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This translation has great merit, and is considered the standard of the Gaelic language. The translation of the Bible by Tyndal has tended to preserve, more than any other circumstance, the purity of the English language; yet it has since undergone some trivial alterations in its orthography. Many books, formerly printed in the black letter, are scarcely intelligible to an Englishman of this day. Mr. Barrington, * however, thinks, that it was not the translation of the Bible that settled the English tongue, but rather the statutes, which he apprehends have spoken in a purer dialect than any other production.
The Count Algarotti has made a remark on this subject, which, though rather whimsical in the comparison, appears on the whole to be just; namely, that the translation of the Bible is the test and standard of the language in England, while the standard in Italy is the Decameron of the lively Boccacio.
What is now called the standard of the Gothic language, is also that venerable monument, the translation of the Gospels. The MS. which is still preserved, is called Coder Argenteus, or Coder Aureus, from being written in silver capital letters, with a mixture of gold, and it is now in the library at Upsal, in Sweden. † A specimen of the writing may be seen in a work published by Serenius, titled Dictionarium Anglo-Swethico-Latinum. This translation is generally attributed to Ulfilas, otherwise
• Barrington on the Statutes.
Ulphilas, Bishop of the Gothic Christians in Dacia, Thracia, and Mæsia. He filled the episcopal see from the year 360 until about 380, and is said to have invented the Gothic letters, as well as to have translated all the Scriptures into that language. Mr. Astle, however, remarks, * that the ancient Gothic alphabet is very similar to the Greek, and is attributed to Ulphilas, Bishop of the Goths, who lived in Mæsia about the year 370 after Christ; and that, as he translated the Bible into the Gothic tongue, that circumstance might have occasioned the tradition of his having invented those letters: but Mr. Astle is of opinion, that those characters were in use long before his time. † There has been recently published in quarto, at Leipsic, a new translation of the Bible in the Gothic language, by Ulfilas; with a literal interlined Latin translation, accompanied by a grammar and glossary, by B. F. C. Fulda.
The history of Scotland, from the earliest period to the death of James the First, in seventeen books, by Hector Boethius, was originally written in Latin, and the first edition of it was printed in folio at Paris in 1526. The next edition, with the addition of the eighteenth book, and part of the nineteenth, was printed in folio at Sausan in 1574. Thus far the author himself continued it, but what follows was the work of J. Ferrerius, a native of Piedmont, who
* Astle, Origin and Progress of Writing, 2d Edit. p. 58.
+ There exists another MS. translation of the Bible in the Gothic language, called Codex Carolinus, discovered in 1756 in the library of Wolfenbuttle, and published in 1762. This appears to have been written in Italy towards the end of the fifth century.
carried it down to the end of James the Third's reign.
Boethius' history was translated into the Scottish language by John Ballanden, Archdeacon of Murray, who died at Rome in 1550. R. Holinshed published it in English, in his English Chronicles, Vol. I.
We have, in the Notices of Books at the end of these Observations, given a short account of the writings of Gawin Douglas, Bishop of Dunkeld, John Lesly, Bishop of Ross, and Sir David Lyndsay, who flourished in the sixteenth century; in this place, therefore, it is unnecessary to dwell upon them.
The translation into Gaelic of the forms of prayer, and administration of the sacraments, and catechism of the Christian religion, as used in the reformed church of Scotland, by John Carswell, Bishop of the Isles, first printed at Edinburgh in the year 1567, is one of the earliest books of piety translated into Gaelic, in Scotland. The Bishop, in his preface, mentions the existence of Gaelic MS. poems of the ancient bards from remote periods, and he censures the preference given to such worldly histories over the godly books which he had published.
The pious Bishop expressly mentions Gaelic MSS. concerning warriors and champions, and Fingal the son of Cumhall with his heroes. But, as it may be gratifying to some readers, the following extract. is a close translation from the Bishop's Gaelic, as taken from the preface to the ingenious Mr. Alexander Campbell's Tour through parts of North
Britain. * “ But there is a great want,” says the Bishop, “ with us, and it is a great weight upon us the Gael of Scotland and Ireland, † above the rest of mankind, that our Gaelic language is not printed, as are the other languages and tongues of the world : and there is a greater want still, that of the Holy Bible not being printed in the Gaelic language, as it is in the Latin and English, and every other tongue: and also it is a want that we have never yet had any account printed of the antiquities of our country, or of our ancestors amongst us. But although we have some accounts of the Gael of Scotland and Ireland, in the Manuscript Books of Chief Bards and Historiographerst and others, yet the labour of writing them over with the hand is great; but the process of printing, be the work how voluminous so ever, is speedily and easily accomplished.”
In the preface to Kirk's edition of the Psalms of David, first published in Gaelic at Edinburgh in 1684, mention is also made of heroic ballads composed by the Scottish bards; and, in reproving those Highlanders, who have a predilection for such works, he piously recommends a preference to be given to learning the sublime songs of the Psalmist. The following is the author's address in Gaelic to his work,
This work, published in 1802, contains, as expressed in the title, Remarks on Scottish Landscapes, and Observations on Rural Economy, Natural History, Manufactures, Trade, and Commerce; with Anecdutes traditional, literary, and historical. In 1798, the same author published a History of the Poetry of Scotland, in two volumes quarto. t“ Gaoidhil Alban agas
Eirean." 1“ Fileadh agas
of which the English is given in Sir John Sinclair's Dissertation :
“ Imthigh a Dhuilleachan gu dán,
Le dán glan diagha duisg iad thall,
Ar gharbh chriocha is Inseabh Gall."
In the appendix to Nicolson's Scottish Historical Library (No. II.), there is a vocabulary of Gaelic words collected by Mr. Kirk, which he arranged under the following classes. 1. Of heaven. 2. Of the elements and meteors. 3. Of stones and metals. 4. Of parts and adjuncts. 5. Of herbs. 6. Of trees, shrubs, and plants. 7. Of the proper parts and adjuncts of animals, fishes, and birds.
8. Of four-footed beasts. 9. Of kindred and affinity. 10. Of homogeneous parts, and heterogeneous parts. 11. Of God. 12. Of created spirits.
An accurate description of the Western Isles of Scotland, by Mr. Donald Monroe, High Dean of the Isles, who travelled through them in 1549, contains some interesting notices of Gaelic antiquities. Great reliance is placed on the veracity of this author, and he has been frequently quoted by the Scottish historian Buchanan, and by Martin, in his Description of the Western Isles. It appears that this last mentioned book was what first excited the curiosity of Doctor Johnson to visit the Western Isles. Mr. Boswell has given a description of some of the cir. cumstances which led: the Doctor, in the year 1773, to undertake his tour. He has said in his publication, that “he scarcely remembered how the wish to visit