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THE Conquest of Ireland is among the most important episodes. in the reign of Henry II. Placed at the extremity of Europe, Ireland had enjoyed the singular fortune of being free when the world was enslaved by Rome, and learned and pious while the Saxons of England were pagan and barbarous. The legends of Welsh conquest in the island are almost certainly false;' at most, they must be reduced to one or two successful landings on the coast; but they indicate a connection between the two shores of St. George's Channel, which was often interrupted but as constantly renewed. During the Roman dominion, there are traces that Druidism retreated to Ireland as to a last stronghold. In the middle of the fifth century, St. Patrick commenced the preaching of Christianity by lighting forbidden fires on the sacred altar of Tara; and the seers foretold that the flame so kindled, if not extinguished that night, would burn for ever. The triumph of Christianity brought with it the learning and civilization of Rome. The missionaries Columba and Gall, the geographer Dicuin, the thinker Scotus Erigena, and the historian Marianus Scotus, illustrated their country by names of European celebrity. An Irish divine was called in by the married clergy of England to

1 Bran the Blessed: Mabinogion, vol. iii.

2 It seems that many Romans, perhaps Romanized citizens from Britain, flying before the Saxons, had passed over into Ireland during the fifth and sixth centuries.-Petrie's Round Towers, pp. 134, 135.



plead for them at the synod of Calne, and his eloquence overmatched Dunstan's authority. The school of Glastonbury was an Irish colony, and the native school of Banchor is said to have numbered three thousand scholars in the eighth century. Side by side with this, went a certain progress in the arts. Stone buildings, cemented with lime, became increasingly common after the fifth century. The famous round towers, which belong to the transitional period between Roman and Gothic art, and served as belfries, lighthouses, and towers of defence, show that the theory of construction had advanced beyond its mechanical appliances. Their symmetry is perfect; but the courses of rough stones which compose the most ancient have evidently owed little to the mason; their very form is probably due to the want of cranes, by which heavy weights might be raised, and skill to bridge a space. The smith's art was not unknown in Ireland, and the country is rich above others in its golden ornaments, whose material the local mines supplied. But a native coinage was first introduced by the Danes, and the coat of mail which English armourers forged was unused in Ireland; in the time of their worst need, the natives opposed their naked bodies to invulnerable foes.

Ireland expiated dearly its independence of the Roman dominion. The secret of its long anarchy and weakness lies in the fact that it was Christianized without being civilized. Without cities in which municipal institutions had been organized, without Roman laws of property and inheritance, without the tradition of an empire, one and indivisible, the country was, and could be, nothing more than a cluster of clans. Any one of the reigning family might succeed the chief. The heir-appa

'Petrie's Round Towers, p. 158, &c.

2 It seems superfluous to add anything to Dr. Petrie's exhaustive arguments. But I may observe that the insulation of the bell-tower from the church is customary in Russia, not uncommon in Italy, and sometimes met with in England. It is easy to understand why the tower, at once more solid and architecturally more complete, survived the main building.

3 Worsaae's Danes, p. 335.



rent was nominated by election among the tribe in the chief's lifetime, and called "tanist." Among the strange principles of tanistry, was one that no man could bind his successor. This, in other words, made the individual the final element in the state; made social organization dependent on single lives; and if it were strictly interpreted, mortgages, leases, and national treaties, were impossible. A similar disregard for contracts and respect for natural facts, is observable in the law by which marriage did not affect succession; the bastard shared equally with the lawful child, but women could not inherit. Land was the common property of the clan, and a fresh division was made on the death of every proprietor. The natural, not the civil, family was the basis of the state, and the tie of blood was supplemented by the relation of fosterage. The fighting men of a tribe were early distinguished from the peasants; trade was comparatively unknown, and seamanship unpopular. The power of the chief was bounded principally by the public feeling of his followers; there was no upper class, except the royal; the land had many princes, but no nobles. The right of making war was among the prerogatives of the chief. Gradually the country had settled down into five provinces and four royalties, the central district of Meath belonging, during his reign, to the federal king. But the federal royalty was a diplomatic unreality; it lent prestige to a powerful monarch, but did not invest the weak with authority. Altogether the institutions of the country seemed framed with the view of making order impossible. The wave of Danish invasion passed over the land, and left it unchanged; a few cities, Dublin, Waterford, and Limerick, had become colonies of the Ostmen; but the people were unsubdued, and scarcely affected by the foreign influence. Their numbers made it impossible to exterminate or absorb them; the vivacity, courage, and intelligence of the men, the grace and beauty of the women, perpetually conciliated those who had settled among them as conquerors. The alien became more Irish than the native; and the blood of Brian Boroimhe

1 Davies's Tracts, pp. 8, 9.



himself mingled with the race he fought against and conquered.1

Intellectual and devout, the Irish were still barbarous in their habits, and their very religion bore traces of heathen influences. Alliances were made by transfusion of blood. In Ulster, the chief of one of the clans was consecrated in a bath of broth. Oaths were taken on objects of reverence; about 1150 A.D., we find the kings of Meath and Connaught swearing on the staff of Jesus, the bell of St. Fechin, and the white cow of St. Kevin. The Beltane fires on' the claddagh of Galway, and the sacred fire of St. Bridget, which burned day and night at Kildare, are no doubt connected with old Druidical rites. There were parts in which the people were still unbaptized. The church seems in a vague manner to have acknowledged the supremacy of Rome; and the cities of the Ostmen affected a connection with Canterbury. But many uncanonical practices prevailed. The clergy, who otherwise bore a high character, were addicted to hard drinking, especially after fasts, and often married, or kept concubines, although celibacy had been enjoined by several synods. The people generally were stigmatized by their conquerors as fickle and faithless. The habit of going about armed with an axe, which was used, like the modern shillelagh, on the smallest provocation, contributed to frequent breaches of the peace. The fine proportions and handsome features of men and women generally contrasted strangely with the great number of cripples and deformed. But their long yellow hair fell in tangled masses over the shoulders and breasts of the men; their dress was a sheepskin with short sleeves, and perhaps adorned with patches of different colours. The chief, who could not sleep in a bed when he came to the English court, was pretty certainly a fair sample of his country. But one refining influence existed: the people were fond of, and skilled in, music.3

I Worsaae's Danes, p. 320. 2 Moore's History of Ireland, pp. 167-170. 3 Girald. Camb., Top. Hib., c. 25-35.



There were reasons, besides the mere lust of conquest, why an English king should desire to reduce Ireland. It had given harbours and recruits to the Northmen on their expeditions; Irish soldiers had fought at Brunan-beorh against Athelstane; English exiles repeatedly fled to the island, and awaited the opportunity of reprisals upon their own government. Irish pirates infested the English coasts, and carried off prisoners, whom they sold as slaves. Accordingly, William the Conqueror had meditated subjugating Ireland, if he lived two years longer; William Rufus once declared, as he stood on the coast of Wales, that he would bridge St. George's Channel with a fleet of ships.1 But it was reserved for John of Salisbury to obtain from his intimate friend, the English pope, Adrian IV., a grant of Ireland to the English crown as a hereditary fief (1154 A.D.). The pope's right to confer it was derived from the forged donation of Constantine, by which all islands were granted to the see of Rome: the right of a Roman emperor to dominate the world was still undisputed in diplomacy. Reasons for the gift were found in Henry's desire to instruct an ignorant people, extirpate vice from the Lord's vineyard, and introduce the payment of Peter's pence. Nevertheless, the difficulty of invading Ireland seemed greater than any profit likely to result from it. The king's council opposed the enterprize; and for some years the project was suffered to sleep.

But the wretched disorders of Irish politics invited the invader. Dermot Mac-Morogh, king of Leinster, was a restless and unscrupulous prince; ambitious, vindictive, and barbarous, but liberal to the church3 and beloved by the lower orders. In 1153 A.D., he chanced to be at feud with Roderic O'Rourke, lord of Breffny, in East Connaught, and determined, as part of his revenge, to seduce Roderic's wife, the beautiful Devorgilla. Although now past middle life, Dermot's soldierly reputation or tall stature trumphed over the lady's virtue, and aided by her

1 A. S. Chron, A., 1087; Girald. Camb. de Inst. Princ., p. 144. 2 Joan. Sarest Metalog., c. 42.

3 Monast. Hibern., p. 387.

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