Temora - Book Iii - Poem by James Macpherson
Morning coming on, Fingal, after a speech to his people, devolved the command on Gaul, the son of Morni; it being the custom of the times, that the king should not engage, till the necessity of affairs required his superior valor and conduct. The king and Ossian retire to the hill of Cormul, which overlooked the field of battle. The bards sing the war-song. The general conflict is described. Gaul, the son of Morni, distinguishes himself; kills Tur-lathon, chief of Moruth, and other chiefs of lesser name. On the other hand, Foldath, who commanded the Irish army (for Cathmor, after the example of Fingal, kept himself from battle,) fights gallantly; kills Connal, chief of Dun-lora, and advances to engage Gaul himself. Gaul, in the mean time, being wounded in the hand, by a random arrow, is covered by Fillan the son of Fingal, who performs prodigies of valor. Night comes on. The horn of Fingal recalls his army. The bards meet them with a congratulatory song, in which the praises of Gaul and Fillan are particularly celebrated. The chiefs sit down at a feast; Fingal misses Connal. The episode of Connal and Duth-caron is introduced; which throws further light on the ancient history of Ireland. Carril is despatched to raise the tomb of Connal. The action of this book takes up the second day from the opening of the poem.
"Who is that at blue-streaming Lubar? Who, by the bending hill of roes? Tall he leans on an oak torn from high, by nightly winds. Who but Comhal's son, brightening in the last of his fields? His gray hair is on the breeze. He half unsheathes the sword of Luno. His eyes are turned to Moi-lena, to the dark moving of foes. Dost thou hear the voice of the king? it is like the bursting of a stream in the desert, when it comes, between its echoing rocks, to the blasted field of the sun!
Wide-skirted comes down the foe! Sons of woody Selma, arise! Be ye like the rocks of our land, in whose brown sides are the rolling of streams. A beam of joy comes on my soul. I see the foe mighty before me. It is when he is feeble, that the sighs of Fingal are heard: lest death should come without renown, and darkness dwell on his tomb. Who shall lead the war, against the host of Alnecma? It is only when danger grows, that my sword shalt shine. Such was the custom, heretofore, of Trenmor the ruler of winds! and thus descended to battle the blue-shielded Trathal!"
The chiefs bend towards the king. Each darkly seems to claim the war. They tell, by halves, their mighty deeds. They turn their eyes on Erin. But far before the rest the son of Morni stands. Silent he stands, for who had not heard of the battles of Gaul They rose within his soul. His hand, in secret, seized the sword. The sword which he brought from Strumon, when the strength of Morni failed. On his spear leans Fillan of Selma, in the wandering of his locks. Thrice he raises his eyes to Fingal: his voice thrice fails him as he speaks. My brother could not boast of battles: at once he strides away. Bent over a distant stream he stands: the tear hangs in his eye. He strikes, at times, the thistle's head, with his inverted spear. Nor is he unseen of Fingal. Sidelong he beholds his son. He beholds him with bursting joy; and turns, amid his crowded soul. In silence turns the king towards Mora of woods. He hides the big tear with his locks. At length his voice is heard.
"First of the sons of Morni! Thou rock that defiest the storm! Lead thou my battle for the race of low-laid Cormac. No boy's staff is thy spear: no harmless beam of light thy sword. Son of Morni of steeds, behold the foe! Destroy! Fillan, observe the chief! He is not calm in strife: nor burns he, heedless in battle. My son, observe the chief! He is strong as Lubar's stream, but never foams and roars. High on cloudy Mora, Fingal shall behold the war. Stand, Ossian, near thy father, by the falling stream. Raise the voice, O bards! Selma, move beneath the sound. It is my latter field. Clothe it over with light."
As the sudden rising of winds; or distant rolling of troubled seas, when some dark ghost in wrath heaves the billows over an isle: an isle the seat of mist on the deep, for many dark-brown years! So terrible is the sound of the host, wide moving over the field. Gaul is tall before them. The streams glitter within his strides. The bards raise the song by his side. He strikes his shield between. On the skirts of the blast the tuneful voices rise.
"On Crona," said the bards, "there bursts a stream by night. It swells in its own dark course, till morning's early beam. Then comes it white from the hill, with the rocks and their hundred groves. Far be my steps from Crona. Death is tumbling there. Be ye a stream from Mora, sons of cloudy Morven!
"Who rises, from his car, on Clutha? The hills are troubled before the king! The dark woods echo round, and lighten at his steel. See him amidst the foe, like Colgach's sportful ghost: when he scatters the clouds and rides the eddying winds! It is Morni of bounding steeds! Be like thy father, O Gaul!
"Selma is opened wide. Bards take the trembling harps. Ten youths bear the oak of the feast. A distant sunbeam marks the hill. The dusky waves of the blast fly over the fields of grass. Why art thou silent, O Selma? The king returns with all his fame. Did not the battle roar? yet peaceful is his brow! It roared, and Fingal overcame. Be like thy father, O Fillan!"
They move beneath the song. High wave their arms, as rushy fields beneath autumnal winds. On Mora stands the king in arms. Mist flies round his buckler abroad; as aloft it hung on a bough, on Cormul's mossy rock. In silence I stood by Fingal, and turned my eyes on Cromla's wood: lest I should behold the host, and rush amid my swelling soul. My foot is forward on the heath. I glittered, tall in steel: like the falling stream of Tromo, which nightly winds bind over with ice. The boy sees it on high gleaming to the early beam: towards it he turns his ear, wonders why it is so silent.
Nor bent over a stream is Cathmor, like a youth in a peaceful field. Wide he drew forward the war, a dark and troubled wave. But when he beheld Fingal on Mora, his generous pride arose. "Shall the chief of Atha fight, and no king in the field? Foldath, lead my people forth, thou art a beam of fire."
Forth issues Foldath of Moma, like a cloud, the robe of ghosts. He drew his sword, a flame from his side. He bade the battle move. The tribes, like ridgy waves, dark pour their strength around. Haughty is his stride before them. His red eye rolls in wrath. He calls Cormul, chief of Dun-ratho; and his words were heard.
"Cormul, thou beholdest that path. It winds green behind the foe. Place thy people there; lest Selma should escape from my sword. Bards of green-valleyed Erin, let no voice of yours arise. The sons of Morven must fall without song. They are the foes of Cairbar. Hereafter shall the traveller meet their dark, thick mist, on Lena, where it wanders with their ghosts, beside the reedy lake. Never shall they rise, without song, to the dwelling of winds."
Cormul darkened as he went. Behind him rushed his tribe. They sunk beyond the rock. Gaul spoke to Fillan of Selma; as his eye pursued the course of the dark-eyed chief of Dun-ratho. "Thou beholdest the steps of Cormul! Let thine arm be strong! When he is low, son of Fingal, remember Gaul in war. Here I fall forward into baffle, amid the ridge of shields!"
The sign of death ascends: the dreadful sound of Morni's shield. Gaul pours his voice between. Fingal rises on Mora. He saw them from wing to wing, bending at once in strife. Gleaming on his own dark hill, stood Cathmor, of streamy Atha. The kings were like two spirits of heaven, standing each on his gloomy cloud: when they pour abroad the winds, and lift the roaring seas. The blue tumbling of waves is before them, marked with the paths of whales. They themselves are calm and bright. The gale lifts slowly their locks of mist.
What beam of light hangs high in air? What beam but Morni's dreadful sword? Death is strewed on thy paths, O Gaul! Thou foldest them together in thy rage. Like a young oak falls Tur-lathon, with his branches round him. His high-bosomed spouse stretches her white arms, in dreams, to the returning chief, as she sleeps by gurgling Moruth, in her disordered locks. It is his ghost, Oichoma. The chief is lowly laid. Hearken not to the winds for Tur-lathon's echoing shield. It is pierced, by his streams. Its sound is passed away.
Not peaceful is the hand of Foldath. He winds his course in blood. Connal met him in fight. They mixed their clanging steel. Why should mine eyes behold them? Connal, thy locks are gray! Thou wert the friend of strangers, at the moss-covered rock of Dun-Ion. When the skies were rolled together: then thy feast was spread. The stranger heard the winds without; and rejoiced at thy burning oak. Why, son of Duth-caron, art thou laid in blood? the blasted tree bends above thee. Thy shield lies broken near. Thy blood mixes with the stream, thou breaker of the shields!
Ossian took the spear, in his wrath. But Gaul rushed forward on Foldath. The feeble pass by his side: his rage is turned on Moma's chief. Now they had raised their deathful spears: unseen an arrow came. it pierced the hand of Gaul. His steel fell sounding to earth. Young Fillan came, with Cormul's shield! lie stretched it large before the chief. Foldath sent his shouts abroad, and kindled all the field: as a blast that lifts the wide-winged flame over Lumon's echoing groves.
"Son of blue-eyed Clatho," said Gaul, "O Fillan! thou art a beam from heaven; that, coming on the troubled deep, binds up the tempest's wing. Cormul is fallen before thee. Early art thou in the fame of thy fathers. Rush not too far, my hero. I cannot lift the spear to aid. I stand harmless in battle: but my voice shall be poured abroad. The sons of Selma shall hear, and remember my former deeds."
His terrible voice rose on the wind. The host bends forward in fight. Often had they heard him at Strumon, when he called them to the chase of the hinds. He stands tall amid the war, as an oak in the skins of a storm, which now is clothed on high, in mist: then shows its broad waving head. The musing hunter lifts his eye, from his own rushy field!
My soul pursues thee, O Fillan! through the path of thy fame. Thou rollest the foe before thee. Now Foldath, perhaps, may fly: but night comes down with its clouds. Cathmor's horn is heard on high. The sons of Selma hear the voice of Fingal, from Mora's gathered mist. The bards pour their song, like den, on the returning war.
"Who comes from Strumon," they said, "amid her wandering locks? She is mournful in her steps, and lifts her blue eyes towards Erin. Why art thou sad, Evir-choma? Who is like thy chief in renown? He descended dreadful to battle; he returns, like a light from a cloud. He raised the sword in wrath: they shrunk before blue-shielded Gaul!
"Joy, like the rustling gale, comes on the soul of the king. He remembers the battles of old; the days wherein his fathers fought. The days of old return on Fingal's mind, as he beholds the renown of his sons. As the sun rejoices, from his cloud, over the tree his beams have raised, as it shades its lonely head on the heath; so joyful is the king over Fillan!
"As the rolling of thunder on hills when Lara's fields are still and dark, such are the steps of Selma, pleasant and dreadful to the ear. They return with their sound, like eagles to their dark-browed rock, after the prey is torn on the field, the dun sons of the bounding hind. Your fathers rejoice from their clouds, sons of streamy Selma!"
Such was the nightly voice of bards, on Mora of the hinds. A flame rose, from a hundred oaks, which winds had torn from Cormul's steep. The feast is spread in the midst; around sat the gleaming chiefs. Fingal is there in his strength. The eagle wing of his helmet sounds. The rustling blasts of the west unequal rush through night. Long looks the king in silence round; at length his words are heard.
"My soul feels a want in our joy. I behold a breach among my friends. The head of one tree is low. The squally wind pours in on Selma. Where is the chief of Dun-lora? Ought Connal to be forgot at the feast? When did he forget the stranger, in the midst of his echoing hall? Ye are silent in my presence! Connal is then no more! Joy meet thee, O warrior! like a stream of light. Swift be thy course to thy fathers, along the roaring winds. Ossian, thy soul is fire; kindle the memory of the king. Awake the, battles of Connal, when first he shone in war. The locks of Connal were gray. His days of youth were mixed with mine.. In one day Duth-caron first strung bows against the roes of Dun-lora."
"Many," I said, "are our paths to battle in green valleyed Erin. Often did our sails arise, over tho blue tumbling waves; when we came in other days, to aid the race of Cona. The strife roared once in Alnecma, at the foam-covered streams of Duth-ula. With Cormac descended to battle Duth-caron, from cloudy Selma. Nor descended Duth-caron alone; his son was by his side, the long-haired youth of Connal, lifting the first of his spears. Thou didst command them, O Fingal! to aid the king of Erin.
"Like the bursting strength of ocean, the sons of Bolga rushed to war. Colc-ulla was before them, the chief of blue stream Atha. The battle was mixed on the plain. Cormac shone in his own strife, bright as the forms of his fathers. But, far before the rest, Duth-caron hewed down the foe. Nor slept the arm of Connal by his father's side. Colc-ulla prevailed on the plain: like scattered mist fled the people of Cormac.
"Then rose the sword of Duth-caron, and the steel of broad-shielded Connal. They shaded their flying friends, like two rocks with their heads of pine. Night came down on Duth-ula; silent strode the chiefs over the field. A mountain-stream roared across the path, nor could Duth-caron bound over its course. 'Why stands my father?' said Connal, 'I hear the rushing foe.'
"'Fly, Connal,' he said. 'Thy father's strength begins to fail. I come wounded from battle. Here let me rest in night.' 'But thou shalt not remain alone,' said Connal's bursting sigh. 'My shield is an eagle's wing to cover the king of Dun-lora.' He bends dark above his father. The mighty Duth-caron dies!
"Day rose, and night returned. No lonely ban appeared, deep musing on the heath: and could Connal leave the tomb of his father, till lie should receive his fame? He bent the bow against the roes of Duth-ula. He spread the lonely feast. Seven nights he laid his head on the tomb, and saw his father in his dreams. lie saw him rolled, dark in a blast, like the vapor of reedy Lego. At length the steps of Colgan came, the bard of high Temora. Duth-caron received his fame and brightened, as he rose on the wind."
"Pleasant to the ear," said Fingal, "is the praise of the kings of men; when their bows are strong in battle; when they soften at the sight of the sad. Thus let my name be renowned, when the bards shall lighten my rising soul. Carril, son of Kinfena! take the bards, and raise a tomb. To-night let Connal dwell within his narrow house. Let not the soul of the valiant wander on the winds. Faint glimmers the moon at Moi-lena, through the broad-headed groves of the hill! Raise stones, beneath its beam, to all the fallen in war. Though no chiefs were they, yet their hands were strong in fight. They were my rock in danger: the mountain from which I spread my eagle wings. Thence am I renowned. Carril, forget not the low!"
Loud, at once, from the hundred bards, rose the song of the tomb. Carril strode before them; they are the murmur of streams behind his steps. Silence dwells in the vales of Moi-lena, where each, with its owl: dark rib, is winding between the hills. I heard the voice of the bards, lessening, as they moved along. I leaned forward from my shield, and felt the kindling of my soul. Half formed, the words of my song burst forth upon the wind. So hears a tree, on the vale, the voice of spring around. It pours its green leaves to the sun. it shakes its lonely head. The hum of the mountain bee is near it; the hunter sees it with joy, from the blasted heath.
Young Fillan at a distance stood. His helmet lay glittering on the ground. His dark hair is loose to the blast. A beam of light is Clatho's son! He heard the words of the king with joy. He leaned forward on his spear.
"My son," said car-borne Fingal, "I saw thy deeds, and my soul was glad." "The fame of our fathers," I said, "bursts from its gathering cloud. Thou art brave, son of Clatho! but headlong in the strife. So did not Fingal advance, though he never feared a foe. Let thy people be a ridge behind. They are thy strength in the field. Then shalt thou be long renowned, and behold the tombs of the old. The memory of the past returns, my deeds in other years: when first I descended from ocean on the green-valleyed isle."
We bend towards the voice of the king. The moon looks abroad from her cloud. The gray-skirted mist is near: the dwelling of the ghosts!
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