صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

Format He is a messenger of death. He speaks of the dark and narrow house. Sue for peace, O chief of Dunscaich, of fly over the heath of Lena.

" He spoke to Connal, replied the hero, though stars dimtwinkled through his form. "Son of Colgar, it was the wind that murmured in the caves of Lena.- Or if it was the form of Crugal, why didst thou not force him to my fight? Hast thou enquired where is his cave? The house of the son of the wind? My sword might find that voice, and force his knowlege from him. And small is his knowlege, Connal, for he was here to-day. He could not have gone beyond our hills, and who could tell him there of our death?

« Ghofts Ay on clouds and ride on winds, said Connal's voice of wisdom. They reft together in their caves, and talk of mortal men. .

“ Then let them talk of mortal men; of every man but Erin's chief. Let me be forgot in their cave ; for I will not fly from Swaran. If I must fall, my tomb Thall rise amidst the fame of future times. The hunter shall fhed a tear on my ftone, and sorrow dwell round the high-bosom’d Bragéla, i I fear nog death, but I'fear to fly, for Fingal saw me often victorious. Thou dim phantom of the hill, shew thyself to me! Come on thy beam of heaven, and shew me my death in thine

hand, yet I will not fly, thou feeble son of the wind.”. ! .. Again, when Swaran offers Peace, on certain terms of fub-miffion; Cuchullin heroically answers, “ Tell Swarán, tell that heart of pride, that Cuchullin never yields.I give the dark-blue rolling ocean, or I give his people graves in Erin. .But never fhall a stranger have the lovely sun-beam of Duri:fcaich; or ever deer Ay on Lochlin's hills before the nimble

footed Luath." *" · In consequence of this resolution the fight is renewed, and the army of Cuchullin is routed. After which they retreat to the mountains, where, says the Poet, “ On the rising side of

* Dunscaich, the fair high-bosom'd spouse, and Luath, the swiftfooted dog of Cuchullin; the being put in possession of which, Swaran proposes as the condition of Peace. One might, from this offer, have entertained a very high opinion of the lady, were the not so odly coupled. Cur ftag-hunting Readers, if by fuch we are honoured with a perusal, however, are better judges perhaps than we, whether it * could ever be natural in lovers of the chase, to rank their fair spouses and fleet back-hounds upon fo equal a footing.

Ctomla.

[ocr errors]

Cromla stood Erin's few sad sons : like a grove through which the flame had rushed, hurried on by the winds of the stormy night.” There is inimitable beauty in this allusion, and the shattered remains of an army of defeated heroes are, in these few words, most admirably' represented. In this situation, Cuchullin is informed, by 'a' fcout, that the fhips of Fingal are in sight; at which information, elated with the prospect of succours, and fired at the idea of revenge, 'he breaks into the following spirited exclamation: “ Blow all ye winds that rush over my lovely ille of mist. Come to the death of thou, fands, O chief of the hills of hinds. · Thy fails, my friend, 'arè to me like the clouds of the morning, and thy ships like the light of heaven ; and thou thyself like a pillar of fire that giveth light in the night.”. Den som i :

iv. . ---Night again coming on, two other Episodes are introduced, in both which the puerilities and improprieties are too manifeft to need pointing out; nor can we think that they juftly refeet the real manners of the people and the times.

In the third book the hero of the Poem begins to figure': previous to his landing, however, we have an Episode relative to his former atchievements in Lochlin, whither he had been invited in his youth, by Starno, under the prétence of be'ftowing on him his beautiful daughter Agandecca ; but, in fact, with a malicious design in that King to assassinate him. This tale, nevertheless, does no honour to any thing but the military prowess of Fingal, . His neglect, indeed, to preserve the fair Agandecca, who falls a facrifice to her father's resentment, for laving the life of her lover, appears ungenerous and ungrateful, We are told, “ She saw the youth and loved him, he was the fiolen sich of her soul : her blue eye rolled on him in fecret, and the blest the chief of Morven.” If we add to this the obligation he lay under to her, for divulging her father's treachery in placing his .chiefs in ambush to deftroy him, it must appear highly unbecoming both in the hero and the lover, not to take proper meatures for her security, when the repeatedly enjoined him to remember and save her from the wrath of her father. When it was too latc, indeed, and Starno had pierced her white fide with steel, he could take up arms, rout the inurderer, and bring off the dead, body of her who had preserved his life, ai the hazard and expence of her own. . .

; ! in rete . The martial virtues of Fingal, however, were those Cuchullin stood in need of; who, at the close of the story, therefore, expresses his conf.dence in the valour of tis ally; dif

missing missing the soul of Agandecca, like a good Christian, with a blefling, and praying heartily for the tafe arrival of the Aeet, " Blessed be her soul, said Cuchullin, and blessed be the mouth of the song. " Strong was the youth of Fingal, and strong is his arm of age. Lochlin shall fall again before the King of echoing Morven. Shew thy face from a cloud, O moon; light his white fails on the wave of the night: and, if any strong spirit of heaven sits on that low-hung cloud, turn his dark ships from the rock, thou rider of the storm.!” The latter part of this passage is exceedingly beautiful, and seems to indicate a sense of religion in Cuchullin. The Translator obseryes, however, that notwithstanding this appearance of religious sentiment, as the apostrophe is attended with an if, it implies a doubt, which makes it not easy to determine whether the hero meant a Superior Being, or the departed spirit of some deceased warrior, whose ghoits, were in those times, supposed to rule the storms, and to transport themselves in a gust of wind from one country to another. It is most proba, ble, in our opinion, that Cuchullin did believe in the exiftence of such superior beings, and that his doubt only extended so far as to the uncertainty whether or not any such spirit was the present agent. As to the ghosts of deceased warriors, these are constantly called, in the Poem, feeble fon's of the wind; whereas be styles that to which he addresses himself a strong spirit of heaven: by which it appears it was of the particular presence only, and not of the general exiftence, of such a spirit that he doubted.

We have already given a notable example of that excessive hyperbole, which prevails in many parts of this Poem ; in justice, however, to our Celtic Bard, we must observe, that we have heard many passages censured, as instances of ridi, culous bombast and false sublime ; which, on a due consideration of the supposed manners and superstition of the times, are less liable to objection. Of these the following, wherein the blustering, though wounded and feeble, Calmar, gives an account of himself and ancestors, is a remarkable one.

“ I am of the race of steel ; my fathers never feared.

u Cormar was the first of my race. He sported through the storms of the waves. His black skiff bounded on ocean; and travelled on the wings of the blast. A spirit oncé embroiled the night. Seas Twell, and rocks resound. Winds drive along the clouds. The lightning Aies on wings of fire. He feared, and came to land : then blushed that he feared at all. He rushed again among the waves to find the son of

Seas is of the bank

He realong the late

the wind. Three youths guide the bounding bark: he stood with the sword unsheathed. When the low-hung vapour patled, he took it by the curling head, and searched its dark womb with his steel. The son of the wind forfook the air. The moon and stars returned.”

Should a Poet, indeed, make an hero of these times express himself in such a strain, he would certainly be guilty of intolerable bombast; but, if we take with us the fuppofition, that the people of those days believed departed souls to be material, there is no absurdity in supposing they might go farther, and conceive them vulnerable too. Thus, consistent with the saine notion, Cuchullin, speaking of the ghost of Crugal, says to Connal, as in the passage already quoted, “ If it was the form of Crugal, why didst thou not force him to my fight? Hast thou enquired where is his cave? My sword might find, and force his knowlege from him.”. Fins in * At length Fingal arrives ; and, perceiving the fate which had attended the army of Cuchullin, by the dead bodies laying on the heath of Lena, he orders his fons, Ryno and Fillan, to found the horn of war, and call the children of the foe. Swaran appears; at sight of whom, Fingal, recalling to mind the fate of his sister Agandecca, and that he had lamented her with the tears of his youth, sends Ullin to invite him to the feast. This incident, though not perfectly corresponding to what the Stagyrite calls the Aveywpisis, poffeffes a truly-poetic excellence. It is true, Swaran was before known by Fingal to be the enemy he was coming to engage ; and there is no doubt but the circumstance of his having lamented the fate of his sister, might have frequently recurred to his mind : it was yet very natural it should return with greater energy, at

the light of him; and thus the friendly invitation made him - was attended with a propriety; totally wanting in the former

one of Cuchullin. As Swaran refufes to accept it, however, it is certain the repetition of such circumstances, where the event is the same and answers no end, is a manifest proof of the want of poetic genius in the Writer, to invent and diversify the incidents of the Epopæia, 3, n., e i i On the King of Lochlin's refusal to come to the feast, and to put off the battle till the morrow, the two armies came to immediate action; which, together with some of the chiefs, our Poet describes with all the 'pomp (though little variety) of expression. But, surely, Fingals prowess is too highly described, when the rocks are said to fall down before him! None of these death-dispensing heroes, however, particularly

signalize Gignalize themselves by their actions ; none of the Alain are seen to fall by the sword or spear: all. is vague and indistinct. The reflections of the Poet, in his own person, are indeed very natural and affecting. “ My locks (lays he) were not then so grey, nor trembled my hands of age; my eyes were not closed in darkness, nor failed my feet in the race. Often have I fought, often won in battles of the spear; but blind, and tearful, and forlorn, I now walk with little men."

In the fourth book, the Poet introduces the Episode of Everallin, his wife; whole ghost appears to him, and informs him of the dangers by which her son Oscar is surrounded, in fighting with the sons of Lochlin. In consequence of this inforination, Offian armed himself and set forward to his as fistance; and by humming, as he was wont in danger, the songs of heroes of old, drove the affrighted sons of Lochlin before him. This appears to be too extravagant, not only from the consideration that the Poet is speaking of himself, but, from the figure he makes in the work, his valour justifies no such fear in the enemy. The Translator compares it to that passage in the eighteenth iliad, wherein the voice of Achilles is said to frighten away the Trojans from the body of Patroclus..

Forth march'd the chief, and diftant from the crowd
High on the rampart rais'd his voice aloud.
So high his brazen voice tbe hero rear'd, .
Hosts drop'd cheir arms, and trembled as they fear'd. Pope.

There is a very material difference, however, in the circumstances. Hoiper, it is true, 'has represented the Trojans as retiring, intiinidated by the voice of Achilles; but it should be observed that, though Achilles was the hero of the Poem, the Poet faw such a conduct would be unnatural without the intervention of some supernatural power. Minerva therefore throws her ægis over his shoulders, furrounds his head with a cloud, from which issues a splendid flame; (Iliad, lib. 18, ver. 203, &c.] and, when he spoke aloud to the Trojans, the affifted him, by joining in, and increasing, the sound. In this case, the terror occafioned by his yoice was increased by an object of fight, and both were owing to the superior powers of a Divinity. Whereas Offian alone hums a tune, and the hoft of Lochlin flies before him. This exceeds, in the effect, even the roaring of Mars ; which, though we are told it equalled the shout of ten thoufand men joining in battle, only spread terror through the hofts of the Greeks and Trojans, without putting them to fight. [lliad, lib. 5. v. 859, &c.]

ring, intinidated it is true, has sa however, in the

[ocr errors]

The

« السابقةمتابعة »