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so he, in return, considered them as members of his family. His commands, therefore, though absolute and decisive, partook more of the authority of a father, than of the rigour of a judge. Though the whole territory of the tribe was considered as the property of the chief, yet his vassals made him no other consideration for his lands than services, neither burdensome nor frequent. As he seldom went from home, he was at no expence. His table was supplied by his own herds, and what his numerous attendants killed in hunting.
In this rural kind of magnificence the Highland chiefs lived for many ages. At a distance from the seat of government, and secured by the inaccessibleness of their country, they were free and independent. As they had little communication with strangers, the customs of their ancestors remained among them, and their language retained its original purity. Naturally fond of military fame, and remarkably attached to the memory of their ancestors, they delighted in traditions and songs, concerning the exploits of their nation, and especially of their own particular families. A succession of bards was retained in every clan, to hand down the memorable actions of their forefathers. As the era of Fingal, on account of Ossian's poems, was the most remarkable, and his chiefs the most renowned names in tradition, the bards took care to place one of them in the genealogy of every great family. The part of the poems which concerned the hero, who was regarded as ancestor, was preserved as an authentic record of the antiquity of the family, and was delivered down, from race to race, with wonderful exactness.
The bards themselves, in the mean time, were not idle. They erected their immediate patrons into heroes, and celebrated them in their songs. As the circle of their knowledge was narrow, their ideas were confined in proportion. A few happy expressions, and the manners they represent, may please those who under, stand the language ; their obscurity and inaccuracy would disgust in a translation. It was chiefly for this eason, that I kept wholly to the compositions of Os.
sian, in my former and present publication. As he acted in a more extensive sphere, his ideas are more noble and universal; neither has he so many of those peculiarities, which are only understood in a certain period or country. The other bards have their beauties, but not in that species of composition in which Ossian excels. Their rhymes, only calculated to kin. dle a martial spirit among the vulgar, afford very litule pleasure to genuine taste. This observation only regards their poems of the heroic kind; in every other species of poetry they are more successful. They express the tender melancholy of desponding love, with irresistible simplicity and nature. So well adapted are the sounds of the words to the sentiments, that, even without any knowledge of the language, they pierce and dissolve the heart. Successful love is expressed with peculiar tenderness and elegance. In all their compositions, except the heroic, which was solely calculated to animate the vulgar, they give us the genuine language of the heart, without any of those affected ornaments of phraseology, which, though intended to beautify sentiments, divest them of their natural force. The ideas, it is confessed, are too local to be admired in another language ; to those who are acquainted with the manners they represent, and the scenes they describe, they must afford the highest plea. sure and satisfaction.
It was the locality of his description and sentiment, that probably kept Ossian so long in the obscurity of an almost lost language. His ideas, though remarkably proper for the times in which he lived, are so contrary to the present advanced state of society, that more than a common mediocrity of taste is required to relish his poems as they deserve. Those who alone were capable to make a translation, were, no doubt, conscious of this, and chose rather to admire their poet in secret, than see him received with coldness in an Enlish dress,
These were long my own sentiments, and acco: / ingly my first translations from the Gaelic ?
merely accidental. The publication which soon after followed, was so well received, that I was obliged to promise to my friends a larger collection. In a jour: ney through the Highlands and isles, and, by the assistance of correspondents, since I left the country, all the genuine remains of the works of Ossian have come to my hands. In the preceding volume d complete poems were only given. Unfinished and imperfect poems were purposely omitted; even some pieces were rejected on account of their length, and others, that they might not break in upon that thread of connection which subsists in the lesser compositions subjoined to Fingal. That the comparative merit of pieces was not regarded in the selection, will readily appear to those who shall read attentively the present collection. It is animated with the same spirit of poetry, and the same strength of sentiment is sustained throughout.
The opening of the poem of Temora made its appearance in the first collection of Ossian's works. The second book, and several other episodes, have only fallen into my hands lately. The story of the poem, with which I had been long acquainted, enabled me to reduce the broken members of the piece into the order in which they now appear.' For the ease of the reader, I have divided it into books, as I had done before with the poem of Fingal. As to the merit of the poem, I shall not anticipate the judgment of the public. My impartiality might be suspected, in my account of a work which, in some measure, is become my own. If the poem of Fingal met with the applause of persons of genuine taste, I shall also hope that Temora will not dispicase them.
But what renders Temora infinitely more valuable than Fingal, is the light it throws on the history of the times. The first population of Ireland, its first kings, and several circumstances which regard its connection of oid with the south and north of Britain, are presented to us in several episodes. The subject and
d The author alludes to the rooms preceding Lerrathor, us that 1. led the first solune.
catastrophe of the poem are founded upon facts, which regarded the first peopling of that country, and the contests between the two British nations which originally inhabited it. In a preceding part of this dissertation, I have shewn how superior the probability of Ossian's traditions is to the undigested fictions of the Irish bards, and the more recent and regular legends of both Irish and Scottish historians. I mean not to give offence to the abettors of the high antiquity of the tho nations, though I have all along expressed my doubts concerning the veracity and abilities of those who deliver down their ancient history. For my own part, I prefer the national fame, arising froin a few certain facts, to the legendary and uncertain annals of ages in remote and obscure antiquity. No kingdom now established in Europe can pretend to equal antiquity with that of the Scots, even according to my system ; so that it is altogether needless to fix their origin a actitious millenium before.
Since the publication of the poems contained in the first volume, many insinuations have been made, and doubts arisen concerning their authenticity. I shall, probably, hear more of the same kind after the present poems shall make their appearance. Whether these suspicions are suggested by prejudice, or are only the effects of ignorance of facts, I shall not pretend to de termine. To me they give no concern, as I have it always in my power to remove them. An incredulity of this kind is natural to persons who confine all inerit to their own age and country. These are generally the weakest, as well as the most ignorant, of the people. Indolently confined to a place, their ideas are narrow and circumscribed. It is ridiculous enough to see such people as these are, branding their ancestors with the despicable appellation of barbarians. Sober reason can easily discern where the title ought to be fixed witin more propriety.
As prejudice is always the effect of ignorance, t! knowing, the inen of true taste, despise and dismiss li the poetry is od, and the characters natural
striking, to them it is a matter of indifference, whether the heroes were born in the little village of Angles in Jutland, or natives of the barren heaths of Caledonia. That honour which nations derive from ancestors, worthy or renowned, is merely ideal. It may buoy up the minds of individuals, but it contributes very little to their importance in the eyes of others, But of all those prejudices which are incident to narrow minds, that which measures the merit of performances by the vulgar opinion concerning the country which produced them, is certainly the most ridiculous. Ridiculous, however, as it is, few have the courage to reject it; and I am thoroughly convinced, that a few quaint lines of a Roman or Greek epigrammatist, if dug out of the ruins of Herculaneum, would meet with more cordial and universal applause, than all the most beautiful and natural rhapsodies of all the Celtic bards and Scandinavian scalders that ever existed.
While some doubt the authenticity of the composi.. tions of Ossian, others strenuously endeavour to appropriate them to the Irish nation. Though the whole tenor of the poems suficiently contradicts so absurd an * opinion, it may not be improper, for the satisfaction of some, to examine the narrow foundation on which this extraordinary clain it built.
. Of all the natious descended from the ancient Cel. tæ, the Scots and Irish are the most siinilar in language, customs, and manners. This argues a more intimate connection between them, than a remote descent from the great Celtic stock. It is evident, in short, that at some one period or other, they formed one society, were subject to the same government, and were, in all respects, one and the same people. How they became divided, which the colony, or which the mother-nation, does not fall now to be discussed. The first circumstance that induced me to disregard the vulgarlv-received opinion of the Hibernian extraction of the Scottish nation, was my observations on their ancient language. That dialect of the Celtic tongue
ken in the north of Scotland, is much more pure,