Page images

grief of his soul. He afterwards shone in the south ; but dim as the sun of Autumn ; when he visits, in his robes of mist, Lara of dark streams. The withered grass is covered with dew : the field, though bright, is sad !"

“ Why wakes the bard before me,” said Cathmor, « the memory of those who fled ? Has some ghost, from his dusky cloud, bent forward to thine ear ; to frighten Cathmor from the field, with the tales of old ? Dwellers of the skirts of night, your voice is but a blast to me; which takes the grey thistle's head, and strews its beard on streams. Within my bosom is a voice. Others hear it not. His soul forbids the king of Erin to shrink back from war."

Abashed the bard sinks back in night : retired he bends above a stream. His thoughts are on the days of Atha, when Cathmor heard his song with joy. His tears come rolling down. The winds are in his beard. Erin sleeps around. No sleep comes down con Cathmor's eyes. Dark, in his soul, he saw the spirit of low-laid Cairbar. He saw him, without his song, rolled in a blast of night. He rose. His steps were round the host. He struck, at times, his echoing shield. The sound reached Ossian's ear, on Mora's mossy brow.

“ Fillan,” I said, “ the foes advance. I hear the fate was shadowed out, in that of his ancestor Crothar. The attitude of the bard, after the reprimand of his patron, is picturesque and affecting. We admire the speech of Cathmor, but lament the effect it has on the feeling soul of the good old poet.

shield of war. Stand thou in the narrow path. Os. șian shall mark their course. If over my fall the host should pour ; then be thy buckler heard. Awake the king on his heath, lest his fame should fly away." I strode in all my rattling arms; wide-bounding over a stream that darkly-winded, in a field, before the king of Atha. Green Atha's king, with lifted spear, came forward on my course. Now would we have mixed in horrid fray, like two contending ghosts, that bending forward, from two clouds, send forth the roaring winds ; did not Ossian behold, on high, the helmet of Erin's kings. The eagle's wing spread above it, rustling in the breeze. A red star looked thro' the plumes. I stopt the lifted spear.

“ The helmet of kings is before me! Who art thou, son of night ? Shall Ossian's spear be renowned, when thou art lowly-laid ? At once he dropt the gleaming lance. Growing before me seemed the form. He stretched his hand in night. He spoke the words of kings.

“ Friend of the spirits of heroes, do I meet thee thus in shades ? I have wished for thy stately steps in Atha, in the days of joy. Why should my spear now arise? The sun must behold us, Ossian, when we bend, gleaming, in the strife. Future warriors shall mark the place : and, shuddering, think of other years. They shall mark it, like the haunt of ghosts, pleasant and dreadful to the soul.”

“ Shall it then be forgot,” I said, “ where we meet in peace? Is the remembrance of battles always pleasant to the soul ? Do not we behold, with joy, the place where our fathers feasted ? But our eyes are full of tears, on the fields of their war. This stone shall rise, with all its moss, and speak to other years. “Here Cathmor and Ossian met : the warriors met in peace !” When thou, O stone, shalt fail. When Lubar's stream shall roll away! theni shall the traveller come, and bend here, perhaps, in rest. When the darkened moon is rolled over his head, our shadowy forms may come, and, mixing with his dreams, remind him of this place. But why turnest thou so dark away, son of Borbar-du-thul ?”*

“Not forgot, son of Fingal, shall we ascend these winds. Our deeds are streams of light, before the eyes of bards. But darkness is rolled on A tha : the king is low, without his song : still there was a beam towards Cathmor from his stormy soul ; like the moon, in a cloud, amidst the dark-red course of thunder.”

" Son of Erin,” I replied, “my wrath dwells not in his earth.f My hatred flies, on eagle-wing, from

* Borbar-duthul, the surly warrior of the dark-brown eyes. That his name suited well with his character, we may easily conceive, from the story delivered concerning him, by Malthos, toward the end of the sixth book. He was the brother of that Colculla, who is mentioned in the episode which begins the fourth book.

t This reply abounds with the sentiments of a noble mind. Though, of all men living, he was the most injured by Cairbar, yet he lays aside his rage as the foe was low. How different is this from the behaviour of the heroes of other ancient poems? Cynthius aurem vellit.

the foe that is low. He shall hear the song of bards. Cairbar shall rejoice on his winds.”

Cathmor's swelling soul arose. He took the dagger from his side ; and placed it gleaming in my hand. He placed it, in my hand, with sighs, and, silent, strode away. Mine eyes followed his departure. He dimly gleamed, like the form of a ghost, which meets a traveller, by night, on the dark-skirted heath. His words are dark like songs of old : with morning strides the unfinished shade away!

* Who comes from Lubar's vale ? From the skirts of the morning mist? The drops of heaven are on his head. His steps are in the paths of the sad. It is Carril of other times. He comes from Tura's silent cave. I behold it dark in the rock, thro’ the thin folds of mist. There, perhaps, Cuthullin sits, on the blast which bends its trees. Pleasant is the song of the morning from the bard of Erin!

“ The waves crowd away,” said Carril. “ They crowd away for fear. They hear the sound of thy coming forth, O sun ! Terrible is thy beauty, son of heaven, when death is descending on thy locks : when thou rollest thy vapours before thee, over the

: * The morning of the second day, from the opening of the poem comes on. After the death of Cuthullin, Carril, the son of Kinfena, his bard, retired to the cave of Tura, which was in the neighbourhood of Moi-lena, the scene of the poem of Te. mora. His casual appearance here enables Ossian to fulfil immediately the promise he had made to Cathmor, of causing the funeral song to be pronounced over the tomb of Cairbair. This book takes up only the space of a few hours.


blasted host. But pleasant is thy beam to the hunter, sitting by the rock in a storm, when thoa shewest thyself from the parted cloud, and brightenest his dewy locks : he looks down on the streamy vale, and beholds the descent of roes! How long shalt thou rise on war, and roll, a bloody shield, thro' heaven? I see the death of heroes, dark-wandering over thy face !"

“ Why wander the words of Carril ?” I said. “ Does the son of heaven mourn? He is unstained in his course, ever rejoicing in his fire. Roll on, thou careless light. Thou too, perhaps, must fall. Thy darkening hour may seize thee, struggling, as thou rollest through thy sky. But pleasant is the voice of the bard : pleasant to Ossian's soul! It is like the shower of the morning, when it comes thro' the rustling vale, on which the sun looks thro' mist, just rising from his rocks. But this is no time, O bard ! to sit down, at the strife of song. Fingal is in arms on the vale. Thou seest the faming shield of the king. His face darkens between his locks. He beholds the wide rolling of Erin. Does not Carril behold that tomb, beside the roaring stream ? Three stones lift their grey heads, beneath a bending oak. A king is lowly laid ! Give thou his soul to the wind. He is the brother of Cathmor! Open his airy hall ! Let thy song be a stream of joy to Cairbar's darkened ghost !”

« PreviousContinue »