To "The Muse of Ossian"

by John Cunningham

John Cunningham


T O form a little work of nervous merit,
To give the sleepy stage a nobler spirit;
To touch a sacred muse, and not defile her,
This was the plan propos'd by our compiler.

Though caution told him — — the presumption's glaring!
Dauntless, he cried; — " It is but nobly daring!
Can we peruse a pathos more than Attic,
Nor wish the golden measure stamp'd dramatic!
Here are no lines — in measur'd pace that trip it,
No modern scenes — so lifeless! so insipid!
Wrought by a muse — (no sacred fire debarr'd her)
'Tis nervous! noble! 'tis true northern ardour!

Methinks I hear the Grecian bards exclaiming,
(The Grecian bards no longer worth the naming)
In song, the northern tribes so far surpass us,
One of their Highland hills they'll call Parnassus;
And from the sacred mount decrees should follow,
That Ossian was himself — the true Apollo. "

Spite of this flash — this high poetic fury,
He trembles for the verdict of his jury:
As from his text he ne'er presum'd to wander,
But gives the native Ossian to your candour,
To an impartial judgment we submit him,
Condemn — or rather (if you can) acquit him.

Last updated September 05, 2017