Fragments of Ancient Poetry
Collected in the Highlands of Scotland,
Translated from the Galic or Erse Language.
Vos quoque qui fortes animas, belloque peremtas
Laudibus in longum vates dimittitis ævum,
Plurima securi fudistis carmina Bardi.
E D I N B U R G H:
Printed for G. Hamilton and J. Balfour.
THE public may depend on the following fragments as genuine remains of ancient Scottish poetry. The date of their composition cannot be exactly ascertained. Tradition, in the country where they were written, refers them to an æra of the most remote antiquity: and this tradition is supported by the spirit and strain of the poems themselves; which abound with those ideas, and paint those manners, that belong to the most early state of society. The diction too, in the original, is very obsolete; and differs widely from the style of such poems as have been written in the same language two or three centuries ago. They were certainly composed before the establishment of clanship in the northern part of Scotland, which is itself very ancient; for had clans been then formed and known, they must have made a considerable figure in the work of a Highland Bard; whereas there is not the least mention of them in these poems. It is remarkable that there are found in them no allusions to the Christian religion or worship; indeed, few traces of religion of any kind. One circumstance seems to prove them to be coeval with the very infancy of Christianity in Scotland. In a fragment of the same poems, which the translator has seen, a Culdee or Monk is represented as desirous to take down in writing from the mouth of Oscian, who is the principal personage in several of the following fragments, his warlike achievements and those of his family. But Oscian treats the monk and his religion with disdain, telling him, that the deeds of such great men were subjects too high to be recorded by him, or by any of his religion: A full proof that Christianity was not as yet established in the country.
Though the poems now published appear as detached pieces in this collection, there is ground to believe that most of them were originally episodes of a greater work which related to the wars of Fingal. Concerning this hero innumerable traditions remain, to this day, in the Highlands of Scotland. The story of Oscian, his son, is so generally known, that to describe one in whom the race of a great family ends, it has passed into a proverb; "Oscian the last of the heroes."
There can be no doubt that these poems are to be ascribed to the Bards; a race of men well known to have continued throughout many ages in Ireland and and the north of Scotland. Every chief or great man had in his family a Bard or poet, whose office it was to record in verse, the illustrious actions of that family. By the succession of these Bards, such poems were handed down from race to race; some in manuscript, but more by oral tradition. And tradition, in a country so free of intermixture with foreigners, and among a people so strongly attached to the memory of their ancestors, has preserved many of them in a great measure incorrupted to this day.
They are not set to music, nor sung. The versification in the original is simple; and to such as understand the language, very smooth and beautiful. Rhyme is seldom used: but the cadence, and the length of the line varied, so as to suit the sense. The translation is extremely literal. Even the arrangement of the words in the original has been imitated; to which must be imputed some inversions in the style, that otherwise would not have been chosen.
Of the poetical merit of these fragments nothing shall here be said. Let the public judge, and pronounce. It is believed, that, by a careful inquiry, many more remains of ancient genius, no less valuable than those now given to the world, might be found in the same country where these have been collected. In particular there is reason to hope that one work of considerable length, and which deserves to be styled an heroic poem, might be recovered and translated, if encouragement were given to such an undertaking. The subject is, an invasion of Ireland by Swarthan King of Lochlyn; which is the name of Denmark in the Erse language. Cuchulaid, the General or Chief of the Irish tribes, upon intelligence of the invasion, assembles his forces. Councils are held; and battles fought. But after several unsuccessful engagements, the Irish are forced to submit. At length, Fingal King of Scotland, called in this poem, "The Desert of the hills," arrives with his ships to assist Cuchulaid. He expels the Danes from the country; and returns home victorious. This poem is held to be of greater antiquity than any of the rest that are preserved: And the author speaks of himself as present in the expedition of Fingal. The three last poems in the collection are fragments which the translator obtained of this epic poem; and though very imperfect, they were judged not unworthy of being inserted. If the whole were recovered, it might serve to throw considerable light upon the Scottish and Irish antiquities.
MY love is a son of the hill. He pursues the flying deer. His grey dogs are panting around him; his bow-string sounds in the wind. Whether by the fount of the rock, or by the stream of the mountain thou liest; when the rushes are nodding with the wind, and the mist is flying over thee, let me approach my love unperceived, and see him from the rock. Lovely I saw thee first by the aged oak; thou wert returning tall from the chase; the fairest among thy friends.
What voice is that I hear? that voice like the summer-wind.——I sit not by the nodding rushes; I hear not the fount of the rock. Afar, Vinvela, afar I go to the wars of Fingal. My dogs attend me no more. No more I tread the hill. No more from on high I see thee, fair-moving by the stream of the plain; bright as the bow of heaven; as the moon on the western wave.
Then thou art gone, O Shilric! and I am alone on the hill. The deer are seen on the brow; void of fear they graze along. No more they dread the wind; no more the rustling tree. The hunter is far removed; he is in the field of graves. Strangers! sons of the waves! spare my lovely Shilric.
If fall I must in the field, raise high my grave, Vinvela. Grey stones, and heaped-up earth, shall mark me to future times. When the hunter shall sit by the mound, and produce his food at noon, "some warrior rests here," he will say; and my fame shall live in his praise. Remember me, Vinvela, when low on earth I lie!
Yes!—I will remember thee—indeed my Shilric will fall. What shall I do, my love! when thou art gone forever? Through these hills I will go at noon: I will go through the silent heath. There I will see where thou often sattest returning from the chase. Indeed, my Shilric will fall; but I will remember him.
I Sit by the mossy fountain; on the top of the hill of winds. One tree is rustling above me. Dark waves roll over the heath. The lake is troubled below. The deer descend from the hill. No hunter at a distance is seen; no whistling cow-herd is nigh. It is mid-day: but all is silent. Sad are my thoughts as I sit alone. Didst thou but appear, O my love, a wanderer on the heath! thy hair floating on the wind behind thee; thy bosom heaving on the sight; thine eyes full of tears for thy friends, whom the mist of the hill had concealed! Thee I would comfort, my love, and bring thee to thy father's house.
But is it she that there appears, like a beam of light on the heath? bright as the moon in autumn, as the sun in a summer-storm?—She speaks: but how weak her voice! like the breeze in the reeds of the pool. Hark!
Returnest thou safe from the war? Where are thy friends, my love? I heard of thy death on the hill; I heard and mourned thee, Shilric!
Yes, my fair, I return; but I alone of my race. Thou shalt see them no more: their graves I raised on the plain. But why art thou on the desert hill? why on the heath, alone?
Alone I am, O Shilric! alone in the winter-house. With grief for thee I expired. Shilric, I am pale in the tomb.
She fleets, she fails away; as grey mist before the wind!—and, wilt thou not stay, my love? Stay and behold my tears? fair thou appearest, my love! fair thou wast, when alive!
By the mossy fountain I will sit; on the top of the hill of winds. When midday is silent around, converse, O my love, with me! come on the wings of the gale! on the blast of the mountain, come! Let me hear thy voice, as thou passest, when mid-day is silent around.
EVening is grey on the hills. The north wind resounds through the woods. White clouds rise on the sky: the trembling snow descends. The river howls afar, along its winding course. Sad, by a hollow rock, the grey-hair'd Carryl sat. Dry fern waves over his head; his seat is in an aged birch. Clear to the roaring winds he lifts his voice of woe.
Tossed on the wavy ocean is He, the hope of the isles; Malcolm, the support of the poor; foe to the proud in arms! Why hast thou left us behind? why live we to mourn thy fate? We might have heard, with thee, the voice of the deep; have seen the oozy rock.
Sad on the sea-beat shore thy spouse looketh for thy return. The time of thy promise is come; the night is gathering around. But no white sail is on the sea; no voice is heard except the blustering winds. Low is the soul of the war! Wet are the locks of youth! By the foot of some rock thou liest; washed by the waves as they come. Why, ye winds, did ye bear him on the desert rock? Why, ye waves, did ye roll over him?
But, Oh! what voice is that? Who rides on that meteor of fire! Green are his airy limbs. It is he! it is the ghost of Malcolm!—Rest, lovely soul, rest on the rock; and let me hear thy voice!—He is gone, like a dream of the night. I see him through the trees. Daughter of Reynold! he is gone. Thy spouse shall return no more. No more shall his hounds come from the hill, forerunners of their master. No more from the distant rock shall his voice greet thine ear. Silent is he in the deep, unhappy daughter of Reynold!
I will sit by the stream of the plain. Ye rocks! hang over my head. Hear my voice, ye trees! as ye bend on the shaggy hill. My voice shall preserve the praise of him, the hope of the isles.
WHO cometh from the hill, like a cloud tinged with the beam of the west? Whose voice is that, loud as the wind, but pleasant as the harp of Carryl? It is my love in the light of steel; but sad is his darkened brow. Live the mighty race of Fingal? or what disturbs my Connal?
They live. I saw them return from the chase, like a stream of light. The sun was on their shields: In a line they descended the hill. Loud is the voice of the youth; the war, my love, is near. To-morrow the enormous Dargo comes to try the force of our race. The race of Fingal he defies; the race of battle and wounds.
Connal, I saw his sails like grey mist on the sable wave. They came to land. Connal, many are the warriors of Dargo!
Bring me thy father's shield; the iron shield of Rinval; that shield like the full moon when it is darkened in the sky.
That shield I bring, O Connal; but it did not defend my father. By the spear of Gauror he fell. Thou mayst fall, O Connal!
Fall indeed I may: But raise my tomb, Crimora. Some stones, a mound of earth, shall keep my memory. Though fair thou art, my love, as the light; more pleasant the gale of the hill; yet I will not stay. Raise my tomb, Crimora.
Then give me those arms of light; that sword, and that spear of steel. I shall meet Dargo with thee, and aid my lovely Connal. Farewell, ye rocks of Ardven! ye deer! and ye streams of the hill!—We shall return no more. Our tombs are distant far.
AUtumn is dark on the mountains; grey mist rests on the hills. The whirlwind is heard on the heath. Dark rolls the river through the narrow plain. A tree stands alone on the hill, and marks the grave of Connal. The leaves whirl round with the wind, and strew the grave of the dead. At times are seen here the ghosts of the deceased, when the musing hunter alone stares slowly over the heath.
Who can reach the source of thy race, O Connal? and who recount thy Fathers? Thy family grew like an oak on the mountain, which meeteth the wind with its lofty head. But now it is torn from the earth. Who shall supply the place of Connal? Here was the din of arms; and here the groans of the dying. Mournful are the wars of Fingal! O Connal! it was here that thou didst fall. Thine arm was like a storm; thy sword, a beam of the sky; thy height, a rock on the plain; thine eyes, a furnace of fire. Louder than a storm was thy voice, when thou confoundedst the field. Warriors fell by thy sword, as the thistle by the staff of a boy.
Dargo the mighty came on, like a cloud of thunder. His brows were contracted and dark. His eyes like two caves in a rock. Bright rose their swords on each side; dire was the clang of their steel.
The daughter of Rinval was near; Crimora, bright in the armour of man; her hair loose behind, her bow in her hand. She followed the youth to the war, Connal her much beloved. She drew the string on Dargo; but erring pierced her Connal. He falls like an oak on the plain; like a rock from the shaggy hill. What shall she do, hapless maid!—He bleeds; her Connal dies. All the night long she cries, and all the day, O Connal, my love, and my friend! With grief the sad mourner died.
Earth here incloseth the loveliest pair on the hill. The grass grows between the stones of their tomb; I sit in the mournful shade. The wind sighs through the grass; and their memory rushes on my mind. Undisturbed you now sleep together; in the tomb of the mountain you rest alone.
SON of the noble Fingal, Oscian, Prince of men! what tears run down the cheeks of age? what shades thy mighty soul?
Memory, son of Alpin, memory wounds the aged. Of former times are my thoughts; my thoughts are of the noble Fingal. The race of the king return into my mind, and wound me with remembrance.
One day, returned from the sport of the mountains, from pursuing the sons of the hill, we covered this heath with our youth. Fingal the mighty was here, and Oscur, my son, great in war. Fair on our sight from the sea, at once, a virgin came. Her breast was like the snow of one night. Her cheek like the bud of the rose. Mild was her blue rolling eye: but sorrow was big in her heart.
Fingal renowned in war! she cries, sons of the king, preserve me! Speak secure, replies the king, daughter of beauty, speak: our ear is open to all: our swords redress the injured. I fly from Ullin, she cries, from Ullin famous in war. I fly from the embrace of him who would debase my blood. Cremor, the friend of men, was my father; Cremor the Prince of Inverne.
Fingal's younger sons arose; Carryl expert in the bow; Fillan beloved of the fair; and Fergus first in the race.—Who from the farthest Lochlyn? who to the seas of Molochasquir? who dares hurt the maid whom the sons of Fingal guard? Daughter of beauty, rest secure; rest in peace, thou fairest of women.
Far in the blue distance of the deep, some spot appeared like the back of the ridge-wave. But soon the ship increased on our sight. The hand of Ullin drew her to land. The mountains trembled as he moved. The hills shook at his steps. Dire rattled his armour around him. Death and destruction were in his eyes. His stature like the roe of Morven. He moved in the lightning of steel.
Our warriours fell before him, like the field before the reapers. Fingal's three sons he bound. He plunged his sword into the fair-one's breast. She fell as a wreath of snow before the sun in spring. Her bosom heaved in death; her soul came forth in blood. Oscur my son came down; the mighty in battle descended. His armour rattled as thunder; and the lightning of his eyes was terrible. There, was the clashing of swords; there, was the voice of steel. They struck and they thrust; they digged for death with their swords. But death was distant far, and delayed to come. The sun began to decline; and the cow-herd thought of home. Then Oscur's keen steel found the heart of Ullin. He fell like a mountain-oak covered over with glistering frost: He shone like a rock on the plain.——Here the daughter of beauty lieth; and here the bravest of men. Here one day ended the fair and the valiant. Here rest the pursuer and the pursued.
Son of Alpin! the woes of the aged are many: their tears are for the past. This raised my sorrow, warriour; memory awaked my grief. Oscur my son was brave; but Oscur is now no more. Thou hast heard my grief, O son of Alpin; forgive the tears of the aged.
WHY openest thou afresh the spring of my grief, O son of Alpin, inquiring how Oscur fell? My eyes are blind with tears; but memory beams on my heart. How can I relate the mournful death of the head of the people! Prince of the warriours, Oscur my son, shall I see thee no more!
He fell as the moon in a storm; as the sun from the midst of his course, when clouds rise from the waste of the waves, when the blackness of the storm inwraps the rocks of Ardannider. I, like an ancient oak on Morven, I moulder alone in my place. The blast hath lopped my branches away; and I tremble at the wings of the north. Prince of the warriors, Oscur my son! shall I see thee no more! Dermid and Oscur were one: They reaped the battle together. Their friendship was strong as their steel; and death walked between them to the field. They came on the foe like two rocks falling from the brows of Ardven. Their swords were stained with the blood of the valiant: warriours fainted at their names. Who was a match for Oscur, but Dermid? and who for Dermid, but Oscur?
They killed mighty Dargo in the field; Dargo before invincible. His daughter was fair as the morn; mild as the beam of night. Her eyes, like two stars in a shower: her breath, the gale of spring: her breasts, as the new-fallen snow floating on the moving heath. The warriours saw her, and loved; their souls were fixed on the maid. Each loved her, as his fame; each must possess her or die. But her soul was fixed on Oscur; my son was the youth of her love. She forgot the blood of her father; and loved the hand that slew him.
Son of Oscian, said Dermid, I love; O Oscur, I love this maid. But her soul cleaveth unto thee; and nothing can heal Dermid. Here, pierce this bosom, Oscur; relieve me, my friend, with thy sword.
My sword, son of Morny, shall never be stained with the blood of Dermid.
Who then is worthy to slay me, O Oscur son of Oscian? Let not my life pass away unknown. Let none but Oscur slay me. Send me with honour to the grave, and let my death be renowned. Dermid, make use of thy sword; son of Morny, wield thy steel. Would that I fell with thee! that my death came from the hand of Dermid!
They fought by the brook of the mountain; by the streams of Branno. Blood tinged the silvery stream, and curdled round the mossy stones. Dermid the graceful fell; fell, and smiled in death.
And fallest thou, son of Morny; fallest thou by Oscur's hand! Dermid invincible in war, thus do I see thee fall!—He went, and returned to the maid whom he loved; returned, but she perceived his grief.
Why that gloom, son of Oscian? what shades thy mighty soul?
Though once renowned for the bow, O maid, I have lost my fame. Fixed on a tree by the brook of the hill, is the shield of Gormur the brave, whom in battle I slew. I have wasted the day in vain, nor could my arrow pierce it.
Let me try, son of Oscian, the skill of Dargo's daughter. My hands were taught the bow: my father delighted in my skill.
She went. He stood behind the shield. Her arrow flew and pierced his breast. Blessed be that hand of snow; and blessed thy bow of yew! I fall resolved on death: and who but the daughter of Dargo was worthy to slay me? Lay me in the earth, my fair-one; lay me by the side of Dermid.
Oscur! I have the blood, the soul of the mighty Dargo. Well pleased I can meet death. My sorrow I can end thus.——She pierced her white bosom with steel. She fell; she trembled; and died.
By the brook of the hill their graves are laid; a birch's unequal shade covers their tomb. Often on their green earthen tombs the branchy sons of the mountain feed, when mid-day is all in flames, and silence is over all the hills.
BY the side of a rock on the hill, beneath the aged trees, Old Oscian sat on the moss; the last of the race of Fingal. Sightless are his aged eyes; his beard is waving in the wind. Dull through the leafless trees he heard the voice of the north. Sorrow revived in his soul: he began and lamented the dead.
How hast thou fallen like an oak, with all thy branches round thee! Where is Fingal the King? where is Oscur my son? where are all my race? Alas! in the earth they lie. I feel their tombs with my hands. I hear the river below murmuring hoarsely over the stones. What dost thou, O river, to me? Thou bringest back the memory of the past. The race of Fingal stood on thy banks, like a wood in a fertile soil. Keen were their spears of steel. Hardy was he who dared to encounter their rage. Fillan the great was there. Thou Oscur wert there, my son! Fingal himself was there, strong in the grey locks of years. Full rose his sinewy limbs; and wide his shoulders spread. The unhappy met with his arm, when the pride of his wrath arose.
The son of Morny came; Gaul, the tallest of men. He stood on the hill like an oak; his voice was like the streams of the hill. Why reigneth alone, he cries, the son of the mighty Corval? Fingal is not strong to save: he is no support for the people. I am strong as a storm in the ocean; as a whirlwind on the hill. Yield, son of Corval; Fingal, yield to me. Oscur stood forth to meet him; my son would meet the foe. But Fingal came in his strength, and smiled at the vaunter's boast. They threw their arms round each other; they struggled on the plain. The earth is ploughed with their heels. Their bones crack as the boat on the ocean, when it leaps from wave to wave. Long did they toil; with night, they fell on the sounding plain; as two oaks, with their branches mingled, fall crashing from the hill. The tall son of Morny is bound; the aged overcame.
Fair with her locks of gold, her smooth neck, and her breasts of snow; fair, as the spirits of the hill when at silent noon they glide along the heath; fair, as the rain-bow of heaven; came Minvane the maid. Fingal! she softly saith, loose me my brother Gaul. Loose me the hope of my race, the terror of all but Fingal. Can I, replies the King, can I deny the lovely daughter of the hill? take thy brother, O Minvane, thou fairer than the snow of the north!
Such, Fingal! were thy words; but thy words I hear no more. Sightless I sit by thy tomb. I hear the wind in the wood; but no more I hear my friends. The cry of the hunter is over. The voice of war is ceased.
THou askest, fair daughter of the isles! whose memory is preserved in these tombs? The memory of Ronnan the bold, and Connan the chief of men; and of her, the fairest of maids, Rivine the lovely and the good. The wing of time is laden with care. Every moment hath woes of its own. Why seek we our grief from afar? or give our tears to those of other times? But thou commandest, and I obey, O fair daughter of the isles!
Conar was mighty in war. Caul was the friend of strangers. His gates were open to all; midnight darkened not on his barred door. Both lived upon the sons of the mountains. Their bow was the support of the poor. Connan was the image of Conar's soul. Caul was renewed in Ronnan his son. Rivine the daughter of Conar was the love of Ronnan; her brother Connan was his friend. She was fair as the harvest-moon setting in the seas of Molochasquir. Her soul was settled on Ronnan; the youth was the dream of her nights.
Rivine, my love! says Ronnan, I go to my king in Norway. A year and a day shall bring me back. Wilt thou be true to Ronnan?
Ronnan! a year and a day I will spend in sorrow. Ronnan, behave like a man, and my soul shall exult in thy valour. Connan my friend, says Ronnan, wilt thou preserve Rivine thy sister? Durstan is in love with the maid; and soon shall the sea bring the stranger to our coast.
Ronnan, I will defend: Do thou securely go.——He went. He returned on his day. But Durstan returned before him.
Give me thy daughter, Conar, says Durstan; or fear and feel my power.
He who dares attempt my sister, says Connan, must meet this edge of steel. Unerring in battle is my arm: my sword, as the lightning of heaven.
Ronnan the warriour came; and much he threatened Durstan.
But, saith Euran the servant of gold, Ronnan! by the gate of the north shall Durstan this night carry thy fair one away. Accursed, answers Ronnan, be this arm if death meet him not there.
Connan! saith Euran, this night shall the stranger carry thy sister away. My sword shall meet him, replies Connan, and he shall lie low on earth.
The friends met by night, and they fought. Blood and sweat ran down their limbs as water on the mossy rock. Connan falls; and cries, O Durstan, be favourable to Rivine!—And is it my friend, cries Ronnan, I have slain? O Connan! I knew thee not.
He went, and he fought with Durstan. Day began to rise on the combat, when fainting they fell, and expired. Rivine came out with the morn; and——O what detains my Ronnan!—She saw him lying pale in his blood; and her brother lying pale by his side. What could she say? what could she do? her complaints were many and vain. She opened this grave for the warriours; and fell into it herself, before it was closed; like the sun snatched away in a storm.
Thou hast heard this tale of grief, O fair daughter of the isles! Rivine was as fair as thyself: shed on her grave a tear.
IT is night; and I am alone, forlorn on the hill of storms. The wind is heard in the mountain. The torrent shrieks down the rock. No hut receives me from the rain; forlorn on the hill of winds.
Rise, moon! from behind thy clouds; stars of the night, appear! Lead me, some light, to the place where my love rests from the toil of the ! his bow near him, unstrung; his dogs panting around him. But here I must sit alone, by the rock of the mossy stream. The stream and the wind roar; nor can I hear the voice of my love.
Why delayeth my Shalgar, why the son of the hill, his promise? Here is the rock; and the tree; and here the roaring stream. Thou promisedst with night to be here. Ah! whither is my Shalgar gone? With thee I would fly my father; with thee, my brother of pride. Our race have long been foes; but we are not foes, O Shalgar!
Cease a little while, O wind! stream, be thou silent a while! let my voice be heard over the heath; let my wanderer hear me. Shalgar! it is I who call. Here is the tree, and the rock. Shalgar, my love! I am here. Why delayest thou thy coming? Alas! no answer.
Lo! the moon appeareth. The flood is bright in the vale. The rocks are grey on the face of the hill. But I see him not on the brow; his dogs before him tell not that he is coming. Here I must sit alone. But who are these that lie beyond me on the heath? Are they my love and my brother?—Speak to me, O my friends! they answer not. My soul is tormented with fears.——Ah! they are dead. Their swords are red from the fight. O my brother! my brother! why hast thou slain my Shalgar? why, O Shalgar! hast thou slain my brother? Dear were ye both to me! speak to me; hear my voice, sons of my love! But alas! they are silent; silent for ever! Cold are their breasts of clay!
Oh! from the rock of the hill; from the top of the mountain of winds, speak ye ghosts of the dead! speak, and I will not be afraid.——Whither are ye gone to rest? In what cave of the hill shall I find you?
I sit in my grief. I wait for the morning in my tears. Rear the tomb, ye friends of the dead; but close it not till I come. My life flieth away like a dream: why should I stay behind? Here shall I rest with my friends by the stream of the sounding rock. When night comes on the hill; when the wind is up on the heath; my ghost shall stand in the wind, and mourn the death of my friends. The hunter shall hear from his booth. He shall fear, but love my voice. For sweet shall my voice be for my friends; for pleasant were they both to me.
SAD! I am sad indeed: nor small my cause of woe!—Kirmor, thou hast lost no son; thou hast lost no daughter of beauty. Connar the valiant lives; and Annir the fairest of maids. The boughs of thy family flourish, O Kirmor! but Armyn is last of his race.
Rise, winds of autumn, rise; blow upon the dark heath! streams of the mountains, roar! howl, ye tempests, in the trees! walk through broken clouds, O moon! show by intervals thy pale face! bring to my mind that sad night, when all my children fell; when Arindel the mighty fell; when Daura the lovely died.
Daura, my daughter! thou wert fair; fair as the moon on the hills of Jura; white as the driven snow; sweet as the breathing gale. Armor renowned in war came, and sought Daura's love; he was not long denied; fair was the hope of their friends.
Earch son of Odgal repined; for his brother was slain by Armor. He came disguised like a son of the sea: fair was his skiff on the wave; white his locks of age; calm his serious brow. Fairest of women, he said, lovely daughter of Armyn! a rock not distant in the sea, bears a tree on its side; red shines the fruit afar. There Armor waiteth for Daura. I came to fetch his love. Come, fair daughter of Armyn!
She went; and she called on Armor. Nought answered, but the son of the rock. Armor, my love! my love! why tormentest thou me with fear? come, graceful son of Ardnart, come; it is Daura who calleth thee!—Earch the traitor fled laughing to the land. She lifted up her voice, and cried for her brother and her father. Arindel! Armyn! none to relieve your Daura?
Her voice came over the sea. Arindel my son descended from the hill; rough in the spoils of the chase. His arrows rattled by his side; his bow was in his hand; five grey dogs attended his steps. He saw fierce Earch on the shore; he seized and bound him to an oak. Thick fly the thongs of the hide around his limbs; he loads the wind with his groans.
Arindel ascends the surgy deep in his boat, to bring Daura to land. Armor came in his wrath, and let fly the grey-feathered shaft. It sung; it sunk in thy heart, O Arindel my son! for Earch the traitor thou diedst. What is thy grief, O Daura, when round thy feet is poured thy brother's blood!
The boat is broken in twain by the waves. Armor plunges into the sea, to rescue his Daura or die. Sudden a blast from the hill comes over the waves. He sunk, and he rose no more.
Alone, on the sea-beat rock, my daughter was heard to complain. Frequent and loud were her cries; nor could her father relieve her. All night I stood on the shore. All night I heard her cries. Loud was the wind; and the rain beat hard on the side of the mountain. Before morning appeared, her voice was weak. It died away, like the evening-breeze among the grass of the rocks. Spent with grief she expired. O lay me soon by her side. When the storms of the mountain come; when the north lifts the waves on high; I sit by the sounding shore, and look on the fatal rock. Often by the setting moon I see the ghosts of my children. Indistinct, they walk in mournful conference together. Will none of you speak to me?—But they do not regard their father.
THE wind and the rain are over: calm is the noon of day. The clouds are divided in heaven. Over the green hill flies the inconstant sun. Red through the stony vale comes down the stream of the hill. Sweet are thy murmurs, O stream! but more sweet is the voice I hear. It is the voice of Alpin the son of the song, mourning for the dead. Bent is his head of age, and red his tearful eye. Alpin, thou son of the song, why alone on the silent hill? why complainest thou, as a blast in the wood; as a wave on the lonely shore?
My tears, O Ryno! are for the dead; my voice, for the inhabitants of the grave. Tall thou art on the hill; fair among the sons of the plain. But thou shalt fall like Morar; and the mourner shall sit on thy tomb. The hills shall know thee no more; thy bow shall lie in the hall, unstrung.
Thou wert swift, O Morar! as a roe on the hill; terrible as a meteor of fire. Thy wrath was as the storm of December. Thy sword in battle, as lightning in the field. Thy voice was like a stream after rain; like thunder on distant hills. Many fell by thy arm; they were consumed in the flames of thy wrath.
But when thou returnedst from war, how peaceful was thy brow! Thy face was like the sun after rain; like the moon in the silence of night; calm as the breast of the lake when the loud wind is laid.
Narrow is thy dwelling now; dark the place of thine abode. With three steps I compass thy grave, O thou who wast so great before! Four stones with their heads of moss are the only memorial of thee. A tree with scarce a leaf, long grass which whistles in the wind, mark to the hunter's eye the grave of the mighty Morar. Morar! thou art low indeed. Thou hast no mother to mourn thee; no maid with her tears of love. Dead is she that brought thee forth. Fallen is the daughter of Morglan.
Who on his staff is this? who is this, whose head is white with age, whose eyes are red with tears, who quakes at every step?—It is thy father, O Morar! the father of none but thee. He heard of thy fame in battle; he heard of foes dispersed. He heard of Morar's fame; why did he not hear of his wound? Weep, thou father of Morar! weep; but thy son hearest thee not. Deep is the sleep of the dead; low their pillow of dust. No more shall he hear thy voice; no more shall he awake at thy call. When shall it be morn in the grave, to bid the slumberer awake?
Farewell, thou bravest of men! thou conqueror in the field! but the field shall see thee no more; nor the dark wood be lightened with the splendor of thy steel. Thou hast left no son. But the song shall preserve thy name. Future times shall hear of thee; they shall hear of the fallen Morar.
CUchulaid sat by the wall; by the tree of the rustling leaf. His spear leaned against the mossy rock. His shield lay by him on the grass. Whilst he thought on the mighty Carbre whom he slew in battle, the scout of the ocean came, Moran the son of Fithil.
Rise, Cuchulaid, rise! I see the ships of Garve. Many are the foe, Cuchulaid; many the sons of Lochlyn.
Moran! thou ever tremblest; thy fears increase the foe. They are the ships of the Desert of hills arrived to assist Cuchulaid. I saw their chief, says Moran, tall as a rock of ice. His spear is like that fir; his shield like the rising moon. He sat upon a rock on the shore, as a grey cloud upon the hill. Many, mighty man! I said, many are our heroes; Garve, well art thou named, many are the sons of our king.
He answered like a wave on the rock; who is like me here? The valiant live not with me; they go to the earth from my hand. The king of the Desert of hills alone can fight with Garve. Once we wrestled on the hill. Our heels overturned the wood. Rocks fell from their place, and rivulets changed their course. Three days we strove together; heroes stood at a distance, and feared. On the fourth, the King saith that I fell; but Garve saith, he stood. Let Cuchulaid yield to him that is strong as a storm.
No. I will never yield to man. Cuchulaid will conquer or die. Go, Moran, take my spear; strike the shield of Caithbait which hangs before the gate. It never rings in peace. My heroes shall hear on the hill.——
MOrna, thou fairest of women, daughter of Cormac-Carbre! why in the circle of stones, in the cave of the rock, alone? The stream murmureth hoarsely. The blast groaneth in the aged tree. The lake is troubled before thee. Dark are the clouds of the sky! But thou art like snow on the heath. Thy hair like a thin cloud of gold on the top of Cromleach. Thy breasts like two smooth rocks on the hill which is seen from the stream of Branuin. Thy arms, as two white pillars in the hall of Fingal.
Whence the son of Mugruch, Duchommar the most gloomy of men? Dark are thy brows of terror. Red thy rolling eyes. Does Garve appear on the sea? What of the foe, Duchommar?
From the hill I return, O Morna, from the hill of the flying deer. Three have I slain with my bow; three with my panting dogs. Daughter of Cormac-Carbre, I love thee as my soul. I have slain a deer for thee. High was his branchy head; and fleet his feet of wind.
Gloomy son of Mugruch, Duchommar! I love thee not: hard is thy heart of rock; dark thy terrible brow. But Cadmor the son of Tarman, thou art the love of Morna! thou art like a sunbeam on the hill, in the day of the gloomy storm. Sawest thou the son of Tarman, lovely on the hill of the chace? Here the daughter of Cormac-Carbre waiteth the coming of Cadmor.
And long shall Morna wait. His blood is on my sword. I met him by the mossy stone, by the oak of the noisy stream. He fought; but I slew him; his blood is on my sword. High on the hill I will raise his tomb, daughter of Cormac-Carbre. But love thou the son of Mugruch; his arm is strong as a storm.
And is the son of Tarman fallen; the youth with the breast of snow! the first in the chase of the hill; the foe of the sons of the ocean!—Duchommar, thou art gloomy indeed; cruel is thine arm to me.——But give me that sword, son of Mugruch; I love the blood of Cadmor.
[He gives her the sword, with which she instantly stabs him.]
Daughter of Cormac-Carbre, thou hast pierced Duchommar! the sword is cold in my breast; thou hast killed the son of Mugruch. Give me to Moinie the maid; for much she loved Duchommar. My tomb she will raise on the hill; the hunter shall see it, and praise me.——But draw the sword from my side, Morna; I feel it cold.———
[Upon her coming near him, he stabs her. As she fell, she plucked a stone from the side of the cave, and placed it betwixt them, that his blood might not be mingled with hers.]
WHere is Gealchossa my love, the daughter of Tuathal-Teachvar? I left her in the hall of the plain, when I fought with the hairy Ulfadha. Return soon, she said, O Lamderg! for here I wait in sorrow. Her white breast rose with sighs; her cheek was wet with tears. But she cometh not to meet Lamderg; or sooth his soul after battle. Silent is the hall of joy; I hear not the voice of the singer. Brann does not shake his chains at the gate, glad at the coming of his master. Where is Gealchossa my love, the daughter of Tuathal-Teachvar?
Lamderg! says Firchios son of Aydon, Gealchossa may be on the hill; she and her chosen maids pursuing the flying deer.
Firchios! no noise I hear. No sound in the wood of the hill. No deer fly in my sight; no panting dog pursueth. I see not Gealchossa my love; fair as the full moon setting on the hills of Cromleach. Go, Firchios! go to Allad, the grey-haired son of the rock. He liveth in the circle of stones; he may tell of Gealchossa.
Allad! saith Firchios, thou who dwellest in the rock; thou who tremblest alone; what saw thine eyes of age?
I saw, answered Allad the old, Ullin the son of Carbre: He came like a cloud from the hill; he hummed a surly song as he came, like a storm in leafless wood. He entered the hall of the plain. Lamderg, he cried, most dreadful of men! fight, or yield to Ullin. Lamderg, replied Gealchossa, Lamderg is not here: he fights the hairy Ulfadha; mighty man, he is not here. But Lamderg never yields; he will fight the son of Carbre. Lovely art thou, O daughter of Tuathal-Teachvar! said Ullin. I carry thee to the house of Carbre; the valiant shall have Gealchossa. Three days from the top of Cromleach will I call Lamderg to fight. The fourth, you belong to Ullin, if Lamderg die, or fly my sword.
Allad! peace to thy dreams!—sound the horn, Firchios!—Ullin may hear, and meet me on the top of Cromleach.
Lamderg rushed on like a storm. On his spear he leaped over rivers. Few were his strides up the hill. The rocks fly back from his heels; loud crashing they bound to the plain. His armour, his buckler rung. He hummed a surly song, like the noise of the falling stream. Dark as a cloud he stood above; his arms, like meteors, shone. From the summit of the hill, he rolled a rock. Ullin heard in the hall of Carbre.———
- Nothing was held by the ancient Highlanders more essential to their glory, than to die by the hand of some person worthy or renowned. This was the occasion of Oscur's contriving to be slain by his mistress, now that he was weary of life. In those early times suicide was utterly unknown among that people, and no traces of it are found in the old poetry. Whence the translator suspects the account that follows of the daughter of Dargo killing herself, to be the interpolation of some later Bard.
- Supposed to be Fergus II. This fragment is reckoned not altogether so ancient as most of the rest.
- This is the opening of the epic poem mentioned in the preface. The two following fragments are parts of some episodes of the same work.
- The aspen or poplar tree.
- Garve signifies a man of great size.
- The signification of the names in this fragment are; Dubhchomar, a black well-shaped man. Muirne or Morna, a woman beloved by all. Cormac-cairbre, an unequalled and rough warriour. Cromleach, a crooked hill. Mugruch, a surly gloomy man. Tarman, thunder. Moinie, soft in temper and person.
- The signification of the names in this fragment are; Gealchossack, white-legged. Tuathal-Teachtmhar, the surly, but fortunate man. Lambhdearg, bloody-hand. Ulfadha, long beard. Firchios, the conqueror of men.
- Allad is plainly a Druid consulted on this occasion.