Edmund Spenser, A Veue of The Present State of Ireland

Edmund Spenser (c.1552–1599) went to Ireland with English military troops in 1580 and was rewarded with an estate in Cork after the defeat of an Irish uprising. He is best known as a poet, the author of The Faerie Queen. He wrote this tract in the 1590s in his role as an agent of the English government.

EUDOXUS: But if that country of Ireland whence you lately came, be so goodly and commodious a soyle as you report, I wounder that no course is taken for the tourning therof to good uses, and reducing that salvage nation to better goverment and civillity.

IRENIUS: Mary, so ther have bin divers good plotts devised, and wise counsells cast alredy about reformation of that realme, but they say it is the fatall destiny of that land, that no purposes, whatsoever are meant for her good, wil prosper and take good effect: which, whether it proceede from the very genius of the soyle, or influence of the starrs, or that Almighty god hath not yet appoynted the time of her reformacion, or that he reserveth her in this unquiet state still, for some secret scourge, which shall by her come unto England, it is hard to be knowne, but yet much to be feared. […]

EUDOXUS: Whether do you meane this by the common lawes of the realme or by the statute lawes and acts of parliament?

IRENIUS: Surely by them both: for even the common lawes, being that which William of Normandy brought in with his conquest and layd upon the neck of England, though it perhaps fitted well with the state of England then being, and was readily obeyed through the power of the commander which had before subdued the poeple to him, and made easy way to the setting of his will; yet with the state of Ireland peradventure it doth not so well agre, being a poeple altogether stubborn and vntamed and, if it were once tamed, yet now lately having quite shaken of ther yoke and broken the bands of ther obedience. For England, before the entrance of the Conqueror, was an unpeaceable kingdome, and but lately entred to the mild and godly goverment of King Edward surnamed the confessor; besides now lately growne unto a lothing and detestation of the unjust and tirannous rule of Harold, an usurper, which made them the more willing to accept of any reasonable condicons and order of the new Victor, thincking surely it could be no worse than the latter, and hoping well it would be as good as the former: yet what the proofe of the first bringing in and establishing of the lawes was, was to many full bitterly made knowne. But with Ireland it is far otherwise: for it is a nation ever acquainted with warrs, though but amongest them selves, and in ther owne kind of military disciplin, trayned up from ther youths: which they have never yet bin tought to lay aside, nor made to learne obedience unto the law, scarsely to know the name of law, but in stead therof have alwayes preserved and kept ther owne law, which is the Brehon law. […]