The Disposition and Maners of the Meere Irish, Commonlie Called the Wild Irish.
The Eight Chapter.
BEFORE I attempt the vnfolding of the maners of the meere Irish, I thinke
it expedient, to forewarne thée reader, not to impute anie barbarous custome that
shall be here laid downe, to the citizens, townesmen, and inhabitants of the English
pale, in that they differ litle or nothing from the ancient customes and dispositions
of their progenitors, the English and Welsh men, being therefore as mortallie
behated of the Irish, as those that are borne in England. For the Irish man
standeth so much vpon his gentilitie, that he termeth anie one of the English sept,
and planted in Ireland, Bobdeagh Galteagh, that is, English churle: but if he be an
Englishman borne, then he nameth him, Bobdeagh Saxonnegh, that is, a Saxon
churle: so that both are churles, and he the onelie gentleman. And therevpon if
the basest pezzant of them name himselfe with his superior, he will be sure to place
himselfe first, as I and Oneile, I and you, I and he, I and my master, whereas
the courtesie of the English language is cleane contrarie.
The inclination of the people.
The people are thus inclined, religious, franke, amorous, irefull, sufferable
infinit paines, verie glorious, manie sorcerers, excellent horssemen, delighted with
wars, great almesgiuers, passing in hospitalitie. The lewder sort, both clearkes and
laie men are sensuall and ouer loose in liuing. The same being vertuouslie bred vp
or reformed, are such mirrors of holinesse and austeritie, that other nations reteine
but a shadow of deuotion in comparison of them. As for abstinence and fasting,
it is to them a familiar kind of chastisement. They follow the dead corpse to the
graue with howling and barbarous outcries, pitifull in apparance: whereof grew,
as I suppose, the prouerbe, To wéepe Irish.
To wéepe Irish.
Gréedie of praise they be, & fearefull of dishonor, and to this end they estéeme
their poets, who write Irish learnedlie, and pen their sonets heroicall, for the which
they are bountifullie rewarded; if not, they send out libels in dispraise, whereof
the lords and gentlemen stand in great awe. They loue tenderlie their foster children,
and bequeath to them a childes portion, whereby they nourish sure friendship:
so beneficiall euerie waie, that commonlie fiue hundred cowes and better, are giuen,
in reward to win a noble mans child to foster, they loue & trust their foster brethren
more than their owne. The men are cleane of skin and hew, of stature tall.
The stature of the people.
The women are well fauoured, cleane coloured, faire handed, big & large, suffered
from their infancie to grow at will, nothing curious of their feature and proportion
Their infants, they of meaner sort, are neither swadled nor lapped in linnen,
but folded vp starke naked in a blanket till they can go. Proud they are of long
crisped bushes of heare which they terme glibs, and the same they nourish with all
their cunning, to crop the front thereof they take it for a notable péece of villanie.
Water cresses, which they tearme shamrocks, roots and other herbs they féed vpon,
otemeale and butter they cram togither, they drinke wheie, milke, and beefebroth.
Flesh they deuoure without bread, and that halfe raw: the rest boileth in
their stomachs with Aqua vitœ,
which they swill in after such a surfet by quarts and
pottels: they let their cowes bloud, which growne to a gellie, they bake and ouerspread
with butter, and so eate it in lumps. No meat they fansie so much as
porke, and the fatter the better. One of Iohn Onels houshold demanded of his fellow
whether béefe were better than porke? That (quoth the other) is as intricat a
question, as to aske whether thou art better than Onele.
Their noble men, and noble mens tenants, now and then make a set feast, which
they call coshering, wherto flocke all their reteiners, whom they name followers,
their rithmours, their bards, their harpers that féed them with musike: and when
the harper twangeth or singeth a song, all the companie must be whist, or else he
chafeth like a cutpursse, by reason his harmonie is not had in better price. In
their coshering they sit on straw, they are serued on straw, and lie vpon mattresses
and pallets of straw. The antiquitie of this kind of feasting is set foorth by Virgil,
Lib. pri. Aen circa finem.
where Dido interteineth the Troian prince and his companie. They obserue di
uerse degrées, according to which each man is regarded The basest sort among
them are little yoong wags, called Daltins, these are lackies, and are seruiceable
to the groomes or horssebotes, who are a degrée aboue the Daltins. Of the third
degrée is the kerne, who is an ordinarie souldior, vsing for weapon his sword and
target, and sometimes his peece, being commonlie so good markemen as they will
come within a score of a great castell. Kerne signifieth (as noble men of deepe
udgement informed me) a shower of hell, because they are taken for no better
than for rakehels, or the diuels blacke gard, by reason of the stinking sturre they
kéepe, wheresoeuer they be.
The fourth degrée is a galloglasse, vsing a kind of pollar for his weapon. These
men are commonlie weieward rather by profession than by nature, grim of countenance,
tall of stature, big of lim, burlie of bodie, well and stronglie timbered.
chieflie féeding on béefe, porke & butter. The fift degrée is to be an horsseman,
which is the chiefest next the lord and capteine. These horssemen, when
they haue no staie of their owne, gad & range from house to house like arrant
knights of the round table, and they neuer dismount vntil they ride into the hall,
and as farre as the table. There is among them a brotherhood of karrowes, that
proffer to plaie at cards all the yeare long, and make it their onelie occupation.
They plaie awaie mantle and all to the bare skin, and then trusse themselues in
straw or leaues, they wait for passengers in the high waie, inuite them to game
vpon the gréene, and aske no more but companions to make them sport. For default
of other stuffe, they pawne their glibs, the nailes of their fingers and toes,
their dimissaries, which they léese or redéeme at the courtesie of the winner.
One office in the house of noble men is a taleteller, who bringeth his lord asléepe
with tales vaine and firiuolous, wherevnto the number giue sooth and credit. Without
either precepts or obseruations of congruitie, they speake Latine like a vulgar
Latin spoken as a vulgar language
language, learned in their common schooles of leachcraft and law, whereat they
begin children, and hold on sixtéene or twentie yeares, conning by rote the aphorismes
of Hippocrates, and the ciuill institutes, with a few other parings of those
faculties. In their schooles they groouell vpon couches of straw, their bookes at
their noses, themselues lie flat prostrate, and so they chant out with a lowd voice
their lessons by péecemeale, repeating two or three words thirtie or fortie times togither.
Other lawyers they haue liable to certeine families, which after the custome
of the countrie determine and iudge causes. These consider of wrongs offered
and receiued among their neighbors: be it murther, felonie, or trespasse, all
is remedied by composition (except the grudge of parties séeke reuenge) and the
time they haue to spare from spoiling and preiding, they lightlie bestow in parling
about such matters. The Breighon (so they call this kind of lawyers) sitteth on a
banke, the lords and gentlemen at variance round about him, and then they procéed.
To rob and spoile their enimies they déeme it none offense, nor seeke anie
meanes to recouer their losse, but euen to watch them the like turne. But if
neighbors & friends send their purueiors to purloine one another, such actions are
iudged by the Breighons aforesaid. They honour and reuerence friers and pilgrims,
by suffering them to passe quietlie, and by sparing their mansions, whatsoeuer outrage
they shew to the countrie besides them. The like fauor doo they extend to
their poets & rithmours.
In old time they much abused the honorable state of mariage, either in contracts
vnlawfull, méeting the degrées of prohibition, or in diuorsements at pleasure, or
in reteining concubines or harlots for wiues: yea euen at this daie, where the clergie
is faint, they can be content to marrie for a yeare and a daie of probation: and
at the years end, or anie time after, to returne hir home with hir mariage goods,
or as much in valure, vpon light quareis, if the gentlewomans friends be vnabie
to renenge the iniurie. In like maner maie she forsake hir husband. In some
Superstition in baptisme.
corner of the land they vsed a damnable superstition, leauing the right armes of
their infants vnchristened as they tearme it) to the intent it might giue & more
vngratious and deadlie blow. Others write that gentlemens children were baptised
Iohn Cai. li. 2. Cant. ant.
in milke, and the infants of poore folke in water, who had the better or rather the
onelie choise. Diuerse other vaine and execrable superstitious hey obserue, that
for a complet recitall would require a seuerall volume. Whereto they are the more
Ireland why superstitious.
stiffelie wedded, bicause such single preachers as they haue, reprooue not in their
sermons the péeuishnesse and fondnesse of these friuolous dreamers. But these and
the like enormities haue taken so déepe root in that people, as commonlie a preacher
is sooner by their naughtie liues corrupted, than their naughtie liues by his preaching
Againe, the verie English of birth, conuersant with the sauage sort of that people
become degenerat, and as though they had tasted of Circes poisoned cup, are quite
altered. Such force hath education to make or mar. God with the beams of his grace
clarifie the eies of that rude people, that at length they maie see their miserable estate:
and also that such as are deputed to the gouernement thereof, bend their industrie
with conscionable policie to reduce them from rudenes to knowledge, from rebellion
to obedience, from trecherie to honestie, from sauagenesse to ciuilitie, from idlenesse
to labour, from wickednesse to godlinesse, whereby they maie the sooner
espie their blindnesse, acknowledge their loosenes, amend their liues, frame themselues
pliable to the lawes and ordinances of hir maiestie, whome God with his gratious
assistance preserue, aswell to the prosperous gouernment of hir realme of
England, as to the happie reformation of hir realme of Ireland.