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The poem that stands first in this collection had its name from T'EMORA, the royal palace of the first Irish kings of the Caledonian race, in the province of Ulster.
CAIRBAR, the son of Borbar-duthal, lord of Atha in Con
naught, the most potent chief of the race of Firbolg, having murdered, at Temora the royal palace, Cormac the son of Artho, the young king of Ireland, usurped the throne. Cormac was lineally descended from Conar the son of Trenmor, the great grandfather of Fingal, king of those Caledonians who inhabited the western coast of Scotland. Fingal resented the behaviour of Cairbar, and resolved to pass over into Ireland, with an army, to re-establish the royal family on the Irish throne. Early intelligence of his designs coming to Cairbar, he assembled some of his tribes in Ulster, and at the same time ordered his brother Cathmor to follow him speedily with an army, from Temora. Such was the situation of affairs when the Caledonian invaders appeared on the
coast of Ulster. The poem opens in the morning. Cairbar is represented as
retired from the rest of the army, when one of his scouts brought him news of the landing of Fingal. He assembles a council of his chiefs. Foldath the chief of Moma haughtily despises the enemy; and is reprimanded warmly by Malthos. Cairbar, after hearing their debate, orders a feast to be prepared, to which, by his bard Olla, he invites Oscar the son of Ossian ; resolving to pick a quarrel with that hero, and so
have some pretext for killing him. Oscar came to the feast; the quarrel happened; the followers of both fought, and Cairbar and Oscar fell by mutual wounds. The noise of the battle reached Fingal's army. The king came on, to the relief of Oscar, and the Irish fell back to the army of Cathmor, who was advanced to the banks of the river Lubar, on the heath of Moilena. Fingal, after mourning over his grandson, ordered Ullin the chief of his bards to carry his body to Morven, to be there interred. Night coming on, Althan, the son of Conachar, relates to the king the particulars of the murder of Cormac. Fillan, the son of Fingal, is sent to observe the motions of Cathmor by night, which concludes the action of the first day. The scene of this book is a plain, near the hill of Mora, which rose on the borders of the heath
of Moilena, in Ulster. MACPHERSON. The first book of Temora made its appearance in the collection
of lesser poems which were subjoined to the epic poem of Fingal. , When that collection was printed, little more than the opening of the present poem had come in regular connection to my hands. The second book, in particular, was very imperfect and confused. By means of my friends I have since collected all the broken fragments of Temora, that I formerly wanted; and the story of the poem, which was accurately preserved by many, enabled me to reduce it into that order in which it now appears. The title of Epic was imposed on the poem by myself. The technical terms of criticism were totally unknown to Ossian. Born in a distant age, and in a country remote from the seats of learning, his knowledge did not extend to Greek and Roman literature. If, therefore, in the form of his poems, and in several passages of his diction, he resembles Homer, the similarity must proceed from nature, the original from which both drew their ideas. It is from this consideration that I have avoided, in this publication, to give parallel passages from other authors,
as I had done in some of my notes in the former collection of Ossian's poems.
It was far from my intention to raise my author into a competition with the celebrated names of antiquity. The extensive field of renown affords ample room to all the poetical merit, which has yet appeared in the world, without overturning the character of one poet to raise that of another on its ruins. Had Ossian even superior merit to Homer and Virgil, a certain partiality, arising from the fame deservedly bestowed upon them by the sanction of so many ages, would make us overlook it and give them the preference. Though their high merit does not stand in need of adventitious aid, yet it must be acknowledged, that it is an advantage to their fame, that the posterity of the Greeks and Románs either do not at all exist, or are not now objects of
contempt or envy to the present age. Though this poem of Ossian has not, perhaps, all the minutiæ
which Aristotle from Homer lays down as necessary to the conduct of an epic poem, yet, it is presumed, it has all the grand essentials of the epopea. Unity of time, place, and action, is preserved throughout. The poem opens in the midst of things; what is necessary of preceding transactions to be known, is introduced by episodes afterwards; not formally brought in, but seemingly rising immediately from the situation of affairs. The circumstances are grand, and the diction animated; neither descending into a cold meanness,
nor swelling into ridiculous bombast. The reader will find some alterations in the style of this book.
These are drawn from more correct copies of the original, which came to my hands since the former publication. As the most part of the poem is delivered down by tradition, the style is sometimes various and interpolated. After comparing the different readings, I always made choice of that which agreed best with the spirit of the context. MacPHERSON, 1st edit.