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nities of religious worship, prayers preferred, and as. sistance implored on critical occasions, appear with great dignity in the works of almost all poets, as chies ornaments of their compositions. The absence of all such religious ideas from Ossian's poetry is a sensible blank in it; the more to be regretted, as we can easily imagine what an illustrious figure thay would have made under the management of such a genius as his; and how finely they would have been adapted to many situations which occur in his works. After so particular an examination of Fingal, it were needless to enter into as full a discussion of the conduct of Temora, the other epic poem. Many of the same observations, especially with regard to the great char. acteristics of heroic poetry, apply to both. The high merit, however, of Temora, requires that we should not pass it by without some remarks. The scene of Temora, as of Fingal, is laid in Ire. land; and the action is of a posterior date. The subject is, an expedition of the hero to dethrone and pun. ish a bloody usurper, and to restore the possession of the kingdom to the posterity of the lawful prince : an undertaking worthy of the justice and heroism of the great Fingal. The action is one, and complete. The poem opens with the descent of Fingal on the coast, and the consultation held among the chiefs of the enemy. The murder of the young prince Cormac, which was the cause of the war, being antecedent to the epic uction, is introduced with great propriety as an episode in the first book. In the progress of the poem, three battles are described, which rise in their importance above one another; the success is various, and the issue for some time doubtful; till at last, Fingal, brought into distress, by the wound of his great general Gaul, and the death of his son Fillan, assumes the command himself; and, having slain the Irish king
in single combat, restores the rightful heir to his throne.
Temora has perhaps less fire than the other epic poem; but in return it has more variety, more tenderness, and more magnificence. The reigning idea, so often presented to us, of “Fingal, in the last of his fields,” is venerable and affecting; nor could any more noble conclusion be thought of, than the aged hero, after so many successful achievements, taking his leave of battles, and, with all the solemnities of those times, resigning his spear to his son. The events are less crowded in Temora than in Fingal; actions and characters are more particularly displayed: we are let into the transactions of both hosts, and informed of the adventures of the night as well as of the day. The still, pathetic, and the romantic scenery of several of the night adventures, so remarkably suited to Ossian's genius, occasion a fine diversity in the poem; and are happily contrasted with the military operations of the dav.
i. most of our author's poems, the horrors of war are softened by intermixed scenes of love and friendship. In Fingal these are introduced as episodes: in Temora we have an incident of this nature wrought into the body of the piece, in the adventure of Cathmor and Sulmalla. This forms one of the most conspicuous beauties of that poem. The distress of Sulmalla, dis. guised and unknown amongst strangers, her tender and anxious concern for the safety of Cathmor, her dream, and her melting remembrance of the land of her fathers; Cathmor’s emotion when he first discovers her, his struggles to conceal and suppress his passion, lest it should unman him in the midst of war, though “his soul poured forth in secret, when he beheld her fearful eye,” and the last interview between them, when, over. come by her tenderness, he lets her know he had dis covered her, and confesses his passion; are all wrought up with the most exquisite sensibility and delicacy. Besides the characters which appeared in Fingal, several new ones are here introduced; and though, as they are all the characters of warriors, bravery is the predominant feature, they are nevertheless diversified in a sensible and striking manner. Foldath, for in. stance, the general of Cathmor, exhibits the perfect picture of a savage chieftain; bold and daring, but presumptuous, cruel, and overbearing. He is distinguished, on his first appearance, as the friend of the tyrant Cairbar, “His stride is haughty; his red eye rolls in wrath.” In his person and whole deportment he is contrasted with the mild and wise Hidalla, another leader of the same army, on whose humanity and gentleness he looks with great contempt. He professedly delights in strife and blood. He insults over the fallen. He is imperious in his counsels, and factious when they are not followed. He is unrelenting in all his schemes of revenge, even to the length of denying the funeral song to the dead; which, from the injury thereby done to their ghosts, was in those days considered as the greatest barbarity. Fierce to the last, he comforts himself in his dying moments with thinking that his ghost shall often leave its blast to rejoice over the graves of those he had slain. Yet Ossian, ever prone to the pathetic, has contrived to throw into his account of the death, even of this man, some tender circumstances, by the moving description of his daugh. ter Dardulena, the last of his race. The character of Foldath tends much to exalt that of Cathmoy, the chief commander, which is distin. lished by the most humane virtues. He abhors all raud and cruelty, is famous for his hospitality to strangers; open to every generous sentiment, and to every soft and compassionate feeling. He is so amia. 12 •”
ble as to divide the reader's attachment between hio and the hero of the poem ; though our author has art fully ma;-aged it so as to make Cathmor himself indi. lectly acknowledge Fingal’s superiority, and to appeal somewhat apprehensive of the event, after the death of Fillan, which he knew would call forth Fingal in all his might. It is very remarkable, that although Ossian has introduced into his poems three complete heroes, Cuthullin, Cathmor, and Fingal, he has, however, sensibly distinguished each of their characters; Cuthullin is particularly honorable ; Cathmor particularly amiable; Fingal wise and great, retaining an ascendant peculiar to himself in whatever light he is viewed.
But the favorite figure in Temora, and the one most highly finished, is Fillan. His character is of that sort for which Ossian shows a particular fondness; an eager, fervent, young warrior, fired with all the impatient enthusiasm for military glory peculiar to that time of life. He had sketched this in the description of his own son Oscar; but as he has extended it more fully in Fillan, and as the character is so consonant te the epic strain, though, as far as I remember, not placed in such a conspicuous light by any other epic poet, it may be worth while to attend a little to Ossian's management of it in this instance.
Fillan was the youngest of all the sons of Fingal; younger, it is plain, than his nephew Oscar, by whose fame and great deeds in war we may naturally suppose his aimbition to have been highly stimulated. Withal, as ho is younger, he is described as more rash and fiery. His first appearance is soon after Oscar's death, when he was employed to watch the motions of the foe by night. In a conversation with his brother Ossian, on that occasion, we learn that it was not long since he began to lift the spear. “Few are the marks of my sword in battle ; but my soul is file.” He is with some difficulty restrained by Ossian from going to attack the enemy; and complains to him, that his father had never allowed him any opportunity of signalizing his valor. “The king hath not remarked my sword; I go forth with the crowd; I return without my fame.” . Soon after, when Fingal, according to custom, was to appoint one of his chiefs to command he army, and each was standing forth, and putting in nis claim to this honor, Fillan is presented in the fol. Rowing most picturesque and natural attitude: “On his spear stood the Son of Clatho, in the wandering of his locks. Thrice he raised his eyes to Fingal; his voice thrice failed him as he spoke. Fillan could not boast of battles; at once he strode away. Bent over a distant stream he stood; the tear hung in his eye. He struck, at times, the thistle's head with his inverted spear.” No less natural and beautiful is the description of Fingal's paternal emotion on this occasion. “Nor is he unseen of Fingal. Sidelong he beheld his son. He beheld him with bursting joy. He hid the big tear with his locks, and turned amidst his crowded soul.” The command, for that day, being given to Gaul, Fillan rushes amidst the thickest of the foe, saves Gaul's life, who is wounded by a random arrow, and distinguishes himself so in battle, that “the days of old return on Fingal’s mind, as he beholds the renown of his son. As the sun rejoices from the cloud, over the tree his beams have raised, whilst it shakes its lonely nead on the heath, so joyful is the king over Fillan.” Sedate, lwowever, and wise, he mixes the praise which he bestows on him with some reprehension of his rashness. “My son, I saw thy deeds, and my soul was glad. Thou art brave, son of Clatho, but headlong in the strife. So did not Fingal advance, though he never feared a foe. Let thy people be a ridge behind