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lasting or deep impression. Human actions and manners are always the most interesting objects which can be presented to a human mind. All machinery, therefore, is faulty, which withdraws these too much from view, or obscures them under a cloud of incredible fictions. Besides being temperately employed, machinery ought always to have some foundation in popular belief. A poet is by no means at liberty to invent what system of the marvellous he pleases; he must avail himself either of the religious faith, or the superstitious credulity of the country wherein he lives; so as to give an air of probability to events which are most contrary to the common course of nature. In these respects, Ossian appears to me to have been remarkably happy. He has, indeed, followed the same course with Homer. For it is perfectly absurd to imagine, as some critics have done, that Homer's mythology was invented by him "inconsequence of profound reflections on the benefits it would yield to poetry." Homer was no such refining genius. He found the traditionary stories, on which he built his Iliad, mingled with popular legends concerning the intervention of the gods; and he adopted these because they amused the fancy. Ossian, in like manner, found the tales of his country full of ghosts and spirits; it is likely he believed them himself; and he introduced them, because they gave his poems that solemn and marvellous cast, which suited his genius. This was the only machinery he could employ with propriety; because it was the only intervention of supernatural beings which agreed with the common belief of the country. It was happy; because it did not interfere in the least with the proper display of human characters and actions; because it had less of the incredible, than most other kinds of poetical machinery; and because it served to diversify the scene, and to heighten the sub. ject by an awful grandeur, which is the great design of machinery.
As Ossian's mythology is p iculiar to himself, and makes a considerable figure in his other poems, as well as in Fingal, it may be proper to make some observations on it, independent of its subserviency to epic composition. It turns, for the most part, on the appearances of departed spirits. These, consonantly to the notions of every rude age, are represented not as purely immaterial, but as thin airy forms, which can be visible or invisible at pleasure: their voice is feeble, their arm is weak; but they are endowed with knowledge more than human. In a separate state, they retain the same dispositions which animated them in this life. They ride on the wind; they bend their airy bows; and pursue deer formed of clouds. The ghosts of departed bards continue to sing. The ghosts of departed heroes frequent the fields of their former fame. 'They rest together in their caves, and talk of mortal men. Their songs are of other worlds. They come sometimes to the ear of rest, and raise their feeble voice." All this presents to us much the same set of ideas, concerning spirits, as we find in the eleventh book of the Odyssey, where Ulysses visits the regions of the dead; and in the twenty-third book of the Iliad, the ghost of Patroclus, after appearing to Achilles, vanishes precisely like one of Ossian's, emitting a shrill, feeble cry, and melting away like smoke.
But though Homer's and Ossian's ideas concerning ghosts were of the same nature, we cannot but observe, that Ossian's ghosts are drawn with much stronger and livelier colors than those of Homer. Ossian describes ghosts with all the particularity of one who had seen and conversed with them, and whose imagination was full of the impression they had left upon it. He calls up those awful and tremendous ideas which the
Simulacra modis pallentia miris
are fitted to raise in the human mind; and which, in Shakspeare's style, 'harrow up the soul.' Crugal's ghost, in particular, in the beginning of the second book of Fingal, may vie with any appearance of this kind, described by any epic or tragic poet whatever. Most poets would have contented themselves with telling us, that he resembled, in every particular, the living Crugal; that his form and dress were the same, only his face more pale and sad; and that he bore the mark of the wound by which he fell. But Ossian sets before our eyes a spirit from the invisible world, distinguished by all those features which a strong astonished imagination would give to a ghost. "A darkred stream of fire comes down from the hill. Crugal sat upon the beam; he that lately fell by the hand of Swaran, striving in the battle of heroes. His face is like the beam of the setting moon. His robes are of the cloud of the hill. His eyes are like two decaying flames. Dark is the wound of his breast.—The stars dim twinkled through his form; and his voice was like the sound of a distant stream.' The circumstance of the stars being beheld "dim twinkling through his form,' is wonderfully picturesque; and conveys the most lively impression of his thin and shadowy substance. The attitude in which he is afterwards placed, and the speech put into his mouth, are full of that solemn and awful sublimity, which suits the subject. 'Dim, and in tears, he stood, and he stretched his pale hand over the hero. Faintly he raised his feeble voice, like the gale of the reedy Lego.—My ghost, O Connal! is on my native hills: but my corse is on the sands of Ulla. Thou shalt never talk with Crugal, or find his lone steps in the heath. I am light as the blast of Cromla; and I move like the shadow of mist. Connal, son of Colgar! I see the dark cloud of death; it hovers over the plains of Lena. The sons of green Erin shall fall. Remove from the field of ghosts.—Like the darkened moon, he retired in the midst of the whistling blast.'
Several other appearances of spirits might be pointed out, as among the most sublime passages of Ossian's poetry. The circumstances of them are considerably diversified; and the scenery always suited to the occasion. 'Oscar slowly ascends the hill. The meteors of night set on the heath before him. A distant torrent faintly roars. Unfrequent blasts rush through aged oaks. The half-enlightened moon sinks dim and red behind her hill. Feeble voices are heard on the heath. Oscar drew his sword—." Nothing can prepare the fancy more happily for the awful scene that is to follow. "Trenmor came from his hill at the voice of his mighty son. A cloud, like the steed of the stranger, supported his airy limbs. His robe is of the mist of Lano, that brings death to the people. His sword is a green meteor, half extinguished. His face is without form, and dark. He sighed thrice over the hero: and thrice the winds of the night roared around. Many were his words to Oscar.—He slowly vanished, like a mist that melts on the sunny hill.' To appearances of this kind, we can find no parallel among the Greek or Roman poets. They bring to mind that noble description in the book of Job: "Id thoughts from the vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth on men, fear came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones to shake. Then a spiril
fassed before my face: the hair of my flesh stood upt stood still: but I could not discern the form thereof. An image was before mine eyes. There was silence; and I heard a voice—Shall mortal man be more just than God?"
As Ossian's supernatural beings are described with a surprising force of imagination, so they are introduced with propriety. We have only three ghosts in Fingal: that of Crugal, which comes to warn the host of impending destruction, and to advise them to save themselves by retreat; that of Evir-allen, the spouse of Ossian, which calls on him to rise and rescue their son from danger; and that of Agandecca, which, just before the last engagement with Swaran, moves Fingal to pity, by mourning for the approaching destruction of her kinsman and people. In the other poems, ghosts sometimes appear when invoked to foretel futurity; frequently, according to the notions of these times, they come as forerunners of misfortune or death, to those whom they visit; sometimes they inform their friends at a distance of their own death; and sometimes they are introduced to heighten the scenery on some great and solemn occasion. 'A hundred oaks burn to the wind; and faint light gleams over the heath. The ghosts of Ardven pass through the beam; and show their dim and distant forms. Comala is half unseen on her meteor; and Hidallan is sullen and dim."—" The awful faces of other times looked from the clouds of Crona."—" Fercuth! I saw the ghost of night. Silent he stood on that bank; his robe of mist flew on the wind. I could behold his tears. An aged man he seemed, and full of thought.' The ghosts of strangers mingle not with those of the natives. "She is seen: but not like the daughters of the hill. Her robes are from the strangers' land; and she is still alone.' When the ghost of one whom we had formerly known is introduced, the propriety of the living character is still preserved. This is remarkable in the appearance of Calmar's ghost, in the poem entitled, The Death of Cuthullin. He seems to forebode Cuthullin's death, and to beckon him to his cave. Cuthullin reproaches him for supposing that he could