As long as the Roman Empire was fallen, in Ireland monks made copies of books about the humankind history. They copied all books they could – not only the Gospels but also secular literature as Greek and Latin classics – “they did not care” about “going to hell”. Writing and reading was new and a pleasure to them. That pleasure, and sometimes the fatigue and disappointment with the work of writing, were described on the margins, of the old manuscripts. One young scriber, you don’t know if a monk or just a student, digress:
All are keen
To know who’ll sleep with blond Aideen.
All Aideen herself will own
Is that will not sleep alone.
Another book’s page, some else complain about his mate’s calligraphy:
It is easy to spot Gabrial’s work here.
Someone, tired of copying old Greek, curse:
There’s an end to that – and seven curses with it!
You could see that those monks are not mere scribers – they understood what they were copying – as this one, after copying this passage about Hector’s death in Troy, had written:
I am greatly grieved at the above-mentioned death.
And this monk, who touch me:
Sad it is, little parti-colored white book, for a day will surely come when someone will say over your page: “the hand that wrote this is no more”.
I figure then out in freezing nights inside the Round Tower in Glendalough, hidden with their precious manuscripts, and praying to God asking the sea take the Vikings away. The Vikings, when the sea was calm used to invade the coast and plunder everything – and being illiterate, they destroyed the books to steal the precious stones that was setting on their book covers.
Bitter is the wind this night
Which tosses up the ocean’s hair so white.
Merciless men I need fear
Who cross from Lothland on an ocean clear.
Version of the same poem from The Oxford Illustrated History of Ireland,
The wind is fierce to-night
It tosses the sea’s white hair
I fear no wild Vikings
sailing the quiet main.
Vikings won and stayed two centuries in Ireland. They founded cities as Dublin, Cork, Wexford, Waterford etc. The Irish monks saved what they could and run to the world with them.
- My comments are about the book How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill.