James Macpherson Poems >>
Fingal - Book II

ARGUMENT.

The ghost of Crugal, one of the Irish heroes who was killed in battle, appearing to Connal, foretells the defeat of Cuthullin in the next battle, and earnestly advises him to make peace with Swaran. Connal communicates the vision; but Cuthullin is inflexible; from a principle of honor he would not be the first to sue for peace, and he resolved to continue the war. Morning comes; Swaran proposes dishonorable terms to Cuthullin, which are rejected. The battle begins, and is obstinately fought for some time, until, upon the flight of Grumal, the whole Irish army gave way. Cuthullin and Connal cover their retreat. Carril leads them to a neighboring hill, whither they are soon followed by Cuthullin himself; who descries the fleet of Fingal making towards their coast; but night coming on, he lost sight of it again. Cuthullin, dejected after his defeat, attributes his ill success to the death of Ferda, his friend, whom he had killed some time before. Carril, to show that ill success did not always attend those who innocently killed their friends, introduces the episode of Connal and Galvina.



Connal lay by the sound of the mountain-stream, beneath the aged tree. A stone, with its moss, supported his head. Shrill, through the heath of Lena, he heard the voice of night. At distance from the heroes he lay; the son of the sword feared no foe! The hero beheld, in his rest, a dark-red stream of fire rushing down from the hill. Crugal sat upon the beam, a chief who fell in fight. He 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 two decaying flames.

Dark is the wound of his breast! 'Crugal,' said the mighty Connal, 'son of Dedgal famed on the hill of hinds! Why so pale and sad, thou breaker of shields? Thou hast never been pale for fear! What disturbs the departed Crugal?' 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 spirit, Connal, is on my hills; my course on the sands of Erin. Thou shalt never talk with Crugal, nor find his lone steps in the heath. I am light as the blast of Cromla. I move like the shadow of mist! Connal, son of Colgar, I see a cloud of death: it hovers dark over the plains of Lena. The Sons of green Erin must fall. Remove from the field of ghosts.' Like the darkened moon he retired, in the midst of the whistling blast. 'Stay,' said the mighty Connal ' stay, my dark-red friend. Lay by that beam of heaven, son of windy Cromla! What cave is thy lonely house? What green-headed hill the place of thy repose? Shall we not hear thee in the storm? in the noise of the mountain-stream? when the feeble Sons of the wind come forth, and, scarcely seen, pass over the desert?'

The soft-voiced Connal rose, in the midst of his sounding arms. He struck his shield above Cuthullin. The son of battle waked. 'Why,' said the ruler of the car, 'comes Connal through my night? My spear might turn against the sound, and Cuthullin mourn the death of his friend. Speak, Connal; son of Colgar, speak; thy counsel is the sun of heaven!' 'Son of Semo!' replied the chief, 'the ghost of Crugal came from his cave. The stars dim twinkled through his form His voice was like the sound of a distant stream He is a messenger of death! He speaks of the dark and narrow house! Sue for peace, O chief of Erin!, or fly over the heath of Lena!'

'He spoke to Connal,' replied the hero, 'though stars dim twinkled through his form. Son of Colgar, it was the wind that murmured across thy car. Or if it was the form of Crugal, why didst thou not force him to my sight? Hast thou inquired where is his cave? the house of that son of wind? My sword might find that voice, and force his knowledge from Crugal. But small is his knowledge, Connal; he was here to-day. He could not have gone beyond our hills! who could tell him there of our fall?' 'Ghosts fly on clouds, and ride on winds,' said Connal's voice of wisdom. 'They rest together in their caves, and talk of mortal men.'

'Then let them talk of mortal men; of every man but Erin's chief. Let me be forgot in their cave. I will not fly from Swaran! If fall I must, my tomb shall rise amidst the fame of future times. The hunter shall shed a tear on my stone: sorrow shall dwell around the high-bosomed Brag