Page images

thy battles. Nor slept the sword by thy side, thou last of Fingal's race! Ossian rushed forward in his strength; the people fell before him; as the grass by the staff of the boy, when he whistles along the field, and the gray beard of the thistle falls. But careless the youth moves on; his steps are towards the desert. Gray morning rose around us; the winding streams are bright along the heath. The foe gathered on a hill; and the rage of Lathmon rose. He bent the red eye of his wrath : he is silent in his rising grief. He often struck his bossy shield: and his steps are unequal on the heath. I saw the distant darkness of the hero, and I spoke to Morni's son.

“ Car-borne chief of Strumon, dost thou behold the foe ? They gather on the hill in their wrath. Let our steps be toward the king.* He shall rise in his strength, and the host of Lathmon vanish. Our fame is around us, warrior ; the eyes of the agedt will rejoice. But let us fly, son of Morni, Lathmon descends the hill.” “ Then let our steps be slow," replied the fair-haired Gaul ; “ lest the foe say with a smile, Behold the warriors of night! They are, like ghosts, terrible in darkness; they melt away before the beam of the east.' Ossian, take the shield of Gormar, who fell beneath thy spear. The aged heroes will rejoice, beholding the deeds of their sons.

Such were our words on the plain, when Sulmath came to car-borne Lathmon : Sulmath chief of Datha, at the dark-rolling stream of Duvranna. “Why dost thou not rush, son of Nuäth, with a thousand of thy heroes? Why dost thou not descend with thy host before the warriors fly? Their blue arms are beaming to the rising light, and their steps are before us on the heath!”

• Fingal.

+ Fingal and Morni.

"Son of the feeble hand," said Lathmon, “shall my host descend? They are but two, son of Dutha! shalt a thousand lift the steel ? Nuäth would mourn in his hall, for the departure of his fame. His eyes would turn from Lathmon, when the tread of his feet ap. proached. Go thou to the heroes, chief of Dutha! 'I behold the stately steps of Ossian. His fame is worthy of my steel ! let us contend in fight.'

The noble Sulmath came. I rejoiced in the words of the king. I raised the shield on my arm : Gaul placed in my hand the sword of Morni. We returned to the murmuring stream; Lathmon came down in bis strength. His dark host rolled, like clouds, behind him ; but the son of Nuäth was bright in his steel.

“Son of Fingal,” said the hero, “thy fame has grown on our fall.

How many lie there of my people by thy hand, thou king of men ! Lift now thy spear against Lathmon; lay the son of Nuäth low! Lay him low among his warriors, or thou thyself must fall! It shall never be told in my halls, that my people fell in my presence: that they fell in the presence of Lathmon when his sword rested by his side : the blue eyes of Cutha would roll in tears; her steps be lonely in the vales of Dunlathmon!"

“ Neither shall it be told," I replied, “that the son of Fingal fed. Were his steps covered with darkness, yet would not Ossian fly! His soul would meet him and say, · Does the bard of Selma fear the foe?' No: he does not fear the foe. His joy is in the midst of battle.”

Lathmon came on with his spear. He pierced the shield of Ossian. I felt the cold steel by my side. I drew the sword of Morni. I cut the spear in twain. The bright point fell glittering on earth. The son of Nuäth burnt in his wrath. He lifted high his sounding shield. His dark eyes rolled above it, as, ber ding for


ward, it shyne like a gate of brass. But Ossian's spear pierced the brightness of its bosses, and sunk in a tree that rose behind. The shield hung on the quivering lance! But Lathmon still advanced ! Gaul foresaw the fall of the chief. He streiched his buckler before my sword, when it descended, in a stream of light, over the king of Dunlathmon!

Lathmon beheld the son of Morni. The tear started from his eye. He threw the sword of his fathers on the earth, and spoke the words of the brave.

“Why should Lathmon fight against the first of men ? Your souls are beams from heaven; your swords the flames of death! Who can equal the renown of the heroes, whose deeds are so great in youth? O that ye were in the halls of Nuäth, in the green dwelling of Lathmon! Then would father


that his son did not yield to the weak. But who comes, a mighty stream, along the echoing heath? The little hills are troubled before him. A thousand ghosts are on the beams of his steel; the ghosts of those who are to fall by the king of resounding Morven. Happy art thou, O Fingal ! thy son shall fight thy wars. They go forth before thee : they return with the steps of their renown!”

Fingal came in his mildness, rejoicing in secret over the deeds of his son. Morni's face brightened with gladness. His aged eyes look faintly through tears of joy. We came to the halls of Selma. We sat around the feasts of shells. The maids of song came in to our presence, and the mildly-blushing Everallin ! Her hair spreads on her neck of snow,


rolls in secret on Ossian. She touched the harp of music! we blessed the daughter of Branno!

Fingal rose in his place, and spoke to Lathmon, king of spears. The sword of Trenmor shook by his side, as high he raised his mighty arm. “Son of Nuäth,'

he said, “why dost thou search for fame in Morven ? We are not of the race of the feeble ; our swords gleam not over the weak. When did we rouse thee, O Lathmon, with the sound of war? Fingal does not delight in battle, though his arm is strong! My renown grows on the fall of the baughty. The light of my steel pours on the proud in arms. The battle comes ! and the tombs of the valiant rise ; the tombs of my people rise, O my fathers ! I at last must remain alone! But I will remain renowned: the departure of my soul shall be a stream of light. Lathmon! retire to thy place! Turn thy battles to other lands! The race of Morven are renowned; their foes are the sons of the unhappy."



It may not ie improper here to give the story which is the founda tion of this poem, as it is handed down by tradition. Usnoth, lord of Etha, which is probably that part of Argyleshire which is near Loch Eta, an arm of the sea in Lorn, had three sons, Na. thos, Althos, and Ardan, by Slissama, the daughter of Semo, and sister to the celebrated Cuthullin. The three brothers, when very young, were sent over to Ireland by their father, to learn the use of arms under their uncle Cuthullin, who made a great figure in that kingdom. They were just landed in Ulster, when the news of Cuthullin's death arrived. Nathos, though very young, look the command of Cuthullin's army, made head against Cairbar the usurper, and defeated him in several battles. Cairbar at last, have ing found means to murder Cormac, the lawful king, the army of Nathos shitted sides, and he himself was obliged to return into

Ulster, in order to pass over into Scotland. Mar-thula, the daughter of Colla, with whom Cairbar was in love,

resided at that time in Selama, a castle in Ulster. She saw, tell in love, and thed with Nathos ; but a storm rising at sea, they were unfortunately driven back on that part of the coast of Ulster, where Cairbar was encamped with his ariny. The three brothers, after having defended theinselves for some time with great bravery, were overpowered and slain, and the unfortunate Dar-thula killed herself upon the body of her beloved Nathos. The poem opens on the night preceding the death of the sons of

Usnoth, and brings in, by way of episode, what passed before. It relates the death of Dar-thula diterenily from the common tradition. This account is the most probable, as suicide seems to have been unknown in those early times, for no traces of it are found in the old poetry.

Daughter of heaven, fair art thou ! the silence of ihy face is pleasant ! Thou comest forth in loveliness. l'he stars attend thy blue course in the east. The clouds rejoice in thy presence, O moon ! They brighten their dark-brown sides. Who is like thee in heaven, light of the silent night? The stars are ashamed in thy presence. They turn away their sparkling eyes. Whither dost thou retire from thy

« PreviousContinue »