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for making his hero superior to the god of a foreign territory
Notwithstanding the poetical advantages which I have ascribed to Ossian's machinery, I acknowledge it would have been much more beautiful and perfect had the author discovered some knowledge of a Supreme Being. A!though his silence on this head has been accounted for by the learned and ingenious translator in a very probable manner, yet still it must be held a considerable disadvantage to the poetry. For the most august and lofty ideas that can embellish poetry are derived from the belief of a divine administration of the universe; and hence the invocation of a Supreme Being, or at least of some superior powers, who are conceived as presiding over human affairs, the solemnities of religious worship, prayers preferred, and assistance implored on critical occasions, appear with great dignity in the works of almost all poets, as chief ornaments of their compositions. The absence of all such religious ideas from Ossian's poetry is a sensible blank in it; the more to be regretted, as we can easi. ly imagine what an illustrious figure they would have made under the management of such a genius as his; and how finely they would have been adapted to many situations which occur in his works.
After so particular an examination of Fingal, it were needless to enter into as full a discussion of the conduct of Temora, the other epic poem. Many of the same observations, espe.. cially with regard to the great characteristics of heroic poetry, apply to both. The high merit, however, of Temora, requires that we should not pass it by without some remarks.
'The scene of Temora, as of Fingal, is laid in Ireland; and the action is of a posterior date.
The subject is, an expedition of the hero to de.. throne and punish a bloody usurper, and to restore the possession of the kingdom to the posterity of the lawful prince: an undertaking worthy of the justice and heroism of the great Fingal. The action is one and complete. The poem opens with the descent of Fingal on the coast, and the consultation held among the chiefs of the enemy. The murder of the young prince Cormac, which was the cause of the war, being antecedent to the epic action, is introduced with great propriety as an episode in the first book. In the progress of the poem, three battles are described, which rise in their importance above one another; the success is various, and the issue for some time doubtful; till at last, Fingal, brought into distress, by the wound of his great general Gaul, and the death of his son Fillan, assumes the command him.' self; and, having slain the Irish king in single combat, restores the rightful heir to his throne.
Temora has perhaps less fire than the other epic poem; but in return it has more variety, more tenderness, and more magnificence. The reigning idea, so often presented to us, of Fingal, in the last of his fields,' is venerable and affecting ; nor could any more noble conclusion be thought of, than the aged hero, after so many successful achievements, taking his leave of battles, and, with all the solemnities of those times, resigning his spear to his son. The events are less crowded in Temora than in Fingal ; actions and characters are more particularly displayed ; we are let into the transactions of both hosts and informed of the adventures of the night as well as of the day. The still, pathetic, and the romantic scenery of several of the night advere tures, so remarkably suited to Ossian's genius occasion a fine diversity in the poem; and are
happily contrasted with the military operations of the day.
In most of our author's poems the horrors of war are softened by intermixed scenes of love and friendship. In Fingal these are introduced as episodes : in Temora we have an incident of this nature wrought into the body of the piece, in the adventure of Cathmor and Sulmalla. This forms one of the most conspicuous beauties of that poem. The distress of Sulmalla, disguised and unknown amongst strangers, her tender and anxious concern for the safety of Cathmor, her dream, and her melting remembrance of the land of her fathers; Cathmor's emotion when he first discovers her, his strug. gles to conceal and suppress his passion, lest it should unman him in the midst of war, though his soul poured forth in secret, when he beheld her fearful eye,' and the last interview between them, when, overcome by her tenderness, he lets her know he had discovered her, and confesses his passion ; are all wrought up with the most exquisite sensibility and delicacy.
Besides the characters which appeared in Fingal, several new ones are here introduced ; and though, as they are all the characters of warriors, bravery is the predominant feature, they are nevertheless diversified in a sensible and strik. ing manner. Foldath, for instance, the general of Cathmor, exhibits the perfect picture of a savage chieftain ; bold and daring, but
presumptuous, cruel, and overbearing. He is distins guished, on his first appearance, as the friend of the tyrant Cairbar, . His stride is haughty ; his red eye
rolls in wrath.' In his person and whole deportment he is contrasted with the mild and wise Hidalla, another leader of the same army, on whose humanity and gentleness he looks with great contempt. He professedly delights in
strife and blood. He insults over the fallen. He is imperious in his counsels, and factious when they are not followed. He is unrelent. ing in all his schemes of revenge, even to the length of denying the funeral song to the dead; which, from the injury thereby done to their ghosts, was in those days considered as the greatest barbarity. Fierce to the last, he comforts himself in his dying moments with thinking that his ghost shall often leave its blast to rejoice over the graves of those he had slain. Yet Ossian, ever prone to the pathetic, has contrived to throw into his account of the death, even of this man, some tender circumstances, by the moving description of his daughter Dar. dulena, the last of his race.
The character of Foldath tends much to ex. alt that of Cathmor, the chief Commander, which is distinguished by the most humane virtues. He abhors all fraud and cruelty, is famous for his hospitality to strangers ; open to every generous sentiment, and to every soft and compassionate feeling. He is so amiable as to divide the reader's attachment between him and the hero of the poem ; though our author has artfully managed it so as to make Cathmor him. self indirectly acknowledge Fingal's superiority, and to appear somewhat apprehensive of the event, after the death of Fillan, which he knew would call forth Fingal in all his inight. It is very remarkable, that although Ossian has intro. duced into his Poems three complete heroes, Cuthullin, Cathmor, and Fingal, he has, however, sensibly distinguished each of their characters ; Cuthullin is particularly honourable ; Cathmor particularly amiable; Fingal wise and great, retaining au ascendant peculiar to himself in whatever light he is viewed.
But the favourite figure in Temora, and the
one most highly finished, is Fillan. His character is of that sort for which Ossian show's a particular fondness
an eager, fervent, young warrior, fired with all the impatient enthusiasm for military glory, peculiar to that time of life. He had sketched this in the description of his own son Oscar; but as he has extended it more fully in Fillan, and as the character is so consonant to the epic strain, though, as far as I remember, not placed in such a conspicuous light by any other epic poet, it may be worth while to attend a little to Ossian's management of it in this instance.
Fillan was the youngest of all the sons of Fingal; younger, it is plain, than his nephew Oscar, by whose fame and great deeds in war we may naturally suppose his ambition to have been highly stimulated. Withal, as he is younger, he is described as more rash and fiery. His first appearance is soon after Oscar's death, when he was employed to watch the motions of the foe by night. In a conversation with his brother Ossian, on that occasion, we learn that it was not long since he began to lift the spear. • Few are the marks of my sword in battle; but my soul is fire.' He is with some difficulty restrained by Ossian from going to attack the enemy; and complains to him, that his father had never allowed him any opportunity of sig. nalizing his valour. • The king hath not remarked my sword; I go forth with the crowd; I return without my fame.' Soon after, when Fingal, according to custom, was to appoint one of his chiefs to command the army, and each was standing forth, and putting in his claim to this honour, Fillan is presented in the following most picturesque and natural attitude : On his spear stood the Son of Clatho, in the wandering of his locks. Thrice he raised his eyes, to