Ireland, Historic and Picturesque
Charles Johnston

Part 3 out of 4

We can see in Colum of the Churches the very spirit of turbulence and
adventure, the fierce impetuosity and readiness for dispute, which led
to the contests between the chieftains of Ireland, the wars between
province and province, often between valley and valley. It is the same
spiritual energy, working itself out in another way, transmuted by the
sacred fire into a divine mission. In the same way the strong will of
Meave, the romantic power of Deirdre and Grania, transmuted to ideal
purposes, was the inspiration of Saint Brigid and so many like her, who
devoted their powers to the religious teaching of women.

We should doubtless fail utterly to understand the riddle of history,
were we to regret the wild warring of these early times as a mere
lamentable loss of life, a useless and cruel bloodshed. We are too much
given to measuring other times and other moods of the soul by our own,
and many false judgments issue from this error. Peaceful material
production is our main purpose, and we learn many lessons of the Will
embodied in the material world when we follow this purpose honestly. But
before our age could begin, it was necessary for the races to come to
personal consciousness. This end seems everywhere to have been reached
by a long epoch of strife, the contending of man against man, of tribe
against tribe. Thus were brought to full consciousness the instinct of
personal valor, personal honor and personal readiness to face death.

Only after this high personal consciousness is kindled can a race enter
the wider path of national life, where vivid and intense individuals
unite their forces to a common end, reaching a common consciousness, and
holding their power in common for the purposes of all. After the lessons
of fighting come the lessons of work. For these lessons of work, for
the direct touch with the everlasting Will gained in all honest work,
our own age is to be valued, far more than for the visible and material
fruits which that work produces.

In like manner the old epoch of war is to be esteemed for the lessons it
taught of high valor, sacrifice, heroic daring. And to what admirable
ends these same qualities may tend we can see in a life like that of
Colum Kill, "head of the piety of the most part of Ireland and Scotland
after Patrick."

Yet the days of old were grim enough to live in. Let this record of some
half-century later testify. It is but one year culled from a long red
rank of years. We give the Chronicler's own words: "645: The sixth year
of Conall and Ceallac. Mac Laisre, abbot of Bangor, died on May 16.
Ragallac son of Uatac, King of Connacht, was killed by Maelbrigde son of
Motlacan, of which was said:

"Ragallac son of Uatac was pierced on the back of a white

Muiream has well lamented him; Catal has well avenged him.

Catal is this day in battle, though bound to peace in the
presence of kings;

Though Catal is without a father, his father is not without

Estimate his terrible revenge from the account of it related:

He slew six men and fifty; he made sixteen devastations;

I had my share like another in the revenge of Ragallac,--

I have the gray beard in my hand, of Maelbrigde son of Motlacan."

These are evidently the very words of one who fought in the battle. Nor
need this in any way surprise us, for we have far older Chronicles set
down year by year in unbroken record. The matter is easy to prove. The
Chronicles of Ulster record eclipses of the sun and moon as early as
495,--two years after Saint Patrick's death. It was, of course, the
habit of astronomers to reckon eclipses backwards, and of annalists to
avail themselves of these reckonings. The Venerable Bede, for example,
has thus inserted eclipses in his history. The result is that the
Venerable Bede has the dates several days wrong, while the Chronicles of
Ulster, where direct observation took the place of faulty reckoning, has
them right, to the day and hour. It is only in quite modern times that
we have reached sufficiently accurate knowledge of the moon's movements
to vindicate the old Ulster Annalists, who began their work not less
than a hundred and fifty years before the battle we have just recorded.

Nor should we exaggerate the condition of the time, thinking of it as
altogether given over to ravaging and devastation. Even though there
were two or three expeditions and battles every year, these would only
affect a small part of the whole country. Over all the rest, the tending
of cattle in the glades of the forest, the sowing and reaping of wheat
and oats, the gathering of fruit and nuts, continued in quiet
contentment and peace. The young men practiced the arts of war and
exercised themselves in warlike games. The poets sang to them, the
heralds recounted the great doings of old, how Cuculain kept the ford,
how Concobar thirsted in his heart for Deirdre, how the son of Cumal
went to war, how golden-tongued Ossin was ensnared by the spirits. The
gentle life of tillage and the keeping of cattle could never engage the
whole mental force of so vigorous a race. What wonder, then, that, when
a chieftain had some real or imagined wrong to avenge, or some adventure
to propose,--what wonder that bold spirits were ever ready to accompany
him, leaving the women to their distaffs and the tending of children and
the grinding of corn? Mounting their horses, they rode forth through the
woods, under the huge arms of the oak-trees; along the banks of
swift-gliding rivers, through passes of the lowering hills. While still
in familiar territory, the time of the march was passed in song and
story. Then came increased precaution, and gradually heightened pulses
marked the stages of the way. The rival chieftain, warned by his scouts
and outlying tribesmen, got word of their approach, and hastily
replenishing his granaries and driving the cattle into the great circle
of his embankments, prepared to meet the coming foe. Swords, spears,
bows, arrows were the arms of both sides. Though leather tunics were
common, coats of mail came only at a later date. The attackers under
cover of the night sped across the open ground before the fort, and
tried to storm the fortress, the defenders meanwhile showering down
keen-pointed arrows on them from above. Both parties, under the
chieftains' guidance, fought fiercely, in a fever of excitement, giving
no heed to wounds, seeing nothing but the foe and the battlements to be
scaled. Then either a successful sortie broke the ranks of the
assailants and sent them back to their forest camp in wild disorder, or,
the stockade giving way, the stormers swept in like a wave of the sea,
and all was chaos and wild struggle hand to hand. Whatever the outcome,
both sides thought of the wild surge of will and valor in that hour as
the crowning event of their lives.

Meanwhile, within the quiet enclosures of the monasteries and religious
schools, the spirit of the time was working with not less fervor, to
invisible and ideal ends. At Bangor, on the neck of the northern Ards;
at Moville, where Lough Foyle spreads its inland sea; at Saul, where the
first Messenger won his first convert; at Devenish Island amid the
waters of Lough Erne; at Monasterboice in the plain of Louth; at
Grlendalough, among the solemn hills of Wicklow; at Kildare, beneath the
oak-woods; at Durrow, amid the central marshes, and many another ancient
seat of learning, the way of wisdom and holiness was trod with gladness.
Latin had been taught since the early days of the Message; the native
tongue of Ireland, consecrated in the hymns of St. Patrick and the poems
of St. Colum of the Churches, was the language in which all pupils were
taught, the modern ministrant to the classical speech of Rome. Nor were
the Scriptures alone studied. Terence, Virgil, Ovid, the Augustans and
the men of the silver age, were familiar in the Irish schools; and to
these Latin writers were soon added the Greeks, more especially--as was
natural--the Greek Fathers, the religious philosophers, and those who
embodied the thought and controversies of the early Christian centuries.
To Greek, Hebrew was added, so that both Old and New Testaments were
known in their proper tongues. About the time when "Ragallac son of
Uatac was pierced on the back of a white steed," Saint Camin in his
island school at Inis Caltra, where red mountains hem in Lough Derg of
the Shannon, was writing his Commentary on the Psalms, recording the
Hebrew readings on the margin of the page. A few years before that
battle, in 634, Saint Cummian of Durrow, some thirty miles to the east
of Camin's Holy Island, wrote to his brother, the Abbot of Iona in the
northern seas, quoting Latin writers sacred and secular, as well as
Origen, Cyril and Pachomius among the Greeks. The learned man discusses
the astronomical systems of the Mediterranean world, giving the names of
months and cycles in Hebrew, Greek and Egyptian, and telling of his
researches into the true time of Easter, while on a journey to Italy and
Rome. This letter, which has come down to our days, is first-hand
testimony to the learning of the early Irish schools.

[Illustration: Ancient Cross, Glendalough.]

Fifty years later, in 683, we hear of the Saxons for the first and
almost the last time in the history of Ireland. It is recorded that the
North Saxons raided Mag Breag in the East of Meath, attacking both
churches and chieftains. They carried away many hostages and much spoil,
but the captives were soon after set at liberty and sent home again, on
the intercession of a remarkable man, Adamnan, the biographer of Colum
of the Churches, whose success in his mission was held to be miraculous.

For more than a century after this single Saxon raid Ireland was wholly
undisturbed by foreign invasion, and the work of building churches,
founding schools, studying Hebrew and Greek and Latin, went on with
increasing vigor and success. An army of missionaries went forth to
other lands, following in the footsteps of Colum of the Churches, and of
these we shall presently speak. The life of the church was so rich and
fruitful that we are led to think of this as a period of childlike and
idyllic peace.

Nothing, however, could be further from the truth. The raids,
devastations and wars between province and province, tribe and tribe,
went on without a year's interruption. This was the normal course of the
nation's life, the natural outlet of the nation's energy: not less a
visible sign of invisible inward power than the faith and fervor of the
schools. We shall get the truest flavor of the times by quoting again
from the old Annals. That they were recorded year by year, we have
already seen; the records of frosts, great snow-storms, years of rich
harvests and the like, interspersed among the fates of kings, show how
faithfully the annals were kept,--as, for example, the winter of great
cold, "when all the rivers and lakes of Ireland were frozen over," in
the year after the Saxon raid.

Here again, under the year 701, is the word of a man then living: "After
Loing Seac son of Angus son of Domnall had been eight years in the
sovreignty of Ireland, he was slain in the battle of Ceann by Cealleac
of Lough Cime, the son of Ragallac, as Cealleac himself testifies:

"'For his deeds of ambition he was slain in the morning at
Glas Cuilg;

I wounded Loing Seac with a sword, the monarch of Ireland

Two years later Saint Adamnan died, after governing the Abbey of Iona
for six and twenty years. It was said of him that "He made a slave of
himself to his virtues," and his great life-work, the Latin history of
Saint Colum of the Churches, founder of the Iona Abbey, to this day
testifies to his high learning and wisdom.

Fourteen years later "Leinster was five times devastated by the
Ui-Neill," the descendants of Nial, and a battle was fought between the
men of Connacht and Munster. Thus the lives of saints and warriors were
interwoven. On very rare occasions the two lives of the race came into
collision. Thus, a quarrel arose between Congus the Abbot and Aed Roin
king of Ulad. Congus summoned to his aid the chief of the Ui-Neill, Aed
Allan by name, in these verses:

"Say to the cold Aed Allan that I have been oppressed by
a feeble enemy:

Aed Roin insulted me last night at Cill Cunna of the sweet

Aed Allan made these verses on his way to battle to avenge the insult:

"For Cill Cunna the church of my spiritual father,
I take this day a journey on the road.
Aed Roin shall leave his head with me,
Or I shall leave my head with him."

The further history of that same year, 733, is best told in the words of
the Annals: "Aed Allan, king of Ireland, assembled his forces to
proceed into Leinster, and he arrived at the Ford of Seannait (in
Kildare). The Leinstermen collected the greatest number they were able,
to defend their rights against him. The king Aed Allan himself went into
the battle, and the chieftains of the north along with him. The
chieftains of Leinster came with their kings into the battle, and
bloodily and heroically was the battle fought between them. Heroes were
slaughtered and bodies were hacked. Aed Allan and Aed, son of Colgan,
king of Leinster, met each other, and Aed son of Colgan was slain by Aed
Allan. The Leinstermen were killed, slaughtered, cut off, and dreadfully
exterminated in this battle, so that there escaped of them but a small
remnant and a few fugitives."

To round out the picture, to contrast the two streams of the nation's
life, let us give this, from the following year: "734: Fifth year of Aed
Allan. Saint Samtain, virgin, of Cluain Bronaig (Longford), died on
December 19. It was of her that Aed Allan gave this testimony:

"Samtain for enlightening various sinners,
A servant who observed stern chastity,
In the wide plain of fertile Meath
Great suffering did Samtain endure;
She undertook a thing not easy,--
Fasting for the kingdom above.
She lived on scanty food;
Hard were her girdles;
She struggled in venomous conflicts;
Pure was her heart amid the wicked.
To the bosom of the Lord, with a pure death,
Samtain passed from her trials."



A.D. 750-1050.

Aed Allan, the king who so feelingly wrote the epitaph of the saintly
virgin Samtain, needed an epitaph himself four years later, for he fell
in battle with Domnall son of Murcad son of Diarmaid, who succeeded him
on the throne. It is recorded that, in the following year, the sea cast
ashore a whale under the mountains of Mourne, to the great wonder of
those who dwelt by the hill of Rudraige. Thus do the Chronicles
establish their good faith, by putting on record things trifling or
grave, with equal impartiality.

They were presently to have something more memorable to record than the
loss of a battle or the stranding of a whale. But before we come to this
new chapter in the life of Ireland, let us show the continuity of the
forces we have already depicted. The old tribal turmoil went on
unabated. In 771, the first year of Doncad son of Domnall in the
sovereignty over Ireland, that ruler made a full muster of the Ui-Neill
and marched into Leinster. The Leinstermen moved before the monarch and
his forces, until they arrived at the fort called Nectain's Shield in
Kildare. Domcad with his forces was entrenched at Aillin, whence his
people continued to fire, burn, plunder and devastate the province for
the space of a week, when the Leinstermen at last submitted to his will.
Seventeen years later it is recorded that the church and abbey of
Ardmaca, or, as we may now begin to call it, Armagh, were struck by
lightning, and the night was terrible with thunder, lightning and wind.

We see, therefore, that the double life of the people, the life of valor
and the life of wisdom, were following their steady course in camp and
school. We may call up a very interesting witness to the whole condition
of Ireland during this epoch: Alfred king of the Northumbrian Saxons,
who spent several years traveling through the land and studying in the
schools. On his departure, he wrote an ode of acknowledgment to the
country he was leaving, in the verse of the native Irish tongue. From
this ode we may quote a few picturesque lines, taking them from a
version which preserves something of the original rhythm:

"I traveled its fruitful provinces round,
And in every one of the five I found,
Alike in church and in palace hall,
Abundant apparel and food for all.
Gold and silver I found, and money,
Plenty of wheat and plenty of honey;
I found God's people rich in pity;
Found many a feast and many a city....
I found in each great church moreo'er,
Whether on island or on shore,
Piety, learning, fond affection,
Holy welcome and kind protection....
I found in Munster unfettered of any
Kings and queens and poets a many,
Poets well skilled in music and measure;
Prosperous doings, mirth and pleasure.
I found in Connacht the just, redundance
Of riches, milk in lavish abundance;
Hospitality, vigor, fame,
In Crimean's land of heroic name....
I found in Ulster, from hill to glen,
Hardy warriors, resolute men.
Beauty that bloomed when youth was gone,
And strength transmitted from sire to son....
I found in Leinster the smooth and sleek,
From Dublin to Slewmargy's peak,
Flourishing pastures, valor, health,
Song-loving worthies, commerce, wealth....
I found in Meath's fair principality
Virtue, vigor, and hospitality;
Candor, joyfulness, bravery, purity--
Ireland's bulwark and security.
I found strict morals in age and youth,
I found historians recording truth.
The things I sing of in verse unsmooth
I found them all; I have written sooth."

The modern form of the names used by the translator gives this version a
slightly misleading tone. Ulster, Munster, Leinster were still known by
their old names: Ulad, Mumain and Lagin. The Danish termination by which
we know them had not been added. In like manner, Dublin in those days
and far later was still called At-Cliat, the Ford of the Hurdles. Yet
the tribute which the Saxon king paid to Ireland has a true ring. It
thoroughly supports what we have said: that incessant tribal warfare
rather expressed than detracted from the vigor of the nation's life. It
had this grave defect, however: it so kindled and cherished the instinct
of separateness that union in face of a common foe was almost
impossible. Long years of adverse fate were needed to merge the keen
individual instinct of old into the common consciousness of to-day.

Modern historians generally write as if the onslaught of the Northmen
had had this unifying effect; as if it had been a great calamity,
overwhelming the country for several centuries, and submerging its
original life under a tide of conquest. Here again the history of the
time, as recorded year by year in the Annals, leads us to a wholly
different conclusion. We find inroads of the Northmen, it is true; but
they are only interludes in the old national life of storm and struggle.
That enduring tribal conflict, of which we have already seen so much,
did not cease even for a year. Nor can it have greatly mattered to the
dwellers in some remote valley whether they were sacked, their cattle
driven off, and their children taken captive by strangers or by men of
their own land.

There was one chief difference: the foreigners, being still heathens,
did not spare the churches and the schools. The golden or silver
reliquaries, the jeweled manuscript-cases, the offerings of precious
stones and rich ornaments laid on the altars: these things proved an
irresistible temptation to the roving sea-kings. They often burned or
cast away the manuscripts, eager only to take the jeweled coverings, and
in this way many monuments of the olden time have been lost, and many
gaps in the history of the nation made irreparable. Yet it would seem
that even the loss of manuscripts has been exaggerated, since such
lavish abundance remains to us from the times before the first northern
raiders came. Many a remote shrine was never even approached by the
northern wanderers; and, in the long times of peace between raid and
raid, one school had time to gain from another copies of the books which
were lost. We may hope that the somewhat rigid views of copyright
expressed in the matter of St. Finian's Psalter were not invariably
adhered to. We have Chronicles kept with unbroken regularity year by
year through the whole of the epoch of Northern raids, and they by no
means indicate a period of national depression, nor justify us in
thinking of these raids as much more than episodes in the general
fighting of the nation,--the martial state through which every modern
country has passed before emerging to homogeneous life.

To come to the events themselves, as they appeared to the men who
witnessed them. We find the first record of the Northern raiders under
the year 795: "The burning of Lambay by the Gentiles. The shrines were
broken and plundered." This Lambay is an island of considerable extent,
off the Dublin coast, some six or seven miles north of Howth. It rises
gradually from the south extremity into a purple cliff of porphyry
facing the northern sea, and on the sheltered slope under the sun a
little church colony with schools and dwelling-houses had been built.
Against this peaceful solitude the raiders came, burning and plundering,
and when they rowed away again in their long ships towards the north, a
smoldering black ruin bore testimony that they were indeed Gentiles,
unblessed by Christian baptism.

Three years later the little island of St. Patrick, six miles north of
Lambay, met with a like fate. It was "burned by the Gentiles," as the
Chronicles say. And from that time forth we hear of their long ships
again and again, hovering hawk-like around the coasts of Ireland and
Scotland. In 802, and again in 806, the Scottish Iona of Colum of the
Churches was raided, and the next year we find the pirates making a
descent upon Inismurray, off the Sligo coast, between the summit of
Knocknarea and the cliffs of Slieve League. This last settlement of
saints and scholars was founded by Molaise,--he who had pronounced
sentence of exile on Colum of the Churches, the banishment that was the
beginning of grace for the northern Picts. His oratory still remains on
the island, beside the Church of the Men, the Church of the Women and
the circular stone fort, which was very likely built to guard against
new attacks, after this first raid. There are holy wells and altars
there also, and Inismurray, better than any other place, gives us a
picture of the old scholastic life of that remote and wonderful time.

Five years later, the Northern raiders made their way further round the
coast, under the shadow of the western mountains and the great cliffs of
Achill; we read of "a slaughter of the people of Connemara by the
Gentiles" in that year, and the year following, other battles with
Gentiles are recorded in the same part of Ireland.

In 818, if we are to believe the Annalist, a singular thing happened:
"An army was led by Murcad, having the Ui-Neill of the North with him.
Concobar king of Ireland with the Ui-Neill of the South and the
Leinstermen came from the South on the other hand. When they came to one
place, it happened, through a miracle of God, that they separated from
each other for that time without slaughter or one of them spilling a
drop of the other's blood." That entry better than any other shows the
restless spirit of the times. It shows, too, that the first shock of
Norse invasion had not in any sense warned the people and chieftains of
Ireland of coming danger, nor had it in any degree checked the steady
course of the nation's growth through storm and strife to personal
consciousness, as the stepping-stone to the wider common consciousness
of the modern world.

The year following we read of "a plundering of Howth by the Gentiles,
who carried off a great prey of women." These captives were doubtless
the first to bring the Message of the New Way to the wild granite lands
of the north, where the mountains in their grandeur frown upon the long
inlets of the fiords. They taught to their children in those wild lands
of exile the lessons of grace and holiness, so rudely interrupted when
the long ships of the Norsemen were sighted from the Hill of Howth.

A year later, in 820, the raiders had found their way to the
southernmost extremity of the island; to Cape Clear, off the coast of
Cork. This once again brings to our notice the position of so many of
the early religious settlements,--on rocky islands off the coasts, well
out of the turmoil of tribal strife which raged uninterrupted on the
mainland. St. Patrick's Island and Lambay on the east, Clear Island on
the south, and Inismurray on the northwest, so well protected by the sea
from disturbance at home, were, by that very isolation, terribly exposed
to these foreign raiders from the sea. Howth, Moville and Bangor, all on
peninsulas, all by the seashore, enjoyed a like immunity and were open
to a like danger. Therefore we are not surprised to find that, two years
later, Bangor was "plundered by the Gentiles."

It will be remembered that St. Patrick's first church was built on land
given him by Dicu, chieftain of the district round Downpatrick, a name
which commemorates the presence of the Messenger. Two sons of this same
Dicu had been held as hostages by Laogaire the king, and their marvelous
escape from durance was recorded in the name, Dun-da-lath-glas, the
Dwelling of the Two Broken Fetters, given to Downpatrick. The place was
of old renown. Known to Ptolemy as Dunum, it was, during Concobar's sway
at Emain of Maca, the fortress of the strong chief, Celtcar, whose huge
embattled hill of earth still rises formidable over the Quoyle River. In
the year 823, we read, Dundalathglas was plundered by the Gentiles; but
the story does not stop here, for we are further told that these same
Gentiles were beaten by the Ulad armies not far from the great fort of
Celtcar. This is the first entry of this tenor. Hitherto, the Northmen
seem to have fallen only on outlying religious communities, in remote
islands or on the seashore; but this last raid brought them to one of
the very few church-schools which had been built close to a strong
fortress, with the result that the Northmen were beaten and driven back
into their ships.

Three years later the Gentiles plundered Lusk on the mainland opposite
Lambay, but in that same year they were twice defeated in battle, once
by Cairbre son of Catal, and once by the king of Ulad. The raids of the
Norse warriors grow more frequent and determined from this time; in
itself a testimony to the wealth and prosperity of the country, the
abundance of gold and of accumulated riches, whether cattle or corn,
ornaments or richly dyed stuffs, red and purple and blue. Word seems to
have been carried to the wild hills and fiords of frozen Scandinavia
that here was booty in abundance, and the pirate hordes came down
in swarms.

Thus we read that Armagh, the center of St. Patrick's work, and the
chief home of learning, was thrice plundered in 830, the raiders sailing
up Carlingford Lough and then making a dash of some fifteen miles across
the undulating country separating them from the city of churches. This
is the first time they ventured out of sight of their boats. Two years
later they plundered Clondalkin, nine miles inland from the Dublin
coast, where the Round Tower still marks the site of the old church and
school. To the growing frequency of these raids, it would seem, the
building of Round Towers is to be attributed; they were at once belfries
and places of refuge. We find, therefore, that the door is almost always
many feet above the ground, being reached by a ladder afterwards drawn
up by those inside. The number of these Round Towers all over the
country, and the perfect preservation of many of them, show how
universal this precaution was, and how effective were the refugees thus
provided. It is instructive to read under this same year, 832, that "a
great number of the family of Clonmacnoise were slain by Feidlimid king
of Cashel, all their land being burned by him up to the door of the
church." Thus the progress of tribal struggle was uninterrupted by the
Gentile raids.

Four years later, a fleet of sixty Norse fighting galleys sailed up the
Boyne. Sixty long ships entered the Liffey in the same year, and a year
later they captured the fortress of the Ford of the Hurdles,
At-Cliat,--the old name of Dublin. Three years later we find the king of
Munster plundering Meath and West Meath, showing that no sense of common
danger disturbed the native kings. This strengthens the view we have
already taken: that the attacks of the Norse sea-kings were only an
interlude in the incessant contests between the tribes of province and
province; contests perfectly natural and normal to the development of
the land, and through which every country has at some period passed.

[Illustration: Round Tower, Antrim.]

It would seem that the Northmen who captured the Ford of the Hurdles
departed from their former usage. Fortifying themselves, or
strengthening the existent fortress, they determined to pass the winter
in Ireland, instead of returning, as they had always done up to this
time, before the autumn storms made dangerous the navigation of the wild
northern seas. Their presence in this fort gave the native powers a
center upon which to concentrate their attack, and as a result the year
846 was marked by a signal victory over the Northmen, twelve hundred of
those at At-Cliat being slain. Four other successful contests with the
raiders are recorded for the same year, and we can thoroughly trust the
Annalists who, up to this time, have so faithfully recorded the
disasters of their own race.

About the same time the Northmen gained a second point of vantage by
seizing and fortifying a strong position where the town of Cork now
stands. Indeed their instinct of seamanship, their knowledge of good
harbors and the conditions which make them, led them to fix their first
entrenchments at Dublin, Cork and Limerick,--which remained for
centuries after the great ports of the country on the east, south and
west; and the Norse flavor still lingers in the names of Carlingford,
Wexford and Waterford, the Fiords of Cairlinn, Weis and Vadre. A
wonderful side-light on the whole epoch is shed by this entry for 847:
"In this year sevenscore ships of the Gentiles from abroad fought
against the Gentiles in Ireland." It would seem that the earlier comers,
who had drawn up their long ships on the beach, and thrown up earthworks
round their camp, instantly resented the attempt of later arrivals to
poach on their preserves, and that a fierce fight was the result. During
the whole of the following century we find signs of like rivalry between
different bands of raiders, and it becomes evident that they were as
much divided amongst themselves as were the native tribes they
fought against.

Two years later a further light is shed on this mutual strife when we
are told that "Dark Gentiles came to At-Cliat and slaughtered the Fair
Gentiles, plundering their fort and carrying away both people and
property." The next year saw a new struggle between the Dark Gentiles
and the Fair Gentiles, with much mutual slaughter. This leads us to
realize that these raiders, vaguely grouped by modern writers under the
single name of Danes, really belonged to several different races, and
doubtless came from many parts of the Baltic coasts, as well as from the
fiords of the great Scandinavian peninsula. The Dark Foreigners are
without doubt some of that same race of southern origin which we saw,
ages earlier, migrating northwards along the Atlantic seaboard,--a race
full of the spirit of the sea, and never happier than when the waves
were curling and breaking under their prows. They found their way, we
saw, as far northwards as the coast of Scotland, the Western Isles, and
distant Norway over the foam, where the long fiords and rugged
precipices gave them a congenial home. We find them hovering over the
shores of Ireland at the very dawn of her history; and, in later but
still remote ages, their power waned before the De Danaan tribes. This
same dark race returning now from Norway, swooped hawk-like upon the
rich shrines of the Irish island sanctuaries, only to come into hostile
contact once more with sons of that golden-haired race which scattered
the dark Fomorians at Mag Tuiread of the North. For the Fair Gentiles of
our mediaeval Chronicle are no other than the golden-haired
Scandinavians; the yellow-locked Baltic race that gave conquerors and a
new ideal of beauty to the whole modern world. And this Baltic race, as
we saw in an earlier epoch, was the source and mother of the old De
Danaans, whose hair was like new-smelted gold or the yellow flag-lilies
of our lakes and rivers. Thus after long ages the struggle of Fomor and
De Danaan was renewed at the Ford of the Hurdles between the Dark and
Fair Strangers, rivals for the plunder of the Irish religious schools.

Though the personalities of this age do not stand forth with the high
relief of Cuculain and Concobar, though we can hardly quote poems to
equal the songs of Find son of Cumal and Ossin of the golden tongue, yet
genuine inspiration never failed in the hearts of the warriors and on
the lips of the bards. Thus in 860 did a poet lament the death of
a king:

"Mournfully is spread her veil of grief over Erin
Since Maelseaclain, chieftain of our race has perished,--
Maelseaclain of the flowing Shannon.
Many a moan resounds in every place;
It is mournful news among the Gael.

Red wine has been spilled into the valley:
Erin's monarch has died.
Though he was wont to ride a white charger.
Though he had many steeds,
His car this day is drawn by a yoke of oxen.
The king of Erin is dead."

Four years afterwards the contest between the raiders and the chieftains
grew keener, more centered, more like organized war. "A complete muster
of the North was made by Aed Finnliat, so that he plundered the
fortresses of the foreigners, wherever they were in the north; and he
carried off their cattle and accoutrements, their goods and chattels.
The foreigners of the province came together at Lough Foyle. After Aed
king of Ireland had heard that this gathering of strangers was on the
borders of his country, he was not negligent in attending to them. For
he marched towards them with all his forces, and a battle was fought
fiercely and spiritedly between them. The victory was gained over the
foreigners, and a slaughter was made of them. Their heads were collected
to one place, in the presence of the king, and twelve-score heads were
reckoned before him, which was the number slain in that battle, besides
the numbers of those who were wounded and carried off by him in the
agonies of death, and who died of their wounds some time afterwards."

A renewal of tribal warfare in the second year after this, when this
same Aed the king was attacked by Flann the lord of Breag in Meath,
called forth certain battle-verses full of the fire and fervor of
the time.

A poet sang:

"At Kiladerry this day the ravens shall taste sips of blood:
A victory shall be gained over the magic host of the Gentiles
and over Flann."

The mother of Flann sang:

"Happiness! Woe! Good news! Bad news! The gaining of a great
triumphant battle.

Happy the king whom it makes victorious; unhappy the king who
was defeated.

Unhappy the host of Leat Cuin, to have fallen by the sprites
of Slain;

Happy the reign of great Aed, and unhappy the loss of Flann."

Aed the victorious king sang:

"The troops of Leinster are with him, with the added men of
swift Boyne;

This shows the treachery of Flann: the concord of Gentiles
at his side."

After ten years, a bard thus sings the dirge of Aed:

"Long is the wintry night, with rough gusts of wind;
Under pressing grief we meet it, since the red-speared king
of the noble house lives not.
It is fearful to watch how the waves heave from the bottom;
To them may be compared all those who with us lament him.
A generous, wise, staid man, of whose renown the populous
Tara was full.
A shielded oak that sheltered the palace of Milid's sons.
Master of the games of the fair hilled Taillten,
King of Tara of a hundred conflicts;
Chief of Fodla the noble, Aed of Oileac who died too soon.
Popular, not forgotten, he departed from this world,
A yew without any blemish upon him was he of the long-flowing

Nor must it be thought that these repeated raids which we have recorded
in any way checked the full spiritual life of the nation. It is true
that there was not that quiet serenity from which came the perfect
beauty and art of the old Book of Kells, but a keenness and fire kindled
the breasts of those who learned the New Way and the Ancient Learning.
The schools sent forth a host of eminent men who over all western Europe
laid the intellectual basis of the modern world. This view of Ireland's
history might well be expanded almost without limit or possibility of
exaggeration. Receiving, as we saw, the learning and traditions of Rome
while Rome was yet mighty and a name of old imperial renown, Ireland
kept and cherished the classical wisdom and learning, not less than the
lore of Palestine. Then the northern garrisons of Rome were beaten back,
and Britain and Gaul alike were devastated by hordes from beyond the
Rhine. The first wild deluge of these fierce invaders was now over, and
during the lull of the storm teachers went forth from Ireland to
Scotland, as we have seen; they went also to Britain; to Belgium; to
northern, central and southern Gaul; and to countries beyond the Rhine
and in the south; to Switzerland and Austria, where one Irishman gave
his name to the Canton of St. Gall, while another founded the famous see
of Salzburg, a rallying-point through all the Middle Ages. It was not
only for pure spiritual zeal and high inspiration that these teachers
were famed. They had not less renown for all refined learning and
culture. The famous universities of Oxford, Paris and Pavia count among
the great spirits at their inception men who were worthy pupils of the
schools of Devenish and Durrow, of Bangor and Moville.

We have recorded the tribute paid by Alfred the Saxon king to the
Ireland of his day. Let us add to it the testimony of a great divine of
France. Elias, Bishop of Angouleme, who died in 875, wrote thus: "What
need to speak of Ireland; setting at nought, as it does, the
difficulties of the sea, and coming almost in a body to our shores, with
its crowd of philosophers, the most intelligent of whom are subjecting
themselves to a voluntary exile."

We have traced the raids of the Northmen for nearly a century. They
continued for a century and a quarter longer. Through all this time the
course of the nation's life was as we have described it: a raid from the
sea, or from one of their seaboard fortresses by the Dark Gentiles or
the Fair; an assembling of the hosts of the native chieftains against
them; a fierce and spirited battle against the pirates in their
mail-coats and armed with great battle-axes. Sometimes the chosen people
prevailed, and sometimes the Gentiles; but in either case the heads of
the slain were heaped up at the feet of the victor, many cattle were
driven away as spoil, and young men and maidens were taken into
captivity. It would seem that at no time was there any union between the
foreigners of one and another seaboard fortress, any more than there was
unity among the tribes whom they raided and who defeated them in their
turn. It was a strife of warring units, without fusion; small groups
round chosen leaders, and these merging for awhile in greater groups.
Thus the life of the times, in its warlike aspect. Its spiritual vigor
we have sufficiently shown, not less in the inspirations of the saints
than in the fiery songs of the bards, called forth by battles and the
death of kings. Everywhere there was fierce force and seething energy,
bringing forth fruit of piety or prowess.

The raiders slowly lost their grasp of the fortresses they had seized.
Newcomers ceased to fill their thinning ranks. Their force was finally
shattered at the battle of Clontarf, which the Annalist thus records:
"1013: The Foreigners of the west of Europe assembled against Brian and
Maelseaclain, and they took with them a thousand men with coats of mail.
A spirited, fierce, violent, vengeful and furious battle was fought
between them, the likeness of which was not to be found in that time, at
Cluain-tarb, the Lawn of the Bulls. In this battle was slain Brian son
of Ceinneidig, monarch of Ireland, who was the Augustus of all the west
of Europe, in the eighty-eighth year of his age."

The scene of this famous conflict is on the coast, between Dublin and
the Hill of Howth. A wide strand of boulders is laid bare by the
receding tide, with green sea-grass carpeting the stones. At the very
verge of the farthest tide are two huge sand-banks, where the waves roar
and rumble with a sound like the bellowing of bulls, and this tumultuous
roaring is preserved in the name of the place unto this day.



A.D. 1013-1250.

There was, as we have seen, no "Danish Conquest" of Ireland, nor
anything approaching a conquest. What really happened during the ninth
and tenth centuries was this: Raiders from the shores of the Northern
seas, from the Scandinavian peninsula and the Western Isles of Scotland,
sailed in their long ships among the islands of the Irish coast, looking
for opportunities to plunder the treasuries of the religious schools,
and carrying off the gold and silver reliquaries and manuscript cases,
far more valuable to these heathen seamen than the Latin or Gaelic
manuscripts they contained.

These raids had little connection with each other; they were the outcome
of individual daring, mere boat's-crews from one or another of the
Northern fiords. A few of the more persistent gradually grew reluctant
to retreat with their booty to the frozen north, and tried to gain a
footing on the shores of the fertile and wealthy island they had
discovered. They made temporary camps on the beach, always beside the
best harbors, and threw up earthworks round them, or perhaps more
lasting forts of stone. Thus they established a secondary base for raids
inland, and a place of refuge whither they might carry the cattle, corn
and captives which these raids brought them from the territories of the
native clans. These camps on the shore were the germ of a chain of
sea-ports at Dublin, Wexford, Waterford, Cork and Limerick.

From these points raiding went on, and battles were fought in which the
raiders were as often vanquished as victorious. There was little union
between the various Norse forts, and indeed we sometimes find them
fighting valiantly among themselves. Meanwhile, the old tribal contest
went on everywhere throughout the island. The south invaded the north
and was presently invaded in return. The east and the west sent
expeditions against each other. Clan went forth against clan, chief
against chief, and cattle and captives many times changed hands. These
captives, it would seem, became the agricultural class in each clan,
being made to work as the penalty for unsuccessful fighting. The old
tribal life went on unbroken during the whole of this period; nor did
it subsequently yield to pressure from without, but rather passed
away, during succeeding centuries, as the result of inward growth.
Meanwhile the religious schools continued their work, studying Latin and
Greek as well as the old Gaelic, and copying manuscripts as before; and
one fruit of their work we see in the gradual conversion of the heathen
Norsemen, who were baptized and admitted to the native church. The old
bardic schools likewise continued, so that we have a wealth of native
manuscripts belonging to this time, embodying the finest tradition and
literature of the earlier pagan ages.

[Illustration: Giant Head and Dunluce Castle, Co. Antrim.]

If the Danes and Northern raiders never conquered Ireland, on the other
hand they never were expelled. Through the cessation of the original
impulse of unrest which brought them, they gradually ceased to receive
accessions from the North, and at the same time the forces of
amalgamation were slowly merging them into the national and tribal life
of their new home. Their separate influence grew less and less, but
their race continued, and continues to this day in the sea-ports we
have named.

We shall presently have to record another series of Norse inroads, this
time not directly from the North, but mediately, through France and
Britain, and we shall find that much of our subsequent history was
influenced by the new elements and principles then added. We shall do
well, therefore, to linger for a moment before this new transition, to
gain a clear view of the tendencies of the epoch then closed, the wider
significance of that chapter of our nation's life.

The culture of Ireland, during the period before the Northern raids,
bridged over the abyss between the classical and the mediaeval world.
During the whole of that period the rest of Europe was hidden under the
clouds of the Dark Ages. Ireland stood alone as the one cultured nation.
Receiving the classical learning from Roman Gaul and Britain and Italy,
while the old world was still alive, Ireland carried that culture onward
when Rome and the Roman Empire fell, crushed under the hordes of
Northern barbarians: the Franks in Gaul; the Lombards, Goths and Vandals
in Spain and Italy; the Angles, Saxons and Danes in Britain; and the
Picts and Northmen in the Scottish lowlands. Austria was meanwhile
overrun by Asian nomads, the Huns and Magyars; Russia and Germany, with
the Scandinavian lands, were still pagan.

Thus all Europe was submerged under a deluge of heathenism, and the old
Latin culture was swept away. The tradition of ancient Greece still
lingered at Constantinople behind the wall of the Balkans, but it had no
influence at all on the northern nations beyond the wall. Ireland was
thus the one exception, the ark of safety for the old wisdom and beauty
of classical days. And from Ireland, when the tide of heathen invasion
slackened, the light of classical times and the spirit of the New Way
went forth to all the nascent nations, the great pagan tribes that were
to form the modern world. Thus Ireland was the bridge over the Dark
Ages, the first of modern nations, keeping the old and blending it
with the new.

Yet another view of Ireland's significance must not be forgotten. Of the
original life of the great pagan world which swept over the Roman Empire
we know almost nothing. How much do we realize of the thought and genius
of Aleman, Frank and Vandal, of Angle and Lombard and Burgundian?

Nothing at all. The darkness that shrouds them is complete. But what a
contrast when we come to Ireland! If we leave out the basin of the
Mediterranean, with its Asian and African traditions, Ireland is the one
European nation which has clear records of its pagan history. And how
excellent that history was, how full of humanity and the rich wine of
life, the stories of Fergus and Concobar and Cuculain, of Find and Ossin
and Gael, of Meave and Deirdre and Crede bear sufficient witness. The
tide of Irish life to which they belong, and which brought them forth,
flowed on without break to a time so recent that their whole tradition
has come down to us, practically at first hand, from the heralds and
bards themselves. Ireland is, therefore, our one doorway to the history
of northern Europe through the long era of pagan times.

That history was everywhere a fierce tale of tribal warfare. Its heroes
are valiant fighters, keen leaders of forays, champion swordsmen and
defenders of forts. The air throbs to the battle-drum, rings to the call
of the war-trumpet. Every tribe, every clan, is in turn victor and
vanquished, raider and victim of raids. Everywhere are struggle and
unrest, tales of captivity and slaughter.

We fall into vain lamenting over this red rapine and wrath, until we
divine the genius and secret purpose of that wonderful epoch, so wholly
different in inspiration from our own. The life of races, like the life
of men, has its ordered stages, and none can ripen out of season. That
was the epoch of dawning individual consciousness, when men were coming
to a keen and vivid realization of themselves and their powers. Keen
consciousness and strong personal will could be developed only through
struggle--through long ages of individual and independent fighting,
where the best man led, and often fought for his right to lead with the
best of his followers. Innumerable centers of initiative and force were
needed, and these the old tribal life abundantly gave. The territory of
a chief hardly stretched farther than he could ride in a day, so that
every part of it had a real place in his heart. Nor was he the owner of
that territory. He was simply the chosen leader of the men who lived
there, perhaps the strongest among many brothers who shared it equally
between them. If another thought himself the better man, the matter was
forthwith decided by fighting.

The purpose of all this was not the "survival of the fittest" in the
material sense, but a harvest purely spiritual: the ripening of keen
personal consciousness and will in all the combatants, to the full
measure of their powers. The chiefs were the strongest men who set the
standard and served as models for the rest, but that standard held the
minds of all, the model of perfect valor was in the hearts of all. Thus
was personal consciousness gained and perfected.

If we keep this in mind as the keynote of the whole pagan epoch, we
shall be better able to comprehend the new forces which were added to
that epoch, and which gradually transformed it. The greatest was the
Message of the New Way. Deeds are stronger than words, and in the deeds
of the first Messengers we can see the new spirit bearing fruit. The
slave of Slemish mountain returned breathing not vengeance for his
captivity but pity and generous kindness towards his captors. Colum the
exile did not seek to enlist the Picts against his native land, but
sought rather to give the message of that land to the wild Pictish
warriors, and to spread humane and generous feeling among them. Thus was
laid the foundation of a wide and universal consciousness; a bridge was
built between soul and soul.

From the waning of the Norsemen to the first coming of the Normans is a
period of about a hundred and fifty years. We shall best gain an insight
into the national and religious life of that time by gleaning from the
Annals the vivid and living pictures they never fail to give,--pictures
which are the records of eye-witnesses. The strictly contemporary
character of the records is vouched for by the correct entry of
eclipses: for instance, "on the day before the calends of September, in
the year 1030, there was a darkening of the sun."

We see the genius of the Norsemen suffering a like eclipse the year
before: "1029: Olaf son of Sitric, lord of the Foreigners, was taken
prisoner by Matgamain Ua Riagain lord of Breag, who exacted twelve
hundred cows as his ransom, together with seven score British horses,
three score ounces of gold, the sword of Carlus, the Irish hostages,
sixty ounces of white silver as the ransom of his fetters, eighty cows
for word and supplication, and four hostages to Ua Riagain as a security
of peace."

Two generations later we read: "1088: Tigearnac Ua Briain, chief
successor of Ciaran and Coman, died. He was a paragon of learning and
history." The work of the paragon Tigearnac, a history of Ireland, is
extant and writ in choice Latin, a monument at once of the classical
learning of our schools and of the historical spirit carried down from
the days of the pagan heralds and bards. Tigearnac quotes abundantly
from Greek and Latin authors, fortifying his conclusions with passages
from Eusebius, Orosius, Julius Africanus, Josephus, Jerome and Bede.

A half-century later we get a quaint and vivid glimpse into the
religious life of the time: "1145: A lime-kiln which was sixty feet
every way was erected opposite Emain Maca by Gilla Mac Liag, the
successor of Patrick, and Patrick's clergy in general." Here is the glow
of that devotion through work which gave us the great mediaeval
cathedrals, the fervor and artistic power, which in former times adorned
the Gospels of the Book of Kells, now working out its way in lasting
stone. The date of this lime-kiln lies indeed just half-way between the
consecration of Cormac's Chapel at Cashel in 1134 and the foundation of
the beautiful cathedral beside it by the lord of Tuaid-Muma or Thomond
in 1152. Cormac's Chapel is a very pure example of native style,
untouched by foreign or continental influence.

[Illustration: Rock of Cashel, Ruins of Old Cathedral, King Cormac's
Chapel and Round Tower,]

We can divine the figure of one of the great men of the religious world
in the records for the year 1148: "A synod was convened at Saint
Patrick's Isle by Maelmaedog, called also Malachias, successor of
Patrick, at which were present fifteen bishops and two hundred priests,
to establish rules and morals for all. Maelmaedog by the advice of the
synod went a second time to Rome, to confer with the successor of
Peter." A few months later we read this record of his death: "Malachias,
that is, Maelmaedog Ua Morgair, Archbishop of the chair of Patrick,
chief head of the piety of the West of Europe, legate of the successor
of Peter, the only head whom the Irish and the Foreigners obeyed, chief
paragon of wisdom and piety, a brilliant lamp which illumined
territories and churches by preaching and good works, faithful shepherd
of the church in general,--after having ordained bishops and priests and
persons of every degree; after having consecrated many churches and
cemeteries; after having performed every ecclesiastical work throughout
Ireland; after having bestowed jewels and food upon the mighty and the
needy; after having founded churches and monasteries, for by him was
repaired in Ireland every church which had been consigned to decay and
neglect, and they had been neglected from times remote;--after leaving
every rule and every good moral in the churches of Ireland in general;
after having been the second time in the legateship; after having been
fourteen years in the primacy; and after the fifty-fourth year of his
age, resigned his spirit to heaven on the second day of November, and
was buried in the monastery of Saint Bernard at Claravallis in France."

This is the same worthy under whose influence was built the great
lime-kiln over against the fort of Emain, where Concobar once ruled.
Even from the scant notices which we have quoted he stands forth clear
and strong, full of spiritual and moral vigor, a great man in every
sense, and one in whom we divine a lovable and admirable spirit. At that
time there were four archbishoprics in Ireland, at Armagh, Cashel,
Dublin and Tuam; the primacy belonging to the first, as the seat of the
Damliag Mor or Great Stone Church, built by Saint Patrick himself. A
sentence in the Annals shows how the revenues were raised: "A horse from
every chieftain, a sheep from every hearth." A few passages like these
are enough to light up whole epochs of that mediaeval time, and to show
us how sympathetic, strong and pure that life was, in so many ways.

We find, meanwhile, that the tribal struggle continued as of old: "1154:
Toirdealbac Ua Concobar brought a fleet round Ireland northwards, and
plundered Tir-Conaill and Inis Eogain. The Cinel Eogain sent to hire the
fleets of the Hebrides, Arran, Cantyre and Man, and the borders of Alba
in general, and they fell in with the other fleet and a naval battle
was fiercely and spiritedly fought between them. They continued the
conflict from, the beginning of the day till evening, but the foreign
fleet was defeated." This records perhaps the only lesson learned from
the Norsemen, the art of naval warfare. We may regret that the new
knowledge was not turned to a more national end.

Four years later, "a wicker bridge was made by Ruaidri Ua Concobar at
Athlone, for the purpose of making incursions into Meath. There was a
pacific meeting between Ruaidri Ua Concobar and Tigearnan, and they made
peace, and took mutual oaths before sureties and relics." This is our
first meeting with a king as remarkable in his way as the great
archbishop his contemporary. Ruaidri descendant of Concobar was king of
Connacht, holding the land from the western ocean up to the great
frontier of the river Shannon. Eager to plunder his neighbors and bring
back "a countless number of cows," he undertook this wonderful work, a
pile bridge across the river, seemingly the first of its kind to be
built there, and in structure very like the famous bridge which Caesar
built across the Rhine,--or like many of the wooden bridges across the
upper streams of the Danube at the present day. We shall record a few
more of this enterprising and large-minded prince's undertakings,
following the course of the years.

In parenthesis, we find a clue to the standard of value of the time in
this record: "1161: The visitation of Osraige was made by Flaitbeartac,
successor of Colum Kill; the tribute due to him was seven score oxen,
but he selected, as a substitute for these, four hundred and twenty
ounces of pure silver." The price of an ox was, therefore, three ounces
of silver. The old-time barter, an echo of which still lingers in the
word "pecuniary" from the Latin name for "cattle," was evidently
yielding to the more convenient form of exchange through the medium of
the metals, which are easily carried and divided, and suffer no
detriment from the passage of time. With the wicker bridge and the
lime-kiln, this change from a tribute in cattle to a payment in silver
may remind us that we are on the threshold of the modern world.

In 1162 we find the king of Connacht in a new adventure: "An army was
led by Muirceartac Ua Lochlain, accompanied by the people of the north
of Ireland, the men of Meath, and a battalion of the Connacht men, to
At-Cliat, to lay siege to the Foreigners and the Irish; but Ua Lochlain
retired without battle or hostages after having plundered the Fair
Strangers. A peace was afterwards concluded between the Foreigners and
the Gaels; and six score ounces of gold were given by the Foreigners to
Ua Lochlain, and five score ounces of gold were paid by Diarmaid Ua
Maelseaclain to Ruaidri Ua Concobar for West Meath." Here again we see
the "countless cows" giving place to counted gold in the levying of
tribute. We note also, in the following year, that "a lime-kiln
measuring seventy feet every way was made by the successor of Colum Kill
and the clergy of Colum Kill in twenty days," in evident emulation of
the work of the Armagh see.

The synod already recorded as having been held in the little island of
Saint Patrick off the Dublin coast, gives us a general view of the
church at that time, the number of sees and parishes, and the spirit
animating them. We gain a like view of the civil state in the record of
a great assembly convened in 1167 by the energetic and enterprising
Connacht king: "A great meeting was called together by Ruaidri Ua
Concobar and the chiefs of Leat Cuin, both lay and ecclesiastic, and the
chiefs of At-boy,--the Yellow Ford across one of the streams of the
Boyne in Meath. To it came the successor of Patrick, the archbishop of
Connacht, the archbishop of Leinster, the lord of Breifne, the lord of
Oirgialla, the king of Ulster, the king of Tara, and Ragnall son of
Ragnall, lord of the Foreigners. The whole of their gathering and
assemblage was 19,000 horsemen, of which 6000 were Connachtmen, 4000
with the lord of Breifne, 2000 with the king of Tara, 4000 with the lord
of Oirgialla and the king of Ulster, 2000 with the chief of Ui-Failge,
and 1000 with the Foreigners of At-Cliat. They passed many good
resolutions at this meeting, respecting veneration for churches and
clerics, and control of tribes and territories, so that women used to
traverse Ireland alone; and a restoration of his prey was made by the
chief of the Ui-Failge at the hands of the kings aforesaid. They
afterwards separated in peace and amity, without battle or controversy,
or without anyone complaining of another at that meeting, in consequence
of the prosperousness of the king, who had assembled these chiefs with
their forces at one place."

Here is a foreshadowing of the representative assemblies of our modern
times, and the same wise spirit is shown in another event of the same
year, thus recorded: "A hosting and a mustering of the men of Ireland,
with their chieftains, by Ruaidri Ua Concobar; thither came the lord of
Deas-muma, the lord of Tuaid-muma, the king of Meath, the lord of
Oirgialla and all the chieftains of Leinster. They arrived in
Tir-Eogain, and allotted the part of it north of Slieve Gullion,--now
the eastern part of Derry,--to Nial Ua Lochlain for two hostages, and
allotted the part of the country of the clan to the south of the
mountain to Aed Ua Neill for two other hostages. Then the men of Ireland
returned back southwards over Slieve Fuaid, through Tir-Eogain and
Tir-Connaill, and over Assaroe--the Cataract of the Erne--and Ruaidri Ua
Concobar escorted the lord of Deas-muma with his forces southwards
through Tuaid-muma as far as Cnoc-Aine--in Limerick--and the lord of
Deas-muma departed with gifts of many jewels and riches."

While the Norse foreigners were a power at Dublin, Waterford, Cork and
Limerick, there were not wanting occasions when one of the native tribes
called on them for aid against another tribe, sharing with them the joys
of victory or the sorrow of defeat, and, where fortune favored, dividing
with them the "countless cows" taken in a raid. In like manner the
Cinel Eogain, as we saw, hired the fleet of the Norsemen of the Western
Isles of Scotland to help them to resist a raid of the Connachtmen. The
example thus set was followed repeatedly in the coming years, and we
find mention of Flemings, Welshmen and Saxons brought over to take one
side or other in the tribal wars.

In the same year that saw the two assemblings of the chieftains under
Ruaidri Ua Concobar, another chieftain, Diarmaid son of Murcad brought
in from "the land of the Saxons," as it was called, one of these bands
of foreign mercenaries, for the most part Welsh descendants of the old
Gaelic Britons, to aid him in his contest for "the kingdom of the sons
of Ceinnsealaig." Two years later, Ruaidri Ua Concobar "granted ten cows
every year from himself and from every king that should follow him for
ever, to the Lector of Ard Maca, in honor of Patrick, to instruct the
youths of Ireland and Alba in Literature."

For the next year, 1170, we find this record: "Robert Mac Stepni and
Ricard Mac Gillebert--Iarl Strangbow--came from Saxonland into Erin with
a numerous force, and many knights and archers, in the army of the son
of Murcad, to contest Leinster for him, and to disturb the Gaels of
Erin in general; and the son of Murcad gave his daughter to Iarl
Strangbow for coming into his army. They took Loch Garman--Wexford--and
Port Lairge--Waterford--by force; and they took Gillemaire the officer
of the fortress and Ua Faelain lord of the Deisi and his son, and they
killed seven hundred persons there. Domnall Breagac with numbers of the
men of Breag fell by the Leinstermen on that occasion. An army was led
by Ruaidri Ua Concobar with the lord of Breifne and the lord of
Oirgialla against Leinster and the Foreigners aforesaid, and there was a
challenge of battle between them for the space of three days." This
contest was indecisive. The most noteworthy event of the battle was the
plundering and slaughter of the Danes of At-Cliat by the newcomers under
Iarl Strangbow. The Danes had long before this given up their old pagan
faith, converted by their captives and their Gaelic neighbors. Christ
Church Cathedral in At-Cliat or Dublin was founded early in the
preceding century by Sitric son of Olaf, king of the Danes of Dublin,
and Donatus the first Danish bishop; but the oldest part of the present
structure belongs to the time we are now speaking of: the close of the
twelfth century. The transepts with their chevron mouldings and the
principal doorway are of that period, and we may regard them as an
offering in expiation of the early heathen raids on Lambay, Saint
Patrick's Isle, and the early schools of the church.

The ambitious Diarmaid Mac Murcad died shortly after the last battle we
have recorded, "perishing without sacrament, of a loathsome disease;" a
manifest judgment, in the eyes of the Chronicler, for the crime of
bringing the Normans to Ireland. In the year that saw his death, "Henry
the Second, king of the Saxons and duke of the Normans, came to Ireland
with two hundred and forty ships." He established a footing in the land,
as one of many contesting powers, but the immediate results of his
coming were slight. This we can judge from the record of three years
later: "A brave battle was fought by the Foreigners under Iarl Strangbow
and the Gaels under Ruaidri Ua Concobar at Thurles, in which the
Foreigners were finally defeated by dint of fighting. Seventeen hundred
of the Foreigners were slain in the battle, and only a few of them
survived with the Iarl, who proceeded in sorrow to his home at Port
Lairge--Waterford." Iarl Strangbow died two years later at Dublin.

Norman warriors continue to appear during the succeeding years,
fighting against the native chieftains and against each other, while the
native chieftains continue their own quarrels, just as in the days of
the first Norse raids. Thus in the year of Iarl Strangbow's death, Kells
was laid waste by the Foreigners in alliance with the native Ui-Briain,
while later in the same year the Foreigners were driven from Limerick by
Domnall Ua-Briain, who laid siege to them and forced them to surrender.

Two years later, four hundred and fifty of the followers of De Courcy,
another great Norman warrior, were defeated at Maghera Conall in Louth,
some being drowned in the river, while others were slain on the
battlefield. In the same year De Courcy was again defeated with great
slaughter in Down, and escaped severely wounded to Dublin. For At-Cliat,
from being a fortress of the Danes and Norsemen, was gradually becoming
a Norman town. The doorway of Christ Church Cathedral, which dates from
about this time, is of pure Norman style.

In 1186 we find a son of the great Ruaidri Ua Concobar paying a band of
these same Foreigners three thousand cows as "wages," for joining him in
some plundering expedition against his neighbors. The genius of strife
reigned supreme, and the newcomers were as completely under its sway as
the old clansmen. Just as we saw the Dark Norsemen of the ninth century
coming in their long ships to plunder the Fair Norsemen of At-Cliat, and
the Fair Norsemen not less vigorously retaliating, so now we find wars
breaking out among the Normans who followed in the steps of the
Norsemen. In 1205 the Norman chieftain who held a part of Meath under
his armed sway, and who had already built a strong castle at Kells, was
at war with the De Bermingham family, who at that time held the old
Danish stronghold of Limerick. Two years later another contest broke out
between the De Berminghams and William Marescal, and yet another
struggle between Hugo de Lacy and De Bermingham, very disastrous to the
retainers of the latter, for the Chronicler tells us that "nearly all
his people were ruined."

Thus the old life of tribal struggle went on. The country was wealthy,
full of cattle and herds, silver and gold, stored corn and fruit, rich
dyed stuffs and ornaments. The chieftains and provincial kings lived in
state within their forts, with their loyal warriors around them,
feasting and making merry, and the bards and heralds recited for their
delight the great deeds of the men of old, their forefathers; the
harpers charmed or saddened them with the world-old melodies that
Deirdre had played for Naisi, that Meave had listened to, that Crede
sang for her poet lover.

The life of the church was not less vigorous and vital. There are many
churches and cathedrals of that period of transition, as of the epoch
before the first Norman came, which show the same fervor and devotion,
the same faith made manifest by works of beauty. In truth no country in
the world has so full and rich a record in lasting stone, beginning with
the dwellings of the early saints who had seen the first Messenger face
to face, and passing down through age after age, showing the life and
growth of the faith from generation to generation.

The schools, as we saw, carried on the old classical tradition, bringing
forth monuments like the Annals of Tigearnac; and there was the same
vigor and vital force in every part of the nation's life. The coming of
the Normans changed this in no essential regard. There was something
added in architecture, the Norman modifying the old native style; the
castle and keep gradually taking the place of the earthwork and stone
fort. And in the tenure of land certain new principles were introduced.
But the sum of national life went on unbroken, less modified, probably,
than it had been by the old Norse raids.



A.D. 1250-1603.

When summing up each epoch of Irish history, we may find both interest
and profit in considering what the future of the land and the people
might have been had certain new elements not been added. Thus we may try
to picture to ourselves what would have been our history had our life
moved forward from the times of Cuculain and Concobar, of Find and
Cormac son of Art, without that transforming power which the fifth
century brought. We may imagine the tribal strife and stress growing
keener and fiercer, till the whole life and strength of the people was
fruitlessly consumed in plundering and destroying.

Or we may imagine an unbroken continuance of the epoch of saintly
aspiration, the building of churches, the illumination of holy books, so
dividing the religious from the secular community as almost to make two
nations in one, a nation altogether absorbed in the present life, with
another nation living in its midst, but dwelling wholly in the thought
of the other world. Religion would have grown to superstition, ecstasy
would have ruled in the hearts of the religious devotees, weakening
their hold on the real, and wafting them away into misty regions of
paradise. We should have had every exaggeration of ascetic practice,
hermitages multiplying among the rocks and islands of the sea, men and
women torturing their bodies for the saving of their souls.

The raids of the Norsemen turned the strong aspirations of the religious
schools into better channels, bringing them to a sense of their identity
with the rest of the people, compelling them to bear their part of the
burden of calamity and strife. The two nations which might have wandered
farther and farther apart were thus welded into one, so that the spirit
of religion became what it has ever since remained, something essential
and inherent in the life of the whole people.

After the waning of the Norsemen, a period opened full of great national
promise in many ways. We see the church strengthened and confirmed,
putting forth its power in admirable works of art, churches and
cathedrals full of the fire and fervor of devotion, and conceived in a
style truly national, with a sense of beauty altogether its own. Good
morals and generous feeling mark the whole life of the church through
this period, and the great archbishop whose figure we have drawn in
outline is only one of many fine and vigorous souls among his

[Illustration: Dunluce Castle.]

The civil life of the nation, too, shows signs of singular promise at
the same time, a promise embodied in the person of the king of Connacht,
Ruaidri Ua Concobar, some of whose deeds we have recorded. There was a
clearer sense of national feeling and national unity than ever before, a
recognition of the method of conciliation and mutual understanding,
rather than the old appeal to armed force, as under the genius of tribal
strife. We see Ruaidri convoking the kings, chieftains and warriors to a
solemn assembly, presided over by the king and the archbishops of the
realm, and "passing good resolutions" for the settlement of religious
and civil matters, and the better ordering of territories and tribes.
That assembly was convened a half-century before the famous meeting
between King John and his barons, at Runnymead among the Windsor
meadows; and the seed then sown might have brought forth fruit as full
of promise and potency for the future as the Great Charter itself. The
contrast between these two historic assemblies is instructive. In the
one case, we have a provincial king from the rich and beautiful country
beyond the Shannon, gradually gaining such influence over the kings of
the provinces and the chieftains of the tribes that he had come to be
regarded as in a sense the overlord of the whole land, not through
inherent sovreignty or divine right, but first as the chosen chief of
his own tribe, and then as the elect of the whole body of chieftains,
first among his peers. In this character we see Ruaidri settling
disputes between two sections of the great Northern clan, and fixing a
boundary between them; giving presents to the chieftains of the south
for their support in this difficult decision, and exercising a
beneficent influence over the whole people, a moral sway rather than a
sovereign and despotic authority. It is pleasant to find the same king
establishing a college foundation for the instruction of the youth of
Ireland and Scotland in literature.

This is what we have on the one hand. On the other, we have the Norman
king surrounded by his barons, over whom he claimed, but could not
exercise, despotic authority; and the Norman barons taking advantage of
his necessity to extort promises and privileges for their own order
rather than for the whole people. For we must remember that the Angles
and Saxons had been reduced by conquest to a servile condition, from
which they never wholly recovered. The ruling classes of Britain at the
present day are at least nominal descendants of those same Norman
barons; and between them and the mass of the people--the sons of the
Saxons and Angles--there is still a great gulf fixed. It is quite
impossible for one of the tillers of the soil to stand on a footing of
equality with the old baronial class, and the gulf has widened, rather
than closed, since the battle of Hastings and the final overthrow of the
Saxon power.

We see here the full contrast between the ideal of kingship in Ireland
and that which grew up among the Norman conquerors of the Saxons. The
Irish king was always in theory and often in fact a real representative,
duly elected by the free suffrage of his tribesmen; he was not owner of
the tribal land, as the duke of the Normans was; he was rather the
leader of the tribe, chosen to guard their common possessions. The
communal system of Ireland stands here face to face with the feudal
system of the Normans.

It would be a study of great interest to consider what form of national
life might have resulted in Ireland from the free growth of this
principle of communal chieftainship. There are many analogies in other
lands, all of which point to the likelihood of a slow emergence of the
hereditary principle; a single family finally overtopping the whole
nation. Had this free development taken place, we might have had a
strong and vigorous national evolution, an abundant flowering of all our
energies and powers through the Middle Ages, a rich and vigorous
production of art and literature, equal to the wonderful blossoming of
genius in the Val d'Arno and Venice and Rome; but we should have missed
something much greater than all these; something towards which events
and destiny have been leading us, through the whole of the Middle Ages
and modern times.

From this point forward we shall have to trace the working of that
destiny, not manifested in a free blossoming and harvesting of our
national life, but rather in the suppression and involution of our
powers; in a development arrested by pressure from without and kept thus
suspended until the field was ready for its real work. Had our fate been
otherwise, we might now be looking back to a great mediaeval past, as
Spain and Austria look back; it is fated that we shall look not back but
forwards, brought as we are by destiny into the midst of the modern
world, a people with energy unimpaired, full of vigorous vital force,
uncorrupted by the weakening influence of wealth, taught by our own
history the measureless evil of oppression, and therefore cured once for
all of the desire to dominate others. Finally, the intense inner life
towards which we have been led by the checking of our outward energies
has opened to us secrets of the invisible world which are of untold
value, of measureless promise for all future time.

We have, therefore, to trace the gradual involution of our national
life; the checking and restraining of that free development which would
assuredly have been ours, had our national life grown forward unimpeded
and uninfluenced from without, from the days when the Norse power waned.
The first great check to that free development came from the feudal
system, the principle of which was brought over by Robert FitzStephen,
Richard FitzGilbert, the De Courcys, the De Lacys, the De Berminghams
and their peers, whose coming we have recorded. They added new elements
to the old struggle of district against district, tribe against tribe,
but they added something more enduring--an idea and principle destined
almost wholly to supplant the old communal tenure which was the genius
of the native polity. The outward and visible sign of that new principle
was manifested in the rapid growth of feudal castles, with their strong
keeps, at every point of vantage gained by the Norman lords. They were
lords of the land, not leaders of the tribe, and their lordship was
fitly symbolized in the great gloomy towers of stone that everywhere
bear witness to their strength, almost untouched as they are by the
hand of time.

When the duke of the Normans overthrew the Saxon king at Hastings, he
became real owner of the soil of England. His barons and lords held
their estates from him, in return for services to be rendered to him
direct. To reward them for supporting him, first in that decisive
battle, and then in whatever contests he might engage in, they were
granted the right to tax certain tracts of country, baronies, earldoms,
or counties, according to the title they bore. This tax was exacted
first in service, then in produce, and finally in coin. It was the
penalty of conquest, the tribute of the subject Saxons and Angles.
There was no pretence of a free contract; no pretence that the baron
returned to the farmer or laborer an equal value for the tax thus
exacted. It was tribute pure and simple, with no claim to be anything
else. That system of tribute has been consecrated in the land tenure of
England, and the class enriched by that tribute, and still bearing the
territorial titles which are its hall-mark, has always been, as it is
to-day, the dominant class alike in political and social life. In other
words, the Norman subjugation of Saxon and Angle is thoroughly effective
at this moment.

This principle of private taxation, as a right granted by the sovereign,
came over to Ireland with the De Courcys and De Lacys and their like.
But it by no means overspread Ireland in a single tide, as in England,
after Hastings was lost and won. Its progress was slow; so slow, indeed,
that the old communal system lingers here and there at the present day.
The communal chiefs lived their lives side by side with the Norman
barons, fighting now with the barons, now with each other; and the same
generous rivalry, as we have seen, led to abundant fighting among the
barons also. The principle of feudal ownership was working its way,
however. We shall see later how great was its ultimate influence,--not
so much by direct action, as in the quite modern reaction which its
abuse provoked--a reaction from which have been evolved certain
principles of value to the whole world.

Leaving this force to work its way through the centuries, we may turn
now to the life of the times as it appeared to the men and women who
lived in them, and as they themselves have recorded it. We shall find
fewer great personalities; nor should we expect this to be otherwise, if
we are right in thinking that the age of struggle, with its
efflorescence of great persons, had done its work, and was already
giving way before the modern spirit, with its genius for the universal
rather than the personal. We shall have contests to chronicle during the
following centuries, whether engendered within or forced upon us from
without; but they are no longer the substance of our history. They are
only the last clouds of a departing storm; the mists before the dawn of
the modern world.

The most noteworthy of these contests in the early Norman age was the
invasion under Edward Bruce, brother of the Scottish king, who brought a
great fleet and army to Larne, then as now the Irish port nearest to the
northern kingdom. The first sufferers by this invasion were the Normans
of Heath, and we presently find these same Normans allied with Feidlimid
son of Aed Ua Concobar and the Connachtmen, fighting side by side
against the common foe. This was in 1315; two years later Robert Bruce
joined his brother, and it was not till 1319 that Edward Bruce finally
fell at Dundalk, "and no achievement had been performed in Ireland for a
long time before," the Chronicler tells us, "from which greater benefit
had accrued to the country than from this; for during the three and a
half years that Edward had spent in it, a universal famine prevailed to
such a degree that men were wont to devour one another."

A ray of light is thus shed on the intellectual and moral life of the
time: "1398: Garrett Earl of Desmond--or Deas-muma--a cheerful and
courteous man, who excelled all the Normans and many of the Irish in the
knowledge of the Irish language, poetry, history and other learning,
died after the victory of peace." We see that the Normans are already
fallen under the same influence of assimilation which had transformed
the Danes two hundred years before.

A half-century later, we get a vigorous and lurid picture of the
survival of the old tribal strife: "1454: Donell O'Donell was installed
in the lordship of Tyrconnell, in opposition to Rury O'Donell. Not long
after this, Donell was treacherously taken captive and imprisoned in the
castle of Inis--an island in Lough Swilly. As soon as Rury received
tidings of this, he mustered an army thither, and proceeded to demolish
the castle in which Donell was imprisoned with a few men to guard him.
Rury and his army burned the great door of the castle, and set the
stairs on fire; whereupon Donell, thinking that his life would be taken
as soon as the army should reach the castle,--it being his dying
request, as he thought--that he might be loosed from his fetters, as he
deemed it a disgrace to be killed while imprisoned and fettered. His
request was granted, and he was loosed from his fetters; after which he
ascended to the battlements of the castle, to view the motions of the
invading army. And he saw Rury beneath, with eyes flashing enmity, and
waiting until the fire should subside, that he might enter and kill him.
Donell then, finding a large stone by his side, hurled it directly down
upon Rury, so that it fell on the crest of his helmet, on the top of his
head, and crushed it, so that he instantly died. The invading forces
were afterwards defeated, and by this throw Donell saved his own life
and acquired the lordship of Tyrconnell."

There is a whole historical romance in that single picture; the passage
could not easily be surpassed for direct and forcible narrative. A few
years later, we come on one of the most amusing things in the whole
series of annals, a perfect contrast to the grim ferocity of the feud of
the O'Donells. In 1472 "a wonderful animal was sent to Ireland by the
king of England. She resembled a mare, and was of a yellow color, with
the hoofs of a cow, a long neck, a very large head, a large tail, which
was ugly and scant of hair. She had a saddle of her own. Wheat and salt
were her usual food. She used to draw the largest sled-burden behind
her. She used to kneel when passing under any doorway, however high, and
also to let her rider mount." It is evident that the Gaelic language in
the fifteenth century lacked a name for the camel. The same year, we are
told, "the young earl of Desmond was set at liberty by the MacCarthys;
he disabled Garrett, son of the earl of Kildare."

Here is another passage which vies in vividness and force with the story
of the death of Rury O'Donell: "1557: Two spies, Donough and Maurice by
name, entered the camp of John O'Neill by Lough Swilly, and mingled with
the troop without being noticed; for in consequence of the number and
variety of the troops who were there, it was not easy for them to
discriminate between one another, even if it were day, except by
recognizing their chieftains alone. The two persons aforesaid proceeded
from one fire to another, until they came to the great central fire,
which was at the entrance of the son of O'Neill's tent; and a huge
torch, thicker than a man's body, was continually flaming at a short
distance from the fire, and sixty grim and redoubtable warriors with
sharp, keen axes, terrible and ready for action, and sixty stern and
terrific Scots, with massive, broad and heavy striking swords in their
hands, ready to strike and parry, were guarding the son of O'Neill. When
the time came for the troops to dine, and food was divided and
distributed among them, the two spies whom we have mentioned stretched
out their hands to the distributor like the rest, and that which fell to
their share was a measure of meal, and a suitable complement of butter.
With this testimony of their adventure they returned to their
own people."

Here again, what a picture of the camp-life of the age; the darkness of
night, the great central fire with the sixty grim and redoubtable
warriors armed with keen axes, terrible and ready for action, and the
sixty stern and terrific Scots with their massive swords. The admirable
manner of the narrative is as striking as the fierce vigor of the life
portrayed. So we might go on, adding red pages of martial records, but
in reality adding nothing to our understanding of the times. The life of
the land was as full and abundant as of old, and one outcome of that
life we may touch on rather more at length.

We have said much of the old religious schools of Ireland, with their
fine and vigorous intellectual life, which did so much to carry forward
the torch of culture to our modern world. For nearly seven hundred years
these great schools seem to have developed wholly along indigenous
lines, once they had accepted the body of classical culture from the
Roman Empire, then tottering to its fall. The full history of that
remarkable chapter in the world's spiritual life has yet to be written;
but this we can foretell, that when written, it will abound with rich
material and ample evidence of a sound and generous culture, inspired
throughout with the fervor of true faith.

About the time when the Norman warriors began to mingle with the
fighting chieftains of the old native tribes, a change came over the
religious history of the country. After sending forth men of power and
light to the awakening lands of modern Europe, Ireland began to receive
a returning tide, to reap a harvest from these same lands, in the friars
and abbots of the great Continental orders founded by men like Saint
Bernard, Saint Dominick and Saint Francis of Assisi. A change in the
church architecture of the period visibly records this spiritual change;
continental forms appear, beginning with the rounded arches of the
Normans, and passing gradually into the various forms of pointed arches
which we know as Gothic. Very beautiful Abbeys belonging to this epoch
remain everywhere throughout the island, making once more evident--what
strikes us at every point of our study--that no country in the world is
so rich in these lasting records of every step of our national life,
whether in pagan or Christian times.

We have said much of the archaic cromlechs. We have recorded the great
Pyramids by the Boyne telling us of the genius of the De Danaans. The
Milesian epoch is even now revealed to us in the great earthworks of
Tara and Emain and Cruacan. We can, if we wish, climb the mound of
heaped-up earth where was the fortress of Cuculain, or look over the
green plains from the hill of Find.

[Illustration: Mellifont Abbey, Co. Louth.]

In like manner, there is an unbroken series of monuments through the
early Christian epoch, beginning with the oratories of the sixth
century, continuing through the early churches of Killiney, Moville,
Dalkey, Glendalough and Monasterboice, from before the Norse inroads;
followed by the epoch of Round Towers, or protected belfries, with their
churches, nearly three score of these Round Towers remaining in fair
preservation, while many are perfect from base to apex; and culminating
in Cormac's chapel and the beautiful group of buildings on Cashel Rock.
For the next period, the age of transition after the waning of the
Norsemen and the coming of the first Normans, we have many monuments in
the Norman style, like the door of Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin,
with its romance of Danish conversion and Norse religious fervor.

Finally, we come to the age whose progress we have just recorded, which
covers the whole of the Middle Ages. For this period, which was for
Ireland an epoch of foreign influence much more than of foreign rule, we
have many beautiful Abbeys, built for those foreign orders whose coming
was in a sense a return tide, a backward flow of the old missionary
spirit which went forth from Ireland over nascent modern Europe. The
life of these abbeys was full of rich imaginative and religious power;
it abounded in urbanity and ripe culture of a somewhat selfish and
exclusive type. Yet we cannot but feel a limitless affection and
sympathy for the abbots and friars of the days of old who have left us
such a rich heritage of beauty and grace.

All these abbeys seem to have been formed on a single plan: a cruciform
church symbolized the source of all their inspiration, its choir
extending towards the east, whence the Light had come; the nave, or main
body of the church, was entered by the great western door, and the arms
of the cross, the transepts, extended to the north and south. Here is a
very beautiful symbol, a true embodiment of the whole spirit and
inspiration of the monastic orders. From one of the transepts a side
door generally led to the domestic buildings, the dormitory, the
refectory, the chapter house, where the friars assembled in conclave
under the presidency of the abbot. There were lesser buildings,
store-rooms, granaries, work-rooms, but these were the kernel of the
establishment. The church was the center of all things, and under its
floor the friars were at last laid to rest, while brother friars carved
tombs for them and epitaphs, adding a new richness of decoration to the
already beautiful church.

We may record a few of these old foundations, showing at the same time
the present state of the old abbey buildings. At Newtown on the northern
bank of the Boyne, about a mile below Trim, Simon Rochfort founded an
abbey for the Augustinian Canons in 1206, dedicating it to Saint Peter
and Saint Paul. The capitals of the pillars in the church, the vaulting
of the roof and the shafts of the arches which supported the tower are
full of singular grace and beauty, even now when the abbey is roofless
and in part destroyed, while the corbels and mouldings round the
lancet-shaped windows are full of luxuriant fancy and charm. We can
divine from them the full and rich spiritual life which brought forth
such exquisite flowers of beauty; we can imagine the fine aroma of
fervor and saintly peace which brooded over these consecrated aisles.

A few miles below Trim, and an equal distance from the old royal palace
of Tara, Bective Abbey stands on the northern bank of the Boyne, with a
square, battlemented tower overshadowing its cloistered quadrangle. The
cinque-foil cloister arches, the fillets that bind the clustered shafts
of the pillars, the leaf ornaments of the plinths at their base all
speak of a luxuriant sense of beauty and grace, of a spirit of pure and
admirable artistic work. This rich creative power thus breaking forth in
lovely handiwork is only the outward sign of a full inner life, kindled
by the fire of aspiration, and glowing with the warm ardor of devotion.
Bective Abbey dates from about 1150. We are told that the king of Meath
who founded it for the Cistercian order "endowed it with two hundred and
forty-five acres of land, a fishing-weir and a mill." From this meager
outline we can almost restore the picture of the life, altogether
idyllic and full of quiet delight, that the old Friars lived among the
meadows of the Boyne.

Grey Abbey was founded a little later, in 1193, for the same Cistercian
order, where the promontory of the Ards divides Strangford Lough from
the eastern sea. Over the waters of the lough, the red sandstone hills
of north Down make a frame for the green of the meadows, as the tide
laps and murmurs close to the old monastic church. Grey Abbey owes its
foundation to the piety of a princess of the Isle of Man, wedded to De
Courcy, the Norman warrior whose victories and defeats we have recorded.
The great beauty of its church is due to the soaring loftiness of the
eastern window, and the graceful daring of the arches which in former
days upheld the central tower.

Other Cistercian foundations are commemorated in the names of
Abbey-leix in Queen's county, and Abbey-dorney and Abbey-feale in Kerry;
all three dating from after the reformation of the order by Saint
Bernard the Younger, though the work of that ardent missionary did not
apparently extend its influence to Ireland until a later date. This
reformer of the Cistercians must not be confused with the elder Saint
Bernard, whose hospice guards the pass of the Alps which bears his name.
Saint Bernard of the Alps died in 1008, while Saint Bernard the reformer
was born in 1093, dying sixty years later as abbot of Clara vallis or
Clairvaux, on the bank of the Aube in northern France. It was at this
Abbey of the Bright Vale, or Clara vallis, that Archbishop Maelmaedog
resigned his spirit to heaven, five years before the death of the
younger Saint Bernard, then abbot there. This is a link between the old
indigenous church and the continental orders of the Friars.

Killmallock Abbey, in Limerick, belonged to the order of the Dominicans,
founded by the scion of the Guzmans, the ardent apostle of Old Castile,
known to history as Saint Dominick. Here again we have a beautiful abbey
church with a square central tower, upborne on soaring and graceful
arches from the point where the nave joined the choir. There is only one
transept--on the south--so that the church is not fully cruciform, a
peculiarity shared by several other Dominican buildings. The eastern
window and the window of this transept are full of delicate grace and
beauty, each containing five lights, and marked by the singularly
charming manner in which the mullions are interlaced above. Enough
remains of the cloister and the domestic buildings for us to bring back
to life the picture of the old monastic days, when the good Friars
worked and prayed there, with the sunlight falling on them through the
delicate network of the windows.

Holycross Abbey, near Thurles in Tipperary, was another of the
Cistercian foundations, its charter, dating from 1182, being still in
existence. Its church is cruciform; the nave is separated from the north
aisle by round arches, and from the south aisle by pointed arches, which
gives it a singular and unusual beauty. The great western window of the
nave, with its six lights, is also very wonderful. Two chapels are
attached to the north transept, with a passage between them, its roof
supported by a double row of pointed arches upheld by twisted pillars.
The roof is delicately groined, as is the roof of the choir, and the
whole abbey breathes a luxuriant richness of imagination, bearing
everywhere the signs of high creative genius. The same lavish
imagination is shown everywhere in the interlaced tracery, the black
limestone giving the artist an admirable vehicle for his work. Though
the charter dates from the twelfth century, some of the work is about
two centuries later, showing finely the continuity of life and spiritual
power in the old monastic days.

[Illustration: Holy Cross Abbey, Co. Tipperary.]

The Friars of Saint Augustine, who were in possession of the abbey at
Newtown on the Boyne, had another foundation not far from West port in
Mayo, in the Abbey of Ballintober, founded in 1216 by a son of the great
Ruaidri Ua Concobar. Here also we have the cruciform church, with four
splendid arches rising from the intersection of nave and choir, and once
supporting the tower. The Norman windows over the altar, with their
dog-tooth mouldings, are very perfect. In a chapel on the south of the
choir are figures of the old abbots carved in stone.

One of the Ui-Briain founded a Franciscan Abbey at Ennis in Clare about
1240, which is more perfectly preserved than any of those we have
described. The tower still stands, rising over the junction of nave and
choir; the refectory, chapter house, and some other buildings still
remain, while the figure of the patron, Saint Francis of Assisi, still
stands beside the altar at the north pier of the nave.

Clare Abbey, a mile from Ennis, was founded for the Augustine Friars in
1195, and here also the tower still stands, dominating the surrounding
plain. Three miles further south, on the shore of Killone Lake, was yet
another abbey of the same period, while twenty miles to the north, at
Corcomroe on the shore of Galway Bay, the Cistercians had yet
another home.

We might continue the list indefinitely. Some of the most beautiful of
our abbeys still remain to be recorded, but we can do no more than give
their names: Bonamargy was built for the Franciscans in Antrim in the
fifteenth century; the Dominican priory at Roscommon dates from 1257;
the Cistercian Abbey of Jerpoint in Kilkenny was begun in 1180; Molana
Abbey, in Waterford, was built for the Augustinians on the site of a
very old church; and finally Knockmoy Abbey in Galway, famous for its
fourteenth century frescoes, was begun in 1189. We must remember that
every one of these represents, and by its variations of style indicates,
an unbroken life through several centuries. The death-knell of the old
life of the abbeys and priories, in Ireland as in England, was struck in
the year 1537 by the law which declared their lands forfeited to the
crown; as the result of the religious controversies of the beginning of
the sixteenth century.



A.D. 1603-1660.

The confiscation of the abbey lands, as the result of religious
controversy, closed an epoch of ecclesiastical life in Ireland, which we
cannot look back on without great regret for the noble and beautiful
qualities it brought forth in such abundance. There is a perennial charm
and fascination in the quiet life of the old religious houses--in the
world, yet not of the world--which appeals to aesthetic and moral
elements in our minds in equal degree. From their lovely churches and
chapter-houses the spirits of the old monks invite us to join them in an
unworldly peace on earth, a renewal of the golden age, a life full of
aspiration and self-forgetfulness, with all the burdens of egotism
laid aside.

Yet after all is said, we can hardly fail to see that out of the
spoliation and scattering of the religious orders much good came. There
was a danger that, like the older indigenous schools which they
supplanted, these later foundations might divide the nation in two, all
things within their consecrated walls being deemed holy, while all
without was unregenerate, given up to wrath. A barrier of feelings and
hopes thus springing up, tends to harden from year to year, till at last
we have a religious caste grown proud and arrogant, and losing all trace
of the spiritual fervor which is its sole reason for being.

The evils which surround a wealthy church are great and easily to be
understood, nor need we lay stress on them. There is, indeed, cause for
wonder in the spectacle of the followers of him "who had not where to
lay his head" become, in the Middle Ages, the greatest owners of land in
Europe; and we can see how temptations and abuses without number might
and did often arise from this very fact. Ambition, the desire of wealth,
the mere love of ease, led many to profess a religious life who had
never passed through that transformation of will and understanding which
is the essence of religion. The very purpose of religion was forgotten,
or allowed to be hidden away under things excellent in themselves, yet
not essential; and difference of view about these unessential things led
to fierce and bitter controversy, and later to open strife and war.

We take religion, in its human aspect, to mean the growth of a new and
wider consciousness above the keen, self-assertive consciousness of the
individual; a superseding of the personal by the humane; a change from
egotism to a more universal understanding; so that each shall act, not
in order to gain an advantage over others, but rather to attain the
greatest good for himself and others equally; that one shall not
dominate another for his own profit, but shall rather seek to draw forth
in that other whatever is best and truest, so that both may find their
finest growth. Carried far enough, this principle, which makes one's
neighbor a second self, will bring to light in us the common soul, the
common life that has tacitly worked in all human intercourse from the
beginning. Individual consciousness is in no way effaced; something new,
wider and more humane, something universal, is added to it from above;
something consciously common to all souls. And through the inspiration
of that larger soul, the individual life for the first time comes to its
true power--a power which is held by all pure souls in common.

We can see that something like this was the original inspiration of the
religious orders. Their very name of Friars or Brothers speaks of the
ideal of a common life above egotism. They sought a new birth through
the death of selfishness, through self-sacrifice and renunciation. All
their life in common was a symbol of the single soul inspiring them, the
very form of their churches bearing testimony to their devotion. More
than that, the beauty and inspiration which still radiate from the old
abbey buildings show how often and in how large a degree that ideal was
actually attained.

Nevertheless we can very well see how the possession of large wealth and
costly offerings might be a hindrance to that spirit, fanning back to
life the smouldering fires of desire. We can see even more clearly that
the division between the secular and the religious life would tend to
raise a moral barrier, hardening that very sense of separation which the
humane and universal consciousness seeks to kill. Finally, we should see
what the world has often seen: the disciples of the Nazarene dwelling in
palaces, and vying with princes in the splendor of their retinues. This
is hardly the way to make real the teaching of "the kingdom not of this
world." This world, in the meaning of that saying, is the old world of
egotism, of self-assertion, of selfish rivalry, of the sense of
separation. The kingdom is that very realm of humane and universal
consciousness added from above, the sense of the one soul common to all
men and working through all men, whether they know it or not.

We can, therefore, see that the confiscation of the monasteries, and
even the persecution of the religious orders, might be the cause of
lasting spiritual good; it was like the opening of granaries and the
scattering of grain abroad over the fields. The religious force, instead
of drawing men out of the world, thenceforth was compelled to work among
all men, not creating beautiful abbeys but transforming common lives.
Persecution was the safeguard of sincerity, the fire of purification,
from which men's spirits came forth pure gold. Among all nations of the
world, Ireland has long held the first place for pure morals, especially
in the relations of sex; and this is increasingly true of those
provinces where the old indigenous element is most firmly established.
We may affirm that the spiritualizing of religious feeling through
persecution has had its share in bringing this admirable result,
working, as it did, on a race which has ever held a high ideal
of purity.

Thus out of evil comes good; out of oppression, rapacity and
confiscation grow pure unselfishness, an unworldly ideal, a sense of the
invisible realm. We shall presently see the same forces of rapacity and
avarice sowing the seeds for a not less excellent harvest in the world
of civil life.

The principle of feudalism, though introduced by the first Norman
adventurers in the twelfth century, did not gain legal recognition over
the whole country until the seventeenth. The old communal tenure of the
Brehon law was gradually superseded, so that, instead of innumerable
tribal territories with elected chiefs, there grew up a system of
estates, where the land was owned by one man and tilled by others. The
germ of this tenure was the right of private taxation over certain
districts, granted by the Norman duke to his barons and warriors as the
reward for their help in battle. Feudal land tenure never was, and never
pretended to be, a contract between cultivator and landowner for their
mutual benefit. It was rather the right to prey on the farmer, assigned
to the landowner by the king, and paid for in past or present services
to the king. In other words, the head of the Norman army invited his
officers to help themselves to a share of the cattle and crops over
certain districts of England, and promised to aid them in securing their
plunder, in case the Saxon cultivator was rash enough to resist. The
baronial order presently ceased to render any real service to their
duke, beyond upholding him that he might uphold them. But there was no
such surcease for the Saxon cultivator. The share of his cattle and
crops which he was compelled to give up to the Norman baron became more
rigidly defined, more strictly exacted, with every succeeding century,
and the whole civil state of England was built up on this principle.

The baronial order assembled at Runnymead to force the hand of the king.
From that time forward their power increased, while the king's power
waned. But there was no Runnymead for the Saxon cultivator. He
continued, as to this day he continues, to pay the share of his cattle
and crops to the Norman baron or his successor, in return for
services--no longer rendered--to the king. The whole civil state of
England, therefore, depends on the principle of private taxation; the
Norman barons and their successors receiving a share of the cattle and
crops of the whole country, year after year, generation after
generation, century after century, as payment for services long become
purely imaginary, and even in the beginning rendered not to the
cultivator who was taxed, but to the head of the armed invaders, who
stood ready to enforce the payment. The Constitution of England embodies
this very principle even now, in the twentieth century. Two of the three
Estates,--King, Lords and Commons,--in whom the law-making power is
vested, represent the Norman conquest, while even the third, still
called the Lower House, boasts of being "an assembly of gentlemen," that
is, of those who possess the right of private taxation of land, the
right to claim a share of the cattle and crops of the whole country
without giving anything at all in return.

This is the system which English influence slowly introduced into
Ireland, and with the reign of the first Stuarts the change was
practically complete, guaranteed by law, and enforced by armed power.
The tribesmen were now tenants of their former elected chief, in whom
the ownership of the tribal land was invested; the right of privately
taxing the tribesmen was guaranteed to the chief by law, and a share of
all cattle and crops was his by legal right, not as head of the tribe,
but as owner of the land, with power to dispossess the tribesmen if they
failed to pay his tax.

But very many districts had long before this come under the dominion of
Norman adventurers, like the De Courcys, the De Lacys, and the rest, of
whose coming we have told. They also enjoyed the right of private
taxation over the districts under their dominion, and, naturally, had
power to assign this right to others,--not only to their heirs, but to
their creditors,--or even simply to sell the right of taxing a certain
district to the highest bidder in open market.

The tribal warfare of the Middle Ages had brought many of the old chiefs
and Norman lords into open strife with the central power, with the
result that the possessions of unsuccessful chiefs and lords were
continually assigned by the law-courts to those who stood on the side of
the central power, the right to tax certain districts thus changing
hands indefinitely. The law-courts thus came into possession of a very
potent weapon, whether for rewarding the friends or punishing the
enemies of the central power, or simply for the payment of personal and
partisan favors.

During the reign of the first Stuarts the full significance of this
weapon seems to have been grasped. We see an unlimited traffic in the
right to tax; estates confiscated and assigned to time-serving
officials, and endless abuses arising from the corruption of the courts,
the judges being appointed by the very persons who were presently to
invoke the law to their own profit. The tribal system was submerged,
and the time of uncertainty was taken advantage of to introduce
unlimited abuses, to assign to adventurers a fat share of other men's
goods, to create a class legally owning the land, and entitled, in
virtue of that ownership, to a share of the cattle and crops which they
had done nothing to produce.

The Stuarts were at this very time sowing the seeds of civil war in
England by the introduction of like abuses, the story of which has been
repeatedly told; and we are all familiar with the history of the great
uprising which was thereby provoked, to the temporary eclipse of the
power of the crown. The story of the like uprising at the same epoch,
and from kindred causes, in Ireland, is much more obscure, but equally
worth recording, and to this uprising we may now turn.

Its moral causes we have already spoken of. There was, first, the
confiscation of the abbey lands, and the transfer of church revenues and
buildings to Anglican clergy--clergy, that is, who recognized the
sovreign of England as the head of the church. This double confiscation
touched the well-springs of intense animosity, the dispossessed abbots
using all the influences of their order in foreign lands to bring about
their re-installation, while the controversy as to the headship of the
church aroused all the fierce and warring passions that had been raging
on the Continent since the beginning of the sixteenth century.

There were, besides, the griefs of the dispossessed chieftains, whose
tribal lands had been given to others. Chief among these was the famous
house of O'Neill, the descendants of Nial, the old pagan monarch whose
wars are thought to have brought the captive of Slemish Mountain to
Ireland. The O'Neills, like their neighbors the O'Donnells, descendants
of Domnall, had been one of the great forces of tribal strife for eighty
generations, and they now saw their lands confiscated and given over to
strangers. But they were only representatives of a feeling which was
universal; an indignant opposition to arbitrary and tyrannous

The head of the O'Neills had made his peace with the Tudors on the very
day Queen Elizabeth died, and the tribal lands had been guaranteed to
him in perpetuity. But within four years plots were set on foot by the
central authorities, possibly acting in good faith, to dispossess him
and the chief of the O'Donnells on a charge of treason; and in 1607
both fled to the Continent. Their example was followed by numberless
others, and the more restless and combative spirits among the tribesmen,
who preferred fighting to the tilling of their fields, entered the
continental armies in large numbers.

When the chiefs of the north fled to the Continent, their lands were
held to have reverted to the crown; and not only was the right to tax
the produce of these lands assigned to adherents of the central power,
but numbers of farmers from the Scottish lowlands, and in lesser degree
from England, were brought over and settled on the old tribal territory.
The tribesmen, with their cattle, were driven to less fertile districts,
and the valleys were tilled by the transplanted farmers of Scotland.
This was the Plantation of Ulster, of 1611,--four years after the flight
of O'Neill and O'Donnell. The religious controversies of Scotland were
thereby introduced into Ireland, so that there were three parties now in
conflict--the old indigenous church, dispossessed of revenues and
buildings, and even of civil rights; the Anglicans who had received
these revenues and buildings, and, lastly, the Dissenters--Presbyterians
and Puritans--equally opposed to both the former.

The struggle between the king and Parliament of England now found an
echo in Ireland, the Anglican party representing the king, while the
Scottish and English newcomers sympathized with the Parliament. A
cross-fire of interests and animosities was thus aroused, which greatly
complicated the first elements of strife. The Parliament at Dublin was
in the hands of the Puritan party, and was in no sense representative of
the other elements of the country. There was a Puritan army of about ten
thousand, as a garrison of defence for the Puritan newcomers in Ulster,
and there were abundant materials of an opposing national army in the
tribal warriors both at home and on the Continent.

These national materials were presently drawn together by the head of
the O'Neills, known to history as Owen Roe, an admirable leader and a
most accomplished man, who wrote and spoke Latin, Spanish, French and
English, as well as his mother-tongue. Owen Roe O'Neill had won renown
on many continental battlefields, and was admirably fitted by genius and
training to lead a national party, not only in council but in the field.
The nucleus of his army he established in Tyrone, gaining numbers of
recruits whom he rapidly turned into excellent soldiers.

This took place at the end of 1641 and the beginning of 1642, and the
other forces of the country were organized about the same time. The
lines of difference between the Anglican and Catholic parties were at
this time very lightly drawn, and the Norman lords found themselves able
to co-operate with the Catholic bishops in forming a General Assembly at
Kells, which straightway set itself to frame a Constitution for
the country.

The Norman lords had meanwhile assembled and organized their retainers,
so that there were now three armies in Ireland: the garrison of the
Scottish settlers under Monroe, strongly in sympathy with the Puritans;
the tribal army under Owen Roe O'Neill; and the army of the Norman
lords. The General Assembly outlined a system of parliamentary
representation in which the Lords and Commons were to form a single
House, the latter, two hundred and twenty-six in number, representing
all the important cities and towns. A supreme Cabinet was to be formed,
composed of six members for each of the four provinces, twenty-four in
all, who might be lords spiritual or temporal, or commoners, according
to the choice of the Parliament. This Cabinet, thus selected from the
whole Parliament, was the responsible executive of the country; and
under the Supreme Council a series of Provincial Councils and County
Councils were to be formed along the same lines.

[Illustration: Donegal Castle.]

This plan was adopted at a general meeting of all the influential forces
of the country, which assembled in May at Kilkenny, where many
Parliaments had sat during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Writs
were issued for elections under the new Constitution, and the date of
the first assembly of the new Parliament was fixed for October. The new
national body enjoyed abundant revenues, and no small state marked its
deliberations in Kilkenny. We read of an endless series of
illuminations, receptions, banquets and balls,--the whole of the Norman
nobility of Leinster lavishing their great wealth in magnificent
display. The Supreme Council journeyed in state from Kilkenny to
Wexford, from Wexford to Waterford, from Waterford to Limerick and
Galway, surrounded by hundreds of horsemen with drawn swords, and
accompanied by an army of officials. We hear of "civil and military
representations of comedies and stage plays, feasts and banquets, and
palate-enticing dishes."

The General Assembly, duly elected, finally met on October 23, 1642, at
Kilkenny. On the same day was fought the battle of Edgehill, between


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