Page images

comes the king in peace?” “ In peace he comes not, Cairbar. I have seen his forward spears. It is a me. teor of death; the blood of thousands is on his steel. He came first to the shore, strong in the grey hair of age. Full rose his sinewy limbs, as he strode in his might. That sword is by his side which gives no se. cond d wound. His shield is terrible, like the bloody moon ascending through a storm. Then came Ossian, king of songs ; and Morni's son, the first of men. Connal leaps forward on his spear. Dermid spreads his dark-brown locks. Fillan bends his bow, the young hunter of streamy Moruth. But who is that before them, like the dreadful course of a stream? It is the son of Ossian, bright between his locks. His long hair falls on his back. His dark brows are half-inclosed in steel. His sword hangs loose on his side. His spear glitters as he moves. I fled from his terrible eyes, king of high Temora.”

" Then fly, thou feeble man,” said Foldath in gloo. my wrath. Fly to the grey streams of thy land, son of the little soul? Have not I seen that Oscar ? I beheld the chief in war. He is of the mighty in danger; but there are others who lift the spear. Erin has many sons as brave, king of Temora of Groves ! Let Foldath meet him in the strength of his course, and stop this mighty stream. My spear is covered with the blood of the valiant; my shield is like the wall of Tura.

“ Shall Foldathe alone meet the foe?” replied the dark-browed Malthos. “ Are they not numerous on our coast, like the waters of many streams? Are not these the chiefs who vanquished Swaran, when the sons of Erin fied? And shall Foldath meet their bravest heroes? Foldath of the heart of pride! take the strength of the people ; and let Malthos come. My

d This was the famous sword of Fingal, made by Luno, a smith of Lochlin, and afte him poetically called the son of Luno: it is said of this sword, that it killed a man very stroke; that Fingal never used it but in times of the greatest dauger.

e The opposite characters of Foldath and Maltos are strongly marked in subsequent parts of the poem. They appear always in opposition. The feuds between their fark lies, which were the source of their hatred to one another, are mentioned in other poems.

word is red with slaughter, but who has heard my words f?"

“ Sons of green Erin,” said Hidallas, “ let not Fin. gal hear your words. The foe might rejoice, and his arm be strong in the land. Ye are brave, o warriors ! and like the storms of the desart; they meet the rocks without fear, and overturn the woods. But let us move in our strength, slow as a gathered cloud. Then shall the mighty tremble ; the spear shall fall from the hand of the valiant. We see the cloud of death, they will say, while shadows fly over their face. Fingal will mourn in his age, and see his flying fame. The steps of his chiefs will cease in Morven : the moss of years shall grow in Selma.”

Cairbar heard their words, in silence, like the cloud of a shower: it stands dark on Cromla, till the lightning bursts its sides : the valley gleams with red light, the spirits of the storm rejoice. So stood the silent king of Temora ; at length his words are heard.

“ Spread the feast on Moi-lena: let my hundred bards attend. Thou, red-haired Olla, take the harp of the king. Go to Oscar, chief of swords, and bid him to our feast. To-day we feast and hear the song; tomorrow break the spear. Tell him that I have raised the tomb of Cathol": that bards have sung to his ghost. Tell him that Cairbar has head his fame at the stream of resounding Caruni. Cathmork is not here, Borbar

That is, who has heard my vaunting? He intends the expression as a rebuke to the self-praise of Foldath.

& Hidalla was the chief of Clonra, a small district on the of lake of Lego. The beau. ty of his person, bis eloquence, and genius for poetry, are afterwards mention d.

Cathol the son of Maronnan, or Moran, was murdered by Cairbar for his attachment to the family of Cormac. He had attended Oscar to the war of Inis-thona, where they contracted a great friendship for one another. Oscar, immediately after the death of Cathol, had sent a formal challenge to Cairbar, which he prudently declined, but conceived a secret hatred against Oscar, and had beforehand contrived to kill him at the least, to which he here invites him.

ille alludes to the battle of Oscar against Caros, king of ships; who is supposed to be the same with Carausius the usurper.

Cathmor, great in battle,' the son of Borbar-duthul, and brother of Cairbar king of Ireland, had, before the insurrection of the Firbolg, passed over into Inis-huna, sapposed to be a part of South Britain, to assist Conmor king of that place against his ene mies. Cathmor was successful in war; but, in the course of it, Conmor was either Killed, or died a natural death, Cairbar, upon intelligence of the designs of Fingal to dethrone him, had dispatched a messenger for Cathmor, who returned into Ireland a few days before the opening of the poem.

Cairbar here takes advantage of his brother's absence, to perpetrate his ungenerous designs against Oscar; for the noble spirit of Cathmor, had he been present, would not wave permitted the laws of hospitality, for which he was so renowned himself, to be


duthul's generous race. He is not here with his thousands, and our arms are weak. Cathmor is a foe to strife at the feast : his soul is bright as that sun. But Cairbar shall fight with Oscar, chiefs of the woody Temora! His words for Cathol were many; the wrath of Cairbar burns. He shall fall on Moi-lena : my fame shall rise in blood.”

Their faces brightened round with joy. They spread over Moi-lena. The feast of shells is prepared. The songs of bards arise. We heard? the voice of joy on the coast: we thought that mighty Cathmor came. Cathmor the friend of strangers the brother of red. haired Cairbar. Their souls were not the same. The light of heaven was in the bosom of Cathmor. His towers rose on the banks of Atha : seven paths led to his halls. Seven chiefs stood on the path, and called the stranger to the feast! But Cathmor dwelt in the wood to avoid the voice of praise.

Olla came with his songs. Oscar came to Cairbar's feast. Three hundred warriors strode along Moi-lena of the streams. The grey dogs bounded on the heath, their howling reached afar. Fingal saw the departing hero; the soul of the king was sad. He dreaded Cairbar's gloomy thoughts, amidst the feast of shells. My son raised high the spear of Cormac: an hundred bards met him with songs. Cairbar concealed with smiles the death that was dark in his soul. The feast is spread; the shells resound: joy brightens the face of the host. But it was like the parting beam of the sun, when he is to hide his red head in a storm.

violated. The two brothers form a contrast ; we do not detest the mean soul of Cairbar more, than we admire the disinterested and generous mind of Cathmor.

I Fingal's army heard the joy that was in Cairbar's camp. The character given of Cathmor is agreeable to the times. Some, through ostentation, were hospitable; and others fell naturally into a custom handed down from their ancestors. But what marks strongly the character of Cathmor, is his aversion to praise ; for he is represented to dwell in a wood to avoid the thanks of his guests; which is still a higher degree of generosity than that of Axyius in Homer; for the poet does not say, but the good man might, at the head of his own table, have heard with pleasure the praise bestowed og him by the people he entertained.

No nation in the worid carried hospitality to a greater length than the ancient Scots. It was even infamous, for many ages, for a man of condition to have the door of his house sbut at all, « lest," as the bards express it," the stranger should come and be hold his contracted soul.” Some of the chiefs were possessed of this hospitable dispe sition to an extravagant degree; and the bards, perhaps upon a selfish account, rever failed to recommend it, in their eulogiums. “Cean-uia' na dai', or the point to which all the roads of the strangers lead," was an invariable epithet given by them to the chiefs : on the contrary, they distinguish the inhospitable by the title of the cloud which the strangers shun." This last, however, was so uncommon, that in all the o poets I have ever met with, I found but one man branded with this ignominious appel fation; and that, perhaps, only founded upon a private quarrel, which subsisted betwe tirn and the patron of the bard who wrote the poem.

Cairbar rose in his arms; darkness gathered on his brow. The hundred harps ceased at once. The clang ** of shields was heard, Far distant on the heath, Olla raised his song of woe. My son knew the sign of death, and rising, seized his spear. “ Oscar!" said the dark red Cairbar, “ I behold the spear" of Inisfail. The spear of Temora' glitters in thy hand, son of woody Morven! It was the pride of an hundredd kings, the death of heroes of old. Yield it, son of Ossian, yield it to car-borne Cairbar.”

" Shall I yield,” Oscar replied, “ the gift of Erin's injured king: the gift of fair-haired Cormac, when Oscar scattered his foes? I came to Cormac's halls of joy, when Swaran fled from Fingal. Gladness rose in the face of youth: he gave the spear of Temora. Nor did he give it to the feeble, o Cairbar, neither to the weak in soul. The darkness of thy face is no storm to me; nor are thine eyes the flames of death. Do I fear thy clanging shield? Tremble I at Olla's song? No: Caira bar, frighten the feeble, Oscar is a rock.”

" And wilt thou not yield the spear?” replied the rising pride of Cairbar. “ Are thy words so mighty because Fingal is near? Fingal with aged locks from Morven's hundred groves! He has fought with little men. But he must vanish from Cairbar, like a thin pillar of mist before the winds of Atha?!" "Were he who fought with little men near Atha's darkening chief; Atha's darkening chief would yield green Erin to avoid

m When a chief was determined to kill a person already in his power, it was usuad to signify that his death was intended, by the sound of a shield struck with the blunt end of a spear; at the same time that a bard at a distance raised the death-song. Ace jemnony of another kind was long used in Scotland upon such occasions. Every body nas beard that a bull's head was served up to Lord Douglas in the castle of Edinburgh as a certain signal of his approaching death.

* Cormac, the son of Arth, had given the spear, which is here the foundation of the quarrel, to Oscar, when he came to congratulate him upon Swaran's being expelled from Ireland.

Ti.nor-rath, the house of good fortune,' the name of the royal palace of the supreine king of Ireland.

Hundred is here an indefinite number, and is only intended to express a great many. It was probably the hyperbolical phrases of bards, that gave the first hint to the Irish senachies to place the origin of their monarchy in so remote & period as tae have done,

9 Atha, shallow river:' the name of Cairbar's seat in Connaught.

his rage. Speak not of the mighty, O Cairbar! but turn thy sword on me. Our strength is equal; but Fingal is renowned ! the first of mortal men.”

Their people saw the darkening chiefs. Their crowd. ing steps are heard around. Their eyes roll in fire. A thousand swords are half unsheathed. Red-haired Olla raised the song of battle : the trembling joy of Oscar's soul arose : the wonted joy of his soul when Fingal's horn was heard. Dark as the swelling wave of ocean before the rising winds, when it bends its head near a coast, came on the host of Cairbar.

Daughter of Toscar'! why that tear? He is not fal. len yet. Many were the deaths of his arm before my hero fell!

Behold they fall before my son like the groves in the desart, when an angry ghost rushes through night, and takes their green heads in his hand ! Morlath falls : Maronnan dies: Conachar trembles in his blood. Cairbar shrink, before Oscar's sword ; and creeps in darkness behind his stone. He lifted the spear in secret, and pierced my Oscar's side. He falls forward on his shield: his knee sustains the chief. But still the spear is in his hand. See gloomy Cairbar, falls! The steel

Malvina, the daughter of Toscar, to whom he addresses the part of the poem which

relates to the death of Oscar her lover.

$ The Irish historians lace the death of Cairbar in the latter end of the third cen. tury: they say, he was killed in battle against Oscar the son of Ossian, but deny that he fell by his hand.

It is, however, certain, that the Irish historians disguise, in some measure, this part of their history. An Irish poem on this subject, which undoubtedly was the source of their information, concerning the battle of Gabhra, where Cairbar fel, is just now is my hands. The circumstances are less to the disadvantage of the character of Cairbar, than those related by Ossian. As a translation of the poem (which, though evidently no very ancient composition, does not want poetical merit), would extend this note to too great a length, I shall only give the story of it in brief, with some extracts from the original Irish.

Oscar, says the Irish bard, was invited to a feast, at Temora, by Cairbar king of Ireland. Á dispute arose between the two heroes, concerning the exchange of spears, which was usually made between the guests and their host, upon such occasions. In the course of this altercation, Cairbar said, in a boastful manner, that he would hunt on the hills of Albion, and carry the spoils of it into Ireland, in spite of all the eforts of its inhabitants. The original words are:

Briathar buan sin ; Briathar buan
A bheire dh an Cairbre rua'.
Gu tugase sealg, agus creach

A h' Albin an la'r na mhaireach. Oscar replied, that the next day, he himself would carry into Albion the spoils of the five provinces of Ireland, in spite of the opposition of Cairbar.

Briathar eile an aghai' fin
A bhcirea' an t'Oscar, og, calma
Gu'n tugadh se sealg, agus creach
Do dh'Albin an la'r na mhaireach, &cc

« PreviousContinue »