Page images
PDF
EPUB

heard. What could I say to Fingal in this hour of woe? His words rose, at length, in the midst: the people shrunk backward as he spoke.

'Where is the son of Selma; he who led in war t I behold not his steps, among my people, returning from the field. Fell the young bounding roe, who was so stately on my hills? He fe'l! for ye are silent. The shield of war is cleft in twain. Let his armor be near to Fingal; and the sword of dark-brown Luno. I am waked on my hills; with morning I descend to war.'

High on Cormul's rock, an oak is flaming to the wind. The gray skirts of mist are rolled around; thither strode the king in his wrath. Distant from the host he always lay, when battle burnt within his soul. On two spears hung his shield on high; the gleaming sign of death! that shield, which he was wont to strike, by night, before he rushed to war. It was then his warriors knew, when the king was to lead in strife; for never was his buckler heard, till the wrath of Fingal arose. Unequal were his steps on high, as he shone on the beam of the oak; he was dreadful as the form of the spirit of night, when he clothes, on hills, his wild gestures with mist, and, issuing forth, on the troubled ocean, mounts the car of winds.

Nor settled, from the storm, is Erin's sea of war! they glitter, beneath the moon, and, low humming, still roll on the field. Alone are the steps of Cathmor, before them on the heath: he hangs forward, with all his arms, on Morven's flying host. Now had he come to the mossy cave, where Fillan lay in night. One tree was bent above the stream, which glittered over the rock. There shone to the moon the broken shield of Clatho's son; and near it, on grass, lay hairy-footed Bran. He had missed the chief on Mora, and searched him along the wind. He thought that the blue-eyed hunter slept; he lay upon his shield. No blast came over the heath unknown to bounding Bran.

Cathmor saw the white-breasted dog; he saw the broken shield. Darkness is blown back on his soul; he remembers the falling away of the people. They came, a stream; are rolled away; another race succeeds. But some mark the fields, as they pass, with their own mighty names. The heath, through darkorown years, is theirs; some blue stream winds to their fame. Of these be the chief of Atha, when he lays him down on earth. Often may the voice of future times meet Cathmor in the air; when he strides from wind to wind, or folds himself in the wing of a storm.

Green Erin gathered round the king to hear the voice of his power. Their joyful faces bend unequal, forward, in the light of the oak. They who were terrible were removed; Lubar winds again in their host. Cathmor was that beam from heaven, which shone when his people were dark. He was honored in the midst. Their souls arose with ardour around. The king alone no gladness showed; no stranger he to war!

"Why is the king so sad?" said Malthos, eagleeyed. "Remains there a foe at Lubar? Lives there among them who can lift the spear? Not so peaceful was thy father, Borbar-duthul, king of spears. His rage was a fire that always burned: his joy over fallen foes was great. Three days feasted the gray-haired hero, when he heard that Calmar fell: Calmar who aided the race of Ullin, from Lara of the streams. Often did he feel, with his hands, the steel which they said, had pierced his foe. He felt it with his hands, for Borbar-duthul's eyes had failed. Yet was the king a sun to his friends; a gale to lift their branches round. Joy was around him in his halls: he loved the sons of Bolga. His name remains in Atha, like the awful memory of ghosts whose presence was terrible, but they blew the storm away. Now let the voices of Erin* raise the soul of the king; he that shone when war was dark, and laid the mighty low. Fonar, from that gray-browed rock pour the tale of other times: pour it on wide-skirted Erin, as it set ties round.

"To me," said Cathmor, "no song shall rise; nor Fonar sit on the rock of Lubar. The mighty there are laid low. Disturb not their rushing ghosts. Far, Malthos, far remove the sound of Erin's song. I rejoice not over the foe, when he ceases to lift the spear. With morning we pour our strength abroad. Fingal is wakened on his echoing hill."

Like waves, blown back by sudden winds, Erin retired, at the voice of the king. Deep, rolled into the field of night, they spread their humming tribes. Beneath his own tree, at intervals, each bard sat down with his harp. They raised the song, and touched the string: each to the chief he loved. Before a burning oak Sul-malla touched, at times, the harp. She touched the harp, and heard, between, the breezes in her hair. In darkness near lay the king of Atha, beneath an aged tree. The beam of the oak was turned from him; he saw the maid, but was not seen. His soul poured forth, in secret, when he beheld her fearful eye. 'But battle is before thee, son of Borbar-duthul."

Amidst the harp, at intervals, she listened whether the warrior slept. Her soul was up; she longed, in secret, to pour her own sad song. The field is silent. On their wings the blasts of night retire. The bards had ceased; and meteors came, red-winding with their ghosts. The sky grew dark: the forms of the dead were blended with the clouds. But heedless bends the daughter of Conmor, over the decaying flame. Thou wert alone in her soul, car-borne chief of Atha. She raised the voice of the song, and touched the harp between.

A poetical expression for the bards of Ireland.

"Clun-galo* came; she missed the maid. Where art thou, beam of light? Hunters from the mossy rock, saw ye the blue-eyed fair? Are her steps on grassy Lumon; near the bed of roes? Ah, me! I behold her bow in the hall. Where art thou, beam of light 1

"Cease, love of Conmor, cease! I hear thee not on the ridgy heath. My eye is turned to the king, whose path is terrible in war. He for whom my soul is up, in the season of my rest. Deep-bosomed in war he stands; he beholds me not from his cloud. Why, sun of Sul-malla, dost thou not look forth? I dwell in darkness here: wide over me flies the shadowy mist. Filled with dew are my locks: look thou from thy cloud, O sun of Sul-malla's soul!"

* Clun-galo, the wife of Conmor, king of Inis-huna, and the mother of Sul-malla. She is here represented as missing her daughter, after she had fled with Cathmor.

BOOK vn.

ARGUMENT.

This book begins snout the middle of the third night from the opening of the poem. The poet describes a kind of mist, which rose by night from the Lake of Lego, and was the usual residence of the souls of the dead, during the interval between their decease and the funeral song. The appearance of the ghost of Fillan above the cave where his body lay. His voice comes to Fingal on the rock of Cormul. The king strikes the shield of Trjtnmor, which was an infallible sign of his appearing in arms himself. The extraordinary effect of the sound of the shield. Sul-malla, starting from sleep, awakes Cathmor. Their affecting discourse. She insists with him to sue for peace; heresolves to continue the war. He directs her to retire to the neighbouring valley of Lona, which was the residence of an old Druid, until the battle of the next day should be over. He awakes his army with the sound of his shield. The shield described. Fonar, the bard, at the desire of Cathmor, relates the first settlement of the Fir-bole in Ireland, under their leader Larthon. Morning comes. Sul-malla retires to the valley of Lona. A lyric song concludes the book.

From the wood-skirted waters of Lego, ascend, at times, gray-bosomed mists; when the gates of the west arc closed, on the sun's eagle eye. Wide, over Lara's stream, is poured the vapour dark and deep: the moon, like a dim shield, by swimming through its folds. With this, clothe the spirits of old their sudden gestures on the wind, when they stride, from blast to blast, along the dusky night. Often, blended with the gale, to some warrior's grave, they roll the mist a gray dwelling to his ghost, until the songs arise.

A sound came from the desert; it was Conar, king of Inis-fail. He poured his mist on the grave of Fillan, at blue-winding Lubar. Dark and mournful sat the ghost, in his gray ridge of smoke. The blast, at times, rolled him together; but the form returned again. It

« PreviousContinue »