An Illustrated History of Ireland from AD 400 to 1800 eBook

Mary Frances Cusack
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 779 pages of information about An Illustrated History of Ireland from AD 400 to 1800.

Ancient writings, even of pure fiction, must always form an important historical element to the nation by which they have been produced.  Unless they are founded on fact, so far as customs, localities, and mode of life are concerned, they would possess no interest; and their principal object is to interest.  Without some degree of poetic improbabilities as to events, they could scarcely amuse; and their object is also to amuse.  Hence, the element of truth is easily separated from the element of fiction, and each is available in its measure for historic research.  The most ancient of this class of writings are the Fenian Poems and Tales, ascribed to Finn Mac Cumhaill, to his sons, Oisin and Fergus Finnbheoill (the Eloquent), and to his kinsman, Caeilite.  There are also many tales and poems of more recent date.  Mr. O’Curry estimates, that if all MSS. known to be in existence, and composed before the year 1000, were published, they would form at least 8,000 printed pages of the same size as O’Donovan’s Annals of the Four Masters.

[Illustration:  FROM SCULPTURES AT DEVENISH.]

[Illustration:  ROUND TOWER OF DYSART, NEAR CROOM, LIMERICK.]

FOOTNOTES: 

[57] Scota.—­The grave is still pointed out in the valley of Gleann Scoithin, county Kerry.

[58] Taillten.—­Now Telltown, county Meath.

[59] Amhergen.—­Annals of the Four Masters, vol. i. p. 25.

[60] Also.—­This tale bears a simple and obvious interpretation.  The druids were the most learned and experienced in physical science of their respective nations; hence the advice they gave appeared magical to those who were less instructed.

[61] Geisill.—­The scene of the battle was at a place called Tochar eter dha mhagh, or “the causeway between two plains,” and on the bank of the river Bri Damh, which runs through the town of Tullamore.  The name of the battle-field is still preserved in the name of the townland of Ballintogher, in the parish and barony of Geisill.  At the time of the composition of the ancient topographical tract called the Dinnseanchus, the mounds and graves of the slain were still to be seen.—­See O’Curry, page 449.  The author of this tract, Amergin Mac Amalgaidh, wrote about the sixth century.  A copy of his work is preserved in the Book of Ballymote, which was compiled in the year 1391.  There is certainly evidence enough to prove the fact of the melee, and that this was not a “legend invented from the tenth to the twelfth centuries.”  It is almost amusing to hear the criticisms of persons utterly ignorant of our literature, however well-educated in other respects.  If the treasures of ancient history which exist in Irish MSS. existed in Sanscrit, or even in Greek or Latin, we should find scholars devoting their lives and best intellectual energies to understand and proclaim their value and importance, and warmly defending them against all impugners of their authenticity.

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Project Gutenberg
An Illustrated History of Ireland from AD 400 to 1800 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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