James Macpherson

1736 - 1796


Fragments of Ancient Poetry

Collected in the Highlands of Scotland










SON of the noble Fingal, Oſcian, Prince of men! what tears run down the cheeks of age? what ſhades thy mighty ſoul?

MEMORY, ſon of Alpin, memory wounds the aged. Of former times are my thoughts; my thoughts are of the noble Fingal. The race of the king return into my mind, and wound me with remembrance.

ONE day, returned from the ſport of the mountains, from purſuing the ſons of the hill, we covered this heath with our youth. Fingal the mighty was here, and Oſcur, my ſon, great in war. Fair on our ſight from the ſea, at once, a virgin came. Her breaſt was like the ſnow of one night. Her cheek like the [p.27] bud of the roſe. Mild was her blue rolling eye: but ſorrow was big in her heart.

FINGAL renowned in war! ſhe cries, ſons of the king, preſerve me! Speak ſecure, replies the king, daughter of beauty, ſpeak: our ear is open to all: our ſwords redreſs the injured. I fly from Ullin, ſhe cries, from Ullin famous in war. I fly from the embrace of him who would debaſe my blood. Cremor, the friend of men, was my father; Cremor the Prince of Inverne.

FINGAL'S younger ſons aroſe; Carryl expert in the bow; Fillan beloved of the fair; and Fergus firſt in the race. —Who from the fartheſt Lochlyn? who to the ſeas of Molochaſquir? who dares hurt the maid whom the ſons of Fingal guard? Daughter of beauty, reſt [p.28] ſecure; reſt in peace, thou faireſt of women.

FAR in the blue diſtance of the deep, ſome ſpot appeared like the back of the ridge-wave. But ſoon the ſhip increaſed on our ſight. The hand of Ullin drew her to land. The mountains trembled as he moved. The hills ſhook at his ſteps. Dire rattled his armour around him. Death and deſtruction were in his eyes. His ſtature like the roe of Morven. He moved in the lightning of ſteel.

OUR warriors fell before him, like the field before the reapers. Fingal's three ſons he bound. He plunged his ſword into the fair-one's breaſt. She fell as a wreath of ſnow before the ſun in ſpring. Her boſom heaved in death; her ſoul came forth in blood. [p.29]

OSCUR my ſon came down; the mighty in battle deſcended. His armour rattled as thunder; and the lightning of his eyes was terrible. There, was the claſhing of ſwords; there, was the voice of ſteel. They ſtruck and they thruſt; they digged for death with their ſwords. But death was diſtant far, and delayed to come. The ſun began to decline; and the cow-herd thought of home. Then Oſcur's keen ſteel found the heart of Ullin. He fell like a mountain-oak covered over with glittering froſt: He ſhone like a rock on the plain.—Here the daughter of beauty lieth; and here the braveſt of men. Here one day ended the fair and the valiant. Here reſt the purſuer and the purſued.

SON of Alpin! the woes of the aged are many: their tears are for the paſt. This raiſed my ſorrow, warriour; me[p.30]mory awaked my grief. Oſcur my ſon was brave; but Oſcur is now no more. Thou haſt heard my grief, O ſon of Alpin; forgive the tears of the aged.