James Macpherson Poems >>
Cathlin Of Clutha
An address to Malvina, the daughter of Toscar. The poet relates the arrival of Cathlin in Selma, to solicit aid against Duth-carmor of Cluba, who had killed Cathmol for the sake of his daughter Lanul. Fingal declining to make a choice among his heroes, who were all claiming the command of the expedition, they retired 'each to his hill of ghosts,' to be determined by dreams. The spirit of Trenmor appears to Ossian and Oscar. They sail from the bay of Carmona, and on the fourth day, appear off the valley of Rath-col, in Inis-huna, where Duth-carmor had fixed his residence. Ossian despatches a bard to Duth-carmor to demand battle. Night comes on. The distress of Cathlin of Clutha. Ossian devolves the command on Oscar, who, according to the custom of the kings of Morven, before battle, retired to a neighboring hill. Upon the coming on of day, the battle joins. Oscar carries the mail and helmet of Duth-carmor to Cathlin, who had retired from the field. Cathlin is discovered to be the daughter of Cathmol in disguise, who had been carried off by force by, and had made her escape from, Duth-carmor.
COME, thou beam that art lonely, from watching in the night! The squalling winds are around thee, from all their echoing hills. Red, over my hundred streams, are the light-covered paths of the dead. They rejoice on the eddying winds, in the season of night. Dwells there no joy in song, white-hand of the harps of Lutha? Awake the voice of the string; roll my soul to me. It is a stream that has failed. Malvina, pour the song.
I hear thee from thy darkness in Selma, thou that watchest lonely by night! Why didst thou withhold the song from Ossian's falling soul? As the falling brook to the ear of the hunter, descending from his storm-covered hill, in a sunbeam rolls the echoing stream, he hears and shakes his dewy locks: such is the voice of Lutha to the friend of the spirits of heroes. My swelling bosom beats high. I look back on the days that are past. Come, thou beam that art lonely, from watching in the night!
In the echoing bay of Carmona we saw one day the bounding ship. On high hung a broken shield; it was marked with wandering blood. Forward came a youth in arms, and stretched his pointless spear. Long, over his tearful eyes, hung loose his disordered locks. Fingal gave the shell of kings. The words of the stranger arose. 'In his hall lies Cathmol of Clutha, by the winding of his own dark streams. Duth-carmor saw white-bosomed Lanul, and pierced her father's side. In the rushy desert were my steps. He fled in the season of night. Give thine aid to Cathlin to revenge his father. I sought thee not as a beam in a land of clouds. Thou, like the sun, art known, king of echoing Selma!'
Selma's king looked around. In his presence we rose in arms. But who should lift the shield? for all had claimed the war. The night came down; we strode in silence, each to his hill of ghosts, that spirits might descend in our dreams to mark us for the field. We struck the shield of the dead: we raised the hum of songs. We thrice called the ghosts of our fathers. We laid us down in dreams. Trenmor came, before mine eyes, the tall form of other years! His blue hosts were behind him in half-distinguished rows. - Scarce seen is their strife in mist, or the stretching forward to deaths. I listened, but no sound was there. The forms were empty wind!
I started from the dream of ghosts. On a sudden blast flew my whistling hair. Low sounding. in the oak, is the departure of the dead. I took my shield from its bough. Onward came the rattling of steel. It was Oscar of Lego. He had seen his fathers. As rushes forth the blast on the bosom of whitening waves, so careless shall my course be, through ocean, to the dwelling of foes. I have seen the dead, my father! My beating soul is high! My fame is bright before me, like the streak of light on a cloud, when the broad sun comes forth, red traveller of the sky!'
' Grandson of Branno,' I said, 'not Oscar alone shall meet the foe. I rush forward, through ocean, to the woody dwelling of heroes. Let us contend, my son, like eagles from one rock, when they lift their broad wings against the stream of winds.' We raised our sails in Carmona. From three ships they marked my shield on the wave, as I looked on nightly Ton-thena, red traveller between the clouds. Four days came the breeze abroad. Lumon came forward in mist. In winds were its hundred groves. Sunbeams marked at times its brown side. White leapt the foamy streams from all its echoing rocks.
A green field, in the bosom of hills, winds silent with its own blue stream. Here, 'midst the waving of oaks, were the dwellings of kings of old.' But silence, for many dark-brown years, had settled in grassy Rath-col; for the race of heroes had failed along the pleasant vale. Duth-carmor was here, with his people, dark rider of the wave! Ton-thena had hid her head in the sky. He bound his white-bosomed sails. His course is on the hills of Rath-col to the seats of roes. We came. I sent the bard, with songs, to call the foe to fight. Duth-carmor heard him with joy. The king's soul was like a beam of fire; a beam of fire, marked with smoke, rushing, varied through the bosom of night. The deeds of Duth-carmor were dark, though his arm was strong.
Night came with the gathering of clouds. By the beam of the oak we sat down. At a distance stood Cathlin of Clutha. I saw the changeful soul of the stranger. As shadows fly over the field of grass, so various is Cathlin's cheek. It was fair within locks, that rose on Rath-col's wind. I did not rush, amidst his soul, with my words. I bade the song to rise.
'Oscar of Lego,' I said, 'be thine the secret hill to-night. Strike the shield like Morven's kings. With day thou shalt lead in war. From my rock I shall see thee, Oscar, a dreadful form ascending in fight, like the appearance of ghosts amidst the storms they raise. Why should mine eyes return to the dim times of old, ere yet the song had bursted forth, like the sudden rising of winds? But the years that are past are marked with mighty deeds. As the nightly rider of waves looks up to Ton-thena of beams, so let us turn our eyes to Trenmor the father of kings.'
'Wide, in Caracha's echoing field, Carmal had poured his tribes. They were a dark ridge of waves. The gray-haired bards were like moving foam on their face. They kindle the strife around with their red-rolling eyes. Nor alone were the dwellers of rocks; a son of Loda was there, a voice in his own dark land, to call the ghosts from high. On his hill he had dwelt in Lochlin, in the midst of a leafless grove. Five stones lifted near their heads. Loud roared his rushing stream. He often raised his voice to the winds, when meteors marked their nightly wings, when the dark-robed moon was rolled behind her hill. Nor unheard of ghosts was he! They came with the sound of eagle-wings. They turned battle, in fields, before the kings of men.
' But Trenmor they turned not from battle. He drew forward that troubled war: in its dark skirt was Trathal, like a rising light. It was dark, and Loda's son poured forth his signs on night. The feeble were not before thee, son of other lands! Then rose the strife of kings about the hill of night; but it was soft as two summer gales, shaking their light wings on a lake. Trenmor yielded to his son, for the fame of the king had been heard. Trathal came forth before his father, and the foes failed in echoing Caracha. The years that are past, my son, are marked with mighty deeds.'
In clouds rose the eastern light. The foe came forth in arms. The strife is mixed on Rath-col, like the roar of streams. Behold the contending of kings! They meet beside the oak. In gleams of steel the dark forms are lost; such is the meeting of meteors in a vale by night: red light is scattered round, and men foresee the storm! - Duth-carmor is low in blood! The son of Ossian overcame! Not harmless, in battle, was he, Malvina, hand of harps!
Nor, in the field, were the steps of Cathlin. The strangers stood by secret stream, where the foam of Rath-col skirted the mossy stones. Above bends the branchy birch, and strews its leaves on wind. The inverted spear of Cathlin touched at times the stream. Oscar brought Duth-carmor's mail: his helmet with its eagle-wing. He placed them before the stranger, and his words were heard. ' The foes of thy father have fallen. They are laid in the field of ghosts. Renown returns to Morven like a rising wind. Why art thou dark, chief of Clutha? Is there cause for grief?'
' Son of Ossian of harps, my soul is darkly sad. I behold the arms of Cathmol, which lie raised in war. Take the mail of Cathlin, place it high in Selma's hall, that thou mayest remember the hapless in thy distant land.' From white breasts descended the mail. It was the race of kings: the soft-handed daughter of Cathmol, at the streams of Clutha! Duth-carmor saw her bright in the hall; he had come by night to Clutha. Cathmol met him in battle, but the hero fell. Three days dwelt the foe with the maid. On the fourth she fled in arms. She remembered the race of kings, and felt her bursting soul!
Why, maid of Toscar of Lutha, should I tell how Cathlin failed? Her tomb is at rushy Lumon, in a distant land. Near it were the steps of Sul-malla, in the days of grief. She raised the song for the daughter of strangers, and touched the mournful harp.
Come from the watching of night, Malvina, lonely beam!
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