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on Macpherson calling himself Author, as if that appellation was not equally applicable to a translator, as to an original writer. The verb transfer is likewise noticed, though in the place used by Macpherson, it cannot bear any other signification that to translate.
Such quibbles were unworthy of notice, did not Mr. Laing seem to think them of some importance. The same may be said of his blaming Macpherson for supposing Inistore to be one of the Orkney Islands, inhabited by Scandinavians, and covered with trees. Whereas Mr. Laing, on the authority of Solinus, will have these Islands in the days of Fingal, to have been mere solitary wastes, producing only heath and stunted brushwood.
We do not pretend to support the translator in all his remarks, but he has certainly a right of opinion as well as another. In supposing the Orkneys then inhabited, he coincides with Tacitus, a writer of greater weight than Solinus. We know the Scandinavians had driven the Gael from the
Lowlands Lowlands previous to that period; consequently they would have seized those Islands before attempting any conquest on the main-land. That the Orkneys might be woody then, though now destitute of trees, is very possible; for Iceland was so when first discovered, though now a naked open country. Many districts of the Highlands, where a tree is not now to be seen for many miles, were formerly covered with forests; and this is evident from the large roots dug out of the ground. I am told the same is the case in many of the Hebrides, where few or no woods are at this day to be seen. Mr. Laing likewise accuses him of inventing the blindness of Ossian: a fact, Mrs. Grant informs us,* alluded to, not only in common sayings, but in many Gaelic poems, well known to have existed previous to his translation; of which the aged bard's wish, versified by herself, affords an instance.
serve no answer. Mr. Laing has many such. Among others, that Macpherson invented Loda from Edda, and gives the fragment of a Norse poem which never existed. Though Mr. Laing, from being a native of the Orkneys, may know something more of that tongue than he does of the Gaelic; yet it is not likely he can be acquainted with all the traditionary songs of that country. We are told, that five hundred Icelandic manuscripts have been printed. To the natives of that island, says Mallet,* the world is indebted for almost all the historical monuments of the northern nations now remaining. While heathens, their annalists were always esteemed the best in the north. After embracing Christianity, they were the first to unravel the chaos of ancient history—to collect old poems—to digest their chronicles into a regular form, and apply them to rescue from oblivion the traditions of their pagan theology.
» Vol. i. p. 391.
We may here observe, that these people are far behind the Highlanders in every comfort of life. They live in miserable huts, covered with skins: and many of them have no better cloathing. Their population does not exceed fifty thousand souls. They emigrated from Scandinavia, and speak the old Runic, or Gothic, the language used by those people, who about the beginning of the christian era invaded Scotland, and drove the ancient Caledonians into the mountains. So that the savages, who, according to Dio and Herodian, lay immersed in morasses with their heads only above water—stained their bodies with figures of animals—went almost naked, encircling their loins and necks with ornaments of iron, a mark of wealth which they prized above gold—were the Picts the ancestors of Mr. Laing and the present Lowlanders. The Celts were a much more polished, civilized race, who, as has been above related, brought Over these rude illiterate barbarians to the light of Christianity, and lor several centuries supplied them with pastors. But though the natives
of of the Highlands and Western Isles, spoke the same language, they were never united under one head. There is nothing therefore surprising, in Fordun and Winton, or the Highland genealogists, bringing down the pedigree of Alexander the third from a long list of Irish kings, through Riada, a distinguished leader. This did not proceed from ignorance of these celebrated characters, whose achievements were well known to the Lowlanders. Thus Barbour in one of his poems,
He sayd, methynk Martheokes son .
The passage alludes to some tradition of their battles, but is obscure. Gowmakmorn, is Gaul-mac-morn, or Gaul the son of Morni, in Ossian. Lindsey likewise, in his history of Squire Meldrum, mentions Gow Makmorn.
Thouch thow be great lyke Gow Makmorn.
Hector Boice mentions the famous actions