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duced into the SONGS OF THE BARDS, more refined, it is probable, and exalted, according to the usual poetical license, than the real manners of the country.' That is an excellent observation: poets are not mere historians or statists-they beautify what they record, and all that is so recorded shines lovelier and lovelier, before the eyes of each succeeding generation, through the mist of years. And thus the genius even of a rude people, continually gathering power, may far transcend all surrounding realities; till, effulging with an almost miraculous splendour in some one gifted spirit-AS AN OSSIAN -it gives to future times of highest civilisation, in traditionary inspirations, assurance of a great poet singing in the early dawn.
"There are," saith the Doctor, "four great stages through which men successively pass, in the progress of society. The first and earliest is the life of hunters; pasturage succeeds to this, as the ideas of property begin to take root; next agriculture; and lastly, commerce. Throughout Ossian's Poems we plainly find ourselves in the first of these periods of society; during which hunting was the chief employment of men, and the principal method of their procuring subsistence. Pasturage was not, indeed, wholly unknown, for we hear of dividing the herd in case of a di vorce; but the allusions to herds and to cattle are not many, and of agriculture we find no traces. No cities appear to have been built in the terri tories of Fingal. No arts are mentioned, except that of navigation and of working in iron. Every thing presents to us the most simple and unimproved manners. At their feasts the heroes prepared their own repasts; they sat round the light of the burning oak; the wind lifted their locks, and whistled through the open halls. Whatever was beyond the necessaries of life was known to them only as the spoil of the Roman province the gold of the stranger the lights of the stranger— the steeds of the stranger-the children of the rein." And he adds"Every where the same face of rude nature appears; a country wholly uncultivated, thinly inhabited, and recently peopled." All this we once believed-and it may be all true-but how happened it that the natives were all hunters? and that they never thought
of asking themselves if there might not be edible creatures in their rivers, lochs, and seas? Sure, they must have seen the salmon leaping up waterfalls with their tails in their mouths"The pellochs rolling in their mountain bays,"
and shoals of bottle-nosed whales walloping shorewards before the storm. Angling may have been too recondite an idea for such a simple people; but, with spears in their hands, how could they avoid the discovery of the lister ? How could they, acquainted as they were with "navigation and working in iron," escape the use of hook and line? Even nets-made of hair from the tails of the "steeds of the stranger"-might, one would think, have fallen within the range of their inventive genius. We can with difficulty imagine a nautical nation without some sort of fisheries. There must have been herrings in those days
even Lochfines and it is hard to believe that there might not have been rizzar'd haddocks. It is strange that a Scotch philosopher like Dr Blair should have forgot "the fisher state." Is it credible that a hungry people should for ages have neglected the whole finny race? That it should never have occurred to the most ingenious of the heroes, or of their tails, to place an iron-pot under a salmon-leap? -or to take up a chance fish, who had unwittingly flung himself out of the water on the bank, and try what sort of eating might prove the monarch of the flood, even when raw? At a feast of shells a haunch of venison would have been fitly faced by a cut of salmon.
"Pasturage," the Doctor says, was not indeed wholly unknown, for we hear of dividing the herd in the case of a divorce.' That passage in
Ossian we do not at this moment remember-and we are sorry to think that there was such a law. Was it customary to insert a clause to that effect in marriage-settlements? If so, then pasturage, so far from being "not wholly unknown," must have been universally prevalent; and we must believe nowte to have usually constituted the bride's tocher. At no time could all the mountains have been covered with wood; the pastu. rage, as high up as some fifteen hundred or two thousand feet above the level of the sea, must always have been
succulent; and once introduced, there is no setting bounds to the propagation of red and black cattle of a smallish size, running, when gralloched, from ten to twenty stone, the sweetest perhaps of any, almost as fine flavoured as deer.
With regard to agriculture, it is true that "we find no traces of it" in Ossian. Of what, then, think ye, did they brew beverage for the "Feast of Shells?" Strong drink they had-and we shrewdly suspect it was Glenlivet. There must have been, depend on't, bonnie riggs o' barley here and there amang the bloomin' heather-and not in fear of the exciseman, but simply because in nature it is best, not unfrequent, in solitary places, the sma' still faintly tinging the desert air with its salutary peatreek.
Of fowling, there are no traces in Ossian, any more than of fishing; but as bows and arrows were in the hands of all, even of the females, an occasional whawp-shy bird though it be -must have been shot sitting on the moor; and now and then, surely, a heedless capercailzie, in breeding time, brought down from his pine-top. "The birds and animals of the country," saith the Doctor, "were probably not numerous; and his acquaintance with them was limited, as they were little subjected to the uses of man." The Doctor is here accounting for the scanty notices of natural history in Ossian's poems; but we have an eye to the table or genial board. "Some comparisons," he says, "are taken from birds and beasts; as eagles, sea-fowl, the horse, the deer, and the mountain-bee;" and honey, therefore, we may remark, they no doubt had in abundance. Glenlivet, we have seen, was not wanting-and of that amalgamation is Athole-brose.
We hold, then, for reasons now shortly assigned, that the Fingallians, at whatever era they flourished, though perhaps not amply provided with, were far from being destitute of fish and fowl-without puzzling the question with poultry; and that, in addition to roe and red deer, they had cattle, probably sheep, and certainly goats. They were a people in the fishing, fowling, hunting, and herding state; and it is not easy to imagine a state more favourable for poetry.
tions are mutely contradicted in Ossian's poems. Ossian was not a grazier
therefore his talk is not of bullocks. Deer-hunting, in all its branches, must have been well known to him; but he did not write for the Sporting Magazine-therefore he but shows us "the hunter of deer and the warrior," with his gray dogs-and we imagine, in all its forms, the chase
"High mirth of the desert, fit pastime for kings!"
There is nothing heroic in fishing, nor in cooking or eating fish, nor in sheep-shearing, nor in sheephead and trotters; nor in a hundred other useful arts and occupations then rife, but of which the old blind bard deigns not to sing the praises to his harp, vocal but to those of the mighty.
The Doctor says truly, "that no cities appear to have been built in the territories of Fingal." It is no such easy matter to build a city; but there were for there must have beenclachans. We are all of us by nature gregarious; and we defy the human mind to imagine Morvern dotted but with single huts, with here and there a hall. Bothies-shiellings_hovels huts there were, single or in pairsand far and high aloof; nor uninhabited the caves facing mountain or sea; but many and many a low turfroofed village laughed by loch or riverside; and so far from being “recently peopled," as the Doctor affirms, the natives were indigenous to a degree, and had lived there since a few ages after the Judgment of the Flood. Neither do we believe with the Doctor, that "the wind whistled through the open halls." From time immemorial cozy have been the Highland huts; and though the windows of the halls were not glazed in Fingal's time, the nobles were not such ninnies as not to weather-fend them-perhaps with furze
against wind and snow. It seldom blows-even in the Highlands at once from all the airts; and in the lea of the hurricane, the bard embowered could smite, with unruffled hair, his harp to the deeds of the heroes.
The Doctor believes that Fingal licked the Romans as they never had been licked in their born days—and without especial wonder. "He was enriched with the spoils of the Roman province"-he "was ennobled by his Let it not be said that these asser- victories" over them-from them he
won gold, and "lights," and horsesso that his "age was an era of distinguished splendour in that part of the world." His success in war was as admirable-more it could not beas his moderation in peace. His "country was wholly uncultivated, thinly inhabited, and recently peopled.' "His armies seem not to have been numerous," and his battles with kindred tribes" were disorderly, and terminated, for the most part, by a personal combat, or the wrestling of the two chiefs;" yet he routed the Roman legions, plundered the Roman province; and then, with gold galore, and captive cohorts, "the desert," says Fingal, "is enough for me, with all its woods and deer." "The great objects pursued by heroic spirits," says the Doctor with much animation, "was to receive their fame ;" that is, to become worthy of being celebrated in the songs of bards, and "to have their name inscribed on the four gray stones." Elated by the grandeur of the Ossianic songs, the Doctor goes at once to the fountain-head of uninspired poetry.
"As Homer is, of all the great poets, the one whose manner, and whose times, come the nearest to Ossian's, we are naturally led to run a parallel, in some instances, between the Greek and the Celtic bard." The times of Homer do not seem to us to have borne a very close resemblance to those of Ossian as above described by the Professor-nor the times of Trenmor, great-grandfather of Fingal, to those of Peleus, father of Achilles. The good Doctor candidly admits, while running his parallel," that "Homer lived in a country where society was much farther advanced; he had beheld many more objects cities built and flourishing-laws instituted; order, discipline, and arts begun. His field of observation was much larger and more splendid, his knowledge of course more extensive, his mind even, it shall be granted, more penetrating." Homer lived, we believe, some considerable time after the fall of Troy. Such a city as Troy would have astonished Ossian not a little-particularly in the Highlands. Nor were the Trojans any more than the Greeks" in the hunter state." A few generations after the sack of Ilion, "order, discipline, and the arts," had not only "begun," as the Doctor
candidly admits, but they had really made very respectable progress,-and as Homer appears to have been a great traveller and voyager, he assuredly had a larger field of observation" than Ossian, who had probably never been farther from home than to the north of Ireland and some of the Orkneys. If this be " running a parallel," we should have liked to see the Doctor "reasoning in a circle." How, then, does the Doctor get out of the scrape? With boldness and agility-" in a rude age and country, though the events that happen be few, the undissipated mind broods over them more; they strike the imagination, and fire the passions in a higher degree; and, of consequence, become happier materials to a poetical genius, than the same events scattered through the wide circle of the more varied actions of cultivated life." If Ossian's ideas and objects be less diversified than Homer's, they are all, however, of the kind, best fitted for poetry—the bravery and generosity of heroes, the fondness of lovers, the attachment of friends, parents, and children. Therefore, though there can be "no parallel run" between the Greek and Celtic Bard, it turns out that Ossian was more fortunately born and bred than Homer-and that Fingal is at least as great an Epic as the Iliad.
Fingal is an epic"-so say-not we, nor any friend of ours in Blackwood's Magazine, but James Macpherson and Hugh Blair. Hugh Blair declares, "that to refuse the title of an epic poem to Fingal, because it is not, in every little particular, exactly conformable to the practice of Homer and Virgil, were the mere squeamishness and pedantry of criticism. Examined even according to Aristotle's rules, it will be found to have all the essential requisites of a true and regular epic.' Nor ought this to astonish us, quoth the Doctor, for Homer knew no more of the laws of criticism than Ossian. Guided by nature, he composed in verse a regular story, founded on heroic actions, which all posterity admired. Aristotle, with great sagacity and penetration, traced the causes of this general admiration -deduced the rules which poets ought to follow, who would wish to write and please like Homer, and to a composition formed according to such rules he gave the name of an epic
Aristotle studied nature in 66 Homer-Homer and Ossian both write from nature. No wonder that among all the three there should be such agreement and uniformity.
This is making short work of the matter the argument is unanswerable -and whoever wonders at the creation, under any circumstances, of an epic poem-equal in grandeur to the Iliad can know as little of Aristotle's rules as of the laws of human nature -and must have yet to learn the distinction between poetical genius and philosophical criticism!
The honest man then sets seriously to work to show that the epic poem, Fingal, is superior to the Iliad-for that in it is better preserved the unity of the epic action, which of all Aristotle's rules is the chief. "It is a more complete unity than what arises from relating the actions of one man, which the Greek critic justly censures as imperfect-it is the unity of one enterprise, the deliverance of Ireland from the invasion of Swaran." What is the wrath of Achilleswith all its woes-the Will of Joveto such a one end" as this? sinks into absolute insignificanceand we pity the poor poem for ending with the funeral of Hector the tamer of horses. Then, "no double plot is carried on," as in the Iliad; and all the "parts unite into a regular whole"-there having been but one Ossian, but many Homers. But not only" is unity of subject maintained, but that of time and place also. The Autumn is clearly pointed out as the season of the action, and from begining to end the scene is never shifted from the heath of Lena along the sea-shore." We were not aware that Aristotle had insisted on unity of time and place as essential in the construction of an Epic Poem. That it was in Autumn that Ireland was delivered by Fingal from the invasion of Swaran, is a fact that does not of itself affect us with high patriotic ardournor can we prefer the heath of Lena, which we believe is in Ulster, as the scene of an Epic poem-to the Troad. "The duration of the action in Fingal is much shorter," observes the Doctor, "than in the Iliad or the Æneid; and here we naturally expect him to say, much better too-but he is too deep read in Aristotle to make such a mistake-and exclaims triumphantly,
sure there be shorter as well as longer Epic poems; and if the authority of Aristotle be also required for this, he says expressly that the Epic composition is indefinite as to its time of duration." The action of the Iliad lasts, the Doctor says, only fortyseven days-of the Eneid a yearof Fingal-so far as we see-four days and a half-quite sufficient for the deliverance of such an island as Ireland from such an invader as Swaran.
Of the few days consumed in action, as it is called by Hugh, but which consists in great part of "a wise passiveness," Fingal is not on the scene, till the afternoon of the second ; and he is occupied during the fifth in hunting, and then in preparing to set sail for Morvern. His intermediate time is devoted less to fighting than to telling and listening to old stories. Short as the period is, the Bard has some difficulty in spinning it out, and the Epic Poem finally slips out of one's fingers like a knotless thread. The action of the Iliad occupies, as the Doctor says, some forty-s -seven days, be it more or less; but they belong to a war, as it is generally understood, of some nine years. Swaran lands in Ireland from Lochlin, on the first day of the poem, and capitulates on the fourth, or rather is taken prisoner with the remains of his army, and told he may be off on condition of promising “never to come there no more; "while Fingal, arriving on the afternoon of the second, departs on that of the fifth-his deliverance of Ireland being but an enterprise undertaken on the sudden, accomplished with all the ease in the world, and never more thought of by a warrior accustomed to such exploits. In all this there is intense unity of action no doubt, of time and of place; but we doubt if Aristotle, had he never read the Iliad, would haye drawn the same rules or laws for epic poetry from such an epic poem as Fingal.
But it is" on the character and description of Fingal that Ossian triumphs almost unrivalled; for we may boldly defy”—cries Dr Hugh Blair-" all antiquity to show us any hero equal to Fingal." What say you to Hector? Why, Hector is only a secondary personage in the Iliad— we see him only occasionally-and, though he faithfully discharges his duty to his country, his friends, and
his family-the Doctor don't deny that-yet he is tinctured with a degree of the same savage ferocity which prevails among all the Homeric heroes," and shockingly insults the fallen Patrocles. Whereas, in the character of Fingal," concur almost all the qualities that can ennoble human nature; that can either make us admire the hero or love the man." What say you to Achilles? Why, the Doctor admits that "Homer's art in magnifying the character of Achilles has been universally admired. But Ossian certainly shows no less art in aggrandising Fingal." Fingal, in short, is "a perfect character"- Achilles was not-the slave of passion. But "to draw a perfect character, in such a manner as to render it distinct and affecting to the mind there," says the Doctor, "though it is not commonly attended to," there lies the rub. Virgil has failed in the attempt-witness his perfect hero, Æneas-"an unanimated, insipid personage" (so thought not Dido) "whom we may pretend to admire, but whom no one can heartily love. What Virgil failed in, Ossian, to our astonishment, has successfully executed." And how? Pray guess. By representing him as an old man!" In this lies the art and felicity of the Celtic Bard. For mark-" youth and old age are the two states of human life capable of being placed in the most picturesque lights. Middle age is more general and vague, and has fewer circumstances peculiar to the idea of it." Then Fingal is surrounded with his family-he instructs his children in the principles of religion-he is narrative of his past exploits-he is frequently disposed to moralize on human vanity and the prospect of death he is venerable with the gray hairs of age. All this gives him-as a perfect character-an immense advantage, in point of interest, over Æneas, in whom-though a perfect character too-" middle age was more general and vague," and therefore less impressive. In the natural representation of human character, therefore, though there can be no doubt of Homer's excelling all the heroic poets who have ever wrote❞—so saith Hugo, not quite consistently with himself "Ossian will be found to be equal at least, if not superior, to Virgil.
What if all this, prodigious non
sense as it now appears to us, be true? Hugh Blair is a far higher name than Christopher North-and his Sermons, though not proper reading for Sunday, are not to be sneezed at, though they may be blamelessly yawned over; but his Lectures, they are indeed words of power to charm to the couch of the wakeful," tired nature's sweet restorer, balmy sleep."
Homer, in Doctor Blair's opinion, and in ours, "is a more cheerful and sprightly poet than Ossian. You discern in him all the Greek vivacity, whereas Ossian uniformly maintains the gravity and solemnity of a Celtic hero." Besides, Homer lived much in society-Ossian, in his old age at least, chiefly in solitude; and "the solitary wild state is always a serious one." An American savage " is noted for his gravity and taciturnity;" and "somewhat of this taciturnity," the Doctor thinks, “ may be also remarked in Ossian." He is " frugal of his words." Not more than twenty thousand lines of his poetry have been handed down by tradition through some fourteen centuries or so he is
so very laconic. Homer is more extended in his descriptions-and, "with the Greek vivacity, had also some portion of the Greek loquacity." His speeches are highly characteristic― but not a few of them are tedious, or trifling, or unseasonable; whereas "Ossian is concise and rapid in his speeches as he is in every other thing." In sublimity they are "much of a muchness"--Homer's sublimity being 'accompanied with more impetuosity and fire, Ossian's with more of a solemn and awful grandeur." Yet, strange to say, every image of Ossian is a "blaze of lightning which flashes and vanishes." "WITH REGARD TO
DIGNITY OF SENTIMENT, THE PRE-EMINENCE MUST CLEARLY BE GIVEN TO
OSSIAN." And Dr Hugh Blair, one of the Ministers of the High Church, while he laments that there is no recognition of a Supreme Being in Ossian's poetry-no religion—yet maintains that it is a surprising cir cumstance, that in point of humanity, magnanimity, virtuous feelings of every kind, our rude Celtic Bard should be distinguished to such a degree, that not only the heroes of Homer, but even those of the polite and refined Virgil, are left far behind by those of Ossian. Homer's and Ossian's ideas concern.