Page images

were dark. He was honoured in the midft. Their fouls rofe trembling around. The king alone no gladness fhewed; no ftranger he to war! WHY is the king fo fad, faid Malthos eagleeyed?-Remains there a foe at Lubar? Lives there among them, who can lift the fpear? Not fo peaceful was thy father, Borbar-dúthul *, fovereign of fpears. His rage was a fire that always burned: his joy over fallen foes was great. Three days feafted the grey-haired hero, when he heard that Calmar fell: Calmar, who aided the race of Ullin, from Lara of the


* Borbar-duthul, the father of Cathmor, was the brother of that Colc-ulla, who is faid, in the beginning of the fourth book, to have rebelled against Cormac king of Ireland. Borbar-duthul feems to have retained all the prejudice of his family against the fucceffion of the pofterity of Conar, on the Irish throne. From this fhort episode we learn fome facts which tend to throw light on the hif tory of the times. It appears, that, when Swaran invaded Ireland, he was only opposed by the Caël, who poffeffed Ulfter, and the north of that island. Calmar, the fon of Matha, whofe gallant behaviour and death are related in the third book of Fingal, was the only chief of the race of the Fir-bolg, that joined the Caël, or Irish Caledonians, during the invafion of Swaran. The indecent joy, which Borbar-duthul expreffed, upon the death of Calmar, is well fuited with that spirit of revenge, which fubfifted, univerfally, in every country where the feudal fyftem was eftablished.-It would appear that fome perfon had carried to Borbar-duthul that weapon, with which, it was pretended, Calmar had been killed.


ftreams. Often did he feel, with his hands, the fteel which, they said, had pierced his foe. He felt it with his hands, for Borbar-dúthul's eyes had failed.-Yet was the king a fun to his friends; a gale to lift their branches round. Joy was around him in his halls: he loved the fons of Bolga. His name remains in Atha, like the awful memory of ghofts, whose presence was terrible, but they blew the ftorm away.Now let the voices of Erin raise the foul of the king; he that fhone when war was dark, and laid the mighty low.-Fonar, from that greybrowed rock, pour the tale of other times: pour it on wide-fkirted Erin, as it fettles round.


To me, faid Cathmor, no fong shall rife: nor Fonar fit on the rock of Lubar. The mighty there are laid low. Disturb not their rushing ghofts. Far, Malthos, far remove the found of Erin's fong. I rejoice not over the foe, when he ceases to lift the fpear. With morning we pour our ftrength abroad. Fingal is wakened on his echoing hill.

LIKE waves, blown back by fudden winds, Erin retired, at the voice of the king. Deep-rolled into the field of night, they fpread their

The voices of Erin, a poetical expreffion for the bards of Ireland.

L 3



humming tribes; Beneath his own tree, at intervals, each bard fat down with his harp,

* Not only the kings, but every petty chief, had their bards attending them, in the field, in the days of Offian; and thefe bards, in proportion to the power of the chiefs, who retained them, had a number of inferior bards in their train. Upon folemn occafions, all the bards, in the army, would join in one chorus; either when they celebrated their victories, or lamented the death of a perfon, worthy and renowned, flain in the war. The words were of the compofition of the arch-bard, retained by the king himfelf, who generally attained to that high office on account of his fuperior genius for poetry. As the perfons of the bards were facred, and the emoluments of their office confiderable, the order, in fucceeding times, became very numerous and infolent. It would appear, that, after the introduction of Chriftianity, fome ferved in the double capacity of bards and clergymen. It was, from this circumftance, that they had the name of Chlére, which is, probably, derived from the latin Clericus, The Chlére, be their name derived from what it will, became, at laft, a public nuisance; for, taking advantage of their facred character, they went about, in great bodies, and lived, at difcretion, in the houses of the chiefs; till another party, of the fame order, drove them away by mere dint of fatire. Some of the indelicate disputes of thefe worthy poetical combatants are handed down, by tradition, and fhew how much the bards, at laft, abufed the privileges, which the admiration of their countrymen had conferred on the order.

It was this infolent behaviour that induced the chiefs to retrench their number, and to take away those privileges which they were no longer worthy to enjoy. Their indolence, and difpofition to lampoon, extinguished all the poetical fervour, which diftinguished their predeceffors, and makes us the lefs regret the extinction of the order.


They raised the fong, and touched the ftring: each to the chief he loved. Before a burning oak Sul-malla touched, at times, the harp. She touched the harp, and heard, between, the breezes in her hair.-In darkness near, lay the king of Atha, beneath an aged tree. The beam of the oak was turned from him, he faw the maid, but was not feen. His foul poured forth, in fecret, when he beheld her tearful eye.-But battle is before thee, fon of Borbar-dúthul.

AMIDST the harp, at intervals, the listened whether the warriors flept. Her foul was up; fhe longed, in fecret, to pour her own fad fong. -The field is filent. On their wings, the blafts of night retire. The bards had ceafed; and meteors came, red-winding with their ghofts.The sky grew dark: the forms of the dead were blended with the clouds. But heedlefs bends the daughter of Conmor, over the decaying flame, Thou wert alone in her foul, car-borne chief of Atha. She raifed the voice of the fong, and touched the harp between.

* CLUN-GALO came; fhe miffed the maid.Where art thou, beam of light? Hunters, from the

*Clun-galo, white knee, the wife of Conmor, king of Inis-huna, and the mother of Sul-malla. She is here reprefented, as miffing her daughter, after she had fled with

L 4


the moffy rock, faw you the blue-eyed fair?--Are her steps on graffy Lumon; near the bed of roes? Ah me! I behold her bow in the hall. Where art thou, beam of light?

* CEASE, love of Conmor, ceafe; I hear thee not on the ridgy heath. My eye is turned to the king, whofe path is terrible in war. He for whom my foul is up, in the season of my rest. -Deep-bofomed in war he ftands, he beholds me not from his cloud.-Why, fun of Sul-malla, doft thou not look forth?-I dwell in darkness here; wide over me flies the shadowy mift. Filled with dew are my locks: look thou from thy cloud, O fun of Sul-malla's soul.-*

[ocr errors]

Cathmor. This fong is very beautiful in the original. The expreffive cadences of the measure are inimitably fuited to the fituation of the mind of Sul-malla,

* Sul-malla replies to the fuppofed queftions of her mother. Towards the middle of this paragraph fhe calls Cathmor the fun of her foul, and continues the metaphor throughout. Thofe, who deliver this fong down by tradition, fay that there is a part of the original loft.-This book ends, we may suppose, about the middle of the third night, from the opening of the poem.


« PreviousContinue »