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and often verturing to explain what they do not understand. They may, it is true, give a clear account of some simple dogmas; but a religion is chiefly characterized and distinguished by the sentiments it inspires; and can these sentiments be truly represented by a third person, who has never felt the force of them ?
In order then to draw from their present obscurity the ancient Celtic and Gothic' Religions, which are now as unknown, as they were formerly extensively received, we must endeavour (if we can) to raise up before us those ancient Poets who were the Theologues of our forefathers : We must consult them in person, and hear them (as it were) in the coverts of their dark umbrageous forests, chant forth those facred and mysterious hymns, in which they comprehended the whole system of their Religion and Morality. Nothing of moment would then evade our search; such informations as these would diffuse real light over the mind : The warmth, the stile and tone of their discourses, in short, every thing would then concur to explain their meaning, to put us in the place of the authors themselves, and to make us enter into their own sentiments and notions.
But why do we form vain and idle wishes ? Instead of meeting with those
poems themselves, we only find lamentations for their loss. Of all those verses of the ancient Druids, which their youths frequently employed twenty years to learn * we cannot now recover a single fragment, or the slightest relique. The devastations of time, and a false zeal, have been equally fatal to them in Spain, France, Germany and England. This is granted, but should we not then racher look for their monuments in countries, later converted to Christianity? If the poems, of which we speak, have been ever committed to writing, shall we not more probably find them preserved in the north, than where they must have struggled for five or fix centuries more against the attacks of time and superstition? This is no conjecture; it is what has really happened.
happened. We actually possess some of these Odes t, which
* Cæsar, mentioning
tunate mistake of conthe British Druids, says, founding the Celtic and 66 Magnum ibi
GOTHIC Antiquities. The T'ersuum edifiere dicun CELTIC Odes of the Dru.' “ tur; itaque nonnulli an ids are for ever loft ; but
nos vicenos in disciplina we happily possess the Ru“ permanent." De Bell. NIC Songs of the Gothic
Scalds: These however
have nothing in common † Here again our au
with the Druid Odes, nor thor falls into the unfor contribute to throw the
Gall. 6. 13.
are so much regretted, and a very large work extracted from a multitude of others. This extract was compiled many centuries ago by an author well known, and who was near the fountain head; it is written in a language not unintelligible, and is preserved in a great number of manuscripts which carry incontestible characters of antiquity. This extract is the book called the EDDA; the only monument of its kind; fingular in its contents, and fo adapted to throw light on the history of our ancient opinions and manners, that it is amazing it should remain so long unknown beyond the confines of Scandinavia.
To confess the truth, this work is not devoid of much difficulty ; but the obscurity of it is not absolutely impenetrable, and when examined by a proper degree of critical study, assisted by a due knowledge of the opinions and manners of the other • Gothic ** nations, will receive so much light, as that nothing very material will escape our notice.
The most requisite preparative for the well understanding this
least light on the Druidi ancestors; in the discocal Religion of the Celtic very of which we are no nations : But then they less interested, than in are full as valuable, for that of the other. T. they unfold the whole Pagan system of our Gothic
* Celtiques. Fr.
work, but which hath not always been obferved, is to enter as much as possible into the views of its Author, and to transport ourselves, as it were, into the midst of the people for whom it was written.
It may be easily conceived, that the EDDA first written in Iceland, but a short time after the Pagan Religion was abolished there, must have had a different use from that of making known doctrines, then fcarcely forgotten. I believe, that on an attentive perufal of this work, its true purpose cannot be mistaken. The EDDA then was neither more nor less than a Course of Poetical Lectures, drawn up for the use of fuch young
Icelanders as devoted themselves to the profession of Scald or Poet. In this art, as in others, they who had first distinguished themselves, in proportion as they became ancients, acquired the right to be imitated scrupulously by those who came after them, and sometimes even in things the most arbitrary. The inhabitants of the north, accustomed to see ODIN and FRIGGA, GENII and FAIRIES make a figure in their ancient poetry, expected still to find their names retained in succeeding Poems, to fee them act, and to hear them fpeak agreeably to the ideas they had once formed of their characters and functions. From the same custom it arises, that in our Col VoL. II,
leges, such as write Latin poetry cannot to this day rob their verses of the ornamental aflistance of ancient Fable: But at the expence of reason, taste, and even Religion, we see sacred and profane Mythology jumbled together; and false Gods and Angels, Nymphs and Apostles in friendly converse. If our Icelanders have not given into these abuses, they at least, for a long time, composed their poetry in the old taste, and I am even assured that, at this day, the verses that are composed in Iceland often preserve strong traces of it. A knowledge of the
ancient Runic ** Mythology continuing thus necessary for the purposes of poetry, it would easily occur to a lover of that art, to compile a kind of Di&ionary of the Figurative Expressions employed by the ancient SCALDS; with which the fuc-. ceeding Bards were as fond of embellishing their works as our modern Latin Poets are of patching theirs with the shreds of Horace and Virgil. This dictionary could only become useful, by subjoining to the figurative expression, the Fable which gave rise to the figure. Thus, when they read in the dictionary, that the Earth was poetically stiled “ the Body of the Giant “ YMER;" the Last Day, “ the Twilight of the Gods;" Poetry, “ the Beverage of
* Celtique. Orig.