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concordant with the general tone or melody. The events recorded are all serious and grave; the scenery throughout, wild and romantic. The extended heath by the sea-shore ; the mountain shaded with mist; the torrent rushing through a solitary valley; the scattered oaks; and the tombs of warriors overgrown with moss; all produce a solemn attention in the mind, and prepare it for great and extraordinary events. We find not in Ossian an imagination that sports itself, and dresses out gay trifles to please the fancy. His poetry, more perhaps than that of any other writer, deserves to be styled, · The Poetry of the Heart,' It is a heart penetrated with noble sentiments, and with sublime and tender passions ; a heart that glows, and kindles the fancy; a heart that is full, and pours itself forth. Ossian did not write, like modern poets, to please readers and critics. He sung from the love of poetry and song. His delight was to think of the heroes among whom he had flourished; to recal the affecting incidents of his life; to dwell upon his past wars, and loves, and friendships ; till, as he expresses it himself, " there comes a voice to Ossian, and awakes his soul. " It is the voice of years that are gone; they roll 6 before me with all their deeds;" and under this poetic inspiration, giving vent to his genius, no wonder we should so often hear, and acknowledge in his strains, the powerful and ever-pleasing voice of nature.
Arte, natura potentior omni.
It is necessary here to observe, that the beauties of Ossian's writings cannot be felt by those who have given them only a single or hasty perusal. His manner is so different from that of the poets to whom we are most accustomed; his style is so concise, and so much crowded with imagery; the mind is kept at such a stretch in accompanying the author ; that an ordinary reader is at first apt to be dazzled and fatigued, rather than pleased. His poems require to be taken up at intervals, and to be frequently reviewed; and then it
manner and whose tin we are naturally led between the Gre Homer lived more ti it is not from the ag of society, that we The Greek has, in se ity. He introduces a great possesses a larger compas in his characters; a human nature. " of these particular Homer lived in a c advanced; he had be
s impossible but his beauties must open to every read..
iş capable of sensibility. Those who have the ghest degree of it will relish them most.
omer is, of all the great poets, the one whose and whose times came the nearest to Ossian's, naturally led to run a parallel in some instances
the Greek, and the Celtic bard. For though lived more than a thousand years before Ossian, from the age of the world, but from the state ly, that we are to judge of resembling times. cek has, in several points, a manifest superior
introduces a greater variety of incidents ; he a larger compass of ideas ; has more diversity haracters; and a much deeper knowledge of nature. It was not to be expected, that in any 1. particulars, Ossian could equal Homer. For lived in a country where society was much farther ed; he had beheld many more objects; cities built ourishing ; laws instituted; order, discipline, and vegun. His field of observation was much larger, more splendid; his knowledge, of course, more sive; his mind also, it shall be granted, more rating. But if Ossian's ideas and objects be less sihed than those of Homer, they are all, however,
kind fittest for poetry : the bravery and generoof heroes, the tenderness of lovers, the attach
of friends, parents, and children. In a rude age country, though the events that happen be few, andissipated mind broods over them more ; they e the imagination, and fire the passions in a highEgree; and of consequence became happier materi20 a poetical genius, than the same events when
ered through the wide circle of more varied action and cultivated life. Home
omer is a more cheerful and sprightly poet than ani. You decern in him all the Greek vivacity ; reas Ossian uniformly maintains the gravity and mnity of a Celtic hero. This too is in a great
sure to be accounted for from the different situations which they lived, partly personal, and partly nation
als to a poetic
al. Ossian had survived all his friends, and was disposed to melancholy by the incidents of his life. But besides this, cheerfulness is one of the many blessings which we owed to formed society. The solitary wild state is always a serious one. Bating the sudden and violent bursts of mirth, which sometimes break forth at their dances and feasts, the savage American tribes have been noted by all travellers for their gravity and taciturnity. Somewhat of this taciturnity may be also remarked in Ossian. On all occasions he is frugal of his words; and never gives you more of an image or a description, than is just sufficient to place it before you in one clear point of view. It is a blaze of lightning, which flashes and vanishes. Homer is more ex. tended in his descriptions į and fills them up with a greater variety of circumstances. Both the poets are dramatic; that is, they introduce their personages fre. quently speaking before us. But Ossian is concise and rapid in his speeches, as in every other thing. Homer, with the Greek vivacity, has also some portion of the Greek loquacity. His speeches indeed are highly characteristical; and to them we are much indebted for that admirable display he has given of human nature. Yet, if he te tedious any where, is is in these : some of them trifling, and some of them plainly unseasonable. Both poets are eminently sublime; but a difference may be remarked in the species of their sublimity. Homer's sublimity is accompanied with more impetuosity and fire ; Ossian's with more of a solemn and awful gran. deur. Homer hurries you along; Ossian elevates and fixes you in astonishment. Homer is most sublime in actions and battles; Ossian, in description and senti. I ment. In the pathetic, Homer, when he chuses to 'exert it, has great power; but Ossian exerts that power much oftener, and has the character of tenderness far more deeply imprinted on his works. No poet knew better how to seize and melt the heart. With regard to dignity of sentiment, the pre-eminence must clearly be given to Ossian. This is indeed a surprising cir. cumstance, that in point of humanity, magnanimity,
virtuous feelings of every kind, our rude Celtic bard should be distinguished to such a degree, that not only the heroes of Homer, but even those of the polite and refined Virgil, are left far behind by those of Os
sían. 1 After these general observations on the genius and
spirit of our author, I now proceed to a nearer view, and more accurate examination of his works : and as
Fingal is the first great poem in this collection, it is i proper to begin with it. To refuse the title of an epic
poem to Fingal, because it is not, in every particular, exactly conformable to the practice of Homer and Yirgil, were the mere squeamishness and pedantry of eriticism. Examined even according to Aristotle's rules, it will be found to have all the essential requisites of a true and regular epic; and to have several of them in so high a degree, as at first view to raise our astonishment at finding Ossian's composition so agreeable to rules of which he was entirely ignorant. But our astonishment will cease, when we consider from what source Aristotle drew those rules. Homer knew no more of the laws of criticism than Ossian. But guided by nature, he composed in verse a regular story, founded on heroic actions, which all posterity admired. Aristotle, with great sagacity and penetration, traced the causes of this general admiration. He observed what It was in Homer's composition, and in the conduct of his story, which gave it such power to please ; from this observation he deduced the rules which poets ought to follow, who would write and please like Homer ; and to a composition formed according to such rules, he gave the name of an epic poem. Hence the whole system arose. Aristotle studied nature in Homer : Homer and Ossian wrote from nature. No wonder that among all the three, there should be such agreement and conformity.
The fundamental rules delivered by Aristotle concerning an epic poem, are these : That the action which is the ground work of the poem should be one, complete and great: that it should be feigned, net merely historical; that it should be enlivened with characters and manners; and heightened by the marvellous.
But before entering on any of these, it may perhaps be asked, what is the moral of Fingal ? For, according to M. Bossu, an epic poem is no other than an allegory contrived' to illustrate some moral truth, The poet, says this critic, must begin with fixing on some maxim, or instruction, which he intends to inculcate on mankind. He next forms a fable, like one of Æsop's, wholly with a view to the moral; and having thus settled and arranged his plan, he then looks into traditionary history for names and incidents, to give his fable soine air of probability. Never did a more frigid, pedantic notion, enter into the mind of a critic. We may safely pronounce, that he who should compose an epic poem after this manner, who should first lay down a moral and contrive a plan, before he had thought of his personages and actors, might deliver indeed very sound instruction, but would find few readers. There cannot be the least doubt that the first object which strikes an epic poet, which fires his genius, and gives him any idea of his work, is the action or subject he is to celebrate. Hardly is there any tale, any subject, a poet can chuse for such a work, but will afford some general moral instruction. An epic poem is, by its nature, one of the most moral of all poetical compositions : but its moral tendency is by no means to be limited to some common-place maxim, which may be gathered from the story. It arises from the admiration of heroic actions, which such a composition is peculiarly calculated to produce ; from the virtuous emotions which the characters and incidents raise, whilst we read it ; from the happy impression which all the parts separately, as well as the whole taken together, leave upon the mind. However, if a general moral be still insisted on, Fingal obviously furnishes one, not inferior to that of any other poet, viz. That wisdom and bravery always triumph over brutal force; or another nobler
T: That the most complete victory over an enemy