Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition
The History of Ireland (Author: Geoffrey Keating)

Section 5


Stanihurst asserts that Meath was the allotted portion of Slainghe, son of Deala, son of Loch; howbeit, that is not true for him. For, according to the Book of Invasion, there was of Meath, in Slainghes time, but one district of land only, which lies hard by Usna, (and so) till the time of Tuathal the Welcome: and where he says that it is from Slainghe the town of Slane is called, and, consequently, that Meath was the allotted share which came to him from his brothers, it is not more reasonable to suppose that it was his share than to suppose that it was the province of Leinster that was allotted to him, and that it is from him is named Inver Slaney which flows through the midst of Leinster to Lochgarman (or Wexford); and that it is from him is named Dumha Slainghe, otherwise called Dionnriogh, on the bank of the Barrow, between Carlow and Leighlin, on the west side of the Barrow, and that it was his fortified residence, and that it was there he died.


It is no marvel that Stanihurst should be without knowledge of this matter, since he had never seen the records of Ireland, from which he might have known her previous condition; and I fancy he did not make any great inquiry after them, since he is so ignorant about Irish affairs that he asserts Rosmactriuin to be in Munster, and that Meath is a province, (or 'fifth'), in opposition even to Cambrensis, who does not reckon Meath as a province, and contrary to the Book of Invasion of Ireland. As Stanihurst divides Ireland, he makes up one half from the race of the foreigners apart, and the other half of Ireland outside that (jointly) between Gall and Gael; and, moreover, he says that the least colonist among the race of the foreigners would not deem it fitting to form a matrimonial alliance with the noblest Gael in Ireland; thus, he says, in his chronicle:—The most lowly of the colonists who dwell in the foreign province would not give his daughter in marriage to the greatest prince among the Irish. {Colonorum omnium ultimus qui in Anglica provincia habitat filiam suam vel nobilissimo Hibernorum principi in matrimonium non daret.}’’

I ask Stanihurst which were the more honourable, the more noble, or the more loyal to the crown of England, or which were better as securities for preserving Ireland to the crown of England, the colonists of Fingall, or the noble earls of the foreigners who are in Ireland, such as the earl of Kildare, who contracted alliance with Mac Carthy riabhach, with O'Neill, and with others of the nobles of the Gael; the earl of Ormond with O'Brien, with Mac Gil Patrick, and with O'Carroll; the Earl of Desmond with Mac Carthy mór, and the earl of Clanricard with O'Ruarc. I do not reckon the viscounts nor the barons, who were as noble as any settler who was ever in Fingall, and by whom


frequently their daughters were given in marriage to the nobles of the Gael. It is, moreover, manifest that it is more frequently the English authorities entrusted the care of defending and retaining Ireland to the charge of the earls [whom we have mentioned] who made alliance with the native Irish, than to the charge of all the settlers that ever were in the English pale. Wherefore I conceive not whence it is that they do not contract alliance with the nobles of Ireland, unless it be from disesteem for their own obscurity, so that they did not deem themselves worthy to have such noble Gaels in their kinship.

From the worthlessness of the testimony Stanihurst gives concerning the Irish, I consider that he should be rejected as a witness, because it was purposely at the instigation of a party who were hostile to the Irish that he wrote contemptuously of them; and, I think, that hatred of the Irish must have been the first dug he drew after his first going into England to study, and that it lay as a weight on his stomach till, having returned to Ireland, he ejected it by his writing. I deem it no small token of the aversion he had for the Irish, that he finds fault with the colonists of the English province for that they did not banish the Gaelic from the country at the time when they routed the people who were dwelling in the land before them. He also says, however excellent the Gaelic language may be, that whoever smacks thereof would likewise savour of the ill manners of the folk whose language it is. What is to be understood from this, but that Stanihurst had so great an hatred for the Irish, that he deemed it an evil that it was a Christian-like conquest the Gaill


achieved over Ireland and the Gael, and not a pagan conquest. For, indeed, he who makes a Christian conquest thinks it sufficient to obtain submission and fidelity from the people who have been subdued by him, and to send from himself other new people to inhabit the land over which his power has prevailed, together with the people of that country. Moreover, it is the manner of him who makes a pagan conquest, to bring destruction on the people who are subdued by him, and to send new people from himself to inhabit the country which he has taken by force. But he who makes a Christian conquest extinguishes not the language which was before him in any country which he brings under control: and it is thus William the Conqueror did as regards the Saxons. He did not extinguish the language of the Saxons, seeing that he suffered the people who used that language to remain in the country, so that it resulted therefrom that the language has been preserved from that time down among the Saxons. Howbeit, it is a pagan conquest which Hengist, the chief of the Saxons made over the Britons, since he swept them from the soil of Britain, and sent people from himself in their places; and having altogether banished everyone, he banished their language with them. And it is the same way Stanihurst would desire to act by the Irish; for it is not possible to banish the language without banishing the folk whose language it is: and, inasmuch as he had the desire of banishing the language, he had, likewise, the desire of banishing the people whose language it was, and, accordingly, he was hostile to the Irish; and so his testimony concerning the Irish ought not to be received.


Stanihurst also finds fault with the lawgivers of the country, and with its physicians: although I wonder how he ventured to find fault with them, seeing that he understood neither of them, nor the language in which the skill of either class found expression, he being himself ignorant and uninformed as regards the Gaelic, which was their language, and in which the legal decisions of the Country and the (books of) medicine were written. For he was not capable of reading either the law of the land or the medicine in their own language, and if they had been read to him, he had no comprehension of them. Accordingly, I think that it is the same case with him, depreciating the two faculties we have mentioned, and the case of the blind man who would discriminate the colour of one piece of cloth from another: for as the blind man cannot give a decision between the two colours, because he does not see either of them, in like manner, it was not possible for him to form a judgment between the two aforesaid faculties, inasmuch as he never understood the book in which they were written, and did not even understand the doctors whose arts these were, because the Gaelic alone was their proper language, and he was out and out ignorant of it.

He finds fault also with those who play the harp in Ireland, and says, that they have no music in them. It is likely that he was not a judge of any sort of music, and especially of Irish music, he being unacquainted with the rules which appertain to it. I think Stanihurst has not understood that it is thus Ireland was (being) a kingdom apart by herself like a little world, and that the nobles and the learned who were there long ago arranged to have


jurisprudence, medicine, poetry, and music established in Ireland with appropriate regulations: and, therefore, it was not seemly for him to have formed and delivered a hasty rash judgment censuring the music of Ireland. It is a marvel to me that he had not read Cambrensis in the nineteenth chapter, where he praises the music of the Irish, unless it were that he had determined to attain a degree beyond Cambrensis in disparaging the Irish: for there is nothing at all in which Cambrensis more commends Irishmen than in the Irish music. Here is what he says in the same chapter:—In instruments of music alone I find the diligence of this nation praiseworthy, in which, above every nation that we have seen, they are incomparably skilful. {In musicis solum instrumentis commendabilem invenio gentis istius diligentiam, in quibus, prae omni natione quam vidimus incomparabiliter est instructa.}’’

As he says further, according to the same chapter, here is the information he gives concerning Irish music, praising it:— Their melody, says he, is perfected and harmonized by an easy quickness, by a dissimilar equality, and by a discordant concord. {Tam suavi velocitate, tam dispari paritate, tam discordi concordia, consona redditur et completur melodia.}’’

From this it may be understood, on the testimony of Cambrensis, that it is false for Stanihurst to say that there is no music in Irish melody. It is not true for him, either, what he says, that the greater part of the singing folk of Ireland are blind; for it is clear that, at the time he wrote his history, there was a greater number of persons with eyesight engaged in singing and playing than of blind people, so from that down, and now, the evidence may rest on our contemporaries.

Understand, reader, that Stanihurst was under three deficiencies for writing the history of Ireland, on account of which it is not fit to regard him as an historian. In the first


place, he was too young, so that he had not had opportunity for pursuing inquiry concerning the antiquity of this country, on which he undertook to write. The second defect, he was blindly ignorant in the language of the country in which were the ancient records and transactions of the territory, and of every people who had inhabited it; and, therefore, he could not know these things. The third defect, he was ambitious, and accordingly, he had expectation of obtaining an advantage from those by whom he was incited to write evil concerning Ireland: and, moreover, on his having subsequently become a priest, he promised to recall most part of the contemptuous things he had written concerning Ireland, and I hear that it is now in print, to be exhibited in Ireland.

Stanihurst says that when Irishmen are contending, or striking each other, they say as a shout with a loud voice, ‘Pharo, Pharo,’ and he thinks that it is from this word Pharao, which was a name for the king of Egypt, they use it as a war-cry: howbeit, that is not true for him, for it is the same as ‘watch, watch O’, or, ‘O take care’, telling the other party to be on their guard, as the Frenchman says, ‘gardez, gardez’, when he sees his neighbour in danger.