A tale of the times of old—the deeds of days of other
Who comes from the land of strangers, with his thousands
around him? The sunbeam pours its bright
stream before him; his hair meets the wind of his hills.
His face is settled from war. He is calm as the evening
beam that looks, from the cloud of the west, on Cona's
silent vale. Who is it but Fingal, the king of mighty
deeds! The feast is spread around; the night passed
away in joy.
"Tell," said the mighty Fingal to Clessammor, "the
tale of thy youthful days. Let us hear the sorrow of
thy youth, and the darkness of thy days."
"It was in the days of peace," replied the great Clessammor.
"I came in my bounding ship to Balclutha's
walls of towers. Three days I remained in Reuthamir's
halls, and saw his daughter—that beam of light. Her
eyes were like the stars of night. My love for Moina
was great; my heart poured forth in joy.
"The son of a stranger came—a chief who loved the
white-bosomed Moina. The strength of his pride arose.
We fought; he fell beneath my sword. The banks of
Clutha heard his fall, a thousand spears glittered around.
I fought; the strangers prevailed. I plunged into the
stream of Clutha. My white sails rose over the waves,
and I bounded on the dark-blue sea. Moina came to
the shore, her loose hair flew on the wind, and I heard
her mournful, distant cries. Often did I turn my ship,
but the winds of the east prevailed. Nor Clutha ever
since have I seen, nor Moina of the dark-brown hair.
She fell in Balclutha, for I have seen her ghost. I knew
her as she came through the dusky night, along the
murmur of Lora. She was like the new moon seen
through the gathered mist, when the sky pours down its
flaky snow and the world is silent and dark."
"Raise, ye bards," said the mighty Fingal, "the
praise of unhappy Moina."
The night passed away in song; morning returned in
joy. The mountains showed their grey heads; the blue
face of ocean smiled. But as the sun rose on the sea
Fingal and his heroes beheld a distant fleet. Like a
mist on the ocean came the strange ships, and discharged
their youth upon the coast. Carthon, their
chief, was among them, like the stag in the midst of the
herd. He was a king of spears, and as he moved towards
Selma his thousands moved behind him.
"Go, with a song of peace," said Fingal. "Go, Ullin,
to the king of spears. Tell him that the ghosts of our
foes are many; but renowned are they who have feasted
in my halls!"
When Ullin came to the mighty Carthon, he raised
the song of peace.
"Come to the feast of Fingal, Carthon, from the rolling
sea! Partake of the feast of the king, or lift the
spear of war. Behold that field, O Carthon. Many a
green hill rises there, with mossy stones and rustling
grass. These are the tombs of Fingal's foes, the sons
of the rolling sea!"
"Dost thou speak to the weak in arms," said Carthon,
"bard of the woody Morven? Have not I seen
the fallen Balclutha? And shall I feast with Fingal, the
son of Comhal, who threw his fire in the midst of my
father's hall? I was young, and knew not the cause
why the virgins wept. But when the years of my youth
came on, I beheld the moss of my fallen walls; my sigh
arose with the morning, and my tears descended with
night. Shall I not fight, I said to my soul, against the
children of my foes? And I will fight, O bard! I feel
the strength of my soul."
His people gathered round the hero, and drew their
shining swords. The spear trembled in his hand.
Bending forward, he seemed to threaten the king.
"Who of my chiefs," said Fingal, "will meet the son
of the rolling sea? Many are his warriors on the
coast, and strong is his ashen spear."
Cathul rose, in his strength, the son of the mighty
Lormar. Three hundred youths attend the chief, the
race of his native streams. Feeble was his arm against
Carthon; he fell, and his heroes fled. Connal resumed
the battle, but he broke his heavy spear; he lay bound
on the field; Carthon pursued his people.
"Clessammor," said the king of Morven, "where is
the spear of my strength? Wilt thou behold Connal
Clessammor rose in the strength of his steel, shaking
his grizzly locks. He fitted the shield to his side; he
rushed, in the pride of valour.
Carthon saw the hero rushing on, and loved the
dreadful joy of his face; his strength, in the locks of age!
"Stately are his steps of age," he said. "Lovely the
remnant of his years! Perhaps it is the husband of
Moina, the father of car-borne Carthon. Often have I
heard that he dwelt at the echoing stream of Lora."
Such were his words, when Clessammor came, and
lifted high his spear. The youth received it on his
shield, and spoke the words of peace.
"Warrior of the aged locks! Hast thou no son to
raise the shield before his father to meet the arm of
youth? What will be the fame of my sword shouldst
"It will be great, thou son of pride!" began the tall
Clessammor. "I have been renowned in battle, but I
never told my name to a foe. Yield to me, son of the
wave; then shalt thou know that the mark of my sword
is in many a field."
"I never yield, king of spears!" replied the noble
pride of Carthon. "Retire among thy friends! Let
younger heroes fight."
"Why dost thou wound my soul?" replied Clessammor,
with a tear. "Age does not tremble on my hand;
I still can lift the sword. Shall I fly in Fingal's sight,
in the sight of him I love? Son of the sea, I never fled!
Exalt thy pointed spear!"
They fought, like two contending winds that strive
to roll the wave. Carthon bade his spear to err; he
still thought that the foe was the spouse of Moina. He
broke Clessammor's beamy spear in twain; he seized
his shining sword. But as Carthon was binding the
chief, the chief drew the dagger of his fathers. He saw
the foe's uncovered side, and opened there a wound.
Fingal saw Clessammor low; he moved in the sound of
his steel. The host stood silent in his presence; they
turned their eyes to the king. He came, like the sullen
noise of a storm before the winds arise. Carthon stood
in his place; the blood is rushing down his side; he saw
the coming down of the king. Pale was his cheek; his
hair flew loose, his helmet shook on high. The force of
Carthon failed, but his soul was strong.
"King of Morven," Carthon said, "I fall in the midst
of my course. But raise my remembrance on the banks
of Lora, where my father dwelt. Perhaps the husband
of Moina will mourn over his fallen Carthon."
His words reached Clessammor. He fell, in silence,
on his son. The host stood darkened around; no voice
is on the plain. Night came; the moon from the east
looked on the mournful field; but still they stood, like
a silent grove that lifts its head on Gormal, when the
loud winds are laid, and dark autumn is on the plain;
and then they died.
Fingal was sad for Carthon; he commanded his bards
to sing the hero's praise. Ossian joined them, and this
was his song: "My soul has been mournful for Carthon;
he fell in the days of his youth. And thou, O
Clessammor, where is thy dwelling in the wind? Has
the youth forgot his wound? Flies he, on clouds, with
thee? Perhaps they may come to my dreams. I think I
hear a feeble voice! The beam of heaven delights to
shine on the grave of Carthon. I feel it warm around.
"O thou that rollest above, round as the shield of my
fathers! Whence are thy beams, O sun, thy everlasting
light? Thou comest forth in thy awful beauty; the stars
hide themselves in the sky; the moon, cold and pale,
sinks in the western wave. But thou thyself movest
alone. Who can be a companion of thy course? The
oaks of the mountains fall; the mountains themselves
decay with years; the ocean shrinks and grows again;
the moon herself is lost in heaven; but thou art for ever
the same, rejoicing in the brightness of thy course.
"When the world is dark with tempests; when thunder
rolls, and lightning flies, thou lookest in thy beauty from
the clouds, and laughest at the storm. But to Ossian
thou lookest in vain, for he beholds thy beams no
more; whether thy yellow hair flows on the eastern
clouds, or thou tremblest at the gates of the west. But
thou art perhaps, like me, for a season; thy years will
have an end. Thou shalt sleep in thy clouds; careless
of the voice of the morning. Exult thee, O sun, in the
strength of thy youth! Age is dark and unlovely. It
is like the glimmering light of the moon when it shines
through broken clouds and the mist is on the hills; the
blast of north is on the plain; the traveller shrinks in the
midst of his journey."
Daughter of heaven, fair art thou! The silence of thy
face is pleasant! Thou comest forth in loveliness. The
stars attend thy blue course in the east. The clouds
rejoice in thy presence, O moon! Look from thy gates
in the sky. Burst the cloud, O wind, that the daughter
of night may look forth, that the shaggy mountains
may brighten, and the ocean roll its white waves in
Nathos is on the deep, and Althos, that beam of
youth. Ardan is near his brothers. They move in the
gloom of their course. The sons of Usnoth move in
darkness, from the wrath of Cairbar of Erin. Who is
that, dim, by their side? The night has covered her
beauty! Who is it but Darthula, the first of Erin's
maids? She has fled from the love of Caribar, with
blue-shielded Nathos. But the winds deceive thee, O
Darthula! They deny the woody Etha to thy sails.
These are not the mountains of Nathos; nor is that the
roar of his climbing waves. The halls of Cairbar are
near; the towers of the foe lift their heads! Erin
stretches its green head into the sea. Tura's bay receives
the ship. Where have ye been, ye southern winds,
when the sons of my love were deceived? But ye have
been sporting on plains, pursuing the thistle's beard.
Oh that ye had been rustling in the sails of Nathos till
the hills of Etha arose; till they arose in their clouds,
and saw their returning chief!
Long hast thou been absent, Nathos—the day of thy
return is past! Lovely thou wast in the eyes of Darthula.
Thy soul was generous and mild, like the hour
of the setting sun. But when the rage of battle rose,
thou wast a sea in a storm. The clang of thy arms was
terrible; the host vanished at the sound of thy coarse.
It was then Darthula beheld thee from the top of her
mossy tower; from the tower of Selama, where her
"Lovely art thou, O stranger!" she said, for her
trembling soul arose. "Fair art thou in thy battles,
friend of the fallen Cormac! Why dost thou rush on in
thy valour, youth of the ruddy look? Few are thy
hands in fight against the dark-browed Cairbar! Oh that
I might be freed from his love—that I might rejoice in
the presence of Nathos!"
Such were thy words, Darthula, in Selama's mossy
towers. But now the night is around thee. The winds
have deceived thy sails, Darthula! Cease a little while,
O north wind! Let me hear the voice of the lovely.
Thy voice is lovely, Darthula, between the rustling
"Are these the rocks of Nathos?" she said. "This
the roar of his mountain streams? Comes that beam of
light from Usnoth's mighty hall? The mist spreads
around; the beam is feeble and distant far. But the
light of Darthula's soul dwells in the chief of Etha!
Son of the generous Usnoth, why that broken sigh?
Are we in the land of strangers, chief of echoing
"These are not the rocks of Nathos," he replied,
"nor this the roar of his streams. We are in the land
of strangers, in the land of cruel Cairbar. The winds
have deceived us, Darthula. Erin lifts here her hills.
Go towards the north, Althos; be thy steps, Ardan,
along the coast; that the foe may not come in darkness,
and our hopes of Etha fail. I will go towards that
mossy tower to see who dwells about the beam."
He went. She sat alone; she heard the rolling of the
wave. The big tear is in her eye. She looks for returning
He returned, but his face was dark.
"Why art thou sad, O Nathos?" said the lovely
daughter of Colla.
"We are in the land of foes," replied the hero.
"The winds have deceived us, Darthula. The strength
of our friends is not near, nor the mountains of Etha.
Where shall I find thy peace, daughter of mighty Colla?
The brothers of Nathos are brave, and his own sword
has shone in fight! But what are the sons of Usnoth
to the host of dark-browed Cairbar? Oh that the winds
had brought thy sails, Oscar, king of men! Thou didst
promise to come to the battles of fallen Cormac! Cairbar
would tremble in his halls, and peace dwell round
the lovely Darthula. But why dost thou fall, my soul?
The sons of Usnoth may prevail!"
"And they will prevail, O Nathos!" said the rising
soul of the maid. "Never shall Darthula behold the
halls of gloomy Cairbar. Give me those arms of brass,
that glitter to the passing meteor. I see them dimly in
the dark-bosomed ship. Darthula will enter the battle
Joy rose in the face of Nathos when he heard the
white-bosomed maid. He looks towards the coming of
Cairbar. The wind is rustling in his hair. Darthula is
silent at his side. Her look is fixed on the chief. She
strives to hide the rising sigh.
Morning rose with its beams. The sons of Erin appear,
like grey rocks, with all their trees; they spread
along the coast. Cairbar stood in the midst. He
grimly smiled when he saw the foe. Nathos rushed
forward, in his strength; nor could Darthula stay behind.
She came with the hero, lifting her shining spear.
"Come," said Nathos to Cairbar—"come, chief of
high Temora! Let our battle be on the coast, for the
white-bosomed maid. His people are not with Nathos;
they are behind these rolling seas. Why dost thou
bring thy thousands against the chief of Etha?"
"Youth of the heart of pride," replied Cairbar, "shall
Erin's king fight with thee? Thy fathers were not
among the renowned, and Cairbar does not fight with
The tear started from car-borne Nathos. He turned
his eyes to his brothers. Their spears flew at once.
Three heroes lay on earth. Then the light of their
swords gleamed on high. The ranks of Erin yield, as
a ridge of dark clouds before a blast of wind! Then
Cairbar ordered his people, and they drew a thousand
bows. A thousand arrows flew. The sons of Usnoth
fell in blood. They fell like three young oaks, which
stood alone on the hill. The traveller saw the lovely
trees, and wondered how they grew so lonely; the blast
of the desert came by night, and laid their green heads
low; next day he returned, but they were withered, and
the heath was bare!
Darthula stood in silent grief, and beheld their fall!
Pale was her cheek. Her trembling lips broke short a
half-formed word. Her breast of snow appeared. It
appeared; but it was stained with blood. An arrow was
fixed in her side. She fell on the fallen Nathos, like a
wreath of snow! Her hair spreads wide on his face.
Their blood is mixing round!
"Daughter of Colla—thou art low!" said Cairbar's
hundred bards. "When wilt thou rise in thy beauty,
first of Erin's maids? Thy sleep is long in the tomb.
The sun shall not come to thy bed and say, 'Awake,
Darthula! Awake thou first of women! The wind of
spring is abroad. The flowers shake their heads on the
green hills. The winds wave their growing leaves.' Retire,
O sun, the daughter of Colla is asleep! She will not
come forth in her beauty. She will not move in the steps
of her loveliness!"
Such was the song of the bards when they raised the
tomb. I, too, sang over the grave when the king of
Morven came to green Erin to fight with the car-borne