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«* National Library of Scotland ■■jin B000157358*. V POEMS OF OSSIAN, IN THE ORIGINAL GAELIC, WITH A LITERAL TRANSLATION INTO LATIN, BY THE LATE ...»

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number of its words and the precision of its phrases, yet it bears not the least resemblance, either in words or in the structure of them, to the Sanscrit, the greater parent of the Indian dialects. Like the Greek, Persian, and German, the Sanscrit delights in compounds, but in a much higher degree; and indeed to such an excess, that words of more than twenty syllables can be produced : while the Arabic, on the other hand, and all its sister-dialects, abhor the composition of words, and invariably express every complex idea by circumlocution.* Sir William Jones tells us, f that “ the Sanscrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of a wonderful structure; more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either; yet bearing to both a stronger affinity, both in the roots of verbs and in the forms of grammar, than could possibly have been produced by accident; so strong indeed that no philologer could examine them all without believing them to have come from one common source, which perhaps no longer exists. There is a similar reason, though not quite so forcible, for supposing that both the Gothic and Celtic, though blended with a very different idiom, had the same * Asiatic Researches, Vol. II. p. 6.

f Ibid. Vol. I. p. 423. The word Sanscrit seems to be of Celtic origin, and is compounded of scan, old, and scribhadh, writing. The word khan is derived from the original Celtic word cean or kcan, head; and it “ pervades Asia and Europe from the Ganges to the Garonne.” Cean is compounded of the Celtic root ce, globular or round, and an the mascular termination for small. Griann, the sun, is compounded of gri, heat, and ann, a circle or body revolving, from which we have, in Gaelic, grisach, hot burning embers, and other derivatives.

AUTHENTICITY OF OSSIAN’S POEMS. 411 origin with the Sanscrit; and the old Persian might be added to the same family.” Mr. Marsden, in his History of Sumatra, tells us, “ that one general language prevailed (however mutilated and changed in the course of time) throughout all the portion of the world, from Madagascar to the most distant discoveries eastward, of which the Malay is a dialect much corrupted or refined by a mixture of other tongues. This very extensive similarity of language, indicates a common origin of the inhabitants; but the circumstance and progress of their separation are wrapped in the darkest veil of obscurity.” What Mr. Barrow says of the Chinese language, is truly applicable to the living remnants of the Celtic.

“ It has not undergone any material alteration for more than two thousand years, nor has it ever borroAved a character or a syllable from any other language Avhich no\y exists. As a proof of this, it may be mentioned, that every new article that has found its Avay in China, since its discovery to Europeans, has acquired a Chinese name, and entirely sunk that Arhich is borne by the nation Avho introduces it. The proper names even of countries, nations, individuals, are changed, and assume new ones in their language.

Thus Europe is called See Yang, the western country.

The English are dignified by the name of Hung mow, or red heads; and the French, Spanish, Portuguese, and all others Avho visit China, have each a name in the language in the country, wholly distinct from that they bear in Europe.” This intlexibility in retaining the words in their OAvn language, has led Mr. Barrow

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to think, that Dr. Johnson had the Chinese in his mind when, in the inimitable piece of fine writing which prefaces his Dictionary, he made this remark, “ the language most likely to continue long without alteration, would be that of a nation raised a little, and but a little, above barbarity, secluded from strangers, and totally employed in procuring the conveniencies of lifean observation which is perfectly descriptive of that remnant of the Celtic people, whose language still exists as a living speech, in the mountainous regions of this island from the Grampian hills to the Hebrides, nearly in the same purity, as in the sera of Ossian r* All the living languages of Europe have words borrowed from the Greek and Latin; but the Gaelic, from the number and richness of its primitive roots, and the facility of fonning a number of compound words, has distinct terms of its own in every art and science, and are so peculiarly descriptive of the sense, that an illiterate Highlander of this day easily comprehends their meaning. Thus astronomy is in Gaelic Reul-eolas, from rad, star, and eolas, knowledge. The common name for a star reul (or ruitkuil) signifies the guide to direct the course. Reann is the name for a planet, compounded of Re, a star, and ann, a circle, or revolution. That astronomy had been studied by the druids and Celtic nations, we have sufficient proofs; as well as that many hazardous voyages were performed by men, in those days, without any chart, or compass, but the stars to guide

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them.* Speur, in Gaelic, is the sky, or firmament.

We have in Greek Spheira, Latin Sphcera, Persian Sipehr, sphere. The word speur frequently occurs in Ossian’s poems ; “ Talla nan speur," hall of the skies,

sometimes translated airy halls :

–  –  –

Solstice \s grianstad, from grian, sun, andstad, stop.





Zodiac is grian-chrios, from grian, sun, and chrios, belt. Eclipse is ur-dhubha, from ur, new, or fresh, and dubha, darkening. Automical is Jein-gluasach, from Jem, self, and gluasach, motion.

As no people have technical terms in their own language for any art or science, to the practice of which they can be supposed to have been ignorant, we may reasonably infer that all the arts and sciences, in which Celtic terms are found, have been practiced by the ancestors of that people, long before other nations borrowed or adopted in their language such technical expressions from the Greeks or Romans.

Having given two or three examples in astronomy, of the indigenous terms applicable to that science, we shall now, by way of further illustration exhibit a few in other sciences. Geography is expressed in Gaelic by cbghrabha, compounded of cb, globe, or earth, and grabha, description; and from this last are the words yH and ygdyu derived. Anatomy is expressed by corpshnasachd, from corp, body, and snasachd, * Cass. L. VI. c. I4. Smith’s Hist, of the Druids, c. 4.

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cutting, or dividing; and hence may be derived the Latin corpus and English corpse, a dead body, which alone is the subject of anatomy, and in French the word corps, body, is also expressive of a regiment, as being divisible into numerous parts, or sections.

Geometry is cb-thomhas, from cb, globe or earth, and tomhas, measuring. Anemoscope is ail-innisan, from aile, air, and innisan, teller. Anemometer is aile-mheidh, from dile, air, and meidh, measure, scale, or balance.

Mercury is airgad-beo, from alrgad, silver, and beo, living. Amalgamate is co-leagha, from co or comb, together, or mixture, and leagha, melting, literally, melting together.

The reason why the words and structure of the Celtic language appear so conspicuous in the Greek and Latin, is, with much erudition, given in the notes at the end of the Report of the Highland Society of Scotland.* In this place, it may not be improper to add, that in France, Spain, and Italy, as well as in several other countries of Europe, there are a number of names of cities, towns, rivers, mountains, capes, promontories, &c. found in the works of ancient geographers, and many of them even extant at this day, all which are evidently of Celtic origin; and for the propriety and aptness of the etymologies, we have only to compare some of these appellatives with the Celtic or Gaelic radical words.f Though the Celts in the most early ages retained * See App. to the Report, p. 267 et seq.

t See the Alphabetical Table of Words, of which the etymologies are given in Monumens Celtiques par M. Cambry, of the Celtic Academy at Paris.

AUTHENTICITY OF OSSIAN*S POEMS. 415 an uniformity of manners, and nearly the same language in all their different settlements, yet, in process of time, from various accidents, their language was altered, and they began to be distinguished by new and different appellations. By the Roman conquest, the Celts in Gaul gradually lost their original name, and were, by subsequent conquests, confounded with the Franks. The Celts, however, who inhabited Britain, or Albion, did not share the same fate, especially those of the mountainous regions of Caledonia;

they were a distinct people, as Caesar tells us, from those in other parts, and have so continued, with little variation in their manners, customs, and language, since Caesar’s time.

The learned Pezron, author of a small work on the antiquity of the Celtic nation, had in contemplation to publish a complete work on the origin of nations, but more especially on the antiquity of the Celtic language; and be had for some years before his death been collecting materials for that purpose. In a letter from Pezron to the Abb6 Nicaise, published in Martiniere’s Geographical Dictionary, under the article Celtes, he mentions that he had collected seven or eight hundred Greek words, or simple roots, which are derived from the Celtic, besides almost all the numerals; thus the Celts say dec, ten, and the Greeks the former undec, eleven, daudec, twelve, &c. the latter EwJsxa, SoiSmx, &c.; the other numerals may be judged of by this specimen. With respect to the Latin, Pezron mentions having collected more than twelve hundred words, or roots, obviously derived from the Celtic; and concludes with observing

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that the Celtic language is diffused throughout almost all the languages of Europe, and that the Teutonic, or German, is full of Celtic words. It is much to be regretted, that Pezron died before the publication of the proofs, on which his system was founded;

such a work is still a desideratum in the republic of letters.* Monsieur Cambry, a member of the Celtic Academy at Paris, has, in his ingenious work lately published, f announced his intention to exhibit, in the periodical papers of the academy, no less than two thousand Celtic words cited in various authors, and ancient monuments, which have the same sound and meaning as those in the Armoric, or language spoken

• As the subject is interesting to the Gaelic scholar, the following is an extract of Monsieur Pezron’s letter to the Abbe Nicaise.

“ Pour revenir a ces princes Titans ou Celtes, comme ils ont regne assez long temps dans la Grece, et m&me dans d’ltalie, oit Saturne se refugia, etant persecute par son propre fils, leur langue s’est tellement melee avec la Grecque, qui etoit alors PEolique, et avec 1’ancienne Latine, qu’on peut dire qu’elles en sont toutes remplies. Vous serez surpris, Monsieur, quand je vous dira, que j’ai environ sept ou huit cens mots Grecs, je dis de simple racines, qui sont tous tirez de la langue des Celtes, avec presque tous le nombres; par example, le Celtes disent dec, dix, et les Grecs Les Celtes disent undec, onze, daoudec, douze, &c. Les Grecs Ef&xa, &c. Jugez du rest par cet echantillion. Pour ce qui est de la langue Latine, j’ai actuellement plus de douze cens mfits, qui viennent tout visiblement du Celtique, et je repondrai solidement h ceux d’entre les savans, qui, ne pouvant nier un fait qui paroit sensible, sont reduits a dire que les Celtes ont emprunte ces m6ts de Grecs et de Latins. Je ne saurois finir cette lettre sans vous dire que le Celtique s’est repandu dans presque tout les langues de 1'Europe, mais la Teutone ou 1’Allemande en est toute remplie.” + Monumens Celtiques, p. 381, 382.

AUTHENTICITY OF OSSIAN’S POEMS. 417 in Britanny, a province of France. He affirms, that the Celtic language still exists, and is spoken by two millions of people in lower Britanny, and in the principality of Wales, and in Cornwall, without including the Highlands of Scotland and Ireland, where the people also speak a dialect of the Celtic called the Gaelic, which, he observes, was the language of that illustrious bard Ossian, the Homer of the Caledonians.

These precious words, Monsieur Cambry further observes, will illustrate and re-establish, in the most positive and wonderful manner, a number of passages in ancient history, and will, at the same time, give us a more perfect knowledge of the antiquities, origin, customs, and monuments of different nations.

It may be admitted, that M. Cambry is correct in his statement, but while this leads us to reflect on the causes of the decline of the Celtic language, for the last 1500 years, it gives rise to the gratifiying idea, that, in the course of the present century, our national language will probably be the vernacular tongue of numbers nearly equal to the present population of Europe. For when we contemplate our vast political and commercial relations with America, the East and West Indies, and other parts of the world, it may be fairly calculated that, before the lapse of the present century, no less than 150 millions of people, in both hemispheres, will speak the English language, subject however to various fluctuations and different dialects, in proportion to the distance of one country or tribe from another. This is by no VOL. in. ee

418 SUPPLEMENTAL OBSERVATIONS ON THE

means an exaggerated computation, when we separately consider the rapid progress of population in the United States of America, where during the last twenty-jive years of the eighteenth century, it was more than doubled; viz. from 2,486,000 in the year 1774, to 5,214,800 in the year 1800. Consequently in the same ratio the population of the United States of America will be increased to upwards of eighty millions at the end of the present century.

It is well known, that the letters of the ancient Gaelic and Irish alphabet had a resemblance to the ancient Greek, and in fact Mr. Macpherson had it at one time in contemplation to publish the original of Ossian in Greek characters, or in those in which the MSS. were supposed to have been first written. Mr. Astle, in his Origin and Progress of Writing,* has given a series of Gaulish or Celtic characters, which somewhat resemble those of Greece.

They were taken from the monumental inscriptions of Gordian, the messenger of the Gauls, who suffered martyrdom, with all his family, in the third century.



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