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his time, that the inhabitants of Ireland were originally Britons; and his testimony is unquestionable, whei, we consider that, for many ages, the language and cus. toms of both nations were the same. Tacitus was of opinion that the ancient Caledonians were of German extract; but even the ancient Ger. mans themselves were Gauls. The present Germans, properly so called, were not the same with the ancient Celtae. . The manners and customs of the two nations were similar; but their language different. The Ger mans are the genuine descendants of the ancient Scan dinavians, who crossed, at an early period, the Baltic. The Celtae, anciently, sent many colonies into Germany, all of whom retained their own laws, language, and customs, till they were dissipated, in the Roman empire; and it is of them, if any colonies came from Germany into Scotland, that the ancient Caledonians were descended. But whether the ancient Caledonians were a colony of the Celtic Germans, or the same with the Gauls that first possessed themselves of Britain, is a matter of no moment at this distance of time. Whatever their orii. was, we find them very numerous in the time of ulius Agricola, which is a presumption that they were long before settled in the country. The form of their government was a mixture of aristocracy and monarchy, as it was in all the countries where the Druids bore the chief sway. This order of men seems to have been formed on the same principles with the Dactyli, Idae, and Curetes of the ancients. Their pretended intercourse with heaven, their magic and divination, were the same. The knowledge of the Druids in natu. ral causes, and the properties of certain things, the fruits of the experiments of ages, gained them a mighty reputation among the people. The esteem of the populace soon incleased into a veneration for the or der; which these cunning and ambitious priests took care to improve, to such a degree, that they, in a manner, engrossed the management of civil, as well as re. ligious matters. It is generally allowed, that they did not abuse this extraordinary power; the preserving the character of sanctity was so essential to their influence, that they never broke out into violence or oppression. The chiefs were allowed to execute the laws, but the legislative power was entirely in the hands of the Druids. It was by their authority that the tribes were united, in times of the greatest danger, under one head. This temporary king, or Vergobretus, was chosen by them, and generally laid down his office at the end of the war. These priests enjoyed long this extraordinary privilege among the Celtic nations who lay beyond the pale of the Roman empire. It was in the beginning of the second century that their power among the Caledonians began to decline. The traditions concerning Trathal and Cormac, ancestors to Fingal, are full of the particulars of the fall of the Druids: a singular fate it must be owned, of priests who had once established their superstition. The continual wars of the Caledonians against the Romans, hindered the bettor sort from initiating themselves, as the custom formerly was, into the order of the Druids. The precepts of their religion were confined to a few, and were not much attended to by a people inured to war. The Vergobretus, or chief magistrate, was chosen without the concurrence of the nierarchy, or continued in his office against their will. Jontinual power strengthened his interest among the tribes, and enabled him to send down, as hereditary to nis posterity, the office he had only received himself by election. On occasion of a new war against the “king of the world,” as tradition emphatically calls the Roman em. ror, the Druids, to vindicate the honor of the order gan to resume their ancient privilege of choosing the Vergobretus. Garmal, the son of Tarno, being de. puted by them, came to the grandfather of the cele. brated Fingal, who was then Vergobretus, and com. manded him, in the name of the whole order, to lay down his office. Upon his refusal, a civil war com. menced, which soon ended in almost the total extinction of the religious order of the Druids. A few that re. mained, retired to the dark recesses of their groves, and the caves they had formerly used for their meditations. It is then we find them in the circle of stones, and unheeded by the world. A total disregard for the older, and utter abhorrence of the Druidical rites ensued. Under this cloud of public hate, all that had any knowledge of the religion of the Druids became ex. tinct, and the nation fell into the last degree of ignorance of their rites and ceremonies. It is no matter of wonder, then, that Fingal and his son Ossian disliked the Druids, who were the declared enemies to their succession in the supreme magistracy. It is a singular case, it must be allowed, that there are no traces of religion in the poems ascribed to Ossian, as the poetical compositions of other nations are so closely connected with their mythology. But gods are not necessary, when the poet has genius. It is hard to account for it to those who are not made acquainted with the manner of the old Scottish bards. That race of men carried their notions of martial honor to an extravagant pitch. Any aid given their heroes in battle, was thought to derogate from their fame; and the bards immediately transferred the glory of the action to him who had given that aid. Had the poet brought down gods, as often as Homel has done, to assist his heroes, his work had not con. sisted of eulogiums on men, but of hymns to superior beings. Those who write in the Gaelic language sel. dom mention religion in their profane poetry; and when they professedly write of religion, they never mix, with their compositions, the actions of their heroes. This custom alone, even though the religion of the Druids had not been been previously extinguished, may, in some measure, excuse the author's silence concerning the religion of ancient times. To allege that a nation is void of all religion, betrays ignorance of the history of mankind. The traditions of their fathers, and their own observations on the works of nature, together with that superstition which is inherent in the human frame, have, in all ages, raised in the minds of men some idea of a superior being. Hence it is, that in the darkest times, and amongst the most barbarous nations, the very populace themselves had some faint notion, at least, of a divinity. The Indians, who worship no God, believe that he ex ists. It would be doing injustice to the author of these poems, to think that he had not opened his conceptions to that primitive and greatest of all truths. But let his religion be what it will, it is certain that he has not alluded to Christianity or any of its rites, in his poems; which ought to fix his opinions, at least, to an era prior to that religion. Conjectures, on this subject, must supply the place of proof. The persecution begun by Dioclesian, in the year 303, is the most probable time in which the first dawning of Christianity in the north of Britain can be fixed. The humane and mild character of Constantius Chlorus, who commanded then in Britain, induced the persecuted Christians to take refuge ander him. Some of them, through a zeal to propagate their tenets, or through fear, went beyond the pale f the Roman empire, and settled among the Caledonians; who were ready to hearken to their doctrines, if the religion of the Druids was exploded long before, These missionaries, either through choice, or to give more weight to the doctrine they advanced, took possession of the cells and groves of the Druids; and it was from this retired life they had the name of Cul dees, which, in the language of the country, signified “the sequestered persons.” It was with one of the Culdees that Ossian, in his extreme old age, is said to have disputed concerning the Christian religion. This dispute they say, is extant, and is couched in verse, according to the custom of the times. The extreme ignorance on the part of Ossian of the Christian tenets, shows that that religion had only lately been introduced, as it is not casy to conceive how one of the first rank could be totally unacquainted with a religion that had been known for any time in the country. The dispute bears the genuine marks of antiquity. The obsolete phrases and expressions, peculiar to the time, prove it to be no forgery. . If Ossian, then, lived at the introduction of Christianity, as by all appearance he did, his epoch will be the latter end of the third, and beginning of the fourth century. Tradition here steps in with a kind of proof.
The exploits of Fingal against Caracal, the son of the “king of the world,” are among the first brave actions of his youth. A complete poem, which relates to this subject, is printed in this collection.
In the year 210, the Emperor Severus, after return ing from his expedition against the Caledonians a York, fell into the tedious illness of which he after ward died. The Caledonians and Maiatae, resuming courage from his indisposition, took arms in order to recover the possessions they had lost. The enrage. amperor commanded his army to march into their country, and to destroy it with fire and sword. His orders were but ill executed ; for his son Caracalla was
at the head of the army, and his thoughts were entirely