תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

have a merit that translations rarely poffefs. Were it not for the Roman imagery, that is fometimes injudicioufly retained, no one, unacquainted with the originals, would suspect that Hammond wrote not from his immediate feelings. To fay that • it would be hard to find in all his productions three stanzas that deserve to be remembered,' is certainly the height of prejudice. The Doclor forgets, that although at his time of life the subject of a love elegy may be totally uninteresting, it is not the case with every one, and we doubt not that at a cer.. tain period there are those who read them with greater avi. dity than even “ LONDON," or " the VANITY OF HUMAN Wishes,”

Dr. Johnson is at a loss to tell why Hammond, or other writers, have thought the quatrain of ten syllables elegiac. The character of elegy, he adds, is gentleness and tenuity. So long as some of the most violent and impetuous of the pallions are the subjects of elegy, so long will this be an imperfect and mistaken definition.

The next life that offers itself is that of Collins : a writer whose imperfections and peculiarities are lost in the blaze of genius. But hear what Dr. Johnson says— His diction was often harsh, unskilfully laboured, and injudiciously selected, He affected the obsolete when it was not worthy of revival ; and he puts his words out of the common order, seeming to think, with some later candidates for fame, that not to write prose is certainly to write poetry. His lines commonly are of flow mo. tion, clogged and impeded with clusters of consonants. As men are often esteemed who cannot be laved, so the poetry of Collins may sometimes extort praile when it gives liccle pleafure.?

(To be continued.]

Stanhope thall come and grace bis rural friend,
Delia thall wonder at her noble guest,
With blothing awe the riper fruit commend,

And for her husbaod's pacron cull the best.
The two first of these stanzas are original, the last is evidently bor.
rowed from the following beautiful passage of the 5th elegy of the
first book of Tibullus :

Huc veniet Melala meus, cui dulcia poma

Delia fele&is detrahet arboribus:
Es rancum venerata virum, hunc sedula curet;

Huic paret, atque epulas ipsa miniftra gerat.

C..b...

ART.

Art. III. An Enquiry into the Authenticity of the Poems ascribed to

Offian. By W. Shaw, A. M. F. S. A. Author of the Galic

Dictionary and Grammar. 8vo. 15. 6 d. Murray. 1781. see O UR Readers need not be informed, that, at the first apo

pearance of the poems ascribed to Ocian, fufpicions p.480.wcre entertained of their authenticity: and notwithstanding

Dr. Blair produced a number of strong and explicit teftimonies to support the credit both of the author and the translator, yet there were some “ sturdy” sceptics, who with little ceremony pronounced them to be forgeries, and hesitated not to 'declare publickly, that Olian and Macpherson were the same. This declaration received great support from the well-known deci. fion of a very eminent writer, who reasoning on the improbabi-' lity of such poems having been preserved through so many ages. by tradition only, boldly pronounced their prelervation, imporfble.

What intrinsic beauties the poems of Ofian may possess, is no obje&t of the present enquiry. Their merit, as compositions, is however, with us, the principal reason for supposing them to be, in a great degree at least, the production of a “ bard of modern times.” The belief of their being genuine hath been indeed declining of late very faft; and it is the design of the present pamphlet to destroy it entirely. To effect this, it was necessary to weaken the internal evidence, and totally 10 invalidate the testimonies adduced in favour of the authenticity of Offian by Dr. Blair. [Vid. the “ Appendix” to his elegant " Dissertation.]

Mr. Shaw's knowledge of the Galic language is undoubtedly very great; and the proofs he hath afforded of it are incontera table. In this view he is peculiarly calculated to investigate the present subject with the accuracy and precision of the critic and scholar. What others have conjectured, he hath proved : and particular detection hath given credit to general suspicion. 'I profess myself, says this Author, to be an enquirer after truth. .... Truth hath always been dearer to me than my country; nor mall I ever support an ideal national honour founded on an imposture, though it were to my hindrance. I can fhew Dr. Johnson, that there is one Scotchman who loves truth better than his country, and that I am a furdy enough moralis to declare it, though it should mortify my Caledonian vanity. I think proper to speak in this clear and open manner, and prefix my name, because I know that some men imagine there is no moral turpitude in anonymously publishing one thing in a pamphlet, whilst they think and believe the contrary,'

When the authenticity of the poems of Offian was first called in question, the pretended original manuscript was said to

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

have been left, for the space of six weeks, at Mr. Becket's Top for the inspection of the curious. This MS. however was never seen by any person, who was capable of reading it. If any MS., at all was left with the publisher, juft by way of a blind to the credulous, Mr. Shaw conjectures that it might have been some Irish MS. * and this conjecture is strengthened by a very singular circumstance which will be related hereafter. At all events it could not be a MS. of the poems of Oman : ' for it is very well known (says Mr. Shaw) that the Earse dialect of the Galic was never written nor printed, until Mr. Macfarlane, late minister of Killinver, Argylelhire, published in 1754, a translation of Baxter's Call ta the Unconverted. Since his time there have been some songs and books of piety printed. This I can easily prove, because no Earse MS. ever was or can be produced. And although the Pfalms of David, and Confession of Faith, have been translated into Galic, it is well known that it is neither the Earse spelling nor dialect; but written in the Irish Galic. It was, first published in 1694, and was versified by the Synod of Argyle; but the best executed psalms are allowed to be done by the Romilh clergy of the North of Ireland.'

Mr. Shaw quotes a paffage from Col. Valancey's Irish Grammar, to prove that Mr. Macpherson, instead of translating from the Galic into English, hath on the contrary tranlated his own English into Galic. From this remarkable detection, Mr. Shaw shrewdly hints, that if ever Mr. Macpherson intends to publilh a Galic version, he would do well to attend to the true orthography of the old Galic; especially if he wilhes to continue the imposture.

We must not pretend to pursue this Writer in his attempts to overthrow the credit of Odian from internal evidence; nevertheless we cannot quit this part of the subject without presenting our Readers with the following very curious remark:

The mythology of the Poems of Ofian hath been raised entirely on the superstition of the second fight, heightened by poetry, and the stories of ghosts, apparitions, &c. &c. so common in the fifteenth century, which Mr. Macpherson so much affects to despise : but to which, however, he is indebted for all the materials he had,

.? The other great fpirits to which allusions sometimes are made, is nothing less nor more,chan.the common Highland idea of the devil, who is believed to raise every storm, and go abroad with it. All these notions are still prevalent in the inountains, and a proper part of a mythology. In short, the whole machi

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

• A manuscript was certainly left wish Mr. Becket; who declares. that several persons called to examine ii; and that he heard none deny iis authenticity,

Dery

nery is nothing but the superstition of the Highlands, poetically embelli thed.

The Spirit of Loda is ingenioully translated from Ireland into a Scandinavian God, taken from a tale, called Muirarlach mor o Laiuhan. Mr. Macpherfon, not perhaps knowing that Laidhan was the Irith name of Leinsler, turns it to Loda, and calls it a part of Scandinavia. The tale makes Muirarlach a fort of monster, and sometimes a knight errant engaging a windmill, and then a giant ftriding from hill to hill across Erin. It afforded, however, to an author a good hint; and Mr. Macpherson accordingly conjured it to the Spirit of Loda. This tale is common in the Highlands to this day.'

The Author of this Enquiry, after having observed how easy it is to produce a poem with such Galic epithets, as blue-eyed; white bojomd, dark-brown hair, &c. and having translated a stanza of it into Earse, to impose the whole for an original of « other times” on the credulous and ignorant reader, relates a very fingular fact to strengthen his affertion, viz. that in this manner a collection was made up and published at Edinburgh, three years ago by Mr. Clarke, entitled The Caledonian Bards. It was reviewed in London, and adduced as an argument for the genuineness of Fingal. Mr. Clarke, when I charged him with it, confifled that it was entirely made up! One of the poems of that collection is happily let off with the title of The Words of IVoe. The author told me, that all he had for the ground-work of it was a song called furram na truaidhe, composed on a late emigration of the Highlanders to America. In The same manner the rest of the collection was made up *

After an examination of the internal evidence of the authenricity of the poems ascribed to Ollian, Mr. Shaw proceeds to the examination of cxternal testimony ; on this head he is full, clear, and explicit

Mr. Smith, the ingenious author of " Galic Antiquities" published last year, hath affured us, that " Mr. Macpherson so hath always been readiet to shew his originals to the best " judges.” This assertion Mr. Shaw flaily denies : and then observes with respect to himself, that Mr. Macpherson had often promised him a light of those pretended originals, but never could be induced, after application to him at lix different times, to fulll his promise. "There was always some apology made ;-the MSS. were at his house in the country, or milaid; or the key was loft; or I should see them fome other time. Why did he promise to thew them? And since he promised, why not shew them? Let the Public draw inferences. This is true. Let Mr. Macpherson contradict it if he can.'.

clear, as mich, the, háth a putea

* Mr. Clarke hath just published an Answer :o Mr. Shaw's Enquiry ;-which we have not yet perused.

Mr. Mr. Shaw informs us, that in the year 1778 he set out from London for the Highlands and Hebrides to collect materials for his Dictionary. Every where he made the most anxious enquiries about the poems of Offian, and with infinite solicitude sought for fome of the originals, in order, if posfible, to remove the scepticism of his friend Dr. Johnson, respecting their authenticity, by attested copies. But his enquiries were to no pure poke. He was mortified at his ill success; and he who glowed with ambition to convert Dr. Johnson, became himself an unbeliever!

. When I travelled, says Mr. Shaw, into the Highlands, I made it my business to see as many as resided in the country of chose gentlemen whose names Dr. Blair hath made use of. Mr. Donald Macqueen, minister of Kilimuir in the Ife of Sky, is the first name who vouches for Mr. Macpherson's translation being “ a literal one”, and “ that the original was re* peated by numbers in every part of the Highlands." This is the learned minister who chose to be filent when interrogated on this subject by Dr. Johnson ; and although he gave his fignature to Dr. Blair, as a voucher for their authenticity, to my certain knowledge, he is not in poffeffion of a line of the originals; although long in search of them, he wilhed to procure me fome, but knew not how......

• Mr. Donald Macleod, minister of Glenelg, I think, lodged Mr. Macpherson in his journey. He hath vouched also for the authenticity; yet though I challenged him to produce three lines of the original, he could not fhew one.

Mr. Niel Macleod, one of the ministers of Mult, vouched, but could not, although defirous of it, favour me with one line. He sent for different people, who he thought were poffered of them, but they produced only the compolitions of the fifteenth century.

.. Mr. Macaulay, chaplain to the 88th regiment, is mentioned also as a voucher. He knows just as much of the poems. as his above brethrea. I have conversed with Mr. Macaulay on the subject.' · The other testimonies in Dr. Blair's Appendix, are ail quesa tioned; or directly confuced by our Author: and he boldly challenges the gentlemen whose names he mentions, to disprove. bis affertions, or to make good their own.

Mr. Smith in his Defence of the Authenticity of Olian, mentions“ Professor Macleod of Glasgow as a person who was allowed to compare some books of the original with the tranf. lation :" and yet, fays Mr. Shaw, in a conversation with me in London, who promised to purchase any number of lines, not under fix, at the rate of two shillings and fixpence each word, he could neither repeat a fyllable, nor undertake to procure from

• Mr.

« הקודםהמשך »