What manner of people were the ancient Irish, and how have they, with the infusion of other races now settled amongst them, developed into the modern Irish nation ? And this, it may be said with truth, is the characteristic qualities of the Irish nation now, and what are the circumstances necessary that it should accomplish its destiny—should fulfil that mission among the nations which is laid upon it by its gifts? Englishmen are called upon today to understand, in part, the answer to this question ; and Irishmen, in all times, are called upon to feel the answer to it, for they it is who will have to work out that mission to its fulfilment. In the spirit of such inquiry, I propose to deal with that portion of Irish history which preceded the which preceded the Norman invasion—the Irish period of free development. Abundant ancient materials exist, out of which have been constructed, by careful scholarly minds, valid accounts of that history in all its most interesting and important aspects, although a single complete and critical history of early Ireland has never yet been written. Nor is the reason for delay in the production of such a history far to seek. It were an easy task to write the story of a people who had left a few annals and no great mass of poetical literature ; but the ancient Irish were not such a people. The first glimpse we catch of them shows us a society literary to the heart's core, and so devoted to the memory of the national past that all literature revolves round the doings of the nationa lheroes—who are represented sometimes as gods no less than heroes—and concerns itself solely with thereal history of the " men of Erin."
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