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ther, a princess of the blood of the Incas, taught him ir
CONCERNING THE POEMS OF OSSIAN.
The history of those nations who originally pos sessed the north of Europe, is less known than their manners. Destitute of the use of letters, they them. selves had not the means of transmitting their great actions to remote posterity. Foreign writers saw them only at a distance, and described them as they found them. The vanity of the Romans induced them to consider the nations beyond the pale of their empire as barbarians; and, consequently, their history unworthy of being investigated. Their manners and singular character were matters of curiosity, as they committed them to record. Some men otherwise of great merit, among ourselves, give into confined ideas on this subject. Having early imbibed their idea of exalted manners from the Greek and Roman writers, they scarcely ever afterward have the fortitude to allow any dignity of character to any nation destitute of the use of letters.
Without derogating from the fame of Greece and Rome, we may consider antiquity beyond the pale of ‘beir empire worthy of some attention. The nobier passions of the mind nevel shoot forth more free ana unrestrained than in the times we call barbarous, That irregular manner of life, and those manly pursuits, from which barbarity takes it name, are highly favorable to a strength of mind unknown in polished times, In advanced society, the characters of men are more uniform and disguised. The human passions lie in some degree concealed behind forms and artificial manners; and the powers of the soul, without an opportu. nity of exerting them, lose their vigor. The times of regular government, and polished manners, are therefore to be wished for by the feeble and weak in mind. An unsettled state, and those convulsions which attend it, is the proper field for an exalted character, and the exertion of great parts. Merit there rises always superior; no fortuitous event can raise the timid and mean into power. To those who look upon antiquity in this light, it is an agreeable prospect; and they alone can have real pleasure in tracing nations to their source. The establishment of the Celtic states, in the north of Europe, is beyond the reach of written annals. The traditions and songs to which they trusted their history, were lost, or altogether corrupted, in their revolutions and migrations, which were so frequent and universal, that no kingdom in Europe is now possessed by its original inhabitants. Societies were formed, and kingdoms erected, from a mixture of nations, who, in process of time, lost all knowledge of their own ori. gin. If tradition could be depended upon, it is only among a people, from all time, free from intermixture with foreigners. We are to look for these among the mountains and inaccessible parts of a country: places, on account of their barrenness, uninviting to an enemy, or whose natural strength enabled the natives to repel invasions. Such are the inhabitants of the mountains of Scotland. We, accordingly find that they differ
materially from those who possess the low and more
fore Fordun wrote, the king of England, in a letter to the pope, had run up the antiquity of his nation to a very remote aera. Fordun, possessed of all the national prejudice of the age, was unwilling that his country should yield, in point of antiquity, to a people then its rivals and enemies. Destitute of annals in Scotland, he had recourse to Ireland, which, according to the vulgar error of the times, was reckoned the first habi. tation of the Scots. He found there, that the Irish bards had carried their pretensions to antiquity as high, if not beyond any nation in Europe. It was from them he took those improbable fictions which form the first part of his history. The writers that succeeded Fordun implicitly followed his system, though they sometimes varied from him in their relations of particular transactions and the order of succession of their kings. As they had no new lights, and were equally with him unacquainted with the traditions of their country, their histories contain little information concerning the origin of the Scots. Even Buchanan himself, except the elegance and vigor of his style, has very little to recommend him. Blinded with political prejudices, he seemed more anxious to turn the fictions of his predecessors to his own purposes, than to detect their misrepresentations, or investigate truth amidst the darkness which they had thrown round it. It therefore appears, that little can be collected from their own historians concerning the first migrations of the Scots into Britain. That this island was peopled from Gaul admits of no doubt. Whether colonies came afterward from the north of Europe, is a matter of mere speculation. When South Britain yielded to the power of the Roamans, the unconquered nations to the north of the province were distinguished by the name of Caledo. nians From their very name, it appears that they