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ARGUMENT.-IT may not be improper here to give the story, which is the foundation of this poem, as it is handed down by tradition. Usnoth, lord of Etha, which is probably that part of Argyleshire which is near Loch Eta, an arm of the sea in Lorn, had three sons, Nathos, Althos, and Ardan, by Slissáma, the daughter of Semo, and sister to the celebrated Cuthullin. The three brothers, when very young, were sent over to Ireland by their father, to learn the use of arms under their uncle Cuthullin, who made a great figure in that kingdom. They were just landed in Ulster when the news of Cuthullin's death arrived. Nathos, though very young, took the command of Cuthullin's army, made head against Cairbar the usurper, and defeated him in several battles. Cairbar at last having found means to murder Cormac the lawful king, the army of Nathos shifted sides, and he himself was obliged to return into Ulster, in order to pass over into Scotland.
Dar-thula, the daughter of Colla, with whom Cairbar was in love, resided at that time in Seláma, a castle in Ulster. She saw, fell in love, and fled with Nathos; but a storm rising at sea they were unfortunately driven back on that part of the coast of Ulster where Cairbar was encamped with his army. The three brothers, after having defended themselves for some time with great bravery, were overpowered and slain, and the unfortunate Dar-thula killed herself upon the body of her beloved Nathos. The poem opens on the night preceding the death of the sons of Usnoth, and brings in by way of episode what passed before. It relates the death of Dar-thula differently from the common tradition. This account is the most probable, as suicide seems to have been unknown in those early times, for no traces of it are found in the old poetry.
DAUGHTER of heaven, fair art thou! the silence of thy face is pleasant! Thou comest forth in loveliness. The stars attend thy blue course in the east. The clouds rejoice in thy presence, O moon! They brighten their dark-brown sides. Who is like thee in heaven, light of the silent night? The stars are ashamed in thy presence. They turn away their sparkling eyes. Whither dost thou
retire from thy course, when the darkness of thy countenance grows? Hast thou thy hall, like Ossian? Dwellest thou in the shadow of grief? Have thy sisters fallen from heaven? Are they who rejoiced with thee, at night, no more? they have fallen, fair light! and thou dost often retire to mourn. But thou thyself shalt fail one night, and leave thy blue path in heaven. The stars will then lift their heads: they, who are ashamed in thy presence, will rejoice. Thou art now clothed with thy brightness. Look from thy gates in the sky. Burst the cloud, O wind! that the daughter of night may look forth! that the shaggy mountains may brighten, and the ocean roll its white waves in light.
Nathos* is on the deep, and Althos, that beam
* Nathos signifies youthful; Althos exquisite beauty; Ardan pride.
Ardan is near his brothers.
move in the gloom of their course. The sons of Usnoth move in darkness, from the wrath of Who is that, dim by their
Cairbar* of Erin. side? The night has covered her beauty! hair sighs on ocean's wind. Her robe streams in dusky wreaths. She is like the fair spirit of heaven in the midst of his shadowy mist. Who is it but Dar-thula,† the first of Erin's maids? She has fled from the love of Cairbar, with blue-shielded Nathos. But the winds deceive thee, O Dar-thula! They deny the woody Etha to thy sails. These are not the mountains of Nathos; nor is that the roar of his climbing waves. The halls of Cairbar are near: the towers of the foe lift their heads! Erin stretches its green head into the sea. Tura's bay receives the ship. Where have ye been, ye southern winds, when the sons of my love were deceived? But ye have been sporting on plains, pursuing the thistles beard. O that ye had been rustling on the sails of Nathos, till the hills of Etha arose! till they arose in their clouds, and saw their returning chief! Long hast thou been absent, Nathos! the day of thy return is past!
* Cairbar, who murdered Cormac king of Ireland, and usurped the throne. He was afterwards killed by Oscar, the son of Ossian, in a single combat. The poet, upon other occasions, gives him the epithet of red-haired.
Dar-thula, or Dart-'huile, a woman with fine eyes. She was the most famous beauty of antiquity. To this day, when a woman is praised for her beauty, the common phrase is, that she is as lovely as Dan-thula.
But the land of strangers saw thee, lovely! thou wast lovely in the eyes of Dar-thula. Thy face was like the light of the morning. Thy hair like the raven's wing. Thy soul was generous and mild, like the hour of the setting sun. Thy words were the gale of the reeds; the gliding stream of Lora! But when the rage of battle rose, thou wast a sea in a storm. The clang of thy arms was terrible: the host vanished at the sound of thy course. It was then Dar-thula beheld thee from the top of her mossy tower; from the tower of Seláma,* where her fathers dwelt. "Lovely art thou, O stranger!" she said, for her trembling soul arose. "Fair art thou in thy "battles, friend of the fallen Cormac!+ Why "dost thou rush on in thy valour, youth of the "ruddy look? Few are thy hands in fight
against the dark-browed Cairbar! O that I might be freed from his love,‡ that I might re'joice in the presence of Nathos! Blest are the "rocks of Etha! they will behold his steps at "the chase! they will see his white bosom, when "the winds lift his flowing hair!" Such were thy words, Dar-thula, in Seláma's mossy towers.
* The word signifies either beautiful to behold, or a place with a pleasant or wide prospect. In early times they built their houses upon eminences to command a view of the country, and to prevent their being surprised, Many of them, on that account, were called Selá. ma. The famous Selma of Fingal is derived from the same root.
+ Cormac, the young king of Ireland, who was privately murdered by Cairbar.
That is, of the love of Cairbar.