James Macpherson

1736 - 1796


Temora, an Ancient Epic Poem, in Eight Books:

Together with Several other Poems by Ossian

composed by Ossian, the Son of Fingal.










[Text of the 1773 edition]


THE hiſtory of thoſe nations who originally poſſeſſed the north of Europe, is leſs known than their manners. Deſtitute of the uſe of letters, they them. ſelves had not the means of tranſmitting their great actions to remote poſterity. Foreign writers ſaw them only at a diſtance, and deſcribed them as they found them. The vanity of the Romans induced them to conſider the nations beyond the pale of their empire as barbarians; and, conſequently, their hiſtory unworthy of being inveſtigated. Their manners and ſingular character were matters of curioſity, as they committed them to record. Some men otherwiſe of great merit, among ourſelves, give into confined ideas on this ſubject. Having early imbibed their idea of exalted manners from the Greek and Roman writers, they ſcarcely ever afterward have the fortitude to allow any dignity of character to any nation deſtitute of the uſe of letters.

Without derogating from the fame of Greece and Rome, we may conſider antiquity beyond the pale of their empire worthy of ſome attention. The nobler paſſions of the mind never ſhoot forth more free and unreſtrained than in the times we call barbarous. That irregular manner of life, and thoſe manly purſuits, from which barbarity takes it name, are highly favorable to a ſtrength of mind unknown in poliſhed times. In advanced ſociety, the characters of men are more uniform and diſguiſed. The human paſſions lie in ſome degree concealed behind forms and artificial manners; and the powers of the ſoul, without an opportunity of exerting them, loſe their vigor. The times of regular government, and poliſhed manners, are therefore to be wiſhed for by the feeble and weak in mind. An unſettled ſtate, and thoſe convulſions which attend it, is the proper field for an exalted character, and the exertion of great parts. Merit there riſes always ſuperior; no fortuitous event can raiſe the timid and mean into power. To thoſe who look upon antiquity in this light, it is an agreeable proſpect; and they alone can have real pleaſure in tracing nations to their ſource. The eſtabliſhment of the Celtic ſtates, in the north of Europe, is beyond the reach of written annals. The traditions and ſongs to which they truſted their hiſtory, were loſt, or altogether corrupted, in their revolutions and migrations, which were ſo frequent and univerſal, that no kingdom in Europe is now poſſeſſed by its original inhabitants. Societies were formed, and kingdoms erected, from a mixture of nations, who, in proceſs of time, loſt all knowledge of their own origin. If tradition could be depended upon, it is only among a people, from all time, free from intermixture with foreigners. We are to look for theſe among the mountains and inacceſſible parts of a country: places, on account of their barrenneſs, uninviting to an enemy, or whoſe natural ſtrength enabled the natives to repel invaſions. Such are the inhabitants of the mountains of Scotland. We, accordingly find that they differ materially from thoſe who poſſeſs the low and more fertile parts of, the kingdom. Their language is pure and original, and their manners are thoſe of an ancient and unmixed race of men. Conſcious of their own antiquity, they long deſpiſed others, as a new and mixed people. As they lived in a country only fit for paſture, they were free from that toil and buſineſs which engroſs the attention of a commercial people. Their amuſement conſiſted in hearing or repeating their ſongs and traditions, and theſe entirely turned on the antiquity of their nation, and the exploits of their forefathers. It is no wonder, therefore, that there are more remains among them, than among any other people in Europe. Traditions, however, concerning remote periods are only to be regarded, in ſo far as they coincide with contemporary writers of undoubted credit and veracity.

No writers began their accounts for a more early period than the hiſtorians of the Scots nation. Without records, or even tradition itſelf, they gave a long liſt of ancient kings, and a detail of their tranſactions, with a ſcrupulous exactneſs. One might naturally ſuppoſe, that when they had no authentic annals, they ſhould, at leaſt, have recourſe to the traditions of their country, and have reduced them into a regular ſyſtem of hiſtory. Of both they ſeem to have been equally deſtitute. Born in the low country, and ſtrangers to the ancient language of their nation, they contented themſelves with copying from one another, and retailing the ſame fictions in a new color and dreſs.

John Fordun was the firſt who collected thoſe fragments of the Scots hiſtory which had eſcaped the brutal policy of Edward I., and reduced them into order. His accounts, in ſo far as they concerned recent tranſactions, deſerved credit: beyond a certain period, they were fabulous and unſatiſfactory. Sometime before Fordun wrote, the king of England, in a letter to the pope, had run up the antiquity of his nation to a very remote æra. Fordun, poſſeſſed of all the national prejudice of the age, was unwilling that his country ſhould yield, in point of antiquity, to a people then its rivals and enemies. Deſtitute of annals in Scotland, he had recourſe to Ireland, which, according to the vulgar error of the times, was reckoned the firſt habitation of the Scots. He found there, that the Iriſh bards had carried their pretenſions to antiquity as high, if not beyond any nation in Europe. It was from them he took thoſe improbable fictions which form the firſt part of his hiſtory.

The writers that ſucceeded Fordun implicitly followed his ſyſtem, though they ſometimes varied from him in their relations of particular tranſactions and the order of ſucceſſion of their kings. As they had no new lights, and were equally with him unacquainted with the traditions of their country, their hiſtories contain little information concerning the origin of the Scots. Even Buchanan himſelf, except the elegance and vigor of his ſtyle, has very little to recommend him. Blinded with political prejudices, he ſeemed more anxious to turn the fictions of his predeceſſors to his own purpoſes, than to detect their miſrepreſentations, or inveſtigate truth amidſt the darkneſs which they had thrown round it. It therefore appears, that little can be collected from their own hiſtorians concerning the firſt migrations of the Scots into Britain.

That this iſland was peopled from Gaul admits of no doubt. Whether colonies came afterward from the north of Europe, is a matter of mere ſpeculation. When South Britain yielded to the power of the Romans, the unconquered nations to the north of the province were diſtinguiſhed by the name of Caledonians. From their very name, it appears that they were of thoſe Gauls who poſſeſſed themſelves originally of Britain. It is compounded of two Celtic words, Cael ſignifying Celts, or Gauls, and Dun or Don, a hill; ſo that Caeldon, or Caledonians, is as much as to ſay, the “Celts of the hill country.” The Highlanders, to this day, call themſelves Cael, and their language Caelic, or Galic, and their country Caeldock, which the Romans ſoftened into Caledonia. This, of itſelf, is ſufficient to demonſtrate that they are the genuine deſcendants of the ancient Caledonians, and not a pretended colony of Scots, who ſettled firſt in the north, in the third or fourth century.

From the double meaning of' the word Cael, which ſignifies “ſtrangers,” as well as Gauls, or Celts, ſome have imagined, that the anceſtors of the Caledonians were of a different race from the reſt of the Britons, and that they received their name upon that account. This opinion, ſay they, is ſupported by Tacitus, who, from ſeveral circumſtances, concludes that the Caledonians were of German extraction. A diſcuſſion of a point ſo intricate, at this diſtance of time, could neither be ſatiſfactory nor important.

Towards the later end of the third, and beginning of the fourth century, we find the Scots in the north. Porphirius makes the firſt mention of them about that time. As the Scots were not heard of before that period, moſt writers ſuppoſed them to have been a colony, newly come to Britain, and that the Picts were the only genuine deſcendants of the ancient Caledonians. This miſtake is eaſily removed. The Caledonians, in proceſs of time, became naturally divided into two diſtinct nations, as poſſeſſing parts of the country entirely different in their nature and ſoil. The weſtern coaſt of Scotland is hilly and barren; towards the eaſt, the country is plain, and fit for tillage. The inhabitants of the mountains, a roving and uncontrolled race of men, lived by feeding of cattle, and what they killed in hunting. Their employment did not fix them to one place. They removed from one heath to another, as ſuited beſt with their convenience or inclination. They were not, therefore, improperly called, by their neighbors, Scuite, or “the wandering nation;” which is evidently the origin of the Roman name of Scoti.

On the other hand, the Caledonians, who poſſeſſed the eaſt coaſt of Scotland, as this diviſion of the country was plain and fertile, applied themſelves to agriculture, and raiſing of corn. It was from this that the Galic name of the Picts proceeded; for they are called in that language, Cruithnich, i. e. “the wheat or corn eaters.” As the Picts lived in a country ſo different in its nature from that poſſeſſed by the Scots ſo their national character ſuffered a material change. Unobſtructed by mountains or lakes, their communication with one another was free and frequent. Society, therefore, became ſooner eſtabliſhed among them than among the Scots, and, conſequently, they were much ſooner governed by civil magiſtrates and laws. This, at laſt, produced ſo great a difference in the manners of the two nations, that they began to forget their common origin, and almoſt continual quarrels and animoſities ſubſiſted between them. Theſe animoſities, after ſome ages, ended in the ſubverſion of the Pictiſh kingdom, but not in the total extirpation of the nation according to moſt of the Scots writers, who ſeem to think it more for the honor of their countrymen to annihilate than reduce a rival people under their obedience. It is certain, however, that the very name of the Picts was loſt, and that thoſe that remained were ſo completely incorporated with their conquerors, that they ſoon loſt all memory of their own origin.

The end of the Pictiſh government is placed ſo near that period to which authentic annals reach, that it is matter of wonder that we have no monuments of their language or hiſtory remaining. This favors the ſyſtem I have laid down. Had they originally been of a different race from the Scots, their language of courſe would be different. The contrary is the caſe. The names of places in the Pictiſh dominions, and the very names of their kings, which are handed down to us, are of Galic original, which is a convincing proof that the two nations were, of old, one and the ſame, and only divided into two governments by the effect which their ſituation had upon the genius of the people.

The name of Picts is ſaid to have been given by the Romans to the Caledonians who poſſeſſed the eaſt coaſt of Scotland from their painting their bodies. The ſtory is ſilly, and the argument abſurd. But let us revere antiquity in her very follies. This circumſtance made ſome imagine, that the Picts were of Britiſh extract, and a different race of men from the Scots. That more of the Britons, who fled northward from the tyranny of the Romans, ſettled in the low country of Scotland, than among the Scots of the mountains, may be eaſily imagined, from the very nature of the country. It was they who introduced painting among the Picts. From this circumſtance, affirm ſome antiquaries, proceeded the name of the latter, to diſtinguiſh them from the Scots, who never had that art among them, and from the Britons, who diſcontinued it after the Roman conqueſt.

The Caledonians, moſt certainly, acquired a conſiderable knowledge in navigation by their living on a coaſt interſected with many arms of the ſea, and in iſlands, divided one from another by wide and dangerous firths. It is, therefore, highly probable, that they very early found their way to the north of Ireland, which is within ſight of their own country. That Ireland was firſt peopled from Britain, is, at length, a matter that admits of no doubt. The vicinity of the two iſlands; the exact correſpondence of the ancient inhabitants of both, in point of manners and language, are ſufficient proofs, even if we had not the teſtimonies of authors of undoubted veracity to confirm it. The abettors of the moſt romantic ſyſtems of Iriſh antiquities allow it; but they place the colony from Britain in an improbable and remote æra. I ſhall eaſily admit that the colony of the Firbolg, confeſſedly the Belgæ of Britain, ſettled in the ſouth of Ireland, before the Cael, or Caledonians diſcovered the north; but it is not at all likely that the migration of the Firbolg to Ireland happened many centuries before the Chriſtian æra.

The poem of Temora throws conſiderable light on this ſubject. The accounts given in it agree ſo well with what the ancients have delivered concerning the firſt population and inhabitants of Ireland, that every unbiaſed perſon will confeſs them more probable than the legends handed down, by tradition, in that country. It appears that, in the days of Trathal, grandfather to Fingal, Ireland was poſſeſſed by two nations; the Firbolg or Belgæ of Britain, who inhabited the ſouth, and the Cael, who paſſed over from Caledonia and the Hebrides to Ulſter. The two nations, as is uſual among an unpoliſhed and lately ſettled people, were divided into ſmall dynaſties, ſubject to petty kings or chiefs, independent of one another. In this ſituation, it is probable, they continued long, without any material revolution in the ſtate of the iſland, until Crothar, lord of Atha, a country in Connaught, the moſt potent chief of the Firbolg, carried away Conlama, the daughter of Cathmin, a chief of the Cael, who poſſeſſed Ulſter.

Conlama had been betrothed, ſome time before, to Turloch, a chief of their own nation. Turloch reſented the affront offered him by Crothar, made an irruption. into Connaught, and killed Cormul, the brother of Crothar, who came to oppoſe his progreſs. Crothar himſelf then took arms, and either killed or expelled Turloch. The war, upon this, became general between the two nations, and the Cael were reduced to the laſt extremity. In this ſituation, they applied for aid to Trathal, king of Morven, who ſent his brother Conar, already famous for his great exploits, to their relief.

Conar, upon his arrival in Ulſter, was choſen king by the unanimous conſent of the Caledonian tribes who poſſeſſed that country. The war was renewed with vigor and ſucceſs; but the Firbolg appear to have been rather repelled than ſubdued. In ſucceeding reigns, we learn, from epiſodes in the ſame poem, that the chiefs of Atha made ſeveral efforts to become monarchs of Ireland, and to expel the race of Conar.

To Conar ſucceeded his ſon Cormac, who appears to have reigned long. In his latter days he ſeems to have been driven to the laſt extremity by an inſurrection of the Firbolg, who ſupported the pretenſions of the chiefs of Atha to the Iriſh throne. Fingal, who was then very young, came to the aid of Cormac, totally defeated Colculla, chief of Atha, and re-eſtabliſhed Cormac in the ſole poſſeſſion of all Ireland. It was then he fell in love with, and took to wife, Roſcrana, the daughter of Cormac, who was the mother of Oſſian.

Cormac was ſucceeded in the Iriſh throne by his ſon Cairbre; Cairbre by Artho, his ſon, who was the father of that Cormac, in whoſe minority the invaſion of Swaran happened, which is the ſubject of the poem of Fingal. The family of Atha, who had not relinquiſhed their pretenſions to the Iriſh throne, rebelled in the minority of Cormac, defeated his adherents, and murdered him in the palace of Ternora. Cairbar, lord of of Atha, upon this mounted the throne. His uſurpation ſoon ended with his life; for Fingal made an expedition into Ireland, and reſtored, after various viciſſitudes of fortune, the family of Conar to the poſſeſſion of the kingdom. This war is the ſubject of Temora; the events, though certainly heightened and embelliſhed by poetry, ſeem, notwithſtanding, to have their foundation in true hiſtory.

Temora contains not only the hiſtory of the firſt migration of the Caledonians into Ireland; it alſo preſerves ſome important facts concerning the firſt ſettlement of the Firbolg, or Belgæ of Britain, in that kingdom, under their leader Larthon, who was anceſtor to Cairbar and Cathmor, who ſucceſſively mounted the Iriſh throne, after the death of Cormac, the ſon of Artho. I forbear to tranſcribe the paſſage on account of its length. It is the ſong of Fonar, the bard; towards the latter end of the ſeventh book of Temora. As the generations from Larthon to Cathmor, to whom the epiſode is addreſſed, are not marked, as are thoſe of the family of Conar, the firſt king of Ireland, we can form no judgment of the time of the ſettlement of the Firbolg. It is, however, probable it was ſome time before the Cael, or Caledonians, ſettled in Ulſter. One important fact may, be gathered from this hiſtory, that the Iriſh had no king before the latter end of the firſt century. Fingal lived, it is ſuppoſed, in the third century; ſo Conar, the firſt monarch of the Iriſh, who was his grand-uncle, cannot be placed farther back than the cloſe of the firſt, To eſtabliſh this fact, is to lay, at once, aſide the pretended antiquities of the Scots and Iriſh, and to get quit of the long liſt of kings which the latter give us for a millenium before.

Of the affairs of Scotland, it is certain, nothing can be depended upon prior to the reign of Fergus, the ſon of Erc, who lived in the fifth century. The true hiſtory of Ireland begins ſomewhat later than that period. Sir James Ware 1), who was indefatigable in his reſearches after the antiquities of his country, rejects, as mere fiction and idle romance, all that is related of the ancient Iriſh before the time of St. Patrick, and the reign of Leogaire. It is from this conſideration that he begins his hiſtory at the introduction of Chriſtianity, remarking, that all that is delivered down concerning the times of paganiſm were tales of late invention, ſtrangely mixed with anachroniſms and inconſiſtencies. Such being the opinion of Ware, who had collected, with uncommon induſtry and zeal, all the real and pretundedly ancient manuſcripts concerning the hiſtory of his country, we may, on his authority, reject the improbable and ſelf-condemned tales of Keating and O'Flaherty. Credulous and puerile to the laſt degree, they have diſgraced the antiquities they meant to eſtabliſh. It is to be wiſhed that ſome able Iriſhman, who underſtands the language and records of his country, may redeem, ere too late, the genuine and antiquities of Ireland from the hands of theſe idle fabuliſts.

By comparing the hiſtory in theſe poems with the legends of the Scots and Iriſh writers, and by afterward examining both by the teſt of the Roman authors, it is eaſy to diſcover which is the moſt probable. Probability is all that can be eſtabliſhed on the authority of tradition, ever dubious and uncertain. But when it favors the hypotheſis laid down by contemporary writers of undoubted veracity, and, as it were, finiſhes which they only drew the outlines, it ought, in the judgment of ſober reaſon, to be preferred to accounts framed in dark and diſtant periods, with little judgement, and upon no authority.

Concerning the period of more than a century which intervenes between Fingal and the reign of Fergus, the ſons of Erc or Arcath, tradition is dark and contradictory. Some trace up the family of Fergus to a ſon of Fingal of that name, who makes a conſiderable figure in Oſſian's Poems. The three elder ſons of Fingal, Oſſian, Fillan, and Ryno, dying without iſſue, the ſucceſſion, of courſe, devolved upon Fergus, the fourth ſon, and his poſterity. This Fergus, ſay ſome traditions, was the father of Congal, whoſe ſon was Arcath, the father of Fergus, properly called the firſt king of Scots, as it was in his time the Cael, who poſſeſſed the weſtern coaſt of Scotland, began to be diſtinguiſhed by foreigners by the name of Scots. From thenceforward, the Scots and Picts, as diſtinct nations, became objects of attention to the hiſtorians of other countries. The internal ſtate of the two Caledonian kingdoms has always continued, and ever muſt remain, in obſcurity and fable.

It is in this epoch we muſt fix the beginning of the decay of that ſpecies of heroiſm which ſubſiſted in the days of Fingal. There are three ſtages in human ſociety. The firſt is the reſult of conſanguinity, and the natural affection of the members of a family to one another. The ſecond begins when property is eſtabliſhed, and men enter into aſſociations for mutual defence, againſt the invaſions and injuſtice of neighbors. Mankind ſubmit, in the third, to certain laws and ſubordinations of government, to which they truſt the ſafety of their perſons and property. As the firſt is formed on nature, ſo, of courſe, it is the moſt diſintereſted and noble. Men, in the laſt, have leiſure to cultivate the mind, and to reſtore it, with reflection, to a primeval dignity of ſentiment. The middle ſtate is the region of complete barbariſm and ignorance. About the beginning of the fifth century, the Scots and Picts were advanced into the ſecond ſtage, and conſequently, into thoſe circumſcribed ſentiments which always diſtinguiſh barbarity. The events which ſoon after happened did not at all contribute to enlarge their ideas, or mend their national character.

About the year 426, the Romans, on account of domeſtic commotions, entirely forſook Britain, finding it impoſſible to defend ſo diſtant a frontier. The Picts and Scots, ſeizing this favorable opportunity, made incurſions into the deſerted province. The Britons, enervated by the ſlavery of ſeveral centuries, and thoſe vices which are inſeparable from an advanced ſtate of civility, were not able to withſtand the impetuous, though irregular, attacks of a barbarous enemy. In the utmoſt diſtreſs, they applied to their old maſters, the Romans, and (after the unfortunate ſtate of the empire could not ſpare aid) to the Saxons, a nation equally barbarous and brave with the enemies of whom they were ſo much afraid. Though the bravery of the Saxons repelled the Caledonian nations for a time, yet the latter found means to extend themſelves conſiderably towards the ſouth. It is in this period we muſt place the origin of the arts of civil life among the Scots. The ſeat of government was removed from the mountains to the plain and more fertile provinces of the ſouth, to be near the common enemy in caſe of ſudden incurſions. Inſtead of roving through unfrequented wilds in ſearch of ſubſiſtence by means of hunting, men applied to agriculture, and raiſing of corn. This manner of life was the firſt means of changing the national character. The next thing which contributed to it was their mixture with ſtrangers.

In the countries which the Scots had conquered from the Britons, it is probable that moſt of the old inhabitants remained. Theſe incorporating with the conquerors, taught them agriculture and other arts which they themſelves had received from the Romans. The however, in number as well as power, being the moſt predominant, retained ſtill their language, and as many of the cuſtoms of their anceſtors as ſuited-with the nature of the country they poſſeſſed. Even the union of the two Caledonian kingdoms did not much affect the national character. Being originally deſcended from the ſame ſtock, the manners of the Picts and Scots were as ſimilar as the different natures of the countries they poſſeſſed permitted.

What brought about a total change in the genius of the Scots nation was their wars and other tranſactions with the Saxons. Several counties in the ſouth of Scotland were alternately poſſeſſed by the two nations. They were ceded, in the ninth age, to the Scots, and it is probable that moſt of the Saxon inhabitants remained in poſſeſſion of their lands. During the ſeveral conqueſts and revolutions in England, many fled for refuge into Scotland, to avoid the oppreſſion of foreigners, or the tyranny of domeſtic uſurpers; inſomuch, that the Saxon race formed, perhaps, near one half of the Scottiſh kingdom. The Saxon manners and language daily gained ground on the tongue and cuſtoms of the ancient Caledonians, till, at laſt, the latter were entirely relegated to the inhabitants of the mountains, who were ſtill unmixed with ſtrangers.

It was after the acceſſion of territory which the Scots received upon the retreat of the Romans from Britain, that the inhabitants of the Highlands were divided into clans. The king, when he kept his court in the mountains, was conſidered by the whole nation as the chief of their blood. The ſmall number, as well as the preſence of their prince, prevented thoſe diviſions which, afterward, ſprung forth into ſo many ſeparate tribes. When the ſeat of government was removed to the ſouth, thoſe who remained in the Highlands were, of courſe, neglected. They naturally formed themſelves into ſmall ſocieties independent of one another. Each ſociety had its own regulus, who either was, or, in the ſucceſſion of a few generations, was regarded as chief of their blood. The nature of the country favored an inſtitution of this ſort. A few valleys, divided from one another by extenſive heaths and impaſſable mountains, form the face of the Highlands. In thoſe valleys the chiefs fixed their reſidence. Round them, and almoſt within ſight of their dwellings, were the habitations of their relations and dependants.

The ſeats of the Highland chiefs were neither diſagreeable nor inconvenient. Surrounded with mountains and hanging woods, they were covered from the inclemency of the weather. Near them generally ran a pretty large river, which, diſcharging itſelf not far off into an arm of the ſea or extenſive lake, ſwarmed with variety of fiſh. The woods were ſtocked with wild-fowl; and the heaths and mountains behind them were the natural ſeat of the red-deer and roe. If we make allowance for the backward ſtate of agriculture, the valleys were not unfertile; affording, if not all the conveniences, at leaſt the neceſſaries of life. Here the chief lived, the ſupreme judge and lawgiver of his own people; but his ſway was neither ſevere nor unjuſt. As the populace regarded him as the chief of their blood, ſo he, in return, conſidered them as members of his family. His commands, therefore, though abſolute and deciſive, partook more of the authority of a father than of the rigor of a judge. Though the whole territory of the tribe was conſidered as the property of the thief, yet his vaſſals made him no other conſideration for their lands than ſervices, neither burdenſome nor frequent. As he ſeldom went from home, he was at no expenſe. His table was ſupplied by his own herds and what his numerous attendants killed in hunting.

In this rural kind of magnificence the Highland chiefs lived for many ages. At a diſtance from the ſeat of government, and ſecured by the inacceſſibleneſs of their country, they were free and independent. As they had little communication with ſtrangers, the cuſtoms of their anceſtors remained among them, and their language retained its original purity, Naturally fond of military fame, and remarkably attached to the memory of their anceſtors, they delighted in traditions and ſongs concerning the exploits of their nation, and eſpecially of their own particular families. A ſucceſſion of bards was retained in every clan to hand down the memorable actions of their forefathers. As Fingal and his chiefs were the moſt renowned names in tradition, the bards took care to place them in the genealogy of every great family. They became famous among the people, and an object of fiction and poetry to the bard.

The bards erected their immediate patrons into heroes and celebrated them in their ſongs. As the circle of their knowledge was narrow, their ideas were confined in proportion. A few happy expreſſions, and the manners they repreſent, may pleaſe thoſe who underſtand the language; their obſcurity and inaccuracy would diſguſt in a tranſlation. It was chiefly for this reaſon that I have rejected wholly the works of the bards in my publications. Oſſian acted in a more extenſive ſphere, and his ideas ought to be more noble and univerſal; neither gives he, I preſume, ſo many of their peculiarities, which are only underſtood in a certain period or country. The other bards have their beauties, but not in this ſpecies of compoſition. Their rhymes, only calculated to kindle a martial ſpirit among the vulgar, afford very little pleaſure to genuine taſte. This obſervation only regards their poems of the heroic kind; in every inferior ſpecies of poetry they are more ſucceſſful. They expreſs the tender melancholy of deſponding love with ſimplicity and nature. So well adapted are the ſounds of the words to the ſentiments, that, even without any knowledge of the language, they pierce and diſſolve the heart. Succeſſful love is expreſſed with peculiar tenderneſs and elegance. In all their compoſitions, except the heroic, which was ſolely calculated to animate the vulgar, they gave us the genuine language of the heart, without any of thoſe affected ornaments of phraſeology, which, though intended to beautify ſentiments, diveſt them of their natural force. The ideas, it is confeſſed, are too local to be admired in another language; to thoſe who are acquainted with the manners they repreſent, and the ſcenes they deſcribe, they muſt afford pleaſure and ſatiſfaction.

It was the locality of their deſcription and ſentiment that, probably, has kept them in the obſcurity of an almoſt loſt language. The ideas of an unpoliſhed period are ſo contrary to the preſent advanced ſtate of ſociety, that more than a common mediocrity of taſte is required to reliſh them as they deſerve. Thoſe who alone are capable of tranſferring ancient poetry into a modern language, might be better employed in giving originals of their own, were it not for that wretched envy and meanneſs which affects to deſpiſe contemporary genius. My firſt publication was merely accidental; had I then met with leſs approbation my after purſuits would have been more profitable; at leaſt, I might have continued to be ſtupid without being branded with dulneſs.

Theſe poems may furniſh light to antiquaries, as well as ſome pleaſure to the lovers of poetry. The firſt population of Ireland, its firſt kings, and ſeveral circumſtances, which regard its connection of old with the ſouth and north of Britain, am preſented in ſeveral epiſodes. The ſubject and cataſtrophe of the poem are founded upon facts which regarded the firſt peopling of that country, and the conteſts between the two Britiſh nations, who originally inhabited that iſland. In a preceding part of this diſſertation I have ſhown how ſuperior the probability of this ſyſtem is to the undigeſted fictions of the Iriſh bards, and the more recent and regular legends of both Iriſh and Scottiſh hiſtorians. I mean not to give offence to the abettors of the high antiquities of the two nations, though I have all along expreſſed my doubts concerning the veracity and abilities of thoſe who deliver down their ancient hiſtory. For my own part, I prefer the national fame ariſing from a few certain facts, to the legendary and uncertain annals of ages of remote and obſcure antiquity. No kingdom now eſtabliſhed in Europe can pretend to equal antiquity with that of the Scots, inconſiderable as it may appear in other reſpects, even according to my ſyſtem; ſo that it is altogether needleſs to fix its origin a fictitious millenium before.

Since the firſt publication of theſe poems, many inſinuations have been made, and doubts ariſen, concerning their authenticity. Whether theſe ſuſpicions are ſuggeſted by prejudice, or are only the effects of malice, I neither know nor care. Thoſe who have doubted my veracity have paid a compliment to my genius; and were even the allegation true, my ſelf-denial might have atoned for my fault. Without vanity I ſay it, I think I could write tolerable poetry, and I aſſume my antagoniſts, that I ſhould not tranſlate what I could not imitate.

As prejudice is the effect of ignorance, I am not ſurpriſed at its being general. An age that produces few marks of genius ought to be ſparing of admiration. The truth is, the bulk of mankind have ever been led by reputation more than taſte, in articles of literature. If all the Romans who admired Virgil underſtood his beauties, he would have ſcarce deſerved to have come down to us through ſo many centuries. Unleſs genius were in faſhion, Homer himſelf might have written in vain. He that wiſhes to come with weight on the ſuperficial, muſt ſkim the ſurface, in their own ſhallow way. Were my aim to gain the many, I would write a madrigal ſooner than an heroic poem. Laberius himſelf would be always ſure of more followers than Sophocles.

Some who doubt the authenticity of this work, with peculiar acuteneſs appropriate them to the Iriſh nation. Though it is not eaſy to conceive how theſe poems can belong to Ireland and to me at once, I ſhall examine the ſubject without farther animadverſion on the blunder.

Of all the nations deſcended from the ancient Celtæ, the Scots and Iriſh are the moſt ſimilar in language, cuſtoms, and manners. This argues a more intimate connection between them than a remote deſcent from the great Celtic ſtock. It is evident, in ſhort, that, at ſome period or other, they formed one ſociety, were ſubject to the ſame government, and were, in all reſpects, one and the ſame people. How they became divided, which the colony, or which the mother-nation, I have in another work amply diſcuſſed. The firſt circumſtance that induced me to diſregard the vulgarly. received opinion of the Hibernian extraction of the Scottiſh nation was my obſervations on their ancient language. The dialect of the Celtic tongue, ſpoken in the north of Scotland, is much more pure, more agreeable to its mother-language, and more abounding with primitives, than that now ſpoken, or even that which has been written for ſome centuries back, amongſt the moſt unmixed part of the Iriſh nation. A Scotchman, tolerably converſant in his own language, underſtands an Iriſh compoſition from that derivative analogy which it has to the Gaelic of North Britain. An Iriſhman, on the other hand, without the aid of ſtudy, can never underſtand a compoſition in the Gaelic tongue. This affords a proof that the Scotch Gaelic is the moſt original, and, conſequently, the language of a more ancient and unmixed people. The Iriſh, however backward they may be to allow any thing to the prejudice of their antiquity, ſeem inadvertently to acknowledge it, by the very appellation they give to the dialect they ſpeak. They call their own language Caelic Eirinarch, i. e. Caledonian Iriſh, when, on the contrary, they call the dialect of North Britain a Chaelic, or the Caledonian tongue, emphatically. As circumſtance of this nature tends more to decide which is the moſt ancient nation than the united teſtimonies of a whole legion of ignorant bards and ſenachies, who, perhaps, never dreamed of bringing the Scots from Spain to Ireland, till ſome one of them, more learned than the reſt, diſcovered that the Romans called the firſt Iberia, and the latter Hibernia. On ſuch a ſlight foundation were probably built the romantic fictions concerning the Mileſians of Ireland.

From internal proofs it ſufficiently appears that the poems publiſhed under the name of Oſſian are not of Iriſh compoſition. The favorite chimera, that Ireland is the mother-country of the Scots, is totally ſubverted and ruined. The fictions concerning the antiquities of that country, which were formed for ages, and growing as they came down on the hands of ſucceſſive ſenachies and fileas, are found, at laſt, to be the ſpurious brood of modern and ignorant ages, To thoſe who know how tenacious the Iriſh are of their pretended Iberian deſcent, this alone is proof ſufficient, that poems, ſo ſubverſive of their ſyſtem, could never be produced by an Hibernian bard. But when we look to the language, it is ſo different from the Iriſh dialect, that it would be as ridiculous to think that Milton's Paradiſe Loſt could be wrote by a Scottiſh peaſant, as to ſuppoſe that the poems aſcribed to Oſſian were writ in Ireland.

The pretenſions of Ireland to Oſſian proceed from another quarter. There are handed down in that country traditional poems concerning the Fiona, or the heroes of Fion Mae Comnal. This Fion, ſay the Iriſh annaliſts, was general of the militia of Ireland in the reign of Cormac, in the third century. Where Keating and O'Flaherty learned that Ireland had an embodied militia ſo early, is not ſo eaſy for me to determine. Their information certainly did not come from the Iriſh poems concerning Fion. I have juſt now in my hands all that remain of thoſe compoſitions; but, unluckily for the antiquities of Ireland, they appear to be the work of a very modern period. Every ſtanza, nay, almoſt every line, affords ſtriking proofs that they cannot be three centuries old. Their alluſions to the manners and cuſtoms of the fifteenth century are ſo many, that it is a matter of wonder to me how any one could dream of their antiquity. They are entirely writ in that romantic taſte which prevailed two ages ago. Giants, enchanted caſtles, dwarfs, palfreys, witches, and magicians, form the whole circle of the poet's invention. The celebrated Fion could ſcarcely move from one hillock to another without encountering a giant, or being entangled in the circles of a magician. Witches, on broomſticks, were continually hovering round him like crows; and he had freed enchanted virgins in every valley in Ireland. In ſhort, Fion, great as he was, paſſed a diſagreeable life. Not only had he to engage all the miſchiefs in his own country, foreign armies invaded him, aſſiſted by magicians and witches, and headed by kings as tall as the mainmaſt of a firſt-rate. It muſt be owned, however, that Fion was not inferior to them in height.


A chos air Cromleach, draim-ard,

Chos eile air Crom-meal dubh,

Thoga Fion le lamh mhoir

An d'uiſge o Lubhair na fruth.


With one foot on Cromleach his brow,

The other on Crommal the dark

Fion took with his large hand

The water from Lubar of the ſtreams.


Cromleach and Crommal were two mountains in the neighborhood of one another, in Ulſter, and the river of Lubar ran through the intermediate valley. The property of ſuch a monſter as this Fion I ſhould never have diſputed with any nation; but the bard himſelf, in the poem from which the above quotation is taken, cedes him to Scotland:


Fion o Albin, ſiol nan laoich!

Fion from Albion, race of heroes!


Were it allowable to contradict the authority of a bard, at this diſtance of time, I ſhould have given as my opinion, that this enormous Fion was of the race of the Hibernian giants, of Ruanus, or ſome other celebrated name, rather than a native of Caledonia, whoſe inhabitants, now at leaſt, are not remarkable for their ſtature. As for the poetry, I leave it to the reader.

If Fion was ſo remarkable for his ſtature, his heroes had alſo other extraordinary properties. “In weight all the ſons of ſtrangers yielded to the celebrated Tonioſal; and for hardneſs of ſkull, and, perhaps, for thickneſs too, the valiant Oſcar ſtood 'unrivalled and alone.'“ Oſſian himſelf had many ſingular and leſs delicate qualifications than playing on the harp; and the brave Cuthullin was of ſo diminutive a ſize, as to be taken for a child of two years of age by the gigantic Swaran. To illuſtrate this ſubject, I ſhall here lay before the reader the hiſtory of ſome of the Iriſh poems concerning Fion Mae Comnal. A tranſlation of theſe pieces, if well executed, might afford ſatiſfaction, in an uncommon way, to the public. But this ought to be the work of a native of Ireland. To draw forth from obſcurity the poems of my own country has waſted all the time I had allotted for the Muſes; beſides, I am too diffident of my own abilities to undertake ſuch a work. A gentleman in Dublin accuſed me to the public of committing blunders and abſurdities in tranſlating the language of my own country, and that before any tranſlation of mine appeared 2). How the gentleman came to ſee my blunders before I committed them, is not eaſy to determine, if he did not conclude that, as a Scotſman, and, of courſe, deſcended of the Mileſian race, I might have committed ſome of thoſe overſights, which, perhaps very unjuſtly, are ſaid to be peculiar to them.

From the whole tenor of the Iriſh poems concerning the Fiona, it appears that Fion Mae Comnal flouriſhed in the reign of Cormac, which is placed, by the univerſal conſent of the ſenachies, in the third century. They even fix the death of Fingal in the year 268, yet his ſon Oſſian is made contemporary with St. Patrick, who preached the goſpel in Ireland about the middle of the fifth age. Oſſian, though at that time he muſt have been two hundred and fifty years of age, had a daughter young enough to become wife to the Saint. On account of this family connection, “Patrick of the Pſalms,” for ſo the apoſtle of Ireland is emphatically called in the poems, took great delight in the company of Oſſian, and in hearing the great actions of his family. The ſaint ſometimes threw off the auſterity of his profeſſion, drank freely, and had his ſoul properly warmed with wine, to receive with becoming enthuſiaſm the poems of his father-in-law. One of the poems begins with this uſeful piece of information:


Lo don rabh Padric us mhúr,

Gun Sailm air uidh, ach a gol,

Ghluais è thigh Oſſian mhic Fhion,

O ſan leis bhinn a ghloir.


The title of this poem is “Teantach mor na Fiona.” It appears to have been founded on the ſame ſtory with the “Battle of Lora.” The circumſtances and cataſtrophe in both are much the ſame: but the Iriſh Oſſian diſcovers the age in which he lived by an unlucky anachroniſm. After deſcribing the total rout of Erragon, he very gravely concludes with this remarkable anecdote, that none of the foe eſcaped, but a few, who were permitted to go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. This circumſtance fixes the date of the compoſition of the piece ſome centuries after the famous croiſade: for it is evident that the poet thought the time of the croiſade ſo ancient, that he confounds it with the age of Fingal. Erragon, in the courſe of this poem, is often called,


Rhoigh Lochlin an do ſhloigh,

King of Denmark of two nations —


which alludes to the union of the kingdom of Norway and Denmark, a circumſtance which happened under Margaret de Waldemar, in the cloſe of the fourteenth age. Modern, however, as this pretended Oſſian was, it is certain he lived before the Iriſh had dreamed of appropriating Fion, or Fingal, to themſelves. He concludes the poem with this reflection:


Na fagha ſe comhthróm nan n arm,

Erragon Mac Annir nan lann glas

'San n'Albin ni n' abairtair Triath

Agus ghlaoite an n'Fhiona as.


“Had Erragon, ſon of Annir of gleaming ſwords, avoided the equal conteſt of arms, (ſingle combat,) no chief ſhould have afterward been numbered in Albion, and the heroes of Fion ſhould no more be named.”


The next poem that falls Under our obſervation is “Cath-cabhra,” or “The Death of Oſcar.” This piece is founded on the ſame ſtory which we have in the firſt book of Temora. So little thought the author of Cath-cabhra of making Oſcar his countryman, that in the courſe of two hundred lines, of which the poem conſiſts, he puts the following expreſſion thrice in the mouth of the hero:


Albin an ſa d'roina m'arch. —

Albion, where I was born and bred.


The poem contains almoſt all the incidents in the firſt book of Temora. In one circumſtance the bard differs materially from Oſſian. Oſcar, after he was mortally wounded by Cairbar, was carried by his people to a neighboring hill which commanded a proſpect of the ſea. A fleet appeared at a diſtance, and the hero exclaims with joy,


Loingeas mo ſhean-athair at' an

'S iad a tiächd le cabhair chugain,

O Albin na n'ioma ſtuagh.


“It is the fleet of my grandfather coming with aid to our field, from Albion of many waves!” The teſtimony of this bard is ſufficient to confute the idle fictions of Keating and O'Flaherty, for, though he is far from being ancient, it is probable he flouriſhed a full century before theſe hiſtorians. He appears, however, to have been a much better Chriſtian than chronologer; for Fion, though he is placed two centuries before St. Patrick, very devoutly recommends the ſoul of his grandſon to his Redeemer.

“Duan a Gharibh Mac-Starn” is another Iriſh poem in great repute. The grandeur of its images, and its propriety of ſentiment, might have induced me to give a tranſlation of it, had I not ſome expectations, which are now over, of ſeeing it in the collection of the Iriſh Oſſian's Poems, promiſed twelve years ſince to the public. The author deſcends ſometimes from the region of the ſublime to low and indecent deſcription; the laſt of which, the Iriſh tranſlator, no doubt, will chooſe to leave in the obſcurity of the original. In this piece Cuthullin is uſed with very little ceremony, for he is oft called the “dog of Tara,” in the county of Meath. This ſevere title of the redoubtable Cuthullin, the moſt renowned of Iriſh champions, proceeded from the poet's ignorance of etymology. Cu, “voice” or commander, ſignifies alſo a dog. The poet choſe the laſt, as. the moſt noble appellation for his hero.

The ſubject of the poem is the ſame with that of the epic poem of Fingal. Caribh Mac-Starn is the ſame with Oſſian's Swaran, the ſon of Starno. His ſingle combats with, and his victory over, all the heroes of Ireland, excepting the “celebrated dog of Tara,” i. e. Cuthullin, afford matter for two hundred lines of tolerable poetry. Cribh's progreſs in ſearch of Cuthullin, and his intrigue with the gigantic Emir-bragal, that hero's wife, enables the poet to extend his piece to four hundred lines. This author, it is true, makes Cuthullin a native of Ireland: the gigantic Emir-bragal he calls the “guiding- ſtar of the women of Ireland.” The property of this enormous lady I ſhall not diſpute, with him or any other. But as he ſpeaks with great tenderneſs of the “daughters of the convent,” and throws out ſome hints againſt the Engliſh nation, it is probable he lived in too modern a period to be intimately acquainted with the genealogy of Cuthullin.

Another Iriſh Oſſian, for there were many, as appears from their difference in language and ſentiment, ſpeaks very dogmatically of Fion Mac Comnal, as an Iriſhman. Little can be ſaid for the judgment of this poet, and leſs for his delicacy of ſentiment. The hiſtory of one of his epiſodes may, at once, ſtand as a ſpecimen of his want of both. Ireland, in the days of Fion, happened to be threatened with an invaſion by three great potentates, the kings of Lochlin, Sweden, and France. It is needleſs to inſiſt upon the impropriety of a French invaſion of Ireland; it is ſufficient to me to be faithful to the language of my author. Fion, upon receiving intelligence of the intended invaſion, ſent Ca-olt, Oſſian, and Oſcar, to watch the bay in which it was apprehended the enemy was to land. Oſcar was the worſt choice of a ſcout that could be made; for, brave as he was, he had the bad property of very often falling aſleep on his poſt, nor was it poſſible to awake him, without cutting off one of his fingers, or daſhing a large ſtone againſt his head. When the enemy appeared, Oſcar, very unfortunately, was aſleep. Oſſian and Ca-olt conſulted about the method of wakening him, and they at laſt fixed on the ſtone as the leſs dangerous expedient —


Gun thog Caoilte a chlach, nach gan,

Agus a n' aighai' chiean gun bhuail;

Tri mil an tulloch gun chri', &c.


“Ca-olt took up a heavy ſtone, and ſtruck it againſt the hero's head. The hill ſhook for three miles, as the ſtone rebounded and rolled away.” Oſcar roſe in wrath, and his father gravely deſired him to ſpend his rage on his enemies, which he did to ſo good purpoſe, that he ſingly routed a whole wing of their army. The confederate kings advanced, notwithſtanding, till they came to a narrow paſs poſſeſſed by the celebrated Ton-ioſal. This name is very ſignificant of the ſingular property of the hero who bore it. Tonioſal, though brave, was ſo heavy and unwieldy, that when he ſat down it took the whole force of a hundred men to ſet him upright on his feet again. Luckily for the preſervation of Ireland, the hero happened to be ſtanding when the enemy appeared, and he gave ſo good an amount of them, that Fion, upon his arrival, found little to do but to divide the ſpoil among his ſoldiers.

All theſe extraordinary heroes, Fion, Oſſian, Oſcar, and Ca-olt, ſays the poet, were


Siol Erin na gorm lánn.

The ſons of Erin of blue ſteel.


Neither ſhall I much diſpute the matter with him; he has my conſent alſo to appropriate to Ireland the celebrated Ton-ioſal. I ſhall only ſay that they are different perſons from thoſe of the ſame name in the Scots Poems; and that, though the ſtupendous valor of the firſt is ſo remarkable, they have not been equally lucky with the latter, in their poet. It is ſomewhat extraordinary that Fion, who lived ſome ages before St. Patrick, ſwears like a very good Chriſtian.


Air an Dia do chum gach caſe.

By God who ſhaped every caſe.


It is worthy of being remarked, that, in the line quoted, Oſſian, who lived in St. Patrick's days, ſeems to have underſtood ſomething of the Engliſh, a language not then ſubſiſting. A perſon more ſanguine for the honor of his country than I am, might argue from this circumſtance, that this pretendedly Iriſh Oſſian was a native of Scotland; for my countrymen are univerſally allowed to have an excluſive right to the ſecond ſight.

From the inſtances given, the reader may form a complete idea of the Iriſh compoſitions concerning the Fiona. The greateſt part of them make the heroes of Fion,


Siol Albin a n'nioma caoile.

The race of Albion of many firths.


The reſt make them natives of Ireland. But the truth is, that their authority is of little conſequence on either ſide. From the inſtances I have given, they appear to have been the work of a very modern period. The pious ejaculations they contain, their alluſions to the manners of the times, fix them to the fifteenth century. Had even the authors of theſe pieces avoided all alluſions to their own times, it is impoſſible that the poems could paſs for ancient in the eyes of any perſon tolerably converſant with the Iriſh tongue. The idiom is ſo corrupted, and ſo many words borrowed from the Engliſh, that the language muſt have made conſiderable progreſs in Ireland before the poems were written.

It remains now to ſhow how the Iriſh bards began to appropriate the Scottiſh Oſſian and his heroes, to their own country. After the Engliſh conqueſt, many of the natives of Ireland, averſe to a foreign yoke, either actually were in a ſtate of hoſtility with the conquerors, or, at leaſt, paid little regard to government. The Scots, in thoſe ages, were often in open war, and never in cordial friendſhip, with the Engliſh. The ſimilarity of manners and language, the traditions concerning their common origin, and, above all, their having to do with the ſame enemy, created a free and friendly intercourſe between the Scottiſh and Iriſh nations. As the cuſtom of retaining bards and ſenachies was common to both, ſo each, no doubt, had formed a ſyſtem of hiſtory, it matters not how much ſoever fabulous, concerning their reſpective origin. It was the natural policy of the times to reconcile the traditions of both nations together, and, if poſſible, to deduce them from the ſame original ſtock.

The Saxon manners and language had, at that time, made great progreſs in the ſouth of Scotland. The ancient language, and the traditional hiſtory of the nation, became confined entirely to the inhabitants of the Highlands, then falling, from ſeveral concurring circumſtances, into the laſt degree of ignorance and barbariſm. The Iriſh, who, for ſome ages before the conqueſt, had poſſeſſed a competent ſhare of that kind of learning which then prevailed in Europe, found it no difficult matter to impoſe their own fictions on the ignorant Highland ſenachies. By flattering the vanity of the Highlanders with their long liſt of Hermonian kings and heroes, they, without contradiction, aſſumed to themſelves the character of being the mother-nation of the Scots of Britain. At this time, certainly, was eſtabliſhed that Hibernian ſyſtem of the original of the Scots, which afterward, for want of any other, was univerſally received. The Scots of the low country, who, by loſing, the language of their anceſtors, loſt, together with it, their national traditions.. received implicitly the hiſtory of their country from Iriſh refugees, or from Highland ſenachies, perſuaded over into the Hibernian ſyſtem.

Theſe circumſtances are far from being ideal. We have remaining many particular traditions which bear teſtimony to a fact of itſelf abundantly probable. What makes the matter inconteſtible is, that the ancient traditional accounts of the genuine origin of the Scots, have been handed down without interruption. Though a few ignorant ſenachies might be perſuaded out of their own opinion by the ſmoothneſs of an Iriſh tale, it was impoſſible to eradicate, from among the bulk of the people, their own national traditions. Theſe traditions afterward ſo much prevailed, that the Highlanders continue totally unacquainted with the pretended Hibernian extract of the Scotch nation. Ignorant chronicle writers, ſtrangers to the ancient language of their country, preſerved only from failing to the ground ſo improbable a ſtory.

This ſubject, perhaps, is purſued farther than it deſerves; but a diſcuſſion of the pretenſions of Ireland was become in ſome meaſure neceſſary. If the Iriſh poems concerning the Fiona ſhould appear ridiculous, it is but juſtice to obſerve, that they are ſcarcely more ſo than the poems of other nations at that period. On other ſubjects, the bards of Ireland have diſplayed a genius for poetry. It was alone in matters of antiquity that they were monſtrous in their fables. Their love-ſonnets, and their elegies on the death of perſons worthy or renowned, abound with ſimplicity, and a wild harmony of numbers. They became more than an atonement for their errors in every other ſpecies of poetry. But the beauty of theſe ſpecies depends ſo much on a certain curioſa filicitas of expreſſion m the original, that they muſt appear much to diſadvantage in another language.





War. de antiq. Hybern. prae. p. 1. 


In Faulkner's Dublin Journal, of the 1ſt December, 1761, appeared the following Advertiſement:


Speedily will be publiſhed, by a gentleman of this kingdom,

who hath been, for ſome time paſt employed in tranſlating and writing Hiſtorical Notes to

Finegal, a Poem,

Originally wrote in the Iriſh or Erſe language. In the preface to which, the tranſlator,

who is a perfect maſter of the Iriſh tongue, will give an account of the manners and cuſtoms of antient Iriſh or Scotch; and, therefore, moſt humbly interests the public, to wait for his edition, which will appear in a ſhorttime, as he will ſet forth all the blunders and abſurdities in the edition now printing in London, and ſhew the ignorance of the Engliſh tranſlator, in his knowledge

of Iriſh grammar, not underſtanding any part of that accidence.