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have some pretext for killing him. Oscar came to the feast; the quarrel happened; the followers of both fought, and Cairbar and Oscar fell by mutual wounds. The noise of the battle reached Fingal's army. The king came on, to the relief of Oscar, and the Irish fell back to the army of Cathmor, who was advanced to the banks of the river Lubar, on the heath of Moilena. Fingal, after mourning over his grandson, ordered Ullin the chief of his bards to carry his body to Morven, to be there interred. Night coming on, Althan, the son of Conachar, relates to the king the particulars of the murder of Cormac. Fillan, the son of Fingal, is sent to observe the motions of Cathmor by night, which concludes the action of the first day. The scene of this book is a plain, near the hill of Mora, which rose on the borders of the heath of Moilena, in Ulster. MACPHERSON. The first book of Temora made its appearance in the collection of lesser poems which were subjoined to the epic poem of Fingal. When that collection was printed, little more than the opening of the present poem had come in regular connection to my hands. The second book, in particular, was very imperfect and confused. By means of my friends I have since collected all the broken fragments of Temora, that I formerly wanted; and the story of the poem, which was accurately preserved by many, enabled me to reduce it into that order in which it now appears. The title of Epic was imposed on the poem by myself. The technical terms of criticism were totally unknown to Ossian. Born in a distant age, and in a country remote from the seats of learning, his knowledge did not extend to Greek and Roman literature. If, therefore, in the form of his poems, and in several passages of his diction, he resembles Homer, the similarity must proceed from nature, the original from which both drew their ideas. It is from this consideration that I have avoided, in this publication, to give parallel passages from other authors,
as I had done in some of my notes in the former collection of Ossian's poems. It was far from my intention to raise my author into a competition with the celebrated names of antiquity. The extensive field of renown affords ample room to all the poetical merit, which has yet appeared in the world, without overturning the character of one poet to raise that of another on its ruins. Had Ossian even superior merit to Homer and Virgil, a certain partiality, arising from the fame deservedly bestowed upon them by the sanction of so many ages, would make us overlook it and give them the preference. Though their high merit does not stand in need of adventitious aid, yet it must be acknowledged, that it is an advantage to their fame, that the posterity of the Greeks and Romans either do not at all exist, or are not now objects of contempt or envy to the present age.
Though this poem of Ossian has not, perhaps, all the minutia which Aristotle from Homer lays down as necessary to the conduct of an epic poem, yet, it is presumed, it has all the grand essentials of the epopea. Unity of time, place, and action, is preserved throughout. The poem opens in the midst of things; what is necessary of preceding transactions to be known, is introduced by episodes afterwards; not formally brought in, but seemingly rising immediately from the situation of affairs. The circumstances are grand, and the diction animated; neither descending into a cold meanness, nor swelling into ridiculous bombast.
The reader will find some alterations in the style of this book. These are drawn from more correct copies of the original, which came to my hands since the former publication. As the most part of the poem is delivered down by tradition, the style is sometimes various and interpolated. After comparing the different readings, I always made choice of that which agreed best with the spirit of the context. MACPHERSON, 1st edit.
The first book of Temora was published in 1762 among the lesser poems annexed to Fingal. Without undertaking a second expedition to the Highlands, our translator was enabled, in London, by means of his friends, or rather perhaps by the encouragement which his first collection met with, to complete the epic poem of Temora, which was published in eight books, with some additional poems, in 1763. The corres'pondence with his friends, by whose means this lost epic was retrieved from oblivion, in course of post, would afford the most unexceptionable and convincing proofs of the authenti
city of the poem. Neither the inquiries, however, of Dr Blair, so early as 1764, nor those of the Highland Society at Edinburgh, ever since the year 1797, nor those of Macpherson's executors since his death, have discovered any trace of this suppositious correspondence, in consequence of which the translator collected the broken fragments, and reduced them into their present order; much less of those more correct copies of the original, which he had received and collated after his first publication, when "little more than the opening of the poem had come in regular connection to his hands." Had the second collection received the same encouragement with the first, we may be assured that the Strife of Crona, Inisthona, Cuthullin's War of Possessions, Cathloda, the Maid of Lulan, and others intimated in the notes, would, in some subsequent publication, have branched out, like the Temora, into epic poems; and, according to Johnson, the father of Ossian boasted of two chests more of ancient poetry, which he reserved or suppressed. But it seems that the parallel passages in the first collection had excited suspicion, and Webb, the painter, in a pamphlet entitled Fingal Reclaimed, had detected some of the grosser imitations of Homer. The parallel passages, in the second collection of Ossian's poems, were therefore suppressed; and his resemblance to Homer in his diction, and in the form of his poems,
was ascribed to nature, as the original from which both drew their ideas. This consideration was the very reason for producing, instead of suppressing, the parallel passages from other authors; if indeed the resemblance of ideas and of diction was derived from nature, without imitation. The translator, however, assures us, that the present poem, if deficient in certain minutia required by Aristotle, possesses all the essentials of a regular epopea; preserves the three unities entire ; begins (abruptly) in the midst of things, and introduces preceding transactions as episodes arising immediately from the situation of affairs. Unity of action is indeed necessary; but the dramatic unities of time and place, which are preserved in the Temora with such ostentation, are no more essential to an epic poem than to the Tale of a Tub. But our author had improved under the criticisms of the Monthly Review; and the episodes in the Temora, though not branches nor parts of the principal action, are less extraneous than those in Fingal, and less aukwardly introduced. In fact the Temora, which, like every other epic poem constructed in imitation of the Odyssey, begins in the midst of things, reserving the preceding events for an episode, exhibits merely Homer's epic art more dilated than in Fingal, while the imitations, perhaps, are more industriously concealed.