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The Muse ! whate'er the Muse inspires,
IT is a circumstance strongly corroborative of the genuineness and authenticity of the poems ascribed to Ossi AN by the Scottish antiquaries, and one which has hitherto not had its due consideration, that in the numerous Irish poems still extant in the Gaelic or Erse language, and attributed to Oisin or Ossian, whom the Irish are anxious to claim as a native of their island, the very peculiar, and I may say singular strain of sentiment and feeling which, considering the era and state of civilization in which the poems of Ossian are said to have been pro
duced, so remarkably distinguishes both the personal character and the works of the Scottish bard, should have been preserved with so much of its original raciness and vigour. These Irish poems, instead of assuming to themselves the high antiquity which has been established for their Scottish brethren by Blair, and Graham, and Sinclair, not only make Oisin and St. Patrick, who flourished in the fifth century, contemporaries, but exhibit moreover very evident traces of having been composed not anterior to the ninth or tenth century. Now, as the literati of the sister island have altogether failed in their attempt to prove, either that Macpherson ever was in Ireland, or had any of his oral originals through an Irish channel; and as the productions ascribed to the Caledonian Ossian claim not only a higher antiquity, but are entirely free from all the modern allusions and gross anachronisms which vitiate the pretensions of the Hibernian poet, it follows, as a result of the highest probability, that the minstrelsy of the Irish Oisin and his followers was founded on the prior inspiration of the bard of Morven; for it should be recollected, that at the period when Fingal and his son are recorded to have lived, the inhabitants of the northern parts of Ireland, and the western parts
* Camoens. t Milton, &c.
of Scotland, not only spoke the same language, but were frequently either at war with each other, or united against a common enemy. We find, indeed, both from the evidence arising from the Scottish poems themselves, and from the testimony of the Danish historian Suhm *, that early in the third century Fingal had made several descents on the coast of Ulster for the protection of his kinsman Cormac, then a minor and monarch of Ireland, against the invasion of Swaran king of Norway. In these expeditions he was accompanied by his son and chief bard, Ossian, and also by a native Irish bard of the name of Ullin. It does not appear that Fingal had occasion to penetrate into the interior, or perhaps more than twenty miles from the shores of Ulster; but here his exploits were great and numerous, and a not altogether unsuccessful effort has been lately made to ascertain the battle fields of Fingal in Ulster, by the analogy of names and places mentioned in Ossian's poems. “It is almost impossible,” says the author of this attempt, whilst describing Connor (the ancient Temora) and its neighbourhood, “to walk twenty minutes without meeting some rude marks of the warfare of those times. Innumerable are the four grey stones, the graves of the illustrious dead, which one discovers while travelling among
* Speaking of Swaran's contest with a Norwegian prince of the name of Gram, the historian, whose work in Denmark is esteemed as of the highest authority, thus proceeds: “Swaran was the son of Starno; he had carried on many wars in Ireland, where he had vanquished most of the heroes that opposed him, except Cuchullin, who, assisted by the Gaelic or Caledonian king, Fingal, not only defeated him, but even took him prisoner, but had the generosity to send him back again to his country;” a quotation which has drawn from sir John Sinclair the following inference and remark. “The existence of Swaran, son of Starno, and his wars in Ireland, and his having been defeated by Fingal, as related by Ossian, are therefore authenticated by the historians of Denmark; and in their annals a number of particulars are stated regarding the manners of those times, which confirm many of the particulars mentioned by Ossian.” And he then adds, “it is very satisfactory to have been the means of bringing forward a new, and at the same time so convincing a proof of the authenticity of these ancient poems; and hence indeed it appears, that the more the subject is investigated, the more clearly will that authenticity be established.”—Dissertation on the Authenticity of the Poems of Ossian, pp. lxiii.—lxv. lxvi.
Phillips, when, in the fervor of poetical enthusiasm, he exclaims, in allusion to this district,
When tired at eve the pilgrim leans
That the intercourse and connexion which these expeditions tended to establish between the two countries, prolonged as they were during the greater part of a century, should lead to a certain degree of similarity in their minstrelsy and poesy might naturally be expected, more especially when we
* Campbell's Ossiano, 8vo., 1818, pp. 31, 32.