue he taunted them,
they answered nothing.

"Giorsal," said Ian, turning in despair to his sister, "is it madness
that you have?"

But even she was no longer the same. Her eyes were fixed upon Alan with
a look of dread, and indeed of horror. It was unmistakable, and Alan
himself was conscious of it with a strange sinking of the heart. "Speak,
woman!" he demanded. "What is the meaning of this thing? Why do you and
these men look at me askance?"

"God forbid!" answered Giorsal Macdonald with white lips; "God forbid
that we look at the son of Ailean Carmichael askance. But----"

"But what?"

With that the woman put her apron over her head and moved away,
muttering strange words.

"Ian, what is this mystery?"

"How am I for knowing, Alan mac Ailean? It is all a darkness to me also.
But I will be finding that out soon."

That, however, was easier for Ian to say than to do. Meanwhile, the
brown coble tacked back to Borosay, and the fisherman sailed away to the
Barra coasts, and Alan and Ian were left solitary in their wild and
remote home.

But in that very solitude Alan found healing. From what Giorsal hinted,
he came to believe that the fishermen had experienced one of those
strange dream-waves which, in remote isles, occur at times, when whole
communities will be wrought by the self-same fantasy. When day by day
went past, and no one came near, he at first was puzzled, and even
resentful; but this passed, and soon he was glad to be alone. Ian,
however, knew that there was another cause for the inexplicable aversion
that had been shown. But he was silent, and kept a patient watch for the
hour that the future held in its shroud. As for Giorsal, she was dumb;
but no more looked at Alan askance.

And so the weeks went. Occasionally a fishing smack came with the
provisions, for the weekly despatch of which Alan had arranged at Loch
Boisdale, and sometimes the Barra men put in at the haven, though they
would never stay long, and always avoided Alan as much as was possible.

In that time Alan and Ian came to know and love their strangely
beautiful island home. Hours and hours at a time they spent exploring
the dim, green, winding sea-galleries, till at last they knew the chief
arcades thoroughly.

They had even ventured into some of the narrow, snake-like inner
passages, but never for long, because of the awe and dread these held,
silent estuaries of the grave.

Week after week passed, and to Alan it was as the going of the grey
owl's wing, swift and silent.

Then it was that, on a day of the days, he was suddenly stricken with a
new and startling dread.


In the hour that this terror came upon him Alan was alone upon the high
slopes of Rona, where the grass fails and the lichen yellows at close on
a thousand feet above the sea.

The day had been cloudless since sunrise. The sea was as the single vast
petal of an azure flower, all of one unbroken blue save for the shadows
of the scattered isles and the slow-drifting mauve or purple of floating
weed. Countless birds congregated from every quarter. Guillemots and
puffins, cormorants and northern divers, everywhere darted, swam, or
slept upon the listless ocean, whose deep breathing no more than lifted
a league-long calm here and there, to lapse breathlike as it rose.
Through the not less silent quietudes of air the grey skuas swept with
curving flight, and the narrow-winged terns made a constant white
shimmer. At remote altitudes the gannet motionlessly drifted. Oceanward
the great widths of calm were rent now and again by the shoulders of the
porpoises which followed the herring trail, their huge, black, revolving
bodies looming large above the silent wave. Not a boat was visible
anywhere; not even upon the most distant horizons did a brown sail fleck
itself duskily against the skyward wall of steely blue.

In the great stillness which prevailed, the noise of the surf beating
around the promontory of Aonaig was audible as a whisper; though even in
that windless hour the confused rumour of the sea, moving through the
arcades of the island, filled the hollow of the air overhead. Ever since
the early morning Alan had moved under a strange gloom. Out of that
golden glory of midsummer a breath of joyous life should have reached
his heart, but it was not so. For sure, there is sometimes in the quiet
beauty of summer an air of menace, a premonition of suspended force--a
force antagonistic and terrible. All who have lived in these lonely
isles know the peculiar intensity of this summer melancholy. No noise of
wind, no prolonged season of untimely rains, no long baffling of mists
in all the drear inclemencies of that remote region, can produce the
same ominous and even paralysing gloom sometimes born of ineffable
peace and beauty. Is it that in the human soul there is a mysterious
kinship with the outer soul which we call Nature; and that in these few
supreme hours which come at the full of the year, we are, sometimes,
suddenly aware of the tremendous forces beneath and behind us, momently

Determined to shake off this dejection, Alan wandered high among the
upland solitudes. There a cool air moved always, even in the noons of
August; and there, indeed, often had come upon him a deep peace. But
whatsoever the reason, only a deeper despondency possessed him. An
incident, significant in that mood, at that time, happened then. A few
hundred yards away from where he stood, half hidden in a little glen
where a fall of water tossed its spray among the shadows of rowan and
birch, was the bothie of a woman, the wife of Neil MacNeill, a fisherman
of Aoinaig. She was there, he knew, for the summer pasturing; and even
as he recollected this, he heard the sound of her voice as she sang
somewhere by the burnside. Moving slowly toward the corrie, he stopped
at a mountain ash which over hung a pool. Looking down, he saw the
woman, Morag MacNeill, washing and peeling potatoes in the clear brown
water. And as she washed and peeled, she sang an old-time shealing hymn
of the Virgin-Shepherdess, of Michael the White, and of Columan the
Dove. It was a song that, years ago, far away in Brittany, he had heard
from his mother's lips. He listened now to every word of the doubly
familiar Gaelic; and when Morag ended, the tears were in his eyes, and
he stood for a while as one under a spell.[13]

    "A Mhicheil mhin! nan steud geala,
    A choisin cios air Dragon fala,
    Air ghaol Dia 'us Mhic Muire,
    Sgaoil do sgiath oirnn dian sinn uile,
    Sgaoil do sgiath oirnn dian sinn uile.

    "A Mhoire ghradhach! Mathair Uain-ghil,
    Cobhair oirnne, Oigh na h-uaisle;
    A rioghainn uai'reach! a bhuachaille nan treud!
    Cum ar cuallach cuartaich sinn le cheil,
    Cum ar cuallach cuartaich sinn le cheil.

    "A Chalum-Chille: chairdeil, chaoimh,
    An ainm Athar, Mic, 'us Spioraid Naoimh,
    Trid na Trithinn! trid na Triath!
    Comraig sinne, gleidh ar trial,
    Comraig sinne, gleidh ar trial.

    "Athair! A Mhic! A Spioraid Naoimh!
    Bi'eadh an Tri-Aon leinn, a la's a dh-oidhche!
    'S air chul nan tonn, no air thaobh nan beann,
    Bi'dh ar Mathair leinn, 's bith a lamh fo'r ceann,
    Bi'dh ar Mathair leinn, 's bith a lamh fo'r ceann.

    "Thou gentle Michael of the white steed,
    Who subdued the Dragon of blood,
    For love of God and the Son of Mary,
    Spread over us thy wing, shield us all!
    Spread over us thy wing, shield us all!

    "Mary beloved! Mother of the White Lamb,
    Protect us, thou Virgin of nobleness,
    Queen of beauty! Shepherdess of the flocks!
    Keep our cattle, surround us together,
    Keep our cattle, surround us together.

    "Thou Columba, the friendly, the kind,
    In name of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit Holy,
    Through the Three-in-One, through the Three,
    Encompass us, guard our procession,
    Encompass us, guard our procession.

    "Thou Father! thou Son! thou Spirit Holy!
    Be the Three-in-One with us day and night.
    And on the crested wave, or on the mountain side.
    Our Mother is there, and her arm is under our head,
    Our Mother is there, and her arm is under our head."

Alan found himself repeating whisperingly, and again and again--

    "Bi 'eadh an Tri-Aon leinn, a la's a dh-oidhche!
    'S air chul nan tonn, no air thaobh nam beann."

Suddenly the woman glanced upward, perhaps because of the shadow that
moved against the green bracken below. With a startled gesture she
sprang to her feet. Alan looked at her kindly, saying, with a smile,
"Sure, Morag nic Tormod, it is not fear you need be having of one who is
your friend." Then, seeing that the woman stared at him with something
of terror as well as surprise, he spoke to her again.

"Sure, Morag, I am no stranger that you should be looking at me with
those foreign eyes." He laughed as he spoke, and made as though he were
about to descend to the burnside. Unmistakably, however, the woman did
not desire his company. He saw this, with the pain and bewilderment
which had come upon him whenever the like happened, as so often it had
happened since he had come to Rona.

"Tell me, Morag MacNeill, what is the meaning of this strangeness that
is upon you? Why do you not speak? Why do you turn away your head?"

Suddenly the woman flashed her black eyes upon him.

"Have you ever heard of _am Buachaill Bàn--am Buachaill Buidhe?_"

He looked at her in amaze. _Am Buachaill Bàn!_ ... The fair-haired
Herdsman, the yellow-haired Herdsman! What could she mean? In days gone
by, he knew, the islanders, in the evil time after Culloden, had so
named the fugitive Prince who had sought shelter in the Hebrides; and in
some of the runes of an older day still the Saviour of the World was
sometimes so called, just as Mary was called _Bhuachaile nan
treud_--Shepherdess of the Flock. But it could be no allusion to either
of these that was intended.

"Who is the Herdsman of whom you speak, Morag?"

"Is it no knowledge you have of him at all, Alan MacAilean?"

"None. I know nothing of the man, nothing of what is in your mind. Who
is the Herdsman?"

"You will not be putting evil upon me because that you saw me here by
the pool before I saw you?"

"Why should I, woman? Why do you think that I have the power of the evil
eye? Sure, I have done no harm to you or yours, and wish none. But if it
is for peace to you to know it, it is no evil I wish you, but only
good. The Blessing of Himself be upon you and yours and upon your

The woman looked relieved, but still cast her furtive gaze upon Alan,
who no longer attempted to join her.

"I cannot be speaking the thing that is in my mind, Alan MacAilean. It
is not for me to be saying that thing. But if you have no knowledge of
the Herdsman, sure it is only another wonder of the wonders, and God has
the sun on that shadow, to the Stones be it said."

"But tell me, Morag, who is the Herdsman of whom you speak?"

For a minute or more the woman stood regarding him intently. Then
slowly, and with obvious reluctance, she spoke--

"Why have you appeared to the people upon the isles, sometimes by
moonlight, sometimes by day or in the dusk, and have foretold upon one
and all who dwell here black gloom and the red flame of sorrow? Why have
you, who are an outcast because of what lies between you and another,
pretended to be a messenger of the Son--ay, for sure, even, God forgive
you, to be the Son Himself?"

Alan stared at the woman. For a time he could utter no word. Had some
extraordinary delusion spread among the islanders, and was there in the
insane accusation of this woman the secret of that which had so troubled

"This is all an empty darkness to me, Morag. Speak more plainly, woman.
What is all this madness that you say? When have I spoken of having any
mission, or of being other than I am? When have I foretold evil upon you
or yours, or upon the isles beyond? What man has ever dared to say that
Alan MacAilean of Rona is an outcast? And what sin is it that lies
between me and another of which you know?"

It was impossible for Morag MacNeill to doubt the sincerity of the man
who spoke to her. She crossed herself, and muttered the words of a
_seun_ for the protection of the soul against the demon powers. Still,
even while she believed in Alan's sincerity, she could not reconcile it
with that terrible and strange mystery with which rumour had filled her
ears. So, having nothing to say in reply to his eager questions, she
cast down her eyes and kept silence.

"Speak, Morag, for Heaven's sake! Speak if you are a true woman; you
that see a man in sore pain, in pain, too, for that of which he knows
nothing, and of the ill of which he is guiltless!"

But, keeping her face averted, the woman muttered simply, "I have no
more to say." With that she turned and moved slowly along the pathway
which led from the pool to her hillside bothie.

With a sigh, Alan walked slowly away. What wonder, he thought, that deep
gloom had been upon him that day? Here, in the woman's mysterious words,
was the shadow of that shadow.

Slowly, brooding deep over what he had heard, he crossed the
Monadh-nan-Con, as the hill-tract there was called, till he came to the
rocky wilderness known as the Slope of the Caverns.

There for a time he leaned against a high boulder, idly watching a few
sheep nibbling the short grass which grew about some of the many caves
which opened in slits or wide hollows. Below and beyond he saw the pale
blue silence of the sea meet the pale blue silence of the sky;
south-westward, the grey film of the coast of Ulster; westward, again
the illimitable vast of sea and sky, infinitudes of calm, as though the
blue silence of heaven breathed in that one motionless wave, as though
that wave sighed and drew the horizons to its heart. From where he
stood he could hear the murmur of the surge whispering all round the
isle; the surge that, even on days of profound stillness, makes a
murmurous rumour among the rocks and shingle of the island shores. Not
upon the moor-side, but in the blank hollows of the caves around him, he
heard, as in gigantic shells, the moving of a strange and solemn rhythm:
wave-haunted shells indeed, for the echo that was bruited from one to
the other came from beneath, from out of those labyrinthine passages and
dim, shadowy sea-arcades, where among the melancholy green glooms the
Atlantic waters lose themselves in a vain wandering.

For long he leaned there, revolving in his mind the mystery of Morag
MacNeill's words. Then, abruptly, the stillness was broken by the sound
of a dislodged stone. So little did he expect the foot of fellow-man,
that he did not turn at what he thought to be the slip of a sheep. But
when upon the slope of the grass, a little way beyond where he stood, a
dusky blue shadow wavered fantastically, he swung round with a sudden
instinct of dread.

And this was the dread which, after these long weeks since he had come
to Rona, was upon Alan Carmichael.

For there, standing quietly by another boulder, at the mouth of another
cave, was a man in all appearance identical with himself. Looking at
this apparition, he beheld one of the same height as himself, with hair
of the same hue, with eyes the same and features the same, with the same
carriage, the same smile, the same expression. No, there, and there
alone, was any difference.

Sick at heart, Alan wondered if he looked upon his own wraith. Familiar
with the legends of his people, it would have been no strange thing to
him that there, upon the hillside, should appear the wraith of himself.
Had not old Ian McIain--and that, too, though far away in a strange
land--seen the death of his mother moving upward from her feet to her
knees, from her knees to her waist, from her waist to her neck, and,
just before the end, how the shroud darkened along the face until it hid
the eyes? Had he not often heard from her, from Ian, of the second self
which so often appears beside the living when already the shadow of doom
is upon him whose hours are numbered? Was this, then, the reason of what
had been his inexplicable gloom? Was he indeed at the extreme of life?
Was his soul amid shallows, already a rock upon a blank, inhospitable
shore? If not, who or what was this second self which leaned there
negligently, looking at him with scornful smiling lips, but with intent,
unsmiling eyes.

Slowly there came into his mind this thought: How could a phantom, that
was itself intangible, throw a shadow upon the grass, as though it were
a living body? Sure, a shadow there was indeed. It lay between the
apparition and himself. A legend heard in boyhood came back to him;
instinctively he stooped and lifted a stone and flung it midway into the

"Go back into the darkness," he cried, "if out of the darkness you came;
but if you be a living thing, put out your hands!"

The shadow remained motionless. When Alan looked again at his second
self, he saw that the scorn which had been upon the lips was now in the
eyes also. Ay, for sure, scornful silent laughter it was that lay in
those cold wells of light. No phantom that; a man he, even as Alan
himself. His heart pulsed like that of a trapped bird, but with the
spoken word his courage came back to him.

"Who are you?" he asked, in a voice strange even in his own ears.

"_Am Buachaill_," replied the man in a voice as low and strange. "I am
the Herdsman."

A new tide of fear surged in upon Alan. That voice, was it not his own?
that tone, was it not familiar in his ears? When the man spoke, he heard
himself speak; sure, if he were _Am Buachaill Bàn_, Alan, too, was the
Herdsman, though what fantastic destiny might be his was all unknown to

"Come near," said the man, and now the mocking light in his eyes was
wild as cloud-fire--"come near, oh _Buachaill Bàn_!"

With a swift movement, Alan sprang forward; but as he leaped, his foot
caught in a spray of heather, and he stumbled and fell. When he rose, he
looked in vain for the man who had called him. There was not a sign, not
a trace of any living being. For the first few moments he believed it
had all been a delusion. Mortal being did not appear and vanish in that
ghostly way. Still, surely he could not have mistaken the blank of that
place for a speaking voice, or out of nothingness have fashioned the
living phantom of himself? Or could he? With that, he strode forward and
peered into the wide arch of the cavern by which the man had stood. He
could not see far into it; but so far as it was possible to see, he
discerned neither man nor shadow of man, nor anything that stirred; no,
not even the gossamer bloom of a beàrnan-bride, that grew on a patch of
grass a yard or two within the darkness, had lost one of its delicate
filmy spires. He drew back, dismayed. Then, suddenly, his heart leaped
again, for beyond all question, all possible doubt, there, in the bent
thyme, just where the man had stood, was the imprint of his feet. Even
now the green sprays were moving forward.


An hour passed, and Alan Carmichael had not moved from the entrance to
the cave. So still was he that a ewe, listlessly wandering in search of
cooler grass, lay down after a while, drowsily regarding him with her
amber-coloured eyes. All his thought was upon the mystery of what he had
seen. No delusion this, he was sure. That was a man whom he had seen.
But who could he be? On so small an island, inhabited by less than a
score of crofters, it was scarcely possible for one to live for many
weeks and not know the name and face of every soul. Still, a stranger
might have come. Only, if this were so, why should he call himself the
Herdsman? There was but one herdsman on Rona and he Angus MacCormic, who
lived at Einaval on the north side. In these outer isles, the shepherd
and the herdsman are appointed by the community, and no man is allowed
to be one or the other at will, any more than to be a _maor_. Then, too,
if this man were indeed herdsman, where was his _iomair-ionailtair_, his
browsing tract? Looking round him, Alan could perceive nowhere any
fitting pasture. Surely no herdsman would be content with such an
_iomair a bhuachaill_--rig of the herdsman--as that rocky wilderness
where the soft green grass grew in patches under this or that boulder,
on the sun side of this or that rocky ledge. Again, he had given no
name, but called himself simply _Am Buachaill_. This was how the woman
Morag had spoken; did she indeed mean this very man? and if so, what lay
in her words? But far beyond all other bewilderment for him was that
strange, that indeed terrifying likeness to himself--a likeness so
absolute, so convincing, that he knew he might himself easily have been
deceived, had he beheld the apparition in any place where it was
possible that a reflection could have misled him.

Brooding thus, eye and ear were both alert for the faintest sight or
sound. But from the interior of the cavern not a breath came. Once, from
among the jagged rocks high on the west slope of Ben Einaval, he
fancied he heard an unwonted sound--that of human laughter, but laughter
so wild, so remote, so unmirthful, that fear was in his heart. It could
not be other than imagination, he said to himself; for in that lonely
place there was none to wander idly at that season, and none who,
wandering, would laugh there solitary.

It was with an effort that Alan at last determined to probe the mystery.
Stooping, he moved cautiously into the cavern, and groped his way along
the narrow passage which led, as he thought, into another larger cave.
But this proved to be one of the innumerable blind ways which intersect
the honeycombed slopes of the Isle of Caves. To wander far in these
lightless passages would be to track death. Long ago the piper whom the
Prionnsa-Bàn, the Fair Prince, loved to hear in his exile--he that was
called Rory M'Vurich--penetrated one of the larger hollows to seek there
for a child that had idly wandered into the dark. Some of the clansmen,
with the father and mother of the little one, waited at the entrance to
the cave. For a time there was silence; then, as agreed upon, the sound
of the pipes was heard, to which a man named Lachlan M'Lachlan replied
from the outer air. The skirl of the pipes within grew fainter and
fainter. Louder and louder Lachlan played upon his chanter; deeper and
deeper grew the wild moaning of the drone; but for all that, fainter and
fainter waned the sound of the pipes of Rory M'Vurich. Generations have
come and gone upon the isle, and still no man has heard the returning
air which Rory was to play. He may have found the little child, but he
never found his backward path, and in the gloom of that honeycombed hill
he and the child and the music of the pipes lapsed into the same
stillness. Remembering this legend, familiar to him since his boyhood,
Alan did not dare to venture further. At any moment, too, he knew he
might fall into one of the crevices which opened into the sea-corridors
hundreds of feet below. Ancient rumour had it that there were mysterious
passages from the upper heights of Ben Einaval which led into the heart
of this perilous maze. But for a time he lay still, straining every
sense. Convinced at last that the man whom he sought had evaded all
possible quest, he turned to regain the light. Brief way as he had gone,
this was no easy thing to do. For a few moments, indeed, Alan lost his
self-possession when he found a uniform dusk about him, and could not
discern which of the several branching narrow corridors was that by
which he had come. But following the greener light, he reached the cave,
and soon, with a sigh of relief, was upon the sun-sweet warm earth

How more than ever beautiful the world seemed! how sweet to the eyes
were upland and cliff, the wide stretch of ocean, the flying birds, the
sheep grazing on the scanty pastures, and, above all, the homely blue
smoke curling faintly upward from the fisher crofts on the headland east
of Aonaig!

Purposely he retraced his steps by the way of the glen: he would see the
woman Morag MacNeill again, and insist on some more explicit word. But
when he reached the burnside once more, the woman was not there.
Possibly she had seen him coming, and guessed his purpose; half he
surmised this, for the peats in the hearth were brightly aglow, and on
the hob beside them the boiling water hissed in a great iron pot wherein
were potatoes. In vain he sought, in vain called. Impatient, he walked
around the bothie and into the little byre beyond. The place was
deserted. This, small matter as it was, added to his disquietude.
Resolved to sift the mystery, he walked swiftly down the slope. By the
old shealing of Cnoc-na-Monie, now forsaken, his heart leaped at sight
of Ian coming to meet him.

When they met, Alan put his hands lovingly on the old man's shoulders,
and looked at him with questioning eyes. He found rest and hope in those
deep pools of quiet light, whence the faithful love rose comfortingly to
meet his own yearning gaze.

"What is it, Alan-mo-ghray; what is the trouble that is upon you?"

"It is a trouble, Ian, but one of which I can speak little, for it is
little I know."

"Now, now, for sure you must tell me what it is."

"I have seen a man here upon Rona whom I have not seen or met before,
and it is one whose face is known to me, and whose voice too, and one
whom I would not meet again."

"Did he give you no name?"


"Where did he come from? Where did he go to?"

"He came out of the shadow, and into the shadow he went."

Ian looked steadfastly at Alan, his wistful gaze searching deep into his
unquiet eyes, and thence from feature to feature of the face which had
become strangely worn of late.

But he questioned no further.

"I, too, Alan MacAilean, have heard a strange thing to-day. You know old
Marsail Macrae? She is ill now with a slow fever, and she thinks that
the shadow which she saw lying upon her hearth last Sabbath, when
nothing was there to cause any shadow, was her own death, come for her,
and now waiting there. I spoke to the old woman, but she would not have
peace, and her eyes looked at me.

"'What will it be now, Marsail?' I asked.

"'Ay, ay, for sure,' she said, 'it was I who saw you first.'

"'Saw me first, Marsail?'

"'Ay, you and Alan MacAilean.'

"'When and where was this sight upon you?'

"'It was one month before you and he came to Rona.'

"I asked the poor old woman to be telling me her meaning. At first I
could make little of what was said, for she muttered low, and moved her
head this way and that, and moaned like a stricken ewe. But on my taking
her hand, she looked at me again, and then told me this thing--

"'On the seventh day of the month before you came--and by the same token
it was on the seventh day of the month following that you and Alan
McAilean came to Caisteal-Rhona--I was upon the shore at Aonaig,
listening to the crying of the wind against the great cliff of
Biola-creag. With me were Ruaridh Macrae and Neil MacNeill, Morag
MacNeill, and her sister Elsa; and we were singing the hymn for those
who were out on the wild sea that was roaring white against the cliffs
of Berneray, for some of our people were there, and we feared for them.
Sometimes one sang, and sometimes another. And sure, it is remembering I
am, how, when I had called out with my old wailing voice--

    "'Bi 'eadh an Tri-aon leinn, a la's a dh-oidche;
    'S air chul nan tonn, A Mhoire ghradhach!

    (Be the Three-in-One with us day and night;
    And on the crested wave, O Mary Beloved!)

"'Now when I had just sung this, and we were all listening to the sound
of it caught by the wind and blown up against the black face of
Biola-creag, I saw a boat come sailing into the haven. I called out to
those about me, but they looked at me with white faces, for no boat was
there, and it was a rough, wild sea it was in that haven.

"'And in that boat I saw three people sitting; and one was you, Ian
MacIain, and one was a man who had his face in shadow, and his eyes
looked into the shadow at his feet. I saw you clear, and told those
about me what I saw.' And Seumas MacNeill, him that is dead now, and
brother to Neil here at Aonaig, he said to me, 'Who was that whom you
saw walking in the dusk the night before last?'--'Ailean MacAlasdair
Carmichael,' answered one at that. Seumas muttered, looking at those,
about him, 'Mark what I say, for it is a true thing--that Ailean
Carmichael of Rona is dead now, because Marsail saw him walking in the
dusk when he was not upon the island; and now, you Neil, and you Rory,
and all of you, will be for thinking with me that one of the men in the
boat whom Marsail sees now will be the son of him who has changed.'

"Well, well, it is a true thing that we each of us thought that thought,
but when the days went and nothing more came of it, the memory of the
seeing went too. Then there came the day when the coble of Aulay
MacAulay came out of Borosay into Caisteal-Rhona haven. Glad we were to
see your face again, Ian McIain, and to hear the sob of joy coming out
of the heart of Giorsal your sister; but when you and Alan MacAilean
came on shore, it was my voice that then went from mouth to mouth, for
I whispered to Morag MacNeill who was next me that you were the men I
had seen in the boat.'

"Well, after that," Ian added, with a grave smile, "I spoke gently to
old Marsail, and told her that there was no evil in that seeing, and
that for sure it was nothing at all, at all, to see two people in a
boat, and nothing coming of that, save happiness for those two, and glad
content to be here.

"Marsail looked at me with big eyes.

"But when I asked her what she meant by that, she would say no more. No
asking of mine would bring the word to her lips, only she shook her head
and kept her gaze from my face. Then, seeing that it was useless, I said
to her--

"'Marsail, tell me this: Was this sight of yours the sole thing that
made the people here on Rona look askance at Alan MacAilean?'

"For a time she stared at me with dim eyes, then suddenly she spoke--

"'It is not all.'

"'Then what more is there, Marsail Macrae?'

"'That is not for the saying. I have no more to say. Let you, or Alan
MacAilean, go elsewhere. That which is to be, will be. To each his own

"'Then be telling me this now at least,' I asked: 'is there danger for
him or me in this island?'

"But the poor old woman would say no more, and then I saw a swoon was on

After this, Alan and Ian walked slowly home together, both silent, and
each revolving in his mind as in a dim dusk that mystery which, vague
and unreal at first, had now become a living presence, and haunted them
by day and night.


"In the shadow of pain, one may hear the footsteps of joy." So runs a
proverb of old.

It was a true saying for Alan. That night he lay down in pain, his heart
heavy with the weight of a mysterious burden. On the morrow he woke
blithely to a new day--a day of absolute beauty. The whole wide
wilderness of ocean was of living azure, aflame with gold and silver.
Around the promontories of the isles the brown-sailed fishing-boats of
Barra and Berneray, of Borosay and Seila, moved blithely hither and
thither. Everywhere the rhythm of life pulsed swift and strong. The
first sound which had awakened Alan was of a loud singing of fishermen
who were putting out from Aonaig. The coming of a great shoal of
mackerel had been signalled, and every man and woman of the near isles
was alert for the take. The watchers had known it by the swift
congregation of birds, particularly the gannets and skuas. And as the
men pulled at the oars, or hoisted the brown sails, they sang a snatch
of an old-world tune, still chanted at the first coming of the birds
when spring-tide is on the flow again--

    "Bui' cheas dha 'n Ti thaine na Gugachan
    Thaine's na h-Eoin-Mhora cuideriu,
    Cailin dugh ciaru bo's a chro!
    Bo dhonn! bo dhonn! bo dhonn bheadarrach!
    Bo dhonn a ruin a bhlitheadh am baine dhuit
    Ho ro! mo gheallag! ni gu rodagach!
    Cailin dugh ciaru bo's a chro--
    Na h-eoin air tighinn! cluinneam an ceol!"

    (Thanks to the Being, the Gannets have come,
    Yes! and the Great Auks along with them.
    Dark-haired girl!--a cow in the fold!
    Brown cow! brown cow! brown cow, beloved ho!
    Brown cow! my love! the milker of milk to thee!
    Ho ro! my fair-skinned girl--a cow, in the fold,
    And the birds have come!--glad sight, I see!)

Eager to be of help, Ian put off in his boat, and was soon among the
fishermen, who in their new excitement were forgetful of all else than
that the mackerel were come, and that every moment was precious. For the
first time Ian found himself no unwelcome comrade. Was it, he wondered,
because that, there upon the sea, whatever of shadow dwelled about him,
or rather about Alan MacAilean, on the land, was no longer visible.

All through that golden noon he and the others worked hard. From isle to
isle went the chorus of the splashing oars and splashing nets; of the
splashing of the fish and the splashing of gannets and gulls; of the
splashing of the tide leaping blithely against the sun-dazzle, and the
illimitable rippling splash moving out of the west;--all this blent with
the loud, joyous cries, the laughter, and the hoarse shouts of the men
of Barra and the adjacent islands. It was close upon dusk before the
Rona boats put into the haven of Aonaig again; and by that time none was
blither than Ian MacIain, who in that day of happy toil had lost all the
gloom and apprehension of the day before, and now returned to
Caisteal-Rhona with lighter heart than he had known for long.

When, however, he got there, there was no sign of Alan. He had gone,
said Giorsal, he had gone out in the smaller boat midway in the
afternoon, and had sailed around to Aoidhu, the great scaur which ran
out beyond the precipices at the south-west of Rona.

This Alan often did, and of late more and more often. Ever since he had
come to the Hebrid Isles his love of the sea had deepened and had grown
into a passion for its mystery and beauty. Of late, too, something
impelled to a more frequent isolation, a deep longing to be where no eye
could see and no ear hearken.

So at first Ian was in no way alarmed. But when the sun had set, and
over the faint blue film of the Isle of Tiree the moon had risen, and
still no sign of Alan, he became restless and uneasy. Giorsal begged him
in vain to eat of the supper she had prepared. Idly he moved to and fro
along the rocky ledge, or down by the pebbly shore, or across the green
_àiridh_, eager for a glimpse of him whom he loved so well.

At last, unable longer to endure a growing anxiety, he put out in his
boat, and sailed swiftly before the slight easterly breeze which had
prevailed since moonrise. So far as Aoidhu, all the way from Aonaig,
there was not a haven anywhere, nor even one of the sea caverns which
honeycombed the isle beyond the headland. A glance, therefore, showed
him that Alan had not yet come back that way. It was possible, though
unlikely, that he had sailed right round Rona; unlikely, because in the
narrow straits to the north, between Rona and the scattered islets known
as the Innsemhara, strong currents prevailed, and particularly at the
full of the tide, when they swept north-eastward dark and swift as a

Once the headland was passed and the sheer precipitous westward cliffs
loomed black out of the sea, he became more and more uneasy. As yet,
there was no danger; but he saw that a swell was moving out of the west;
and whenever the wind blew that way, the sea-arcades were filled with a
lifting, perilous wave. Later, escape might be difficult, and often
impossible. Out of the score or more great passages which opened between
Aoidhu and Ardgorm, it was difficult to know into which to chance the
search of Alan. Together they had examined all of them. Some twisted but
slightly; others wound sinuously till the green, serpentine alleys,
flanked by basalt walls hundreds of feet high, lost themselves in an
indistinguishable maze.

But that which was safest, and wherein a boat could most easily make its
way against wind or tide, was the huge, cavernous passage known locally
as the Uaimh-nan-roin, the Cave of the Seals.

For this opening Ian steered his boat. Soon he was within the wide
corridor. Like the great cave at Staffa, it was wrought as an aisle in
some natural cathedral; the rocks, too, were columnar, and rose in
flawless symmetry, as though graven by the hand of man. At the far end
of this gigantic aisle, there diverges a long, narrow arcade, filled by
day with the green shine of the water, and by night, when the moon is
up, with a pale froth of light. It is one of the few where there are
open gateways for the sea and the wandering light, and by its spherical
shape almost the only safe passage in a season of heavy wind. Half-way
along this arched arcade a corridor leads to a round cup-like cavern,
midway in which stands a huge mass of black basalt, in shape suggestive
of a titanic altar. Thus it must have impressed the imagination of the
islanders of old; for by them, even in a remote day, it was called
Teampull-Mara, the Temple of the Sea. Owing to the narrowness of the
passage, and to the smooth, unbroken walls which rise sheer from the
green depths into an invisible darkness, the Strait of the Temple is not
one wherein to linger long, save in a time of calm.

Instinctively, however, Ian quietly headed his boat along this narrow
way. When, silently, he emerged from the arcade, he could just discern
the mass of basalt at the far end of the cavern. But there, seated in
his boat, was Alan, apparently idly adrift, for one oar floated in the
water alongside, and the other swung listlessly from the tholes.

His heart had a suffocating grip as he saw him whom he had come to seek.
Why that absolute stillness, that strange, listless indifference? For a
dreadful moment he feared death had indeed come to him in that lonely
place where, as an ancient legend had it, a woman of old time had
perished, and ever since had wrought death upon any who came thither
solitary and unhappy.

But at the striking of the shaft of his oar against a ledge, Alan moved,
and looked at him with startled eyes. Half rising from where he crouched
in the stern, he called to him in a voice that had in it something
strangely unfamiliar.

"I will not hear!" he cried. "I will not hear! Leave me! Leave me!"

Fearing that the desolation of the place had wrought upon his mind, Ian
swiftly moved toward him, and the next moment his boat glided alongside.
Stepping from the one to the other, he kneeled beside him.

"_Ailean mo caraid, Ailean-aghray_, what is it? What gives you dread?
There is no harm here. All is well. Look! See, it is I, Ian--old Ian
MacIain! Listen, _mo ghaoil_; do you not know me--do you not know who I
am? It is I, Ian; Ian who loves you!"

Even in that obscure light he could clearly discern the pale face, and
his heart smote him as he saw Alan's eyes turn upon him with a glance
wild and mournful. Had he indeed succumbed to the sea madness which ever
and again strikes into a terrible melancholy one here and there among
those who dwell in the remote isles? But even as he looked, he noted
another expression come into the wild strained eyes; and almost before
he realised what had happened, Alan was on his feet and pointing with
rigid arm.

For there, in that nigh unreachable and for ever unvisited solitude, was
the figure of a man. He stood on the summit of the huge basalt altar,
and appeared to have sprung from out the rock, or, himself a shadowy
presence, to have grown out of the obscure unrealities of the darkness.
Ian stared, fascinated, speechless.

Then with a spring he was on the ledge. Swift and sure as a wild cat, he
scaled the huge mass of the altar.

Nothing; no one! There was not a trace of any human being. Not a bird,
not a bat; nothing. Moreover, even in that slowly blackening darkness,
he could see that there was no direct connection between the summit or
side with the blank, precipitous wall of basalt beyond. Overhead there
was, so far as he could discern, a vault. No human being could have
descended through that perilous gulf.

Was the island haunted? he wondered, as slowly he made his way back to
the boat. Or had he been startled by some wild fantasy, and imagined a
likeness where none had been? Perhaps even he had not really seen any
one. He had heard of such things. The nerves can soon chase the mind
into the shadow wherein it loses itself.

Or was Alan the vain dreamer? That, indeed, might well be. Mayhap he had
heard some fantastic tale from Morag MacNeill, or from old Marsail
Macrae; the islanders had _sgeul_ after _sgeul_ of a wild strangeness.

In silence he guided the boats back into the outer arcade, where a faint
sheen of moonlight glistened on the water. Thence, in a few minutes, he
oared that wherein he and Alan sat, with the other fastened astern, into
the open.

When the moonshine lay full on Alan's face, Ian saw that he was thinking
neither of himself nor of where he was. His eyes were heavy with dream.

What wind there was blew against their course, so Ian rowed unceasingly.
In silence they passed once again the headland of Aoidhu; in silence
they drifted past a single light gleaming in a croft near Aonaig--a red
eye staring out into the shadow of the sea, from the room where the
woman Marsail lay dying; and in silence their keels grided on the patch
of shingle in Caisteal-Rhona haven.

For days thereafter Alan haunted that rocky, cavernous wilderness where
he had seen the Herdsman.

It was in vain he had sought everywhere for some tidings of this
mysterious dweller in those upland solitudes. At times he believed that
there was indeed some one upon the island of whom, for inexplicable
reasons, none there would speak; but at last he came to the conviction
that what he had seen was an apparition, projected by the fantasy of
overwrought nerves. Even from the woman Morag MacNeill, to whom he had
gone with a frank appeal that won its way to her heart, he learned no
more than that an old legend, of which she did not care to speak, was in
some way associated with his own coming to Rona.

Ian, too, never once alluded to the mysterious incident of the green
arcades which had so deeply impressed them both: never after Alan had
told him that he had seen a vision.

But as the days passed, and as no word came to either of any unknown
person who was on the island, and as Alan, for all his patient wandering
and furtive quest, both among the upland caves and in the green arcades,
found absolutely no traces of him whom he sought, the belief that he had
been duped by his imagination deepened almost to conviction.

As for Ian, he, unlike Alan, became more and more convinced that what he
had seen was indeed no apparition. Whatever lingering doubt he had was
dissipated on the eve of the night when old Marsail Macrae died. It was
dusk when word came to Caisteal-Rhona that Marsail felt the cold wind
on the soles of her feet. Ian went to her at once, and it was in the
dark hour which followed that he heard once more, and more fully, the
strange story which, like a poisonous weed, had taken root in the minds
of the islanders. Already from Marsail he had heard of the Prophet,
though, strangely enough, he had never breathed word of this to Alan,
not even when, after the startling episode of the apparition in the
Teampull-Mara, he had, as he believed, seen the Prophet himself. But
there in the darkness of the low, turfed cottage, with no light in the
room save the dull red gloom from the heart of the smoored peats,
Marsail, in the attenuated, remote voice of those who have already
entered into the vale of the shadow, told him this thing, in the
homelier Gaelic--

"Yes, Ian mac Iain-Bàn, I will be telling you this thing before I
change. You are for knowing, sure, that long ago Uilleam, brother of him
who was father to the lad up at the castle yonder, had a son? Yes, you
know that, you say, and also that he was called Donnacha Bàn? No,
mo-caraid, that is not a true thing that you have heard, that Donnacha
Bàn went under the waves years ago. He was the seventh son, an' was born
under the full moon; 'tis Himself will be knowing whether that was for
or against him. Of these seven none lived beyond childhood except the
two youngest, Kenneth an' Donnacha. Kenneth was always frail as a
February flower, but he lived to be a man. He an' his brother never
spoke, for a feud was between them, not only because that each was
unlike the other, an' the younger hated the older because through him he
was the penniless one, but most because both loved the same woman. I am
not for telling you the whole story now, for the breath in my body will
soon blow out in the draught that is coming upon me; but this I will say
to you: darker and darker grew the gloom between these brothers. When
Giorsal Macdonald gave her love to Kenneth, Donnacha disappeared for a
time. Then, one day, he came back to Borosay, an' smiled quietly with
his cold eyes when they wondered at his coming again. Now, too, it was
noticed that he no longer had an ill-will upon his brother, but spoke
smoothly with him an' loved to be in his company. But to this day no one
knows for sure what happened. For there was a gloaming when Donnacha Bàn
came back alone in his sailing-boat. He an' Kenneth had sailed forth, he
said, to shoot seals in the sea-arcades to the west of Rona, but in
these dark and lonely passages they had missed each other. At last he
had heard Kenneth's voice calling for help, but when he had got to the
place it was too late, for his brother had been seized with the cramps,
an' had sunk deep into the fathomless water. There is no getting a body
again that sinks in these sea-galleries. The crabs know that.

"Well, this and much more was what Donnacha Bàn told to his people. None
believed him; but what could any do? There was no proof; none had ever
seen them enter the sea-caves together. Not that Donnacha Bàn sought in
any way to keep back those who would fain know more. Not so; he strove
to help to find the body. Nevertheless, none believed; an' Giorsal nic
Dugall Mòr least of all. The blight of that sorrow went to her heart.
She had death soon, poor thing! but before the cold greyness was upon
her she told her father, an' the minister that was there, that she knew
Donnacha Bàn had murdered his brother. One might be saying these were
the wild words of a woman; but, for sure, no one said that thing upon
Borosay or Rona, or any of these isles. When all was done, the minister
told what he knew, an' what he thought, to the Lord of the South Isles,
and asked what was to be put upon Donnacha Bàn. 'Exile for ever,' said
the chief, 'or if he stays here, the doom of silence. Let no man or
woman speak to him or give him food or drink, or give him shelter, or
let his shadow cross his or hers.'

"When this thing was told to Donnacha Bàn Carmichael, he laughed at
first; but as day after day slid over the rocks where all days fall, he
laughed no more. Soon he saw that the chief's word was no empty word;
an' yet would not go away from his own place. He could not stay upon
Borosay, for his father cursed him; an' no man can stay upon the island
where a father's curse moves this way an' that, for ever seeing him.
Then, some say a madness came upon him, and others that he took wildness
to be his way, and others that God put upon him the shadow of
loneliness, so that he might meet sorrow there and repent. Howsoever
that may be, Donnacha Bàn came to Rona, an' by the same token, it was
the year of the great blight, when the potatoes and the corn came to
naught, an' when the fish in the sea swam away from the isles. In the
autumn of that year there was not a soul left on Rona except Giorsal an'
the old man Ian, her father, who had guard of Caisteal-Rhona for him who
was absent. When, once more, years after, smoke rose from the crofts,
the saying spread that Donnacha Bàn, the murderer, had made his home
among the caves of the upper part of the isle. None knew how this saying
rose, for he was seen of none. The last man who saw him--an' that was a
year later--was old Padruig M'Vurich the shepherd. Padruig said that, as
he was driving his ewes across the north slope of Ben Einaval in the
gloaming, he came upon a silent figure seated upon a rock, with his chin
in his hands, an' his elbows on his knees--with the great, sad eyes of
him staring at the moon that was lifting itself out of the sea. Padruig
did not know who the man was. The shepherd had few wits, poor man! and
he had known, or remembered, little about the story of Donnacha Bàn
Carmichael; so when he spoke to the man, it was as to a stranger. The
man looked at him and said--

"'You are Padruig M'Vurich, the shepherd.'

"At that a trembling was upon old Padruig, who had the wonder that this
stranger should know who and what he was.

"'And who will you be, and forgive the saying?' he asked.

"'_Am Fàidh_--the Prophet,' the man said.

"'And what prophet will you be, and what is your prophecy?' asked

"'I am here because I wait for what is to be, and that will be the
coming of the Woman who is the Daughter of God.'

"And with that the man said no more, an' the old shepherd went down
through the gloaming, an', heavy with the thoughts that troubled him,
followed his ewes down into Aonaig. But after that neither he nor any
other saw or heard tell of the shadowy stranger; so that all upon Rona
felt sure that Padruig had beheld no more than a vision. There were some
who thought that he had seen the ghost of the outlaw Donnacha Bàn; an'
mayhap one or two who wondered if the stranger that had said he was a
prophet was not Donnacha Bàn himself, with a madness come upon him; but
at last these sayings went out to sea upon the wind, an' men forgot.
But, an' it was months and months afterwards, an' three days before his
own death, old Padruig M'Vurich was sitting in the sunset on the rocky
ledge in front of his brother's croft, where then he was staying, when
he heard a strange crying of seals. He thought little of that; only,
when he looked closer, he saw, in the hollow of the wave hard by that
ledge, a drifting body.

"'_Am Fàidh--Am Fàidh!_' he cried; 'the Prophet, the Prophet!'

"At that his brother an' his brother's wife ran to see; but it was
nothing that they saw. 'It would be a seal,' said Pòl M'Vurich; but at
that Padruig had shook his head, an' said no for sure, he had seen the
face of the dead man, an' it was of him whom he had met on the hillside,
an' that had said he was the Prophet who was waiting there for the
second coming of God.

"And that is how there came about the echo of the thought that Donnacha
Bàn had at last, after his madness, gone under the green wave and was
dead. For all that, in the months which followed, more than one man said
he had seen a figure high up on the hill. The old wisdom says that when
God comes again, or the prophet who will come before, it will be as a
herdsman on a lonely isle. More than one of the old people on Rona and
Borosay remembered that _sgeul_ out of the _Seanachas_ that the
tale-tellers knew. There were some who said that Donnacha Bàn had never
been drowned at all, an' that he was this Prophet, this Herdsman. Others
would not have that saying at all, but believed that the wraith was
indeed Am Buachaill Ban, the Fair-haired Shepherd, who had come again
to redeem the people out of their sorrow. There were even those who said
that the Herdsman who haunted Rona was no other than Kenneth Carmichael
himself, who had not died but had had the mind-dark there in the
sea-caves where he had been lost, an' there had come to the knowledge of
secret things, and so was at last Am Fàidh Chriosd."

A great weakness came upon the old woman when she had spoken thus far.
Ian feared that she would have breath for no further word; but after a
thin gasping, and a listless fluttering of weak hands upon the coverlet,
whereon her trembling fingers plucked aimlessly at the invisible
blossoms of death, she opened her eyes once more, and stared in a dim
questioning at him who sat by her bedside.

"Tell me," whispered Ian, "tell me Marsail, what thought it is that is
in your own mind?"

But already the old woman had begun to wander.

"For sure, for sure," she muttered, "_Am Fàidh ... Am Fàidh_ ... an' a
child will be born ... the Queen of Heaven, an' ... that will be the
voice of Domhuill, my husband, I am hearing ... an' dark it is, an' the
tide comin' in ... an'----"

Then, sure, the tide came in, and if in that darkness old Marsail Macrae
heard any voice at all, it was that of Domhuill who years agone had sunk
into the wild seas off the head of Barra.

An hour later Alan walked slowly under the cloudy night. All he had
heard from Ian came back to him with a strange familiarity. Something of
this, at least, he had known before. Some hints of this mysterious
Herdsman had reached his ears. In some inexplicable way his real or
imaginary presence there upon Rona seemed a pre-ordained thing for him.

He knew that the wild imaginings of the islanders had woven the legend
of the Prophet, or of his mysterious message, out of the loom of the
deep longing whereon is woven that larger tapestry, the shadow-thridden
life of the island Gael. Laughter and tears, ordinary hopes and
pleasures, and even joy itself, and bright gaiety, and the swift,
spontaneous imaginations of susceptible natures--all this, of course, is
to be found with the island Gael as with his fellows elsewhere. But
every here and there are some who have in their minds the inheritance
from the dim past of their race, and are oppressed as no other people
are oppressed by the gloom of a strife between spiritual emotion and
material facts. It is the brains of dreamers such as these which clear
the mental life of the community; and it is in these brains are the
mysterious looms which weave the tragic and sorrowful tapestries of
Celtic thought. It were a madness to suppose that life in the isles
consists of nothing but sadness and melancholy. It is not so, or need
not be so, for the Gael is a creature of shadow and shine. But whatever
the people is, the brain of the Gael hears a music that is sadder than
any music there is, and has for its cloudy sky a gloom that shall not
go; for the end is near, and upon the westernmost shores of these remote
isles the voice of Celtic sorrow may be heard crying, "_Cha till, cha
till, cha till mi tuille_": "I will return, I will return, I will return
no more."

Alan knew all this well; and yet he too dreamed his dream--that, even
yet, there might be redemption for the people. He did not share the wild
hope which some of the older islanders held, that Christ Himself shall
come again to redeem an oppressed race; but might not another saviour
arise, another redeeming spirit come into the world? And if so, might
not that child of joy be born out of suffering and sorrow and crime; and
if so, might not the Herdsman be indeed a prophet, the Prophet of the
Woman in whom God should come anew as foretold?

With startled eyes he crossed the thyme-set ledge whereon stood
Caisteal-Rhona. Was it, after all, a message he had received, and was
that which had appeared to him in that lonely cavern of the sea but a
phantom of his own destiny? Was he himself, Alan Carmichael, indeed _Am
Fàidh_, the predestined Prophet of the isles?


Ever since the night of Marsail's death, Ian had noticed that Alan no
longer doubted, but that in some way a special message had come to him,
a special revelation. On the other hand, he had himself swung further
into his conviction that the vision he had seen in the cavern was, in
truth, that of a living man. On Borosay, he knew, the fishermen believed
that the _aonaran nan creag_, the recluse of the rocks, as commonly they
spoke of him, was no other than Donnacha Bàn Carmichael, survived there
through these many years, and long since mad with his loneliness and
because of the burden of his crime.

But by this time the islanders had come to see that Alan MacAilean was
certainly not Donnacha Bàn. Even the startling likeness no longer
betrayed them in this way. The ministers and the priests on Berneray and
Barra scoffed at the whole story, and everywhere discouraged the idea
that Donnacha Bàn could still be among the living. But for the common
belief that to encounter the Herdsman, whether the lost soul of Donnacha
Bàn or indeed the strange phantom of the hills of which the old legends
spoke, was to meet inevitable disaster, the islanders might have been
persuaded to make such a search among the caves of Rona as would almost
certainly have revealed the presence of any who dwelt therein.

But as summer lapsed into autumn, and autumn itself through its golden
silences waned into the shadow of the equinox, a strange, brooding
serenity came upon Alan. Ian himself now doubted his own vision of the
mysterious Herdsman--if he indeed existed at all except in the
imaginations of those who spoke of him either as the Buachaill Bàn, or
as the _aonaran nan creag_. If a real man, Ian believed that at last he
had passed away. None saw the Herdsman now; and even Morag MacNeill, who
had often on moonlight nights been startled by the sound of a voice
chanting among the upper solitudes, admitted that she now heard nothing

St. Martin's summer came at last, and with it all that wonderful,
dreamlike beauty which bathes the isles in a flood of golden light, and
draws over sea and land a veil of deeper mystery.

One late afternoon, Ian, returning to Caisteal-Rhona after an
unexplained absence of several hours, found Alan sitting at a table.
Spread before him were the sheets of one of the strange old Gaelic tales
which he had ardently begun to translate. Alan lifted and slowly read
the page or paraphrase which he had just laid down. It was after the
homelier Gaelic of the _Eachdaireachd Challum mhic Cruimein_.

"And when that king had come to the island, he lived there in the shadow
of men's eyes; for none saw him by day or by night, and none knew whence
he came or whither he fared; for his feet were shod with silence, and
his way with dusk. But men knew that he was there, and all feared him.
Months, even years, tramped one on the heels of the other, and perhaps
the king gave no sign, but one day he would give a sign; and that sign
was a laughing that was heard somewhere, upon the lonely hills, or on
the lonely wave, or in the heart of him who heard. And whenever the king
laughed, he who heard would fare ere long from his fellows to join that
king in the shadow. But sometimes the king laughed only because of vain
hopes and wild imaginings, for upon these he lives as well as upon the
strange savours of mortality."

That night Alan awakened Ian suddenly, and taking him by the hand made
him promise to go with him on the morrow to the Teampull-Mara.

In vain Ian questioned him as to why he asked this thing. All Alan would
say was that he must go there once again, and with him, for he believed
that a spirit out of heaven had come to reveal to him a wonder.
Distressed by what he knew to be a madness, and fearful that it might
prove to be no passing fantasy, Ian would fain have persuaded him
against this intention. Even as he spoke, however, he realised that it
might be better to accede to his wishes, and, above all, to be there
with him, so that it might not be one only who heard or saw the expected

And it was a strange faring indeed, that which occurred on the morrow.
At noon, when the tide was an hour turned in the ebb, they sailed
westward from Caisteal-Rhona. It was in silence they made that strange
journey together; for, while Ian steered, Alan lay down in the hollow of
the boat, with his head against the old man's knees, and slept, or at
least lay still with his eyes closed.

When at last they passed the headland and entered the first of the
sea-arcades, Alan rose and sat beside him. Hauling down the now useless
sail, Ian took an oar and, standing at the prow, urged the boat inward
along the narrow corridor which led to the huge sea-cave of the Altar.

In the deep gloom--for even on that day of golden light and beauty the
green air of the sea-cave was heavy with shadow--there was a deathly
chill. What dull light there was came from the sheen of the green water
which lay motionless along the black basaltic ledges. When at last the
base of the Altar was reached, Ian secured the boat by a rope passed
around a projecting spur, and then seated himself in the stern beside

"Tell me, Alan-a-ghaoil, what is this thing that you are thinking you
will hear or see?"

Alan looked at him strangely for a while, but, though his lips moved, he
said nothing.

"Tell me, my heart," Ian urged again, "who is it you expect to see or

"_Am Buachaill Bàn_," Alan answered, "the Herdsman."

For a moment Ian hesitated. Then, taking Alan's hand in his and raising
it to his lips, he whispered in his ear--

"There is no Herdsman upon Rona. If a man was there who lived solitary,
the _aonaran nan creag_ is dead long since. What you have seen and heard
has been a preying upon you of wild thoughts. Be thinking no more now of
this vision."

"This man," Alan answered quietly, "is not Donnacha Bàn, but the Prophet
of whom the people speak. He himself has told me this thing. Yesterday I
was here, and he bade me come again. He spoke out of the shadow that is
about the Altar, though I saw him not. I asked him if he were Donnacha
Bàn, and he said 'No.' I asked him if he were _Am Fàidh_, and he said
'Yes.' I asked him if he were indeed an immortal spirit and herald of
that which was to be, and he said 'Even so.'"

For a long while after this no word was spoken. The chill of that remote
place began to affect Alan, and he shivered slightly at times. But more
he shivered because of the silence, and because that he who had promised
to be there gave no sign. Sure, he thought, it could not be all a
dream; sure, the Herdsman would come again.

Then at last, turning to Ian, he said, "We must come on the morrow, for
to-day he is not here."

"I will do what you ask, Alan-mo-ghaol."

But of a sudden Alan stepped on the black ledges at the base of the
Altar, and slowly mounted the precipitous rock.

Ian watched him till he became a shadow in that darkness. His heart
leaped when suddenly he heard a cry fall out of the gloom.

"Alan, Alan!" he cried, and a great fear was upon him when no answer
came; but at last he heard him clambering slowly down the perilous slope
of that obscure place. When he reached the ledge Alan stood still
regarding him.

"Why do you not come into the boat?" Ian asked, terrified because of
what he saw in Alan's eyes.

Alan looked at him with parted lips, his breath coming and going like
that of a caged bird.

"What is it?" Ian whispered.

"Ian, when I reached the top of the Altar, and in the dim light that was
there, I saw the dead body of a man lying upon the rock. His head was
lain back so that the gleam from a crevice in the cliff overhead fell
upon it. The man had been dead many hours. He is a man whose hair has
been greyed by years and sorrow, but the man is he who is of my blood;
he whom I resemble so closely; he that the fishermen call the hermit of
the rocks; he that is the Herdsman."

Ian stared, with moving lips: then in a whisper he spoke--

"Would you be for following a herdsman who could lead you to no fold?
This man is dead, Alan mac Alasdair; and it is well that you brought me
here to-day. That is a good thing, and for sure God has willed it."

"It is not a man that is dead. It is my soul that lies there. It is
dead. God called me to be His Prophet, and I hid in dreams. It is the
end." And with that, and death staring out of his eyes, he entered the
boat and sat down beside Ian.

"Let us go," he said, and that was all.

Slowly Ian oared the boat across the shadowy gulf of the cave, along the
narrow passage, and into the pale green gloom of the outer cavern,
wherein the sound of the sea made a forlorn requiem in his ears.

But the short November day was already passing to its end. All the sea
westward was aflame with gold and crimson light, and in the great dome
of the sky a wonderful radiance lifted above the paleness of the clouds,
whose pinnacled and bastioned heights towered in the south-west.

A faint wind blew eastwardly. Raising the sail, Ian made it fast and
then sat down beside Alan. But he, rising, moved along the boat to the
mast, and leaned there with his face against the setting sun.

Idly they drifted onward. Deep silence lay between them; deep silence
was all about them, save for the ceaseless, inarticulate murmur of the
sea, the splash of low waves against the rocks of Rona, and the sigh of
the surf at the base of the basalt precipices.

And this was their homeward sailing on that day of revelation: Alan,
with his back against the mast, and his lifeless face irradiated by the
light of the setting sun; Ian, steering, with his face in shadow.

  _Love in Shadow has two sacred ministers, Oblivion and Faith, one to
  heal, the other to renovate and upbuild._--F. M.


[13] This hymn was taken down in the Gaelic and translated by Mr.
Alexander Carmichael of South Uist.



  "_Then, in the violet forest all a-bourgeon, Eucharis, said to me:
  It is Spring_."--ARTHUR RIMBAUD.

After the dim purple bloom of a suspended Spring, a green rhythm ran
from larch to thorn, from lime to sycamore: spread from meadow to
meadow, from copse to copse, from hedgerow to hedgerow. The blackthorn
had already snowed upon the nettle-garths. In the obvious nests, among
the bare boughs of ash and beech, the eggs of the blackbird were
blue-green as the sky that March had bequeathed to April. For days past,
when the breath of the Equinox had surged out of the west, the
missel-thrushes had bugled from the wind-swayed topmost branches of the
tallest elms. Everywhere the green rhythm ran.

In every leaf that had uncurled there was a delicate bloom, that which
is upon all things in the first hours of life. The spires of the grass
were washed in a green, dewy light. Out of the brown earth a myriad
living things thrust tiny green shafts, arrow-heads, bulbs, spheres,
clusters. Along the pregnant soil keener ears than ours would have heard
the stir of new life, the innumerous whisper of the bursting seed: and,
in the wind itself, shepherding the shadow-chased sunbeams, the voice of
that vernal gladness which has been man's clarion since Time began.

Day by day the wind-wings lifted a more multitudinous whisper from the
woodlands. The deep hyperborean note, from the invisible ocean of air,
was still audible: within the concourse of bare boughs which wrought
against it, that surging voice could not but have an echo of its wintry
roar. In the sun-havens, however, along the southerly copses, in daisied
garths of orchard-trees, amid the flowering currant and guelder and
lilac bushes, in quiet places where the hives were all a-murmur, the
wind already sang its lilt of Spring. From dawn till noon, from an hour
before sundown till the breaking foam along the wild-cherry flushed
fugitively because of the crimson glow out of the west, there was a
ceaseless chittering of birds. The starlings and the sparrows enjoyed
the commune of the homestead; the larks and fieldfares and green and
yellow linnets congregated in the meadows, where, too, the wild bee
already roved. Among the brown ridgy fallows there was a constant
flutter of black, white-gleaming, and silver-grey wings, where the
stalking rooks, the jerking peewits, and the wary, uncertain gulls from
the neighbouring sea feasted tirelessly from the teeming earth. Often,
too, the wind-hover, that harbinger of the season of the young broods,
quivered his curved wings in his arrested flight, while his lance-like
gaze penetrated the whins beneath which a new-born rabbit crawled, or
discerned in the tangle of a grassy tuft the brown watchful eyes of a
nesting quail.

In the remoter woodlands the three foresters of April could be heard;
the woodpecker tapping on the gnarled boles of the oaks, the wild dove
calling in low crooning monotones to his silent mate, the cuckoo tolling
his infrequent peals from skiey belfries built of sun and mist.

In the fields, where the thorns were green as rivulets of melted snow
and the grass had the bloom of emerald, and the leaves of docken,
clover, cinquefoil, sorrel, and a thousand plants and flowers, were
wave-green, the ewes lay, idly watching with their luminous amber eyes
the frisking and leaping of the close-curled, tuft-tailed, woolly-legged
lambs. In corners of the hedgerows, and in hollows in the rolling
meadows, the primrose, the celandine, the buttercup, the dandelion, and
the daffodil spilled little eddies of the sunflood which overbrimmed
them with light. All day long the rapture of the larks filled the blue
air with vanishing spirals of music, swift and passionate in the ascent,
repetitive and less piercing in the narrowing downward gyres. From every
whin the poignant monotonous note of the yellow hammer re-echoed. Each
pastoral hedge was alive with robins, chaffinches, and the dusky shadows
of the wild mice darting here and there among the greening boughs.

Whenever this green fire is come upon the earth, the swift contagion
spreads to the human heart. What the seedlings feel in the trees, what
the blood feels in the brown mould, what the sap feels in every creature
from the newt in the pool to the nesting bird, so feels the strange
remembering ichor that runs its red tides through human hearts and
brains. Spring has its subtler magic for us, because of the dim
mysteries of unremembering remembrance and of the vague radiances of
hope. Something in us sings an ascendant song, and we expect we know not
what: something in us sings a decrescent song, and we realise vaguely
the stirring of immemorial memories.

There is none who will admit that Spring is fairer elsewhere than in his
own land. But there are regions where the season is so hauntingly
beautiful that it would seem as though Angus Òg knew them for his chosen
resting-places in his green journey.

Angus Òg, Angus MacGreigne, Angus the Ever Youthful, the Son of the Sun,
a fair god he indeed, golden-haired and wonderful as Apollo Chrusokumos.
Some say that he is Love: some, that he is Spring: some, even, that in
him Thanatos, the Hellenic Celt that was his far-off kin, is
reincarnate. But why seek riddles in flowing water? It may well be that
Angus Òg is Love, and Spring, and Death. The elemental gods are ever
triune: and in the human heart, in whose lost Eden an ancient tree of
knowledge grows, wherefrom the mind has not yet gathered more than a few
windfalls, it is surely sooth that Death and Love are oftentimes one and
the same, and that they love to come to us in the apparel of Spring.

Sure, indeed, Angus Òg is a name above all sweet to lovers, for is he
not the god--the fair Youth of the Tuatha-de-Danann, the Ancient People,
with us still, though for ages seen of us no more--from the meeting of
whose lips are born white birds, which fly abroad and nest in lovers'
hearts till the moment come when, on the yearning lips of love, their
invisible wings shall become kisses again?

Then, too, there is the old legend that Angus goes to and fro upon the
world, a weaver of rainbows. He follows the Spring, or is its herald.
Often his rainbows are seen in the heavens: often in the rapt gaze of
love. We have all perceived them in the eyes of children, and some of us
have discerned them in the hearts of sorrowful women, and in the dim
brains of the old. Ah, for sure, if Angus Og be the lovely Weaver of
Hope, he is deathless comrade of the Spring, and we may well pray to him
to let his green fire move in our veins; whether he be but the Eternal
Youth of the World, or be also Love, whose soul is youth; or even though
he be likewise Death himself, Death to whom Love was wedded long, long


Alan was a poet, and to dream was his birthright.... He was ever
occupied by that wonderful past of his race which was to him a living
reality. It was perhaps because he so keenly perceived the romance of
the present--the romance of the general hour, of the individual
moment--that he turned so insatiably to the past with its deathless
charm, its haunting appeal.... His mind was as irresistibly drawn to the
Celtic world of the past as the swallow to the sun-way. In a word he was
not only a poet but a Celtic poet; and not only a Celtic poet but a
dreamer of the Celtic dream. Perhaps this was because of the double
strain in his veins. Doubtless, too, it was continuously enhanced by his
intimate knowledge of two of the Celtic languages, that of the Breton
and that of the Gael. It is language that is the surest stimulus to the
remembering nerves. We have a memory within memory as layers of skin
underlie the epidermis. With most of us this anterior remembrance
remains dormant throughout life: but to some are given swift ancestral
recollections. Alan was of these.

With this double key Alan unlocked many doors. In his brain ran ever
that Ossianic tide which has borne so many marvellous argosies through
the troubled waters of the modern mind. Old ballad of his nature isles,
with their haunting Gaelic rhythm of idioms, their frequent reminiscence
of Norse viking and the Danish summer-sailor were often in his ears. He
had lived with his hero Cuchullin from the days when the boy shewed his
royal blood at Emain-Macha till that sad hour when his madness came upon
him and he died. He had fared forth with many a Lifting of the Sunbeam,
and had followed Oisin step by step on that last melancholy journey when
Malvina led the blind old man along the lonely shores of Arran. He had
watched the _crann-tara_ flare from glen to glen, and at the bidding of
that fiery cross he had seen the whirling of the swords, the dusky
flight of arrow-rain, and from the isles, the leaping forth of the war
_birlinns_ to meet the Viking galleys. How often, too, he had followed
trial of Niall of the nine Hostages and had seen the Irish Charlemagne
ride victor through Saxon London, or across the Norman plains or with
onward sword direct his army against the white walls of the Alps!... It
was all this marvellous life of old which wrought upon Alan's life as by
a spell. Often he recalled the words of a Gaelic _Sean_ he had heard
Yann croon in his soft monotonous voice,--words which made a light
shoreward eddy of the present and were solemn with the deep-sea sound of
the past, that is with us even as we speak....

Truly his soul must have lived a thousand years ago. In him, at least,
the old Celtic brain was reborn with a vivid intensity which none
guessed, for Alan himself only vaguely surmised the extent and depth of
this obsession. In heart and brain that old world lived anew. Himself a
poet, all that was fair and tragically beautiful was for ever undergoing
in his mind a marvellous transformation--a magical resurrection rather,
wherein what was remote and bygone, and crowned with oblivious dust,
became alive again with intense and beautiful life....

Deep passion instinctively moves towards the shadow rather than towards
the golden noons of light. Passion hears what love at most dreams of;
passion sees what love mayhap dimly discerns in a glass darkly. A
million of our fellows are "in love" at any or every moment: and for
these the shadowy way is intolerable. But for the few, in whom love is,
the eyes are circumspect against the dark hour which comes when heart
and brain and blood are aflame with the paramount ecstasy of love....

Oh, flame that burns where fires of home are lit! and oh, flame that
burns in the heart to whom life has not said, Awake! and oh, flame that
smoulders from death to life, and from life to death, in the dumb lives
of those to whom the primrose way is closed! Everywhere the burning of
the burning, the flame of the flame, pain and the shadow of pain, joy
and the rapt breath of joy, flame of the flame that, burning, destroyeth
not, till the flame is no more!...

It is said of an ancient poet of the Druid days that he had the power to
see the lines of the living, and these as though they were phantoms,
separate from the body. Was there not a young king of Albainn who, in a
perilous hour, discovered the secret of old time, and knew how a life
may be hidden away from the body so that none may know of it, save the
wind that whispers all things, and the tides of day and night that bear
all things upon their dark flood?...

The fragrance of the forest intoxicated him. Spring was come indeed. The
wild storm had ruined nothing, for at its fiercest it had swept
overhead. Everywhere the green fire of Spring would be litten anew. A
green flame would pass from meadow to hedgerow, from hedgerow to the
tangled thickets of bramble and dog-rose, from the underwoods to the
inmost forest glades.

Everywhere song would be to the birds, everywhere young life would
pulse, everywhere the rhythm of a new rapture would run rejoicing. The
Miracle of Spring would be accomplished in the sight of all men, of all
birds and beasts, of all green life. Each, in its kind would have a
swifter throb in the red blood of the vivid sap....

She was his Magic. The light of their love was upon everything. Deeply
as he loved beauty he had learned to love it far more keenly and
understandingly because of her. He saw now through the accidental and
everywhere discerned the Eternal Beauty, the echoes of whose wandering
are in every heart and brain though few discern the white vision or hear
the haunting voice.... Thus it was she had for him this immutable
attraction which a few women have for a few men; an appeal, a charm,
that atmosphere of romance, that _air_ of ideal beauty, wherein lies the
secret of all passionate art.

The world without wonder, the world without mystery! That indeed is the
rainbow without colours, the sunrise without living gold, the noon void
of light....

In deep love there is no height nor depth between two hearts, no height
nor depth nor length nor breadth. There is simply love. What if both at
times were wrought too deeply by this beautiful dream? What if the inner
life triumphed now and then, and each forgot the deepest instinct of
life that here the body is overlord, and the soul but a divine consort?

There are three races of man. There is the myriad race which loses all
through (not bestiality, for the brute world is clean and sane)
perverted animalism; and there is the myriad race which denounces
humanity, and pins all its faith and joy to a life the very conditions
of whose existence are incompatible with the law to which we are
subject--the sole law, the law of nature.

Then there is that small untoward clan, which knows the divine call of
the spirit through the brain, and the secret whisper of the soul in the
heart, and for ever perceives the veils of mystery and the rainbows of
hope upon our human horizons, which hears and sees, and yet turns
wisely, meanwhile, to the life of the green earth, of which we are part,
to the common kindred of living things with which we are at one--is
content, in a word, to live because of the dream that makes living so
mysteriously sweet and poignant; and to dream because of the commanding
immediacy of life....

What are dreams but the dust of wayfaring thoughts? Or whence are they,
and what air is upon their shadowy wings? Do they come out of the
twilight of man's mind: are they ghosts of exiles from vanished palaces
of the brain: or are they heralds with proclamations of hidden tidings
for the soul that dreams?



  "_The Souls of the Living are the Beauty of the World._"--BACON.

For out of his thoughts about Annaik and Ynys arose a fuller, a deeper
conception of womanhood. How well he remembered a legend that Ynys had
once told him: a legend of a fair spirit which goes to and fro upon the
world, the Weaver of Tears. He loves the pathways of sorrow. His voice
is low and sweet, with a sound like the bubbling of waters in that fount
whence the rainbows rise. His eyes are in quiet places, and in the dumb
pain of animals as in the agony of the human brain: but most he is
found, oftenest are the dewy traces of his feet, in the heart of woman.

Tears, tears: they are not the saltest tears which are on the lids of
those who weep. Fierce tears there are, hot founts of pain in the mind
of many a man, that are never shed, but slowly crystallise in furrows on
brow and face, and in deep weariness in the eyes: fierce tears,
unquenchable, in the heart of many a woman, whose brave eyes look
fearlessly at life, whose dauntless courage goes forth daily to die but
never to be vanquished.

In truth the Weaver of Tears abides in the heart of woman. O Mother of
Pity, of Love, of deep Compassion: with thee it is to yearn for ever for
the ideal human, to bring the spiritual love into fashion with human
desire, endlessly to strive, endlessly to fail, always to hope in spite
of disillusion, to love unswervingly against all baffling and
misunderstanding, and even forgetfulness! O Woman, whose eyes are always
stretched out to her erring children, whose heart is big enough to cover
all the little children in the world, and suffer with their sufferings,
and joy with their joys: Woman, whose other divine names are Strength
and Patience, who is no girl, no virgin, because she has drunk too
deeply of the fount of Life to be very young or very joyful. Upon her
lips is the shadowy kiss of death: in her eyes is the shadow of birth.
She is the veiled interpreter of the two mysteries. Yet what joyousness
like hers, when she wills: because of her unwavering hope, her
inexhaustible fount of love?

So it was that just as Alan had long recognised as a deep truth, how the
spiritual nature of man has been revealed to humanity in many divine
incarnations, so he had come to believe that the spiritual nature of
woman has been revealed in the many Marys, sisters of the Beloved, who
have had the keys of the soul and the heart in their unconscious
keeping. In this exquisite truth he knew a fresh and vivid hope.... A
Woman-Saviour, who would come near to all of us, because in her heart
would be the blind tears of the child, the bitter tears of the man, and
the patient tears of the woman: who would be the Compassionate One, with
no end or aim but compassion--with no doctrine to teach, no way to show,
but only deep, wonderful, beautiful, inalienable, unquenchable

For in truth there is the divine eternal feminine counterpart to the
divine eternal male, and both are needed to explain the mystery of the
dual spirit within us--the mystery of the two in one, so infinitely
stranger and more wonderful than that triune life which the blind
teachers of the blind have made a rock of stumbling and offence out of a
truth clear and obvious as noon.

We speak of Mother Nature, but we do not discern the living truth behind
our words. How few of us have the vision of this great brooding Mother,
whose garment is the earth and sea, whose head is pillowed among the
stars: she, who, with death and sleep as her familiar shapes, soothes
and rests all the weariness of the world, from the waning leaf to the
beating pulse, from the brief span of a human heart to the furrowing of
granite brows by the uninterrupted sun, the hounds of rain and wind, and
the untrammelled airs of heaven.

Not cruel, relentless, impotently anarchic, chaotically potent, this
Mater Genetrix. We see her thus, who are flying threads in the loom she
weaves. But she is patient, abiding, certain, inviolate, and silent
ever. It is only when we come to this vision of her whom we call Isis,
or Hera, or Orchil, or one of a hundred other names, our unknown
Earth-Mother, that men and women will know each other aright, and go
hand in hand along the road of life without striving to crush, to
subdue, to usurp, to retaliate, to separate.

Ah, fair vision of humanity to come: man and woman side by side, sweet,
serene, true, simple, natural, fulfilling earth's and heaven's behests,
unashamed, unsophisticated, unaffected, each to each and for each,
children of one mother, inheritors of a like destiny, and, at the last,
artificers of an equal fate.

Pondering thus, Alan rose, and looked out, into the night. In that
great stillness, wherein the moonlight lay like the visible fragrance of
the earth, he gazed long and intently. How shadow, now, were those lives
that had so lately palpitated in this very place: how strange their
silence, their incommunicable knowledge, their fathomless peace!

Was it all lost ... the long endurance of pain, the pangs of sorrow? If
so, what was the lesson of life? Surely to live with sweet serenity and
gladness, content against the inevitable hour. There is solace of a kind
in the idea of a common end, of that terrible processional march of life
wherein the myriad is momentary, and the immeasurable is but a passing
shadow. But, alas, it is only solace of a kind: for what heart that has
beat to the pulse of love can relinquish the sweet dream of life, and
what coronal can philosophy put upon the brows of youth in place of

No, no: of this he felt sure. In the Beauty of the World lies the
ultimate redemption of our mortality. When we shall become at one with
nature in a sense profounder even than the poetic imaginings of most of
us, we shall understand what now we fail to discern. The arrogance of
those who would have the stars as candles for our night, and the
universe as a pleasance for our thought, will be as impossible as their
blind fatuity who say we are of dust, briefly vitalised, that shall be
dust again, with no fragrance saved from the rude bankruptcy of life, no
beauty raised up against the sun to bloom anew.

It is no idle dream, this: no idle dream that we are a perishing clan
among the sons of God, because of this slow waning of our joy, of our
passionate delight, in the Beauty of the World. We have been unable to
look out upon the shining of our star, for the vision overcomes us; and
we have used veils which we call "scenery," "picturesqueness," and the
like--poor, barren words that are so voiceless and remote before the
rustle of leaves and the lap of water, before the ancient music of the
wind, and all the sovran eloquence of the tides of light. But a day may
come--nay, shall surely come--when indeed the poor and the humble shall
inherit the earth: they who have not made a league with temporal evils
and out of whose heart shall arise the deep longing, that shall become
universal, of the renewal of youth.

... Often, too, alone in his observatory, where he was wont to spend
much of his time, Alan knew that strange nostalgia of the mind for
impossible things. Then, wrought for a while from his vision of green
life, and flamed by another green fire than that born of the earth, he
dreamed his dream. With him, the peopled solitude of night was a
concourse of confirming voices. He did not dread the silence of the
stars, the cold remoteness of the stellar fire.

In that other watch-tower in Paris, where he had spent the best hours of
his youth, he had loved that nightly watch on the constellations. Now,
as then, in the pulse of the planets he found assurances which faith had
not given him. In the vast majestic order of that nocturnal march, that
diurnal retreat, he had learned the law of the whirling leaf and the
falling star, of the slow æon-delayed comet and of the slower wane of
solar fires. Looking with visionary eyes into that congregation of
stars, he realised, not the littleness of the human dream, but its
divine impulsion. It was only when, after long vigils into the quietudes
of night, he turned his gaze from the palaces of the unknown, and
thought of the baffled fretful swarming in the cities of men, that his
soul rose in revolt against the sublime ineptitude of man's spiritual
leaguer against destiny.

Destiny--"An Dan"--it was a word familiar to him since childhood, when
first he had heard it on the lips of old Ian Macdonald. And once, on the
eve of the Feast of Paschal, when Alan had asked Daniel Dare what was
the word which the stars spelled from zenith to nadir, the Astronomer
had turned and answered simply, "_C'est le Destin_."

But Alan was of the few to whom this talismanic word opens lofty
perspectives, even while it obscures those paltry vistas which we deem
unending and dignify with vain hopes and void immortalities.

  _To live in Beauty is to sum up in four words all the spiritual
  aspiration of the soul of man._--F. M.


_To G. R. S. MEAD_

  _Our thought, our consciousness, is but the scintillation of a wave:
  below us is a moving shadow, our brief forecast and receding way;
  beneath the shadow are depths sinking into depths, and then the
  unfathomable unknown._--F. M.

A Dream

I was on a vast, an illimitable plain, where the dark blue horizons were
sharp as the edges of hills. It was the world, but there was nothing in
the world. There was not a blade of grass nor the hum of an insect, nor
the shadow of a bird's wing. The mountains had sunk like waves in the
sea when there is no wind; the barren hills had become dust. Forests had
become the fallen leaf; and the leaf had passed. I was aware of one who
stood beside me, though that knowledge was of the spirit only; and my
eyes were filled with the same nothingness as I beheld above and beneath
and beyond. I would have thought I was in the last empty glens of Death,
were it not for a strange and terrible sound that I took to be the voice
of the wind coming out of nothing, travelling over nothingness and
moving onward into nothing.

"There is only the wind," I said to myself in a whisper.

Then the voice of the dark Power beside me, whom in my heart I knew to
be Dalua, the Master of Illusions, said: "Verily, this is your last

I answered: "It is the wind."

And the voice answered: "That is not the wind that you hear, for the
wind is dead. It is the empty, hollow echo of my laughter."

Then, suddenly, he who was beside me lifted up a small stone, smooth as
a pebble of the sea. It was grey and flat, and yet to me had a terrible
beauty because it was the last vestige of the life of the world.

The Presence beside me lifted up the stone and said: "It is the end."

And the horizons of the world came in upon me like a rippling shadow.
And I leaned over darkness and saw whirling stars. These were gathered
up like leaves blown from a tree, and in a moment their lights were
quenched, and they were further from me than grains of sand blown on a
whirlwind of a thousand years.

Then he, that terrible one, Master of Illusions, let fall the stone, and
it sank into the abyss and fell immeasurably into the infinite. And
under my feet the world was as a falling wave, and was not. And I fell,
though without sound, without motion. And for years and years I fell
below the dim waning of light; and for years and years I fell through
universes of dusk; and for years and years and years I fell through the
enclosing deeps of darkness. It was to me as though I fell for
centuries, for æons, for unimaginable time. I knew I had fallen beyond
time, and that I inhabited eternity, where were neither height, nor
depth, nor width, nor space.

But, suddenly, without sound, without motion, I stood steadfast upon a
vast ledge. Before me, on that ledge of darkness become rock, I saw this
stone which had been lifted from the world of which I was a shadow,
after shadow itself had died away. And as I looked, this stone became
fire and rose in flame. Then the flame was not. And when I looked the
stone was water; it was as a pool that did not overflow, a wave that did
not rise or fall, a shaken mirror wherein nothing was troubled.

Then, as dew is gathered in silence, the water was without form or
colour or motion. And the stone seemed to me like a handful of earth
held idly in the poise of unseen worlds. What I thought was a green
flame rose from it, and I saw that it had the greenness of grass, and
had the mystery of life. The green herb passed as green grass in a
drought; and I saw the waving of wings. And I saw shape upon shape, and
image upon image, and symbol upon symbol. Then I saw a man, and he,
too, passed; and I saw a woman, and she, too, passed; and I saw a child,
and the child passed. Then the stone was a Spirit. And it shone there
like a lamp. And I fell backward through deeps of darkness, through
unimaginable time.

And when I stood upon the world again it was like a glory. And I saw the
stone lying at my feet.

And One said: "Do you not know me, brother?"

And I said: "Speak, Lord."

And Christ stooped and kissed me upon the brow.


  _Unity does not lie in the emotional life of expression which we
  call Art, which discerns it; it does not lie in nature, but in the
  Soul of man._--F. M.

Notes to First Edition


When "The Divine Adventure" appeared in the _Fortnightly Review_ in
November and December last, I received many comments and letters. From
these I infer that my present readers will also be of two sections,
those who understand at once why, in this symbolical presentment, I
ignore the allegorical method--and those who, accustomed to the
artificial method of allegory, would rather see this "story of a soul"
told in that method, without actuality, or as an ordinary essay stript
of narrative.

But each can have only his own way of travelling towards a desired goal.
I chose my way, because in no other, as it seemed to me, could I convey
what I wanted to convey. Is it so great an effort of the imagination to
conceive of the Mind and Soul actual as the Body is actual? And is there
any tragic issue so momentous, among all the tragic issues of life, as
the problem of the Spirit, the Mind--the Will as I call it; that
problem as to whether it has to share the assured destiny of the Body,
or the desired and possible destiny of the Soul? There is no spiritual
tragedy so poignant as this uncertainty of the Will, the Spirit, what we
call the thinking part of us, before the occult word of the Soul,
inhabiting here but as an impatient exile, and the inevitable end of
that Body to which it is so intimately allied, with which are its
immediate, and in a sense its most vital interests, and in whose
mortality it would seem to have a dreadful share.

The symbolist, unlike the allegorist, cannot disregard the actual, the
reality as it seems: he must, indeed, be supremely heedful of this
reality as it seems. The symbolist or the mystic (properly they are one)
abhors the vague, what is called the "mystical": he is supremely a
realist, but his realism is of the spirit and the imagination, and not
of externals, or rather not of these merely, for there, too, he will not
disregard actuality, but make it his base, as the lark touches the solid
earth before it rises where it can see both Earth and Heaven and sing a
song that partakes of each and belongs to both. "In the kingdom of the
imagination the ideal must ever be faithful to the general laws of
nature," wrote one of the wisest of mystics. Art is pellucid mystery,
and the only spiritually logical interpretation of life; and her
inevitable language is Symbol--by which (whether in colour, or form, or
sound, or word, or however the symbol be translated) a spiritual image
illumines a reality that the material fact narrows or obscures.

For the rest, "The Divine Adventure" is an effort to solve, or obtain
light upon, the profoundest human problem. It is by looking inward that
we shall find the way outward. The gods--and what we mean by the
gods--the gods seeking God have ever penetrated the soul by two roads,
that of nature and that of art. Edward Calvert put it supremely well
when he said "I go inward to God: outward to the gods." It was Calvert
also who wrote:--

"To charm the truthfulness of eternal law into a guise which it has not
had before, and clothe the invention with expression, this is the magic
with which the poet would lead the listener into a world of his own, and
make him sit down in the charmed circle of his own gods."

_Page 96. The Félire na Naomh Nerennach_ (so spelt, more phonetically
than correctly) is an invaluable early "Chronicle of Irish Saints."
Uladh--or Ulla--is the Gaelic for Ulster, though the ancient boundaries
were not the same as those of the modern province; and at periods Uladh
stood for all North Ireland. Tara in the south was first the capital of
a kingdom, and later the federal capital. Thus, at the beginning of the
Christian era, Concobar mac Nessa was both King of the Ultonians (the
clans of Uladh) and Ard-Righ or High-King of Ireland, a nominal

The name of Mochaoi's abbacy, _n' Aondruim_, was in time anglicised to

The characteristic Gaelic passage quoted in English at p. 98 is not from
the _Félire na Naomh Nerennach_, but from a Hebridean source: excerpted
from one of the many treasures-troves rescued from extant or recently
extant Gaelic lore by Mr. Alexander Carmichael, all soon to be published
(the outcome of a long life of unselfish devotion) under the title _Or
agus Ob_, though we may be sure that there will be little "dross" and
much "gold."

_Page 101._ The allusion is to the story or sketch called "The Book of
the Opal" in _The Dominion of Dreams_: a sketch true in essentials, but
having at its close an arbitrary interpolation of external symbolism
which I now regret as superfluous. I have since realised that the only
living and convincing symbol is that which is conceived of the spirit
and not imagined by the mind. My friend's life, and end, were strange
enough--and significant enough--without the effort to bring home to
other minds by an arbitrary formula what should have been implicit.

_Page 102._ I have again and again, directly or indirectly, since my
first book _Pharais_ to the repeated record in this book, alluded to
Seumas Macleod; and as I have shown in "Barabal," here, and in the
dedication to this book, it is to the old islander and to my Hebridean
nurse, Barabal, that I owe more than to any other early influences. For
those who do not understand the character of the Island-Gael, or do not
realise that all Scotland is not Presbyterian, it may be as well to add
that many of the islesmen are of the Catholic faith (broadly, the
Southern Hebrides are wholly Catholic), and that therefore the brooding
imagination of an old islander--who spoke Gaelic only, and had never
visited the mainland--might the more readily dwell upon Mary the Mother:
Mary of the Lamb, Mary the Shepherdess, as she is lovingly called. I do
not, for private reasons, name the island where he lived: but I have
written of him, or of what he said, nothing but what was so, or was thus
said. He had suffered much, and was lonely: but was, I think, the
happiest, and, I am sure, the wisest human being I have known. What I
cannot now recall is whether his belief in Mary's Advent was based on an
old prophecy, or upon a faith of his own dreams and visions, coloured by
the visions and dreams of a like mind and longing: perhaps, and
likeliest, upon both. I was not more than seven years old when that
happened of which I have written on p. 102, and so recall with surety
only that which I saw and heard.

I am glad to know that another is hardly less indebted to old Seumas
Macleod. I am not permitted to mention his name, but a friend and
kinsman allows me to tell this: that when he was about sixteen he was on
the remote island where Seumas lived, and on the morrow of his visit
came at sunrise upon the old man, standing looking seaward with his
bonnet removed from his long white locks; and upon his speaking to
Seumas (when he saw he was not "at his prayers") was answered, in Gaelic
of course, "Every morning like this I take off my hat to the beauty of
the world."

The untaught islander who could say this had learned an ancient wisdom,
of more account than wise books, than many philosophies.

Let me tell one other story of him, which I have meant often to tell,
but have as often forgotten. He had gone once to the Long Island, with
three fishermen, in their herring-coble. The fish had been sold, and the
boat had sailed southward to a Lews haven where Seumas had a relative.
The younger men had "hanselled" their good bargain overwell, and were
laughing and talking freely, as they walked up the white road from the
haven. Something was said that displeased Seumas greatly, and he might
have spoken swiftly in reproof; but just then a little naked child ran
laughing from a cottage, chased by his smiling mother. Seumas caught up
the child, who was but an infant, and set him in their midst, and then
kneeled and said the few words of a Hebridean hymn beginning:--

    "Even as a little child
      Most holy, pure...."

No more was said, but the young men understood; and he who long
afterward told me of this episode added that though he had often since
acted weakly and spoken foolishly, he had never, since that day, uttered
foul words. Another like characteristic anecdote of Seumas (as the
skipper who made his men cease mocking a "fool") I have told in the tale
called "The Amadan" in the _The Dominion of Dreams_.

I could write much of this revered friend--so shrewd and genial and
worldly-wise, for all his lonely life; so blithe in spirit and swiftly
humorous; himself a poet, and remembering countless songs and tales of
old; strong and daring, on occasion; good with the pipes, as with the
nets; seldom angered, but then with a fierce anger, barbaric in its
vehemence; a loyal clansman; in all things, good and not so good, a Gael
of the Isles.

But since I have not done so, not gathered into one place, I add this

_Page 113._ The kingdom of the Suderöer (_i.e._ Southern Isles) was the
Norse name for the realm of the Hebrides and Inner Hebrides when the
Isles were under Scandinavian dominion.

_Page 118._ The ignorance or supineness which characterises so many
English writers on Celtic history is to be found even among Highland
and Irish clerics and others who have not taken the trouble to study or
even become acquainted with their own ancient literature, but fallen
into the foolish and discreditable conventionalism which maintains that
before Columban or in pre-Christian days the Celtic race consisted of
wholly uncivilised and broken tribes, rivals only in savagery.

How little true that is; as wide of truth as the statements that the far
influences of Iona ceased with the death of Columba. Not only was the
island for two centuries thereafter (in the words of an eminent
historian) "the nursery of bishops, the centre of education, the asylum
of religious knowledge, the place of union, the capital and necropolis
of the Celtic race," but the spiritual colonies of Iona had everywhere
leavened western Europe. Charlemagne knew and reverenced "this little
people of Iona," who from a remote island in the wild seas beyond the
almost as remote countries of Scotland and England had spread the Gospel
everywhere. Not only were many monasteries founded by monks from Iona in
the narrower France of that day, but also in Lorraine, Alsatia, in
Switzerland, and in the German states; in distant Bavaria even, no
fewer than sixteen were thus founded. In the very year the Danes made
their first descent on the doomed island, a monk of Iona was Bishop of
Tarento in Italy. In a word, in that day, Iona was the brightest gem in
the spiritual crown of Rome.

_Page 128._ The "little-known namesake of my own" alluded to is Fiona,
or Fionaghal Macleod, known (in common with her more famous sister Mary)
by the appellation _Nighean Alasdair Ruadh_, "Daughter of Alasdair the
Red," was born _circa_ 1575.

_Page 130._ Columba, whose house-name was Crimthan, "Wolf"--surviving in
our Scoto-Gaelic MacCrimmon--who was of royal Irish blood and, through
his mother of royal Scottish (Pictish) blood also, came to Iona in A.D.
563, when he was in his forty-second year. At that date, St. Augustine,
"the English Columba," had not yet landed in Kent--that more famous
event occurring thirty-four years later. In this year of 563, the East
had not yet awakened to its wonderful dream that to-day has in number
more dreamers than the Cross of Christ; for it was not till six years
later, when Columba was on a perilous mission of conversion among the
Picts, that Mahomet was born. In 563, when Colum landed on Iona, the
young Italian priest who was afterwards to be called the Architect of
the Church and to become famous as Pope Gregory the Great, was dreaming
his ambitious dreams; and farther East, in Constantinople, then the
capital of the Western World, the great Roman Emperor Justinian was
laying the foundation of modern law.

With the advent of Charlemagne, two hundred years later, "the old world"
passed. When the ninth century opened, the great Gregory's dearest hopes
were in the dust where his bones lay; Justinian's metropolis was fallen
from her pride; and, on Iona, the heathen Danes drank to Odin.

_Page 136._ The _Mor-Rigân_. This euphemerised Celtic queen is called by
many names: even those resembling that just given vary much--_Morrigû_,
_Mor Reega_, _Morrigan_, _Morgane_, _Mur-ree (Mor Ree)_, etc. The old
word _Mor-Rigan_ means "the great queen." She is the mother of the
Gaelic Gods, as _Bona Dea_ of the Romans. "_Anu_ is her name," says an
ancient writer. Anu suckled the elder gods. Her name survives in
_Tuatha-De-Danann_, in _Dânu_, _Ana_, and perhaps in that mysterious
Scoto-Gaelic name, Teampull _Anait_--the temple of Anait--whom some
writers collate with an ancient Asiatic goddess, Anait (see p. 171). It
has been suggested that the Celts gave _Bona Dea_ to the Romans, for
these considered her Hyperborean. A less likely derivation of the
popular "_Morrigû_" is that _Mor Reega_ is _Mor Reagh_ (wealth).
Keating, it may be added, speaks of Monagan, Badha, and Macha as the
three chief goddesses of the Divine Race of Ana (the Tuatha De Danann).
Students of Celtic mythology and legend, and of the Táin-bó-Cuailgne in
particular, will remember that her white bull "Find-Bennach" was
"antagonist" to the famous brown bull of Cuailgne. The Mor Rigan has
been identified with Cybele--as the Goddess of Prosperity: but only
speculatively. Another name of the Mother of all Gods is _Aine (Anu?)_.
Prof. Rhys says _Ri_ or _Roi_ was the Mother of the gods of the
non-Celtic races. It is suggestive that _Ana_ is a Phoenician word: that
people had a (virgin?) goddess named _Ana-Perema_.

_Page 156._ _Finn_--_Oisìn_--_Oscur_--_Gaul_--_Diarmid_--_Cuchullin_.
These names as they stand exhibit the uncertainty of Gaelic
name-spelling. In the case of the first named there is constant
variation. The oldest writing is Find (also Fend), or Fin. Some Gaelic
writers prefer, in modern use, Fionn. Through a misapprehension,
Macpherson popularised the name in Scotland as Fingal, and the _Féin_
and _Fianna_ (for they are not the same, as commonly supposed, the
former being the Clan or People of Finn, and the latter a kind of
militia raised for the defence of Uladh), as the Fingalians. Some Irish
critics have been severe upon Macpherson's "impossible nomenclature";
but _Fingal_ is not "impossible," though it is certainly not old Gaelic
for Finn--for the word can quite well stand for Fair Stranger, and might
well have been a name given to a Norse (or for that matter a Gaelic)

_Fin MacCumhal_ (Fin MacCooal or MacCool) is now commonly rendered as
Finn or Fionn. The latter is good Gaelic and the finer word, but the
other is older. Fionn obtains more in Gaelic Scotland. _Fingal_ and the
_Fingalians_ are modern, and due solely to the great vogue given by
Macpherson--though many writers and even Gaelic speakers have adopted

Fionn's famous son, again, is almost universally (outside Gaelic
Scotland and Ireland) known as Ossian, because of Macpherson's spelling
of the name. Neither the Highland nor Irish Gaels pronounce it so--but
Oshshen, and the like--best represented by the Gaelic _Oisìn_ or Oisein.
Personally I prefer Oisìn to any other spelling; but perhaps it would be
best if the word were uniformly spelt in the manner in which it is
universally familiar. Obviously, too, "Ossianic" is the only suitable
use of the name in adjective form. _Oscur_ is probably merely a Gaelic
spelling of the Norse Oscar; though I recollect a student of ancient
Gaelic names telling me that the name was Gaelic and only resembled the
familiar Scandinavian word. _Gaul_ is commonly so spelt; but Goll is
probably more correct. _Diarmid_ has many variations, from Diarmuid to
Dermid; but Diarmid is the best English equivalent both in sound and

It is still a moot point as to whether in narration, Gaelic names should
be given as they are, or be anglicised--or Gaelic exclamations to
phrases in their original spelling, or more phonetically to an English
ear. I think it should depend on circumstances, and within the writer's
tact. I have myself been taken to task again and again, by critics eager
with the eagerness of little knowledge, for partial anglicisation of
names and presumed mistakes in Gaelic spelling, when, surely, the
intention was obvious that a compromise was being attempted. Let me give
an example. How would the English reader like a story of, say, a Donald
Macintyre and a Grace Maclean and an Ivor Mackay if these names were
given in their Gaelic form, as Domnhuil Mac-an-t-Saoir and Giorsal nic
Illeathain and Imhir Mac Aodh--or even if simple names, like, say, Meave
and Malvina, were given as Medb or Malmhin?

It is a pity there is not one recognised way of spelling the legendary
name of Setanta, the chief hero of the Gaelic chivalry. Probably the
best rendering is Cuchulain. The old form is Cuculaind. But colloquially
the name in Gaelic is called Coohoolin or Coohullun; and so Cuculaind
would mislead the ordinary reader. The Scottish version is generally
Cuchullin--the _ch_ soft: a more correct rendering of the Macphersonian
Cuthullin, a misnomer responsible no doubt for the common mistake that
the Coolin (Cuthullin) mountains in Skye have any connection with the
great Gaelic hero (see p. 155). Setanta, a prince of Uladh, was taught
for a time in the art of weaponry by one Culain or Culaind, and after a
certain famous act of prowess became known as The Hound of Culain--_Cu_
being a hound, whence Cuculain, or with the sign of the genitive,
Cuchulain. Every variation of the name, and all the legends of the
Cuchullin cycle, will be found in Miss Eleanor Hull's excellent
redaction, published by Mr. Nutt. The interested reader should see also
the classical work of O'Curry: the vivid and romantic chronicle of Mr.
Standish O'Grady; and the fascinating and scholarly edition of _The
Feast of Bricrin_, recently published as the second volume of the Irish
Texts Society, by Dr. George Henderson, the most scholarly of Highland

_Page 162 seq._ No one has collected so much material on the subject of
St. Michael as Mr. Alexander Carmichael has done. Some of his lore, in
sheiling-hymns and fishing-hymns, he has already made widely known,
directly and indirectly: but in his forthcoming _Or agus Ob_, already
alluded to, there will be found a long and invaluable section devoted to
St. Micheil, as also, I understand, one of like length and interest on
St. Bride or Briget, the most beloved of Hebridean saints, and herself
probably a Christian successor of a much more ancient Brighde, a Celtic
deity, it is said, of Song and Beauty.

_Page 181. Be'al._ I do not think there is any evidence to prove that
the Be'al or Bêl often spelt Baal--whose name and worship survive to
this day in _Bealltainn_ (Beltane), May-day--of Gaelic mythology, is
identical with the Phoenician god Baal, though probably of a like
significance. The Gaelic name, which may be anglicised into Be'al,
signifies "Source of All."

I am inclined to believe that the Be'al or Bêl of the Gaels has his
analogue in the Gaulish mythology in _Hesus_ (also _Esua_, _Aesus_, and
_Heus_), a mysterious (supreme?) god of ancient Gaul, surviving still in
Armorican legend. If so, Hesus or Aesus may be identical with the "lost"
Gaelic god _Aesar_ or _Aes_. _Aesar_ means "fire-kindler," whence the
Creator. (In this connection I would ask if _Aed_, an ancient Gaelic god
of fire, also of death, be identical with (as averred) a still more
ancient Greek name of Fire, or God of Fire = _Aed_?). Be'al, the Source
of All, may take us back to the Phoenician _Baal_: but the Gaelic _Aes_
and the Gaulish _Aesus (Hesus)_ take us, with the Scandinavian _Aesir_,
further still: to the Persian _Aser_, the Hindoo _Aeswar_, the Egyptian
_Asi_ (the Sun-bull), and the Etruscan _Aesar_. The _Bhagavat-Gita_ says
of Aeswar that "he resides in every mortal."

_Pages 199-203._ This section, slightly adapted, is from an unpublished
book, in gradual preparation, entitled _The Chronicles of the Sìdhe_.

_Page 225. The Culdees._ Though I have alluded in the text to the
probable meaning of a word that has perplexed many people, I add this
note as I have just come upon another theoretical statement about the
Culdees as though they were an oriental race or sect. The writer
evidently thinks they are the same as Chaldæans, and builds a
startlingly unscientific theory on that assumption. In all probability
the word is simply _Cille-Dè_, _i.e._, [the man of the] Cell of
God--_Cille_ being Cell, a Church--and so a Cille-Dè man would be "man
of God," a monk, a cleric. A much more puzzling problem obtains in the
apparent traces of Buddha-worship in the Hebrides. It may or may not be
of much account that the author of _Lewisiana_ "admits reluctantly" that
"we must accept the possibility of a Buddhist race passing north of
Ireland." I have not seen _Lewisiana_ for some years, and cannot recall
on what grounds the author arrives at his conclusion. But from my notes
on the subject I see that M. Coquebert-Montbret, in the _Soc. des
Antiquaires de_ _France_, argues at great length that the Asiatic
Buddhist missionaries who penetrated to Western Europe, reached Ireland
and Scotland. He asks if the ancient Gaelic Deity named _Budd_ or
_Budwas_ be not _Buddh_ (Buddha). Another French antiquary avers that
the Druids were "an order of Eastern priests adoring Buddwas." Some
light on the problem is thrown by the fact that the Gaulo-Celtic museum
in St. Germain is an ancient Celtic "god"--the fourth in kind that has
been found--with its legs crossed after the manner of the Indian Buddha.
It is more interesting still to note that in the Hebrides spirits are
sometimes called _Boduchas_ or _Buddachs_, and that the same word is (or
used to be) applied to heads of families, as the Master.

_Pages 242, 248._ These two sections, rearranged, and in part rewritten,
are excerpted from what I wrote in Iona, some five years ago, for a
preface to _The Sin-Eater_.

_Page 256._ In its original form this was written about a book of great
interest and beauty, _The Shadow of Arvor: Legendary Romances of
Brittany_. Translated and retold by Edith Wingate Rinder.

_Arvor (or Armor_) is one of the bardic equivalents of _Armorica_, as
Brittany is called in many old tales. The name means the Sea-Washed
Land, _Vor_ or _Mor_ being Breton for "sea," as in the famous region
_Morbihan_ the Little Sea. Neither the Bretons for their Cymric kindred,
however, call Brittany _Arvor_, or the Latinised _Armorica_. Arvor is
the poetic name of a portion of Basse Bretagne only. Bretons call
Brittany _Breiz_, and their language _Brezoned_, and themselves
_Breiziaded_ (singular _Breiziad_)--as they keep to the French
differentiation of _Bretagne_ and _Grande Bretagne_ in _Bro-Zaos_, the
Saxon-Land, as they speak of France (beyond Brittany), as _Bro-chall_,
the Land of Gaul. In Gaelic I think Brittany is always spoken of as
_Breatunn-Beag_, Little Britain. The Welsh call the country, its people,
and language, _Llydaw_, _Llydawiaid_, _Llydawaeg_.

                                                                 F. M.


By Mrs. William Sharp

The first edition of _The Divine Adventure: Iona: By Sundown Shores_ was
published in 1900 by Messrs. Chapman and Hall. The Titular Essay (since
revised) appeared first in _The Fortnightly Review_ for November and
December, 1899. A large portion of "Iona" (though in different sequence)
appeared also in _The Fortnightly_, March and April, 1900. Both
"spiritual histories" were published separately in book form in America
by Mr. T. Mosher; "Iona," curtailed and rearranged under the title of
"The Isle of Dreams," in 1905. The Essay "Celtic" in its original form,
first printed in _The Contemporary Review_, will now be found, revised
and materially added to, in _The Winged Destiny_. In this Uniform
Edition of the writings of "Fiona Macleod" (William Sharp) the following
stories, etc., have been transferred to the present volume: "The White
Fever" and "The Smoothing of the Hand" from _The Sin-Eater_; "The White
Heron" which relates to the earlier story of Mary Maclean in _Pharais_,
is from _The Dominion of Dreams_, and in its earliest version appeared
with illustrations in the Christmas number of _Harper_ in 1898. "A
Dream" appeared first in the _Theosophical Review_ of September, 1904.
Finally I have added to this volume the latter portion and some detached
fragments from _Green Fire_, a Romance by "Fiona Macleod" dealing with
Brittany and the Hebrid Isles and published in 1896 by Messrs. A.
Constable, and in America by Messrs. Harper Bros. But William Sharp
considered that the book suffered from grave defects of design and
construction and decided that, when out of print, it should not be
republished. "The Herdsman," however, is--as he stated in a note to the
first Edition of _The Dominion of Dreams_, "a re-written and materially
altered version of the Hebridean part of _Green Fire_ of which book it
is all I care to preserve." Nevertheless, in accordance with the wishes
of several friends, I have very willingly put together a series of
detached fragments from the book and placed them beside "The Herdsman"
as, in our opinion equally worthy of preservation, since the author's
prohibition precludes the possibility of reprinting the book in its

       *       *       *       *       *


       *       *       *       *       *


          (WILLIAM SHARP)

          In Seven Volumes. Crown 8vo. Price 5s. net.
          With Photogravure Frontispieces from
          Photographs and Drawings by D. Y. Cameron,

               SPIRITUAL HISTORY



          In Five Volumes

            I. POEMS

          (FIONA MACLEOD)
          Compiled by MRS. WILLIAM SHARP
          (In two volumes)


  | Transcriber's Notes:                                             |
  |                                                                  |
  | Obvious punctuation errors repaired.                             |
  |                                                                  |
  | Printer errors corrected. These include:                         |
  | - Page 34, word "creening" corrected to be "creeping" (night-jar |
  |   creeping forward)                                              |
  | - Page 40, word "it's" corrected to be "its" (for its need)      |
  | - Page 94, word "lighed" corrected to be "lighted" (whose flame  |
  |   lighted)                                                       |
  | - Page 189, word "do" corrected to be "no" (speak no more)       |
  | - Page 196, word "bu" corrected to be "but" (had nane but)       |
  | - Page 224, word "Colnm" corrected to be "Colum" (Colum the      |
  |   White)                                                         |
  | - Page 314, word "lonroid" corrected to be "loneroid" (bracken   |
  |   and loneroid)                                                  |
  | - Page 344, word "thonght" corrected to be "thought" (as he      |
  |   thought)                                                       |
  | - Page 347, word "npon" corrected to be "upon" (here upon Rona)  |
  | - Page 377, word "sale" corrected to be "sail" (useless sail)    |
  | - Page 378, word "Allen" corrected to be "Alan" (to affect Alan) |
  | - Page 384, word "commume" corrected to be "commune" (enjoyed    |
  |   the commune)                                                   |
  | - Page 390, word "mavellous" corrected to be "marvellous" (so    |
  |   many marvellous)                                               |
  | - Page 402, word "hs" corrected to be "he" (he dreamed his)      |
  | - Page 416, word "treasures-trove" corrected to be               |
  |   "treasure-troves" (many treasure-troves rescued)               |
  |                                                                  |
  | The author's variable spelling (both in English and Gaelic) has  |
  | been kept. This includes:                                        |
  | - Both "airidh" and "àiridh"                                     |
  | - Both "Amadan-Dhu" and "Amadan Dhû"                             |
  | - Both Angus "Og" and "Òg"                                       |
  | - Both "Beite" and "Beithe"                                      |
  | - Both Buachaill "Ban" and "Bàn"                                 |
  | - Both "bhuachaile" and "bhuachaille"                            |
  | - Both "chlarsach" and "chlarsaich"                              |
  | - Both "Coolins" and "Coolin" mountain                           |
  | - Both "Eachainn" and "Eachain" MacEachainn                      |
  | - Both "Fèinn" and "Féinn"                                       |
  | - Both "fore-knowledge" and "foreknowledge"                      |
  | - Both "foretell" and "fortell"                                  |
  | - Both "hill-slope" and "hillslope"                              |
  | - Both "maighdean-mhara" and "Maigh-deann-M'hara"                |
  | - Both mo "ghraidh" and "ghràidh"                                |
  | - Both "mythopoëic" and "mythopoeic"                             |
  | - Both "n'Aondruim" and "n'-Aondruim"                            |
  | - Both "Oìsin" and "Oisìn"                                       |
  | - Both "re-born" and "reborn"                                    |
  | - Both "re-written" and "rewritten"                              |
  | - Both "Reilig" and "Réilig" Odhrain                             |
  | - Both "sea-fowl" and "seafowl"                                  |
  | - Both "sea-weed" and "seaweed"                                  |
  | - Both "sheiling-hymn" and "shealing-hymn"                       |
  | - "Sliochd-nan-Ron," "Sliochd nan Ron," and "Sliochd-nan-ròn"    |
  | - Both "Sìdhe" and "Sidhe"                                       |
  | - Both "sun-down" and "sundown"                                  |
  | - Both "Uain-ghil" and "Uain ghil"                               |
  |                                                                  |
  | Some advertisements for other books published by William         |
  | Heinemann were moved from the start (before the title) to the    |
  | end of the text(after the Bibliographical Note).                 |
  |                                                                  |

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