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sonnets; as of the giants, Fin-mac-huile, Oscar-macoshin, and Oshin-mac-owin. And they say, through illusion, that they often see them.” With respect to Gaelic manuscripts, Hill confesses, that he had not been able to consult a sufficient number to determine, whether the most ancient and primitive manuscripts were Caledonian or Irish; but, from what came under his notice, he seems inclined to believe them Irish. As to the second question he says, that the Fingalians were considered by their countrymen as a race of giants, and are represented as such in their mythological songs. This, he remarks, has nothing in it to surprize us, “ for such were all the heroes deified by the northern nations ; such were Odin, Thor, and the other Teutonic gods; such also were Hercules, Bacchus, and the other heroes, or demi-gods, of ancient Greece.” This last observation is a consequence of the preceding one, since neither Fingal, nor any of his family, appears to have been of a gigantic form in any of Ossian's poems translated by Mr. Macpherson, and they are only found to be so in the Irish editions. *
It is not my province to decide on the two last opinions of this critic, but it is certain, that Macpherson could not be satisfied with them; he, who had
previously combated these objections, first in his preface to the poem of Fingal, and afterwards more forcibly in the preliminary discourse to the poem of Temora, by adducing arguments which appear to be decisive. We shall leave the learned of both nations to decide on the validity of the proofs, which Macpherson adduces on the anteriority of the origin of the Caledonian Celts over the Irish Celts, and on the purity of the Celtic mother tongue, which is much better preserved in the Highlands of Scotland, than in Ireland. But if the poems or songs, which are prevalent in the former country concerning the family and the heroes of Fion Mac Comnal (Fingal son of Comnal) be such as are represented by Macpherson, the pretensions of the Irish are utterly vain and nugatory. There is no alternative: it must be one of the two; either Ossian's poems, as published by Macpherson and Smith, are not genuine, or Fingal and his family do not belong to Ireland ; and what is more important, the traditional songs of the Irish nation are the works of posterior senachies, or rhapsodists, who were willing to claim the Caledonian heroes; and they contain nothing but crazy tales, and foolish romances.
* See Note W, at the end of the Dissertation.
Macpherson gives an analysis of the principal Irish songs alluded to, several of which contain nearly the same facts that are to be found in the real Ossian's poems, and by quoting often the original words, he proves the former to be full of contradictions, anachronisms, allusions to modern times, and extravagant and ridiculous tales. In spite of the general pretension of the Irish nation, many of them call Fingal and his race Fion d’Albion, the proper name of the Highlands of Scotland.* Fingal, according to the
• See Note X, also Supplemental Observations on the authenticity of Ossian's poems at the end of Notes to this Dissertation, under the Head of the ancient Name and Inhabitants of Great Britain.
accounts of all the Irish poems, flourished in the reign of Cormac, who by general assent is placed in the third century; nevertheless, his son Ossian, in these same songs, makes himself contemporary with Saint Patrick, who is given out as the son-in-law of our bard, though it is notorious that the Saint went to Ireland to preach the Gospel about the iniddle of the fifth century; and we find besides, here and there, mention of Ossian, and of the pilgrimage of his heroes to the Holy Land, the Crusades, the Daughters of the Convent; Erragon King of Denmark, of two nations, alluding to the reunion of Norway and Denmark. Nay we have a threatened invasion of Ireland by France mentioned, and such like absurdities, which are in constant contradiction with chronology, and the history of Ossian.* All the records we have of the manners, ideas, and customs of the fifth century, , are full of tales strangely romantic, of magic, sorcery, witchcraft, enchanted castles, maids bewitched, gigantic heroes, not however resembling Hercules, or Bacchus, as Mr. Hill will have it, but like the heroes of Morgante and Ricciardetto; † of these, taking all things together, no' traces whatever are to be found in the Caledonian Ossian. The exploits of Fingal were mostly achieved in Ireland, and as being related to the family of the kings of Ulster, according to Macpherson, the Irish, in the subsequent centuries, were actuated by the ardent wish of appropriating to themselves all those heroes so famous in tradition, and which gave their senachies an oppor
See Note X, at the end of Dissertation. + See Note Y, at the end of Dissertation.
tunity to compose various songs on their history, altering and counterfeiting them so as to suit their purpose, and the predominant ideas of the people of that country. The same author believes he can assign the epoch of this novelty, and the circumstances that influenced the public credulity.
Whatever may be the prevailing opinion concernthis point, the question fundamentally can only be interesting to the two rival countries. It is enough for us to believe, first, that poems and stories of a character so different, cannot be the production of the same author, nor of the same epoch. Secondly, that the bard, who has been represented to us as a Scotchman, is one of the most transcendant geniuses that ever adorned the history of poetry, or that ever graced the annals of valour and glory. The parallel between the Asiatic and the Caledonian Homer, is truly striking ; both anterior to the epoch of letters, both blind, both extempore poets, both distorted in their limbs, and in want of some Esculapius to bring them together into one body.* There was nothing
• It does not appear that the Caledonian bard was distorted in his limbs : on the contrary, Ossian appears from his poems to have been a handsome and stately person. “The sound of shells had ceased. Amidst long locks, Sul-malla rose. She spoke with bended eyes, and asked of our course through seas, for of the kings of men are ye, tall riders of the wave;" alluding to Ossian and Oscar; see Sul-malla of Lumon, Ossian, in relating to Malvina his courtship of Everallin (Fingal, B. IV.), says, “ Daughter of the hand of suow! I was not so mournful and blind. I was not so dark and forlorn, when Everallin loved me! A thousand heroes sought the maid, she refused her love to a thousand. The sons of the sword were despised : for graceful in her eyes was Ossian,” In other parts of Ossian's poems there are allusions to
further required to render them perfectly equal, than that both should be of the same country, parents, name, and period of existence.
But whatever may be said or thought on the subject, the works of the Celtic Homer (Ossian) do exist; they are all of the same brilliant and harmonious colouring, and they have a certain author. Let that author have existed in the times of Caracalla, or of Saint Patrick; let him be a native of Morven, or of Ulster; let him belong to the family of a petty king, or to that of a simple Highlander, it is all the same to those who consider him in the light of a poet. Let such as do not like to name him Ossian, call him Orpheus : doubts may be entertained whether Fingal was his father, but no one will say, that he was not the son of Apollo.
his blindness, but none to his being distorted in his limbs. It is therefore presumed, that Cesarotti was under a mistake in this parallel, and had in view the Lacedæmonian bard Tyrtæus, who we are told was of short stature and much deformed, blind of one eye, and also lame. He was nevertheless a warrior, as well as poet. (Justin, lib. iii. c. 5.) In the Supplemental Observations at the end of the Notes, under the head of Oral Tradition, &c. we shall have occasion to notice this ancient poet, and the war songs which he composed. Trens.