James Macpherson

1736 - 1796


Fragments of Ancient Poetry

Collected in the Highlands of Scotland










THOU aſkeſt, fair daughter of the iſles! whoſe memory is preſerved in theſe tombs? The memory of Ronnan the bold, and Connan the chief of men; and of her, the faireſt of maids, Rivine the lovely and the good. The wing of time is laden with care. Every moment hath woes of its own. Why ſeek we our grief from afar? or give our tears to thoſe of other times? But thou commanded, and I obey, O fair daughter of the iſles!

CONAR was mighty in war. Caul was the friend of ſtrangers. His gates were open to all; midnight darkened not on his barred door. Both lived upon the ſons of the mountains. Their bow was the ſupport of the poor. [p.42]

CONNAN was the image of Conar's ſoul. Caul was renewed in Ronnan his ſon. Rivine the daughter of Conar was the love of Ronnan; her brother Connan was his friend. She was fair as the harveſt-moon ſetting in the ſeas of Molochaſquir. Her ſoul was ſettled on Ronnan; the youth was the dream of her nights.

RIVINE, my love! ſays Ronnan, I go to my king in Norway *). A year and a day ſhall bring me back. Wilt thou be true to Ronnan?

RONNAN! a year and a day I will ſpend in ſorrow. Ronnan, behave like a man, and my ſoul ſhall exult in thy valour. Connan my friend, ſays Ronnan, wilt thou preſerve Rivine thy ſiſter? Durſtan is in love with the maid; [p.43] and ſoon ſhall the ſea bring the ſtranger to our coaſt.

RONNAN, I will defend: Do thou ſecurely go.—He went. He returned on his day. But Durſtan returned before him.

GIVE me thy daughter, Conar, ſays Durſtan; or fear and feel my power.

HE who dares attempt my ſiſter, ſays Connan, muſt meet this edge of ſteel. Unerring in battle is my arm: my ſword, as the lightning of heaven.

RONNAN the warriour came; and much he threatened Durſtan.

BUT, ſaith Euran the ſervant of gold, Ronnan! by the gate of the north ſhall Durſtan this night carry thy fair-one away. Accurſed, anſwers Ron[p.44]nan, be this arm if death meet him not there.

CONNAN! ſaith Euran, this night ſhall the ſtranger carry thy ſiſter away. My ſword ſhall meet him, replies Connan, and he ſhall lie low on earth.

THE friends met by night, and they fought. Blood and ſweat ran down their limbs as water on the moſſy rock. Connan falls; and cries, O Durſtan, be favourable to Rivine!—And is it my friend, cries Ronnan, I have ſlain? O Connan! I knew thee not.

HE went, and he fought with Durſtan. Day began to riſe on the combat, when fainting they fell, and expired. Rivine came out with the morn; and—O what detains my Ronnan! —She ſaw him lying pale in his blood; and her brother lying pale by his ſide. [p.45] What could ſhe ſay: what could ſhe do? her complaints were many and vain. She opened this grave for the warriours; and fell into it herſelf, before it was cloſed; like the ſun ſnatched away in a ſtorm.

THOU haſt heard this tale of grief, O fair daughter of the iſles! Rivine was fair as thyſelf: ſhed on her grave a tear.




*) Suppoſed to be Fergus II. This fragment is reckoned not altogether ſo ancient as moſt of the reſt.