«* National Library of Scotland ■■jin B000157358*. V POEMS OF OSSIAN, IN THE ORIGINAL GAELIC, WITH A LITERAL TRANSLATION INTO LATIN, BY THE LATE ...»
The affidavit of Malcolm Macpherson, residenter in the parish of Portree, Isle of Sky, made before two justices of the peace on the 5th September, 1800,1 proves, that he had a brother called Alexander, noted in the country for his knowledge of the poems of Ossian, of which he, the deponent, heard him repeat many. That he was informed by his said brother, and he heard also from others, that when the late Mr. James Macpherson, from Badenoch, * See Appendix to Report of Highland Society, p. 52.
f Ibid. p. 92.
472 SUPPLEMENTAL OBSERVATIONS ON THEwas in the Highlands, collecting the poems of Ossian, he employed himself four days and four nights at Portree, in taking down a variety of them from the recitation of the declarant’s said brother. That his said brother had a Gaelic manuscript in quarto, and about an inch and quarter, in thickness, regarding the Fingalians, which he gave to Mr. Macpherson, who carried it with him; since which time the declarant never heard of it.
The affidavit of Ewan Macpherson, late schoolmaster at Badenoch, made before two justices of the peace, 11th September, 1800,* gives evidence to his having accompanied Mr. Macpherson, about the year 1760, on part of his tour through the Highlands, in search of the poems of Ossian, and that, during three or four weeks, he was employed in taking down the poems of Ossian from the recitations of several individuals at different places, which he gave to Mi\ Macpherson, who was seldom present when they were taken down. That on this excursion, Mr.
Macpherson got from Macmhuirich, the representative of the celebrated bards of that name, a book of the size of a New Testament, and of the nature of a common-place book, which contained some genealogical accounts of families, together with some of the poems of Ossian. And that Mr. Macpherson obtained at the same time an order from Clanronald, sen. on a Lieut. Donald Macdonald, at Edinburgh, for a Gaelic folio manuscript belonging to the family which Avas called Leabhar Derg (red book), and contained, as the declarant heard Clanronald say, * See Appendix to Report of the Highland Society, p. 9-L AUTHENTICITY OF OSSIAN’S POEMS. 473 and as himself believed, some of the poems of Ossian.
The late Mr. Alexander Morison, formerly captain in a provincial corps of loyalists in America, in answer to queries transmitted to him by the Committee of the Highland Society, respecting Ossian’s and other ancient poems,* declares, that before leaving Sky, even from the first of his recollection, he heard repeated, and learnt many poems and songs respecting Fingal, Ossian, and other ancient heroes, many of which were afterwards collected, arranged, and translated by Mr. James Macpherson. f That he gave the Rev. Mr. Mackinnon, of Glendarual, before he went last time to America, in the year 1780, Ossian’s Address to the Sun in the original, which being transmitted by Lord Bannatyne to the Society, and presented, he identified. That he found the address among Mr. James Macpherson’s papers, when he was transcribing fairly for him, from those original papers (either collected by himself, or transmitted by his Highland friends,) as it stood in the poem of Carthon, and afterwards translated and published.
As this part of Mr. Morison’s evidence tends to throw light on the deficiency of some of the original passages of Carthon, more especially the want of the Address to the Sun in the originals now printed, it may be proper to observe, that the Committee appointed to superintend this publication was * See Appendix to Report of the Highland Society, p. 175.
t Mr. Morison died at Greenock, Feb. 1805, at the age of 84, or 85; and his answer to the queries of the Highland Society of Edinburgh bears date 7th January, 1801.
474 SUPPLEMENTAL OBSERVATIONS ON THEscrupulously exact to commit only to the press such originals as were found among Mr. Macpherson’s papers, and transmitted by his executors. On the margin of a copy of the first edition of Mr. Macpherson’s translation of Ossian, which had been left at his Highland residence, and found there by the Rev. Mr. Anderson, one of his executors, there is written in Mr. Macpherson’s hand writing, “ Delivered all that could be found of Carthon to Mr. John Mackenzie ;* and in this poem, at the words, “ Have not I seen the fallen Balclutha,” there is marked on the margin, in Mr. Macpherson’s hand, “ All before this given to Mr. Mackenzie.'f The Address to the Sun in Carthon having been supposed by some of the opposers of the authenticity of Ossjan’s poems, to be a forgery of Mr. Macpherson’s, in imitation of the Address to the Sun in Milton, it may be proper, in addition to the evidence already adduced of its having been translated from the Gaelic original, to mention a fact which corroborates this testimony, and must remove the most sceptical doubts on this head. The Rev. Mr. Macdiarmid, minister of Weem in Perthshire, transmitted to the Committee of the Highland Society at Edinburgh, an original copy of Ossian’s Address to the Sun in Carthon, with a translation by himself.^ A copy of the original Mr. Macdiarmid got, about 35 * Late Secretary to the Highland Society of London, and one of Mr.
f Report of the Highland Society, p. 83.
t See Report of the Highland Society, for the translation of the Address, p. 72, and Appendix, p. 185 for the original.
AUTHENTICITY OF OSSIAN’s POEMS. 475 years ago, from an old man in Glenlyon, who had learnt to recite it with other ancient poems in his youth. By comparing this original with the one taken from among Mr. Macpherson’s papers by the late Capt. Morison, which he gave to the Rev. Mr.
Mackinnon, as above mentioned, and since identified by him, it Avill appear that they differ very little from each other; and that the Gaelic reader may compare the original with Mr. Macpherson’s translation, we have given it at the end of these Observations, with a literal Latin and English translation.
Captain Morison, having assisted Mr. Macpherson in translating the originals, collected by him on his tour through the Highlands and Isles, declares, in his answer to the queries of the Society alluded to,* that afterwards in London, he had access to Mr.
Macpherson’s papers; saw the several manuscripts, which he had translated, in different hand writings;
some of them in his (Macpherson’s) own hand, some not, as they were either collected by himself, or sent him by his friends in the Highlands; some of them taken from oral recitation, some from MSS. That he saw also many manuscripts in the old Gaelic character in Mr. Macpherson’s possession, containing some of the poems translated, which MSS. they found some difficulty in reading. How old the MSS. were he could not say, but from the character and spelling they seemed very ancient. Captain Morison admits, that Mr. Macpherson had much merit in collecting, arranging, and translating, but that he * See Captain Morison’s Answer to the Queries of the Highland Society, Appendix to the Report, p. 175.
476 SUPPLEMENTAL OBSERVATIONS ON THEwas no great poet, nor thoroughly conversant in Gaelic literature; so far from composing such poems as were translated, declares that he assisted him often in understanding the meaning of many words, and suggested some improvements. With energetic bluntness, Captain Morison remarks, “ that Macpherson could as well compose the Prophecies of Isaiah, or create the island oj Skye, as compose a poem like one of Ossian's” In a similar strain of energetic conviction, he lately declared, at an advanced period of life, “ when the tomb opened to receive him, for his strength had failed,” that he as firmly believed in the authenticity of Qssians poems, as in the existence of soul and body.* Lachlan Macmurrich, or Mac Vuirich, in his declaration transmitted to the Highland Society, dated August.9, 1800,| made before Donald Macdonald, of Balronald, James Macdonald, of Garyhelich, Ewan Macdonald, of Griminish, Alexander Maclean, of Hoster, Mr. Alexander Nicolson, minister of Benbecula, and Mr. Allan Macqueen, minister of NorthUist, has stated, that to the best of his knowledge he is the eighteenth in descent from Muireach, whose posterity had officiated as bards to the family of Clanronald. That he remembered well the works of Ossian written on parchment, were in the custody of his father, as received from his predecessors: that * See Captain Morison’s Answers to Queries, Appendix to Report of Highland Society, p. 1/5; and his Declaration, Appendix No. IV.
Sir John Sinclair’s Dissertation.
f See Declaration in Gaelic, and Translation, Report of the Society, Appendix No. XVII.
AUTHENTICITY OF OSSI^AN’S POEMS. 477 some of the parchments were made up in the form of books, and that others were loose and separate, which contained the works of other bards besides those of Ossian.
That he remembered his father had a red book made of paper, which he had from his predecessors, and contained, as his father informed him, the history of the Highland Clans, together with part of the works of Ossian. That he remembered well that Clanronald made his father give up the red book to James Macpherson from Badenoch. That it was near as thick as a Bible, but that it was longer and broader, though not so thick in the cover. That the parchments, and the red book, were written in the hand in which the Gaelic used to be written of old, both in Scotland and Ireland, before people began to use the English handwriting in Gaelic.
It is unnecessary to detail the proofs under Mr.
Macpherson’s own hand in his letters to the Rev.
Mr. Maclagan, dated in 17b0 and 1761,* or his letter to the Secretary of the Highland Society of London, dated in July, 1784,t all which bear the most unequivocal testimony of the genuineness of the originals in his possession ; but the striking coincidence in the expressions of his letter to Mr. Maclagan in January, 1761, and what he wrote to Mr. Mackenzie, in July, 1784, deserves to be noticed. He says in his letter to Mr. Maclagan, “ I have been lucky * See Appendix to the Report of the Highland Society, p. 153, 154.
f A copy of this interesting document will be found in page 81 of Sir John Sinclair’s Dissertation, prefixed to this work, and a facsimile of it is given in the Appendix to said Dissertation, No. III.
478 SUPPLEMENTAL OBSERVATIONS ON THEenough to lay my hands on a pretty complete poem and truly epic, concerning Fingal.” And in his letter to the Deputation of the Highland Society of London, he says, I shall adhere to the promise I made several years ago to-a deputation of the same kind ; that is, to employ my first leisure time, and a considerable portion of time it must be to do it accurately, in arranging and printing the originals of the poems of Ossian, as they have come to my hands."
A particular account of the ancient poems of the Highlands, collected by Mr. Jerome Stone of Dunkeld, prior to Mr. Macpherson's poetical mission, and the translation of one of these poems which he published in the Scots Magazine so far back as January, 1756, will be found in the Report of the Highland Society.* It will be seen from the testimony of the Rev. Mr. Pope already given, p. 471, that about the year 1739, he had entered into a project, with another gentleman, for collecting Ossian’s poems.
The various detached pieces ascribed to Ossian and the ancient bards, which have been published subsequent to Mr. Macpherson’s translation, and collected by Miss Brooke, Mr. John Clark, Mr. Thomas Hill, Dr. John Smith, Mr. John Gillies, Baron de Harold, and others, are unnecessary to be dwelt upon, some having been occasionally noticed in the
• See Report, p. 23, and the original of Stone’s translation of Bas Fraoich, or the Death of Fraoch, who was destroyed by the treacherous passion of his mother-in-law ; this, together with the translation in verse as published in 1756, and a literal prose translation will be found in the Appendix to the Report, No. VII.
AUTHENTICITY OF OSSIAX’S POEMS. 479 Report of the Highland Society, others in Sir John Sinclair’s Dissertation, or in the Notes and Observations annexed to Cesarotti's Dissertation.* The identity of some of the poems published hy Mr. Macpherson, is fully proved by Gaelic manuscripts in the possession of the Committee ot the Highland Society of Edinburgh, collected by Mr.
Duncan Kennedy, Archibald Fletcher, and other persons ; of which about fifteen hundred verses, with a literal translation by Dr. Donald Smith, compared with passages of the epic poem of Fingal, as published by Mr. Macpherson, are given in the Appendix to the Report of the Society.f The collection of Ossian’s poems made by the Rev.
Mr. Farquharson at an early period of his life, prior to Mr. Macpherson’s poetical mission to the Highlands, and the existence of the thick folio manuscript volume, containing these poems which he left at the college of Douay, at the commencement of the French Revolution, has been circumstantially detailed and proved by the concurrent testimony of two bishops and three respectable clergymen now living.^;
This new and interesting evidence having excited the attention of the Members of the Committee * See Report, p. 47, 48, 49, et seq. Sir John Sinclair’s Dissertation, p. 36, 76, and 77. Notes to Cesarotti’s Dissertation B, F, G, H, and I.
i- See Report, Appendix, No. XV.
J We are much indebted to Sir John Sinclair for the zeal and perseyerance he has manifested, in bringing forward most unexceptionable evidence respecting the Douay manuscript, and which will be found amply detailed in his Dissertation, p. xi. and Iviii. inclusive.
*82CJFOT a,VAIMQ ^0 TTIOIfVXBT 480 supplemental observations on the riiiipai ;ri9rfJ »ni(Mid3yp \i ’tiioiissli dl"..ahr appo^hted to superintend this publication^ they determined, collectively or individually, to spare no pains in endeavouring to ascertain, whether the said manuscript be still existing in France, as well as to obtain every authentic information respecting any other Celtic manuscripts in that country. With that view, and while the communication with France was open by the late negociation for peace, the following letter was written to the Principal of the Celtic Academy at Paris, accompanied with a French translation 'r both of which were transmitted through the Foreign Secretary of State's Office, to our Ambassador, the Earl of Lauderdale, as the best and most effectual channel of communication.