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This very curious poem, is apparently coeval with Adam Davie's romance of Alisaundre,* which it resembles in some degree, by the shortness and abruptness of its diction. It is written in a very singular and difficult stanza of eleven lines, which proves the author to have possessed a degree of metrical skill, very unusual at that early period ; and has, besides, a plausible claim to the still more unusual merit of originality; as it seems to be quoted in a French metrical fragment of “ Tristram,” which represents the narrative of Thomas as of high authority. But it is evident, that, however interesting in itself, or honourable to Scotish poetry, it can give us no assistance in tracing the progress of language in Scotland, from any original form, into the mixed state in which it is here exhibited.
In this dearth of materials it became necessary to have recourse to conjecture; and two hypotheses have been offered, both of which are recommended by much acute reasoning, and supported by a number of respectable authorities,
* I am happy in being able to add, that our stock of ancient English literature, is likely to be soon enriched by accurate editions of both these very interesting works. The former will be published under the direction of Mr. Walter Scott, and the latter by Mr. Park.
Mr. Pinkerton, in a very ingenious and learned essay, prefixed to his extracts from the Maitland MSS. contends that the original language of Scotland was, like the Saxon and Danish, a dialect of the Gothic: that it was introduced by the Picts, a Scandinavian tribe who preceded the Scots, a Celtic colony from Ireland; and that the French part of the subsequent mixed language, was produced by the frequent intermarriages of the Scotish kings and nobles, during the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries, with ladies of Anglo-Norman blood, and by the long residence of these princes in the counties of Northumberland and Cumberland, which they held, as feudatories, of the crown of England.
Mr. Ritson, on the contrary, in a no less elaborate essay, prefixed to his selection of Scotish songs, attempts to prove by a long chain of authorities, that the Picts were, no less than the Scots, a Celtic nation: that the Gaelic language was formerly universal in Scotland; but that having never been employed in works of literature, it was gradually superseded by the English, in consequence of those relations with this country,which resulted from the policy of Malcolm III. and his successors.
It is evidently impossible to reconcile antagonists who have no one opinion in common, and who interpret differently the same authorities, and draw opposite conclusions from the few facts on which they are agreed. I-shall therefore content myself with stating, as correctly as I can, the present amount of our information on the subject, and leave the result to the determination of the reader.
It seems to be satisfactorily proved by Mr. Macpherson, in his "Geographical Illustrations of “ Scotish History," that the kingdom of Northumberland, founded by the Angles in the sixth century, extended from the Humber as far as the southern bank of the Firth of Forth; and, following that shore to the westward, as far as the GraemisDyke, included the provinces of Lothian and Galloway; a country, in superficial extent, not far short of one-fourth, and in wealth and population equal, perhaps, to about a third, of what we now call Scotland. These provinces, though claimed by the kings of England after the union of the Heptarchy, were definitively ceded by Edgar to Kenneth king of the Scots and Picts, on condition that " he should do homage for this part of his o dominions to the crown of England, and pre
serve to the inhabitants their ancient customs " and laws, as well as the appellution and language “ of Englishmen." *
The whole western region, comprehended between the mountains and the sea, was occupied by the Scots, whose language is universally admitted to have been Gaelic.
Lastly, the eastern coast to the northward of the Forth, is to be allotted to the Picts, and when it shall be ascertained who the Picts were, and what was their original dialect, it will only remain to determine when and why they relinquished that dialect, for the purpose of talking English.
Such seems to have been the distribution of the country when Malcolm III. in 1057, mounted the throne of Scotland. We all know that during the usurpation of Macbeth he had been carried into England, where he spent seventeen years; and that at the end of this time he was reinstated in his dominion, by means of an army raised in Northumberland, the earldom of his uncle Siward.
Hither to, the usual residence of the kings of Scotland had been at Forteviot, or elsewhere in
* Fecitque Kineth Regi Eadgaro homagium, sub cau. tion“ multa promittens, quod populo partis illius antiquas consuetudines non negaret, et sub nomine et linguá Anglicaná permanerent. Quod usque hodie firmum manet. Wallingford ap, Gale. Vol. III. p. 545.
the neighbourhood of the Tay; but Malcolm was induced, both by motives of taste and policy, to remove his court to the southward, to the castles of Dunfermline and Edinburgh. Having been educated in England, he might naturally prefer a residence in a Saxon province: it was no less natural, that he should wish to remove from a part of his kingdom, where the partizans of his predecessor were perhaps still numerous: and, after the conquest of England by the Normans, it became highly necessary that the kings of Scotland should be enabled, by their vicinity to the frontier, to watch over the conduct of an ambitious and powerful neighbour.
To this essential policy Malcolm was by no means inattentive. He supported to the utmost of his power, both by negotiation and by force of arms, the Saxon party in England; he married the sister of Edgar Atheling; distributed grants of lands to the companions of her exile; and afforded an asylum in his dominions to the numerous crowds of fugitives who, during the sanguinary expedition of William the Conqueror, in 1070, were expelled from the northern provinces of England. By these means he probably increased very considerably the population and industry of his country; he certainly added much to its poli