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Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 42.djvu/322

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Ossian
Ossian
316

by the circumstance that Bæda mentions his death as taking place in the same year (729) with the appearance of the comets. The 'English Chronicle' further adds that he was slain ; and William of Malmesbury relates the tradition that he lost his throne and his life as a punishment for the death of the licentious king Osred (697?-716) [q. v.], in whose murder he and his predecessor on the throne, Cœnred, were concerned.

He has been sometimes identified with the Osric, king of the Hwiccii, who is mentioned by Bæda as ruling that tribe at the time of the appointment of Oftfor [q. v.] to the see of Worcester about 691. Bishop Stubbs, however, considers the identity of the two Osrics to be very doubtful (Dict. Chr. Biogr. s.v. 'Osric' [2]). The Osric of the Hwiccii granted a charter to the abbey of Bath in 676, which was attested by Theodore [q. v.] and other bishops. In 681 he founded the abbey at Gloucester (Dugdale, Mon. Angl. i. 541, 542), and he was buried in the abbey-church, afterwards Gloucester Cathedral. A shrine, with the king's effigy upon it, was erected to his memory there by Abbot Malvern in the time of Henry VIII. Leland, who, at the desire of King Henry, paid a visit to the abbey in 1540, asserted that the body of Osric 'first laye in St. Petronell's Chapel, thence it was removed into our Lady's Chapel, and thence removed of late dayes and layd under a fayre tombe of stone on the north side of the High Aultar. At the foot of the tomb is this written on a Norman pillar, "Osricus rex primus fundator hujus monasterii 681."' In 1892 Dr. Spence, dean of Gloucester, verified Leland's statement, when, on removing two panels of the stone loculus 'on the north side of the High Aultar,' he disclosed a long leaden coffin, lying exactly beneath the king's effigy. The coffin contained a few bones mingled with cement which had fallen on it, one of the ends being broken by the weight of the superincumbent effigy.

[Dict. Christian Biogr. ; Bædæ Hist. Eccl. lib. v. c. 23, 24; English Chronicle (Rolls Ser.), ii. 38,40 ; William of Malmesbury's Gesta Regum (Kings of Northumbria).]

J. M.

OSSIAN or OISIN is a legendary character in Gaelic literature. He figures in a series of heroic or romantic tales of which the events are laid in the third century, in the time of Cormac Mac Art [see Cormac]. According to these tales, he was the associate of Fionn, of Caillte, of Diarmait, and other warriors at the court of Tara. After many exploits, nearly all the warriors under Fionn are defeated and slain at the battle of Gabhra in co. Meath (A.D. 283). Oisin and Caillte are, however, represented as outliving the battle by 150 years. On this supposition they are credited by the professional story-tellers with meeting St. Patrick, and with relating to him, in the course of a peregrination through Ireland, the great deeds in battle or chase of their old associates. They are finally baptised, and die.

The most famous tale of the series that has survived is the 'Colloquy of the Ancients' ('Agallamh na senorach'), which is found in the 'Book of Lismore,' a late fifteenth-century manuscript, and has been edited and translated by Mr. Standish Hayes O'Grady. The 'Story of Oisin in the Land of the Young' is another extant tale of the series, and here Oisin is presented as living long underground in fairyland. The 'Book of Leinster,' a manuscript of the twelfth century, is the earliest in which any verses are attributed to Oisin. 'Leabhar na h-Uidhri,' a manuscript dating from the beginning of the same century, is the earliest in which any tale with Fionn as its hero appears. The tales are to be found in a great many later manuscripts, from 1400 onwards. Prefaces or introductions were added at various periods, but they harmonise with the literary features of the original series.

In 1762 James Macpherson [q. v.] published a poem called i Fingal,' which he pretended to have translated from Gaelic verse written by Ossian. Another volume followed in 1703. Fingal, as the name of a hero, is unknown to Gaelic literature before the time of Macpherson, and in his treatment of Fingal's exploits Macpherson shows a complete ignorance of the genuine poetic literature of the Gael. In none of the genuine Gaelic tales are Oisin and his companions associated, as in Macpherson's poems, with Cuchullin, with Fergus, with King Conchobhar, or Queen Medbh, whose exploits are placed in Gaelic literature in the first century of the Christian era. In Macpherson's 'Ossian' Fingal appears as a great Caledonian monarch disputing the conquest of his country with the Romans in the third century ; afterwards Macpherson's Fingal assists Cuchullin, who lived in the first century, to expel from Erin the Norsemen, who are known not to have approached that territory till the ninth century. Macpherson, in his so-called translation, is thus guilty of blunders which convict him of lack of all direct acquaintance with the literature from which he professed to derive his poems. The Gaelic heroes were often represented by the bards as singing their own deeds ; and in this way some poems came to be ascribed to Oisin. But it is improbable that Ossian or Oisin was the author of any of