Page images

grief- At length I stood beneath an oak. No voice of mine was heard. What could I say to Flngal in his hour of woe? His words rose, at length, in the midst: the people shrunk backward as he spoke w.

"Where is the son of Selma, he who led in war? I behold not his steps, among my people, returning from the field. Fell the young bounding roe, who was so stately on my hills? He fell; for ye are silent. The shield of war is broke. Let his armour be near to Fingal; and the sword of dark-brown Luno. I am waked on my hills: with morning 1 descend to war."

l* High* on Cormul's rock, an oak flamed to the wind. The grey ikirts of mist are rolled around: thither strode the king in his wrath. Distant from the host he always lay, when battle burned within his soul. 3n two spears hung his shield on high; the gleaming sign of death; that shield, which he was wont to strike, by night, before he rushed to war. It was then his warriors knew, when the king was to lead in strife; for never was his buckler heard, till Fingal's wrfirh arose. Unequal were his steps on high, as he shone in the beam of the oak; he was dreadful as the form of the spirit of night, when he clothes, on hills, his wiid gestores with mist, and, issoing forth, on the troubled ocean, mounts the car of winds.

•w The abashed behaviour of the army of Fingals proceeds rather from shame thin fear. The kin g was not ola tyrannical disposition: hes as he professes himself in the fifth books ii never was a dreadful forms in their presences darkmed into wrath. ri' voice was no thunder to their cars: his eye sent forth. no deatls." The first agee of society are not the limes of arhitrary power. As the wants of mankind are fews the" retain their independence. It is an advanced state of civilization that moolds the inind to that sobmission to governments of which amhitious magistrates take advantage- and raise themselves into absoiute power.

It is a vulgar errors that the common Highlanders lived In ablect slaverys under taeir chiefs. 1 heir high idea ofj and attachment to the heads of their familiess prohibit led the unintelligent into this mistake. When the honoor of the tribe was concerneds the commands of the chiefs were obeyed without restriction : but if individuals were oppresseds they threw themselves into the arms of a neighbouring clans assomed i tew names and were encouraged and protected. The fear of this desertions no doubts made tiie chiefs cautious in their government. As their consequences in the eyes of otherss was in proportion to the nomber of their peoples they took care to avoid every thing that tended to diminish it.

ll was but very lately that the authority of laws extended to the Highlands. Before that time the clans were gcvPrneds in civil afftiirss not by the verbal commands of the chiefs but by what they called CLechdas or the traditional precedents of their ancestors When diiferences happened between individualss some of the oldest own i'i tlie tribe were chosen ompires between the partiess to decide according to theCteckda. The chief interposed lus authoritys and invariably eoforced the decision. lnthti" warss which were frequent on account of family feodss the chief was less reserved in the execution of his authority i End even thou he seldom extended it to the taking tbe life of any of his tribe. No crime was capital except morder; and that was very untreqoent in the Highlands. No corporal ponishments of any kinds was inflicted. Tb= memory of an affront of this sort would remains for agcisin a familys and they would sem.e every opportnoity to be revengeds noless it came immediately fiom live handset the chief himself; in that case it was takens rather cs a fatherly corrections than a kIpil ponishment for offences.

* This rock of Cormol is often mentioned in tlie preceding part of the poem. It rn in it Fingal and t)esian stood to view the battle. The costom of retiring from the ami • • m the night prior to their eni^ging in battles was oniversal among the kings of tks Caledonians. Trenmors thi- most ienowm-d 'if the ancestors of I'inguls Is mentions^ M the first who instituted this custom. Sucecding berds attributed it tt. a hero of aistla period. In an old poems which begins with " Mac-Areata nan ceod urols" this custcm of retiring from the armys before an engagement, is nombered among the wise institetions of Ferguss the son of Arc or Arcaths the first king of Scots. 1 shall here owslate the paiiage; in some other note 1 may probably five all that remains of the poem. "Ferftns i1 the hundred streams. son of Arcath who fought of old: thou didst nrst retire at night : when the foe rolled before thees in echoing fields. Nor bending In rest iathe Ir inn ' »e gathers battle in his soul. Flys sou of the stranger; wiU uiero U lI*3

twb akrwJ." wntns c# by wiqms tfcls po^ mnwrit if tmcurtoin.

Nor settled, from the storm, is Erin's sea of war; they glittered beneath the moon, and, low-humming, still rolled on the field. Alone are the steps of Cathmor, before them on the heath; he hung forward, with all his arms, on Morven's flying host. Now had he come to the mossy cave, where Fillan lay in night. One tree was bent above the stream, which glittered over the rock. There shone to the moon the broken shield of Clatho's son; and near it, on grass, lay hairey-footed Bran/. He had missed the chief on Mora, and searched him along the wind. He thought that the blue-eyed hunter slept; he lay upon his shield. No blast came over the heath, unknown to bounding Bran.

Cathmor saw the white-breasted dog; he saw the broken shield. Darkness is blown back on his soul; he remembers the falling away of the people. "They come, a stream: are rolled away; another race socceeds. But some mark the fields, as they pass, with their own mighty names. The heath, through dark

9 This circomstance, concerning Bran, the favourite dug of Fingal, is, perhaps, one nuke most affecting passages in the poem. I remember to have met vrith an old poem, composed lung after the tune of Ossian, wherein a storv of this sort is very happily int:epid. in u,v.. „f the invasions of the Danes, Uiiin-Clun.U, a considerable chief, on the western of Scotland, was killed in a rencounter with a flying party of the encmy, who had landed, at no great distance from the place of his residence. The-few lullowers who;.'A him were also slain. The young wile of Ullin-Clunda, who had not heard of hh fall, fearing the worst, on account of his long delay, alarmed the rest of the tribe, who went in search of him along the shore. They did not find him; find the beautiful widow became disconsolate. At length he wis discovered, by means of his dug, who sat on a rock beside the body, for some days. The poem is not just now iny hands, otherwise its poetical merit might indoce me to present the reader with a translation of it. T'h' stanza concerning the dug, whose name was Du-chos, or Bla-kh,"t, Is very descriptive.

Dark-siied Du-chos! feet of wind! coldisthyscAt on rocks. He 'the dug > scea the roes; his ears are hi^h; and half he bounds away. He looks around; but Ullin. *leeps: he droops again his head. The winds come past; dark Du-chos thinks that Ul'";'- .voice is there. But still he beholds him silent, 'aid ariidst the waving heath. Dark* sided Du^ao^ Qis voice ^^ ,s0 ^g Kli,i ti,w. 0ver the heath 1'!

brown years is theirs; some blue stream, winds to their fame. Of these be the chief of Atha, when he lays him down on earth. Often may the voice of future times meet Cathmor in the air; when he strides from wind to wind, or folds himself in the wing of a storm."

Green Erin gathered round the king, to hear the voice of his power. The joyful faces bend, unequal, forward in the light of the oak. They who were terrible wefe removed: Lubar51 winds again in their host. Cathmor was that beam from heaven which shone when his people were dark. He was honoured in the midst. Their souls rose trembling aronnd. The king alone no gladness showed : no stranger he to war!

"Why is the king so sad?" said Malthos eagle-eyed, "Remains there a foe at Lubar? Lives there among them who can lift the spear? Not so peaceful was thy father, Borbar-duthul", sovereign of spears. His rage was a fire that always burned! his joy over fallen foes was great. Three days feasted the grey-haired hero, when he heard that Calmar fell: Calmar, who aided the race of Ullin, from Lara of the streams. Often did he feel, with his hands, the steel, which, they said, had pierced his foe. He felt it with his hands, for Borbar-duthul's eyes had failed. Yet was the king a sun to his friends; a gale to lift their branches round. Joy was around him in his halls; he loved the sons oi Bolga. His name remains in Atha, like the awful mess In order to illustrate this passages it is proper to lay before the reader the scene cf the two preceding battles. Hetween the hills of MoTM and Lona lay the plain of Mcilenas through which ran the river Lubar. The first battles wherein Gaul the son of Morni commanded on the Caledunian sides was fought on the banks of Lubar. to there was little advantage obtaineds on either sides the armiess after the battles retaised their fovn'er positions.

In the second bal ties wherein Fillan commandeds the Irishs after the fall of Foldaths wore driven up the hill of I.ona: but opon the coming of Cathmor to their aids theytctrained their former situations aud drove back the Caledonians in their turn : so that Lubar winded ap.:iin in their host.

a Borbar-duthuls the lather of Cathmors was the brother of that Colc-ullas who is saids in the beginning of the fourth boots to have rebelled against Cormac king ol lieland- Borbar-duthul seems to have retained all the preludice cf his family agaiest tti soccession of the posterity of Conars on the Irish throne. From this short episode we learn some factss which tend to throw light on the history of the times- It appearss th::t when irvvar.n invaded Irelands Le wes only opposed by the Caels who ps-sscse' Ulsters and the north or that island. Calmars t he son of Hathas whose gallant behaviour and death are related in the third took of Kiagals was the only chief of toe race of the FirVilg that loined the Caels or Irish Caledonianss doring the invasion of -SwaranTr.e indi" nt loy which Horbar-dutcul expresseds upon the death of Calmars is well soited with !hat spirit of revenges which sobsisteds universallys In every country where 'e feodal system was established. It would appear that some person had arriri tlocbar-duthul that weapon with. whichs it ws* pretendeds Callriar tol been killed.

mory of ghosts, whose presence was terrible, but they blew the storm away. Now let the voices * of Erin raise the soul of the king; he that shone when war was dark, and laid the mighty low. Fonar, from that grey-browed rock, pour the tale of other times: pour it on wide-skirted Erin, as it settles round."

.' To me," said Cathmor, " no song shall rise: nor Fonar sit on the rock of Lubar. The mighty there are laid low. Distorb not their rushing ghosts. Far, Malthos, far remove the sound of Erin's song. I rejoice not over the foe, when he ceases to lift tlw spear. With morning we pour Out strength abroad. F.,gal is wakened on his echoing hill."

Like waves blown back by sodden winds, Erin retired at the voice of the king. Deep rolled into the field of night, they spread their tribes: beneath his own tree, at intervals, each c bard sat down with his harp. They raised the song, and touched the string-: each to the chief he Joved. Before a borning oak SuUmalla touched at times.the harp. She touched the harp, and heard between, the breezes in her hair. In darkness, near, lay the king- of Atha, beneath an aged tree. The beam of the oak was turned from him; he saw the maid, but was not seen. His soul poured forth, in secret, when he beheld her tearful eye. "But battle is before thee, son of Borbar-duthul."

* . The voices of Erin,' a poetical expression for the bards of Ireland.

c Not only the kine:, but every per::' chief, had their bard,; attending them, in the field, in the days of Ossie:: and these b.rds, i', proportion to the power of the chief* who retained them, had a number of inferior bards in their train. LTpon solemn nccasions, all the bar.i' ia the army would join in one chorus, either when they celebrated their victories, or lamented the death of a person, worthy and renowned, slain in the war. The words were of the composition of the arch-bard, retained by the kmt! hi.nsekP, who generally attained to that kifd, of/ice, on account of his soperior genios for poetry. As the persons of the bard, were sacred, and the emoluments of their office considerable, the order, in socceeding times, became very numerous, and insolent. It weald appear, that after the introdoction of Christianity', some sewed m the double capacity of bards and clergymen It was, from this circomstance, thatthey had the name of Ch'.cre, which is, probably, derived Iron: the Latin Clerieus. The Colore, be their name derived from what it wiil, became at last a poblic nuisance; for, taking advantage of their sacred character, they went about in great bodies, and lived at discretion in the houses of the chiefs; till another party cf the same order, drnce them awav by mere dint of satire. Some of the indelicate dispotes ot these worthy poetical combatants are handed down by tradition, and show how nimii the bard, at list abused the prhilexes, which the admiration of their countrymen had conferred on the order. It was this Insolent behaviour that Indoced the chiefs to retrench their number, and to take away those brivi,cn^s which they were no loaeer worthy to enjoy. Their indolence, acd disposition to lampoon, extinguished all the poetical fcivo,r wi,ien distinguished their predecessors, and makes us the less regret the extinction of the order. 3


Amidst the harp, at intervals, she listened whethei the warriors slept. Her soul was op; she longed, in secret, to pour her own sad song. The field is silents On their wings the blasts of night retire. The bards had ceased; and meteors came, red winding with their ghosts. The sky grew dark : the forms of the dead 'were blended with the clouds. But heedless bends the daughter of Con-mor over the decaying flame. Thott wert alone in her soul, car-borne chief of Atha. She raised the voice of the song, and touched the harp between s

"Clun-galo^came; she missed the maid. Where art thou, beam of light? Hunters from the mossy rock, saw you the blue-eyed fair? Are her steps on grassy Lumon ; near the bed of roes? Ah me! I behold ber bow in the hall. Where art thou, beam of light?"

"Cease', love of Con-mor, cease; I hear thee not on the ridgy heath. My eye is turned to the king, whose path is terrible in war. He for whom my soul is op, in the season of my rest. Deep-bosomed in war he stands, he beholds me not from his cloud. Why, sun of Sul-malla, dost thou not look forth? I dwell in darkness here: wide over me flies the shadowy mist. Filled with dew are my locks: look thou from thy cloud, O son of Sul-malla's soul!" * * * • i

d Clun-galos i white knees the wife of Con-mors king of Inis-hunas and the «other of Sul-malla. she is here representeds as missing her daughters after she hitL 5W withcathnior.

e Sul-malla replies to the sopposed qoestions of her mother. Towards the miiMle ot this l.ara£ni.uh she calls O.thmor the son of her souls and continoes the metaphor throughout. This book endss we may sopposes auunl the middle of the third sipls frgm tke opening of the poesm

« PreviousContinue »