James Macpherson

1736 - 1796


The Poems of Ossian









An Epic Poem.


Book I.




CUTHULLIN (general of the Iriſh tribes, in the minority of Cormac, king of Ireland) ſitting alone beneath a tree, at the gate of Tura, a caſtle of Ulſter, Carrickfergus (the other chiefs having gone on a hunting party to Cromla, a neighbouring hill), is informed of the landing of Swaran, king of Lochlin, by Moran, the ſon of Fithil, one of his ſcouts. He convenes the chief; a council is held, and diſputes run high about giving battle to the enemy. Connal, the petty king of Togorma, and an intimate friend of Cuthullin, was for retreating till Fingal, king of thoſe Caledonians who inhabited the north-weſt coaſt of Scotland, whoſe aid had been previouſly ſolicited, ſhould arrive; but Calmar, the ſon of Matha, lord of Lara, a country in Connaught, was for engaging the enemy immediately. Cuthullin, of himſelf willing to fight, went into the opinion of Calmar. Marching towards the enemy, he miſſed three of his braveſt heroes, Fergus, Duchômar, and Câthba. Fergus arriving, tells Cuthullin of the death of the two other chiefs; which introduces the affecting epiſode of Morna, the daughter of Cormac. The army of Cuthullin is deſcried at a diſtance by Swaran, who ſent the ſon of Arno to obſerve the motions of the enemy, while he himſelf ranged his forces in order of battle. The ſon of Arno, returning to Swaran, deſcribes to him Cuthullin's chariot, and the terrible appearance of that hero. The armies engage, but night coming on, leaves the victory undecided. Cuthullin, according to the hoſpitality of the times, ſends to Swaran a formal invitation to a feaſt, by his bard Carril, the ſon of Kinfena. Swaran refuſes to come. Carril relates to Cuthullin the ſtory of Grudar and Braſſolis. A party, by Connal's advice, is ſent to obſerve the enemy; which cloſes the action of the firſt day.



CUTHULLIN 1) ſat by Tura's wall: by the tree of the ruſtling ſound. His ſpear leaned againſt a rock. His ſhield lay on graſs, by his ſide. Amid his thoughts of mighty Carbar, 2) a hero ſlain by the chief in war; the ſcout 3) of ocean comes, Moran 4) the ſon of Fithil!

“Ariſe,” ſays the youth, “Cuthullin, ariſe. I ſee the ſhips of the north! Many, chief of men, are the foe. Many the heroes of the ſea-born Swaran!” “Moran!” replied the blue-eyed chief, “thou ever trembleſt, ſon of Fithil! Thy fears have increaſed the foe. It is Fingal, king 5) of deſerts, with aid to green Erin of ſtreams.” “I beheld their chief,” ſays Moran, “tall as a glittering rock. His ſpear is a blaſted pine. His ſhield the riſing moon! He ſat on the ſhore! like a cloud of miſt on the ſilent hill! Many, chief of heroes! I ſaid, many are our hands of war. Well art thou named, the Mighty Man: but many mighty men are ſeen from Tura's windy walls.”

“He ſpoke, like a wave on a rock, who in this land appears like me? Heroes ſtand not in my preſence: they fall to earth from my hand. Who can meet Swaran in fight? Who but Fingal, king of Selma of ſtorms? Once we wreſtled on Malmor; 6) our heels overturned the woods. Rocks fell from their place; rivulets, changing their courſe, fled murmuring from our ſide. Three days we renewed the ſtrife; heroes ſtood at a diſtance, and trembled. On the fourth, Fingal ſays, that the king of the ocean fell! but Swaran ſays, he ſtood! Let dark Cuthullin yield to him, that is ſtrong as the ſtorms of this land!”

“No!” replied the blue-eyed chief, “I never yield to mortal man! Dark Cuthullin ſhall be great or dead! Go, ſon of Fithil, take my ſpear. Strike the ſounding ſhield of Semo. 7) It hangs at Tura's ruſtling gate, The ſound of peace is not its voice! My heroes ſhall hear and obey.” He went. He ſtruck the boſſy ſhield. The hills, the rocks reply. The ſound ſpreads along the wood: deer ſtart by the lake of roes. Curach 8) leaps from the ſounding rock; and Connal of the bloody ſpear! Crugal's 9) breaſt of ſnow beats high. The ſon of Favi leaves the dark-brown hind. It is the ſhield of war, ſaid Ronnor! the ſpear of Cuthullin, ſaid Lugar! ſon of the ſea put on thy arms! Calmar, lift thy ſounding ſteel! Puno! dreadful hero, ariſe! Cairbar, from thy red tree of Cromla! Bend thy knee, O Eth! deſcend from the ſtreams of Lena. Ca-olt, ſtretch thy ſide as thou moveſt along the whiſtling heath of Mora: thy ſide that is white as the foam of the troubled ſea, when the dark winds pour it on rocky Cuthon. 10)

Now I behold the chiefs in the pride of their former deeds! Their ſouls are kindled at the battles of old; at the actions of other times. Their eyes are flames of fire. They roll in ſearch of the foes of the land. Their mighty hands are on their ſwords. Lightning pours from their ſides of ſteel. They come like ſtreams from the mountains; each ruſhes roaring from his hill. Bright are the chiefs of battle, in the armour of their fathers. Gloomy and dark their heroes follow, like the gathering of the rainy clouds behind the red meteors of heaven. The ſounds of craſhing arms aſcend. The grey dogs howl between. Unequal burſts the ſong of battle. Rocky Cromla 11) echoes round. On Lena's duſky heath they ſtand, like miſt that ſhades the hills of autumn: when broken and dark it ſettles high, and lifts its head to heaven!

“Hail,” ſaid Cuthullin, “ſons of the narrow vales! hail, hunters of the deer! Another ſport is drawing near: It is like the dark rolling of that wave on the coaſt! Or ſhall we fight, ye ſons of war! or yield green Erin to Lochlin! O Connal, 12) ſpeak, thou firſt of men! thou breaker of the ſhields! thou haſt often fought with Lochlin: wilt thou lift thy father's ſpear?”

“Cuthullin!” calm the chief replied, “the ſpear of Connal is keen. It delights to ſhine in battle; to mix with the blood of thouſands. But though my hand is beat on fight, my heart is for the peace of Erin. 13) Behold, thou firſt in Cormac's war, the ſable fleet of Swaran. His maſts are many on our coaſt, like reeds in the Lake of Lego. His ſhips are foreſts clothed with miſt, when the trees yield by turns to the ſqually wind. Many are his chiefs in battle. Connal is for peace! Fingal would ſhun his arm, the firſt of mortal men! Fingal, who ſcatters the mighty, as ſtormy winds the heath; when ſtreams roar through echoing Cona: and night ſettles with all her clouds on the hill!”

“Fly, thou man of peace,” ſaid Calmar. 14) “Fly,” ſaid the ſon of Matha; “go, Connal, to thy ſilent hills, where the ſpear never brightens in war! Purſue the dark-brown deer of Cromla: ſtop with thine arrows the bounding roes of Lena. But, blue-eyed ſon of Semo, Cuthullin, ruler of the field, ſcatter thou the ſons of Lochlin! 15) roar through the ranks of their pride. Let no veſſel of the kingdom of Snow bound on the dark-rolling waves of Iniſtore. 16) Riſe, ye dark winds of Erin, riſe! roar, whirlwind of Lara of hinds! Amid the tempeſt let me die, torn, in a cloud, by angry ghoſts of men; amid the tempeſt let Calmar die, if ever chaſe was ſport to him, ſo much as the battle of ſhields!”

“Calmar!” Connal ſlow replied, “I never fled, young ſon of Matha! I was ſwift with my friends in fight; but ſmall is the fame of Connal! The battle was won in my preſence; the valiant overcame! But, ſon of Semo, hear my voice, regard the ancient throne of Cormac. Give wealth and half the land for peace, till Fingal ſhall arrive on our coaſt. Or, if war be thy choice, I lift the ſword and ſpear. My joy ſhall be in the midſt of thouſands; my ſword ſhall lighten through the gloom of the fight!”

“To me,” Cuthullin replies, “pleaſant is the noiſe of arms! pleaſant as the thunder of heaven, before the ſhower of ſpring! But gather all the ſhining tribes, that I may view the ſons of war. Let them paſs along the heath, bright as the ſunſhine before a ſtorm; when the weſt wind collects the clouds, and Morven echoes over all her oaks! But where are my friends in battle? The ſupporters of my arm in danger? Where art thou, white-boſomed Câthba? Where is that cloud in war, Duchômar? 17) Haſt thou left me, O Fergus! 18) in the day of the ſtorm? Fergus, firſt in our joy at the feaſt! ſon of Roſſa! arm of death! comeſt thou like a roe from Malmor? Like a hart from thy echoing hills? Hail, thou ſon of Roſſa! what ſhades the ſoul of war?”

“Four ſtones,” 19) replied the chief, “riſe on the grave of Câthba. Theſe hands have laid in earth Duchômar, that cloud in war! Câthba, ſon of Torman! thou wert a ſun-beam in Erin. And thou, O valiant Duchômar! a miſt of the marſhy Lano; 20) when it moves on the plains of autumn, bearing the death of thouſands along. Morna! faireſt of maids! calm is thy ſleep in the cave of the rock! Thou haſt fallen in darkneſs, like a ſtar, that ſhoots acroſs the deſert; when the traveller is alone, and mourns the tranſient beam!”

“Say,” ſaid Semo's blue-eyed ſon, “ſay how fell the chiefs of Erin? Fell they by the ſons of Lochlin, ſtriving in the battle of heroes? Or what confines the ſtrong in arms to the dark and narrow houſe?”

“Câthba,” replied the hero, “fell by the ſword of Duchômar at the oak of the noiſy ſtreams. Duchômar came to Tura's cave; he ſpoke to the lovely Morna. Morna, 21) faireſt among women, lovely daughter of ſtrong-armed Cormac! Why in the circle of ſtones? in the cave of the rock alone? The ſtream murmurs along. The old tree groans in the wind. The lake is troubled before thee; dark are the clouds of the ſky! But thou art ſnow on the heath; thy hair is the miſt of Cromla; when it curls on the hill; when it ſhines to the beam of the weſt! Thy breaſts are two ſmooth rocks ſeen from Branno of ſtreams. Thy arms, like two white pillars in the halls of the great Fingal.”

“From whence,” the fair-haired maid replied, “from whence, Duchômar, moſt gloomy of men? Dark are thy brows and terrible! Red are thy rolling eyes! Does Swaran appear on the ſea? What of the foe, Duchômar?” “From the hill I return, O Morna, from the hill of the dark-brown hinds. Three have I ſlain with my bended yew. Three with my long-bounding dogs of the chaſe. Lovely daughter of Cormac, I love thee as my ſoul! I have ſlain one ſtately deer for thee. High was his branchy head; and fleet his feet of wind.” “Duchômar!” calm the maid replied, “I love thee not, thou gloomy man! hard is thy heart of rock; dark is thy terrible brow. But Câthba, young ſon of Torman, 22) thou art the love of Morna. Thou art a ſunbeam, in the day of the gloomy ſtorm. Saweſt thou the ſon of Torman, lovely on the hill of his hinds? Here the daughter of Cormac waits the coming of Câthba!”

“Long ſhall Morna wait,” Duchômar ſaid, “long ſhall Morna wait for Câthba! Behold this ſword unſheathed! Here wanders the blood of Câthba. Long ſhall Morna wait. He fell by the ſtream of Branno! On Croma I will raiſe his tomb, daughter of blue-ſhielded Cormac! Turn on Duchômar thine eyes; his arm is ſtrong as a ſtorm.” “Is the ſon of Torman fallen?” ſaid the wildly-burſting voice of the maid. “Is he fallen on his echoing hills, the youth with the breaſt of ſnow? The firſt in the chaſe of hinds? The foe of the ſtrangers of ocean? Thou art dark 23) to me, Duchômar, cruel is thine arm to Morna! Give me that ſword, my foe! I love the wandering blood of Câthba!”

He gave the ſword to her tears. She pierced his manly breaſt! He fell, like the bank of a mountain-ſtream, and ſtretching forth his hand, he ſpoke: “Daughter of blue-ſhielded Cormac! Thou haſt ſlain me in youth! The ſword is cold in my breaſt: Morna, I feel it cold. Give me to Moina 24) the maid. Duchômar was the dream of her night! She will raiſe my tomb; the hunter ſhall raiſe my fame. But draw the ſword from my breaſt. Morna, the ſteel is cold!” She came, in all her tears ſhe came; ſhe drew the ſword from his breaſt. He pierced her white ſide! He ſpread her fair locks on the ground! Her burſting blood ſounds from her ſide: her white arm is ſtained with red. Rolling in death ſhe lay. The cave re-echoed to her ſighs.

“Peace,” ſaid Cuthullin, “to the ſouls of the heroes! their deeds were great in fight. Let them ride around 25) me on clouds. Let them ſhew their features of war. My ſoul ſhall then be firm in danger; mine arm like the thunder of heaven! But be thou on a moon-beam, O Morna! near the window of my reſt; when my thoughts are of peace; when the din of arms is paſt. Gather the ſtrength of the tribes! Move to the wars of Erin! Attend the car of my battles! Rejoice in the noiſe of my courſe! Place three ſpears by my ſide: follow the bounding of my ſteeds! That my ſoul may be ſtrong in my friends, when battle darkens round the beams of my ſteel!”

As ruſhes a ſtream of foam from the dark ſhady deep of Cromla; when the thunder is travelling above, and dark-brown night ſits on half the hill. Through the breaches of the tempeſt look forth the dim faces of ghoſts. So fierce, ſo vaſt, ſo terrible ruſhed on the ſons of Erin. The chief, like a whale of ocean, whom all his billows purſue, poured valour forth as a ſtream, rolling his might along the ſhore. The ſons of Lochlin heard the noiſe, as the ſound of a winter-ſtorm. Swaran ſtruck his boſſy ſhield: he called the ſon of Arno. “What murmur rolls along the hill, like the gathered flies of the eve? The ſons of Erin deſcend, or ruſtling winds roar in the diſtant wood! Such is the noiſe of Gormal, before the white tops of my waves ariſe. O Son of Arno, aſcend the hill; view the dark face of the heath!”

He went. He, trembling, ſwift returned. His eyes rolled wildly round. His heart beat high againſt his ſide. His words were faltering, broken, ſlow. “Ariſe, ſon of ocean, ariſe, chief of the dark-brown ſhields! I ſee the dark, the mountain-ſtream of battle! The deep-moving ſtrength of the ſons of Erin! The car, the car of war comes on, like the flame of death! the rapid car of Cuthullin, the noble ſon of Semo! It bends behind like a wave near a rock; like the ſun-ſtreaked miſt of the heath. Its ſides are emboſſed with ſtones, and ſparkle like the ſea round the boat of night. Of poliſhed yew is its beam; its ſeat of the ſmootheſt bone. The ſides are repleniſhed with ſpears; the bottom is the footſtool of heroes! Before the right ſide of the car is ſeen the ſnorting horſe! the high-maned, broad-breaſted, proud, wide-leaping, ſtrong ſteed of the hill. Loud and reſounding is his hoof; the ſpreading of his mane above is like a ſtream of ſpray on a ridge of rocks. Bright are the ſides of the ſteed! His name is Sulin-Sifadda!”

“Before the left ſide of the car is ſeen the ſnorting horſe! The thin-maned, high-headed, ſtrong-hoofed, fleet, bounding ſon of the hill: his name is Dufronnal, among the ſtormy ſons of the ſword! A thouſand thongs bind the car on high. Hard poliſhed bits ſhine in a wreath of foam. Thin thongs, bright ſtudded with gems, bend on the ſtately necks of the ſteeds. The ſteeds that like wreaths of miſt fly over the ſtreamy vales! The wildneſs of deer is in their courſe, the ſtrength of eagles deſcending on their prey. Their noiſe is like the blaſt of winter, on the ſides of the ſnow-headed Gormal.

Within the car is ſeen the chief; the ſtrong-armed ſon of the ſword. The hero's name is Cuthullin, ſon of Semo, king of ſhells. His red cheek is like my poliſhed yew. The look of his blue-rolling eye is wide beneath the dark arch of his brow. His hair flies from his head like a flame, as bending forward he wields the ſpear. Fly, king of ocean, fly! He comes, like a ſtorm, along the ſtreamy vale!”

“When did I fly?” replied the king. “When fled Swaran from the battle of ſpears? When did I ſhrink from danger, chief of the little ſoul? I met the ſtorm of Gormal, when the foam of my waves beat high. I met the ſtorm of the clouds; ſhall Swaran fly from a hero? Were Fingal himſelf before me, my ſoul ſhould not darken with fear. Ariſe to battle, my thouſands! pour round me like the echoing main. Gather round the bright ſteel of your king; ſtrong as the rocks of my land; that meet the ſtorm with joy, and ſtretch their dark pines to the wind!”

Like autumn's dark ſtorms, pouring from two echoing hills, towards each other approached the heroes. Like two deep ſtreams from high rocks meeting, mixing, roaring on the plain; loud, rough and dark in battle meet Lochlin and Innis-fail. Chief mixes his ſtrokes with chief, and man with man; ſteel, clanging, ſounds on ſteel. Helmets are cleft on high. Blood burſts and ſmokes around. Strings murmur on the poliſhed yews. Darts ruſh along the ſky. Spears fall like the circles of light, which gild the face of night. As the noiſe of the troubled ocean, when roll the waves on high. As the laſt peal of thunder in heaven, ſuch is the din of war! Though Cormac's hundred bards were there to give the fight to ſong; feeble was the voice of a hundred bards to ſend the deaths to future times! For many were the deaths of heroes; wide poured the blood of the brave!

Mourn, ye ſons of ſong, mourn the death of the noble Sithâllin. 26) Let the ſighs of Fiona ariſe, on the lone plains of her lovely Ardan. They fell, like two hinds of the deſert, by the hands of the mighty Swaran; when, in the midſt of thouſands, he roared; like the ſhrill ſpirit of a ſtorm. He ſits dim, on the clouds of the north, and enjoys the death of the mariner. Nor ſlept thy hand by thy ſide, chief of the iſle of miſt! 27) many were the deaths of thine arm, Cuthullin, thou ſon of Semo! His ſword was like the beam of heaven when it pierces the ſons of the vale; when the people are blaſted and fall, and all the hills are burning around. Dufronnal 28) ſnorted over the bodies of heroes. Sifadda 29) bathed his hoof in blood. The battle lay behind them, as groves overturned in the deſert of Cromla, when the blaſt has paſſed the heath, laden with the ſpirits of night!

Weep on the rocks of roaring winds, O maid of Iniſtore! 30) Bend thy fair head over the waves, thou lovelier than the ghoſt of the hills, when it moves, in a ſun-beam at noon, over the ſilence of Morven! He is fallen! thy youth is low! pale beneath the ſword of Cuthullin! No more ſhall valour raiſe thy love to match the blood of kings. Trenar, graceful Trenar died, O maid of Iniſtore! His grey dogs are howling at home! they ſee his paſſing ghoſt. His bow is in the hall unſtrung. No ſound is in the hill of his hinds!

As roll a thouſand waves to the rocks, ſo Swaran's hoſt came on. As meets a rock a thouſand waves, ſo Erin met Swaran of ſpears. Death raiſes all his voices around, and mixes with the ſounds of ſhields. Each hero is a pillar of darkneſs; the ſword a beam of fire in his hand. The field echoes from wing to wing, as a hundred hammers that riſe, by turns, on the red ſon of the furnace. Who are theſe on Lena's heath, theſe ſo gloomy and dark? Who are theſe like two clouds, and their ſwords like lightning above them? The little hills are troubled around: the rocks tremble with all their moſs. Who is it but Ocean's ſon and the car-borne chief of Erin? Many are the anxious eyes of their friends, as they ſee them dim on the heath. But night conceals the chiefs in clouds, and ends the dreadful fight!

It was on Cromla's ſhaggy ſide that Dorglas had placed the deer; 31) the early fortune of the chaſe, before the heroes left the hill. A hundred youths collect the heath; ten warriors wake the fire; three hundred chooſe the poliſh'd ſtones. The feaſt is ſmoking wide! Cuthullin, chief of Erin's war, reſumed his mighty ſoul. He ſtood upon his beamy ſpear, and ſpoke to the ſon of ſongs, to Carril of other times, the grey-haired ſon of Kinfena. 32) “Is this feaſt ſpread for me alone and the king of Lochlin on Erin's ſhore; far from the deer of his hills, and ſounding halls of his feaſts? Riſe, Carril of other times; 33) carry my words to Swaran. Tell him from the roaring of waters, that Cuthullin gives his feaſt. Here let him liſten to the ſound of my groves, amidſt the clouds of night. For cold and bleak the bluſtering winds ruſh over the foam of his ſeas. Here let him praiſe the trembling harp, hear the ſongs of heroes!”

Old Carril went, with ſofteſt voice. He called the king of dark-brown ſhields! “Riſe from the ſkins of thy chaſe, riſe, Swaran, king of groves! Cuthullin gives the joy of ſhells. Partake the feaſt of Erin's blue-eyed chief!” He anſwered like the ſullen ſound of Cromla before a ſtorm. “Though all thy daughters, Inis-fail! ſhould ſtretch their arms of ſnow; ſhould raiſe the heavings of their breaſts, and ſoftly roll their eyes of love; yet, fixed as Lochlin's thouſand rocks, here Swaran ſhould remain; till morn, with the young beams of the eaſt, ſhall light me to the death of Cuthullin. Pleaſant to my ear is Lochlin's wind! It ruſhes over my ſeas! It ſpeaks aloft in all my ſhrouds, and brings my green foreſts to my mind: The green foreſts of Gormal, which often echoed to my winds, when my ſpear was red in the chaſe of the boar. Let dark Cuthullin yield to me the ancient throne of Cormac; or Erin's torrents ſhall ſhew from their hills the red foam of the blood of his pride!”

“Sad is the ſound of Swaran's voice,” ſaid Carril of other times! “Sad to himſelf alone,” ſaid the blue-eyed ſon of Semo. “But, Carril, raiſe the voice on high; tell the deeds of other times. Send thou the night away in ſong; and give the joy of grief. For many heroes and maids of love, have moved on Inis-fail: And lovely are the ſongs of woe that are heard in Albion's rocks; when the noiſe of the chaſe is paſt, and the ſtreams of Cona anſwer to the voice of Oſſian.” 34)

“In other days,” 35) Carril replies, “came the ſons of Ocean to Erin! a thouſand veſſels bounded on waves to Ullin's lovely plains. The ſons of Inis-fail aroſe, to meet the race of dark-brown ſhields. Cairbar, firſt of men was there, and Grudar, ſtately youth! Long had they ſtrove for the ſpotted bull, that lowed on Golbun's 36) echoing heath. Each claimed him as his own. Death was often at the point of their ſteel! Side by ſide the heroes fought; the ſtrangers of Ocean fled. Whoſe name was fairer on the hill, than the name of Cairbar and Grudar! But ah! why ever lowed the bull, on Golbun's echoing heath. They ſaw him leaping like ſnow. The wrath of the chiefs returned!”

On Lubar's 37) graſſy banks they fought; Grudar fell in his blood. Fierce Cairbar came to the vale, where Braſſolis, 38) faireſt of his ſiſters, all alone, raiſed the ſong of grief. She ſung of the actions of Grudar, the youth of her ſecret ſoul! She mourned him in the field of blood; but ſtill ſhe hoped for his return. Her white boſom is ſeen from her robe, as the moon from the clouds of night, when its edge heaves white on the view, from the darkneſs which covers its orb. Her voice was ſofter than the harp to raiſe the ſong of grief. Her ſoul was fixed on Grudar. The ſecret look of her eye was his. “When ſhalt thou come in thine arms, thou mighty in the war?”

“Take, Braſſolis,” Cairbar came and ſaid, “take Braſſolis, this ſhield of blood. Fix it on high within my hall, the armour of my foe! Her ſoft heart beat againſt her ſide. Diſtracted, pale, ſhe flew. She found her youth in all his blood; ſhe died on Cromla's heath. Here reſts their duſt, Cuthullin! theſe lonely yews ſprung from their tombs, and ſhade them from the ſtorm. Fair was Braſſolis on the plain! Stately was Grudar on the hill! The bard ſhall preſerve their names, and ſend them down to future times!”

“Pleaſant is thy voice, O Carril,” ſaid the blue-eyed chief of Erin. “Pleaſant are the words of other times! they are like the calm ſhower of ſpring; when the ſun looks on the field, and the light cloud flies over the hills. O ſtrike the harp in praiſe of my love, the lonely ſun-beam of Dunſcaith! Strike the harp in the praiſe of Bragéla; ſhe that I left in the Iſle of Miſt, the ſpouſe of Semo's ſon! Doſt thou raiſe thy fair face from the rock to find the ſails of Cuthullin? The ſea is rolling diſtant far; its white foam deceives thee for my ſails. Retire for it is night, my love; the dark winds ſing in thy hair. Retire to the halls of my feaſts; think of the times that are paſt. I will not return till the ſtorm of war is ceaſed. O Connal! ſpeak of war and arms, and ſend her from my mind. Lovely with her flowing hair is the white-boſomed daughter of Sorglan.”

Connal, ſlow to ſpeak, replied: “Guard againſt the race of Ocean. Send thy troop of night abroad, and watch the ſtrength of Swaran. Cuthullin! I am for peace till the race of Selma come; till Fingal come, the firſt of men, and beam, like the ſun, on our fields!” The hero ſtruck the ſhield of alarms, the warriors of the night moved on! The reſt lay in the heath of the deer, and ſlept beneath the duſky wind. The ghoſts 39) of the lately dead were near, and ſwam on the gloomy clouds: And far diſtant in the dark ſilence of Lena, the feeble voices of death were faintly heard.





Cuthullin, the ſon of Semo and grandſon to Caithbath, a Druid celebrated in tradition for his wiſdom and valour. Cuthullin when very young married Bragela the daughter of Sorglan, and paſſing over into Ireland, lived ſome time with Connal, grandſon by a daughter to Congal, the petty king of Ulſter. His wiſdom and valour in a ſhort time gained him ſuch reputation, that in the minority of Cormac, the ſupreme king of Ireland, he was choſen guardian to the young king, and ſole manager of the war againſt Swaran, king of Lochlin. After a ſeries of great actions he was killed in battle ſomewhere in Connaught, in the twenty-ſeventh year of his age. He was ſo remarkable for his ſtrength, that to deſcribe a ſtrong man it has paſſed into a proverb, «He has the ſtrength of Cuthullin.» They ſhow the remains of his palace at Dunſcaich, in the Iſle of Skye; and a ſtone to which he bound his dog, Luath, goes ſtill by his name. 


Cairbar or Cairbre, ſignifies a ſtrong man. 


Cuthullin having previous intelligence of the invaſion intended by Swaran, ſent ſcouts all over the coaſt of Ullin or Ulſter, to give early notice of the firſt appearance of the enemy, at the ſame time that he ſent Munan, the ſon of Stirmal, to implore the aſſiſtance of Fingal. He himſelf collected the flower of the Iriſh youth to Tura (Carrickfergus), a caſtle on the coaſt, to ſtop the progreſs of the enemy till Fingal ſhould arrive from Scotland. We may conclude from Cuthullin's applying ſo early for foreign aid, that the Iriſh were not then ſo numerous as they have ſince been; which is a great preſumption againſt the high antiquities of that people. We have the teſtimony of Tacitus, that one legion only was thought ſufficient, in the time of Agricola, to reduce the whole iſland under the Roman yoke; which would not probably have been the caſe had the iſland been inhabited for any number of centuries before. 


Moran ſignifies many; and Fithil, or rather Fili, an inferior bard. 


Fingal, the ſon of Comhal, and Morna, the daughter of Thaddu. His grandfather was Trathal, and great grandfather Trenmor, both of whom are often mentioned in the poem. 


Meal-mór, a great hill. 


Cabait, or rather Cathbait, grandfather to the hero, was ſo remarkable for his valour, that his ſhield was made uſe of to alarm his poſterity to the battles of the family. We find Fingal making the ſame uſe of his own ſhield in the fourth book. A horn was the moſt common inſtrument to call the army together. 


Cu-raoch ſignifies the madneſs of battle. 


Cruth-geal, fair-complexioned. 


Cu-thon, the mournful ſound of waves. 


Crom-leach ſignifies a place of worſhip among the Druids. It is here the proper name of a hill on the coaſt of Ullin or Ulſter. 


Connal, the friend of Cuthullin, was the ſon of Caith-bait, prince of the Tongorma, or the iſland of blue waves, probably one of the Hebrides. His mother was Fioncoma, the daughter of Congal. He had a ſon by Foba of Conacharneſſar (Concobar mac Neſſa), who was afterwards petty king of Ulſter. For his ſervices in the war againſt Swaran he had lands conferred on him, which, from his name, were called Tir-chonnuil or Tir-connel – i.e. the Land of Connal. 


Erin, a name of Ireland; from ear or iar Weſt, and in an iſland. This name was not always confined to Ireland, for there is the higheſt probability that the Ierne of the ancients was Britain to the north of the Forth. For Ierne is ſaid to be to the north of Britain, which could not be meant of Ireland. Strabo, l. 2 and 4. Caſaub, l. 1. 


Calm-er, a ſtrong man. 


The Gaelic name of Scandinavia in general. 


The Orkney Iſlands. 


Dubhchomar, a black well-made man. 


Fear-guth, the man of the word; or a commander of an army. 


This paſſage alludes to the manner of burial among the ancient Scots. They opened a grave ſix or eight feet deep; the bottom was lined with fine clay, and on this they laid the body of the deceaſed, and, if a warrior, his ſword, and the heads of twelve arrows by his ſide. Above they laid another ſtratum of clay, in which they placed the horn of a deer, the ſymbol of hunting. The whole was covered with a fine mold, and four ſtones placed on end to mark the extent of the grave. Theſe are the four ſtones alluded to here. 


Lano has been confounded with Lego. Lano appears to have been a lake of Norway which ſent forth peſtilential vapours. Lego is in Ulſter. 


Muirne, or Morna, a woman beloved by all. 


Torman, thunder. This is the true origin of the Jupiter Taramis of the ancients. 


She alludes to his name, the dark man. 


Moina, ſoft in temper and perſon. 


It was the opinion then, as indeed it is to this day, of ſome of the Highlanders, that the ſoul of the deceaſed hovered round their living friends; and ſometimes appeared to them when they were about to enter on any great undertaking. 


Sithallin ſignifies a handſome man; Fiöna, a fair maid; and Ardan, pride. 


The Iſle of Sky; not improperly called the iſle of miſt, as its high hills which catch the clouds from the weſtern ocean, occaſion almoſt continual rains. 


One of Cuthullin's horſes. Dubhſtron-gheal. 


Sith-fadda – i.e. a long ſtride. 


The maid of Iniſtore was the daughter of Gorlo, king of Iniſtore, or Orkney Iſlands. Trenar was brother to the king of Iniſcon, ſuppoſed to be one of the iſlands of Shetland. The Orkneys and Shetland were at that time ſubject to the king of Lochlin. We find that the dogs of Trenar are ſenſible at home of the death of their maſter, the very inſtant he is killed. It was the opinion of the times, that the ſouls of heroes went immediately after death to the hills of their country, and the ſcenes they frequented the moſt happy times of their life. It was thought, too, that dogs and horſes ſaw the ghoſts of the deceaſed. 


The ancient manner of preparing feaſts after hunting, is handed down by tradition. A pit lined with ſmooth ſtones was made; and near it ſtood a heap of ſmooth flat ſtones of the flint kind. The ſtones, as well as the pit, were properly heated with heath. Then they laid ſome veniſon in the bottom, and a ſtratum of ſtones above it; and thus they did alternately till the pit was full. The whole was covered over with heath to confine the ſteam. Whether this is probable I cannot ſay; but ſome pits are ſhown which, the vulgar ſay, were uſed in that manner. 


Cean-feana – i.e. the head of the people. 


i.e. «of old.» 


The Cona here mentioned is that ſmall river that runs through Glencoe(?), in Argyllſhire. One of the hills which environ that romantic valley is ſtill called Scornafena (Scour-na-Feinne), or the hill of Fingal's people. 


This epiſode is introduced with propriety. Calmar and Connal, two of the Iriſh heroes, had diſputed warmly before the battle about engaging the enemy. Carril endeavours to reconcile them with the ſtory of Cairbar and Grudar; who, though enemies before, fought ſide by ſide in the war. The poet obtained his aim, for we find Calmar and Connal perfectly reconciled in the third book. 


Golb-bhean, as well as Cromleach, ſignifies a crooked hill. 


Lubar, a river in Ulſter. Labhar, loud, noiſy. 


Braſſolis ſignifies a woman with a white breaſt. 


It was long the opinion of the ancient Scots, that a ghoſt was heard ſhrieking near the place where a death was to happen ſoon after. The accounts given, to this day, among the vulgar, of this extraordinary matter are very poetical. The ghoſt comes mounted on a meteor, and ſurrounds twice or thrice a place deſtined for the perſon to die; and then goes along the road through which the funeral is to paſs, ſhrieking at intervals; at laſt, the meteor and ghoſt diſappear above the burial place.