« PreviousContinue »
the valiant grows, as foes increase in the field. Roll no darknefs, king of Erin, on the young in war.
THE bursting tears of the king came down. He feized my hand in filence. Race of the daring Trenmor, I roll no cloud before thee. Thou burneft in the fire of thy fathers. I behold thy fame. It marks thy courfe in battles, like a ftream of light. But wait the coming of Cairbar*: my fon must join thy fword. He calls the fons of Ullin, from all their diftant ftreams."
WE came to the hall of the king, where it rofe in the midst of rocks: rocks, on whofe dark fides, were the marks of ftreams of old. Broad oaks bend around with their mofs: the thick birch waves its green head. Half-hid, in her thady grove, Ros-crana raifed the fong. Her white hands rofe on the harp. I beheld her blue
*Cairbar, the fon of Cormac, was afterwards king of Ireland. His reign was fhort. He was fucceeded by his fon Artho, the father of that Cormac who was murdered by Cairbar the fon of Borbar-duthul.-Cairbar, the son of Cormac, long after his fon Artho was grown to man's eftate, had, by his wife Beltanno, another fon, whofe name was Ferad-artho-He was the only one remaining of the race of Conar the first king of Ireland, when Fingal's expedition' against Cairbar the fon of Borbar-duthul happened. See more of Ferad-artho in the eighth book.
rolling eyes. She was like a fpirit* of heaven half-folded in the fkirt of a cloud.
THREE days we feafted at Moi-lena: fhe rofe bright amidst my troubled foul.---Cormac beheld
* The attitude of Ros-crana is aptly illuftrated by this fimile; for the ideas of thofe times, concerning the fpirits of the deceased, were not fo gloomy and difagreeable, as thofe of fucceeding ages. The spirits of women, it was supposed, retained that beauty, which they poffeffed while living, and transported themselves, from place to place, with that gliding motion, which Homer afcribes to the gods. The defcriptions which poets, defs antient than Offian, have left us of thofe beautiful figures, that appeared fometimes on the hills, are elegant and picturefque. They compare them to the rain-bow on fireams: or, the gliding of fun-beams on the hills. I fhall here tranflate a paffage of an old fong, where both these beautiful images are mentioned together.
A chief who lived three centuries ago, returning from the war, understood that his wife or mistress was dead. The bard introduces him fpeaking the following foliloquy, when he came, within fight of the place, where he had left her, at his departure.
"My foul darkens in forrow. I behold not the fmoak of my hall. No grey dog bounds at my ftreams. Silence dwells in the valley of trees.
"Is that a rain-bow on Crunath? It flies:- and the. fky is dark. Again, thou moveft, bright, on the heath, thou fun-beam cloathed in a fhower!-Hah! it is fhe, my love: her gliding courfe on the bofom of winds!
In fucceeding times the beauty of Ros-crana paffed into a proverb; and the highest compliment, that could be
held me dark. He gave the white-bofomed maid.---She came with bending eye, amidft the wandering of her heavy locks.---She came.————— Straight the battle roared.---Colc-ulla rushed ;--I feized my spear. My fword rofe, with my people, against the ridgy foc. Alnecma fled. Colc-ulla fell. Fingal returned with fame.
He is renowned, O Fillan, who fights, in the ftrength of his people. The bard pursues his fteps, thro' the land of the foe.---But he who fights alone; few are his deeds to other times. He fhines, to-day, a mighty light. To-morrow, he is low. One fong contains his fame. His name is on one dark field. He is forgot, but where his tomb fends forth the tufts of grass.
SUCH were the words of Fingal, on Mora of the roes. Three bards, from the rock of Cormul, poured down the pleasant fong. Sleep defcended, in the found, on the broad-skirted hoft. Carril returned, with the bards, from the tomb of Dun-lora's king. The voice of morning fhall not come, to the dufky bed of the hero. No more fhalt thou hear the tread of roes, around thy narrow house.
paid to a woman, was to compare her perfon with the daughter of Cormac.
'S tu fein an Ros-crána.
Siol Chormaec na n'ioma lán
* As roll the troubled clouds, round a meteor of night, when they brighten their fides, with its light, along the heaving fea: fo gathered Erin, around the gleaming form of Atha's king. He, tall in the midft, careless lifts, at times, his fpear as fwells or falls the found of Fonar's diftant harp.
NEAR him leaned, againft a rock, Sulmalla of blue eyes, the white-bofomed daugh
* The poet changes the scene to the Irish camp. The images introduced here are magnificent, and have that fort of terrible beauty, if I may ufe the expreffion, which oc'curs fo frequently in the compofitions of Offian. The troubled motion of the army, and the fedate and careless attitude of Cathmor, form a contraft, which, as I have before remarked, heightens the features of defcription, and is calculated to enliven poetry.
In order to illuftrate this paffage, I fhall give, here, the hiftory on which it is founded, as I have gathered it from other poems. The nation of the Firbolg who inhabited the fouth of Ireland, being originally defcended from the Belgæ, who poffeffed the fouth and fouth-west coaft of Britain, kept up, for many ages, an amicable correfpondence with their mother-country; and fent aid to the British Belge, when they were preffed by the Romans or other new-comers from the continent. Con-mor, king of Inis-huna, (that part of South-Britain which is over-against the Irish coaft) being attacked, by what enemy is not mentioned, fent for aid to Cairbar, lord of
Sul-malla, flowly rolling eyes. Caon-mór, mild and tell. Inis-huna, green ifland.
ter of Conmor king of Inis-huna. To his aid came blue-fhielded Cathmor, and rolled his foes away. Sul-malla beheld him ftately in the hall of feafts; nor careless rolled the eyes of Cathmor on the long-haired maid.
THE third day arose, and Fithil came from Erin of the ftreams. He told of the lifting up of
Atha, the most potent chief of the Firbolg. Cairbar dispatched his brother Cathmor to the affiftance of Conmor. Cathmor, after various viciffitudes of fortune, put an end to the war, by the total defeat of the enemies of Inis-huna, and returned in triumph to the refidence of Con-mor. There, at a feaft, Sul-malla, the daughter of Con-mor, fell defperately in love with Cathmor, who, be fore her paffion was disclosed, was recalled to Ireland by his brother Cairbar, upon the news of the intended expedition of Fingal, to re-establish the family of Conar on the Irish throne. The wind being contrary, Cathmor remained, for three days, in a neighbouring bay, during which time Sul-malla difguifed herself, in the habit of a young warrior, and came to offer him her fervice, in the war. Cathmor accepted of the proposal, failed for Ireland, and arrived in Ulfter a few days before the death of Cairbar.
*Fithil, an inferior bard. It may either be taken here for the proper name of a man, or in the literal fenfe, as the bards were the heralds and meffengers of those times. Cathmor, it is probable, was absent, when the rebellion of his brother Cairbar, and the affaffination of Cormac, king of Ireland, happened. The traditions, which are. handed down with the poem, fay that Cathmor and his followers had only arrived, from Inis-huna, three days