The tiding came to Arthur the king, that Frolle would with fight win France; was he never so blithe ere in his life! And he gan to laugh, with loud voice; and said these words Arthur the keen: "Now I know that Frolle will with me fight, to-morrow in the day, as he himself determined, in the island that with water is surrounded; for it becometh a king, that his word should stand. Let the trumpets blow, and bid my men, that every good man watch to-night for that, and pray our Lord, that all dooms wieldeth, that he preserve me from Frolle the fierce, and with his right hand protect me from disgrace. And if I may obtain this kingdom to mine own hand, every poor man the easier shall be, and work I will the great God's will! Now aid me thereto that all things may well do; the high heavenly king stand me in help; for him I will love (or praise), the while that I live!"
There was all the long night songs and candle-light; loudly sung clerks holy psalms of God. When it was day on the morrow, people gan to stir. His weapons he took in hand, Arthur the strong; he threw on his back a garment most precious, a cheisil shirt, and a cloth kirtle; a burny exceeding precious, embroidered of steel. He set on his head a good helm; to his side he suspended his word Caliburn; his legs he covered with hose of steel, and placed on his feet spurs most good. The king with his weeds leapt on his steed; men reached to him a good shield; it was all clean of elephant's bone (ivory). Men gave him in hand a strong shaft; there was at the end a spear most fair; it was made in Caermarthen by a smith that hight Griffin; Uther it possessed, who was ere king here. When that the stern man was weaponed, then gan he to advance; then might he behold, who were there beside, the mighty king ride boldly; since this world was made, was it nowhere told, that ever any man so fair rode upon horse, as Arthur he was, son of Uther! Bold chieftains rode after the king; in the foremost flock forty hundred, noble warriors, clad in steel, bold Britons, busy with weapon. After that marched fifty hundred, that Walwain led, who was a bold champion. Afterwards there gan out follow sixty thousand Britons most bold; that was the rearward. There was the King Angel; there was Loth and Urine; there was Urine's son, named Ywain; there was Kay and Beduer, and commanded the host there; there was the King Howel, noble man of Britanny; Cador there was eke, who was keen in flock; there was from Ireland Gillomar the strong; there was Gonwais the king, Orkney's darling; there was Doldanim the keen, out of Gothland, and Rumaret the strong, out of Winet-land; there was Aescil the king, Denmark's darling. Folk there was on foot, so many thousand men, that was never a man in this worlds-realm so wise, that might tell the thousands, in ever any speech, unless he had with right wisdom of the Lord, or unless he had with him what Merlin he had.
Arthur forth gan march, with innumerable folk; until he came full surely unto the burgh of Paris; on the west side of the water, with his mickle folk. On the east side was Frolle, with his great force, ready to the fight, before all his knights. Arthur took a good boat, and went therein, with shield and with steed, and with all his weeds (armour); and he shoved the strong ship from the land, and stept upon the island, and led his steed in his hand; his men that brought him there, as the king commanded, let the boat drive forth with the waves.
Frolle went into ship; the king was uneasy that he ever thought with Arthur to fight. He proceeded to the island, with his good weapons; he stept upon the island, and drew his steed after him; the men that brought him there, as the king commanded them, let the boat drive forth with the waves; and the two kings alone there remained.
Then men might behold, that were there beside, the folk on the land, exceedingly afraid; they climbed upon halls, they climbed upon walls; they climbed upon bowers, they climbed upon towers, to behold the combat of the two kings. Arthur's men prayed with much humility to God the good, and the holy his mother, that their lord might have there victory; and the others eke prayed for their king. Arthur stept in steel saddlebow, and leapt on his steed; and Frolle with his weeds leapt also on his steed; the one at his end, in the island, and the other at his end, in the island; they couched their shafts, the royal knights; they urged their steeds—good knights they were. Never was he found in ever any land, any man so wise, that should know it ere that time, whether (which) of the kings should lie overcome; for both they were keen knights, brave men and active, mickle men in might, and in force exceeding strong. They made ready their steeds; and together they gan ride; rushed fiercely, so that fire sprang after them! Arthur smote Frolle with might excessive strong, upon the high shield, so that it fell to the ground; and the steed that was good leapt out in the flood. Arthur out with his sword—mischief was on the point—and struck upon Frolle, where he was in the flood, ere their combat were come to the end. But Frolle with his hand grasped his long spear, and observed Arthur anon, as he came nigh, and smote the bold steed in the breast, so that the spear pierced through, and Arthur down drove. Then arose the multitudes' clamour, that the earth dinned again, the welkin resounded for shout of the folk. There would the Britons over the water pass, if Arthur had not started up very quickly, and grasped his good shield, adorned with gold, and against Frolle, with hostile glances cast before his breast his good broad shield. And Frolle to him rushed with his fierce assault, and up heaved his sword, and struck down right, and smote upon Arthur's shield, so that it fell on the field; the helm on his head, and his mail gan to give way, in front of his head; and he received a wound four inches long;—it seemed not to him sore, for it was no more;—the blood ran down over all his breast. Arthur was enraged greatly in his heart, and his sword Caliburne swung with main, and smote Frolle upon the helm, so that it parted in two; throughout the burnyshood, so that at his breast it (the sword) stopt. Then fell Frolle to the ground; upon the grass-bed his ghost he left. Then laughed the Britons, with loud voice; and people gan to fly exceeding quickly.
Arthur the powerful went to land, and thus gan to call, noblest of kings: "Where art thou, Walwain, dearest of men to me? Command these Rome-men all with peace to depart hence; each man enjoy his home, as God granteth it him; order each man to hold peace, upon pain of limb and upon life; and I will it order to-day a se'nnight; command this folk then to march all together, and come to myself—the better it shall be for them. They shall perform homage to me with honour, and I will hold them in my sovereignty, and set laws most good among the people. For now shall the Romanish laws fall to the ground, that before stood here with Frolle, who lieth slain in the island, and deprived of life-day. Hereafter full soon shall his kindred of Rome hear tidings of Arthur the king, for I will speak with them, and break down Rome walls, and remind them how King Belin led the Britons in thither, and won to him all the lands that stand unto Rome."
Arthur proceeded to the gate, before the burgh wise men that took charge of the burgh, came, and let Arthur within, with all his men; delivered to him the halls, delivered to him the castles; delivered to him, full surely, all the burgh of Paris—there was mickle bliss with the British folk! The day came to burgh, that Arthur had set; came all the populace, and his men became. Arthur took his folk, and divided them in two; and the half part gave to Howel, and bade him march soon, with the mickle host, with the British men to conquer lands.
Howel did all thus as Arthur him bade; he conquered Berry, and all the lands thereby; Anjou and Touraine, Alverne and Gascony, and all the havens that belonged to the lands. Guitard hight the duke, who possessed Poitou; he would not submit to Howel, but held ever against him; he would ask no peace, but Howel fought with him; oft he felled the folk, and oft he made flight. Howel wasted all the land, and slew the people. When Guitard saw, who was lord in Poitou, that all his people went him to loss, with Howel he made peace, with all his host, and became Arthur's man, the noble king. Arthur became gracious to him, and loved him greatly, and bade him enjoy his land, for (because) he bowed to his feet;—then had Howel nobly succeeded!
Arthur had France, and freely it settled; he took then his host, and marched over all the territory; to Burgundy he proceeded, and set it in his hand; and afterwards he gan fare into Loraine, and all the lands set to himself in hand, all that Arthur saw, all it submitted to him; and afterwards he went, full truly, again home to Pans.
When Arthur had France established with good peace, settled and composed, so that prosperity was among the folk, then ordered he the old knights, that he had long retained, that they should come to the king, and receive their reward; for they many years had been his companions. To some he gave land, some silver and gold; to some he gave castles, some he gave clothes; bade them go in joy, and amend their sins; forbade them to bear weapon, because age upon them went, and bade them love God greatly in this life, that he at the end, full surely, might give them his paradise, that they might enjoy bliss with the angels. All the old knights proceeded to their land, and the young remained with their dear king. All the nine years Arthur dwelt there; nine years he held France freely in hand, and afterwards no longer the land he governed.
But the while that the kingdom stood in Arthur's hand, marvellous things came to the folk; many proud man Arthur made mild, and many a high man he held at his feet! It was on an Easter, that men had fasted, that Arthur on Easter-day had his noble men together; all the highest persons that belonged to France, and of all the lands that lay thither in; there he gave his knights all their rights; to each one he gave possessions, as he had earned. Thus quoth him Arthur, noblest of kings: "Kay, look thee hitherward; thou art mine highest steward; here I give thee Anjou, for thy good deeds, and all the rights that thither in are set. Kneel to me, Beduer; thou art my highest cup-bearer here; the while that I am alive, love thee I will. Here I give thee Neustrie, nearest to my realm." Then hight Neustrie the land that now hight Normandy. The same two earls were Arthur's dear men, at counsel and at communing, in every place. The yet said him Arthur, noblest of kings: "Wend thee hither, Howeldin; thou art my man and my kin; have thou Boulogne, and possess it in prosperity. Come near, Borel; thou art knight wise and wary; here I deliver thee the Mans, with honour, and possess thou it in prosperity, for thy good deeds." Thus Arthur the king dealt his lordly lands, after their actions; for he thought them to be worthy. Then were blithe speeches in Arthur's halls; there was harping and song, there were blisses among!
When Easter was gone, and April went from town, and the grass was rife, and the water was calm, and men gan to say that May was in town, Arthur took his fair folk, and proceeded to the sea, and caused his ships to be assembled, well with the best; and sailed to this land, and came up at London; up he came at London, to the bliss of the people. All it was blithe that saw him with eyes; soon they gan to sing of Arthur the king, and of the great worship that he had won There kissed father the son, and said to him welcome; daughter the mother, brother the other; sister kissed sister; the softer it was to them in heart. In many hundred places folk stood by the way, asking of things of many kind; and the knights told them of their conquests, and made their boast of mickle booty. Might no man say, were he man ever so skilled, of half the blisses that were with the Britons! Each fared at his need over this kingdom, from burgh to burgh, with great bliss; and thus it a time stood in the same wise—bliss was in Britain with the bold king.
When Easter was gone, and summer come to land, then took Arthur his counsel, with his noble men, that he would in Kaerleon bear on him his crown, and on Whitsunday his folk there assemble. In those days men gan deem, that no burgh so fair was in any land, nor so widely known as Kaerleon by Usk, unless it were the rich burgh that is named Rome. The yet many a man was with the king in land, that pronounced the burgh of Kaerleon richer than Rome, and that Usk were the best of all waters. Meadows there were broad, beside the burgh; there was fish, there was fowl, and fairness enow; there was wood and wild deer, wondrous many; there was all the mirth that any man might think of. But never since Arthur thither came, the burgh afterwards thrived, nor ever may, between this and dooms-day. Some books say certainly that the burgh was bewitched, and that is well seen, sooth that it be. In the burgh were two minsters exceeding noble; one minster was of Saint Aaron; therein was mickle relique; the other of the martyr Saint Julian, who is high with the Lord; therein were nuns good, many a high born woman.
The bishop's stool was at Saint Aaron; therein was many a good man; canons there were, who known were wide; there was many a good clerk, who well could (were well skilled) in learning. Much they used the craft to look in the sky; to look in the stars, nigh and far;—the craft is named Astronomy. Well often they said of many things to the king; they made known to him what should happen to him in the land. Such was the burgh of Kaerleon; there was much wealth; there was much bliss with the busy king.
The king took his messengers, and sent over his land; bade come earls; bade come barons; bade come kings, and eke chieftains; bade come bishops, bade come knights; bade all the free men that ever were in the land; by their life he bade them be at Kaerleon on Whitsunday. Knights gan to ride exceeding wide, rode toward Kaerleon from lands of many kind. At the Whitsunday there came the King Angel, King of Scotland, with his fair folk; many was the fair man that followed the king. Of Moray King Urien, and his fair son Ywam; Stater, King of South Wales, and Cadwal, the King of North Wales; Cador, Earl of Cornwall, whom the king loved; Morvith of Gloucester; Maurm of Winchester; Gurguint, Earl of Hereford, and Beof, Earl of Oxford; Cursal the bold, from Bath there came riding; Urgent of Chester; Jonathas of Dorchester; Arnalf of Salisbury, and Kinmare of Canterbury; Bahen of Silchester; Wigen of Leicester; Argal, Earl of Warwick, with folk exceeding strange (or numerous); Dunwale, son of Apnes, and Kegem, son of Elauth; Kineus, that was Coit's son, and Cradoc, Catel's son, AEdlem, Cledauk's son; Grimarc, Kinmark's son; Run, Margoit, and Netan; Clofard, Kincar, and Aican; Kenn, Neton, and Peredur; Madoc, Trahern, and Elidur. These were Arthur's noble earls, and the highest thanes brave of all this land, without (besides) the nobles of Arthur's board, that no man might ken, nor all the folk name. Then were archbishops three in this country; in London, and in York; and in Kaerleon, Saint Dubrich—he was a man exceeding holy, through all things excellent! At London lay the archbishop's stool, that to Canterbury was subsequently removed, after that Englishmen had won to them this land.
To tell the folk of Kaerleon, no man might it do! There was Gillomar the king, of Irish men the darling; Malverus, King of Iceland; Doldanet, King of Gutland; Kinkalin of Frisland; and AEscil, King of Denmark. There was Loth the keen, who was king by the North; and Gonwais, King of Orkney, of outlaws the darling. Thither came the fierce man, the Earl of Boulogne, who was named Laeyer, and his people with him; of Flanders the Earl Howeldin; of Chartres the Earl Geryn. This man brought with him all the French men; twelve earls most noble, who ruled over France. Guitard, Earl of Poitiers; Kay, Earl of Angers; Bedver, Earl of Normandy—the land then hight Neustne;—of the Mans came the Earl Borel; of Britanny the Earl Howel. Howel the earl was free man, and fair were his weeds. And all the French folk were clothed fair, all well weaponed, and horses they had fat. There were besides fifteen bishops. Was there no knight nor any swain, nor good man that were thane, from the ports of Spain to the towns of Alemaine, that thither would not have come, if he were (had been) invited; all for Arthur's dread, of noble race. When all this folk was come; each king with his people, there men might behold, who were there beside, many a strange man, who was come to the burgh, and many kind of tidings (novelties) with Arthur the king There was many a marvellous cloth (garment); there was many a wrath knight; there were lodgings nobly prepared; there were the inns, built with strength; there were on the fields many thousand tents; there came lard and wheat, and oats without measure; may no man say it in his tale, of the wine and of the ale; there came hay, there came grass; there came all that was good!
When all this folk was assembled by the good king, when the Whitsunday came, as the Lord it sent, then came all the bishops before their king, and the archbishops three, before Arthur; and took the crown, that was to him by right, and set upon his head with great bliss; so they gan him lead, all with God's counsel. Saint Dubrich went before— he was to Christ chosen;—the Archbishop of London walked on his right hand, and by his left side the same of York. Fifteen bishops went before, of many lands chosen; they were all clothed with garments most rich, that were all embroidered with burning gold. There walked four kings before the kaiser; they bare in their hands four swords of gold. Thus hight the one, who was a most doughty man, that was Cador the king, Arthur's darling; the second of Scotland, he bare sword in hand; and the King of North Wales and the King of South Wales.
And thus they gan lead the king to church; the bishops gan sing before the monarch, trumpets there blew; bells there rung; knights gan ride, women forth glide. In certainty it is said, and sooth it is found, that no man ever ere saw here with earthly men half so great pomp, in ever any assembly, as was with Arthur, of noble race.
Into church came Arthur the rich man; Dubrich the archbishop—the Lord was to him full good; of Rome he was legate, and prelate of the people—he sang the holy mass before the monarch. Came with the queen women fair; all wives of the rich men that dwelt in the land, and daughters of the noble men the queen had sought (or selected), all as the queen had ordered, on pain of their paying full penalty. In the church, in the south half, sate Arthur the king himself; by the north side Wenhaver the queen. There came before her four chosen queens; each bare in the left hand a jewel of red gold, and three snow-white doves sate on their shoulders; who were the four queens, wives of the kings who bare in their hands the four swords of gold before Arthur, noblest of kings. There was many a maid-child with the noble queen; there was many a rich garment on the fair folk; there was mickle envy from land of many kind; for each weened to be better than other. Many knights anon came to the church; some for gain; some for the king; some to behold the women that were noble. Songs there were merry, that lasted very long; I ween if it had lasted seven years, the yet they would more, that were thereat. When the mass was sung, from church they thronged; the king with his folk went to his meat, with his mickle folk—joy was among the people. The queen on the other side sought her lodging; she had of women wondrous many.
When the king was set, with his men to his meat, to the king came the bishop Saint Dubrich, who was so good, and took from his head his rich crown; on account of the mickle gold the king would not it bear; and placed a less crown on the king's head; and afterwards he gan do to the queen also (likewise). In Troy this was the custom in their elders' days, of whom Brutus came, who were excellent men; all the men at their meat sate asunder by themselves, that to them seemed well done; and also the women their station had.
When the king was set with all his people to his meat, earls and barons, at the king's board, then came stepping the steward, who was named Kay, highest knight in land under the king, of all the assemblage of Arthur's folk. Kay had before him many a noble man chosen; there were a thousand bold knights wondrous well told, that served the king and his chiefs; each knight had a cloth on, and adorned with gold, and all their fingers covered with gold rings. These bare the things sent from the kitchen to the king. On the other side was Beduer, the king's high cup-bearer, with him were earls' sons of noble race born, and the noble knights' sons, who were thither come; and seven kings' sons, that with him moved. Beduer went foremost, with golden bowl; after him a thousand pressed towards the folk, with drink of all the kinds that men could think of. And the queen at her end, women most fair attended; a thousand walked before her, rich and well choice, to serve the queen, and them that were with her.
Was he never born, of any man chosen, clerk nor layman, in ever any land, that could tell it in speech of any kind, of half the wealth that was in Kaerleon, of silver and of gold, and good weeds; of high born men that dwelt among the folk; of horses, and of hawks, of hounds for deer, and of rich weeds, that were among the people. And of all the folk that dwelt there in land, the folk of this land was accounted the fairest of people, and also the women, comely in hue, and most nobly clothed, and best of all educated. For they all had in declaration, by their quick lives, that they would have their clothes of one hue. Some had white, some had red; some had eke good green; and variegated cloth of each kind was to them wondrous odious; and each ill-usage they accounted unworthy.
Then had English land the best fame of all; and this country-folk eke was dearest to the king. The high born women that dwelt in this land had all declared in their sooth words, that none would take lord (husband) in this land, never any knight, were he nought (never) so well formed, unless he were thrice tried in combat, and his courage made known, and himself approved; then might he boldly ask him a bride. For that usage the knights were brave, the women excellent, and the better behaved; then were in Britain blisses enow.
When the king had eaten, and all his people, then proceeded out of the burgh the thanes most bold; all the kings, and their chieftains; all the bishops, and all the clerks; all the earls, and all the barons; all the thanes, and all the swains, fairly clad, spread over the fields. Some they gan to ride; some they gan to race, some they gan to leap, some they gan to shoot, some they wrestled, and contest made; some they in the field played under shield; some they drove balls wide over the fields. Games of many a kind there they gan to play; and whoso might win honour of his game, men lead him with song before the sovereign, and the king for his game gave him gifts good. All the queens, that there were come, and all the ladies, leaned over the walls, to behold the people, and the folk play. This lasted three days, such games and such plays.
Then on the fourth day, the king gan to speak, and gave his good knights all their rights; he gave silver, he gave gold; he gave horses, he gave land; castles eke and clothes; his men he pleased—there was many a bold Briton before Arthur. But now came to the king new tidings! Arthur the bold king sate at a board; before him sate kings, and many chieftains; bishops and clerks, and knights most brave.
There came into the hall marvellous tales!—there came twelve thanes bold, clad with pall; noble warriors, noble men with weapon; each had on hand a great ring of gold, and with a band of gold each had his head encircled. Ever two and two walked together; each with his hand held his companion; and glided over the floor, before Arthur, so long that they came before Arthur, the sovereign. They greeted Arthur anon with their noble words: "Hail be thou, Arthur king, darling of Britons; and hail be thy people, and all thy lordly folk! We are twelve knights come here forthright, rich and noble; we are from Rome. Hither we are come from our emperor, who is named Luces, who ruleth Rome-people. He commanded us to proceed hither, to Arthur the king, and bade thee to be greeted with his grim words, and saith that he is astonished, wondrously much, where thou tookest the mood in this middle-earth, that thou darest of Rome oppose any doom (will), or heave up thine eyes against our ancestors; and who dared it thee to counsel, that thou art so doughty become, that thou darest threaten the lord of dooms, Luces, the emperor, highest of men alive! Thou boldest all thy kingdom in thine own hand, and wilt not serve the emperor of the land; of the same land that Julius had in hand, who in former days won it with fight; and thou it hast retained in thy power; and with thy bold knights deprivest us of our rights. But say us, Arthur, soon, and send word to Rome; we shall thine errand bear to Luces our emperor, if thou wilt acknowledge that he is king over thee, and if thou wilt his man become, and acknowledge him for lord, and do right to the emperor on account of Frolle the king, whom thou slewest with wrong at Paris, and now holdest all his land with un-right in thy hand. If thou within these twelve weeks turn to the right, and if thou wilt of Rome any doom suffer, then mightest thou live, among thy people. And if thou wilt not do so, thou shalt receive worse, for the emperor will come here, as king shall to his own, king most keen; and take thee with strength, lead thee bound before Rome-folk;—then must thou suffer what thou erst despisedest!"
At these words the Britons leapt from the board; there was Arthur's court exceedingly enraged; and swore mickle oath, upon our mighty Lord, that they all were (should be) dead, who this errand bare; with horses drawn in pieces, death they should suffer. There leapt towards them the Britons exceeding wrath; tore them by the hair, and laid them to the ground. There were (would have been) the Romanish men pitifully treated, if Arthur had not leapt to them, as if it were a lion; and said these words—wisest of all Britons!—"Leave ye, leave quickly these knights alive! They shall not in my court suffer any harm; they are hither ridden out of Rome, as their lord commanded them, who is named Luces. Each man must go where his lord biddeth him go; no man ought to sentence a messenger to death, unless he were so evilly behaved, that he were traitor of his lord. But sit ye down still, knights in hall; and I will me counsel of such need, what word they shall bear to Luces the emperor."
Then sate all down, the folk on their benches, and the clamour ceased before the monarch. Then stood him up Arthur, noblest of kings, and he called to him seven sons of kings, earls and barons, and those that were boldest, and all the wisest men that dwelt in the folk, and went into a house that was fast inclosed, of old stone work—strong men it wrought—therein they gan to commune, his wise councillors, what answer he would give to Luces the emperor. When all the nobles were come to bench then was it all still that dwelt in the hall; there was great awe with the mighty king; durst there no man speak, least the king would it punish.
Then stood there up Cador, the earl most rich here, and said these words before the rich king: "I thank my Lord, who formed the daylight, to abide (have abode) this day, that is arrived to the folk, and this tiding that is come to our king; so that we need no more lie here inert! For idleness is evil in each land; for idleness maketh man lose his manhood; idleness maketh knight lose his rights; idleness causeth many wicked crafts; idleness destroyeth many thousand men; through idle deeds little men well-speed. For long we have lain still; our honour is the less! But now I thank the Lord, who formed the daylight, that the Romanish folk are so fierce, and make their threat to come to our burghs, our king to bind, and to Rome him bring. But if it is sooth that men say, as people it tell, that the Romanish people are so fierce, and are so bold, and so mischievous, that they will now come into our land, we shall prepare for them rueful tales; their fierceness shall turn to themselves to sorrow. For never loved I long peace in my land; for through peace we are bound, and well nigh all in swoon."
That heard Walwain, who was Arthur's relative, and angered him much with Cador, who said these words; and thus answered Walwain the good: "Cador, thou art a powerful man; thy counsels are not good; for good is peace and good is amity, whoso freely therewith holdeth, and God himself it made, through his divinity; for peace maketh a good man work good works, for all men are the better, and the land is the merrier."
Then heard Arthur the dispute of these knights; and thus spake the mighty man with his fierce folk: "Sit ye down quickly, my knights all, and each by his life listen my words!" All it was still that dwelt in the hall. Then spake the bold king to his noble folk: "My earls, my barons, my bold thanes, my doughty men, my dear friends; through you I have conquered under the sun, so that I am man most powerful, and fierce against my enemies; gold I have and treasure; of men I am ruler. I won it not alone, but we did, all clean. To many a fight I have led you, and ever ye were well skilled, so that many kingdoms stand in my hand. Ye are good knights, brave men and active; that I have proved in well many lands" The yet spake him Arthur, noblest of kings: "But now ye have heard, my noble thanes, what the Romanish men counsel them between, and what words they send us here, into our land, with writ and with words, and with great wrath. Now we must bethink how we may with right defend our country and our great honour, against this powerful folk, against this Rome-people, and send them answer with our good words; with much wisdom send our writ to Rome, and learn at the emperor, for what thing he us hateth; for what thing he greets us with threat and with scorn Exceeding sorely it incenseth me, and immoderately it shameth, that he reproaches us our loss that we before have lost. They say that Julius Caesar won it (Britain) with combat in fight. With strength and with fight men do many wrongs; for Caesar sought Britain with bold strength. The Britons might not against him defend their land, but with strength they went in hand, and delivered him all their land; and thereafter soon all became his men. Some of our kin they had slain, and some with horses drawn to pieces; some they led bound out of this land; and thus this land won with wrong and with sin, and now asketh by right tribute of this land! All so we may do, if we it do will, through right of Belin king, and of Brenne, his brother, the Duke of Burgundy. These were our ancestors, of whom we are come; these belay Rome, and the realm all conquered, and before Rome the strong their hostages up hung, and afterwards they took all the land, and set it in their own hand, and thou ought we with right to besiege Rome. Now will I let remain Belin and Brenne, and speak of the caiser, Constantine the strong, he was Helen's son, all of Britons come (descended), he won Rome, and possessed the realm. Let (leave) we now of Constantine, who won Rome all to him, and speak of Maximian, who was a man most strong, he was King of Britain, he conquered France. Maximian the strong he took Rome in hand, and Alemaine (Germany) he won eke, with wondrous great strength, and all from Rome into Normandy. And all these were my ancestors, my noble progenitors; and possessed all the lands that unto Rome lay; and through such authority I ought to obtain Rome. They yearn of me in hand tribute of my land; all so will I of Rome, if I have counsel. I desire in my thoughts to possess all Rome; and he desireth in Britain to bind me most fast, and slay my Britons, with his evil attacks. But if my Lord grant it, who formed day and night, he shall sorely pay for his bold threat, and his Rome-people shall therefore perish; and I will be bold, wherein he now ruleth! Dwell ye now all still, I will say my will, no man shall do it otherwise, but it shall stand thereon. He desireth all, and I desire all that we both possess; have it now and ever who may it easier win, for now we shall prove to whom God will grant it!"
Thus spake the bold king, that had Britain under his rule, that was Arthur the king, Britain's darling! His warriors sate, and to his words listened; some they sate still, a great while; some they made much communing between them; some it seemed to them good; some it disturbed their mood.
When they had long listened to the king, then spake Howel the fair, noble man of Britanny, and said these words before the fierce king: "Lord king, hearken to me, as I ere did to thee. Thou hast said sooth words—may fortune be given to thee!—For it was of old said, what we now shall learn, in the years before what is now here found. Sibeli it said; her words were sooth, and set it in book, for example to folk, that three kings should go out of Britain, who should conquer Rome, and all the realm, and all the lands that thereto lie. The first was Belin, who was a British king; the other was Constantine, who was king in Britain; thou shalt be the third, that Rome shalt have. And if thou wilt it begin, thou shalt it win, and I will thereto help, with great strength, I will send over sea, to my good thanes, to my bold Britons—the better we shall proceed,—I will command all, the nobles of Britain, by their limbs and by their lives, over all my lands, that they be ready soon with thee to march to Rome. My land I will set in pledge for silver, and all the possessions of my land for silver and for gold, and so we shall proceed to Rome, and slay Luces the emperor, and for to win thy rights, I will lead to thee ten thousand knights." Thus spake Howel, noblest of Britanny.
When that Howel had said what seemed good to him, then spake Angel the king, Scotland's darling, and stood upon a bench, and both his brothers, that was, Loth and Urien, two most noble men. Thus said Angel the king to Arthur the keen: "Lord Arthur, I say to thee through my sooth words, the same that Howel hath spoken, no man shall it avoid, but we shall perform it by our quick lives! And, lord Arthur the noble, listen to me a while, call to thee to counsel thy earls rich, and all the highest that are in thy folk, and bid them say to thee with their sooth words, in what they will help thee thy foes to destroy. I will lead to thee knights of my land, three thousand champions brave, all chosen, ten thousand men on foot, to fight most good, and go we to Rome, and conquer the realm. Full greatly it may shame us, and full greatly it may us anger, that they should send messengers after tribute to our land. But so help us the Lord that formed the daylight, they shall pay for it with their bare life! For when we have Rome, and all the realm, we shall seize the lands that thereto he, Poille (Apuha?) and Alemaine, Lumbardy and Britanny, France and Normandy—then it hight Neustrie—and so we shall tame their immoderate mood (pride)." When the king had said then answered all. "Disgraced be that man that will not help thereto, with goods and with weapons, and with all his might!"
Then was Arthur's folk sternly incensed, knights were so enraged, that all they gan to be agitated. When Arthur had heard the clamour of his folk, then gan he call—the king was angry—"Sit ye down still, knights in hall, and I will you tell what I will do. My writs I will make, that shall be well indited, and send to the emperor minds sorrow and mickle care, and I will full soon fare into Rome. I will not thither any tribute bring, but the emperor I will bind, and afterwards I will him hang; and all the land I will destroy, and all the knights put to death, that stand against me in fight!"
Arthur took his writ in hand, with hostile words, and delivered it to the men, that had brought the errand, and afterwards he caused them to be clothed with each pomp, with the noblest garments that he had in bower, and bade them fare soon to Luces of Rome, and he would come after them as quickly as he might.
These twelve went their way toward their land; were in no land knights so bedecked with silver and with gold, nor through all things so well arrayed as these were by Arthur the king. Thus Arthur them treated, all for their words! These twelve knights proceeded until they came to Rome; they greeted their emperor, their sovereign: "Hail be thou, Luces, thou art highest over us! We were with the fierce man, with Arthur the king, we have brought thee writs, words exceeding great Arthur is the keenest man that we ever looked on, and he is wondrous powerful, and his thanes are bold, there is every knave as if he were knight, there is every swain as if he were rich thane, there are the knights as if it were kings, meat there is most abundant, and men most bold, and the fairest women that dwell alive; and Arthur the bold himself fairest over all! By us he sendeth word to thee, that he will come to this land, no tribute he will bring, but thyself he will bind, and afterwards he will thee hang, and this land all destroy, and take Alemaine and Lumbardy, Burgundy, France, and Normandy. And Frolle he slew, his foe, so he will to us all do, and possess himself alone the land that we own all clean, hereto he will lead kings, earls, and chieftains. And here we have in hand the writs that he thee sendeth that telleth thee what he will do, when he cometh in hither."
When the errand was said, the emperor was a full sorrowful man, and all the Rome-folk were stirred with strong wrath. Oft they went to counsel, oft they went to communing, ere to them might be determined what they would do. Nevertheless at the end a counsel they found, that was through the senator, who held the senate, the emperor they counselled that he should write letters, and send his messengers over many kingdoms, and bid them all come soon to Rome, from every land, who loved them aught, and all that willeth with fight obtain land or goods. Folk there came soon to the burgh of Rome, so mickle as there never ere any man assembled! They said that they would march over Muntgiu, and fight with Arthur, wheresoever they him found, and Arthur slay or hang, and his host all destroy, and possess for the emperor Arthur's realm.
The first king that there came, he was a man exceeding keen, Epistrod, king of Greece; Ethion, Duke of Boeotia, came with a great force; Irtac, King of Turkey; Pandras, King of Egypt; of Crete the King Ypolite; of Syria the King Evander; of Phrygia the Duke Teucer; of Babylon, Maptisas; of Spain the Caiser Meodras; of Media the King Boccus; of Libia the King Sextorius; of Bitunia, Pollidices; of Ituria the King Xerxes; Ofustesar, King of Africa; was there no king his like; with him came many an African; of Ethiopia he brought the black-men. The Rome-people themselves marched them together, that were at nearest, of Rome the noblest; Marcus, Lucas, and Catel, Cocta, Gaiut, and Metel; these were the six, who the Senate all ruled.
When this folk was assembled, from lands of many kind, then caused the emperor all the host to be numbered. Then were there told right, to fight most bold, four hundred thousand knights in the heap (assemblage), with weapons and with horses, as behoveth to knights. Never was he born, in every any burgh, that might tell the folk, that there went on foot! Before harvest-day forth they gan to march, ever right the way that toward Muntgiu lay.
Let us now leave this host a while, and speak we of Arthur, noblest of kings, when that he had besought his good thanes, and each had gone home where he had land. And soon again came the knights in assemblage, with weapons well provided, through all their might, of Scotland, of Ireland, of Gutland, of Iceland, of Norway, of Denmark, of Orkney, of Man; of these same lands are a hundred thousand brave thanes, all well weaponed in their country's wise. They were not all knights, nor in this wise arrayed, but they were the keenest men that any man knew, with great battle-axes, and with long saexes. Of Normandy, of Anjou, of Britain, of Poitou, of Flanders, of Boulogne, of Lorraine, of Lovaine, came a hundred thousand to the king's host, knights with the best, completely provided with weapons. There came the twelve companions that France should obey; twelve thousand knights they brought forthright; and of this land Arthur took in hand fifty thousand knights, keen and brave men in battle. Howel of Brittany led ten thousand of his land-folk, knights with the best. Of footmen; when they forth marched, through no kind of speech could any man them number!
Arthur then ordered, noblest of kings, the folk to be assembled at a set time, by their bare life, at Barbefleote; and there he would gather his good people. This land he delivered to a famous knight; he was Walwain's brother, there was no other; he was named Modred, wickedest of men; truth he had none to ever any man; he was Arthur's relation, of his noble race; but knight he was wondrous good, and he had very much pride; he was Arthur's sister's son; to the queen was his resort—that was evilly done—to his uncle he did treachery. But it was all secret, in host and in hall, for no man it weened, that it should be, but men in sooth weened him, because Walwain was his brother, the truest man of all that came to the folk; through Walwain was Modred by men the more beloved, and Arthur the keen full well was pleased with him. He took all his kingdom, and set it to Modred in hand, and Wenhaver, his queen, worthiest of women, that then in this nation dwelt in land. Arthur gave to them all that he possessed, to Modred and the queen—that to them was pleasing. That was evilly done, that they were (should have been) born; this land they destroyed with numerous sorrows; and themselves at the end the Worse gan disgrace (or destroy), so that they there lost their lives and their souls, and ever afterwards became odious in every land, so that never any man would offer a good prayer for their souls, on account of the treachery that he did to Arthur, his uncle. All that Arthur possessed he gave to Modred, his land and his people, and his dear queen; and afterwards he took his army of folk most fair, and marched full soon toward Southampton.
There came numerous ships soon sailing over the wide sea, to the king's folk; the king distributed the folk over the long ships; by thousands and by thousands to the ships they thronged; the father wept on the son, sister on the brother; mother on the daughter, when the host departed. The weather stood at will, the wind waxed in hand; anchors they up drew, joy was among the folk. The thanes wondrous blithe wound their way into the wide sea, the ships thereforth pressed, the glee-men there sung; sails there they hoist, ropes there they right; weather they had softest of all, and the sea slept. For the softness (calm) Arthur gan to sleep; as the king slept a dream he dreamt; marvellous was the dream, the king it alarmed!
When the king him awoke, greatly he was frightened, and began to groan with loud voice. Was there none so bold knight under Christ, who durst ask the king of his welfare, ere the king himself spake, and discoursed with his barons there, and thus Arthur him said, when he awoke from his sleep: "Lord governor Christ, ruler of dooms, protector of middle-earth, comforter of men through thy merciful will, ruler of angels; let thou my dream turn to good!" Then spake Angel the king, Scotland's darling: "Lord, say us thy dream, for prosperity is given to us" "Blithely," quoth the king, "to bliss may it turn! Where I lay in slumber, and I gan for to sleep, methought that in the welkin came a marvellous beast, eastward in the sky, and loathsome to the sight; with lightning and with storm sternly he advanced; there is in no land any bear so loathly. Then came there westward, winding with the clouds, a burning dragon; burghs he swallowed, with his fire he lighted all this land's realm; methought in my sight that the sea gan to burn of light and of fire, that the dragon carried. This dragon and the bear, both together, quickly soon together they came; they smote them together with fierce assaults, flames flew from their eyes as firebrands! Oft was the dragon above, and eftsoons beneath; nevertheless at the end high he gan rise, and he flew down right with fierce assault, and the bear he smote, so that he fell to the earth; and he there the bear slew, and limbmeal him tore. When the fight was done, the dragon back went. This dream I dreamt, where I lay and slept."
The bishops heard this, and book-learned men; this heard earls, this heard barons; each by his wit said wisdom, and this dream they interpreted, as to them best seemed. There durst no knight to evil expound no whit, lest he should lose his limbs that were dear to him. Forth they gan to voyage exceeding quickly; the wind stood to them at will, weather best of all; they had all that to them was need; to land they came at Barbefleot. To Barbefleot, at Constantin, therein came a mickle multitude, from all the lands that Arthur had in hand. So soon as they might, out of ship they moved, the king ordered his folk to seek lodging, and the king would rest, until his folk came. He was not there but one night, that a fair knight came to him; he told tiding to Arthur the king, he said that there was arrived a monster, westward from Spain; a fiend well loathsome; and in Britanny was busy to harm. By the seaside the land he wasted wide—now it hight Mount Saint Michel—the land he possesseth every part.—"Lord king," quoth the knight, "in sooth I make known to thee right here, he hath taken away thy relative, with great strength, a nobly born woman, Howel's daughter choice, who was named Helen, noblest of maidens. To the mount he carried her, noblest of maidens; now full a fortnight the fiend hath holden her there right; we know not in life whether he have her not to wife. All the men that he seizeth, he maketh to him for meat, cattle, horses, and the sheep, goats, and the swine eke; all this land he will destroy, unless thou allay our care, the land and this people; in thee is our need." Yet said the knight to the monarch: "Seest thou, lord, the mount, and the great wood, wherein the fiend dwelleth that destroyeth this people? We have fought with him well many times; by sea and by land this folk he destroyed; our ships he sank, the folk he all drowned, those that fought on the land, those he down laid. We have driven (suffered) that so long, that we let him alone, to act how so he will, after his will, the knights of this land dare not with him any more fight."
Arthur heard this, noblest of all kings; he called to him the Earl Kay, who was his steward and his relative; Beduer eke to him he called, he who was the king's cup-bearer. He bade them forth-right be all ready at midnight, with all their weapons, to go with the king, so that no man under Christ should know of their journey, except Arthur the king, and the two knights with him, and their six swains, brave men and active; and the knight that counselled it to the king should lead them. At the midnight, when men were asleep, Arthur forth him went, noblest of all kings. Before rode their guide, until it was daylight; they alighted from their steeds, and righted their weeds. Then saw they not far a great fire smoke, upon a hill, surrounded by the sea-flood; and another hill there was most high; the sea by it flowed full nigh, thereupon they saw a fire that was mickle and most strong. The knights then doubted, to whether of the two they might go, that the giant were not aware of the king's movement. Then Arthur the bold took him to counsel, that they should go together near the one fire; and if they there him found, kill him to death. Forth went the king, so that he came near; nought he there found but a mickle fire there burning. Arthur went about, and his knights by his side; nought they found alive upon earth but the great fire, and bones innumerable; by estimation it seemed to them thirty fother. Arthur then knew not any good counsel, and began him to speak to Beduer, his earl:— "Beduer, go quickly down from this hill, and pass thee over the deep water, with all thy weeds; and with wisdom advance to the fire; and go thou aside, and behold diligently, if thou mayest find ought of the fiend. And if thou mayest him perceive, in wise of any kind, go down still, until thou come to the water, and say me there soon what thou hast seen. And if it so befalleth, that thou come to the fire, and the fiend thee perceive, and proceed toward thee, have my good horn, that all with gold is adorned, and blow it with strength, as man shall for need. And advance thee to the fiend, and begin to fight, and we shall come to thee, as most quickly we may do it. And if thou findest him near the fire and thou all unperceived back mayest go; then forbid I thee, by thy bare life, that thou ever with the monster begin fight."
Beduer heard what his lord said to him; his weapons he put him on, and forth he went, and ascended up the mount that was immense. He bare in his hand a spear exceeding strong; a shield on his back, ornamented all with gold; a helm on his head, high, of steel; his body was covered with a fair burny; he had by his side a brand all of steel; and forth he gan step, the powerfully strong earl, until he arrived near the fire; and he under a tree gan him tarry. Then heard he one weep, wondrously much, weep and whine with piteous cries. Then the knight weened that it were the giant, and he became incensed as if it were a wild boar, and soon forgot what his lord said to him. His shield he drew on his breast, his spear he grasped fast, and near gan wend toward the fire; he thought to find the stern fiend, that he might fight, and prove himself. Then found he there a woman shaking with her head, a hoary-locked wife, who wept for her wretchedness; she cursed her lot that she was alive; that sate by the fire, with piteous cries, and sat and ever she beheld a grave, and said her words with plaintive voice: "Alas! Helen; alas! dear maid; alas! that I thee fed, that I thee fostered; alas! that the monster hath thee here thus destroyed; alas! that I was born; my limbs he hath broken in pieces!"
Then looked the woman about, where the giant should arrive; and looked on the Earl Beduer, who was come there. Then said the woman hoar, where she sate by the fire: "What are thou, fair wight? art thou angel, art thou knight? are thy wings hung with gold? If thou art from heaven, thou mayest in safety go hence, and if thou art earthly knight, harm thou wilt have forth-right. For now anon cometh the monster that all thy limbs will draw in pieces; though thou wert all steel, he would thee destroy, every bit. He went to Britanny, to the best of all mansions, to Howel's castle, noble man in Britanny; the gates he all brake in pieces, and within he gan wend. He took the hall wall, and pulled it to ground; the chamber's door he cast down, so that it burst in five; he found in the chamber the fairest of all maids; Helen she was named, of noble race; Howel's daughter, noble man of Britanny, Arthur's relative of most noble lineage. I was her foster-mother, and fair her fostered. There the giant took us forth with himself, fifteen miles, into this wild wood, hither to this same place; thus he us treated to-day a sen'night. So soon as he hither came, so he took the maid; he would have carnal intercourse with the maiden. Age had she no more but fifteen years; the maiden might not endure his force; anon so he lay with her, her life she lost soon! And here he her buried, fairest of all maids, Helen, mine own foster, Howel's daughter! When he had this done, so myself he took; on the ground he me laid, and lay with myself. Now hath he all my bones loathsomely broken; my limbs all dismembered; my life to me is odious! Now I have thee told, how we are led here. Flee now quickly, least he thee find; for if he cometh enraged, with his direful onsets, was he never born that may stand thee before!"
Even with these words that the woman said, Beduer gan to comfort her with fair words: "Dear mother, I am a man, and knight am brave; and I will say thee through my sooth words, that no champion was born of ever any lady, that man may not with strength stoop him to ground; and serve thee an old woman—very little are thy powers. But have now very goodday, and I will go my way."
Down went him Beduer to his sovereign, and told him how he had care, and all how he had fared, and what the old woman told him of the maiden, and how the giant each day by the old woman lay. There they them between held their communing, how they might take on, so that the fiend were destroyed.
The while arrived the giant, and proceeded to his fire; he bare upon his back a great burthen, that was twelve swine, tied together, with withies exceeding great wreathed altogether. Adown he threw the dead swine, and himself sate thereby; his fire he gan mend, and great trees laid thereon; the six swine he drew in pieces, and ever he to the woman smiled, and soon by a while he lay by the woman. But he knew not of the tiding that came to his lemman. He drew out his embers; his flesh he gan to roast; and all the six swine he gan eat ere he arose from his seat, all besmeared in the ashes—evil were the viands; and afterwards he gan to roar, and vociferated much, and down lay by the fire, and stretched his limbs.
Let we now the giant be, and go to the king. Arthur at the water took his weapons in hand, and the Earl Beduer, good knight, wise and wary; and the third was Kay, the king's steward and his relative. Over the water they came, weaponed with the best, and ascended up the hill with all their strength, until they arrived near the fire, where the giant lay and slept, and the woman sate and wept. Arthur drew him beside and spake to his companions; forbade them by their limbs and by their bare life, that none were so keen that they should come near, unless they saw that it were need. Beduer tarried him there, and Kay, his companion.
Arthur gan step forth, sturdy-mooded warrior, until he came to the floor, where the fiend lay and slept. Ever was Arthur void of fear; that was manifest therein, wondrous though it seem; for Arthur might there have hewed the giant in pieces, slain the monster where he lay and slept; then would not Arthur no whit touch him in his sleep, lest he in future days should hear upbraiding. Then called Arthur anon, noblest of kings: "Arise, fiend-monster, to thy destruction! Now we shall avenge the death of my relative!"
Ere the king had this fully said, the giant up started, and grasped his mickle club, and weened with the blow to dash Arthur all in pieces; but Arthur drew his shield high above his helm; and the giant smote thereon above, so that all it gan to shiver. And Arthur struck at him in haste with his sword, and smote off him the chin, with all the hair, and started him behind a tree, that there stood near; and the giant smote after quickly, and hit him not, but he smote the tree, so that his club brake all in pieces. And Arthur quickly ran round about the tree; and so Arthur and the monster ran round it thrice about. Then was the giant exceeding heavy, and Arthur was the swifter, and overtook the giant, and up heaved his good brand, and smote from him the thigh; and the giant down fell.
And Arthur stopt and beheld; then gan the fiend to speak: "Lord, lord, give me peace; who is it that fighteth with me? I weened not that any man in this world's realm might me thus lightly defeat in fight, except it were Arthur, noblest of all kings; and nevertheless was I never of Arthur sore afraid." Then said Arthur to him, noblest of kings: "I am Arthur the king, Britain's darling. Tell me of thy race, and where is their habitation; and who should be to thee father or mother accounted on earth; and from what land thou art hither arrived; and why thou hast destroyed with murder my relative?" Then answered the fiend, where he lay and beheld: "All this I will do, and thy troth receive, on condition that thou let me live, and heal my limbs." Arthur him wrathed, wondrously much; and he called Beduer, his bold champion: "Go near, Beduer, and take off from him here the head; and carry it forth with thee, down from this mount." Beduer came near, and deprived him of his head; and so they proceeded thence down to their companions. Then sate the king down, and gan him rest; and said these words Arthur the good: "Never fought I any such fight, upon this land, but when I slew the King Riun, upon the mount of Ravin!"
Afterwards they forth went, and came to the host; when that they the head saw, wondrous it seemed to them, wherever under heaven were such head begotten! Howel of Britanny came to the king, and the king said to him all of the maiden. Then was Howel sorry, and sorrowful therefore in heart; and took all his companions, and fared to the mount where the British maid lay buried in earth. He caused there to be areared soon a church most fair, in Saint Mary's name, the Lord's mother; and afterwards he gave a name to the hill, ere he thence departed, and named it Helen's Tomb,—now it hight Mount Saint Michel.
Then was Arthur's host numerously collected; from Ireland, from Scotland, thither were they come. Then caused the king the trumpets to be blown in the host, and marched from Britain, busy men and keen, throughout Normandy, that then hight Neustrie. They proceeded throughout France, and the folk marched after them; they went out of France into Burgundy. His spies there came, and held his companions; and made known to the king, there in the country, that Luces the emperor, and all his Romanish host, thitherward they came, out of their land, and so they would march in toward France; and all the land conquer; and afterwards proceed hither, and kill all the Britons, quick that they found, and Arthur the keen led bound to France. Then was enraged the boldest of all kings, and ordered all his tents to be pitched in the fields; and there he would abide until he the sooth knew, where he might the emperor certainly intercept (or hostilely engage). The water hight Albe, where the bold king lay. A wise knight there came riding to the king's host, who was all wounded, and his folk greatly felled; the Romanish men had bereaved him of all his land. He told to the king new tiding, where the emperor lay, and all his Romanish army, and where he might him find, if he him would with him fight, or make peace with the Romanish men. "But, lord Arthur," quoth the knight, "I will shew to thee here right, that better for thee is it to have friendship, than for to fight; for against thy two they have twelve; so many kings, so many chieftains! He is in no land who may it make known to thee, for all the folk, that followeth the emperor, without (besides) the Rome-people, of his own territory, and without the folk that yearn the king's favour."
When the tales were all told, and Arthur had them understood, then called the king forth-right his dearest knights, and they counselled them between a castle to arear, beside the water that Albe was named. On a spot exceeding fair it was built full soon, there helped many a hand, in haste was it done; for if Arthur mis-fared, when he came to the fight, or his folk fell, or set to flight, then thought he to remain in the strong castle. Then called he earls twain, noble men and wise; high men born, to the king exceeding dear; the one was of Chartres, and hight Gerin—much wisdom dwelt with him; the other hight Beof of Oxford—well wide sprang the earl's fame. The yet the king called Walwain, who was his dearest relative; for Walwain understood Romanish; Walwain understood British; he was nurtured in Rome well many winters. The king took these three knights fair, and to the emperor them sent, and bade him with his army go back to Rome, and that he never into France his host should lead. "And if thou thither marchest, and leadest thine host, thou shalt be received to thy destruction! For France is mine own land, and I won it with fight; and if thou wilt not relinquish, that thou wilt not hither come, go we two to the fight, and fall the worst; and let we the poor folk dwell in quiet. For whilom the Rome-people conquered all the land, and afterwards they losed the land with fight; and I with fight it won, and with fight will hold."
Forth the knights went, goodly champions; that was, Gerin, and Beof the fair, and Walwain the bold, cuirassed and helmeted on their noble steeds; and each carried on his shoulder a shield exceeding good; they bare in their hands spears most strong. Forth they gan ride, noble men, from the host; much of the folk that with Arthur dwelt, with Walwain went, and earnestly prayed him, that he should raise some dispute with the Rome-folk:—"That we may with fight prove ourselves; for it is many years that (since) their threats came here; and their menace they make, that they will us behead. Now is it much folk-shame, if it thus shall allay, unless there be some strife ere we become reconciled; shafts broken in pieces, burnies torn, shields shivered, warriors hewed, and swords bathed in the red blood." Forth the earls proceeded through a great wood, and marked a way that over a mount lay, so that they came soon to the folk of Rome; worthily weaponed they rode on their horses. There men might behold, the man who were beside, many thousands throng out of the tents, all to behold these three bold knights, and beheld their steeds, and beheld their weeds, and hearkened tidings from Arthur the king. And next forthright questioned the knights, and if the king had sent them to the emperor, for to speak with the emperor, and to yearn his peace. But for never any speech these three noble earls would abide, ere they came riding before the tent's door, wherein was the emperor. Down they gan alight, and delivered their steeds; and so they weaponed with all advanced into the tent, before the emperor that Luces was named. Where he sate on his bed their errand they to him made known; each said his say as to him seemed best, and bade him go back to his land, so that he never more with hostility should seek France. The while that these three earls said their errand, the emperor sate as if he were dumb, and answer never any gave to these earls; but he listened eagerly, wicked in his thought. Then Walwain became angry, as a thane enraged; and said these words Walwain the keen: "Luces the mighty, thou art emperor of Rome! We are Arthur's men, noblest of Britons. He sendeth to thee his messengers, without greeting; he bids thee march to Rome, that is thine own realm, and let him hold France, that he won with fight; and hold thou thy realm, and thy Rome-folk. Whilom thy ancestors invaded France; with fight they there won immense possessions; so awhile they there lived, and afterwards they it lost. With fight Arthur it won, and he it will possess. He is our lord, we are his warriors; he ordered us to say sooth to thyself, if thou wilt not back march, thy bane he will be. And if thou wilt not back turn, but execute thy will, and thou wilt win the kingdom to thine own hand, now to-morrow is the day, have it if thou it may obtain"
Then answered the emperor, with great wrath: "I will not back march, but France I will win; my ancestors it held, and I will it have. But if he would become my man, and acknowledge me for lord, and truely serve me, and hold me for master, I will make peace with him, and all his men; and let him hold Britain, that Julius had awhile in his hand, and many other lands, that Julius had in hand, that he hath no right to, though he possess the realm, that he shall all lose, unless he make peace."
Then answered Walwain, who was Arthur's relative: "Belin and Brenne, both the brothers, Britain they possessed, and France they conquered; and afterwards they marched soon, and won Rome, and there they dwelt afterwards well many years. When this was all done, then was Brenne emperor, and ruled Rome, and all the people. And thus is Rome our right, that thou holdest in hand, and if we may live, we will it have, unless thou wilt acknowledge that Arthur is king over thee, and each year send him tribute of thy land; and if thou goest to him in amity, thou mayest live the quieter!"
Then sate by the emperor a knight of his kin, named Quencelin; noble man in Rome. This knight answered before the emperor, and thus him said—the knight was wicked:—"Knights, return you back, and make known to your king, that the Britons are bold, but they are accounted worthless; for ever they make boast—their honour is little!" More he thought to say, when Walwain drew his sword, and smote him upon the head, so that it fell in two, and he hastily anon ran to his horse; and they up leapt with grim countenance; and these words said Walwain the good: "So help me the same Lord, that formed the daylight, if ever any of your men is so keen, that after us he pursue, I will him kill, he shall be cut in pieces with my broad sword!" Even with the same speech then called the emperor: "Hold them! hold! They all shall hang upon high trees, or with horses be drawn in pieces!" Even with this saying that the emperor said, the earls gan to ride, and spurred their steeds; they shook in their hands spears exceeding long; bare their broad shields before breast. Soon gan to ride the bold earls, and ever the emperor loud gan to Call: "Seize them! slay them! They have us disgraced!" There men might hear, who were there beside, thousands of the people call: "Hither, hither, weapons! Go we after them! Hither our shields; the men will escape!" Soon after them went weaponed warriors; there six, there seven, there eight, there nine. And ever the earls rode quickly, and ever awhile looked behind them; and ever the knights of Rome quick after came.
And there came near a knight, riding swiftest of all, and ever he called most keenly: "Turn again, knights, and defend you with fight! It is to you much shame, that ye will fly." Walwain knew the shout of the Romanish men; he turned his steed, and to him gan ride; and smote him through with the spear, as if he were spitted, and drew to him the spear—the man died soon—and these words said Walwain the keen: "Knight, thou rodest too fast; better were it to thee (haddest thou been) at Rome!" Marcel hight the knight, of noble lineage. When Walwain saw that he fell to ground, soon his sword he out drew, and smote from Marcel the head; and these words said Walwain the good: "Marcel, go to hell, and there tell them tales, and dwell there for ever, with Quencelin, thy companion; and hold there your communing,—better it were to you in Rome; for thus we shall teach you our British speech!"
Gerin saw how it fared, how that the Romanish lay there down; and spurred his horse, and met another, and smote him throughout with his spear, and these words spake: "Ride now so, Roman, and sink thee to hell, and thus we shall sink you, if God will us help! Threat is worth nought, unless there be deeds eke!" Beof saw, the brave man, how his comrades had done; and turned his horse wondrously quick, and with all his might advanced to a knight, and smote him above the shield, so that his good burny burst, and throughout the neck the spear drove full soon. And thus the earl gan to call keenly to his companions: "The Britons will us destroy, if we hence go, unless we the better begin ere we hence depart!" Even with the speech that the earl said, they turned them soon, wondrously prompt; and each drew his sword quickly, and each slew his Roman; and afterwards their horses they turned, and held their way. And the Romanish men rode ever after them; oft they smote on them, oft they them reproached; oft they said to them: "Ye shall pay for the deed!" but they might not through anything any of them down bring, nor any harm there do to them in the conflicts. But ever awhile the earls back turned, and ere they separated, the worse was to the Rome-folk.
Thus they proceeded fifteen miles, until they came to a place under a fair wood, hard by the castle where Arthur lay fast. Three miles therefrom to the wood thronged nine thousand bold Britons, whom Arthur thither sent, who best knew the land; they would learn the sooth, of Walwain the keen, and of his companions, how they had fared; whether they were alive, or they lay by the way. These knights proceeded through the wood wondrously still, upon a hill, and eagerly beheld. They caused all the horsemen to alight in the wood, and get ready their weapons, and all their weeds (garments), except an hundred men, that there should look out, if they might descry through thing of any kind. Then saw they afar, in a great plain, three knights ride with all their main. After the three knights there came thirty; after the thirty they saw three thousand; thereafter came thronging thirty thousand anon, of Romanish folk, clad in armour. And ever the earls before them quickly rode, ever the right way that toward the wood lay, where their comrades were well hid. The earls rode to the wood; the Romanish men rode after; the Britons attacked them on their rested steeds, and smote in front, and felled an hundred anon. Then weened the Rome-folk that Arthur came riding, and were very greatly afraid; and the Britons pursued after them, and slew of the folk fifteen hundred. Then came them to help sixteen thousand of their own folk, whom Arthur had thither sent, bold Britons, with burnies clad.
Then came there riding one that was a rich earl, named Petreius, a noble man of Rome, with six thousand warriors, to help the Romanish forces; and with great strength they leapt to the Britons, and few there they captured, but many they slew. The Britons fled to the wood; the others pursued after them; and the Britons on foot firmly against them stood, and the Romanish men fought riding; and the Britons advanced to them, and slew their horses, and many there took, and into the wood drew. Then was Petreius wrath, that his force was there the worse; and he with his host retreated from the wood; and the Britons followed them, and slew them behind. When the Britons were out of the wood, come out in the field, then withstood the Rome-folk with fierce strength. Then began the mickle fight!—there fell earls and many a good knight; there fell in that day fifteen thousand of noble men, ere it were even. There might he find, whoso would prove his strength, hand against hand, the strong against the strong, shield against shield, knights there fell! The paths ran with bloody streams; goldcoloured shields lay over the fields; all the day long they held the strong fight. Petreius on this side his folk held together; then it soon happened that the Britons had the worse. The noble Earl of Oxford, who was named Beof, a noble British man, saw that, that in no wise might it be, that the Britons should not fall, unless they had counsel. The earl then called to him noble knights, of the best of all, the Britons, and of the keenest of all, that there were alive, and drew him in the field, near the host; and thus him said—in heart to him was uneasiness: "Knights, hearken now to me; the Lord us help! We are hither come, and have undertaken this fight, without Arthur's counsel who is our chief. If to us good befalleth, we shall please him the better, and if to us befalleth evil, he will hate us. But if ye will do my counsel, then shall we ride all merry. We are three hundred knights, helmed thanes, brave men and keen, nobly born; shew ye your courage—we are of one kith—ride ye when I ride, and follow my counsel. Advance ye all to him, to the knight that I do; take ye no steed, nor any knight's weed, but every good knight slay ever downright!"
Even with the words that the knight of Oxford said to his companions beside, then gan he to ride, even all they rode then as swift as hound driveth the hart, and his comrades after, with all their might, throughout the mickle fight, all the troop; they flew on their steeds; the folk they there killed. Woe was to them born, that were in the way before them, for all they it trod down, with horses and with steeds; and so they came near, and Petreius they captured. Beof rode to him, and with arms him clasped, and drew him off his steed, and on earth him stretched; he knew beside him were his bold knights. The Britons down smote; Petreius they drew along; and the Rome-folk fought boldly; and at the last man might not know who smote other; there was much blood shed, mischief was in the conflict! Then saw Walwain truly, where he was beside; with seven hundred knights he gan thither move, and what he found in his way, all he it destroyed. And riding he took Petreius, on his good steed; and led forth Petreius, loath though it were to him, until they came to the wood, where he well knew surely to hold the noble man of Rome; and eft out in the field proceeded, and began to fight. There men might see sorrow enough! shields break; knights fall; helms dropping; noble men dying; bloody fields; paled faces! The Britons rushed towards them; then the Rome-folk fled; and the Britons them slew, and many they took alive; and when the day ended woe was to the Rome-folk, woe! Then bound men fast the Romanish knights, and led them to the wood, before Walwain; twenty hundred knights watched them in the night.
When it was day on the morrow, the folk gan to stir; forth they gan march to their sovereign, and brought him such offering, that was lief to him to have. Then spake him Arthur thus: "Welcome, Petreius! Now is one here that will teach thee British speech. Thou boasted before the emperor, that thou wouldest me kill; take all my castles, and my kingdom; and much good should be to thee of that thou desiredest to have. I will give thee, full truly, my castle in Paris; and there thou shalt dwell, as to thee will be most loathsome of all; shalt thou nevermore thy life thence lead!" Arthur took the knights that there were captured, three hundred riders he took eke anon, who all were comrades, knights most brave, and keen men in fight, and bade them on the morrow manly arise, bind the Romanish men with strong chains, and lead Petreius to the burgh of Pans. Four earls he commanded to bring them forth; Cador, Borel, Beduer, and Richer; he ordered them to be companions, so that they were secure, and to come again soon to their sovereign.
This was all thus spoken, but it was soon known. Spies went over the king's host, and heard say sooth words, whither Arthur would send the knights that he had in bonds; and the spies forthright proceeded forth by night, until they came soon to the emperor of Rome, and told all their tale, how these four earls should march, and lead forth Petreius to the burgh of Paris; and all they told the way that in to Paris lay, and where men might them intercept in a deep valley, and take from them Petreius the noble man, and the four earls conquer, and fast them bind. Luces heard this, the emperor of Rome, and he leapt to weapon as it were a lion; and ordered ten thousand chosen knights to horse and to arms, quickly forwards to march. He called Sextonus, of Lybia he was king, of Turkey duke; he sent after Evander, who from Babylon was come there; he called to the senators Bal, Catel, and Carnus,—these were all of royal birth, and these were all chosen,—promptly to ride, and to liberate Petreius.
Anon as it was even forth they marched; twelve knights them led of the people that were exceeding wary, and knew the ways. When the Rome-folk rode, resounded burnies; they set on their heads high helms; shields on their backs—the valiant Rome-folk. They marched all night, exceedingly fast, until they came in the way that into Paris lay; then were they before, and the Britons behind. But alas! that Cador the keen knew it not, that the Rome-folk had before rode them! They came in a wood, in a spot exceeding fair, in a deep dale, dark on the sides; they swore between them, that there they would engage. There they lay still a little while; and it gan to dawn, and the beasts gan to stir. Then came Arthur's men advancing by way, right the same way where the other host lay; they rode singing—the men were blithe! Nevertheless Cador was there, most wise and most wary; he and Borel the earl rich, advanced them together, and took between them five hundred knights, and marched before, weaponed champions. Richer and Beduer came behind them there, and led the knights, whom they had captured, Petreius and his companions, who were taken. Then came they riding upon the Rome-folk; and the Rome-folk rushed towards them with fierce strength, and smote on the Britons with exceeding bitter blows; brake the Britons' ranks—mischief was among the folk—the wood gan resound, warriors there fell! The Britons withstood them, and strongly defended themselves. Richer heard that, and the earl Beduer, how their comrades before them fought. Petreius they took, and all their prisoners, and with three hundred swains sent them into the wood. And they themselves advanced toward their comrades, and smote on the Rome-folk with fierce strength; there was many a blow given, and many a man there was slain. Then perceived Evander, who was a heathen king most wary, that their folk gan wax, and the Britons gan wane; and his best knights approached them together, and advanced upon the Britons, as if they would them bite. The Britons then were weakened, and theirs was the worse; they (the Romans) slew, they took all that they came nigh.
Woe was there to the Britons without Arthur! Their remedy was too little there, at their great need. There was Borel slam, and deprived of life-day. Evander the king him killed with his wicked craft, and three Britons eke, high men born. There were slain three hundred of their companions; and many they took alive, and fast them bound;—then knew they not any good counsel, for they all weened to be dead; nevertheless they fought as bravely as they might.
Then had out marched from Arthur's host the king of Poitou, hardy man renowned; Guitard he hight; Gascony he possessed; he had for companions five hundred riders, three hundred archers, keen men to fight, and seven hundred on foot that were prompt for harm. They were gone in to the land to obtain fodder, both fodder and meat, to carry to their host. The clamour they heard of the Rome-folk, their deeds they relinquished, and thitherward gan ride the strong mooded men and swift, of sloth devoid, until they came soon near to the fight. Guitard and his knights there right forthright grasped their shields, knights most bold; and all the archers pressed them beside; and the men on foot gan advance; and all together they on smote, with their smart blows. At the first onset the Romanish men fell; fifteen hundred to the ground; there was slain Evander, who was ere king full stern; Catellus of Rome forgot there his decrees! Then made they there flight, who ere held conflict; the Rome-folk turned the backs, and fled. The Britons pursued after them, and greeted them with mischief; and so many there they took, and so many there they slew, that the Britons' host might not fell any more! And the Romanish men, that there might escape, rode full soon to the emperor, and told him tiding of Arthur the king,—for they weened in sooth that Arthur thither were come; then was the emperor and his host greatly afraid, whom the Britons had slain—that to them seemed good. Backward they (the Britons) then went, with bold booty, and came again to the place where the fight had been, and buried the dead, and the alive they gan forth lead. And they sent after Petreius, whom they previously captured, and after his companions, that were previously taken, and sent them all full truly in to the burgh of Paris, and filled three castles, and fast them inclosed, after Arthur's command, noblest of all kings. All the Britons loved Arthur; to all of them stood dread of him that dwelt in the land, so did it to the emperor, of Arthur he had mickle care; and all the Rome-folk of Arthur were afraid.
Then was it in sooth found, what Merlin whilom said, that Rome should for Arthur fall in fire, and the walls of stone quake and fall. This same token should be of Luces the emperor, and of the senators, who with him came from Rome; and in the same wise, they there gan fall; what Merlin in fore-days said, all they it found there, as they did ere, and subsequently well everywhere; ere Arthur were born, Merlin it all predicted.
The emperor heard say sooth words, how his men were taken, and how his folk was eke slain. Then were in his army manifold sorrows; some lamented their friends; some threatened their enemies; some got ready their weapons—mischief was given to them! Then saw Luces, that evil was befallen to him, for each day he lost of his people, but he the harm felt, his noble men he lost. He became then afraid wondrously much, and betook him to counsel and to some communing, that he would march to Aust, with all his host; forth by Lengres he would proceed,—of Arthur he had mickle care!
Arthur had his spies in the army of the emperor, and they soon caused him to know whither he (the emperor) would go. Arthur caused soon his host to be assembled, stilly by night his best knights; and forth the king marched with his good folk. On his right hand he let Lengres stand, and proceeded forward in the way that Luces would pass. When he came in a dale, under a down, there he gan halt, keenest of all kings,—the dale is in sooth named Sosie. Arthur there alighted down, and ordered all his people that they in haste should get ready their weapons, and prepare them to fight, as brave knights should; so that when the Rome folk there should come riding, that they should attack them, as brave knights should do. All the swains, and the impotent thanes, and of the small (base) folk many thousands, the king set them on a hill, with many standards,—that he did for stratagem; thereof he thought to boast, as it afterwards happened, thereafter full soon. Arthur took ten thousand of his noble knights, and sent on the right hand, clad in armour, he caused other ten thousand to march on his left hand; ten thousand before; ten thousand behind, with himself he held sixteen thousand; aside he sent into a fair wood seventeen thousand good knights, well weaponed men, the wood to guard, so that they might fare thither, if to him were need. Then was of Gloucester an earl with the best, Moruith he was named, a man exceeding keen; to him he committed the wood and the host. "And if it befalleth, as the living God will, that they be overcome, and begin to flee; pursue ye after them, with all your might, and all that ye may overtake deprive it of life-day; the fat and the lean, the rich and the poor. For in never any land, nor in any nation are knights all so good as are with myself, knights all so brave, knights all so powerful, knights all so strong, in ever any land! Ye are under Christ knights keenest of all, and I am mightiest of all kings under God himself. Do we well this deed, God us well speed!" The knights then answered, stilly under heaven: "All we shall well do, and all we shall undertake; nuthing be the knight, that sheweth not his might here right!" Then sent they on both sides, all the men on foot; then caused he the Dragon to be set up, the matchless standard, delivered it to a king who well could it hold. Angel, King of Scotland, held in hand (commanded) the foremost troop; Cador, the Earl of Cornwall, held the troop behind; Beof had one, the Earl of Oxford; the Earl of Chester, Gerin, the fourth troop held with him. The force upon the down held AEscil, King of Denmark. Lot held the one, who was dear to the king, Howel of Britanny held another. Walwain the keen was by the king. Kay commanded one, who was steward of the king; Beduer another, who was the king's cup-bearer. The Earl of Flanders, Howeldin, had a troop with him. A mickle troop had Gwitard, the King of Gascony land. Wigein, Earl of Leicester, and Jonathas, Earl of Dorchester, they commanded the two troops that there were on foot. The Earl of Chester, Cursaleyn, and the Earl of Bath, who hight Urgein, they commanded both the troops that were there beside; these should on two sides advance to the fight, with these two earls, that brave knights were,—Arthur had troth the earls were true. When all the troops were set as Arthur thought good, then called to him the King of Britain all his councillors, that were skilfullest in judgment; and thus said Arthur anon to his noble men: "Hearken now towards me, my dear friends; ye have twice attacked the Romanish men, and twice they are overcome, and slain, and captured, because they all with wrong covet our land. And my heart saith to me, through our high Lord, that yet they shall be overcome, both slain and captured. Ye have overcome Norwegians; ye have overcome Danes, Scotland and Ireland ye have all won to your hand; Normandy and France ye have conquered with fight. Three and thirty kingdoms I hold in mine own hand, that ye have won for me under the sun! And these are the worst men of all men alive; heathen people! To God they are loathsome; our Lord they desert, and to Mahoun they draw. And Luces, the emperor, of God's self hath no care, who hath for companions heathen hounds, God's enemies; we shall them destroy, and lay them to ground, and ourselves be safe, with the Lord's will, that ruleth all deeds!" Then answered the earls there: "All we are ready, to live and to lie with our dear king!"
When this army was all prepared, then was it daylight; and Luces at Langres moved, and all his Rome-folk; he commanded his men to blow his golden trumpets, get ready his host, for forth he would march from Lengres to Aust, as his way right lay. And forth gan ride the Romanish people, until they came a mile near to Arthur.
Then heard the Rome-folk hard tidings; they saw all the dales, and all the downs, and all the hills covered with helms; high standards, warriors them held, sixty thousand waving with the wind; shields glitter, burnies shine; gold-coloured vests, men most stern; steeds leap—the earth stirred! The emperor saw the king fare, where he was by the wood-shaw; then said he Luces, the lord of Rome, and spake with his men with loud voice: "What are these outlaws, that have preceded us in this way? Take we our weapons, and march we to them; they shall be slain, and some alive flayed, they all shall be dead, with torment destroyed!" Even with the words they seized their weapons. When they were arrayed with their good weapons, then spake soon Luces, the lord of Rome: "Quickly advance we to them; we all shall do well!" There were come with him five and twenty kings, heathen folk all, that held of Rome, earls and eke dukes, of the eastern world. "Lordings," quoth Luces then, "Mahoun be gracious to you! Ye are powerful kings, and obey unto Rome. Rome is my right, richest of all burghs; and I ought to be highest of all men alive. Ye see here on the field those who are our foes; they think to rule highly over our realm; hold us for base, and themselves become rich. But we shall oppose them with bold strength; for our race was highest of all men alive, and won all the lands that they looked on; and Julius the strong marched into Britain, and won to his hands many kingdoms. Now would our underlings be kings over us, but they shall buy it with their bare backs; never again shall they return to Britain!"
Even with the words then moved the army; by thousands and by thousands they thronged together; each king prepared host of his folk. When it was all formed, and the army appointed, then were there right told full fifteen hosts; two kings there were ever comrades; four earls and a duke disposed them together, and the emperor by himself, with ten thousand champions. When the folk gan to stir, the earth gan to din; trumpets there blew; hosts were arrayed; horns there resounded with loud voice, sixty thousand blew together. More there sounded of Arthur's companions than sixty thousand men with horns; the welkin gan to din, the earth gan to tremble! Together they charged as if heaven would fall! First they let fly, exceedingly quick darts all as thick as the snow down falleth; stones they let afterwards sternly wind through the air. Then cracked spears; shivered spears,—helms rolled, noble men fell;—burnies brake in pieces, blood outflowed;—the fields were discoloured, standards fell! Wounded knights over all wandered over the weald, and sixty hundred there were trodden to death by horses! Knights there perished, blood out ran;—flowed by paths bloody streams,—woe was among the folk,—the harm was without bounds! So all as say the writings that skilful men made, that was the third greatest battle that ever here was fought, so that at the last no warrior knew on whom he should smite, and whom he should spare; for no man knew other there, for the quantity of blood!
Then removed the fight from the place where they ere fought, and they began widely to rush together; and a new conflict began, narrowly contested;—there were the Rome-people grievously treated! Then came there three kings, of heathen land; of Ethiopia was the one; the second was an African; the third was of Lybia, of heathen land. They came to the host at the east end, and brake the body-of-troops that the Britons there held, and anon felled fifteen hundred bold thanes of Arthur's folk; then the Britons turned the backs soon. But then came there riding two keen earls, that was, Beduer and Kay, Arthur's cup-bearer and his relative; their Britons they saw hewed in pieces with swords. There became enraged the earls most bold, and with ten thousand knights pressed to the fight, amid the throng, where they were thickest, and slew the Rome-folk very grievously; and went over the fight, after their will. Then were they too daring, and ruled them too evilly; alas! alas! that they were not then wary; that they could not guard themselves against their enemies! For they were too keen, and too presumptuous, and fought too rashly, and too far advanced, and spread too widely over the broad conflict. Then came the King of Media, the mickle and the broad; a heathen chief,—there he harm wrought; he led for companions twenty thousand riders; he held in his hand a spear exceeding strong. The spear he forth thrust with his strong might, and smote the Earl Beduer before in the breast, so that the burny soon burst, before and behind, and his breast was opened; the blood came forth lukewarm. There fell Beduer anon, dead upon the ground; there was misery and sorrow enow! There Kay found Beduer lie him dead there, and Kay would carry away the body with himself; with twenty hundred knights he approached thereabout, and strongly fought, and felled the Rome-folk, and slew there many thousand men of Media; the fight was exceeding strong, and they were thereat long. Then arrived there a king most hateful, with sixty thousand good men of his land; Setor the keen, who came him from Lybia. There the strong king gan him fight with Kay, and wounded Kay sorely in the strong fight, to the bare death—grievous was the deed!
His knights there right carried him from the fight, with mickle strength through the fight they pierced. Woe was to Arthur the king for the tiding! That saw the rich thane, who was named Ridwathlan, Beduer's sister's son, of noble Britons he was descended, that Boccus with his strong spear had slain Beduer. Woe was to him alive, when his uncle was dead; for he of all men most him loved. He called knights most good of his kindred, and of the dearest of all that he knew alive; five hundred by tale advanced together. Then said Ridwathlan, noble man of Britain: "Knights, ye are of my kindred, come ye here to me, and avenge we Beduer, mine uncle, who was best of our race, whom Boccus hath slain with his strong spear. Go we all together, and fell our foes!"
Even with the words he forth pushed, and all his noble companions with him anon; and Boccus the king they knew, where he was in the combat; with his spear and with his shield many a knight he killed. Ridwathlan drew out his sword soon, and struck at him, and smote the king on the helm, so that it severed in two, and eke the burny-hood, so that it (the sword) stopt at the teeth; and the heathen king fell to the ground, and his foul soul sank into hell! Ridwathlan then said—cruel he was in mood—"Boccus, now thou hast bought dear that Beduer thou slew; and thy soul shall now be companion of the Worse!" Even with the words, as if it were the wind, he pressed to the fight; as a whirlwind doth in the field, when it heaveth the dust high from the earth, all so Ridwathlan rushed on his enemies. All they it slew that they came nigh, the while that they might wield their noble weapons; in all the fight were no knights better, the while that the life lasted them in their breasts. Boccus the king they slew, and a thousand of his knights; then was Beduer avenged well with the best!
There was a brave earl, of noble race, who was named Leir, lord of Boulogne; he beheld in the fight an enemy advance, that was an admiral, of Babylon he was prince; much folk he felled down to the ground. And the earl that perceived; in heart was to him uneasiness; he drew to his breast a broad shield, and he grasped in his hand a spear that was most strong, and spurred his horse with all his main, and hit the admiral with a smart blow under the breast, that the burny gan to burst, so that the spear pierced through there behind him full a fathom; the wretch fell to the ground! That saw soon the admiral's son, who is named Gecron; and grasped his spear anon, and smote Leir the earl sore on the left side, throughout the heart,—the earl down fell. Walwain perceived that, where he was in the fight; and he wrathed him wondrously much; that saw Howel, noble man of Brittany, and he thither advanced, with fifteen hundred men; hardy warriors with Howel went; and Walwain before them man most stern of mood; he had for comrades five and twenty hundred bold Britons,—then began they to fight!
There were the Rome-folk grievously treated; Howel them attacked, Walwain them met; there was wondrous cry, the welkin resounded; the earth gan to tremble, the stones there shivered! Streams of blood ran from the wretched folk, the slaughter was immense, then were the Britons weary! Kinard, the Earl of Striguil, left the King Howel, and took with him Labius, Rimarc, and Boclovius. These were the keenest men that any king had, these were among men earls mighty strong! They would not, for their mickle mood (pride), follow Howel the good, but by themselves they slew all that they came nigh. That saw a powerful man of the Rome-people, how Kinard the keen killed there their folk, and the knight gan him alight from his dear steed, and took him in his hand a spear made of steel, and bathed it in blood; and he aside went, until he came to the spot where Kinard the strong fought. Kinard's burny he up raised, and he the earl there slew. Then shouted loud all the Rome-folk, and turned to the Britons, and brake their troops; and felled the standards, the folk down sank; shields there shivered, warriors there fell; there fell to ground fifteen thousand bold Britons—mischief there was rife! So lasted long the fight exceeding strong.
Walwain gan pass over the mickle slaughter, and assembled all his knights, where he found them in the fight. There near came riding Howel the mighty; they assembled their fair folk anon, and forth they gan wend, and rode to the Rome-folk with strong wrath, and quickly approached them, and brake their French ranks. And Walwain forth right, there he found Luces the emperor live under shield, and Walwain struck at him with the steel sword, and the emperor struck at him, who was man exceeding stern; shield against shield, the pieces there flew; sword against sword clashed well often, fire flew from the steel; the adversaries were enraged! There was fight most strong—all the host was stirred! The emperor weened to destroy Walwain, that he might in after days boast for the deed. But the Britons thronged towards them, most angrily, and the Romanish men liberated their emperor; and they charged together as if heaven would fall! All the daylight they held afterwards the fight, a little while ere the sun went to ground. Arthur then called—noblest of all kings: "Now go we all to them, my brave knights! And God himself aid us our enemies to fell!"
Even with the words then blew men the trumpets; fifteen thousand anon thronged together to blow horns and trumps; the earth gan to tremble for the great blast, for the mickle clamour! The Rome-folk turned backs to the fight; standards fell,—noble men perished,—those fled who might,—the fated there fell! Much man-slaughter was there; might it no man tell, how many hundred men were there hewed in pieces in the mickle throng, in the man-slaughter! The emperor was slain in strange manner, so that no man of ever any country afterwards ever knew it to say, who killed the emperor. But when the fight was all done, and the folk was all in joy, then found men the emperor pierced through with a spear.
Word came to Arthur, where he was in his tent, that the emperor was slam, and deprived of life-day. Arthur caused a tent to be pitched, amidst a broad field, and thither caused to be borne Luces the emperor, and caused him to be covered with gold coloured clothes, and caused him there to be watched three full days, the while he caused to be made a work exceeding rich, a long chest; and it to be covered all with gold. And he caused to be laid therein Luces of Rome, who was a most doughty man, the while his days lasted. The yet did Arthur more, noblest of all Britons, Arthur caused to be sought all the powerful men, kings and earls, and the richest barons, who in the fight were slain, and deprived of life-day; he caused them to be buried with great pomp. But he caused three kings to bear Luces the emperor, and caused a bier to be made, rich and exceeding lofty; and caused them soon to be sent to Rome. And greeted all the Rome-people with a great taunt, and said that he sent them the tribute of his land, and eft would also send them more greeting, if they would yearn of Arthur's gold; and thereafter full soon ride into Rome, and tell them tidings of the King of Britain, and Rome-walls repair, that were of yore fallen down;—"And so will I rule the fierce Rome-folk!" All this boast was idly done, for otherwise it fared, all otherwise it happened: the people he left, through wicked tiding, all through Modred his relative, wickedest of all men!