1761
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Fragments of Ancient Poetry, collected in the Highlands of Scotland. Fragment XIII.

Poems on Several Occasions. By Myles Cooper, M.A. of Queen's College, Oxford.

Rev. Myles Cooper


Twelve Prior stanzas versifying one of James Macpherson's recently-published Fragments of Ancient Poetry (1760). The other Fragments are all rendered by Myles Cooper in elegiac stanzas. Cooper's contributions to the university anthologies are in the Spenserian-Miltonic vein, though much of his volume consists of epigrams. In 1762 he became president of King's College (afterwards Columbia) in New York, where the Tory sentiments typical of an Oxford divine soon made him obnoxious to the sons of liberty. After fleeing for his life, he settled in Scotland as an Episocopal clergyman.

"Sassicus": "Governor Tryon, Dr. Cooper, and other loyalists, saved their lives by taking shelter on board of his Majesty's ships of war; while the mobs, deacons, saints, and gospel ministers spoiled their goods, drank up their liquors, and stole Cooper's library, worth £600 sterling" Gentleman's Magazine 56 (January 1786) 14.

Samuel Austin Allibone: "Myles Cooper, D.D., died at Edinburgh, 1785, aged about 50, was educated at the University of Oxford. He emigrated to New York in 1762, and was (at the instance of the Archbishop of Canterbury) appointed professor of Moral Philosophy in King's College, New York city. In 1763 he succeeded Dr. Johnson as president. In 1775 his Tory principles caused him to leave America. He was subsequently one of the ministers of the Episcopal chapel of Edinburgh, in which city he died.... Those who desire to become acquainted with the history of the Tories, as they were styled in the Revolutionary Contest of America, should consult Mr. Lorenzo Sabine's American Loyalists, Boston, 1847, 8vo." Critical Dictionary of English Literature (1858-71; 1882) 1:426.



Collect the earth and pile the stones on high;
Fear-comhraic's memory from oblivion save
Blow from your hills, ye winds that softly sigh,
And breathe your tenderest plaints o'er Muirnin's grave.
Yon rocky steep, o'erhung with waving wood,
Shades the calm dwelling of the peaceful dead;
Meantime, below, the ever-restless flood
With solemn murmur fluctuates near their bed:
Why sigh the woods, why do the sad waves roar?
Small cause have sighing woods, or sad waves to deplore.

But thou hast cause, Diorma, lovely Fair,
Meek maiden of the breast of lucid snow!
Give to the winds thy flowing length of hair,
And on the breezes send thy warbled woe.
Thy lovers vanish'd like two beams of light,
Snatch'd from the heath by intervening storms;
Or like two stars that perish from the sight,
When the fierce northwind heaven's fair blue deforms.
Low in the dust the mighty pair is laid,
While o'er their reliques dear, mourns many a lovelorn maid.

Fear-comhraic, thee a band of females weep,
The hills re-echoing to their mournful strains:
Muirnin, for thee their voice in tears they steep;
Muirnin, the chief of Erin's bloody plains.
Mine eyes Fear-comhraic shall behold no more
Pacing with nimble speed the mountain's side;
Or with amazement from the stormy shore,
View dauntless Muirnin stem the swelling tide.
Pour the sad song; the doleful tale relate;
That future eyes may read, and weep the heroes' fate.

Diorma from illustrious Connaid sprung,
Connaid, the sovereign of a thousand shields:
Diorma shone amidst the virgin throng,
As reigns the lily fairest in the fields.
Fair rose her bosom as a fleecy cloud,
Fair as the white wave when the storm is high;
Like wreathed smoke her copious tresses flow'd,
Nor could the morning star eclipse her eye:
Between two clouds not comelier shews the moon,
Than from between thy locks thy face, Diorma, shone.

A thousand heroes woo'd the maid in vain,
All offers, but Fear-comhraic's, she declin'd:
He lov'd the maid: — who could from love refrain?
Diorma was the flowre of womankind.
What terror would he shun if she were by,
His shield in danger and his strength in war?
Who dares, he cries, who dares this arm defy?
Who dares with me to combat for the Fair?
The beauteous prize who shall refuse to yield,
Hard must his helm be prov'd, and strong his iron shield.

I claim Diorma, mighty Muirnin said,
Muirnin with thee will for the Fair contend;
My spear is strong, and keen my trusty blade,
And oft mine arm hath made the valiant bend.
Then rise, great Cormac's son, and leave behind
Thy native shore; leave Erin's blushing plain:
Unfurl the spreading canvass to the wind,
And guide thy vessel o'er the yielding main.
He comes; — like mist the whitening fails appear,
The bloody moon, his shield, and tall his ashen spear.

Aoden came: dark was his louring brow:
Arise, he cry'd, Diorma's Love, arise;
Fight, fight, or yield Diorma to the foe:—
He rose, like clouds amidst autumnal skies:
Muirnin, thy limbs are large, thy stature high,
Thine arm is sinewy, and thy cheeks are fair:
But pause awhile. — Send round the shell of joy,
The deer swift-footed slay, the feast prepare:
Three days in glad festivity we spend,
And on the fourth, for Her, the lovely prize, contend.

Persuade me not to sheath the shining blade;
Hither to fight Comhseadan's son I came:
Yield, son of battle, yield the lovely maid,
And o'er the heights of Erin raise my fame.
Muirnin, can I resign so great a prize?
No: let our prowess for the Fair be try'd.
If by thine arm Fear-comhraic haply dies,
Place in the tomb my bright sword by my side.
Here fight we, Muirnin, by the noisy brook;
Lift, lift thy trusty steel, and meditate the stroke.

Fierce was the onset of the fatal fray,
From mail to mail Death, dreadful, seems to bound:
Their swords descend, their brazen helmets bray,
And sparkling shivers fly, and shields resound:
From rock to rock as some huge fragment flies,
So blows to blows with mutual force succeed;
Their nostrils pant, fire flashes from their eyes,
Desperate they leap, they thrust, they wound, they bleed.
Slow and more slow now Muirnin's blade descends;
He sinks, his armour rings, and low to earth he bends.

Does Muirnin fall, the fearless and the brave,
Whom for their Chief a thousand warriours boast?
Stretch wide the fail, ascend the briny wave,
And waft the hero to his native coast.
On Erin's heights the virgin sigh is deep;
For thee I mourn; for thee laments a foe;
Rise, rise ye winds, and down the hilly steep
O'er Muirnin's grave in plaintive murmurs blow.
And thou, Diorma, for the youth deplore,
Seem like the sun in rain, and weep along the shore.

Aodan saw the son of Cormac dead;
Then to revenge his fall his bow he bent;
The bow-string twang'd, the grey-wing'd arrow sped,
And in Fear-comhraic's heart its force was spent.
Where, gloomy youth, where was the sword of war,
Smiling in pain the bleeding warriour cries;
Where was the valour of thy conquering spear,
When by the treacherous shaft Fear-comhraic dies;
Raise thou our tombs beneath yon rocky steep,
There will I with the Chief of Innisfhallin sleep.—

Ah! who is she, her breasts like wreaths of snow,
Who like a still-beam in a storm appears?
'Tis Connaid's daughter, beautiful in woe;
Loose flow her locks; her blue eyes roll in tears:
Along the heath her liberal garments sail.
Daughter of grief, Diorma, pensive maid!
Thy lover lies, his youthful cheek all pale;
The steely prowess from his arm is fled.—
He fell, he vanish'd, as a stream of light;
Nor soothes thy voice his ear, nor charms thy smile his sight.

[pp. 336-42]