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our times, it must be felt by those, who take a delight in their perusal.”*
But there is no part of the European continent, where the poems of Ossian have been more the object of admiration, or where they have had such an influence on literature, as in Germany.
I regret much, that my acquaintance with German literature, is too limited, to enable me, from my own resources, to give any material information regarding this branch of the subject; but that deficiency is most amply recompensed, by the following extract of a letter from a near relation,+ in which the progress that the works of Ossian have made in Germany, is explained with much clearness and ability:
"Goethe was the first, it is said, who introduced the works of Ossian to the notice of the German public. In his celebrated novel, "The Sorrows of Werther," he gives a fine description of Ossianic scenery, and the effects it is calculated to produce upon a young and enthusiastic mind. In the same work we find a well executed translation of the poem, intituled “ The "Songs of Selma," which Werther is made to read over to Charlotte at his last interview with her. It is to be regretted, that this author did not undertake a translation of the whole poems of Ossian. His eminent talents, and his thorough knowledge of the force and adaptation of the German language, would undoubtedly have enabled him to execute the task in the most satisfactory manner. It is a thought, which must often have occurred to those who have perused this production of Goethe's.
* See Discours Préliminaire par Baour-Lormian, p. 12. ↑ John Colquhoun, Esq.
that the author, when engaged in the composition of this novel, had his mind filled with the characteristic imagery of Ossianic scenery; and the general cast of the work, and colour of his descriptions, seems to justify this idea. The following sentence, in the writings of another celebrated German author, tends to corroborate the above notion: "It is interesting," says Schiller, "to observe, with what happy instinct, all that can afford nou"rishment to the sentimental character, is compressed in Wer"ther. The enthusiasm of disappointed love, susceptibility "of impressions from external nature, religious feelings, the spirit of philosophical contemplation,-last of all, that no"thing may be omitted,-the dark and melancholy world of “Ossian.” The last mentioned author makes the following remarks upon the character of the poetry of Ossian: "Ossian's "animated world," says he, " was scanty and uniform; the "inanimate world around him was great, colossal, majestic; "the latter therefore pressed itself upon him, and asserted a "better claim to the attention of the poet. For this reason, "inanimate nature, in contradistinction to man, is always pre"dominant as an object, which calls forth the feelings. At "the same time, Ossian too complains already of the degeneneracy of mankind; and however limited the sphere of civi "lization and its corruptions among his countrymen, the experience of it was sufficiently lively and impressive, to "force back the moral poet to the inanimate world, and to "diffuse over his poems, that elegiac spirit, which renders them "so affecting and attractive." The name of Ossian, indeed, has become almost proverbial in Germany for every thing that is wild, romantic, melancholy, pathetic, and sublime. Hence the frequency of the expressions, " The Muse of Ossian," "The
Harp of Ossian," "The World of Ossian," "The great Na"ture of Ossian," &c. in the works of German authors. Schiller, in his enquiry into the causes of the pleasure we derive from the contemplation of the sublime in nature, puts the following questions: "Who would not rather tarry amidst the lively dis"order of a natural landscape, than amidst the tame regularity
"of a French garden? Who would not rather be astonished at "the wonderful conflict between fertility and devastation on "the plains of Sicily? Or rather feast his eye on the wild cata"racts, and cloud-topped mountains of Scotland, the great "nature of Ossian, than admire, in artificial Holland, the la"borious victory of perseverance, over the proudest of the "elements."
"I have seen three different German translations of Ossian; the first composed in German hexameters; the second in measured prose, like Macpherson's; and the third, which was published only a few years ago, in a species of rythmic versification, not dissimilar (as far as I can judge from the specimens I have seen) to the species of verse in which the original Gaelic is composed. Besides these entire versions, there are several partial translations to be met with in the works of Bürger and others; and in a late publication intituled "Caledonia," by the ingenious Madame Berlepsch, some specimens are given, of an attempt to translate the poems of Ossian, in a different species of versification. I regret that these translations are not in my possession, as the prefaces and notes with which they are accompanied, would probably enable us to form, a more adequate judgment, of the degree of estimation in which these poems are held in Germany. At the same time, we may reasonably conclude, from the number of translations above mentioned, and the frequency of allusion to Ossian in the works of German authors, that his poems are very generally admired, and his fame universally acknowledged.
"But it is not merely in translations, or in scattered observations, that we find a tribute of deserved applause paid to the merits of the Celtic Homer; his poems have likewise had a very considerable influence upon the literature of Germany. I have already taken notice of the effect which they seem to have produced upon the author of Werther. This influence, I think, may be clearly traced also, throughout many of the odes of Klopstock. There is an epic poem now before me, intituled Alphonso," by the author of Richard Coeur de Lion, who
has obtained no inconsiderable reputation in his own country, in which the imitation of Ossian is so striking, that I am induced to translate two or three passages.
One of the heroes, before going forth to battle, comes to request the blessing of an aged warrior: "My father," says he, "give me thy blessing, that I may appear worthy of my name "in the combat of heroes, and that the songs of the bards of "future times, may not pass over in silence the fame of Gor"mallan," &c. And again; "The undaunted army stood prepared for the conflict; the four friends parted from each "other, and the ocean bore a thousand barks to the shore of "the unwary foe." You will perceive, that the simile at the beginning of the following description of a battle, is entirely borrowed from Ossian: "The battle commences. As two "streams tumble from a lofty rock, and meet, and roar in the "narrow cavern, and mingling their waters, o'erwhelm the plain below; so host meets host, and death groans through "the ranks." "The haughty chiefs, with threatening mien, "hasten to meet the rival chiefs; man engages with man, and "the noise of arms is re-echoed by the distant rocks," &c. "At length the day appears; the song of victory is heard, and "the foes of Mala retire." The following imitation, or rather translation, is still more close and pointed. The author is describing the happiness of two lovers, which he compares to a dream; "Alas!" says he, " your dream shall end; it will end "like the dream of the hunter upon the heath, he falls asleep "in joy upon the hill, under the mild beams of the setting "sun, but he awakes in a storm." There is also a collection of German lyric poems under the title, "The Songs of Sined " and Ringulph the Bard," which are composed entirely in the spirit of Ossian, and are possessed of considerable merit. The person designed by the appellation of Sined, is Mr. Dennis, who, I believe, is likewise author of one of the translations of Ossian. Ringulph the bard, is Mr. Kretschmann, author of several odes in the style of Ossian's poetry. It were an endless task, to endeavour to trace this influence, through the whole
mass of German poetry: enough has been said to shew you, in some measure, the astonishing sensation produced by the poems of Ossian, throughout the literary public of Germany.
"I have never heard the name of Ossian mentioned in that country, without the most decisive marks of applause, approaching sometimes even to enthusiasm ; and the interest which is there taken in the contest, with regard to the authenticity of Ossian, is inconceivable, when we consider how remote the Germans are from the scene of action, and that consequently their passions are not so liable to be brought into play, as the result might appear to them an object of complete indifference. With regard to his merits, there is but one voice in Germany. I have often heard it regretted, that more labour had not been employed in collecting the originals, and bringing forward the proofs of their authenticity, in order finally to put the question at rest; which, as a learned professor remarked in a conversation upon the subject, would go to establish, a most important, and most interesting fact, in the history of man."
Is it not a fit subject of astonishment, that, whilst in foreign countries such zeal and enthusiasm are displayed in the cause of Ossian, at home, persons should be found, who question the beauties of the poems ascribed to him,—or who give to others the merit of his works,—or who are ready even to dispute that such a bard ever existed?
*Extract of a letter from John Colquhoun, Esq. who has been lately called to the Scotch bar, where I have no doubt he will be a credit to his profession. Having been educated for some time at the University of Gottingen, he became acquainted with German literature, which has enabled him to give so much satisfactory information on this branch of the subject.