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ons of Fengal. It is true he does so in the same manner as we record king Arthur, and other ancient British worthies.
Nicholson, in his Scottish historical library, takes notice of having an old romance of the valour and feats of Fin M'Coul, a giant of prodigious stature in the days of king Ewain the second.
Buchanan, in like manner, in his account of the family of Buchanan,* mentions the Feans, and speaks of “ rude rhimes," that record the acts of Fin Mac Coel, as retained by the Irish and Scottish Highlanders. This gentleman was himself well versed in the Gaelic.
In the countries where that language is spoken, the poems and persons they record, are well known. In Ireland, it must be allowed, they are much defaced with spurious additions, as appears from some translations published by Miss Brooks and others. Camden received from one Goad, a schoolmaster at Limerick, the following account. Defunctorum animas in consortium abire existimant quorumdam in illis locis illustrium de quibus fabulas et cantilenas recitant ; ut Gigantium Fin Mac Huyle, Osker Mac Oshin; et tales sæpe per illusionem se videre dicunt.
* Edin. 1723, 4to.
More intelligent and coherent relations of these ancient heroes, are found in the Highlands and Western Islands of Scotland. There every stream and mountain, every tale, song, or adage, retained some traces of the generous hero, or the mournful bard-old people can remember, before Macpherson ever thought of translating these remains, many comparisons and allusions found in them, were as current as scripture quotations in the last age among the peasants of the west. “ She “ was beautiful as Agandecca the daughter “ of snow—she is musical as Melvina—he “is as forlorn as Ossian, after the departure 6 of the Fingalians—such a one is alert and “ nimble as Cuthullin.”—Nor is there scarce a district in those parts without mo. ...
numents of their achievements, not only have they given names to caves, mountains, and lakes, but the very dogs of the country are called after them: we meet with stones to which Fingal tied Bran, and Cuthulin Luath. There also the poems of Ossian, though not without some mutilations and adulterations, have been for ages with amazing purity and fidelity handed down. As the fact, notwithstanding Mr. Laing's pretended detections have been sufficiently proved, we shall offer no farther remarks on the subject ; especially, since the gentleman himself, after bringing what he calls incontrovertible arguments, owns at the end they may be easily answered. What could induce him to make this confession, we are at a loss to conjecture; unless, upon reading them over again, they did not appear so conclusive as he at first imagined. He therefore changes his ground, and appealing from reasoning to fact; which he owns to be worth a thousand arguments; he declares, that, “ if a single poem of Ossian in manu“ script, of an older date than the present “ century (1700) be procured and lodged
6 in a public library, I (Laing) shall return “ among the first to our national creed.”
This is reducing the point at issue to a narrow compass. Had the proposal been made at the outset, it would have saved both him and me a great deal of trouble; not that in regard to ancient Gaelic manuscripts, I could give any more satisfactory account; than has been done in the course of this discourse. There the reader will see, that though, some of the poems are confessedly procured from oral tradition, yet several gentlemen of veracity attest to have seen, among Macpherson's papers, several manuscripts of a much older date than Mr.. Laing requires, to be convinced. Though not more credulous than my neighbours, I cannot resist facts so well attested; there are no stronger for believing the best established human transactions.
I understand the originals are in the press, and expected daily to make their appearance. When they do, the public will not be carried away by conjectures,
but be able to judge on solid grounds. Till then let the discussion on this subject be at rest.
With regard to the few short poems that follow, I have only to observe, that it was at one time my intention to versify the whole of Ossian's works. But the first specimen given, meeting with an unfavourable reception, the design was dropped. Since then my studies have been turned to better and more useful purposes. The following versions were a part of the original undertaking, and have lain by me from the time I had given up the thought of being a poet. Lately, however, they came under the inspection of some acquaintances, who warmly urged to have them sent abroad. Though the judgment of the public rarely accords with the flattery of friends, I have acquiesced. If they meet approbation, very well: if not, I shall have greater reason to rejoice, that my former design was not put into execution.