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Britain. * “ But there is a great want,” says the Bishop, “ with us, and it is a great weight upon us the Gael of Scotland and Ireland, † above the rest of mankind, that our Gaelic language is not printed, as are the other languages and tongues of the world : and there is a greater want still, that of the Holy Bible not being printed in the Gaelic language, as it is in the Latin and English, and every other tongue: and also it is a want that we have never yet had any account printed of the antiquities of our country, or of our ancestors amongst us. But although we have some accounts of the Gael of Scotland and Ireland, in the Manuscript Books of Chief Bards and Historiographers and others, yet the labour of writing them over with the hand is great; but the process of printing, be the work how voluminous so ever, is speedily and easily accomplished.”
In the preface to Kirk's edition of the Psalms of David, first published in Gaelic at Edinburgh in 1684, mention is also made of heroic ballads composed by the Scottish bards; and, in reproving those Highlanders, who have a predilection for such works, he piously recommends a preference to be given to learning the sublime songs of the Psalmist. The following is the author's address in Gaelic to his work,
* This work, published in 1802, contains, as expressed in the title, Remarks on Scottish Landscapes, and Observations on Rural Economy, Natural History, Manufactures, Trade, and Commerce; with Anecdutes traditional, literary, and historical. In 1798, the same author published a History of the Poetry of Scotland, in two volumes quarto.
+“ Gaoidhil Alban agas Eirean.” * “ Fileadh agas Ollamhan.”
of which the English is given in Sir John Sinclair's Dissertation :
Imthigh a Dhuilleachan gu dán,
Le dán glan diagha duisg iad thall,
Ar gharbh chriocha is Inseabh Gall."
In the appendix to Nicolson's Scottish Historical Library (No. II.), there is a vocabulary of Gaelic words collected by Mr. Kirk, which he arranged under the following classes. 1. Of heaven. 2. Of the elements and meteors. 3. Of stones and metals. 4. Of parts and adjuncts. 5. Of herbs. 6. Of trees, shrubs, and plants. 7. Of the proper parts and adjuncts of animals, fishes, and birds.
8. Of four-footed beasts. 9. Of kindred and affinity. 10. Of homogeneous parts, and heterogeneous parts. 11. Of God. 12. Of created spirits.
An accurate description of the Western Isles of Scotland, by Mr. Donald Monroe, High Dean of the Isles, who travelled through them in 1549, contains some interesting notices of Gaelic antiquities. Great reliance is placed on the veracity of this author, and he has been frequently quoted by the Scottish historian Buchanan, and by Martin, in his Description of the Western Isles. It appears that this last mentioned book was what first excited the curiosity of Doctor Johnson to visit the Western Isles. Mr. Boswell has given a description of some of the circumstances which led. the Doctor, in the year 1773,
, to undertake his tour. He has said in his publication, that “he scarcely remembered how the wish to visit the Hebrides was excited.” But, says Mr. Boswell, “ he told me in summer 1763, that his father put Martin's account into his hands when he was very young, and that he was inuch pleased with it."
As the limits we have prescribed will not admit of our dwelling more in detail upon every work which has been published, on Gaelic antiquities, or subjects connected with the language, manners, and customs of the Celts, the reader is referred to the brief notices of such books at the end of these observations, as well as to the list of various Gaelic publications in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
IU. PHILOLOGICAL INQUIRIES, AND THE AFFINITY
OF THE CELTIC, OR GAELIC, WITH THE ORIENTAL AND OTHER LANGUAGES.
The Gaelic scholar has, by the publication of the originals, now an opportunity of examining and comparing the internal character of Ossian's poems,
, whether in the bold, animated, and metaphorical language, natural to an early stage of society, the hunting state; or in the nervous, simple, and concise style of the poet's composition: and he will thereby readily perceive, that these qualities are peculiar to him alone who describes objects in nature, such as he felt and saw them, and celebrates actions in which he and his family bore a conspicuous part. The best critics in the Gaelic will also be convinced, that no translator could transfuse into another language the characteristic style of Ossian's original composition; far less that any modern author, great as his talents might be, could possibly invent or compose poems similar in nature to those ascribed to Ossian, in which the manners and customs of a remote æra are so faithfully delineated.
The singular affinity, which a number of Hebrew, Arabic, and Persian words bear to the Celtic or Gaelic, as spoken at this day, ought naturally to excite the curiosity of the historian and philosopher, and lead them to investigate the cause. If we can depend upon the affinity of languages as a clue to the historian in tracing the origin of man and the early history of nations, it will be found, that no language, ancient or modern, contains more primitive roots than the Celtic. It is a well known fact, that the Gaelic scholar can acquire a knowledge of the structure and pronunciation of the dead and living languages with singular facility. This may probably arise from the variety of Celtic roots, or radical words, which are interspersed in all other languages, joined to the simplicity of the structure of the Gaelic, and an articulation, which easily adapts the organs to every known language.
In acquiring several of the languages of Europe by occasional visits to foreign countries, and in studying the Persiau, during a residence of nearly three years in India, the writer can affirin, that he was much assisted by the fundamental principles of the Gaelic, his vernacular tongue: and it must be admitted by all, who have made foreign languages a peculiar object of their attention, and been stimulated to make researches into the affinity of their radicals with the Celtic, that perhaps no language contains so many, certainly no one more, primitive roots capable of illustrating the European and Oriental languages, than the Celtic, or Gaelic. It may not therefore be improper to notice in another place various words in the Arabic, Persic, and other languages, which bear so great an affinity with the Gaelic as to justify the assertion we have made.
The writer is strongly impressed with an idea, that researches of this nature will tend to throw new light on the etymon and philosophy of language, and lead to some fixed criterion whereon to decide the question which, though hitherto a subject of much controversy among the learned, is still veiled in obscurity; namely, what was the primitive language? Or, what known languge is the nearest in its radical substantives, to that which may be considered to have been the primitive language ?
The solution of this question will require laborious and persevering research into the analogy or affinity of languages, the origin and history of man, and the manners and customs of different nations; so, as by uniting and comparing these with each other, we may be able to discover truths, and trace causes from their effects.
Nothing can more forcibly evince the general conviction of the utility and necesstity of such researches, than the number of learned men who have, from time to time, written on the science of etymology. In every celebrated academy in Europe there are strong advocates for those pursuits, which tend to dispel the mist, that overshadows ancient history. It unquestionably requires so much