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« let the voices of Erin raise the soul of the
king; he that shone when war was dark, and “ laid the mighty low. Fonar, from that grey “ browed rock, pour the tale of other times:
it on wide-skirted Erin, as it settles round.” “ To me,” said Cathmor, no song shall rise; “ nor Fonar sit on the rock of Lubar. The “mighty there are laid low. Disturb not their “rushing ghosts. Far, Malthos, far remove the “ sound of Erin's song. I rejoice not over the “ foe, when he ceases to lift the spear. With “ morning we pour our strength abroad. Fingal “is wakened on his echoing hill."
Like waves, blown back by sudden winds, Erin retired, at the voice of the king. Deep-rolled into the field of night, they spread their humming tribes. Beneath his own tree, at intervals, eacht her fearful eye.
* The voices of Erin, a poetical expression for the bards of Ireland.
+ Not only the kings, but every petty chief, had anciently their bards attending them in the field; and those bards in proportion to the power of the chiefs who retained them, had a number of inferior bards in their train. Upon solemn occasions, all the bards in the army would join in one chorus; either when they celebrated their victories, or lamented the death of a person worthy and renowned, slain in the war. The words were of the composition of the arch-bard, retained by the king himself, who generally attained to that high of fice on account of his superior genius for poetry. As the persons of the bards were sacred, and the emoluments of their office considerable, the order, in succeeding times, became very numerous and inso'lent. It would appear, that, after the introduction of Christianity, some served in the double capacity of bards and clergymen. It was from this circumstance that they had the name of Chlere, which is, probably, derived from the Latin Clerieus. The Chlere, be their name derived from what it will, became at last a public nuisance, for, tak ing advantage of their sacred character, they went about, in great bodies, and lived at discretion, in the houses of their chiefs: till another. party, of the same order, drove them away by mere dint of satire. Some of the indelicate disputes of these worthy poetical combatants are handed down, by tradition, and show how much the bards, at last, abused the privileges, which the admiration of their country: men had conferred on the order. It was this insolent behaviour that induced the chiefs to retrench their number, and to take away those privileges which they were no longer worthy to enjoy. Their indico lence, and disposition to lampoon, extinguished all the poetical fervour which distinguished their predecessors, and makes us the less re-gret the extinction of the order.
bard sat down with his harp. They raised the song, and touched the string ; 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 saw the maid, but was not seen. His soul poured forth, in secret, when he beheld
“ But battle is before thee, son " of Borbar-duthul.”
Amidst the harp, at intervals, she listened whether the warrior slept. Her soul was up; she longed, in secret, to pour her own sad song. The field is silent. On their wings the blasts of night retire. The bards had ceased; and meteorscame, red winding with their ghosts. The sky drew dark; the forms of the dead were blended with the clouds. But heedless bends the daughter of Conmor, over the decaying flame. Thou wert alone in her soul, car-borne chief of Atha. She raised the voice of the song, and touched the harp between.
“ Clun-galo* came; she missed the maid. Where "art thou, beam of light? Hunters, from the "mossy rock, saw ye the blue-eyed fair? Are her
steps on grassy Lumon; near the bed of roes? “ Ah me! I behold her bow in the hall. Where “art thou, beam of light?"
“ Cease, t love of Conmor, cease; I hear thee “ not on the ridgy heath. My eye is turned to " the king, whose path is terrible in war. He for “ whom my soul is up in the season of my rest. “ Deep-bosomed in war he stands, he beholds me “ not from his cloud. Why, sun of Sul-malla, “ dost thon not look forth? I dwell in darkness “ here; wide over me flies the shadowy mist. Fil“ led with dew are my locks: look thou from thy “ cloud, O sun of Sul-malla's soul!"
* Clun-galo, the wife of Conmor, king of Inis-huna, and the mother of Sul-malla. She is here represented as missing her daughter, after sbe had fled with Cathmor.
+ Sul-malla replies to the supposed questions of her mother. Towards the middle of this paragragh she calls Cathmor the sun of her soul, and continues the metaphor throughout. This book ends, we may suppose, about the middle of the third night, from the opening of the poem
ARGUMENT.-This book begins about the middle of the
third night from the opening of the poem. The poet describes a kind of mist, which rose by night from the lake of Lego, and was the usual residence of the souls of the dead, during the interval between their decease and the funeral song. The appearance of the ghost of Fillan above the cave where his body lay. His voice comes to Fingal, on the rock of Cormul. The king strikes the shield of Trenmor, which was an infallible sign of his appearing in arms himself. The extraordinary effect of the sound of the shield. Sul-malla, starting from sleep, awakes Cathmor. Their affecting discourse. She insists with him to sue for peace; he resolves to continue the war. He directs her to retire to the neighbouring valley of Lona, which was the residence of an old Druid, until the battle of the next day should be over. He awakes his army with the sound of his shield. The shield described. Fonar, the bard, at the desire of Cathmor, relates the first settlement of the Fir-bolg in Ireland, under their leader Larthon. Morning comes. Sulmalla retires to the valley of Lona. A lyric song con. cludes the book.
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 swinming 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 mist, a grey dwelling to his ghost, until the songs arise.
A sound came from the desert; it was Conar, king of Inis-fail. He poured his mist on the 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 forni 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 me. Sleeps the husband of Clatho ! “ Dwells the father of the fallen in rest? Am I
forgot in the folds of darkuess; lonely in the season of night?" * 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 death, and the pronouncing their 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 the grave. 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.
+ 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 is it to me, than a white-bosomed ** dweller between my arms; than a fair-handed daughter of heroes, "in the hour of rest."
Though tradition is not very satisfactory concerning the history of this poet, it has taken care to inform us that he was very old when he wrote the distich, a circumstance which we might have supposed without the aid of tradition.