« 前へ次へ »
memory it was a precept annually given in one of the English almanacks, to kill hogs when the moon was increasing, and the bacon would prove the better in boiling.
We should have had little claim to the praise of curiosity, if we had not endeavoured with particu, lar attention to examine the question of the Second Sight. Of an opinion received for centuries by a whole nation, and supposed to be confirmed thro its whole descent, by a series of successive facts, it is desirable that the truth should be established, or the fallacy detected.
The Second Sight is an impreffion made either by the mind
the eye, or by the eye upon the mind, by which things distant or future are perceived, and seen as if they were present. A man on a journey far from home falls from his horfe; another, who is perhaps at work about the house, fees him bleeding on the ground, commonly with a landscape of the place where the accident befalls him. Another feer, driving home his cattle, or wandering in idleness, or mufing in the sunshine, is suddenly surprised by the appearance of a bridal ceremony, or funeral procession, and counts the mourners or attendants, of whom, if he knows them, he relates the
names, if he knows them not, he can describe. the dresses. Things distant are seen at the inftant when they happen. Of things future I know not that there is any rule for determining the time between the fight and the event.
This receptive faculty, for power it cannot be called, is neither voluntary nor constant. The appearances have no dependence upon choice : they cannot be fummoned, detained, or recalled. The impression is sudden, and the effect often painful.
By the term second fight, seems to be mcant a mode of seeing, fuperadded to that which nature generally bestows. In the Eurse it is called Taifch; which signifies likewife a spectre or a vision. I know not, nor is it likely that the Highlanders ever examined, whether by Taisch, used for second fight, they mean the power of seeing, or the thing feen.
I do not find it to be true, as it is reported, that to the second fight nothing is presented but phantoms of evil. Good seems to have the fame
proportion in those visionary scenes, as it obtains in real life : almost all remarkable events have evil for their basis; and are either miseries incurred, or miferies escaped. Our fense is so much stronger of what we suffer, than of what we enjoy, that the ideas of pain predominate in almost every mind. What is recollection but a revival of vexations, or history but a record of wars, treasons, and calamities! Death, which is considered as the greatest evil, happens to all. The greatest good, be it what it will, is the lot but of a part.
That they should often see death is to be expected; becaufe death is an event frequent and important. But they see likewise more pleasing inci
dents. A gentleman told me, that when he had once gone far from his own island, one of his labouring fervants predicted his return, and described the livery of his attendant, which he had never : worn at home; and which had been, without any previous design, occasionally given him.
Our desire of information was keen, and our inquiry frequent. Mr Boswell's frankness and gai. ety made every body communicative; and we heard many
tales of these airy shows, with more or less evidence and distinctness.
It is the common talk of the Lowland Scots, that the notion of the second fight is wearing away with other fuperftitions ; and that its reality is no longer supposed, but by the groffest people. How far its prevalence ever extended, or what ground ịt has lost, I know not. The iflanders of all de. grees, whether of rank or understanding, univer. fally admit it; except the ministers, who universally deny it, and are suspected to deny it, in consequence of a system, against conviction. One of them honestly told me, that he came to Sky with a resolution not to believe it.
Strong reafons for incredulity will readily occur. This faculty of seeing things out of sight is local, and commonly useless. It is a breach of the common order of things, without any visible reason or perceptible benefit. It is ascribed only to a people very little enlightened ; and among them, for the most part, to the mean and the ignorant.
To the confidence of these objections it may be replied, that by presuming to determine what is fit, and what is beneficial, they preluppose more knowledge of the universal system than man has attained; and therefore depend upon principles too complicated and extensive for our comprehenfion; and that there can be no fecurity in the consequence, when the premises are not understood ; that the second fight is only wonderful because it is rare, for, considered in itself, it involves no more difficulty than dreams, or perhaps than the regular exercise of the cogitative faculty; that a general opinion of communicative impulses, or visionary representations, has prevailed in all ages and all nations; that particular instances have been given with such evidence, as neither Bacon nor Bayle has been able to refift; that sudden impressions, which the event has verified, havebeen felt by more than own or publish them; that the second fight of the Hebrides implies only the local frequency of a power, which is nowhere totally unknown; and that where we are unable to decide by antecedent reason, we must be content to yield to the force of teftimony.
By pretendon to second fight, no profit was ever fought or gained. It is an involuntary affection, in which neither hope nor fear are known to have any part. Those who profefs to feel it, do: not boast of it as a privilege, nor are considered by: others as advantageously distinguished. They
have no temptation to feign; and their hearers have no motive to encourage the imposture.
To talk with any of these seers is not easy. There is one living in Sky, with whom we would have gladly conversed; but he was very gross and ignorant, and knew no English. The proportion in these countries of the poor to the rich is such, that if we suppose the quality to be accidental, it can very rarely happen to a man of education ; and yet on such men it has fometimes fallen. There is now a second fighted gentleman in the Highlands, who complains of the terrors to which he is exposed.
The forefight of the feers is not always prescience : they are impressed with images, of which the event only shews them the meaning. They tell what they have seen to others, who are at that time not more knowing than themselves, but may become at last very adequate witnesses, by comparing the narrative with its verification.
To collect fufficient testimonies for the fatisface tion of the public, or of ourselves, would have required more time than we could beítow. There is, against it, the seeming analogy of things confusedly feen, and little understood; and for it, the indistinct cry of national persuasion, which may be perhaps resolved at lait into prejudice and tradition. I never could advance my curiosity to conviction ; but came away at last only willing to believe.