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CONCERNING THE ANTIQUITY &C. OF THE POEMS
riquiries into the antiquities of nations afford more
pleasure than any real advantage tò mankind. The ingenious inày forin systeins of history on probabilities and a few facts; but at a great diftance of tiine, their accounts rrust be vague and uncertain. The infancy of states and kingdoms is as deftitüte of great events, as of the means of transinitting thein to posterity. The arts of polished life, by which aloiie facts can be preserved with certainty, are the production of a well - forined
community. It is then historians begin to write, and · public transactions to be worthy remembrance. The
actions of former times are left in oblcurity, or magnified by uncertain traditions. Hence it is that we find so much of the marvellous in the origin of every nation; pofterity being always ready to believe any thing, however fabulous, that reflects honour on their ancestors. The Greeks and Romans were remarkable for this weakness. They swallowed the most absurd fables concerning the high antiquities of their respective nations. Good historians , however , rose very early amongst them, and transmitted, with lustre, their great actions to posterity. It is to them that they owe that unrivalled fame they now enjoy, while the great actions of other nations are involved in fables, or lost in obscurity. The Celtic nations afford a striking instance of this kind. They, though once the masters of Europe from the mouth of the river Ob (*), in Russia, to Cape Finisterræ, the western point of Gallicia in Spain, are very little mentioned in history. They trusted their fame to tradition and the songs .of their bards, which, by the vicissitude of human affairs, are long since loit. Their ancient language is the only inonument that remains of .
them; **) Plin. I. 6.