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was guided by judgment, amidst the wildest flights of imagination. It is a common supposition among mankind, that a genius for poetry and sound sense seldom centre in the same person. The observation is far from being just; for true genius and judgment must be inseparable. The wild fights of fancy, without the guidance of judgment, are, as Horace observes, like the dreams of a sick man, irksome and confused. Fools can never write good poems. A warm imagination, it is true, domineers over a common portion of sense ; and hence it is that so few have succeeded in the poetical way. But when an uncommon strength of judgment, and a glowing fancy, are properly tempered together, they, and they
only, produce genuine poetry. The present book is not the least interesting part of Temora.
The awful images with which it opens, are calculated to prepare the mind for the solemn scenes which are to follow. Ossian, always, throws an air of consequence on every circumstance which relates to Fingal. The very sound of his shield produces extraordinary effects; and these are heighted, one above another, in a beautiful climax. The distress of Sul-malla, and her conference with Cathmor, are very affecting. The description of his shield is a curious piece of antiquity; and is a proof of the early knowledge of navigation among the inhabitants of Britain and Ireland. Ossian, in short, throughout this book, is often sublime, and always pathetic. MACPHERSON, 1st edit.
AN EPIC POEM.
From the wood-skirted waters of Lego, ascend, at times, grey-bosomed mists; when the gates of the west are closed, on the sun's eagle-eye. Wide, over Lara's stream, is poured the vapour dark and deep: the moon, like a dim shield, is swimming through its folds. With this, clothe the spirits of old their sudden gestures on the wind, when they stride, from blast to blast, along the dusky night. Often, blended with the gale, to some warrior's grave', they roll the
As the mist, which rose from the lake of Lego, occasioned diseases and death, the bards feigned that it was the residence of the ghosts of the deceased, during the interval between their
mist, a grey dwelling to his ghost, untill the
A sound came from the desert; it was Conar, king of Inis-fail. He poured his mist on the
death and the pronouncing of the funeral elegy over their tombs; for it was not allowable, without that ceremony was performed, for the spirits of the dead to mix with their ancestors in their airy halls. It was the business of the spirit of the nearest relation to the deceased, to take the mist of Lego, and pour it over
We find here Conar, the son of Trenmor, the first king of Ireland, performing this office for Fillan, as it was in the cause of the family of Conar that that hero was killed. MACPHERSON.
In Fingal, and the lesser poems in the first collection, it was sufficient to raise the stone of fame. The bards sung over Carthon, Cuthullin, Fovargormo; but Crugal, Ryno, Orla, and others, were buried without their song. The ghost of Conlath, indeed, demands his fame, because his tomb rose unseen in a desert isle; and “it was the opinion of the times, that the souls of the deceased were not happy till their elegies were composed by a bard.” But the seventh book of Temora contains a new system of Celtic mythology, unknown in the former collection of poems. The mists of marshy Lano,“ bearing the death of thousands along,” are transferred from Lochlin to Loch Lego in Ireland; the souls of the deceased are condemned to reside in its noxious vapours, during the interval between their death and their funeral elegy, without which they are not now permitted to mix with their ancestors in their airy halls; and it was a duty incumbent on the spirit of the nearest (deceased) relative of the deceased, to pour the mist of Lego on his grave, as a blue hall for the accommodation of his ghost, till the song should arise. In the former collection, Malvina is admitted to
grave of Fillan, at blue-winding Lubar. Dark and mournful sat the ghost, in his grey ridge of smoke. The blast, at times, rolled him together : but the form returned again. It returned with bending eyes, and dark winding of locks of mist.
It was * dark. The sleeping host were still, in the skirts of night. The flame decayed, on the hill of Fingal; the king lay lonely on his shield. His eyes were half-closed in sleep; the voice of Fillan came 3. “Sleeps the husband of
the airy hall of Fingal, without either mist or song; and no explanation is given of the situation of the dead, if the ghosts of their nearest relatives should neglect this posthumous duty to their deceased friends. But the wood-skirted water of Lego, whose noxious mist was the abode of ghosts till their dirge enabled them to intermix with their ancestors, is Virgil's Acheron, on the banks of which the shades were condemned to wander, till their funeral rites were performed.
* It has been observed (by Blair), that Ossiani takes great delight in describing night scenes. The night descriptions of Ossian were in high repute among succeeding bards. The following is the singular sentiment of a frigid bard :
“ More pleasing to me is the night of Cona, dark-streaming from Ossian's harp; more pleasant it is to me, than a whitebosomed dweller between my arms; than a fair-handed daughter of heroes, in the hour of rest." MACPHERSON.
Of these Night-scenes and descriptions, Macpherson's Nightpiece is certainly not the least remarkable. Infra :.
3 His eyes were half closed in sleep; the voice of Fillan came.) Pope's Iliad, xxiii. 78.
Clatho? Dwells the father of the fallen in rest? Am I forgot in the folds of darkness * ; lonely in the season of night !”
Why dost thou mix,” said the king, “with the dream of thy father ? Can I forget thee, my son, or thy path of fire in the field ! Not such come the deeds of the valiant on the soul of Fingal. They are not there a beam of lightning, which is seen, and is then no more. I remember thee, O Fillan, and my wrath begins to rise 5."
The king took his deathful spear, and struck
When lo! the shade before his closing eyes,
came, In stature, voice, and pleasing look, the same. 4 Sleeps the husband of Clatho ? Dwells the father of the fallen in rest ? Am I forgot in the folds of darkness?] Id.
And sleeps Achilles, thus the phantom said,
But now forgot I wander in the air. 5 Can I forget thee, my son, or thy path of fire in the field ? -I remember thee, O Fillan, and my wrath begins to rise. If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave unto the roof of my mouth. Psalms, cxxxvii. 5.: Suggested to the translator by the word forgot in the preceding imitation, which introduced the present by association of ideas.