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xii A DISSERTATION concerning the
folemn occalions, 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 inftitution 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 moft per-
fedt harmony obferved. Each verfe was fo connected with thofe
which p.eceded or followed it, that if one line had been remember-
ed in a flanza, it was almoft impoffible to forget the reft. The ca-
dences followed in fo natural a gradation, and the v/ords were fb-
adapted to the common turn of the voice,, after it is raifed to a cer-
tain key, that it was almoft impoffible, from a fimilarity of founds
to fubflitute one word for another. This exxellence 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-
fion. The numerous fledtions of confonants, and variation in de-
clenfion, make the language very copious.
The defcendants of the Celtae, who inhabited Britain and its ifles,.
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 elogiums of kings and heroes were pre-
ierved in the fame manner. All the hillorical monuments of the

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