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ARGUMENT, Fingal in his voyage to Lochlin, whither he had been invited
by Starno the father of Agandecca, touched at Berrathon, an island of Scandinavia, where he was kindly entertained by Larthmor the petty king of the place, who was a vassal of the supreme kings of Lochlin. The hospitality of Larthmor gained him Fingal's friendship, which that hero manifested, after the imprisonment of Larthmor by his own son, by sending Ossian and Toscar, the father of Malvina, so often mentioned, to rescue Larthmor, and to punish the unnatural behaviour of Uthal. Uthal was handsome, and, by the ladies, much admired. Nina-thoma, the beautiful daughter of Torthoma, a neighbouring prince, fell in love and fled with him. He proved unconstant! for another lady, whose name is not mentioned, gaining his affections, he confined Nina-thoma to a desert island near the coast of Berrathon. She was relieved by Ossian, who, in company with Toscar, landing on Berrathon, defeated the forces of Uthal, and killed him in a single combat. Nina-thoma, whose love not all the bad behaviour of Uthal couid erase, hearing of his death, died of grief. In the mean time Larthmor is restored, and Ossian and Toscar return in triumph to Fingal.
The poem opens with an elegy on the death of Malvina the daughter of Toscar, and closes with presages of Ossian's death.
Bend thy blue course, O) stream! round the narrow plain of * Lutha. Let the green woods hang over it, from their hills: the sun look on it at noon,
* Lutha, swift stream.
The thistle is there on its rock, and shakes its beard to the wind. The flower hangs its heavy head, waving, at times, to the gale. “Why dost thou awake me, O gale !” it seems to say, “I am covered with the drops of heaven? The time of my fading is near, the blast that shall scatter my leaves. To-morrow shall the traveller come; he that saw me in my beauty shall come. His eyes will search the field, but they will not find me.” So shall they search in vain, for the voice of Cona, after it has failed in the field. The hunter shall come forth in the morning, and the voice of my harp shall not be heard. “ Where is the son of car-borne Fingal ?” The tear will be on his check! Tlien come tlou, O Malvina, with all thy music, come! Lay Ossian in the plain of Lutha : let his tomb rise in the lovely field.
Malvina! where art thou, with thy songs, with the soft sound of thy steps ? Son* of Alpin art thou near? where is the daughter of Toscar? “ I passed, O son of Fingal, by Tor-lutha's mossy walls. The smoke of the hall was ceased. Silence was among the trees of the hill. The voice of the chace was over. I saw the daughters of the bow. I asked about Malvina, but they answered not. They turned their faces away : thin darkness covered their beauty. They were like stars, on a rainy hill, by night, each looking faintly through her mist.”
* His father was one of Fingal's principal bards, and he had a poetical genius.
Pleasant * be thy rest, O lovely beam ! soon hast thou set on our hills! The steps of thy departure were stately, like the moon on the blue, trembling wave. But thou hast left us in darkness, first of the maids of Lutha! We sit, at the rock, and there is no voice; no light but the meteor of fire ! Soon hast thou set, O Malvina, daughter of generous Toscar ! But thou risest like the beam of the east, among the spirits of thy friends, where they sit, in their stormy halls, the chambers of the thunder ! A cloud hovers over Cona. Its blue curling sides are high. The winds are beneath it, with their wings. Within it is, the dwelling + of Fingal. There the hero sits in darkness. His airy spear is in his hand. His shield, half covered with clouds, is like the darkened moon ; when one half still remains in the wave, and the other looks sickly on the field !
His friends sit around the king, on mist! They hear the songs of Ullin : he strikes the half-viewless harp. He raises the feeble voice. The lesser heroes, with a thousand meteors, light the airy hall. Malvina rises, in the midst; a blush is on her cheek.
* Ossian speaks. He calls Malvina a beam of light, and continues the metaphor throughout the paragraph.
+ The description of this ideal palace of Fingal is agreeable to the notions of those times, concerning the state of the deceased, who were supposed to pursue, after death, the pleasures and employments of their former life. The situation of the Celtic heroes, in their separate state, if not entirely happy, is more agreeable, than the notions of the antient Greeks concerning their departed heroes.
She beholds the unknown faces of her fathers. She turns aside her humid eyes. “ Art thou come so soon?” said Fingal, “ daughter of generous Toscar. Sadness dwells in the halls of Lutha. My aged son * is sad! I hear the breeze of Cona, that was wont to lift thy heavy locks. It comes to the hall, but thou art not there. Its voice is mournful among the arms of thy fathers ! Go, with thy rustling wing, O breeze! sigh on Malvina's tomb. It rises yonder beneath the rock, at the blue stream of Lutha. The maids + are departed to their place. Thou alone, O breeze, mournest there !"
But who comes from the dusky west, supported on a cloud ? A smile is on his grey, watery face. His locks of mist fly on wind. He bends forward on his airy spear. It is thy father, Malvina ! “Why shinest thou, so soon, on our clouds,” he says, “ O lovely light of Lutha! But thou wert sad, my daughter. Thy friends had passed away. The sons of little men & were in the hall. None remained of the heroes, but Ossian king of spears !"
. * Ossian; who had a great friendship for Malvina, Loth on account of her love for his son Oscar, and her attention to himself.
of That is, the young virgins who sung the funeral elegy over her tomb.
I Tradition is entirely silent concerning what passed in the north, immediately after the death of Fingal and all his heroes ; by which it would seem that the actions of their successors were not to be compared to those of the renowned Fingalians,