Monday, 18 January 2016

Osheen's Secret Heart

(Osheen, in Irish spelt Oisín, was the reputed son of Finn Mac Ool, and anybody openly denying that risked the wrath of Finn and his clan. In reality, Osheen was a foundling, reared by wolves by the western shore until Finn rescued him, in a demented state of grief believing him to be his true son who had, along with Finn's first wife, died tragically by drowning in the Bog of Allen. Cormack Mac Airt had been High King of Ireland for 50 years before foolishly, around the age of 70, personally leading his army in battle and thereby sustaining a disabling wound that made him no longer fit to be king according to the ancient laws. He resigned his kingship and his son Carbury was elected in his place. Finn had been the stalwart support of Cormack all through his reign, Cormack having concurred to Finn's leadership of the Fian, the High-King's army, on Finn's swearing to renounce vengeance. Second in command of the Fian was Goll Mac Morna, who Finn held responsible for the death of his father Ool. My poem supposes that Osheen saw the succession of Carbury to the kingship as a signal for a new leadership of the Fian, whereby he himself would retire to the Land of Youth and the baton would pass to Oscar, Osheen's son and current champion. Osheen did not know that Carbury privately nursed a grudge against Finn, for being too close a confidant of his father thereby excluding himself from influence for many years, and also believed that the Fian had risen above their station and unjustly enriched themselves over the years. Osheen's hope that Oscar could achieve influence with the new king would prove to be vain,  but this would not have been known to him when he had the conversation I suppose in this poem).

When dawn cast a first faint flicker
O'er the sky,
Osheen threw off the night cloak
And watched his companion hound
Bound into the trees
To catch a breakfast morsel,

But sat in reflection then
To capture the new poem
Forming in his head:

"I must, I will, at last
Hear my secret heart:

"I am no son of Finn
And desire to be
In serenity
Where the western sea
Throws its frothy water
 On the shore."

And when Oscar came
Hurling his morning spears,
Osheen said: "Desist,
And listen now to me."

And then he asked:
"Who is the king of Ireland?"
And Oscar, in surprise:
"It is the new king, Carbury."

And Osheen:
"It is a new king and a new time.
I know that Finn now finds
Release from his oath to Cormack;
But he knows in truth
That when he takes revenge
For a wrong long done,
He can no longer lead."

Then Oscar:
"And it is  time for you to lead,
My friend and father."

But Osheen:
"No, Oscar.
You are in your prime,
And champion of the Fian.

"Your time has come,
And you must lead.
Only you can win
This generation's hearts.

"But I will slip away
To a secret island in the west
And a life I have often dreamed of,
Away from swords and strife,
For I am no son of Finn."

"If a Morna said
You are no son of Finn,
I would slit his throat."

"And you would have done wrong,
To kill upon a lie,
For I am a lost boy,
Raised by the wolves,
Taken to Finn's demented breast.

"But now my wish is to be back
In my native land,
Even where the awful wave of Moyle
Snatched my true parents from the shore.

"I wish to be
By the western sea,
Where the wee boats spread their nets
And haul their lobster pots,
And the little children
Play stick-ball on the sand."

"And my mother," cried Oscar,
"Will she go with you there?"

"Your mother desires to be
In the fertile land of Munster,
To cavort with her widowed sisters,
The companions of her youth,
For such is the wish of woman
When passion's fire is cooled.

"But I will find indeed
A young, nubile companion
For my advancing years,
And live in a secret island
Off the coast of Erris.

"But you, son,
Must take charge of your career;
Stay close to Finn
And do his every bidding,
Till he pass to you the baton,
Then kneel before the king
And form a bond with flattery
And devotion,
For, as Finn made Ireland great
With his bond to Cormack,
So the future needs a bond
Between this king and the champion
Of the day."

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