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Dublin; fee the catalogue of the manuscripts of bishop Usher, communicated by Dr. George Brown, provost of that college, and printed at the end of the Bodleyan catalogue of manuscripts, in which are mentioned, marked 253, 113, a book in the Irish language, which, among others, has an account of the building of the tower of Babel; and the book of Ballymore, the fourth part of which is the History of the Wars of Troy, marked 255, 115. And the Irish poets of our times write in the very fame strain. It is the genius of these people, and their language is susceptible of it more naturally than any other extant. There are numbers of them capable of composing extemporaneous elogiums and poems, of considerable length, upon any subject, surprizingly elegant, and full of fine sentiments; a specimen of such compositions was lately published in English, called Fingall. Now*. upon mentioning this, I must take the liberty of making a short remark upon the opinions of some gentlemen concerning thofe poems: it has been doubted whether they were originally in the Irish tongue, and even positively asserted, that Mr. M'Pherson was himself the author of them. In this sentiment, they have done that ingenious gentleman a very high honour, upon two accounts; the first is, that he must be a very great genius who is capable of being author of a work of so sublime a nature; for no one will deny, that his verses have a true poetic spirit, and that in the most eminent degree; and, secondly, that the stile and manner are truly his own, because it is extreamly different from the poetry of any other nation, that has come to our hands, or even of our own, for many cen4 turies.
turies. And, indeed, from what I have seen and heard among the Irish, in their exhibitions upon this head, I cannot but join this gentleman in ascribing that work to the person he asserts to have been the author; in which, I hope, I do not in the least derogate from his merit, in the spirited translation he has obliged the world with: for, it must be allowed, there are very few who understand that language so perfectly, as to be capable of putting it into English; or if they did, they might not have judgment enough to dress it up so near the idiom of the original as he has done.
But, as a further proof that they are original Irish poems, I am acquainted with a gentleman of Ireland, who has by heart several of the stories, in both Fingall and eTamor, taught him in his youth in that language; who expressed much surprize, when he sound them exactly agreeing with some of thofe Mr. M^Pherson has ktranslated. This gentleman fays, that many of the people in Ireland retain some of these very poems, which were handed down from time immemorial, in many families: and it is remarkable, that this gentleman was in the West Indies during the printing of these poems, from whence he did not return till they were published.
As to the authenticity of the several records now preserved of the Irish History', it cannot be disputed, because they were always submitted to a general inspection and a strict examination, before they were laid up. They are, as I mentioned above, to be seen at this time, and were collected from time to time by above two hundred poets and antiquaries, in the pay of the public. Some of
them, them, especially since the planting of Christianity in Ireland, were written by bijhops and other great men, whofe veracity can hardly be doubted; and it is well known, that the nation was, for a long series of years, accounted an island of learned men; insomuch, that the youth of most of the Ruropean countries resorted to its seminaries for education, in all the branches of literature, and numbers of the learned profesibrs of that kingdom were invited and encouraged into every country of Europe, to teach the sciences and improve their young men, of which mor© hereafter.
Camden, page 970,- of Ireland, fays, "Ireland was "termed Santlorum Patria, &c. for out of Ireland came tl Cœlius Sedulius, a priest, Columba, Columbanus, Caiman, "Aidan, Gallus, Kilian, Maidulph, Brendan, and many "others, celebrated for their holy lives and learning. "Henry of Auxere is to be understood of these monks, in "this address of his to the emperor Carolus Calvus: "What should I speak of Ireland, which, flighting the "dangers by sea, transports great numbers of philofophers "into our country; and the most considerable and emi"nentof these do voluntarily banish themselves, to attend "the most wife Solomon, with respect and obedience?"
Now it can never be suppofed, that all these authors and professors were employed in writing fables, or that the proper inspectors of their works would be impofed upon by fabulous accounts, or mere poetic fiction, from men so well esteemed, and so generously rewarded for their performances; or that they would have the assurance to lay any matters before their judges, that could not stand
the the test of truth; for they made a point of revising tjiesc works with great care, and correcting them with impartiality.
The books of greatest authority, with Dr. Keating, are the Psalter of Tar a; the Psalter of Cajhel\ the Book of Con quess; the Book of Prov'mcialifts, or the Roll of Kings \ the Book of Ages; an Account of the People who lived in the fame Age; the Book of Antiquity, the Book of Etymologies; an Account why the Woods, Hills, Rivers and Lakes in "the Kingdom were distinguished by the Names they bear; the Pedigrees of Women; besides the White Book, and several others which he quotes occasionally in the course of his history. These records, from every consideration, in my opinion, bespeak a particular regard from all lovers of antiquity; being apparently more ancient and authentic than any other, except the yewish; and the reason why these are so well preserved, to our times, besides what I have mentioned of the care of the ancient triennial assembliy, is that they were never totally suppressed by the tyranny of foreign intruders and invaders; for although the Danes gave them great trouble for many years, yet it was impossible, among their ravages, to destroy them all; because, from the care taken to have a number of copies made, and the several hands in which they lay, they were secure from a total destruction, though several may have fallen into the hands of thofe enemies. This is what scarce any other nation can boast of, where the fame methods were not made use of for their preservation; and we do not meet with any accounts of such a national plan being followed for recording ing the history and antiquities of nations; nor such care and diligence used for securing them from the violence of destroying armies, as that pursued by the monarchs and noblemen of Ireland. Other nations, all over Europe, were frequently over-run by Romans, Gauls, Goths, Saxons, Saracens, Moors, &c. who made it a rule to destroy all the -records of the countries they subdued; but Ireland, after the several plantations of colonies, that peopled it, were established and settled in it, was never harrassed by any but the Danes and Norwegians, and they never occupied the inland recesses, to which the antiquaries and bards retired, with the histories and records they were obliged, from their office, to take due care of and preserve; and these were totally driven out and destroyed, in some time, by Brian Boremheu, the monarch.
Let us now see what our author fays of the first peopling of Ireland; to which, as it appears strongly to me, inhabitants came very early by sea to the Northern parts, and, after several ages, from Spain.
It is very remarkable, that the earliest Irish records ave as clofely conformable to Scripture, in the division of the world between the sons of Noah, as they are in other respects, mentioned before; especially is it be considered, that several of them were wrote long before revealed religion was received in Europe, and others compofed and handed down by the bards many centuries before the birth of Christ, and committed to writing in later times. And also, that I find not much faid of Gomer and his issue, in such of them as I have seen: but they derive the first inhabitants that came into Ireland, and indeed every other