Norris, Esq; of Barton in the coun By a happy and uncommon ty of Norfólk.

union of fo extensive a genius, He was a young gentleman, who, with intense application, at the with an elegant talte for the polite age of 24 he had juftly accquired arts, had penetrated far into the ab- fame to himself was an ornament ftrufe sciences. When he took his to the focieties to which he be. degree of batchelor of arts he was longed, and an honour to his faamongst the first on whom the uni- mily. And with every accom- · versity conferred its honours for plishment which could make him their mathematical knowledge, and agreeable to his acquaintance, was second to none in defert. He having blended every quality last year obtained the middle ba- which would have rendered him chelors prize for the best compofi- useful to mankind, his death is tion in Latin profe, and the fable not only a private loss, but a public of the Rainbow was one of his fisft calamity. I am, Sir, yours, productions in Englifh verse.

S. C.

[merged small][ocr errors]


Fingal, an ancient epic poem, in The poem, which hands firft in fix books, together with several order as well as merit in the other poems, composed by Ofian collection, is named from the printhe fon of Fingal; translated from cipal hero of it, Fingal. This the Galic langunge, by James Max- celebrated chief, influenced by the pherson.

courage and generosity fo eminent

in his character, leads his warriors ROM the publication of these from the Highlands of Scotland,

extraordinary poems, the in. and among them his son Offian genioas editor has a double claim the poet, to aid the infant king to literary applause. One, as having of Ireland, whose dominions, then with equal induftry and taste 're under the guardianship of Cuchuf covered from the obfcurity of bar. lin, were invaded by Swaran king barism, the rust of fifteen hundred of Scandinavia; the most terrible ýcars, and the tast breath of a warrior of his time, and the very dying language, these inestimable reverse of Fingal in every thing relicks, of the genuine fpirit of bat personal valour. Immediately poetry : and the other, for pre- before the arrival of Fingal, the senting them to the world in an forces commanded by Cuchullin English tranflation, whose expref- are defeated near Tura on the five singularity evidently retains coast of Ulfter. And whilft this the majestick air, and native fim- gallant leader, regardless of his plicity of a sublime original The ve- own safety, takes every meafure nerable author, and his elegant which bravery or defpair can fogtranslator, thus have mutually con- geft to repel his enemy; the ferred immortality on each other. hips of Fingal are descryed, and

* The differtation prefixed to thefe poems, is, for its curious matte, inserted in another part of this work,



call off Swaran from the pursuit. in their writings, "nor could his « Sensibly affected by his defeat, invasion have happened under the and too generous to seek a fare reign of an infant king, bein Fingal's glory, Cuchullin re. cause by the established law cires to a wood; and leaves the con.. of succession in that kingdom. quest of Swaran to the better for. no minor could be advanced to tune and superior prowess of his the royal dignity. It is there friend. This is soon accomplished; fore, he says, extremely probaSwaran in a personal engagement ble, that the poems in their oriwith Fingal is overcome, and ginal composition were, fables made prisoner, but is shortly after finely imagined, and inimitably. restored to his liberty; and sub- executed by an old Irish bard; dued more by the noble behavi- but were afterwards changed our than the arms of his con- and mutilated by some queror,

this fullen hero, and his donian, or else originally commagnanimous opponents, return af- posed by him with a design to ter a campaign of fix days to their give the honour of the heroes respective countries.

to his own country. He thinks This, with the intervening epi. them the production of an Irish sodes, is the subject of the poem ; bard, because among other reaand has the appearance of a real fons, the heroes are evidently history written by one who was Irish, and he supposes the Calea an eye-witness to, and a princi- donians would have' as little pal actor in that expedition. As fcrupled to steal the poem, as such it is considered by the editor, - they did the heroes. But he and in this view we read it with suspends his judgment on this the greater satisfaction, whilst we last article, till a translation of found ourselves captivated without this, or some such poem now fiction, by all the charms of an preparing for the press in Dube agreeable romance. But the cre- lin from authentic manudibility, and even the possibility of script, shall better illustrate this the story as here related, is called doubtful matter." But leaving it in question by doctor Warner ; to those who regard it as a point who as an Englishman unbiassed of national honour, to contest, as to Ireland, and as an historian they will, the birth-place of their now compiling the history of that Celtic Homer, and the heroes whom country, professes himself an im- he celebrates ; if this were conpartial and

in Some measure lidered merely as a modern com. an able judge on this occasion. position, it were no more hurt at According to him, “ unless the this distance of time by the anawriters of Irish affairs through chronism between Cachullin and several succeeding ages have à- Fingal than the Æneid was by that greed to impose on

impose on pofterity, of Dido, who did not exist till near Cuchullin lived

hundred two centuries and an half after and fifty years before Fingal." Æneas. As it stands, however, it These heroes, with Ollian, Gaul, must be confessed that if this er&c. were absolutely of that nation. ror be clearly made out, the era But Swaran is not once mentioned ror and the poem together must



[ocr errors]


T 3

find some other father besides and thinking ; hunting the fubOffian the son of Fingal. He who fistence, and war the occupation of bore fo distinguished a rank in this pristine people, the savage that expedition, could not, surely, grosiness of their vices, and the without the least neceflity for it, wild fublimity of their virtues ; have brought a man to life who the extravagant heroism of the was dead two hundred and fifty principal characters, that spirit of years before, we received such hospitality which invited the stranuncommon pleasure from the peru- 'ger by seven different ways; their fal of this performance, and thought tokens of submission by delivering it fo valuable an acquisition to the spouse and dog ; their fuperftiEnglish poetry, that we should be ' tious notions so beautifully poevery glad if neither this, nor any tic; the scast of shells; the sigthing else in the work, had given nal of battle by striking the shield; reason to doubt its being, at least the songs of the bards which make in its present form, the genuine so many interesting episodes ; all offspring of him to whom it is these, whilst they give us a strikascribed. But the total filence of ing picture of the manners, the the poem with regard to the customs, the superstitions of the grosser parts of the druidical relią times; while they affect us with gion, and the retaining what was all that is pathetic, and elevate most pure and poetic, such as with all that is fublime; these, we the notion of spirits here to hap- think, are impressed with such gepily introduced, with some cir- nuine, such peculiar, such original cumstances in the allusions and for- marks of antiquity, as seem utterly mation of the poem itself, induce beyond the reach of any modern a suspicion of more art than sim- invention. plicity in the poet. But as these From a view of these circumcircumstances furnish arguments ra- ftances, and of those on the other ther specious than conclusive against hand which argue againft the gethe genuineness of the work, we nuineness of the poems; we incline proceed with greater satisfaction to to think them, or rather the greater thofe which tend strongly to decide part of their expressions and ideas, in favour of its antiquity.

the production of Offian whose Whether this poem, and the name they so often mention. It is smaller ones which accompany it, probable, that in his moments of were composed by the real or some inspiration, when, as he expresies fictitious Offian, they have that it,“ the light of the song role primitive air, which, were we not upon his foul," he composed the informed they can't at the utmost several parts of which the larger be more than fifteen centuries old, poem consists, and among them the would naturally incline us to fix story of Cuchullin, in separate their date in the earliest period of pieces ; but that in an age more ensociety. The stile so confonant to lightened, when the value of an the ideas, the ideas fo agreeable to epic composition was better underthe simple manners of remote ages, food, some other bard collected and both of a caft so different from the scattered fragments, and withthe modern modes of expression out attending either to chronolo

gical exactness, or to historical truth,, they are said to be translated, and united such of them as he imaginare really Irish in an English dressi ed related to, or did not seem in. Be "it therefore the production of consistent with the same subject, whom it will, we fubscribe in the into one intire poem, which he main to its antiquity. The cir=13 moulded and embellished in what' cumstances which look another ever manner best suited his fancy way, we imagine ate the interpolabut still left the honour 'of it to tions of some 'fecondary bard, him, whom tradition had always from which it would be extreamly celebrated as the original author. hard to conclude against the geneWhether the ingenious editor has ral originalness of the performance. contributed to its further improve the works of Homer are not ment, can only be determined by : etfeemed a tittle the less original the very few who are qualified to from what they are fupposed to examine into the merit of the poem have fuffered in the hands of those, in its native language. The tranf. who joined together his loose and lation, he tells us, is literal ; and unconnected pieces, and presented wę easily believe, a person of his them to the world in their present taste would chuse to leave as he form. found what he deemed a fine ori. But whilst the uncommon merit ginal. We also as readily agree, of Fingal, as the extraordinary “ it would be a very uncommon production of uncultivated genius, instance of self-denial, to disown is universally admitted, its degree “ the performance were it really of of perfection, as an epic poem, “his composition" Had it been seems not to be fo well established, written by him, he might by insert- Some infift it has not only the fue ing other names in the place of perior parts, but even the very Cuchullin and Swaran, have ea minutie so effential to this exalted fily obviated those objections species of poetry; while others which he foresaw would arise to hold it defečtive in the most capithe truth of the story from the tal articles, the fable, the manners Irish history and traditions. In á and characters. The fable, be word, if the intrinsic evidence re cause the fubject of the poem is sulting from the peculiarity of the supposed to be a réal“ hiftory ; inwork can receive any weight from vention, the greatest excellence in the testimony of gentlemen whose compositions of this kind, is judgment can only be exceeded by therefore they say ) confesedly their candour, and to whom molt wanting, For Aristotle observes, of the heroes mentioned in the " that if the works of Herodotus poem, were well known long before were turned into verse, they its publication, many of the ex “ would nevertheless compofe but pressions and ideas of which it con “ an history in that state, as well lifts, are, in their manner, particular as they do in profe." It feets only to the language from which then, that "thofe gentlemen who

[merged small][ocr errors]

have questioned its historical vera. All this bears teftimony rather to city, have done the poem a fin the admirable invention, than to gular service, by removing in fome the historical truth of the poet. measure this weighty objection. And probably the poem is no more But we cannot enter fo far into the an history of that invasion on spirit of the æpopeia as to perceive, which it is grounded, than the how it now becomes in the least Iliad is an history of the fiege of degree better as a fable (which Troy. Besides, diversified as it is that it is, is fo warmly asserted) with fo many beautiful episodes, than it was before as the genuine there is the less reason to charge it narrative of a military expedition, with any want of invention. The Iliad is founded on an incon With regard to the manners, that teftable eyent, the fiege of Troy, they are forcibly described, The incidents, the characters, the been already observed. But that manners and the imagery of this the poem is comparatively defecfublime composition, we owe how- tive in point of character, we in ever to the creative imagination fome measure confess. The chaof the poet. And though the racters in general are neither lo itory of this invasion may not be variously nor fo 'strongly marked fabulous, yet surely in the man as those of Homer. But is this nagement of it, much is due to the fault of Ollian, or of the age the invention, as well as to the in which he lived 2 An age of artgrand conceptions of the writer. Jefs fimplicity, when felf-taught In the first battle we every mo geniųs wanted every aid to arment expect to fee Swaran engaged rive at a knowledge of those comarm to arm with Cuchullin ; we plicated operations and windings are alarmed for the event ; of the mind, which in a more " night however conceals the enlarged and better improved ftate chiefs in her clouds, and ends the of society constitute the diftinguithterrible fight." Again they are at ing marks of character. In those the point of affailing each other, days all their views were directed to again our expectations are raised; military glory all their know. and again the dreadful confe- ledge Rowed from the songs of quence of such a conflict is pre- their bards; and the subject of all vented by the appearance of Fin. those songs was the heroic atgal's feet. Gaul, a distinguished chievements of their ancestors. hero, and Swaran meet, the shield Thus cherished and trained up in of Gaul is cleft in twain ; but what became at laft a kind of "Fingal reers his voice, and Swaran second nature, it is no wonder that ftops in the midst of his course.” in so fhort' a work, and where the Thus by incidents much more na. personages are fo few, there seems to tural than the intervention of a prevail that sameness of character, goddess, are these favourite heroes which should so naturally and"uniinatched from destruction, and the versally -result from the ": suling prowess of Swaran is raised to the paffioni One advantage indeed it highest pitch, that this Hector of has, it is a further indication that the poem may shine forth a con. the work is genuine. We are quelt worthy the arm of Fingal. however very far from thinking


« 前へ次へ »