Oisin and Niamh
Oisin dwelt in the land of men. He ran with the hounds, and the deer fell; great was their slaughter. Merry was the feasting of the Fian and their Fionn. Wild and exultant the revelry. Yet, sometimes, in their cups, was comrade transformed into foe over the champion’s portion of meat, and head flew from shoulders.
Such was their life, between the merriment of the feast, the excitement of the chase and the fear and thrill of combat, war and death. Yet they had not been formed, this body of men, from mere folly; rather the lords and learned men of the Gael had farsightedly seen the very terrible threat from Roman legions poised on their borders and had formed the Fianna to face them. They had seen a great centralised empire sustained by ruthless military might, driven by the engine of usury to devour ever more lands and peoples. No freedom loving people would submit to that, without a fight. Thus the bodies of the Fianna had formed, the best of the youth of the Gael flocking to join under their banner.
Brave these Fian and Fionn MacCumail, their chief, and Oisin the warrior-poet. In their lives too, dalliance with glorious women; in them too marriage and children.
Till Niamh came from the land of Tir na n-Og, the Land of Eternal Youth, beneath the Western Ocean.
It is little known that Niamh had come before that fateful day and since. Some she allowed a glimpse and they were ravished, distraught with an eternal sense of loss. Some were bitter that an unearthly beauty had laid waste to all lesser pursuits, and they found all pursuits to be lesser, to be nothing at all. Some were quietly transformed out of sheer gratitude at being allowed the grace of even a glance at such beauty once in their lives.
But to Oisin she came direct and called him with the tongue of love. Had he merely been a warrior he might from that call have killed Fionn and all the champions of the Fian for her. But, as he was poet, his tongue gave voice to every beautiful feeling in his breast, things he had never known till the moment he heard himself, as if another person, sing them out. So that he listened to his own song enrapt. He sang of things he had never known before and in the telling of which they proved eternally new, always replenished from hidden pools.
Oisin then left the world of men, what we call history or the earth with all its combat and slaughter. Poet that he was, he went to dwell with her in her woman’s world of Tir na n-Og which yet for all its magical lustre for him, had for Niamh herself been empty without man.
And Tir na n-Og, where is it but right here? Right beside us so to speak. Our people visit its lands and their people ours, but its eternal final door is death. Although near, its irrevocable rule is that it is not Earth and Earth is not it. And man while alive, for good or ill, is of Earth.
Yet, close as it is, to get there, they rode long on winged steeds to its door in the West beneath the ocean and there spent such time as they did.
Tir na n-Og is not in-time or out-of-time so that to say two hundred years or even a thousand is just a way of speaking. If it had been only half a minute still would Oisin have found on his return everything changed as if he had been gone a million years. For after Tir na n-Og nothing can ever be the same again.
Every leaf on every tree, every blade of grass, every human smile, each act of spontaneous kindness, each falling in love, each true song, is a miracle, each and every one. We are miracles surrounded by miracles. Merely cataloguing pedantically, detailing cause and effect, does not dispose of the sublime nature of life. So, what is a two-hundred year life in the scale of all-enveloping wonder?
As we have seen, a glance of the true Niamh, who can take the form of any woman if truth be told, takes any man instantly to Tir na n-Og if only for an instant. And what is an instant of eternity? How measure it?
Oisin dwelt there in rapture, pure and ineffable serenity, losing battle fever and blood lust as if they had never been. He was illumined there by the flowers and birds of Tir na n-Og and its people. They are indeed our flowers and birds and people, only seen and known with the eye and heart of the poet-lover.
How can I tell you? That land, which some have never smelt, and of which some had only a ravishing glimpse, Oisin dwelt in and came to know with the intimacy only possible to one who spends centuries of love and devotion. He knew each petal, was drunk on each leaf, branch and root. If that was the case, imagine then the ecstasy from discourse with refined and radiant beings, the illuminated people of Tir na n-Og. Imagine centuries of subtle and beautiful discourse on the secrets of ‘is’ and ‘was’ and ‘ever shall be’. Then take from that a leap to the heights of the intimate exchange of secrets, glances and subtle fine thoughts with Niamh. For, with the men of Earth, love is the act of making love, but with the people of Tir na n-Og, that other-world, love finds its highest expression in stolen shy glances at the face of the beloved and in exchange of the knowledge of the beauty of a flower, and if love should be made then it is light upon light.
But pens are too coarse to write of it and words cannot even be used to hint at it. Whoever has known it knows what it means. Now know again that Oisin dwelt in that abode for centuries and then …
Then fools say he grew tired of it and longed for Earth.
Do you blame him, you who dwell on Earth longing for Heaven? Do you say within yourself, “I would not be that stupid, I would stay forever”? Do not be so sure. Indeed there are those who having glimpsed Tir na n-Og languish in yearning for it the rest of their lives and they are the majority. But Oisin had dwelt therein, had resided. He knew every brook and stream, every tree and flower, he knew its multitudinous folk. So well did he know it that he was finally certain that although he was of it and it of him, he also was of Earth. He pined then for Earth, they who do not understand say, for the hound’s rending of the flesh of the deer, for that moment when the enemy’s head flew from his shoulders. Yet it was not mere blood-lust that drew him back, for he did not go back; he went on.
Even if he had been in the Land of Youth for only the blinking of an eye he would have returned changed to a changed world; for if you change, the world is forever changed, utterly.
So, bravely he took his destiny in his hands, which was to go on, not back. He went on to whatever was his, good or ill. He had to be true to himself and his self was of Earth as much as of Heaven. Despite Niamh’s sadness he went on to Earth.
Oisin and a Cleric
Having spent an eternity in youth, on coming to Earth he found himself to be old, very old. The heroes had gone, Fionn and his Fian, the Fianna Fail, the Warriors of Destiny, for they belong especially to youth. Instead he found the Adze-head, the Croziered one, a cleric of bells and vespers. In that meeting there is a clear ambivalence, for the warrior, poet and scholar, the lover who had known both the delights of Earth and Heaven and who had seized his destiny, bitter though it most definitely was, could recognise in the cleric’s words certain truths, yet suspect that he himself knew more of those truths than the Adze-head.
There is a sense in which the cleric taught one he should have learnt from. He has embraced a doctrine of Heaven which he expounds to one only newly returned. Neither is he of Earth nor of Heaven, but a man of books, maps and doctrines. Oisin, for all his greatness of soul, confirms some of the doctrine while yet being sceptical of its propounder, sensing a certain lopsidedness of soul in him. Having come to Earth from Heaven, for a purpose and at a price, he tries to impart that knowledge to the cleric who only sees in him a yearning for the wicked old days of paganism. Moreover, Oisin senses that, perhaps wittingly but almost certainly unwittingly, the cleric is an agent of that great imperial force which it is the very essence of Oisin’s being to fight.
So, Oisin returned to Earth, while not returning, to fulfil his destiny, if only that he had to be buried in it. Yet, great soul that he was, he could not even totally die, his story was not over, his destiny not quite fulfilled. Rather than fulfilment he sensed the cleric as an inappropriate punctuation mark, a comma rather than the full-stop that marks a sentence completely said and done with. More seriously, he realised that although the cleric did not know it, he was the means of the Roman invasion and colonisation of the Gaels, an invasion which might never have been done by military means but was quietly and effectively done by religious invasion.
Oisin did not find the heroes that he returned in longing for, not Fionn nor his Fianna. He did find a cleric and a band of followers.
The distress he endured cannot be exaggerated, for when age comes on a man all of a sudden it is no small affair, and age comes always all of a sudden, overnight as it were.
It is well known, this encounter of aged warrior-poet, splendid pagan as he is portrayed, and the modern ascetic cleric; of how the cleric, despite his disapprobation of Oisin’s pagan values, yet basks in his tales of the hunt and the battle. But much has been left out of these accounts, since they were written by that cleric and transmitted by his own ilk whose partiality and bias are not in dispute.
The encounter is not merely that of a primitive with a harbinger of the modern. That Oisin was not schooled in Aristotle’s metaphysics did not prevent him from having direct access to genuinely metaphysical dimensions of existence, and I mean, Tir na n-Og. The cleric for his part had not even smelt its fragrance but he could read maps which located it precisely.
“Tell me, brave Oisin, of Fionn and his wonderful exploits,” that cleric began his questioning as was his habit one night as they sat around a campfire. They were on one of the cleric’s missionary peregrinations.
“Perish the thought, cleric,” spoke Oisin, “that I should tell to the agent of empire the adventures of that man whose mission was to protect the Gael from her.”
“But Oisin, dear pulse, barbaric Rome has gone; the new gospel has all but vanquished her,” the cleric replied, astonished yet again at the vehemence of Oisin’s feelings.
“Far from it! I recognise all to clearly that old Rome has merely changed her imperial garb,” Oisin spat out passionately, “and most likely will change dress more times too in years to come.”
“Ah, old pagan yet; accept the gospel; believe in …” and the cleric began to rapture effusively until Oisin cut him short.
“That gospel I have accepted, as you well know, which accords well with what I know, but as for that hocus-pocus of three-in-one and one-in-three, bread into meat, human meat, and wine into blood, human blood, human god meat and blood, whether real or metaphorical, I’ll have none of it,” and he spat in disgust.
The cleric recoiled and a few of his fellow monks could be seen reaching for weapons; heroes they might not be, but the fighting, quarrelling Gael lay not far from the surface in any one of them.
The cleric stood and stepped back with his arms out as if to stem the great tide of armed monks about to descend with slaughter on the aged hero. They in turn pressed on his arms as if straining to get at Oisin. Oisin, though aged, knew himself able to inflict some harm yet and indeed cared no more now than when young for death, feared it little, whereas these monks yet shook at the thought of it. An uneasy stillness followed as all resumed their seats sullenly.
“Cleric, O cleric, my people, as you know, are much given to story and tale, but never despise the tale, for by it many a great truth has been told to hearts that can know it, and yet many a lie too for hearts asleep and undiscerning,” began Oisin. He paused briefly, for he felt the ocean a-tremble upon his tongue, perhaps the very ocean beneath which lay Tir na n-Og, and he hesitated before the great outpouring of his heart’s oceanic truths.
“Cleric, O cleric, you have brought me two bags. In one bag is that great treasure of truths from that noble Galilean which accords well with the very best the wise and holy ones of my people have taught. But the other bag is this tale, this curious myth which I have exercised all my poet’s craft and druid wisdom in disentangling, and having done so I am appalled!”
The cleric blanched deeply, not because he had understood the import of Oisin’s words, but because the very truthfulness of the man carried a weight which was almost physical like the punch of a mailed fist or the slice of a great double-handed sword.
“Beware Oisin, great-limbed heathen,” the cleric tremblingly began, rage threatening to carry off the last vestiges of his sanctity. Greatly resentful was he that this once-mighty, now feeble old man could still so discomfit him, “beware of …”
But Oisin’s rage was different, for he was master of it, not it of him, and he was astride it now with a great-hearted battle-axe aloft.
“Woe to you cleric! Listen to my tale! Rather, listen to your tale as I now see it so clearly.” Then as if recollecting something he turned and addressed the monks, and said to them, “and you Gaels, grandsons and granddaughters of Eireann, brothers and sisters of Scotia listen to me.”
What a strange group then it was that camped that night in the forest, (for that was a time when the lands of the Gael still had forests). How many different thoughts those hearts brought to hearing wild Oisin and his deciphering of the Christian tale. The cleric only saw his mission, his role as a leader of men, as one of those who are entered in history’s scrolls as one of the elect. As for the monks, among them were those who were in fear and trembling as to the eternal damnation or salvation of their souls, and such as these were inwardly withdrawn like the inhabitants of a besieged city who only wait for the encamped enemy to depart and who yet stand eagerly on the battlements scrutinising every detail of the enemy. Others had joined the little group of eager monks because, for various reasons, they had found themselves on the outside of clan power structures when they desperately wanted to be on the inside or at the top. Others had been enthralled by the wisdom contained in the first bag Oisin had described, the beautiful, fearful challenging wisdom of the Galilean, and they had not discerned that with it came the second alien bag. This group of pure-hearted ones were already torn between conflicting loyalties, for the noble eloquent old warrior rang true in their very bones in a way that this Romanised Celtic cleric did not, and probably never could.
“O cleric, my cleric, our people know many a tale, many a grand romance, of heroes who were noble, brave and fearless in battle, soft, tender and caring in love, generous to friend and foe alike. Though there be somewhat in them of exaggeration, yet they engender in the hearts of those snared by them, at the very least, love of nobility, generosity, magnanimity and all the fine qualities of man and woman.” And Oisin looked intently out of his feeble rheumy eyes forcibly and directly at his audience, one by one, to see were they with him on the journey he was taking. “And I dread lest there come a time when men will tell tales of the ignoble, bestial, mean and hardhearted so that people who hear them incline to them and the people go to ruin entirely.”
Despite themselves the spellbound monks paled in horror at the glimpse afforded them of some perhaps not-so-remote depravity of the human race.
“Now this tale, Adze-head, O you of the crozier and the vespers, this tale of yours, which you have unwrapped from this second bag of yours, let me see how I can truly decipher it to you, for I see that you yourself have not truly grasped its import,” and Oisin looked with such a mixture of ferocity and genuine kindliness at the cleric that he felt himself to have been both slapped and embraced at the same moment, an experience so confusing to him that he, who was almost never lost for words despite his all-too frequent deprecation of his lack of learning, was now utterly silent.
“O my tender priest, my little chanter of psalms and mumbler of prayers, I feel your heart a good one. What I say is to deliver you, as it were, from the mouth of a tremendous dragon which is about to devour you and through you the rest of the Gaels,” and Oisin called out, magnificent warrior that he was, to his cleric, from strength, not weakness, like the great fighter who begs the callow youth not to fight him, knowing beyond doubt that he will absolutely slaughter him. It was this then that called up the ancient battle urge in the cleric, for he would not be condescended to.
“Tell us your tale, Oisin,” the cleric said, “for though we had thought you would amuse us with tales of old Fionn and his sturdy Fianna, yet if you will not, then amuse us as you will.”
The glint in the cleric’s eyes told Oisin that the lines were drawn for battle indeed, and so he drew in his breath, a feeble breath of an exhausted body and prepared for what might be his last and infinitely most important battle.
“O Adze-head, there is a tale now told about a great and noble man, a godly man though not a god, that as I see claims to honour that man but has betrayed him,” and the monks shifted uneasily in the light of their campfire, not quite sure of where this tale would go. “Now I say that this man was a real and true man, a great man and yet this tale told of him a lie, a monstrous lie.”
Oisin fell into deep thought as he struggled in his old poet’s heart for how this story must be allowed to tell itself to reach these other hearts.
“There is a word I need, for I would not talk of Rome; it is not about Rome I really speak. Perhaps you can help me, you tonsured ones, you book-readers, to find that word, for I know it not. What is it that Rome is, or Pharaoh’s Egypt or Darius’ Persia?”
“They are kingdoms,” ventured one monk.
“Right you are,” spoke Oisin, “but it is not that I seek, for kings and their kingdoms we know; they come and go. We Gaels know them, and they are of no matter, for these I have mentioned go beyond kingdoms greatly.”
“They are empires,” said another, more learned in the wider world and its affairs.
“That is true too,” said Oisin, “but it is not yet that I seek though it is undoubtedly further along the road to it, for what are empires but great kingdoms that swallow up lesser kingdoms for a season or two, and then they too go their way.”
“I have heard people,” said another, “and they, when talking of these matters, would talk always of the ‘state’.”
“It is a word I know not fully, brother,” said Oisin eagerly, “but something in me tells me that this is indeed the very word. So I will tell my tale using this word and you, who are more learned than am I, will tell me if it fits as I use it,” and the monks, who were now eagerly attentive, nodded in agreement and waited for the tale.
“We return to the noble godly man I mentioned. Tender monks, he was of a people not unlike our Gaelic people but more like the people of this Briton,” and he gestured, not hostilely, towards the cleric. “Now ask me in what lies the resemblance to us which is yet more of a resemblance to the Britons.”
The monks looked to each other and to the cleric who was as unengaged in this singularly Gaelic story event as were they engaged. So, by means of that mastering communal intuition everywhere apparent in human groupings, they spontaneously elected another spokesman, and they elected him by nothing so vulgar as the raising of an eyebrow, and that man, Fergus, spoke for them. “In what does that resemblance lie, brave Oisin?” asked Fergus.
Oisin smiled to his people and said, “It lies, O monk, in that, like us and like the Britons, this noble man’s people had been a free people under their own kings and with godly inspired men living among them, celebrating the rituals that please the great God. They lived in harmony with the spirit of things and then, let us say, they began to forget,” and he imparted to that seemingly unimportant word “forget” a significance that made it hover around the campfire like a terrible Banshee of doom. For what doom is not concealed in forgetting and what victory not heralded by remembrance?
“They forgot first the honour due the noble man, be he sage or hero, or be he king, and when they did that then they belied them, some they dishonoured, and some they even killed. And then the ‘state’ came with its legions, its record-keepers, its tax-gatherers, its slave labour, and its priests, several times in their history, and the last time it came as Rome. In that way, these people resemble our Britons across the sea,” and he leant a little closer to them, looking into their faces through the flickering light of the fire.
“Here we have this people and a state, kingdom or empire—call it what you will—and we have this godly man,” Oisin continued.
The cleric looked as if he were about to interrupt and Oisin snapped out at him, as if he had read his mind, “A godly man, I say, cleric, not a god-man,” and the cleric backed, backed away from whatever he had meant to say.
“This man will be a model for many who come after and maybe for many people for aeons to come after us; who knows? So let us examine this myth that has been foisted on him, cleric; let you and I without prejudice examine that myth, or at least this one part. For cleric, I’ll make so bold as to assert that this crucifixion part of the myth is the damnedest lie and the biggest disaster ever to come upon the human race.”
The monks were thrown into consternation at this forthright statement of his case but the cleric was as if pleased to have his opponent openly confess to being the grandest heretic ever to grace a discussion.
“How can you say such a thing, Oisin?” exclaimed one of the monks, “when it is the very pivot of our faith, which you yourself have accepted?”
“Not so the pivot, my heart,” replied Oisin. “That pivot is the life and teaching of this great and wise-hearted man, and it is that I have embraced so much as I am able.”
Fergus here, “And we have heard from some of the ancient rites in the East, that someone who resembled our Lord was put in his place. It was adjudged heresy, it is true. But for now, let us hear this great pagan out.”
With trepidation each sat with his thoughts, some worrying at the threat to their faith, others at the threat to their position, and Oisin as to whether he could say what he had to say not only truly but well, for to speak truly is given to many as is to speak well, but to speak truly and well is given to a very few.
“There are many things in the false myth I could speak of, things which directly contradict the real teaching, the actual life and words of that great being but it is only one thing I want to speak about now, for I grow old and tired and must make my words count lest they be my last,” he said, and paused again before resuming. “The noblest of men the world has yet seen is made by a myth-maker, tale-teller to submit himself to the most ghastly humiliation of a death at the hands of the ‘state’, and it is declared to be his highest destiny, and in that he will be the model for generations, for aeons to come afterwards. Thus that ‘state’ keeps growing. I fear that it will come to cover the whole earth as the best of men offer themselves up to be crucified in deluded emulation of him, rather than in fighting to see that justice and the law are preserved. They surrender in suffering with the deluded and sick desire of becoming God. What delusion is worse than that, tell me, monks? For God ever is. All that the noble and wise have ever said is that the Lord is the Lord and the slave is the slave. This delusion is your religion. It is the left hand of an empire whose right hand is legions, might and power.”
In the sallow light of the dying embers of the fire, he looked into their eyes, one by one, and saw that all but one of them had recognised to different degrees what he said. Some were, however, resignedly and fatalistically going to their slaughter under the compelling hypnosis of that myth. The cleric, Oisin could not see into his now deeply cold eyes. “And you,” thought Oisin, “are more crucifying than crucified.”
Then, deeply exhausted, he went to lay himself down on some animal skins to sleep. When the monks sought him in the morning they found he had died in the night. His face bore the look of a man who had rejoined his Niamh or perhaps his beloved Fionn and the Fianna.
Another man, even as Oisin took his tired body to rest, sleep and death, had sat quietly alone late into the night, electrified, unable to sleep, in a mixture of terror and excitement. When the monks sought him in the morning, Fergus too was gone.
Oisin Waits Even Now
They say that ghosts are people who die in some fashion such that they don’t realise that they have died and so wander the earth, puzzled at their encounters with its denizens. Perhaps also, some ghosts are those spirits who have not fully lived and so cannot fully die.
Oisin, great heart, could not fully die with the jigsaw puzzle of his life incomplete with the oddly fitting Adze-head piece, both an emissary of true revelation much in harmony with the Gael’s Druidic teaching and an agent for the forces of empire and state. A picture there was but something wrong, very wrong about it.
He did die but his ghost lived on in ever greater puzzlement at the course of the cleric’s story and what he bequeathed to the Gael.
At first the spirit of Oisin almost thought that he had misjudged the cleric, for his teaching set fire to the Gaelic imagination in a way that gladdened the old warrior druid, not least with the life of indomitable Colmcille, Columba of Iona. Here was warrior and king, druid and poet all in one figure; here was a man.
At this critical time, as the tide of Colmcille’s teaching became full and began to ebb, and the great and awful, that strange empire-church reached out and tried to snuff out whatever light they’d lit, those Gaels, at that point Oisin saw it and knew it. He wanted to cry out, “Look, Gaels, look over there, at the very centre of the earth’s lands!” He saw godly warriors, wild and good, he saw men and women, whose prayers and battles had the same intensity, whose living and dying were suffused with Tir na n-Og.
He saw a man whom the one the cleric followed resembled, who knew the sanctity of prayer, giving and fasting, whose words were concise but full of wisdom, who fed the hungry and gave them to drink when there was little or no food or water, but who also knew the family home, women and children, who was husband, lover and father. He knew the marketplace well and warned them against usury and corrupt commercial practices. He had a law, a law, moreover, not unlike the Gael’s Brehon law. And he was a guide leading them on in their spiritual development. This man was valiant, none more so, on the battlefield, yet leading his warriors in prayer in the midst of battle for nothing was more important to them than their Lord. They were on a Way.
Then Oisin saw two great bestial tyrant empires reel before the onslaught of these saintly wild people. He saw that they did not fight for conquest, but for justice on the earth and God’s law and so they won and conquered. He sensed that the cleric’s age was over. “Look Gaels, look over there; they are like us; they are more like us,” he tried to cry out. But, alas, they were too far away; the Gaels could not see them nor could they hear Oisin calling out from the unseen.
The cleric’s legacy proved more tenacious than he had thought. In his disappointment then, it was almost with relish that he saw the long-limbed blond Norsemen and Danes come, sturdy sailors, intense farmers, traders and such warriors as he would have loved to meet in battle – fine, fine enemies. It was with regret that he saw them take the cleric’s path and the light go out from their warrior eyes.
Then there came those other Norsemen, the Normans, more calculating by far, with the fight of the Vikings and yet the organisation that is the ‘state’. But these, like the Vikings, had married the women and become more Gaelic than the Gael, these Butlers, Fitzgeralds and noble Bruces.
Oisin had watched in apprehension as the land of the Britons, which alone of the British Celts had felt the brute force of the legions, became, as it were, the anvil upon which some terrible weapon is forged into shape. He saw with horror the old dream of empire glitter madly in monarchs’ eyes and he saw moneylenders standing eager to fit out every army at kings’ behests with the blessing of mother church.
Oh yes, there were ever outbursts of that Gaelic quarrelsomeness and rebellion to gladden his heart, not least when some even of the clerics, Luther, Calvin and Knox, threw off the outward shackles of the empire-church. “But if you don’t get rid of the inward shackles and chains, someone will come and tie you up again,” he wanted to shout to them, and then the two parties fell on each other in a bitter struggle that was to last centuries, divide the Gaels inextricably in two, and allow the enemy to establish his power. The cleric’s divided followers fought each other, totally ignoring the wrong around them. In that struggle the Bank was born with the connivance of those clerics and Oisin wept for the Gaels, truly.
Defeat followed defeat, and then there was humiliation and worse. They were cleared from their land and sent around the world to serve as the lowest of slaves, if they survived the journeys. Or they were enrolled as the backbone of an empire’s armies, only to return home from faraway wars to find themselves and their families long evicted from their homes by that same empire-state.
Yet it was clear to Oisin that now their suffering was only one suffering among many as the world’s peoples came under the sway of states run by banks which were ever so gradually but surely becoming one super-state.
Perhaps worst of all was to see a part of the Gaels, among a multitude of others, bravely fighting and winning, only for them then to form a little state and enforce on themselves every measure they had fought centuries to be rid of. That they did, after falling upon each other in the most awful fratricidal war. Most vexatious to his troubled spirit was it to see a portion of the Gaelic peoples granted a nationhood which marked ironically and quite cynically their complete subjugation to control, a subjugation at which they themselves connived thinking it to be their liberation.
If passion alone and indignation could have restored life to his rotting limbs, Oisin would have risen from the grave and dragged Fionn and all out with him to combat the mounting humiliation of the Gaels and all the small nations, but that was not to be. The old spirit leapt with excitement at those moments when the Gael threw off vestments, mitres and croziers, and took to gun, sword and cannon. Yet these too were incomplete and puzzling.
If the centuries in Tir na n-Og were just the blinking of an eye, this millennium and more weighed heavily on Oisin’s spirit and seemed to drag with a sort of tedium, enlivened only by the not infrequent outbreaks of wildness and rebellion. “A grey age,” he thought with a sort of revulsion at such constriction of the human spirit. The grey obscuring mist spread across the planet eclipsing the lights of all the little nations and merging them into one protoplasmic political blob.
Yet Oisin stood and waited, his sword at the ready, sure yet that he would see the Divine spark ignite his people. And he has seen that this age is a different age, its combats more ambiguous, more treacherous. He saw the tremendous slaughter across the earth, men, women and children obliterated by machines and bombs. He has seen the madness that is in the warriors who kill the ordinary folk for no reason, and so he saw the need to sheathe the sword thoughtfully, not in defeat but the better to fight. He knows now that the age of the cleric has finally come to a close; it has exhausted itself totally, and used up every resource and trick at its disposal.
Oisin awaits now the coming of the Way to his people. He knows it has the bravery of the Fianna, the excitement of the chase of the hounds after the wild, wild boar, the fierceness of battles in it, and the sweetness of women in it. It is of Earth. There is tenderness, there is playfulness of children. There is the encounter with the majesty and beauty of the Divine and with the ethereal other of Tir na n-Og. There too is teaching, the Book that encompasses all extremes and opposites as does the Way itself, both Law and Revelation of the Unseen. There is in it the restoration of market places and the freedom of people to go and sell there without rents, taxes or any control. There is the abolition of states and taxes. There are in it peoples, clans, and Fianna of warriors of truth, gentle and chivalrous to women, capable of great love, and of death-dealing blows where needed, for without them the great grey death will stifle the life of the earth. He knows that it is for all the peoples, the little and the great nations under the burden of the great taxing policing super-state, and that if the Chechens, the Basques and the multitudinous little tribal nations of South America are not free, then the Gaels won’t be free either.
Oisin waits. He knows it must come. He stands, in Tir na n-Og, with his sword sheathed but ready, Fionn, the Fianna and Niamh at his side.