DESCRIPTION: "Oh come with me and be my love For thee, the deepest depths, I vow, Oh come with me for I long to go." "Oh, I'll chase the antelope over the plain, And the tiger's cub I'll bind with a chain." The singer urges haste lest their love decay
EARLIEST DATE: 1941 (Peters)
KEYWORDS: love animal
FOUND IN: US(MW)
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Peters, p. 147, "Ossian's Serenade" (1 text, 1 tune)
NOTES: Although the informant behind Peters's version, Winifred Bundy of Madison, mentioned Ossian and the Fenians, it nearly defies belief that this is actually by the historical Ossian (Oisan) -- who, after all, was a character in the Irish mythological cycle, the son of Finn Mac Cumhaill (O hOgain, p. 410).
If he actually existed, he probably dated from around the third or fourth century (Benet, p. 806), which makes references to tigers and antelopes quite improbable -- no one in Ireland would know of such things.
The poetry published under the name "Ossian" was in fact collected and (to a large degree) written by James MacPherson (1736-1796), who wasn't even Irish; he was Scottish and working from Scots Gaelic materials (Benet, p. 669). The most famous of these is "Fingal."
MacPherson apparently learned about Ossian in 1759 from John Home. Although not a Gaelic scholar, he was determined to show that Scotland was superior to other Celtic nations (Kunitz/Haycraft, p. 333), and so produced his forgeries. Some of these were extremely blatant -- e.g. Fingal supposedly conquered Rome. (Amazing that no one in Rome noticed.) Ossian was portrayed as Fingal's bard.
Williams, p. 131, comments on MacPherson's work as seen in the late nineteenth century: "Opinions of eminent Celtic schoalrs still differ as to whether the so-called Gaelic originals of his poems were genuine transcripts from ancient pieces, or were translations into the Gaelic from Macpherson's English composition made by his friends to conceal the fraud and maintain provincial pride. He himself never produced the originals of his poems, and took refuge in a silence which went far to onfirm the impression of fraud and forgery. But whether he had any direct originals or not, and the weight of probability is that he had not, his powems were unquestionably founded on the vast mass of Celtic poetry and legend existing in Ireland and Scotland in tradition and manuscript."
MacPherson never admitted to forgery (Kunitz/Haycraft, p. 334), but the controversy had been so hot that he had been forced to make up more and more material. Finally a comission was formed to determine the truth -- and it firmly declared the materials forged in 1805. Kunitz/Haycraft grant them some genuine merit -- but very little Ossianic content. And this song, it appears to me, doesn't even have much MacPherson content. - RBW
Last updated in version 2.6
- Benet: William Rose Benet, editor, The Reader's Encyclopdedia, first edition, 1948 (I use the four-volume Crowell edition but usually check it against the single volume fourth edition edited by Bruce Murphy and published 1996 by Harper-Collins)
- Kunitz/Haycraft: Stanley J. Kunitz and Howard Haycraft, Editors, British Authors Before 1800: A Biographical Dictionary, H. W. Wilson, 1952 (I use the fourth printing of 1965)
- NewCentury: Clarence L. Barnhart with William D. Haley, editors, The New Century Handbook of English Literature, revised edition, Meredith Publishing, 1967
- O hOgain: Daithi O hOgain, The Lore of Ireland, Boydell Press, 2006
- Williams: Alfred M. Williams, Studies in Folk-Song and Popular Poetry, Houghton Mifflin, 1894
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