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Nor on the shaggy top of Mona high,
Nor yet where Deva spreads her wizard stream g. Having now treated fully of Ossian's talents with respect to description and imagery, in only remains to make some observations on his sentiments. No sentiments can be beautiful without being proper; that is, suited to the character and situations of those who utter them. in this respect, Ossian is as correct as most writers. His characters, as above observed, are in ge. neral well supported; which could not have been the case, had the sentiments been unnatural or out of place. A variety of personages of different ages, sexes,g and conditions, are introduced into his poems; and they speak and act with a propriety of sentiment and teha. viour, which it is surprising to find in so rude an age. Let the poem of Dar-thula, throughout, be taken as an example. · But it is not enough that sentiments be natural and proper. In order to acquire any high degree of poeti. cal merit, they must also be sublime and pathetic.
The sublime is not confined to sentiment alone. It belongs to description also; and whether in description or in sentiment, imports such ideas presented to the mind, as raise it to an uncommon degree of elevation, and fill it with admiration and astonishment. This is the highest effect either of eloquence or poetry : and to produce this effect, requires a genius glowing with the strongest and warmnest conception of some object, awful, great, or magnificent. That this character of genius belongs to Ossian, may, I think, sufficiently appear from many of the passages I have already had oC. casion to quote. To produce more instances were superfluous. If the engagement of Fingal with the spirit of Loda, in Carric-thura ; if the encounters of the armies of Fingal; if the address to the sun in Carthon; if the similies founded upon ghosts and spirits of the night, all formerly mentioned, be not admitted as ex. & Milton's Lycidas.
See Theocrit. Idyll I. Πα ποκ' αρ ησυ’ οκα Δαφνις εταχετο; πα ποκα, Νυμφαι, &c.
And Virg Eckog. 10.
Quæ nemora out qui yos saltu habuere. Duellæ.&c.
amples, and illustrious ones too, of the true poetical sublime, I confess myself entirely ignorant of this qualification.
All the circumstances, indeed, of Ossian's composi-. tion, are favourable to the sublime, more perhaps than to any other species of beauty. Accuracy and correctness; artfuily connected narration ; exact method and proportion of parts, we may look for in polished times. The gay and the beautiful will appear to more advan. tage in the midst of smiling scenery, and pleasurable themes. But amidst the rude scenes of nature, amidst rocks, and torrents, and whirlwinds, and battles, dwells the sublime. It is the thunder and the lightning of genius. It is the offspring of nature, not of art. It is negligent of all the lesser graces, and perfectly consist. ent with a certain noble disorder. It associates naturally with the grave and solemn spirit which distinguishes our author. For the sublime is an awful and serious emotion; and it is heightened by all the images of trouble, and terror, and darkness.
Ipse pater, media nimborum in nocte, corusca
VIRG. GEORG. I. Simplicity and conciseness, are never-failing characteristics of the style of a sublime writer. He rests on the majesty of his sentiments, not on the pomp of his expressions. The main secret of being sublime, is to say great things in few, and in plain words : for every superfluous decoration degrades a sublime idea. The mind rises and swells when a lofty description or sentiment is presented to it, in its native form. But no sooner does the poet attempt to spread out this sentiment or description, and to deck it round and round with glit. tering ornaments, than the mind begins to fall from its high elevation; the transport is over; the beautiful may remain, but the sublime is gone. Hence the con cise and simple style of Ossian, gives great advanta
to his sublime conceptions; and assists them in seizing the imagination with full power“.
Sublimity, as belonging to sentiment, coincides in a great measure with magnanimity, heroism, and generosity of sentiment. Whatever discovers human nature in its greatest elevation ; whatever bespeaks a high effort of soul, or shows a mind superior to pleasures, to dangers, or to death, forms what may be called the moral or sentimental sublime. For this Ossian is emi- , nently distinguished. No poet maintains a higher tone of virtuous and noble sentiment, throughout all his works. Particularly in all the sentiments of Fingal, there is a grandeur and loftiness proper to swell the mind with the highest idea of human perfection. Wherever he appears, we behold the hero. "The objects which he pursues are always truly great; to bend the proud; to protect the injured; to defend his friends; to overcome his enemies by generosity more than by 1 force. A portion of the same spirit actuates all the other heroes. Valour reigns; but it is a generous valour, void of cruelty, animated by honour, not by hatred. We behold no debasing passions among Fingal's warriors; no spirit of avarice or of insult; but a perpetual contention for fame; a desire of being distinguished and remembered for gallant actions; a love of justice; and a zealous attachment to their friends and their country. Such is the strain of sentiment in the works of Ossian.
But the sublimity of moral sentiments, if they wanted the softening of the tender, would be in hazard of giv
b The noted saying of Julius Cæsar to the pilot in a storm ; « Quid times? Cæsarem “ vehis;" is magnanimous and sublime. Lucan, not satisfied with this simple concisencss, resolved to amplify and improve the thought. OUSCIVe how, every time he twists it round, it departs farther from the sublime, till, at last, it ends in tumid de clamation:
Sperne minas, inquit, Pelagi, ventoque furenti
PHARSAL. V. 578.
ing a hard and stiff air to poetry. It is not enough to admire. Admiration is a cold feeling in comparison of that deep interest which the heart takes in tender and pathetic scenes ; where, by a mysterious attachment to the objects of compassion, we are pleased and delighted even whilst we mourn. With scenes of this kind, Os. sian abounds; and his high merit in these is incontestable. He may be blamed for drawing tears too often from our eyes; but that he has the power of command. ing them, I believe no man who has the least sensibility will question. The general character of his poetry is the heroic, mixed with the elegiac strain ; admiration tempered with pity. Ever fond of giving, as he expresses it, “ the joy of grief,” it is visible that on all moving subjects he delights to exert his genius; and accordingly, never were there finer pathetic situations than what his works present. His great art in managing them lies in giving vent to the simple and natural emotions of the heart. We meet with no exaggerated declamation ; no subtle refinements on sorrow ; no substitution of description in place of passion. Ossian felt strongly himself; and the heart, when uttering its native language, never fails, by powertul sympathy; to affect: the heart. A great variety of examples might be produced. We need only open the book to find them everywhere. What, for instance, can be more moving, than the lamentations of Oithona, after her misfortune? Gaul, the son of Morni, her lover, ignorant of what she had suffered, comes to her rescue. Their meeting is tender in the highest degree. He proposes to engage her foe, in single combat, and gives her in charge what she is to do, if he himself shall fall. “ And shall the “ daughter of Nuath live?" she replied with a bursting sigh. " Shall I live in Tromathon, and the son of “ Morni low? My heart is not of that rock ; nor my • soul careless as that sea, which lifts its blue waves to “ every wind, and rolls beneath the storm. The blast “ which shall lay thee low, shall spread the branches of 6 Oithona on earth. We shall wither together, sono * car-borne Morni! The narrow house is pleasant t
“ me; and the grey stone of the dead; for never more “ will I leave thy rocks, sea-surrounded Tromathon! “ Chief of Strumon, why camest thou over the waves “ to Nuath's mournful daughter? Why did not I pass “ away in secret like the flower of the rock, that lifts “ its fáir head unseen, and strews its withered leaves on " the blast? Why didst thou come, O Gaul! to hear " my departing sigh? O had I dwelt at Duvranna, in " the bright beam of my fame! Then had my years “ come on with joy; and the virgins would bless my “ steps. But I fall in youth, son of Morni, and my «s father shall blush in his hall."
Oithona mourns like a woman; in Cuthullin's expressions of grief after his defeat, we behold the sentiments of a hero, generous but desponding. The situation is remarkably fine. Cuthullin, roused from his cave by the noise of battle, sees Fingal victorious in the field. He is described as kindling at the sight. “ His hand is on the sword of his fathers; his red-rolling “ eyes on the foe. He thrice attempted to rush to “ battle; and thrice did Connal stop him;" suggesting, that Fingal was routing the foe; and that he ought not, by the show of superfluous aid, to deprive the king of any part of the honour of a victory, which was owing to him alone. Cuthullin yields to this generous sentiment; but we see it stinging him to the heart with the sense of his own disgrace. « Then, Carril, go," replied the chief, “ and greet the king of Morven. When “ Lochlin falls away like a stream after rain, and the “ noise of the battle is over, then be thy voice sweet “ in his ear, to praise the king of swords. Give him 66 the sword of Caithbat; for Cuthullin is worthy no " more to lift the arms of his fathers. But, О ye ghosts “ of the lonely Cromla! ye souls of chiefs that are no 6 more! be ye the companions of Cuthullin, and talk 66 to him in the cave of his sorrow.' For never more “ shall I be renowned among the mighty in the land. " I am like a beam that has shone : Like a mist that " has fed away; when the blast of the morning came, * and brightened the shaggy side of the bill. Connal!