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gallant heroes who had fought under that illustrious prince Robert Bruce, when he drove the English out of Scotland.
Note R, referred to p. 321. In the Report of the Committee of the Highland Society of Scotland, appointed to enquire into the nature and authenticity of Ossian's poems, page 50, and Appendix, No. VIII. and IX. there are Critical. Strictures on the editions of Ancient Gaelic Poems, collected by Mr. Hill, together with specimens of the corruption of the original poetry and of the incorrectness of his translation. Among other remarks, the following is made by the ingenious reporter : “Mr. Hill published these translations with the original Gaelic prefixed, first in the Gentleman's Magazine, and afterwards in a small pamphlet. He subjoined remarks of his own upon the question, much agitated at the time, of the genuineness of Macpherson's Fingal, and on the general nature of Gaelic poetry. These remarks are written in general with candour and impartiality, and with considerable acuteness, as far as the author's limited information enabled him to judge of the subject: but it were unreasonable to expect from the imperfect materials furnished by a desultory tour in the Highlands, made by a person ignorant of the language, as well as the manners of the country, a very satisfactory discussion of questions, on which a well-informed judgment can only be the result of laborious inquiry, and the examination of many documents, not more difficult to procure, than to read or understand when procured. This remark might perhaps be applied, in a more or less considerable degree, to most of the writers on the subject, and to none more justly than to the most celebrated of the number, Dr. Samuel Johnson.”
Note S, referred to in p. 323. The most conclusive evidence is adduced in the Dissertation prefixed to the first volume of this work, that a manuscript of Ossian's poems, in Gaelic, actually existed at the Scottish College of Douay in Flanders, previous to Mr. Macpherson having made any collection of those poems. It appears that Ossian's poems, in the manuscript folio volume alluded to, were collected and written by the late Rev. John Farquharson, a Roman Catholic clergyman, about the year 1745, while living at Strathglass in the North Highlands. This manuscript he carried with him VOL. III.
to the college of Douay, where he was made prefect of studies; and on his leaving that place in 1773, he left the MS. at the college. The concurrent testimony of the venerable Bishops Cameron and Chisholm, of the Roman Catholic persuasion, and of the Rev. James Macgillivray, who were students at the college of Douay between the years 1763 and 1773, as exhibited in their correspondence with Sir John Sinclair, inserted in bis Dissertation, will at the present moment be perused with the most lively interest, by all impartial enquirers after truth, and admirers of Gaelic literature.
Note T, referred to p. 325.
There is an evident mistake in the quotation given from Smith in the text. The fact is, that Smith, in an addenda to his Dissertation on the Authenticity of Ossian's Poems, gives an account of the poems translated by himself, in his work on the Gaelic Antiquities; and the extract given in the text is exclusively applied to them, and not to those translated by Macpherson.
Note U, referred to p. 325. The poems of Homer, the prince of epic poets, were transmitted orally for ages in detached and irregular fragments, in the same manner as Ossian’s, and were at length digested and connected into the epic forin, at Athens, by the assiduity of Solon, Pisistrates, and his son Hipparchus. These poems were originally sung, or recited, in fragments, and each of the rhapsodies, or pieces, took its name from the contents, such as “ The Battle of the Ships," -“ The Death of Dolon,"_" The Valour of Agamemnon,”—“ The Grot of Calypso,”—“ The Slaughter of the Wooers,” and the like. Lycurgus, it is reported on the authority of ancient writers, was the first who made them known in Greece in their detached form; that law-giver having, while in Ionia, carefully transcribed them from perfect copies with his own hand, and thence brought them to Lacedæmon. It, however, appears from undoubted testimony, that until Solun’s time, these poems were not digested into the regular form now transmitted to us, but had been only circulated among the Athenians, in separate or detached pieces, and were sung or repeated in recitative.
It therefore appears to have been a task no less laborious than Macpherson's, to collate the originals and prepare the text of the Iliad and
Odyssey, in its pristine purity. Homer composed his poems and flourished, according to the Arundelian Marbles, anno 907 before Christ, and Pisistratus, and his son Hipparchus, who first put together the confused parts of Homer for publication, flourished about the year 500 before Christ. Hence we perceive that near four centuries had elapsed, before the traditionary works of Homer were reduced into the epic form, or noticed among the learned of that age as a regular work. Supposing Homer's verses to have been all as correctly measured, as they are now transmitted to us, yet it cannot be supposed that this was the case at the period of their being collected from oral traditiou; or that vanity had not led some poetical reciter, or rhapsodist, to make additions or transpositions of his own, and even to alter some lines and interpolate others; or that necessity might not have induced others to supply chasms, to connect the detached parts.—In short, the perfect poems given to us cannot be the identical Greek composed by Homer, no more than we can presume to say that those of Ossian, collected by Macpherson, are literally in every part the identical Gaelic composed by that bard; since it is obvious, even to the most strenuous advocates for the authenticity of Ossian's poems, that they must have been arranged, digested, and connected by or under the authority of him, who had mind enough to make the collection.
From the testimony of ancient writers, there appear to have been seven poets of inferior talents, who bore the name of Homer. Cone tending nations, districts, and cities, claimed the honour of his birth. The Celtic bard too, has had bis imitators in Ireland and Scotland, who assumed the name of Ossian; and his birth has been claimed by both countries : (See note X). But in the concluding words of Cesarotti we may remark, Let Ossian be a native of Morven, or of Ulster, no one will say, he was not the son of Apollo.
Note W, referred to p. 327. THROUGHOUT the whole of Ossian's poems, collected and translated by Macpherson, there is no mention made of the apostle St. Patrick, neither is there a single allusion thrown out relative to the Christian religion, or its tenets; nor a single hint given of the customs or manners of a more advanced age than that early one, in which they are supposed to have been written. St. Patrick appears, from every anthority to be relied upon, to have been born in Scotland, at a place called Kirk, or
Kil-Patrick, near Dunbarton, and to have flourished in Ireland about the middle of the fifth century. Ossian is supposed to have flourished at the end of the third or beginning of the fourth century, about 150 years before the æra of St. Patrick, consequently before the introduction of Christianity into the remote regions of the Western Highlands of Scotland.
After the train of evidence adduced in the Dissertation prefixed to this work, proving from the concurrent authorities of Barbour, Boethius, Bishop Leslie, Bishop Douglas, Lyndsay, Lord Hailes, Nicolson and Colgan, that the poems current in the Highlands were composed by Ossian, a Scottish bard; it is only necessary here to remark, that supposing Macpherson's genius capable of fabricating the poems ascribed to Ossian, would he not in one part or another have been thrown off his guard, and discovered the imposture, by introducing some allusions to St. Patrick, or the rites of the Christian religion? The inference therefore, to be fairly drawn from this apparent anachronism in the Irish poems ascribed to Ossian, is, that inferior poets might have assumed the name of Ossian in Ireland as well as in Scotland, like the inferior poets who assumed the name of Homer in Ionia, Attica, and other parts of ancient Greece. This opinion receives some weight from that of Colgan, an Irish author of great learning and research, who mentions that St. Patrick had a convert dignified with the name of Ossin, or Ossian.
The Scotch, as already noticed, claim for their country the honour of having given birth to St. Patrick, and there are many circumstances favouring this tradition, though Mr. O'Halloran, an Irish writer, supposes that he was rather a native of Wales. In a burying place in the churchyard of Old Kirk, or Kilpatrick, there is a stone of great antiquity, with a figure said to be that of St. Patrick upon it; and some go so far as to assert that he was buried under it.* Mr. Pennant says, “ Ireland will scarce forgive me if I am silent about the birth place of its tutelar saint. He first drew breath at Kirkpatrick, and derived his name from his father, a noble Roman (a Patrician) who fled hither in the time of persecution.”+
The place of his nativity and burial, whether in Ireland or Scotland, has been a subject of as much controversy with the religious of both nations, as Homer's birth place was formerly among the cities of Greece. It is however admitted by the Scottish writers, that St. Columba, the founder of the monastery of Icolmkill, and who flourished in the sixth century, was a native of Ireland. But that he died, worn out with age, at Iona, and was interred there. The Irish pretend, as Mr. Pennant remarks, that in after times he was translated 10 Down, where, according to the epitaph, his remains were deposited with those of St. Bridget, and St. Patrick. But this is totally denied by the Scots, who affirm that the contrary is shewn in a life of the saint, extracted out of the Pope's library, and translated from the Latin into Gaelic, by father Calohoran, which decides in favour of lona, the dispute. This Gaelic MS. is in the Advocate's library at Edinburgh (1693). In short whether Ossian, the son of Fingal, or the Irish apostle St. Patrick, or St. Columba, were natives of Scotland or Ireland, we do not consider of sufficient importance for such keen controversy as the subject bas, at different periods, excited among writers of both nations ; for the fact being established either way, can neither augment or diminish the weight of external evidence necessary to prove that Fingal fought, and that Ossian sung, in Gaelic, in Ireland as well as in Scotland. Nor can it be denied that the language peculiar to both countries was radically the same, being derived from the same parent stock; and that the Irish and Scotch were one and the same people.
* See Statistical Account by the Rev. John Davidson. + Pennant's Tour, Vol. II. p. 160, 5th edition,
Although it may be lamented that the Gaelic language has been on the decline for many years, yet it is flattering to the admirers of Celtic literature, that it has survived Ossian as a living speech in parts of Scotland and Ireland for fifteen hundred years ; and there is now a probability, before it becomes a dead or unspoken language, that from the fond attention of the Highlanders and Irish to their vernacular tongue, it may survive our ancient bard, as long as the language of Homer survived him as a living speech in the states of Greece, namely, more than two thousand years.
Note X, referred to p. 328, 9. As we have the testimony of ancient writers, that there were seven other poets of inferior note, who bore the name of Homer, may it not be reasonably conjectured, by way of reconciling the apparent anachronisms in the Irish poems ascribed to Ossian, the son of Fingal, and