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638
[GAELIC LITERATURE
CELT

published by the Highland Society of London in 1807. This MS., however, was revised and transcribed by Ross and afterwards destroyed, so that we are ignorant of its nature. The Highland Society also instituted an inquiry into the whole question, but their conclusions were somewhat negative. They succeeded in establishing that the characters introduced by Macpherson were familiar in the Highlands and that Ossianic ballads really existed, which Macpherson had utilized. Macpherson’s claims still found ardent advocates, such as Clark, in the ’seventies, but the question was finally disposed of in papers by Alexander Macbain (1885) and L.C. Stern (1895). We can here only summarize briefly the main lines of argument. (1) Macpherson’s Ossian is full of reminiscences of Homer, Milton and the Hebrew prophets. (2) He confuses the Ulster and the Fenian heroic cycles in unpardonable fashion. (3) The Gaelic text of 1807 only represents one-half of the English versions (11 poems out of 22 poems). Some Gaelic fragments from different pens appeared prior to 1807, but these differ considerably from the “official” version. (4) In the Gaelic text of 1807 the version of the passage from Temora is quite different from that published in 1763. (5) Macpherson’s Gaelic is full of offences against idiom and unnaturally strained language. (6) The names Morven and Selma are entirely of his own invention (see also Macpherson, James). As a result of the stir caused by Macpherson’s work a number of men set about collecting the genuine popular literature of the Highlands. A few years before the appearance of Fingal, Jeremy Stone, a schoolmaster at Dunkeld, had collected ten Ossianic ballads and published one of them in an English versified translation. For this collection see a paper by D. Mackinnon in the Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness, vol. xiv. pp. 314 ff. Unfortunately other persons were led to follow Macpherson’s example. The chief of these imitators were (1) John Clark, who in 1778 published, along with several others, an English poem Mordubh, later translated into Gaelic by Gillies; (2) R. Macdonald, son of Alexander Macdonald, who is the author of The Wish of the Aged Bard; (3) John Smith of Campbeltown (d. 1807), author of fourteen Ossianic poems styled Seandàna, published in English in 1780 and in Gaelic in 1787; (4) D. MacCallum of Arisaig, who in 1821 published Collath and a complete Mordubh “by an ancient bard Fonar.”

We have now reviewed in turn the greatest writers of the Scottish Highlands. The men we have dealt with created a kind of tradition which others have attempted to carry on. Ewen Maclachlan (1775-1822), the first transcriber of Later poets. the Dean’s Book, was assistant librarian of King’s College and rector of the grammar school of Aberdeen. Amongst other things he translated the greater part of seven books of Homer’s Iliad into Gaelic heroic verse, and he also had a large share in the compilation of the Gaelic-English part of the Highland Society’s Dictionary. A number of Gaelic poems were published by him in 1816. These consist of poems of nature, e.g. Dàin nan Aimsirean, Dàn mu chonaltradh, Smeòrach Chloinn-Lachuinn, and of a well-known love-song, the Ealaidh Ghaoil. William Ross (1762-1790), a schoolmaster at Gairloch, is the typical Highland poet of the tender passion, and he is commonly represented as having gone to an early grave in consequence of unrequited affection. His finest compositions are Feasgar Luain and Moladh na h-òighe Gaelich. Another exquisite song Cuachag nan Craobh, is usually attributed to this poet, but it seems to go back to the beginning of the 18th century. A fifth edition of Ross’s poems appeared in 1902. The most popular writer of sacred poems after Buchanan is undoubtedly Peter Grant, a Baptist minister in Strathspey, whose Dàin Spioradail (first published in 1809) reached a twentieth edition in 1904, Sweetness, grace and simplicity are the characteristics which have endeared him to the heart of the Gael. Two other well-known hymn-writers spent their lives in Nova Scotia—James Macgregor (1759-1830) and John Maclean, a native of Tiree. The compositions of the latter have been published under the title Clarsach na Coille (Glasgow, 1881). But John Morrison (1790-1852), the poet-blacksmith of Rodel, Harris, is the most worthy of the name of successor to Buchanan. His works have been carefully edited in two volumes by George Henderson (2nd edition, 1896). His poems are remarkably musical and imaginative. Two of the most characteristic are An Iondruinn and Tha duin’ òg agus seann duìn’ agam. William Livingston or MacDhunleibhe (1808-1870) was a native of Islay. He received scarcely any education, and was apprenticed as a tailor, but he early made his way to the mainland. He was ever a fierce Anglophobe, and did his best to make up for the deficiencies of his early training. He published in English a Vindication of the Celtic Character, and attempted to issue a History of Scotland in parts. His poems, which have been at least twice published (1858, 1882), are equally powerful in the expression of ruthless fierceness and tearful sorrow. In Fios thun a’ Bhaird he sings pathetically of the passing of the older order in Islay, and another powerful poem entitled Duan Geall deals with the campaign of the Highlanders under Sir Colin Campbell in the Crimea. Livingston’s contemporary, Evan Maccoll (1808-1898), the son of a small farmer on Lochfyneside, in his early years devoured eagerly all the English literature and Gaelic lore that came in his way. In 1836 he issued a volume of songs called the Mountain Minstrel, containing his productions in Gaelic and English. Two years later two volumes appeared, one entirely in Gaelic, styled Clarsach nam Beann, the other in English under the old title. A third edition of the Gaelic collection was published in 1886. Maccoll acted for many years as clerk in the custom-house at Liverpool, and afterwards he filled a similar post at Kingston, Canada. He has been called the Moore of Highland song. His spirit is altogether modern, and his poems are much nearer the Lowland type than those of the older bards. Among his best-known pieces are Bàs Mairi and Duanag Ghaoil. We can do no more than mention the names of John Maclachlan of Rahoy (1804-1874), James Munro (1794-1870), well known as a grammarian, Dugald Macphail (b. 1818), Mrs Mary Macpherson, Angus Macdonald (1804-1874), Mrs Mary Mackellar (1834-1890) and Neil Macleod (b. 1843), author of a popular collection Clarsach an Doire (1st ed., 1883; 3rd ed., 1904). Neil Macleod is also the writer of the popular song An Gleann’s an robh mi òg. Others whom we cannot mention here are known as the authors of one or more songs which have become popular. It is natural to compare the state of affairs at the beginning of the 20th century with that obtaining in 1800. In the dawn of the 19th century every district in the Highlands had its native poet, whilst a century later not a single Gaelic bard of known reputation existed anywhere within its borders. It is only too evident that the new writers prefer English to Gaelic as a medium of literature, partly because they know it better, but also because in it they appeal to a far wider public.

It will have been observed that we have said nothing about prose works written in Gaelic. Original Gaelic prose is conspicuous by its absence. The first printed work is the translation of Knox’s Liturgy by Bishop Carsewell, Prose writers. published in 1567 (reprinted in 1873). Calvin’s Catechism is said to have been issued in 1631. The Psalms and Shorter Catechism appeared in 1659, while two other psalters saw the light before the end of the century, one by Kirke (1684), the other issued by the Synod of Argyll (1694). The language of all these publications may, however, be termed Irish. Apart from reprints of the catechism and psalter, the only other Gaelic matter which appeared in print before 1750 were Kirke’s Irish version of the Bible in Roman type with a vocabulary (1690), and the Vocabulary by Alexander Macdonald (1741). But from the middle of the 18th century translations of the works of English religious writers streamed from the various presses. Alleine, Baxter, Boston, Bunyan, Doddridge and Jonathan Edwards were all prime favourites, and their works have gone through many editions. Apart from a well-meant but wholly inadequate version of Schiller’s Tell, the only non-religious work which can be termed literature existing in a Gaelic translation is a portion of the Arabian Nights, though fragments of other classics such as Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare have appeared in magazines. The one-sided character of Gaelic literature, in addition to exercising a baneful influence on Highland character, has in the