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old Germans were comprehended in their ancient fongs ; which Tacitus de
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- ,, ,, , ,
^ /Ibbe de la
pofition was not committed to writing, but delivered by oral tradi- ^'^f'^"' ■'?^-
tion. The care they took to have the poems taught to their chil-/^G^/^^in»V.
dren, the uninterrupted cuftom of repeating them upon certain oc-
cafions, and the happy meafure of the verfe, ferved to preferve them
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 thin'^-,
that is not committed to writing, fabulous, been introduced. It
was from poetical traditions that GarcillafTo compofed his account of
the Yncas of Peru. The Peruvians had loll; 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 flie 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 lb free of intermixture with foreigners, and
fo ftrongly attached to the memory of their ancellors, had the works-
of their bards handed down with great purity.
It will feem llrange to fome, that poems admired for many cen^
turies in one part of this kingdom Ihould be hitherto unknown in.
the other ; and that the Britifh, who have carefully traced out the
works of genius in other nations, Ihould fo long remain Grangers to
their own. This, in a great meafure, is to be imputed to thofe
who underllccd both languages and never attempted a tranllation.
They, from being acquainted but with detached pieces, or from a.
2 modefty,.

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