James Macpherson

1736 - 1796


The Poems of Ossian










Duan Third.




OSSIAN, after ſome general reflections, deſcribes the ſituation of Fingal, and the poſition of the army of Lochlin. — The converſation of Starno and Swaran. — The epiſode of Corman- trunar and Foina-bragal. — Starno, from his own example, recommends to Swaran to ſurpriſe Fingal, who had retired alone to a neighboring hill. Upon Swaran's refuſal, Starno undertakes the enterpriſe himſelf, is overcome and taken priſoner by Fingal. — He is diſmiſſed after a ſevere reprimand for his cruelty.



WHENCE is the ſtream of years? Whither do they roll along? Where have they hid, in miſt, their many colored ſides.

I look unto the times of old, but they ſeem dim to Oſſian's eyes, like reflected moonbeams on a diſtant lake. Here riſe the red beams of war! There, ſilent dwells a feeble race! They mark no years with their deeds, as ſlow they paſs along. Dweller between the ſhields! thou that awakeſt the failing ſoul! deſcend from thy wall, harp of Cona, with thy voices three! Come with that which kindles the paſt: rear the forms of old, on their own dark-brown years!

U-thorno, hill of ſtorms, I behold my race on thy ſide. Fingal is bending in night over Duthmaruno's tomb. Near him are the ſteps of his heroes, hunters of the boar. By Turthor's ſtream the hoſt of Lochlin is deep in ſhades. The wrathful kings ſtood on two hills: they looked forward on their boſſy ſhields. They looked forward to the ſtars of night, red wandering in the weſt. Cruth- loda bends from high, like formleſs meteor in clouds. He ſends abroad the winds and marks them with his ſigns. Starno foreſaw that Morven's king was not to yield in war.

He twice ſtruck the tree in wrath. He ruſhed before his ſon. He hummed a ſurly ſong, and heard his air in wind. Turned 1) from one another, they ſtood like two oaks, which different winds had bent; each hangs over his own loud rill, and ſhakes his boughs in the courſe of blaſts.

“Annir,” ſaid Starno of lakes, “was a fire that conſumed of old. He poured death from his eyes along the ſtriving fields. His joy was in the fall of men. Blood to him was a ſummer ſtream, that brings joy to the withered vales, from its own moſſy rock. He came forth to the lake Luth-cormo, to meet the tall Corman- trunar, he from Urlor of ſtreams, dweller of battle's wing.”

The chief of Urlor had come to Gormal with his dark- boſomed ſhips. He ſaw the daughter of Annir, white-armed Foina-bragal. He ſaw her! Nor careleſs rolled her eyes on the rider of ſtormy waves. She fled to his ſhip in darkneſs, like a moonbeam through a nightly veil. Annir purſued along the deep; he called the winds of heaven. Nor alone was the king! Starno was by his ſide. Like U-thorno's young eagle, I turned my eyes on my father.

We ruſhed into roaring Urlor. With his people came tall Corman-trunar. We fought; but the foe prevailed. In his wrath my father ſtood. He lopped the young trees with his ſword. His eyes rolled red in his rage. I marked the ſoul of the king, and I retired in night. From the field I took a broken helmet; a ſhield that was pierced with ſteel; pointleſs was the ſpear in my hand. I went to find the foe.

On a rock ſat tall Corman-trunar beſide his burning oak; and near him beneath a tree, ſat deep-boſomed Foina-bragal. I threw my broken ſhield before her! I ſpoke the words of peace. “Beſide his rolling ſea lies Annir of many lakes. The king was pierced in battle; and Starno is to raiſe his tomb. Me, a ſon of Loda, he ſends to white-handed Foina, to bid her ſend a lock from her hair, to reſt with her father in earth. And thou, king of roaring Urlor, let the battle ceaſe, till Annir receive the ſhell from fiery-eyed Cruth-loda.”

Burſting into tears, ſhe roſe, and tore a lock from her hair; a lock, which wandered in the blaſt, along her heaving breaſt. Corman-trunar gave the ſhell, and bade me rejoice before him. I reſted in the ſhade of night, and hid my face in my helmet deep. Sleep deſcended on the foe. I roſe, like a ſtalking ghoſt. I pierced the ſide of Corman-trunar. Nor did Foina-bragal eſcape. She rolled her white boſom in blood.

Why, then, daughter of heroes, didſt thou wake my rage?

Morning roſe. The foe were fled, like the departure of miſt. Annir ſtruck his boſſy ſhield. He called his dark-haired ſon. I came, ſtreaked with wandering blood: thrice roſe the ſhout of the king, like the burſting forth of a ſquall of wind from a cloud by night. We rejoiced three days above the dead, and called the hawks of heaven. They came from all their winds to feaſt on Annir's foes. Swaran, Fingal is alone 2) in his hill of night. Let thy ſpear pierce the king in ſecret; like Annir, my ſoul ſhall rejoice.

“O Son of Annir,” ſaid Swaran, “I ſhall not ſlay in ſhades: I move forth in light: the hawks ruſh from all their winds. They are wont to trace my courſe: it is not harmleſs through war.”

Burning roſe the rage of the king. He thrice raiſed his gleaming ſpear. But, ſtarting, he ſpared his ſon, and ruſhed into the night. By Turthor's ſtream, a cave is dark, the dwelling of Conban-carglas. There he laid the helmet of kings, and called the maid of Lulan; but ſhe was diſtant far in Loda's reſounding hall.

Swelling in his rage, he ſtrode to where Fingal lay alone. The king was laid on his ſhield, on his own ſecret hill.

Stern hunter of ſhaggy boars! no feeble maid is laid before thee. No boy on his ferny bed, by Turthor's murmuring ſtream. Here is ſpread the couch of the mighty, from which they riſe to deeds of death! Hunter of ſhaggy boars, awaken not the terrible!

Starno came murmuring on. Fingal aroſe in arms. “Who art thou, ſon of night!” Silent he threw the ſpear. They mixed their gloomy ſtrife. The ſhield of Starno fell, cleft in twain. He is bound to an oak. The early beam aroſe. It was then Fingal beheld the king. He rolled awhile his ſilent eyes. He thought of other days, when white-boſomed Agandecca moved like the muſic of ſongs. He looſed the thong from his hands. Son of Annir, he ſaid, retire. Retire to Gormal of ſhells; a beam that was ſet returns. I remember thy white-boſomed daughter; dreadful king, away! Go to thy troubled dwelling, cloudy foe of the lovely! Let the ſtranger ſhun thee, thou gloomy in the hall!

A tale of the times of old!





The ſurly attitude of Starno and Swaran is well adapted to their fierce and uncomplying diſpoſitions. Their characters at firſt ſight, ſeem little different; but, upon examination, we find that the poet has dexterouſly diſtinguiſhed between them. They were both dark, ſtubborn, haughty, and reſerved; but Starno was cunning, revengeful, and cruel, to the higheſt degree; the diſpoſition of Swaran, though ſavage, was leſs bloody, and ſomewhat tinctured with generoſity. It is doing injuſtice to Oſſian to ſay that he has not a great variety of characters. 


Fingal, according to the cuſtom of the Caledonian kings, had retired to a hill alone, as he himſelf was to reſume the command of the army the next day. Starno might have ſome intelligence of the king's retiring, which occaſions his requeſt to Swaran, to ſtab him; as he foreſaw, by his art of divination, that he could not overcome him in open battle.