Page images

lander in Scotland, of the present race, at the beginning of the era assigned to Fingal'. 2. Macpherson had discovered from 'Toland, O'Flaherty From Ro

man his and Keating, that Fingal and his heroes were real charac- tory. ters in the history of Ireland, whose true era was from the middle to the end of the third century. In appropriating those heroes to the Highlands of Scotland, he found a convenient chasm in the history of Britain under the Romans, and connected Fingal with Caracalla in 208, and with Carausius the usurper in 286, in order to ascertain his era without recourse to Ireland, and to escape detection during the intermediate period. His reign and exploits are prolonged, in the Temora, to the battle of Gabhra, where Oscar was killed by Cairbar in 296 ?; with the same propriety as if some youthful patriot, who had resisted an union in the Scottish parliament, were again introduced at the end of the same century, as opposing an union with Ireland in the British senate. By connecting his poeins, however, with Poman history, Macpherson has fallen into the most ridiculous mistakes. The absurdity was remarked by Gibbon, that the highland bard should describe the son of Severus “ by a nickname invented four years afterwards,

"See in Whitaker's Genuine History of the Britons asserted, 2 full confitation of Macpherson's objections to Bede, and of the descent of the Irish from the Caledonian Scots. See Usher. Stillingsleet. Kennedy. Pinkerton's Introduction, &c.

• The battle of Gabhra, in which the Fions or Clan Boiskin were destroyed, is placed by O'Flaherty in 291, but by most others in 296. Led wich’s Antiquities of Ireland, p. 10. Campbell's Strictures on the History of Ireland, p. 185. O'Halloran's Hist. of Ireland, i. 280. The book of Houth, and other Irish Annals, render the fact indisputable; (Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy, i. 118.) and the period was sufficientiy within the reach of traditionary history, on the introduction of letters by St. Patrick Sea Pinkerton's Introduction to the History of Scotland,

ji. 74.

“ scarcely used by the Romans till after the death of that “ emperor, and seldom employed by the most ancient his“ torians}." The detection is as complete with respect to Carausius. In the middle of the ninth century the fabulous Nennius placed the wall of Severus between the Forth and the Clyde, and represented Carausius as the contemporary and successor of that emperor, revenging his defeat and death on the natives; as repairing and fortifying his wall with seven castles ; erecting Arthur's oven as a monument of his victories, and imposing his own name on the river Carron. That the wall of Severus, if ever erected, extended nearly in a line with Hadrian's from the Tine to Solway, and that the country, within the wall of Antoninus, between the Forth and the Clyde, was abandoned by Caracalla, is a fact, which, though unknown to Macpherson, has been fully established by every English writer, Usher excepted, from Bede to Horsley and Roy. Buchanan, whom Macpherson consulted, was deceived by Nennius; and on this wretched fable the additional fictions of Ossian are constructed. Fingal is represented in Comala as encountering Caracalla on the banks of the Carron ; in Cars rick Thura, as returning from an incursion into the Roman province of Valentia, which did not then exist; and in Croma, Oscar opposes Caros, king of Ships, entrenched at Carron behind his gathered heap, which, as the wall in Scotland was not built by Severus, Carausius the usurper did not repair. From his gathered heap or collection of stones, Macpherson evidently imagined that the stone wall ascribed to Severus (ad murum, Newcastle) belonged to Scotland, and was ignorant that Agricola merely erected a chain of forts; Antoninus, a vallum, or turf rampart and trench 4. Trusting to the Scottish antiquaries, he is equally ignorant that the interpolator of Nennius is the sole foundation for the battles and the buildings of Carausius at Carron, and the only authority on which it is celebrated by Buchanan and himself, as the furthest limit of the Roman empire.

3 Gibbon’s History, i. 8. 209. Macpherson gives three etymologies of Caracalla; carac-buil, terrible eye; carac-healla, terrible-look; carac-cballamh, a sort of (terrible) upper garment. Ossian, üi..222. edit. 1773,

.“ Hic contenta suos defendere fines
“Roma securigeris prætendit moenia Scotis,
“ Hic spe progressus prosita, Caronis ad undam,
“ Terminus ausonii signat divortia regni,"

Buch. ii. 56.

3. Carron, assigned by Buchanan as the boundary of the Dumbar.

ton Roman empire, and the scene of Douglas, a tragedy then so popular, Glencoen, or Cona, infamous among the highlanders from the massacre of Glenco, Dumbarton, the Alcluith of Bede, in short, the most noted or classical places in Scotland, are thus, by a dexterous anticipation, appropriated to Ossian. Balclutha, in the poem of Carthon, was burnt by Comhall, the father of Fingal. Dumbarton could not have escaped the accurate observation of Pto-. lemy, a contemporary, had it existed then. The Romans, when the wall of Antoninus was erected in 140, would neither have permitted the Britons to retain a fortress of such considerable strength, nor could Dumbarton, in the second century, have been destroyed by Comhall, on account of its extreme vicinity to the end of the wall. The fact ap- not theu

built. pears to be, that it was built by the Romans, and named. Theodosias, from Theodosius, Valentinian's general, who,

4 Nennius, cap. 148–51. Horsley's Erit. Rom. 1. i. c. 9, 10 Pinkerton, 1. 45. Innes' C. it. Essay, i. 15. Gordon's Itin. Septentrionale. Roy's Mil. Ant.

5“ Maximus hic visitur lacus, cui nomen olim Lyncalidor ; ad cujusi ostium condita a Romanis urbs Alcruith, brevi tempore a duce Theo


[ocr errors]

in 367, recovered and erected the country abandoned by Caracalla,' into the province of Valentia, between the walls. Balclutha, therefore, had no existence when it was sacked by Comhall; and I suspect much that the incident is derived froin the destruction of Dumbarton, in the ninth cen

tury, by the Danes from Ireland. Balclutha a The name itself is an additional detection. When

erected by the Romans it retained the name of Theodosia and the privileges of a Latin town (jus Latii) till transferred, on their departure, to the native Britons, who formed the kingdom of Strathclyde Welsh. On becoming their capital, it received, or perhaps recovered, the name of Alcluyd, explained by Bede the rock of Clyde. Unable to discover the word in Earse, Macpherson imagined that Bede was mistaken, and translated the Gothick, and comparatively recent names of Dunclidon and Dunbarton, the town of the Britons, into Balclutha, the town of Clyde 6. But that Bede's etymology was correct, and Macpherson's a fictitious name of his own, is proved not only by Richard, but Adomnan, who preceded Bede, and who translated Alcluyth into Petracloith in his life of Columba. .


dosio nomen sortita, qui occupatam a barbaris provinciam recuperavit: cum hac comparari potuit nulla; utpote quæ post fractas cæteras cir. cumjacentes provincias impetum hostium ultimo sustinuit.” Richard of Cirencester, 1. i. c. 6. If the authority of Richard is denied, the silence of Ptolemy, who enumerates the towns of each nation, is decisive against the existence of Alcluith in the second century. Alauno has been transferred from Stirling to Keir, and the Castra Alata from Edinburgh to Cramond or Inverness. As Alcluith was so long unoccupied, it is singular that the Romans, adhering to an established plan of defence, neglected three such natural fortresses as Dumbarton, Edinburgh, and Stirling, for a line of forts and a wall from frith to frith.

6 Macpherson, who might discover in Goodall's Introduction to Fordun (published 1759) the destruction of Alcluyth in 870 by the Danes, imagined that Ala rock was a mistake of Bede's for Ball a town. Dunclidon. which he evidently translates Balcluthia, has no authority, I suspect, but Baxter's emendation of the Clidum of Ravennas. He has given us 20other town, Balteutha, to be still discovered on the Tweed.

4. Fingal's intercourse with other nations affords the Orkney same minute, yet conclusive detections. Innistore, the isle of wild boars,' which occurs in an Irish ballad to be quoted in the sequel, is transferred to the Orkneys, and interpreted the isle of whales; from a fanciful etymology which Toland's History of the Druids suggested to Macpherson. Conscious, however, that torre never signified a whale in Earse, Smith converts the name into Innis-orc, or Orr-innis, (isle of whales) from the Latin orca, or the English orc; a word introduced into their language by the Irish priests. It is evident that Macpherson, who was far gone in 'Toland's Celtic etymologies, inverted or translated the Orkneys into Earse, and converted the name into Inistore, (Torry isle on the west of Ireland,) for the benefit of the sound). But the Orkney isles, which he peoples with deserted or

possessed Scandinavians, were either uninhabited then, or were pos- by Picts. sessed by the same Picts whom he confounds indiscriminately in Scotland, both with the Cimbric Britons, and with the Irish Celts. Solinus, a contemporary of Fingal, de

scribes the islands in 240 as destitute equally of inhabitants · and of woods, and as covered only with shrubs or heath; "" Orcades numero tres; vacant homine; non habent “ sylvas; tantum junceis herbis inhorrescunt; cætera “ earum nudæ arenæ et rupes tenent %.” From this accu

: ; Toland's Hist. of the Druids, 91. n. Smith's Gaelic Antiquities, 231. Collectan. Hiber. iii. 370. See in Macpherson's Introduction to the History of Britain, a ridiculous list, from Maitland, (Hist. Scoti. i.) of Latin words, among others sericum, seriam, silk, derived from the Earse. His ety. mology of Britain is curious ; braid, extensive, broed; in, land. Ossian, i. 206. Thus these Celtic etymologists return us our own words as well as our own poems for Earse.

8 Solinus, cap. 35, where Richard seems to have read Triginte, for which trei perhaps is a manuscript mistake, l.i.cap. 8. The Orkneys, as appears

« PreviousContinue »