Friday, July 15, 2005

From Ossian to Oscar Wilde

James MacPherson discovers an ancient poem written in Gaelic.
The author is Ossian, son of Fingal.

Thomas Jefferson establishes himself as a great fan of Ossian

The Sorrows of Young Werther is published by Goethe, another fervent admirer of Ossian.
Within it, Werther exclaims:

Ossian has, in heart, supplanted Homer.

Various editions of the Ossian poem are widely distributed and well received.

Napoleon declares himself a huge fan of Ossian and commisions a painting by Ingres: The songs of Ossian

Napoleon's godson becomes King Oscar I of Sweden.
Oscar was not a name in use at the time but had been imposed by Napoleon.
Oscar appears in Ossian.

Named after King Oscar, Oscar Wilde is born

An excerpt from Ossian:

As the dark shades of autumn fly over the hills of grass; so gloomy, dark, successive came the chiefs of Lochlin's echoing woods. Tall as the stag of Morven, moved stately before them the king. His shining shield is on his side, like a flame on the heath at night; when the world is silent and dark, and the traveller sees some ghosts sporting in the beam! Dimly gleam the hills around, and show indistinctly their oaks! A blast from the troubled ocean removed the settled mist. The sons of Erin appear, like a ridge of rocks on the coast; when mariners, on shores unknown, are trembling at veering winds!


This is all well and good. It draws a literary line of influence through history. Napoleon held his dear book with him, printed up with old poems. The poems themselves however - were an invention.

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