ページの画像
PDF
ePub

troops; and in their kindness to their prisoners,—we are strikingly reminded of the chiefs, the clanships, and the warfare of the Scotch mountaineers.

In tracing the remains of the Celtic race, we find that in a great proportion of Wales, in the Isle of Man, and in Ireland, the language is still preserved; * but, owing to a greater admixture with strangers, at an earlier period, ancient manners are much changed, whereas, in the Highlands of Scotland, which successfully resisted their intrusion, and were never subdued by either Roman or Goth, and where the repeated attacks of Danes and Norwegians were uniformly repulsed, the remains of the language, manners, superstitions, and mythology of the Celts, are found in greater purity and originality, than in any other country.

The earliest historical records bear testimony to the warlike spirit of the people; while the facts reluctantly disclosed by the Roman historians, prove that their commanders in Britain found the Caledonians very formidable enemies; and it is not to be supposed that they would record defeats and disappointments which did not befall them. According to Tacitus, the celebrated Caledonian general Galgacus f brought against Agricola an army of upwards of 30,000 men, of whom 10,000 were left dead on the field of battle, which sufficiently demonstrates their numbers, their firmness, and their spirit of independence. Though defeated, they were not subdued, and, after three years of persevering warfare, the Roman general was forced to relinquish the object of his expedition. Exasperated at this obstinate resistance, the Emperor Severus determined to extirpate a people who had thus prevented his countrymen from becoming the conquerors of Europe. Having collected a large body of troops, he took the command in person, and entered the mountains of the Caledonians. Notwithstanding his immense preparations, however, he was completely defeated, and driven back to the plains with the loss of 50,000 men; and, subsequently, while one legion was found sufficient to keep the southern parts of the country in subjection, two were required to repel the incursions of the Gael.

* It is observed by Mr Grant, of Corrimonie, that, in Connaught, and the west of Ireland, lo which strangers had least access, the language still spoken differs very little from that of the Scotch Highlanders. The correctness of this observation I have had an opportunity of noticing in my intercourse with Irish soldiers, to whom I have often acted as interpreter.

f Probably the Golgach of Ossian.

Some centuries posterior to this, we find the people forming a separate kingdom, confined within the Grampian boundaries. * This has been always known as the kingdom of the Scots; but to the Highlanders, only as that of the Gael, or Albanich. f The whole country immediately beyond the Grampian range, (that is, the Lowlands of Perth, Angus, and Mearns), was in possession of the Picts. Abernethy, said to have been their capital, % is only twenty miles distant from Birnam hill, the outward boundary at that en

* This, according to the traditions of the Highlanders, is the era of Ossian, when they had a kingly government within the mountains, and all the consequent chivalry, heroism, and rivalry of young men of family assembled in the halls and courts. See Appendix, A.

f The epithets England and Scotland, or Scots and English, are totally unknown in Gaelic. The English are Sassanachs, the Lowland Scots are Guals, the low country is Gualdach, (the Country of Strangers), the Highlanders are Gael and Albanich, and the Highlands Gaeldach. Argyle is Iargael, i. e. Westgael.

X There are remarkable subterranean ruins in Abernethy. These have only been partially examined; but they seem of great extent. The stones consist of the same red freestone which abounds in the neighbourhood, and have been prepared and squared for building, but not cut into an ornamental form; at least as far as they have been examined. The mortar, as in all old buildings, is so hardened by time, that the stones give way to a blow, while the cement resists. As a striking instance of the revolutions of time, even in a country not subject to violent convulsions of the earth, all these buildings are completely covered, in some parts to a considerable depth, with the soil, which consists of a dry loam, occasionally intermixed with gravel. The surface is quite smooth, producing crops of corn and hay, and showing no vestige of what is underneath, except where holes have been dug when the proprietor, a few years ago, made use of some of the stones for building a new house. The whole deserves the notice of the antiquary.

1

16 SEAT OF GOVERNMENT REMOVED.

trance into the Highlands; and Brechin, supposed to be another of their towns, is at nearly the same distance from the eastern boundary.

These two nations of Picts and Scots, the one inhabiting the lowland territory, and the other the mountainous region, differing considerably in manners, but speaking the same language, * were sometimes in alliance, but more frequently in a state of hostility, till the succession, in right of his mother, of Kenneth Macalpin to the throne of the Picts, A. D. 843, when the Scots and Picts finally united under one sovereign. Gaelic continued to be the language of the Court and of the people till the reign of Malcolm III. surnamed Caenmor, who had married the sister of Edgar Etheling, A. D. 1066. From that period the Gaelic language was gradually superseded by the Saxon, until it entirely disappeared in the Lowlands.

Towards the close of the eighth century, ambassadors, it is said, were sent by Charlemagne to Achaius, King of the Scots, or, according to the Highlanders, Ri na Gael, or Albanich, King of the Gael, or of Albany. The result of this friendly communication is stated to have been an alliance between France and Scotland, f This is indeed involved in all the uncertainty of early tradition: yet it is recorded by ancient chronicles; and, as far as it goes, confirms the belief of the number and comparative civilization of the Caledonians; for at whatever period the friendly connection between the two countries commenced, it continued uninterrupted till James VI. of Scotland succeeded to the throne of England. The tradition that Charlemagne appointed two Caledonian professors to preside over his

* That the Picts, inhabiting the low and fertile districts on the east of Scotland, and to the north of the Roman province, were Gael, or Celts, and that they spoke the Gaelic language, seems to be clearly proved by Mr Grant, in his " Thoughts on the Gael." If the Picts spoke a language different from the Celtic, every trace of it has disappeared, the names of towns, rivers, mountains, valleys, &c. being either Celtic or Saxon.

f See Appendix, B.

academical establishments at Padua and Paris, may, in like manner, be regarded as a testimony in favour of the learning of the Celts at that period. Before the age of Charlemagne, indeed, the college of Icolm-kill had reached the height of its celebrity •.

When the succession to the throne of the Picts induced the kings of the Highlands to transfer the seat of royalty from the mountains to the more fertile regions of the Lowlands, and when the marble chair, the emblem of sovereignty, was removed from Dunstaffnage to Scone, the stores of learning and history, preserved in the College of Iona, were also carried to the south, and afterwards destroyed by the barbarous policy of Edward I. Deficient and mutilated as the records in consequence are, it is impossible to ascertain the degree of civilization which this kingdom of glens and mountains had attained; but, judging from the establishment of the College of Icolm-kill, at so early a period, when darkness prevailed in other parts of Europe, a considerable portion of learning must be admitted to have been diffused. The feelings of even Dr Johnson were powerfully awakened by the associations naturally arising from the sight of this celebrated spot. "We were now," says he, "treading that illustrious island, which was once the luminary of the Caledonian regions, whence savage clans and roving barbarians derived the benefit of knowledge, and the blessings of religion. To abstract the mind from all local emotion would be impossible, if it were endeavoured, and would be foolish, if it were possible. Whatever withdraws us from the power of our senses, whatever makes the past, the distant, or the future, predominate over the present, advances us in dignity of thinking beings. Far from me, aud from my friends, be such frigid philosophy, as would conduct us, indifferent and unmoved, over any ground which has been dignified by wisdom, bravery, or virtue. That man is little to be envied, whose patriotism would not gain force on the plains of Marathon, or whose piety would not grow warm among the ruins of Iona."

* Martin, in bis Description of the Western Islands, printed in 1703, cays of Icolm-kill,"This monastery furnished bishops to several dioceses of England and Scotland. One of these was Bishop of Lindisfern, now I loir Island." Bede states, in Book III. that Oswald, King of Northumberland, took refuge from domestic treason in the island of Iona, where be •as instructed in the doctrines of Christianity, and learned the Gaelic language. He returned home in 634, and founded the monastery of Lindufern; and, on applying to Iona, obtained a bishop, named Aidan, to whom, as he knew Gaelic only, the Saxon king acted as interpreter, when preaching to his subjects. Caxton, who wrote in 1482, says, " King Oswald axed the Scottes, and had it granted, that Bishop Aidanus schold come and teche his people: Thence the Kinge gave him a place of a Bkhopc's Sec in the island of Lyndesfern; then men mighte see wonders; for the Bishop preached in Scottishe, (i. e. in Gaelic, as the word was then understood by the English), and the Kinge tolde forth in Englishe, to the people, what it was he said or meent." Fol. 226. VOL. I. B

Such a seat of learning and piety could not fail to influence the manners of the people. Inverlochay *, their capital, maintained a considerable intercourse with France and Spain. Yet, of the progress made in the arts by the Scots of that remote period, no specimens have descended to our times except the remains of their edifices. The Castle of Inverlochay, although it has been in ruins for nearly five hundred years, is still so entire as to have furnished a model for the present Castles of Inverary and Taymouth; so far had our ancestors, at a very early period, advanced in the knowledge and practice of architecture. The underground foundations round that part of Inverlochay which is still standing, shew that it was originally of great extent. Dunstaffhage Castle, which has been also in ruins for many centuries, exhibits equal strength of walls, but not the same regularity of plan. This may have been owing to its situation, as it is built on a rock, to the edges and incurvations of which the walls have been adapted. Urquhart Castle, which has likewise stood in ruins for many centuries, is one of the finest specimens of castle building in the country. But it must be confessed that Scotland in general, and particularly the Highlands, possesses no castles that can bear

* Hollingshed Chronicles.

« 前へ次へ »