Temora - Book II

ARGUMENT.

This book opens, we may suppose, about midnight, with a soliloquy of Ossian, who had retired from the rest of the army, to mourn for his son Oscar. Upon hearing the noise of Cathmor's army approaching, he went to find out his brother Fillan, who kept the watch on the hill of Mora, in the front of Fingal's army. In the conversation of the brothers, the episode of Conar, the son of Trenmor, who was the first king of Ireland, is introduced, which lays open the origin of the contests between the Gael and the Fir-bolg, the two nations who first possessed themselves of that island. Ossian kindles a fire on Mora: upon which Cathmor desisted from the design he had formed of surprising the army of the Caledonians. He calls a council of his chiefs: reprimands Foldath for advising a night attack, as the Irish were so much superior in number to the enemy. The bard Fonar introduces the story of Crothar, the ancestor of the king, which throws further light on the history of Ireland, and the original pretensions of the family of Atha to the throne of that kingdom. The Irish chiefs lie down to rest, and Cathmor himself undertakes the watch. In his circuit round the army he is met by Ossian. The interview of the two heroes is described. Cathmor obtains a promise from Ossian to order a funeral elegy to be sung over the grave of Cairbar: it being the opinion of the times, that the souls of the dead could not be happy till their elegies were sung by a bard. Morning comes. Cathmor and Ossian part; and the latter, casually meeting with Carril the son of Kinfena, sends that bard, with a funeral song, to the tomb of Cairbar.

FATHER of heroes! O Trenmor! High dweller of eddying winds! where the dark-red thunder marks the troubled clouds! Open thou thy stormy halls. Let the bards of old be near. Let them draw near with songs and their half viewless harps. No dweller of misty valley comes! No hunter unknown at his streams! It is the car-borne Oscar, from the field of war. Sudden is thy change, my son, from what thou wert on dark Moi-lena! The blast folds thee in its skirt, and rustles through the sky! Dost thou not behold thy father, at the stream of night? The chiefs of Morven sleep far distant. They have lost no son! But ye have lost a hero, chiefs of resounding Morven! Who could equal his strength, when battle rolled against his side, like the darkness of crowded waters? Why this cloud on Ossian's soul? It ought to burn in danger. Erin is near with her host. The king of Selma is alone. Alone thou shalt not be, my father, while I can lift the spear!

I rose in all my arms. I rose and listened to the wind. The shield of Fillan is not heard. I tremble for the son of Fingal. "Why should the foe come by night? Why should the dark-haired warrior fall?" Distant, sullen murmurs rise; like the noise of the lake of Lego, when its waters shrink, in the days of frost, and all its bursting ice resounds. The people of Lara look to heaven, and foresee the storm! My steps are forward on the heath. The spear of Oscar is in my hand? Red stars looked from high. I gleamed along the night.

I saw Fillan silent before me, bending forward from Mora's rock. He heard the shout of the foe. The joy of his soul arose. He heard my sounding tread, and turned his lifted spear. "Comest thou, son of night, in peace? Or dost thou meet my wrath? The foes of Fingal are mine. Speak, or fear my steel. I stand not, in vain, the shield of Morven's race." "Never mayest thou stand in vain, son of blue-eyed Clatho! Fingal begins to be alone. Darkness gathers on the last of his days. Yet he has two sons who ought to shine in war. Who ought to be two beams of light, near the steps of his departure."

"Son of Fingal," replied the youth, "it is not long since I raised the spear. Few are the marks of my sword in war. But Fillan's soul is fire! The chiefs of Bolga crowd around the shield of generous Cathmor. Their gathering is on the heath. Shall my steps approach their host? I yielded to Oscar alone in the strife of the race of Cona!"

"Fillan, thou shalt not approach their host; nor fall before thy fame is known. My name is heard in song; when needful, I advance. From the skirts of night I shall view them over all their gleaming tribes. Why, Fillan, didst thou speak of Oscar? Why awake my sigh! I must forget the warrior, till the storm is rolled away. Sadness ought not to dwell in danger, nor the tear in the eye of war. Our fathers forgot their fallen sons, till the noise of arms was past. Then sorrow returned to the tomb, and the song of bards arose. The memory of those who fell quickly followed the departure of war: when the tumult of battle is past, the soul in silence melts away for the dead.

"Conar was the brother of Trathal, first of mortal men. His battles were on every coast. A thousand streams rolled down the
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James Macpherson

James Macpherson was a Scottish writer, poet, literary collector and politician, known as the "translator" of the Ossian cycle of poems. more…

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