ePub 版

copying from one another, and retailing the same fictions in a new colour and dress.

John Fordun was the first who collected those fragments of the Scots history, which had escaped the brutal policy of Edward I. and reduced them into order. His accounts, in so far as they concerned recent transactions, deserved credit : beyond a certain period, they were fabulous and unsatisfactory. Some time before Fordun wrote, the King of England, in a letter to the Pope, had run up the antiquity of his nation to a very remote æra. Fordun, possessed of all the national prejudice of the age, was unwilling that his country should yield, in point of antiquity, to a people, then its rivals and enemies. Destitute of annals in Scotland, he had recourse to Ireland, which, according to the vulgar errors of the times, was reckoned the first habitation of the Scots. He found, there, that the Irish bards had carried their pretensions to antiquity as high, if not be. yond any nation in Europe. It was from them he took those roh . fictions, which form the first part of his history,

The writers that succeeded Fordun implicitly followed his system, though they sometimes varied from him in their relations of particular transactions and the order of succession of their kings. As they had no new lights, and were equally with him unacquainted with the traditions of their country, their histories contain little information concerning the origin of the Scots. Even Buchanan himself, except the elegance and vigour of his style, has very little to recommend him. Blinded with political prejudices, he seemed more anxious to turn the fictions of his predecessors to his own purposes, than to detect their misrepresentations, or investigate truth amidst the darkness which they

had thrown round it.

It therefore appears, that little can be collected from their own his. torians, concerning the first migrations of the Scots into Britain.

That this island was peopled from Gaul ad. mits of no doubt. Whether colonies came afterward from the north of Europe is a matter of mere speculation. When South Britain yielded to the power of the Romans, the unconquered nations to the north of the province were distinguished by the name of Caledonians. From their very name, it appears, that they were of those Gauls who possessed themselves originally of Britain. It is compounded of two Celtic words, Cael signifying Celts, or Gaúls, and Dun or Don a hill; so that Caeldon, or Caledonians, is as much as to say, the Celts of the hill country. The Highlanders, to this day, call themselves Cael, and their language Caelic, or Galic, and their country Caeldock, which the Romans softened into Caledonia. This, of itself, is sufficient to demonstrate, that they are the genuine descendants of the ancient Caledonians, and not a pretended colony of Scots, who settled first in the north, in the third or fourth century.

From the double meaning of the word Cael, which signifies strangers,' as well as Gauls, or Celts, some have imagined, that the ancestors of the Caledonians were of a different race from the rest of the Britons, and that they received their name upon that account. This opinion, say they, is supported by Tacitus, who, from several circumstances, concludes, that the Ca. ledonians were of German extraction. A discussion of a point so intricate, at this distance of time, could neither be satisfactory nor important.

Towards the latter end of the third, and be

ginning of the fourth century, we find the Scots in the north. Porphirius makes the first mention of them about that time. As the Scots were not heard of before that period, most writers supposed them to have been a colony, newly come to Britain, and that the Picts were the only genuine descendants of the ancient Caledonians. This mistake is easily removed.

The Caledonians in process of time, became naturally divided into two distinct nations, as possessing parts of the conntry entirely different in their nature and soil. The western coast of Scotland is hilly and barren; towards the east, the country is plain, and fit for tillage. The inhabitants of the mountains, a roving and uncontrolled race of men, lived by feeding of cattle, and what they killed in hunting. Their employment did not Bx them to one place. They removed from one heath to another, as suited best with their convenience or inclination. They were not, therefore, improperly called, by their neigh bours, Scuite, or the wandering nation ;' which is evidently the origin of the Roman name of Scoti.

On the other hand, the Caledonians, who possessed the east coast of Scotland, as this division of the country was plain and fertile, applied themselves to agriculture, and raising of corn. It was from this that the Galic name of the Picts proceeded ; for they are called in that language, Cruithnich, i. e.the wheat or corn eaters.' As the Picts lived in a country so different in its nature from that possessed by the Scots, so their national character suffered a material change. Unobstructed by mountains or lakes, their communication with one another was free and frequent. Society, therefore, became sooner established

among them than among the Scots, and consequently, they were much sooner governed by civil magistrates and laws. This, at last, pro. duced so great a difference in the manners of the two nations, that they began to forget their common origin, and almost continual quarrels and animosities subsisted between them. These animosities, after some ages, ended in the subversion of the Pictish kingdom, but not in the total extirpation of the nation according to most of the Scots writers, who seem to think it more for the honour of their countrymen to annihilate, than reduce a rival people under their obedience.

It is certain, however, that the very name of the Picts was lost, and that those that remained were so completely incorporated with their conquerors, that they soon lost all memory of their own origin.

The end of the Pictish government is placed so near that period, to which authentic annals reach, that it is matter of wonder that we have no monuments of their language or history re. maining. This favours the system I have laid down. Had they originally been of a different race from the Scots, their language of course would be different. The contrary is the case. The names of places in the Pictish dominions, and the very names of their kings, which are handed down to us, are of Galic original, which is a convincing proof, that the two nations were, of old, one and the same, and only divided into two governments, by the effect which their situation had upon the genius of the people.

The name of Picts is said to have been give en by the Romans to the Caledonians, who possessed the east coast of Scotland from their painting their bodies. The story is silly, and the argument absurd. But let us revere an

of the country

tiquity in her very follies. This circumstance made some imagine, that the Picts were of British extract, and a different race of men from the Scots. That more of the Britons, who fled northward from the tyranny of the Romans, settled in the low country of Scotland, than among the Scots of the mountains, may be easily imagined, from the very nature

It was they who introduced painting among the Picts. From this circumstance, affirm some antiquaries, proceeded the name of the latter, to distinguish them from the Scots, who never had that art among them, and from the Britons, who discontinued it after the Roman conquest.

The Caledonians, most certainly, acquired a considerable knowledge in navigation, by their living on a coast intersected with many arms of the sea, and in islands, divided one from another by wide and dangerous firths. It is, therefore, highly probable, that they very early found their way to the north of Irelande which is within sight of their own country That Ireland was first peopled from Britain, is, at length, a matter that admits of no doubt. The vicinity of the two islands; the exact correspondence of the ancient inhabitants of both, in point of manners and language, are sufficient proofs, even if we had not the testimonies of authors of undoubted veracity to confirm it. The avettors of the most romantic systems of Irish antiquities allow it; but they place the colony from Britain in an improbable and remote æra.

I shall easily admit that the colony of the Firbolg, confessedly the Bel. gæ of Britain, settled in the south of Ireland, before the Cael, or Caledonians discovered the north ; but it is not at all likely, that the

« 上一頁繼續 »