by James Macpherson
This book opens with a speech of Fingal, who sees Cathmor descending to the assistance of his flying army. The king despatches Ossian to the relief of Fillan. He himself retires behind the rock of Cormul, to avoid the sight of the engagement between his son and Cathmor. Ossian advances. The descent of Cathmor described. He rallies the army, renews the battle, and, before Ossian could arrive, engages Fillan himself. Upon the approach of Ossian, the combat between the two heroes ceases. Ossian and Cathmor prepare to fight, but night coming on pre vents them. Ossian returns to the place where Cathmor and Fillan fought. He finds Fillan mortally wounded, and leaning against a rock. Their discourse. Fillan dies, his body is laid, by Ossian, in a neighboring cave. The Caledonian army return to Fingal. He questions them about his son, and understanding that he was killed, retires, in silence, to the rock of Cormul. Upon the retreat of the army of Fingal, the Fir-bolg advance. Cathmor finds Bran, one of the dogs of Fingal, lying on the shield of Fillan, before the entrance of the cave, where the body of that hero lay. His reflection thereupon. He returns, in a melancholy mood, to his army. Malthos endeavors to comfort him, by the example of his father, Borbar-duthul. Cathmor retires to rest. The song of Sul-malla concludes the book, which ends about the middle of the third night from the opening of the poem.
"Cathmor rises on his hill! Shall Fingal take the sword of Luna? But what shall become of thy fame, son of white-bosomed Clatho? Turn not thine eyes from Fingal, fair daughter of Inis-tore. I shall not quench thy early beam. It shines along my soul. Rise, wood-skirted Mora, rise between the war and me! Why should Fingal behold the strife, lest his dark -haired warrior should fall? Amidst the song, O Carril, pour the sound of the trembling harp! Here are the voices of rocks! and there the bright tumbling of waters. Father of Oscar! lift the spear! defend the young in arms. Conceal thy steps from Fillan. He must not know that I doubt his steel. No cloud of mine shall rise, my son, upon thy soul of fire!"
He sunk behind his rock, amid the sound of Carril's song. Brightening in my growing soul, I took the spear of Temora. I saw, along Moi-lena, the wild tumbling of battle; the strife of death, in gleaming rows, disjointed and broken round. Fillan is a beam of fire. From wing to wing is his wasteful course. The ridges of war melt before him. They are rolled, in smoke, from the fields!
Now is the coming forth of Cathmor, in the armor of kings! Dark waves the eagle's wing, above his helmet of fire. Unconcerned are his steps, as if they were to the chase of Erin. He raises, at times, his terrible voice. Erin, abashed, gathers round. Their souls return back, like a stream. They wonder at the steps of their fear. He rose, like the beam of the morning, on a haunted heath: the traveller looks back, with bending eye, on the field of dreadful forms! Sudden from the rock of Moi-lena, are Sul-malla's trembling steps. An oak takes the spear from her hand. Half bent she looses the lance. But then are her eyes on the king, from amid her wandering locks! No friendly strife is before thee! No light contending of bows, as when the youth of Inis-huna come forth beneath the eye of Conmor!
As the rock of Runo, which takes the passing clouds as they fly, seems growing, in gathered darkness, over the streamy heath; so seems the chief of Atha taller, as gather his people around. As different blasts fly over the sea, each behind its dark-blue wave; so Cathmor's words, on every side, pour his warriors forth. Nor silent on his hill is Fillan. He mixes his words with his echoing shield. An eagle be seemed, with sounding wings, calling the wind to his rock, when he sees the coming forth of the roes, on Lutha's rushy field!
Now they bend forward in battle. Death's hundred voices arise. The kings, on either side, were like fires on the souls of the host. Ossian bounded along. High rocks and trees rush tall between the war and me. But I hear the noise of steel, between my clanging arms. Rising, gleaming on the hill, I behold the backward steps of hosts: their backward steps on either side, and wildly-looking eyes. The chiefs were met in dreadful fight! The two blue-shielded kings! Tall and dark, through gleams of steel, are seen the striving heroes! I rush. My fears for Fillan fly, burning, across my soul!
I come. Nor Cathmor flies; nor yet comes on; he sidelong stalks along. An icy rock, cold, tall, he seems. I call forth all my steel. Silent awhile we stride, on either side of a rushing stream: then, sudden turning, all at once, we raise our pointed spears. We raise our spears, but night comes down. It is dark and silent round; but where the distant steps of hosts are sounding over the heath.
I come to the place where Fillan fought. Nor voice nor sound is there. A broken helmet lies on earth, a buckler cleft in twain. Where, Fillan, where art thou, young chief of echoing Morven? He hears me, leaning on a rock, which bends its gray head over the stream. He hears; but sullen, dark he stands. At length. I saw the hero.
"Why standest thou, robed in darkness, son of woody Selma! Bright is thy path, my brother in this dark-brown field! Long has been thy strife in battle! Now the horn of Fingal is heard. Ascend to the cloud of thy father, to his hill of feasts. In the evening mists he sits, and hears the sound of Carril's harp. Carry joy to the aged, young breaker of the shields!"
"Can the vanquished carry joy? Ossian, no shield is mine! It lies broken on the field. The eagle-wing of my helmet is torn. It is when foes fly before them, that fathers delight in their sons. But their sighs burst forth, in secret, when their young warriors yield. No: Fillan shall not behold the king! Why should the hero mourn?"
"Son of blue-eyed Clatho! O Fillan, awake not my soul! Wert thou not a burning fire before him? Shall he not rejoice? Such fame belongs not to Ossian; yet is the king still a sun to me. He looks on my steps with joy. Shadows never rise on his face. Ascend, O Fillan, to Mora! His feast is spread in the folds of mist."
"Ossian! give me that broken shield: those feathers that are rolled in the wind. Place them near to Fillan, that less of his fame may fall. Ossian, I begin to fail. Lay me in that hollow rock. Raise no stone above, lest one should ask about my fame. I am fallen in the first of my fields, fallen without renown. Let thy voice alone send joy to my flying soul. Why should the bard know where dwells the lost beam of Clatho?"
"Is thy spirit on the eddying winds, O Fillan, young breaker of shields. Joy pursue my hero, through his folded clouds. The forms of thy fathers, O Fillan, bend to receive their son! I behold the spreading of their fire on Mora: the blue-rolling of their wreaths. Joy meet thee, my brother! But we are dark and sad! I behold the foe round the aged. I behold the wasting away of his fame. Thou art left alone in the field, O gray-haired king of Selma!"
I laid him in the hollow rock, at the roar of the nightly stream. One red star looked in on the hero. Winds lift, at times, his locks. I listen. No sound is heard. The warrior slept! as lightning on a cloud, a thought came rushing along my soul. My eyes roll in fire: my stride was in the clang of steel. "I will find thee, king of Erin! in the gathering of thy thousands find thee. Why should that cloud escape, that quenched our early beam? Kindle your meteors on your hills, my fathers. Light my daring steps. I will consume in wrath. — But should not I return? The king is without a son, gray-haired among his foes! His arm is not as in the days of old. His fame grows dim in Erin. Let me not behold him, laid low in his latter field — But can I return to the king? Will he not ask about his son?" Thou oughtest to defend young Fillan." — Ossian will meet the foe! Green Erin, thy sounding tread is pleasant to my ear. I rush on thy ridgy host, to shun the eyes of Fingal. I hear the voice of the king, on Mora's misty top! He calls his two sons! I come, my father, in my grief. I come like an eagle, which the flame of night met in the desert, and spoiled of half his wings!
Distant, round the king, on Mora, the broken ridges of Morven are rolled. They turned their eyes: each darkly bends, on his own ashen spear. Silent stood the king in the midst. Thought on thought rolled over his soul: as waves on a secret mountain lake, each with its back of foam. He looked; no son appeared, with his long-beaming spear. The sighs rose, crowding, from his soul; but he concealed his grief. At length I stood beneath an oak. No voice of mine was heard.! What could I say to Fingal in this hour of wo? His words rose, at length, in the midst: the people shrunk backward as he spoke.
"Where is the son of Selma; he who led in war? I behold not his steps, among my people, returning from the field. Fell the young bounding roe, who was so stately on my hills? He fell! for ye are silent. The shield of war is cleft in twain. Let his armor be near to Fingal; and the sword of dark-brown Luno. I am waked on my hills; with morning I descend to war!"
High on Cormul's rock, an oak is flaming to the wind. The gray skirts of mist are rolled around; thither strode the king in his wrath. Distant from the host he always lay, when battle burnt within his soul. On two spears hung his shield on high; the gleaming sign of death! that shield, which he was wont to strike, by night, before he rushed to war. It was then his warriors knew when the king was to lead in strife; for never was his buckler heard, till the wrath of Fingal arose. Unequal were his steps on high, as ho shone on the beam of the oak; he was dreadful as the form of the spirit of night, when he clothes, on his wild gestures with mist, and, issuing forth, on the troubled ocean, mounts the car of winds.
Nor settled, from the storm, is Erin's sea of war! they glitter, beneath the moon, and, low humming, still roll on the field. Alone are the steps of Cathmor, before them on the heath: he hangs forward, with all his arms, on Morven's flying host. Now had he come to the mossy cave, where Fillan lay in night. One tree was bent above! the stream, which glittered over the rock. There shone to the moon the broken shield of Clatho's son; and near it, on grass, lay hairy-footed Bran. He had missed the chief on Mora, and searched him along the wind. He thought that the blue-eyed hunter slept; he lay upon his shield. No blast came over the heath unknown to bounding Bran.
Cathmor saw the white-breasted dog; he saw the broken shield. Darkness is blown back on his soul; he remembers the falling away of the people. They came, a stream; are rolled away; another race succeeds. But some mark the fields, as they pass, with their own mighty names. The heath, through dark brown years, is theirs; some blue stream winds to their fame. Of these be the chief of Atha, when he lays him down on earth. Often may the voice of future times meet Cathmor in the air; when he strides from wind to wind, or folds himself in the wing of a storm.
Green Erin gathered round the king to hear the voice of his power. Their joyful faces bend unequal, forward, in the light of the oak. They who were terrible, were removed; Lubar winds again in their host. Cathmor was that beam from heaven, which shone when his people were dark. He was honored in the midst. Their souls arose with ardor around! The king alone no gladness showed; no stranger he to war!
"Why is the king so sad?" said Malthos, eagle-eyed. "Remains there a foe at Lubar t Lives there among them who can lift the spear? Not so peaceful was thy father, Borbar-duthul, king of spears. His rage was a fire that always burned: his joy over fallen foes was great. Three days feasted the gray-haired hero, when he heard that Calmar fell: Calmar who aided the race of Ullin, from Lara of the streams. Often did he feel, with his hands, the steel which they said had pierced his foe. He felt it with his hands, for Borbar-duthul's eyes had failed. Yet was the king a sun to his friends; a gale to lift their branches round. Joy was around him in his halls: he loved the sons of Bolga. His name remains in Atha, like the awful memory of ghosts whose presence was terrible; but they blew the storm away. Now let the voices of Erin raise the soul of the king; he that shone when war was dark, and laid the mighty low. Fonar, from that gray-browed rock pour the tale of other times: pour it on wide-skirted Erin, as it settles round.
"To me," said Cathmor, "no song shall rise; nor Fonar sit on the rock of Lubar. The mighty there are laid low. Disturb not their rushing ghosts. Far, Malthos, far remove the sound of Erin's song. I rejoice not over the foe, when he ceases to lift the spear. With morning we pour our strength abroad. Fingal is wakened on his echoing hill."
Like waves, blown back by sudden winds, Erin retired, at the voice of the king. Deep, rolled into the field of night, they spread their humming tribes. Beneath his own tree, at intervals, each bard sat down with his harp. They raised the song, and touched the string: each to the chief he loved. Before a burning oak Sul-malla touched, at times, the harp. She touched the harp, and heard, between, the breezes in her hair. In darkness near lay the king of Atha, beneath an aged tree. The beam of the oak was turned from him; he saw the maid, but was not seen. His soul poured forth, in secret, when he beheld her fearful eye. "But battle is before thee, son of Borbar-duthul."
Amidst the harp, at intervals, she listened whether the warrior slept. Her soul was up; she longed, in secret, to pour her own sad song. The field is silent. On their wings the blasts of night retire. The bards had ceased; and meteors came, red-winding with their ghosts. The sky grew dark: the forms of the dead were blended with the clouds. But heedless bends the daughter of Conmor over the decaying flame. Thou wert alone in her soul, car-borne chief of Atha. She raised the voice of the song, and touched the harp between.
"Clun-galo came; she missed the maid. Where art thou, beam of light? Hunters from the mossy rock, saw ye the blue-eyed fair? Are her steps on grassy Lumon; near the bed of roes? Ah, me! I behold her bow in the hail. Where art thou, beam of light?
"Cease, love of Conmor, cease! I hear thee not on the ridgy heath. My eye is turned to the king, whose path is terrible in war. He for whom my soul is up, in the season of my rest. Deep-bosomed in war he stands; he beholds me not from his cloud. Why, sun of Sul-malla, dost thou not look forth? I dwell in darkness here: wide over me flies the shadowy mist. Filled with dew are my locks: look thou from thy cloud, O sun of Sul-malla's soul!"