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amplified and prolonged. Force is not the predominant quality expected in these. The description may be weakened by being diffuse, yet, notwithstanding, may be beautiful still. Whereas, with respect to grand, solemn, and pathetic subjects, which are Ossian's chief field, the case is very different. In these, energy is above all things 'required. The imagination must be seized at once, or not at all; and is far more deeply impressed by one strong and ardent image, than by the anxious minuteness of laboured illustration.
But Ossian's genius, though chiefly turned towards the sublime and pathetic, was not confined to it: in subjects also of grace and delicacy, he discovers the band of a master. Take for an example the following elegant description of Agandecca, wherein the tendera ness of Tibullus seems united with the majesty of Virgil. “ The daughter of snow overheard, and left the * hall of her secret sigh. She came in all her beauty; " like the moon from the cloud of the east. Loveliness “ was around her as light. Her steps were like the “ music of songs. She saw the youth and loved him. “ He was the stolen sigh of her soul. Her blue eyes 6 rolled on him in secret: and she blest the chief of “ Morven.” Several other instances might be produced of the feelings of love and friendship painted by our author with a most natural and happy delicacy.
The simplicity of Ossian's manner adds great beauty to his descriptions, and indeed to his whole poetry. We meet with no affected ornaments; no forced refine. ment, no marks either in style or thought of a studied endeavour to shine and sparkle. Ossian appears every where to be prompted by his feelings : and to speak from the abundance of his heart. I remember no more than one instance of what can be called quaint thought in the whole collection of his works. It is in the first book of Fingal, where, from the tombs of two lovers, two lonely yew's are mentioned to have sprung, “ whose “ branches wished to meet on high.” This sympathy of the trees with the lovers, may be reckoned to bor. her on an Italian conceit: and it is somewhat curious
to find this single instance of that sort of wit in our Celtic poetry.
The “joy of grief,” is one of Ossian's remarkable expressions, several times repeated. If any one shall think that it needs to be justified by a precedent, he may find it twice used by Homer; in the Iliad, when Achilles is visited by the ghost of Patroclus; and in the Odyssey, when Ulysses meets his mother in the shades. On both these occasions, the heroes, melted with tenderness, lament their not having it in their power to throw their arms round the ghost, “that we “ might,” say they, “ in a mutual embrace, enjoy the delight of grief.”
~xpuepol! TETAPTOMEola yoolo." But in truth the expression stands in need of no defence from authority; for it is a natural and just expression; and conveys a clear idea of that gratification which a virtuous heart often feels in the indulgence of a tender melancholy. Ossian makes a very proper dia. stinction between this gratification, and the destructive ? effect of overpowering grief. “ There is a joy in grief," so when peace dwells in the breast of the sad. But sor: "row wastes the mournful, o daughter of Toscar, and " their days are few." To“ give the joy of griet,” generally signifies to raise the strain of soft and grave music; and finely characterizes the taste of Ossian's age and country. In those days, when the songs of bards were the great delight of heroes, the tragic muse was · held in chief honour; gallant actions, and virtuous sufa! ferings, were the chosen theme ; preferable to that light and triling strain of poetry and music, which pro.' motes light and triâling manners, and serves to emascu-) late the mind. “ Strike the harp in my hall," said the great Fingal in the midst of youth and victory,“ Striker * the harp in my hall, and let Fingal hear the soned “ Pleasant is the joy of grief! It is like the shower to “ spring, when it softens the branch of the oak; ant, " the young leaf lifts its green head. Sing on, O bardsth $ To-morrow we lift the sail..”. Odyss, 11,211, Iliad 23. 98.
Personal epithets have been much used by all the poets of the most ancient ages : and when well chosen, not general and unmeaning, they contı:bute not a little to render the style descriptive and animated. Besides epithets founded on bodily distinctions, akin to many of Homer's, we find in Ossian several which are remarkably beautiful and poetical. Such as, Oscar of the fu. ture fights, Fingal of the mildest look, Carril of other times, the mildly blushing Everallin; Bragela, the Jonely sun-beam of Dunscaich : a Culdee, the son of the secret cell.
But of all the ornaments employed in descriptive poetry, comparisons or similies are the most splendid. These chiefly form what is called the imagery of a poem: And as they abound so much in the works of Ossian, and are commonly among the favourite passages of all poets, it may be expected that I should be somewhat particular in my remarks upon them.
A poetical simile always supposes two objects brought together, between which there is some near relation or connection in the fancy. What that relation ought to be, cannot be precisely defined. For various, almost numberless, are the analogies formed among objects, by a sprightly imagination. The relation of actual simili. tude, or likeness of appearance, is far from being the only foundation of poetical comparison. Sometimes a resemblance in the effect produced by two objects, is made the connecting principle : sometimes, a resem. blance in one distinguishing property or circumstance. Very oiten two objects are brought together in a simile, though they resemble one another, strictly speaking, in nothing, only because they raise in the mind a train of similar, and what may be called concordant ideas ; so that the remembrance of the one, when recalled, serves 10 quicken and heighten the impression made by the other. Thus, to give an instance from our poet, the pleasure with which an old man looks back on the exBloits of his youth, has certainly no direct resemblance to the beauty of a fine evening, farther than that both gree in producing a certain calm, placid joy. Yet Os. sian has founded upon this, one of the most beautiful comparisons that is to be met with in any poet. “ Wilt " thou not listen, son of the rock, to the song of Os« sian? My soul is full of other times; the joy of my “ youth returns. Thus, the sun appears in the west, “ after the steps of his brightness have moved behind a “ storm. The green hills lift their dewy heads. The “ blue streams rejoice in the vale. The aged hero " comes forth on his staff; and his gray hair glitters in “ the beam.” Never was there a finer group of objects. It raises a strong conception of the old man's joy and elation of heart, by displaying a scene, which produces in every spectator a corresponding train of pleasing emotions; the declining sun looking forth in his brightness after a storm; the cheerful face of all nature, and the still life finely animated by the circumstance of the aged hero, with his staff and his grey locks; a circum- stance both extremely picturesque in itself, and peculiarly suited to the main object of the comparison. Such analogies and associations of ideas as these, are highly pleasing to the fancy. They give opportunity for introducing many a fine poetical picture. They diversify the scene; they aggrandize the subject; they keep the imagination awake and sprightly. For as the judgment is principally exercised in distinguishing objects, and remarking the difference among those which seem like, so the highest amusement of the imagination is to trace likenesses and agreements among those which seem different.
The principal rules which respect poetical compari. sons, are, that they be introduced on proper occasions, when the mind is disposed to relish them; and not in the midst of some severe and agitating passion, which cannot admit this play of fancy; that they be founded on a resemblance neither too near and obvious, so as to give little amusement to the imagination in tracing it, nor too faint and remote, so as to be apprehended with difficulty ; that they serve either to illustrate the principal object, and to render the conception of it more
clear and distinct; or, at least, to heighten and embelliske it by a suitable association of images “.
Every country has a scenery peculiar to itself; and the imagery of a good poet will exhibit it: for as he copies after nature, his allusions will of course be taken from those objects which he sees around him, and which have often struck his fancy. For this reason, in order to judge of the propriety of poetical imagery, we ought to be, in some measure acquainted with the natural history of the country where the scene of the po. em is laid. The introduction of foreign images betrays a poet, copying not from nature, but from other writers. Hence so many lions, and tygers, and eagles, and serpents, which we meet with in the similies of modern poets; as if these animals had acquired some right to a place in poetical comparisons for ever, because employ. ed by ancient authors. They employed them with propriety, as objects generally known in their country; but as they are absurdly used as illustrations by us, who know them only at second hand, or by description. To most readers of modern poetry, it were more to the purpose to describelions or tygers by similies taken from men, than to compare men to lionis. Ossian is very correct in this particular. His imagery is without ex. ception copied from that face of nature which he saw before his eyes; and by consequence may be expected to be lively. We meet with no Grecian or Italian sce, nery ; but with the mists, and clouds, and storms, of a northern mountaneous region.
No poet abounds more in similies than Ossian. There are in this collection as many, at least, as in the whole Iliad and Odyssey of Homer, I am indeed inclined to think, that the works of both poets are too much crowd. ed with them. Similies are sparkling ornaments; and like all things that sparkle, are apt to dazzle and tire us by their lustre. But if Ossian's similies be too frequent, they have this advantage of being commonly shorter than Homer's; they interrupt his narration less; he just glances aside to some resembling object, and instant
See Elements of Critic'sm, Vol. iji. ch. 19.