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any length of time, subject to one monarch. It is certain, that every province, if not every small district, had its own king. One of these petty princes assumed, at times, the title of King of Ireland, and, on account of his superior force, or in cases of public danger, was acknowledged by the rest as such ; but the succession from father to son, does not appear to have been established. It was the divisions amongst themselves, arising from the bad constitution of their government, that at last, subjected the Irish to a foreign yoke. P. 32. v. 406. Mar cheò a tha taomadh sa triall
Theich a ghaisgich o'n triath Cormac.] The inhabitants of Ullin or Ulster, who were of the race of the Caledonians, seem, alone, to have been the firm friends to the succession in the family of Conar. The Firbolg were only subject to them by constraint, and embraced every opportunity to throw off their yoke. P. 36. v. 440. Ghluais ceuma Cholgair a null
Bard Thighmòra nan ard fhuaim.] Colgar, the son of Cathmul, was the principal bard of Cormac, king of Ireland. The following dialogue, on the loves of Fingal and Ros-crana, may be ascribed to him :
KOS-CRANA. By night, came a dream to Ros-crana ! I feel my beating soul. No vision of the forms of the dead came to the blue eyes of Erın. But, rising from the wave of the north, I beheld him bright in his locks. I beheld the son of the king. My beating soul is high. I laid my head down in night; again ascended the form. Why delayest thou thy coming, young rider of stormy waves ?
But there, far distant, he comes ; where seas roll their green ridges in mist! Young dweller of my soul; why dost thou delay?
FINGAL. It was the soft voice of Moi-lena ! the pleasant breeze of the valley of roes; But why dost thou hide thee in shades? Young love of heroes rise ! Are not thy steps covered with light? In thy groves thou appearest, Ros-crana, like the sun in the gathering of clouds. Why dost thou hide thee in shades? Young love of heroes rise !
ROS-CRANA. My futtering soul is high: let me turn from the steps of the king. He has heard my secret voice, and shall my blue eyes roll in his presence? Roc of the hill of moss, toward thy dwelling I move. Meet me, ye breezes of Mora! as I move through the valley of winds. But why should he ascend his ocean ? Son of heroes, my soul is thine! My steps shall nat move to the desert: the light of Ros-crana is here.
FINGAL. It was the light tread of a ghost, the fair dweller of eddying winds. Why deceivest thou me with thy voice ? Here let me rest in shades. Shouldst thou stretch thy white arm from thy grove, thou sunbeam of Cormac of Erin!
ROS-CRANA. He is gone; and my blue eyes are dim; faint-rolling in all my tears. But, there, I behold him, alone; king of Selma, my soul is thine. Ah me! what clanging of armour! Colc-ulla of Atha is near!
P. 46. v. 1. Fo dharaig" so labhair an righ, &c.] This episode has an immediate connection 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 landing 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. P. 48. v. 28. Bhuail mi is choimhid mi suas
Mu ruadh-chiabh is teine Ul-Eirinn.) 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.
P. 48. v. 42. Roscranna nam gorm-shuil gun bheud, &c.] 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 mean 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. P. 50. v. 56. Ge mòr iad, theid an taomadh sios
O m' anam, is eg eirigh suas ;] Cormac had said that the foes were like the roar of streams, and Fingal continues the metaphor. The speech of the young hero is spirited, and consistent with that sedate intrepidity, which eminently distinguishes his character throughout.
P. 52. v. 74. Ach feith-sa ri Cairbre, a thréin,] 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 Conar, the first king of Ireland, when Fingal's expedition against Cairbar the son of Borbar-duthul happened. See more of Ferad-Artho in the eighth book. P. 52. v. 88. Mar ghlan thaibhs an iomairt a triall
Leth cheilte an cearb nan dubh nial.] 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 beautiful 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, under- . stood 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 smoak of my hall. No grey dog bounds at my streams. Silence dwells in the valley of trees.
“ Is that a rainbow on Crunath? It Aies: 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 bosom 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-cranna.
P. 56. v. 135. Teann air ag aomadh air carraig
Tha Suilmhall bhanail nan gorm-shuil, &c.] 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 Firbolg
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 mothercountry; and sent aid to the British Belgæ, when they were pressed by the Romans or other new comers from the continent. Conmor, 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 Firbolg. 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, Sul-malla, 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 Sul-malla 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.
P. 56. v. 136. Sùilmhall, &c.] Suil-mhall, slowly-rolling eyes. Caonmor, mild and tall. Inis-huna, P. 56. v. 146. Thainig Fili nan luaidh le dàn
O shruthaibh a's chruaichaibh Eirinn.] Fili, 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 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. P. 56. v. 148. Labhair e mu thogail na sgeithe
An Selma nan triath; &c.] 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 residences 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 beginning a war. P. 58. v. 177. Sheas arda nan triath mu'n cuairt
Ach Foldath nan dubh ruadh fabhraid, &c.] The surly attitude of Foldath is a proper preamble to his after-behaviour. Chafed with the disappointment of the victory which he promised himself, he becomes passionate and overbearing. The quarrel which succeeds between him and Malthos, is introduced to raise the character of Cathmor, whose superior worth shines forth in his manly manner of ending the difference between the chiefs.
P. 60. v. 189. Claonrath.] Claon-rath, winding field. The th are seldom pronounced audibly in the Gaelic language. P. 62. v. 221. Righ Eirinn," thuirt Malthos an triath,
Leat fein-sa tha riaghladh nam blar ; &c.] This speech of Malthos is, throughout, a severe reprimand to the blustering behaviour of Foldath. P. 64. v. 256. Thuit iad sios o thaobh an trein
Mar dha mheall dubh do cheo san iar, &c.] This comparison is favourable to the superiority of Cathmor over his two chiefs. I shall illustrate this passage by 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 rejoices 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 valley is sad below; flowers wither beneath the drops of the night." P. 66. v. 271. Ghluais a ghuth mu mholadh an righ
Ard shiol Larthoinn o fhrith Lumoin.) Lear-thon, sea wave, the name of the chief of that colony of the Firbolg, which first migrated into Ireland. Larthon's first settlement in that country is related in the seventh book. He was the ancestor of Cathmor; and is