Page:Historical characteristics of the Celtic race.djvu/28

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extinguished suicide, so that such an exit from life, just as among our own Celtic race, is recoiled from with horror; and various other salutary fruits he traces to this source. In point of fact, one might almost affirm that the religious feeling of the Celts, strong under the Druids, strong under the Christian Faith, is, next to the Jewish, the most intense that Europe has known. It is a singular corroboration of this position that the great historian of the "Decline and Fall" has coupled the Celts and the Jews in one category in this regard. These, according to Gibbon, are the only races who had a national faith against which the Romans made war, not on political grounds, but as a religious belief. The capture of Jerusalem by Titus, and the extirpation of the Druids by fire and sword from the groves of Anglesea, are therefore parallel events at the two extremities of the Roman world; and you will read the Agricola with fresher interest when you discern the evidence thus supplied as to the characteristics of the Celtic race.

Leaving this loftier theme, I must now descend to a lower level, into the region of manners, to say a word as to a more lowly and mundane characteristic—politeness of demeanour. This is a feature of character universally conceded to you—a courteous politeness; there is confessedly nothing boorish or vulgar about the true Celt; there is, on the contrary, an aversion to everything mean or base. It is often remarked, even by the Englishman, that the Celt has the air and spirit of a gentleman, as if he were come of good blood in the economy of the world. One of his names for the Evil One signifies the mean or base one (Muisean, see Nicolson's Gaelic Proverbs), and we can easily understand how Sir Walter Scott found a magnet of attraction in the chivalry of the Highlands, whence have flowed creations like the Lady of the Lake, or Waverley and Rob Roy. Nearly 300 years ago this nobility of the Highland people in their games struck an old poet of the Elizabethan time, who has left us his impressions of a hunt which he saw in the Brae of Mar as far back as the beginning of the 17th century:—


"Through heather, moss, 'mong frogs and bogs and fogs,
  'Mongst craggy cliffs and thunder-battered hills,
 Hares, hinds, bucks, roes are chased by men and dogs,
  Where two hours' hunting four score fat deer kills;