Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Refutation of Cambrensis by Geoffrey Keating

Cambrensis says, in his ninth chapter, that in Ireland the men used to marry the wives who had been married to their brothers, upon the death of their brothers: and he says that the tithe used not to be paid in Ireland, and that there was no regard for marriage there till the coming of Cardinal John Papiron; this, however, is not true for him, as we shall prove in the body of the history, and as will be evident from this same introduction shortly hereafter. He says, in his seventh chapter, where he treats of the wonders of Ireland, that there is a well in Munster which presently makes a man grey when he washes his hair or his beard in its water, and that there is likewise a well in Ulster which prevents greyness. Howbeit, there are not the like of these wells in Ireland now, and I do not think there were in the time of Cambrensis, but these wonders were (merely) set forth as a colouring for his lies.

Cambrensis says, in his twenty-second chapter, that whenever the nobles of Ireland are making a compact with each other, in presence of a bishop, they kiss at that time a relic of some saint, and that they drink each others blood, and at that same time they are ready to perpetrate any treachery on each other. My answer to him here (is), that there is not a lay nor a letter, of old record or of ancient text, chronicle or annals, supporting him in this lie: and, moreover, it is evident that it was obligatory on the antiquaries not to conceal the like of this evil custom, and even to put it in (their) manuscript on pain of losing their professorship, if it had been practised in Ireland. Wherefore it is clear that it is a lie Cambrensis has uttered here. Cambrensis says, in his tenth chapter, that the Irish are an inhospitable nation here is what he says:— Moreover, this nation is an inhospitable nation {Est autem gens haec, gens inhospita.}’’(says he). However, I think Stanihurst sufficient in his history by way of reply to him in this matter; here is what he says, speaking of the generosity of the Irish:—Verily (he says), they are a most hospitable people; and there is no greater degree in which you may earn their gratitude, than freely, and of your own will, to make your resort to their houses. {Sunt sane homines hospitalissimi, neque illis ulla in re magis gratificari potes, quam vel sponte ac voluntate eorum domos frequentare.}’’

Hence it may be inferred, without leave of Cambrensis, that they are hospitable people, (and) truly generous in regard to food. ...
Again, he says, in the twenty-fifth chapter of his narration concerning Ireland, that the king of Cinéal Conaill, i.e.
O'Donnell, used to be inaugurated in this wise: an assembly being made of the people of his country on a high hill in his territory, a white mare being slain, and being put to boil in a large pot in the centre of the field, and, on her being boiled, he to drink up her broth like a hound or a beagle with his mouth, and to eat the flesh out of his hands without having a knife or any instrument for cutting it, and that he would divide the rest of the flesh among the assembly, and then bathe himself in the broth. It is manifest that this thing Cambrensis tells is false, according to the ancient record of Ireland, for it is thus it describes the mode in which O'Donnell was proclaimed, to wit, by his being seated in the midst of the nobles and of the council of his own territory; and a chief of the nobility of his district used to stand before him with a straight white wand in his hand, and on presenting it to the king of Cinéal Conaill, it is this he would say to him, to receive the headship of his own country, and to maintain right and equity between each division of his country: and, wherefore the wand was appointed to be straight and white, was to remind him that so ought he to be just in his administration, and pure and upright in his actions. I marvel at Cambrensis reporting this lie, and I conceive that it was through malice he inserted it in his work. For it is well known that they have been at all times devout and religious people; and that many of them forsook the world, and finished their lives under religious rule, and, moreover, that from them came many saints, such as Columcille, Baoithin, Adhamnan, and many other saints whom we shall not mention here. Besides, it is not credible that the nobility of Ireland would permit the king of Cinéal Conaill to have in use that barbarous custom which Cambrensis mentions, seeing that the Catholic religion has lived among them from the time of Patrick to the Norman invasion, and, accordingly, I consider that it is a malicious unwarranted lie Cambrensis has uttered here.

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