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“ when thou spreadest thy golden locks on the face *** of the cloud in the east, or when thou trem66 blest in the west at the dusky doors of the 66 ocean. It is well, thou, like me, art at one “ season powerful, at another feeble; our years, “ descending from the sky, travel together to “ their end. Rejoice then, O Sun, while thou “ art strong in thy youth, thou mighty one! “ dark and unlovely is age, like the vain light of 66 the feeble moon, when she looks through a 66 cloud on the field; while the blue mists are on 66 the sides of the rocks, and the blast from the “ north on the plain, (beating) on the wounded “ traveller that faintly walks along."
“ From this literal translation we perceive, " that what is called the eastern style of poetry, “ belongs also to the Celtic poetry, and is not an “ ingredient introduced by Macpherson.* We find, that he, like all other translators, has 66 omitted several particularising circumstances “ which add greatly to the beauty of the original; " and that he has occasionally slurred over some “ passages which he found obscure. As this ad• dress (perhaps the most beautiful of Ossian's “ poems) is attested by respectable witnesses still
* His translation of the above passage. 66 O thou that “ rollest above, round as the shield of my fathers! whence are • thy beams, O Sun! thy everlasting light? Thou comest forth " in thy awful beauty; the stars hide themselves in the sky; is the moon, cold, and pale, sinks in the western wave. But 6 thou thyself movest alone : who can be a companion in thy “ course! the oaks of the mountains fall: the mountains them“ selves decay with years; the ocean shrinks and grows again : 66 the moon herself is lost in heaven; but thou art for ever the
alive, to have been in the mouths of the com
mon people long before the birth of Macpher“ son, Mr. Laing has on this occasion to find out “ some other imitator. From this striking in. “ stance, one may judge of the other imitations 66 which his ingenuity has discovered.
“ Would our limits permit, we might here ** entertain our readers with some curious speci“ mens of Mr. Laing's ingenuity in tracing imi
" same; rejoicing in the brightness of thy course. When the " world is dark with tempests; when thunder rolls, and light" ning flies; thou lookest in thy beauty, from the clouds, and “ laughest at the storm. But to Ossian, thou lookest in vain; !' for he beholds thy beams no more; whether thy yellow hair “ flows on the eastern clouds, or thou tremblest at the gates of "" the west. But thou art perhaps, like me, for a season, thy 66 years will have an end. Thou shalt sleep in thy clouds, " careless of the voice of the morning. Exult then, O Sun, in " the strength of thy youth! age is dark and unlovely; it is like 66 the glimmering light of the moon when it shines through 66 broken clouds, and the mist is on the hills; the blast of the 66 north is on the plain, the traveller shrinks in the midst of his “ journey."
“ tations. If not only an idea, but even a single “ word is similar, the whole passage is without " further ceremony pressed into the service. “ The following is one of our author's examples: “ Fingal thus addresses his chiefs; “ Gaul, take " thy terrible sword. Fergus, bend thy crooked “ bow. Throw, Fillan, thy lance to heaven.” In " the poem of Hardiknute, we have the follow“ ing lines.
“ Robin of Rothsay, bend thy bow,
" Thy arrow shoot sae liel;
" Ye need not weapon's mair,
“ In this example Mr. Laing affirms that the “ words of Hardiknute are almost literally repeated " by Fingal. If a direct and literal plagiarism “ is to be deduced from such a common expres“sion as bend thy bow, and the use of such a fa“ miliar word as lance, any author may be rea“ dily proved a direct imitator of any other: 66 nor should we find it difficult to shew, by this “ rule, that Mr. Laing's history was almost 66 wholly cribbed, not only from Hume, Robert" son, &c. but even from the Pilgrim's Progress, " and Jack the Giant Killer.
“ Mr. Laing's next source of detections, is
; ... “ from
" from an examination of the specimen of the 66 Gaelic originals published by Macpherson. “ Here we have one of the most curious attempts “ we remember to have met with in the annals “ of criticism. Mr. Laing takes upon him to “ decide peremptorily on the etymologies and “ structure of a language, with which he owns “ himself entirely unacquainted; and by the 66 decisions which his profound knowledge shall “ here lead him to form, he modestly requires “his reader to judge of the authenticity of poems 5 written in a language, of which he does not, • pretend to understand a single word.
“ No subject has been more fruitful of foolish “ theories and wild conjectures than the tracing " of etymologies. Every language possesses a 6 number of words, which both in sound and 66 sense resemble those of some other language. 6. The only rational account of this coincidence 5 is, that there was some original language from -66 which all the others took their rise; although “ they became afterwards wonderfully diversified 66 by various circumstances, in which the dif“ ferent tribes of mankind were placed. If this “ be the case, how shall we decide, particularly 66 in regard to the names and qualities of natural “ objects, which terms were derived from this
“ original language, and which were afterwards " adopted.
“ But whatever Mr. Laing's opinion may be on this subject, he allows, what it is impos66 sible he should deny, that the Celtic is fully 6 as ancient as any other language from which • it could be supposed to borrow any of its 66 terms. When this is the case, and when the “ different languages have, for a long series of “ years, been spoken by adjoining nations, no" thing can be more preposterous than an attempt " to shew, when any particular word was trans66 ferred from one language to the other. Some “ trifling occurrence, which no critical sagacity 66 can ever discover, may have caused a word to 66 be adopted almost as early in another language, 6 as in that to which it owed its origin. Allow“ ing all the words which our author produces, “ to have been originally either Roman or Teu6 tonic, as an intercourse subsisted between these 66 nations and the Celts, long before the days of “ Ossian: these words might, by innumerable 56 accidents, have been transferred from the for
mer languages to the latter, long before the pe66 riod of that poet.”
“ It is equally impossible, where languages