James Macpherson (27 October 1736 – 17 February 1796 / Ruthven, Kingussie, Badenoch, Inverness-Shire, Scotland)
Fingal when very young, making a voyage to the Orkney Islands, was driven by stress of weather into a bay of Scandinavia, near the residence of Starno, king of Lochlin. Starno invites Fingal to a feast. Fingal, doubting the faith of the king, and mindful of a former breach of hospitality, refuses to go. — Starno gathers together his tribes; Fingal resolves to defend himself. — Night coming on, Duth-maruno proposes to Fingal to observe the motions of the enemy. — The king himself undertakes the watch. Advancing towards the enemy, he accidentally comes to the cave of Turthor, where Starno had confined Conban-Cargla, the captive daughter of a neighboring chief. — Her story is imperfect, a part of the original being lost. — Fingal comes to a place of worship, where Starno, and his son Swaran, consulted the spirit of Loda concerning the issue of the war. — The rencounter of Fingal and Swaran.— Duan first concludes with a description of the airy hall of Cruth-loda, supposed to be the Odin of Scandinavia.
The bards distinguished those compositions in which the narration is often interrupted by episodes and apostrophes, by the name of Duan.
A TALE of the times of old!
Why, thou wanderer unseen! thou bender of the thistle of Lora; why, thou breeze of the valley, hast thou left mine ear? I hear no distant roar of streams! No sound of the harp from the rock! Come, thou huntress of Lutha, Malvina, call back his soul to the bard. I look forward to Lochlin of lakes, to the dark billowy bay of U-thorno, where Fingal descends from ocean, from the roar of winds. Few are the heroes of Morven in a land unknown!
Starno sent a dweller of Loda to bid Fingal to the feast; but the king remembered the past, and all his rage arose. "Nor Gormal's mossy towers, nor Starno, shall Fingal behold. Deaths wander, like shadows, over his fiery soul! Do I forget that beam of light, the white-handed daughter of kings? Go, son of Loda; his words are wind to Fingal: wind, that, to and fro drives the thistle in autumn's dusky vale. Duth-maruno, arm of death! Cromma-glas, of Iron shields! Struthmor, dweller of battle's wing! Cromar, whose ships bound on seas, careless as the course of a meteor, on dark-rolling clouds! Arise around me, children of heroes, in a land unknown! Let each look on his shield like Trenmor, the ruler of wars." — "Come down," thus Trenmor said, "thou dweller between the harps! Thou shalt roll this stream away, or waste with me in earth."
Around the king they rise in wrath. No words come forth: they seize their spears. Each soul is rolled into itself. At length the sudden clang is waked on all their echoing shields. Each takes his hill by night; at intervals they darkly stand. Unequal bursts the hum of songs, between the roaring wind!
Broad over them rose the moon!
In his arms came tall Duth-maruno: he, from Croma of rocks, stern hunter of the boar! In his dark boat he rose on waves, when Crumthormo awaked its woods. In the chase he shone, among foes: No fear was thine, Duth-maruno!
'O Son of daring Comhal, shall my steps be forward through night? From this shield shall I view them, over their gleaming tribes? Starno, king of lakes, is before me, and Swaran, the foe of strangers. Their words are not in vain, by Loda's stone of power. Should Duth-maruno not return, his spouse is lonely at home, where meet two roaring streams on Crathmocraulo's plain. Around are hills, with echoing woods; the ocean is rolling near. My son looks on screaming sea-fowl, a young wanderer on the field. Give the head of a boar to Candona, tell him of his father's joy, when the bristly strength of U-thorno rolled on his lifted spear. Tell him of my deeds in war! Tell where his father fell!"
"Not forgetful of my fathers," said Fingal, "I have bounded over the seas. Theirs were the times of danger in the days of old. Nor settles darkness on me, before foes, though youthful in my locks. Chief of Crathmocraulo, the field of night is mine."
Fingal rushed, in all his arms, wide bounding over Turthor's stream, that sent its sullen roar, by night, through Gormal's misty vale. A moonbeam glittered on a rock; in the midst stood a stately form; a form with floating locks, like Lochlin's white-bosomed maids. Unequal are her steps, and short. She throws a broken song on wind. At times she tosses her white arms: for grief is dwelling in her soul.
"Torcal-torno, of aged locks," she said, "where now are thy steps, by Lulan? Thou hast failed at thine own dark streams, father of Conban-cargla! But I behold thee, chief of Lulan, sporting by Loda's hall, when the dark-skirted night is rolled along the sky. Thou sometimes hidest the moon with thy shield. I have seen her dim, in heaven. Thou kindlest thy hair into meteors, and sailest along the night. Why am I forgot, in my cave, king of shaggy boars? Look from the hall of Loda, on thy lonely daughter."
"Who art thou," said Fingal, "voice of night?"
She, trembling, turned away.
"Who art thou, in thy darkness?"
She shrunk into the cave.
The king loosed the thong from her hands. He asked about her fathers.
"Torcul-torno," she said, "once dwelt at Lulan's foamy stream: he dwelt-but now, in Loda's hall, he shakes the sounding shell. He met Starno of Lochlin in war; long fought the dark-eyed kings. My father fell, in his blood, blue-shielded Torcul-torno! By a rock, at Lulan's stream, I had pierced the bounding roe. My white hand gathered my hair from off the rushing winds. I heard a noise. Mine eyes were up. My soft breast rose on high. My step was forward, at Lulan, to meet thee, Torcul-torno. It was Starno, dreadful king! His red eves rolled on me in love. Dark waved his shaggy brow, above his gathered smile. Where is my father, I said, he that was mighty in war! Thou art left alone among foes, O daughter of Torcul-torno! He took my hand. He raised the sail. In this cave he placed me dark. At times he comes a gathered mist. He lifts before me my father's shield. But often passes a beam of youth far distant from my cave. The son of Starno moves in my sight. He dwells lonely in my soul."
"Maid of Lulan," said Fingal, "white-handed daughter of grief! a cloud, marked with streaks of fire, is rolled along my soul. Look not to that dark-robed moon; look not to those meteors of heaven. My gleaming steel is around thee, the terror of my foes! It is not the steel of the feeble, nor of the dark in soul! The maids are not shut in our caves of streams! They toss not their white arms alone. They bend fair within their locks, above the harps of Selma. Their voice is not in the desert wild. We melt along the pleasing sound!"
* * * * * * *
Fingal again advanced his steps, wide through the bosom of night, to where the trees of Loda shook amid squally winds. Three stones, with heads of moss, are there; a stream with foaming course: and dreadful, rolled around them, is the dark red cloud of Loda. High from its top looked forward a ghost, half formed of the shadowy stroke. He poured his voice, at times, amidst the roaring stream. Near, bending beneath a blasted tree, two heroes received his words: Swaran of lakes, and Starno, foe of strangers. On their dun shields they darkly leaned: their spears are forward through night. Shrill sounds the blast of darkness in Starno's floating beard.
They heard the tread of Fingal. The warriors rose in arms. "Swaran, lay that wanderer low," said Starno, in his pride. "Take the shield of thy father. It is a rock in war." Swaran threw his gleaming spear. It stood fixed in Loda's tree. Then came the foes forward with swords. They mixed their rattling steel. Through the thongs of Swaran's shield rushed the blade of Luno. The shield fell rolling on earth. Cleft, the helmet fell down. Fingal stopt the lifted steel. Wrathful stood Swaran, unarmed. He rolled his silent eyes; he threw his sword on earth. Then, slowly stalking over the stream, he whistled as he went.
Nor unseen of his father is Swaran. Starno turns away in wrath. His shaggy brows were dark above his gathered rage. He strikes Loda's tree with his spear. He raises the hum of songs. They come to the host of Lochlin, each in his own dark path; like two foam-covered streams from two rainy vales!
To Turthor's plain Fingal returned. Fair rose the beam of the east. It shone on the spoils of Lochlin in the hand of the king. From her cave came forth, in her beauty, the daughter of Torcul-torno. She gathered her hair from wind. She wildly raised her song. The song of Lulan of shells, where once her father dwelt. She saw Starno's bloody shield. Gladness rose, a light. on her face. She saw the cleft helmet of Swaran She shrunk, darkened, from Fingal. "Art thou fallen by thy hundred streams, O love of the mournful maid?"
U-thorno that risest in waters! on whose side are the meteors of night? I behold the dark moon descending behind thy resounding woods. On thy top dwells the misty Loda: the house of the spirits of men! In the end of his cloudy hall bends forward Cruth-loda of swords. His form is dimly seen amid his wavy mist. His right hand is on his shield. In his left is the half viewless shell. The roof of his dreadful hall is marked with nightly fires!
The race of Cruth-loda advance, a ridge of formless shades. He reaches the sounding shell to those who shone in war. But between him and the feeble, his shield rises a darkened orb. He is a setting meteor to the weak in arms. Bright as a rainbow on streams, came Lulan's white-bosomed maid.
Comments about this poem (Argument by James Macpherson )
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