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Cathlin Of Clutha

James Macpherson 1736 (Ruthven) – 1796 (Inverness)





An address to Malvina, the daughter of Toscar. The poet relates the arrival of Cathlin in Selma, to solicit aid against Duth-carmor of Cluba, who had killed Cathmol for the sake of his daughter Lanul. Fingal declining to make a choice among his heroes, who were all claiming the command of the expedition, they retired "each to his hill of ghosts," to be determined by dreams. The spirit of Trenmor appears to Ossian and Oscar. They sail from the bay of Carmona, and on the fourth day, appear off the valley of Rath-col, in Inis-huna, where Duth-carmor had fixed his residence. Ossian despatches a bard to Duth-carmor to demand battle. Night comes on. The distress of Cathlin of Clutha. Ossian devolves the command on Oscar, who, according to the custom of the kings of Morven, before battle, retired to a neighboring hill. Upon the coming on of day, the battle joins. Oscar carries the mail and helmet of Duth-carmor to Cathlin, who had retired from the field. Cathlin is discovered to be the daughter of Cathmol in disguise, who had been carried off by force by, and had made her escape from, Duth-carmor.

COME, thou beam that art lonely, from watching in the night! The squalling winds are around thee, from all their echoing hills. Red, over my hundred streams, are the light-covered paths of the dead. They rejoice on the eddying winds, in the season of night. Dwells there no joy in song, white-hand of the harps of Lutha? Awake the voice of the string; roll my soul to me. It is a stream that has failed. Malvina, pour the song.

I hear thee from thy darkness in Selma, thou that watchest lonely by night! Why didst thou withhold the song from Ossian's falling soul? As the falling brook to the ear of the hunter, descending from his storm-covered hill, in a sunbeam rolls the echoing stream, he hears and shakes his dewy locks: such is the voice of Lutha to the friend of the spirits of heroes. My swelling bosom beats high. I look back on the days that are past. Come, thou beam that art lonely, from watching in the night!

In the echoing bay of Carmona we saw one day the bounding ship. On high hung a broken shield; it was marked with wandering blood. Forward came a youth in arms, and stretched his pointless spear. Long, over his tearful eyes, hung loose his disordered locks. Fingal gave the shell of kings. The words of the stranger arose. "In his hall lies Cathmol of Clutha, by the winding of his own dark streams. Duth-carmor saw white-bosomed Lanul, and pierced her father's side. In the rushy desert were my steps. He fled in the season of night. Give thine aid to Cathlin to revenge his father. I sought thee not as a beam in a land of clouds. Thou, like the sun, art known, king of echoing Selma!"

Selma's king looked around. In his presence we rose in arms. But who should lift the shield? for all had claimed the war. The night came down; we strode in silence, each to his hill of ghosts, that spirits might descend in our dreams to mark us for the field. We struck the shield of the dead: we raised the hum of songs. We thrice called the ghosts of our fathers. We laid us down in dreams. Trenmor came, before mine eyes, the tall form of other years! His blue hosts were behind him in half-distinguished rows. — Scarce seen is their strife in mist, or the stretching forward to deaths. I listened, but no sound was there. The forms were empty wind!

I started from the dream of ghosts. On a sudden blast flew my whistling hair. Low sounding. in the oak, is the departure of the dead. I took my shield from its bough. Onward came the rattling of steel. It was Oscar of Lego. He had seen his fathers. As rushes forth the blast on the bosom of whitening waves, so careless shall my course be, through ocean, to the dwelling of foes. I have seen the dead, my father! My beating soul is high! My fame is bright before me, like the streak of light on a cloud, when the broad sun comes forth, red traveller of the sky!"

" Grandson of Branno," I said, "not Oscar alone shall meet the foe. I rush forward, through ocean, to the woody dwelling of heroes. Let us contend, my son, like eagles from one rock, when they lift their broad wings against the stream of winds." We raised our sails in Carmona. From three ships they marked my shield on the wave, as I looked on nightly Ton-thena, red traveller between the clouds. Four days came the breeze abroad. Lumon came forward in mist. In winds were its hundred groves. Sunbeams marked at times its brown side. White leapt the foamy streams from all its echoing rocks.

A green field, in the bosom of hills, winds silent with its own blue stream. Here, "midst the waving of oaks, were the dwellings of kings of old." But silence, for many dark-brown years, had settled in grassy Rath-col; for the race of heroes had failed along the pleasant vale. Duth-carmor was here, with his
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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James Macpherson

James Macpherson was a Scottish writer, poet, literary collector and politician, known as the "translator" of the Ossian cycle of poems. more…

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