James Macpherson

1736 - 1796


The Poems of Ossian









An Epic Poem.


Book VI.




NIGHT comes on. Fingal gives a feaſt to his army, at which Swaran is preſent. The king commands Ullin his bard to give the ſong of peace, a cuſtom always obſerved at the end of a war. Ullin relates the actions of Trenmor, great grandfather to Fingal, in Scandinavia, and his marriage with Inibaca, the daughter of a king of Lochlin, who was anceſtor to Swaran; which conſideration, together with his being brother to Agandecca, with whom Fingal was in love in his youth, induced the king to releaſe him and to permit him to return, with the remains of his army, into Lochlin, upon his promiſe of never returning to Ireland in a hoſtile manner. The night is ſpent in ſettling Swaran's departure in ſongs of bards, and in a converſation in which the ſtory of Grumal is introduced by Fingal. Morning comes. Swaran departs; Fingal goes on a hunting party, and finding Cuthullin in the cave of Cromla, comforts him, and ſets ſail, the next day, for Scotland; which concludes the poem.



THE clouds of night come rolling down. Darkneſs reſts on the ſteeps of Cromla. The ſtars of the north ariſe over the rolling of Erin's waves: they ſhew their heads of fire, through the flying miſt of heaven. A diſtant wind roars in the wood. Silent and dark is the plain of death! Still on the duſky Lena aroſe in my ears the voice of Carril. He ſung of the friends of our youth; the days of former years; when we met on the banks of the Lego: when we ſent round the joy of the ſhell. Cromla anſwered to his voice. The ghoſts of thoſe he ſung came in their ruſtling winds. They were ſeen to bend with joy, towards the ſound of their praiſe!

Be thy ſoul bleſt, O Carril! in the midſt of thy eddying winds. O that thou wouldſt come to my hall, when I am alone by night! And thou doſt come, my friend. I hear often thy light hand on my harp; when it hangs, on the diſtant wall, and the feeble ſound touches my ear. Why doſt thou not ſpeak to me in my grief, and tell when I ſhall behold my friends? But thou paſſeſt away in thy murmuring blaſt; the wind whiſtles through the grey hair of Oſſian!

Now, on the ſide of Mora, the heroes gathered to the feaſt. A thouſand aged oaks are burning to the wind. The ſtrength of the ſhells goes round. The ſouls of warriors brighten with joy. But the king of Lochlin is ſilent. Sorrow reddens in his eyes of pride. He often turned towards Lena. He remembered that he fell. Fingal leaned on the ſhield of his fathers. His grey locks ſlowly waved on the wind, and glittered to the beam of night. He ſaw the grief of Swaran, and ſpoke to the firſt of bards.

“Raiſe, Ullin, raiſe the ſong of peace. O ſoothe my ſoul from war! Let mine ear forget, in the ſound, the diſmal noiſe of arms. Let a hundred harps be near to gladden the king of Lochlin. He muſt depart from us with joy. None ever went ſad from Fingal. Oſcar! the lightning of my ſword is againſt the ſtrong in fight. Peaceful it lies by my ſide when warriors yield in war.”

“Trenmor,” 1) ſaid the mouth of ſongs, “lived in the days of other years. He bounded over the waves of the north: companion of the ſtorm! The high rocks of the land of Lochlin; its groves of murmuring ſounds appeared to the hero through miſt; he bound his white-boſomed ſails. Trenmor purſued the boar, that roared through the woods of Gormal. Many had fled from its preſence: but it had rolled in death on the ſpear of Trenmor. Three chiefs, who beheld the deed, told of the mighty ſtranger. They told that he ſtood, like a pillar of fire, in the bright arms of his valour. The king of Lochlin prepared the feaſt. He called the blooming Trenmor. Three days he feaſted at Gormal's windy towers; and received his choice in the combat. The land of Lochlin had no hero that yielded not to Trenmor. The ſhell of joy went round with ſongs, in praiſe of the king of Morven. He that came over the waves, the firſt of mighty men!”

Now, when the fourth grey morn aroſe, the hero launched his ſhip. He walked along the ſilent ſhore, and called for the ruſhing wind. For loud and diſtant he heard the blaſt murmuring behind the groves. Covered over with arms of ſteel, a ſon of the woody Gormal appeared. Red was his cheek and fair his hair. His ſkin like the ſnow of Morven. Mild rolled his blue and ſmiling eye, when he ſpoke to the king of ſwords.

“Stay, Trenmor, ſtay, thou firſt of men, thou haſt not conquered Lonval's ſon. My ſword has often met the brave. The wiſe ſhun the ſtrength of my bow.” “Thou fair-haired youth,” Trenmor replied, “I will not fight with Lonval's ſon. Thine arm is feeble, ſun-beam of youth! Retire to Gormal's dark-brown hinds.” “But I will retire,” replied the youth, “with the ſword of Trenmor; and exult in the ſound of my fame. The virgins ſhall gather with ſmiles around him who conquered mighty Trenmor. They ſhall ſigh with the ſighs of love, and admire the length of thy ſpear; when I ſhall carry it among thouſands; when I lift the glittering point to the ſun.”

“Thou ſhalt never carry my ſpear,” ſaid the angry king of Morven. “Thy mother ſhall find thee pale on the ſhore; and, looking over the dark-blue deep, ſee the ſails of him that ſlew her ſon!” “I will not lift the ſpear,” replied the youth, “my arm is not ſtrong with years. But, with the feathered dart, I have learned to pierce a diſtant foe. Throw down that heavy mail of ſteel. Trenmor is covered from death. I, firſt, will lay my mail on earth. Throw now thy dart, thou king of Morven!” He ſaw the heaving of her breaſt. It was the ſiſter of the king. She had ſeen him in the hall: and loved his face of youth. The ſpear dropt from the hand of Trenmor: he bent his red cheek to the ground. She was to him a beam of light that meets the ſons of the cave; when they reviſit the fields of the ſun, and bend their aching eyes!

“Chief of the windy Morven,”, begun the maid of the arms of ſnow, “let me reſt in thy bounding ſhip far from the love of Corlo. For he, like the thunder of the deſert, is terrible to Inibaca. He loves me in the gloom of pride. He ſhakes ten thouſand ſpears!” “Reſt thou in peace,” ſaid the mighty Trenmor, “reſt behind the Shield of my fathers. I will not fly from the chief, though he ſhakes ten thouſand ſpears!” Three days he waited on the ſhore. He ſent his horn abroad. He called Corlo to battle, from all his echoing hills. But Corlo came not to battle. The king of Lochlin deſcends from his hall. He feaſted on the roaring ſhore. He gave the maid to Trenmor.

“King of Lochlin,” ſaid Fingal, “thy blood flows in the veins of thy foe. Our fathers met in battle, becauſe they loved the ſtrife of ſpears. But often did they feaſt in the hall: and ſend round the joy of the ſhell. Let thy face brighten with gladneſs, and thine ear delight in the harp. Dreadful as the ſtorm of thine ocean, thou haſt poured thy valour forth; thy voice has been like the voice of thouſands when they engage in war. Raiſe, to-morrow, raiſe thy white ſails to the wind, thou brother of Agandecca! Bright as the beam of noon, ſhe comes on my mournful ſoul. I have ſeen thy tears for the fair one. I ſpared thee in the halls of Starno; when my ſword was red with ſlaughter; when my eye was full of tears for the maid. Or doſt thou chooſe the fight? The combat which thy fathers gave to Trenmor is thine! that thou mayeſt depart renowned, like the ſun ſetting in the weſt!”

“King of the race of Morven!” ſaid the chief of reſounding Lochlin, “never will Swaran fight with thee, firſt of a thouſand heroes! I have ſeen thee in the halls of Starno: few were thy years beyond my own. When ſhall I, I ſaid to my ſoul, lift the ſpear like the noble Fingal? We have fought heretofore, O warrior, on the ſide of the ſhaggy Malmor; after my waves had carried me to thy halls, and the feaſt of a thouſand ſhells was ſpread. Let the bards ſend his name who overcame to future years, for noble was the ſtrife of Malmor! But many of the ſhips of Lochlin have loſt their youths on Lena. Take theſe, thou king of Morven, and be the friend of Swaran! When thy ſons ſhall come to Gormal, the feaſt of ſhells ſhall be ſpread, and the combat offered on the vale.”

“Nor ſhip,” replied the king, “ſhall Fingal take, nor land of many hills. The deſert is enough to me, with all its deer and woods. Riſe on thy waves again, thou noble friend of Agandecca! Spread thy white ſails to the beam of the morning; return to the echoing hills of Gormal.” “Bleſt be thy ſoul, thou king of ſhells,” ſaid Swaran of the dark-brown ſhield. “In peace thou art the gale of ſpring. In war the mountain-ſtorm. Take now my hand in friendſhip, king of echoing Selma! Let thy bards mourn thoſe who fell. Let Erin give the ſons of Lochlin to earth. Raiſe high the moſſy ſtones of their fame: that the children of the north hereafter may behold the place where their fathers fought. The hunter may ſay, when he leans on a moſſy tomb, here Fingal and Swaran fought, the heroes of other years. Thus hereafter ſhall he ſay, and our fame ſhall laſt for ever!”

“Swaran,” ſaid the king of hills, “to-day our fame is greateſt. We ſhall paſs away like a dream. No ſound will remain in our fields of war. Our tombs will be loſt in the heath. The hunter ſhall not know the place of our reſt. Our names may be heard in ſong. What avails it when our ſtrength hath ceaſed? O, Oſſian, Carril, and Ullin! you know of heroes that are no more. Give us the ſong of other years. Let the night paſs away on the ſound, and morning return with joy.”

We gave the ſong to the kings. A hundred harps mixed their ſound with our voice. The face of Swaran brightened, like the full moon of heaven: when the clouds vaniſh away, and leave her calm and broad in the midſt of the ſky.

“Where, Carril,” ſaid the great Fingal, “Carril of other times! Where is the ſon of Semo, the king of the iſle of miſt? has he retired, like the meteor of death, to the dreary cave of Cromla?” “Cuthullin,” ſaid Carril of other times, “lies in the dreary cave of Cromla. His hand is on the ſword of his ſtrength. His thoughts on the battles he loſt. Mournful is the king of ſpears; till now unconquered in war. He ſends his ſword to reſt on the ſide of Fingal. For, like the ſtorm of the deſert, thou haſt ſcattered all his foes. Take, O Fingal! the ſword of the hero. His fame is departed like miſt, when it flies, before the ruſtling wind, along the brightening vale.”

“No,” replied the king, “Fingal ſhall never take his ſword. His arm is mighty in war: his fame ſhall never fail. Many have been overcome in battle; whoſe renown aroſe from their fall. O Swaran! king of reſounding woods, give all thy grief away. The vanquiſhed, if brave, are renowned. They are like the ſun in a cloud, when he hides his face in the ſouth, but looks again on the hills of graſs!”

“Grumal was a chief of Cona. He ſought the battle on every coaſt. His ſoul rejoiced in blood; his ear in the din of arms. He poured his warriors on Craca; Craca's king met him from his grove: for then, within the circle of Brumo, 2) he ſpoke to the ſtone of power. Fierce was the battle of the heroes, for the maid of the breaſt of ſnow. The fame of the daughter of Craca had reached Grumal at the ſtreams of Cona: he vowed to have the white-boſomed maid, or die on echoing Craca. Three days they ſtrove together, and Grumal on the fourth was bound. Far from his friends they placed him in the horrid circle of Brumo; where often, they ſaid, the ghoſts of the dead howled round the ſtone of their fear. But he afterwards ſhone like a pillar of the light of heaven. They fell by his mighty hand. Grumal had all his fame.”

“Raiſe, ye bards of other times,” continued the great Fingal, “raiſe high the praiſe of heroes: that my ſoul may ſettle on their fame; that the mind of Swaran may ceaſe to be ſad.” They lay in the heath of Mora. The dark winds ruſtled over the chiefs. A hundred voices, at once, aroſe: a hundred harps were ſtrung. They ſung of other times; the mighty chiefs of former years. When now ſhall I hear the bard? When rejoice at the fame of my fathers? The harp is not ſtrung on Morven. The voice of muſic aſcends not on Cona. Dead, with the mighty, is the bard. Fame is in the deſert no more.

Morning trembles with the beam of the eaſt; it glimmers on Cromla's ſide. Over Lena is heard the horn of Swaran. The ſons of the ocean gather around. Silent and ſad they riſe on the wave. The blaſt of Erin is behind their ſails. White, as the miſt of Morven, they float along the ſea. “Call,” ſaid Fingal, “call my dogs, the long-bounding ſons of the chaſe. Call white-breaſted Bran, and the ſurly ſtrength of Luath! Fillan, and Ryno; but he is not here! My ſon reſts on the bed of death. Fillan and Fergus! blow the horn, that the joy of the chaſe may ariſe: that the deer of Cromla may hear and ſtart at the lake of roes.” 3)

The ſhrill ſound ſpreads along the wood. The ſons of heathy Cromla ariſe. A thouſand dogs fly off at once, grey-bounding through the heath. A deer fell by every dog; three by the white-breaſted Bran. He brought them, in their flight, to Fingal, that the joy of the king might be great! One deer fell at the tomb of Ryno. The grief of Fingal returned. He ſaw how peaceful lay the ſtone of him, who was the firſt at the chaſe! “No more ſhalt thou riſe, O my ſon! to partake of the feaſt of Cromla. Soon will thy tomb be hid, and the graſs grow rank on thy grave. The ſons of the feeble ſhall paſs along. They ſhall not know where the mighty lies.

Oſſian and Fillan, ſons of my ſtrength! Gaul, chief of the blue ſteel of war! let us aſcend the hill to the cave of Cromla. Let us find the chief of the battles of Erin. Are theſe the walls of Muri? grey and lonely they riſe on the heath. The chief of ſhells is ſad, and the halls are ſilent and lonely. Come, let us find Cuthullin, and give him all our joy. But is that Cuthullin, O Fillan, or a pillar of ſmoke on the heath? The wind of Cromla is on my eyes. I diſtinguiſh not my friend.”

“Fingal!” replied the youth, “it is the ſon of Semo! Gloomy and ſad is the hero! his hand is on his ſword. Hail to the ſon of battle, breaker of the ſhields!” “Hail to thee,” replied Cuthullin, “hail to all the ſons of Morven! Delightful is thy preſence, O Fingal! it is the ſun on Cromla; when the hunter mourns his abſence for a ſeaſon, and ſees him between the clouds. Thy ſons are like ſtars that attend thy courſe. They give light in the night. It is not thus thou haſt ſeen me, O Fingal! returning from the wars of thy land: when the kings of the world 4) had fled, and joy returned to the hill of hinds!” “Many are thy words, Cuthullin,” ſaid Connan 5) of ſmall renown. “Thy words are many, ſon of Semo, but where are thy deeds in arms? Why did we come, over ocean, to aid thy feeble ſword? Thou flieſt to thy cave of grief, and Connan fights thy battles. Reſign to me theſe arms of light. Yield them, thou chief of Erin.” “No hero,” replied the chief, “ever ſought the arms of Cuthullin! and had a thouſand heroes ſought them, it were in vain, thou gloomy youth! I fled not to the cave of grief, till Erin failed at her ſtreams.”

“Youth of the feeble arm,” ſaid Fingal, “Connan, ceaſe thy words! Cuthullin is renowned in battle; terrible over the world. Often have I heard thy fame, thou ſtormy chief of Inis-fail. Spread now thy white ſails for the iſle of miſt. See Bragela leaning on her rock. Her tender eye is in tears; the wind lifts her long hair from her heaving breaſt. She liſtens to breezes of night, to hear the voice of thy rowers 6): to hear the ſong of the ſea! the ſound of thy diſtant harp!”

“Long ſhall ſhe liſten in vain. Cuthullin ſhall never return! How can I behold Bragela, to raiſe the ſigh of her breaſt? Fingal, I was always victorious, in battles of other ſpears!” “And hereafter thou ſhalt be victorious,” ſaid Fingal, of generous ſhells. “The fame of Cuthullin ſhall grow, like the branchy tree of Cromla. Many battles await thee, O chief! Many ſhall be the wounds of thy hand! Bring hither, Oſcar, the deer! Prepare the feaſt of ſhells. Let our ſouls rejoice after danger, and our friends delight in our preſence!”

We ſat. We feaſted. We ſung. The ſoul of Cuthullin roſe. The ſtrength of his arm returned. Gladneſs brightened along his face. Ullin gave the ſong; Carril raiſed the voice. I joined the bards, and ſung of battles of the ſpear. Battles! where I often fought. Now I fight no more! The fame of my former deeds is ceaſed. I ſit forlorn at the tombs of my friends!

Thus the night paſſed away in ſong. We brought back the morning with joy. Fingal aroſe on the heath, and ſhook his glittering ſpear. He moved firſt towards the plains of Lena. 7) We followed in all our arms.

“Spread the ſail,” ſaid the king, “ſeize the winds as they pour from Lena.” We roſe on the wave with ſongs. We ruſhed, with joy, through the foam of the deep.





Trenmor was great grandfather to Fingal. The ſtory is introduced to facilitate the diſmiſſion of Swaran. 


This paſſage alludes to the religion of the king of Craca. 


The lake of Roes is evidently Lochneagh, whoſe north-eaſt end is bounded by a part of the ridge of Lena. 


This is the only paſſage in the poem wherein the wars of Fingal againſt the Romans are alluded to: the Roman emperor is diſtinguiſhed in old compoſitions by the title of king of the world. 


Connan was of the family of Morni. He is mentioned in ſeveral other poems, and always appears with the ſame character. The poet paſſed him over in ſilence till now, and his behaviour here deſerves no better uſage. 


The practice of ſinging when they row is univerſal among the inhabitants of the north-weſt coaſt of Scotland and the iſles. It deceives time, and inſpirits the rowers. 


I underſtand that Fingal was on the ſide of Mora, beyond the Lubar, conſequently, it was neceſſary to «move towards the plain of Lena», over which he had to paſs to embark.