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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. Melaschlen there the splendid feast prepared, And there the soul-delighting sound was heard Of harps, symphonious to the vocal lay That gave 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 bedev'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!”
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
— Lo! in sudden gloom
Robes, whose pure whiteness match'd the new-fall'n snow,
The purple girdle, that around his waist,
B. i. p. 15.
It was doubtless the aim of the poet, that Merlin, one of the principal agents in the plot of his fable, should be ushered to us in a manner worthy of his age and superhuman powers; and it will be allowed, I think, that the mode of his introduction, and the portrait given of him in these lines, are finely conceived, and boldly executed. The “few grey locks” of the prophet, “the wreath of honour’d age,” form a striking contrast with the picture which had been just previously drawn of Arthur, of whom it is said, that – mingled in his face
The charms of youth, and manhood's riper grace
The object of the sage in this unexpected visit
was to reprove Arthur for mistrusting Heaven, and for neglecting the injunctions which had been given him. He had been forewarned, it seems, by Merlin, never to desert his host, and told, at the same time, and from the same authority, that the powers of hell were in league against him; yet had he, seduced by Urda, in the friendly form of Gawaine, yielded to the illusions of magic, and left his fleet, and but for the interposing arm of Merlin, had perished in the attempt. Arthur, repentant of his rashness and credulity, is consoled by Merlin, who assures him that his fleet is in safety, and, after inculcating the virtues of fortitude and resignation as the essentials of his future conduct, he recommends him to seek immediately the blessings of repose; and with Arthur's submission to this advice and consequent retirement,
the first book terminates.
(To be continued. )