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ARGUMENT to Book VIII.
THE fourth morning, from the opening of the poem, comes on. Fingal, ftill continuing in the place, to which he had retired on the preceding night, is seen, at intervals, thro' the mist, which covered the rock of Cormul. The defcent of the king is defcribed. He orders Gaul, Dermid, and Carril the bard, to go to the valley of Cluna, and conduct, from thence, to the Caledonian army, Ferad-artho, the son of Cairbre, the only perfon remaining of the family of Conar, the firft king of Ireland.—The king takes the command of the army, and prepares for battle. Marching towards the enemy, he comes to the cave of Lubar, where the body of Fillan lay. Upon feeing his dog Bran, who lay at the entrance of the cave, his grief returns. Cathmor afranges the army of the Fir-bolg in order of battle. The appearance of that hero. The general conflict is described. The actions of Fingal and Cathmor. A ftorm. The total rout of the Fir-bolg. The two kings engage, in a column of mift, on the banks of Lubar. Their attitude and conference after the combat. The death of Cathmor.-Fingal refigns the Spear of Trenmor to Offian. The ceremonies observed on that oc? cafion. The spirit of Cathmor appears to Sul-malla, in the valley of Lona, Her forrow.-Evening comes A feaft is prepared.-The coming of Ferad-artho is announced by the fongs of a hundred bards.-The poem clofes, with a speech of Fingal,
S when the wintry winds have seized the waves of the mountain-lake, have feized them, in ftormy night, and cloathed them over with ice; white, to the hunter's early eye, the billows ftill feem to roll. He turns his
In the course of my notes, I have made it more my bufinefs to explain, than to examine, critically, the works of Offian. The first is my province, as the perfon best acquainted with them, the fecond falls to the share of others. I fball, however, obferve, that all the precepts, which Ariftotle drew from Homer, ought not to be applied to the compofition of a Celtic bard; nor ought the N 3 title
his ear to the found of each unequal ridge. But each is filent, gleaming, ftrewn with boughs and
title of the latter to the epopea to be difputed, even if he fhould differ in fome circumftances, from a Greek poet. -Some allowance fhould be made for the different manners of nations. The genius of the Greeks and Celta was extremely diffimilar. The firft were lively and loquacious; a manly concifenefs of expreffion diftinguished the latter. We find, accordingly, that the compofitions of Homer and Offian are marked with the general and oppofite characters of their refpective nations, and, confequently, it is improper to compare the minutia of their poems together. There are, however, general rules, in the conduct of an epic poem, which, as they are natural, are, likewife, univerfal. In thefe the two poets exactly correfpond. This fimilarity, which could not poffibly proceed from imitation, is more decifive, with refpect to the grand effentials of the epopea, than all the precepts of Ariftotle.
Offian is now approaching to the grand catastrophe. The preparations he has made, in the preceding book, properly introduce the magnificence of defcription, with which the present book opens, and tend to fhew that the Celtic bard had more art, in working up his fable, than fome of thofe, who clofely imitated the perfect model of Homer. The transition from the pathetic to the fublime is easy and natural. Till the mind is opened, by the first, it fcarcely can have an adequate comprehenfion of the fecond. The foft and affecting scenes of the feventh book form a fort of contraft to, and confequently heighten, the features of the more grand and terrible images of the cighth.
The fimile, with which this book opens, is, perhaps, the longeft, and the moft minutely defcriptive, of any in