James Macpherson

1736 - 1796


The Poems of Ossian









A Poem.




CONLATH was the youngeſt of Morni's ſons and brother to the celebrated Gaul. He was in love with Cuthóna, the daughter of Rumar, when Toſcar the ſon of Kinfena, accompanied by Fercuth his friend, arrived from Ireland at Mora, where Conlath dwelt. He was hoſpitably received, and according to the cuſtom of the times feaſted three days with Conlath. On the fourth he ſet ſail, and coaſting the iſland of waves, one of the Hebrides, he ſaw Cuthóna hunting, fell in love with her, and carried her away by force in his ſhip. He was forced by ſtreſs of weather into I-thona, a deſert iſle. In the meantime Conlath, hearing of the rape, ſailed after him, and found him on the point of ſailing for the coaſt of Ireland. They fought; and they and their followers fell by mutual wounds. Cuthóna did not long ſurvive: for ſhe died of grief the third day after. Fingal, hearing of their unfortunate death, ſent Stormal the ſon of Moran to bury them, but forgot to ſend a bard to ſing the funeral ſong over their tombs. The ghoſt of Conlath comes long after to Oſſian to entreat him to tranſmit to poſterity his and Cuthóna's fame. For it was the opinion of the times that the ſouls of the deceaſed were not happy till their elegies were compoſed by a bard.



DID not Oſſian hear a voice? or is it the ſound of days that are no more? Often does the memory of former times come, like the evening ſun, on my ſoul. The noiſe of the chaſe is renewed. In thought I lift the ſpear. But Oſſian did hear a voice! Who art thou, ſon of night? The children of the feeble are aſleep. The midnight wind is in my hall. Perhaps it is the ſhield of Fingal that echoes to the blaſt. It hangs in Oſſian's hall. He feels it ſometimes with his hands. Yes! I hear thee, my friend! Long has thy voice been abſent from mine ear! What brings thee, on thy cloud, to Oſſian, ſon of generous Morni? Are the friends of the aged near thee? Where is Oſcar, ſon of fame? He was often near thee, O Conlath, when the ſound of battle aroſe.


Ghost of Conlath.

Sleeps the ſweet voice of Cona, in the midſt of his ruſtling hall? Sleeps Oſſian in his hall, and his friends without their fame? The ſea rolls round dark I-thona. 1) Our tombs are not ſeen in our iſle. How long ſhall our fame be unheard, ſon of reſounding Selma?



O that mine eyes could behold thee! Thou ſitteſt, dim on thy cloud! Art thou like the miſt of Lano? An half-extinguiſhed meteor of fire? Of what are the ſkirts of thy robe? Of what is thine airy bow? He is gone on his blaſt like the ſhade of a wandering cloud. Come from thy wall, O harp! Let me hear thy ſound. Let the light of memory riſe on I-thona. Let me behold again my friends! And Oſſian does behold his friends on the dark-blue iſle. The cave of Thona appears, with its moſſy rocks and bending tree. A ſtream roars at its mouth. Toſcar bends over its courſe. Fercuth is ſad by his ſide. Cuthóna 2) ſits at a diſtance and weeps. Does the wind of the waves deceive? Or do I hear them ſpeak?



The night was ſtormy. From their hills the groaning oaks came down. The ſea darkly-tumbled beneath the blaſt. The roaring waves climbed againſt our rocks. The lightning came often and ſhewed the blaſted fern. Fercuth! I ſaw the ghoſt who embroiled the night. 3) Silent he ſtood, on that bank. His robe of miſt flew on the wind. I could behold his tears. An aged man he ſeemed, and full of thought!



It was thy father, O Toſcar. He foreſees ſome death among his race. Such was his appearance on Cromla, before the great Ma-ronnan 4) fell. Erin of hills of graſs! how pleaſant are thy vales! Silence is near thy blue ſtreams. The ſun is on thy fields. Soft is the ſound of the harp in Seláma. 5) Lovely the cry of the hunter on Crómla. But we are in dark I-thona, ſurrounded by the ſtorm. The billows lift their white heads above the rocks. We tremble amidſt the night.



Whither is the ſoul of battle fled, Fercuth with locks of age? I have ſeen thee undaunted in danger: thine eyes burning with joy in the fight. Whither is the ſoul of battle fled? Our fathers never feared. Go: view the ſettling ſea: the ſtormy wind is laid. The billows ſtill tremble on the deep. They ſeem to fear the blaſt. Go, view the ſettling ſea. Morning is grey on our rocks. The ſun will look ſoon from his eaſt; in all his pride of light! I lifted up my ſails, with joy, before the halls of generous Conlath. My courſe was by a deſert iſle: where Cuthóna purſued the deer. I ſaw her, like that beam of the ſun that iſſues from the cloud. Her hair was on her heaving breaſt. She, bending forward, drew the bow. Her white arm ſeemed, behind her, like the ſnow of Crómla. Come to my ſoul, I ſaid, huntreſs of the deſert iſle! But ſhe waſtes her time in tears. She thinks of the generous Conlath. Where can I find thy peace, Cuthóna, lovely maid.


Cuthóna. 6)

A diſtant ſteep bends over the ſea, with aged trees and moſſy rocks. The billow rolls at its feet. On its ſide is the dwelling of roes. The people call it Mora. There the towers of my love ariſe. There Conlath looks over the ſea for his only love. The daughters of the chaſe returned. He beheld their downcaſt eyes. “Where is the daughter of Rumar?” But they anſwered not. My peace dwells on Mora, ſon of the diſtant land!



Cuthóna ſhall return to her peace: to the towers of generous Conlath. He is the friend of Toſcar! I have feaſted in his halls! Riſe, ye gentle breezes of Erin. Stretch my ſails toward Mora's ſhores. Cuthóna ſhall reſt on Mora: but the days of Toſcar muſt be ſad. I ſhall ſit in my cave in the field of the ſun. The blaſt will ruſtle in my trees. I ſhall think it is Cuthóna's voice. But ſhe is diſtant far, in the halls of the mighty Conlath!



Ha! what cloud is that? It carries the ghoſts of my fathers. I ſee the ſkirts of their robes, like grey and watery miſt. When ſhall I fall, O Rumar? Sad Cuthóna foreſees her death. Will not Conlath behold me, before I enter the narrow houſe? 7)



He ſhall behold thee, O maid! He comes along the heaving ſea. The death of Toſcar is dark on his ſpear. A wound is in his ſide! He is pale at the cave of Thona. He ſhews his ghaſtly wound. Where art thou with thy tears, Cuthóna? The chief of Mora dies. The viſion grows dim on my mind. I behold the chiefs no more! But, O ye bards of future times, remember the fall of Conlath with tears. He fell before his day. Sadneſs darkened in his hall. His mother looked to his ſhield on the wall, and it was bloody. 8) She knew that her hero fell. Her ſorrow was heard on Mora. Art thou pale on thy rock, Cuthóna, beſide the fallen chiefs? Night comes, and day returns, but none appears to raiſe their tomb. Thou frighteneſt the ſcreaming fowls away. Thy tears for ever flow. Thou art pale as a watery cloud, that riſes from a lake!

The ſons of green Selma came. They found Cuthóna cold. They raiſed a tomb over the heroes. She reſts at the ſide of Conlath! Come not to my dreams, O Conlath! Thou haſt received thy fame. Be thy voice far diſtant from my hall; that ſleep may deſcend at night. O that I could forget my friends: till my footſteps ſhould ceaſe to be ſeen! till I come among them with joy; and lay my aged limbs in the narrow houſe!





I-thónn, iſland of waves, one of the uninhabited weſtern iſles. 


Cuthóna, the daughter of Rumar, whom Toſcar had carried away by force. 


It was long thought in the north of Scotland that ſtorms were raiſed by the ghoſts of the deceaſed. This notion is ſtill entertained by the vulgar; for they think that whirlwinds and ſudden ſqualls of wind are occaſioned by ſpirits, who tranſport themſelves in that manner from one place to another. 


Ma-ronnan was the brother of Toſcar. 


Selámath, beautiful to behold, the name of Toſcar's reſidence; affirmed to be on the coaſt of Ulſter near the mountain Crómla. 


Cu-thóna, the mournful ſound of the waves, a poetical name given her on account of her mourning to the ſound of the waves; her name in tradition is Gorm-huil, the blue-eyed maid. 


The grave. 


It was the opinion of the times that the arms left by the heroes at home became bloody the very inſtant their owners were killed, though at ever ſo great a diſtance.