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same. "They have, says Tacitus,* poems "that are rehearsed in the field, and kindle "the soul into a flame. The spirit with "which these songs are vociferated, pre"diets the fortune of the approaching fight. "Nor is the manner of singing so much a "concert of voices, as of courage. To aid "the sound, and cause a certain broken "murmur, they lift their shields to their "mouths, that the voice, being rendered "full and deep, may swell by1 repercus"sion." Among all the northern nations, the fate of battle depended not a little on the exhortations of the bards. To he reproached by them for cowardice, was reckoned the last degree of infamy.
We are told by Torfoeus, a Norwegian historian, that in the time of a sea engagement, if near the coast, the Scalds were sometimes landed in a secure and convenient place; .and ordered to mark every event distinctly, so as to be afterwards able to relate them in verse. The same author informs us, that D 2, Glaus Olaus had, in a day of action, appointed strong guards for his three principal poets, after giving them instructions of the .same kind.
* De mor. Germ. cap. 3.
The Welsh and Highland bards followed their patrons into the field, and were frequently of signal service. It was their business and custom, upon the eve of a battle, to harangue the army in a war-song composed on the occasion. This species of song was in the Gaelic called, broswha cath, that is to say, an inspiration to war. The poet addressed a part to every distinct tribe, shewing them the rewards of a glorious victory, and reminding them of the great actions performed by their ancestors. He insisted principally upon the love of fame; liberty, and their prince. As his exordium was always warm and energetic, he usually concluded with the same words.
The poet laureat in England, is a continuance of the bardic institute. His sole occupation now is, to address the king twice a year, in a flattering ode. Formerly
he he accompanied his master to the field, and celebrated those gallant men, who sacrificed their lives in defence of their country. In the year 1314, Edward the second of England invaded Scotland, at the head of a numerous army. Having reason to expect an absolute conquest of that kingdom, he ordered the prior of Scarborough, a celebrated rhymer, to attend him in that expedition. His design was to employ him in immortalizing his victory. But at Bannockburn, fortune declared for the enemy, and the prior was found among the immense number of prisoners which the Scots had made. The ransom demanded for his liberty was a poem on the battle, in praise of the conqueror.—He gave a specimen of his abilities. The four following lines are all that I have ever seen of the work.
Hie capit, hie rapit; hie teret, hie ferit; ecce dolores!
As some may think these verses convey
no ho bad representation of the tumult, hurry j and confusion of an engagement, I shall attempt a translation.
Now hacking and thwacking, now slashing and gashing, they close! Swords batter, shields clatter; what wailing, what dealing of blows! This rushing, this pushing ; this bawling, this falling: this slain: That hiding, that chiding; that dying; that flying amain.
When from undoubted proofs it appears that ah art was so universally exercised, and by men of the first abilities in their days, there is reason to suppose, that in these compositions would be found some of superior excellence. This certainly was the case; but through the instability to which states and languages are subject, few have survived the wreck of time. The only examples of much antiquity, are found in the Old Testament. Greece affords some. Roman poetry is the production of a polished age. Those that can any way compare with the former, are the relics lately collected in the British dominions, among others, by the Rev. Mr. Evan Evans; and Mr. Edward Jones has given to the public several pieces of Welsh poetry and
music, music, as far back as the fifth century. Mr. Richard Llwyd has likewise favoured us with many poetical translations from the same quarter. It is to be hoped, others, following the laudable spirit of inquiry peculiar to the age, will add their endeavours to bring to light the contents of those MSS. both in verse and prose, which, notwithstanding the ravages of time, we are told to be still many.
Miss Brooks has given some translations from the Irish; and Mr. Bunting many of the old tunes of that country. By proper exertions, a great deal more of the same kind may still be snatched from oblivion. Had an earlier investigation been set on foot in the Highlands and Isles, a greater variety of traditional songs and MSS. would have been found lying in a remote corner, guarded by inaccessible mountains, and possessing nothing that could tempt either avarice or conquest; the inhabitants for ages, continued tenaciously attached to the habits, manners, and language of their ancestors. Each of the Clans, of which they