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y returns to his former track. Homer's similies include a wider range of objects. But, in return, Ossian's are, without exccption, taken from objects of dignity, which cannot be said for all those which Homer employs, The sun, the moon, and the stars, clouds and meteors, lightning and thunder, seas and whales, rivers, torrents, winds, ice, rain, snow, dews, mist, fire and smoke, trees and forests, heath and grass and flowers, rocks and mountains, music and songs, light and darkness, spirits and ghosts; these form the circle, within which Ossian's comparisons generally run. Some, not many, are taken from birds and beasts; as eagles, seafowl, the horse, the deer, and the mountain-bee; and a very few from such operations of art as were then known. Homer has diversified his imagery by many more allusions to the animal world ; to lions, bulls, goats, herds of cattle, serpents, insects; and to various occupations of rural and pastoral life. Ossian's defect in this article is plainly owing to the desart, un. cultivated state of his country, which suggested to him few images beyond natural inanimate objects, in their rudest form. The birds and animals of the country were probably not numerous; and his acquaintance with them was slender, as they were little subjected to the uses of man.
The great objection made to Ossian's imagery, is its uniformity, and the too frequent repetition of the same comparisons. In a work so thick sown with similies, one could not but expect to find images of the same kind sometimes suggested to the poet by resembling objects; especially to a poet like Ossian, who wrote from the immediate impulse of poetical enthusiasm, and without much preparation of study or labour. Fertile as Homer's imagination is acknowledged to be, who does not know how often his lions, and bulls, and flocks of sheep recur, with little or no variation ; nay, sometimes in the very same words? The objection made to Ossian is, however, founded in a great measure upon a mistake. It has been supposed by inattentive reader: that whereyer the moon, the cloud, or the thunder, ".
turns in a simile, it is the same simile, and the same moon, or cloud, or thunder, which they had met with a few pages before. Whereas very often the similies are widely different. The object, whence they are taken, is indeed in substance the same ; but the image is new : for the appearance of the object is changed; it is presented to the fancy in another attitude ; and clothed with new circumstances, to make it suit the : different illustration for which it is employed. In this lies Ossian's great art; in so happily varying the form of the few natural appearances with which he was acquainted, as to make them correspond to a great many different objects,
Let us take for one instance the moon, which is very frequently introduced into his comparisons; as in northern climates, where the nights are long, the moon is a greater object of attention, than in the climate of Ho. mer; and let us view how much our poet has diversi. fied its appearance. The shield of a warrior is like “ the darkened moon when it moves in a dun circle thro' " the heavens.” The face of a ghost, wan and pale, is like " the beam of the setting moon.” · And a different appearance of a ghost, thin and indistinct, is like " the new moon seen through the gathered mist, when " the sky pours down the flaky snow, and the world is o silent and dark ;” or in a different form still, it is like “ the watery beam of the moon, when it rushes from " between two clouds, and the midnight shower is on " the field.” A very opposite use is made of the moon in the description of Agandecca: she came in all her “ beauty, like the moon from the cloud of the east.” Hope, sueceeded by disappointment, is, " joy rising on “ her face, and sorrow returning again, like a thin cloud " on the moon.” But when Swaran, after his defeat, is cheered by Fingal's generosity, “ His face bright“ ened like the full moon of heaven, when the clouds “ van sh away, and leave her calm and broad in the “ mid : of the sky.” Vinvela is “ bright as the moon, “ when it trembles over the western wave;” but the soul of the guilty Uthal is, “ dark as the troubled face
pe of the moon, when it foretels the storm.” And by a very fanciful and uncommon allusion, it is said of Cormac, who was to die in his early years, “ Nor long shait “ thou lift the spear, mildly shining beam of youth! * Death stands dim behind thee, like the darkened hall “ of the moon behind its growing light.”
Another instance of the same nature may be taken from mist, which, as being a very familiar appearance in the country of Ossian, he applies to a variety of purposes, and pursues through a great many forms. Sometimes, which one would hardly expect, he employs it to heighten the appearance of a beautiful object. The hair of Morna is - like the mist of Cromla, " when it curls on the rock, and shines to the beam of " the west."-" The song comes with its music to “ melt and please the ear. It is like soft mist, that rising “ from a lake, pours on the silent vale. The green " flowers are filled with dew. The sun returns in its " strength and the inist is gone v." But, for the most part, mist is employed as a similitude of some disagreeable or terrible object. " The soul of Nathos was sad, " like the sun in the day of mist, when his face is wa“ tery and dim.” “ The darkness of old age comes " like the mist of the desart.” “ The face of a ghost is “ pale as the mist of Cromla.” “ The gloom of battle " is rolled along as a mist that is poured on the valley, " when storms invade the silent sun-shine of heaven." Faine suddenly departing, is likened to“ mist that flies " away before the rustling wind of the vale:" A ghost, slowly vanishing, to " mist that meits by degrees on " the sunny hill.” Cairbar, after his treacherous assassination of Oscar, is compared to a pestilential fog. “ I love a foe like Cathmor,” says Fingal,“ his soul is “ great; his arm is strong; his battles are full of fame, " But the little soul is like a vapour that hovers round 66 the marshy lake. It never rises on the green hill, lest “ the winds ineet it there. Its dwelling is in the cave; " and it sends forth the dart of death.” This is a simile highly finished. But there is another which is still more striking, founded also on mist, in the fourth book of Temora. Two factious chiefs are contending; Cathmor the king interposes, rebukes and silences them. The poet intends to give us the highest idea of Cathmor's superiority; and most effectually accomplished his intention by the following happy image. “ They “ sunk from the king on either side, like two columns 6 of morning mist, when the sun rises between them " on his glittering rocks. Dark is their rolling on ei" ther side ; each towards its reedy pool.” These instances may sufficiently shew with what richness of imagination Ossian's comparisons abound, and at the same time, with what propriety of judgment they are employed. If his field was narrow, it must be admitted to have been as well cultivated as its extent would
There is a remarkable nronriety in this comparison. It is intended to explain the effect of, soft and mournful music. Armin appears disturbed at
urnful music. 'Armin appears disturbed at a performance of this armor says to him, " Why bursts the sigh of Armin? Is there a cause to
e song comes with its inusic, to inclt and please the ear. It is like the ** soft mist,” &c. That is such mourn
3", &c. That is, such mournful songs have a happy effect to soften the bart, and to improve it by tender emotions, as the in
prove it by tender emotions, as the noisture of the mist nourishme
1st the sadness they occasion is only transient, and soon dispelled by the succeeding occupations and amenents of life: "1116
sot he's the sus re ISS in its strength
. and the mit is gone."
As it is usual to judge of poets from a comparison of their similies more than of other passages, it will perhaps be agreeable to the reader, to see how Homer and Ossian have conducted some images of the same kind. This might be shown in many instances. For as the great objects of nature are common to the poets of all nations, and make the general storehouse of all imagery, the ground-work of their comparisons must of course be frequently the same. I shall select only a few of the most considerable from both poets. Mr Pope's translation of Homer can be of no use to us here. The parallel is altogether unfair between prose, and the im posing harmony of flowing numbers. It is only by viewing Homer in the simplicity of a prose translation, that we can form any comparison between the two bards.
The shock of two encountering armies, the noise and the tumult of battle, afford one of the most grand and awful subjects of description; on which all epic poets have exerted their strength. Let us first hear Homer. The following description is a favourite one, for we find it twice repeated in the same words w. “ When “ now the confiicting hosts joined in the field of battle, " then were mutually opposed shields and swords, and " the strength of armed men. The bossy bucklers “ were dashed against each other. The universal tu“ mult rose. There were mingled the triumphant shouts " and the dying groans of the victors and the van“ quished. The earth streamed with blood. As when s winter torrents rushing from the mountains, pour 6s into a narrow valley their violent waters. They issue " from a thousand springs, and mix in the hollowed “ channel. The distant shepherd hears on the moun“ tain their roar from afar. Such was the terror and " the shout of the engaging armies,” In another passage, the poet, much in the manner of Ossian, heaps simile on simile, to express the vastness of the idea with which his imagination seems to labour. “ With “ a mighty shout the hosts engage. Not so loud roars " the wave of ocean, when driven against the shore by “ the whole force of the boisterous north; not so loud “ in the woods of the mountain, the noise of the flame, “ when rising in its fury to consume the forest ; not so “ loud the wind among the lofty oaks, when the wrath “ of the storm rages; as was the clamour of the Greeks " and Trojans, when, roaring terrible, they rushed “ against each other it.”
To these descriptions and similies, we may oppose the following from Ossian, and leave the reader to judge between them. He will find images of the same kind employed, commonly less extended; but thrown forth with a glowing rapidity which characterises our poet. “ As autumn's dark storms pour from two echoing " hills, towards each other approached the heroes. As
two dark streams from high rocks meet, and mix, “ and roar on the plain ; loud, rough, and dark in bat“ tle, meet Lochlin and Inisfail. Chief mixes his "strokes with chief, and man with man. Steel claro "ing, sounded on steel. Helmets are cleft on hig
16 and Tlind
Tliad viy 393