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It was natural in a country Hke England, that for niany )'ears had enjoyed all the advantages of prinling, and wliere for centuries the art of writ- ing had been practised, to be rather incredulous, when it was asserted, tiiat such long and connected poems, had been preserved byoral tradition,from periods of gieat antiquity.
Rosing to Sir John Sinclair, accompanied by Extracts from Suhm's History of Denmark ccviii No. Among the various circumstances, which led to the existence, and to the continuance of such a controversy, the fòUowing principally contributed.
Observations on the Two English Translations ofthe First Book of Fingal . And lastly, VVhether the principal ob- jections, whicii have been urged to the authenticity of Ossian, have any foundation?
same manner collected from oral tradition), as that of Ossian"?
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AHD A TRANSLATION FROM THE ITALIAN OF THE ABBE CESAROTrr S DISSER- TATION ON THE CONTROVERSY RESPECTING THE AUTHENTICITY OF OSSIAN, WITH NOTES AND A SUPPLEMENTAL ESSAY, BY JOHN M'ABTHUR, LL. PUBLISHED UNDER TIIE SANCTION OF THE HIGHLAND SOCIETY OF LONDON. No enquiry was set on foot for the disco- very of other manuscripts, thougli it evidenlly ap- pears that several were then in existence, whicli are now lost.* No distinct account was obtained from * See Loid Bannatyne's lelter, Report of the Higliland So- ciety, Appendix, p. At first he seemed to have had no other object in view but to be considered as the mere translator; but when the reputation ol' the j)oems was fully established, he felt no objection to be considered as capable of composing suchworks himself, or at least of being able to improve them. If this attachment to poetry were general among the Celts, it would have been an extraordinary circumstance, had those tribes, which inhabited the northern and western parts of Scotland, been found an exception. C XVIll DISSERTATION ON THE AUTHENTICITY were formerly to be found, bolh in the Highlands and in the Islands of Scotland, independently of Macpherson's collections, can be proved by the most undoubted authority. He fell like the bank of a mountain stream.l In the original, He fell by ihe side of his great streams ; i. To have dissuaded Cuthullin from giving battle by any apprehension of danger, woukl have offended that hero's greatness of soul. He is here represented as the model of valour; ancl saying that he would have avòided the battle.
That he (the editor) has doubtless inserted names that b2 IV INTRODUCTION. T he Gaelic original is herewilh published, and in the opinion of those who are best acquainted wilh that language, it not only furnishes coinplete inlernal evideiice of its owii origi- iialiti/, but is in fact greatly superior in point of poetical merit to the English. therefore, is at length reduced to a very narrow comjiass ; whether the late Mv.
In the poems now published, some words and pas- sages, which are to be found in Mr. These might have been supp Ued from other transcripts, or oral tradition ; but the Committee appointed to superintend the printing of this Work, were scrupulous about mak- ing any addition to the manuscripts left by Mr. A celebrated Italian poet, Cesarotti, having not only translated Ossian's Poems in a very superior manner, but having also written a Dissertation on their authenticity and beauties, which is not gene- rally accessible to English readers, it was thought proper to annex to this Work a translation of the same, which is inserted in the Third Volunie, together with Notes and a Supplemental Essay.* The Committee beg leave also, to allude to the translation of the first book of Fingal, by the Rev. Ross, included in the Preliminary Dissertation, which furnishes the most satisfactory evidence, that • A translation of Cesarotti's notes, on the first book of Fingal, is annexed to the Preliminary Dissertation, as a proof of that author's critical taste, and of the excellence of his judgment in poetical discus- sions. a new version is necessary, to give the English reader a just conception of the siiblime efìrusions of the Celtic Bard. J Statement ofthe Evidence adduced in behalf of the Juthenti- citi/ of Ossian's Poems, with some Ohservations on the Objections which have been urged against their Juthenticit^ - ix CHAPTER n. Deposition by Captain John Macdonald of Breakish ccv No. That circumstance alone seemed so mucli out of the ordinary course of human affairs, that it required tlie strongest X DISSERTATION ON THE AUTHENTICITY evidence to confirm it.* The doubts, however, which were entertained upon that subjcct, were, in the minds of the impartial, saiisfactorily re- moved, when it was urged, that the remote and inaccessible nature of the country where these poems were preserved ; the peculiar character and language of the inhabitants, who were seldom visited by strangers ; their turn for poetry ; their veneration for the traditions and custonis of their ancestors ; their total ignorance of letters in the more remote periods of their history ; and other particulars, which will be afterwards explained, accounted fòr their preservation : and above all, when the most convincing evidence was adduced, that many individuals then living, could repeat great numbers of those poems, and that even some manuscripts, in which part of them were to be found, could then be produccd. It was impossi- ble for them, therefore, to admit, that the gene- rous and noble sentiments, with which the poems of Ossian abound, could exist in the composilions of a savage race, incapable, as they considered them, of civihzation or industry. It is not irnpossible, as a noble personage, distinguislied by his knowledge in such discussions, (the Earl of Moira), vcry ingeniously remarked, that Ossian might have de- rived his taste for poetry, from those more ancient bards; and OF THE POEMS OF OSSIAN. He is prudent, but his prudence is not loquacious as that of Nestor. Their descendants were thcnce inc Hned to take up with peculiar eagerness, whatever could tend to depreciate, or to throw a shir, upon the genius and talents of those, who inhabited ihe western and more mountainous districts. l her tears she came ; " She DREIF the sword from his breast. Hc is a wise and nioderate hero ; although a great warrior, he is always an advocate for peace. Johnson, in his Tour through thc VV'eslern Islands, liad ex- pressed a wish to that effect, instcad of sir liiies, he would have found niany who would have repeated sij- linndred lincs of Gaelic poelry. and whether that original is not genuine ancient poetry ? Though niaiiy Gaclic manu- scripts have been lost, many fortiinately are slill in e.\islence; and if l)r. or, whether the Gaehc was not in fact the original, and the Enghsh a translation from it?
Uy J/ir,..,,: THE POEMS OF OSSIAN, IN THE ORIGINAL GAELIC, WITH A LITERAL TRANSLATION INTO LATIN, BY THE LATE ROBERT MACFARLAN, A. TOGETHER WITH A DISSERTATION ON THE AUTHENTICITY OF THE POEMS, BY SIR JOHN SINCLAIB, BART. The manuscripts, produced by Macpher- son, do not appear to have been examined bv im- partial persons competent to the task ; nor were copies of such manuscripts taken, nor literal trans- lations of them made, as ought to have been the case. at Douay, to be alterwards mentioned, (section 5), mightcertainly hiive been preserved by an eiirlier search. Macpherson of the persons from whom he had collected thc poems, that other copies of them miglit be got from tlie same individuals ; and though the superior advantage of sending a poetical missionary, was clearly proved in the case of Macpherson, yet the same plan, however successful, was not again resorted to, and the doubtful ef Fect of general correspondence was un- fortunately relied on, In the last place, the conduct of Macpherson himself, tended to render the subject of authen- ticity doubtful and mysterious. IVhether various Gaetic Poems did not exist iti Ihe Highlands and Islands of Scotland, in reniote Periods of our Histonj. For this the poet had prepared his readers, by in- forming thera a little before (line 215), that when Duchoraar met with Morna on the hill, a stream murmured by her side. Tu, che alle guerre di Cormac sei duce, Guarda la flotta di Svaran : Mark this trait. This sentiment, though apparently derogatory to the heroism of Fingal, yet it tends to raise him in our estimation.