A short note on Ossianism?


Ossian is the name normally given to Oisin, a legendary Gaelic warrior and poet, who is supposed to have lived in the 3rd c. In 1760 James Macpherson (1736-96) published Fragments of Ancient Poetry Collected in the Highlands of Scotland and Translated from the Gaelic or Erse Language. In 1762 he produced Fingal, and in 1763 Temora. Both purported to be translations of epic poems in Gaelic by a poet named Ossian. In fact, they were a sort of fabulation of Gaelic ballads mixed with Macpherson’s own work. Notwithstanding this, his evocation of a remote past, a Gaelic twilight of myth and legend, had a considerable influence on writers in Europe and made some contribution to romanticism. Goethe was particularly interested in the Ossianic poems; so were Herder and Schiller. They were widely translated, and the long-term effects of the so-called Ossianic movement are discernible late in the 19th c.

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