IRISH IDEAS

By William O'Brien

Page 140

THE IRISH AGE OF GOLD

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English. When such a man as he can argue, for the purposes of a Unionist pamphlet, as if it were nonsense to talk of the Ireland of his Grace's ancestors as a country better bound together than the Roman Empire, and gifted with a jurisprudence, literature, and civilisation of its own, how can we wonder if the Cockney journalist imagines that he shows his wit by pulling the beard of King Brian Boruha, and treating Finn MacCoohal on the same historic level as Jack the Giant-Killer?

The part which Ireland took in saving Western civilisation during the break-up of the Latin Empire is recognised by every European historian who is not an Englishman--Thierry, Guizot, all the learned historic excavators of Germany. Irish troops pressed the effeminate Imperial legions in the passes of the Alps. Irish scholars occupied as eminent a place in the court of Charlemagne as Greek scholars in the Italy of the Renaissance. An order of Irish monks went within an ace of dominating Europe upon as large a scale as their supplanters, the Benedictines. The story of the Irish House of Bobbio does not yield in human interest to that of Clairvaux. The defeat which King Brian of the Tributes inflicted upon the Danes in all probability saved England from being overrun by the savage Danish marauders of Dublin, instead of receiving the civilised knights of Normandy for her masters. How many English schoolboys have ever got an inkling of all this? They would blush to be caught knowing nothing of the doings of the Black Prince. They would burst out laughing if informed that the battle of Clontarf was, in the world's drama, a more memorable fight than that of Poictiers; or that Duns Scotus, and Erigena, and Fiachra--after whom the Parisian cabmen name their vehicles; and St. Gall--whose lake is ...continue reading »

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