Ossian (ŏshˈən) [key] or Oisin əshēnˈ, legendary Gaelic poet, supposedly the son of Finn mac Cumhail, 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 Macpherson, 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).
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