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the Scandinavians in the first stage of society, it no longer remains a wonder, that the manners of Caledonia should be equally pure in the same early period. And now every argument above urged for Ossian as a genuine historian has its full weight, without the least counterpoisé. It is true, that Caledonian manners appear from Ossian to have been still more polished and refined than those of Scandinavia ; but that difference may have proceeded from accidents which time has buried in oblivion.
I make no apology for insisting go lárgély on Scandinavian manners; for they tend remarkably to support the credit of Ossian, and conséquently to ascertain a fact not a little interesting, that our forefathers were not such barbarians as they are commonly held to be. All the inhabitants of Britain were of Celtic extraction; and there is reason to believe, that the manners of Caledonia were the manners of every part of the island, before the inhabitants of the plain were enslaved by the Ro
The only circumstance peculiar to the Ca* ledonians, is their mountainous situation : being less exposed to the oppression of foreigners, and farther removed from commerce, they did longer than their southern neighbours preserve their manners pure and untainted.
I have all along considered the poems of Ossian in a historical view merely. In the view of cria ticism they have been examined by a writer of
distinguished taste*; and however bold to enter a field where he hath reaped laurels, I imagine that there still remain some trifles for me to glean. Two of these poems, Fingal and Temora, are regular epic poems; and perhaps the single instances of epic poetry moulded into the form of an opera. We have in these two poeins both the Recitativo and Aria of an Italian opera ; dropped indeed in the translation, from difficulty of imitation. Ossian's poems were all of them composed with a yiew to music ; though in the long poems mentigned, it is probable that the airs only were accompanied with the harp, the recitative being left to the voice. The poems of Ossian are singular in. another respect, being probably the only regular work now remaining that was composed in the hunter-state. Some songs of that early period may possibly have escaped oblivion ; but no other poem of the epic kind. One may advance a step farther, and pronounce, with a high degree of probability, that Fingal and Temora are the only epic poems that ever were composed in that state. How great must have been the talents of the author, beset with every obstruction to genius, the manners of his country alone excepted; a cold unhospitable climate; the face of the country so deformed as scarce to afford a pleasing object; and he himself absolutely illiterate! One may venture
* Dr Blair, Professor of Rhetoric in the College of Edin. burgh.
boldy to affirm, that such a poem as Fingal or Temora never was mposed in any other part of the world, under such disadvantageous circumstance .
Though permanent manners enter not regularly into the present sketch, I am however tempted to add a few words concerning the influence of soil upon the manners of men. The stupidity of the inhabitants of New Holland, mentioned above, is occasioned by the barrenness of their soil, yielding nothing that can be food for man or beast. Day. and night they watch the ebb of the tide, in order to dig small fish out of the sand ; and sleep in . the intervals, without an hour to spare for any other occupation. People in that condition, must for ever remain ignorant and brutish. Were all the earth barren like New Holland, all men would be ignorant and brutish, like the inhabitants of New Holland. On the other hand, were every portion of this earth so fertile as spontaneously to feed all its inhabitants, which is the golden age figured by poets, what would follow ? Upon the former supposition, man would be a meagre, patient, and timid animal : upon the latter supposition, he would be pampered, lazy, and effeminate. In both cases, he would be stupidly ignorant, and incapable of any manly exertion, whether of mind or body. But the soil of our earth is in general more wisely accommodated to man, its chief inhabitant. It is neither so fertile as to supersede labour, nor so
barren as to require the utmost labour. The laborious occupation of hunting for food, produced originally some degree of industry : and though all the industry of man was at first necessary for procuring food, clothing, and habitation; yet the soil, by skill in agriculture, came to produce plenty with less labour; which to some afforded time for thinking of conveniences. A habit of industry thus acquired, excited many to bestow their leisure hours upon the arts, proceeding from useful arts to fine arts, and from these to sciences. Wealth, accumulated by industry, has a wonderful influence upon manners : feuds and war, the offspring of wealth, call forth into action friendship, courage, herosim and every social virtue as well as many
selfish vices. How like brutes do we pass our time, without once reflecting on the wisdom of Providence visible even in the soil we tread upon!
Diversity of manners, at the same time, enters into the plan of Providence, as well as diversity of talents, of feelings, and of opinions. Our Maker hath given us a taste for variety; and he hath provided objects in plenty for its gratification. Some soils, naturally fertile, require little labour : some soils, naturally barren, require much labour. But the advantages of the latter are more than sufficient to counterbalance its barrenness: the inhabitants are sober, industrious, vigorous; and consequently courageous, as far as courage depends on bodily
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strength * The disadvantages of a fertile soil, on the contrary, are more than sufficient to counterbalance its adyantages : the inhabitants are ren: dered indolent, weak, and cowardly, Hindostan may seem to be an exception ; for though it be extremely fertile, the people are industrious, and exporț manufactures in great abundance at a very low price. But Hindostan properly is not an exception, The Hindoos, who are prohibited by their religion to kill any living creature, must aban, don to animals for food a large proportion of land; which obliges them to cultivate what remains with double industry, in order to procure food for themselves. The populousness of their country contributes also to make them industrious. Arragon was once the most limited monarchy in Europe, England not excepted: the barrenness of the soil was the cause, which rendered the people hardy and courageous. In a preamble to one of their laws, the stạtes declare, that, were they not more free
* That a barren country is a great spur to industry, appears from Venice and Genoa in Italy, Nuremberg in Germany, and Limoges in France. The sterility of Holland requi: red all the industry of its inhabitants for procuring the necessa, ries of life; and by that means chiefly they became remarkably industrious, Cambden ascribes the success of the town of Halifax in the cloth manufacture, to its barren soil. A sect of pampered Englishmen, it is to be hoped not many in number, who center all their devotion in a luxurious board, despise Scotland for its plain fare; and in bitter contumely, characterize it as a poor country.