A. D. 1029.
EYRBYGGJA SAGA, CAP. 64. VELLUM FRAGMENT, No. 4456, in 4to.
Collated with the before mentioned MSS.
Gudleif hight a man; he was son of Gudlaug the rich, of Straumfjord, and brother of Thorfinn, from whom the Sturlungers are descended. Gudleif was a great merchant, he had a merchant ship, but Thorolf Eyrar Loptson had another, that time they fought against Gyrd, son of Sigvald Jarl; then lost Gyrd his eye. It happened in the last years of the reign of King Olaf the Saint, that Gudleif undertook a trading voyage to Dublin; 1 but when he sailed from the west, intended he to sail to Iceland; he sailed then from the west of Ireland, 2 and met with north-east winds, and was driven far to the west, and south-west, in the sea, where no land was to be seen. But it was already far gone in the summer, and they
made many prayers that they might escape from the sea; and it came to pass that they saw land. It was a great land, but they knew not what land it was. Then took they the resolve to sail to the land, for they were weary of contending longer with the violence of the sea. They found there a good harbour; and when they had been a short time on shore, came people to them: they knew none of the people, but it rather appeared to them that they spoke Irish. 1 Soon came to them so great a number that it made up many hundreds. These men fell upon them and seized them all, and bound them, and drove them up the country. There were they brought before an assembly, to be judged. They understood so much that some were for killing them, but others would have them distributed amongst the inhabitants, and made slaves. And while this was going on saw they where rode a great body of men, and a large banner was borne in the midst. Then thought they that there must be a chief in the troop; but when it came near, saw they that under the banner rode a large and dignified man, who was much in years, and whose hair was white. All present bowed down before the man, and received him as well as they could. Now observed they that all opinions and resolutions concerning their business, were submitted to his decision. Then ordered this man Gudleif and his companions to be brought before him, and when they had come before this man, spoke he to them in the Northern
tongue, and asked them from what country they came. They answered him, that the most of them were Icelanders. The man asked which of them were Icelanders? Gudleif said that he was an Icelander. He then saluted the old man, and he received it well, and asked from what part of Iceland he came. Gudleif said that he was from that district which hight Borgafjord. Then enquired he from what part of Borgafjord he came, and Gudleif answered just as it was. Then asked this man about almost every one of the principal men in Borgafjord and Breidafjord; and when they talked thereon, enquired he minutely about every thing, first of Snorri Godi, and his sister Thurid of Froda, and most about Kjartan her son. The people of the country now called out, on the other side, that some decision should be made about the seamen. After this. went the great man away from them, and named twelve of his men with himself, and they sat a long time talking. Then went they to the meeting of the people, and the old man said to Gudleif: "I and the people of the country have talked together about your business, and the people have left the matter to me; but I will now give ye leave to depart whence ye will; but although ye may think that the summer is almost gone, yet will I counsel ye to remove from hence, for here are the people not to be trusted, and bad to deal with, and they think besides that the laws have been broken to their injury." Gudleif answered: "What shall we say, if fate permits us to return to our own country, who has given us this freedom?" He answered: "That can I not tell you, for I
like not that my relations and foster-brothers should make such a journey hereto, as ye would have made, if ye had not had the benefit of my help; but now is my age so advanced, that I may expect every hour old age to overpower me; and even if I could live yet for a time, there are here more powerful men than me, who little peace would give to foreigners that might come here, although they be not just here in the neighbourhood where ye landed." Then caused he their ship to be made ready for sea, and was there with them, until a fair wind sprung up, which was favourable to take them from the land. But before they separated took this man a gold ring from his hand, and gave it into the hands of Gudleif, and therewith a good sword; then said he to Gudleif: "If the fates permit you to come to your own country, then shall you take this sword to the yeoman, Kjartan of Froda, but the ring to Thurid his mother." Gudleif replied: "What shall I say, about it, as to who sends them these valuables?" He answered: "Say that he sends them who was a better friend of the lady of Froda, than of her brother, Godi of Helgafell; but if any man therefore thinks that he knows who has owned these articles, then say these my words, that I forbid any one to come to me, for it is the most dangerous expedition, unless it happens as fortunately with others at the landing place, as with you; but here is the land great, and bad as to harbours, and in all parts may strangers expect hostility, when it does not turn out as has been with you." After this, Gudleif and his people put to, sea, and they landed in Ireland late in harvest, and were in Dublin for
the winter. But in the summer after, sailed they to, Iceland, and Gudleif delivered over there these valuables; and people held it for certain, that this man was Bjorn, the Champion of Breidavik, and no other account to be relied on is there in confirmation of this, except that which is now given here.
The reader will no doubt come to the same conclusion drawn by the Icelanders respecting the identity of the aged chief, to whose generosity and friendly feeling Gudleif and his companions were so much indebted, and unhesitatingly pronounce him to have been none other than Bjorn Asbrandson, the Champion of Breidavik, who, it will be remembered, had set sail about thirty years before, with a northeast wind, and had not since been heard of. The remarkable accordance of all the personal details, to which the writer evidently attaches the principal importance, with the historical events, which are only incidentally alluded to, enable us to determine dates and intervals of time with a degree of accuracy that places the truth of the narrative beyond all question, and gives a high degree of interest to these two voyages. The mention of Sigurd Jarl of the Orkneys, Palnatoki, Styrbjorn the nephew of Erik of Sweden, the battle of Fyrisvold, Snorri Godi, "the latter part of the reign of king Olaf the saint," gives a chronological character to the narratives, and enables us to fix with confidence, nearly the exact period of the principal events. Hence it appears that Gudleif Gudlaugson, sailing from the west of Ireland in the year 1029, with a N. E. wind, is driven far to the south and south-west, where no land was to be seen, and that after being exposed for many
days to the violence of the winds and waves, he at length finds shelter upon a coast, where Bjorn Asbrandson, who had left Iceland with N. E. winds thirty years before, had become established as chief of the inhabitants of the country. He finds him, as might naturally have been expected, "stricken in years," and "his hair was white," for Bjorn had left Iceland for Jomsborg in the prime of life, had, after taking part in the achievements of the Jomsvikings up to the death of Palnatoki in 993, returned to and resided in Iceland until 999, and now thirty winters had passed over his head since his ultimate departure from his native land. The locality of the newly discovered country is next to be determined: Now if a line be drawn running N. E. to S. W. the course of Bjorn Asbrandson, from the western coast of Iceland, and another in the same direction (the course of Gudleif Gudlaugson) from the west coast of Ireland, they would intersect each other on the southern shores of the United States, somewhere about Carolina or Georgia. This position accords well with the description of the locality of their country, given by the Skrælings to Thorfinn Karlsefne, and which the Northmen believed to be White Man's land or Great Ireland, as also with the geographical notices of the same land which have been already adduced; and when to these evidences be added the statements of Gudleif and his companions respecting the language of the natives, "which appeared to them to be Irish," there is every reason to conclude that this was the Hvitramannaland, Albania, or Ireland ed mikla of the Northmen.
The notices of the country contained in these two narratives are, doubtless, scanty, and merely incidental, the object of the narrators being evidently to trace the romantic
and adventurous career of the Champion of Breidavik, and the perilous voyage of his countrymen, but this very circumstance is an argument in favour of the honesty of the statement as regards the supposed Irish settlement; and the simple and unpretending character of both narratives, supported, as they are, by historical references, confirmatory of the principal events, gives to these incidental allusions a degree of importance to which they would not otherwise be entitled.
Professor Rafn is of opinion that the White Man's Land, or Great Ireland of the Northmen was the country situated to the south of Chesapeake Bay, including North and South Carolina, Georgia, and East Florida. It is well known that the Esquimaux Indians formerly inhabited countries much further south than they do at present, and a very remarkable tradition is stated to be still preserved amongst the Shawnese Indians, who emigrated 87 years ago, from West Florida to Ohio, that Florida was once inhabited by white men, who used iron instruments. A German writer also mentions an old tradition of the ancestors of the Shawnese having come from beyond the sea.
Various circumstances shew that Great Ireland was a country, of the existence of which the Icelandic historians had no doubt; it is spoken of in the Saga of Thorfirm Karlsefne as a country well known by name to the Northmen; in the account of Ari Marson's voyage, and the geographical fragment, its position is pointed out:--"west from Ireland, near Vinland the good"--"next and somewhat behind Vinland," and the following extract, taken from the collection of Bjorn Johnson, will shew that a Chart had actually been made of this distant land:--
"Sir Erlend Thordson had obtained from abroad the
geographical chart of that Albania, or land of the White men, which is situated opposite Vinland the good, of which mention has been before made in this little book, and which the merchants formerly called Hibernia Major or Great Ireland, and lies, as has been said, to the west of Ireland proper. This chart had held accurately all those tracts of land, and the boundaries of Markland, Einftingjaland, and little Helluland, together with Greenland, to the west of it, where apparently begins the good Terra Florida." This Sir Erlend was priest of the parish of Staden in Steingrimsfjord, on the west coast of Iceland, in the year 1568, but no further information has been obtained respecting the chart, which probably contained the outlines of all the countries known to the Northmen soon after their discovery of the American continent.
From what cause could the name of Great Ireland have arisen, but from the fact of the country having been colonized by the Irish? Coming from their own green island to a vast continent possessing many of the fertile qualities of their native soil, the appellation would have been natural and appropriate; and costume, colour, or peculiar habits, might have readily given rise to the country being denominated White Man's Land by the neighbouring Esquimaux. Nor does this conclusion involve any improbability: we have seen that the Irish visited and inhabited Iceland towards the close of the 8th century, to have accomplished which they must have traversed a stormy ocean to the extent of about 800 miles; that a hundred years before the time of Dicuil, namely in the year 725, they had been found upon the Far islands; that in the 10th century, voyages between Iceland and Ireland were of ordinary occurrence; and that in the beginning of the
[paragraph continues] 11th century, White Man's Land or Great Ireland is mentioned,--not as a newly discovered country,--but as a land long known by name to the Northmen. Neither the Icelandic historians nor navigators were, in the least degree, interested in originating or giving currency to any fable respecting an Irish settlement on the southern shores of North America, for they set up no claim to the discovery of that part of the Western continent, their intercourse being limited to the coasts north of Chesapeake Bay. The discovery of Vinland and Great Ireland appear to have been totally independent of each other: the latter is only incidentally alluded to by the Northern navigators; with the name they were familiar, but of the peculiar locality of the country they were ignorant, nor was it until after the return of Karlsefni from Vinland in 1011, and the information which he obtained from the Skrellings or Esquimaux who were captured during the voyage, that the Northmen became convinced that White Man's Land or Great Ireland was a part of the same vast continent, of which Helluland, Markland, and Vinland formed portions.
The traces of Irish origin which have been observed among some of the Indian tribes of North and Central America tend also to strengthen the presumption that these countries had been colonized from Ireland at some remote period of time. Rask, the eminent Danish philologist, leans to this opinion which he founds upon the early voyages of the Irish to Iceland and the similitude between the Hiberno-Celtic, and American Indian dialects. "It is well known," he says, "that Iceland was discovered and partially inhabited by the Irish before its discovery and occupation by the Scandinavians; and when we find that the Icelanders, descended from the Scandinavians, discovered North
[paragraph continues] America, it will appear less improbable that the Irish, who, at that period, were more advanced in learning and civilization, should have undertaken similar expeditions with success:" the name of Irland it Mikla he also considers to be a sufficient indication of the Irish having emigrated thither from their own country.
It seems to be generally admitted by historians and antiquaries that the main stream of colonization has flowed from east to west, the Celts preceding the Teutonic and Sarmatian races, by a long interval of time. Herodotus, four centuries before the Christian era, places the Celts beyond the pillars of Hercules, and upon the borders of the most westerly region in Europe, and Cæsar in the first century finds them in Gaul and Britain; that their successors, the Goths, should have driven them to seek for regions still further westward is therefore in full accordance with the course of their former migrations, and the same nomadic principle which brought them from Asia to the British isles, might have wafted them in later ages to the western world.
The illustrious Leibnitz seems to have contemplated the possibility of such a remote Celtic settlement when he wrote:--"And if there be any island beyond Ireland, where the Celtic language is in use, by the help thereof we should be guided, as by a thread, to the knowledge of still more ancient things."
The remarkable narrative of Lionel Wafer who resided for several months amongst the inhabitants of the Isthmus of America, contains some remarkable passages bearing upon this subject, and which, as the author had no preconceived opinions on the affinity of languages, or favourite theory to uphold, are deserving of notice: speaking of their language, he says:--
"My knowledge of the Highland language made me the more capable of learning the Darien Indians' language, when I was among them, for there is some affinity; not in the signification of the words of each language, but in the pronunciation, which I could easily imitate, both being spoken pretty much in the throat, with frequent aspirates, and much the same sharp or circumflex tang or cant." This writer, however, had evidently not paid much attention to the affinities of the two languages which he compares and finds only to resemble in pronunciation, for many of the words which he afterwards adduces as examples of the Indian language, bear a marked similitude to those of the Celtic, as may readily be seen by the following comparison:
Taduys (Welsh), Tad (Corn.) Tat (Armoric) Dad or Daddy (vulg. Irish).
Bean (Ir.), Bun (Armor.).
Neean (ancient Scotch).
Neul, a star--light--neultaib njme, the stars of heaven(Ir.).
Eechah (pron. Eetsha)--Ugly
Etseact--Death (Ir.)--the ugliest of all things.
Pah, prefixed to a word in Welsh augments its signification.
Eechah Malooquah, an expression of great dislike
Malluighe or malluigte, cursed, accursed (Irish).
Codalta and Codaltac, sleepy (Ir.).
Caupah (pron. Capa), hammock
Cába, a cloak, Caban, tent, cottage (Ir.), Caban, ib.(Welsh).
Ed, to take, handle (Irish).
Tuile, a flood (Ir.).
Ceóbac, drunkenness (Ir.).
Ma, ma, ba, would be nearly the sound of the repetition of the word ba, which signifies good in Irish: the m and b are also often used indiscriminately. See O'Brien--Remarks on letter M.
Eenah, to call
Enwi, to name (Welsh), Henu, a name (Armor.).
Wafer further says: "Their way of reckoning from score to score is no more than what our old English way was, but their saying, instead of thirty-one, thirty-two, etc., one score and eleven, one score and twelve, etc., is much like the Highlanders of Scotland and Ireland, reckoning eleven and twenty, twelve and twenty, etc.; so for fifty-three, the Highlanders say thirteen and two score, as the Darien Indians would two score and thirteen, only changing the place. In my youth I was well acquainted with the Highland or primitive Irish language, both as it is spoken in the north of Ireland, particularly at the Navan upon the Boyne, and about the town of Virgini upon Lough Rammer in the Barony of Castle Raghen, in the County of Cavan; and also in the Highlands of Scotland, where I have been up and down in several places. . . . I learned a great deal of the Darien language in a month's conversation with them."
Wafer's description of the dress of this tribe of American Indians, presents also a remarkable coincidence with the short notices of the inhabitants of White Man's Land, as given to Karlsefni by the Esquimaux:--
"They have a sort of long cotton garment of their own, some white, others of a rusty black, shaped like our carters' frocks, hanging down to their heels, with a fringe of the same of cotton, about a span long, and short, wide, open sleeves, reaching but to the middle of the arms. These garments they put on over their heads. . . . When they are thus assembled, they will sometimes walk about the place or plantation where they are, with their robes on; and I once saw Lacenta (a chief) thus walking about with two or three hundred of these attending him, as if he was mustering them: and I took notice that those in the black gowns walked before him, and the white after him, each having their lances of the same colour with their robes. . . . They were all in their finest robes, which are long white gowns, reaching to their ancles, with fringes at the bottom, and in their hands they had half pikes."
The affinity between the American-Indian and Celtic languages, and consequent probability of an European settlement having been formed upon the shores of New Spain before the arrival of the Spaniards, appears to have been entertained by many writers of eminence in the 17th century. In the remarkable work entitled the "Turkish Spy," we find the author positively affirming the similarity of the two languages, and stating the tradition of an early European settlement:
"This prince (Charles II.) has several nations under his dominions, and 'tis thought he scarce knows the just extent of his territories in America. There is a region in that continent inhabited by a people whom they call Tuscorards and Doegs. Their language is the same as is spoken by the British or Welsh. . . . Those Tuscorards and Doegs of America are thought to descend from them. . . . It is certain
that when the Spaniards first conquered Mexico they were surprised to hear the inhabitants discourse of a strange people, that formerly came thither in corraughs, who taught them the knowledge of God, and of immortality, instructed them also in virtue and morality, and prescribed holy rites and ceremonies of religion. 'Tis remarkable also what an Indian King said to a Spaniard, viz.: That in foregoing ages a strange people arrived there by sea, to whom his ancestors gave hospitable entertainment; in regard they found them men of wit and courage, endued also with many other excellencies: but he could give no account of their origin or name. . . . The British language is so prevalent here, that the very towns, bridges, beasts, birds, rivers, hills, etc., are called by British or Welsh names." "Who can tell," truly adds the author, "the various transmigrations of mortals on earth, or trace out the true originals of any people?"
The improbability of the Irish having, at any very remote period of time, been in possession of vessels of sufficient power and capacity to enable them to accomplish a voyage across the Atlantic may, perhaps, be urged as an objection to this supposed early migration to the American coast; but, without resting upon their ancient Spanish or Carthaginian connexion, a very little enquiry will show, that at least in the first centuries of the Christian era they were amply provided with the means of accomplishing a voyage to the New World, which, from the western coast of Ireland, little exceeds 1600 miles.
O'Halloran states, on the authority of the Psalter of Cashel, said to be the oldest Irish MS., that Moghcorb, King of Leath Mogha, or Munster, prepared a large fleet in the year 296, and invaded Denmark; and that in the
following century (A. D. 367), Criomthan, who in the Psalter of Cashel is styled Monarch of Ireland and Albany, and leader of the Franks and Saxons, prepared a formidable fleet, and raised a large body of troops, which were transported to Scotland, for the purpose of acting in conjunction with the Picts and Saxons against the Roman wall, and devastating the provinces of Britain. In 396, an expedition, upon a most extensive and formidable scale, was undertaken by the celebrated Niall of the Nine Hostages, one of the most distinguished princes of the Milesian race: "Observing," says Moore, "that the Romans, after breaking up the line of encampment along the coast opposite to Ireland, had retired to the eastern shore and the northern wall; Niall perceived that an apt opportunity was thus offered for a descent upon the now unprotected territory. Instantly summoning, therefore, all the forces of the island, and embarking them on board such ships as he could collect, he ranged, with his numerous navy, along the whole coast of Lancashire," etc. It was to this expedition that the poet Claudian, lauding the achievement of his patron Stilicho, alluded, in the memorable lines:--
By him defended, when the neighbouring hosts
Of warlike nations spread along our coasts;
When Scots 1 came thundering from the Irish shores,
And the wide ocean foamed from hostile oars.
De Laudab, Stil. Lib. 2.
This same Niall extended this enterprise to the coast of Brittany, and ravaged the maritime districts of the northwest of Gaul, during which expedition was captured the great Christian apostle, St. Patrick.
That such expeditions could have been carried on by means of the little fragile currachs, to which mode of transport some writers would limit the sea expeditions of the Irish at this period, seems scarcely credible, and while allowing full force to the fearless and enterprising spirit of the gallant Scoti, and the "contempto pelagi," alluded to by Eric of Auxerre, we must allow them some more rational means for conveying a body of troops across the British and Gallic channels than these frail barks.
Not that the currachs were insufficient for individual enterprise of a more peaceful character, and it seems probable that the monks of the 8th century launched themselves on the northern ocean in these simple hide-covered skiffs, and thus effected a passage to their island retreats; for we find St. Cormac committing himself to the sea in a similar bark, and on one occasion he is said to have been out of sight of land for fourteen days and nights.
But the remarkable passage in Tacitus, which has been so often cited by Irish historians in proof of the early maritime importance of their country, would lead to the conclusion that at a period anterior to that now under consideration, the Irish were possessed of ships, or vessels of no mean size or description. "Ireland," the Roman historian says, "situated midway between Britain and Spain, and convenient also to the Gallic sea, connected a most powerful portion of the empire by considerable mutual advantages; the soil and climate, and the dispositions and habits of the people do not differ much from those of
[paragraph continues] Britain: the approaches and harbours are better known, by reason of commerce and the merchants." "From this it appears," says Moore, "that though scarce heard of till within a short period by the Romans, and almost as strange to the Greeks, this sequestered island was yet in possession of channels of intercourse distinct from either; and that whilst the Britons, shut out from the continent by their Roman masters, saw themselves deprived of all that profitable intercourse which they had long maintained with the Veneti and other people of Gaul, Ireland still continued to cultivate her old relations with Spain, and saw her barks venturing on their accustomed course, between the Celtic Cape, and the Sacred Promontory, as they had done for centuries before."
That Ireland must have been included amongst the Cassiterides which are known to have been visited by the Phnicians, before the Gallic invasion of Britain, seems to be admitted by all unprejudiced writers upon this subject, 1 and that the mystery, in which these wily traders sought to conceal their commercial monopoly, has led to the obscurity in which the records of their voyages is involved. That the nautical knowledge and equipments of the Celtic population of Spain and Ireland must have received considerable advancement from this connection, is a natural consequence. Inhabiting the maritime regions of the Spanish peninsula, they were necessarily brought into immediate contact with the Carthaginian merchants, who had formed settlements on the same coast, and from whom they probably obtained not only their knowledge of navigation,
but of those religious rites and ceremonies which were afterwards developed in the form of Druidism.
That the latter was not of British origin seems obvious. Caesar's description of its observances is only reconcilable with his account of Britain, on the assumption that the chief seat of the Druids was in Ireland, for while he describes the Gauls as deriving their knowledge of Druidism from the British, he represents the latter as inferior in civilization to the Gauls. Even in the time of Tacitus the Britons are represented as ferocæ, a state of barbarism obviously incompatible with the creation of a highly wrought mysterious superstition, implying considerable intellectual advancement and scientific knowledge: a superstition, be it remembered, which is known to have existed amongst the Phnicians and Carthaginians.
The Roman knowledge of the British isles was extremely limited and imperfect; before the time of Tacitus they were ignorant of the insular position of Britain, and the acquaintance of Agricola with Ireland was principally derived from the doubtful information of a faithless Irish chief, who sought the Roman camp to betray his country. Ireland also, according to Ptolemy, was formerly called Little Britain, therefore when Caesar speaks of the Gauls repairing to Britain in order to become instructed in the mysteries of Druidism, the term may have been intended as a general expression for the British isles. 1
The Druids, Caesar tells us, are concerned in divine matters, superintend public and private sacrifices, interpret religious rites, determine controversies, inheritance, boundaries of land, rewards and punishments . . . . "They are said to learn by heart a great number of verses, for which reason some continue in the discipline twenty years."--"They use written characters."--"Much besides they discourse, and deliver to youth, upon the stars, and their motion, on the magnitude of the world and the earth, on the nature of things, on the influence and power of the immortal Gods."
This particular class, combining the double office of judge and priest, although common in the time of Caesar to the British isles, would naturally be found most enlightened in that part of the three kingdoms, whose direct communication with Spain, from a remote period, brought it into more immediate contact with the Phnician navigators; and the appellations of "Sacred Isle," and "Sacred Promontory," in the works of Ptolemy and Avienus, lead us involuntarily to the conclusion that, hundreds of years before the Roman invasion of Britain, Ireland was the depository of those Phnician superstitions which afterwards became adopted throughout the British Isles under the form of Druidism.
The root of the word Druid is to be found with little variation in the Hiberno-Celtic language of the present day, Draoj signifying a Druid, magician or wise man, and Draoideacht or Draoide-achta, magic or the Druidical form of worship; the golden ornaments in the shape of a half moon, which have been frequently found in the Irish bogs, are supposed to have been connected with these superstitions, of which lunar worship formed a part, and add to the numerous testimonies in proof of its great antiquity.
But the high state of perfection, if it may be so called, in which the Druidical form of worship existed in Ireland, and the superior acquirements of her Pagan priesthood to those of the British, is best evinced by the vestige of the Ogham or occult character in which their mysteries were recorded, and which presents a marked resemblance to the secret mode of writing, known to have been used for similar purposes by the hierarchies of the East.
It may therefore be presumed without much stretch of credulity that the same communication with the Phnician settlers on the coast of Spain which transmitted these eastern superstitions to the Irish shore, may have also brought with it some knowledge of navigation, and the construction of ships; and therefore, that we are not driven to the hide-covered currach for a means of transporting the Celtic settlers to the American coast.
Or if the theory of those be adopted, who would bring the first colonists of Ireland from Belgic, or Celtic Gaul, the description of that people by Caesar will furnish equal evidence of maritime knowledge at a period sufficiently early to transport an expedition to America in the first centuries of the Christian era. The Veneti, inhabiting that district of Armoric Gaul, now known by the name of Vannes, are stated to have had vessels of considerable bulk and power, and admirably adapted as well for coasting voyages, as a stormy sea. The hull was of oak, the beams a foot in breadth, and fastened with iron, the bottom flat, the sails of leather, and what to nautical men may, perhaps, appear somewhat wonderful in those early days, the anchors were secured by means of chain cables.
Looking therefore, either to the Phnician, Carthaginian, Iberian, Belgic, Gallic, or Scythic intercourse of an
early period,--to the more continuous Scandinavian occupation of later years,--or to the primitive mode of transport of the simple skiff, it is evident that ample nautical means were not wanting in Ireland to transfer any part of her population to the western shores of America long before the period when Great Ireland became known to the Northmen.
The absence of any notice of such a migration in Irish Annals,--if such be the case,--is no argument against the probability of its existence. The most brilliant period of Irish History remains unsupported by Irish manuscripts. Of that enlightened age when pupils from all parts of Europe sought learning from Irish seminaries and Irish ecclesiastics,--when Columbkill dispensed the light of Christianity to the Picts, Columbanus to the French, Callus to the Swiss, and the brothers Ultan and Foilan to the Belgians,--when Virgilius, the Apostle of Carinthia, astounded the German bishops with his superior knowledge of cosmography and science--not one authentic written record now remains. 1
Invasion from without, and internal dissension from within, have swept away all written testimonies of a time, when the intellectual and religious eminence of Ireland attracted the attention and admiration of neighbouring nations, and obtained for her the just distinction of "Sacred Island" and "School of the West:" it cannot therefore be a matter of surprise that the records of earlier history should
have been lost amid the ravages of such general devastation. 1
But further examination of Icelandic Annals may possibly throw more light upon this interesting question, and tend to unravel the mystery in which the original inhabitants of America are involved. Lord Kingsborough's splendid publication 2 in 1829 first brought to the notice of the British public the striking similitude between Mexican and Egyptian monuments; the ruins of Palenque, Guatemala and Yucatan, the former rivalling the pyramids of Egypt or the ruins of Palmyra, were only known to a few hunters until the end of the 18th century, and modern travellers are still engaged in bringing the hidden wonders of this and other regions of the vast American continent to the knowledge of the literary world
The argument founded upon the absence of Irish records might as reasonably be applied to these later publications of the north; and why, may it as well be asked, was the discovery of American by the Northmen in the 10th century not satisfactorily established until the nineteenth?--The
name of Vinland was, doubtless, known to Torfæus; and Wormskiold, Malte Brun and others, following the erroneous calculation which he had made of its locality, fixed it in a latitude with which the physical features of the country did not correspond: 1 hence the whole statement in the Sagas was long looked upon as fictitious; but the more accurate recent investigations of Danish archaeologists have set the question at rest, and the discovery of America by the Northmen has assumed its proper position in the history of the tenth century.
The existence of a Celtic or Irish settlement upon the south-eastern shores of North America, does not preclude the co-existence of other races upon the western and northern shores. A colony from western Ireland may have been planted on the east, while tribes from eastern Asia had settled on the west; and both have driven before them the less civilized, or more feeble Scythic wanderers, who may have entered at the north: all emanating,--but by distinct and separate channels,--from the one great center, which peopled the wide spread sphere, and thus multiplying, in every region and every clime, the living evidences of those sacred records which offer peace and immortality to man.
272:1 Some of the MSS. add "vestr," shewing that Ireland was spoken of as lying westwards from Iceland.
272:2 Probably Limerick, which was much frequented by the Northmen.
273:1 This is a very remarkable passage, and affords the strongest grounds for believing that the country to which they were driven had been previously colonized from Ireland. The Northmen, from their intercourse with the Irish ports, might be supposed to have had just sufficient knowledge of the language to detect its sounds (here probably corrupted), and understand the general meaning of the words.
286:1 The Irish are supposed to have obtained the name of Scots or Scoti from the Scotic or Scythic origin of the Spanish settlers under the sons of Milesius, whose invasion Moore places "about a century or two" before the Christian era; other more enthusiastic national historians take us back to 800 years before that period; and O'Halloran fixes the lauding on the 17th of May, A. M. 2736, or 1264 years before the birth of Christ. The name Scott, he derives from Scota, the wife of Niulus, High Priest of Phnius, the inventor of letters, and ancestor of Milesius, in proof of which is given a quotation from an Irish poem of the 9th century, entitled, Canam bunadhas na Nagaoidheal, or "Let us rehearse the origin of the Irish."
288:1 "We may therefore admit, without much chance of error, that the Cassiterides visited by the Phnicians, were the British islands, though the Romans understood by the name the islands of Scilly, with perhaps, part of the coast of Cornwall."
289:1 It should be recollected that Cæsar merely mentions the origin of the Druids as traditionary: "Disciplinam existimatur reperta esse in Britannia," &c. Ibid. Sharon Turner would appear to lean to the opinion of Druidism having originated with the Phnicians or Carthaginians: "if this system," he observes, "was the creature of a more civilized people, none of the colonizers of Britain are so likely to have been its parents as the Phnicians or Carthaginians; the fact so explicitly asserted by Cæsar, that the Druidical system began in Britain, and was thence introduced into Gaul, increases our tendency to refer it to those nations. The state of Britain was Inferior in civilization to that of Gaul, and therefore It seems more reasonable to refer the intellectual parts of Druidism to the foreign visitors who are known to have cultivated such subjects, than to suppose them to have originated from the rude unassisted natives."
292:1 This point Is ably handled by Mr. Moore, who shews that the arguments against ancient Irish history, founded upon the non-existence of any authentic MSS. prior to the 9th century (Psalter of Cashel), applies with much greater force to the comparatively modern periods above mentioned, the records of which are never questioned. Hist. Ir. Vol. I., p. 308.
293:1 O'Halloran charges the English Government with a wholesale destruction of Irish MSS. previous to the reign of James I,:--
"What the false piety and mistaken zeal of the early Christians left unfinished, the Danes continued, and the Saxon and Norman invaders completed.. ..In Ireland, until the accession of James I, it was a part of state policy to destroy or carry off all the manuscripts that could be discovered. "What the president Carew," says the author of the Analect (p. 555) "did in one province (Munster), Henry Sidney and his predecessors did all over the kingdom, being charged to collect all the manuscripts they could, that they might effectually destroy every vestige of antiquity and letters throughout the kingdom! The learned Archdeacon Lynch, with many others, give too many melancholy instances of the kind." Hist. Ireland,, p. 94. "Many of these precious remains," says Moore, "were, as the author of Cambrensis Eversus tells us, actually torn up by boys for covers of books, and by tailors for measures. It was till the time of James I., says Mr. Webb, an object of government to discover and destroy every literary remain of the Irish, in order the more fully to eradicate from their minds every trace of their ancient independence." Moore's Hist. of Ireland, V. I. p. 309, note.
293:2 "Mexican Antiquities," a work upon which this lamented nobleman expended (at least) £30,000 and the best years of his life, but the circulation of which, from the small number of copies printed, and the inaccessible price (£150) to the majority of the reading public, was necessarily very limited.
294:1 Torfæus, in consequence of an erroneous interpretation of the passage, pp. 64, 65, in the Saga of Erik the Red, relating to the length of the day, which he took to be eight hours instead of nine, fixed the latitude of Vinland at 49 degrees, being that of Newfoundland.