Immagini della pagina
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

to tieze Uisia10 under "Sanuis much Izuiar ini minute inn i Te. it ca e la lu irimet menam. ten rüya 11 ma umns I Just Ines is vnut je en us. Be *) evininni var numurnis vam v je persed to iu eru:. TTV ve zmes I As of 1991 - v12 27 nr 3 *H'Urr Files irtuang: mi viem unentzi uns or pleasure 23.4 metri i VI. De Isetia dan the agren ir at mi em Cof the Brito BSCR aas: vt De Vis Zeitler came fra innCaner, une lowerin: Deransity to impure, Drinig erman.

The errtt. sent, sare zemīt tos urgent peout and daily dries; aut in their beves were presented what was remained past ares.

But the chits WOTE winetimes ignorant and careless, and sometimes kept bmxy by turtailence and contention; and one generatúto of ignorance effaces the whole series of unwritten hisunty, Berks are faithful repositories, which may be awhile wyloctor or forgotten; but when they are opened sgain, will again impart their instruction : memory, once interrupted, is not to be recalled. Written learning is a fixed luminary, which, after the cloud that had hidden it loss posed away, is again bright in its pmper station. Tomlition is but a meteor, which, if once it falls, cannot In rekimleil.

11 Arms to be universally supposed, that much of the Woww history was preserved by the bards, of whom one is muid ... vobecni reuined by every great family. After www mars were some of my first inquiries ; and I recon mucli answers ns, for awhile, made me please my. wall will my iniciovane of knowledge ; for I had not then Imam low to antimate the narration of a Highlander.

They said that a great family had a bard and a senachi, who were the poet and historian of the house; and an old geutleman told me that he remembered one of each. Here was a dawn of intelligence. Of men that had lived within memory, some certain knowledge might be attained. Though the office had ceased, its effects might continue; the poems might be found, though there was no poet.

Another conversation, indeed, informed me, that the same man was both bard and senachi. This variation - discouraged me; but as the practice might be different in

different times, or at the same time in different families, - there was yet no reason for supposing that I must necessarily sit down in total ignorance.

Soon after I was told by a gentleman, who is generally - acknowledged the greatest master of Hebridian antiqui

ties, that there had, indeed, once been both bards and se1: nachies; and that senachi signified the man of talk, or of

conversation ; but that neither bard nor senachi had existed for some centuries. I have no reason to suppose it

exactly known at what time the custom ceased, nor did it : probably cease in all houses at once. But whenever the

practice of recitation was disused, the works, whether poetical or historical, perished with the authors; for in those times nothing had been written in the Erse language.

Whether the man of talk was an historian, whose office was to tell truth, or a story-teller, like those which were in the last century, and, perhaps, are now among the Irish, whose trade was only to amuse, it now would be

vain to inquire.

[ocr errors]

Most of the domestick offices were, I believe, herediof the tary; and probably the laureate of a clan was always the

son of the last laureate. The history of the race could no iries: otherwise be communicated or retained; but what genius the pit could be expected in a poet by inheritance ?

The nation was wholly illiterate. Neither bards nor Tichos seniachies could write or read; but if they were ignorant,

I had si

The payment of rent in kind has been so long disused in England, that it is totally forgotten. It was practised 110 A JOURNEY TO THE HEBRIDES. there was no danger of detection; they were believed those whose vanity they flattered.

The recital of genealogies, which has been consideri as very efficacious to the preservation of a true series o ancestry, was anciently made when the heir of the family came to manly age. This practice has never subsista within time of memory, nor was much credit due to sub rehearsers, who might obtrude fictitious pedigrees, either to please their master, or to hide the deficiency of their own memories.

Where the chiefs of the Highlands have found the bis tories of their descent, is difficult to tell; for no Erse ga nealogy was ever written. In general this only is evideni, that the principal house of a clan must be very ancient

. and that those must have lived long in a place, of whom it is not known when they came thither.

of Thus hopeless are all attempts to find any traces Highland learning. Nor are their primitive customs and ancient manner of life otherwise than very faintly and wcertainly remembered by the present race.

The peculiarities which strike the native of a commercial country, proceeded, in a great measure, from the want of money. To the servants and dependants that were na domesticks, and, if an estimate be made from the capacity of any of their old houses which I have seen, their domes ticks could have been but few, were appropriated certain portions of land for their support. Macdonald has a piece of ground yet called the bards or senachies’ field. When a beef was killed for the house, particular parts were claimed as fees by the several officers, or workmen. What was the right of each I have not learned. The head belonged to the smith, and the udder of a cow to the piper; the weaver had likewise his particular part; and so many pieces followed these prescriptive claims, that the laird's was at last but little. very lately in the Hebrides, and probably still continues,

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

t only in St. Kilda, where money is not yet known, but

others of the smaller and remoter islands. It were, erbaps, to be desired, that no change in this particular hould have been made. When the laird could only eat ne produce of his lands, he was under the necessity of siding upon them; and when the tenant could not conert his stock into more profitable riches, he could never be empted away from his farm, from the only place where he could be wealthy. Money confounds subordination, by "verpowering the distinctions of rank and birth, and reakens authority, by supplying power of resistance, or expedients for escape. The feudal system is formed for a nation employed in agriculture, and has never long kept its hold where gold and silver have become common.

Their arms were anciently the glaymore, or great twohanded sword, and afterwards the two-edged sword and target, or buckler, which was sustained on the left arm. In the midst of the target, which was made of wood, covered with leather, and studded with nails, a slender lance, about two feet long, was sometimes fixed; it was heavy and cumbrous, and accordingly has for some time past been gradually laid aside. Very few targets were at Culloden. The dirk, or broad dagger, I am, afraid, was of more use in private quarrels than in battles. The Lochaber axe is only a slight alteration of the old English bill.

After all that has been said of the force and terrour of the Highland sword, I could not find that the art of defence was any part of common education. The gentlemen were, perhaps, sometimes skilful gladiators, but the common men had no other powers than those of violence and courage. Yet it is well known, that the onset of the Highlanders was very formidable. As an army cannot consist of philosophers, a panick is easily excited by any unwonted mode of annoyance. New dangers are naturally magnified; and men accustomed only to exchange bullets at a distance, and rather to hear their enemies than see them, are discouraged and amazed when they

L

find themselres encountered hand to hand, and catch the gleam of steel flashing in their faces.

The Highland weapons gare opportunity for many ei. ertions of personal courage, and sometimes for single eosbats in the field; like those which occur so frequently in fabulous wars. At Falkirk. a gentleman now living, Fas I suppose after the retreat of the king's troops, engage at a distance from the rest with an Irish dragoon. They were both skilful swordsmen, and the contest was not easily decided : the dragoon at last had the advantage, and the Highlander called for quarter; but quarter was refused him, and the fight continued till he was redueri to defend himself upon his knee: at that instant one of the Macleods came to his rescue ; who, as it is said, of. fered quarter to the dragoon, but he thought himself obliged to reject what he had before refused, and, as battle gives little time to deliberate, was immediately killed.

Funerals were formerly solemnized by calling multitudes together, and entertaining them at a great expense. This emulation of useless cost has been for some time discouraged, and at last, in the isle of Sky, is almost suppressed.

Of the Erse language, as I understand nothing, I cannot say more than I have been told. It is the rude speech of a barbarous people, who had few thoughts to express and were content, as they conceived grossly, to be grossly understood. After what has been lately talked of Highland bards, and Highland genius, many will startle when they are told, that the Erse never was a written language ; that there is not in the world an Erse manuscript a hundred years old; and that the sounds of the Highlanders were never expressed by letters, till some little books of piety were translated, and a metrical version of the Psalms was made by the synod of Argyle. Whoever, therefore, now writes in this language, spells according to his own perception of the sound, and his own idea of the power of the letters.

The Welsh and the Irish are cultivated

« IndietroContinua »