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light, along the heaving sea: so gathers Erin around the gleaming form of Cathmor. He, tall in the midst, careless lifts, at times, his spear: as swells or falls the sound of Fonar's distant harp.
Near* him leaned, against a rock, Sul-malla† of blue eyes, the white-bosomed daughter of Conmor, king of Inis-huna. To his aid came blue-shielded Cathmor, and rolled his foes away.
beheld him stately in the hall of feasts. Nor careless rolled the eyes of Cathmor on the long-haired maid!
The third day arose, when Fithil‡ came, from
* In order to illustrate this passage, I shall give here, the history on which it is founded, as I have gathered it from tradition. The nation of the Fir-bolg who inhabited the south of Ireland, being originally descended from the Belge, who possessed the south and south-west coast of Britain, kept up, for many ages, an amicable correspondence with their mother-country; and sent aid to the British Belge, when they were pressed by the Romans or other new comers from the Continent. Con-mor, king of Inis-huna, (that part of South Britain which is over against the Irish coast,) being attacked, by what enemy is not mentioned, sent for aid to Cairbar, lord of Atha, the most potent chief of the Fir-bolg. Cairbar dispatched his brother Cathmor to the assistance of Con-mor. Cathmor, after various vicissitudes of fortune, put an end to the war, by the total defeat of the enemies of Inis-huna and returned in triumph to the residence of Con-mor. There, at a feast, Sulmalla, the daughter of Con-mor, fell desperately in love with Cathmor, who, before her passion was disclosed, was recalled to Ireland by his brother Cairbar, upon the news of the intended expedition of Fingal, to re-establish the family of Conar on the Irish throne. The wind being contrary, Cathmor remained, for three days, in a neighbouring bay, during which time Sulmalla disguised herself in the habit of a young warrior, and came to offer him her service in the war: Cathmor accepted of the proposal, sailed for Ireland, and arrived in Ulster a few days before the death of Cairbar.
+ Sul-malla, slowly-rolling eyes. Caon-mor, mild and tall. Inisbuna, green island.
Fithil, an inferior bard. It may either be taken here for the proper name of a man, or in the literal sense, as the bards were the heralds and messengers of those times. Cathmor, it is probable, was
Erin of the streams.
He told of the lifting up of the shield in Selma: he told of the danger of Cairbar. Cathmor raised the sail at Cluba; but the winds were in other lands. Three days he remained on the coast, and turned his eyes on Conmor's halls. He remembered the daughter of strangers, and his sigh arose. Now when the winds awaked the wave: from the hill came a youth in arms; to lift the sword with Cathmor, in his echoing fields. It was the white armed Sulmalla. Secret she dwelt beneath her helmet. Her steps were in the path of the king: on him her blue eyes rolled with joy, when he lay by his rolling streams! But Cathmor thought, that, on Lumon, she still pursued the roes. He thought, that fair on a rock, she stretched her white hand to the wind; to feel its course from Erin, the
absent, when the rebellion of his brother Cairbar, and the assassination of Cormac, king of Ireland, happened. Cathmor and his followers had only arrived, from Inis-huna, three days before the death of Cairbar, which sufficiently clears his character from any imputation of being concerned in the conspiracy with his brother.
The ceremony which was used by Fingal, when he prepared for an expedition, is related thus in tradition: A bard, at midnight, went to the hall where the tribes feasted upon solemn occasions, raised the war song, and thrice called the spirits of their deceased ancestors to come, on their clouds, to behold the actions of their children. He then fixed the shield of Trenmor on a tree on the rock of Selma, striking it, at times, with the blunt end of a spear, and singing the war song between. Thus he did, for three successive nights, and, in the mean time, messengers were dispatched to call together the tribes; or, to use an ancient expression, to call them from all their streams. This phrase alludes to the situation of the residence of the clans, which were generally fixed in valleys, where the torrents of the neighbouring mountains were collected into one body, and became large streams or rivers. The lifting up of the shield, was the phrase for be ginning a war.
green dwelling of her love. He had promised to return, with his white-bosomed sails. The maid is near thee, O Cathmor! leaning on her rock.
The tall forms of the chiefs stand around; all but dark-browed Foldath.* He leaned against a distant tree, rolled into his haughty soul. His bushy hair whistles in wind. At times, bursts the hum of a song. He struck the tree, at length, in wrath; and rushed before the king! Calm and stately, to the beam of the oak, arose the form of young Hidalla. His hair falls round his blushing cheek, in wreaths of waving light. Soft was his
voice in Clonra,† in the valley of his fathers. Soft was his voice when he touched the harp, in the hall, near his roaring streams!
King of Erin," said Hidalla, "now is the "time to feast. Bid the voice of bards arise. "Bid them roll the night away. The soul re
"turns from song, more terrible to war.
(( ness settles on Erin. From hill to bill bend the "skirted clouds. Far and grey, on the heath, "the dreadful strides of ghosts are seen: the ghosts of those who fell bend forward to their
song. Bid, O Cathmor! the harps to rise, to brighten the dead on their wandering blasts.”
* The surly attitude of Foldath is a proper preamble to his after behaviour. Chaffed with the disappointment of the victory which he promised himself, he becomes passionate and over-bearing. The quarrel which succeeds between him and Malthos, is introduced to raise the character of Cathmor, whose superior worth shines forth n his manly manner of ending the difference between the chiefs.
+ Claon-rath, winding field. The th are seldom pronounced audibly in the Gallic language.
"Be all the dead forgot," said Foldath's burst"Did not I fail in the field? Shall
"I then hear the song? Yet was not my course "harmless in war. Blood was a stream around But the feeble were behind me.
cr my steps.
"The foe has escaped from my sword. In Clon"ra's vale touch thou the harp.
Let Dura an
"swer to the voice of Hidalla. Let some maid "look from the wood, on thy long, yellow locks.
Fly from Lubar's echoing plain.
"field of heroes!
This is the
"King of Erin,"* Malthos said, "it is thine "to lead in war. Thou art a fire to our eyes, on "the dark-brown field. Like a blast thou hast ઢંઢ past over hosts. Thou hast laid them low in "blood. But who has heard thy words returning from the field? The wrathful delight in "death: their remembrance rests on the wounds "of their spear. Strife is folded in their thoughts: their words are ever heard. Thy course, chief of Moma, was like a troubled "stream. The dead were rolled on thy path: "but others also lift the spear. We were not "feeble behind thee; but the foe was strong."
Cathmor beheld the rising rage, and bending forward, of either chief: for half-unsheathed, they held their swords, and rolled their silent eyes. Now would they have mixed in horrid fray, had
* This speech of Malthos is throughout, a severe reprimand to the blustering behaviour of Foldath.
not the wrath of Cathmor burned. He drew his sword: it gleamed through night, to the high-flaming oak! "Sons of pride," said the king, allay
"your swelling souls.
"should my rage arise? "both in arms?
Retire in night. Why
Should I contend with
It is no time for strife! Re
"tire, ye clouds, at my feast. "no more."
Awake my soul
They sunk from the king on either side; like* two columns of morning mist, when the sun rises between them, on his glittering rocks. Dark is their rolling on either side: each toward its reedy pool!
Silent sat the chiefs at the feast. They look, at times, on Atha's king, where he strode, on his rock, amid his settling soul. The host lie, along the field. Sleep descends on Moi-lena. The voice of Fonar ascends alone, beneath his distant tree. It ascends in the praise of Cathmor, son of Larthont of Lumon. But Cathmor did not hear his praise. He lay at the roar of a stream. The rustling breeze of night flew over his whistling locks.
*This comparison is favourable to the superiority of Cathmor over his two chiefs. I shall illustrate this passage with another from a fragment of an ancient poem, just now in my hands. "As the sun is "above the vapours, which his beams have raised; so is the soul of the "king above the sons of fear. They roll dark below him; he re"joices in the robe of his beams. But when feeble deeds wander on the "soul of the king, he is a darkened sun rolled along the sky; the val "ley is sad below; flowers wither beneath the drops of the night."
† Lear-thon, sea-wave, the name of the chief of that colony of the Fir-bolg, which first migrated into Ireland. Larthon's first settlement