«* National Library of Scotland ■■jin B000157358*. V POEMS OF OSSIAN, IN THE ORIGINAL GAELIC, WITH A LITERAL TRANSLATION INTO LATIN, BY THE LATE ...»
P. 122. v. 26. Sleagh Thigmbra.] The spear ofTemora was that which Oscar had received, in a present, from Cormac, the son of Artho, king of Ireland. It was of it that Cairbar made the pretext for quarrelling with Oscar, at the feast, in the first book.
P. 132. v. 164'. C’uim a bhiodh bard a comhradh
M'an dearrsa og o chauin Chlatho ?] A dialogue between Clatho the mother, and Bosmina the sister of Fillan :
CLATHO. “ Daughter of Fingal arise ! thou light between thy locks.
Lift thy fair head from rest, soft-gliding sun-beam of Selma ! I beheld thy arms, on thy breast, white tossed amidst thy wandering locks; when the rustling breeze of the morning came from the desert of streams.
Hast thou seen thy fathers, Bos-mina, descending in thy dreams ? Arise, daughter of Clatho; dwells there aught of grief in thy soul ?
BOS-MINA. “ A thin form passed before me, fading as it flew: like the darkening wave of a breeze, along a field of grass. Descend, from thy wall, O harp, and call back the soul of Bos-mina; it has rolled away, like a stream. I hear thy pleasant sound. I hear thee, O harp, and my voice shall rise.
“ How often shall ye rush to war, ye dwellers of my soul ? Your paths are distant, kings of men, in Erin of blue streams. Lift thy wing, thou southern breeze, from Clono's darkening heath; spread the sails of Fingal toward the bays of his land.
“ But who is that, in his strength, darkening in the presence of war?
His arm stretches to the foe, like the beam of the sickly sun; when his side is crusted with darkness, and he rolls his dismal course through the sky. Who is it, but the father of Bos-mina ? Shall he return till danger is past ?
“ Fillan, thou art a beam by his side; beautiful, but terrible, is thy light. Thy sword is before thee, a blue fire of night. When shalt thou return to thy roes; to the streams of thy rushy fields ? When shall I behold thee from Mora, while winds strew my long locks on their blasts ?
But shall a young eagle return from the field where the heroes fall ?
CLATHO. “ Soft, as the song of Loda, is the voice of Selma’s maid.
NOTES TO TEMORA. 275 Pleasant to the ear of Clatho is the name of the breaker of shields.
Behold, the king comes from ocean ; the shield of Morven is borne by bards. The foe has fled before him, like the departure of mist. I hear not the sounding wings of my eagle; the rushing forth of the son of Clatho.
Thou art dark, O Fingal; shall the warrior never return ?”**** P. ISF. v. 200. Cait/iidh mis’ an namhaid am feirg.~\ Here the sentence is designedly left unfinished. The sense is, that he was resolved, like a destroying fire, to consume Cathmor, who had killed his brother.
In the midst of this resolution, the situation of P'ingal suggests itself to him in a very strong light. He resolves to return to assist the king in prosecuting the war. But then his shame for not defending his brother recurs to him. He is determined again to go and find out Cathmor.
We may consider him, as in the act of advancing towards the enemy, when the horn of Fingal sounded on Mora, and called back his people to his presence. This soliloquy is natural: the resolutions which so suddenly follow one another, are expressive of a mind extremely agitated with sorrow and conscious shame; yet the behaviour of Ossian, in his execution of the commands of Fingal, is so irreprehensible, that it is not easy to determine where he failed in his duty. The truth is, that when men fail in designs which they ardently wish to accomplish, they naturally blame themselves, as the chief cause of their disappointment.
P. 136. v. 225. Fad a thall man righ air Mora Thaom Morbhein o bhriseadh an raoin.] “ This scene,’' says an ingenious writer, and a good judge, “ is solemn. The poet always places his chief character amidst objects which favour the sublime. The face of the country, the night, the broken remains of a defeated army, and, above all, the attitude and silence of Fingal himself, are circumstances calculated to impress an awful idea on the mind. Ossian is most successful in his night descriptions. Dark images suited the melancholy temper of his mind. His poems were all composed after the active part of his life was over, when he was blind, and had survived all the companions of his youth: we therefore find a veil of melancholy thrown over the whole.” P. 138. v. 242. si nis a ghluais am focal suas ;
Dh'aom an sluag/i air ais o ghuth.] I owe the first
paragraph of the following note to the same pen :
“ The abashed behaviour of the army of Fingal proceeds rather from shame than fear. The king was not of a tyrannical disposition : He, as 276 NOTES TO TEMORA.
he professes himself in the fifth book, never was a dreadful form, in their presence, darkened into wrath. His voice was no thunder to their ears;
his eye sent forth no death. The first ages of society are not the times of arbitrary power. As the w'ants of mankind are few, they retain their independence. It is an advanced state of civilization that moulds the mind to that submission to government, of which ambitious magistrates take advantage, and raise themselves into absolute power.” It is a vulgar error, that the common Highlanders lived in abject slavery under their chiefs. Their high ideas of. and attachment to, the heads of their families, probably led the unintelligent into this mistake.
When the honour of the tribe was concerned, the commands of the chief were obeyed, without restriction : but, if individuals were oppressed, they threw themselves into the arms of a neighbouring clan, assumed a new name, and were encouraged and protected. The fear of this desertion, no doubt, made the chiefs cautious in their government. As their consequence, in the eyes of others, was in proportion to the number of their people, they took care to avoid every thing that tended to diminish it.
It was but very lately that the authority of the laws extended to the Highlands. Before that time the clans were governed, in civil affairs, not by the verbal commands of a chief, but by what they called Cltchda, or the traditional precedents of their ancestors. When differences happened between individuals, some of the oldest men in the tribe were chosen umpires between the parties, to decide according to the Clechda.
The chief interposed his authority, and, invariably, enforced the decision.
In their wars, which were frequent, on account of family feuds, the chief was less reserved in the execution of his authority; but even then he seldom extended it to the taking the life of any of his tribe. No crime was capital, except murder: and that was very unfrequent in the Highlands. No corporal punishment of any kind was inflicted. The memory of an affront of this sort would remain for ages, in a family, and thev would seize every opportunity to be revenged, unless it came immediately from the hands of the chief himself; in that case it was taken rather as a fatherly correction, than a legal punishment for offences.
P. 138. v. 257. Arda air Cormull hha craobh A lasadhfo ghaoith is i fuaim; &c.] This rock of Cormul is often mentioned in the preceding part of the poem. It was NOTES TO TEMORA. m on it Fingal and Ossian stood to view the battle. The custom of retiring from the army, on the night prior to their engaging in battle, was universal among the kings of the Caledonians. Trenmor, the most renowned of the ancestors of Fingal, is mentioned as the first who instituted this custom. Succeeding bards attributed it to a hero of a later period. In an old poem, which begins with Mac-Arcaith nan ceud si'ol, this custom of retiring from the army, before an engagement, is numbered among the wise institutions of Fergus, the son of Arch or Arcath, the first king of Scots. I shall here translate the passage; in some other note I may, probably, give all that remains of the poem. Fergus of the hundred
streams, son of Arcath who fought of old: thou didstfirst retire at night:
when the foe rolled before thee, in echoing fields. Nor bending in rest is the king: he gathers battles in his soul. Fly, son of the stranger ! with mom he shall rush abroad. When, or by whom, this poem was written, is uncertain.
P. 140. v. 295. Is teann air na shineadh air fear Cas mholach an treun chu, Bran.] I remember to have met with an old poem, wherein a story of this sort is very happily introduced. In one of the invasions of the Danes, Ullin-clundu, a considerable chief, on the western coast of Scotland, was killed in a rencounter with a flying party of the enemy, who had landed at no great distance from the place of his residence. The few followers who attended him were also slain. The young wife of Ullin-clundu, who had not heard of his fall, fearing the worst, on account of his long delay, alarmed the rest of his tribe, who went in search of him along the shore. They did not find him ; and the beautiful widow became disconsolate. At length he was discovered, by means of his dog, who sat on a rock beside the body, for some days. The stanza concerning the dog, whose name was Duches, or Blackfoot, is descriptive.
“ Dark-sided Du-chos ! feet of wind ! cold is thy seat on rocks. He (the dog) sees the roe; his ears are high ; and half he bounds away. He looks around; but Ullin sleeps; he droops again his head. The winds come past; dark Du-chos thinks that Ullin’s voice is near. But still he beholds him silent, laid amidst the waving heath. Dark-sided Du-chos, his voice no more shall send thee over the heath !” P. 144. v. 326. Bha Lubar ag iadhadh ro’ ’n t sluagh.] In order to illustrate this passage, it is proper to lay before the reader the scene i NOTES TO TEMORA.
the two preceding battles. Between the hills of Mora and Lona lay the plain of Moi-lena, through which ran the river Lubar. The first battle, wherein Gaul, the son of Morni, commanded on the Caledonian side, was fought on the banks of Lubar. As there was little advantage obtained on either side, the armies, after the battle, retained their former position.
In the second battle, wherein Lilian commanded, the Irish, after the fall of Foldath, were driven up the hill of Lona; but, upon the coming of Cathmor to their aid, they regained their former situation, and drove back the Caledonians in their turn ; so that Lubar winded again in their host.
P. 144. v. 338. Cha 'nann cho min ri so, a thriath Bha Borbair na feile d’ athair fein, &c.] Borbarduthul, the father of Cathmor, was the brother of that Col-ulla, who is said, in the beginning of the fourth book, to have rebelled against Cormac, king of Ireland. Borbar-duthul seems to have retained all the prejudice of his family against the succession of the posterity of Conar, on the Irish throne. From this short episode we learn some facts which tend to throw light on the history of the times. It appears that, when Swaran invaded Ireland, he was only opposed by the Gael, who possessed Ulster, and the north of that island. Calmar, the son of Matha, whose gallant behaviour and death are related in the third book of Fingal, was the only chief of the race of the Fir-bolg, that joined the Gael, or Irish Caledonians, during the invasion of Swaran. The indecent joy, which Borbar-duthul expressed, upon the death of Calmar, is well suited with that spirit of revenge, which subsisted, universally, in every country where the feudal system was established. It would appear that some person had carried to Borbar-duthul that weapon, with which, it was pretended, Calmar had been killed.
P. 146. v. 362. Eireadh gutha caoin na h Eirinn.] The voices of Erin, a poetical expression for the bards of Ireland.
P. 148. v. 386. Fo chraoibh 0 bheinn gach bard air dm Na shuidhe thall fo chlarsich fein; &c.] 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;
NOTES TO TEMORA. 279 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 office 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 insolent. 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 Clericus. The Chlere, be their name derived from what it will, became at last a public nuisance; for, taking advantage of their sacred character, they went about in great bodies, and lived, at discretion, in the houses of the 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 shew how much the bards, at last, abused the privileges, which the admiration of their countrymen 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 indolence, and disposition to lampoon, extinguished all the poetical fervour which distinguished their predecessors, and makes us the less regret the extinction of the order.
P. 150. v. 421. Thainig Clungheal; cha d’ fhuair oigh.~\ Clungheal, the wife of Conmor, king of Inis-huna, and the mother of Sul-malla.
She is here represented, as missing her daughter, after she had fled with Cathmor.
P. 150. v. 430. Treigmi,luaidh Chonmhoir nan treun; &c.] Sul-malla replies to the supposed questions of her mother. Towards the middle of this paragraph 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.
280 NOTES TO TEMORA.