Temora - Book VII

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






ARGUMENT.

This book begins about the middle of the third night from the opening of the poem. The poet describes a kind of mist, which rose by night from the Lake of Lego, and was the usual residence of the souls of the dead, during the interval between their decease and the funeral song. The appearance of the ghost of Fillan above the cave where his body lay. His voice comes to Fingal on the rock of Cormul. The king strikes the shield of Trenmor, which was an infallible sign of his appearing in arms himself. The extraordinary effect of the sound of the shield. Sul-malla, starting from sleep, awakes Cathmor. Their affecting discourse. She insists with him to sue for peace; he resolves to continue the war. He directs her to retire to the neighboring valley of Lona, which was the residence of an old Druid, until the battle of the next day should be over. He awakes his army with the sound of his shield. The shield described. Fonar, the bard, at the desire of Cathmor, relates the first settlement of the Fir-bolg in Ireland, under their leader Larthon. Morning comes. Sul-malla retires to the valley of Lona. A lyric song concludes the book.

From the wood-skirted waters of Lego ascend, at times, gray-bosomed mists; when the gates of the west are closed, on the sun's eagle eye. Wide, over Lara's stream, is poured the vapor dark and deep: the moon, like a dim shield, lay swimming through its folds. With this, clothe the spirits of old their sudden gestures on the wind, when they stride, from blast to blast, along the dusky night. Often, blended with the gale, to some warrior's grave, they roll the mist a gray dwelling to his ghost, until the songs arise.

A sound came from the desert; it was Conar, king of Inis-fail. He poured his mist on the grave of Fillan, at blue-winding Lubar. Dark and mournful sat the ghost, in his gray ridge of smoke. The blast, at times, rolled him together; but the form returned again. It returned with bending eyes, and dark winding of locks of mist.

It was dark. The sleeping host were still in the skirts of night. The flame decayed, on the hill of Fingal; the king lay lonely on his shield. His eyes were half clothed in sleep: the voice of Fillan came. "Sleeps the husband of Clatho? Dwells the father of the fallen in rest? Am I forgot in the folds of darkness; lonely in the season of night?"

"Why dost thou mix," said the king, "with the dreams of my father? Can I forget thee, my son, or thy path of fire in the field? Not such come the deeds of the valiant on the soul of Fingal. They are not a beam of lightning, which is seen and is then no more. I remember thee, O Fillan! and my wrath begins to rise."

The king took his deathful spear, and struck the deeply-sounding shield: his shield, that hung high in night, the dismal sign of war. Ghosts fled on every side, and rolled their gathered forms on the wind. Thrice from the winding vales arose the voice of deaths. The harps of the bards, untouched, sound mournful over the hill.

He struck again the shield; battles rose in the dreams of his host. The wide-tumbling strife is gleaming over their souls. Blue-shielded kings descended to war. Backward-looking armies fly; and mighty deeds are half hid in the bright gleams of steel.

But when the third sound arose, deer started from the clefts of their rocks. The screams of fowl are heard in the desert, as each flew frightened on his blast. The sons of Selma half rose and half assumed their spears. But silence rolled back on the host: they knew the shield of the king. Sleep returned to their eyes; the field was dark and still.

No sleep was thine in darkness, blue-eyed daughter of Conmor! Sul-malla heard the dreadful shield, and rose, amid the night. Her steps are towards the king of Atha. "Can danger shake his daring soul?" In doubt, she stands with bending eyes. Heaven burns with all its stars.

Again the shield resounds! She rushed. She stopt. Her voice half rose. It failed. She saw him, amidst his arms, that gleamed to heaven's fire. She saw him dim in his locks, that rose to nightly wind. Away, for fear, she turned her steps. "Why should the king of Erin awake? Thou art not a dream to his rest, daughter of Inis-huna."

More dreadful rings the shield. Sul-malla starts. Her helmet fails. Loud echoes Lubar's rock, as over it rolls the steel. Bursting from the dreams of night, Cathmor half rose beneath his tree. He saw the form of the maid above him, on the rock. A red star, with twinkling beams, looked through her floating hair.

"Who comes through night to Cathmor in the season of his dreams? Bring'st thou aught of war? Who art thou, son of night? Stand'st thou before me, a form of the times of old? a voice from the fold of a cloud, to warn me of the danger of Erin?"

"Nor lonely

© Poetry.net