James Macpherson

1736 - 1796


The Poems of Ossian









A Poem.




MALVINA, the daughter of Toſcar, is overheard by Oſſian lamenting the death of Oſcar her lover. Oſſian, to divert her grief, relates his own actions in an expedition which he undertook, at Fingal's command, to aid Crothar the petty king of Croma, a country in Ireland, againſt Rothmar, who invaded his dominions. The ſtory is delivered down thus in tradition: Crothar king of Croma being blind with age, and his ſon too young for the field, Rothmar the chief of Tromolo, reſolved to avail himſelf of the opportunity offered of annexing the dominions of Crothar, to his own. He accordingly marched into the country ſubject to Crothar, but which he held of Arth or Artho, who was, at the time, ſupreme king of Ireland.

Crothar being, on account of his age and blindneſs, unfit for action, ſent for aid to Fingal king of Scotland; who ordered his ſon Oſſian to the relief of Crothar. But before his arrival, Fovar-gormo, the ſon of Crothar, attacking Rothmar, was ſlain himſelf, and his forces totally defeated. Oſſian renewed the war; came to battle, killed Rothmar, and routed his army. Croma being thus delivered of its enemies, Oſſian returned to Scotland. M.

There is a diſtrict of country in Down County, commencing on the Legon, above Belfaſt, and after interſecting the villages of Newton-Breda and Caſtlereagh, runs into Strangford Loch. It is called Cromac, and may have been the Croma of Oſſian. C.



IT was the voice of my love! ſeldom art thou in the dreams of Malvina! Open your airy halls, O fathers of Toſcar of ſhields! Unfold the gates of your clouds: the ſteps of Malvina are near I have heard a voice in my dream. I feel the fluttering of my ſoul. Why didſt thou come, O blaſt! from the dark-rolling face of the lake? Thy ruſtling wing was in the tree; the dream of Malvina fled. But ſhe beheld her love, when his robe of miſt flew on the wind. A ſun-beam was on his ſkirts, they glittered like the gold of the ſtranger. It was the voice of my love! ſeldom comes he to my dreams!”

“But thou dwelleſt in the ſoul of Malvina, ſon of mighty Oſſian! My ſighs ariſe with the beam of the eaſt; my tears deſcend with the drops of night. I was a lovely tree, in thy preſence, Oſcar, with all my branches round me; but thy death came like a blaſt from the deſert, and laid my green head low. The ſpring returned with its ſhowers; no leaf of mine aroſe! The virgins ſaw me ſilent in the hall; they touched the harp of joy. The tear was on the cheek of Malvina: the virgins beheld me in my grief. Why art thou ſad? they ſaid; thou firſt of the maids of Lutha! Was he lovely as the beam of the morning, and ſtately in thy ſight?”

Pleaſant is thy ſong in Oſſian's ear, daughter of ſtreamy Lutha! Thou haſt heard the muſic of departed bards, in the dream of thy reſt, when ſleep fell on thine eyes, at the murmur of Moruth. 1) When thou didſt return from the chaſe, in the day of the ſun, thou haſt heard the muſic of bards, and thy ſong is lovely! It is lovely, O Malvina! but it melts the ſoul. There is a joy in grief when peace dwells in the breaſt of the ſad. But ſorrow waſtes the mournful, O daughter of Toſcar! and their days are few! They fall away, like the flower on which the ſun hath looked in his ſtrength after the mildew has paſſed over it, when its head is heavy with the drops of night. Attend to the tale of Oſſian, O maid! He remembers the days of his youth!

The king commanded; I raiſed my ſails, and ruſhed into the bay of Croma; into Croma's ſounding bay in lovely Iniſfail. 2) High on the coaſt aroſe the towers of Crothar king of ſpears; Crothar renowned in the battles of his youth; but age dwelt then around the chief. Rothmar had raiſed the ſword againſt the hero; and the wrath of Fingal burned. He ſent Oſſian to meet Rothmar in war, for the chief of Croma was the friend of his youth. I ſent the bard before me with ſongs. I came into the hall of Crothar. There ſat the chief amidſt the arms of his fathers, but his eyes had failed. His grey locks waved around a ſtaff, on which the warrior leaned. He hummed the ſong of other times, when the ſound of our arms reached his ears. Crothar roſe, ſtretched his aged hand, and bleſſed the ſon of Fingal.

“Oſſian!” ſaid the hero, “the ſtrength of Crothar's arm has failed. O could I lift the ſword, as on the day that Fingal fought at Strutha! He was the firſt of men! but Crothar had alſo his fame. The king of Morven praiſed me; he placed on my arm the boſſy ſhield of Calthar, whom the king had ſlain in his wars. Doſt thou not behold it on the wall, for Crothar's eyes have failed? Is thy ſtrength like thy father's, Oſſian? let the aged feel thine arm!”

I gave my arm to the king; he felt it with his aged hands. The ſigh roſe in his breaſt, and his tears came down. “Thou art ſtrong, my ſon,” he ſaid, “but not like the king of Morven! But who is like the hero among the mighty in war! Let the feaſt of my hall be ſpread; and let my bards exalt the ſong. Great is he that is within my walls, ye ſons of echoing Croma!” The feaſt is ſpread. The harp is heard; and joy is in the hall. But it was joy covering a ſigh, that darkly dwelt in every breaſt. It was like the faint beam of the moon ſpread on a cloud in heaven. At length the muſic ceaſed, and the aged king of Croma ſpoke. He ſpoke without a tear, but ſorrow ſwelled in the midſt of his voice.

Son of Fingal! behold'ſt thou not the darkneſs of Crothar's joy? My ſoul was not ſad at the feaſt, when my people lived before me. I rejoiced in the preſence of ſtrangers, when my ſon ſhone in the hall. But, Oſſian, he is a beam that is departed. He left no ſtreak of light behind. He is fallen, ſon of Fingal! in the wars of his father. Rothmar the chief of graſſy Tromlo heard that theſe eyes had failed; he heard that my arms were fixed in the hall, and the pride of his ſoul aroſe! He came towards Croma; my people fell before him. I took my arms in my wrath, but what could ſightleſs Crothar do? My ſteps were unequal; my grief was great. I wiſhed for the days that were paſt. Days! wherein I fought; and won in the field of blood. My ſon returned from the chaſe; the fair-haired Fovar-gormo. 3) He had not lifted his ſword in battle, for his arm was young. But the ſoul of the youth was great; the fire of valour burnt in his eyes. He ſaw the diſordered ſteps of his father, and his ſigh aroſe. “King of Croma,” he ſaid, “is it becauſe thou haſt no ſon; is it for the weakneſs of Fovar-gormo's arm that thy ſighs ariſe? I begin, my father, to feel my ſtrength; I have drawn the ſword of my youth; and I have bent the bow. Let me meet this Rothmar, with the ſons of Croma: let me meet him, O my father! I feel my burning ſoul!” “And thou ſhalt meet him,” I ſaid, “ſon of the ſightleſs Crothar! But let others advance before thee, that I may hear the tread of thy feet at thy return; for my eyes behold thee not, fair-haired Fovar-gormo! He went, he met the foe; he fell. Rothmar advances to Croma. He who ſlew my ſon is near, with all his pointed ſpears.”

This is no time to fill the ſhell, I replied, and took my ſpear! My people ſaw the fire of my eyes; they all aroſe around. Through night we ſtrode along the heath. Grey morning roſe in the eaſt. A green narrow vale appeared before us; nor wanting was its winding ſtream. The dark hoſt of Rothmar are on its banks, with all their glittering arms. We fought along the vale. They fled, Rothmar ſunk beneath my ſword! Day had not deſcended in the weſt, when I brought his arms to Crothar. The aged hero felt them with his hands; and joy brightened over all his thoughts.

The people gather to the hall. The ſhells of the feaſt are heard. Ten harps are ſtrung, five bards advance, and ſing, by turns, the praiſe of Oſſian; they poured forth their burning ſouls, and the ſtring anſwered to their voice. The joy of Croma was great: for peace returned to the land. The night came on with ſilence; the morning returned with joy. No foe came in darkneſs, with his glittering ſpear. The joy of Croma was great: for the gloomy Rothmar had fallen.

I raiſed my voice for Fovar-gormo, when they laid the chief in earth. The aged Crothar was there, but his ſigh was not heard. He ſearched for the wound of his ſon, and found it in his breaſt. Joy roſe in the face of aged. He came and ſpoke to Oſſian. “King of ſpears!” he ſaid, “my ſon has not fallen without his fame. The young warriſor did not fly; but met death, as he went forward in his ſtrength. Happy are they who die in youth, when their renown is heard! The feeble will not behold them in the hall; or ſmile at their trembling hands. Their memory ſhall be honoured in ſong; the young tear of the virgin will fall. But the aged wither away, by degrees; the fame of their youth, while yet they live, is all forgot. They fall in ſecret. The ſigh of their ſon is not heard. Joy is around their tomb; the ſtone of their fame is placed without a tear. Happy are they who die in youth, when their renown is around them!”





Mor'-ruth, great ſtream. 


Iniſfail, one of the ancient names of Ireland. 


Faobhar-gorm, the blue point of ſteel.