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'' which, a few centuries old, is confessedly unin"telligible to the people at present. It is a pity "that Mr. Laing's ignorance should in this man'' ner mislead his ingenuity; for had he been "capable of comparing the Irish and Gaelic lan"guages> ne would have discovered, that the "former diners from the latter, chiefly in hav"ing a greater admixture of Saxon words and "idioms; and from the fact, that the Irish of two "centuries ago, approaches much nearer to the "present Gaelic, than to the present Irish, he '' would have been led to conclude, that the "Gaelic has remained uncorrupted, while the "Irish has undergone a great change. With "regard to the language of Ossian being obso"lete, it in fact appears so only in those parts of "the Highlands, where the original language is M most corrupted; and of these Macpherson was "a native, where the language is spoken in the "greatest purity, and where the poems of Ossian "are chiefly preserved, they are perfectly well "understood by every one; and the superior "purity of the diction tends only to make a "deeper impression on the memories of the peo"pie.—So much for this argument, which Mr. "Laing assures us is alone sufficient to confute theif "authenticity"
The observations just made by the anonymous nymous author, are strictly tnrt. The greater the intercourse there is between the natives of a country and strangers, the greater will be the changes introduced into its dialect. If conquered, then the language suffers according to the number of strangers that settle among the subdued. The immense shoals of barbarians who poured into Italy, and remained there after the decline of the Roman empire, quite changed the Latin tongue, though long brought to perfection, and enriched with innumerable books, and transformed it gradually into the present Italian. Almost every language in Europe hath, from similar causes, in a more or less degree, undergone the same metamorphosis. The English itself, is a farrago of as many tongues as there have been invaders. So that from the ancient British, it is become a mixture of Saxon, Teutonic, Dutch, Danish, Norman, and modern French, interlarded with the Latin and Greek. The Welsh, indeed, continuing an unmixed people, kept their original speech. So have the inhabitants of the Highlands and Hebrides. Uncon
quered, quered, and free from the influx of strangers, their language for ages has continued the same. It has, to be sure, admitted of technical terms, the names of utensils, and inventions, not known in former times; and for which, consequently, the natives had no appellations. Some new words may likewise have been imported by interlopers, and persons returning after a long residence in foreign parts. But slight innovations of this nature could never affect a language so much as to make the poetry of Ossian unintelligible to his countrymen. The compositions of Homer, and their early writers, were understood in Greece long after it became a Roman province: and why should their old favourite bard be unintelligible to the Highlanders and Hebrideans of these days?
The number of English that settled in Ireland since they conquered the country, have not only rooted out the native tongue from many counties, but moreover greatly corrupted the dialect in others, where it is still retained. From this, in a great mea» -' sure. sure, proceeds the difference between the Irish and Scotch Gaelic; which, nevertheless, is not so great, but that the natives easily comprehend each other. An evident proof they were some time back one people. Whether the Highlanders emigrated originally from Ireland or not, about which there are various opinions, is nothing to the question now in dispute: the name and formation of their letters are the same. If, therefore, manuscripts of Ossian's poems are to be found in Ireland, as hath been confidently asserted, it is plain they have come down by written, as well as oral tradition.
"But, perhaps, (continues the anonymous "author) the most remarkable of all his (Mr. "Laing's) assertions, is an affirmation, that there "never was a Druid in Scotland. For the refu"tation of this assertion, it is not necessary to "have recourse to the legends of fabulous his"torians: the name Druid, is of Celtic origin; "the traditional knowledge of that order is uni"versal, and the Druidical temples, the circle "of large stones placed on end, with a flat one "in the middle, every where meet the traveller
"in "in his excursions through the Highlands. We
"need only refer Mr. Laing to a very perfect
"one, which is to be seen in the pleasure
"grounds of Lord Breadalbane, at Taymouth.
"Against this direct evidence our author's only
"ground for his assertion is, that Tacitus makes
"no express mention of the Druids in the wars
"No sooner, says Mr. Laing, were the translations pui lished, than the traditional existence of the poems disappeared. If they had continued to be repeated as formerly, after the revolution which had taken place in the manners and customs of the Highlanders during the last fifty years, it would, indeed, have been matter of wonder. Since the rebellion of 1745) the power of the chieftains has been at an end; the feasts of the clan, at which the heroic songs were recited with enthusiasm, are now only known from tradition; with their ancient dress and side arms, which the people were obliged to give up, their high pride in warlike glory was almost totally lost; the few remaining bards, who, after being no longer in request at the halls of the chiefs, used to wander from house to house, reciting their poems as an evening amusement, have, at length, become extinct; the winter evenings