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Social History of the Highlands

Among the causes which contributed to sustain the warlike character of the Highlanders, the exertions of the bards in stimulating them to deeds of valour on the field of battle, must not be overlooked. One of the most important duties of the bard consisted in attending the clans to the field, and exhorting them before battle to emulate the glories of their ancestors, and to die if necessary in defence of their country. The appeals of the bards, which were delivered and enforced with great vehemence and earnestness, never failed to arouse the feelings; and when amid the din of battle, the voices of the bards could no longer be heard, the pipers succeeded them, and cheered on their respective parties with their warlike and inspiring strains. After the termination of the battle, the bard celebrated the praises of the brave warriors who had fallen in battle, and related the heroic actions of the survivors to excite them to similar exertions on future occasions. To impress still more deeply upon the minds of the survivors the honour and heroism of their fallen friends, the piper was employed to perform plaintive dirges for the slain.

From the associations raised in the mind by the great respect thus paid to the dead, and the honours which awaited the survivors who distinguished themselves in the field of battle, by their actions being celebrated by the bards, and transmitted to posterity, originated that magnanimous contempt of death for which the Highlanders are noted. While among some people the idea of death is avoided with studious alarm, the Highlander will speak of it with an easy and unconcerned familiarity, as an event of ordinary occurrence, but in a way "equally remote from the dastardly affectation, or fool-hardy presumption, and proportioned solely to the inevitable certainty of the event itself."

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