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form of composition has had a larger share in the formation and improvement of language than Poetry; and poetical collections have been made with the object, chiefly, of exhibiting language in the process of development. But the chief concern of the present Collection is with the poetry itself, as the most powerful expression of the forces that move the human spirit; and with the poets, as the media through which these forces are most conspicuously manifested: the specimens, so to speak, through which common humanity sees, magnified, all the elements of which it is itself made up.
Although not designed as a formal history of Scottish Poetry, yet, a chronological arrangement having been deemed the only appropriate one for treating it as a historic growth, a few preliminary observations regarding its origin, with a prospective glance at its progressive stages, may help to define our conception of the subject as a whole, of the share it has had in moulding the national character, and of how far it is itself the expression of characteristics inherent in the Scottish race. Whether, as an art, it should be regarded as a branch of English literature, or of independent origin, is a question that for long seemed to depend on the issue of antiquarian controversies, whose discussion would be quite out of place here. We shall have succeeded in our purpose if we convey an intelligible account of their bearing on our subject. All poetry, as an inspiration, must be original, individual, incommunicable, and non-accumulative; and though it may, and often does, give an impetus and elevation to the art, yet in this transcendental aspect of it, no question of nationality can arise; hence the truth of the saying, "Poets are born, not made."
But it will clear our ground, somewhat, if we first dispose of the kindred subject of the relation of Celtic, or rather Gaelic literature, to Scottish.
Sir Walter Scott, in his introduction to Sir Tristrem, says—" Although possessing beauties of its own, the Celtic has everywhere been found incapable of amalgamating with the Gothic dialects, from which it is radically different, and totally distinct." Notwithstanding that the Gaelic and Gothic languages may have been at a very early period under etymological obligations to one another, and that broader and more enlightened researches than have hitherto characterised the antiquarian philology of this country may show them to have more in common than has yet been discovered,' still we are disposed to think that Sir Walter is right, and that it would be an injustice to the Gaelic to be represented in any collection of Scottish poetry in the form of any translations presently existing.
It cannot be said that our treatment of Celtic literature in the past is at all creditable to our patriotism or our scholarship; but we are about to enter on a new era in that respect, the chief credit for which must redound to the honour of Professor Blackie, who, with an enlightened enthusiasm and breadth of sympathy that must be a perpetual source of happiness to himself, derives equal pleasure from the contemplation of the past of Athens and the past of Iona.
Mr Skene remarks, in his introduction to Fordun's Chronicle, that, "Amid much that is mythic, uncertain, or matter of controversy in the early history of Scotland, it may be held as unquestionable that the Scots, from whom the country took its name, had their original seat in Ireland, from whence they emigrated to Scotland; and that a line of Scottish kings ruled in this country from the middle of the ninth to the early part of the eleventh century. . . . It is under this line of kings that we trace the rise and gradual formation of the Scottish monarchy." Considering that these kings, and the people who formed the nucleus of the kingdom, were a race of undoubted Celtic extraction, so far as their language and immediate advent from Ireland were concerned-whatever views may be held in reference to their mythic derivation from Spain, or ulterior sources—it must be admitted to be one of the vagaries of history now, to find their name indelibly attached to a language entirely different from theirs. The cause of this strange result was quite
An Icelandic scholar, writing from Cambridge, says "that the Gaelic language, as might indeed be expected, affords a great number of etymological and derivative illustrations for Icelandic philology;" and adds-"Who knows but that Gaelic, hitherto ignored in Icelandic philology, may throw some light upon the thoroughly dark subject, the age of the Eddaic songs?"—Athenæum, August 1876.