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a few ignorant senachies might be persuaded out of their own opinion by the smoothness of an Irish tale, it was impossible to eradicate from among the bulk of the people their own national traditions. These traditions afterwards so much prevailed, that the Highlanders continue totally unacquainted with the pretended Hia bernian extract of the Scottish nation. Ignorant chronicle writers, strangers to the ancient language of their country, preserved only from falling to the ground so improbable a story.
It was during the period I have mentioned, that the Irish became acquainted with, and carried into their country the compositions of Ossian. The scene of many of the pieces being in Ireland, suggested first to them a hint of making both heroes and poet natives of that island. In order to do this effectually, they found it necessary to reject the genuine poems, as every line was pregnant with proofs of their Scottish original, and to dress up a fable on the same subject in their own language. So ill qualified, however, were their bards to effectuate this change, that amidst all their desires to make the Fiona Irishmen, they every now and then called them Siol Albin. It was probably, after a succession of some generations, that the bards had effrontery enough to establish an Irish genealogy for Fion, and deduce him from the Milesian race of kings. In some of the oldest Irish poems on the subject, the great-grand-father of Fion is made a Scandinavian ; and his heroes are often called SiOL LOCHLIN NA BEUM, 1. e. ' the race of Lochlin of wounds. The only poem that runs up the family of Fion to Nuades Niveus, king of Ireland, is evidently not above a hundred and fifty years old; for, if I mistake not, it mentions the Earl of Tyrone, so famous in Elizabeth's time.
This subject, perhapy, is pursued further than it deserves; but a discussion of the pretensions of Ireland to Ossian, was become in some measure necessary. If the Irish poems concerning the Fiona should appear ridiculous, it is but justice to observe, that they are scarcely more so than the poems of other nations at that period. On other subjects, the bards of Ireland have displayed a genius worthy of any age or nation. It was alone in matters of antiquity that they were monstrous in their fables. Their love-sonnets, and their elegies on the death of persons worthy or renowned, abound with such beautiful simplicity of sentiment, and wild harmony of numbers, that they be. come more than an atonement for their errors in every other species of poetry. But the beauty of these spea cies depend so much on a certain • curiosa felicitas' of expression in the original, that they must appear much to disadvantage in another language.
POEMS OF OSSIAN,
SON OF FINGAL.
BY HUGH BLAIR, D. D.
One of the Ministers of the High Church, and Professor of Rhetoric
and Belles Lettres in the University of Edinburgh.
Among the monumer of nations, few are songs. History, when ages, is seldom very in society, in every cou confusion; and thou nish few events we of society, human the most natural plc hibited in the ancient sent to us, what is tory of such transac history of human 11 us acquainted with low.creatures in what objects th
encao e monuments remaining of the ancient state S; few are more valuable than their poems or
istory, when it treats of remote and dark cldom very instructive. The beginnings of
I every country, are involved in fabulous "; and though they were not, they would furevents worth recording. But, in every period y, human manners are a curious spectacle ; and ! natural pictures of ancient manners are ex
I the ancient poems of nations. These preus, what is much more valuable than the hissuch transactions as a rude age can afford: the of human imagination and passion. They make lainted with the notions and feelings of our felatures in the most artless ages : discovering objects they admired, and what pleasures they ed, before those refinements of society had taken , which enlarge indeed, and diversify the transon, but disguise the manners of mankind.
sides this merit which ancient poems have with losophical observers of human nature, they have anter with persons of taste. They promise some of enighest beauties of poetical writing. Irregular and upolished we may expect the productions of unculti
a ages to be; but abounding, at the same time, un that enthusiasm, that vehemence and fire, which
the soul of poetry. For many circumstances of ose times which we call barbarous, are favourable to