James Macpherson

1736 - 1796


Fragments of Ancient Poetry

Collected in the Highlands of Scotland










BY the ſide of a rock on the hill, beneath the aged trees, old Oſcian ſat on the moſs; the laſt of the race of Fingal. Sightleſs are his aged eyes; his beard is waving in the wind. Dull through the leafleſs trees he heard the voice of the north. Sorrow revived in his ſoul: he began and lamented the dead.

HOW haſt thou fallen like an oak, with all thy branches round thee! Where is Fingal the King? where is Oſcur my ſon? where are all my race? Alas! in the earth they lie. I feel their tombs with my hands. I hear the river below murmuring hoarſely over the ſtones. What doſt thou, O river, to me? Thou bringeſt back the memory of the paſt.


THE race of Fingal ſtood on thy banks, like a wood in a fertile ſoil. Keen were their ſpears of ſteel. Hardy was he who dared to encounter their rage. Fillan the great was there. Thou Oſcur wert there, my ſon! Fingal himſelf was there, ſtrong in the grey locks of years. Full roſe his ſinewy limbs; and wide his ſhoulders ſpread. The unhappy met with his arm, when the pride of his wrath aroſe.

THE ſon of Morny came; Gaul, the talleſt of men. He ſtood on the hill like an oak; his voice was like the ſtreams of the hill. Why reigneth alone, he cries, the ſon of the mighty Corval? Fingal is not ſtrong to ſave: he is no ſupport for the people. I am ſtrong as a ſtorm in the ocean; as a whirlwind on the hill. Yield, ſon of Corval; Fingal, yield to me.


OSCUR ſtood forth to meet him; my ſon would meet the foe. But Fingal came in his ſtrength, and ſmiled at the vaunter's boaſt. They threw their arms round each other; they ſtruggled on the plain. The earth is ploughed with their heels. Their bones crack as the boat on the ocean, when it leaps from wave to wave. Long did they toil; with night, they fell on the ſounding plain; as two oaks, with their branches mingled, fall craſhing from the hill. The tall ſon of Morny is bound; the aged overcame.

FAIR with her locks of gold, her ſmooth neck, and her breaſts of ſnow; fair, as the ſpirits of the hill when at ſilent noon they glide along the heath; fair, as the rainbow of heaven; came Minvane the maid. Fingal! She ſoftly ſaith, looſe me my brother Gaul. Looſe me the hope of my race, the ter


ror of all but Fingal. Can I, replies the King, can I deny the lovely daughter of the hill? take thy brother, O Minvane, thou fairer than the ſnow of the north!

SUCH, Fingal! were thy words; but thy words I hear no more. Sightleſs I ſit by thy tomb. I hear the wind in the wood; but no more I hear my friends. The cry of the hunter is over. The voice of war is ceaſed.