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may be decided without doubt to have been in the latter part of the third century. In this we agree with McPherson, the translator, and Rev. Dr. Blair, the reviewer, of these sublime poems. Ossian was the last of a line of kings renowned in their time for magnanimity and heroism in war, and clemency and magnificence in peace, who held dominion over Morven, a kingdom comprising that mountainous section of country lying along the north-west coast of Scotland. Fingal, his father, is represented to us as a true hero; though terrible in battle, he displayed many of those ennobling graces found in civilized life. His ancestors, Trathal and Trenmor, are also portrayed in song, possessing such manly virtues as make us forget that they lived in a period when humanity was disgraced at Rome, and heathen darkness, like the dusky curtains of night, spread over the earth.
The following advice of Fingal to his grandson, Oscar, (son of Ossian,) concerning his conduct in peace and war, is an example of true generosity, worthy of the most refined age: "O Oscar, pride of youth. I saw the shining of the sword. I gloried in my race. Pursue the fame of our fathers; be thou what they have been, when Trenmor lived, the first of men, and Trathal, the father of heroes! They fought the battle in their youth. They are the song of bards. O Oscar! bend the strong in arm; but spare the feeble hand. Be thou a stream of many tides against the foes of thy people; but like the gale
that moves the grass, to those who ask thine aid. So Trenmor lived; such Trathal was; and such has Fingal been."
While the fire of youth inspired the heroic heart of Fingal, his military aid was solicited by Cormac, king of Ireland, to quell the insurrection and usurpation of Colculla, chief of Atha, where he fell in love. with and took to wife Rosecanna, daughter of Cormac, who became the mother of our poet. If the long-established maxim is true, that the first striking event and impressions in one's existence, give the leading impulse to character, it was but natural that Ossian should become a great poet and musician. The wild, animating, and heroic songs of the thousand bards that crowded the halls of Selma, during the life and triumphant career of his father, were perhaps the first sounds that greeted his ear, and formed the lullaby of his early years. It has been the well-founded opinion of our ablest modern literary persons, that an age of uncivilization, when the passions and feelings of men are in unrestrained exercise, is more favorable to poetry than one of nice refinement, when the intellect bows to the deity of arbitrary rules. So prevalent has this opinion become among the literati of our day, that we not unfrequently hear the period known in ancient history as "the dark ages," classically termed the age of of poetry.
The method of transmitting history and heroic fame to future times, through poems or traditional songs, which nearly all the nations of antiquity adopted be
fore the art of writing became prevalent, afforded a powerful incentive to the exaltation of poetic genius. A skillful bard, familiar with the history of heroes, and able to poetize with luster what was deemed noble and generous in character, was ever greeted with cordiality at the mansions of the great, and flattered at kingly courts. We are informed that the ancient Spartans were so prejudiced in favor of transmitting their laws and panegyrics in this way, that they never would allow them to be committed to writing. The Germans also preserved monuments of their antique history, and transmitted them orally to quite a modern date, by couching into verse the elegies of their heroes and chief national transactions.
But especially did poetic genius obtain great popularity among the Celtic tribes. Living a roving and indolent life, their highest entertainment in peace, was to gather around the burning oak, or sit in the halls of their fathers, and listen to the praises and exploits of their heroes, from the lips of bards; and in war, these poets rehearsed the deeds of their ancestors to inspire the chiefs with heroic fire. Their greatest incentive to noble deeds was to receive their fame; that is, to become worthy of being celebrated in the songs of bards; and to have their name on the. four gray stones. To die unlamented by a bard, was deemed so great a misfortune as even to disturb their ghosts in another state. "They wander in thick mists beside the reedy lake; but never shall they rise, without the song, to the dwelling of winds."
Julius Cæsar informs us, that this class of men comprised many of the first rank, possessing supérior talents, highly respected in state, and was supported by public establishment. So thorough a knowledge of ancient historical poetry was requisite, before being initiated into this order, that, with many, a course of diligent study for a term of twenty years was required. In this way the Celtic bards transmitted, as a sacred charge, their poems through successive generations. Consequently, we not unfrequently hear them termed, in ancient verse, the sons of future times. Their persons were held so inviolable, that they were ever secure against personal outrage from foes. "He feared to stretch his sword to the bards, though his soul was dark." When this institution had attained to its meridian excellence, and the capital of Morven was enriched and embellished, to a degree of magnificence before unknown among the nations of north-western Europe, the voice and harp of Ossian woke their echoes in the halls of Selma, the first among a thousand bards. The heroic splendor and peculiar institutions of Ossian's age, formed a conjunction of circumstances highly favorable towards developing a poetic spirit. "Ossian himself," says Dr. Blair, "appears to have been endowed
Under an institution like this, it is not strange that the best poems produced and preserved of those times, were the compositions of blind bards. Their extraordinary concentrative and retentive powers, and natural fondness for poetic numbers, must have given them great superiority over their cotemporaries.
by nature with an exquisite sensibility of heart; prone to that tender melancholy which is so often an attendant on great genius, and susceptible equally of strong and of soft emotion." His first adventure of which we have any account, was his contest with the chiefs of Erin, for Ever-allin, the beautiful daughter of Branno, king of Ireland, in which he was triumphant, and Ever-allin became his wife, and mother of his only son, Oscar, who was treacherously assassinated by Cairbar, a chief of Erin, and his young spouse Melvina was left in Cona, to mourn the fall of her beloved hero. She became the solace of Ossian in his age and blindness, and it is to her that many of his most beautiful poems are addresed. At what age or period of his life, or from what circumstances, Ossian lost his sight, we cannot definitely determine from his poems; but it must have been at a considerably advanced age, for he sings of expeditions and battles in which he fought, when in the full vigor and strength of manhood, in company with his son Oscar. That these poems were written, however, af ter he was blind, appears evident from the fact that he, in nearly all of them, adverts to and laments his sightless condition. Notwithstanding the almost universal applause and admiration which these compositions have received from all lovers of true poetry, and their translation into almost every refined language in the civilized world, as Ossianic, every reader in the least acquainted with their history, must be aware that their authorship has been a sub