An Old Celtic Myth
The Breaking of Dawn
By Tianyi Chen
“Why! We mortals are doomed to die, and you bards are doomed to wander, to travel, to leave any permanent home.” — Mignon
“Since you always follow me, we form a home. Since I’m turning your mortal life to immortal beauty, we will all break our dooms.” — Ryno
(Ryno the Celtic bard stands on a winter moor, snow filled the glens, the mountains have drowned in mist.)
My heart has been wandering among the bleach glen of Northern Ireland, and my soul was fatigued by endless wars. Grief for my friends! They’ve long been resting in their cold stone tombs, their fair voices should only be remembered by northern winds! But in our Celtic world we had indeed been immersed in bliss. We stepped over fairy woods and sang the silver lightened streams, we sang for tiny shimmering puddles after the summer rains. How blissful, how blessed was I by the years all long! Ah stars my sisters, ten times you have danced to my joyous song!
Now that winter has come, I’m separated from my friends by fate! My fair hair has been touched by fairies of moonshine, and my decent face has been admired by mortals. I, Ryno, am still the mightiest son of the Wild’s Goddess, but my soul has long lost the flaring brightness!
Dreamy winter night I spend beside a flaming campfire, sparks rise to the high air as my voice reaches beyond heaven. Shivering cold stars hide in the warmth of thick clouds, valuing their single glimpse to the moral’s world. Ah stars, you little beauties! Since long you have been the sisters of bards, please don’t desert your Celtic kin! Please take tender looks at your loveable land, my sister’s glimpse will warm the dead, your stars will soon bring me tears to shed!
Indeed, endless tears to shed! Ah my long-lost love. Sorrowful songs I sang to my Fianna friends, but I’ve forgotten her, Mignon the mortal lady. Between adventures I have met her at her little house in a glen, her beauty was enough to exceed the fairy’s figure. Spring nights we have spent in the misty woods, night birds sang for us, night frost heard our whispers. But where, where on earth I could find her? The mortal girl should have long been dead, a dead bard’s soul will remain around his friends, but a mortal’s soul may only elapse with the wind!
In winter I start my journey, in spring I will arrive. I will visit her house in the glen. Years have passed, her body might be a single handful of dust, lonely mingling with the cold north winds, but the stone house should remain.
(A hundred years before Ryno set off in that winter, Mignon the mortal lady is about to die. At an age still young, her soul was enervated by years of waiting. She wished that one day Ryno her lover could come back, but her life is short, it’s only a glimpse compared to a bard’s long life. It was also winter, the coldest among many years, and the beauty Mignon is saying her last words.)
Ah Ryno my love, have you not been attracted by fairies in your fine wonderland, have you not forgotten your young lover doomed to die! Years have passed, cold, lonely years, I stayed in this stone house waiting for you, my mighty lover, my fair poet! But I gravely reminded myself that, compared to your bards’ long lives which are like stretches of broad hills, my mortal life is but a speck of dust.
We were joyous in that warm, shiny spring, your figure from afar was a glow of the blooming. From your harp strings gleamed crimson light, like the last shine of sunset before the night, but the icy curtains of winter will now cover me! Doomed am I, my soul is supposed to leave with the wind, leaving not a single impression in this bleached world. But I have indeed left an irremovable impression on your heart my love, indeed I have! Let me break this doom for your sake: my soul will not float to the high air, nor will it disseminate to the north wind, but it will remain on the four stone walls of my house. The stone house is long-lasting, you must remember it, when you come back to visit me I might be a handful of cold dust, but the wall will see you, my soul will see you too.
(Several months after Ryno the bard set off that winter, he is about to reach the stone house. Although the stone walls are long-lasting, three of them have fallen apart in the constant blowing of strong winds and the torturing of snow and rain. If Ryno arrived even a few months later, he might even not be able to see the last wall.)
(The last wall has stood solitarily for a long time, with a piece of a beauty’s soul attached to it. Years has she spent alone in the stretching glens, the vines have surrounded her, tiny raindrops have whispered to her. In her body there are the stains of dust and the lines of blowing wind. She stood quietly among deserted plants and empty hills, but spring is coming, miles and miles of wild moor have been dripping melted dew. She wants to drag her feet out of the dirt and to loaf about the moor with her mighty lover, but she is not a living body anymore, but a cold stone wall. So her yearn intensified, she bitterly wishes that Ryno, the traveler who had praised her gleaming beauty, will return.)
MIGNON THE WALL:
Oh blustery wind of my shiny spring! Why indeed do you wake me up! You come from afar, you inform me of mysterious tales in distant realms, whisper to me the sweet words of all the pairs in love! You show me the heartrending beauty of the glens and moors, but I am forbidden from touching a single share of their tenderness! You spring wind have sent a mighty traveler to me: he once praised of my adolescent feature, by then my figure was well built, my face was a blooming flower filled with dew. Now I have long been lonely, and still I have an imperishable yearning for him! If he does not come today but tomorrow, then his beautiful eyes will only be able to wander on this moor in vain, without catching a glimpse of his long-lost lover.
(Just then Ryno appears, carrying a harp. His clothes are grayish, his eyes are filled with weariness, but when he sees and hears the last stone wall, all the grief and tiring torture goes away from him. Youth returns, his soul is again flaming, his eyes are again bright.)
RYNO THE BARD:
And so I will come! Yesterday I struggled on the rainy moor, the violent storm covered me with fallen leaves. Today the Goddess of Roads gives my dearest love back to me, and look how you have been dusted, how you have been tormented by winds! I’ll give your beauty back to you, I’ll praise you, appreciate you like I’ve always done.
Heavenly Grace! Ah mighty poet, come, embrace me! My sweet bard, son of the wild! Remember that we have viewed the comeliest of all landscapes, for so many years I have wanted to feel them again, but I do not have a living body. So please use your ancient power! Now that I dwell on a wall, please use the most flamboyant crimson to paint the blooming of the distant island, use the most elegant lines to outline the misty mountains, and use crystal-like colors to dye the surface of me. When the sun shimmers and the waves fluctuate, the view will be intoxicating, like the beams of melted gold.
What bright views do you love and enjoy! But as the years go on the flamboyant painting and the crystal-like colors will all perish, none will last long. The colors are going to grey, and even the stone wall will fall apart. So I’ll only use a piece of charcoal to draw a single line on you, and the rest of the process is left for nature to cover.
How could nature ever do this magic? I have spent hundreds of years alone with nature, and she has done nothing to me except harsh torturing.
Mind that you have not understood the impressions she made on you! Nature is the Goddess of all bards, and as a bard’s lover you may learn to appreciate the magic of nature.
Nature has sprinkled dust all over your body. You might think that this was annoying, but mind that dust is made up of little singers which have been loved by nature. Not merely dust but thousands of lively souls were they. They might have been humans, plants, rocks, everything, they once have been alive, and they remain alive now, travelling together with wind to an unknown place, maybe to your body. It’s all mysterious relation, it’s all nature’s power.
See this charcoal line? In rainy days it will be dipped in raindrops, the line is going to disseminate, creating the surface of the sea. If the dust sent by the wind stays above the line, it will become the free birds and stars in the high air. At night my bird brothers might tell the myths of a jungle, my star sisters will sing ancient songs for you. If the tiny dust singers dwell under the line, they’ll become thousands of dew-filled flowers, and glittering ponds on the earth. Flowers are going to tell you about all lovers in this world, ponds are sure to let you feel the paddles of young spring ducks.
Look, I gave you a line, and so much beauty was brought by my power. Indeed, it’s the nature’s gift. Praise the Goddess of Nature who led your lover—me, to come to you, praise the Goddess of Nature who brought my lover—you, such admirable beauty!
Indeed, good words are these! But this process takes time, and you’ll not be able to see this sight. Since you are a bard and you wander around the wild all through your life, you might not see my beauty come back again, you might never take a look at my youthful brightness, how grave is it!
As you said, I have to go, the souls of my Fianna friends are standing on the faraway moor, waiting for me to follow!
Why! We mortals are doomed to die, and you bards are doomed to wander, to travel, to leave from any permanent home!
I am going to visit more distant forests and wonderlands, sitting on the rock beside the sea I’ll sing the songs of mermaids. As for the beauty you are going to have, I do not have to see it by my eyes. Since I know your figure has long been dwelling inside my heart, my eyes do not have to see the beauty which I already well-know.
Ah bitter, what bitter departure!
No bitter departure, I will be back!
When on earth will you be back? I, a weary wall, will soon become a pile of dust like my living body. Even if you come back, you will never see your dearest lover.
I’ll just wait till you become a handful of dust. I know, from my Celtic view, that the dust is all tiny singers which nature loves, which are our kin. The dust from other parts of the land will form your youthful beauty for you, and you’ll surely, by the magic of nature, do as they would do when you become the dust.
I also know that dust wanders in the north wind. I’ll stand on the moor and look for you when you become these tiny singers. You are going to follow me to far-reaching places then. Your soul, when the stone wall falls apart, will always stay by my side. I can always see you. I’ll use your beauty—when you become dust—to create permanent beauties elsewhere. Since you always follow me, we form a home. Since I am turning your mortal life to immortal beauty in every corner of the Irish land, we will all break our dooms.
My dear, your soul people will always admire.