The Poems of Ossian
A Selection of Poems
Cath-Loda | Comala | Carric-Thura
Carthon | Oina-Morul
C A T H - L O D A:
P O E M.
[ 2 ]
A R G U M E N T.
FINGAL, when very young, making a voyage to the Orkney Islands, was driven, by stress of weather, into a bay of Scandinavia, near the residence of Starno, king of Lochlin. Starno invites Fingal to a feast. Fingal, doubting the faith of the king, and mindful of a former breach of hospitality, refuses to go. -- Starno gathers together his tribes; Fingal resolves to defend himself. -- Night coming on, Duth-maruno proposes to Fingal to observe the motions of the enemy. -- The king himself undertakes the watch. Advancing towards the enemy, he accidently comes to the cave of Turthor, where Starno has confined Conban-carglas, the captive daughter of a neighboring chief. -- Her story is imperfect, a part of the original being lost. -- Fingal comes to a place of worship, where Starno, and his son Swaran, consulted the spirit of Loda concerning the issue of the war. -- The re-encounter of Fingal and Swaran. -- Duan first concludes with a description of the airy hall of Cruth-loda, supposed to be the Odin of Scandinavia.
[ 3 ]
C A T H - L O D A:
* DUAN FIRST.
A TALE of the times of old!
Why, thou wanderer unseen! Thou bender of the thistle of Lora; why, thou breeze of the valley, hast thou left mine ear? I
* The bards distinguished those compositions, in which the narration is often interrupted by episodes and apostrophes, by the name of Duan. Since the extinction of the order of the bards, it has been a general name for all ancient compositions in verse. The abrupt manner in which the story of this poem begins, may render it obscure to some readers; it may not therefore be improper, to give here the traditional preface, which is generally prefixed to it. Two years after he took to wife Ros-crana, the daughter of Cormac, king of Ireland, Fingal undertook an expedition to Orkney, to visit his friend Cathulla, king of Inistore. After staying a few days at Caric-thura, the residence of Cathulla, the king set sail, to return to Scotland; but a violent storm arising, his ships were driven into a bay of Scandinavia, near Gormal, the seat of Starno, king of Lochlin, his avowed enemy. Starno, upon the appearance of strangers on his coast, summoned together the neighboring tribes, and advanced, in a hostile manner, towards the bay of U-thorno, where Fingal had taken shelter. Upon discovering who the strangers were, and fearing the valour of Fingal, which he had, more than once, experienced before, he resolved to accomplish by treachery, what he was afraid he should fail in by open force. He invited, therefore, Fingal to a
hear no distant roar of streams! No sound of the harp from the rock! Come, thou huntress of Lutha, Malvina, call back his soul to the bard. I look forward to Lochlin of lakes, to the dark billowy bay of U-thorno, where Fingal descends from ocean, from the roar of winds. Few are the heroes of Morven in a land unknown!
Starno sent a dweller of Loda to bid Fingal to the feast; but the king remembered the past, and all his rage arose. "Nor Gormal's mossy towers, nor Starno, shall Fingal behold. Deaths wander, like shadows, over his fiery soul! Do I forget that beam of light, the white-handed daughter * of kings? Go, son of Loda; his words are wind to Fingal: wind, that, to and fro drives the thistle in autumn's dusky vale. Duth-maruno, arm
feast, at which he intended to assassinate him. The king prudently declined to go, and Starno betook himself to arms. The sequel of the story may be learned from the poem itself.
* Agandecca, the daughter of Starno, whom her father killed, on account of her discovering to Fingal a plot laid against his life. Her story is related at large in the third book of Fingal.
Duth-maruno is a name very famous in tradition. Many of the great actions are handed down, but the poems, which contained the detail of them, are long since lost. He lived, it is supposed, in that part of the north of Scotland, which is over against Orkney. Duth-maruno, Cromma-glas, Struthmor, and Cormar, are mentioned, as attending Comhal, in his last battle against the tribe of Morni, in a poem, which is still preserved. It is not the work of Ossian; the phraseology betrays it to
of death! Cromma-glas, of iron shields! Struthmor, dweller of battle's wing! Cromar, whose ships bound on seas, careless as the course of a meteor, on dark-rolling clouds! Arise around me, children of heroes, in a land unknown! Let each look on his shield like Trenmor, the ruler of wars. "Come down," thus Trenmor said, "thou dweller between the harps! Thou shalt roll this stream away, or waste with me in earth."
Around the king they rise in wrath. No words come forth: they seize their spears. Each soul is rolled into itself. At length the sudden clang is waked on all their echoing shields. Each takes his hill by night; at intervals they darkly stand. Unequal bursts the hum of songs, between the roaring wind!
Broad over them rose the moon!
In his arms came tall Duth-maruno: he, from Croma of rocks, stern hunter of the boar! In his dark boat he rose on waves, when Crumthormo * awaked its woods. In the chase he shone, among foes: No fear was thine, Duth-maruno!
be a modern composition. It is something like those trivial compositions, which the Irish bards forged, under the name of Ossian, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Duth-maruno signifies, black and steady; Cromma-glas, bending and swarthy; Struthmor, roaring stream; Cormar, expert at sea.
* Crumthormoth, one of the Orkney or Shetland islands. The name is not of Galic original. It was subject to its own petty king, who is mentioned in one of Ossian's poems.
"Son of daring Comhal, shall my steps be forward through night? From this shield shall I view them, over their gleaming tribes? Starno, king of lakes, is before me, and Swaran, the foe of strangers. Their words are not in vain, by Loda's stone of power. -- Should Duth-maruno not return, his spouse is lonely at home, where meet two roaring streams on Crathmo-craulo's plain. Around are hills, with echoing woods; the ocean is rolling near. My son looks on screaming sea-fowl, a young wanderer on the field. Give the head of a boar to Can-dona, * tell him of his father's joy, when
* Cean-daona, head of the people, the son of Duth-maruno. He became afterwards famous, in the expeditions of Ossan, after the death of Fingal. The traditional tales concerning him are very numerous, and, from the epithet in them, bestowed on him (Can-dona of boars), it would appear, that he applied himself to that kind of hunting, which his father, in this paragraph, is so anxious to recommend to him. As I have mentioned the traditional tales of the Highlands, it may not be improper here to give some account of them. After the expulsion of the bards, from the houses of the chiefs, they, being an indolent race of men, owed all their subsistence to the generosity of the vulgar, whom they diverted with repeating the compositions of their predecessors, and running up the genealogies of their entertainers to the family of their chiefs. As this subject was, however, soon exhausted, they were obliged to have recourse to invention, and form stories, having no foundation in fact, which were swallowed, with great credulity, by an ignorant multitude. By frequent repeating, the fable grew upon their hands, and, as each threw in whatever circumstance he thought conducive to raise the admiration of his hearers, the story became, at last, so devoid of all probability,
rolled on his lifted spear. Tell him of my deeds in war! Tell where his father fell!"
"Not forgetful of my fathers," said Fingal, "I have bounded over the seas. Theirs were the times of danger in the days of old. Nor settles darkness on me, before foes, though youthful in my locks. Chief of Crathmocraulo, the field of night is mine."
Fingal rushed, in all his arms, wide bounding over Turthor's stream, that sent its sullen roar, by night, through Gormal's misty vale. A moonbeam glittered on a rock; in the midst stood a stately form; a form with floating locks, like Lochlin's white-bosomed maids. Unequal are her steps, and short. She throws
that even the vulgar themselves did not believe it. They, however, liked the tales so well, that the bards found their advantage in turning professed tale-makers. They then launched out into the wildest regions of fiction and romance. I firmly believe, there are more stories of giants, enchanted castes, dwarfs, and palfreys, in the Highlands, than in any country in Europe. These tales, it is certain, like other romantic compositions, have many things in them unnatural, and, consequently, disgustful to true taste; but, I know not how it happens, they command attention more than any other fictions I ever met with. The extreme length of these pieces is very surprising, some of them required many days to repeat them, but such hold they take of the memory, that few circumstances are ever omitted by those who have received them only from oral tradition: What is still more amazing, the very language of the bards is still preserved. It is curious to see, that the descriptions of magnificence, introduced in these tales, are even superior to all the pompous oriental fictions of the land.
a broken song on wind. At times she tosses her white arms: for grief is dwelling in her soul.
"Torcal-torno, * of aged locks," she said, "where now are thy steps, by Lulan? Thou hast failed at thine own dark streams, father of Conban-cargla! But I behold thee, chief of Lulan, sporting by Loda's hall, when the dark-skirted night is rolled along the sky. -- Thou sometimes hidest the moon with thy shield. I have seen her dim, in heaven. Thou
* Torcal-torno, according to tradition, was king of Crathulun, a district in Sweden. The river Lulan ran near the residence of Torcal-torno. There is a river in Sweden, still called Lula, which is probably the same with Lulan. The war between Starno and Torcal-torno, which terminated in the death of the latter, had its rise at a hunting party. Starno being invited, in a friendly manner, by Torcal-torno, both kings, with their followers, went to the mountains of Stivamore, to hunt. A boar rushed from the wood before the kings, and Torcal-torno killed it. Starno thought this behaviour a breach upon the privilege of guests, who were always honoured, as tradition expresses it, with the danger of the chase. A quarrel arose, the kings came to battle, with all their attendants, and the party of Torcal-torno were totally defeated, and he himself slain. Starno pursued his victory, laid waste to the district of Carthlun, and, coming to the residence of Torcal-torno, carried off by force, Conban-carglas, the beautiful daughter of his enemy. Her he confined to a cave, near the palace of Gormal, where, on account of her cruel treatment, she became distracted.
The paragraph, just now before us, is the song of Conban-carglas, at the time she was discovered by Fingal. It is in lyric measure, and set to music, which is wild and simple, and so intimately suited to the situation of the unhappy lady, that few can hear it without tears.
kindlest thy hair into meteors, and sailest along the night. Why am I forgot, in my cave, king of shaggy boars? Look from the hall of Loda, on thy lonely daughter."
"Who art thou," said Fingal, "voice of night?"
She, trembling, turned away.
"Who art thou, in thy darkness?"
She shrunk into the cave.
The king loosed the thong from her hands. He asked about her fathers.
"Torcul-torno," she said, "once dwelt at Lulan's foamy stream: he dwelt-but now, in Loda's hall, he shakes the sounding shell. He met Starno of Lochlin in war; long fought the dark-eyed kings. My father fell, in his blood, blue-shielded Torcul-torno! By a rock, at Lulan's stream, I had pierced the bounding roe. My white hand gathered my hair from off the rushing winds. I heard a noise. Mine eyes were up. My soft breast rose on high. My step was forward, at Lulan, to meet thee, Torcul-torno. It was Starno, dreadful king! His red eves rolled on me in love. Dark waved his shaggy brow, above his gathered smile. Where is my father, I said, he that was mighty in war! Thou art left alone among foes, O daughter of Torcul-torno! He took my hand. He raised the sail. In this cave he placed me dark. At times he comes a gathered mist. He lifts before me my father's shield. But often passes
a beam * of youth far distant from my cave. The son of Starno moves in my sight. He dwells lonely in my soul."
"Maid of Lulan," said Fingal, "white-handed daughter of grief! a cloud, marked with streaks of fire, is rolled along my soul. Look not to that dark-robed moon; look not to those meteors of heaven. My gleaming steel is around thee, the terror of my foes! It is not the steel of the feeble, nor of the dark in soul! The maids are not shut in our caves of streams! They toss not their white arms alone. They bend fair within their locks, above the harps of Selma. Their voice is not in the desert wild. We melt along the pleasing sound!"
* * * * * * *Fingal again advanced his steps, wide through the bosom of night, to where the trees of Loda shook amid squally winds. Three stones, with heads of moss, are there; a stream
* By the beam of youth, it afterwards appears, that Conban-carglas means Swaran, the son of Starno, with whom, during her confinement, she had fallen in love.
From this contrast, which Fingal draws, between his own nation and the inhabitants of Scandinavia, we may learn, that the former were much less barbarous than the latter. This distinction is so much observed throughout the poems of Ossian, that there can be no doubt, that he followed the real manners of both nations in his own time. At the close of the speech of Fingal, there is a great part of the original lost.
with foaming course: and dreadful, rolled around them, is the dark red cloud of Loda. High from its top looked forward a ghost, half formed of the shadowy stroke. He poured his voice, at times, amidst the roaring stream. Near, bending beneath a blasted tree, two heroes received his words: Swaran of lakes, and Starno, foe of strangers. On their dun shields they darkly leaned: their spears are forward through night. Shrill sounds the blast of darkness in Starno's floating beard.
They heard the tread of Fingal. The warriors rose in arms. "Swaran, lay that wanderer low," said Starno, in his pride. "Take the shield of thy father. It is a rock in war." Swaran threw his gleaming spear. It stood fixed in Loda's tree. Then came the foes forward with swords. They mixed their rattling steel. Through the thongs of Swaran's shield rushed the blade * of Luno. The shield fell rolling on earth. Cleft, the helmet fell down. Fingal stopt the lifted steel. Wrathful stood Swaran, unarmed. He rolled his silent eyes; he threw his sword on earth. Then, slowly stalking over the stream, he whistled as he went.
Nor unseen of his father is Swaran. Starno turns away in wrath. His shaggy brows wave
* The sword of Fingal, so called from its maker, Luno of Lochlin.
The helmet of Swaran. The behaviour of Fingal is always consistent with that generasity of spirit which belongs to a hero. He takes no advantage of a foe disarmed.
dark above his gathered rage. He strikes Loda's tree with his spear. He raises the hum of songs. They come to the host of Lochlin, each in his own dark path; like two foam-covered streams from two rainy vales!
To Turthor's plain Fingal returned. Fair rose the beam of the east. It shone on the spoils of Lochlin in the hand of the king. From her cave came forth, in her beauty, the daughter of Torcul-torno. She gathered her hair from wind. She wildly raised her song. The song of Lulan of shells, where once her father dwelt. She saw Starno's bloody shield. Gladness rose, a light. on her face. She saw the cleft helmet of Swaran. * She shrunk, darkened, from Fingal. -- "Art thou fallen by thy hundred streams, O love of the mournful maid!"
U-thorno that risest in waters! on whose side are the meteors of night? I behold the dark moon descending behind thy resounding woods. On thy top dwells the misty Loda: the house of the spirits of men! In the end of his cloudy hall bends forward Cruth-loda of
* Conban-carglas, from seeing the helmet of Swaran bloody in the hands of Fingal, conjectured that that hero was killed. A part of the original is lost. It appears, however, from the sequel of the poem, that the daughter of Torcul-torno did not long survive her surprize, occasioned by the supposed death of her lover. The description of the airy hall of Loda )which is supposed to be the same with that of Odin, the deity of Scandinavia) is more picturesque and descriptive, than any in the Edda, or other works of the northern Scalders.
swords. His form is dimly seen, amid his wavy mist. His right-hand is on his shield. In his left is the half-viewless shell. The roof of his dreadful hall is marked with nightly fires!
The race of Cruth-loda advance, a ridge of formless shades. He reaches the sounding shell, to those who shone in war. But, between him and the feeble, his shield rises, a darkened orb. He is a setting meteor, to the weak in arms. Bright as a rainbow on streams, came Lulan's white-bosomed maid.
C A T H - L O D A:
P O E M.
[ 16 ]
A R G U M E N T.
FINGAL, returning with day, devolves the command on Duth-maruno, who engages the enemy, and drives them over the stream of Turthor. Having recalled his people, he congratulates Duth-maruno on his success, but discovers, that that hero had been mortally wounded in the action. -- Duth-maruno dies. Ulin, the bard, in honour of the death, introduces the episode of Col-gorm and Strinadona, which concludes this duan..
[ 17 ]
C A T H - L O D A:
"WHERE art thou, son of the king?" said dark-haired Duth-marno. "Where hast thou failed, young beam of Selma? He returns not from the bosom of night! Morning is spread on U-thorno. In his mist is the sun on his hill. Warriors, lift the shields in my presence. He must not fall like a fire from heaven, whose place is not marked on the ground. He comes like an eagle, from the skirt of his squally wind! in his hand are the spoil of foes. King of Selma, our souls were sad!"
"Near us are the foes, Duth-maruno. They come forward, like waves in mist, when their foamy tops are seen at times above the low-sailing vapor. The traveller shrinks on his journey; he knows not whither to fly. No trembling travellers are we! Sons of heroes call forth the steel. Shall the sword of Fingal arise, or shall a warrior lead?"
The deeds of old, said Duth-maruno, are like paths to our eyes, O Fingal!
*In this short episode we have a very probable account given us, of the origin of the monarchy in Caledonia. The
Broad-shielded Trenmor is still seen amidst his own dim years. Nor feeble was the soul of the king. There no dark deed wandered in secret. From their hundred streams came the tribes, to glassy Colglan-crona. Their chiefs were before them. Each strove to lead the war. Their swords were often half unsheathed. Red rolled their eyes of rage. Separate they stood, and hummed their surly songs. "Why should they yield to each other? their fathers were equal in war." Trenmor was there, with his people stately, in
Cael or Gauls, who possessed the countries to the north of the Firth of Edinburgh, were originally, a number of distinct tribes, or clans, each subject to its own chief, who was free and independent of any other power. When the Romans invaded them, the common danger might, perhaps, have induced those reguli to join together; but, as they were unwilling to yield the command of one of their own number, their battles were ill-conducted, and, consequently, unsuccessful. Trenmor was the first who represented to the chiefs, the bad consequences of carrying on their wars in this irregular manner, and advised that they themselves should alternately lead in battle. They did so, but were unsuccessful. When it came to Trenmor's turn, he totally defeated the enemy, by his superior valour and conduct, which gained him such an interest among the tribes, that he, and his family after him, were regarded as kings; or, to use the poet's expression, the words of power rushed forth from Selma of kings. The regal authority, however, except in time of war, was but inconsiderable; for every chief, within his own district, was absolute and independent. From the scene of the battle in this episode (which was in the valley of Corna, a little to the north of Agricola's wall), I should suppose, that the enemies of the Caledonians were the Romans, or provincial Britons.
youthful locks. He saw the advancing foe. The grief of his soul arose. He bade the chiefs to lead by turns; they led, but they were rolled away. From his own mossy hill blue-shielded Trenmor came down. He led wide-skirted battle, and the strangers failed. Around him the dark-browed warriors came: they struck the shield of joy. Like a pleasant gale the words of power rushed forth from Selma of kings. But the chiefs led by turns, in war, till mighty danger rose: then was the hour of the king to conquer in the field.
"Not unknown," said Cromma-glas * of shields, "are the deeds of our fathers. But
* In tradition, this Cromma-glass makes a great figure in that battle which Comhal lost, together with his life, to the tribe of Morni. I have just now, in my hands, an Irish composition, of a very modern date, as appears from the language, in which all the traditions, concerning that decisive engagement, are jumbled together. In justice to the merit of the poem, I should have here presented to the reader a translation of it, did not the bard mention some circumstances very ridiculous, and others altogether indecent. Morna, the wife of Comhal, had a principal hand in all the transactions previous to the defeat and death of her husband; she, to use the words of the bard, who was the guiding star of the women of Erin. The bard, it is to be hoped, misrepresented the ladies of his country, for Morna's behaviour was, according to him, so void of all decency and virtue, that it cannot be supposed, they had chosen her for their guiding star. The poem consists of many stanzas. The language is figurative, and the numbers harmonious; but the piece is so full of anachronisms, and so unequal in its composition, that the author, most undoubtedly, was either mad, or drunk, when he wrote it. It is worthy of
who shall now lead the war before the race of kings? Mist settles on these four dark hills: within it let each warrior strike his shield. Spirits may descend in darkness, and mark us for the war." They went each to his hill of mist. Bards marked the sounds of the shields. Loudest rung thy boss Duth-maruno. Thou must lead in war!
Like the murmurs of waters the race of U-thorno came down. Starno led the battle, and Swaran of stormy isles. They looked forward from iron shields like Cruth-loda, fiery-eyed, when he looks from behind the darkened moon, and strews his signs on night. The foes met by Turthor's stream. They heaved like ridgy waves. Their echoing strokes are mixed. Shadowy death flies over the hosts. They were clouds of hail. with squally winds in their skirts. Their showers are roaring together. Below them swells the dark-rolling deep.
Strife of gloomy U-thorno, why should I mark thy wounds? Thou art with the years that are gone; thou fadest on my soul!
Starno brought forward his skirt of war, and Swaran his own dark wing. Nor a harmless fire is Duthmaruno's sword. Lochlin is
being remarked, that Comhal is, in this poem, very often called, Comhal na b' Albin, or Comhal of Albion, which sufficiently demonstrates, that the allegations of Keating and O'Flaherty, concerning Fion Mac-Comnal, are but of late invention.
rolled over her streams. The wrathful kings are lost in thought. They roll their silent eyes over the flight of their land. The horn of Fingal was heard; the sons of woody Albion returned. But many lay, by Turthor's stream, silent in their blood.
"Chief of Crathmo," said the king, "Duth-maruno, hunter of boars! not harmless returns my eagle from the field of foes! For this white-bosomed Lanul shall brighten at her streams; Candona shall rejoice as he wanders in Crathmo's fields."
"Colgorm," * replied the chief, " was the first of my race in Albion; Colgorm, the rider of ocean; through Its watery vales. He slew his brother in I-thorno: he left the land of his fathers. He chose his place in silence, by rocky Crathmo-craulo. His race came forth in their years; they came forth to war, but they always fell. The wound of my fathers is mine, king of echoing isles!
* The family of Duth-maruno, it appears, came originally from Scandinavia, or, at least, from some of the northern isles, subject, in chief, to the kings of Lochlin. The Highland senachies, who never missed to make their comments on, and additions to, the works of Ossian, have given us a long list of the ancestors of Duth-maruno, and a particular account of their actions, many of which are of the marvellous kind. One of the tale-makers of the north has chosen for his hero, Starnmor, the father of Duth-maruno, and, considering the adventures through which he has led him, the piece is neither disagreeable, nor abounding with that kind of fiction which shocks credibility.
An island of Scandinavia.
"He drew an arrow from his side! He fell pale in a land unknown. His soul came forth to his fathers, to their stormy isle. There they pursued boars of mist, along the skirts of winds. The chiefs stood silent around, as the stones of Loda, on their hill. The traveller sees them, through the twilight, from his lonely path. He thinks them the ghosts of the aged, forming future wars.
"Night came down on U-thorno. Still stood the chiefs in their grief. The blast whistled, by turns, through every warrior's hair. Fingal, at length, broke forth from the thoughts of his soul. He called Ullin of harps, and bade the song to rise. "No falling fire, that is only seen, and then retires in night; no departing meteor was he that is laid so low. He was like the strong-beaming sun, long rejoicing on his hill, Call the names of his fathers from their dwellings old!'"
I-thorno, * said the bard, that risest midst
* This episode is, in the original, extremely beautiful. It is set to that wild kind of music, which some of the Highlanders distinguish, by the title of Fon Oi-marra, or the Song of the mermaids. Some part of the air is absolutely infernal, but there are many returns in the measure, which are inexpressibly wild and beautiful. From the genius of the music, I should think it came originally from Scandinavia, for the fictions delivered down concerning the Oi-marra (who are reputed the authors of the music), exactly correspond with the notions of the northern nations, concerning the dirae, or goddesses of death. -- Of all the names in this episode, there is none of a Gallic original, except Strina-dona, which signifies the strife of heroes.
ridgy seas! Why is thy head so gloomy in the ocean's mist? From thy vales came forth a race, fearless as thy strong winged eagles: the race of Colgorm of iron shields, dwellers of Loda's hall.
In Tormoth's resounding isle arose Lurthan, streamy hill. It bent its woody head over a silent vale. There, at foamy Cruruth's source, dwelt Rurmar, hunter of boars! His daughter was fair as a sunbeam, white-bosomed Strina-dona!
Many a king of heroes, and hero of iron shields; many a youth of heavy locks came to Rurmar's echoing hall. They came to woo the maid, the stately huntress of Tormoth wild. But thou lookest careless from thy steps, high-bosomed Strina-dona!
If on the heath she moved, her breast was whiter than the down of Cana; * If on the sea-beat shore, than the foam of the rolling ocean. Her eyes were two stars of light. Her face was heaven's bow in showers. Her dark hair flowed round it, like the streaming clouds. Thou wert the dweller of souls, white-handed Strina-dona!
Colgorm came in his ship, and Corcul-suran, king of shells. The brothers came
* The Cana is a certain kind of grass, which grows plentifully in the heathy morasses of the north. Its stalk is of the reedy kind, and it carries a tuft of down, very much resembling cotton. It is excessively white, and, consequently often introduced by the bards, in their families concerning the beauty of women.
from I-thorno to woo the sunbeam of Tormoth wild. She saw them in their echoing steel. Her soul was fixed on blue-eyed Colgorm. Ul-lochlin's * nightly eye looked in, and saw the tossing arms of Strina-dona.
Wrathful the brothers frowned. Their flaming eyes in silence met. They turned away. They struck their shields. Their hands were trembling on their swords. They rushed into the strife of heroes for long haired Strina-dona.
Corcul-suran fell in blood. On his isle raged the strength of his father. He turned Colgorm from I-thorno, to wander on all the winds. In Crathmocraulo's rocky field he dwelt by a foreign stream. Nor darkened the king alone, that beam of light was near, the daughter of echoing Tormoth, white armed Strina-dona.
* Ul-lochlin, the guide to Lochlin; the name of a star
The continuation of this episode is just now in my hands; but the language is so different from, and the ideas so unworthy of, Ossian, that I have rejected it, as an interpolation by a modern bard.
C A T H - L O D A:
P O E M.
[ 26 ]
A R G U M E N T.
Ossian, after some general reflections, describes the situation of Fingal, and the position of the army of Lochlin. -- The conversation of Starno and Swaran. -- The episode of Corman-trunar and Foina-bragal. -- Starno, from his own example, recommends to Swaran, to surprise Fingal, who had retired alone to a neighbouring hill. Upon Swaran's refusal, Starno undertakes the enterprise himself, is overcome, and taken prisoner, by Fingal. -- He is dismissed, after a severe reprimand for his cruelty.
[ 27 ]
C A T H - L O D A:
"WHENCE is the stream of years? Whither do they roll along? Where have they hid, in mist, their many colored sides?
I look unto the times of old, but they seem dim to Ossian's eyes, like reflected moonbeams on a distant lake. Here rise the red beams of war! There, silent dwells a feeble race! They mark no years with their deeds, as slow they pass along. Dweller between the shields! thou that awakest the failing soul! descend from thy wall, harp of Cona, with thy voices three! Come with that which kindles the past: rear the forms of old, on their own dark-brown years!
U-thorno, * hill of storms, I behold my race on thy side. Fingal is bending in night
* The bards, who were always ready to supply what they thought deficient in the poems of Ossian, have inserted a great many incidents between the second and third duan of Cath-loda. Their interpolations are so easily distinguished from the genuine remains of Ossian, that it took me very little time to mark them out, and totally reject them. If the modern Scotch and Irish bards have shewn any judgment, it is in ascribing their own compositions to names of antiquity, for, by that
over Duth-maruno's tomb. Near him are the steps of his heroes, hunters of the boar. By Turthor's stream the host of Lochlin is deep in shades. The wrathful kings stood on two hills: they looked forward on their bossy shields. They looked forward to the stars of night, red wandering in the west. Cruth-loda bends from high, like formless meteor in clouds. He sends abroad the winds and marks them with his signs. Starno foresaw, that Morven's king was not to yield in war.
He twice struck the tree in wrath. He rushed before his son. He hummed a surly
means, they themselves have escaped that contempt, which the authors of such futile performances must, necessarily, have met with, from people of true taste. I was led into this observation, by an Irish poem, just now before me. It concerns a descent made by Swaran, king of Lochlin, on Ireland, and is the work, says the traditional preface prefixed to it, of Ossian Mac-Fion.. It however appears, from several pious ejaculations, that it was rather the composition of some good priest, in the fifteenth or sixteenth century, for he speaks, with great devotion, of pilgrimage, and more particularly, of the blue-eyed daughters of the convent. Religious, however, as this poet was, he was not altogether decent, in the scenes he introduces between Swaran and the wife of Congcullion, both of whom he represents as giants. It happening, unfortunately, that Congcullion was only of a moderate nature, his wife, without hesitation, preferred Swaran, as a more adequate match for her own gigantic size. From this fatal preference proceeded so much mischief, that the good poet altogether lost sight of his principal action, and he ends the piece, with advice to men, in the choice of their wives, which, however good it may be, I shall leave concealed in the obscurity of the original.
song, and heard his air in wind. Turned * from one another, they stood like two oaks, which different winds had bent; each hangs over his own loud rill, and shakes his boughs in the course of blasts.
"Annir," said Starno of lakes, "was a fire that consumed of old. He poured death from his eyes along the striving fields. His joy was in the fall of men. Blood to him was a summer stream, that brings joy to the withered vales, from its own mossy rock. He came forth to the lake Luth-cormo, to meet the tall Corman-trunar, he from Urlor of streams, dweller of battle's wing."
The chief of Urlor had come to Gormal with his dark-bosomed ships. He saw the daughter of Annir, white-armed Foina-bragal. He saw her! Nor careless rolled her eyes on the rider of stormy waves. She fled to his ship in darkness, like a moonbeam through a nightly veil. Annir pursued along the deep; he called the winds of heaven. Nor alone was the king! Starno was by his
* The surly attitude of Starno and Swaran is well adapted to their fierce and uncomplying dispositions. Their characters, at first sight, seem little different; but, upon examination, we find that the poet has dexterously distinguished between them. They were both dark, stubborn, haughty, and reserved, but Starno was cunning, revengeful, and cruel, to the highest degree; the disposition of Swaran, though savage, was less bloody, and somewhat tinctured with generosity. It is doing injustice to Ossian, to say, that he has not a great variety of characters.
side. Like U-thorno's young eagle, I turned my eyes on my father.
We rushed into roaring Urlor. With his people came tall Corman-trunar. We fought; but the foe prevailed. In his wrath my father stood. He lopped the young trees with his sword. His eyes rolled red in his rage. I marked the soul of the king, and I retired in night. From the field I took a broken helmet; a shield that was pierced with steel; pointless was the spear in my hand. I went to find the foe.
On a rock sat tall Corman-trunar beside his burning oak; and near him beneath a tree, sat deep-bosomed Foina-bragal. I threw my broken shield before her! I spoke the words of peace. "Beside his rolling sea lies Annir of many lakes. The king was pierced in battle; and Starno is to raise his tomb. Me, a son of Loda, he sends to white-handed Foina, to bid her send a lock from her hair, to rest with her father in earth. And thou, king of roaring Urlor, let the battle cease, till Annir receive the shell from fiery-eyed Cruth-loda."
Bursting into tears, * she rose, and tore a lock from her hair; a lock, which wandered
* Ossian is very partial to the fair sex. Even the daughter of the cruel Annir, the sister of the revengeful and bloody Starno, partakes not of those disagreeable characters so peculiar to her family. She is altogether tender and delicate. Homer, of all ancient poets, uses the sex with least ceremony. His cold contempt is even worse than the downright abuse of the moderns; for to draw abuse implies the possession of some merit.
in the blast, along her heaving breast. Corman-trunar gave the shell, and bade me rejoice before him. I rested in the shade of night, and hid my face in my helmet deep. Sleep descended on the foe. I rose, like a stalking ghost. I pierced the side of Corman-trunar. Nor did Foina-bragal escape. She rolled her white bosom in blood.
Why, then, daughter of heroes, didst thou wake my rage?
Morning rose. The foe were fled, like the departure of mist. Annir struck his bossy shield. He called his dark-haired son. I came, streaked with wandering blood: thrice rose the shout of the king, like the bursting forth of a squall of wind from a cloud by night. We rejoiced three days above the dead, and called the hawks of heaven. They came from all their winds to feast on Annir's foes. Swaran, Fingal is alone * in his hill of night. Let thy spear pierce the king in secret; like Annir, my soul shall rejoice.
"Son of Annir," said Swaran, "I shall not slay in shades: I move forth in light: the hawks rush from all their winds. They are wont to trace my course: it is not harmless through war."
* Fingal, according to the custom of the Caledonian kings, had retired to a hill alone, as he himself was to resume the command of the army the next day. Starno might have some intelligence of the king's retiring, which occasions his request to Swaran, to stab him; as he foresaw, by his art of divination, that he could not overcome him in open battle.
Burning rose the rage of the king. He thrice raised his gleaming spear. But, starting, he spared his son, and rushed into the night. By Turthor's stream, a cave is dark, the dwelling of Conban-carglas. There he laid the helmet of kings, and called the maid of Lulan; but she was distant far in Loda's resounding hall.
Swelling in his rage, he strode to where Fingal lay alone. The king was laid on his shield, on his own secret hill.
Stern hunter of shaggy boars! no feeble maid is laid before thee. No boy on his ferny bed, by Turthor's murmuring stream. Here is spread the couch of the mighty, from which they rise to deeds of death! Hunter of shaggy boars, awaken not the terrible!
Starno came murmuring on. Fingal arose in arms. "Who art thou, son of night!" Silent he threw the spear. They mixed their gloomy strife. The shield of Starno fell, cleft in twain. He is bound to an oak. The early beam arose. It was then Fingal beheld the king. He rolled awhile his silent eyes. He thought of other days, when white-bosomed Agandecca moved like the music of songs. He loosed the thong from his hands. Son of Annir, he said, retire. Retire to Gormal of shells; a beam that was set returns. I remember thy white-bosomed daughter; dreadful king, away! Go to thy troubled dwelling, cloudy foe of the lovely Let the stranger shun thee, thou gloomy in the hall!
A tale of the times of old!
C O M A L A:
D R A M A T I C P O E M.
[ 34 ]
A R G U M E N T.
This poem is valuable on account of the light it throws on the antiquity of Ossian's compositions. The Caracul mentioned here is the same with Caracalla, the son of Severus, who, in the year 211, commanded an expedition against the Caledonians. The variety of the measure shows that the poem was originally set to music, and perhaps presented before the chiefs upon solemn occasions. Tradition has handed down the story more complete than it is in the poem. "Colmala, the daughter of Sarno, king of Inistore, or Orkney Islands, fell in love with Fingal, the son of Comhal, at a feast, to which her father father had invited him [Fingal, Book III.] upon his return from Lochlin, after the death of Agandecca. Her passion was so violent, that she followed him, disguised like a youth, who wanted to be employed in his wars. She was soon discovered by Hidallan, the son of Lamor, one of Fingal's heroes, whose love she had slighted some time before. Her romantic passion and beauty recommended her so much to the king, that he had resolved to make her his wife; when news was brought to him of Caracul's expedition. He marched to stop the progress of the enemy, and Comala attended him. He left her on a hill, within sight of Caracul's army, when he himself went to battle, having previously promised, if he survived, to return that night." The sequel of the story may be gathered from the poem itself.
C O M A L A:
D R A M A T I C P O E M.
T H E P E R S O N S.
DERSAGRENA.THE chase is over. No noise on Ardven but the torrent's roar! Daughter of Morni, come from Crona's banks. Lay down the bow and take the harp. Let the night come on with songs, let our joy be great on Ardven.
MELILCOMA.*Night comes apace, thou blue-eyed maid! grey night grows dim along the plain. I saw a deer at Crona's stream; a mossy bank he seemed through the gloom, but soon he bounded away. A meteor played round his
* Melilcoma, -- soft-rolling eye.
branching horns; the awful faces of other times looked from the clouds of Crona.
DERSAGRENA. These are the signs of Fingal's death. The king of shields is fallen! and Caracul prevails. Rise, Comala, from thy rock; daughter of Sarno, rise in tears! the youth of thy love is low; his ghost is on our hills.
MELILCOMA.There Comala sits forlorn! two gray dogs near shake their rough ears, and catch the flying breeze. Her red cheek rests upon her arm, the mountain wind is in her hair. She turns her blue eyes towards the fields of his promise. Where art thou, O Fingal? The night is gathering around.
COMALA.O Carun § of the streams! why do I behold
* Apparent dirae facies, inimicaque Troja; Nitmina magna deum. Virg.
--- dreadful sounds I hear, And dire form of hostile gods appear. Dryden.
Dersagrena, the brightness of a sun-beam.
Comala, the maid of the pleasant brow.
§ Carun or Cara'on, a winding river. -- This river retains still the name of Carron, and falls into the Forth some miles to the north of Falkirk. Gentesque alias cum pelleret armis Sedibus, aut victas vilem fervaret in usum Servitii, hic contenta suos defendere fines Roma securigeris praetendit maenia Scotis: Hic spe progressus postia, Caronis ad undam Terminus Ausonii divortia regni. Buchanan.
thy waters rolling in blood? Has the noise of the battle been heard; and sleeps the king of Morven? Rise, moon, thou daughter of the sky! look from between thy clouds; rise, that I may behold the gleam of his steel on the field of his promise. Or rather let the meteor, that lights our fathers through the night, come with its red beam, to show me the way to my fallen hero. Who will defend me from sorrow? Who from the love of Hidallan? Long shall Comala look before she can behold Fingal in the midst of his host; bright as the coming forth of the morning in the cloud of an early shower.
HIDALLAN. Dwell, thou mist of gloomy Crona, dwell on the path of the king! Hide his steps from mine eyes, let me remember my friend no more. The bands of battle are scattered, no
Hidallan was sent by Fingal to give notice to Comala of his return; he, to revenge himself on her for slighting his love some time before, told her that the king was killed in battle. He even pretended that he carried his body from the field to be buried in her presence; and this circumstance makes it probable that the poem was presented of old.
crowding tread round the noise of his steel. O Carun! roll thy streams of blood, the chief of the people is low.
COMALA.Who fell on Carun's sounding banks, son of the cloudy night? Was he white as the snow of Ardven? Blooming as the bow of the shower? Was his hair like the mist of the hill, soft and curling in the day of the sun? Was he like the thunder of heaven in battle? Fleet as the roe of the desart?
HIDALLAN.O that I might behold his love, fair-leaning from her rock! Her red eye dim in tears, her blushing cheek half hid in her locks! Blow, O gentle breeze! lift thou the heavy locks of the maid, that I may behold her white arm, her lovely cheek in her grief.
COMALA.And is the son of Comhal fallen, chief of the mournful tale! The thunder rolls on the hill! The lightning flies on wings of fire! They frighten not Comala; for Fingal is low. Say, chief of the mournful tale, fell the breaker of the shields?
HIDALLAN.The nations are scattered on their hills! they shall hear the voice of the king no more.
COMALA.Confusion pursue thee over thy plains! Ruin overtake thee, thou king of the world! Few be thy steps to thy grave; and let one virgin mourn thee! Let her be like Comala, tearful in the days of her youth! Why hast thou told me, Hidallan, that my hero fell? I might have hoped a little while his return; I might have thought I saw him on the distant rock: a tree might have deceived me with his appearance; the wind of the hill might have been the sound of his horn in mine ear. O that I were on the banks or Carun; that my tears might be warm on his cheek!
HIDALLAN.He lies not on the banks of Carun: on Ardven heroes raise his tomb. Look on them, O moon! from thy clouds; be thy beam bright on his breast, that Comala may behold him in the light of his armour.
COMALA.Stop, ye sons of the grave, till I behold lily love! He left me at the chase alone. I knew
not that he went to war. He said he would return with the night; the king of Morven is returned! Why didst thou not tell me that he would fall, O trembling dweller of the rock! * Thou sawest him in the blood of his youth; but thou didst not tell Comala!
MELILCOMA.What sound is that on Ardven? Who is that bright in the vale? Who comes like the strength of rivers, when their crowded waters glitter to the moon?
COMALA.Who is it but the foe of Comala, the son of the king of the world! Ghost of Fingal! do thou, from thy cloud, direct Comala's bow. Let him fall like the hart of the desert. It is Fingal in the crowd of his ghosts. Why dost thou come, my love, to frighten and please my soul?
FINGAL.Raise, ye bards, the song; raise the wars of the streamy Carun! Caracul has fled from our arms along the field of his pride. He sets far distant like a meteor, that incloses a spirit
* By the dweller of the rock she means a druid. It is probable that some of the order of the druids remained as late as the beginning of the reign of Fingal; and that Comala had consulted one of them concerning the event of the war with Caracul.
of night, when the winds drive it over the heath, and the dark woods are gleaming around. I heard a voice, or was it the breeze of my hills? Is it the huntress of Ardven, the white-handed daughter of Sarno? Look from the rocks, my love; let me hear the voice of Comala!
COMALA.Take me to the cave of thy rest, O lovely son of death
FINGAL.Come to the cave of my rest. The storm is past, the sun is on our fields. Come to the cave of my rest, huntress of echoing Ardven!
COMALA.He is returned with his fame! I feel the right hand of his wars! But I must rest beside the rock till my soul returns from my fear! O let the harp be near! raise the song, ye daughters of Morna.
DERSAGRENA.Comala has slain three deer on Ardven, the fire ascends on the rock; go to the feast of Comala, king of the woody Morven!
FINGAL.Raise, ye sons of song, the wars of the streamy Carun; that my white-handed maid may rejoice: while I behold the feast of my love.
BARDS.Roll, streamy Carun, roll in joy, the sons of battle are fled! the steed is not seen on our fields; the wings of their pride spread on other lands. The sun will now rise in peace, and the shadows descend in joy. The voice of the chase will be heard; the shields hang in the hall. Our delight will be in the war of the ocean, our hands shall grow red in the blood of Lochlin. Roll, streamy Carun, roll in joy, the sons of battle fled!
MELILCOMA.Descend, ye light mists from high! Ye moonbeams, lift her soul! Pale lies the maid at the rock! Comala is no more!
FINGAL.Is the daughter of Sarno dead; the white-bosomed maid of my love? Meet me, Comala, on my heaths, when I sit alone at the streams of my hills.
* Perhaps the poet alludes ro the Roman eagle.
HIDALLAN.Ceased the voice of the huntress of Ardven? why did I trouble the soul of the maid? When shall I see thee, with joy, in the chase of the dark-brown hinds?
FINGAL.Youth of the gloomy brow! No more shalt thou feast in my halls! Thou shalt not pursue my chase, my foes shall not fall by thy sword. Lead me to the place of her rest, that I may behold her beauty. Pale she lies as the rock, the cold winds lift her hair. Her bow-string sounds in the blast, her arrow was broken in her fall. Raise the praise of the daughter of Sarno! give her name to the winds of heaven.
BARDS.See! meteors gleam around the maid! See! moonbeams lift her soul! Around her, from their clouds, bend the awful faces of her father: Sarna of the gloomy brow! the red-rolling eyes of Hidallan! When shall thy white hand arise? When shall thy voice be heard on our rocks? The maids shall seek thee
* The sequel of the story of Hidallan is introduced in another poem.
Sarno the father of Comala died soon after the flight of his daughter. Fidallan was the first king that reigned in Inistore.
on the heath, but they shall not find thee. Thou shalt come, at times, to their dreams, to settle peace in their soul. Thy voice shall remain in their ears, they shall think with joy on the dreams of their rest. Meteors gleam around the maid, and moonbeams lift her soul!
[ 45 ]
C A R R I C - T H U R A:
P O E M.
[ 46 ]
A R G U M E N T.
Fingal, returning from an expedition which he had made into the Roman province, resolved to visit Cathulla, king of Inistore, and brother to Comala, whose story is related at large in the preceding dramatic poem. Upon his coming in sight of Carric-thura, the palace of Cathulla, he observed a flame on its top, which, in those days, was a signal of distress. The wind drove him into a bay, at some distance from Carric-thura, and he was obliged to pass the night on shore. Next day he attacked the army of Frothal, king of Sora, who had beseiged Cathulla in his palace of Carric-thura, and took Frothal himself prisoner, after he had engaged him in a single combat. The deliverance of Carric-thura is the subject of the poem; but several other episodes are interwoven with it. It appears, from tradition, that this poem was addressed to a Culdee, or one of the first Christian missionaries, and that the story of the Spirit of Loda, supposed to be the ancient Odin of Scandinavia, was introduced by Ossian in opposition to the Culdee's doctrine. Be this as it will, it lets us into Ossian's notions of a superior being; and shews us that he was not addicted to the superstition which prevailed all the world over, before the introduction of Christianity.
[ 47 ]
C A R R I C - T H U R A.
P O E M.
HAST * thou left thy blue course in heaven, golden-haired son of the sky! The west opened its gates; the bed of thy repose is there. The waves come to behold thy beauty. They lift their trembling heads. They see thee lovely in thy sleep; they shrink away with fear. Rest in thy shadowy cave, O sun! let thy return be in joy.
But let a thousand lights arise to the sound of the harps of Selma: let the beam spread in the hall, the king of shells is returned! The strife of Crona is past, like sounds that are no more. Raise the song, O bards! the king is returned with his fame!
* The song of Ullin, with which the poem opens, is in a lyric measure. It was usual with Fingal, when he returned from his expeditions, to send his bards singing before him. This species of triumph is called by Ossian, the song of victory.
Ossian has celebrated the strife of Crona, in a particular poem. This poem is connected with it, but it was impossible for the translator to procure that part which relates to Crona, with any degree of purity.
Such were the words of Ullin, when Fingal returned from war; when he returned in the fair blushing of youth with all his heavy locks. His blue arms were on the hero; like a light cloud on the sun, when he moves in his robes of mist, and shows but half his beams. His heroes followed the king: the feast of shells is spread. Fingal turns to his bards, and bids the song to rise.
Voices of echoing Cona! he said; O bards of other times! Ye, on whose souls the blue host of our fathers rise! strike the harp in my hall: and let me hear the song. Pleasant is the joy of grief; it is like the shower of spring when it softens the branch of the oak, and the young leaf rears its green head. Sing on, O bards! to-morrow we lift the sail. My blue course is through the ocean, to Carric-thura's walls; the mossy walls of Sarno, where Comala dwelt. There the noble Cathulla spreads the feast of shells. The boars of his woods are many; the sound of the chase shall arise!
Cronnan, son of the song! said Ullin; Minona, graceful at the harp! raise the tale of Shilric, to please the king of Morven. Let
* One should think that the parts of Shilric and Vinvela were represented by Cronnan and Minona, whose very names denote that they were singers, who performed in public. Cronnan signifies a mournful sound, Minona, or Min-'onn, soft air. All the dramatic poems of Ossian appear to have been presented before Fingal, upon solemn occasions.
Vinvela come in her beauty, like the showery bow when it shows its lovely head on the lake, and the setting sun is bright. She comes, O Fingal! her voice is soft, but sad.
VINVELA.My love is a son of the hill. He pursues the flying deer. His gray dogs are panting around him; his bow-string sounds in the wind. Dost thou rest by the fount of the rock, or by the noise of the mountain stream? The rushes are nodding to the wind, the mist flies over the hill. I will approach my love unseen; I will behold him from the rock. Lovely I saw thee first by the aged oak of Branno; * thou wert returning tall from the chase; the fairest among thy friends.
SHILRIC.What voice is that I hear? that voice like the summer wind! I sit not by the nodding rushes; I hear not the fount of the rock . Afar, Vinvela, afar, I go to the wars of Fingal. My dogs attend me no more. No more
* Bran, or Branno, signifies a mountain-stream: it is here some river known by that name, in the days of Ossian. There are several small rivers in the north of Scotland still retaining the name of Bran; in particular one which falls into the Tay at Dunkeld.
Bhin bheul, a woman with a melodious voice. Bh in the Galic language has the same sound with the v in English.
I tread the hill. No more from on high I see thee, fair moving by the stream of the plain; bright as the bow of heaven; as the moon on the western wave.
VINVELA.Then thou art gone, O Shilric! I am alone on the hill! The deer are seen on the brow: void of fear they graze along. No more they dread the wind; no more the rustling tree. The hunter is far removed, he is in the field of graves. Strangers! sons of the waves! spare my lovely Shilric!
SHILRIC.If fall I must in the field, raise high my grave, Vinvela. Gray stones, and heaped up earth, shall mark me to future times. When the hunter shall sit by the mound, and produce his food at noon, "some warrior rests here," he will say; and my fame shall live in his praise. Remember me, Vinvela, when low on earth I lie!
VINVELA.Yes! I will remember thee! alas! my Shilric will fall! What shall I do, my love, when thou art for ever gone? Through these hills I will go at noon: I will go through the silent heath. There I will see the place of thy rest, returning from the chase. Alas!
but I will remember Shilric.
And I remember the chief, said the king of woody Morven; he consumed the battle in his rage. But now my eyes behold him not. I met him one day on the hill; his cheek was pale: his brow was dark. The sigh was frequent in his breast: his steps were towards the desert. But now he is not in the crowd of my chiefs, when the sounds of my shields arise. Dwells he in the narrow house, * the chief of high Carmora?
Cronnan! said Ullin of other times, raise the song of Shilric! when he returned to his hills, and Vinvela was no more. He leaned on her gray mossy stone he thought Vinvela lived. He saw her fair moving on the plain; but the bright form lasted not: the sunbeam fled from the field, and she was seen no more. Hear the song of Shilric; it is soft, but sad!
I sit by the mossy fountain; on the top of the hill of winds. One tree is rustling above me. Dark waves roll over the heath. The lake is troubled below. The deer descend from the hill. No hunter at a distance is seen. It
* The grave.
Carn-mor, high rocky hill.
The distinction which the ancient Scots made between good and bad spirits, was, that the former appeared sometimes in the day-time in lonely unfrequented places, but the latter never but by night, and in a dismal gloomy scene.
is mid-day: but all is silent. Sad are my thoughts alone. Didst thou but appear, O my love? a wanderer on the heath? thy hair floating on the wind behind thee; thy bosom heaving on the sight; thine eyes full of tears for thy friends, whom the mists of the hill had concealed? Thee I would comfort, my love, and bring thee to thy father's house?
But is it she that there appears, like a beam of light on the heath? bright as the moon in autumn, as the sun in a summer storm, comest thou, O maid, over rocks, over mountains, to me? She speaks: but how weak her voice! like the breeze in the reeds of the lake.
"Returnest thou safe from the war? Where are thy friends, my love? I heard of thy death on the hill; I heard and mourned thee, Shilric! Yes, my fair, I return: but I alone of my race. Thou shalt see them no more; their graves I raised on the plain. But why art thou on the desert hill? Why on the heath alone?
"Alone I am, O Shilric! alone in the winter-house. With grief for thee I fell. Shilric, I am pale in the tomb."
She fleets, she sails away; as mist before the wind; and wilt thou not stay, Vinvela? Stay, and behold my tears! Fair thou appearest, Vinvela! fair thou wast, when alive!
By the mossy fountain I will sit; on the top of the hills of winds. When mid-day is silent around, O talk with me, Vinvela! come on the light-winged gale! on the breeze of
the defect, come! Let me hear thy voice, as thou passest, when mid-day is silent around!
Such was the song of Cronnan, on the night of Selma's joy. But morning rose in the east; the blue waters rolled in light. Fingal bade his sails to rise; the winds came rustling from their hills. Inistore rose to sight, and Carric-thura's mossy towers! But the sign of distress was on their top: the warning flame edged with smoke. The king of Morven struck his breast: he assumed at once his spear. His darkened brow bends forward to the coast: he looks back to the lagging winds. His hair is disordered on his back. The silence of the king is terrible!
Night came down on the sea: Rotha's bay received the ship. A rock bends along the coast with all its echoing wood. On the top is the circle * of Loda, the mossy stone of power! A narrow plain spreads beneath covered with grass and aged trees, which the midnight winds, in their wrath, had torn from their shaggy rock. The blue course of a stream is there! the lonely blast of ocean pursues the thistle's beard. The flame of three oaks arose: the feast is spread round; but the soul of the king is sad, for Carric-thura's chief distrest.
The wan cold moon rose in the east. Sleep descended on the youths! Their blue helmets
* The circle of Loda is supposed to be a place of worship among the Scandinavians, as the spirit of Loda is thought to be the same with their god Odin.
glitter to the beam; the fading fire decays. But sleep did not rest on the king: he rose in the midst of his arms, and slowly ascended the hill, to behold the flame of Sarno's tower.
The flame was dim and distant; the moon hid her red face in the east. A blast came from the mountain, on its wings was the spirit of Loda. He came to his place in his terrors, * and shook his dusky spear. His eyes appear like flames in his dark face; his voice is like distant thunder. Fingal advanced his spear in night, and raised his voice on high.
Son of night, retire; call thy winds, and fly! Why dost thou come to my presence, with thy shadowy arms? Do I fear thy gloomy form, spirit of dismal Loda! Weak is thy shield of clouds; feeble is that meteor, thy sword! The blast rolls them together; and thou thyself art lost. Fly from my presence, son of night; call thy winds, and fly!
Dost thou force me from my place? replied the hollow voice. The people bend before me. I turn the battle in the field of the brave. I look on the nations, and they vanish: my nostrils pour the blasts of death. I come abroad on the winds; the tempests are before my face. But my dwelling is calm, above the clouds; the fields of my rest are pleasant.
Dwell in thy pleasant fields, said the king: Let Comhal's son be forgot. Do my steps ascend from my hills into thy peaceful plains?
* He is described, in a simile, in the poem concerning the death of Cuchullin.
Do I meet thee with a spear on thy cloud, spirit of dismal Loda? Why then dost thou frown on me? Why shake thine airy spear? Thou frownest in vain: I never fled from the mighty in war. And shall the Sons of the wind frighten the king of Morven? No! he knows the weakness of their arms!
Fly to thy land, replied the form: receive thy wind and fly? The blasts are in the hollow of my hand the course of the storm is mine. The king of Sora is my son, he bends at the stone of my power. His battle is around Carric-thura; and he will prevail! Fly to thy land, son of Comhal, or feel my flaming wrath.
He lifted high his shadowy spear! He bent forward his dreadful height. Fingal, advancing, drew his sword; the blade of dark-brown Luno. * The gleaming path of the steel winds through the gloomy ghost. The form fell shapeless into the air, like a column of smoke, which the staff of the boy disturbs as it rises from the half-extinguished furnace.
The spirit of Loda shrieked, as, rolled into himself, he rose on the wind. Inistore shook at the sound. The waves heard it on the deep. They stopped in their course with fear; the friends of Fingal started at once, and took their heavy spears. They missed the king: they rose in rage; all their arms resound!
* The famous sword of Fingal, made by Lun, or Luno, a smith of Lochlin.
The moon came forth in the east. Fingal returned in the gleam of his arms. The joy of his youth was great, their souls settled, as a sea from a storm. Ullin raised the song of gladness. The hills of Inistore rejoiced. The flame of the oak arose; and the tales of heroes are told.
But Frothal Sora's wrathful king sits in sadness beneath a tree. The host spreads around Carric-thura. He looks towards the walls with rage He longs for the blood of Cathulla, who once overcame him in war. When Annir reigned * in Sora, the father of sea-borne Frothal, a storm arose on the sea, and carried Frothal to Inistore. Three days he feasted in Sarno's halls, and saw the slow-rolling eyes of Comala. He loved her in the flame of youth, and rushed to seize the white-armed maid. Cathulla met the chief. The gloomy battle arose. Frothal was bound in the hall: three days he pined alone. On the forth, Sarno sent him to his ship, and he returned to his land. But wrath darkened in his soul against the noble Cathulla. When Annir's stone of fame arose, Frothal came in his strength. The battle burned round Carric-thura and Sarno's mossy walls.
* Annir was also the father of Erragon, who was king after the death of his brother Frothal. The death of Erragon is the subject of the battle of Lora, a poem in this collection.
That is, after the death of Annir. To erect the stone of one's fame, was, in other words, to say that the person was dead.
Morning rose on Inistore. Frothal struck his dark brown shield. His chiefs started at the sound; they stood, but their eyes were turned to the sea. They saw Fingal coming in his strength; and first the noble Thubar spoke, "Who comes, like the stag oft he desert, with all his herd behind him? Frothal, it is a foe! I see his forward spear. Perhaps it is the king of Morven, Fingal the first of men. His deeds are well known in Lochlin! the blood of his foes is in Sarno's halls. Shall I ask the peace * of kings? His sword is the bolt of heaven!"
Son of the feeble hand, said Frothal, shall my days begin in a cloud? Shall I yield before I have conquered, chief of streamy Tora? The people would say in Sora, Frothal flew forth like a meteor; but a darkness has met him, and his fame is no more. No, Thubar, I will never yield; my fame shall surround me like light. No: I will never yield, chief of streamy Tora!
He went forth with the stream of his people, but they met a rock; Fingal stood unmoved, broken they rolled back from his side. Nor did they safely fly; the spear of the king pursued their steps. The field is covered with heroes. A rising hill preserved the foe.
Frothal saw their flight. The rage of his bosom rose. He bent his eyes to the ground, and called the noble Thubar. Thubar! my
* Honourable terms of peace.
people are fled. My fame has ceased to rise. I will fight the king; I feel my burning soul! Send a bard to demand the combat. Speak not against Frothal's words! But, Thubar! I love a maid; she dwells by Thano's stream, the white-bosomed daughter of Herman, Utha, with soft-rolling eyes. She feared the low-laid Comala; her secret sighs rose when I spread the sail. Tell to Utha of harps that my soul delighted in her.
Such were his words, resolved to fight. The soft sigh of Utha was near! She had followed her hero in the armor of a man. She rolled her eye on the youth, in secret, from beneath her steel. She saw the bard as he went; the spear fell thrice from her hand! Her loose hair flew on the wind. Her white breast rose with sighs. She raised her eyes to the king. She would speak, but thrice she failed.
Fingal heard the words of the bard; he came in the strength of his steel. They mixed their deathful spears: they raised the gleam of their arms. But the sword of Fingal descended and cut Frothal's shield in twain. His fair side is exposed; half-bent, he foresees his death. Darkness gathered on Utha's soul. The fear rolled down her cheek. She rushed to cover the chief with her shield: but a fallen oak met her steps. She fell on her arm of snow; her shield, her helmet flew wide. Her white bosom heaved to the sigh; her dark-brown hair is spread on earth.
Fingal pitied the white-armed maid! he stayed the uplifted sword. The tear was in the eye of the king, as, bending forward, he spoke, "King of streamy Sora! fear not the sword of Fingal. it was never stained with the blood of the vanquished it never pierced a fallen foe. Let thy people rejoice by their native Streams. Let the maid of thy love be glad. Why shouldst thou fall in thy youth, king of streamy Sora?" Frothal heard the words of Fingal, and saw the rising maid: they * stood in silence, in their beauty, like two young trees of the plain, when the shower of spring is on their leaves, and the loud winds are laid.
Daughter of Herman, said Frothal, didst thou come from streams? didst thou come in thy beauty to behold thy warrior low? But he was low before the mighty, maid of the slow-rolling eye! The feeble did not overcome the son of car-borne Annir! Terrible art thou, O king of Morven! in battles of the spear. But, in peace, thou art like the sun when he looks through a silent shower: the flowers lift their fair heads before him; the gales shake their rustling wings. O that thou wert in Sora! that my feast were spread! The future kings of Sora would see thy arms and rejoice. They would rejoice at the fame of their fathers, who beheld the mighty Fingal!
* Frothal and Utha.
Son of Annir, replied the king, the fame of Sora's race shall be heard! When. chiefs are strong in war, then does the song arise! But if their swords are stretched over the feeble; if the blood of the weak has stained their arms; the bard shall forget them in the song, and their tombs shall not be known. The stranger shall come and build there, and remove the heaped-up earth. An half-worn sword shall rise before him; bending above it, he will say, "These are the arms of the chiefs of old, but their names are not in song." Come thou, O Frothal! to the feast of Inistore: let the maid of thy love be there; let our faces brighten with joy!
Fingal took his spear, moving in the steps of his might. The gates of Carric-thura are opened wide. The feast of shells is spread. The soft sound of music arose. Gladness brightened in the hall. The voice of Ullin was heard; the harp of Selma was strung. Utha rejoiced in his presence, and demanded the song of grief; the big tear hung in her eye when the soft Crimora spoke. Crimora, * the daughter of Rinval, who dwelt at Lotha's roaring stream! The tale was long, but lovely; and pleased the blushing Utha.
* There is a propriety in introducing this episode, as the situations of Crimora and Utha were so familiar.
Lotha was the ancient name of one of the great rivers in the north of Scotland. The only one of them that still retains a name of a like sound is Lochy, in Invernessshire; but whether it is the river mentioned here, the translator will not pretend to say.
CRIMORA. *Who cometh from the hill, like a cloud tinged with the beam of the west? Whose voice is that, loud as the wind, but pleasant as the harp of Carril? It is my love in the light of steel; but sad is his darkened brow! Live the mighty race of Fingal? or what darkens Connal's soul?
CONNAL.They live. They return from the chase like a stream of light. The sun is on their shields. Like a ridge of fire they descend the hill. Loud is the voice of the youth! the war, my love, is near! To-morrow the dreadful Dargo comes to try the force of our race . The race of Fingal he defies; the race of battles and wounds!
CRIMORA.Connal, I saw his sails like gray mist on the dark-brown wave. They slowly came to
* Crimora, a woman of a great soul.
Perhaps the Carril mentioned here is the same with Carril the son of Kinfena, Cuchullin's bard. The name itself is proper to any bard, as it signifies a sprightly and harmonious sound.
Connal, the son of Diaran, was one of the most famous heroes of Fingal; he was slain in a battle against Dargo a Briton; but whether by the hand of the enemy, or that of his mistress, tradition does not determine.
land. Connal, many are the warriors of Dargo.
CONNAL.Bring me thy father's shield, the bossy iron shield of Rinval! that shield like the full-orbed moon, when she moves darkened through heaven.
CRIMORA.That shield I bring, O Connal! but it did not defend my father. By the spear of Gormar he fell. Thou mayst fall, O Connal!
CONNAL.Fall I may! but raise my tomb, Crimora! Gray stones, a mound of earth, shall send my name to other times. Bend thy red eye over my grave, beat thy mournful heaving breast. Though fair thou art, my love, as the light; more pleasant than the gale of the hill; yet I will not hear remain. Raise my tomb, Crimora!
CRIMORA.Then give me those arms that gleam; that sword and that spear of steel. I shall meet Dargo with Connal, and aid him in the fight. Farewell, ye rocks of Ardven! ye deer! and ye streams of the hill! We shall return no more! Our tombs are distant far!
"And did they return no more?" said Utha's bursting sigh." Fell the mighty in battle, and did Crimora live? Her steps were lonely; her soul was sad for Connal. Was he not young and lovely; like the beam of the setting sun? Ullin saw the virgin's tear, he took the softly trembling harp; the song was lovely, but sad, and silence was in Carric-thura.
Autumn is dark on the mountains; gray mist rests on the hills. The whirlwind is heard on the heath. Dark rolls the river through the narrow plain. A tree ands alone on the hill, and marks the slumbering Connal. The leaves whirl round with the wind, and strew the grave of the dead. At times are seen here the ghosts of the departed, when the musing hunter alone stalks slowly over the heath.
Who can reach the source of thy race, O Connal, who recount thy fathers? Thy family grew like an oak on the mountain, which meeteth the wind with its lofty head. But now it is torn from the earth. Who shall supply the place of Connal? Here was the din of arms; here the groans of the dying. Bloody are the wars of Fingal, O Connal! it was here thou didst fall. Thine arm was like a storm; thy sword a beam of the sky; thy height a rock on the plain; thine eyes a furnace of fire. Louder than a storm was thy voice, in the battles of thy steel. Warriors fell by thy sword, as the thistles by the staff of
a boy. Dargo the mighty came on, darkened in his rage. His brows were gathered into wrath. His eyes like two caves in a rock. Bright rose their swords on each side; loud was the clang of their steel.
The daughter of Rinval was near; Crimora bright in the armor of man; her yellow hair is loose behind, her bow is in her hand. She followed the youth to the war, Connal her much-beloved. She drew the string on Dargo; but, erring, she pierced her Connal. He falls like an oak on the plain; like a rock from the shaggy hill. What shall she do. hapless maid? He bleeds; her Connal dies! All the night long she cries, and all the day, "O Connal, my love, and my friend!" With grief the sad mourner dies! Earth here encloses the loveliest pair on the hill. The grass grows between the stones of the tomb: I often sit in the mournful shade. The wind sighs through the grass; their memory rushes on my mind. Undisturbed you now sleep together; in the tomb of the mountain you rest alone!
And soft be their rest, said Utha, hapless children of streamy Lotha! I will remember them with tears, and my secret song shall rise; when the wind is in the groves of Tora, when the stream is roaring near. Then shall they come on my soul, with all their lovely grief!
Three days feasted the kings: on the fourth their white sails arose. The winds of the north drove Fingal to Morven's woody land.
But the spirit of Loda sat in his cloud behind the ships of Frothal. He hung forward will all his blasts, and spread the white bosomed sails. The wounds of his form were not forgotten! he still feared * the hand of the king!"
* The story of Fingal and the spirit of Loda, supposed to be the famous Odin, is the most extravagant fiction in all Ossian's poems. It is not, however, without precedents in the best poets; and it must be said for Ossian, that he says nothing but what perfectly agreed with the notions of the times, concerning ghosts. They thought the souls of the dead were material, and consequently susceptible of pain. Whether a proof could be drawn from this passage, that Ossian had no notion of a divinity, I shall leave to others to determine: it appears, however, that he was of opinion, that superior beings ought to take no notice of what passed among men.
[ 66 ]
C A R T H O N:
P O E M.
[ 68 ]
A R G U M E N T.
This poem is complete, and the subject of it, as of most of Ossian's compositions, tragical. In the time of Comhal, the son of Trathal, and father of the celebrated Fingal, Clessammor, the son of Thaddu, and brother of Morna, Fingal's mother, was driven by a storm onto the river Clyde, on the banks of which stood Balclutha, a town belonging to the Britons, between the walls. He was hospitably received by Reuthamir, the principal man in the palace, who gave him Moina, his only daughter, in marriage. Reuda, the son of Cormo, a Briton, who was in love with Moina, came to Reuthamir's house, and behaved haughtily towards Clessammor. A quarrel ensued, in which Reuda was killed: the Britons who attended him, pressed so hard on Clessammor, that he was obliged to throw himself into the Clyde and swim to his ship. He hoisted sail, and the wind being favorable, bore him out to sea. He often endeavored to return, and carry off his beloved Moina by night; but the wind continuing contrary, he was forced to desist.
Moina, who had been left with child by her husband, brought forth a son and died soon after. -- Reuthamir named the child Carthon, i. e. the murmur of waves," from the storm which carried off Clessammor his father, who was supposed to have been cast away. When Carthon was three years old, Comhal, the father of Fingal, in one of his expeditions against the Britons, took and burnt Balclutha. Reuthamir was killed in the attack; and Carthon was carried safe away by his nurse, who fled farther into the country of the Britons. Carthon, coming to man's estate, was resolved to revenge the fall of Balclutha on Comhal's posterity. He set sail from the Clyde, and falling on the coast of Morven, defeated two of Fingal's heroes, who came to oppose his progress. He was, at last, unwittingly killed by his father Clessammor, in a single combat. The story is the foundation of the present poem, which opens on the night preceeding the death of Carthon, so that what passed before is introduced by way of episode. The poem is addressed to Malvina, the daughter of Toscar.
[ 69 ]
C A R T H O N:
P O E M.
A TALE of the times of old! The deeds of the days of other years!
The murmur of thy streams, O Lora! brings back the memory of the past. The sounds of thy woods, Garmaller, is lovely in mine ear. Dost thou not behold Malvina, a rock with its head of heath! Three aged pines bend from its face; green is the narrow plain at its feet; there the flower of the mountain grows, and shakes its white head in the breeze. The thistle is there alone, shedding its aged beard. Two stones, half sunk in the ground, show their heads of moss. The deer of the mountain avoids the place, for he beholds a dim ghost standing there. * The mighty lie, O Malvina! in the narrow plain of the rock.
* It was the opinion of the times, that deer saw the ghosts of the dead. To this day, when beasts suddenly start without any apparent cause, the vulgar think that they see the spirits of the deceased.
A tale of the times of old! the deeds of the days of other years!
Who comes from the land of strangers, with his thousands around him? The sunbeam pours its bright stream before him; his hair meets the wind of his hills. His face is settled from war. He is calm as the evening beam that looks from the cloud of the west, on Cona's silent vale. Who is it but Comhal's son, * the king of mighty deeds! He beholds the hills with joy, he bids a thousand voices rise. "Ye have fled over your fields, ye sons of the distant land! The king of the world sits in his hall, and hears of his people's flight. He lifts his red eye of pride; he takes his father's sword. Ye have fled over your fields, sons of the distant land!
Such were the words of the bards, when they came to Selma's halls. A thousand lights from the stranger's land rose in the midst of his people. The feast is spread around; the night passed away in joy. Where is the noble Clessammor? said the fair-haired Fingal. Where is the brother of Morna, in the hour of my joy? Sullen and dark, he passes his days in the vale of echoing Lora: but, behold, he comes from the hill, like a
* Fingal returns here, from an expedition against the Romans, which was celebrated by Ossian in a poem called the strife of Crona.
Probably wax-lights, which are often mentioned as carried, among other booty, from the Roman province.
Clessamh mor, mighty deeds.
steed in his strength, who finds his companions in the breeze, and tosses his bright mane in the wind. Blest be the soul of Clessammor, why so long from Selma?
Returns the chief, said Clessammor, in the midst of his fame? Such was the renown of Comhal in the battles of his youth. Often did we pass over Carun to the land of the strangers: our swords returned, not unstained with blood: nor did the kings of the world rejoice. Why do I remember the times of our war? My hair is mixed with gray. My hand forgets to bend the bow: I lift a lighter spear. O that my joy would return, as when I first beheld the maid; the white bosomed daughter of strangers, Moina, * with the dark-blue eyes!
Tell, said the mighty Fingal, the tale of thy youthful days. Sorrow, like a cloud on the sun, shades the soul of Clessammor. Mournful are thy thoughts, alone, on the banks of the roaring Lora. Let us hear the sorrow of thy youth and the darkness of thy days!
"It was in the days of peace," replied the great Clessammor, "I came in my bounding ship to Balclutha's walls of towers. The winds had roared behind my sails, and
* Moina, soft in temper and person. We find the Brittish names in this poem derived from the Galic, whicgh is a proof that the ancient language of the whole island was one and the same.
Balclutha, i. e. the town of Clyde, probably the Alcluth of Bede.
Clutha's * streams received my dark-bosomed ship. Three days I remained in Reuthamir's halls, and saw his daughter, that beam of light. The joy of the shell went round, and the aged hero gave the fair. Her breasts were like foam on the waves, and her eyes like stars of light; her hair was dark as the raven's wing: her soul was generous and mild. My love for Moina was great; my heart poured forth in joy.
"The son of a stranger came; a chief who loved the white-bosomed Moina. His words were mighty in the hall; he often half-unsheathed his sword. 'Where,' said he, 'is the mighty Comhal, the restless wanderer of the heath? Comes he, with his host, to Balclutha, since Clessammor is so bold?' My soul, I replied, O warrior! burns in a light of its own. I stand without fear in the midst of thousands, though the valiant are distant far. Stranger! thy words are mighty, for Clessammor is alone. But my sword trembles by my side, and longs to glitter in my hand. Speak no more of Comhal, son of the winding Clutha!"
* Clutha, or Cluath, the Galic name of the river Clyde; the signification of the word is bending, in allusion to the winding course of that river. From Clutha is derived its Latin name, Glotta.
The word in the original here rendered by restless wanderer, is Scuta, which is the true origin of the Scoti of the Romans; an opprobrious name imposed by the Britons on the Caledonians, on account of the continual incursions into their country.
"The strength of his pride arose. We fought: he fell beneath my sword. The banks of Clutha heard his fall; a thousand spears glittered around. I fought: the strangers prevailed: I plunged into the stream of Clutha. My white sails rose over the waves, and I bounded on the dark-blue sea. Moina came to the shore, and rolled the red eye of her tears; her loose hair flew on the wind; and I heard her mournful, distant cries. Often did I turn my ship; but the winds of the east prevailed. Nor Clutha ever since have I seen, nor Moina of the dark-brown hair. She fell in Balclutha, for I have seen her ghost. I knew her as she came through the dusky night, along the murmur of Lora: she was like the new moon, seen through the gathered mist; when the sky pours down its flaky snow, and the world is silent and dark."
Raise, * ye bards, said the mighty Fingal, the praise of unhappy Moina. Call her ghost, with your songs, to our hills, that she may rest with the fair of Morven, the sunbeams of other days, the delight of heroes of old. I have seen the walls of Balclutha, but they
* The title of this poem, in the original, is Duan no nlaoi, i. e. The Poem of the Hymns: probably on account of its many digressions from the subject, all which are in a lyric measure, as this song of Fingal. Fingal is celebrated by the Irish historians for his wisdom in making laws, his poetical genius, and his foreknowledge of events. O'Flaherty goes so far as to say, that Fingal's laws were extant in his own time.
were desolate. The fire had resounded in the halls: and the voice of the people is heard no more. The stream of Clutha was removed from its place by the fall of the walls. The thistle shook there its lonely head: the moss whistled to the wind. The fox looked out from the windows, the rank grass of the wall waved round its head. Desolate is the dwelling of Moina, silence is in the house of her fathers. Raise the song of mourning, O bards, over the land of strangers. They have but fallen before us: for one day we must fall. Why dost thou build the hall, son of the winged days? Thou lookest from thy towers to-day: yet a few years, and the blast of the desert comes; it howls in thy empty
court, and whistles round thy half-worn shield. And let the blast of the desert come! we shall be renowned in our day! The mark of my arm shall be in battle; my name in the song of bards. Raise the song, send round the shell: let joy be heard in my hall. When thou, sun of heaven! shalt fail; if thou shalt fail, thou mighty light! if thy brightness is for a season, like Fingal; our fame shall survive thy beams.
Such was the song of Fingal in the day of his joy. His thousand bards leaned forward from their seats, to hear the voice of the king. It was like the music of harps on the gale of the spring. Lovely were thy thoughts, O Fingal! why had not Ossian the strength of
thy soul? But thou standest alone, my father! who can equal the king of Selma?
The night passed away in song; morning returned in joy. The mountains showed their gray heads; the blue face of ocean smiled. The white wave is seen tumbling round the distant rock; a mist rose slowly from the lake. It came, in the figure of an aged man, along the silent plain. Its large limbs did not move in steps, for a ghost supported it in mid air. It came towards Selma's hall, and dissolved in a shower of blood.
The king alone beheld the sight; he foresaw the death of the people. He came in silence to his hall, and took his father's spear. The mail rattled on his breast. The heroes rose around. They looked in silence on each other, marking the eyes of Fingal. They saw battle in his face; the death of armies on his spear. A thousand shields at once are placed on their arms; they drew a thousand swords. The hall of Selma brightened around. The clang of arms ascends. The gray dogs howl in their place. No word is among the mighty chiefs. Each marked the eyes of the king and half-assumed his spear.
Sons of Morven, began the king, this is no time to fill the shell; the battle darkens near us, death hovers over the land. Some ghost, the friend of Fingal, has forewarned us of the foe. The sons of the stranger come from the darkly rolling sea; for from the water came the sign of Morven's gloomy
danger. Let each assume his heavy spear, each gird on his father's sword. Let the dark helmet rise on every head; the mail pour its lightning from every side. The battle gathers like a storm; soon shall ye hear the roar of death.
The hero moved on before his host, like a cloud before a ridge of green fire, when it pours on the sky of night, and mariners foresee a storm. On Cona's rising heath they stood: the white-bosomed maids beheld them above like a grove; they foresaw the death of the youth, and looked towards the sea with fear. The white wave deceived them for distant sails; the tear is on their cheek! The sun rose on the sea, and we beheld a distant fleet. Like the mist of ocean they came and poured their youth upon the coast. The chief was among them, like the stag in the midst of the herd. His shield is studded with gold; stately strode the king of spears. He moved towards Selma; his thousands moved behind.
Go, with a song of peace, said Fingal; go, Ullin, to the king of swords. Tell him that we are mighty in war; that the ghosts of our foes are many. But renowned are they who have feasted in my halls; they shew the arms * of my fathers in a foreign land; the sons of
* It was a custom among the ancient Scots, to exchange arms with their guests, and those arms were preserved long in the different families, as monuments of the friendship which subsisted between their ancestors.
the strangers wonder, and bless the friends of Morven's race; for our names have been heard afar: the kings of the world shook in the midst of their host.
Ullin went with his song. Fingal rested on his spear: he saw the mighty foe in his armor: he blest the stranger's son. "How stately art thou, son of the sea!" said the king of woody Morven. "Thy sword is a beam of fire by thy side; thy spear is a pine that defies the storm. The varied face of the moon is not broader than thy shield. Ruddy is thy face of youth! soft the ringlets of thy hair! But this tree may fall, and his memory be forgot! The daughter of the stranger will be sad, looking to the rolling sea: the children will say, 'We see a ship; perhaps it is the king of Balclutha.' The tear starts from their mother's eye: her thoughts are of him who sleeps in Morven!"
Such were the words of the king when Ullin came to the mighty Carthon: he threw down the spear before him, he raised the song of peace. "Come to the feast of Fingal, Carthon, from the rolling sea! partake of the feast of the king, or lift the spear of war! The ghosts of our foes are many: but renowned are the friends of Morven! Behold that field, O Carthon! many a green hill rises there, with mossy stones and rustling grass; these are the tombs of Fingal's foes, the Sons of the rolling sea!"
"Dost thou speak to the weak in arms!" said Carthon, "bard of the woody Morven? Is my face pale for fear, son of the peaceful song? Why then dost thou think to darken my soul with the tales of those who fell? My arm has fought in battle, my renown is known afar. Go to the feeble in arms, bid them yield to Fingal. Have not I seen the fallen Balclutha? And shall I feast with Comhal's son? Comhal, who threw his fire in the midst of my father's hall? I was young, and knew not the cause why the virgins wept. The columns of smoke pleased mine eye, when they rose above my walls! I often looked back with gladness when my friends flew along the hill. But when the years of my youth came on, I beheld the moss of my fallen walls. My sigh arose with the morning, and my tears descended with night. Shall I not fight, I said to my soul, against the children of my foes? And I will fight, O bard! I feel the strength of my soul!"
His people gathered around the hero, and drew at once their shining swords. He stands in the midst, like a pillar of fire, the tear half-starting from his eye, for he thought of the fallen Balclutha. The crowded pride of his soul arose. Sidelong he looked up to the hill, where our heroes shone in arms: the spear trembled in his hand. Bending forward, he seemed to threaten the king.
Shall I, said Fingal to his soul, meet at once the youth? Shall I stop him in the midst of
his course before his fame shall arise! But the bard hereafter may say, when he sees the tomb of Carthon, Fingal took his thousands to battle, before the noble Carthon fell. No: bard of the times to come! thou shalt not lessen Fingal's fame! my heroes will fight the youth, and Fingal behold the war. If he overcomes, I rush, in my strength, like the roaring stream of Cona. Who of my chiefs will meet the son of the rolling sea? Many are his warriors on the coast, and strong is his ashen spear!
Cathul * rose in his strength, the son of the mighty Lormar: three hundred youths attend the chief, the race of his native streams. Feeble was his arm against Carthon: he fell, and his heroes fled. Connal resumed the battle, but he broke his heavy spear: he lay bound on the field: Carthon pursued his people.
Clessammor, said the king of Morven, where is the spear of thy strength. Wilt thou behold Connal bound: thy friend at the stream of Lora? Rise, in the light of thy
* Cath-'huil, the eye of battle.
It appears from this passage, that clanship was established, in the days of Fingal, though not on the same footing with the present tribes, in the north of Scotland.
This Connal is very much celebrated, in ancient poetry, for his wisdom and valour; there is a small tribe still subsisting, in the North, who pretend they are descended from him.
§ Fingal did not then know that Carthon was the son of Clessammor.
steel, companion of valiant Comhal! let the youth of Balclutha feel the strength of Morven's race. He rose in the strength of his steel, shaking his grisly locks. He fitted the steel to his side; he rushed in the pride of valour.
Carthon stood on a rock: he saw the hero rushing on. He loved the dreadful joy of his face: his strength in the locks of age! "Shall I lift that spear," he said, "that never strikes but once a foe? Or shall I, with the words of peace, preserve the warrior's life? Stately are his steps of age! lovely the remnant of his years! Perhaps it is the husband of Moina, the father of car-borne Carthon. Often have I heard that he dwelt at the echoing stream of Lora."
Such were his words when Clessammor came, and lifted high his spear. The youth received it on his shield, and spoke the words of peace. "Warrior of the aged locks! is there no youth to lift the spear? Hast thou no son to raise the shield before his father to meet the arm of youth? Is the spouse of thy love no more? or weeps she over the tombs of thy sons? Art thou of the kings of men? What will be the fame of my sword shouldst thou fall?"
It will be great, thou son of pride! begun the tall Clessammor. I have been renowned in battle; but I never told my name * to a
* To tell one's name to an enemy, was reckoned, in those days of heroism, a manifest evasion of fighting
foe. Yield to me, son of the wave, then shalt thou know that the mark of my sword is in many a field. "I never yielded, king of spears!" replied the noble pride of Carthon: "I have also fought in war, I behold my future fame. Despise me not, thou chief of men! my arm, my spear is strong. Retire among thy friends; let younger heroes fight." Why dost thou wound my soul? replied Clessammor, with a tear. Age does not tremble on my hand. I still can lift the sword. Shall I fly in Fingal's sight, in the sight of him I love? Son of the sea! I never fled: exalt thy pointed spear.
They fought like two contending winds, that strive to roil the wave. Calthon bade his spear to err: he still thought that the foe was the spouse of Moina. He broke Clessammor's beamy spear in twain: he seized his shining sword. But as Carthon was binding the chief, the chief drew the dagger of his fathers. He saw the foe's uncovered side, and opened there a wound.
Fingal saw Clessammor low: he moved in the sound of his steel. The host stood silent in his presence: they turned their eyes to the king. He came like the sullen noise of a storm before the winds arise: the hunter
* him; for if it was once known that friendship subsisted of old, between the ancestors of the combatants. the battle immediately ceased, and the ancient amity of their forefathers was renewed. A man who tells his name to his enemy, was of old an ignominious term for a coward.
hears it in the vale, and retires to the cave of the rock. Carthon stood in his place, the blood is rushing down his side: he saw the coming down of the king, his hopes of fame arose, * but pale was his cheek: his hair flew loose, his helmet shook on high: the force of Carthon failed, but his sword was strong.
Fingal beheld the hero's blood; he stopt the uplifted spear. "Yield, king of swords!" said Comhal's son, "I behold thy blood; thou hast been mighty in battle, and thy fame shall never fade." Art thou the king so far renowned? replied the car-borne Carthon: art thou that light of death, that frightens the kings of the world? But why should Carthon ask? for he is like the stream of his hills, strong as a river in his course, swift as the eagle of heaven. O that I had fought with the king, that my fame might be great in song! that the hunter, beholding my tomb, might say, he fought with the mighty Fingal. But Carthon dies unknown: he has poured out his force on the weak.
"But thou shalt not die unknown, replied the king of woody Morven: my bards are many, O Carthon! their songs descend to future times. The children of years to come shall hear the fame of Carthon, when they sit round the
* This expression admits of a double meaning, either that Carthon hoped to acquire glory by killing Fingal; or to be rendered famous by falling by his hand. The last is the most probable, as Carthon is already wounded.
burning oak, * and the night is spent in songs of old. The hunter, sitting in the heath, shall hear the rustling blast, and raising his eyes, behold the rock where Carthon fell. He shall turn to his son, and show the place where the mighty fought: There the king of Balclutha fought, like the strength of a thousand streams."
Joy rose in Carthon's face; he lifted his heavy eyes. He gave his sword to Fingal, to lie within his hall, that the memory of Balclutha's king might remain in Morven. The battle ceased along the field, the bard had sung the song of peace. The chiefs gathered round the falling Carthon; they heard his words with sighs. Silent they leaned on their spears, while Balclutha's hero spoke. His hair sighed in the wind, and his voice was sad and low.
"King of Morven," Carthon said, "I fall in the midst of my course. A foreign tomb receives, in youth, the last of Reuthamir's race. Darkness dwells in Balclutha; the shadows of grief in Crathmo. But raise my remembrance on the banks of Lora, where my fathers dwelt. Perhaps the husband of Moina will mourn over his fallen Carthon." His words reached the heart of Clessammor: he fell in silence on his son. The host stood
* In the north of Scotland, till very lately, they burnt a large trunk of an oak at their festivals; it was called the trunk of the feast. Time had so much consecrated the custom, that the vulgar thought it a kind of sacrilege to disuse it.
darkened around: no voice is on the plain. Night came: the moon, from the east, looked on the mournful field; but still they stood, like a silent grove that lifts its head on Gormal, when the loud winds are laid, and dark autumn is on the plain.
Three days they mourned above Carthon; on the fourth his father died. In the narrow plain of the rock they lie; a dim ghost defends their tomb. There lovely Moina is often seen, when the sunbeam darts on the rock, and all around is dark. There she is seen, Malvina; but not like the daughters of the hill. Her robes are from the stranger's land, and she is still alone!
Fingal was sad for Carthon; he commanded his bards to mark the day when shadowy autumn returned; and often did they mark the day, and sing the hero's praise. "Who comes so dark from ocean's roar, like autumn's shadowy cloud? Death is trembling in his hand! his eyes are flames of fire! Who roars along dark Lora's heath? Who but Carthon, king of swords! The people fall! see how he strides like the sullen ghost of Morven! But there he lies, a goodly oak which sudden blasts overturned! When shalt thou rise, Balclutha's joy? When, Carthon, shalt thou arise? Who comes so dark from ocean's roar, like autumn's shadowy cloud?" Such were the words of the bards in the day of their mourning; Ossian often joined their voice, and added to their song. My soul has been
mournful for Carthon: he fell in the days of his youth; and thou, O Clessammor! where is thy dwelling in the wind? Has the youth forgot his wound? Flies he on clouds with thee? I feel the sun, O Malvina! leave me to my rest. Perhaps they may come to my dreams: I think I hear a feeble voice! The beam of heaven delights to shine on the grave of Carthon: I feel it warm around.
O thou that rollest above, round as the shield of my fathers! Whence are thy beams, O sun! thy everlasting light! Thou comest forth in thy awful beauty; the stars hide themselves in the sky; the moon, cold and pale, sinks in the western wave; but thou thyself movest alone. Who can be a companion of thy course? The oaks of the mountains fall; the mountains themselves decay with years; the ocean shrinks and grows again; the moon herself is lost in heaven: but thou art forever the same, rejoicing in the brightness of thy course. When the world is dark with tempests, when thunder rolls and lightning flies, thou lookest in thy beauty from the clouds, and laughed at the storm. But to Ossian thou lookest in vain, for he beholds thy beams no more: whether thy yellow hair flows on the eastern clouds, or thou tremblest at the gates of the west. But thou art, perhaps, like me, for a season; thy years will have an end. Thou shalt sleep in thy clouds, careless of the voice of the morning. Exult then, O sun, in the strength of thy youth! age is dark and unlovely;
it is like the glimmering light of the moon, when it shines through broken clouds, and the mist is on the hills: the blast of the north is on the plain, the traveler shrinks in the midst of his journey.
O I N A - M O R U L:
P O E M.
[ 88 ]
A R G U M E N T.
After an address to Malvina, the daughter of Toscar, Ossian proveeds to relate his own expedition to Fuarfed, an island of Scandinavia. Mal-orchol, king of Faurfed, being hard pressed in war by Ton-thormod, chief of Sar-dronto, (who had demanded in vain the daughter of Mal-orchol in marriage), Fingal sent Ossian to his aid. Ossian, on the day after his arrival, came to battle with Ton-thormod, and took him prisoner. Mal-orchol offers his daughter Oina-morul, to Ossian; but he, discovering her passion for Ton-thormod, generously surrenders her to her lover, and brings about a reconciliation between the two kings.
[ 89 ]
O I N A -M O R U L:
P O E M.
AS flies the inconstant sun over Larmon's grassy hill, so pass the tales of old, along my soul, by night! when bards are removed to their place, when harps are hung in Selma's hall, then comes a voice to Ossian, and awakes his soul! It is the voice of years that are gone! they roll before me with all their deeds! I seize the tales as they pass, and pour them forth in song. Nor a troubled stream is the song of the king, it is like the rising of music from Lutha of the strings. Lutha of many strings, not silent are thy streamy rocks, when the white hands of Malvina move upon the harp! Light of the shadowy thoughts that fly across my soul, daughter of Toscar of helmets, wilt thou not hear the song? We call back, maid of Lutha, the years that have rolled away!
It was in the days of the king, while yet my locks were young, that I marked Con-cathlin * on high, from ocean's nightly wave.
* Con-cathlin, mild beam of the wave. What star was so called of old is not easily ascertained. Some now distinguish
My course was towards the isle of Fuarfed, woody dweller of seas! Fingal had sent me to the aid Mal-orchol, king of Fuarfed wild: for war was around him, and our fathers had met at the feast.
In Col-coiled I bound my sails. I sent my sword to Mal-orchol of shells. He knew the signal of Albion, and his joy arose. He came from his own high hall, and seized my hand in grief. "Why comes the race of heroes to a falling king? Ton-thormod of many spears is the chief of wavy Sar-dronlo. He saw and loved my daughter, white-bosomed Oina-morul. He sought. I denied the maid, for our fathers had been foes. He came with battle to Fuarfed; my people are rolled away. Why comes the race of heroes to a falling king?"
I come not, I said, to look, like a boy, on the strife. Fingal remembers Mal-orchol, and his hall for strangers. From his waves the
the pole-star by that name. A song, which is still in repute, among the sea-faring part of the High-landers, alludes to this passage of Ossian, The author commends the knowledge of Ossian in sea affairs, a merit, which, perhaps, few of us moderns will allow him, or any in the age in which he lived. One thing is certain, that the Caledonians often made their way through the dangerous and tempestuous seas of Scandinavia; which is more, perhaps, than the more polished nations, subsisting in those times, dared to venture. In estimating the degree of knowledge of arts among the ancients, we ought not to bring it into comparison with the improvements of modern times. Our advantages over them proceed more from accident, than any merit of ours.
warrior descended on thy woody isle: thou wert no cloud before him. Thy feast was spread with songs. For this my sword shall rise, and thy foes perhaps may fail. Our friends are not forgot in their danger, though distant is our land.
"Descendant of the daring Trenmor, thy words are like the voice of Cruth-Loda, when he speaks from his parting cloud, strong dweller of the sky! Many have rejoiced at my feast; but they all have forgot Mal-orchol. I have looked towards all the winds, but no white sails were seen! but steel resounds in my hall, and not the joyful shells. Come to my dwelling, race of heroes! dark-skirted night is near. Hear the voice of songs from the maid of Fuarfed wild."
* There is a severe satire couched in this expression, against the guests of Mal-orchol. Had his feast been still spread, had joy continued in his hall, his former parasites would not have failed to resort to him. But as the time of festivity was past, their attendance also ceased. The sentiments of a certain old bard are agreeable to this observation. He, poetically, compares a great man to a fire kindled in a desert p]ace. "Those that pay court to him, says he, are rolling large around him, like the smoke about the fire. This smoke gives the fire a great appearance at a distance, but it is but an empty vapour itself, and varying; its form at every breeze. When the trunk, which fed the fire, is consumed, the smoke departs on all the winds. So the flatterers forsake their chief, when his power declines." I have chosen to give a paraphrase, rather than a translation, of this passage, as the original is verbose and frothy, notwithstanding the sentimental merit of the author. He was one of the less ancient bards, and their compositions are not nervous enough to bear a literal translation.
We went. On the harp arose the white hands of Oina-morul. She waked her own sad tale from every trembling string. I stood in silence; for bright in her locks was the daughter of many isles! Her eyes were two stars, looking forward through a rushing shower. The mariner marks them on high, and blesses the lovely beams. With morning we rushed to battle, to Tormul's resounding stream: the foe moved to the sound of Ton-thormod's bossy shield. From wing to wing the strife was mixed. I met Ton-thormod in fight. Wide flew his broken steel. I seized the king in war. I gave his hand, fast bound with thongs, to Mal-orchol, the giver of shells. Joy rose at the feast of Fuarfed, for the foe had failed. Ton-thormod turned his face away from Oina-morul of isles.
Son of Fingal, began Mal-orchol, not forgot shalt thou pass from me. A light shall dwell in thy ship, Oina-morul of slow-rolling eyes. She shall kindle gladness along thy mighty soul. Nor unheeded shall the maid move in Selma through the dwelling of kings.
In the hall I lay in night. Mine eyes were half closed in sleep. Soft music came to mine ear. It was like the rising breeze, that whirls at first the thistle's beard, then flies dark-shadowy over the grass. It was the maid of Fuarfed wild! she raised the nightly song; she knew that my soul was a stream that flowed at pleasant sounds. "Who looks," she said,
"from his rock, on ocean's closing mist? his long locks, like the raven's wing, are wandering on the blast. Stately are his steps in grief! The tears are in his eyes! His manly breast is heaving over his bursting soul! Retire, I am distant far; a wanderer in lands unknown. Though the race of kings are around me, yet my soul is dark. Why have our fathers been foes, Ton-thormod love of maids!"
"Soft voice of the streamy isle." I said, "why dost thou mourn by night? The race of daring Trenmor are not the dark in soul. Thou shalt not wander, by streams unknown, blue-eyed Oina-morul! Within this bosom is a voice; it comes not to other ears: it bids Ossian hear the hapless, in their hour of woe. Retire, soft singer by night! Ton-thormod shall not mourn on his rock!"
With morning I loosed the king. I gave the long-haired maid. Mal-orchol heard my words in the midst of his echoing halls. "King of Fuarfed wild, why should Ton-thormod mourn? He is of the race of heroes, and a flame in war. Your fathers have been foes, but now their dim ghosts rejoice in death. They stretch their hands of mist to the same shell in Lods. Forget their rage, ye warriors! It was the cloud of other years."
Such were the deeds of Ossian, while yet his locks were young; though loveliness, with a robe of beams, clothed the daughter of many isles. We call back, maid of Lutha, the years that have rolled away!
Continue reading on page 95