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es ghosts of Ardven pass through the beam ; and shew « their dim and distant forms. Comala is half-unseen “ on her meteor; and Hidallan is sullen and dim." 6 The awful faces of other times looked from the clouds “ of Crona.” “ Fercuth! I saw the ghost of night. " Silent he stood on that bank; his robe of mist few “ on the wind. I could behold his tears. An aged “ man he seemed, and full of thought."
The ghosts of strangers mingle not with those of the natives. “She is seen ; but not like the daughters of
the hill. Her robes are from the strangers land; and 6 she is still alone.” When the ghost of one whom he had formerly known is introduced, the propriety of the living character is still preserved. This is remarkable in the appearance of Calmar's ghost, in the poem intituled, The Death of Cuthullin. He seems to forebode Cuthullin's death, and to beckon him to his cave. Cuthullin reproaches him for supposing that he could be intimidated by such prognostics. “Why dost thou “ bend thy dark eyes on me, ghost of the car-borne “ Calınar! Wouldst thou frighten me, O Matha's son! " from the battles of Cormac? Thy hand was not fee. “ ble in war; neither was thy voice for peace How “ art thou changed, chief of Lara! if now thou dost “ advise to fly! Retire thou to thy cave: thou art not “ Calmar's ghost : He delighted in battie; and his arm " was like the thunder of heaven.” Calmar makes no return to this seeming reproach: but, “ he retired in « his blast with joy; for he had heard the voice of his “ praise.” This is precisely the ghost of Achilles in Homer; who, notwithstanding all the dissatisfaction he exp.esses with his state in the region of the dead, as soon as he had heard his son Neoptolemus praised for his gallant behaviour, strode away with silent joy to rejoin the rest of the shades'.
It is a great advantage of Ossian's mythology, that it is not local and temporarv, like that of most other ancient poets; which of course is apt to seein ridiculous, after the superstitions have passed away on which it
• Odyss. lib. 11.
was founded. Ossian's mythology is, to speak so, the mythology of human nature ; for it is founded on what has been the popular belief, in all ages and countries, and under all forms of religion, concerning the appearances of departed spirits. Homer's machinery is always lively and amusing ; but far from being always supported with proper dignity. The indecent squabbies among his gods, surely do no honour to epic poetry. Whereas Ossian's machinery has dignity upon alt occasions. It is in ceed a dignity of the dark and awful kind: but this is proper ; because coincident with the strain and spirit or the poetry. A light and gay mythology, like Homer's, would have been perfectly unsuit. able to the subjects on which Ossian's genius was employed. But though his machinery be always solemn, it is not, however, always dreary or dismal; it is enlivened as much as the subject would permit, by those pleasant and beautiful appearances, which he sometimes introduces, of the spirits of the hill. These are gentle spirits ; descending on sun-beams; fair-moving on the plain; their forms white and bright; their voices sweet; and their visits to men propitious. The greatest praise that can be given to the beauty of a living woman, is to say, “ She is fair as the ghost of the hill;
when it moves in a sun-beam at noon, over the si“ lence of Morven.”“The hunter shail hear my voice “ from his booth. He shall fear, but love my voice. * For sweet shall my voice be for my friends; for “ pleasant were they to me."
Besides ghosts, or the spirits of departed men, we find in Ossian some instances of other kinds of machinery. Spirits of a superior nature to ghosts are sometimes alluded to, which have power to embroii the deep; to call forth winds and storms, and pour them on the land of the stranger; to overturn forests, and to send death among the people. We have prodigies too ; a shower of blood; and when some disaster is befalling at a distance, the sound of death heard on the strings of Ossian's harp: all perfectly consonant, not only to the peculiar ideas of northern nations, but to
the general current of a superstitious imagination in all countries. The description of Fingal's airy hall, in the poem called Berrathon, and of the ascènt of Malvina into it, deserves particular notice, as remarkably noble and magnificent. But above all, the engagement of Fingal with the spirit of Loda, in Carric-thura, cannot be mentioned without admiration. I forbear transcribing the passage, as it must have drawn the attention of every one who has read the works of Ossian. The undaunted courage of Fingal, opposed to all the terrors of the Scandinavian god ; the appearance and the speech of that awful spirit; the wound which he receives, and the shriek which he sends forth, “ as rolled s into himself, he rose upon the wind;" are full of the most amazing and terrible majesty. I know no passage more sublime in the writings of any uninspired author. The fiction is calculated to aggrandize the hero, which it does to a high degree ; nor is it so un. natural or wild a fiction, as might at first be thought. According to the notions of those times, supernatural beings were inaterial, and consequently vulnerable. The spirit of Loda was not acknowledged as a deity by Fingal; he did not worship at the stone of his power; he plainly considered him as the god of his enemies only; as a local deity, whose dominion extended no farther than to the regions where he was worshipped; who had, therefore, no title to threaten him, and no claim to his subinission. We know there are poetical precedents of great authority for fictions fully as extravagant; and if Homer be forgiven for making Diomed attack and wound in battle the gods whom that chief himself worshipped, Ossian surely is pardonable for making his hero superior to the god of a foreign terri
The scene of this encounter, of Fingal with the spirit of Loda, is laid in Inistore, or the islands of Urklicy; and in the description of Fingal's landing there, it is said, " A rock bends at ng the coast, with all its echoing wood.” On “the top is the dir6 c'e of Loda, with the mossy stone of power." In confirmation of Ossian's topography, it is proper to acquaint the reader, that in these islands, as I have been well
formel, there are narty pillars and circles of stones, still remaining, known by the naines of the stones and circles of Loda, or Loden ; to which some degree of supersti. Lious regard is annexed to this day. These islands, until the year 1408, made a part of the Danish dominions. Their ancient language, of which there are yet some rerains among the natives, is called the Norse ; and is a dialect, not of the Celtic, but
Notwithstanding the poetical advantages which I have ascribed to Ossian's machinery, I acknowledge it would have been much more beautiful and perfect, had the author discovered some knowledge of a Supreme Being. Although his silence on this head has been accounted for by the learned and ingenious translator, in a very probable manner, yet still it must be held a considerable disadvantage to the poetry. For the most august and lofty ideas that can embellish poetry, are derived from the belief of a divine administration of the universe : and hence the invocation of a Supreme Being, or at least of some superior powers, who are conceived as presiding over human affairs, the solemnities of religious worship, prayers preferred, and assistance implored on critical occasions, appear with great dignity in the works of almost all poets, as chief ornaments of their compositions. The absence of all such religious ideas from Ossian's poetry, is a sensible blank in it: the more to be regretted, as we can easily imagine what an illustrious figure they would have made under the management of such a genius as his ; and how finely they would have been adapted to many situations which occur in his works.
After so particular an examination of Fingal, it were needless to enter into as full a discussion of the conduct of Temora, the other epic poem. Many of the same observations, especially with regard to the great chafacteristics of heroic poetry, apply to both. The high merit, however, of Temora, requires that we should not pass it by without some remarks.
The scene of Temora, as of Fingal, is laid in Ireland; and the action is of a posterior date. The subject is, an expedition of the hero, to dethrone and pu- .
a bloody usurper, and to restore the possession of the kingdom
Kingdom to the posterity of the lawful prince; an undertaking worthy the justice and heroism of the great
of the Scandinavian tongue.
cient songs too, are of a
inavian tongue. The manners and the superstitions of the inhabitants, are
rom those of the Highlands and western isles of Scotland. Their an. 100, are of a different strain and character, turning upon magical incanta.
ations from the dead, which were the favourite subjects of the old Runic y have many traditions among them of wars, in forma or tims, with the
sabitants of the western islands.
Fingal. The action is one and complete. The poen opens with the descent of Fingal on the coast, and the consultation held among the chiefs of the enemy. The murder of the young prince Cormac, which was the cause of the war, being antecedent to the epic action, is introduced with great propriety, as an episode in the first book. In the progress of the poem, three battles are described, which rise in their importance above one another; the success is various, and the issue for some time doubtful; till at last, Fingal, brought into distress by the wound of his great general Gaul, and the death of his son Fillan, assumes the command himself, and having slain the Irish king in single combat, restores
the rightful heir to his throne. • Temora has, perhaps, less fire than the other epic poem ; but in return, it has more variety, more tenderness, and more magnificence. . The reigning idea so often presented to us of “ Fingal in the last of his “ fields," is venerable and affecting ; nor could any more noble conclusion be thought of, than the aged hero, after so many successful atchievements, taking his leave of battles, and with all the soleinnities of those times, resigning his spear to his son. The events are less crowded in Temora than in Fingal; actions and characters are more particularly displayed; we are let into the transactions of both hosts; and informed of the adventures of the night, as well as of the day. The still pathetic, and the romantic scenery of several of the night adventures, so remarkably suited to Ossian's genius, occasion a fine diversity in the poem ; and are haj pily contrasted with the military operations of the day.
In most of our author's poems, the horrors of war are softened by intermixed scenes of love and friendship. In Fingal, these are introduced as episodes; in Temora, we have an incident of this nature wrought into the body of the piece ; in the adventure of Cathmor and Sul-malla. This forms one of the most consp cuous beauties of that poem. The distress of Sulmalla, disguised and unknown among strangers, her,