Page images

known," I said, "at his streams is he, the father of our race. Fingal has been heard of at Cluba, blueeyed daughter of kings. Nor only, at Cona's stream, is Ossian and Oscar known. Foes trembled at our voice, and shrunk in other lands."

"Not unmarked," said the maid, " by Sul-malla, is the shield of Morven's king. It hangs high, in my father's hall, in memory of the past; when Fingal came to Cluba, in the days of other years. Loud roared the boar of Culdarnu, in the midst of his rocks and woods. Inis-huna sent her youths, but they failed; and virgins wept over tombs. Careless went Fingal to Culdarnu. On his spear rolled the strength of the woods. He was bright, they said, in his locks, the first of mortal men. Nor at the feast were heard his words. His deeds passed from his soul of fire, like the rolling of vapours from the face of the wandering sun. Not careless looked the blue eyes of Cluba on his stately steps. In white bosoms rose the king of Selma, in the midst of their thoughts by night. But the winds bore the stranger to the echoing vales of his roes. Nor lost to other lands was he,

ment to intermarry with the vulgar: and no low notions of interest made them deviate from their choice, in their own sphere. In states, where luxury has been long established, beauty of person is, by no means, the characteristic of antiquity of family. This must be attributed to those enervating vices, which are inseparable from luxury and wealth. A great family (to alter a little the words of the historian), it is true, like a river, becomes considerable from the length of its course, but, as it rolls on, hereditary distempers, as well as property, flow successively into iu

like a meteor that sinks in a cloud. He came forth, at times, in his brightness, to the distant dwelling of foes. His fame came, like the sound of winds, to Cluba's woody vale."*

Darkness dwells in Cluba of harps: the race of kings is distant far; in battle is my father Conmor: and Lormar f my, brother king of streams. Nor darkening alone are they; a beam from other lands, is nigh; the friend of strangers J in Atha, the troubler

* Too partial to our own times, we are ready to mark out remote antiquity, as the region of ignorance and barbarism. This, perhaps, is extending our prejudices too far. It has been long remarked, that knowledge, in a great measure, is founded on a free intercourse between mankind; and that the mind is enlarged in proportion to the observations it has made upon the manners of different men and nations. If we look, with attention, into the history of Fingal, as delivered by Ossian, we shall find that he was not altogether a poor ignorant hunter, confined to the narrow corner of an island. His expeditions to all parts of Scandinavia, to the north of Germany, and the different states of Great Britain and Ireland, were very numerous, and performed under such a character, and at such times, as gave him an opportunity to mark the undisguised manners of mankind. War and an active life, as they call forth, by turns, all the powers of the soul, present to us the different characters of men: in times of peace and quiet, for want of objects to exert them, the powers of the mind lie concealed, in a great measure, and we see only artificial passions and manners. It is from this consideration I conclude, that a traveller of penetration could gather more genuine knowledge from a tour of ancient Gaul, than from the minutest observation of all the artificial manners, and elegant refinements of modern France.

t Lormar was the son of Conmor, and the brother of Sulmalla. After the death of Conmor, Lormar succeeded him in the throne.

X Cathmor, the son of Borbar-duthul. It would appear, from the partiality with which Sul-malla speaks of that hero, of the field. High, from their misty hills, look forth the blue eyes of Erin; for he is far away, young dweller of their souls! Nor, harmless, white hands of Erin! is Cathmor in the skirts of war; he rolls ten thousand before him, in his distant field."

"Not unseen by Ossian," I said, " rushed Cathmor from his streams, when he poured his strength on I-thorno,* isle of many waves! In strife met two kings in I-thorno, Culgorm and Suran-dronlo: each from his echoing isle, stern hunters of the boar!"

"They met a boar, at a foamy stream: each pierced him with his spear. They strove for the fame of the deed; and gloomy battle rose. Erom isle to isle they sent a spear, broken and stained with blood, to call the friends of their fathers, in their sounding arms. Cathmor came, from Erin, to Culgorm, red-eyed king: I aided Suran-dronlo, in his land of boars."

"We rushed on either side of a stream, which

roared thro' a blasted heath. High broken rocks were

round, with all their bending trees. Near were two

circles of Loda, with the stone of power; where spi

that she had seen him, previous to his joining her father's army; though tradition positively asserts, that it was, after his return, that she fell in love with him.

* I-thorno, says tradition, was an island of Scandinavia. In it, at a hunting party, met Culgorm and Suran-dronlo, the kings of two neighbouring isles. They differed about the honour of killing a boar; and a war was kindled between them. From this episode we may learn, that the manners of the Scandinavians were much more savage and cruel, than those of Britain. It is remarkable, that the names, introduced in this story, are not of Galic original, which circumstance affords room to suppose, that it had its foundation in true history.

rits descended, by night, in dark-red streams of fire. There, mixed with the murmur of waters, rose the voice of aged men, they called the forms of night, to aid them in their war."

"^Heedless I stood, with my people, where fell the foamy stream from rocks. The moon moved red from the mountain. My song, at times arose. Dark, on the other side, young Cathmor heard my voice; for he lay, beneath the oak, in all his gleaming arms. Morning came; we rushed to fight: from wing to wing is the rolling of strife. They fell, like the thistle's head, beneath autumnal winds."

"In armour came a stately form: I mixed my strokes with the chief. By turns our shields are pierced: loud rung our steely mails. His helmet fell to the ground. In brightness shone the foe. His eyes, two pleasant flames, rolled between his wandering locks. I knew Cathmor of Atha, and threw my spear on earth. Dark, we turned, and silent passed to mix with other foes."

Not so passed the striving kingsf. They mixed in

* From the circumstance of Ossian not being present at the rites, described in the preceding paragraph, we may suppose that he held them in contempt. This difference of sentiment, with regard to religion, is a sort of argument, that the Caledonians were not originally a colony of Scandinavians, as some have imagined. Concerning so remote a period, mere conjecture must supply the place of argument and positive proofs.

f Culgorm and Suran-dronlo. The combat of the kings and their attitude in death are highly picturesque, and expressive of that ferocity of manners, which distinguished the northern nations.

echoing fray: like the meeting of ghosts, in the dark wing of winds. Thro' either breast rushed the spears; nor yet lay the foes on earth! A rock received their fall; half-reclined they lay in death. Each held the lock of his foe; each grimly seemed to roll his eyes. The stream of the rock leapt on their shields, and mixed below with blood.

"The battle ceased in I-thorno. The strangers met in peace: Cathmor from Atha of streams, and Ossian, king of harps. We placed the dead in earth. Our steps were by Runar's bay. With the bounding boat, afar, advanced a ridgy wave. Dark was the rider of seas, but a beam of light was there, like the ray of the sun, in Stromlo's rolling smoke. It was the daughter * of Suran-dronlo, wild in brightened

* Tradition has handed down the name of this princess. The bards call her Runo-forlo, which has no other sort of title for being genuine, but its not being of Galic original; a distinction, which the bards had not the art to preserve, when they feigned names for foreigners. The highland senachies, who very often endeavoured to supply the deficiency, they thought they found in the tales of Ossian, have given us the continuation of the story of the daughter of Suran-dronlo. The catastrophe is so unnatural, and the circumstances of it so ridiculously pompous, that, for the sake of the inventors, 1 shall conceal them.

The wildly beautiful appearance of Runo-forlo, made a deep impression on a chief, some ages ago, who was himseif no contemptible poet. The story is romantic, but not incredible, if we make allowances for the lively imagination of a man of genius. Our chief sailing, in a storm, along one of the islands of Orkney, saw a woman, in a boat, near the shore, whom he thought, as he expresses it himself, as beautiful as a sudden ray of the sun, on the dark-heaving deep. The verses of Ossian, on the attitude of Runo-forlo, which was so similar to that of the woman in the boat, wiought so much on his fancy, that he fell desperately in love. The winds, however, drove him

« PreviousContinue »