« VorigeDoorgaan »
either forget that they were men like Ossian, or they deny that the latter had any other existence as a poet than that which has been bestowed upon him by Macpherson. In other words, whatever theory is unfavorable to the Celts, their Bards, or their Druids, is readily accepted as truth, while whatever has the opposite tendency is scoffed at as absurd and ridiculous. Diodorus informs us that the Bards, or sacred poets, of the Celts chanted on the national instrument (the harp) the exploits of their heroes, and stigmatized in their hymns the cowardly; that they accompanied their chiefs to battle, and that their person as well as their character was inviolable. Such was their influence that frequently during the civil wars in Gaul they caused the immediate cessation of bloodshed among the most furious of the combatants by simply calling on them to desist.* In speaking of the same order, M. Alfred Maury remarks that they were at once the military heralds, the legislators, and the poets of the Celts. Each prince or chief of a tribe had his own bard, who ranked with the first officers of his court. They were exempt both from taxes and military service, even when their country was in most imminent danger. When they accompanied their chiefs to battle, as already observed, for the purpose of celebrating their exploits, they were furnished with a bodyguard to protect them from the enemy; and in all public assemblies and fêtes they occupied the post of honor next to their chiefs. Besides being splendidly entertained in the castle to which they were attached, they received valuable presents.t
None aware of these well-attested facts are disposed to doubt the genuineness of the best of the poems attributed by Macpherson to Ossian. History informs us also that much honor and influence as the bards possessed, they deserved both, even in their degenerate days, when they had no longer the same means of improving their minds and acquiring knowledge, which they formerly had, but were persecuted wherever they showed themselves. Even so late as the close of the thirteenth century their influence was felt by rulers disposed to oppress their subjects. Thus the historian relates with horror and indignation that when Edward I. was wearied with the prolonged independence of the Celtic tribes, he caused their Bards to be assembled and massacred-an atrocious and cruel act, which has been justly compared to that of Ægisthus of old, who, when, desiring to corrupt Clytemnestra, caused the minstrel placed near her by Agamemnon as a protector of her virtue to be put to death. One of the finest efforts of Gray, the poet, is the ode inspired by this massacre, and in which he introduces a bard, who, from the top of a rock beaten by the waves, devotes to destruction the crowned assassin, predicting for him all the misfortunes of his race, and terminates his imprecations by precipitating himself into the waves.*
* Diod. Sic., v. 31, p. 354. + If Maury be objected to because a Frenchman and consequently Celtic, it can hardly be pretended that Gibbon was prejudiced in favor of the Celts or their priests. In speaking of the Bards he makes the following remarks :“That singular order of men have most deservedly attracted the notice of all who have attempted to investigate the antiquities of the Celts, the Scandinavians, and the Germans. Their genius and character, as well as the reverence paid to that important office, have been sufficiently illustrated. But we cannot so easily express, or even conceive, the enthusiasm of arms and glory which they kindled in the breast of their audience.”—Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 1, p. 291, New York, 1860.
Now be it remembered that the Bards were Druids, but belonged only to the second, or, as some think, to the third order of that learned and powerful body. Most historians concur in giving all credit for the noblest patriotism. “They were the most strenuous assertors of their country's liberty against the Romans,” says Mr. Higgins, “constantly exciting their countrymen, after every deteat, to fresh insurrections. This was the true reason why they were, in a particular manner, sought after by the Romans and put to the sword whenever they could be taken. So determined were they, that neither by the Romans, Danes, nor Normans could they ever be conquered, either in Britain or Ireland ; but as they could not successfully resist the overwhelming numbers and superior discipline of their enemies in the plain country, they retreated, with the highest-spirited and most intractable of their countrymen, into the mountains of Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, where they successfully defied the legions of the Roman and Saxon barbariaus.”+
The following lines wili give those who may not have read the poem an idea of the combined spirit of sympathy for the Bard, and indignation against the exterminator, in which it is written:
6. On a rock whose haughty brow
Frowns o'er old Conway's foaming flood,
With bag ard eyes, the poet stood ;
Streamed like a meteor to the troubled air)
Struck the deep sorrows o: his lyre.
Sighs to the torrent's awrul voice beneath!
Revenge on thee in hoarser murmurs breathe ;
(Pindoric ode. To high-born Hoel's larp, or soft Llewellyn's lay.''-The Bard; a † The Celtic Druids, p. 275.
Those who wish to depreciate the Druids because they did not belong to “ the Anglo-Saxon race," triumphally ask, Why did they not at least leave us some fine specimens of architecture, if they were the ingenious and cultivated people which their Celtic admirers represent them? Their architecture is, indeed, not distinguished for its beauty, but it is distinguished for its rude grandeur and sublimity. But is not this rudeness inconsistent with the character assigned to them? This by no means follows. It is more likely that à people who were unwilling to commit their discoveries either in the arts or sciences to writing had no ambition to erect fine edifices; especially when it is borne in mind that the groves were their favorite temples. Little doubt is now entertained, however, that Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England, is a Druidical work. “If I talk to you of a Doric, Ionic, or Corinthian temple," observes Mr. Higgins, “ you will readily form such an idea of the building in your mind as to be surprised on seeing it, for each of these orders has its fixed proportions, and each its appropriate ornaments; but were I to describe to you a rude temple composed of four circles, one within the other, with upright stones twenty feet high, and others of an immense size placed across them like architraves, I fear my description would prove very unsatisfactory.". Of a similar character is the temple of Abury. A full description of either would fill the space designed for our whole article. Fortunately nothing of the kind is necessary ; the structures alluded to are so famous as curiosities that there are few, if any, of our readers who are not acquainted with their character.* That stones are rude and plain is no evidence that those who raised them were not acquainted with the science of architecture. We have abundant testimony that in ancient times it was deemed an impiety, if not a sacrilege, to use any tools on structures designed for the worship of God. Even the inspired historians testify to this fact. Thus, in the 27th chapter of Deuteronomy and 5th verse, the following command is given: “And there shalt thou build an altar unto the Lord thy God, an altar of stones; thou shalt not lift up any iron tool upon thein.” In the following verse it is added, “ Thou shalt build the altar of the Lord thy God of whole stones.” The temples of the Druids were circular; and so were those of all the Eastern nations, including the Jews.
*“ We remark here,” says a learned writer, “a very striking resemblance between the ancient places of devotion in Greece and the Druidical temple of the more northern countries. In short, the astonishing remains at Stonehenge present the best known, and perhaps the most stupendous examples ever erected of the open temple.”-Mimes. Hist. of Sculpture, &c.,
The most learned archæologists of the present day are of opinion that the round towers found in all countries known to have been inhabited by the Celts, but chiefly in Ireland, are of Druidical origin. This view of the case is, indeed, nothing new; the same opinion was entertained centuries ago. Nay, the only reason why all archæologists who investigated the subject did not give the credit of those curious structures to the Druids from the beginning, is that nearly all have crosses on them. From this fact it has been taken for granted that they were built by the early Christians; but the researches made in different countries during the last century have proved this to be an erroneous conclusion. It has been found that the cross has been used as a sacred symbol in all parts of the world' from the earliest records. “Let not the piety of the Catholic Christian be offended," says the Rev. Mr. Maurice, "at the preceding assertion, that. the cross was one of the most usual symbols
the hieroglyphics of Egypt and India. Equally, honored in the Gentile and Christian world, this emblem of universal nature, of that world to whose four quarters its diverging radii pointed, decorated the hands of most of the sculptured images in the former country, and in the latter stamped its form upon the most majestic of the shrines of their deities.*
All Egyptologists that can be regarded as authorities concur in the opinion that it was a sacred emblem among the Egyptians. They remind us how Ibis was represented with human hands, holding the staff of Isis in one hand and a globe and cross in the other. The cross is found on most of the Egyptian obelisks. Nor was it by any means unknown either in the Greek or Roman mythology. In almost all the old monograms of Jupiter he is represented as bearing a cross with a horn; and the most common we have of Saturn is a cross and a ram's horn. There is now in the British Museum a medal of Ptolemy, King of Cyrene, the most conspicuous figure on which is a cross.
cross. It is a well-attested historical fact, that when one of the Christian emperors demolished the temple of Serapis at Alexandria, a monogram of Christ was discovered beneath the foundation. The Rev. Mr. Maurice and others inform us that the two principal pagodas of India, namely those of Benares and Mathusa, are built in the form of a cross.
* Indian Antiquities, vol. ii.,
In different parts of ancient Mexico the same sacred emblem is to be found; the most remarkable is that among. many others in the ruins of a fine Tulteque city near Palenque. On the top of the cross is a likeness of Ceres, to which a devotee is making an offering of an infant.* Many other instances might be given, but these will suffice for our present purpose. What is more important, however, in connection with the subject under consideration, is the fact that the cross was also used by the Druids as a sacred emblem. If this can be proved, there will no longer be any good reason to deny that it was they who built the round towers. The learned Dr. Schedius, in his De Moribus Germanorum,t tells us that the Druids “ seek studiously for an oak tree, large and handsome, growing up with two principal arms, in the form of a cross, beside the main stem, upright. If the two horizontal arms are not sufficiently adapted to the figure, they fasten a cross-beam to it. This tree they consecrate in this manner : Upon the right branch they cut in the bark, in fair characters, the word Hesus ; upon the middle or upright stem the word Taramis ; upon the left branch Belenus ; over this, above the going off of the arms, they cut the name of God, Thau ; under all, the same, repeated, Thau. This tree, so inscribed, they make their kobla in the grove cathedral, or summer church, towards which they direct their faces in the offices of religion, as to the ambre-stone or the cove in the temples of Abury.”
At first sight it might seem that the pious Christian should be unwilling to believe that the cross was so universally used as a sacred emblem long before the birth of Christ ; but a little reflection shows that he should, on the contrary, rather regard it as an additional proof, if any were needed, of the truth of Christianity. It would be as absurd to feel dissatisfied on learning that the cross was thus venerated throughout the world-even in China—as it would be to be dissatisfied with the prophecies in the Old Testament, in which the coming and sacrifice of Christ are foretold. Still less reason have we for dissatisfaction, or rather still more reason have we to believe in the divine origin of Christianity, when we reflect that there is no symbol of importance which the Druids possessed in common with ourselves which they did not also possess in common with the Jews.
The latter, too, used the cross; and there is good reason
*Description of an Ancient City of Mexico, by Felix Cabrara. London, 1822. + C. xxiv.