Chapter Xxiv

national costume of ireland.

Casting aside the wild romances with which the early history of Ireland is interwoven, to a greater degree perhaps than that of any other nation, we shall proceed at once, upon the authority of Tacitus, to state that the manners of the Irish differed little in his time from those of their ancient British brethren; and to add that, from every evidence, historical or traditional, the difference was occasioned by the introduction at some very remote period, either by conquest or colonization, of a distinct race from its original inhabitants;—a feet which is substantiated by the marked distinction still existing in the persons and complexions of the peasantry of the eastern and midland districts, and those of the southwestern counties; the former having the blue eyes and flaxen hair characteristic of all the Scythic or German tribes, and the latter the swarthy cheeks and raven locks that bespeak a more southern origin, and point to Spain as the country from which they had ultimately passed, and Asia-Minor or Egypt as the land of their fathers.

In every part of Ireland weapons and ornaments -have been found precisely similarto those discovered

Ancient Irish weapons and ornaments: a, engraved battle-axe of bronze, in the possession of Crofton Croker, Esq.; 6, spear-head of bronze; c, rf* e, and/, brooches, bodkins, &c., from Walker's History of the Irish Bards.

in England, and proved to have been worn by the ancient Britons ; and the description of the Irish dress as late as the twelfth century, by Giraldus Cambrensis, perfectly corresponds with that of the Belgic Gauls and southern Britons, transmitted to us by the Greek and Roman writers. Undisturbed by the Imperial legions, the Irish retained their ancient arms and clothing for centuries after Eng--land had become a Roman province and adopted the costume of its conquerors, and the truis or bracchae, the cota and the mantle fastened by a brooch or bodkin on the breast or shoulder, the torques and bracelets of gold and silver, the swords and battle-axes of mixed copper and tin, and spears and darts headed with the same metal, that had gradually superseded the garments of skins and the weapons of bone and flint of the original colonists, as in the sister island, composed the habits and arms of the Irish chieftains during the early ages of Christianity, and to the period at which the authentic history of Ireland commences.

In the ninth century we hear of the Irish princes wearing pearls behind their ears. A golden crown or helmet, of a form resembling the cap of a Chinese mandarin, and evidently of great antiquity, was dug up near the Devil's Bit, in the county of Tipperary, in 1692.1 A collar of gold was offered by King Brian on the great altar at Armagh, at the commencement of the eleventh century,8 twenty-four

1 Engraved in Keating's History of Ireland.

8 According to the annals of Innisfallen, one of the few years subsequent to the period when, as Moore sings,

" Malachy wore the collar of gold He won from the proud invader."

From these proud invaders it appears that the Irish received, however, some of their first lessons in warfare, and adopted, in imitation of them, the terrible steel battle-axe, and the round red shield bound with iron. But these circumstances are gathered from the pages of Giraldus Cambrensis, who has given us a very interesting account of the costume of the Irish in the

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