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tality of the human soul. Though Julius Cæsar, in his account of Gaul, does expressly mention the bards, yet it is plain, that under the title of druids, he comprehends that whole college or order; of which the bards, who, it is probable, were the disciples of the druids, undoubtedly made a part. It deserves remark, that according to his account, the druidical institution first took rise in Britain, and passed from thence into Gaul; so that they who aspired to be thorough masters of that. learning were wont to resort to Britain. He adds too, that such as were to be initiated among the druids, were obliged to commit to their memory a great number of verses, insomuch that some employed twenty years in this course of education; and that they did not think it lawful to record these poems in writing, but sacredly handed them down by tradition from race to race.?
So strong was the attachment of the Celtic nations to their poetry and their bards, that amidst all the changes of their government and manners, even long after the order of the druids was extinct, and the national religion altered, the bards continued to flourish; not as a set of strolling songsters, like the Greek 'Adidas or Rhapsodists, in Homer's time, but as an order of men highly respected in the state, and supported by a public establishment. We find them, according to the testimonies of Strabo and Diodorus, before the age of Augustus Cæsar; and we find them remaining under the same name, and exercising the same functions as of old, in Ireland, and in the north of Scotland, almost down to our own times. It is well known, that in both these countries, every Regulus or chief had his own bard, who was considered as an officer of rank in his court, and had lands assigned him, which descended to his family. Of the honour in which the bards were i
k per hæc loca (speaking of Gaul) hominibus paulatim excultis, viguere studia lauda biliuin doctrinarum ; inchoata per bardos, & euhages, & druidas. Et bardi quidem fortia virorum illustrium facta heroicis composita versibus cum dulcibus lyre modulis cantitarunt. Euhages vero scrutantes seriein & sublimia natura pandere conabantur, Inter hos druida ingeniis ceisiores, ut auctoritas Pythagoræ decrevit, sodalitiis adstricti consortiis questionibus altarum occultaruinque reruni erecti sunt: et despectantes bumana pronunciarunt animas immortales.--Amm. Marcellinus, i. 15. cap. 9.
| Vide Cæsar de bello Gall. lib. 6.
held, many instances occur in Ossian's poems. On all important occasions, they were the ambassadors between contending chiefs; and their persons were held sacred. “ Cairbar feared to stretch his sword to the 66 bards, though his soul was dark. Loose the bards, 6 said his brother Cathmor, they are sons of other 4 times. Their voice shall be heard in other ages, “ when the kings of Temora have failed.”
From all this, the Celtic tribes clearly appear to have been addicted in so high a degree to poetry, and to have made it so much their study from the earliest times, as may remove our wonder at meeting with a vein of higher poetical refinement among them, than was at first sight to have been expected among nations, whom we are accustomed to call barbarous. Barbarity, I must observe, is a very equivocal term ; it admits of many different forms and degrees; and though in all of them it excludes polished manners, it is, however, not inconsistent with generous sentiments and tender affections. What degrees of friendship, love, and heroism, may possibly be found to prevail in a rude state of society, no one can say. Astonishing instances of them we know, from history, have sometimes appeared ; and a few characters distinguished by those high qualities, might lay a foundation for a set of manners being introduced into the songs of the bards, more refined, it is probable, and exalted, according to the usual poetic licence, than the real manners of the country. In par
m Surely among the wild Laplanders, if any where, barbarity is in its most perfect state. Yet their love songs, which Scheffer has given us in his Lapponia, are a proof that natural tenderness of sentiment may be found in a country, into which the least glimmering of science has never penetrated. To most English readers these songs are Well known by the elegant translations of them in the Spectator, No 366 and 406. I 3ball subioin Scheffer's Latin version of one of them, which has the appearance of being strictly literal.
Sol, clarissinum ernitte lumen in paludem Orro. Si enisus, in summa picearum cacumina scirem me visuruin Orra plaudem, in ea niterer, ut viderem inter quos amica, mea esset flores; omnes sus-scinderem frutices ibi enatos, omnes ramos præsecarem, hos virente ramos. Cursuin nubium essem secutus, quæ iter suum istituunt versus pa ludem Orra, si ad te volare possem alis, cornicum alis. Sed mihi desunt ale, alæ querquedale pedesque, 22serum pedes plantæve bonæ, quæ deferre me valeant ad te. Satis expectasti diu, per tot dies, tot dies tuos optimos, oculis tuis jucundissimis, corde tuo amicissimo. Quod si longissime velles effugere, cito tamen te consequerer. Quid firmis validiusve esse potest quam contorti pervicatenæve ferræ, quæ durissime ligant? Sic amor con torquet caput nostrum, mutat cogitationes & sententias. Puerorum voluntas, voluntas venti; juvenum cogitationes, longæ cogitationes. Quos si audirem omne a via, a via justa declinarem. Unum est consilium quod capiam ; ita scio vitam rectie
ticular, with respect to heroism ; the great employ. ment of the Celtic bards was, to delineate the characters, and sing the praises of heroes. So Lucan:
Vos quoque qui fortes animos, belloque peremptos,
Plurima securi fudistis carmina bardi. Phars. I. 1. Now when we consider a college or order of men, who, cultivating poetry throughout a long series of ages, had their imaginations continually employed on the ideas of heroism; who had all the poems and panegyrics which were composed by their predecessors handed down to them with care; who rivalled and endeavoured to outstrip those who had gone before them, each in the celebration of his particular hero; is it not natural to think, that at length the character of a hero would appear in their songs with the highest lustre, and be adorned with qualities truly noble? Some of the qualities indeed which distinguish a Fingal, moderation, humanity, and clemency, would not probably be the first ideas of heroisrn occurring to a barbarous people: but no sooner had such ideas begun to dawn on the minds of poets, than, as the human mind easily opens to the native representation of human perfection, they would be seized and embraced ; they would enter into their panegyrics; they would afford materials for succeeding bards to work upon, and improve; they would contribute not a little to exalt the public manners. For such songs as these, familiar to the Celtic warriors from their childhood, and throughout their whole life, both in war and in peace, their principal entertainment must have had a very considerable influence in propagating among them real manners nearly approaching to the poetical, and in forming even such a hero as Bungal : especially when we consider that among their lirited objects of ambition, among the few advantages which, in a savage state, man could obtain over man, the chief was fame, and that immor. tality which they expected to receive from their vir. tues and exploits, in the songs of bards". n lihon 'ward I. congrered Wales, he put to death all the Welch bards. This
xxel Loic plainly shews. how great as intuence he h
ad the son
of those bei
Having made these remarks on the Celtic poetry and bards in general, I shall next consider the particular advantages which Ossian possessed. He appears clearly to have lived in a period which enjoyed all the benefit I just now mentioned of traditionary poetry. The exploits of Trathal, Trenmor, and the other ancestors of Fingal, are spoken of as familiarly known. Ancient bards are frequently alluded to. In one remarkable passage, Ossian describes himself as living in a sort of classical age, enlightened by the memorials of former times, which were conveved in the songs of bards; and points at a period of darkness and ignorance which lay beyond the reach of tradition. “His words," says he, “ came only by halves to our ears ; they were "dark as the tales of other times, before the light of
the song arose.” Ossian himself appears to have been endowed by nature with an exquisite sensibility of heart; prone to that tender melancholy which is so onten an attendant on great genius; and susceptible equally of strong and of soft emotions. He was not Orly a professed bard, educated with care, as we may easily believe, to all the poetical art then known, and connected, as he shews us himself, in intimate friendShip with the other contemporary bards, but a warrior also; and the son of the most renowned hero and prince of his age. This formed a conjunction of circumstances, uncommonly favourable towards exalting the imaginaon of a poet. He relates expeditions in which he d been engaged; he sings of battles in which he had ought and overcome; he had beheld the most illustrious scenes which that age could exhibit, both of heToism in war, and magnificence in peace. For howser rude the magnificence of those times may seem to us, we must remember that all ideas of magnificence are comparative, and that the age of Fingal was an era o distinguished splendour in that part of the world. Pingal reigned over a considerable territory ; he was chriched with the spoils of the Roman province ; he was ennobled by his victories and great actions; and was in all respects a personage of much higher dignity than any of the chieftains, or heads of clans, who lived in the same country, after a more extensive monarchy was established,
; to have over the minds of the
k. The Welch
he minds of the people, and of what nature he judged that influence to He welch bards were of the same Celtic race with the SCOLLISD and in
The manners of Ossian's age, so far as we can ga. ther them from his writings, were abundantly favour. able to a poetical genius. The two dispiriting vices, to which Longinus imputes the decline of poetry, covetousness and effeminacy, were as yet unknown. The cares of men were few. They lived a roving, indolent life ; hunting and war their principal employments; and their chief amusements, the music of bards, and " the feast of shells.” The great object pursued by heroic spirits, was “ to receive their fame," that is, to become worthy of being celebrated in the songs of bards; and “'to have their name on the four grey “ stones.” To die unlamented by a bard, was deemed so great a misfortune, as even to disturb their ghosts in another state. “ They wander in thick mists beside " the reedy lake; but never shall they rise, without " the song, to the dwelling of winds." After death, they expected to follow employments of the same nature with those which had amused them on earth; to fly with their friends on clouds, to pursue airy deer, and to listen to their praise in the mouths of bards. In such times as these, in a country where poetry hath been so long cultivated, and so highly honoured, is it any wonder, that among the race and succession of bards, one Homer should arise; a man, who, endowed with a natural and happy genius, favoured by peculiar advantages of birth and condition, and meeting, in the course of his life, with a variety of incidents proper to fire his imagination, and to touch his heart, should attain a degree of eminence in poetry, worthy to draw the admiration of more refined ages?
The compositions of Ossian are so strongly marked with characters of antiquity, that although there were no external proof to support that antiquity, hardly any eader of indement and taste could hesitate in referring