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Ir is dark. The fleeping hoft were ftill, in the skirts of night. The flame decayed, on the hill of Fingal; the king lay lonely on his fhield. His eyes were half-clofed in fleep; the voice of Fillan came. "Sleeps the husband of Clatho? Dwells the father of the fallen in reft? Am I forgot in the folds of darkness; lonely in the feafon of dreams?"
* It has been observed, that Offian takes great delight in defcribing night-fcenes. This, in fome measure, is to be attributed to his melancholy difpofition, which delighted to dwell upon folemn objects. Even other poets, of a lefs ferious turn than Offian, have beft fucceeded in defcriptions of this fort. Solemn fcenes make the moft lafting impreffions on the imagination; gay and light objects only touch the surface of the foul, and vanish. The human mind is naturally serious: levity and chearfulness may be amiable, but they are too often the characteristics of weakness of judgment, and a deplorable fhallowness of foul.-The night-defcriptions of Offian were in high repute among fucceeding bards. One of them delivered a fentiment, in a distich, more favourable to his taste for poetry, than to his gallantry towards the ladies. I fhall here give a tranflation of it.
"More pleasant to me is the night of Cona, dark streaming from Offian's harp; more pleasant it is to me, than a white-bofomed dweller between my arms; than a fairhanded daughter of heroes, in the hour of rest."
Tho' tradition is not very fatisfactory concerning the history of this poet, it has taken care to inform us, that he was very old when he wrote the diftich. He lived (in what age is uncertain) in one of the western ifles, and his name was Turloch Ciabh-glas, or Turloch of the grey locks.
WHY art thou in the midft of my dreams, faid Fingal, as, fudden, he rofe? Can I forget thee, my son, or thy path of fire in the field? Not fuch, on the foul of the king, come the deeds of the mighty in arms. They are not there a beam of lightening, which is feen, and is then no more. I remember thee, O Fillan, and my wrath begins to rife.
THE king took his deathful fpear, and ftruck the deeply-founding fhield: his fhield that
*Succeeding bards have recorded many fables, concerning this wonderful shield. They fay, that Fingal, in one of his expeditions into Scandinavia, met, in one of the islands of Juteland, with Luno, a celebrated magician. This Luno was the Vulcan of the north, and had made compleat fuits of armour for many of the heroes of Scandinavia. One difagreeable circumstance was, that every person who wanted to employ Luno to make armour for him, was obliged to overcome him, at his own magic art. -Fingal, unskilled in fpells or enchantments, effected with dint of prowefs, what others failed in, with all their fupernatural art. When Luno demanded a trial of skill from Fingal, the king drew his fword, cut off the skirts of the magician's robe, and obliged him, bare as he was, to fly before him. Fingal purfued, but Luno, coming to the fea, by his magic art, walked upon the waves. Fingal purfwed him in his fhip, and, after a chace of ten days, came up with him, in the isle of Sky, and obliged him to erect a furnace, and make him this fhield, and his famous fword, poetically called, the fon of Luno-Such are the Arange fictions which the modern Scotch and Irish bards have formed on the original af Offian.
hung high in night, the dismal fign of war! — Ghofts fled on every fide, and rolled their gathered forms on the wind.-Thrice from the winding vale arofe the voices of death. The harps* of the bards, untouched, found mournful over the hill.
He ftruck again the shield: battles rose in the dreams of his hoft. The wide-tumbling ftrife is gleaming over their fouls. kings defcend to war. Backward-looking armies fly; and mighty deeds are half-hid, in the bright gleams of fteel.
BUT when the third found arofe; deer started from the clefts of their rocks. The fcreams of fowl are heard, in the defart, as each flew, frighted, on his blaft.-The fons of Albion half
* It was the opinion of the times, that, on the night preceding the death of a person worthy and renowned, the harps of those bards, who were retained by his family, emitted melancholy founds. This was attributed, to use Offian's expreffion, to the light touch of ghofts; who were fuppofed to have a fore-knowledge of events. The fame opinion prevailed long in the north, and the found was called, the warning voice of the dead. The voice of deaths, mentioned in the preceding fentence, was of a different kind. Each perfon was fuppofed to have an attendant spirit, who affumed his form and voice, on the night preceding his death, and appeared, to fome, in the attitude, in which the perfon was to die. The VOICES OF DEATH were the foreboding skrieks of those spirits.
rofe, and half-affumed their spears.But filence rolled back on the hoft: they knew the fhield of the king. Sleep returned to their eyes: the field was dark and ftill.
*No fleep was thine in darkness, blue-eyed daughter of Conmor! Sul-malla heard the dreadful
* A bard, several ages more modern than Offian, was fo fenfible of the beauty of this paffage, as to give a close imitation of it, in a poem, concerning the great actions, of Keneth Mac-Alpin, king of Scotland, against the Picts. As the poem is long, I fhall only give here the ftory of it, with a tranflation of that paragraph, which bears the nearest resemblance to the paffage of Temora juft now before me. When Keneth was making preparations for that war, which terminated in the fubverfion of the Pictifh kingdom, Flathal, his fifter, had demanded permiffion from him, of attending him in the expedition; in order to have a share in revenging the death of her father Alpin, who had been barbarously murdered by the Picts. The king, tho' he, perhaps, approved of the gallant difpofition of his fifter, refufed, on account of her fex, to grant her request. The heroine, however, dreffed herself in the habit of a young warrior; and, in that disguise, attended the army, and performed many gallant exploits. On the night preceding the final overthrow of the Pics, Keneth, as was the custom among the kings of Scots, retired to a hill, without the verge of the camp, to meditate on the difpofitions he was to make in the approaching battle. Flathal, who was anxious about the fafety of her brother, went, privately, to the top of an adjoining rock, and kept watch there to prevent his being furprized by the enemy. Keneth fell asleep, in his arms; and Flathal obferved a body of the Picts furrounding the hill, whereon the
dreadful shield, and rofé, amidst the night.Her fteps are towards the king of Atha.-Can danger thake his daring foul! In doubt, the ftands, with bending eyes. Heaven burns with all its ftars.
AGAIN the fhield refounds!-She rushed. She ftopt.-Her voice half-rofe. It failed.-She
king lay. The fequel of the ftory may be gathered from the words of the bard.
"Her eyes, like ftars, roll over the plain. She trembled for Alpin's race. She faw the gleaming foe. Her fteps arofe: fhe ftopt." Why fhould he know of Flathal? he the king of men!-But hark! the found is high.
-It is but the wind of night, lone-whistling in my locks. -I hear the echoing fhields !"-Her fpear fell from her hand. The lofty rock refounds.He rofe, a gathered cloud.
"Who wakes Conad of Albion, in the midst of his fecret hill? I heard the soft voice of Flathal. Why, maid, doft thou fhine in war? The daughters roll their blue eyes, by the ftreams. No field of blood is theirs.
"Alpin of Albion was mine, the father of Flathal of harps. He is low, mighty Conad, and my foul is fire. Could Flathal, by the fecret ftream, behold the blood of her foes? I am a young eagle, on Dura, king of Drumalbin of winds."
In the fequel of the piece, the bard does not imitate Offian, and his poem is fo much the worse for it.-Keneth, with his fifter's affiftance, forced his way thro' the advanced parties of the enemy, and rejoined his own army. The bard has given a catalogue of the Scotch tribes, as they marched to battle; but, as he did not live near the time of Keneth, his accounts are to be little depended on.