Page images
PDF

the voices of squally winds. Hills are clothed, at timess in fire. Thunder rolls in wreaths of mist. Id darkness shrunk the foe: Morven's warriors stood aghast. 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 son looked forth from his cloud. The hundred 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 joy.

"Yields the race of Borbar-duthul? Or still does he lift the spear? Not nnheard is thy name, in Seima, 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 * 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 silent, king of Atha of strangers."

a Fingal and Cathmor. The condoct of the port in this pas.arc is remarks!!?. It* nomerous descriptions of single combats had already exhausted the soblect. KotblaC news or adequate to our high idea of the kingss could be said. Ossians thcretorcI throws a coiomn of mist over the wholes and leaves the combat to the tmannstiMi 0* the reader. Poets have almost noiversally failed in their descriptioor of this w-rt. Nol all the strength of Homer could sostain with dignitys the minotise of a sisusircoii. bat. The throwing of a spears and the owing of ashieWs as some of our own I most elegantly express its convey no grand ideas. Our imagination stretthes I

and consequentlys despises the description. It were therefores well for some ports, is my opinions !though it iss perhapss somewhat singular) to haves sometimess like iiissiis thrown mist over their single combats.

b Fingal is very moch celebrateds in traditions for his knowledge in the virtoes ef herbs. The Irish poems concerning hims often represent hims luring the wound which his chiefs receive)! ia tattle. They fable coricvrL.tig hims that he was in posxssifn of a enp, containing the essence of herbs, which Instantaneously hea'ed wounds. The knowledge of curing the wounded, war, till of late, universal among the Highlanders. We heir of no o'her disorder, which required the skill of physic. The wholesomness 0: the climate, and an active iv,e, si,ent in hunting, excluded dileases.

[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 till. 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 pursoes 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 meet 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 rescoed the feeble; the haughty found my rage was fire. Never, over the fallen, did mine eye rejoice.

c The hospitable disposition of Cathmor was unparalleled, no reflects, with pleasore, ,ven in his last moments, on the relief he had afforded tostrangera. The very tread of their feet was plea-ant in ids ear. His hospitality was nnt passed unnoticed by socceeding bards; for, with them, it became a proverb, when thry described the hospitable disposition of a hero, th;:t he was like Cathmor of Atha, the friend of strangers. It will seem st: ange, that, in all the Irish traditions, there is no mention made of Cathmor. -l his rniot be attributed to the revolutions and domestic confusions that happened in that island, and utterly cot oli ad the real traditions concerning so ancient a period. All that we have related of the sta'e of Ireland before the fifth centhry, Is of late invenwn, and the work of ill-informed sennchies, and injudicious bards.

[ocr errors]

For this'my fathers shall meet me, at the gates of their airy iialls, tall, with robes of light, with mildly-kindled eyes. But, to the proud in arms, tliey are darkened moons in heaven, which send the fire of night, red-wandering over their face.

"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' thrm art now but a blast."

H: 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, awhilss he bends: his wordss at length, came forth.

'• When thous 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 Fitigal resigned his spear, after the last of his fields. Pass awav. thou empty shade; in thy voice there is no renown. Thou dwellest by some peaceful stream; yet a few vears and thou art gone. No one remembers thees 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 Lubarss 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 Stand's we »ee from this passages that even in !he times of Ossians ands conseqoentlysbefore the introduction of Christianitys they had sonic idea of rewards and i,oiwaraents after death. Those who behaveds in lifes with bravery and virtues were received with loys to the airy halls of their fathers : but the dark in souls to use the r Ipii niiia of the poets were sporned awav frooi the hahitation of heroess to wander oei all the winds. Another opinion which urerailed in those timess tended not a little to make Ihdrvldtrali emolous Io excel oec another in martial achievements. H wai thooetts that in the hall of rloudss every one had a seats raised above otherss in proportkm ss he excelled them in valour when he lived.

e There are somi stones still to be seen in the norths which were erected as nemori. als of some remarkable transactions between Ihe ancient chiefs. There are rrecrafiT ound beneath them some piece of armss anil a hit of half burnt wood. The cauM at acing the last theres is not mentioned in tradition.

ard'of Morven poured its wreaths on the wind, to mark the way of Fcrad-artho from his secret vale. Bright, from his parted west, the son 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.

Grey *, 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 oi old. The noise of battle had ceased in his ear: he stopt, and iaised 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. Sooneshall he come to thy cave, over thy winding streams. The son looks from the rocks of the west. The mists of the lake anse. 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, larges a gleaming form. He sank 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 not forth to war; his spouse expects him with night. He shall, whistlings returns with the spoils of the darkbrown hinds." Her eyes are turned to the hill; ngain 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 !" 4irt Ossian forget her grief; it wastes the soul of age i.

/ The erecting of his standard on the banks of Lubars was the signal which Finf ats in the beginning of the bonk promiseds to ^ive to the chiefss who went to conduct Feml-arthoto the armys should ho himself prevail in battle. This standard here, . and in every other rnirt of Us -ian's po'tms where it is mentioned) is called the sonbeam. The reason of liiis appellation is givens more than oace, in notes preceding.

r The poet changes the scene to the valleyol T.ouas whither Sul-malla had been sents by Cathmors before the battle. Clonmals an ared bards or rather droids as he seems iiere to be endued with a pre-sctence of eventss had long dwelt theres in a cave. Thlssceneis awful and solemn, and calculated to throw a melancholy gloom over the raiml.

t' Cathmor had promiseds in the seventh books to come to the cav^ of Clonmals after the battle was over.

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 ruffled wing of a breeze, when it takes the tufted beard of the rocks, in the still season of night. It was the voice of Condans mixed with Carril's trembling harp. They came with blue-eyed Ferad-arthos 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 *.

1 Tradition relatess that Ossians the next day after the decisive battle betsreea Fk€gal and Cathmors went to find out Sul-malla in the valley of Lena. His address to hers which ts still preserveds I here lay before the reader.

"Awakes thou daughter of Con-mors from tiie fern-skirted cavern of Lena. Awakes thou son-beam in desarts; warriors one day most fail. They move fortss like terrible lights; hots oftens their cloud is near. Go to the valley of streamss to r*e wandering of herds on Lomnn; there dwellss in his lazy mists the man of many days. But he is noknowns .SuUntallas like the thistle of the nicks of roes; it shakes its grey beard in the winds ami falls unseen of our eyes. Not soch are tho kings at mens their departure is a meteor of tires which pours its red coorse from the de sarts oieT the bosom of night.

li He is mixed with the warriors of olds those sires tint have hid their heads. A1 times shall they come forth in song. Nut forgot has the warrior failed. lie has ant seens sul-mallas the fall of abeam of his own : no fair-haired sons in his bloods youw troutiler of the held. 1 am lonelys young branch of Lomons 1 may hear the viuce of the feebles when my strength shall haye failed in yearss for yooua o-.sr has coosed 01 his field."'

i Before I finish my notess it may not be altugether improper to obviKle an obleetiots which maybe made to the credihility of the story of Temoras as related by Ossiose U may he askeds whither it is pro iahie that Fingsl could perfwrni soch actions as are scribed to him in this books i.t an a;', wm n his erntulson Oscar had at soited so mock rvi.uM'iciii-i arnis.l To this it may l^e answereds that Fingal was but very youngs' Boot IV. when he took to wife Ros-cranas who soon after became the mother ul Cliias Oasnn was also txtrcmely young when he r.rairivf eiver-allin the iuoti-ei -t t -

« PreviousContinue »