Temora - Book V - Poem by James Macpherson
The poet, after a short address to the harp of Cona, describes the arrangement of both armies on either side of the river Lubar. Fingal gives the command to Fillan; but at the same time orders Gaul, the son of Morni, who had been wounded in the hand in the preceding battle, to assist him with his counsel. The army of the Fir-bolg is commanded by Foldath. The general onset is described. the great actions of Fillan. He kills Rothmar and Culmin. But when Fillan conquers in one wing, Foldath presses hard on the other. He wounds Dermid, the son of Duthno, and puts the whole wing to flight. Dermid deliberates with himself. and, at last, resolves to put a stop to the progress of Foldath, by engaging him in single combat. When the two chiefs were approaching towards one another, Fillan came suddenly to the relief of Dermid; engaged Foldath, and killed him. The behavior of Malthos towards the fallen Foldath. Fillan puts the whole army, of the Fir-bolg to flight. The book closes with an address to Clatho, the mother of that hero.
THOU dweller between the shields that hang, on high, in Ossian's hall! Descend from thy place, O harp, and let me hear thy voice! Son of Alpin, strike the string. Thou must awake the soul of the bard. The murmur of Lora's stream has rolled the tale away. I stand in the cloud of years. Few are its openings towards the' past; and when the vision comes, it is but dim and dark. I hear thee, harp of Selma! my soul returns like a breeze, which the sun brings back to the vale, where dwelt the lazy mist.
Lubar is bright before me in the windings of its vale. On either side, on their hills, arise the tall forms of the kings. Their people are poured around them, bending forward to their words: as if their fathers spoke, descending from the winds. But they themselves are like two rocks in the midst; each with its dark head of pines, when they are seen in the desert, above low-sailing mist. High on their face are streams which spread their foam on blasts of wind!
Beneath the voice of Cathmor pours Erin, like the sound of flame. Wide they come down to Lubar. Before them is the stride of Foldath. But Cathmor retires to his hill, beneath his bending oak. The tumbling of a stream is near the king. He lifts, at times, his gleaming spear. It is a flame to his people, in the midst of war. Near him stands the daughter of Conmor, leaning on a rock. She did not rejoice at the strife. Her soul delighted not in blood. A valley spreads green behind the hill, with its three, blue streams. The sun is there in silence. The dun mountain roes come down. On these are turned the eyes of Sul-malla in her thoughtful mood.
Fingal beholds Cathmor, on high, the son of Borbar-duthul! he beholds the deep rolling of Erin, on the darkened plain. He strikes that warning boss, which bids the people to obey, when he sends his chief before them, to the field of renown. Wide rise their spears to the sun. Their echoing shields reply around. Fear, like a vapor, winds not among the host: for he, the king, is near, the strength of streamy Selma. Gladness brightens the hero. We hear his words with joy.
"Like the coming forth of winds, is the sound of Selma's sons! They are mountain waters, determined in their course. Hence is Fingal renowned. Hence is his name in other lands. He was not a lonely beam in danger: for your steps were always near! But never was Fingal a dreadful form, in your presence, darkened into wrath. My voice was no thunder to your ears. Mine eyes sent forth no death. When the haughty appeared, I beheld them not. They were forgot at my feasts. Like mist they melted away. A young beam is before you! Few are his paths to war! They are few, but he is valiant. Defend my dark-haired son. Bring Fillan back with joy. Hereafter he may stand alone. His form is like his fathers. His soul is a flame of their fire. Son of car-borne Morni, move behind the youth. Let thy voice reach his ear, from the skirts of war. Not unobserved rolls battle before thee, breaker of the shields."
The king strode, at once, away to Cormul's lofty rock. Intermitting darts the light from his shield, as slow the king of heroes moves. Sidelong rolls his eye o'er the heath, as forming advance the lines. Graceful fly his half-gray locks round his kingly features, now lightened with dreadful joy. Wholly mighty is the chief! Behind him dark and slow I moved. Straight came forward the strength of Gaul. His shield hung loose on its thong. He spoke, in haste, to Ossian. "Bind, son of Fingal, this shield! Bind it high to the side of Gaul. The foe may behold it, and think I lift the spear. If I should fall, let my tomb be hid in the field; for fall I must without fame. Mine arm cannot lift the steel. Let not Evir-choma hear it, to blush between her locks. Fillan, the mighty behold us! Let us not forget the strife. Why should they come from their hills, to aid our flying field!"
He strode onward, with the sound of his shield. My voice pursued him as he went. "Can the son of Morni fall, without his fame in Erin? But the deeds of the mighty are forgot by themselves. They rush carless over the fields of renown. Their words are never heard!" I rejoiced over the steps of the chief. I strode to the rock of the king, where he sat, in his wandering locks, amid the mountain wind!
In two dark ridges bend the host towards each other, at Lubar Here Foldath rises a pillar of darkness: there brightens the youth of Fillan. Each, with his spear in the stream, sent forth the voice of war. Gaul struck, the shield of Selma. At once they plunge in battle! Steel pours its gleam on steel: like the fall of streams shone the field, when they mix their foam together, from two dark-browed rocks! Behold he comes, the son of fame! He lays the people low! Deaths sit on blasts around him! Warriors strew thy paths, O Fillan!
Rothmar, the shield of warriors, stood between two chinky rocks. Two oaks, which winds had bent from high, spread their branches on either side. He rolls his darkening eyes on Fillan, and, silent, shades his friends. Fingal saw the approaching fight. The hero's soul arose. But as the stone of Loda falls, shook, at once, from rocking Drumanard, when spirits heave the earth in their wrath; so fell blue-shielded Rothmar.
Near are the steps of Culmin; the youth came, bursting into tears. Wrathful he cut the wind, ere yet he mixed his strokes with Fillan. He had first bent the bow with Rothmar, at the rock of his own blue streams. There they had marked the place of the roe, as the sunbeam flew over the fern. Why, son of Cul-allin! why, Culmin, dost thou rush on that beam of light? It is a fire that consumes. Son of Cul-allin, retire. Your fathers were not equal in the glittering strife of the field. The mother of Culmin remains in the hall. She looks forth on blue-rolling Strutha. A whirlwind rises, on the stream, dark-eddying round the ghost of her son. His dogs are howling in their place. His shield is bloody in the hall. "Art thou fallen, my fair-haired son, in Erin's dismal war?"
As a roe, pierced in secret, lies panting, by her wonted streams; the hunter surveys her feet of wind! He remembers her stately bounding before. So lay the son of Cul-allin beneath the eye of Fillan. His hair is rolled in a little stream. His blood wanders on his shield. Still his hand holds the sword, that failed him in the midst of danger. "Thou art fallen," said Fillan, "ere yet thy fame was heard. Thy father sent thee to war. He expects to hear of thy deeds. He is gray, perhaps, at his streams. His eyes are towards Moi-lena. But thou shalt not return with the spoil of the fallen foe!"
Fillan pours the flight of Erin before him, over the resounding heath. But, man on man, fell Morven before the dark-red rage of Foldath: for, far on the field, he poured the roar of half his tribes. Dermid stands before him in wrath. The sons of Selma gathered around. But his shield is cleft by Foldath. His people fly over the heath.
Then said the foe in his pride, "They have fled. My fame begins! Go, Malthos, go bid Cathmor guard the dark rolling of ocean; that Fingal may not escape from my sword. He must lie on earth. Beside some fen shall his tomb be seen. It shall rise without a song. His ghost shall hover, in mist, over the reedy pool."
Malthos heard, with darkening doubt. He rolled his silent eyes. He knew the pride of Foldath. He looked up to Fingal on his hills; then darkly turning, in doubtful mood, he plunged his sword in war.
In Clono's narrow vale, where bend two trees above the stream, dark, in his grief, stood Duthno's silent son. The blood pours from the side of Dermid. His shield is broken near. His spear leans against a stone. Why, Dermid, why so sad? "I hear the roar of battle. My people are alone. My steps are slow on the heath and no shield is mine. Shall he then prevail? It is then after Dermid is low! I will call thee forth, O Foldath, and meet thee yet in fight."
He took his spear, with dreadful joy. The son of Morni came. "Stay, son of Duthno, stay thy speed. Thy steps are marked with blood. No bossy shield is thine. Why shouldst thou fall unarmed?" — "Son of Morni, give thou thy shield. It has often rolled back the war! I shall stop the chief in his course. Son of Morni, behold that stone! It lifts its gray head through grass. There dwells a chief of the race of Dermid. Place me there in night."
He slowly rose against the hill. He saw the troubled field: the gleaming ridges of battle, disjointed and broken around. As distant fires, on heath by night, now seem as lost in smoke: now rearing their red streams on the hill, as blow or cease the winds; so met the intermitting war the eye of broad-shielded Dermid. Through the host are the strides of Foldath, like some dark ship on wintry waves, when she issues from between two isles to sport on resounding ocean!
Dermid with rage beholds his course. He strives to rush along. But he fails amid his steps; and the big tear comes down. He sounds his father's horn. He thrice strikes his bossy shield. He calls thrice the name of Foldath, from his roaring tribes. Foldath, with joy, beholds the chief. He lifts aloft his bloody spear. As a rock is marked with streams, that fell troubled down its side in a storm; so streaked with wandering blood, is the dark chief of Moma! The host on either side withdraw from the contending kings. They raise, at once, their gleaming points. Rushing comes Fillan of Selma. Three paces back Foldath withdraws, dazzled with that beam of light, which came, as issuing from a cloud, to save the wounded chief. Growing in his pride he stands. He calls forth all his steel.
As meet two broad-winged eagles, in their sounding strife, in winds: so rush the two chiefs, on Moi-lena, into gloomy fight. By turns are the steps of the kings [Fingal and Cathmor] forward on their rocks above; for now the dusky war seems to descend on their swords. Cathmor feels the joy of warriors!, on his mossy hill: their joy in secret, when dangers rise to match their souls. His eye is not turned on Lubar, but on Selma's dreadful king. He beholds him, on Mora, rising in his arms.
Foldath falls on his shield. The spear of Fillan pierced the king. Nor looks the youth on the fallen, but onward rolls the war. The hundred voices of death arise. "Stay, son of Fingal, stay thy speed. Beholdest thou not that gleaming form, a dreadful sign of death? Awaken not the king of Erin. Return, son of blue-eyed Clatho."
Malthos beholds Foldath low. He darkly stands above the chief. Hatred is rolled from his soul. He seems a rock in a desert, on whose dark side are the trickling of waters; when the slow-sailing mist has left it, and all its trees are blasted with winds. He spoke to the dying hero about the narrow house. "Whether shall thy gray stones rise in Ullin, or in Moma's woody land; where the sun looks, in secret, on the blue streams of Dalrutho? Them are the steps of thy daughter, blue-eyed Dardu-lena!"
"Rememberest thou her," said Foldath, "because no son is mine; no youth to roll the battle before him, in revenge of me? Malthos, I am revenged. I was not peaceful in the field. Raise the tombs of those I have slain, around my narrow house. Often shall I forsake the blast, to rejoice above their graves; when I behold them spread around, with their long-whistling grass."
His soul rushed to the vale of Moma, to Dardu-lena's dreams, where she slept, by Dalrutho's stream, returning from the chase of the hinds. Her bow is near the maid, unstrung. The breezes fold her long hair on her breasts. Clothed in the beauty of youth, the love of heroes lay. Dark bending, from the skirts of the wood, her wounded father seemed to come. He appears, at times, then hid himself in mist. Bursting into tears she arose. She knew that the chief was low. To her came a beam from his soul, when folded in its storms. Thou wert the last of his race, O blue-eyed Dardu-lena.
Wide spreading over echoing Lubar, the flight of Bolga is rolled along. Fillan hangs forward on their steps. He strews, with dead, the heath. Fingal rejoices over his son. Blue-shielded Cathmor rose.
Son of Alpin, bring the harp. Give Fillan's praise to the wind. Raise high his praise in mine ear, while yet he shines in war.
"Leave, blue-eyed Clatho, leave thy hail! Behold that early beam of thine! The host is withered in its course. No further look, it is dark. Light trembling from the harp, strike, virgins, strike the sound. No hunter he descends from the dewy haunt of the bounding roe. He bends not his bow on the wind; nor sends his gray arrow abroad.
"Deep folded in red war! See battle roll against his side. Striding amid the ridgy strife, he pours the death of thousands forth. Fillan is like a spirit of heaven, hat descends from the skirt of winds. The troubled ocean feels his steps, as he strides from wave to wave. His path kindles behind him. Islands shake their heads on the heaving seas! Leave, blue-eyed Clatho, leave thy hall!"
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