« AnteriorContinuar »
course with Homer. For it is perfectly absurd to imagine, as some criticks have done, that Homer's mythology was invented by him, in consequence of profound reflections on the benefit it would yield to poetry. Homer was no such refining genius. He found the traditionary stories on which he built his Iliad, mingled with popular legends, concerning the intervention of the gods; and he adopted these, because they amused the fancy.
Ossian, in like manner, found the tales of his country full of ghosts and spirits: It is likely he believed them himself; and he introduced them, because they gave his poems that solemn and marvellous cast, which suited his genius. This was the only machinery he could employ with propriety; because it was the only intervention of supernatural beings, which agreed with the common belief of the country. It was happy; because it did not interfere, in the least, with the proper display of human characters and actions; because it had less of the incredible, than most other kinds of poe tical machinery; and because it served to diversify the scene, and to heighten the subject by an awful grandeur, which is the great design of machinery.
As Ossian's mythology is peculiar to himself, and makes a considerable figure in his other poems, as well as in Fingal, it may be proper to make some observations on it, independent of its subserviency to epick composition. It turns for the most part on the appearances of departed spirits.
These, consonantly to the notions of every rude age, are represented not as purely immaterial, but as thin airy forms, which can be visible or invisible at pleasure; their voice is feeble; their arm is weak; but they are endowed with knowledge more than human. In a separate state, they retain the same dispositions which animated them in this life. They ride on the wind; they bend their airy bows; and pursue deer formed of clouds. The ghosts of departed bards continue to sing. The ghosts of departed heroes frequent the fields of their former fame. "They rest together in their caves, and talk of mortal men. Their songs are of other worlds. They come sometimes to the ear of rest, and raise their feeble voice."
All this presents to us much the same set of ideas, concerning spirits, as we find in the eleventh book of the Odyssey, where Ulysses visits the regions of the dead: And in the twenty-third book of the Iliad, the ghost of Patroclus, after appearing to Achilles, vanishes precisely like
one of Ossian's, emitting a shrill, feeble cry, and melting away like smoke.
But though Homer's and Ossian's ideas concerning ghosts were of the same nature, we cannot but observe that Ossian's ghosts are drawn with much stronger and livelier colours than those of Homer. Ossian describes ghosts with all the particularity of one who had seen and conversed with them, and whose imagination was full of the impres sion they had left upon it. Crugal's ghost, in particular, in the beginning of the second book of Fingal, may vie with any appearance of this kind, described by any epick or tragick poet whatever.
Most poets would have contented themselves with telling us, that he resembled, in every particular, the living Crugal; that his form and dress were the same, only his face more pale and sad; and that he bore the mark of the wound by which he fell. But Ossian sets before our eyes a spirit from the invisible world, distinguished by all those features, which a strong astonished imagination would give to a ghost. "A dark red stream of fire comes down from the hill. Crugal sat upon the beam; he that lately fell by the hand of Swaran, striving in the battle of heroes. His face is like the beam of the setting moon. His robes are of the clouds of the hill. His eyes are like two decaying flames. Dark is the wound of his breast. The stars dim-twinkled through his form; and his voice was like the sound of a distant stream."
The circumstance of the stars being beheld, "dimtwinkling through his form," is wonderfully picturesque; and conveys the most lively impression of his thin and shadowy substance. The attitude in which he is afterwards placed, and the speech put into his mouth, are full of that solemn and awful sublimity, which suits the subject. "Dim, and in tears, he stood and stretched his pale hand over the hero. Faintly he raised his feeble voice, like the gale of the reedy Lego. My ghost, O Connal is on my native hills; but my corse is on the sands of Ullin. Thou shalt never talk with Crugal, or find his lone steps in the heath. I am light as the blast of Cromla; and I move like the shadow of mist. Connal, son of Colgar! I see the dark cloud of death. It hovers over the plains of Lena. The sons of green Erin shall fall. Remove from the field of ghosts. Like the darkened moon he retired in the midst of the whistling blast."
Several other appearances of spirits might be pointed out as among the most sublime passages of Ossian's poetry. The circumstances of them are considerably diversified; and the scenery always suited to the occasion. "Oscar slowly ascends the hill. The meteors of night set on the heath before him. A distant torrent faintly roars. Unfrequent blasts rush through aged oaks. The half-enlightened moon sinks dim and red behind her hill. Feebie voices are heard on the heath. Oscar drew his sword."
Nothing can prepare the fancy more happily for the awful scene that is to follow. "Trenmor came from his hill, at the voice of his mighty son. A cloud, like the steed of the stranger, supported his airy limbs. His robe is of the mist of Lano, that brings death to the people. His sword is a green meteor, half-extinguished. His face is without form, and dark. He sighed thrice over the hero : And thrice, the winds of the night roared around. Many were his words to Oscar. He slowly vanished, like a mist that melts on the sunny hill."
To appearances of this kind, we can find no parallel among the Greek or Roman poets. They bring to mind that noble description in the book of Job: "In thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falleth on men, fear came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones to shake. Then a spirit passed before my face; the hair of my flesh stood up: It stood still, but I could not discern the form thereof: an image was before mine eyes:-There was silence, and I heard a voice-Shall mortal man be more just than God ?”*
The Dungeon.-LYRICAL BALLADS.
AND this place our forefathers made for man!
*Job iv. 13-17.
And stagnate and corrupt; till, changed to poison,
With other ministrations thou, O Nature!
To the Rosemary.-H. K. WHITE.
SWEET Scented flower! who'rt wont to bloom
And o'er the wintry desert drear
Come, thou shalt form my nosegay now,
And sweet the strain shall be, and long
Come funeral flower! who lov'st to dwell
Come, press my lips and lie with me
And hark! the wind-god, as he flies,
Sweet flower, that requiem wild is mine;
My grave shall be in yon lone spot,
Where, as I lie by all forgot,
A dying fragrance thou wilt o'er my ashes shed.
A Sabbath in Scotland.-Persecution of the Scottish Covenanters.-GRAHAME.
It is not only in the sacred fane,
That homage should be paid to the Most High :
Nor yet less pleasing at the heavenly throne,