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drink ale joyfully with the goddesses of death. The hours of my life are run out. I will smile when : die.” This is such poetry as we might expect from a bar. barous nation. It breathes a most ferocious spirit. It is wild, harsh, and irregular; but at the same time animated and strong; the style in the original, full of inversions, and, as we learn from some of Olaus's notes, highly metaphorical and figured. But when we open the works of Ossian, a very dis. ferent scene presents itself. There we find the fire and enthusiasm of the most early times, combined with an amazing degree of regularity and art. We find tenderness, and even delicacy of sentiment, greatly predominant over fierceness and barbarity. Our hearts are melted with the softest feelings, and at the same time elevated with the highest ideas of magnanimity, generosity, and true heroism. When we turn from the poetry of Lodbrog to that of Ossian, it is like passing from a savage desert into a fertile and cultivated country. How is this to be accounted for 2 or by what means to be reconciled with the remote antiquity attributed to these poems ? This is a curious point, and requires to be illustrated. That the ancient Scots were of Celtic original, is past all doubt. Their conformity with the Celtic nations in language, manners, and religion, proves it to a full demonstration. The Celtae, a great and mighty people, altogether distinct from the Goths and Teutones, once extended their dominion over all the west of Europe; but seem to have had their most full and com. olete establishment in Gaul. Wherever the Celtae or Gauls are mentioned by ancient writers, we seldom fail to hear of their Druids and their Bards; the institution of which two orders was the capital distinction of their manners and policy. The druids were their

corders of heroic actions; and both these orders of
men seem to have subsisted among them, as chief mem.
bers of the state, from time immemorial. We must not
therefore imagine the Celtae to have been altogether a
gross and rude nation. They possessed from very re.
mote ages a formed system of discipline and manners,
which appears to have had a deep and lasting influence
Ammianus Marcellinus gives them this express testi-
mony, that there flourished among them the study of
the most laudable arts, introduced by the bards, whose
office it was to sing in heroic verse the gallant actions
of illustrious men; and by the druids, who lived toge-
ther in colleges, or societies, after the Pythagorean
manner, and, philosophizing upon the highest subjects,
asserted the immortality of the human soul. Though
Julius Caesar, in his account of Gaul, does not expressly
mention the bards, yet it is plain that, under the title
of Dr tids, he comprehends that whole college or or-
der; of which the bards, who, it is probable, were the
disciples of the druids, undoubtedly made a part. It
deserves remark, that, according to his account, the
druidical institution first took rise in Britain, and passed
from thence into Gaul; so that they who aspired to be
thorough masters of that learning, were wont to resort
to Britain. He adds, too, that such as were to be in-
itiated among the druids, were obliged to commit to
their memory a great number of verses, insomuch that
some employed twenty years in this course of educa-
tion; and that they did not think it lawful to record
those poems in writing, but sacredly handed them
down by tradition from race to race.
So strong was the attachment of the Celtic nations to
their poetry and bards, that, amidst all the changes of
their government and manners, even long after the or-
der of the druids was extinct, and the national religion

philosophers and priests; the bards their poets and re. |


altered, the bards continued to flourish ; not as a set ot strolling songsters, like the Greek 'Aoto, or Rhapso dists, in Homer's time, but as an order of men highly 1espected in the state, and supported by a public estab lishment. We find them, according to the testimonies of Strabo and Diodorus, before the age of August to Caesar; and we find them remaining under the same name, and exercising the same functions as of old, in Ireland, and in the north of Scotland, almost down to »ur own times. It is well known, that in both these rountries every regulus or chief had his own bard, who

was considered as an officer of rank in his court; and had

lands assigned him, which descended to his family. Of the honor in which the bards were held, many instances occur in Ossian's Poems. On all important occasions they were the ambassadors between contending chiefs; and their persons were held sacred. “Cairbar feared to stretch his sword to the bards, though his soul was dark... “Loose the bards,” said his brother Cathmor, ‘they are the sons of other times. Their voice shall be heard in other ages, when the kings of Temora have failed.’” From all this, the Celtic tribes clearly appear to have been addicted in so high a degree to poetry, and to have made it so much their study from the earliest times, as may remove our wonder at meeting with a vein of higher poetical refinement among them, than was at first to have been expected among nations whom we are accustomed to call barbarous. Barbarity, I must observe, is a very equivocal term ; it admits of many different forms and degrees; and though, in all of them, it excludes polished manners, it is, however, not inconsistent with generous sentiments and tender affections. What degrees of friendship, love, and heroism may possibly be found to prevail in a rude state of society, no one can say. Astonishing instances of them we know, from history, have sometimes appear. ed; and a few characters, distinguished by those high qualities, might lay a foundation for a set of manners being introduced into the songs of the bards, more re fined, it is probable, and exalted, according to the usual poetical license, than the real manners of the country. In particular, with respect to heroism; the great employment of the Celtic bards was to delineate the characters, and sing the praises of heroes. So Lucan– s Homo. Plurima securi fudistis carmina bardi.-Phars, l. 1. Now when we consider a college or order of men, who, cultivating poetry throughout a long series of ages, had their imaginations continually employed on the ideas of heroism; who had all the poems and pane gyrics, which were composed by their predecessors, handed down to them with care; who rivalled and endeavored to outstrip those who had gone before them, each in the celebration of his particular hero; is it not natural to think, that at length the character of a hero would appear in their songs with the highest lustre, and be adorned with qualities truly noble Some of the qualities indeed which distinguish a Fin. gal, moderation, humanity, and clemency, would not probably be the first ideas of heroism occurring to a Larbarous people: but no sooner had such ideas begun to dawn on the minds of poets, than, as the human mind easily opens to the native representations of human perfection, they would be seized and em. braced; they would enter into their panegyrics; they would afford materials for succeeding bards to work upon and improve ; they would contribute not a little to exalt the public manners. For such songs as these, familiar to the Celtic warriors from their childhood and, throughout their whole life, both in war and in

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peace, their principal entertainment, must have had a
very considerable influence in propagating among
them real manners, nearly approaching to the poeti-
cal; and in forming even such a hero as Fingal.
Especially when we consider, that among their limited
objects of ambition, among the few advantages which,
in a savage state, man could obtain over man, the
chief was fame, and that immortality which they ex-
pected to receive from their virtues and exploits, in
the songs of bards.
Having made these remarks on the Celtic poetry
and bards in general, I shall next consider the particu-
lar advantages which Ossian possessed. He appears
clearly to have lived in a period which enjoyed all the
benefit I just now mentioned of traditionary poetry.
The exploits of Trathal, Trenmor, and the other an-
cestors of Fingal, are spoken of as familiarly known.
Ancient bards are frequently alluded to. In one re-
markable passage Ossian describes himself as living in
a sort of classical age, enlightened by the memorials
of former times, which were conveyed in the songs of
bards; and points at a period of darkness and igno-
rance which lay beyond the reach of tradition. “His
words,” says he, “came only by halves to our ears;
they were dark as the tales of other times, before the
light of the song arose.” Ossian himself appears to
have been endowed by nature with an exquisite sensi
bility of heart; prone to that tender melancholy which
is so often an attendant on great genius: and suscepti-
ble equally of strong and of soft emotion. He was
not only a professed bard, educated with care, as we
may easily believe, to all the poetical art then known,
and connected, as he shows us himself, in intimate
friendship with the other contemporary bards, but a
warrior also ; and the son of the most renowned hero
and prince of his age. This formed a conjunction of

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