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back to its primitive sources of national feeling and to mould the new poetry. We have no clearer evidence of this than in the number of attempts during the second half of the century to palm off on the public manufactured or dressed-up specimens of old poetry and the great success that attended them.
I. The most striking instance of this was the publication of The Poems of Ossian by James Macpherson, a schoolmaster at Ruthven in Inverness. At twenty years of age he had published a poem called The Highlander in 1758. And in the following year he met John Home the author of the once popular drama Douglas and the friend of Collins who had addressed to him his Ode on Highland Superstitions. The meeting resulted in what he called translations of fragments of Gaelic poetry in 1760. The Faculty of Advocates in Edinburgh paid his expenses on a tour of discovery through the Highlands. He professed to have been most successful, and published in 1762 Fingal, an Epic Poem in Six Books, and in 1763 Temora, an Epic Poem in Eight Books. He was as vague as the portraits of his heroes in his statements as to the originals. though a fierce controversy arose at once as to the genuineness of the productions, the only original printed before Macpherson died in 1796 was that of the seventh book of Temora. When the Gaelic Ossian was published in 1807, it was imperfect, and, according to accomplished Gaelic scholars, utterly unlike true Gaelic poetry. It was in blank verse, a form said to be quite unknown to Irish or Gaelic poetry, and its diction has been criticised as modern and tinged with anglicisms and even classicisms. Macpherson was no Gaelic scholar, and evidently picked up the legends, that he wove into the poems, from Highland friends like Alexander Macdonald the poet, and afterwards had his version of them translated into Gaelic by them.
2. The version passed like an epidemic through Europe, and seems to have been responsible not only for the form of Napoleon's bulletins, but for the quasi-heroic attitude in
which he and his generals loved to pose. It awakened and gave shape to the war-spirit throughout the last quarter of the century; there were few of the military leaders but had studied this eighteenth century edition of old warlike legends of a primitive people. The sense of bardic fame ringing through the ages explains the attitudes and deeds of many of them and tinges their portraits both by painters and historians of the time. The book was translated into almost every European language; and its influence is apparent in Goethe's Werther, in Schiller's Robbers, and in all the Storm-and-Stress literature of Germany, in the productions and speeches of the French Revolutionists, in the romantic literary movement that preceded and followed the Revolution, and in much of the Italian, Spanish, and Danish poetry of the time. It greatly affected the prose style of eighteenth century romance, and was a direct antidote to Johnsonianism in the imaginative literature. In our own century it bent the genius of Scott to the Highlands, and moulded the dramas of Byron, and the often vague imagery of Shelley; it appears in the style of Kingsley's Hereward, and directly or indirectly it is responsible for the pioneering efforts of Walt Whitman in prose poetry and for the rapid growth of poetic prose through De Quincey, Bulwer Lytton, and Ruskin. During last century it stirred Blake to misty prophecies, led writers of romance back into the less known periods of the past, and gave the new audience a delight in mysterious and almost formless legend and tale and idea.
3. It was little wonder that Macpherson so prospered, and that so many attempted to follow in his footsteps; in 1780 Dr. Smith of Campbelltown published "Sean Dana", ancient poems "composed by Ossian, Orran, Ullin, and other bards"; in 1787 Harold, an Irishman, printed at Dusseldorf Ossianic poems in English; and in 1789 we have Brooke's Reliques of Gaelic Poetry. The final result was a full and genuine study of Celtic literature.
4. The book is as real a product of the eighteenth century literary spirit as Gray's or Collins's poems. "The Bard" takes a Welsh legend and puts it into would-be
Pindaric verse. Fingal takes a variety of Gaelic legends about a hero of the second or third century after Christ and weaves them into a would-be primitive Gaelic epic. Like Rousseau, they reveal the tendency to find a refuge from the artificiality and coils of modern society in an older age. Like him too, they look at that primitive time through the rose colour of their own century. Everything looms colossal or heroic or happy through the mist of ages. The eighteenth century did not reach the critical standpoint in history; it could not discriminate between the atmosphere of the past and the medium of sentiment and opinion through what seemed history. And it was out of this vague and confused view of the past that its romance and romantic movement grew; these were nothing if they were not historical or at least worshipful of the past especially the far past; they found their golden age in a time that had completely vanished.
5. There was of course a real basis for Macpherson's Ossian, as the more careful study of the old Irish literature and the recovery of relics of old Gaelic poetry and legend have shown. Most of his names both of personages and localities belong to the cycle of Celtic tales, though, a number of them are somewhat Saxonised or Latinised by him, as, for example, Finn is changed to Fingal, the form he found in Barbour the old Scottish poet, and he mingles names from the myths of the gods with names from the heroic tales and from the semi-historic cycle. In the Book of Leinster there are many poems and tales which circle round the name of Finn, the son of Cumall, Oisin the bard his son, and Oscar his grandson, and two of the poems are ascribed to Oisin. The Scots came from Ireland and established the kingdom of Dalriada in Argyleshire and the South-west of Scotland; and for centuries there was the closest intercourse between it and Ireland; even as late as the fifteenth century the Irish bards wandered round the Highlands singing their songs and telling their tales. After that the Scottish dialect of Irish began to become a distinct language with poems and prose legends in it. The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries saw it made subservient to Saxon rule and ideas. But the myths and tales must have
survived. These Macpherson gathered and probably modified by a knowledge of the Irish manuscripts. Hence his Ossian, so called from the supposition that Oisin, the son of Finn, had sung the stories or written them in verse. The idea of an epic, or of a drama, the form that some of the fragments, as, for example, Comala, take, was foreign to Celtic literature; old Irish imagination used either the lyric or the brief poetic narrative alternating with prose that belongs to the stage preliminary to epic. He took the idea from the Iliad, which he afterwards translated into prose. He also confused the different types and ages of Celtic poetry; he took, for example, Cuthullin from the mythological cycle, and Darthula (Deirdre) from the heroic, and placed them with Fingal and Ossian, who belong to the historic period, on the borders of Christianity; he also took Starno and Swaran from the Norse times, and brought them into conflict with these heroes of the third century, though the Scandinavian did not appear on the Highland coast for centuries after. But this confusion is common in oral tradition and legend.
6. There is however a true mark of the eighteenth century in the poems. Their material is stripped of all the supernatural elements that belong to the very essence of Celtic myth and legend; there is nothing of even the common features of Highland tale and legend, the soothsaying, the second sight, the talking ravens, the kelpies, that appear even in Collins's Ode. In the preliminary "Dissertation on the Æra of Ossian", this is acknowledged; "It is a singular case, it must be allowed, that there are no traces of religion in the poems ascribed to Ossian ". "But gods are not necessary when the poet has genius". The Gaelic bards, it asserts, never mixed their religion and the deeds of their heroes. Moreover Druidism was exploded, and Christianity not yet established. "The extreme ignorance, on the part of Ossian, of the Christian tenets, shows that that religion had only lately been introduced". Blair in his Dissertation emphasises the point, as he also emphasises the high ideal of sentiment and morality; "no poet maintains a higher tone of virtuous and noble sentiment throughout all his works"; Fingal ever shows magnanimity, heroism,
generosity; so do all the other heroes; "valour reigns; but it is a generous valour, void of cruelty, animated by honour, not by hatred". "We behold no debasing passions among Fingal's warriors; no spirit of avarice or of insult; but a perpetual desire of being remembered for gallant actions; a love of justice; and a zealous attachment to their friends and their country". "We find tenderness and even delicacy of sentiment predominant over fierceness and barbarity". "The horrors of war are softened by intermixed scenes of love and friendship". Foldath in Temora "abhors all fraud and cruelty, is famous for his hospitality to strangers; open to every generous sentiment and to every soft and compassionate feeling". Many of the heroes are "amiable". "Ossian himself appears to have been endowed by nature with an exquisite sensibility of heart; prone to tender melancholy". "Covetousness and effeminacy are yet unknown". "His poetry deserves to be styled the poetry of the heart". Its "two characteristics are tenderness and sublimity". "It breathes nothing of the gay and cheerful kind". "No poet knew better how to seize and melt the heart". What is this but a description of the ideal humanity that through Rousseau was to brood over the French Revolution? Macpherson came at the turning of the tide between the cool intellectual deism and indifference to religion of the age of Pope and the fervour of evangelicalism that marked the time of Cowper. His age was religiously naked, and Scotland, especially through its universities including Aberdeen in which the young Highlander was trained, felt the influence of Voltaire and the French scepticism. It is really the neutral-tinted avoidance of all religious sentiment or idea that homes Ossian to the middle of the eighteenth century better than anything else. A lofty moral ideal untinged by religious ideas was what the French philosophers and their followers in England preached and professed to find in nature. "Noble sentiments "" "sublime and tender passions", "a heart that glows", "a heart that is full and pours itself forth", magnanimity, humanity, generosity, mercy, pity, love prevail over all the tendencies of warriors; and they predominate in the romantic fiction and poetry of the end of the eighteenth century. "Sensibility" was the mark of every hero and heroine of the