From Manx Soc vol IV,VII & IX

LETTER OF JOHN MERICK, BISHOP OF SODOR, ON THE ANTIQUITIES OF THE ISLE OF MAN. A.D., 1577.

LETTER OF JOHN MERICK, BISHOP OF SODOR, ON THE ANTIQUITIES OF THE ISLE OF MAN.

A.D., 1577.

YOUR friend Heriatt, the traveller of Virginia, whom on account of his learning and industry all ought deservedly to revere, has requested me, and also has rendered me bound by his friendship, that if anything should remain here which savours of antiquity, I should make it known to you, as you have successfully laboured to publish perfectly, and to deserve well of all parts of the realm. To the attentions of both of whom, I now reckon myself to owe this, lest I should seem forgetful of a kindness, having promised freely nevertheless to perform nothing, that when I find nothing worthy of relation, nevertheless I should report that circumstance itself, that I have found nothing amongst the books left by Robinson, late bishop of Bangor, who, both on account of his position was able, and was thought desirous of collecting everything, that at length he might be able to publish something worthy of credit concerning these parts, I find nothing except certain extracts from Giraldus Cambrensis and Henry of Huntingdon, the. rest if ever anything of importance had been obtained, was abstracted before I had access to his museum. Well indeed it will have been performed by you, if you consult our own authorities concerning our own affairs, (then you will not fall into the errors of the ignorant) for it is most unfair that what we have retained from the writings, or otherwise received from our ancestors concerning the name, language and origin of our nation, should be rejected by the judgment of foreigners (as it has ever been the habit with nations, that they should determine something certain concerning themselves, and refer their origin to some cause) although neither the earliest histories deny it, nor any other argument exists, nevertheless we cannot agree with the ancients that the Britons derived their name from Brutus, and the Cambrians from Camber, as Humphry Lloyd and all others assert, although it has pleased that Scotchman Buchanan, to whom as a poet not over scrupulous it was allowable to rave and to feign, petulantly to detract from the character of that learned man, (as though he could not sufficiently rely upon his own merit without detracting from a 'her man) and we ourselves, on account of the name of Welsh first given to us by our enemy, but previously unknown to us, by a new fable, as it were, on that account decide that we are descended from the Gauls. Indeed it is the vice of our age, from which even he (Lloyd) was not free, to speak evil of, obscure, prophane and upturn with new monsters of conjectures, things venerable, sacred, well-established, and which deservedly for a long time have been held in esteem; and one which should carefully be avoided by any one who wishes to be looked up to as an authority. I have always observed, that the one language which we use in common, was an idiom of the Greeks more than any other, nor, as I think, can it be referred directly to any other source. This I suppose to have been occasioned either by our taking our origin from them, as it is related that the Trojans took up their abode here, or because we received from them letters and religion, (which at their first introduction effect a great change in the language) for that Pythagorean band, who unless I am deceived, taught philosophy in Gaul, relates that our youth who went thither for the sake of learning, considered all things as divine precepts when committed to verse. Hence amongst us, the learned alone, and those composing everything in verse are always called bards, and who sing to the harp verses composed in praise of illustrious men, as among the Greeks, and after the same manner, and by the same name as they we call (these compositions) parodies, of which the music is simple, nothing of an effeminate varied or lacivious turn, (except what may have crept into it very recently) but it has a grave and pensive air, and represents that antiquity which the poet noted in the mournful odes of the bard; nevertheless they were careful and particular (as the Greeks relate) in the singular linking together of syllables, the cæsura of words, the frequent change of letters (for the sake of euphony) by which means, always, the soft follow the medials, and the medials the aspirates, the expression of sounds by the greater number of vowels in every place, which because we express by separate characters and not by notes of rough breathing, the unlearned falsely infer that they are distinct letters. Then also that word tyrant, in common use with us, and as yet used in a good sense, as tyrnas loeger, kingdom of England, and such other words and phrases, as those who are skilled in either language may readily discover to be common to us and to them as for example the Greek word kaleo, galw, teloun, taly, the indefinite article tis, dyn, which we mark as neither masculine nor feminine methos or methodous, meddw dyn meddw . . . for it is not to be wondered at that the names of certain artificial objects, introduced among us together with the commodities themselves from the Gauls or other nations, should generally be found to be identical in both languages, but those words which have been pointed out to you by some one, as I think, not sufficiently skilled (in philology), have nothing similar in their construction, as for example that word of ours drechefus, does not agree with that of the Gauls derecheff, for their word implies, as I think, to approach the thing anew from the head, ours to begin from the rear; for kefu, signifies the back, and implies a receding or retrogression, nor do I say that this language of ours kamroig (cymraeg) as we call it (kammy and kam, as from the Greek kampta) is as it were an offset of the Greek as some would have it, but we recognise it as we would a grandson from the mole which his grandfather bore, so from the degeneracy, or rather from the approach to fulness (which in the language of the Britons ought to have taken place through the introduction of learning and religion) we recognise that which we use, to have been the first language of the Britons; and we . ourselves those whom the Irish to this day, always designate Branach, as they do the Scots Albanach,* we are rightly called Britons. But Kymbry [Cymry] either from Camber or as he * Quivara, supposes, among his own people and others, were named mountaineers, nobles, and were less intermixed with foreign blood, because the conquerors had not reached so far in that direction, in changing the inhabitants, so kymwyr signifies mountaineers, for Kum is a mountain, or steep, both with us and with the ancients, and the mountaineers may be called, and deservedly reckoned the more noble, as is the case amongst other nations. But lest I should trifle too much, I will add something concerning the history of the people of Sodor, whether their country were called Mona or Mevania, we have always said that it took the name of Mevania from Mannaw, even so I would gather, that it either by chance or by choice of the Islanders, fell to the lot of a certain Magnus, and another chief may have possessed the other islands, whereas before, one only presided both in that, and in the other islands, I cannot but suspect that from thence the island was called Mangn or Man, also they assert that the first originator of the name was Manaan, so it happens that the things which are conspicuous to all, are alone properly understood by me. In length the island is thirty miles in width, where most narrow, eight miles; it is rich in flocks, fish, and corn, but more through the industry of man than on account of the kindliness of the soil; it not only produces sufficient for its own consumption, but annually exports a great deal, it is very fortunate in its expenses under the administration of the most noble lord the Earl of Derby, for he expends the greater part of his yearly rent in defraying them, and it is defended from neighbouring enemies by a well-trained resident soldiery. The judges whom they elect from amongst themselves, and denominate Deemsters, determine all controversies without writings and expense, for every magistrate takes up a stone, and having signed it, gives it over to the plaintiff, by which act he cites before him the defendant and the witnesses.

If anything doubtful and of greater moment arises, it is referred to twelve, whom they call the keys of the island. They have yearly magistrates whom they call coroners, who discharge the office of sheriffs; in the same manner the ecclesiastical judge cites and defines; they obey within eight days, or are cast into prison. As they have received a separate language, so also they have both laws and money, which are signs of an independent dominion. The ecclesiastics accede much from this canon to the civil law. The things Ralph Holingshed vulgarly obtrudes as is the case with other English compilers concerning the large size of the sheep and pig's, the stature of the men, with the poisonous snakes (which it does not breed at all, unless you may think this is spoken ironically). The man who relates such things is simply ridiculous to us, nor have his fables any foundation. With like mendacity he speaks of the bishopric and him who is now bishop, as only a shadow and phantom, for he hands down to posterity that the half of the yearly revenue of this see is mulcted by the Earl of Derby. But what, even if such were the case, could he not spare the honor of the most noble earl, if he should be led to give away my small endowment, but if it is as false as it is vain (as all here are sufficiently aware) how ought he to be blamed for rashness and wilful audacity in speaking evil, who without any cause should endeavour to brand publicly either of us with the mark of a great crime, and as he hoped by his credit and authority, to hand it down on the lasting faith of history. The earl of Derby conferred on me that benefice, at the request of the most noble lord the earl of Leicester, with that amplitude of endowment which it could be found from the records of past times to have enjoyed at its highest, which nevertheless, scarcely ever exceeded 100 and out of that I should have assigned some portion towards the repair of the buildings, something also to him who presides over the law courts (as never a penny is paid by the people to the judge or the functionaries) the remainder, although in the estimation of that conceited man Hollingshed, accustomed to the splendor of great prelates, not sufficient to keep up the dignity of a bishop, is nevertheless deserving of a better man, and is thought there sufficiently magnificent in relation to the other revenues of the island. What he relates concerning the evil doers I have discovered to be false, those who are richer and possess the larger farms, approach in their style of living and in their refinement of manners to the people of Lancashire, all are most averse to the habits of thieving and begging from door to door. They are extremely religious and most readily conform, without a single exception to the formularies of the church of England. They detest the insubordination of neighbouring nations, as well in civil as in ecclesiastical matters, and as the island is divided into two parts, the south and north, the latter in its ordinary language approximates more nearly to the Scotch, the former to the Irish. You see now with what reason I thought there was nothing immediately to write to you on my return into these parts but if anything should happen hereafter I will inform you of it. Farewell

From Beaumaris, 22nd Oct.

 

EPISTOLA JOANNIS MERICK, EPISCOPI SODORENSIS, DE ANTIQUITATIBUS INSULÆ MANNIAE.

COTT. MSS.

ROGAVIT me Heriattus tuus, ille Virginiæ perlustrator, quern propter literas et industriarn omnes merito amplecti debent, turn etiam humanitate obstrictum reddidit, ut si quid isthic quod antiquitatem saperet (quam penitus prodere, et de singulis regni partibus bene mereri fæliciter elaborati) remaneret; id tibi significarem. Quorum utriusque studiis id debere me jam existimo, ne oblitus beneficii, pollicitus facile nil agere tamen viderer, ut quum nibil reperiam relatione dignum, id ipsum tamen nil me adeptum, renunciandum putem. Inter relietos Robinsoni Bangoriensis nuper Episcopi libros, qui et authoritate poterat, et voluisse existimabatur omnia corradere ut aliquid tandem de biis partibus æderet, nil nisi quedam ex Giraldo Cambrensi et Henrieo Huntingdon; transcripta invenio, alia si quæ nactus erat alicujus momenti antiquam mihi pateret musaeum, sunt distracta. Probe abs te factum erit si nostrales (modo non in imperitos incidas) de rebus nostris consulas Periniquum enim est, ut qnæ vel scriptis vel aliter recepta a majoribus retinuerimus (quod aliis semper nationibus ut aliquid certi de se ipsi constituerent, alioque originem referrent, in usu fuit) ea de gentis nostræ appellatione, lingua, origine, exterorum judicio esse rejieienda. Quum tamen nec Historiæ primæ negent, nec aliud argumentum existat ullum, quam a Bruto, Brytannos, et Cambrenses a Cambro nomen sortitos, cum veteribus non putemus, ut Humfridus Lloyde ac alii omnes asserunt, libuit tamen illi a Bouthchwanan Scoto, eui videlicet Poetæ non satis sobrio et furere et fingere -liciiit, et illi viro doeto petulantly detrahere; (quasi suæ virtuti non satis confideret nisi alium traduxisset) et nos propter impositum ab hostibus initio, nobis ignotum adhuc, Wallorum nomen novo figmento, Gallis, quasi inde propagator assignare. Verum id ætatis nostræ, vitium est, a quo ille non erat immunis, ut vetera, sancta, publica, ut que merito estimationis opinionem diu adepta sunt, maledicere, obscurare, novisque conjecturarum monstris, prophanare ac convellere, qui aliquis videri studet, gnaviter evitatur. Unum semper animadverti linguam, qua communi utimur, Græcorum idioma, magis quam alia, ut opinor, ulla, nec prorsus diversa posset referre. Quod accidisse putavi, vel quia illic initio, ut trarlitur commorati sunt Trojani vel quod literas et religionem (que maltnam lingue permutationem, primo ingressu efficiunt) inde receperimus. Bardus enim ille Pythagoricus, qui ni fallor in Gallia Philosophiam tradidit, nostros qui illuc diseendi causa commigrabant docuit, quibus omnia metris quum essent commissa ut diviniora precepta viderentur. Inde apud nos soli docti et versibus omnia scribentes, Bardi sempei appellantur,

Et qui ærlita in laudem nobilium carmina ad Lyram occinerent, ut apud Grecos et more et nomine eodem quo illi tum suos[greek]ς parady . . . dicimus. Quorum musica simplex nil molle, varium, ant lascivum (nisi quid nuperrimi irrepsit) sed grave et triste habet et illam vetustatem quam Poeta notabat lugubria carmina Bardi representat. Tamen diligentes ac curiosi sunt (ut Græci perhibentur) in singulis sillabarum nexibus, vocum cæsura, literarum (euphoniæ causa) permutatione crebra in qua semper tennes mediis, hæ aspirates, succedunt, sonorum expressione, majore vz vocalium numero, semi vocalium aspiratione in omni loco quas quia alia caracteris figura non aspirationis nota exprimimus, imperiti alias literas esse falso existimarunt. Tum etiam illa vox Tyrannus nobis usu communi et in bonam partem adhue usurpatur, tyrnas loeger,1 regnum Angliæ, et quæ voces ac phrases quas qui in utraque lingua versat . . perspici . . . ant altera literis eedem nobis ac illis reperiuntur ut exempli causa, [greek] 2 galw, [greek] taly, ris indefinitam dyn, quum nec marem nec feminam notamus, [greek] vel [greek] meddw dyn meddw . . . 3 golun, etc., nam quedam rerum artificialium homina, una ruro rebus a Gallis vel aliis nationibus ad nos derivata et eadem fere reperiri nil miri est, que vero tibi designata sunt ab aliquo non satis ut videtur perito nil simile habent ut illad nostrum, dreekefus1 cum illo Gallorum dereche ff, non convenit, nam eorum vox quasi a capite rem denuv aggrediendam denotat ut opinor, nostrum a tergo incipiendam. Kefu,2 enim tergum est, et retrocedendum notat. Neque vero her dico, quod, hane nostram, Kamroig ut dicimus linguam (Kammy et Kam, ab illo [greek] est) quasi deflexirm Grecrtm, ut normulli putero, sed ut Nepotem, ex Nevo quern proavus ferebat, agnoscimus, ita ex depravatione, sen potius accessione ad ubertatem, (quani in Brytonum linguam per literarum et religionis invectionem fieri oportebat) earn qua nos utimur illam Brytomrm primam esse, et nos illos quos Hiberni adhuc semper appellant Bra~aacla, ut Albannack. Scotos dicunt, Brytanios recte esse vocandos KynabrJ vero vel a Cambro : vel ut ille Quivara apud suos et alios Montanezas, Nobiliores, v~ et ælienigenis minus permixtos, quod victores co ad permtitationem incolarum non perveniant : ita Kymwyq-.1 Viri montani, Kinn,' enim Mons vel Clivus, et antiquis et nobis est, et appellari, et nobiliores, ut apud ceteras nationes montani, merito existimari possunt, Verú, nugari et nimium nolo. De illa Sodorensium seu Mona, seu Mevania aliquid adjiciam. Nos eam ab illo Mevaniæ, homine Manaw semper diximus. Dum legerem tamen, illam vel sorte vel insulanorum electione Magno cuidam obvenisse, et alius alias insulas possedisset, quam unus et illi et cæteris antea prefuisset, nou potui nou inde insulam Jla~aya vel Man appellatam suspicari ; primum etiam authorem nominis Manaan ipsi asserunt. Quæ conspicua sunt omnibus, solum mihi nosse adhuc contigit. Longa est ad 30 mil lata ubi angustior 8. pecore, piscibus, frumento etiam, sed magis industria hominum quam terræ bonitate et sibi sufficit et quotannis plurimum transmittit. Administratione tamen fælicior est Illustrissimi Domini Comitis Derbiensis sumptibus, in quos maxima annui proventus partem impendit presente paratoque milite a vicinis hostibus defenditur. Controversias omnes Judices, quos e suis eligunt et Deemasters vocant, sine scriptis et impeusis dirimunt. Lapidem enim tollit omnis Magistratus, signatumque querenti tradit illo adversarium et testes citat. Si quid ambiguum et majoris momenti ad 12, quos claves insulæ appellant refertur. Coronatores quos vocant annuos qui vice comitum officio fnnguntur habent. Ita Judex ecclesiasticus citat, definit, infra octo dies parent, ant carceri intruduntur. Ut linguam propriam, ita et leges et numum. etiam habuisse accepi ; que peculiaris dominii signa sunt. Ecclesiastice ab hoc canonico ad civile' plurimum accedunt. Quæ Raphael Holingsede ut aliis consarcinatoribus Anglicis aliquid addendo quidvis vulgo obtruderet, de ovium, porcorum magnitudine, hominum statura, vermibus venenosis (quos omnino non nutrit, nisi ironice dicta putes.) Homo nobis plane ridiculus enarrat nec verisimile quicquam habent. Episcopatum simili mendacio notat ut eum qui jam Episcopus sit umbram larvamgl solum, dimidio vz annui redditus per Comitem Derbiensem multatum posteris tradat. Quod si id verum fuisset, quid non nobilissimi Comitis honori parceret si meam tenuitatem prodendam duxisset, sin falsum uti est vanissimum (quod omnes illic satis norunt) quam temerariæ et projectæ ad maledicendum audactæ esse oportet qui utrigl sine causa, publico et ut sperat testimonio perpetuo historiæ fide et authoritate magni criminis notam inurere sit aggressus. Contulit in me illud beneficium nobiliss. D. Comitis Lecestrensis rogatu, ea, qua reperiri potest ex veteruin schedulis amplitudine maximum, quod quum nisi paululum centum libras excesserit aliquando, et inde aliquid longe ædium ruinæ assignassem nonnihil ei qui litibus preesset (quum a popsilo nec denarius unquam Judici vel formulariis impenditur) reliquum, et si illi homini inepto et magnorum antistitum splendori assueto, ad tsiendam Episcopi dignitatem non satisfaciat, tamen et meliore viro dignum, et ad reliquos insulæ proventus satis illic magnificenn existimatur. Quod de maleficis refertur falsum esse comperi qui ditiores sunt et ampliora prædia possident, victu splendidiore et morsim probitate ad Lancastrenses sese accomo'dant, omnes a fsirandi et mendicandi ostiatim consuetudini sunt alienissimi, mire relligiosi et ad ecclesiæ Anglicanæ formam ad unum usgj paratissimi accedunt. Gentium vicinarum tam civilem quam ecclesiasticam ataxiam detestantur, et quum in duas australem et borealem partes insula sit divisa, hæc sermone comu'ni ad Scotos, illa ad Hibernor accedit. Vides jam qua occasione quam nihil statim ac in has partes reversus essem tibi scribendum putavi, et si quid occurrat imposterum ejus te certiorem redditurus. Vale.

A Bellomarisco, 9 Cal. Novembr.

Tuus, Jo. MERYCK, Pastor Sodorensis.

 And the English, Sassanach.

1 Tyrnas loeger, or teyrnas loegr; the kingdom of England.

2 Καλεω, galw, to call, τελοννv talg (properly taly) to reward, τις (the root is best seen in the genitive 7-tv-os) dgn, ysBos; pEMovs, meddw, dyn meddw; drunken, a drunken man.

3 The word here used in the text is too illegible to be deciphered. From the terminal letters it appears to have been in Greek characters, and is rendered by the Welsh word golun. Dr. Jones of this town, to whom I am indebted for these emendations, states, that the word golun, if correct, means, toform alike, and answers to the scripture phrase, "express image;" but if it is intended for gelyn-which is not unlikely-it means, an enemy.

 

1 Cwmuyr. 2 Cwm.

i Or drachefa; backwards. 2 Kefir, the back.


 

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