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"Why should the bard know where dwells the "lost beam of Clatho !*
"Is thy spirit on the eddying wings, O Fillan, young breaker of shields! Joy pursue my "hero, through his folded clouds. The forms of "thy fathers, O Fillan, bend to receive their son. "I behold the spreading of their fire on Mora:
A dialogue between Clatho, the mother, and Bosmina, the sister, of Fillan.
Clatho. "Daughter of Fingal, arise! thou light between thy locks. Lift thy fair head from rest, soft-gliding sun-beam of Selma! I be"held thy arms on thy breast, white tossed amidst thy wandering "locks; when the rustling breeze of the morning came from the des "ert of streams. Hast thou seen thy fathers, Bos-mina, descending in "thy dreams? Arise, daughter of Clatho; dwells there aught of grief "in thy soul?
Bos-mina. "A thin form passed before me, fading as it flew; like "the darkening wave of a breeze, along a field of grass. Descend, "from thy wall, O harp, and call back the soul of Bos-mina; it has "rolled away, like a stream. I hear thy pleasant sound. I hear thee, "O harp, and my voice shall rise.
"How often shall ye rush to war. ye dwellers of my soul? Your "paths are distant, kings of men, in Erin of blue streams. Lift thy "wing, thou southern breeze, from Clono's darkening heath; spread "the sails of Fingal towards the bays of his land.
"But who is that, in his strength, darkening in the presence of war? "His arm stretches to the foe, like the beam of the sickly sun; when his side is crusted with darkness; and he rolls his dismal course "through the sky. Who is it, but the father of Bos-mina? Shall he return till danger is past!
"Fillan, thou art a beam by his side; beautiful, but terrible is thy light. Thy sword is before thee, a blue fire of night. When shalt "thou return to thy roes; to the streams of thy rushy fields? When "shall I behold thee from Mora, while winds strew my long locks on "their blasts! But shall a young eagle return from the field where the heroes fall!
Clatho. "Soft, as the song of Loda, is the voice of Selma's maid. "Pleasant to the ear of Clatho is the name of the breaker of shields.
Behold, the king comes from ocean: the shield of Morven is "borne by bards. The foe has fled before him, like the departure of "inist. I hear not the sounding wings of my eagle; the rushing "forth of the son of Clatho. Thou art dark, O Fingal; shall the war"rior never return?" * * *
"the blue-rolling of their misty wreaths. Joy "meet thee, my brother! But we are dark and " sad! I behold the foe round the aged. I "behold the wasting away of his fame. Thou "art left alone in the field, O grey-haired king " of Selma !"
I laid him in the hollow rock, at the roar of the nightly stream. One red star looked in on the hero. Winds lift, at times, his locks. I listen. No sound is heard. The warrior slept! As lightning on a cloud, a thought came rushing along my soul. My eyes roll in fire my stride was in the clang of steel. "I will find thee, king "of Erin! in the gathering of thy thousands find "thee. Why should that cloud escape that
quenched our early beam? Kindle your me"teors on your hills, my fathers. Light my daring steps. I will consume in wrath.* But "should not I return! The king is without a
* Here the sentence is designedly left unfinished. The sense is, that he was resolved, like a destroying fire, to consume Cathmor, who had killed his brother. In the midst of this resolution, the situation of Fingal suggests itself to him, in a very strong light. He resolves to return to assist the king in prosecuting the war. But then his shame for not defending his brother recurs to him. He is determined again to go and find out Cathmor. We may consider him as in the act of advancing towards the enemy, when the horn of Fingal sounded on Mora and called back his people to his presence. This soliloquy is natural; the resolutions which so suddenly follow one another, are expressive of a mind extremely agitated with sorrow and conscious shame ; yet the behaviour of Ossian, in his execution of the commands of Fingal, is so irreprehensible, that it is not easy to determine where he failed in his duty. The truth is, that when men fail in designs which they ardently wish to accomplish, they naturally blame themselves, as the chief cause of their disappointment.
"son, grey-haired among his foes? His arm is "not as in the days of old. His fame grows dim "in Erin. Let me not behold him laid low in his "latter field. But can I return to the king? "Will he not ask about his son? "Thou ought"est to defend young Fillan.' Ossian will meet "the foe. Green Erin, thy sounding tread is "pleasant to my ear. I rush on thy ridgy host, "to shun the eyes of Fingal. I hear the voice of "the king, on Mora's misty top! He calls his "two sons! I come, my father, in my grief. "I come like an eagle, which the flame of night met in the desert, and spoiled of half his "wings!"
Distant,* round the king, on Mora, the broken ridges of Morven are rolled. They turned their eyes: each darkly bends, on his own ashen spear. Silent stood the king in the midst. Thought on thought rolled over his soul. As waves on a secret mountain-lake, each with its back of foam. He looked; no son appeared, with his long-beaming spear. The sighs rose, crowding, from his soul; but he concealed his grief. At length I
*"This scene," says an ingenious writer, and a good judge, "is "solemn. The poet always places his chief character amidst objects which favour the sublime. The face of the country, the night, the " broken remains of a defeated army, and, above all, the attitude and silence of Fingal himself, are circumstances calculated to impress an "awful idea on the mind. Ossian is most successful in his night-de"scriptions. Dark images suited the melancholy temper of his mind. His poems were all composed after the active part of his life was "over, when he was blind, and had survived all the companions of his "youth: we therefore find a veil of melancholy thrown over the ❝ whole."
stood beneath an oak. No voice of mine was heard. What could I say to Fingal in his hour of wo? His words rose, at length, in the midst:the people shrunk backward as he spoke.*
"Where is the son of Selma, he who led in “war? I behold not his steps, among my people,
I owe the first paragraph of the following note to the same pen. "The abashed behaviour of the army of Fingal proceeds rather " from shame than fear. The king was not of a tyrannical disposition: "He, as he professeth himself in the fifth book, never was a dreadful "form, in their presence, darkened into wrath. His voice was no thun"der to their ears: his eyes sent forth no death. The first ages of soci "ety are not the times of arbitrary power. As the wants of mankind "are few, they retain their independence. It is an advanced state of "civilization that moulds the mind to that submission to government, "of which ambitious magistrates take advantage and raise themselves "into absolute power."
It is a vulgar error, that the common Highlanders lived in abject slavery, under their chiefs. Their high ideas of, and attachment to the heads of their families, probably, led the unintelligent into this mistake. When the honour of the tribe was concerned, the commands of the chief were obeyed without restriction: but, if individuals were oppressed, they threw themselves into the arms of a neighbouring clan, assumed a new name, and were encouraged and protected. The fear of this desertion, no doubt, made the chiefs cautious in their government. As their consequence, in the eyes of others was in proportion to the number of their people, they took care to avoid every thing that tended to diminish it.
It was but very lately that the authority of the laws extended to the Highlands. Before that time the clans were governed in civil affairs, not by the verbal commands of the chief, but by what they called Clechda, or the traditional precedents of their ancestors. When differences happened between individuals, some of the oldest men in the tribe were chosen umpires between the parties, to decide according to the Clechda. The chief interposed his authority, and, invariably, enforced the decision. In their wars, which were frequent, on account of family-feuds, the chief was less reserved in the execution of his authority; and even then he seldom extended it to the taking the life of any of his tribe. No crime was capital, except murder; and that was very unfrequent in the Highlands. No corporal punishment of any kind was inflicted. The memory of an affront of this sort would remain, for ages, in a family, and they would seize every opportunity to be revenged, unless it came immediately from the hands of the chief himelf; in that case it was taken, rather as a fatherly correction, than a legal punishment for offences.
"returning from the field. "bounding roe, who was so "He fell; for ye are silent.
Fell the young
stately on my hills? The shield of war
"is cleft in twain. Let his armour be near to "Fingal; and the sword of dark-brown Luno. "I am waked on my hills; with morning I de"scend to war."
High* on Cormul's rock, an oak is flaming to the wind. The grey skirts of mist are rolled around; thither strode the king in his wrath. Distant from the host he always lay, when battle burnt within his soul. On two spears hung his shield on high; the gleaming sign of death; that shield, which he was wont to strike, by night, before he rushed to war. It was then his warriors knew, when the king was to lead in strife; for never was this buckler heard, till the wrath of Fingal arose. Unequal were his steps on high, as he shone in the beam of the oak: he was
* This rock of Cormul is often mentioned in the preceding part of the poem. It was on it Fingal and Ossian stood to view the battle. The custom of retiring from the army, on the night prior to their engaging in battle, was universal among the kings of the Caledonians. Trenmor, the most renowned of the ancestors of Fingal, is mentioned as the first who instituted this custom. Succeeding bards attributed it to a hero of a later period. In an old poem, which begins with Mac-Arcath na ceud frol, this custom of retiring from the ariny before an engagement, is numbered among the wise institutions of Fergus, the son of Arc or Arcath, the first king of Scots. I shall here translate the passage; in some other note I may, probably, give all that remains of the po m. Fergus, of the hundred streams, son of Arcath, who fought of old thou didst first retire at night: when the foe rolled before thee in echoing fields. Nor bending in rest is the king: he gathers battles in his soul. Fly, son of the stranger! with morn he shall rush abroad When, or by whom, this poem was written, is uncertain.