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island; if we could suppose the original inhabitants of Asia Minor to have been Celts, Asch-enez might mean the nation dwelling in that peninsula; and Bochart has even given a reason, either true or not, why they. were called Asch or As, and from which he derives the name Asia; but this etymology would not suit so well with Mr. Wilford's C'hasas, who lived on the north of Persia and India. There is something however so venerable in antiquity, that a peep into it is attended with pleasure of an awful kind, like the view of old weather-beaten oaks; andwhen such immense destruction has been made of ancient books, it is sometimes even useful to bring together the scattered relics of antiquated words, in order to understand those books of ancient times, which have fortunately escaped from the general ruin caused by ignorance. We know likewise, that even some of the Gothic nations, who inundated the north, and came from the banks of the Euxine sea, brought with them the memory of having formerly lived near a town called As-gard; and they also gave the name of Asæ to their gods, who were probably some deified heroes among their ancestors, formerly resident near the sea of Asoff. Thus profane accounts give some aid to scriptural ones, and the thought of the immensity of time past has this further utility, of turning our minds to the thought of future eternity. Immensity of time is indeed so vast an object as necessarily to excite our wonder and astonishment; but when we thus find, that the ancient residence of Gog in scripture can be traced to mount Caucasus, and that the name of the scriplural Aschenaz has too much resemblance to Axenos, the ancient name of the Euxine sea, to be the effect of accident, we become not

only

VOL. IV.

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only more sensible of the mutability of all human things, but even impressed with a more ready belief of the future things, which seripture points out to us, after having found its accounts so well verified concerning distant events past, as to render it a supplement to the lost history of mankind in past ages, beyond all other records of time.

S.

ART. XXI. The Ruminator. Containing a series

of moral and sentimental Essays.

[CONTINUED PROM P. 326.]

N. VIII.

Rowley and Ossian.

TO THE RUMINATOR.

In this age of critical inquiry; of patient, accurate, and laborious investigation; it might be supposed that no author would be so hardy as to attempt to deceive the world; it might be thought that no literary imposture could be so well carried on, as to escape discovery from the lynx-like eyes of the wise and learned, or the acute discernment of the readers of the works of other times. Yet in point of fact, this does not appear to be the case; deeeits of this kind are often attempted, and not always, at least satisfactorily, discovered. Though that ingenious young gentleman, Master Ireland, made a full confession (but not tillit was too late) and even had the hardiness to “glory in his shame," the fountains of other works of much greater merit are still as much

concealed

concealed as those of the Nile; and other authors, translators, or editors of much higher genius and pretensions have quietly stolen out of the world (or like poor misguided Chatterton indignantly * rushed out of it), leaving posterity to settle the matter among themselves, and assign them their proper place at their leisure.

This however has not always been done in a manner perfectly convincing. Attempts have lately been made to shew that even the forgeries of Lauder were not wholly without foundation. There are still persons who are not entirely convinced that the youth of Chatterton was able to produce those noble poems, which he chose to ascribe to the maturer age of Rowley; and there are many more, who find it difficult to believe that Macpherson was the sole author of the poems published under the name of Ossian. +

Concerning these last, the investigation seems not to have been very fairly and impartially conducted. On the one hand, there was great national, and perhaps personal, pride, which would not deign to give such information as the public had a right to expect; on the other, a captious unwillingness to give way to pretensions to such remote antiquity, which must of course be very little capable of being supported by external proof.

It seems to be allowed by all, that the Erse, as it is commonly called, has not been a written language till within, comparatively, a very few years; and it

* Vitaque cum gemitu fugit indignata sub umbras.

Virg. L. XII. 952. + I have not read the report of the Committee of the Highland Society upon this subject, nor have learnt what has been the result of their inquiries. 1 E 2

is

is contended, that the changes which take place in language, and the well-known inaccuracy of oral tradition, must have prevented such long and regular poems as Temora and Fingal, from being thus handed down during so many centuries. But to this it may be replied that, in a country so remote as the Highlands of Scotland, and so little visited by strangers as they were during the dark ages, their language, like their local superstitions, probably remained nearly the same. And with respect to tradition, in countries where there are no written records, it is more likely to be preserved in tolerable purity and correctness than where there are. It may also be urged, that till the time when they were collected by Pisistratus, even the works of Homer were recited only in detached parts; and the acts of Diomede, the parting of. Hector and Andromache, the death of Patroclus, &c. &c. were known by the people in general, only as so many detached ballads, or rhapsodies, and not as parts of the noblest whole ever produced by human genius. The art of book-making does not then seem to have been known; and there is no reason to suppose that after the parts had been arranged in their proper order, any doubts arose in Athens as to the genuineness of the work. Yet even then the history of the author was so obscure, that it could not be determined whether he was born in Asią or Europe, in one of the Grecian islands or on the Continent; and it is thonght doubtful at this day, by very eminent scholars, as it was also in different periods of antiquity, whether the whole subject of his narrative be or be not fabulous, and whether, if founded on truth, the event was as he has represented it. This seems therefore to be an argument on which

Dr.

Dr. Johnson, and other writers on that side of the question, have dwelt too strongly. The prejudices of that distinguished scholar certainly operated upon this, as well as many other occasions, and his tour in Scotland did not tend to lessen them. He had no taste for the rude, wild, and naked scenery of the Western Isles, and the absence of written documents seemed to him convincing proof against the alleged antiquity of the lays of Ossian; and he refused to receive the testimony of those inhabitants who were most competent to give it, because he chose illiberally to fancy that they would prefer the credit of their country to truth. Yet I have been told, by a lady, now deccased, of high literary reputation, that the late Sir James Macdonald, elder brother of the Chief Baron, assured her, that he could repeat, when a lad, many of the poems translated by Macpherson in their original Erse. A siunilar assurance I received also myself from a surgeon in the navy, a native of the isle of Mull, who told me not only that he could repeat many of those poems, but that Macpherson had not selected, or perhaps met with, some of the finest of them; in particular one which is a dialogue between Ossian and a missionary, who was preaching the Christian religion in the Highlands, which he said was the noblest poem he had ever known. *

When I was in Scotland, about fourteen years since, I was in the boat of a highland fisherman, upon Loch

* Possibly this may be the poem mentioned by Miss Oven: in 'n her novel of “ The Wild Irish Girl;" and the missil nary prove to be St. Patrick. It must be owned that there is great weight in that lady s arguments pr ve that Ossian was a native of Ireland, and that Morven is to be found in ant country.

Lomund,

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