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FRAGMENT OF A NORTHERN TALE.
Where Harold, with golden hair, spread o'er Lochlin* his high commands; where, with justice, he ruled the tribes, who sunk, subdued, beneath his sword; abrupt rises Gormal** in snow! The tempests roll dark on his sides, but calm, above, his vast forehead appears. White issuing from the skirt of his storms, the troubled torrents pour down his sides. Joining, as they roar along, they bear the Torno, in foam, to the main.
Grey on the bank, and far from men, half covered, by ancient pines, from the wind, a lonely pile exalts its head, long shaken by the storms of the north. To this fled Sigurd, fierce in fight, from Harold the leader of armies, when fate had brightened his spear with renown: when he conquered in that rude field, where Lulan's warriors fell in blood, or rose in terror on the waves of the main. Darkly sat the grey-haired chief; yet sorrow dwelt not in his soul. But when the warrior thought on the past, his proud heart heaved against his side: forth flew his sword from its place; he wounded Harold in all the winds.
One daughter, and only one, but bright in form and mild of soul, the last beam of the setting line, remained to Sigurd of all his race. His son, in Lulan's battle slain, beheld not his father's flight from his foes. Nor finished seemed the ancient line! The splendid beauty of bright-eyed Fithon, covered still the fallen king with renown. Her arm was white like Gormal's
snow; her bosom whiter than the foam of the main, when roll the waves beneath the wrath of the winds. Like two stars were her radiant eyes, like two stars that rise on the deep, when dark tumult embroils the night. Pleasant are their beams aloft, as stately they ascend the skies.
Nor Odin forgot, in aught, the maid. Her form scarce equalled her lofty mind. Awe moved around her stately steps. Heroes loved but shrunk away in their fears. Yet midst the pride of all her charms, her heart was soft and her soul was kind. She saw the mournful with tearful eyes. Transient darkness arose in her breast. Her joy was in the chase. Each morning,
when doubtful light wandered dimly on Lulan's waves, she roused the resounding woods, to Gormal's head of snow. Nor moved the maid alone, &c.
THE SAME VERSIFIED.
Where fair-hair'd Harold o'er Scandinia reign'd,
Grey, on the bank, remote from human kind,
To this fierce Sigurd fled, from Norway's lord,
In that rude field, where Suecia's chiefs were slain,
Dark was his life, yet undisturb'd with woes,
His proud heart struck his side; he graspt the spear,
One daughter only, but of form divine,
The chase she lov'd; when morn, with doubtful beam,
On Sevo's sounding sides, she bent the bow,
And rous'd his forests to his head of snow.
One of the chief improvements, in this edition, is the care taken in arranging the Poems in the order of time; so as to form a kind of regular history of the age to which they relate. The writer has now resigned them for ever to their fate. That they have been well received by the public, appears from an extensive sale; that they shall continue to be well received, he may venture to prophesy without the gift of that inspiration to which poets lay claim. Through the medium of version upon version, they retain, in foreign languages, their native character of simplicity and energy. Genuine poetry, like gold, loses little, when properly transfused; but when a composition cannot bear the test of a literal version, it is a counterfeit which ought not to pass current. The operation must, however, be performed with skilful hands. A translator, who cannot equal his original, is incapable of expressing its beauties.
London, Aug. 15, 1773.
THE ERA OF OSSIAN.
INQUIRIES into the antiquities of nations afford more pleasure than any real advantage to mankind. The ingenious may form systems of history on probabilities and a few facts; but, at a great distance of time, their accounts must be vague and uncertain. The infancy of states and kingdoms is as destitute of great events, as of the means of transmitting them to posterity. The arts of polished life, by which alone facts can be preserved with certainty, are the production of a well-formed community. It is then historians begin to write, and public transactions to be worthy remembrance. The actions of former times are left in obscurity, or magnified by uncertain traditions. Hence it is that we find so much of the marvellous in the origin of every nation; posterity being always ready to believe any thing, however fabulous, that reflects honour on their ancestors.
The Greeks and Romans were remarkable for this weakness. They swallowed the most absurd fables concerning the high antiquities of their respective nations. Good historians, however, rose very early amongst them, and transmitted, with lustre, their great actions to posterity. It is to them that they owe that unrivalled fame they now enjoy, while the great actions of other nations are involved in fables, or lost in obscurity. The Celtic nations afford a striking instance of this kind. They, though once the masters of Europe from the mouth of the river Oby, in Russia, to Cape Finisterre, the western point of Gallicia in Spain,
DISSERTATION ON THE ERA OF OSSIAN,
They trusted their fame to which, by the vicissitude Their ancient language is
are very little mentioned in history. tradition and the songs of their bards, of human affairs, are long since lost. the only monument that remains of them; and the traces of it being found in places so widely distant from each other, serves only to show the extent of their ancient power, but throws very little light on their history.
Of all the Celtic nations, that which possessed old Gaul is the most renowned; not perhaps on account of worth superior to the rest, but for their wars with a people who had historians to transmit the fame of their enemies, as well as their own, to posterity. Britain was first peopled by them, according to the testimony of the best authors; its situation in respect to Gaul makes the opinion probable; but what puts it beyond all dispute, is, that the same customs and language prevailed among the inhabitants of both in the days of Julius Cæsar.
The colony from Gaul possessed themselves, at first, of that part of Britain which was next to their own country; and spreading northward by degrees, as they increased in numbers, peopled the whole island. Some adventurers passing over from those parts of Britain that are within sight of Ireland, were the founders of the Irish nation; which is a more probable story than the idle fables of Milesian and Gallician colonies. Diodorus Siculus mentions it as a thing well known in his time, that the inhabitants of Ireland were originally Britons; and his testimony is unquestionable, when we consider that, for many ages, the language and customs of both nations were the same.
Tacitus was of opinion that the ancient Caledonians were of German extract; but even the ancient Germans themselves were Gauls. The present Germans, properly so called, were not the same with the ancient Celtæ. The manners and customs of the two nations were similar; but their language different. The Germans are the genuine descendants of the ancient Scandinavians, who crossed, at an early period, the Baltic. The Celtæ, anciently, sent many colonies into Germany, all of whom retained their own laws, language and customs, till they were dissipated in the Roman empire; and it is of them, if any