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EEBO page image 65

The first preface of Giraldus Cam|brensis vnto his historie of the conquest of Ireland.

_FOrsomuch as in our Topographie we haue at large set foorth and described the site of the land of Ireland, the natures of sundrie things therein conteined, the woonderous & strange prodigies which are in the same, and of the first origin of that nation, euen from the first beginning vntill this our time: it resteth, that at the request of sundrie men, and of some of great estate, we do now in a particular volume declare & set forth the conquest of the same land in these our daies, togither with the noble acts & gests therein doone. For if we haue well discouered the old & ancient times long before vs, how much more should we doo that which we haue seene, and for the most part are witnesses thereof, & which are yet in our fresh & perfect memorie? Our Topographie discouereth the things done in times past and long ago; but this present historie intreateth of the things presentlie doone, and in our daies. But me thinketh I see some man to shrinke vp the nose, and as it were to snuffe, because I haue written all things so plainelie and euidentlie; and therfore in great scorne he reacheth the booke to one, & with as great disdaine casteth it to another. But let him know this, that I haue now written this chieflie for the laie people, and for such princes as be not of greatest learning, and are therefore desirous to haue things to be vttered in such a plaine and sensible speech as they may best vnderstand the same. For whie, most plaine terms are most meet to be vsed, when the noble acts of noble men & worthie seruitors are to be published and set foorth to the notice and knowledge of all men. For this cause therefore haue I written this historie in as plaine & sensible maner as I can (leauing as much as may be) the darke & obscure maner of writing vsed in times past. And forsomuch as euerie age hath his peculiar manner, I haue according to the mind of the philosopher (whose aduise is, that the liues of the old men, and the pleasant speeches of yoong men should be receiued and followed) I haue (I saie) of purpose written in that order and phrase of speech as now is most in vre. For sith that words are but messengers of a mans mind, and giuen onelie to that end he should without close couering and couching plainelie disclose his mind and meaning: I haue purposelie indeuored my selfe, that seeing what others doo not see, and knowing what others doo not vnderstand, I might so write as I might of all men be vnderstood. For whie, Seneca saith: It is better to be dumbe and not to speake at all, than so to speake as not to be vnderstood, so that the speech be framed in such phrases & order as are most meet to be vsed, & with the wise and learned do most af|fect. But forsomuch as some men haue maliciouslie and slanderouslie depraued my Topogra|phie, I haue thought good by the waie here to interlace a few words in defense therof. All men generallie concerning the beginning of a good or a learned matter, doo consider and haue re|spect speciallie to three things; the first is, the author of the thing, then the matter it selfe, and lastlie, the ordering and well handling of the thing so begun. Concerning the first and last of these three, the enuious man being afraid to vtter his malice, euen against his will giues praise & commendation to both. But yet as a staged man can not alwaies dissemble and cloke him|selfe, so this man, who to haue his will ouer me & to depraue me, inueigheth against the second point, thinking and meaning by reproouing me to be a lier therein, to condemne all the rest; he obiecteth therefore and laieth to my charge the strange prodigies which I wrote, namelie how the woolfe spake and talked with a priest; of the man that in the hinder parts was like to an ox; of a woman that had a beard like a man; and a man like an horse; of a gote & a lion, which resorted and accompanied with a woman. But who so misliketh hereof, let him read in the booke of Numbers, & he shall find that Balaams asse spake and reprooued his maister. Let him examine the liues of the fathers, and he shall learne how that a satyre in the wildernesse did talke with Anthonie the heremite; and how Paule the heremite was fed in the de|sert by a rauen. Let him read also the workes of Ierome, the Exameron of Am|brose, and the dialog of Gregorie. Let him likewise read saint Augustine his booke of the EEBO page image 66 citie of God, especiallie the xv. and xxi. bookes, which are full of strange prodigies and woon|ders: let him read Isodorus in the xi. booke of his Etymologies, concerning woonders, his xij. booke of beasts, & his xvi. booke of pretious stones, and of their vertues; let him also read Vale|rius Maximus, Trogus Pompeius, Plinius, and Solinus, & in euerie of these he shall find ma|nie things which he may mislike and thinke to be vntruths, & so condemne the residue of all the writings of so noble and woorthie men. But let him be better aduised, & consider well, how that as S. Ierome saith, there are manie things conteined in the scriptures which seeme to be incredible, and to carie no truth in them, and yet neuerthelesse are most true. For whie, nature dooth not, nor can preuaile against the Lord of nature: and therfore euerie creature ought not to loth, but to reuerence, & haue in great admiration the works of God: & as S. August. saith, How can that be against nature which is doone by the will of God? Bicause the will of so great a creator is the nature and beginning of euerie thing created. A portent then or a monster is not against nature, but against it which proceedeth from nature. And therfore as it is not im|possible to God to ordeine and creat what natures or things he listeth; no more is it impossi|ble to him to alter and change into what forms he listeth the things alreadie created. And yet I would not that euerie thing by me written, should foorthwith be credited and receiued as an vndouted truth: for whie, I my selfe do not so firmlie beleeue of them, as of things most certeine and true, sauing of such things which by experience I know to be true, and which also euerie other man may by proofe so find it to be. For as for all other things, I so account of them, that I neither do nor will stand either in the deniall or affirmation of them. The iewellers & such as haue, & be acquainted with the pretious stones come out of India, do not so strangelie think or haue admiration of them, as they who neuer saw them afore: & yet they hauing had once experience of them, do the lesse muse & wonder at the strangenes of them. For whie, the dailie vse taketh awaie all strangenes & admiration; and euerie thing be it neuer so strange & mar|uellous at the first, yet by dailie viewing of them they wax to be contemned and the lesse estee|med: euen as the Indians themselues do litle value or esteeme their commodities, which we do so much maruell & wonder at. S. Augustine therfore vpon the gospell, how the water was turned into wine hath these words: Maruellous great is the power of God in the creation of the heauen & earth, & of the gouerning of the same; & as great it is to see how the raine wa|ter, by the nature of the vine is turned into wine, and how of litle and small seeds great trees and fruits do spring and grow; and yet because we do see it this daie as it were by a naturall course, we do lesse esteeme & consider of them. But yet God aboue the common course hath re|serued to himselfe some small things, & which seeme to be of no value, to the end that his power might appeare in greater things, and driue vs the more to consider of them. Wherefore let the malicious & enuious be contented, & not to enuie against the Lord of nature, who of purpose in the sight of man hath doone manie things against the common course of nature: because it should be apparant, & euerie man should well see, that Gods power far exceedeth mans reach & knowledge, & his diuinitie surpasseth mans vnderstanding. Cassiodorus therfore saith: It is a great point of knowledge in man to vnderstand & haue the knowledge, that God can and dooth such great and woonderfull things as do far exceed and passe the capacitie & vnder|standing of man. For God alwaies of purpose dooth transpose and alter his great things into strange forms, that albeit men may in some respect discerne the same: yet fullie they can not comprehend the same. If then the old and ancient writers haue diligentlie and with good al|lowance noted & registred in their writings the strange prodigies in their times; whie be we doing the like (vnlesse the whole world be set in wickednesse) maligned and backbitten? For if there be anie new and strange thing in our worke, and which heretofore hath not beene heard of: yet let not the malicious & spitefull man forthwith, without further allowance condemne & depraue it, but rather suffer it to remaine as it is. For as the poet saith: If our forefathers had reiected (as we do) all new things, what shuld now be old? Let him therfore cease to blame or carpe at new things, because in course of time they ceasse to be new, and wax to be old. He may therfore take his pleasure, and depraue the same, & yet no doubt our posteritie will allow thereof. He may do what he can to hurt it, yet they will accept and read it. He may do what he can to disprooue and blame it, yet will they loue it. He may do what he can to reiect it, yet will they receiue and allow of it.

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