Night is dull and dark
Language: English 
       Five bards, passing the night in the house 
       of a chief, who was a poet himself,
       went severally to make their observations on,
       and returned with an extempore description of, night.

First Bard.
 Night is dull and dark.
 The clouds rest on the hills.
 No star with green trembling beam;
 no moon looks from the sky.
 I hear the blast in the wood;
 but I hear it distant far.
 The stream of the valley murmurs;
 but its murmur is sullen and sad.
 From the tree at the grave of the dead
 the long-howling owl is heard.
 I see a dim form on the plain! 
 It is a ghost!
 It fades, it flies.
 Some funeral shall pass this way:
 the meteor marks the path.

 The distant dog is howling from the hut of the hill.
 The stag lies on the mountain moss:
 the hind is at his side.
 She hears the wind in his branchy horns.
 She starts, but lies again.

 The roe is in the cleft of the rock;
 the heath-cock's head is beneath his wing.
 No beast, no bird is abroad,
 but the owl and the howling fox.
 She on a leafless tree:
 he in a cloud on the hill.

 Dark, panting, trembling, sad
 the traveller has lost his way. 
 Through shrubs, through thorns,
 he goes, along the gurgling rill.
 He fears the rock and the fen.
 He fears the ghost of night.
 The old tree groans to the blast;
 the falling branch resounds.
 The wind drives the withered burs,
 clung together, along the grass.
 It is the light tread of a ghost!
 He trembles amidst the night.

 Dark, dusky, howling is night,
 cloudy, windy, and full of ghosts!
 The dead are abroad! 
 my friends, receive me from the night.

Second Bard.
 The wind is up. The shower descends.
 The spirit of the mountain shrieks.
 Woods fall from high. Windows flap1.
 The growing river roars.
 The traveller attempts the ford.
 Hark that shriek! he dies:
 The storm drives the horse from the hill,
 the goat, the lowing cow.
 They tremble as drives the shower,
 beside the mouldering bank.

 The hunter starts from sleep,
 in his lonely hut;
 he wakes the fire decayed.
 His wet dogs smoke around him.
 He fills the chinks with heath.
 Loud roar two mountain streams
 which meet beside his booth.

 Sad on the side of a hill 
 the wandering shepherd sits.
 The tree resounds above him.
 The stream roars down the rock.
 He waits for the rising moon
 to guide him to his home.

 Ghosts ride on the storm to-night.
 Sweet is their voice between the squalls of wind. 
 Their songs are of other worlds.

 The rain is past. The dry wind blows.
 Streams roar, and windows flap.
 Cold drops fall from the roof.
 I see the starry sky.
 But the shower gathers again. 
 The west is gloomy and dark.
 Night is stormy and dismal; 
 receive me, my friends, from night.

Third Bard.
 The wind still sounds between the hills:
 and whistles through the grass of the rock. 
 The firs fall from their place.
 The turfy hut is torn.
 The clouds, divided, fly over the sky,
 and shew the burning stars.
 The meteor, token of death!
 flies sparkling through the gloom.
 It rests on the hill. I see the withered fern,
 the darkbrowed rock, the fallen oak.
 Who is that in his shroud
 beneath the tree, by the stream?

 The waves dark-tumble on the lake, 
 and lash its rocky sides.
 The boat is brimful in the cove;
 the oars on the rocking tide.
 A maid sits sad beside the rock,
 and eyes the rolling stream.
 Her lover promised to come.
 She saw his boat,
 when yet it was light, on the lake.
 Is this his broken boat on the shore?
 Are these his groans on the wind?

 Hark! the hail rattles around.
 The flaky snow descends. 
 The tops of the hills are white.
 The stormy wirds abate.
 Various is the night and cold;
 receive me, my friends, from night.

Fourth Bard.
 Night is calm and fair;
 blue, starry, settled is night.
 The winds, with the clouds, are gone.
 They sink behind the hill.
 The moon is up on the mountain.
 Trees glister: streams shine on the rock.
 Bright rolls the settled lake;
 bright the stream of the vale.

 I see the trees overturned;
 the shocks of corn on the plain.
 The wakeful hind rebuilds the shocks,
 and whistles on the distant field.

 Calm, settled, fair is night!
 Who comes from the place of the dead?
 That form with the robe of snow;
 white arms, and dark-brown hair!
 It is the daughter of the chief of the people;
 she that lately fell! 
 Come, let us view thee, O maid!
 thou that hast been the delight of heroes! 
 The blast drives the phantom away;
 white, without form, it ascends the hill.

 The breezes drive the blue mist,
 slowly over the narrow vale.
 It rises on the hill,
 and joins its head to heaven.
 Night is settled, calm, blue, 
 starry, bright with the moon.
 Receive me not, my friends,
 for lovely is the night.

Fifth Bard.
 Night is calm, but dreary.
 The moon is in a cloud in the west.
 Slow moves that pale beam
 along the shaded hill.
 The distant wave is heard.
 The torrent murmurs on the rock.
 The cock is heard from the booth.
 More than half the night is past.
 The house-wife, groping in the gloom,
 re-kindles the settled fire.
 The hunter thinks that day approaches,
 and calls his bounding dogs.
 He ascends the hill and whistles on his way.
 A blast removes the cloud.
 He sees the starry plough of the north.
 Much of the night is to pass.
 He nods by the mossy rock.

 Hark! the whirlwind is in the wood!
 A low murmur in the vale!
 It is the mighty army of the dead
 returning from the air.

 The moon rests behind the hill.
 The beam is still on that lofty rock.
 Long are the shadows of the trees.
 Now it is dark over all.
 Night is dreary, silent, and dark;
 receive me, my friends, from night.

The Chief.
 Let clouds rest on the hills:
 spirits fly and travellers fear.
 Let the winds of the woods arise,
 the sounding storms descend.
 Roar streams and windows flap,
 and green winged meteors fly;
 rise the pale moon from behind her hills,
 or inclose her head in clouds;
 night is alike to me, blue,
 stormy, or gloomy the sky.
 Night flies before the beam,
 when it is poured on the hill.
 The young day returns from his clouds, 
 but we return no more.

 Where are our chiefs of old?
 Where our kings of mighty name?
 The fields of their battles are silent.
 Scarce their mossy tombs remain.
 We shall also be forgot.
 This lofty house shall fall.
 Our sons shall not behold the ruins in grass.
 They shall ask of the aged,
 "Where stood the walls of our fathers?"

 Raise the song, and strike the harp;
 send round the shells of joy.
 Suspend a hundred tapers on high.
 Youths and maids begin the dance.
 Let some grey bard be near me
 to tell the deeds of other times;
 of kings renowned in our land,
 of chiefs we behold no more.
 Thus let the night pass 
 until morning shall appear in our halls.
 Then let the bow be at hand, 
 the dogs, the youths of the chace.
 We shall ascend the hill with day;
 and awake the deer.

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Confirmed with The Poems of Ossian. Translated by James Macpherson, Esq; Vol.I. A new edition, carefully corrected, and greatly improved. London, MDCCLXXIII, footnote on pages 132-136.

Note: This text which Macpherson published merely as a footnote to Ossian's poem Croma, claiming it originated a thousand years later than Ossian, was subsequently included in anthologies of Celtic poetry with the title The Night-Song of the Bards, see Lyra Celtica, an anthology of representative Celtic poetry, edited by Elizabeth A. Sharp, with introduction and notes by William Sharp. Patrick Geddes and Colleagues, The Lawnmarket Edinburgh, MDCCCXCVI [1906], pages 31-34.

1 indicates the use of sheepskin or deerskin coverings for window apertures


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This text was added to the website: 2003-11-06
Line count: 209
Word count: 1245