OISÍN IN TÍR NA NÓG

by Eric Ferguson

©Eric Ferguson 1996
5732 Bossen Terrace #2
Minneapolis, MN 55417
voice/fax: (612)726-6364
eric@celticfringe.net
http://www.celticfringe.net


CHARACTERS
Young Oisín (young by comparison to Old Oisín, old enough to have a grown son)
Old Oisín (Oisín after he has returned to Ireland. He is old and feeble.)
St.Patrick (early in his ministry, 20's or 30's)
Diarmid
Finn MacCumhail (Oisín's father)
Niam (Oisín's wife)
Fomor
Men moving stone


PRONUNCIATION GUIDE

Oisín: Wah-sheen

Eamon: A(long)-mun

Tír na nÓg: Cheer-nah-nog(long O)

Finn MacCumhail: Finn-mack-coo-ul

Niam: Nee-um

Fianna: Fee-uh-nuh (stress on first syllable)

Cailte: Cahl-che

Cnucha: New-uh

Fomor: Foe-more



Despite this play's fantastic nature, it can be played with pantomime and a minimal set---unless someone can put a horse on stage.(The scene is Ireland, latter 5th century A.D. PATRICK's camp. He has a bonfire, a tent, and a couple logs or rocks. He has a waterbag and a bag for documents. Lights rise on PATRICK at his fire.)


PATRICK
Eamon? I thought you'd left. Eamon, is that you?

DIARMID
No.

PATRICK
Who's there?

DIARMID
My name's Diarmid.

PATRICK
I'm Patrick.

DIARMID
I know right well who you are.

PATRICK
Then what do you want?

DIARMID
My priest has sent me to snuff your bonfire.

PATRICK
What sort of priest?

DIARMID
One of our own priests, not some lost Welshman with a foreign religion.

PATRICK
This isn't one people's religion...

DIARMID
I don't care! You're not going to convert me, so don't try.

PATRICK
Convert or not as it pleases you and leave me be.

DIARMID
Some missionary you are. I can't understand why the priests are so bothered about you.

PATRICK
Bothered how?

DIARMID
It doesn't matter. Will you put out this fire?

PATRICK
No.

DIARMID
I must have it out.

PATRICK
I don't care.

DIARMID
Where's your water?

PATRICK
I've only enough for myself. I didn't bring enough to quench a fire.

(DIARMID looks at PATRICK's water bag)

DIARMID
So I see. I'll pour this on and go search for some more.

PATRICK
I'll rebuild it in your absence.

DIARMID
I know there's a spring nearby. Even in the dark I'll find it.

PATRICK
What good will it do you? I've no larger container.

DIARMID
I'll find something.

PATRICK
You'll not take my fire from me!

DIARMID
Why is this fire so important to you?

PATRICK
Because I'm cold.

DIARMID
You need this big a fire because you're cold?

PATRICK
Why can't you leave me be?

DIARMID
The priest says it will be the end of the old ways if this fire is still burning at dawn.

PATRICK
We're all losing old ways! My old life is long gone. I am without a home, I long ago lost my family, I am on a mission that accomplishes nothing, and I have perhaps had my last contact with civilization------but I'll not be cold tonight. Tell your priest to light his own fire.

DIARMID
When the Fianna guarded these shores, you would have been tossed right back into the water before you were long off your boat.

PATRICK
(His curiousity is aroused) I've heard some tales of the Fianna. What do you know about them?

DIARMID
I know the great Finn MacCumhail would have your head hanging from his belt.

PATRICK
You need not tell me then. I'm in no mood anyway to listen to violent stories.

DIARMID
Our ancient heroes had a code of honor that you wouldn't understand.

PATRICK
I understand perfectly. They slaughtered a bunch of people, and for this you call them heroes.

DIARMID
They showed courage and honor, and for that they gained victory over their enemies.

PATRICK
Great pride is a sin, and it's worse when the pride is taken in actions repugnant in the sight of God. They took great pride in killing their enemies, and for that they surely ended up in Hell.

DIARMID
I'd rather be in Hell with Finn than in Heaven with flimsy angels.

(DIARMID sees something he can't quite make out in the dark. He picks it up.)

What's this, another water bag?

PATRICK
No. Leave it.

DIARMID
What's in here?

PATRICK
Those letters are private! Put that back!

(PATRICK tries to take the bag from DIARMID. They struggle a moment. DIARMID pushes PATRICK away and letters spill out.)

DIARMID
I don't want your letters. I'd dump them in the fire if it didn't defeat my purpose.

PATRICK
Have the decency to put them back.

DIARMID
I'm taking this bag in case it'll hold water. Mark me, I will find some way to carry enough water to kill your fire.

PATRICK
Better hurry. By my reckoning, you have about two hours.

(DIARMID exits. PATRICK is alone at his fire. He puts the letters into a pocket or bag on his person. He kicks a piece of driftwood into the fire.)

PATRICK
Burn, driftwood! Burn like the fires in newly-sacked Rome must have burned! I pity you driftwood, fed into the fire by one of your own, a man who is piece of flotsam like yourself. I thought I led myself to this shore, but I controlled my fate like you controlled the tide.

(He has a letter, which he looks at by the firelight.)

It's an evil light you throw. It's lets me read this letter again. Rome is sacked, the emperor is overthrown, and I can't even tell how long this letter took to reach me. Letters used to go from Britain to Asia in only weeks. Now I doubt I'll ever hear from anyplace further than Gaul again. Maybe I'm out here alone. God, what was the point of sending me here? You're going to end the world someday anyway, so what are you waiting for?! Will you make me scrounge for the few last souls? They don't want me here!

(He speaks to the letter as he prepares to toss it into the fire.)

Into the fire with you then you evil old thing. You can add a brief bit of acrid smoke to this foul air. No, wait. I'll spare you. I may need proof that the civilized world was real. I certainly can't go back for more. (He hears a noise.) What's that? Are you back so soon?

(OISÍN comes stumbling in. He is an old man who appears none too strong.)

Who's... careful! Stay there, I'll come get you! (He helps OISÍN to sit down.) Come sit down here. I'm sorry I've only a boulder to offer for a seat. I'm afraid I move around a lot. At least it will keep you off the ground.

OISÍN
Just find me something to lean against.

PATRICK
Here, right here I think you'll be all right. Do you need anything? Some water?

OISÍN
Yes, some water. (PATRICK pours some water and helps OISÍN with the cup.) I can do it. I can still hold my own cup. (He starts to drink and stops. He looks at PATRICK.) Thank You. (Drinks)

PATRICK
You're welcome. (PATRICK looks at OISÍN)

OISÍN
Yes?

PATRICK
It's just that I've never seen clothes like those before or felt such a fabric.

OISÍN
Few mortal men ever have, Patrick.

PATRICK
You know who I am?

OISÍN
It's fitting I should die in your presence.

PATRICK
Old man, you're a little weak right now but you're not about to die.

OISÍN
I've lived past my time already.

PATRICK
How do you know who I am? Have you heard me preach?

OISÍN
No.

PATRICK
You must have heard about me. People are spreading the word of my teaching?

OISÍN
No.

PATRICK
Oh.

OISÍN
I just know who you are. You are the beginning of a new age. The end of the old ways.

PATRICK
What do you mean?

OISÍN
You'll find out in time.

PATRICK
Who are you?

OISÍN
I am Oisín, the son of Finn MacCumhail.

PATRICK
Oisín!

OISÍN
Yes.

PATRICK
How?

OISÍN
I have been gone for a long time.

PATRICK
In Tír na nÓg.

OISÍN
You've heard of it.

PATRICK
The Land of Youth. Yes, I've been trying to record the legends of the old days, and I've heard stories of Finn MacCumhail and the Fianna, and of course I've heard that you disappeared one day and went to this place few mortals are allowed to see.

OISÍN
Do you believe this decrepit old man is Oisín?

PATRICK
Yes! Even under your withered appearance I can see that you're no man of this troubled age. But what happened to you, how did you end up here?

OISÍN
First tell me what you have heard of the Fianna.

PATRICK
But you're of the Fianna...

OISÍN
I want to know what's being said. Then I'll tell you everything.

PATRICK
I've heard that your father Finn was the greatest of the Fianna. I have also heard of your son Oscar, and your friend Cailte who was the last leader of the Fianna. I have heard that a man had to pass several tests to join your band of warriors.

OISÍN
To become a Fian, a man would be buried up to his waist. He was given a shield, and nine warriors hurled their spears at him. If he was in any way wounded he could not join us. He had to run through the woods with only the length of a tree bough between him and his pursuers. He had to run full speed without breaking a single twig, nor could he let the weapon in his hand quiver, nor let his pursuers wound him. If he did any of these things he could not join us. He had to jump a branch as high as his forehead and stoop under another as low as his knees without breaking stride. If a man could do all this, all his relatives on both sides of his family had to renounce all claims to compensation should he be killed, even if he were slain on the spot, nor could anyone take revenge against his relatives should the man give offense. Only the Fianna could claim revenge or be the objects of it.

PATRICK
The Fianna really became the man's family.

OISÍN
Yes, and the man had a bond. He could never accept payment for a violated promise, nor ever violate a promise himself, and none of Finn's people were permitted to flee before nine enemies. It begins to seem like such a long time ago now. We were the protectors of Ireland; now there's nobody. Finn, Oscar, Cailte, they're all long dead. Our contests with sword and spear, our games of hurling, so many battles with our enemies' corpses too many to count, all finished. I was in Tír na nÓg for so long, and I'll never go back there now.

PATRICK
How long were you there?

OISÍN
How long?

PATRICK
Yes.

OISÍN
How long. Why do you listen to these stories of wars? Aren't they troubling to you?

PATRICK
Yes. They're so contrary to everything I believe, I've never felt sure what to make of them.

OISÍN
So why are you listening to legends of pagan times?

PATRICK
At first I didn't. I denounced them as violent and contrary to the Word of God. I've been met with, well, some strong opinions to the contrary. I prayed to God asking for guidance. He sent two angels to relieve me of my fears. They told me that not only may I listen, but that I must record these legends. They appeared when...

OISÍN
Do you have some bread?

PATRICK
What? Oh, yes, I must have something. Let me go look. (He starts to leave) Please, don't leave until I get back. (exits into tent)

OISÍN
That's none too likely. (OISÍN is still a moment, then begins to recite a poem.)

I never thought to see an old gray head
Where once hung my locks of flaming yellow
The eternal flames are near extinguished.

Gone are the bravest warriors and heroes
Long ago turned into myths and ashes
The mightiest heroes of Erin are dead.

Dear old father was it so long ago?
Companions of my youth are we now spent?
Is the golden age become the age of stone?


My hands that once hurled spears and wielded swords
That never trembled against a host of foes
Now cannot lift a cup to my mouth

My old toothless head will soon say nothing
My limbs will have no strength to move themselves
And the night will come over my eyes forever.

PATRICK
Oisín, I found some bread. It's a few days old but it's all I can find. (He holds out the bread.)

OISÍN
Where is it? My eyes are failing me. (PATRICK puts the bread in his hands.) I used to wonder how old people could chew without teeth. Now I'll find out.

(OISÍN dips the bread in the cup of water and begins eating).

PATRICK
I couldn't help overhearing the poem you recited. Were you a poet?

OISÍN
All the Fianna were poets. We had to master the twelve forms of poetry as part of our initiation.

PATRICK
How did you get to Tír na nÓg?

OISÍN
You're not fond of poetry?

PATRICK
It's not that, well, true I've never had much interest in it. I'm really anxious to hear about Tír na nÓg.

OISÍN
First tell me why you built this fire. You looked quite crestfallen when I approached. Were you making some sort of sacrifice?

PATRICK
No. Well, not exactly. Just the concerns of modern times. Nothing you need to worry about.

OISÍN
Surely the great Patrick has nothing to worry about.

PATRICK
Great? I'm a missionary trying to save a few souls before the end of the world. At this point I don't know why God doesn't finish it.

OISÍN
I told you Patrick, you herald a new age in Ireland. Don't ask, I just know.

PATRICK
All right, I won't ask, provided you tell me how you got to Tír na nÓg.

OISÍN
All right. It was after the battle at Gabra, the one where my son Oscar was killed. I had just buried my beloved son when Finn gathered us all together for a hunt. There were once hosts of us, but our band seemed small then. I hoped the hunt would let me forget for a while all the misery I had seen of late. We and the hounds were hot on the chase.

(During this line, FINN and YOUNG OISÍN enter, acting out the hunt. NIAM enters and stops them suddenly. FINN and OISÍN are transfixed.)

NIAM
Great Finn of the Fian hosts, I have come a long way for the sake of love.

FINN
Who are you?

NIAM
I am Niam, daughter of the king of Tír na nÓg.

FINN
Was it your husband who sent you so far from home?

NIAM
I am not married. I have refused every offer. My heart was taken by the tales of your famous son.

FINN
Which of my famous sons?

NIAM
Oisín. I have come to take him with me to Tír na nÓg.

FINN
How do you know about him? You have never seen him before.

NIAM
I have good cause to seek him. His great deeds have made him famous, even among those who are always young. Which one is he?

YOUNG OISÍN
I am Oisín. You are welcome here Niam. To be sure, I have never seen your like before. I doubt any mortal man has. But I would know what you want from me.

NIAM
I would have you come with me, Oisín, and become my husband. You will have a grander hall than any you have ever seen. You will have the finest weapons and hounds, and clothes made of fabrics like these (indicating her own clothes). You will be a prince, even among those who are always young.

YOUNG OISÍN
It does sound a marvelous life.

FINN
You want to take my son away from me?

NIAM
I mean you no harm Finn, but it's a new and better life I'm offering him.

FINN
But will you go son? Can you leave your old father?

YOUNG OISÍN
I don't know. My own son is dead.

FINN
You can have more.

YOUNG OISÍN
Perhaps it's with this maiden I can have more.

FINN
You must remember you're one of the Fianna.

YOUNG OISÍN
That will never change, wherever I go. And I may come back.

FINN
You will never come back. For the land of youth, you must give up the land of your birth. (to NIAM) Is this not true?

NIAM
It's true. You can never return.

YOUNG OISÍN
But what's left for me here? I will always be a Fian. I will always keep my honor and my oaths. But how long will there be Fianna?

FINN
We are dwindling. But would you make us dwindle faster? Can you leave the place where your son is buried?

YOUNG OISÍN
Everywhere I look someone is buried. My son is just the latest. When I buried him is when I made my parting. Even with my son dead, my own life is not over. I can't stay here for the sake of graves.

FINN
I must go to a grave someday soon myself. I would have had you bury me. But I see that if I hold you here, you may never forgive me for the chance you missed. I could almost tell you to go if you wanted to stay. Niam, he will go with you.

NIAM
Come Oisín, I have two horses waiting that will take us through the waves to the Land of Youth.

YOUNG OISÍN
A moment with my father first. I suspect you have never known a parting, but I fear you will come to learn many mortal sorrows.

NIAM
There are no sorrows where we are going.

YOUNG OISÍN
Then permit me this last one. Father, I must leave you now.

FINN
I see that you must. But it's hard to lose your son and grandson so close together. My heart will break in two, whenever I think on my own dear Oisín, and this maid who came from the sea.

(YOUNG OISÍN and NIAM exit. FINN watches them leave and exits another direction.)

OISÍN
I heard the wails of my friends and brothers in the Fianna as we left, and I've always felt my eyes tearing whenever I remember that moment. Even in Tír na nÓg, I always thought fondly of my life with my father. We had many feasts where the harps were played long into the night, and even the lowest always had their choice of meats. There were never better hunters than us, and there were a hundred battles where our spears turned our enemies into piles of corpses.

PATRICK
Enough about the battles, what happened after you left with the maid?

OISÍN
She cautioned me to be careful, and now I know why she did. We rode so fast, everything seemed to just blur past me. Then we plunged into the sea, and the water and clouds all parted for us.

PATRICK
Then you saw Tír na nÓg.

OISÍN
Not right away. It was still a long ride. On the way I saw many fabulous castles and cities. Niam said even the best of these were poor beside her father's home. However, I was going to have one more challenge before I could live in paradise. I asked about the places we passed, and in one lived a queen held captive by a giant named Fomor. He held her to make her his wife, but she had vowed never to marry him. I at once felt pity for her, and directed the horse towards her castle. With her captor absent, she told us how she was taken by Fomor and had no hope of seeing her kindred again. I determined to challenge this giant as soon as he returned.

(YOUNG OISÍN and NIAM enter during this speech.)

NIAM
I don't understand why we're staying here.

YOUNG OISÍN
This queen has been a gracious hostess to us.

NIAM
I will thank her for her hospitality and return it if she should pass our way.

YOUNG OISÍN
She won't be passing our way while Fomor holds her captive. I am bound by honor to challenge him.

NIAM
There's no need for this now. Your adventuring days are done.

YOUNG OISÍN
It isn't a matter of adventuring. Why did you come to Ireland for me?

NIAM
Because of the fame your deeds had brought you.

YOUNG OISÍN
Exactly. If I didn't challenge Fomor, I would not be the man you came across the water for.

NIAM
You may lose your life in this fight, right before it's securely yours forever. Why would you risk such a sacrifice?

YOUNG OISÍN
Because I'm a hero. That's what heroes do.

NIAM
You left the heroes behind when we crossed the waves.

YOUNG OISÍN
If I thought that, I would go back. Get back inside, he's coming.

(FOMOR enters carrying a large club. YOUNG OISÍN draws his sword and they fight. They slow down during Oisín's next line.)

OISÍN
I fought the giant for three days and nights. He never spoke a word. There were no boasts or brave words, not even a formal greeting or challenge. We ignored darkness, rain, hunger, everything except each other.

(YOUNG OISÍN kills FOMOR. NIAM enters and touches YOUNG OISÍN's wounds.)

YOUNG OISÍN
You've never felt fear before.

NIAM
No. I thought I had but...(She is speechless. She looks at FOMOR. )

YOUNG OISÍN
Nor have you ever seen death before.

NIAM
No. (She bends down to touch FOMOR.)

YOUNG OISÍN
This is the way of things for every Fian's wife. Perhaps you never heard that part of the stories. (She sees blood on her hand.) You must also learn how to tend the wounds of the living. (He grabs her hand and wipes the blood on his clothes.) Our hostess will need your aid in tending me. (She helps him off as they exit.)

OISÍN
I doubt she really understood why I had to fight Fomor. The maiden queen, however, was overjoyed at her freedom. She tended my wounds herself, and was terribly saddened when we left. It was after that we arrived in Tír na nÓg.

PATRICK
What was it like?

OISÍN
There were hundreds of people came out to greet us, all of them young, strong, and healthy. The king and queen themselves came out. The fields all around were the richest green, and the people themselves seemed to sparkle from the gemstones. The king had a silken saffron shirt and the most delicately broidered cloak I ever saw. He greeted me, and announced to all gathered "This is the famous Oisín, son of the great Finn, and he will be the husband of our Niam".

(Laughter is heard offstage. YOUNG OISÍN enters chasing NIAM. After a brief chase onstage, she let's him catch her and they kiss. A voice is heard offstage calling "Mother".)

NIAM
(to the voice offstage.) I'm coming.

YOUNG OISÍN
Don't go yet.

NIAM
I'll be only a moment.

YOUNG OISÍN
I want to ask you something while I'm thinking of it. I was thinking about giving our daughter this brooch. It belonged to my grandfather, the great Cumhail.

NIAM
Why do you want to give it to her?

YOUNG OISÍN
I think she's old enough to appreciate it. And this belt belonged to my son Oscar. I want to give it to our son when he's ready. (Putting his hand on her belly.) And maybe something of my father's for this one, depending on what it is.

NIAM
If these things mean something to you, why not keep them?

YOUNG OISÍN
That's why I want to pass them on.

NIAM
But they have broaches and belts.

YOUNG OISÍN
But they don't have these.

NIAM
They can get more.

YOUNG OISÍN
They can't get more. This belt is the only one in Tír na nÓg that belonged to Oscar.

NIAM
We have other belts.

YOUNG OISÍN
Look, suppose you had something of your father's. A belt, a cloak, a spear; just something that belonged to him. What would make it valuable?

NIAM
The workmanship perhaps, or the jewels on it...

YOUNG OISÍN
No, that it belonged to your father. What would you do if you lost your father's cloak.

NIAM
I'd ask him for another one. He can always get more.

YOUNG
What if he was dead?

NIAM
But he's not going to die. Neither will you.

(The offstage voice calls again. NIAM calls back "coming" and exits. YOUNG OISÍN stays behind. He contemplates Cumhail's broach.)

YOUNG OISÍN
Well Grandfather, I will not die. At least not the parts of me here. (exit)

PATRICK
Life must have been a joy there.

OISÍN
It was. We had plenty of every sort of meat and wine. Our days were spent with all manner of games. I had many clothes like these I'm wearing, a stable full of powerful horses and a hundred hunting hounds, and of course Niam for my wife. I had three children while I was there, and we lived a life of perfect ease.

(OISÍN nearly collapses. PATRICK catches him.)

PATRICK
Do you want some more water?

OISÍN
Yes, thank you.

PATRICK
(Gets him some water) You never aged at all the whole time you were there?

OISÍN
If anything I got younger. (Drinks)

PATRICK
No disease either?

OISÍN
No disease, no infirmity, nothing.

PATRICK
With a life like that...I mean...Why did you leave?

OISÍN
Why did I leave.

(Enter YOUNG OISÍN who sits alone. NIAM enters and goes over to him.)

NIAM
Are you pining for home again?

YOUNG OISÍN
Yes.

NIAM
How long before you decide that this is home?

YOUNG OISÍN
I don't know. It takes time to adjust.

NIAM
Time? Husband, you don't realize how long it's been.

YOUNG OISÍN
I can't help thinking of my father sometimes. I miss the hunts we used to have, and the feasts that followed. Elk, venison, partridge. Even the lowest among us always had their fill of whatever they wanted. I miss the grounds where I trained to become a Fian, and the songs late into the night.

NIAM
Was it so much better than the life you have here?

YOUNG OISÍN
It wasn't better at all. It can't begin to compare. It's just that it's the life I knew, and I can't help wondering what became of it all after I left.

NIAM
Why do you trouble yourself like this? You have a perfect life here, everything you could ever want, yet you sit there and stir up unhappy memories.

YOUNG OISÍN
They're not unhappy memories.

NIAM
But they're memories. You'll never know what became of the place, so stop worrying about it.

YOUNG OISÍN
But I will know. I've made up my mind. I'm going back.

NIAM
You could leave me?

YOUNG OISÍN
No, of course not. I'll come back. But I have to set my mind at rest and see what's become of the Fianna. You must have guessed I was pondering this.

NIAM
No, I didn't guess! Why would it ever occur to me that you, anyone, would leave here?!

YOUNG OISÍN
Then I'm sorry it's a surprise, but I must go.

NIAM
You won't ever come back!

YOUNG OISÍN
I said I would come back.

NIAM
It's not a matter of what you intend, you won't come back. You won't be able to. You'll die there!

YOUNG OISÍN
Nonsense.

NIAM
Oisín, will you not listen to me? A lot of time has passed. Time means nothing here but it still does for mortal men, no matter how great they are. The Fianna are long gone. Your father, your brothers, all of them are long gone.

YOUNG OISÍN
What, they're just memories?

NIAM
Not even that--legends! And even legends can grow dim. It's a time of priests and saints now.

YOUNG OISÍN
How do you know all this?

NIAM
How did I know about you? I know which tales are old and which are new. You can't go back Oisín. It's not there for you to return to. I'm begging you, for my sake and our children's sake if not your own, don't try this!

YOUNG OISÍN
I've never seen you this distressed before. I'm sure no one has, not even yourself. But perhaps you see something like what's going on in my mind. It's different, but, it's just as strong. I wish you could understand. (pause) Wife, come with me.

NIAM
I will not. I would have to watch you die. It will be bad enough to lose you without having to see it happen.

YOUNG OISÍN
Niam....

NIAM
I won't go!

YOUNG OISÍN
And I can't stay!

NIAM
How will you get there?

YOUNG OISÍN
I'll use the horse that brought me here.

NIAM
I won't keep you, will I? Listen, the horse will get you there, but you must never leave it's back. If your foot touches Irish soil, the horse will bolt from you, and the years since you left will catch up to you. You'll be an old man and soon dead. Husband, I know you won't come back!

YOUNG OISÍN
I will. I am still a Fian. I still have my oath to uphold, and I will do what I say I will do. I will return.

(NIAM exits during OISÍN's next line. YOUNG OISÍN remains on stage. MEN enter.)

OISÍN
I got on the horse and reversed the journey Niam and I had made before. Again the horse took me through the clouds and the waves.

YOUNG OISÍN
You there, where are the Fianna? Isn't it still their custom to guard these shores?

MAN
I've been hearing tales of the Fianna when I was boy. It was once their custom, at least so I've heard. There was the great Finn MacCumhail and his son Oisín, and his son Oscar. But that must have been three hundred years ago.

YOUNG OISÍN
Three hundred years!

MAN
As far as anyone knows.

YOUNG OISÍN
Three hundred years.

OISÍN
Three hundred years.

YOUNG OISÍN
That's impossible! (He dashes offstage.)

OISÍN
I rode furiously to where my father's hall had been, the place of so many happy memories. But there was nothing but some ruined remnants of walls overgrown with rank weeds. Our training fields were trodden by oxen and cut by plows. I cursed the day I left Ireland, and cursed myself again for coming back. Everything Niam had warned me of was true. The world I knew was gone. I turned the horse back to Tír na nÓg, though I feared I might always be miserable, even among those who are always young.

(YOUNG OISÍN reenters and encounters MEN in the process of moving a stone.)

OISÍN
Then I came across some men trying to move a huge stone. It was far tool large for the small men of this age.

MAN
(calling YOUNG OISÍN) Hello, you on the horse, can you help us? Our friend has been caught under the stone and we can't get it off! You look as strong as the great Cailte of Finn MacCumhail's time, who I've heard could move a stone like this with one hand.

YOUNG OISÍN
Yes, I could move that stone for you.

MAN
Then please, come down and help us.

YOUNG OISÍN
I can't leave the horse's back.

MAN
You can't leave him here! Not if you're the champion you look like.

YOUNG OISÍN
No, I can't leave you without giving my aid.

MAN
Then come down and help us!

YOUNG OISÍN
I will move the stone from up here.

(YOUNG OISÍN reaches down to lift the stone.)

MAN
Come down from the horse, you could break your back lifting like that.

YOUNG OISÍN
I will not break my back. I can stand the weight.

MAN
But can your horse stand it?

(YOUNG OISÍN hesitates a moment. He lifts the stone away and the horse collapses, spilling YOUNG OISÍN to the ground. The horse gets up and bolts away.)

YOUNG OISÍN
Horse, stop! Come back!

(He gets up to go after it and collapses as he suddenly ages. Lights on him dim as he stumbles off stage, leaving MEN in blackout. Lights focus on only PATRICK and OISÍN.)

OISÍN
The horse ran off to carry the news of my fate on its empty back. Three hundred years caught up to me in moments, leaving just enough life to tell my story. That is my tale of Tír na nÓg.

PATRICK
Why?! You had to know what would happen! You could have returned to Tír na nÓg! Why did you stop to help them?

OISÍN
I told you, I was a hero. That is what heroes do.

PATRICK
Tír na nÓg...

OISÍN
Tír na nÓg...seems like a dream now. And now I feel the years since I left my home. Three hundred years. Niam was right, this is a time of priests and saints. The age of heroes is over. It's time for me to die now Patrick.

PATRICK
No Oisín, you're not going to die yet.

OISÍN
It's not how I would have chosen to go. You're going to write all this down, right Patrick?

PATRICK
Yes.

OISÍN
Then this is the end of the age of myths.

PATRICK
I thank God I was able to see this day, before the world comes crumbling to its end.

OISÍN
You're very bitter for such a young man. Listen, Patrick, listen to these last words of an old man. That poem you heard me reciting isn't mine. In fact, it was old when I learned it.

PATRICK
Already old?

OISÍN
Promise me you'll wash my head when I die Patrick.

PATRICK
Wash your head? Do you mean baptize you?

OISÍN
Wash my old gray head. (dies)

PATRICK
Do you mean baptism Oisín? Oisín?

(PATRICK is unsure what to do. He is interrupted by DIARMID entering hurriedly with water to quench the fire. DIARMID is about to pour water on the fire when he looks up and sees that dawn has already come.)

DIARMID
Dawn.

(PATRICK takes the water as DIARMID lets the defeat and exhaustion catch up to him. PATRICK takes a bowl, fills it with water and begins washing OISÍN's head.)

PATRICK
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit...

(Blackout. End of play.)

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