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being the brother of Agandecca, who had once saved his life, makes him dismiss him honorably. Homer, it is true, has filled up his story with a much greater variety of particulars than Ossian ; and in this has shown a compass of invention superior to that of the other poet. But it must not be forgotten that though Homer be more circumstantial, his incidents, however, are less diversified in kind than those of Ossian. War and bloodshed reign throughout the Iliad; and, notwithstanding all the fertility of Homer's invention, there is so much uniformity in his subjects, that there are few readers, who, before the close, are not tired with perpetual fighting. Whereas in Ossian, the mind is relieved by a more agreeable diversity. There is a finer mixture of war and heroism, with love and friend. ship—of martial, with tender scenes, than is to be met with, perhaps, in any other poet. The episodes, too, have great propriety—as natural, and proper to that age and country: consisting of the songs of bards, which are known to have been the great entertainment of the Celtic heroes in war, as well as in peace. These songs are not introduced at random; if you except the episode of Duchommar and Morna, in the first book, which, though beautiful, is more unartful than any of the rest, they have always some particular relation to the actor who is interested, or to the events which are going on; and, whilst they vary the scene, they preserve a sufficient connection with the main subject by the fitness and propriety of their introduction. As Fingal's love to Agandecca influences some cir
cumstances of the poem, particularly the honorable dismission of Swaran at the end; it was necessary that we should be let into this part of the hero's story. But as it lay without the compass of the present action, it could be regularly introduced nowhere except in an episode. Accordingly, the poet, with as much pro
priety as if Aristotle himself had dirécted the plan, has
building upon true history, has sufficiently adorned it with poetical fiction for aggrandizing his characters and facts, will not, I believe, be questioned by most readers. At the same time, the foundation which those facts and characters had in truth, and the share which the poet had himself in the transactions which he records, must be considered as no small advantage to his work. For truth makes an impression on the mind far beyond any fiction; and no man, let his imagination be ever so strong, relates any events so feelingly as those in which he has been interested; paints any scene so naturally as one which he has seen; or draws any characters in such strong colors as those which he has personally known. It is considered as an advantage of the epic subject to be taken from a period so distant, as, by being involved in the darkness of tradition, may give license to fable. Though Ossian's subject may at first view appear unfavorable in this respect, as being taken from his own times, yet, when we reflect that he lived to an extreme old age ; that he relates what had been transacted in another country, at the distance of many years, and after all that race of men who had been the actors were gone off the stage ; we shall find the objection in a great meas. ure obviated. In so rude an age, when no written records were known, when tradition was loose, and accuracy of any kind little attended to, what was great and heroic in one generation, easily ripened into the marvellous in the next. The natural representation of human character in an epic poem is highly essential to its merit; and, in respect of this, there can be no doubt of Homer's ex. celling all the heroic poets who have ever wrote. But though Ossian be much inferior to Homer in this arti cle, he will be found to be equal at least, if not supe. rior to Virgil; and has, indeed, given all the display of human nature, which the simple occurrences of his times could be expected to furnish. No dead uniformity of character prevails in Fingal; but, on the contrary, the principal characters are not only clearly dis.
tinguished, but sometimes artfully contrasted, so as to
illustrate each other. Ossian's heroes are like Homer's, all brave ; but their bravery, like those of Homer's too, is of different kinds. For instance : the prudent, the sedate, the modest and circumspect Connal, is finely opposed to the presumptuous, rash, overbearing, but gallant and generous Calmar. Calmar hurries Cu. thullin into action by his temerity ; and when he sees the bad effects of his counsels, he will not survive the disgrace. Connal, like another Ulysses, attends Cuthullin to his retreat, counsels and comforts him under his misfortune. The fierce, the proud, and the high. spirited Swaran, is admirably contrasted with the calm, the moderate, and generous Fingal. The character of Oscar is a favorite one throughout the whole poems. The amiable warmth of the young warrior; his eager impetuosity in the day of action; his passion for fame; his submission to his father; his tenderness for Malvina; are the strokes of a masterly pencil: the strokes are few ; but it is the hand of nature, and attracts the heart. Ossian's own character, the old man, the hera, and the bard, all in one, presents to us, through the whole work, a most respectable and vener. able figure, which we always contemplate with pleasure. Cuthullin is a hero of the highest class: daring, magmanimous, and exquisitely sensible to honor. We become attached to his interest, and are deeply touch. ed with his distress; and after the admiration raised for him in the first part of the poem, it is a strong proof of Ossian's masterly genius, that he durst adven. ture to produce to us another hero, compared with whom, even the great Cuthullin should be only an in.
ferior personage ; and who should rise as far above
faithfully discharges his duty to his country, his friends,
and his family, he is tinctured, however, with a degree of the same savage ferocity which prevails among all the Homeric heroes: for we find him insulting over the fallen Patroclus with the most cruel taunts, and telling him, when he lies in the agonies of death, that Achilles cannot help him now ; and that in a short time his body, stripped naked, and deprived of funeral honors, shall be devoured by the vultures. Whereas, in the character of Fingal, concur almost all the qualities that can ennoble human nature; that can either make us admire the hero, or love the man. He is not only unconquerable in war, but he makes his people happy by his wisdom in the days of peace. He is truly the father of his people. He is known by the epithet of “Fingal of the mildest look;” and distin. guished on every occasion by humanity and generosity. He is merciful to his foes; full of affection to his chilldren : full of concern about his friends ; and never mentions Agandecca, his first love, without the utmost ‘enderness. He is the universal protector of the distressed; “None ever went sad from Fingal.”—“O, Oscar! bend the strong in arms; but spare the feeble