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by Dr. Smith, and fully commented upon in the Report of the Committee of the Highland Society . It is then possible, it will be said, that a Gaelic bard of a remote and barbarous age, could breathe sentiments of generosity and affectionate tenderness, for which we look in vain even in Homer himself? How comes it that the heroes of Ossian are neither cruel nor revengeful; that they spare a fallen enemy; that they abhor treachery ; and reward a favour with romantic gratitude :-that in their homage to the fair, they are as respectful and refined as the knights of modern chivalry ; that their love is as pure as it is ardent, and rather an intellectual emotion than a sensual appetite; their friendship disinterested and inviolable ; and their attachment to kindred only terminable with life? Is this consistent with the character and manners of so rude a stage of society? Is it compatible with the condition of the Highland tribes even at any period of their history? On this subject Dr. Graham has made several judicious observations, deprecating decisions a priori on what is probable in states of society with which we are not accurately acquainted.
Many authorities might be quoted to prove that the German and other tribes of the great Celtic nation paid much respect to the female ses, even in the most barbarous period of their history. Among these rude tribes, women were not considered as an inferior order of beings, as in the more polished nations of Greece and Rome; but were admitted to an equal participation of rights, and sometimes were honoured and respected as creatures of superior nature. Among the Goths and Scandinavians, women were consulted as prophets and soothsayers. Among the Germans they were, according to Tacitus, the only physicians; but what was still more, they were accounted the most valuable hostages : for, adds our author, this people believed that there was something sacred in the female character, and ascribed to it a superior degree of foresight, insomuch that they never despised the opinions of women, nor neglected their advice. " Inesse quinetiam sanctum aliquid et providum putant; nec aut consilia eorum aspernantur, aut responsa negliguntur,” (de mor. Germ.).
We have, on a former occasion, adduced our reasons for believing that Irish colonists in Scotland were closely connected with the German Caledonians, at a period much earlier than any that has been assigned to the heroes of Ossian. Before even the first colony from Ireland occupied the northernmost part of the island, the inheritance of royal authority was restricted to the offspring of the Caledonians by their Irish consorts. Hence a peculiar respect to the female sex, among both the departments of the Pictish confederacy, seems to
be rationally accounted for. But this point of delicacy is by no means to be restricted to that division of the Iberian nation which was included under the denomination of Picts, or to the northern districts only of our own island. Of the high estimation which the female sex enjoyed through. out Britain, both Tacitus and Cæsar furnish many proofs. It was 10: uncommon thing for ' armies to be led to battle by a woman; and our readers need not be told that in those turbulent ages no virtue was in higher estimation than military prowess. Nay, so much was the sex regarded in Britain, that, according to Tacitus, no distinction was observed between it and the male in conferring authority. “ Neque enim sexum in imperio discernunt,” says he in the life of Agricola. The characteristic manners, therefore, of the Northern nations, tend greatly to remove the objection to the authenticity of Ossian derived from the respectful and delicate terms in which that poet always speaks of the fair sex; and we are surprised that the advocates for that authenticity have bestowed so little attention upon this part of the argument. Yet after all, in order to establish the authenticity of the Gaelic bard, it is by no means necessary to prove that the women of ancient Caledonia were as beautiful and as amiable as he describes them, or the warriors as generous, magnanimous, and brave. Considerable allowance should be made for the exaggerations of a poet, who is not bound to describe things as they are, but as an ardent imagination figures them to itself. It would be absurd to quote Homer as historical authority for the valour of Achilles, the strength of Ajax, or the unrivalled beauty of Helen. It is not less so, to expect that the descriptions of Ossian should precisely agree with the manners of his age. The bard could not indeed create manners of which he had never seen the archetype; but if he was himself possessed of more than ordinary tenderness, he would naturally be induced to heighten, in his narrative, every expression of gentleness and delicacy which he chose to record, and to soften -down every thing harsh in the characters of those whose memory he was desirous of transmitting with honour to posterity.
Having now stated, with as much brevity as possible, the arguments by which we are induced to consider the poems of Ossian as authentic, at least in many material parts, it will be expected that we should say something as to the period when they were probably composed. There is, we think, satisfactory evidence of their being very ancient compositions. That they should be handed down by tradition through several centuries without material corruption, needs not startle us, when we consider the character of the people among whom
they were preserved. The Highlanders of Scotland have remained almost entirely exempt from foreign invasion and intermixture, since their first settlement. The rocks, mountains, and friths, which defend from hostile attack, tend likewise to keep the people that dwell among them in a state of seclusion from foreign visitors. Their manners continue unchanged during the lapse of ages : and their language is not contaminated by an admixture of other tongues. Hence traditionary legends may be handed down uņcorrupted through many succeeding generations; and among a people naturally fond of heroic atchievements, it is not wonderful that a national poetry, which describes deeds of valour in captivating language, should have been religiously preserved. There was, besides, a distinct race of men, the Bards, whose chief business it was, to recite, on public occasions, these highly admired compositions; and in the Highlands of Scotland the race of the Bards is but very recently extinct.
The opponents of Ossian, indeed,and particularly Mr. Laing, have struggled to produce internal evidence against the antiquity of his supposed poems. They have endeavoured to prove that many of the expressions and allusions are of a mo, dern date, and betray a modern artist. But they seem to be successfully answered by the defenders of the Gaelic bard, That a few novel expressions should occur in poems taken from the lips of a modern reciter, needs not excite our wonder : but if in the course of compositions of considerable length, no allusion to modern manners can be detected, no similitude borrowed from civilised life, no hint of a knowledge of the arts, customs, science, or religion of a more refined stage of society can be discerned, we have the strongest inducement to consider these compositions as genuine remains of anti: quity. We present our readers with the following specimen of the manner in which Dr. Graham has refuted some of the objections alledged by Mr. Laing against the antiquity of Ossian's poetry.
• Under the head of “ Manners and Customs,” Mr Laing (with what propriety is not very obyious) urges some strange topics of detection, which it will not be difficult to refute.
He remarks, that the aspin, or trembling poplar, the crithean, or cran na crith, of the Celts, so often mentioned in these Poems, is a foreign tree, and not a native of Scotland. Here it appears, that the learned gentleman has chosen to occupy ground to which he is a stranger. It. is a point sufficiently established amongst naturalists, that the populus tremula, or aspin, is indigenous to Scotland ; I can point it out, in the utmost profusion, in the Highlands, growing on the margin of lakes, and in the crevices of rocks. Were it worth while, on a point so undeniable, I could cite the authority of one of the first names in natura!
history, to whom I shewed it last season, growing in abundance on the shores of Loch-Ketturin, in Perthshire.
With equal gratuitousness, the yew-tree, the iubhar, or iu’ar of the Highlanders, is asserted to be « certainly not indigenous.” But it is certain, I must affirm, that the yew-tree has always been, and still is, a native of Scotland. Lightfoot, in his Flora Scotica, holds it to be such on the authority of Dr. Stuart of Luss, the first name, at this day, in the science of the plants of his native Highlands. There are innumerable places in Scotland, which still have their denomination from this tree, according to the ordinary use of giving names to places, from the species of trees with which they chiefly abound thus, Glen-ju'ir, “ the Glen of Yews ;" Dunure, or Dun-ju'ir, “ the Hill of Yews,” &c, Giraldus Cambrensis * informs us, that the yew-tree grew in such abundance in Ireland, that the scarcity of bees, in that country, is, in part, to be ascri. bed to this cause. But, if it abounded in Ireland, how can it be denied to Scotland, so nearly of the same soil and climate ? Notwithstanding the general attempts to extirpate it, on account of its noxious qualities, it still grows in some parts of Scotland.
...Of the legitimacy of Mr Laing's argument, drawn from the silence of Ossian concerning certain productions and animals which must have existed in Scotland, in his days, I entertain considerable doubt. The mention of the wild boar, it is observed, occurs only once in Macpherson's translation. But what, I would ask, can be inferred from this circumstance: Might not the authenticity of the poems ascribed to Virgil be questioned, on the same ground, who, though his ten Eclogues relate exclusively to shepherds and flocks, and his Georgics to pastoral and agricultural economy, makes mention of the fox only once, in the whole com. pass of his poems?t in the Seandana, a collection of Gaelic poems published by Dr. Smith, which, notwithstanding many inequalities, and innumerable interpolations, contains much poetry, which is undoubtedly, ancient, and of very high merit, we meet with frequent mention of the wolf:f and the whole of the poem of Diarmid, in that collection, relates to the hunting of the wild boar. .
As to the charge of the absence of all sort of allusion to frost in these Poems, without taking advantage of the observation of Tacitus, con, cerning the mildness of the climate,ġ I must say, that it is totally un. founded. The opening of the eighth book of Temora furnishes a magnificent image, derived from frost; and, in Dr. Smith's Collection, we haye innumerable allusions to the same object, though, even in his own translation, these are sometimes, according to his usual manner, mutilated and lost.
• * Giraldus, Topographia Hiberniæ, pars i. c. 5. : + Virg. Ecl. iïi, v. 91.
I See Finnan and Lorma, and Conn, p. 252. It is singular, that Dr. Smith apologizes (Gaelic Antiq. p. 210.) for the omission of all mention of the wolf, though it occurs in the poems given by himself. § Tac. Agr. c. 12. “ Asperitas frigorum abest.”
See Seandana, pages 73. 82. 84. 103, &c. It is, indeed, yery singular, that, exclusive of the simile derived from frost, in the eighth book of Temora, now alluded to, the learned gentleman himself, in the course
· With respect to the precise period when. Ossian is believed to have flourished, much is doubtless left to -conjecture. His admirers usually place bim as far back as the fourth or fifth century of the Christian æra; and some even think it probable that he lived about the time of the Roman invasion of Scotland under Agricola, as allusions are made in his poems to the devastations committed in his country by an army of strangers. Some will have it that Fingal fought and conquered a division of the Roman forces; but of this it is impossible to produce any satisfactory evidence. The unmixed paganism that runs through the poetry of Ossian proves it to be of a high antiquity, if it be at all genuine; for it is well known that the Northern Picts were converted to Christianity in the sixth century, by the labours of Columba, and other Irish missionaries.
It has been made a question whether the Fingalians were inhabitants of Scotland or of Ireland; for, as we have stated, traditions respecting them, and even original poetry in which they are celebrated, are common to both countries. Our limits will not permit us to state at length the arguments by which we are induced to assign the honour of their permanent residence to Scotland, though they were doubtless occasional visitors of the neighbouring isle. The Highland poems concerning this race are more numerous, and have more the marks of a genuine antiquity, than those which have yet been found in Ireland.
Beside the Essay on Ossian, properly so called, Dr. Gra- ham's volume contains the 7th book of Temora, as edited by
Macpherson in Gaelic, with a new translation and notes; and two appendixes, one by Dr. Graham, the object of which is to prove that the order of the Druids existed in the northern districts of Britain; the other by Professor Richardson of Glasgow, intitled “ The Origin of Superstition, illustrated in the Mythology of the Poems of Ossian.” This consists of two paris, the first containing general remarks on the proneness of mankind to believe in the separate existence of the soul after death. In the second part Mr. R. asserts the existence of a my. thological scheme, in the poems of .Ossian ; a scheme arising, he
thinks, from the unassisted and unbiassed efforts of the human , of his Dissertation, has cited two other passages, alluding to the same phenomenon. The one is, Ossian's comparison of Swaran “ to a rock of ice.” he other is his comparison of the heroes, upon a certain occasion, to “ oaks with all their branches round them, when they echo to the stream of frost." All this shews a very strange in accuracy of criticism. That Mr. Laing should assert, that only “ a single image, in Fingal, is derived from frost," whilst he himself has furnished two, may serve to shew what we are to expect in the sequel of his detections.'