Studies In Folk-song And Popular Poetry

An Extensive Investigation Into The Sources And Inspiration Of National Folk Song

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132
CELTIC POETRY.
that of Ossian's address to the sun, and the de­scription of Cuchullin's chariot, were taken directly from it. Whatever the amount of transformation and interpolation, and whatever the change in the literary style, from the plain and simple expressions of primitive poetry to the vague and rhetorical imagery of inflated artifice, were made by Macpher­son, he unquestionably preserved the pervading spirit of Celtic poetry, its melancholy, its sensitive­ness to the impressions of nature, and its lofty and humane spirit, and was the first to make it known to the world. Critics like Hazlitt and Matthew Arnold, who were impressed simply by its spirit of pure poetry, and the most accomplished Celtic scholars of a later day, have alike agreed upon in­ternal and external evidence as to the faithfulness of the reproduction of the spirit of Celtic poetry by Macpherson, and have regarded the faults of his literary style as those of the age, and his inter­pretation of the poems of Ossian by the spirit of the eighteenth century as not more faulty or less natural than Chapman's transfusion of Homer into the style of the Elizabethan era, or Pope's into that of Queen Anne. His great drawback was the suspicion of absolute fraud and forgery which attached to him, and which he was unable to dispel, from his mistake in not acknowledging in the be­ginning that his poems were derived from general
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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III