CROMA: A POEM** Malvina the daughter of Toscar is overheard by Ossian lamenting the death of Oscar her lover. Ossian, to divert her grief, relates his own actions in an ex edition which he undertook, at Fingal's command, to aid Crothar the petty king of Croma, a country in Ireland, against Rothmar who invaded his dominions. The story is delivered down thus in tradition. Crothar king of Croma being blind with age, and his son too young for the field, Rothmar the chief of Tromlo resolved to avail himself of the opportunity offered of annexing the dominions of Crothar to his own. He accordingly marched into the country subject to Crothar, but which he held of Arth or Artho, who was, at the time, supreme king of Ireland.Crothar being, on account of his age and blindness, unfit for action, sent for aid to Fingal king of Scotland; who ordered his son Ossian to the relief of Crothar. But before his arrival Fovar-gormo, the son of Crothar, attacking Rothmar, was slain himself, and his forces totally defeated. Ossian renewed the war; came to battle, killed Rothmar, and routed his army. Croma being thus delivered of its enemies, Ossian returned to Scotland..
IT was the voice of my love! few are his visits to the dreams of Malvina! Open your airy halls, ye fathers of mighty Toscar. Unfold the gates of your clouds; the steps of Malvina's departure are near. I have heard a voice in my dream. I feel the fluttering of my soul. Why didst thou come, O blast, from the dark-rolling of the lake? Thy rustling wing was in the trees, the dream of Malvina departed. But she beheld her love, when his robe of mist flew on the wind; the beam of the sun was on his skirts, they glittered like the gold of the stranger. It was the voice of my love! few are his visits to my dreams![Page 250]
BUT thou dwellest in the soul of Malvina, son of mighty Ossian. My sighs arise with the beam of the east; my tears descend with the drops of night. I was a lovely tree, in thy presence, Oscar, with all my branches round me; but thy death came like a blast from the desart, and laid my green head low; the spring returned with its showers, but no leaf of mine arose. The virgins saw me silent in the hall, and they touched the harp of joy. The tear was on the cheek of Malvina: the virgins beheld me in my grief. Why art thou sad, they said; thou first of the maids of Lutha? Was he lovely as the beam of the morning, and stately in thy sight?
PLEASANT is thy song in Ossian's ear, daughter of streamy Lutha! Thou hast heard the music of departed bards in the dream of thy rest, when sleep fell on thine eyes, at the murmur of Moruth** Mor'-ruth, great stream. . When thou didst return from the chace, in the day of the sun, thou hast heard the music of the bards, and thy song is lovely. It is lovely, O Malvina, but it melts the soul. There is a joy in grief when peace dwells in the breast of the sad. But sorrow wastes the mournful, O daughter of Toscar, and their days are few. They fall away, like the flower on which the sun looks in his strength after the mildew has passed over it, and its head is heavy with the drops of night. Attend to the tale of Ossian, O maid; he remembers the days of his youth.
THE king commanded; I raised my sails, and rushed into the bay of Croma; into Croma's sounding bay in lovely Inisfail†† Inisfail, one of the ancient names of Ireland.. High on the coast arose the towers of Crothar king of spears; Crothar renowned in the battles of his youth; but age dwelt then around the chief. Rothmar raised the sword against the hero; and the[Page 251] wrath of Fingal burned. He sent Ossian to meet Rothmar in battle, for the chief of Croma was the companion of his youth.
I SENT the bard before me with songs; I came into the hall of Crothar. There sat the hero amidst the arms of his fathers, but his eyes had failed. His gray locks waved around a staff, on which the warrior leaned. He hummed the song of other times, when the sound of our arms reached his ears. Crothar rose, stretched his aged hand and blessed the son of Fingal.
OSSIAN! said the hero, the strength of Crothar's arm has failed. O could I list the sword, as on the day that Fingal fought at Strutha! He was the first of mortal men; but Crothar had also his fame. The king of Morven praised me, and he placed on my arm the bossy shield of Calthar, whom the hero had slain in war. Dost thou not behold it on the wall, for Crothar's eyes have failed? Is thy strength, like thy fathers, Ossian? let the aged feel thine arm.
I GAVE my arm to the king; he seels it with his aged hands. The sigh rose in his breast, and his tears descended. Thou art strong, my son, he said, but not like the king of Morven. But who is like the hero among the mighty in war! Let the feast of my halls be spread; and let my bards raise the song. Great is he that is within my walls, sons of ecchoing Croma!
THE feast is spread. The harp is heard; and joy is in the hall. But it was joy covering a sigh, that darkly dwelt in every breast. It was like the faint beam of the moon spread on a cloud in heaven. At length the music ceased, and the aged king of Croma spoke; he spoke without a tear, but the sigh swelled in the midst of his voice.[Page 252]
SON of Fingal! dost thou not behold the darkness of Crothar's hall of shells? My soul was not dark at the feast, when my people lived. I rejoiced in the presence of strangers, when my son shone in the hall. But, Ossian, he is a beam that is departed, and left no streak of light behind. He is fallen, son of Fingal, in the battles of his father. — Rothmar the chief of grassy Tromlo heard that my eyes had sailed; he heard that my arms were fixed in the hall, and the pride of his soul arose. He came towards Croma; my people fell before him. I took my arms in the hall, but what could sightless Crothar do? My steps were unequal; my grief was great. I wished for the days that were past. Days! wherein I fought; and won in the field of blood. My son returned from the chace; the fair-haired Fovar-gormo** Faobhar-gorm, the blue point of steel. . He had not lifted his sword in battle, for his arm was young. But the soul of the youth was great; the fire of valour burnt in his eyes. He saw the disordered steps of his father, and his sigh arose. King of Croma, he said, is it because thou hast no son; is it for the weakness of Fovar-gormo's arm that thy sighs arise? I begin, my father, to feel the strength of my arm; I have drawn the sword of my youth; and I have bent the bow. Let me meet this Rothmar, with the youths of Croma: let me meet him, O my father; for I feel my burning soul.
AND thou shalt meet him, I said, son of the sightless Crothar! But let others advance before thee, that I may hear the tread of thy feet at thy return; for my eyes behold thee not, fair-haired Fovar-gormo! — He went, he met the foe; he fell. The foe advances towards Croma. He who slew my son is near, with all his pointed spears.
IT is not time to fill the shell, I replied, and took my spear. My people saw the fire of my eyes, and they rose around. All night we[Page 253] strode along the heath. Gray morning rose in the east. A green narrow vale appeared before us; nor did it want its blue stream. The dark host of Rothmar are on its banks, with all their glittering arms. We fought along the vale; they fled; Rothmar sunk beneath my sword. Day had not descended in the west when I brought his arms to Crothar. The aged hero felt them with his hands; and joy brightened in his soul.
THE people gather to the hall; the shells of the feast are heard. Ten harps are strung; five bards advance, and sing, by turns,** Those extempore compositions were in great repute among succeeding bards. The pieces extant of that kind shew more of the good ear, than of the poetical genius of their authors. The translator has only met with one poem of this sort, which he thinks worthy of being preserved. It is a thousand years later than Ossian, but the authors seem to have observed his manner, and adopted some of his expressions. The story of it is this. Five bards, passing the night in the house of a chief, who was a poet himself, went severally to make their observations on, and returned with an extempore description of, night. The night happened to be one in October, as appears from the poem, and in the north of Scotland, it has all that variety which the bards ascribe to it, in their descriptions. FIRST BARD.NIGHT is dull and dark. The clouds rest on the hills. No star with green trembling beam; no moon looks from the sky. I hear the blast in the wood; but I hear it distant sar. The stream of the valley murmurs; but its murmur is fullen and sad. From the tree at the grave of the dead the long-howling owl is heard. I see a dim form on the plain! — It is a ghost! — it fades — it flies. Some funeral shall pass this way: the meteor marks the path.The distant dog is howling from the hut of the hill. The stag lies on the mountain moss: the hind is at his side. She hears the wind in his branchy horns. She starts, but lies again.The roe is in the cleft of the rock; the heath-cock's head is beneath his wing. No beast, no bird is abroad, but the owl and the howling fox. She on a leafless tree: he in a cloud on the hill.Dark, panting, trembling, sad the traveller has lost his way. Through shrubs, through thorns, he goes, along the gurgling rill. He fears the rock and the fen. He fears the ghost of night. The old tree groans to the blast; the falling branch resounds. The wind drives the withered burs, clung together, along the grass. It is the light tread of a ghost! — He trembles amidst the night.Dark, dusky, howling is night, cloudy, windy, and full of ghosts! The dead are abroad! my friends, receive me from the night.SECOND BARD.The wind is up. The shower descends. The spirit of the mountain shrieks. Woods fall from high. Windows flap. The growing river roars. The traveller attempts the ford. Hark that shriek! he dies: — The storm drives the horse from the hill, the goat, the lowing cow. They tremble as drives the shower, beside the mouldering bank.The hunter starts from sleep, in his lonely hut; he wakes the fire decayed. His wet dogs smoke around him. He fills the chinks with heath. Loud roar two mountain streams which meet beside his booth.Sad on the side of a hill the wandering shepherd sits. The tree resounds above him. The stream roars down the rock. He waits for the rising moon to guide him to his home.Ghosts ride on the storm to-night. Sweet is their voice between the squalls of wind. Their songs are of other worlds.The rain is past. The dry wind blows. Streams roar, and windows flap. Cold drops fall from the roof. I see the starry sky. But the shower gathers again. The west is gloomy and dark. Night is stormy and dismal; receive me, my friends, from night.THIRD BARD.The wind still sounds between the hills: and whistles through the grass of the rock. The firs fall from their place. The turfy hut is torn. The clouds, divided, fly over the sky, and shew the burning stars. The meteor, token of death! flies sparkling through the gloom. It rests on the hill. I see the withered fern, the dark browed rock, the fallen oak. Who is that in his shrowd beneath the tree, by the stream?The waves dark-tumble on the lake, and lash its rocky sides. The boat is brimfull in the cove; the oars on the rocking tide. A maid sits sad beside the rock, and eyes the rolling stream. Her lover promised to come. She saw his boat, when yet it was light, on the lake. Is this his broken boat on the shore? Are these his groans on the wind?Hark! the hail rattles around. The flaky snow descends. The tops of the hills are white. The stormy winds abate. Various is the night and cold; receive me, my friends, from night.FOURTH BARD.Night is calm and fair; blue, starry, settled is night. The winds, with the clouds, are gone. They sink behind the hill. The moon is up on the mountain. Trees glister: streams shine on the rock. Bright rolls the settled lake; bright the stream of the vale.I see the trees overturned; the shocks of corn on the plain. The wakeful hind rebuilds the shocks, and whistles on the distant field.Calm, settled, fair is night! — Who comes from the place of the dead? That form with the robe of snow; white arms and dark-brown hair! It is the daughter of the chief of the people; she that lately fell! Come, let us view thee, O maid! thou that hast been the delight of heroes! The blast drives the phantom away; white, without form, it ascends the hill.The breezes drive the blue mist, slowly over the narrow vale. It rises on the hill, and joins its head to heaven. — Night is settled, calm, blue, starry, bright with the moon. Receive me not, my friends, for lovely is the night.FIFTH BARD.Night is calm, but dreary. The moon is in a cloud in the west. Slow moves that pale beam along the shaded hill. The distant wave is heard. The torrent murmurs on the rock. The cock is heard from the booth. More than half the night is past. The house-wise, groping in the gloom, rekindles the settled fire. The hunter thinks that day approaches, and calls his bounding dogs. He ascends the hill and whistles on his way. A blast removes the cloud. He sees the starry plough of the north. Much of the night is to pass. He nods by the mossy rock.Hark! the whirlwind is in the wood! A low murmur in the vale! It is the mighty army of the dead returning from the air.The moon rests behind the hill. The beam is still on that lofty rock. Long are the shadows of the trees. Now it is dark over all. Night is dreary, silent, and dark; receive me, my friends, from night.THE CHIEF.Let clouds rest on the hills: spirits fly and travellers fear. Let the winds of the woods arise, the sounding storms descend. Roar streams and windows flap, and green winged meteors fly; rise the pale moon from behind her hills, or inclose her head in clouds; night is alike to me, blue, stormy, or gloomy the sky. Night flies before the beam, when it is poured on the hill. The young day returns from his clouds but we return no more.Where are our chiefs of old? Where our kings of mighty name? The fields of their battles are silent. Scarce their mossy tombs remain. We shall also be forgot. This lofty house shall fall. Our sons shall not behold the ruins in grass. They shall ask of the aged, "Where stood the walls of our fathers?"Raise the song, and strike the harp; send round the shells of joy. Suspend a hundred tapers on high. Youths and maids begin the dance. Let some gray bard be near me to tell the deeds of other times; of kings renowned in our land, of chiefs we behold no more. Thus let the night pass until morning shall appear in our halls. Then let the bow be at hand, the dogs, the youths of the chace. We shall ascend the hill with day; and awake the deer., the praise of Ossian; they poured forth their burning souls, and the harp answered to their voice. The joy of Croma was great: for peace returned to the land. The night came on with silence, and the morning returned with joy. No foe came in darkness, with[Page 254] his glittering spear. The joy of Croma was great; for the gloomy Rothmar fell.
I RAISED my voice for Fovar-gormo, when they laid the chief in earth. The aged Crothar was there, but his sigh was not heard. He searched for the wound of his son, and found it in his breast. Joy rose in the face of the aged. He came and spoke to Ossian.[Page 255]
KING of spears! he said, my son has not fallen without his fame. The young warrior did not fly; but met death, as he went forward in his strength. Happy are they who die in youth, when their renown is heard! The feeble will not behold them in the hall; or smile at their trembling hands. Their memory shall be honoured in the song; the young tear of the virgin falls. But the aged[Page 256] wither away, by degrees, and the fame of their youth begins to be forgot. They fall in secret; the sigh of their son is not heard. Joy is around their tomb; and the stone of their fame is placed without a tear. Happy are they who die in youth, when their renown is around them!
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Macpherson, James, 1736-1796 Fingal: an ancient epic poem, in six books: together with several other poems, composed by Ossian the son of Fingal. Translated from the Galic language, by James Macpherson. London: printed for T. Becket and P. A. de Hondt, 1762, pp. 249-256. ,xvi,270,p.; 4⁰. (ESTC T132461; OTA K105084.000) (Page images digitized by National Library of Scotland — licensed under a CC Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 UK: Scotland license.)
Other works by James Macpherson
- THE BATTLE of LORA: A POEM. ()
- BERRATHON: A POEM. ()
- CALTHON and COLMAL: A POEM. ()
- CARRIC-THURA: A POEM. ()
- CARTHON: A POEM. ()
- COMÁLA: A DRAMATIC POEM. ()
- CONLATH and CUTHÓNA: A POEM. ()
- DAR-THULA: A POEM. ()
- THE DEATH of CUCHULLIN: A POEM. ()
- FINGAL, AN ANCIENT EPIC POEM. In SIX BOOKS. ()
- FRAGMENT I. ()
- [FRAGMENT] II. ()
- [FRAGMENT] III. ()
- [FRAGMENT] IV. ()
- [FRAGMENT] V. ()
- [FRAGMENT] VI. ()
- [FRAGMENT] VII. ()
- [FRAGMENT] VIII. ()
- [FRAGMENT] IX. ()
- [FRAGMENT] X. ()
- [FRAGMENT] XI. ()
- [FRAGMENT] XII. ()
- [FRAGMENT] XIII. ()
- [FRAGMENT] XIV. ()
- [FRAGMENT] XV. ()
- LATHMON: A POEM. ()
- OITHÓNA: A POEM. ()
- THE SONGS of SELMA. ()
- TEMORA: AN EPIC POEM. ()
- THE WAR of CAROS: A POEM. ()
- THE WAR of INIS-THONA: A POEM. ()