Page images
PDF

the voices of squally winds. Hills are clothed, at times, in fire. Thunder rolls in wreaths of mist, In darkness shrunk the foe : Morven's warriors stood 2ghast. Still I bent over the stream, amidst my whistling locks.

Then rose the voice of Fingal, and the sound of the flying foe. I saw the king, at times, in lightning, darkly striding in his might. I struck my echoing shield, and hung forward on the steps of Alnecma : the foe is rolled before me, like a wreath of smoke.

The sun looked forth from his cloud. The bundred streams of Moi-lena shone. Slow rose the blue columns of mist, against the glittering hill. " Where are the mighty kings?"" Nor by that stream, nor wood, are they! I hear the clang of arms! Their strife is in the bosom of mist. Such is the contending of spirits in a nightly cloud, when they strive for the wintry wings of winds, and the rolling of the foam-covered waves. · I rushed along. The grey mist rose. Tall, gleaming, they stood at Lubar. Cathmor leaned against a rock. His half-fallen shield received the stream, that leapt from the moss above. Towards him is the stride of Fingal; he saw the hero's blood. His sword fell slowly to his side. He spoke, amidst his darkening

's Yields the race of Borbar-duthul? Or still does he lift the spear? Not unheard is thy name, in Selma, in the green dwelling of strangers. It has come, like the breeze of his desart, to the ear of Fingal. Come to my hill of feasts: the mighty fail, at times. No fire am I to low-laid foes : I rejoice not over the fall of the brave. To close b the wound is mine: I have known the herbs of the hills. I seized their fair heads on high, as they waved by their secret streams. Thou art dark and si. lent, king of Atha of strangers."

a Fingal and Cathmor. The conduct of the poet in this pagsare is remarkable. liis numerous descriptions of single combats had already exhausted the subject. Nothing new, or adequate to our high idea of the kings, could be seid. Ossian, therefore, throws a column of mist over the whole, and leaves the combat to the imagination of the reader. Poets have almost universally failed in their descriptions of this sort Not all the strength of Homer could sustain with dignity, the minutise of a single coule bat. The throwing of a spear, and the braving of a shield, as some of our own poets most elegantly express it, convey no grand ideas. Our imagination stretches betonu, and consequently, despises the description. It were therefore, well for some poet, is my opinion, though it is, perhaps, somewhat singular) to have, sometimes, like Ossiae, thrown mist over their single combats.

.b Fingal is very much celebrated, in tradition, for his knowledge in the virtues et herbs. The Irish poenis concerning him, often represent him, curing the wound which his chiefs received in battle. They fable concerning him, that he was in post

[graphic]

" By Atha of the streams,” he said, “ there rises a mossy rock. On its head is the wandering of boughs, within the course of winds. Dark, in its face, is a cave with its own loud rill. There have I heard the tread of strangers , when they passed to my hall of shells. Joy rose, like a flame, on my soul: I blest the echoing rock. Here be my dwelling in darkness, in my grassy vale. From this I shall mount the breeze, that pursues my thistle's beard; or look down on blue-winding Atha, from its wandering mist.”.

“ Why speaks the king of the tomb ? Ossian! the warrior has failed! Joy mcet thy soul, like a stream, Cathmor, friend of strangers! My son, I hear the call of years : they take my spear as they pass along. Why does not Fingal, they seem to say, rest within his hall? Dost thou always delight in blood? In the tears of the sad? No: ye darkly.rolling years, Fingal delights not in blood. Tears are wintry streams, that waste away my soul. But when I lie down to rest, then comes the mighty voice of war. It wakes me in my hall, and calls forth all my steel. It shall call it forth no more ; Ossian, take thou thy father's spear. Lift it in battle, when the proud arise,

“ My fathers, Ossian, trace my steps; my deeds are pleasant to their eyes. Wherever I come forth to battle, on my field are their columns of mist. But mine arm rescued the feeble ; the haughty found my rage was fire. Never, over the fallen, did mine eye rejoice. sion of a cup, containing the essence of herbs, which instantaneously healed wounds. The knowledge of curing the wounded, was, till of late, universal among the High. For this my fathers shall meet me, at the gates of their airy nalls, tall, with robes of light, with mildly-kindled eyes. But, to the proud in arms, they are darkened moons in heaven, which send the fire of night, red-wandering over their face.

landers. We hear of 10 O her disorder, which required the skill of physic. The wholesonness of the climate, and an active life, spent in hunting, excluded diseases.

The hospitable disposition of Cathmor was unparalleled. Ha reflects, with pleasure, even in his last moments, on the relief he had afforded to strangers. The very tread of their feet was plea, ant in his ear. His hospitality was not passed unnoticed by succeed108 bards; for, with them, it became a proverb, when they described the hospitable disposition of a hero, that he was like Cathmor of Atha, the friend of strangers. It will seem strange, that, in all the Irish traditions, there is no mention made of Cathmor. This must be attributed to the revolutions and domestic confusions that happened in that island, and utterly cut off all the real traditions concerning so ancient a period. All that we have related of the state of Ireland before the fifth century, is of late inven son, and the work of ill-informed senachies, and injudicious bards.

* Father of heroes, Trenmor, dweller of eddying winds! I give thy spear to Ossian, let thine eye rejoice. Thee have I seen, at times, bright from between thy clouds ; so appear to my son, when he is to lift the spear: then shall he remember thy mighty deeds, tho' thor art now but a blast."

He gave the spear to my hand, and raised, at once, a stone on high, to speak to future times, with its grey head of moss. Beneath he placed a sword ' in earth, and one bright boss from his shield. Dark in thought, a while, he bends : his words, at length, came forth.

" When thou, O stone, shall moulder down, and lose thee, in the moss of years, then shall the traveller come, and whistling pass away. Thou knowest not, feeble wanderer, that fame once shone on Moi-lena. Here Fingal resigned his spear, after the last of his fields. Pass away, thou empty shade ; in thy voice there is no renown. Thou dwellest by some peaceful stream; yet a few years and thou art gone. No one remembers thee, thou dweller of thick mist! But Fingal shall be clothed with fame, a beam of light to other times; for he went forth, in echoing steel, to save the weak in arms."

Brightening in his fame, the king strode to Lubar's sounding oak, where it bent, from its rock, over the bright tumbling stream. Beneath it is a narrow plain, and the sound of the fount of the rock. Here the standd We see from this passage, that even in the times of Ossian, and, consequentis, be.

fore the introduction of Christianity, they had sonte idea of rewards and punishments after death. Those who behaved, in life, with bravery and virtue, were reoeired with joy, to the airy halls of their fathers : but the dark in soul, to use the expression of the poet, were spurned away from the habitation of heroes, to wander oa ail the winds. Another opinion which prevailed in those times, tended not a little to make individuzls emulous to excel one another in martial achievements. It was thought, that in the hall of clouds, every one had a seat, raised above others, in proportios 23 he excelled them in valour when he lived.

There are som- gtones still to be seen in the north, which were erected as memori. als of some remarkable transactions between the ancient chiefs. There are generally found beneath them some piece of arms, and a bit of half burnt wood. The cause af lacing the last there, is not mentioned in tradition.

ards of Morven poured its wreaths on the wind, to mark the way of Ferad-artho from his secret vale. Bright, from his parted west, the sun of heaven looked abroad. The hero saw his people, and heard their shouts of joy. In broken ridges round, they glittered to the beam. The king rejoiced as a hunter in his own green vale, when, after the storm is rolled away, he sees the gleaming sides of the rocks. The green thorn shakes its head in their face; from their top look, forward the roes.

Greys, at his mossy cave, is bent the aged form of Clonmal. The eyes of the bard had failed. He leaned forward, on his staff. Bright in her locks, before him, Sul-malla listened to the tale; the tale of the kings of Atha, in the days of old. The noise of battle had ceased in his ear: he stopt, and raised the secret sigh. The spirits of the dead, they said, often lightened over his soul. He saw the king of Atha low, beneath his bending tree.

“ Why art thou dark ?" said the maid. " The strife of arms is past. Soon shall he come to thy cave, over thy winding strears. The sun looks from the rocks of the west. The mists of the lake arise. Grey, they spread on that hill, the rushy dwelling of roes. From the mist shall my king appear! Behold, he comes, in his arms. Come to the cave of Clonmal, O my best beloved!”

It was the spirit of Cathmor, stalking, large, a gleaming form. He sunk by the hollow stream, that roared between the hills. " It was but the hunter,” she said, “ who searches for the bed of the roe. His steps are pot forth to war; his spouse expects him with night. He shall, whistling, return, with the spoils of the dark

The erecting of his standard on the banks of Lubar, was the signal which Fingal,

in the beginning of the book promised, to give to the chiefs, who went to conduct Feradeartho to the army, should he himself prevail in battle. This standard here, (and in every other part of Ossian's poems, where it is inentioned) is called the sunbeain. The reason of this appellation is given, inore than once, in notes preceding.

The poct changes the scene to the valley of Lopa, whither Sul-malla had been sent, by Cathmor, before the battle. Clonmal, an age bard, or rather druid, as he seems here to be endued with a pre-science of events, had long dwelt there, in a cave. This scene is awful and solemn, and calculated to throw a melancholy gloom over the mind.

b Cathmor had promised, in the seventh book, to come to the cave of Clonmal, after the battle was over,

brown hinds.” Her eyes are turned to the hill; again the stately form came down. She rose in the midst of joy. He retired in mist. Gradual vanish his limbs of smoke, and mix with the mountain-wind. Then she knew that he fell ! " King of Erin art thou low !" Let Ossian forget her grief; it wastes the soul of age is

Evening came down on Moi-lena. Grey rolled the streams of the land. Loud came forth the voice of Fingal: the beam of oaks arose, the people gathered round with gladness; with gladness blended with shades. They side-long looked to the king and beheld his unfinished joy. Pleasant, from the way of the desart, the voice of music came. It seemed, at first, the noise of a stream, far distant on its rocks. Slow it rolled along the hill like the ruffed wing of a breeze, when it takes the tufted beard of the rocks, in the still season of night. It was the voice of Conidan, mixed with Carril's trenbling harp. They came with blue-eyed Ferad-artho, to Mora of the streams.

Sudden bursts the song from our bards, on Lena: the host struck their shields midst the sound. Gladness rose brightening on the king, like the beam of a cloudy day, when it rises on the green hill, before the roar of winds. He struck the bossy shield of kings ; at once they cease around. The people lean forward, from their spears, towards the voice of their land k.

i Tradition relates, that Ossian, the next day after the decisive battle between Fingal and Cathmor, went to find out Sul-malla in the valley of Lona. His address to her, which is still preserved, I here lay before the reader.

" Awake, thou daughter of Con-mor, from the fern-skirted cavern of Los A. wake, thou sun-beam in desarts; warriors one day must fail. They move forth, lite terrible lights; but, often, their cloud is near. Go to the valley of streams, to the wandering of herds on Lumon; there dwells, in his lazy mist, the man of many days. But he is unknown, Sulemalla, like the thistle of the rocks of roes; it shakes its grey beard in the wind, and falls unseen of our eyes. Not such are the kings of inen, their departure is a meteor of fire, which pours its red course froin the đt sart, over the besom of night.

“ He is mixed with the warriors of old, those sires that have hid their heads. At times shall they come forth in sons. Not forgot has the warrior failed. He has not seen, Sul-malla, the fall of a beam of his owy: no fair-haired son, in his blood, your troubler of the field, I ain lonely, young branch of Lumon, I may hear the voice of the feeble, when my strength shall have failed in years, for young Cucar has cuased og his field.”

k Before I finish my notes, it may not be altoget ber improper to obviate an objection, which may be made to the credibility of the story of Temora, us related by Ossian. may be asked, whether it is pro able that Fingal could perform such actions as are scribed to him in this book, it an age when his grandson Oscar had acquired so muca reputation in arms. To this it may be answered, that Fingal was but very young, Boot IV. when he took to wife Ros-crana, who soon after became the mother of Osstan Qasian was also extremely young when he barried Ever-allin the mother of Gok

« PreviousContinue »