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the time, prove it to be no forgery. If Ossian then lived at the introduction of Christianity, as by all appearance he did, his epoch will be the latter end of the third, and beginning of the fourth century.

Tradition here steps in with a kind of proof.

The exploits of Fingal against Caracul, the son of the king of the world,' are among the first brave actions of his youth. A complete poem, which relates to this subject, is printed in this collection.

In the year 210 the Emperor Severus, after returning from his expedition against the Caledonians at York, fell into the tedious illness of which he afterwards died. The Caledonians and Maiatæ, resuming courage from his indis.. position, took arms in order to recover the possessions they had lost. The enraged emperor commanded his army to march into their country, and to destroy it with fire and sword. His orders were but ill executed ; for his son Caracalla was at the head of the army, and his thoughts were entirely taken up with the hopes of his father's death, and with schemes to supplant his brother Geta. He scarcely had en. tered into the enemy's country, when news was brought him that Severus was dead. A sudden peace is patched up with the Caledonians, and, as it appears from Dion Cassius, the country they had lost to Severus was restored to them.

The Caracul of Fingal is no other than Caracalla, who as the son of Severus, the emperor of Rome; whose dominions were extended almost over the known world, was not without reason called the son of the king of the world. The space of time between 211, the year Severus died, and the beginning of the fourth century is not so great, but Ossian, the son of Fingal, might have seen the Christains whom the persecution under Dioclesian had driven beyond the pale of the Roman empire.

In one of the many lamentations of the death of Oscar, a battle which he fought against Caros, king of ships, on the banks of the winding Carun, is mentioned among his great actions. It is more than probable, that the Caros mentioned here, is the same with the noted usurper Carausius, who assumed the purple in the year 287, and seizing on Britain, defeated the Emperor Maximinian Herculius, in several naval engagements, which gives propriety to his be. ing called the king of ships. The winding Carun,' is that small river retaining still the name of Carron, and runs in the neighbourhood of Agricola’s wall, wbich Carausius repaired, to obstruct the incursions of the Caledonians. Several other passages in traditions allude to the wars of the Romans ; but the two just mentioned clearly fix the epocha of Fingal to the third century;

and this account agrees exactly with the Irish histories, which place the death of Fingal, the son of Comhal, in the year 283, and that of Oscar and their own celebrated Cairbre, in the year 296.

Some people may imagine, that the allusions to the Roman history might have been derived, by tradition, from learned men, more than from ancient poems. This must then have happened at least three hundred years ago, as these allusions are mentioned often in the compositions of those times.

Every one knows what a cloud of ignorance and barbarism overspread the north of Europe three hundred years ago.

The minds of men, addicted to superstition, contracted a narrowness that destroyed genius. Accordingly we find the compositions of those times trivial and puerile to the last degree. But, let it he

many centuries.

allowed, that, amidst all the untoward circumstances of the age, a genius might arise; it is not easy to determine what could induce him to allude to the Roman times. We find no fact to favour any designs which could be entertained by any man who lived in the fifteenth century.

The strongest objection to the antiquity of the poems now given to the public under the name of Ossian, is the improbability of thei. being handed down by tradition through so

Ages of barbarism, some will say, could not produce poems · abounding with the disinterested and generous sentiments so conspicuous in the compositions of Ossian; and could these ages produce them, it is impossible but they inust be lost, or altogether corrupted, in a long succession of barbarous generations.

Those objections naturally suggest themselves to men unacquainted with the ancient state of the northern parts of Britain. The bards, who were an inferior order of the Druids, did not share their bad fortune. They were spared by the victorious king, as it was through their means only he could hope for immortality to his fame. They attended him in the camp, and contributed to establish his power by their songs. His great actions were magnified, and the populace, who had no ability to examine into his character narrowly, were dazzled with his fame in the rhymes of the bards. In the mean time men assumed sentiments that are rarely to be met with in an age of barbarism. The bards, who were originally the disciples of the Druids, had their minds opened, and their ideas enlarged, by being initiated into the learning of that celebrated order. They could form a perfect hero in their own minds, and ascribe that character to their prince. The inferior chiefs made this ideal character the model of their conduct; and, by degrees, brought their minds to that generous spirit which breathes in all the poetry of the times. The Prince, flattered by his bards, and rivalled by his own heroes, who imitated his character as described in the eulo. gies of his poets, endeavoured to excel his people in merit, as he was above them in station. This emulation continuing, formed at last the general character of the nation, happily compounded of what is noble in barbarity, and vir. tuous and generous in a polished people.

When virtue in peace, and bravery in war, are the characteristics of a nation, their actions become interesting, and their fame worthy of immortality. A generous spirit is warmed with noble actions, and becomes ambitious of perpetuating them.

This is the true source of that divine inspiration, to which the poets of all ages pretended. When they found their themes inadequate to the warmth of their imaginations, they varnished them over with fables supplied with their own fancy, or furnished by absurd traditions. These fables, however ridi. culous, had their abettors; posterity either im. plicitly believed them, or through a vanity natural to mankind, pretended that they did. They loved to place the founders of their families in the days of fable, when poetry, without the fear of contradiction, could give what character she pleased of her heroes. It is to this vanity that we owe the preservation of what remain of the more ancient poems. Their poetical merit made their heroes famous in a country where heroism was much esteemed and admired. The posterity of these heroes, or those who pretended to be descended from them, heard with pleasure the eulogiums of their

ancestors; bards were employed to repeat the poems, and to record the connexion of their patrons with chiefs so renowned. Every chief in process of time, had a bard in his family, and the office became at last hereditary. By the succession of these bards, the poems concerning the ancestors of the family were handed down from generation to generation; they were repeated to the whole clan on solemn occasions, and always alluded to in the new compositions of the bards. This custom came down to near our own times; and after the bards were discontinued, a great number in a clan retained by memory, or committed to writing, their compositions, and founded the antiquity of their families on the authority of their poems.

The use of letters was not known in the north of Europe till long after the institution of the bards : the records of the families of their patrons, their own, and more ancient poems, were handed down by tradition. Their poetical compositions were admirably contrived for that purpose. They were adapted to music; and the most perfect harmony was observed. Each verse was so connected with those which preceded or followed it, that if one line had been remembered in a stanza, it was almost impossible to forget the rest. The cadevces followed so natural a gradation, and the words were so adapted to the common turn of the voice, after it is raised to a certain key, that it was almost impossible, from a similarity of sound, to substitute one word for another. This excellence is peculiar to the Celtic tongue, and is perhaps to be met with in no other language. Nor does this choice of words clog the sense, or weaken the expression. The numer ous flexions of consonants, and variation in de dension, make the language very copious.

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