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indicative of the country, has long reigned in the Highlands of that kingdom, in its Lowland districts a mild and more sportive vein of fabling prevails, well adapted to the beautiful and pastoral scenery of that delightful region.
Dr. Beattie has with much felicity of language described these two portions of Scotland, and drawn their discriminative appearances with a masterly pen. With regard to the Highlands, he observes they are a pictoresque, but in general a melancholy country. Long tracts of mountainous desert, covered with dark heath, and often obscured by misty weather; narrow vallies, thinly inhabited, and bounded by precipices resounding with the fall of torrents; a soil so rugged, and a climate so dreary, as in many parts to admit neither the amusements of pasturage, nor the labours of agriculture; the mournful dashing of waves along the friths and lakes that intersect" the country; the portentous noises which every change of the wind, and every increase and diminution of the waters, is apt to raise, in a lonely region, full of echoes, and rocks, and caverns; the grotesque and ghastly appearance of such a landscape by the light of the moon:
Objects like these diffuse a gloom over the fancy, which may be compatible enough with occasional and social merriment, but cannot fail to tincture the thoughts of a native in the hour of silence and solitude. Let it be observed also, that the ancient highlanders of Scotland had hardly any other way
supporting themselves than by hunting, fishing, or war, professions that are continually exposed to fatal accidents. And hence, no doubt, additional horrors would often haunt their solitude, and a deeper gloom overshadow the imagination even of the hardiest native.
66 What then would it be reasonable to expect from the fanciful tribe, from the musicians and poets of such a region? Strains, expressive of joy, tranquillity, or the softer passions? No: their style must have been better suited to their circumstances. And so we find in fact that their music is. The wildest irregularity, appears in its composition: the expression is warlike, and melancholy, and approaches even to the terrible.--And, that their poetry is almost uniformly mournful, and their views of nature dark and dreary, will be allowed, by all who admit of the authenticity of Ossian; and not doubted by any who believe these fragments of highland poetry to be genuine, which many old people, now alive, of that country, remember to have heard in their youth, and were then taught to refer to a pretty high antiquity."*
In the Essay on Gothic superstition we have already observed that the popular creed of the Lowlands of Scotland is nearly, if not altogether similar to the lighter Gothic, for the Picts, in fact, who for eight centuries had possession of the Lowlands were a tribe from the north of Scandinavia; the Saxons emigrated some centuries after from the south, and both spoke a language founded on the Gothic or Scythian. Dropping therefore any further consideration of this species of mythology, we shall confine ourselves to the detail of those traditionary superstitions peculiar to the highlanders, and which, as originating among the Celtæ, the most ancient perhaps of European nations, have no small claim upon our curiosity and attention.
* Beattie on Poetry and Music, p. 169.
These as discoverable in the poems attributed to Ossian and other northern bards of nearly equal supposed antiquity, certainly possess strong marks of the rude society, simple manners, and gloomy credulity of the period to which they have been assigned; for though it be impossible to conceive that poems so elaborate and complete as Fingal and Temora could be transmitted by tradition through fourteen centuries, yet is it very probable that superstitions which appear in some measure to have been the necessary offspring of the climate and country, and which from their wild and terrible nature would make a powerful impression upon the inhabitants, should descend little changed through a series of barbarous ages; these have been seized upon by the fabricator of Ossian with effect, for notwithstanding the vicissitudes and progress of civilization, it may, I believe, with truth be asserted, that little more than a century ago, nearly all the superstitions of the Fingalian æra existed in full force in the Highlands of Scotland, and consequently could not escape the researches of a poet desirous of tinging his productions with the colours of antiquity. The highlander who fed his cattle
on the dark and unfrequented heath, or on the side of some storm-beat mountain, and who was frequently compelled to spend the night exposed to all the inclemencies of the weather, listened with the same emotion to the whistling of the winds, or the dashing of the torrents, saw the same apparitions and meteors, and heard the same portentous shriekings of the spirits of the night, as the hunters of woody Morven, and perhaps even now, amid the less frequented parts of the Highlands, and on the lone shores of the romantic Hebrides, still linger the awful relics of the celtic creed.
With bold imagination warm,
Rear on the hill his cloud-built throne,
The spirits of the dead repair Nightly to chaunt the song that speaks of worlds unknown.
As, according to some historians, Odin was the leader of his tribe from the frontiers of Asiatic Sarmatia into Sweden, so was Fingal probably, the conductor of a tribe of Celts from Ireland into Caledonia, and thus the Fingalian race were to the Scots what the