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THE SNOW SLEEP OF ANGUS OGUE

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The Database of Ornament

ONE day, among the hills, Angus Ogue lay in deep
sleep. It was a fair place where he lay, with the
heather purple about him and the bracken with
its September gold in it. On the mountain-slope
there was not a juniper tall enough, not a rock
big enough, to give rest to a raven: all of gold
bracken and purple heather it was, with swards of the paler
ling. The one outstanding object was a mountain ash. Midway
it stood, and leaned so that when the sun was in the east above
Ben Monach, its gold streamed through the feather-foliage
upon the tarn just beneath: so leaned, that when the sun was
on the sea-verge of Ben Mheadhonach in the west, the yellow
glow, lifting upward over leagues of golden bracken, turned
the rowan-feathers to the colour of brass, and the rowan-berries
into bronze.

The tarn was no more than a boulder-set hollow. It was fed
by a spring that had slipped through the closing granite in a
dim far-off age, and had never ceased to put its cool lips round
the little rocky basin of that heather-pool. At the south end
the ling fell over its marge in a curling wave: under the
mountain ash there was a drift of moss and a cool, fragrant
growth of loneroid, as the Gaels call the bog-myrtle.

Here it was, through the hot tides of noon, that Angus Ogue

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slept. The fair god was naked, and was as a white flower
there in the sunflood. His yellow hair lay upon the green
loneroid, like fallen daffodils in new-mown grass. Above him
was the silent sky, a suspended, unfathomable sea of blue. Not
a cloudlet drifted there, nor the wandering shadow of an eagle
soaring from a mountain eyrie or ascending in wide gyres of
flight from invisible lowlands.

Around him there was the same deep peace. The wind was
not. Not a breath stirred the rowan-leaves, or the feathery
shadows these cast upon his white limbs: not a breath frayed
the spires of the heather on the ridges of Ben Monach: not a
breath slid along the aerial pathways to where, on Ben Mhead-
honach, the sea-wind had fallen in a garth of tansils and moon-
daisies and spread there his foam-white pinions, moveless as a
lapsed wave.

Yet there were eyes to see, for Orchil lifted up her gaze from
where she dreamed her triple dream beneath the heather. The
goddess ceased from her weaving at the looms of life and death,
and looked long at Angus Ogue—Angus, the fair god, the
ever young, the lord of love, of music, of song.

‘Is it time that he slept indeed?’ she murmured, after a long
while, wherein she felt the hot blood redden her pale lips and
the pulse in her quiet veins leap like a caged bird.

But while she still pondered this thing, three old Druids came
over the shoulder of the hill, and advanced slowly to where the
Yellow-haired One lay adream. These, however, she knew to
be no mortals, but three of the ancient gods.

“When they came upon Angus Ogue they sought to wake him,
but Orchil had breathed a breath across a granite rock and
blown the deep, immemorial age of it upon him, so that even
the speech of the elder gods was no more in his ears than a
gnat’s idle rumour.

‘Awake,’ said Keithoir, and his voice was as the tempestuous
sigh of pine-forests when the winds surge from the pole.
‘Awake,’ said Manannan, and his voice was as the hollow
booming of the sea.


                                          120

‘Awake,’ said Hesus, and his voice was as the rush of the
green world through space, or as the leaping of the sun.

But Angus Ogue stirred not, and dreamed only that a mighty
eagle soared out of the infinite, and scattered planets and stars
as the dust of its pinions: and that as these planets fell they
expanded into vast oceans whereupon a myriad million waves
leaped and danced in the sunlight, singing a laughing song:
and that as the stars descended in a silver rain they spread
into innumerable forests, wherein went harping the four winds
of the world, and amidst which the white doves that were his
kisses fiitted through the gold and shadow.

‘He will awake no more,’ murmured Keithoir, and the god of
the green World moved sorrowfully apart, and played upon a
reed the passing sweet song that is to this day in the breath of
the wind in the grass, or its rustle in the leaves, or its sigh in
the lapping of reedy waters.

‘He will awake no more,’ murmured Manannan, and the god
of the dividing seas moved sorrowfully upon his way; and on
the hillside there was a floating echo as of the ocean-music in
a shell, mournful with ancient mournfulness and the sorrow-
song of age upon age. The sweet sound of it is in the ears
of the dead, where they move through the grey glooms of
silence: and it haunts the old time-worn shores of the dying
world.

‘He will awake no more,’ murmured Hesus; and the unseen
god, whose pulse is beneath the deepest sea and whose breath
is the frosty light of the stars, moved out of the shadow into
the light, and was at one with it, so that no eyes beheld the
radiance which flowered icily in the firmament and was a flame
betwixt the earth and the sun, which was a glory amid the
cloudy veils about the west and a gleam where quiet dews
sustained the green spires of the grass. And as the light lifted
and moved, like a vast tide, there was a rumour as of a starry
procession sweeping through space to the clashing cymbals of
dead moons, to the trumpetings of volcanic worlds, and to the
clarions of a thousand suns. But Angus Ogue had the deep

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immemorial age of the granite upon him, and he slept as the
dead sleep.

Orchil smiled. ‘They are old, old, the ancient gods,’ she
whispered.

‘They are so old, they cannot see eternity at rest. For Angus
Ogue is the god of Youth, and he only is eternal and un-
changing.’

Then, before she turned once more to her looms of life and
death, she lifted her eyes till her gaze pierced the brown earth
and rose above the green world and was a trouble amid the
quietudes of the sky. Thereat the icy stars gave forth snow,
and Angus Ogue was wrapped in a white shroud that was
not as that which melts in the flame of noon. Moreover,
Orchil took one of the shadows of oblivion from her mystic
loom, and put it as a band around Ben Monach, where Angus
Ogue lay under the mountain ash by the tarn.
 .             .             .             .             .             .             .             .

A thousand years passed, and when for the thousandth time
the wet green smell of the larches drifted out of Winter into
Spring, Orchil lifted her eyes from where she spun at her loom
of life and death. For, over the shoulder of the hill came three
old Druids, advancing slowly to where the Yellow-Haired One
lay adream beneath the snow.

‘Awake, Angus!’ cried Keithoir.

‘Awake, Angus!’ cried Manannan.

‘Awake, Angus!’ cried Hesus.

‘Awake, awake!’ they cried, ‘for the world has suddenly grown
chill and old.’

They had the grey grief upon them, when they stood there,
face to face with Silence.

Then Orchil put down the shuttle of mystery wherewith she
wove the threads of her loom, and spoke.

‘O ye ancient gods, answer me this. Keithoir, if death were to
come to thee, what would happen?’

‘The green world would wither as a dry leaf, and as a dead

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leaf be blown idly before the wind that knows not whither it
bloweth.’

‘Manannan, if death were to come to thee, what would happen?’

‘The deep seas would dry up, O Orchil: there would be sand
falling in the place of the dews, and at last the world would
reel and fall into the abyss.’

‘Hesus, if death were to come to thee, what would happen?’

‘There would be no pulse at the heart of earth, O Orchil, no
lift of any star against any sun. There would be a darkness
and a silence.’

Then Orchil laughed.

‘And yet,’ she said, ‘when Angus Ogue had the snow-sleep of
a thousand years, none knew it! For a thousand years the
pulse of his heart of love has been the rhythmic beat of the world.
For a thousand years the breath of his nostrils has been as the
coming of Spring in the human heart. For a thousand years
the breath of his life has been warm against the lips of lovers.
For a thousand years the memory of these has been sweet
against oblivion. Nay, not one hath dreamed of the deep sleep
of Angus Ogue.’

‘Who is he?’ cried Keithoir. ‘Is he older than I, who saw the
green earth born?’

‘Who is he?’ cried Manannan. ‘Is he older than I, who saw
the first waters come forth out of the void?’

‘Who is he?’ cried Hesus. ‘Is he older than I, who saw the
first comet wander from the starry fold; who saw the moon
when it was a flaming sun, and the sun when it was a seven-
fold intolerable flame?’

‘He is older!’ said Orchil. ‘He is the soul of the gods.’

And with that she blew a frith across the palm of her hand,
and took away the deep immemorial age of the granite that
was upon the Fair God.

‘Awake, eternal Spring!’ she cried. And Angus awoke, and
laughed with joy; and at his laughing the whole green earth
was veiled in a snow of blossom.

‘Arise, eternal Youth!’ she cried. And Angus arose and

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smiled; and at his smiling the old brown world was clad in
dewy green, and everywhere the beauty of the world was sweet
against the eyes of young and old, and everywhere the pulse of
love leaped in beating hearts.

‘Go forth, eternal Hope!’ she cried. And Angus Ogue passed
away on the sunflood, weaving rainbows as he went, that
were fair upon the hills of age and light within the valleys of
sorrow, and were everywhere a wild, glad joy.
 .             .             .             .             .             .             .             .

And that is why, when Orchil weaves dumbly in the dark: and
Keithoir is blind, and dreams among remote hills and by un-
frequented shores: and Manannan lies heavy with deep sleep,
with the oceans of the world like moving shadows above him:
and Hesus is grown white and hoar with the frost of waning
stars and weary with the burden of new worlds—that is why
Angus Ogue, the youthful god, is more ancient than they, and
is for ever young. Their period is set. Oblivion is upon the
march against their immemorial time. But in the heart of
   Angus Ogue blooms the Rose of Youth, whose beauty
      is everlasting. Yea, Time is the name of that rose,
        and Eternity the beauty and fragrance thereof.

                        FIONA MACLEOD.

MLA citation:

Macleod, Fiona. “The Snow-Sleep of Angus Ogue.” The Evergreen; A Northern Seasonal, vol. 4 Winter 1896-7, pp. 118-123. Evergreen Digital Edition, edited by Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2016-2018. Yellow Nineties 2.0, General Editor Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2019. https://1890s.ca/egv4_macleod_snow/