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The deck of a galley in the heroic age. The tiller, which comes through the bulwark, is to the left hand. One looks along the deck toward the high forecastle, which is partly hidden by a great square sail. The sail is drawn in toward the stern at the left side; and is high enough above the deck at the right side to show a little of the deck beyond and of the forecastle. Three rows of hounds, the first dark, the second red and then white with red ears make a conventional pattern upon the sail. The sea is hidden in mist, and there is no light except where the moon makes a vague brightness in the mist.

Forgael is sleeping upon skins a few yards forward of the tiller. He has a silver lily worked upon the breast of his garment. A small harp lies beside him. Aibric and two sailors stand about the tiller. One of the sailors is steering.

THE HELMSMAN.

His face has never gladdened since he came
Out of that island where the fool o' the wood
Played on his harp.

THE OTHER SAILOR.

And I would be as sad

But that the wind changed; for I followed him

And heard the music in the wind, and saw

A red hound running from a silver arrow.

I drew my sword to fling it in a pool;

I have forgotten wherefore.

THE HELMSMAN.

The red hound

Was Forgael's courage that the music killed.

THE OTHER SAILOR.

How many moons have died from the full moon
When something, half a lamb and half a goat,
Walked on the waters and bid Forgael seek

His heart's desire where the world dwindles out?

Nine moons.

THE HELMSMAN.

THE OTHER SAILOR.

And from the harping of the fool?

THE HELMSMAN.

Three moons.

THE OTHER SAILOR.

It were best to kill him, and choose out
Another leader, and turn home again.

THE HELMSMAN.

I had killed him long ago, but that the fool
Gave him his harp.

THE OTHER SAILOR.

Now that he is asleep,

He cannot wake the god that hides in it.

(The two sailors go nearer to Forgael and half draw their swords.)

AIBRIC.

And whom will you make leader? Who will make

A path among these waves and weigh the wind?

Not I, nor Maine there, nor Duach's son.

Be patient yet awhile; for this ninth moon,

Being the moon of birth, may end our doubt.

(Forgael rises. The two sailors hurry past him, and disappear beyond the sail. Forgael takes the tiller.)

FORGAEL.

So these would have killed Forgael while asleep
Because a god has made him wise with dreams;
And you, my Aibric, who have been a King
And spoken in the Council, and heard tales
That druids write on yew and apple wood,
Are doubtful like these pullers of the oar!

AIBRIC.

Although I doubt your wisdom, do not doubt
The greatness of my love. Did I not rule
A fruitful land under the Aibhlin hills?
And when you came to scorn our little wars
And praise a war among the endless seas,
Did I not follow with a score of ships?
And now they are all gone, I follow still.

FORGAEL.

But would turn home again.

AIBRIC.

No man had doubts

When we rowed north, singing above the oars,
And harried Alban towns, and overthrew
The women slingers on the narrow bridge,
And passed the Northern Hebrides, and took
Armlets of gold or shields with golden nails
From hilly Lochlann; but our sail has passed
Even the wandering islands of the gods,
And hears the roar of the streams where druids say
Time and the world and all things dwindle out.

FORGAEL.

Do you remember, Aibric, how you bore

A captive woman from the narrow bridge,
And, though you loved her, gave her up to me?

AIBRIC.

I thought she loved you, and I thought her love Would overcome your sorrow and your dreams. But you grew weary of her.

FORGAEL.

When I hold

A woman in my arms, she sinks away
As though the waters had flowed up between;
And yet, there is a love that the gods give,
When Engus and his Edaine wake from sleep
And gaze on one another through our eyes,
And turn brief longing and deceiving hope
And bodily tenderness to the soft fire
That shall burn time when times have ebbed away.
The fool foretold me I would find this love
Among those streams, or on their cloudy edge.

AIBRIC.

No man or woman has loved otherwise
Than in brief longing and deceiving hope
And bodily tenderness; and he who longs
For happier love but finds unhappiness,
And falls among the dreams the drowsy gods
Breathe on the burnished mirror of the world
And then smooth out with ivory hands and sigh.
Forgael, seek out content, where other men
Have found delight, in the resounding oars,
In day out-living battle, on the breast
Of some mild woman, or in children's ways.

FORGAEL.

The fool that came out of the wintry wood
Taught me wise music, and gave me this old harp;
And were all dreams, it would not weigh in the hand.

AIBRIC.

It was a fool that gave it, and may be
Out of mere wantonness to lure a sail
Among the waters that no pilot knows.

FORGAEL.

I have good pilots, Aibric; when men die

They are changed and as gray birds fly out to sea,
And I have heard them call from wind to wind

How all that die are borne about the world

In the cold streams, and wake to their desire,
It may be, before the winds of birth have waked;
Upon clear nights they leave the upper air
And fly among the foam.

A SAILOR.

(Running from the forecastle.)

Thrust down the helm,

For I have seen a ship hid in the fog.
Look! there she lies under a flapping sail.

FORGAEL.

(To Aibric.)

Give me the helm: call hither those who lie
Upon the rowers' benches underneath,
And bid them hide in shadow of the sail,
Or crowd behind the bulwark, that we seem
A trading galley in her helmsman's eyes.

(Aibric goes toward the forecastle.)

It may be now that I can go my way
And no man kill me; for some wind has blown
A galley from the Lochlann seas; her flag
Is folding and unfolding, and in its folds.
Her raven flutters. Rob him of his food
Or be his food, I follow the gray wings,
And need no more of life till the white wings
Of Ængus' birds gleam in their apple boughs.

(Two sailors come creeping along the right bulwark.)

THE FOREMOST OF THE TWO SAILORS.

It were better to pass by, because the gods
Make galleys out of wind that change to wind
When one has leapt on board.

THE HINDERMOST OF THE TWO SAILORS.

No, for I have hope

Forgael may find his heart's desire on board
'And turn his galley about and bring me home.

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