ePub 版

aged oaks.

roice, like the gale of the reedy I.ego.—My ghost, o Connal! is on my native hills : but my corse is on the sands of Ulla. Thou shalt never talk with Crugal, or find his lone steps in the heath. I am light as the blast of Cromla ; and I move like the shadow of mist. Connal, son of Colgar! I see the dark cloud of death ; it hovers over the plains of Lena. The sons of green Erin shall fall. Remove from the field of ghosts.—Like the darkened moon, he retired in the mist of the whistling blast.'

Several other appearances of spirits might be pointed out, as among the most sublime passages of Ossian's poetry. The circumstances of them are considerably diversified; and the scene. ry always suited to the occasion.

Oscar slow lý ascends the hill. The meteors of night set on the heath before him.

A distant torrent faintly roars. Unfrequent blasts rush through

The half-enlightened moon sinks dim and red behind her hill. Feeble voices are heard on the heath. Oscar drew his sword.'Nothing can prepare the fancy more happily for the awful scene that is to follow. • Trenmor came from his hill at the voice of his mighty son. A cloud, like the steed of the stranger, supported his airy limbs. His robe is of the mist of Lano, that brings death to the people. His skord is a green meteor, half extinguished. His face is without form, and dark.

He sighed thrice over the hero: and thrice the winds of the night roared around. Many were his words to Oscar. He slowly vanished, like a mist that melts on the sunny hill.' To appearances of this kind, we can find no parallel among the Greek or Roman poets. They bring to mind that noble description in the book of Job : 'In thoughts from the vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth on men, fear came upon me,

and trembling, which made all my bones to shake. Then a spirit passed before my face: the hair of my flesh stood up. It stood still: but I could not discern the form thereof. An image was before mine eyes. There was silence; and I heard a voice-Shall mortal man be more just than God?

As Ossian's supernatural beings are described with a surprising force of imagination, so they are introduced with propriety. We have only three ghosts in Fingal : that of Crugal, which comes to warn the host of impending destruction, and to advise them to save themselves by retreat ; that of Evir-allen, the spouse of Ossian, which calis on him to rise and rescue their son from danger; and that of Agandecca, which, just before the last engagement with Swaran, moves Fingal to pity, by mourning for the approaching destruction of her kinsman and people. In the other poems, ghosts sometimes appear when invoked to foretel futurity; frequently, according to the notions of these times, they come as forerunners of misfortune or death, to those whom they visit ; sometimes they in. form their friends at a distance of their own death; and sometimes they are introduced to heighten the scenery on some great and solemn occasion. A hundred oaks burn to the wind; and faint light gleams over the heath. The ghosts of Ardven pass through the beam; and show their dim and distant forms. Comala is half-unseen on her meteor; and Hidallan is sullen and dim.'_ The awful faces of other times, looked from the clouds of Crona.'-Fercuth! I saw the ghost of night. Silent he stood on that bank; his robe of mist flew on the wind. I could behold his tears. An aged man he seem. ed, and full of thought.'

The ghosts of strangers mingle not with thone


of the natives. • She is seen : but not like the daughters of the bill. Her robes are from the strangers' land; and she is still alone.' When the ghost of one whom we had formerly known is introduced, the propriety of the living character is still preserved. This is remarkable in the appearance of Calmar's ghost, in the poem entitled, The Death of Cuthullin. He seems to forebode Cuthullin's death, and to beckon him to his cave. Cuthullin reproaches him for sup. posing that he could be intimidated by such prognostics. Why dost thou bend thy dark eyes on me, ghost of the car borne Calmar? Wouldst thou frighten me, O Matha's sun ! from the battles of Cormac ? Thy hand was not feeble in war; neither was thy voice for peace. How art thou changed, chief of Larn! if thou now dost advise to fly! Retire thou to thy cave: thou art not Calmar's ghost ; he delighted in battle ; and his arm was like the thunder of heaven.' Calmar makes no return to this seeming reproach : but He retired in his blast with joy; for he had heard the voice of his praise. This is precisely the ghost of Achilles in Homer; who, notwithstanding all the dissatisfaction he expresses with his state in the region of the dead, as soon as he had heard his son Neoptolemus praised for his gallant behaviour, strode away with silent joy to rejoin the rest of the shades.

It is a great advantage of Ossian's mythology, that it is not local and temporary, like that of most other ancient poets ; which of course is apt to seem ridiculous, after the superstitions have passed away on which it is founded. Os. sian's mythology is, to speak so, the mythology of human nature; for it is founded on what has been the popular belief, in all ages and countries, and under all forms of religion, concerning the

appearances of departed spirits. Homer's machinery is always lively and amusing ; but far from being always supported with proper dignity. The indecent squables among his gods surely do no honour to epic poetry. Whereas Ossian's machinery has dignity upon all occasions. It is indeed a dignity of the dark and awful kind; but this is proper ; because coincident with the strain and spirit of the poetry: A light and gay mythology, like Homer's, would have been perfectly unsuitable to the subjects on which Ossian's genius was employed. But though his machinery be always solemn, it is not, however, always dreary or dismal ; it is enlivened, as much as the subject would permit, by those pleasant and beautiful appearances, which he sometimes introduces, of the spirits of the hill. These are gentle spirits ; descending on sunbeams, fair moving on the plain ; their forms white and bright ; their voices sweet ; and their visits to men propitious. The greatest praise that can be given to the beauty of a living woman, is to say, “She is fair as the ghost of the hill, when it moves in a sunbeam at noon, over the silence of Morven.' • The hunter shall hear my voice from his booth. He shall fear, but Jove my voice. For sweet shall my voice be for my friends ; for pleasant were they to me.'

Besides ghosts, or the spirits of departed men, we find in Ossian some instances of other kinds of machinery. Spirits of a superior nature to ghosts are sometimes alluded to, which have power to embroil the deep; to call forth winds and storms, and pour them on the land of the stranger ; to overturn forests, and to send death among the people. We have prodigies too ; & shower of blood; and when some disaster 1$ befalling at a distance, the sound of death heard on the strings of Ossian's harp; all perfectly consonant, not only to the peculiar ideas of northern nations, but to the general current of a superstitious imagination in all countries. The description of Fingal's airy hall, in the poem called Berrathon, and of the ascent of Malvina into it, deserves particular notice, as remarkably noble and magnificent. But, above all, the engagement of Fingal with the spirit of Loda, in Carric-thura cannot be mentioned without ad. miration. I forbear transcribing the passage, as it must have drawn the attention of every one who has read the works of Ossian. The undaunted courage of Fingal opposed to all the terrors of the Scandinavian god ; the appearance and the speech of that awful spirit; the wound which he receives, and the shriek which he sends forth, as, rolled into himself, he rose upon the wind ;' are full of the most amazing and terrible majesty. I know no passage more sublime in the writings of any uninspired author. The fiction is calculated to aggrandize the hero ; which it does to a high degree : nor is it so unnatural or wild a fiction as might at first be thought. According to the notions of those times, supernatural beings were material, and, consequently, vulnerable. The spirit of Loda was not acknowledged as a deity by Fingal ; he did not worship at the stone of his power; he plainly considered him as the god of his enemies only ; as a local deity, whose dominion extended no farther than to the regions where he was worshipped ; who had, therefore, no title to threaten him, and no claim to his submission. We know there are poetical precedents of great authority, for fictions fully as extravagant ; and if Homer be forgiven for making Diomed attack and wound in battle the gods whom that chief himself worshipped, Ossian surely is pardonable

« 上一頁繼續 »