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ANTIQUITY, Sec. of OSSIAN's POEMS. xiii
old Germans were comprehended in their ancient fongs j which Tacitu? ds
were either hymns to their gods, or elegies in praife of their he-
roes, and were intended to perpetuate the great events in their na-
tion which were carefully interwoven them. This fpecies of com- ^,^^. ^_ j^
pofitionwas not committed to writing, but delivered by oral tvzdi- BUtoie Re-
111 1 1 • 1 •■! "'''rants fur
tion. The care they took to have the poems taught to their chil- /^ Germi.ni,\
dren, the uninterrupted cuflom of repeating them upon certain oc-
caiions, and the happy meafure of the verfe, ferved to preferve theni
for a long time uncorrupted. This oral chronicle of the Germans
was not forgot in the eighth century, and it probably would have re-
mained to this day, had not learning, which thinks every thing,
that is not committed to writing, fabulous, been introduced. It
was from poetical traditions that Garcillaflb compofed his account of
the Yncas of Peru. The Peruvians had loft all other monuments
of their hiftory, and it was from ancient poems which his mother,
a princefs of the blood of the Yncas, taught him in his youth, that
he colleded die materials of his hiftory. If other nations then, that
had been often overun by enemies, and had fent abroad and received
colonies, could, for many ages, preferve, by oral tradition, their
laws and hiftories uncorrupted, it is much more probable that the
ancient Scots, a people fo free of intermixture with foreigners, and
fo ftrongly attached to the memory of their anceftors, had the works
of their bards handed down with great purity.
It will feem ftrange to fome, that poems admired for many cen-
turies in one part of this kingdom lliould be hitherto unknown in.
the other -, and that the Britifli, who have carefully traced out the.
works of genius in other nations, fhould fo long remain ftrangers to
their own. This, in a great meafure, is to be imputed to thofe.
who underftood both languages and never attempted a tranflation.
They, from being acquainted but with detached pieces, or from a
2. modefty,^

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