A briefe commentarie of Island/Here Beginneth the Commentary of Island

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A briefe commentarie of Island by Arngrímur Jónsson
Here Beginneth the Commentary of Island

Commentarie of Island | Preface | Beginning
Sections: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14
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.


Euen as in war, dayly experience teacheth vs, that some vpon no iust & lawful grounds (being egged on by ambition, enuie, and couetise) are induced to follow the armie, and on the contrary side, that others arme themselues vpon iust and necessary causes: namely such as go to battell for the defence and propagation of the Gospel, or such as being any way prouoked thereunto, doe withstand present violence and wrong, or at least (not being prouoked) by reason of the enemie approching are constrained to be vp in armes right so, they that fight vnder Apolloes banner. Amongst whom, a great part, not vpon any honest, philosophical, or indeede Christian intention, addresse themselues to wright: especially such as for desire of glory, for enuy and spight, or vpon malicious and affected ignorance, carpe at others: and that they may be accompted superiours, sometimes whette their stiles against the person, name and fame of this or that particular man, sometimes inueighing against a whole countrey, and by shamelesse vntrueths disgracing innocent nations and people. Againe, others of an ingenuous minde, doe by great industry, search and bring to light things profitable: namely, they that write of Diuinity, Philosophy, History and such like: and they who (taking vse and experience for their guides) in the said Sciences haue brought things obscure to light, things maimed to perfection, and things confused to order: and they that haue faithfully commended to euerlasting posteritie, the stories of the whole world: that by their infinite labours haue aduaunced the knowledge of tongues: to be short, that endeuour themselues to represse the insolencie, confute the slanders, and withstand the vniust violence of others, against themselues, their Nation or their Countrey:

And I for my part, hauing scarce attained the sight of good letters, and being the meanest of all the followers of Minerua (that I may freely acknowledge mine owne wants) can do no lesse then become one of their number, who haue applied themselues to ridde their countrey from dishonor, to auouch the trueth, and to shake off the yoke of railers & reuilers. My estate enabled me onely to write; howbeit the excellencie of trueth and the in bred affection I beare to my countrey enforceth me to do the best I can: sithens it hath pleased some strangers by false rumours to deface, and by manifolde reproches to iniurie my sayd countrey, making it a by word, and a langhing-stocke to all other nations. To meet with whose insolencie and false accusations, as also to detect the errours of certeine writers concerning this Island, vnto good and well affected men (for the common people will be alwayes like themselues, stubbornly mainteining that which is false and foolish, neither can I hope to remooue them from this accustomed and stale opinion) I haue penned the treatise following.

And albeit Island is not destitute of many excellent men, who, both in age, wit, and learning, are by many degrees my superiors, and therefore more fit to take the defence of the countrey into their hands: notwithstanding, being earnestly perswaded thereunto, by that godly & famous man Gudbrandus Thorlacius Bishop of Hola in Island, I thought good (to the vtmost of mine ability) to be no whit wanting vnto the common cause: both that I might obey his most reasonable request, and also that I might encourage other of my countreymen, who haue bene better trained vp in good learning, and indued with a greater measure of knowledge then I my selfe, to the defence of this our nation: so farre am I from hindering any man to vndertake the like enterprise.

But to returne to the matter, because they (whatsoeuer they be) that reproch and maligne our nation, make their boast that they vse the testimonies of writers: we are seriously to consider, what things, and how true, writers haue reported of Island, to the end that if they haue giuen (perhaps) any occasion to others of inueying against vs, their errours being layd open (for I will not speake more sharpely) all the world may see how iustly they do reproch vs. And albeit I nothing doubt to examine some ancient writers of this Island, by the rule of trueth and experience: yet (otherwise) their memory is precious in our eyes, their dignity reuerend, their learning to be had in honour, and their zeale and affection towards the whole common wealth of learned men, highly to be commended: but as for nouices (if there be any such writers or rather pasquilles) when they shall heare and know truer matters concerning Island, then they themselues haue written, they shall seeme by their inconstancie and peruerse wit to haue gained nought else but a blacke marke of enuy and reproch.

And that this commentarie of mine may haue some order, it shall be diuided into two general parts: the first of the Island, the second of the inhabitants: and of these two but so farfoorth as those writers which are come to our hands haue left recorded: because I am not determined to wander out of these lists, or to handle more then these things and some other which perteine vnto them. For I professe not my selfe an Historiographer, or Geographer, but onely a Disputer. Wherefore omitting a longer Preface, let vs come to the first part concerning the situation, the name, miracles, and certaine other adiuncts of this Iland.