The Golden Fly
[E]THAUN, Angus, Fuamach, and Midyir lived in the World of the Gods. Ethaun said to Angus:
"I am weary of everything that I see; let me go into the other worlds with you."
"When I go into the other worlds I wander from place to place and people do not know that I am a god. In the earth they think I am a juggler or a wandering minstrel or a beggar-man. If you come with me you will seem a poor singing woman or a strolling player."
Then Ethaun said:
"I will ask Midyir to make a world for myself--all the worlds are full of weariness."
She went to find Midyir, and as she went she saw below her the World of the Bright Shadow that is called Ildathach, and the World of the Dark Shadow that is called Earth. Midyir was looking down at the Earth, and a brightness grew on it as he looked. Ethaun was angry because Midyir cared to make a brightness on the Earth, and she turned away from him, and said:
"I wish the worlds would clash together and disappear! I am weary of everything I can see."
Then Fuamach said:
"You have the heart of a fly, that is never contented; take the body of a fly, and wander till your heart is changed and you get back your own shape again."
Ethaun became a little golden fly, and she was afraid to leave the World of the Gods and wished she could get back her shape again. She flew to Midyir and buzzed round him, but he was making a brightness on the Earth and did not hear her; when she lit on his hand he brushed her away.
She went to Angus, and he was making music on the strings of his tiompan; when she buzzed about him he said: "You have a sweet song, little fly," and he made the tiompan buzz like a fly. She lit on his hand, and he said: "You are very beautiful, little golden fly, and because you are beautiful I will give you a gift. Now speak and ask for the gift that will please you best." Then Ethaun was able to speak, and she said:
"O Angus, give me back my shape again. I am Ethaun, and Fuamach has changed me into a fly and bidden me wander till I get back my shape."
Angus looked sadly at the little golden fly, and said:
"It is only in Ildathach that I am a Shape-Changer. Come with me to that land and I will
make a palace for you and while you are in it you will have the shape of Ethaun."
"I will go with you," said Ethaun, "and live in your palace."
She went with him, and he brought her into a beautiful palace that had all the colours of the rainbow. It had four windows to it, and when she looked out of the window to the West she saw a great wood of pine trees and oak trees and trees that had golden apples; when she looked out of the window to the North she saw a great mountain shaped like a spear, and white like flame; and when she looked to the South she saw a far-stretching plain with many little gleaming lakes; but the window to the East was fast closed, and Angus said she must never unbar it.
Ethaun was happy for a long time in the rainbow-palace and Angus came and played to her and told her tales of all the worlds; but at last the old longing came to her and she grew weary of everything she could see.
"I wish the walls of the palace would fall and the trees wither," she said, "for they are always the same!"
She went to the window in the East and unbarred it. She saw the sea outside it, wind-driven and white with foam, and a great wind blew the window open and caught Ethaun and whirled her out of the palace, and she became again a little golden fly. She wandered and wandered through the World of the Bright Shadow that is called Ildathach till she came to the World of the Dark Shadow that is Earth, and she wandered there for a long time, scorched by the sun and beaten by the rain, till she came to a beautiful house where a king and queen were standing together. The king had a golden cup full of mead and he was giving it to the queen. Ethaun lit on the edge of the cup, but the queen never saw the little golden fly, and she did not know that it slipped into the mead, and she drank it with the mead.
Afterwards there was a child born to the queen--a strange beautiful child, and the queen called her Ethaun. Every one in the palace loved the child and tried to please her but nothing pleased her for long and as she grew older and more beautiful they tried harder to please her but she was never contented. The queen was sad at heart because of this, and the sadness grew on her day by day and she began to think her child was of the Deathless Ones that bring with them too much joy or too much sorrow for mortals.
One day Ethaun said the Queen's singer had no songs worth listening to and she began to sing one of her own songs; as she sang, the queen looked into her eyes and knew that Ethaun was no child of hers, and when she knew it she bowed herself in her seat and died. The king said Ethaun brought ill-luck and he sent her away to live in a little hut of woven branches in a forest where only shepherds and simple people came to her and brought her food.
She grew every day more beautiful and walked under the great trees in the forest and sang her own songs. One day the king of all Ireland came riding by. His name was Eochy, and he was young and beautiful and strong. When he saw Ethaun he said:
"No woman in the world is beautiful after this one!" and he got down from his horse and came to Ethaun. She was sitting outside the little hut and combing her hair in the sunshine, and her hair was like fine gold and very long.
"What is your name? " said the king, "and what man is your father? "
"Ethaun is my name," said she, "and a king is my father."
"It is wrong," said Eochy, "that your beauty should be shut in this forest, come with me and you shall be the High Queen of Ireland."
Then Ethaun looked at Eochy, and it seemed to her that she had known him always. She said:
"I have waited here for you and no other. Take me into your house, High King."
Eochy took her with him and made her his queen, and all the country that he ruled was glad because the High Queen was so beautiful. Eochy made a wonderful house for her. It had nine doors of carved red yew, and precious stones were in the walls of it. Ethaun and the king lived in it, and the harpers sang to them, and the noblest warriors in Erin stood about their doors. The king was happy, but there was always in the mind of Ethaun a beauty that made the rich hangings seem poor and the jewels dull and she had a song in her heart that took the music out of all other songs. The harpers of the Five Provinces of Ireland came into the feast hall of Eochy at Samhain, but there was weariness on the face of Ethaun while they played, and though the High King gave them gold rings and jewels and high seats of honour they had no joy in coming to his house.
The warriors clashed their swords when the High Queen passed but any one who looked into her eyes dreamed of strange countries and had in him the longing to go over seas, and Eochy was grieved because the noblest of his chiefs became like the lonely bird of the waves that never builds a nest.
One day Ethaun leaned against the carved yew door of her sunny-palace and watched the sea-gulls wheeling in the blueness of the sky. Inside, the Fool was strewing green rushes and scented leaves and buds before her chair. The Fool was always in the palace because his wits had gone from him, and people say that fools have the dark wisdom of the, gods. Ethaun could hear him singing:
"I had a black hound and a white.
The Day is long, and long the Night.
A great wave swallowed up the sea,
And still the hounds were following me.
The white hound had a crown of gold,
But no one saw it, young or old.
The black hound's feet were swift as fire--
'Tis he that was my heart's desire.
The Sun and Moon leaned from the sky
When I and my two hounds went by."
Ethaun turned from the door and went into the room where the Fool was. Her dress swept the young green leaves but she had no thought of them or of the little flowers the Fool had put with the rushes.
"Go on singing!" she said. "I wish my heart were as lightsome as yours."
"How could your heart be lightsome, Queen," said the Fool, "when you will not give the flower a chance to blossom, or the hound a chance to catch his prey, or the bird a clear sky to sing in? If you were of the Deathless Ones you would burn the world to warm your hands!"
The redness of shame spread itself in Ethaun's face. She stooped and lifted a little bud from the. floor.
"I think the Deathless Ones could make this bud blossom," she said, "but all the buds that I break off wither in my hands. I will break no more buds, Fool."
While she spoke there was a noise outside, and Ethaun asked her women what it was.
"Only a beggar-man they are driving away. He says he is a juggler and can do tricks."
"Let him stay," said Ethaun, "and I will see his tricks."
"O Queen," said the women, "he is a starveling and ignorant; how could he please you when Incar, the King's juggler, did not please you?"
"Let the man stay," said Ethaun; "if he has the will to please me he will please--and tonight Incar will please me too."
She stepped out through the carved yew door and bade the beggar-man do his tricks. He was clumsy and his tricks were not worth looking at, but the Queen gave him a ring from her finger and the little bud she had in her hand, and said:
"Stay here to-night and the King's juggler will teach you good feats."
The beggar-man put the ring in his bosom but he kept the bud in his hands and suddenly it blossomed into a rose and he plucked the petals apart and flung them into the air and they became beautiful white birds and they sang till every one forgot the sky above them and the earth beneath them with gladness, but Ethaun put her hands before her eyes and the tears came through her fingers.
The birds circled away into the air, singing, and when the people looked for the beggar-man he was gone. Ethaun called after him: "Angus Angus! Come back!" but no one answered, and there was only the far-off singing of the birds.
That night the King's juggler did feats with golden balls and with whirling swords and Ethaun praised him so that for gladness he thought of new feats, and while the people were shouting with delight a tall dark man in the robes of a foreigner came into the hall. Now the king loved to speak with men from far countries and he called the stranger to him, and said:
"What knowledge have you, and what skill is in your fingers?"
"I know," said the stranger, "'where the sun goes when the earth does not see it, and I have skill in the playing of chess."
Gladness was on the king when he heard of the chess-playing, for he himself had such skill that no one could beat him.
I will play a game with you," he said. "Let the chess-board be brought."
"O King," said the attendants, "there is only the Queen's chess-board, and it is locked away because she said it was not beautiful."
"I will go myself for the board," said the king, and he rose up to get it.
The stranger brought out a chess-board that had the squares made of precious stones brighter than any stones of the earth and he set the men on it. They were of gold and ivory, but the ivory was whiter than the whiteness of a cloud and the gold brighter than the sunset.
"I will give you this board in exchange for yours," he said to the queen.
"No," said Ethaun, "the board that Eochy made for me I will keep."
"I will make something for you, too," said the stranger. "I will make worlds for you."
Ethaun looked into his eyes, and she remembered the World of the Gods, and Midyir, and Angus, and Fuamach, and how she had been a little golden fly.
"O Midyir," she said, "in all the worlds I would be nothing but a little fly. I have wandered far, but I have learned wisdom at last from a Fool. I am going to make a world for myself."
As she was speaking Eochy came back with the board.
"The first games on my board," said Midyir, "the last on yours."
"Be it so," said Eochy. Midyir began to set out the men. "What are we playing for?" said Fochy.
"Let the winner decide," said Midyir.
Eochy won the first game, and he asked for fifty horses out of fairyland.
"I will get them," said Midyir, and they played again. Eochy won, and he said:
"I will ask for four hard things. Make a road over Mom Lamraide; clear Mide of stones; cover the district of Tethra with rushes; and the district of Darbrech with trees."
"When you rise in the morning stand on the little hill near your house and you will see all these things done," said Midyir. They played again, and Midyir won.
"What do you ask?" said Eochy.
"I ask Ethaun," said Midyir.
"I will never give her!" said Eochy.
"The horses of fairyland are trampling outside your door, O King," said Midyir, "give me my asking." And he said to Ethaun: "Will you come into your own world again?"
"There is no world of all the worlds my own, for I have never made a place for myself, but Eochy has made a place for me and all the people have brought me gifts, and for the space of a year I will stay with them and bring them gladness."
I will come at the year's end," said Midyir, and he left the hall, but no man saw him go.
After that there was never such a year in Ireland. The three crowns were on the land--a crown of plenty, a crown of victory, and a crown of song. Ethaun gave gifts to all the High King's people, and to Eochy she gave a gladness beyond the dream of a man's heart when it is fullest; and at Samhain time Eochy made a great feast and the kings of Ireland and the poets and the druids were there, and gladness was in the heart of every one.
Suddenly there was a light in the hall that made the torches and the great candles that are lit only for kings' feasts burn dim, and Midyir the Red-Maned, stood in the hall. Then the ollavs and the poets and the druids and chiefs bowed themselves, and the king bowed himself, because Midyir had come. Midyir turned his eyes to where Ethaun sat in a seat of carved silver by the king. He had a small cruit such as musicians carry and he made a sweet music on it and sang:
Come with me! Come with me! Ethaun,
Leave the weary portals of life, leave the doon, leave the bawn.
Come! Come! Com e! Ethaun.
Lo! the white-maned untamable horses, out-racing the wind,
Scatter the embers of day as they pass, and the riders who bind
The suns to their chariot wheels and exult are calling your name,
Are calling your name through the night, Ethaun, and the night is a-flame,
Ethaun! Ethaun! Ethaun!
Come with us, Ethaun, to Moy-Mell where the star-flocks are straying
Like troops of immortal birds for ever delaying, delaying
The moment of flight that would take them away from the honey-sweet plain.
Surely you long for waves that break into starry rain
And are fain of flowers that need not die to blossom again.
Why have you turned away from me your only lover?
What lure have you seen in the eyes of a mortal that clay must cover?
Come back to me! come back, Ethaun! The high-built heavenly places
Mourn for you, and the lights are quenched, and for you immortal faces
Grow wan as faces that die. O Flame-Fair Swan of Delight,
Come with me, leave the weary portals of sleep-heavy Night;
The hosts are waiting, their horses trample the ashes of day;
Come, Light of a World that is Deathless, come away! Come away!
Midyir stretched his hands to Ethaun, and she turned to Eochy and kissed him.
"I have put into a year the gladness of a long life," she said, " and to-night you have heard the music of Faery, and echoes of it will be in the harp-strings of the men of Ireland for ever, and you will be remembered as long as wind blows and water runs, because Ethaun--whom Midyir loved--loved you."
She put her hand in Midyir's and they rose together as flame rises or as the white light rises in the sky when it is morning; and in the World of the Gods Angus waited for them, and Fuamach; and they walked together again as they had walked from the beginning of time.