« PreviousContinue »
ARGUMENT to Book VII.
THIS book begins, about the middle of the third night from the opening of the poem. The poet defcribes a kind of mist, which rofe, by night, from the lake of Lego, and was the ufual refidence of the fouls of the dead, during the interval between their decease and the funeral fong. The appearance of the ghoft of Fillan above the cave where his body lay. His voice comes to Fingal, on the rock of Cormul. The king ftrikes the fhield of Trenmor, which was an infallible fign of his appearing in arms himfelf. The extraordinary effect of the found of the fhield. Sul-malla, starting from fleep, awakes Cathmor. Their affecting difcourfe. She infifts with him, to fue for peace; he refolves to continue the war. He directs her to retire to the neighbouring valley of Lona, which was the refidence of an old Druid, until the battle of the next day fhould be over. He awakes his army with the found of his fhield. The shield defcribed. Fonar, the bard, at the defire of Cathmor, relates the first settlement of the Firbolg in Ireland, under their leader Larthon. Morning comes. Sul-malla retires to the valley of Lona. A Lyric fong concludes the book.
EPIC POE M.
BOOK SEVEN TH.
ROM the wood-skirted waters of Lego, afcend, at times, grey-bofomed mifts, when the gates of the weft are closed on the fun's eagle-eye, Wide, over Lara's ftream, is poured
No poet departs lefs from his fubject than Offian. No far-fetched ornaments are introduced; the episodes rife from, and are indeed effential to, the ftory of the poem. Even his lyric fongs, where he most indulges the extravagance of fancy, naturally fpring from his fubject. Their propriety and connection with the reft of the poem, fhew that the Celtic bard was guided by judgment, amidst the wildest flights of imagination. It is a common supposition among mankind, that a genius for poetry and found sense seldom center in the fame person. The obfervation is far from being juft; for true genius and judgment muft
poured the vapour dark and deep: the moon, like a dim fhield, is fwimming thro' its folds. With
be infeparable. The wild flights of fancy, without the guidance of judgment, are, as Horace obferves, like the dreams of a fick man, irksome and confused. Fools can never write good poems. A warm imagination, it is true, domineers over a common portion of sense; and hence it is that fo few have fucceeded in the poetical way. But when an uncommon strength of judgment, and a glowing fancy, are properly tempered together, they, and they only, produce genuine poetry.
The prefent book is not the leaft interefting part of Temora. The awful images, with which it opens, are calculated to prepare the mind for the folemn scenes which are to follow. Offian, always, throws an air of confequence on every circumftance which relates to Fingal, The very found of his fhield produces extraordinary effects; and these are heightened, one above another, in a beautiful climax. The diftrefs of Sul-malla, and her conference with Cathmor, are very affecting. The defcription of his shield is a curious piece of antiquity; and is a proof of the early knowledge of navigation among the inhabitants of Britain and Ireland. Offian, in fhort, through'out this book, is often fublime, and always pathetic. Lego, fo often mentioned by Offian, was a lake, in Connaught, in which the river Lara emptied itself. On the banks of this lake dwelt Branno, the father-in-law of Offian, whom the poet often vifited before and after the 'death of Evir-allin. This circumftance, perhaps, occafioned the partiality, with which he always mentions Lego and Lara; and accounts for his drawing fo many of his ima ges from them. The fignification of Leigo, is, the lake
With this, clothe the fpirits of old their fudden geftures on the wind, when they stride, from blast to blaft, along the dusky face of the night. Often, blended with the gale, to fome warrior's grave, they roll the mift, a grey dwelling to his ghoft, until the fongs arife.
A SOUND came from the defart; the rushing courfe of Conar in winds. He poured his deep mist on Fillan, at blue-winding Lubar.—Dark and mournful fat the ghoft, bending in his grey ridge of fmoak. The blaft, at times, rolled him together but the lovely form returned again. It returned with flow-bending eyes; and dark winding of locks of mift.
of difeafe, probably fo called, on account of the moraffes which furrounded it.
As the mist, which rose from the lake of Lego, occafioned difeafes and death, the bards feigned, as here, that it was the refidence of the ghofts of the deceafed, during the interval between their death and the pronouncing of the funeral elegy over their tombs; for it was not allowable, without that ceremony was performed, for the fpirits of the dead to mix with their ancestors, in their airy halls. It was the bufinefs of the spirit of the neareft relation to the deceased, to take the mift of Lego, and pour it over the grave, We find here Conar, the fon of Trenmor, the first king of Ireland, according to Offian, performing this office for Fillan, as it was in the cause of the family of Conar, that that hero was killed. The defcription of the appearance of the ghoft is picturesque and folemn, imposing a still attention to the fpeech that follows it, which, with great propriety, is fhort and awful.