“He shall not be slain, and he shall not be burned, and he shall not be exiled. I say it, even I, Fergus, son of the Red Rossa, Champion of the North. Let the man who will gainsay me show himself now in Emain Macha. Let him bring round the buckle of his belt.”
His eyes, as he spoke, were like flames of fire under a forehead dark crimson, and with his clenched fist he struck the brazen table before his throne, so that the clang and roar of the quivering bronze sounded through all the borders of Ulla.
“I will gainsay thee, O Fergus,” cried the King, “I am the guardian and the executor of the laws of the Ultonians, and those laws shall prevail over thee and over all men.”
“All laws in restraint of true love and affection are unjust,” said Fergus, “and the law by which Deirdre was consigned to virginity was the unrighteous enactment of cold-hearted and unrighteous men.”
beginning of love,
A man and a woman and the birds of Angus above them.”
The birth of the child Deirdre, daughter of the chief poet of Ulla, was attended with a great portent, for the child shrieked from the mother’s womb. Cathvah and the Druids were consulted concerning that omen. They addressed themselves to their art of divination, and having consulted their oracles and gods and familiar spirits, they gave a clear counsel to the Ultonians.
“This child,” they said, “will become a woman, in beauty surpassing all the women who have ever been born or will be born. Her union with a man will be a cause of great sorrow to the Ultonians. Let her, therefore, be exposed after birth; or, if you would not slay the Arch-Poet’s only child, let her be sternly immured; let her be reared to womanhood in utter and complete and inviolable solitude, and live and die in her virginity.”
The Ultonians determined that the child should live and be immured. These things took place in the reign of Factna the Righteous, father of Concobar. When the child was born she was called Deirdre. The Ultonians appointed for her a nurse and tutoress named Levarcam. They built for her and for the nurse a strong dun in a remote forest and set a ward there, and they made a solemn law enjoining perpetual virginity on the child of ill omen, and the Druids shed a zone of terror round the dun.
Concobar Mac Nessa in the wide circuit of his thoughts consulted always for the inviolability of that law, and the stern maintenance of the watching and warding.
Unseen and unobserved, forgotten by all save the wise elders of the Ultonians and by Concobar their King, whose thoughts ranged on all sides devising good for the Red Branch, the child Deirdre grew to be a maiden. Though her beauty was extraordinary, yet her mind was as beautiful as her form, so that the Lady Levarcam loved her exceedingly.