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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; t 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 snow! 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.
BY THE TRANSLATOR OF CESAROTTI'S
Note A, referred to p. 293. The Abbe' Cesarotti, author of the Historical and Critical Dissertation, relative to the controversy on the authenticity of Ossian's poems, is well known in the republic of letters; not only for his elegant translation into Italian of the poems of Ossian, as published by Macpherson, and his translation of Homer into Italian, but also for his erudition as anthor of Reflections on the Philosophy of Language and Taste, and other acedemical and miscellaneous works. He was many years one of the professors at the University of Padua ; and, in the year 1796, the writer of these notes, on his way to Venice, became personally acquainted with him. It was then he first learned, that Cesarotti had given to the public, in 1763, an Italian version of Ossian's Fingal, and some other poems of the Caledonian bard, soon after Macpherson's translations had been first published. In 1772, Cesarotti published at Padua his second edition, in four volumes octavo; which included Temora, and the other poems in Macpherson's quarto edition of 1763. In the year 1780, another Italian edition of Cesarotti's Ossian was published at Nice, in three small volumes closely printed; to which he prefixed translations of Macpherson's Preface, a Preliminary Dissertation on the Æra and Authenticity of Ossian's Poems, and a Dissertation concerning the Caledonians.
And in 1801, a complete edition of Cesarotti's works was published at Pisa in ten volumes, four of which contain Ossian's poems, and the
former dissertations, together with Dr. Blair's Critical Dissertation, with notes by the translator. In this edition Cesarotti has given a Historical and Critical Dissertation of his own on the controversy respecting the authenticity of Ossian, now for the first time, it is believed, translated into English. In addition to the notes occasionally interspersed at the bottom; of the pages of Cesarotti's text, he has annexed many interesting supplementary observations at the end of each book, or division of
These, with the variety of notes on Dr. Blair's critical Dissertation, may be deemed of sufficient importance and interest, to be noticed hereafter, should a new English translation of Ossian be carried into execution, in the mode now in contemplation under the auspices of the Highland Society.
Here it may not be improper to mention a well known fact; namely, that Bonaparte, while passing through the gradations of his military career, was in the constant habit of reading Cesarotti's translation of Ossian.f The works of the Celtic, as well as of the Grecian bard, were his inseparable pocket-companions both in garrison, and in the field; and on his being raised to the Consular dignity, and afterwards annexing Italy to France, he did not pass over in silence the talents of the learned Cesarotti, but availed himself of the earliest opportunity to confer on him ecclesiastical dignities, and other signal marks of favour.
There is little doubt, that, on several occasions, Bonaparte has been actuated by the elevated sentiments of Ossian; more especially by those which inspire a love of faine and contempt of death. But how far the modern conqueror may have imitated the examples of Fingal or his warriors, as forcibly delineated by Dr. Blair in the following passage, must be left to the discriminating judgment of the future historian. « In all the sentiments of Fingal there is a grandeur and loftiness to swell the mind with the highest ideas of human perfection. Where
appears, we behold the hero. The objects, which he pursues, are always truly great; to bend the proud, to protect the injured, to defend his friends, to overcome his enemies by generosity more than
A translation of Cesarotti's notes and observations on the first book of Fingal is given at the end of the Dissertation prefixed to the first volume.
+ The Nice edition, printed in three small volumes, 12mo.