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XM. A DISSERTATION concerning the
folemn occafions, and always alluded to in the new compofitions of
the bards. This cuftom came down near to our own times ; and
after the bards were difcontinued, a great number in a clan retained
by memory, or committed to writing, their compofitions, and fund-
ed the antiquity of their families on the authority of their poems.
The ufe of letters was not known in the North of Europe till long
after the inflitution of the bards : the records of the families of their
patrons, their own, and more ancient poems were handed down by
tradition. Their poetical compofitions were admirably contrived
for that purpofe. They were adapted to mufic ; and the moll per-
fecft harmony obferved. Each verfe was fo connedled with thofe
which preceded or followed it, that if one line had been remember-
ed in a ftanza, it was almoft impoffible to forget the reft. The ca-
dences followed in fo natural a gradation, and the words were fo
adapted to the common turn of the voice, after it is raifed to a cer-
l-ain key, that it was almoft impoflible, from a fimilarity of found,
to fubftitute one word for another. This excellence is peculiar to the
Celtic tongue, and is perhaps to be met with in no other language.
Nor does this choice of words clog the fenfe or weaken the expref-
hon. The numerous flections of confonants, and variation in de-
clenfion, make the language very copious.
The defcendants of the Celtse, who inhabited Britain and its illes,
were not fingular in this method of preferving the moft precious
monuments of their nation. The ancient laws of the Greeks were
couched in verfe, and handed down by tradition. The Spartans,
through a long habit, became fo fond of this cuftom, that they
would never allow their laws to be committed to writing. The ac-
tions of great men, and the elor^iums of kings and heroes were pre-
ferved in the fame manner. All. the hiftorical monuments of the.

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