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Or sylvan sports, that well beseem
The martial and the brave;
His manly limbs to lave.
But, when the rage of battle bled !
Then—then his might appear’d, And o'er red heaps of hostile dead
His conquering standard rear'd!
Where was thy God on that sad day,
When on Ierne's wave
Their beauteous prize to save ?
From Lochlin's king of ships, his bride,
His lovely queen they bore, Through whom unnumber'd warriors die,
And bathed in blood our shore.
Or on that day when Tailk's proud might
Invaded Erin's coast,
And where thy empty boast ?
While round the bravest Fenii bled,
No help did he bestow; 'Twas Osgur's arm avenged the deed,
And gave the glorious blow!
Where was thy God when Magnus came?
Magnus the brave and great;
Thy Godhead did not aid us then,
If such a God there be,
As great and good as he !
Allean of dreadful fame,
And wrapt her walls in flame.
The deathful hero fell,
Could ev'ry force repel!
In ev'ry mouth his fame we meet,
Well known, and well believed ;-
Thy cloudy king achieved. The somewhat sarcastic insinuation with which these fine stanzas conclude has the effect of throwing the saint completely off his guard, and he bursts into a strain of invective which does not present us with a very favourable idea of his progress in Christian charity. In fact, he tells the aged poet in plain terms, that he is a bald and senseless fool, and that as long as God shall rule in heaven, his race shall endure unremitting torment. 66 It must be owned,” says the fair translator, “this railing is rather of the coarsest ; but our poet seems more
partial to his heroes than to his saints, or he would hardly have put this language into the mouth of the good bishop." We can scarcely, however, regret this want of equanimity on the part of St. Patrick, since it introduces the following wild but beautifully characteristic expostulation from the lips of his companion, who, shocked, as he well might be, by the anathema we have just recorded, exclaims
If God then rules, why is the chief
Of Comhal's gen'rous race
From justice or from grace?
When, were thy God himself confined,
My king of mild renown
And give him back his crown.
For never did his generous breast
Reject the feeling glow;
Or slight the captive's woe.
His ransom loosed the prisoner's chains,
And broke the dire decree;
He fought to set them free!
O Patrick ! were I senseless grown,
Thy holy clerks should bleed,
O’er the avenging deed !
Nor books nor crosiers should be found,
Nor ever more a bell
and zealots dwell.
Nothing can more admirably paint the character of Fingal, such as we have been accustomed to see it delineated in the Ossian of Macpherson, than the second, third, and fourth stanzas of this affecting appeal. Whether the noble picture which it contains of mercy and magnanimity touched the heart of the too zealous bishop, or the allusion in its close to the power which the bard and chieftain still
possessed alarmed his fears, it is not easy to ascertain; but that a sudden revolution took place, if not in the sentiments, yet in the language of the saint, is evident from the tenor of his reply:
O Oisin, of the royal race !
The actions of thy sire,
I, with the world, admire.
Thy story therefore I await,
And thy late promise claim,
And give the tale to fame.
It must be obvious, I think, from the passages which have now been quoted from these Irish legends, that, though written in the middle ages, the character of Ossian has been sustained in them with all the beauty, amenity, and sublimity which surround it in the Caledonian poetry. And as the Irish histories themselves refer the existence of Fingal and Ossian to the third century, placing the death of the former in the year 283, and that of Oscar, the grandson of Fingal, in the year 296, though, out of compliment to St. Patrick, they have committed the bold anachronism of representing the Celtic poet a disciple of the national apostle, does it not follow as a legitimate inference, considering this perfect consonancy of the Irish with the Scottish era, and the very early intercourse which subsisted between the two nations, that the poetry ascribed to Ossian by the Scottish antiquaries is, both as to its antiquity and character, altogether what authentic tradition has handed down to us ? For, be it remembered, that even should we re