James Macpherson

1736 - 1796


The Poems of Ossian









An Epic Poem.


Book V.




CUTHULLIN and Connal ſtill remain on the hill. Fingal and Swaran meet; the combat is deſcribed. Swaran is overcome, bound and delivered over as a priſoner to the care of Oſſian, and Gaul, the ſon of Morni; Fingal, his younger ſons, and Oſcar, ſtill purſue the enemy. The epiſode of Orla, a chief of Lochlin, who was mortally wounded in the battle, is introduced. Fingal, touched with the death of Orla, orders the purſuit to be diſcontinued; and calling his ſons together, he is informed that Ryno, the youngeſt of them, was ſlain. He laments his death, hears the ſtory of Lamderg and Gelchoſſa, and returns towards the place where he had left Swaran. Carril, who had been ſent by Cuthullin to congratulate Fingal on his victory, comes in the meantime to Oſſian. The converſation of the two poets cloſes the action of the fourth day.



ON Cromla's reſounding ſide, Connal ſpoke to the chief of the noble car. Why that gloom, ſon of Semo? Our friends are the mighty in fight. Renowned art thou, O warrior! many were the deaths of thy ſteel. Often has Bragela met, with blue-rolling eyes of joy, often has ſhe met her hero, returning in the midſt of the valiant; when his ſword was red with ſlaughter; when his foes were ſilent in the fields of the tomb. Pleaſant to her ears were thy bards, when thy deeds aroſe in ſong.

But behold the king of Morven! He moves, below, like a pillar of fire. His ſtrength is like the ſtream of Lubar, or the wind of the echoing Cromla; when the branchy foreſts of night are torn from all their rocks! Happy are thy people, O Fingal! thine arm ſhall finiſh their wars. Thou art the firſt in their dangers; the wiſeſt in the days of their peace. Thou ſpeakeſt, and thy thouſands obey: armies tremble at the ſound of thy ſteel. Happy are thy people, O Fingal! king of reſounding Selma! Who is that ſo dark and terrible coming in the thunder of his courſe? who but Starno's ſon to meet the king of Morven? Behold the battle of the chiefs! It is the ſtorm of the ocean, when two ſpirits meet far diſtant, and contend for the rolling of waves. The hunter hears the noiſe on his hill. He ſees the high billows advancing to Ardven's ſhore!

Such were the words of Connal when the heroes met in fight. There was the clang of arms! their every blow like the hundred hammers of the furnace! Terrible is the battle of the kings; dreadful the look of their eyes. Their dark-brown ſhields are cleft in twain. Their ſteel flies, broken, from their helms. They fling their weapons down. Each ruſhes to his hero's graſp: their ſinewy arms bend round each other: they turn from ſide to ſide, and ſtrain and ſtretch their large ſpreading limbs below. But when the pride of their ſtrength aroſe, they ſhook the hill with their heels. Rocks tumble from their places on high; the green-headed buſhes are overturned. At length the ſtrength of Swaran fell; the king of the groves is bound. Thus have I ſeen on Cona; but Cona I behold no more! thus have I ſeen two dark hills, removed from their place, by the ſtrength of the burſting ſtream. They turn from ſide to ſide in their fall; their tall oaks meet one another on high. Then they tumble together with all their rocks and trees. The ſtreams are turned by their ſide. The red ruin is ſeen afar.

“Sons of diſtant Morven,” ſaid Fingal, “guard the king of Lochlin! he is ſtrong as his thouſand waves. His hand is taught to war. His race is of the times of old. Gaul, thou firſt of my heroes; Oſſian, king of ſongs, attend. He is the friend of Agandecca; raiſe to joy his grief. But, Oſcar, Fillan, and Ryno, ye children of the race! purſue Lochlin over Lena; that no veſſel may hereafter bound on the dark-rolling waves of Iniſtore!”

They flew ſudden acroſs the heath. He ſlowly moved, like a cloud of thunder, when the ſultry plain of ſummer is ſilent and dark; his ſword is before him as a ſun-beam; terrible as the ſtreaming meteor of night. He came toward a chief of Lochlin. He ſpoke to the ſon of the wave. “Who is that ſo dark and ſad, at the rock of the roaring ſtream? He cannot bound over its courſe: How ſtately is the chief! his boſſy ſhield is on his ſide; his ſpear like the tree of the deſert! Youth of the dark-red hair, art thou of the foes of Fingal?”

“I am a ſon of Lochlin,” he cries, “ſtrong is my arm in war. My ſpouſe is weeping at home. Orla ſhall never return!” “Or fights or yields the hero?” ſaid Fingal of the noble deeds; “Foes do not conquer in my preſence: my friends are renowned in the hall. Son of the wave, follow me, partake the feaſt of my ſhells: purſue the deer of my deſert: be thou the friend of Fingal.” “No,” ſaid the hero; “I aſſiſt the feeble. My ſtrength is with the weak in arms. My ſword has been always unmatched, O warrior! let the king of Morven yield!” “I never yielded, Orla! Fingal never yielded to man. Draw thy ſword and chooſe thy foe. Many are my heroes!”

“Does then the king refuſe the fight?” ſaid Orla of the dark-brown ſhield. “Fingal is a match for Orla; and he alone of all his race! But, king of Morven, if I ſhall fall; as one time the warrior muſt die; raiſe my tomb in the midſt: let it be the greateſt on Lena. Send, over the dark-blue wave, the ſword of Orla to the ſpouſe of his love; that ſhe may ſhew it to her ſon, with tears, to kindle his ſoul to war.” “Son of the mournful tale,” ſaid Fingal, “why doſt thou awaken my tears? One day the warriors muſt die, and the children ſee their uſeleſs arms in the hall. But, Orla! thy tomb ſhall riſe. Thy white-boſomed ſpouſe ſhall weep over thy ſword.”

They fought on the heath of Lena. Feeble was the arm of Orla. The ſword of Fingal deſcended, and cleft his ſhield in twain. It fell and glittered on the ground, as the moon on the ruffled ſtream. “King of Morven,” ſaid the hero, “lift thy ſword and pierce my breaſt. Wounded and faint from battle, my friends have left me here. The mournful tale ſhall come to my love on the banks of the ſtreamy Lota; when ſhe is alone in the wood; and the ruſtling blaſt in the leaves!”

“No!” ſaid the king of Morven, “I will never wound thee, Orla. On the banks of Lota let her ſee thee, eſcaped from the hands of war. Let thy grey-haired father, who, perhaps, is blind with age; let him hear the ſound of thy voice, and brighten within his hall. With joy let the hero riſe, and ſearch for his ſon with his hands!” “But never will he find him, Fingal,” ſaid the youth of the ſtreamy Lota. “On Lena's heath I muſt die; foreign bards ſhall talk of me. My broad belt covers my wound of death. I give it to the wind!”

The dark blood poured from his ſide, he fell pale on the heath of Lena. Fingal bent over him as he dies, and called his younger chiefs. “Oſcar and Fillan, my ſons, raiſe high the memory of Orla. Here let the dark-haired hero reſt, far from the ſpouſe of his love. Here let him reſt in his narrow houſe, far from the ſound of Lota. The feeble will find his bow at home; but will not be able to bend it. His faithful dogs howl on his hills; his boars, which he uſed to purſue, rejoice. Fallen is the arm of battle! the mighty among the valiant is low! Exalt the voice, and blow the horn, ye ſons of the king of Morven! Let us go back to Swaran, to ſend the night away on ſong. Fillan, Oſcar, and Ryno, fly over the heath of Lena. Where, Ryno, art thou, young ſon of fame? Thou art not wont to be the laſt to anſwer thy father's voice!”

“Ryno,” ſaid Ullin, firſt of bards, “is with the awful forms of his fathers. With Trathal, king of ſhields; with Trenmor of mighty deeds. The youth is low, the youth is pale, he lies on Lena's heath!” “Fell the ſwifteſt in the race,” ſaid the king, “the firſt to bend the bow? Thou ſcarce haſt been known to me! why did young Ryno fall? But ſleep thou ſoftly on Lena, Fingal ſhall ſoon behold thee. Soon ſhall my voice be heard no more, and my footſteps ceaſe to be ſeen. The bards will tell of Fingal's name. The ſtones will talk of me. But, Ryno, thou art low indeed! thou haſt not received thy fame. Ullin, ſtrike the harp for Ryno; tell what the chief would have been. Farewell, thou firſt in every field! No more ſhall I direct thy dart! Thou that haſt been ſo fair! I behold thee not. Farewell.” The tear is on the cheek of the king, for terrible was his ſon in war. His ſon! that was like a beam of fire by night on a hill; when the foreſts ſink down in its courſe, and the traveller trembles at the ſound! But the winds drive it beyond the ſteep. It ſinks from ſight, and darkneſs prevails.

“Whoſe fame is in that dark-green tomb?” begun the king of generous ſhells; “four ſtones with their heads of moſs ſtand there! They mark the narrow houſe of death. Near it let Ryno reſt. A neighbour to the brave let him lie. Some chief of fame is here, to fly, with my ſon, on clouds. O Ullin, raiſe the ſongs of old. Awake their memory in their tomb. If in the field they never fled, my ſon ſhall reſt by their ſide. He ſhall reſt, far diſtant from Morven, on Lena's reſounding plains!”

“Here,” ſaid the bard of ſong, “here reſt the firſt of heroes.” Silent is Lamderg 1) in this place: dumb is Ullin, king of ſwords. And who, ſoft ſmiling from her cloud, ſhews me her face of love? Why, daughter, why ſo pale art thou, firſt of the maids of Cromla? Doſt thou ſleep with the foes in battle, white-boſomed daughter of Tuathal? Thou haſt been the love of thouſands, but Lamderg was thy love. He came to Selma's moſſy towers, and, ſtriking his dark buckler, ſpoke: “Where is Gelchoſſa, my love, the daughter of the noble Tuathal? I left her in the hall of Selma, when I fought with great Ulfada. ›Return ſoon, O Lamderg!‹ ſhe ſaid, ›for here I ſit in grief.‹ Her white breaſt roſe with ſighs. Her cheek was wet with tears. But I ſee her not coming to meet me; to ſoothe my ſoul after war. Silent is the hall of my joy! I hear not the voice of the bard. Bran 2) does not ſhake his chains at the gate, glad at the coming of Lamderg. Where is Gelchoſſa, my love, the mild daughter of the generous Tuathal?”

“Lamderg!” ſays Ferchios, ſon of Aidon, “Gelchoſſa moves ſtately on Cromla. She and the maids of the bow purſue the flying deer!” “Ferchios!” replied the chief of Cromla, “no noiſe meets the ear of Lamderg! No ſound is in the woods of Lena. No deer fly in my ſight. No panting dog purſues. I ſee not Gelchoſſa, my love, fair as the full moon ſetting on the hills. Go, Ferchios, go to Allad, 3) the grey-haired ſon of the rock. His dwelling is in the circle of ſtones. He may know of the bright Gelchoſſa!”

The ſon of Aidon went. He ſpoke to the ear of age. “Allad! dweller of rocks: thou that trembleſt alone! what ſaw thine eyes of age?” “I ſaw,” anſwered Allad the old, “Ullin the ſon of Cairbar.” He came, in darkneſs, from Cromla. He hummed a ſurly ſong, like a blaſt in a leafleſs wood. He entered the hall of Selma. “Lamderg,” he ſaid, “moſt dreadful of men, fight, or yield to Ullin.” “Lamderg,” replied Gelchoſſa, “the ſon of battle, is not here. He fights Ulfada mighty chief. He is not here, thou firſt of men! But Lamderg never yields. He will fight the ſon of Cairbar!” “Lovely art thou,” ſaid terrible Ullin, “daughter of the generous Tuathal. I carry thee to Cairbar's halls. The valiant ſhall have Gelchoſſa. Three days I remain on Cromla, to wait that ſon of battle, Lamderg. On the fourth Gelchoſſa is mine; if the mighty Lamderg flies.”

“Allad!” ſaid the chief of Cromla, “peace to thy dreams in the cave. Ferchios, ſound the horn of Lamderg, that Ullin may hear in his halls.” Lamderg, like a roaring ſtorm, aſcended the hill from Selma. He hummed a ſurly ſong as he went, like the noiſe of a falling ſtream. He darkly ſtood upon the hill, like a cloud varying its form to the wind. He rolled a ſtone, the ſign of war. Ullin heard in Cairbar's hall. The hero heard, with joy, his foe. He took his father's ſpear. A ſmile brightens his dark-brown cheek, as he places his ſword by his ſide. The dagger glittered in his hand. He whiſtled as he went.

“Gelchoſſa ſaw the ſilent chief, as a wreath of miſt aſcending the hill. She ſtruck her white and heaving breaſt; and ſilent, tearful, feared for Lamderg. ›Cairbar, hoary chief of ſhells,‹ ſaid the maid of the tender hand, ›I muſt bend the bow on Cromla. I ſee the dark-brown hinds!‹ She haſted up the hill. In vain! the gloomy heroes fought. Why ſhould I tell to Selma's king, how wrathful heroes fight? Fierce Ullin fell. Young Lamderg came, all pale, to the daughter of generous Tuathal! ›What blood, my love?‹ ſhe trembling ſaid: ›what blood runs down my warrior's ſide?‹ ›It is Ullin's blood,‹ the chief replied, ›thou fairer than the ſnow! Gelchoſſa, let me reſt here a little while.‹ The mighty Lamderg died! ›And ſleepeſt thou ſo ſoon on earth, O chief of ſhady Selma?‹ Three days ſhe mourned beſide her love. The hunters found her cold. They raiſed this tomb above the three. Thy ſon, O king of Morven, may reſt here with heroes!”

“And here my ſon ſhall reſt,” ſaid Fingal. “The voice of their fame is in mine ears. Fillan and Fergus! bring hither Orla; the pale youth of the ſtream of Lota! Not unequalled ſhall Ryno lie in earth, when Orla is by his ſide. Weep, ye daughters of Morven! ye maids of the ſtreamy Lota, weep! Like a tree they grew on the hills. They have fallen like the oak of the deſert; when it lies acroſs a ſtream, and withers in the wind. Oſcar! chief of every youth! thou ſeeſt how they have fallen. Be thou like them, on earth renowned. Like them the ſong of bards. Terrible were their forms in battle; but calm was Ryno in the days of peace. He was like the bow of the ſhower ſeen far diſtant on the ſtream; when the ſun is ſetting on Mora; when ſilence dwells on the hill of deer. Reſt, youngeſt of my ſons! reſt, O Ryno! on Lena. We too ſhall be no more. Warriors one day muſt fall!”

Such was thy grief, thou king of ſwords, when Ryno lay on earth. What muſt the grief of Oſſian be, for thou thyſelf art gone! I hear not thy diſtant voice on Cona. My eyes perceive thee not. Often forlorn and dark I ſit at thy tomb; and feel it with my hands. When I think I hear thy voice, it is but the paſſing blaſt. Fingal has long ſince fallen aſleep, the ruler of the war!

Then Gaul and Oſſian ſat with Swaran, on the ſoft green banks of Lubar. I touched the harp to pleaſe the king. But gloomy was his brow. He rolled his red eyes towards Lena. The hero mourned his hoſt. I raiſed mine eyes to Cromla's brow. I ſaw the ſon of generous Semo. Sad and ſlow, he retired, from his hill, towards the lonely cave of Tura. He ſaw Fingal victorious, and mixed his joy with grief. The ſun is bright on his armour. Connal ſlowly ſtrode behind. They ſunk behind the hill, like two pillars of the fire of night: when winds purſue them over the mountain, and the flaming heath reſounds! Beſide a ſtream of roaring foam his cave is in a rock. One tree bends above it. The ruſhing winds echo againſt its ſides. Here reſts the chief of Erin, the ſon of generous Semo. His thoughts are on the battles he loſt. The tear is on his cheek. He mourned the departure of his fame, that fled like the miſt of Cona. O Bragela! thou art too far remote, to cheer the ſoul of the hero. But let him ſee thy bright form in his mind: that his thoughts may return to the lonely ſunbeam of his love!

Who comes with the locks of age? It is the ſon of ſongs. “Hail, Carril of other times! Thy voice is like the harp in the halls of Tura. Thy words are pleaſant as the ſhower which falls on the ſunny field. Carril of the times of old, why comeſt thou from the ſon of the generous Semo?”

“Oſſian, king of ſwords,” replied the bard, “thou beſt can raiſe the ſong. Long haſt thou been known to Carril, thou ruler of war! Often have I touched the harp to lovely Everallin. Thou too haſt often joined my voice, in Branno's hall of generous ſhells. And often, amidſt our voices, was heard the mildeſt Everallin. One day ſhe ſung of Cormac's fall, the youth who died for her love. I ſaw the tears on her cheek, and on thine, thou chief of men! Her ſoul was touched for the unhappy, though ſhe loved him not. How fair among a thouſand maids was the daughter of generous Branno!”

“Bring not, Carril,” I replied, “bring not her memory to my mind. My ſoul muſt melt at the remembrance. My eyes muſt have their tears. Pale in the earth is ſhe, the ſoftly-bluſhing fair of my love! But ſit thou on the heath, O bard! and let us hear thy voice. It is pleaſant as the gale of ſpring, that ſighs on the hunter's ear; when he awakens from dreams of joy, and has heard the muſic of the ſpirits of the hill!”





Lamh-dhearg ſignifies bloody hand. Gelchoſſa, white legged. Tuathal, ſurly. Ulfada, long beard. Ferchios, the conqueror of men. 


Bran is a common name of greyhounds to this day. It is a cuſtom in the north of Scotland to give the names of the heroes mentioned in this poem to their dogs; a proof that they are familiar to the ear, and their fame generally known. 


Allad is a Druid: he is called the ſon of the rock, from his dwelling in a cave; and the circle of ſtones here mentioned is the pale of the Druidical temple. He is here conſulted as one who had a ſupernatural knowledge of things. From the Druids, no doubt, came the ridiculous notion of the ſecond ſight which prevailed in the highlands and iſles.