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poetry, like any other handicraft, may be learned by industry; and he had served his apprenticeship, though in secret, to the Muses.
It is, however, doubtful, whether the harmony which these poems might derive from rhyme, even in much butter hands than those of the translator, could atone for the simplicity and energy which they would lose. The determination of this point shall be left to the readers of this preface. The following is the begin ning of a poem, translated from the Norse to the Gaelic language; and, from the latter, transferred into English. The verse took little more time to the writer than the prose; and he himself is doubtful (if he has succeeded in either) which of them is the most literal version.
FRAGMENT OF A NORTHERN TALE.
WHERE Harold, with golden hair, spread o'er Lochlinn* his high commands; where, with justice, he ruled the tribes, who sunk, subdued, beneath his sword; abrupt rises Gormalt in snow! the tempests roll dark on his sides, but calm, above, his vast forehead appears. White-issuing from the skirt of his storms, the troubled torrents pour down his sides. Joining, as they roar along, they bear the Torno, in foam, to the main.
Gray on the bank, and far from men, half-covered, by ancient pines, from the wind, a lonely pile exalts its head, long shaken by the storms of the north. To this fled Sigurd, fierce in fight, from Harold the leader of armies, when fate had brightened his spear nown: when he conquered in that rude field, where Lulan's warriors fell in blood, or rose in terror on the waves of the main. Darkly sat the gray-haired chief;
* The Gaelic name of Scandinavia, or Scandinia • The mountains of Sevo
yet sorrow dwelt not in his soul. But when the war. rior thought on the past, his proud heart heaved against his side : forth Hew his sword from its place : he wounded Harold in all the winds.
One daughter, and only one, but bright in form and mild of soul, the last beam of the setting line, remained to Sigurd of all his race. His son, in Lulan's battle slain, beheld not his father's flight from his foes. Nor finished seemed the ancient line! The splendid beauty of bright-eyed Fithon covered still the fallen king with renown. Her arm was white like Gormal's
her bosom whiter than the foam of the main, when roll the waves beneath the wrath of the winds. Like two stars were her radiant eyes, like two stars that rise on the deep, when dark tumult embroils the night. Pleasant are their beams aloft, as stately they ascend the skies.
Nor Odin forgot, in aught, the maid. Her form scarce equalled her lofty mind. Awe moved around her stately steps.
Heroes loved—but shrunk away in their fears. Yet, midst the pride of all her charms, her heart was soft and her soul was kind. She saw the mournful with tearful eyes. Transient darkness arose in her breast. Her joy was in the chase. Each morning, when doubtful light wandered dimly on Lulan's waves, she roused the resounding woods to Gor. mal's head of snow. Nor moved the maid alone, &c.
The same versified. Where fair-hair'd Harold, o'er Scandinia reign'd, And held with justice what his valor gain'd, Sevo, in snow, his rugged forehead rears, And, o'er the warfare of his storms, appears Abrupt and vast.—White wandering down his side A thousand torrents, gleaming as they gride, Unite below, and, pouring through the plain, Hurry the troubled Torno to the main.
Gray, on the bank, remote from human kind,
One daughter only, but of form divine,
In nought is Odin to the maid unkind,
The chase she lov’d; when morn with doubtful beam
One of the chief improvements, in this edition, is the care taken in arranging the poems in the order of time; so as to form a kind of regular history of the age to which they relate. The writer has now resigned them forever to their fate. That they have been well received by the public appears from an extensive sale; that they shall continue to be well received, he may venture to prophesy, without the gift of that inspiration to which poets lay claim. Through the medium of version upon version, they retain, in foreign languages, their native character of simplicity and energy. Gen uine poetry, like gold, loses little, when properly trans fused; but when a composition cannot bear the test of a literal version, it is a counterfeit which ought not to pass current. The operation must, however, be per formed with skilful hands. A translator who cannot equal his original, is incapable of expressing its beauties.
London, Aug. 15, 1772
THE ÆRA OF OSSIAN.
INQUIRIES into the antiopaities of nations afford more pleasure than any real advantage to mankind. The ingenious may form systems of history on probabilities and a few facts ; but, at a great distance of time, their accounts must be vague and uncertain. The infancr of states and kingdoms is as destitute of great events, as of the means of transmitting them to posterity. The arts of polished life, by which alone facts can be preserved with certainty, are the production of a well. formed community. It is then historians begin tu write, and public transactions to be worthy remem brance. The actions of former times are left in ob scurity, or magnified by uncertain traditions. Hencer it is that we find so much of the marvellous in the ori gin of every nation ; posterity being always ready te 'ieve any thing, however fabulous, that reflects hönos their ancestors. The Greeks and Romans were remarkable for this
kness. They swallowed the most absurd fables cerning the high antiquities of their respective na
Good historians, however, rose very early