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confirmation of their rectitude, the sanction and approbation of more than two thoufand years; and for our giving this slight sketch of them, we hope the learned, to whom it may be useless, will excuse us: we have many Readers who have often heard of them; and, to such, this part of the article may be acceptable. We shall not, for reasons abovementioned, however, apply them too minutely in our strictures on the Poem before us; we are nevertheless naturally led, in giving a general idea of the performance, to compare it sometimes, in parallel circumstances, with the works of the Greek and Roman writers ; a comparison that can by no means be deemed invidious, as we shall confine it to those parts wherein neither the superior education, nor the different manners and customs of the times, afforded them any advantage over our Celtic bard. But if Offian pofsefled the same degree of genius that inspired an Homer, those objects, which presented themselves to the senses of the son of Fingal, will be described with the same truth and beauty of colouring, that we find in the works of the son of Mæon: the passions will be expressed with like energy; the manners of the times, simple as they are, will be delineated with similar propriety; and the characters of the persons distinctly marked, and 'preserved through the wholc, with like precision and consistence. These particulars will also be combined in such a manner, as to make the whole great, interesting, and replete with variety of imagery: that is, in a degree, and so far as the subject of the Celtic Poet is equally capable of such embellishments with that of the Grecian.
The story of this Poem, says the Translator, is so little interlarded with fable, that one cannot help thinking it the genuine history of Fingal's expedition, embellished by poetry. He scruples not, however, to assert it to be truly epic, notwithstanding the greatest excellence in that species of composition, invention, is confessedly wanting. It is very possible, nevertheless, that a production may be defective in the supreme part of composition, and yet have otherwise great poetical merit. How far the Poem of Fingal affords us proofs of this, will be seen by taking an impartial view of some of its principal beauties and blemilhes.
The subject of it is an invasion of Ireland, by Swaran, King of Lochlin*. Cuchullin, General of the Irish Tribes, during the minority of Cormac, King of Ireland, upon in
* Scandinavia, according to the Translator.
telligence of the invasion, assembled his forces near Tura, a castle on the coast of Ulster. The Poem opens with the landing of Swaran ; councils are held, battles fought, and Cuchullin is at last totally defeated. In the mean time, Fingal, King of the Highlands of Scotland, whose aid had been sollicited before the enemy landed, arrived, and expelled them from the country. This war, which continued but fix days and as many nights, is, including the episodes, the whole story of the Poem. The scene is the Heath of Lena, near a mountain called Cromleach, in Ulster.
The Poet begins abruptly, without making any general declaration of his subject, as is done by Homer and Virgil ; but this is not mentioned as an instance of inferiority. " Cuchullin sat by Tura's wall; by the tree of the rustling leaf.---His spear leaned against the mosly rock. His field lay by him on the grass. As he thought of mighty Carbar, a hero whom he sew in war, &c.” ---- Cuchullin, it seems, having intelligence of the intended invasion, had sent forth his scouts, who were to return, and give him immediate notice, on the appearance of the enemy. In this state of suspence and expectation, his own situation, with the disposition of his arms and armour, is well imagined; but the subject on which he is ruminating, is less happily chosen. A Poet, whose penetrating genius could place his heroes in the most proper dispositions of body and mind, would rather have employed him in thinking by what means he might best defend his country from the foe he hourly expected, than on the past event of his saying Carbar. But perhaps it will be said, that it was natural for Cuchullin to dwell on this pleasing idea, in hopes that Swaran also was destined to fall by his viciorious hand. ---Pollibly this is right.
Moran, a scout, returns with an account of Swaran's arrival: “ Rise! said the youth ; Cuchullin, rise! I see the Ihips of Swaran. Cuchullin ! many are the foe; many the heroes of the dark-rolling sea. - Moran, replied the blueey'd chief, thou ever trembleft, son of Fithill; thy fears have much increased the foe.”. There is, in our opinion, very little propriety in this answer of the chief; indeed, were not the same mode of expression frequently made use of in this, and the other Poems in the book, we should be apt to imagine the Translator had mistaken the senfe of the word which in the original answers to many, and which had probably been better translated numberless, or expressed by some word Rev. Jan. 1762.
equivalent: equivalent: for it is impossible Cuchullin could expect Swaran would come to invade Ireland alone, or with fewer than many attendants. The scout proceeds: " I saw their chief, tall as a rock of ice. His spear is like that blasted fir. His Shield like the rising moon. He sat on a rock on the shore; like a cloud of mist on the silent hill.----Many, chief of men ! I said, many are our hands of war.---Well art thou named, the mighty man; but many mighty men are seen from Tura's walls of wind.---He answered, like a wave on a rock, Who in this land appears like me? Heroes stand not in my prefence: they fall to earth beneath my hand. None can meet Swaran in the fight but Fingal, King of stormy hills. Once we wrestled on the heath of Malmor, and our heels overturned the wood. Rocks fell from their place; and rivulets, changing their course, fed murmuring from our strife. Three days we renewed our strife, and heroes stood at a diftance and trembled. On the fourth, Fingal says, that the King of the Ocean fell; but Swaran says, he stood. Let dark Cuchullin yield to him that is strong as the storms of Malmor.”
The judicious Reader will observe that, in the redundance of the Poet's fimiles, one follows so quick as, sometimes, to confound or destroy the effect of the other. Swaran is tall as a rock of ice; and immediately he is described as fitting on a rock on the shore ; like a cloud of mist on a silent hill. Now a rock of ice, whatever beautiful allusion it may give rise to, is not peculiarly taller than any other rock; and as 20 the cloud of mist, into which he is so soon converted, it is an universal object of fimile with our Poet, and compared to almost every thing. The epithet filent also is here unmeaning, expletive, and puerile. We remember fomewhere to have met with the following lines, wherein a similar allufion is beiter preserved.
Terrible he flood, as a huge rock of ice,
With chilling horror. The Poets comparing the fpear of Swaran to the blafted fir, and his shield to the rising moon, is indeed beautiful; but Swaran's account of his wrestling with Fingal, is hyperbolical, beyond the extreme of poetic licence. Quodcunque oftendis mihi fic, incredulus odi.
on a rock of destroy
To Swaran's demand of Cuchullin's yielding to him, immediately on his landing, the reply of the son of Semo is animated, great, and becoming an hero. “ No, replied the blue-ey'd chief; I will never yield to man. Dark Cuchullin will be great or dead.” His order immediately afterwards to strike the shield of war, to call together his heroes, is naturally and beautifully exprefsive of that just and heroic resentment, he might be suppofed to conceive at such an affront. The effects of the sound of the shield, both on animate and inanimate subjects, are also finely represented. “ He went and struck the bossy shield. The hills and their rocks replied. The sound spread along the wood. Deer start by the lake of roes. Curach leapt from the founding rock, and Connal of the bloody spear. Crugal's breast of snow beats high. The son of Favi leaves the dark-brown hind. It is the shield of war, said Ronnar, the spear of Cuchullin, said Lugar. Son of the sea, put on thy arms ! Calmar, lift thy sounding steel! Puno ! horrid hero, rise. Cairbar, from thy red tree of Cromla. Bend thy white knee, O Eth, and descend from the streams of Lena. Ca-olt, stretch thy white fide as thou movest along the whistling heath of Mora : thy. fide that is white as the foam of the troubled fea, when the dark winds pour it on the murmuring rocks of Cuthona.”
The epithets our Poet bestows on his heroes are indeed unpardonable, not one of them being described by any corporeal or mental qualification, that might denote the warrior, or distinguish them from each other; not less than three of them being characterized by the same mark of effiminacy, whiteness of skin. Their coming on, however, in obedience to the call of war, is lively and picturesque. . .
“ Now I behold the chiefs in the pride of their former deeds; their souls are kindled at the battles of old, and the actions of other times. Their eyes are like Aames of fire, and roll in search of the foes of the land. Their mighty hands are on their swords, and lightening pours from their fides of steel. They came like streams from the mountains ; each rushed roaring from his hill. Bright are the chiefs of battle in the armour of their fathers. Gloomy and dark their heroes followed, like the gathering of the rainy clouds behind the red meteors of heaven. The sounds of crashing arms ascend. The gray dogs howl between. Unequally bursts the song of bat:le, and rocking Cromla echoes round.”
This is truly grand and sublime, the fimilies being juft, and aptly illustrating the figures they accompany. E 2
halfs. This the debateyould natural which
- The heroes arriving, a council of war is held among the chiefs, of whom Cuchullin, Connal, and Calmar, are the only persons who speak : the first, though he had determined to oppose Swaran, asking the advice of the rest, whether they should fight, or give up their country to the foe? The fecond, like a magnanimous hero, is for giving the enemy their wealth and half the land, for a truce till Fingal should arrive with succours. This proposal the spirited Calmar treats with disdain, and no further debate is held about the matter. Neither the arguments, which would naturally have arisen from the sensations of brave men, nor those which reason must necessarily dictate, were made use of. Calmas urges not the scandal of tamely giving up their country without engaging in arms, nor Cuchullin the absurdity of parting with half the kingdom, without contest, at the moment of expecting fuccour. The Reader will do well to compare this council with that called by Agamemnon, in which it is debated whether or not the Greeks should return home from the siege of Troy.
War being resolved on, Cuchullin orders a review of his tribes, cnquiring, in the mean time, after three other heroes, two of which, Cathbat and Duchomar, are killed ; and the third, Fergus, comes in luckily at the moment when he is asked for, to tell the story of their death ; which, with the fate of Morna, is the subject of the first episode in the piece. Its introduction, however, appears both unnatural in itself, and unartful in the Poet, it seeming a little improbable to us, that: Cuchullin should not before have heard of the fate of the two herocs : at least his asking Fergus if they fell by the sons of Lochlin, striving in the battle of heroes, carries with it a manifest impropriety, since he could not but know there had been as yet no engagement. Froin the tale of Fergus we learn, that Duchomar had slain Cathbat; that Morna, beloved by the latter, had Nain the former, and that, just before Duchomar expired, he had sain her. · We shall enter a little particularly into the probability of the circumstances, justness of imagery, and propriety of fentiment contained in this episode. Duchomar, it seems, baving sain Cathbat, the lover of Morna, returns, with a prefent of a stately deer, to the maid, and follicits her love. Morna tells him, however, that she loves him not; that Cathbat, the son of Torman was her love, and that she then waited his coming. To which the gloomy Duchomar anfwers, “ And long shall Morna wait; his blood is on my