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The fourth morning, from the opening of the poem, comes on.
Fingal, still continuing in the place to which he had retired on the preceding night, is seen, at intervals, through the mist which covered the rock of Cormul. The descent of the king is described. He orders Gaul, Dermid, and Carril the bard, to go to the valley of Cluna, and conduct from thence, to the Caledonian army, Ferad-artho, the son of Cairbre, the only person remaining of the family of Conor, the first king of Ireland. The king takes the command of the army, and prepares for battle. Marching towards the enemy,
he comes to the cave of Lubar, where the body of Fillan lay. Upon seeing his dog Bran, who lay at the entrance of the cave,
his grief returns. Cathmor arrånges the Irish army in order of battle. The appearance of that hero. The general conflict is described. The actions of Fingal and Cathmor. A storm. The total rout of the Firbolg. The two kings engage, in a column of mist, on the banks of Lubar. Their attitude and conference after the combat. The death of Cathmor. Fingal resigns the spear of Trenmor to Ossian. The ceremonies observed on that occasion. The spirit of Cathmor, in the mean time, appears to Sựl-malla, in the valley of Lona. Her sorrow. Evening comes on. A feast is prepared. The coming of Ferad artho is announced by the songs of a hundred bards. The poem closes with a speech of Fingal. Mac
In the course of my notes, I have made it more my business to
explain, than to examine critically the works of Ossian. The first is my province, as the person best acquainted with them; the second falls to the share of others. I shall, however, observe, that all the precepts, which Aristotle drew from Homer, ought not to be applied to the compositions of a Celtic bard ; nor ought the title of the latter to the epopæa to be disputed, even if he should differ, in some circumstances, from a Greek poet. Some allowance should be made for the different manners of nations. . The genius of the Greeks and Celtæ was extremely dissimilar. The first were lively and loquacious; a manly conciseness of expression distinguished the latter. We find, accordingly, that the compositions of Homer and Ossian are marked with the general and opposite characters of their respective nations, and, consequently, it is improper to compare the minutiæ of their poems together. There are, however, general rules in the conduct of an epic poem, which, as they are natural, are likewise universal. In these the two poets exactly correspond. This similarity, which could not possibly proceed from imitation, is more decisive with respect to the grand essentials of the epopæa, than all the
precepts of Aristotle. Ossian is now approaching to the grand catastrophe.
preparations he has made, in the preceding book, properly introduce the magnificence of description with which the present book opens, and tend to shew, that the Celtic bard had more art, in working up his fable, than some of those who closely imitated the perfect model of Homer. The transition from the pathetic to the sublime is easy and natural. Till the mind is opened, by the first, it scarcely can have an adequate comprehension of the second. The soft and affecting scenes of the seventh book, form a sort of contrast to, and consequently heighten, the features of the more grand and terrible images of the eighth.
The simile with which this book opens, is perhaps the longest,
and the most minutely descriptive, of any in the works of Ossian. . The images of it are only familiar to those who live in a cold and mountainous country. They have often seen a lake suddenly frozen over, and strewed with withered grass, and boughs torn by winds from the mountains, which form its banks; but, I believe, few of them would be of the mind of the ancient bard, who preferred these winter-scenes to the irriguous vales of May. To me, says he, bring back my woods, which strew their leaves on blasts : spread the lake below, with all its frozen waves.
Pleasant is the breeze on the bearded ice ; when the moon is broad in heaven, and the spirit of the mountain roars.
vales of May ; they are thoughts of maids, &c. Such are the words of this winter poet ; but what he afterwards adds, gives us to understand, that these frigid scenes were not his sole delight; for he speaks, with great tenderness, of the oak-lighted hall of the chief ; and the strength uj the shells, at night, when the course
of winds is abroad. If the simile of a frozen lake aptly illustrates the stillness and si
lent expectation of an army, lying under arms, waiting for the coming of their king; so the comparison of the sudden rising of waves, around a spirit, is also very expressive of the tumultuous joy of Fingal's army upon the appearance of that hero - An ancient bard, sensible of the beauty of this passage, has happily imitated it, in a poem concerning Kenneth Mac-Alpin, king of Scotland. I had occasion to quote this piece in a note in the preceding book. Kenneth had retired privately, by night, to a hill in the neighbourhood of his army, and, upon his return next morņing, the bard
that he was like the form of a spirit, returning to his secret bay. In the skirt of a blast he stands. The waves lift their roaring heads. Their green backs are quivering round. Rocks echo back their joy. MACPHERSON, 1st edit.