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de not the and pedige wbi
Druids dge as jects of
modesty in avoiding publicity is well known; others have brought valuable truths to the grave with them, rather than seem actuated by vanity or the love of praise. But each have seriously erred. Modesty is indeed a virtue, but when carried to excess it degenerates into a vice. Nor is vanity always culpable or pernicious in its influence; on the contrary, it often, if not always, prompts us to deserve the good opinion which we wish our neighbors to entertain of us. In short, vanity, as well as modesty, has been implanted in us by nature, and it is the abuse, not the use, of her gifts which is injurious. Man is a social being, and as such he should not conceal from his neighbor any knowledge which would benefit him without injuring himself. If he persistently does 80, he violates a law of nature, for which he will have to pay the penalty, in one form or other sooner or later.
In no instance has this been more forcibly exemplified than in that of the sects of philosophers who have hoarded up their knowledge as jealously as the miser dues his gold. Thus the Druids, who form the subject of our present paper, would have occupied a very different position in history from what they do to-day had they committed their speculations to writing. Because they have failed to do so they are spoken of alternately with contempt and horror by all who lack either the ability or the disposition to investigate their bistory. The number who do this must ever be small, because all the knowledge we possess as to what the Druids really were is scattered over a wide field, and has to be carefully searched for in every direction. The authors who tell us most of what is reliable about them are seldom read but by the learned. This affords the unscrupulous halflearned an opportunity of blackening their character more and more from one lustrum to another, so as to pander to the prejudices of those who regard the Druids as belonging to a different race from their own. Thus, not only does the memory of the Druids suffer at this day more than it did centuries ago, because they failed to vindicate themselves by placing their ideas on record, but the people whose priests and philosophers they were are as much as possible made partakers in their odium.
What our object is in this paper is to show how grossly the Druids have been misrepresented. In doing so, however, we have no intention of representing them as models worthy of imitation. Far be it from us to deny that they had grave faults, or to assert that their system of theology, however superior it was in many respects to other ancient systems, was worthy of comparison with Christianity. But this is no reason why it should be misrepresented as it so generally is. There is a class of writers who sneer at every attempt made to assign to the Druids their proper place in history. If the person mak. ing the attempt belongs to any of the countries regarded as Celtic, ridicule is the weapon with which he is assailed. It is assumed that he takes up the subject only because he is a descendant of the race to which the Druids belonged, and he is treated accordingly. His best arguments are to be regarded as so many efforts to glorify himself, although he may exhibit equal zeal, industry, and learning in vindicating the ancient Brahmins or the Magi.
Even first-class journals, distinguished in general for their enlightened liberality and fairness, sometimes forget their character when the present subject comes under their consideration. We have an example of this in a volume of the Edinburgh Review,* in which an article on the Rev. Mr. Davies' Celtic Researches commences as follows: “It is amusing to observe with what perseverance and success the Celts are proceeding in their endeavors to deserve that character which has so liberally been bestowed upon them by the most contemptuous of their opponents. Every one must remember the emphatic epithets with which Pinkerton in particular has branded this ill-fated race. According to him a Celtic understanding is sui generis; it readily embraces and believes whatever is rejected or laughed at by the rest of mankind. If there be any truth in this description, we think there is great reason to presume that the Celtic writers of the present day. despairing, perhaps, of deriving the general population of Europe from their own illustrious stock, are anxious at least to satisfy the world that they themselves are the genuine descendants of those mighty tribes ; and certainly, if strong mental resemblance and striking affinity of disposition may be admitted as presumptive evidence of direct and pure descent, they must be considered as having made good their pretensions." Such is the tone in which a work embodying the careful researches for years of a profound scholar are received by a journal which, for various reasons, ought to be the first to recognise their value. “The Milesian fables of the Irish,” continues the same writer," have long convinced the world more pow
* Vol. iv., p. 386.
erfully and completely than the most learned and positive authorities that they are a legitimate branch of the Celts. The Welsh, though they have been much later in starting than the Irish, and are even yet less Celtic in their creed and character, appear to have lately recovered their generic and distinctive credulity in its utmost purity, and, of course, along with their credulity materials for authentic history as far back as their present dispositions would lead them to desire."
Further on the writer proceeds in the same spirit to. prove how absurd and credulous it is to believe that the Druids possessed any knowledge worthy of notice. A critic, more than any other person, has no right to depend on mere assertions ; if he differs from others, especially from those who have devoted much time and study to the subject under consideration, he is bound to give his reasons for doing so. Ridicule will answer his purpose only when the arguments, or the mode of treatment to which it is applied, are so 'obviously erroneous as to be at variance with common sense. What would be said, for example, of a presiding judge in a court of appeal who would dispose of the most elaborate arguments of counsel by a mere assertion or sneer? No judge qualified for his position ever does so. On the contrary, he reasons coolly and dispassionately on the subject, and sustains his views by quoting authorities. This imparts weight to his decision; if omitted, it has no weight. Still more emphatically is all this true of the position of the critic. Such Bneers at Celtic writers as those just quoted might seem to possess some force could it not be shown that they have said nothing in favor of the Druids, or of the Celts in general, in which they are not fully sustained by writers who have no pretensions to a Celtic origin. But the truth is that neither Irish, Welsh, nor French have said more in praise of the Druids than German writers. This is true, for example, of Professor Barth, of Irlangen University.* If, then, Mr. Davies or Colonel Vallanc ought to be laughed at, so ought Professor Barth and several other learned Germans; nay, so ought Cæsar, Pliny, Ammianus Marcellinus, Diodorus Siculus, Strabo, and Lucans, since all bear testimony to the superior learning and wisdom of the Druids.
Among the ancients the most reliable writer on the subject
praise of fish, Welsh, nore origin
riters. This in
See his Ueber die Druiden der Kelten, passim.
is Cæsar. It cannot be pretended that he had any inducements to give the Druids more credit than they deserve ; if he can be said to have been actuated by any prejudice, it must have been against them, since their influence was the most formidable power he had to contend with in the subjugation of Gaul and Britain. Yet he admits not only that they possessed learning and scientific attainments of a high order, but that the Celtic people knew how to appreciate those advantages. "The Druids do not go to war,” he says, “nor pay tribute the same as the rest; they have exemption from military service, and a dispensation in all matters. Induced by such great advantages, many embrace this profession of their own accord, and many are sent to it by their parents and relations. They are said there to learn a great many verses; accordingly some remain in the course of training twenty years." It need hardly be remarked that none could devote this long period to study without acquiring a considerable amount of knowledge. The illustrious captain shows that it was not for want of the means they avoided committing their ideas to writing; he tells us that in almost all other matters, in their public and private transactions, they used Greek letters.* “ That practice," he says, “they seem to me to have adopted for two reasons : because they neither desire their doctrines to be divulged among the mass of the people, nor those who learn to devote themselves the less to the efforts of memory, relying on writing; since it generally occurs to most men, that in their dependence on writing they relac their diligence in learning thoroughly, and their employment of the memory.”+ The author now proceeds to inform us that they were believers in the inimortality of the soul, and that they devoted themselves to scientific pursuits. “They wish,” he observes, "to inculcate this as one of their leading tenets, that souls do not become extinct, but pass after death from one body to another; and they think that men by this tenet are in a great degree excited to valor, the fear of death being disregarded. They likewise discuss and impart to the youth many things respecting the stars and their motions, respecting the extent of the world and of our earth, respecting the nature of things; and respecting the power and the majesty of the immortal
* Neque fas esse existimant ea literis mandare, quum in reliquis fere rebus publicis, privatisque rationabus literis utuntur.- De Bello Gallico, L. vi. c. xiii.
+ That the Druids did use writing, however, is fully proved ; although it was such as could be understood only by the initiated. The Ogam alphabets are undoubtedly Druidical. An inscription in one of these alphabets was found at the beginning of the present century in Ireland. It is known as the Callam Inscription, and plates of it are given in different works on Cel. tic antiquities, including the Archæological Soc. Ant. Lond. In commenting on this, Dr. Aiken remarks that fifteen lines are required to express the first five letters of this alphabet, and that the inscription may be translated in fifteen different ways. Nothing, therefore, can be more uncertain than its true meaning, and consequently nothing could have been better contrived for the purpose of concealing that meaning from the vulgar eye. Several other specimens of Ogam writing exist in different parts of Europe, especially in the British lands. One of the most remarkable and most per: fect is that in the library of Trinity College, Dublin ; that which ranks next in importance and value is in the possession of the Duke of Chandos. * Les Druides formaient la classe supérieure et savante de l'ordre sacerdotal; ils s'adonnaient à l'étude des hautes sciences philosophiques, physiques et religieuses ; ils étaient chargés de l'education publique et revêtus du
Now, do not the studies here ascribed to the Druids constitute a system of philosophy as well as of theology ? . Cæsar found a different system prevailing among the Germans, and he speaks of it accordingly. “The Germans," he says, “ differ much from these usages, for they have neither Druids to preside over sacred offices, nor do they pay great regard to sacrifices. They rank in the namber of the gods those alone whom they behold and by whose instrumentality they are obviously benefited, namely, the sun, fire, and the moon; they have not heard of the other deities even by report.”+ He shows, upon the other hand, that there were many features in the mythology of the Gauls which were identical with those most prominent and most refined in the mythologies of Egypt, Greece, and Rome. This great disparity between the ancient Celts and Goths, as described by authentic historians, who had no interest in misrepresenting either race, is very distasteful to that class of writers who would fain trace every good quality as well as every valuable idea we possess to a Gothic source. It is these who would represent the Druids as savages, and all who would attempt to vindicate them as credulous and silly.
Of all the Roman historians, none is more impartial or more faithful in his narrative than Marcellinus. Gibbon takes leave of him with regret as “an accurate and faithful
pouvoir judiciaire.--M, Alfred Maury, Cyclopédie Moderne, art. Druidism. ** Maury, who has fully investigated the subject, entirely concurs in
Cæsar's estimate of the German system. “Les Germains," he says, "peuple si voisin des Gaulois, et en relation fréquente avec eux, n'avaient, de l'aveu même de César, que ce fétechisme pour religion, et la théologie plus profonde des Druides leur était inconnue." -Art. Druidism.