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*** TED BY JAMEs BALLANTYNE,
The present edition of Macpherson's poetry, has originated from my former Dissertation on the supposed authenticity of Ossian's Poems. When that dissertation was first published, I continued occasionally to collect and note the imitations in Ossian, till the margin of my copy was filled with quotations; and before the Highland Society had announced an edition of the Earse original, I had determined to publish the originalsmyself. For that purpose, a more critical and minute examination was bestowed upon the
poems, in the course of which every simile, and almost every poetical image, were traced to their source: the quotations were either reduced, or extended, to a series of notes, in which controversy, in general, was carefully avoided; and if our modern Ossian has acquired the rank of a classical poet, these notes will form no unnecessary commentary, to point out the real originals from which the poems were derived. Instead of a formal dissertation on those marks of poetical imitation which a learned critick has so well explained'sit is sufficient to observe, that in Ossian there are some hundred similes and poetical images, which must either be original, or derived from imitation.) If the poems are authentick, they must be original; and their casual coincidence with other poetry can possess only such a vague resemblance, as that of Virgil's Pollio to the prophesies of Isaiah. If the poems, however, are not authentick,
‘See Hurd on the Marks of Poetical Imitation.
these similes and poetical images must be derived from the classicks, scriptures, and modern poetry, with which the author's mind was previously impregnated, and, however artfully disguised, they may be traced distinctly to their source. And conversely again, if these similes and poetical images are original, the authenticity of the poems can admit of no contradiction; if, on the contrary, they are derived from imitation, all the attestations and oaths in the Highlands would fail to establish the authenticity of Ossian. The present commentary professes, therefore, not merely to exhibit parallel passages, much less instances of a fortuitous resemblance of ideas, but to produce the precise originals from which the similes and images are indisputably derived. The arrangement of the three first editions is preserved, as the order in which the poems were written leads occasionally to some curious detections. But the text of the cor