Fragment the 12th, from the Erse Langauge.

London Magazine 30 (January 1761) 46-47.


25 anapestic quatrains adapted from the twelfth of James Macpherson's Fragments of Ancient Poetry, collected in the Highlands of Scotland, and translated from the Galic or Erse Language (1760), "Adapted to the Musick of Mr. Shenstone's Pastoral Ballad, composed by Dr. Arne." This is one of a number of verse adaptations of Macpherson's prose translations of Erse ballads (themselves adaptations); while the anapestic measure might seem like an odd choice, here as elsewhere it proves amenable to elegiac sentiments: "Why, Alpin, why silent, alone? | Why carols the sweet songster no more? | As a blast through the woods is thy moan, | As a wave on the lonely sea shore."

The London Magazine had published another adaptation, in elegiac quatrains, 29 (July 1760) 374-75. Myles Cooper would adapt one of the Fragments in Prior stanzas in Poems on Several Occasions (1761).

Andrew Erskine to James Boswell: "I have been enjoying since you left me, the most exquisite entertainment, in the perusal of the noble works of Ossian, the greatest poet, in my opinion, that ever composed, and who exceeds Homer, Virgil, and Milton. He transports us by the grandeur of his sublime, or by some sudden start of tenderness he melts us into distress: Who can read, without the warmest emotions, the pathetic complaints of the venerable old bard, when he laments his blindness, and the death of his friends? But how are we animated when the memory of former years comes rushing in his soul. It is quite impossible to express my admiration of his Poems; at particular passages I felt my whole frame trembling with ecstacy; but if I was to describe all my thoughts, you would think me absolutely made. The beautiful wildness of his fancy is inexpressibly agreeable to the imagination; for instance, the mournful sound from the untouched harp when a hero is going to fall, or the awful appearance of his ghosts and spirits" 10 January 1762; in Letters between the Honourable Andrew Erskine, and James Boswell, Esq. (1763) 62.

Now past is the wind and the rain,
The noon-day how calm, and how still!
The light cloud hovers over the plain,
And the shadow flies o'er the green hill.

The torrent, arous'd from the steep,
O'er its rough-pebbled bed loudly roars;
O'er the rock, O how dreadful the leap!
How ruffl'd it beats on its shores!

O thy murmurs, how sweet to mine ear!
As thou glid'st the glad vallies along:
But more sweet is the sound that I hear;
It is Alpin's, the son of the song.

It is Alpin's, he mourns for the dead,
His bosom he heaves with a sigh:
Right hoary with age in his head,
And the tear trickles down from his eye.

Why, Alpin, why silent, alone?
Why carols the sweet songster no more?
As a blast through the woods is thy moan,
As a wave on the lonely sea shore.

O Reyno, my tears are in vain,
For the grave who a ransom shall take?
How loud, and how pow'rful, the strain,
Bids the dust dwelling tenant awake!

Tho', Reyno, thou'rt tall on the hill,
'Midst the youths of the plain none like thee;
Tho' far fam'd at the bow is thy skill,
And few years on thy face I can see;

Yet Reyno like Morar shall fall,
On his grave the sad mourner shall weep,
His bow lye unstrung in the hall,
And forgotten the place of his sleep.

Thou, Morar, wert swift in the race,
Not the roe on the mountains so fleet,
O'er the sands who thy footsteps could trace?
The dews were unhurt with thy feet.

As a storm marks with ruin its way,
With thine arm thou confoundest the field;
Thy sword was as lightning by day,
As a meteor at night was thy shield.

Thy voice like a stream after rain;
Like thunder remote was thine ire;
By thine arm many mighty were slain,
Thy wrath was consuming as fire.

But when thou return'st from the fight,
How calm, and how peaceful, wert thou!
As the sun after rain is more bright,
So more calm and serene was thy brow.

So unruffled's the shade on the deep,
When the moon her lone journey doth take;
When, hush'd, the loud winds are asleep,
So calm is the breast of the lake.

O Morar, so mighty before,
Here how small thy resemblance is found!
Four stones with green moss cover'd o'er,
With three steps I encompass them round.

A tree stands alone on the heath,
Scarce a leaf the tir'd hunter can spy;
Untrod grows the grass underneath,
And the wind whistles mournfully by.

A tree stands alone on the heath,
Scarce a leaf the tir'd hunter can spy;
Untrod grows the grass underneath,
And the wind whistles mournfully by.

Here, Morar, indeed thou art low,
No mother thy fate to deplore,
No maid with her breast full of woe,
The daughter of Morglan's no more!

Who is he on his staff that appears?
Who trembles each step that he takes?
Low he stoops with the weight of his years;
And slow is the pace that he makes:

Whose hairs are more white than the snow,
That is wreath'd in the sharp northern air;
With tears his red eyes overflow,
And his face is deep mark'd with despair.

It's thy father, O Morar, it's he,
In battle he heard of thy fame:
Of none he's the father but thee,
And to meet the lov'd conqu'ror he came.

Of thy fame in the battle he heard,
And of foes that were scatter'd around,
And much from thy valour he fear'd:
But he heard not, alas! of thy wound.

Thou, father of Morar, may'st weep,
For no more shall he watch the grey dawn;
At thy voice no more start from his sleep,
To meet the young morn on the lawn;

For long is the rest he shall have,
His pillow how lowly it lies!
O when will't be morn in the grave,
To bid the soft slumberer rise?

Then farewel, thou bravest of men!
Tho' no more thou art seen in the field,
Thy voice no more heard in the glen,
Tho' no more the bright sword thou shalt wield,

Tho' no son follows after thy bier,
Thy much-lov'd memorial to keep,
No daughter with many a tear,
O'er thy grave her sad losses to weep;

Yet the song shall preserve thee a name,
Thy mem'ry shall ever be dear;
E'en the bard shall partake of thy fame,
Future ages of Morar shall hear.

[pp. 46-47]