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in modulation, richness, and variety of sound, the present Scotch dialect, yet some pains have been taken to meliorate and improve the latter. Among its benefactors may be numbered Thomas Lermon, or the Rymour of Erceldom, as he is called, being born at that village, near Melrose, in 1230. Barbour likewise flourished in the fourteenth century. James the first shewed a talent for poetry. Henry the Minstrel, Dunbar, Gawin Douglas, Sir David Lindsay, and Drummond, were all pleasing poets. Many pieces of these writers are still extant; and even several of the modern wits, such as Allan Ramsay, and the late immortal Burns, affect often the old Scotish dialect, esteeming it more expres
sive and emphatic.
Both the present Scotch and English, as hath been above observed, owe their origin to the Gothic, or Mäsogothic tongue. Ovid, who was banished into those parts, became so far acquainted with it, as to compose in
Ah pudet et Getico scripsi sermone libellum,
Structaque sunt nostris barbara verba modis.
İnter inhumanos nomen habere getas.“ .
In another of his elegies, he speaks of the similitude of the Gothic, to the Greek language.
Exercent illi sociæ commercia lingua,
From what he says, we may presume it was then a written 'tongue. In the regions of the north, it has taken the names of Norse, Islandic, Norwegian, and Scandinavian. Compositions of every species have made their appearance in these several dialects from time immemorial. In 1263, when Haco, king of Norway, lay on his deathbed, a cotemporary writer says, he had the Bible and Latin authors read to him; and then in the Norwegian, the lives of saints, and the chronicle of all the Norwegian kings, from Haldan the black. Besides, many animated specimens are quoted and preserved by their modern historians, that prove the propensity of these people to
poetry.* From the relics of ancient Eng. lish poetry, published in three vols. and the number of old ballads also given in three vols. entitled the Minstrelsy of the Borders, it appears, that their descendants in this island inherit the same passion. In all countries, and in all ages, poetry seems congenial to the human race. Among the Egyptians, indeed, metre was originally used solely to preserve the laws of their princes, and say·ings of their wise men. These were sometimes inscribed in hieroglyphic characters, but more frequently committed to memory. Thales composed in this manner his system of natural philosophy. Pythagoras likewise dictated to his followers in verse. Even as late as the days of Aristotle, the laws of the Agathirsi, a nation in Sarmatia, were
* See Saxo Grammat. Jo. Magnus. Torfæus, &c. passim: and Dr. Percy's five pieces of Runic poetry. See, likewise, Johnstone's Haco's expedition, translated from the Norse; Copenhagen, 1782, p. 128.
+ Herodot. Dindor. Sicul. &c.
I “ Jamblichius de vita Pythag. passim ;” and particularly lib. i. cap. 15 and 16.
all delivered in verse. And from the fragments still remaining of the twelve tables, they appear to have consisted of short rythmic sentences.
From laws and morality, poetry made an easy digression to the celebration of heroes. We have Cicero's authority,* that anciently at Roman festivals, the virtues and exploits of their great men were sung. Among the Greeks in early times, the Bards distinguished themselves in this way; and it was customary to recite their compositions on public occasions. Fabricius i has enumerated seventy, whose names only have reached these days. As they existed before Homer, that celebrated author had the advantage of hearing their poems repeated, and it is not improbable he may be indebted to some of these for beauties, which we now admire as original.
The Persians had their magi, who pre
.* Tusculan Questions, lib. iv. No. 3 and 4. + See Bibliotheca Græca, tom. i.
served the remarkable events of former times, and, in war, went before to encourage the army in battle. If victorious, the song of triumph recorded the deeds of those who had fallen, and their praise animated the living to farther acts of valour. The same custom seems anciently to have prevailed among the Jews, as appears from the sublime song of Moses* and Deborah, preserved in Sacred Writ.
Traditional verses are, even at this day, a favourite amusement with the Mahometan nations. It is true, instead of recording the illustrious actions of their real heroes, they sing the fabled exploits of their romantic Buhalul; or the yet more ridiculous fictions of their prophet. A curious specimen of eastern religious poetry may be seen in Sir John Chardin's voyage to Persia.t
It was a practice with the Greeks to sing the hymn of battle, as they advanced to charge the enemy. The Germans did the
* Exodus, xv. 1. Judges, v..
. t. Chap. i. ....