Page images
PDF
EPUB

APPENDIX.

And, like the moon, the broad refulgent shield,
Blaz'd with long rays, and gleam'd athwart the field.

So to night-wand'ring sailors pale with fears,
Wide o'er the watry waste a light appears,
Which on the far-seen mountain blazing high,
Streams from some lonely watch-tower to the sky :
With mournful eyes they gaze and gaze again:
Loud howls the storm and drives them o'er the main.

Next his high head the helmet grac’d; behind
The sweepy crest hung floating in the wind;
Like the red star that from his flaming hair,
Shakes down diseases, pestilence, and war;
So stream'd the golden honours from his head,
Trembled the sparkling plumes, and the loose glories shed.

The chief beholds himself with wond'ring eyes,
His arms he poises, and his motions tries :
Buoy'd by some inward force he seems to swim,
And feels a pinion lifting every limb.

And now he shakes his great paternal spear,
Pond'rous and huge! which not a Greek could rear.
From Pelion's cloudy top an ash entire,
Old Chiron felld and shap'd it for his sire ;
A spear which stern Achilles only wields,
The death of heroes, and the dread of fields."

BOOK XIX. 390. The most striking beauties of Shakespeare have been so often noticed, and so often brought into view, that were those repeated here which have received most praise, though they might serve as

APPENDIX.

illustrations, they would have no charms of novelty. I have, therefore, selected one passage from Henry VI. which I have never seen quoted, and which, I think, in the united qualities of pathos and sublimity, Shakespeare has never surpassed.

« Ah! who is nigh? come to me, friend or foe,
And tell me who is victor, York or Warwick ?
Why ask I that? my mangled body shews;
My blood, my want of strength, my sick heart shews
That I must yield my body to the earth,
And, by my fall, the couquest to my foe;
Thus yields the cedar to the axe's edge,
Whose arms gave shelter to the princely eagle;
Under whose shade the ramping lion slept;
Whose top-branch overpeer'd Jove's spreading tree,
And kept low shrubs from Winter's powerful wind.

These eyes that now are dimm'd with Death’s black veil,
Have been as piercing as the mid-day sun
To search the secret treasons of the world.
The wrinkles in my brow, now filld with blood,
Were likened oft to kingly sepulchres;
For who liv'd king but I could dig his grave ?
And who durst smile when Warwick bent his brow? "
Lo! now my glory, smear'd in dust and blood,
My parks, my walks, my manors that I had,
Ev'n now forsake me; and, of all my lands,

Is nothing left me but my body's length.” · ----That the greatness of this dying speech of the

APPENDIX.

earl of Warwick, may be more fully seen, it must be remembered that he was the most powerful subject that surrounded the English throne--that he was unrivalled in the annals of chivalry, and from the excess of his power, was, in those times, called the king maker and the king destroyer. He was, as he says, the shade beneath which the lion slept, and where the people sought protection and safety. His sword defended his king, and his arm was a bulwark to the nation. Whether this speech is most sublime or most pathetic is difficult to be determined. It is, however, unquestionably both. All the dignity of Warwick remains and increases at his death ; but the death of so great a character is followed by sadness---as the shadows of night come after the descent of the sun.

When we open Ossian we are immediately introduced into fairy regions. In the days of this bard, superstition prevailed. Every dusky hill was believed to be the abode of a spirit, who mingled his shriek with the voice of the blast. It is unaccountable, that men of literature should deny the authenticity of Ossian's poems. There is no evidence wanting to convince all who are willing to believe. Poems are still repeated in the original Erse, by many aged persons in the Highlands, and by some

APPENDIX.

persons whom I have seen in this country, who obtained them from their fathers: and that these are the same poems which Mr. M-Pherson has given to the world in an English dress, characters of the highest veracity and literary reputation have positively declared. What further evidence could we require? But this is not all? for even were every external evidence banished---were there none who spoke the Erse, in which the poems were delivered ---had M.Pherson declared them to be his-those who study them could with difficulty believe him; for every internal evidence declares that they could not be written in the present day; so widely different is the state of society which they describe, from that which now exists. But I have digressed. I thought this tribute due to one of the sublimest bards who has appeared in our world--whose genius ranks with Homer's, and Milton's and Shakespeare's, and with Fingal, “ yields not to mortal man.”The extract which I shall take from Ossian, is the episode of Orla. I have chosen it because there is no passage of which the reader can better judge, when separated from the whole.

“Who is that, like a cloud, at the rock of the roaring stream? He cannot bound over its course; yet stately is the chief! his bossy shield is on his

APPENDIX

side; and his spear, like the tree of the desert. Youth of the dark-brown hair art thou of Fingal's foes?” “ I am a son of Lochlin,” he cries “ and strong is mine arm in war. My spouse is weeping at home; but Orla will never return.” “Or fights or yields the hero," said Fingal of the noble deeds---“ foes do not conquer in my presence: but my friends are renowned in the hall. Son of the wave follow me; partake of the feast of my shells; pursue the deer of my desart; and be the friend of Fingal.” “No,” said the hero, “I assist the feeble; my strength shall remain with the weak in arms. My sword has been always unmatched, 0 warrior; let the king of Morven yield.” “I never yielded Orla, Fingal never yielded to man. Draw thy sword and chuse thy foe. Many are my heroes." And does the king refuse the combat,” said Orla with the dark-brown hair? “ Fingal is a match for Orla, and he alone of all his race. But king of Morven, if I shall fall, (as one day the warrior must die,) raise my tomb in the midst, and let it be the greatest on Lena. And send over the darkblue wave, the sword of Orla to the spouse of his love; that she may shew it to her son with tears, to kindle his soul to war.” « Son of the mournful tale," said Fingal “ why dost thou awaken my

« PreviousContinue »