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To the Principal of the Celtic Academy at Paris, §c. §’c. &;c.

York Place, Portman Square, London, Sept. 20, 1806.

Sir, As a Member of the Committee appointed by the Highland Society, to superintend the publication of the poems of Ossian in the original Celtic, denominated Gaelic in the northern parts of Scotland, where it is still a living language, I take the liberty to acquaint you, that these originals will in the course of the present year be published, accompanied by a literal Latin translation, and a Dissertation containing such additional facts as have been recently acquired on the authenticity of the poems.

The Committee having learnt, from public report, that a Celtic Academy has been lately instituted at AUTHENTICITY OF OSSIAN’S POEMS. 481 Paris, and being desirous of extending their inquiry to the collection of every fact which tends to illus* trate the era of Ossian, and the antiquity of the work, have requested me to address you for information, on the following subjects.

1. It appears, from the testimony of Bishops Cameron and Chisholm, of the Catholic persuasion, formerly of France, but now residing at Edinburgh, that the late Mr. Farquharson, Principal of the College of Douay in Flanders, left at the beginning of the Revolution in that University, a thick manuscript folio volume, containing many of Ossian’s poems in the original Celtic, collected by him at an early period of life, while a missionary in the Highlands of Scotland; and I am commissioned by the Highland Society to request, as a most particular favour, that you will take the trouble to inform me whether such manuscript book of Celtic poems be still in existence, and if so, that you will do the Society the further favour of transmitting transcripts of the titles of the several poems, and a note of the number of lines in each, with any information respecting other Celtic manuscripts, which may be now at Paris, Douay, or elsewhere, on the language, poetry, history, origin, and migration of the Celts.

2. Understanding that there is in the National Library at Paris, a manuscript purporting to be the speech in Celtic delivered by Clovis, the founder of the French monarchy, to his army, or to the citizens of Paris, on his taking the field, it would be extremely gratifying to the Highland Society, and to the admirers of Celtic literature in Great Britain, to receive VOL. in. ii


,aW30T 8 VTAI?20 30 YTIOI'ifta m, a transcript of this speech, and a fac-simile of a few lines of the original, to prove the age of the writing.

If the i information can be procured in time, it is Oi n ’ - ] n? SViifl*O * YTI08 fflk the intention of the Committee to insert it in the y. Jiilfv/ 03,1^3331 "moV Ip J03tQII8»3u! ' present edition of Ossian. Trusting, that in a cause so interesting to the honourable remains of Celtic literature, and promising, on the part of the Highland Society, any aid or information which they at an}' time may be able to afford to your learned Academy; you will pardon the liberty I have thus taken in addressing you.

I have the honour to be, with sentiments of the highest consideration and respect, Sir, your most obedient, and most humble servant, (Signed) John M'Arthur.

–  –  –

b-r As the most conclusive evidence has been exhibited, that Ossian’s poems had been collected from oral tradition, and from ancient manuscripts, by the late Rev. Mr. Farquharson about fifteen years prior to Mr. Macpherson’s mission to the Highlands for the same purpose; and, as it is equally established, that Mr. Farquharson’s collection was bound up in a large folio volume, and left at the Scottish College of Douay, at the commencement of the French Revolution, the prominent object the Committee had in view, in writing to the Celtic Academy at Paris, was to ascertain whether that collection still existed;

because if in existence it would have been gratifying to have detailed the contents in this work; for, independent of every other proof, this of itself would have incontrovertibly established the authenticity of the originals translated by Mr. Macpherson.

Such is a summary of the evidence in support of the authenticity of Ossian’s poems, which, with all deference, is submitted to the public. But the writer must observe, by way of apology for himself, that when he undertook the present investigation, and the task of translating Cesarotti’s Dissertation, he was not aware of the difficulties he had to encounter, nor of the time and labour which such a work would require. To have done justice to so important a subject, any man with abilities superior to what the writer can pretend, ought to have had at least one year for the preparation of his manuscript, instead of a limited time of about three or four months. He I AUTHENTICITY OF OSSIAN’S POElVIfi/ •* 485 had however pledged himself to the Committee} and to perform his promise he has laboured incessantly, and exerted himself to the utmost. If by attempting too much, in a given period, he may have failed in some points, or in the hurry of writing, been led into repetition; he trusts the candid reader will make allowance for the difficulties in examining with precision, a mass of materials, so as to exhibit compendiously the various results arising from his researches after truth. ’torn j3 ’{mah; jA oitbO sdV oi gatrinw ni tv3iv rri ' Hria no J- ' dlsd’^ OJ 2£W London, December 31, 1806. _•.v

–  –  –


(is Jound among the late Mr. Macpherson’s Papers, referred to p. 456^ Supplemental Observations.

Mhi c mo mhic; ’se thuirt an righ, Oscair a righ nan 6g fhlath !

Chunnaic mi dearrsa do lainn Mar dhealan bheann san stoirm.

Thuit an namh fo d’ laimh san iomairt Mar dhuilleach fo osaig gheamhrai.

Lean gu dlu ri cliu do shinnsir, A’s na dibir bhi mar iad san.

’Nuair bu bheo Treunmor nan rath, As Trathal athair nan treun laocb, Chuir iad gach cath le buaidh, A’s bhuannaich iad cliu gach teugmhail.

Mairi marsin an iomra san dan, ’Sbithidh luaidh orr’aig baird nan delgh.

Oscair ! claoidhsa lamb threun a choraig ;

Ach caombuinn an conui ’n ti ’s laige.

Bi mar bhuinn’-shruth r£thoirt geamhrai, Cas ri nambaid trom na Feinne ;

Ach mar kile tl^ an t samhrai Dhoibhsan ata fann nan eigin.

San marsin bha Treunmor riamb, ’S bba Tratbal gach ial mar sin, Ghluais Cumbal na ’n ceumaibh corr, ’S bba Fionn an conui leis an lag.

’Nan aobhar sbinean mo lamb, ’S le failte rachain nan coinneamb, [ 487 ] zindVALi iu aaofswa ja^ioiho sbt



Son of my son ; thus said the king;

Oscar, chief of our noble youth !

I beheld the gleaming of thy sword Like the lightning of the mountains in the storm.

The enemy fell beneath thy hand in the battle.

Like wither’d leaves by the blast of winter.

Adhere close to the fame of thy fathers, And cease not to be as they have been.

When the victorious Trenmor lived, And Trathal, the father of mighty heroes, They fought all their battles with success, And obtained the praise of every contest.

Thus their renown shall remain in song, And they shall be celebrated by bards to come.

Oscar ! do thou subdue the strong arm of battle;

But always spare the feeble hand.

Be as a rapid spring-tide stream in winter To resist the powerful enemies of the Feinni;

But be like the gentle breeze of summer To those that are weak, and in distress.

Such did Trenmor always live, And such has Trathal ever been, In their fair steps Comhal trod, And Fingal always supported the weak.

In their cause would I stretch my hand, With cheerfulness would I go to receive them,


A's gheibheadh iad fasga, a’s caird, Fo sg&il dhrillinich mo lainne.

Tair cha d’ rinneas air aon neach Air laigid a neart aims an strl.

Fuil mo namh cha d’ iaras riamh Na’m bu mbiann leis triall an sith.

Ach cuim’ an cuireadh rigb nam fasach Uaill a cruas a lamb o shean, A’ ni tba lathair glas fo aois Feuchaibh e nach b’fhaoin mi ’n sin.

Mar thusa, Oscair ! bha mi og, ’Nuair sheoil Fainesoilse nail, An gath greine ’n eidi gaoil O righ Chraice dh’ eighte ’n oigh.

O bheinn Gholbuinn thionnda leam, ’S ro bheag air mo chul de shluagh, Chunnas barca breidgheal fo m’ rosg Mar cheathach air osaig a chuain.

’Nuair a dhruid i nail am chbir, Chunnas oigh a chleibh aird bhain.

Bha osnaich a fuilt air a ghaoith, A gruai dhearg mar cbaor fo dheoir Thuirt mi, “ oigb na maise,” ciuin, Carson osna bhruit a’d’ chliabh ?

Am feudar learns’ ged’ tha mi og Tearmunn thoirt do oigh a chuain ?

Gheibht’a sheasas cath ri m’lainn Ach tha ’n cridh’sa ard gun sciu “ D’ ionnsui theich mi cheinn an tsluaigh Fhir a’s glaine snuadh, ’s a’s fearr !

D’ ionnsui theich mi, o mhic Chumhail!

A lamh a chuidicheas gach feumach !

AUTHENTICITY OF OSSlAN’s 'POEM'S. 489 And they should find shelter, and friendship, Under the shade of my glittering sword.

No man did I ever despise, However weak his strength might be.

The blood of my foe I never sought, If he chose to depart in peace, •n-;uur u ;• fa But why should the king of the desert • ' Boast of the strength of his arm in former days ?

This which remains, gray with age, i Shews I was not weak in my youth.

Like thee, Oscar ! I was young, When Faineasollis came over the sea, That sun-beam adorned with love;

The daughter of Craca’s king the virgin was.

I then returned from Gulbein hill, With few of my people in my train ;

A white-sailed boat appeared in my sight Like mist on the blast of the ocean.

When it approached nigh the shore, I beheld a fair high-bosomed maid.

Her hair wav’d loosely in the wind, Her rosy cheek was bedewed with tears.

Calm, I said, “ daughter of beauty,” Why heaves that broken sigh within thy breast ?

Can I, though young in years, Defend thee, daughter of the ocean ?

Some there may be that can match my sword in battle But this heart is strong, and void of fear.

“ To thee I fled, O chief of men !

To thee of fairest hue and noblest mien !

To thee I fled, O son of Comhal!

Whose hand supports the weak, and needy!


Dh’amhairc righ Chraice orm air am Mar ghath-greine air ceann a shliochd.

’Stric a chuala beanntan Ghealamhal Osnaich shearbh’mu Fhainesboilse.

Chunnas mi le ceann Shorai, A’s runaicb easa oigh Chraice.

Tha lann, mar ghath soluis scriosach, Air slios an armuinn an conui;

Acb ’sdubh gruamach shuas a mbala, ’Stha fior stoirm na anam eiti.

Bhuail mi tonn a chuain gu sheachna;

Ach o ! tha easan air mo thi-sa.” “ Deansa tamh air chul mo sgeithe,” Thuirt mi fein, “ a geug na maise !

’S mar laige mo lamh na mo mhisneach, Brisear e o Fhainesoilse.

D’ fheudainn do chuir an cos uaingneach, Ach ni ’n cualas gun theich Fionnghal.

’Nuair a bhagras cunnart gu brath Tach’ream ri stoirm bharr nan sleagh.

“ Mhic nam beann tha mi fo sc£t A neart a bhoirb-f hir aird nan stoirm, Fagaidh e mar choill fo ghaoith Na cuirp taobh ri taoibh sa bhlar.” Chunnas learn deoir air a gruaidh, Ghlac an tiochd san uair mi, ’sgradh.

A nis mar thonn scrathoil thall Thainig bare’ a bhoirb-f hir ris A’ leum gu bras thar an ts&l Air chi nam breid ban mar shneachd.

Bha sruth geal ri slios a bharc, A’s onais mara fo ard f huaim.

AUTHENTICITY OF OSSIAN’s POEMS. 491 The king of Craca beheld me once As a beam of the sun at the head of his race.

Often did the hills of Gealmal hear Sad sighs of love for Faineasollis.

I was seen by the chief of Sora, And he loved the maid of Craca.

His wasting sword, like a beam of light, Shines always on the warrior’ side.

But dark and gloomy is his brow, And fierce the storm that rages in his soul.

I sought the waves of the ocean to shun him :

But, alas ! he still pursues me.” “ Rest thou behind my shield,” I said, “ O thou branch of beauty !

And if my strength is equal to my courage, He shall be repelled from Faineasollis.

I might conceal thee in a secret cave, But never was it heard that Fingal fled.

Whenever danger threatens, I meet the storm of the pointed spears.” “ Son of the mountains, I greatly fear The strength of the great and stormy Borbar ;

For, like a wood crush’d by the wind, he leaves The fallen heroes side to side on the field of battle.” I saw the tears on her cheek, Pity and love seized me at once.

Now, like a dreadful wave from afar, Appeared the fierce warrior’s vessel, Bounding swiftly over the sea, Behind her snow white sails.

A white stream rolled by her side, The murmur of the toiling ocean is heard afar.


Thuirt mi, “ tig s’ on chuan bhras Fhir tha marcacha nan tonn, Gabh sdlas mo thallai uam, An talla thogadh suas gu daimb.

Na mu’s corag chruaidh do bheachd Naisgemid mu Fhainesoilse.” Sheas as chrith is’ air mo chul, Chunnaic, lub e’m bogh, a’s mharbh,, Scinnte” thuirt mi fein, “ do lainh ’Nuair nach bi an namhaid garg.

Riumsa nochd do sbleagh’s do lann A’s fonai mo chairdean do chach.

Dh’oibrich sinn, ’sni’m b’oibir fhaoin, Thuit fo m’lainn an laoch gu bas, Chuir sinn fo dha chloich san uaigh An tl a thug, ’sa f huair an gradh.

Chuir a’s lann an laoich threin ’Sa phaillean chaol ri taobh na traigh.

’Sair Fainesoilse na huaigh, ’Stric le brbn a luaidh na baird.

Gluaiseam ubhail thar a charn, Bheirinn meas air airidh riamh, ’Scrathoil an stri fola chaoi, Anns an gearrar saoidhean sios.

Oscair ! m&r sin bha mi og, ’S bithsa am mo dhoigh gu aois, Na iarr gu brath corag chruaidh, Ach na hob i ’nuair a thig.

AUTHENTICITY OF OSSIAN’s POEMS. 493 “ Come thou,” I said, “ from the rapid ocean, Thou, that ridest on the waves, Partake of the joy of my hall, The hall which was reared for strangers.

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