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There is amongst the Irish a certain kind of
people called Bards, which are to them instead of poets, whose profession is to set forth the praises or dispraises of men, in their poems or rithmes; the which are had in so high regard and estimation amongst them, that none dare displease them for fear to run into reproach through their offence, and to be made infamous in the mouths of all men. For their verses are taken up with a general applause, and usually sung at all feasts and meetings by certain other persons, whose proper function that is, who also receive for the same great rewards and reputation amongst them.
Such poets as in their writings do labour to better the manners of men, and thorough the sweet bait of their numbers to steal into the young spirits a desire of honour and virtue, are worthy to be had in great respect. But these Irish bards are for the most part of another mind, and so far from instructing young men in moral discipline, that they themselves do more deserve to be sharply disciplined: for they seldom use to choose unto themselves the doings of good men for the arguments of their poems, bu$ whomsoever they find to be most licentious of life, most bold and lawless in his doings, most dangerous and desperate in all parts of disobedience and rebellious disposition; him they set up and glorify in
"their rithmes, him they praise to the people, and to young men make an example to follow.
The song, when it was first made and sung to a person of high degree there, was bought (as their manner is) for forty crowns.
Eudox. And well worthy sure. But tell me (I pray you) have they any art in their compositions ? Or be they any thing witty or well-favoured, as poems should be?
Iren. Yes truly, I have caused divers of them to be translated unto me, that I might understand them; and surely they savoured of sweet wit, and good invention, but skilled not of the goodly ornaments of poetry; yet were they sprinkled with some pretty flowers of their natural device, which gave good grace and comeliness unto them; the which it is great pity to see so abused, to the gracing of wickedness and vice, which with good usage would serve to adorn and beautify virtue.
This little work contains probably the best account extant of the customs, manners, and national character of the Irish; of which species of information I have extracted no inconsiderable portion. Compared with the
extent of the book, the extract is indeed too long; but the value of the matter, and the celebrity of the author, will be deemed a sufficient apology.
SIR WALTER RALEGH.
WALTER RALEGH, descended from an ancient family, and allied to the Courtenays, earls of Devonshire, and other illustrious houses, was the son of Walter Ralegh, Esq. of Fardel, in the parish of Cornwood, near Plymouth, and born upon a farm called Hayes, in the parish of Budley, Devonshire, in 1552. He entered commoner of Oriel College, Oxford, about the year 1568, though it appears that he continued but a short time at the university: for some time in the following year, according to Camden, we find him in France ; where, Hooker says, " he spent good part of his youth in wars and martial services." He served with the Hugonots, and escaped the massacre of St. Bartholomew, by taking re
fuge with sir Philip Sidney, in the house of the English ambassador. The assertion that he became student of the Middle Temple, after quitting college, is disproved by his own testimony; for, in his reply to the attorney-general, on his arraignment, he lays a heavy imprecation on himself, “ if ever he read a word of law or statutes, before he was a prisoner in the Tower."
He is supposed to have returned to England in 1575. About two years after, he served in Holland against Don John of Austria ; and on his return home, accompanied sir Henry Gilbert, his uterine brother, on an expedition, the object of which was to plant and inhabit certain northern parts of America-an expedition, which, though unfortunate, kindled his spirit of maritime enterprize. In this martial and adventurous life, he had now spent ten years; yet never lost sight of his own improvement. He slept only five hours of the night, that he might' regularly devote four to study.
His next military destination was to Ireland, where he was eminently serviceable in quelling the rebellion in 1580; and had the misfortune to see the Spanish prisoners at Smerwich Fort