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C O N C E R N I N G T H li
ANTIQUITY, ^c. of the POEMS of
OSS IAN the Son of FINGAL.
INQUIRIES into the antiquities of nations afford more pleafure
than any real advantage to mankind. The ingenious may form
fyftems of hiftory on probabiUties and a few fadls ; but at a great
diftance of time, their accounts muft be vague and uncertain. The
infancy of ftates and kingdoms is as deftitute of great events, as of
the means of tranfmitting them to pofterity. The arts of polifhed
life, by which alone fadls can be preferved with certainty, are the
produftlon of a well formed cotnmunity. It is then hiftorians begin
to write, and public tranfadlions to be worthy remembrance. The
actions of former times are left in obfcurity, or magnified by uncer-
tain traditions. Hence it Is that we find fo much of the marvellous
in the origin of every nation ; pofterity being always ready to believe
any thing, however fabulous, that refledls honour on their anccftors.
The Greeks and Romans were remarkable for this weaknefs. They
fwallowed the moft abfurd fables concerning the high antiquities of
their refpedive nations. Good hiftorians, however, rofe very early
a amongft

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