by Layamon
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Scarcely was this speech said to the end, that they saw Hengest approach over the down. With a numerous host they fiercely marched, together soon they came, and terribly they slew, there the stern men together rushed themselves, helms there gan resound, knights there fell, steel went against the bones, mischief there was rife; streams of blood flowed in the ways; the fields were dyed, and the grass changed colour! When Hengest saw that his help failed him, then withdrew he from the fight, and fled aside, and his folk after speedily moved. The Christians pursued after, and laid on them, and called Christ, God's son, to be to them in aid; and the heathen people also called loud, "Our God Tervagant, why failest thou us now?" When Hengest saw the heathens recede, and the Christian men come upon them, then fled Hengest through and through, until he came to Coningsburgh; in the burgh he went, safety to obtain. And the King Aurelie went after him anon, and called to his people with loud voice: "Run ever forth and forth! Hengest is gone northwards!" And they pursued after him until they came to the burgh. When Hengest and his son saw all the host come after them, then said Hengest, of all knights wrathest, "Will I no more flee, but now I will fight, and my son Octa, and his wed-brother Ebissa! And all my army, stir ye your weapons, and march we against them, and make we strong slaughter! And if we fell them not, then be we dead, laid on the field, and deprived of friends!" Hengest marched on the weald, and left all his tents; and made his shield troop all of his heathen men. Then came Aurelie the king, and many thousands with him, and began there another fight, that was exceeding strong; there was many great stroke dealt in the combat! There were the Christians well nigh overcome. Then approached there five thousand riders, that Aurelie had on horse to fight; they smote on the heathens, so that they down fell; there was fight most strong, combat full stern!

In the fight came the Earl Aldolf of Gloucester, and found Hengest, wickedest of knights, where he fought fiercely, and felled the Christians. Aldolf drew his good sword, and upon Hengest smote; and Hengest cast the shield before him, and else were his life destroyed; and Aldolf smote on the shield, so that it was shivered in two. And Hengest leapt to him, as if it were a lion, and smote upon Aldolf's helm, so that it parted in two. Then hewed they with swords—the strokes were grim—fire flew from the steel, oft and well frequent! After a time, then leapt Aldolf to the ground, and saw by him Gorlois, who was a keen man full truly; of Cornwall he was earl, he was widely known. Then was the baron Aldolf much the bolder, and heaved high his sword, and let it down swing, and smote Hengest on the hand, so that he let go his good brand; and in haste grasped him, with his grim looks, by the cuirasses hood that was on his head, and with great strength struck him down; and then he him up drew, as if he would crush him, and with arms embraced him, and forth him led. Now was Hengest taken, through Aldolf, the brave man! Then called Aldolf, the Earl of Gloucester: "Hengest, it is not so merry for thee now as it was whilom by Ambresbury, where thou drewest the axes, and slew the Britons, with much treachery thou slewest my kindred! Now thou shalt pay retribution, and lose thy friends; with cruel death perish in the world!" Hengest proceeded still (without speaking); he saw no help; Aldolf led him to his sovereign, and greeted the sovereign with loving words: "Hail be thou, Aurelie, of noble race! Here I bring before thee Hengest, the heathen, who was thy kindred's bane, who hath sought to us harm; God granted it to me, that I have him grasped! Now I give him to thee, for dearest of men art thou to me; and let thy attendants play with this hound, shoot with their arrows, and his race anon destroy!" Then answered the king with quick voice: "Blessed be thou, Aldolf, noblest of all earls! Thou art to me dear as my life, thou shalt be chief of people!" There men took Hengest, and there men bound Hengest; there was then Hengest of all knights most wretched! This fight was overcome, and the heathens fled. Then saw Octa, that his father was full woe; and with Ebissa, his wed brother, joined them together, and fled into York, with harm enow, and made ready the walls, and pulled down the halls. Some of the heathens went to the wood, where the folk on foot laid them to ground.

Then was Aurelie the king pleased well through all things; he proceeded into Coningsburgh, with all his folk, and thanked the Lord for such might. Three days and three nights the king dwelt there forth-right, to heal the wounds of his dear knights, and rest in the burgh their weary bones. When the third day came, and the folk had made none, then caused the king the trumpets to blow, and summoned his earls, that they should come to husting, to Aurelie the king. When they came together, the king asked them soon, what they would counsel him, who were his rich men, by what death Hengest should die, and how he might best avenge his dearest friends, who lay buried near Ambresbury.

Then stood up Eldadus, and with the king he spake thus;—towards God he was good, he was a holy bishop, Aldolf the earl's brother, he had no other:—"Lord king, listen now to me, what I will thee tell. I will make the sentence, how he shall be put to death. For he is most hateful of men to us in the world, and hath slain our kindred, and deprived of life-day; and he is a heathen hound—hell he shall seek; there he shall sink for his treachery! Lord king, hearken to me, what I thee will tell. A king was in Jerusalem, who was named Saul; and in heathendom was a king of mickle might, who was named Agag—Jerusalem he hated—he was king of the Amalech—the Worse was full nigh to him! Ever he hated Jerusalem with harm the most; never would he give them peace, but ever he withstood them; he burnt them, he slew them, he did them sorrow enow! It fell on a time that the sun gan to shine; then sate Agag the king on his high chair; his fated blood was troubled, and urged him to march. He called his knights anon forth-right: 'Quick to your steeds! and forth we shall ride; we shall burn and slay all about Jerusalem!' Forth went the king, and a great host with him; the land they gan through-run, and the towns to consume. The men saw that who dwelt in Jerusalem; and they advanced against them, knights and swains, and fought with the king, and with fight him overcame, and slew all his folk, and Agag the king they took; and so they with him came to Saul the king. Then was Saul the king blithe through all things! The king asked counsel at his rich knights anon, which he might the better do to him, either slay or up hang. Then leapt up Samuel, a prophet of Israel;—he was a man exceeding holy, high toward the Lord; no man knew in those days man so high in God's law. Samuel took Agag the king, and led him in the market-place, and caused him most fast to a stake to be bound; and took with his right hand a precious brand; and thus called to him Samuel, the good man: 'Thou hightest Agag the king, now thou art in sorrow! Now thou shalt receive the retribution for that thou destroyedest Jerusalem, for that thou hast this noble burgh so greatly injured, and many a good man slain, and deprived of life-day! As I hope for mercy, shalt thou do so no more.' Samuel heaved up the sword, and strongly down struck, and cut the king all in pieces in Jerusalem's market, and threw the pieces wide over the streets. Thus Samuel took-on (acted), and so oughtest thou do to Hengest."

Aldolf heard this, the Earl of Gloucester; toward Hengest he leapt, as if it were a lion, and grasped him by the head, and after him hauled him, and drew him through and through, and throughout all Coningsburgh; and without the burgh he caused him to be bound. Aldolf drew his sword, and smote off Hengest's head; and the king took him forth-right, because he was so brave a knight, and laid him in earth, after the heathen law, and prayed for the soul, that it never were happy.

And now Aurelie the king caused a husting to be summoned, and caused trumpets to be blown, and his army to assemble—there was wondrous folk—and marched right to York, and inclosed Octa with his men there within. The king caused a dyke to be dug, all about York, that no man might there either go out or in. Octa saw that; therefore he was full woe. And his heathen folk, that he had in the burgh, they betook them to counsel, what they might do. And thus spake Octa with his companion Ebissa: "I have now bethought me, what I will do. I and my knights shall forth-right in our bare-breech go out of the burgh, hang on my neck a chain, and come to the king, praying his mercy. We all shall else be dead, except we follow this counsel." And, they all did so, as Octa them advised; put off their clothes the careful knights, and proceeded out of the burgh, miserable thanes, twain and twain, twenty hundred! Aurelie beheld this, noblest of kings, strange it seemed to him of the naked knights. Together came the host that lay over the land; they saw Octa naked come, that was Hengest's son. He bare in his hand a long chain; he came to the king, and before his warriors he fell upon the ground, and the king's feet sought; and these words then said Hengest's son Octa: "Mercy, my lord king, through God the mild; for the love of God Almighty have mercy of my knights! For all our heathendom is become base, our laws and our people, for loathsome we are to the Lord. For us has failed in hand Appolin, and Tervagant, Woden, and Mercurius, Jupiter, and Saturnus, Venus, and Didon, Frea, and Mamilon, and all our beliefs are now to us odious, but we will believe on thy dear Lord, for all it faileth us now in hand, that we worshipped. We yearn thy favour, now and evermore; if thou wilt me grant peace, and if thou wilt me grant amity, we will draw to thee, and be thy faithful men; love thy people, and hold thy laws, if thou wilt not that, do thy will, whetherso (whatsoever) thou wilt do, or slay us or up hang us."

And the king was mild-hearted, and held him still; he beheld on the right hand, he beheld on the left hand, which of his wise men first would speak. They all were still, and kept silence with voice; was there no man so high, that durst a word utter; and ever lay Octa at the king's feet so; all his knights lay behind him. Then spake Aldadus, the good bishop, and said thus: "Ever it was, and ever it shall be, and yet it behoveth us, when we yearn mercy, that we should have mercy; worthy is he of mercy, who worthily prayeth for it. And thou thyself, lord king, thou art chief of the people, pardon thou Octa, and also his companions, if they will receive Christendom with good belief; for yet it may befall, in some country that they may fitly worship the Lord. Now stands all this kingdom in thine own hand, give them a place, where it shall be agreeable to thee, and take of them hostages, such as thou wilt require; and let them be well held in iron bonds; the hostages be found meat and clothes, be found all that to them shall belief; and then mightest thou well hold this people in thy land, and let them till the land, and live by their tilth. And if it subsequently shall befall, soon thereafter, that they fail in hand to hold troth, and weaken in work, and withstand thee, now I decree to thee the doom, what thou mayest then do. Cause men to ride to them exceeding quickly, and cause them all to be destroyed, slain and eke up hung. This I decree to thee; the Lord it hear!" Then answered the king, with quick voice: "All I will so do as thou hast deemed." Thus spake the king then: "Arise up, Octa; thou shalt quickly do well, receive Christendom." There was Octa baptised, and his companions also; and all his knights on the spot forth-right. They took their hostages, and gave to the king, three-and-fifty children they delivered to the king. And the king sent them beside Scotland; oaths they swore, that they would not deceive him. The king gave them in hand sixty hides of land, thereon they dwelt well many winters.

The king was in York, good it seemed to him; he took his messengers, and sent over all his land, and ordered his bishops, his book-learned men, earls and thanes, to come towards him, to Aurelie the king, to a great husting. It soon came to pass, that they came together. The king greeted his folk with his fair words, he welcomed earls, he welcomed barons, and the bishops, and the book-learned men.—"I will say to you with sooth words, why I sent after you, and for what thing. Here I give to each knight his land and his right, and to every earl and every baron, what he may win, to possess it with joy; and each man I order to love peace, on his life. And I bid you all to work and build the churches that are fallen, to let the bells ring, to sing God's praise, and each with our might to worship our dear Lord; each man by his might to hold peace and amity, and cause the land to be tilled, now it is all in my hand." When this doom was all said, they all praised this counsel. The king gave them leave to depart thence; each fared homeward, as to them it best seemed.

Full seven nights the king lay there still, and then he gan proceed into London, to gladden the burgh-folk, who oft were busy. He caused walls to be strengthened, he caused halls to be built, and all the works to be righted that ere were broken; and gave them all the laws that stood in their elders' days; and he made there reves, to rule the folk. And thence he gan proceed right to Winchester; and there he caused to be worked halls and churches;—there it seemed to him most pleasant;—and afterwards he went to Ambresbury, to the burial-place of his dear friends, whom Hergest with knives had murdered there. He caused men anon to be inquired for, who could hew stone, and eke good wrights, who could work with axe, he thought to work there a work wondrously fair, that ever should last, the while men lived! Then was in Caerleon a bishop, that hight Tremoriun; he was a man exceeding wise in the worlds-realm; with the king he was, over the weald. And thus Tremoriun, God's servant, spake there with the king, of a good thing: "Listen now to me, Aurelie, what I will make known to thee, and I will say to thee the best of all counsel, if thou wilt it approve, eft it will like to thee. We have a prophet, who is Merlin named; if any man might him find, upon this weald, and bring him to thee, through any kind of thing, and if thou his will wouldest perform, he would say to thee best of all counsel, how thou mightest this work make strong and stark, that ever might last, the while that men lived." Then answered the king—these words were to him agreeable:— "Dear friend Tremoriun, all this I will do." The king in haste sent his messengers over all his kingdom, and bade every man to ask after Merlin; and if men might him find, to bring him to the king, he would give him land, both silver and gold, and in the worlds-realm perform his will. The messengers gan to ride wide and far; some they went right north, and some they went forth south; some they went right east, and some they went right west, some they went anon, so that they came to Alaban, that is a fair well in Welsh land. The well he (Merlin) much loved, and oft therein bathed him; the knights him found where he sate by the strand. So soon as they him met, they greeted him fair; and thus said the two knights to him forth-right: "Hail be thou, Merlin, wisest of men! By us he who is a goodly king, named Aurelie, noblest of all kings, greets thee, and he beseecheth thee courteously, that thou come to him; and he will give land to thee, both silver and gold, if thou in the realm wilt counsel the king." Then answered Merlin, what to the knights was full woe: "I reck not of his land, his silver, nor his gold, nor his clothes, nor his horses; myself I have enow." Then sate he still a long time. These knights were afraid, that he would flee. When it all brake forth, it was good that he spake: "Ye are two knights come right here; yesterday ere noon I knew that ye should come, and if I so would, ye might not have found me. Ye bring me greeting from Aurelie the king. I knew his qualities ere he came to land, and I knew the other, Uther his brother; I knew both ere they were born, though I never saw either with eye. But alas! alas! that it is so ordered, that the monarch may not live long! But now will I go, and be your companion; to the king I will proceed, and perform his will."

Forth went Merlin, and the knights with him, so long that they came to the sovereign. The good tidings came to the king; never ere in his life was the king so blithe, for ever any kind of man that came to him! The king went to his steed, and out gan him ride, and all his knights with him, to welcome Merlin. The king him met, and greeted him fair, he embraced him, he kissed him, he made him his familiar. Great was the mirth among the people, all for Merlin's arrival, who was son of no man. Alas! that in the world was no wise man that ever knew here whose son he were, but the Lord alone, who surveys (or explores) all clean! The king led to chamber Merlin who was dear; and he gan ask him anon with his fair words, that he should cause him to understand of the world's course, and of all the years that were to come, for it were to him greatly in will, that he thereof knew. Merlin then answered, and to the king said thus: "O Aurelie, the king, thou askest me a strange thing, look that thou no more such thing inquire. For my spirit truly is wrathful, that is in my breast; and if I among men would make boast, with gladness, with game, with goodly words, my spirit would wrath himself, and become still, and deprive me of my sense, and my wise words fore-close, then were I dumb of every sentence. But leave all such things," quoth Merlin to the king, "for whensoever need shall come to ever any people, and man will beseech me with mildness, and I may with my will dwell still, then may I say, how it afterwards shall happen. But I will counsel thee of thy nearest need, and say to thee right here what thou hast in heart. A plain is by Ambresbury, that is broad, and exceeding pleasant, there was thy kindred deprived of life with knives, there was many bold Briton betrayed to the death; and thinkest to greet the place with worship, and with surprising works to honour the dead, that there shall ever stand, to the world's end. But thou hast never any man, that knows aught thereon, who can make a work that never will fail. But I will counsel thee at such need, for I know a work with wonder encompassed, far the work standeth in Ireland. It is a most surprising thing, it is named the Giant's Ring, the work is of stone, such another there is none, so wide as is the worlds-realm is no work its like. The stones are great, and virtue they have; the men who are sick they go to the stones, and they wash the stones, and therewith bathe their bones; after a little while they become all sound! But the stones are mickle, and immensely great; for was never any man born, in every any burgh, who might with strength bring the stones thence." Then answered the king: "Merlin, thou sayest strange thing, that never any man born may bring them thence, nor with any strength carry from the place, how might I then bring them hence?" Then answered Merlin to the king who spake with him: "Yes, yes, lord king, it was of yore said, that better is art, than evil strength; for with art men may hold what strength may not obtain. But assemble thine army, and go to the land, and lead thou with thee a good host; and I will go with thee—thy worship will be the more! Ere thou back come, thy will thou shalt have, and the work thou shalt bring with thee to this land, and so thou shalt carry it to the burial-place, and honour the spot where thy friends lie. And thou thyself shalt therein thy bones rest; when thy life endeth, there shalt thou rest." Thus said Merlin, and afterwards he sate still, as though he would from the world depart. The king caused him to be brought into a fair chamber, and dwell therein, after his will.

Aurche the king caused a husting to be summoned from all the lands that stood in his hand; he bade them counsel him at such need. And his noble barons they well advised him, that he should do the counsel that Merlin had said to him. But they would not lead the king out of this land, but they chose them for chief Uther the good, and fifteen thousand knights, weaponed fair, of bold Britons, who thither should go. When this army was all ready, then began they to fare with all the best ships that by the sea stood, and voyaged so long that they came to Ireland. And the brave knights took the haven, they went upon the sea-strand, and beheld Ireland. Then spake Merlin, and discoursed with words: "See ye now, brave men, the great hill, the hill so exceeding high, that to the welkin it is full high? That is the marvellous thing, it is named the Giant's Ring, to each work unlike—it came from Africa. Pitch your tents over all these fields, here we shall rest for the space of three days; on the fourth day we shall march hence toward the hill, where our will is. But we shall first refresh us, and assemble our warriors, make ready our weapons, for well they behove us (we shall need them)." Thus it remained, and there lay the army.

Then possessed Ireland a king that was most strong; he hight Gillomaur, he was lord of the people, the tidings came to him that the Britons were in the land, he caused forces to be summoned over all Ireland's territory, and he gan to threaten greatly, that he would all drive them out. When the word came to him, what the Britons would do there, and that they came for that only, to fetch the stones, then the King Gillomar made mickle derision and scorn, and said that they were foolish fellows, who over the broad sea were thither arrived, to seek there stones, as if none were in their land; and swore by Saint Brandan:—"They shall not carry away one stone, but for love of the stones they shall abide the most of all mischiefs; spill their blood out of their bellies—and so men shall teach them (they shall be taught) to seek stones! And afterwards I will go into Britain, and say to the King Aurelie, that my stones I will defend, and unless the king be still, and do my will, I will in his land with fight withstand, make him waste paths, and wildernesses many; widows enow—there husbands shall die!" Thus the unwise king played with words, but it all happened another wise, other than he weened. His army was ready, and forth they gan march, so long that they came whereon the Britons lay. Together they came, and hardily encountered, and fought fiercely—the fated fell! But the Irish were bare, and the Britons in armour, the Irish fell, and covered all the fields. And the King Gillomar gan him to flee there, and fled forth-right, with twenty of his knights, into a great wood—of worship bereaved—his Irish folk was felled with steel. Thus was the king shamed, and thus he ended his boast, and thus went to the wood, and let his folk fall! The Britons beheld the dead over the fields; seven thousand there lay deprived of life. The Britons went over the fields to their tents, and worthily looked to (or took care of) their good weapons, and there they gan to rest, as Merlin counselled them.

On the fourth day then gan they to march, and proceeded to the hill, all well weaponed, where the marvellous work stood, great and most strong! Knights went upward, knights went downward, knights went all about, and earnestly beheld it, they saw there on the land the marvellous work stand. There were a thousand knights with weapons well furnished, and all the others to wit guarded well their ships. Then spake Merlin, and discoursed with the knights: "Knights, ye are strong, these stones are great and long, ye must go nigh, and forcibly take hold of them; ye must wreathe them fast with strong sail-ropes, shove and heave with utmost strength trees great and long, that are exceeding strong, and go ye to one stone, all clean, and come again with strength, if ye may it stir." But Merlin wist well how it should happen. The knights advanced with mickle strength; they laboured full greatly, but they had not power, so that they ever any stone might stir! Merlin beheld Uther, who was the king's brother, and Merlin the prophet said these words: "Uther, draw thee back, and assemble thy knights, and stand ye all about, and diligently behold, and be ye all still, so that no man there stir ere I say to you now anon how we shall commence, 'Take ye each a stone.'" Uther drew him back, and assembled his knights, so that none there remained near the stones, as far as a man might cast a stone. And Merlin went about, and diligently gan behold, thrice he went about, within and without, and moved his tongue as if he sung his beads. Thus did Merlin there, then called he Uther: "Uther, come quickly, and all thy knights with thee, and take ye these stones all, ye shall not leave one; for now ye may heave them like feather balls; and so ye shall with counsel carry them to our ships." These stones they carried away, as Merlin counselled them, and placed them in their ships, and sailed forth to wit, and so they gan proceed into this land, and brought them on a plain that is wondrously broad, broad it is and most pleasant, near Ambresbury, where Hengest betrayed the Britons with axes. Merlin gan rear them, as they ere stood, so never any other man could do the craft, nor ever ere there-before was any man so wise born, that could the work raise, and the stones dispose.

The tidings came to the king in the north end, of Merlin's proceeding, and of Uther, his brother, that they were with safety come to this land, and that the work was all disposed, and set up right. The king was in breast wondrously blithe; and caused a husting to be summoned, so wide as was all his land, that all his merry folk so very joyous should come to Ambresbury, all his people, at Whitsunday, and the king would be there, and honour the place. Thither came Aurelie the king, and all his folk with him, on Whitsunday he there made a feast, as I will thee tell in this book-story. There were on the weald tents raised, on the broad plain, nine thousand tents. All the Whitsunday the king on the plain lay; ordered the place to be hallowed, that hight Stonehenge. Full three days the king dwelt still; on the third day, his people he highly honoured; he made two bishops, wondrously good, Saint Dubriz at Kaerleon, and Saint Samson at York; both they became holy, and with God high. On the fourth day people separated, and so a time it stood in the same wise.

The yet there was a wicked man, Pascent, Vortiger's son; was the same Pascent gone into Welsh land, and there in the same days was become outlaw. But he durst not long dwell there, for Aurelie and for Uther; but he procured good ships, and went by the sea flood, into Germany he proceeded, with five hundred men, and there he won much folk, and made a fleet, and voyaged so long that he came to this land, into the Humber, where he harm wrought. But he durst not long remain in the territory. The king marched thitherward, and Pascent fled awayward, by sea so long that he came to Ireland.

Soon he found there the king of the land, his heart was very sore, he greeted the King Gillomar with God's greeting: "Hail be thou, Gillomar, chief of men! I am to thee come; I was Vortiger's son; my father was Britain's king, he loved thee through all things. And if thou wouldest now be my companion, as we shall agree, and my father well avenge, and well avenge thy folk that Uther here killed, and thy marvellous work, that he hence drew. And eke I heard say, where I voyaged in the sea, that the King Aurelie is become sick, and lieth in Winchester, in bed full fast. Thou mayest believe me enow, for this is verily sooth." Thus Pascent and Gillomar made their compact there; oaths they swore, many and innumerable, that they would set all this land in their two (joint) hands; the oaths were sworn, but eft they were broken! The king gathered a host wide over his land; to the sea they are gone, Gillomar and Pascent; into the ships they went, and forth let them glide. Forth they proceeded quickly, so that they came to Meneve, that was in that time a town exceeding fair, that men now truly call Saint David's. There they took haven with great bliss; the ships went on the strand, the knights went on the land. Then said Pascent—toward Gillomar he went—"Say me, King Gillomar, now we are come here; now I set to thee in hand half-part this kingdom; for there is from Winchester come to me a knight's son, and saith to me such advice, that Aurelie will be dead, the sickness is under his ribs, so that he may not live. Here we shall well avenge our kindred, and win his territories, as to us shall be best of all."

To the king came the word, into Winchester, that Pascent and Gillomar were come here with an army. The king called Uther, who was his dear brother:—"Uther, summon forces over all this land, and march to our enemies, and drive them from land; either thou them disperse, either thou them fell. And I would eke fare, if I were not so sick; but if I may be sound I will come after thee soon." Uther did all as the king said to him there. And Pascent at Saint David's wrought thereby much sorrow; and to the king Gillomar much sorrow he did there; Britain they through-ran, harried and burnt. And Uther in this land assembled his host, and it was long time ere he might march aright. And Pascent set in his own hand all West Welsh land.

It was on a day, his people were blithe, there arrived Appas—the fiends him conveyed! To Pascent he quoth thus: "Come hither to us. I will thee tell of a joyful tiding. I was at Winchester, with thine adversaries, where the king lieth sick, and sorrowful in heart. But what shall be my meed, if I thither ride, and I so gratify thee, that I kill him?" Then answered Pascent, and toward Appas he went: "I promise thee to-day a hundred pounds, for I may, if thou me so gratifiest, that thou kill him." Troth they plight this treachery to contrive. Appas went to his chamber, and this mischief meditated; he was a heathen man, out of Saxland come. Monk's clothes he took on, he shaved his crown upon; he took to him two companions, and forth he gan proceed, and went anon right into Winchester, as if it were a holy man—the heathen devil! He went to the burgh-gate, where the king lay in chamber, and greeted the door-keeper with God's greeting; and bade him in haste go into the king, and say to him in sooth, that Uther his brother had sent him thither a good leech; the best leech that dwelt in any land, that ever any sick man out of sickness can bring. Thus he lied, the odious man, to the monarch, for Uther was gone forth with his army, nor ever him saw Uther, nor thither him sent! And the king weened that it were sooth, and believed him enow. Who would ween that he were traitor!—for on his bare body he wore a cuirass, thereupon he had a loathly hair-cloth, and then a cowl of a black cloth; he had blackened his body, as if smutted with coal! He kneeled to the king, his speech was full mild: "Hail be thou, Aurelie, noblest of all kings! Hither me sent Uther, that is thine own brother; and I all for God's love am here to thee come. For I will heal, and all whole thee make, for Christ's love, God's son; I reck not any treasure, nor meed of land, nor of silver nor of gold, but to each sick person I do it for love of my Lord." The king heard this, it was to him most agreeable;—but where is ever any man in this middle-earth, that would this ween, that he were traitor! He took his glass vessel anon, and the king urined therein; a while after that, the glass vessel in hand he took, and viewed it forth-right before the king's knights; and thus said anon Appas, the heathen man: "If ye will me believe, ere to-morrow eve this king shall be all whole, healed at his will." Then were blithe all that were in chamber. Appas went in a chamber, and the mischief meditated, and put thereto poison, that hight scamony, and came out forth-right among the chamber-knights, and to the knights he gan to distribute much canel, and gingiver and liquorice he gave them lovingly. They all took the gift, and he deceived them all. This traitor fell on his knees before the monarch, and thus said to him: "Lord, now thou shalt receive this, of this drink a part, and that shall be thy cure." And the king up drank, and there the poison he drank. Anon as he had drank, the leech laid him down. Thus said Appas to the chamber-knights: "Wrap now the king well, that he lie in sweating; for I say to you through all things, all whole shall your king be. And I will go to my inn, and speak with my men, and at the midnight I will come again forth-right, with other leechcraft, that shall be to him healing." Forth went—while the king lay in slumber—the traitor Appas to his inn, and spake with his men; and with stilly counsel stole from the town.

At the midnight then sent the chamber-knights six of their men to Appas's inn; they weened to find him, and bring him to the king. Then was he flown, and the fiends him carried! The men came back where the king dwelt, and made known in the chamber of Appas's departure. Then might men see sorrow enow be! Knights fell down, and yearned their deaths; there was mickle lamentation and heart-groaning, there was many a piteous speech, there was yell of men! They leapt to the bed, and beheld the king; the yet he lay in slumber, and in great sweat. The knights with weeping awakened the king, and they called to him with mild voice: "Lord, how is it with thee? how is thy harm? For now is our leech departed without leave, gone out of court, and left us as wretches." The king gave them answer: "I am all over swollen, and there is no other hap, now anon I shall be dead. And I bid forth-right, ye who are my knights, that ye greet Uther, who is my own brother, and bid him hold my land in his sway. God himself through all things let him be a good king! And bid him be keen, and always deem right, as a father to the poor folk, to the destitute for comfort; —then may he hold the land in power. And now to-day, when I be dead, take ye all one counsel, and cause me to be brought right to Stonehenge, where lie much of my kindred, by the Saxons killed. And send for bishops, and book-learned men; my gold and silver distribute for my soul, and lay me at the east end, in Stonehenge." There was no other hap—there was the king dead! And all so his men did as the king directed. Uther was in Wales, and hereof was nothing ware, never through any art hereof nothing wist; nevertheless he had with him the prophet Merlin, he proceeded towards the army that was come to the land.

Uther lay in Wales, in a wilderness, and prepared to march, to fight with Pascent. Then in the eventime, the moon gan to shine, well nigh all as bright as the sunlight. Then they saw afar a marvellous star; it was broad, it was large, it was immense! From it came gleams terribly shining, the star is named in Latin, comet. Came from the star a gleam most fierce; at this gleam's end was a dragon fair, from this dragon's mouth came gleams enow! But twain there were mickle, unlike to the others; the one drew toward France, the other toward Ireland. The gleam that toward France drew, it was itself bright enow; to Munt-Giu was seen the marvellous token! The gleam that stretched right west, it was disposed in seven beams. Uther saw this—but he was not hereof wary—sorrow was to him in heart, and strangely he was frightened; so was all the great folk that was in the host. Uther called Merlin, and bade him come to him, and thus said to him with very soft words: "Merlin, Merlin, dear friend, prove thyself, and say to us of the token that we have seen; for I wot not in the worlds-realm to what end it shall befall; unless thou us counsel, back we must ride."

Merlin sate him still, a long time, as if he with dream full greatly laboured. They said who saw it with their own eyes, that oft he turned him, as if it were a worm! At length he gan to awake, then gan he to quake, and these words said Merlin the prophet: "Walaway! Walaway! in this worlds-realm, much is the sorrow that is come to the land! Where art thou, Uther? Set before me here, and I will say to thee of sorrows enow. Dead is Aurelie, noblest of kings, so is the other, Constance, thy brother, whom Vortiger betrayed with his treachery. Now hath Vortiger's kin killed Aurelie; now art thou alone of thy noble kindred. But hope not thou for counsel of them that he dead, but think of thyself—prosperity shall be given to thee;—for seldom he faileth, who to himself thinketh. Thou shalt become good king, and lord of men. And thou at the midnight weapon thy knights, that we in the morning-light may come forth-right, before Meneve—there thou shalt fight; ere thou thence depart, slaughter thou shalt make; for thou shalt both slay there, Pascent and Gillomar, and many thousands of the men that are with them hither come. The token of the star, that we saw so far, sooth it is, Uther dear, that betokened thy brother's death. Before the star was the dragon, to each worm unlike; the token was on thy half, that was thou, Uther, thyself! Thou shalt have this land, and thy authority be great and strong. Such tokens are marvellous that came of the dragon's mouth, two gleams proceeded forth that were wondrously light. The one stretched far south, out over France—that signifies a powerful son, that of thy body shall come, who shall win many kingdoms with conflict, and in the end he shall rule many a nation. The other gleam that stretched west, wondrously light, that shall be a daughter, that to thee shall be exceeding dear. The gleams that gan to spread in seven fair strings, are seven fair sons, who shall come of thy daughter, who shall win to their own hand many a kingdom; they shall be well strong, on water and on land. Now thou hast of me heard what will thee help, quickly forth-right march to thy fight." And Merlin gan to slumber, as if he would sleep.

Up arose Uther, now he was wise and wary, and ordered his knights forth-right to horse, and ordered them quickly to proceed to Meneve; and all their expedition (or forces) to prepare, as if they should fight. In the troop before he had knights well chosen; seven thousand knights, brave men and active. He had in the middle knights well beseen, other seven thousand good thanes. He had behind brave knights eighteen thousand, brave warriors, and of folk on foot so many thousands, that in no speech might any man tell them! Forth they marched quickly, until they came to Meneve.

There saw Gillomar where Uther came to him, and commanded his knights to weapon them forth-right. And they very speedily grasped their knives, and off with their breeches—strange were their looks—and grasped in their hands their long spears, and hung on their shoulders great battle-axes. Then said Gillomar the king a thing very strange:—"Here cometh Uther, Aurelie's brother; he will ask my peace, and not fight with me. The foremost are his swains; march we against them; ye need never reek, though ye slay the wretches! For if Uther, Constantine's son, will here become my man, and give to Pascent his father's realm, I will him grant peace, and let him live, and in fair bonds lead him to my land." The king spake thus, the while worse him befell!

Uther's knights were in the town forth-right, and laid fire in the town, and fought sharply; with swords rushed towards them; and the Irish were naked. When the Irish men saw, that the Britons were in conflict, they fought fiercely, and nevertheless they fell; they called on their king: "Where art thou, nithing! why wilt thou not come hither? thou lettest us here be destroyed;—and Pascent, thy comrade, saw us fall here;—come ye to us to help, with great strength!" Gillomar heard this; therefore his heart was sore; with his Irish knights he came to the fight, and Pascent forth with him—both they were fated! When Uther saw, that Gillomar was there come, to him he gan ride, and smote him in the side, so that the spear through pierced, and glided to the heart. Hastily he passed by him, and overtook Pascent; and said these words Uther the good: "Pascent, thou shalt abide; here cometh Uther riding!" He smote him upon the head, so that he fell down, and the sword put in his mouth—such meat to him was strange—so that the point of the sword went in the earth. Then said Uther: "Pascent, lie now there; now thou hast Britain all won to thy hand! So is now hap to thee; therein thou art dead; dwell ye shall here, thou, and Gillomar thy companion, and possess well Britain! For now I deliver it to you in hand, so that ye may presently dwell with us here; ye need not ever dread who you shall feed!" Thus said Uther, and afterwards he there ran, and drove the Irish men over waters and over fens, and slew all the host that with Pascent came to land. Some to the sea fled, and leapt into their ships; with weather and with water there they perished! Thus they sped here, Pascent and Gillomar. Now was this fight done; and Uther back came, and forth-right marched into Winchester.

In a broad way he gan meet three knights and their swains, who came toward him. Anon as they met him, fair they him greeted: "Hail be thou, Uther; these territories are thine own. Dead is Aurelie, noblest of kings; he hath set to thee in hand all his regal land; he bade thee be in prosperity, and think of his soul." Then wept Uther wondrously much there. Uther proceeded forth-right into Winchester; then were before him, without the burgh, all the burghers with piteous cries. So soon as they saw him, they said to him: "Uther, thy favour, now and evermore! Our king we have lost, woe is to us therefore. Thou wert his brother—he had no other, nor he had no son, who might become king. But take thou the crown, it is thy right, and we will help thee, and hold for lord, with weapons and with goods, and with all our might." Uther heard this; he was wise and he was aware, that there was no other course, since his brother was dead. He took the crown, that came to him exceeding well, and he worthily became king, and held good laws, and loved his folk. Whilst that he was king, and chose his ministers, Merlin disappeared; he knew not ever whither he went, nor ever in the worlds-realm what became of him. Woe was the king, so was all his people, and all his courtiers were therefore mourning. The king caused men to ride wide and far; he offered gold and treasure to each travelling man, whosoever might find Merlin in the land thereto he laid mickle praise, but he heard no whit of him. Then bethought Uther, what Merlin said to him ere, in the expedition into Welsh land, where they saw the dragon, to each worm incomparable, and he thought of the tokens that Merlin taught him. The king was exceeding sorry, and sorrowful in heart, for he lost never a dearer man, since he was alive, never any other, not even Aurelie, his brother. The king caused to be worked two images, two golden dragons, all for Merlin's love— so greatly he desired his coming. When the dragons were ready, the one was his companion, wheresoever he in the land led his army, it was his standard, in every hap, the other he worthily gave into Winchester, into the bishop's see, where he stead holdeth. Thereto he gave his good spear, wherewith men should bear the dragon, when men should carry relics at processions. The Britons saw this, these dragons that were thus made, ever since they called Uther, who for a standard bare the dragon, the name they laid on him, that was Uther Pendragon; Pendragon in British, Dragon's-head in English.

Now was Uther their good king, but of Merlin he had nothing. This word heard Octa, where he dwelt northward, and Ebissa his wed-brother, and Ossa the other, that Aurelie sent thither, and set them there in his peace, and gave them in hand sixty hides of land. Octa heard full truly all how it was transacted, of Aurehe's death, and of Uther's kingdom. Octa called to him his kin that was nearest, they betook them to counsel, of their old deeds, that they would by their life desert Christendom. They held husting, and became heathens, then came there together, of Hengest's kindred, five and sixty hundred of heathen men. Soon was the word reported and over the land known, that Octa, Hengest's son, was become heathen, and all these same men to whom Aurelie had granted peace. Octa sent his messengers into Welsh land, after the Irish that from Uther were fled, and after the Alemains (Germans), that away were drawn, that were gone to the wood, the while men slew Pascent, and hid them well everywhere, the while men slew Gillomar, the folk out of the wood drew, and toward Scotland proceeded. There came ever more and more, and proceeded toward Octa, when they together were all come, then were there thirty thousand, without the women, of Hengest's kin. They took their host, and forth gan to fare, and set all in their hand beyond the Humber, and the people, where they gan march, there was a marvellous host! And they proceeded right to York, and on each side the heathen people gan ride about the burgh, and the burgh besieged, and took it all in their hand, forth into Scotland, all that they saw they accounted their own. But Uther's knights who were in the castle, defended the town within, so that they might never get within, in no place heard any one, of few men that did so well!

So soon as Uther of this thing was aware, he assembled a strong army, over all his kingdom, and he very speedily marched toward York, proceeded forth-right anon, where Octa him lay. Octa and his forces marched against them; encountered them together with grim strength, hewed hardily, helms resounded; the fields were dyed with the blood of the slain, and the heathen souls hell sought! When the day's end arrived, then was it so evilly done, that the heathen folk had the upper hand, and with great strength routed the Britons, and drove them to a mount that was exceeding strong. And Uther with his men drew to the mount, and had lost in the fight his dear knights, full seven hundred—his hap was the worse! The mount hight Dunian, that Uther was upon, the mount was overgrown with a fair wood. The king was there within with very many men, and Octa besieged him with the heathen men night and day—besieged him all about, woe was to the Britons! Woe was the King Uther, that he was not ere aware, that he had not in land better understood. Oft they went to counsel of such need, how they might overcome Octa, Hengest's son.

There was an earl Gorlois, bold man full truly—knight he was good, he was Uther's man,—Earl of Cornwall, known he was wide—he was a very wise man, in all things excellent. To him said Uther, sorry in heart: "Hail be thou, Gorlois, lord of men! Thou art mine own man, and very well I thee treat; thou art knight good, great is thy wisdom, all my people I put in thy counsel, and all we shall work after thy will." Then hung he his brows down, the King Uther Pendragon, and stood him full still, and bade Gorlois say his will. Then answered Gorlois, who was courteous full truly, "Say me, Uther Pendragon, why bowest thou thy head down? Knowest thou not that God alone is better than we all clean? He may to whomsoever he will give worship. Promise we him in life that we will not him deceive, and let we counsel us of our misdeeds. Each man forth-right take shrift of all his sins, each man shrive other, as if it were his brother, and every good knight take on him much shrift, and God we shall promise to amend our sins. And at the midnight prepare us to fight, these heathen hounds account us all here bound. Octa, Hengest's son, weeneth that we are all taken, they he in these fields covered in their tents, they are very weary of carrying their weapons, now anon they shall slumber, and afterwards sleep; of us they have no care, that we will march against them. At the midnight we shall forth-right go exceeding still, down from this hill, be no knight so mad, that he ask any word, nor ever any man be so mad, that he blow horn. But we shall step to them as if we would steal, ere they are aware, we shall destroy them, we shall approach to them, and tell them tidings. And let every brave man strongly lay on them, and so we shall drive the foreigners from the land, and with the might of our Lord, win our rights." All this host did as Gorlois had bid them, each man forth-right put him under shrift promised to do good, and Uther Pendragon foremost went down, and all his knights, exceeding still, and smote in the wealds, among all the tents, and slew the heathens with great strength, slew over the fields the yellow locks, of folk it was most wretched, they drew along their bowels, with much destruction they fell to the ground.

And there was forth-right captured Octa, Hengest's son, and his wed-brother Ebissa, and his comrade Ossa. The king caused them to be bound with iron bands, and delivered them to sixty knights, who were good in fight, fast to hold over the weald. And he himself drove him forth, and made much din, and Gorlois the fair, forth on the other side, and all their knights ever forth-right slew downright all that they came nigh. Some they crept to the wood on their bare knees, and they were on the morrow most miserable of all folk. Octa was bound, and led to London, and Ebissa, and Ossa—was never to them such woe.

This fight was all done, and the king forth marched into Northumberland with great bliss, and afterwards to Scotland, and set it all in his own hand. He established peace, he established quiet, that each man might journey with from land to land, though he bare gold in his hand, of peace he did such things, that no king might ever ere, from that time that the Britons here arrived. And then, after a time, he proceeded to London, he was there at Easter, with his good folk, blithe was the London's town, for Uther Pendragon. He sent his messengers over all his kingdom, he bade the earls, he bade the churls, he bade the bishops, and the book learned men, that they should come to London, to Uther the king, into London's town, to Uther Pendragon. Rich men soon to London came; they brought wife, they brought child, as Uther the king commanded. With much goodness the king heard mass, and Gorlois, the Earl of Cornwall, and many knights with him; much bliss was in the town, with King Uther Pendragon. When the mass was sung, to the hall they crowded, trumpets they blew, boards they spread, all the folk ate and drank, and bliss was among them.

There sate Uther the king in his high chair; opposite to him Gorlois, fair knight full truly, the Earl of Cornwall, with his noble wife. When they were all seated, the earls to their meat, the king sent his messengers to Ygaerne the fair, Gorlois the earl's wife, woman fairest of all. Oft he looked on her, and glanced with his eyes, oft he sent his cup-bearers forth to her table, oft he laughed at her, and made glances to her, and she him lovingly beheld—but I know not whether she loved him. The king was not so wise, nor so far prudent, that among his folk he could his thoughts hide. So long the king this practised, that Gorlois became him wrath, and angered him greatly with the king, because of his wife. The earl and his knights arose forth-right, and went forth with the woman, knights most wrath. King Uther saw this, and herefore was sorry, and took him forth-right twelve wise knights, and sent after Gorlois, chieftain of men, and bade him come in haste to the king, and do the king good right, and acknowledge his fault, that he had disgraced the king, and from his board had departed, he, and his knights, with mickle wrong, for the king was cheerful with him, and for he hailed (drank health) to his wife. And if he would not back come, and acknowledge his guilt, the king would follow after him, and do all his might, take from him all his land, and his silver, and his gold. Gorlois heard this, lord of men, and he answer gave, wrathest of earls: "Nay, so help me the Lord, that formed the daylight, will I never back come, nor yearn his peace, nor shall he ever in life disgrace me of my wife! And say ye to Uther the king, at Tintateol he may find me, if he thither will ride, there will I abide him, and there he shall have hard game, and mickle world's shame." Forth proceeded the earl, angry in his mood, he was wrath with the king wondrously much, and threatened Uther the king, and all his thanes with him. But he knew not what should come subsequently, soon thereafter.

The earl proceeded anon into Cornwall; he had there two castles inclosed most fast, the castles were good, and belonged to the race of his ancestors. To Tintateol he sent his mistress who was so fair, named Ygaerne, best of all women; and he inclosed her fast in the castle. Ygaerne was sorry, and sorrowful in heart, that so many men for her should there have destruction. The earl sent messengers over all Britain, and bade each brave man, that he should come to him, for gold and for silver, and for other good gifts, that they full soon should come to Tintateol, and bade his own knights to come forth-right. When they were together, the good thanes, then had he full fifteen thousand, and they fast inclosed Tintateol. Upon the sea-strand Tintateol standeth, it is with the sea cliffs fast inclosed, so that it may not be won, by no kind of man, but if hunger come therein under. The earl marched thence with seven thousand men, and proceeded to another castle, and inclosed it full fast, and left his wife in Tintateol, with ten thousand men. For it needed the knights, day or night, only to guard the castle gate, and he careless asleep; and the earl kept the other, and with him his own brother.

Uther heard this, who was king most stark, that Gorlois, his earl, had gathered his forces, and would hold war, with much wrath. The king summoned his host over all this territory, over all the land that stood in his hand, people of many kind marched them together, and came to London to the sovereign. Out of London's town fared Uther Pendragon, he and his knights proceeded forth-right, so long, that they came into Cornwall, and over the water they passed, that Tambres hight, right to the castle, where they knew Gorlois to be. With much enmity the castle they besieged, oft they assaulted it with fierce strength; together they leapt, people there fell. Full seven nights the king with his knights besieged the castle, his men there had sorrow, he might not of the earl anything win, and all the se'nnight lasted the marvellous fight. When Uther the king saw that nothing sped to him, oft he bethought him what he might do, for Ygaerne was so dear to him, even as his own life, and Gorlois was to him in the land of all men most loathsome; and in each way was woe to him in this world's realm, because he might not have anything of his will.

Then was with the king an old man exceeding well-informed; he was a very rich thane, and skilful in each doom, he was named Ulfin, much wisdom was with him. The king drew up his chin, and looked on Ulfin, greatly he mourned, his mood was disturbed. Then quoth Uther Pendragon to Ulfin the knight: "Ulfin, say me some counsel, or I shall be full soon dead, so much it longeth me after the fair Ygaerne, that I may not live. This word hold to me secret; for Ulfin the dear, thy good counsels, loud and still I will do them." Then answered Ulfin to the king who spake with him: "Now hear I a king say great marvel! Thou lovest Ygaerne, and holdest it so secret, the woman is to thee dear, and her lord all loath, his land thou consumest, and makest him destitute, and threatenest himself to slay, and his kin to destroy. Weenest thou with such harm to obtain Ygaerne? She should do then as no woman doth, with dread unmeet hold love sweet. But if thou lovest Ygaerne, thou shouldest hold it secret, and send her soon of silver and of gold, and love her with art, and with loving behest. The yet it were a doubt, whether thou mightest possess her, for Ygaerne is chaste, a woman most true; so was her mother, and more of the kin. In sooth I thee say, dearest of all kings, that otherwise thou must begin, if thou wilt win her. For yesterday came to me a good hermit, and swore by his chin, that he knew Merlin, where he each night resteth under heaven, and oft he spake with him, and stories him told. And if we might with art get Merlin, then mightest thou thy will wholly obtain."

Then was Uther Pendragon the softer in his mood, and gave answer: "Ulfin, thou hast well said counsel, I give thee in hand thirty ploughs of land, so that thou get Merlin, and do my will." Ulfin went through the folk, and sought all the host, and he after a time found the hermit, and in haste brought him to the king. And the king set to him in hand seven ploughs of land, if he might find and bring Merlin to the king. The hermit gan wend in the west end, to a wilderness, to a mickle wood, where he had dwelt well many winters, and Merlin very oft sought him there. So soon as the hermit came in, then found he Merlin, standing under a tree, and sore gan for him long, he saw the hermit come, as whilom was his custom, he ran towards him, both they rejoiced for this; they embraced, they kissed, and familiarly spake. Then said Merlin—much wisdom was with him—"Say thou, my dear friend, why wouldest thou not say to me, through no kind of thing, that thou wouldest go to the king? But full quickly I it knew anon as I thee missed, that thou wert come to Uther the king, and what the king spake with thee, and of his land thee offered, that thou shouldest bring me to Uther the king. And Ulfin thee sought, and to the king brought, and Uther Pendragon forth-right anon, set him in hand thirty ploughs of land, and he set thee in hand seven ploughs of land. Uther is desirous after Ygaerne the fair, wondrously much, after Gorlois's wife. But so long as is eternity, that shall never come, that he obtain her, but through my stratagem, for there is no woman truer in this world's realm. And nevertheless he shall possess the fair Ygaerne; and he shall beget on her what shall widely rule, he shall beget on her a man exceeding marvellous. So long as is eternity, he shall never die, the while that this world standeth, his glory shall last, and he shall in Rome rule the thanes. All shall bow to him that dwelleth in Britain, of him shall gleemen goodly sing; of his breast noble poets shall eat; of his blood shall men be drunk; from his eyes shall fly fiery embers; each finger on his hand shall be a sharp steel brand, stone walls shall before him tumble; barons shall give way, and their standards fall! Thus he shall well long fare over all the lands, people to conquer, and set his laws. These are the tokens of the son, that shall come of Uther Pendragon and of Ygaerne. This speech is full secret, for yet neither it knoweth, Ygaerne nor Uther, that of Uther Pendragon such a son shall arise; for yet he is unbegot, that shall govern all the people. But, Lord," quoth Merlin, "now it is thy will, that forth I shall go to the host of the king; thy words I will obey, and now I will depart, and proceed I will for thy love to Uther Pendragon. And thou shalt have the land that he set thee in hand."

Thus they then spake: the hermit gan to weep; dearly he him kissed; there they gan to separate. Merlin went right forth south, the land was well known to him; forth-right he proceeded to the king's host. So soon as Uther him saw, so he approached towards him; and thus quoth Uther Pendragon: "Merlin, thou art welcome! Here I set thee in hand all the counsel of my land, and that thou must me advise, at my great need." Uther told him all that he would, and how Ygaerne was to him in the land dearest of women, and Gorlois, her lord, most odious of all men.—"And unless I have thy counsel, full soon thou wilt see me dead." Then answered Merlin: "Let Ulfin now come in, and give him in hand thirty ploughs of land, and give to the hermit what thou him promisedest, for I will not possess any land, neither silver nor gold, for I am in counsel most skilful of all men, and if I wished for possessions, then should I become worse in craft. But all thy will well shall come to pass, for I know such leech-craft, that shall be to thee lief, so that all thy appearance shall become as the earl's; thy speech, thy deeds among thy people; thy horse and thy weeds (garments), and so shalt thou ride. When Ygaerne shall see thee, in mood shall it be well to her; she lieth in Tintateol, fast inclosed. There is no knight so well born, of no land chosen, that might with strength unfasten the gates of Tintateol, unless they were burst with hunger and with thirst. But that is the sooth that I will say to thee, through all things thou shalt be as if thou wert the earl, and I will be every bit as Britael he is, who is a knight most hardy, he is this earl's steward, Jurdan is his chamber-knight, he is exceeding well dight, I will make Ulfin anon such as Jurdan is. Then wilt thou be lord, and I be Britael, thy steward, and Ulfin be Jurdan, thy chamber-knight. And we shall go now to-night, and fare thou shalt by counsel, whither soever I lead thee. Now to-night shall half a hundred knights with spear and with shield be about thy tents, so that never any man alive come there near, and if ever any man come there, that his head be taken from him. For the knights shall say—thy good men—that thou art let blood, and restest thee in bed."

These things were forth-right thus dight. Forth went the king, it was nothing known, and forth went with him Ulfin and Merlin, they proceeded right the way that lay into Tintateol, they came to the castle-gate, and called familiarly: "Undo this gate-bolt; the earl is come here, Gorlois the lord, and Britael his steward, and Jordan the chamber-knight; we have journeyed all night!" The gateward made it known over all, and knights ran upon the wall, and spake with Gorlois, and knew him full surely. The knights were most alert, and weighed up the castle gate, and let him come within—the less was then their care,—they weened certainly to have much bliss. Then had they with stratagem Merlin there within, and Uther the king within their possession, and led there with him his good thane Ulfin. These tidings came quickly unto the lady, that her lord was come, and with him his three men. Out came Ygaerne forth to the earl, and said these words with winsome speech: "Welcome, lord, man to me dearest; and welcome, Jordan, and Britael is also;—be ye in safety parted from the king?" Then quoth Uther full truly as if it were Gorlois: "Mickle is the multitude that is with Uther Pendragon, and I am all by night stolen from the fight, for after thee I was desirous, woman thou art to me dearest. Go into the chamber, and cause my bed to be made, and I will rest me for this night's space, and all day to-morrow, to gladden my people." Ygaerne went to chamber, and caused a bed to be made for him, the kingly bed was all overspread with a pall. The king viewed it well, and went to his bed; and Ygaerne lay down by Uther Pendragon, Now weened Ygaerne full truly, that it were Gorlois; through never any kind of thing knew she Uther the king. The king approached her as man should do to woman, and had him to do with the dearest of women; and he begat on her a marvellous man, keenest of all kings, that ever came among men, and he was on earth named Arthur. Ygaerne knew not who lay in her arms, for ever she weened full surely, that it were the Earl Gorlois.

There was no greater interval but until it was daylight, there forth-right the knights understood, that the king was departed out of the host. Then said the knights, sooth though it were not, that the king was flown, filled with dread, but it all was leasing that they said of the king, they held hereof much converse upon Uther Pendragon. Then said the earls and the highest barons; "Now when Gorlois shall know it, how it is passed, that our king is departed, and has left his host, he will forth-right weapon his knights, and out he will to fight, and fell us to ground, with his furious thanes make mickle slaughter; then were it better for us, that we were not born. But cause we the trumpets to be blown, and our army to assemble; and Cador the brave shall bear the king's standard; heave high the Dragon before this people, and march to the castle, with our keen folk. And the Earl Aldolf shall be our chief, and we shall obey him, as if he were the king; and so we shall with right with Gorlois fight, and if he will speak with us, and yearn this king's peace, set amity with soothfast oath, then may we with worship go hence; then our underlings will have no upbraidings, that we for any timidity hence fled." All the nation-folk praised this same counsel. Trumpets they blew, and assembled their host; up they heaved the Dragon, by each standard unmatched; there was many a bold man, that hung shield on shoulder, many a keen thane, and proceeded to the castle, where Gorlois was within, with his keen men. He caused trumpets to be blown, and his host to assemble; they leapt on steed, knights gan to ride. These knights were exceeding active, and went out at the gate; together they came soon, and quickly they attacked, fell the fated men, the ground they sought; there was much blood shed, harm was among the folk; amidst the fight full certainly men slew the Earl Gorlois. Then gan his men to flee, and the others to pursue after, they came to the castle, and within they thrust. Soon it came within, both the two hosts; there lasted the fight throughout the daylight; ere the day were all gone, the castle was won; was there no swain so mean, that he was not a well good thane.

The tidings came into Tintageol in haste, forth into the castle wherein Uther was, that the good earl their lord Gorlois was slain full truly, and all his soldiers, and his castle taken. The king heard this, where he lay in amorous play, and leapt out of bower, as if it were a lion. Then quoth the King Uther, of this tiding he was ware: "Be still, be still, knights in hall! Here I am full truly, your lord Gorlois; and Jordan, my chamberlain, and Britael, my steward. I and these two knights leapt out of the fight, and in hither we are arrived—we were not there slain. But now I will march, and assemble my host; and I and my knights shall all by night proceed into a town, and meet Uther Pendragon, and unless he speak of reconciliation, I will worthily avenge me! And inclose ye this castle most fast, and bid Ygaerne that she mourn not. Now go I forth-right, have ye all good night!" Merlin went before, and the thane Ulfin, and afterwards Uther Pendragon, out of Tintageol's town; ever they proceeded all night, until it was daylight.

When he came to the spot where his army lay, Merlin had on the king set his own features through all things, then his knights knew their sovereign; there was many a bold Briton filled with bliss; then was in Britain bliss enow; horns there blew, gleemen gan chant, glad was every knight, all arrayed with pall! Three days was the king dwelling there; and on the fourth day he went to Tintaieol. He sent to the castle his best thanes, and greeted Ygaerne, noblest of women, and sent her token what they spake in bed; and ordered her that she should yield the castle quickly—there was no other counsel, for her lord was dead. Yet Ygaerne weened that it were sooth, that the dead earl had sought his people, and she all believed, that it were false, that the King Uther had ever come down. Knights went to counsel, knights went to communing, they resolved that they would not hold the castle any longer, their bridge they let down and delivered it to Uther Pendragon. Then stood all this kingdom eft in Uther's own hand.

There Uther the king took Ygaerne for queen; Ygaerne was with child by Uther the king, all through Merlin's craft, before she was wedded. The time came that was chosen, then was Arthur born. So soon as he came on earth, elves took him; they enchanted the child with magic most strong, they gave him might to be the best of all knights; they gave him another thing, that he should be a rich king, they gave him the third, that he should live long; they gave to him the prince virtues most good, so that he was most generous of all men alive. This the elves gave him, and thus the child thrived. After Arthur, the blessed lady was born, she was named Anna, the blessed maiden; and afterwards she took (married) Loth, who possessed Leoneis (Lothian), she was in Leoneis lady of the people. Long lived Uther with mickle bliss here, with good peace, with much quiet, free in his kingdom.

When that he was an old man, then came illness on him; the illness laid him down, sick was Uther Pendragon, so he was here sick seven years. Then became the Britons much emboldened, they did oft wickedly, all for absence of dread. The yet lay Octa, Hengest's son, bound in the prison of London, who was taken at York, and his comrade Ebissa, and his other Ossa. Twelve knights guarded them day and night, who were wearily oppressed with watching, in London. Octa heard say of the sickness of the king, and spake with the guardsmen, who should keep him: "Hearken to me now, knights, what I will make known to you. We lie here in London fast bound, and ye many a long day have watched over us. Better were it for us to live in Saxland, with much wealth, than thus miserably here lie asleep. And if ye would in all things accomplish this, and do my will, I would give you land, much silver and gold, so that ever ye might richly rule in the land, and live your life as to you shall be liefest of all. For ye shall never have good gifts of Uther, your king, for now full soon he will be dead, and his people all desert, then will ye have neither, the one nor the other. But bethink you, brave men, and give to us your compassion, and think what were lief to you, if ye thus lay bound, and might in your land live in joy." Very oft Octa spake so with these knights. The knights gan to commune, the knights gan to counsel, and to Octa they said full still: "We shall do thy will." Oaths they swore, that they would not deceive. It was on a night that the wind went right; forth went the knights at the midnight, and led forth Octa, and Ebissa, and Ossa, along the Thames they proceeded forth into the sea; forth they passed into Saxland. Their kindred came towards them with great flocks (forces); they marched over all the land, as to them was liefest, men gave them gifts and land; men gave them silver and gold Octa bethought him what he might do; he thought to come hither, and avenge his father's wounds. They procured a host of innumerable folk, to the sea they proceeded with great threats, they came to Scotland; soon they pushed on land, and greeted it with fire; the Saxons were cruel, the Scots they slew; with fire they down laid thirty hundred towns; the Scots they slew, many and innumerable.

The tidings came to Uther the king. Uther was exceeding woe, and wonderfully grieved, and sent in to Loeneis, to his dear friends, and greeted Loth, his son-in-law, and bade him be in health, and ordered him to take in his own hand all his royal land; knights and freemen, and freely hold them, and lead them in a host, as the laws are in the land. And he ordered his dear knights to be obedient to Loth, with loving looks, as if he were sovereign. For Loth was very good knight, and had held many fight, and he was liberal to every man, he delivered to him the government of all this land. Octa held much war, and Loth often fought with him, and oft he gained possessions, and oft he them lost. The Britons had mickle mood, and immoderate pride, and were void of dread, on account of the king's age; and looked very contemptuously on Loth the earl, and did very evilly all his commands, and were all two counsels—their care was the more! This was soon said to the sick king, that his high men Loth all despised.

Now will I tell thee, in this history, how Uther the king disposed himself. He said that he would go to his host, and see with his eyes who would there do well. He caused there to be made a good horse-litter, and caused an army to be assembled over all his kingdom; that each man by (on pain of) his life should come to him quickly, by their lives and by their limbs, to avenge the king's shame.—"And if there is any man, who will not come hastily, I will speedily destroy him, either slay either hang." All full soon to the court (or to the army) they came, durst there none remain, nor the fat nor the lean. The king forth-right took all his knights, and marched him anon to the town of Verulam; about Verolam's town came him Uther Pendragon; Octa was within with all his men. Then was Verulam a most royal town, Saint Alban was there slain, and deprived of life-day; the burgh was subsequently destroyed, and much folk there was slain. Uther lay without, and Octa within. Uther's army advanced to the wall, the powerful thanes fiercely assaulted it, they might not of the wall one stone detach, nor with any strength the wall injure.

Well blithe was then Hengest's son Octa, when he saw the Britons recede from the walls, and go sorrowful again to their tents. Then said Octa to his comrade Ebissa: "Here is come to Verulam Uther, the lame man, and will with us here fight in his litter; he weened with his crutch to thrust us down! But to-morrow when it is day, the people shall arise, and open our castle-gate, and this realm we shall all win; shall we never lie here for one lame man! Out we shall ride upon our good steeds, and advance to Uther, and fell his folk; for all they are fated (shall die) that hither are ridden; and take the lame man, and lay in our bonds, and hold the wretch until that he dies; and so men shall leach his limbs that are sore, and heal his bones with bitter steel!" Thus spake him Octa with his comrade Ebissa; but all it happened otherwise than they weened. On the morrow when it dawned, they unfastened the doors; up arose Octa, Ebissa, and Ossa, and ordered their knights to prepare them for fight, to undo their broad gates, and unfasten the burgh. Octa rode him out, and much folk followed after him; with his bold warriors there he bale found! Uther saw him this, that Octa approached to them, and thought to fell his host to the ground.

Then called Uther with quick voice there: "Where be ye, Britons, my bold thanes? Now is come that day, that the Lord may help us;—that Octa shall find, in that he threatened me to bind. Think of your ancestors, how good they were in fight; think of the worship that I have to you well given; nor let ye ever this heathen enjoy your homes, or these same raging hounds possess your lands. And I will pray to the Lord who formed the daylight, and to all the hallows, that sit high in heaven, that I on this field may be succoured. Now march quickly to them,—may the Lord aid you, may the all-ruling God protect my thanes!" Knights gan to ride, spears gan to glide, and broad spears brake, shivered shields—helms there were severed, men fell! The Britons were bold, and busy in fight, and the heathen hounds fell to the ground. There was slain Octa, Ebissa, and Ossa; there seventeen thousand sunk into hell; and many there escaped toward the north end. And all the daylight Uther's knights slew and captured all that they came nigh; when it was even, then was it all won. Then sung the soldiers with great strength, and said these words in their merry songs: "Here is Uther Pendragon come to Verulam's town; and he hath so beaten Octa, and Ebissa, and Ossa, and given them in the land laws most strong, so that men may tell their kin in story, and thereof make songs in Saxland!" Then was Uther blithe, and exceeding glad, and spake with his people, that was dear to him in heart, and these words said Uther the old: "Saxish men have accounted me for base; my sickness they twitted me with their scornful words, because I was led here in a horse-litter; and said that I was dead, and my folk asleep. And now is much wonder come to this realm, that now this dead king hath killed these quick; and some he hath them driven forth with the weather! Now hereafter be done the Lord's will!"

The Saxish men fled exceeding fast, that had aside retreated from the fight; forth they gan proceed into Scotland, and took to them for king Colgrim the fair. He was Hengest's relation, and dearest of men to him; and Octa loved him, the while that he lived. The Saxish men were greatly discouraged, and proceeded them together into Scotland; and they made Colgrim the fair for king, and assembled a host, wide over the land, and said that they would with their wicked craft in Winchester town kill Uther Pendragon. Alas, that it should so happen! Now said the Saxish men in their communing together: "Take we six knights, wise men and active, and skilful spies, and send we to the court, in almsman's guise, and dwell in the court, with the high king, and every day pass through all the people; and go to the king's dole, as if they were infirm, and among the poor people hearken studiously if man might with craft, by day or by night, in Winchester's town come to Uther Pendragon, and kill the king with murder;"—then were (would be) their will wholly accomplished, then were they careless of Constanine's kin. Now went forth the knights all by daylight, in almsman's clothes—knights most wicked—to the king's court—there they harm wrought. They went to the dole, as if they were infirm, and hearkened studiously of the king's sickness, how men might put the king to death. Then met they with a knight, from the king he came forth-right; he was Uther's relation, and dearest of men to him. These deceivers, where they sate along the street, called to the knight with familiar words: "Lord, we are wretched men in this world's realm; whilom we were in land accounted for good men, until Saxish men set us adown, and bereaved us of all, and our possessions took from us. Now we sing beads (prayers) for Uther the king; each day in a meal our meat faileth; cometh never in our dish neither flesh nor any fish, nor any kind of drink but a draught of water, but water clean—therefore we are thus lean."

The knight heard this; back he went forth-right, and came to the king, where he lay in chamber, and said to the king: "Lord, be thou in health! Here out sit six men, alike in hue, all they are companions, and clothed with hard hair-cloth. Whilom they were in this world's realm goodly thanes, and filled with goods; now have Saxish men set them to ground, so that they are in the world accounted for wretches, they have not at board but bread alone, nor for their drink but water draughts. Thus they lead their life in thy people, and bid their beads, that God will let thee long live." Then quoth Uther the king: "Let them come in hither, I will them clothe, and I will them feed, for the love of my Lord, the while that I live." The treacherous men came into the chamber, the king caused them to be fed, the king caused them to be clothed, and at night each laid them on his bed. And each on his part aspied earnestly how they might kill the king with murder, but they might not through anything kill Uther the king, nor through any craft might come to him.

Then happened it on a time, the rain it gan to pour; then called there a leech, where he lay in the chamber, to a chamber-knight, and ordered him forth-right to run to the well, that was near the hall, and set there a good swam, to keep it from the rain.—"For the king may not enjoy no draught in the world but the cold well stream, that is to him pleasant; that is for his sickness best of all draughts." This speech forth-right heard these six knights—to harm they were prompt—and went out by night forth to the well—there they harm wrought. Out they drew soon fair phials, filled with poison, of all liquids bitterest; six phials full they poured in the well; then was the well anon with poison infected. Then were full blithe the traitors in their life, and forth they went; they durst not there remain. Then came there forth-right two chamber-knights; they bare in their hands two bowls of gold. They came to the well, and filled their bowls; back they gan wend to Uther the king, forth into the chamber, where he lay in bed.—"Hail be thou, Uther! Now we are come here, and we have brought thee, what thou ere bade, cold well water; receive it with joy." Up arose the sick king, and sate on his bed; of the water he drank, and soon he gan to sweat; his heart gan to weaken, his face began to blacken, his belly gan to swell, the king gan to burst. There was no other hap, but there was Uther the king dead; and all they were dead, who drank of the water.

When the attendants saw the calamity of the king, and of the king's men, who with poison were destroyed, then went to the well knights that were active, and destroyed the well with painful labour, with earth and with stones made a steep hill. Then the people took the dead king—numerous folk—and forth him carried the stiff-minded men into Stonehenge, and there buried him, by his dear brother; side by side there they lie both.

Then came it all together, that was highest in the land, earls and barons, and book-learned men; they came to London, to a mickle husting, and the rich thanes betook them all to counsel, that they would send messengers over sea into Britanny, after the best of all youth that was in the worlds-realm in those days, named Arthur the strong, the best of all knights; and say that he should come soon to his kingdom; for dead was he Uther Pendragon, as Aurelie was ere, and Uther Pendragon had no other son, that might after his days hold by law the Britons, maintain with worship, and rule this kingdom. For yet were in this land the Saxons settled; Colgrim the keen, and many thousands of his companions, that oft made to our Britons evil injuries. The Britons full soon took three bishops, and seven riders, strong in wisdom; forth they gan proceed into Britanny, and they full soon came to Arthur.—"Hail be thou, Arthur, noblest of knights! Uther thee greeted, when he should depart, and bade that thou shouldest thyself in Britain hold right laws, and help thy folk, and defend this kingdom, as good king should do, defeat thy enemies, and drive them from land. And he prayed the mild Son of God to be to thee now in aid, that thou mightest do well, and the land receive from God. For dead is Uther Pendragon, and thou art Arthur, his son; and dead is the other, Aurelie his brother." Thus they gan tell, and Arthur sate full still; one while he was wan, and in hue exceeding pale; one while he was red, and was moved in heart. When it all brake forth, it was good that he spake; and thus said he there right, Arthur the noble knight: "Lord Christ, God's Son, be to us now in aid, that I may in life hold God's laws!"

Arthur was fifteen years old, when this tiding was told to him, and all they were well employed, for he was much instructed. Arthur forth-right called his knights, and bade every man get ready his weapons, and saddle their horses very speedily, for he would go to this Britain. To the sea proceeded the good thanes, at Michael's mount, with a mickle host, the sea set them on the strand, at Southampton they came ashore. Forth he gan ride, Arthur the powerful, right to Silchester; there it seemed good to him; there was the host of Britons boldly assembled. Great was the bliss when Arthur came to the burgh; then was blast of trumpets, and men most glad; there they raised to be king Arthur the young.

When Arthur was king—hearken now a marvellous thing;—he was liberal to each man alive, knight with the best, wondrously keen! He was to the young for father, to the old for comforter, and with the unwise wonderfully stern, wrong was to him exceeding loathsome, and the right ever dear. Each of his cupbearers, and of his chamber-thanes, and his chamber-knights, bare gold in hand, to back and to bed, clad with gold web. He had never any cook, that he was not champion most good; never any knight's swam, that he was not bold thane! The king held all his folk together with great bliss, and with such things he overcame all kings, with fierce strength and with treasure. Such were his qualities, that all folk it knew. Now was Arthur good king, his people loved him, eke it was known wide, of his kingdom.

The king held in London a mickle husting; thereto were arrived all his knights, rich men and poor, to honour the king. When that it was all come, a numerous folk, up arose Arthur noblest of kings, and caused to be brought before him reliques well choice, and thereto the king gan soon to kneel thrice,—his people knew not what he would pronounce. Arthur held up his right hand, an oath he there swore, that never by his life, for no man's lore, should the Saxons become blithe in Britain, nor be landholders, nor enjoy worship, but he would drive them out, for they were at enmity with him. For they slew Uther Pendragon, who was son of Constance, so they did the other, Aurelie, his brother, therefore they were in land loathest of all folk. Arthur forth-right took his wise knights, were it lief to them were it loath to them, they all swore the same oath, that they would truly hold with Arthur, and avenge the King Uther, whom the Saxons killed here. Arthur sent his writs wide over his land, after all the knights that he might obtain, that they full soon should come to the king, and he would in land lovingly maintain them; reward them with land, with silver and with gold. Forth went the king with a numerous host, he led a surprising multitude, and marched right to York. There he lay one night, on the morrow he proceeded forth-right where he knew Colgrim to be, and his comrades with him.

Since Octa was slam, and deprived of life-day, who was Hengest's son, out of Saxland come, Colgrim was the noblest man that came out of Saxland, after Hengest, and Hors, his brother, and Octa, and Ossa, and their companion Ebissa. At that day Colgrim ruled the Saxons by authority, led and counselled, with fierce strength; mickle was the multitude that marched with Colgrim! Colgrim heard tiding of Arthur the king, that he came toward him, and would do to him evil. Colgrim bethought him what he might do, and assembled his host over all the North land. There came together all the Scottish people, Peohtes and Saxons joined them together, and men of many kind followed Colgrim. Forth he gan to march with an immense force, against Arthur, noblest of kings, he thought to kill the king in his land, and fell his folk to the ground, and set all this kingdom in his own hand, and fell to the ground Arthur the young. Forth marched Colgrim, and his army with him, and proceeded with his host until he came to a water, the water is named Duglas, people it destroyed!

There came Arthur against him, ready with his fight; on a broad ford the hosts them met, vigorously their brave champions attacked, the fated fell to the ground! There was much blood shed, and woe there was rife, shivered shafts, men there fell! Arthur saw that, in mood he was uneasy, Arthur bethought him what he might do, and drew him backward on a broad field. When his foes weened that he would fly, then was Colgrim glad, and all his host with him, they weened that Arthur had with fear retreated there, and passed over the water, as if they were mad. When Arthur saw that, that Colgrim was so nigh to him, and they were both beside the water, thus said Arthur, noblest of kings: "See ye not, my Britons, here beside us, our full foes—Christ destroy them!—Colgrim the strong, out of Saxland? His kin in this land killed our ancestors, but now is the day come, that the Lord hath appointed, that he shall lose the life, and lose his friends, or else we shall be dead, we may not see him alive! The Saxish men shall abide sorrow, and we avenge worthily our friends." Up caught Arthur his shield, before his breast, and he gan to rush as the howling wolf, when he cometh from the wood, behung with snow, and thinketh to bite such beasts as he liketh. Arthur then called to his dear knights: "Advance we quickly, brave thanes! all together towards them; we all shall do well, and they forth fly, as the high wood, when the furious wind heaveth it with strength!" Flew over the wealds thirty thousand shields, and smote on Colgrim's knights, so that the earth shook again. Brake the broad spears, shivered shields; the Saxish men fell to the ground! Colgrim saw that, therefore he was woe—the fairest man of all that came out of Saxland. Colgrim gan to flee, exceeding quickly; and his horse bare him with great strength over the deep water, and saved him from death. The Saxons gan to sink—sorrow was given to them! Arthur hastened speedily to the water, and turned his spear's point, and hindered to them the ford; there the Saxons were drowned, full seven thousand. Some they gan wander, as the wild crane doth in the moorfen, when his flight is impaired, and swift hawks pursue after him, and hounds with mischief meet him in the reeds; then is neither good to him, nor the land nor the flood, the hawks him smite, the hounds him bite, then is the royal fowl at his death-time! Colgrim fled him over the fields quickly, until he came to York, riding most marvellously; he went into the burgh, and fast it inclosed; he had within ten thousand men, burghers with the best; that were beside him. Arthur pursued after him with thirty thousand knights, and marched right to York with folk very numerous, and besieged Colgrim at York, who defended it against him.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse