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(ŏsh`ən) or


(əshēn`), legendary Gaelic poet, supposedly the son of Finn mac CumhailFinn mac Cumhail,
 Fionn mac Cumhail,
or Finn MacCool
, semimythical Irish hero. His exploits are recorded in long narrative poems by Ossian and in many ballads, called Fenian ballads after the Fenians, or Fianna, professional fighters whom Finn was said
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, hero of a cycle of tales and poems that place his deeds of valor in the 3d cent. A.D. These traditional tales were preserved in Ireland and in the Scottish Highlands, with Ossian as the bard who sang of the exploits of Finn and his Fenian cohorts. A later cycle of Ossianic poetry centered on Cuchulain, another traditional hero. Ossian is generally represented as an old, blind man who had outlived both his father and his son. The name is remembered by most people in connection with James MacphersonMacpherson, James,
1736–96, Scottish author. Educated at Aberdeen and Edinburgh, he spent his early years as a schoolmaster. In later life he held a colonial secretaryship in West Florida (1764–66), and he was a member of Parliament from 1780 until his death.
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, who published translations of two poems that he said had been written by Ossian; scholars subsequently proved that they were actually a combination of traditional Gaelic poems and original verses by Macpherson himself.


See J. Macpherson, The Poems of Ossian (1805, repr. 1974).



(also Oisin), a legendary warrior and bard of the Celts, who, according to tradition, lived in Ireland in the third century and sang of the deeds of his father, Finn (Fingal) mac Cumhall and his war band, the Fena (Fianna).

Legends about Ossian, Finn, and the Fena had existed in oral tradition for centuries in Scotland and especially in Ireland; some of these were written down no later than the 12th century. J. Macpherson ascribed to himself the honor of “discovering” the poetry of Ossian; in 1765 he published The Works of Ossian, the Son of Fingal. Research by scholars in Celtic studies in the 19th and 20th centuries have established that these Works, with the exception of a few fragments of Gaelic folklore, constitute a literary forgery.


See references under MACPHERSON, JAMES.


a legendary, wandering Irish bard. [Irish Lit.: Harvey, 603]


a legendary Irish hero and bard of the 3rd century ad
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