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Title: Old English Chronicles

Editor: J. A. Giles

Release date: October 25, 2011 [eBook #37848]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Taavi Kalju, Jane Hyland and the Online
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[Pg i]


Old English Chronicles.


[Pg ii]



[Pg iii]

Old English Chronicles,












[Pg iv-v]

[Reprinted from Stereotype plates.]


Of the present volume it will be sufficient to inform the reader that it contains Six Chronicles, all relating to the history of this country before the Norman Conquest, and all of essential importance to those who like to study history in the very words of contemporary writers.

We will at once proceed to enumerate them severally.


The short chronicle, which passes under the name of Ethelwerd, contains few facts which are not found in the Saxon Chronicle its precursor. Of the author we know no more than he has told us in his work. "Malmesbury calls him 'noble and magnificent' with reference to his rank; for he was descended from king Alfred: but he forgets his peculiar praise—that of being the only Latin historian for two centuries; though, like Xenophon, Cæsar, and Alfred, he wielded the sword as much as the pen."[1]

Ethelwerd dedicated his work to, and indeed wrote it for the use of his relation Matilda, daughter of Otho the Great, emperor of Germany, by his first empress Edgitha or Editha; who is mentioned in the Saxon Chronicle, a.d. 925, though not by name, as given to Otho by her brother, king Athelstan. Ethelwerd adds, in his epistle to Matilda, that Athelstan sent two sisters, in order that the emperor might take his choice; and that he preferred the mother of Matilda.

The chronology of Ethelwerd is occasionally a year or two at variance with other authorities. The reader will be[Pg vi] guided in reckoning the dates, not by the heading of each paragraph, a.d. 891, 975, &c., but by the actual words of the author inserted in the body of the text.

I have translated this short chronicle from the original text as well as I was able, and as closely as could be to the author's text; but I am by no means certain of having always succeeded in hitting on his true meaning, for such is the extraordinary barbarism of the style, that I believe many an ancient Latin classic, if he could rise from his grave, would attempt in vain to interpret it.


[1] Ingram, p. viii. note


This work is ascribed, on its own internal authority, to Asser, who is said to have been bishop of St. David's, of Sherborne or of Exeter, in the time of king Alfred. Though most of the public events recorded in this book are to be found in the Saxon Chronicle, yet for many interesting circumstances in the life of our great Saxon king we are indebted to this biography alone. But, as if no part of history is ever to be free from suspicion, or from difficulty, a doubt has been raised concerning the authenticity of this work.[2] There is also another short treatise called the Annals of Asser, or the Chronicle of St. Neot, different from the present: it is published in vol. iii. of Gale and Fell's Collection of Historians. And it has been suspected by a living writer that both of these works are to be looked upon as compilations of a later date. The arguments upon which this opinion is founded are drawn principally from the abrupt and incoherent character of the work before us. But we have neither time nor space to enter further into this question. As the work has been edited by Petrie, so has it been here translated, and the reader, taking it upon its own merits, will find therein much of interest about our glorious king, concerning whom he will lament with me that all we know is so little, so unsatisfying.

[Pg vii]


[2] See Wright's Biographia Literaria Anglo-Saxonica, p. 405. Dr. Lingard, however, in his recent work on the History and Antiquities of the Anglo-Saxon Church, vol. ii. pp. 424-428, has replied to Mr. Wright's objections, and vindicated the authenticity of Asser's Life.


Of Gildas, the supposed author of the third work contained in this volume, little or nothing is known. Mr. Stevenson, in the preface to his edition of the original Latin, lately published by the English Historical Society, says: "We are unable to speak with certainty as to his parentage, his country, or even his name, the period when he lived, or the works of which he was the author." Such a statement is surely sufficient to excuse us at present from saying more on the subject, than that he is supposed to have lived, and to have written what remains under his name, during some part of the sixth century. There are two legends[3] of the life of St. Gildas, as he is termed, but both of them abound with such absurdities that they scarcely deserve to be noticed in a serious history. Of the present translation, the first or historic half is entirely new; in the rest, consisting almost entirely of texts from Scripture, the translator has thought it quite sufficient to follow the old translation of Habington, correcting whatever errors he could detect, and in some degree relieving the quaint and obsolete character of the language. It has been remarked by Polydore Virgil, that Gildas quotes no other book but the Bible; and it may be added, that his quotations are in other words than those of the Vulgate or common authorized translation. The title of the old translation is as follows: "The Epistle of Gildas the most ancient British Author: who flourished in the yeere of our Lord, 546. And who by his great erudition, sanctitie, and wisdome, acquired the name of Sapiens. Faithfully translated out of the originall Latine." London, 12mo. 1638.


[3] Both these works are given in the appendix to the editor's "History of the Ancient Britons."


The History of the Britons, which occupies the fourth place in this volume is generally ascribed to Nennius, but so little is known about the author, that we have hardly any information handed down to us respecting him except this mention of his name. It is also far from certain at what period the history was written, and the difference is no less than a period of two hundred years, some assigning the[Pg viii] work to seven hundred and ninety-six, and others to nine hundred and ninety-four. The recent inquiries of Mr. Stevenson, to be found in the Preface to his new edition of the original Latin, render it unnecessary at present to delay the reader's attention from the work itself. The present translation is substantially that of the Rev. W. Gunn, published with the Latin original in 1819, under the following title: "The 'Historia Britonum,' commonly attributed to Nennius; from a manuscript lately discovered in the library of the Vatican Palace at Rome: edited in the tenth century, by Mark the Hermit; with an English version, facsimile of the original, notes and illustrations." The kindness of that gentleman has enabled the present editor to reprint the whole, with only a few corrections of slight errata, which inadvertency alone had occasioned, together with the two prologues and several pages of genealogies, which did not occur in the MS. used by that gentleman.


Geoffrey, surnamed of Monmouth, is celebrated in English literature as the author, or at least the translator, of Historia Britonum, a work from which nearly all our great vernacular poets have drawn the materials for some of their noblest works of fiction and characters of romance. He lived in the early part of the twelfth century, and in the year 1152 was raised to the bishopric of St. Asaph.

The first of his writings, in point of time, was a Latin translation of the Prophecies of Merlin, which he undertook at the request of Alexander bishop of Lincoln. His next work was that on which his fame principally rests, the Historia Britonum, dedicated to Robert, duke of Gloucester, who died in 1147. Into this second work he inserted the Latin translation above-mentioned, which now appears as the seventh book of Historia Britonum. A third composition has also been ascribed to Geoffrey, entitled Vita Merlini, in Latin hexameter verse: but the internal evidence which it affords, plainly proves that it is the work of a different author.

Although the list of our Chroniclers may be considered as complete, without the addition of this work, yet we have thought it worthy of a place in our series for many reasons. It is not for historical accuracy that the book be[Pg ix]fore us is valuable; for the great mass of scholars have come to the decided conviction that it is full of fables. But it is the romantic character which pervades the narrative, together with its acknowledged antiquity, which make it desirable that the book should not sink into oblivion. Those who desire to possess it as a venerable relic of an early age, will now have an opportunity of gratifying their wish; whilst others, who despise it as valueless, in their researches after historic truth, may, nevertheless, find some little pleasure in the tales of imagination which it contains.

The value of this work is best evinced by the attention which was paid to it for many centuries; Henry of Huntingdon made an abstract of it, which he subjoined as an appendix to his history: and Alfred of Beverley, a later writer, in his abridgment of this work which still exists, has omitted Geoffrey's name, though he calls the author of the original, Britannicus.

An English translation of the work was first published by Aaron Thompson, of Queen's College, Oxford, [8vo. Lond. 1718.] and lately revised and reprinted by the editor of this volume, [8vo. Lond. 1842.] A long preface is prefixed to that translation, wherein the author endeavoured to prove Geoffrey of Monmouth to be a more faithful historian than he is generally considered to be. His words are as follow:—"I am not unsensible that I expose myself to the censures of some persons, by publishing this translation of a book, which they think had better been suppressed and buried in oblivion, as being at present generally exploded for a groundless and fabulous story, such as our modern historians think not worthy relating, or at least mention with contempt. And though it is true, several men, and those of learning too, censure this book who have but little considered it, and whose studies no ways qualify them to judge of it; yet, I own this consideration has for a long time deterred me from publishing it: and I should not at last have been able to surmount this difficulty, without the importunity and encouragement of others, to whom I owe a singular regard. I had indeed before I entered upon the work perused the principal writers both for and against this history, the effect of which upon my own judgment, as to the swaying it to the one side more than the other, was but very small; and I[Pg x] must confess, that I find the most learned antiquaries the most modest in their opinions concerning it, and that it seems to me to be a piece of great rashness, to judge peremptorily upon a matter, whereof at this great distance of time there are no competent witnesses on either side. At least I cannot but think it a sufficient apology for my publishing this book, to consider only, that though it seems to suffer under a general prejudice at present, yet it has not long done so; but that upon its first appearing in the world, it met with a universal approbation, and that too, from those who had better opportunities of examining the truth of it, as there were then more monuments extant, and the traditions more fresh and uncorrupted concerning the ancient British affairs, than any critics of the present age can pretend to; that it had no adversary before William of Newburgh about the end of the reign of Richard the First, whose virulent invective against it, we are told, proceeded from a revenge he thought he owed the Welsh for an affront they had given him; that his opposition was far from shaking the credit of it with our succeeding historians, who have, most of them, till the beginning of the last century, confirmed it with their testimonies, and copied after it, as often as they had occasion to treat of the same affairs: that its authority was alleged by king Edward the First and all the nobility of the kingdom, in a controversy of the greatest importance, before Boniface the Eighth; that even in this learned age, that is so industrious to detect any impostures, which through the credulity of former times had passed upon the world, the arguments against this history are not thought so convincing, but that several men of equal reputation for learning and judgment with its adversaries, have written in favour of it; that very few have at last spoken decisively against it, or absolutely condemned it; and that it is still most frequently quoted by our most learned historians and antiquaries. All these considerations, I say, if they do not amount to an apology for the history itself, show at least that it deserves to be better known than at present it is; which is sufficient to justify my undertaking the publishing of it."

It is unnecessary in the present day to prove that king Brute is a shadowy personage, who never existed but in the regions of romance: but as the reader may justly expect to[Pg xi] find in this place some account of the controversy which has existed respecting this work, the following remarks will not be deemed inappropriate. There seems no good reason for supposing that Geoffrey of Monmouth intended to deceive the world respecting the history of which he professed to be the translator; and it may be readily conceived that he did no more than fulfil the task which he had undertaken, of rendering the book into Latin out of the original language. But those who, even as late as the beginning of the last century, supported the authenticity of the history, have grounded their opinions on such arguments as the following:—

1. That, upon its first appearance in the world, the book met with universal approbation, and that too from those who had better opportunities of examining the truth of it, as there were then more monuments extant, and the traditions were more fresh and uncorrupted, concerning the ancient British affairs, than any critics of the present age can pretend to.

2. That except William of Newburgh, about the end of the reign of Richard I, it met with no opponents even down to the seventeenth century, but was, on the contrary, quoted by all, in particular by Edward I, in a controversy before Boniface the Eighth.

3. That we see in this history the traces of venerable antiquity.

4. That the story of Brute, and the descent of the Britons from the Trojans, was universally allowed by Giraldus Cambrensis and others, and was opposed for the first time by John of Wethamstede, [Nicolson's Eng. Hist. Lit. 2nd ed. p. 1, c. v.] who lived in the 15th century: that Polydore Virgil's contempt for it proceeded from his wish to preserve unimpaired the glory of the Romans, and Buchanan's observations betray his ignorance of the story.

5. That Leland, who lived under Henry the Eighth, Humphrey Lhwyd, Sir John Price, Dr. Caius, Dr. Powel, and others, have supported the story of Brute, etc.

Such arguments may have satisfied the credulous students of the seventeenth century, but the more enlightened criticism of the present day will no longer listen to them. It may not, however, be uninteresting to hear the account which Thompson, the English translator gives of this work, which[Pg xii] in his own words, and with his additional remarks upon it, is as follows:—"The story, as collected from himself, Leland, Bale, and Pitts, is that Walter Mapes, alias Calenius, archdeacon of Oxford, who flourished in the reign of Henry I, and of whom Henry of Huntingdon, and other historians as well as Geoffrey himself, make honourable mention, being a man very curious in the study of antiquity, and a diligent searcher into ancient libraries, and especially after the works of ancient authors, happened while he was in Armorica to light upon a History of Britain, written in the British tongue, and carrying marks of great antiquity. And being overjoyed at it, as if he had found a vast treasure, he in a short time after came over to England; where inquiring for a proper person to translate this curious but hitherto unknown book, he very opportunely met with Geoffrey of Monmouth, a man profoundly versed in the history and antiquities of Britain, excellently skilled in the British tongue, and withal (considering the time,) an elegant writer both in verse and prose; and so recommended this task to him. Accordingly, Geoffrey, being incredibly delighted with this ancient book, undertook the translating of it into Latin, which he performed, with great diligence, approving himself, according to Matthew Paris, a faithful translator. At first he divided it into four books, written in a plain simple style, and dedicated it to Robert, earl of Gloucester, a copy whereof is said[4] to be at Bennet College, in Cambridge, which was never yet published; but afterwards he made some alterations and divided it into eight books, to which he added the book of Merlin's Prophecies, which he had also translated from British verse into Latin prose, prefixing to it a preface, and a letter to Alexander, bishop of Lincoln. A great many fabulous and trifling stories are inserted in the history: but that was not his fault; his business as a translator was to deliver them faithfully such as they were, and leave them to the judgment of the learned to be discussed.

"To prove the truth of this relation, and to answer at once all objections against Geoffrey's integrity, one needs no other argument than an assurance that the original manuscript which Geoffrey translated, of whose antiquity the curious are able to judge in a great measure by the character, or any[Pg xiii] ancient and authentic copy of it, is yet extant. And indeed, archbishop Usher[5] mentions an old Welsh Chronicle in the Cottonian Library, that formerly was in the possession of that learned antiquary, Humphrey Lhwyd, which he says is thought to be that which Geoffrey translated. But if that be the original manuscript, it must be acknowledged that Geoffrey was not merely a translator, but made some additions of his own: since, as that most learned prelate informs us, the account that we have in this History of the British Flamens, and Archflamens, is nowhere to be found in it. But besides this, there are several copies of it in the Welsh tongue, mentioned by the late ingenious and learned Mr. Lhwyd in his 'Archæologia Britannica.' And I myself have met with a manuscript history of our British affairs, written above a hundred years ago by Mr. John Lewis, and shortly to be published, wherein the author says, that he had the original of the British History in parchment written in the British tongue before Geoffrey's time, as he concludes from this circumstance, that in his book Geoffrey's preface was wanting, and the preface to his book was the second chapter of that published by Geoffrey. My ignorance of the Welsh tongue renders me unqualified for making any search into these matters; and though the search should be attended with never so much satisfaction, to those who are able to judge of the antiquity of manuscripts, yet to the generality of readers, other arguments would perhaps be more convincing."

The passages which we have here quoted at length, will give the reader the most ample information concerning the nature of the question, and it only remains to inform the reader what is my own opinion on this long-agitated literary controversy.

To those who have read the plain and simple statements of Julius Cæsar and the other classic historians who have described the early state of Britain, it will be morally certain that all such accounts as we have in Geoffrey of Monmouth are purely fabulous. The uncertainty of every thing, save the bare fact, connected with the siege of Troy, is so great, that to connect its fortunes with those of a distant and at that time unheard-of island like Britain, can be admissible only in the pages of romance. But in the latter part of the[Pg xiv] work which contains the history of Britain, during its conquest by the Saxons, we may possibly find the germs of facts unnoticed elsewhere.

This view does not militate against the veracity of Geoffrey, who professes to have translated from an original in the British language, but whether any manuscript copy of this original now exists, is a point which has not been satisfactorily ascertained. In 1811, the Rev. Peter Roberts published the Chronicle of the Kings of Britain, translated from Welsh manuscripts, and being in substance almost identically the same as Geoffrey's History of the Britons,—but it is most likely that these Welsh MSS., which are all comparatively modern, are themselves re-translations from the Latin of Geoffrey.

If no other arguments could be adduced to prove the utter incredibility of the earlier parts of this history, the following Chronological Table would furnish quite sufficient arguments to establish it, by the extraordinary anachronisms which it contains. For instance, between the reigns of Brutus and Leil, is an interval of 156 years; and yet Geoffrey makes the capture of the ark contemporaneous with the reign of Brutus, and the building of Solomon's temple with that of Leil. Now the interval between these two events cannot by any possibility be extended beyond eighty years. It is, moreover, impossible to bring the chronology of the British kings themselves into harmony with the dates before Christ, as there is no mention made of the exact interval between the taking of Troy and Brutus's landing in Britain.

Geoffrey inscribes his work to Robert, earl of Gloucester, son of Henry the Second.


=Æneas =Lavinia (——)  
Sylvius Pandrasus = (Niece of Lavinia). I. 3.  
Ignoge= 1. Brutus at the age of 15 kills his father (I. 3.) Reigns twenty four years. (II. 1.)
  At this time Eli governed Israel, and the ark was taken by the Philistines, and the
sons of Hector reigned in Troy and Sylvius Æneas, uncle of Brutus, in Italy. (I. 17.)[Pg xv]
  Corinæus Albanact Kamber II. 1.  
2. Locrin = 3. Guendolœna
r. 10 yrs.15 years.
Locrin by Estrildis has Sabre, who being drowned in the Severn, gives name to that river.
  4. Maddan. II. 6.
40 yrs.
  At this time Samuel governed Israel, and Homer flourished.
5. Mempricius
20 yrs.
Malim   Saul reigns in Judæa, Eurystheus in Lacedæmon.
6. Ebraucus
40 yrs.
(or 60, quære, II. 7, 8)
  King David—Sylvius Latinus—Gad—Nathan and Asaph.
7. Brutus II., 12 yrs. and 19 other sons and 30 daughters, II. 8.
8. Leil
25 yrs.
  Solomon—Queen of Sheba—Sylvius Epitus.
9. Hudibras
39 yrs.
10. Bladud
20 yrs. II. 10.
11. Leir
60 II. 11. yrs.
12. Gonorilla =Maglaunus,
5 yrs. D. of Albania.
Regan= Henuinus,
D. of
Cordeilla = Aganippus,
K. of Gaul.
  Margan    13. Cunedagius
33 yrs.
Isaiah—Hosea—Rome built by Romulus and Remus.
  14. Rivallo  
  15. Gurgustius (——)  
  16. Sisilius      17. Jago  [Pg xvi]
  18. Kinmarcus  
  19. Gorbogudo = Widen  
  Ferrex Porrex  
Long civil wars.
At length arose Dunwallo Molmutius, son of Cloten, king of Cornwall. II. 17.
  20. Dunwallo Molmutius = Conwenna
40 yrs.
  21. Belinus
5 yrs. in concert with Brennius.
  22. Gurgiunt Brabtruc. III. 11.  
  23. Guithelin = Martia  
  24. Sisillius  
  25. Kimarus   26. Danius = Tangustela  
  27. Morvidus
28. Gorbonian 29. Arthgallo 30. Elidure 31. Vigenius 32. Peredure
    Arthgallo was deposed in favour of Elidure, who, after a reign of five years, restored his brother, who reigned 10 years afterwards. Elidure then reigned a second time but was deposed by Vigenius and Peredure: after whose deaths he reigned a third time.
33. Gorbonian's
son, III. 19.
34. Margan   35. Enniaunus   36. Idwallo 37. Runno
  38. Geruntius  
  39. Catellus  
  40. Coillus 41. Porrex 42. Cherin  
  43. Fulgenius 44. Eldadusx 45. Andragius  
  46. Urianus  
 [Pg xvii]
47. Eliud 48. Cledaucus 49. Cletonus 50. Gurgintius 51. Merianus
  52. Bleduno 53. Cap 54. Oenus 55. Sisillius
  56. Blegabred   57. Arthmail  
58. Eldol 59. Redion 60. Rederchius 61. Samuilpenissel 62. Pir
  63. Capoir III. 19.  
  64. Cligueillus  
  65. Heli  
  66. Lud. III. 20 67. Cassibellaun Nennius  
Cæsar's invasion took place during Cassibellaun's reign.
  68. Tenuantius  
  69. Kymbelinus Jesus Christ is born in the reign of Kymbelinus or Cymbeline.
  70. Guiderius 71. Arviragus = Genuissa  
  72. Marius  
  73. Coillus  
  74. Lucius IV. 19.  
Lucius embraces Christianity: he dies, a.d. 156.
  75. Severus  
  76. Bassianus or Caracalla  
  77. Carausius, V. 3.   78. Allectus  
  79. Asclepiodotus   80. Coel  
  Helena = 81. Constantius
r. 11 yrs.
  82. Constantine, emperor of Rome  
83. Octavius assumes the crown of Britain.
  (Daughter) = 84. Maximian, V. 11.  
 [Pg xviii]
85. Gratian Municeps
At this time the Picts and Scots harass the Britons, who apply to the Romans.
86. Constantine, prince of Armorica, comes to assist the Britons.
  87. Constans 89. Aurelius Ambrosius
VIII. 2.
90. Utherpendragon Igerna
VIII. 17. = VIII. 19.
  88. Vortigern usurps the throne (VI. 9) and calls in the Saxons.    
  91. Arthur IX. 1.   Anne
King Arthur dies, a.d. 542 (XI. 3.)
  92. Constantine 93. Aurelius Conan 94. Wortiporius 95. Malgo  
  96. Careticus 97. Cadwan  
  Peanda (sister) = 98. Cadwallo  
  99. Cadwallader  
Cadwallader goes to Rome, where he is confirmed in the faith of Christ by pope Sergius, and dies a.d. 689.


[4] See Pitts and Voss.

[5] Brit. Eccl. Prim. cap. 5


The supposed chronicle of Richard of Cirencester was first brought before the public by Charles Julius Bertram, Professor of the English Language in the Royal Marine Academy, at Copenhagen, in the year 1757.

Since the publication of the volume, it has been conclusively proved to be a modern forgery. The editor's remarks on that portion of the volume are therefore omitted, though the document is retained on the supposition that it may be convenient to some readers to have the text of a composition which was extensively used before its spurious character was ascertained.[Pg 1]






To Matilda, the most eloquent and true handmaid of Christ, Ethelwerd the patrician, health in the Lord! I have received, dearest sister, your letter which I longed for, and I not only read it with kisses, but laid it up in the treasury of my heart. Often and often do I pray the grace of the Most High, to preserve you in safety during this life present, and after death to lead you to his everlasting mansions. But as I once before briefly hinted to you by letter, I now, with God's help, intend to begin in the way of annals from the beginning of the world, and explain to you more fully about our common lineage and descent, to the end that the reader's task may be lightened, and the pleasure of the hearer may be augmented, whilst he listens to it. Concerning the coming of our first parents out of Germany into Britain, their numberless wars and slaughters, and the dangers which they encountered on ship-board among the waves of the ocean, in the following pages you will find a full description. In the present letter therefore I have written, without perplexity of style, of our modern lineage and relationship, who were our relations, and how, and where they came from: as far as our memory can go, and according as our parents taught us. For instance king Alfred was son of king Ethelwulf, from whom we derive our origin, and who had five sons, one of whom was king Ethelred[6] my ancestor, and another king Alfred[Pg 2] who was yours. This king Alfred sent his daughter Ethelswitha into Germany to be the wife of Baldwin,[7] who had by her two sons Ethelwulf and Arnulf, also two daughters Elswid and Armentruth. Now from Ethelswitha is descended count Arnulf,[8] your neighbour. The daughter of king Edward son of the above-named king Alfred was named Edgiva, and was sent by your aunt into Gaul to marry Charles the Simple. Ethilda also was sent to be the wife of Hugh, son of Robert: and two others were sent by king Athelstan to Otho that he might choose which of them he liked best to be his wife. He[9] chose Edgitha, from whom you derive your lineage; and united the other in marriage to a certain king[10] near the Jupiterean Mountains, of whose family no memorial has reached us, partly from the distance and partly from the confusion of the times. It is your province to inform us of these particulars, not only from your relationship, but also because no lack of ability or interval of space prevents you.[11]



[6] Ethelred died and Alfred succeeded him a.d. 871.

[7] Baldwin, count of Flanders died a.d. 918. See Malmesbury, p. 121.

[8] Arnulf, count of Flanders, a.d. 965.

[9] The emperor Otho married Edgitha a.d. 930.

[10] Lewis the blind.

[11] The writer adds the barbarous verse, "Esto mihi valens cunctis perhenniter horis," which is as easy to construe as to scan.


The beginning of the world comes first. For on the first day God, in the apparition of the light, created the angels: on the second day, under the name of the firmament he created the heavens; &c. &c.[12]

Rome was destroyed by the Goths in the eleven hundred and forty-sixth year after it was built. From that time the Roman authority ceased in the island of Britain, and in many other countries which they had held under the yoke of slavery. For it was now four hundred and eighty-five years,[Pg 3] beginning with Caius Julius Cæsar, that they had held the island above-mentioned, wherein they had built cities and castles, bridges and streets of admirable construction, which are seen among us even to the present day. But whilst the people of Britain were living carelessly within the wall, which had been built by Severus to protect them, there arose two nations, the Picts in the north and the Scots in the west, and leading an army against them, devastated their country, and inflicted many sufferings upon them for many years. The Britons being unable to bear their misery, by a wise device send to Rome a mournful letter[13] ... the army returned victorious to Rome. But the Scots and Picts, hearing that the hostile army was gone, rejoiced with no little joy. Again they take up arms, and like wolves attack the sheepfold which is left without a protector: they devastate the northern districts as far as the ditch of Severus: the Britons man the wall and fortify it with their arms; but fortune denied them success in the war. The cunning Scots, knowing what to do against the high wall and the deep trench, contrive iron goads with mechanical art, and dragging down those who were standing on the wall, slay them without mercy: they remain victors both within and without; they at once plunder and take possession; and a slaughter is made worse than all that had been before. Thus ended the four hundred and forty-fourth year since the incarnation of our Lord.

The Britons, seeing themselves on every side vanquished, and that they could have no more hopes from Rome, devise, in their agony and lamentations, a plan to adopt. For in those days they heard, that the race of the Saxons were active, in piratical enterprises, throughout the whole coast, from the river Rhine to the Danish city,[14] which is now commonly called Denmark, and strong in all matters connected with war. They therefore send to them messengers, bearing gifts, and ask assistance, promising them their alliance when they should be at peace. But the mind of that degraded race was debased by ignorance, and they saw not that they[Pg 4] were preparing for themselves perpetual slavery, which is the stepmother of all misfortune.

The person who especially gave this counsel was Vurthern,[15] who at that time was king over all, and to him all the nobility assented. They preferred to procure assistance to them from Germany. Already two young men, Hengist and Horsa, were pre-eminent. They were the grandsons of Woden, king of the barbarians, whom the pagans have since raised to an abominable dignity, and honouring him as a god, offer sacrifice to him for the sake of victory or valour, and the people, deceived, believe what they see, as is their wont. The aforesaid youths therefore arrive, according to the petition of the king and his senate, with three vessels, loaded with arms, and prepared with every kind of warlike stores: the anchor is cast into the sea, and the ships come to land. Not long afterwards they are sent against the Scots to try their mettle, and without delay they sheathe their breasts in arms, and engage in a novel mode of battle. Man clashes with man, now falls a German and now a Scot: on both sides is a most wretched scene of slaughter: at length the Saxons remain masters of the field. For this the king aforesaid honours them with a triumph; and they privately send home messengers, to tell their countrymen of the fertility of the country and the indolence of its cowardly people. Their countrymen, without delay, listen to their representations, and send to them a large fleet and army. Forthwith they were magnificently received by the king of the Britons, and contracted a league of hospitality with the natives. The Britons promise peace, worthy gifts of alliance and honours, provided that they might remain in ease under their protection from the attacks of their enemies, and pay them immense stipends.

Thus much of the alliance and promises of the Britons: now let us speak of their discord and ill fortune. For seeing the cunningness of the new people, they partly feared and partly despised them. They break their compact, and no longer render them the honours of alliance, but instead thereof, they try to drive them from their shores. These being their designs, the thing is made public, the treaty is openly set aside, all parties fly to arms: the Britons give[Pg 5] way, and the Saxons keep possession of the country. Again they send to Germany, not secretly as before, but by a public embassy, as victors are wont to do, and demand reinforcements. A large multitude joined them from every province of Germany; and they carried on war against the Britons, driving them from their territories with great slaughter, and ever remaining masters of the field. At last the Britons bend their necks to the yoke, and pay tribute. This migration is said to have been made from the three provinces of Germany, which are said to have been the most distinguished, namely, from Saxony, Anglia, and Giota. The Cantuarians derived their origin from the Giotæ [Jutes], and also the Uuhtii, who took their name from the island Wihta [Isle of Wight], which lies on the coast of Britain.

For out of Saxony, which is now called Ald-Sexe, or Old Saxony, came the tribes which are still called so among the English, the East Saxons, South Saxons, and West Saxons; that is, those who are called in Latin, the Oriental, Austral, and Occidental Saxons.

Out of the province of Anglia came the East Anglians, Middle Anglians, Mercians, and all the race of the Northumbrians. Moreover Old Anglia is situated between the Saxons and Jutes, having a capital town, which in Saxon is called Sleswig, but in Danish Haithaby. Britain, therefore, is now called Anglia [England], because it took the name of its conquerors: for their leaders aforesaid were the first who came thence to Britain; namely, Hengist and Horsa, sons of Wyhrtels:[16] their grandfather was Wecta, and their great-grandfather Withar, whose father was Woden, who also was king of a multitude of barbarians. For the unbelievers of the North are oppressed by such delusion that they worship him as a god even to this day, namely the Danes, the North-men, and the Suevi; of whom Lucan says,

"Pours forth the yellow Suevi from the North."

So greatly did the invasion of those nations spread and increase, that they by degrees obliterated all memory of the inhabitants who had formerly invited them with gifts. They demand their stipends: the Britons refuse: they take up arms, discord arises, and as we have before said, they drive[Pg 6] the Britons into certain narrow isthmuses of the island, and themselves hold possession of the island from sea to sea even unto the present time.

A. 418. In the ninth year also after the sacking of Rome by the Goths, those of Roman race who were left in Britain, not bearing the manifold insults of the people, bury their treasures in pits thinking that hereafter they might have better fortune, which never was the case; and taking a portion, assemble on the coast, spread their canvas to the winds, and seek an exile on the shores of Gaul.

A. 430. Twelve years after, bishop Palladius is sent by the holy pope Celestinus to preach the gospel of Christ to the Scots.


[12] Here follow several pages, in which the writer, like other annalists, deduces his history from the creation. It is now universally the custom with modern writers and translators to omit such preliminary matter.

[13] There is evidently a hiatus in this passage, but see Bede i. 13, p. 22.

[14] Urbs, "city," seems here rather to designate country or territory.

[15] Otherwise called Vortigern.

[16] More commonly called Wihtgila.


A. 449. When, therefore, nineteen years had elapsed, Maurice and Valentine[18] became emperors of Rome; in whose reign Hengist and Horsa at the invitation of Vortigern king of the Britons arrive at the place called Wipped's-fleet, at first on the plea of assisting the Britons: but afterwards they rebelled and became their enemies, as we have already said. Now the number of years, completed since the marvellous incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, was four hundred and forty-nine.

A. 455. In the sixth year after, Hengist and Horsa fought a battle against Vortigern in the plain of Ægelsthrep. There Horsa was killed, and Hengist obtained the kingdom.

A. 457. But after two years, Hengist and Æsc his son renewed the war against the Britons; and there fell in that day on the side of the Britons four thousand men. Then the Britons, leaving Cantia, which is commonly called Kent, fled to the city of London.

A. 465. About eight years after, the same men took up arms against the Britons, and there was a great slaughter made on that day: twelve chiefs of the Britons fell near a place called Wipped's-fleet; there fell a soldier of the Saxons called Wipped, from which circumstance that place took its name; in the same way as the Thesean sea was so called[Pg 7] from Theseus, and the Ægæan sea from Ægeus who was drowned in it.

A. 473. After eight years were completed, Hengist with his son Æsc, a second time make war against the Britons, and having slaughtered their army, remain victors on the field of battle, and carry off immense spoils.

A. 477. In the fourth year Ælla landed in Britain from Germany with his three sons, at a place called Cymenes-Ora, and defeated the Britons at Aldredes-leage.[19]

A. 485. After eight years, the same people fight against the Britons, near a place called Mearcrædsburn.

A. 488. After this, at an interval of three years, Æsc, son of Hengist, began to reign in Kent.

A. 492. After three years, Ælla and Assa besieged a town called Andreds-cester, and slew all its inhabitants, both small and great, leaving not a single soul alive.

A. 495. After the lapse of three more years, Cerdic and his son Cynric sailed to Britain with five ships, to a port called Cerdic's-ore, and on the same day fought a battle against the Britons, in which they were finally victorious.

A. 500. Six years after their arrival, they sailed round the western part of Britain, which is now called Wessex.

A. 501. Also after a year Port landed in Britain with his son Bieda.

A. 508. Seven years after his arrival, Cerdic with his son Cynric slay Natan-Leod, king of the Britons, and five thousand men with him.

A. 514. Six years after, Stuf and Wihtgar landed in Britain at Cerdic's-ore, and suddenly make war on the Britons, whom they put to flight, and themselves remain masters of the field. Thus was completed the fifty-sixth[20] year since Hengist and Horsa first landed in Britain.

A. 519. Five years after, Cerdic and Cynric fought a battle against the Britons at Cerdic's-ford,[21] on the river Avene, and that same year nominally began to reign.

A. 527. Eight years after, they renew the war against the Britons.

A. 530. After three years, they took the Isle of Wight,[Pg 8] the situation of which we have mentioned above: but they did not kill many of the Britons.

A. 534. Four years after, Cerdic with his son Cenric gives up the Isle of Wight into the hands of their two cousins Stuf and Wihtgar. In the course of the same year Cerdic died, and Cenric his son began to reign after him, and he reigned twenty-seven years.

A. 538. When he had reigned four years, the sun was eclipsed from the first hour of the day to the third.[22]

A. 540. Again, two years after, the sun was eclipsed for half-an-hour after the third hour, so that the stars were everywhere visible in the sky.

A. 547. In the seventh year after this, Ida began to reign over the province of Northumberland, whose family derive their kingly title and nobility from Woden.

A. 552. Five years after, Cenric fought against the Britons near the town of Scarburh [Old Sarum], and, having routed them, slew a large number.

A. 556. The same, four years afterwards, fought with Ceawlin against the Britons, near a place called Berin-byrig [Banbury?]

A. 560. At the end of about four years, Ceawlin began to reign over the western part of Britain, which is now commonly called Wessex. Moreover, Ella the Iffing is sent to the race of Northumbria, whose ancestry extends up to the highest, namely to Woden.

A. 565. Five years afterwards, Christ's servant Columba came from Scotia [Ireland] to Britain, to preach the word of God to the Picts.

A. 568. Three years after his coming, Ceawlin and Cutha stirred up a civil war against Ethelbert, and having defeated him, pursued him into Kent, and slew his two chiefs, Oslaf and Cnebba, in Wubbandune.[23]

A. 571. After three years, Cuthulf fought against the Britons at Bedanford [Bedford], and took four royal cities, namely Liganburh [Lenbury], Eglesburh [Aylesbury], Bensingtun [Benson], and Ignesham [Eynsham].

A. 577. After the lapse of six years, Cuthwin and Ceawlin fight against the Britons, and slay three of their kings,[Pg 9] Comail, Condidan, and Farinmeail, at a place called Deorhamme [Derham?]; and they took three of their most distinguished cities, Gloucester, Cirencester, and Bath.

A. 584. After seven years, Ceawlin and Cutha fought against the Britons, at a place called Fethanleage [Frethern?]: there Cutha fell; but Ceawlin reduced a multitude of cities, and took immense spoils.

A. 592. In the eighth year there was a great slaughter on both sides, at a place called Wodnesbyrg [Wemborow?], so that Ceawlin was put to flight, and died at the end of one more year.

A. 593. After him, Cwichelm, Crida, and Ethelfrid, succeeded to the kingdom.


[17] Capitulum in the original: but no number is annexed.

[18] This should be Marcian and Valentinian.

[19] Perhaps an error for Andredes-leage, formerly Anderida, in Sussex.

[20] This number should be sixty-six.

[21] Charford, near Fordingbridge, Hants.

[22] That is, from seven till nine o'clock in the morning.

[23] Wimbledon, or Worplesdon, Surrey.



In the beginning of this book it will not be necessary to make a long preface, my dearest sister; for I have guided my pen down through many perplexed subjects from the highest point, and, omitting those things extracted from sacred and profane history, on which most persons have fixed their attention, have left higher matters to the skilful reader. And now I must turn my pen to the description of those things which properly concern our ancestors; and though a pupil is not properly called a member, yet it yields no little service to the other members.

We therefore entreat in God's name that our words may not be despised by the malevolent, but rather that they may give abundant thanks to the King of heaven, if they seem to speak things of high import.




Chap. I.Of the coming of Augustine, who was sent by the blessed Pope Gregory. [a.d. 596.]

As Divine Providence, mercifully looking down upon all things from all eternity, is accustomed to rule them, not by necessity, but by its powerful superintendence, and remain[Pg 10]ing always immoveable in itself, and disposing the different elements by its word, and the human race to come to the knowledge of the truth by the death of his only begotten Son, by whose blood the four quarters of the world are redeemed, so now by his servant doth it dispel the darkness in the regions of the west.

Whilst therefore the blessed pope Gregory sat on the episcopal seat, and sowed the seeds of the gospel of Christ, there stood by him some men of unknown tongue and very comely to look on. The holy man admiring the beauty of their countenances, asked of them with earnestness from what country they came. The young men with downcast looks replied, that they were Angles. "Are you Christians," said the holy man, "or heathens?" "Certainly not Christians," said they, "for no one has yet opened our ears." Then the holy man, lifting up his eyes, replied, "What man, when there are stones at hand, lays a foundation with reeds?" They answer, "No man of prudence." "You have well said," answered he; and he straightway took them into a room, where he instructed them in the divine oracles, and afterwards washed them with the baptism of Christ: and further he arranged with them, that he would go with them into their country. When the Romans heard of this they opposed his words, and were unwilling to allow their pastor to go so far from home. The blessed pope Gregory, therefore, seeing that the people were opposed to him, sent with the men aforesaid one of his disciples, who was well instructed in the divine oracles, by name Augustine, and with him a multitude of brethren. When these men arrived, the English received the faith and erected temples, and our Saviour Jesus Christ exhibited innumerable miracles to his faithful followers through the prayers of the bishop, St. Augustine; at whose tomb, even to the present day, no small number of miracles are wrought, with the assistance of our Lord.

Chap. II.Of king Ethelbert, and of his baptism. [a.d. 597.]

When the man aforesaid arrived, Ethelbert bore rule over Kent, and receiving the faith, submitted to be baptized with all his house. He was the first king among the English who received the word of Christ. Lastly Ethelbert was the son[Pg 11] of Ermenric, whose grandfather was Ochta, who bore the prænomen of Eisc,[24] from which the kings of Kent were afterwards named Esings, as the Romans from Romulus, the Cecropidæ from Cecrops, and the Tuscans from Tuscus. For Eisc was the father of Hengist, who was the first consul and leader of the Angles out of Germany; whose father was Wihtgils, his grandfather Witta, his great-grandfather Wecta, his great-grandfather's father Woden, who also was king of many nations, whom some of the pagans now still worship as a god. And the number of years that was completed from the incarnation of our Lord was four years less, than six hundred.[25]


[24] See William of Malmesbury, b. i. c. 1, p. 12, note.

[25] a.d. 596.

Chap. III.Of Ceolwulf, king of the West-Saxons, and of his continued wars.

A. 597. At the end of one year, Ceolwulf began to reign over the Western English.[26] His family was derived from Woden; and so great was his ferocity that he is said to have been always at war, either with his own nation or with the Britons, or the Picts or Scots.


[26] West-Saxons is the more correct term; but Ethelwerd often uses the more general name Angles or English, for all the tribes settled in England.

Chap. IV.Concerning Augustine's pall of apostleship sent him by pope Gregory.

A. 601. When he had reigned four years, pope Gregory sent to Augustine the pall of apostleship.

Chap. V.Of the faith of the East-Saxons, and of the decease of the blessed pope Gregory.

A. 604. After three years, the eastern English[27] also received baptism in the reign of Sigebert [Sabert] their king.

A. 606. Two years afterwards, the blessed pope Gregory departed this world, in the eleventh year after he had bestowed baptism on the English by sending among them Christ's servant Augustine. And the number of years that[Pg 12] was completed from the beginning of the world was more than five thousand and eight hundred.[28]


[27] Orientales Angli is the expression of Ethelwerd, but it should be Orientales Saxones, whose king's name is generally written Sabert. See preceding note.

[28] Ethelwerd adopts that system of chronology which makes 5300 to have elapsed before Christ.

Chap. VI.Of the reign of king Cynegils, his wars; and of the coming of bishop Birinus, of the baptism of the king, and the faith of the East-Saxons,[29] and of the baptism of Cuthred. [a.d. 615-639.]

Afterwards Cynegils received the kingdom of the West-Angles, and, in conjunction with Cuichelm, he fought against the Britons at a place called Beandune,[30] and having defeated their army, slew more than two thousand and forty of them.

A. 629. Fourteen years after, Cynegils and Cuichelm fought against Penda at Cirencester.

A. 635. After six years bishop Birinus came among the Western Angles, preaching to them the gospel of Christ. And the number of years that elapsed since their arrival in Britain out of Germany, was about one hundred and twenty. At that time Cynegils received baptism from the holy bishop Birinus, in a town called Dorchester.

A. 639. He baptized Cuthred also four years after in the same city, and adopted him as his son in baptism.


[29] Should be West-Saxons.

[30] Most probably Bampton in Oxfordshire. This battle took place in 614. See the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for that year.

Chap. VII.Of the reign of Kenwalk, and of his actions.

A. 648. When nine years were fulfilled, Kenwalk gave to his relation, Cuthred, out of his farms, three thousand measures, adjacent to a hill named Esc's dune, [Aston?]

A. 652. Four years after, he fought a battle against his own people, at a place called Bradford, on the river Afene.[31]

A. 655. Three years afterwards king Penda died, and the Mercians were baptized.

A. 658. After three years more, the kings Kenwalk and Pionna[32] renewed the war against the Britons, and pursued them to a place called Pederydan.[33]

[Pg 13]

A. 661. After three years, Kenwalk again fought a battle near the town of Pontesbury, and took prisoner Wulfhere, son of Penda, at Esc's-dune [Ashdown], when he had defeated his army.

A. 664. Three years afterwards there was an eclipse of the sun.

A. 670. When six years were fulfilled, Oswy, king of Northumberland, died, and Egfrid succeeded him.

A. 671. After one year more, there was a great pestilence among the birds, so that there was an intolerable stench by sea and land, arising from the carcasses of birds, both small and great.

A. 672. Twelve months after Kenwalk, king of the West-Angles, died; and his wife, Sexburga, succeeded him in the kingdom, and reigned twelve months.

A. 673. After her Escwin succeeded to the throne, and two years were fulfilled. His family traces to Cerdic.


[31] Avon.

[32] This should be "at Pionna," [Pen]. See Saxon Chronicle.

[33] Petherton.

Chap. VIII.Of Wulfhere and Cenwulf,[*] and of the council held by the holy father Theodore.

A. 674. After one year, Wulfhere son of Penda, and Cenwalh[34] fought a battle among themselves in a place called Beadanhead [Bedwin].

A. 677. After three years a comet was seen.

A. 680. At the end of two years a council was held at Hethlege,[35] by the holy archbishop Theodore, to instruct the people in the true faith. In the course of the same year died Christ's servant, Hilda, abbess of the monastery called Streaneshalch [Whitby].


[34]and [*] These names are both wrong; we must read Escwin.

[35] Heathfield or Hatfield.

Chap. IX.Of king Kentwin and his wars.

A. 682. After two years king Kentwin drove the Britons out of their country to the sea.

A. 684. After he had reigned two years[36] Ina became king of the western English. A hundred and eighty-eight years were then fulfilled from the time that Cerdic, his sixth[Pg 14] ancestor, received the western part of the island from the Britons.


[36] There is an error here: Cædwalla is omitted, and three years are lost in the chronology.

Chap. X.Of Cædwalla's conversion to the faith of Christ.

A. 684. In the course of the same year Cædwalla went to Rome, and received baptism and the faith of Christ; after his baptism the pope of that year gave him the surname of Peter.

A. 694. About six years afterwards, the Kentish men remembered the cause which they had against king Ina when they burnt his relation[37] with fire; and they gave him thirty thousand shillings at a fixed rate of sixteen pence each.


[37] His name was Mull: the passage is obscure. See the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

Chap. XI.Of the acts of Ethelred king of the Mercians.

A. 704. After ten years, Ethelred son of Penda and king of the Mercians assumed the monastic habit, when he had completed twenty-nine years of his reign.

A. 705. After twelve months died Alfrid king of Northumberland. And the number of years that was then fulfilled from the beginning of the world was five thousand nine hundred.

A. 709. Four years afterwards died the holy bishop Aldhelm, by whose wonderful art were composed the words which are now read, and his bishopric was the province which is now called Selwoodshire [Sherborne].

Chap. XII.Of the reign of Ina, and of his acts.

A. 710. After a year, the kings and Ina made war against king Wuthgirete;[38] also duke Bertfrid against the Picts.

A. 714. After four years died Christ's servant Guthlac.

A. 715. After a year Ina and Ceolred fought against those who opposed them in arms at Wothnesbeorghge [Wanborough.]

A. 721. After seven years Ina slew Cynewulf, and after six months made war against the Southern English.

[Pg 15]


[38] Called Gerent in the Saxon Chronicle, and Gerentius in Aldhelm's works.

Chap. XIII.Of king Ethelard.

A. 728. When six years were fulfilled he went to Rome, and Ethelard received the kingdom of the West Saxons. In the first year of his reign he made war against Oswy.[39]

A. 729. At the end of one year a comet appeared, and the holy bishop Egbert died.

A. 731. After two years, Osric king of Northumberland died and Ceolwulf succeeded to the kingdom.


[39] Should be Oswald king of Northumberland.

Chap. XIV.Of the acts of king Ethelbald.

A. 733. Two years after these things, king Ethelbald received under his dominion the royal vill which is called Somerton. The same year the sun was eclipsed.

A. 734. After the lapse of one year, the moon appeared as if stained with spots of blood, and by the same omen Tatwine and Bede[40] departed this life.


[40] It is doubtful whether Bede died in 734 or 735.

Chap. XV.Of the reign of Eadbert and of his deeds.

A. 738. After four years, Eadbert succeeded to the kingdom of the Northumbrians, and his brother Egbert discharged the archiepiscopal office; and now they both lie buried in the city of York, under the shade of the same porch.

Chap. XVI.Of the rule of king Cuthred.

A. 750. After twelve years king Cuthred began to make war against duke Ethelhun, for some state-jealousy.

A. 752. Again after two years he drew his sword against king Ethelbald at a place called Beorgforda.[41]

A. 753. After another year he gratified the fierce propensities of his nature by making war against the Britons: and after another year he died, a.d. 754.


[41] Without doubt this is Burford in Oxfordshire.

Chap. XVII.Of the acts of king Sigebert and of his reign.

Furthermore Sigebert received the kingdom of the western English.

A. 756. At the end of one year after Sigebert began to[Pg 16] reign, Cynewulf, invading his kingdom, took it from him, and drew away all the wise men of the west country, in consequence of the perverse deeds of the aforesaid king; nor was any part of his kingdom left to him except one province only, named Hamptonshire [Hampshire]. And he remained there no long time; for, instigated by an old affront, he slew a certain duke, and Cynewulf drove him into the wilds of Andred: and so he fled from thicket to thicket, until he was at last slain by a herdsman at a place named Pryffetesflodan,[42] and so the blood of duke Cumbra was avenged.


[42] Privett, Hampshire.

Chap. XVIII.Of the reign of Cynewulf, his war and deeds.

A. 755. These things having been premised, Cynewulf frequently fought no slight battles against the Britons. For when thirty-one years had passed, he tried to expel from his territories a certain chief named Cyneard, brother to Sigebert, whose deeds have been related above. He was afterwards besieged by this prince, for it was told him that he was in company of a certain courtezan at a place called Meranton [Merton], and though he had with him only a few men, who knew nothing of the matter, he surrounded the house with arms. The king, seeing how he was situated, leaped to the door, and bravely repelled their weapons; but making up his mind he rushed upon the prince, and inflicted no slight wounds upon him; his companions, not forgetting his threats, raised their weapons and slew the king. The report being spread, the king's soldiers, who had been in his company, each for himself, as was their custom, made an attack, uttering shouts. But the prince, soothing them, promised them gifts and ample honours. They desire death, now that their lord is dead; nor do they attend to his promises, but rush with one accord upon death. None of them escaped with life except one British hostage, and he had received severe wounds. When, therefore, the day dawned, it became known to the soldiers, who had remained behind the king's back, they assembled together and set forth, and with them Osric the duke and Wigferth the knight. They found the prince in the house, where their master was lying dead. The doors are beleaguered on both sides. Within are the one party, and the[Pg 17] other party are without. The prince asks a truce, and makes ample promises; his object is future sovereignty. The king's friends spurn these offers, and rather seek to separate from the prince their relations who were in his company. These reject their proposals; on the contrary they answer their friends thus:[43] "No tie is so powerful as that which binds us to our lord; and whereas you ask us to depart, we tell you that we made the same proposal to those who were slain with your king, and they would not accede to it." To this the other party rejoined, "But you will remain unhurt, if you only depart, nor share in the vengeance which we shall inflict for those who were slain with the king." They returned no answer to this, but silently begin the battle; shield punishes shield, and arms are laced in bucklers, relation falls by his kinsman; they smash the doors, one pursues after another, and a lamentable fight ensues. Alas! they slay the prince; all his companions are laid low before his face, except one, and he was the baptismal son of duke Osric, but half alive, and covered with wounds.

Now Cynewulf reigned thirty-one years, and his body lies entombed in the city of Winchester. The above-named prince also reposes in the church commonly called Axanminster.[44] Both their families trace to Cerdic.

A. 755. In the same year Ethelbald, king of Mercia, was slain at a place called Seccandune,[45] and his body rests in a monastery called Reopandune.[46] Bernred succeeded to the kingdom, and not long after he also died.


[43] This is a sort of paraphrase rather than a translation: the original is not only bad in style and ungrammatical, but exceedingly corrupt and very obscure.

[44] Now Axminster. The syllable an or en occurs similarly in many ancient Saxon towns; thus Bedanford, Oxenford, &c., and Seccandune, Reopandune below.

[45] Now Seckington.

[46] Now Repton.

Chap. XIX.Of the reign of king Offa and of his deeds.

A. 756. In the revolution of the same year, Offa succeeded to the kingdom, a remarkable man, son of Thingferth; his grandfather was Enwulf, his great-grandfather Osmod, his great-grandfather's father Pybba, his great-grandfather's grandfather was Icel, his sixth ancestor Eomær, the[Pg 18] seventh Angeltheow, the eighth Offa, the ninth Wærmund, the tenth Wihtlæg, the eleventh Woden.

A. 773. Also after seventeen years, from the time that Cynewulf took the kingdom from Sigebert, the sign of our Lord's cross appeared in the heavens after sun-set, and in the same year a civil contest[47] took place between the people of Kent and Mercia, at a place called Cittanford:[48] and in those days some monstrous serpents were seen in the country of the Southern Angles, which is called Sussex.

A. 777. About four years after, Cynewulf and Offa fought a battle near the town of Bensington, which was gained by Offa.

A. 779. Two years afterwards, the Gauls and Saxons stirred up no slight contests with one another.

A. 783. In short, after four years, Cyneard slays king Cynewulf, and is himself also slain there.


[47] The term 'civile bellum'—civil war is used by Ethelwerd, to denote a battle between the kindred Anglo-Saxon kingdoms; the classical reader will also note the use of the word 'bellum' for 'prœlium.'

[48] This should be Ottanford, or Otford, in Kent, a place of great antiquity.

Chap. XX.Of the acts of Bertric, king of the West-Saxons.

A. 783. In the same year Bertric received the kingdom of the West-Angles, whose lineage traces up to Cerdic.

A. 786. After three years, he took in marriage Offa's daughter Eadburga.




After what has been written in the foregoing pages, it remains that we declare the contents of our third book. We exhort you, therefore, most beloved object of my desire, that the present work may not be thought tedious by you for its length of reading, since to thee especially I dedicate this. Wherefore, the farther my mind digresses, the more does my affectionate love generate and expand itself.

[Pg 19]



Whilst the pious king Bertric was reigning over the western parts of the English, and the innocent people spread through their plains were enjoying themselves in tranquillity and yoking their oxen to the plough, suddenly there arrived on the coast a fleet of Danes, not large, but of three ships only: this was their first arrival. When this became known, the king's officer, who was already stopping in the town of Dorchester, leaped on his horse and gallopped forwards with a few men to the port, thinking that they were merchants rather than enemies, and, commanding them in an authoritative tone, ordered them to be made to go to the royal city; but he was slain on the spot by them, and all who were with him. The name of the officer was Beaduherd.

A. 787. And the number of years that was fulfilled was above three hundred and thirty-four, from the time that Hengist and Horsa arrived in Britain, in which also Bertric married the daughter of king Offa.

A. 792. Moreover, it was after five years that Offa king of the Mercians commanded the head of king Ethelbert to be struck off.

A. 794. After two years Offa also died, and Egfert his son succeeded to the kingdom, and died in the same year. Pope Adrian also departed this life. Ethelred, king of the Northumbrians, was slain by his own people.

Chap. I.Of Kenulf, king of the Mercians, and of his wars.

A. 796. After two years, Kenulf, king of the Mercians, ravaged Kent and the province which is called Merscwari,[49] and their king Pren was taken, whom they loaded with chains, and led as far as Mercia.

A. 797. Then after a year, the enraged populace of Rome cut out the tongue of the blessed pope Leo, and tore out his eyes, and drove him from his apostolical seat. But suddenly, by the aid of Christ, who is always wonderful in his works, his sight was restored, and his tongue regifted with speech, and he resumed his seat of apostleship as before.

A. 800. After three years, king Bertric died.

[Pg 20]


[49] The Merscwari are thought to have been the inhabitants of Romney, in Kent, and its vicinity.

Chap. II.Of the reign of Egbert, and his deeds.

Therefore Egbert is raised to the kingdom of the West Saxons. On the very same day, as king Ethelmund was passing through a farm, Wiccum, intending to go to a ford called Cynemæresford [Kempsford], duke Woxstan met him there with the centuries of the inhabitants of the province of Wilsætum [Wiltshire]. Both of them fell in the battle, but the Wilsætæ remained the victors.

Also, down to the time that Egbert received the kingdom, there were completed from the beginning of the world 5995 years, from the incarnation of our Lord 800 years, from the coming of Hengist and Horsa into Britain 350 years, from the reign of Cerdic, the tenth ancestor of king Egbert, when he subdued the western part of Britain, 300 years, and from the coming of Augustine, who was sent by the blessed pope Gregory to baptize the English nation, 204 years: and in the tenth year afterwards the holy father Gregory died.

A. 805. After king Egbert had reigned five years, was the death of Cuthred king of Kent.

A. 812. In the seventh year Charles, king of the Franks, departed this life.

A. 814. After two years, the blessed pope Leo passed from one virtue to another.

A. 819. After five years, Kenulf king of the Mercians died.

A. 821. His successor was Ceolwulf, who was deprived of the kingdom two years afterwards.

A. 822. A year afterwards a great synod was held at a place called Cloveshoo,[50] and two dukes were there slain Burhelm and Mucca.

A. 823. After one year a battle was fought against the Britons in the province of Defna [Devonshire], at a place called Camelford. In the same year king Egbert fought a battle against Bernulf king of the Mercians at Ellendune,[51] and Egbert gained the victory: but there was a great loss on both sides; and Hun duke of the province of Somerset was there slain: he lies buried in the city of Winchester. Lastly, king Egbert sent his son Ethelwulf with an army[Pg 21] into Kent, and with him bishop Ealstan and duke Wulfherd. They defeated the Kentish army, and pursued their king Baldred into the northern parts beyond the Thames. To whom the men of Kent are afterwards subjected, and also the provinces of Surrey and Sussex, that is, the midland and southern Angles.

A. 824. For in the course of the same year the king of the East-Angles with the wise men of his realm, visits king Egbert, for the sake of peace and protection, on account of his fear of the Mercians.

A. 825. In the course of that year the aforesaid East-Angles made war against Bernulf king of the Mercians, and having defeated his army they slew him and five dukes with him. His successor was Withlaf.

A. 827. Two years afterwards, the moon was eclipsed on the very night of Christ's nativity. And in the same year king Egbert reduced under his power all that part of the kingdom which lies to the south of the river Humber: he was the eighth king in Britain who was famous for his great power. For the first was Ælla king of the South-Angles, who possessed the same dominions as Egbert; the second was Ceawlin king of the West-Angles; the third Ethelbert king of Kent; the fourth Redwald king of the East-Angles; the fifth Edwin king of Northumbria; the sixth Oswald; the seventh Oswy brother of Oswald; after whom the eighth Egbert, of whom we have made mention above. He led his army against the Northumbrians, who also bent their necks and submitted to him.

A. 828. At the end of a year therefore, Withlaf again received the kingdom. At that time also, king Egbert led his army against the northern Britons, and when he had subdued all of them, he returned in peace.

A. 832. After four years therefore the pagans devastated the territories of a place called Sceapige.[52]

A. 833. After one year Egbert fought against the pagan fleet, in number thirty-five vessels, at a place called Carrum [Charmouth]: and the Danes obtained the victory.

A. 836. Lastly after three years, a large army of Britons approached the frontiers of the West-Saxons: without de[Pg 22]lay they form themselves into a compact body, and carry their arms against Egbert king of the Angles. Egbert therefore having ascertained the state of things beforehand, assembled his army and twice imbued their weapons in the blood of the Britons at Hengeston,[53] and put them to flight.

A. 837. At the end of a year the powerful king Egbert died.


[50] Near Rochester, Kent.

[51] Wilton.

[52] The Isle of Sheppey.

[53] Hengston-hill, Cornwall.

Chap. III.Of the reign of Ethelwulf and of his deeds.

After his death, Athulf[54] succeeded to the throne of his father Egbert, and he delivered up the kingdom of Kent to his son Athelstan, together with East-Saxony, South-Saxony, and Surrey, i.e. the eastern, southern and midland parts.

A. 838. After one year, duke Wulfherd fought with the pagan fleet near the town of Hamptun [Southampton], and having slain many of them gained the victory: the number of ships in the fleet was thirty-three. After this exploit the duke himself died in peace. The same year duke Ethelhelm, with the people of the province of Dorset, fought another battle against the pagan army at Port, and pursued them some distance: but afterwards the Danes were victorious, and slew the duke and his companions with him.

A. 839. After one year duke Herebert was slain by the Danes at Merswarum;[55] and the same year a great slaughter was made by that army in the city of Lindsey, and in the province of Kent, and in East Anglia.

A. 840. Also after one year, the same thing took place in the city of London, in Quintanwic [Canterbury], and in the town of Rochester.

A. 841. Meanwhile, after one year king Ethelwulf fought against the Danes at a place called Charmouth, by whom also he was vanquished, and the victors kept possession of the ground.

A. 844. Three years afterwards duke Eanwulf, who governed the province of Somerset, and bishop Ealstan also, and Osric duke of Dorset, fought a battle against the pagans at the mouth of the Parret before-mentioned; where[Pg 23] they gained the victory, having defeated the Danish army. Also in the same year king Athelstan and duke Elchere fought against the army of the above-mentioned nation in the province of Kent, near the town of Sandwich, where they slew many of them, put their troops to flight, and took nine ships.

A. 851. After seven years Ceorl duke of Devon fought a battle against the pagans at Wembury,[56] where they slew many of the Danes and gained the victory. In the course of the same year, the barbarians wintered first in the isle of Thanet, which lies not far from Britain, and has fruitful but not large corn fields. That year was not yet finished, when a large fleet of pagans arrived, 350 ships, at the mouth of the river Thames, commonly called Thames-mouth, and destroyed the city of Canterbury and the city of London, and put to flight Berthwulf king of Mercia, having defeated his army. After the battle they returned beyond the river Thames towards the south through the province of Surrey, and there king Ethelwulf with the Western Angles met them: an immense number was slain on both sides, nor have we ever heard of a more severe battle before that day: these things happened near Ockley Wood.

A. 854. After three years king Burhred asked assistance from king Ethelwulf to subdue the Northern Britons: he granted it, and having collected his army, passed through the Mercian kingdom to go against the Britons: whom he subdued and made tributary. In the same year king Ethelwulf sent his son Alfred to Rome, in the days of our lord pope Leo,[57] who consecrated him king and named him his son in baptism, when we are accustomed to name little children, when we receive them from the bishop's hand. In the same year were fought battles in the isle of Thanet against the pagans; and there was a great slaughter made on both sides, and many were drowned in the sea. The same year also after Easter king Ethelwulf gave his daughter in marriage to king Burhred.

A. 855. After a year the pagans wintered in Sheppey. In the same year king Ethelwulf gave the tenth of all his possessions to be the Lord's portion, and so appointed it to[Pg 24] be in all the government of his kingdom. In the same year he set out to Rome with great dignity, and stayed there twelve months. As he returned home, therefore, to his country, Charles, king of the Franks, gave him his daughter in marriage, and he took her home with him to his own country.

A. 857. Lastly, after a year king Ethelwulf died, and his body reposes in the city of Winchester. Now the aforesaid king was son of king Egbert, and his grandfather was Elmund, his great-grandfather Eafa, his great-grandfather's father was Eoppa, and his great-grandfather's grandfather was Ingild, brother of Ina, king of the Western-Angles, who ended his life at Rome; and the above-named kings derived their origin from king Kenred. Kenred was the son of Ceolwald, son of Cuthwin, son of Ceawlin, son of Cynric, son of Cerdic, who also was the first possessor of the western parts of Britain, after he had defeated the armies of the Britons: his father was Elesa, son of Esla, son of Gewis, son of Wig, son of Freawin, son of Frithogar, son of Brond, son of Beldeg, son of Woden, son of Frithowald, son of Frealaf, son of Frithuwulf, son of Finn, son of Godwulf, son of Geat, son of Tætwa, son of Beaw, son of Sceldi, son of Sceaf. This Sceaf came with one ship to an island of the ocean named Scani, sheathed in arms, and he was a young boy, and unknown to the people of that land; but he was received by them, and they guarded him as their own with much care, and afterwards chose him for their king. It is from him that king Ethelwulf derives his descent. And then was completed the fiftieth year from the beginning of king Egbert's reign.


[54] Generally called Ethelwulf by modern writers.

[55] Romney Marsh.

[56] Near Plymouth.

[57] Leo the Fourth.



Three books are now finished, and it remains to guide my pen to the fourth, in which also will be found greater gain, and the origin of our race is more clearly intimated. And, although I may seem to send you a load of reading, dearest sister of my desire, do not judge me harshly, but as my writings were in love to you, so may you read them.

And may God Almighty, who is praised both in Trinity[Pg 25] and in Unipotence ever preserve you under the shadow of his wings, and your companions with you. Amen!


Chap. I.Of the reign of the sons of king Ethelwulf, namely Ethelbald and Ethelbert.

Meanwhile, after the death of king Ethelwulf, his sons were raised to the kingdom, namely Ethelbald over the Western Angles, and Ethelbert over the men of Kent, and the Eastern, Southern, and Midland Angles.

A. 861. When five years were completed, king Ethelbald died, and his brother Ethelbert succeeded to the possessions of both. In those days a large fleet of pagans came to land, and destroyed the royal city which is called Winton. They were encountered by Osric duke of Hampshire, and Ethelwulf duke of Berkshire: a battle ensued; the pagans were routed, and the English gained the victory.

A. 865. After four years, from the death of king Ethelbald, the pagans strengthened their position in the isle of Thanet, and promise to be at peace with the men of Kent, who on their part prepare money, ignorant of the future. But the Danes break their compact, and sallying out privately by night, lay waste all the eastern coast of Kent.

A. 866. After one year king Ethelbert died, and his body rests peaceably in the monastery named Sherborne.

Chap. II.Of the reign of king Ethelred.

Ethelred succeeded to the throne after the death of his brother Ethelbert. In the same year the fleets of the tyrant Hingwar arrived in England from the north, and wintered among the East Angles, and having established their arms there, they get on their horses, and make peace with all the inhabitants in their own neighbourhood.

A. 867. After one year that army, leaving the eastern parts, crossed the river Humber into Northumberland to the city of Evoric, which is now commonly called the city of Eoferwic [York]. For there was then a great civil dissension between the inhabitants of that land, and they were so enraged that they also expelled their king Osbert from his[Pg 26] seat; and having confirmed their resolves, they chose an obscure person for their king; and after some delay they turned their thoughts to raise an army and repulse those who were advancing. They collected together no small bodies of troops, and reconnoitred the enemy: their rage was excited: they joined battle, a miserable slaughter took place on both sides, and the kings were slain. Those of them who were left made peace with the hostile army.

In the same year died Eanwulf, duke of Somerset; also bishop Ealstan, fifty years after his succession to the bishopric, in the diocese called Sherborne. There also his body now reposes; and that of the above-named duke in the monastery called Glastonbury.

A. 868. After one year therefore, the army of the pagans, of whose arrival we have spoken above, measured out their camp in a place called Snotingaham [Nottingham], and there they passed the winter, and Burhred king of the Mercians, with his nobles, consented to their remaining there without reproach.

A. 869. At the end of a year therefore, the army was transported to York, and there also they measured out their camp in the winter season.

A. 870. Again after a year they departed, and passed through Mercia into East-Anglia, and there measured out their camp for the winter at Thetford. King Edmund carried on war against them for a short time, but he was slain there by them, and his body lies entombed at a place called Beodoricsworthe,[58] and the barbarians obtained the victory, but with the loss of their king soon afterwards: for king Hingwar died the same year; archbishop Ceolnoth also died that same year, and is buried in the city of Canterbury.

A. 871. After one year therefore the army of the barbarians above-mentioned set out for Reading, and the principal object of the impious crew was to attack the West-Saxons; and three days after they came, their two consuls, forgetting that they were not on board their fleet, rode proudly through fields and meadows on horseback, which nature had denied to them.[59]

[Pg 27]

But duke Ethelwulf met them, and though his troops were few, their hearts resided in brave dwellings: they point their darts, they rout the enemy, and triumph in abundant spoils. At length four days after their meeting, Ethelred arrives with his army; an indescribable battle is fought, now these, now those urge on the fight with spears immoveable; duke Ethelwulf falls, who a short time before had obtained the victory: the barbarians at last triumph. The body of the above-named duke is privately withdrawn, and carried into the province of the Mercians, to a place called Northworthig, but Derby in the language of the Danes. Four days after king Ethelred with his brother Alfred fought again with all the army of the Danes at Æscendune;[60] and there was great slaughter on both sides: but at last king Ethelred obtained the victory. But it is proper that I should declare the names of those chiefs who fell there: Bagsac king, the veteran Sidrac their consul, the younger Sidrac also, the consul Osbern, the consul Frene, the consul Harold; and, so to speak, all the flower of the barbarian youth was there slain, so that neither before nor since was ever such destruction known since the Saxons first gained Britain by their arms.

Fourteen days after, they again took courage and a second battle was fought at a place called Basing: the barbarians came and took part over against them; the fight began, and hope passed from the one side to the other; the royal army was deceived, the enemy had the victory, but gained no spoils.

Furthermore after two months the aforesaid king Ethelred renewed the battle, and with him was his brother Alfred, at Merton, against all the army of the barbarians, and a large number was slain on both sides. The barbarians obtained the victory; bishop Heahmund there fell by the sword, and his body lies buried at Cægineshamme.[61] Many others also fell or fled in that battle, concerning whom it seems to be a loss of time to speak more minutely at present. Lastly, after the above-mentioned battle, and after the Easter of the same year, died king Ethelred, from whose family I derive my origin.

[Pg 28]

And now I have followed up my plan, dear cousin Matilda, and will begin to consolidate my subject; and like a ship which, having sailed a long way over the waves, already occupies the port, to which in her patient voyage she had been tending: so we, like sailors, are already entering, and as I briefly intimated to you in my former epistle, so also in the prefaces to this present book, and without any impropriety I again remind you, and though I cut short the course of that which is visionary, not impelled by necessity, but through love of your affection, I now send it you again more fully to be meditated upon concerning the origin of our family, and sufficiently embrace the study of your sincerity.[62]

Thus far then: I will now leave obscurity and begin to speak concerning the sons of Ethelwulf. They were five in number: the first was Ethelstan, who also shared the kingdom with his father: the second was Ethelbald, who also was king of the Western English: the third was Ethelbert, king of Kent: the fourth was Ethelred, who after the death of Ethelbert succeeded to the kingdom, and was also my grandfather's grandfather: the fifth was Alfred, who succeeded after all the others to the whole sovereignty, and was your grandfather's grandfather. Wherefore I make known to you, my beloved cousin Matilda, that I receive these things from ancient tradition, and have taken care in most brief style to write the history of our race down to these two kings, from whom we have taken our origin. To you therefore, most beloved, I devote this work, compelled by the love of our relationship: if others receive them with haughtiness, they will be judged unworthy of the feast; if otherwise, we advise all in charity to gather what is set before them. Let us return then to the story that we broke off, and to the death of the above-named Ethelred. His reign lasted five years, and he is buried in the monastery which goes by the name of Wimborne.


[58] Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk.

[59] I shall be glad if my readers will find a better translation for this obscure and inflated passage.

[60] See William of Malmesbury, b. ii. c. 3, p. 111, note.

[61] Keynsham.

[62] I must again request the reader to pardon the obscurity which so frequently occurs in our author's style, and my inability to deal with such passages; the above is a tolerably close translation of the original.

Chap. III.Of the reign of king Alfred.

A. 871. After these things, Alfred obtained the kingdom when his brothers were dead,—he also was the youngest son of king Ethelwulf—over all the provinces of Britain.[Pg 29]

There came a summer-army innumerable to Reading, and were eager to fight against the army of the West-Angles: to their aid also came those who had already long time been ravaging. But the army of the Angles at that time was small on account of the king's absence, who at the same time had performed his brother's obsequies, and although their ranks were not full, yet their hearts were firm in their breasts, they rejoice in the fight, and repel the enemy: but at length oppressed with fatigue, they cease from the fight. The barbarians hold possession of a sterile field of battle: afterwards also they spread themselves and ravage the country. During their foul domination, there were three battles fought by the Angles, besides the battles before-mentioned, and eleven of their consuls, whom they call "earls," were slain, and one of their kings. Lastly, in the same year the Eastern Angles made peace with them. And the number of years to the encamping of the barbarian army in Reading and to the death of king Ethelred and the succession of his brother Alfred was the seventy-first from the time that Egbert had first consolidated the kingdom, and forty-seven from the time that the Mercians and Western Angles carried on civil wars at the place called Ellandune,[63] and king Egbert received the name of victor twenty-six years from the time that the battle was fought in Pedredan [Petherton]; and twenty years after the contest which was waged near the wood called Ockley, and lastly five years from the arrival of the pagans in the country of the East Angles: and without long delay, they then went to Reading.

A. 872. After a year had elapsed from the time of their coming to Reading, they measured out their camp in the neighbourhood of the city of London. But the Mercians ratify a treaty with them, and pay a stipend.

A. 873. After one year the barbarians change their position to the neighbourhood of the city of Lindsey in a place called Torksey. The Mercian people renew their treaty with them.

A. 874. After the lapse of a year, the barbarians at length remove to a place called Repton, and drive king Burhred from the kingdom beyond the sea. Twenty and two years[Pg 30] are enumerated from the time that he first occupied his father's kingdom. They now break the peace, and devastate the lands of the Mercians. The above-named king did not abandon his hope in Christ, but made a journey to Rome and died there, and his body, laid in a worthy mausoleum, reposes in the temple of Christ's blessed mother, which is now called the school of the English. At the same time Ceolwulf possessed the kingdom of the Mercians.

A. 875. Lastly after a year, the barbarians divide the kingdom into two parts: and Halfdene the leader of the barbarians took one part, namely the kingdom of the Northumbrians, and there he chose his winter-quarters near the river called the Tyne, and they ravaged the country there on every side. But they also made frequent wars on the Picts and the men of Cumberland. Oskytel also, and Gothrun, and Anwiund, their three kings, with an immense army, came from Repton to a place called Grantabridge [Cambridge], and there remained twelve months. Furthermore in the summer of the same year, king Alfred came out with his army on board a fleet by sea, and the barbarians met them with seven tall vessels. A battle ensues, and the Danes are routed: the king takes one of their ships.

A. 876. After one year, the tyrant Halfdene obtained the kingdom of the Northumbrians, all of whom he reduced to subjection. And in the course of the same year, the army which had been at Cambridge made a junction with the western army, a thing which they had not done before, near the town which is called Wareham, and ravaged the greater part of that province. Also the king ratified a treaty of peace with them and gave them money. But they gave him hostages chosen out of their army, and made oath to him on their sacred bracelet which they had never done to the kings of the other districts, that they would quickly leave their territories.

A. 877. But they broke the peace and contravened their engagements, and the following year extended their troops into the province of Devon, where they passed the winter at Exeter. Lastly their fleets put to sea and spread their sails to the wind: but a lamentable storm came on, and the greatest part of them, namely a hundred of their chief ships, were sunk near the rock which is called Swanwich. The[Pg 31] barbarians renew their fraud and offer peace: hostages were given, more than were demanded, to the effect that they would withdraw out of the territories of king Alfred; and they did so. They devastate the kingdom of the Mercians and drive out all the free men. They erect their huts in the town of Gloucester.

A. 878. At the end of that year therefore this foul mob broke the compact which they had before solemnly made with the Western Angles, and they take up their winter-quarters at Chippenham. The people were everywhere unable to resist: some of them were driven by the impious wretches over the sea into Gaul. King Alfred was at this time straitened more than was becoming. Ethelnoth also duke of Somerset lived with a narrow retinue in a certain wood, and they built a stronghold in the island of Athelingay,[64] which seems to have been situated in a marsh. But the aforesaid king fought daily battles against the barbarians, having with him the province of Somerset only; no others assisted him, except the servants who made use of the king's pastures. In the same year arrived Halfdene brother of the tyrant Hingwar with thirty galleys, in the western parts of the Angles, and besieged Odda duke of Devon in a certain castle, and war was stirred up on all sides. The king of the barbarians fell, and eighty decads with him. At last the Danes obtain the victory.

Meanwhile, after the Easter[65] of that year, king Alfred fought against the army that was in Chippenham, at a place called Ethandune,[66] and they obtain the victory. But after the decision of the battle, the barbarians promise peace, ask a truce, give hostages, and bind themselves by oath: their king submits to be baptized, and Alfred the king receives him from the laver in the marshy isle of Alney.[67] Duke Ethelnoth also purified the same at a place called Wedmore, and king Alfred there bestowed upon him magnificent honors.

[Pg 32]

A. 879. After a year from the time of the pagan army leaving Gloucester, they marched to Cirencester, and there wintered. In the course of the same year the sun was eclipsed.

A. 880. A year after the eclipse, the aforesaid army struck their tents, and leaving Cirencester went into the country of the East Angles, and pitching their camp, reduced all the inhabitants of those parts to subjection. And it was now fourteen years since the barbarians first wintered in the country aforesaid, and ravaged it. In the same year, when they had reduced the district aforesaid, they went in a vessel to Gaul and took up a position at a place called Ghent: the same men who had formerly measured out their camp at a place called Fulham.

A. 881. After a year, they attempt to proceed further; but the armies of the Franks assail them and gain the victory; the barbarians were put to flight.

A. 882. After a year the aforesaid army passed into the upper districts of the Maese and measured out their camp at a place called Escelum.[68] In the same year king Alfred put to sea and fell in with four ships; which he defeated, and destroyed two, the others surrendered.

A. 883. The next year the aforesaid army entered the parishes of the Scald,[69] to a place called Cundath;[70] and there measured out their camp for the winter.

A. 884. After one year had expired, that pestilential army aforesaid removed to the higher districts of the Somme, to a place called Embenum,[71] and there wintered.

A. 885. After a year they divide themselves into two parts: one to Sofenum,[72] the other to Rochester; and they laid siege to those towns. They also construct other smaller camps. Defeat prevails among the inhabitants until the arrival of king Alfred with an army. The foul plague was vanquished, and sought reinforcement....[73] Some of them made for the sea-coasts. The same year they renewed their[Pg 33] league, and gave hostages to the English, and twice in the year they counted the spoil which they had obtained by fraud, in the land which borders on the southern bank of the Thames. The filthy crew which were then in possession of the East Angles, suddenly removed to a place called Bamfleet; and there the allied band divided; some of them remained, and some of them went beyond the sea. In the same year, therefore, the aforesaid king Alfred sent his fleet into the country of the East Angles, and immediately on their arrival, there met them at a place called Stourmouth sixteen ships, which they forthwith ravaged, and slew the captains with the sword. The rest of the pirate-crew met them; they ply their oars, their armour shines over the constrained waters, the barbarians obtain the victory. In the same year died Charles the Magnificent king of the Franks, cut off by death before the revolution of one year; after him came his uterine brother who ruled over the western coasts of Gaul. Both were sons of Louis, who had formerly possessed the sole sovereignty: his life had reached its termination during the eclipse of the sun aforesaid. He was son of the great king Charles, whose daughter Ethelwulf king of the English had taken to wife. In the course of that year, a great number of barbarians landed and filled the coasts of the Old Saxons; two battles were fought soon after: the Saxons were the victors, and the Frisons also were present in the contest. In the same year Charles the Younger succeeded to the sovereignty of all the western parts of Gaul as far as the Tyrrhenian sea, and, if I may so speak, of the dominions of his grandfather, except the province of the Lidwiccas.[74] His father was Lodwicus, brother of the middle Charles whose daughter was married to Ethelwulf king of the English. And both of these were sons of Lodwicus, namely, Lodwicus was son of Charlemagne who was the son of Pepin.

In the same year died the blessed pope Martin,[75] who also gave freedom to the school of the English, by the appointment of king Alfred, and sent as a present part of the thrice blessed cross of Christ, who is the salvation of the world. In the course of that year, the above-named pestilential crew broke their engagements, and marched in arms against king Alfred.[Pg 34] Lastly, after a year, they went to the lower parts of Gaul, and fixed on a place to winter near the river Seine. Meanwhile, the city of London was fortified by king Alfred, whom no civil discord could subdue, either by cunning or by force: all men received him as a saviour, and particularly the Saxons—except the barbarians—and those who were then held prisoners in their hands. Also, after his army was strengthened, Ethered was appointed leader there by the aforesaid king, to guard the citadel.

A. 887. Now the army which were at that time ravaging the country of Gaul cut their way through the bridge of the citadel of Paris, and devastated the whole country along the Seine, as far as the Marne, and above its vertex, as far as Catsig [Chezy], where they thrice fixed their winter quarters. In the same year also died Charles, king of the Franks, and his cousin Arnulf succeeded to the kingdom, seven years before his uncle's death. The kingdom was then divided into five, and so many kings in the same: but all things are done by the permission of king Arnulf, and they promised to be all under his subjection, because they were not like him, descended from the paternal stock; and he lived after this on the eastern side of the river Rhine. But Rodulf occupied the middle parts of the kingdom, Oda the western parts, and Beorngar with Witha held the kingdom of the Lombards from the division of the Jovian mountain.[76] There they began a civil war; people assailed people; the lands of both were continually disturbed, nor was there any hope of quiet.

The same year, in which the barbarians had settled on the bridge of Paris, duke Ethelhelm received no small part of the money paid from the diocese of the English by the king for the people, and went to Rome. In the same year died queen Ethelswith.

A. 888. In the lapse of the same year also, archbishop Athelred deceased, and Ethelwold, commander in Kent.

A. 889. After one year, abbat Bernhelm carried to Rome the alms for the people, and principally those of the western English and of king Alfred. Then also Gothrun, king of the northern English, yielded his breath to Orcus; he had taken the name of Athelstan, as he came out of the baptismal laver, from his godfather, king Alfred, and had his seat[Pg 35] among the East-Angles, since he there also had held the first station.

In the same year, the aforesaid army of barbarians removed from the river Seine to a place called Santlaudah,[77] situated between the Bretons and the Franks; but the Bretons met them in arms, and obtained the victory, and followed them to the windings of a certain river, and there not a few of them were drowned in the waters.

A. 891. One year afterwards, the bands of the aforesaid army visited the eastern parts of France; king Arnulf met them; a fight of cavalry took place before the fleets arrived. An army of eastern Franks came up, Saxons and Bavarians; the pagans spread their sails to flee. In the same year, three chosen men of Hibernian race, burning with piety, leave their country: they privately form a boat by sewing ox-hides; they put into it provisions for a week; they sail seven days and seven nights, and arrive on the shores of Cornwall: here they left their fleet, which had been guided, not by the strength of their arms, but by the power of Him who rules all things, and set out for the court of king Alfred, who with his senate rejoice in their coming. From thence they proceed to Rome, and, as is customary with teachers of Christ, they essay to go thence to Jerusalem:[78] ... Their names were, Dubslane, the first; Macbeth, the second; Maelinmun, the third, flourishing in the arts, skilled in letters, and a distinguished master of the Scots. Also in the same year, after Easter a comet appeared, which some think to be an omen of foul times, which have already past; but it is the most approved theory of philosophers, that they foretel future things, as has been tried in many ways.

A. 893. One year after the barbarians fought against king Arnulf, they go to Boulogne, and there build a fleet, and pass over into England. There they station their fleet in the Limnean port, at a place called Apoldre [Appledore, in the eastern part of Kent,] and destroy an ancient castle, because there was but a small band of rustics within, and there they make their winter camp. In the course of this year, a large fleet belonging to Hasten arrives on the banks of the river Thames,[Pg 36] and found a citadel on the coasts of Kent, at a place called Middleton [Milton]: they encamp there the whole winter; and the number of years that had elapsed from the glorious nativity of our Saviour was nine hundred, all but seven.

After the Easter of that year, the army which had come from Gaul leave their camp, and trace the intricacies of a certain immense wood, which is called Andred, and they extend as far as the Western Angles. Slowly as they go, they ravage the adjoining provinces, Hampshire and Berkshire: these things were told to the heir of Edward, son of king Alfred, who had been exercising himself in the southern parts of England. After this they reach the Western Angles, who meet them with threatening arms and dense array at Farnham: they exult, freed by the arrival of the prince, like sheep under the protection of the shepherd; the tyrant is wounded, and his troops are driven across the river Thames into the northern countries.

Meanwhile, the Danes are held besieged in Thorney isle. Earl Ethered, setting out from the city of London, lent his aid to the prince. The barbarians asked peace and a treaty: hostages are given, they promise by oath to leave the kingdom of the aforesaid king; their words and deeds agree together without delay. Lastly, they set out for the country of the East-Angles, formerly governed by the king Saint Edmund, and their ships fly round to them from the Limnean port to Meresige [Mersey], a place in Kent.

In the course of the same year, Hasten breaks away with his band from Bamfleet, and devastates all Mercia, until they arrive at the end of Britain. The army, which was then in the eastern part of the country, supplied them with reinforcements, and the Northumbrian, in the same way. The illustrious duke Ethelm, with a squadron of cavalry, and duke Ethelnoth, with an army of Western-Angles, followed behind them, and Ethered, earl of the Mercians, pressed after them with great impetuosity. The youth of both people join battle, and the Angles obtain the victory. These things are said by ancient writers to have been done at Buttington, and the exertions of the Danes appeared futile; they again ratify peace, give hostages, and promise to leave that part of the country. In the same year Danaasuda,[79] in Bamfleet, was[Pg 37] destroyed by the people, and they divide the treasure among them.

After this, Sigeferth, the pirate, lands from his fleet in Northumbria, and twice devastates the coast, after which he returns home.

A. 895. When two years were completed, from the time that an immense fleet came from Boulogne to Limnæ, a town of the Angles, duke Ethelnoth set out from the western parts of the Angles, and goes from the city of York against the enemy, who devastate no small tracts of land in the kingdom of the Mercians, on the west of Stanford; i.e. between the courses of the river Weolod[80] and a thick wood, called Ceoftefne.

A. 896. In the course of one year also, died Guthfrid, king of the Northumbrians, on the birthday of Christ's apostle, St. Bartholomew, whose body is buried at York, in the high church.

A. 900. Meanwhile, after four years, from the time that the above-named king died, there was a great discord among the English, because the foul bands of the Danes still remained throughout Northumberland. Lastly, in the same year, king Alfred departed out of this world, that immoveable pillar of the Western Saxons, that man full of justice, bold in arms, learned in speech, and, above all other things, imbued with the divine instructions. For he had translated into his own language, out of Latin, unnumbered volumes, of so varied a nature, and so excellently, that the sorrowful book of Boethius seemed, not only to the learned, but even to those who heard it read, as it were, brought to life again. The monarch died on the seventh day before the solemnity of All Saints, and his body rests in peace in the city of Winton. Pray, O reader, to Christ our Redeemer, that he will save his soul!


[63] Allington, Wiltshire.

[64] Athelney, no longer an island, is situated near Borough-bridge in Somersetshire.

[65] Easter Day was the 23rd of March in the year 878.

[66] Heddington.

[67] Some suppose that this is Aller near Athelingay, or Athelney; but Athelney itself is called Alney by the common people; it is therefore more likely that Athelingay and Alney were the same place, as they are at present.

[68] Aschloha, or Ascloha, is on the Maese, about fourteen miles from the Rhine.

[69] The Scheldt.

[70] Condé.

[71] More commonly Ambiani, now Amiens.

[72] Louvain.

[73] I acknowledge my inability to translate this and many other passages of this obscure author. The events which here follow for the next half page are referred by the Saxon Chronicle to the year 894.

[74] Armorica, or Bretagne.

[75] This should be Marinus, not Martinus.

[76] Mount St. Barnard.

[77] Saint Lo.

[78] I omit this obscure passage rather than run the risk of misleading the reader by an inaccurate translation of it.

[79] This must be the fortress which Hasten's men built in Bamfleet.

[80] Welland, Northamptonshire.

Chap. IV.Of the reign of king Edward, and of his wars.

A. 901. The successor to the throne was Edward, son of the above-named king. He was elected by the nobles, and crowned with the royal crown on Whitsunday, one hundred years having elapsed since his great grandfather, Egbert,[Pg 38] had gained his present territories. In the same year Ethelbald received, in the city of London, the bishopric of the city of York; and, it appears, that the number of years completed, since Christ came in the flesh, was nine hundred full.

A. 902. After two years was the battle of Holme.[81] ... Five days after the festival of the blessed mother, they lock together their shields, brandish their swords, and vibrate their lances in both hands. There fell duke Siwulf and Sigelm, and almost all the Kentish nobility: and Eohric, king of the barbarians, there descended to Orcus: two princes of the English, in the flower of their youth, there yield up the breath of life, and explore the foreign regions, under the waves of Acheron, and numbers of full-grown men fall on both sides. The barbarians remain victors, and triumph on the field of battle.

A. 905. At length, after three years, the number of years completed since the beginning of the world, was six thousand and one hundred.

A. 908. After three years archbishop Plegmund inaugurized, in the city of Winchester, a lofty tower, which had been recently founded in honour of Mary, the mother of God. The pontiff aforesaid, in the course of the same year carried to Rome the alms for the people, and for king Edward.

A. 909. After one year the barbarians break their compact with king Edward, and with earl Ethered, who then ruled the provinces of Northumberland and Mercia. The lands of the Mercians are laid waste on all sides by the hosts aforesaid, as far as the streams of the Avon, where begins the frontier of the West-Saxons and the Mercians. Thence they pass over the river Severn into the western regions, and gained by their devastations no little booty. But when they had withdrawn homewards, rejoicing in their rich spoils, they passed over a bridge on the eastern side of the river Severn, at a place commonly called Cantabridge,[82] the troops of the Mercians and West-Saxons met them: a battle ensued,[Pg 39] and in the plain of Wodnesfield the English obtained the victory: the Danish army fled, overwhelmed by the darts of their enemies: these things are said to have been done on the fifth day of August; and their three kings fell there in that turmoil or battle, namely, Halfdene, Ecwils, and Hingwar: they lost their sovereignty, and descended to the court of the infernal king, and their elders and nobles with them.

A. 910. After one year, Ethered, who survived of the Mercians, departed this life, and was buried peacefully in the city of Gloucester.

A. 912. After two years, died Athulf in Northumbria; he was at that time commander of the town called Bebbanburgh.[83]

A. 913. After a year, a fleet entered the mouth of the river Severn, but no severe battle was fought there that year. Lastly, the greater part of that army go to Ireland, formerly called Bretannis by the great Julius Cæsar.

A. 914. After one year, the day of Christ's nativity fell on a Sunday; and so great was the tranquillity of that winter, that no one can remember anything like it either before or since.

A. 917. After three years, Ethelfled the king's sister departed this life, and her body lies buried at Gloucester.

A. 926. Also in the ninth year died Edward, king of the English. This was the end; his name and his pertinacity here ceased.


[81] The particulars recorded in this passage, concerning the battle of Holme, are ascribed, by Florence of Worcester and the Saxon Chronicle, to another battle, fought three years later. This caused Petrie to suppose, that the paragraph in question had slipped out of its real place.

[82] Cambridge, in Gloucestershire.

[83] Bambrough.

Chap. V.Of the reign of king Athelstan, his wars and deeds.

A. 926. The year in which the stout king Athelstan gained the crown of the kingdom, was the nine hundred and twenty-sixth from the glorious incarnation of our Saviour.

A. 939. Therefore, after thirteen years, a fierce battle was fought against the barbarians at Brunandune,[84] wherefore that fight is called great even to the present day: then the barbarian tribes are defeated and domineer no longer; they are driven beyond the ocean: the Scots and Picts also bow the neck; the lands of Britain are consolidated together, on all sides is peace, and plenty of all things, nor ever did a fleet again come to land except in friendship with the English.

[Pg 40]

A. 941. Two years afterwards the venerated king Athelstan died.


[84] Brumby, Lincolnshire.

Chap. VI.Of the reign of king Edmund.

After him Edmund succeeded to the neglected kingdom.

A. 948. After seven years, therefore, bishop Wulfstan and the duke of the Mercians expelled certain deserters, namely, Reginald and Anlaf from the city of York, and gave them into the king's hand. In the same year died also queen Elfgiva, wife of king Edmund, and afterwards was canonized. In her tomb, with God's assistance, even to the present day, miracles are performed in the monastery called Shaftesbury. In the same period also died king Edmund on the solemnity of Augustine the Less, who also was the apostle of the English: and he held the kingdom six years and a half.

Chap. VII.Of the reign of king Edred.

Edmund's successor was Edred his brother, to whom all the Northumbrians became subject; and the Scots also give oaths of allegiance and immutable fidelity. Not long after these things he also departed in peace, on the birthday of the blessed pope and martyr Clement. He had held the kingdom nine years and half.

Chap. VIII.Of king Edwy.

His successor to the throne was Edwy, who, on account of his great personal beauty, was called Pankalus by the people. He held the sovereignty four years, and was much beloved.

Chap. IX.Of the reign of king Edgar.

A. 959. After this, Edgar was crowned, and he was an admirable king.[85*]

Moreover from the nativity of our Lord and Saviour was then completed the number of 973 years.[85]

[Pg 41]


[85] and [85*] Here follow two sets of Latin verses, of a most obscure and angrammatical character, and altogether untranslatable.







[Pg 42-43]




FROM A.D. 849 TO A.D. 887.


In the year of our Lord's incarnation 849, was born Alfred, king of the Anglo-Saxons, at the royal village of Wanating,[86] in Berkshire, which country has its name from the wood of Berroc, where the box-tree grows most abundantly. His genealogy is traced in the following order. King Alfred was the son of king Ethelwulf, who was the son of Egbert, who was the son of Elmund, was the son of Eafa, who was the son of Eoppa, who the son of Ingild. Ingild, and Ina, the famous king of the West-Saxons, were two brothers. Ina went to Rome, and there ending this life honourably, entered the heavenly kingdom, to reign there for ever with Christ. Ingild and Ina were the sons of Coenred, who was the son of Ceolwald, who was the son of Cudam, who was the son of Cuthwin, who was the son of Ceawlin, who was the son of Cynric, who was the son of Creoda, who was the son of Cerdic, who was the son of Elesa, who was the son of Gewis, from whom the Britons name all that nation Gegwis,[87] who was the son of Brond, who was the son of Beldeg, who was the son of Woden, who was the son of Frithowald, who was the son of Frealaf, who was the son of Frithuwulf, who was the son of Finn of Godwulf, who was the son of Geat, which Geat the pagans long worshipped as a god. Sedulius makes mention of him in his metrical Paschal poem, as follows:—

When gentile poets with their fictions vain,
In tragic language and bombastic strain,
To their god Geat, comic deity,
Loud praises sing, &c.

[Pg 44]

Geat was the son of Tætwa, who was the son of Beaw, who was the son of Sceldi, who was the son of Heremod, who was the son of Iterinon, who was the son of Hathra, who was the son of Guala, who was the son of Bedwig, who was the son of Shem, who was the son of Noah, who was the son of Lamech, who was the son of Methusalem, who was the son of Enoch, who was the son of Malaleel, who was the son of Cainan, who was the son of Enos, who was the son of Seth, who was the son of Adam.

The mother of Alfred was named Osburga, a religious woman, noble both by birth and by nature; she was daughter of Oslac, the famous butler of king Ethelwulf, which Oslac was a Goth by nation, descended from the Goths and Jutes, of the seed, namely, of Stuf and Wihtgar, two brothers and counts: who, having received possession of the Isle of Wight from their uncle, king Cerdic, and his son Cynric their cousin, slew the few British inhabitants whom they could find in that island, at a place called Gwihtgaraburgh;[88] for the other inhabitants of the island had either been slain or escaped into exile.

In the year of our Lord's incarnation 851, which was the third after the birth of king Alfred, Ceorl, earl of Devon, fought with the men of Devon against the pagans at a place called Wicgambeorg;[89] and the Christians gained the victory; and that same year the pagans first wintered in the island called Sheppey, which means the Sheep-isle, and is situated in the river Thames between Essex and Kent, but is nearer to Kent than to Essex; it has in it a fine monastery.[90]

The same year also a great army of the pagans came with three hundred and fifty ships to the mouth of the river Thames, and sacked Dorobernia,[91] which is the city of the Cantuarians, and also the city of London, which lies on the north bank of the river Thames, on the confines of Essex and Middlesex; but yet that city belongs in truth to Essex; and they put to flight Berthwulf, king of Mercia, with all the army, which he had led out to oppose them.

After these things, the aforesaid pagan host went into Surrey, which is a district situated on the south bank of the river Thames, and to the west of Kent. And Ethelwulf,[Pg 45] king of the West-Saxons, and his son Ethelbald, with all their army, fought a long time against them at a place called Ac-lea,[92] i.e. the Oak-plain, and there, after a lengthened battle, which was fought with much bravery on both sides, the greater part of the pagan multitude was destroyed and cut to pieces, so that we never heard of their being so defeated, either before or since, in any country, in one day; and the Christians gained an honourable victory, and were triumphant over their graves.

In the same year king Athelstan, son of king Ethelwulf, and earl Ealhere slew a large army of pagans in Kent, at a place called Sandwich, and took nine ships of their fleet; the others escaped by flight.

In the year of our Lord's incarnation 853, which was the fifth of king Alfred, Burhred, king of the Mercians, sent messengers, and prayed Ethelwulf, king of the West-Saxons, to come and help him in reducing the midland Britons, who dwell between Mercia and the western sea, and who struggled against him most immoderately. So without delay, king Ethelwulf, having received the embassy, moved his army, and advanced with king Burhred against Britain,[93] and immediately, on entering that country, he began to ravage it; and having reduced it under subjection to king Burhred, he returned home.

In the same year, king Ethelwulf sent his son Alfred, above-named, to Rome, with an honourable escort both of nobles and commoners. Pope Leo [the fourth] at that time presided over the apostolic see, and he anointed for king the aforesaid Alfred, and adopted him as his spiritual son. The same year also, earl Ealhere, with the men of Kent, and Huda with the men of Surrey, fought bravely and resolutely against an army of the pagans, in the island, which is called in the Saxon tongue, Tenet,[94] but Ruim in the British language. The battle lasted a long time, and many fell on both sides, and also were drowned in the water; and both the earls were there slain. In the same year also, after Easter, Ethelwulf, king of the West-Saxons, gave his daughter to Burhred, king of the Mercians, and the marriage was celebrated royally at the royal vill of Chippenham.[95]

[Pg 46]

In the year of our Lord's incarnation 855, which was the seventh after the birth of the aforesaid king, Edmund the most glorious king of the East-Angles began to reign, on the eighth day before the kalends of January, i.e. on the birthday of our Lord, in the fourteenth year of his age. In this year also died Lothaire, the Roman emperor, son of the pious Lewis Augustus. In the same year the aforesaid venerable king Ethelwulf released the tenth part of all his kingdom from all royal service and tribute, and with a pen never to be forgotten, offered it up to God the One and the Three in One, in the cross of Christ, for the redemption of his own soul and of his predecessors. In the same year he went to Rome with much honour; and taking with him his son, the aforesaid king Alfred, for a second journey thither, because he loved him more than his other sons, he remained there a whole year; after which he returned to his own country, bringing with him Judith, daughter of Charles, the king of the Franks.

In the meantime, however, whilst king Ethelwulf was residing beyond the sea, a base deed was done, repugnant to the morals of all Christians, in the western part of Selwood. For king Ethelbald [son of king Ethelwulf] and Ealstan, bishop of the church of Sherborne, with Eanwulf, earl of the district of Somerton, are said to have made a conspiracy together, that king Ethelwulf, on his return from Rome, should never again be received into his kingdom. This crime, unheard-of in all previous ages, is ascribed by many to the bishop and earl alone, as resulting from their counsels. Many also ascribe it solely to the insolence of the king, because that king was pertinacious in this matter, and in many other perversities, as we have heard related by certain persons; as also was proved by the result of that which follows.

For as he was returning from Rome, his son aforesaid, with all his counsellors, or, as I ought to say, his conspirators, attempted to perpetrate the crime of repulsing the king from his own kingdom; but neither did God permit the deed, nor would the nobles of all Saxony consent to it. For to prevent this irremediable evil to Saxony, of a son warring against his father, or rather of the whole nation carrying on civil war either on the side of the one or the other, the extraordinary mildness of the father, seconded by the consent of all the nobles, divided between the two the kingdom which had[Pg 47] hitherto been undivided; the eastern parts were given to the father, and the western to the son; for where the father ought by just right to reign, there his unjust and obstinate son did reign; for the western part of Saxony is always preferable to the eastern.

When Ethelwulf, therefore, was coming from Rome, all that nation, as was fitting, so delighted in the arrival of the old man, that, if he permitted them, they would have expelled his rebellious son Ethelbald, with all his counsellors, out of the kingdom. But he, as we have said, acting with great clemency and prudent counsel, so wished things to be done, that the kingdom might not come into danger; and he placed Judith, daughter of king Charles, whom he had received from his father, by his own side on the regal throne, without any controversy or enmity from his nobles, even to the end of his life, contrary to the perverse custom of that nation. For the nation of the West-Saxons do not allow a queen to sit beside the king, nor to be called a queen, but only the king's wife; which stigma the elders of that land say arose from a certain obstinate and malevolent queen of the same nation, who did all things so contrary to her lord, and to all the people, that she not only earned for herself exclusion from the royal seat, but also entailed the same stigma upon those who came after her; for in consequence of the wickedness of that queen, all the nobles of that land swore together, that they would never let any king reign over them, who should attempt to place a queen on the throne by his side.

And because, as I think, it is not known to many whence this perverse and detestable custom arose in Saxony, contrary to the custom of all the Theotiscan nations, it seems to me right to explain a little more fully what I have heard from my lord Alfred, king of the Anglo-Saxons, as he also had heard it from many men of truth, who in great part recorded that fact.

There was in Mercia, in recent times, a certain valiant king, who was feared by all the kings and neighbouring states around. His name was Offa, and it was he who had the great rampart made from sea to sea between Britain[96] and Mercia. His daughter, named Eadburga, was married to Bertric, king of the West-Saxons; who immediately, having[Pg 48] the king's affections, and the control of almost all the kingdom, began to live tyrannically like her father, and to execrate every man whom Bertric loved, and to do all things hateful to God and man, and to accuse all she could before the king, and so to deprive them insidiously of their life or power; and if she could not obtain the king's consent, she used to take them off by poison: as is ascertained to have been the case with a certain young man beloved by the king, whom she poisoned, finding that the king would not listen to any accusation against him. It is said, moreover, that king Bertric unwittingly tasted of the poison, though the queen intended to give it to the young man only, and so both of them perished.

Bertric therefore being dead, the queen could remain no longer among the West-Saxons, but sailed beyond the sea with immense treasures, and went to the court of the great and famous Charles, king of the Franks. As she stood before the throne, and offered him money, Charles said to her, "Choose, Eadburga, between me and my son, who stands here with me." She replied, foolishly, and without deliberation, "If I am to have my choice, I choose your son, because he is younger than you." At which Charles smiled and answered, "If you had chosen me, you would have had my son; but as you have chosen him, you shall not have either of us."

However, he gave her a large convent of nuns, in which, having laid aside the secular habit and taken the religious dress, she discharged the office of abbess during a few years; for, as she is said to have lived irrationally in her own country, so she appears to have acted still more so in that foreign country; for being convicted of having had unlawful intercourse with a man of her own nation, she was expelled from the monastery by king Charles's order, and lived a vicious life of reproach in poverty and misery until her death; so that at last, accompanied by one slave only, as we have heard from many who saw her, she begged her bread daily at Pavia, and so miserably died.

Now king Ethelwulf lived two years after his return from Rome; during which, among many other good deeds of this present life, reflecting on his departure according to the way of all flesh, that his sons might not quarrel unreasonably after their father's death, he ordered a will or letter of in[Pg 49]structions to be written, in which he ordered that his kingdom should be divided between his two eldest sons, his private inheritance between his sons, his daughters, and his relations, and the money which he left behind him between his sons and nobles, and for the good of his soul. Of this prudent policy we have thought fit to record a few instances out of many for posterity to imitate; namely, such as are understood to belong principally to the needs of the soul; for the others, which relate only to human dispensation, it is not necessary to insert in this work, lest prolixity should create disgust in those who read or wish to hear my work. For the benefit of his soul, then, which he studied to promote in all things from the first flower of his youth, he directed through all his hereditary dominions, that one poor man in ten, either native or foreigner, should be supplied with meat, drink, and clothing, by his successors, until the day of judgment; supposing, however, that the country should still be inhabited both by men and cattle, and should not become deserted. He commanded also a large sum of money, namely, three hundred mancuses, to be carried to Rome for the good of his soul, to be distributed in the following manner: namely, a hundred mancuses in honour of St. Peter, specially to buy oil for the lights of the church of that apostle on Easter eve, and also at the cock-crow: a hundred mancuses in honour of St. Paul, for the same purpose of buying oil for the church of St. Paul the apostle, to light the lamps on Easter eve and at the cock-crow; and a hundred mancuses for the universal apostolic pontiff.

But when king Ethelwulf was dead, and buried at Stemrugam,[97] his son Ethelbald, contrary to God's prohibition and the dignity of a Christian, contrary also to the custom of all the pagans, ascended his father's bed, and married Judith, daughter of Charles, king of the Franks, and drew down much infamy upon himself from all who heard of it. During two years and a half of licentiousness after his father he held the government of the West-Saxons.

In the year of our Lord's incarnation 856, which was the eighth after Alfred's birth, the second year of king Charles III, and the eighteenth year of the reign of Ethelwulf,[Pg 50] king of the West-Saxons, Humbert, bishop of the East-Angles, anointed with oil and consecrated as king the glorious Edmund, with much rejoicing and great honour in the royal town called Burva, in which at that time was the royal seat, in the fifteenth year of his age, on a Friday, the twenty-fourth moon, being Christmas-day.

In the year of our Lord's incarnation 860, which was the twelfth of king Alfred's age, died Ethelbald, king of the West-Saxons, and was buried at Sherborne. His brother Ethelbert, as was fitting, joined Kent, Surrey, and Sussex also to his dominion.

In his days a large army of pagans came from the sea, and attacked and destroyed the city of Winchester. As they were returning laden with booty to their ships, Osric, earl of Hampshire, with his men, and earl Ethelwulf, with the men of Berkshire, confronted them bravely; a severe battle took place, and the pagans were slain on every side; and, finding themselves unable to resist, took to flight like women, and the Christians obtained a triumph.

Ethelbert governed his kingdom five years in peace, with the love and respect of his subjects, who felt deep sorrow when he went the way of all flesh. His body was honourably interred at Sherborne by the side of his brothers.

In the year of our Lord's incarnation 864, the pagans wintered in the isle of Thanet, and made a firm treaty with the men of Kent, who promised them money for adhering to their covenant; but the pagans, like cunning foxes, burst from their camp by night, and setting at naught their engagements, and spurning at the promised money, which they knew was less than they could get by plunder, they ravaged all the eastern coast of Kent.

In the year of our Lord's incarnation 866, which was the eighteenth of king Alfred, Ethelred, brother of Ethelbert, king of the West Saxons, undertook the government of the kingdom for five years; and the same year a large fleet of pagans came to Britain from the Danube, and wintered in the kingdom of the Eastern-Saxons, which is called in Saxon East-Anglia; and there they became principally an army of cavalry. But, to speak in nautical phrase, I will no longer commit my vessel to the power of the waves and of its sails, or keeping off from land steer my round-about course through so many calamities of wars and series of years, but will[Pg 51] return to that which first prompted me to this task; that is to say, I think it right in this place briefly to relate as much as has come to my knowledge about the character of my revered lord Alfred, king of the Anglo-Saxons, during the years that he was an infant and a boy.

He was loved by his father and mother, and even by all the people, above all his brothers, and was educated altogether at the court of the king. As he advanced through the years of infancy and youth, his form appeared more comely than that of his brothers; in look, in speech, and in manners he was more graceful than they. His noble nature implanted in him from his cradle a love of wisdom above all things; but, with shame be it spoken, by the unworthy neglect of his parents and nurses, he remained illiterate even till he was twelve years old or more; but he listened with serious attention to the Saxon poems which he often heard recited, and easily retained them in his docile memory. He was a zealous practiser of hunting in all its branches, and hunted with great assiduity and success; for skill and good fortune in this art, as in all others, are among the gifts of God, as we also have often witnessed.

On a certain day, therefore, his mother[98] was showing him and his brother a Saxon book of poetry, which she held in her hand, and said, "Whichever of you shall the soonest learn this volume shall have it for his own." Stimulated by these words, or rather by the Divine inspiration, and allured by the beautifully illuminated letter at the beginning of the volume, he spoke before all his brothers, who, though his seniors in age, were not so in grace, and answered, "Will you really give that book to one of us, that is to say, to him who can first understand and repeat it to you?" At this his mother smiled with satisfaction, and confirmed what she had before said. Upon which the boy took the book out of her hand, and went to his master to read it, and in due time brought it to his mother and recited it.

After this he learned the daily course, that is, the celebration of the hours, and afterwards certain psalms, and several prayers, contained in a certain book which he kept[Pg 52] day and night in his bosom, as we ourselves have seen, and carried about with him to assist his prayers, amid all the bustle and business of this present life. But, sad to say, he could not gratify his most ardent wish to learn the liberal arts, because, as he said, there were no good readers at that time in all the kingdom of the West-Saxons.

This he confessed, with many lamentations and sighs, to have been one of his greatest difficulties and impediments in this life, namely, that when he was young and had the capacity for learning, he could not find teachers; but, when he was more advanced in life, he was harassed by so many diseases unknown to all the physicians of this island, as well as by internal and external anxieties of sovereignty, and by continual invasions of the pagans, and had his teachers and writers also so much disturbed, that there was no time for reading. But yet among the impediments of this present life, from infancy up to the present time, and, as I believe, even until his death, he continued to feel the same insatiable desire of knowledge, and still aspires after it.

In the year of our Lord's incarnation 867, which was the nineteenth of the life of the aforesaid king Alfred, the army of pagans before mentioned removed from the East-Angles to the city of York, which is situated on the north bank of the river Humber.

At that time a violent discord arose, by the instigation of the devil, among the inhabitants of Northumberland; as always is used to happen among a people who have incurred the wrath of God. For the Northumbrians at that time, as we have said, had expelled their lawful king Osbert, and appointed a certain tyrant named Ælla, not of royal birth, over the affairs of the kingdom; but when the pagans approached, by divine Providence, and the union of the nobles for the common good, that discord was a little appeased, and Osbert and Ælla uniting their resources, and assembling an army, marched to York. The pagans fled at their approach, and attempted to defend themselves within the walls of the city. The Christians, perceiving their flight and the terror they were in, determined to destroy the walls of the town, which they succeeded in doing; for that city was not surrounded at that time with firm or strong walls, and when the Christians had made a breach as they had purposed, and many of them had entered into the town, the pagans, urged[Pg 53] by despair and necessity, made a fierce sally upon them, slew them, routed them, and cut them down on all sides, both within and without the walls. In that battle fell almost all the Northumbrian warriors, with both the kings and a multitude of nobles; the remainder, who escaped, made peace with the pagans.

In the same year, Ealstan, bishop of the church of Sherborne, went the way of all flesh, after he had honourably ruled his see four years, and he was buried at Sherborne.

In the year of our Lord's incarnation 868, which was the twentieth of king Alfred's life, there was a severe famine. Then the aforesaid revered king Alfred, but at that time occupying a subordinate station, asked and obtained in marriage a noble Mercian lady, daughter of Athelred, surnamed Mucil,[99] earl of the Gaini.[100] The mother of this lady was named Edburga, of the royal line of Mercia, whom we have often seen with our own eyes a few years before her death. She was a venerable lady, and after the decease of her husband, she remained many years a widow, even till her own death.

In the same year, the above-named army of pagans, leaving Northumberland, invaded Mercia and advanced to Nottingham, which is called in the British tongue, "Tiggocobauc," but in Latin, the "House of Caves," and they wintered there that same year. Immediately on their approach, Burhred, king of Mercia, and all the nobles of that nation, sent messengers to Ethelred, king of the West-Saxons, and his brother Alfred, suppliantly entreating them to come and aid them in fighting against the aforesaid army. Their request was easily obtained; for the brothers, as soon as promised, assembled an immense army from all parts of their dominions, and entering Mercia, came to Nottingham, all eager for battle, and when the pagans, defended by the castle, refused to fight, and the Christians were unable to destroy the wall, peace was made between the Mercians and pagans, and the two brothers, Ethelred and Alfred, returned home with their troops.

In the year of our Lord's incarnation 869, which was the twenty-first of king Alfred's life, there was a great famine and mortality of men, and a pestilence among the cattle.[Pg 54] And the aforesaid army of the pagans, galloping back to Northumberland, went to York, and there passed the winter.

In the year of our Lord's incarnation 870, which was the twenty-second of king Alfred's life, the above-named army of pagans, passed through Mercia into East-Anglia, and wintered at Thetford.

In the same year Edmund, king of the East-Angles, fought most fiercely against them; but, lamentable to say, the pagans triumphed, Edmund was slain in the battle, and the enemy reduced all that country to subjection.

In the same year Ceolnoth, archbishop of Canterbury, went the way of all flesh, and was buried peaceably in his own city.

In the year of our Lord's incarnation 871, which was the twenty-third of king Alfred's life, the pagan army, of hateful memory, left the East-Angles, and entering the kingdom of the West-Saxons, came to the royal city, called Reading, situated on the south bank of the Thames, in the district called Berkshire; and there, on the third day after their arrival, their earls, with great part of the army, scoured the country for plunder, while the others made a rampart between the rivers Thames and Kennet on the right side of the same royal city. They were encountered by Ethelwulf, earl of Berkshire, with his men, at a place called Englefield;[101] both sides fought bravely, and made long resistance. At length one of the pagan earls was slain, and the greater part of the army destroyed; upon which the rest saved themselves by flight, and the Christians gained the victory.

Four days afterwards, Ethelred, king of the West-Saxons, and his brother Alfred, united their forces and marched to Reading, where, on their arrival, they cut to pieces the pagans whom they found outside the fortifications. But the pagans, nevertheless, sallied out from the gates, and a long and fierce engagement ensued. At last, grief to say, the Christians fled, the pagans obtained the victory, and the aforesaid earl Ethelwulf was among the slain.

Roused by this calamity, the Christians, in shame and indignation, within four days, assembled all their forces, and again encountered the pagan army at a place called Ashdune,[102] which means the "Hill of the Ash." The pagans had divided[Pg 55] themselves into two bodies, and began to prepare defences, for they had two kings and many earls, so they gave the middle part of the army to the two kings, and the other part to all their earls. Which the Christians perceiving, divided their army also into two troops, and also began to construct defences. But Alfred, as we have been told by those who were present, and would not tell an untruth, marched up promptly with his men to give them battle; for king Ethelred remained a long time in his tent in prayer, hearing the mass, and said that he would not leave it, till the priest had done, or abandon the divine protection for that of men. And he did so too, which afterwards availed him much with the Almighty, as we shall declare more fully in the sequel.

Now the Christians had determined that king Ethelred, with his men, should attack the two pagan kings, but that his brother Alfred, with his troops, should take the chance of war against the two earls. Things being so arranged, the king remained a long time in prayer, and the pagans came up rapidly to fight. Then Alfred, though possessing a subordinate authority, could no longer support the troops of the enemy, unless he retreated or charged upon them without waiting for his brother. At length he bravely led his troops against the hostile army, as they had before arranged, but without awaiting his brother's arrival; for he relied in the divine counsels, and forming his men into a dense phalanx, marched on at once to meet the foe.

But here I must inform those who are ignorant of the fact, that the field of battle was not equally advantageous to both parties. The pagans occupied the higher ground, and the Christians came up from below. There was also a single thorn-tree, of stunted growth, and we have with our own eyes seen it. Around this tree the opposing armies came together with loud shouts from all sides, the one party to pursue their wicked course, the other to fight for their lives, their dearest ties, and their country. And when both armies had fought long and bravely, at last the pagans, by the divine judgment, were no longer able to bear the attacks of the Christians, and having lost great part of their army, took to a disgraceful flight. One of their two kings, and five earls were there slain, together with many thousand[Pg 56] pagans, who fell on all sides, covering with their bodies the whole plain of Ashdune.

There fell in that battle king Bagsac, earl Sidrac the elder, and earl Sidrac the younger, earl Osbern, earl Frene, and earl Harold; and the whole pagan army pursued its flight, not only until night but until the next day, even until they reached the stronghold from which they had sallied. The Christians followed, slaying all they could reach, until it became dark.

After fourteen days had elapsed, king Ethelred, with his brother Alfred, again joined their forces and marched to Basing to fight with the pagans. The enemy came together from all quarters, and after a long contest gained the victory. After this battle, another army came from beyond the sea, and joined them.

The same year, after Easter, the aforesaid king Ethelred, having bravely, honourably, and with good repute, governed his kingdom five years, through much tribulation, went the way of all flesh, and was buried in Wimborne Minster, where he awaits the coming of the Lord, and the first resurrection with the just.

The same year, the aforesaid Alfred, who had been up to that time only of secondary rank, whilst his brothers were alive, now, by God's permission, undertook the government of the whole kingdom, amid the acclamations of all the people; and if he had chosen, he might have done so before, whilst his brother above-named was still alive; for in wisdom and other qualities he surpassed all his brothers, and moreover, was warlike and victorious in all his wars. And when he had reigned one month, almost against his will, for he did not think he could alone sustain the multitude and ferocity of the pagans, though even during his brothers' lives, he had borne the woes of many,—he fought a battle with a few men, and on very unequal terms, against all the army of the pagans, at a hill called Wilton, on the south bank of the river Wily, from which river the whole of that district is named, and after a long and fierce engagement, the pagans, seeing the danger they were in, and no longer able to bear the attack of their enemies, turned their backs and fled. But, oh, shame to say, they deceived their too audacious pursuers, and again rallying, gained the vic[Pg 57]tory. Let no one be surprised that the Christians had but a small number of men, for the Saxons had been worn out by eight battles in one year, against the pagans, of whom they had slain one king, nine dukes, and innumerable troops of soldiers, besides endless skirmishes, both by night and by day, in which the oft-named Alfred, and all his chieftains, with their men, and several of his ministers, were engaged without rest or cessation against the pagans. How many thousand pagans fell in these numberless skirmishes God alone knows, over and above those who were slain in the eight battles above-mentioned. In the same year the Saxons made peace with the pagans, on condition that they should take their departure, and they did so.

In the year of our Lord's incarnation 872, the twenty-fourth of king Alfred's life, the above-named army of pagans went to London, and there wintered. The Mercians made peace with them.

In the year of our Lord's incarnation 873, the twenty-fifth of king Alfred, the above-named army, leaving London, went into the country of the Northumbrians, and there wintered in the district of Lindsey; and the Mercians again made treaty with them.

In the year of our Lord's incarnation 874, the twenty-sixth since the birth of king Alfred, the army before so often mentioned left Lindsey and marched to Mercia, where they wintered at Repton. Also they compelled Burhred, king of Mercia, against his will, to leave his kingdom and go beyond the sea to Rome, in the twenty-second year of his reign. He did not long live after his arrival, but died there, and was honourably buried in the school of the Saxons, in St. Mary's church, where he awaits the Lord's coming and the first resurrection with the just. The pagans also, after his expulsion, subjected the whole kingdom of the Mercians to their dominion; but by a most miserable arrangement, gave it into the custody of a certain foolish man, named Ceolwulf, one of the king's ministers, on condition that he should restore it to them, whenever they should wish to have it again; and to guarantee this agreement, he gave them hostages, and swore that he would not oppose their will, but be obedient to them in every respect.

In the year of our Lord's incarnation 875, which was the 27th of king Alfred, the above-named army leaving Repton,[Pg 58] divided into two bodies, one of which went with Halfdene into Northumbria, and having wintered there near the Tyne, reduced all Northumberland to subjection; they also ravaged the Picts and the Strath-Clydensians.[103] The other division, with Gothrun, Oskytel, and Anwiund, three kings of the pagans, went to a place called Grantabridge,[104] and there wintered.

In the same year, king Alfred fought a battle by sea against six ships of the pagans, and took one of them; the rest escaped by flight.

In the year of our Lord's incarnation 876, being the twenty-eighth year of king Alfred's life, the aforesaid army of the pagans, leaving Grantabridge by night, entered a castle called Wareham, where there is a monasterium of holy virgins between the two rivers Fraun[105] and Trent, in the district which is called in British Durngueis, but in Saxon Thornsæta, placed in a most secure situation, except that it was exposed to danger on the western side from the nature of the ground. With this army Alfred made a solemn treaty, to the effect that they should depart out of the kingdom, and for this they made no hesitation to give as many hostages as he named; also they swore an oath over the Christian relics,[106] which with king Alfred were next in veneration after the Deity himself, that they would depart speedily from the kingdom. But they again practised their usual treachery, and caring nothing for the hostages or their oaths, they broke the treaty, and sallying forth by night, slew all the horsemen that the king had round him, and turning off into Devon, to another place called in Saxon Exanceaster,[107] but in British Caer-wisc, which means in Latin, the city of Ex, situated on the eastern bank of the river Wisc, they directed their course suddenly towards the south sea, which divides Britain and Gaul, and there passed the winter.

In the same year, Halfdene, king of those parts, divided out the whole country of Northumberland between himself and his men, and settled there with his army. In the same year, Rollo with his followers penetrated into Normandy.

This same Rollo, duke of the Normans, whilst wintering in Old Britain, or England, at the head of his troops, enjoyed[Pg 59] one night a vision revealing to him the future. See more of this Rollo in the Annals.[108]

In the year 877, the pagans, on the approach of autumn, partly settled in Exeter, and partly marched for plunder into Mercia. The number of that disorderly crew increased every day, so that, if thirty thousand of them were slain in one battle, others took their places to double the number. Then king Alfred commanded boats and galleys, i.e. long ships, to be built throughout the kingdom, in order to offer battle by sea to the enemy as they were coming. On board of these he placed seamen, and appointed them to watch the seas. Meanwhile he went himself to Exeter, where the pagans were wintering, and having shut them up within the walls, laid siege to the town. He also gave orders to his sailors to prevent them from obtaining any supplies by sea; and his sailors were encountered by a fleet of a hundred and twenty ships full of armed soldiers, who were come to help their countrymen. As soon as the king's men knew that they were fitted with pagan soldiers, they leaped to their arms, and bravely attacked those barbaric tribes: but the pagans, who had now for almost a month been tossed and almost wrecked among the waves of the sea, fought vainly against them; their bands were discomfited in a moment, and all were sunk and drowned in the sea, at a place called Suanewic.[109]

In the same year the army of pagans, leaving Wareham, partly on horseback and partly by water, arrived at Suanewic, where one hundred and twenty of their ships were lost;[110] and king Alfred pursued their land-army as far as Exeter; there he made a covenant with them, and took hostages that they would depart.

The same year, in the month of August, that army went into Mercia, and gave part of that country to one Ceolwulf, a weak-minded man, and one of the king's ministers; the other part they divided among themselves.

In the year of our Lord's incarnation 878, which was the[Pg 60] thirtieth of king Alfred's life, the army above-mentioned left Exeter, and went to Chippenham, a royal villa, situated in the west of Wiltshire, and on the eastern bank of the river, which is called in British, the Avon. There they wintered, and drove many of the inhabitants of that country beyond the sea by the force of their arms, and by want of the necessaries of life. They reduced almost entirely to subjection all the people of that country.

At the same time the above-named Alfred, king of the West-Saxons, with a few of his nobles, and certain soldiers and vassals, used to lead an unquiet life among the woodlands[111] of the county of Somerset, in great tribulation; for he had none of the necessaries of life, except what he could forage openly or stealthily, by frequent sallies, from the pagans, or even from the Christians who had submitted to the rule of the pagans, and as we read in the Life of St. Neot, at the house of one of his cowherds.

But it happened on a certain day, that the countrywoman, wife of the cowherd, was preparing some loaves to bake, and the king, sitting at the hearth, made ready his bow and arrows and other warlike instruments. The unlucky woman espying the cakes burning at the fire, ran up to remove them, and rebuking the brave king, exclaimed:—

Ca'sn thee mind the ke-aks, man, an' doossen zee 'em burn?
I'm boun thee's eat 'em vast enough, az zoon az 'tiz the turn.[112]

The blundering woman little thought that it was king Alfred, who had fought so many battles against the pagans, and gained so many victories over them.

But the Almighty not only granted to the same glorious king victories over his enemies, but also permitted him to be harassed by them, to be sunk down by adversities, and depressed by the low estate of his followers, to the end that he might learn that there is one Lord of all things, to whom every knee doth bow, and in whose hand are the hearts of kings; who puts down the mighty from their seat and exalteth the humble; who suffers his servants when they are elevated at the summit of prosperity to be touched by the rod of ad[Pg 61]versity, that in their humility they may not despair of God's mercy, and in their prosperity they may not boast of their honours, but may also know, to whom they owe all the things which they possess.

We may believe that the calamity was brought upon the king aforesaid, because, in the beginning of his reign, when he was a youth, and influenced by youthful feelings, he would not listen to the petitions which his subjects made to him for help in their necessities, or for relief from those who oppressed them; but he repulsed them from him, and paid no heed to their requests. This particular gave much annoyance to the holy man St. Neot, who was his relation, and often foretold to him, in the spirit of prophecy, that he would suffer great adversity on this account; but Alfred neither attended to the reproof of the man of God, nor listened to his true prediction. Wherefore, seeing that a man's sins must be corrected either in this world or the next, the true and righteous Judge was willing that his sin should not go unpunished in this world, to the end that he might spare him in the world to come. From this cause, therefore, the aforesaid Alfred often fell into such great misery, that sometimes none of his subjects knew where he was or what had become of him.

In the same year the brother[113] of Hingwar and Halfdene, with twenty-three ships, after much slaughter of the Christians, came from the country of Demetia,[114] where he had wintered, and sailed to Devon, where, with twelve hundred others, he met with a miserable death, being slain while committing his misdeeds, by the king's servants, before the castle of Cynuit (Kynwith[115]), into which many of the king's servants, with their followers, had fled for safety. The pagans, seeing that the castle was altogether unprepared and unfortified, except that it had walls in our own fashion, determined not to assault it, because it was impregnable and secure on all sides, except on the eastern, as we ourselves have seen, but they began to blockade it, thinking that those who were inside would soon surrender either from famine or want of water, for the castle had no spring near it. But the result did not fall out as they expected; for the Christians, before they began to suffer from want, inspired by Heaven, judging[Pg 62] it much better to gain victory or death, attacked the pagans suddenly in the morning, and from the first cut them down in great numbers, slaying also their king, so that few escaped to their ships; and there they gained a very large booty, and amongst other things the standard called Raven; for they say that the three sisters of Hingwar and Hubba, daughters of Lodobroch, wove that flag and got it ready in one day. They say, moreover, that in every battle, wherever that flag went before them, if they were to gain the victory a live crow would appear flying on the middle of the flag; but if they were doomed to be defeated it would hang down motionless, and this was often proved to be so.

The same year, after Easter, king Alfred, with a few followers, made for himself a stronghold in a place called Athelney, and from thence sallied with his vassals and the nobles of Somersetshire, to make frequent assaults upon the pagans. Also, in the seventh week after Easter, he rode to the stone of Egbert,[116] which is in the eastern part of the wood which is called Selwood,[117] which means in Latin Silva Magna, the Great Wood, but in British Coit-mawr. Here he was met by all the neighbouring folk of Somersetshire, and Wiltshire, and Hampshire, who had not, for fear of the pagans, fled beyond the sea; and when they saw the king alive after such great tribulation, they received him, as he deserved, with joy and acclamations, and encamped there for one night. When the following day dawned, the king struck his camp, and went to Okely,[118] where he encamped for one night. The next morning he removed to Edington, and there fought bravely and perseveringly against all the army of the pagans, whom, with the divine help, he defeated with great slaughter, and pursued them flying to their fortification. Immediately he slew all the men, and carried off all the booty that he could find without the fortress, which he immediately laid siege to with all his army; and when he had been there fourteen days, the pagans, driven by famine, cold, fear, and last of all by despair, asked for peace, on the condition that they should give the king as many hostages as he pleased, but should receive none of him in return, in which form they[Pg 63] had never before made a treaty with any one. The king, hearing that, took pity upon them, and received such hostages as he chose; after which the pagans swore, moreover, that they would immediately leave the kingdom; and their king, Gothrun, promised to embrace Christianity, and receive baptism at king Alfred's hands. All of which articles he and his men fulfilled as they had promised. For after seven weeks Gothrun, king of the pagans, with thirty men chosen from the army, came to Alfred at a place called Aller, near Athelney, and there king Alfred, receiving him as his son by adoption, raised him up from the holy laver of baptism on the eighth day, at a royal villa named Wedmore,[119] where the holy chrism was poured upon him.[120] After his baptism he remained twelve nights with the king, who, with all his nobles, gave him many fine houses.

In the year of our Lord's incarnation 879, which was the thirty-first of king Alfred, the aforesaid army of pagans leaving Chippenham, as they had promised, went to Cirencester, which is called in British Cair Cori, and is situate in the southern part of the Wiccii,[121] and there they remained one year.

In the same year, a large army of pagans sailed from foreign parts into the river Thames, and joined the army which was already in the country. They wintered at Fulham near the river Thames.

In the same year an eclipse of the sun took place, between three o'clock and the evening, but nearer to three o'clock.

In the year of our Lord's incarnation 880, which was the thirty-second of king Alfred, the above-named army of pagans left Cirencester, and went among the East Angles, where they divided out the country and began to settle.

The same year the army of pagans, which had wintered at Fulham, left the island of Britain, and sailed over the sea to the eastern part of France, where they remained a year at a place called Ghent.

In the year of our Lord's incarnation 881, which was the[Pg 64] thirty-third of king Alfred's life, the aforesaid army went higher up into France; and the French fought against them; and after the battle the pagans obtained horses and became an army of cavalry.

In the year of our Lord's incarnation 882, the thirty-fourth of king Alfred's life, the above-named army steered their ships up into France by a river called the Mese [Meuse] and there wintered one year.

In the same year Alfred, king of the Anglo-Saxons, fought a battle by sea against the pagan fleet, of which he captured two ships, having slain all who were on board; and the two commanders of two other ships, with all their crews, distressed by the battle and the wounds which they had received, laid down their arms and submitted to the king.

In the year of our Lord's incarnation 883, which was the thirty-fifth of king Alfred's life, the aforesaid army went up the river called Scald [Scheldt] to a convent of nuns called Cundoht [Condé] and there remained a year.

In the year of our Lord's incarnation 884, which was the thirty-sixth of king Alfred's life, the aforesaid army divided into two parts; one body of them went into East France, and the other coming to Britain entered Kent, where they besieged a city called in Saxon Rochester, and situated on the eastern bank of the river Medway. Before the gate of the town the pagans suddenly erected a strong fortress, but yet they were unable to take the city, because the citizens defended themselves bravely, until king Alfred came up to help them with a large army. Then the pagans abandoned their fortress, and all their horses which they had brought with them out of France, and leaving behind them in the fortress the greater part of their prisoners, on the arrival of the king, fled immediately to their ships, and the Saxons immediately seized on the prisoners and horses left by the pagans; and so the pagans, compelled by stern necessity, returned the same summer to France.

In the same year Alfred, king of the Anglo-Saxons, led his fleet, full of fighting men, out of Kent to the country of the East Angles, for the sake of plunder;[122] and, when they[Pg 65] had arrived at the mouth of the river Stour,[123] immediately thirteen ships of the pagans met them, prepared for battle; a fierce fight ensued, and all the pagans, after a brave resistance, were slain; all the ships, with all their money, were taken. After this, while the royal fleet were reposing, the pagans, who lived in the eastern part of England, assembled their ships, met the same royal fleet at sea in the mouth of the same river, and, after a naval battle, the pagans gained the victory.

In the same year, also, Carloman, king of the Western Franks, whilst hunting a wild boar, was miserably killed by a large animal of that species, which inflicted a dreadful wound on him with its tusk. His brother Louis [III], who had also been king of the Franks, died the year before. These two brothers were sons of Louis, king of the Franks, who had died in the year above-mentioned, in which the eclipse of the sun took place; and it was he whose daughter Judith was given by her father's wish in marriage to Ethelwulf, king of the West Saxons.

In the same year also a great army of the pagans came from Germany into the country of the ancient Saxons, which is called in Saxon Ealdseaxum.[124] To oppose them the said Saxons and Frisons joined their forces, and fought bravely twice in that same year. In both those battles the Christians, with the merciful aid of the Lord, obtained the victory.

In the same year also, Charles, king of the Almains, received, with universal consent, all the territories which lie between the Tyrrhenian sea and that gulf which runs between the old Saxons and the Gauls, except the kingdom of Armorica, i.e. Lesser Britain. This Charles was the son of king Louis, who was brother of Charles, king of the Franks, father of the aforesaid queen Judith; these two brothers were sons of Louis, but Louis was the son of the great, the ancient, and wise Charlemagne, who was the son of Pepin.

In the same year pope Martin, of blessed memory, went the way of all flesh; it was he who, in regard for Alfred, king of the Anglo-Saxons, and at his request, freed the school of the Anglo-Saxons resident at Rome from all tribute and tax. He also sent many gifts on that occasion, among[Pg 66] which was no small portion of the holy and venerable cross on which our Lord Jesus Christ was suspended, for the general salvation of mankind.

In the same year also the army of pagans, which dwelt among the East Angles, disgracefully broke the peace which they had concluded with king Alfred.

Wherefore, to return to that from which I digressed, that I may not be compelled by my long navigation to abandon the port of rest which I was making for, I propose, as far as my knowledge will enable me, to speak of the life and character and just conduct of my lord Alfred, king of the Anglo-Saxons, after he married the above-named respected lady of Mercian race, his wife; and, with God's blessing, I will despatch it succinctly and briefly, as I promised, that I may not offend the delicate minds of my readers by prolixity in relating each new event.

His nuptials were honourably celebrated in Mercia, among innumerable multitudes of people of both sexes; and after continual feasts, both by night and by day, he was immediately seized, in presence of all the people, by sudden and overwhelming pain, as yet unknown to all the physicians; for it was unknown to all who were then present, and even to those who daily see him up to the present time,—which, sad to say! is the worst of all, that he should have protracted it so long from the twentieth to the fortieth year of his life, and even more than that through the space of so many years,—from what cause so great a malady arose. For many thought that this was occasioned by the favour and fascination of the people who surrounded him; others, by some spite of the devil, who is ever jealous of the good; others, from an unusual kind of fever. He had this sort of severe disease from his childhood; but once, divine Providence so ordered it, that when he was on a visit to Cornwall for the sake of hunting, and had turned out of the road to pray in a certain chapel, in which rests the body of Saint Guerir,[125] and now also St. Neot[126] rests there,—for king Alfred was always from his infancy a frequent visitor of holy places for the sake of prayer and almsgiving,—he prostrated himself for private devotion, and, after some time spent therein, he entreated of[Pg 67] God's mercy, that in his boundless clemency he would exchange the torments of the malady which then afflicted him for some other lighter disease; but with this condition, that such disease should not show itself outwardly in his body, lest he should be an object of contempt, and less able to benefit mankind; for he had great dread of leprosy or blindness, or any such complaint, as makes men useless or contemptible when it afflicts them. When he had finished his prayers, he proceeded on his journey, and not long after he felt within him that by the hand of the Almighty he was healed, according to his request, of his disorder, and that it was entirely eradicated, although he had first had even this complaint in the flower of his youth, by his devout and pious prayers and supplications to Almighty God. For if I may be allowed to speak briefly, but in a somewhat preposterous order, of his zealous piety to God, in the flower of his youth, before he entered the marriage state, he wished to strengthen his mind in the observance of God's commandments, for he perceived that he could with difficulty abstain from gratifying his carnal desires; and, because he feared the anger of God, if he should do anything contrary to his will, he used often to rise in the morning at the cock-crow, and go to pray in the churches and at the relics of the saints. There he prostrated himself on the ground, and prayed that God in his mercy would strengthen his mind still more in his service by some infirmity such as he might bear, but not such as would render him imbecile and contemptible in his worldly duties; and when he had often prayed with much devotion to this effect, after an interval of some time, Providence vouchsafed to afflict him with the above-named disease, which he bore long and painfully for many years, and even despaired of life, until he entirely got rid of it by his prayers; but, sad to say! it was replaced, as we have said, at his marriage by another which incessantly tormented him, night and day, from the twentieth to the forty-fourth year of his life. But if ever, by God's mercy, he was relieved from this infirmity for a single day or night, yet the fear and dread of that dreadful malady never left him, but rendered him almost useless, as he thought, for every duty, whether human or divine.

The sons and daughters, which he had by his wife above mentioned were Ethelfled the eldest, after whom came Ed[Pg 68]ward, then Ethelgiva, then Ethelswitha, and Ethelwerd, besides those who died in their infancy, one of whom was Edmund. Ethelfled, when she arrived at a marriageable age, was united to Ethered, earl of Mercia; Ethelgiva also was dedicated to God, and submitted to the rules of a monastic life. Ethelwerd the youngest, by the divine counsels and the admirable prudence of the king, was consigned to the schools of learning, where, with the children of almost all the nobility of the country, and many also who were not noble, he prospered under the diligent care of his teachers. Books in both languages, namely, Latin and Saxon, were both read in the school. They also learned to write; so that before they were of an age to practice manly arts, namely, hunting and such pursuits as befit noblemen, they became studious and clever in the liberal arts. Edward and Ethelswitha were bred up in the king's court and received great attention from their attendants and nurses; nay, they continue to this day, with the love of all about them, and showing affability, and even gentleness towards all, both natives and foreigners, and in complete subjection to their father; nor, among their other studies which appertain to this life and are fit for noble youths, are they suffered to pass their time idly and unprofitably without learning the liberal arts; for they have carefully learned the Psalms and Saxon books, especially the Saxon poems, and are continually in the habit of making use of books.

In the meantime, the king, during the frequent wars and other trammels of this present life, the invasions of the pagans, and his own daily infirmities of body, continued to carry on the government, and to exercise hunting in all its branches; to teach his workers in gold and artificers of all kinds, his falconers, hawkers and dog-keepers; to build houses, majestic and good, beyond all the precedents of his ancestors, by his new mechanical inventions; to recite the Saxon books, and especially to learn by heart the Saxon poems, and to make others learn them; and he alone never desisted from studying, most diligently, to the best of his ability; he attended the mass and other daily services of religion; he was frequent in psalm-singing and prayer, at the hours both of the day and the night. He also went to the churches, as we have already said, in the night-time to pray, secretly, and unknown to his courtiers; he bestowed alms and largesses on[Pg 69] both natives and foreigners of all countries; he was affable and pleasant to all, and curiously eager to investigate things unknown. Many Franks, Frisons, Gauls, pagans, Britons, Scots, and Armoricans, noble and ignoble, submitted voluntarily to his dominion; and all of them, according to their nation and deserving, were ruled, loved, honoured, and enriched with money and power. Moreover, the king was in the habit of hearing the divine scriptures read by his own countrymen, or, if by any chance it so happened, in company with foreigners, and he attended to it with sedulity and solicitude. His bishops, too, and all ecclesiastics, his earls and nobles, ministers and friends, were loved by him with wonderful affection, and their sons, who were bred up in the royal household, were no less dear to him than his own; he had them instructed in all kinds of good morals, and among other things, never ceased to teach them letters night and day; but as if he had no consolation in all these things, and suffered no other annoyance either from within or without, yet he was harassed by daily and nightly affliction, that he complained to God, and to all who were admitted to his familiar love, that Almighty God had made him ignorant of divine wisdom, and of the liberal arts; in this emulating the pious, the wise, and wealthy Solomon, king of the Hebrews, who at first, despising all present glory and riches, asked wisdom of God, and found both, namely, wisdom and worldly glory; as it is written, "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." But God, who is always the inspector of the thoughts of the mind within, and the instigator of all good intentions, and a most plentiful aider, that good desires may be formed,—for he would not instigate a man to good intentions, unless he also amply supplied that which the man justly and properly wishes to have,—instigated the king's mind within; as it is written, "I will hearken what the Lord God will say concerning me." He would avail himself of every opportunity to procure coadjutors in his good designs, to aid him in his strivings after wisdom, that he might attain to what he aimed at; and, like a prudent bird, which rising in summer with the early morning from her beloved nest, steers her rapid flight through the uncertain tracks of ether, and descends on the manifold and varied flowers of grasses, herbs, and shrubs, essaying that which pleases most, that she may bear[Pg 70] it to her home, so did he direct his eyes afar, and seek without, that which he had not within, namely, in his own kingdom.

But God at that time, as some consolation to the king's benevolence, yielding to his complaint, sent certain lights to illuminate him, namely, Werefrith, bishop of the church of Worcester, a man well versed in divine scripture, who, by the king's command, first turned the books of the Dialogues of pope Gregory and Peter, his disciple, from Latin into Saxon, and sometimes putting sense for sense, interpreted them with clearness and elegance. After him was Plegmund, a Mercian by birth, archbishop of the church of Canterbury, a venerable man, and endowed with wisdom; Ethelstan also, and Werewulf, his priests and chaplains, Mercians by birth, and erudite. These four had been invited out of Mercia by king Alfred, who exalted them with many honours and powers in the kingdom of the West-Saxons, besides the privileges which archbishop Plegmund and bishop Werefrith enjoyed in Mercia. By their teaching and wisdom the king's desires increased unceasingly, and were gratified. Night and day, whenever he had leisure, he commanded such men as these to read books to him; for he never suffered himself to be without one of them, wherefore he possessed a knowledge of every book, though of himself he could not yet understand anything of books, for he had not yet learned to read any thing.

But the king's commendable avarice could not be gratified even in this; wherefore he sent messengers beyond the sea to Gaul, to procure teachers, and he invited from thence Grimbald,[127] priest and monk, a venerable man, and good singer, adorned with every kind of ecclesiastical discipline and good morals, and most learned in holy scripture. He also obtained from thence John,[128] also priest and monk, a man of most energetic talents, and learned in all kinds of literary science, and skilled in many other arts. By the teaching of these men the king's mind was much enlarged, and he enriched and honoured them with much influence.

In these times, I also came into Saxony out of the furthest coasts of Western Britain; and when I had proposed to go to him through many intervening provinces, I arrived in the[Pg 71] country of the Saxons, who live on the right hand, which in Saxon is called Sussex, under the guidance of some of that nation; and there I first saw him in the royal vill, which is called Dene.[129] He received me with kindness, and among other familiar conversation, he asked me eagerly to devote myself to his service and become his friend, to leave every thing which I possessed on the left, or western bank of the Severn, and he promised he would give more than an equivalent for it in his own dominions. I replied that I could not incautiously and rashly promise such things; for it seemed to me unjust, that I should leave those sacred places in which I had been bred, educated, and crowned,[130] and at last ordained, for the sake of any earthly honour and power, unless by compulsion. Upon this, he said, "If you cannot accede to this, at least, let me have your service in part: spend six months of the year with me here, and the other six in Britain." To this, I replied, "I could not even promise that easily or hastily without the advice of my friends." At length, however, when I perceived that he was anxious for my services, though I knew not why, I promised him that, if my life was spared, I would return to him after six months, with such a reply as should be agreeable to him as well as advantageous to me and mine. With this answer he was satisfied, and when I had given him a pledge to return at the appointed time, on the fourth day we left him and returned on horseback towards our own country.

After our departure, a violent fever seized me in the city of Winchester, where I lay for twelve months and one week, night and day, without hope of recovery. At the appointed time, therefore, I could not fulfil my promise of visiting him, and he sent messengers to hasten my journey, and to inquire the cause of my delay. As I was unable to ride to him, I sent a second messenger to tell him the cause of my delay, and assure him that, if I recovered from my infirmity, I would fulfil what I had promised. My complaint left me, and by the advice and consent of all my friends, for the benefit of that holy place, and of all who dwelt therein,[Pg 72] I did as I had promised to the king, and devoted myself to his service, on the condition that I should remain with him six months in every year, either continuously, if I could spend six months with him at once, or alternately, three months in Britain and three in Saxony.[131] For my friends hoped that they should sustain less tribulation and harm from king Hemeid.[132] who often plundered that monastery and the parish of St. Deguus,[133] and sometimes expelled the prelates, as they expelled archbishop Novis,[134] my relation, and myself; if in any manner I could secure the notice and friendship of the king.

At that time, and long before, all the countries on the right hand side of Britain belonged to king Alfred and still belong to him. For instance, king Hemeid, with all the inhabitants of the region of Demetia, compelled by the violence of the six sons of Rotri, had submitted to the dominion of the king. Howel also, son of Ris, king of Gleguising, and Brocmail and Fernmail, sons of Mouric, kings of Gwent, compelled by the violence and tyranny of earl Ethered and of the Mercians, of their own accord sought king Alfred, that they might enjoy his government and protection from him against their enemies. Helised, also, son of Tendyr, king of Brecon, compelled by the force of the same sons of Rotri, of his own accord sought the government of the aforesaid king; and Anarawd, son of Rotri, with his brother, at length abandoning the friendship of the Northumbrians, from which he received no good but harm, came into king Alfred's presence and eagerly sought his friendship. The king received him honourably, received him as his son by confirmation from the bishop's hand, and presented him with many gifts. Thus he became subject to the king with all his people, on the same condition, that he should be obedient to the king's will in all respects, in the same way as Ethered with the Mercians.

Nor was it in vain that all these princes gained the[Pg 73] friendship of the king. For those who desired to augment their worldly power, obtained power; those who desired money, gained money; and in like way, those who desired his friendship, or both money and friendship, succeeded in getting what they wanted. But all of them gained his love and guardianship and defence from every quarter, even as the king with his men could protect himself.

When therefore I had come into his presence at the royal vill, called Leonaford, I was honourably received by him, and remained that time with him at his court eight months; during which I read to him whatever books he liked, and such as he had at hand; for this is his most usual custom, both night and day, amid his many other occupations of mind and body, either himself to read books, or to listen whilst others read them. And when I frequently asked his leave to depart, and could in no way obtain it, at length when I had made up my mind by all means to demand it, he called me to him at twilight, on Christmas eve, and gave me two letters, in which was a long list of all the things which were in two monasteries, called in Saxon, Ambresbury[135] and Banwell;[136] and on that same day he delivered to me those two monasteries with all the things that were in them, and a silken pall of great value, and a load for a strong man, of incense, adding these words, that he did not give me these trifling presents, because he was unwilling hereafter to give me greater; for in the course of time he unexpectedly gave me Exeter, with all the diocese which belonged to him in Saxony[137] and in Cornwall, besides gifts every day, without number, in every kind of worldly wealth, which it would be too long to enumerate here, lest they should make my reader tired. But let no one suppose that I have mentioned these presents in this place for the sake of glory or flattery, or to obtain greater honour. I call God to witness, that I have not done so; but that I might certify to those who are ignorant, how profuse he is in giving. He then at once gave me permission to ride to those two rich monasteries and afterwards to return to my own country.

In the year of our Lord's incarnation, 886, which was the thirty-eighth since the birth of Alfred, the army so often before-mentioned again fled the country, and went into the country of the Western Franks, directing their ships to the[Pg 74] river called the Seine, and sailed up it as far as the city of Paris, and there they wintered and measured out their camp. They besieged that city a whole year, as far as the bridge, that they might prevent the inhabitants from making use of it; for the city is situated on a small island in the middle of the river; but by the merciful favour of God, and the brave defence of citizens, the army could not force their way inside the walls.

In the same year, Alfred, king of the Anglo-Saxons, after the burning of cities and the slaying of the people, honourably rebuilt the city of London, and made it again habitable. He gave it into the custody of his son-in-law, Ethered, earl of Mercia, to which king all the Angles and Saxons, who before had been dispersed everywhere, or were in captivity with the pagans, voluntarily turned and submitted themselves to his dominion.

[138] [In the same year there arose a foul and deadly discord at Oxford, between Grimbald, with those learned men whom he had brought with him, and the old scholars whom he had found there, who, on his arrival, refused altogether to embrace the laws, modes, and forms of prælection instituted by the same Grimbald. During three years there had been no great dissension between them, but there was a secret enmity, which afterwards broke out with great atrocity, clearer than the light itself. To appease this quarrel, that invincible king Alfred, having been informed of the strife by a messenger from Grimbald, went to Oxford to put an end to the controversy, and endured much trouble in hearing the arguments and complaints which were brought forwards on both sides. The substance of the dispute was this: the old scholars contended, that literature had flourished at Oxford before the coming of Grimbald, although the number of scholars was smaller than in ancient time, because several had been driven away by the cruelty and tyranny of the pagans. They also proved and showed, by the undoubted testimony of ancient annals, that the orders and institutions of that place had been sanctioned by certain pious and learned men, as for instance by Saint Gildas, Melkinus, Nennius, Kentigern, and others, who had all grown old there in literature, and happily[Pg 75] administered everything there in peace and concord; and also, that Saint Germanus had come to Oxford, and stopped there half a year, at the time when he went through Britain to preach against the Pelagian heresy; he wonderfully approved of the customs and institutions above-mentioned. The king, with unheard-of humility, listened to both sides carefully, and exhorted them again and again with pious and wholesome admonitions to cherish mutual love and concord. He therefore left them with this decision, that each party should follow their own counsel, and preserve their own institutions. Grimbald, displeased at this, immediately departed to the monastery at Winchester,[139] which had been recently founded by king Alfred, and ordered a tomb to be carried to Winchester, in which he proposed, after this life, that his bones should be laid in the vault which had been made under the chancel of St. Peter's church in Oxford; which church the same Grimbald had built from its foundations, of stone polished with great care.]

In the year of our Lord's incarnation 887, which was the thirty-ninth of king Alfred's life, the above-mentioned army of the pagans, leaving the city of Paris uninjured, because they could not succeed against it, sailed up the river Seine under the bridge, until they reached the mouth of the river Materne [Marne]; where they left the Seine, and, following for a long time the course of the Marne, at length, but not without much labour, they arrived at a place called Chezy, a royal vill, where they wintered one year. In the following year they entered the mouth of the river Ionna [Yonne], not without doing much damage to the country, and there remained one year.

In the same year Charles, king of the Franks, went the way of all flesh; but Arnulf, his brother's son, six weeks before he died, had expelled him from his kingdom. After his death five kings were appointed, and the kingdom was split into five parts; but the principal rank in the kingdom justly and deservedly devolved on Arnulf, save only that he committed an unworthy offence against his uncle. The other four kings promised fidelity and obedience to Arnulf, as was proper; for none of these four kings was hereditary on his father's side in his share of the kingdom, as was Arnulf; therefore, though the five kings were appointed immediately[Pg 76] on the death of Charles, yet the empire remained in the hands of Arnulf.

Such, then, was the division of the kingdom; Arnulf received the countries on the east of the river Rhine; Rodulf the inner parts of the kingdom; Oda the western part; Beorngar and Guido, Lombardy, and those countries which are in that part of the mountains; but they did not keep these large dominions in peace, for they twice fought a pitched battle, and often mutually ravaged their kingdoms, and drove each other out of their dominions.

In the same year in which that [pagan] army left Paris and went to Chezy, Ethelhelm, earl of Wiltshire, carried to Rome the alms of king Alfred and of the Saxons.

In the same year also Alfred, king of the Anglo-Saxons, so often before mentioned, by divine inspiration, began, on one and the same day, to read and to interpret; but that I may explain this more fully to those who are ignorant, I will relate the cause of this long delay in beginning.

On a certain day we were both of us sitting in the king's chamber, talking on all kinds of subjects, as usual, and it happened that I read to him a quotation out of a certain book. He heard it attentively with both his ears, and addressed me with a thoughtful mind, showing me at the same moment a book which he carried in his bosom, wherein the daily courses and psalms, and prayers which he had read in his youth, were written, and he commanded me to write the same quotation in that book. Hearing this, and perceiving his ingenuous benevolence, and devout desire of studying the words of divine wisdom, I gave, though in secret, boundless thanks to Almighty God, who had implanted such a love of wisdom in the king's heart. But I could not find any empty space in that book wherein to write the quotation, for it was already full of various matters; wherefore I made a little delay, principally that I might stir up the bright intellect of the king to a higher acquaintance with the divine testimonies. Upon his urging me to make haste and write it quickly, I said to him, "Are you willing that I should write that quotation on some leaf apart? For it is not certain whether we shall not find one or more other such extracts which will please you; and if that should so happen, we shall be glad that we have kept them apart." "Your plan is good," said he, and I gladly made haste to get ready a[Pg 77] sheet, in the beginning of which I wrote what he bade me; and on that same day, I wrote therein, as I had anticipated, no less than three other quotations which pleased him; and from that time we daily talked together, and found out other quotations which pleased him, so that the sheet became full, and deservedly so; according as it is written, "The just man builds upon a moderate foundation, and by degrees passes to greater things." Thus, like a most productive bee, he flew here and there, asking questions, as he went, until he had eagerly and unceasingly collected many various flowers of divine Scriptures, with which he thickly stored the cells of his mind.

Now when that first quotation was copied, he was eager at once to read, and to interpret in Saxon, and then to teach others; even as we read of that happy robber, who recognized his Lord, aye, the Lord of all men, as he was hanging on the blessed cross, and, saluting him with his bodily eyes only, because elsewhere he was all pierced with nails, cried, "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom!" for it was only at the end of his life that he began to learn the rudiments of the Christian faith. But the king, inspired by God, began to study the rudiments of divine Scripture on the sacred solemnity of St. Martin [Nov. 11], and he continued to learn the flowers collected by certain masters, and to reduce them into the form of one book, as he was then able, although mixed one with another, until it became almost as large as a psalter. This book he called his Enchiridion or Manual, because he carefully kept it at hand day and night, and found, as he told me, no small consolation therein.

But as has already been written by a certain wise man,

"Of watchful minds are they whose pious care
It is to govern well,"

so must I be watchful, in that I just now drew a kind of comparison or similarity, though in dissimilar manner, between that happy robber and the king; for the cross is hateful to every one, wherever there is suffering. But what can he do, if he cannot save himself or escape thence? or by what art can he remain there and improve his cause? He must, therefore, whether he will or no, endure with pain and sorrow that which he is suffering.

Now the king was pierced with many nails of tribulation,[Pg 78] though placed in the royal seat; for from the twentieth year of his age to the present year, which is his fortieth,[140] he has been constantly afflicted with most severe attacks of an unknown complaint, so that he has not a moment's ease either from suffering the pain which it causes, or from the gloom which is thrown over him by the apprehension of its coming. Moreover, the constant invasions of foreign nations, by which he was continually harassed by land and sea, without any interval of quiet, were a just cause of disquiet. What shall I say of his repeated expeditions against the pagans, his wars, and incessant occupations of government? Of the daily embassies sent to him by foreign nations, from the Tyrrhenian sea to the farthest end of Ireland?[141] For we have seen and read letters, accompanied with presents, which were sent to him by Abel the patriarch of Jerusalem. What shall I say of the cities and towns which he restored, and of others which he built, where none had been before? of the royal halls and chambers, wonderfully erected by his command, with stone and wood? of the royal vills constructed of stone, removed from their old site, and handsomely rebuilt by the king's command in more fitting places? Besides the disease above-mentioned, he was disturbed by the quarrels of his friends, who would voluntarily endure little or no toil, though it was for the common necessity of the kingdom; but he alone, sustained by the divine aid, like a skilful pilot, strove to steer his ship, laden with much wealth, into the safe and much desired harbour of his country, though almost all his crew were tired, and suffered them not to faint or hesitate, though sailing amid the manifold waves and eddies of this present life.

For all his bishops, earls, nobles, favourite ministers, and prefects, who, next to God and the king, had the whole government of the kingdom, as is fitting, continually received from him instruction, respect, exhortation, and command; nay, at last, when they were disobedient, and his long patience was exhausted, he would reprove them severely, and censure at pleasure their vulgar folly and obstinacy; and in this way he directed their attention to the common interests of the kingdom. But, owing to the sluggishness of the people,[Pg 79] these admonitions of the king were either not fulfilled, or were begun late at the moment of necessity, and so ended less to the advantage of those who put them in execution; for I will say nothing of the castles which he ordered to be built, but which, being begun late, were never finished, because the hostile troops broke in upon them by land and sea, and, as often happened, the thwarters of the royal ordinances repented when it was too late, and blushed at their non-performance of his commands. I speak of repentance when it is too late, on the testimony of Scripture, whereby numberless persons have had cause for too much sorrow when many insidious evils have been wrought. But though by these means, sad to say, they may be bitterly afflicted and roused to sorrow by the loss of fathers, wives, children, ministers, servant-men, servant-maids, and furniture and household stuff, what is the use of hateful repentance when their kinsmen are dead, and they cannot aid them, or redeem those who are captive from captivity? for they are not able even to assist those who have escaped, as they have not wherewith to sustain even their own lives. They repented, therefore, when it was too late, and grieved at their incautious neglect of the king's commands, and they praised the royal wisdom with one voice, and tried with all their power to fulfil what they had before refused, namely, concerning the erection of castles, and other things generally useful to the whole kingdom.

Of his fixed purpose of holy meditation, which, in the midst of prosperity and adversity he never neglected, I cannot with advantage now omit to speak. For, whereas he often thought of the necessities of his soul, among the other good deeds to which his thoughts were night and day turned, he ordered that two monasteries should be built, one for monks at Athelney, which is a place surrounded by impassable marshes and rivers, where no one can enter but by boats, or by a bridge laboriously constructed between two other heights; at the western end of which bridge was erected a strong tower, of beautiful work, by command of the aforesaid king; and in this monastery he collected monks of all kinds, from every quarter, and placed them therein.

For at first, because he had no one of his own nation, noble and free by birth, who was willing to enter the monastic life, except children, who could neither choose good[Pg 80] nor avoid evil in consequence of their tender years, because for many previous years the love of a monastic life had utterly decayed from that nation as well as from many other nations, though many monasteries still remain in that country; yet, as no one directed the rule of that kind of life in a regular way, for what reason I cannot say, either from the invasions of foreigners which took place so frequently both by sea and land, or because that people abounded in riches of every kind, and so looked with contempt on the monastic life. It was for this reason that king Alfred sought to gather monks of different kinds to place in the same monastery.

First he placed there as abbat, John[142] the priest and monk, an old Saxon by birth, then certain priests and deacons from beyond the sea; of whom, finding that he had not as large a number as he wished, he procured as many as possible of the same Gallic race, some of whom, being children, he ordered to be taught in the same monastery, and at a later period to be admitted to the monastic habit. I have myself seen a young lad of pagan birth who was educated in that monastery, and by no means the hindmost of them all.

There was also a deed done once in that monastery, which I would utterly consign to oblivion, although it is an unworthy deed; for throughout the whole of Scripture the base deeds of the wicked are interspersed among the blessed deeds of the just, as tares and darnel are sown among the wheat: good deeds are recorded that they may be praised and imitated, and that their imitators may be held in all honour; wicked deeds are there related, that they may be censured and avoided, and their imitators be reproved with all odium, contempt, and vengeance.

For once upon a time, a certain priest and a deacon, Gauls by birth, and two of the aforesaid monks, by the instigation of the devil, and excited by some secret jealousy, became so embittered in secret against their abbat, the above mentioned John, that, like Jews, they circumvented and betrayed their master. For whereas he had two servants, whom he had hired out of Gaul, they taught these such wicked practices, that in the night, when all men were enjoying the sweet tranquillity of sleep, they should make their way into the church armed, and shutting it behind them as usual, hide themselves therein, and wait for the moment when the abbat[Pg 81] should enter the church alone. At length, when he should come alone to pray, and, bending his knees, bow before the holy altar, the men should rush on him with hostility, and try to slay him on the spot. They then should drag his lifeless body out of the church, and throw it down before the house of a certain harlot, as if he had been slain whilst on a visit to her. This was their machination, adding crime to crime, as it is said, "The last error shall be worse than the first."

But the divine mercy, which always delights to aid the innocent, frustrated in great part the wicked design of the wicked men, so that it should not turn out in every respect as they had proposed.

When, therefore, the whole of the evil counsel had been explained by those wicked teachers to their wicked agents, and the night which had been fixed on as most fit was come, the two armed ruffians were placed, with a promise of impunity, to await in the church for the arrival of the abbat. In the middle of the night John, as usual, entered the church to pray, without any one's knowing of it, and knelt before the altar. The two ruffians rushed upon him with drawn swords, and dealt him some severe wounds. But he, being a man of a brave mind, and, as we have heard say, not unacquainted with the art of self-defence, if he had not been a follower of a better calling, no sooner heard the sound of the robbers, before he saw them, than he rose up against them before he was wounded, and, shouting as loud as he could, struggled against them, crying out that they were devils and not men; for he himself knew no better, as he thought that no men would dare to attempt such a deed. He was, however, wounded before any of his people could come to his help. His attendants, roused by the noise, were frightened when they heard the word devils, and both those two who, like Jews, sought to betray their master, and the others who knew nothing of the matter, rushed together to the doors of the church; but before they got there those ruffians escaped, leaving the abbat half dead. The monks raised the old man, in a fainting condition, and carried him home with tears and lamentations; nor did those two deceitful monks shed tears less than the innocent. But God's mercy did not allow so bold a deed to pass unpunished; the ruffians who perpetrated it, and all who urged them to it,[Pg 82] were taken and put in prison, where, by various tortures, they came to a disgraceful end. Let us now return to our narrative.

Another monastery, also, was built by the same king as a residence for nuns, near the eastern gate of Shaftesbury; and his own daughter, Ethelgiva, was placed in it as abbess. With her many other noble ladies bound by the rules of the monastic life, dwell in that monastery. These two edifices were enriched by the king with much land, as well as personal property.

These things being thus disposed of, the king began, as was his practice, to consider within himself, what more he could do to augment and show forth his piety; what he had begun wisely, and thoughtfully conceived for the public benefit, was adhered to with equally beneficial result; for he had heard it out of the book of the law, that the Lord had promised to restore to him tenfold; and he knew that the Lord had kept his promise, and had actually restored to him tenfold. Encouraged by this example, and wishing to exceed the practices of his predecessors, he vowed humbly and faithfully to devote to God half his services, both day and night, and also half of all his wealth, such as lawfully and justly came annually into his possession; and this vow, as far as human discretion can perceive and keep, he skilfully and wisely endeavoured to fulfil. But, that he might, with his usual caution, avoid that which scripture warns us against: "If you offer aright, but do not divide aright, you sin," he considered how he might divide aright that which he had vowed to God; and as Solomon had said, "The heart of the king is in the hand of God," that is, his counsel he ordered with wise policy, which could come only from above, that his officers should first divide into two parts the revenues of every year.

When this division was made, he assigned the first part to worldly uses, and ordered that one-third of it should be paid to his soldiers, and also to his ministers, the nobles who dwelt at court where they discharged divers duties; for so the king's family was arranged at all times into three classes. The king's attendants were most wisely distributed into three companies, so that the first company should be on duty at court for one month, night and day, at the end of which they returned to their homes, and were relieved by the second[Pg 83] company. At the end of the second month, in the same way, the third company relieved the second, who returned to their homes, where they spent two months, until their services were again wanted. The third company also gave place to the first in the same way, and also spent two months at home. Thus was the threefold division of the companies arranged at all times in the royal household.

To these therefore was paid the first of the three portions aforesaid, to each according to their respective dignities and peculiar services; the second to the operatives, whom he had collected from every nation, and had about him in large numbers, men skilled in every kind of construction; the third portion was assigned to foreigners who came to him out of every nation far and near, whether they asked money of him or not, he cheerfully gave to each with wonderful munificence according to their respective merits, according to what is written: "God loveth a cheerful giver."

But the second part of all his revenues, which came yearly into his possession, and was included in the receipts of the exchequer, as we mentioned a little before, he, with ready devotion, gave to God, ordering his ministers to divide it carefully into four parts, on the condition that the first part should be discreetly bestowed on the poor of every nation who came to him; and on this subject he said that, as far as human discretion could guarantee, the remark of pope St. Gregory should be followed: "Give not much to whom you should give little, nor little to whom much, nor something to whom nothing, nor nothing to whom something." The second of the four portions was given to the two monasteries which he had built, and to those who therein had dedicated themselves to God's service, as we have mentioned above. The third portion was assigned to the school, which he had studiously collected together, consisting of many of the nobility of his own nation. The fourth portion was for the use of all the neighbouring monasteries in all Saxony and Mercia, and also during some years, in turn, to the churches and servants of God dwelling in Britain [Wales], Cornwall, Gaul, Armorica, Northumbria, and sometimes also in Ireland; according to his means, he either distributed to them beforehand, or afterwards, if life and success should not fail him.

When the king had arranged these matters, he remembered that sentence of divine scripture, "Whosoever will[Pg 84] give alms, ought to begin from himself," and prudently began to reflect what he could offer to God from the service of his body and mind; for he proposed to consecrate to God no less out of this than he had done of things external to himself. Moreover, he promised, as far as his infirmity and his means would allow, to give up to God the half of his services, bodily and mental, by night and by day, voluntarily, and with all his might; but, inasmuch as he could not equally distinguish the lengths of the hours by night, on account of the darkness, and ofttimes of the day, on account of the storms and clouds, he began to consider, by what means and without any difficulty, relying on the mercy of God, he might discharge the promised tenor of his vow until his death.

After long reflection on these things, he at length, by a useful and shrewd invention, commanded his chaplains to supply wax in a sufficient quantity, and he caused it to be weighed in such a manner that when there was so much of it in the scales, as would equal the weight of seventy-two pence,[143] he caused the chaplains to make six candles thereof, each of equal length, so that each candle might have twelve divisions[144] marked longitudinally upon it. By this plan, therefore, those six candles burned for twenty-four hours, a night and day, without fail, before the sacred relics of many of God's elect, which always accompanied him wherever he went; but sometimes when they would not continue burning a whole day and night, till the same hour that they were lighted the preceding evening, from the violence of the wind, which blew day and night without intermission through the doors and windows of the churches, the fissures of the divisions, the plankings, or the wall, or the thin canvass of the tents, they then unavoidably burned out and finished their course before the appointed time; the king therefore considered by what means he might shut out the wind, and so by a useful and cunning invention, he ordered a lantern to be beautifully constructed of wood and white ox-horn, which, when skilfully planed till it is thin, is no less transparent than a vessel of glass. This lantern, therefore, was wonderfully made of wood and horn, as we before said, and by night a candle was put into it, which shone as brightly without as within, and was not extinguished by the wind; for the[Pg 85] opening of the lantern was also closed up, according to the king's command, by a door made of horn.

By this contrivance, then, six candles, lighted in succession, lasted four and twenty hours, neither more nor less, and, when these were extinguished, others were lighted.

When all these things were properly arranged, the king, eager to give up to God the half of his daily service, as he had vowed, and more also, if his ability on the one hand, and his malady on the other, would allow him, showed himself a minute investigator of the truth in all his judgments, and this especially for the sake of the poor, to whose interest, day and night, among other duties of this life, he ever was wonderfully attentive. For in the whole kingdom the poor, besides him, had few or no protectors; for all the powerful and noble of that country had turned their thoughts rather to secular than to heavenly things: each was more bent on secular matters, to his own profit, than on the public good.

He strove also, in his own judgments, for the benefit of both the noble and the ignoble, who often perversely quarrelled at the meetings of his earls and officers, so that hardly one of them admitted the justice of what had been decided by the earls and prefects, and in consequence of this pertinacious and obstinate dissension, all desired to have the judgment of the king, and both sides sought at once to gratify their desire. But if any one was conscious of injustice on his side in the suit, though by law and agreement he was compelled, however reluctant, to go before the king, yet with his own good will he never would consent to go. For he knew, that in the king's presence no part of his wrong would be hidden; and no wonder, for the king was a most acute investigator in passing sentence, as he was in all other things. He inquired into almost all the judgments which were given in his own absence, throughout all his dominion, whether they were just or unjust. If he perceived there was iniquity in those judgments, he summoned the judges, either through his own agency, or through others of his faithful servants, and asked them mildly, why they had judged so unjustly; whether through ignorance or malevolence; i.e., whether for the love or fear of any one, or hatred of others; or also for the desire of money. At length, if the judges acknowledged they had given judgment because they[Pg 86] knew no better, he discreetly and moderately reproved their inexperience and folly in such terms as these: "I wonder truly at your insolence, that, whereas by God's favour and mine, you have occupied the rank and office of the wise, you have neglected the studies and labours of the wise. Either, therefore, at once give up the discharge of the temporal duties which you hold, or endeavour more zealously to study the lessons of wisdom. Such are my commands." At these words the earls and prefects would tremble and endeavour to turn all their thoughts to the study of justice, so that, wonderful to say, almost all his earls, prefects, and officers, though unlearned from their cradles, were sedulously bent upon acquiring learning, choosing rather laboriously to acquire the knowledge of a new discipline than to resign their functions; but if any one of them from old age or slowness of talent was unable to make progress in liberal studies, he commanded his son, if he had one, or one of his kinsmen, or, if there was no other person to be had, his own freedman or servant, whom he had some time before advanced to the office of reading, to recite Saxon books before him night and day, whenever he had any leisure, and they lamented with deep sighs, in their inmost hearts, that in their youth they had never attended to such studies; and they blessed the young men of our days, who happily could be instructed in the liberal arts, whilst they execrated their own lot, that they had not learned these things in their youth, and now, when they are old, though wishing to learn them, they are unable. But this skill of young and old in acquiring letters, we have explained to the knowledge of the aforesaid king.[145]

[Pg 87]


[86] Wantage.

[87] The Gewissæ, generally understood to be the West-Saxons.

[88] Carisbrooke, as may be conjectured from the name, which is a combination of Wight and Caraburgh.

[89] Wembury.

[90] Minster.

[91] Canterbury.

[92] Ockley, in Surrey.

[93] This is one the few instances to be met with of the name Britannia applied to Wales.

[94] Thanet.

[95] Wilts.

[96] Offa's dyke, between Wales and England.

[97] Ingram supposes this to be Stonehenge. Stæningham, however, is the common reading, which Camden thinks is Steyning, in Sussex. The Saxon Chronicle, a.d. 855, states, that Ethelwulf was buried at Winchester.

[98] We must understand this epithet as denoting his mother-in-law, Judith, rather than his own mother, who was dead in a.d. 856, when Alfred was not yet seven years old. When his father brought Judith from France Alfred was thirteen years old.

[99] This nobleman occurs as a witness [Mucil, dux] to many Mercian charters, dated from a.d. 814 to 866.

[100] Inhabitants of Gainsborough.

[101] Englefield Green is about four miles from Windsor

[102] Aston, in Berkshire.

[103] Stratclyde Britons.

[104] Cambridge.

[105] The Frome.

[106] They swore oaths to Alfred on the holy ring, says the Saxon Chronicle, p. 355. The most solemn manner of swearing among the Danes and other northern nations was by their arms. Olaus Magnus, lib. viii. c. 2.

[107] Exeter.

[108] It is necessary to inform the reader that many passages of this work are modern interpolations, made in the old MS. by a later hand. The "Annals" referred to in the text are supposed not to be a genuine work of Asser.

[109] Swanwich, in Dorsetshire.

[110] This clause is a mere repetition of the preceding. See a former note in this page.

[111] Athelney, a morass formed by the conflux of the Thone and the Parret. See Saxon Chron. p. 356, and Chronicle of Ethelwerd, p 31.

[112] The original here is in Latin verse, and may therefore be rendered into English verse, but such as every housewife in Somersetshire would understand.

[113] Probably the sanguinary Hubba.

[114] Or South Wales.

[115] Kynwith castle stood on the river Taw. Camden, p. 35.

[116] Now called Brixton Deverill, in Wilts.

[117] Selwood Forest extended from Frome to Burham, and was probably much larger at one time.

[118] Or Iglea. Supposed to be Leigh, now Westbury, Wilts.

[119] Wedmore is four miles and three quarters from Axbridge, in Somersetshire.

[120] In the Saxon Chronicle (a.d. 878) it is said, that Gothrun was baptized at Aller, and his chrism-loosing was at Wedmore. The chrismal was a white linen cloth put on the head at the administration of baptism, which was taken off at the expiration of eight days.

[121] Inhabitants of Gloucester, Worcester, and part of Warwickshire.

[122] This expression paints in strong colours the unfortunate and divided state of England at this period, for it shows that the Danes had settled possession of parts of it. In fact, all traces of the heptarchy, or ancient division of the island into provinces, did not entirely disappear until some years after the Norman conquest.

[123] Not the river Stour, in Kent; but the Stour which divides Essex from Suffolk. Lambard fixes the battle at Harwich haven.

[124] Or, Old Saxons.

[125] St. Guerir's church was at Ham Stoke, in Cornwall.

[126] An interesting account of St. Neot will be found in Gorham's History And Antiquities of Eynesbury and St. Neot's.

[127] Grimbald was provost of St. Omer's.

[128] John had been connected with the monastery of Corbie.

[129] East Dene [or Dean] and West Dene are two villages near Chichester. There are also other villages of the same name near East Bourne.

[130] This expression alludes to the tonsure, which was undergone by those who became clerks. For a description of the ecclesiastical tonsure see Bede's Eccles. Hist. p. 160

[131] The original Latin continues, "Et illa adjuvaretur per rudimenta Sancti Degui in omni causa, tamen pro viribus," which I do not understand, and therefore cannot translate.

[132] A petty prince of South Wales.

[133] Or St. Dewi. Probably by the parish of St. Deguus is meant the diocese of St. David's. Hence it is said, that Alfred gave to Asser the whole parish (omnis parochia) of Exeter.

[134] Archbishop of St. David's.

[135] Amesbury, in Wilts.

[136] In Somersetshire.

[137] Wessex.

[138] The whole of this paragraph concerning Oxford is thought to be an interpolation, because it is not known to have existed in more than one MS. copy.

[139] Hyde Abbey.

[140] This must consequently have been written in a.d. 888.

[141] Wise conjectures that we ought to read Hiberiæ, Spain, and not Hiberniæ, Ireland, in this passage.

[142] Not the celebrated John Scotus Eregina.

[143] Denarii.

[144] Unciæ pollicis.

[145] Some of the MSS. record, in a note or appendix written by a later hand, that king Alfred died on the 26th of October, a.d. 900, in the thirtieth of his reign. "The different dates assigned to the death of Alfred," says Sir Francis Palgrave, "afford a singular proof of the uncertainty arising from various modes of computation. The Saxon Chronicle and Florence of Worcester agree in placing the event in 901. The first 'six nights before All Saints;' the last, with more precision, 'Indictione quarta, et Feria quarta, 5 Cal. Nov.' Simon of Durham, in 889, and the Saxon Chronicle, in another passage, in 900. The concurrents of Florence of Worcester seem to afford the greatest certainty, and the date of 901 has therefore been preferred."



[Pg 88-89]




Chap. I.The epistle dedicatory to Robert earl of Gloucester.[146]

Whilst occupied on many and various studies, I happened to light upon the History of the Kings of Britain, and wondered that in the account which Gildas and Bede, in their elegant treatises, had given of them, I found nothing said of those kings who lived here before the Incarnation of Christ, nor of Arthur, and many others who succeeded after the Incarnation; though their actions both deserved immortal fame, and were also celebrated by many people in a pleasant manner and by heart, as if they had been written. Whilst I was intent upon these and such like thoughts, Walter, archdeacon of Oxford,[147] a man of great eloquence, and learned in foreign histories, offered me a very ancient book in the British tongue, which, in a continued regular story and elegant style, related the actions of them all, from Brutus the first king of the Britons, down to Cadwallader the son of Cadwallo. At his request, therefore, though I had not made fine language my study, by collecting florid expressions from other authors, yet contented with my own homely style, I undertook the translation of that book into Latin. For if I had swelled the pages with rhetorical[Pg 90] flourishes, I must have tired my readers, by employing their attention more upon my words than upon the history. To you, therefore, Robert earl of Gloucester, this work humbly sues for the favour of being so corrected by your advice, that it may not be thought to be the poor offspring of Geoffrey of Monmouth, but when polished by your refined wit and judgment, the production of him who had Henry the glorious king of England for his father, and whom we see an accomplished scholar and philosopher, as well as a brave soldier and expert commander; so that Britain with joy acknowledges, that in you she possesses another Henry.


[146] Robert, earl of Gloucester was the natural son of king Henry I, by whose command he swore fealty to the empress Matilda, daughter of that monarch. To prove his fidelity, he rebelled against king Stephen, and mainly contributed to the success of Henry son of the empress, afterwards Henry II.

[147] Thought to be Walter Mapes the poet, author of several ludicrous and satirical compositions.

Chap. II.The first inhabitants of Britain.

Britain, the best of islands, is situated in the Western Ocean, between France and Ireland, being eight hundred miles long, and two hundred broad. It produces every thing that is useful to man, with a plenty that never fails. It abounds with all kinds of metal, and has plains of large extent, and hills fit for the finest tillage, the richness of whose soil affords variety of fruits in their proper seasons. It has also forests well stored with all kinds of wild beasts; in its lawns cattle find good change of pasture, and bees variety of flowers for honey. Under its lofty mountains lie green meadows pleasantly situated, in which the gentle murmurs of crystal springs gliding along clear channels, give those that pass an agreeable invitation to lie down on their banks and slumber. It is likewise well watered with lakes and rivers abounding with fish; and besides the narrow sea which is on the Southern coast towards France, there are three noble rivers, stretching out like three arms, namely, the Thames, the Severn, and the Humber; by which foreign commodities from all countries are brought into it. It was formerly adorned with eight and twenty cities,[148] of which some are in ruins and desolate, others are still standing, beautified with lofty church-towers, wherein religious worship is performed according to the Christian institution. It is lastly inhabited by five different nations, the Britons, Romans, Saxons, Picts, and Scots;[Pg 91] whereof the Britons before the rest did formerly possess the whole island from sea to sea, till divine vengeance, punishing them for their pride, made them give way to the Picts and Saxons. But in what manner, and from whence, they first arrived here, remains now to be related in what follows.[149]


[148] The names of thirty-three cities will be found in Nennius's History of the Britons, § 7.

[149] This brief description of Britain is taken almost word for word from the more authentic historians, Bede, Orosius, &c.

Chap. III.Brutus, being banished after the killing of his parents, goes into Greece.

After the Trojan war, Æneas, flying with Ascanius from the destruction of their city, sailed to Italy. There he was honourably received by king Latinus, which raised against him the envy of Turnus, king of the Rutuli, who thereupon made war against him. Upon their engaging in battle, Æneas got the victory, and having killed Turnus, obtained the kingdom of Italy, and with it Lavinia the daughter of Latinus. After his death, Ascanius, succeeding in the kingdom, built Alba upon the Tiber, and begat a son named Sylvius, who, in pursuit of a private amour, took to wife a niece of Lavinia. The damsel soon after conceived, and the father Ascanius, coming to the knowledge of it, commanded his magicians to consult of what sex the child should be. When they had satisfied themselves in the matter, they told him she would give birth to a boy, who would kill his father and mother, and after travelling over many countries in banishment, would at last arrive at the highest pitch of glory. Nor were they mistaken in their prediction; for at the proper time the woman brought forth a son, and died of his birth; but the child was delivered to a nurse and called Brutus.

At length, after fifteen years were expired, the youth accompanied his father in hunting, and killed him undesignedly by the shot of an arrow. For, as the servants were driving up the deer towards them, Brutus, in shooting at them, smote his father under the breast. Upon his death, he was expelled from Italy, his kinsmen being enraged at him for so heinous a deed. Thus banished he went into Greece, where he found the posterity of Helenus, son of[Pg 92] Priamus, kept in slavery by Pandrasus, king of the Greeks. For, after the destruction of Troy, Pyrrhus, the son of Achilles, had brought hither in chains Helenus and many others; and to revenge on them the death of his father, had given command that they should be held in captivity. Brutus, finding they were by descent his old countrymen, took up his abode among them, and began to distinguish himself by his conduct and bravery in war, so as to gain the affection of kings and commanders, and above all the young men of the country. For he was esteemed a person of great capacity both in council and war, and signalized his generosity to his soldiers, by bestowing among them all the money and spoil he got. His fame, therefore, spreading over all countries, the Trojans from all parts began to flock to him, desiring under his command to be freed from subjection to the Greeks; which they assured him might easily be done, considering how much their number was now increased in the country, being seven thousand strong, besides women and children. There was likewise then in Greece a noble youth named Assaracus, a favourer of their cause. For he was descended on his mother's side from the Trojans, and placed great confidence in them, that he might be able by their assistance to oppose the designs of the Greeks. For his brother had a quarrel with him for attempting to deprive him of three castles which his father had given him at his death, on account of his being only the son of a concubine; but as the brother was a Greek, both by his father's and mother's side, he had prevailed with the king and the rest of the Greeks to espouse his cause. Brutus, having taken a view of the number of his men, and seen how Assaracus's castles lay open to him, complied with their request.[150]


[150] It is unnecessary to remind the classical reader that the historians of Greece and Italy make no mention of Brutus and his adventures. The minuteness of detail, so remarkable in the whole story, as related by Geoffrey, is an obvious objection to its authenticity.

Chap. IV.Brutus's letter to Pandrasus.

Being, therefore, chosen their commander, he assembled the Trojans from all parts, and fortified the towns belonging to Assaracus. But he himself, with Assaracus and the whole[Pg 93] body of men and women that adhered to him, retired to the woods and hills, and then sent a letter to the king in these words:—

"Brutus, general of the remainder of the Trojans, to Pandrasus, king of the Greeks, sends greeting. As it was beneath the dignity of a nation descended from the illustrious race of Dardanus, to be treated in your kingdom otherwise than the nobility of their birth required, they have betaken themselves to the protection of the woods. For they have preferred living after the manner of wild beasts, upon flesh and herbs, with the enjoyment of liberty, to continuing longer in the greatest luxury under the yoke of slavery. If this gives your majesty any offence, impute it not to them, but pardon it; since it is the common sentiment of every captive, to be desirous of regaining his former dignity. Let pity therefore move you to bestow on them freely their lost liberty, and permit them to inhabit the thickest of the woods, to which they have retired to avoid slavery. But if you deny them this favour, then by your permission and assistance let them depart into some foreign country."

Chap. V.Brutus falling upon the forces of Pandrasus by surprise, routs them, and takes Antigonus, the brother of Pandrasus, with Anacletus, prisoner.

Pandrasus, perceiving the purport of the letter, was beyond measure surprised at the boldness of such a message from those whom he had kept in slavery; and having called a council of his nobles, he determined to raise an army in order to pursue them. But while he was upon his march to the deserts, where he thought they were, and to the town of Sparatinum, Brutus made a sally with three thousand men, and fell upon him unawares. For having intelligence of his coming, he had got into the town the night before, with a design to break forth upon them unexpectedly, while unarmed and marching without order. The sally being made, the Trojans briskly attack them, and endeavour to make a great slaughter. The Greeks, astonished, immediately give way on all sides, and with the king at their head, hasten to pass the river Akalon,[151] which runs near the place; but in[Pg 94] passing are in great danger from the rapidity of the stream. Brutus galls them in their flight, and kills some of them in the stream, and some upon the banks; and running to and fro, rejoices to see them in both places exposed to ruin. But Antigonus, the brother of Pandrasus, grieved at this sight, rallied his scattered troops, and made a quick return upon the furious Trojans; for he rather chose to die making a brave resistance, than to be drowned in a muddy pool in a shameful flight. Thus attended with a close body of men, he encouraged them to stand their ground, and employed his whole force against the enemy with great vigour, but to little or no purpose; for the Trojans had arms, but the others none; and from this advantage they were more eager in the pursuit, and made a miserable slaughter; nor did they give over the assault till they had made nearly a total destruction, and taken Antigonus, and Anacletus his companion prisoners.


[151] The Achelous, or perhaps the Acheron.

Chap. VI.The town of Sparatinum besieged by Pandrasus.

Brutus, after the victory, reinforced the town with six hundred men, and then retired to the woods, where the Trojan people were expecting his protection. In the meantime Pandrasus, grieving at his own flight and his brother's captivity, endeavoured that night to re-assemble his broken forces, and the next morning went with a body of his people which he had got together, to besiege the town, into which he supposed Brutus had put himself with Antigonus and the rest of the prisoners that he had taken. As soon as he was arrived at the walls, and had viewed the situation of the castle, he divided his army into several bodies, and placed them round it in different stations. One party was charged not to suffer any of the besieged to go out; another to turn the courses of the rivers; and a third to beat down the walls with battering rams and other engines. In obedience to those commands, they laboured with their utmost force to distress the besieged; and night coming on, made choice of their bravest men to defend their camp and tents from the incursions of the enemy, while the rest, who were fatigued with labour, refreshed themselves with sleep.[Pg 95]

Chap. VII.The besieged ask assistance of Brutus.

But the besieged, standing on the top of the walls, were no less vigorous to repel the force of the enemies' engines, and assault them with their own, and cast forth darts and firebrands with a unanimous resolution to make a valiant defence. And when a breach was made through the wall, they compelled the enemy to retire, by throwing upon them fire and scalding water. But being distressed through scarcity of provision and daily labour, they sent an urgent message to Brutus, to hasten to their assistance, for they were afraid they might be so weakened as to be obliged to quit the town. Brutus, though desirous of relieving them, was under great perplexity, as he had not men enough to stand a pitched battle, and therefore made use of a stratagem, by which he proposed to enter the enemies' camp by night, and having deceived their watch to kill them in their sleep. But because he knew this was impracticable without the concurrence and assistance of some Greeks, he called to him Anacletus, the companion of Antigonus, and with a drawn sword in his hand, spake to him after this manner:—

"Noble youth! your own and Antigonus's life is now at an end, unless you will faithfully perform what I command you. This night I design to invade the camp of the Greeks, and fall upon them unawares, but am afraid of being hindered in the attempt if the watch should discover the stratagem. Since it will be necessary, therefore, to have them killed first, I desire to make use of you to deceive them, that I may have the easier access to the rest. Do you therefore manage this affair cunningly. At the second hour of the night go to the watch, and with fair speeches tell them that you have brought away Antigonus from prison, and that he is come to the bottom of the woods, where he lies hid among the shrubs, and cannot get any farther, by reason of the fetters with which you shall pretend that he is bound. Then you shall conduct them, as if it were to deliver him, to the end of the wood, where I will attend with a band of men ready to kill them."[Pg 96]

Chap. VIII.Anacletus, in fear of death, betrays the army of the Greeks.

Anacletus, seeing the sword threatening him with immediate death while these words were being pronounced, was so terrified as to promise upon oath, that on condition he and Antigonus should have longer life granted them, he would execute his command. Accordingly, the agreement being confirmed, at the second hour of the night he directs his way towards the Grecian camp, and when he was come near to it, the watch, who were then narrowly examining all the places where any one could hide, ran out from all parts to meet him, and demanded the occasion of his coming, and whether it was not to betray the army. He, with a show of great joy, made the following answer:—"I come not to betray my country, but having made my escape from the prison of the Trojans, I fly thither to desire you would go with me to Antigonus, whom I have delivered from Brutus's chains. For being not able to come with me for the weight of his fetters, I have a little while ago caused him to lie hid among the shrubs at the end of the wood, till I could meet with some one whom I might conduct to his assistance." While they were in suspense about the truth of this story, there came one who knew him, and after he had saluted him, told them who he was; so that now, without any hesitation, they quickly called their absent companions, and followed him to the wood where he had told them Antigonus lay hid. But at length, as they were going among the shrubs, Brutus with his armed bands springs forth, and falls upon them, while under the greatest astonishment, with a most cruel slaughter. From thence he marches directly to the siege, and divides his men into three bands, assigning to each of them a different part of the camp, and telling them to advance discreetly, and without noise; and when entered, not to kill any body till he with his company should be possessed of the king's tent, and should cause the trumpet to sound for a signal.

Chap. IX.The taking of Pandrasus.

When he had given them these instructions, they forthwith softly entered the camp in silence, and taking their appointed stations, awaited the promised signal, which Brutus delayed[Pg 97] not to give as soon as he had got before the tent of Pandrasus, to assault which was the thing he most desired. At hearing the signal, they forthwith draw their swords, enter in among the men in their sleep, make quick destruction of them, and allowing no quarter, in this manner traverse the whole camp. The rest, awaked at the groans of the dying, and seeing their assailants, were like sheep seized with a sudden fear; for they despaired of life, since they had neither time to take arms, nor to escape by flight. They run up and down without arms among the armed, whithersoever the fury of the assault hurries them, but are on all sides cut down by the enemy rushing in. Some that might have escaped, were in the eagerness of flight dashed against rocks, trees, or shrubs, and increased the misery of their death. Others, that had only a shield, or some such covering for their defence, in venturing upon the same rocks to avoid death, fell down in the hurry and darkness of the night, and broke either legs or arms. Others, that escaped both these disasters, but did not know whither to fly, were drowned in the adjacent rivers; and scarcely one got away without some unhappy accident befalling him. Besides, the garrison in the town, upon notice of the coming of their fellow soldiers, sallied forth, and redoubled the slaughter.

Chap. X.A consultation about what is to be asked of the captive king.

But Brutus, as I said before, having possessed himself of the king's tent, made it his business to keep him a safe prisoner; for he knew he could more easily attain his ends by preserving his life than by killing him; but the party that was with him, allowing no quarter, made an utter destruction in that part which they had gained. The night being spent in this manner, when the next morning discovered to their view so great an overthrow of the enemy, Brutus, in transports of joy, gave full liberty to his men to do what they pleased with the plunder, and then entered the town with the king, to stay there till they had shared it among them; which done, he again fortified the castle, gave orders for burying the slain, and retired with his forces to the woods in great joy for the victory. After the rejoicings of his people on this occasion, their renowned general sum[Pg 98]moned the oldest of them and asked their advice, what he had best desire of Pandrasus, who, being now in their power, would readily grant whatever they would request of him, in order to regain his liberty. They, according to their different fancies, desired different things; some urged him to request that a certain part of the kingdom might be assigned them for their habitation; others that he would demand leave to depart, and to be supplied with necessaries for their voyage. After they had been a long time in suspense what to do, one of them, named Mempricius, rose up, and having made silence, spoke to them thus:—

"What can be the occasion of your suspense, fathers, in a matter which I think so much concerns your safety? The only thing you can request, with any prospect of a firm peace and security to yourselves and your posterity, is liberty to depart. For if you make no better terms with Pandrasus for his life than only to have some part of the country assigned you to live among the Greeks, you will never enjoy a lasting peace while the brothers, sons, or grandsons of those whom you killed yesterday shall continue to be your neighbours. So long as the memory of their fathers' deaths shall remain, they will be your mortal enemies, and upon the least trifling provocation will endeavour to revenge themselves. Nor will you be sufficiently numerous to withstand so great a multitude of people. And if you shall happen to fall out among yourselves, their number will daily increase, yours diminish. I propose, therefore, that you request of him his eldest daughter, Ignoge, for a wife for our general, and with her, gold, silver, corn, and whatever else shall be necessary for our voyage. If we obtain this, we may with his leave remove to some other country."

Chap. XI.Pandrasus gives his daughter Ignoge in marriage to Brutus, who, after his departure from Greece, falls upon a desert island, where he is told by the oracle of Diana what place he is to inhabit.

When he had ended his speech, in words to this effect, the whole assembly acquiesced in his advice, and moved that Pandrasus might be brought in among them, and condemned to a most cruel death unless he would grant this request. He was immediately brought in, and being placed in a chair[Pg 99] above the rest, and informed of the tortures prepared for him unless he would do what was commanded him, he made them this answer:—

"Since my ill fate has delivered me and my brother Antigonus into your hands, I can do no other than grant your request, lest a refusal may cost us our lives, which are now entirely in your power. In my opinion life is preferable to all other considerations; therefore, wonder not that I am willing to redeem it at so great a price. But though it is against my inclination that I obey your commands, yet it seems matter of comfort to me that I am to give my daughter to so noble a youth, whose descent from the illustrious race of Priamus and Anchises is clear, both from that greatness of mind which appears in him, and the certain accounts we have had of it. For who less than he could have released from their chains the banished Trojans, when reduced under slavery to so many great princes? Who else could have encouraged them to make head against the Greeks? or with so small a body of men vanquished so numerous and powerful an army, and taken their king prisoner in the engagement? And, therefore, since this noble youth has gained so much glory by the opposition which he has made to me, I give him my daughter Ignoge, and also gold, silver, ships, corn, wine, and oil, and whatever you shall find necessary for your voyage. If you shall alter your resolution, and think fit to continue among the Greeks, I will grant you the third part of my kingdom for your habitation; if not, I will faithfully perform my promise, and for your greater security will stay as a hostage among you till I have made it good."

Accordingly he held a council, and directed messengers to all the shores of Greece, to get ships together; which done, he delivered them to the Trojans, to the number of three hundred and twenty-four, laden with all kinds of provision, and married his daughter to Brutus. He made also a present of gold and silver to each man according to his quality. When everything was performed the king was set at liberty; and the Trojans, now released from his power, set sail with a fair wind. But Ignoge, standing upon the stern of the ship, swooned away several times in Brutus's arms, and with many sighs and tears lamented the leaving her parents and[Pg 100] country, nor ever turned her eyes from the shore while it was in sight. Brutus, meanwhile, endeavoured to assuage her grief by kind words and embraces intermixed with kisses, and ceased not from these blandishments till she grew weary of crying and fell asleep. During these and other accidents, the winds continued fair for two days and a night together, when at length they arrived at a certain island called Leogecia, which had been formerly wasted by the incursions of pirates, and was then uninhabited. Brutus, not knowing this, sent three hundred armed men ashore to see who inhabited it; but they finding nobody, killed several kinds of wild beasts which they met with in the groves and woods, and came to a desolate city, in which they found a temple of Diana, and in it a statue of that goddess which gave answers to those that came to consult her. At last, loading themselves with the prey which they had taken in hunting, they return to their ships, and give their companions an account of this country and city. Then they advised their leader to go to the city, and after offering sacrifices, to inquire of the deity of the place, what country was allotted them for their place of settlement. To this proposal all assented; so that Brutus, attended with Gerion, the augur, and twelve of the oldest men, set forward to the temple, with all things necessary for the sacrifice. Being arrived at the place, and presenting themselves before the shrine with garlands about their temples, as the ancient rites required, they made three fires to the three deities, Jupiter, Mercury, and Diana, and offered sacrifices to each of them. Brutus himself, holding before the altar of the goddess a consecrated vessel filled with wine, and the blood of a white hart, with his face looking up to the image, broke silence in these words:—

"Diva potens nemorum, terror sylvestribus apris;
Cui licet amfractus ire per æthereos,
Infernasque domos; terrestria jura resolve,
Et dic quas terras nos habitare velis?
Dic certam sedem qua te venerabor in ævum,
Qua tibi virgineis templa dicabo choris?"

Goddess of woods, tremendous in the chase
To mountain boars, and all the savage race!
Wide o'er the ethereal walks extends thy sway,
And o'er the infernal mansions void of day!
[Pg 101]Look upon us on earth! unfold our fate,
And say what region is our destined seat?
Where shall we next thy lasting temples raise?
And choirs of virgins celebrate thy praise?

These words he repeated nine times, after which he took four turns round the altar, poured the wine into the fire, and then laid himself down upon the hart's skin, which he had spread before the altar, where he fell asleep. About the third hour of the night, the usual time for deep sleep, the goddess seemed to present herself before him, and foretell his future success as follows:—

"Brute! sub occasum solis trans Gallica regna
Insula in oceano est undique clausa mari:
Insula in oceano est habitata gigantibus olim,
Nunc deserta quidem, gentibus apta tuis.
Hanc pete, namque tibi sedes erit illa perennis:
Sic fiet natis altera Troja tuis.
Sic de prole tua reges nascentur: et ipsis
Totius terræ subditus orbis erit."

Brutus! there lies beyond the Gallic bounds
An island which the western sea surrounds,
By giants once possessed; now few remain
To bar thy entrance, or obstruct thy reign.
To reach that happy shore thy sails employ;
There fate decrees to raise a second Troy,
And found an empire in thy royal line,
Which time shall ne'er destroy, nor bounds confine.

Awakened by the vision, he was for some time in doubt with himself, whether what he had seen was a dream or a real appearance of the goddess herself, foretelling to what land he should go. At last he called to his companions, and related to them in order the vision he had in his sleep, at which they very much rejoiced, and were urgent to return to their ships, and while the wind favoured them, to hasten their voyage towards the west, in pursuit of what the goddess had promised. Without delay, therefore, they returned to their company, and set sail again, and after a course of thirty days came to Africa, being ignorant as yet whither to steer. From thence they came to the Philenian altars, and to a place called Salinæ, and sailed between Ruscicada and the mountains of Azara,[152] where they underwent great dan[Pg 102]ger from pirates, whom, notwithstanding, they vanquished, and enriched themselves with their spoils.


[152] It is probably impossible to discover whether these names describe existing places, or are purely the invention of the author.

Chap. XII.Brutus enters Aquitaine with Corineus.

From thence, passing the river Malua, they arrived at Mauritania, where at last, for want of provisions, they were obliged to go ashore; and, dividing themselves into several bands, they laid waste the whole country. When they had well stored their ships, they steered to the Pillars of Hercules, where they saw some of those sea monsters, called Syrens, which surrounded their ships, and very nearly overturned them. However, they made a shift to escape, and came to the Tyrrhenian Sea, upon the shores of which they found four several nations descended from the banished Trojans, that had accompanied Antenor[153] in his flight. The name of their commander was Corineus, a modest man in matters of council, and of great courage and boldness, who, in an encounter with any person, even of gigantic stature, would immediately overthrow him, as if he were a child. When they understood from whom he was descended, they joined company with him and those under his government, who from the name of their leader were afterwards called the Cornish people, and indeed were more serviceable to Brutus than the rest in all his engagements. From thence they came to Aquitaine, and entering the mouth of the Loire, cast anchor. There they stayed seven days and viewed the country. Goffarius Pictus, who was king of Aquitaine at that time, having an account brought him of the arrival of a foreign people with a great fleet upon his coasts, sent ambassadors to them to demand whether they brought with them peace or war. The ambassadors, on their way towards the fleet, met Corineus, who was come out with two hundred men, to hunt in the woods. They demanded of him, who gave him leave to enter the king's forests, and kill his game; (which by an ancient law nobody was allowed to do without leave from the prince.) Corineus answered, that as for that matter there was no occasion for asking leave; upon which one of them, named Imbertus, rushing forward, with a full drawn bow levelled a shot at[Pg 103] him. Corineus avoids the arrow and immediately runs up to him, and with his bow in his hand breaks his head. The rest narrowly escaped, and carried the news of this disaster to Goffarius. The Pictavian general was struck with sorrow for it, and immediately raised a vast army, to revenge the death of his ambassador. Brutus, on the other hand, upon hearing the rumour of his coming, sends away the women and children to the ships, which he took care to be well guarded, and commands them to stay there, while he, with the rest that were able to bear arms, should go to meet the army. At last an assault being made, a bloody fight ensued: in which after a great part of the day had been spent, Corineus was ashamed to see the Aquitanians so bravely stand their ground, and the Trojans maintaining the fight without victory. He therefore takes fresh courage, and drawing off his men to the right wing, breaks in upon the very thickest of the enemies, where he made such slaughter on every side, that at last he broke the line and put them all to flight. In this encounter he lost his sword, but by good fortune, met with a battle-axe, with which he clave down to the waist every one that stood in his way. Brutus and every body else, both friends and enemies, were amazed at his courage and strength, for he brandished about his battle-axe among the flying troops, and terrified them not a little with these insulting words, "Whither fly ye, cowards? whither fly ye, base wretches? stand your ground, that ye may encounter Corineus. What! for shame! do so many thousands of you fly one man? However, take this comfort for your flight, that you are pursued by one, before whom the Tyrrhenian giants could not stand their ground, but fell down slain in heaps together."


[153] See Virgil's Æneid i, 241.

Chap. XIII.Goffarius routed by Brutus.

At these words one of them, named Subardus, who was a consul, returns with three hundred men to assault him; but Corineus with his shield wards off the blow, and lifting up his battle-axe gave him such a stroke upon the top of his helmet, that at once he clave him down to the waist; and then rushing upon the rest he made terrible slaughter by wheeling about his battle-axe among them, and, running to[Pg 104] and fro, seemed more anxious to inflict blows on the enemy than careful to avoid those which they aimed at him. Some had their hands and arms, some their very shoulders, some again their heads, and others their legs cut off by him. All fought with him only, and he alone seemed to fight with all. Brutus seeing him thus beset, out of regard to him, runs with a band of men to his assistance: at which the battle is again renewed with vigour and with loud shouts, and great numbers slain on both sides. But now the Trojans presently gain the victory, and put Goffarius with his Pictavians to flight. The king after a narrow escape went to several parts of Gaul, to procure succours among such princes as were related or known to him. At that time Gaul was subject to twelve princes, who with equal authority possessed the whole country. These receive him courteously, and promise with one consent to expel the foreigners from Aquitaine.

Chap. XIV.Brutus, after his victory with Goffarius, ravages Aquitaine with fire and sword.

Brutus, in joy for the victory, enriches his men with the spoils of the slain, and then, dividing them into several bodies, marches into the country with a design to lay it waste, and load his fleet with the spoil. With this view he sets the cities on fire, seizes the riches that were in them, destroys the fields, and makes dreadful slaughter among the citizens and common people, being unwilling to leave so much as one alive of that wretched nation. While he was making this destruction over all Aquitaine, he came to a place where the city of Tours now stands, which he afterwards built, as Homer testifies. As soon as he had looked out a place convenient for the purpose, he pitched his camp there, for a place of safe retreat, when occasion should require. For he was afraid on account of Goffarius's approach with the kings and princes of Gaul, and a very great army, which was now come near the place, ready to give him battle. Having therefore finished his camp, he expected to engage with Goffarius in two days' time, placing the utmost confidence in the conduct and courage of the young men under his command.[Pg 105]

Chap. XV.Goffarius's fight with Brutus.

Goffarius, being informed that the Trojans were in those parts, marched day and night, till he came within a close view of Brutus's camp; and then with a stern look and disdainful smile, broke out into these expressions, "Oh wretched fate! Have these base exiles made a camp also in my kingdom? Arm, arm, soldiers, and march through their thickest ranks: we shall soon take these pitiful fellows like sheep, and disperse them throughout our kingdom for slaves." At these words they prepared their arms, and advanced in twelve bodies towards the enemy. Brutus, on the other hand, with his forces drawn up in order, went forth boldly to meet them, and gave his men directions for their conduct, where they should assault and where they should be upon the defensive. At the beginning of the attack, the Trojans had the advantage, and made a rapid slaughter of the enemy, of whom there fell near two thousand, which so terrified the rest, that they were on the point of running away. But, as the victory generally falls to that side which has very much the superiority in numbers, so the Gauls, being three to one in number, though overpowered at first, yet at last joining in a great body together, broke in upon the Trojans, and forced them to retire to their camp with much slaughter. The victory thus gained, they besieged them in their camp, with a design not to suffer them to stir out until they should either surrender themselves prisoners, or be cruelly starved to death with a long famine.

In the meantime, Corineus the night following entered into consultation with Brutus, and proposed to go out that night by by-ways, and conceal himself in an adjacent wood till break of day; and while Brutus should sally forth upon the enemy in the morning twilight, he with his company would surprise them from behind and put them to slaughter. Brutus was pleased with this stratagem of Corineus, who according to his engagement got out cunningly with three thousand men, and put himself under the covert of the woods. As soon as it was day Brutus marshalled his men and opened the camp to go out to fight. The Gauls meet him and begin the engagement: many thousands fall on both sides, neither party giving quarter. There was present[Pg 106] a Trojan, named Turonus, the nephew of Brutus, inferior to none but Corineus in courage and strength of body. He alone with his sword killed six hundred men, but at last was unfortunately slain himself by the number of Gauls that rushed upon him. From him the city of Tours derived its name, because he was buried there. While both armies were thus warmly engaged, Corineus came upon them unawares, and fell fiercely upon the rear of the enemy, which put new courage into his friends on the other side, and made them exert themselves with increased vigour. The Gauls were astonished at the very shout of Corineus's men, and thinking their number to be much greater than it really was, they hastily quitted the field; but the Trojans pursued them, and killed them in the pursuit, nor did they desist till they had gained a complete victory. Brutus, though in joy for this great success, was yet afflicted to observe the number of his forces daily lessened, while that of the enemy increased more and more. He was in suspense for some time, whether he had better continue the war or not, but at last he determined to return to his ships while the greater part of his followers was yet safe, and hitherto victorious, and to go in quest of the island which the goddess had told him of. So without further delay, with the consent of his company, he repaired to the fleet, and loading it with the riches and spoils he had taken, set sail with a fair wind towards the promised island, and arrived on the coast of Totness.

Chap. XVI.Albion divided between Brutus and Corineus.

The island was then called Albion,[154] and was inhabited by none but a few giants. Notwithstanding this, the pleasant situation of the places, the plenty of rivers abounding with fish, and the engaging prospect of its woods, made Brutus and his company very desirous to fix their habitation in it. They therefore passed through all the provinces, forced the giants to fly into the caves of the mountains, and divided the country among them according to the directions of their[Pg 107] commander. After this they began to till the ground and build houses, so that in a little time the country looked like a place that had been long inhabited. At last Brutus called the island after his own name Britain, and his companions Britons; for by these means he desired to perpetuate the memory of his name. From whence afterwards the language of the nation, which at first bore the name of Trojan, or rough Greek, was called British. But Corineus, in imitation of his leader, called that part of the island which fell to his share, Corinea, and his people Corineans, after his name; and though he had his choice of the provinces before all the rest, yet he preferred this country, which is now called in Latin Cornubia, either from its being in the shape of a horn (in Latin Cornu), or from the corruption of the said name.[155] For it was a diversion to him to encounter the said giants, which were in greater numbers there than in all the other provinces that fell to the share of his companions. Among the rest was one detestable monster, named Goëmagot, in stature twelve cubits, and of such prodigious strength that at one shake he pulled up an oak as if it had been a hazel wand. On a certain day, when Brutus was holding a solemn festival to the gods, in the port where they at first landed, this giant with twenty more of his companions came in upon the Britons, among whom he made a dreadful slaughter. But the Britons at last assembling together in a body, put them to the rout, and killed them every one but Goëmagot. Brutus had given orders to have him preserved alive, out of a desire to see a combat between him and Corineus, who took a great pleasure in such encounters. Corineus, overjoyed at this, prepared himself, and throwing aside his arms, challenged him to wrestle with him. At the beginning of the encounter, Corineus and the giant, standing, front to front, held each other strongly in their arms, and panted aloud for breath; but Goëmagot presently grasping Corineus with all his might, broke three of his ribs, two on his right side and one on his left. At which Corineus, highly enraged, roused up his whole strength, and snatching him upon his shoulders, ran with him, as fast as the weight would allow him, to the next shore, and there getting upon[Pg 108] the top of a high rock, hurled down the savage monster into the sea; where falling on the sides of craggy rocks, he was torn to pieces, and coloured the waves with his blood. The place where he fell, taking its name from the giant's fall, is called Lam Goëmagot, that is, Goëmagot's Leap, to this day.[156]


[154] The earliest real notice of Albion occurs in a work attributed to Aristotle [De Mundo, sec. 3], who wrote, before Christ 340, "Beyond the Pillars of Hercules is the ocean which flows round the earth. In it are two very large islands, called Britannic; these are Albion and Ierne," &c.

[155] The etymology of the word Cornwall, as if Cornu-Galliæ or Walliæ, is equally imaginary.

[156] It is now called the Haw, and is near Plymouth.

Chap. XVII.The building of new Troy by Brutus, upon the river Thames.

Brutus, having thus at last set eyes upon his kingdom, formed a design of building a city, and with this view, travelled through the land to find out a convenient situation, and coming to the river Thames, he walked along the shore, and at last pitched upon a place very fit for his purpose. Here, therefore, he built a city, which he called New Troy; under which name it continued a long time after, till at last, by the corruption of the original word, it come to be called Trinovantum. But afterwards when Lud, the brother of Cassibellaun, who made war against Julius Cæsar, obtained the government of the kingdom, he surrounded it with stately walls, and towers of admirable workmanship, and ordered it to be called after his name, Kaer-Lud, that is, the City of Lud.[157] But this very thing became afterwards the occasion of a great quarrel between him and his brother Nennius, who took offence at his abolishing the name of Troy in this country. Of this quarrel Gildas the historian has given a full account; for which reason I pass it over, for fear of debasing by my account of it, what so great a writer has so eloquently related.


[157] This is the city now called London, and it is evident that the writer wishes it to be supposed that the modern name is derived from the ancient, as if it were Lud-ton or Lud-don. The first notice of London found in authentic history occurs in Tacitus, Annal. lib. xiv. c. 33, the second notice in Ptolemy, a.d. 120, lib. i. 15.

Chap. XVIII.New Troy being built, and laws made for the government of it, it is given to the citizens that were to inhabit it.

After Brutus had finished the building of the city, he made choice of the citizens that were to inhabit it, and prescribed them laws for their peaceable government. At this time[Pg 109] Eli the priest governed in Judea, and the ark of the covenant was taken by the Philistines. At the same time, also, the sons of Hector, after the expulsion of the posterity of Antenor, reigned in Troy; as in Italy did Sylvius Æneas, the son of Æneas, the uncle of Brutus, and the third king of the Latins.[158]


[158] From this statement it would follow that the arrival of Brutus in Britain is to be placed about the year 1100 before Christ.


Chap. I.After the death of Brutus, his three sons succeed him in the kingdom.

During these transactions, Brutus had by his wife Ignoge three famous sons, whose names were Locrin, Albanact, and Kamber. These, after their father's death, which happened in the twenty-fourth year after his arrival, buried him in the city which he had built, and then having divided the kingdom of Britain among them, retired each to his government. Locrin, the eldest, possessed the middle part of the island, called afterwards from his name, Loegria. Kamber had that part which lies beyond the river Severn, now called Wales, but which was for a long time named Kambria; and hence that people still call themselves in their British tongue Kambri. Albanact, the younger brother, possessed the country he called Albania, now Scotland. After they had a long time reigned in peace together, Humber, king of the Huns, arrived in Albania, and having killed Albanact in battle, forced his people to fly to Locrin for protection.

Chap. II.Locrin, having routed Humber, falls in love with Estrildis.

Locrin, at hearing this news, joined his brother Kamber, and went with the whole strength of the kingdom to meet the king of the Huns, near the river now called Humber, where he gave him battle, and put him to the rout. Humber made towards the river in his flight, and was drowned in it, on account of which it has since borne his name. Locrin,[Pg 110] after the victory, bestowed the plunder of the enemy upon his own men, reserving for himself the gold and silver which he found in the ships, together with three virgins of admirable beauty, whereof one was the daughter of a king in Germany, whom with the other two Humber had forcibly brought away with him, after he had ruined their country. Her name was Estrildis, and her beauty such as was hardly to be matched. No ivory or new-fallen snow, no lily could exceed the whiteness of her skin. Locrin, smitten with love, would have gladly married her, at which Corineus was extremely incensed, on account of the engagement which Locrin had entered into with him to marry his daughter.

Chap. III.Corineus resents the affront put upon his daughter.

He went, therefore, to the king, and wielding a battle-axe in his right hand, vented his rage against him in these words: "Do you thus reward me, Locrin, for the many wounds which I have suffered under your father's command in his wars with strange nations, that you must slight my daughter, and debase yourself to marry a barbarian? While there is strength in this right hand, that has been destructive to so many giants upon the Tyrrhenian coasts, I will never put up with this affront." And repeating this again and again with a loud voice, he shook his battle-axe as if he was going to strike him, till the friends of both interposed, and after they had appeased Corineus, obliged Locrin to perform his agreement.

Chap. IV.Locrin at last marries Guendolœna, the daughter of Corineus.

Locrin therefore married Corineus's daughter, named Guendolœna, yet still retained his love for Estrildis, for whom he made apartments under ground, in which he entertained her, and caused her to be honourably attended. For he was resolved at least to carry on a private amour with her, since he could not live with her openly for fear of Corineus. In this manner he concealed her, and made frequent visits to her for seven years together, without the privity of any but his most intimate domestics; and all under a pretence of performing some secret sacrifices to his[Pg 111] gods, by which he imposed on the credulity of every body. In the meantime Estrildis became with child, and was delivered of a most beautiful daughter, whom she named Sabre. Guendolœna was also with child, and brought forth a son, who was named Maddan, and put under the care of his grandfather Corineus to be educated.

Chap. V.Locrin is killed; Estrildis and Sabre are thrown into a river.

But in process of time, when Corineus was dead, Locrin divorced Guendolœna, and advanced Estrildis to be queen. Guendolœna, provoked beyond measure at this, retired into Cornwall, where she assembled together all the forces of that kingdom, and began to raise disturbances against Locrin. At last both armies joined battle near the river Sture, where Locrin was killed by the shot of an arrow. After his death, Guendolœna took upon her the government of the whole kingdom, retaining her father's furious spirit. For she commanded Estrildis and her daughter Sabre to be thrown into the river now called the Severn, and published an edict through all Britain, that the river should bear the damsel's name, hoping by this to perpetuate her memory, and by that the infamy of her husband. So that to this day the river is called in the British tongue Sabren, which by the corruption of the name is in another language Sabrina.

Chap. VI.Guendolœna delivers up the kingdom to Maddan, her son, after whom succeeds Mempricius.

Guendolœna reigned fifteen years after the death of Locrin, who had reigned ten, and then advanced her son Maddan (whom she saw now at maturity) to the throne, contenting herself with the country of Cornwall for the remainder of her life. At this time Samuel the prophet governed in Judæa, Sylvius Æneas was yet living, and Homer was esteemed a famous orator and poet.[159] Maddan, now in possession of the crown, had by his wife two sons, Mempricius and Malim, and ruled the kingdom in peace and[Pg 112] with care forty years. As soon as he was dead, the two brothers quarrelled for the kingdom, each being ambitious of the sovereignty of the whole island. Mempricius, impatient to attain his ends, enters into treaty with Malim, under colour of making a composition with him, and, having formed a conspiracy, murdered him in the assembly where their ambassadors were met. By these means he obtained the dominion of the whole island, over which he exercised such tyranny, that he left scarcely a nobleman alive in it, and either by violence or treachery oppressed every one that he apprehended might be likely to succeed him, pursuing his hatred to his whole race. He also deserted his own wife, by whom he had a noble youth named Ebraucus, and addicted himself to sodomy, preferring unnatural lust to the pleasures of the conjugal state. At last, in the twentieth year of his reign, while he was hunting, he retired from his company into a valley, where he was surrounded by a great multitude of ravenous wolves, and devoured by them in a horrible manner. Then did Saul reign in Judæa, and Eurystheus in Lacedæmonia.


[159] It is only necessary to compare such passages as these with the Grecian or Roman Histories, and we cannot avoid perceiving the legendary character of Geoffrey of Monmouth's History.

Chap. VII.Ebraucus, the successor of Mempricius, conquers the Gauls, and builds the towns Kaerebrauc, &c.

Mempricius being dead, Ebraucus, his son, a man of great stature and wonderful strength, took upon him the government of Britain, which he held forty years. He was the first after Brutus who invaded Gaul with a fleet, and distressed its provinces by killing their men and laying waste their cities; and having by these means enriched himself with an infinite quantity of gold and silver, he returned victorious. After this he built a city on the other side of the Humber, which, from his own name, he called Kaerebrauc, that is, the city of Ebraucus,[160] about the time that David reigned in Judæa, and Sylvius Latinus in Italy; and that Gad, Nathan, and Asaph prophesied in Israel. He also built the city of Alclud[161] towards Albani, and the town[Pg 113] of mount Agned,[162] called at this time the Castle of Maidens, or the Mountain of Sorrow.


[160] York seems to be a corruption of Ebrauc. It is first mentioned by Ptolemy (ii. 3.) a.d. 120.

[161] Alclud or Alcluith is unknown to the classic writers: it is first mentioned by Gildas, and is thought to be the modern Dumbarton.

[162] Edinburgh.

Chap. VIII.Ebraucus's twenty sons go to Germany, and his thirty daughters to Sylvius Alba, in Italy.

This prince had twenty sons and thirty daughters by twenty wives, and with great valour governed the kingdom of Britain sixty years. The names of his sons were, Brutus surnamed Greenshield, Margadud, Sisillius, Regin, Morivid, Bladud, Lagon, Bodloan, Kincar, Spaden, Gaul, Darden, Eldad, Ivor, Gangu, Hector, Kerin, Rud, Assarach, Buel. The names of his daughters were, Gloigni, Ignogni, Oudas, Guenliam, Gaudid, Angarad, Guendoloe, Tangustel, Gorgon, Medlan, Methahel, Ourar, Malure, Kambreda, Ragan, Gael, Ecub, Nest, Cheum, Stadud, Gladud, Ebren, Blagan, Aballac, Angaes, Galaes, (the most celebrated beauty at that time in Britain or Gaul,) Edra, Anaor, Stadial, Egron. All these daughters their father sent into Italy to Sylvius Alba, who reigned after Sylvius Latinus, where they were married among the Trojan nobility, the Latin and Sabine women refusing to associate with them. But the sons, under the conduct of their brother Assaracus, departed in a fleet to Germany, and having, with the assistance of Sylvius Alba, subdued the people there, obtained that kingdom.

Chap. IX.After Ebraucus reigns Brutus his son, after him Leil, and after Leil, Hudibras.

But Brutus, surnamed Greenshield, stayed with his father, whom he succeeded in the government, and reigned twelve years. After him reigned Leil, his son, a peaceful and just prince, who, enjoying a prosperous reign, built in the north of Britain a city, called by his name, Kaerleil;[163] at the same time that Solomon began to build the temple of Jerusalem, and the queen of Sheba came to hear his wisdom; at which time also Sylvius Epitus succeeded his father Alba, in Italy. Leil reigned twenty-five years, but towards the latter end of his life grew more remiss in his government, so that his neglect of affairs speedily occasioned a civil dissension in the[Pg 114] kingdom. After him reigned his son, Hudibras, thirty-nine years, and composed the civil dissension among his people. He built Kaerlem or Canterbury, Kaerguen or Winchester, and the town of Mount Paladur, now Shaftesbury. At this place an eagle spoke, while the wall of the town was being built; and indeed I should have transmitted the speech to posterity, had I thought it true, as the rest of the history. At this time reigned Capys, the son of Epitus; and Haggai, Amos, Joel, and Azariah, were prophets in Israel.


[163] Now Carlisle.

Chap. X.Bladud succeeds Hudibras in the kingdom, and practises magical operations.

Next succeeded Bladud, his son, and reigned twenty years. He built Kaerbadus, now Bath, and made hot baths in it for the benefit of the public, which he dedicated to the goddess Minerva; in whose temple he kept fires that never went out nor consumed to ashes, but as soon as they began to decay were turned into balls of stone. About this time the prophet Elias prayed that it might not rain upon earth; and it did not rain for three years and six months. This prince was a very ingenious man, and taught necromancy in his kingdom, nor did he leave off pursuing his magical operations, till he attempted to fly to the upper region of the air with wings which he had prepared, and fell down upon the temple of Apollo, in the city of Trinovantum, where he was dashed to pieces.

Chap. XI.Leir the son of Bladud, having no son, divides his kingdom among his daughters.

After this unhappy fate of Bladud, Leir,[164] his son was advanced to the throne, and nobly governed his country sixty years. He built upon the river Sore a city, called in the British tongue, Kaerleir, in the Saxon, Leircestre.[165] He was without male issue, but had three daughters, whose names were Gonorilla, Regau, and Cordeilla, of whom he was dotingly fond, but especially of his youngest, Cordeilla. When he began to grow old, he had thoughts of dividing his kingdom among them, and of bestowing them on such husbands as were fit to be advanced to the government with them. But to make trial who was worthy to have the best[Pg 115] part of his kingdom, he went to each of them to ask which of them loved him most. The question being proposed, Gonorilla, the eldest, made answer, "That she called heaven to witness, she loved him more than her own soul." The father replied, "Since you have preferred my declining age before your own life, I will marry you, my dearest daughter, to whomsoever you shall make choice of, and give with you the third part of my kingdom." Then Regau, the second daughter, willing, after the example of her sister, to prevail upon her father's good nature, answered with an oath, "That she could not otherwise express her thoughts, but that she loved him above all creatures." The credulous father upon this made her the same promise that he did to her eldest sister, that is, the choice of a husband, with the third part of his kingdom. But Cordeilla, the youngest, understanding how easily he was satisfied with the flattering expressions of her sisters, was desirous to make trial of his affection after a different manner. "My father," said she, "is there any daughter that can love her father more than duty requires? In my opinion, whoever pretends to it, must disguise her real sentiments under the veil of flattery. I have always loved you as a father, nor do I yet depart from my purposed duty; and if you insist to have something more extorted from me, hear now the greatness of my affection, which I always bear you, and take this for a short answer to all your questions; look how much you have, so much is your value, and so much do I love you." The father, supposing that she spoke this out of the abundance of her heart, was highly provoked, and immediately replied, "Since you have so far despised my old age as not to think me worthy the love that your sisters express for me, you shall have from me the like regard, and shall be excluded from any share with your sisters in my kingdom. Notwithstanding, I do not say but that since you are my daughter, I will marry you to some foreigner, if fortune offers you any such husband; but will never, I do assure you, make it my business to procure so honourable a match for you as for your sisters; because, though I have hitherto loved you more than them, you have in requital thought me less worthy of your affection than they." And, without further delay, after consultation with his nobility, he bestowed his two other daughters upon the[Pg 116] dukes of Cornwall and Albania, with half the island at present, but after his death, the inheritance of the whole monarchy of Britain.

It happened after this, that Aganippus, king of the Franks, having heard of the fame of Cordeilla's beauty, forthwith sent his ambassadors to the king to demand her in marriage. The father, retaining yet his anger towards her, made answer, "That he was very willing to bestow his daughter, but without either money or territories; because he had already given away his kingdom with all his treasure to his eldest daughters, Gonorilla and Regau." When this was told Aganippus, he, being very much in love with the lady, sent again to king Leir, to tell him, "That he had money and territories enough, as he possessed the third part of Gaul, and desired no more than his daughter only, that he might have heirs by her." At last the match was concluded; Cordeilla was sent to Gaul, and married to Aganippus.


[164] King Lear, the hero of Shakespeare's drama.

[165] Leicester.

Chap. XII.Leir, finding the ingratitude of his two eldest daughters, betakes himself to his youngest, Cordeilla, in Gaul.

A long time after this, when Leir came to be infirm through old age, the two dukes, on whom he had bestowed Britain with his two daughters, fostered an insurrection against him, and deprived him of his kingdom, and of all regal authority, which he had hitherto exercised with great power and glory. At length, by mutual agreement, Maglaunus, duke of Albania, one of his sons-in-law, was to allow him a maintenance at his own house, together with sixty soldiers, who were to be kept for state. After two years' stay with his son-in-law, his daughter Gonorilla grudged the number of his men, who began to upbraid the ministers of the court with their scanty allowance; and, having spoken to her husband about it, she gave orders that the numbers of her father's followers should be reduced to thirty, and the rest discharged. The father, resenting this treatment, left Maglaunus, and went to Henuinus, duke of Cornwall, to whom he had married his daughter Regau. Here he met with an honourable reception, but before the year was at an end, a quarrel happened between the two families, which raised Regau's indignation; so that she commanded her father to discharge all his attendants but[Pg 117] five, and to be contented with their service. This second affliction was insupportable to him, and made him return again to his former daughter, with hopes that the misery of his condition might move in her some sentiments of filial piety, and that he, with his family, might find a subsistence with her. But she, not forgetting her resentment, swore by the gods he should not stay with her, unless he would dismiss his retinue, and be contented with the attendance of one man; and with bitter reproaches she told him how ill his desire of vain-glorious pomp suited his age and poverty. When he found that she was by no means to be prevailed upon, he was at last forced to comply, and, dismissing the rest, to take up with one man only. But by this time he began to reflect more sensibly with himself upon the grandeur from which he had fallen, and the miserable state to which he was now reduced, and to enter upon thoughts of going beyond sea to his youngest daughter. Yet he doubted whether he should be able to move her commiseration, because (as was related above) he had treated her so unworthily. However, disdaining to bear any longer such base usage, he took ship for Gaul. In his passage he observed he had only the third place given him among the princes that were with him in the ship, at which, with deep sighs and tears, he burst forth into the following complaint:—

"O irreversible decrees of the Fates, that never swerve from your stated course! why did you ever advance me to an unstable felicity, since the punishment of lost happiness is greater than the sense of present misery? The remembrance of the time when vast numbers of men obsequiously attended me in the taking the cities and wasting the enemy's countries, more deeply pierces my heart than the view of my present calamity, which has exposed me to the derision of those who were formerly prostrate at my feet. Oh! the enmity of fortune! Shall I ever again see the day when I may be able to reward those according to their deserts who have forsaken me in my distress? How true was thy answer, Cordeilla, when I asked thee concerning thy love to me, 'As much as you have, so much is your value, and so much do I love you.' While I had anything to give they valued me, being friends, not to me, but to my gifts: they loved me then, but they loved my gifts much more: when[Pg 118] my gifts ceased, my friends vanished. But with what face shall I presume to see you, my dearest daughter, since in my anger I married you upon worse terms than your sisters, who, after all the mighty favours they have received from me, suffer me to be in banishment and poverty?"

As he was lamenting his condition in these and the like expressions, he arrived at Karitia,[166] where his daughter was, and waited before the city while he sent a messenger to inform her of the misery he was fallen into, and to desire her relief for a father who suffered both hunger and nakedness. Cordeilla was startled at the news, and wept bitterly, and with tears asked how many men her father had with him. The messenger answered, he had none but one man, who had been his armour-bearer, and was staying with him without the town. Then she took what money she thought might be sufficient, and gave it to the messenger, with orders to carry her father to another city, and there give out that he was sick, and to provide for him bathing, clothes, and all other nourishment. She likewise gave orders that he should take into his service forty men, well clothed and accoutred, and that when all things were thus prepared he should notify his arrival to king Aganippus and his daughter. The messenger quickly returning, carried Leir to another city, and there kept him concealed, till he had done every thing that Cordeilla had commanded.


[166] Calais.

Chap. XIII.He is very honourably received by Cordeilla and the king of Gaul.

As soon as he was provided with his royal apparel, ornaments, and retinue, he sent word to Aganippus and his daughter, that he was driven out of his kingdom of Britain by his sons-in-law, and was come to them to procure their assistance for recovering his dominions. Upon which they, attended with their chief ministers of state and the nobility of the kingdom, went out to meet him, and received him honourably, and gave into his management the whole power of Gaul, till such time as he should be restored to his former dignity.[Pg 119]

Chap. XIV.Leir, being restored to the kingdom by the help of his son-in-law and Cordeilla, dies.

In the meantime Aganippus sent officers over all Gaul to raise an army, to restore his father-in-law to his kingdom of Britain. Which done, Leir returned to Britain with his son and daughter and the forces which they had raised, where he fought with his sons-in-law and routed them. Having thus reduced the whole kingdom to his power, he died the third year after. Aganippus also died; and Cordeilla, obtaining the government of the kingdom, buried her father in a certain vault, which she ordered to be made for him under the river Sore, in Leicester, and which had been built originally under the ground to the honour of the god Janus. And here all the workmen of the city, upon the anniversary solemnity of that festival, used to begin their yearly labours.

Chap. XV.Cordeilla, being imprisoned, kills herself. Margan, aspiring to the whole kingdom, is killed by Cunedagius.

After a peaceful possession of the government for five years, Cordeilla began to meet with disturbances from the two sons of her sisters, being both young men of great spirit, whereof one, named Margan, was born to Maglaunus, and the other, named Cunedagius, to Henuinus. These, after the death of their fathers, succeeding them in their dukedoms, were incensed to see Britain subject to a woman, and raised forces in order to raise a rebellion against the queen; nor would they desist from hostilities, till, after a general waste of her countries, and several battles fought, they at last took her and put her in prison, where for grief at the loss of her kingdom she killed herself. After this they divided the island between them; of which the part that reaches from the north side of the Humber to Caithness, fell to Margan; the other part from the same river westward was Cunedagius's share. At the end of two years, some restless spirits that took pleasure in the troubles of the nation, had access to Margan, and inspired him with vain conceits, by representing to him how mean and disgraceful it was for him not to govern the whole island, which was his due by right of birth. Stirred up with these and the like suggestions, he marched[Pg 120] with an army through Cunedagius's country, and began to burn all before him. The war thus breaking out, he was met by Cunedagius with all his forces, who attacked Margan, killing no small number of his men, and, putting him to flight, pursued him from one province to another, till at last he killed him in a town of Kambria, which since his death has been by the country people called Margan to this day. After the victory, Cunedagius gained the monarchy of the whole island, which he governed gloriously for three and thirty years. At this time flourished the prophets Isaiah and Hosea, and Rome was built upon the eleventh before the Kalends of May by the two brothers, Romulus and Remus.[167]


[167] About the year before Christ, 753.

Chap. XVI.The successors of Cunedagius in the kingdom. Ferrex is killed by his brother Porrex, in a dispute for the government.

At last Cunedagius dying, was succeeded by his son Rivallo, a fortunate youth, who diligently applied himself to the affairs of the government. In his time it rained blood three days together, and there fell vast swarms of flies, followed by a great mortality among the people. After him succeeded Gurgustius his son; after him Sisillius; after him Jago, the nephew of Gurgustius; after him Kinmarcus the son of Sisillius; after him Gorbogudo, who had two sons, Ferrex and Porrex.

When their father grew old they began to quarrel about the succession; but Porrex, who was the most ambitious of the two, forms a design of killing his brother by treachery, which the other discovering, escaped, and passed over into Gaul. There he procured aid from Suard king of the Franks, with which he returned and made war upon his brother; coming to an engagement, Ferrex was killed and all his forces cut to pieces. When their mother, whose name was Widen, came to be informed of her son's death, she fell into a great rage, and conceived a mortal hatred against the survivor. For she had a greater affection for the deceased than for him, so that nothing less would appease her indignation for his death, than her revenging it upon her surviving son. She took therefore her opportunity when he was asleep, fell upon him, and with the assistance of her wo[Pg 121]men tore him to pieces. From that time a long civil war oppressed the people, and the island became divided under the power of five kings, who mutually harassed one another.

Chap. XVII.Dunwallo Molmutius gains the sceptre of Britain, from whom came the Molmutine laws.

At length arose a youth of great spirit, named Dunwallo Molmutius, who was the son of Cloten king of Cornwall, and excelled all the kings of Britain in valour and gracefulness of person. When his father was dead, he was no sooner possessed of the government of that country, than he made war against Ymner king of Loegria, and killed him in battle. Hereupon Rudaucus king of Kambria, and Staterius king of Albania, had a meeting, wherein they formed an alliance together, and marched thence with their armies into Dunwallo's country to destroy all before them. Dunwallo met them with thirty thousand men, and gave them battle; and when a great part of the day was spent in the fight, and the victory yet dubious, he drew off six hundred of his bravest men, and commanded them to put on the armour of the enemies that were slain, as he himself also did, throwing aside his own. Thus accoutred he marched up with speed to the enemy's ranks, as if he was of their party, and approaching the very place where Rudaucus and Staterius were, commanded his men to fall upon them. In this assault the two kings were killed and many others with them. But Dunwallo Molmutius, fearing lest in this disguise his own men might fall upon him, returned with his companions to put off the enemy's armour, and take his own again; and then encouraged them to renew the assault, which they did with great vigour, and in a short time got the victory, by dispersing and putting to flight the enemy. From hence he marched into the enemy's countries, destroyed their towns and cities, and reduced the people under his obedience. When he had made an entire reduction of the whole island, he prepared for himself a crown of gold, and restored the kingdom to its ancient state. This prince established what the Britons call the Molmutine laws, which are famous among the English to this day. In these, among other things, of which St. Gildas wrote a long time after, he[Pg 122] enacted, that the temples of the gods, as also cities, should have the privilege of giving sanctuary and protection to any fugitive or criminal, that should flee to them from his enemy. He likewise enacted, that the ways leading to those temples and cities, as also husbandman's ploughs, should be allowed the same privilege. So that in his day, the murders and cruelties committed by robbers were prevented, and every body passed safe without any violence offered him. At last, after a reign of forty years spent in these and other acts of government, he died, and was buried in the city of Trinovantum, near the temple of Concord, which he himself built, when he first established his laws.


Chap. I.Brennius quarrels with Belinus his brother, and in order to make war against him, marries the daughter of the king of the Norwegians.

After this a violent quarrel happened between his two sons Belinus and Brennius, who were both ambitious of succeeding to the kingdom. The dispute was, which of them should have the honour of wearing the crown. After a great many sharp conflicts that passed between them, the friends of both interposed, and brought them to agree on the division of the kingdom on these terms: that Belinus should enjoy the crown of the island, with the dominions of Loegria, Kambria, and Cornwall, because, according to the Trojan constitution, the right of inheritance would come to him as the elder: and Brennius, as being the younger, should be subject to his brother, and have for his share Northumberland, which extended from the river Humber to Caithness. The covenant therefore being confirmed upon these conditions, they ruled the country for five years in peace and justice. But such a state of prosperity could not long stand against the endeavours of faction. For some lying incendiaries gained access to Brennius and addressed him in this manner:[Pg 123]

"What sluggish spirit has possessed you, that you can bear subjection to Belinus, to whom by parentage and blood you are equal; besides your experience in military affairs, which you have gained in several engagements, when you so often repulsed Cheulphus, general of the Morini, in his invasions of our country, and drove him out of your kingdom? Be no longer bound by a treaty which is a reproach to you, but marry the daughter of Elsingius, king of the Norwegians, that with his assistance you may recover your lost dignity." The young man, inflamed with these and the like specious suggestions, hearkened to them, and went to Norway, where he married the king's daughter, as his flatterers had advised him.

Chap. II.Brennius's sea-fight with Guichthlac, king of the Dacians. Guichthlac and Brennius's wife are driven ashore and taken by Belinus.

In the meantime his brother, informed of this, was violently incensed, that without his leave he had presumed to act thus against him. Whereupon he marched into Northumberland, and possessed himself of that country and the cities in it, which he garrisoned with his own men. Brennius, upon notice given him of what his brother had done, prepared a fleet to return to Britain with a great army of Norwegians. But while he was under sail with a fair wind, he was overtaken by Guichthlac, king of the Dacians,[168] who had pursued him. This prince had been deeply in love with the young lady that Brennius had married, and out of mere grief and vexation for the loss of her, had prepared a fleet to pursue Brennius with all expedition. In the sea-fight that happened on this occasion, he had the fortune to take the very ship in which the lady was, and brought her in among his companions. But during the engagement, contrary winds arose on a sudden, which brought on a storm, and dispersed the ships upon different shores: so that the king of the Dacians, being driven up and down, after a course of five days, arrived with the lady at Northumberland, under dreadful apprehensions, as not knowing upon what country this unforeseen casualty had thrown him. When this came to be known to the country people, they took them and[Pg 124] carried them to Belinus, who was upon the sea-coast, expecting the arrival of his brother. There were with Guichthlac's ship three others, one of which had belonged to Brennius's fleet. As soon as they had declared to the king who they were, he was overjoyed at this happy accident, while he was endeavouring to revenge himself on his brother.


[168] The Danes.

Chap. III.Belinus in a battle routs Brennius, who thereupon flees to Gaul.

A few days after appeared Brennius, with his fleet again got together, and arrived in Albania; and having received information of the capture of his wife and others, and that his brother had seized the kingdom of Northumberland in his absence, he sent his ambassadors to him, to demand the restitution of his wife and kingdom; and if he refused them, to declare that he would destroy the whole island from sea to sea, and kill his brother whenever he could come to an engagement with him. On the other hand, Belinus absolutely refused to comply with his demands, and assembling together the whole power of the island, went into Albania to give him battle. Brennius, upon advice that he had suffered a repulse, and that his brother was upon his march against him, advanced to meet him in a wood called Calaterium, in order to attack him. When they were arrived on the field of battle, each of them divided his men into several bodies, and approaching one another, began the fight. A great part of the day was spent in it, because on both sides the bravest men were engaged; and much blood was shed by reason of the fury with which they encountered each other. So great was the slaughter, that the wounded fell in heaps, like standing corn cut down by reapers. At last the Britons prevailing, the Norwegians fled with their shattered troops to their ships, but were pursued by Belinus, and killed without mercy. Fifteen thousand men fell in the battle, nor were there a thousand of the rest that escaped unhurt. Brennius with much difficulty securing one ship, went as fortune drove him to the coasts of Gaul; but the rest that attended him, were forced to sculk up and down wherever their misfortunes led them.[Pg 125]

Chap. IV.The king of Dacia, with Brennius's wife, is released out of prison.

Belinus, after this victory, called a council of his nobility, to advise with them what he should do with the king of the Dacians, who had sent a message to him out of prison, that he would submit himself and the kingdom of Dacia to him, and also pay a yearly tribute, if he might have leave to depart with his mistress. He offered likewise to confirm this covenant with an oath, and the giving of hostages. When this proposal was laid before the nobility, they unanimously gave their assent that Belinus should grant Guichthlac his petition upon the terms offered. Accordingly he did grant it, and Guichthlac was released from prison, and returned with his mistress into Dacia.

Chap. V.Belinus revives and confirms the Molmutine laws, especially about the highways.

Belinus now finding no body in the kingdom of Britain able to make head against him, and being possessed of the sovereignty of the whole island from sea to sea, confirmed the laws his father had made, and gave command for a settled execution of justice through his kingdom. But above all things he ordered that cities, and the roads leading to them, should enjoy the same privilege of peace that Dunwallo had established. But there arose a controversy about the roads, because the limits determining them were unknown. The king, therefore, willing to clear the law of all ambiguities, summoned all the workmen of the island together, and commanded them to pave a causeway of stone and mortar, which should run the whole length of the island, from the sea of Cornwall, to the shores of Caithness, and lead directly to the cities that lay along that extent. He commanded another to be made over the breadth of the kingdom, leading from Menevia, that was situated upon the Demetian Sea, to Hamo's Port, and to pass through the interjacent cities. Other two he also made obliquely through the island, for a passage to the rest of the cities.[169] He then confirmed to them all honours and privileges, and prescribed[Pg 126] a law for the punishment of any injury committed upon them. But if any one is curious to know all that he decreed concerning them, let him read the Molmutine laws, which Gildas the historian translated from British into Latin, and king Alfred into English.


[169] This seems to be a false account of the Roman roads in Britain.

Chap. VI.Brennius, being made duke of the Allobroges, returns to Britain to fight with his brother.

While Belinus was thus reigning in peace and tranquillity, his brother Brennius, who (as we said before) was driven upon the coasts of Gaul, suffered great torments of mind. For it was a great affliction to him to be banished from his country, and to have no power of returning to retrieve his loss. Being ignorant what course to take, he went among the princes of Gaul, accompanied only with twelve men; and when he had related his misfortune to every one of them, but could procure assistance from none, he went at last to Seginus, duke of the Allobroges, from whom he had an honourable reception. During his stay here, he contracted such an intimacy with the duke, that he became the greatest favourite in the court. For in all affairs, both of peace and war, he showed a great capacity, so that this prince loved him with a paternal affection. He was besides of a graceful aspect, tall and slender in stature, and expert in hunting and fowling, as became his princely birth. So great was the friendship between them, that the duke resolved to give him his only daughter in marriage; and in case he himself should have no male issue, he appointed him and his daughter to succeed him in his dukedom of the Allobroges after his death. But if he should yet have a son, then he promised his assistance to advance him to the kingdom of Britain. Neither was this the desire of the duke only, but of all the nobility of his court, with whom he had very much ingratiated himself. So then without farther delay the marriage was solemnized, and the princes of the country paid their homage to him, as the successor to the throne. Scarcely was the year at an end before the duke died; and then Brennius took his opportunity of engaging those princes of the country firmly in his interest, whom before he had obliged with his friendship. And this he did by bestowing generously upon them the[Pg 127] duke's treasure, which had been hoarded up from the times of his ancestors. But that which the Allobroges most esteemed him for, was his sumptuous entertainments, and keeping an open house for all.

Chap. VII.Belinus and Brennius being made friends by the mediation of their mother, propose to subdue Gaul.

When he had thus gained universal affection, he began to consult with himself how he might take revenge upon his brother Belinus. And when he had signified his intentions concerning it to his subjects, they unanimously concurred with him, and expressed their readiness to attend him to whatever kingdom he pleased to conduct them. He therefore soon raised a vast army, and having entered into a treaty with the Gauls for a free passage through their country into Britain, fitted out a fleet upon the coast of Neustria, in which he set sail, and with a fair wind arrived at the island. Upon hearing the rumour of his coming, his brother Belinus, accompanied with the whole strength of the kingdom, marched out to engage him. But when the two armies were drawn out in order of battle, and just ready to begin the attack, Conwenna, their mother, who was yet living, ran in great haste through the ranks, impatient to see her son, whom she had not seen for a long time. As soon, therefore, as she had with trembling steps reached the place where he stood, she threw her arms about his neck, and in transports kissed him; then uncovering her bosom, she addressed herself to him, in words interrupted with sighs, to this effect:—

"My son, remember these breasts which gave you suck, and the womb wherein the Creator of all things formed you, and from whence he brought you forth into the world, while I endured the greatest anguish. By the pains then which I suffered for you, I entreat you to hear my request: pardon your brother, and moderate your anger. You ought not to revenge yourself upon him who has done you no injury. As for what you complain of,—that you were banished your country by him,—if you duly consider the result, in strictness can it be called injustice? He did not banish you to make your condition worse, but forced you to quit a meaner that you might attain a higher dignity. At first you enjoyed only a part of a kingdom, and that in subjection to your[Pg 128] brother. As soon as you lost that, you became his equal, by gaining the kingdom of the Allobroges. What has he then done, but raised you from a vassal to be a king? Consider farther, that the difference between you began not through him, but through yourself, who, with the assistance of the king of Norway, raised an insurrection against him."

Moved by these representations of his mother, he obeyed her with a composed mind, and putting off his helmet of his own accord, went straight with her to his brother. Belinus, seeing him approach with a peaceable countenance, threw down his arms, and ran to embrace him; so that now, without more ado, they again became friends; and disarming their forces marched with them peaceably together to Trinovantum. And here, after consultation what enterprise to undertake, they prepared to conduct their confederate army into the provinces of Gaul, and reduce that entire country to their subjection.

Chap. VIII.Belinus and Brennius, after the conquest of Gaul, march with their army to Rome.

They accordingly passed over into Gaul the year after, and began to lay waste that country. The news of which spreading through those several nations, all the petty kings of the Franks entered into a confederacy, and went out to fight against them. But the victory falling to Belinus and Brennius, the Franks fled with their broken forces; and the Britons and Allobroges, elevated with their success, ceased not to pursue them till they had taken their kings, and reduced them to their power. Then fortifying the cities which they had taken, in less than a year they brought the whole kingdom into subjection. At last, after a reduction of all the provinces, they marched with their whole army towards Rome, and destroyed the cities and villages as they passed through Italy.

Chap. IX.The Romans make a covenant with Brennius, but afterwards break it, for which reason Rome is besieged and taken by Brennius.

In those days the two consuls of Rome were Gabius and Porsena,[170] to whose care the government of the country was[Pg 129] committed. When they saw that no nation was able to withstand the power of Belinus and Brennius, they came, with the consent of the senate to them, to desire peace and amity. They likewise offered large presents of gold and silver, and to pay a yearly tribute, on condition that they might be suffered to enjoy their own in peace. The two kings therefore, taking hostages of them, yielded to their petition, and drew back their forces into Germany. While they were employing their arms in harassing that people, the Romans repented of their agreement, and again taking courage, went to assist the Germans. This step highly enraged the kings against them, who concerted measures how to carry on a war with both nations. For the greatness of the Italian army was a terror to them. The result of their council was, that Belinus with the Britons stayed in Germany, to engage with the enemy there; while Brennius and his army marched to Rome, to revenge on the Romans their breach of treaty. As soon as the Italians perceived their design, they quitted the Germans, and hastened to get before Brennius, in his march to Rome. Belinus had intelligence of it, and speedily marched with his army the same night, and possessing himself of a valley through which the enemy was to pass, lay hid there in expectation of their coming. The next day the Italians came in full march to the place; but when they saw the valley glittering with the enemy's armour, they were struck with confusion, thinking Brennius and the Galli Senones were there. At this favourable opportunity, Belinus on a sudden rushed forth, and fell furiously upon them: the Romans on the other hand, thus taken by surprise, fled the field, since they neither were armed, nor marched in any order. But Belinus gave them no quarter, and was only prevented by night coming on, from making a total destruction of them. With this victory he went straight to Brennius, who had now besieged Rome three days. Then joining their armies, they assaulted the city on every side, and endeavoured to level the walls: and to strike a greater terror into the besieged, erected gibbets before the gates of the city, and threatened to hang up the hostages whom they had given, unless they would surrender. But the Romans,[Pg 130] nothing moved by the sufferings of their sons and relations, continued inflexible, and resolute to defend themselves. They therefore sometimes broke the force of the enemy's engines, by other engines of their own, sometimes repulsed them from the walls with showers of darts. This so incensed the two brothers, that they commanded four and twenty of their noblest hostages to be hanged in the sight of their parents. The Romans, however, were only more hardened at the spectacle, and having received a message from Gabius and Porsena, their consuls, that they would come the next day to their assistance, they resolved to march out of the city, and give the enemy battle. Accordingly, just as they were ranging their troops in order, the consuls appeared with their re-assembled forces, marching up to the attack, and advancing in a close body, fell on the Britons and Allobroges by surprise, and being joined by the citizens that sallied forth, killed no small number. The brothers, in great grief to see such destruction made of their fellow soldiers, began to rally their men, and breaking in upon the enemy several times, forced them to retire. In the end, after the loss of many thousands of brave men on both sides, the brothers gained the day, and took the city, not however till Gabius was killed and Porsena taken prisoner. This done, they divided among their men all the hidden treasure of the city.


[170] The absurdity of describing Porsena king of Etruria, as one of the Roman consuls, must be apparent to every reader. No less evident is it that the whole of this fictitious account is founded upon the known fact that Rome was taken by the Gauls commanded by one Brennus.

Chap. X.Brennius oppresses Italy in a most tyrannical manner. Belinus returns to Britain.

After this complete victory, Brennius stayed in Italy, where he exercised unheard-of tyranny over the people. But the rest of his actions and his death, seeing that they are given in the Roman histories, I shall here pass over, to avoid prolixity and meddling with what others have treated of, which is foreign to my design. But Belinus returned to Britain, which he governed during the remainder of his life in peace; he repaired the cities that were falling to ruin, and built many new ones. Among the rest he built one upon the river Uske, near the sea of the Severn, which was for a long time called Caer-osc, and was the metropolis of Dimetia;[171] but after the invasion of the Romans it lost its[Pg 131] first name, and was called the City of Legions, from the Roman legions which used to take up their winter quarters in it. He also made a gate of wonderful structure in Trinovantum, upon the bank of the Thames, which the citizens call after his name Billingsgate to this day. Over it he built a prodigiously large tower, and under it a haven or quay for ships. He was a strict observer of justice, and re-established his father's laws everywhere throughout the kingdom. In his days there was so great an abundance of riches among the people, that no age before or after is said to have shown the like. At last, when he had finished his days, his body was burned, and the ashes put up in a golden urn, which they placed at Trinovantum, with wonderful art, on the top of the tower above-mentioned.


[171] Newport, the principal town of South Wales.

Chap. XI.Gurgiunt Brabtruc, succeeding his father Belinus, reduces Dacia, which was trying to shake off his yoke.

He was succeeded by Gurgiunt Brabtruc, his son, a sober prudent prince, who followed the example of his father in all his actions, and was a lover of peace and justice. When some neighbouring provinces rebelled against him, inheriting with them the bravery of his father, he repressed their insolence in several fierce battles, and reduced them to a perfect subjection. Among many other things it happened, that the king of the Dacians, who paid tribute in his father's time, refused not only tribute, but all manner of homage to him. This he seriously resented, and passed over in a fleet to Dacia, where he harassed the people with a most cruel war, slew their king, and reduced the country to its former dependence.

Chap. XII.Ireland is given to be inhabited by the Barclenses, who had been banished out of Spain.

At that time, as he was returning home from his conquest through the Orkney islands, he found thirty ships full of men and women; and upon his inquiring of them the occasion of their coming thither, their leader, named Partholoim, approached him in a respectful and submissive manner, and desired pardon and peace, telling him that he had been driven out of Spain, and was sailing round those seas in quest of[Pg 132] a habitation. He also desired some small part of Britain to dwell in, that they might put an end to their tedious wanderings; for it was now a year and a half since he had been driven from his country, all of which time he and his company had been out at sea. When Gurgiunt Brabtruc understood that they came from Spain, and were called Barclenses, he granted their petition, and sent men with them to Ireland, which was then wholly uninhabited, and assigned it to them. There they grew up and increased in number, and have possessed that island to this very day. Gurgiunt Brabtruc after this ended his days in peace, and was buried in the City of Legions, which, after his father's death, he ornamented with buildings and fortified with walls.

Chap. XIII.Guithelin, reigning after Gurgiunt Brabtruc, the Martian law is instituted by Martia, a noble woman.

After him Guithelin wore the crown, which he enjoyed all his life, treating his subjects with mildness and affection. He had for his wife a noble lady named Martia, accomplished in all kinds of learning. Among many other admirable productions of her wit, she was the author of what the Britons call the Martian law. This also among other things king Alfred translated, and called it in the Saxon tongue, Pa Marchitle Lage. Upon the death of Guithelin, the government of the kingdom remained in the hands of this queen and her son Sisilius, who was then but seven years old, and therefore unfit to take the government upon himself alone.

Chap. XIV.Guithelin's successors in the kingdom.

For this reason the mother had the sole management of affairs committed to her, out of a regard to her great sense and judgment. But on her death, Sisilius took the crown and government. After him reigned Kimarus his son, to whom succeeded Danius his brother. After his death the crown came to Morvidus, whom he had by his concubine Tangustela. He would have been a prince of extraordinary worth, had he not been addicted to immoderate cruelty, so far that in his anger he spared nobody, if any weapon were[Pg 133] at hand. He was of a graceful aspect, extremely liberal, and of such vast strength as not to have his match in the whole kingdom.

Chap. XV.Morvidus, a most cruel tyrant, after the conquest of the king of the Morini, is devoured by a monster.

In his time a certain king of the Morini[172] arrived with a great force in Northumberland, and began to destroy the country. But Morvidus, with all the strength of the kingdom, marched out against him, and fought him. In this battle he alone did more than the greatest part of his army, and after the victory, suffered none of the enemy to escape alive. For he commanded them to be brought to him one after another, that he might satisfy his cruelty in seeing them killed; and when he grew tired of this, he gave orders that they should be flayed alive and burned. During these and other monstrous acts of cruelty, an accident happened which put a period to his wickedness. There came from the coasts of the Irish sea, a most cruel monster, that was continually devouring the people upon the sea-coasts. As soon as he heard of it, he ventured to go and encounter it alone; when he had in vain spent all his darts upon it, the monster rushed upon him, and with open jaws swallowed him up like a small fish.


[172] The people who lived near Boulogne.

Chap. XVI.Gorbonian, a most just king of the Britons.

He had five sons, whereof the eldest, Gorbonian, ascended the throne. There was not in his time a greater lover of justice and equity, or a more careful ruler of the people. The performance of due worship to the gods, and doing justice to the common people, were his continual employments. Through all the cities of Britain, he repaired the temples of the gods, and built many new ones. In all his days, the island abounded with riches, more than all the neighbouring countries. For he gave great encouragement to husbandmen in their tillage, by protecting them against any injury or oppression of their lords; and the soldiers he amply rewarded with money, so that no one had occasion to do wrong to an[Pg 134]other. Amidst these and many other acts of his innate goodness, he paid the debt of nature, and was buried at Trinovantum.

Chap. XVII.Arthgallo is deposed by the Britons, and is succeeded by Elidure, who restores him again his kingdom.

After him Arthgallo, his brother, was dignified with the crown, and in all his actions he was the very reverse of his brother. He everywhere endeavoured to depress the nobility, and advance the baser sort of the people. He plundered the rich, and by those means amassed vast treasures. But the nobility, disdaining to bear his tyranny any longer, made an insurrection against him, and deposed him; and then advanced Elidure, his brother, who was afterwards surnamed the pious, on account of his commiseration to Arthgallo in distress. For after five years' possession of the kingdom, as he happened to be hunting in the wood Calaterium, he met his brother that had been deposed. For he had travelled over several kingdoms, to desire assistance for the recovery of his lost dominions, but had procured none. And being now no longer able to bear the poverty to which he was reduced, he returned back to Britain, attended only by ten men, with a design to repair to those who had been formerly his friends. It was at this time, as he was passing through the wood, his brother Elidure, who little expected it, got sight of him, and forgetting all injuries, ran to him, and affectionately embraced him. Now as he had long lamented his brother's affliction, he carried him with him to the city Alclud, where he hid him in his bed-chamber. After this, he feigned himself sick, and sent messengers over the whole kingdom, to signify to all his prime nobility that they should come to visit him. Accordingly, when they were all met together at the city where he lay, he gave orders that they should come into his chamber one by one, softly, and without noise: his pretence for which was, that their talk would be a disturbance to his head, should they all crowd in together. Thus, in obedience to his commands, and without the least suspicion of any design, they entered his house one after another. But Elidure had given charge to his servants, who were set ready for the purpose, to take each of them as they entered, and cut off their heads, unless they would again submit themselves to[Pg 135] Arthgallo his brother. Thus did he with every one of them apart, and compelled them, through fear, to be reconciled to Arthgallo. At last the agreement being ratified, Elidure conducted Arthgallo to York, where he took the crown from his own head, and put it on that of his brother. From this act of extraordinary affection to his brother, he obtained the surname of Pious. Arthgallo after this reigned ten years, and made amends for his former mal-administration, by pursuing measures of an entirely opposite tendency, in depressing the baser sort, and advancing men of good birth; in suffering every one to enjoy his own, and exercising strict justice towards all men. At last sickness seizing him, he died and was buried in the city Kaerleir.

Chap. XVIII.Elidure is imprisoned by Peredure, after whose death he is a third time advanced to the throne.

Then Elidure was again advanced to the throne, and restored to his former dignity. But while in his government he followed the example of his eldest brother Gorbonian, in performing all acts of grace; his two remaining brothers, Vigenius and Peredure, raised an army, and made war against him, in which they proved victorious; so that they took him prisoner, and shut him up in the tower[173] at Trinovantum, where they placed a guard over him. They then divided the kingdom betwixt them; that part which is from the river Humber westward falling to Vigenius's share, and the remainder with all Albania to Peredure's. After seven years Vigenius died, and so the whole kingdom came to Peredure, who from that time governed the people with generosity and mildness, so that he even excelled his other brothers who had preceded him, nor was any mention now made of Elidure. But irresistible fate at last removed him suddenly, and so made way for Elidure's release from prison, and advancement to the throne the third time; who finished the course of his life in just and virtuous actions, and after death left an example of piety to his successors.

[Pg 136]


[173] The tower of London was built or at least repaired and enlarged by William Rufus. The story of its having been originally constructed by Julius Cæsar is an absurd fiction irreconcilable with the Commentaries of that general. See William of Malmesbury, p. 341.

Chap. XIX.The names of Elidure's thirty-three successors.

Elidure being dead, Gorbonian's son enjoyed the crown, and imitated his uncle's wise and prudent government. For he abhorred tyranny, and practised justice and mildness towards the people, nor did he ever swerve from the rule of equity. After him reigned Margan, the son of Arthgallo, who, being instructed by the examples of his immediate predecessors, held the government in peace. To him succeeded Enniaunus, his brother, who took a contrary course, and in the sixth year of his reign was deposed, for having preferred a tyrannical to a just and legal administration. In his room was placed his kinsman Idwallo, the son of Vigenius, who, being admonished by Enniaunus's ill success, became a strict observer of justice and equity. To him succeeded Runno, the son of Peredure, whose successor was Geruntius, the son of Elidure. After him reigned Catellus, his son; after Catellus, Coillus; after Coillus, Porrex; after Porrex, Cherin. This prince had three sons, Fulgenius, Eldadus, and Andragius, who all reigned one after another. Then succeeded Urianus, the son of Andragius; after whom reigned in order, Eliud, Cledaucus, Cletonus, Gurgintius, Merianus, Bleduno, Cap, Oenus, Sisilius, Blegabred. This last prince, in singing and playing upon musical instruments, excelled all the musicians that had been before him, so that he seemed worthy of the title of the God of Jesters. After him reigned Arthmail, his brother; after Arthmail, Eldol; to whom succeeded in order, Redion, Rederchius, Samuilpenissel, Pir, Capoir, and Cligueillus the son of Capoir, a man prudent and mild in all his actions, and who above all things made it his business to exercise true justice among his people.

Chap. XX.Heli's three sons; the first of whom, viz. Lud, gives name to the city of London.

Next to him succeeded his son Heli, who reigned forty years. He had three sons, Lud, Cassibellaun,[174] and Nennius; of whom Lud, being the eldest, succeeded to the kingdom after his father's death. He became famous[Pg 137] for the building of cities, and for rebuilding the walls of Trinovantum, which he also surrounded with innumerable towers. He likewise commanded the citizens to build houses, and all other kinds of structures in it, so that no city in all foreign countries to a great distance round could show more beautiful palaces. He was withal a warlike man, and very magnificent in his feasts and public entertainments. And though he had many other cities, yet he loved this above them all, and resided in it the greater part of the year; for which reason it was afterwards called Kaerlud, and by the corruption of the word, Caerlondon; and again by change of languages, in process of time, London; as also by foreigners who arrived here, and reduced this country under their subjection, it was called Londres. At last, when he was dead, his body was buried by the gate which to this time is called in the British tongue after his name, Parthlud,[175] and in the Saxon, Ludesgata. He had two sons, Androgeus and Tenuantius, who were incapable of governing on account of their age: and therefore their uncle Cassibellaun was preferred to the kingdom in their room. As soon as he was crowned, he began to display his generosity and magnificence to such a degree, that his fame reached to distant kingdoms; which was the reason that the monarchy of the whole kingdom came to be invested in him, and not in his nephews. Notwithstanding Cassibellaun, from an impulse of piety, would not suffer them to be without their share in the kingdom, but assigned a large part of it to them. For he bestowed the city of Trinovantum, with the dukedom of Kent, on Androgeus; and the dukedom of Cornwall on Tenuantius. But he himself, as possessing the crown, had the sovereignty over them, and all the other princes of the island.

[Pg 138]


[174] The British name of this prince is probably Caswallon.

[175] In Latin Porta Lud.


Chap. I.Julius Cæsar invades Britain.

About this time it happened, (as is found in the Roman histories,) that Julius Cæsar, having subdued Gaul, came to the shore of the Ruteni. And when from thence he had got a prospect of the island of Britain, he inquired of those about him what country it was, and what people inhabited it. Then fixing his eyes upon the ocean, as soon as he was informed of the name of the kingdom and the people, he said:[176] "In truth we Romans and the Britons have the same origin, since both are descended from the Trojan race. Our first father, after the destruction of Troy, was Æneas; theirs, Brutus, whose father was Sylvius, the son of Ascanius, the son of Æneas. But I am deceived, if they are not very much degenerated from us, and know nothing of the art of war, since they live separated by the ocean from the whole world. They may be easily forced to become our tributaries, and subjects to the Roman state. But before the Romans offer to invade or assault them, we must send them word that they pay tribute as other nations do, and submit themselves to the senate; for fear we should violate the ancient nobility of our father Priamus, by shedding the blood of our kinsmen." All which he accordingly took care to signify in writing to Cassibellaun; who in great indignation returned him an answer in the following letter.


[176] It is ridiculous to suppose that Cæsar said any thing of the kind, for he knew well the slender historical evidence on which the Trojan story depended.

Chap. II.Cassibellaunus's letter to Julius Cæsar.

"Cassibellaun, king of the Britons, to Caius Julius Cæsar. We cannot but wonder, Cæsar, at the avarice of the Roman people, since their insatiable thirst for money cannot let us alone, though the dangers of the ocean have placed us in a manner out of the world; but they must have the presumption to covet our substance, which we have hitherto enjoyed[Pg 139] in quiet. Neither is this indeed sufficient: we must also choose subjection and slavery to them, before the enjoyment of our native liberty. Your demand, therefore, Cæsar, is scandalous, since the same vein of nobility flows from Æneas in both Britons and Romans, and one and the same chain of consanguinity unites us: which ought to be a band of firm union and friendship. It was that, which you should have demanded of us, and not slavery: we have learned to admit of the one, but never to bear the other. And so much have we been accustomed to liberty, that we are perfectly ignorant what it is to submit to slavery. And if even the gods themselves should attempt to deprive us of our liberty, we would, to the utmost of our power, resist them in defence of it. Know then, Cæsar, that we are ready to fight for that and our kingdom, if, as you threaten, you shall attempt to invade Britain."

Chap. III.Cæsar is routed by Cassibellaun.

On receiving this answer, Cæsar made ready his fleet, and waited for a fair wind to execute his threats against Cassibellaun. As soon as the wind stood fair, he hoisted his sails, and arrived with his army at the mouth of the river Thames. The ships were now just come close to land, when Cassibellaun with all his forces appeared on his march against them, and coming to the town of Dorobellum, he consulted with his nobility how to drive out the enemy. There was present with him Belinus, general of his army, by whose counsel the whole kingdom was governed. There were also his two nephews, Androgeus, duke of Trinovantum, and Tenuantius, duke of Cornwall, together with three inferior kings, Cridious, king of Albania, Guerthaeth of Venedotia, and Britael of Dimetia, who, as they had encouraged the rest to fight the enemy, gave their advice to march directly to Cæsar's camp, and drive them out of the country before they could take any city or town. For if he should possess himself of any fortified places, they said it would be more difficult to force him out, because he would then know whither to make a retreat with his men. To this proposal they all agreed, and advanced towards the shore where Julius Cæsar had pitched his camp. And now both armies drew out in order of battle, and began the fight, wherein both bows and swords were[Pg 140] employed. Immediately the wounded fell in heaps on each side, and the ground was drenched with the blood of the slain, as much as if it had been washed with the sudden return of the tide. While the armies were thus engaged, it happened that Nennius and Androgeus, with the citizens of Canterbury and Trinovantum, whom they commanded, had the fortune to meet with the troop in which Cæsar himself was present. And upon an assault made, the general's cohort was very nearly routed by the Britons falling upon them in a close body. During this action, fortune gave Nennius an opportunity of encountering Cæsar. Nennius therefore boldly made up to him, and was in great joy that he could but give so much as one blow to so great a man. On the other hand, Cæsar being aware of his design, stretched out his shield to receive him, and with all his might struck him upon the helmet with his drawn sword, which he lifted up again with an intention to finish his first blow, and make it mortal; but Nennius carefully prevented him with his shield, upon which Cæsar's sword glancing with great force from the helmet, became so firmly fastened therein, that when by the intervention of the troops they could no longer continue the encounter, the general was not able to draw it out again. Nennius, thus becoming master of Cæsar's sword, threw away his own, and pulling the other out, made haste to employ it against the enemy. Whomsoever he struck with it, he either cut off his head, or left him wounded without hopes of recovery. While he was thus exerting himself, he was met by Labienus, a tribune, whom he killed in the very beginning of the encounter. At last, after the greatest part of the day was spent, the Britons poured in so fast, and made such vigorous efforts, that by the blessing of God they obtained the victory, and Cæsar, with his broken forces, retired to his camp and fleet. The very same night, as soon as he had got his men together again, he went on board his fleet, rejoicing that he had the sea for his camp. And upon his companions dissuading him from continuing the war any longer, he acquiesced in their advice, and returned back to Gaul.[Pg 141]

Chap. IV.Nennius, the brother of Cassibellaun, being wounded in battle by Cæsar, dies.

Cassibellaun, in joy for this triumph, returned solemn thanks to God; and calling the companions of his victory together, amply rewarded every one of them, according as they had distinguished themselves. On the other hand, he was very much oppressed with grief for his brother Nennius, who lay mortally wounded, and at the very point of death. For Cæsar had wounded him in the encounter, and the blow which he had given him proved incurable; so that fifteen days after the battle he died, and was buried at Trinovantum, by the North Gate. His funeral obsequies were performed with regal pomp, and Cæsar's sword put into the tomb with him, which he had kept possession of, when struck into his shield in the combat. The name of the sword was Crocea Mors (Yellow Death), as being mortal to every body that was wounded with it.

Chap. V.Cæsar's inglorious return to Gaul.

After this flight of Cæsar, and his arrival on the Gallic coast, the Gauls attempted to rebel and throw off his yoke. For they thought he was so much weakened, that his forces could be no longer a terror to them. Besides, a general report was spread among them, that Cassibellaun was now out at sea with a vast fleet to pursue him in his flight; on which account the Gauls, growing still more bold, began to think of driving him from their coasts. Cæsar, aware of their designs, was not willing to engage in a doubtful war with a fierce people, but rather chose to go to all their first nobility with open treasures, and reconcile them with presents. To the common people he promised liberty, to the dispossessed the restitution of their estates, and to the slaves their freedom. Thus he that had insulted them before with the fierceness of a lion, and plundered them of all, now, with the mildness of a lamb, fawns on them with submissive abject speeches, and is glad to restore all again. To these acts of meanness he was forced to condescend till he had pacified them, and was able to regain his lost power. In the meantime not a day passed without his reflecting upon his flight, and the victory of the Britons.[Pg 142]

Chap. VI.Cassibellaun forms a stratagem for sinking Cæsar's ships.

After two years were expired, he prepared to cross the sea again, and revenge himself on Cassibellaun, who having intelligence of his design, everywhere fortified his cities, repaired the ruined walls, and placed armed men at all the ports. In the river Thames, on which Cæsar intended to sail up to Trinovantum, he caused iron and leaden stakes, each as thick as a man's thigh, to be fixed under the surface of the water, that Cæsar's ships might founder. He then assembled all the forces of the island, and took up his quarters with them near the sea-coasts, in expectation of the enemy's coming.

Chap. VII.Cæsar a second time vanquished by the Britons.

After he had furnished himself with all necessaries, the Roman general embarked with a vast army, eager to revenge himself on a people that had defeated him; in which he undoubtedly would have succeeded, if he could but have brought his fleet safe to land; but this he was not able to do. For in sailing up the Thames to Trinovantum, the ships struck against the stakes, which so endangered them all on a sudden, that many thousands of the men were drowned, while the ships being pierced sank into the river. Cæsar, upon this, employed all his force to shift his sails, and hastened to get back again to land. And so those that remained, after a narrow escape, went on shore with him. Cassibellaun, who was present upon the bank, with joy observed the disaster of the drowned, but grieved at the escape of the rest; and upon his giving a signal to his men, made an attack upon the Romans, who, notwithstanding the danger they had suffered in the river, when landed, bravely withstood the Britons; and having no other fence to trust to but their own courage, they made no small slaughter; but yet suffered a greater loss themselves, than that which they were able to give the enemy. For their number was considerably diminished by their loss in the river; whereas the Britons being hourly increased with new recruits, were three times their number, and by that advantage defeated them. Cæsar, seeing he could no longer maintain his ground, fled with a small body of men to[Pg 143] his ships, and made the sea his safe retreat; and as the wind stood fair, he hoisted his sails, and steered to the shore of the Morini. From thence he repaired to a certain tower, which he had built at a place called Odnea, before this second expedition into Britain. For he durst not trust the fickleness of the Gauls, who he feared would fall upon him a second time, as we have said already they did before, after the first flight he was forced to make before the Britons. And on that account he had built this tower for a refuge to himself, that he might be able to maintain his ground against a rebellious people, if they should make insurrection against him.

Chap. VIII.Evelinus kills Hirelglas. Androgeus desires Cæsar's assistance against Cassibellaun.

Cassibellaun, elevated with joy for this second victory, published a decree, to summon all the nobility of Britain with their wives to Trinovantum, in order to perform solemn sacrifices to their tutelary gods who had given them the victory over so great a commander. Accordingly, they all appeared, and prepared a variety of sacrifices, for which there was a great slaughter of cattle. At this solemnity they offered forty thousand cows, and a hundred thousand sheep, and also fowls of several kinds without number, besides thirty thousand wild beasts of several kinds. As soon as they had performed these solemn honours to their gods, they feasted themselves on the remainder, as was usual at such sacrifices, and spent the rest of the day and night in various plays and sports. Amidst these diversions, it happened that two noble youths, whereof one was nephew to the king, the other to duke Androgeus, wrestled together, and afterwards had a dispute about the victory. The name of the king's nephew was Hirelglas, the other's Evelinus. As they were reproaching each other, Evelinus snatched up his sword and cut off the head of his rival. This sudden disaster put the whole court into a consternation, upon which the king ordered Evelinus to be brought before him, that he might be ready to undergo such punishment as the nobility should determine, and that the death of Hirelglas might be revenged upon him, if he were unjustly killed. Androgeus, suspecting the king's intentions, made answer that he had[Pg 144] a court of his own, and that whatever should be alleged against his own men, ought to be determined there. If, therefore, he was resolved to demand justice of Evelinus, he might have it at Trinovantum, according to ancient custom. Cassibellaun, finding he could not attain his ends, threatened Androgeus to destroy his country with fire and sword, if he would not comply with his demands. But Androgeus, now incensed, scorned all compliance with him. On the other hand, Cassibellaun, in a great rage, hastened to make good his threats, and ravage the country. This forced Androgeus to make use of daily solicitations to the king, by means of such as were related to him, or intimate with him, to divert his rage. But when he found these methods ineffectual, he began in earnest to consider how to oppose him. At last, when all other hopes failed, he resolved to request assistance from Cæsar, and wrote a letter to him to this effect:—

"Androgeus, duke of Trinovantum, to Caius Julius Cæsar, instead of wishing death as formerly, now wishes health. I repent that ever I acted against you, when you made war against the king. Had I never been guilty of such exploits, you would have vanquished Cassibellaun, who is so swollen with pride since his victory, that he is endeavouring to drive me out of his coasts, who procured him that triumph. Is this a fit reward for my services? I have settled him in an inheritance; and he endeavours to disinherit me. I have a second time restored him to the kingdom: and he endeavours to destroy me. All this have I done for him in fighting against you. I call the gods to witness I have not deserved his anger, unless I can be said to deserve it for refusing to deliver up my nephew, whom he would have condemned to die unjustly. Of which, that you may be better able to judge, hear this account of the matter. It happened that for joy of the victory we performed solemn honours to our tutelary gods, in which after we had finished our sacrifices, our youth began to divert themselves with sports. Among the rest our two nephews, encouraged by the example of the others, entered the lists; and when mine had got the better, the other without any cause was incensed, and just going to strike him: but he avoided the blow, and taking him by the hand that held the sword, strove to wrest it from him. In this struggle the king's nephew happened to fall upon the[Pg 145] sword's point, and died upon the spot. When the king was informed of it, he commanded me to deliver up the youth, that he might be punished for murder. I refused do it; whereupon he invaded my provinces with all his forces, and has given me very great disturbance; flying, therefore, to your clemency, I desire your assistance, that by you I may be restored to my dignity, and by me you may gain possession of Britain. Let no doubts or suspicion of treachery in this matter detain you. Be influenced by the common motive of mankind; let past enmities beget a desire of friendship; and after defeat make you more eager for victory."

Chap. IX.Cassibellaun, being put to flight, and besieged by Cæsar, desires peace.

Cæsar, having read the letter, was advised by his friends not to go into Britain upon a bare verbal invitation of the duke, unless he would send such hostages as might be for his security. Without delay, therefore, Androgeus sent his son Scæva with thirty young noblemen nearly related to him. Upon delivery of the hostages, Cæsar, relieved from his suspicion, re-assembled his forces, and with a fair wind arrived at the port of Rutupi. In the meantime Cassibellaun had begun to besiege Trinovantum and ravage the country towns; but finding that Cæsar was arrived, he raised the siege and hastened to meet him. As soon as he entered a valley near Dorobernia,[177] he saw the Roman army preparing their camp: for Androgeus had conducted them to this place, for the convenience of making a sudden assault upon the city. The Romans, seeing the Britons advancing towards them, quickly flew to their arms, and ranged themselves in several bodies. The Britons also put on their arms, and placed themselves in their ranks. But Androgeus with five thousand men lay hid in a wood hard by, to be ready to assist Cæsar, and spring forth on a sudden upon Cassibellaun and his party. Both armies now approached to begin the fight, some with bows and arrows, some with swords, so that much blood was shed on both sides, and the wounded fell down like leaves in autumn. While they were thus engaged, Androgeus sallied forth from the wood, and fell upon the rear of Cassibellaun's army, upon which the hopes of the[Pg 146] battle entirely depended. And now, what with the breach which the Romans had made through them just before, what with the furious irruption of their own countrymen, they were no longer able to stand their ground, but were obliged with their broken forces to quit the field. Near the place stood a rocky mountain, on the top of which was a thick hazel wood. Hither Cassibellaun fled with his men after he found himself worsted; and having climbed up to the top of the mountain, bravely defended himself and killed the pursuing enemy. For the Roman forces with those of Androgeus pursued him to disperse his flying troops, and climbing up the mountain after them made many assaults, but all to little purpose; for the rockiness of the mountain and great height of its top was a defence to the Britons, and the advantage of higher ground gave them an opportunity of killing great numbers of the enemy. Cæsar hereupon besieged the mountain that whole night, which had now overtaken them, and shut up all the avenues to it; intending to reduce the king by famine, since he could not do it by force of arms. Such was the wonderful valour of the British nation in those times, that they were able to put the conqueror of the world twice to flight; and being ready to die for the defence of their country and liberty, they, even though defeated, withstood him whom the whole world could not withstand. Hence Lucan in their praise says of Cæsar,

"Territa quæsitis ostendit terga Britannis."

With pride he sought the Britons, but when found,
Dreaded their force, and fled the hostile ground.

Two days were now passed, when Cassibellaun having consumed all his provision, feared famine would oblige him to surrender himself prisoner to Cæsar. For this reason he sent a message to Androgeus to make his peace with Julius, lest the honour of the nation might suffer by his being taken prisoner. He likewise represented to him, that he did not deserve to be pursued to death for the annoyance which he had given him. As soon as the messengers had told this to Androgeus, he made answer:—"That prince deserves not to be loved, who in war is mild as a lamb, but in peace cruel as a lion. Ye gods of heaven and earth! Does my lord[Pg 147] then condescend to entreat me now, whom before he took upon him to command? Does he desire to be reconciled and make his submission to Cæsar, of whom Cæsar himself had before desired peace? He ought therefore to have considered, that he who was able to drive so great a commander out of the kingdom, was able also to bring him back again. I ought not to have been so unjustly treated, who had then done him so much service, as well as now so much injury. He must be mad who either injures or reproaches his fellow soldiers by whom he defeats the enemy. The victory is not the commander's, but theirs who lose their blood in fighting for him. However, I will procure him peace if I can, for the injury which he has done me is sufficiently revenged upon him, since he sues for mercy to me."


[177] Canterbury

Chap. X.Androgeus's speech to Cæsar.

Androgeus after this went to Cæsar, and after a respectful salutation addressed him in this manner:—"You have sufficiently revenged yourself upon Cassibellaun; and now let clemency take place of vengeance. What more is there to be done than that he make his submission and pay tribute to the Roman state?" To this Cæsar returned him no answer: upon which Androgeus said again; "My whole engagement with you, Cæsar, was only to reduce Britain under your power, by the submission of Cassibellaun. Behold! Cassibellaun is now vanquished, and Britain by my assistance become subject to you. What further service do I owe you? God forbid that I should suffer my sovereign, who sues to me for peace, and makes me satisfaction for the injury which he has done me, to be in prison or in chains. It is no easy matter to put Cassibellaun to death while I have life; and if you do not comply with my demand, I shall not be ashamed to give him my assistance." Cæsar, alarmed at these menaces of Androgeus, was forced to comply, and entered into peace with Cassibellaun, on condition that he should pay a yearly tribute of three thousand pounds of silver. So then Julius and Cassibellaun from this time became friends, and made presents to each other. After this, Cæsar wintered in Britain, and the[Pg 148] following spring returned into Gaul.[178] At length he assembled all his forces, and marched towards Rome against Pompey.


[178] "Cæsar's expedition against the Britons was of singular boldness; for he was the first who proceeded with a fleet to the Western Ocean, and sailed over the Atlantic Sea, conducting an army to war; and being desirous of possessing an island, for its size hardly believed in, and giving occasion for much controversy to various writers, as if a name and a tale had been invented of a place which never had been nor was yet in existence, he advanced the dominion of the Romans beyond the limits of the known world; and having twice sailed over to the island from the opposite coast of Gaul, and having rather worsted his enemies in many battles, than advantaged his own soldiers, for there was nothing worth taking from men who had a bare subsistence and were poor, he terminated the war not in the way he wished; but taking hostages from the king, and appointing tributes, he departed from the island."—Plutarch. This is the language of a writer favourable to the reputation of Cæsar, and may teach us how worthless are the old British or rather Welsh legends in comparison with the classic historians.

But the classic historians deal sometimes in fables. Witness the following quotation from Polyænus:

"Cæsar attempting to pass a large river in Britain, Cassolaulus, king of the Britons, obstructed him with many horsemen and chariots. Cæsar had in his train a very large elephant, an animal hitherto unseen by the Britons. Having armed him with scales of iron, and put a large tower upon him, and placed therein archers and slingers, he ordered them to enter the stream. The Britons were amazed at beholding a beast till then unseen, and of an extraordinary nature. As to the horses, what need to write of them! since even among the Greeks, horses fly on seeing elephants even without harness, but thus towered and armed, and casting darts and slinging, they could not endure even to look upon the sight. The Britons therefore fled with their horses and chariots. Thus the Romans passed the river without molestation, having terrified the enemy by a single animal."

Chap. XI.Tenuantius is made king of Britain after Cassibellaun.

After seven years had expired, Cassibellaun died and was buried at York. He was succeeded by Tenuantius, duke of Cornwall, and brother of Androgeus: for Androgeus was gone to Rome with Cæsar. Tenuantius therefore, now wearing the crown, governed the kingdom with diligence. He was a warlike man, and a strict observer of justice. After him Kymbelinus his son was advanced to the throne, being a great soldier, and brought up by Augustus Cæsar. He had contracted so great a friendship with the Romans, that he freely paid them tribute when he might have very[Pg 149] well refused it. In his days was born our Lord Jesus Christ, by whose precious blood mankind was redeemed from the devil, under whom they had been before enslaved.

Chap. XII.Upon Guiderius's refusing to pay tribute to the Romans, Claudius Cæsar invades Britain.

Kymbelinus, when he had governed Britain ten years, begat two sons, the elder named Guiderius, the other Arviragus. After his death the government fell to Guiderius. This prince refused to pay tribute to the Romans; for which reason Claudius, who was now emperor, marched against him. He was attended in this expedition by the commander of his army, who was called in the British tongue, Leuis Hamo, by whose advice the following war was to be carried on. This man, therefore, arriving at the city of Portcester, [Portchester,] began to block up the gates with a wall, and denied the citizens all liberty of passing out. For his design was either to reduce them to subjection by famine, or kill them without mercy.

Chap. XIII.Leuis Hamo, a Roman, by wicked treachery kills Guiderius.

Guiderius, upon the news of Claudius's coming, assembled all the soldiery of the kingdom, and went to meet the Roman army. In the battle that ensued, he began the assault with great eagerness, and did more execution with his own sword than the greater part of his army. Claudius was now on the point of retreating to his ships, and the Romans very nearly routed, when the crafty Hamo, throwing aside his own armour, put on that of the Britons, and as a Briton fought against his own men. Then he exhorted the Britons to a vigorous assault, promising them a speedy victory. For he had learned their language and manners, having been educated among the British hostages at Rome. By these means he approached by little and little to the king, and seizing a favourable opportunity, stabbed him while under no apprehension of danger, and then escaped through the enemy's ranks to return to his men with the news of his detestable exploit. But Arviragus, his brother, seeing him killed, forthwith put off his own and put on his brother's habiliments, and, as if he had been Guiderius himself, encouraged the Britons to stand their ground. Accordingly, as they knew[Pg 150] nothing of the king's disaster, they made a vigorous resistance, fought courageously, and killed no small number of the enemy. At last the Romans gave ground, and dividing themselves into two bodies, basely quitted the field. Cæsar with one part, to secure himself, retired to his ships; but Hamo fled to the woods, because he had not time to get to the ships. Arviragus, therefore, thinking that Claudius fled along with him, pursued him with all speed, and did not leave off harassing him from place to place, till he overtook him upon a part of the sea-coast, which, from the name of Hamo, is now called Southampton. There was at the same place a convenient haven for ships, and some merchant-ships at anchor. And just as Hamo was attempting to get on board them, Arviragus came upon him unawares, and forthwith killed him. And ever since that time the haven has been called Hamo's port.

Chap. XIV.Arviragus, king of Britain, makes his submission to Claudius, who with his assistance conquers the Orkney islands.

In the meantime, Claudius, with his remaining forces, assaulted the city above-mentioned, which was then called Kaerperis, now Portcestre, and presently levelled the walls, and having reduced the citizens to subjection, went after Arviragus, who had entered Winchester. Afterwards he besieged that city, and employed a variety of engines against it. Arviragus, seeing himself in these straits, called his troops together, and opened the gates, to march out and give him battle. But just as he was ready to begin the attack, Claudius, who feared the boldness of the king and the bravery of the Britons, sent a message to him with a proposal of peace; choosing rather to reduce them by wisdom and policy, than run the hazard of a battle. To this purpose he offered a reconciliation with him, and promised to give him his daughter, if he would only acknowledge the kingdom of Britain subject to the Roman state. The nobility hereupon persuaded him to lay aside thoughts of war, and be content with Claudius's promise; representing to him at the same time, that it was no disgrace to be subject to the Romans, who enjoyed the empire of the whole world. By these and many other arguments he was prevailed upon to hearken to their advice, and make his submission to Cæsar. After which[Pg 151] Claudius sent to Rome for his daughter, and then, with the assistance of Arviragus, reduced the Orkney and the provincial islands to his power.[179]


[179] Claudius never was in Orkney; he spent only sixteen days altogether in Britain. Of certain sacred isles in the neighbourhood of Britain, Plutarch gives the following account, showing how little the Greeks knew of Britain eighty years after the reign of Claudius:

"A short time before Callistratus celebrated the Pythian games, two holy men from the opposite parts of the habitable earth came to us at Delphos, Demetrius the grammarian from Britain, returning home to Tarsus, and Cleombrotus the Lacedæmonian.... But Demetrius said, that there are many desert islands scattered around Britain, some of which have the name of being the islands of genii and heroes: that he had been sent by the emperor, for the sake of describing and viewing them, to that which lay nearest to the desert isles, and which had but few inhabitants; all of whom were esteemed by the Britons sacred and inviolable. Very soon after his arrival there was great turbulence in the air, and many portentous storms; the winds became tempestuous, and fiery whirlwinds rushed forth. When these ceased, the islanders said that the departure of some one of the superior genii had taken place. For as a light when burning, say they, has nothing disagreeable, but when extinguished is offensive to many; so likewise lofty spirits afford an illumination benignant and mild, but their extinction and destruction frequently, as at the present moment, excite winds and storms, and often infect the atmosphere with pestilential evils. Moreover, that there was one island there, wherein Saturn was confined by Briareus in sleep: for that sleep had been devised for his bonds; and that around him were many genii as his companions and attendants.

"Asclepiades asserts, that after their thirtieth year the Ethiopians, being scorched by the sun, quickly grow old, in consequence of their bodies being overheated; whereas in Britain they advance to an hundred and twenty years, in consequence of the coldness of the place and their retaining within themselves the vital heat: for the bodies of the Ethiopians are more slender from their being relaxed by the sun, whereas the inhabitants of the north are thick set in their persons, and on this account longer lived."

Chap. XV.Claudius gives his daughter Genuissa for a wife to Arviragus, and returns to Rome.

As soon as the winter was over, those that were sent for Claudius's daughter returned with her, and presented her to her father. The damsel's name was Genuissa, and so great was her beauty, that it raised the admiration of all that saw her. After her marriage with the king, she gained so great an ascendant over his affections, that he in a manner valued nothing but her alone: insomuch that he was desirous to have the place honoured where the nuptials were solemnized, and moved Claudius to build a city upon it, for a monument[Pg 152] to posterity of so great and happy a marriage. Claudius consented to it, and commanded a city to be built, which after his name is called Kaerglou, that is Gloucester, to this day, and is situated on the confines of Dimetia and Loegria, upon the banks of the Severn. But some say that it derived its name from Duke Gloius, a son that was born to Claudius there, and to whom, after the death of Arviragus, fell the dukedom of Dimetia. The city being finished, and the island now enjoying peace, Claudius returned to Rome, leaving to Arviragus the government of the British islands. At the same time the apostle Peter founded the Church of Antioch; and afterwards coming to Rome, was bishop there, and sent Mark, the evangelist, into Egypt to preach the gospel which he had written.

Chap. XVI.Arviragus revolting from the Romans, Vespasian is sent into Britain.

After the departure of Claudius, Arviragus began to show his wisdom and courage, to rebuild cities and towns, and to exercise so great authority over his own people, that he became a terror to the kings of remote countries. But this so elevated him with pride that he despised the Roman power, disdained any longer subjection to the senate, and assumed to himself the sole authority in every thing. Upon this news Vespasian was sent by Claudius to procure a reconciliation with Arviragus, or to reduce him to the subjection of the Romans. When, therefore, Vespasian arrived at the haven of Rutupi,[180] Arviragus met him, and prevented his entering the port. For he brought so great an army along with him, that the Romans, for fear of his falling upon them, durst not come ashore. Vespasian upon this withdrew from that port, and shifting his sails arrived at the shore of Totness. As soon as he was landed, he marched directly to besiege Kaerpenhuelgoit, now Exeter; and after lying before it seven days, was overtaken by Arviragus and his army, who gave him battle. That day great destruction was made in both armies, but neither got the victory. The next morning, by the mediation of queen Genuissa, the two leaders were made friends, and sent their men over to Ireland. As soon as winter was over, Vespasian returned to Rome, but Arvi[Pg 153]ragus continued still in Britain. Afterwards, when he grew old, he began to show much respect to the senate, and to govern his kingdom in peace and tranquillity. He confirmed the old laws of his ancestors, and enacted some new ones, and made very ample presents to all persons of merit. So that his fame spread over all Europe, and he was both loved and feared by the Romans, and became the subject of their discourse more than any king in his time. Hence Juvenal relates how a certain blind man, speaking of a turbot that was taken, said:—

"Regem aliquem capies, aut de temone Britanno
Decidet Arviragus."[181]

Arviragus shall from his chariot fall,
Or thee his lord some captive king shall call.

In war none was more fierce than he, in peace none more mild, none more pleasing, or in his presents more magnificent. When he had finished his course of life, he was buried at Gloucester, in a certain temple which he had built and dedicated to the honour of Claudius.[182]


[180] Richborough.

[181] Juven. Sat. iv. 26.

[182] Although this narrative of the reign of Arviragus is purely imaginative, yet it is not impossible that Gloucester may have been a station founded by Claudius, and hence called Claudii Castrum, or Caer Glan.

Chap. XVII.Rodric, leader of the Picts, is vanquished by Marius.

His son Marius, a man of admirable prudence and wisdom, succeeded him in the kingdom. In his reign a certain king of the Picts, named Rodric, came from Scythia with a great fleet, and arrived in the north part of Britain, which is called Albania, and began to ravage that country. Marius therefore raising an army went in quest of him, and killed him in battle, and gained the victory; for a monument of which he set up a stone in the province, which from his name was afterwards called Westmoreland, where there is an inscription retaining his memory to this day. He gave the conquered people that came with Rodric liberty to inhabit that part of Albania which is called Caithness, that had been a long time desert and uncultivated. And as they had no wives,[Pg 154] they desired to have the daughters and kinswomen of the Britons. But the Britons refused, disdaining to unite with such a people. Having suffered a repulse here, they sailed over into Ireland, and married the women of that country, and by their offspring increased their number. But let thus much suffice concerning them, since I do not propose to write the history of this people, or of the Scots, who derived their original from them and the Irish. Marius, after he had settled the island in perfect peace, began to love the Roman people, paying the tribute that was demanded of him; and in imitation of his father's example practised justice, law, peace, and every thing that was honourable in his kingdom.

Chap. XVIII.Marius dying, is succeeded by Coillus.

As soon as he had ended his days, his son Coillus took upon him the government of the kingdom. He had been brought up from his infancy at Rome, and having been taught the Roman manners, had contracted a most strict amity with them. He likewise paid them tribute, and declined making them any opposition, because he saw the whole world subject to them, and that no town or country was out of the limits of their power. By paying therefore what was required of him, he enjoyed his kingdom in peace: and no king ever showed greater respect to his nobility, not only permitting them to enjoy their own with quiet, but also binding them to him by his continual bounty and munificence.

Chap. XIX.Lucius is the first British king that embraces the Christian faith, together with his people.

Coillus had but one son, named Lucius, who, obtaining the crown after his father's decease, imitated all his acts of goodness, and seemed to his people to be no other than Coillus himself revived. As he had made so good a beginning, he was willing to make a better end: for which purpose he sent letters to pope Eleutherius, desiring to be instructed by him in the Christian religion. For the miracles which Christ's disciples performed in several nations wrought a conviction in his mind; so that being inflamed with an ardent love of the true faith, he obtained the accomplishment of his pious request. For that holy pope, upon receipt of this devout[Pg 155] petition, sent to him two most religious doctors, Faganus and Duvanus, who, after they had preached concerning the incarnation of the Word of God, administered baptism to him, and made him a proselyte to the Christian faith. Immediately upon this, people from all countries, assembling together, followed the king's example, and being washed in the same holy laver, were made partakers of the kingdom of heaven. The holy doctors, after they had almost extinguished paganism over the whole island, dedicated the temples, that had been founded in honour of many gods, to the one only God and his saints, and filled them with congregations of Christians. There were then in Britain eight and twenty flamens, as also three archflamens, to whose jurisdiction the other judges and enthusiasts were subject. These also, according to the apostolic command, they delivered from idolatry, and where they were flamens made them bishops, where archflamens, archbishops. The seats of the archflamens were at the three noblest cities, viz. London,[183] York, and the City of Legions, which its old walls and buildings show to have been situated upon the river Uske in Glamorganshire. To these three, now purified from superstition, were made subject twenty-eight bishops, with their dioceses. To the metropolitan of York were subject Deira and Albania, which the great river Humber divides from Loegria. To the metropolitan of London were subject Loegria and Cornwall. These two provinces the Severn divides from Kambria or Wales, which was subject to the City of Legions.


[183] This fabulous story of the flamens and archflamens, and of the substitution of bishops and archbishops in their places, led, in later years, to serious disputes between the bishops of Canterbury, York, and London.

Chap. XX.Faganus and Duvanus give an account at Rome, of what they had done in Britain.

At last, when they had made an entire reformation here, the two prelates returned to Rome, and desired the pope to confirm what they had done. As soon as they had obtained a confirmation, they returned again to Britain, accompanied with many others, by whose doctrine the British nation was in a short time strengthened in the faith. Their names and acts are recorded in a book which Gildas wrote concerning[Pg 156] the victory of Aurelius Ambrosius; and what is delivered in so bright a treatise, needs not to be repeated here in a meaner style.[184]


[184] This treatise has not been preserved, and most probably never was written. The only information which has come down to us about king Lucius, at all likely to be of an authentic character, is a brief notice of him in Bede's Ecclesiastical History, p. 10.


Chap. I.Lucius dies without issue, and is a benefactor to the churches.

In the meantime, the glorious king Lucius highly rejoiced at the great progress which the true faith and worship had made in his kingdom, and permitted the possessions and territories which formerly belonged to the temples of the gods, to be converted to a better use, and appropriated to Christian churches. And because a greater honour was due to them than to the others, he made large additions of lands and manor-houses, and all kinds of privileges to them. Amidst these and other acts of his great piety, he departed this life in the city of Gloucester, and was honourably buried in the cathedral church, in the hundred and fifty-sixth year after our Lord's incarnation. He had no issue to succeed him, so that after his decease there arose a dissension among the Britons, and the Roman power was much weakened.

Chap. II.Severus, a senator, subdues part of Britain: his war with Fulgenius.

When this news was brought to Rome, the senate despatched Severus, a senator, with two legions, to reduce the country to subjection. As soon as he was arrived, he came to a battle with the Britons, part of whom he obliged to submit to him, and the other part which he could not subdue he endeavoured to distress in several cruel engagements, and forced them to fly beyond Deira into Albania. Notwithstanding which they opposed him with all their might under the[Pg 157] conduct of Fulgenius, and often made great slaughter both of their own countrymen and of the Romans. For Fulgenius, brought to his assistance all the people of the islands that he could find, and so frequently gained the victory. The emperor, not being able to resist the irruptions which he made, commanded a wall to be built between Deira and Albania, to hinder his excursions upon them; they accordingly made one at the common charge from sea to sea, which for a long time hindered the approach of the enemy. But Fulgenius, when he was unable to make any longer resistance, made a voyage into Scythia, to desire the assistance of the Picts towards his restoration. And when he had got together all the forces of that country, he returned with a great fleet into Britain, and besieged York. Upon this news being spread through the country, the greatest part of the Britons deserted Severus, and went over to Fulgenius. However this did not make Severus desist from his enterprise: but calling together the Romans, and the rest of the Britons that adhered to him, he marched to the siege, and fought with Fulgenius; but the engagement proving very sharp, he was killed with many of his followers: Fulgenius also was mortally wounded. Afterwards Severus was buried at York, which city was taken by his legions.[185] He left two sons, Bassianus and Geta, whereof[Pg 158] Geta had a Roman for his mother, but Bassianus[186] a Briton. Therefore upon the death of their father the Romans made Geta king, favouring him on account of his being a Roman by both his parents: but the Britons rejected him, and advanced Bassianus, as being their countryman by his mother's side. This proved the occasion of a battle between the two brothers, in which Geta was killed; and so Bassianus obtained the sovereignty.

[Pg 159]


[185] The following is an extract from the true account of the expedition of Severus into Britain taken from Herodian:

"[Severus] received letters from the præfect of Britain relating that the barbarians there were in a state of insurrection, overrunning the country, driving off booty, and laying every thing waste; so that for the defence of the island there was need either of greater force, or of the presence of the emperor himself. Severus heard this with pleasure, by nature a lover of glory, and anxious, after his victories in the east and north and his consequent titles, to obtain a trophy from the Britons: moreover, willing to withdraw his sons from Rome, that they might grow up in the discipline and sobriety of a military life, far removed from the blandishments and luxury prevalent in Rome, he orders an expedition against Britain, although now old and labouring under an arthritic affection; but as to his mind, he was vigorous beyond any youth. For the most part he performed the march carried in a litter, nor did he ever continue long in one place. Having completed the journey with his sons, and crossed over the sea more quickly than could be described or expected, he advanced against the Britons, and having drawn together his soldiers from all sides, and concentrated a vast force, he prepared for the war.

"The Britons, much struck with the sudden arrival of the emperor, and learning that such a mighty force was collected against them, sent ambassadors, sued for peace, and were willing to excuse their past transgressions. But Severus, purposely seeking delay that he might not again return to Rome without his object, and, moreover, desirous to obtain from Britain a victory and a title, sent away their ambassadors without effecting their purpose, and prepared all things for the contest. He more especially endeavoured to render the marshy places stable by means of causeways, that his soldiers, treading with safety, might easily pass them, and, having firm footing, fight to advantage. For many parts of the British country, being constantly flooded by the tides of the ocean, become marshy. In these the natives are accustomed to swim and traverse about being immersed as high as their waists: for going naked as to the greater part of their bodies, they contemn the mud. Indeed they know not the use of clothing, but encircle their loins and necks with iron; deeming this an ornament and an evidence of opulence, in like manner as other barbarians esteem gold. But they puncture their bodies with pictured forms of every sort of animals; on which account they wear no clothing, lest they should hide the figures on their body. They are a most warlike and sanguinary race, carrying only a small shield and a spear, and a sword girded to their naked bodies. Of a breast-plate or an helmet they know not the use, esteeming them an impediment to their progress through the marshes; from the vapours and exhalations of which the atmosphere in that country always appears dense.

"Against such things, therefore, Severus prepared whatever could be serviceable to the Roman army, but hurtful and detrimental to the designs of the barbarians. And when every thing appeared to him sufficiently arranged for the war, leaving his younger son, named Geta, in that part of the island which was subjugated to the Romans, for the purpose of administering justice and directing other civil matters of the government, giving him as assessors the more aged of his friends; and taking Antoninus with himself, he led the way against the barbarians. His army having passed beyond the rivers and fortresses which defended the Roman territory, there were frequent attacks and skirmishes and retreats on the side of the barbarians. To these, indeed, flight was an easy matter, and they lay hidden in the thickets and marshes through their local knowledge; all which things being adverse to the Romans, served to protract the war."

[186] Otherwise called Caracalla.

Chap. III.Carausius advanced to be king of Britain.

At that time there was in Britain one Carausius, a young man of mean birth, who, having given proof of his bravery in many engagements, went to Rome, and solicited the senate for leave to defend with a fleet the maritime coasts of Britain, from the incursions of barbarians; which if they would grant him, he promised to do more for the honour and service of the commonwealth, than by delivering up to them the kingdom of Britain. The senate, deluded by his specious promises, granted him his request, and so, with his commission sealed, he returned to Britain. Then by wicked practices getting a fleet together, he enlisted into his service a body of the bravest youths, and putting out to sea, sailed round the whole kingdom, causing very great disturbance among the people. In the meantime he invaded the adjacent islands, where he destroyed all before him, countries, cities, and towns, and plundered the inhabitants of all they had. By this conduct he encouraged all manner of dissolute fellows to flock to him in hope of plunder, and in a very short time was attended by an army which no neighbouring prince was able to oppose. This made him begin to swell with pride, and to propose to the Britons, that they should make him their king; for which consideration he promised to kill and banish the Romans, and free the whole island from the invasions of barbarous nations. Accordingly obtaining his request, he fell upon Bassianus and killed him, and then took upon him the government of the kingdom. For Bassianus was betrayed by the Picts, whom Fulgenius his mother's brother had brought with him into Britain, and who being corrupted by the promises and presents of Carausius, instead of assisting Bassianus, deserted him in the very battle, and fell upon his men; so that the rest were put into a consternation, and not knowing their friends from their foes, quickly gave ground, and left the victory to Carausius. Then he, to reward the Picts for this success, gave them a habitation in Albania, where they continued afterwards mixed with the Britons.

Chap. IV.Allectus kills Carausius, but is afterwards himself slain in flight by Asclepiodotus.

When the news of these proceedings of Carausius arrived at Rome, the senate commissioned[187] Allectus, with three[Pg 160] legions, to kill the tyrant, and restore the kingdom of Britain to the Roman power. No sooner was he arrived, than he fought with Carausius, killed him, and took upon himself the government. After which he miserably oppressed the Britons, for having deserted the commonwealth, and adhered to Carausius. But the Britons, not enduring this, advanced Asclepiodotus, duke of Cornwall, to be their king, and then unanimously marched against Allectus, and challenged him to battle. He was then at London, celebrating a feast to his tutelary gods; but being informed of the coming of Asclepiodotus, he quitted the sacrifice, and went out with all his forces to meet him, and engaged with him in a sharp fight. But Asclepiodotus had the advantage, and dispersed and put to flight Allectus's troops, and in the pursuit killed many thousands, as also king Allectus himself. After this victory, Livius Gallus, the colleague of Allectus, assembled the rest of the Romans, shut the gates of the city, and placed his men in the towers and other fortifications, thinking by these means either to make a stand against Asclepiodotus, or at least to avoid imminent death. But Asclepiodotus seeing this laid siege to the city, and sent word to all the dukes of Britain, that he had killed Allectus with a great number of his men, and was besieging Gallus and the rest of the Romans in London; and therefore earnestly entreated them to hasten to his assistance, representing to them withal, how easy it was to extirpate the whole race of the Romans out of Britain, provided they would all join their forces against the besieged. At this summons came the Dimetians, Venedotians, Deirans, Albanians, and all others of the British race. And as soon as they appeared before the duke, he commanded vast numbers of engines to be made, to beat down the walls of the city. Accordingly every one readily executed his orders with great bravery, and made a violent assault upon the city, the walls of which were in a very short time battered down, and a passage made into it. After these preparations, they began a bloody assault upon the Romans, who, seeing their fellow soldiers falling before them without intermission, persuaded Gallus to offer a surrender on the terms of having quarter granted them, and leave to depart: for they were[Pg 161] now all killed except one legion, which still held out. Gallus consented to the proposal, and accordingly surrendered himself and his men to Asclepiodotus, who was disposed to give them quarter; but he was prevented by a body of Venedotians, who rushed upon them, and the same day cut off all their heads upon a brook within the city, which from the name of the commander was afterwards called in the British tongue Nautgallim, and in the Saxon Gallembourne.


[187] Roman history must have been very little known in England, when such a statement as this could be put forth as true. Eutropius [ix. 22] says "Carausius, after seven years, was murdered by his companion Allectus, who after him held the government three years longer."

Chap. V.Asclepiodotus obtains the crown. Diocletian's massacre of the Christians in Britain.

The Romans being thus defeated, Asclepiodotus,[188] with the consent of the people, placed the crown upon his own head, and governed the country in justice and peace ten years, and curbed the insolence and outrages committed by plunderers and robbers. In his days began the persecution of the emperor Diocletian; and Christianity, which from the time of king Lucius had continued fixed and undisturbed, was almost abolished over the whole island. This was principally owing to Maximianus Herculius, general of that tyrant's army, by whose command all the churches were pulled down, and all the copies of the Holy Scriptures that could be found, were burned in the public markets. The priests also, with the believers under their care, were put to death, and with emulation pressed in crowds together for a speedy passage to the joys of heaven, as their proper dwelling place. God therefore magnified his goodness to us, forasmuch as he did, in that time of persecution, of his mere grace, light up the bright lamps of the holy martyrs, to prevent the spreading of gross darkness over the people of Britain; whose sepulchres and places of suffering might have been a means of inflaming our minds with the greatest fervency of divine love, had not the deplorable impiety of barbarians deprived us of them. Among others of both sexes who continued firm in the army of Christ, and suffered, were Alban of Verulam, and Julius and Aaron, both of the City of Legions. Of these, Alban, out of the fervour of his charity, when his confessor, Amphi[Pg 162]balus, was pursued by the persecutors, and just ready to be apprehended, first hid him in his house, and then offered himself to die for him; imitating in this Christ himself, who laid down his life for his sheep. The other two, after being torn limb from limb, in a manner unheard of, received the crown of martyrdom, and were elevated up to the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem.


[188] Asclepiodotus is hardly mentioned in the authentic history of this period. He was præfectus prætorio under Constantius Chlorus, who was the general that really recovered Britain from Allectus.

Chap. VI.An insurrection against Asclepiodotus, by Coel, whose daughter Helena Constantius marries.

In the meantime Coel,[189] duke of Kaercolvin or Colchester, made an insurrection against king Asclepiodotus, and in a pitched battle killed him, and took possession of his crown. The senate, hearing this, rejoiced at the king's death, who had given such disturbance to the Roman power: and reflecting on the damage which they had sustained by the loss of this kingdom, they sent Constantius the senator, a man of prudence and courage, who had reduced Spain under their subjection, and who was above all the rest industrious to promote the good of the commonwealth. Coel, having information of his coming, was afraid to engage him in battle, on account of a report, that no king was able to stand before him. Therefore, as soon as Constantius was arrived at the island, Coel sent ambassadors to him with offers of peace and submission, on condition that he should enjoy the kingdom of Britain, and pay no more than the usual tribute to the Roman state. Constantius consented to this proposal, and so, upon their giving hostages, peace was confirmed between them. The month after Coel was seized with a very great sickness, of which he died within eight days. After his decease, Constantius himself was crowned, and married the daughter of Coel, whose name was Helena. She surpassed all the ladies of the country in beauty, as she did all others of the time in her skill in music and the liberal arts. Her father had no other issue to succeed him on the throne; for which reason he was very careful about her education, that she might be better qualified to govern the kingdom. Constantius, therefore, having made her partner of his bed, had[Pg 163] a son by her called Constantine.[190] After eleven years were expired, he died at York, and bestowed the kingdom upon his son, who, within a few years after he was raised to this dignity, began to give proofs of heroic virtue, undaunted courage, and strict observance of justice towards his people. He put a stop to the depredations of robbers, suppressed the insolence of tyrants, and endeavoured everywhere to restore peace.


[189] This king seems to be the same as the hero of the old popular ditty, "Old king Coel was a merry old soul," &c.

[190] Constantine was born long before Constantius Chlorus went to Britain. See the Roman Historians.

Chap. VII.The Romans desire Constantine's assistance against the cruelty of Maxentius.

At that time there was a tyrant at Rome, named Maxentius,[191] who made it his endeavour to confiscate the estates of all the best of the nobility, and oppressed the commonwealth with his grievous tyranny. Whilst he, therefore, was proceeding in his cruelty, those that were banished fled to Constantine in Britain, and were honourably entertained by him. At last, when a great many such had resorted to him, they endeavoured to raise in him an abhorrence of the tyrant, and frequently expostulated with him after this manner:—"How long, Constantine, will you suffer our distress and banishment? Why do you delay to restore us to our native country? You are the only person of our nation that can restore to us what we have lost, by driving out Maxentius. For what prince is to be compared with the king of Britain, either for brave and gallant soldiers, or for large treasures? We entreat you to restore us to our estates, wives, and children, by conducting us with an army to Rome."


[191] Maxentius was son of Maximian who abdicated. The skeleton of this part of the history is taken from the authentic writers: but the details are entirely fictitious.

Chap. VIII.Constantine, having reduced Rome, obtains the empire of the world. Octavius, duke of the Wisseans, is put to flight by Trahern.

Constantine, moved with these and the like speeches, made an expedition to Rome, and reduced it under his power, and afterwards obtained the empire of the whole world. In this expedition he carried along with him three uncles of Helena, viz. Leolin, Trahern, and Marius, and advanced them to the[Pg 164] degree of senators. In the meantime Octavius, duke of the Wisseans, rebelled against the Roman proconsuls, to whom the government of the island had been committed, and having killed them, took possession of the throne. Constantine, upon information of this, sent Trahern, the uncle of Helena, with three legions to reduce the island. Trahern came to shore near the city, which in the British tongue is called Kaerperis, and having assailed it, took it in two days. This news spreading over the whole country, king Octavius assembled all the forces of the land, and went to meet him not far from Winchester, in a field called in the British tongue Maisuriam, where he engaged with him in battle, and routed him. Trahern, upon this loss, betook himself with his broken forces to his ships, and in them made a voyage to Albania, in the provinces of which he made great destruction. When Octavius received intelligence of this, he followed him with his forces, and encountered him in Westmoreland, but fled, having lost the victory. On the other hand, Trahern, when he found the day was his own, pursued Octavius, nor ever suffered him to be at rest till he had dispossessed him both of his cities and crown. Octavius, in great grief for the loss of his kingdom, went with his fleet to Norway, to obtain assistance from king Gombert. In the meantime he had given orders to his most intimate adherents to watch carefully all opportunities of killing Trahern, which accordingly was not long after done by the magistrate of a certain privileged town, who had a more than ordinary love for him. For as Trahern was one day upon a journey from London, he lay hid with a hundred men in the vale of a wood, through which he was to pass, and there fell upon him unawares, and killed him in the midst of his men. This news being brought to Octavius, he returned back to Britain, where he dispersed the Romans, and recovered the throne. In a short time after this, he arrived to such greatness and wealth that he feared nobody, and possessed the kingdom until the reign of Gratian and Valentinian.

Chap. IX.Maximian is desired for a king of Britain.

At last, in his old age, being willing to settle the government, he asked his council which of his family they desired[Pg 165] to have for their king after his decease. For he had no son, and only one daughter, to whom he could leave the crown. Some, therefore, advised him to bestow his daughter with the kingdom upon some noble Roman, to the end that they might enjoy a firmer peace. Others were of opinion that Conan Meriadoc, his nephew, ought to be preferred to the throne, and the daughter married to some prince of another kingdom with a dowry in money. While these things were in agitation among them, there came Caradoc, duke of Cornwall, and gave his advice to invite over Maximian[192] the senator, and to bestow the lady with the kingdom upon him, which would be a means of securing to them a lasting peace. For his father Leolin, the uncle of Constantine, whom we mentioned before, was a Briton, but by his mother and place of birth he was a Roman, and by both parents he was descended of royal blood. And there was a sure prospect of a firm and secure peace under him, on account of the right which he had to Britain by his descent from the emperors, and also from the British blood. But the duke of Cornwall, by delivering this advice, brought upon himself the displeasure of Conan, the king's nephew, who was very ambitious of succeeding to the kingdom, and put the whole court into confusion about it. However, Caradoc, being unwilling to recede from his proposal, sent his son Mauricius to Rome to acquaint Maximian with what had passed. Mauricius was a person of large and well-proportioned stature, as well as great courage and boldness, and could not bear to have his judgment contradicted without a recourse to arms and duelling. On presenting himself before Maximian, he met with a reception suitable to his quality, and had the greatest honours paid him of any that were about him. There happened to be at that time a great contest between Maximian and the two emperors, Gratian and Valentinian, on account of his being refused the third part of the empire, which he demanded. When, therefore, Mauricius saw Maximian ill-treated by the emperors, he took occasion from thence to address him in this manner: "Why need you, Maximian, stand in fear of Gratian, when you have so fair an opportunity of wresting the empire from him? Come with me into Britain, and you shall take possession[Pg 166] of that crown. For king Octavius, being now grown old and infirm, desires nothing more than to find some such proper person, to bestow his kingdom and daughter upon. He has no male issue, and therefore has asked the advice of his nobility, to whom he should marry his daughter with the kingdom; and they to his satisfaction have past a decree, that the kingdom and lady be given to you, and have sent me to acquaint you with it. So that if you go with me, and accomplish this affair, you may with the treasure and forces of Britain be able to return back to Rome, drive out the emperors, and gain the empire to yourself. For in this manner did your kinsman Constantius, and several others of our kings who raised themselves to the empire."


[192] Maximus is the correct name of this usurper.

Chap. X.Maximian, coming into Britain, artfully declines fighting with Conan.

Maximian was pleased with the offer, and took his journey to Britain; but in his way subdued the cities of the Franks, by which he amassed a great treasure of gold and silver, and raised men for his service in all parts. Afterwards he set sail with a fair wind, and arrived at Hamo's Port; the news of which struck the king with fear and astonishment, who took this to be a hostile invasion. Whereupon he called to him his nephew Conan, and commanded him to raise all the forces of the kingdom, and go to meet the enemy. Conan, having made the necessary preparations, marched accordingly to Hamo's Port, where Maximian had pitched his tents; who, upon seeing the approach of so numerous an army, was under the greatest perplexities what course to take. For as he was attended with a smaller body of men, and had no hopes of being entertained peaceably, he dreaded both the number and courage of the enemy. Under these difficulties he called a council of the oldest men, together with Mauricius, to ask their advice what was to be done at this critical juncture. "It is not for us," said Mauricius, "to hazard a battle with such a numerous and powerful army: neither was the reduction of Britain by arms the end of our coming. Our business must be to desire peace and a hospitable treatment, till we can learn the king's mind. Let us say that we are sent by the emperors upon an embassy to Octavius, and let us with artful speeches pacify the people." When all had shown[Pg 167] themselves pleased with this advice, he took with him twelve aged men with grey hairs, eminent beyond the rest for their quality and wisdom, and bearing olive-branches in their right hands, and went to meet Conan. The Britons, seeing they were men of a venerable age, and that they bore olive-branches as a token of peace, rose up before them in a respectful manner, and opened a way for their free access to their commander. Then presenting themselves before Conan Meriadoc, they saluted him in the name of the emperors and the senate, and told him, that Maximian was sent to Octavius upon an embassy from Gratian and Valentinian. Conan made answer: "Why is he then attended with so great a multitude? This does not look like the appearance of ambassadors, but the invasion of enemies." To which Mauricius replied: "It did not become so great a man to appear abroad in a mean figure, or without soldiers for his guard; especially considering, that by reason of the Roman power, and the actions of his ancestors, he is become obnoxious to many kings. If he had but a small retinue, he might have been killed by the enemies of the commonwealth. He is come in peace, and it is peace which he desires. For, from the time of our arrival, our behaviour has been such as to give no offence to any body. We have bought necessaries at our own expenses, as peaceable people do, and have taken nothing from any by violence." While Conan was in suspense, whether to give them peace, or begin the battle, Caradoc, duke of Cornwall, with others of the nobility, came to him, and dissuaded him from proceeding in the war after this representation; whereupon, though much against his will, he laid down his arms, and granted them peace. Then he conducted Maximian to London, where he gave the king an account of the whole proceeding.

Chap. XI.The kingdom of Britain is bestowed on Maximian.

Caradoc, after this, taking along with him his son Mauricius, commanded everybody to withdraw from the king's presence, and then addressed him in these words: "Behold, that which your more faithful and loyal subjects have long wished for, is now by the good providence of God brought about. You commanded your nobility to give their advice,[Pg 168] how to dispose of your daughter and kingdom, as being willing to hold the government no longer on account of your great age. Some, therefore, were for having the kingdom delivered up to Conan your nephew, and a suitable match procured for your daughter elsewhere; as fearing the ruin of our people, if any prince that is a stranger to our language should be set over us. Others were for granting the kingdom to your daughter and some nobleman of our own country, who should succeed you after your death. But the greater number recommended some person descended of the family of the emperors, on whom you should bestow your daughter and crown. For they promised themselves a firm and lasting peace, as the consequence of such a marriage, since they would be under the protection of the Roman state. See then! God has vouchsafed to bring to you a young man, who is both a Roman, and also of the royal family of Britain; and to whom, if you follow my advice, you will not delay to marry your daughter. And indeed, should you refuse him, what right could you plead to the crown of Britain against him? For he is the cousin of Constantine, and the nephew of king Coel, whose daughter Helena possessed the crown by an undeniable hereditary right." When Caradoc had represented these things to him, Octavius acquiesced, and with the general consent of his people bestowed the kingdom and his daughter upon him. Conan Meriadoc, finding how things went, was beyond expression incensed, and, retiring into Albania, used all his interest to raise an army, that he might give disturbance to Maximian. And when he had got a great body of men together, he passed the Humber, and wasted the provinces on each side of it. At the news whereof, Maximian hastened to assemble his forces against him, and then gave him battle, and returned with victory. But this proved no decisive blow to Conan, who with his re-assembled troops still continued to ravage the provinces, and provoked Maximian to return again and renew the war, in which he had various success, being sometimes victorious, sometimes defeated. At last, after great damages done on both sides, they were brought by the mediation of friends to a reconciliation.[Pg 169]

Chap. XII.Maximian overthrows the Armoricans: his speech to Conan.

Five years after this, Maximian, proud of the vast treasures that daily flowed in upon him, fitted out a great fleet, and assembled together all the forces in Britain. For this kingdom was now not sufficient for him; he was ambitious of adding Gaul also to it. With this view he set sail, and arrived first at the kingdom of Armorica, now called Bretagne, and began hostilities upon the Gallic people that inhabited it. But the Gauls, under the command of Imbaltus, met him, and engaged him in battle, in which the greater part being in danger, they were forced to fly, and leave Imbaltus with fifteen thousand men killed, all of them Armoricans. This severe overthrow was matter of the greatest joy to Maximian, who knew the reduction of that country would be very easy, after the loss of so many men. Upon this occasion he called Conan aside from the army, and smiling said:—"See, we have already conquered one of the best kingdoms in Gaul: we may now have hopes of gaining all the rest. Let us make haste to take the cities and towns, before the rumour of their danger spread to the remoter parts of Gaul, and raise all the people up in arms. For if we can but get possession of this kingdom, I make no doubt of reducing all Gaul under our power. Be not therefore concerned that you have yielded up the island of Britain to me, notwithstanding the hopes you once had of succeeding to it; because whatever you have lost in it, I will restore to you in this country. For my design is to advance you to the throne of this kingdom; and this shall be another Britain, which we will people with our own countrymen, and drive out the old inhabitants. The land is fruitful in corn, the rivers abound with fish, the woods afford a beautiful prospect, and the forests are everywhere pleasant; nor is there in my opinion anywhere a more delightful country." Upon this, Conan, with a submissive bow, gave him his thanks, and promised to continue loyal to him as long as he lived.[Pg 170]

Chap. XIII.Redonum taken by Maximian.

After this they marched with their forces to Redonum,[193] and took it the same day. For the citizens, hearing of the bravery of the Britons, and what slaughter they had made, fled away with haste, leaving their wives and children behind them. And the rest of the cities and towns soon followed their example; so that there was an easy entrance into them for the Britons, who wherever they entered killed all they found left of the male sex, and spared only the women. At last, when they had wholly extirpated the inhabitants of all those provinces, they garrisoned the cities and towns with British soldiers, and made fortifications in several places. The fame of Maximian's exploits spreading over the rest of the provinces of Gaul, all their dukes and princes were in a dreadful consternation, and had no other hopes left but in their prayers to their gods. Maximian, finding that he had struck terror into them, began to think of still bolder attempts, and by profusely distributing presents, augmented his army. For all persons that he knew to be eager for plunder, he enlisted into his service, and by plentifully bestowing his money and other valuable things among them, kept them firm to his interest.


[193] Rennes.

Chap. XIV.Maximian, after the conquest of Gaul and Germany, makes Triers the seat of his empire.

By these means he raised such a numerous army, as he thought would be sufficient for the conquest of all Gaul. Notwithstanding which he suspended his arms for a time, till he had settled the kingdom which he had taken, and peopled it with Britons. To this end he published a decree, for the assembling together of a hundred thousand of the common people of Britain, who were to come over to settle in the country; besides thirty thousand soldiers, to defend them from hostile attack. As soon as the people were arrived according to his orders, he distributed them through all the countries of Armorica, and made another Britain of it, and then bestowed it on Conan Meriadoc. But he himself, with the rest of his fellow soldiers, marched into the[Pg 171] further part of Gaul, which, after many bloody battles, he subdued, as he did also all Germany, being everywhere victorious. But the seat of his empire he made at Triers, and fell so furiously upon the two emperors, Gratian and Valentinian, that he killed the one, and forced the other to flee from Rome.

Chap. XV.A fight between the Aquitanians and Conan.

In the meantime, the Gauls and Aquitanians gave disturbance to Conan and the Armorican Britons, and harassed them with their frequent incursions; but he as often defeated them, and bravely defended the country committed to him. After he had entirely vanquished them, he had a mind to bestow wives on his fellow soldiers, by whom they might have issue to keep perpetual possession of the country; and to avoid all mixture with the Gauls, he sent over to the island of Britain for wives for them. In order to accomplish this, messengers were sent to recommend the management of this affair to Dianotus, king of Cornwall, who had succeeded his brother Caradoc in that kingdom. He was a very noble and powerful prince, and to him Maximian had committed the government, while he was employed in affairs abroad. He had also a daughter of wonderful beauty, named Ursula, with whom Conan was most passionately in love.

Chap. XVI.Guanius and Melga murder eleven thousand virgins. Maximian is killed at Rome.

Dianotus, upon this message sent him by Conan, was very ready to execute his orders, and summoned together the daughters of the nobility from all provinces, to the number of eleven thousand; but of the meaner sort, sixty thousand; and commanded them all to appear together in the city of London. He likewise ordered ships to be brought from all shores, for their transportation to their future husbands. And though in so great a multitude many were pleased with this order, yet it was displeasing to the greater part, who had a greater affection for their relations and native country. Nor, perhaps, were there wanting some who, preferring virginity to the married state, would have rather lost their[Pg 172] lives in any country, than enjoyed the greatest plenty in wedlock. In short, most of them had views and wishes different from one another, had they been left to their own liberty. But now the ships being ready, they went on board, and sailing down the Thames, made towards the sea. At last, as they were steering towards the Armorican coast, contrary winds arose and dispersed the whole fleet. In this storm the greater part of the ships foundered; but the women that escaped the danger of the sea, were driven upon strange islands, and by a barbarous people either murdered or made slaves. For they happened to fall into the hands of the cruel army of Guanius and Melga, who, by the command of Gratian,[194] were making terrible destruction in Germany, and the nations on the sea-coast. Guanius was king of the Huns, and Melga of the Picts, whom Gratian had engaged in his party, and had sent him into Germany to harass those of Maximian's party along the sea-coasts. While they were thus exercising their barbarous rage, they happened to light upon these virgins, who had been driven on those parts, and were so inflamed with their beauty, that they courted them to their brutish embraces; which, when the women would not submit to, the Ambrons fell upon them, and without remorse murdered the greatest part of them. This done, the two wicked leaders of the Picts and Huns, Guanius and Melga, being the partizans of Gratian and Valentinian, when they had learned that the island of Britain was drained of all its soldiers, made a speedy voyage towards it; and, taking into their assistance the people of the adjacent islands, arrived in Albania. Then joining in a body, they invaded the kingdom, which was left without either government or defence, and made miserable destruction among the common people. For Maximian, as we have already related, had carried away with him all the warlike youth that could be found, and had left behind him only the husbandmen, who had neither sense nor arms, for the defence of their country. Guanius and Melga, finding that they were not able to make the least opposition, began to domineer most insolently, and to lay waste their cities and countries, as if they had only been pens of sheep. The news of this[Pg 173] grievous calamity, coming to Maximian, he sent away Gratian Municeps,[195] with two legions, to their assistance; who, as soon as they arrived, fought with the enemy, and after a most bloody victory over them, forced them to fly over into Ireland. In the meantime, Maximian was killed at Rome by Gratian's friends;[196] and the Britons whom he had carried with him were also slain or dispersed. Those of them that could escape, went to their countrymen in Armorica, which was now called the other Britain.


[194] That is, Gratian the emperor, and brother of Valentinian, not Gratian Municeps.

[195] This Gratian was called Municeps, because he was a citizen of Britain.

[196] Maximus was besieged in Aquileia, and slain by Theodosius, emperor of the East, a.d. 388.


Chap. I.Gratian, being advanced to the throne, is killed by the common people. The Britons desire the Romans to defend them against Guanius and Melga.

But Gratian Municeps,[197] hearing of the death of Maximian, seized the crown, and made himself king. After this he exercised such tyranny that the common people fell upon him in a tumultuous manner, and murdered him. When this news reached other countries, their former enemies returned back from Ireland, and bringing with them the Scots, Norwegians, and Dacians, made dreadful devastations with fire and sword over the whole kingdom, from sea to sea. Upon this most grievous calamity and oppression, ambassadors are despatched with letters to Rome, to beseech, with tears and vows of perpetual subjection, that a body of men might be sent to revenge their injuries, and drive out the enemy from them. The ambassadors in a short time prevailed so far, that, unmindful of past injuries, the Romans granted them one legion, which was transported in a fleet to their country, and there speedily encountered the enemy.[Pg 174] At last, after the slaughter of a vast multitude of them, they drove them entirely out of the country, and rescued the miserable people from their outrageous cruelty. Then they gave orders for a wall to be built between Albania and Deira, from one sea to the other, for a terror to the enemy, and safeguard to the country. At that time Albania was wholly laid waste, by the frequent invasions of barbarous nations; and whatever enemies made an attempt upon the country, met with a convenient landing-place there. So that the inhabitants were diligent in working upon the wall,[198] which they finished partly at the public, partly upon private charge.


[197] There was also one Marcus at this time, whom the soldiers in Britain advanced to the sovereignty; but he was soon got rid of.

[198] It was unnecessary for the Britons to build a wall, because there was one built for them by Severus 200 years before.

Chap. II.Guethelin's speech to the Britons when the Romans left them.

The Romans, after this, declared to the Britons, that they should not be able for the future to undergo the fatigue of such laborious expeditions; and that it was beneath the dignity of the Roman state to harass so great and brave an army, both by land and sea, against base and vagabond robbers; but that they ought to apply themselves to the use of arms, and to fight bravely in defending to the utmost of their power, their country, riches, wives, children, and, what is dearer than all these, their liberty and lives. As soon as they had given them this exhortation, they commanded all the men of the island that were fit for war, to appear together at London, because the Romans were about to return home. When, therefore, they were all assembled, Guethelin, the metropolitan of London, had orders to make a speech to them, which he did in these words:—

"Though I am appointed by the princes here present to speak to you, I find myself rather ready to burst into tears, than to make an eloquent oration. It is a most sensible affliction to me to observe the weak and destitute state into which you are fallen since Maximian drew away with him all the forces and youth of this kingdom. You that were left were people wholly inexperienced in war, and occupied with other employments, as tilling the ground, and several kinds of mechanical trades. So that when your enemies[Pg 175] from foreign countries came upon you, as sheep wandering without a shepherd, they forced you to quit your folds, till the Roman power restored you to them again. Must your hopes, therefore, always depend upon foreign assistance? And will you never use yourselves to handle arms against a band of robbers, that are by no means stronger than yourselves, if you are not dispirited by sloth and cowardice? The Romans are now tired with the continual voyages wherewith they are harassed to defend you against your enemies: they rather choose to remit to you the tribute you pay them, than undergo any longer this fatigue by land and sea. Because you were only the common people at the time when we had soldiers of our own, do you therefore think that manhood has quite forsaken you? Are not men in the course of human generation often the reverse of one another? Is not a ploughman often the father of a soldier, and a soldier of a ploughman? Does not the same diversity happen in a mechanic and a soldier? Since then, in this manner, one produces another, I cannot think it possible for manhood to be lost among them. As then you are men, behave yourselves like men: call upon the name of Christ, that he may inspire you with courage to defend your liberties."

No sooner had he concluded his speech, than the people raised such a shout, that one would have thought them on a sudden inspired with courage from heaven.

Chap. III.The Britons are again cruelly harassed by Guanius and Melga.

After this the Romans encouraged the timorous people as much as they could, and left them patterns of their arms. They likewise commanded towers, having a prospect towards the sea, to be placed at proper distances along all the south coast, where their ships were, and from whence they feared the invasions of the barbarians. But, according to the proverb, "It is easier to make a hawk of a kite, than a scholar of a ploughman;" all learning to him is but as a pearl thrown before swine. Thus, no sooner had the Romans taken their farewell of them, than the two leaders, Guanius and Melga, issued forth from their ships, in which they had fled over into Ireland, and with their bands of Scots, Picts, Norwe[Pg 176]gians, Dacians, and others, whom they had brought along with them, seized upon all Albania as far as the very wall. Understanding, likewise, that the Romans were gone, never to return any more, they now, in a more insolent manner than before, began their devastations in the island. Hereupon the country fellows upon the battlements of the walls sat night and day with quaking hearts, not daring to stir from their seats, and readier for flight than making the least resistance. In the meantime the enemies ceased not with their hooks to pull them down headlong, and dash the wretched herd to pieces upon the ground; who gained at least this advantage by their speedy death, that they avoided the sight of that most deplorable calamity, which forthwith threatened their relations and dearest children. Such was the terrible vengeance of God for that most wicked madness of Maximian, in draining the kingdom of all its forces, who, had they been present, would have repulsed any nation that invaded them; an evident proof of which they gave, by the vast conquests they made abroad, even in remote countries; and also by maintaining their own country in peace, while they continued here. But thus it happens when a country is left to the defence of country clowns. In short, quitting their high wall and their cities, the country people were forced again to fly, and to suffer a more fatal dispersion, a more furious pursuit of the enemy, a more cruel and more general slaughter than before; and like lambs before wolves, so was that miserable people torn to pieces by the merciless barbarians. Again, therefore, the wretched remainder send letters to Agitius, a man of great power among the Romans, to this effect. "To Agitius,[199] thrice consul, the groans of the Britons." And after some few other complaints they add: "The sea drives us to the barbarians, and the barbarians drive us back to the sea: thus are we tossed to and fro between two kinds of death, being either drowned or put to the sword." Notwithstanding this most moving address, they procured no relief, and the ambassadors returning back in great heaviness, declared to their countrymen the repulse which they had suffered.

[Pg 177]


[199] Ætius is the name of this general in the classic writers.

Chap. IV.Guethelin desires succours of Aldroen.

Hereupon, after a consultation together, Guethelin, archbishop of London, passed over into Lesser Britain, called then Armorica, or Letavia, to desire assistance of their brethren. At that time Aldroen reigned there, being the fourth king from Conan, to whom, as has been already related, Maximian had given that kingdom. This prince, seeing a prelate of so great dignity arrive, received him with honour, and inquired after the occasion of his coming. To whom Guethelin:—

"Your majesty can be no stranger to the misery which we, your Britons, have suffered (which may even demand your tears), since the time that Maximian drained our island of its soldiers, to people the kingdom which you enjoy, and which God grant you may long enjoy in peace. For against us the poor remains of the British race, all the people of the adjacent islands, have risen up, and made an utter devastation in our country, which then abounded with all kinds of riches; so that the people now are wholly destitute of all manner of sustenance, but what they can get in hunting. Nor had we any power or knowledge of military affairs left among us to encounter the enemy. For the Romans are tired of us, and have absolutely refused their assistance. So that now, deprived of all other hope, we come to implore your clemency, that you would furnish us with forces, and protect a kingdom, which is of right your own, from the incursions of barbarians. For who but yourself, ought, without your consent, to wear the crown of Constantine and Maximian, since the right your ancestors had to it is now devolved upon you? Prepare then your fleet, and go with me. Behold! I deliver the kingdom of Britain into your hands."

To this Aldroen made answer: "There was a time formerly when I would not have refused to accept of the island of Britain, if it had been offered me; for I do not think there was anywhere a more fruitful country while it enjoyed peace and tranquillity. But now, since the calamities that have befallen it, it is become of less value, and odious both to me and all other princes. But above all things the power of the Romans was so destructive to it, that nobody could enjoy any settled state or authority in it, without loss of liberty,[Pg 178] and bearing the yoke of slavery under them. And who would not prefer the possession of a lesser country with liberty, to all the riches of that island in servitude? The kingdom that is now under my subjection I enjoy with honour, and without paying homage to any superior; so that I prefer it to all other countries, since I can govern it without being controlled. Nevertheless, out of respect to the right that my ancestors for many generations have had to your island, I deliver to you my brother Constantine with two thousand men, that with the good providence of God, he may free your country from the inroads of barbarians, and obtain the crown for himself. For I have a brother called by that name, who is an expert soldier, and in all other respects an accomplished man. If you please to accept of him, I will not refuse to send him with you, together with the said number of men; for indeed a larger number I do not mention to you, because I am daily threatened with disturbance from the Gauls." He had scarcely done speaking before the archbishop returned him thanks, and when Constantine was called in, broke out into these expressions of joy: "Christ conquers; Christ commands; Christ reigns: behold the king of desolate Britain! Be Christ only present, and behold our defence, our hope and joy." In short, the ships being got ready, the men who were chosen out from all parts of the kingdom, were delivered to Guethelin.

Chap. V.Constantine, being made king of Britain, leaves three sons.

When they had made all necessary preparations, they embarked, and arrived at the port of Totness; and then without delay assembled together the youth that was left in the island, and encountered the enemy; over whom, by the merit of the holy prelate, they obtained the victory. After this the Britons, before dispersed, flocked together from all parts, and in a council held at Silchester, promoted Constantine to the throne, and there performed the ceremony of his coronation. They also married him to a lady, descended from a noble Roman family, whom archbishop Guethelin had educated, and by whom the king had afterwards three sons, Constans, Aurelius Ambrosius, and Uther Pendragon. Constans, who was the eldest, he delivered to the church of Amphibalus in Winchester, that he might there take upon him[Pg 179] the monastic order. But the other two, viz. Aurelius and Uther, he committed to the care of Guethelin for their education. At last, after ten years were expired, there came a certain Pict, who had entered in his service, and under pretence of holding some private discourse with him, in a nursery of young trees where nobody was present, stabbed him with a dagger.

Chap. VI.Constans is by Vortigern crowned king of Britain.

Upon the death of Constantine, a dissension arose among the nobility, about a successor to the throne. Some were for setting up Aurelius Ambrosius; others Uther Pendragon; others again some other persons of the royal family. At last, when they could come to no conclusion, Vortigern, consul of the Gewisseans, who was himself very ambitious of the crown, went to Constans the monk,[200] and thus addressed himself to him: "You see your father is dead, and your brothers on account of their age are incapable of the government; neither do I see any of your family besides yourself, whom the people ought to promote to the kingdom. If you will therefore follow my advice, I will, on condition of your increasing my private estate, dispose the people to favour your advancement, and free you from that habit, notwithstanding that it is against the rule of your order." Constans, overjoyed at the proposal, promised, with an oath, that upon these terms he would grant him whatever he would desire. Then Vortigern took him, and investing him in his regal habiliments, conducted him to London, and made him king, though not with the free consent of the people. Archbishop Guethelin was then dead, nor was there any other that durst perform the ceremony of his unction, on account of his having quitted the monastic order. However, this proved no hindrance to his coronation, for Vortigern himself performed the ceremony instead of a bishop.

[Pg 180]


[200] It is true that Constans, the son of Constantine, entered into the sacerdotal profession, but both he and his father Constantine were slain in Gaul, which they had made the seat of their empire, to the entire neglect of Britain.

Chap. VII.Vortigern treacherously contrives to get king Constans assassinated.

Constans, being thus advanced, committed the whole government of the kingdom to Vortigern, and surrendered himself up so entirely to his counsels, that he did nothing without his order. His own incapacity for government obliged him to do this, for he had learned any thing else rather than state affairs within his cloister. Vortigern became sensible of this, and therefore began to deliberate with himself what course to take to obtain the crown, of which he had been before extremely ambitious. He saw that now was his proper time to gain his end easily, when the kingdom was wholly intrusted to his management; and Constans, who bore the title of king, was no more than the shadow of one; for he was of a soft temper, a bad judge in matters of right, and not in the least feared, either by his own people, or by the neighbouring states. And as for his two brothers, Uther Pendragon and Aurelius Ambrosius, they were only children in their cradles, and therefore incapable of the government. There was likewise this farther misfortune, that all the older persons of the nobility were dead, so that Vortigern seemed to be the only man surviving, that had craft, policy, and experience in matters of state; and all the rest in a manner children, or raw youths, who only inherited the honours of their parents and relations that had been killed in the former wars. Vortigern, finding a concurrence of so many favourable circumstances, contrived how he might easily and cunningly depose Constans the monk, and immediately establish himself in his place. But in order to do this, he waited until he had first well established his power and interest in several countries. He therefore petitioned to have the king's treasures, and his fortified cities, in his own custody; pretending there was a rumour, that the neighbouring islanders designed an invasion of the kingdom. This being granted him, he placed his own creatures in those cities, to secure them for himself. Then having formed a scheme how to execute his treasonable designs, he went to the king, and represented to him the necessity of augmenting the number of his domestics, that[Pg 181] he might more safely oppose the invasion of the enemy. "Have not I left all things to your disposal?" said Constans. "Do what you will as to that, so that they be but faithful to me." Vortigern replied, "I am informed that the Picts are going to bring the Dacians and Norwegians in upon us, with a design to give us very great annoyance. I would therefore advise you, and in my opinion it is the best course you can take, that you maintain some Picts in your court, who may do you good service among those of that nation. For if it is true that they are preparing to begin a rebellion, you may employ them as spies upon their countrymen in their plots and stratagems, so as easily to escape them." This was the dark treason of a secret enemy; for he did not recommend this out of regard to the safety of Constans, but because he knew the Picts to be a giddy people, and ready for all manner of wickedness; so that, in a fit of drunkenness or passion, they might easily be incensed against the king, and make no scruple to assassinate him. And such an accident, when it should happen, would make an open way for his accession to the throne, which he so often had in view. Hereupon he despatched messengers into Scotland, with an invitation to a hundred Pictish soldiers, whom accordingly he received into the king's household; and when admitted, he showed them more respect than all the rest of the domestics, by making them several presents, and allowing them a luxurious table, insomuch that they looked upon him as the king. So great was the regard they had for him, that they made songs of him about the streets, the subject of which was, that Vortigern deserved the government, deserved the sceptre of Britain; but that Constans was unworthy of it. This encouraged Vortigern to show them still more favour, in order the more firmly to engage them in his interest; and when by these practices he had made them entirely his creatures, he took an opportunity, when they were drunk, to tell them, that he was going to retire out of Britain, to see if he could get a better estate; for the small revenue he had then, he said, would not so much as enable him to maintain a retinue of fifty men. Then putting on a look of sadness, he withdrew to his own apartment, and left them drinking in the hall. The Picts at this sight were in inexpressible sorrow, as thinking what he had said was true, and murmuring said[Pg 182] one to another, "Why do we suffer this monk to live? Why do not we kill him, that Vortigern may enjoy his crown? Who is so fit to succeed as he? A man so generous to us is worthy to rule, and deserves all the honour and dignity that we can bestow upon him."

Chap. VIII.Aurelius Ambrosius and Uther Pendragon flee from Vortigern, and go to Lesser Britain.

After this, breaking into Constans' bed-chamber, they fell upon him and killed him, and carried his head to Vortigern. At the sight of it, he put on a mournful countenance, and burst forth into tears, though at the same time he was almost transported with joy. However, he summoned together the citizens of London, (for there the fact was committed,) and commanded all the assassins to be bound, and their heads to be cut off for this abominable parricide. In the meantime there were some who had a suspicion, that this piece of villany was wholly the contrivance of Vortigern, and that the Picts were only his instruments to execute it. Others again as positively asserted his innocence. At last the matter being left in doubt, those who had the care of the two brothers, Aurelius Ambrosius, and Uther Pendragon, fled over with them into Lesser Britain, for fear of being killed by Vortigern. There they were kindly received by king Budes, who took care to give them an education suitable to their royal birth.

Chap. IX.Vortigern makes himself king of Britain.

Now Vortigern, seeing nobody to rival him in the kingdom, placed the crown on his own head, and thus gained the pre-eminence over all the rest of the princes. At last his treason being discovered, the people of the adjacent islands, whom the Picts had brought into Albania, made insurrection against him. For the Picts were enraged on account of the death of their fellow soldiers, who had been slain for the murder of Constans, and endeavoured to revenge that injury upon him. Vortigern therefore was daily in great distress, and lost a considerable part of his army in a war with them. He had likewise no less trouble from another quarter, for fear of Aurelius Ambrosius, and his brother Uther Pendra[Pg 183]gon, who, as we said before, had fled, on his account, into Lesser Britain. For he heard it rumoured, day after day, that they had now arrived at man's estate, and had built a vast fleet, with a design to return back to the kingdom, which was their undoubted right.

Chap. X.Vortigern takes the Saxons that were new-comers, to his assistance.

In the meantime there arrived in Kent three brigandines, or long galleys, full of armed men, under the command of two brothers, Horsa and Hengist.[201] Vortigern was then at Dorobernia, now Canterbury, which city he used often to visit; and being informed of the arrival of some tall strangers in large ships, he ordered that they should be received peaceably, and conducted into his presence. As soon as they were brought before him, he cast his eyes upon the two brothers, who excelled all the rest both in nobility and gracefulness of person; and having taken a view of the whole company, asked them of what country they were, and what was the occasion of their coming into his kingdom. To whom Hengist (whose years and wisdom entitled him to a precedence), in the name of the rest, made the following answer:—

"Most noble king, Saxony, which is one of the countries of Germany, was the place of our birth; and the occasion of our coming was to offer our service to you or some other prince. For we were driven out of our native country, for no other reason, but that the laws of the kingdom required it. It is customary among us, that when we come to be overstocked with people, our princes from all the provinces meet together, and command all the youths of the kingdom to assemble before them; then casting lots, they make choice of the strongest and ablest of them, to go into foreign nations, to procure themselves a subsistence, and free their native country from a superfluous multitude of people. Our country, therefore, being of late overstocked, our princes met, and after having cast lots, made choice of the youth which you see in your presence, and have obliged us to obey[Pg 184] the custom which has been established of old. And us two brothers, Hengist and Horsa, they made generals over them, out of respect to our ancestors, who enjoyed the same honour. In obedience, therefore, to the laws so long established, we put out to sea, and under the good guidance of Mercury have arrived in your kingdom."

The king, at the name of Mercury, looking earnestly upon them, asked them what religion they professed. "We worship," replied Hengist, "our country's gods, Saturn and Jupiter, and the other deities that govern the world, but especially Mercury, whom in our language we call Woden, and to whom our ancestors consecrated the fourth day of the week, still called after his name Wodensday. Next to him we worship the powerful goddess, Frea, to whom they also dedicated the sixth day, which after her name we call Friday." Vortigern replied, "For your credulity, or rather incredulity, I am much grieved, but I rejoice at your arrival, which, whether by God's providence or some other agency, happens very seasonably for me in my present difficulties. For I am oppressed by my enemies on every side, and if you will engage with me in my wars, I will entertain you honourably in my kingdom, and bestow upon you lands and other possessions." The barbarians readily accepted his offer, and the agreement between them being ratified, they resided at his court. Soon after this, the Picts, issuing forth from Albania, with a very great army, began to lay waste the northern parts of the island. When Vortigern had information of it, he assembled his forces, and went to meet them beyond the Humber. Upon their engaging, the battle proved very fierce on both sides, though there was but little occasion for the Britons to exert themselves, for the Saxons fought so bravely, that the enemy, formerly so victorious, were speedily put to flight.


[201] It is the generally received opinion that Hengist and Horsa landed in Britain a.d. 449.

Chap. XI.Hengist brings over great numbers of Saxons into Britain, his crafty petition to Vortigern.

Vortigern, therefore, as he owed the victory to them, increased his bounty to them, and gave their general, Hengist, large possessions of land in Lindesia,[202] for the subsistence of[Pg 185] himself and his fellow soldiers. Hereupon Hengist, who was a man of experience and subtilty, finding how much interest he had with the king, addressed him in this manner:—"Sir, your enemies give you disturbance from all quarters, and few of your subjects love you. They all threaten you, and say, they are going to bring over Aurelius Ambrosius from Armorica, to depose you, and make him king. If you please, let us send to our country to invite over some more soldiers, that with our forces increased we may be better able to oppose them. But there is one thing which I would desire of your clemency, if I did not fear a refusal." Vortigern made answer, "Send your messengers to Germany, and invite over whom you please, and you shall have no refusal from me in whatever you shall desire." Hengist, with a low bow, returned him thanks, and said, "The possessions which you have given me in land and houses are very large, but you have not yet done me that honour which becomes my station and birth, because, among other things, I should have had some town or city granted me, that I might be entitled to greater esteem among the nobility of your kingdom. I ought to have been made a consul or prince, since my ancestors enjoyed both those dignities." "It is not in my power," replied Vortigern, "to do you so much honour, because you are strangers and pagans; neither am I yet so far acquainted with your manners and customs, as to set you upon a level with my natural born subjects. And, indeed, if I did esteem you as my subjects, I should not be forward to do so, because the nobility of my kingdom would strongly dissuade me from it." "Give your servant," said Hengist, "only so much ground in the place you have assigned me, as I can encompass with a leathern thong, for to build a fortress upon, as a place of retreat if occasion should require. For I will always be faithful to you, as I have been hitherto, and pursue no other design in the request which I have made." With these words the king was prevailed upon to grant him his petition; and ordered him to despatch messengers into Germany, to invite more men over speedily to his assistance. Hengist immediately executed his orders, and taking a bull's hide, made one thong out of the whole, with which he encompassed a rocky place that he had carefully made choice of, and within that circuit began to build a[Pg 186] castle, which, when finished, took its name from the thong wherewith it had been measured; for it was afterwards called, in the British tongue, Kaercorrei; in Saxon, Thancastre, that is, Thong Castle.[203]


[202] Or Lindsey. See Bede's Eccles. Hist. p. 99, note.

[203] Now called Caistor, twenty-three miles N.N.E. from Lincoln.

Chap. XII.Vortigern marries Rowen,[204] the daughter of Hengist.

In the meantime, the messengers returned from Germany, with eighteen ships full of the best soldiers they could get. They also brought along with them Rowen, the daughter of Hengist, one of the most accomplished beauties of that age. After their arrival, Hengist invited the king to his house, to view his new buildings, and the new soldiers that were come over. The king readily accepted of his invitation, but privately, and having highly commended the magnificence of the structure, enlisted the men into his service. Here he was entertained at a royal banquet; and when that was over, the young lady came out of her chamber bearing a golden cup full of wine, with which she approached the king, and making a low courtesy, said to him, "Lauerd[205] king wacht heil!" The king, at the sight of the lady's face, was on a sudden both surprised and inflamed with her beauty; and calling to his interpreter, asked him what she said, and what answer he should make her. "She called you, 'Lord king,'" said the interpreter, "and offered to drink your health. Your answer to her must be, 'Drinc heil!'" Vortigern accordingly answered, "Drinc heil!" and bade her drink; after which he took the cup from her hand, kissed her, and drank himself. From that time to this, it has been the custom in Britain, that he who drinks to any one says, "Wacht heil!" and he that pledges him, answers "Drinc heil!" Vortigern being now drunk with the variety of liquors, the devil took this opportunity to enter into his heart, and to make him in love with the damsel, so that he became suitor to her father for her. It was, I say, by the devil's entering into his heart, that he, who was a Christian, should fall in love with a pagan. By this example, Hengist,[Pg 187] being a prudent man, discovered the king's levity, and consulted with his brother Horsa and the other ancient men present, what to do in relation to the king's request. They unanimously advised him to give him his daughter, and in consideration of her to demand the province of Kent. Accordingly the daughter was without delay delivered to Vortigern, and the province of Kent to Hengist, without the knowledge of Gorangan, who had the government of it. The king the same night married the pagan lady, and became extremely delighted with her; by which he quickly brought upon himself the hatred of the nobility, and of his own sons. For he had already three sons, whose names were Vortimer, Catigern, and Pascentius.


[204] More commonly and elegantly called Rowena; Ronwen and Ronwenna occur in some of the MSS.

[205] That is, Lord.

Chap. XIII.The bishops, Germanus and Lupus, restore the Christian faith that had been corrupted in Britain. Octa and Ebissa are four times routed by Vortimer.

At that time came St. Germanus, bishop of Auxerre, and Lupus, bishop of Troyes, to preach the gospel to the Britons. For the Christian faith had been corrupted among them, partly by the pagans whom the king had brought into society with them, partly by the Pelagian heresy, with the poison whereof they had been a long time infected. But by the preaching of these holy men, the true faith and worship was again restored, the many miracles they wrought giving success to their labours. Gildas has in his elegant treatise given an account of the many miracles God wrought by them. The king being now, as we have said, possessed of the lady, Hengist said to him: "As I am your father, I claim the right of being your counsellor: do not therefore slight my advice, since it is to my countrymen you must owe the conquest of all your enemies. Let us invite over my son Octa and his brother Ebissa, who are brave soldiers, and give them the countries that are in the northern parts of Britain, by the wall, between Deira and Albania. For they will hinder the inroads of the barbarians, and so you shall enjoy peace on the other side of the Humber." Vortigern complied with his request, and ordered them to invite over whomsoever they knew able to assist him. Immediately upon the receipt of this message, came Octa, Ebissa, and Cherdich, with three hundred ships filled with soldiers, who[Pg 188] were all kindly received by Vortigern, and had ample presents made them. For by their assistance he vanquished his enemies, and in every engagement proved victorious. Hengist in the meantime continued to invite over more and more ships, and to augment his numbers daily. Which when the Britons observed, they were afraid of being betrayed by them, and moved the king to banish them out of his coasts. For it was contrary to the rule of the gospel that Christians should hold fellowship, or have any intercourse, with pagans. Besides which, the number of those that were come over was now so great, that they were a terror to his subjects; and nobody could now know who was a pagan, or who a Christian, since pagans married the daughters and kinswomen of Christians. These things they represented to the king, and endeavoured to dissuade him from entertaining them, lest they might, by some treacherous conspiracy, prove an overmatch for the native inhabitants. But Vortigern, who loved them above all other nations on account of his wife, was deaf to their advice. For this reason the Britons quickly desert him, and unanimously set up Vortimer his son for their king; who at their instigation began to drive out the barbarians, and to make dreadful incursions upon them. Four battles he fought with them, and was victorious in all: the first upon the river Dereuent;[206] the second upon the ford of Epsford, where Horsa and Catigern, another son of Vortigern, met and, after a sharp encounter, killed each other;[207] the third upon the sea-shore, where the enemies fled shamefully to their ships, and betook themselves for refuge to the Isle of Thanet. But Vortimer besieged them there, and daily distressed them with his fleet. And when they were no longer able to bear the assaults of the Britons, they sent king Vortigern, who was present with them in all those wars, to his son Vortimer, to desire leave to depart, and return back safe to Germany. And while a conference upon this subject was being held, they in the meantime went on board their long galleys, and, leaving their wives and children behind them, returned back to Germany.

[Pg 189]


[206] The Dereuent seems to be the Darent, a stream which gives its name to Dartford.

[207] The very remarkable monument, called Kit Cotty's house, is traditionally supposed to mark the grave of Catigern.

Chap. XIV.Vortimer's kindness to his soldiers at his death.

Vortimer, after this great success, began to restore his subjects to their possessions which had been taken from them, and to show them all marks of his affection and esteem, and at the instance of St. Germanus to rebuild their churches. But his goodness quickly stirred up the enmity of the devil against him, who entering into the heart of his stepmother Rowen, excited her to contrive his death. For this purpose she consulted with the poisoners, and procured one who was intimate with him, whom she corrupted with large and numerous presents, to give him a poisonous draught; so that this brave soldier, as soon as he had taken it, was seized with a sudden illness, that deprived him of all hopes of life. Hereupon he forthwith ordered all his men to come to him, and having shown them how near he was to his end, distributed among them all the treasure his predecessors had heaped up, and endeavoured to comfort them in their sorrow and lamentation for him, telling them, he was only going the way of all flesh. But he exhorted those brave and warlike young men, who had attended him in all his victories, to persist courageously in the defence of their country against all hostile invasion; and with wonderful greatness of mind, commanded a brazen pyramid to be placed in the port where the Saxons used to land, and his body when dead to be buried on the top of it, that the sight of his tomb might frighten back the barbarians to Germany. For he said none of them would dare approach the country, that should but get a sight of his tomb. Such was the admirable bravery of this great man, who, as he had been a terror to them while living, endeavoured to be no less so when dead. Notwithstanding which, he was no sooner dead, than the Britons had no regard to his orders, but buried him at London.

Chap. XV.Hengist, having wickedly murdered the princes of Britain, keeps Vortigern prisoner.

Vortigern, after the death of his son, was again restored to the kingdom, and at the request of his wife sent messengers into Germany to Hengist, with an invitation to return into Britain, but privately, and with a small retinue, to prevent a quarrel between the barbarians and his subjects. But Hen[Pg 190]gist, hearing that Vortimer was dead, raised an army of no less than three hundred thousand men, and fitting out a fleet returned with them to Britain. When Vortigern and the nobility heard of the arrival of so vast a multitude, they were immoderately incensed, and, after consultation together, resolved to fight them, and drive them from their coasts. Hengist, being informed of their design by messengers sent from his daughter, immediately entered into deliberation what course to pursue against them. After several stratagems had been considered, he judged it most feasible, to impose upon the nation by making show of peace. With this view he sent ambassadors to the king, to declare to him, that he had not brought so great a number of men for the purpose either of staying with him, or offering any violence to the country. But the reason why he brought them, was because he thought Vortimer was yet living, and that he should have occasion for them against him, in case of an assault. But now since he no longer doubted of his being dead, he submitted himself and his people to the disposal of Vortigern; so that he might retain as many of them as he should think fit, and whomsoever he rejected Hengist would allow to return back without delay to Germany. And if these terms pleased Vortigern, he desired him to appoint a time and place for their meeting, and adjusting matters according to his pleasure. When these things were represented to the king, he was mightily pleased, as being very unwilling to part with Hengist; and at last ordered his subjects and the Saxons to meet upon the kalends of May, which were now very near, at the monastery of Ambrius,[208] for the settling of the matters above-mentioned. The appointment being agreed to on both sides, Hengist, with a new design of villany in his head, ordered his soldiers to carry every one of them a long dagger under their garments; and while the conference should be held with the Britons, who would have no suspicion of them, he would give them this word of command, "Nemet oure Saxas;" at which moment they were all to be ready to seize boldly every one his next man, and with his drawn dagger stab him. Accordingly they all met at the time and place appointed, and began to treat of peace; and when a fit opportunity offered for executing his villany,[Pg 191] Hengist cried out, "Nemet oure Saxas," and the same instant seized Vortigern, and held him by his cloak. The Saxons, upon the signal given, drew their daggers, and falling upon the princes, who little suspected any such design, assassinated them to the number of four hundred and sixty barons and consuls; to whose bodies St. Eldad afterwards gave Christian burial, not far from Kaercaradoc, now Salisbury, in a burying-place near the monastery of Ambrius, the abbat, who was the founder of it. For they all came without arms, having no thoughts of anything but treating of peace; which gave the others a fairer opportunity of exercising their villainous design against them. But the pagans did not escape unpunished while they acted this wickedness; a great number of them being killed during this massacre of their enemies. For the Britons, taking up clubs and stones from the ground, resolutely defended themselves, and did good execution upon the traitors.


[208] Ambresbury.

Chap. XVI.Eldol's valiant exploit. Hengist forces Vortigern to yield up the strongest fortifications in Britain, in consideration of his release.

There was present one Eldol, consul[209] of Gloucester, who, at the sight of this treachery, took up a stake which he happened to find, and with that made his defence. Every blow he gave carried death along with it; and by breaking either the head, arms, shoulders, or legs of a great many, he struck no small terror into the traitors, nor did he move from the spot before he had killed with that weapon seventy men. But being no longer able to stand his ground against such numbers, he made his escape from them, and retired to his own city. Many fell on both sides, but the Saxons got the victory; because the Britons, having no suspicion of treachery, came unarmed, and therefore made a weaker defence. After the commission of this detestable villany, the Saxons would not kill Vortigern; but having threatened him with death and bound him, demanded his cities and fortified places in consideration of their granting him his life. He, to secure himself, denied them nothing; and when they had made him confirm his grants with an oath, they released him from his chains, and then marched first to London, which they took, as they did afterwards York, Lincoln, and Winchester;[Pg 192] wasting the countries through which they passed, and destroying the people, as wolves do sheep when left by their shepherds. When Vortigern saw the desolation which they made, he retired into the parts of Cambria, not knowing what to do against so barbarous a people.


[209] This term must be considered as equivalent to comes, count, or earl.

Chap. XVII.Vortigern, after consultation with magicians, orders a youth to be brought that never had a father.

At last he had recourse to magicians for their advice, and commanded them to tell him what course to take. They advised him to build a very strong tower for his own safety, since he had lost all his other fortified places. Accordingly he made a progress about the country, to find out a convenient situation, and came at last to Mount Erir, where he assembled workmen from several countries, and ordered them to build the tower. The builders, therefore, began to lay the foundation; but whatever they did one day the earth swallowed up the next, so as to leave no appearance of their work. Vortigern being informed of this again consulted with his magicians concerning the cause of it, who told him that he must find out a youth that never had a father, and kill him, and then sprinkle the stones and cement with his blood; for by those means, they said, he would have a firm foundation. Hereupon messengers were despatched away over all the provinces, to inquire out such a man. In their travels they came to a city, called afterwards Kaermerdin, where they saw some young men, playing before the gate, and went up to them; but being weary with their journey, they sat down in the ring, to see if they could meet with what they were in quest of. Towards evening, there happened on a sudden a quarrel between two of the young men, whose names were Merlin and Dabutius. In the dispute, Dabutius said to Merlin: "You fool, do you presume to quarrel with me? Is there any equality in our birth? I am descended of royal race, both by my father and mother's side. As for you, nobody knows what you are, for you never had a father." At that word the messengers looked earnestly upon Merlin, and asked the by-standers who he was. They told him, it was not known who was his father; but that his mother was daughter to the king of Dimetia, and that she lived in St. Peter's church among the nuns of that city.[Pg 193]

Chap. XVIII.Vortigern inquires of Merlin's mother concerning her conception of him.

Upon this the messengers hastened to the governor of the city, and ordered him, in the king's name, to send Merlin and his mother to the king. As soon as the governor understood the occasion of their message, he readily obeyed the order, and sent them to Vortigern to complete his design. When they were introduced into the king's presence, he received the mother in a very respectful manner, on account of her noble birth; and began to inquire of her by what man she had conceived. "My sovereign lord," said she, "by the life of your soul and mine, I know nobody that begot him of me. Only this I know, that as I was once with my companions in our chambers, there appeared to me a person in the shape of a most beautiful young man, who often embraced me eagerly in his arms, and kissed me; and when he had stayed a little time, he suddenly vanished out of my sight. But many times after this he would talk with me when I sat alone, without making any visible appearance. When he had a long time haunted me in this manner, he at last lay with me several times in the shape of a man, and left me with child. And I do affirm to you, my sovereign lord, that excepting that young man, I know no body that begot him of me." The king full of admiration at this account, ordered Maugantius to be called, that he might satisfy him as to the possibility of what the woman had related. Maugantius, being introduced, and having the whole matter repeated to him, said to Vortigern: "In the books of our philosophers, and in a great many histories, I have found that several men have had the like original. For, as Apuleius informs us in his book concerning the Demon of Socrates, between the moon and the earth inhabit those spirits, which we will call incubuses. These are of the nature partly of men, and partly of angels, and whenever they please assume human shapes, and lie with women. Perhaps one of them appeared to this woman, and begot that young man of her."

Chap. XIX.Merlin 's speech to the king's magicians, and advice about the building of the tower.

Merlin in the meantime was attentive to all that had passed, and then approached the king, and said to him, "For[Pg 194] what reason am I and my mother introduced into your presence?"—"My magicians," answered Vortigern, "advised me to seek out a man that had no father, with whose blood my building is to be sprinkled, in order to make it stand."—"Order your magicians," said Merlin, "to come before me, and I will convict them of a lie." The king was surprised at his words, and presently ordered the magicians to come, and sit down before Merlin, who spoke to them after this manner: "Because you are ignorant what it is that hinders the foundation of the tower, you have recommended the shedding of my blood for cement to it, as if that would presently make it stand. But tell me now, what is there under the foundation? For something there is that will not suffer it to stand." The magicians at this began to be afraid, and made him no answer. Then said Merlin, who was also called Ambrose, "I entreat your majesty would command your workmen to dig into the ground, and you will find a pond which causes the foundation to sink." This accordingly was done, and then presently they found a pond deep under ground, which had made it give way. Merlin after this went again to the magicians, and said, "Tell me ye false sycophants, what is there under the pond." But they were silent. Then said he again to the king, "Command the pond to be drained, and at the bottom you will see two hollow stones, and in them two dragons asleep." The king made no scruple of believing him, since he had found true what he said of the pond, and therefore ordered it to be drained: which done, he found as Merlin had said; and now was possessed with the greatest admiration of him. Nor were the rest that were present less amazed at his wisdom, thinking it to be no less than divine inspiration.



Chap. I.Geoffrey of Monmouth's preface to Merlin's prophecy.

I had not got thus far in my history, when the subject of public discourse happening to be concerning Merlin, I was obliged to publish his prophecies at the request of my[Pg 195] acquaintance, but especially of Alexander, bishop of Lincoln, a prelate of the greatest piety and wisdom. There was not any person, either among the clergy or laity, that was attended with such a train of knights and noblemen, whom his settled piety and great munificence engaged in his service. Out of a desire, therefore, to gratify him, I translated these prophecies, and sent them to him with the following letter.

Chap. II.Geoffrey's letter to Alexander, bishop of Lincoln.

"The regard which I owe to your great worth, most noble prelate, has obliged me to undertake the translation of Merlin's prophecies out of British into Latin, before I had made an end of the history which I had begun concerning the acts of the British kings. For my design was to have finished that first, and afterwards to have taken this work in hand; lest by being engaged on both at once, I should be less capable of attending with any exactness to either. Notwithstanding, since the deference which is paid to your penetrating judgment will screen me from censure, I have employed my rude pen, and in a coarse style present you with a translation out of a language with which you are unacquainted. At the same time, I cannot but wonder at your recommending this matter to one of my low genius, when you might have caused so many men of greater learning, and a richer vein of intellect, to undertake it; who, with their sublime strains, would much more agreeably have entertained you. Besides, without any disparagement to all the philosophers in Britain, I must take the liberty to say, that you yourself, if the business of your high station would give you leisure, are capable of furnishing us with loftier productions of this kind than any man living. However, since it was your pleasure that Geoffrey of Monmouth should be employed in this prophecy, he hopes you will favourably accept of his performance, and vouchsafe to give a finer turn to whatever you shall find unpolished, or otherwise faulty in it."

Chap. III.The prophecy of Merlin.

As Vortigern, king of the Britons, was sitting upon the bank of the drained pond, the two dragons, one of which[Pg 196] was white, the other red, came forth, and, approaching one another, began a terrible fight, and cast forth fire with their breath. But the white dragon had the advantage, and made the other fly to the end of the lake. And he, for grief at his flight, renewed the assault upon his pursuer, and forced him to retire. After this battle of the dragons, the king commanded Ambrose Merlin to tell him what it portended. Upon which he, bursting into tears, delivered what his prophetical spirit suggested to him, as follows:—[210]

"Woe to the red dragon, for his banishment hasteneth on. His lurking holes shall be seized by the white dragon, which signifies the Saxons whom you invited over; but the red denotes the British nation, which shall be oppressed by the white. Therefore shall its mountains be levelled as the valleys, and the rivers of the valleys shall run with blood. The exercise of religion shall be destroyed, and churches be laid open to ruin. At last the oppressed shall prevail, and oppose the cruelty of foreigners. For a boar of Cornwall shall give his assistance, and trample their necks under his feet. The islands of the ocean shall be subject to his power, and he shall possess the forests of Gaul. The house of Romulus shall dread his courage, and his end shall be doubtful. He shall be celebrated in the mouths of the people; and his exploits shall be food to those that relate them. Six of his posterity shall sway the sceptre, but after them shall arise a German worm. He shall be advanced by a sea-wolf, whom the woods of Africa shall accompany. Religion shall be again abolished, and there shall be a translation of the metropolitan sees. The dignity of London shall adorn Dorobernia, and the seventh pastor of York shall be resorted to in the kingdom of Armorica. Menevia shall put on the pall of the City of Legions, and a preacher of Ireland shall be dumb on account of an infant growing in the womb. It shall rain a shower of blood, and a raging famine shall afflict mankind. When these things happen, the red one shall be[Pg 197] grieved; but when his fatigue is over, shall grow strong. Then shall misfortunes hasten upon the white one, and the buildings of his gardens shall be pulled down. Seven that sway the sceptre shall be killed, one of whom shall become a saint. The wombs of mothers shall be ripped up, and infants be abortive. There shall be a most grievous punishment of men, that the natives may be restored. He that shall do these things shall put on the brazen man, and upon a brazen horse shall for a long time guard the gates of London. After this, shall the red dragon return to his proper manners, and turn his rage upon himself. Therefore shall the revenge of the Thunderer show itself, for every field shall disappoint the husbandmen. Mortality shall snatch away the people, and make a desolation over all countries. The remainder shall quit their native soil, and make foreign plantations. A blessed king shall prepare a fleet, and shall be reckoned the twelfth in the court among the saints. There shall be a miserable desolation of the kingdom, and the floors of the harvests shall return to the fruitful forests. The white dragon shall rise again, and invite over a daughter of Germany. Our gardens shall be again replenished with foreign seed, and the red one shall pine away at the end of the pond. After that, shall the German worm be crowned, and the brazen prince buried. He has his bounds assigned him, which he shall not be able to pass. For a hundred and fifty years he shall continue in trouble and subjection, but shall bear sway three hundred. Then shall the north wind rise against him, and shall snatch away the flowers which the west wind produced. There shall be gilding in the temples, nor shall the edge of the sword cease. The German dragon shall hardly get to his holes, because the revenge of his treason shall overtake him. At last he shall flourish for a little time, but the decimation of Neustria shall hurt him. For a people in wood and in iron coats shall come, and revenge upon him his wickedness. They shall restore the ancient inhabitants to their dwellings, and there shall be an open destruction of foreigners. The seed of the white dragon shall be swept out of our gardens, and the remainder of his generation shall be decimated. They shall bear the yoke of slavery, and wound their mother with spades and ploughs. After this shall succeed two dragons,[Pg 198] whereof one shall be killed with the sting of envy, but the other shall return under the shadow of a name. Then shall succeed a lion of justice, at whose roar the Gallican towers and the island dragons shall tremble. In those days gold shall be squeezed from the lily and the nettle, and silver shall flow from the hoofs of bellowing cattle. The frizzled shall put on various fleeces, and the outward habit denote the inward parts. The feet of barkers shall be cut off; wild beasts shall enjoy peace; mankind shall be grieved at their punishment; the form of commerce shall be divided; the half shall be round. The ravenousness of kites shall be destroyed, and the teeth of wolves blunted. The lion's whelps shall be transformed into sea-fishes; and an eagle shall build her nest upon Mount Aravius. Venedotia shall grow red with the blood of mothers, and the house of Corineus kill six brethren. The island shall be wet with night tears; so that all shall be provoked to all things. Woe to thee, Neustria, because the lion's brain shall be poured upon thee: and he shall be banished with shattered limbs from his native soil. Posterity shall endeavour to fly above the highest places; but the favour of new comers shall be exalted. Piety shall hurt the possessor of things got by impiety, till he shall have put on his Father: therefore, being armed with the teeth of a boar, he shall ascend above the tops of mountains, and the shadow of him that wears a helmet. Albania shall be enraged, and, assembling her neighbours, shall be employed in shedding blood. There shall be put into her jaws a bridle that shall be made on the coast of Armorica. The eagle of the broken covenant shall gild it over, and rejoice in her third nest. The roaring whelps shall watch, and, leaving the woods, shall hunt within the walls of cities. They shall make no small slaughter of those that oppose them, and shall cut off the tongues of bulls. They shall load the necks of roaring lions with chains, and restore the times of their ancestors. Then from the first to the fourth, from the fourth to the third, from the third to the second, the thumb shall roll in oil. The sixth shall overturn the walls of Ireland, and change the woods into a plain. He shall reduce several parts to one, and be crowned with the head of a lion. His beginning shall lay open to wandering affection, but his end shall carry him up to the blessed, who[Pg 199] are above. For he shall restore the seats of saints in their countries, and settle pastors in convenient places. Two cities he shall invest with two palls, and shall bestow virgin-presents upon virgins. He shall merit by this the favour of the Thunderer, and shall be placed among the saints. From him shall proceed a lynx penetrating all things, who shall be bent upon the ruin of his own nation; for, through him, Neustria shall lose both islands, and be deprived of its ancient dignity. Then shall the natives return back to the island; for there shall arise a dissension among foreigners. Also a hoary old man, sitting upon a snow-white horse, shall turn the course of the river Periron, and shall measure out a mill upon it with a white rod. Cadwallader shall call upon Conan, and take Albania into alliance. Then shall there be a slaughter of foreigners; then shall the rivers run with blood. Then shall break forth the fountains of Armorica, and they shall be crowned with the diadem of Brutus. Cambria shall be filled with joy; and the oaks of Cornwall shall flourish. The island shall be called by the name of Brutus: and the name given it by foreigners shall be abolished. From Conan shall proceed a warlike boar, that shall exercise the sharpness of his tusks within the Gallic woods. For he shall cut down all the larger oaks, and shall be a defence to the smaller. The Arabians and Africans shall dread him; for he shall pursue his furious course to the farther part of Spain. There shall succeed the goat of the Venereal castle, having golden horns and a silver beard, who shall breathe such a cloud out of his nostrils, as shall darken the whole surface of the island. There shall be peace in his time; and corn shall abound by reason of the fruitfulness of the soil. Women shall become serpents in their gait, and all their motions shall be full of pride. The camp of Venus shall be restored; nor shall the arrows of Cupid cease to wound. The fountain of a river shall be turned into blood; and two kings shall fight a duel at Stafford for a lioness. Luxury shall overspread the whole ground; and fornication not cease to debauch mankind. All these things shall three ages see; till the buried kings shall be exposed to public view in the city of London. Famine shall again return; mortality shall return; and the inhabitants shall grieve for the destruction of their cities. Then shall[Pg 200] come the board of commerce, who shall recall the scattered flocks to the pasture they had lost. His breast shall be food to the hungry, and his tongue drink to the thirsty. Out of his mouth shall flow rivers, that shall water the parched jaws of men. After this shall be produced a tree upon the Tower of London, which, having no more than three branches, shall overshadow the surface of the whole island with the breadth of its leaves. Its adversary, the north wind, shall come upon it, and with its noxious blast shall snatch away the third branch; but the two remaining ones shall possess its place, till they shall destroy one another by the multitude of their leaves; and then shall it obtain the place of those two, and shall give sustenance to birds of foreign nations. It shall be esteemed hurtful to native fowls; for they shall not be able to fly freely for fear of its shadow. There shall succeed the ass of wickedness, swift against the goldsmiths, but slow against the ravenousness of wolves. In those days the oaks of the forests shall burn, and acorns grow upon the branches of teil trees. The Severn sea shall discharge itself through seven mouths, and the river Uske burn seven months. Fishes shall die with the heat thereof; and of them shall be engendered serpents. The baths of Badon shall grow cold, and their salubrious waters engender death. London shall mourn for the death of twenty thousand; and the river Thames shall be turned into blood. The monks in their cowls shall be forced to marry, and their cry shall be heard upon the mountains of the Alps."


[210] The prophecy which follows has been commented on by various writers, who have taken the trouble to point out the events in English history which answer to the various predictions which it contains. Such labour seems to be altogether superfluous in the present day: the prophecy may be allowed to remain as an illustration of the absurd credulity of former times.

Chap. IV.The continuation of the prophecy.

"Three springs shall break forth in the city of Winchester, whose rivulets shall divide the island into three parts. Whoever shall drink of the first, shall enjoy long life, and shall never be afflicted with sickness. He that shall drink of the second, shall die of hunger, and paleness and horror shall sit in his countenance. He that shall drink of the third, shall be surprised with sudden death, neither shall his body be capable of burial. Those that are willing to escape so great a surfeit, will endeavour to hide it with several coverings, but whatever bulk shall be laid upon it, shall[Pg 201] receive the form of another body. For earth shall be turned into stones; stones into water; wood into ashes; ashes into water, if cast over it. Also a damsel shall be sent from the city of the forest of Canute to administer a cure, who, after she shall have practised all her arts, shall dry up the noxious fountains only with her breath. Afterwards, as soon as she shall have refreshed herself with the wholesome liquor, she shall bear in her right hand the wood of Caledon, and in her left the forts of the walls of London. Wherever she shall go, she shall make sulphureous steps, which will smoke with a double flame. That smoke shall rouse up the city of Ruteni, and shall make food for the inhabitants of the deep. She shall overflow with rueful tears, and shall fill the island with her dreadful cry. She shall be killed by a hart with ten branches, four of which shall bear golden diadems; but the other six shall be turned into buffalo's horns, whose hideous sound shall astonish the three islands of Britain. The Daneian wood shall be stirred up, and breaking forth into a human voice, shall cry: Come, O Cambria, and join Cornwall to thy side, and say to Winchester, the earth shall swallow thee up. Translate the seat of thy pastor to the place where ships come to harbour, and the rest of the members will follow the head. For the day hasteneth, in which thy citizens shall perish on account of the guilt of perjury. The whiteness of wool has been hurtful to thee, and the variety of its tinctures. Woe to the perjured nation, for whose sake the renowned city shall come to ruin. The ships shall rejoice at so great an augmentation, and one shall be made out of two. It shall be rebuilt by Eric, loaden with apples, to the smell whereof the birds of several woods shall flock together. He shall add to it a vast palace, and wall it round with six hundred towers. Therefore shall London envy it, and triply increase her walls. The river Thames shall encompass it round, and the fame of the work shall pass beyond the Alps. Eric shall hide his apples within it, and shall make subterraneous passages. At that time shall the stones speak, and the sea towards the Gallic coast be contracted into a narrow space. On each bank shall one man hear another, and the soil of the island shall be enlarged. The secrets of the deep shall be revealed, and Gaul shall tremble for fear. After these things shall come forth a hern[Pg 202] from the forest of Calaterium, which shall fly round the island for two years together. With her nocturnal cry she shall call together the winged kind, and assemble to her all sorts of fowls. They shall invade the tillage of husbandmen, and devour all the grain of the harvests. Then shall follow a famine upon the people, and a grievous mortality upon the famine. But when this calamity shall be over, a detestable bird shall go to the valley of Galabes, and shall raise it to be a high mountain. Upon the top thereof it shall also plant an oak, and build its nest in its branches. Three eggs shall be produced in the nest, from whence shall come forth a fox, a wolf, and a bear. The fox shall devour her mother, and bear the head of an ass. In this monstrous form shall she frighten her brothers, and make them fly into Neustria. But they shall stir up the tusky boar, and returning in a fleet shall encounter with the fox; who at the beginning of the fight shall feign herself dead, and move the boar to compassion. Then shall the boar approach her carcass, and standing over her, shall breathe upon her face and eyes. But she, not forgetting her cunning, shall bite his left foot, and pluck it off from his body. Then shall she leap upon him, and snatch away his right ear and tail, and hide herself in the caverns of the mountains. Therefore shall the deluded boar require the wolf and bear to restore him his members; who, as soon as they shall enter into the cause, shall promise two feet of the fox, together with the ear and tail, and of these they shall make up the members of a hog. With this he shall be satisfied, and expect the promised restitution. In the meantime shall the fox descend from the mountains, and change herself into a wolf, and under pretence of holding a conference with the boar, she shall go to him, and craftily devour him. After that she shall transform herself into a boar, and feigning a loss of some members, shall wait for her brothers; but as soon as they are come, she shall suddenly kill them with her tusks, and shall be crowned with the head of a lion. In her days shall a serpent be brought forth, which shall be a destroyer of mankind. With its length it shall encompass London, and devour all that pass by it. The mountain ox shall take the head of a wolf, and whiten his teeth in the Severn. He shall gather to him the flocks of Albania and Cambria, which shall drink the river Thames dry.[Pg 203] The ass shall call the goat with the long beard, and shall borrow his shape. Therefore shall the mountain ox be incensed, and having called the wolf, shall become a horned bull against them. In the exercise of his cruelty he shall devour their flesh and bones, but shall be burned upon the top of Urian. The ashes of his funeral-pile shall be turned into swans, that shall swim on dry ground as on a river. They shall devour fishes in fishes, and swallow up men in men. But when old age shall come upon them, they shall become sea-wolves, and practise their frauds in the deep. They shall drown ships, and collect no small quantity of silver. The Thames shall again flow, and assembling together the rivers, shall pass beyond the bounds of its channel. It shall cover the adjacent cities, and overturn the mountains that oppose its course. Being full of deceit and wickedness, it shall make use of the fountain Galabes. Hence shall arise factions provoking the Venedotians to war. The oaks of the forest shall meet together, and encounter the rocks of the Gewisseans. A raven shall attend with the kites, and devour the carcasses of the slain. An owl shall build her nest upon the walls of Gloucester, and in her nest shall be brought forth an ass. The serpent of Malvernia shall bring him up, and put him upon many fraudulent practices. Having taken the crown, he shall ascend on high, and frighten the people of the country with his hideous braying. In his days shall the Pachaian mountains tremble, and the provinces be deprived of their woods. For there shall come a worm with a fiery breath, and with the vapour it sends forth shall burn up the trees. Out of it shall proceed seven lions deformed with the heads of goats. With the stench of their nostrils they shall corrupt women, and make wives turn common prostitutes. The father shall not know his own son, because they shall grow wanton like brute beasts. Then shall come the giant of wickedness, and terrify all with the sharpness of his eyes. Against him shall arise the dragon of Worcester, and shall endeavour to banish him. But in the engagement the dragon shall be worsted, and oppressed by the wickedness of the conqueror. For he shall mount upon the dragon, and putting off his garment shall sit upon him naked. The dragon shall bear him up on high, and beat his naked rider with his tail erected. Upon this[Pg 204] the giant rousing up his whole strength, shall break his jaws with his sword. At last the dragon shall fold itself up under its tail, and die of poison. After him shall succeed the boar of Totness, and oppress the people with grievous tyranny. Gloucester shall send forth a lion, and shall disturb him in his cruelty, in several battles. He shall trample him under his feet, and terrify him with open jaws. At last the lion shall quarrel with the kingdom, and get upon the backs of the nobility. A bull shall come into the quarrel, and strike the lion with his right foot. He shall drive him through all the inns in the kingdom, but shall break his horns against the walls of Oxford. The fox of Kaerdubalem shall take revenge on the lion, and destroy him entirely with her teeth. She shall be encompassed by the adder of Lincoln, who with a horrible hiss shall give notice of his presence to a multitude of dragons. Then shall the dragons encounter, and tear one another to pieces. The winged shall oppress that which wants wings, and fasten its claws into the poisonous cheeks. Others shall come into the quarrel, and kill one another. A fifth shall succeed those that are slain, and by various stratagems shall destroy the rest. He shall get upon the back of one with his sword, and sever his head from his body. Then throwing off his garment, he shall get upon another, and put his right and left hand upon his tail. Thus being naked shall he overcome him, whom when clothed he was not able to deal with. The rest he shall gall in their flight, and drive them round the kingdom. Upon this shall come a roaring lion dreadful for his monstrous cruelty. Fifteen parts shall he reduce to one, and shall alone possess the people. The giant of the snow-white colour shall shine, and cause the white people to flourish. Pleasures shall effeminate the princes, and they shall suddenly be changed into beasts. Among them shall arise a lion swelled with human gore. Under him shall a reaper be placed in the standing corn, who, while he is reaping, shall be oppressed by him. A charioteer of York shall appease them, and having banished his lord, shall mount upon the chariot which he shall drive. With his sword unsheathed shall he threaten the East, and fill the tracks of his wheels with blood. Afterwards he shall become a sea-fish, who, being roused up with the hissing[Pg 205] of a serpent, shall engender with him. From hence shall be produced three thundering bulls, who having eaten up their pastures shall be turned into trees. The first shall carry a whip of vipers, and turn his back upon the next. He shall endeavour to snatch away the whip, but shall be taken by the last. They shall turn away their faces from one another, till they have thrown away the poisoned cup. To him shall succeed a husbandman of Albania, at whose back shall be a serpent. He shall be employed in ploughing the ground, that the country may become white with corn. The serpent shall endeavour to diffuse his poison, in order to blast the harvest. A grievous mortality shall sweep away the people, and the walls of cities shall be made desolate. There shall be given for a remedy the city of Claudius, which shall interpose the nurse of the scourger. For she shall bear a dose of medicine, and in a short time the island shall be restored. Then shall two successively sway the sceptre, whom a horned dragon shall serve. One shall come in armour, and shall ride upon a flying serpent. He shall sit upon his back with his naked body, and cast his right hand upon his tail. With his cry shall the seas be moved and he shall strike terror into the second. The second therefore shall enter into confederacy with the lion; but a quarrel happening, they shall encounter one another. They shall distress one another, but the courage of the beast shall gain the advantage. Then shall come one with a drum, and appease the rage of the lion. Therefore shall the people of the kingdom be at peace, and provoke the lion to a dose of physic. In his established seat he shall adjust the weights, but shall stretch out his hands into Albania. For which reason the northern provinces shall be grieved, and open the gates of the temples. The sign-bearing wolf shall lead his troops, and surround Cornwall with his tail. He shall be opposed by a soldier in a chariot, who shall transform that people into a boar. The boar shall therefore ravage the provinces, but shall hide his head in the depth of Severn. A man shall embrace a lion in wine, and the dazzling brightness of gold shall blind the eyes of beholders. Silver shall whiten in the circumference, and torment several wine presses. Men shall be drunk with wine, and, regardless of heaven, shall be intent upon the[Pg 206] earth. From them shall the stars turn away their faces, and confound their usual course. Corn will wither at their malign aspects; and there shall fall no dew from heaven. The roots and branches will change their places, and the novelty of the thing shall pass for a miracle. The brightness of the sun shall fade at the amber of Mercury, and horror shall seize the beholders. Stilbon of Arcadia shall change his shield; the helmet of Mars shall call Venus. The helmet of Mars shall make a shadow; and the rage of Mercury pass his bounds. Iron Orion shall unsheath his sword: the marine Phœbus shall torment the clouds; Jupiter shall go out of his lawful paths; and Venus forsake her stated lines. The malignity of the star Saturn shall fall down in rain, and slay mankind with a crooked sickle. The twelve houses of the star shall lament the irregular excursions of their guests; and Gemini omit their usual embraces, and call the urn to the fountains. The scales of Libra shall hang obliquely, till Aries puts his crooked horns under them. The tail of Scorpio shall produce lightning, and Cancer quarrel with the Sun. Virgo shall mount upon the back of Sagittarius, and darken her virgin flowers. The chariot of the Moon shall disorder the zodiac, and the Pleiades break forth into weeping. No offices of Janus shall hereafter return, but his gate being shut shall lie hid in the chinks of Ariadne. The seas shall rise up in the twinkling of an eye, and the dust of the ancients shall be restored. The winds shall fight together with a dreadful blast, and their sound shall reach the stars."


Chap. I.Vortigern asks Merlin concerning his own death.

Merlin, by delivering these and many other prophecies, caused in all that were present an admiration at the ambiguity of his expressions. But Vortigern above all the rest both admired and applauded the wisdom, and prophetical spirit of[Pg 207] the young man: for that age had produced none that ever talked in such a manner before him. Being therefore curious to learn his own fate, he desired the young man to tell him what he knew concerning that particular. Merlin answered:—"Fly the fire of the sons of Constantine, if you are able to do it: already are they fitting out their ships: already are they leaving the Armorican shore: already are they spreading out their sails to the wind. They will steer towards Britain: they will invade the Saxon nation: they will subdue that wicked people; but they will first burn you being shut up in a tower. To your own ruin did you prove a traitor to their father, and invite the Saxons into the island. You invited them for your safeguard; but they came for a punishment to you. Two deaths instantly threaten you; nor is it easy to determine, which you can best avoid. For on the one hand the Saxons shall lay waste your country, and endeavour to kill you: on the other shall arrive the two brothers, Aurelius Ambrosius and Uther Pendragon, whose business will be to revenge their father's murder upon you. Seek out some refuge if you can: to-morrow they will be on the shore of Totness. The faces of the Saxons shall look red with blood, Hengist shall be killed, and Aurelius Ambrosius shall be crowned. He shall bring peace to the nation; he shall restore the churches; but shall die of poison. His brother Uther Pendragon shall succeed him, whose days also shall be cut short by poison. There shall be present at the commission of this treason your own issue, whom the boar of Cornwall shall devour." Accordingly the next day early, arrived Aurelius Ambrosius and his brother, with ten thousand men.

Chap. II.Aurelius Ambrosius, being anointed king of Britain, burns Vortigern besieged in a tower.

As soon as the news of his coming was divulged, the Britons, who had been dispersed by their great calamities, met together from all parts, and gaining this new accession of strength from their countrymen, displayed unusual vigour. Having assembled together the clergy, they anointed Aurelius king, and paid him the customary homage. And when the people were urgent to fall upon the Saxons, he dissuaded them from it, because his desire was to pursue Vortigern first. For the treason committed against his father so very much affected[Pg 208] him, that he thought nothing done till that was first avenged. In pursuance therefore of this design, he marched with his army into Cambria, to the town of Genoreu, whither Vortigern had fled for refuge. That town was in the country of Hergin, upon the river Gania, in the mountain called Cloarius. As soon as Ambrosius was arrived there, bearing in his mind the murder of his father and brother, he spake thus to Eldol, duke of Gloucester.

"See, most noble duke, whether the walls of this city are able to protect Vortigern against my sheathing this sword in his bowels. He deserves to die, and you cannot, I suppose, be ignorant of his desert. Oh most villainous of men, whose crimes deserve inexpressible tortures! First he betrayed my father Constantine, who had delivered him and his country from the inroads of the Picts; afterwards my brother Constans whom he made king on purpose to destroy him. Again, when by his craft he had usurped the crown, he introduced pagans among the natives, in order to abuse those who continued stedfast in their loyalty to me: but by the good providence of God, he unwarily fell into the snare, which he had laid for my faithful subjects. For the Saxons, when they found him out in his wickedness, drove him from the kingdom; for which nobody ought to be concerned. But this I think matter of just grief, that this odious people, whom that detestable traitor invited over, has expelled the nobility, laid waste a fruitful country, destroyed the holy churches, and almost extinguished Christianity over the whole kingdom. Now, therefore, my countrymen, show yourselves men; first revenge yourselves upon him that was the occasion of all these disasters; then let us turn our arms against our enemies, and free our country from their brutish tyranny."

Immediately, therefore, they set their engines to work, and laboured to beat down the walls. But at last, when all other attempts failed, they had recourse to fire, which meeting with proper fuel ceased not to rage, till it had burned down the tower and Vortigern in it.[Pg 209]

Chap. III.The praise of Aurelius's valour. The levity of the Scots exposed. Forces raised against Hengist.

Hengist, with his Saxons, was struck with terror at this news, for he dreaded the valour of Aurelius. Such was the bravery and courage this prince was master of, that while he was in Gaul, there was none that durst encounter with him. For in all encounters he either dismounted his adversary, or broke his spear. Besides, he was magnificent in his presents, constant at his devotions, temperate in all respects, and above all things hated a lie. A brave soldier on foot, a better on horseback, and expert in the discipline of an army. Reports of these his noble accomplishments, while he yet continued in Armorican Britain, were daily brought over into the island. Therefore, the Saxons, for fear of him, retired beyond the Humber, and in those parts fortified the cities and towns; for that country always was a place of refuge to them; their safety lying in the neighbourhood of Scotland, which used to watch all opportunities of distressing the nation; for that country being in itself a frightful place to live in, and wholly uninhabited, had been a safe retreat for strangers. By its situation it lay open to the Picts, Scots, Dacians, Norwegians, and others, that came to plunder the island. Being, therefore, secure of a safe reception in this country, they fled towards it, that, if there should be occasion, they might retreat into it as into their own camp. This was good news to Aurelius, and made him conceive greater hopes of victory. So assembling his people quickly together, he augmented his army, and made an expeditious march towards the north. In his passage through the countries, he was grieved to see the desolation made in them, but especially that the churches were levelled with the ground; and he promised to rebuild them, if he gained the victory.

Chap. IV.Hengist marches with his army against Aurelius, into the field of Maisbeli.

But Hengist, upon his approach, took courage again, and chose out the bravest of his men, whom he exhorted to make a gallant defence, and not be daunted at Aurelius, who, he told them, had but few Armorican Britons with him, since their number did not exceed ten thousand. And as for the[Pg 210] native Britons, he made no account of them, since they had been so often defeated by him. He therefore promised them the victory, and that they should come off safely, considering the superiority of their number, which amounted to two hundred thousand men in arms. After he had in this manner animated his men, he advanced with them towards Aurelius, into a field called Maisbeli, through which Aurelius was to pass. For his intention was to make a sudden assault by a surprise, and fall upon the Britons before they were prepared. But Aurelius perceived the design, and yet did not, on that account, delay going to the field, but rather pursued his march with more expedition. When he was come within sight of the enemy, he put his troops in order, commanding three thousand Armoricans to attend the cavalry, and drew out the rest together with the islanders into line of battle. The Dimetians he placed upon the hills, and the Venedotians in the adjacent woods. His reason for which was, that they might be there ready to fall upon the Saxons, in case they should flee in that direction.

Chap. V.A battle between Aurelius and Hengist.

In the meantime, Eldol, duke of Gloucester, went to the king, and said, "This one day should suffice for all the days of my life, if by good providence I could but get an opportunity to engage with Hengist; for one of us should die before we parted. I still retain deeply fixed in my memory the day appointed for our peaceably treating together, but which he villainously made use of to assassinate all that were present at the treaty, except myself only, who stood upon my defence with a stake which I accidentally found, until I made my escape. That very day proved fatal, through his treachery, to no less than four hundred and sixty barons and consuls, who all went unarmed. From that conspiracy God was pleased to deliver me, by throwing a stake in my way, wherewith I defended myself and escaped." Thus spoke Eldol. Then Aurelius exhorted his companions to place all their hope in the Son of God, and to make a brave assault with one consent upon the enemy, in defence of their country. Nor was Hengist less busy on the other hand in forming his troops, and giving them directions how to behave themselves in the battle; and he walked himself through their several[Pg 211] ranks, the more to spirit them up. At last, both armies, being drawn out in order of battle, began the attack, which they maintained with great bravery, and no small loss of blood, both to the Britons and Saxons. Aurelius animated the Christians, Hengist the pagans; and all the time of the engagement, Eldol's chief endeavour was to encounter Hengist, but he had no opportunity for it. For Hengist, when he found that his own men were routed, and that the Christians, by the especial favour of God, had the advantage, fled to the town called Kaerconan, now Cunungeburg. Aurelius pursued him, and either killed or made slaves of all he found in the way. When Hengist saw that he was pursued by Aurelius, he would not enter the town, but assembled his troops, and prepared them to stand another engagement. For he knew the town would not hold out against Aurelius, and that his whole security now lay in his sword. At last Aurelius overtook him, and after marshalling his forces, began another most furious fight. And here the Saxons steadily maintained their ground, notwithstanding the numbers that fell. On both sides there was a great slaughter, the groans of the dying causing a greater rage in those that survived. In short, the Saxons would have gained the day, had not a detachment of horse from the Armorican Britons come in upon them. For Aurelius had appointed them the same station which they had in the former battle; so that, upon their advancing, the Saxons gave ground, and when once a little dispersed, were not able to rally again. The Britons, encouraged by this advantage, exerted themselves, and laboured with all their might to distress the enemy. All the time Aurelius was fully employed, not only in giving commands, but encouraging his men by his own example; for with his own hand he killed all that stood in his way, and pursued those that fled. Nor was Eldol less active in all parts of the field, running to and fro to assault his adversaries; but still his main endeavour was to find opportunity of encountering Hengist.

Chap. VI.Hengist, in a duel with Eldol, is taken by him. The Saxons are slain by the Britons without mercy.

As there were therefore several movements made by the parties engaged on each side, an opportunity occurred for their[Pg 212] meeting, and briskly engaging each other. In this encounter of the two greatest champions in the field, the fire sparkled with the clashing of their arms, and every stroke in a manner produced both thunder and lightning. For a long time was the victory in suspense, as it seemed sometimes to favour the one, sometimes the other. While they were thus hotly engaged, Gorlois, duke of Cornwall, came up to them with the party he commanded, and did great execution upon the enemies' troops. At the sight of him, Eldol, assured of victory, seized on the helmet of Hengist, and by main force dragged him in among the Britons, and then in transports of joy cried out with a loud voice, "God has fulfilled my desire! My brave soldiers, down, down, with your enemies the Ambrons.[211] The victory is now in your hands: Hengist is defeated, and the day is your own." In the meantime the Britons failed not to perform every one his part against the pagans, upon whom they made many vigorous assaults; and though they were obliged sometimes to give ground, yet their courage did not fail them in making a good resistance; so that they gave the enemy no respite till they had vanquished them. The Saxons therefore fled whithersoever their consternation hurried them, some to the cities, some to the woods upon the hills, and others to their ships. But Octa, the son of Hengist, made his retreat with a great body of men to York: and Eosa, his kinsman, to the city of Alclud, where he had a very large army for his guard.


[211] The meaning of this word is doubtful; it is applied to the Saxons, probably is descriptive of their fierce and savage character.

Chap. VII.Hengist is beheaded by Eldol.

Aurelius, after this victory, took the city of Conan above-mentioned, and stayed there three days. During this time he gave orders for the burial of the slain, for curing the wounded, and for the ease and refreshment of his forces that were fatigued. Then he called a council of his principal officers, to deliberate what was to be done with Hengist. There was present at the assembly Eldad, bishop of Gloucester, and brother of Eldol, a prelate of very great wisdom and piety. As soon as he beheld Hengist standing in the king's presence, he demanded silence, and said, "Though all should be unanimous for setting him at liberty, yet would I[Pg 213] cut him to pieces. The prophet Samuel is my warrant, who, when he had Agag, king of Amalek, in his power, hewed him in pieces, saying, As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women. Do therefore the same to Hengist, who is a second Agag." Accordingly Eldol took his sword, and drew him out of the city, and then cut off his head. But Aurelius, who showed moderation in all his conduct, commanded him to be buried, and a heap of earth to be raised over his body, according to the custom of the pagans.

Chap. VIII.Octa, being besieged in York, surrenders himself to the mercy of Aurelius.

From hence Aurelius conducted his army to York, to besiege Octa, Hengist's son. When the city was invested, Octa was doubtful whether he should give him any opposition, and stand a siege against such a powerful army. After consultation upon it, he went out with his principal nobility that were present, carrying a chain in his hand, and sand upon his head, and presented himself to the king with this address: "My gods are vanquished, and I doubt not that the sovereign power is in your God, who has compelled so many noble persons to come before you in this suppliant manner. Be pleased therefore to accept of us, and of this chain. If you do not think us fit objects of your clemency, we here present ourselves ready to be fettered, and to undergo whatever punishment you shall adjudge us to." Aurelius was moved with pity at the spectacle, and demanded the advice of his council what should be done with them. After various proposals upon this subject, Eldad the bishop rose up, and delivered his opinion in these words: "The Gibeonites came voluntarily to the children of Israel to desire mercy, and they obtained it. And shall we Christians be worse than the Jews, in refusing them mercy? It is mercy which they beg, and let them have it. The island of Britain is large, and in many places uninhabited. Let us make a covenant with them, and suffer them at least to inhabit the desert places, that they may be our vassals for ever." The king acquiesced in Eldad's advice, and suffered them to partake of his clemency. After this Eosa and the rest that fled, being encouraged by Octa's success, came also, and were admitted to the same[Pg 214] favour. The king therefore granted them the country bordering upon Scotland, and made a firm covenant with them.

Chap. IX.Aurelius, having entirely routed the enemies, restores all things in Britain, especially ecclesiastical affairs, to their ancient state.

The enemies being now entirely reduced,[212] the king summoned the consuls and princes of the kingdom together at York, where he gave orders for the restoration of the churches, which the Saxons had destroyed. He himself undertook the rebuilding of the metropolitan church of that city, as also the other cathedral churches in that province. After fifteen days, when he had settled workmen in several places, he went to London, which city had not escaped the fury of the enemy. He beheld with great sorrow the destruction made in it, and recalled the remainder of the citizens from all parts, and began the restoration of it. Here he settled the affairs of the whole kingdom, revived the laws, restored the right heirs to the possessions of their ancestors; and those estates, whereof the heirs had been lost in the late grievous calamity, he distributed among his fellow soldiers. In these important concerns, of restoring the nation to its ancient state, repairing the churches, re-establishing peace and law, and settling the administration of justice, was his time wholly employed. From hence he went to Winchester, to repair the ruins of it, as he did of other cities; and when the work was finished there, he went, at the instance of bishop Eldad, to the monastery near Kaercaradoc, now Salisbury, where the consuls and princes, whom the wicked Hengist had treacherously murdered, lay buried. At this place was a convent that maintained three hundred friars, situated on the mountain of Ambrius, who, as is reported, had been the founder of it. The sight of the place where the dead lay, made the king, who was of a compassionate temper, shed tears, and at last enter upon thoughts, what kind of monument to erect upon it. For he thought something ought to be done to perpetuate the[Pg 215] memory of that piece of ground, which was honoured with the bodies of so many noble patriots, that died for their country.


[212] The conquest of England was achieved slowly by the Saxons, yet it was sure and permanent: the assertion in the text is untrue. There was no expulsion or subjugation of the invaders when they were once landed.

Chap. X.Aurelius is advised by Merlin to remove the Giant's Dance from the mountain Killaraus.

For this purpose he summoned together several carpenters and masons, and commanded them to employ the utmost of their art, in contriving some new structure, for a lasting monument to those great men. But they, in diffidence of their own skill, refusing to undertake it, Tremounus, archbishop of the City of Legions, went to the king, and said, "If any one living is able to execute your commands, Merlin, the prophet of Vortigern, is the man. In my opinion there is not in all your kingdom a person of a brighter genius, either in predicting future events, or in mechanical contrivances. Order him to come to you, and exercise his skill in the work which you design." Whereupon Aurelius, after he had asked a great many questions concerning him, despatched several messengers into the country to find him out, and bring him to him. After passing through several provinces, they found him in the country of the Gewisseans, at the fountain of Galabes, which he frequently resorted to. As soon as they had delivered their message to him, they conducted him to the king, who received him with joy, and, being curious to hear some of his wonderful speeches, commanded him to prophesy. Merlin made answer: "Mysteries of this kind are not to be revealed but when there is the greatest necessity for it. If I should pretend to utter them for ostentation or diversion, the spirit that instructs me would be silent, and would leave me when I should have occasion for it." When he had made the same refusal to all the rest present, the king would not urge him any longer about his predictions, but spoke to him concerning the monument which he designed. "If you are desirous," said Merlin, "to honour the burying-place of these men with an everlasting monument, send for the Giant's Dance, which is in Killaraus, a mountain in Ireland. For there is a structure of stones there, which none of this age could raise, without a profound knowledge of the mechanical arts. They are[Pg 216] stones of a vast magnitude and wonderful quality; and if they can be placed here, as they are there, round this spot of ground, they will stand for ever."

Chap. XI.Uther Pendragon is appointed with Merlin to bring over the Giant's Dance.

At these words of Merlin, Aurelius burst into laughter, and said, "How is it possible to remove such vast stones from so distant a country, as if Britain was not furnished with stones fit for the work?" Merlin replied, "I entreat your majesty to forbear vain laughter; for what I say is without vanity. They are mystical stones, and of a medicinal virtue. The giants of old brought them from the farthest coast of Africa, and placed them in Ireland, while they inhabited that country. Their design in this was to make baths in them, when they should be taken with any illness. For their method was to wash the stones, and put their sick into the water, which infallibly cured them. With the like success they cured wounds also, adding only the application of some herbs. There is not a stone there which has not some healing virtue." When the Britons heard this, they resolved to send for the stones, and to make war upon the people of Ireland if they should offer to detain them. And to accomplish this business, they made choice of Uther Pendragon, who was to be attended with fifteen thousand men. They chose also Merlin himself, by whose direction the whole affair was to be managed. A fleet being therefore got ready, they set sail, and with a fair wind arrived in Ireland.

Chap. XII.Gillomanius being routed by Uther, the Britons bring over the Giant's dance into Britain.

At that time Gillomanius, a youth of wonderful valour, reigned in Ireland; who, upon the news of the arrival of the Britons in his kingdom, levied a vast army, and marched out against them. And when he had learned the occasion of their coming, he smiled, and said to those about him, "No wonder a cowardly race of people were able to make so great a devastation in the island of Britain, when the Britons are such brutes and fools. Was ever the like folly[Pg 217] heard of? What are the stones of Ireland better than those of Britain, that our kingdom must be put to this disturbance for them? To arms, soldiers, and defend your country; while I have life they shall not take from us the least stone of the Giant's Dance." Uther, seeing them prepared for a battle, attacked them; nor was it long ere the Britons had the advantage, who, having dispersed and killed the Irish, forced Gillomanius to flee. After the victory they went to the mountain Killaraus, and arrived at the structure of stones, the sight of which filled them both with joy and admiration. And while they were all standing round them, Merlin came up to them and said, "Now try your forces, young men, and see whether strength or art can do the most towards taking down these stones." At this word they all set to their engines with one accord, and attempted the removing of the Giant's Dance. Some prepared cables, others small ropes, others ladders for the work, but all to no purpose. Merlin laughed at their vain efforts, and then began his own contrivances. When he had placed in order the engines that were necessary, he took down the stones with an incredible facility, and gave directions for carrying them to the ships, and placing them therein. This done, they with joy set sail again, to return to Britain; where they arrived with a fair gale, and repaired to the burying-place with the stones. When Aurelius had notice of it, he sent messengers to all parts of Britain, to summon the clergy and people together to the mount of Ambrius, in order to celebrate with joy and honour the erection of the monument. Upon this summons appeared the bishops, abbats, and people of all other orders and qualities; and upon the day and place appointed for their general meeting, Aurelius placed the crown upon his head, and with royal pomp celebrated the feast of Pentecost, the solemnity whereof he continued the three following days. In the meantime, all places of honour that were vacant, he bestowed upon his domestics as rewards for their good services. At that time the two metropolitan sees of York and Legions were vacant; and with the general consent of the people, whom he was willing to please in this choice, he granted York to Sanxo, a man of great quality, and much celebrated for his piety; and the City of Legions to Dubricius, whom divine providence had pointed out as a most use[Pg 218]ful pastor in that place. As soon as he had settled these and other affairs in the kingdom, he ordered Merlin to set up the stones brought over from Ireland, about the sepulchre; which he accordingly did, and placed them in the same manner as they had been in the mountain Killaraus, and thereby gave a manifest proof of the prevalence of art above strength.[213]


[213] This is the venerable monument of antiquity, now called Stonehenge, of the origin of which we know no more than we know of the solid framework of the globe itself. It was certainly erected by a people who lived long before the beginning of authentic history.

Chap. XIII.Pascentius brings in the Saxons against the Britons.

At the same time Pascentius, the son of Vortigern, who had fled over into Germany, was levying all the forces of that kingdom against Aurelius Ambrosius, with a design to revenge his father's death; and promised his men an immense treasure of gold and silver, if with their assistance he could succeed in reducing Britain under his power. When he had at last corrupted all the youth of the country with his large promises, he prepared a vast fleet, and arrived in the northern parts of the island, upon which he began to make great devastations. The king, on the other hand, hearing this news, assembled his army, and marching against them challenged the enraged enemy to a battle; the challenge was accepted, and by the blessing of God the enemy was defeated and put to flight.

Chap. XIV.Pascentius, assisted by the king of Ireland, again invades Britain. Aurelius dies by the treachery of Eopa, a Saxon.

Pascentius, after this flight, durst not return to Germany, but shifting his sails, went over to Gillomanius, in Ireland, by whom he was well received. And when he had given him an account of his misfortune, Gillomanius, in pity to him, promised him his assistance, and at the same time vented his complaint of the injuries done him by Uther, the brother of Aurelius, when he came for the Giant's Dance. At last, entering into confederacy together, they made ready their fleet, in which they embarked, and arrived at the city of Menevia. This news caused Uther Pendragon to levy his[Pg 219] forces, and march into Cambria to fight them. For his brother Aurelius then lay sick at Winchester, and was not able to go himself. When Pascentius, Gillomanius, and the Saxons heard of it, they highly rejoiced, flattering themselves, that his sickness would facilitate to them the conquest of Britain. While this occurrence was the subject of the people's discourse, one of the Saxons, named Eopa, came to Pascentius, and said, "What reward will you give the man that shall kill Aurelius Ambrosius for you?" To whom Pascentius answered, "O that I could find a man of such resolution! I would give him a thousand pounds of silver, and my friendship for life; and if by good fortune I can but gain the crown, I promise upon oath to make him a centurion." To this Eopa replied, "I have learned the British language, and know the manners of the people, and have skill in physic. If, therefore, you will perform this promise, I will pretend to be a Christian and a Briton, and when, as a physician, I shall be admitted into the king's presence, I will make him a potion that shall despatch him. And to gain the readier access to him, I will put on the appearance of a devout and learned monk." Upon this offer, Pascentius entered into covenant with him, and confirmed what he had promised with an oath. Eopa, therefore, shaved his beard and head, and in the habit of a monk hastened to Winchester, loaded with vessels full of medical preparations. As soon as he arrived there, he offered his service to those that attended about the king, and was graciously received by them; for to them nobody was now more acceptable than a physician. Being introduced into the king's presence, he promised to restore him to his health, if he would but take his potions. Upon which he had his orders forthwith to prepare one of them, into which when he had secretly conveyed a poisonous mixture, he gave it the king. As soon as Aurelius had drunk it up, the wicked Ambron ordered him presently to cover himself close up, and fall asleep, that the detestable potion might the better operate. The king readily obeyed his prescriptions, and in hopes of his speedy recovery fell asleep. But the poison quickly diffused itself through all the pores and veins of his body, so that the sleep ended in death. In the meantime the wicked traitor, having cunningly withdrawn himself first from one and then from another, was no[Pg 220] longer to be found in the court. During these transactions at Winchester, there appeared a star of wonderful magnitude and brightness, darting forth a ray, at the end of which was a globe of fire in form of a dragon, out of whose mouth issued forth two rays; one of which seemed to stretch out itself beyond the extent of Gaul, the other towards the Irish Sea, and ended in seven lesser rays.

Chap. XV.A comet presignifies the reign of Uther.

At the appearance of this star, a general fear and amazement seized the people; and even Uther, the king's brother, who was then upon his march with his army into Cambria, being not a little terrified at it, was very curious to know of the learned men, what it portended. Among others, he ordered Merlin to be called, who also attended in this expedition to give his advice in the management of the war; and who, being now presented before him, was commanded to discover to him the signification of the star. At this he burst out into tears, and with a loud voice cried out, "O irreparable loss! O distressed people of Britain! Alas! the illustrious prince is departed! The renowned king of the Britons, Aurelius Ambrosius, is dead! whose death will prove fatal to us all, unless God be our helper. Make haste, therefore, most noble Uther, make haste to engage the enemy: the victory will be yours, and you shall be king of all Britain. For the star, and the fiery dragon under it, signifies yourself, and the ray extending towards the Gallic coast, portends that you shall have a most potent son, to whose power all those kingdoms shall be subject over which the ray reaches. But the other ray signifies a daughter, whose sons and grandsons shall successively enjoy the kingdom of Britain."

Chap. XVI.Pascentius and Gillomanius are killed in battle.

Uther, though he doubted of the truth of what Merlin had declared, pursued his march against the enemy, for he was now come within half a day's march of Menevia. When Gillomanius, Pascentius, and the Saxons were informed of his approach, they went out to give him battle. As soon as they were come within sight of each other, both armies began to form themselves into several bodies, and then advanced to[Pg 221] a close attack, in which both sides suffered a loss of men, as usually happens in such engagements. At last, towards the close of the day, the advantage was on Uther's side, and the death of Gillomanius and Pascentius made a way for complete victory. So that the barbarians, being put to flight, hastened to their ships, but were slain by their pursuers. Thus, by the favour of Christ, the general had triumphant success, and then with all possible expedition, after so great a fatigue, returned back to Winchester: for he had now been informed, by messengers that arrived, of the king's sad fate, and of his burial by the bishops of the country, near the convent of Ambrius, within the Giant's Dance, which in his lifetime he had commanded to be made. For upon hearing the news of his death, the bishops, abbats, and all the clergy of that province, had met together at Winchester, to solemnize his funeral. And because in his lifetime he had given orders for his being buried in the sepulchre which he had prepared, they therefore carried his corpse thither, and performed his exsequies with royal magnificence.

Chap. XVII.Uther Pendragon is made king of Britain.

But Uther his brother, having assembled the clergy of the kingdom, took the crown, and by universal consent was advanced to the kingdom. And remembering the explanation which Merlin had made of the star above-mentioned, he commanded two dragons to be made of gold, in likeness of the dragon which he had seen at the ray of the star. As soon as they were finished, which was done with wonderful nicety of workmanship, he made a present of one to the cathedral church of Winchester, but reserved the other for himself, to be carried along with him to his wars. From this time, therefore, he was called Uther Pendragon, which in the British tongue signifies the dragon's head; the occasion of this appellation being Merlin's predicting, from the appearance of a dragon, that he should be king.

Chap. XVIII.Octa and Eosa are taken in battle.

In the meantime Octa the son of Hengist, and his kinsman Eosa, seeing they were no longer bound by the treaty which they had made with Aurelius Ambrosius, began to raise dis[Pg 222]turbances against the king, and infest his countries. For they were now joining with the Saxons whom Pascentius had brought over, and sending messengers into Germany for the rest. Being therefore attended with a vast army, he invaded the northern provinces, and in an outrageous manner destroyed all the cities and fortified places, from Albania to York. At last, as he was beginning the siege of that city, Uther Pendragon came upon him with the whole power of the kingdom, and gave him battle. The Saxons behaved with great gallantry, and, having sustained the assaults of the Britons, forced them to fly; and upon this advantage pursued them with slaughter to the mountain Damen, which was as long as they could do it with daylight. The mountain was high, and had a hazel-wood upon the top of it, and about the middle broken and cavernous rocks, which were a harbour to wild beasts. The Britons made up to it, and stayed there all night among the rocks and hazel-bushes. But as it began to draw towards day, Uther commanded the consuls and princes to be called together, that he might consult with them in what manner to assault the enemy. Whereupon they forthwith appeared before the king, who commanded them to give their advice; and Gorlois, duke of Cornwall, had orders to deliver his opinion first, out of regard to his years and great experience. "There is no occasion," said he, "for ceremonies or speeches, while we see that it is still night: but there is for boldness and courage, if you desire any longer enjoyment of your life and liberty. The pagans are very numerous, and eager to fight, and we much inferior to them in number; so that if we stay till daybreak, we cannot, in my opinion, attack them to advantage. Come on, therefore, while we have the favour of the night, let us go down in a close body, and surprise them in their camp with a sudden assault. There can be no doubt of success, if with one consent we fall upon them boldly, while they think themselves secure, and have no expectation of our coming in such a manner." The king and all that were present, were pleased with his advice, and pursued it. For as soon as they were armed and placed in their ranks, they made towards the enemies' camp, designing a general assault. But upon approaching to it, they were discovered by the watch, who with sound of trumpet awaked their companions.[Pg 223] The enemies being hereupon put into confusion and astonishment, part of them hastened towards the sea, and part ran up and down whithersoever their fear or precipitation drove them. The Britons, finding their coming discovered, hastened their march, and keeping still close together in their ranks, assailed the camp; into which when they had found an entrance, they ran with their drawn swords upon the enemy; who in this sudden surprise made but a faint defence against their vigorous and regular attack; and pursuing this blow with great eagerness they destroyed some thousands of the pagans, took Octa and Eosa prisoners, and entirely dispersed the Saxons.

Chap. XIX.Uther, falling in love with Igerna, enjoys her by the assistance of Merlin's magical operations.

After this victory Uther repaired to the city of Alclud, where he settled the affairs of that province, and restored peace everywhere. He also made a progress round all the countries of the Scots, and tamed the fierceness of that rebellious people, by such a strict administration of justice, as none of his predecessors had exercised before: so that in his time offenders were everywhere under great terror, since they were sure of being punished without mercy. At last, when he had established peace in the northern provinces, he went to London, and commanded Octa and Eosa to be kept in prison there. The Easter following he ordered all the nobility of the kingdom to meet at that city, in order to celebrate that great festival; in honour of which he designed to wear his crown. The summons was everywhere obeyed, and there was a great concourse from all cities to celebrate the day. So the king observed the festival with great solemnity, as he had designed, and very joyfully entertained his nobility, of whom there was a very great muster, with their wives and daughters, suitably to the magnificence of the banquet prepared for them. And having been received with joy by the king, they also expressed the same in their deportment before him. Among the rest was present Gorlois, duke of Cornwall, with his wife Igerna, the greatest beauty in all Britain. No sooner had the king cast his eyes upon her among the rest of the ladies, than he fell passionately in love with her, and little regarding the rest,[Pg 224] made her the subject of all his thoughts. She was the only lady that he continually served with fresh dishes, and to whom he sent golden cups by his confidants; on her he bestowed all his smiles, and to her addressed all his discourse. The husband, discovering this, fell into a great rage, and retired from the court without taking leave: nor was there any body that could stop him, while he was under fear of losing the chief object of his delight. Uther, therefore, in great wrath commanded him to return back to court, to make him satisfaction for this affront. But Gorlois refused to obey; upon which the king was highly incensed, and swore he would destroy his country, if he did not speedily compound for his offence. Accordingly, without delay, while their anger was hot against each other, the king got together a great army, and marched into Cornwall, the cities and towns whereof he set on fire. But Gorlois durst not engage with him, on account of the inferiority of his numbers; and thought it a wiser course to fortify his towns, till he could get succour from Ireland. And as he was under more concern for his wife than himself, he put her into the town of Tintagel,[214] upon the sea-shore, which he looked upon as a place of great safety. But he himself entered the castle of Dimilioc, to prevent their being both at once involved in the same danger, if any should happen. The king, informed of this, went to the town where Gorlois was, which he besieged, and shut up all the avenues to it. A whole week was now past, when, retaining in mind his love to Igerna, he said to one of his confidants, named Ulfin de Ricaradoch: "My passion for Igerna is such, that I can neither have ease of mind, nor health of body, till I obtain her: and if you cannot assist me with your advice how to accomplish my desire, the inward torments I endure will kill me."—"Who can advise you in this matter," said Ulfin, "when no force will enable us to have access to her in the town of Tintagel? For it is situated upon the sea, and on every side surrounded by it; and there is but one entrance into it, and that through a straight rock, which three men shall be able to defend against the whole power of the kingdom. Notwithstanding, if the prophet Merlin would in[Pg 225] earnest set about this attempt, I am of opinion, you might with his advice obtain your wishes." The king readily believed what he was so well inclined to, and ordered Merlin, who was also come to the siege, to be called. Merlin, therefore, being introduced into the king's presence, was commanded to give his advice, how the king might accomplish his desire with respect to Igerna. And he, finding the great anguish of the king, was moved by such excessive love, and said, "To accomplish your desire, you must make use of such arts as have not been heard of in your time. I know how, by the force of my medicines, to give you the exact likeness of Gorlois, so that in all respects you shall seem to be no other than himself. If you will therefore obey my prescriptions, I will metamorphose you into the true semblance of Gorlois and Ulfin into Jordan of Tintagel, his familiar friend; and I myself, being transformed into another shape, will make the third in the adventure; and in this disguise you may go safely to the town where Igerna is, and have admittance to her." The king complied with the proposal, and acted with great caution in this affair; and when he had committed the care of the siege to his intimate friends, underwent the medical applications of Merlin, by whom he was transformed into the likeness of Gorlois; as was Ulfin also into Jordan, and Merlin himself into Bricel; so that nobody could see any remains now of their former likeness. They then set forward on their way to Tintagel, at which they arrived in the evening twilight, and forthwith signified to the porter, that the consul was come; upon which the gates were opened, and the men let in. For what room could there be for suspicion, when Gorlois himself seemed to be there present? The king therefore stayed that night with Igerna, and had the full enjoyment of her, for she was deceived with the false disguise which he had put on, and the artful and amorous discourses wherewith he entertained her. He told her he had left his own place besieged, purely to provide for the safety of her dear self, and the town she was in; so that believing all that he said, she refused him nothing which he desired. The same night therefore she conceived of the most renowned Arthur, whose heroic and wonderful actions have justly rendered his name famous to posterity.

[Pg 226]


[214] The ruins of this castle denote that it must have been a place of great strength.

Chap. XX.Gorlois being killed, Uther marries Igerna.

In the meantime, as soon as the king's absence was discovered at the siege, his army unadvisedly made an assault upon the walls, and provoked the besieged count to a battle; who himself also, acting as inconsiderately as they, sallied forth with his men, thinking with such a small handful to oppose a powerful army; but happened to be killed in the very first brunt of the fight, and had all his men routed. The town also was taken; but all the riches of it were not shared equally among the besiegers, but every one greedily took what he could get, according as fortune or his own strength favoured him. After this bold attempt, came messengers to Igerna, with the news both of the duke's death, and of the event of the siege. But when they saw the king in the likeness of the consul, sitting close by her, they were struck with shame and astonishment at his safe arrival there, whom they had left dead at the siege; for they were wholly ignorant of the miracles which Merlin had wrought with his medicines. The king therefore smiled at the news, and embracing the countess, said to her: "Your own eyes may convince you that I am not dead, but alive. But notwithstanding, the destruction of the town, and the slaughter of my men, is what very much grieves me; so that there is reason to fear the king's coming upon us, and taking us in this place. To prevent which, I will go out to meet him, and make my peace with him, for fear of a worse disaster." Accordingly, as soon as he was out of the town, he went to his army, and having put off the disguise of Gorlois, was now Uther Pendragon again. When he had a full relation made to him how matters had succeeded, he was sorry for the death of Gorlois, but rejoiced that Igerna was now at liberty to marry again. Then he returned to the town of Tintagel, which he took, and in it, what he impatiently wished for, Igerna herself. After this they continued to live together with much affection for each other, and had a son and daughter, whose names were Arthur and Anne.

Chap. XXI.Octa and Eosa renew the war. Lot, a consul, marries the king's daughter.

In process of time the king was taken ill of a lingering distemper; and meanwhile the keepers of the prison,[Pg 227] wherein Octa and Eosa (as we related before) led a weary life, had fled over with them into Germany, and occasioned great fear over the kingdom. For there was a report of their great levies in Germany, and the vast fleet which they had prepared for their return to destroy the island: which the event verified. For they returned in a great fleet, and with a prodigious number of men, and invaded the parts of Albania, where they destroyed both cities and inhabitants with fire and sword. Wherefore, in order to repulse the enemies, the command of the British army was committed to Lot of Londonesia, who was a consul, and a most valiant knight, and grown up to maturity both of years and wisdom. Out of respect to his eminent merits, the king had given him his daughter Anne, and entrusted him with the care of the kingdom, during his illness. In his expedition against the enemies he had various success, being often repulsed by them, and forced to retreat to the cities; but he oftener routed and dispersed them, and compelled them to flee sometimes into the woods, sometimes to their ships. So that in a war attended with so many turns of fortune, it was hard to know which side had the better. The greatest injury to the Britons was their own pride, in disdaining to obey the consul's commands; for which reason all their efforts against the enemy were less vigorous and successful.

Chap. XXII.Uther, being ill, is carried in a horse-litter against the enemy.

The island being by this conduct now almost laid waste, the king, having information of the matter, fell into a greater rage than his weakness could bear, and commanded all his nobility to come before him, that he might reprove them severely for their pride and cowardice. And as soon as they were all entered into his presence, he sharply rebuked them in menacing language, and swore he himself would lead them against the enemy. For this purpose he ordered a horse-litter to be made, in which he designed to be carried, for his infirmity would not suffer him to use any other sort of vehicle; and he charged them to be all ready to march against the enemy on the first opportunity. So, without[Pg 228] delay, the horse-litter and all his attendants were got ready, and the day arrived which had been appointed for their march.

Chap. XXIII.Octa and Eosa, with a great number of their men, are killed.

The king, therefore, being put into his vehicle, they marched directly to Verulam, where the Saxons were grievously oppressing the people. When Octa and Eosa had intelligence that the Britons were come, and that the king was brought in a horse-litter, they disdained to fight with him, saying, it would be a shame for such brave men to fight with one that was half dead. For which reason they retired into the city, and, as it were in contempt of any danger from the enemy, left their gates wide open. But Uther, upon information of this, instantly commanded his men to lay siege to the city, and assault the walls on all sides; which orders they strictly executed; and were just entering the breaches which they had made in the walls, and ready to begin a general assault, when the Saxons, seeing the advantages which the Britons had gained, and being forced to abate somewhat of their haughty pride, condescended so far as to put themselves into a posture of defence. They therefore mounted the walls, from whence they poured down showers of arrows, and repulsed the Britons. On both sides the contest continued till night released them from the fatigue of their arms, which was what many of the Britons desired, though the greater part of them were for having the matter quickly decided with the enemy. The Saxons, on the other hand, finding how prejudicial their own pride had been to them, and that the advantage was on the side of the Britons, resolved to make a sally at break of day, and try their fortune with the enemy in the open field; which accordingly was done. For no sooner was it daylight, than they marched out with this design, all in their proper ranks. The Britons, seeing them, divided their men into several bodies, and advancing towards them, began the attack first, their part being to assault, while the others were only upon the defensive. However, much blood was shed on both sides, and the greatest part of the day spent in the fight, when at last, Octa and Eosa being killed, the Saxons turned their backs, and left the Britons a[Pg 229] complete victory. The king at this was in such an ecstasy of joy, that whereas before he could hardly raise up himself without the help of others, he now without any difficulty sat upright in his horse-litter of himself, as if he was on a sudden restored to health; and said with a laughing and merry countenance, "These Ambrons called me the half-dead king, because my sickness obliged me to lie on a horse-litter; and indeed so I was. Yet victory to me half dead, is better than to be safe and sound and vanquished. For to die with honour, is preferable to living with disgrace."

Chap. XXIV.Uther, upon drinking spring water that was treacherously poisoned by the Saxons, dies.

The Saxons, notwithstanding this defeat, persisted still in their malice, and entering the northern provinces, without respite infested the people there. Uther's purpose was to have pursued them; but his princes dissuaded him from it because his illness had increased since the victory. This gave new courage to the enemy, who left nothing unattempted to make conquest of the kingdom. And now they have recourse to their former treacherous practices, and contrive how to compass the king's death by secret villainy. And because they could have no access to him otherwise, they resolved to take him off by poison; in which they succeeded. For while he was lying ill at Verulam, they sent away some spies in a poor habit, to learn the state of the court; and when they had thoroughly informed themselves of the posture of affairs, they found out an expedient by which they might best accomplish their villainy. For there was near the court a spring of very clear water, which the king used to drink of, when his distemper had made all other liquors nauseous to him. This the detestable conspirators made use of to destroy him, by so poisoning the whole mass of water which sprang up, that the next time the king drank of it, he was seized with sudden death, as were also a hundred other persons after him, till the villainy was discovered, and a heap of earth thrown over the well. As soon as the king's death was divulged, the bishops and clergy of the kingdom assembled, and carried his body to the convent of Ambrius, where they buried it with regal solemnity, close by Aurelius Ambrosius, within the Giant's Dance.[Pg 230]


Chap. I.Arthur succeeds Uther his father in the kingdom of Britain, and besieges Colgrin.

Uther Pendragon being dead, the nobility from several provinces assembled together at Silchester, and proposed to Dubricius, archbishop of Legions, that he should consecrate Arthur, Uther's son, to be their king. For they were now in great straits, because, upon hearing of the king's death, the Saxons had invited over their countrymen from Germany, and, under the command of Colgrin, were attempting to exterminate the whole British race. They had also entirely subdued all that part of the island which extends from the Humber to the sea of Caithness. Dubricius, therefore, grieving for the calamities of his country, in conjunction with the other bishops, set the crown upon Arthur's head. Arthur was then fifteen years old, but a youth of such unparalleled courage and generosity, joined with that sweetness of temper and innate goodness, as gained him universal love. When his coronation was over, he, according to usual custom, showed his bounty and munificence to the people. And such a number of soldiers flocked to him upon it, that his treasury was not able to answer that vast expense. But such a spirit of generosity, joined with valour, can never long want means to support itself. Arthur, therefore, the better to keep up his munificence, resolved to make use of his courage, and to fall upon the Saxons, that he might enrich his followers with their wealth. To this he was also moved by the justice of the cause, since the entire monarchy of Britain belonged to him by hereditary right. Hereupon assembling the youth under his command, he marched to York, of which, when Colgrin had intelligence, he met him with a very great army, composed of Saxons, Scots, and Picts, by the river Duglas; where a battle happened, with the loss of the greater part of both armies. Notwithstanding, the victory fell to Arthur, who pursued Colgrin to York, and there besieged him. Baldulph, upon the news of his brother's flight, went towards the siege with a body of six thousand men, to his relief; for at the time of the battle he was upon[Pg 231] the sea-coast, waiting the arrival of duke Cheldric with succours from Germany. And being now no more than ten miles distant from the city, his purpose was to make a speedy march in the night-time, and fall upon the enemy by way of surprise. But Arthur, having intelligence of his design, sent a detachment of six hundred horse, and three thousand foot, under the command of Cador, duke of Cornwall, to meet him the same night. Cador, therefore, falling into the same road along which the enemy was passing, made a sudden assault upon them, and entirely defeated the Saxons, and put them to flight. Baldulph was excessively grieved at this disappointment in the relief which he intended for his brother, and began to think of some other stratagem to gain access to him; in which if he could but succeed, he thought they might concert measures together for their safety. And since he had no other way for it, he shaved his head and beard, and put on the habit of a jester with a harp, and in this disguise walked up and down in the camp, playing upon his instrument as if he had been a harper. He thus passed unsuspected, and by a little and little went up to the walls of the city, where he was at last discovered by the besieged, who thereupon drew him up with cords, and conducted him to his brother. At this unexpected, though much desired meeting, they spent some time in joyfully embracing each other, and then began to consider various stratagems for their delivery. At last, just as they were considering their case desperate, the ambassadors returned from Germany, and brought with them to Albania a fleet of six hundred sail, laden with brave soldiers, under the command of Cheldric. Upon this news, Arthur was dissuaded by his council from continuing the siege any longer, for fear of hazarding a battle with so powerful and numerous an army.

Chap. II.Hoel sends fifteen thousand men to Arthur's assistance.

Arthur complied with their advice, and made his retreat to London, where he called an assembly of all the clergy and nobility of the kingdom, to ask their advice, what course to take against the formidable power of the pagans. After some deliberation, it was agreed that ambassadors should be despatched into Armorica, to king Hoel, to represent to him[Pg 232] the calamitous state of Britain. Hoel was the son of Arthur's sister by Dubricius, king of the Armorican Britons; so that, upon advice of the disturbances his uncle was threatened with, he ordered his fleet to be got ready, and, having assembled fifteen thousand men, he arrived with the first fair wind at Hamo's Port,[215] and was received with all suitable honour by Arthur, and most affectionately embraced by him.


[215] Southampton.

Chap. III.Arthur makes the Saxons his tributaries.

After a few days they went to relieve the city Kaerlindcoit, that was besieged by the pagans; which being situated upon a mountain, between two rivers in the province of Lindisia, is called by another name Lindocolinum.[216] As soon as they arrived there with all their forces, they fought with the Saxons, and made a grievous slaughter of them, to the number of six thousand; part of whom were drowned in the rivers, part fell by the hands of the Britons. The rest in a great consternation quitted the siege and fled, but were closely pursued by Arthur, till they came to the wood of Celidon, where they endeavoured to form themselves into a body again, and make a stand. And here they again joined battle with the Britons, and made a brave defence, whilst the trees that were in the place secured them against the enemies' arrows. Arthur, seeing this, commanded the trees that were in that part of the wood to be cut down, and the trunks to be placed quite round them, so as to hinder their getting out; resolving to keep them pent up here till he could reduce them by famine. He then commanded his troops to besiege the wood, and continued three days in that place. The Saxons, having now no provisions to sustain them, and being just ready to starve with hunger, begged for leave to go out; in consideration whereof they offered to leave all their gold and silver behind them, and return back to Germany with nothing but their empty ships. They promised also that they would pay him tribute from Germany, and leave hostages with him. Arthur, after consultation, about it, granted their petition; allowing them only leave to depart, and retaining all their treasures, as also hostages for[Pg 233] payment of the tribute. But as they were under sail on their return home, they repented of their bargain, and tacked about again towards Britain, and went on shore at Totness. No sooner were they landed, than they made an utter devastation of the country as far as the Severn sea, and put all the peasants to the sword. From thence they pursued their furious march to the town of Bath, and laid siege to it. When the king had intelligence of it, he was beyond measure surprised at their proceedings, and immediately gave orders for the execution of the hostages. And desisting from an attempt which he had entered upon to reduce the Scots and Picts, he marched with the utmost expedition to raise the siege; but laboured under very great difficulties, because he had left his nephew Hoel sick at Alclud. At length, having entered the province of Somerset, and beheld how the siege was carried on, he addressed himself to his followers in these words: "Since these impious and detestable Saxons have disdained to keep faith with me, I, to keep faith with God, will endeavour to revenge the blood of my countrymen this day upon them. To arms, soldiers, to arms, and courageously fall upon the perfidious wretches, over whom we shall, with Christ assisting us, undoubtedly obtain the victory."


[216] Lincoln.

Chap. IV.Dubricius's speech against the treacherous Saxons. Arthur with his own hand kills four hundred and seventy Saxons in one battle. Colgrin and Baldulph are killed in the same.

When he had done speaking, St. Dubricius, archbishop of Legions, going to the top of a hill, cried out with a loud voice, "You that have the honour to profess the Christian faith, keep fixed in your minds the love which you owe to your country and fellow subjects, whose sufferings by the treachery of the pagans will be an everlasting reproach to you, if you do not courageously defend them. It is your country which you fight for, and for which you should, when required, voluntarily suffer death; for that itself is victory and the cure of the soul. For he that shall die for his brethren, offers himself a living sacrifice to God, and has Christ for his example, who condescended to lay down his life for his brethren. If therefore any of you shall be killed in this war, that death itself, which is suffered in so glorious a[Pg 234] cause, shall be to him for penance and absolution of all his sins." At these words, all of them, encouraged with the benediction of the holy prelate, instantly armed themselves, and prepared to obey his orders. Also Arthur himself, having put on a coat of mail suitable to the grandeur of so powerful a king, placed a golden helmet upon his head, on which was engraven the figure of a dragon; and on his shoulders his shield called Priwen; upon which the picture of the blessed Mary, mother of God, was painted, in order to put him frequently in mind of her. Then girding on his Caliburn, which was an excellent sword made in the isle of Avallon, he graced his right hand with his lance, named Ron, which was hard, broad, and fit for slaughter. After this, having placed his men in order, he boldly attacked the Saxons, who were drawn out in the shape of a wedge, as their manner was. And they, notwithstanding that the Britons fought with great eagerness, made a noble defence all that day; but at length, towards sunsetting, climbed up the next mountain, which served them for a camp: for they desired no larger extent of ground, since they confided very much in their numbers. The next morning Arthur, with his army, went up the mountain, but lost many of his men in the ascent, by the advantage which the Saxons had in their station on the top, from whence they could pour down upon him with much greater speed, than he was able to advance against them. Notwithstanding, after a very hard struggle, the Britons gained the summit of the hill, and quickly came to a close engagement with the enemy, who again gave them a warm reception, and made a vigorous defence. In this manner was a great part of that day also spent; whereupon Arthur, provoked to see the little advantage he had yet gained, and that victory still continued in suspense, drew out his Caliburn, and, calling upon the name of the blessed Virgin, rushed forward with great fury into the thickest of the enemy's ranks; of whom (such was the merit of his prayers) not one escaped alive that felt the fury of his sword; neither did he give over the fury of his assault until he had, with his Caliburn alone, killed four hundred and seventy men. The Britons, seeing this, followed their leader in great multitudes, and made slaughter on all sides; so that Colgrin, and Baldulph his brother, and[Pg 235] many thousands more, fell before them. But Cheldric, in this imminent danger of his men, betook himself to flight.

Chap. V.The Saxons, after their leader Cheldric was killed, are all compelled by Cador to surrender.

The victory being thus gained, the king commanded Cador, duke of Cornwall, to pursue them, while he himself should hasten his march into Albania: from whence he had advice that the Scots and Picts were besieging Alclud, in which, as we said before, Hoel lay sick. Therefore he hastened to his assistance, for fear he might fall into the hands of the barbarians. In the meantime the duke of Cornwall, who had the command of ten thousand men, would not as yet pursue the Saxons in their flight, but speedily made himself master of their ships, to hinder their getting on board, and manned them with his best soldiers, who were to beat back the pagans in case they should flee thither: after this he hastily pursued the enemy, according to Arthur's command, and allowed no quarter to those he could overtake. So that they whose behaviour before was so cruel and insolent, now with timorous hearts fled for shelter, sometimes to the coverts of the woods, sometimes to mountains and caves, to prolong a wretched life. At last, when none of these places could afford them a safe retreat, they entered the Isle of Thanet with their broken forces; but neither did they there get free from the duke of Cornwall's pursuit, for he still continued slaughtering them, and gave them no respite till he had killed Cheldric, and taken hostages for the surrender of the rest.

Chap. VI.Arthur grants a pardon to the Scots and Picts, besieged at the Lake Lumond.

Having therefore settled peace here, he directed his march to Alclud, which Arthur had relieved from the oppression of barbarians, and from thence conducted his army to Mureif, where the Scots and Picts were besieged; after three several battles with the king and his nephew, they had fled as far as this province, and entering upon the lake Lumond, sought for refuge in the islands that are upon it. This lake contains sixty islands, and receives sixty rivers into it which[Pg 236] empty themselves into the sea by no more than one mouth. There is also an equal number of rocks in these islands, as also of eagles' nests in those rocks, which flocked together there every year, and, by the loud and general noise which they now made, foreboded some remarkable event that should happen to the kingdom. To these islands, therefore, had the enemy fled, thinking the lake would serve them instead of a fortification; but it proved of little advantage to them. For Arthur, having got together a fleet, sailed round the rivers, and besieged the enemy fifteen days together, by which they were so straitened with hunger, that they died by thousands. While he was harassing them in this manner Guillamurius, king of Ireland, came up in a fleet with a very great army of barbarians, in order to relieve the besieged. This obliged Arthur to raise the siege, and turn his arms against the Irish, whom he slew without mercy, and compelled the rest to return back to their country. After this victory, he proceeded in his first attempt, which was to extirpate the whole race of the Scots and Picts, and treated them with an unparalleled severity. And as he allowed quarter to none, the bishops of that miserable country, with all the inferior clergy, met together, and bearing the reliques of the saints and other consecrated things of the church before them, barefooted, came to implore the king's mercy for their people. As soon as they were admitted into his presence, they fell down upon their knees, and humbly besought him to have pity on their distressed country, since the sufferings which he had already made it undergo were sufficient; nor was there any necessity to cut off the small remainder to a man; and that he would allow them the enjoyment of a small part of the country, since they were willing to bear the yoke which he should impose upon them. The king was moved at the manner of their delivering this petition, and could not forbear expressing his clemency to them with tears; and at the request of those holy men, granted them pardon.

Chap. VII.Arthur relates the wonderful nature of some ponds.

This affair being concluded, Hoel had the curiosity to view the situation of the lake, and wondered to find the number of the rivers, islands, rocks, and eagles' nests, so exactly[Pg 237] correspond: and while he was reflecting upon it as something that appeared miraculous, Arthur came to him, and told him of another pond in the same province, which was yet more wonderful. For not far from thence was one whose length and breadth were each twenty feet, and depth five feet. But whether its square figure was natural or artificial, the wonder of it was, there were four different sorts of fishes in the four several corners of it, none of which were ever found in any other part of the pond but their own. He told him likewise of another pond in Wales, near the Severn, called by the country people Linligwan, into which when the sea flows, it receives it in the manner of a gulf, but so as to swallow up the tide, and never be filled, or have its banks covered by it. But at the ebbing of the sea, it throws out the waters which it had swallowed, as high as a mountain, and at last dashes and covers the banks with them. In the meantime, if all the people of that country should stand near with their faces towards it, and happened to have their clothes sprinkled with the dashing of the waves, they would hardly, if at all, escape being swallowed up by the pond. But with their backs towards it, they need not fear being dashed, though they stood upon the very banks.

Chap. VIII.Arthur restores York to its ancient beauty, especially as to its churches.

The king, after his general pardon granted to the Scots, went to York to celebrate the feast of Christ's nativity, which was now at hand. On entering the city, he beheld with grief the desolation of the churches; for upon the expulsion of the holy Archbishop Sanxo, and of all the clergy there, the temples which were half burned down, had no longer divine service performed in them: so much had the impious rage of the pagans prevailed. After this, in an assembly of the clergy and people, he appointed Pyramus his chaplain metropolitan of that see. The churches that lay level with the ground, he rebuilt, and (which was their chief ornament) saw them filled with assemblies of devout persons of both sexes. Also the nobility that were driven out by the disturbances of the Saxons, he restored to their country.[Pg 238]

Chap. IX.Arthur honours Augusel with the sceptre of the Scots; Urian with that of Mureif; and Lot with the consulship of Londonesia.

There were there three brothers of royal blood, viz. Lot, Urian, and Augusel, who, before the Saxons had prevailed, held the government of those parts. Being willing therefore to bestow on these, as he did on others, the rights of their ancestors, he restored to Augusel the sovereignty over the Scots; his brother Urian he honoured with the sceptre of Mureif; and Lot, who in time of Aurelius Ambrosius had married his sister, by whom he had two sons, Walgan and Modred, he re-established in the consulship of Londonesia, and the other provinces belonging to him. At length, when the whole country was reduced by him to its ancient state, he took to wife Guanhumara, descended from a noble family of Romans, who was educated under duke Cador, and in beauty surpassed all the women of the island.

Chap. X.Arthur adds to his government Ireland, Iceland, Gothland, and the Orkneys.

The next summer he fitted out a fleet, and made an expedition into Ireland, which he was desirous to reduce. Upon landing there, he was met by king Guillamurius before mentioned, with a vast number of men, who came with a design to fight him; but at the very beginning of the battle, those naked and unarmed people were miserably routed, and fled to such places as lay open to them for shelter. Guillamurius also in a short time was taken prisoner, and forced to submit; as were also all the other princes of the country after the king's example, being under great consternation at what had happened. After an entire conquest of Ireland, he made a voyage with his fleet to Iceland, which he also subdued. And now a rumour spreading over the rest of the islands, that no country was able to withstand him, Doldavius, king of Gothland, and Gunfasius, king of the Orkneys, came voluntarily, and made their submission, on a promise of paying tribute. Then, as soon as winter was over, he returned back to Britain, where having established the kingdom, he resided in it for twelve years together in peace.[Pg 239]

Chap. XI.Arthur subdues Norway, Dacia, Aquitaine, and Gaul.

After this, having invited over to him all persons whatsoever that were famous for valour in foreign nations, he began to augment the number of his domestics, and introduced such politeness into his court, as people of the remotest countries thought worthy of their imitation. So that there was not a nobleman who thought himself of any consideration, unless his clothes and arms were made in the same fashion as those of Arthur's knights. At length the fame of his munificence and valour spreading over the whole world, he became a terror to the kings of other countries, who grievously feared the loss of their dominions, if he should make any attempt upon them. Being much perplexed with these anxious cares, they repaired their cities and towers, and built towns in convenient places, the better to fortify themselves against any enterprise of Arthur, when occasion should require. Arthur, being informed of what they were doing, was delighted to find how much they stood in awe of him, and formed a design for the conquest of all Europe. Then having prepared his fleet, he first attempted Norway, that he might procure the crown of it for Lot, his sister's husband. This Lot was the nephew of Sichelin, king of the Norwegians, who being then dead, had appointed him his successor in the kingdom. But the Norwegians, disdaining to receive him, had advanced one Riculf to the sovereignty, and having fortified their cities, thought they were able to oppose Arthur. Walgan, the son of Lot, was then a youth twelve years old, and was recommended by his uncle to the service of pope Supplicius, from whom he received arms. But to return to the history: as soon as Arthur arrived on the coast of Norway, king Riculf, attended with the whole power of that kingdom, met him, and gave him battle, in which, after a great loss of blood on both sides, the Britons at length had the advantage, and making a vigorous charge, killed Riculf and many others with him. Having thus defeated them, they set the cities on fire, dispersed the country people, and pursued the victory till they had reduced all Norway, as also Dacia, under the dominion of Arthur. After the conquest of these countries, and establishment of Lot upon the throne of Norway, Arthur made a voyage to Gaul, and dividing his[Pg 240] army into several bodies, began to lay waste that country on all sides. The province of Gaul was then committed to Flollo, a Roman tribune, who held the government of it under the emperor Leo. Upon intelligence of Arthur's coming, he raised all the forces that were under his command, and made war against him, but without success. For Arthur was attended with the youth of all the islands that he had subdued; for which reason he was reported to have such an army as was thought invincible. And even the greater part of the Gallic army, encouraged by his bounty, came over to his service. Therefore Flollo, seeing the disadvantages he lay under, left his camp, and fled with a small number to Paris. There having recruited his army, he fortified the city, and resolved to stand another engagement with Arthur. But while he was thinking of strengthening himself with auxiliary forces in the neighbouring countries, Arthur came upon him unawares, and besieged him in the city. When a month had passed, Flollo, with grief observing his people perish with hunger, sent a message to Arthur, that they two alone should decide the conquest for the kingdom in a duel: for being a person of great stature, boldness and courage, he gave this challenge in confidence of success. Arthur was extremely pleased at Flollo's proposal, and sent him word back again, that he would give him the meeting which he desired. A treaty, therefore, being on both sides agreed to, they met together in the island without the city, where the people waited to see the event. They were both gracefully armed, and mounted on admirably swift horses; and it was hard to tell which gave greater hopes of victory. When they had presented themselves against each other with their lances aloft, they put spurs to their horses, and began a fierce encounter. But Arthur, who handled his lance more warily, struck it into the upper part of Flollo's breast, and avoiding his enemy's weapon, laid him prostrate upon the ground, and was just going to despatch him with his drawn sword, when Flollo, starting up on a sudden, met him with his lance couched, wherewith he mortally stabbed the breast of Arthur's horse, and caused both him and his rider to fall. The Britons, when they saw their king lying on the ground, fearing he was killed, could hardly be restrained from breach of covenant, and falling with one consent upon the Gauls[Pg 241] But just as they were upon rushing into the lists, Arthur hastily got up, and guarding himself with his shield, advanced with speed against Flollo. And now they renewed the assault with great rage, eagerly bent upon one another's destruction. At length Flollo, watching his advantage, gave Arthur a blow upon the forehead, which might have proved mortal, had he not blunted the edge of his weapon against the helmet. When Arthur saw his coat of mail and shield red with blood, he was inflamed with still greater rage, and lifting up his Caliburn with his utmost strength struck it through the helmet into Flollo's head, and made a terrible gash. With this wound Flollo fell down, tearing the ground with his spurs, and expired. As soon as this news was spread through the army, the citizens ran together, and opening the gates, surrendered the city to Arthur. After the victory, he divided his army into two parts; one of which he committed to the conduct of Hoel, whom he ordered to march against Guitard, commander of the Pictavians; while he with the other part should endeavour to reduce the other provinces. Hoel upon this entered Aquitaine, possessed himself of the cities of that country, and after distressing Guitard in several battles, forced him to surrender. He also destroyed Gascony with fire and sword, and subdued the princes of it. At the end of nine years, in which time all the parts of Gaul were entirely reduced, Arthur returned back to Paris, where he kept his court, and calling an assembly of the clergy and people, established peace and the just administration of the laws in that kingdom. Then he bestowed Neustria, now called Normandy, upon Bedver, his butler; the province of Andegavia upon Caius, his sewer; and several other provinces upon his great men that attended him. Thus having settled the peace of the cities and countries there, he returned back in the beginning of spring to Britain.[217]

[Pg 242]


[217] It is wonderful that the contents of this book should ever have passed for authentic history; our ancestors of the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries must have been singularly ignorant of every thing concerning the latter ages of the Roman empire, and the formation of the modern kingdoms of France and Germany, &c., if they could believe that king Arthur ever held his court in Paris.

Chap. XII.Arthur summons a great many kings, princes, archbishops, &c. to a solemn assembly at the City of Legions.

Upon the approach of the feast of Pentecost, Arthur, the better to demonstrate his joy after such triumphant success, and for the more solemn observation of that festival, and reconciling the minds of the princes that were now subject to him, resolved, during that season, to hold a magnificent court, to place the crown upon his head, and to invite all the kings and dukes under his subjection, to the solemnity. And when he had communicated his design to his familiar friends, he pitched upon the City of Legions as a proper place for his purpose. For besides its great wealth above the other cities, its situation, which was in Glamorganshire upon the river Uske, near the Severn sea, was most pleasant, and fit for so great a solemnity. For on one side it was washed by that noble river, so that the kings and princes from the countries beyond the seas might have the convenience of sailing up to it. On the other side, the beauty of the meadows and groves, and magnificence of the royal palaces with lofty gilded roofs that adorned it, made it even rival the grandeur of Rome. It was also famous for two churches; whereof one was built in honour of the martyr Julius, and adorned with a choir of virgins, who had devoted themselves wholly to the service of God; but the other, which was founded in memory of St. Aaron, his companion, and maintained a convent of canons, was the third metropolitan church of Britain. Besides, there was a college of two hundred philosophers, who, being learned in astronomy and the other arts, were diligent in observing the courses of the stars, and gave Arthur true predictions of the events that would happen at that time. In this place, therefore, which afforded such delights, were preparations made for the ensuing festival. Ambassadors were then sent into several kingdoms, to invite to court the princes both of Gaul and all the adjacent islands. Accordingly there came Augusel, king of Albania, now Scotland; Urian, king of Mureif; Cadwallo Lewirh, king of the Venedotians, now called the North Wales men; Sater, king of the Demetians, or South Wales men; Cador, king of Cornwall; also the archbishops of the three metropolitan sees, London, York, and Dubricius of the City of[Pg 243] Legions. This prelate, who was primate of Britain, and legate of the apostolical see, was so eminent for his piety, that he could cure any sick person by his prayers. There came also the consuls of the principal cities, viz. Morvid, consul of Gloucester; Mauron, of Worcester; Anaraut, of Salisbury; Arthgal, of Cargueit or Warguit; Jugein, of Legecester; Cursalen, of Kaicester; Kinmare, duke of Dorobernia; Galluc, of Salisbury; Urgennius, of Bath; Jonathal, of Dorchester; Boso, of Ridoc, that is, Oxford. Besides the consuls, came the following worthies of no less dignity: Danaut, Map papo; Cheneus, Map coil; Peredur, Mab eridur; Guiful, Map Nogoit; Regin, Map claut; Eddelein, Map cledauc; Kincar, Mab bagan; Kimmare; Gorboroniam, Map goit; Clofaut, Rupmaneton; Kimbelim, Map trunat; Cathleus, Map catel; Kinlich, Map neton; and many others too tedious to enumerate. From the adjacent islands came Guillamurius, king of Ireland; Malvasius, king of Iceland; Doldavius, king of Gothland; Gunfasius, king of the Orkneys; Lot, king of Norway; Aschillius, king of the Dacians. From the parts beyond the seas, came Holdin, king of Ruteni; Leodegarius, consul of Bolonia; Bedver, the butler, duke of Normandy; Borellus, of Cenomania; Caius, the sewer, duke of Andegavia; Guitard, of Pictavia; also the twelve peers of Gaul, whom Guerinus Carnotensis brought along with him: Hoel, duke of the Armorican Britons, and his nobility, who came with such a train of mules, horses, and rich furniture, as it is difficult to describe. Besides these, there remained no prince of any consideration on this side of Spain, who came not upon this invitation. And no wonder, when Arthur's munificence, which was celebrated over the whole world, made him beloved by all people.

Chap. XIII.A description of the royal pomp at the coronation of Arthur.

When all were assembled together in the city, upon the day of the solemnity, the archbishops were conducted to the palace, in order to place the crown upon the king's head. Therefore Dubricius, inasmuch as the court was kept in his diocese, made himself ready to celebrate the office, and[Pg 244] undertook the ordering of whatever related to it. As soon as the king was invested with his royal habiliments, he was conducted in great pomp to the metropolitan church, supported on each side by two archbishops, and having four kings, viz. of Albania, Cornwall, Demetia, and Venedotia, whose right it was, bearing four golden swords before him. He was also attended with a concert of all sorts of music, which made most excellent harmony. On another part was the queen, dressed out in her richest ornaments, conducted by the archbishops and bishops to the Temple of Virgins; the four queens also of the kings last mentioned, bearing before her four white doves according to ancient custom; and after her there followed a retinue of women, making all imaginable demonstrations of joy. When the whole procession was ended, so transporting was the harmony of the musical instruments and voices, whereof there was a vast variety in both churches, that the knights who attended were in doubt which to prefer, and therefore crowded from the one to the other by turns, and were far from being tired with the solemnity, though the whole day had been spent in it. At last, when divine service was over at both churches, the king and queen put off their crowns, and putting on their lighter ornaments, went to the banquet; he to one palace with the men, and she to another with the women. For the Britons still observed the ancient custom of Troy, by which the men and women used to celebrate their festivals apart. When they had all taken their seats according to precedence, Caius the sewer, in rich robes of ermine, with a thousand young noblemen, all in like manner clothed with ermine, served up the dishes. From another part, Bedver the butler was followed with the same number of attendants, in various habits, who waited with all kinds of cups and drinking vessels. In the queen's palace were innumerable waiters, dressed with variety of ornaments, all performing their respective offices; which if I should describe particularly, I should draw out the history to a tedious length. For at that time Britain had arrived at such a pitch of grandeur, that in abundance of riches, luxury of ornaments, and politeness of inhabitants, it far surpassed all other kingdoms. The knights in it that were famous for feats of chivalry, wore their clothes and arms all of the same colour and fashion:[Pg 245] and the women also no less celebrated for their wit, wore all the same kind of apparel; and esteemed none worthy of their love, but such as had given a proof of their valour in three several battles. Thus was the valour of the men an encouragement for the women's chastity, and the love of the women a spur to the soldier's bravery.

Chap. XIV.After a variety of sports at the coronation, Arthur amply rewards his servants.

As soon as the banquets were over, they went into the fields without the city, to divert themselves with various sports. The military men composed a kind of diversion in imitation of a fight on horseback; and the ladies, placed on the top of the walls as spectators, in a sportive manner darted their amorous glances at the courtiers, the more to encourage them. Others spent the remainder of the day in other diversions, such as shooting with bows and arrows, tossing the pike, casting of heavy stones and rocks, playing at dice and the like, and all these inoffensively and without quarrelling. Whoever gained the victory in any of these sports, was rewarded with a rich prize by Arthur. In this manner were the first three days spent; and on the fourth, all who, upon account of their titles, bore any kind of office at this solemnity, were called together to receive honours and preferments in reward of their services, and to fill up the vacancies in the governments of cities and castles, archbishoprics, bishoprics, abbeys, and other posts of honour.

Chap. XV.A letter from Lucius Tiberius, general of the Romans, to Arthur being read, they consult about an answer to it.

But St. Dubricius, from a pious desire of leading a hermit's life, made a voluntary resignation of his archiepiscopal dignity; and in his room was consecrated David, the king's uncle, whose life was a perfect example of that goodness which by his doctrine he taught. In place of St. Samson, archbishop of Dole, was appointed, with the consent of Hoel, king of the Armorican Britons, Chelianus, [Kilian] a priest of Llandaff, a person highly recommended for his good life and character. The bishopric of Silchester was conferred[Pg 246] upon Mauganius, that of Winchester upon Diwanius, and that of Alclud upon Eledanius. While he was disposing of these preferments upon them, it happened that twelve men of an advanced age, and venerable aspect, and bearing olive branches in their right hands, for a token that they were come upon an embassy, appeared before the king, moving towards him with a slow pace, and speaking with a soft voice; and after their compliments paid, presented him with a letter from Lucius Tiberius, in these words:—

"Lucius, procurator of the commonwealth, to Arthur, king of Britain, according to his desert. The insolence of your tyranny is what fills me with the highest admiration, and the injuries you have done to Rome still increase my wonder. But it is provoking to reflect, that you are grown so much above yourself, as wilfully to avoid seeing this: nor do you consider what it is to have offended by unjust deeds a senate, to whom you cannot be ignorant the whole world owes vassalage. For the tribute of Britain, which the senate had enjoined you to pay, and which used to be paid to the Roman emperors successively from the time of Julius Cæsar, you have had the presumption to withhold, in contempt of their imperial authority. You have seized upon the province of the Allobroges, and all the islands of the ocean, whose kings, while the Roman power prevailed in those parts, paid tribute to our ancestors. And because the senate have decreed to demand justice of you for such repeated injuries, I command you to appear at Rome before the middle of August the next year, there to make satisfaction to your masters, and undergo such sentence as they shall in justice pass upon you. Which if you refuse to do, I shall come to you, and endeavour to recover with my sword, what you in your madness have robbed us of."

As soon as the letter was read in the presence of the kings and consuls, Arthur withdrew with them into the Giant's Tower, which was at the entrance of the palace, to think what answer was fit to be returned to such an insolent message. As they were going up the stairs, Cador, duke of Cornwall, who was a man of a merry disposition, said to the king in a jocose manner: "I have been till now under fear, lest the easy life which the Britons lead, by enjoying a long peace, might make them cowards, and extinguish the fame of[Pg 247] their gallantry, by which they have raised their name above all other nations. For where the exercise of arms is wanting, and the pleasures of women, dice, and other diversions take place, no doubt, what remains of virtue, honour, courage, and thirst of praise, will be tainted with the rust of idleness. For now almost five years have passed, since we have been abandoned to these delights, and have had no exercise of war. Therefore, to deliver us from sloth, God has stirred up this spirit of the Romans, to restore our military virtues to their ancient state." In this manner did he entertain them with discourse, till they were come to their seats, on which when they were all placed, Arthur spoke to them after this manner.

Chap. XVI.Arthur, holding a council with the kings, desires every one of them to deliver their opinions.

"My companions both in good and bad fortune, whose abilities both in counsel and war I have hitherto experienced; the present exigence of affairs, after the message which we have received, requires your careful deliberation and prudent resolutions; for whatever is wisely concerted, is easily executed. Therefore we shall be the better able to bear the annoyance which Lucius threatens to give us, if we unanimously apply ourselves to consider how to overcome it. In my opinion we have no great reason to fear him, when we reflect upon the unjust pretence on which he demands tribute of us. He says he has a right to it, because it was paid to Julius Cæsar, and his successors, who invaded Britain with an army at the invitation of the ancient Britons, when they were quarrelling among themselves, and by force reduced the country under their power, when weakened by civil dissension. And because they gained it in this manner, they had the injustice to take tribute of it. For that can never be possessed justly, which is gained by force and violence. So that he has no reasonable grounds to pretend we are of right his tributaries. But since he has the presumption to make an unjust demand of us, we have certainly as good reason to demand of him tribute from Rome; let the longer sword therefore determine the right between us. For if Rome has decreed that tribute ought to be paid to it[Pg 248] from Britain, on account of its having been formerly under the yoke of Julius Cæsar, and other Roman emperors; I for the same reason now decree, that Rome ought to pay tribute to me, because my predecessors formerly held the government of it. For Belinus, that glorious king of the Britons, with the assistance of his brother Brennus, duke of the Allobroges, after they had hanged up twenty noble Romans in the middle of the market-place, took their city, and kept possession of it a long time. Likewise Constantine, the son of Helena, and Maximian [Maximus], who were both my kinsmen, and both wore the crown of Britain, gained the imperial throne of Rome. Do not you, therefore, think that we ought to demand tribute of the Romans? As for Gaul and the adjacent islands of the ocean, we have no occasion to return them any answer, since they did not defend them, when we attempted to free them from their power." As soon as he had done speaking to this effect, Hoel, king of the Armorican Britons, who had the precedence of the rest, made answer in these words.

Chap. XVII.The opinion of Hoel, king of Armorica, concerning a war with the Romans.

"After the most profound deliberation that any of us shall be able to make, I think better advice cannot be given, than what your majesty in your great wisdom and policy now offers. Your speech, which is no less wise than eloquent, has superseded all consultation on our part; and nothing remains for us to do, but to admire and gratefully acknowledge your majesty's firmness of mind, and depth of policy, to which we owe such excellent advice. For if upon this motive you are pleased to make an expedition to Rome, I doubt not but it will be crowned with glorious success; since it will be undertaken for the defence of our liberties, and to demand justly of our enemies, what they have unjustly demanded of us. For that person who would rob another, deserves to lose his own by him against whom the attempt is made. And, therefore, since the Romans threatened us with this injury, it will undoubtedly turn to their own loss, if we can have but an opportunity of engaging with them. This is what the Britons universally desire; this is what we have promised us in the Sibylline prophecies, which expressly declare, that the Roman empire shall be[Pg 249] obtained by three persons, natives of Britain. The oracle is fulfilled in two of them, since it is manifest (as your majesty observed) that those two celebrated princes, Belinus and Constantine, governed the Roman empire: and now you are the third to whom this supreme dignity is promised. Make haste, therefore, to receive what God makes no delay to give you; to subdue those who are ready to receive your yoke; and to advance us all, who for your advancement will spare neither limbs nor life. And that you may accomplish this, I myself will attend you in person with ten thousand men."

Chap. XVIII.The opinion of Augusel.

When Hoel concluded his speech, Augusel, king of Albania, declared his good affection to the cause after this manner. "I am not able to express the joy that has transported me, since my lord has declared to us his designs. For we seem to have done nothing by all our past wars with so many and potent princes, if the Romans and Germans be suffered to enjoy peace, and we do not severely revenge on them the grievous oppressions which they formerly brought upon this country. But now, since we are at liberty to encounter them, I am overwhelmed with joy and eagerness of desire, to see a battle with them, when the blood of those cruel oppressors will be no less acceptable to me than a spring of water is to one who is parched with thirst. If I shall but live to see that day, how sweet will be the wounds which I shall then either receive or give? Nay, how sweet will be even death itself, when suffered in revenging the injuries done to our ancestors, in defending our liberties, and in promoting the glory of our king! Let us then begin with these poltroons, and spoil them of all their trophies, by making an entire conquest of them. And I for my share will add to the army two thousand horse, besides foot."

Chap. XIX.They unanimously agree upon a war with the Romans.

To the same effect spoke all the rest, and promised each of them their full quota of forces; so that besides those promised by the duke of Armorica, the number of men from the island of Britain alone was sixty thousand, all completely armed. But the kings of the other islands, as they[Pg 250] had not been accustomed to any cavalry, promised their quota of infantry; and, from the six provincial islands, viz. Ireland, Iceland, Gothland, the Orkneys, Norway, and Dacia, were reckoned a hundred and twenty thousand. From the duchies of Gaul, that is, of the Ruteni, the Portunians, the Estrusians, the Cenomanni, the Andegavians, and Pictavians, were eighty thousand. From the twelve consulships of those who came along with Guerinus Carnotensis, twelve hundred. All together made up a hundred and eighty-three thousand two hundred, besides foot which did not easily fall under number.

Chap. XX.Arthur prepares for a war, and refuses to pay tribute to the Romans.

King Arthur, seeing all unanimously ready for his service, ordered them to return back to their countries with speed, and get ready the forces which they had promised, and to hasten to the general rendezvous upon the kalends of August, at the mouth of the river Barba, that from thence they might advance with them to the borders of the Allobroges, to meet the Romans. Then he sent word to the emperors by their ambassadors; that as to paying them tribute, he would in no wise obey their commands; and that the journey he was about to make to Rome, was not to stand the award of their sentence, but to demand of them what they had judicially decreed to demand of him. With this answer the ambassadors departed; and at the same time also departed all the kings and noblemen, to perform with all expedition the orders that had been given them.


Chap. I.Lucius Tiberius calls together the eastern kings against the Britons.

Lucius Tiberius, on receiving this answer, by order of the senate published a decree, for the eastern kings to come with their forces, and assist in the conquest of Britain. In obe[Pg 251]dience to which there came in a very short time, Epistrophius, king of the Grecians; Mustensar, king of the Africans; Alifantinam, king of Spain; Hirtacius, king of the Parthians; Boccus, of the Medes; Sertorius, of Libya; Teucer, king of Phrygia; Serses, king of the Itureans; Pandrasus, king of Egypt; Micipsa, king of Babylon; Polytetes, duke of Bithynia; Teucer, duke of Phrygia; Evander, of Syria; Æthion, of Bœotia; Hippolytus, of Crete, with the generals and nobility under them. Of the senatorian order also came, Lucius Catellus, Marius Lepidus, Caius Metellus Cotta, Quintus Milvius Catulus, Quintus Carutius, and as many others as made up the number of forty thousand one hundred and sixty.[218]


[218] It is almost unnecessary to inform the reader that not one of these kings ever existed; and yet this caution may be of use, so prone are men to indulge the bias of the imagination at the expense of historic truth.

Chap. II.—Arthur commits to his nephew Modred the government of Britain. His dream at Hamo's Port.

After the necessary dispositions were made, upon the kalends of August, they began their march towards Britain, which when Arthur had intelligence of, he committed the government of the kingdom to his nephew Modred, and queen Guanhumara, and marched with his army to Hamo's Port, where the wind stood fair for him. But while he, surrounded with all his numerous fleet, was sailing joyfully with a brisk gale, it happened that about midnight he fell into a very sound sleep, and in a dream saw a bear flying in the air, at the noise of which all the shores trembled; also a terrible dragon flying from the west, which enlightened the country with the brightness of its eyes. When these two met, they began a dreadful fight; but the dragon with its fiery breath burned the bear which often assaulted him, and threw him down scorched to the ground. Arthur upon this awaking, related his dream to those that stood about him, who took upon them to interpret it, and told him that the dragon signified himself, but the bear, some giant that should encounter with him; and that the fight portended the duel that would be between them, and the dragon's victory the same that would happen to himself. But Arthur conjec[Pg 252]tured it portended something else, and that the vision was applicable to himself and the emperor. As soon as the morning after this night's sail appeared, they found themselves arrived at the mouth of the river Barba. And there they pitched their tents, to wait the arrival of the kings of the islands and the generals of the other provinces.

Chap. III.Arthur kills a Spanish giant who had stolen away Helena, the niece of Hoel.

In the meantime Arthur had news brought him, that a giant of monstrous size was come from the shores of Spain, and had forcibly taken away Helena, the niece of duke Hoel, from her guard, and fled with her to the top of that which is now called Michael's Mount;[219] and that the soldiers of the country who pursued him were able to do nothing against him. For whether they attacked him by sea or land, he either overturned their ships with vast rocks, or killed them with several sorts of darts, besides many of them that he took and devoured half alive. The next night, therefore, at the second hour, Arthur, taking along with him Caius the sewer, and Bedver the butler, went out privately from the camp, and hastened towards the mountain. For being a man of undaunted courage, he did not care to lead his army against such monsters; both because he could in this manner animate his men by his own example, and also because he was alone sufficient to deal with them. As soon as they came near the mountain, they saw a fire burning upon the top of it, and another on a lesser mountain, that was not far from it. And being in doubt upon which of them the giant dwelt, they sent away Bedver to know the certainty of the matter. So he, finding a boat, sailed over in it first to the lesser mountain, to which he could in no other way have access, because it was situated in the sea. When he had begun to climb up to the top of it, he was at first frightened with a dismal howling cry of a woman from above, and imagined the monster to be there: but quickly rousing up his courage, he drew his sword, and having reached the top,[Pg 253] found nothing but the fire which he had before seen at a distance. He discovered also a grave newly made, and an old woman weeping and howling by it, who at the sight of him instantly cried out in words interrupted with sighs, "O, unhappy man, what misfortune brings you to this place? O the inexpressible tortures of death that you must suffer! I pity you, I pity you, because the detestable monster will this night destroy the flower of your youth. For that most wicked and odious giant, who brought the duke's niece, whom I have just now buried here, and me, her nurse, along with her into this mountain, will come and immediately murder you in a most cruel manner. O deplorable fate! This most illustrious princess, sinking under the fear her tender heart conceived, while the foul monster would have embraced her, fainted away and expired. And when he could not satiate his brutish lust upon her, who was the very soul, joy, and happiness of my life, being enraged at the disappointment of his bestial desire, he forcibly committed a rape upon me, who (let God and my old age witness) abhorred his embraces. Fly, dear sir, fly, for fear he may come, as he usually does, to lie with me, and finding you here most barbarously butcher you." Bedver, moved at what she said, as much as it is possible for human nature to be, endeavoured with kind words to assuage her grief, and to comfort her with the promise of speedy help: and then returned back to Arthur, and gave him an account of what he had met with. Arthur very much lamented the damsel's sad fate, and ordered his companions to leave him to deal with him alone; unless there was an absolute necessity, and then they were to come in boldly to his assistance. From hence they went directly to the next mountain, leaving their horses with their armour-bearers, and ascended to the top, Arthur leading the way. The deformed savage was then by the fire, with his face besmeared with the clotted blood of swine, part of which he already devoured, and was roasting the remainder upon spits by the fire. But at the sight of them, whose appearance was a surprise to him, he hastened to his club, which two strong men could hardly lift from the ground. Upon this the king drew his sword, and guarding himself with his shield, ran with all his speed to prevent his getting it. But the other, who was not ignorant of his design, had by this[Pg 254] time snatched it up, and gave the king such a terrible blow upon his shield, that he made the shores ring with the noise, and perfectly stunned the king's ears with it. Arthur, fired with rage at this, lifted up his sword, and gave him a wound in the forehead, which was not indeed mortal, but yet such as made the blood gush out over his face and eyes, and so blinded him; for he had partly warded off the stroke from his forehead with his club, and prevented its being fatal. However, his loss of sight, by reason of the blood flowing over his eyes, made him exert himself with greater fury, and like an enraged boar against a hunting-spear, so did he rush in against Arthur's sword, and grasping him about the waist, forced him down upon his knees. But Arthur, nothing daunted, slipped out of his hands, and so exerted himself with his sword, that he gave the giant no respite till he had struck it up to the very back through his skull. At this the hideous monster raised a dreadful roar, and like an oak torn up from the roots by the winds, so did he make the ground resound with his fall. Arthur, bursting out into a fit of laughter at the sight, commanded Bedver to cut off his head, and give it to one of the armour-bearers, who was to carry it to the camp, and there expose it to public view, but with orders for the spectators of this combat to keep silence. He told them he had found none of so great strength, since he killed the giant Ritho, who had challenged him to fight, upon the mountain Aravius. This giant had made himself furs of the beards of kings he had killed, and had sent word to Arthur carefully to cut off his beard and send it to him; and then, out of respect to his pre-eminence over other kings, his beard should have the honour of the principal place. But if he refused to do it, he challenged him to a duel, with this offer, that the conqueror should have the furs, and also the beard of the vanquished for a trophy of his victory. In his conflict, therefore, Arthur proved victorious, and took the beard and spoils of the giant: and, as he said before, had met with none that could be compared to him for strength, till his last engagement. After this victory, they returned at the second watch of the night to the camp with the head; to see which there was a great concourse of people, all extolling this wonderful exploit of Arthur, by which he had freed the country from a most destructive and[Pg 255] voracious monster. But Hoel, in great grief for the loss of his niece, commanded a mausoleum to be built over her body in the mountain where she was buried, which, taking the damsel's name, is called Helena's Tomb to this day.


[219] This most romantic and interesting rock is crowned by a singularly quaint structure, half monastic and half castellated. It must have been a place of great strength before the invention of powder, and contains some curious rooms, a dungeon and other remains of feudality.

Chap. IV. Arthur's ambassadors to Lucius Tiberius deliver Pelreius Cotta, whom they took prisoner to Arthur.

As soon as all the forces were arrived which Arthur expected, he marched from thence to Augustodunum, where he supposed the general was. But when he came to the river Alba, he had intelligence brought him of his having encamped not far off, and that he was come with so vast an army, that he would not be able to withstand it. However, this did not deter him from pursuing his enterprise; but he pitched his camp upon the bank of the river, to facilitate the bringing up of his forces, and to secure his retreat, if there should be occasion; and sent Boso the consul of Oxford, and Guerinus Carnotensis, with his nephew Walgan, to Lucius Tiberius, requiring him either to retire from the coasts of Gaul, or come the next day, that they might try their right to that country with their swords. The retinue of young courtiers that attended Walgan, highly rejoicing at this opportunity, were urgent with him to find some occasion for a quarrel in the commander's camp, that so they might engage the Romans. Accordingly they went to Lucius, and commanded him to retire out of Gaul, or hazard a battle the next day. But while he was answering them, that he was not come to retire, but to govern the country, there was present Caius Quintilianus, his nephew, who said, "That the Britons were better at boasting and threatening, than they were at fighting." Walgan immediately took fire at this, and ran upon him with his drawn sword, wherewith he cut off his head, and then retreated speedily with his companions to their horses. The Romans, both horse and foot, pursued to revenge the loss of their countryman upon the ambassadors, who fled with great precipitation. But Guerinus Carnotensis, just as one of them was come up to him, rallied on a sudden, and with his lance struck at once through his armour and the very middle of his body, and laid him prostrate on the ground. The sight of this noble exploit raised the emulation of Boso of Oxford, who, wheeling about his horse, struck his lance into[Pg 256] the throat of the first man he met with, and dismounted him mortally wounded. In the meantime, Marcellus Mutius, with great eagerness to revenge Quintilian's death, was just upon the back of Walgan, and laid hold of him; which the other quickly obliged him to quit, by cleaving both his helmet and head to the breast with his sword. He also bade him, when he arrived at the infernal regions, tell the man he had killed in the camp, "That in this manner the Britons showed their boasting and threatening." Then having re-assembled his men, he encouraged them to despatch every one his pursuer in the same manner as he had done; which accordingly they did not fail to accomplish. Notwithstanding, the Romans continued their pursuit with lances and swords, wherewith they annoyed the others, though without slaughter or taking any prisoners. But as they came near a certain wood, a party of six thousand Britons, who seeing the flight of the consuls, had hid themselves, to be in readiness for their assistance, sallied forth, and putting spurs to their horses, rent the air with their loud shouts, and being well fenced with their shields, assaulted the Romans suddenly, and forced them to fly. And now it was the Britons' turn to pursue, which they did with better success, for they dismounted, killed, or took several of the enemy. Petreius, the senator, upon this news, hastened to the assistance of his countrymen with ten thousand men, and compelled the Britons to retreat to the wood from whence they had sallied forth; though not without loss of his own men. For the Britons, being well acquainted with the ground, in their flight killed a great number of their pursuers. The Britons thus giving ground, Hider, with another reinforcement of five thousand men, advanced with speed to sustain them; so that they again faced those, upon whom they had turned their backs, and renewed the assault with great vigour. The Romans also stood their ground, and continued the fight with various success. The great fault of the Britons was, that though they had been very eager to begin the fight, yet when begun they were less careful of the hazard they ran. Whereas the Romans were under better discipline, and had the advantage of a prudent commander, Petreius Cotta, to tell them where to advance, and where to give ground, and by these means did great injury to the enemy. When Boso observed this,[Pg 257] he drew off from the rest a large party of those whom he knew to be the stoutest men, and spoke to them after this manner: "Since we have begun this fight without Arthur's knowledge, we must take care that we be not defeated in the enterprise. For, if we should, we shall both very much endanger our men, and incur the king's high displeasure. Rouse up your courage, and follow me through the Roman squadrons, that with the favour of good fortune we may either kill or take Petreius prisoner." With this they put spurs to their horses, and piercing through the enemies' thickest ranks, reached the place where Petreius was giving his commands. Boso hastily ran in upon him, and grasping him about the neck, fell with him to the ground, as he had intended. The Romans hereupon ran to his delivery, as did the Britons to Boso's assistance; which occasioned on both sides great slaughter, noise, and confusion, while one party strove to rescue their leader, and the other to keep him prisoner. So that this proved the sharpest part of the whole fight, and wherein their spears, swords, and arrows had the fullest employment. At length, the Britons, joining in a close body, and sustaining patiently the assaults of the Romans, retired to the main body of their army with Petreius: which they had no sooner done, than they again attacked them, being now deprived of their leader, very much weakened, dispirited, and just beginning to flee. They, therefore, eagerly pursued, beat down, and killed several of them, and as soon as they had plundered them, pursued the rest: but they took the greatest number of them prisoners, being desirous to present them to the king. When they had at last sufficiently harassed them, they returned with their plunder and prisoners to the camp; where they gave an account of what had happened, and presented Petreius Cotta with the other prisoners before Arthur, with great joy for the victory. Arthur congratulated them upon it, and promised them advancement to greater honours, for behaving themselves so gallantly when he was absent from them. Then he gave his command to some of his men, to conduct the prisoners the next day to Paris, and deliver them to be kept in custody there till further orders. The party that were to undertake this charge, he ordered to be conducted by Cador, Bedver, and the two consuls, Borellus and Rich[Pg 258]erius, with their servants, till they should be out of all fear of disturbance from the Romans.

Chap. V.The Romans attack the Britons with a very great force, but are put to flight by them.

But the Romans, happening to get intelligence of their design, at the command of their general chose out fifteen thousand men, who that night were to get before the others in their march, and rescue their fellow soldiers out of their hands. They were to be commanded by Vulteius Catellus and Quintus Carutius, senators, as also Evander, king of Syria, and Sertorius, king of Libya. Accordingly they began their march that very night, and possessed themselves of a place convenient for lying in ambuscade, through which they supposed the others would pass. In the morning the Britons set forward along the same road with their prisoners, and were now approaching the place in perfect ignorance of the cunning stratagem of the enemy. No sooner had they entered it, than the Romans, to their great surprise, sprang forth and fell furiously upon them. Notwithstanding, the Britons, at length recovering from their consternation, assembled together, and prepared for a bold opposition, by appointing a party to guard the prisoners, and drawing out the rest in order of battle against the enemy. Richerius and Bedver had the command of the party that were set over the prisoners; but Cador, duke of Cornwall, and Borellus headed the others. But all the Romans had made their sally without being placed in any order, and cared not to form themselves, that they might lose no time in the slaughter of the Britons, whom they saw busied in marshalling their troops, and preparing only for their defence. By this conduct the Britons were extremely weakened, and would have shamefully lost their prisoners, had not good fortune rendered them assistance. For Guitard, commander of the Pictavians, happened to get information of the designed stratagem, and was come up with three thousand men, by the help of which they at last got the advantage, and paid back the slaughter upon their insolent assailants. Nevertheless, the loss which they sustained at the beginning of this action was very considerable. For they[Pg 259] lost Borellus, the famous consul of the Cenomanni, in an encounter with Evander, king of Syria, who stuck his lance into his throat; besides four noblemen, viz. Hirelgas Deperirus, Mauricius Cadorcanensis, Aliduc of Tintagel, and Hider his son, than whom braver men were hardly to be found. But yet neither did this loss dispirit the Britons, but rather made them more resolute to keep the prisoners, and kill the enemy. The Romans, now finding themselves unable to maintain the fight any longer, suddenly quitted the field, and made towards their camp; but were pursued with slaughter by the Britons, who also took many of them, and allowed them no respite till they had killed Vulteius Catellus and Evander, king of Syria, and wholly dispersed the rest. After which they sent away their former prisoners to Paris, whither they were to conduct them, and returned back with those newly taken to the king; to whom they gave great hopes of a complete conquest of their enemies, since very few of the great number that came against them had met with any success.

Chap. VI.Lucius Tiberius goes to Lengriæ. Arthur, designing to vanquish him, by a stratagem possesses himself of the valley of Suesia.

These repeated disasters wrought no small disturbance in the mind of Lucius Tiberius, and made him hesitate whether to bring it to a general battle with Arthur, or to retire into Augustodunum, and stay till the emperor Leo with his forces could come to his assistance. At length, giving way to his fears, he entered Lengriæ with his army, intending to reach the other city the night following. Arthur, finding this, and being desirous to get before him in his march, left the city on the left hand, and the same night entered a certain valley called Suesia, through which Lucius was to pass. There he divided his men into several bodies, commanding one legion, over which Morvid, consul of Gloucester, was appointed general, to wait close by, that he might retreat to them if there should be occasion, and from thence rally his broken forces for a second battle. The rest he divided into seven parts, in each of which he placed five thousand five hundred and fifty-five men, all completely armed. He also appointed different stations to his horse and foot, and gave command[Pg 260] that just as the foot should advance to the attack, the horse, keeping close together in their ranks, should at the same moment march up obliquely, and endeavour to put the enemy into disorder. The companies of foot were, after the British manner, drawn out into a square, with a right and left wing, under the command of Augusel, king of Albania, and Cador, duke of Cornwall; the one presiding over the right wing, the other over the left. Over another party were placed the two famous consuls, Guerinus of Chartres and Boso of Richiden, called in the Saxon tongue Oxineford; over a third were Aschillius, king of the Dacians, and Lot, king of the Norwegians; the fourth being commanded by Hoel, duke of the Armoricans, and Walgan, the king's nephew. After these were four other parties placed in the rear; the first commanded by Caius the sewer, and Bedver the butler; the second by Holdin, duke of the Ruteni, and Guitard of the Pictavians; the third by Vigenis of Legecester, Jonathal of Dorchester, and Cursalem of Caicester; the fourth by Urbgennius of Bath. Behind all these, Arthur, for himself and the legion that was to attend near him, made choice of a place, where he set up a golden dragon for a standard, whither the wounded or fatigued might in case of necessity retreat, as into their camp. The legion that was with him consisted of six thousand six hundred and sixty-six men.

Chap. VII.Arthur's exhortation to his soldiers.

After he had thus placed them all in their stations, he made the following speech to his soldiers:—"My brave countrymen, who have made Britain the mistress of thirty kingdoms, I congratulate you upon your late noble exploit, which to me is a proof that your valour is so far from being impaired, that it is rather increased. Though you have been five years without exercise, wherein the softening pleasures of an easy life had a greater share of your time than the use of arms; yet all this has not made you degenerate from your natural bravery, which you have shown in forcing the Romans to flee. The pride of their leaders has animated them to attempt the invasion of your liberties. They have tried you in battle, with numbers superior to[Pg 261] yours, and have not been able to stand before you; but have basely withdrawn themselves into that city, from which they are now ready to march out, and to pass through this valley in their way to Augustodunum; so that you may have an opportunity of falling upon them unawares like a flock of sheep. Certainly they expected to find in you the cowardice of the Eastern nations, when they thought to make your country tributary, and you their slaves. What, have they never heard of your wars, with the Dacians, Norwegians, and princes of the Gauls, whom you reduced under my power, and freed from their shameful yoke? We, then, that have had success in a greater war, need not doubt of it in a less, if we do but endeavour with the same spirit to vanquish these poltroons. You shall want no rewards of honour, if as faithful soldiers you do but strictly obey my commands. For as soon as we have routed them, we will march straight to Rome, and take it; and then all the gold, silver, palaces, towers, towns, cities, and other riches of the vanquished shall be yours." He had hardly done speaking before they all with one voice declared, that they were ready to suffer death, rather than quit the field while he had life.

Chap. VIII.Lucius Tiberius, discovering Arthur's design, in a speech animates his followers to fight.

But Lucius Tiberius, discovering the designs that were formed against him, would not flee, as he had at first intended, but taking new courage, resolved to march to the same valley against them; and calling together his principal commanders, spoke to them in these words:—"Venerable fathers, to whose empire both the Eastern and Western kingdoms owe obedience, remember the virtues of your ancestors, who were not afraid to shed their blood, when the vanquishing of the enemies of the commonwealth required it; but to leave an example of their courage and military virtues to their posterity, behaved themselves in all battles with that contempt of death, as if God had given them some security against it. By this conduct they often triumphed, and by triumphing escaped death. Such was the reward of their virtue from Divine Providence, which overrules all events. The increase of the commonwealth, and of their[Pg 262] own valour was owing to this; and all those virtues that usually adorn the great, as integrity, honour, and munificence, flourishing a long time in them, raised them and their posterity to the empire of the whole world. Let their noble examples animate you: rouse up the spirit of the ancient Romans, and be not afraid to march out against our enemies that are lying in ambush before us in the valley, but boldly with your swords demand of them your just rights. Do not think that I retired into this city for fear of engaging with them; but I thought that, as their pursuit of us was rash and foolish, so we might hence on a sudden intercept them in it, and by dividing their main body make a great slaughter of them. But now, since they have altered the measures which we supposed they had taken, let us also alter ours. Let us go in quest of them and bravely fall upon them; or if they shall happen to have the advantage in the beginning of the battle, let us only stand our ground during the fury of their first assault, and the victory will undoubtedly be ours; for in many battles this manner of conduct has been attended with victory." As soon as he had made an end of speaking these and other things, they all declared their assent, promised with an oath to stand by him, and hastened to arm themselves. Which when they had done, they marched out of Lengriæ to the valley where Arthur had drawn out his forces in order of battle. Then they also began to marshal their army, which they divided into twelve companies, and according to the Roman manner of battle, drew out each company into the form of a wedge, consisting of six thousand six hundred and sixty-six men. Each company also had its respective leaders, who were to give direction when to advance, or when to be upon the defensive. One of them was headed by Lucius Catellus the senator, and Alifantinam, king of Spain; another by Hirtacius, king of the Parthians, and Marius Lepidus, a senator; a third by Boccus, king of the Medes, and Caius Metellus, a senator; a fourth by Sertorius, king of Libya, and Quintus Milvius, a senator. These four companies were placed in the front of the army. In the rear of these were four others, whereof one was commanded by Serses, king of the Itureans; another by Pandrasus, king of Egypt; a third by Polytetes, duke of Bithynia; a fourth by Teucer, duke of[Pg 263] Phrygia. And again behind all these four others, whereof the commanders were Quintus Carucius, a senator, Lælius Ostiensis, Sulpitius Subuculus, and Mauricius Sylvanus. As for the general himself, he was sometimes in one place, sometimes another, to encourage and direct as there should be occasion. For a standard he ordered a golden eagle to be firmly set up in the centre, for his men to repair to whenever they should happen to be separated from their company.

Chap. IX.A battle between Arthur and Lucius Tiberius.

And now the Britons and Romans stood presenting their arms at one another; when forthwith at the sound of the trumpets, the company that was headed by the king of Spain and Lucius Catellus, boldly rushed forward against that which the king of Scotland and duke of Cornwall led, but were not able to make the least breach in their firm ranks. So that while these stood their ground, up came Guerinus and Boso with a body of horse upon their full speed, broke through the party that began the assault, and met with another which the king of the Parthians was leading up against Aschillius, king of Dacia. After this first onset, there followed a general engagement of both armies with great violence, and several breaches were made on each side. The shouts, the slaughter, the quantity of blood spilled, and the agonies of the dying, made a dreadful scene of horror. At first, the Britons sustained a great loss, by having Bedver the butler killed, and Caius the sewer mortally wounded. For, as Bedver met Boccus, king of the Medes, he fell dead by a stab of his lance amidst the enemies' troops. And Caius, in endeavouring to revenge his death, was surrounded by the Median troops, and there received a mortal wound, yet as a brave soldier he opened himself a way with the wing which he led, killed and dispersed the Medes, and would have made a safe retreat with all his men, had he not met the king of Libya with the forces under him, who put his whole company into disorder; yet not so great, but that he was still able to get off with a few, and flee with Bedver's corps to the golden dragon. The Neustrians grievously lamented at the sight of their leader's mangled body; and so[Pg 264] did the Andegavians, when they beheld their consul wounded. But there was now no room for complaints, for the furious and bloody shocks of both armies made it necessary to provide for their own defence. Therefore Hirelgas, the nephew of Bedver, being extremely enraged at his death, called up to him three hundred men, and like a wild boar amongst a pack of dogs, broke through the enemies' ranks with his horse, making towards the place where he had seen the standard of the king of the Medes; little regarding what might befall him, if he could but revenge the loss of his uncle. At length he reached the place, killed the king, brought off his body to his companions, and laid it by that of his uncle, where he mangled it in the same manner. Then calling with a loud voice to his countrymen, he animated their troops, and vehemently pressed them to exert themselves to the utmost, now that their spirits were raised, and the enemy disheartened; and especially as they had the advantage of them in being placed in better order, and so might the more grievously annoy them. Encouraged with this exhortation, they began a general assault upon the enemy, which was attended with a terrible slaughter on both sides. For on the part of the Romans, besides many others, fell Alifantinam, king of Spain, Micipsa of Babylon, as also Quintus Milvius and Marius Lepidus, senators. On the part of the Britons, Holdin, king of the Ruteni, Leodegarius of Bolonia, and three consuls of Britain, Cursalem of Caicester, Galluc of Salisbury, and Urbgennius of Bath. So that the troops which they commanded, being extremely weakened, retreated till they came to the army of the Armorican Britons, commanded by Hoel and Walgan. But these, being inflamed at the retreat of their friends, encouraged them to stand their ground, and caused them with the help of their own forces to put their pursuers to flight. While they continued this pursuit, they beat down and killed several of them, and gave them no respite, till they came to the general's troop; who, seeing the distress of his companions, hastened to their assistance.

Chap. X.Hoel and Walgan signalize their valour in the fight.

And now in this latter encounter the Britons were worsted, with the loss of Kimarcoc, consul of Trigeria, and two thou[Pg 265]sand with him; besides three famous noblemen, Richomarcus, Bloccovius, and Jagivius of Bodloan, who, had they but enjoyed the dignity of princes, would have been celebrated for their valour through all succeeding ages. For, during this assault which they made in conjunction with Hoel and Walgan, there was not an enemy within their reach that could escape the fury of their sword or lance. But upon their falling in among Lucius's party, they were surrounded by them, and suffered the same fate with the consul and the other men. The loss of these men made those matchless heroes, Hoel and Walgan, much more eager to assault the general's ranks, and to try on all sides where to make the greatest impression. But Walgan, whose valour was never to be foiled, endeavoured to gain access to Lucius himself, that he might encounter him, and with this view beat down and killed all that stood in his way. And Hoel, not inferior to him, did no less service in another part, by spiriting up his men, and giving and receiving blows among the enemy with the same undaunted courage. It was hard to determine, which of them was the stoutest soldier.

Chap. XI.Lucius Tiberius being killed, the Britons obtain the victory.

But Walgan, by forcing his way through the enemy's troops, as we said before, found at last (what he had wished for) access to the general, and immediately encountered him. Lucius, being then in the flower of his youth, and a person of great courage and vigour, desired nothing more than to engage with such a one as might put his strength to its full trial. Putting himself, therefore, into a posture of defence, he received Walgan with joy, and was not a little proud to try his courage with one of whom he had heard such great things. The fight continued between them a long time, with great force of blows, and no less dexterity in warding them off, each being resolved upon the other's destruction. During this sharp conflict between them, the Romans, on a sudden, recovering their courage, made an assault upon the Armoricans, and having relieved their general, repulsed Hoel and Walgan, with their troops, till they found themselves unawares met by Arthur and the forces under him. For he, hearing of the slaughter that was a little before made[Pg 266] of his men, had speedily advanced with his legion, and drawing out his Caliburn, spoke to them, with a loud voice, after this manner: "What are you doing, soldiers? Will you suffer these effeminate wretches to escape? Let not one of them get off alive. Remember the force of your arms, that have reduced thirty kingdoms under my subjection. Remember your ancestors, whom the Romans, when at the height of their power, made tributary. Remember your liberties, which these pitiful fellows, that are much your inferiors, attempt to deprive you of. Let none of them escape alive. What are you doing?" With these expostulations, he rushed upon the enemy, made terrible havoc among them, and not a man did he meet but at one blow he laid either him or his horse dead upon the ground. They, therefore, in astonishment fled from him, as a flock of sheep from a fierce lion, whom raging hunger provokes to devour whatever happens to come near him. Their arms were no manner of protection to them against the force with which this valiant prince wielded his Caliburn. Two kings, Sertorius of Libya, and Polytetes of Bithynia, unfortunately felt its fury, and had their heads cut off by it. The Britons, when they saw the king performing such wonders, took courage again. With one consent they assaulted the Romans, kept close together in their ranks, and while they assailed the foot in one part, endeavoured to beat down and pierce through the horse in another. Notwithstanding, the Romans made a brave defence, and at the instigation of Lucius laboured to pay back their slaughter upon the Britons. The eagerness and force that were now shown on both sides were as great as if it was the beginning of the battle. Arthur continued to do great execution with his own hand, and encouraged the Britons to maintain the fight; as Lucius Tiberius did the Romans, and made them perform many memorable exploits. He himself, in the meantime, was very active in going from place to place, and suffered none to escape with life that happened to come within the reach of his sword or lance. The slaughter that was now made on both sides was very dreadful, and the turns of fortune various, sometimes the Britons prevailing, sometimes the Romans. At last, while this sharp dispute continued Morvid, consul of Gloucester with his legion,[Pg 267] which, as we said before, was placed between the hills, came up with speed upon the rear of the enemy, and to their great surprise assaulted, broke through, and dispersed them with great slaughter. This last and decisive blow proved fatal to many thousands of Romans, and even to the general Lucius himself, who was killed among the crowds with a lance by an unknown hand. But the Britons, by long maintaining the fight, at last with great difficulty gained the victory.

Chap. XII.Part of the Romans flee; the rest, of their own accord, surrender themselves for slaves.

The Romans, being now, therefore, dispersed, betook themselves through fear, some to the by-ways and woods, some to the cities and towns, and all other places, where they could be most safe; but were either killed or taken and plundered by the Britons who pursued: so that great part of them voluntarily and shamefully held forth their hands, to receive their chains, in order to prolong for a while a wretched life. In all which the justice of Divine Providence was very visible; considering how unjustly the ancestors of the Britons were formerly invaded and harassed by those of the Romans; and that these stood only in defence of that liberty, which the others would have deprived them of; and refused the tribute, which the others had no right to demand.

Chap. XIII.The bodies of the slain are decently buried, each in their respective countries.

Arthur, after he had completed his victory, gave orders for separating the bodies of his nobility from those of the enemy, and preparing a pompous funeral for them; and that, when ready, they should be carried to the abbeys of their respective countries, there to be honourably buried. But Bedver the butler was, with great lamentation of the Neustrians, carried to his own city Bajocæ, which Bedver the first, his great grandfather, had built. There he was, with great solemnity, laid close by the wall, in a burying-place on the south side of the city. But Cheudo was carried, grievously wounded to Camus, a town which he had himself built, where in a short time he died of his wounds, and was buried, as became a duke of Andegavia, in a convent of hermits, which was in a wood not far from the town. Also Holdin, duke of Ruteni,[Pg 268] was carried to Flanders, and buried in his own city Terivana. The other consuls and noblemen were conveyed to the neighbouring abbeys, according to Arthur's orders. Out of his great clemency, also, he ordered the country people to take care of the burial of the enemy, and to carry the body of Lucius to the senate, and tell them, that was the only tribute which Britain ought to pay them. After this he stayed in those parts till the next winter was over, and employed his time in reducing the cities of the Allobroges. But at the beginning of the following summer, as he was on his march towards Rome, and was beginning to pass the Alps, he had news brought him that his nephew Modred, to whose care he had entrusted Britain, had by tyrannical and treasonable practices set the crown upon his own head; and that queen Guanhumara, in violation of her first marriage, had wickedly married him.


Chap. I.Modred makes a great slaughter of Arthur's men, but is beaten, and flees to Winchester.

Of the matter now to be treated of, most noble consul, Geoffrey of Monmouth shall be silent; but will, nevertheless, though in a mean style, briefly relate what he found in the British book above-mentioned, and heard from that most learned historian, Walter, archdeacon of Oxford, concerning the wars which this renowned king, upon his return to Britain after this victory, waged against his nephew. As soon, therefore, as the report, of this flagrant wickedness reached him, he immediately desisted from his enterprise against Leo, king of the Romans; and having sent away Hoel, duke of the Armoricans, with the army of Gaul, to restore peace in those parts, returned back with speed to Britain, attended only by the kings of the islands, and their armies. But the wicked traitor, Modred, had sent Cheldric, the Saxon leader, into Germany, there to raise all the forces he could find, and return with all speed: and in consideration of this service, had promised him all that part of the island, which reaches[Pg 269] from the Humber to Scotland, and whatever Hengist and Horsa had possessed of Kent in the time of Vortigern. So that he, in obedience to his commands, had arrived with eight hundred ships filled with pagan soldiers, and had entered into covenant to obey the traitor as his sovereign; who had also drawn to his assistance the Scots, Picts, Irish, and all others whom he knew to be enemies to his uncle. His whole army, taking pagans and Christians together, amounted to eighty thousand men; with the help of whom he met Arthur just after his landing at the port of Rutupi, and joining battle with him, made a very great slaughter of his men. For the same day fell Augusel, king of Albania, and Walgan, the king's nephew, with innumerable others. Augusel was succeeded in his kingdom by Eventus, his brother Urian's son, who afterwards performed many famous exploits in those wars. After they had at last, with much difficulty, got ashore, they paid back the slaughter, and put Modred and his army to flight. For, by long practice in war, they had learned an excellent way of ordering their forces; which was so managed, that while their foot were employed either in an assault or upon the defensive, the horse would come in at full speed obliquely, break through the enemy's ranks, and so force them to flee. Nevertheless, this perjured usurper got his forces together again, and the night following entered Winchester. As soon as queen Guanhumara heard this, she immediately, despairing of success, fled from York to the City of Legions, where she resolved to lead a chaste life among the nuns in the church of Julius the Martyr, and entered herself one of their order.

Chap. II.Modred, after being twice besieged and routed, is killed. Arthur, being wounded, gives up the kingdom to Constantine.

But Arthur, whose anger was now much more inflamed, upon the loss of so many hundreds of his fellow soldiers, after he had buried his slain, went on the third day to the city, and there besieged the traitor, who, notwithstanding, was unwilling to desist from his enterprise, but used all methods to encourage his adherents, and marching out with his troops prepared to fight his uncle. In the battle that followed hereupon, great numbers lost their lives on both sides; but at last Modred's army suffered most, so that he[Pg 270] was forced to quit the field shamefully. From hence he made a precipitate flight, and, without taking any care for the burial of his slain, marched in haste towards Cornwall. Arthur, being inwardly grieved that he should so often escape, forthwith pursued him into that country as far as the river Cambula, where the other was expecting his coming. And Modred, as he was the boldest of men, and always the quickest at making an attack, immediately placed his troops in order, resolving either to conquer or to die, rather than continue his flight any longer. He had yet remaining with him sixty thousand men, out of whom he composed three bodies, which contained each of them six thousand six hundred and sixty-six men: but all the rest he joined in one body; and having assigned to each of the other parties their leaders, he took the command of this upon himself. After he had made this disposition of his forces, he endeavoured to animate them, and promised them the estates of their enemies if they came off with victory. Arthur, on the other side, also marshalled his army, which he divided into nine square companies, with a right and left wing; and having appointed to each of them their commanders, exhorted them to make a total rout of those robbers and perjured villains, who, being brought over into the island from foreign countries at the instance of the arch-traitor, were attempting to rob them of all their honours. He likewise told them that a mixed army composed of barbarous people of so many different countries, and who were all raw soldiers and inexperienced in war, would never be able to stand against such brave veteran troops as they were, provided they did their duty. After this encouragement given by each general to his fellow soldiers, the battle on a sudden began with great fury; wherein it would be both grievous and tedious to relate the slaughter, the cruel havoc, and the excess of fury that was to be seen on both sides. In this manner they spent a good part of the day, till Arthur at last made a push with his company, consisting of six thousand six hundred and sixty-six men, against that in which he knew Modred was; and having opened a way with their swords, they pierced quite through it, and made a grievous slaughter. For in this assault fell the wicked traitor himself, and many thousands with him. But notwithstanding the loss of him, the rest did not flee,[Pg 271] but running together from all parts of the field maintained their ground with undaunted courage. The fight now grew more furious than ever, and proved fatal to almost all the commanders and their forces. For on Modred's side fell Cheldric, Elasius, Egbrict, and Bunignus, Saxons; Gillapatric, Gillamor, Gistafel, and Gillarius, Irish; also the Scots and Picts, with almost all their leaders: on Arthur's side, Olbrict, king of Norway; Aschillius, king of Dacia; Cador Limenic Cassibellaun, with many thousands of others, as well Britons as foreigners, that he had brought with him. And even the renowned king Arthur himself was mortally wounded; and being carried thence to the isle of Avallon to be cured of his wounds, he gave up the crown of Britain to his kinsman Constantine, the son of Cador, duke of Cornwall, in the five hundred and forty-second year of our Lord's incarnation.[220]


[220] The mention of Constantine brings Geoffrey's work into connection with that of Gildas: the reader may perhaps from this point detect some slight degree of verisimilitude in this otherwise fictitious narrative.

Chap. III.Constantine meets with disturbances from the Saxons and Modred's sons.

Upon Constantine's advancement to the throne, the Saxons, with the two sons of Modred, made insurrection against him, though without success; for after many battles they fled, one to London, the other to Winchester, and possessed themselves of those places. Then died Saint Daniel, the pious prelate of the church of Bangor; and Theon, bishop of Gloucester, was elected archbishop of London. At the same time also died David, the pious archbishop of Legions, at the city of Menevia, in his own abbey; which he loved above all the other monasteries of his diocese, because Saint Patrick, who had prophetically foretold his birth, was the founder of it. For during his residence there among his friars, he was taken with a sudden illness, of which he died, and, at the command of Malgo, king of the Venedotians, was buried in that church. He was succeeded in the metropolitan see by Cynoc, bishop of the church of Llan-Patern, who was thus promoted to a higher dignity.[Pg 272]

Chap. IV.Constantine, having murdered the two sons of Modred, is himself killed by Conan.

But Constantine pursued the Saxons, and reduced them under his yoke. He also took the two sons of Modred; and one of them, who had fled for sanctuary to the church of St. Amphibalus, in Winchester, he murdered before the altar. The other had hidden himself in a convent of friars at London, but at last was found out by him, brought before the altar, and there put to death. Three years after this, he himself, by the vengeance of God pursuing him, was killed by Conan, and buried close by Uther Pendragon within the structure of stones, which was set up with wonderful art not far from Salisbury, and called in the English tongue, Stonehenge.

Chap. V.Aurelius Conan reigns after Constantine.

After him succeeded Aurelius Conan, his nephew, a youth of wonderful valour; who, as he gained the monarchy of the whole island, would have been worthy the crown of it, had he not delighted in civil war. He raised disturbances against his uncle, who ought to have reigned after Constantine, and cast him into prison; and then killing his two sons, obtained the kingdom, but died in the second year of his reign.

Chap. VI.Wortiporius, being declared king, conquers the Saxons.

After Conan succeeded Wortiporius, against whom the Saxons made insurrection, and brought over their countrymen from Germany in a very great fleet. But he gave them battle and came off with victory, so that he obtained the monarchy of the whole kingdom, and governed the people carefully and peacefully four years.

Chap. VII.Malgo, king of Britain, and a most graceful person, addicts himself to sodomy.

After him succeeded Malgo, one of the handsomest of men in Britain, a great scourge of tyrants, and a man of great strength, extraordinary munificence, and matchless valour, but addicted very much to the detestable vice of sodomy, by which he made himself abominable to God. He[Pg 273] also possessed the whole island, to which, after a cruel war, he added the six provincial islands, viz. Ireland, Iceland, Gothland, the Orkneys, Norway, and Dacia.

Chap. VIII.Britain, in the flame of a civil war under king Careticus, is miserably wasted by the Saxons and Africans.

After Malgo succeeded Careticus, a lover of civil war, and hateful to God and to the Britons. The Saxons, discovering his fickle disposition, went to Ireland for Gormund, king of the Africans, who had arrived there with a very great fleet, and had subdued that country. From thence, at their traitorous instigation, he sailed over into Britain, which the perfidious Saxons in one part, in another the Britons by their continual wars among themselves were wholly laying waste. Entering therefore into alliance with the Saxons, he made war upon king Careticus, and after several battles fought, drove him from city to city, till at length he forced him to Cirencester, and there besieged him. Here Isembard, the nephew of Lewis, king of the Franks, came and made a league of amity with him, and out of respect to him renounced the Christian faith, on condition that he would assist him to gain the kingdom of Gaul from his uncle, by whom, he said, he was forcibly and unjustly expelled out of it. At last, after taking and burning the city, he had another fight with Careticus, and made him flee beyond the Severn into Wales. He then made an utter devastation of the country, set fire to the adjacent cities, and continued these outrages until he had almost burned up the whole surface of the island from the one sea to the other; so that the tillage was everywhere destroyed, and a general destruction made of the husbandmen and clergy, with fire and sword. This terrible calamity caused the rest to flee whithersoever they had any hopes of safety.

Chap. IX.The author upbraids the Britons.

"Why foolish nation! oppressed with the weight of your abominable wickedness, why did you, in your insatiable thirst after civil wars, so weaken yourself by domestic confusions, that whereas formerly you brought distant kingdoms under your yoke, now, like a good vineyard degenerated and[Pg 274] turned to bitterness, you cannot defend your country, your wives, and children, against your enemies? Go on, go on in your civil dissensions, little understanding the saying in the Gospel, 'Every kingdom divided against itself shall be brought to desolation, and a house divided against itself shall fall.' Since then your kingdom was divided against itself; since the rage of civil discord, and the fumes of envy, have darkened your minds, since your pride would not suffer you to pay obedience to one king; you see, therefore, your country made desolate by impious pagans, and your houses falling one upon another; which shall be the cause of lasting sorrow to your posterity. For the barbarous lionesses shall see their whelps enjoying the towns, cities, and other possessions of your children; from which they shall be miserably expelled, and hardly if ever recover their former flourishing state."

Chap. X.Loegria is again inhabited by the Saxons. The Britons, with their bishops, retire into Cornwall and Wales.

But to return to the history; when the inhuman tyrant, with many thousands of his Africans, had made a devastation almost over the whole island, he yielded up the greater part of it, called Loegria, to the Saxons, whose villainy had been the occasion of his arrival. Therefore the remainder of the Britons retired into the western parts of the kingdom, that is, Cornwall and Wales; from whence they continually made frequent and fierce irruptions upon the enemy. The three archbishops, viz. the archbishop of Legions, Theon of London, and Thadiocus of York, when they beheld all the churches in their jurisdiction lying level with the ground, fled with all the clergy that remained after so great a destruction, to the coverts of the woods in Wales, carrying with them the relics of the saints, for fear the sacred bones of so many holy men of old might be destroyed by the barbarians, if they should leave them in that imminent danger, and themselves instantly suffer martyrdom. Many more went over in a great fleet into Armorican Britain; so that the whole church of the two provinces, Loegria and Northumberland, had its convents destroyed. But these things I shall relate elsewhere, when I translate the book concerning their banishment.[Pg 275]

Chap. XI.The Britons lose their kingdom.

For a long time after this the Britons were dispossessed of the crown of the kingdom, and the monarchy of the island, and made no endeavours to recover their ancient dignity; but even that part of the country which yet remained to them, being subject not to one king, but three tyrants, was often wasted by civil wars. But neither did the Saxons yet obtain the crown, but were also subject to three kings, who harassed sometimes one another, sometimes the Britons.

Chap. XII.Augustine, being sent by pope Gregory into Britain, preaches the gospel to the Angles.

In the meantime Augustine was sent by pope Saint Gregory into Britain, to preach the word of God to the Angles, who, being blinded with pagan superstition, had entirely extinguished Christianity in that part of the island which they possessed. But among the Britons, the Christian faith still flourished, and never failed among them from the time of pope Eleutherius, when it was first planted here. But when Augustine came, he found in their province seven bishoprics and an archbishopric, all filled with most devout prelates, and a great number of abbeys; by which the flock of Christ was still kept in good order. Among the rest, there was in the city of Bangor a most noble church, in which it is reported there was so great a number of monks, that when the monastery was divided into seven parts, having each their priors over them, not one of them had less than three hundred monks, who all lived by the labour of their own hands. The name of their abbat was Dinooth, a man admirably skilled in the liberal arts; who, when Augustine required the subjection of the British bishops, and would have persuaded them to undertake the work of the gospel with him among the Angles, answered him with several arguments, that they owed no subjection to him, neither would they preach to their enemies; since they had their own archbishop, and because the Saxon nation persisted in depriving them of their country. For this reason they esteemed them their mortal enemies, reckoned their faith[Pg 276] and religion as nothing, and would no more communicate with the Angles than with dogs.

Chap. XIII.Ethelfrid kills a great number of the British monks, but is at last routed by the Britons.

Therefore Ethelbert, king of Kent, when he saw that the Britons disdained subjection to Augustine, and despised his preaching, was highly provoked, and stirred up Ethelfrid, king of the Northumbrians, and the other petty kings of the Saxons, to raise a great army, and march to the city of Bangor, to destroy the abbat Dinooth, and the rest of the clergy who held them in contempt. At his instigation, therefore, they assembled a prodigious army, and in their march to the province of the Britons, came to Legecester, where Brocmail, consul of the city, was awaiting their coming. To the same city were come innumerable monks and hermits from several provinces of the Britons, but especially from the city of Bangor, to pray for the safety of their people. Whereupon Ethelfrid, king of the Northumbrians, collecting all his forces, joined battle with Brocmail, who, having a less army to withstand him, at last quitted the city and fled, though not without having made a great slaughter of the enemy. But Ethelfrid, when he had taken the city, and understood upon what occasion the monks were come thither, commanded his men to turn their arms first against them; and so two hundred of them were honoured with the crown of martyrdom, and admitted into the kingdom of heaven that same day. From thence this Saxon tyrant proceeded on his march to Bangor; but upon the news of his outrageous madness, the leaders of the Britons, viz. Blederic, duke of Cornwall, Margadud, king of the Demetians, and Cadwan, of the Venedotians, came from all parts to meet him, and joining battle with him, wounded him, and forced him to flee; and killed of his army to the number of ten thousand and sixty-six men. On the Britons' side fell Blederic, duke of Cornwall, who was their commander in those wars.[Pg 277]


Chap. I.Cadwan acquires by treaty all Britain on this side of the Humber, and Ethelfrid the rest.

After this all the princes of the Britons met together at the city of Legecester, and consented to make Cadwan their king, that under his command they might pursue Ethelfrid beyond the Humber. Accordingly, as soon as he was crowned, they flocked together from all parts, and passed the Humber; of which when Ethelfrid received intelligence, he entered into a confederacy with all the Saxon kings, and went to meet Cadwan. At last, as they were forming their troops for a battle, their friends came, and made peace between them on these terms: that Cadwan should enjoy that part of Britain which lies on this side of the Humber, and Ethelfrid that which is beyond it. As soon as they had confirmed this agreement with an oath made to their hostages, there commenced such a friendship between them, that they had all things common. In the meantime it happened, that Ethelfrid banished his own wife and married another, and bore so great a hatred to her that was banished, that he would not suffer her to live in the kingdom of Northumberland. Whereupon she, being with child, went to king Cadwan, that by his mediation she might be restored to her husband. But when Ethelfrid could by no means be brought to consent to it, she continued to live with Cadwan, till she was delivered of the son which she had conceived. A short time after her delivery, Cadwan also had a son born to him by the queen, his wife. Then were the two boys brought up together in a manner suitable to their royal birth, one of which was called Cadwalla, the other Edwin. When they were nearly arrived at men's estate, their parents sent them to Salomon, king of the Armorican Britons, that in his court they might learn the discipline of war, and other princely qualifications. This prince, therefore, received them graciously, and admitted them to an intimacy with him; so that there was none of their age in the whole court, that had a free access, or more familiarly discoursed with the king than they. At last he himself was an eye-witness of their[Pg 278] exploits against the enemy, in which they very much signalized their valour.

Chap. II.Cadwalla breaks the covenant he had made with Edwin.

In process of time, when their parents were dead, they returned to Britain, where they took upon them the government of the kingdom, and began to form the same friendship as their fathers. Two years after this, Edwin asked leave of Cadwalla to wear a crown, and to celebrate the same solemnities, as had been used of old in Northumberland. And when they had begun a treaty upon this subject by the river Duglas, that the matter might be adjusted according to the advice of their wise counsellors, it happened that Cadwalla was lying on the other side of the river in the lap of a certain nephew of his, whose name was Brian. While ambassadors were negotiating between them, Brian wept, and shed tears so plentifully, that the king's face and beard were wet with them. The king, imagining that it rained, lifted up his face, and seeing the young man in tears, asked him the occasion of such sudden grief. "Good reason," said he, "have I to weep continually, as well as the whole British nation, which has groaned under the oppression of barbarians ever since the time of Malgo, and has not yet got a prince, to restore it to its ancient flourishing state. And even the little honour that it had left, is lessened by your indulgence; since the Saxons, who are only strangers, and always traitors to our country, must now be permitted to wear the same crown as you do. For when once they shall attain to regal dignity, it will be a great addition to their glory in the country from whence they came; and they will the sooner invite over their countrymen, for the utter extirpation of our race. For they have been always accustomed to treachery, and never to keep faith with any; which I think should be a reason for our keeping them under, and not for exalting them. When king Vortigern first retained them in his service, they made a show of living peaceably, and fighting for our country, till they had an opportunity of practising their wickedness; and then they returned evil for good, betrayed him, and made a cruel massacre of the people of the kingdom. Afterwards they betrayed Aurelius Am[Pg 279]brosius, to whom, even after the most tremendous oaths of fidelity, at a banquet with him they gave a draught of poison. They also betrayed Arthur, when, setting aside the covenant by which they were bound, they joined with his nephew Modred, and fought against him. Lastly, they broke faith with king Careticus, and brought upon him Gormund, king of the Africans, by whose disturbances our people were robbed of their country, and the king disgracefully driven out."

Chap. III.A quarrel between Cadwalla and Edwin.

At the mention of these things, Cadwalla repented of entering into this treaty, and sent word to Edwin that he could by no means induce his counsellors to consent to his petition. For they alleged that it was contrary to law and the ancient establishment, that an island, which has always had no more than one crown, should be now under subjection to two crowned heads. This message incensed Edwin, and made him break off the conference, and retire into Northumberland, saying, he would be crowned without Cadwalla's leave. When Cadwalla was told this, he declared to him by his ambassadors that he would cut off his crowned head, if he presumed to wear a crown within the kingdom of Britain.

Chap. IV.Cadwalla is vanquished by Edwin, and driven out of the kingdom.

This proved the occasion of a war between them, in which, after several engagements between their men, they at last met together themselves beyond the Humber, and had a battle, wherein Cadwalla lost many thousands of his followers, and was put to flight.[221] From hence he marched with precipitation through Albania, and went over to Ireland. But Edwin, after this victory, led his army through the provinces of the Britons, and burning the cities before him, grievously afflicted the citizens and country people. During this exercise of his cruelty, Cadwalla never ceased endeavouring to return back to his country in a fleet, but without success; because to whatever port he steered, Edwin met him with his forces, and hindered his landing. For there was come to[Pg 280] him from Spain a very skilful soothsayer, named Pellitus, who, by the flight of birds and the courses of the stars, foretold all the disasters that would happen. By these means Edwin, getting knowledge of Cadwalla's return, prepared to meet him, and shattered his ships so that he drowned his men, and beat him off from all his ports. Cadwalla, not knowing what course to take, was almost in despair of ever returning. At last it came into his head to go to Salomon, king of the Armorican Britons, and desire his assistance and advice, to enable him to return to his kingdom. And so, as he was steering towards Armorica, a strong tempest rose on a sudden, which dispersed the ships of his companions, and in a short time left no two of them together. The pilot of the king's ship was seized immediately with so great a fear, that quitting the stern, he left the vessel to the disposal of fortune; so that all that night it was tossed up and down in great danger by the raging waves. The next morning they arrived at a certain island called Garnareia, where with great difficulty they got ashore. Cadwalla was forthwith seized with such grief for the loss of his companions, that for three days and nights together he refused to eat, but lay sick upon his bed. The fourth day he was taken with a very great longing for some venison, and causing Brian to be called, made him acquainted with it. Whereupon Brian took his bow and quiver, and went through the island, that if he could light on any wild beast, he might make booty of it. And when he had walked over the whole island without finding what he was in quest of, he was extremely concerned that he could not gratify his master's desire; and was afraid his sickness would prove mortal if his longing were not satisfied. He, therefore, fell upon a new device, and cut a piece of flesh out of his own thigh, which he roasted upon a spit, and carried to the king for venison. The king, thinking it to be real venison, began to eat of it to his great refreshment, admiring the sweetness of it, which he fancied exceeded any flesh he ever had tasted before. At last, when he had fully satisfied his appetite, he became more cheerful, and in three days was perfectly well again. Then the wind standing fair, he got ready his ship, and hoisting sails they pursued their voyage, and arrived at the city Kidaleta. From thence they went to king Salomon, by[Pg 281] whom they were received kindly and with all suitable respect; and as soon as he had learned the occasion of their coming, he made them a promise of assistance, and spoke to them as follows.


[221] See Malmesbury's Hist. of the Kings, p. 46.

Chap. V.The speech of Salomon, king of Armorica, to Cadwalla.

"It is a grief to us, noble youths, that the country of your ancestors is oppressed by a barbarous nation, and that you are ignominiously driven out of it. But since other men are able to defend their kingdoms, it is a wonder your people should lose so fruitful an island, and not be able to withstand the nation of the Angles, whom our countrymen hold in contempt. While the people of this country lived together with yours in Britain, they bore sway over all the provincial kingdoms, and never could be subdued by any nation but the Romans. Neither did the Romans do this by their own power, as I have been lately informed, but by a dissension among the nobility of the island. And even the Romans, though they held it under their subjection for a time, yet upon the loss and slaughter of their rulers, were driven out with disgrace. But after the Britons came into this province under the conduct of Maximian and Conan, those that remained never had the happiness afterwards of holding an uninterrupted possession of the crown. For though many of their princes maintained the ancient dignity of their ancestors, yet their weak heirs that succeeded, though more in number, entirely lost it, upon the invasion of their enemies. Therefore I am grieved for the weakness of your people, since we are of the same race with you, and the name of Britons is common to you, and to the nation that bravely defends their country, which you see at war with all its neighbours."

Chap. VI.Cadwalla's answer to Salomon.

When he had concluded his speech, Cadwalla, who was a little put to the blush, answered him after this manner: "Royal sir, whose descent is from a race of kings, I give you many thanks for your promise of assisting me to recover my kingdom. But what you say is a wonder, that my people have not maintained the dignity of their ancestors, since the[Pg 282] time that the Britons came to these provinces, I am far from thinking to be such. For the noblest men of the whole kingdom followed those leaders, and there remained only the baser sort to enjoy their honours; who being raised to a high quality, on a sudden were puffed up above their station; and growing wanton with riches gave themselves up to commit such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles; and (as Gildas the historian testifies) were not only guilty of this vice, but of all the enormities that are incident to human nature. And what chiefly prevailed, to the entire overthrow of all goodness, was the hatred of truth with its assertors, the love of a lie with the inventors of it, the embracing of evil for good, the veneration of wickedness for grace, the receiving of Satan for an angel of light. Kings were anointed, not for the sake of God, but such as were more cruel than the rest; and were soon after murdered by their anointers, without examination, having chosen others yet more cruel in their room. But if any of them showed any mildness, or seemed a favourer of truth, against him, as the subverter of Britain, were all their malice and their weapons bent. In short, things pleasing to God or displeasing, with them had the same weight, even if the worse were not the weightier. Therefore were all affairs managed contrary to public safety, as if the true physician of all had left them destitute of cure. And thus was every thing done without discretion, and that not only by secular men, but by the Lord's flock and its pastors. Therefore it is not to be wondered, that such a degenerate race, so odious to God for their vices, lost a country which they had so heinously corrupted. For God was willing to execute his vengeance upon them, by suffering a foreign people to come upon them, and drive them out of their possessions. Notwithstanding it would be a worthy act, if God would permit it, to restore our subjects to their ancient dignity, to prevent the reproach that may be thrown upon our race, that we were weak rulers, who did not exert ourselves in our own defence. And I do the more freely ask your assistance, as you are of the same blood with us. For the great Malgo, who was the fourth king of Britain after Arthur, had two sons, named Enniaunus and Runo. Enniaunus begot Belin; Belin, Jago; Jago, Cadwan, who was my father. Runo, who, after his[Pg 283] brother's death, was driven out by the Saxons, came to this province and bestowed his daughter on duke Hoel, the son of that great Hoel who shared with Arthur in his conquests. Of her was born Alan; of Alan, Hoel your father, who while he lived was a terror to all Gaul."

Chap. VII.Brian kills Edwin's magician.

In the meantime, while he was spending the winter with Salomon, they entered into a resolution, that Brian should pass over into Britain, and take some method to kill Edwin's magician, lest he might by his usual art inform him of Cadwalla's coming. And when with this design he had arrived at Hamo's Port, he took upon him the habit of a poor man, and made himself a staff of iron sharp at the end, with which he might kill the magician if he should happen to meet with him. From thence he went to York, where Edwin then resided; and having entered that city joined himself to the poor people that waited for alms before the king's gate. But as he was going to and fro, it happened that his sister came out of the hall, with a basin in her hand, to fetch water for the queen. She had been taken by Edwin at the city of Worcester, when after Cadwalla's flight he was acting his hostilities upon the provinces of the Britons. As she was therefore passing by Brian, he immediately knew her, and, breaking forth into tears, called to her with a low voice; at which the damsel turning her face, was in doubt at first who it could be, but upon a nearer approach discovered it to be her brother, and was near falling into a swoon, for fear that he might by some unlucky accident be known and taken by the enemy. She therefore refrained from saluting him, or entering into familiar discourse with him, but told him, as if she was talking upon some other subject, the state of the court, and showed him the magician, that he was inquiring for, who was at that very time walking among the poor people, while the alms were being distributed among them. Brian, as soon as he had taken knowledge of the man, ordered his sister to steal out privately from her apartment the night following, and come to him near an old church without the city, where he would conceal himself in expectation of her. Then dismissing her, he thrust himself in among the crowd of poor people, in that part where Pel[Pg 284]litus was placing them. And the same moment he got access to him, he lifted up his staff, and at once gave him a stab under the breast which killed him. This done, he threw away his staff, and passed among the rest undistinguished and unsuspected by any of the by-standers, and by good providence got to the place of concealment which he had appointed. His sister, when night came on, endeavoured all she could to get out, but was not able; because Edwin, being terrified at the killing of Pellitus, had set a strict watch about the court, who, making a narrow search, refused to let her go out. When Brian found this, he retired from that place, and went to Exeter, where he called together the Britons, and told them what he had done. Afterwards having despatched away messengers to Cadwalla, he fortified that city, and sent word to all the British nobility, that they should bravely defend their cities and towns, and joyfully expect Cadwalla's coming to their relief in a short time with auxiliary forces from Salomon. Upon the spreading of this news over the whole island, Penda, king of the Mercians, with a very great army of Saxons, came to Exeter, and besieged Brian.

Chap. VIII.Cadwalla takes Penda, and routs his army.

In the meantime Cadwalla arrived with ten thousand men, whom king Salomon had delivered to him; and with them he marched straight to the siege against king Penda. But, as he was going, he divided his forces into four parts, and then made no delay to advance and join battle with the enemy, wherein Penda was forthwith taken, and his army routed. For, finding no other way for his own safety, he surrendered himself to Cadwalla, and gave hostages, with a promise that he would assist him against the Saxons. Cadwalla, after this success against him, summoned together his nobility, that had been a long time in a decaying state, and marched to Northumberland against Edwin, and made continual devastations in that country. When Edwin was informed of it, he assembled all the petty kings of the Angles, and meeting the Britons in a field called Heathfield,[222] presently gave them battle, but was killed, and almost all the people[Pg 285] with him, together with Osfrid, his son, and Godbold, king of the Orkneys, who had come to their assistance.


[222] See Bede's Eccles. Hist. p. 106.

Chap. IX.Cadwalla kills Osric and Aidan in fight.

Having thus obtained the victory, Cadwalla marched through the provinces of the Angles, and committed such outrages upon the Saxons, that he neither spared age nor sex; for his resolution being to extirpate the whole race out of Britain, all that he found he put to extreme tortures. After this he had a battle with Osric, Edwin's successor, and killed him together with his two nephews, who ought to have reigned after him. He also killed Aidan, king of the Scots, who came to their assistance.

Chap. X.Oswald routs Penda in fight, but is killed by Cadwalla coming in upon him.

Their deaths made room for Oswald to succeed to the kingdom of Northumberland; but Cadwalla drove him, with the rest that had given him disturbance, to the very wall which the emperor Severus had formerly built between Britain and Scotland. Afterwards he sent Penda, king of the Mercians, and the greatest part of his army, to the same place, to give him battle. But Oswald, as he was besieged one night by Penda, in the place called Heavenfield, that is, the Heavenly Field,[223] set up there our Lord's cross, and commanded his men to speak with a very loud voice these words: "Let us all kneel down, and pray the Almighty, living and true God, to defend us from the proud army of the king of Britain, and his wicked leader Penda. For he knows how justly we wage this war for the safety of our people." They all therefore did as he commanded them, and advanced at break of day against the enemy, and by their faith gained the victory. Cadwalla, upon hearing this news, being inflamed with rage, assembled his army, and went in pursuit of the holy king Oswald; and in a battle which he had with him at a place called Burne, Penda broke in upon him and killed him.


[223] See Bede's Eccles. Hist. p. 110.

Chap. XI.Oswy submits to Cadwalla. Penda desires leave of Cadwalla to make war against him.

Oswald, with many thousands of his men, being killed, his brother Oswy succeeded him in the kingdom of Northumber[Pg 286]land,[224] and by making large presents of gold and silver to Cadwalla, who was now possessed of the government of all Britain, made his peace and submission to him. Upon this Alfrid, his brother, and Ethelwald,[225] his brother's son, began an insurrection; but, not being able to hold out against him, they fled to Penda, king of the Mercians, desiring him to assemble his army and pass the Humber with them, that he might deprive Oswy of his kingdom. But Penda, fearing to break the peace, which Cadwalla had settled through the kingdom of Britain, deferred beginning any disturbance without his leave, till he could some way work him up, either to make war himself upon Oswy, or allow him the liberty of doing it. At a certain Pentecost therefore, when Cadwalla was celebrating that festival at London, and for the greater solemnity wore the crown of Britain, all the kings of the Angles, excepting only Oswy, being present, as also all the dukes of the Britons; Penda went to the king, and inquired of him the reason, why Oswy alone was wanting, when all the princes of the Saxons were present. Cadwalla answered, that his sickness was the cause of it; to which the other replied, that he had sent over to Germany for more Saxons, to revenge the death of his brother Oswald upon them both. He told him further, that he had broken the peace of the kingdom, as being the sole author of the war and dissension among them; since Ethelfrid, king of Northumberland, and Ethelwald, his brother's son, had been by him harassed with a war, and driven out of their own country. He also desired leave, either to kill him, or banish him the kingdom.


[224] Or Bernicia, see Bede, p. 131.

[225] Who reigned over the Deiri.

Chap. XII.Cadwalla is advised to suffer Penda to make an insurrection against Oswy.

This matter caused the king to enter upon much deliberation, and hold a private consultation with his intimate friends, what course to take. Among the rest that offered their proposals, Margadud, king of the Dimetians, spoke as follows:—"Royal sir, since you have proposed to expel the race of the Angles from the coasts of Britain, why do you alter your resolution, and suffer them to continue in peace among us? At least you should permit them to fall out among them[Pg 287]selves, and let our country owe its deliverance to their own civil broils. No faith is to be kept with one that is treacherous, and is continually laying snares for him to whom he owes fidelity. Such have the Saxons always been to our nation, from the very first time of their coming among us. What faith ought we to keep with them? Let Penda immediately have leave to go against Oswy, that by this civil dissension and destruction of one another, our island may get rid of them."

Chap. XIII.Penda is killed by Oswy. Cadwalla dies.

By these and other words to the same effect, Cadwalla was prevailed upon to grant the permission desired. And Penda, having assembled a vast army, went to the Humber, and laying waste that country, began a fierce war upon the king. Oswy was at last reduced to such extremity, that he was forced to promise him innumerable royal ornaments, and other presents more than one would believe, if he would desist from ruining his country, and return home without committing any more hostilities. But when the other could by no entreaties be prevailed upon to do it, the king, in hopes of divine assistance, though he had a less army, however, gave him battle near the River Winwid, and having killed Penda and thirty other commanders, gained the victory. Penda's son Wulfred, by a grant from Cadwalla, succeeded to the kingdom, and joining with Eafa and Eadbert, two leaders of the Mercians, rebelled against Oswy; but at last, by Cadwalla's command, made peace with him. At length, after forty-eight years were expired, that most noble and potent king of the Britons, Cadwalla, being grown infirm with age and sickness, departed this life upon the fifteenth before the kalends of December. The Britons embalmed his body, and placed it with wonderful art in a brazen statue, which was cast according to the measure of his stature. This statue they set up with complete armour, on an admirable and beautiful brazen horse, over the western gate of London, for a monument of the above-mentioned victory, and for a terror to the Saxons. They also built under it a church in honour of St. Martin, in which divine ceremonies are celebrated for him and the others who departed in the faith.[Pg 288]

Chap. XIV.Cadwallader succeeds Cadwalla.

He was succeeded in the kingdom by Cadwallader,[226] his son, whom Bede calls the youth Elidwalda. At first he maintained the government with peace and honour; but after twelve years' enjoyment of the crown, he fell into a fit of sickness, and a civil war broke out among the Britons. His mother was Penda's sister, by the same father but a different mother, descended from the noble race of the Gewisseans. For Cadwalla, after his reconciliation with her brother, made her the partner of his bed, and had Cadwallader by her.


[226] Probably the same as Cædwalla, king of Wessex, noticed by Bede and the Saxon Chronicle, although the British and Saxon authorities differ in their genealogical statements.

Chap. XV.The Britons are compelled, by pestilence and famine, to leave Britain. Cadwallader's lamentation.

During his sickness, the Britons, (as we said before,) quarrelling among themselves, made a wicked destruction of a rich country; and this again was attended with another misfortune. For this besotted people was punished with a grievous and memorable famine; so that every province was destitute of all sustenance, except what could be taken in hunting. After the famine followed a terrible pestilence, which in a short time destroyed such multitudes of people, that the living were not sufficient to bury the dead. Those of them that remained, flying their country in whole troops together, went to the countries beyond the sea, and while they were under sail, they with a mournful howling voice sang, "Thou hast given us, O God, like sheep appointed for meat, and hast scattered us among the heathen." Also Cadwallader himself, in his voyage, with his miserable fleet to Armorica, made this addition to the lamentation, "Woe to us sinners, for our grievous impieties, wherewith we have not ceased to provoke God, while we had space for repentance. Therefore the revenge of his power lies heavy upon us, and drives us out of our native soil, which neither the Romans of old, nor the Scots or Picts afterwards, nor yet the treacherous Saxons with all their craft, were able to do. But in vain have we recovered our country so often from them; since it was not the will of God that we should per[Pg 289]petually hold the government of it. He who is the true Judge, when he saw we were by no means to be reclaimed from our wickedness, and that no human power could expel our race, was willing to chastise our folly himself; and has turned his anger against us, by which we are driven out in crowds from our native country. Return, therefore, ye Romans; return, Scots and Picts; return, Ambrons and Saxons: behold, Britain lies open to you, being by the wrath of God made desolate, which you were never able to do. It is not your valour that expels us; but the power of the supreme King, whom we have never ceased to provoke."

Chap. XVI.Cadwallader with his people goes to Alan. The Saxons seize all Britain.

With these dolorous complaints he arrived at the Armorican coast, and went with his whole company to king Alan, the nephew of Salomon by whom he was honourably received. So that Britain, being now destitute of its ancient inhabitants, excepting a few in Wales that escaped the general mortality, became a frightful place even to the Britons themselves for eleven years after. Neither was it at the same time more favourable to the Saxons, who died in it without intermission. Notwithstanding the remainder of them, after this raging plague was ceased, according to their old custom sent word over to their countrymen, that the island of Britain was now freed of its native inhabitants, and lay open to them, if they would come over and inhabit it. As soon as they had received this information, that odious people, gathering together an innumerable multitude of men and women, arrived in Northumberland, and inhabited the provinces that lay desolate from Albania to Cornwall. For there was now nobody to hinder them, excepting the poor remains of the Britons, who continued together in the thickets of the woods in Wales. From that time the power of the Britons ceased in the island, and the Angles began their reign.

Chap. XVII.Cadwallader is by the voice of an angel deterred from returning to Britain.

After some time, when the people had recovered strength, Cadwallader, being mindful of his kingdom, which was now free from the contagion of the pestilence, desired assistance[Pg 290] of Alan towards the recovery of his dominions. The king granted his request; but as he was getting ready a fleet, he was commanded by the loud voice of an angel to desist from his enterprise. For God was not willing that the Britons should reign any longer in the island, before the time came of which Merlin prophetically foretold Arthur. It also commanded him to go to Rome to pope Sergius, where, after doing penance, he should be enrolled among the saints. It told him withal, that the Britons, by the merit of their faith, should again recover the island, when the time decreed for it was come. But this would not be accomplished before they should be possessed of his reliques, and transport them from Rome into Britain. At the same time also the reliques of the other saints should be found, which had been hidden on account of the invasion of pagans; and then at last would they recover their lost kingdom. When the holy prince had received the heavenly message, he went straight to king Alan, and gave him an account of what had been told him.

Chap. XVIII.Cadwallader goes to Rome and dies.

Then Alan had recourse to several books, as the prophecies of the eagle that prophesied at Shaftesbury, and the verses of Sibyl and Merlin; and made diligent search in them, to see whether the revelation made to Cadwallader agreed with those written oracles. And when he could find nothing contradictory to it, he admonished Cadwallader to submit to the divine dispensation, and laying aside the thoughts of Britain, perform what the angelical voice had commanded him. But he urged him to send his son Ivor and his nephew Ini over into the island, to govern the remainder of the Britons; lest a nation, descended of so ancient a race, should lose their liberty by the incursions of barbarians. Then Cadwallader, renouncing worldly cares for the sake of God and his everlasting kingdom, went to Rome, and was confirmed by pope Sergius: and being seized with a sudden illness, was, upon the twelfth before the kalends of May, in the six hundred and eighty-ninth year of our Lord's incarnation freed from the corruption of the flesh, and admitted into the glories of the heavenly kingdom.[Pg 291]

Chap. XIX.The two Britons, Ivor and Ini, in vain attack the nation of the Angles. Athelstan the first king of the Angles.

As soon as Ivor and Ini had got together their ships, they with all the forces they could raise, arrived in the island, and for forty-nine years together fiercely attacked the nation of the Angles, but to little purpose. For the above-mentioned mortality and famine, together with the inveterate spirit of faction that was among them, had made this proud people so much degenerate, that they were not able to gain any advantage of the enemy. And being now also overrun with barbarism, they were no longer called Britons, but Gualenses, Welshmen; a word derived either from Gualo their leader, or Guales their queen, or from their barbarism. But the Saxons managed affairs with more prudence, maintained peace and concord among themselves, tilled their grounds, rebuilt their cities and towns, and so throwing off the dominion of the Britons, bore sway over all Loegria, under their leader Athelstan, who first wore a crown amongst them. But the Welshmen, being very much degenerated from the nobility of the Britons, never after recovered the monarchy of the island; on the contrary, by quarrels among themselves, and wars with the Saxons, their country was a perpetual scene of misery and slaughter.

Chap. XX.Geoffrey of Monmouth's conclusion.

But as for the kings that have succeeded among them in Wales, since that time, I leave the history of them to Caradoc of Lancarvan, my contemporary; as I do also the kings of the Saxons to William of Malmesbury, and Henry of Huntingdon. But I advise them to be silent concerning the kings of the Britons,[227] since they have not that book written in the British tongue, which Walter, archdeacon of Oxford, brought out of Brittany, and which being a true history, published in honour of those princes, I have thus taken care to translate.

[Pg 292-293]


[227] This advice might be thought judicious, if we could be persuaded of the authenticity of Geoffrey's cherished discovery, but there are lamentable defects, of a grave character, attending upon this British volume.

1. It was first made known six hundred years after the events which it relates.

2. No MS. copy is now in existence, nor any record of its ever having been multiplied by transcription.

3. It relates stories utterly at variance with acknowledged history.

4. It abounds in miraculous stories, which, like leaven, ferment and corrupt the whole mass.

5. It labours under great suspicion from the mendacious character of the people, whose credit it was written to support.

With these remarks we leave the work to the consideration of the reader, who may compare it, if he likes, with the Chronicles of Gildas and Nennius, which form the next portions of this volume.





[Pg 294-295]






§ 1. Whatever in this my epistle I may write in my humble but well-meaning manner, rather by way of lamentation than for display, let no one suppose that it springs from contempt of others, or that I foolishly esteem myself as better than they;—for, alas! the subject of my complaint is the general destruction of every thing that is good, and the general growth of evil throughout the land;—but that I would condole with my country in her distress and rejoice to see her revive therefrom: for it is my present purpose to relate the deeds of an indolent and slothful race, rather than the exploits of those who have been valiant in the field.[228] I have kept silence, I confess, with much mental anguish, compunction of feeling and contrition of heart, whilst I revolved all these things within myself; and, as God the searcher of the reins is witness, for the space of even ten years or more, [[229] my inexperience, as at present also, and my unworthiness preventing me from taking upon myself the character of a censor. But I read how the illustrious[Pg 296] lawgiver, for one word's doubting, was not allowed to enter the desired land; that the sons of the high-priest, for placing strange fire upon God's altar, were cut off by a speedy death; that God's people, for breaking the law of God, save two only, were slain by wild beasts, by fire and sword in the deserts of Arabia, though God had so loved them that he had made a way for them through the Red Sea, had fed them with bread from heaven, and water from the rock, and by the lifting up of a hand merely had made their armies invincible; and then, when they had crossed the Jordan and entered the unknown land, and the walls of the city had fallen down flat at the sound only of a trumpet, the taking of a cloak and a little gold from the accursed things caused the deaths of many: and again the breach of their treaty with the Gibeonites, though that treaty had been obtained by fraud, brought destruction upon many; and I took warning from the sins of the people which called down upon them the reprehensions of the prophets and also of Jeremiah, with his fourfold Lamentations written in alphabetic order. I saw moreover in my own time, as that prophet also had complained, that the city had sat down lone and widowed, which before was full of people; that the queen of nations and the princess of provinces (i.e. the church), had been made tributary; that the gold was obscured, and the most excellent colour (which is the brightness of God's word) changed; that the sons of Sion (i.e. of holy mother church), once famous and clothed in the finest gold, grovelled in dung; and what added intolerably to the weight of grief of that illustrious man, and to mine, though but an abject whilst he had thus mourned them in their happy and prosperous condition, "Her Nazarites were fairer than snow, more ruddy than old ivory, more beautiful than the sapphire." These and many other passages in the ancient Scriptures I regarded as a kind of mirror of human life, and I turned also to the New, wherein I read more clearly what perhaps to me before was dark, for the darkness fled, and truth shed her steady light—I read therein that the Lord had said, "I came not but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel;" and on the other hand, "But the children of this kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth:" and again, "It is not[Pg 297] good to take the children's meat and to give it to dogs:" also, "Woe to you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites!" I heard how "many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven:" and on the contrary, "I will then say to them, 'Depart from me, ye workers of iniquity!'" I read, "Blessed are the barren, and the teats which have not given suck;" and on the contrary, "Those, who were ready, entered with him to the wedding; afterwards came the other virgins also, saying 'Lord, Lord, open to us:' to whom it was answered, 'I do not know you.'" I heard, forsooth, "Whoever shall believe and be baptized, shall be saved, but whoever shall not believe shall be damned." I read in the words of the apostle that the branch of the wild olive was grafted upon the good olive, but should nevertheless be cut off from the communion of the root of its fatness, if it did not hold itself in fear, but entertained lofty thoughts. I knew the mercy of the Lord, but I also feared his judgment: I praised his grace, but I feared the rendering to every man according to his works: perceiving the sheep of the same fold to be different, I deservedly commended Peter for his entire confession of Christ, but called Judas most wretched, for his love of covetousness: I thought Stephen most glorious on account of the palm of martyrdom, but Nicholas wretched for his mark of unclean heresy: I read assuredly, "They had all things common:" but likewise also, as it is written, "Why have ye conspired to tempt the Spirit of God?" I saw, on the other hand, how much security had grown upon the men of our time, as if there were nothing to cause them fear. These things, therefore, and many more which for brevity's sake we have determined to omit, I revolved again and again in my amazed mind with compunction in my heart, and I thought to myself, "If God's peculiar people, chosen from all the people of the world, the royal seed, and holy nation, to whom he had said, 'My first-begotten Israel,' its priests, prophets, and kings, throughout so many ages, his servant and apostle, and the members of his primitive church, were not spared when they deviated from the right path, what will he do to the darkness of this our age, in which, besides all the huge and heinous sins, which it has in common with all the wicked of the world[Pg 298] committed, is found an innate, indelible, and irremediable load of folly and inconstancy?" "What, wretched man (I say to myself) is it given to you, as if you were an illustrious and learned teacher, to oppose the force of so violent a torrent, and keep the charge committed to you against such a series of inveterate crimes which has spread far and wide, without interruption, for so many years? Hold thy peace: to do otherwise, is to tell the foot to see, and the hand to speak. Britain has rulers, and she has watchmen: why dost thou incline thyself thus uselessly to prate?" She has such, I say, not too many, perhaps, but surely not too few: but, because they are bent down and pressed beneath so heavy a burden, they have not time allowed them to take breath. My senses, therefore, as if feeling a portion of my debt and obligation, preoccupied themselves with such objections, and with others yet more strong. They struggled, as I said, no short time, in a fearful strait, whilst I read, "There is a time for speaking, and a time for keeping silence." At length, the creditor's side prevailed and bore off the victory: if (said he) thou art not bold enough to be marked with the comely mark of golden liberty among the prophetic creatures, who enjoy the rank as reasoning beings next to the angels, refuse not the inspiration of the understanding ass, to that day dumb, which would not carry forward the tiara'd magician who was going to curse God's people, but in the narrow pass of the vineyard crushed his loosened foot, and thereby felt the lash; and though he was, with his ungrateful and furious hand, against right justice, beating her innocent sides, she pointed out to him the heavenly messenger holding the naked sword, and standing in his way, though he had not seen him.]

Wherefore in zeal for the house of God and for his holy law, constrained either by the reasonings of my own thoughts, or by the pious entreaties of my brethren, I now discharge the debt so long exacted of me; humble, indeed, in style, but faithful, as I think, and friendly to all Christ's youthful soldiers, but severe and insupportable to foolish apostates; the former of whom, if I am not deceived, will receive the same with tears flowing from God's love; but the others with sorrow, such as is extorted from the indignation and pusillanimity of a convicted conscience.[Pg 299]

§ 2. I will, therefore, if God be willing, endeavour to say a few words about the situation of Britain, her disobedience and subjection, her rebellion, second subjection and dreadful slavery—of her religion, persecution, holy martyrs, heresies of different kinds—of her tyrants, her two hostile and ravaging nations—of her first devastation, her defence, her second devastation and second taking vengeance—of her third devastation, of her famine, and the letters to Agitius[230]—of her victory and her crimes—of the sudden rumour of enemies—of her famous pestilence—of her counsels—of her last enemy, far more cruel than the first—of the subversion of her cities, and of the remnant that escaped; and finally, of the peace which, by the will of God, has been granted her in these our times.


[228] Notwithstanding this remark of Gildas, the Britons must have shown great bravery and resolution in their battles against the Saxons, or they would not have resisted their encroachments so long. When Gildas was writing, a hundred years had elapsed, and the Britons still possessed a large portion of their native country.

[229] All that follows, enclosed within brackets, up to page 298, is omitted in some copies.

[230] Or Ætius, see page 307.


§ 3. The island of Britain, situated on almost the utmost border of the earth, towards the south and west, and poised in the divine balance, as it is said, which supports the whole world, stretches out from the south-west towards the north pole, and is eight hundred miles long and two hundred broad,[231] except where the headlands of sundry promontories stretch farther into the sea. It is surrounded by the ocean, which forms winding bays, and is strongly defended by this ample, and, if I may so call it, impassable barrier, save on the south side, where the narrow sea affords a passage to Belgic Gaul. It is enriched by the mouths of two noble rivers, the Thames and the Severn, as it were two arms, by which foreign luxuries were of old imported, and by other streams of less importance. It is famous for eight and twenty cities, and is embellished by certain castles, with walls, towers, well barred gates, and houses with threatening battlements built on high, and provided with all requisite[Pg 300] instruments of defence. Its plains are spacious, its hills are pleasantly situated, adapted for superior tillage, and its mountains are admirably calculated for the alternate pasturage of cattle, where flowers of various colours, trodden by the feet of man, give it the appearance of a lovely picture. It is decked, like a man's chosen bride, with divers jewels, with lucid fountains and abundant brooks wandering over the snow white sands; with transparent rivers, flowing in gentle murmurs, and offering a sweet pledge of slumber[232] to those who recline upon their banks, whilst it is irrigated by abundant lakes, which pour forth cool torrents of refreshing water.

§ 4. This island, stiff-necked and stubborn-minded, from the time of its being first inhabited, ungratefully rebels, sometimes against God, sometimes against her own citizens, and frequently, also, against foreign kings and their subjects. For what can there either be, or be committed, more disgraceful or more unrighteous in human affairs, than to refuse to show fear to God or affection to one's own countrymen, and (without detriment to one's faith) to refuse due honour to those of higher dignity, to cast off all regard to reason, human and divine, and, in contempt of heaven and earth, to be guided by one's own sensual inventions? I shall, therefore, omit those ancient errors common to all the nations of the earth, in which, before Christ came in the flesh, all mankind were bound; nor shall I enumerate those diabolical idols of my country, which almost surpassed in number those of Egypt, and of which we still see some mouldering away within or without the deserted temples, with stiff and deformed features as was customary. Nor will I call out upon the mountains, fountains, or hills, or upon the rivers, which now are subservient to the use of men, but once were an abomination and destruction to them, and to which the blind people paid divine honour. I shall also pass over the bygone times of our cruel tyrants, whose notoriety was spread over to far distant countries; so that Porphyry, that dog who in the east was always so fierce against the church, in his mad and vain style added this also, that "Britain is a land fertile[Pg 301] in tyrants."[233] I will only endeavour to relate the evils which Britain suffered in the times of the Roman emperors, and also those which she caused to distant states; but so far as lies in my power, I shall not follow the writings and records of my own country, which (if there ever were any of them) have been consumed in the fires of the enemy, or have accompanied my exiled countrymen into distant lands, but be guided by the relations of foreign writers, which, being broken and interrupted in many places, are therefore by no means clear.

§ 5. For when the rulers of Rome had obtained the empire of the world, subdued all the neighbouring nations and islands towards the east, and strengthened their renown by the first peace which they made with the Parthians, who border on India, there was a general cessation from war throughout the whole world; the fierce flame which they kindled could not be extinguished or checked by the Western Ocean, but passing beyond the sea, imposed submission upon our island without resistance, and entirely reduced to obedience its unwarlike but faithless people, not so much by fire and sword and warlike engines, like other nations, but threats alone, and menaces of judgments frowning on their countenance, whilst terror penetrated to their hearts.

§ 6. When afterwards they returned to Rome, for want of pay, as is said, and had no suspicion of an approaching rebellion, that deceitful lioness (Boadicea) put to death the rulers who had been left among them, to unfold more fully and to confirm the enterprises of the Romans. When the report of these things reached the senate, and they with a speedy army made haste to take vengeance on the crafty foxes,[234] as they called them, there was no bold navy on the sea to fight bravely for the country; by land there was no marshalled army, no right wing of battle, nor other preparation for resistance; but their backs were their shields against their vanquishers, and they presented their necks to[Pg 302] their swords, whilst chill terror ran through every limb, and they stretched out their hands to be bound, like women; so that it has become a proverb far and wide, that the Britons are neither brave in war nor faithful in time of peace.

§ 7. The Romans, therefore, having slain many of the rebels, and reserved others for slaves, that the land might not be entirely reduced to desolation, left the island, destitute as it was of wine and oil, and returned to Italy, leaving behind them taskmasters, to scourge the shoulders of the natives, to reduce their necks to the yoke, and their soil to the vassalage of a Roman province; to chastise the crafty race, not with warlike weapons, but with rods, and if necessary to gird upon their sides the naked sword, so that it was no longer thought to be Britain, but a Roman island; and all their money, whether of copper, gold, or silver, was stamped with Cæsar's image.

§ 8. Meanwhile these islands, stiff with cold and frost, and in a distant region of the world, remote from the visible sun, received the beams of light, that is, the holy precepts of Christ, the true Sun, showing to the whole world his splendour, not only from the temporal firmament, but from the height of heaven, which surpasses every thing temporal, at the latter part, as we know, of the reign of Tiberius Cæsar, by whom his religion was propagated without impediment, and death threatened to those who interfered with its professors.

§ 9. These rays of light were received with lukewarm minds by the inhabitants, but they nevertheless took root among some of them in a greater or less degree, until the nine years' persecution of the tyrant Diocletian, when the churches throughout the whole world were overthrown, all the copies of the Holy Scriptures which could be found burned in the streets, and the chosen pastors of God's flock butchered, together with their innocent sheep, in order that not a vestige, if possible, might remain in some provinces of Christ's religion. What disgraceful flights then took place—what slaughter and death inflicted by way of punishment in divers shapes,—what dreadful apostacies from religion; and on the contrary, what glorious crowns of martyrdom then were won,—what raving fury was displayed by the[Pg 303] persecutors, and patience on the part of the suffering saints, ecclesiastical history informs us; for the whole church were crowding in a body, to leave behind them the dark things of this world, and to make the best of their way to the happy mansions of heaven, as if to their proper home.

§ 10. God, therefore, who wishes all men to be saved, and who calls sinners no less than those who think themselves righteous, magnified his mercy towards us, and, as we know, during the above-named persecution, that Britain might not totally be enveloped in the dark shades of night, he, of his own free gift, kindled up among us bright luminaries of holy martyrs, whose places of burial and of martyrdom, had they not for our manifold crimes been interfered with and destroyed by the barbarians, would have still kindled in the minds of the beholders no small fire of divine charity. Such were St. Alban of Verulam, Aaron and Julius, citizens of Carlisle,[235] and the rest, of both sexes, who in different places stood their ground in the Christian contest.

§ 11. The first of these martyrs, St. Alban, for charity's sake saved another confessor who was pursued by his persecutors, and was on the point of being seized, by hiding him in his house, and then by changing clothes with him, imitating in this the example of Christ, who laid down his life for his sheep, and exposing himself in the other's clothes to be pursued in his stead. So pleasing to God was this conduct, that between his confession and martyrdom, he was honoured with the performance of wonderful miracles in presence of the impious blasphemers who were carrying the Roman standards, and like the Israelites of old, who trod dry-foot an unfrequented path whilst the ark of the covenant stood some time on the sands in the midst of Jordan; so also the martyr, with a thousand others, opened a path across the noble river Thames, whose waters stood abrupt like precipices on either side; and seeing this, the first of his executors was stricken with awe, and from a wolf became a lamb; so that he thirsted for martyrdom, and boldly underwent that for which he thirsted. The other holy martyrs were tormented with divers sufferings, and their limbs were racked in such unheard of ways, that they, without delay, erected the trophies of their glorious martyrdom even in the[Pg 304] gates of the city of Jerusalem. For those who survived, hid themselves in woods and deserts, and secret caves, waiting until God, who is the righteous judge of all, should reward their persecutors with judgment, and themselves with protection of their lives.

§ 12. In less than ten years, therefore, of the above-named persecution, and when these bloody decrees began to fail in consequence of the death of their authors, all Christ's young disciples, after so long and wintry a night, begin to behold the genial light of heaven. They rebuild the churches, which had been levelled to the ground; they found, erect, and finish churches to the holy martyrs, and everywhere show their ensigns as token of their victory; festivals are celebrated and sacraments received with clean hearts and lips, and all the church's sons rejoice as it were in the fostering bosom of a mother. For this holy union remained between Christ their head and the members of his church, until the Arian treason, fatal as a serpent, and vomiting its poison from beyond the sea, caused deadly dissension between brothers inhabiting the same house, and thus, as if a road were made across the sea, like wild beasts of all descriptions, and darting the poison of every heresy from their jaws, they inflicted dreadful wounds upon their country, which is ever desirous to hear something new, and remains constant long to nothing.

§ 13. At length also, new races of tyrants sprang up, in terrific numbers, and the island, still bearing its Roman name, but casting off her institutes and laws, sent forth among the Gauls that bitter scion of her own planting Maximus, with a great number of followers, and the ensigns of royalty, which he bore without decency and without lawful right, but in a tyrannical manner, and amid the disturbances of the seditious soldiery. He, by cunning arts rather than by valour, attaching to his rule, by perjury and falsehood, all the neighbouring towns and provinces, against the Roman state, extended one of his wings to Spain, the other to Italy, fixed the seat of his unholy government at Treves, and so furiously pushed his rebellion against his lawful emperors that he drove one of them out of Rome, and caused the other to terminate his most holy life. Trusting to these successful attempts, he not long after lost his accursed head[Pg 305] before the walls of Aquileia, whereas he had before cut off the crowned heads of almost all the world.

§ 14. After this, Britain is left deprived of all her soldiery and armed bands, of her cruel governors, and of the flower of her youth, who went with Maximus, but never again returned; and utterly ignorant as she was of the art of war, groaned in amazement for many years under the cruelty of two foreign nations—the Scots from the north-west, and the Picts from the north.

§ 15. The Britons, impatient at the assaults of the Scots and Picts, their hostilities and dreadful oppressions, send ambassadors to Rome with letters, entreating in piteous terms the assistance of an armed band to protect them, and offering loyal and ready submission to the authority of Rome, if they only would expel their invading foes. A legion is immediately sent, forgetting their past rebellion, and provided sufficiently with arms. When they had crossed over the sea and landed, they came at once to close conflict with their cruel enemies, and slew great numbers of them. All of them were driven beyond the borders, and the humiliated natives rescued from the bloody slavery which awaited them. By the advice of their protectors, they now built a wall across the island from one sea to the other, which being manned with a proper force, might be a terror to the foes whom it was intended to repel, and a protection to their friends whom it covered. But this wall, being made of turf instead of stone, was of no use to that foolish people, who had no head to guide them.

§ 16. The Roman legion had no sooner returned home in joy and triumph, than their former foes, like hungry and ravening wolves, rushing with greedy jaws upon the fold which is left without a shepherd, and wafted both by the strength of oarsmen and the blowing wind, break through the boundaries, and spread slaughter on every side, and like mowers cutting down the ripe corn, they cut up, tread under foot, and overrun the whole country.

§ 17. And now again they send suppliant ambassadors, with their garments rent and their heads covered with ashes, imploring assistance from the Romans, and like timorous chickens, crowding under the protecting wings of their parents, that their wretched country might not altogether be[Pg 306] destroyed, and that the Roman name, which now was but an empty sound to fill the ear, might not become a reproach even to distant nations. Upon this, the Romans, moved with compassion, as far as human nature can be, at the relations of such horrors, send forward, like eagles in their flight, their unexpected bands of cavalry by land and mariners by sea, and planting their terrible swords upon the shoulders of their enemies, they mow them down like leaves which fall at the destined period; and as a mountain-torrent swelled with numerous streams, and bursting its banks with roaring noise, with foaming crest and yeasty wave rising to the stars, by whose eddying currents our eyes are as it were dazzled, does with one of its billows overwhelm every obstacle in its way, so did our illustrious defenders vigorously drive our enemies' band beyond the sea, if any could so escape them; for it was beyond those same seas that they transported, year after year, the plunder which they had gained, no one daring to resist them.

§ 18. The Romans, therefore, left the country, giving notice that they could no longer be harassed by such laborious expeditions, nor suffer the Roman standards, with so large and brave an army, to be worn out by sea and land by fighting against these unwarlike, plundering vagabonds; but that the islanders, inuring themselves to warlike weapons, and bravely fighting, should valiantly protect their country, their property, wives and children, and, what is dearer than these, their liberty and lives; that they should not suffer their hands to be tied behind their backs by a nation which, unless they were enervated by idleness and sloth, was not more powerful than themselves, but that they should arm those hands with buckler, sword, and spear, ready for the field of battle; and, because they thought this also of advantage to the people they were about to leave, they, with the help of the miserable natives, built a wall different from the former, by public and private contributions, and of the same structure as walls generally, extending in a straight line from sea to sea, between some cities, which, from fear of their enemies, had there by chance been built. They then give energetic counsel to the timorous natives, and leave them patterns by which to manufacture arms. Moreover, on the south coast where their vessels lay, as[Pg 307] there was some apprehension lest the barbarians might land, they erected towers at stated intervals, commanding a prospect of the sea; and then left the island never to return.

§ 19. No sooner were they gone, than the Picts and Scots, like worms which in the heat of mid-day come forth from their holes, hastily land again from their canoes, in which they had been carried beyond the Cichican[236] valley, differing one from another in manners, but inspired with the same avidity for blood, and all more eager to shroud their villainous faces in bushy hair than to cover with decent clothing those parts of their body which required it. Moreover, having heard of the departure of our friends, and their resolution never to return, they seized with greater boldness than before on all the country towards the extreme north as far as the wall. To oppose them there was placed on the heights a garrison equally slow to fight and ill adapted to run away, a useless and panic-struck company, who slumbered away days and nights on their unprofitable watch. Meanwhile the hooked weapons of their enemies were not idle, and our wretched countrymen were dragged from the wall and dashed against the ground. Such premature death, however, painful as it was, saved them from seeing the miserable sufferings of their brothers and children. But why should I say more? They left their cities, abandoned the protection of the wall, and dispersed themselves in flight more desperately than before. The enemy, on the other hand, pursued them with more unrelenting cruelty than before, and butchered our countrymen like sheep, so that their habitations were like those of savage beasts; for they turned their arms upon each other, and for the sake of a little sustenance, imbrued their hands in the blood of their fellow countrymen. Thus foreign calamities were augmented by domestic feuds; so that the whole country was entirely destitute of provisions, save such as could be procured in the chase.

§ 20. Again, therefore, the wretched remnant, sending to Ætius, a powerful Roman citizen, address him as follows:—"To Ætius,[237] now consul for the third time: the groans of[Pg 308] the Britons." And again a little further, thus:—"The barbarians drive us to the sea: the sea throws us back on the barbarians: thus two modes of death await us, we are either slain or drowned." The Romans, however, could not assist them, and in the meantime the discomfited people, wandering in the woods, began to feel the effects of a severe famine, which compelled many of them without delay to yield themselves up to their cruel persecutors, to obtain subsistence: others of them, however, lying hid in mountains, caves, and woods, continually sallied out from thence to renew the war. And then it was, for the first time, that they overthrew their enemies, who had for so many years been living in their country; for their trust was not in man, but in God; according to the maxim of Philo, "We must have divine assistance, when that of man fails." The boldness of the enemy was for a while checked, but not the wickedness of our countrymen: the enemy left our people, but the people did not leave their sins.

§ 21. For it has always been a custom with our nation, as it is at present, to be impotent in repelling foreign foes, but bold and invincible in raising civil war, and bearing the burdens of their offences: they are impotent, I say, in following the standard of peace and truth, but bold in wickedness and falsehood. The audacious invaders therefore return to their winter quarters, determined before long again to return and plunder. And then, too, the Picts for the first time seated themselves at the extremity of the island, where they afterwards continued, occasionally plundering and wasting the country. During these truces, the wounds of the distressed people are healed, but another sore, still more venomous, broke out. No sooner were the ravages of the enemy checked, than the island was deluged with a most extraordinary plenty of all things, greater than was before known, and with it grew up every kind of luxury and licentiousness. It grew with so firm a root, that one might truly say of it, "Such fornication is heard of among you, as never was known the like among the Gentiles." But besides this vice, there arose also every other, to which human nature is liable, and in particular that hatred of truth, together with her supporters, which still at present destroys every thing good in the island; the love of falsehood, together with its[Pg 309] inventors, the reception of crime in the place of virtue, the respect shown to wickedness rather than goodness, the love of darkness instead of the sun, the admission of Satan as an angel of light. Kings were anointed, not according to God's ordinance, but such as showed themselves more cruel than the rest; and soon after, they were put to death by those who had elected them, without any inquiry into their merits, but because others still more cruel were chosen to succeed them. If any one of these was of a milder nature than the rest, or in any way more regardful of the truth, he was looked upon as the ruiner of the country, every body cast a dart at him, and they valued things alike whether pleasing or displeasing to God, unless it so happened that what displeased him was pleasing to themselves. So that the words of the prophet, addressed to the people of old, might well be applied to our own countrymen: "Children without a law, have ye left God and provoked to anger the holy one of Israel?[238] Why will ye still inquire, adding iniquity? Every head is languid and every heart is sad; from the sole of the foot to the crown, there is no health in him." And thus they did all things contrary to their salvation, as if no remedy could be applied to the world by the true Physician of all men. And not only the laity did so, but our Lord's own flock and its shepherds, who ought to have been an example to the people, slumbered away their time in drunkenness, as if they had been dipped in wine; whilst the swellings of pride, the jar of strife, the griping talons of envy, and the confused estimate of right and wrong, got such entire possession of them, that there seemed to be poured out (and the same still continueth) contempt upon princes, and to be made by their vanities to wander astray and not in the way.

§ 22. Meanwhile, God being willing to purify his family who were infected by so deep a stain of woe, and at the hearing only of their calamities to amend them; a vague rumour suddenly as if on wings reaches the ears of all, that their inveterate foes were rapidly approaching to destroy the[Pg 310] whole country, and to take possession of it, as of old, from one end to the other. But yet they derived no advantage from this intelligence; for, like frantic beasts, taking the bit of reason between their teeth, they abandoned the safe and narrow road, and rushed forward upon the broad downward path of vice, which leads to death. Whilst, therefore, as Solomon says, the stubborn servant is not cured by words, the fool is scourged and feels it not: a pestilential disease mortally affected the foolish people, which, without the sword, cut off so large a number of persons, that the living were not able to bury them. But even this was no warning to them, that in them also might be fulfilled the words of Isaiah the prophet, "And God hath called his people to lamentation, to baldness, and to the girdle of sackcloth; behold they begin to kill calves, and to slay rams, to eat, to drink, and to say, 'We will eat and drink, for to-morrow we shall die.'" For the time was approaching, when all their iniquities, as formerly those of the Amorrhæans, should be fulfilled. For a council was called to settle what was best and most expedient to be done, in order to repel such frequent and fatal irruptions and plunderings of the above named nations.

§ 23. Then all the councillors, together with that proud tyrant Gurthrigern [Vortigern], the British king, were so blinded, that, as a protection to their country, they sealed its doom by inviting in among them (like wolves into the sheepfold), the fierce and impious Saxons, a race hateful both to God and men, to repel the invasions of the northern nations. Nothing was ever so pernicious to our country, nothing was ever so unlucky. What palpable darkness must have enveloped their minds—darkness desperate and cruel! Those very people whom, when absent, they dreaded more than death itself, were invited to reside, as one may say, under the selfsame roof. Foolish are the princes, as it is said, of Thafneos, giving counsel to unwise Pharaoh. A multitude of whelps came forth from the lair of this barbaric lioness, in three cyuls, as they call them, that is, in three ships of war, with their sails wafted by the wind and with omens and prophecies favourable, for it was foretold by a certain soothsayer among them, that they should occupy the country to which they were sailing three hundred years, and half of[Pg 311] that time, a hundred and fifty years, should plunder and despoil the same. They first landed on the eastern side of the island, by the invitation of the unlucky king, and there fixed their sharp talons, apparently to fight in favour of the island, but alas! more truly against it. Their mother-land, finding her first brood thus successful, sends forth a larger company of her wolfish offspring, which sailing over, join themselves to their bastard-born comrades. From that time the germ of iniquity and the root of contention planted their poison amongst us, as we deserved, and shot forth into leaves and branches. The barbarians being thus introduced as soldiers into the island, to encounter, as they falsely said, any dangers in defence of their hospitable entertainers, obtain an allowance of provisions, which, for some time being plentifully bestowed, stopped their doggish mouths. Yet they complain that their monthly supplies are not furnished in sufficient abundance, and they industriously aggravate each occasion of quarrel, saying that unless more liberality is shown them, they will break the treaty and plunder the whole island. In a short time, they follow up their threats with deeds.

§ 24. For the fire of vengeance, justly kindled by former crimes, spread from sea to sea, fed by the hands of our foes in the east, and did not cease, until, destroying the neighbouring towns and lands, it reached the other side of the island, and dipped its red and savage tongue in the western ocean. In these assaults, therefore, not unlike that of the Assyrian upon Judea, was fulfilled in our case what the prophet describes in words of lamentation: "They have burned with fire the sanctuary; they have polluted on earth the tabernacle of thy name." And again, "O God, the gentiles have come into thine inheritance; thy holy temple have they defiled," &c. So that all the columns were levelled with the ground by the frequent strokes of the battering-ram, all the husbandmen routed, together with their bishops, priests, and people, whilst the sword gleamed, and the flames crackled around them on every side. Lamentable to behold, in the midst of the streets lay the tops of lofty towers, tumbled to the ground, stones of high walls, holy altars, fragments of human bodies, covered with livid clots of coagulated blood, looking as if they had been squeezed together in[Pg 312] a press;[239] and with no chance of being buried, save in the ruins of the houses, or in the ravening bellies of wild beasts and birds; with reverence be it spoken for their blessed souls, if, indeed, there were many found who were carried, at that time, into the high heaven by the holy angels. So entirely had the vintage, once so fine, degenerated and become bitter, that, in the words of the prophet, there was hardly a grape or ear of corn to be seen where the husbandman had turned his back.

§ 25. Some, therefore, of the miserable remnant, being taken in the mountains, were murdered in great numbers; others, constrained by famine, came and yielded themselves to be slaves for ever to their foes, running the risk of being instantly slain, which truly was the greatest favour that could be offered them: some others passed beyond the seas with loud lamentations instead of the voice of exhortation. "Thou hast given us as sheep to be slaughtered, and among the Gentiles hast thou dispersed us." Others, committing the safeguard of their lives, which were in continual jeopardy, to the mountains, precipices, thickly wooded forests, and to the rocks of the seas (albeit with trembling hearts), remained still in their country. But in the meanwhile, an opportunity happening, when these most cruel robbers were returned home, the poor remnants of our nation (to whom flocked from divers places round about our miserable countrymen as fast as bees to their hives, for fear of an ensuing storm), being strengthened by God, calling upon him with all their hearts, as the poet says,—

"With their unnumbered vows they burden heaven,"

that they might not be brought to utter destruction, took arms under the conduct of Ambrosius Aurelianus, a modest man, who of all the Roman nation was then alone in the confusion of this troubled period by chance left alive. His parents, who for their merit were adorned with the purple, had been slain in these same broils, and now his progeny in these our days, although shamefully degenerated from the worthiness of their ancestors, provoke to battle their cruel[Pg 313] conquerors, and by the goodness of our Lord obtain the victory.

§ 26. After this, sometimes our countrymen, sometimes the enemy, won the field, to the end that our Lord might in this land try after his accustomed manner these his Israelites, whether they loved him or not, until the year of the siege of Bath-hill, when took place also the last almost, though not the least slaughter of our cruel foes, which was (as I am sure) forty-four years and one month after the landing of the Saxons, and also the time of my own nativity. And yet neither to this day are the cities of our country inhabited as before, but being forsaken and overthrown, still lie desolate; our foreign wars having ceased, but our civil troubles still remaining. For as well the remembrance of such a terrible desolation of the island, as also of the unexpected recovery of the same, remained in the minds of those who were eye-witnesses of the wonderful events of both, and in regard thereof, kings, public magistrates, and private persons, with priests and clergymen, did all and every one of them live orderly according to their several vocations. But when these had departed out of this world, and a new race succeeded, who were ignorant of this troublesome time, and had only experience of the present prosperity, all the laws of truth and justice were so shaken and subverted, that not so much as a vestige or remembrance of these virtues remained among the above-named orders of men, except among a very few who, compared with the great multitude which were daily rushing headlong down to hell, are accounted so small a number, that our reverend mother, the church, scarcely beholds them, her only true children, reposing in her bosom; whose worthy lives, being a pattern to all men, and beloved of God, inasmuch as by their holy prayers, as by certain pillars and most profitable supporters, our infirmity is sustained up, that it may not utterly be broken down, I would have no one suppose I intended to reprove, if forced by the increasing multitude of offences, I have freely, aye, with anguish, not so much declared as bewailed the wickedness of those who are become servants, not only to their bellies, but also to the devil rather than to Christ, who is our blessed God, world without end.

For why shall their countrymen conceal what foreign na[Pg 314]tions round about now not only know, but also continually are casting in their teeth?


[231] The description of Britain is given in very nearly the same terms, by Orosius, Bede, and others, but the numbers, denoting the length and breadth and other dimensions, are different in almost every MS. copy.

[232] "Soporem" in some MSS., "saporem" in others; it is difficult from the turgidity and superabundance of the style to determine which is the best meaning.

[233] Gildas here confuses the modern idea of a tyrant with that of an usurper. The latter is the sense in which Britain was said to be fertile in tyrants, viz. in usurpers of the imperial dignity.

[234] The Britons who fought under Boadicea were anything but "crafty foxes." "Bold lions" is a much more appropriate appellation; they would also have been victorious if they had had half the military advantages of the Romans.

[235] Or Caerleon. See Bede's Eccles. Hist. p. 15, note

[236] The meaning of this expression is not known. O'Connor thinks it is the Irish Sea.

[237] Or Ayitius, according to another reading.

[238] Isa. i. 4, 5. In most of these quotations there is great verbal variation from the authorised version: the author probably quoted from memory, if not from the Latin version.

[239] These are the words of the old translation; the original is obscure, and perhaps corrupt.


§ 27. Britain has kings, but they are tyrants; she has judges, but unrighteous ones; generally engaged in plunder and rapine, but always preying on the innocent; whenever they exert themselves to avenge or protect, it is sure to be in favour of robbers and criminals; they have an abundance of wives, yet are they addicted to fornication and adultery; they are ever ready to take oaths, and as often perjure themselves; they make a vow and almost immediately act falsely; they make war, but their wars are against their countrymen, and are unjust ones; they rigorously prosecute thieves throughout their country, but those who sit at table with them are robbers, and they not only cherish but reward them; they give alms plentifully, but in contrast to this is a whole pile of crimes which they have committed; they sit on the seat of justice, but rarely seek for the rule of right judgment; they despise the innocent and the humble, but seize every occasion of exalting to the utmost the bloody-minded; the proud, murderers, the combined and adulterers, enemies of God, who ought to be utterly destroyed and their names forgotten.

They have many prisoners in their gaols, loaded with chains, but this is done in treachery rather than in just punishment for crimes; and when they have stood before the altar, swearing by the name of God, they go away and think no more of the holy altar than if it were a mere heap of dirty stones.

§ 28. Of this horrid abomination, Constantine,[240] the tyrannical whelp of the unclean lioness of Damnonia,[241] is not ignorant.

This same year, after taking a dreadful oath (whereby he[Pg 315] bound himself first before God, by a solemn protestation, and then called all the saints, and Mother of God, to witness, that he would not contrive any deceit against his countrymen), he nevertheless, in the habit of a holy abbat amid the sacred altars, did with sword and javelin, as if with teeth, wound and tear, even in the bosoms of their temporal mother, and of the church their spiritual mother, two royal youths, with their two attendants, whose arms, although not cased in armour, were yet boldly used, and, stretched out towards God and his altar, will hang up at the gates of thy city, O Christ, the venerable ensigns of their faith and patience; and when he had done it, the cloaks, red with coagulated blood, did touch the place of the heavenly sacrifice. And not one worthy act could he boast of previous to this cruel deed; for many years before he had stained himself with the abomination of many adulteries, having put away his wife contrary to the command of Christ, the teacher of the world, who hath said: "What God hath joined together, let not man separate," and again: "Husbands, love your wives." For he had planted in the ground of his heart (an unfruitful soil for any good seed) a bitter scion of incredulity and folly, taken from the vine of Sodom, which being watered with his vulgar and domestic impieties, like poisonous showers, and afterwards audaciously springing up to the offence of God, brought forth into the world the sin of horrible murder and sacrilege; and not yet discharged from the entangling nets of his former offences, he added new wickedness to the former.

§ 29. Go to now, I reprove thee as present, whom I know as yet to be in this life extant. Why standest thou astonished, O thou butcher of thine own soul? Why dost thou wilfully kindle against thyself the eternal fires of hell? Why dost thou, in place of enemies, desperately stab thyself with thine own sword, with thine own javelin? Cannot those same poisonous cups of offences yet satisfy thy stomach? Look back (I beseech thee) and come to Christ (for thou labourest, and art pressed down to the earth with this huge burden), and he himself, as he said, will give thee rest. Come to him who wisheth not the death of a sinner, but that he should be rather converted and live. Unloose (according to the prophet) the bands of thy neck[Pg 316] O thou son of Sion. Return (I pray thee), although from the far remote regions of sins, unto the most holy Father, who, for his son that will despise the filthy food of swine, and fear a death of cruel famine, and so come back to him again, hath with great joy been accustomed to kill his fatted calf, and bring forth for the wanderer, the first robe and royal ring, and then taking as it were a taste of the heavenly hope, thou shalt perceive how sweet our Lord is. For if thou dost contemn these, be thou assured, thou shalt almost instantly be tossed and tormented in the inevitable and dark floods of endless fire.

§ 30. What dost thou also, thou lion's whelp (as the prophet saith), Aurelius Conanus?[242] Art not thou as the former (if not far more foul) to thy utter destruction, swallowed up in the filthiness of horrible murders, fornications, and adulteries, as by an overwhelming flood of the sea? Hast not thou by hating, as a deadly serpent, the peace of thy country, and thirsting unjustly after civil wars and frequent spoil, shut the gates of heavenly peace and repose against thine own soul? Being now left alone as a withering tree in the midst of a field, remember (I beseech thee) the vain and idle fancies of thy parents and brethren, together with the untimely death that befell them in the prime of their youth; and shalt thou, for thy religious deserts, be reserved out of all thy family to live a hundred years, or to attain to the age of a Methusalem? No, surely, but unless (as the psalmist saith) thou shalt be speedily converted unto our Lord, that King will shortly brandish his sword against thee, who hath said by his prophet, "I will kill, and I will cause to live; I will strike, and I will heal; and there is no one who can deliver out of my hand." Be thou therefore shaken out of thy filthy dust, and with all thy heart converted to Him who hath created thee, that "when his wrath shall shortly burn out, thou mayst be blessed by fixing thy hopes on him." But if otherwise, eternal pains will be heaped up for thee, where thou shalt be ever tormented and never consumed in the cruel jaws of hell.

§ 31. Thou also, who like to the spotted leopard, art diverse in manners and in mischief, whose head now is growing grey, who art seated on a throne full of deceits, and[Pg 317] from the bottom even to the top art stained with murder and adulteries, thou naughty son of a good king, like Manasses sprung from Ezechiah, Vortipore, thou foolish tyrant of the Demetians,[243] why art thou so stiff? What! do not such violent gulfs of sin (which thou dost swallow up like pleasant wine, nay rather which swallow thee up), as yet satisfy thee, especially since the end of thy life is daily now approaching? Why dost thou heavily clog thy miserable soul with the sin of lust, which is fouler than any other, by putting away thy wife, and after her honourable death, by the base practices of thy shameless daughter? Waste not (I beseech thee) the residue of thy life in offending God, because as yet an acceptable time and day of salvation shines on the faces of the penitent, wherein thou mayest take care that thy flight may not be in the winter, or on the sabbath day. "Turn away (according to the psalmist) from evil, and do good, seek peace and ensue it," because the eyes of our Lord will be cast upon thee, when thou doest righteousness, and his ears will be then open unto thy prayers, and he will not destroy thy memory out of the land of the living; thou shalt cry, and he will hear thee, and out of thy tribulations deliver thee; for Christ doth never despise a heart that is contrite and humbled with fear of him. Otherwise, the worm of thy torture shall not die, and the fire of thy burning shall never be extinguished.

§ 32. And thou too, Cuneglasse,[244] why art thou fallen into the filth of thy former naughtiness, yea, since the very first spring of thy tender youth, thou bear, thou rider and ruler of many, and guider of the chariot which is the receptacle of the bear, thou contemner of God, and vilifier of his order, thou tawny butcher, as in the Latin tongue thy name signifies. Why dost thou raise so great a war as well against men as also against God himself, against men, yea, thy own countrymen, with thy deadly weapons, and against God with thine infinite offences? Why, besides thine other innumerable backslidings, having thrown out of doors thy wife, dost thou, in the lust, or rather stupidity of thy mind, against the apostle's express prohibition, denouncing that no[Pg 318] adulterers can be partakers of the kingdom of heaven, esteem her detestable sister, who had vowed unto God the everlasting continency, as the very flower (in the language of the poet) of the celestial nymphs? Why dost thou provoke with thy frequent injuries the lamentations and sighs of saints, by thy means corporally afflicted, which will in time to come, like a fierce lioness, break thy bones in pieces? Desist, I beseech thee (as the prophet saith) from wrath, and leave off thy deadly fury, which thou breathest out against heaven and earth, against God and his flock, and which in time will be thy own torment; rather with altered mind obtain the prayers of those who possess a power of binding over this world, when in this world they bind the guilty, and of loosing when they loose the penitent. Be not (as the apostle saith) proudly wise, nor hope thou in the uncertainty of riches, but in God who giveth thee many things abundantly, and by the amendment of thy manners purchase unto thyself a good foundation for hereafter, and seek to enter into that real and true state of existence which will be not transitory but everlasting. Otherwise, thou shalt know and see, yea, in this very world, how bad and bitter a thing it is for thee to leave the Lord thy God, and not have his fear before thine eyes, and in the next, how thou shalt be burned in the foul encompassing flames of endless fire, nor yet by any manner of means shalt ever die. For the souls of the sinful are as eternal in perpetual fire, as the souls of the just in perpetual joy and gladness.

§ 33. And likewise, O thou dragon of the island, who hast deprived many tyrants, as well of their kingdoms as of their lives, and though the last-mentioned in my writing, the first in mischief, exceeding many in power, and also in malice, more liberal than others in giving, more licentious in sinning, strong in arms, but stronger in working thine own soul's destruction, Maglocune,[245] why art thou (as if soaked in the wine of the Sodomitical grape) foolishly rolling in that black pool of thine offences? Why dost thou wilfully heap like a mountain, upon thy kingly shoulders, such a load of sins? Why dost thou show thyself unto the King of kings (who hath made thee as well in kingdom as in stature of body higher than almost all the other chiefs of Britain) not better[Pg 319] likewise in virtues than the rest; but on the contrary for thy sins much worse? Listen then awhile and hear patiently the following enumeration of thy deeds, wherein I will not touch any domestic and light offences (if yet any of them are light) but only those open ones which are spread far and wide in the knowledge of all men. Didst not thou, in the very beginning of thy youth, terribly oppress with sword, spear, and fire, the king thine uncle, together with his courageous bands of soldiers, whose countenances in battle were not unlike those of young lions? Not regarding the words of the prophet, who says, "The blood-thirsty and deceitful men shall not live out half their days;" and even if the sequel of thy sins were not such as ensued, yet what retribution couldst thou expect for this offence only at the hands of the just Judge, who hath said by his prophet: "Woe be to thee who spoilest, and shalt not thou thyself be spoiled? and thou who killest, shalt not thyself be killed? and when thou shalt make an end of thy spoiling, then shalt thou thyself fall."

§ 34. But when the imagination of thy violent rule had succeeded according to thy wishes, and thou wast urged by a desire to return into the right way, night and day the consciousness of thy crimes afflicted thee, whilst thou didst ruminate on the Lord's ritual and the ordinances of the monks, and then publish to the world and vow thyself before God a monk with no intention to be unfaithful, as thou didst say, having burst through those toils in which such great beasts as thyself were used to become entangled, whether it were love of rule, of gold, or silver, or, what is stronger still, the fancies of thy own heart. And didst thou not, as a dove which cleaves the yielding air with its pinions, and by its rapid turns escapes the furious hawk, safely return to the cells where the saints repose, as a most certain place of refuge? Oh how great a joy should it have been to our mother church, if the enemy of all mankind had not lamentably pulled thee, as it were, out of her bosom! Oh what an abundant flame of heavenly hope would have been kindled in the hearts of desperate sinners, hadst thou remained in thy blessed estate! Oh what great rewards in the kingdom of Christ would have been laid up for thy soul against the day of judgment, if that crafty wolf had not caught thee, who of a wolf wast now become a lamb (not much against thine own[Pg 320] will) out of the fold of our Lord, and made thee of a lamb, a wolf like unto himself, again? Oh how great a joy would the preservation of thy salvation have been to God the Father of all saints, had not the devil, the father of all castaways, as an eagle of monstrous wings and claws, carried thee captive away against all right and reason, to the unhappy band of his children? And to be short, thy conversion to righteousness gave as great joy to heaven and earth, as now thy detestable return, like a dog to his vomit, breedeth grief and lamentation: which being done, "the members which should have been busily employed, as the armour of justice for the Lord, are now become the armour of iniquity for sin and the devil;" for now thou dost not listen to the praises of God sweetly sounded forth by the pleasant voices of Christ's soldiers, nor the instruments of ecclesiastical melody, but thy own praises (which are nothing) rung out after the fashion of the giddy rout of Bacchus by the mouths of thy villainous followers, accompanied with lies and malice, to the utter destruction of the neighbours; so that the vessel prepared for the service of God, is now turned to a vessel of dirt, and what was once reputed worthy of heavenly honour, is now cast as it deserves into the bottomless pit of hell.

§ 35. Yet neither is thy sensual mind (which is overcome by the excess of thy follies) at all checked in its course with committing so many sins, but hot and prone (like a young colt that coveteth every pleasant pasture) runneth headlong forward, with irrecoverable fury, through the intended fields of crime, continually increasing the number of its transgressions. For the former marriage of thy first wife (although after thy violated vow of religion she was not lawfully thine, but only by right of the time she was with thee), was now despised by thee, and another woman, the wife of a man then living, and he no stranger, but thy own brother's son, enjoyed thy affections. Upon which occasion that stiff neck of thine (already laden with sins) is now burdened with two monstrous murders, the one of thy aforesaid nephew, the other, of her who once was thy wedded wife: and thou art now from low to lower, and from bad to worse, bowed, bent, and sunk down into the lowest depth of sacrilege. Afterwards, also didst thou publicly marry the widow[Pg 321] by whose deceit and suggestion such a heavy weight of offences was undergone, and take her, lawfully, as the flattering tongues of thy parasites with false words pronounced it, but as we say, most wickedly, to be thine own in wedlock. And therefore what holy man is there, who, moved with the narration of such a history, would not presently break out into weeping and lamentations? What priest (whose heart lieth open unto God) would not instantly, upon hearing this, exclaim with anguish in the language of the prophet: "Who shall give water to my head, and to my eyes a fountain of tears, and I will day and night bewail those of my people, who are slaughtered." For full little (alas!) hast thou with thine ears listened to that reprehension of the prophet speaking in this wise: "Woe be unto you, O wicked men, who have left the law of the most holy God, and if ye shall be born, your portion shall be to malediction, and if ye die, to malediction shall be your portion, all things that are from the earth, to the earth shall be converted again, so shall the wicked from malediction pass to perdition:" if they return not unto our Lord, listening to this admonition: "Son, thou hast offended; add no further offence thereunto, but rather pray for the forgiveness of the former." And again, "Be not slow to be converted unto our Lord, neither put off the same from day to day, for his wrath doth come suddenly." Because, as the Scripture saith, "When the king heareth the unjust word, all under his dominion become wicked." And, the just king (according to the prophet) raiseth up his region. But warnings truly are not wanting to thee, since thou hast had for thy instructor the most eloquent master of almost all Britain. Take heed, thereof, lest that which Solomon noteth, befall thee, which is, "Even as he who stirreth up a sleeping man out of his heavy sleep, so is that person who declareth wisdom unto a fool, for in the end of his speech will he say, What hast thou first spoken? Wash thine heart (as it is written) from malice, O Jerusalem, that thou mayest be saved." Despise not (I beseech thee) the unspeakable mercy of God, calling by his prophet the wicked in this way from their offences: "I will on a sudden speak to the nation, and to the kingdom, that I may root out, and disperse, and destroy, and overthrow." As for the sinner he doth in this wise exhort him vehemently to repent. "And[Pg 322] if the same people shall repent from their offence, I will also repent of the evil which I have said that I would do unto them." And again, "Who will give them such an heart, that they may hear me, and keep my commandments, and that it may be well with them all the days of their lives." And also in the Canticle of Deuteronomy, "A people without counsel and prudence, I wish they would be wise, and understand, and foresee the last of all, how one pursueth a thousand and two put to flight ten thousand." And again, our Lord in the gospel, "Come unto me, all ye who do labour and are burdened, and I will make you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I am meek and humble of heart, and ye shall find repose for your souls." For if thou turn a deaf ear to these admonitions, contemn the prophets, and despise Christ, and make no account of us, humble though we be, so long as with sincere piety and purity of mind we bear in mind that saying of the prophet, that we may not be found, "Dumb dogs, not able to bark;" (however I for my part may not be of that singular fortitude, in the spirit and virtue of our Lord, as to declare, "To the house of Jacob their sins, and the house of Israel their offences;") and so long as we shall remember that of Solomon, "He who says that the wicked are just, shall be accursed among the people, and odious to nations, for they who reprove them shall have better hopes." And again, "Respect, not with reverence thy neighbour in his ruin, nor forbear to speak in time of salvation." And as long also as we forget not this, "Root out those who are led to death, and forbear not to redeem them who are murdered;" because, as the same prophet says, "Riches shall not profit in the day of wrath, but justice delivereth from death." And, "If the just indeed be hardly saved, where shall the wicked and sinner appear?" If, as I said, thou scorn us, who obey these texts, the dark flood of hell shall without doubt eternally drown thee in that deadly whirlpool, and those terrible streams of fire that shall ever torment and never consume thee, and then shall the confession of thy pains and sorrow for thy sins be altogether too late and unprofitable to one, who now in this accepted time and day of salvation deferreth his conversion to a more righteous way of life.

§ 37. And here, indeed, if not before, was this lamentable[Pg 323] history of the miseries of our time to have been brought to a conclusion, that I might no further discourse of the deeds of men; but that I may not be thought timid or weary, whereby I might the less carefully avoid that saying of Isaiah, "Woe be to them who call good evil, and evil good, placing darkness for light, and light for darkness, bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter, who seeing see not, and hearing hear not, whose hearts are overshadowed with a thick and black cloud of vices;" I will briefly set down the threatenings which are denounced against these five aforesaid lascivious horses, the frantic followers of Pharaoh, through whom his army is wilfully urged forward to their utter destruction in the Red Sea, and also against such others, by the sacred oracles, with whose holy testimonies the frame of this our little work is, as it were, roofed in, that it may not be subject to the showers of the envious, which otherwise would be poured thereon. Let, therefore, God's holy prophets, who are to mortal men the mouth of God, and the organ of the Holy Ghost, forbidding evils, and favouring goodness, answer for us as well now as formerly, against the stubborn and proud princes of this our age, that they may not say we menace them with such threats, and such great terrors of our own invention only, and with rash and over-zealous meddling. For to no wise man is it doubtful how far more grievous the sins of this our time are than those of the primitive age, when the apostle said, "Any one transgressing the law, being convicted by two or three witnesses, shall die, how much worse punishment think ye then that he deserveth, who shall trample under his foot the Son of God?"

§ 38. And first of all appears before us, Samuel, by God's commandment, the establisher of a lawful kingdom, dedicated to God before his birth, undoubtedly known by marvellous signs, to be a true prophet unto all the people, from Dan even to Beersheba, out of whose mouth the Holy Ghost thundereth to all the potentates of the world, denouncing Saul the first king of the Hebrews, only because he did not accomplish some matters commanded him of our Lord, in these words which follow: "Thou hast done foolishly, neither yet hast thou kept the commandments of our Lord thy God, that he hath given thee in charge; which if thou hadst not committed, even now had our Lord pre[Pg 324]pared thy reign over Israel for ever, but thy kingdom shall no farther arise." And what did he commit, whether it were adultery or murder, like to the offences of the present time? No, truly, but broke in part one of God's commandments, for, as one of our writers says, "The question is not of the quality of the sin, but of the violating of the precept." Also when he endeavoured to answer (as he thought) the objections of Samuel, and after the fashion of men wisely to make excuses for his offence in this manner: "Yea, I have obeyed the voice of our Lord, and walked in the way through which he hath sent me;" with this rebuke was he corrected by him: "What! will our Lord have burnt offerings or oblations, and not rather that the voice of our Lord should be obeyed? Obedience is better than oblations, and to hearken unto him, better than to offer the fat of rams. For as it is the sin of soothsaying to resist, so is it the offence of idolatry not to obey; in regard, therefore, that thou hast cast away the word of our Lord, he hath also cast thee away that thou be not king." And a little after, "Our Lord hath this day rent the kingdom of Israel from thee, and delivered it up to thy neighbour, a man better than thyself. The Triumpher of Israel truly will not spare, and will not be bowed with repentance, neither yet is he a man that he should repent;" that is to say, upon the stony hearts of the wicked: wherein it is to be noted how he saith, that to be disobedient unto God is the sin of idolatry. Let not, therefore, our wicked transgressors (while they do not openly sacrifice to the gods of the Gentiles) flatter themselves that they are not idolaters, whilst they tread like swine the most precious pearls of Christ under their feet.

§ 39. But although this one example as an invincible affirmation might abundantly suffice to correct the wicked; yet, that by the mouths of many witnesses all the offences of Britain may be proved, let us pass to the rest. What happened to David for numbering his people, when the prophet Gad spake unto him in this sort? Thus saith our Lord: "The choice of three things is offered thee, choose which thou wilt, that I may execute it upon thee. Shall there befall thee a famine for seven years, or shalt thou flee three months before thine enemies, and they pursue thee, or shall there be three days' pestilence in thy land?" For be[Pg 325]ing brought into great straits by this condition, and willing rather to fall into the hands of God who is merciful, than into those of men, he was humbled with the slaughter of seventy thousand of his subjects, and unless with the affection of an apostolic charity, he had desired to die himself for his countrymen, that the plague might not further consume them, saying, "I am he that has offended, I the shepherd have dealt unjustly: but these sheep, what have they sinned? Let thy hand, I beseech thee, be turned against me, and against the house of my father;" he would have atoned for the unadvised pride of his heart with his own death. For what does the scripture afterwards declare of his son? "And Solomon wrought that which was not pleasing before our Lord, and he did not fill up the measure of his good deeds by following the Lord like his father David. And our Lord said unto him, Because thou hast thus behaved thyself, and not observed my covenant and precepts, which I have commanded thee, breaking it asunder; I will divide thy kingdom, and give the same unto thy servant."

§ 40. Hear now likewise what fell upon the two sacrilegious kings of Israel (even such as ours are), Jeroboam and Baasha, unto whom the sentence and doom of our Lord is by the prophet in this way directed: "For what cause have I exalted thee a prince over Israel, in regard that they have provoked me by their vanities. Behold I will stir up after Baasha and after his house, and I will give over his house as the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat. Whoso of his blood shall die in the city, the dogs shall eat him, and the dead carcass of him that dieth in the field shall the fowls of the air eat." What doth he also threaten unto that wicked king of Israel, a worthy companion of the former, by whose collusion and his wife's deceit, innocent Naboth was for his father's vineyard put to death, when the holy mouth of Elias, yea, the selfsame mouth that was instructed with the fiery speech of our Lord, thus spake unto him: "Hast thou killed and also taken possession, and after this wilt thou yet add more? Thus saith our Lord, in this very place, wherein the dogs have licked the blood of Naboth, they shall lick up thy blood also." Which fell out afterwards in that very sort, as we have certain proof. But lest perchance (as befell[Pg 326] Ahab also) the lying spirit, which pronounceth vain things in the mouths of your prophets may seduce you, hearken to the words of the prophet Micaiah: "Behold God hath suffered the spirit of lying to possess the mouths of all thy prophets that do here remain, and our Lord hath pronounced evil against thee." For even now it is certain that there are some teachers inspired with a contrary spirit, preaching and affirming rather what is pleasing, however depraved, than what is true: whose words are softer than oil, and the same are darts, who say, peace, peace, and there shall be no peace to them, who persevere in their sins, as says the prophet in another place also, "It is not for the wicked to rejoice, saith our Lord."

§ 41. Azarias, also, the son of Obed, spoke unto Asa, who returned from the slaughter of the army of ten hundred thousand Ethiopians, saying, "Our Lord is with you while you remain with him, and if you will seek him out, he will be found by you, and if you will leave him, he will leave you also." For if Jehosaphat for only assisting a wicked king, was thus reproved by the prophet Jehu, the son of Ananias, saying, "If thou givest aid to a sinner, or lovest them whom our Lord doth hate, the wrath of God doth therefore hang over thee," what shall become of them who are fettered in the snares of their own offences? whose sin we must of necessity hate, if not their souls, if we wish to fight in the army of the Lord, according to the words of the Psalmist, "Hate ye evil, who love our Lord." What was said to Jehoram, the son of the above-named Jehosaphat, that most horrible murderer (who being himself a bastard, slew his noble brethren, that he might possess the throne in their place), by the prophet Elias, who was the chariot and charioteer of Israel? "Thus speaketh the Lord God of thy father David. Because thou hast not walked in the way of thy father Jehosaphat, and in the ways of Asa the king of Judah, but hast walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and in adultery according to the behaviour of the house of Ahab, and hast moreover killed thy brethren, the sons of Jehosaphat, men far better than thyself, behold, our Lord shall strike thee and thy children with a mighty plague." And a little afterwards, "And thou shalt be very sick of a disease of thy belly, until thy entrails[Pg 327] shall, together with the malady itself, from day to day, come forth out of thee." And listen also what the prophet Zachariah, the son of Jehoiades, menaced to Joash, the king of Israel, when he abandoned our Lord even as ye now do, and the prophet spoke in this manner to the people: "Thus saith our Lord, Why do ye transgress the commandments of our Lord and do not prosper? Because ye have left our Lord, he will also leave you."

§ 42. What shall I mention of Isaiah, the first and chief of the prophets, who beginneth his prophecy, or rather vision, in this way: "Hear, O ye heavens, and O thou earth conceive in thine ears, because our Lord hath spoken, I have nourished children, and exalted them, but they themselves have despised me. The ox hath known his owner, and the ass his master's crib, but Israel hath not known me, and my people hath not understood." And a little further with threatenings answerable to so great a folly, he saith, "The daughter of Sion shall be utterly left as a tabernacle in the vineyard, and as a hovel in the cucumber garden, and a city that is sacked." And especially, convening and accusing the princes, he saith, "Hear the word of our Lord, O ye princes of Sodom, perceive ye the law of our Lord, O ye people of Gomorrah." Wherein it is to be noted, that unjust kings are termed the princes of Sodom, for our Lord, forbidding sacrifices and gifts to be offered to him by such persons, and seeing that we greedily receive those offerings which in all nations are displeasing unto God, and to our own destruction suffer them not to be bestowed on the poor and needy, speak thus to them who, laden with riches, are likewise given to offend on this head: "Offer no more your sacrifice in vain, your incense is abomination unto me." And again he denounceth them thus: "And when ye shall stretch out your hands, I will turn away mine eyes from you, and when ye shall multiply your prayers, I will not hear." And he declareth wherefore he does this, saying, "Your hands are full of blood." And likewise showing how he may be appeased, he says, "Be ye washed, be ye clean, take away the evil of your thoughts from mine eyes: cease to do evil, learn to do well: seek for judgment, succour the oppressed, do justice to the pupil or orphan." And then assuming as it were the part of a reconciling mediator, he adds, "Though[Pg 328] your sins shall be as scarlet, they shall be made white as snow: though they shall be as red as the little worm,[246] they shall be as white as wool. If ye shall be willing to hear me, ye shall feed on the good things of the land; but if ye will not, but provoke me unto wrath, the sword shall devour you."

§ 43. Receive ye the true and public avoucher, witnessing, without any falsehood or flattery, the reward of your good and evil, not like the soothing humble lips of your parasites, which whisper poisons into your ears. And also directing his sentence against ravenous judges, he saith thus: "Thy princes are unfaithful, companions of thieves, all love gifts, hunt after rewards: they do no justice to the orphan, the widow's cause entereth not unto them. For thus saith our Lord God of hosts, the strong one of Israel, Alas, I will take consolation upon my foes, and be revenged upon mine enemies; and the heinous sinners shall be broken to powder, and offenders together with them, and all who have left our Lord, shall be consumed." And afterwards, "The eyes of the lofty man shall be brought low, and the height of men hath bowed down." And again, "Woe be to the wicked, evil befall him, for he shall be rewarded according to his handy-work." And a little after, "Woe be unto you who arise early to follow drunkenness, and to drink even to the very evening, that ye may fume with wine. The harp, and the lyre, and the tabor, and the pipe, and wine are in your banquets, and the work of our Lord ye respect not, neither yet consider ye the works of his hands. Therefore is my people led captive away, because they have not had knowledge, and their nobles have perished with famine, and their multitude hath withered away with thirst. Therefore hath hell enlarged and dilated his spirit, and without measure opened his mouth, and his strong ones, and his people, and his lofty and glorious ones, shall descend down unto him." And afterwards, "Woe be unto you who are mighty for the drinking of wine, and strong men for the procuring of drunkenness, who justify the wicked for rewards, and deprive the just man of his justice. For this cause even as the tongue of the fire devoureth the stubble, and as the heat of the flame burneth up, so shall their root be as the ashes, and their branch shall rise up as the dust. For they have[Pg 329] cast away the law of our Lord of hosts, and despised the speech of the holy one of Israel. In all these the fury of our Lord is not turned away, but as yet his hand is stretched out."

§ 44. And further on, speaking of the day of judgment and the unspeakable fears of sinners, he says, "Howl ye, because the day of our Lord is near at hand (if so near at that time, what shall it now be thought to be?) for destruction shall proceed from God. For this shall all hands be dissolved, and every man's heart shall wither away, and be bruised; tortures and dolours shall hold them, as a woman in labour so shall they be grieved, every man shall at his neighbour stand astonished, burned faces shall be their countenances. Behold, the day of our Lord shall come, fierce and full of indignation, and of wrath, and fury, to turn the earth into a desert, and break her sinners in small pieces from off her; because the stars of heaven and the brightness of them, shall not unfold their light, the sun in his rising shall be covered over with darkness, and the moon shall not shine in her season; and I will visit upon the evils of the world, and against the wicked, their own iniquity, and I will make the pride of the unfaithful to cease, and the arrogancy of the strong, I will bring low." And again, "Behold our Lord will disperse the earth, and he will strip her naked, and afflict her face, and scatter her inhabitants; and as the people, so shall be the priest; and as the slave, so shall be his lord; as the handmaid, so shall be her lady; as the purchaser, so shall be the seller; as the usurer, so shall be he that borroweth; as he who demandeth, so shall he be that oweth. With dispersing shall the earth be scattered, and with sacking shall she be spoiled. For our Lord hath spoken this word. The earth hath bewailed, and hath flitted away; the world hath run to nothing, she is weakened by her inhabitants, because they have transgressed laws, changed right, brought to ruin the eternal truce. For this shall malediction devour the earth."

§ 45. And afterwards, "They shall lament all of them who now in heart rejoice, the delight of the timbrels hath ceased, the sound of the gladsome shall be silent, the sweetness of the harp shall be hushed, they shall not with singing drink their wine, bitter shall be the potion to the[Pg 330] drinkers thereof. The city of vanity is wasted, every house is shut up, no man entering in; an outcry shall be in the streets over the wine, all gladness is forsaken, the joy of the land is transferred, solitariness is left in the town, and calamity shall oppress the gates, because these things shall be in the midst of the land, and in the midst of the people." And a little further, "Swerving from the truth, they have wandered out of the right way, with the straggling of transgressors have they gone astray. Fear and intrapping falls, and a snare upon thee who art the inhabitant of the earth. And it shall come to pass: whoso shall flee from the voice of the fear, shall tumble down into the intrapping pit; and whoso shall deliver himself out of the downfall, shall be caught in the entangling snare: because the flood-gates from aloft shall be opened, and the foundations of the earth shall be shaken. With bruising shall the earth be broken, with commotion shall she be moved, with tossing shall she be shaken like a drunken man, and she shall be taken away as if she were a pavilion of one night's pitching, and her iniquities shall hang heavy upon her, and she shall fall down, and shall not attempt to rise again. And it shall be, that our Lord in the same day shall look on the warfare of heaven on high, and on the kings of the earth, who are upon the earth, and they shall be gathered together in the bundle of one burden into the lake, and shall there be shut up in prison, and after many days shall they be visited. And the moon shall blush, and the sun be confounded, when our Lord of hosts shall reign in Mount Sion and in Jerusalem, and be glorified in the sight of his seniors."

§ 46. And after a while, giving a reason why he threateneth in that sort, he says thus: "Behold the hand of our Lord is not shortened that he cannot save, neither is his ear made heavy that he may not hear. But your iniquities have divided between you and your God, and your offences have hid his face from you, that he might not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity: your lips have spoken lying, and your tongue uttereth iniquity. There is none who calleth on justice, neither is there he who judgeth truly, but they trust in nothing, and speak vanities, and have conceived grief, and brought forth iniquity." And a little after, "Their works are unprofitable,[Pg 331] and the work of iniquity is in their hands; their feet run into evil, and make haste that they may shed the innocent blood; their thoughts are unprofitable thoughts, spoil and confusion are in their ways, and the way of peace they have not known, and in their steps there is no judgment, their paths are made crooked unto them, every one who treadeth in them is ignorant of peace; in this respect in judgment removed far off from you, and justice taketh no hold on you." And after a few words, "And judgment hath been turned back, and justice hath stood afar off, because truth hath fallen down in the streets, and equity could not enter in; and truth is turned into oblivion, and whoso hath departed from evil, hath lain open to spoil. And our Lord hath seen, and it was not pleasing in his eyes, because there is not judgment."

§ 47. And thus far may it suffice among many, to have recited a few sentences out of the prophet Isaiah.

But now with diligent ears hearken unto him, who was foreknown before he was formed in the belly, sanctified before he came out of the womb, and appointed a prophet in all nations: I mean Jeremiah, and hear what he hath pronounced of foolish people and cruel kings, beginning his prophecy in his mild and gentle manner.

"And the word of God was spoken unto me, saying, Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, and thou shalt pronounce, Hear the word of our Lord, thou house of Jacob, and all ye kindred of the house of Israel: Thus saith our Lord; What iniquity have your fathers found in me, who have been far removed from me, and walked after vanity, and are become vain, and have not said, Where is he who made us go up out of the land of Egypt?" And after a few words, "From the beginning of thine age thou hast broken my yoke, violated my bands, and said, I will not serve, I have planted thee my chosen vine, all true seed. How art thou therefore converted into naughtiness? O strange vine! If thou shalt wash thee with nitre, and multiply unto thee the herb borith, thou art spotted in my sight with thine iniquity, saith our Lord." And afterwards, "Why will ye contend with me in judgment? Ye have all forsaken me, saith our Lord, in vain have I corrected your children, they have not received discipline. Hear ye the word of our Lord. Am I made a soli[Pg 332]tariness unto Israel, or a late bearing land! why therefore hath my people said, we have departed, we will come no more unto thee? Doth the virgin forget her ornament, or the spouse her gorget? my people truly hath forgotten me for innumerable days. Because my people are foolish, they have not known me, they are unwise and mad children. They are wise to do evil, but to do well they have been ignorant."

§ 48. Then the prophet speaketh in his own person saying, "O Lord thine eyes do respect faith, thou hast stricken them, and they have not sorrowed, thou hast broken them and they have refused to receive discipline, they have made their faces harder than the rock, and will not return." And also our Lord: "Declare ye this same to the house of Jacob, and make it to be heard in Judah, saying, Hear, ye foolish people who have no heart, who having eyes see not, and ears hear not. Will ye not therefore dread me, saith our Lord, and will ye not conceive grief from my countenance, who have placed the sand as the bound of the sea, an eternal commandment which she shall not break, and her waves shall be moved, and they cannot, and her surge shall swell, and yet not pass the same? But to this people is framed an incredulous and an exasperating heart, they have retired and gone their ways, and not in their heart said, Let us fear our Lord God." And again, "Because there are found among my people wicked ones, framing wiles to entangle as if they were fowlers, setting snares and gins to catch men: as a net that is full of birds, so are their houses filled with deceits. Therefore are they magnified and enriched, they are become gross and fat, and have neglected my speeches most vilely, the orphans' cause they have not decided, and the justice of the poor they have not adjudged. What! shall I not visit these men, saith our Lord? or shall not my soul be revenged upon such a nation?"

§ 49. But God forbid that ever should happen unto you, that which followeth, "Thou shalt speak all these words unto them, and they shall not hear thee; and thou shalt call them, and they shall not answer thee; and thou shalt say unto them, This is the nation that hath not heard the voice of their Lord God, nor yet received discipline, faith hath perished, and been taken away from out of their mouth."[Pg 333] And after some few speeches, "Whoso falleth doth he not arise again, and whoso is turned away, shall he not return again? why therefore is this people in Jerusalem, with a contentious aversion alienated? they have apprehended lying, and they will not come back again. I have been attentive, and hearkened diligently, no man speaketh what is good. There is none who repenteth of his sin, saying, What have I done? All are turned unto their own course, like a horse passing with violence to battle. The kite in the sky hath known her time, the turtle, and swallow, and stork have kept the season of their coming, but my people hath not known the judgment of God." And the prophet, being smitten with fear at so wonderful a blindness, and unspeakable drunkenness of the sacrilegious, and lamenting them who did not lament themselves (even according to the present behaviour of these our unfortunate tyrants), beseecheth of our Lord, that an augmentation of tears might be granted him, speaking in this manner, "I am contrite upon the contrition of the daughter of my people, astonishment hath possessed me: is there no balm in Gilead, or is there no physician there? Why therefore is not the wound of the daughter of my people healed? Who shall give water unto my head, and to mine eyes a fountain of tears, and I will day and night bewail the slaughtered of my people? who will grant me in the wilderness the inn of passengers? and I will utterly leave my people, and depart from them; because they are all of them adulterers, a root of offenders, and they have bent their tongue as the bow of lying, and not of truth, they are comforted in the earth, because they have passed from evil to evil, and not known me, saith our Lord." And again: "And our Lord hath said, Because they have forsaken my law, which I have given them, and not heard my voice, nor walked thereafter, and have wandered away after the wickedness of their own heart, in that respect our Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, saith these words, Behold I will feed this people with wormwood, and give them to drink the water of gall." And a little after (speaking in the person of God), "See therefore thou do not pray for this people, nor assume thou for them praise and prayer, because I will not hear in the time of their outcry unto me, and of their affliction."[Pg 334]

§ 50. What then shall now our miserable governors do, these few who found out the narrow way and left the large, were by God forbidden to pour out their prayers for such as persevered in their evils, and so highly provoked his wrath, against whom on the contrary side when they returned with all their hearts unto God (his divine Majesty being unwilling that the soul of man should perish, but calling back the castaway that he should not utterly be destroyed) the same prophets could not procure the heavenly revenge, because Jonas, when he desired the like most earnestly against the Ninevites, could not obtain it. But in the meanwhile omitting our own words, let us rather hear what the prophetic trumpet soundeth in our ears speaking thus: "If thou shalt say in thy heart, Why have these evils befallen? For the multitude of thine iniquities. If the Ethiopian can change his skin, or the leopard his sundry spots, ye may also do well when ye have learned evil," ever supposing that ye will not. And afterwards: "These words doth our Lord say to this people, who have loved to move their feet, and have not rested, and not pleased our Lord, Now shall he remember their iniquities, and visit their offences; and our Lord said unto me, Pray thou not for this people to work their good, when they fast, I will not hear their prayers; and if they offer burnt sacrifices and oblations, I will not receive them." And again, "And our Lord said unto me, If Moses and Samuel shall stand before me, my soul is not bent to this people, cast them out away from my face, and let them depart." And after a few words: "Who shall have pity on thee Jerusalem, or who shall be sorrowful for thee, or who shall pray for thy peace? Thou hast left me (saith our Lord) and gone away backward, and I will stretch forth my hand over thee, and kill thee." And somewhat after: "Thus saith our Lord, Behold I imagine a thought against you, let every man return from his evil course, and make straight your ways and endeavours, who said, we despair, we will go after our own thoughts, and every one of us will do the naughtiness of his evil heart. Thus therefore saith our Lord, Ask the Gentiles, who hath heard such horrible matters, which the virgin Israel hath too often committed? Shall there fail from the rock of the field, the snow of Libanus? or can the waters be drawn dry that gush out cold and flowing? because my[Pg 335] people hath forgotten me." And somewhat also after this propounding unto them an election, he speaking saith, "Thus saith our Lord, Do ye judgment and justice, and deliver him who by power is oppressed out of the hand of the malicious accuser; and for the stranger, and orphan, and widow, do not provoke their sorrow, neither yet work ye unjustly the grief of others, nor shed ye forth the innocent blood. For if indeed ye shall accomplish this word, there shall enter in through the gates of this house, kings of the lineage of David, sitting upon his throne. But if ye will not hearken unto these words, by myself I have sworn (saith our Lord) that this house shall be turned into a desert." And again (for he spoke of a wicked king), "As I live (saith our Lord) if so be that Jechonias shall be a ring on my right hand, I will pluck him away, and give him over into the hands of them who seek his life."

§ 51. Moreover, holy Abraham crieth out, saying, "Woe be unto them who build a city in blood, and prepare a town in iniquities, saying, Are not these things from our almighty Lord? and many people have failed in fire, and many nations have been diminished." And thus complaining, he begins his prophecy: "How long, O Lord, shall I call, and thou wilt not hear? Shall I cry out unto thee, to what end hast thou given me labours and griefs, to behold misery and impiety?" And on the other side, "And judgment was sat upon, and the judge hath taken in regard hereof, the law is rent in pieces, and judgment is not brought fully to his conclusion, because the wicked through power treadeth the just under foot. In this respect hath passed forth perverse judgment."

§ 52. And mark ye also what blessed Hosea the prophet says of princes: "For that they have transgressed my covenant, and ordained against my law, and exclaimed, we have known thee, because thou art against Israel. They have persecuted good, as if it were evil. They have reigned for themselves and not by me; they have held a principality, neither yet have they acknowledged me."

§ 53. And hear ye likewise the holy prophet Amos, in this sort threatening: "In three heinous offences of the sons of Judah, and in four I will not convert them, for that they have cast away the law of our Lord, and not kept his com[Pg 336]mandments, but their vanities have seduced them. And I will send fire upon Judah, and it shall eat the foundations of Jerusalem. Thus saith our Lord; In three grievous sins of Israel, and in four I will not convert them, for that they have sold the just for money, and the poor man for shoes, which they tread upon the dust of the earth, and with buffets they did beat the heads of the poor, and have eschewed the way of the humble." And after a few words, "Seek our Lord and ye shall live, that the house of Joseph may not shine as fire, and the flame devour it, and he shall not be, that can extinguish it. The house of Israel hath hated him who rebuketh in the gates, and abhorred the upright word." Which Amos, being forbidden to prophesy in Israel, without any fawning flattery, saith in answer, "I was not a prophet, nor yet the son of a prophet, but a goatherd; I was plucking sycamores and our Lord took me from my herd, and our Lord said unto me, Go thy way and prophesy against my people of Israel: and now hear thou the word of our Lord (for he directed his speech unto the king), thou sayest, do not prophesy against Israel, and thou shalt not assemble troops against the house of Jacob. For which cause our Lord saith thus, thy wife in the city shall play the harlot, and thy sons and daughters shall die by the sword, and thy ground be measured by the cord, and thou in a polluted land shalt end thy life, but for Israel, she shall be led from his own country a captive." And afterwards, "Hear therefore these words, ye who do outrageously afflict the poor, and practise your mighty power against the needy of the earth, who say, when shall the month pass over that we may purchase, and the sabbaths that we may open the treasuries." And within a few words after, "Our Lord doth swear against the pride of Jacob, if he shall in contempt forget your actions, and if in these the earth shall not be disturbed, and every inhabitant thereof fall to lamentation, and the final end as a flood ascend, and I will turn your festival days into wailing, and cast haircloth on the loins of every one, and on the head of every man baldness, and make him as the mourning of one over beloved, and those who are with him as the day of his sorrow." And again, "In the sword shall die all the sinners of my people, who say, evils shall not approach, nor yet shall light upon us."[Pg 337]

§ 54. And listen ye, likewise, what holy Michah the prophet hath spoken, saying, "Hearken, ye tribes. And what shall adorn the city? Shall not fire? and the house of the wicked hoarding up unjust treasures, and with injury unrighteousness? If the wrongful dealer shall be justified in the balance, and deceitful weights in the scales, by which they have heaped up their riches in ungodliness."

§ 55. And hear also what threats the famous prophet Zephaniah thundereth out: saith he, "The great day of our Lord is near; it is at hand, and very swiftly approacheth. The voice of the day of our Lord is appointed to be bitter and mighty, that day, a day of wrath, a day of tribulation and necessity, a day of clouds and mist, a day of the trumpet and outcry, a day of misery and extermination, a day of darkness and dimness upon the strong cities and high corners. And I will bring men to tribulation, and they shall go as if they were blind, because they have offended our Lord, and I will pour out their blood as dust, and their flesh as the dung of oxen, and their silver and gold shall not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of our Lord. And in the fire of his zeal shall the whole earth be consumed, when the Lord shall accomplish his absolute end, and bring solitariness upon all the inhabitants of the earth. Come together and be joined in one, thou nation without discipline, before ye be made as the fading flower, before the wrath of our Lord falleth upon ye."

§ 56. And give ear also unto that which the prophet Haggai speaketh: "Thus saith our Lord, I will once move the heaven, and earth, and sea, and dry land, and I will drive away the thrones of kings, and root out the power of the kings of the Gentiles, and I will chase away the chariots of those who mount upon them."

§ 57. Now also behold what Zacharias the son of Addo, that chosen prophet, said, beginning his prophecy in this manner: "Return to me, and I will return unto you, saith our Lord, and be not like your fathers, to whom the former prophets have imputed, saying, Thus saith our almighty Lord, Turn away from your ways, and they have not marked whereby they might obediently hear me." And afterwards, "And the angel asked me, what dost thou see? And I[Pg 338] said, I see a flying scythe, which containeth in length twenty cubits. The malediction which hath proceeded upon the face of the whole earth; because every one of her thieves shall be punished even to the death, and I will throw him away, saith our almighty Lord, and he shall enter into the house of fury, and into the house of swearing falsehood in my name."

§ 58. Holy Malachy the prophet also saith, "Behold, the day of our Lord shall come, inflamed as a furnace, and all proud men, and all workers of iniquity shall be as stubble, and the approaching day of the Lord of hosts shall set them on fire, which shall not leave a root nor a bud of them."

§ 59. And hearken ye also what holy Job debateth of the beginning and end of the ungodly, saying, "For what purpose do the wicked live, and have grown old dishonestly, and their issue hath been according to their own desire, and their sons before their faces, and their houses are fruitful, and no fear nor yet the scourge of our Lord is upon them. Their cow hath not been abortive, their great with young hath brought forth her young ones and not missed, but remaineth as an eternal breed; and their children rejoice, and taking the psaltery and harp, have finished their days in felicity and fallen peaceably asleep down into hell." Doth God, therefore, not behold the works of the wicked? Not so, truly, "But the candle of the ungodly shall be extinguished, and destruction shall fall upon them, and pains as of one in childbirth, shall withhold them from wrath; and they shall be as chaff before the wind, and as the dust which the whirlwind hath carried away. Let all goodness fail his children; let his eyes behold his own slaughter, nor yet by our Lord let him be redeemed." And a little after, he saith of the same men, "Who have ravenously taken the flock with the shepherd, and driven away the beast of the orphans, and engaged the ox of the widow, and deceiving, have declined from the way of necessity. They have reaped other men's fields before the time; the poor have laboured in the vineyards of the mighty without hire and meat, they have made many to sleep naked without garments; of the covering of their life they have bereaved them." And somewhat afterwards, when he had thoroughly understood their works, he[Pg 339] delivered them over to darkness. "Let, therefore, his portion be accursed from the earth; let his plantings bring forth witherings; let him for this be rewarded according to his dealings; let every wicked man like the unsound wood be broken in pieces. For arising in his wrath hath he overthrown the impotent. Wherefore truly shall he have no trust of his life; when he shall begin to grow diseased, let him not hope for health, but fall into languishing. For his pride hath been the hurt of many, and he is become decayed and rotten, as the mallows in the scorching heat, or as the ear of corn when it falleth off from its stubble." And afterwards, "If his children shall be many, they shall be turned to the slaughter, and if he gather together silver as if it were earth, and likewise purify his gold as if it were dirt, all these same shall the just obtain."

§ 60. Hear ye moreover what blessed Esdras, that cyclopædia of the divine law, threateneth in his discourse. "Thus saith our Lord God: My right hand shall not be sparing upon sinners, neither shall the sword cease over them who spill the innocent blood on the earth. Fire shall proceed from out of my wrath, and devour the foundations of the earth, and sinners as if they were inflamed straw. Woe be unto them who offend, and observe not my commandments, saith our Lord, I will not forbear them. Depart from me ye apostatizing children, and do not pollute my sanctuary. God doth know who offend against him, and he will therefore deliver them over to death and to slaughter. For now have many evils passed over the round compass of the earth. A sword of fire is sent out against you, and who is he that shall restrain it? shall any man repulse a lion that hungereth in the wood? or shall any one quench out the fire when the straw is burning? our Lord God will send out evils, and who is he that shall repress them? and fire will pass forth from out of his wrath, and who shall extinguish it? it shall brandishing shine, and who will not fear it? it shall thunder, and who will not shake with dread? God will threaten all, and who will not be terrified? before his face the earth doth tremble, and the foundations of the sea shake from the depths."

§ 61. And mark ye also what Ezechiel the renowned prophet, and admirable beholder of the four evangelical[Pg 340] creatures, speaketh of wicked offenders, unto whom pitifully lamenting beforehand the scourge that hung over Israel, our Lord doth say, "Too far hath the iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah prevailed, because the earth is filled with iniquity and uncleanness. Behold I am, mine eyes shall not spare, nor will I take pity." And afterwards, "Because the earth is replenished with people, and the city fraughted with iniquity, I will also turn away the force of their power, and their holy things shall be polluted, prayer shall approach and sue for peace, and it shall not be obtained." And somewhat after, "The word of our Lord, quoth he, was spoken unto me, saying, Thou son of man, the land that shall so far sin against me as to commit an offence, I will stretch forth my hand upon her, and break in pieces her foundation of bread, and send upon her famine, and take away mankind and cattle from her; and if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, be in the midst of her, they shall not deliver her, but they in their justice shall be saved, saith our Lord. If so be that also I shall bring in evil beasts upon the land and punish her, she likewise shall be turned to destruction, and there shall not be one who shall have free passage from the face of the beasts, and although these three men are in the midst of her, as I live, saith our Lord, their sons and daughters shall not be preserved, but they alone shall be saved, and as for the land it shall fall to confusion." And again, "The son shall not receive the unrighteousness of the father, neither the father the son's unrighteousness. The justice of the just shall be upon himself. And the unjust man, if he turneth him away from all the iniquities which he hath done, and keepeth all my commandments, and doth justice and abundance of mercy, he shall live in life and shall not die. All his sins, whatsoever he hath committed, shall have no further being; he shall live the life in his own justice which he hath performed. Do I with my will voluntarily wish the death of the unrighteous, saith our Lord, rather than that he should return from his evil way and live? But when the just shall turn himself away from his justice, and do iniquity, according to all the iniquities which the unrighteous hath committed, all the just actions (which he hath done) shall remain no further in memory. In his offence wherein he hath fallen, and in his sins in which he hath transgressed, he shall die." And,[Pg 341] within some words afterwards: "And all nations shall understand, that the house of Israel are led captive away for their offences, because they have forsaken me. And I have turned my face from them, and yielded them over into the hands of their enemies, and all have perished by the sword; according unto their unclean sins, and after their iniquities have I dealt with them, and turned my face away from them."

§ 62. This which I have spoken may suffice concerning the threats of the holy prophets: only I have thought it necessary to intermingle in this little work of mine, not only these menaces, but also a few words borrowed out of the wisdom of Solomon, to declare unto kings matters of exhortation or instruction, that they may not say I am willing to load the shoulders of men with heavy and insupportable burdens of words, but not so much as once with mine own finger (that is, with speech of consolation) to move the same. Let us therefore hear what the prophet hath spoken to rule us. "Love justice," saith he, "ye that judge the earth." This testimony alone (if it were with a full and perfect heart observed) would abundantly suffice to reform the governors of our country. For if they had loved justice, they would also love God, who is in a sort the fountain and original of all justice. "Serve our Lord in goodness, and seek him in simplicity of heart." Alas! who shall live (as a certain one before us hath said) when such things are done by our countrymen, if perchance they may be any where accomplished? "Because he is found of those who do not tempt him, he appeareth truly to them who have faith in him." For these men without respect do tempt God, whose commandments with stubborn despite they contemn, neither yet do they keep to him their faith, unto whose oracles be they pleasing, or somewhat severe, they turn their backs and not their faces. "For perverse thoughts do separate from God," and this in the tyrants of our time very plainly appeareth. But why doth our meanness intermeddle in this so manifest a determination? Let therefore him who alone is true (as we have said) speak for us, I mean the Holy Ghost, of whom it is now pronounced, "The Holy Ghost verily will avoid the counterfeiting of discipline." And again, "Because the Spirit of God hath filled the globe of the earth." And after[Pg 342]wards (showing with an evident judgment the end of the evil and righteous) he saith, "How is the hope of the wicked as the down that is blown away with the wind, and as the smoke that with the blast is dispersed, and as the slender froth that with a storm is scattered, and as the memory of a guest who is a passenger of one day. But the just shall live for ever, and with God remaineth their reward, and their cogitation is with the Highest. Therefore shall they receive the kingdom of glory, and the crown of beauty from the hand of our Lord. Because with his right hand he will protect them, and with his holy arm defend them." For very far unlike in quality are the just and ungodly, as our Lord verily hath spoken, saying, "Them who honour me I will honour, and whoso despise me shall be of no estimation."

§ 63. But let us pass over to the rest: "Hearken, (saith he) all ye kings, and understand ye; learn, ye judges of the bounds of the earth, listen with your ears who keep multitudes in awe, and please yourselves in the troops of nations. Because power is given unto you from God, and puissance from the highest, who will examine your actions, and sift your thoughts. For that when ye were ministers of his kingdom, ye have not judged uprightly, nor kept the law of justice, nor yet walked according to his will. It shall dreadfully and suddenly appear unto you, that a most severe judgment shall be given on them who govern. For to the meaner is mercy granted, but the mighty shall mightily sustain torments. For he shall have no respect of persons, who is the ruler of all, nor yet shall he reverence the greatness of any one, because he himself hath made both small and great, and care alike he hath of all; but for the stronger is at hand a stronger affliction. Unto you therefore, O kings, are these my speeches, that you may learn wisdom, and not fall away from her. For whoso observeth what things are just shall be justified, and whoso learneth what things are holy, shall be sanctified."

§ 64. Hitherto have we discoursed no less by the oracles of the prophets, than by her own speeches with the kings of our country, being willing they should know what the prophet hath spoken, saying, "As from the face of a serpent, so fly thou from sins: if thou shalt approach unto them they[Pg 343] will catch thee, their teeth are the teeth of a lion, such as kill the souls of men." And again, "How mighty is the mercy of our Lord, and his forgiveness to such as turn unto him." And if we have not in us such apostolical zeal, that we may say, "I did verily desire to be anathematized by Christ for my brethren," notwithstanding that we may from the bottom of our hearts speak that prophetic saying, "Alas! that the soul perisheth." And again, "Let us search out our ways, and seek and return unto our Lord: let us lift our hearts together with our hands to God in heaven." And also that of the apostle, "We covet that every one of you should be in the bowels of Christ."

§ 65. And how willingly, as one tossed on the waves of the sea, and now arrived in a desired haven, would I in this place make an end (shame forbidding me further to proceed), did I not behold such great masses of evil deeds done against God by bishops or other priests, or clerks, yea some of our own order, whom as witnesses myself must of necessity first of all stone (according unto the law) with the hard blows of words, lest I should be otherwise reproved for partiality towards persons, and then afterwards the people (if as yet they keep their decrees) must pursue with their whole powers the same execution upon them, not to their corporal death, but to the death of their vices and their eternal life with God. Yet, as I before said, I crave pardon of them, whose lives I not only praise, but also prefer before all earthly treasure, and of the which, if it may be, yet before my death I desire and thirst to be a partaker: and so having both my sides defended with the double shields of saints, and by those means invincibly strengthened to sustain all that arise against me, arming moreover my head in place of a helmet with the help of our Lord, and being most assuredly protected with the sundry aids of the prophets, I will boldly proceed notwithstanding the stones of worldly rioters fly never so fast about me.

§ 66. Britain hath priests, but they are unwise; very many that minister, but many of them impudent; clerks she hath, but certain of them are deceitful raveners; pastors (as they are called) but rather wolves prepared for the slaughter of souls (for they provide not for the good of the common people, but covet rather the gluttony of their own bellies),[Pg 344] possessing the houses of the church, but obtaining them for filthy lucre's sake; instructing the laity, but showing withal most depraved examples, vices, and evil manners; seldom sacrificing, and seldom with clean hearts, standing at the altars; not correcting the commonality for their offences, while they commit the same sins themselves; despising the commandments of Christ, and being careful with their whole hearts to fulfil their own lustful desires, some of them usurping with unclean feet the seat of the apostle Peter; but for the demerit of their covetousness falling down into the pestilent chair of the traitor Judas; detracting often, and seldom speaking truly; hating verity as an open enemy, and favouring falsehoods, as their most beloved brethren; looking on the just, the poor, and the impotent, with stern countenances, as if they were detested serpents, and reverencing the sinful rich men without any respect of shame, as if they were heavenly angels, preaching with their outward lips that alms are to be disbursed upon the needy, but of themselves not bestowing one halfpenny; concealing the horrible sins of the people, and amplifying injuries offered unto themselves, as if they were done against our Saviour Christ; expelling out of their houses their religious mother, perhaps, or sisters, and familiarly and indecently entertaining strange women, as if it were for some more secret office, or rather, to speak truly, though fondly (and yet not fondly to me, but to such as commit these matters), debasing themselves unto such bad creatures; and after all these seeking rather ambitiously for ecclesiastical dignities, than for the kingdom of heaven; and defending after a tyrannical fashion their achieved preferments, nor even labouring with lawful manners, to adorn the same; negligent and dull to listen to the precepts of the holy saints (if ever they did so much as once hear that which full often they ought to hear), but diligent and attentive to the plays and foolish fables of secular men, as if they were the very ways to life, which indeed are but the passages to death; being hoarse, after the fashion of bulls, with the abundance of fatness, and miserably prompt to all unlawful actions; bearing their countenances arrogantly aloft, and having nevertheless their inward senses, with tormenting and gnawing consciences; depressed down to the bottom or[Pg 345] rather to the bottomless pit; glad at the gaining of one penny, and at the loss of the like value sad; slothful and dumb in the apostolical decrees (be it for ignorance or rather the burden of their offences), and stopping also the mouths of the learned, but singularly experienced in the deceitful shifts of worldly affairs; and many of this sort and wicked conversation, violently intruding themselves into the preferments of the church; yea, rather buying the same at a high rate, than being any way drawn thereunto, and moreover as unworthy wretches, wallowing, after the fashion of swine, in their old and unhappy puddle of intolerable wickedness, after they have attained unto the seat of the priesthood or episcopal dignity (who neither have been installed, or resident on the same), for usurping only the name of priesthood, they have not received the orders or apostolical pre-eminence; but how can they who are not as yet fully instructed in faith, nor have done penance for their sins, be any way supposed meet and convenient to ascend unto any ecclesiastical degree (that I may not speak of the highest) which none but holy and perfect men, and followers of the apostles, and, to use the words of the teacher of the Gentiles, persons free from reprehension, can lawfully and without the foul offence of sacrilege undertake.

§ 67. For what is so wicked and so sinful as after the example of Simon Magus (even if with other faults he had not been defiled before), for any man with earthly price to purchase the office of a bishop or priest, which with holiness and righteous life alone ought lawfully to be obtained; but herein they do more wilfully and desperately err, in that they buy their deceitful and unprofitable ecclesiastical degrees, not of the apostles or their successors, but of tyrannical princes, and their father the devil; yea, rather they raise this as a certain roof and covering of all offences, over the frame of their former serious life, that being protected under the shadow thereof, no man should lightly hereafter lay to their charge their old or new wickedness; and hereupon they build their desires of covetousness and gluttony, for that being now the rulers of many they may more freely make havoc at their pleasure. For if truly any such offer of purchasing ecclesiastical promotions were made by these impudent sinners (I will not say with St. Peter), but to any[Pg 346] holy priest, or godly king, they would no doubt receive the same answer which their father Simon Magus had from the mouth of the apostle Peter, saying: "Thy money be with thee unto thy perdition." But, alas! perhaps they who order and advance these ambitious aspirers, yea, they who rather throw them under foot, and for a blessing give them a cursing, whilst of sinners they make them not penitents (which were more consonant to reason), but sacrilegious and desperate offenders, and in a sort install Judas, that traitor to his Master, in the chair of Peter, and Nicholas, the author of that foul heresy, in the seat of St. Stephen the martyr, it may be at first obtained their own priesthood by the same means, and therefore do not greatly dislike in their children, but rather respect the course, that they their fathers did before follow. And also, if finding resistance, in obtaining their dioceses at home, and some who severely renounce this chaffering of church-livings, they cannot there attain to such a precious pearl, then it doth not so much loath as delight them (after they have carefully sent their messengers beforehand) to cross the seas, and travel over most large countries, that so, in the end, yea even with the sale of their whole substance, they may win and compass such a pomp, and such an incomparable glory, or to speak more truly, such a dirty and base deceit and illusion. And afterwards with great show and magnificent ostentation, or rather madness, returning back to their own native soil, they grow from stoutness to stateliness, and from being used to level their looks to the tops of the mountains, they now lift up their drowsy eyes into the air, even to the highest clouds, and as Novatus, that foul hog, and persecutor of our Lord's precious jewel, did once at Rome, so do these intrude themselves again into their own country, as creatures of a new mould, or rather as instruments of the devil, being even ready in this state and fashion to stretch out violently their hands (not so worthy of the holy altars as of the avenging flames of hell) upon Christ's most holy sacrifices.

§ 68. What do you therefore, O unhappy people! expect from such belly beasts? (as the apostle calleth them). Shall your manners be amended by these, who not only do not apply their minds to any goodness, but according to the upbraiding of the prophet, labour also to deal wickedly? Shall[Pg 347] ye be illuminated with such eyes as are only with greediness cast on those things that lead headlong to vices (that is to say), to the gates of hell? Nay truly, if according to the saying of our Saviour, ye flee not these most ravenous wolves like those of Arabia, or avoid them as Lot, who ran most speedily from the fiery shower of Sodom up to the mountains, then, being blind and led by the blind, ye will both together tumble down into the infernal ditch.

§ 69. But some man perchance will objecting say, that all bishops or all priests (according to our former exception), are not so wickedly given, because they are not defiled with the infamy of schism, pride, or unclean life, which neither we ourselves will deny, but albeit we know them to be chaste, and virtuous, yet will we briefly answer.

What did it profit the high-priest Hely, that he alone did not violate the commandments of our Lord, in taking flesh with forks out of the pots, before the fat was offered unto God, while he was punished with the same revenge of death wherewith his sons were? What one, I beseech you, of them, whose manners we have before sufficiently declared, hath been martyred like Abel, from malicious jealousy of his more acceptable sacrifice, which with the heavenly fire ascended up into the skies, since they fear the reproach even of an ordinary word? Which of them "hath hated the counsel of the malicious, and not sat with the ungodly," so that of him as a prophet, the same might be verified which was said of Enoch, "Enoch walked with God and was not to be found" in the vanity (forsooth) of the whole world, as then leaving our Lord, and beginning to halt after idolatry? Which of them, like Noah in the time of the deluge, hath not admitted into the ark of salvation (which is the present church) any adversary unto God, that it may be most apparent that none but innocents or singular penitents, ought to remain in the house of our Lord? Who is he that offering sacrifice like Melchisedeck, hath only blessed the conquerors, and them who with the number of three hundred (which was in the sacrament of the Trinity) delivering the just man, have overthrown the deadly armies of the five kings, together with their vanquishing troops, and not coveted the goods of others? Which of them hath like Abraham, at the commandment of God freely offered his own son on the altar to be slain, that[Pg 348] he might accomplish a precept of Christ, agreeable to this saying, Thy right eye, if it cause thee to offend, ought to be pulled out; and another of the prophet, That he is accursed who withholdeth his sword from shedding blood? Who is he that like Joseph, hath rooted out of his heart the remembrance of an offered injury? Who is he that like Moses, speaking with our Lord in the mountain, and not there terrified with the sounding trumpets, hath in a figurative sense presented unto the incredulous people the two tables, and his horned face which they could not endure to see, but trembled to behold? Which of them, praying for the offences of the people, has from the very bottom of his heart cried out, like unto him, saying: "O Lord this people hath committed a grievous sin, which if thou wilt forgive them, forgive it; otherwise blot me guilty out of thy book?"

§ 70. Which of them, inflamed with the admirable zeal of God, hath courageously risen to punish fornication, curing without delay by the present medicine of penance, the affection of filthy lust, lest the fire of the wrath of God should otherwise consume the people, as Phineas the priest did, that by these means justice for ever might be reputed unto him? Which of them hath in moral understanding imitated Joshua, the son of Nun, either for the utter rooting forth, even to the slaughter of the last and least of all, the seven nations out of the land of promise, or for the establishing of spiritual Israel in their places? Which of them hath showed unto the people of God their final bounds beyond Jordan that it might be known what was suited to every tribe, in such sort as the aforenamed Phineas and Jesus have wisely divided the land? Who is he that to overthrow the innumerable thousands of Gentiles, adversaries to the chosen people of God, hath, as another Jephtha, for a votive and propitiatory sacrifice, slain his own daughter (by which is to be understood his own proper will), imitating also therein the apostle, saying, "Not seeking what is profitable to me, but to many, that they may be saved;" which daughter of his met the conquerors with drums and dances, by which are to be understood the lustful desires of the flesh? Which of them, that he might disorder, put to flight, and overthrow the camps of the proud Gentiles, by the number of three hundred, (being, as we before said, the mystery of the blessed[Pg 349] Trinity,) and with his men holding in their hands those noble sounding trumpets, (which are prophetical and apostolical senses, according as our Lord said to the prophet, "Exalt thy voice as a trumpet;" and the psalmist of the apostles, "Their sound hath passed throughout the whole earth,") and bearing all those famous flagons shining in the night with that most glittering fiery light, (which are to be interpreted the bodies of saints joined to good works, and burning with the flame of the Holy Ghost, yea having, as the apostle writes, "This treasure in earthen vessels,") hath after hewing down the idolatrous grave (by which is morally meant dark and foul desire) marched on like Gideon, with an assured faith in the evident sign of the fleece, which to the Jews was void of the heavenly moisture, but to the Gentiles made wet with the dew of the Holy Ghost?

§ 71. Who is he among them that (earnestly wishing to die to this world, and live to Christ) hath, as another Sampson, utterly cut off such innumerable luxurious banqueters of the Gentile, while they praised their gods, (by which is meant, while the senses of men extolled these earthly riches, according to the apostle speaking thus: "And covetousness, which is idolatry"), shaking with the power of both his arms the two pillars (by which are to be understood the wicked pleasures of the soul and body), by which the house of all worldly wickedness is in a sort compacted and underpropped? Which of them, like Samuel, with prayers and the burnt sacrifice of a sucking lamb, hath driven away the fear of the Philistines, raised unexpected thunderclaps, and showering clouds, established without flattery a king, deposed him when he displeased God, and anointed another his better in his place and kingdom; and when he shall give to the people his last farewell, shall appear like Samuel in this sort, saying, "Behold, I am ready, speak ye before our Lord and his anointed, whether I ever took away the ox or ass of any man, if I have falsely accused any one, if I have oppressed anybody, if I have received a bribe from the hands of any?" Unto whom it was answered by the people, "Thou hast not wrongfully charged us, nor oppressed us, nor taken anything from the hands of any." Which of them, like the famous prophet Elias, who consumed with heavenly fire the hundred proud men, and preserved the fifty that humbled themselves;[Pg 350] and afterwards denounced without flattery or dissimulation, the impending death of the unjust king (that sought not the counsel of God by his prophets, but of the idol Accaron), hath utterly overthrown all the prophets of Baal (by which are meant the worldly senses ever bent, as we have already said, to envy and avarice), with the lightning sword (which is the word of God)? And as the same Elias, moved with the zeal of God, after taking away the showers of rain from the land of the wicked, who were now shut up with famine in a strong prison, as it were of penury, for three years and six months, being himself ready to die for thirst in the desert, hath, complaining, said, "They have murdered, O Lord, thy prophets, and undermined thine altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life?"

§ 72. Which of them, like Elisha, hath punished his dearly beloved disciple, if not with an everlasting leprosy, yet at least by abandoning him, if burdened too much with the weight of worldly covetousness for those very gifts which his master before (although very earnestly entreated thereto) had despised to receive? And which of these among us hath like him revealed unto his servant, (who despaired of life, and on a sudden trembled at the warlike army of the enemies that besieged the city wherein he was), through the fervency of his prayers poured out unto God, those spiritual visions, so that he might behold a mountain replenished with a heavenly assisting army, of warlike chariots and horsemen, shining with fiery countenances, and that he might also believe that he was stronger to save, than the foe to hurt? And which of them, like the above-named Elisha, with the touch of his body, being dead to the world, but living unto God, shall raise up another, whose fate had been different from his, namely, death to God, but life to his vices, so that instantly revived, he may yield humble thanks to Christ for his unexpected recovery from the hellish torments of his mortal crimes? Which of them hath his lips purified and made clean with the fiery coals earned by the tongues of the cherubim, from off the altar, (that his sins may be wiped away with the humility of confession), as it is written of Esaias, by whose effectual prayers, together with the aid of the godly king Ezechias, a hundred fourscore and five thousand of the Assyrian army, through the stroke of[Pg 351] one angel, without the least print of any appearing wound, were overthrown and slain? Which of them, like blessed Jeremiah, for accomplishing the commandments of God,—for denouncing the threats thundered out from heaven, and for preaching the truth even to such as would not hear the same, hath suffered loathsome stinking prisons as momentary deaths? And to be brief, what one of them (as the teacher of the Gentiles said) hath endured like the holy prophets to wander in mountains, in dens, and caves of the earth, to be stoned, to be sawn in sunder, and assailed with all kinds of death, for the name of our Lord?

§ 73. But why do we dwell in examples of the Old Testament as if there were none in the New? Let, therefore, those, who suppose they can, without any labour at all, under the naked pretence of the name of priesthood, enter this strait and narrow passage of Christian religion, hearken unto me while I recite and gather into one a few of the chiefest flowers out of the large and pleasant meadow of the saintly soldiers of the New Testament. Which of you (who rather sleep than lawfully sit in the chair of the priesthood), being cast out of the council of the wicked, hath, after the stripes of sundry rods, like the holy apostles, from the bottom of his heart, given thanks to the blessed Trinity that he was found worthy to suffer disgrace for Christ's true deity? What one, for the undoubted testimony of God, having his brains dashed out with the fuller's club, hath, like James the first, a bishop of the New Testament, suffered corporal death? Which of you, like James the brother of John, has by the unjust prince been beheaded? Who, like the first deacon and martyr of the gospel, (having but this only accusation, that he saw God, whom the wicked could not behold), has by ungodly hands been stoned to death? What one of you, like the worthy keeper of the keys of the heavenly kingdom, has been nailed to the cross with his feet upward, in reverence for Christ, whom, no less in his death than in his life, he endeavoured to honour, and hath so breathed his last? Which of you, for the confession of the true word of Christ, hath, like the vessel of election, and chosen teacher of the Gentiles, after suffering imprisonment and shipwreck, after the terrible scourges of whips, the continual dangers of seas, of thieves, of Gentiles, of Jews, and of false apostles, after[Pg 352] the labours of famine, fasting, and watching, after incessant care over all the churches, after his trouble for such as scandalized, after his infirmity for the weak, after his wonderful travels over almost the whole world in preaching the gospel of Christ, lost his head at last by the stroke of the descending sword?

§ 74. Which of you, like the holy martyr Ignatius, bishop of the city of Antioch, hath after his miraculous actions in Christ, for testimony of him been torn by the jaws of lions, as he was once at Rome? whose words, as he was led to his passion, when you shall hear (if ever your countenances were overcome with blushing), you will not only, in comparison of him, esteem yourselves no priests, but not so much even as the meanest Christians; for in the epistle which he sent to the church of Rome, he writeth thus: "From Syria even unto Rome, I fight with beasts, by land and sea, being bound and chained unto ten leopards, I mean the soldiers appointed for my custody, who for our benefit bestowed upon them become more cruel; but I am the better instructed by their wickedness, neither yet am I in this justified; oh! when shall those beasts come the workers of my salvation, which are for me prepared? when shall they be let loose at me? when shall it be lawful for my carcass to enjoy them? whom I do most earnestly wish to be eagerly enraged against me, and truly I will incite them to devour me; moreover, I will humbly pray, lest perchance they should dread to touch my body (as in some others they have before done), yea also, if they hesitate, I will offer violence, I will force myself upon them. Pardon me, I beseech you, I know what is commodious for me, even now I begin to be the disciple of Christ; let all envy, whether of human affection or spiritual wickedness cease, that I may endeavour to obtain Christ Jesus; let fires, let crosses, let cruelty of beasts, let breaking of bones, and rending of limbs, with all the pains of the whole body, and all the torments devised by the art of the devil, be together poured out on me alone, so that I may merit to attain unto Christ Jesus." Why do you behold these things with the sleepy eyes of your souls? why do you hearken unto them with the deaf ears of your senses? Shake off, I beseech you, the dark and black mist of slothfulness from your hearts, that so you may see the[Pg 353] glorious light of truth and humility. A Christian, and he not mean, but a perfect one, and a priest not base, but one of the highest, a martyr of no ordinary sort, but one of the chiefest, saith: "Now I begin to be the disciple of Christ." And you, like the same Lucifer, who was thrown down out of heaven, are puffed up with words, and not with power, and after a sort do chew under the tooth, and make pretence in your actions, as the author of this your wickedness hath thus expressed: "I will mount up into the heavens, and be like unto the Highest." And again: "I have digged and drunk water, and dried up with the steps of my feet all the rivers of the banks." You would more rightly have imitated him and hearkened unto his words, who is without doubt the most true example of all goodness and humility, saying by his prophet, "I am verily a worm and not a man, the reproach of men, and the outcast of the people." Oh unspeakable matter! that he called himself "the reproach of men," when he washed away the reproaches of the whole world. And again in the gospel; "I am not able to do any thing of myself," when at the same time he was co-eternal with the Father, coequal with the Holy Ghost, and consubstantial with both, and created, not by the help of another, but by his own almighty power, the heaven and earth, with all their inestimable ornaments; and ye nevertheless have arrogantly lifted up your voices, notwithstanding the prophet saith, "Why do earth and ashes swell with pride?"

§ 75. But let us return unto our subject. Which of you, I say, like Polycarp, the famous bishop of the church of Smyrna, that witness of Christ, hath courteously entertained as guests at his table, those who violently drew him out to be burned? and when for the charity which he did bear unto Christ, he was brought to the stake, said, "He who gave me grace to endure the torment of the fire, will likewise grant me without fastening of nails to bear the flames with patience." And now passing over in this my discourse the mighty armies of saints, I will yet touch on one only, for example's sake, Basil the bishop of Cæsaria, who when he was thus by the unrighteous prince threatened that, unless he would on the next day be as the rest, defiled in the dirty dunghill of the Arian heresy, he should be put[Pg 354] to death, answered, as it is reported, "I will be to-morrow the same as to-day, and for thee, I do not wish thee to change thy determination." And again, "Would that I had some worthy reward to bestow on him that would discharge Basil from the bands of this breathing bellows." Which one of you doth endeavour to daunt the menaces of tyrants, by inviolably keeping the rule of the apostolical speech, which in all times and ages hath been observed by all holy priests, to suppress the suggestion of men when they sought to draw them into wickedness, saying in this manner; "It behoveth us to obey God rather than men."

§ 76. Wherefore after our accustomed manner, taking refuge in the mercy of our Lord, and in the sentences of his holy prophets, that they on our behalf may now level the darts of their oracles at imperfect pastors (as before at tyrants), so that thereby they may receive compunction and be amended, let us see what manner of threats our Lord doth by his prophets utter against slothful and dishonest priests, and such as do not, both by examples and words, rightly instruct the people. For even Eli, the priest in Shilo, because he did not severely proceed, with a zeal worthy of God, in punishing his sons, when they contemned our Lord, but, as a man overswayed with a fatherly affection, too mildly and remissly admonished them, was sentenced with this judgment by the prophet speaking unto him: "Thus saith our Lord; I have manifestly showed myself unto the house of thy father, when they were the servants of Pharaoh in Egypt, and have chosen the house of thy father out of all the tribes of Israel, for a priesthood unto me." And a little after, "Why hast thou looked upon mine incense, and upon my sacrifice, with a dishonest eye? and hast honoured thy children more than me, that thou mightest bless them from the beginning in all sacrifices in my presence? And now so saith our Lord: Because whoever honoureth me I will honour him again; and whoso maketh no account of me shall be brought to nothing. Behold the days shall come, and I will destroy thy name, and the seed of thy father's house. And let this be to thee the sign, which shall fall upon thy two sons, Hophni and Phineas, in one day shall they both die by the sword of men." If thus therefore they shall suffer, who correct them that are under their charge, with words only[Pg 355] and not with condign punishment, what shall become of those who by offending exhort you, and draw others unto wickedness?

§ 77. It is apparent also what befell unto the true prophet, who was sent from Judah to prophesy in Bethel, and forbidden to taste any meat in that place, after the sign which he foretold was fulfilled, and after he had restored to the wicked king his withered hand again, being deceived by another prophet, as he was termed, and so make to take but a little bread and water, his host speaking in this sort unto him: "Thus saith our Lord God: Because thou hast been disobedient to the mouth of our Lord, and hast not observed the precept which the Lord thy God hath commanded, and hast returned, and eaten bread, and drunk water in this place, in which I have charged thee that thou shouldest neither eat bread nor drink water, thy body shall not be buried in the sepulchre of thy forefathers. And so (saith the scripture) it came to pass, that after he had eaten bread and drunk water, he made ready his ass, and departed, and a lion found him in the way and slew him."

§ 78. Hear ye also the holy prophet Isaias, how he speaketh of priests on this wise. "Woe be to the ungodly, may evil befall him; for the reward of his hands shall light upon him. Her own exactors have spoiled my people, and women have borne sway over her. O my people, they who term thee blessed, themselves deceive thee, and destroy the way of thy footsteps. Our Lord standeth to judge, and standeth to judge the people. Our Lord will come unto judgment with the elders of the people and her princes. Ye have consumed my vine, the spoil of the poor is in your house. Why do ye break in pieces my people, and grind the faces of the poor? saith our Lord of hosts." And also; "Woe be unto them who compose ungodly laws, and in their writing have written injustice, that they may oppress the poor in judgment, and work violence to the cause of the lowly of my people, that widows may be their prey, and they make spoil of the orphans; what will ye do in the day of visitation and calamity approaching from afar off?" And afterwards: "But these also in regard of wine have been ignorant, and in respect of drunkenness have wandered astray; the priests have not understood, because of drunkenness, and have been swallowed up in wine, they have erred[Pg 356] in drunkenness, they have not known him who seeth, they have been ignorant of judgment. For all tables are filled with the vomit of their uncleanness, in so much as there is not any free place to be found."

§ 79. "Hear therefore the word of our Lord, O ye deceivers, who bear authority over my people that is in Jerusalem. For ye have said, We have entered into a truce with death, and with hell we have made a covenant. The overflowing scourge when it shall pass forth shall not fall upon us, because we have placed falsehood for our hope, and by lying we have been defended." And somewhat after: "And hail shall overthrow the hope of lying, together with the defence. Waters shall overflow, and your truce with death shall be destroyed, and your covenant with hell shall not continue, when the overflowing scourge shall pass forth; ye shall also be trodden under foot, whensoever it shall pass along through you, it shall sweep you away withal." And again: "And our Lord hath said: Because this people approacheth with their mouth, and with their lips glorify me, but their heart is far from me; behold, therefore, I will cause this people to wonder by a great and stupendous miracle. For wisdom shall decay and fall away from her wise men, and the understanding of her sages shall be concealed. Woe be unto you that are profound in heart, to conceal counsel from our Lord, whose works are in darkness, and they say, who seeth us? And who hath known us? for this thought of yours is perverse." And afterwards: "Thus saith our Lord, Heaven is my seat, and the earth my footstool. What is this house that ye will erect unto me, and what place shall be found for my resting-place? all these things hath my hand made, and these universally have been all created, saith our Lord. On whom truly shall I cast mine eye, but on the humble poor man, and the contrite in spirit, and him that dreadeth my speeches? he that sacrificeth an ox, is as he that killeth a man; he that slaughtereth a beast for sacrifice, is like him who beateth out the brains of a dog; he that offereth an oblation, is as he that offereth the blood of a hog; he that is mindful of frankincense, is as he that honoureth an idol: of all these things have they made choice in their ways, and in their abominations hath their soul been delighted."[Pg 357]

§ 80. Hear also what Jeremy, that virgin prophet, speaketh unto the unwise pastors in this sort: "Thus saith our Lord, What iniquity have your fathers found in me, because they have removed themselves far off from me, and walked after vanity, and are become vain?" And again: "And entering in, ye have defiled my land, and made mine inheritance abomination. The priests have not said, Where is our Lord? and the rulers of the law have not known me, and the pastors have dealt treacherously against me. Wherefore I will as yet contend in judgment with you, saith our Lord, and debate the matter with your children." And a little afterwards: "Astonishment and wonders have been wrought in the land. Prophets did preach lying, and priests did applaud with their hands, and my people have loved such matters. What therefore shall be done in her last and final ends? To whom shall I speak and make protestation that he may hear me? Behold their ears are uncircumcised, and they cannot hear. Behold the word of our Lord is uttered unto them for their reproach, and they receive it not: because I will stretch out my hand upon the inhabitants of the earth, saith our Lord. For why, from the lesser even unto the greater, all study avarice, and from the prophet even unto the priest, all work deceit, and they cured the contrition of the daughter of my people, with ignominy, saying, Peace, peace, and peace there shall not be. Confounded they are, who have wrought abomination: but they are not with confusion confounded, and have not understood how to be ashamed. Wherefore they shall fall among those who are falling, in the time of their visitation shall they rush headlong down together, saith our Lord." And again: "All these princes of the declining sort, walking fraudulently, being brass and iron, are universally corrupted, the blowing bellows have failed in the fire, the finer of metals in vain hath melted, their malicious acts are not consumed, call them refuse and reprobate silver, because our Lord hath thrown them away." And after a few words: "I am, I am, I have seen, saith our Lord. Go your ways to my place in Shilo, where my name hath inhabited from the beginning, and behold what I have done thereunto for the malice of my people Israel. And now because ye have wrought all these works, saith our Lord, and I have spoken unto you, arising in the morning, and[Pg 358] talking, and yet ye have not heard me, and I have called you, and yet ye have not answered, I will so deal towards this house, wherein my name is now called upon, and wherein ye have confidence, and to this place which I have given unto you, and to your fathers, as I have done to Shilo, and I will cast you away from my countenance."

§ 81. And again: "My children have departed from me, and have no abiding, and there is none who any more pitcheth my tent, and advanceth my pavilion: for the pastors have dealt fondly and not sought out our Lord. Wherefore they have not understood, and their flock hath been dispersed." And a little after: "What is the matter that my beloved hath in my houses committed many offences? shall the holy flesh take away thy maliciousness from thee, wherein thou hast glorified? our Lord shall call thy name a plentiful, fair, fruitful, goodly olive; at the sound of the speech a mighty fire hath been inflamed in her, and her orchards have been quite consumed therewith." And again: "Come ye to me, and be ye gathered together, all ye beasts of the earth, make haste to devour. Many pastors have thrown down my vine, they have trampled my part under foot, they have given over my portion which was well worthy to be desired, into a desert of solitariness." And again he speaketh: "Thus saith our Lord unto this people, which have loved to move their feet, and not rested, nor yet pleased our Lord; now shall he remember their iniquities and visit their offences. Prophets say unto them, Ye shall not see the sword, and there shall be no famine among you, but our Lord shall give true peace unto you in this place. And our Lord hath said unto me, The prophets do falsely foretell in my name; I have not sent them, nor laid my commandment on them; they prophesy unto you a lying vision, and divination together with deceitfulness, and the seducement of their own hearts. And therefore thus saith our Lord: In sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed; and the people to whom they have prophesied shall by means of the famine and sword be cast out into the streets of Jerusalem, and there shall be none to bury them."

§ 82. And moreover: "Woe be to the pastors who destroy and rend in pieces the flock of my pasture, saith our Lord. Thus, therefore, saith our Lord God of Israel, unto[Pg 359] the pastors who guide my people, Ye have dispersed my flock, and cast them forth, and not visited them. Behold I will visit upon you the malice of your endeavours, saith our Lord. For the prophet and the priest are both defiled, and in my house have I found their evil, saith our Lord, and therefore shall their way be as a slippery place in the dark, for they shall be thrust forward, and fall down together therein, for I will bring evils upon them, the year of their visitation, saith our Lord. And in the prophets of Samaria I have seen foolishness, and they did prophesy in Baal, and deceived my people Israel, and in the prophets of Jerusalem, have I seen the like resemblance, adultery, and the way of lying, and they have comforted the hands of the vilest offenders, that every man may not be converted from his malice: they have been all made to me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as those of Gomorrah. Thus, therefore, saith our Lord to the prophets: Behold, I will give them wormwood for their food, and gall for their drink. For there hath passed from the prophet of Jerusalem pollution over the whole earth. Thus saith our Lord of hosts, Listen not to the words of prophets, who prophesy unto you, and deceive you, for they speak the vision of their own heart, and not from the mouth of our Lord. For they say unto those who blaspheme me, Our Lord hath spoken, peace shall be unto you; and to all that walk in the wickedness of their own hearts, they have said, evil shall not fall upon them. For who was present in the counsel of our Lord, and hath seen and heard his speech, who hath considered of his word, and hearkened thereunto? Behold, the whirlwind of the indignation of our Lord passeth out, and a tempest breaking forth, shall fall upon the heads of the wicked; the fury of our Lord shall not return, until the time that he worketh, and until he fulfilleth the cogitation of his heart. In the last days of all shall ye understand his counsel."

§ 83. And little also do ye conceive and put in execution that which the holy prophet Joel hath likewise spoken in admonishment of slothful priests, and lamentation of the people's suffering for their iniquities, saying: "Awake, ye who are drunk, from your wine, and weep and bewail ye all, who have drunk wine even to drunkenness, because joy and delight are taken away from your mouths. Mourn, ye[Pg 360] priests, who serve the altar, because the fields have been made miserable. Let the earth mourn, because corn hath become miserable, and wine been dried up, oil diminished, and husbandmen withered away. Lament ye possessions, in regard of wheat and barley, because the vintage hath perished out of the field, the vine withered up, the figs diminished; the pomegranates, and palm, and apple, and all trees of the field are withered away, in respect that the children of men have confounded their joy." All which things are spiritually to be understood by you, that your souls may not wither away with so pestilent a famine, for want of the word of God. And again, "Weep out ye priests, who serve our Lord, saying, Spare, O Lord, thy people, and give not over thine inheritance unto reproach, and let not nations hold dominion over them, that Gentiles may not say, Where is their God?" And yet ye yield not your ears unto these sayings, but admit of all matters by which the indignation of God's fury is more vehemently inflamed.

§ 84. With diligence also attend ye what holy Hosea the prophet hath spoken unto priests of your behaviour. "Hear these words, O ye priests, and let the house of Israel, together with the king's house, mark them; fasten ye them in your ears, for unto you pertaineth judgment, because ye are made an entangling snare to the espying watch, and as a net stretched over the toils which the followers of hunting have framed."

§ 85. To you also may this kind of alienation from our Lord be meant by the prophet Amos, saying, "I have hated and rejected your festival days, and I will not receive the savour in your solemn assemblies, because albeit ye offer your burnt sacrifices and hosts, I will not accept them, and I will not cast mine eye on the vows of your declaration. Take away from me the sound of your songs, and the psalm of your organs I will not hear." For the famine of the evangelical meat consuming, in your abundance of victuals, the very bowels of your souls, rageth violently within you, according as the aforesaid prophet hath foretold, saying, "Behold, the days shall come, saith our Lord, and I will send out a famine upon the earth; not the famine of bread, nor the thirst of water, but a famine in hearing the word of God, and the waters shall be moved from sea to sea,[Pg 361] and they shall run over from the north even unto the east, seeking the word of our Lord, and shall not find it."

§ 86. Let holy Micah also pierce your ears, who like a heavenly trumpet soundeth loudly forth against the deceitful princes of the people, saying, "Hearken now ye princes of the house of Jacob, Is it not for you to know judgment, who hate goodness, and seek after mischief, who pluck their skins from off men, and their flesh from their bones? Even as they have eaten the flesh of my people, and flayed their skins from them, broken their bones to pieces, and hewed them small as meat to the pot, they shall cry to God, and he will not hear them, and in that season turn his face away from them, even as they before have wickedly behaved themselves in their inventions. Thus speaketh our Lord of the prophets who seduce my people, who bite with their teeth, and preach against them peace, and if a man giveth nothing to stop their mouths, they raise and sanctify a war upon him. Night shall therefore be unto you in place of a vision, and darkness unto you in lieu of divination, and the sun shall set upon your prophets, and the day shall wax dark upon them, and seeing dreams they shall be confounded, and the diviners shall be derided, and they shall speak ill against all men, because there shall not be any one that will hear them, but that I myself shall do mine uttermost and strongest endeavour in the spirit of our Lord, in judgment and in power, that I may declare unto the house of Jacob their impieties, and to Israel their offences. Hearken, therefore, unto these words, ye captains of the house of Jacob, and ye remnants of the house of Israel, who abhor judgment, and overthrow all righteousness, who build up Sion in blood, and Jerusalem in iniquities: her rulers did judge for rewards, and her priests answered for hire, and her prophets did for money divine, and rested on our Lord, saying, And is not the Lord among us? Evils shall not fall upon us. For your cause, therefore, shall Sion be ploughed up as a field, and Jerusalem as the watch-house of a garden, and the mountain of the house as the place of a woody wilderness." And after some words ensuing: "Woe is me for that I am become as he that gathereth stubble in the harvest, and a cluster of grapes in the vintage, when the principal branch is not left to be eaten. Woe is me that a soul hath[Pg 362] perished through earthly actions, the reverence of sinners ariseth even with reverence from the earth, and he appeareth not that shall use correction among men. All contend in judgment for blood, and every one with tribulation afflicteth his neighbour, for mischief he prepareth his hands."

§ 87. Listen ye likewise how the famous prophet Zephaniah debated also in times past, concerning your revellers (for he spake of Jerusalem, which is spiritually to be understood the church or the soul), saying, "O the city that was beautiful and set at liberty, the confiding dove hath not hearkened to the voice, nor yet entertained discipline, she hath not trusted in our Lord, and to her God she hath not approached." And he showeth the reason why, "Her princes have been like unto roaring lions, her judges as wolves of Arabia did not leave towards the morning, her prophets carrying the spirit of a contemptuous despising man; her priests did profane what was holy, and dealt wickedly in the law, but our Lord is upright in the midst of his people, and in the morning he will not do injustice, in the morning will he give his judgment."

§ 88. But hear ye also blessed Zachariah the prophet, in the word of God, admonishing you: "For thus saith our Almighty Lord, Judge ye righteous judgment, and work ye every one towards his brother mercy and pity, and hurt ye not through your power the widow, or orphan, or stranger, or poor man, and let not any man remember in his heart the malice of his brother; and they have been stubborn not to observe these, and have yielded their backs to foolishness, and made heavy their ears that they might not hearken, and framed their hearts not to be persuaded that they might not listen to my law and words, which our Almighty Lord hath sent in his Spirit, through the hands of his former prophets, and mighty wrath hath been raised by our Almighty Lord." And again; "Because they who have spoken, have spoken molestations, and diviners have uttered false visions and deceitful dreams, and given vain consolations; in respect hereof they are made as dry as sheep, and are afflicted because no health was to be found; my wrath is heaped upon the shepherds, and upon the lambs will I visit." And within a few words after: "The voice of lamenting pastors, because their greatness is[Pg 363] become miserable. The voice of roaring lions, because the fall of Jordan is become miserable: thus saith our Almighty Lord: They who possessed have murdered, and yet hath it not repented them, and they who sold them, have said, Our Lord is blessed and we have been enriched, and their pastors have suffered nothing concerning them. For which I will now bear no sparing hand over the inhabitants of the earth, saith our Lord."

§ 89. Hear ye moreover what the holy prophet Malachi denounceth unto you, saying: "Ye priests who despise my name, and have said: Wherein do we despise thy name? in offering on mine altar polluted bread: and ye have said, Wherein have we polluted it? In that ye have said: The table of our Lord is as nothing, and have despised such things as have been placed thereon; because if ye bring what is blind for an offering, is it not evil? If ye set and apply what is lame or languishing, is it not evil? Offer therefore the same unto thy governor, if he will receive it, if he will accept of thy person, saith our Almighty Lord. And now do ye humbly pray before the countenance of your God, and earnestly beseech him (for in your hands have these things been committed) if happily he will accept of your persons." And again: "And out of your ravenous theft ye have brought in the lame and languishing, and brought it in as an offering. Shall I receive the same at your hands, saith our Lord? Accursed is the deceitful man who hath in his flock one of the male kind, and yet making his vow offereth the feeble unto our Lord, because I am a mighty king, saith our Lord of hosts, and my name is terrible among the Gentiles. And now unto you appertaineth this commandment, O ye priests, if ye will not hear, and resolve in your hearts to yield glory unto my name, saith our Lord of hosts, I will send upon you poverty, and accurse your blessings, because ye have not settled these things on your hearts. Behold I will stretch out my arm over ye, and disperse upon your countenances the dung of your solemnities." But that ye may in the meantime, with more zeal prepare your organs and instruments of mischief, to be converted into goodness, hearken ye (if there remain ever so little disposition to listen in your hearts) what he speaketh of a holy priest, saying "My covenant of life and peace was with him (for histori[Pg 364]cally he did speak of Levi and Moses): I gave fear unto him, and he was timorous of me, he dreaded before the countenance of my name; the law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips; he walked with me in peace and equity, and turned many away from unrighteousness. For the lips of the priest shall keep knowledge, and from out of his mouth they shall require the law, because he is the Angel of our Lord of hosts." And now again he changeth his style, and ceaseth not to rebuke and reprove the unrighteous, saying: "Ye have departed from the way, and scandalized many in the law, and made void my covenant with Levi, saith our Lord of hosts. In regard whereof I have also given you over as contemptible and abject among my people, according as ye have not observed my ways, and accepted countenance of men in the law. What, is there not one Father of us all? What, hath not one God created us? Why therefore doth every one despise his brother?" And again, "Behold our Lord of hosts will come, and who can conceive the day of his coming, and who shall endure to stand to behold him? For he shall pass forth as a burning fire, and as the fuller's herb, and shall sit melting and trying silver, and ye shall purge the sons of Levi, and cleanse them as gold and as silver." And somewhat afterwards: "Your words have grown strong against me, saith our Lord, and ye have spoken thus: He is vain who serveth God, and what profit because we have kept his commandments, and walked sorrowfully before our Lord of hosts. We shall therefore now call the arrogant blessed, for because they are erected and builded up, while they work iniquity, they have tempted God, and are made safe."

§ 90. But hear ye also what Ezechiel the prophet hath spoken, saying, "Woe upon woe shall come, and messenger upon messenger shall be, and the vision shall be sought for of the prophet, and the law shall perish from the priests, and counsel from the elders." And again: "Thus saith our Lord: In respect that your speeches are lying, and your divinations vain. For this cause, behold, I will come unto you, saith our Lord; I will stretch out my hand on your prophets, who see lies, and them who speak vain things; in the discipline of my people they shall not be, and in the Scripture of the house of Israel, they shall not be written,[Pg 365] and into the land of Israel they shall not enter, and ye shall know that I am the Lord, because they have seduced my people, saying, The peace of our Lord, and there is not the peace of our Lord. Here have they built the wall; and they anointed it, and it shall fall." And within some words afterwards: "Woe be unto these who fashion pillows, apt for every elbow of the hand, and make veils upon every head of all ages to the subversion of souls, and the souls of my people are subverted, and they possess their souls, and contaminated me unto my people for a handful of barley, and a piece of bread to the slaughter of the souls, whom it behoved not to die, and to the delivery of the souls, that were not fit to live, while ye talk unto my people that listeneth after vain speeches." And afterwards: "Say, thou son of man, thou art earth which is not watered with rain, neither yet hath rain fallen upon thee in the day of wrath, in which thy princes were in the midst of thee as roaring lions, ravening on their prey, devouring souls in their potent might, and receiving rewards, and thy widows were multiplied in the midst of thee, and her priests have despised my law, and defiled my holy things. Between holy and polluted, they did not distinguish, and divided not equally between the unclean and clean, and from my sabbaths they veiled their eyes, and in the midst of them they defiled."

§ 91. And again: "And I sought among them a man of upright conversation, and one who should altogether stand before my face, to prevent the times that might fall upon the earth, that I should not in the end utterly destroy it, and I found him not. And I poured out upon it, the whole design of my mind, in the fire of my wrath for the consuming of them: I repaid their ways on their heads, saith our Lord." And somewhat after: "And the word of our Lord was spoken unto me, saying: O son of man, speak to the children of my people, and they shalt say unto them: The land whereupon I shall bring my sword, and the people of the land shall take some one man among them, and ordain him to be a watchman over them, and he shall espy the sword coming upon the land, and sound with his trumpet, and signify unto the people, whoso truly shall then hear the sound of the trumpet, and yet hearing shall not beware: and the sword shall come and catch him, his blood shall light[Pg 366] upon his own head, because when he heard the sound of the trumpet, he was not watchful, his blood shall be upon him, and this man, for that he hath preserved his own soul, hath delivered himself. But the watchman if he shall see the sword coming, and not give notice with his trumpet, and the people shall not be aware, and the sword coming shall take away a soul from among them, both the soul itself is caught a captive for her iniquities, and I will also require her blood at the hand of the watchman. And thou, O son of man, I have appointed thee a watchman over the house of Israel, and if thou shalt hear the word from out of my mouth, when I shall say to a sinner, Thou shalt die the death, and yet wilt not speak whereby the wicked may return from his way: both the unjust himself shall die in his iniquity, and truly I will require his blood also at thy hands. But if thou shalt forewarn the wicked of his way, that he may avoid the same, and he nevertheless will not withdraw himself from his course, this man shall die in his impiety, and thou hast preserved thine own soul."

§ 92. And so let these few among a multitude of prophetical testimonies suffice, by which the pride or sloth of our stubborn priests may be repelled, to the end they may not suppose that we act rather of our own invention, but by the authority of the laws, and saints, denounce such threats against them. And now let us also behold what the trumpet of the gospel, sounding to the whole world, speaketh likewise to disordered priests; for as we have often said, this our discourse tendeth not to treat of them, who obtain lawfully the apostolical seat, and such as rightly and skilfully understand how to dispose of their spiritual food (in time convenient) unto their fellow servants, if yet at this time there remain any great number of these in this our country; but we only talk of ignorant and unexpert shepherds, who leave their flock, and feed on vain matters, and have not the words of a learned pastor. And therefore it is an evident token that he is not a lawful pastor, yea not an ordinary Christian, who rejecteth and denieth these sayings, which are not so much ours (who of ourselves are very little worth), as the decrees of the Old and New Testament, even as one of ours right well doth say, "We do exceedingly desire that the enemies of the church should also, without[Pg 367] any manner of truce be our adversaries: and that the friends and defenders thereof should not only be accounted our confederates, but also our fathers and governors." For let every one, with true examination, call his own conscience unto account, and so shall he easily find, whether according to true reason he possesseth his priestly chair or no. Let us see, I say, what the Saviour and Creator of the world hath spoken. "Ye are," saith he, "the salt of the earth; if that the salt vanisheth away, wherein shall it be salted? it prevaileth to no purpose any farther, but that it be cast out of doors, and trampled under the feet of men."

§ 93. This only testimony might abundantly suffice to confute all such as are impudent; but that it may be yet, by the words of Christ, more evidently proved with what intolerable bonds of crimes these false priests entangle and oppress themselves, some other sayings are also to be adjoined; for it followeth: "Ye are the light of the world. A city placed on a mountain cannot be hid: neither do they light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but upon a candlestick, that it may shine unto all who are in the house." What priest therefore of this fashion and time, who is so possessed with the blindness of ignorance, doth, as the light of a most bright candle, shine with the lamp of learning and good works, in any house, to all that sit in the darksome night? What one is so accounted a safe public and conspicuous refuge, to all the children universally of the church, that he may be to his countrymen a defensible and strong city, situated on the top of a high mountain? Moreover, which one of them can accomplish one day together, that which followeth: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven:" since rather a certain most obscure cloud of theirs, and the black night of offences, hang over the island, in such a manner, that they all turn almost away from the righteous course, and make them to wander astray through unpassable and cumbersome paths of wickedness, and so their heavenly Father is not only by their works not magnified, but also by the same intolerably blasphemed. These testimonies of holy scripture, which are either already cited, or hereafter to be intermixed in this epistle, I would gladly[Pg 368] wish to interpret in some historical or moral sense, as far as my meanness would allow.

§ 94. But for fear lest this our little work should be immeasurably tedious unto those who despise, loathe, and disdain, not so much our speeches as God's sayings, I have already alleged, and mean hereafter to affirm these sentences plainly without any circumstance. And to proceed, within a few words after: "For whoever shall break one of the least of these commandments, and so instruct men, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven." And again: "Judge ye not that ye may not be judged; for in what judgment ye shall judge, ye shall be judged." And which one, I pray you, of your company will regard this same that followeth: "But why dost thou see," saith he, "the mote in thy brother's eye, and considerest not the beam in thine own eye? or how dost thou say to thy brother, suffer me to cast the mote out of thine eye, and behold the beam remaineth still in thine own eye?" Or this which follows: "Do not give what is holy to dogs, neither yet shall ye cast your pearls before swine, lest perchance they tread them under their feet, and turn again and rend you," which hath often befallen you. And, admonishing the people, that they should not by deceitful doctors, such as ye, be seduced, he saith: "Keep yourselves carefully from false prophets, who come unto you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves: by their fruit shall ye know them. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? So every good tree beareth good fruit, and the evil, evil fruit." And somewhat afterward: "Not every one who saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but whoso doeth the will of my Father that is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven."

§ 95. And what shall then become of you, who, as the prophet hath said, believe God only with your lips, and do not adhere to him with your hearts? And how do ye fulfil that which followeth: "Behold I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves?" Whereas you act quite contrariwise, and proceed as wolves against a flock of sheep: or the other following sentence: "Be ye wise as serpents and simple as doves?" since ye are only wise to bite others with your deadly mouths, and not, with the interposition of your whole[Pg 369] body, to defend your head, which is Christ, whom with all the endeavours of your evil actions you tread under foot; neither yet have ye the simplicity of doves, but the resemblance rather of the black crow, which taking her flight out of the ark, that is, the church of God, and finding the carrion of earthly pleasures, did never with a pure return back thither again. But let us look on the rest. "Fear not," saith he, "them who kill the body, but are not able to slay the soul; but fear him who can overthrow both soul and body in hell." Revolve in your minds which of these ye have performed? And what one of you is not wounded in the very secrets of his heart, by this testimony following, which our Saviour uttereth unto his apostles, of evil prelates, saying, "Do ye suffer them, the blind leaders of the blind, but if the blind be a guide to the blind, both shall fall into the ditch?" But the people doubtless whom ye have governed, or rather beguiled, have just occasion to listen hereunto.

§ 96. Mark ye also the words of our Lord speaking unto his apostles, and to the people, which words likewise (as I hear) ye yourselves are not ashamed to pronounce often in public: "Upon the chair of Moses have the scribes and pharisees sat, observe ye therefore and accomplish all that they shall speak unto you, but do not according to their works. For they only speak, but of themselves do nothing." It is truly to priests a dangerous and superfluous doctrine, which is overclouded with sinful actions. "Woe be unto you, hypocrites, who shut up the kingdom of heaven before men, and neither yourselves enter in, nor yet suffer those that would to enter in." For ye shall with horrible pains be tormented, not only in respect of your great offences, which ye heap up for punishment in the world to come, but also in regard of those who daily perish through your bad example, whose blood in the day of judgment shall be required at your hands.

Yield ye also diligent attention unto the misery, which the parable setteth before your eyes, that is spoken of the servant, who saith in his heart, "My Lord delayeth his coming," and upon this occasion, perchance, "hath begun to strike his fellow servants, eating and drinking with drunkards. The Lord of the same servant, therefore, saith he, will come on[Pg 370] a day when he doth not expect him, and in an hour whereof he is ignorant, and will divide him, away from his holy priests, and will place his portion with the hypocrites (that is, with them who under the pretence of priesthood do conceal much iniquity), affirming that there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth;" such as they have not experienced in this present life, either for the daily ruin of the children of our holy mother church, or for the desire of the kingdom of heaven.

§ 97. But let us see what Paul, the true scholar of Christ, and master of the Gentiles, who is a mirror of every ecclesiastical doctor, "Even as I am the disciple of Christ," speaketh about a work of such importance in his first epistle on this wise: "Because when they have known God, they have not magnified him as God, or given thanks unto him; but vanished in their own cogitations, and their foolish heart is blinded; affirming themselves to be wise, they are made fools." Although this seemeth to be spoken unto the Gentiles, look into it notwithstanding, because it may conveniently be applied to the priests and people of this age. And after a few words, "Who have changed," saith he, "the truth of God into lying, and have reverenced and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever; therefore hath God given them over unto passions of ignominy." And again, "And even as they have not approved themselves to have God in their knowledge, so God hath yielded them up to a reprobate sense, that they may do such things as are not convenient, being replenished with all iniquity, malice, uncleanness of life, fornication, covetousness, naughtiness, full of envy, murder (i.e. of the souls of the people), contention, deceit, wickedness, backbiters, detractors, hateful to God, spiteful, proud, puffed up, devisers of mischief, disobedient to their parents, senseless, disordered, without mercy, without affection, who, when they had known the justice of God, understood not that they who commit such things, are worthy of death."

§ 98. And now what one of the aforesaid sort hath indeed been void of all these? And if he were, yet perhaps he may be caught in the sense of the ensuing sentence, wherein he saith: "Not only those who do these things, but those also who consent unto them," for none of them truly are free[Pg 371] from this wickedness. And afterwards, "But thou, according to thy hardness and impenitent heart, dost lay up for thyself wrath, against the day of wrath, and revelation of the just judgment of God, who will yield unto every one according unto his works." And again, "For there is no acceptation of persons with God. For whosoever have offended without the law, shall also without the law perish; whosoever have offended in the law, shall by the law be judged. For the hearers of the law shall not with God be accounted just, but the doers of the law shall be justified." How severe a sentence shall they therefore sustain, who not only leave undone what they ought to accomplish, and forbear not what they are forbidden, but also flee away from the very hearing of the word of God, as from a serpent, though lightly sounding in their ears.

§ 99. But let us pass over to that which followeth to this effect: "What shall we therefore say, shall we continue still in sin that grace may abound? God forbid, for we who are dead to sin, how shall we again live in the same?" And somewhat afterwards, "Who shall separate us," saith he, "from the love of Christ, tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or the sword?" What one, I pray you, of all you, shall with such an affection be possessed in the inward secret of his heart, since ye do not only labour for achieving of piety, but also endure many things for the working of impiety, and offending of Christ? Or who hath respected this that followeth? "The night hath passed, and the day approached. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light, even as in the day: let us honestly walk, not in banqueting, and drunkenness, not in couches, and wantonness, not in contention, and emulation; but put ye on our Lord Jesus Christ, and make no care to bestow your flesh in concupiscences."

§ 100. And again, in the first Epistle to the Corinthians, he saith: "As a wise workmaster have I laid the foundation, another buildeth thereupon, but let every man consider how he buildeth thereon. For no other man can lay any other foundation besides that which is laid, even Christ Jesus. But if any man buildeth upon this, gold, and silver, precious stones, hay, wood, stubble, every one's work shall be mani[Pg 372]fest; for the day of our Lord shall declare the same, because it shall be revealed in fire, and the fire shall prove what every man's work is. If any man's work shall remain, all by the fire shall be adjudged. Whoso shall build thereupon, shall receive reward. If any man's work shall burn, he shall suffer detriment. Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? But if any man violate the temple of God, God will destroy him." And again, "If any man seemeth to be wise among you in this world, let him be made a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God." And within a few words afterwards, "Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven corrupteth the whole mass? Purge ye, therefore, the old leaven that ye may be a new sprinkling." How shall the old leaven, which is sin, be purged away, that from day to day with your uttermost endeavours is increased? And yet again, "I have written unto you in mine epistle, that ye be not intermingled with fornicators, not truly the fornicators of this world, or the avaricious, ravenous, or idolatrous, otherwise ye ought to depart out of this world. But now have I written unto you, that ye be not intermingled, if any one is named a brother, and be a fornicator, or avaricious, or an idolator, or a slanderer, or a drunkard, or ravenous, with such an one ye should not so much as eat." But a felon condemneth not his fellow thief for stealing, or other open robbery, whom he rather liketh, defendeth, and loveth, as a companion of his offence.

§ 101. Also in his second epistle unto the Corinthians; "Having therefore," saith he, "this administration, according as we have obtained mercy, let us not fail, but let us cast away the secrets of shame, not walking in subtility, nor yet corrupting the word of God," (that is, by evil example and flattery.) And in that which followeth, he thus discourseth of wicked teachers, saying: "For such false apostles are deceitful workmen, transfiguring themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no wonder: for Satan himself transfigureth himself into an angel of light. It is not much therefore if his ministers are transfigured as ministers of justice, whose end will be according unto their works."

§ 102. Hear likewise what he speaketh unto the Ephe[Pg 373]sians; and consider if ye find not your consciences attainted as culpable of this that followeth? where he denounceth thus: "I say and testify this in our Lord, that ye do not as now walk like the Gentiles in the vanity of their own sense, having their understanding obscured with darkness, alienated from the way of God, through ignorance, which remaineth in them in regard of the blindness of their heart, who despairing, have yielded themselves over to uncleanness of life, for the working of all filthiness and avarice." And which of ye hath willingly fulfilled that which next ensueth? "Therefore be ye not made unwise, but understanding what is the will of God, and be ye not drunk with wine, wherein there is riotousness, but be ye fulfilled with the Holy Ghost."

§ 103. Or that which he saith to the Thessalonians. "For neither have we been with you at any time in the speech of flattery, as yourselves do know; neither upon occasion of avarice, neither seeking to be glorified by men, neither by you, nor any others, when we might be honoured, as other apostles of Christ. But we have been made as little ones in the midst of you; or even as the nurse cherisheth her small tender children, so desiring you, we would very gladly deliver unto you, not only the gospel, but also our very lives." If in all things ye retained this affection of the apostle, then might ye be likewise assured, that ye lawfully possessed his chair. Or how have ye observed this that followeth? "Ye know," saith he, "what precepts I have delivered unto you. This is the will of our Lord, your sanctification, that ye abstain from fornication; and that every one of you know how to possess his own vessel, in honour and sanctification, not in the passion of desire, like the Gentiles who are ignorant of God; and that none of you do encroach upon or circumvent his brother in his business, because our Lord is the revenger of all these. For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto sanctification. Therefore whoso despiseth these, doth not despise man, but God." What one also among you hath advisedly and warily kept this that ensueth: "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth, fornication, uncleanness of life, lust, and evil concupiscence, for which the wrath of God hath come upon the children of diffidence?"[Pg 374] Ye perceive therefore upon what offences the wrath of God doth chiefly arise.

§ 104. In which respect hear likewise what the same holy apostle, with a prophetical spirit, foretelleth of you, and such as yourselves, writing plainly in this sort to Timothy: "For know you this, that in the last days there shall be dangerous times at hand. For men shall be self-lovers, covetous, puffed up, proud, blasphemous, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, wicked, without affection, incontinent, unmeek, without benignity, betrayers, froward, lofty, rather lovers of sensual pleasures, than of God, having a show of piety, but renouncing the virtue thereof." Avoid thou these men, even as the prophet saith: "I have hated the congregation of the malicious, and with the wicked I will not sit." And a little after, he uttereth that (which in our age we behold to increase), saying: "Ever learning, and never attaining unto the knowledge of truth; for even as Jannes and Mambres resisted Moses, so do these also withstand the truth: men corrupted in mind, reprobate against faith, but they shall prosper no further; for their folly shall be manifest unto all, as theirs likewise was."

§ 105. And evidently doth he also declare how priests in their office ought to behave themselves, writing thus to Titus: "Show thyself an example of good works, in learning, in integrity, in gravity, having thy word sound without offence, that he who standeth on the adverse part may be afraid, having no evil to speak of us." And moreover he saith unto Timothy, "Labour thou as a good soldier of Christ Jesus; no man fighting in God's quarrel entangleth himself in worldly business, that he may please him unto whom he hath approved himself; for whoso striveth in the lists for the mastery, receiveth not the crown, unless he hath lawfully contended." This is his exhortation to the good. Other matter also which the same epistles contain, is a threatening advertisement to the wicked (such as yourselves, in the judgment of all understanding persons, appear to be). "If any one," saith he, "teacheth otherwise, and doth not peaceably assent to the sound sayings of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that doctrine which is according to piety, he is proud, having no knowledge, but languishing about questions, and contentions of words, out of which do spring envies,[Pg 375] debates, blasphemies, evil suspicions, conflicts of men corrupted in mind, who are deprived of truth, esteeming commodity to be piety."

§ 106. But why in using these testimonies, here and there dispersed, are we any longer, as it were, tossed up and down in the silly boat of our simple understanding, on the waves of sundry interpretations? We have now therefore at length thought it necessary to have recourse to those lessons,[247] which are gathered out of Holy Scriptures, to the end that they should not only be rehearsed, but also be assenting and assisting unto the benediction, wherewith the hands of priests, and others of inferior sacred orders, are first consecrated, and that thereby they may continually be warned never, by degenerating from their priestly dignity, to digress from the commandments, which are faithfully contained in the same; so as it may be plain and apparent unto all, that everlasting torments are reserved for them, and that they are not priests, or the servants of God, who do not with their utmost power follow and fulfil the instructions and precepts. Wherefore let us hear what the prince of the apostles, Saint Peter, hath signified about this so weighty a matter, saying: "Blessed be God, and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who through his mercy hath regenerated us into the hope of eternal life, by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, into an inheritance which can never corrupt, never wither, neither be defiled, preserved in heaven for you, who are kept in the virtue of God;" why then do ye fondly violate such an inheritance, which is not as an earthly one, transitory, but immortal and eternal? And somewhat afterwards: "For which cause be ye girded in the loins of your mind, sober, perfectly hoping in that grace which is offered to you in the revelation of Jesus Christ:" examine ye now the depths of your hearts, whether ye be sober and do perfectly preserve the grace of priesthood, which shall be duly discussed and decided in the revelation of our Lord. And again he saith: "As children of the benediction, not configuring yourselves to those former desires of your ignorance; but according unto him who hath called you holy, be ye also holy in all conversation.[Pg 376] For which cause it is written, Be ye holy, because I am holy." Which one of you, I pray, hath with his whole mind so pursued sanctity, that he hath earnestly hastened, as much as in him lay, to fulfil the same? But let us behold what in the second lesson of the same apostle is contained: "My dearest," saith he, "sanctify your souls for the obedience of faith, through the Spirit, in charity, in brotherhood, loving one another out of a true heart perpetually, as born again not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the word of God, living and remaining for ever."

§ 107. These are truly the commandments of the apostle; and read in the day of your ordination, to the end ye should inviolably observe the same, but they are not fulfilled by you in discretion and judgment, nay not so much as duly considered or understood. And afterwards: "Laying therefore aside all malice, and all deceits, and dissemblings, envy, and detractions, as infants newly born, reasonable and without guile covet ye milk, that ye may thereby grow to salvation, because our Lord is sweet." Consider ye also in your minds, if these sayings which have sounded in your deaf ears have not often likewise been trodden by you under foot: and again: "Ye truly are the chosen lineage, the royal priesthood, the holy nation, the people for adoption, that ye may declare his virtues who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light." But truly by you are not only the virtues of God not declared and made more glorious, but also through your wicked examples are they (by such as have not perfect belief) despised. Ye have perchance at the same time likewise heard, what is read in the lesson of the Acts, on this wise: "Peter arising in the midst of the disciples said: Men and brethren, it is expedient that the Scripture be fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost hath by the mouth of David foretold of Judas." And a little after: "This man therefore purchased a field, of the reward of iniquity." This have ye heard with a careless or rather blockish heart, as though the reading thereof nothing at all appertained unto yourselves. What one of you (I pray you) doth not seek the field of the reward of iniquity? For Judas robbed and pillaged the purse, and ye spoil and waste the sacred gifts and treasures of the church, together with the souls of her children. He[Pg 377] went to the Jews to make a market of God, ye pass to the tyrants, and their father the devil, that ye may despise Christ. He set to sale the Saviour of the world for thirty pence, and you do so even for one poor halfpenny.

§ 108. What need many words? The example of Matthias is apparently laid before you for your confusion, who was chosen into his place, not by his own proper will, but by the election of the holy apostles, or rather the judgment of Christ, whereat ye being blinded, do not perceive how far ye run astray from his merits, while ye fall wilfully and headlong into the manners and affection of Judas the traitor. It is therefore manifest that he who wittingly from his heart termeth you priests, is not himself a true and worthy Christian. And now I will assuredly speak what I think: this reprehension might have been framed after a milder fashion, but what availeth it to touch only with the hand, or dress with gentle ointment, that wound which with imposthumation or stinking corruption is now grown so horrible, that it requireth the searing iron, or the ordinary help of the fire, if happily by any means it may be cured, the diseased in the meanwhile not seeking a medicine, and the physician much erring from a rightful remedy? O ye enemies of God, and not priests! O ye traders of wickedness, and not bishops! O ye betrayers, and not successors of the holy apostles! O ye adversaries, and not servants of Christ! Ye have certainly heard at the least, the sound of the words, which are in the second lesson taken out of the apostle Saint Paul, although ye have no way observed the admonitions and virtue of them, but even as statues (that neither see nor hear) stood that day at the altar, while both then, and continually since he hath thundered in your ears, saying: "Brethren, it is a faithful speech, and worthy of all acceptance." He called it faithful and worthy, but ye have despised it as unfaithful and unworthy. "If any man desireth a bishopric, he desireth a good work." Ye do mightily covet a bishopric in respect of avarice, but not for spiritual convenience and for the good work which is suitable to the place, ye want it. "It behoveth therefore such a one to be free from all cause of reprehension." At this saying we have more need to shed tears than utter words; for it is as much as if the apostle had said, he ought to be of all others most free from occasion of rebuke. "The[Pg 378] husband of one wife," which is likewise so condemned among us, as if that word had never proceeded from him; "Sober, wise;" yea, which of ye hath once desired to have these virtues engrafted in him, "using hospitality." For this, if perchance it hath been found among you, yet being nevertheless rather done to purchase the favour of the people, than to accomplish the commandment, it is of no avail, our Lord and Saviour saying thus: "Verily, I say unto you, they have received their reward." Moreover, "A man adorned, not given to wine; no fighter, but modest; not contentious, not covetous:" O lamentable change! O horrible contempt of the heavenly commandments! And do ye not continually use the force of your words and actions, for the overthrowing or rather overwhelming of these, for whose defence and confirmation, if need had required, ye ought to have suffered pains, yea, and to have lost your very lives.

§ 109. But let us see what followeth: "Well governing," saith he, "his house, having his children subjected with all chastity." Imperfect therefore is the chastity of the parents, if the children be not also endued with the same. But how shall it be, where neither the father, nor the son, depraved by the example of his evil parent, is found to be chaste? "But if any one knoweth not how to rule over his own house, how shall he employ his care over the church of God?" These are the words, that with apparent effects, should be made good and approved. "Deacons in like manner, that they should be chaste, not doubled tongued, not overgiven to much wine, not followers of filthy gain, having the mystery of faith in a preconscience, and let these also be first approved, and so let them administer, having no offence." And now trembling truly to make any longer stay on these matters, I can for a conclusion affirm one thing certainly, which is, that all these are changed into contrary actions, in so much that clerks (which not without grief of heart, I here confess,) are shameless and deceitful in their speeches, given to drinking, covetous of filthy lucre, having faith (or to say more truly) unfaithfulness in an impure conscience, ministering not upon probation of their good works, but upon foreknowledge of their evil actions, and being thus defiled with innumerable offences, they are notwithstanding admitted unto the holy office; ye have likewise heard on the[Pg 379] same day (wherein ye should with far more right and reason have been drawn to prison or punishment, than preferred unto priesthood) when our Lord demanded whom his disciples supposed him to be, how Peter answered, "Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God;" and our Lord in respect of such his confession, said unto him: "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jonas, because flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven." Peter therefore, instructed by God the Father, did rightly confess Christ; but ye being taught by the devil your father, do, with your lewd actions, wickedly deny our Saviour. It is said to the true priest, "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my church:" but ye resembled "the foolish man, who hath builded his house upon the sand." And verily it is to be noted, that God joineth not in the workmanship with the unwise, when they build their house upon the deceitful uncertainty of the sands, according unto that saying: "They have made kings unto themselves, and not by me." Similarly that (which followeth) soundeth in like sort, speaking thus: "And the gates of hell (whereby infernal sins are to be understood) shall not prevail." But of your frail and deadly frame, mark what is pronounced: "The floods came, and the winds blew, and dashed upon that house and it fell, and great was the ruin thereof." To Peter and his successors, our Lord doth say, "And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven." But unto you, "I know you not, depart from me all ye workers of iniquity," that being separated with the goats of the left hand, ye may together with them go into eternal fire. It is also promised unto every good priest, "Whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, shall be likewise loosed in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, shall be in like sort bound in heaven." But how shall ye loose any thing, that it may be loosed also in heaven, since yourselves for your sins are severed from heaven, and hampered in the bands of your own heinous offences, as Solomon saith, "With the cords of his sins, every one is tied?" And with what reason shall ye bind any thing on this earth, that above this world may be likewise bound, unless it be your only selves, who, entangled in your iniquities, are so detained on this earth, that ye cannot ascend into heaven, but without your conversion unto our[Pg 380] Lord in this life, will fall down into the miserable prison of hell?

§ 110. Neither yet let any priest flatter himself upon the knowledge of the particular cleanness of his own body, since their souls (over whom he hath government) shall in the day of judgment be required at his hands as the murderer of them, if any through his ignorance, sloth, or fawning adulation, have perished, because the stroke of death is not less terrible, that is given by a good man, than that which is inflicted by an evil person; otherwise would the apostle never have said that which he left unto his successors, as a fatherly legacy, "I am clear and clean from the blood of all: for I have not forborne to declare unto you all the counsel of God." Being therefore mightily drunken with the use and custom of sins, and extremely overwhelmed with the waves (as it were) of increasing offences, seek ye now forthwith the uttermost endeavours of your minds (after this your shipwreck), that one plank of repentance which is left, whereby ye may escape and swim to the land of the living, that from you may be turned away the wrath of our Lord, who saith, "I will not the death of a sinner: but that he may be converted and live." And may the same Almighty God, of all consolation and mercy, preserve his few good pastors from all evil, and (the common enemy being overcome) make them free inhabitants of the heavenly city of Jerusalem, which is the congregation of all saints; grant this, O Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, to whom be honour and glory, world without end. Amen.[Pg 381]


[240] Probably Cystennyn of the Bards. Constantine is a name often occurring in the British royal families. The Constantine of Gildas is supposed to have been king of Cornwall, who abdicated his throne, and afterwards preached the gospel to the Picts and Scots. Some account of him will be found in the Aberdeen Breviary, in the Acta Sanctorum, March, vol. ii. p. 64, and in Whitaker's Cathedral of Cornwall, i. 325.

[241] The present counties of Devon and Cornwall.

[242] King of Powisland, which for some time formed a distinct kingdom.

[243] Inhabitants of the counties of Cardigan, Pembroke, and Carmarthen.

[244] His dominions were north of Cambria, between the Severn and the Western Sea.

[245] Probably Maelgwn Gwynedd, king of North Wales.

[246] Vermilion, the English version, seems derived from vermes, a worm.

[247] Gildas, in this and the following section, evidently alludes to the Ordination Ritual of the Ancient British Church.



[Pg 382-383]




§ 1. Nennius, the lowly minister and servant of the servants of God, by the grace of God, disciple of St. Elbotus,[248] to all the followers of truth sendeth health.

Be it known to your charity, that being dull in intellect and rude of speech, I have presumed to deliver these things in the Latin tongue, not trusting to my own learning, which is little or none at all, but partly from traditions of our ancestors, partly from writings and monuments of the ancient inhabitants of Britain, partly from the annals of the Romans, and the chronicles of the sacred fathers, Isidore, Hieronymus, Prosper, Eusebius, and from the histories of the Scots and Saxons, although our enemies, not following my own inclinations, but, to the best of my ability, obeying the commands of my seniors; I have lispingly put together this history from various sources, and have endeavoured, from shame, to deliver down to posterity the few remaining ears of corn about past transactions, that they might not be trodden under foot, seeing that an ample crop has been snatched away already by the hostile reapers of foreign nations. For many things have been in my way, and I, to this day, have hardly been able to understand, even superficially, as was necessary, the sayings of other men; much less was I able in my own strength, but like a barbarian, have I murdered and defiled the language of others. But I bore about with me an inward wound, and I was indignant, that the name of my own people, formerly famous and distinguished, should sink into oblivion, and like smoke be dissipated. But since, however, I had rather myself be the historian of the Britons than nobody, although so many are to be[Pg 384] found who might much more satisfactorily discharge the labour thus imposed on me; I humbly entreat my readers, whose ears I may offend by the inelegance of my words, that they will fulfil the wish of my seniors, and grant me the easy task of listening with candour to my history. For zealous efforts very often fail: but bold enthusiasm, were it in its power, would not suffer me to fail. May, therefore, candour be shown where the inelegance of my words is insufficient, and may the truth of this history, which my rustic tongue has ventured, as a kind of plough, to trace out in furrows, lose none of its influence from that cause, in the ears of my hearers. For it is better to drink a wholesome draught of truth from a humble vessel, than poison mixed with honey from a golden goblet.

§ 2. And do not be loath, diligent reader, to winnow my chaff, and lay up the wheat in the storehouse of your memory: for truth regards not who is the speaker, nor in what manner it is spoken, but that the thing be true; and she does not despise the jewel which she has rescued from the mud, but she adds it to her former treasures.

For I yield to those who are greater and more eloquent than myself, who, kindled with generous ardour, have endeavoured by Roman eloquence to smooth the jarring elements of their tongue, if they have left unshaken any pillar of history which I wished to see remain. This history therefore has been compiled from a wish to benefit my inferiors, not from envy of those who are superior to me, in the 858th year of our Lord's incarnation, and in the 24th year of Mervin, king of the Britons, and I hope that the prayers of my betters will be offered up for me in recompence of my labour. But this is sufficient by way of preface. I shall obediently accomplish the rest to the utmost of my power.


[248] Or Elvod, bishop of Bangor, a.d. 755, who first adopted in the Cambrian church the new cycle for regulating Easter.


Here begins the apology of Nennius, the historiographer of the Britons, of the race of the Britons.

§ 3. I, Nennius, disciple of St. Elbotus, have endeavoured to write some extracts which the dulness of the British nation had cast away, because teachers had no knowledge, nor gave any information in their books about this island of Britain.[Pg 385] But I have got together all that I could find as well from the annals of the Romans as from the chronicles of the sacred fathers, Hieronymus, Eusebius, Isidorus, Prosper, and from the annals of the Scots and Saxons, and from our ancient traditions. Many teachers and scribes have attempted to write this, but somehow or other have abandoned it from its difficulty, either on account of frequent deaths, or the often recurring calamities of war. I pray that every reader who shall read this book, may pardon me, for having attempted, like a chattering jay, or like some weak witness, to write these things, after they had failed. I yield to him who knows more of these things than I do.


§ 4, 5. From Adam to the flood, are two thousand and forty-two years. From the flood to Abraham, nine hundred and forty-two. From Abraham to Moses, six hundred.[249] From Moses to Solomon, and the first building of the temple, four hundred and forty-eight. From Solomon to the rebuilding of the temple, which was under Darius, king of the Persians, six hundred and twelve years are computed. From Darius to the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the fifteenth year of the emperor Tiberius, are five hundred and forty-eight years. So that from Adam to the ministry of Christ and the fifteenth year of the emperor Tiberius, are five thousand two hundred and twenty-eight years. From the passion of Christ are completed nine hundred and forty-six; from his incarnation, nine hundred and seventy-six: being the fifth year of Edmund, king of the Angles.

§ 6. The first age of the world is from Adam to Noah; the second from Noah to Abraham; the third from Abraham to David; the fourth from David to Daniel; the fifth to John the Baptist; the sixth from John to the judgment, when our Lord Jesus Christ will come to judge the living and the dead, and the world by fire.

The first Julius. The second Claudius. The third Se[Pg 386]verus. The fourth Carinus. The fifth Constantius. The sixth Maximus. The seventh Maximianus. The eighth another Severus Æquantius. The ninth Constantius.[250]

Here beginneth the history of the Britons, edited by Mark the anchorite, a holy bishop of that people.

§ 7. The island of Britain derives its name from Brutus, a Roman consul. Taken from the south-west point it inclines a little towards the west, and to its northern extremity measures eight hundred miles, and is in breadth two hundred. It contains thirty-three cities,[251] viz.

1. Cair ebrauc (York).
2. Cair ceint (Canterbury).
3. Cair gurcoc (Anglesey?)
4. Cair guorthegern.[252]
5. Cair custeint (Carnarvon).
6. Cair guoranegon (Worcester).
7. Cair segeint (Silchester).
8. Cair guin truis (Norwich, or Winwick).
9. Cair merdin (Caermarthen).
10. Cair peris (Porchester).
11. Cair lion (Caerleon-upon-Usk).
12. Cair mencipit (Verulam).
13. Cair caratauc (Catterick).
14. Cair ceri (Cirencester).
15. Cair gloui (Gloucester).
18. Cair luilid (Carlisle).
17. Cair grant (Grantchester, now Cambridge).
18. Cair daun (Doncaster), or Cair dauri (Dorchester).
19. Cair britoc (Bristol).
20. Cair meguaid (Meivod).
21. Cair mauiguid (Manchester).
22. Cair ligion (Chester).
23. Cair guent (Winchester, or Caerwent, in Monmouthshire).
24. Cair collon (Colchester, or St. Colon, Cornwall).
25. Cair londein (London).
26. Cair guorcon (Worren, or Woran, in Pembrokeshire).
27. Cair lerion (Leicester).
28. Cair draithou (Drayton).
29. Cair pensavelcoit (Pevensey, in Sussex).
30. Cair teim (Teyn-Grace, in Devonshire).
31. Cair Urnahc (Wroxeter, in Shropshire).
32. Cair colemion (Oarnalet, in Somersetshire).
33. Cair loit coit (Lincoln).

These are the names of the ancient cities of the island of Britain. It has also a vast many promontories, and castles innumerable, built of brick and stone. Its inhabitants consist of four different people; the Scots, the Picts, the Saxons, and the ancient Britons.

§ 8. Three considerable islands belong to it; one, on the south, opposite the Armorican shore, called Wight;[253] another between Ireland and Britain, called Eubonia or Man; and another directly north, beyond the Picts, named Orkney;[Pg 387] and hence it was anciently a proverbial expression, in reference to its kings and rulers, "He reigned over Britain and its three islands."

§ 9. It is fertilized by several rivers, which traverse it in all directions, to the east and west, to the south and north; but there are two pre-eminently distinguished among the rest, the Thames and the Severn, which formerly, like the two arms of Britain, bore the ships employed in the conveyance of the riches acquired by commerce. The Britons were once very populous, and exercised extensive dominion from sea to sea.

§ 10.[254] Respecting the period when this island became inhabited subsequently to the flood, I have seen two distinct relations. According to the annals of the Roman history, the Britons deduce their origin both from the Greeks and Romans. On the side of the mother, from Lavinia, the daughter of Latinus, king of Italy, and of the race of Silvanus, the son of Inachus, the son of Dardanus; who was the son of Saturn, king of the Greeks, and who, having possessed himself of a part of Asia, built the city of Troy. Dardanus was the father of Troius, who was the father of Priam and Anchises; Anchises was the father of Æneas, who was the father of Ascanius and Silvius; and this Silvius was the son of Æneas and Lavinia, the daughter of the king of Italy. From the sons of Æneas and Lavinia descended Romulus and Remus, who were the sons of the holy queen Rhea, and the founders of Rome. Brutus was consul when he conquered Spain, and reduced that country to a Roman province. He afterwards subdued the island of Britain, whose inhabitants were the descendants of the Romans, from Silvius Posthumus. He was called Posthumus because he was born after the death of Æneas his father; and his mother Lavinia concealed herself during her pregnancy; he was called Silvius, because he was born in a wood. Hence the Roman kings were called Silvan, and the Britons who sprang from him; but they were called Britons from Brutus, and rose from the family of Brutus.

Æneas, after the Trojan war, arrived with his son in Italy; and having vanquished Turnus, married Lavinia, the daugh[Pg 388]ter of king Latinus, who was the son of Faunas, the son of Picus, the son of Saturn. After the death of Latinus, Æneas obtained the kingdom of the Romans, and Lavinia brought forth a son, who was named Silvius. Ascanius founded Alba, and afterwards married. And Lavinia bore to Æneas a son, named Silvius; but Ascanius[255] married a wife, who conceived and became pregnant. And Æneas, having been informed that his daughter-in-law was pregnant, ordered his son to send his magician to examine his wife, whether the child conceived were male or female. The magician came and examined the wife and pronounced it to be a son, who should become the most valiant among the Italians, and the most beloved of all men.[256] In consequence of this prediction, the magician was put to death by Ascanius; but it happened that the mother of the child dying at its birth, he was named Brutus; and after a certain interval, agreeably to what the magician had foretold, whilst he was playing with some others he shot his father with an arrow, not intentionally but by accident.[257] He was, for this cause, expelled from Italy, and came to the islands of the Tyrrhene sea, when he was exiled on account of the death of Turnus, slain by Æneas. He then went among the Gauls, and built the city of the Turones, called Turnis.[258] At length he came to this island, named from him Britannia, dwelt there, and filled it with his own descendants, and it has been inhabited from that time to the present period.

§ 11. Æneas reigned over the Latins three years; Ascanius thirty-three years; after whom Silvius reigned twelve years, and Posthumus thirty-nine[259] years: the latter, from whom the kings of Alba are called Silvan, was brother to Brutus, who governed Britain at the time Eli the high-priest judged Israel, and when the ark of the covenant was taken by a foreign people. But Posthumus his brother reigned among the Latins.

§ 12. After an interval of not less than eight hundred years, came the Picts, and occupied the Orkney Islands: whence they laid waste many regions, and seized those on[Pg 389] the left hand side of Britain, where they still remain, keeping possession of a third part of Britain to this day.[260]

§ 13. Long after this, the Scots arrived in Ireland from Spain. The first that came was Partholomus,[261] with a thousand men and women; these increased to four thousand; but a mortality coming suddenly upon them, they all perished in one week. The second was Nimech, the son of ...,[262] who, according to report, after having been at sea a year and a half, and having his ships shattered, arrived at a port in Ireland, and continuing there several years, returned at length with his followers to Spain. After these came three sons of a Spanish soldier with thirty ships, each of which contained thirty wives; and having remained there during the space of a year, there appeared to them, in the middle of the sea, a tower of glass, the summit of which seemed covered with men, to whom they often spoke, but received no answer. At length they determined to besiege the tower; and after a year's preparation, advanced towards it, with the whole number of their ships, and all the women, one ship only excepted, which had been wrecked, and in which were thirty men, and as many women; but when all had disembarked on the shore which surrounded the tower, the sea opened and swallowed them up. Ireland, however, was peopled, to the present period, from the family remaining in the vessel which was wrecked. Afterwards, others came from Spain, and possessed themselves of various parts of Britain.

§ 14. Last of all came one Hoctor,[263] who continued there, and whose descendants remain there to this day. Istoreth, the son of Istorinus, with his followers, held Dalrieta; Buile had the island Eubonia, and other adjacent places. The sons of Liethali[264] obtained the country of the Dimetæ, where is a city called Menavia,[265] and the province Guiher and Cetgueli,[266] which they held till they were expelled from every part of Britain, by Cunedda and his sons.

[Pg 390]

§ 15. According to the most learned among the Scots, if any one desires to learn what I am now going to state, Ireland was a desert, and uninhabited, when the children of Israel crossed the Red Sea, in which, as we read in the Book of the Law, the Egyptians who followed them were drowned. At that period, there lived among this people, with a numerous family, a Scythian of noble birth, who had been banished from his country, and did not go to pursue the people of God. The Egyptians who were left, seeing the destruction of the great men of their nation, and fearing lest he should possess himself of their territory, took counsel together, and expelled him. Thus reduced, he wandered forty-two years in Africa, and arrived, with his family, at the altars of the Philistines, by the Lake of Osiers. Then passing between Rusicada and the hilly country of Syria, they travelled by the river Malva through Mauritania as far as the Pillars of Hercules; and crossing the Tyrrhene Sea, landed in Spain, where they continued many years, having greatly increased and multiplied. Thence, a thousand and two years after the Egyptians were lost in the Red Sea, they passed into Ireland, and the district of Dalrieta.[267] At that period, Brutus, who first exercised the consular office, reigned over the Romans; and the state, which before was governed by regal power, was afterwards ruled, during four hundred and forty-seven years, by consuls, tribunes of the people, and dictators.

The Britons came to Britain in the third age of the world; and in the fourth, the Scots took possession of Ireland.

The Britons who, suspecting no hostilities, were unprovided with the means of defence, were unanimously and incessantly attacked, both by the Scots from the west, and by the Picts from the north. A long interval after this, the Romans obtained the empire of the world.

§ 16. From the first arrival of the Saxons into Britain, to the fourth year of king Mermenus are computed four hundred and twenty-eight years; from the nativity of our Lord to the coming of St. Patrick among the Scots, four hundred and five years; from the death of St. Patrick to that of St. Bridget, forty years; and from the birth of Columcille[268] to the death of St. Bridget four years.[269]

[Pg 391]

§ 17. I have learned another account of this Brutus from the ancient books of our ancestors.[270] After the deluge, the three sons of Noah severally occupied three different parts of the earth: Shem extended his borders into Asia, Ham into Africa, and Japheth into Europe.

The first man that dwelt in Europe was Alanus, with his three sons, Hisicion, Armenon, and Neugio. Hisicion had four sons, Francus, Romanus, Alamanus, and Brutus. Armenon had five sons, Gothus, Valagothus, Cibidus, Burgundus, and Longobardus. Neugio had three sons, Vandalus, Saxo, and Boganus. From Hisicion arose four nations—the Franks, the Latins, the Germans, and Britons: from Armenon, the Gothi, Valagothi, Cibidi, Burgundi, and Longobardi: from Neugio, the Bogari, Vandali, Saxones, and Tarinegi. The whole of Europe was subdivided into these tribes.

Alanus is said to have been the son of Fethuir;[271] Fethuir the son of Ogomuin, who was the son of Thoi; Thoi was the son of Boibus, Boibus of Semion, Semion of Mair, Mair of Ecthactus, Ecthactus of Aurthack, Aurthack of Ethec, Ethec of Ooth, Ooth of Aber, Aber of Ra, Ra of Esraa, Esraa of Hisrau, Hisrau of Bath, Bath of Jobath, Jobath of Joham, Joham of Japheth, Japheth of Noah, Noah of Lamech, Lamech of Mathusalem, Mathusalem of Enoch, Enoch of Jared, Jared of Malalehel, Malalehel of Cainan, Cainan of Enos, Enos of Seth, Seth of Adam, and Adam was formed by the living God. We have obtained this information respecting the original inhabitants of Britain from ancient tradition.

§ 18. The Britons were thus called from Brutus: Brutus was the son of Hisicion, Hisicion was the son of Alanus, Alanus was the son of Rhea Silvia, Rhea Silvia was the daughter of Numa Pompilius, Numa was the son of Ascanius, Ascanius of Eneas, Eneas of Anchises, Anchises of Troius, Troius of Dardanus, Dardanus of Flisa, Flisa of[Pg 392] Juuin, Juuin of Japheth; but Japheth had seven sons; from the first, named Gomer, descended the Galli; from the second, Magog, the Scythi and Gothi; from the third, Madian, the Medi; from the fourth, Juuan, the Greeks; from the fifth, Tubal, arose the Hebrei, Hispani, and Itali; from the sixth, Mosoch, sprung the Cappadoces; and from the seventh, named Tiras, descended the Thraces: these are the sons of Japheth, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech.

§ 19.[272] The Romans having obtained the dominion of the world, sent legates or deputies to the Britons to demand of them hostages and tribute, which they received from all other countries and islands; but they, fierce, disdainful, and haughty, treated the legation with contempt.

Then Julius Cæsar, the first who had acquired absolute power at Rome, highly incensed against the Britons, sailed with sixty vessels to the mouth of the Thames, where they suffered shipwreck whilst he fought against Dolobellus,[273] (the proconsul of the British king, who was called Belinus,[274] and who was the son of Minocannus who governed all the islands of the Tyrrhene Sea), and thus Julius Cæsar returned home without victory, having had his soldiers slain, and his ships shattered.

§ 20. But after three years he again appeared with a large army, and three hundred ships, at the mouth of the Thames, where he renewed hostilities. In this attempt many of his soldiers and horses were killed; for the same consul had placed iron pikes in the shallow part of the river, and this having been effected with so much skill and secrecy as to escape the notice of the Roman soldiers, did them considerable injury; thus Cæsar was once more compelled to return without peace or victory. The Romans were, therefore, a third time sent against the Britons; and under the command of Julius, defeated them near a place called Trinovantum [London], forty-seven years before the birth of Christ, and five thousand two hundred and twelve years from the creation.

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Julius was the first exercising supreme power over the Romans who invaded Britain: in honour of him the Romans decreed the fifth month to be called after his name. He was assassinated in the Curia, in the ides of March, and Octavius Augustus succeeded to the empire of the world. He was the only emperor who received tribute from the Britons, according to the following verse of Virgil:

"Purpurea intexti tollunt aulæa Britanni."

§ 21. The second after him, who came into Britain, was the emperor Claudius, who reigned forty-seven years after the birth of Christ. He carried with him war and devastation; and, though not without loss of men, he at length conquered Britain. He next sailed to the Orkneys, which he likewise conquered, and afterwards rendered tributary. No tribute was in his time received from the Britons; but it was paid to British emperors. He reigned thirteen years and eight months. His monument is to be seen at Moguntia (amon