|Notes to the 1856 Boston Edition|
His forward spear.
Mor-annal here alludes to the particular appearance of Fingal's spear. If a man upon his first landing in a strange country, kept the point of his spear forward, it denoted, in those days, that he came in a hostile manner, and accordingly he was treated as an enemy; if he kept the point behind him, it was a token of friendship, and he was immediately invited to the feast, according to the hospitality of the times
The clang of shields.
When a chief was determined to kill a person already in his power, it was usual to signify that his death was intended, by the sound of a shield struck with the blunt end of a spear: at the same time that a bard at a distance raised the death-song.
The lone blast.
That prophetic sound, mentioned in other poems, which the harps of the bards emitted before the death of a person worthy and renowned.
The southern province of Ireland went, for some time, under the name of Bolga, from the Fir-bolg or Belgæ of Britain, who settled a colony there. "Bolg" signifies a "quiver," from which proceeds "Fir-bolg," i.e., "bowmen:" so called from their using bows more than any of the neighboring nations.
Bruno was a place of worship, [Fingal book IV] in Craca, which is supposed to be one of the isles of Shetland.
the fair stranger of Inis-huna
By "the stranger of Inis-huna" is meant Sull-malla. See Book IV.
Alnecma or Alnecmacht, was the ancient of Connaught. Ullin is still the Irish name of the province of Ulster.
Ul-erin, "the guide to Ireland," a star known by that name in the days of Fingal.
Song of Carril
The funeral elegy at the tomb of Cairbar.
The warning boss
In order to understand this passage, it is necessary to look to the description of Cathmor's shield in the seventh book. This shield has seven principal bosses, the sound of each 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.
Stone of Loda
By "the stone of Loda" is meant a place of worship among the Scandinavians.
Beam of light
The poet metaphorically calls Fillan a beam of light.
Dogs are howling
Dogs are thought to be sensible to 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.
Tingal [i.e., Fingal] and Cathmor.
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 Fingal 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 is sounded on Mora, and called back his people to his presence.
Clun-galo, 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.