The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Edmund the bastard

Ever since the Norman conquest of the British Isles in the late eleventh century, their ruling class has entertained questions about how - or if - the second-largest of those isles should be ruled from London. These questions weren't so pressing at first - these days were feudal and the King had a hard enough time ruling over his own nobles, plus the nobles themselves tended to go native the further they were from the court. But as communications grew better and England more powerful, the English wondered why those old Norman dominions in Ireland (and in her offshoot Scotland) were, still, not English.

On topic of the Irish Question, modern students in America and the British Isles have been getting the anti-English side. The most amusing of such scribblings over the centuries was and remains Jonathan "Drapier" Swift's Modest Proposal. But that was done in 1729 and as a satire. It had to be a satire of something; for which, the student must "read between the lines" as it were. I was myself instructed that "Drapier" was skewering head-tilting hypocrites who had been exploiting the island under the pretence that all of this was for the Gaels' own good. Swift's work is fine, as far as it goes. But if I'd wanted the actual arguments made for English policy... I didn't get that in school. (Because blue pill.)

I have just now been made aware of A Veue of The Present State of Ireland; by no less than Edmund Spenser of Faerie Queene fame. [A hat-tip is hereby given to recent discussions of whether work should be read if its author was evil.] This work is from 1596 (during the first couple years of the Nine Years) and finally printed in 1633. As noted, it may well have inspired Swift's rage.

So... how does Spenser do?

We'll start with Spenser's detractors elsewhere - which means, since I've only just started, Wikipedia. This complains mainly about much tendentious and bogus analysis to demonstrate that the Irish were descended from barbarian Scythian stock. We now know much more about the customs of the old (Celtic) Gaels and the (Aryan) Scythians than Spenser did. Those customs turn out to be similar. Not least, we know that the Aryan languages belong with Indo-European, starting with William Jones (himself more tentative about Celtic, but since vindicated). It is currently thought that the common ancestor of all the Indo-European languages were based in the Ukraine steppe before they split. Moreover, here some proto-Iranians stayed, there becoming Scythians. So Spenser did about as well as anyone else could have done before 1789. Own-goal from Wikipedia.

A more cogent defence against Spenser would be that the man should have known the limits of his own knowledge concerning the racial origins of all the European peoples, and that he hold himself to the actual argument: of 3 kinds; the first in the lawes, the second in customes, the last in religion. Spenser pretended to be arguing for reform of the Irish people but at base, he just hated him some Paddies.

To be fair, Spenser didn't much like him some pre-Conquest Edmunds either. But the Saxons could be taught:

For England, before the entrance of the Conqueror, was an unpeaceable kingdome, and but lately entred to the mild and godly goverment of King Edward surnamed the confessor; besides now lately growne unto a lothing and detestation of the unjust and tirannous rule of Harold, an usurper, which made them the more willing to accept of any reasonable condicons and order of the new Victor, thincking surely it could be no worse than the latter, and hoping well it would be as good as the former: yet what the proofe of the first bringing in and establishing of the lawes was, was to many full bitterly made knowne.

Spenser has nothing to say about the ongoing resistance to William the Bastard by, you know, the real English; nor does he note its reaction in the Harrying of the North. Spenser will show he wants a harrying of the West. Starve 'em out.

A true heir of a nasty bastard, this Spenser.


posted by Zimri on 12:15 | link | 0 comments

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