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« We have fought with our swords. I was young, “when, towards the east, in the bay of Oreon, we
In exertu solis
Endili maris ensibus
bellatorem multum vidi cadere
alus fecit Agnerum spoliatum
18 Verborum tenaces vidi dissecare Hand minutim pro lupis
" made torrents of blood flow to gorge the ravenous beast “ of prey, and the yellow footed bird. There resounded “ the hard steel upon the lofty helmets of men. The “ whole ocean was one wound. The crow waded in o the blood of the slain. When we had numbered twen“ ty years, we lifted our spears on high, and every where “ spread our renown. Eight barons we overcame in the " east, before the port of Diminum; and plentifully we “ feasted the eagle in that slaughter. The warm stream “ of wounds ran into the ocean. The army fell before 6 us. When we steered our ships into the mouth of the “ Vistula, we sent the Helsingians to the hall of Odion. “ Then did the sword bite. The waters were all one “ wound. The earth was dyed red with the warm “ stream. The sword rung upon the coats of mail, and " clove bucklers in twain. None fled on that day, till e among his ships Heraudus feil. Than him no braver " baron cleaves the sea with ships; a chearful heart did “ he ever bring to the combat. Then the host threw “ away their shields, when the uplifted spear flew at the “ breast of heroes. The swords bit the Scarfian rocks; “ bloody was the shield in battle, until Rafno the king " was slain. From the heads of warriors the warm sweat “ streamed down their armour. The crows around the “ Indirian islands had an ample prey. It were difficult
Virgam in Ellæ sanguine
Fert animus finire
" to single out one among so many deaths. At the ris« ing of the sun I beheld the spears piercing the bodies * offoes, and the bows throwing forth their steel-pointed “ arrows. Loud roared the swords in the plains of Lano. “ The virgin long bewailed the slaughter of that morn"ing.” Lu this strain the poet continues to describe several other military exploits. The images are not much varied; the noise of arms, the streaming of blood, and the feasting the birds of prey, often recurring. He mentions the death of two of his sons in battle ; and the lamentation he describes as made for one of hem is very singular. A Grecian or Roman poet would have introduced the virgins, or nymphs of the wood, bewailing the untimely fall of a young hero. But, says our Gothic poet, “ when Rogvaldus was slain, for him mourned “ all the hawks of heaven," as lamenting a benefactor who had so liberally supplied them with prey; " for "boldly,” as he adds, “ in the strife of swords did the “ breaker of helmets throw the spear of blood.”
The poem concludes with sentiments of the highest bravery and contempt of death. " What is more cer. "tain to the brave man than death, though amidst the “storm of swords he stands always ready to oppose it? “He only regrets this life who hath never known dis“ tress. The timorous man allures the devouring eagle “ to the field of battle. The coward, wherever he comes, " is useless to himself. This I esteem honourable, that " the youth should advance to the combat fairly match. "ed one against another; nor man retreat from man. “Long was this the warrior's highest glory. He who “ aspires to the love of virgins, ought always to be fore“ most in the roar of arms. It appears to me of truth, " that we are led by the fates. Seldom can any over“come the appointment of destiny. Little did I fore“ see that Ellab was to have my life in his hands, in " that day, when fainting I concealed my blood, and “pushed forth my ship into the waves, after we had “ spread a repast for the beasts of prey, throughout the "Scottish bays. But this makes me always rejoice, that
» This was the name of his enemy who had condemned him to death.
“ in the halls of our father Balder (or Odin) I know “ there are seats prepared, where, in a short time, we is shall be drinking ale out of the hollow skulls of our “ enemies. In the house of the mighty Odin, no brave “ man laments death. I come not with the voice of « despair to Odin's hall. How cagerly would all the
sons of Aslauga now rush to war, did they know the 6 distress of their father, whom a multitude of venomsous serpents tear! I have given to my children " a mother who hath filled their hearts with valour, “ I am fast approaching to my end. A cruel death a“ waits me from the viper's bite. A snake dwells in 6 the midst of my heart. I hope that the sword of some 6 of my sons shall yet be stained with the blood of Ella. • The valiant youths will wax red with anger, and will “ not sit in peace. Fifty and one times have I reared 6 the standard in battle. In my youth I learned to dye " the sword in blood: my hope was then, that no king " among men would be more renowned than me. The “ goddesses of death will now soon call me; I must not “ mourn my death. Now I end my song. The god. “ desses invite me away ; they whom Odin has sent “ to me from his hall. I will sit upon a lofty seat " and drink ale joyfully with the goddesses of death. “ The hours of my life are run out. I will smile when
6 I die.”
This is such poetry as we might expect from a bar. barous nation. It breathes a most ferocious spirit. It is wild, harsh, and irregular; but at the same time ani. mated and strong; the style, in the original, full of inversions, and, as we learn from some of Qlaus's notes, highly metaphorical and figured.
But when we open the works of Ossian, a very diffe. rent scene presents itself. There we find the fire and enthusiasm of the most early times, combined with an amazing degree of regularity and art. We find tenderness, and even delicacy of sentiment. greatly predomi. nant over fierceness and barbarity. Our hearts are melt. ed with the softest feelings, and at the same time ele. vated with the highest ideas of magnanimity, generosi.
ty, and true heroism. When we turn from the poetry of Lodbrog to that of Ossian, it is like passing from a savage desert, into a fertile and cultivated country. How is this to be accounted for? or by what means to be reconciled with the remote antiquity attributed to these poems? This is a curious point, and requires to be illustrated.
That the ancient Scots were of Celtic original, is past all doubt. Their conformity with the Celtic nations in language, manners, and religion, proves it to a full demonstration. The Celtæ, a great and mighty people, altogether distinct from the Goths and Teutones, once extended their dominion over all the west of Europe ; but seem to have had their most full and complete establishment in Gaul. Wherever the Celtæ or Gauls are mentioned by ancient writers, we seldom fail to hear of their druids and their bards; the institution of which two orders, was the capital distinction of their manners and policy. The druids' were their philosophers and priests; the bards, their poets and recorders of heroic actions: and both of these orders of men, seem to have subsisted among them, as chief members of the state, from time immemorial! We must not therefore imagine the Celtæ to have been altogether a gross and rude dation, They possessed from very remote ages a formcd system of discipline and manners, which appears to have had a deep and lasting influence. Ammianus Marcellinus gives them this express testimony, that there flourished among them the study of the most laudable arts ; introduced by the bards, whose office it was to sing in heroic verse the gallant actions of illustrious men ; and by the druids, who lived together in colleges and societies, after the Pythagorean manner, and philosophising upon the highest subjects, asserted the immor
i There are three tribes who are respected in diffe
e tribes who are respected in different degrees, viz. the bards, the priests, and druids. The bards are poets, and those who record the heroes. Strabo, B. IV. There are likewise among them the compose
kewise among them the composers of poems, whom they call bards; and these, with instruments like the lyre, celebrate the praise thers, Diod. Sicul. B. V.
Like the lyre, celebrate the praises of some, and rail against ose who are called bards, are their oracles, and these bards are poets who sing paises in odes. Posidonus ap. Atheneum, B. YI.