Mudcat Café message #4031149 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #167167   Message #4031149
Posted By: An Buachaill Caol Dubh
30-Jan-20 - 08:51 AM
Thread Name: the literary controversy over Ossian
Subject: RE: the literary controversy over Ossian
As far as I can work it out, then, JM should be judged by the same criteria as Thomas "Rowley" Chatterton, in your view? With regard to many commentators on literature in the C19th, generally from the kind of privileged background as the lecturers I mentioned above, well, I'd regard them in pretty much the same way. The original post was about distinguishing what was invented and what was collected and translated.

One of the very first commentators on JM was Dr Hugh Blair, who confidently asserted that chieftains in the Americas would "harangue" their fellow tribesmen in terms as poetic as any of Homer's heroes (or, of course, Ossian's), an early example of the "finding what one wants to find" approach which I think you have been addressing. That is, he and others expected that modern-day "primitive" peoples would have more in common with the Ancients than modern-day civilised ones. Dr J several times drew parallels between Highlanders of the 1770s and the Greeks as described by writers of Antiquity. While I would guess that various accounts and "links" will include Thomas Gray's assessment - that JM was either "the very demon of Poetry or he has lit on a treasure hid up for ages" (I quote from memory) - it's worthwhile to add something less familiar but more amusing. Robert Burns has a neatly ironic few lines in his poem of the Two Dogs, since his own collie-dog was "Luath" (swift/fleet), named

"After some dog in Hielan' sang
Was made lang syne - Lord knows how lang."

Seems that an intelligent Ploughing Poet had mair perception than a number of your "professional" literary critics and mediaevalists.