|Pages 424-434 of the 1856 Boston Edition|
Morning coming on, Fingal, after a speech to his people, devolves the command on Gaul, the son of Morni; it being the custom of the times, that the king should not engage till the necessity of affairs required his superior valour and conduct. The king and Ossian retire to the rock of Cormul, which overlooked the field of battle. The bards sing the war-song. The general conflict is described. Gaul, the son of Morni, distinguishes himself; kills Tur-lathon, chief of Moruth, and other chiefs of lesser name. On the other hand, Foldath, who commanded the Irish army, (for Cathmor, after the example of Fingal, kept himself from battle) fights gallantly; kills Connal, chief of Dun-lora, and advances to engage Gaul himself. Gaul, in the mean time, being wounded in the hand, by a random arrow, is covered by Fillan, the son of Fingal, who performs prodigies of valour. Night comes on. The horn of Fingal recalls his army. The bards meet them, with a congratulatory song, in which the praises of Gaul and Fillan are particularly celebrated. The chiefs sit down at a feast; Fingal misses Connal. The episode of Connal and Duth-caron is introduced; which throws further light on the ancient history of Ireland. Carril is dispatched to raise the tomb of Connal. The action of this book takes up the second day, from the opening of the poem.
"Who is that at blue-streaming Lubar? Who, by the bending hill of roes? Tall,
he leans on an oak torn from high, by nightly winds. Who but Comhal's son,
brightening in the last of his fields? His gray hair is on the breeze. He half
unsheathes the sword of Luno. His eyes are turned to Moi-lena, to the dark
moving of foes. Dost thou hear the voice of the king? It is like the bursting of
a stream in the desert, when it comes, between its echoing rocks, to the
blasted field of the sun!
"Wide-skirted comes down the foe! Sons of woody Selma, arise. Be ye like the
rocks of our land, on whose brown sides are the rolling of streams. A
beam of joy comes on my soul. I see the foe mighty before me. It is when he is
feeble, that the sighs of Fingal are heard: lest death should come, without
renown, and darkness dwell on his tomb. Who shall lead the war against the
host of Alnecma? It is only when danger grows that my sword shall shine.
Such was the custom, here to fore, of Trenmor, the ruler of winds! and thus
descended to battle the blue-shielded Trathal!"
The chiefs bend toward the king. Each darkly seems to claim the war. They
tell, by halves, their mighty deeds. They turn their eyes on Erin. But far before
the rest the son of Morni stands. Silent he stands; for who had not heard of
the battles of Gaul? They rose within his soul. His hand, in secret, seized the
sword. The sword which he brought from Strumon, when the strength of
Morni failed. On his spear leans Fillan of Selma, in the wandering of his
locks. Thrice he raised his eyes to Fingal: his voice thrice fails him as he
speaks. My brother could not boast of battles: at once he strides away. Bent
over a distant stream he stands: the tear hangs in his eye. He strikes, at times,
the thistle's head, with his inverted spear. Nor is he unseen of Fingal.
Sidelong he beholds his son. He beholds him with bursting joy; and turns,
amid his crowded soul. In silence turns the king towards Mora of woods. He
hides the big tear with his locks. At length his voice is heard.
"First of the sons of Morni! Thou rock that defiest the storm! lead thou my
battle, for the race of low-laid Cormac. No boy's staff is thy spear: no harmless
beam of light thy sword. Son of Morni of steeds, behold the foe! Destroy!
Fillan, observe the chief! He is not calm in strife; nor burns he, heedless, in
battle. My son, observe the chief! He is strong as Lubar's streams; but never
foams and roars. High on cloudy Mora, Fingal shall behold the war. Stand, Ossian, near
thy father, by the falling stream. Raise the voice, O bards! Selma, move
beneath the sound. It is my latter field. Clothe it over with light."
As the sudden rising of winds, or distant rolling of troubled seas, when some
dark ghost, in wrath, heaves the billows over an isle: an isle, the seat of mist,
on the deep, for many dark-browny ears! So terrible is the sound of the host,
wide-moving over the field. Gaul is tall before them. The streams glitter
within his strides. The bards raise the song by his side. He strikes his shield
between. On the skirts of the blast, the tuneful voices rise.
"On Crona," said the bards, "there bursts a stream by night. It swells in its
own dark course, till morning's early beam. Then comes it white from the
hill, with the rocks and their hundred groves. Far be my steps from Crona.
Death is tumbling there. Be ye a stream from Mora, sons of cloudy Morven!'
"Who rises, from his car, on Clutha? The hills are troubled before the king!
The dark woods echo round, and lighten at his steel. See him, amidst the foe,
like Colgach's sportful ghost; when he scatters the clouds, and rides the
eddying winds! It is Morni of bounding steeds! Be like thy father, O Gaul!"
"Selma is opened wide. Bards take the trembling harps. Ten youths bear the
oak of the feast. A distant sun-beam marks the hill. The dusky waves of the
blast fly over the fields of grass. Why art thou silent, O Selma? The king
returns with all his fame. Did not the battle roar; yet peaceful is his brow? It
roared, and Fingal overcame. Be like thy father, O Fillan!"
They move beneath the song. High wave their arms, as rushy fields beneath
autumnal winds. On Mora stands the king in arms. Mist flies round his buckler
abroad; as, aloft, it hung on a bough, on Cormul's mossy rock. In silence I stood
by Fingal, and turned my eyes on Cromla's wood: lest I should behold the host,
and rush amid my swelling soul. My foot is forward on the heath. I glittered, tall,
in steel; like the falling stream of Tromlo, which nightly winds bind over with
ice. The boy sees it, on high, gleaming to the early beam: toward it he turns
his ear, and wonders why it is so silent!
Nor bent over a stream is Cathmor, like a youth in a peaceful field. Wide he
drew forward the war, a dark and troubled wave. But when he beheld Fingal
on Mora, his generous pride arose; "Shall the chief of Atha fight, and no king
in the field? Foldath, lead my people forth. Thou art a beam of fire."
Forth issues Foldath of Moma, like a cloud, the robe of ghosts. He drew his
sword, a flame, from his side. He bade the battle move. The tribes, like ridgy
waves, dark pour their strength around. Haughty is his stride before them.
His red eye rolls in wrath. He calls Cormul chief of Dunratho; and his words
"Cormul, thou beholdest that path. It winds green behind the foe. Place thy
people there, lest Selma should escape from my sword. Bards of green-vallied
Erin, let no voice of yours arise. The sons of Morven must fall without song.
They are the foes of Cairbar. Hereafter shall the traveler meet their dark thick
mist on Lena, where it wanders, with their ghosts, beside the reedy lake.
Never shall they rise, without song, to the dwelling of winds."
Cormul darkened, as he went. Behind him rushed his tribe. They sunk
beyond the rock. Gaul spoke to Fillan of Selma; as his eye pursued the course
of the dark-eyed chief of Dunratho. "Thou beholdest the steps of Cormul! Let thine
arm be strong! When he is low, son of Fingal, remember Gaul in war. Here I fall
forward into battle, amid the ridge of shields!"
The sign of death ascends; the dreadful sound of Morni's shield. Gaul pours
his voice between. Fingal rises on Mora. He saw them, from wing to wing,
bending at once in strife. Gleaming, on his own dark hill, stood Cathmor of
streamy Atha. The kings were like two spirits of heaven, standing each on his
gloomy cloud; when they pour abroad the winds, and lift the roaring seas.
The blue-tumbling of waves is before them, marked with the paths of whales.
They themselves are calm and bright. The gale lifts slowly their locks of mist.
What beam of light hangs high on air! What beam, but Morni's dreadful
sword! Death is strewed on thy paths, O Gaul! Thou foldest them together in
thy rage. Like a young oak falls Tur-lathon, with his branches round him. His
high-bosomed spouse stretches her white arms, in dreams, to the returning
chief, as she sleeps by gurgling Moruth, in her disordered locks. It is his ghost,
Oichoma. The chief is lowly laid. Hearken not to the winds for Turlathon's
echoing shield. It is pierced by his streams. Its sound is past away.
Not peaceful is the hand of Foldath. He winds his course in blood. Connal
met him in fight. They mixed their clanging steel. Why should mine eyes
behold them! Connal, thy locks are gray! Thou wert the friend of strangers, at
the moss-covered rock of Dun-lora. When the skies were rolled together;
then thy feast was spread. The stranger heard the winds without; and rejoiced
at thy burning oak. Why, son of Duthcaron, art thou laid in blood! The
blasted tree bends above thee. Thy shield lies broken near. Thy blood mixes
with the stream, thou breaker of the shields!
Ossian took the spear in his wrath. But Gaul rushed forward on Foldath. The
feeble pass by his side; his rage is turned on Moma's chief. Now they had
raised their deathful spears: unseen an arrow came. It pierced the hand of
Gaul. His steel fell sounding to earth. Young Fillan came, with Cormul's
shield! He stretched it large before the chief. Foldath sent his shouts abroad,
and kindled all the field: as a blast that lifts the wide-winged flame, over
Lumon's echoing groves.
"Son of blue-eyed Clatho," said Gaul, "O Fillan, thou art a beam from heaven,
that, coming on the troubled deep, binds up the tempest's wing. Cormul is
fallen before thee. Early art thou in the fame of thy fathers. Rush not too far,
my hero. I cannot lift the spear to aid. I stand harmless in battle; but my voice
shall be poured abroad. The sons of Selma shall hear, and remember my
His terrible voice rose on the wind. The host bends forward in fight. Often
had they heard him, at Strumon, when he called them to the chase of the
hinds. He stands tall, amid the war, as an oak in the skirts of a storm, which
now is clothed on high, in mist; then shews its broad waving head. The
musing hunter lifts his eye from his own rushy field!
My soul pursues thee, O Fillan, through the path of thy fame. Thou rollest
the foe before thee. Now Foldath, perhaps, may fly: but night comes down
with its clouds. Cathmor's horn is heard on high. The sons of Selma hear the
voice of Fingal from Mora's gathered mist. The bards pour their song, like
dew, on the returning war.
"Who comes from Strumon," they said, "amid her wandering locks? She is
mournful in her steps, and lifts her blue eyes toward Erin. Why art thou sad,
Evir-choma? Who is like thy chief in renown? He descended dreadful to battle;
he returns, like a light from a cloud. He raised the sword in wrath: they shrunk
before blue-shielded Gaul!"
"Joy, like the rustling gale, comes on the soul of the king. He remembers the
battles of old; the days wherein his fathers fought. The days of old return on
Fingal's mind, as he beholds the renown of his son. As the sun rejoices, from
his cloud, over the tree his beams have raised, as it shakes its lonely head on
the heath; so joyful is the king over Fillan!'
"As the rolling of thunder on hills, when Lara's fields are still and dark; such
are the steps of Selma, pleasant and dreadful to the ear. They return with
their sound, like eagles to their dark-browed rock, after the prey is torn on the
field, the dun sons of the bounding hind. Your fathers rejoice from their
clouds, sons of streamy Selma!"
Such was the nightly voice of bards, on Mora of the hinds. A flame rose, from
an hundred oaks, which winds had torn from Cormul's steep. The feast is
spread in the midst: around sat the gleaming chiefs. Fingal is there in his
strength. The eagle-wing of his helmet sounds. The rustling blasts of the
west, unequal rush through night. Long looks the king in silence round: at
length his words are heard.
"My soul feels a want in our joy. I behold a breach among my friends. The
head of one tree is low. The squally wind pours in on Selma. Where is the
chief of Dun-lora? Ought Connal to be forgot at the feast? When did he forget
the stranger, in the midst of his echoing hall? Ye are silent in my presence!
Connal is then no more. Joy meet thee, O warrior, like a stream of light. Swift
be thy course to thy fathers, along the roaring winds. Ossian, thy soul is fire:
kindle the memory of the king. Awake the battles of Connal, when first he
shone in war. The locks of Connal were gray. His days of youth were mixed
with mine. In one day Duthcaron first strung our bows against the roes of Dun-lora."
"Many," I said, "are our paths to battle, in green vallied Erin. Often did our
sails arise, over the blue tumbling waves; when we came, in other days, to aid
the race of Conar. The strife roared once in Alnecma, at the foam-covered
streams of Duth-la. With Cormac descended to battle Duthcaron from cloudy
Selma. Nor descended Duthcaron alone, his son was by his side, the long-
haired youth of Connal lifting the first of his spears. Thou didst command
them, O Fingal, to aid the king of Erin.
"Like the bursting strength of ocean, the sons of Bolga rushed to war. Colc-
ulla was before them, the chief of blue-streaming Atha. The battle was mixed
on the plain. Cormac shone in his own strife, bright as the forms of his
fathers. But, far before the rest, Duthcaron hewed down the foe. Nor slept the
arm of Connal by his father's side. Colc-ulla prevailed on the plain: like
scattered mist fled the people of Cormac.
"Then rose the sword of Duthcaron, and the steel of broad-shielded Connal.
They shaded their flying friends, like two rocks with their heads of pine.
Night came down on Duth-ula: silent strode the chiefs over the field. A
mountain-stream roared across the path, nor could Duthcaron bound over its
course. Why stands my father? said Connal. I hear the rushing foe."
"Fly, Connal," he said. "Thy father's strength begins to fail. I come wounded
from battle. Here let me rest in night." "But thou shalt not remain alone,"
said Connal's bursting sigh. "My shield is an eagle's wing to cover the king of
Dun-lora." He bends dark above his father. The mighty Duthcaron dies!
Day rose, and night returned. No lonely bard appeared, deep- musing on the
heath: and could Connal leave the tomb of his father, till he should receive
his fame? He bent the bow against the rose of Duth-ula. He spread the lonely
feast. Seven nights he laid his head on the tomb, and saw his father in his
dreams. He saw him rolled, dark, in a blast, like the vapour of reedy Lego. At
length the steps of Colgan came, the bard of high Temora. Duthcaron
received his fame, and brightened as he rose on the wind."
"Pleasant to the ear," said Fingal, "is the praise of the kings of men; when
their bows are strong in battle; when they soften at the sight of the sad. Thus
let my name be renowned, when bards shall lighten my rising soul. Carril,
son of Kinfena! take the bards and raise a tomb. Tonight let Connal dwell
within his narrow house. Let not the soul of the valiant wander on the
winds. Faint glimmers the moon on Moi-lena, through the broad-headed
groves of the hill! Raise stones, beneath its beam, to all the fallen in war.
Though no chiefs were they, yet their hands were strong in fight. They were
my rock in danger. The mountain from which I spread my eagle-wings.
Thence am I renowned. Carril, forget not the low!"
Loud, at once, from the hundred bards, rose the song of the tomb. Carril
strode before them, they are the murmur of streams behind his steps. Silence
dwells in the vales of Moi-lena, where each, with its own dark rill, is winding
between the hills. I heard the voice of the bards, lessening, as they moved
along. I leaned forward from my shield; and felt the kindling of my soul.
Half-formed, the words of my song burst forth upon the wind. So hears a tree,
on the vale, the voice of spring around. It pours its green leaves to the sun. It
shakes its lonely head. The hum of the mountain bee is near it; the hunter sees it,
with joy, from the blasted heath.
Young Fillan at a distance stood. His helmet lay glittering on the ground. His
dark hair is loose to the blast. A beam of light is Clatho's son! He heard the
words of the king with joy. He leaned forward on his spear.
"My son," said car-borne Fingal, "I saw thy deeds, and my soul was glad. The
fame of our fathers, I said, burst from its gathering cloud. Thou art brave, son
of Clatho; but head long in the strife. So did not Fingal advance, though he
never feared a foe. Let thy people be a ridge behind. They are thy strength in
the field. Then shalt thou be long renowned, and behold the tombs of the old.
The memory of the past returns, my deeds in other years; when first I
descended from ocean on the green-vallied isle."
We bend towards the voice of the king. The moon looks abroad from her
cloud. The gray-skirted mist is near; the dwelling of the ghosts!