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Ireland


Edmund Spenser and the Irish



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See also Violence in Ireland

After the Demond Rebellion in the late 1500's, the famous English poet, Edmund Spenser, was "granted" a large estate in Munster. The Irish were not pleased with the theft of more of their lands, and later again rebelled. Spenser, known to his contemporaries as "the prince of poets", proposed in "A Veue of the present state of Irelande" how the troublesome Irish should be dealt with....

"The end I assure me will be very short, and much sooner than can be...hoped for, although there should none of them fall by the sword, nor be slain by the soldier, yet thus being kept from manurance, and their cattle from running abroad, by this hard restraint, they would quickly consume themselves, and devour one another.

"The proof whereof I saw sufficiently ensampled in those late wars in Munster; for notwithstanding that the same was a most rich and plentiful country, full of corn and cattle, that you would have thought they could have been able to stand long, yet ere one year and a half they were brought to such wretchedness, as that any stony heart would have rued the same.

"Out of every corner of the wood and glens they came creeping forth upon their hands, for their legs could not bear them; they looked Anatomies [of] death, they spake like ghosts, crying out of their graves; they did eat of the carrions, happy where they could find them, yea, and one another soon after, in so much as the very carcasses they spared not to scrape out of their graves; and if they found a plot of water-cress or shamrock, there they flocked as to a feast for the time, yet not able long to continue ; that in a short space there were none almost left, and a most populous and plentiful country suddenly left void of man or beast: yet sure in all that war, there perished not many by the sword, but all by the extremity of famine...."

The Edmund Spenser Homepage at Cambridge University, England, has this to say about the great man's genocidal recommendations....

"Although his prose treatise on the reformation of Ireland was not published until 1633, it showed even then a shrewd comprehension of the problems facing English government in Ireland, and a capacity for political office as thorough as his literary ability. Milton was later to claim Spenser as 'a better teacher than Aquinas', and generations of readers, students, and scholars have admired him for his subtle use of language, his unbounded imagination, his immense classical and religious learning, his keen understanding of moral and political philosophy, and his unerring ability to synthesize and, ultimately, to delight."

Although there are no official records of British authorities actively calling for similar measures before or during the 1845-1850 Potato Famine , one could be excused for believing that the British regarded the potato blight as being as much an opportunity as a threat.



See also Violence in Ireland