صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

these are, liberality of thought, entire freedom from prejudice-national, religious, and political—and a clear, logical mind—the faculty of distinguishing the probable and true from the fabulous. If skepticism is of use in any investigation, it is in one of this kind, provided it is not carried to extremes. But it is not the less necessary to be

open

to conviction-willing to believe whatever is supported by sufficient evidence; for in ethnology, perhaps more than in any other field of investigation, truth is often stranger than fiction. In other words, we should not be too ready to reject a theory, merely because it conflicts with our own preconceived notions. The really thoughtful never do so; and it is also well to bear in mind that the best writer

may

be fanciful and credulous in the treatment of one branch of his subject, and be strictly logical and even critical in his treatment of all the rest.

This is particularly true of General Valancey, who has devoted more than a quarter of a century to the subject on which he writes. But, at present, we have to do only with the antiquarian branch of his labors. In this, it must be admitted, he goes pretty far back, though not quite as far as Mr. Maclean or Mr. Davies. At all events, he begins his introduction with several extracts, relative to Ireland, from the Hindoo Puranas. It is proper to say that these have not been discovered or translated by himself, but by Mr. Wilford, an English gentleman, well known as an eminent Sanscrit scholar. Mr. Wilford had, it seems, been led to the investigation, by the hypothesis of Sir William Jones, who conceived that vestiges of an ancient people might be traced in

Iràn, or Persia—a people more ancient than the Assyrians. * This having been verified, in the opinion of General Valan

cey, by the extracts referred to, and certain other evidence, not necessary to be detailed here, he proceeds to show that the ancient empire in question must have commenced at the time of the alliance of the four kings, mentioned in the fourteenth chapter of Genesis. These, it will be remembered, are the four potentates defeated by Abraham, without any more formidable army than his household servants; but whom some historians regard as mere Bedouin Sheiks, or brigands of the desert.

At any rate, the mighty empire which they founded, according to General Valancey, commenced its career pretty soon after the confusion of tongues. The General agrees with Mr. Maclean and Mr. Davies in the opinion that the primitive language was not destroyed ; it was only divided into several dialects, which were distributed among those sent to colonize Egypt, Phænicia, China, India, and Persia. It was a people called the Fir Bologues who colonized the last mentioned country, better known in ancient history as Iràn, or Indo-Scythia. They were a fierce and warlike race of Japethians ; but, though they took up a beautiful position at the mouth of the Indus, they soon became discontented, and resolved to emigrate to the southward. They remained long enough, however, to secure the friendship of kindred tribes, called the Omanites and Ordanites, who lived on opposite sides of the Persian Gulf.

The three, united under one leader, bade farewell to their kinsmen, the Hindoos, and proceeded to Egypt, where they were warmly welcomed by the reigning Pharaoh, who saw at once that they could be of great service in navigating his fleets, for their fame as navigators had gone before them to the banks of the Nile. The king soon found, however, that their ideas of loyalty were rather loose, for, instead of yielding that cheerful, implicit obedience to his sovereign will, to which he thought he was entitled, they took the liberty of tampering with his slaves, the Israelites, whom they offered to transport across the Red Sea, in spite of all the land and marine forces of Egypt. The Jews, never very remarkable for their courage or bravery, got frightened at the very idea, feeling certain that no earthly power could bring them safe out of Egypt. As might have been expected, Pharaoh was very indignant at this interference on the part of the Fir Bologues, Aire Cuti, or Gael, for the new comers were now known by a good many names.

It would seem that he upbraided their leader Nial with his treachery, though in as polite and delicate a manner as the circumstances would permit. He soon had reason to repent of this, however. Nial announced his intention of seizing on the whole Egyptian fleet, and doing several other disagreeable things, not necessary to mention here. The king had learned by this time that the Fir Bologues had a greater regard for the ladies than any other tribes of that age; that, in short, their gallantry was such that they would do almost anything to compliment the fair. The gallantry of Nial was particularly conspicuous, and it is alleged that he was still amorous, though he must have been well stricken in years ” when the difficulty

[ocr errors]

occurred. Be this as it may, we are informed that he got Scota, the king's daughter, in marriage. The proof of this consists mainly in the sentence, Nial sachuta niginge Pharaoh, which by some translators is rendered, not « Nial married the daughter of Pharaoh,” but “ Nial sailed the fleets of Pharaoh." At all events, it was not long after until the Fir Bologues sought other quarters. They first sailed to Tyre, in Phænicia, where they left a colony ; thence they proceeded to Sicily, Malta, and Spain, each of which they colonized. The intervals, if any, which elapsed, between these different events are not very definitely stated. This, however, is not essential. It is sufficient, for our present purpose, to know that the boldest and most adventurous of all steered their course to Ireland, under the name of the Milesians, bringing with them the best dialect of their native language, their religion (Druidism), together with various arts and sciences, including the art of manufacturing the fine linen of Egypt, which they had learned during their brief sojourn on the banks of the Nile, and which, to this day, is the art carried to most perfection by the Irish.

Fortunately, it is by no means essential to the antiquity or greatness of the Celtic race that this narrative should be strictly accurate. If it were, we fear that we should have to give up the case. It is sufficient that the groundwork is true; and, in proof of this, we have more or less testimony from the learned of all nations of antiquity, who have bequeathed us anything worthy the name of a literature. There is, however, not the same unanimity among the learned as to the identity of the Irish language with the Coptic, the Arabic, the Chaldee, the Zend, the Pehlvi, and the Hindustanee; although General Valancey is quite positive on this point, and has recourse to various ingenious arguments in support of his theory. As a specimen of his proofs, we extract an anecdote, which, if it possesses no other value, has at least the recommendation of being a curiosity. “Mr. Lebedoff,” says the General, “a Russian, who lived ten years in Bengal, and is master of the Bengalese language, was walking one day, very lately, in Oxford street, and overheard two Irish milk-women conversing in their native tongue—he was able to understand everything said, from its resemblance to the Bengalese.—(S. W. O.)*

Pref., p. xxix.

We now proceed to show that no exaggeration—no torturing of ancient or modern fables—is necessary to support the claims of the Celt to the first rank among the principal branches of the Caucasian race. Indeed, nothing of the kind was necessary for General Valancey, either to render his Prospectus interesting, or to vindicate the people of whom he may be regarded as one of the ablest champions.

The work under consideration consists of three parts : an Introduction, Preface, and Specimen of a Comparative Irish Dictionary. The two former embrace a large variety of etymological and historical facts, which mutually illustrate each other; and the latter, which extends over seventy-seven pages, is exclusively etymological. We have already alluded to the historical part, but only to that portion of it which is more fanciful and curious than authentic. Whether it be true or not that the Hindoo Brahmins were so well acquainted with Irish topography thousands of years ago as to be able to describe Croagh-Patrick, the Cave of Purgatory, in Donegal, and several other places distinguished in Irish history, it cannot be denied that the extracts from the Puranas are of a character which it will not do to laugh at, especially when considered in connection with the General's comments upon them. But what is much more interesting, however, is his description of the Indo-Scythian monuments of Ireland. He introduces the reader in turn to the temple of Vishnu, at Killshandra ; the bitter waters of Lough Derg; the Iranian empire; the Palli, or shepherd kings of Ireland. small island on the coast of Ireland there is a rude building, of peculiar construction, which has been visited by antiquaries from all parts of the world. Some think it was built by the fire worshippers ; others, by the Druids ; others, by early wandering Christians ; but General Valancey is sure that it is a temple of Priapus; and he informs us that it is exactly similar to that in the island of Elephanta, called Gentoos Mahoody. Nor is he content with making the assertion ; he presents us with an engraving of the two temples. If we are to regard this as a faithful representation, it must be admitted that the resemblance is very striking.

As for the similarity of the principal dialects of the Celtic language to several Oriental languages, that is no longer a matter of dispute; it has been abundantly proved, by men who had no interest to subserve but that of science, and who, if they were capable of being influenced by any prejudice, it

On a

might have been expected to be against, rather than in favor of, the Celtic race. It has never been alleged, for example, that the learned Dr. Prichard was a Celt; but he was one of the first to demonstrate the close affinities between the Celtic and Oriental languages. His work, entitled Eastern Origin of the Celtic Nations, is devoted exclusively to that purpose, and when first published was undoubtedly the best that had yet appeared. Still less can it be alleged that Bopp, Picket, Adelung, Vater, or Klaproth, have been actuated by prejudice in their investigations, except an earnest desire to discover truth can be called a prejudice.

It is not necessary for us to pay any particular attention, on the present occasion, to this branch of the subject ; were it otherwise, we could merely glance at it, since to do it adequate justice would require a long series of articles by itself. We may remark, however, in passing, that those who would consult the researches of Prichard must not seek the edition which is edited and annotated by Dr. Latham, who, with a very slight knowledge of the Celtic, and scarcely any knowledge of either the Sanscrit or the Zend, has done all in his power against what is called the Celtic theory. But even Dr. Latham has been forced to alter his views. No two editions of the same work are more urlike each other, than the two now before us, of the treatise entitled The English Language, by Dr. Latham. In the first edition he is decidedly anti-Celtic, and has no patience with those of a different opinion. This will be sufficiently understood by any intelligent person, who will take the trouble to compare page 29 of the first edition with page 53 of the second edition. It will be seen that he suppressed, in 1848, the strong terms in which in 1843 he had sought to depreciate the Celtic elements of the present English language. This, indeed, he could not have avoided, without ignoring the researches of the great philologists of Germany, who have devoted their lives to the investigation, and who understand the Sanscrit, Zend, and Celtic, nearly as well as their native German. This, however, does not prevent Dr. Latham from seeking to cast doubt on the reliableness of the most valuable researches of his learned fellow countryman.

It were less injurious to the cause of science and truth, were he to attack Prichard openly. Then he could effect little, because he does not possess the necessary qualifications. It is one thing to write a popular history of the Eng

« السابقةمتابعة »