DIARMUID AND GRÁINNE
Travelling throughout Ireland, you will see beautiful stone shapes called dolmens. A dolmen is two massive, long tables of limestone, laid down parallel to each other. Over them as a kind of shelter is placed another giant cap stone. In the Celtic tradition these were known as ‘Leaba Dhiarmada agus Gráinne’, i. e. the bed of Diarmuid and Gráinne. The legend tells that Gráinne was to marry Fionn, chief of the Fianna, the old Celtic warriors. She fell in love with Diarmuid and threatened him with magical destruction if he refused to elope with her. The two of them eloped and Fianna chased them all over Ireland. They were cared for by the animals and received advice from wise people on how to evade their pursuers. They were told, for instance, not to spend more than two nights in any one place. But it was said that when they rested at night, Diarmuid put up the dolmen as a shelter for his lover. The actual archaeological evidence shows that these were burial places. The legend is more interesting and resonant. It is a lovely image of the helplessness which sometimes accompanies love. When you fall in love, common sense, rationality and your normal serious, reserved and respectable persona dissolve. Suddenly, you are like an adolescent again; there is new fire in you life. You become revitalized. Where there is no passion, you soul is either asleep or absent. When you passion awakens, you soul becomes young and free and dances again. In this old Celtic legend, we see the power of love and the energy of passion. One of the most powerful poems about how this longing transfigures life is by Goethe and is called:
Tell no-one else, only the wise,
For the crowd will sneer at once.
I wish to praise what is fully alive,
What longs to flame towards death.
When the calm enfolds the love-nights
That created you, where you have created
A feeling from the Unknown steals over you
While the tranquil candle burns.
You remain no longer caught
In the penumbral gloom
You are stirred and new, you desire
To soar to higher creativity.
No distance makes you ambivalent.
You come on wings, enchanted
In such hunger for light, you
Become the butterfly burnt to nothing.
So long as you have not lived this:
To dies is to become new,
You remain a gloomy guest
On the dark earth.
This poem captures the wonderful spiritual force at the heart of longing. It suggests that true vitality is hidden within longing. When you give in to creative passion, it will bring you to the ultimate thresholds of transfiguration and renewal. This growth causes pain but it is a sacred pain. It would be much more tragic to have cautiously avoided these depths and remained marooned on the shiny surfaces of the banal.