ARGUMENT.-The second night continues. Fingal relates, at the feast, his own first expedition into Ireland, and his marriage with Ros-crána, the daughter of Cormac, king of that island. The Irish chiefs convene in the presence of Cathmor. The situation of the king described. The story of Sul-malla, the daughter of Conmor, king of Inis-huna, who, in the disguise of a young warrior, had followed Cathmor to the war. The sullen behaviour of Foldath, who had commanded in the battle of the preceding day, renews the difference between him and Malthos; but Cathmor, interposing, ends it. The chiefs feast, and hear the song of Fonar the bard. Cathmor returns to rest, at a distance from the army. The ghost of his brother Cairbar appears to him in a dream; and obscurely foretels the issue of the war. The soliloquy of the king. He discovers Sul-malla. Morning comes. Her soliloquy closes the book.



BENEATH an oak," said the king, "I sat


on Selma's streamy rock, when Connal rose, "from the sea, with the broken spear of DuthFar distant stood the youth. He turn"ed away his eyes. He remembered the steps "of his father, on his own green hills. I dark"ened in my place. Dusky thoughts flew over

* This episode has an immediate connexion with the story of Connal and Duth-caron, in the latter end of the third book. Fingal, sitting beneath an oak, near the palace of Selma, discovers Connal just landed from Ireland. The danger which threatened Cormac, king of Ireland, induces him to sail immediately to that island. The story is introduced, by the king, as a pattern for the future behaviour of Fillan, whose rashness in the preceding battle is reprimanded.

"my soul. The kings of Erin rose before me. "I half-unsheathed the sword. Slowly approach"ed the chiefs. They lifted up their silent eyes. "Like a ridge of clouds, they wait for the burst

[ocr errors]

ing forth of my voice. My voice was, to them, "a wind from heaven, to roll the mist away.

[ocr errors]

"I bade my white sails to rise, before the roar "of Cona's wind. Three hundred youths look"ed, from their waves, on Fingal's bossy shield. High on the mast it hung, and marked the "dark-blue sea. But when night came down, I struck, at times, the warning boss: I struck, "and looked on high, for fiery-haired Ul-erin.* "Nor absent was the star of heaven. It travel"led red between the clouds. I pursued the "lovely beam, on the faint-gleaming deep. With

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

morning, Erin rose in mist. We came in the "bay of Moi-lena, where its blue waters tumbled, "in the bosom of echoing woods. Here Cor

mac, in his secret hall, avoids the strength of "Colc-ulla. Nor he alone avoids the foe. The "blue eye of Ros-crana is there: Ros-crana,† "white-handed maid, the daughter of the king!

* Ul-erin, the guide to Ireland, a star known by that name in the days of Fingal, and very useful to those who sailed by night, from the Hebrides, or Caledonia, to the coast of Ulster.

Ros-crana, the beam of the rising sun; she was the mother of Ossian. The Irish bards relate strange fictions concerning this princess. Their stories, however, concerning Fingal, if they meant him by Fion Mac-Comnal, are so inconsistent and notoriously fabulous, that they do not deserve to be mentioned; for they evidently bear, along with them, the marks of late invention.


"Grey, on his pointless spear, came forth the aged steps of Cormac. He smiled, from his "waving locks; but grief was in his soul. He us few before him, and his sigh arose. 66 6 I see the arms of Trenmor,' he said; and "these are the steps of the king! Fingal! thou "art a beam of light to Cormac's darkened soul.



Early is thy fame, my son: but strong are the "foes of Erin. They are like the roar of streams "in the land, son of car-borne Comhal!'




they may be rolled * away,' I said in my rising "soul. 'We are not of the race of the feeble, king of blue-shielded hosts! Why should fear "come amongst us, like a ghost of night? The "soul of the valiant grows, when foes increase in "the field. Roll no darkness, king of Erin, on "the young in war!"

[ocr errors]

"The bursting tears of the king came down. "He seized my hand in silence. 'Race of the daring Trenmor!' at length he said, 'I roll no "cloud before thee. Thou burnest in the fire of "thy fathers. I behold thy fame. It marks thy course in battle, like a stream of light. But "wait the coming of Cairbar;+ my son must join


Cormac had said that the foes were like the roar of streams, and Fingal continues the metaphor. The speech of the young hero is spir. ited, and consistent with that sedate intrepidity which eminently distinguishes his character throughout.

† Cairbar, the son of Cormac, was afterwards king of Ireland. His reign was short. He was succeeded by his son Artho, the father of that Cormac who was murdered by Cairbar, the son of Borbar-duthul. Cairbar, the son of Cormac, long after his son Artho was grown to man's estate, had, by his wife Beltanno, another son, whose name was Ferad-artho. He was the only one remaining of the race of Co

"thy sword. He calls the sons of Erin from all "their distant streams."

"We came to the hall of the king, where it rose in the midst of rocks, on whose dark sides 66 were the marks of streams of old. "bend around with their moss.

Broad oaks

The thick birch

" is waving near. Half-hid, in her shady grove, "Ros-crana raises the song. Her white hands

"move on the harp. I beheld her blue-rolling 66 eyes. She was like a spirit* of heaven half"folded in the skirt of a cloud!"

nar, the first king of Ireland, when Fingal's expedition against Cair bar the son of Borbar-duthul happened. See more of Ferad-artho in the eighth book.

* The attitude of Ros-crana is illustrated by this simile: for the ideas of those times, concerning the spirits of the deceased, were not so gloomy and disagreeable, as those of succeeding ages. The spirits of women, it was supposed, retained that beauty, which they possessed while living, and transported themselves, from place to place, with that gliding motion, which Homer ascribes to the gods. The descriptions which poets, less ancient than Ossian, have left us of those beau tiful figures, that appeared sometimes on the hills, are elegant and picturesque. They compare them to the rainbow on streams; or the gilding of sun-beams on the hills.

A chief who lived three centuries ago, returning from the war, un derstood that his wife or mistress was dead. A bard introduces him speaking the following soliloquy, when he came within sight of the place, where he had left her at his departure.

"My soul darkens in sorrow. I behold not the smoke of my hall "No grey dog bounds at my streams. Silence dwells in the valley of


"Is that a rain-bow on Crunath? It flies; and the sky is dark. "Again, thou movest, bright, on the heath, thou sun-beam clothed in "a shower! Hah! it is she, my love! her gliding course on the bo 4som of winds!"

In succeeding times the beauty of Ros-crana passed into a proverb and the highest compliment that could be paid to a woman, was to compare her person with the daughter of Cormac.

S' tu fein an Ros-crana.

Sjol Chormaec na n'ioma lan.

[ocr errors]


"Three days we feasted at Moi-lena. "rises bright in my troubled soul. Cormac be“beheld me dark. He gave the white-bosomed "maid. She comes with bending eyes, amid the "wandering of her heavy locks. She came! Straight the battle roared. Colc-ulla appeared: "I took my spear. My sword rose, with my people, against the ridgy foe. Alnecma fled. "Colc-ulla fell. Fingal returned with fame." "Renowned is he, O Fillan, who fights in the strength of his host. The bard pursues his steps, through the land of the foe. But he "who fights alone: few are his deeds to other "times! He shines, to-day, a mighty light. To66 morrow, he is low. One song contains his "fame. His name is on one dark field. He is I forgot: but where his tomb sends forth the " tufted grass."


[ocr errors]

Such are the words of Fingal, on Mora of the roes. Three bards, from the rock of Cormul, pour down the pleasing song. Sleep descends, in the sound, on the broad-skirted host. Carril returned, with the bards, from the tomb of Dunlora's chief. The voice of morning shall not come to the dusky bed of Duth-caron. No more shalt thou hear the tread of roes around thy narrow house!

As roll the troubled clouds, around a meteor of night, when they brighten their sides, with its

[blocks in formation]
« VorigeDoorgaan »