Part III: From Caesar to Gratian

Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2023, All Rights Reserved.

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Julius Caesar’s first invasion (55BC)

Thus, it befell, in those days, truth be told,

That Julius Caesar, with a countless host,

Marched forth from Rome, and entered France,

And the Roman foe was mightily enraged.

He won all the lands his eyes looked upon,

He thought to conquer, by force and stratagem,

All of the realms that were in middle-earth,

And hold the whole of the world in his hands.

Though he could not tread all men underfoot,

Yet a third part he won of the earth’s kingdoms;

Five and fifty the realms he won to his hand,

Not counting that realm in which Rome lay.

He was known for his bravery in middle-earth,

And as the wisest man in all the wide world.

He made the calendar, that marks out the year,

And made many laws that still stand in Rome.

Alas, that any such man neath the earth should go!

Caesar fared from Rome, with many brave men,

He passed through Lombardy, by Mont Aiguille,

Conquered Germany, Louvain, Normandy,

Brittany and then Poitou, and Gascony.

Gaining Gascony, he turned back to Burgundy,

Then forth into Flanders, and gathered a fleet.

Now, on a time when he was close to Calais,

At the break of day, when the sun was bright,

Caesar rode o’er the land, and viewed the strand,

The weather was mild, and he could see this isle.

Then Julius in like words asked of the people:

‘What is this isle I see, plainly, o’er the waves,

Far o’er the sea-road, which seems fair to me?

Then a wise man answered the general thus:

‘That is a vast island, rich in all good things,

That Brutus first held, long after the flood.

There are fish there, and fowl, and hardy folk;

Britain the land, that you behold, is called.’

Then spoke Cesar who was learned and wise:

‘I know well who Brutus was, and the books say

That we came of the one kin, for so tis written.

Our forefathers were in Troy, and suffered harm.

In that mighty war where thousands were slain.

Once defeated, they wandered far and wide,

Seeking some land wherein they might dwell.

To that isle, Brutus came, therein lived his life,

Thence came the kings, ambitious and brave,

Belin and Brenne, they that conquered Rome.

And Rome they destroyed, our noble burgh,

Took, from us Romans, much silver and gold.

The Roman hostages they caused to be hung,

And the people of Rome they caused to perish.

This did Belin and his brother; yet hear more:

Julius Caesar is my name, and my heart is sore,

That they so shamed my ancestors, ere my birth.

Therefore, will I send envoys to their island,

To ask of their lords, if they will bow to me,

And if they will send us tribute from their land.

For if they seek true peace, I’ll not fight them.

Go, find me two wise men that are eloquent.’

Caesar exchanges missives with Cassivellaunus

He handed the envoys a well-written letter,

Addressing Cassivellaunus, King of Britain;

Thus said the writing that laid bare his aims:

‘Julius Caesar am I, come hither from Rome.

If you seek peace, I shall not fight with you.

Send me tribute quickly, from out your land,

And be my man, and hold me as your lord,

For all my eyes can see, I seize as my own.’

Cassivellaunus read the thing, and was wrath.

Wondrously enraged at its hostile message,

And composed a reply, while filled with anger.

And sent it, without a greeting, to this Caesar.

The letter, it reached the pro-consul of Rome;

These were the words the missive contained:

‘Strange, it seems, Caesar, for one thought wise,

To believe that he might rule all men alive.

You come from Rome, and utter words most bold,

Ask tribute of our land, yet shall not find it.

You are most covetous, your men most greedy,

You think to have in your hands all middle-earth.

We are an isle that stands at the world’s end,

That Brutus won, and tis we that dwell herein,

And will hold it free from all the world’s kings.

Ne’er will we send you tribute from our land,

For, if you were as wise as I’ve heard you are,

Then would you know this: a free people are we,

As free and sovereign as your people in Rome;

For our folk fled from Troy, and so we are kin,

And our ancestors and yours of one company,

If you believe me, and tis well that you should,

You shall have, of us Britons, a deal of woe;

You, and your comrades, if you journey here,

For our ancestors were e’er kings in this land.

Belin and Brenne, they campaigned together,

And with a powerful army conquered Rome.

To command this land you covet is our right.

So, you should pay me tribute from your land,

For you seize lands of mine without due right,

And thus, dire trouble you shall find forthright,

That would be master, yet should bow to me.’

Caesar initiates the invasion

Caesar read the letter, then gazed at it in wrath.

Incensed in mood, he threw the thing at his feet.

‘Where be my knights, that are good for a fight,

Let my ships be made ready, for we’ll embark.

Forth we shall sail, and then invade this Britain,

And take the island’s king, and burn him alive,

And hold that land of theirs in our own hands.’

Sixty ships he equipped, all immensely large,

They were soundly-built, both strong and new,

And of lesser ships more than a man could tell.

There came to them weather most wondrous fair,

And they sailed from the far strand to this land.

They found their haven in the river Thames,

Where the Thames and the sea meet together.

Soon the tidings came to this island’s king,

And he let it be widely known o’er the realm

That Caesar had arrived, and his landing place.

Cassivellaunus, the king, was now most wary.

He knew of their coming, and held his ground.

There he and his host waited, this island’s king.

Then came the word, that grieved him sorely,

That Julius Caesar, indeed, had disembarked.

The nature of Cassivellaunus’ forces

Many the manner of men with Cassivellaunus,

And he had a steward, the wisest man on earth.

Belan was his name, and he dealt men wealth;

He was a knight most ready to counsel the king.

Under the monarch, he helped govern this land,

And all of the people of the realm obeyed him.

The king had the sons of his brother Lud with him,

The elder Androgeus, the younger Tennancius.

They rode on before him those earls most bold.

Nennius was the king’s brother, he had no other,

Lud being dead; and he with his brave forces,

Marched forth from Canterbury to the shore.

Androgeus, with the men of Kent, from London,

Tennancius out of Cornwall, his men most keen.

King Aeredius was the leader of the Scotsmen,

Britael, the king of North Wales, came at need,

From South Wales, came Guaertaet, the moody,

From Galway came there too, Aessel the good,

While from Moray there came many a sharp spear.

All men gathered then, to meet the sudden need

Of Cassivellaunus, high-king of all this land.

And all of those knights counselled the king

That he should defend his freedom in battle,

While he clasped hands, and pledged to do so;

That he would fight this Caesar that sought tribute.

The first battle, by the shore

Forth went he, and his host marched with him,

To the shore they went, and encountered Caesar.

Caesar, who was fully aware of their advance,

Called out to his troops: ‘Make ready for battle;

For Cassivellaunus advances with his host.’

The warriors with their lances then engaged,

With axe and sword, and the spear’s keen tip,

Hardily they hewed, their helms resounding,

Fiercely they fought, and many a soldier fell.

Caesar, the Roman general, was bold indeed,

His sword he drew, and many a man he slew.

He laboured in that fight, all bathed in sweat,

Single-handedly, slaying all that were nigh.

And he did wonders there with his weapon,

For he himself killed a hundred worthy men.

Androgeus called to Nennius his uncle,

At the sight; and both earls engaged together.

With many another they stood, and held fast.

They saw how Julius fought like a wild boar,

And so, towards him they advanced the fight,

Felling many of their enemies to the ground.

Nennius, charged to where Caesar laboured,

Then rushed upon him with his keen blade,

Smote him hard on the helm, till the sword bit.

It startled many a knight he came so nigh

Since the general was battling so fiercely.

Caesar said not a word but swung his sword

And struck Nennius so fiercely on the helm,

The iron split, and his head was left bleeding,

But he paled not for he was a sturdy knight.

Caesar ceased not, rather he raised his sword,

As Nennius raised his shield in his defence.

Caesar struck, and the sword pierced the targe;

He sought to wrest it free, but the blade stuck.

Julius gripped the sword, Nennius the shield,

Long they tugged away, but the blade held fast.

Androgeus saw how Caesar and Nennius fared,

And so, he advanced, bringing Nennius his aid,

Once Caesar saw that it might go ill with him,

He relinquished the weapon, and empty-handed,

He turned about, and then swiftly sought to flee.

Nennius, still on the field, reversed his shield,

And drawing the sword out, then proved most brave,

Many a Roman he felled with his own blade,

Was many a man’s bane, full many he shamed.

All he smote with the sword died then and there.

All whom he touched; many, pierced to the bone,

Mortally-wounded, fell to the earth beneath.

All day it lasted, that fight, till the fall of night,

And the Roman host with Caesar, their general,

Departed the field in the deepening darkness,

To their camp they withdrew, upon the shore,

Leaving behind a good two thousand knights,

Lying beneath their shields, dead on the field.

Caesar went to his camp-bed, his men adread.

Three thousand men kept the watch by night,

In helm and breastplate, with swords of steel.

Caesar departs after the failed expedition

Julius Caesar, he was most wise and wary.

Aware of his great losses, fearful of more,

He arose at midnight, summoned his knights,

And said he would fare forth, and flee this isle.

He would go into Flanders and there abide,

Till he felt the time was ripe to try once more.

They boarded ship outright, in the dead of night,

The wind was fair, and they sailed for Flanders.

In the morn, when it was light, Cassivellaunus

Made ready his forces, and advanced to fight,

But found the Romans had now fled this land,

Such that none of Caesar’s host could be found.

Then were the Britons blissful in their mood,

And great were the cries of joy that they raised.

Yet soon thereafter they felt great loss and woe.

The death of Nennius; Caesar’s sword ‘Crocea Mors’

Cassivellaunus the king felt this woeful thing,

That Nennius his brother could find no cure

For the head-wound that Caesar had dealt him.

No leechcraft held the power to save his life.

Of remedy there was none, and Nennius died,

And he was laid by the north-gate of London.

The king had a marble tomb inlaid with gold,

Gold and gems, and his brother laid therein.

With magnificence the Britons entombed him.

Now shall you hear a most wondrous word:

The king took the sword Nennius his brother

Had wrested free from Julius Caesar’s hand,

And laid it by his brother though twas his bane.

This blade of steel was very long and strong,

And on it letters writ, on the hilt engraved,

That it was named, in Rome, ‘Crocea Mors’.

So was the sword called, that was of might,

And, therewith, the general threatened this land.

For never was there a man alive that felt

A single blow from that same ‘Yellow’ sword,

And shed a single drop of his own red blood,

That met not there, however strong, with Death.

Caesar wins the Gauls to his cause

Now Julius, with his army, lay in Flanders,

And the word came to France how he had fared,

And, with his host, been driven from this land.

Then the French rejoiced greatly at his shame

For, towards Caesar, they felt a deal of anger.

And each brave Frenchman thought to himself

And said to his comrades: ‘Let him not prosper

That now, or ever, shall bow to this Julius,

Whom the Britons have beaten, and driven forth.

We’ll ne’er bow to him, or hold him our lord,

But win our freedom from him, now, in battle.

For we are no cowardlier than are the Britons.

That have driven him out, and slain his knights.’

Julius heard it said that the French spoke thus,

And that they boasted, and spoke from pride.

He entered into France, with his mighty host,

As if unaware that the French planned evil.

And summoned his men from all over France,

To come to him as they should their master.

They all came to meet him, and greeted him,

And embraced him, concealing their anger.

Julius was most wise and wary in his thought;

He had gold and treasure brought before him,

And gave thereof to the nobles closest to him,

Rich gifts, indeed, he granted of his red gold;

To every noble knight, he gifted a bright gift.

With these gifts of gold, he won them over,

In that manner that seemed to him the best,

And freely promised them what they wished.

They were his friends, now, that were his foes,

Where’s the man that may not be thus won

Through fair reward to lay aside his enmity,

And make many a friend midst his opponents?

Now spoke Julius Caesar, the wise and wary:

‘Hark to me, my Frenchmen, my free knights,

I will send now to Rome, to my brave people,

And ask that they send five hundred knights,

For I will cross into this Britain once more,

And you shall fare thus with me in strength,

And conquer the land to your great benefit;

For, worth shall you obtain for your service.

Your exiles shall return and own my friendship,

Gifts I’ll decree, and the poor shall be wealthy,

Free shall you be, and you shall be my friends.’

Then the gathering replied, their voices loud:

‘We will live with you, and shall die with you,

And win honour for you, by force and stratagem.

We will go with you boldly, and in strength,

O’er the sea to Britain, and Cassivellaunus,

To fight that king, and so avenge your knights,

And conquer that land, and set it in your hands.’

Yet much was there to do ere all that was true;

They would feel much sorrow ere it was done.

Caesar’s activities in Gaul; Ordre’s Tower

When Caesar had done this, shared his treasure,

And, by doing so, had gained their friendship,

He thought it best now to occupy Boulogne;

And there he built a tower most wondrous fair.

The tower was strong and high, to the sea nigh,

And the name he gave to it was Ordre’s Tower.

In this stronghold, the general dwelt some while;

For thirteen months in Ordre’s Tower was he.

Thither was brought all his gold and treasure.

And never was any tower so well constructed,

With such artistry and skill as Ordre’s Tower.

Six thousand knights could gather in its base,

Yet a knight’s cloak might cover its summit.

With the tower there, Caesar felt less care.

Into France he marched, and founded cities.

Over all he set reeves, men strong and noble,

Who would raise the land-tax and go each year

With all the monies raised to Ordre’s Tower.

The second invasion (54BC)

Then he had six hundred mighty vessels built,

Wondrous great, all anchored in the harbour.

When the work was done, and all was ready,

Then the general said he would sail to Britain,

For, upon his life, he would not quit that task.

His six hundred good ships he ordered forth,

And none could count the boats that followed.

Forth they proceeded, and reached the Thames.

Now Caesar thought, and here he was unwise,

To advance his ships upstream on the Thames,

Rowing along until they came to London.

There he would disembark and fight the Britons,

And thus win all this land to his own hands.

But it was not so fated, he was soon hindered,

For wise sailors who knew all, told the Britons,

That the general was heading for the Thames,

And would disembark at London next, to fight.

The Britons, now most wary, planned wisely,

And they took long timbers, straight and true,

And shod with iron, and set them in the water,

They drove five thousand into the river-bed,

With their upper ends hooded with iron bands,

To keep the Roman vessels from the harbour;

And there the piles stood hidden by the flood.

Caesar’s fleet meets with bad weather

Then came Julius Caesar, of all this unaware.

The wind drove hard, the steersmen sang out,

It drove them at will, all as they sought to flee;

Running towards shore, the ships began to heel,

The hatches were shattered, the waves burst in,

The sails were now in tatters; men were drowned,

As the Romans were blown towards the land.

A hundred and fifty vessels there were wrecked,

Caesar came following after, his heart was sore.

The ships behind luffed, and laid for the shore.

Those that came after warily sought haven,

And, by good fortune, most came safe to land.

They pitched their tents widely o’er the fields,

And sorely lamented their drowned comrades.

Cassivellaunus advances and addresses his troops

Now Cassivellaunus had received the news,

That Caesar’s host was ashore near London,

And then said the king, Cassivellaunus:

Alas, Nennius my brother, no more alive,

Would that I’d ‘Crocea Mors’ you won in fight,

That sword, and you beside me, safe and sound,

And, at my side, Androgeus, and Tennancius,

Then might I march, and meet the Roman host,

In strength; yet we’ll go and fight these people.’

Cassivellaunus the king was a knight of valour,

He gathered an innumerable host of men,

And he marched towards the Roman general.

Thus, he addressed his men, most lovingly:

‘Seek brave knights, now to maintain your rights;

Bethink you of Belin, and Brenne his brother

Of how they took Rome, with a mighty army,

And conquered all the lands that lay about her,

And governed that city for many a winter.

And so held that place as long as they lived.

I say, to you knights, Rome is ours by right.

Now Caesar holds it that twice comes here,

And seeks thus, to drive you from your land.

And bids you to depart from out this realm.

Lose this land, and every man will loathe you,

Rather look lively for we are brave Britons.

Caesar camps in this isle, by the sea-strand.

Let us now advance towards him bravely,

In our full strength, as his fiercest enemies,   

And destroy this Caesar, and all his army,

And rid we our land of these Roman people.’

Then answered his folk: ‘March on, swiftly,

For Julius and his host are doomed to die.’

He engages the Roman forces

Forth they went, and swiftly they advanced,

Until they came where the Roman army lay.

And then, in full strength, rushed upon them.

Fiercely they fought, and many a Roman felled.

There Caesar’s warriors were brought to earth,

Not by tens or scores, but by many a thousand.

All day they fought, and many a man lay dead.

With the fall of night, Caesar broke off the fight,

Caesar was sorrowful, and so bethought him

To flee, that night, with his remaining forces.

He was more than aware of his many losses.

The trumpets blew, and he summoned his men.

And let it be proclaimed, and known throughout,

That they should go to their tents and make plans,

And burnish their weapons against the morrow.

This the British spies heard that were nearby,

And straight these men came to Cassivellaunus,

And told him that Julius was still camped there,

And would fight, with all his knights, on the morrow,

And conquer the Britons, or himself be slain;

For this he had proclaimed to his whole army.

Caesar, forced to retreat, departs once more

Woe now, woe, that Cassivellaunus was unwary!

He knew what should be done, yet he did it not.

He drew to the one side, and there made camp.

Throughout that night, his warriors made ready

Their spears and shields, and yet he was deceived.

For Caesar was now aware of his full losses,

And, near midnight, he warned all of his knights,

Then to ship they went, and swiftly they departed.

The weather was fair, and they rode o’er the waves.

With the living, and the dead, the ships were filled,

With many a sorrowful man, sorely wounded,

And with many a dead knight of Caesar’s army.

So, they fared, o’er the flood, to Ordre’s Tower.

There had Caesar now, in his heart care and woe.

On the morrow, when it was daylight once more,

The news was brought straight to Cassivellaunus,

That the Roman general was gone from this land,

And how he had embarked, and fled o’er the sea,

Such that none of his Roman soldiers remained.

Then was the king filled with woe, and he cried:

‘Woe upon my ill counsel; for many now must die!

Alas, that I failed to see that Caesar would depart.

Truth was it he told, the man that made this saying:

“Believe what every man says, and ill will come.”

For I believed them true, the tidings I was given,

Told to me this last eve, by a cowardly traitor,

That Caesar would seek this day to conquer Britain,

Or lie here dead, with his sword in pieces shattered,

Beside all his comrades that fought around him.

This same was said, I now see, to deceive me.

Woe to me! Woe to me, for he has departed!

Nonetheless am I blithe, for we may live ever

In this land of ours, ere he seeks us out again,

And evermore he may think on what we dealt him,

For her there lie ten thousand of his companions,

As well as those vessels of his, sunk in the sea.

And I bless the gods for the honour I obtained,

For twice have I driven out Caesar and his host.

And now will I to London, that I love dearly,

And there will I thank the gods, in holy worship.

And honour them greatly, for all they have done.’

The king then caused the trumpets to be blown,

Summoned his men, and sent them to their homes,

And he ordered his household guards to be blithe,

And tend to their steeds, and prepare their weeds,

And then, in three-weeks’ time, gather in London,

With their wives and children, to make there a feast.

All of the earls and the thanes, the knights and swains.

Cassivellaunus gives thanks to the gods

All of the worthy folk that lived in Britain,

Knowing of that same day, arrived in London,

With as much magnificence as was in Rome.

The king began the service in such a wise

As the heathen rites demanded in those days.

Ten thousand men there were, filled the temple,

The noblest and choicest folk in all of Britain,

Before their deity, whom they thought mighty,

Apollo he was named, held as their high god.

Each man held in his hand a burning taper,

And each brave fellow he wore cloth of gold,

And the monarch had his crown atop his head.

Before the high altar, a sacred fire was lit,  

And the king then cast rich gifts into the flames,

And after him, all the lords that were with him,

And then they offered the god noble treasure,

And thanked Apollo for all he’d done for them.

When the service was over, they gathered to eat,

And thereof I shall tell you a wondrous tale.

In the king’s kitchens were two hundred cooks,

And none could have counted those waiting-on.

Twelve thousand cattle were slain for the feast,

And three thousand stags, and as many hinds,

While of all the fowls slain, no man could tell.

All the wealth, all the gold that could be found,

In this land of ours, was brought to that service,

And never, in truth, since this our world began,

Has such a store of treasures been in one place,

Nor such varied abundance given and received.

Merry was the day, most bright was the sunlight;

The folk were drunk on ale, the nobles on wine.

They sported in the field with spear and shield.

Some took to riding, and some to running races,

And some to gamble, thus mischief came quickly;

Some at board-games, others backed their steeds.

Two noblemen Herigal and Evelin quarrel

There were there two, and proud were they both,

Herigal was the one, and Evelin was the other,

Herigal the king’s kin, who that day had harm,

Evelin a brave knight, Androgeus his uncle,

Who began to skirmish with staff and shield.

Though playful at first, soon the game soured,

For Herigal struck Evelin fiercely on the chin.

They began to chide, and knights came riding.

Evelin was angered, struck out with his staff,

Smote Herigal on the ribs, and the staff broke.

Then cried Herigal: ‘That was painful Evelin,

You struck me from behind, but you will pay,

For, now your staff is broken, woe you’ll feel.’

Evelin was sorry that things had turned out so,

The other wished him dead, which seemed harsh,

So, he bethought him as to what he might do,

Having nothing there to hand but a little shield.

He caught sight of a nobleman that stood nearby,

Who had come there to watch the knights at play,

And this man held a sheathed sword in his hand.

With a furious glance, Evelin snatched the sheath,

And drew the blade, so that his heart was eased.

He ran at Herigal, and then smote him fiercely,

Such that his nose and lips were sliced away,

Then struck him again, and cut away his hand,

Gave him a third, and severed him at the waist.

So ended the game, for poor Herigal lay dead.

Then Evelin went thence, naked sword in hand,

And none so bold as to lay a hand upon him.

All folk he passed by, to Androgeus he fled.

Now, to Cassivellaunus it was made known

All that occurred, and that Herigal was slain.

The king sent three noblemen to Androgeus.

Who told him to bring his nephew to the king,

And if he would not do so, he’d be banished.

Androgeus returned the king this message:

‘Ne’er the lad would I bring, for anything,

And see Evelin hung high, or elsewise die,

Yet I have land, that lies freely in my hand,

And tis my law rules there under the king.

So, if any knight seeks, of Evelin, his right,

Let him come to my court, and win it there.

For, in truth, he shall gain it no other way.’

Soon was this made known to Cassivellaunus.

The king was greatly angered, nigh to madness,

And these were the words Cassivellaunus said:

‘Away with Androgeus, and his kith and kin;

If he meets my eye, anywhere, he is done for!’

Androgeus, forthwith, gathered his company,

And departed from London, and rode to Kent.

To a castle of his own, which he strengthened,

And stocked the place with food and weapons.

The king took London, and all about, in hand,

And then marched into Kent with a vast army,

And with sword and fire that land he troubled.

Androgeus sent two knights to seek the king.

Who spoke thus: ‘Sire, Androgeus seeks peace,

He is your man, and will do all as you wish,

If you will grant him peace, and be reconciled,

And cease to burn and destroy all of his land.

Sire, is he not of Lud, and your brother’s son,

And all the land you hold once his father’s?

To him all shall seem well, if you’ll make peace.

Nonetheless, he’ll ne’er yield Evelin to you,

For fear he’ll be hung high, or elsewise die’

The king, on hearing this, was more wrathful still,

And these words spoke the king, Cassivellaunus:

‘Where are you my knights, my noble warriors?

Make war on Androgeus, for I shall be his bane.’

Androgeus seeks aid from Caesar

This Androgeus was told, and he gave his answer:

‘It has been said before, and the thing is true,

That many a man does evil against his will,

And so must I do now, out of direst need.

I call the man a fool that sees himself undone,

The while he may defend himself in battle.

Each man will do wrong lest worse he receives.

As I bear shield and spear, I’ll send to Caesar,

And greet him, and complain of my injury.

And seek counsel, for of that I have great need.’

Androgeus, that noble knight, penned a letter,

And sent a messenger o’er the sea to Ordre,

And thence to Julius, midst the Roman host.

The letter was well-writ, and most forthright:

‘Hail to you, and all your people, general!

Tis to you, Julius Caesar, I make complaint,

Androgeus, that is your man, and no traitor.

Upon my life, I will stand by all I say here.

I swear to it, in the name of my mighty god,

By my lord Apollo, who is dear to my heart.

For, full oft, it happens, and in many a land,

That after hatred men yet meet in friendship,

And despite worldly shame, respect each other.

Twice were you overcome, and your men slain,

And you driven forth from this land of Britain.

Many a thousand dead have you left behind,

Not through the might of King Cassivellaunus,

But through my labour, and that of my knights.

For I led forth with me the men of London,

And all the men of Kent, fine warriors they,

And therewith many a Briton bold in battle.

We overcame you, there, and slew your men.

Now Cassivellaunus and his folk are such foes

As seek to drive me forth from out this Britain,

And to exile me, right far from my own land.

My realm they lay waste; I’m bereft of London,

And they think to ruin me and all my knights.

If you read this letter, it tells you of my plight.

When you departed last time from these shores,

Then was the king blither than ever in his life,

Yet felt care, for he knew not where you went.

Nonetheless he cried, before all his people:

“Now Julius has fled; twice is he driven out,  

Twice he entered Britain, and twice felt woe.

Nevermore shall we see him approach this isle.

For here lie his best knights beaten in battle,

And we remain and are joyful at their deaths.

Let all my proud Britons come now to London,

And here grant praise to our master, Apollo,

For the great honour that I, as king, enjoy.”

So, all the noble Britons gathered in London,

Knight and thanes, with their wives and children,

With all the means for worship they possessed.

When we arrived in London, then we began

To praise Apollo, and honour our other gods.

It has ne’er been said, since this world began,

There was e’er so much meat served to a feast,

Nor so much good drink poured for the people.

Great was the mirth and then they took to sport.

Some, fairly arrayed, contested games on foot,

Some, as nobly clad, contested on horseback.

There came two noblemen equipped with shields,

And they skirmished there fiercely, so defended.

One was my sister’s son, Evelin is his name,

The other Herigal, a nobleman, high at court,

Of the king’s kin, being his half-sister’s son.

And of all his goodly folk, most dear to him.

They quarrelled there, and Herigal was slain.

When the king, Cassivellaunus, heard the news,

That Herigal was dead, and Evelin had flown,

He sent me a message, that lacked a greeting,

And bade me bring him my kinsman Evelin,

And swiftly, so the court might exact justice,  

For he would have the man’s head, or hang him.

And, if I would not, then I must be banished,

While, should he catch me, I’d suffer the same.

I yearned for peace, and would be reconciled,

And, thus, see all done right by, at my court,

Since I was his earl, and among the highest,

And yet I refused to render Evelin to him.

Therefore, he has banished me from his court,

Seized London from me, and has slain my knights.

Yet, have I two hundred and fifty warriors,

And twenty strong castles where I dwell in Kent,

And now battle with the king, and have no peace.

Thus, Caesar you have heard my just complaint,

And every word that this letter states is true.

This then do I write: that I will be your man,

And will hold you as my master, and my lord,

If you will but aid me, in my hour of need,

And so rid me of this king, Cassivellaunus.

The truth of this I swear, by my almighty god,

And that which is written here, that will I do.

Come swiftly to Britain; this land I yield you.

That which I drove you from, shall now be yours.’

Caesar listened to all Androgeus had written,

And this was the answer the general gave:

‘In the name of our people, I’ll not agree this

Unless he sends me Cenan, his son, as hostage,

With thirty other children, to Ordre’s Tower.’

Caesar with his host went down to the shore,

Then he sailed amidst his fleet towards Britain,

And, come the dawn, Julius reached Dover.

Androgeus heard the news, and went thither,

And these words he uttered: ‘Welcome Caesar,

That are most dear to me: this land I yield you.’

Then they spoke together, and all in friendship.

Cassivellaunus marches to Dover

Meanwhile Cassivellaunus had summoned men

From all of his kingdom, and formed an army.

To London he would march, and besiege the fort

That was yet in the hands of Androgeus’ knights.

All was ready, when a rider came, in haste,

And delivered his tidings to Cassivellaunus:

‘Hail to you, our king! News I bring, of the Romans,

Words that I fear may be hateful to your heart;

Your deadly foes have come ashore at Dover.

There Androgeus has conferred with Caesar.

All these words are true that I have uttered,

Think now how you might defend your people.’

Then King Cassivellaunus was most troubled,

And swiftly called for the trumpets to be blown,

So, he might speak of the news to his knights,

That Caesar, the Roman general, had arrived

With all his host, and seized Dover harbour.

Then these words King Cassivellaunus uttered:

‘London we must leave, and march on Dover,

Gather your forces; we must be there swiftly.’

Forth went the king with all that countless host,

Straight to Dover, though at a disadvantage.

Caesar heard the news (he was wise and wary)

That Cassivellaunus was marching, with haste.

Then Julius was blithe; he liked those tidings.

He marched from Dover all along the sea-shore,

And concealed his forces, deep within a valley.

Androgeus led his warriors to the near end,

And into a wide wood, in the wilderness,

And thus spoke Androgeus to his troops:

‘Let no knight be so mad, nor no man so wild,

As to let a sound rise beyond his spear-point,

Nor stray from his comrades, for we’ll move

Swiftly now, as one, and destroy our foes.

And if any warrior here can capture the king,

Then, keep him safe and sound, without wound,

For he’s my lord and kin, and I’ll not slay him.

But all of his folk we should fell to the earth,

And pay heed to the battle and not the spoils;

Fell the foe, and let the armour they bear lie.’

And Caesar instructed his knights likewise.

Three thousand cavalry he had in company,

Chosen knights, and most valiant warriors,

While Androgeus led ten thousand horsemen.

Caesar and Androgeus lie in ambush

As they hid in ambush, and gave their orders,

There came Cassivellaunus the king, riding,

With all his countless force, innumerable men,

And, caught between their forces, suffered harm.

Julius lay hid before him, Androgeus to his rear

Who was the first to stir, and to leave the wood,

Leading all his men, who uttered a piercing cry.

The trumpets blew loud, to urge on his Britons,

Who advanced on the enemy from their flank.

Cassivellaunus heard the outcry behind him,

He heard a mighty sound, and a great din,

And cried outright: ‘Into the fight you, knights!’

His heart was full of fear, thinking it Caesar,

But Caesar still lay in ambush, before him,

Listening to the shouts of Androgeus’ men,

While his troops waited, ready to rush forth.

Now Cassivellaunus, all unaware of this,

Called to his troops, preparing for a fight,

Still but half-ready when Androgeus charged.

Who rushed towards him, fiercely, in strength.

Those knights now fit for battle began to fight,

While Androgeus met them most forcefully.

And at the first encounter felled four thousand,

Such that the king’s host was much lessened.

As they sought to flee, Caesar now appeared,

Then charged at their vanguard, in swift attack,

Felling innumerable folk, in that fierce onset.

Cassivellaunus flees to a defensive position

Britain’s king, Cassivellaunus, now fled.

He often knew woe, but ne’er worse than then.

Julius was before him, Androgeus behind;

From both ends they advanced, to his harm.

Cassivellaunus bethought him what to do.

He saw a high hill near, where the wood ended.

To this he retreated, with much of his folk.

With difficulty they ascended the slopes;

Fifteen thousand, nonetheless, escaped there,

Most of those still alive fleeing with the king.

The hill was high and overgrown with hazel,

And surrounded by stony cliffs on all sides.

They felled the brush, and laid it before them,

Defended themselves with sticks, stones, steel,

And then held out there, against the enemy.

The king rendered that hill strong as a castle.

In but a single night, all that work was done,

For laboured there every thane and swain,

King Cassivellaunus too, with his own hands,

For he worked hard seeking to save his army.

When all was done, they were far more secure,

Though Caesar now besieged them all about.

On that hill, lay Cassivellaunus and his men,

There they thirsted and, lacking meat or wine,

The men ate nor drank for three days and nights.

They were badly placed, the king had led ill,

In not seeking peace with Androgeus, his kin.

So, they lay on the hill, afflicted with hunger.

The king faced defeat, without plan or counsel,

For he found no source of aid on any side.

All day he saw his foes before him, in strength,

The warlike Romans, and their general Caesar,

All those warriors from Rome, bent on his harm.

And all day they cried loud to Cassivellaunus:

‘Now shall you pay for all your former deeds.

You liked it well felling our friends to the earth.

Now comes woe to you; death you shall suffer,

And, ere that, hunger, and scorn, and great shame.’

Then Cassivellaunus felt dread, and sought counsel,

For he had need of some means of making peace.

He sends an envoy to Androgeus

He chose a wise knight of his, and sent him forth,

Down to the host of those who were his foes,

And there his envoy greeted Androgeus

With peaceful words from the king, his kin,

And better still in time of need, his uncle:

‘I have not wrought such evil as merits death,

And tis not at any time right that a knight

Should destroy a kinsman who is guiltless.

You must give me counsel in my great need,

And reconcile the Roman general and I,

So, I might forge a peace with the Romans.

And then you and I will speak together,

And you may order our truce as you wish.

For together we shall live and we shall die.

Consider the need, reconcile Rome and I,

For if I’m slain, all will prove for the worst,

And those hateful to you, that shall slay me.’

Then Androgeus answered the envoy thus:

‘How in the world has this thing occurred,

That my uncle’s wrath has become so mild,

And that one so angry now sees what’s right?

Five days are scarcely ended since the king

Would banish me or deprive me of my life.

To that he gave himself, and stole what’s mine,

And all that I love, seemed odious to him.

The king was unwise to take it upon himself

To claim that he fought Caesar, overcame him,

Slew or captured his folk, and drove him out.

The king alone did it not, it was us wholly.

There was I in the fight with all my knights,

And many a time was I hard-pressed indeed;

Had I not been there myself with my knights

He had been taken and his brave Britons slain.

Yet we fought fiercely before our monarch,

And drove out Caesar and his Roman legions.

The king alone did it not, it was us wholly.

When we had fought so, earning much honour,

The king, full of pride, claimed the deed was his.  

Yet now he is brought to this, he bethinks himself

To seek my favour with humble talk of peace!

Now his wild mood is tamed, his words are mild.

But I will temper my mood, for evil offer good,

Lessen his troubles, and mediate with Caesar.

Ere this day’s end, I shall help him if I can.’

Androgeus seeks to mediate with Caesar

Androgeus, good as his word, went barefoot,

With all his knightly comrades from the fight,

And sought out Caesar, there amidst his army,

Fell at his feet, embraced him beseechingly,

And thus spoke, mildly, Androgeus the true:

‘Lord Caesar, your favour now and evermore;

Let me speak with you, for I seek your grace.

You have overcome my uncle and he fled.

That hill he holds, and yet he longs for peace.

Since you’ve conquered King Cassivellaunus,

And felled many of his people to the earth,

And nigh on hold all his land in your hands,

Grant him his life, and let him speak with you.

Though he is king and free, let him be your man,

And each year he’ll send you Britain’s tribute,

Of much wealth and treasure, the honour yours.’

This Caesar heard, and of the speech was wary.

He had turned his face away, as if in scorn,

Angered thus by the words he listened to.

Androgeus was wary, but approached Caesar,

Speaking yet more eloquently as he did so:

Thus said Androgeus: ‘Hark to me, Julius,

Be not hostile; I have fulfilled my promise.

And done all, as I swore before our knights.

I undertook to set all Britain in your hand,

And so, I have, and the realm you received.

But I swore never to slay Cassivellaunus.

I, his nephew and his man, have not the right.

He shall not die, while I can yet defend him.

Favour him with his life, and be reconciled.

He will be your man, his son your hostage.

And send you three thousand pounds in tribute,

Every year; and I swear this on my sword.

If you refuse, all shall go worse for you;

You and your host will not depart in safety.’

Caesar being now concerned for his army,

Thought it worth more, if they were in Ordre,

Than all the land, and all its gold and silver,

For he was most afraid, the Roman general,

Lest this Androgeus was full of treachery.

He showed his wisdom, and his caution there.

Caesar makes peace and departs

Thus, Caesar replied to the earl, Androgeus:

‘Androgeus my dear friend, as you wish,

Since you have aided me in time of need.

Ne’er found I, a truer man, this side of Latium.’

His words were soon known to Cassivellaunus;

Then was the king blither than e’er before.

Down from his hill came Cassivellaunus,

Full blithe in mood, to meet with Julius.

And Julius in turn showed him much honour,

He ordered that the king be bathed, and clothed,

And given food ere he came before him.

When all this was done, they met together.

Peace was established there, and well it held.

They wrought a covenant, before their people.

Cassivellaunus was Caesar’s man, and swore

To send three thousand pounds tribute a year

Oaths they swore there, that ne’er were broken,

For true men swore them, and kept them after.

Nonetheless Caesar was the first man ever

To render this kingdom subject to his will,

Since Noah and his sons came out of the Ark.

When all this was done, the two men parted.

Caesar and his army wintered in this land,

In peace and amity, and took their pleasure.

Towards summer, he departed o’er the sea,

Taking Androgeus with him, his dear friend.

And Androgeus ruled all that he desired,

Though his fate was e’er tied to that of Rome.

Neither he nor his comrades e’er returned,

While he lived thereafter but seven years.

Cassivellaunus’ death, and the succession

Cassivellaunus that was king of all this land,

When his days ended, there, in York, he died,

And ere the king died, so had his dear queen,

While, to the Britons’ woe, they’d had no child.

Tennancius, Duke of Cornwall, heard the news,

That his uncle was dead, and his house ended,

While Androgeus his brother had long departed

With most of his kindred, and Caesar, likewise.

Tennancius bethought him what he might do;

How he might act, and so secure the realm,

That his father, King Lud, long held before.

Tennancius sent messengers throughout Britain,

And bade men bow, and yield them to his power,

Saying it were better that they made him king,

And, without contest, render to him the land,

That Lud, his father, held in his hands before,

And he would love them the while he lived.

And, if they wished it so, he would rule them,

Otherwise, he would fight them, and fell them.

The noble Britons met, in husting, in London,

And best counsel it seemed to do as he had said.

They sent greetings to him, and made him king.

Then there was joy enough in all of Britain.

Ten and twenty winters this land he governed,

Then came the day he died; in London he lay.

And then was sorrow felt amongst the people.

The king had a son, whose name was Kinbelin,

And he had gone, with his uncle, forth to Rome.

There, Augustus Caesar made the lad a knight,

Which was but right, for, since Caesar’s death,

None of Androgeus’ kin had served Rome better

Than Kinbelin, in defending it against others.

This the Britons swiftly learned, that Kinbelin

Who was most brave and skilful, dwelt in Rome.

He, Tennancius’ son, and of Lud’s noble line.

Two knights they chose, and sent them to Rome,

And they told Kinbelin of his father’s death,

And bade him depart quietly for his own realm.

It was not long indeed, ere he came hither,

And the Britons received him and made him king.

The reign of Kinbelin; the advent of Jesus Christ

In Kinbelin’s day, he that was king of Britain,

There came to middle-earth, a maiden’s son.

Born was he in Bethlehem to the best of all.

He was named Jesus Christ; through the Holy Ghost,

The treasure of the world, Lord of the Angels.

Father is he in heaven, and mankind’s saviour,

Son was he, on earth, of the fairest maiden,

And the Holy Ghost he has within himself.

The spirit he imparts to those that love him,

As he did to Peter, the humble fisherman,

Whom he made noblest of all humankind.

Kinbelin Britain’s king, was true in everything,

And here he reigned for two and twenty years.

In his day, there was a man in this country,

Whom wonders followed, his name Teilesin;

Men held him for a prophet, for he was wise.

And all that he told them of, they believed,

Marvels enough, and they found them true.

For he told them every year of things to come.

The king sent twelve wise knights to find him,

And bid him come to him, not go elsewhere.

Soon they brought him before their sovereign,

And as they met the king thus greeted him:

‘Now, by my life, you are welcome, Teilesin,

Better to see you alive than a thousand pound.’

Then Teilesin answered, saying to Kinbelin:

‘And so shall I thrive, if you yourself are well.’

Then was Kinbelin glad and said to Teilesin:

‘News of strange marvels comes to this land,

From Jerusalem, things of wonder in Bethlehem.

For a little child is born within that kingdom,

Great is their awe, with tokens seen in the stars,

And moon and sun; troubled are all mankind.

Tis widely known, and letters are writ to me,

And so, I would know from you, my dear friend,

What the tokens signify; what does this portend,

For the folk of every land, they are sore afraid?’

Then said Teilesin, in swift answer to Kinbelin,

‘It was foretold in times past, and now is true,

That a child should be born, chosen o’er all,

That should be the Saviour, and aid his friends,

And release his people from their hateful bonds,

Freeing Adam from Hell, Noah and Abraham,

Zadoc and Samuel, and Simeon the old,

Joseph, Benjamin and his brothers with him,

Joel and Elisha, and Ezra and Nathan,

Isaac and his brother, and many another,

Many a hundred thousand, there in Hell.

For such a deed is he come to the people.’

These words said Teilesin, and all were true.

Once the king was informed of all he said,

Those tidings were sent o’er all the realm,

The Britons took heed; and ne’er have they forgot.

Kinbelin was a good king, ever peaceable,

And so, the Roman folk loved him greatly.

Had he sought to rebel, he might have withheld

The rich tribute, which Caesar had demanded,

But he rendered it humbly, all his life through.

The invasion of the emperor Claudius (43AD)

After the tidings came of Christ, God’s child,

Kinbelin the king lived but scarce ten years,

For then he quit this life, and in York yet lies.

He left then two sons, Wither and Arviragus;

Wither was the elder, Arviragus the younger.

And the king left Wither all of his kingdom,

And he ruled and dealt, as in his father’s time.

He was a skilful knight, endured many a fight,

Yet was exceeding stern and harsh with folk.

He would no longer suffer the rule of Rome,

Nor would he send them tribute from this land.

And if he found some man had come from Rome,

He caused him to be beheaded, swift took his life,

And, with this grim sport, all such men he served.

The emperor ruling Rome was called Claudius,

And he heard tell of Wither, King of Britain,

Of how he’d insulted him, and promised more.

He showed his anger, and worse was in his heart,

And swore an oath that Wither would pay dearly.

He then sent messengers throughout the empire,

And ordered all the brave men, all the wise,

All of his leading men, to gather in council,

And they met together in the city of Rome.

The summoned their forces from everywhere,

And with countless men fared forth from Rome,

And it was not long ere they reached this land.

The emperor Claudius with all his vast army

Disembarked at Portchester, on the sea-strand,

And vigorously they then attacked the town.

The emperor had ditches dug, exceeding deep,

And all about them, he raised a strong stone wall,

Then Portchester was a fortress with the best.

But first, with his assaults, the town did tumble,

With fire and force, this Claudius razed it all.

This Wither heard of, that was King of Britain,

That Claudius had come in strength to this land.

The king gathered a host, from far and wide,

While Arviragus his brother raised another,

And marched towards the coast with a vast horde,

Until their host met with the emperor, Claudius.

Fiercely the warriors fought, and fated they fell.

While Arviragus supported his brother bravely.

Now, Claudius had a nobleman named Hamun;

He counselled the emperor and the Roman host.

Hamun observed Wither and his hostile deeds,

How, fiercely, in the fight he slew their knights,

And felled all that sought to stand before him.

Hamun bethought himself what he might do.

And how he might so slay this King Wither.

Hamun, amidst the dead, turned their corpses;

He found a knight that had been slain outright,

He took his breastplate, and his gilded shield,

Leapt on his charger, and rode a little aside,

Till he saw King Wither, engaged in the fight.

Hamun smote his own comrades as he rode,

Performing like a Briton his every action,

Such that King Wither thought the man his own,

Though Hamun drew near only by treachery,

For Hamun rode up and down a little while,

And rushed at every Roman he came upon,

Shouting with the cries that the Britons gave:

He rode about, till he came to the king’s side,

And fought beside him as if he were his man,

Slaying his own folk; treachery was there.

The king trusted him, as a man of courage,

Thinking indeed that this man was his knight.

Overheated, his breastplate covered in sweat,

The king rode a little way out of the fight,

And removed his cuirass, so his chest was bare.

Hamun charged at him, with all his strength.

And drove his spear thus through the king’s chest.

Wither he slew; there, was treachery enough;

And then he rode swiftly to join the Romans,

And told the emperor what his spear had wrought.

Arviragus avenges his brother King Wither’s death

Arviragus saw that his brother had been slain,

And rode swiftly to where the dead king lay.

He donned the king’s armour, and seized his steed,

And entered the battle as if he were the king.

The Britons there thought that it was his brother,

And charged the Romans with him, so they fled.

They slew many of Claudius’ knights outright;

Nine thousand Romans they laid on the ground,

Claudius the emperor, thereupon dismayed,

Now withdrew to the ships with his legions.

Then out of this land they sailed o’er the waves,

And forth they went as if fiends conveyed them.

Yet five thousand were left there on the shore,

Unable to reach the ships, to be slain or taken.

Swiftly these all retreated to a wood nearby;

Arviragus pursued, with twenty thousand knights,

And took them, or slew, hacking men to pieces.

Hamun fled through the wood, towards the sea,

He rode to where he thought a ship might lie;

The ship had been stranded by the ebbing tide.

The while it was being floated, came Arviragus.

Hamun had but thirty horsemen riding with him,

Arviragus slew them all, and cut down Hamun.

For his brother’s death, did Arviragus sorrow,

Glad on the other hand that his foes were slain.

Claudius renews the invasion

Arviragus named the place for Hamun’s death.

Hamton, he called it; now and ever it stands.

And now you know how the name of it arose,

For so, in many a wise, do such names appear,

And oft from a small event, that long endures,

For naught else clings so fast as a given name.

Now Hamun and his comrades were all slain,

Arviragus was exceeding pleased, indeed,

But soon thereafter the knight met with sorrow.

He and his men had set forth not long after;

To Winchester they went, and met with harm.

The emperor, Claudius, with his remaining force,

Had made his way over the waves in safety,

He was aboard but a night, ere the wind turned,

And blew towards this land, and the sea-strand.

Claudius returned, the wind in his favour,

And speeding swiftly he came to Portchester.

Forth went the emperor then with his legions;

All in arms, they advanced to the city wall.

They marched on foot, the serried ranks refreshed,

O’er the walls they went, and they swarmed within.

The folk they slew there, and their goods they seized,

Then all that goodly burgh they burnt to the ground.

Thus, Portchester fell and never since has it risen

To be as mighty again, as in those days it was.

The emperor, Claudius, with his powerful army,

Marched to Winchester, and besieged the burgh.

Therein was Arviragus, now wretchedly oppressed,

And a great part of his kindred among the British.

Woe was on Arviragus, and to his men he said:

‘Tell to me my men, say, my goodly warriors,

Will you aid me, in strength, and win me honour?’

And then gave him answer those noble knights:

‘We will desert you not, whether we live or die!’

They donned their gear, and leapt upon their steeds.

The knights were full brave, the gates lay open,

They raised their shields, made a wall of steel,

All those fine knights were ready for the fight.

Arviragus then summoned all their leaders;

They rode a little apart, and there took counsel.

Then he sent two envoys forth, to the emperor,

To ask if the Romans wanted peace or war.

Then Claudius answered the two envoys thus:

‘A good man is he that seeks to be reconciled.

I am wealthy enough, for Rome is my realm,

While all of the many lands have I in hand

That Julius, the conqueror, ruled before me,

Whose fate is therefore subject to my wishes.

Tis only this one kingdom honours me not,

This the one folk that holds me not their lord.

And it shames me, and wounds me to the heart,

That Rome should lose, while I live and rule,

The great honour my forebears won for her.

Nor greed nor avarice have brought me here,

Nor to demonstrate our strength in battle.

No, not for strife, but to assert my rights,

Am I here to win, or lie among the dead.

Knights, you were sent here by Arviragus,

Return now, swiftly, to your sovereign lord,

Say to him, and in truth, so he may ponder,

That if he seeks friendship, and I as his lord,

And yields to me, the better twill be for him.

If he’ll pay me the tribute from your land,

Then I in return will show him much honour.

And tell him this; I will give him my daughter,

Genuis by name, as a token of our concord

And of our friendship, that all might go well.

And if he will not, he shall know far worse,

We will meet together, and battle will decide;

We shall bring slaughter, and the worse will be.’

The knights went forth, and straight to the king,

And recounted the emperor Claudius’ words.

The king saw the need to consult his council,

And then honoured the knights with this message:

That he and his realm would be subject to Rome;

He’d worship the emperor, and wed his daughter.

The two leaders met, and soon were reconciled,

And, afterwards, they retired to Winchester,

Then were all in this land blithe, and songful.

In Winchester they stayed one and twenty weeks,

And Claudius sent to summon the maid, Genuis,

The maiden then came to this land full safely,

And the emperor Claudius wed her to this king.

And still is it known that she was a queen here,

That Genuis of Rome, was queen to Arviragus.

When Claudius sent to Rome, ere this was done,

The while went Claudius and King Arviragus

Into Orkney, and camped on the main island,

And that, and the isles about it, they conquered.

Two and thirty islands they won to their hand,

Established peace, and returned to Winchester.

Arviragus, under Claudius, reigns in Britain

From Rome came Genuis, the maid, in safety.

With sixty knights, to act as her companions.

The maid was wed; the king had her to wife.

Great was the joy and bliss in all of Britain,

With Arviragus as king, under the emperor;

The folk were blither than ever in their lives.

For their greater pleasure, they built a burgh

In a place most fair, by the river, Severn.

When the burgh was done, twas good and strong,

And King Arviragus handed it to Claudius,

With all the land about, enough and plenty.

And he ordered that it receive a fitting name.

For love of Claudius, he called it Caer-clou,

Though it was not for long the name so stood.

Now when Claudius was here, he saw a woman,

She was witty and wise; then, a maid was she.

Claudius’ knights had captured her in the fight

At Porchester, and had given her to Claudius,

For the maiden to him seemed most pleasing.

And he ruled her, and led her forth with him,

And he loved this same woman, exceedingly.

The woman became with child by Claudius,

And, when the child was born, he was full glad.

When the time came for it to be baptised,

After the noble laws that held in those days,

They gave him a name, Gloi they called him.

He waxed and throve, and folk bowed to him.

Claudius gave him Caer-clou for his own,

And garrisoned it with knights, good in a fight.

Bade them guard it, and renamed it Gloichestre,

All for love of this son, most dear to his heart,

Who afterwards had all Wales to his own hand,

And was lord and duke, there, for many a year.

The child was sent to be raised in Gloichestre;

Once this was done Claudius returned to Rome,

And took the mother with him, to be his queen.

Not long after he reached Rome, tidings came

Of one performing miracles in that country,

A man of wonders who’d come from Antioch.

Peter was his name, many a wonder he did;

He roamed that land, turning it to God’s hand.

Arviragus defies Rome (c71AD) during Vespasian’s reign

When Claudius left, Arviragus ruled this isle,

With Genuis his queen, a woman most fair,

Nor did he see aught then come to harm him.

Thus, he dwelt here in bliss for twenty years.

Then news came from Rome of Claudius’ death.

The king and queen were sorrowful indeed,

As were all the best folk that lived in Britain,

When the news came that Claudius has died,

With tidings of how his death had occurred.

Later, when Gloi was a most noble knight,

Arviragus made this speech to his noblemen:

‘As I do hope for mercy, I shall no longer,

No matter my fate, bow down to those in Rome,

Nor evermore send them tribute from this land;

And if they then should seek to re-conquer us

Here they shall gain but bitter hurt indeed,

Conquer naught, but rather shed their blood,

And all their wives, in Rome, shall widows be.’

So said the king, yet, in truth, twas not to be.

There he sat, on his throne, sipping his wine,

But within two winters things were otherwise.

For the Romans had sent envoys to this land,

And demanded the tribute that was promised.

But Arviragus, the king, answered in anger,

And wrathfully ordered them from his sight,

Telling the men to flee, ere they were slain.

Forth they departed, and returned to Rome.

In that same year Vespasian was emperor,

And the news they brought turned him to wrath.

He summoned all the Roman lords to council,

And swore, on his life, he would go to Britain,

To secure the rights Claudius had possessed,

And if they wished for war, then he would fight.

And all the nobles of Rome agreed his counsel.

Vespasian went forth till he came to France,

Where all that he could see was yet his own.

He led its sovereign king that held him as lord,

Forth, with himself, on his passage to this land.

He marched to the sea-coast where he found

A fleet, gathered while he was yet in Rome.

He waited on the weather, fair winds soon blew,

He embarked at Wissant, and landed at Dover.

Now Arviragus, aware of this, thwarted him,

And drove him back, forcibly, into the waves.

Vespasian had with him many fine seamen,

They unfurled the sails and ran with the wind.

Forth, along the coast, they voyaged swiftly,

And full soon, in haste, to Totnes they came,

Neared the land, and disembarked on the sand.

They quickly armed, and as quickly marched on.

The siege of Exeter

They hastened together; to Exeter they came.

And thought to steal, silently, into the burgh.

But the wary burghers guarded that place well.

They closed the gates, and prepared to fight,

And set their best forces to defend the place.

Full seven days Vespasian, with his army,

Lay before Exeter and besieged it fiercely.

When the king knew Vespasian was there,

He led all the forces there were in Britain,

And swiftly he set forth towards Cornwall,

Reaching Exeter, that was now fast besieged.

Arviragus came there with his British army,

Vespasian had the burgh, as yet, surrounded.

On the morrow, at dawn, the gates opened.

Forth came the knights within, exceeding fair.

The war-horns blew, trumpets began to bray,

They all raised their spears and gilded shields,

Then thirty thousand Britons joined together,

Making a mighty host of their two armies.

There against them was the emperor Vespasian.

They met in bold encounter, and fought fiercely,

Hewed hardily; the helms they wore resounded.

Full strongly they smote with the steel’s edge.

All day the ranks of men were locked in battle,

Until the shadows of evening parted the foes.

Knights from both sides lay hacked to pieces,

And most of those before Exeter came to harm.

Genuis, the queen, beheld that dreadful sight.

Saddened was she, indeed, by those fallen men.

She called to her lord, that was dear to her heart,

To the king, Arviragus, the queen spoke thus:

‘My lord, bethink you of your many virtues;

You are of the true faith, that truth most sure,

And those are the things that, here, befit a king.

If he deals with good men, whether rich or poor.

Bethink you of the words that you once spoke

To Claudius, my father, that was your friend.

And honoured you, and so made me your wife,

You who are dear to me as my king should be.

My kindred are there without, and yours within,

If you now break your oath, and slay my kindred,

You and your son, I speak true, will be hated.

While if my kindred overcome, and fell you,

If you yourself, and all your kindred are slain,

Then hatred will be shown to your son and I.

Better to be reconciled, than to stir such strife.

Bethink you of the oath, that you once swore,

That, to my father, whereby you undertook

To send to Rome the tribute agreed each year,

For you live yet, long indeed may you do so,

And, therefore, must hold to what you swore.’

The court was in full agreement with the queen.

The king and courtiers stayed awake that night;

All night they communed as to the best counsel.

But none seemed as good as that of the queen.

On the morrow, at dawn, they prepared to fight,

They all marched forth together, as if to battle.

Forth came the queen, and rode betwixt the foes,

First, she signalled peace, and then she spoke,

Bringing together, reconciling, both the leaders.

Of those that were enemies, Genuis made friends.

The king now promised to maintain his pledge,

And observed the pact the while that he yet lived,

So were they reconciled, and met in concord.

Then was this Britain of ours most joyous,

And Vespasian and his army wintered here.

From burgh to burgh, they travelled, blithely.

The reign of Maurus; the Picts invade Scotland

When summer came, that host returned to Rome.

Britain remained blithe all its monarch’s life.

Nov Arviragus had a son; his name was Maurus.

And he was sent off to Rome, for his schooling,

So well taught, he became both clerk and knight.

Then a message came to him, sent from this land,

The news, no less, that his father was no more,

And that he must come swiftly to his kingdom.

So, the tidings ran, and that same he did outright;

To this land he came and received the crown.

Arviragus had been rich, Maurus grew richer,

And, in this land, he fostered peace and quiet.

Here was abundant good, bliss and plenty.

And so, all things stood, till, over the sea-flood,

Came one Rodric, a king unlike to the others.

He came from Scythia, unlike all other lands,

And brought with him a mighty host of Picts.

Once this Rodric was fully grown, and able

To wreak evil, he fared ever over the flood,

And in many a land did evil, and never good.

Full many a hundred burghs had he destroyed.

Now he came, by the sea-strand, into Scotland,

And the land he wasted, bringing it great harm;

O’er the land he went, harrying and harming.

The news of all this came to Maurus the king,

How this King Rodric was ravaging the land.

And so, he sent his messengers everywhere,

Ordering every man, that would honour him,

To come, and well-armed, to the royal court.

The army gathered, and the king went forth,

He fared towards Scotland, and met with Rodric.

There they fought most fiercely; the Picts fell.

Rodric was slain, then drawn apart by horses.

Then did Maurus the king a famous thing.

On the very spot where had slain Rodric,

He had a most wondrous stone pillar raised.

And caused strange runes to be writ thereon,

As to how Rodric died and was dismembered.

And how the Picts were beaten in that battle.

He set the stone up, and it stands there yet,

And so will it do, until this world has end.

Maurus named the stone, called it Westmoring,

And much of the land that lay all about it,

The king took in hand; tis called Westmorland.

And now you know the reason it is so called.

Once the Picts had been conquered in the fight,

With Rodric dead, and full many slaughtered,

There were yet fifteen hundred that were left,

And they were the finest fighters in his host.

They had a noble, a chieftain, as their leader,

And he retreated, to seek defensive shelter,

To save their lives, and then depart the land.

Three brave earls had seen them quit the fight,

And to which part the band of men had fled.

These earls and their knights followed after,

And drove them into a wood, wreaking harm.

Now, this fair wood stood amidst a weald,

And none might escape, behind or before,

So, all of them they captured, and slew none,

But bound them, and brought them to the king,

So that he might behead them all, or hang them.

The king spoke to them; they sued for grace,

And begged him earnestly, of his great mercy,

To make them slaves, that they might serve him,

And, thus, would do his bidding all their lives.

The king granted them mercy as they sought,

And gave them a large tract of land in hand,

All about Caithness, and they settled there.

The land was good but, since the great flood,

The earth had ne’er been ploughed there or sown,

Nor had any man living dwelt in that place.

When tilled, they found the land most fertile.

They ploughed and sowed, and reaped and mowed.

The Picts of Caithness marry women from Ireland

Within three years, they named twelve envoys,

And these set forth, and came into this realm.

They greeted the Britons with peaceful words,

Wishing them well and prosperous, and said:

‘We seek from yourselves a gift that is most dear,  

To take, from among you, women as out wives,

And then will there be love between our kinfolk.’

The Britons on hearing this, showed their disdain,

And ordered them to depart from out their land;

Ne’er would they have that for which they yearned.

The Picts, offended, returned thence to their kin,

And related the outcome of their failed mission.

Those folk then sent their envoys forth to Ireland,

To that island’s king, one Gille Caor by name,

And asked that they wed the women of his land.

And the king granted them all that they desired.

Through those women, who dwelt among them,

The folk began to speak the speech of Ireland.

And, ever after, tis the usage of their land.

The death of Maurus, and the succession

Maurus the king ruled all this isle in peace,

And e’er, in his time, the people were blithe.

But then came the day that the king lay dead.

Forth came the king’s son; his name was Coil,

He was strong, and bold, and firm of mind,

And knew all the laws that governed Rome.

Alas he lived not long, to his people’s woe,

But, while he lived, he held the land in bliss.

Coil the king, he that was Britain’s prince,

Had a son most dear to him, named Lucius.

He was the best that ever ruled this kingdom

Since Brutus came to Britain and claimed it.

Lucius was nobly born, and well-instructed,

He was most worthy, and the Britons loved him.

Many an excellent thing King Lucius knew;

There was no man under heaven more learned.

Through this king, Britain was Christianised.

The man that would hear how it came about,

This text will tell him, and in words of truth,

How King Lucius came first to worship Christ.

The Christianisation of Britain (during Eleutherius’ reign as Pope c174-c189AD)

Excellent men came forth, then, out of Rome.

They came to the king, and gave him the news,

Of all Peter did in Rome, and the martyrdom

That he and the other saints had undergone.

Then Lucius the king exceedingly desired

To know far more of our lord, Jesus Christ.

There were then in Rome most excellent men.

And a holy man, Eleutherius, was the Pope.

Lucius, the king, sent some of his closest men,

To seek audience of the Pope, and to greet him,

And ask him in God’s name, of his goodness,

To send to the king in Britain some holy man,

For the king wished to receive Christ’s creed here,

And so live virtuously, and worship the Lord,

He, and all of the people in this land of his.

Eleutherius was most joyful at these tidings,

There was no man on earth who was so blithe

As that holy man when he heard their words.

The Pope sent two bishops that knew God’s law,

Hither he directed them, and forth came they,

That God’s messengers might come to this land,

To Lucius the king, and his noble household.

Then Deruvian, and the other bishop, Fagan,

Spoke a sermon, before the king, he liked well.

Ere the sermon was done he longed for baptism,

And all his knights they yearned for it, outright.

The king was baptised and his nobles with him,

And all the Britons that must submit to be so.

All those folk who scorned to receive baptism,

Were yet forced to convert, on pain of death.

Once this was done, the bishops did otherwise;

They roamed over Britain, and every temple,

That the Britons had built here, they came to.

They threw all the vestments there out the door,

And did the best they could to cleanse the walls,

And all the idols, all the statues of ‘Mahound’,

Were dragged out by the legs, or by the arms,

And such were then destroyed in a blazing fire.

Once this was done, they again did otherwise,

Fared forth, and then, supported by God’s grace,

Journeyed they from place to place, and laboured

And blessed all the shrines in the Saviour’s name.

Once this was done, they again did otherwise.

They appointed bishops to oversee the people,

And over them archbishops, to rule the clergy,

And many a church they built, in many a place,

And appointed the priests there, as was needed,

Once this was done, they again did otherwise.

And Lucius came, and bestowed land all about,

To ensure God’s peace, and freed the churches.

And in many a place the law is as he decreed.

Nonetheless, it was oft corrupted later,

Much debased in most hateful and wicked ways,

And only then restored, as the Lord would wish.

When all was done, the bishops sailed for Rome,

And left this land of Britain in God’s hands,

And those of Lucius, dear to them in heart,

And so all here fared well for many a year.

The death of Lucius, and the arrival of Septimius Severus (208AD)

Lucius, the king, lived and ruled full long,

Two and forty winters, and with much bliss.

For food was plentiful, and the folk rejoiced,

While reaping rich harvests, beyond measure.

And so, they began to stray, and they forgot

All that noble Bishop Deruvian, had taught,

And Fagan his companion, the while before.

Now, all was peaceful while Lucius yet lived,

But there came the day when the king lay dead.

In Gloucester he, to whom peace was dear, died,

And twas there the noble Britons buried him.

The world had aged two hundred years or so,

Since Christ was born, when the monarch died,

And once Lucius was dead, all things went ill.

For he left behind him nor sister nor brother,

Nor queen, nor kin, that might rule the realm.

To Rome came tidings of Lucius the king,

Of his death, and of the lack of any counsel.

Severus was then emperor, born in Libya,

His army strong, when he came to this land.

Severus thought to swift subdue the realm,

But the Britons were active and did much harm,

While they fought him oft, in many a battle.

Severus bethought him as to what he might do,

He kept his men peaceful, and law-abiding,

Such that none might be so wild or witless,

As to cause trouble, on pain of life or limb,

With regard to aught that came to his notice.

The Britons, who were observant, saw this,

That Severus kept all peaceful in his army,

While amongst themselves all was conflict.

The Britons gathered, full seven thousand,

And spoke with Severus, seeking such calm,

And this he pledged to them, with gifts of worth.

Then Severus’ men were much emboldened,

He deposed the Britons that were then in power,

Earning much love from all men that sought peace.

He marched to London, and was welcomed there,

And then ranged the realm, setting it in hand.

And ever his sworn enemies ran before him,

So much so that they fled beyond Humber,

And as far as that country held by the Picts,

Who welcomed them, and made them allies.

There they made a noble knight their leader,

A fine knight and handsome, named Fulgenes.

He it was who would rule, and counsel them.

Severus battles the alliance of Britons and Picts led by Fulgenes

Fulgenes took in hand the north of Scotland,

The north was dear to him, and called Daeire.

Severus marched south, away from Scotland,

And led his legionaries once more to London,

While Fulgenes from Scotland wrought harm.

He troubled the realm with many a fierce attack;

And plunder he took, and many a man he slew,

Long, from Scotland, much sorrow did he sow.

Severus knew of this, that was emperor then,

And afterwards all this land stood in his hand.

So, the emperor sent messengers everywhere,

And gathered many a workman from all lands,

And caused a dike to be made, wondrous deep,

And most strong and wide, on Scotland’s border;

From sea to the opposite sea, this great dike ran.

And atop he built a wondrously fashioned wall,

And set knights there, to guard it night and day,

So, neither the Picts nor any other might cross,

Yet they sought for peace, and to speak with him,

And to live henceforth with Severus as emperor.

Fulgenes witnessed its building and completion,

A barrier to entering this land, by day or night.

He could find no tactics that seemed good to him.

Therefore, he summoned his thanes to a husting,

That they might counsel him, in his great need.

They advised him to fare forth into Scythia,

And swiftly he did so, and was welcomed there.

He spoke with the Picts, and promised them much,

Such that they gathered a host in that country,

And came by sea, and passed into this our land.

They marched straight to York, against the Britons,

And soon, in full strength, besieged the burgh.

Through letters and word of mouth, Fulgenes

Called upon all his friends throughout the land

To come aid him there, for they could but gain;

He would treat them well, and they win honour,

And they would be dear to him, while he lived.

Many a Briton heard this and was emboldened

To leave Severus’ side, and join with Fulgenes,

Who gave them fair welcome, and promised gold.

Now Severus saw all that Fulgenes was doing,

And he gathered a host of the folk of this land,

And marched towards York, where he met his end.

When he arrived, Fulgenes was there before him.

The two armies joined in battle, most fiercely;

Folk without number were slain on both sides.

There, Severus died, and many of his Romans,

While Fulgenes was wounded wondrous sorely,

Such that, upon the third day, he died in pain.

On Severus, the Britons, there, passed judgement,

Those who held power saying amongst themselves:

‘Severus was a fine knight, and he ruled us fairly

While we served him, ere we turned to Fulgenes.

Now, through their ill counsel both are dead.

Let us take Severus’ corpse, and carry it to York,

And there we shall bury him, with much honour,

And repay the good he did us, in days gone by.’

So, they did, as they had previously determined.

Events following the death (211AD) of the emperor Severus

Severus left two sons; these were their names:

Basian was the elder, and Geta the younger.

Brothers they, yet not of the same mother.

Basian’s mother was of this land of Britain,

While Geta’s mother was of Roman descent.

The Britons took Basian and made him king,

While the Romans made Geta their emperor.

The Britons were restive, and loved Basian,

While the Romans instead loved Geta greatly.

There was much strife between the brothers,

They gathered their forces, and met in battle,

And there King Basian slew Geta his brother,

And the Romans then departed from Britain,

While many were slain in that mighty conflict.

The usurpation by Carrais, and his reign

There was a young man lived in Basian’s reign,

Carrais was his name, and a subtle man was he.

His father was a lowly knight, the son most stern,

And the most restive man there was in Britain,

And he cared not a jot for any man alive.

It was ever a source of woe to this Carrais

That Basian was the king over all Britain.

Basian kept the peace, Carrais liked it not.

At that time there came to the sea-coast here

Full sixty ships manned by a band of pirates.

Carrais bethought him of a most subtle plan;

In its pursuit, he would fare forth to Rome.

Forth he went to Rome, and soon arrived,

And talked with the emperor and the army.

For thus spoke Carrais, the great deceiver:

‘Hail to you, Syrian, King Basian greets you,

And sends this message by word of mouth,

He can no longer send tribute from Britain,

For twice have his men set out to deliver it,

Yet out at sea were pirates that slew them all

And stole the treasure on its way to Rome.

These outlaws are so strong by land and sea,

That none may sail the waves at their ease.

And yet, if it be your will to hear my plea,

But grant me your writ, and twelve good ships,

And, protected by the power of your decree,

I shall go to sea, and slay these marauders,

And bring you the whole tribute out of Britain.

For I am a knight’s son, with many kindred,

And my father has a fine fortress by the sea,

And he has knights enough, and men in plenty,

And they will help me slay this pirate band;

My hands will guard your tribute and your land.’

The emperor listened to Carrais the deceiver,

And granted the man everything he desired.

He gave him his written orders, and weapons,

And then he sent him forth again to this land.

Thus, Carrais fared, and soon arrived in France,

Showing the emperor’s writ where’er he went.

He spoke to his kin, of all he’d done in Rome,

And his folk flocked to him from every side.

He marched to the sea-shore with a mighty host,

For his cavalry were a full five hundred strong,

Accompanied by countless warriors on foot.

He took the ships by the shore into his hands,

And went forth on the sea, over the waves.

Thus, in a short while, he arrived in Britain,

And ravaged the realm of Basian the king.

Carrais sent messengers o’er all this land,

And bade every young man that was idle,

Every outlaw that had found refuge here,

Every knight’s son that would prove himself,

And every brave man that would treasure win,

To come to him and so gain gold and spoils.

His words were swiftly known far and wide;

Soon the fractious and ambitious gathered.

Thirty thousand at least sided with Carrais.

Then they marched forth all along the coast,

And robbed and ravaged, and left naught behind.

Castles they took, and many Britons they slew,

While many a noble Briton was burnt to death.

East and West they fared, the land made waste,

North to Scotland where they wrought much harm,

Then back to this realm, slaying all the people.

Carrais sent a ready man to the British chiefs,

Who told them of Carrais’ speech, as uttered:

‘Carrais the strong sends these words from camp,

And from afar sends greetings to the Britons.

You are goodly men, and I offer you peace,

And freedom will I grant, and friendship hold,

If you’ll but make me king over your country.’

And the Britons answered, being loyal men,

That naught could make them depose their king,

Nor, for any man alive, would they fail Basian.

This then was their reply to Carrais the strong,

And Carrais bethought him what he might do.

He sent two wise knights as envoys to the Picts,

Who dwelt on the lands neighbouring Basian’s.

To them they bore a message from Carrais.

Promising them a wealth of worldly goods.

The Picts they were wicked and lacked honour,

They pledged him their word, and swore it true,

That they would betray Basian, and in battle.

Carrais was most pleased on hearing this,

And he sent messengers outright to the king,

And told him he must fight or flee the realm.

Then said Basian ‘Ere that, you’ll see me dead!’

Within seven nights, the armies met in battle,

Before the city of York; fierce was the fight.

When the Picts were called upon, they deserted,

Leaving Basian and his Britons on the field.

Carrais charged and pierced him with a spear.

They slew the Britons, and captured hundreds,

And then was all this land in Carrais’ hands.

Then he sent the Picts north again to Scotland,

And he granted them much land in that realm,

And their kin dwelt in that place ever more.

Exceeding-soon the tidings came to Rome,

As to all Carrais had done, slaying Basian.

They assembled two armies there in Rome,

And they were led by two great noblemen,

Allectus was the one, a man wise and strong,

And the other was named so, Livius Gallus.

They marched from Rome, they sailed to this isle,

And then advanced to meet Carrais the king.

Carrais, they slew, and his knights they captured.

Thus, the Romans again subdued the people,

And Allectus took much of the isle in hand.

King Asclepidiotus besieges London

There yet were many Britons still unconquered,

Men with strong castles, burghs long and wide.

Messengers passed south-westwards to Cornwall,

Seeking one Asclepidiotus, that was its duke.

He came in haste, and they crowned him king.

To him true thanes among the British gathered,

And all the knights he summoned to himself,

In pain of being dubbed as cowards by all.

Allectus, now the ruler, marched to London,

While the British king pursued him swiftly.

On a holy day, as the folk made sacrifice,

Allectus, the ruler, was in the temple, there,

With all of the Romans that were in London.

Then Allectus heard a mighty noise, indeed,

For all the citizens of London were stirring,

Allectus leapt up, and he drew his weapon,

And, with all the Romans there, he went forth,

Marched from the city, and saw, before him,

A vast host, drawn he knew not from whence.

The Britons advanced and, in the bitter onset,

Allectus, they slew, many men they captured,

While others retreated swiftly to the burgh.

The earl, Lucius fled, likewise, to the city,

Had the gates barred, and manned the walls,

While the Britons rode furiously about them,  

And laid siege to the burgh as best they could.

Then King Asclepidiotus, that noble knight,

Sent his messengers to Scotland, seeking men,

And Wales, to add Welsh-Britons to his forces,

And sent others to the west, into Cornwall,

Ordering every man with a beard on his chin,

To come to London, on pain of life or limb.

For seven nights, the reinforcements gathered,

Then attacked the walls with wondrous strength.

While Livius Gallus defended the place ably.

Finally, the Britons broke through the walls,

And entered within, and the burgh was won.

Livius Gallus retreated to the fort within,

And entered it with all his Roman forces,

While the British king besieged the fortress,

And the Britons attacked it in full strength.

The death of Gallus and his Romans

Finding his situation most perilous, at best,

Livius addressed Britain’s king, from the wall:

‘King Asclepidiotus, you battle most bravely.

I would speak with you; I seek, by your grace,

To depart, peacefully, with my men, for Rome.

Let me depart, with all my remaining forces,

And I will swear to you, and keep my word,

That I will ne’er sail here, to this isle, again.’

Asclepidiotus heard him, and thought it good,

And he granted Livius all that he requested.

Forth from the fort they came, and so swore,

And then they issued forth out of London.

Then came the Scottish king to join the host,

And encountered Livius Gallus and his men.

Columban, King of the Scots, he cried aloud:

‘Where be you, my knights out of Galloway?

Where you be then my good men of Moray?

Where be you, my Scots? Come, follow me.

We shall avenge our friends and fell our foes.

If this King Asclepidiotus spoke with them

And of his grace then granted them their lives,

I was not there, nor any of my comrades,

Nor will we hold to it, but avenge the dead.’

They raised their spears and swiftly advanced,

And fiercely they felled their Roman foes.

Gallus, they captured, then beheaded him,

Hurling his corpse into the stream nearby.

And all the dead they dragged to that brook,

Where Gallus lay, submerged beneath them.

Then was the land cleansed of the Romans;

And so, the Britons gave that brook a name.

Since Gallus lay there, they named it Galli,

The which, in the English tongue, is Walbrook.

Now I have told you how it won that name,

And so that stream shall be called ever more.

The death of Asclepidiotus (c286AD, Diocletian being emperor)

Then was Asclepidiotus king, that noble knight,

For full ten years he dwelt among the Britons.

Then came his death; it was a wicked thing,

That he should so soon depart from this life,

For the Britons loved him, that was most just.

In Gloucester dwelt an earl, of a noble line,

He the greatest nobleman alive in Britain.

Coel was his name, this noblest of all here,

He was of Gloi’s kin, that ruled Gloucester.

And he fought Asclepidiotus in battle,

And Coel, in that fight, he slew the king.

During all this, the land was much troubled,

Such that the Roman emperor, Diocletian,

Sent Maximian hither to this country,

And he arrived here with a mighty army.

On reaching London, he found that Coel

Had won himself the kingship in battle.

He and Maximian spoke warmly together,

And there the pair swore an oath of friendship.

Then Maximian said: ‘My lord, Diocletian,

Has placed in my two hands all of the lands

Between Mont Aiguille, and your Scotland,

Commanding that I pass through them all,

And slay all those folk that are Christians.’

Then was Coel, that was the king of Britain,

Sorrowful that he had sworn him friendship.

Coel did naught; Maximian did his will,

Beheading every Christian that he found,

And marking those who renounced their faith.

Thus, this Maximian martyred Saint Alban,

And, likewise, Saint Julian and Saint Aaron,

And two anchorites dwelling at Caerleon.

There was ne’er a bishop, clerk or knight,

No matter how mighty that was not slain,

Unless that same renounced Christianity.

When all was done Maximian departed,

And left Coel as the ruler of all Britain.

The reign of King Coel; Constantius in Britain (305AD)

The king had a daughter, she most dear to him,

And he gave his realm into this daughter’s hands,

For he had no son that he might crown as king.

This maid, named Helena, afterwards was queen

In the realm of Jerusalem, to the people’s bliss.

This maid was well taught, of great learning,

For, out of books, she gathered much knowledge,

And she dwelt here in this land with her father.

Not long after the fight, news had reached Rome,

That Coel had slain the king, Asclepidiotus,

Which pleased the Romans, for the latter

Had in his day slain many of their kindred.

But Maximian came not from Rome again,

For Diocletian now appointed a brave earl,

That was the most courageous man in Rome,

And had subdued many a land to his hand.

There was none in his day dared go against him.

So, the emperor sent him to this our island;

He entered the country with a mighty host.

Constantius was this earl, noblest of knights,

Now Coel heard that Constantius was here,

And greatly therefore he feared for his life.

He straightway summoned six wise knights,

And he sent them to Constantius the earl.

Through them, he welcomed him to this land,

And said he would come and speak with him

If he would guarantee a peaceful meeting.

The earl said that he would bring twelve knights,

And soon the pair met, and spoke together.

Then said King Coel: ‘Harken now to me,

Constantius, I assert, and e’er shall do so,

That indeed I slew King Asclepidiotus.

Who, wickedly, slew full many of your kin,

And, forcibly, withheld from you the tribute,

And, for bringing such shame upon you so,

Richly deserved the fate that he suffered.

For I was one of the noblemen that swore,

That we would send the tribute to Rome.

Our oath the king broke; and so, he is dead.

Let us cease to fight, and turn to what is right,

And I will submit, and hold you as my lord,

Show obedience and regard you as my master,

And send Britain’s tribute to Rome each year.’

Then noble Constantius, the brave, replied:

‘Coel you are wise, and wisdom follows you.

Be a good king, and be lord of the people,

And all things shall be as you’ve requested.

And with honour your homage I’ll receive,

For you did well, by slaying Asclepidiotus.’

So, they honoured each other and were friends,

And blithely they remained there in the burgh.

Yet, in but a while, there came a sadder time,

For forty days were scarcely come and gone,

And Coel the king lay sick in his chamber.

His head ached badly, and he was sorely ill.

Seven nights and a day the king sickened,

It gripped his chest so he was like to die.

He summoned to his bed his noble thanes,

To give him counsel, in his hour of need,

As to how to bestow Helena his daughter.

When all had spoken, they gave their counsel,

That Constantius should take her as his queen,

And the royal lands receive in his two hands.

And thus did Coel, that was King of Britain,

And, as fate indeed decreed, then Coel died.

Constantine made king on his father’s death (306AD)

Constantius then took Helena as his queen,

Who was the wisest woman in all Britain,

By this queen, Constantius sired a child,

That, when it was born, was of God’s elect,

And the folk were blithe that dwelt in Britain.

Then the greatest noblemen all met together,

And gave the child a name that was most fair,

They saw a likeness, and so, from the name

Of his father, they called the son Constantine,

And the child was dear to every Briton’s heart,

Whose mother Helena was queen of this land.

He waxed, and throve; God’s favour was upon him;

The Britons loved him, and he them, greatly,

His mother’s kin, she being born in Britain,

While Constantius had been fostered in Rome;

And all whom the lad saw bowed down to him.

When the child was twelve, none was as strong,

When Constantine was angry, none dared speak,

Yet when he was joyful, mild was his manner.

He greatly loved a knight that upheld the right,

And his British kindred honoured him greatly,

While his Roman kin counselled him worthily.

Then, when he was thirteen, his father fell ill,

And, as fate decreed, Constantius then died.

The Britons took the child and made him king.

And the young king ruled this land with wisdom,

As if he were of age, and he was bravest of all.

Constantine defeats Maxentius (at the battle of the Milvian Bridge, 312AD)

At this time the sovereign emperor in Rome

Was named Maxentius; the Fiend loved him.

For he was the worst of those alive on earth.

Rome he wholly destroyed by his evil rule;

The nobles he hated, and the poor he harmed.

There were many in Rome, rich and brave,

Who abandoned the people, and fled the city,

To escape the taint of shame and disgrace,

That this vile emperor brought upon them.

They came to this land, to King Constantine,

And told him of their woe, the sad events,

And all the undeserved shame and injury.

That the emperor Maxentius had created,

And how they had therefore fled from Rome,

And come to this land, for they knew of none

From whom they might gain understanding,

As they could from him, who was of their kin.

They begged him, earnestly, to counsel them

As to how they might now avenge themselves

On Maxentius, who’d diminished their honour.

They so yearned for counsel the king complied.

Saying that he would go forth, in full strength,

Make his way to Rome, and be emperor there,

And thereby take revenge on Maxentius,

Who had sought to diminish their honour so.

Then Constantine, the good, gathered an army,

Of countless men, from many a tribe and place,

And the king then took the road towards Rome,

Such that his force arrived there at full strength.

The king, a fine leader, fought with Maxentius,

And slew the man, and there was bliss enough;

Then were the Roman folk blithe everywhere.

Constantine the king thenceforth ruled in Rome.

Helena, the holy queen, and her three uncles,

Dwelt there; the eldest of these was Leonin,

His younger brothers were Trahern and Marin.

Constantine handed Rome to these brave earls,

That they might govern, and counsel the people.

The lady Helen, the holy queen, went forth

To Jerusalem, with a rich train in company.

And spoke with the noble elders of the Jews,

And she offered them much wealth to aid her,

And give counsel as to how to find the Rood,

Upon which Christ redeemed this middle-earth.

The finding of the True Cross; and events in Rome

The Jews found it, and brought it to the queen.

And she was blithe as ne’er before in her life.

Many a year she lived there, beside the Rood,

While Leonin ruled in Rome under Constantine;

Of the brothers he was the eldest and the wisest.

And the nobles of Rome arranged his marriage

To a woman born of a noble family of Rome.

They were wed, and Leonin took her to his bed,

And there did as is wont, and sired on her a son.

When he was born, they named him Maximian,

And Constantine loved the child most dearly.

So, all things fared there, yet here fared worse.

Octaves of Wales seeks to slay Trahern of Rome

There was in Wales a duke who was most strong.

Octaves was his name, and he of noble kin.

He claimed that all of Britain belonged to him,

All that the sea surrounded; he was most bold.

He gathered a host, and marched o’er all the land,

Slaying the earls here, and enslaving the poor,

Humbling the magistrates, leaving none alone.

All of the realm this Octaves took to his hands.

Now, word of this came to Constantine in Rome,

Of Octaves deeds, the beheading and hanging.

Constantine the emperor was grieved at heart,

For he could, in no wise, come to this kingdom,

For he had all Rome and the empire to govern,

While his mother, Helena, would have him join her.

So, he drew Trahern, his mother’s uncle, aside,

And gave him the task of subduing this land,

For Constantine himself came here no more.

Wealth, he drew on, and men, and built an army,

And gave it Trahern to lead forth to this isle,

Slay Octaves and, as his kin, hold the realm.

Trahern went forth, and journeyed to this land.

Portchester, he reached, with a mighty army.

The Britons, exceeding bold, they barred the gate,

Trahern fought them; the third day they sought peace.

Trahern marched in, and Portchester was won.

From there they made their way to Winchester;

Octaves had reached it first, and had entered in.

The armies met together, they fought and slew,

And there ne’er was greater slaughter in a fight.

Trahern counted his losses, and made his choice,

And departed at night to the sea-shore, forthright.

Ere the Britons knew, his army had all embarked,

And forth they sailed northwards, unto Scotland,

And Scotland Trahern brought beneath his hand.

From there he marauded, this side the Humber,

And ravaged the neighbouring towns in Britain.

Octaves heard of this, he the king of this land,

And, gathering his folk, he marched against him,

So that full soon they met, and there they fought.

Now Trahern had a mighty host that obeyed him,

For Scots, and Picts, and Roman knights were his,

Trahern fought with Octaves and conquered him,

The Scots raised a shout and Octaves took flight,

And the soldiers of Rome they slew the Britons.

Then was Octaves woeful, and fled towards the sea,

And, by the sea-strand, found a vessel to hand.

Into the ship he went, and he sailed for Norway.

But one and thirty knights he had from the fight,

For the rest yet living became Trahern’s men,   

While fifteen thousand were felled, and lay dead.

The king that ruled Norway was named Compert.

Octaves spoke with him, and sought his favour,

Telling of how Trahern had driven him forth:

‘And if you will aid me with your fine warriors,

Such that I may come again to my kingdom,

I will honour you ever, and call you my lord,

In peace and friendship, for as long as I live,

And, after my death, you shall rule my people.’

Compert replied thus, that was this land’s king:

‘You must dwell with me here, one whole year,

And send messages most secretly to Britain,

Given by word of mouth, and in writing too,

By men wise enough to know their meaning,

To your close allies, promising gold and silver,

And land too, if any will slay this same Trahern,

Through poison, magic, or the bite of blade,

That, in some manner, robs him of his powers.

Your troubles then lessened, you may return.

I would escort you there, and make you king.’

Octaves did all that Compert had suggested.

He sent messages to Britain, as Compert taught,

While Trahern, in Britain, was as yet full blithe,

Night after night, blithe, his knights about him.

Now, in Kent there was an earl, named Aldolf,

Trahern’s enemy, one privy to Octaves’ plan,

And often there at court, to acquire the news.

Some merchants said where Trahern would be.

Aldolf went before, with four hundred knights,

Who wondrously weaponed, came from a wood,

Sought out the man and pierced him with a spear,

Putting to flight all Trahern’s great company.

And Aldolf pursued, and many a man he slew.

And after marched to Kent, to a strong castle,

And sent tidings swiftly to Octaves the king.

Octaves made haste to sail to his kingdom,

Was welcomed as king, and found all well done.

He passed over all this land, slaying Romans,

Both rich and poor he sought, and alike he slew,

Wherever they dwelt, and not a man remained.

The question of the succession

For two and twenty years, Octaves ruled here,

In peace and quiet, a friend of all the Britons.

When he was an old man, he fell sorely ill,

The sickness gripped him, and long he suffered.

Then the king bethought him what he might do,

To whom he should deliver all the kingdom

And the governing of the people, after his day.

In a wagon he went to London, to a husting;

There the rich, brave, and wise of Britain came.

To them, the king spoke, and asked their counsel

As to whom he might leave all of his kingdom,

For he had no son that might hold the land,

No child but a daughter whom he held dear,

And on whom he might bestow the realm,

Wedding her to the noblest lord in this land.

Some said he should wed her to Earl Conan,

Who was wise and rich, and most fitting,

While others of all those present disagreed.

There was, in Cornwall, an earl, Caradoc,

He stood before the husting, and he cried:

‘Hark to me, Octaves, my sovereign lord,

I have as yet heard no good counsel offered.

If you grant your kingdom to Earl Conan,

The tidings will soon be known in Rome.

Now Helena is the queen of Jerusalem,

And Constantine the emperor, is there,

While Maximian holds the power in Rome.

Dead are Leonin and his brother Marin,

And Trahern he was slain here by a spear.

Each day in Rome, Maximian the bold

Contends with Gratianus and Valentinian,

While Constantine has forgotten Britain,

And so, we Britons are bereft of friends.

Unless you bestow the kingdom wisely,

The Romans will return to this country,

Slay our friends and allies and cause strife,

And so, will rob us of our lawful rights.

With you gone, we shall have naught but care.

Send to Rome, to Maximian the brave,

He is a man most strong, and Leonin’s son;

His father was Helena’s uncle, and a Briton.

Wed him to your daughter, whom you hold dear;

Make him king, with your daughter as queen.

Then we may live in peace, and friendship, here,

And throughout our lives protect our people,

In joy and honour, and display our wisdom.’

Then Conan arose and stood before the king.

He showed his wrath, angered by the speech,

And spoke against Caradoc, as if to scorn him.

But Caradoc ignored all that Conan uttered,

For all of the husting, there before the king,

Found that the counsel that he gave was needful.

Then cried Octaves, Britain’s great overlord,

Hail to you Caradoc, you shall have honour!

Lend me Maurice your son that is most wise,

That I may send him to Rome in time of need,

To seek of Maximian, the rich and ambitious,

That he might come here soon, while I yet live.

For he shall have my kingdom, and wed Orien,

That is my daughter, and make her his queen.

And a fine reward I shall grant to your Maurice;

I give him Northumberland, with my own hand;

This I’ll bestow upon him, out of my kingdom,

If he’ll but bring Maximian the fine and noble.

Caradoc gave him his son as the king wished,

And Maurice fared forth with three wise knights.

And came, at last, before Maximian, in Rome.

There was much strife there, and little peace,

For he battled with Gratianus and Valentinian,

Who brought much trouble there to Maximian.

Much land they’d seized from him ere Maurice came.

As soon as he saw him, Maximian greeted him,

Welcoming him with many a pleasant word.

And Maurice led him aside to private counsel,

And thus, he spoke, in words wondrously fair:

‘Hark to me Maximian, you are of noble line,

The son of Helena’s uncle, to greatness born.

Now ere I came here, and that not long ago,

Octaves held a husting, there in London,

A fair husting, a gathering of councillors,

For age and sickness have weakened the king.

There was many a knight, and he sought counsel,

As to who should have his realm and his daughter,

And govern his people, after his life was over.

Three of the earls there said they chose Conan,

And that Britain should be given into his hand,

While he took Orien, the princess, as his queen.

Conan’s earldom is that of Kent; my father

Is a noble earl, and his domain is Cornwall.

My father is Caradoc, and indeed is of your kin,

And I am Maurice, the eldest of his children.

When they chose Conan, up leapt my father

As if he were a lion, to oppose their choice.

There was a mighty clamour from the thanes,

But my father called for silence, and spoke thus:

“Helena, in time past, was Constantius’ queen,

She had an uncle, who was noble, in that land,

He, named Leonin, fared forth with Constantine,

While Trahern was his brother, Marin another.

Trahern was slain, treacherously, in Britain,

Conan’s father slew him which was shameful,

For Trahern the king thought they were friends.

Listen well, all you Britons, now gathered here.

Leonin had a son, and in Rome it is he dwells;

Maximian is his name, of a noble British line.

Let us send to Rome, and beg him to come soon,

And, in husting here, raise him up to be our king,

And bestow fair Orien upon him, as his queen,

And then we all may live in peace and concord.”

So spoke my father Caradoc, before the nobles.

And the king replied that the counsel pleased him,

And would delight all of his people in Britain,

But Conan was angered for their choice he hated.

Now, summon your councillors now to council,

And grant me an answer, for the morrow I depart.’

Now Maximian was most pleased at these tidings,

He called for his councillors, and met in council,

And there of Maurice’s request all were advised.

The reign of Maximian, King of Britain

Maximian went forth, in secrecy, from Rome,

Within a seven-night, and with all his knights.

The Romans thought he meant the country harm,

And would fight Gratianus and Valentinian,

The folk being fearful of him and his forces.

But he swiftly made his way towards this land,

And soon he and his men arrived in London.

He brought gifts there for Octaves the king.

The king gave him his daughter, to be queen.

Then was Maximian king, and all seemed well.

Earl Conan, in his wrath, sought out the Scots;

Many Scots came to him, and he built a burgh.

Not in all the world was there a burgh so fair.

Once the burgh was built, and full strong it was,

He chose to name the site there after himself,

And often he rode about, all through the burgh;

Coningsburgh was the name that it was given,

And now and evermore that name shall stand.

Then Conan led a vast army into the north.

He loathed Maximian, who bought many a man.

The wise men of this land, that loved the people,

Caused a meeting between Conan and the king,

There they were reconciled, becoming friends.

And made the best of peace treaties in this land.

The king promised to make him a wealthy man;

So did he after, who thus bought many a lord.

And in peace the king dwelt here a full five years.

Maximian thereby amassed a weight of treasure,

For he sent no tribute from this land to Rome.

When the five years were gone, Maximian said

That he would cross the sea, and fight the French,

And, if he there succeeded, then speed to Rome,

To avenge himself on Gratianus and Valentinian,

Who had done him many an injury in Rome.

So spoke Maximian, he that was most joyful,

For this land was at peace, and under his rule,

And he was awed by naught, Octaves being dead.

Maximian conquers Armorica and appoints Conan its king

The king he summoned an army wondrous strong,

Maximian had sound men, and immense treasure.

Forth he then proceeded, crossing from out this land,

Wrought himself much woe, and came not here again.

O’er the waves he went, and safely reached the shore,

In that rich and fertile land, they called Armorica.

The ships they came to the strand, the men to land.

There he began a castle, as fine as any there was,

Rode about the countryside, and seized much plunder.

His men found spoils enough, to take to their camp,

And then they abducted wondrously-many women,

For they did whate’er they wished in Armorica.

Humbald learned of this, who was lord of the land,

Of how this Maximian was ravaging his realm,

And Humbald sent messengers about the country,

To any of his friends that might aid his cause,

Thinking to drive Maximian from his shores.

The two sides met by day in a mighty battle.

The Britons conquered, and Humbald they slew.

And full fifteen thousand men there met their end.

After the fight, Maximian returned to camp,

And therein, wearied by the fight, he rested.

On the morrow, when it was day, he made ready,

And he marched to the noble burgh named Nantes.

And found therein none that did dare defend it,

Or could withstand them, for the men had fled,

Leaving but a few women behind, therein.

Thus, Maximian took, then garrisoned, the city,

And he summoned to him Earl Conan, and cried:

‘Conan, right well have you maintained the fight,

And great therefore the reward I will grant you.

It is true that you had all Britain in your hands,

And, if I were not, you should be master there.

And yet it must go to Caradoc, who is my kin,

Even thought that, to you, may be displeasing.

But behold the streams, and rich country here,

All the fine woodlands, teeming with wild deer.

See what a pleasant land this may be to dwell in.

This land, called Armorica, I now grant to you.

And far more again if I should live to seize it.

Hereof shall you be king, and govern the land.

Though I’ll drive forth all those that I find alive,

Whether young or old, that I find in this realm,

And whoso I then capture shall indeed be slain,

A message I will send to Athionard, my steward,

For, he is a loyal earl of mine, and ever active,

And to him I handed, Britain, to guard it well,

And he shall send me, into this land we’ve won,

Both men and women skilled in many a craft,

Many a knight and thane, and all their swains,

Six thousand knights in all, all good in a fight,

A thousand thanes, and seven thousand swains,

And seven thousand wise and wealthy burghers,

And thirty thousand women of good status, too.

And once these folk are come here, so to dwell,

Then shall this fair land be people by Britons,

And they shall call this land, ‘Britain the Less’,

And now and for evermore shall that name stand.’

So lapsed Armorica, the name, to rise no more.

Earl Conan received the gift, as the king’s friend,

And held the land truly, and with great honour.

The king sent to Britain, and ordered Athionard,

That was his steward, and had charge of this realm,

To send the folk from here that he requested,

Delivering to sundry vessels those of each craft,

The women apart from men, except for the crew.

This plan proceeded as the king commanded,

And Conan adhered to all things, as agreed.

He then proceeds through Gaul and into Italy

The king then proceeded forth through France

Conquered the realm, and held it in his hand.

Then marched to Lorraine and the land obtained,

And, likewise, he conquered all of Louvain.

Maximian now entered into Lombardy,

And won that land; at that time Caradoc died,

Whereby Maurice his son had woe enough,

And after so great a sorrow, the son died too.

To Rome went Maximian and there he fought

Against Valentinian and Gratianus,

Capturing the one, the other seeking peace.

They were fine knights, the king imprisoned them,

And full soon he held for himself all of Rome.

Now, word came to Conan, of how he had fared,

And that Caradoc had died in Lombardy,

And, Caradoc’s son Maurice, to all men’s woe.

So, Conan sent a messenger, a man of wisdom,

To Athionard the strong, that was steward here.

To Athionard indeed he brought ill tidings,

Caradoc his brother, and Maurice, were dead.

Caradoc, he’d had no brother but Athionard,

And so, the latter now ruled his brother’s lands.

Conan maintains his realm in Brittany

When the Gauls heard Maximian was in Rome,

And Caradoc was dead, then they took counsel,

And agreed they’d drive Conan from the land,

From the realm that Maximian had gifted him,

That which was ‘Britain the Less’, or Brittany.

Conan sought not peace, and fought them fiercely,

And made sure his castles were well fortified,

And his men were most loyal that came from here.

There were all the folk Maximian had promised,

The earls, and the thanes, and swains, and others,

And all the burghers that Maximian had brought.

Of women, there were but fifteen hundred or so,

And they had nigh refused to depart this land,

Until Athionard, that was highest in the realm,

Stood surety their time would not be wasted.

Now Athionard had a daughter, dear to him,

The most well-favoured of all maids on earth,

The woman was blessed; her name was Ursula.

And, to Athionard, Conan sent a messenger,

Seeking the daughter, to make her his queen.

Athionard gave answer, honour he had thereby:

‘Conan’s honour brings honour on my daughter!

And a seven-night hence I will send her to him,

Escorted by my knights, with all the women

Whom my lord Maximian has requested,

Thither they shall go upon pain of death,

For else shall I torment them, and slay them.’

Then Athionard, the steward of all this land,

Prepared to send his lovely daughter Ursula,

Fairest among women, over the ocean-stream,

To go wed with Conan the strong, in Brittany.

When the women of Britain heard the news,

That her father sent Ursula from the land,

Many were those that came to her, to say

That they would accompany her to Conan.

Very many besought her, more than might go.

The fate of Ursula, Athionard’s daughter

When the day came that Athionard had named,

Upon which Ursula the maid should depart,

Then were there gathered twenty-seven ships

All safely anchored in the port of London.

There, upon the Thames, they raised their sails,

The wind was fair, and the weather of the best,

And they sailed forth till they came to the sea,

And, after a little while, they lost sight of land.

Then a wind arose that blew hard against them,

Thick black clouds appeared, darkening the sun;

There was hail and rain, alarming those aboard.

The waves smoked as if towns were burning,

The planks were shattered, and the women wept.

Of the ships that sailed ahead, twelve were lost,

The rest, half-wrecked, were driven by the storm,

Their steersmen aboard now rendered useless.

Ne’er was there any man born, not in any land,

Of so severe a mind, or one so hard-hearted,

That could have heard the weeping and wailing,

And wondrous loud calling to the saints above,

And not have grieved at their measureless woe.

Since this world was made, and set in our hands,

There never came worse trouble to any women.

Some of the ships rode out the storm, fifteen;

In one was fair Ursula; now the sea ran wild,

The sounding waters were bitterly enraged.

The vessels laboured northwards o’er the waves;

For three days and three nights they laboured.

There were two earls, aboard ship, out of Norway,

Melga and Wanis who were both keen and able.

Wanis had wrought much harm in Hungary,

Melga in Scythia, where he’d made trouble,

Such that he might not linger in that country.

Both had been driven in battle from Norway,

And, outlawed from Denmark also; this pair

Had roamed o’er the boundless waters widely,

And upon the seas had fared full seven years.

They’d read, in the sky, the signs of this storm,

And had drawn towards an isle to take shelter;

And lay at anchor there, as the tempest raged.

They watched the ships driven by, one by one,

A few, then more, then none, then four and five,

Wondering what those wretched vessels were,

That were so storm-tossed on the raging sea.

The wind began to lessen, the weather calmed,

And Wanis, as he watched the errant vessels,

Turned, and spoke to Melga his companion:

‘Let us sail forth, and chase them down swiftly!

With fifteen of our fleet, we shall pursue them,

Filled with our knights that are best in a fight;

And let our other ships guard the anchorage,

For here is some rich king, devoid of counsel,

Proceeding to some far land, with his people,

That has met with this wild wind and weather,

And finds himself more woeful than e’er before.

Let us go, and if our dear lord Apollo wills it,

We’ll fight and overcome him and his knights,

And then slay them if they be not of our creed.

Thus, we may take in hand their gold and silver,

Return to our refuge and boast of the spoils!’

Forth on the flood they went with fifteen ships,

The finest vessels, and strongest, of their day,

And the outlaws met five ships full of women.

Wondering who they were, they called to them,

But the women, mortally fearful, answered not,

They drew alongside; those five ships they took,

And sailed on further, and then captured nine,

And returned with the fourteen ships to the isle.

Ne’er has it been told, since the world was made,

Neither in books or song, or in simple speech,

That any women were treated so wretchedly,

Nor so piteously betrayed, upon the ocean.

Melga took Ursula, who’d thought to be queen,

And dealt her shame, and had her to his bed.

And when that heathen had so wreaked his will,

He gave her to his followers for their pleasure.

Of the other women, countless many they slew,

Casting the most into the depths of the sea,

While some they later sold, for silver and gold.

Some forsook Christ, and took to heathendom,

Though the most were thus betrayed to sorrow.

Melga and Wanis expelled from Britain

Now Melga and Wanis had heard it reported

That this land of Britain was bereft of knights,

For Conan had led a host to Armorica,

While Maximian had led the like to Rome,

And thus was this kingdom much the weaker.

Melga and Wanis headed north to Scotland,

Ranging this land, and harrying and burning,

Plundering for spoils, and slaying all the folk.

And thus, their force marched beyond the Humber,

Wreaking harm, and rendering the country poor.

This the noble Britons heard of, and knew woe.

They appointed envoys, and sent them to Rome,

They greeted Maximian, and spoke of Melga,

And his comrade, Wanis, and what they did here.

Now Maximian was sorrowful at their tidings,

And released Gratian the fair from his bonds,

Summoned him before him, and said to him:

‘Now, Gratian, be my man, and all shall go well,

For I shall send you, in my name, into Britain,

And all that kingdom I shall set in your hands,

And, as Athionard was, you’ll be my steward,

And drive forth the foreigners from that realm,

And, if all is done well, I shall make you rich.’

Then Gratian answered him, with mild speech:

‘This I’ll do, as you wish, and hold you for lord.’

Many an oath is sworn, and many are broken!

Maximian the emperor gathered a great host,

Choosing ten thousand of the bravest knights,

And then appointed Gratian as their leader.

And so, they issued forth into this kingdom,

And here they overcame Melga and Wanis;

Well, was it done, that Gratian overcame them.

And drove them from these shores, into Ireland.

And marched o’er this land, dearest to him of all.

Maximian deposed; Valentinian II emperor (388AD)

Now, Maximian was the ruler there in Rome,

And kept Valentinian imprisoned in a castle,

Who, like Gratian, had a wealth of kin in Rome

That saw the one brother parted from the other.

They sent messengers into Apulia, these kin,

And sent to Gradie, the Duke of Lombardy,

And into Germany sent, to the nobles there,

And into many another neighbouring land,

Bidding all the warriors everywhere to gather,

And, at a time appointed, to come to Rome,

And support the brothers against Maximian.

Maximian, the wealthy, knew naught of this,

Rather he dwelt in Rome, in great splendour.

After a little time, the hostile host appeared.

And Rome was besieged then by seven kings,

Who shattered the walls and rode in, over all.

The city they took, and Maximian they slew,

Delivering Valentinian, and his comrades,

From out the prison, and made him emperor.

They chose envoys, and sent the men to Britain,

To bring Gratian news of all that had been done,

And Gratian then took charge of this kingdom.

Gratian is king in Britain

Gratian held the realm that Maximian had ruled,

While Valentinian possessed the realm of Rome.

For, through wise counsel Maximian was dead,

And the folk, here, knew that Gratian was king.

Yet within the year, for indeed it was no longer,

King Gratian proved the most wicked of men.

He ruined the realm, its people hateful to him.

The rich he destroyed, the poor he drove away,

The wealthy nobles all feared to approach him,

And all shunned him, fleeing far from their king.

The End of Part III of Layamon’s ‘Brut’