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 accidentally comes to the cave of Turthor, where Starno had confined Conban-Cargla, 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 rencounter of Fingal and Swaran.— Duan first concludes with a description of the airy hall of Cruth-loda, supposed to be the Odin of Scandinavia.
The bards distinguished those compositions in which the narration is often interrupted by episodes and apostrophes, by the name of Duan.
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 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 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!
'O 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 Crathmocraulo'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 Candona, tell him of his father's joy, when the bristly strength of U-thorno rolled on his lifted spear. Tell him of my deeds in war! Tell where his father fell!"
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Gaul, the son of Morni, attended Lathmon into his own country, after his being defeated in Morven, as related in a preceding poem. He was kindly entertained by Nuäth, the father of Lathmon, and fell in love with his daughter Oithona. The lady was no less enamored of Gaul, and a day was fixed for their marriage. In the mean time Fingal, preparing for an expedition into the country of the Britons, sent for Gaul. He obeyed, and went; but not without promising to Oithona to return, it he survived the war, by a certain day. Lathmon too was obliged to attend his father Nuäth in his wars, and Oithona was left alone at Dunlathmon, the seat of the family. Dunrommath, Lord of Uthal, supposed to be one of the Orkneys, taking advantage of the absence of her friends, came and carried off, by force, Oithona, who had formerly rejected his love, into Tromáthon, a desert island, where he concealed her in a cave.
Gaul returned on the day appointed; heard of the rape, and sailed to Tromáthon, to revenge himself on Dunrommath. When he landed, he found Oithona disconsolate, and resolved not to survive the loss of her honor. She told him the story of her misfortunes, and she scarce ended when Dunrommath with his followers appeared at the farther end of the island. Gaul prepared to attack him, recommending to Uithona to retire till the battle was over. She seemingly obeyed; but she secretly armed herself rushed into the thickest of the battle, and was mortally wounded. Gaul, pursuing the flying enemy, found her just expiring on the field; he mourned over her, raised her tomb, and returned to Morven. Thus is the story handed down by tradition; nor is it given with any material difference in the poem, which opens with Gaul's return to Dunlathmon, after the rape of Oithona.
DARKNESS dwells around Dunlathmon, though the moon shows half her face on the hill. The daughter of night turns her eyes away; she beholds the approaching grief. The son of Morni is on the plain: there is no sound in the hall. No long streaming beam of light comes trembling through the gloom. The voice of Oithona is not heard amidst the noise of the streams of Dunranna. "Whither art thou gone in thy beauty, dark-haired daughter of Nuäth? Lathmon is in the field of the valiant, but thou didst promise to remain in the hall till the son of Morni returned. Till he returned from Strumon, to the maid of his love! The tear was on thy cheek at his departure; the sigh rose in secret in thy breast. But thou dost not come forth with songs, with the lightly trembling sound of the harp!"
Such were the words of Gaul, when he came to Dunlathmon's towers. The gates were open and dark. The winds were blustering in the hall. The trees strewed the threshold with leaves; the murmur of night was abroad. Sad and silent, at a rock, the son of Morni sat: his soul trembled for the maid; but he knew not whither to turn his course! The son of Leth stood at a distance, and heard the winds in his bushy hair. But he did not raise his voice, for he saw the sorrow of Gaul!
Sleep descended on the chiefs. The visions of night arose. Oithona stood, in a dream, before the eyes of Morni's son. Her hair was loose and disordered; her lovely eye rolled deep in tears. Blood stained her snowy arm. The robe half hid the wound of her breast. She stood over the chief, and her voice was feebly heard. " Sleeps the son of Morni, he that was lovely in the eyes of Oithona? Sleeps Gaul at the distant rock, and the daughter of Nuäth low? The sea rolls round the dark isle of Tromáthon. I sit in my tears in the cave! Nor do I sit alone, O Gaul! the dark chief of Cuthal is there. He is there in the rage of his love. What can Oithona do?"
A rougher blast rushed through the oak. The dream of night departed. Gaul took his aspen spear. He stood in the rage of his soul. Often did hid turn to the east. He accused the lagging light. At length the morning came forth. The hero lifted up the sail. The winds came rustling from the hill; he bounded on the waves of the deep. On the third day arose Tromáthon, like a blue shield in the midst of the sea. The white wave roared against its rocks; sad Oithona sat on the coast! She looked on the rolling waters, and her tears came down. But when she saw Gaul in his arms, she started, and turned her eyes away. Her lovely cheek is bent and red; her white arm trembles by her side. Thrice she strove to fly from his presence; thrice her steps failed as she went!
"Daughter of Nuäth," said the hero, " why dost thou fly from Gaul? Do my eyes send forth the flame of death? Darkens hatred in my soul? Thou art to me the beam of the east, rising in a land unknown. But thou coverest thy face with sadness, daughter of car-borne Nuäth! Is the foe of Oithona near! My soul burns to meet him in fight. The sword trembles by the side of Gaul, and longs to glitter in his hand. Speak, daughter of Nuäth! Dost thou not behold my tears?"
" Young chief of Strumon," replied the maid, " why comest thou over the dark-blue wave, to Nuäth's mournful daughter! Why did I not pass away in secret, like the flower of the rock, that lifts its fair head unseen, and strews its withered leaves on the blast! Why didst thou come, O Gaul! to hear my departing sigh! I vanish in my youth; my name shall not be heard. Or it will be heard with grief; the tears of Nuäth must fall. Thou wilt be sad, son of Morni! for the departed fame of Oithona. But she shall sleep in the narrow tomb, far from the voice of the mourner. Why didst thou come, chief of Strumon! to the sea-beat rocks of Tromáthon!"
"I came to meet thy foes, daughter of car-borne Nuäth! The death of Cuthal's chief darkens before me; or Morni's son shall fall! Oithona! when Gaul is low, raise my tomb on that oozy rock. When the dark, bounding ship shall pass, call the sons of the sea; call them, and give this sword, to bear it hence to Morni's hall. The gray-haired chief will then cease to look towards the desert for the return of his son!"
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Calthon And Colmal
This piece, as many more of Ossian's compositions, is addressed to one of the first Christian missionaries. The story of the poem is handed down by tradition thus:- In the country of the Britons, between the walls, two chiefs lived in the days of Fingal, Dunthalmo, Lord of Teutha, supposed to be the Tweed; and Rathmor, who dwelt at Clutha, well known to be the river Clyde. Rathmor was not more renowned for his generosity and hospitality, than Dunthalmo was infamous for his cruelty and ambition. Dunthalmo, through envy, or on account of some private feuds, which subsisted between the families, murdered Rathmor at a feast; but being afterward touched with remorse, he educated the two sons of Rathmor, Calthon and Colmar, in his own house. They growing up to man's estate, dropped some hints that they intended to revenge the death of their father, upon which Dunthalmo shut them up in two caves, on the banks of Teutha, intending to take them off privately. Colmal, the daughter of Dunthalmo, who was secretly in love with Calthon, helped him to make his escape from prison, and hied with him to Fingal, disguised in the habit of a young warrior, and implored his aid against Dunthalmo. Fingal sent Ossian with three hundred men to Colmar's relief. Dunthalmo, having previously murdered Colmar, came to a battle with Ossian, but he was killed by that hero, and his army totally defeated. Calthon married Colmal his deliverer; and Ossian returned to Morven.
Pleasant is the voice of thy song, thou lonely dweller of the rock! It comes on the sound of the stream, along the narrow vale. My soul awakes, O stranger, in the midst of my hall. I stretch my hand to the spear, as in the days of other years. I stretch my hand, but it is feeble: and the sigh of my bosom grows. Wilt thou not listen, son of the rock! to the song of Ossian? My soul is full of other times; the joy of my youth returns. Thus the sun appears in the west, after the steps of his brightness have moved behind a storm: the green hills lift their dewy heads: the blue streams rejoice in the vale. The aged hero comes forth on his stair; his gray hair glitters in the beam. Dost thou not behold, son of the rock! a shield in Ossian's hall? It is marked with the strokes of battle; and the brightness of its bosses has failed. That shield the great Dunthalmo bore, the chief of streamy Teutha. Dunthalmo bore it in battle before he fell by Ossian's spear. Listen, son of the rock! to the tale of other years.
Rathmor was a chief of Clutha. The feeble dwelt in his ball. The gates of Rathmor were never shut: his feast was always spread. The sons of the stranger came. They blessed the generous chief of Clutha. Bards raised the song, and touched the harp: joy brightened on the face of the sad! Dunthalmo came, in his pride, and rushed into the combat of Rathmor. The chief of Clutha overcame: the rage of Dunthalmo rose. He came, by night, with his warriors; the mighty Rathmor fell. He fell in his halls, where his feast was often spread for strangers.
Colmar and Calthon were young, the sons of car-borne Rathmor. They came, in the joy of youth, into their father's hall. They behold him in his blood; their bursting tears descend. The soul of Dunthalmo melted, when he saw the children of youth. He brought them to Alteutha's walls; they grew in the house of their foe. They bent the bow in his presence: and came forth to his wars. They saw the fallen walls of their fathers; they saw the green thorn in the hall. Their tears rushed forth in secret. At times their faces were sad. Dunthalmo beheld their grief; his darkening soul designed their death. He closed them in two caves, on the echoing banks of Teutha. The sun did not come there with his beams; nor the moon of heaven by night. The sons of Rathmor remained in darkness, and foresaw their death.
The daughter of Dunthalmo wept in silence, the fair-haired blue-eyed Colmal. Her eye had rolled in secret on Calthon; his loveliness swelled in her soul. She trembled for her warrior; but what could Colmal do? Her arm could not lift the spear; nor was the sword formed for her side. Her white breast never rose beneath a mail. Neither was her eye the terror of heroes. What canst thou do, O Colmal!! for the falling chief? Her steps are unequal; her hair is loose; her eye looks wildly through her tears. She came, by night, to the hall. She armed her lovely form in steel; the steel of a young warrior, who fell in the first of his battles. She came to the cave of Calthon, and loosed the thong from his hands.
"Arise, son of Rathmor," she said, "arise, the night is dark! Let us fly to the king of Selma, chief of fallen Clutha! I am the son of Lamgal, who dwelt in thy father's hall. I heard of thy dark dwelling in the cave, and my soul arose. Arise, son of Rathmor! arise, the night is dark!" — "Blest voice!" replied the chief, "comest thou from the clouds to Calthon? The ghosts of his fathers have often descended in his dreams, since the sun has retired from his eyes, and darkness has dwelt around him. Or art thou the son of Lamgal, the chief I often saw in Clutha? But shall I fly to Fingal, and Colmar my brother low? Will I fly to Morven, and the hero closed in night? No; give me that spear, son of Lamgal; Calthon will defend his brother!"
"A thousand warriors," replied the maid, "stretch their spears round car-borne Colmar. What can Calthon do against a host so great? Let us fly to the king of Morven, he will come with war. His arm is stretched forth to the unhappy; the lightning of his sword is round the weak. Arise, thou son of Rathmor; the shadows will fly away. Arise, or thy steps may be seen, and thou must fall in youth."
The sighing hero rose; his tears descend for car-borne Colmar. He came with the maid to Selma's hall: but he knew not that it was Colmal. The helmet covered her lovely face. Her bosom heaved beneath the steel. Fingal returned from the chase, and found the lovely strangers. They were like two beams of light, in the midst of the hall of shells. The king heard the tale of grief, and turned his eyes around. A thousand heroes half rose before him; claiming the war of Teutha. I came with my spear from the hill; the joy of battle rose in my breast: for the king spoke to Ossian in the midst of a thousand chiefs.
" Son of my strength," began the king, "take thou the spear of Fingal. Go to Teutha's rushing stream, and save the car-borne Colmar. Let thy fame return before thee like a pleasant gale; that my soul may rejoice over my son, who renews the renown of fathers. Ossian! be thou a storm in war; but mild when the foe is low! it was thus my fame arose, O my son! be thou like Selma's chief. When the haughty come to my halls, my eyes behold them not. But my arm is stretched forth to the unhappy. My sword defends the weak."
I rejoiced in the words of the king. I took my rattling arms. Diaran rose at my side, and Dargo, king of spears. Three hundred youths followed our steps; the lovely strangers were at my side. Dunthalmo heard the sound of our approach. He gathered the strength of Teutha. He stood on a hill with his host. They were like rocks broken with thunder, when their bent trees are singed and bare, and the streams of their chinks have failed. The stream of Teutha rolled in its pride, before the gloomy foe. I sent a bard to Dunthalmo, to offer the combat on the plain; but he smiled in the darkness of his pride. His unsettled host moved on the hill; like the mountain cloud, when the blast has entered its womb, and scatters the curling gloom on every side.
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The War Of Caros
Caros is probably the noted usurper Carausius, by birth a Menapran, who assumed the purple in the year 284; and, seizing on Britain, defeated the emperor Maximinian Herculius in several naval engagements, which gives propriety to his being called in this poem "the king of ships." He repaired Agricola's wall, in order to obstruct the incursions of the Caledonians, and when he was employed in that work, it appears he was attacked by a party under the command of Oscar the son of' Ossian. This battle is the foundation of the present poem, which is addressed to Malvina, the daughter of Toscar.
Bring, daughter of Toscar, bring the harp! the light of the song rises in Ossian's soul! It is like the field, when darkness covers the hills around, and the shadow grows slowly on the plain of the sun. I behold my son, O Malvina! near the mossy rock of Crona. But it is the mist of the desert, tinged with the beam of the west! Lovely is the mist that assumes the form of Oscar! turn from it, ye winds, when ye roar on the side of Ardven!
Who comes towards my son, with the murmur of a song? His staff is in his hand, his gray hair loose on the wind. Surly joy lightens his face. He often looks back to Caros. It is Ryno of songs, he that went to view the foe. "What does Caros, king of ships?" said the son of the now mournful Ossian: "spreads he the wings of his pride, bard of the times of old?" "He spreads them, Oscar," replied the bard," but it is behind his gathered heap. He looks over his stones with fear. He beholds thee terrible, as the ghost of night, that rolls the waves to his ships!"
"Go, thou first of my bards!" says Oscar, "take the spear of Fingal. Fix a flame on its point. Shake it to the winds of heaven. Bid him in songs, to advance, and leave the rolling of his wave. Tell to Caros that I long for battle; that my bow is weary of the chase of Cona. Tell him the mighty are not here; and that my arm is young."
He went with the murmur of songs. Oscar reared his voice on high. It reached his heroes on Ardven, like the noise of a cave, when the sea of Togorma rolls before it, and its trees meet the roaring winds. They gather round my son like the streams of the hill; when, after rain, they roll in the pride of their course. Ryno came to the mighty Caros. He struck his flaming spear. Come to the battle of Oscar. O thou that sittest on the rolling waves! Fingal is distant far; he hears the songs of bards in Morven: the wind of his hall is in his hair. His terrible spear is at his side; his shield that is like the darkened moon Come to the battle of Oscar; the hero is alone.
He came not over the streamy Carun. The bard returned with his song. Gray night grows dim on Crona. The feast of shells is spread. A hundred oaks burn to the wind; faint light gleams over the heath. The ghosts of Ardven pass through the beam, and show their dim and distant forms. Comala is half unseen on her meteor; Hidallan is sullen and dim, like the darkened moon behind the mist of night.
" Why art thou sad?" said Ryno; for he alone beheld the chief. "Why art thou sad, Hidallan! hast thou not received thy fame? The songs of Ossian have been heard , thy ghost has brightened in wind, when thou didst bend from thy cloud to hear the song of Morven's bard!"—-" And do thine eyes," said Oscar, " behold the chief, like the dim meteor of night? Say, Ryno, say, how fell Hidallan, the renowned in the days of my fathers! His name remains on the rocks of Cona. I have often seen the streams of his hills!"
Fingal, replied the bard, drove Hidallan from his wars. The king's soul was sad for Comala, and his eyes could not behold the chief. Lonely, sad, along the heath he slowly moved, with silent steps. His arms hung disordered on his side. His hair flies loose from his brow. The tear is in his downcast eyes; a sigh half silent in his breast! Three days he strayed unseen, alone, before he came to Lamor's halls: the mossy halls of his fathers, at the stream of Balva. There Lamor sat alone beneath a tree; for he had sent his people with Hidallan to war. The stream ran at his feet; his gray head rested on his staff. Sightless are his aged eyes. He hums the song of other times. The noise of Hidallan's feet came to his ear: he knew the tread of his son.
"Is the son of Lamor returned; or is it the sound of his ghost? Hast thou fallen on the banks of Carun, son of the aged Lamor? Or, if I hear the sound of Hidallan's feet, where are the mighty in the war? where are my people, Hidallan! that were wont to return with their echoing shields? Have they fallen on the banks of Carun?"
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The Songs of Selma
ARGUMENTAddress to the evening star:
An apostrophe to Fingal and his times. Minonasings before the king the song of the unfortunate Colma; and the bards exhibit other specimens of their poetical talents; according to an annual custom established by the monarchs of the ancient Caledonians.
STAR of descending night! fair is thy light in the west! thou that liftest thy unshorn head from thy cloud: thy steps are stately on thy hill. What dost thou behold in the plain? The stormy winds are laid. The murmur of the torrent comes from afar. Roaring waves climb the distant rock. The flies of evening are on their feeble wings: the hum of their course is in the field. What dost thou behold, fair light? But thou dost smile and depart. The waves come with joy around thee: they bathe thy lovely hair. Farewell, thou silent beam! Let the light of Ossian's soul arise!
And it does arise in its strength! I behold my departed friends. Their gathering is on Lora, as in the days of other years. Fingal comes like a watery column of mist! his heroes are around: and see the bards of song, gray-haired Ullin! Stately Ryno! Alpin with the tuneful voice! the soft complaint of Minona! How are ye changed, my friends, since the days of Selma's feast! when we contended, like gales of spring, as they fly along the hill, and bend by turns the feebly whistling grass.
Minona came forth in her beauty: with downcast look and tearful eye. Her hair flew slowly on the blast, that rushed unfrequent from the hill. The souls of the heroes were sad when she raised the tuneful voice. Often had they seen the grave of Salgar, the dark dwelling of white-bosomed Colma. Colma left alone on the hill, with all her voice of song! Salgar promised to come: but the night descended around. Hear the voice of Colma, when she sat alone on the hill.
Colma. It is night, I am alone, forlorn on the hill of storms. The wind is heard on the mountain. The torrent pours down the rock. No hut receives me from the rain; forlorn on the hill of winds!
Rise, moon! from behind thy clouds. Stars of the night, arise! Lead me, some light, to the place where my love rests from the chase alone! his bow near him, unstrung: his dogs panting around him. But here I must sit alone, by the rock of the mossy stream. The stream and the wind roar aloud. I hear not the voice of my love! Why delays my Salgar, why the chief of the hill, his promise? here is the rock, and here the tree! here is the roaring stream! Thou didst promise with night to be here. Ah! whither is my Salgar gone? With thee, I would fly from my father; with thee, from my brother of pride. Our race have long been foes; we are not foes, O Salgar!
Cease a little while, O wind! stream, be thou silent awhile! let my voice be heard around. Let my wanderer hear me! Salgar! it is Colma who calls. Here is the tree, and the rock. Salgar, my love! I am here. Why delayest thou thy coming? Lo! the calm moon comes forth. The flood is bright in the vale. The rocks are gray on the steep, I see him not on the brow. His dogs come not before him, with tidings of his near approach. Here I must sit alone!
Who lie on the heath beside me? Are they my love and my brother? Speak to me, O my friends! To Colma they give no reply. Speak to me; I am alone! My soul is tormented with fears! Ah! they are dead! Their swords are red from the fight. O my brother! my brother! why hast thou slain my Salgar? why, O Salgar! hast thou slain my brother? Dear were ye both to me! what shalt I say in your praise? Thou wert fair on the hill among thousands! he was terrible in fight. Speak to me; hear my voice; hear me, song of my love! They are silent; silent for ever! Cold, cold, are their breasts of clay! Oh! from the rock on the hill, from the top of the windy steep, speak, ye ghosts of the dead! speak, I will not be afraid! Whither are ye gone to rest? In what cave of the hill shall I find the departed? No feeble voice is on the gale: no answer half-drowned in the storm!
I sit in my grief; I wait for morning in my tears! Rear the tomb, ye friends of the dead. Close it not till Colma come. My life flies away like a dream: why should I stay behind? Here shall I rest with my friends, by the stream of the sounding rock. When night comes on the hilt; when the loud winds arise; my ghost shall stand in the blast, and mourn the death of my friends. The hunter shall hear from his booth. he shall fear but love my voice! For sweet shall my voice be for my friends: pleasant were her friends to Colma!
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The Battle Of Lora
Fingal, at his return from Ireland, after he had expelled Swaran from that kingdom, made a feast to all his heroes: he forgot to invite Ma-Ronnan and Aldo, two chiefs, who had not been along with him in his expedition. They resented his neglect; and went over to Erragon, king of Sora, a country of Scandinavia, the declared enemy of Fingal. The valor of Aldo soon gained him a great reputation in Sora; and Lorma, the beautiful wife of Erragon, fell in love with him. He found means to escape with her, and to come to Fingal, who resided then in Selma, on the western coast. Erragon invaded Scotland, and was slain in battle by Gaul the son of Morni, after he had rejected terms of peace offered him by Fingal. In this war Aldo fell, in a single combat, by the hands of his rival Erragon, and the unfortunate Lorma afterward died of grief.
SON of the distant land, who dwellest in the secret cell; do I hear the sound of thy grove? or is it thy voice of songs? The torrent was loud in my ear; but I heard a tuneful voice. Dost thou praise the chiefs of thy land: or the spirits of the wind? But, lonely dweller of rocks! look thou on that heathy plain. Thou seest green tombs, with their rank, whistling grass, with their stones of mossy heads. Thou seest them, son of the rock, but Ossian's eyes have failed!
A mountain-stream comes roaring down, and sends its waters round a green hill. Four mossy stones, in the midst of withered grass, rear their heads on the top. Two trees which the storms have bent, spread their whistling branches around. This is thy dwelling, Erragon; this thy narrow house; the sound of thy shells has been long forgot in Sora. Thy shield is become dark in thy hall. Erragon, king of ships, chief of distant Sora! how hast thou fallen on our mountains? How is the mighty low? Son of the secret cell! dost thou delight in songs? Hear the battle of Lora. The sound of its steel is long since past. So thunder on the darkened hill roars and is no more. The sun returns with his silent beams. The glittering rocks, and the green heads of the mountains, smile.
The bay of Cona received our ships from Erin's rolling waves. Our white sheets hung loose to the masts. The boisterous winds roared behind the groves of Morven. The horn of the king is sounded; the deer start from their rocks. Our arrows flew in the woods. The feast of the hill is spread. Our joy was great on our rocks, for the fall of the terrible Swaran. Two heroes were forgot at our feast. The rage of their bosoms burned. They rolled their red eyes in secret. The sigh bursts from their breasts. They were seen to talk together, and to throw their spears on earth. They were two dark clouds in the midst of our joy; like pillars of mist on the settled sea: they glitter to the sun, but the mariners fear a storm.
"Raise my white sails," said Ma-Ronnan, "raise them to the winds of the west. Let us rush, O Aldo! through the foam of the northern wave. We are forgot at the feast: but our arms have been red in blood. Let us leave the hills of Fingal, and serve the king of Sora. His countenance is fierce. War darkens around his spear. Let us be renowned, O Aldo, in the battles of other lands!"
They took their swords, their shields of thongs. They rushed to Lumar's resounding bay. They came to Sora's haughty king, the chief of bounding steeds. Erragon had returned from the chase. His spear was red in blood. He bent his dark face to the ground; and whistled as he went. He took the strangers to his feast: they fought and conquered in his wars.
Aldo returned with his fame towards Sora's lofty walls. From her tower looked the spouse of Erragon, the humid, rolling eyes of Lorma. Her yellow hair flies on the wind of ocean. Her white breast heaves, like snow on heath; when the gentle winds arise, and slowly move it in the light. She saw young Aldo, like the beam of Sora's setting sun. Her soft heart sighed. Tears filled her eyes. Her white arm supported her head. Three days she sat within the hall, and covered her grief with joy. On the fourth she fled with the hero, along the troubled sea. They came to Cona's mossy towers, to Fingal king of spears.
"Aldo of the heart of pride!" said Fingal, rising in wrath; "shall I defend thee from the rage of Sora's injured king? Who will now receive my people into their halls? Who will give the feast of strangers, since Aldo of the little soul has dishonored my name in Sora? Go to thy hills, thou feeble hand! Go: hide thee in thy caves. Mournful is the battle we must fight with Sora's gloomy king. Spirit of the noble Trenmor! when will Fingal cease to fight? I was born in the midst of battles, and my steps must move in blood to the tomb. But my hand did not injure the weak, my steel did not touch the feeble in arms. I behold thy tempests, O Morven! which will overturn my halls! when my children are dead in battle, and none remains to dwell in Selma. Then will the feeble come, but they will not know my tomb. My renown is only in song. My deeds shall be as a dream to future times!"
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The Death Of Carthullin
Cuthullin, after the arms of Fingal had expelled Swaran from Ireland, continued to manage the affairs of that kingdom as the guardian of Cormac the young king. In the third year of Cuthullin's administration, Torlath, the son of Cantela, rebelled in Connaught: and advanced to Temora to dethrone Cormac. Cuthullin marched against him, came up with him at the lake of Lego, and totally defeated his forces. Torlath fell in battle by Cuthullin's hand; but as he too eagerly pressed on the enemy, he was mortally wounded. The affairs of Cormac, though for some time supported by Nathos, as mentioned in the preceding poem, fell into confusion at the death of Cuthullin. Cormac himself was slain by the rebel Cairbar; and the re-establishment of the royal family of Ireland, by Fingal, furnishes the subject of the epic poem of Temora.
Is the wind on the shield of Fingal? Or is the voice of past times in my hall? Sing on, sweet voice! for thou art pleasant. Thou carriest away my night with joy. Sing on, O Bragéla, daughter of car-borne Sorglan!
"It is the white wave of the rock, and not Cuthullin's sails. Often do the mists deceive me for the ship of my love! when they rise round some ghost, and spread their gray skirts on the wind. Why dost thou delay thy coming, son of the generous Semo? Four times has autumn returned with its winds, and raised the seas of Togorma, since thou hast been in the roar of battles, and Bragéla distant far! Hills of the isle of mist! when will ye answer to his hounds? But ye are dark in your clouds. Sad Bragéla calls in vain! Night comes rolling down. The face of ocean falls. The heath-cock's head is beneath his wing. The hind sleeps with the hart of the desert. They shall rise with morning's light, and feed by the mossy stream. But my tears return with the sun. My sighs come on with the night. When wilt thou come in thine arms, O chief of Erin's wars?"
Pleasant is thy voice in Ossian's ear, daughter of car-borne Sorglan! But retire to the hall of shells, to the beam of the burning oak. Attend to the murmur of the sea: it rolls at Dunscäi's walls: let sleep descend on thy blue eyes. Let the hero arise in thy dreams!
Cuthullin sits at Lego's lake, at the dark rolling of waters. Night is around the hero. His thousands spread on the heath. A hundred oaks burn in the midst. The feast of shells is smoking wide. Carril strikes the harp beneath a tree. His gray locks glitter in the beam. The rustling blast of night is near, and lifts his aged hair. His song is of the blue Togorma, and of its chief, Cuthullin's friend! "Why art thou absent, Connal, in the days of the gloomy storm? The chiefs of the south have convened against the car-borne Cormac. The winds detain thy sails. Thy blue waters roll around thee. But Cormac is not alone. The son of Semo fights his wars! Semo's son his battles fights! the terror of the stranger! He that is like the vapor of death, slowly borne by sultry winds. The sun reddens in its presence; the people fall around."
Such was the song of Carril, when a son of the foe appeared. He threw down his pointless spear. He spoke the words of Torlath; Torlath chief of heroes, from Lego's sable surge! He that led his thousands to battle, against car-borne Cormac. Cormac, who was distant far, in Temora's echoing halls: he learned to bend the bow of his fathers; and to lift the spear. Nor long didst thou lift the spear, mildly-shining beam of youth! death stands dim behind thee, like the darkened half of the moon behind its growing light. Cuthullin rose before the bard, that came from generous Torlath. He offered him the shell of joy. He honored the son of songs. "Sweet voice of Lego!" he said, "what are the words of Torlath? Comes he to our feast or battle, the car-borne son of Cantela?"
"He comes to thy battle," replied the bard, "to the sounding strife of spears. When morning is gray on Lego, Torlath will fight on the plain. Wilt thou meet him, in thine arms, king of the isle of mist? Terrible is the spear of Torlath! it is a meteor of night. He lifts it, and the people fall! death sits in the lightning of his sword!" — "Do I fear," replied Cuthullin, "the spear of car-borne Torlath? He is brave as a thousand heroes: but my soul delights in war! The sword rests not by the side of Cuthullin, bard of the times of old! Morning shall meet me on the plain, and gleam on the blue arms of Semo's son. But sit thou on the heath, O bard, and let us hear thy voice. Partake of the joyful shell: and hear the songs of Temora!"
"This is no time," replied the bard, "to hear the song of joy: when the mighty are to meet in battle, like the strength of the waves of Lego. Why art thou so dark, Slimora! with all thy silent woods? No star trembles on thy top. No moonbeam on thy side. But the meteors of death are there: the gray watery forms of ghosts. Why art thou dark, Slimora! why thy silent woods?" He retired, in the sound of his song. Carril joined his voice. The music was like the memory of joys that are past, pleasant and mournful to the soul. The ghosts of departed bards heard on Slimora's side. Soft sounds spread along the wood. The silent valleys of night rejoice. So when he sits in the silence of the day, in the valley of his breeze, the humming of the mountain bee comes to Ossian's ear: the gale drowns it in its course: but the pleasant sound returns again! Slant looks the sun on the field! gradual grows the shade of the hill!
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Temora - Book V
The poet, after a short address to the harp of Cona, describes the arrangement of both armies on either side of the river Lubar. Fingal gives the command to Fillan; but at the same time orders Gaul, the son of Morni, who had been wounded in the hand in the preceding battle, to assist him with his counsel. The army of the Fir-bolg is commanded by Foldath. The general onset is described. the great actions of Fillan. He kills Rothmar and Culmin. But when Fillan conquers in one wing, Foldath presses hard on the other. He wounds Dermid, the son of Duthno, and puts the whole wing to flight. Dermid deliberates with himself. and, at last, resolves to put a stop to the progress of Foldath, by engaging him in single combat. When the two chiefs were approaching towards one another, Fillan came suddenly to the relief of Dermid; engaged Foldath, and killed him. The behavior of Malthos towards the fallen Foldath. Fillan puts the whole army, of the Fir-bolg to flight. The book closes with an address to Clatho, the mother of that hero.
THOU dweller between the shields that hang, on high, in Ossian's hall! Descend from thy place, O harp, and let me hear thy voice! Son of Alpin, strike the string. Thou must awake the soul of the bard. The murmur of Lora's stream has rolled the tale away. I stand in the cloud of years. Few are its openings towards the' past; and when the vision comes, it is but dim and dark. I hear thee, harp of Selma! my soul returns like a breeze, which the sun brings back to the vale, where dwelt the lazy mist.
Lubar is bright before me in the windings of its vale. On either side, on their hills, arise the tall forms of the kings. Their people are poured around them, bending forward to their words: as if their fathers spoke, descending from the winds. But they themselves are like two rocks in the midst; each with its dark head of pines, when they are seen in the desert, above low-sailing mist. High on their face are streams which spread their foam on blasts of wind!
Beneath the voice of Cathmor pours Erin, like the sound of flame. Wide they come down to Lubar. Before them is the stride of Foldath. But Cathmor retires to his hill, beneath his bending oak. The tumbling of a stream is near the king. He lifts, at times, his gleaming spear. It is a flame to his people, in the midst of war. Near him stands the daughter of Conmor, leaning on a rock. She did not rejoice at the strife. Her soul delighted not in blood. A valley spreads green behind the hill, with its three, blue streams. The sun is there in silence. The dun mountain roes come down. On these are turned the eyes of Sul-malla in her thoughtful mood.
Fingal beholds Cathmor, on high, the son of Borbar-duthul! he beholds the deep rolling of Erin, on the darkened plain. He strikes that warning boss, which bids the people to obey, when he sends his chief before them, to the field of renown. Wide rise their spears to the sun. Their echoing shields reply around. Fear, like a vapor, winds not among the host: for he, the king, is near, the strength of streamy Selma. Gladness brightens the hero. We hear his words with joy.
"Like the coming forth of winds, is the sound of Selma's sons! They are mountain waters, determined in their course. Hence is Fingal renowned. Hence is his name in other lands. He was not a lonely beam in danger: for your steps were always near! But never was Fingal a dreadful form, in your presence, darkened into wrath. My voice was no thunder to your ears. Mine eyes sent forth no death. When the haughty appeared, I beheld them not. They were forgot at my feasts. Like mist they melted away. A young beam is before you! Few are his paths to war! They are few, but he is valiant. Defend my dark-haired son. Bring Fillan back with joy. Hereafter he may stand alone. His form is like his fathers. His soul is a flame of their fire. Son of car-borne Morni, move behind the youth. Let thy voice reach his ear, from the skirts of war. Not unobserved rolls battle before thee, breaker of the shields."
The king strode, at once, away to Cormul's lofty rock. Intermitting darts the light from his shield, as slow the king of heroes moves. Sidelong rolls his eye o'er the heath, as forming advance the lines. Graceful fly his half-gray locks round his kingly features, now lightened with dreadful joy. Wholly mighty is the chief! Behind him dark and slow I moved. Straight came forward the strength of Gaul. His shield hung loose on its thong. He spoke, in haste, to Ossian. "Bind, son of Fingal, this shield! Bind it high to the side of Gaul. The foe may behold it, and think I lift the spear. If I should fall, let my tomb be hid in the field; for fall I must without fame. Mine arm cannot lift the steel. Let not Evir-choma hear it, to blush between her locks. Fillan, the mighty behold us! Let us not forget the strife. Why should they come from their hills, to aid our flying field!"
He strode onward, with the sound of his shield. My voice pursued him as he went. "Can the son of Morni fall, without his fame in Erin? But the deeds of the mighty are forgot by themselves. They rush carless over the fields of renown. Their words are never heard!" I rejoiced over the steps of the chief. I strode to the rock of the king, where he sat, in his wandering locks, amid the mountain wind!
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Temora - Book IV
The second night continues. Fingal relates, at the feast, his own first expedition into Ireland, and his marriage with Ros-cranna, the daughter of Cormac, king of that island. The Irish chiefs convene in the presence of Cathmor. The situation of the king described. The story of Sul-malla, the daughter of Conmor, king of Inis-huna, who, in the disguise of a young warrior, hath followed Cathmor to the war. The sullen behavior of Foldath, who had commanded in the battle of the preceding day, renews the difference between him and Malthos: but Cathmor, interposing, ends it. The chiefs feast, and hear the song of Fonar the bard. Cathmor returns to rest, at a distance from the army. The ghost of his brother Cairbar appears to him in a dream; and obscurely foretells the issue of the war. The soliloquy of the king. He discovers Sul-malla. Morning comes. Her soliloquy closes the book.
"BENEATH an oak," said the king, "I sat on Selma's streamy rock, when Connal rose, from the sea, with the broken spear of Duth-caron. Far distant stood the youth. He turned away his eyes. He remembered the steps of his father, on his own green hill. I darkened in my place. Dusky thoughts flew over my soul. The kings of Erin rose before me. I half unsheathed the sword. Slowly approached the chiefs. They lifted up their silent eyes. Like a ridge of clouds, they wait for the bursting forth of my voice. My voice was, to them, a wind from heaven, to roll the mist away.
"I bade my white sails to rise, before the roar of Cona's wind. Three hundred youths looked, from their waves, on Fingal's bossy shield. High on the mast it hung, and marked the dark-blue sea. But when night came down, I struck, at times, the warning boss: I struck, and looked on high, for fiery-haired Ul-erin. Nor absent was the star of heaven. It travelled red between the clouds. I pursued the lovely beam, on the faint-gleaming deep. With morning, Erin rose in mist. We came into the bay of Moi-lena, where its blue waters tumbled, in the bosom of echoing woods. Here Cormac, in his secret halls, avoids the strength of Colc-ulla. Nor he alone, avoids the foe. The blue eye of Ros-cranna is there: Ros-cranna, white-handed maid, the daughter of the king!
"Gray, on his pointless spear, came forth the aged steps of Cormac. He smiled from his waving locks; but grief was in his soul. He saw us few before him, and his sigh arose. 'I see the arms of Trenmor,' he said; 'and these are the steps of the king! Fingal! thou art a beam of light to Cormac's darkened soul! Early is thy fame, my son: but strong are the foes of Erin. They are like the roar of streams in the land, son of car-borne Comhal!' 'Yet they may be rolled away,' I said, in my rising soul. 'We are not of the race of the feeble, king of blue-shielded hosts! Why should fear come amongst us, like a ghost of night? The soul of the valiant grows when foes increase in the field. Roll no darkness, king of Erin, on the young in war!'
"The bursting tears of the king came down. He seized my hand in silence. 'Race of the daring Trenmor!' at length he said, 'I roll no cloud before thee. Thou burnest in the fire of thy fathers. I behold thy fame. It marks thy course in battle, like a stream of light. But wait the coming of Cairbar; my so must join thy sword. He calls the sons of Erin from all their distant streams.'
"We came to the hall of the king, where it rose in the midst of rocks, on whose dark sides were the marks of streams of old. Broad oaks bend around with their moss. The thick birch is waving near. Half hid, in her shadowy grove, Ros-cranna raises the song. Her white hands move on the harp. I beheld her blues rolling eyes. She was like a spirit of heaven half folded in the skirt of a cloud!
Three days we feasted at Moi-lena. She rises bright in my troubled soul. Cormac beheld me dark. He gave the white-bosomed maid. She comes with bending eye, amid the wandering of her heavy locks. She came! Straight the battle roared. Colc-ulla appeared: I took my spear. My sword rose, with my people against the ridgy foe. Alnecma fled. Colc-ulla fell. Fingal returned with fame.
"Renowned is he, O Fillan, who fights in the strength of his host. The bard pursues his steps through the land of the foe. But he who fights alone, few are his deeds to other times! He shines to-day, a mighty light. To-morrow he is low. One song contains his fame. His name is one dark field. He is forgot; but where his tomb sends forth the tufted grass."
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Temora - Book VII
This book begins about the middle of the third night from the opening of the poem. The poet describes a kind of mist, which rose by night from the Lake of Lego, and was the usual residence of the souls of the dead, during the interval between their decease and the funeral song. The appearance of the ghost of Fillan above the cave where his body lay. His voice comes to Fingal on the rock of Cormul. The king strikes the shield of Trenmor, which was an infallible sign of his appearing in arms himself. The extraordinary effect of the sound of the shield. Sul-malla, starting from sleep, awakes Cathmor. Their affecting discourse. She insists with him to sue for peace; he resolves to continue the war. He directs her to retire to the neighboring valley of Lona, which was the residence of an old Druid, until the battle of the next day should be over. He awakes his army with the sound of his shield. The shield described. Fonar, the bard, at the desire of Cathmor, relates the first settlement of the Fir-bolg in Ireland, under their leader Larthon. Morning comes. Sul-malla retires to the valley of Lona. A lyric song concludes the book.
From the wood-skirted waters of Lego ascend, at times, gray-bosomed mists; when the gates of the west are closed, on the sun's eagle eye. Wide, over Lara's stream, is poured the vapor dark and deep: the moon, like a dim shield, lay swimming through its folds. With this, clothe the spirits of old their sudden gestures on the wind, when they stride, from blast to blast, along the dusky night. Often, blended with the gale, to some warrior's grave, they roll the mist a gray dwelling to his ghost, until the songs arise.
A sound came from the desert; it was Conar, king of Inis-fail. He poured his mist on the grave of Fillan, at blue-winding Lubar. Dark and mournful sat the ghost, in his gray ridge of smoke. The blast, at times, rolled him together; but the form returned again. It returned with bending eyes, and dark winding of locks of mist.
It was dark. The sleeping host were still in the skirts of night. The flame decayed, on the hill of Fingal; the king lay lonely on his shield. His eyes were half clothed in sleep: the voice of Fillan came. "Sleeps the husband of Clatho? Dwells the father of the fallen in rest? Am I forgot in the folds of darkness; lonely in the season of night?"
"Why dost thou mix," said the king, "with the dreams of my father? Can I forget thee, my son, or thy path of fire in the field? Not such come the deeds of the valiant on the soul of Fingal. They are not a beam of lightning, which is seen and is then no more. I remember thee, O Fillan! and my wrath begins to rise."
The king took his deathful spear, and struck the deeply-sounding shield: his shield, that hung high in night, the dismal sign of war. Ghosts fled on every side, and rolled their gathered forms on the wind. Thrice from the winding vales arose the voice of deaths. The harps of the bards, untouched, sound mournful over the hill.
He struck again the shield; battles rose in the dreams of his host. The wide-tumbling strife is gleaming over their souls. Blue-shielded kings descended to war. Backward-looking armies fly; and mighty deeds are half hid in the bright gleams of steel.
But when the third sound arose, deer started from the clefts of their rocks. The screams of fowl are heard in the desert, as each flew frightened on his blast. The sons of Selma half rose and half assumed their spears. But silence rolled back on the host: they knew the shield of the king. Sleep returned to their eyes; the field was dark and still.
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