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ARGUMENT to Book II.
THIS book opens, we may fuppofe, about midnight, with a foliloquy of Offian, who had retired, from the rest of the army, to mourn for his fon Ofcar. Upon hearing the noife of Cathmor's army approaching, he went to find out his brother Fillan, who kept the watch, on the hill of Mora, in the front of Fingal's army. In the converfation of the brothers, the epifode of Conar, the fon of Trenmor, who was the firft king of Ireland, is introduced, which lays open the origin of the contests between the Caël and Firbolg, the two nations who first poffeffed themselves of that Ifland. Offian kindles a fire on Mora; upon which Cathmor defifted from the defign he had formed of furprifing the army of the Caledonians. He calls a council of his chiefs; reprimands Foldath for advising a night-attack, as the Irish army were fo much fuperior in number to the enemy. The bard Fonar introduces the ftory of Crothar, the ancestor of the king, which throws further light on the hiftory of Ireland, and the original pretenfions of the family of Atha, to the throne of that kingdom. The Irish chiefs lie down to reft, and Cathmor himself undertakes the watch. In his circuit, round the army, he is met by Offian. The interview of the two heroes is defcribed. Cathmor obtains a promife from Offian, to order a funeral elegy to be fung over the grave of Cairbar; it being the opinion of the times, that the fouls of the dead could not be happy, till their elegies were fung by a bard. Morning comes. Cathmor and Offian part; and the latter, cafually meeting with Carril the fon of Kinfena, fends that bard, with a funeral fong, to the tomb of Cairbar.
ATHER of heroes, Trenmor! dweller of 'eddying winds! where the dark-red courfe of thunder marks the troubled clouds! Open
Addreffes to the fpirits of deceased warriors are common, in the compofitions of Offian. He, however, expreffes them in fuch language as prevents all fufpicion of his paying divine honours to the dead, as was ufual among other nations.From the fequel,of this apoftrophe, it appears, that Offian had retired from the reft of the army to mourn, in fecret, over the death of his fon Ofcar. This indirect method of narration has much of the nature of the Drama, and is more forcible than a regular historical chain of circumftances. The abrupt manner of Offian may often render him obfcure to inattentive readers. Thofe who retain his peems, on memory, feem to be fenfible of Dah b
Open thou thy ftormy halls, and let the bards of old be near: let them draw near, with their fongs and their half viewlefs harps. No dweller of mifty valley comes; no hunter unknown at his ftreams; but the car-borne Oscar from the folds of war. Sudden is thy change, my fon, from what thou wert on dark Moilena! The blaft folds thee in its fkirt, and ruftles along the sky.
DOST thou not behold thy father, at the ftream of night? The chiefs of Morven fleep far-diftant. They have loft no fon. But ye have loft a hero, Chiefs of ftreamy Morven! Who could equal his ftrength, when battle rolled against his fide, like the darkness of crowded waters?Why this cloud on Offian's foul?
this; and ufually give the hiftory of the pieces minutely before they begin to repeat the poetry.
Tho' this book has little action, it is not the leaft important part of Temora. The poet, in several episodes, runs up the cause of the war to the very fource. The first population of Ireland, the wars between the two nations who originally poffeffed that island, its first race of kings, and the revolutions of its government, are important facts, and are delivered by the poet, with so little mixture of the fabulous, that one cannot help preferring his accounts to the improbable fictions of the Scotch and Irifh hiftorians. The Milesian fables of those gentlemen bear about them the marks of a late invention. To trace their legends to their fource would be no difficult task; but a difquifition of this fort would extend this note too far.
It ought to burn in danger. Erin is near with her hoft. The king of Morven is alone.--Alone thou shalt not be, my father, while I can lift the fpear.
I ROSE, in my rattling arms. I liftened to the wind of night. The fhield of Fillan* is not heard. I fhook for the fon of Fingal. Why should the foe come, by night; and the darkhaired warrior fail?-Diftant, fullen murmurs rife like the noise of the lake of Lego, when its waters fhrink, in the days of froft, and all its bursting ice refounds. The people of Lara look to heaven, and foresee the ftorm.--
* We understand, from the preceding book, that Cathmor was near with an army. When Cairbar was killed, the tribes who attended him fell back to Cathmor; who, as it afterwards appears, had taken a resolution to surprize Fingal by night. Fillan was difpatched to the hill of Mora, which was in the front of the Caledonians, to obferve the motions of Cathmor. In this fituation were affairs when Offian, upon hearing the noise of the approaching enemy, went to find out his brother. Their converfation naturally introduces the episode, concerning Conar the fon of Trenmor the firft Irish monarch, which is fo neceffary to the understanding the foundation of the rebellion and ufurpation of Cairbar and Cathmor. Fillan was the youngest of the fons of Fingal, then living. He and Bofmina, mentioned in the battle of Lora, children of the king, by Clatho the daughter of Cathulla king of Inis-tore, whom he had taken to wife, after the death of Ros-crana, the daughter of Cormac Mac Conar king of Ireland,
were the only