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CHAPTER I.

THE EARLY IRISH CHURCH AND STATE. -THE MILESIANS.- DRUID

ISM. - ST. PATRICK. THE APOSTOLIC AGE. - THE DANISH INVA. SIONS. - BRIAN AT CLONTARF.-ST. MALACHI.-THE NORMANS IN IRELAND. THE WAR OF RACES. - IRISH CHURCH IN THE MIDDLE AGES.

The history of Ireland is as stórmy as its situation. The pier of Western Europe, she braves the Atlantic, and supports the furious violence of its winds and waves. She has been wasted for the weal of Christendom; and as yet, Christendom has not studied, according to conscience, to do justice to the history of her western safeguard — a history which is full of suffering, of devotion, of miracles, and of good fruits, ripening through many ages, and scattered throughout the world.

Ireland has been mainly influenced by three natural causes. Her insular situation has made her a spectator, rather than a party to European combinations for political purposes; while Europe was inflamed, Ireland was rendered cool by the fearful spectacle of another's passion; her story has been a standing mirror and comment on continental history. Peopled by an Asiatic tribe, deriving, through Spain, the character of the Scotii, or Milesians, has been the second remarkable influence in her destiny. From them the mixed race, called Irish, derive their Oriental imagination and idealism; they never were, and never can be, materialists ;, their habits, traditions, standards, are all Asiatic. Unlike the other northern and western nations, they did not cross the continent, gathering an alloy by the way; their galleys shot from the shore of Spain, and their Chaldean craft led them to that remote island, where they drew their boats on shore, and planted their banners. The relation of Ireland and Britain is the third influence, which penetrates

the history of this people, especially in the modern period.

The growth of a Christian church and state in the Island of the Scotii affords a highly-interesting subject to the student of national life and character. It is necessary to indicate here the facts of that general conversion.

We know the Druidical form of paganism to have been a refined and elaborate system. Of all the false systems known to us, it approached nearest to the Greek mythology. The elements were deified, and the hours and seasons dedicated to their appropriate gods. The crystal wells were worshipped as the abodes of pure spirits ; a future state of being was believed to exist, under the western waves, where the Tierna n’oge, or Lord of the Ever-Young, dwelt, and with him heroes, in endless enjoyment. Through the island there were sacred groves, dedicated with mysterious rites, and guarded by severe penalties from profanation. Certain trees and plants, as the oak, the ash, elm, and hazel, were held sacred; the mistletoe and vervain were gathered under certain planetary auspices, according to a prescribed ceremonial. The winds and stars were deities, solemnly invoked and sworn by. Crom was the Jupiter, Briga, or Bridget, the Muse, and Mananan McLir (son of the sea) the Neptune of the Celtic system.* Of their ceremonies and sacrifices we know nothing that is certain. Annually they had two great religious festivals, at spring time and in harvest. Their ritual was preserved in obscure rhymes, their hierarchy an hereditary order, at once poets, judges of the civil law, and priests. They

* Crom, the thunderer, or fire god, is a well-known character to Irish readers. The Druid's altars, throughout Ireland, are still called Cromleaches, or Crom's stones. In the “glossary” of Cormac, Archbishop of Cashel, (a work of the tenth century,) there is this Christian-like account of the son of Lir: “ Mananan McLir was a famous merchant that lived in the Isle of Manan. He was the best navigator that lived in the sea in the west of the world. He used to ascertain by heaven-study, that is, observation of the heavens, the duration of calm and storm, and the duration of either of these two periods.” Quoted in Appendix to the Irish version of Nennius. Dublin : Archæological Society's Publications, 1848.

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somewhat resembled the Egyptian priesthood; they had separate estates, dedicated to their maintenance. Many good and wise pagan princes had obeyed and upheld this system. Tighernmass innovated upon its early simplicity, for he was the first to introduce idols; Tuathal, who was known to Agricola and Tacitus, restored discipline, and, perhaps, added something of the formulas he had learned during his long exile in Britain and Rome. The Druidical families were a powerful party.

The numbers and energy of the islanders, even in those early ages, were remarkable. They had colonized the Isle of Man in the third century. In the fourth, they had given a colony to Scotland, which afterwards consolidated and ruled that kingdom; in the fifth, they had effected settlements in Anglesea and Wales, from which, after twenty-nine years' possession, they were forcibly expelled by Cassawallawn, the long-handed, famous in Welsh history. About the same time, they extended their expeditions into Gaul, their path being made clear through Britain by the withdrawal of the Roman legions for the defence of the empire. In 406, Nial of the hostages perished in the Loire; and in 430, Dathi, his successor, died near Sales, in Piedmont. Their habitual route was from Chester to Dover, along the Gwyddelinsarn, or “road of the Irish,” which long after became King Alfred's boundary between the Danes and Saxons, in Britain.

In the year of our Lord 431, Pope Celestine sent to Ireland St. Patrick. That wise and holy bishop knew well the people he had to teach and baptize. He adopted all their natural rites, which were in themselves innocent. He blessed their worshipped wells; he permitted their spring and autumn festivals, but converted them to the honor of the saints ; he followed in his ecclesiastical arrangements the civil divisions of the island; he destroyed the ceremonial, but retained the historical writings of the Druids. He made seven circuits of the island, the first six on foot, and is said to have ordained three hundred bishops and seven thousand priests. The poet with his harp, and the prince with

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his power, he enlisted; he called, with supernatural insight, his apostles from all orders of people - the converted Druid, the peasant from the plough, the smith from the forge, and the fisherman from his boat; he found a vocation and a place for all. He died towards the close of the century, (A. D. 493,) leaving Christianity in all the high and lowly places of Erin; having seen paganism, if not entirely destroyed, mortally wounded, and driven into solitary places, where yet a while it conspired in vain for restoration.

The three centuries following St. Patrick's death make the golden age of the Irish church. The spiritual order was exalted to an uncommon degree -exempted from taxes and from service in war; endowed with the collective gifts of tribes and princes; recruited from all classes, honored by all. While the Gothic tempest was trampling down the classic civilization, Ireland providentially became the nursery of saints, and the refuge of science. Her two most ardent passions then were to learn and to teach. In Iceland, the Orkneys, Scotland, Britain, Gaul, Germany, even in Italy, her missionaries were every where, transplanting, in the loosened soil, the pagan tree of knowledge and the Christian tree of life. As the Goths conquered Rome, the Celts conquered the Goths. Where the barbarian was strongest, there the Christian islanders won their highest victories. The Roman martyrology gives us, for those three centuries, three hundred saints a canonized soldier of Christ for every year of the era. Why should I name these illustrious missionaries? All Christian nations, in their cathedrals, annals, and festivals, keep their memories green before the generations of men.

In the ninth, tenth, and eleventh centuries, a great and unheard-of danger threatened the Irish churchthe northern barbarians. They first appeared in the Irish seas between the years 790 and 800. The flocks and herds, with which the island abounded, and the richly-endowed shrines and schools, were the chief attractions for these piratical pagans. Accordingly, the sacred places suffered most from their incursions. In 838,

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they spoiled and burned down Clonard of St. Kyran, a famous school and see; in the same expedition, Slane, the school of King Dagobert, and Durrow of Columbcille, also suffered; four times in the same century Armagh was desecrated, and laid in ruins; Lismore, and even Clonmacnoise, in the very heart of the country, were rifled. Three centuries of peace had left the pious and studious Irish ill prepared to resist these fierce invaders, but necessity restored the warlike spirit of the

In 863, “the Danes" were beaten near Lough Foyle; in 902, near Dublin; at Dundalk, in 920 ; at Roscrea, in 943; and again at Lough Foyle in 1002. Several of their kings perished upon Irish fields, as saga and chronicle attest. It was in Ireland, and probably as a, captive, that King Olaf Trygvesson, the apostle of Denmark, became a Christian.

But the majority of those who poured from the north on Christendom, at this epoch, were inveterate pagans. The Irish wars against them are therefore to be considered as earlier crusades. In this character we regard the campaigns of Brian, called Boroimhe, that is, Tribute-taker. For half a century, as general and as sovereign, he pursued these enemies of God and man with heroic constancy. From the Shannon to Lough Foyle, in more than threescore battles, he had broken and routed their annual expeditions. At the end of the tenth century, he had left no Northmen in the land, except a few artisans and merchants at Dublin, Wexford, Waterford, Cork, and Limerick, who pursued their callings in peace, and paid taxes for protection. Brian, whose sovereign genius thus sheltered his age and nation, was in rank but a provincial king. The king of Leinster was Maolmorra, a jealous and headstrong prince. Some sharp words over a game of chess played at Kincora, with Brian's son, led this great criminal to enter into a league with the ancient enemy, and invite them once more to Ireland. The northern races warmly responded to his call, as did their kinsmen in Britain and Normandy. The King of Denmark's two sons, Carolus Kanutus and Andreas, with twelve thousand men,

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