Page images

My fteps are forward on the heath: the fpear of Ofcar in my hand, Red ftars looked from high. I gleamed, along the night.--- I faw Fillan filent before me, bending forward from Mora's rock. He heard the fhout of the foe; the joy of his foul arofe. He heard my founding tread, and turned his lifted fpear.

COMEST thou, fon of night, in peace? Or doft thou meet my wrath? The foes of Fingal are mine. Speak, or fear my fteel.---I ftand, not in vain, the fhield of Morven's race.


[ocr errors]

NEVER mayft thou stand in vain, son of blue eyed Clatho. Fingal begins to be alone; darknefs gathers on the laft of his days. Yet he has two fons who ought to fhine in war. Who ought to be two beams of light, near the fteps of his departure.

* That is, two fons in Ireland. Fergus, the fecond fon of Fingal, was, at that time, on an expedition, which is mentioned in one of the leffer poems of Offian. He, according to fome traditions, was the ancestor of Fergus, the fon of Erc or Arcath, commonly called Fergus the fecond in the Scotch hiftories. The beginning of the reign. of Fergus, over the Scots, is placed, by the moft approved annals of Scotland, in the fourth year of the fifth age: a full century after the death of Offian. The genealogy of his family is recorded thus by the highland Senachies; Fergus Mac-Arcath Mac-Chongael, Mac-Fergus, Mac-Fiongäel na buai” : i. e. Fergus the fon of Arcath, the son of Congal, the fon of Fergus, the fon of Fingal the victorious. This fubject is treated more at large, in the differtation prefixed to the poem.


SON of Fingal, replied the. youth, it is not long fince I raised the fpear. Few are the marks of my fword in battle, but my foul is fire. The chiefs of Bolga* crowd around the thield of generous Cathmor. Their gathering is on that heath. Shall my fteps approach their hoft? I yielded to Oscar alone, in the ftrife of the race, on Cona.

FILLAN, thou shalt not approach their hoft; nor fall before thy fame is known. My name is heard in fong: when needful I advance.--From the fkirts of night I fhall view their gleaming tribes.---Why, Fillan, didst thou speak of Ofcar, to call forth my figh? I must forget the warrior, till the ftorm is rolled away. Sadnefs

*The fouthern parts of Ireland went, for fome time, under the name of Bolga, from the Fir-bolg or Belgæ of Britain, who fettled a colony there. Bolg fignifies a quiver, from which proceeds Fir-bolg, i. e. bow-men; fo called from their ufing bows, more than any of the neighbouring nations.

It is remarkable, that, after this paffage, Ofcar is not mentioned in all Temora. The fituations of the characters who act in the poem are fo interefting, that others, foreign to the subject, could not be introduced with any luftre. Tho' the epifode, which follows, may feem to flow naturally enough from the converfation of the brothers, yet I have fhewn, in a preceding note, and, more at large, in the differtation prefixed to this collection, that the poet had a farther defign in view. It is highly probaD 4 ble,

nefs ought not to dwell in danger, nor the tear in the eye of war. Our fathers forgot their fallen fons, till the noife of arms was past. Then forrow returned to the tomb, and the fong of bards arofe.

CONAR was the brother of Trathal, firft of mortal men. His battles were on every coaft. A thousand ftreams rolled down the blood of his foes. His fame filled green Erin, like a pleafant gale. The nations gathered in Ullin,

ble, tho' the Irish annalifts do not agree with Offian in other particulars, that the Conar here mentioned is the fame with their Conar-mór, i. e. Conar the great, whom they place in the first century.

* Conar, the first king of Ireland, was the fon of Trenmor, the great-grand-father of Fingal. It was on account of this family-connection, that Fingal was engaged in fo many wars in the cause of the race of Conar. Tho' few of the actions of Trenmor are mentioned in Offian's poems, yet, from the honourable appellations bestowed on him, we may conclude that he was, in the days of the poet, the most renowned name of antiquity. The moft probable opinion concerning him is, that he was the firft, who united the tribes of the Caledonians, and commanded them, in chief, against the incurfions of the Romans. The genealogifts of the North have traced his family far back, and given a lift of his ancestors to Cuanmór nan lan, or Conmor of the fwords, whoaccording to them, was the first who croffed the great fea, to Caledonia, from which circumftance his name proceeded, which fignifies Great ocean. Genealogies of fo ancient a date, however, are little to be depended upon.



[ocr errors]

and they bleffed the king; the king of the race of their fathers, from the land of hinds.


THE chiefs of the fouth were gathered, in the darkness of their pride. In the horrid cave of Moma, they mixed their fecret words. Thither often, they said, the spirits of their fathers came; fhewing their pale forms from the chinky rocks, and reminding them of the honor of Bolga.---Why should Conar reign, the fon of ftreamy Morven ?

THEY came forth, like the ftreams of the defart, with the roar of their hundred tribes. Conar was a rock before them: broken they rolled on every fide. But often they returned, and the fons of Ullin fell. The king food, among the tombs of his warriors, and darkly bent his mournful face. His foul was rolled into itself; he marked the place, where he was to fall; when Trathal came, in his strength, the chief of cloudy Morven.---Nor did he come

The chiefs of the Fir-bolg who poffeffed themfelves of the fouth of Ireland, prior, perhaps, to the fettlement of the Caël of Caledonia, and the Hebrides, in Ulfter. From the fequel, it appears that the Fir-bolg were, by much, the most powerful nation; and it is probable that the Caël must have fubmitted to them, had they not received fuccours from their mother-country, under the com mand of Conar.


[ocr errors]

alone; Colgar was at his fide; Colgar the fon of the king and of white-bofomed Solin-corma.

As Trenmor, cloathed with meteors, defcends from the halls of thunder, pouring the dark ftorm before him over the troubled fea; fo Colgar defcended to battle, and wafted the echoing

field. His father rejoiced over the hero: but an arrow came. His tomb was raised, without a tear. The king was to revenge his fon.---He lightened forward in battle, till Bolga yielded at

her ftreams.

WHEN peace returned to the land, and his blue waves bore the king to Morven; then he remembered his fon, and poured the filent tear. Thrice did the bards, at the cave of Furmóno, call the foul of Colgar. They called him to the hills of his land; he heard them in his mist.

*Colg-er. fiercely-looking warrior. Sulin-corma, blue eyes. Colgar was the eldest of the fons of Trathal: Comhal, who was the father of Fingal, was very young when the prefent expedition to Ireland happened. It is remarkable, that, of all his ancestors, the poet makes the leaft mention of Comhal; which, probably, proceeded from the unfortunate life and untimely death of that hero. From fome paffages, concerning him, we learn, indeed, that he was brave, but he wanted conduct, and, as Offian expreffes it, his foul was dark. This impartiality, with refpect to a character fo near him, reflects honour on the poet.


[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »