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I would have spoken, but broken sighs issuing from my breast, interrupted my faltering words. I threw my spear aside. I clasped the youth in my arms: but, alas ! his soul was already departed to the cloudy mansions of his fathers.
Then thrice I raised my voice, and called the chiefs to combat. Thrice I brandished my spear, and wielded my glittering sword. No warrior appeared. They dreaded the force of my arm, and yielded the blue-eyed maid.
Three days I remained in Branno's halls. On the fourth he led me to the chambers of the fair. She came forth attended by her maids, graceful in lovely majesty, like the moon, when all the stars confess her sway, and retire respectful and abashed. I laid my sword at her feet. Words of love flowed faltering from my tongue. Gently she gave her hand. Joy seized my enraptured soul. Branno was touched at the sight. He closed me in his aged arms.
'O wert thou," said he, 'the son of my friend, the son of the mighty Fingal, then were my happiness complete!"
"I am, I am the son of thy friend,' I replied, "Os-sian, the son of Fingal;" then sunk upon his aged breast. Our flowing tears mingled together. We remained long clasped in each other's arms.
Such was my youth, O Malvina! but alas ! I am now forlorn. Darkness covers my soul. Yet the light of song beams at times on my mind. It solaces awhile my wo. Bards, prepare my tomb. Lay me by the fair Evir-allen. When the revolving years bring back the mild season of spring to our hills, sing the praise of Cona's bard, of Ossian, the friend of the distressed.
The difference, in many material circumstances, between these two descriptions of, as it would seem, the same thing, must be very apparent. 'I will submit," says the baron, "the solution of this problem to the public." We shall follow his example.
The Honourable Henry Grattan, to whom the baron dedicates his work, has said, that the poems which it contains are calculated to inspire " valor, wisdom, and virtue." It is true, that they are adorned with numerous beauties both of poetry and morality. They are still farther distinguished and illumined by noble allusions to the Omnipotent, which cannot fail to strike the reader as a particular in whichthey remarkably vary from those of Mr. Macpherson. "In his," says our author, 'there is no mention of the Divinity. In these, the chief characteristic is the many solemn descriptions of the Almighty Being, which give a degree of elevation to them unattainable by any other method. It is worthy of observation how the bard gains in sublimity by his magnificent display of the power, bounty, eternity, and justice of God: and every reader must rejoice to find the venerable old warrior occupied in descriptions so worthy his great and comprehensive genius, and to see him freed from the imputation of atheism, with which he had been branded by many sagacious and impartial men." P. vi.
We could willingly transcribe more of these poems, but we have already quoted enough to show the style of them, and can spare space for no additions. "Lamor, a poem,' is, the baron thinks, of a more ancient date than that of Ossian, and "the model, perhaps, of his compositions.' Another, called "Sitric," king of Dublin, which throws some light on the history of those times, he places in the ninth century. What faith, however, is to be put in the genuineness of the "Frag
* If Mr. Laing should choose to take the trouble of passing them through his alembic, they may easily be disposed of. For instance, "Lame I, or the Song of despair:"
ments,"* which Baron de Harold assures us furnished him with the ground-work of these poems, we leave h to others to ascertain. Our investigation is confined tfithin far narrower limits.
It has, without doubt, been observed that in noticing what has transpired on this subject since our last edj-_ Con, we have carefully avoided any dogmatism on the question collectedly; and having simply displayed a torch to show the paths which lead to the labyrinth, those who wish to venture more deeply into its intricacies, may, when they please, pursue them.
We must acknowledge, before we depart, that we cannot see without indignation, or rather pity, the belief of some persons that these poems are the offspring of Macpherson's genius, so operating on their minds as to turn their admiration of the ancient poet into contempt of the modern. We ourselves love antiquity, not merely however, on account of its antiquity, but because it deserves to be loved. No: we honestly own with Quintilian, in quibusdam antiquorum, vix risum, in quibusdam autem vix somnum tenere.* The songs of other times, when they are, as they frequently are, supremely beautiful, merit every praise, but we must not therefore despise all novelty. In the days of the Theban bard, it would seem to have been otherwise, for he ap
"The dreary night-owl screams in the solitary retreat of his mouldering ivy-covered tower," p. 163. Taken from the Persian poet quoted by Gibbon:
"The owl hath sung her watch-song in the towers of Afrariab ■
"AU nature is consonant to the horrors of my mind." Larnel, p. 163. Evidently from the rhythmas of the Portuguese poet. One in despair, calls the desolation of nature
"lugar conforme a meu cuidado."
Obras de Camoens, t. iii. p. 115
Mr. Laing may pronounce this learned, but it is at any rate a» foolish as it is learned.
* QuintUian or Tacitus de Oratoribus.
pears to give the preference to old wine, but netf songs—
an a is waXaior
With respect to age in wine we are tolerably agreed, but we differ widely in regard to novelty in verse. Though warranted in some measure, yet all inordinate prepossessions should be moderated, and it would be well if we were occasionally to reflect on this question, if the ancients had been so inimicable to novelty as we are, what would now be old ?*
We shall not presume to affirm that these poems were originally produced by Macpherson, but admitting it, for the sake of argument, it would then, perhaps, be just to ascribe all the mystery that has hung about them to the often ungenerous dislike of novelty, or, it may be more truly, the efforts of contemporaries, which influences the present day. This might have stimulated him to seek in the garb of " th'olden time' that respect which is sometimes despitefully denied to drapery of a later date. Such a motive doubtlessly swayed the designs both of Chatterton and Ireland, whose names we cannot mention together without Dryden's comment on Spenser and Flecknoe, 'that is, from the top to the bottom of all poetry." In ushering into the world the hapless, but beautiful muse of Chatterton, as well as the contemptible compositions of Ireland, it was alike thought necessary, to secure public attention, to have recourse to "quaint Ing'.is," or an antique dress. And to the eternal disgrace of prejudice, the latter, merely in consequence of their disguise, found men blind enough to advocate their claims to that admiration which, on theiv eyes being opened, they could no longer see, and from the support of which they shrunk abashed.
* See Horace.
But we desist. It is useless to draw conclusions, as it is vain to reason with certain people who act unreasonably, since, if they were, in these particular cases, capable of reason, they would need no reasoning with. By some, the poems here published will be esteemed in proportion as the argument for their antiquity prevails; but with regard to the general reader, and the unaffected lovers of " heaven-descended poesy,1' let the question take either way, still
The harp in Selma was not idly strung,