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Deirdre dans le Metro

Many years ago I found myself working in Paris

My office was in the centre of the city

Although I could have walked from my apartment

I was lazy and used the Metro

 

This had been my method of travel for a number of months

But then as the summer breezes had begun to breathe

I decided to walk to my office until the weather grew cooler

But on my last Metro I met a beautiful woman who wanted to tell me a very sad story

 

I invited her for a coffee but she insisted that the story be told on the train

She would meet me at the same time on six consecutive days in June

And during the time that we were together she would relate her ancient tale

The woman also insisted that I alight from the train at my appointed station each day

 

My name was Deidre and I had been named by the druid Cathbad

The druid prophesised that my beauty would cause much trouble and strife in kingdoms near and far

This worried the assembled lords who wanted me slain and forgotten by history

King Conchobar forbade this and commanded that I be raised in seclusion until I was old enough to marry him

 

When I was quite young my foster father slaughtered a calf and then six raven fell to drink the animals blood

This incident happened on a day of deep snow and on that exact day I swore that my future husband

Would have hair as black as the ravens who swooped low to drink of the blood of the calf

I was pale of skin but my husbands skin would have to be as white as that of the corrupted snow

 

His cheeks like mine would be as red as the poor creatures blood but did such as boy exist

I was told by a passing eagle that a boy much as the one I had described lived not so far away

He was Naoise the son of Usnach but he was timid and afraid of the King who desired me

When I met my handsome boy I confessed my love for him and requested that we elope

 

The King was unaware of our liaison and grew more attracted to me on each occasion of our meeting

And although he was afraid of Conchobar my youth through his love for me grew stronger and together we chose exile

In the dead of night Naoise and one hundred and fifty loyal men left the land of their birth

They pledged their service to the King of Scotland but soon my beauty began to bewitch the elderly king

 

Ill became of this and we were soon persecuted and many bloody battles were fought with the loss of many of our men

The elderly king died and his eldest son told Naoise that we were not welcome in his kingdom

As he was much afraid that I would cast a spell on him as he thought I had done to his father

The new king then gifted us an island between the two shores where we would live under his protection

 

On the eve of our sixth year on the island my late sister came to me in a dream and said that I would never bear children

This devastated me as I knew that I was cursed and the only person who could lift the curse was the cruel Conchobar

Such was our desire for children that we decided to return to the country of our birth to request that the curse be lifted

This we would do in peace leaving the King of Scotland to protect our gentle island home

 

By this time Conchobar was an ill and worried man he expected death but his true regret was that he did not have an heir

When news of my arrival reached his ears he sent a spy to report on my appearance

The spy returned and said that I was more beautiful than memories could recall

This enraged the cruel king and he had the spy burnt to death as a punishment for his lust

 

Conchobar in a hidden act of conciliation invited both of us to a feast in our honour

At first we were suspicious but I sent word to the king that we would attend if the curse was lifted

And indeed the king did lift the curse from my barren womb but at the very moment of our greatest happiness

He ordered that my beloved Naoise be slaughtered by the sword of Eogan and his head be given to the ravens

 

I asked the king that I might be slaughtered too but he said that he intended to marry me before the month was cold

On our wedding night I refused to disrobe so the king ordered that his knights reveal my nakedness

I repeated this theatre for three hundred and twenty-one nights

Until the weary king asked what I desired from him in exchange for an heir

 

I told the king that I desired to see the head of Naoise’s executioner delivered to me on a plate

And upon receipt I would cast his head to the rapacious birds and ready myself for the journey

The king complied and the head of Eogan was presented to me on a tragic plate

I removed the eyes of the assassin and cast his head into the yard where Naoise’s bleached skull lay abandoned

 

Conchobar’s furthest castle was positioned on a cliff in sight of my island home

And this is where the king decided with a certain degree of cruelty that our union would take place

His plan was that as I conceived his heir that I be able to see my beloved island for one last time

Before it vanished into the grey sea mists redundant in my memory

 

For the journey the king insisted on the finest furs so that I would not chill

But what he did not know was that I was quite naked under my gown

Conchobar who was good of mood was too pleased with himself to notice my disguise

The high chariot on his command stopped at the great castle gate

 

It was then that I cast away my furs and dived naked onto the spears of the assembled guards

The spear of the nearest guard pierced my heart but I did not fade immediately

As I lay some say crucified on the guards razor spears I raised my head for a final time

And looked at the island of my happiness and watched my beautiful blood slowly polluted his wretched sea

 

The woman said that we would not meet again but requested that I recorded her story

I promised that I would and soon the whole world would know of Conchobar’s dreadful cruelty

But this did not happen for as I climbed the stairs towards the street I fell backwards and suffered a serious injury

I was in hospital for over a month and when I recovered I was sent to London to convalesce

 

I never returned to Paris in a working capacity as my memory was sometimes frail

This story which I have recalled here is as much as I can remember clearly

But as I sit quietly on the Metro station waiting for her to return

I sense that I will not see the beautiful woman again but know her story has now escaped