A briefe commentarie of Island/Preface

Commentarie of Island | Preface | Beginning
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Concerning the Inhabitants
Sections: 1 | Chronological Table of the Bishops of Island | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16
A letter written by the graue and learned Gudbrandus Thorlacius Bishop of Holen in Island, concerning the ancient state of Island and Gronland, &c.

A briefe commentarie of Island: wherein the errors of such as haue written concerning this Island, are detected, and the slanders, and reproches of certaine strangers, which they haue vsed ouer-boldly against the people of Island are confuted. By Arngrimus Ionas, of Island.

To the most mighty Prince and Lord, Lord Christian the 4. of Denmarke, Norway, and of the Vandals and Gothes, King elect: of Sleswic, Holste, Stormar, and Dithmarse Duke: Earle of Oldenburg, and Delmenhorst: His most gratious Lord.

That heroical attempt of Anchurus, sonne of King Midas (most gratious prince) and that pietie towards his countrey in maner peerelesse, deserueth highly to be renowmed in histories: in that freely and couragiously he offered his owne person, for the stopping vp of an huge gulfe of earth, about Celoena, a towne in Phrigia, which daily swallowed multitudes of men and whatsoeuer else came neere vnto it. For when his father Midas was aduertised by the Oracle, that the said gulfe should not be shut vp, before things most precious were cast into it; Anchurus deeming nothing to be more inualuable then life plunged himselfe aliue downe headlong into that bottomless hole; and that with so great vehemencie of mind, that neither by his fathers request nor by the allurements and teares of his most amiable wife, he suffered himselfe to be drawne backe from this his enterprise.

Sperthius also and Bulis, two Lacedemonians, were not much inferiour to the former, who to turne away the reuenge of Xerxes that most puissant King of the Persians, entended against the Lacedemonians, for killing the ambassadors of his father Darius, hyed them vnto the sayd king and that he might auenge the ambassadours death vpon them, not vpon their countrey, with hardy, and constant mindes presented themselues before him.

The very same thing (most gracious prince) which moued them and many others being enflamed with the loue of their countrey, to refuse for the benefite thereof, no danger, no trouble, no nor death it selfe, the same thing (I say) hath also enforced me, not indeed to vndergoe voluntarie death, or freely to offer my selfe vnto the slaughter, but yet to assay that which I am able for the good of my countrey: namely, that I may gather together and refute the errors, and vaine reports of writers, concerning the same: and so take vpon me a thing very dangerous, and perhaps subiect to the sinister iudgement of many.

In this purpose the example of Cneius Pompeius hath likewise confirmed me: who being chosen procurator for corne among the Romanes, and in an extreme scarcetie and dearth of the citie hauing taken vp some store of grains in Sicilia, Sardinia, and Africa, is reported to haue had greater regard of his countrey, then of himselfe. For when he made haste towards Rome, and a mighty and dangerous tempest arising, he perceiued the Pilots to tremble, and to be vnwilling to commit themselues to the rigor of the stormie sea, himselfe first going on boord, and commanding the anchors to be weighed, brake foorth into these words: That we should sayle necessitie vrgeth: but that we should liue, it vrgeth not. In which words he seemeth wisely to inferre, that greater care is to be had of our countrey lying in danger, then of our owne priuate safetie.

   This man doe I thus imitate,
   If small with great as equals may agree:
   And Flie with Elephant compared bee.

Namely that gathering together and laying vp in store those things which might be applied to succour the fame and credite of our nation, hauing now this long time bene oppressed with strangers, through the enuie of certeine malicious persons, I boldly aduenture to present these fewe meditations of mine vnto the viewe of the world, and so hoysing vp sailes to commit my selfe vnto a troublesome sea, and to breake foorth into the like speeches with him: That I should write necessitie vrgeth: but that my writings in all places should satisfie euery delicate taste, or escape all peeuishnes of carpers it vrgeth not. I doubt not but many will allow this my enterprise: the successe perhaps all men will not approue. Neuertheles, I thought that there was greater regard to be had of my countrey, sustaining so many mens mocks and reproches, then of mine owne praise or dispraise, redounding perhaps vnto me vpon this occasion. For what cause should moue me to shunne the enuie and hate of some men, being ioyned with an endeuour to benefite and gratifie my countrey?

[The errors of the writers of Island intolerable.]

But if I shall seeme somewhat too bold in censuring the errors of writers, or too seuere in reprehending the slanders of some men: yet I hope all they will iudge indifferently of me, who shall seriously consider, how intolerable the errors of writers are, concerning our nation: how many also and how grieuous be the reproches of some, against vs, wherewith they haue sundry wayes prouoked our nation, and as yet will not cease to prouoke. They ought also to haue me excused in regard of that in-bred affection rooted in the hearts of all men, towards their natiue soile, and to pardon my iust griefe for these iniures offered vnto my countrey. And I in very deed, so much as lay in me, haue in all places moderated my selfe, and haue bene desirous to abstaine from reproches but if any man thinke, we should haue vsed more temperance in our stile, I trust, the former reason will content him.

Sithens therefore, I am to vndergo the same hazard, which I see is commonly incident to all men that publish any writings: I must now haue especiall regarde of this one thing: namely, of seeking out some patron, and Mecoenas for this my briefe commentary, vnder whose name and protection it may more safety passe through the hands of all men.

But for this purpose I could not finde out, nor wish for any man more fit then your royal Maiestie, most gratious prince For vnto him, who hath receiued vnder his power & tuition our liues and goods, vnto him (I say) doe we make humble sute, that he would haue respect also vnto the credit of our nation, so iniuriously disgraced.

Yea verily (most gracious King) we are constreined to craue your Maiesties mercifull aide, not only in this matter, but in many other things also which are wanting in our countrey, or which otherwise belong to the publique commoditie and welfare thereof which not by me, but by the letters supplicatory of the chiefe men of our nation, are at this time declared, or will shortly be declared. For we doubt not but that your sacred Maiesties, after the example of your Christian predecessors, will vouchsafe vnto our countrey also, amongst other Islands of your Maiesties dominion, your kingly care and protection. For as the necessitie of fleeing for redresse vnto your sacred Maiestie, is ours so the glory of relieuing, regarding, and protecting vs, shal wholy redound vnto your sacred Maiestie: as also, there is layd vp for you, in respect of your fostering and preseruing of Gods church, vpon the extreme northerly parts almost of the whole earth, and in the vttermost bounds of your Maiesties dominion (which by the singular goodnes of God, enioyeth at this present tranquillitie and quiet safetie) a reward and crowne of immortall life in the heauens.

But considering these things are not proper to this place, I wil leaue them, and returne to my purpose which I haue in hand: most humbly beseeching your S. M. that yon would of your clemencie vouchsafe to become a fauorer, and patron vnto these my labours and studies, for the behalfe of my countrey.

It now remaineth (most gracious and mercifull souereigne) for vs to make our humble prayers vnto almighty God, that king of kings, and disposer of all humane affaires, that it would please him of his infinite goodnes, to aduance your Maiestie (yearely growing vp in wisedome & experience, and all other heroicall vertues) to the highest pitch of souereigntie: and being aduanced, continually to blesse yon with most prosperous successe in all your affaires: and being blessed, long to preserue you, as the chief ornament, defence and safegarde of these kingdomes, and as the shield and fortresse of his church: and hereafter in the life to come, to make you shine glorious like a starre, amongst the principall nurcing fathers of Gods Church, in the perfect ioy of his heauenly kingdome. The same most mercifull father likewise grant, that these praiers, the oftener they be dayly repeated and multiplied in euery corner of your Maiesties most ample territories & Islands, so much the more sure and certain they may remaine, Amen. At Haffnia, or Copen Hagen 1593. in the moneth of March. Y. S. M. most humble subiect,

Arngrimus Ionas, Islander.