Page images
PDF

ought to shine in war; who ought to be two beams of light near the steps of his departure."

"Son of Fingal," replied the youth, " it is not long since I raised the spear. Few are the marks of my sword in battle, but my sword is fire, the chiefs of BoN ga' crowd around the shield of generous Cathmor. Their gathering is on the heath. Shall my steps approach their host? I yielded to Oscar alone, in the strife of the race, on Cona."

"Fillan, thou shalt not approach their host; nor fall before thy fame is known. My name is heard in song; tthen needful I advance. From the skirts of night ( shall view their gleaming tribes. Why, Fillan, didst thou speak of Oscars to call forth my sigh? I roust forget * the warrior, till the storm is rolled away. Sadness ought not to dwell in danger, nor the tear in the eye of war. Our fathers forgot their fallen sons, till the noise of arms was past. Then sorrow returned to the tombs and the song of bards arose."

"Conar r was the brother of Trathal, first of mortal men. His battles were on every coast. A thousand streams rolled down the blood of his foes. His nations gathered in Ullin, and they blessed the king; the king of the race of their fathers, from the land of hinds.

"The chiefs J of the south were gathered in the

[graphic]

darkness of their pride. In the horrid cave of Moma, they mixed their secret words. Thither often, they said, the spirits of their fathers came; showing their pale forms from the chinky rocks, and reminding them of the honour of Bolga. Why should Conar reign, the son of streamy Morven?

"They came forth, like the streams of the desart, with the roar of their hundred tribes. Conar was a rock before them: broken they rolled on every side. But often they returned, and the sons of Ullin fell. The king stood, among the tombs of his warriors, and darkly bent his mournful face. His soul was rolled into itself; he marked the place where he was to fall; when Trathal came, in his strength, the chief of cloudy Morven. Nor did he come alone; Colgar' was at his side; Colgar the son of the king, and of white-bosomed Solin-corma.

"As Trenmor, clothed with meteors, descends from the halls of thunder, pouring the dark storm before him over the troubled sea; so Colgar descended to battle, and wasted the echoing field. His father rejoiced over the hero: but an arrow came. His tomb was raised without a tear. The king was to revenge his son. He lightened forward in battle, till Bolga yielded at her streams.

"When peace returned to the land, and his blue waves bore the king to Morven; then he remembered his son, and poured the silent tear. Thrice did the bards, at the cave of Furmono, call the soul of Calgar. They call him to the hills of his land; he heard them in his mist. Trathal placed his sword in the cave, that the spirit of his son might rejoice."

"Colgar", son of Trathal,", said Fillan, " thou wert renowned in youth! But the king hath not marked my sword, bright-streaming on the field. I go forth with the crowd: 1 return, without my fame. But the foe approaches, Ossian. I hear their murmur on the heath. The sound of their steps is like thunder, in the bosom of the ground, when the rocking hills shake their groves, and not a blast. pours from the darkened sky ."

f Colg-ers s fiercely looking warrior.' solin-cormas i blue-eyet.i Colgar was the eldest of the sons of Trathal: Comhals who Wh3 the father of yingals was very young when the present expedition to Ireland happened. It is remarkables thats of alt his aacestorss the poet makes the least mention ot Coinhal; whichs probablys pruceeded from the uofortunate lifes and untimely death of that hero. From some passages concerning kiroi wc levas Indeeds that be was braves bot be wanted conducts

Sudden I turned on my spear, and raised the flame of an oak on high. I spread it large on Mora's wind. Cathmor stopt in his course. Gleaming he stood, like a rock, on whose sides are the wandering of blasts; which seize its echoing streams and clothe them over with ice. So stoo'd the friend • of strangers. The winds lift his heavy locks. Thou art the tallest of the race of Erin, king of streamy Atha!

"First of bards," said Cathmor, " Fonar », call the chiefs of Erin. Call red-haired Cormar, dark browed Malthns, the side-long-looking gloom of Maronnar. Let the pride of Foldath appear : the red-rolling eye of Turlotho. Nor let Hidalla be forgot; his voice, in danger, is like the sound of a shower, when it falls in the blasted vale, near Atha's falling stream."

They came, in their clanging arms. They bent forward to his voice, as if a spirit of their fathers spoke from a cloud of night. Dreadful shone they to the light; like the fall of the stream of Brumo*, when the meteor lights it before the nightly stranger. Shuddering, he stops on his journey, and looks op for the beam of the morn.

Why* delights Foldath," said the king, "to pour the blood of foes by night? Fails his arm in battle, in the beams of day? Few are the foes before us; why should we clothe us in mist? The valiant delight to shine in the battles of their land. Thy counsel was in vain, chief of Moma; the eyes of Morven do not sleep. They are watchful as eagles on their mossy rocks. Let each collect beneath his cloud the strength of his roaring tribe. To-morrow I move, in light, to meet the foes of Bolga! Mighty * was he that is low, the race of Borbar-duthul!"

u The poet begins here to mark strongly the character of Fillans who is to make so great a figore in ttie sequel ofsthe poem. lie has the impatiences the amhitions and fires * aich are peculiar to a young hero. Kindled with the fame of Coigars he forgets his untimely fall. From Fillan's expression in this passages it would seems that he was nesUxted by Fingal on account of his youth.

v Cathmor is distingoished by this honourable titles on account of his generosity to strangerss which was so great as to be remarkables even in those days of hospitality.

•w Fonars ' theman of song.' Before the introduction of Christranitys a name was not imposed opon any persons till he had distinguished himself by some remarkable actions from which his name should he derived.

* Bromo was a place of worship 'Fing. ft. VL) in Cracas which is sopposed to be one of the isles of Shetland. It was thought that the spirits of the deceased haunteii its by nights which adds more terror to the description introduced here. The horrid circle nf Bromos where oftens they saids the gliosis of the dead howled round the stone of fear.

r From this passage it appearss that it was Foldath who had advised the night attack. The gloom, character of i'oldath ia properly contrasted to the gvueroiss the oper Calhmar.

"Not unmarked," said Foldath, " were my steps before thy race. In light, I met the foes of Cairbar; the warrior praised my deeds. But his stone was raised without a tear! No bard song* over Erin's king; and shall his foes rejoice along their mossy hills? No: they must not rejoice: he was the friend of Foldath. Our words were mixed, in secret, in Moma's silent cave; whilst thou, a boy in the field, porsoedst the thistle's beard. With Moma's sons I shall rush abroad, and find the foe on his dusky hills. Fingal shall lie without his song, the grey-haired king of Selma."

"Dost thou think, thou feeble man," replied the chief of Atha; " dost thou think that he can fall without his fame, in Erin? Could the bards be silent, at the tomb of the mighty Fingal? The song'would burst in secret; and the spirit of the king rejoice. It is when thou shalt fall, that the bard shall forget the song. Thou art dark, chief of Moma, though thine arm is a tempest in war. Do I forget the king of Erin, in his narrow house? My soul is not lost to Cairbar, the brother of my love. I marked the bright beams of joy which travelled over his cloudy mind, when I returned with fame to Atha of the streams."

Tall they removed, beneath the words of the king; each to his own dark tribe; where humming, they rolled on the heath, faint-glittering to the stars: like waves in a rocky bay, before the nightly wind. Beneath an oak, lay the chief of Atha: his shield, a dusky round, hung high. Near him, against a rock, leaned the stranger* of Inis-huna: that beam of light, with wandering locks, from Lumon of the roes. At distance rose the voice of Fonar, with the deeds of the days of old. The voice fails, at times, in Lubar's growing roar.

K By this exclamations Cathmor intimates that he intends to revenge the death of his brother Cairbar.

it To have no funeral elegy sons over his tombs wass in those dayss reckoned th" 'rei:test misfortune that could betal a man; as his sool GOUld. not be QlUeiwiX rtvllliliii 'the airy ball of his lathers.

"Crothar'," begun the bard, "first dwelt at Atha's mossy stream. A thousand * oaks, from the mountains, formed his echoing hall. The gathering of the people was there, around the feast of the blue-eyed king. But who, among the chiefs, was like the stately Crothar? Warriors kindled in his presence. The young sigh of virgins rose. In Alnecma' was the warrior honoured; the first of the race of Bolga.

"He pursoed the chase in Ullin: on the moss-covered top of Drumardo. From the wood looked the daughter of Cathmin, the blue-rolling eye of Con-lama. Her sigh rose in secret. She bent her head, midst her wandering locks. The moon looked in at night, and saw the white-tossing of her arms; for she thought of the mighty Crothar, in the season of her dreams.

"Three days feasted Crothar with Cathmin. On the foorth they waked the hinds. Con-lama moved to the chase, with all her lovely steps. She met Crothar, in the narrow path. The bow fell, at once, from her hand. She turned her face away, and half-hid it with her locks. The love of Crothar rose. He brought the white -bo

* By the stranger of Inis-huna, is meant Sulmalla, the daughter of Conmor king of Inis-huna, the ancient name of that part of South Britain which is next to the Irish ^Vwt. She had followed Cathmor in disguise. Her story is related at large in the lusrthbook.

(Crothar was the ancestor of Cathmor, and the first of his family who had settled JJ" Atria. It was in his time, that the first wars were kindled bc'ween the Fhholg and tael. The propriety of the episode is evident; as the contest, which originally rose between Crothar and Conar, sobsisted afterwards between their posterity, and was the 'oundation of the story of the poem.

A From this circomstance we may iearm, that the art of buildmg with stone was not "lawn in Ireland so early as the days of Crnthar. When the colony were long settled 'a the country, the arts of civil life began to increase among them; tor we find miution 'hade of the towers of Atha in t he tirce of Cathmor, which could not well bo applied t o ,aoden buildings. In Caledonia thev l,epan very early to build with stone None of toe houses of Fingal, excepting Ti-foirmal, were of wood. Ti-foirmal was the great nail where the bards mot to repeat their compositions annually, before they sobmitted them to the judgment of the king in Selma.

'Alnecma, or Alneernacht, was the ancient name of Connaught ullin is still the Irish name of the province of Ulster. To avoid the ruultlplyingof notes, i shall here ^vs the signification of the names in this episode. Drumardo,. high ridge.' Cathmin,

calm in battle.' CgiL-lacoua. s soft narul.' Tuiloth, s man of the uaivcr.' Connul,

ulue e ye.i

« PreviousContinue »