«* National Library of Scotland ■■jin B000157358*. V POEMS OF OSSIAN, IN THE ORIGINAL GAELIC, WITH A LITERAL TRANSLATION INTO LATIN, BY THE LATE ...»
P. 70. v. 338. An gleannan diomhair nan sruthmall Fanaidh anam nach sdr fo mhuig; &c.] An indolent and unwarlike life was held in extreme contempt. Whatever a philosopher may say, in praise of quiet and retirement, I am far from thinking, but they weaken and debase the human mind. When the faculties of the soul are not exerted, they lose their vigour, and low and circumscribed notions take the place of noble and enlarged ideas. Action, on the contrary, and the vicissitudes of fortune which attend it, call forth, by turns, 268 NOTES TO TEMORA, all the powers of the mind, and, by exercising, strengthen them. Hence it is, that in great and opulent states, when property and indolence are secured to individuals, we seldom meet with that strength of mind which is so common in a nation not far advanced in civilization. It is a curious, but just observation, that great kingdoms seldom produce great characters, which must be altogether attributed to that indolence and dissipation, which are the inseparable companions of too much property and security. Rome, it is certain, had more real great men within it, when its power was confined within the narrow bounds of Latium, than when its dominion extended over all the known world ; and one petty slate of the Saxon heptarchy had, perhaps, as much genuine spirit in it, as the two British kingdoms united. As a state, we are much more powerful than our ancestors, but we would lose by comparing individuals wuth them.
P. 74. v. 399* Bhuail e copan caismeachd a sgeithe Aite comhnuidh guth ciar nam bldr. &c.] In order to understand this passage, it is necessary to look to the decription of Cathmor’s shield in the seventh book. This shield had seven principal bosses, the sound of each of which, when struck with a spear, conveyed a particular order from the king to his tribes. The sound of one of them, as here, was the signal for the army to assemble.
P. 76. v. 411. Bha ceuma glan air dial nan earn Aig gorm shruthan nam bldr air chbrnknard i] This was not the valley of Lona to which Sul-malla afterwards retired.
P. 78. v. 438. Thig taibhse ar sinns ’re an guth Gu anam tha dubhachfo bhrbn,~\ Con-mor, the father of Sul-malla, was killed in that war, from which Cathmor delivered Inishuna. Lormar his son succeeded Conmor. It was the opinion of the times, when a person was reduced to a pitch of misery, which could admit of no alleviation, that the ghosts of his ancestors called his soul away. This supernatural kind of death was called the voice of the dead;
and is believed by the superstitious vulgar to this day.
There is no people in the world, perhaps, who give more universal credit to apparitions, and the visits of the ghosts of the deceased to their friends, than the ancient Scots. This is to be attributed as much, at least, to the situation of the country they possess, as to that credulous disposition which distinguishes an unenlightened people. As their business was feeding of cattle, in dark and extensive deserts, so their journeys lay over wide and unfrequented heaths, where, often, they were obliged NOTES TO TEMORA.
to sleep in the open air, amidst the whistling of winds, and roar of waterfalls. The gloominess of the scenes around them was apt to beget that melancholy disposition of mind, which most readily receives impressions of the extraordinary and supernatural kind. Falling asleep in this gloomy mood, and their dreams being disturbed by the noise of the elements around, it is no matter of wonder, that they thought they heard the voice of the dead. This voice of the dead, however, was, perhaps, no more than a shriller whistle of the winds in an old tree, or in the chinks of a neighbouring rock. It is to this cause I ascribe those many and improbable tales of ghosts, which we meet with in the Highlands : for, in other respects, we do not find that the inhabitants are more credulous.than their neighbours.
P. 84. v. 7. Lora] Lora is often mentioned; it was a small and rapid stream in the neighbourhood of Selma. There is no vestige of this name now remaining; though it appears from a very old song, which the translator has seen, that one of the small rivers on the north-west coast was called Lora some centuries ago.* P. 86'. v. 18. Tha Lubar 1 dealradh a’ m’fhiamiis S i taomadh gufar ro’ ghleunn; &c.] From several passages in the poem we may form a distinct idea of the scene of the action of Temora. At a small distance from one another rose the hills of Mora and Lora; the first possessed by Fingal, the second by the army of Cathmor. Through the intermediate plain ran the small river Lubar, on the banks of which all the battles were fought, excepting that between Cairbar and Oscar, related in the first book. This last-mentioned engagement happened to the north of the hill of Mora, of which Fingal took possession, after the army of Cairbar fell back to that of Cathmor. A some distance, but within sight of Mora, towards the west, Lubar issued from the mountain of Crommal, and, after a short course through the plain of Moi-lena, discharged itself into the sea near the field of battle.
* The preceding note by Macpherson regarding Lora is here retained, not as answering the description given of it by Ossian; but that the reader may compare it with what is said respecting Lora in the description given of Selma at the end of this volume.
270 NOTES TO TEMORA.
Behind the mountain of Crommal ran the small stream of Lavath, on the banks of which Ferad-artho, the son of Cairbre, the only person remaining of the race of Cona, lived concealed in a cave, during the usurpation of Cairbar, the son of Borbar-duthul.
P. 88. v. 48 Tha gkannan uaine sgaoilte thall, &c.] It was to this valley Sul-malla retired, during the last and decisive battle between Fingal and Cathmor. It is described in the seventh book, where it is called the vale of Lona, and the residence of a Druid.
P. 92- v- 114. Mhic Fionvghail tog sgiath ri m thaobh,~\ It is necessary to remember, that Gaul was wounded; which occasions his requiring here the assistance of Ossian to bind his shield on his side.
P. 96. v. 160. Rothmar, &ic.] Roth-ma.r, the sound of the sea before a storm. Drumanard, high ridge. Cul-min, soft-haired. Cull-allin, beaut ful locks. Strutha, streamy river.
P. 96. v. 169. Mar thuiteas clach Loda le fuaim 0 iomal cruaiche nan druimard,] By the stone of Loda is meant a place of worship among the Scandinavians. The Caledonians, in their many expeditions to Orkney and Scandinavia, became acquainted with some of the rites of the religion which prevailed in those countries, and the ancient poetry frequently alludes to them. There are some ruins, and circular pales of stone, remaining still in Orkney, and the islands of Shetland, which retain, to this day, the name of Loda or Loden.
They seem to have differed, materially, in their construction, from those Druidical monuments which remain in Britain, and the western isles.
The places of worship among the Scandinavians were originally rude and unadorned. In after ages, when they opened a communication with other nations, they adopted their manners, and built temples. That at Upsal, in Sweden, was amazingly rich and magnificent. Harquin, of Norway, built one, near Drontheim, little inferior to the former ; and it went always under the name of Loden. Mallet, introduction d I’Histoire de Dannemarc.
P. 96. v. 183. C'uim a Chuilmhingu treun dhearrsa?
Teich gu hath a mhic Chuil-aluin ;] The poet, metaphorically, calls Fillan a beam of light. Culmin, mentioned here, was the son of Clonmar, chief of Strutha, by the beautiful Cul-allin. She was so remarkable for the beauty of her person, that she is introduced, frequently, in the similes and allusions of ancient poetry. Mar Chulahis Strutha nan sian; Lovely as Cul-allin of Strutha of the storms.
NOTES TO TEMORA.
P. 98. v. 193. Tha donnal chon nan ditefein, A sgiath gun fheum ’san tali’ am fail.] Dogs were thought to be sensible of the death of their master, let it happen at ever so great a distance. It was also the opinion of the times, that the arms which warriors left at home became bloody, when they themselves fell in battle. It was from those signs that Cul-allin is supposed to understand that her son is killed; in which she is confirmed by the appearance of his ghost. Her sudden and short exclamation is more judicious in the poet, than if she had extended her complaints to a greater length.
The attitude of the fallen youth, and Fillan’s reflections over him, come forcibly back on the mind, when we consider, that the supposed situation of the father of Culmin was so similar to that of Fingal, after the death of Fillan himself.
P. 100. v. 241. An caolghlcannan Chlbna fo dhuhh &c.] This valley had its name from Clono, son of Lethmal of Lora, one of the ancestors of Dermid, the son of Duthno. His history is thus related in an old poem. In the days of Conar, the son ofTrenmor, the first king of Ireland, Clono passed over into that kingdom, from Caledonia, to aid Conar against the Firbolg. Being remarkable for the beauty of his person, he soon drew the attention of Sulmin, the young wife of an Irish chief. She disclosed her passion, which was not properly returned by the Caledonian. The lady sickened through disappointment, and her love for Clono came to the ears of her husband. Fired with jealousy, he vowed revenge. Clono, to avoid his rage, departed from Temora, in order to pass over into Scotland ; and, being benighted in the valley mentioned here, he laid him down to sleep. There Lethmal descended in the dreams of Clono, and told him that danger was near.
GHOST OF LETHMAL. “ Arise from thy bed of moss, son of lowlaid Lethmal, arise ! The sound of the coming of foes descends along the wind.
CLONO. “ Whose voice is that, like many streams, in the season of my rest ?
GHOST OF LETHMAL. “ Arise, thou dweller of the souls of the lovely ; son of Lethmal, arise!
CLONO. How dreary is the night! The moon is darkened in the sky; red are the paths of ghosts along its sullen face ! Green-skirted meteors set around. Dull is the roaring of streams, from the valley of dim NOTES TO TEMORA.
forms I hear thee, spirit of my father, on the eddying course of the wind.
I hear thee; but thou bendest not, forward, thy tall form, from the skirts of night.” As Clono prepared to depart, the husband of Sulmin came up, with his numerous attendants. Clono defended himself, but, after a gallant resistance, he was overpowered and slain. He was buried in the place where he was killed, and the valley was called after his name. Dermid, in his request to Gaul, the son of Morni, which immediately follows this paragraph, alludes to the tomb of Clono, and his own connection with that unfortunate chief.
P. 106. v. 318. Ma seach tha ceuma nan righJ\ Fingal and Cathmor.
P. 108. v. 332. Thuit Foldath gu mall air a sgeitk,] The fall of Foldath, if we may believe tradition, was predicted to him, before he had left his own country to join Cairbar, in his designs on the Irish throne.
He went to the cave of Moma, to enquire of the spirits of his fathers, concerning the success of the enterprise of Cairbar. The responses of oracles are always attended with obscurity, and liable to a double meaning: Foldath, therefore, put a favourable interpretation on the prediction, and pursued his adopted plan of aggrandizing himself with the family of Atha.
FOLDATH, addressing the spirits of hisfathers.
Dark, I stand in your presence; fathers of Foldath, hear ! Shall my steps pass over Atha, to Ullin of the roes ?
Thy steps shall pass over Atha, to the green dwelling of kings. There shall thy stature arise, over the fallen, like a pillar of thunder-clouds.
There, terrible in darkness, shall thou stand, till the refected beam, or Clon-cath of Moruth, come; Moruth of many streams, that roars, in distant lands.” Cloncath, or reflected beam, say my traditional authors, was the name of the sword of Fillan; so hat it was, in the latent signification of the word Cloncath that the deception lay. My principal reason for introducing this note, is, that this tradition serves to shew, that the religion of the Fir-bolg differed from that of the Caledonians, as we never find the latter enquiring of the spirits of their deceased ancestors.
NOTES TO TEMORA. 273 P. 108. v. 342. Chunnaic Malthas am Foldath air Idr &c.] The characters of Foldath and Malthos are sustained. They were both dark and
surly, but each in a different way. Foldath was impetuous and cruel:
Malthos stubborn and incredulous. Their attachment to the family of Atha was equal; their bravery in battle the same. Foldath was vain and ostentatious: Malthos unindulgent but generous. His behaviour here, towards his enemy Foldath, shews, that a good heart often lies concealed under a gloomy and sullen character.
P. 108. v. 352. An eirich do Hath chlach an Ullin, No air Moma nan iomadh coill’, &c.] Moma was the name of a country in the south of Connaught, once famous for being the residence of an Arch-Druid. The cave of Moma was thought to be inhabited by the spirits of the chiefs of the Fir-bolg, and their posterity sent to enquire there, as to an oracle, concerning the issue of their wars. Dalruath, parched or sandy Jield. The etymology of Dardulena is uncertain.
The daughter of Foldath was, probably, so Called, from a place iu Ulster, where her father had defeated part of the adherents of Artho king of Ireland. Dor-du-lena; the dark wood of Moi-lena. As Foldath was proud and ostentatious, it would appear, that he transferred the name of aplace, where he himself had been victorious, to his daughter.
P. 112. v. 3Q6. Ghluais Cathmor fo thlachd nan gorm sgiath.'] The suspense, in which the mind of the reader is left here conveys the idea of Fillan’s danger more forcibly home, than any description that could be introduced. There is a sort of eloquence in silence with propriety.
A minute detail of the circumstances of an important scene is generally cold and insipid. The human mind, free and fond of thinking for itself, is disgusted to find every thing done by the poet. It is, therefore, his business only to mark the most striking outlines, and to allow the imaginations of his readers to finish the figure for themselves.
The book ends in the afternoon of the third day, from the opening of the poem.
P. 120. v. 1. Eingal speaks.