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The Celtic Magazine, Vol. 1, No. 3, January 1876 A Monthly Periodical Devoted to the Literature, History, Antiquities, Folk Lore, Traditions, and the Social and Material Interests of the Celt at Home and Abroad   By:

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THE CELTIC MAGAZINE.

No. III. JANUARY 1876.

THE STATE OF THE OSSIANIC CONTROVERSY.

[CONTINUED.]

MR ARNOLD in that handsome, but slightly ambiguous admission of his, that the Celts in their intellectual capacity come very near the secret of nature and of natural magic, does not seem to imply more in reality than that they have a subtler sense of certain natural affinities than their Anglo Saxon brethren have; that they apprehend more surely when, where, and how the truest impress of physical nature occurs on the percipient faculties of the soul, than men of a more phlegmatic constitution do; and that they can draw from such intuitions of their own a sort of inspiration, or second sight of nature, comparable to prophecy, which gives their highest poetic utterance a rapt enthusiasm and the accuracy of this estimate need not be disputed, but, so far as Ossian is concerned, it must be considerably extended. To read Ossian as we do, from the text of Macpherson, there was another sort of insight, purely scientific, into the mysteries of nature, inherited and expressed by him; a certain acquaintance with her hidden powers, and a certain augury of her possible future development, if men could only attain to it, far beyond the mere rapt enthusiasm of a poet, or the so called second sight of a seer. Whether this peculiar faith of his was derived by tradition, and if so, from whom; or whether it was the result of practical experiment in his own generation, is foreign for the moment to our present inquiry. But that it was relied upon as an endowment of the most gifted heroes; that it was exercised by them in extremity, as if to subdue nature from whom they had borrowed it, and to wrest the very power of destruction out of her hand; and that such practical conquest was sometimes achieved by them, or is said to have been achieved by them, is just as certain as that Macpherson's translation is before us now. What we refer to more especially for the present, is the secret of extracting or discharging electricity from the atmosphere by mechanical means by the thrust of a spear, or of a sword, into the bosom of the low hanging cloud, or lurid vapour, and so dislodging the imaginary spirit of evil by which they were supposed to be tenanted. Only the very best, and bravest, and wisest could prevail in such conflict with nature; but they did prevail, according to Ossian; and the weapons of their warfare, and the mode of their assault, were precisely similar to what an experimentalist in electricity might employ at the present day, or to what the Egyptians employed in the days of Moses. We shall not now go further back in the prosecution of this inquiry, but would seriously recommend the reader who has any difficulty on the subject to compare, at his leisure, the work of Moses on the top of Mount Sinai and elsewhere, with an Egyptian "rod" in his hand, and the exploits of Fingal in conflict with the Spirit of Loda on the heights of Hoy, with a sword in his hand. There might have been a far derived and long traditional secret connection between the two, most edifying, or at least most curious, to investigate; or they might both have resulted from that sort of intuition which only the most gifted of any nation enjoy independently, re appearing again in Franklin, and now familiarised to the world. Let those who doubt, or who differ on this point, satisfy themselves. What we are now concerned to maintain and prove is, that the fact is more than once described by Ossian, in circumstances, in situations, and with instrumentalities, which render the allegation of it at least indubitable. In the case above referred to, for example, Fingal, challenged and assaulted in a thunderstorm by the Spirit of Loda, encounters his antagonist with a sword, on the very verge of a cliff overhanging the Atlantic; and by one or two scientific thrusts, with incredible daring, disarms the cloud, dissipates the storm, and sends his atmospheric adversary shrieking down the wind with such violence that "Innistore shook at the sound; the waves heard it on the deep, and stopped on their course with fear... Continue reading book >>




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