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After the death of Uther Pendragon, the barons of Britain did come together from the divers provinces unto the city of Silchester, and did bear on hand Dubricius, Archbishop of the City of Legions, that he should crown as king Arthur, the late King’s son. For sore was need upon them, seeing that when the Saxons heard of Uther’s death they had invited their fellow-countrymen from Germany, and under their Duke Colgrin were bent upon exterminating the Britons. They had, moreover, entirely subdued all that part of the island which stretcheth from the river Humber as far as the sea of Caithness. Dubricius therefore, sorrowing over the calamities of the country, assembled the other prelates, and did invest Arthur with the crown of the realm. At that time Arthur was a youth of fifteen years, of a courage and generosity beyond compare, whereunto his inborn goodness did lend such grace as that he was beloved of well-nigh all the peoples in the land. After he had been invested with the ensigns of royalty, he abided by his ancient wont, and was so prodigal of his bounties as that he began to run short of wherewithal to distribute amongst the huge multitude of knights that made repair unto him. But he that hath within him a bountiful nature along with prowess, albeit that he be lacking for a time, natheless in no wise shall poverty be his bane for ever. Wherefore did Arthur, for that in him did valour keep company with largesse, make resolve to harry the Saxons, to the end that with their treasure he might make rich the retainers that were of his own household. And herein was he monished of his own lawful right, seeing that of right ought he to hold the sovereignty of the whole island in virtue of his claim hereditary. Assembling, therefore, all the youth that were of his allegiance, he made first for York. And when Colgrin was ware of this, he got together his Saxons, Scots and Picts, and came with a mighty multitude to meet him nigh the river Douglas, where, by the time the battle came to an end, the more part of both armies had been put to the sword. Natheless, Arthur won the day, and after pursuing Colgrin’s flight as far as York, did beleaguer him within that city. Thereupon, Baldulf, hearing of his brother’s flight, made for the besieged city with six thousand men to relieve him. For, at the time his brother had fought the battle, he himself was upon the seacoast awaiting the arrival of Duke Cheldric, who was just coming from Germany to their assistance. And when he had come within ten mile of the city, he was resolved to make a night march and fall upon them by surprise. Howbeit, Arthur was ware of his purpose, and bade Cador, Duke of Cornwall, go meet him that same night with six hundred horse and three thousand foot. He, choosing a position on the road whereby the enemy were bound to march, surprised them by an assault on the sudden, and cutting up and slaying the Saxons, drave Baldulf off in flight. Baldulf, distressed beyond measure that he could convey no succour to his brother, took counsel with himself in what wise he might have speech of him, for he weened that so he might get at him, they might together devise some shift for the safety of them both. Failing all other means of access unto him, he shaved off his hair and his beard, and did upon him the habit of a jongleur with a ghittern, and walking to and fro within the camp, made show as had he been a minstrel singing unto the tunes that he thrummed the while upon his ghittern. And, for that none suspected him, by little and little he drew nigh unto the walls of the city, ever keeping up the disguise he had taken upon him. At last he was found out by some of the besieged, who thereupon drew him up with cords over the wall into the city and brought him unto his brother, who, overjoyed at the sight of him, greeted him with kisses and embraces. At last, after talking over every kind of shift, when they had fallen utterly into despair of ever issuing forth, the messengers they had sent into Germany returned, bringing with them unto Albany six hundred ships full of stout warriors under Duke Cheldric; and when Arthur’s counsellors heard tell of their coming, they advised him to hold the leaguer no longer, for that sore hazard would it be to do battle with so mighty a multitude of enemies as had now arrived.
Arthur, therefore, in obedience to the counsel of his retainers, retired him into the city of London. Hither he summoned all the clergy and chief men of his allegiance and bade them declare their counsel as to what were best and safest for him to do against this inroad of the Paynim. At last, by common consent of them all, messengers are sent unto King Hoel in Armorica with tidings of the calamitous estate of Britain. For Hoel was sister’s son unto Arthur, born unto Dubric, King of the Armorican Britons. Wherefore, so soon as he heard of the invasion wherewith his uncle was threatened, he bade fit out his fleet, and mustering fifteen thousand men-at-arms, made for Hamo’s port with the first fair wind. Arthur received him with all honour due, and the twain embraced the one the other over and over again.
A Few days later they set forth for the city of Kaerlindcoit, then besieged by the Paynim already mentioned, the which city lieth upon a hill betwixt two rivers in the province of Lindesey, and is otherwise called Lincoln. Accordingly, when they had come thither with their whole host, they did battle with the Saxons and routed them with no common slaughter, for upon that day fell six thousand of them, some part drowned in the rivers and some part smitten of deadly weapons. The residue, in dismay, forsook the siege and fled, but Arthur stinted not in pursuit until they had reached the forest of Caledon, wherein they assembled again after the fight and did their best to make a stand against him. When the battle began, they wrought sore havoc amongst the Britons, defending themselves like men, and avoiding the arrows of the Britons in the shelter afforded by the trees. When Arthur espied this he bade the trees about that part of the forest be felled, and the trunks set in a compass around them in such wise as that all ways of issuing forth were shut against them, for he was minded to beleaguer them therein until they should be starven to death of hunger. This done, he bade his companies patrol the forest, and abode in that same place three days. Whereupon the Saxons, lacking all victual and famishing to death, besought leave to issue forth upon covenant that they would leave all their gold and silver behind them so they might return unto Germany with nought but their ships only. They promised further to give them tribute from Germany and to leave hostages for the payment thereof. Arthur, taking counsel thereupon, agreed unto their petition, retaining all their treasure and the hostages for payment of the tribute, and granting only unto them bare permission to depart. Natheless, whilst that they were ploughing the seas as they returned homeward, it repented them of the covenant they had made, and tacking about, they returned into Britain, making the shore at Totnes. Taking possession of the country, they devastated the land as far as the Severn sea, slaying the husbandmen with deadly wounds. Marching forth from thence they made for the country about Bath and besieged that city. When word of this was brought unto the King, beyond measure at their wicked daring, he bade judgment be done upon their hostages and hanged them out of hand, and, abandoning the expedition whereby he intended to repress the Picts and Scots, hurried away to disperse the leaguer. Howbeit, that which did most sorely grieve him in this strait was that he was compelled to leave his nephew Hoel behind him lying sick in the city of Alclud. When at last he arrived in the province of Somerset, and beheld the leaguer nigh at hand, he spake in these words; ‘For that these Saxons, of most impious and hateful name, have disdained to keep faith with me, I, keeping my faith unto my God, will endeavour me this day to revenge upon them the blood of my countrymen. To arms, therefore, ye warriors, to arms, and fall upon yonder traitors like men, for, of a certainty, by Christ’s succour, we cannot fail of victory!’
When he had thus spoken, the holy Dubric, Archbishop of the City of Legions, went up on to the top of a certain mount and cried out with a loud voice:
‘Ye men that be known from these others by your Christian profession, take heed ye bear in mind the piety ye owe unto your country and unto your fellow-countrymen, whose slaughter by the treachery of the Paynim shall be unto ye a disgrace everlasting save ye press hardily forward to defend them. Fight ye therefore for your country, and if it be that death overtake ye, suffer it willingly for your country’s sake, for death itself is victory and a healing unto the soul, inasmuch as he that shall have died for his brethren doth offer himself a living sacrifice unto God, nor is it doubtful that herein he doth follow in the footsteps of Christ who disdained not to lay down His own soul for His brethren. Whosoever, therefore, amongst ye shall be slain in this battle, unto him shall that death be as full penance and absolution of all his sins, if so be he receive it willingly on this wise.’
Forthwith, thus cheered by the benison of the blessed man, each one hastened to arm him to do his bidding, and Arthur himself doing upon him a habergeon worthy of a king so noble, did set upon his head a helm of gold graven with the semblance of a dragon. Upon his shoulders, moreover, did he bear the shield that was named Priwen, wherein, upon the inner side, was painted the image of holy Mary, Mother of God, that many a time and oft did call her back unto his memory. Girt was he also with Caliburn, best of swords, that was forged within the Isle of Avalon; and the lance that did grace his right hand was called by the name Ron, a tall lance and a stout, full meet to do slaughter withal. Then, stationing his companies, he made hardy assault upon the Saxons that after their wont were ranked wedge-wise in battalions. Natheless, all day long did they stand their ground manfully maugre the Britons that did deliver assault upon assault against them. At last, just verging upon sundown, the Saxons occupied a hill close by that might serve them for a camp, for, secure in their numbers, the hill alone seemed all the camp they needed. But when the morrow’s sun brought back the day, Arthur with his army clomb up to the top of the hill, albeit that in the ascent he lost many of his men. For the Saxons, dashing down from the height, had the better advantage in dealing their wounds, whilst they could also run far more swiftly down the hill than he could struggle up. Howbeit, putting forth their utmost strength, the Britons did at last reach the top, and forthwith close with the enemy hand to hand. The Saxons, fronting them with their broad chests, strive with all their endeavour to stand their ground. And when much of the day had been spent on this wise, Arthur waxed wroth at the subbornness of their resistance, and the slowness of his own advance, and drawing forth Caliburn, his sword, crieth aloud the name of Holy Mary, and thrusteth him forward with a swift onset into the thickest press of the enemy’s ranks. Whomsoever he touched, calling upon God, he slew at a single blow, nor did he once slacken in his onslaught until that he had slain four hundred and seventy men single-handed with his sword Caliburn. This when the Britons beheld, they followed him up in close rank dealing slaughter on every side. Colgrin and Baldulf his brother fell amongst the first, and many thousands fell besides. Howbeit, as soon as Cheldric saw the jeopardy of his fellows, he turned to flee away.
The King having won the victory, bade Cador, Duke of Cornwall, pursue the enemy, while he himself hastened his march into Albany, for word had thence been brought him that the Scots and Picts were besieging Hoel in the city of Alclud, wherein, as I have said, he was lying afflicted of grievous sickness, and sore need it was he should come swiftly to his succour lest he should be taken by the barbarians along with the city. The Duke of Cornwall, accordingly, accompanied by ten thousand men, started from Bath, but was not minded, in the first place, to pursue the fleeing Saxons, deeming it better to make all speed to get hold of their ships and thus forbid their embarking therein. As soon as he had taken possession of the ships, he manned them with his best soldiers, who could be trusted to take heed that no Paynim came aboard, in case they should flee unto them to escape. Then he made best haste to obey Arthur’s orders by following up the enemy and slaying all he overtook without mercy. Whereupon they, who but just now had fallen upon the Britons with the fury of a double thunderbolt, straightway sneak off, faint of heart, some into the depths of the forest, others into the mountains and caves, anywhither so only they may live yet a little longer. At last, when they found all shelter failing, they march their shattered companies into the Isle of Thanet. Thither the Duke of Cornwall follows hard upon their heels, smiting them down without mercy as was his wont; nor did he stay his hand until after Cheldric had been slain. He compelled them to give hostages for the surrender of the whole residue.
Having thus established peace, he marched towards Alclud, which Arthur had already delivered from the oppression of the barbarians. He next led his army into Moray, where the Scots and Picts were beleaguered, for after they had thrice been defeated in battle by Arthur and his nephew they had fled into that province. When they had reached Loch Lomond, they occupied the islands that be therein, thinking to find safe refuge; for this lake doth contain sixty islands and receiveth sixty rivers, albeit that but a single stream doth flow from thence unto the sea. Upon these islands are sixty rocks plain to be seen, whereof each one doth bear an eyrie of eagles that there congregating year by year do notify any prodigy that is to come to pass in the kingdom by uttering a shrill scream all together in concert. Unto these islands accordingly the enemy had fled in order to avail them of the protection of the lake. But small profit reaped they thereby, for Arthur collected a fleet and went round about the inlets of the rivers for fifteen days together, and did so beleaguer them as that they were famished to death of hunger by thousands. And whilst that he was serving them out on this wise arrived Guillamur, King of Ireland, with a mighty host of barbarians in a fleet, to bring succor unto the wretched islanders. Whereupon Arthur left off the leaguer and began to turn his arms against the Irish, whom he forced to return unto their own country, cut to pieces without mercy. When he had won the victory, he again gave all his thoughts to doing away utterly the race of the Scots and Picts, and yielded him to treating them with a cruelty beyond compare. Not a single one that he could lay hands on did he spare, insomuch as that at last all the bishops of the miserable country assembled together with all the clergy of their obedience, and came unto him barefoot, bearing relics of the saints and the sacraments of the church, imploring the King’s mercy for the safety of their people. As soon as they came into his presence, they prayed him on their bended knees to have pity on the down-trodden folk, for that he had visited them with pains and penalties enow, nor was any need to cut off the scanty few that still survived to the last man. Some petty portion of the country he might allot unto them whereon they might be allowed to bear the yoke of perpetual bondage, for this were they willing to do. And when they had besought the King on this wise, he was moved unto tears for very pity, and, agreeing unto the petition of the holy men, granted them his pardon.
These matters ended, Hoel did explore the site of the foresaid lake, and marvelled greatly to behold how so many rivers, so many islands, so many rocks and so many eyries of eagles did all so exactly agree in number. And while he thus marvelled, holding the same for a miracle, Arthur came unto him and told him there was another lake in the same province even yet more marvellous. ‘It lieth,’ saith he, ‘not far hence, and it hath twenty foot in breadth and the same measure in length, with but five foot of depth. Howbeit, within this square, whether it be by artifice of man or by ordinance of nature, do breed four manner fishes in the four corners thereof; nor never is a fish of one quarter found in any of the others. Moreover,’ saith he, ‘another lake is there in the parts of Wales nigh the Severn, which the men of that country do call Linligwan, whereinto when the sea floweth it is received as into a whirlpit or swallow, in suchwise as that the lake is never the fuller for the waters it doth ingulf so as to cover the margent of the banks thereof. Natheless, when the sea ebbeth again, it doth spout forth the waters it hath sucked in as it were a mountain, and overplasheth and covereth the banks. At such a time, were the folk of all that country to stand anigh with their faces toward the lake and should be sprinkled of the spray of the waves upon their garments, they should scarce escape, if indeed they did at all escape, being swallowed up of the lake. Natheless, should they turn their back to the lake, they need have no fear of being sprinkled, even though they should stand upon the very brink.’
Pardon granted unto the Scottish people, the King made for York, there to celebrate the forthcoming Christmas festival. And when he was entered into the city and beheld the desolation of the holy churches, he was sore grieved and moved unto compassion. For Samson the Archbishop had been driven forth along with all the other holy men of religion, and the half-burnt churches had ceased from the offices of God, so fiercely had the fury of the Paynim prevailed. Forthwith he summoned a convocation of the clergy and people, and appointed Pyramus his chaplain unto the Metropolitan See; restored the churches that were cast down even to the ground, and did grace them with convents of religious both men and women. The barons also that had been driven out by the incursions of the Saxons did he restore unto their former honours.
In that city were three brethren born of blood royal, Lot, to wit, and Urian and Angusel, that had held the principality of those parts before the Saxons had prevailed. Being minded, therefore, to grant unto them as unto the others their hereditary rights, he restored unto Angusel the kingly power of the Scots, and conferred the sceptre of the people of Moray upon Urian. Howbeit, Lot, who in the days of Aurelius Ambrosius had married Arthur’s own sister, who had borne unto him Gawain and Mordred, he did reinstate in the Dukedom of Lothian and of the other provinces thereby that had appertained unto him aforetime. At last, when he had re-established the state of the whole country in its ancient dignity, he took unto him a wife born of a noble Roman family, Guenevere, who, brought up and nurtured in the household of Duke Cador, did surpass in beauty all the other dames of the island.
When the next summer came on he fitted out his fleet and sailed unto the island of Hibernia, that he desired to subdue unto himself. No sooner had he landed than Guillamur, before-mentioned, came to meet him with a host past numbering, purposing to do battle with him. But as soon as the fight began, his folk, naked and unarmed, fled whithersoever they might find a place of refuge. Guillamur was forthwith taken prisoner and compelled to surrender, and the rest of the princes of the country, smitten with dismay, likewise surrendered them after their King’s ensample. All parts of Ireland thus subdued, he made with his fleet for Iceland, and there also defeated the people and subjugated the island. Next, for far and wide amongst the other islands it was rumoured that no country could stand against him, Doldavy, King of Gothland, and Gunfast, King of the Orkneys, came of their own accord, and promising a tribute, did homage unto him. At the end of winter he returned into Britain, and re-establishing his peace firmly throughout the realm, did abide therein for the next twelve years.
At the end of this time he invited unto him all soever of most prowess from far-off kingdoms and began to multiply his household retinue, and to hold such courtly fashion in his household as begat rivalry amongst peoples at a distance, insomuch as the noblest in the land, fain to vie with him, would hold himself as nought, save in the cut of his clothes and the manner of his arms he followed the pattern of Arthur’s knights. At last the fame of his bounty and his prowess was upon every man’s tongue, even unto the uttermost ends of the earth, and a fear fell upon the Kings of realms oversea lest he might fall upon them in arms and they might lose the nations under their dominion. Grievously tormented of these devouring cares, they set them to repairing their cities and the towers of their cities, and builded them strongholds in places meet for defence, to the end that in case Arthur should lead an expedition against them they might find refuge therein should need be. And when this was notified unto Arthur, his heart was uplifted for that he was a terror unto them all, and he set his desire upon subduing the whole of Europe unto himself. Fitting forth his fleets accordingly, he made first of all for Norway, being minded to set the crown thereof upon the head of Lot, his sister’s son. For Lot was grandson of Sichelm, King of Norway, who at that time had died leaving the kingdom unto him. But the Norwegians disinclined to receive him, and had raised one Riculf to the kingly power, deeming that, so they garrisoned their cities, he would be able to withstand Arthur himself. At that time Gawain, the son of Lot, was a youth of twelve years, and had been sent by his uncle to be brought up as a page in the service of Pope Sulpicius, from whom he had received arms. Accordingly, when Arthur, as I had begun to tell, landed upon the coast of Norway, King Riculf met him with the whole people of the kingdom and did battle; but after much blood had been shed upon both sides, the Britons at last prevailed, and making an onset, slew Riculf with a number of his men. When they had won this victory they overran and set fire to the cities, scattering the country folk, nor did they cease to give full loose to their cruelty until they had submitted the whole of Norway as well as Denmark unto the dominion of Arthur. These countries thus conquered, as soon as Arthur had raised Lot to be King of Norway Arthur sailed for Gaul, and dividing his force into companies began everywhere to lay the country waste. The province of Gaul at that time had been committed to the charge of Flollo, Tribune of Rome, who ruled it under the Emperor Leo. He, when he was ware of Arthur’s arrival, summoned every soldier in arms that owned his allegiance and fought against Arthur, but in no wise might he stand against him. For the youth of all the islands he had conquered were in Arthur’s company, whence it was of common report that his army was so great that scarce of any the greatest might he be overcome. In his retinue, moreover, was the better part of the knighthood of Gaul, whom by his much largesse he had bound unto himself. Flollo, therefore, when he saw that he had been worsted in the battle, forthwith forsaking the field, fled with a few of his men unto Paris. There, reassembling his straggling army, he put the city in estate of defence and again was fain to do battle with Arthur. But whilst he was thinking of strengthening his army by auxiliaries from the neighbouring countries, Arthur came upon him at unawares and besieged him in the city. At the end of a month, Flollo, taking it grievously to heart that his people should be famished to death, sent unto Arthur challenging him to single combat on condition that whichsoever of the twain should be conqueror should have the kingdom of the other. For he was of great stature, hardihood and valour, and of his overweening confidence herein had sent this challenge hoping that it might open unto him a door of safety. When the message was brought unto Arthur, mightily was he rejoiced at Flollo’s proposal, and sent back word that he was ready and willing to abide by the conditions thereof. Thereupon each did duly enter into covenant with the other, and the twain met in an island that is without the city, all the folk watching to see what might be the issue. Both were armed full seemly, and each bestrode a destrier of marvellous swiftness; nor was it easy to forecast which of the twain were most like to win the day. Taking their stand opposite each other, and couching lance in rest, they forthwith set spur to their steeds and smote together with a right mighty shock. But Arthur, who bare his spear the more heedfully, thrusted the same into the top of Flollo’s breast, and shielding off the other’s blow with all the force he might, bare him to the ground. Then, unsheathing his sword, he was hastening to smite him, when Flollo, on his legs again in an instant, ran upon him with his spear levelled, and with a deadly thrust into his destrier’s chest brought both horse and rider to the ground. When the Britons saw their King lying his length on the field, they thought he was slain and could scarce be withholden from breaking the covenant and setting on the Gauls with one accord. But before they had resolved to transgress the bounds of peace Arthur was quickly on his legs again, and, covering him with his shield, was hastily stepping up to meet Flollo, who was bearing down upon him. And now, standing up to each other man to man, they redouble buffet on buffet, each bent upon fighting it out to the death. At last Flollo found an opening and smote Arthur on the forehead, and, had not the crash of the stroke on the helmet blunted the edge of his sword, the wound might well have been Arthur’s death. But when the blood welled forth, and Arthur saw his habergeon and shield all red therewithal, his wrath waxed yet more burning hot, and raising Caliburn aloft, with all his force he brought it down through the helmet on to the head of Flollo and clove it sheer in twain. With this stroke Flollo fell, and beating the ground with his heels, gave up his ghost to the winds.
When the tidings was known throughout the army, the citizens all ran together and, opening the gates, delivered themselves up unto Arthur. He, after thus achieving the victory, divided his army into two commands, giving one into commission unto Duke Hoel, and bidding him go conquer Guitard, Duke of the Poitevins, whilst he himself with the other command busied him with subduing the other provinces. Thereupon Hoel marched into Aquitaine, invaded the cities of the country, and after harassing Guitard in a number of battles, compelled him to surrender. He next laid waste Gascony with fire and sword, and subjugated the princes thereof. After a space of nine years, when he had subdued all the parts of Gaul unto his dominion, Arthur again came unto Paris and there held his court. He there also summoned a convocation of the clergy and people, and did confirm the stablishment of the realm in peace and law. At that time, moreover, he made grant of Neustria, which is now called Normandy, unto Bedevere his butler, and the province of Anjou unto Kay his seneschal. Many other provinces also did he grant unto the noblemen that did him service in his household. At last, when all the states and peoples were stablished in his peace, he returned into Britain at the beginning of spring.
When the high festival of Whitsuntide began to draw nigh, Arthur, filled with exceeding great joy at having achieved so great success, was fain to hold high court, and to set the crown of the kingdom upon his head, to convene the Kings and Dukes that were his vassals to the festival so that he might the more worshipfully celebrate the same, and renew his peace more firmly amongst his barons. Howbeit, when he made known his desire unto his familiars, he, by their counsel, made choice of the City of Legions wherein to fulfil his design. For, situate in a passing pleasant position on the river Usk in Glamorgan, not far from the Severn sea, and abounding in wealth above all other cities, it was the place most meet for so high a solemnity. For on the one side thereof flowed the noble river aforesaid whereby the Kings and Princes that should come from oversea might be borne thither in their ships; and on the other side, girdled about with meadows and woods, passing fair was the magnificence of the kingly palaces thereof with the gilded verges of the roofs that imitated Rome. Howbeit, the chiefest glories thereof were the two churches, one raised in honour of the Martyr Julius, that was right fair graced by a convent of virgins that had dedicated them unto God, and the second, founded in the name of the blessed Aaron, his companion, the main pillars whereof were a brotherhood of canons regular, and this was the cathedral church of the third Metropolitan See of Britain. It had, moreover, a school of two hundred philosophers learned in astronomy and in the other arts, that did diligently observe the courses of the stars, and did by true inferences foretell the prodigies which at that time were about to befall unto King Arthur. Such was the city, famed for such abundance of things delightsome, that was now busking her for the festival that had been proclaimed. Messengers were sent forth into the divers kingdoms, and all that owed allegiance throughout the Gauls and the neighbour islands were invited unto the court. Came accordingly Angusel, King of Albany, that is now called Scotland; Urian, King of them of Moray; Cadwallo Lewirh, King of the Venedotians, that now be called the North Welsh; Sater, King of the Demeti, that is, of the South Welsh; Cador, King of Cornwall, the Archbishops of the three Metropolitan Sees, to wit, of London and York, and Dubric of the City of Legions. He, Primate of Britain and Legate of the Apostolic See, was of so meritorious a piety that he could make whole by his prayers any that lay oppressed of any malady. Came also the Earls of noble cities; Morvid, Earl of Gloucester; Mauron of Winchester; Anaraut of Salisbury; Arthgal of Carguet, that is also called Warguit; Jugein from Leicester; Cursal from Caistor; Kimmare, Duke of Dorobernia; Galluc of Salisbury; Urgen from Bath; Jonathal of Dorchester; Boso of Ridoc, that is Oxford. Besides the earls came champions of lesser dignity, Danant map Papo; Cheneus map Coil; Peredur map Elidur; Guisul map Nogoit; Regin map Claut; Eddelein map Cledauc; Kincar map Bagan; Kimmare; Gorbonian map Goit; Clofaut; Rupmaneton; Kimbelim map Trunat; Chatleus map Catel; Kinlich map Neton, and many another beside, the names whereof be too long to tell. From the neighbour islands came likewise Guillamur, King of Ireland; Malvasius, King of Iceland; Doldavy, King of Gothland: Gunvasius, King of the Orkneys; Lot, King of Norway; Aschil, King of the Danes. From the parts oversea came also Holdin, King of the Ruteni; Leodegar, Earl of Boulogne; Bedevere the Butler, Duke of Normandy; Borel of Maine; Kay the Seneschal, Duke of Anjou; Guitard of Poitou; the Twelve Peers of the Gauls whom Guerin of Chartres brought with him; Hoel, Duke of the Armorican Britons, with the barons of his allegiance, who marched along with such magnificence of equipment in trappings and mules and horses as may not easily be told. Besides all these, not a single Prince of any price on this side Spain remained at home and came not upon the proclamation. And no marvel, for Arthur’s bounty was of common report throughout the whole wide world, and all men for his sake were fain to come.
When all at last were assembled in the city on the high day of the festival, the archbishops were conducted unto the palace to crown the King with the royal diadem. Dubric, therefore, upon whom the charge fell, for that the court was held within his diocese, was ready to celebrate the service. As soon as the King had been invested with the ensigns of kingship, he was led in right comely wise to the church of the Metropolitan See, two archbishops supporting him, the one upon his right hand side the other upon his left. Four Kings, moreover, to wit, those of Albany, Cornwall, and North and South Wales, went before him, bearing before him, as was their right, four golden swords. A company of clerics in holy orders of every degree went chanting music marvellous sweet in front. Of the other party, the archbishops and pontiffs led the Queen, crowned with laurel and wearing her own ensigns, unto the church of the virgins dedicatee, The four Queens, moreover, of the four Kings already mentioned, did bear before her according to wont and custom four white doves, and the ladies that were present did follow after her rejoicing greatly. At last, when the procession was over, so manifold was the music of the organs and so many were the hymns that were chanted in both churches, that the knights who were there scarce knew which church they should enter first for the exceeding sweetness of the harmonies in both. First into the one and then into the other they flocked in crowds, nor, had the whole day been given up to the celebration, would any have felt a moment’s weariness thereof. And when the divine services had been celebrated in both churches, the King and Queen put off their crowns, and doing on lighter robes of state, went to meat, he to his palace with the men, she to another palace with the women. For the Britons did observe the ancient custom of the Trojans, and were wont to celebrate their high festival days, the men with the men and the women with the women severally. And when all were set at table according as the rank of each did demand, Kay the Seneschal, in a doublet furred of ermines, and a thousand youths of full high degree in his company, all likewise clad in ermines, did serve the meats along with him. Of the other part, as many in doublets furred of vair did follow Bedevere the Butler, and along with him did serve the drinks from the divers ewers into the manifold-fashioned cups. In the palace of the Queen no less did numberless pages, clad in divers brave liveries, offer their service each after his office, the which were I to go about to describe I might draw out my history into an endless prolixity. For at that time was Britain exalted unto so high a pitch of dignity as that it did surpass all other kingdoms in plenty of riches, in luxury of adornment, and in the courteous wit of them that dwelt therein. Whatsoever knight in the land was of renown for his prowess did wear his clothes and his arms all of one same colour. And the dames, no less witty, would apparel them in like manner in a single colour, nor would they deign have the love of none save he had thrice approved him in the wars. Wherefore at that time did dames wax chaste and knights the nobler for their love.
Refreshed by their banqueting, they go forth into the fields without the city, and sundry among them fall to playing at sundry manner games. Presently the knights engage in a game on horseback, making show of fighting a battle whilst the dames and damsels looking on from the top of the walls, for whose sake the courtly knights make believe to be fighting, do cheer them on for the sake of seeing the better sport. Others elsewhere spend the rest of the day in shooting arrows, some in tilting with spears, some in flinging heavy stones, some in putting the weight; others again in playing at the dice or in a diversity of other games, but all without wrangling; and whosoever had done best in his own game was presented by Arthur with a boon of price. And after the first three days had been spent on this wise, upon the fourth day all they that had done service in virtue of the office they held were summoned, and unto each was made grant of the honour of the office he held, in possession, earldom, to wit, of city or castle, archbishopric, bishopric, abbacy, or whatsoever else it might be.
Now the blessed Dubric, piously yearning after the life of a hermit, did depose himself from the archiepiscopal See, and David, the King’s uncle, was consecrated in his place, whose life was an ensample of all goodness unto them whom he had instructed in his doctrine. In the place, moreover, of the holy Samson, Archbishop of Dol, was appointed Chelian, an illustrious priest of Landaff, with the consent of Hoel, King of the Armorican Britons, unto whom the good life and conditions of the man had commended him. The Bishopric of Silchester also was assigned to Mangan, and that of Winton unto Diwan, and the pontifical mitre of Alclud unto Eledan. And whilst Arthur was allotting these benefices amongst them, behold, twelve men of ripe age and worshipful aspect, bearing branches of olive in their right hands in token of embassy, approach anigh the King with quiet step and words as quiet, and after saluting him, present unto him a letter on behalf of Lucius Hiberius conceived in these words:
‘Lucius, Procurator of the Republic, unto Arthur, King of Britain, wisheth that which he hath deserved.
‘With much marvel do I marvel at the insolence of thy tyranny. I do marvel, I say, thereat, and at the injury that thou hast done unto Rome. When I recall it to remembrance, I am moved unto wrath for that thou art so far beside thyself as not to acknowledge it, and art in no hurry to perceive what it is to have offended the Senate by thy wrongful deeds, albeit none better knoweth than thou that the whole world oweth vassalage thereunto. For the tribute of Britain that the Senate hath commanded thee to pay, and that hath been paid these many ages unto Caius Julius, and unto his successors in the dignity of Rome, thou hast presumed to hold back in contempt of an empire of so lofty rank. Thou hast, moreover, seized from them Gaul, seized from them the province of the Allobroges, seized from them all the islands of the Ocean sea, the Kings whereof have paid tribute unto our forefathers from the time that the Roman power did in those parts prevail. Now, therefore, seeing that the Senate hath decreed to demand lawful redress of thee for heaping so huge a pile of injuries upon them, I do command thee that thou appear in Rome, and do appoint the middle day of August in the year next coming as the term of thine appearance, there to make satisfaction unto thy lords, and to abide by such sentence as their justice shall decree. Wherein if thou dost make default, I myself will enter into thy dominions and will take heed by means of the sword to restore unto the Republic all those lands whereof thy mad presumption hath plundered her.’
When this letter was read in presence of the King and his earls, Arthur went apart with them into the Giants’ Tower, that is at the entrance of the palace, to treat with them as to what ordinance they ought to make as against a mandate of the kind. But, just as they had begun to mount the stair, Cador, Duke of Cornwall, that was ever a merry man, burst out on laughing before the King, and spake unto him on this wise:
‘Until now it hath been my fear that the easy life the Britons have led this long time they have been at peace might make them wax craven, and utterly do away in them their renown in knighthood wherein they have ever been held to excel all other nations. For where use of arms is none, Arthur’s and nought is there to do but to toy with women speech and play at the dice and such like follies, none need doubt but that cowardice will tarnish all they once had of valour and honour and hardihood and renown. For nigh upon five year is it since we took to junketings of the kind for lack of the sports of Mars. Wherefore, methinks, God Himself hath put the Romans upon this hankering, that so He may deliver us from our cowardize and restore us to our prowess as it wont to be in the old days.’
And whilst he was saying this and more to the same purpose, they were come to their seats, and when they were all set, Arthur spake unto them thus:
‘Comrades,’ saith he, ‘alike in adversity and in prosperity, whose prowess I have made proof of in giving of counsel no less than in deeds of arms, now earnestly bethink ye all in common, and make ye wise provision as to what ye deem best for us to do in face of such mandate as is this, for that which is diligently provided for by a wise man aforehand is the more easily borne withal when it cometh to the act. The more easily therefore shall we be able to withstand the attack of Lucius, if we shall first with one accord have applied us to weighing heedfully the means whereby we may best enfeeble the effect thereof. Which, verily, I deem not greatly to be dreaded of us, seeing that he doth with so unreasonable cause demand the tribute that he desireth to have from Britain. For he saith that we ought of right to give it unto him, for that it was paid unto Julius Cæsar and the other his successors, who, invited by the discords of the ancient Britons, did of old invade Britain by force of arms, and did thus by violence subdue unto their power the country tottering as it then was with civil dissensions. But, forasmuch as it was on this wise that they possessed them of the country, it hath been only by an injustice that they have taken tribute thereof. For nought that is taken by force and violence can be justly possessed by him that did the violence. Wherefore a cause without reason is this that he pretendeth whereby he assumeth that we are of right his tributaries. Howbeit, sith that he thus presumeth to demand of us that which is unjust, let us also, by like reasoning, ask tribute of Rome from him, and let him that is the better man of the twain carry off that which he hath demanded to have. For, if it be that because Julius Cæsar and the rest of the Roman Kings did conquer Britain in old days, he doth therefore decree that tribute ought now to be paid unto him therefrom, in like manner do I now decree that Rome ought of right to pay tribute unto me, forasmuch as mine ancestors did of yore obtain possession of Rome. For Belinus, that most high and mighty King, did, with the assistance of his brother, Brennius, to wit, Duke of the Allobroges, take the city, and in the midmost of the market-place thereof did hang a score of the most noble Romans; and moreover, after they had taken it, did for many a year possess the same, Constantine, also, the son of Helena, no less than Maximian, both of them nigh of kindred unto myself, and both of whom, the one after the other, wore the crown of Britain, did also obtain the throne of the Roman empire. Bethink ye, therefore, whether we should ask tribute of Rome? But as to Gaul or the neighbour islands of the Ocean, no need is there of answer, inasmuch as he shrank from defending them at the time we took them out of his dominion.’
And when he had thus spoken with more to the same effect, Hoel, King of the Armorican Britons, rising up in precedence of all the rest, made answer unto him on this wise:
‘Were each one of up to take thought within himself, and were he able to turn over in his mind all the arguments upon every point in question, I deem that no better counsel could he find than this which the wise discretion of thy policy hath thus proposed unto our acceptance. For so exactly hath thy provident forethought anticipated our desire, and with such Tullian dew of eloquence hast thou besprinkled it withal, that we ought all of us to praise without ceasing the affection of a man so constant, the power of a mind so wise, the profit of counsel so exceeding apt to the occasion. For if, in accordance with thine argument, thou art minded to go to Rome, I doubt not that the victory shall be ours, seeing that what we do justly demand of our enemies they did first begin to demand of us. For whosoever doth seek to snatch away from another those things that be his own doth deserve to lose his own through him whom he seeketh to wrong. Wherefore, sith that the Romans do desire to take from us that which is our own, beyond all doubt we shall take their own from them, so only we be allowed to meet them in the field. Behold, this is the battle most to be desired by all Britons. Behold the prophecies of the Sibyl that are witnessed by tokens true, that for the third time shall one of British race be born that shall obtain the empire of Rome. Already are the oracles fulfilled as to the two, sith that manifestly, as thou hast said, the two illustrious princes, Belinus and Constantine, have worn the imperial crown of the Roman empire. And now in thee have we the third unto whom is promised that highest height of honour. Hasten thou, therefore, to receive that which God tarrieth not to grant. Hasten to subjugate that which doth desire to be subjugated! Hasten to exalt us all, who, in order that thou thyself mayst be exalted, will shrink not from receiving wounds, nay, nor from losing our very lives. And that thou mayst carry this matter through I will accompany thy presence with ten thousand men-at-arms.’
When Hoel had made an end of his speech, Angusel also, King of Albany, went on to declare what was his mind in the matter on this wise:
‘From the moment that I understood my lord to be so minded as he hath said, such gladness hath entered into my heart that I know not how to utter it at this present. For in all our past campaigns that we have fought against kings so many and so mighty, all that we have done meseemeth as nought so long as the Romans and the Germans remain unharmed, and we revenge not like men the slaughter they have formerly inflicted upon our fellow-countrymen. But now that leave is granted us to meet them in battle, I rejoice with exceeding great joy, and do yearn with desire for the day to come when we shall meet. I am athirst for their blood, even as for a well-spring when I had for three days been forbidden to drink. O, may I see that morrow! How sweet will be the wounds whether I give them or receive! when the right hand dealeth with right hand. Yea, death itself will be sweet, so I may suffer it in revenging our fathers, in safeguarding our freedom, in exalting our King! Let us fall upon these half men, and falling upon them, tread them under foot, so that when we have conquered them we may spoil them of their honours and enjoy the victory we have won. I will add two thousand horsemen to our army besides those on foot.’
Thereafter the rest said what there was left to say. Each promised the knight’s service that was due from him, so that besides those that the Duke of Armorica had promised, sixty thousand were reckoned from the island of Britain alone of armed men with all arms. But the Kings of the other islands, inasmuch as they had not yet taken up with the custom of having knights, promised foot soldiers as many as were due from them, so that out of the six islands, to wit, Ireland, Iceland, Gothland, the Orkneys, Norway and Denmark, were numbered six score thousand. From the duchies of the Gauls, the Ruteni, Portunians, Estrusians, Maine, Anjou and Poitou, eighty thousand; from the twelve earldoms of those who came along with Guerin of Chartres, twelve hundred. Altogether they made eighty-three thousand two hundred besides those on foot, who were not so easy to reckon.
King Arthur, seeing that all those of his allegiance were ready with one accord, bade them return quickly unto their own countries and call out the armies they had promised; so that in the Kalends of August they might hasten unto the haven of Barfleur, and from thence advance with him to the frontiers of the Allobroges to meet the Romans. Howbeit, he sent word unto the Emperors through their ambassadors that in no wise would he pay the tribute, nor would go to Rome for the sake of obeying their decree, but rather for the sake of demanding from them what they had by judicial sentence decreed to demand from him. Thereupon the ambassadors depart, the Kings depart, the barons depart, nor are they slow to perform what they had been bidden to do.