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POEMS OF OSSIAN,
JAMES MACPHERSON, Esq.
PROSE AND RHYME.
MALCOLM LAING, Eso.
IN TWO VOLUMES.
PRINTED BY JAMES BALLANTYNE,
Th E 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 originals myself. For that purpose, a more critical and minute examination was bestowed upon the j
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 explained1, it 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,
1 See Hurd on the Marks of Poetical Imitation.