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A DISSERTATION concerning the
upon his countnanen, \vlien all of them were fo well acquainted
with the traditional poems of their anceftors.
The ftrongeft objedlion to the authenticity of the poems now
given to the public under the name of Oflian, is the improbability
of their being handed down by tradition through fo many centuries.
Ages of barbarifm fome will fay, could not produce poems abound-
ing with the difinterefted and generous fentiments fo confpicuous in
the compolitions of Offian ; and could thefe ages produce them, it
is impoffible but they mufl be loll;, or altogether corrupted in a long
fucceliion of barbarous generations.
These objeiflions naturally fuggeft themfelves to men unac-
quainted with the ancient ftate of the northern parts of Britain.
The bards, who were an inferior order of the Druids, did not
fliare their bad fortune. They were fpared by the vidiorious king,,
as it was through their means only he could hope for immortality
to his fame. They attended him in the camp, and contributed ta
eftablifh his power by their fongs. His great adions were magni-
fied, and the populace, who had no ability to examine into his cha-
rafter narrowly, were dazzled with his fame in the rhimes of the
bards. In the mean time, men afTumed fentiments that are rarely
to be met with in an age of barbarifm. The bards who were
originally the difciples of the Druids, had their minds opened, and
their ideas enlarged, by being initiated in the learning of that
celebrated order. They could form a perfed: hero in their own.
minds, and afcribe that chara<5ler to their prince. The inferior
chiefs made this ideal charadler the model of their condudl, and
by degrees brought their minds to that generous fpirit which
breathes in all the poetry of the times. The prince, flattered by

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