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This we can do. What more natural, than that the sole translator and possessor of the original should be unwilling that this original should be published, and thereby made liable to be again translated, perhaps better than he has done it,—and whatever liberties he has taken with it (for we doubt not that he has taken some) to be exposed? As to those poems which M'Pherson says he translated from oral tradition, he does not declare that he heard recited entire poems, the exact originals of his translations; but that what he heard were generally imperfect stories or fragments, repeated sometimes with considerable diversity by different persons; that he compared, combined, connected, and of various readings (if they may be so called) chose what struck him as best; and that thus he formed a poem, which was a fair version of his originals, although longer and more finished frequently than any one of them. Now how is it made evident, that no such traditionary originals then existed? It is not made evident; it is not made probable; all probabilities are against it.
I. Notwithstanding the change, so unfavorable to the recitation of poetry, which the Highlands have undergone since the year 1745, the committee on this subject, organized half a century after that date, and many years after the version was made, found even then several aged persons, who said of many of the poems that they had heard them in their youth; that the version appeared to them a very able one; and that they had never doubted the existence of such poems as Mr. M'Pherson had translated. Yet more: many persons even sent the committee manuscript fragments of Ossianic poetry, which they had taken down verbatim from the mouths of aged Highlanders, from which the English version seldom widely differed, and of which it was often an exact translation. What more than this, at so late a day, could be expected? The two or three fragments, to which the committee found nothing in our version to answer, prove nothing in the world against us; for M'Pherson did not pretend that he had translated all the poetry in circulation among the Highlands. In addition to all this, Dr. Blair says in print, that he has been assured of the faithfulness of the version, by persons skilled in the Gaelic, who from their youth had been acquainted with many of the poems of Ossian.
II. Mr. Laing, one of the bard's most violent opponents,
says, that if a single poem of Ossian's, in manuscript, of an older date than the 17th century, can be procured, he shall be perfectly convinced on the subject. Now several highly respectable gentlemen attest their having seen, among the translator's manuscripts, many of a much older date than that required.
III. Those best acquainted with M'Pherson have declared their opinion, that he was incompetent to have written these poems himself. And indeed it does not appear probable, that a man in the prime of life should write a volume of poetry, estimated by such a critic as Blair, and one fourth of the literary world with him, as equal to that of Homer, and live twenty years after it, without writing any thing.
IV. Why should M'Pherson have constantly persisted in declaring these poems to be translations throughout-rejecting the title of author, notwithstanding his well-known vanity, and pretending to nothing more than that of translator-unless because he really was the translator, and not the author?
V. The poems of Ossian contain internal evidence of their authenticity, more satisfactory than any other which can be advanced. Upon reading them, we are immediately struck with the circumstance that no religion is introduced. Now this is a trait perfectly accountable, and yet the most unlikely in the world to be thought of, and the most difficult to be carried through, by a modern forger. By various coincidences and calculations, the era of Ossian has been fixed in the third century, immediately after the expulsion of the Druids from 'Scotland, and immediately before the introduction of Christianity. Consequently there was then no religion existing; and the bard's antipathy to a sect, with whom his father and grandfather had been at constant war, naturally prevented his even mentioning the Druids, though theirs was the ancient religion of the country.
Throughout these poems, we are presented with a state of society totally different in every respect from that in which their translator and pretended author lived. No where do we see any thing leading us to suspect, that the writer was acquainted either with the agricultural or commercial state. Never does the least hint of any modern art or refinement escape him; but in every sentiment, in every sketch of scenery or manners, we see a country in its primitive state, when
hunting and war are the two grand occupations. None but an inhabitant of such a country could have produced such a picture.*
Thus have I persuaded myself, (and who cannot persuade himself of what he wishes to believe?) that these delightful poems are not the mere imaginings of James M'Pherson, who some years since died in a mad-house; but that fourteen centuries ago, they were sung by Ossian, the noblest of Gaelic bards, in praise of Fingal, his father, the noblest of Gaelic heroes. 0.
THE LAST PROPHECY OF CASSANDRA.
THE sun is fading in the skies,
And evening shades are gathering fast;
Thy night hath come-thy day is past!
Ye know not-but the hour is nigh;
Ye will not heed the warning breath;
To break the sleep that wakes in death.
Go, age, and let thy withered cheek
Be wet once more with freezing tears;
In accents of departed years.
Go, child, and pour thy sinless prayer
May stoop to hear thy silver tone.
Go, warrior, in thy glittering steel,
And bow thee at the altar's side;
The doom their mystic counsels hide.
*The foregoing brief arguments, for the authenticity of the poems in question, make no pretension to originality. The author is too young, and the subject too old. They may be found, I believe, scattered through most of the learned dissertations, which are prefixed to the best editions of Ossian, and especially in the excellent one by Dr. Blair.
Go, maiden, in thy flowing veil,
Go, as thou went in happier hours,
And lay thine incense on the shrine;
I saw them rise-the buried dead-
I looked upon the quivering stream,
The wasted forms of battle came.
Ye will not hear-ye will not know-
Shall thunder loud, and echo long.
Blood shall be in your marble halls,
And spears shall glance, and fire shall glow;
But ye shall lie in death below.
Ay, none shall live-to hear the storm
Or scare the wild bird from her sleep.
SKETCHES FROM MY JOURNAL.
THOSE Only, who have resided in a village, can have any conception of the excitement and curiosity which prevail, when a new comer there establishes his residence, especially if he appear of importance. Inquiries are eagerly circulated, concerning his property, his family, and occupation, fi om which it would seem that this object of attention united in his person every rank and vocation, every virtue and vice, which could possibly interest these various investigators.
Just such feelings predominated in a neat little town, in the
western part of New-York, when it was announced that a gentleman and his daughter from the city were about to take up their abode with them. Rumor was uncommonly lavish of its information. Some shrewdly suggested that he might be a banished Don; while others feared he was a bankrupt merchant; but all hoped, that by the arrival of this important personage, business would be more brisk, and employment more easy. When the mansion of the new comer rose rapidly before their amazed senses, with all its splendid columns, verandas, and porticoes, courts, gardens, and pleasure-grounds, the literati of the village pronounced him, without doubt, a disguised Italian Count; but this was rejected as absurd by the populace, from their not being able to discover any statues, crosses, or private chapels, which they considered an indispensable accompaniment to one of that nation.
Speculation being so busy, and interest so excited, it was natural that a curious crowd should assemble, to greet the approach of the long expected stranger; high rose their exultation, as the distant coach rapidly drew near; involuntarily they raised their hands to their hats, and prepared their voices for congratulatory acclamations. But their hats were resettled in their former uncondescending position, and their joyful shouts degenerated into murmurs of disappointment, when a shabby vehicle approached, unadorned by crested pannels or liveried lackeys, but drawn by two jaded steeds. The unbending, shriveled, and totally unintelligent countenance of the male inmate of the coach, and the pert but no less unpleasing features of his daughter, gave them little consolation. Soon after our stranger had settled in his new abode, his character began to be developed. Although he possessed not the slightest particle of generosity, he put no bounds to his extravagance in gratifying his whims and caprices; he formed-most extensive schemes, but carried none into effect. His first plan was to introduce a neighboring stream into his garden. But when he had converted part of his garden into an infectious marsh, his attention was turned to the grand idea of a Cretan labyrinth. With indefatigable zeal, he succeeded in planting numberless trees, but unfortunately they died one after another, marring the appearance of another part of his grounds by a wilderness of dead trunks and withered foliage.