Fragments Of Ancient Poetry, Fragment VII

A poem by James Macpherson

Why openest thou afresh the spring of
my grief, O son of Alpin, inquiring
how Oscur fell? My eyes are blind with
tears; but memory beams on my heart.
How can I relate the mournful death of
the head of the people! Prince of the
warriours, Oscur my son, shall I see thee
no more!

He fell as the moon in a storm; as
the sun from the midst of his course,
when clouds rise from the waste of the
waves, when the blackness of the storm
inwraps the rocks of Ardannider. I, like
an ancient oak on Morven, I moulder
alone in my place. The blast hath lopped
my branches away; and I tremble
at the wings of the north. Prince of
the warriors, Oscur my son! shall I see
thee no more!

DERMID

DERMID and Oscur were one: They
reaped the battle together. Their
friendship was strong as their steel; and
death walked between them to the field.
They came on the foe like two rocks
falling from the brows of Ardven. Their
swords were stained with the blood of
the valiant: warriours fainted at their
names. Who was a match for Oscur,
but Dermid? and who for Dermid, but
Oscur?

THEY killed mighty Dargo in the
field; Dargo before invincible. His
daughter was fair as the morn; mild
as the beam of night. Her eyes, like
two stars in a shower: her breath, the
gale of spring: her breasts, as the
new fallen snow floating on the moving heath.
The warriours saw her, and loved; their
souls were fixed on the maid. Each
loved her, as his fame; each must
possess her or die. But her soul was fixed
on Oscur; my son was the youth of
her love. She forgot the blood of her
father; and loved the hand that slew
him.

Son of Oscian, said Dermid, I love;
O Oscur, I love this maid. But her
soul cleaveth unto thee; and nothing
can heal Dermid. Here, pierce this
bosom, Oscur; relieve me, my friend,
with thy sword.

My sword, son of Morny, shall never
be stained with the blood of Dermid.

Who then is worthy to slay me, O
Oscur son of Oscian? Let not my life
pass away unknown. Let none but Oscur
slay me. Send me with honour to
the grave, and let my death be renowned.
Dermid, make use of thy sword;
son of Moray, wield thy steel. Would
that I fell with thee! that my death
came from the hand of Dermid!

They fought by the brook of the
mountain; by the streams of Branno.
Blood tinged the silvery stream, and
crudled round the mossy stones. Dermid
the graceful fell; fell, and smiled in
death.

And fallest thou, son of Morny;
fallest, thou by Oscur's hand! Dermid
invincible in war, thus do I see thee fall!
--He went, and returned to the maid
whom he loved; returned, but she perceived
his grief.

Why that gloom, son of Oscian?
what shades thy mighty soul?

Though once renowned for the bow,
O maid, I have lost my fame. Fixed on
a tree by the brook of the hill, is the
shield of Gormur the brave, whom in
battle I slew. I have wasted the day
in vain, nor could my arrow pierce it.

Let me try, son Oscian, the skill
of Dargo's daughter. My hands were
taught the bow: my father delighted in
my skill.

She went. He stood behind the
shield. Her arrow flew and pierced his
breast[A].

[Footnote A: Nothing was held by the ancient Highlanders more essential to their glory, than to die by the hand of some person worthy or renowned. This was the occasion of Oscur's contriving to be slain by his mistress, now that he was weary of life. In those early times suicide was utterly unknown among that people, and no traces of it are found in the old poetry. Whence the translator suspects the account that follows of the daughter of Dargo killing herself, to be the interpolation of some later Bard.]

Blessed be that hand of snow; and
blessed thy bow of yew! I fall resolved
on death: and who but the daughter of
Dargo was worthy to slay me? Lay me
in the earth, my fair-one; lay me by
the side of Dermid.

Oscur! I have the blood, the soul
of the mighty Dargo. Well pleased I
can meet death. My sorrow I can end
thus.--She pierced her white bosom
with steel. She fell; she trembled; and
died.

By the brook of the hill their graves
are laid; a birch's unequal shade covers
their tomb. Often on their green earthen
tombs the branchy sons of the mountain
feed, when mid-day is all in flames,
and silence is over all the hills.

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