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the bursting of foam? Look, from thy darkness, on Cronath, Ossian of the harps of old! Send thy light on the blue-rolling waters, that I may behold the king. I see him dark in his own shell of oak! sea-tossed Larthon, thy soul is strong. It is careless as the wind of thy sails; as the wave that rolls by thy side. But the silent green isle is before thee, with its sons, who are tall as woody Lumon; Lumon which sends from its top a thousand streams, white-wandering down its sides."
It may, perhaps, be for the credit of this bard, to translate no more of this poem, for the continuation of his description of the Irish giants betrays his want of judgment.
P. 180. v. 323. Lumon, talamh nan sruth,] Lumon was a hill, in Inis-huna, near the residence of Sul-malla. This episode has an immediate connection with what is said of Larthon in the description of Cathmor's shield.
P. 184. v. 369. Thog Lear-thonn talla Shàmhla.] Shamhla, apparitions, so called from the vision of Larthon concerning his posterity.
P. 184. v. 374. Flathal.] Flathal, heavenly, exquisitely beautiful. She was the wife of Larthon.
P. 200. v. 86. An Sin tha òg nan ciabh donn
Mac Chairbre nan rosg gorm, &c.] The youth here mentioned was Fearait-artho, son of Cairbre Mac-Cormac, king of Ireland. He was the only one remaining of the race of Conar, the son of Trenmor, the first Irish monarch, according to Ossian. In order to make this passage thoroughly understood, it may not be improper to recapitulate some part of what has been said in preceding notes. Upon the death of Conar the son of Trenmor, his son Cormac succeeded on the Irish throne. Cormac reigned long. His children were, Cairbar, who suc. ceeded him; and Ros-crana, the first wife of Fingal. Cairbar, long before the death of his father Cormac, had taken to wife Bos-gala, the daughter of Colgar, one of the most powerful chiefs in Connaught, and had by her Artho, afterwards king of Ireland. Soon after Artho arrived at man's estate, his mother Bos-gala died, and Cairbar married Beltanno, the daughter of Conachar of Ullin, who brought him a son, whom he called Ferad-artho, i. e. a man in the place of Artho. The occasion of the name was this : Artho, when his brother was born, was absent, on an expedition, in the south of Ireland. A false report was brought to his father that he was killed. Cairbar, to use the words of a poem on the subject, darkened for his fair-haired son. He turned to the young beam of light, the son of Baltanno of Conachar. Thou shalt be, Ferad-artho, he said, a fire before thy race. Cairbar soon after died, nor did Artho long survive him. Artho was succeeded, in the Irish throne, by his son Cormac, who, in his minority, was murdered by Cairbar, the son of Borbar-duthul. Ferad-artho, says tradition, was very young, when the expedition of Fingal, to settle him on the throne of Ireland, happened. During the short reign of young Cormac, Feradartho lived at the royal residence of Temora. Upon the murder of the king, Condan, the bard, conveyed Ferad-artho, privately, to the cave of Cluna, behind the mountain Crommal, in Ulster, where they both lived concealed, during the usurpation of the family of Atha. A late bard has delivered the whole history, in a poem just now in my possession. It has little merit, if we except the scene between Feradartho and the messengers of Fingal, upon their arrival, in the valley of Cluna. After hearing of the great actions of Fingal, the young prince proposes the following questions concerning him to Gaul and Dermid : “ Is the king tall as the rock of my cave? Is his spear a fir of Cluna ? Is he a rough-winged blast on the mountain, which takes the green oak by the head, and tears it from its hill ? Glitters Lubar within his stride, when he sends his stately steps along. Nor is he tall, said Gaul, as that rock: nor glitter streams within his strides, but his soul is a mighty filcod, like the strength of Ullin's seas."
P. 204. v. 141. Biodh cuimhne air gaisgich an sith, &c.] Malvina is supposed to speak the following soliloquy:
“ Malvina is like the bow of the shower, in the secret valley of streams; it is bright, but the drops of heaven are rolling on its blended light. They say that I am fair within my locks, but on my brightness is the wandering of tears. Darkness flies over my soul, as the dusky wave of the breeze along the grass of Lutha. Yet have not the roes failed me, when I moved between the hills. Pleasant, beneath my white hand, arose the sound of harps. What then, daughter
of Lutha, travels over thy soul, like the dreary path of a ghost along the nightly beam ? Should the young warrior fall in the roar of his troubled fields! Young virgins of Lutha arise, call back the wandering thoughts of Malvina. Awake the voice of the harp along my echoing vale. Then shall my soul come forth, like a light from the gates of the morn, when clouds are rolled around them with their sides.
“ Dweller of my thonghts, by night, whose form ascends in troubled fields, why dost thou stir up my soul, thou far-distant son of the king? Is that the ship of my love, its dark course through the ridges of ocean? How art thou so sudden, Oscar, from the heath of shields ?"
The rest of this poem consists of a dialogue between Ullin and Malvina, wherein the distress of the latter is carried to the highest pitch. P. 208. v. 202. Leum e air a shleagh thar Lubar,
Is bhuail gu cul a mhor sgiath.] The Irish compositions concerning Fingal invariably speak of him as a giant. Of these Hibernian poems there are now many in my hands. From the language, and allusions to the times in which they were written, I should fix the date of their composition in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. In some passages, the poetry is far from wanting merit, but the fable is unnatural, and the whole conduct of the pieces injudicious. I shall give one instance of the extravagant fictions of the Irish bards, in a poem which they most unjustly ascribe to Ossian. The story of it is this: Ireland being threatened with an invasion from some part of Scandinavia, Fingal sent Ossian, Oscar, and Ca-olt, to watch the bay, in which, it was expected, the enemy was to land. Oscar, unluckily, fell asleep before the Scandinavians appeared ; and, great as he was, says the Irish bard, he had one bad property, that no less could waken him, before his time, than cutting off one of his fingers, or throwing a great stone against his head; and it was dangerous to come near him on those occasions, till he had recovered himself, and was fully awake. Ca-olt, who was employed by Ossian to waken his son, made choice of throwing the stone against his head, as the least dangerous expedient. The stone, rebounding from the hero's head, shook, as it rolled along, the hill for three miles round. Oscar rose in rage, fought bravely, and singly vanquished a wing of the enemy's army. Thus the bard goes on, till Fingal put an end to the war, by the total rout of the Scandinavians. Puerile, and even despicable, as these fictions are, yet Keating and O'Flaherty have no better authority than the poems which contain them, for all that they write concerning Fion Mac-comnal, and the pretended militia of Ireland.
P. 212. v. 254. Tuitidh deoir o Thlàthmhìn san talla] Tla-min, mildly, soft. The loves of Clonar and Tlamin were rendered famous in the north, by a fragment of a lyric poem. It is a dialogue between Clonar and Tlamin. She begins with a soliloquy, which he overhears.
Tlamin. “ Clonar, son of Conglas of I-mor, young hunter of dunsided roes! where art thou laid, amidst rushes, beneath the passing wing of the breeze? I behold thee, my love, in the plain of thy own dark streams! The clung thorn is rolled by the wind, and rustles along his shield. Bright in his locks he lies: the thoughts of his dreams fly, darkening, over his face. Thou thinkest of the battles of Ossian, young son of the echoing isle!
“ Half hid, in the grove, I sit down. Fly back, ye mists of the hill ! Why should
hide her love from the blue eyes of Tlamin of harps ? CLONAR. “ As the spirit, seen in a dream, flies off from our opening eyes, we think we behold his bright path between the closing hills; so fled the daughter of Clun-gal from the sight of Clonar of shields. Arise from the gathering of trees; blue-eyed Tlamin, arise!
TLAMIN. “ I turn me away from his steps. Why should he know of my love? My white breast is heaving over sighs, as foam on the dark course of streams. But he passes away in his arms! Son of Conglas, my soul is sad.
CLONAR. “ It was the shield of Fingal ! the voice of kings from Selma of harps; my path is towards green Erin. Arise, fair light, from thy shades. Come to the field of my soul; there is the spreading of hosts. Arise on Clonar's troubled soul, young daughter of the blue-shielded Clungal.”
Clungal was the chief of Imor, one of the Hebrides.
P. 214. v. 288. C'ait' am bheil na gaisgich treun?] Fingal and Cathmor. The conduct here is perhaps proper. The numerous descriptions of single combats have already exhausted the subject. Nothing new, nor adequate to our high idea of the kings, can be said: A column of mist is thrown over the whole, and the combat is left to the imagination of the reader. Poets have almost universally failed in their descriptions of this sort. Not all the strength of Homer could sustain, with dignity, the minutiæ of a single combat. The throwing of a spear, and the braying of a shield, as some of our poets most elegantly express it, convey no magnificent, though they are striking ideas. Our imagination stretches beyond, and, consequently, despises the description. It were, therefore, well for some poets, in my opinion (though it is, perhaps, somewhat singular), to have, sometimes, thrown mist over their single combats.
P. 216. v. 320. Is eòlas dùnadh lot dhomh féin, &c.] Fingal is very much celebrated, in tradition, for his knowledge in the virtues of herbs. The Irish poems, concerning him, often represent him curing the wounds which his chiefs received in battle. They fable concerning him, that he was in possession of a cup, containing the essence of herbs, which instantaneously healed wounds. The knowledge of curing the wounded was, till of late, universal among the Highlanders. We hear of no other disorder, which required the skill of physic. The wholesomeness of the climate, and an active life, spent in hunting, excluded diseases. P. 218. v, 333. Anns an àite sin fein, a threin,
Chuala mi ceuma nan daimh, &c.] Cathmor reflects, with pleasure, even in his last moments, on the relief he had afforded to strangers. The very tread of their feet was pleasant in his ear. His hospitality was not passed unnoticed by the bards; for, with them, it became a proverb, when they described the hospitable disposition of an hero, that he was like Cathmor of Atha, the friend of strangers. It will seem strange, that in all the Irish poems, there is no mention made of Cathmor. This must be attributed to the revolutions and domestic confusions which happened in that island, and utterly cut off all the real traditions concerning so ancient a period. All that we have related of the state of Ireland before the fifth century is of late invention, and the work of ill-informed senachies and injudicious bards.
P. 220. v. 378. Tach'ridh mo shinns're mise thall, &c.] The Celtic nations had some idea of rewards, and perhaps of punishments, after death. Those who behaved, in life, with bravery and virtue, were received, with joy, to the airy halls of their fathers; but the dark in soul, to use the expression of the poet, were spurned away from the habitation of heroes, to wander on all the winds. Another opinion, which prevailed in those times, tended not a little to make individuals emulous to excel one another in martial achievements. It was thought, that, in the hall