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ment of clanship in the northern part ofv Scotland, which is itself very ancient; fop had clans. been.then forwed* and'known, they must have made a considerable figure in the work of a Highland' Bard ; whereas.there is not the least mention of them in these poems. It is remarkable that there are found in them no allusions to the Christian religion or worship;. indeed, few traces of religion of any kindOne circumstance seems. to prove them. to be coeval with the very infancy. osChristianity in Scotland. In a fragment of the fame poems, which the translator has seen, a Culdee or Monk is represented as desirous to take down in writing from the mouth of Oscian, who is the principal personage. i.n several. of the following fragments, his warlike. atchievements and those of his family.. But Oscian treats the monk and his religion with disdain, telling him, that the deeds of such great men were subjects too.
high to be recorded by hirer,- or-by any ©f his religion: A full proof that Christianity was not as yet established in the country
Though the poems now publiiliecf appear as detached pieces in this collection, there is ground to believe that roost of them were originally episodes of a greater work which related to the wars of FiogaL Concerning this hero innumerable traditions remain, to this day, in the Highlands of Scotland.. The story of Ofcian, his son, is so generally known,.. that to describe one in whom the race of a great family ends,. it has passed into a proverb;. "Ofcian the last "of the heroes." .
. There can be no doubt that these poems are to be ascribed to theBards; a-race of men well known to have continued throughout many ages in Ireland
and and the north of Scotland. Every chief or great man had in his family a Bard or poet, whose office it was to record in verse, the illustrious actions of that family. By the succession of these Bards,. such poems were handed down from race to race; some in manuscript, but more by oral tradition. And tradition, in a^ country so free of intermixture with foreigners, and among a people so strong— ly attached to the memory of their ancestors, has preserved many of them in a great measure incorrupted to this day.
They are not set to music, nor sung. The versification in the original is. simple; and to such as understand the language, very smooth and beautiful. Rhyme is seldom used r but the cadence,. and the length. of the line varied, so as to. suit the sense. The translation is extremely literal.. Even the arrangement of the words in the original has been.
"imitated; to which must be imputed some inversions in the style, that otherwise would cot have been chosen.
Of the poetical merit of these fragments nothing shall here be (aid. Let the public judge, and pronounce. It is believed, that, by a careful inquiry, many more remains of ancient genius, no lels valuable than those now given to the world, might be found in the fame country where these have been collected. In particular there is reason to hope that one work of considerable length, and which deserves to be styled an heroic poem, might be recovered and translated, if encouragement were givea to such an undertaking. The subject is, an invasion of Ireland by Swarthan King of Lochlyn; which is the name of Denmark in the Erse lan• guage. Cuchulaid, the General or Chief ofthe Irish tribes, upon intelligence of the
invasion, assembles his forces. Councils are held; and battles fought. But after several unsuccessful engagements, the. Irish are forced to submit. At length, Fingal King of Scotland, called in this poem, M The Desert of the hills," arrives with his ships to assist Cuchulaid. He expels the Danes from the country; and returns home victorious. This poem is held to be of greater antiquity than any of the rest that are preserted: And the author speaks of himself as present in the expedition of Fingal. The three last poems in the collection are fragments which the translator obtained of thisepic poem; and though very imperfect, they were judged not. unworthy of being inserted.' If the whole were recovered, it might serve to throw considerable light upon the Scottish and Irish antiquities.