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SCOTTISH AND IRISH LITERATURE.
THE LAST SIGHS OF A CELTIC STORM.
WHEN shipwrecks occur, and the changes as they undergo are seldom weighty and valuable portions of the of an important or radical character. cargo go down to the depths of the Many romantic fictions have had their sea, the lighter and comparatively little fireside audiences, and their duworthless articles float, and drift ration for shorter or longer seasons, hither and thither till, perhaps, most and are now no more known than if of them reach land and are recovered. they never existed ; but they were It is so with the literature of coun- either imitations of others known to tries—at least, such literature as has be in possession of the general ear, or not been committed to writing, and they were destitute of a strong hold preserved in libraries. The know- on human aspirations and sympaledge of current events, and the re- thies, or else, devoid of fancy-such collection of what passed half a cen- an exercise of fancy, at least, as is tury before, and the information re- under the control of sound judgment. ceived from fathers and grandfathers, Such as these seldom outlived a geare lost by degrees, till what was neration. But see how buoyant the once certainty, or next to certainty, blithe and
well appointed barquesbecomes a tradition. The tradition, “Puss in Boots,"
**** Little Red Riding if attended with unusual circum- Hood,” “ Whittington and his Cat, stances, ends in a legend, in which and other everlasting household state it is sure to possess a longer vi- stories, have ridden unharmed over tality. Very little would be known the rough waves, and through the in our days of the last wars of our storms of man's existence, since the northern chiefs, nor even of the Jaco- infancy of time.* bite battles and sieges, had not their It would be an interesting experimemory been preserved in written ment, if some person with the requiaccounts. Old people, pow living, have site taste, and sufficient time and some notion of the occurrences of '98, means, would traverse the length and as heard from their fathers or their breadth of England, in order to ascerfathers' contemporaries. They may tain if the universal folk's stories relate these to their children of 1863, have passed altogether away from the but will fail, except in very few in- minds of the populace, or which of stances, to communicate any interest thein are still preserved. Cireumto the narrative ; and these, in their stances may occasion a dearth of turn, will be unable or unwilling to these fireside recreations in this or mention to the young folk of 1900 that locality, but the telling and hearany more than a dim tradition of that ing of such creations of the imaginaterrible summer; and if any further tion and intellect seem a want inhecuriosity be, for a wonder, evinced by rent in humanity; and if entirely forsome few model boys or girls, they gotten or laid aside, something of a will be referred to the faded and dry kindred nature would be sure to reoutlines to be found in the narratives place them. of Edward Hay, or the Rev. J. Bentley Readers of the UNIVERSITY for Gordon, written soon after the event. the last two years cannot be supposed
Very different is the fate of pure ignorant of the stories, common to all fiction, or some ancient fact, coloured the Aryan nations, that are still to be and enlarged, and invested with un- heard at our Irish firesides, as well as earthly properties. These retain their those peculiar in some degree to peohold on the memory of generation ple of Celtic blood, or using varieties after generation, especially if con- of the Celtic language. Several of veyed in a poetic shape, and such these latter have appeared, either
* It is probable that the inventors of our household stories had very little trouble in bringing them to completion; but, still, each man must have been a born poet or romancer. The most learned, and studious, and imaginative man of our own or any other time, taking the persons of these dramas in hands, would, probably, find it impossible to im. prove the narratives.
separately or in collections, the most all posterior to the publication of Ossian's comprehensive being the volumes of Poems' by Macpherson, and so far as we the Ossianic Society, now in course of are yet informed by the Irish editors, the publication. The antiquity, of some
Ossianic poems published by them, stand in of these Fenian stories has been con
no better position in regard to their antitested. The poems and tales in the quity or authenticity than those of Mac
pherson.”+ first and second volumes are published from a collection made at Port- Irish as we are, we can hardly pity law, in Waterford, in 1780, by Lau- the president and council of the Ossirence Foran, a schoolmaster. Those anic Society for any annoyance they of the third volume, including the may have experienced from this tủ "Flight of Grainne and Diarmaidh,” quoque buffet. They had at their disare from the same source, and a ma- posal the l'ain Bo Cuailgne, the nuscript of Martin Griffin of Kil- queen of Celtic stories, existing in a rush, in Clare, re-written, in 1842-3, manuscript written before 1106° (The from copies made in 1749.
The Leabhar na Vidhre). They also had fourth volume is made up from the the Agallamh na Seanorach--(Diasame sources, and MSS. collected by logues of the Sages), in the book of Rev. Thomas Hill, of Cooreclure, in Lismore-fourteenth century. Yet 1812. Mr. O'Curry, as anxious for they neglected these subjects which the literary glory of his country as
would leave no door open for cavil to man could be, acknowledged that enter at, and selected others, probably there were only eleven genuine as ancient, but only to be found in Ossianic poems in manuscripts earlier MSS. of yesterday. They say, and than the fifteenth century. So, from probably with reason, that these pothese circumstances, it might appear pular tales and poems already pubthat the mutual objurgations of the lished, have been always in the peoScotch and Irish antiquaries, conse- ple's minds, and on their tongues, and quent on the faux pas of' James that the manuscripts to which they MacPherson, had much of a pot-and- were in succession intrusted, being in kettle character about them.
continual requisition at the winter's The Scottish literati not being able hearth, at the smith's forge, or on to number many ancient manuscripts summer evenings under the large tree in their branch of the Gaelic, and overshadowing the bawnoge, while James MacPherson having taken the read aloud to the crowd by schoolliberty to perpetrate a shameless for- master or rustic Seanachy—could not, gery, some hot and ill-tempered scho- from constant turning over and thumblars on our side of the water, forget- ing, last as long as if carefully laid by ting the ties of blood and of kindred on a library shelf. The consequence language, have nearly gone the length was, that they were worn out in sucof saying that there were no ancient cession, and frequent copies were manuscript remains, or nearly none, made, mistakes creeping in, and anto be found among the people speak cient forms of spelling gradually moing the Erse dialect of the Celtic, and, dernized. consequently, that the author of A still stronger argument for the Fingal was altogether destitute of remote antiquity of these inartificial original materials from which to legends, is afforded by the publication mould his two epics and his shorter of the book quoted in the last note. prose poems. And now their literary James M'Gregorwhose ancestral antagonists beyond the Sea of Moyle* home was Tullichmullin (Bald, broad make the retort uncourteous. Refer- mound), in the neighbourhood of ring to the dates of the manuscripts Glenlyon, was Dean of Lismore (great used by the Ossianic Society (given earthen fort), an island in Loch Linnhé, above), they say S
in Argyle, from 1514 to 1551. He “No information whatever is given as to employed part of his leisure time in the sources from whence these respectable copying into a quarto volume of 311 collectors obtained their poems. They are pages, in the Roinan current hand of
* The waters adjoining the N. E. of Ireland.
† “ The Dean of Lismore's Book, a Collection of Gaelic Poetry of the 16th Century, edited and translated by Rev. Thomas M‘Lauchlan and Wm. F. Skene, Esq.” Edmonston and Douglas : Edinburgh. Introduction, page lxii.
the time, a very motley collection- “ Innis duinn a Phadruig an onoir is leiun; legends attributed to Oisin, dialogues Am bheil neamh co h-aighear aig maithibh
Feinn Eirinn?" between St. Patrick and himself, (the saint being here termed Patrick Mac
as a careful and skilful scribe would Alpine, a corruption of Mac Calph- have written his lines, he put downurn); his laments over the dead chiefs
“ Innis downe a phadrik nonor a leyvin of the Feinné (Fianna) Eiriann; eulo
A wil neewa gi hayre ag mathew fane gies on Irish kings and chiefs by Irish
eyrrin” bards; ditto on Highland chiefs, by Highland bards ; genealogies; moral The sense beingand religious poems ; a version of the “Tell us, O Patrick, what honour is ours; ill-cut mantle of the Arthurian Cycle; Do the Feinné of Ireland now dwell and even a satire on women, by Gerald
in heaven?" Fitzgerald, fourth Earl of Desmond.
The editors of this curious and valuThese subjects, all in the Gaelic dia- able work, however willing they may lect of the Highlands, are varied by be to claim Fionn, and his warriors measurements of Noah's Ark, Chro- and bards, for the glens and hills of nicles in Latin, the ages of the world, West Scotland, have faithfully given also in Latin ; the blind bard O'Daly's the sense of all the passages connectadvice to Chiefs ; a dialogue between ing their wild existence with Irish loDougal and his wether; aphorisms; calities, and thus have confirmed the remarks, in Scotch, on the three peril- genuineness and antiquity of the tales ous days in each season ; lists of the and poems in the Dublin collection. Scottish kings ; astronoinical notes ; In many cases the pieces of this gaand lines on Alexander the Great.*
thering are only represented in a fragThe uncial letters used in Irish mentary form in the Dean's book, and manuscripts and printed books were, in one instance, passages from four of in the early ages of Christianity, gene- the Irish poems are dove-tailed so as ral among the converted nations of to form one of the Highland ones. Europe, and may be still met with in Many of the pieces begin as in those Anglo-Saxon works. They were a preserved here, with a dialogue bedebased variety of the Roman type, tween St. Patrick and Oisin, in which introduced by St. Patrick and the the querulous bard sorely tries the other missionaries. The Dean did not patience of the saint. The third piece make use of this peculiar letter. He records a hunting on Sleeve-na-mon filled his book with the ordinary cur- (Sliabh na i-Bhan fian, Hill of the sive hand of his day, and used a pho- fair women), in which the bravery of netic variety of orthography. In the the chiefs is thus extolledGaelic language, the consonants at
“ There was no Fian amongst us all the beginning of words are subject to
Without his fine, soft, flaxen shirt-a change in pronunciation, occasioned
Without his under-coat of soft substance, by the termination of the preceding
Without his mail-coat of brightest steel." word, or used to distinguish the cases of nouns. This change in the At page 20,4 there is a poem the sound is denoted by the prefixing of same in substance as the Battle of another consonant. And if the letter Knoc an Air, in fourth volume of affected is not the first one of the the Ossianic Transactions. The falls word, a dot is placed over it, thus of Essaroe (Fall of Red Hugh), near giving it the aspiration. Instead of Ballyshannon, being mentioned, the this system, the Dean, in place of the editor thinks it must refer to the Fall eclipsed letter and its prefix, placed of Essaroy, in Lochaber, especially as the one that expressed the sound the name was not given to the casreally uttered, according to the pro- cade on the Erne for many years after nunciation of his country at that day. the death of Oisin, circa 300 A.D. Thus, for
But if ever that bard enjoyed exist* There being in existence such a volume as the “ Book of Lismore” (mentioned in a former paper in the UNIVERSITY), discovered in the castle of that name in Waterford, and also an Irish dignitary of the Church, deriving his title from the territory ruled by the same castle, many readers have been led into mistakes on the subject of the work now under notice.
† It would have been convenient to readers, if the learned editors had taken the trouble to furnish titles to the several poems.
ence, and sang his extravagant songs, ridge. If the great Mac Callum Mohr, his successors of the twelfth and thir- of Argyle, and Mac Dermot, Prince teenth centuries, or earlier, would be of Coolavin, in Sligo, contend for the careful to mention the waterfall near honour of being the descendant of the our western coast by the name it bore Brown Diarmaid, they may do so with in their day. Mr. Skene himself has our entire consent. furnished an additional reason why The same Allan Mac Rorie follows the cascade of Red Hugh could not with an account of the battle of be the one in Lochaber, as it is fifteen Gavra, in Meath, and the death of miles from the sea, and in the poem Osgur, son of Oisin, in the same fight. its vicinity to the ocean is plainly im- He and the author of a poem on the plied.
same subject, in Vol. I. of Ossianic The death of Diarmaidh the Brown, Transactions (see UNIVERSITY for by the boar of Ben Gulbin, in Sligo, November last), appear to have copied related in the third volume of the some older poem, as the images and Ossianic Transactions, is given in the expressions in many parts of the comDean's book as sung by Allan Mac position are identical. Rorie, a Highland bard; the hill on One of the most interesting of the which the green-cropped pig destroyed poems (some parts evidently defechim bearing the same name, but lying tive), attributed to Caoilté Mac Ronan, in Perthshire. Mr. Skene concludes relates his own adventures in an from this, and the circumstance of attempt to rescue his chief, Fionn, several hills, and glens, and streams from the hands of Cormac, King of in the Highlands being pointed out as Ireland. To effect this, he was obliged the scenes of Fenian adventure, that to bring to Teamhor a couple of all “Scotland possessed Fenian legends the different animals in Ireland, e.g., and Ossianic poetry, derived from an
" Two otters from the Boyne; independent source, and a Fenian
Two wild ducks from Lough Sheelin ; topography equally genuine” with that
Two crows from Slieve Guillin ; of Ireland. We are sure that if our Two gulls from the strand of Lough Lee; esteemed Seanachie considers the mat- Two cormorants from Dublin ; ter attentively, he will see the impro- Two grey mice from Limerick.” bability of two neighbouring peoples, who used the same language and But to see full justice done to this were originally of the same stock, in- curious subject, embracing the Fauna venting, independently of each other, of ancient Ireland, let the inquisitive legends of the same character, filled refer to a paper in this Magazine for with heroes of the same names, and March, 1854, with notes by Dr. Wilde, dispositions, and relationship to each and translation by the lamented Euother, and these same heroes furnished gene Curry. with two sets of scenery, bearing iden- It is not easy to form a clear idea tical names in both countries. It of the difficulties encountered by the would be a strictly analogous case if Rev. Mr. M‘Lauchlan, in his part of the Dublins, and Londons, and Rich- the joint work. The Dean, as we have monds, and Bostons of the New World, explained, wrote down the pieces in a were named by the founders without style as strange to the eyes of a Gaelic memory of, or reference to, the lov- scholar, as a volume of the Fonetic ingly remembered localities of the Nuz to a reader of Macaulay's Ensalne names in England and Irelanıl
. gland; and to make the matter worse No; there was but one set of mythi- he was not even consistent in his cal heroes, which the Scots of Eirinn strange orthography. and Alba equally reverenced and Then the leaves were in many cherished; and we, the little descen- places much injured, the ink nearly dants of the brave old races, cannot obliterated, and the handwriting most afford to have them weakened and difficult to decipher. He has given divided. In the half-English county on the left-hand page an exact copy of Wexford, near Mount Leinster, of the Dean's labours, in its wild there is a hill called Cullach Diar- spelling and no punctuation; on the maid (Diarmaid's boar), yet no Wex- right-hand page the subject in correct fordian claims the hero with the beauty and pointed Gaelic orthography; and spot as a fellow-countryman, or pre- in another part of the volume a nearly tends that he met his death on that literal translation; but we would have VOL. LXIII.--NO. CCCLXXIII.
preferred finding no attempt at all at once become conscious of his present rhythm in this department.
desolation, and end the conference There was no attempt whatever on with a wild burst of lamentation. the part of the brave old Dean, who Tighernach, a monk of the twelfth we hope (for reasons given in the in- century, who has left us a chronicle troduction), was not in priest's orders, as trustworthy and as dry as an almato remove the action of any legend nac, informs us that all accounts of from its natural place in the old Irish matters previous to the reign of country, or to disfigure the names of Cimbaoth, in the seventh century the localities. Almhain, Fionn's pa- (B.C.), were unworthy of credit. We lace in Kildare, Ben Hedur (Howth), certainly prefer his guidance in the Dundalgin (Dundalk), figure in per- examination of true and false chronifect freedom, and the translator and cles of days comparatively near his the editor act in the same honourable time to that of Mr. Skene, when he and scrupulous spirit.
observes that,“ prior to the year 483, However, Mr. Skene has not held the Irish have, strictly speaking, no the scales in which the literary merits chronological history. of the two kindred families are Let us return to our manuscript. weighed, as steadily as a good Chris- Mr. Skene is unable to tell how it was tian scholar ought. He says that it preserved till some time in last cenis part of Irish history that, after the tury, when it came into the possession battle of Gavra, fought in the end of of the Highland Society of London. the third century, and in which Oşgur This body presented it to the Highand most of the Feinné were slain, land Society of Scotland, and it is now Oisin and Caoilté survived to the safe in the Advocate's library. middle of the fifth, and held con- Consequent on the excitement ferences with St. Patrick. Now of caused by the publication of MacPherall the Ossianic heroes, one only, son’s Ossian, in 1762 and 1763, colFionn Mac Cumhail, is mentioned by lections began to be made of Erse any Irish historian of credit; and, as poems and stories. Duncan Kennedy, respects him, the notice is restricted a schoolmaster, made his gatherings to his era, his rank, and the date of in 1778, 1780, from oral recitation ; his death, 285. Oisin, Osgur, Caoilté, and Dr. Smith published his Sean Diarmaid, and Goll, are in all like- Dana (old poems) in 1787. Through lihood, creatures of the imagination Mr. Skene's exertions, several mannof Christian poets and romancers. scripts in the possession of the HighIn order to provide machinery for the land Society, and private persons, commencement of their legends, they have been given up to the custody of represented Oisin as having been car- the Advocates, whose library now ried to the Celtic Elysium under the guards them to the number of sixtyAtlantic, immediately after the fatal five. fight of Gavra, and kept there till the We cannot better close this sketch arrival of St. Patrick in 432. And all than by referring to the causes of the this trouble was incurred, that the close affinity between the Irish and saint and he might be set a-talking, * Highlanders. Our early chroniclers with the result of his losing his tem- relate that a party of Picts, under the per at finding the old heroes under- command of Cathluan, (hence Calevalued by the peaceful man of the donia), finding Erinn in their way Books and Psalter. Then the prudent from Greece, thence migrated to saint, in order to restore him to good- Alban-land, taking several Irish humour, would request him to relate (Scotic rather) ladies with them as some exploits of the Fenians in such wives, and entering into strict allior such a locality. He would com- ance with their new relations by marply, and having worked himself into riage. This occurred several hundred a state of fanatical ecstasy, and come years before the dawn of undoubted to the end of his story, would all at history in Europe, and may be true,
* In one of these unedifying discussions the saint declared (for a good purpose, no doubt), that the wing of the smallest midge could not buzz in Heaven without the knowledge of God. “Very different,” said the crooked disciple, " was it in Almhain; a thousand men might enter in the day, eat, drink, and depart, and yet Fionn take not the slightest notice."