Britannia, by William Camden

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Preamble to The Smaller
Islands
in the
British Ocean.

Small I floral I WILL now set sail from Ireland, and take a Survey of the Islands scatter’d upon the Coast of Britain. If I could depend upon my own sufficiency for the Work, I would visit every one of them: but since my Design is only Antiquities; such of them as are of little note, I shall pass by, but such as are more eminent, I will land at, and make some short stay in; that now at last, I may be so happy as to restore them to the honour of their respective Antiquities.

That this Voyage may be regular and orderly, I will steer my course, from Ireland to the Severn-Sea; and from the Irish-Sea (after I have doubl’d the utmost Point of Scotland) to the German Ocean; from hence, I will sail as successfully as I may, through the British Sea, which reach’d as far as Spain. But not without apprehension, that this Ship of Antiquity, having so unskilful a Pilot, will now and then touch upon the rocks of Error, or sink in the depths of Ignorance. However, I am embark’d, and must go through; Τόλμα νεῶν ἄρχηγος, i.e. Courage is the best Pilot, says Antiphilus; and whoever shall follow me, may perhaps make a more successful Voyage.

demons daemons demigods But first, it will not be foreign to my Business, to set down what Plutarch reports of these Islands in general, from a fabulous relation of Demetrius, who seems to have liv’d in the time of Hadrian: That, of the Islands about Britain, a great part are Desolate and Solitary; some of which are consecrated to Dæmons, or Demy Gods: and, That himself, at the command of the Emperor, sail’d out of curiosity to one that was nearest these, where he found few Inhabitants, but those look’d upon by the Britains, as sacred and inviolable. Not long after he arriv’d there, the weather grew foul and very tempestuous, and there followed a terrible storm of wind and thunder, which at length ceasing, the Inhabitants told him, that one of the * * E præ­stantioribus.Heroes was deceased. A little after he says, That in one of those Islands, Saturn is detained prisoner, and fast a-sleep, in the custody of Briareus; That sleep is instead of chains and fetters; and, That he has several of those Dæmons about him for attendants. Thus our fore-fathers, as we at this day, took the liberty of telling monstrous things of Places far off; which, it must be own’d, is a safe way of Romancing.

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 13:06