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days of Fion, happened to be threatened with an invasion by three great potentates, the kings of Lochlin, Sweden, and France. It is needless to insist upon the impropriety of a French in. vasion of Ireland ; it is sufficient for me to be faithful to the language of my author. Fion, upon receiving intelligence of the intended in vasion, sent Ca-olt, Ossian, and Oscar, to watch the bay, in which it was apprehended the enemy was to land. Oscar was the worst choice of a scout that could be made ; for, brave as he was, he had the bad property of very often falling asleep on his post, nor was it possible to awake him, without cutting off one of his fingers, or dashing a large stone against his head. When the enemy appeared, Oscar, very unfortunately, was asleep. Ossian and Ca-olt consulted about the method of waken. ing him and they at last fixed on the stone, as the less dangerous expedient,
Gun thog Caoille a chlach, nach gan,
Tri mil an tulloch gun chri', &c. *Ca-olt took up a heavy stone, and struck it against the hero's head. The hill shook for three miles, as the stone rebounded and rolled away.' Oscar rose in wrath, and his father gravely desired him to spend his rage on his enemies, which he did to so good purpose, that he singly routed a whole wing of their army. The confederate kings advanced, notwithstanding, till they came to a narrow pass, possessed by the celebrated Ton-iosal.
This name is very significant of the singular property of the hero who bore it.
Ton-iosal though brave, was so heavy and unwieldly, that when he sat down, it took the whole force of a hundred men to set him upright on his feet again. Luckily for the preservation of Ireland, the
hero happened to be standing when the enemy appeared, and he gave so good an account of them, that Fion, upon his arrival, found little to do, but to divide the spoil among his soldiers.
All these extraordinary heroes, Fion, Ossian, Oscar, and Ca-olt, says the poet, were
Siol Erin na gorm lánn.
The sons of Erin of blue steel Neither shall I much dispute the matter with him : he has my consent also to appropriate to Ireland the celebrated Ton-iosal. I shall only say, that they are different persons from those of the same name, in the Scots Poems; and that, though the stupendous valour of the first is so remarkable, they have not been equally lucky with the latter, in their poet. It is somewhat extraordinary, that Fion, who lived some ages before St. Patrick, swears like a very good Christian.
Air an Dia do chum gach case.
By God who shaped every case. It is worthy of being remarked, that, in the line quoted, Ossian, who lived in St. Patrick's days, seems to have understood something of the English, a language not then subsisting. A person more sanguine for the honour of his country than 1 am, might argue from this circumstance, that this pretendedly Irish Ossian was a native of Scotland; for my countrymen are universally allowed to have an exclusive right to the second sight.
From the instances given, the reader may form a complete idea of the Irish compositions concerning the Fiona. The greatest part of them make the heroes of Fion,
Siol Albin a n'njoma caoile.
The rest make them natives of Ireland. But. the truth is, that their authority is of little consequence on either side.
From the instances I have given, they appear to have been the work of a very modern period.
The pious ejaculations they contain, their allusions to the manners of the times, fix them to the fifteenth century. Had even the authors of these pieces avoided all allusions to their own times, it is impossible that the poems could pass for ancient in the eyes of any person tolerably conversant with the Irish tongue. The idiom is so corrupted, and so many words borrowed from the English, that the language must have made considerable progress in Ireland before the poems were written.
It remains now to show, how the Irish bards began to appropriate the Scottish Ossian and his heroes to their own country. After the English conquest, many of the natives of Ireland, averse to a foreign yoke, either actually were in a state of hostility with the conquerors, or, at least, paid little regard to government.
The Scots, in those ages, were often in open war, and never in cordial friendship, with the English.
The similarity of manners and language, the traditions concerning their common origin, and, above all, their having to do with the same enemy, created a free and friendly intercourse between the Scottish and Irish nations.
As the custom of retaining bards and senachies was common to both ; so each, no doubt, had formed a system of history, it matters not how much soever fabulous, concerning their respective origin. It was the natural policy of the times to reconcile the traditions of both nations together, and, if possible, to deduce them from the same original stock.
The Saxon manners and language had, at
that time, made great progress in the South of Scotland. The ancient language, and the traditional history of the nation, became confined entirely to the inhabitants of the Highlands, then falling, from several concurring circum. stances, into the last degree of ignorance and barbarism. The Irish, who, for some ages before the conquest, had possessed a competent share of that kind of learning which then prevailed in Europe, found it no difficult matter to impose their own fictions on the ignorant Highland senachies. By flattering the vanity of the Highlanders, with their long list of Hermonian kings and heroes, they, without contradiction, assumed to themselves the character of being the mother nation of the Scots of Britain. At this time, certainly, was established that Hibernian system of the original of the Scots, which afterward, for want of any other, was universally received. T'he Scots of the low country, who, by losing the language of their ancestors, lost, together with it, their national traditions, received, implicitly, the history of their country from Irish refugees, or from Highland senachies, persuaded over into the Hibernian system.
These circumstances are far from being ideal. We have remaining many particular traditions, which bear testimony to a fact of itself abundantly probable. What makes the matter incontestible is, that the ancient traditional accounts of the genuine origin of the Scots, have been handed down without interruption. Though a few ignorant senachies might be persuaded out of their own opinion, by the smoothness of an Irish tale, it was impossible
eradicate, among the bulk of the people, their own national traditions. These traditions afterward so much prevailed, that the Highlanders continue totally unacquainted witb
the pretended Hibernian extract of the Scotch nation. Ignorant chronicle writers, strangers to the ancient language of their country, preserved only from faling to the ground so improbable a story.
This subject, perhaps, is pursued farther than it deserves ; but a discussion of the pretensions of Ireland was become in some measure necessary. If the Irish poems, concerning the Fiona, should appear ridiculous, it is but justice to observe, that they are scarcely more so than the poems of other nations at that period. On other subjects, the bards of Ireland have displayed a genius for poetry. It was alone in matters of antiquity that they were monstrous in their fables. Their lovesonnets, and their elegies on the death of persons worthy or renowned, abound with simplicity, and a wild harmony numbers. They be. come more than an atonenient for their errors, in every other species of poetry. But the beauty of these species depends so much on a certain curiosa felicitas of expression in the ori. ginal, that they must appear much to disadvantage in another language.