Text: Foras Feasa ar Éirinn

Seathrún Céitinn (c.1569–c.1644, known in English as “Geoffrey Keating”) was one of a number of professionally trained Gaelic literati who was active during the Counter-Reformation in Ireland. One of the books he wrote, Foras Feasa ar Éirinn “History of Ireland,” was a compendium of information about Ireland written in Classical Gaelic completed c.1634 that responded to much of the anti-Irish propaganda that had been written in English.

The following extracted text was adapted by Michael Newton from the online edition of CELT at http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/T100054/index.html

Whoever proposes to trace and follow up the ancient history and origin of any country ought to determine on setting down plainly the method which reveals most clearly the truth of the state of the country, and the condition of the people who inhabit it: and forasmuch as I have undertaken to investigate the groundwork of Irish historical knowledge, I have thought at the outset of deploring some part of her affliction and of her unequal contest; especially the unfairness which continues to be practised on her inhabitants, both the “old foreigners” [Sean-Ghaill, original Anglo-Norman settlers of the 12th century] who still survive more than four hundred years after the Norman invasion, as well as the native Irish who have survived for almost three thousand years. For there is no historian of all those who have written on Ireland from that epoch that has not continuously sought to cast reproach and blame both on the old foreign settlers and on the native Irish.

Whereof the testimony given by Gerald de Barri, Spenser, Stanihurst, Hanmer, Camden, Barckly, Moryson, Davies, Campion, and every other new foreigner who has written on Ireland from that time, may bear witness; for they imitate the manner of the beetle to a great degree when they write about the Irish. For it is the beetle’s habit, when it lifts its head in the summertime, to go about fluttering, and not to stoop towards any delicate flower that may be in the field, or any blossom in the garden, though they be all roses or lilies, but it keeps bustling about until it meets with horse or cow dung, and proceeds to roll itself therein. Thus it is with the set above-named; they have displayed no inclination to discuss the virtues or good qualities of the nobles among the old foreigners and the native Irish who then dwelt in Ireland; such as to write on their valour and on their piety, on the number of abbeys they had founded, and what land and endowments for worship they had bestowed on them; on the privileges they had granted to the learned professors of Ireland, and all the reverence they manifested towards churchmen and prelates: on every immunity they secured for their sages, and the maintenance they provided for the poor and for orphans; on each donation they were accustomed to bestow on the learned and on petitioners, and on the extent of their hospitality to guests, insomuch that it cannot truthfully be said that there ever existed in Europe folk who surpassed them, in their own time, in generosity or in hospitality according to their ability. […]

We shall set down here a few of the lies of the new foreigners who have written concerning Ireland, following Gerald de Barri; and shall make a beginning by refuting Gerald de Barri himself where he says that Ireland owed tribute to King Arthur, and that the time when he imposed the tax on them at Caerleon was, when the year of the Lord was five hundred and nineteen […]

Spenser, in his narrative, says that Egfrid, king of the Northumbrians, and Edgar, king of Britain, had authority over Ireland, as may be read in the thirty-third page of his history: yet this is not true about him, because the old records of Ireland are opposed to that, and, moreover, British authors themselves confess that the Saxons did not leave any ancient texts, or monuments, by which they might know the condition of the time which preceded the Saxons. For Gildas, an ancient British author says, that the monuments, and consequently the history of the Britons, were destroyed by the Romans and by the Saxons. […]

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 betrays its influence would likewise be stained by the ill manners of the folk whose language it is.

About Michael Newton

Arts and Sci Information Svcs
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.