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"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 When midthe top of the hill of winds. day is silent around, O talk with me, vela ! come on the light-winged gale! Let on the breeze of the desert, come! 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!"
Look back at the opening of Carricthura, and say if it be not poetry— full of placid and cheerful beautythe night-scene without, and the nightscene within the hall of Selma-felt together in the harmony of a gentle contrast. Yet Laing will not allow any sunset in Ossian to be unborrowed; and traces "the gates of the west," "the bed of thy repose," "lovely in thy sleep," to Milton, and Dryden, and Collins. The Glasgow gander
himself was not much more abroad in his attempts, by parallel passages, to prove Mrs Grant of Laggan the author of the Waverley novels. The gates of the west," quoth Malcolm, "so frequent in Ossian, is Milton's eastern gate, where the great sun begins his state." "Wavy bed," in Collins, suggested "The waves come to behold thy beauty." "They lift their trembling heads," is a translation of Virgil's Splendet tremulo sub lumine pontus !" "On such slight hints," he growls, "were his imitations often constructed." They see thee lovely in thy sleep," is copied from-O gentle reader! from what, think ye?—from the picture of Adam hanging over Eve in Paradise!
"He on his side Leaning, half-raised, with looks of cordial
Hung over her enamoured, and beheld
"Much as I am accustomed to Macpherson's plagiarisms I am lost in astonishment at such unexpected imita
tions!" By an acute man, never surely was such nonsense written before he looks like a monomaniac.
In the Poem of Carric-thura, or the morning after the night of joy in Selma, Fingal sets sail for Inistore. "It rises to sight, and Carric-thura's mossy towers! But the sign of distress was on their top: the warning flame edged with smoke." Laing cannot believe it possible in nature that Macpherson could have seen in his mind's eye a light on the top of a tower, and have said so, had he not read Homer -and jots down, with these italics, "literally from Pope's Iliad:"
“As when from some beleaguered town arise
The smokes, high curling to the shaded skies,
(Seen from some island o'er the main afar,
When men distressed hang out the sign of war,)
Soon as the sun in ocean hides his rays,
Thick on the hills the flaming beacons
With long-projected beams the seas are bright,
And heaven's high arch reflects the ruddy light."
Pope's version, by the way, is execrable, and all unlike Homer. In Homer the description is powerful; but its greatness lies in the similitude of the sudden fire to Achilles. Ossian's few words simply state a fact; and, knowing that the flame announces evil," the King of Morven struck his breast." Laing continues-"But the warning flame edged with smoke is an incongruous combination of two distinct images; as the flame can no more be seen by day than the smoke by night. Had our translator beheld the Orkneys, when involved in sum mer, as at this present moment, in clouds of smoke from their numerous kelp-kilns, he would have perceived the extreme accuracy and propriety of Homer's description." Poets have as good eyes as other people—or better; and, though what Mr Laing says about kelp-kilns is correct, Macpherson knew, as well as he did either by night or day-flame from smoke. It was not day-time, but I well on in the evening; for it is said immediately," Night came down on the sea." And late in a cloudy evening, fire on a tower-top-and smoke, too-is visible "far far at sea."
The "Songs of Selma" opens with an address to the "star of descending night" - eminently beautiful; and here, of course, the word-hunter is again at work, insensible, it would seem, to the mournful influence of the hour so congenial with the profound sadness everlasting in the soul of Ossian.
"Star of descending night! fair is thy light in the west! thou 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 on 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 Uilin! 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 ye fly along the hill, and bend by turns the feebly-whistling grass.
"Minona came forth in her beauty: with downcast look and tearful eye.
"Star of descending night" is bor- hair flew slowly on the blast, that rushed rowed from Milton's
"Fairest of stars, last in the train of night;" and thou liftest thy unshorn head from thy cloud," from Milton's image of Lucifer suddenly reappearing in Pandemonium,
"At last, as from a cloud, his fulgent head And shape, star-bright, appeared."
That beats Banagher. Because a great poet has gloriously likened the apparition out of nothing, of a fallen angel to a star issuing from a cloud, nobody looking on the sky shall be suffered to speak of a star rising above a cloud, without being assailed with the cry of" stop thief!"-" Thy steps are stately on thy hill." From what think ye is that stolen or strayed? From the ballad of Hardyknute!
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 here 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 food 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! 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 shall 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, sons 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 hill; 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!
"Our tears descended for Colma, and our souls were sad," saith Ossian; and well they might-for nothing can be more mournful than thy song, Minona. Then came Ullin with his harp, and he gave the song of Alpin. In former days he had overheard Alpin and Ryno on the hill singing the fall of Morar, and had received the song into his heart. Now they both
rest in the narrow house-and Minona's eyes are full of tears-the sister of car-borne Morar. "She retired from the song of Ullin, like the moon in the west, when she foresees the shower, and hides her fair head in a cloud. I touched the harp with Ullin; the song of mourning rose."
"Ryno. The wind and the rain are past : calm is the noon of day. The clouds are divided in heaven. Over the green hills flies the inconstant sun. Red through the stony vale comes down the stream of the hill.
Sweet are thy murmurs, O stream!
but more sweet is the voice I hear. It is the voice of Alpin, the son of song, mourning for the dead! Bent is his head of age; red his tearful eye. Alpin, thou son of song, why alone on the silent hill? why complainest thou, as a blast in the wood as a wave on the lonely shore?
'Alpin. My tears, O Ryno! are for the dead; my voice for those that have passed away. Tall thou art on the hill; fair among the sons of the vale. But thou shalt fall like Morar; the mourner shall sit on thy tomb. The hills shall know thee no more; thy bow shall lie in the hall unstrung!
"Thou were swift, O Morar! as a roe on the desert; terrible as a meteor of fire. Thy wrath was as the storm. Thy sword in battle, as lightning in the field. Thy voice was a stream after rain; like thunder on distant hills. Many fell by thy arm; they were consumed in the flames of thy wrath. But when thou didst return from war, how peaceful was thy brow! Thy face was like the sun after rain; like the moon in the silence of night; calm as the breast of the lake when the loud wind is laid.
"Narrow is thy dwelling now! dark the place of thine abode! With three steps I compass thy grave, O thou who wast so great before! Four stones, with their heads of moss, are the only memorial of thee. A tree with scarce a leaf, long grass, which whistles in the wind, mark to the hunter's eye the grave of the mighty Morar. Morar! thou art low indeed! Thou hast no mother to mourn thee; no maid with her tears of love. Dead is she that brought thee forth. Fallen is the daughter of Morglan.
"Who on his staff is this? who is this whose head is white with age; whose eyes are red with tears; who quakes at every step? It is thy father, O Morar! the father of no son but thee. He heard of thy fame in war; he heard of foes dispersed. He heard of Morar's renown; why did he not hear of his wound? Weep, thou father of Morar! weep; but thy son heareth thee not. Deep is the sleep of the dead; low their pillow of dust. No more shall he hear thy voice; no more awake at thy call. When shall it be morn in the grave, to bid the slumberer awake? Farewell, thou bravest of men! thou conqueror in the field; but the field shall see thee no more: nor the dark wood be lightened with the splendour of thy steel. Thou hast left no son. The song shall preserve thy name. Future times shall hear of thee; they shall hear of the fallen Morar!
"When shall it be morn in the grave, to bid the slumberer awake ?”
is sublime, and was probably in Beattie's mind when he wrote
"But when shall spring visit the mouldering urn?
Oh, when shall it dawn on the night of the grave?
Ha! we are startled to see these lines quoted by Laing, and remarked on with a true and fine feeling-" The 'spring' dawning, instead of the morning' on the night of the grave' is certainly no improvement." But what can the man mean by this? Alpin says " Weep, thou father of Morar! weep, but thy son heareth thee not. Deep is the sleep of the dead; low their pillow of dust. No more shall he hear thy voice-no more awake at thy call!" This lamentation, he affirms, is an imitation of
"The breezy call of incense-breathing
The swallow twittering from the strawbuilt shed,
the breathing gale. strong. Thy spear was swift in the field. Thy look was like mist on the wave: thy shield, a red cloud in a storm. Armar, renowned in war, came, and sought Daura's love. He was not long refused: fair was the hope of their friends!
Arindal, thy bow was
Erath, son of Odgal, repined: his brother had been slain by Armar. He came disguised like a son of the sea: fair was his skiff on the wave; white his locks of age; calm his serious brow. Fairest of women, he said, lovely daughter of Armin! a rock
not distant in the sea bears a tree on its side; red shines the fruit afar! There Armar waits for Daura. I come to carry his love! She went; she called on Armar. Nought answered, but the son of the rock. Armar, my love! my love! why tormentest thou me with fear! hear, son of Arnart, hear it is Daura who calleth thee! Erath the traitor fled laughing to the land. She lifted up her voice; she called for her brother and her father. Arindal! Armin! none to relieve your Daura!
"Her voice came over the sea. Arindal my son descended from the hill; rough in the spoils of the chase. His arrows rattled
The cock's shrill clarion, and the echoing by his side; his bow was in his hand: five
No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed."
Gray, he adds, when the Fragments were communicated to him, was unconscious of his own poetry, so complete was the deception! !
At the close of the song of Alpin, the grief of all arose, but most the bursting sigh of Armin-for he remembered the death of his son, who fell in the days of his youth. Why art thou sad, O Armin, chief of seasurrounded Gorma? asked Carmor, the chief of the echoing Galmal.
"Sad I am! nor small is my cause of woe! Carmor, thou hast lost no son; thou hast lost no daughter of beauty. Colgar the valiant lives; and Annira, fairest maid. The boughs of thy house ascend, O Carmor; but Armin is the last of his race. Dark is thy bed, O Daura! deep thy sleep in the tomb! When shalt thou awake with thy songs? with all thy voice of music?
"Arise, winds of autumn, arise; blow along the heath! streams of the mountains, roar roar, tempests, in the groves of my oaks! walk through broken clouds, O moon! show thy pale face, at intervals! bring to my mind the night, when all my children fell! when Arindal the mighty fell! when Daura the lovely failed! Daura, my daughtér! thou wert fair; fair as the moon on Fura; white as the driven snow; sweet as
dark gray dogs attended his steps. He saw fierce Erath on the shore: he seized and bound him to an oak. Thick wind the thongs of the hide around his limbs : he loads the wind with his groans. Arindal ascends the deep in his boat, to bring Daura to land. Armar came in his wrath, and let fly the gray-feathered shaft. It sunk, it sunk in thy heart, O Arindal, my son! for Erath the traitor thou diedst. The oar is stopped at once; he panted on the rock and expired. What is thy grief, O Daura, when round thy feet is poured thy brother's blood! The boat is broken in twain. Armar plunges into the sea, to rescue his Daura, or die. Sudden a blast from the hill came over the waves. He sunk, and he rose no more.
"Alone, on the seabeat rock, my daughter was heard to complain. Frequent and loud were her cries. What could her father do? All night I stood on the shore. I saw her by the faint beam of the moon. night I heard her cries. Loud was the wind; the rain beat hard on the hill. Before morning appeared, her voice was weak. died away, like the evening breeze among the grass of the rocks: Spent with grief she expired; and left thee, Armin, alone. Gone is my strength in war! fallen my pride among women! When the storms aloft arise; when the north lifts the wave on high; I sit by the sounding shore, and look on the fatal rock. Often by the setting moon, I see the ghosts of my children. Half viewless, they walk in mournful conference together. Will none of you speak in pity?
They do not regard their father. I am sad,
"Such were the words of the bards in the
they say, as they pass along, Why does Ossian sing? Soon shall he lie in the narrow house, and no bard shall raise his fame! Roll on, ye dark brown years; ye bring no joy on your course! Let the tomb open to Ossian, for his strength has failed. The sons of song are gone to rest. My voice remains, like a blast, that roars, lonely, on a sea-surrounded rock, after the winds are laid. The dark moss whistles there; the distant mariner sees the waving trees!"
Carthon is a noble strain, and contains some of the finest descriptions in all Ossian. Clessammor, an uncle of Fingal by the mother's side, had been driven by a storm into the river Clyde, on the banks of which stood Balclutha, " a town belonging to the Britons within the walls." Here he marries Moina, daughter of Reuthamir, a chief; but is driven away in his ship soon after his nuptials by Reuda, a Briton, who was in love with Moina. Moina, who had been left with child, brought forth a son, and soon after died and he is reared by Reuthamir, and called Carthon, the murmur of the waves, from the storm which carried off Clessammor, who was supposed to have been cast away.
In Carthon's childhood Balclutha had been burnt by Comhal, Fingal's father, and having come to man's estate, he resolves to avenge its fate on the posterity of the destroyer. He invades Morvern, and, after defeating two of Fingal's heroes, is killed in single combat by his own father Clessammor. In this poem occurs the celebrated description, "I have seen the walls of Balclutha, but they were desolate," &c.-of itself, in its scriptural sublimity, sufficient to immortalize its poet.
"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 ClessamThe mor came, and lifted high his spear. 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! began the tall Clessammor. I have been renowned in battle, but I never told my name to a 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 Ciessammor with à 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 roll the wave. Carthon bade his spear to err: he still thought that the foe was the spouse of Moina. He broke Clessammor's beamy spear in twain: hé 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 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 heheld 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 carborne Carthon; art thou that light of death