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This, their first presentation to us, is certainly wrought up with great spirit and poetical power. They are depicted calling upon the demons of revenge to pour forth the thunders of the tempest, to awake, arise, destroy !
Of fearful mien, and more than mortal size,
As with demeanor wild and outstretch'd arms
But though in splendor rose the mountain's head,
“Ye*, who o'er nature's wide domains preside!
B. i. p. 9.
In the midst of this conflicting war of the elements, a billow of prodigious size bursting on the
* "The Celtic nations imagined that a number of Genii proceeded from one first great principle, and that each of them presided over his peculiar element."
shore, and casting on the sands a youthful warrior, the storm instantly subsides. Ivar, struck with compassion, approaches the unhappy stranger, and invites him to the hall of his father. He assents in silence, though with deep emotion, and they proceed to the dwelling of Melaschlen, who is represented feasting with his chiefs around him.
The description of this scene is the first of a series of pictures drawn from Celtic manners and superstitions, and which are finely contrasted, throughout the whole poem, with the sterner features of the Gothic creed. The author, in fact, has frequently availed himself, and in many instances with great beauty and effect, of the wild imagery and pathos so characteristic of the harp of Ossian, of whose poems he observes in his preface, that "to bear testimony to their beauties, is a duty which justice demands in return for the pleasure their perusal has afforded him." He appears, indeed, to have formed, at this period, a very just conception of the state in which the text of these celebrated poems has been given to the public. "He would," he says, "not venture to assert that they were absolutely and in every part genuine : yet he thinks he may safely affirm, that feeling and actual observation gave birth
to some" (perhaps he might have said to no inconsiderable portion)" of the sentiments and imagery, which would have eluded the notice, or struck in a different manner the writer's imagination, who lived in a refined period of society."
That the passage just alluded to, especially in its close, is one of those which has been indebted to these singular compositions, whether original or not or only partly so is of little consequence here, must, I think, be admitted by every reader of Ossian.
Soon the dome arose to sight,
Crown'd with the silver moon's reflected light.
the tale of times long past away; Of conflicts fierce, of heroes far renown'd,
And lovely maids whose smiles their prowess crown'd, Or tears their tombs bedew'd, while borne on high Their spirits roam'd exulting through the sky.
"All hail, ye warriors!" Thus the strain arose, "Released from mortal toils, from mortal woes, 'Tis yours aloft on billowy clouds to ride, Point the red lightning, and the thunder guide : Or placid 'mid the blue expanse to stray, And sport along the liquid blaze of day!”
B. i. p. 12.
Melaschlen receives his unknown guest with the utmost hospitality; but perceiving that neither the feast nor the bowl is able to allay his sorrows, he implores him to reveal the cause of his distress, promising in return, that from whatever nation he derives his birth, he shall experience all the aid and consolation to which his misfortunes may entitle him.
Thus assured, the unhappy youth informs his host that he is Arthur, heir of the throne of Britain, but, at the same time, an object not of envy but of compassion; for that
if he has aught to claim,
'Tis grief superior, not superior fame :
that he is, in fact, pursued by the enmity both of men and demons; and he closes his relation by preferring a charge against the justice of Providence. Scarcely, however, had this accusation escaped his lips, when
Lo! in sudden gloom
A rushing cloud involves the spacious room;
And, quick dispersing, by his side is seen
A reverend sage, of awe-commanding mien;
Robes, whose pure whiteness match'd the new-fall'n snow, Invest his form, and on the pavement flow :