Page images
PDF
EPUB

ment of clanship in the northern part of Scotland, which is itself very ancient; for had clans been ther formed and known, they must have made a considerable figure in the work of a Highland Bard; whereas there is not the least mena tion of them in these poenis. It is remarkable that there are found in theni no allufions to the Christian religion or worship; indeed, few traces of religion of any kind. One circumstance seems to prove them. to be coeval with the very infancy. of: Christianity in Scotland. In a fragment of the same poems, which the translator lias seen, a Culdee or Monk. is represented as desirous to take down. in writing from the mouth of Oscian, who is the principal personage in several. of the following fragments, his warlike: atchievements and those of his family.. But Ofcian treats the monk and his religion with disdain, telling him, that the deeds of such great men were subjects too,

high

high to be recorded by him, or by any of his religion: A full proof that Christianity was not as yet established: in the country

: Though the poems now published appear as detached pieces in this collection, there is ground to believe that most of them were originally episodes of a greater work which related to the wars of Fiugal. Concerning this hero. innumerable traditions remain, to this day, in the Highlands of Scotland. The story of Oscian, his son, is so generally known, that to describe olie in whom the race of a great family ends, it has passed into a proverb ; “Oscian the last “ of the heroes.”..

There can be no doubt that these poems are to be ascribed to the Bards; 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, whofe 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; fome in manuscript, but more by oral tradition. And tradition, in a. country fo free of intermixture with fo-. reigners, and among a people fo strong-. ly attached to the memory of their ancestors, has preserved many of them in : a great meafure incorrupted to this day..

They are not fet to music, nor fung. The versification in the original is. fimple ; and to fuch as understand the: language, very smooth and beautiful. Rhyme is feldom used : but the cadence, and the length of the line varied, so as to fuit the fenfe. The translation is extremely literal. Even the arrangement : of the words in the original has been

imitated;

imitated; to which must be inputed fome inversions in the style, that otherWise would not have been chosen.

[ocr errors]

Of the poetical merit of these fragments nothing shall here be faid. Let the public judge, and pronounce. It is believed, that, by a careful inquiry, many more remains of ancient genius, no less valuable than those now given to the world, might be found in the same country where these have been -collected. In particular there is reason to hope that one work of considerable dength, and which deserves to be styled an heroic poem, might be recovered and translated, if encouragement were given to such an undertaking. The subject is, an invasion of Ireland by Swarthan King of Lochlyn; which is the name of Denmark in the Erfe language. Cuchulaid, the General or Chief of the Irish tribes, upon intelligence of the

invasion, invasion, assembles his forces. ' Councils are held; and battles fought. But after several unsuccessful engagements, the. Irish are forced to submit. Ať length, Fingal King of Scotland, called in this poem, “ 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 preserved : 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 this epic 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.

" FRA G

« PreviousContinue »