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that the Fingalians were Irishmen, although to the zealous Sir John it bears a very opposite import ; being adduced by him as a proof of the Scotch extraction of these héroes, who he remarks “might certainly be born in Scotland though they might be accounted Gods in Ireland.” In the same spirit of national preference he interprets the testimony of Colgan, an Irish antiquarian, who observes, when speaking of Ossian and his beroes, that Fingal was much celebrated in poems and tales inter suos ; “ by which,” according to Sir John's he must necesarily mean that he belonged to Scotland and not to Ireland, as in that case he would have said inter nostrates.” But why may not the term inter suos mean among his own tribe or his own followers, as well as among his own countrymen? National partiality will naturally induce both Scotch and Irish writers to claim these heroes of ancient song for their respective countries : so that little reliance can be placed on their positive evidence for either side of the question. A less ambiguous kind of testimony is to be found in the poems themselves, which have been current in both countries concerning the Finyalians; and in this respect there is a decisive advantage in favour of Scotland. The Gaelic poems ascribed to Ossian bear the stamp of a noble genius, and a heroic though rude age. They are free from those puerile fancies and vulgar superstitions, which disfigure the Irish productions of the same class, and which mark a more degenerate period and a less classical taste. The first can boast the genuine ærugo of a medal of the best age; the last are a baser coin, the production of a more corrupt æra of the arts. In the Irish poems the Fingalians are represented as giants or beings of supernatural strength; and St. Patrick is often introduced, to whom is ascribed the honour of converting Ossian to Christianity. Noq thing of this kind occurs in the Gaelic poems. It appears also that Fergus and not Ossian was, according to the Irish traditions, the chief bard of the Irish Fingal, though his works are hardly known in Scotland. The Irish poets, says Walker, (in his Historical Memoirs of the Irish bards) bestow innumerable epithets upon this favourite bard; he is denominated Fergus of the sweet lips--the truly ingenious-superior in knowledge-skilled in the choice of words, &c. &c. These praises bestowedupon Fergus and his works seem to prove, that they did not consider the genuine and superior poetry of Ossian, as the produce of their own country.'
" Besides ” says the dissertation it is admitted that the poems, attributed by the Irish to Ossian, were composed between the 8th and 12th centuries ; whereas the poems of Ossian are ascribed by our traditio, s to some of the most remote periods of which there is any account in the history of Scotland ; insomu h that it is a phrase commonly used in the Highlands to this day, when they express a thing belonging to very great anti
quity to call it Fiontach or Fianntaidh, i. e. belonging to the time of Fin.
Among the supplemental dissertations annexed to the third volume, is an essay on the “ Topography of some of the principal scenes of Fingal and bis Warriors" by Alexander Stew. art, A.M., in which it is attempted to ascertain the precise situ. ation of Selma, the supposed capital city of the Fingalians; and of the other remarkable places which are signalised in Ossian's poetry. We are afraid that this attempt will be more completely abortive, than even those which have yet been made to fix the scite of ancient llium ; for when etiam periêre ruine, the statements of the topographer have but a very precarious ba. sis. Those however who take an interest in the investigation, may amuse themselves with examining Mr. Stewart'sarguments, which are intended to establish that this principal residence of Fingal was situated in the district of Upper Lorn in Argyleshire, “ on a green hill of an oblong form, which rises on the sea shore at equal distances from the mouths of the lakes Eite and Crevan;" and that by the Scotish historians it was called Ber. gonium and "said to have once been the capitol of the kingdom of the Gaels or Caledonians.” For the edification of such readers, there is inserted a very well engraved "s map of ancient Selma, the residence of Fingal, with part of the Fingal an territories in the shire of Argyle.” Whatever authority there may be for these geographical reveries, it is at least certain that there are many places in the Highlands and isles of Scotland which have deri. ved their names from the Feinne or Fingalians, and from the circumstances of their history. In the district of Morven, where Fingal is said frequently to have resided, there are a number of places called after him,such as Dun'inn,Fingal's fort or bill, Kem. Fein (or Ceum Fhinn,, Fingal's steps or stairs, &c. In the parish of Monivaird in the Perthshire Highlands, where the Fingali. ans are also supposed to have occasionally taken up their abode, there was a stone seven feet high and five broad, which was known by the name of Clach Ossian, or Ossian's monument. This stone, happening to stand in the way of the military roads constructed under the direction of General Wade, was overturned by machinery. It still remains however, with four smaller gray stones, surrounded by an inclosure called Carn Ossian, and sometimes Clach or Carn na Huseoig the stone or monument of the lark, “ a happy allusion " says our baronet, " to the tuneful lays and the soaring powers of a celebrated poet."
It will not suit either our inclination or our limits to take notice of all the accessory essay's and illustrations which are prefixed or appended to the Gaelic originals in these volumes, and which are thrown together without much regard to the princin ples of arrangement or selection. Sir John's preliminary dis, sertation, with the help of much parenthetical matter, a long appendix, and the insertion of a translation of the abbé Cesarotti's essay on Ossian,and of Macpherson's translation of the first book of Fingal with a new one by the Rev. Thomas Ross, occupies 232 pages, or nearly one half of the first volume. About an equal quantity of the third volume is filled up in a similar manner, beginning with another essay of the abbé Cesarotti's. We have then a long supplemental essay on the authenticity of Ossian by Dr. M‘Arthur, new translations of certain passages of the poems, the topographical essay already mentioned, notices of Gaelic and Irish manuscripts, &c. &c.
Some notice seems due to the new translation of the first book of Fingal inserted in Sir John's dissertation, as it may be considered as a precursor of a complete version of the poems of Ossian to be executed on the same principles. The author of this translation is the Rev. Thomas Ross, now one of the ministers of the Scotch church in Rotterdam, who apologizes for the imperfect manner in which he has executed his task by the too frequently urged excuse of haste. The first sheets of the dissertation, it seems, were in the hands of the printer, and nearly printed off, before he was applied to for his translation. For this reason he wished to decline the undertaking ; but no other person being at hand who could execute it in so short a time, he was at length induced to lend his assistance. We think it would have been better, had he persevered in refusing it, as the volumes might very well have appeared without this addition ; and as the new translation would have had its value greatly enhanced by careful study and revisal. If it be no more than it professes to be,-a faithful version of the Gaelic, and as literal as the genius of the two languages will admit, it was in a great measure superseded by the literal Larin ver. sion of Mr. M‘Farlan inserted in this work; but it is easy to see by the accompanying notes, that it aims at a higher excellence, and is considered by its author as in many instances more poetical, as well as more faithful, than the translation of Macpherson. On this account we are not disposed to criticise it with any undue lenity. To translate a poet well, it is necessary that the translator be imbued with a certain portion of poetical enthusiasm. Macpherson certainly was not entire, ly destitute of this high qualification ; for though he is often bombastic and obscure, he seems, occasionally, to have had a true conception of the sublime and pathetic, and to have been capable of embodying his conceptions in energetic language. We have not sufficient proofs that Mr. Ross is possessed of a like qualification ; and some of his criticisms on Macpherson's version incline us to adopt rather the contrary
conclusion. There can be little doubt but that readers of taste will consider the following passage of Macpherson's version as more poetical, than the corresponding part of the rival one of Mr. Ross. “I beheld their chief, says Moran, tall as a glittering rock. His spear is a blasted pine. His shield the rising moon! He sat on the shore like a cloud of mist on the silent hill !” It is thus rendered by Mr. Ross. “I beheld their chief, said Moran; the hero is like a rock. His spear like a fir on the mountain cliff; Like the rising moon his shield. He sat upon a rock on the shore, like the mist upon yonder hill.” Mr. Ross is very severe on Macpherson for comparing the spear of Swaran to a blasted pine, instead of a healthy fir of the mountain, as it is in the original: but we certainly think the image of Macpherson is the more striking and poetical. We are of the same opinion respecting his version of the very first lines of the poem. “Cuthullin sat by Tura's wall: By the tree of the rustling sound.” Mr. Ross's translation, “ Cuchullin sat by the wall of Tura in the shade of a rustling tree,” may be closer to the original, but it is the tame truth of a common mind. If then it really be in contemplation to produce a new English version of Ossian, deviating less from the original than that of Macpherson, an attempt which we would by no means discourage, we take upon us to recommend it to the gentlemen who are to patronize this undertaking, to look out for a person who shall not ouly be thoroughly versed in Gaelic, but who shall also possess a tolerable portion of the vis poetica. When we intend to imitate an ancient gem, we must select a material that possesses at least the transparency, polish, and characteristic tints of the original, though not all its durability and intrinsic worth.
We have now to say a very few words respecting the originals themselves, which form by far the most important and valuable part of these volumes to the Gaelic scholar. The circumstances which have so long delayed the publication of these MSS. are satisfactorily explained in the preliminary dissertation; and the public is certainly indebted to the activity and zeal of the Committee of the Highland Society of London, by whose exertions we are at length put in possession of this literary curiosity. It was stated, on a former occasion, that none of the ancient MSS. from which Macpherson was supposed to have derived his principal materials, could be found at his death; the originals which remained were all in modern writing, and did not correspond to the whole of bis translations, for no originals were found of some of the smaller poems. Those of the principal poems, however, were all extant, and particularly of the Fingal and Temora at full length, The Gaelic scholar has reason to exult on discover
ing in his favourite language two greatly admired epic poems of considerable magnitude, and as he supposes of very remote antiquity. It is the opinion of those adepts in this venerable language to whom we have access, and who are competent to decide on the merits and defects both of its antient and its modern poetry, that the principal parts of these Gaelic originals possess uncommon beauty and majesty ; and are such as scarcely any modern could successfully imitate; much less Macpherson, who was but very moderately skilled in the GaeJic language, and who has, in many instances, betrayed gross ignorance of his author's meaning, and strangely perverted his sense. At the same time, they discover, in various passages of these originals, colloquial barbarisms and corruptions, which betray the interpolating hand of a modern artist, and which may have arisen, either from the inaccuracy of a transcriber, or the accidental deviations necessarily incident to works which are solely preserved by tradition. Thus, in the following instances, the Gaelic idiom is completely violat. ed; Fingal, v. 274, we have “ Ruith i'chruaidh bu gheur ro' thaoth ;' in English, 56 Ran the sharp steel into his side ;" which is conformable to our idiom : but the Gaelic verb Ruith corresponds to that meaning only of the English run, which is expressed by the Latin curro; and not to that which is express ed by trudo, to thrust; so that the Gaelic phrase is the same as if we had said in Latin, “ Cucurrit chalybem acrem per ejus latus.” Again, v. 265, we have, “ Na thuit air an tulach ard," "Upon a high hill,” where the regimen of the preposition is violated, just as if we had said in Latin, " in collus editus,” instead of a in collo edito." There is a like want of regimen in Carrickthura, v. 23. where we have “ mucheann ant shon," in Latin,“ super caput heros," instead of " super caput herois." These glaring inaccuracies sufficiently prove, that the copy now published is not a pure transcript from the ancient Gaelic. They may indeed be attributed to the corruptions arising from the lapse of time, or ascribed to the carelessness of transcribers or reciters. But when we take them in conjunction with the many flat and unpoetical passages which occasionally occur in the longer poems, they serve to convince. us, that much of the connecting matter, even of the Gaelic, is of modern manufacture; and has no more claim to be considered as the genuine production of the Fingalian bard, than the engraved head with the title Ossian, which is ridiculously prefixed to these volumes, can be admitted to be a likeness taken from the life. This connecting matter, we think, has been foisted in to fill up crevices, and to make complete wholes, of what only existed as detached fragments.
With respect to the literal Latin version of Mr. Robert Mac