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INSCRIPTION OVER A CALM AND CLEAR SPRING.
HERE quench your thirst, and mark in me
An emblem of true charity;
WRITTEN IN A BLANK LEAF OF DUGDALE'S
By fancy's genuine feelings unbeguild,
WRITTEN AFTER SEEING WILTON HOUSE.
Decks with a magic hand the dazzling bowers,
* The Monasticon is an account of the monasteries existing in England before the Reformation.
+ The seat of the Pembroke family; where there was, and is, a fine collection of pictures.
How to life's humbler scene can I depart,
low cell how cheat the sullen hours ?
Descriptions of Light.
FROM THE NOTES TO OSSIAN.
The dispute respecting the merits and authenticity of the poems of Ossian has long settled down, we believe, into an admission of the former, and a conclusion that Macpherson invented them, assisted by traditional fragments. It is a pity Macpherson ever suffered the dispute to take place ; for it has left him a doubtful reputation both for genius and honesty, when perhaps nobody would have questioned either. The fragments may have excelled the inventions ; but hardly any one, except a man of genius, could have put them so well together, notwithstanding the violation of times and manners. There is a great deal of repetition and monotony ; yet somehow these faults themselves contribute to the welcome part of the impression. They affect us like the dreariness of the heaths and the moaning of the winds. But the work would not have stood its ground, and gained the admirers it has, did it not possess positive beauties ; veins of genuine feeling and imagination. It is understood that an Italian translation was a favorite with Bonaparte and his officers during the early republican times. The present king of Sweden, Oscar Bernadotte, is said, we believe, to have been named after the son of Ossian. But even these illustrious testimonies to its merit are unnecessary after the single one of Gray, who in his Letters repeatedly expresses his admiration, particularly of the passages before us. We shall extract his notice of them by way of argument as well as critique. It is hardly requisite to mention, that Macpherson does not attribute these passages to Ossian. He has put them in a note, and says they were written by some imitator "a thousand years afterwards !" Gray takes no notice of this; nor shall we. If they are not of the same manufacture as the rest, ghost is not like ghost, nor a wind a wind.
Observe how beautifully Gray talks of the gust of wind “recollecting itself,” and resembling the voice of a spirit.
“I have received,” he says to his friend Mr. Stonhewer, "another Scotch packet with a third ecimen, inferior in kind (because it is merely description), but full of nature and noble wild imagination. Five bards pass the night at the castle of a chief (himself a principal bard); each goes in his turn to observe the face of things, and returns with an extempore picture of the changes he has seen (it is an October night, the harvest month of the Highlands). This is the whole plan; yet there is a contrivance, and a preparation of ideas, that you would not expect. The oddest thing is, that every one of them sees ghosts (more or less). The idea that struck me and surprised me most, is the following :-One of them (describing a storm of wind and rain) says,
“ Ghosts ride on the tempest to-night ;
Sweet is their voice between the gusts of wind;
Did you never observe (while rocking winds are piping loud) that pause, as the gust is recollecting itself, and rising upon the ear in a shrill and plaintive note, like the swell of an Æolian harp ? I do assure you there is nothing in the world so like the voice of a spirit. Thomson had an ear sometimes: he was not deaf to this; and has described it gloriously, but given it another different turn, and of more horror. I cannot repeat the lines : it is in his Winter. There is another very fine picture in one of them. It describes the breaking of the clouds after the storm, before it is settled into a calm, and when the moon is seen by short intervals.
“ The waves are tumbling on the lake,
And lash the rocky sides,
Note, that Gray has written out these sentences in distinct lines, as though they had been metrically disposed in the original, and not prose. And indeed it is difficult not to discern a music in them, or to think they want a music of any other sort. But the effect would be different in long compositions.
is dull and dark. The clouds rest on the hills. No star with green trembling beam, no moon, looks from the sky. I hear the blast in the wood; but I hear it distant far. The stream of the valley murmurs; but its murmur is sullen and sad. From the tree at the
of the dead the long-howling owl is heard. I see a dim form on the plain! It is a ghost ! it fades, it flies. Some funeral shall pass this
way; the meteor marks the path. The distant dog is howling from the hut of the hill. The stag lies on the mountain moss : the hind is at his side. She hears the wind in its branching horns. She starts, but lies again.
The roe is in the cleft of the rock: the heath-cock's head is beneath his wing. No beast, no bird is abroad, but the owl and the howling fox. She on a leafless tree; he in a cloud on the hill.
Dark, panting, trembling, sad, the traveller has lost his way. Through shrubs, through thorns, he goes along the gurgling rill. He fears the rock and the fen. He fears the ghost of night. The old tree groans to the blast ; the falling branch resounds. The wind drives the withered burs, clung together, along the grass. It is the light tread of a ghost! He trembles amidst the night.
Dark, dusky, howling is night, cloudy, windy, and full of ghosts! The dead are abroad! My friends, receive me from the night.