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lowing fimile of Oithona's, in her lamentation over the difhonour fhe had fuffered?" Chief of "Strumon, replied the fighing maid, why didst "thou come over the dark blue wave to Nuath's "mournful daughter? Why did not I pafs away in " fecret, like the flower of the rock, that lifts its fair "head unseen, and ftrews its withered leaves on "the blaft?" The mufick of bards, a favourite object with Offian, is illuftrated by a variety of the most beautiful appearances that are to be found in nature. It is compared to the calm fhower of fpring; to the dews of the morning on the hill of roes; to the face of the blue and ftill lake +. Two fimiles on this fubject, I fhall quote, because they would do honour to any of the most celebrated claffics. The one is; "Sit thou on the heath, O "bard! and let us hear thy voice; it is pleasant "as the gale of the fpring that fighs on the hun"ter's ear, when he wakens from dreams of joy, "and has heard the mufic of the fpirits of the hill." The other contains a fhort, but exquifitely tender image, accompained with the finest poetical painting. "The mufic of Carryl was like the memory


of joys that are paft, pleasant and mournful to the "foul. The ghofts of departed bards heard it from "Slimora's fide. Soft founds fpread along the "wood; and the filent valleys of night rejoice §." What a figure would fuch imagery and fuch scenery have made, had they been prefented to us, adorned

Vol. i. p. 338. + Vol. i. p. 106.

+ Vid. p. 299, 27, 51, 270.


§ Vol. i. p. 208. Ee 4

with the sweetness and harmony of the Virgilian numbers!

I have chofen all along to compare Offian with Homer, rather than Virgil, for an obvious reafon. There is a much nearer correspondence between the times and manners of the two former poets. Both wrote in an early period of fociety; both are originals, both are diftinguished by fimplicity, fublimity, and fire. The correct elegance of Virgil, his artful imitation of Homer, the Roman statelinefs which he every where maintains, admit no parallel with the abrupt boldness, and enthufiaftick warmth of the Celtic bard. In one article, indeed, there is a resemblance. Virgil is more tender than Homer; and thereby agrees more with Offian; with this difference, that the feelings of the one are more gentle and polished, thofe of the other more ftrong; the tenderness of Virgil foftens, that of Offian diffolves and overcomes the heart.

A resemblance may be fometimes obferved between Offian's comparifons, and those employed by the facred writers. They abound much in this figure, and they ufe it with the utmost propriety *. The imagery of Scripture exhibits a foil and climate altogether different from thofe of Offian; a warmer country, a more fmiling face of nature, the arts of agriculture and of rural life much farther advanced. The wine prefs, and the threshing floor, are often prefented to us, the Cedar and the Palm-tree, the fragrance of perfumes, the voice of the Turtle, and the beds of Lillies. The

* See Dr. Lowth de Sacra Pochi Hebræorum.


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fimiles are, like Offian's, generally fhort, touching
on one point of resemblance, rather than spread
out into little episodes. In the following example
may be perceived what inexpreffible grandeur
receives from the intervention of the Deity.
The nations fhall rufh like the rufhings of many
"waters; but God fhall rebuke them, and they
"fhall fly far off, and shall be chased as the chaff
"of the mountains before the wind, and like
"the down of the thiftle before the whirlwind*."

Befides formal comparifons, the poetry of Offian is embellished with many beautiful metaphors: Such as that remarkably fine one applied to Deugala; "She was covered with the light of beauty, "but her heart was the houfe of pride+." This mode of expreffion, which suppresses the mark of comparison, and fubftitutes a figured defcription in room of the object defcribed, is a great enlivener of style. It denotes that glow and rapidity of fancy, which without paufing to form a regular fimile, paints the object at one stroke." Thou art to me the beam of the eaft, rifing in a land "unknown"-" In peace, thou art the gale of fpring; in war, the mountain ftorm §."

Pleafant be thy reft, O lovely beam, foon haft "thou fet on our hills! The fteps of thy depar"ture were stately, like the moon on the blue trembling wave. But thou haft left us in dark"nefs, first of the maids of Lutha!-Soon hast "thou fet Malvina! but thou rifeft, like the beam

+ Vol.

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+ Vol. i. p. 44§ Vol. i. p. 116.

Ifaiah xvii. 13. l. p. 338.


"of the east, among the fpirits of thy friends, "where they fit in their stormy halls, the cham"bers of the thunder*." This is correct and finely fupported. But in the following inftance, the metaphor, though very beautiful at the beginning, becomes imperfect before it closes, by being improperly mixed with the literal fenfe. "Trathal "went forth with the ftream of his people; but they met a rock; Fingal stood unmoved; bro"ken they rolled back from his fide. Nor did "they roll in fafety; the fpear of the king purfued their flight t.'


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The hyperbole is a figure which we might expect to find often employed by Offian; as the undifciplined imagination of early ages generally prompts exaggeration, and carries its objects to excefs; whereas longer experience, and farther progrefs in the arts of life, chaften mens ideas and expreffions. Yet Offian's hyperboles appear not to me, either fo frequent or fo harsh as might at first have been looked for; an advantage owing no doubt to the more cultivated state, in which, as was before fhewn, poetry fubfifted among the ancient Celtæ, than among most other barbarous nations. One of the most exaggerated defcriptions in the whole work, is what meets us at the beginning of Fingal, where the fcout makes his report to Cuchullin of the landing of the foe. But this is fo far from deferving cenfure that it merits praife, as being, on that occafion, natural and proper. The scout arrives, trembling and full of fears;

* Vol. i. p. 358.

+ Vol. i. p 81.


and it is well known, that no paffion difpofes men to hyperbolize more than terror. It both annihilates themselves in their own apprehenfion, and magnifies every object which they view through the medium of a troubled imagination. Hence all those indistinct images of formidable greatness, the natural marks of a difturbed and confused mind, which occur in Moran's defcription of Swaran's appearance, and in his relation of the conference which they held together; not unlike the report, which the affrighted Jewish fpies made to their leader of the land of Canaan. "The land through "which we have gone to search it, is a land that "eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the "people that we faw in it, are men of a great sta"ture and there faw we giants, the fons of Anak, "which come of the giants; and we were in our "own fight as grafshoppers, and fo were we in "their fight*."

With regard to perfonifications, I formerly obferved that Offian was fparing, and I accounted for his being fo. Allegorical perfonages he has none; and their absence is not to be regretted. For the intermixture of thofe fhadowy Beings, which have not the fupport even of mythological or legendary belief, with human actors, feldom produces a good effect. The fiction becomes too visible and phantaftick; and overthrows that impreffion of reality, which the probable recital of human actions is calculated to make upon the mind. In the ferious and pathetick scenes of Offian especially, allego

Numbers xiii, 32, 33

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