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Lord Kaimes too mentions a Gaelic manuscript of the first four books of Fingal, which Mr. Macpherson, the translator of Ossian, found in the isle of Sky, of as old a date as the year 1403.* The late Mr. Lachlan Macpherson of Strathmashie, who had accompanied Mr. James Macpherson during some part of his journey through the Highlands in search of the poems of Ossian, bears evidence to a similar fact; for in his letter to Dr. Blair, dated the 22d October, l?63,t he sa ys “ Some of the hereditary bards retained by the chiefs, committed very early to writing; some of the works of Ossian. One manuscript in particular was written as far back as the year 1410, which I saw in Mr. Macpherson’s possession.” The late Rev. Andrew Gallie, minister of Kencardine in Ross-shire, who had assisted Mr. Macpherson in arranging his collection, says, in his letter to Charles Mac Intosh, Esq. a member of the committee of the Highland Society of Edinburgh, J that on Mr.

Macpherson’s return from his tour through the Highlands and Islands he produced to Mr. Gallie several volumes, small octavo, or rather large duodecimo, in the Gaelic language and character, of the poems of Ossian and other ancient bards; and that he remembers perfectly that many of those volumes were at the conclusion said to have been collected by Paul Macmhuirich Bard Clanraonuil, and about the * Lord Kaimes’s Sketches of Man, B. I.

•f See Appendix to the Report of the Highland Society, p. 7« t See Report of the Highland Society, p. 31.

AUTHENTICITY OF OSSIAN’S POEMS. 437 beginning of the fourteenth century. Every poem had its first letter and its first word most elegantly flourished and gilded, some red, some yellow, some blue and some green: the materials writ on seemed to be a limber, yet coarse and dark, vellum: the volumes were hound in strong parchment; and that Mr. Macpherson had them from Clanranold.

Without recurring to more remote periods, as unnecessary for our present purpose, we have incontestible authority that the use of letters was known in Ireland from St. Patrick’s time,* and that St.

Columba, the founder of Icolmkill, who had his education in the Irish schools, appears, from what remains of his composition, to have written in pure Gaelic.f The identity of the Irish and Gaelic language during so many ages, and the constant intercourse between the Irish of Ulster and the Scots of the western Highlands, are circumstances which naturally lead us to draw the just inference, that some one of the disciples of those saints would have committed to writing the compositions of Ossian and other bards: hence various transcripts of scattered fragments might have been handed down from one * Nennius says that the first alphabet was taught in Ireland by St.

Patrick : “ Sanctus Patricias scripsit Abietoria 36.5 et es ainplius numero.” Nen. lix. Sir James Ware, iu his Antiquities, says, letters were introduced with Christianity into Ireland; and it appears from Bede’s Ecclesiastical History that there were several learned men in Ireland in the seventh century.

t Dr. John Smith’s History of the Druids, p. 68. See also Dr.

• John Macpherson’s Letter to Dr. Blair, of the 27th Nov. 1763, inserted in the Appendix to the Report of the Highland Society, p. 17*


generation to another, not perhaps in the purity of the originals, but subject to the variations and interpolations arising from the fancy of subsequent bards and transcribers. Mr. Macpherson is therefore entitled to great credit, for having with much industry collected, compared, and collated the several editions or copies; and it may be well supposed that he would have availed himself of that fair license granted to every collector and translator, by selecting the best editions, restoring passages omitted in some but preserved in others, and connecting the episodes and detached pieces so as to render his translations more worthy of the public eye.

We have noticed, in a former part, the Life of St.

Columba, written by Ad am nan us ;* also the decisive proofs adduced in the Report of the Highland Society of the ancient Gaelic MSS. in their possession, of which some fac simile specimens are exhibited in the Report. In the Bodleian library, Oxford, there is an old manuscript in parchment of 292 pages, in large folio, containing, in Gaelic or Irish, several historical accounts of the ancient Irish Kings, Saints, &c. also an account of the Conquest of Great Britain by the Romans, of the Saxon Conquest and their Heptarchy, and an account of the Conversion of the Irish and English to Christianity, with other subjects. This book has here and there some Latin notes interspersed, which Mr.

Lhuyd thinks may possibly contain hints of the doctrines of the druids. There is also an old vellum MS. of 140 pages, in the form of a music book, conSee Notes N and W, to Cesarotti’s Dissertation.

AUTHENTICITY OF OSSIAN’S POEMS. 439 taining the works of St. Columba, in verse, with an account of his own life, his Exhortations to Princes, and his Prophecies.

Mr. Astle, in his examination of several Gaelic and Irish MSS. of remote periods, put into his hands, of which he has given fac similes, acknowledges that the Gaelic or Erse language of Scotland, and the Iherno-Gaelic, are nearly the same, and that their letters, or characters, are similar, which appears indeed on a comparison of the different fac similes exhibited.* Mr. Astle has given, among others, the following specimens of different MSS. in the Gaelic tongue, which were procured from the Highlands of Scotland, and transmitted to him by some friends. )' The first and most ancient specimen of the Gaelic writing seen by Mr. Astle, and now in the possession of the Highland Society of Scotland, is taken from a fragment of a work entitled Emanuel, which, from the form of the letters, and from the nature of the vellum, he reasonably concludes may be as old as the ninth or tenth century.^ This fragment throws much light on the state of * Mr. Astle’s Origin and Progress of Writing, second edition, Plate XXII.

+ It is probable the friends alluded to by Mr. Astle, who furnished him with these MSS. were the Rev. Mr. M‘ Lagan, minister of Blair in Athol, and the Rev. Mr. Stuart, minister of Killin in Perthshire, as in p. 138, of Origin and Progress of Writing, he acknowledges being indebted to those gentlemen for the translations of his Gaelic specimens.

J This MS. called Emanuel, is particularly noticed in the Report of the Highland Society, Appendix, p. 305 et seq. where a long extract is given, with a literal translation.


classical learning in Scotland in ancient times, as well as proves the care with which the Gaelic language was then cultivated; and, by comparing it with what is now spoken, it further proves, that the language has been transmitted in purity from one generation to another, down to the present day.

We have also in these MSS. some interesting notices of ancient history, written on the authority of Greek and Roman authors; and of the arts, armour, manners, dress, superstition and usages of the Scots of the author’s own time, who, from circumstances mentioned in his work, may be supposed to have composed it between the fifth and seventh centuries.

In this MS. there is a chapter entitled Slogha Chesair mi Inis Bhreatan, or Cesar’s Expedition to the Island of Britain. But as this, and some of the other MSS.

of which Mr. Astle has given fac similes to prove the age of the writing, may be deemed interesting to the Gaelic Scholar, the following specimens of a few lines, with translations, are given.

Mr. Astle’s first specimen (Plate XXII.) is taken from Emanuel, and the reading of a few lines runs

thus :

Nirsatimini Curio annso.

Iriasin don inntimmairece urgaile ro fas iceriochaibh Na Haffraici muinntiraibh nairigh Ceadna Is amhlaidh iaramh tMla sin. 1. Airigh duairrighaibh nocuir ceiss’ buadha agus leigion, &c.


Observe this, or nota bene, Such dissentions grew up between the nobles of Africa, as had not happened before this time, i. e.

certain noble of power and of learning who had often been victorious, &c.

The second specimen is taken from a MS. on vellum, in small quarto, containing annals of Ireland, and of some of the northern parts of Scotland, and seems to have been written in the thirteenth century.

The following two lines to be read :

Ri ro gab astair righi for Eirinn feact naill iodhain Eo chaid feidlech Mac Finn Mac lloigeain ruaigh

–  –  –

There was formerly a king who reigned over Ireland, viz. Eochy Feileach, son of Finn son of Roigh ruagh.

The third specimen is taken from a moral or religious tract, which seems to have been written

also in the thirteenth century, and is to be read:

–  –  –

Lord, what is that from thee. That is the punishSUPPLEMENTAL OBSERVATIONS ON THE ment appointed by thee, even punishment of death to the disobedient children of the gospel.

The fourth specimen is taken from a Treatise on Grammar, written in the latter end of the fifteenth

century, and is to he read :

Deinimh deineamh fear deanuimh deinimh beas, &c.

–  –  –

Deanamh, deineamh, masculine; deainimh, feminine.


The fifth specimen is taken from a Glossary of

the Irish Language, and is read :

Foghal foghail ort a luag foghal agus ag foghail an bailie.

–  –  –

Foghail, plunder; foghail ort, thou art plundered, &c.

The sixth specimen is taken from a MS. containing some poems in the Gaelic, written in the fifteenth

century, and is read :

–  –  –

Charles Mac Muirunigh sung.

The renown of the Gael is lowered, &c.

Mr. Astle has, in a note on this specimen, remarked, that the family of Mac Muirichs were bards to the family of Clanronald for centuries back.

Whether one of them was the author of this song is difficult to say.

The seventh specimen is taken from a MS. containing some memoranda relative to the affairs of Ireland and Scotland, written in the fifteenth century.

The eighth specimen is taken from a MS. containing annals of Ireland and Scotland. The reading


Anno Mundi Do ghabh Nuadhad fionn fail Mac 3304. Geallichosa, de shiol Eiremhoin Righe Eirenn 60 bliaghuin no fiche bliaguin gur thuit le Breisrig Mac Art.

–  –  –

In the year of Nuadhad fionn fail the son of the world 3304. Gealchosa of the race of Heremon, enjoyed the kingdom of Ii'eland 60 years, or twenty years; he fell by Breisri the son of Arthur.

The twelfth specimen (Plate XXII.) is taken from a MS. in Mr. Astle’s library, containing two treatises, the one on astronomy, the other on medicine,


–  –  –

Si autem sol minoris esset camditatis, &c. ioadhin, dam hadh lugha caindegheachd na greine na na talmhuin gach uile ni.... do fulaingedh a dubhra... &c.

–  –  –

If the light of the sun was less than the earth, every thing would be covered with its shade.* The thirteenth specimen is taken from a MS. in the Harleian library, (No. 5280), which contains twenty-one Gaelic treatises, of which Mr. Astle has given some account. One of these treats of the Irish militia under Fion Maccumhail, in the reign of Cormac Mac Airt, King of Ireland, and of the couise of probation, or exercise, which each soldier was to go through before his admission therein.

The fourteenth specimen in the twenty-second Plate, is taken from an an ancient transcript of some of the old municipal laws of Ireland, and a tract called the Great Sanction, New Law, or Constitution of Nine, made in favour of Christianity by three kings, three bishops, and three sages.

* By the Latin text at the head of each chapter of the Gaelic treatise on astronomy, Mr. Astle says, it appears to be a translation from the Latin; yet, by the argument it would seem that the writer was the author.

AUTHENTICITY OF OSSIAN’S POEMS. 44.5 r The fifteenth specimen is taken from the Annales Tigernaci, amongst the Clarendon MSS. at Oxford, (No. 3), which Annals end in 1407, when this MS.

is supposed to have been written.

The Idth and l/th specimens are taken from the Annals of Ulster in the Bodleian library, amongst Dr. Rawlinson’s MSS. (No. 31). This is written on vellum, and was formerly in the possession of Sir James Ware, was afterwards possessed by the Duke of Chandos, and after his death, it was purchased by Dr. Rawlinson.* The 18th and last specimen is from a fragment of the Brehon lazvs, communicated by Lieut. Colonel Vallancey, which is read, Dearbhar feitheam fortoig cuithe arach.

–  –  –

Certain rules for the election of a chief.

J he existence, not only of Gaelic poetry, but of manuscripts containing many of the poems ascribed to Ossian, is proved by the concurrent testimony of writers at different periods, for ages before Mr.

Macpherson was born. Bishop Carswell, in his translation into Gaelic of the forms of prayer and catechism of the Christian religion, printed in 15b'7, and the Rev. Mr. Kirk, who translated the Psalms of David, in 1684, bear evidence to the fact.f It is unnecessary to dwell upon the variety of * See Innes’s Essay, p. 453.

t See the quotations from their works, p. 401 et seq. of these Observations.


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