It is the Feast of Epiphany (6th January) 1904 in Dublin and time for one of the highlights of the season - the grand party thrown by Misses Kate and Julia Morkan and their niece, Mary Jane. Their favourite nephew, Gabriel Conroy arrives with his beautiful wife, Gretta, and acts as host. Although a splendid evening is had by all, Gretta is profoundly affected when she hears the words of a sentimental old song - The Lass of Aughrim. She weeps as she tells of a brief and innocent romance from her youth, cut short by the young man's death at the age of seventeen. In all their years of marriage, Gabriel has never heard her speak of this boy, locked away in her heart. His jealousy gives way to sadness as he realises he has never felt such passion, and his thoughts turn to death, for without passion there is only death. Gabriel's agony of self-doubt, the sudden awareness of his own frailty, becomes a vision of a bleak, wintry landscape, a revelation of universal truth uniting the living and the dead.