James Macpherson

1736 - 1796


The Poems of Ossian









An Epic Poem.


Book III.




MORNING coming on, Fingal, after a ſpeech to his people, devolves the command on Gaul, the ſon of Morni; it being the cuſtom of the times that the king ſhould not engage till the neceſſity of affairs required his ſuperior valour and conduct. The king and Oſſian retire to the rock of Cormul, which overlooked the field of battle. The bards ſing the war-ſong. The general conflict is deſcribed. Gaul, the ſon of Morni, diſtinguiſhes himſelf; kills Turlathon, chief of Moruth, and other chiefs of leſſer name. On the other hand, Foldath, who commanded the Iriſh army (for Cathmor, after the example of Fingal, kept himſelf from battle) fights gallantly; kills Connal, chief of Dun-lora, and advances to engage Gaul himſelf. Gaul, in the meantime being wounded in the hand by a random arrow, is covered by Fillan, the ſon of Fingal, who performs prodigies of valour. Night comes on. The horn of Fingal recalls his army. The bards meet them with a congratulatory ſong, in which the praiſes of Gaul and Fiilan are particularly celebrated. The chiefs ſit down at a feaſt; Fingal miſſes Connal. The epiſode of Connal and Duth-caron is introduced; which throws further light on the ancient hiſtory of Ireland. Carril is deſpatched to raiſe the tomb of Connal. The action of this book takes up the ſecond day from the opening of the poem.



WHO is that at blue-ſtreaming Lubar? Who, by the bending hills of roes? Tall, he leans on an oak torn from high, by nightly winds. Who but Comhal's ſon, brightening in the laſt of his fields? His grey hair is on the breeze. He half unſheaths the ſword of Luno. His eyes are turned to Moi-lena, to the dark moving of foes. Doſt thou hear the voice of the king? It is like the burſting of a ſtream in the deſert, when it comes, between its echoing rocks, to the blaſted field of the ſun!

“Wide-ſkirted comes down the foe! Sons of woody Selma, ariſe! Be ye like the rocks of our land, on whoſe brown ſides are the rolling of ſtreams. A beam of joy comes on my ſoul. I ſee the foe mighty before me. It is when he is feeble, that the ſighs of Fingal are heard: leſt death ſhould come without renown, and darkneſs dwell on his tomb. Who ſhall lead the war, againſt the hoſt of Alnecma? It is only when danger grows that my ſword ſhall ſhine. Such was the cuſtom, heretofore, of Trenmor the ruler of winds; and thus deſcended to battle the blue-ſhielded Trathal.”

The chiefs bend toward the king. Each darkly ſeems to claim the war. They tell, by halves, their mighty deeds. They turn their eyes on Erin. But far before the reſt the ſon of Morni ſtands. Silent he ſtands, for who had not heard of the battles of Gaul? They roſe within his ſoul. His hand, in ſecret, ſeized the ſword. The ſword which he brought from Strumon, when the ſtrength of Morni failed. 1)

On his ſpear leans Fillan of Selma, 2) in the wandering of his locks. Thrice he raiſes his eyes to Fingal; his voice thrice fails him as he ſpeaks. My brother could not boaſt of battles: at once he ſtrides away. Bent over a diſtant ſtream he ſtands, the tear hangs in his eye. He ſtrikes, at times, the thiſtle's head, with his inverted ſpear. Nor is he unſeen of Fingal. Sidelong he beholds his ſon. He beholds him, with burſting joy; and turns, amid his crowded ſoul. In ſilence turns the king toward Mora of woods. He hides the big tear with his locks. At length, his voice is heard.

“Firſt of the ſons of Morni! Thou rock that defieſt the ſtorm! Lead thou my battle, for the race of low-laid Cormac. No boy's ſtaff is thy ſpear; no harmleſs beam of light thy ſword. Son of Morni of ſteeds, behold the foe! Deſtroy! Fillan, obſerve the chief! He is not calm in ſtrife: nor burns he, heedleſs, in battle. My ſon, obſerve the chief! He is ſtrong as Lubar's ſtream, but never foams and roars. High on cloudy Mora, Fingal ſhall behold the war. Stand, Oſſian, 3) near thy father, by the falling ſtream. Raiſe the voice, O bards! Selma, move beneath the ſound. It is my latter field. Clothe it over with light.”

As the ſudden riſing of winds; or diſtant rolling of troubled ſeas, when ſome dark ghoſt in wrath heaves the billows over an iſle: an iſle, the ſeat of miſt, on the deep, from many dark-brown years. So terrible is the ſound of the hoſt, wide-moving over the field. Gaul is tall before them. The ſtreams glitter within his ſtrides. The bards raiſe the ſong by his ſide. He ſtrikes his ſhield between. On the ſkirts of the blaſt, the tuneful voices riſe.

“On Crona,” ſaid the bards, “there burſts a ſtream by night. It ſwells in its own dark courſe, till morning's early beam. Then comes it white from the hill, with the rocks and their hundred groves. Far be my ſteps from Crona. Death is rolling there. Be ye a ſtream from Mora, ſons of cloudy Morven!”

“Who riſes, from his car, on Clutha? The hills are troubled before the king! The dark woods echo round, and lighten at his ſteel. See him, amidſt the foe, like Colgach's 4) ſportful ghoſt: when he ſcatters the clouds, and rides the eddying winds! It is Morni 5) of bounding ſteeds! Be like thy father, O Gaul!”

“Selma is opened wide. Bards take the trembling harps. Ten youths bear the oak of the feaſt A diſtant ſun-beam marks the hill. The duſky waves of the blaſt fly over the fields of graſs. Why art thou ſilent, O Selma? The king returns with all his fame. Did not the battle roar; yet peaceful is his brow? It roared, and Fingal overcame. Be like thy father, O Fillan!”

They move beneath the ſong. High wave their arms as ruſhy fields, beneath autumnal winds. On Mora ſtands the king in arms. Miſt flies round his buckler abroad; as, aloft, it hung on a bough, on Cormal's moſſy rock. In ſilence I ſtood by Fingal, and turned my eyes on Cromla's wood: leſt I ſhould behold the hoſt, and ruſh amid my ſwelling ſoul. My foot is forward on the heath. I glittered, tall, in ſteel: like the falling ſtream of Tromo, which nightly winds bind over with ice. The boy ſees it, on high, gleaming to the early beam; towards it he turns his ear, and wonders why it is ſo ſilent!

Nor bent over a ſtream is Cathmor, like a youth in a peaceful field. Wide he drew forward the war, a dark and troubled wave. But when he beheld Fingal on Mora, his generous pride aroſe. “Shall the chief of Atha fight, and no king in the field? Foldath, lead my people forth. Thou art a beam of fire.”

Forth iſſues Foldath of Moma, like a cloud, the robe of ghoſts. He drew his ſword, a flame, from his ſide. He bade the battle move. The tribes like ridgy waves, dark pour their ſtrength around. Haughty is his ſtride before them. His red eye rolls in wrath. He calls Cormul chief of Dunratho 6); and his words were heard.

“Cormul, thou beholdeſt that path. It winds green behind the foe. Place thy people there; leſt Selma ſhould eſcape from my ſword. Bards of green-valleyed Erin, let no voice of yours ariſe. The ſons of Morven muſt fall without ſong. They are the foes of Cairbar. Hereafter ſhall the traveller meet their dark, thick miſt on Lena where it wanders, with their ghoſts, beſide the reedy lake. Never ſhall they riſe, without ſong, to the dwelling of winds.”

Cormul darkened, as he went. Behind him ruſhed his tribe. They ſunk beyond the rock. Gaul ſpoke to Fillan of Selma; as his eye purſued the courſe of the dark-eyed chief of Dunratho. “Thou beholdeſt the ſteps of Cormul! Let thine arm be ſtrong! When he is low, ſon of Fingal, remember Gaul in war. Here I fall forward into battle, amid the ridge of ſhields.”

The ſign of death aſcends: the dreadful ſound of Morni's ſhield. Gaul pours his voice between. Fingal riſes on Mora. He ſaw them, from wing to wing, bending at once in ſtrife. Gleaming on his own dark hill, ſtood Cathmor of ſtreamy Atha. The kings were like two ſpirits of heaven, ſtanding each on his gloomy cloud; when they pour abroad the winds, and lift the roaring ſeas. The blue-tumbling of waves is before them, marked with the paths of whales. They themſelves are calm and bright The gale lifts ſlowly their locks of miſt!

What beam of light hangs high in air! What beam, but Morni's dreadful ſword! Death is ſtrewed on thy paths, O Gaul! Thou foldeſt them together in thy rage. Like a young oak falls Tur-lathon, 7) with his branches round him. His high-boſomed ſpouſe ſtretches her white arms, in dreams, to the returning chief, as ſhe ſleeps by gurgling Moruth, in her diſordered locks. It is his ghoſt, Oichaoma. The chief is lowly laid. Hearken not to the winds for Tur-lathon's echoing ſhield. It is pierced, by his ſtreams. Its ſound is paſſed away.

Not peaceful is the hand of Foldath. He winds his courſe in blood. Connal met him in fight. They mixed their clanging ſteel. Why ſhould mine eyes behold them! Connal, thy locks are grey! Thou wert the friend of ſtrangers, at the moſs-covered rock of Dunlora. When the ſkies were rolled together, then thy feaſt was ſpread. The ſtranger heard the winds without; and rejoiced at thy burning oak. Why, ſon of Duth-caron, art thou laid in blood! The blaſted tree bends above thee. Thy ſhield lies broken near. Thy blood mixes with the ſtream; thou breaker of the ſhields!

Oſſian took the ſpear, in his wrath. But Gaul ruſhed forward on Foldath. The feeble paſs by his ſide: his rage is turned on Moma's chief. Now they had raiſed their deathful ſpears; unſeen, an arrow came. It pierced the hand of Gaul. His ſteel fell ſounding to earth. Young Fillan came, 8) with Cormul's ſhield. He ſtretched it large before the chief. Foldath ſent his ſhouts abroad, and kindled all the field: as a blaſt that lifts the wide-winged flame over Lumon's echoing groves. 9)

“Son of blue-eyed Clatho,” ſaid Gaul, “O Fillan! thou art a beam from heaven; that, coming on the troubled deep, binds up the tempeſt's wing. Cormul is fallen before thee. Early art thou in the fame of thy fathers. Ruſh not too far, my hero. I cannot lift the ſpear to aid. I ſtand harmleſs in battle: but my voice ſhall be poured abroad. The ſons of Selma ſhall hear, and remember my former deeds.”

His terrible voice roſe on the wind. The hoſt bends forward in fight. Often had they heard him, at Strumon, when he called them to the chaſe of the hinds. He ſtands tall, amid the war, as an oak in the ſkirts of a ſtorm, which now is clothed on high, in miſt: then ſhews its broad, waving head. The muſing hunter lifts his eye from his own ruſhy field!

My ſoul purſues thee, O Fillan! through the path of thy fame. Thou rolledſt the foe before thee. Now Foldath, perhaps, may fly: but night comes down with its clouds. Cathmor's horn is heard on high. The ſons of Selma hear the voice of Fingal, from Mora's gathered miſt. The bards pour their ſong, like dew, on the returning war.

“Who comes from Strumon,” they ſaid, “amid her wandering locks? She is mournful in her ſteps, and lifts her blue eyes toward Erin. Why art thou ſad, Evirchom? 10) Who is like thy chief in renown? He deſcended dreadful to battle; he returns, like a light from a cloud. He raiſed the ſword in wrath: they ſhrunk before blue-ſhielded Gaul!

Joy, like the ruſtling gale, comes on the ſoul of the king. He remembers the battles of old; the days wherein his fathers fought. The days of old return on Fingal's mind, as he beholds the renown of his ſon. As the ſun rejoices, from his cloud, over the tree his beams have raiſed, as it ſhakes its lonely head on the heath; ſo joyful is the king over Fillan!

As the rolling of thunder on hills, when Lara's fields are ſtill and dark, ſuch are the ſteps of Selma, pleaſant and dreadful to the ear. They return with their ſound, like eagles to their dark-brown rock, after the prey is torn on the field, the dun ſons of the bounding hind. Your fathers rejoice from their clouds, ſons of ſtreamy Selma!”

Such was the nightly voice of bards, on Mora of the hinds. A flame roſe, from an hundred oaks, which winds had torn from Cormul's ſteep. The feaſt is ſpread in the midſt: around ſat the gleaming chiefs. Fingal is there in his ſtrength. The eagle-wing 11) of his helmet ſounds. The ruſtling blaſts of the weſt, unequal ruſh through night. Long looks the king in ſilence round: at length his words are heard.

“My ſoul feels a want in our joy. I behold a breach among my friends. The head of one tree is low. The ſqually wind pours in on Selma. Where is the chief of Dun-lora? Ought Connal to be forgot at the feaſt? When did he forget the ſtranger, in the midſt of his echoing hall? Ye are ſilent in my preſence! Connal is then no more. Joy meet thee, O warrior! like a ſtream of light. Swift be thy courſe to thy fathers, along the roaring winds! Oſſian, thy ſoul is fire: kindle the memory of the king. Awake the battles of Connal, when firſt he ſhone in war. The locks of Connal were grey. His days of youth 12) were mixed with mine. In one day Duth-caron firſt ſtrung our bows, againſt the roes of Dun-lora.”

“Many,” I ſaid, “are our paths to battle, in greenvalleyed Erin. Often did our ſails ariſe, over the blue tumbling waves; when we came, in other days, to aid the race of Conar. The ſtrife roared once in Alnecma, at the foam-covered ſtreams of Duth-úla. 13) With Cormac deſcended to battle Duth-caron from cloudy Selma. Nor deſcended Duth-caron alone; his ſon was by his ſide, the long-haired youth of Connal lifting the firſt of his ſpears. Thou didſt command them, O Fingal! to aid the king of Erin.

Like the burſting ſtrength of ocean, the ſons of Bolga ruſhed to war. Colculla 14) was before them, the chief of blue-ſtreaming Atha. The battle was mixed on the plain. Cormac ſhone in his own ſtrife, bright as the forms of his fathers. But, far before the reſt, Duth-caron hewed down the foe. Nor ſlept the arm of Connal by his father's ſide. Colculla prevailed on the plain: like ſcattered miſt fled the people of Cormac. 15)

Then roſe the ſword of Duth-caron, and the ſteel of broad-ſhielded Connal. They ſhaded their flying friends, like two rocks with their heads of pine. Night came down on Duth-úla: ſilent ſtrode the chiefs over the field. A mountain-ſtream roared acroſs the path, nor could Duth-caron bound over its courſe.” “Why ſtands my father?” ſaid Connal. “I hear the ruſhing foe.”

“Fly, Connal,” he ſaid. “Thy father's ſtrength begins to fail. I come wounded from battle. Here let me reſt in night.” “But thou ſhalt not remain alone,” ſaid Connal's burſting ſigh. “My ſhield is an eagle's wing to cover the king of Dun-lora.” He bends dark above his father. The mighty Duth-caron dies.

Day roſe, and night returned. No lonely bard appeared, deep muſing on the heath: and could Connal leave the tomb of his father, till he ſhould receive his fame? He bent the bow againſt the roes of Duth-úla. He ſpread the lonely feaſt. Seven nights he laid his head on the tomb, and ſaw his father in his dreams. He ſaw him rolled, dark, in a blaſt, like the vapour of reedy Lego. At length the ſteps of Colgan 16) came, the bard of high Temora. Duth-caron received his fame, and brightened as he roſe on the wind.

“Pleaſant to the ear,” ſaid Fingal, “is the praiſe of the kings of men; when their bows are ſtrong in battle; when they ſoften at the ſight of the ſad. Thus let my name be renowned, when bards ſhall lighten my riſing ſoul. Carril, ſon of Kinfena! take the bards and raiſe a tomb. To-night let Connal dwell within his narrow houſe. Let not the ſoul of the valiant wander on the winds. Faint glimmers the moon on Moi-lena, through the broad-headed groves of the hill! Raiſe ſtones, beneath its beam, to all the fallen in war. Though no chiefs were they, yet their hands were ſtrong in fight. They were my rock in danger; the mountain from which I ſpread my eagle-wings. Thence am I renowned. Carril, forget not the low!”

Loud, at once, from the hundred bards, roſe the ſong of the tomb. Carril ſtrode before them, they are the murmur of ſtreams behind his ſteps. Silence dwells in the vales of Moi-lena, where each, with its own dark rill, is winding between the hills. I heard the voice of the bards, leſſening, as they moved along. I leaned forward from my ſhield; and felt the kindling of my ſoul. Half-formed, the words of my ſong burſt forth upon the wind. So hears a tree, on the vale, the voice of ſpring around. It pours its green leaves to the ſun. It ſhakes its lonely head. The hum of the mountain bee is near it; the hunter ſees it, with joy, from the blaſted heath.

Young Fillan at a diſtance ſtood. His helmet lay glittering on the ground. His dark hair is looſe to the blaſt. A beam of light is Clatho's ſon. He heard the words of the king, with joy. He leaned forward on his ſpear.

“My ſon,” ſaid car-borne Fingal, “I ſaw thy deeds, and my ſoul was glad. The fame of our fathers, I ſaid, burſts from its gathering cloud. Thou art brave, ſon of Clatho! but headlong in the ſtrife. So did not Fingal advance, though he never feared a foe. Let thy people be a ridge behind. They are thy ſtrength in the field. Then ſhalt thou be long renowned, and behold the tombs of the old. The memory of the paſt returns, my deeds in other years: when firſt I deſcended from ocean on the green-valleyed iſle.”

We bend towards the voice of the king. The moon looks abroad from her cloud. The grey-ſkirted miſt is near: the dwelling of the ghoſts!





Strumon, ſtream of the hill, the name of the ſeat of the family of Gaul, in the neighbourhood of Selma. During Gaul's expedition to Tromathon, mentioned in the poem of Oithona, Morni his father died. Morni ordered the ſword of Strumon (which had been preſerved in the family as a relic from the days of Colgach, the moſt renowned of his anceſtors) to be laid by his ſide in the tomb: at the ſame time leaving it in charge to his ſon not to take it from thence till he was reduced to the laſt extremity. Not long after, two of his brothers being ſlain in battle by Coldaronnan, chief of Clutha, Gaul went to his father's tomb to take the ſword. 


Clatho was the daughter of Cathulla, king of Iniſtore. Fingal, in one of his expeditions to that iſland, fell in love with Clatho, and took her to wife after the death of Ros-crana, the daughter of Cormac, king of Ireland.

Clatho was the mother of Ryno, Fillan, and Boſmina, mentioned in the battle of Lora. Fillan is often called the ſon of Clatho, to diſtinguiſh him from thoſe ſons which Fingal had by Ros-crana, of whom Oſſian was one. C.  


Ullin being ſent to Morven with the body of Oſcar, Oſſian attends his father in quality of chief bard. 


There are ſome traditions, but, I believe, of late invention, that this Colgach was the ſame with the Galgacus of Tacitus. He was the anceſtor of Gaul, the ſon of Morni, and appears, from ſome really ancient traditions, to have been king or Vergobret of the Caledonians; and hence proceeded the pretenſions of the family of Morni to the throne, which created a good deal of diſturbance, both to Comhal and his ſon Fingal. The firſt was killed in battle by that tribe, and it was after Fingal was grown up that they were reduced to obedience. Colgach ſignifies fiercely-looking, which is a very proper name for a warrior, and is probably the origin of Galgacus: though I believe it a matter of mere conjecture that the Colgach here mentioned was the ſame with that hero. I cannot help obſerving that the ſong of the bards is conducted with propriety. Gaul, whoſe experience might have rendered his conduct cautious in war, has the example of his father, juſt ruſhing to battle, ſet before his eyes. Fillan, on the other hand, whoſe youth might make him impetuous and unguarded in action, is put in mind of the ſedate and ſerene behaviour of Fingal upon like occaſions. 


The expedition of Morni to Clutha, alluded to here, is handed down in tradition. 


Dun-ratho, a hill with a plain on its top. Cormul, blue eye. Foldath deſpatches here Cormul to lie in ambuſh behind the army of the Caledonians. This ſpeech ſuits with the character of Foldath, which is throughout haughty and preſumptuous. Towards the latter end of this ſpeech, we find the opinion of the times concerning the unhappineſs of the ſouls of thoſe who were buried without the funeral ſong. This doctrine was inculcated by the bards to make their order reſpectable and neceſſary. 


Tur-lathon, broad trunk of a tree. Moruth, great ſtream. Oichaoma, mild maid. Dun-lora, the hill of the noiſy ſtream. Duth-caron, dark brown man. 


Fillan had been deſpatched by Gaul to oppoſe Cormul, who had been ſent by Foldath to lie in ambuſh behind the Caledonian army. It appears that Fillan had killed Cormul, otherwiſe he could not be ſuppoſed to have poſſeſſed himſelf of the ſhield of that chief. 


Lumon, bending hill, a mountain in Inis-huna, or that part of ſouth Britain which is over againſt the Iriſh coaſt. 


Evir-choama, mild and ſtately maid, the wife of Gaul. She was the daughter of Caſdu-conglas, chief of I-drondo, one of the Hebrides. 


The kings of Caledonia and Ireland had a plume of eagleſ' feathers, by way of ornament, in their helmets. It was from this diſtinguiſhing mark that Oſſian knew Cathmor in the ſecond book. 


After the death of Comhal, and during the uſurpation of the tribe of Morni, Fingal was educated in private by Duth-caron. It was then he contracted that intimacy with Connal, the ſon of Duth-caron, which occaſions him ſo much regretting his fall. When Fingal was grown up, he ſoon reduced the tribe of Morni; and, as it appears from the ſubſequent epiſode, ſent Duth-caron and his ſon Connal to the aid of Cormac, the ſon of Conar, king of Ireland, who was driven to the laſt extremity by the inſurrections of the Firbolg. 


Duth-ula, a river in Connaught; it ſignifies dark-ruſhing water. 


Colc-ulla, firm look in readineſs. He was the brother of Borbar-Duthul, the father of Cairbar and Cathmor, who after the death of Cormac, the ſon of Artho, ſucceſſively mounted the Iriſh throne. 


The inhabitants of Ullin or Ulſter, who were of the race of the Caledonians, ſeem alone to have been the firm friends to the ſucceſſion in the family of Conar. The Firbolg were only ſubject to them by conſtraint, and embraced every opportunity to throw off their yoke. 


Colgan, the ſon of Cathmul, was the principal bard of Cormac, king of Ireland. The following dialogue on the loves of Fingal and Ros-crána may be aſcribed to him:


By night, came a dream to Ros-crána! I feel my beating ſoul. No viſion of the forms of the dead came to the blue eyes of Erin. But, riſing from the wave of the north, I beheld him bright in his locks. I beheld the ſon of the king. My beating ſoul is high. I laid my head down in night: again aſcended the form. Why delayeſt thou thy coming, young rider of ſtormy waves?

But there, far diſtant, he comes; where ſeas roll their green ridges in miſt! Young dweller of my ſoul, why doſt thou delay?


It was the ſoft voice of Moi-lena! the pleaſant breeze of the valley of roes! But why doſt thou hide thee in ſhades? Young love of heroes, riſe. Are not thy ſteps covered with light? In thy groves thou appeareſt, Ros-crána, like the ſun in the gathering of clouds. Why doſt thou hide thee in ſhades? Young love of heroes, riſe.


My fluttering ſoul is high! Let me turn from ſteps of the king. He has heard my ſecret voice, and ſhall my blue eyes roll in his preſence? Roe of the hill of moſs, toward thy dwelling I move. Meet me, ye breezes of Mora! as I move through the valley of winds. But why ſhould he aſcend his ocean? Son of heroes, my ſoul is thine! My ſteps ſhall not move to the deſert; the light of Ros-crána is here.


It was the light tread of a ghoſt, the fair dweller of eddying winds. Why deceiveſt thou me with thy voice? Here let me reſt in ſhades. Shouldſt thou ſtretch thy white arm from thy grove, thou ſun-beam of Cormac of Erin!


He is gone; and my blue eyes are dim; faint-rolling, in all my tears. But, there, I behold him, alone; king of Selma, my ſoul is thine. Ah me! what clanging of armour! Colc-ulla of Atha is near!