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are dispersed from my soul. I hear not the chace in my land. I am concealed in the skirt of war. I look forth from my cloud. No beam appears to light my path. I behold my warrior low; for the broad-shielded king is near, he that overcomes in danger, Fingal from Selma of spears! Spirit of departed Conmor! are thy steps on the bosom of winds ? Comest thou, at times, to other lands, father of sad Sul-malla: Thou dost come! I have beard thy voice at night; while yet I rose on the wave to Erin of the streams. The ghost of fathers, they say *), call away
27 It was the opinion of the times, when a person was reduced to a pitch of misery, which could admit of no alleviation, that the ghosts of his ancestors called his soul away. This supernatural kind of death was called the voice of the dead ; and is believed by the superstitious vulgar to this day.
There is no people in the world, perhaps, who give more universal credit to apparitions, and the visits of the ghosts of the deceased to their friends, than the ancient Scots. This is to be attributed as much, at least, to the situation of the country they possess, as to that credulous disposition which distinguishes an unenlightened people. As their business was feeding of cattle, in dark and extensive deserts, so their journeys lay over wide and unfrequented heaths, where, often, they were obliged to sleep in the open air, amidst the whistling of winds, and roar of water-talls. The gloominess of the scenes around them was apt to beget that melancholy disposition of mind, which most readily receives impressions of the extraordinary and su
AN EPIC POEM.
souls of their race, while they behold them lonely in the midst of woe *8. Call me, my father, away! When Cathmor is low on earth. Then shall Sul-malla be lonely in the midst of woe!”
pernatural kind. Falling asleep in this gloomy mood, and their dreams being disturbed by the noise of the elements around, it is no matter of wonder that they thought they heard the voice of the dead. This voice of the dead, however, was, perhaps, no more than a shriller whistle of the winds in an old tree, or in the chinks of a neighbouring rock. It is to this cause I ascribe those many and improbable tales of ghosts, which we meet with in the Highlands ; for, in other respects, we do not find that the inhabitants are more credulous than their neighbours. MACPHERSON.
28 I have heard the voice of night.—The ghosts of fathers, they say, call away the souls of their race, while they behold them lonely in the midst of woe.] In the first editions, “ Can seize the souls of their race." to conceal the imitation of Virgil's Dido. Æn. iv. 459.
Hinc eraudiri voces et verba vocantis
Oft when she visited this lonely dome,
Invite her to his grave, and chide her stay. In the Treatise on the Second Sight, published in 1763, and as well attested as Ossian's poems, there is not a single instance of the voice of the dead calling the soul away. But every poetical incident of a classical origin, is converted into some Highland superstition, custom, or opinion of the times,