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them to a very remote era. There are four great

stages through which men successively pass in the 1 bigher progress of society. The first and earliest is the life

of hunters; pasturage succeeds to this, as the ideas of m;s:ve mest property begin to take root; next agriculture; and

lastly, commerce. Throughout Ossian's poems, we T as we ar plainly find ourselves in the first of these periods of soundantly by ciety; during which, hunting was the chief employ.

ment of men, and the principal method of their pro. of pocket curing subsistence. Pasturage was not indeed wholly unknow! unknown; for we hear of dividing the herd in the case Loving, who of a divorce; but the allusions to herds and to cattle emplores are not many; and of agriculture we find no traces. C of bara No cities appear to have been built in the territories of ect pursch Fingal. No arts are mentioned, except that of navi. zie," thals! gation and of working in iron'. Every thing presents 7 the son to us the most simple and unimproved manners. At the four their feasts, the heroes prepared their own repast; 4, was d' they sat round the light of the burning oak; the wind their glaui lifted their locks, and whistled through their open halls. i miss Whatever was beyond the necessaries of life was = rise, my known to them only as the spoil of the Roman pro

After convince; “ the gold of the stranger; the lights of the the sami "stranger; the steeds of the stranger; the children of on eart "the rein." sue alry? This representation of Ossian's times must strike us uths of by the mo

the more, as genuine and authentic, when it is compared with a poern of later date, which Mr Macpherson has preserved in one of his notes. It is that wherein hve bards are represented as passing the evening in the

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neir skill in navigation need not at all surprise us. Living in the western islands, de coast, or in a country which is every where intersected with arms of the de of the first objects of their attention, from the earliest time, must have been

to reverse the waters. Hence that knowledge of the stars so necessary for in the punti

& them by night, of which we find several traces in Ossian's works: particularly eautiful description of Cathmor's shield, in the seventh book of Temora, A

e northern maritime nations, navigation was very early studied. Piratical

113 were the chief means they employed for acquiring booty; and were among were, at their

si exploits which distinguished them in the world. Even the savage Americans

their first discovery, found to possess the most surprising skill and dexterity hating their immense lakes and rivers.

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escription of Cuthullin's chariot, in the first book of Fingal, bas been objected Mwan. 16 representing greater m:ignificence than is consistent with the supposed Menu that age. But this chariot is plainly only a horse-litter; and the gems

m the descriptions are no other than the shining stones or pebbles, know quently found along the western coast of Scotland.

The description of cu

mentioned in the descriptions to be frequently found alo

house of a chief, and each of them separately giving his description of the night. The night scenery is beautiful; and the author has plainly imitared the style and manner of Ossian : but he has allowed some images, to appear, which betray a later period of society. For we ineet with windows clapping, the herds of goats: and cows seeking shelter, the shepherd wandering, cora on the plain, and the wakeful hind rebuilding the shocks of corn which had been overturned by the tempest. Whereas, in Ossian's works, from beginning to end, all is consistent ; no modern allusion drops from him ; but everywhere, the same face of rude nature appears; a country wholly uncuitivated, thinly inhabitéd, and recently peopled. The grass of the rock, the flower of tlie heath, the thistle with its beard, are the chief ornaments of his landscapes. “ The desart," says Fingal, “ is enough to me, with all its woods and 66 deer.”

The circle of ideas and transactions, is no wider than suits such an age : nor any great diversity introduced into characiers, than the events of that period would necessarily display. Valour and bodily strength are the admired qualities. Contentions arise, as is usual among stvage nations, from the slightest causes. To be affronted at a tournament, or to be omitted in the invitation to a feast, kindles a war. Women are often carried away by force; and the whole tribe, as in the Homeric times, rise to avenge the wrong. The heroes show refinement of sentiment, indeed, on several occasions, but none of manners. They speak of their past actions with freedom, boast of their exploits, and sing their own praise. In their battles, it is evident thai drums, trumpets, or bay-pipes, were not known or used. They had no expedient for giving the military alarms, but striking a shield, or raising a loud cry. And hence the loud and terrible voice of Fingal is often mentioned, as a necessary qualification of a great general, like the four a'yados Mevsaccos of Homer. Of military discipline or sh in they appear to have been entirely destitute. Their armies seem not to have

been numerous ; their battles were disorderly, and terminated, for the most part, by a personal combat, or wrestling, of the two chiefs; after which, “ the bard " sung the song of peace, and the battle ceased along " the field.”

The manner of composition bears all the marks of the greatest antiquity. No artful transitions, nor full and extended connection of parts ; such as we find among the poets of later times, when order and regularity of composition were more studied and known; but a style always rapid and vehement; in narration concise even to abruptness, and leaving several circum. stances to be supplied by the reader's imagination. The language has all that figurative cast, which, as I before shewed, partly a glowing and undisciplined imagination, partly the sterility of language, and the want of proper terms, have always introduced into the early speech of nations; and in several respects, it carries a remarkable resemblance to the style of the Old Testament. It deserves particular notice, as one of the most genuine and decisive characters of antiquity, that very few general terms, or abstract ideas, are to be met with in the whole collection of Ossian's works. The ideas of men, at first, were all particular. They had not words to express general conceptions. These were the consequence of more profound reflection, and longer acquaintance with the arts of thought and of speech. Ossian, accordingly, almost never expresses himself in the abstract. His ideas extended little farther than to the objects he saw around him. A public, a community, the universe, were conceptions beyond his sphere. Even a mountain, a sea, or a lake, which he has occasion to mention, though only in a simile, are for the most part particularised; it is the hill of Cromla, the storm of the sea of Malmor, or the reeds of the lake of Lego--a mode of expression, which, whilst it is characteristical of ancient ages, is at the same time highly favourable to descriptive poetry. For the same reasons, personification is a poetical figure not very common with Ossian. Inanimate objects

2

such as winds, trees, flowers, he sometimes personifies with great beauty. But the personifications which are so familiar to later poets, of Fame, Time, Terror, Virtue, and the rest of that class, were unknown to our Celtic bard. These were modes of conception too abstract for his age.

All these are marks so undoubted, and some of them too so nice and delicate, of the most early times, as put the high antiquity of these poems out of question : especially when we consider, that if there had been any imposture in this case, it must have been contrived and executed in the Highlands of Scotland, two or three centuries ago; as, up to this period, both by manuscripts, and by the testimony-of a multitude of living witnesses, concerning the incontrovertible tradition of these poems, they can be clearly traced. Now, this is a period when that country enjoyed no advantages for a composition of this kind, which it may not be supposed to have enjoyed in as great, if not in a greater degree, a thousand years before. To suppose that two or three hundred years ago, when we well know the Highlands to have been in a state of gross ignorance and barbarity, there should have arisen in that country a poet, of such exquisite genius, and of such deep knowledge of inankind, and of history, as to divest himself of the ideas and manners of his own age, and to give us a just and natural picture of a state of society ancienter by a thousand years ; one who could support this counterfeited antiquity through such a large collection of poems, without the least inconsistency; and who, possessed of all this genius and art, had, at the same time, the self-denial of concealing himself, and of ascribing his own works to ari antiquated · bard, without the imposture being detected; is a supposi. tion that transcends all bounds of credibility.

There are, besides, two other circumstances to be attended to, still of greater weight, if possible, against this hypothesis. One is, the total absence of religious ideas from this work; for which the translator bas, in

5 preface, given a very probable account, on the

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s peros' footing of its being the work of Ossian. The druidi. 18 Wheepcal superstition was, in the days of Ossian, on the me, 15 point of its final extinction; and for particular reasons, inkno: odious to the family of Fingal; whilst the Christian !ception

faith was not yet established. But had it been the

work of one, to whom the ideas of Christianity were me o te

familiar from his infancy, and who had superadded to is time them also the bigotted superstition of a dark age and of quests country; it is impossible but, in some passage or other, id beert the traces of them would have appeared. The other nitrivec

circumstance is, the entire silence which reigns with ro or respect to all the great clans, or families, which are

by na now established in the Highlands. The origin of these le of several clans is known to be very ancient : and it is as traditio well known, that there is no passion by which a naow, tative Highlander is more distinguished, than by attach

ment to his clan, and jealousy for its honour. That a

Highland bard, in forging a work relating to the antia grey quities of his country, should have inserted no circuin

Stance which pointed out the rise of his clan, which ascertained its antiquity. or increased its glory, 15 of an, suppositions that can be formed, the most impro. bable ; and the silence on this head amounts to a de

monstration that the author lived before any of the to de present great clans were formed or known.

uming it then, as we well may, for certain, that

poeis now under consideration, are genuine veneSadie monuments of very remote antiquity ; I proceed

some remarks upon their general spirit and strain

The two great characteristics of Ossian's poetry thau are, tendern

bilderness and sublimity. It breathes nothing e gay and cheerful kind; an air of solemnity and whess is diffused over the whole. Ossian is per

only poet who never relaxes, or lets himself he light and amusing strain ; which I rea

be no small disadvantage to him, with eaders. He moves perpetually in the high

grand and the patietic. One key-20te " beginning, and supported to the end; ornament introduced but what is perfectly

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