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The poet, after a short address to the harp of Cona, describes the arrangement of both armies on either side of the river Lubar. Fingal gives the command to Fillan; but, at the same time, orders Gaul, the son of Morni, who had been wounded in the hand in the preceding battle, to assist him with his counsel. The army of the Fir-bolg is commanded by Foldath. The general onset is described. The great actions of Fillan. He kills Rothmar and Culmin. But when Fillan conquers, in one wing, Foldath presses hard on the other. He wounds Dermid, the son of Duthno, and puts the whole wing to flight. Dermid deliberates with himself, and, at last, resolves to put a stop to the progress of Foldath, by engaging him in single combat. When the two chiefs were approaching towards one another, Fillan came suddenly to the relief of Dermid; engaged Foldath, and killed him. The behaviour of Malthos towards the fallen Foldath. Fillan puts the whole army of the Fir-bolg to flight. The book closes with an address to Clatho, the mother of that hero. MACPERSON.
AN EPIC POEM.
Thou' dweller between the shields, that hang on high in Ossian's hall! Descend from thy
These abrupt addresses give great life to the poetry of Ossian. They are all in a lyric measure. The old men, who retain, on memory, the compositions of Ossian, shew much satisfaction when they come to those parts of them, which are in rhyme, and take great pains to explain their beauties, and inculcate the meaning of their obsolete phrases, on the minds of their hearers. This attachment does not proceed from the superior beauty of these lyric pieces, but rather from a taste for Thime which the modern bards have established among the Highlanders. Having no genius themselves for the sublime and pathetic, they placed the whole beauty of poetry in the returning harmony of similar sounds. The seducing charms of rhime soon weaned their countrymen from that attachment they long
place, Oharp, and let me hear thy voice! Son of Alpin, strike the string. Thou must awake
had to the recitative of Ossian: and, though they still admired his compositions, their admiration was founded more on his antiquity, and the detail of facts which he gave, than on his poetical excellence. Rhiming, in process of time, became so much reduced into a system, and was so universally understood, that every cow-herd composed tolerable verses. These poems, it is true, were a description of nature; but of nature in its rudest form ; a group of uninteresting ideas dressed out in the flowing harmony of monotonous verses. Void of merit as those vulgar compositions were, they fell little short of the productions of the regular bards; for when all poetical excellence is confined to sounds alone, it is within the power of every one possessed of a good ear. MACPHERSON, 1st edit. ,
According to this curious note, rhime, after it had been first introduced by Ossian, into the lyric pieces interspersed through his poems, became so much a system, and so universally understood, in the Highlands of Scotland, that every cow-herd composed tolerable verses, little inferior to those of the regular bards, whose poetical excellence, when confined to sounds alone, is always within the reach of a good ear. A reader, unacquainted with the Celtic idiom, (και αινιγματιαι, και τα πολλα AMITTOIVON suvex.cgixws, &c. supra, i. 8.) might ask with surprise, Was poetry ever so prevalent, so much reduced to a system, and so universally understood, even in the Highlands of Scotland, that every cow-herd composed tolerable rhimes? The explanation of such strange amphibology is this: that Macpherson himself, in his early rhimes, passed unnoticed among the vulgar herd of monthly poets, whose mechanical verses, “ containing a description of nature in its rudest form; a group of uninteresting ideas in the flowing harmony of monotonous nuinbers,"
the soul of the bard'. The murmur of Lora's stream has rolled the tale away. I stand in the cloud of years. Few are its openings toward the past;
and when the vision comes, it is but dim and dark. I hear thee, harp of Selma! my soul returns, like a breeze, which the sun brings back to the vale, where dwelt the lazy mist 3 !
fell little short of his own productions, when poetical excellence was confined to sounds alone.
· Descend from thy place, 0 harp, and let me hear thy voice. Son of Alpin, strike the string. Thou must awake the soul of the bard.] “ Descende cælo, et dic age tibia.” Hor. and Pope's St Cecilia. Descend, ye
Nine! descend and sing,
And sweep the sounding lyre.
3 My soul returns, like a breeze which the sun brings back to the tale, where dwelt the lazy mist.) Froin the sea-breeze in THOMSON's Summer.
But kind before him sendo
Returning suns and doubling seasons pass. But the translator thought also of Pope's Elegy which he had formerly imitated.
Most souls, 'tis true, but peep out once an age,
Dull sullen prisoners of the body's cage. VOL. II.