Page images
PDF

" King of Morven,” replied the chief, " I remember thy father with joy. He was terrible in battle; the rage of the chief was deadly. My eyes were full of tears, when the king of heroes fell. The valiant fall, O Fingal, and the feeble remains on the hills. How many heroes have passed away, in the days of Morni! And I did not shun the battle; neither did I fly from the strife of the valiant. Now let the friends of Fingal rest; for the night is around; that they may rise, with strength, to battle against car borne Lathmon. I hear the sound of his host, like thunder heard on a distant heath. Ossian! and fair-haired Gaul! ye are swift in the race. Observe the foes of Fingal from that woody hill. But approach them not; your fathers are not near to shield you. Let not your fame fall at once. The valour of youth may fail."

We heard the words of the chief with joy, and moved in the clang of our arms. Our steps are in the woody hill. Heaven burns with all its stars. The meteors of death fly over the field. The distant noise of the foe reached our ears. It was then Gaul spoke, in his valour; his hand half-unsheathed the sword.

“ Son of Fingal,” he said, “ why burns the soul of Gaul? my heart beats high. My steps are disordered; and my hand trembles on my sword. When I look towards the foe, my soul lightens before me, and I see their sleeping host. Tremble thus the souls of the valiant in battles of the spear? How would the soul of Morni rise if we should rush on the foe! Our renown would grow in the song; and our steps be stately in the eyes of the brave.”

“ Son of Morni,” I replied, “ my soul delights in battle. I delight to shine in battle alone, and to give my name to the bards. But what if the soe shall prevail; shall I behold the eyes of the king? They are terrible in his displeasure, and like the flames of death. But I will not behold them in his wrath, Ossian shall prevail or fall. But shall the fame of the vanquished rise! They pass away like a shadow. But the fame of Ossian shall rise. His deeds shall be like his fathers. Let us rush in our arms, son of Morni; let us rush to battle. Gaul! if thou shalt return, go to Selma's lofty wall. Tell to Everallin that I fell with fame ; carry this sword to Branno's daughter. Let her give it to Oscar, when the years of his youth shall arise.”

“Son of Fingal,” Gaul replied with a sigh ; " shall I return after Ossian is low! What would my father say, and Fingal, king of men? The feeble would turn their eyes and say, Behold the mighty Gaul who left his friend in his blood! Ye shall not behold me, ye feeble, but in the midst of my renown. Ossian! I have heard from my father the mighty deeds of heroes; their mighty deeds when alone ; for the soul increases in danger.'

“Son of Morni,” I replied, and strode before him on the heath; “ our fathers shall praise our valour, when they mourn our fall. A beam of gladness shall rise on their souls, when their eyes are full of tears. They will say, Our sons have not fallen like the grass of the field, for they spread death around them. But why should we think of the narrow house? The sword defends the valiant. But death pursues the flight of the feeble; and their renown is not heard."

We rushed forward through night; and came to the roar of a stream which bent its blue course round the foe, through trees that echoed to its noise; we came to the bank of the stream, and saw the sleeping host. Their fires were decayed on the plain : and the lonely steps of their scouts were distant far. I stretched my spear before me to support my steps over the streams. But Gaul took my hand, and spoke the words of the valiant.

6 Shall the son of Fingal rush on a sleeping foe? Shall he come like a blast by night, when it overturns the young trees in secret? Fingal did not thus receive his fame, nor dwells renown on the grey hairs of Morni, for actions like these. Strike, Ossian,'strike the shield of battle, and let their thousands rise. Let them meet Gaul in his first battle, that he may try the strength of his arm."

My soul rejoiced over the warrior, and my bursting tears descended. " And the foe shall meet Gaul," I said : “ the fame of Morni's son shall arise. But rush not too far, my hero : let the gleam of thy steel be near to Ossian. Let our hands join in slaughter. Gaul! dost thou not behold that rock? Its grey side dimly gleams to the stars. If the foe shall prevail, let our back be towards the rock. Then shall they fear to ap. proach our spears : for death is in our hands."

I struck thrice my echoing shield. The starting foe arose. We rushed on in the sound of our arms. Their crowded steps fly over the heath; for they thought that the mighty Fingal came ; and the strength of their arms withered away. The sound of their flight was like that of flame, when it rushes through the blasted groves. It was then the spear of Gaul flew in its strength: it was then the sword arose. Cremor fell, and mighty Leth. Dunthormo struggled in his blood. The steel rushed through Crotha's side, as bent, he rose on his spear; the black stream poured from the wound, and hissed on the half-extinguished oak, Cathmin saw the steps of the hero behind him, and ascended a blasted tree ; but the spear pierced him from behind. Shrieking, panting, he fell; moss and withered branches pursue his fall, and strew the blue arms of Gaul.

Such were thy deeds, son of Morni, in the first of thy battles. Nor slept thy sword by thy side, thou last of Fingal's race! Ossian rushed forward in his strength, and the people fell before him; as the grass by the staff of the boy, when he whistles along the field, and the grey beard of the thistle falls. But careless the youth moves on; his steps are towards the desart.

Grey morning rose around us; the winding streams are bright along the heath. The foe gathered on a hill, and the rage of Lathmon rose. He bent the red eye of his wrath: he is silent in his rising grief. He often struck his bossy shield; and his steps are unequal on the heath. I saw the distant darkness of the hero, and I spoke to Morni's son.

i Car-bornes chief of Strumon, dost thou behold the foe? They gather on the hill in their wrath, let our steps be towards the king. He shall arise in his strength, and the host of Lathmon vanish. Our fame is around us, warrior, the eyes of the agedi will rejoice. But let us fly, son of Morni, Lathmon descends the hill.” “ Then let our steps be slow," replied the fair-haired Gaul; “ lest the foe say with a smile, Behoid the warriors of night, they are like ghosts, terrible in darkness, but they melt away before the beam of the east. Ossian, take the shield of Gormar who fell beneath thy spear, that the aged heroes may rejoice, when they shall behold the actions of their sons."

Such wert our words on the plain, when Sulmath came to car-borne Lathmon : Sulmath, chief of Dutha, at the dark-rolling stream of Duvranna'. “Why dost thou not rush, son of Nuath, with a thousand of thy heroes? Why dost thou not descend with thy host before the warriors fly? Their blue arms are beaming to the rising light, and their steps are before us on the heath."

" Son of the feeble hand,” said Lathmon, “ shall my host descend? They are but two, son of Dutha, and shall a thousand lift their steel ? Nuath would mourn, in his hall, for the departure of his fame. His eyes would turn from Lathmon, when the tread of his feet approached. Go thou to the heroes, chief of Dutha, for I behold the stately steps of Ossian. His fame is worthy of my steel ; let him fight with Lathmon.”

The noble Sulmath came. I rejoiced in the words of the king. I raised the shield on my arm; and Gaul placed in my hand the sword of Morni. We returned to the murmuring stream; Lathmon came in his strength. His dark host rolled, like the clouds, behind him: but the son of Nuatb was bright in his steel.

Car-borne is a title of honour bestowed by Ossian, indiscriminately, on every hero; as every chief, in his time, kept a chariot or litter by way of state.

i Fingal and Morni. Suil-mhath,' a man of good eye-sight.'

b Fingal.

Dubb-bhranna, dark mountain-streain.' What river went by this name, in the days of Ossian, is not easily ascertained, at this distance of time. A river in Scotland, which falls into the sea at Banir, still retains the name of Duvran. If that is meant by Ossian in this passage, Lathmon must have been a prince of the Pictish nation, or those Caledonians who inhabited of old the eastern coast of Scotland.

“Son of Fingal,” said the hero, “ thy fame has grown on our fall. How many lie there of my people by thy hand, thou king of men! Lift now thy spear against Lathmon; and lay the son of Nuath low. Lay him low amongst his people, or thou thyself must fall. It shall never be told in my halls that my warriors fell in my presence ; that they fell in the presence of Lathmon, when his sword rested by kis side: the blue eyes of Cutham would roll in tears, and her steps be lonely in the vales of Dunlathmon.”

“ Neither shall it be told," I replied, “ that the son of Fingal fled. Were his steps covered with darkness, yet would not Ossian fly; his soul would meet him and say, Does the bard of Selma fear the foe? No: he does not fear the foe. His joy is in the midst of battle.

Lathmon came on with his spear, and pierced the shield of Ossian. I felt the cold steel at my side ; and drew the sword of Morni: I cut the spear in twain ; the bright point fell glittering to the ground. The son of Nuath burned in his wrath, and lifted high his sounding shield. His dark eyes 'rolled above it, as bending forward, it shone like a gate of brass. But Ossian's spear pierced the brightness of its bosses, and sunk in a tree that rose behind. The shield hung on the quivering lance! but Lathmon still advanced. Gaul foresaw the fall of the chief, and stretched his buckler before my sword; when it descended, in a stream of light, over the king of Dunlathmon.

Lathmon beheld the son of Morni, and the tear started from his eye. He threw the sword of his fathers on the ground, and spoke the words of the valiant. “Why should Lathmon fight against the first of mortal men? Your souls are beams from heaven ; your swords the Aames of death. Who can equal the renown of the heroes, whose actions are so great in youth? O that ye were in the halls of Nuath, in the green dwelling of Lathmon! then would my father say, that his son did not yield to the feeble. But who comes, a mighty stream, along the echoing heath? the little hills are

m Cutha appears to have been Lathmon's wife or mistress.

« PreviousContinue »