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the island of the brave or virtuous, and is still used in the Gaelic to denote Heaven.* "On the rising hill are the halls of the departed—the high roofed dwellings of the heroes of old." So great was the predilection of the ancient inhabitants of Scotland and Ireland both to music and song, that the first Christian missionaries judiciously called the song and harp to their aid, when they undertook to convert the people.-The fame of the musical talents of St. Patrick and St. Columba stands high in their biographical annals.

The bards joined to the precepts which they recited or sung, the most heroic example; by accompanying the warriors to the field of battle, animating them in the hour of danger, and kindling their souls into a flame with the song called Prosnacha-Catha, or the incitement to war. It was the custom even to raise the war-song in the midst of battle, to encourage the yielding heroes. Fingal, on finding Morne's son nearly subdued by Swaran, says, "Go, Ullin, go, my aged bard, remind the mighty Gaul of war-Remind him of his fathers-Support the yield

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Ar caoimh mar sholuis a chaochail,

Sna speura faoin os ar cionn

Cha bhi ni's mò; ach taomadh

Le ceol aobhach an aiteal tharuinn. Losga Taura.

"Our friends no more shall be like stars that forsake their blue place, and leave their companions mournful. No: they will always attend us in the joy of our course; they will pour their light and their glad song around us."-The Fall of Tura, in Smith's Gaelic


* Smith's Hist. of the Druids, p. 19.



ing fight with song; for the song enlivens war.” * Thus did the bards of old, as well as those of later times, inspire the warriors with a love of fame and contempt of death.† We find in Tacitus, that a similar custom prevailed among the Germans; and in the poems of Tyrtæus, there are specimens of the rapid measure which instigated the Lacedemonians to battle, and "fired their souls to deeds of fame."§ The old Persian magi are said to have followed the same course; and Homer alludes to a similar custom

* Fingal, B. IV. See the war-song of Ullin (original), Vol. I. p. 166. v. 299–310; and the short and rapid measure of its composition, which is suited to the passions meant to be excited.


“Snior sheas feara Lochlan gu faoin,

Nuair dh' eirich gaoir nam bard."

"Nor stood the sons of Lochlin harmless in their place, when the fury of the battle arose, and the strife was kindled by the songs of the bards." Cathula, in Smith's Gaelic Ant.

↑ Tacit. de Mor. Germ. C. 3.

§ The ancient Lacedemonian bard Tyrtæus flourished anno 680 before Christ, and composed five books of "war verses,” some fragments of which still remain, and have been published with the poems of the minor Greek classics. Those fragments, with the elegies and other pieces, were first published in Greek, with a Latin version, at Antwerp, in 1568, and this edition is extremely scarce. Tyrtæus, like Ossian, by his valour and the animating powers of his song, raised his name to the rank of the greatest heroes as well as of the noblest poets. The Lacedemonians having blockaded Messene, a revolted city of Peloponnesus, they applied to the Athenians for a general. Tyrtæus (a native of Athens) was sent to them, and although the Lacedemonians had despaired of success, yet, by his animating example, and the captivating power of his war-songs, a complete victory was gained. Hence our English poet:

When by impulse from heaven Tyrtæus sang,
In drooping soldiers a new courage sprang.

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in the Trojan war.* The American tribes of Indians have also their war shouts, when about to engage an enemy.

Our historian Robertson, in his proofs and illustrations to the View of the State of Europe,† states a circumstance related by Priscus, in his history of the Embassy to Attila, King of the Huns, which gives a striking view of the enthusiastic passion for war which prevailed among the barbarous nations. When the entertainment, to which that fierce conqueror admitted the Roman ambassadors, was ended, two Scythians advanced towards Attila, and recited a poem, in which they celebrated his victories and military virtues. All the Huns fixed their eyes with attention on the bards. Some seemed to be delighted with the verses; others, remembering their own battles and exploits, exulted with joy; while such as were become feeble through age, burst out into tears, bewailing the decay of their vigour, and the state of inactivity in which they were now obliged to remain.‡

The venerated office of the bards was continued in the northern parts of Scotland and the Western


Reviving Sparta now the fight maintain'd,

And what two generals lost a poet gain'd. Roscommon.

There is a striking resemblance between the characters of the Lace

demonian and Celtic bards. They were warriors, poets, and musicians. Through the Grecian throng

With horror sounds the loud Orthean song. Iliad XI. 13.

+ Hist. Charles V. Vol. I. Note III. C.

Excerpta ex Historia Prisci Rhetoris ap. Byzant. Hist. Script. Vol. I. p. 45.

Isles, until the latter end of the seventeenth century. Since the extinction of their order, the songs and "tales of the times of old" no longer echo in the hall. The harp remains unstrung, and no more vibrates to the voices of the bards. The song of victory is no longer raised on the return of a triumphant hero:* nor are the songs of the bards now raised over the tombs of the warriors.† The valiant deeds of other times are no longer recited; and the venerable remains of the Celtic language have been gradually on the decline, but will now, it is hoped, be preserved for ever!

Spenser, in his View of the State of Ireland, tells

* It was usual for the chiefs, returning from successful expeditions, to send their bards singing before them, and, on their arrival at home, they were accompanied in the song of victory by other bards.

"Duisg sòlas an talla nan stuadh;

Thill righ nam buadh le 'sluagh gu 'thir. Tha chòmstri Charuinn fada uainn, Mar fhuaim nach cluinnear ni's mò : Togadh bàird a 'chiuil an duain; Thill gaisgeach nam buadh le chliu.” Carraig-thura, Vol. I. p. 96. "Let the beam spread in the hall, the King of Shells is returned! The strife of Carun is past, like sounds that are heard no more. Raise the song, O bards! The king is returned with his fame." Macpherson's Translation.

+ The funeral songs, or elegies, in Ossian's time, closed every stanza with some remarkable epithet or simile in praise of the hero. "Thou wert mighty in battle-thy strength was like the strength of a stream— thy speed like the eagle's wing-thy path in battle was terrible: the steps of death were behind thy sword. Death of Cuthullin.

‡ Spenser's Works, Vol. VI. (12mo. edition) p. 121. His View of the State of Ireland was written between the years 1580 and 1589.


us, that in his time there was amongst the Irish, a certain kind of people called bards, whose profession was to set forth the praises or demerits of men in their poems or rhythmes, and who were held in such high repute and estimation among the Irish, that none dared displease them, from a dread of their reproaches, and of being made infamous in the mouths of all men; for their verses were received with general applause, and sung at all feasts and meetings by certain other persons whose function it was.

Although there appear an evident debasement in the character of the bards of modern times, when compared with those of "other years," we ought not on that account, to withhold giving due faith to the traditional history, which Ossian and his contemporary bards have transmitted to us, respecting Fingal and his warriors. It has been shewn, that the memory, when duly cultivated, is capable of the most extraordinary degree of retention; and that in remote ages, and in countries where the art of writing was not unknown, the most sublime moral truths, and the recital of the most heroic achievements, were entrusted wholly to memory, in preference to written records. That history so transmitted through a series of ages can, in all things, be equally correct as the historical productions of this day, would be too much to affirm; but the moral precepts may be allowed to be authentic, and the leading historical features are not to be denied. Why then make an exception? Why refuse credit to oral tradition, when applied to the history and transactions of the

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