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CarthonDisplay note: A Poem

A tale of the times of old! The deeds of days of other years!—The murmur of thy streams, O Lora, brings back the memory of the past. The sound of thy woods, Garmallar, is lovely in mine ear. Dost thou not behold, Malvina, a rock with its head of heath? Three aged firs bend from its face; green is the narrow plain at its feet; there the flower of the mountain grows, [ 128 ] View Page Image and shakes its white head in the breeze. The thistle is there alone, and shades its aged beard. Two stones, half sunk in the ground, shew their heads of moss. The deer of the mountain avoids the place, for he beholds the gray ghost that guards itDisplay note: for the mighty lie, O Malvina, in the narrow plain of the rock. A tale of the times of old! the deeds of days of other years!

Who comes from the land of strangers, with his thousands around him? the sun-beam pours its bright stream before him; and his hair meets the wind of his hills. His face is settled from war. He is calm as the evening beam that looks, from the cloud of the west, on Cona's silent vale. Who is it but Comhal's sonDisplay note, the king of mighty deeds! He beholds his hills with joy, and bids a thousand voices rise.——Ye have fled over your fields, ye sons of the distant land! The king of the world sits in his hall, and hears of his people's flight. He lifts his red eye of pride, and takes his father's sword. Ye have fled over your fields, sons of the distant land!

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Such were the words of the bards, when they came to Selma's halls.—A thousand lightsDisplay note from the stranger's land rose, in the midst of the people. The feast is spread around; and the night passed away in joy.—Where is the noble ClessámmorDisplay note, said the fair-haired Fingal? Where is the companion of my father, in the days of my joy? Sullen and dark he passes his days in the vale of ecchoing Lora: but, behold, he comes from the hill, like a steedDisplay note in his strength, who finds his companions in the breeze; and tosses his bright mane in the wind.——Blest be the soul of Clessámmor, why so long from Selma?

Returns the chief, said Clessámmor, in the midst of his fame? Such was the renown of Comhal in the battles of his youth. Often did we pass over Carun to the land of the strangers: our swords returned, not unstained with blood: nor did the kings of the world rejoice.——Why do I remember the battles of my youth? My hair is mixed with gray. My hand forgets to bend the bow: and I lift [ 130 ] View Page Image a lighter spear. O that my joy would return, as when I first beheld the maid; the white bosomed daughter of strangers, MoinaDisplay note with the dark-blue eyes!

Tell, said the mighty Fingal, the tale of thy youthful days. Sorrow, like a cloud on the sun, shades the soul of Clessámmor. Mournful are thy thoughts, alone, on the banks of the roaring Lora. Let us hear the sorrow of thy youth, and the darkness of thy days.

It was in the days of peace, replied the great Clessámmor, I came, in my bounding ship, to Balclutha'sDisplay note walls of towers. The winds had roared behind my sails, and Clutha'sDisplay note streams received my dark-bosomed vessel. Three days I remained in Reuthámir's halls, and saw that beam of light, his daughter. The joy of the shell went round, and the aged hero gave the fair. Her breasts were like foam on the wave, and her eyes like stars of light: her hair was dark as the raven's wing: her soul was generous and mild. My love for Moina was great: and my heart poured forth in joy.

The son of a stranger came; a chief who loved the white-bosomed Moina. His words were mighty in the hall, and he often half-unsheathed his sword.—Where, he said, is the mighty Comhal, the restless wandererDisplay note of the heath? Comes he, with his host, to Balclutha, since Clessámmor is so bold?

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My Soul, I replied, O warrior! burns in a light of its own. I stand without fear in the midst of thousands, though the valiant are distant far.—Stranger! thy words are mighty, for Clessammor is alone. But my sword trembles by my side, and longs to glitter in my hand.—Speak no more of Comhal, son of the winding Clutha!

The strength of his pride arose. We fought; he fell beneath my sword. The banks of Clutha heard his fall, and a thousand spears glittered around. I fought: the strangers prevailed: I plunged into the stream of Clutha. My white sails rose over the waves, and I bounded on the dark-blue sea.—Moina came to the shore, and rolled the red eye of her tears: her dark hair flew on the wind; and I heard her cries.—Often did I turn my ship! but the winds of the East prevailed. Nor Clutha ever since have I seen: nor Moina of the dark brown hair.—She fell in Balclutha: for I have seen her ghost. I knew her as she came through the dusky night, along the murmur of Lora: she was like the new moonDisplay note seen through the gathered mist: when the sky pours down its flaky snow, and the world is silent and dark.

RaiseDisplay note, ye bards, said the mighty Fingal, the praise of unhappy Moina. Call her ghost, with your songs, to our hills; that she [ 132 ] View Page Image may rest with the fair of Morven, the sun-beams of other days and the delight of heroes of old.—I have seen the wallsDisplay note of Balclutha, but they were desolate. The fire had resounded in the halls: and the voice of the people is heard no more. The stream of Clutha was removed from its place, by the fall of the walls.—The thistle shook, there, its lonely head: the moss whistled to the wind. The fox looked out, from the windows, the rank grass of the wall waved round his head.—Desolate is the dwelling of Moina, silence is in the house of her fathers.—Raise the song of mourning, O bards, over the land of strangers. They have but fallen before us: for, one day, we must fall.—Why dost thou build the hall, son of the winged days? Thou lookest from thy towers to-day;, yet a few years, and the blast of the desart comes; it howls in thy empty court, and whistles round thy half-worn shield.—And let the blast of the desart come! we shall be renowned in our day. The mark of my arm shall be in the battle, and my name in the song of bards.—Raise the song; send round the shell: and let joy be heard in my hall.—When thou, sun of heaven, shalt fail! if thou shalt fail, thou mighty light! if thy brightness is for a season, like Fingal; our fame shall survive thy beams.

Such was the song of Fingal, in the day of his joy. His thousand bards leaned forward from their seats, to hear the voice of the king. It was like the music of the harp on the gale of the spring.—Lovely were thy thoughts, O Fingal! why had not Ossian the strength of thy soul?—But thou standest alone, my father; and who can equal the king of Morven?

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The night passed away in the song, and morning returned in joy;—the mountains shewed their gray heads; and the blue face of ocean smiled.—The white wave is seen tumbling round the distant rock; the gray mist rises, slowly, from the lake. It came, in the figure of an aged man, along the silent plain. Its large limbs did not move in steps; for a ghost supported it in mid air. It came towards Selma's hall, and dissolved in a shower of blood.

The king alone beheld the terrible sight, and he foresaw the death of the people. He came, in silence, to his hall; and took his father's spear.—The mail rattled on his breast. The heroes rose around. They looked, in silence, on each other, marking the eyes of Fingal.—They saw the battle in his face: the death of armies on his spear.—A thousand shields, at once, are placed on their arms; and they drew a thousand swords. The hall of Selma brightened around. The clang of arms ascends.—The gray dogs howl in their place. No word is among the mighty chiefs.—Each marked the eyes of the King; and half assumed his spear.

Sons of Morven, begun the king, this is no time to fill the shell. The battle darkens near us; and death hovers over the land. Some ghost, the friend of Fingal, has forewarned us of the foe.——The sons of the stranger come from the darkly-rolling sea. For, from the water, came the sign of Morven's gloomy danger.—Let eachDisplay note assume his heavy spear, and gird on his father's sword.—Let [ 134 ] View Page Image the dark helmet rise on every head; and the mail pour its lightening from every side.—The battle gathers like a tempest, and soon shall ye hear the roar of death.

The hero moved on before his host, like a cloud before a ridge of green fire; when it pours on the sky of night, and mariners forsee a storm. On Cona's rising heath they stood: the white-bosomed maids beheld them above like a grove; they foresaw the death of their youths, and looked towards the sea with fear.—The white wave deceived them for distant sails, and the tear is on their cheek.

The sun rose on the sea, and we beheld a distant fleet.—Like the mist of ocean they came: and poured their youth upon the coast.—The chief was among them, like the stag in the midst of the herd.—His shield is studded with gold, and stately strode the king of spears.—He moved towards Selma; his thousands moved behind.

Go, with thy song of peace, said Fingal; go, Ullin, to the king of swords. Tell him that we are mighty in battle; and that the ghosts of our foes are many.—But renowned are they who have feasted in my halls! they shew the armsDisplay note of my fathers in a foreign land: the sons of the strangers wonder, and bless the friends of Morven's race; for our names have been heard afar; the kings of the world shook in the midst of their people.

Ullin went with his song. Fingal rested on his spear: he saw the mighty foe in his armour: and he blest the stranger's son.

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How stately art thou, son of the sea! said the king of woody Morven. Thy sword is a beam of might by thy side: thy spear is a fir that defies the storm. The varied face of the moon is not broader than thy shield.—Ruddy is thy face of youth! soft the ringlets of thy hair!—But this tree may fall; and his memory be forgot!—The daughter of the stranger will be sad, and look to the rolling sea:—the children will say, "We see a ship; perhaps it is the "king of Balclutha." The tear starts from their mother's eye. Her thoughts are of him that sleeps in Morven.

Such were the words of the king, when Ullin came to the mighty Carthon: he threw down the spear before him; and raised the song of peace.

Come to the feast of Fingal, Carthon, from the rolling sea! partake the feast of the king, or lift the spear of war. The ghosts of our foes are many: but renowned are the friends of Morven!

Behold that field, O Carthon; many a green hill rises there, with mossy stones and rustling grass: these are the tombs of Fingal's foes, the sons of the rolling sea.

Dost thou speak to the feeble in arms, said Carthon, bard of the woody Morven? Is my face pale for fear, son of the peaceful song? Why, then, dost thou think to darken my soul with the tales of those who fell?—My arm has fought in the battle; my renown is known afar. Go to the feeble in arms, and bid them yield to Fingal.—Have not I seen the fallen Balclutha? And shall I feast with Comhal's son? Comhal! who threw his fire in the midst of my father's hall! I was young, and knew not the cause why the virgins wept. The columns of smoke pleased mine eye, when they rose above my walls; I often looked back, with gladness, when my friends [ 136 ] View Page Image fled along the hill.——But when the years of my youth came on, I beheld the moss of my fallen walls: my sigh arose with the morning, and my tears descended with night.—Shall I not fight, I said to my soul, against the children of my foes? And I will fight, O bard; I feel the strength of my soul.

His people gathered around the hero, and drew, at once, their shining swords. He stands, in the midst, like a pillar of fire; the tear half-starting from his eye; for he thought of the fallen Balclutha, and the crowded pride of his soul arose. Sidelong he looked up to the hill, where our heroes shone in arms; the spear trembled in his hand: and, bending foreward, he seemed to threaten the king.

Shall I, said Fingal to his soul, meet, at once, the king? Shall I stop him, in the midst of his course, before his fame shall arise? But the bard, hereafter, may say, when he sees the tomb of Carthon; Fingal took his thousands, along with him, to battle, before the noble Carthon fell.——No:—bard of the times to come! thou shalt not lessen Fingal's fame. My heroes will fight the youth, and Fingal behold the battle. If he overcomes, I rush, in my strength, like the roaring stream of Cona.

Who, of my heroes, will meet the son of the rolling sea? Many are his warriors on the coast: and strong is his ashen spear!

CathulDisplay note rose, in his strength, the son of the mighty Lormar: three hundred youths attend the chief, the raceDisplay note of his native streams. Feeble was his arm against Carthon, he fell; and his heroes fled.

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ConnalDisplay note resumed the battle, but he broke his heavy spear: he lay bound on the field: and Carthon pursued his people.

Clessámmor! said the kingDisplay note of Morven, where is the spear of thy strength? Wilt thou behold Connal bound; thy friend, at the stream of Lora? Rise, in the light of thy steel, thou friend of Comhal. Let the youth of Balclutha feel the strength of Morven's race.

He rose in the strength of his steel, shaking his grizly locks, He fitted the shield to his side; and rushed, in the pride of valour.

Carthon stood, on that heathy rock, and saw the heroes approach. He loved the terrible joy of his face: and his strength, in the locks of age.——Shall I lift that spear, he said, that never strikes, but once, a foe? Or shall I, with the words of peace, preserve the warrior's life? Stately are his steps of age!—lovely the remnant of his years. Perhaps it is the love of Moina; the father of car-borne Carthon. Often have I heard, that he dwelt at the ecchoing stream of Lora.

Such were his words, when Clessámmor came, and lifted high his spear. The youth received it on his shield, and spoke the words of peace.——Warrior of the aged locks! Is there no youth to lift the spear? Hast thou no son, to raise the shield before his father, and to meet the arm of youth? Is the spouse of thy love no more? or weeps she over the tombs of thy sons? Art thou of the kings of men? What will be the fame of my sword if thou shalt fall?

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It will be great, thou son of pride! begun the tall Clessámmor. I have been renowned in battle; but I never told my nameDisplay note to a foe. Yield to me, son of the wave, and then thou shalt know, that the mark of my sword is in many a field.

I never yielded, king of spears! replied the noble pride of Carthon: I have also fought in battles; and I behold my future fame. Despise me not, thou chief of men; my arm, my spear is strong. Retire among thy friends, and let young heroes fight.

Why dost thou wound my soul, replied Clessámmor with a tear? Age does not tremble on my hand; I still can lift the sword. Shall I fly in Fingal's fight; in the fight of him I loved? Son of the sea! I never fled: exalt thy pointed spear.

They fought, like two contending winds, that strive to roll the wave. Carthon bade his spear to err; for he still thought that the foe was the spouse of Moina.——He broke Clessámmor's beamy spear in twain: and seized his shining sword. But as Carthon was binding the chief; the chief drew the dagger of his fathers. He saw the foe's uncovered side; and opened, there, a wound.

Fingal saw Clessámmor low: he moved in the sound of his steel. The host stood silent, in his presence; they turned their eyes towards the hero.—He came, like the sullen noise of a storm, before the winds arise: the hunter hears it in the vale, and retires to the cave of the rock.

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Carthon stood in his place: the blood is rushing down his side: he saw the coming down of the king; and his hopes of fame aroseDisplay note; but pale was his cheek: his hair flew loose, his helmet shook on high: the force of Carthon failed; but his soul was strong.

Fingal beheld the heroe's blood; he stopt the uplifted spear. Yield, king of swords! said Comhal's son; I behold thy blood. Thou hast been mighty in battle; and thy fame shall never fade.

Art thou the king so far renowned, replied the car-borne Carthon? Art thou that light of death, that frightens the kings of the world?—But why should Carthon ask? for he is like the stream of his desart; strong as a river, in his course: swift as the eagle of the sky.—O that I had fought with the king; that my fame might be great in the song! that the hunter, beholding my tomb, might say, he fought with the mighty Fingal. But Carthon dies unknown; he has poured out his force on the feeble.

But thou shalt not die unknown, replied the king of woody Morven: my bards are many, O Carthon, and their songs descend to future times. The children of the years to come shall hear the fame of Carthon; when they sit round the burning oakDisplay note, and the night is spent in the songs of old. The hunter, sitting in the heath, shall hear the rustling blast; and, raising his eyes, behold the rock where Carthon fell. He shall turn to his son, and shew the place [ 140 ] View Page Image where the mighty fought; "There the king of Balclutha fought, like the strength of a thousand streams."

Joy rose in Carthon's face: he lifted his heavy eyes.——He gave his sword to Fingal, to lie within his hall, that the memory of Balclutha's king might remain on Morven.—The battle ceased along the field, for the bard had sung the song of peace. The chiefs gathered round the falling Carthon, and heard his words, with sighs. Silent they leaned on their spears, while Balclutha's hero spoke. His hair sighed in the wind, and his words were feeble.

King of Morven, Carthon said, I fall in the midst of my course. A foreign tomb receives, in youth, the last of Reuthámir's race. Darkness dwells in Balclutha: and the shadows of grief in Crathmo.—But raise my remembrance on the banks of Lora: where my fathers dwelt. Perhaps the husband of Moina will mourn over his fallen Carthon.

His words reached the heart of Clessámmor: he fell, in silence, on his son. The host stood darkened around: no voice is on the plains of Lora. Night came, and the moon, from the east, looked on the mournful field: but still they stood, like a silent grove that lifts its head on Gormal, when the loud winds are laid, and dark autumn is on the plain.

Three days they mourned above Carthon; on the fourth his father died. In the narrow plain of the rock they lie; and a dim ghost defends their tomb. There lovely Moina is often seen; when the sun-beam darts on the rock, and all around is dark. There she is seen, Malvina, but not like the daughters of the hill. Her robes are from the stranger's land; and she is still alone.

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Fingal was sad for Carthon; he desired his bards to mark the day, when shadowy autumn returned. And often did they mark the day and sing the hero's praise. Who comes so dark from ocean's roar, like autumn's shadowy cloud? Death is trembling in his hand! his eyes are flames of fire!——Who roars along dark Lora's heath? Who but Carthon, king of swords? The people fall! see! how he strides, like the sullen ghost of Morven!—But there he lies a goodly oak, which sudden blasts overturned! When shalt thou rise, Balclutha's joy! lovely car-borne Carthon?——Who comes so dark from ocean's roar, like autumn's shadowy cloud?

Such were the words of the bards, in the day of their mourning; I have accompanied their voice; and added to their song. My soul has been mournful for Carthon; he fell in the days of his valour: and thou, O Clessámmor! where is thy dwelling in the air?—Has the youth forgot his wound? And flies he, on the clouds, with thee?——I feel the sun, O Malvina, leave me to my rest. Perhaps they may come to my dreams; I think I hear a feeble voice.—The beam of heaven delights to shine on the grave of Carthon: I feel it warm around.

O thou that rollest aboveDisplay note, round as the shield of my fathers! Whence are thy beams, O sun! thy everlasting light? Thou comest forth, in thy awful beauty, and the stars hide themselves in the sky; the moon, cold and pale, sinks in the western wave. But thou thyself movest alone: who can be a companion of thy course! The oaks of the mountains fall: the mountains themselves decay with [ 142 ] View Page Image years; the ocean shrinks and grows again: the moon herself is lost in heaven; but thou art for ever the same; rejoicing in the brightness of thy course. When the world is dark with tempests; when thunder rolls, and lightning flies; thou lookest in thy beauty, from the clouds, and laughest at the storm. But to Ossian, thou lookest in vain; for he beholds thy beams no more; whether thy yellow hair flows on the eastern clouds, or thou tremblest at the gates of the west. But thou art perhaps, like me, for a season, and thy years will have an end. Thou shalt sleep in thy clouds, careless of the voice of the morning.——Exult then, O sun, in the strength of thy youth! Age is dark and unlovely; it is like the glimmering light of the moonDisplay note, when it shines through broken clouds, and the mist is on the hills; the blast of north is on the plain, the traveller shrinks in the midst of his journey.