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56 the earlier periods of society, the rude com. “ positions of the bard and the minstrel, may 66 have been instrumental in humanizing the “ minds of savage warriors, and in accele" rating the growth of cultivated manners. " Among the Scandinavians and the Celtæ we 66 know that this order of men was held in “ very peculiar veneration; and, accordingly “ it would appear, from the monuments which “ remain of these nations, that they were dis“ tinguished by a delicacy in the passion of “ love, and by a humanity and generosity to “ the vanquished in war, which seldom appear “ among barbarous tribes; and with which it “ is hardly possible to conceive how, men “ in such a state of society could have been “ inspired, but by a separate class of indivi“ duals in the community, who devoted 56 themselves to the pacific profession of " poetry, and to the cultivation of that crea. " tive power of the mind, which anticipates " the course of human affairs, and presents, 6s in prophetic vision, to the poet and the phi“ losopher, the blessings which accompany " the progress of reason and refinement.”*
These remarks on the national poetry of the Highlanders and Irish, may partly account
* Stewart's Elements of the Philosophy of the Hum. Mind, p. 532.
for the difference which exists in the character of the people. It is indeed more singular that the latter possess so many qualities in common with the former, than that they possess so few : deprived in a great measure of their bards and their chieftains, and, in consequence of the circumstances in which they have been placed, deprived also, of a great portion of that truly beautiful poetry which made the bards the ministers of good ;--left to the bigotry, and ignorance, and intolerance of priests, who darkened their understandings, and perverted their feelings, and who conceived it their interest to close the volume of inspiration and conceal the . counsel of heaven ;-in such a situation, and with such guides,despised as savage and ungovernable by those whose policy contributed to make them so, a people who once sent forth the ministers of religion to enlighten the darkness of Europe*, have fatally embraced false views of morality, and with these have become . the dupes of a fanatical superstition.
Heavens ! how unlike their mano sires of old ! !
It would be improper on this subject not to advert, though it should be at the risk of incurring the charge of unnecessary and tiresome repetition, to the political depression of
* See Bede,
the Irish. This circumstance, though it is the last which I shall mention, as producing a difference between the character ofthe Highlanders and the Irish, is by no means least in importance. Nor should it be overlooked, since it affords a memorable proof of theinfluence which depression exerts on the dispositions and manners of a people ; and clearly demonstrates, that even brethren may be so changed in some of the leading features of their character, by the moral and political circumstances in which they are placed, as to make it questionable whether they have sprung from the same origin. Indeed, it may be considered as an incontrovertible maxim, supported by the his. tory of all nations, that every circumstance which divests any part of the community of respectability,either in their own estimation or in that of their fellow citizens, is injurious to their moral interests. This, in some instances, may be necessary, but it is in all cases an eviland an evil of very considerable magnitude. Its unhappy influence on the Irish character has been considered in the remarks on the tendency of the penal laws. ·
ON THE IRISH LANGUAGE.
A VERY few remarks only can be offered on this subject, since its full consideration does not coincide with the object of this work.
The Irish language is a dialect of what has been generally called the Celtic: and some antiquarians of note have maintained that it is the root of that ancient and venerable tongue. It is certain, that there is very little difference between it and the Gaelic ; and that a Highlander can converse easily with an Irishman. This remark holds true in some parts of Ireland more than in others. It becomes not a mountaineer of Scotland to say which is the more polished and copious: but if I may be permitted to give my opinion, I must maintain, that while the Irish seems to be more cultivated than the Gaelic, it retains less of its original simplicity. I refer particularly to the conjugation of the verb. In the dark ages, the monks seem to have laboured to make the flexion of the verb in their own tongue, similar to that of the Latin. This alteration, for I cannot call it an improvement, which is adhered to by all the grammarians, does not seem natural, nor at all suited to the genius of a language that is otherwise beautifully simple.
It has been already remarked, that it is altogether idiomatic in its construction, or, to speak more correctly, its idioms are different from those of all the languages of Europe. It is extremely copious, especially on any subject connected with the passions ; though it can scarcely be considered a good vehicle for philosophy. No tongue can better suit the purpose of the orator, whose object is to make an impression on a popular assembly, and who, regardless of precision, seeks only to accomplish his end. Hence also, it is admirably adapted to poetry.
Every one has remarked the readiness with which an Irishman applies the language of endearment to all his associates : and though I had never heard him speak, I should conclude this to be the case from an investigation of his dialect. It abounds with terms, which, if literally translated, would appear to a native of either part of this island, excessively extravagant. This fact seems to confirm the idea . which I formerly advanced respecting the ten- . der and mild enthusiasm of the Irish.
The number of people who speak this language is much greater than is generally suppos.