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Charles Mac Muirunigh sung.
The renown of the Gael is lowered, &c.
Mr. Astle has, in a note on this specimen, remarked, that the family of Mac Muirichs were bards to the family of Clanronald for centuries back. Whether one of them was the author of this song is difficult to say.
The seventh specimen is taken from a MS. containing some memoranda relative to the affairs of Ireland and Scotland, written in the fifteenth century.
The eighth specimen is taken from a MS. containing annals of Ireland and Scotland. The reading is:
Anno Mundi Do ghabh Nuadhad fionn fail Mac Geallichosa, de shiol Eiremhoin Righe Eirenn 60 bliaghuin no fiche bliaguin gur thuit le Breisrig Mac Art.
In the year of the world 3304.
Nuadhad fionn fail the son of Gealchosa of the race of Here
mon, enjoyed the kingdom of Ireland 60 years, or twenty years; he fell by Breisri the son of Arthur.
The twelfth specimen (Plate XXII.) is taken from a MS. in Mr. Astle's library, containing two treatises, the one on astronomy, the other on medicine,
written in the latter end of the thirteenth or beginning of the fourteenth century, and is to be read :
Si autem sol minoris esset camditatis, &c. ioadhin, dam hadh lugha caindegheachd na greine na na talmhuin gach uile ni . . . . do fulaingedh a dubhra . . &c.
If the light of the sun was less than the earth, every thing would be covered with its shade.
The thirteenth specimen is taken from a MS. in the Harleian library, (No. 5280), which contains twenty-one Gaelic treatises, of which Mr. Astle has given some account. One of these treats of the Irish militia under Fion Maccumhail, in the reign of Cormac Mac Airt, King of Ireland, and of the course of probation, or exercise, which each soldier was to go through before his admission therein.
The fourteenth specimen in the twenty-second Plate, is taken from an an ancient transcript of some of the old municipal laws of Ireland, and a tract called the Great Sanction, New Law, or Constitution of Nine, made in favour of Christianity by three kings, three bishops, and three sages.
By the Latin text at the head of each chapter of the Gaelic treatise on astronomy, Mr. Astle says, it appears to be a translation from the Latin; yet, by the argument it would seem that the writer was the author.
The fifteenth specimen is taken from the Annales Tigernaci, amongst the Clarendon MSS. at Oxford, (No. 3), which Annals end in 1407, when this MS. is supposed to have been written.
The 16th and 17th specimens are taken from the Annals of Ulster in the Bodleian library, amongst Dr. Rawlinson's MSS. (No. 31). This is written on vellum, and was formerly in the possession of Sir James Ware, was afterwards possessed by the Duke of Chandos, and after his death, it was purchased by Dr. Rawlinson.*
The 18th and last specimen is from a fragment of the Brehon laws, communicated by Lieut. Colonel Vallancey, which is read,
Dearbhar feitheam fortoig cuithe arach.
Certain rules for the election of a chief.
The existence, not only of Gaelic poetry, but of manuscripts containing many of the poems ascribed to Ossian, is proved by the concurrent testimony of writers at different periods, for ages before Mr. Macpherson was born. Bishop Carswell, in his translation into Gaelic of the forms of prayer and catechism of the Christian religion, printed in 1567, and the Rev. Mr. Kirk, who translated the Psalms of David, in 1684, bear evidence to the fact.†
It is unnecessary to dwell upon the variety of
* See Innes's Essay, p. 453.
↑ See the quotations from their works, p. 401 et seq. of these Ob servations.
MSS. in possession of the Highland Society of Scotland, written between the 9th and 16th centuries, as the reader can refer to many of them in the Report of the Committee of the Highland Society published last year, and to the Descriptive Catalogue subjoined to this volume, which, independent of all other proofs, carry the strongest conviction of the Gaelic being a written language from very remote periods.*
Mr. Lhuyd, in his Archæologia Britannica, has given us a catalogue of various Irish MSS. existing in Ireland, particularly of those deposited in Trinity College, Dublin; but as they will be mentioned in the notices of books and manuscripts at the end, it would be improper to detail them in this place.
Here then we have decisive proofs of the actual existence of Gaelic and Irish manuscripts written at different periods since the ninth century. Those writers, who have denied the existence of Gaelic MSS. in Scotland, ought also to have denied the evidence of the ancient Irish MSS. deposited more than a hundred years ago in Trinity College, Dublin. For it is in vain to argue, laying Icolmkill out of our consideration, that while writing and learning was cultivated in Ireland in the vernacular tongue of that country, that the Scottish Highlanders in
* Some of the MS. poems ascribed to Ossian, and in the possession of the Highland Society, are noticed in Sir John Sinclair's Dissertation, p. 36. and in Note E. to Cesarotti's Dissertation.
+ Mr. Astle has, in Plate 22, given us ocular demonstration, that the Gaelic and Irish characters are the same; and it is well known, that the Gaelic, or Erse language, and the Iberno-Gaelic, are now nearly the same, and that they are both confessedly dialects of the Celtic.
the north and west districts, who spoke the same language, and had constant intercourse with the Irish, could remain ignorant of letters. The supposition is too absurd to require a serious refutation.
2. In addition to the general observations, made under the head of Oral Tradition, Ancient Song and Music, and what is said in the preceding section, we shall now briefly take a cursory view of the evidence recently laid before the public to prove, that the poems ascribed to Ossian existed in various fragments or manuscripts, and have been recited for ages, and sung to music, in the Highlands of Scotland.
In a letter from Sir John Macpherson, Bart.* to Doctor Blair, dated the 4th February, 1760, he mentions having selected from his collection of Gaelic poems, and transmitted to the Doctor, in order to satisfy Mr. Percy's curiosity, three specimens of the original poems ascribed to Ossian; namely 1. Ossian's Courtship of Everallin; 2. his Address to the Evening Star, the original of which, Sir John says, suffered in the hands of Mr. Macpherson, though he has shewn himself inferior to no translator; 3. Ullin's War-Song. Sir John declares upon his honour, that he never received any of these originals from Mr. Macpherson, nor took the least assistance from his translation. And he concludes with observing, "if you forward these specimens to Mr. Percy, he certainly will make the requisite allowance for the
A Member of the Committee appointed to superintend this publication.