Part V: From Aurelius to Arthur

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

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Aurelius Ambrosius marches against Hengist

There was an earl, of Gloucester, named Aldolf,

Noble was he, and the most skilful of knights.

Now, Aurelius made him steward of this land,

When Aurelius there, and Uther his brother,

Had felled their foe, and were thus the blither.

Hengist, strongest of knights learned of this,

And he was greatly afeared of these brothers,

So marched his host north towards the Scots,

While Aurelius hastened after him at speed,

For Hengist thought by guile to escape him,

By fleeing into Scotland with his whole army,

If he could not, now pursued, stay in this land.

Aurelius marched forth, and led his forces north,

Marching with all their might for a seven-night.

The Britons, full bold, passed o’er the weald,

Aurelius now showing his strength in numbers,

And found the people slain, the land ravaged,

The churches burnt; the Britons, thus, consumed.

Then said Aurelius the king, Britain’s darling:

‘If it should come to pass that, hither, I return;

If the Lord so wills it, He that brings us light,

That I survive, and obtain my rightful realm,

Churches I will raise, and the Lord I will praise;

I will grant due rights to every single knight,

And to every person, whether old or young,

I shall be gracious, if God grant me victory.’

News of Aurelius had reached Hengist’s ears;

Then spoke Hengist, most treacherous of knights:

‘Hearken now, my men, you shall gain honour,

For Aurelius comes, with Uther, his brother,

And many a warrior they bring us, all ill-fated.

For the king lacks wisdom, as do his knights,

And his brother’s a knave, one with the other.

Therefore, the Britons will lack our boldness;

When the head is ill, then worse is the body.

So, remember this right well, this that I utter:

Fifty of us are worth five hundred of them,

Which oft they’ve found, since we came here.

For tis widely known, regarding our bold deeds,

That we are warriors to set among the best.

Against them we’ll stand, forth from the land

We shall drive them all, and win it to our will.’

So spoke Hengist, boldly, fairest of all knights,

Exhorting his troops, ere they took the field,

And yet, ere a seven-night, all went otherwise.

Now, forth came tidings to Aurelius the king,

That Hengist was positioned on a hill-side.

Aurelius led there thirty thousand riders,

Bold Britons, threatening the foe, in force,

And of Welshmen too, he’d wondrous many.

He had his knights fully-armed day and night,

With their weapons sharpened, ready for war,

For, ever, was he wary of those heathen folk.

When Hengist heard that Aurelius drew near,

He gathered his host, and marched against him.

When Aurelius heard Hengist was on the move,

He took to the field, armed behind his shield,

And led forth ten thousand knights, forthwith,

That were the noblest, the best of all his host,

Who took to the field, on foot, behind shields;

And ten thousand Welsh he sent to the woods,

And ten thousand Scots held the roads and ways.

Then he took his earls and his household guard,

His most faithful warriors present in the land,

And made a shield-troop, as thick as a forest,

Five thousand riders, to support the others.

Then said Aldolf, the mighty Earl of Leicester:

‘If the Lord above, who orders the fate of all,

Grants me to be where Hengist comes riding,

That has so long, in this our land, remained,

He who betrayed my friends to fell death,

Through the knives of his folk, by Amesbury,

And I regain from that earl, this our country,

Then in truth I’ll say God had been good to me,

For I shall have felled my foes to the ground,

And avenged the dear kindred they have slain.’

They say that scarcely had his speech ended,

When they saw Hengist riding o’er the down,

And a mighty host came marching behind him.

Together the armies came, full fiercely they slew;

There those stern warriors met in harsh encounter;

There the helms rang out; there the warriors fell.

Steel met with bone, and sorrow there was rife,

Where streams of blood flowed o’er the ground,

The fields dyed crimson, and the grasses stained.

When Hengist saw that his luck had failed him,

He retreated from the fight, and swiftly fled,

All his broken ranks following quickly after.

The Christians charged then, and attacked them,

Calling upon God’s son to be to them their aid,

While the heathens cried aloud to their deity:

‘Tervagant, our lord, why do you fail us now?’

When Hengist saw his heathen army fleeing,

He rode outright, till he came to Coningsburgh,

And into the burgh he entered then for safety.

But the King, Aurelius, soon went after him,

And he called out to his men, in a loud voice:

‘Ride ever forth and forth; Hengist rides north!’

And so, they followed, till they reached the burgh.

When Hengist, and his son, saw the foe arrive,

Then said Hengist, of all men most full of wrath:

‘I will flee no more, rather I’ll stand and fight.

Come, Ebissa my son-in-law; Octa my son;

All my vast army now, come stir your weapons,

And we will counter them, and wreak slaughter.

For if we fell them not, then dead men are we,

Laid on the field, and parted from our friends.’

Hengist left camp, and marched o’er the weald,

And made a shield-troop of his heathen force.

Then came Aurelius, with many a thousand,

And a second battle began, both full and fierce.

There was many a harsh stroke dealt in anger.

There were the Christians well-nigh overcome.

Then came a charge by five thousand horsemen,

Aurelius’ cavalry, downing many a heathen;

Then was a mighty fight, most stern the conflict.

Aldolf, Earl of Gloucester, captures the Saxon leader

Aldolf of Gloucester, he charged midst the ranks,

And found Hengist there, that wicked knight,

Who fought right fiercely, felling Christians.

Aldolf drew his sword, and dealt a great blow,

Hengist raised his shield, else he’d been slain,

But Aldolf smote the shield so that it shattered.

Hengist now leapt towards him, like a lion,

And smote Aldolf’s helm which split in two.

They hewed away with many a grim stroke;

Sparks flew from the steel, many and often.

After some while, Aldolf leapt to the ground,

And found Gorlois, a fine knight, beside him,

He was the Earl of Cornwall, and well-known.

Thus was the earl, Aldolf, much emboldened.

He raised his blade on high, and fierce it fell,

Striking Hengist’s hand that gripped his sword,

Then, with a grim look, he grasped the Saxon,

By the rim of the cuirass, guarding his neck,

And, putting forth his strength, dragged him down.

Then, he grasped him as he would crush him,

Raised him in his embrace and led him forth.

So was Hengist taken, by Aldolf the brave!

Then cried Aldolf, that was Earl of Gloucester:

‘Hengist, you were happier far at Amesbury,

Where your people’s long knives slew Britons,

Slaughtering my kin, through your treachery!

Now you’ll pay the price; quit your friends,

Meet cruel death, and all this world forego!’

Hengist was silent, for he saw no help there.

Aldolf led him to his king, and cried, warmly:

‘Hail to you, Aurelius, born of a noble line,

Here is the heathen, Hengist, that wreaked harm,

God granted him to me, and so I grasped him!

Now I grant him you, the dearest of men to me.

Let all your household toy now with this hound,

Shoot with their bows, and so destroy his line.’

Then swift answered the king, with loud cry:

‘Blessings upon you, Aldolf, noblest of earls,

You are as dear to me as is my own life,

And you shall be a lord over many people!’

Men gripped Hengist, and Hengist they bound,

And then most wretched of warriors was he;

The fight was done, and the heathens had fled.

Octa his son, on viewing his father’s plight,

Fled with Ebissa, his brother-in-law, to York,

Doing harm enough, then manning the walls.

More of the heathens had fled to the woods,

Where the king’s men, on foot, laid them low.

Hengist is put to death (488AD, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle)

Aurelius, the king, was well pleased with all,

And rode to Coningsburgh, with all his folk,

And thanked the Lord for His show of might.

Three days and nights, the king rested there,

That his dear knights might heal their wounds,

And rest their weary bones, within the burgh.

On the third day, at Nones, in mid-afternoon

The king caused the trumpets to be blown,

And he summoned all his earls to a husting.

Once they were gathered there, about the king,

He asked his wise nobles for their counsel,

As to the death that Hengist should receive,

Whereby he might avenge his dearest friends,

Who lay beneath the ground, at Amesbury.

Then Aldadus stood, and addressed the king.

He was a holy bishop, humble before God,

And brother to Earl Aldolf, that had no other.

‘Lord king,’ said he, ‘hark now to what I say,

 I’ll give sentence as to how he should die,

For he is, of all the world, most hateful to us,

One that has robbed our kin of light and life.

He is a heathen hound, and Hell must seek,

Down there he shall sink for his treachery.

My lord king, hark now to what I tell you:

There was a king in Jerusalem named Saul,

And a king of the heathens, great in might,

Named Agag, the king of the Amalekites.

Jerusalem, he hated, but the Fiend he loved.

Ever he hated Jerusalem, and wrought harm;

For never did he seek peace, only conflict.

He burnt, slew, and brought trouble enough.

It befell on a day, as the sun began to shine,

When Agag, the king, sat on his high throne,

His blood, fatally stirred, urged him to battle.

So, he summoned his knights to him forthwith:

“Mount your steeds, swiftly, for forth we ride,

All about Jerusalem we will burn and slay!”

Forth went the king, and a vast host behind,

To overrun the land and consume the towns.

Seeing them draw nigh, the men of Jerusalem

Advanced against them, the thanes and swains.

And fought with the king and overcame him,

And they slew his folk, and took Agag captive.

And so, they brought the man to Saul their king.

Then was Saul, the king, blithe as could be,

And he sought counsel of his rich noblemen,

As to what should be the manner of Agag’s death.

Then up leapt Samuel, a prophet of Israel,

A holy man, highly favoured of the Lord;

None there knew any man truer to God’s law.

Samuel led King Agag to the market-place,

And caused him to be bound fast to a stake,

And he took in his right hand a precious blade.

Then Samuel, that good man, called to Agag:

“Agag, once a king, woe is upon you now!

Now shall you pay for harming Jerusalem,

You that have greatly injured this same burg,

And deprived many a man of light and life.

As I hope for mercy, you’ll do so no more!”

Samuel raised the sword, and brought it down,

And hewed him to pieces in the market-place.

And scattered the bloody pieces o’er the street.

What Samuel did should be done to Hengist.’

Aldolf, Earl of Gloucester, he heard all this,

And he leapt towards Hengist, like to a lion,

Grasped him by the hair, and dragged him forth,

And hauled him through all of Coningsburgh,

And bound him to a post, beyond the walls.

Aldolf drew his sword, smote off Hengist’s head,

And, as the Saxon had proved a mighty knight,

He laid him in earth there, after the heathen rite,

Yet prayed that his soul might yet suffer woe.

Octa, Hengist’s son, is treated mercifully

Now, Aurelius the king summoned a husting.

The trumpets were blown, the army gathered,

A wondrous host, and then he marched to York.

And besieged Octa, and his warriors, within.

The king had a ditch dug all about the burgh,

Such that none might come forth nor enter in.

Octa viewed the work, and he felt much woe.

His heathen folk, now besieged in the burgh,

Gathered in council, and sought what to do.

Octa spoke then to his brother-in-law, Ebissa,

And said: ‘I have bethought what I shall do.

I, will go forth half-naked, with my knights,

From out the burgh, a chain about my neck,

And so go before the king, and beg for mercy.

We must follow this counsel, or we shall die.’

They all did as Octa, Hengist’s son, advised.

Removing their clothes, the wretched knights,

Went from the burgh, all those woeful thanes,

Two by two, to the number of two thousand.

Aurelius, the noblest of knights, viewed them,

The half-naked knights, and thought it strange.

The host that now held the land came together,

And watched, as Octa, Hengist’s son, drew near.

He bore in his hands the links of a long chain,

And, before the warriors, he fell to the ground.

And sought the king’s feet, and then he said:

‘For the sake of God, the merciful, have pity;

For the Almighty’s sake, pardon me and mine.

Now all our strength, lord king, is overcome,

Our laws and people are loathsome to the Lord.

Our gods have failed us, Apollo, Tervagant,

Woden and Mercury, Jupiter and Saturn,

Venus, and Didon, Freya and Mamilon.

And all of our rites are hateful to us now;

For we now believe in your Lord above,

All those we worshipped; all have failed us.

We seek your favour, now and ever more.

If you’ll but grant us peace and friendship,

We will cleave to you, and be your true men,

And love your people, and hold to your laws.

And if that displease you, do then your will,

Whate’er you would wish, hang or behead us.’

The king was merciful; his silence he kept;

He looked to his right hand, then to his left,

To see which of his noblemen would speak.

They were all still; they all kept their silence,

For none howe’er noble dared utter a word.

While Octa lay there at the feet of the king,

And all of his knights lay there behind him.

Then spoke good bishop Aldadus, and said:

‘It was e’er the rule, and is now, and shall be,

That when we seek mercy, mercy be shown.

For worthy of mercy are those that seek it.

You yourself, lord king, are head of a people,

So, pardon this Octa, and all his companions,

If they now believe in our Christian message.

For it may yet befall in some land of theirs

That they may most fittingly worship the Lord.

Now stands all this kingdom in your own hands,

Give them a place that to them seems good,

And seek from them hostages, as you require,

And let those then be bound in bonds of iron,

Yet have all the food, and clothing, they need;

Then you might let their people dwell here,

And till the land, and so live by their tillage.

And if it should then befall you, hereafter,

That they fail to remain true to their word,

And weaken in faith, and seek to oppose you,

I say you may do to them whate’er you wish;

Let your men ride to encounter them swiftly,

And let them be slain then, hung or beheaded.

This I permit you; let the Lord above hear.’

Then answered the king: ‘All this I will do,

As you have directed. Arise now, Octa,

You shall be welcomed into Christendom.’

Then was Octa baptised, and all his knights,

All of his company, forthwith, in that place.

They led their hostages before Aurelius,

Three and fifty children they led to the king.

And the king gave them land this side Scotland,

Oaths they swore, that they’d ne’er deceive him.

Sixty hides of land King Aurelius gave them,

And thereon they all dwelt for many a winter.

The king calls for a husting

Now the king was in York, and all seemed well,

And he sent his messengers throughout the realm,

And ordered the bishops, and book-learned men,

The earls, and the thanes, to rally around him,

For King Aurelius would hold a great husting.

It soon came to pass that they gathered together,

And, with fair words, Aurelius welcomed them.

He greeted the earls, and he greeted the barons,

And all the bishops, and the book-learned men:

‘I’ll tell you, truly, why I have summoned you.

Here I give, to each knight, his land and right,

And to every earl, and to every baron here,

Whate’er he may win, to possess it with joy;

And I order each, on his life, to love peace.

I bid you to labour, and repair the churches;

Let all the bells ring, and God’s praises sing,

And, with all your strength, worship the Lord.

Each man shall maintain peace and friendship,

And till the lands, that lie now in my hands.’

They heard his decree, and praised its wisdom.

The king then granted them leave to depart,

And each fared homewards, as best it seemed.

Aurelius seeks Merlin’s counsel

For a full seven-night, the king remained there,

And then he set forth on the road to London,

To gladden the burghers who laboured busily

Strengthening the walls, rebuilding the halls,

Righting all the things that had been broken,

Renewing all the laws of their elders’ day.

And he chose the reeves to rule the people.

And then he went, forthwith, to Winchester,

And caused to be built, halls and churches,

Where’er, it seemed to the king, most pleasant.

And, after that, he went forth to Amesbury,

To the burial-place of his friends, and kindred,

That Hengist’s folk had slain with their knives.

And he sought out masons to hew the stones,

And for skilled men that could handle an axe,

For he thought to make a work wondrous fair,

That should last for as long as men might live.

There was in Caerleon, a bishop, Tremoriun,

A man of wisdom in this world’s kingdom,

And with the king he rode, over the weald.

And Tremoriun, God’s servant, said to him:

‘Hark, Aurelius, to what I make known to you,

And I will grant you the noblest of counsels,

And if you approve it, twill bring you good.

There lives a prophet whose name is Merlin.

If a man might but seek him upon the weald,  

And find a way then to bring him to you,

And, if you swear to obey all he commands,

He will then grant you the best of counsels,

As to how to make the work strong and lasting,

That it might endure as long as men shall live.’

Then answered the king, pleased by his words,

‘Dear friend, Tremoriun, all this shall I do.’

The king sent forth men, through all his realm,

And bade every man ask after this Merlin,

And bring him to the king if they found him,

For he’d give him land, and silver and gold,

And perform his will, in this, his kingdom.

The messengers, they ranged far and wide.

Some went northwards, and some went south,

And some rode east, and some straight west,

And some, that did so, came to Alaban,

That is a well-spring in the land of Wales.

This spring Merlin loved, and oft bathed there.

The knights found him seated, by its brink.

As they drew near, they greeted him warmly,

And forthwith, to him, said the two knights:

‘All hail to you, Merlin, wisest among men!

Through us, the goodly king sends greeting

Aurelius, that is, the noblest of monarchs,

And he beseeches you, warmly, to come to him,

And he will grant you land, silver and gold,

If you will but counsel him as to this realm.’

Then answered Merlin what seemed woe to them:

‘I rate not his land, nor his gold, nor his silver,

Clothes, nor horses; of these I have enough.’

Then, for a long while, the prophet sat silently.

While the knights were fearful lest he depart.

Yet when he spoke again, all then seemed well:

‘You two knights, that are come from the king,

I knew yesterday, ere noon, you would come,

And if I had wished, you’d not have found me.

You bring me greetings from King Aurelius.

I knew of his nature ere he came ashore here,

Likewise of the other son, Uther, his brother;

I knew of both of them, ere they were born,  

Though with my eyes I’ve had sight of neither.

Yet, alas! and alas! that by fate tis so ordered,

That this king of the realm shall ne’er live long.

Now I’ll go with you, and be your companion,

To this king I’ll fare, and I’ll do as he wishes.’

Merlin counsels the king

Forth went Merlin, the two knights beside him,

And, after a while, they arrived at the court.

The good tidings came swift to the monarch,

And ne’er in his life had the king been so blithe

At the coming to meet him of any good man.

The king mounted his steed, and forth he did ride,

And all his knights with him, to welcome Merlin.

The king drew near, and greeted him warmly,

He kissed and embraced him, as his dear friend,

And great was the joy, among all the people,

At the coming of Merlin, that was no man’s son.

Alas, not a wise man, in all of this kingdom,

Knew whose son he was, but the Lord alone!

The king led Merlin, his friend, to a chamber,

And right soon he asked him, in words most fair,

To give him to know of the course of this world,

And to speak of the years that were yet to come.

For, of these things, he wished, greatly, to know.

Then Merlin answered the king in these words:

‘O, Aurelius, the king, a strange thing you seek.

Look not to ask of such further, I say to you,

For the spirit is baleful that dwells in my breast,

And, were I to boast of such things among men,

Or be glad to make a game of such prophecy,

That spirit would seethe with wrath, and be still,

Deprive me of sense, cut short my speaking,

And render me dumb, as regards every doom.

Forego such things,’ Merlin said to the king,

‘Yet whenever dire need overtakes the people,

And men beseech me, mildly, to prophesy,

And I’m still allowed to pursue my will,

Then may I yet speak here of things to come.

So, I will counsel you, as to your present need,

And tell you now, what you have in your heart.

There is a broad, and fair plain by Amesbury,

Whereon the Saxon knives slew your kinfolk,

With many a bold Briton betrayed to death.

You think to make it now a place of worship,

Build a wondrous work to honour the dead,

That shall endure till the ending of the world.

But you have none that knows aught of such,

None that can raise a work that will not fail.

While I can counsel, as regards your need,

For I know a work wondrously conceived.

In Ireland it is that this same work stands,

A marvellous thing, called the Giant’s Ring.

A work of stone, ne’er was its like ere known;

Nowhere in this world is there such another.

The stones are large, and possess much virtue,

For those that are ill journey to these stones,

They bathe the stones, and lave their bones,

And after a while, they are sound again.

But the stones are heavy, and immensely large,

And ne’er was any man born, in any burgh,

Strong enough to bear the stones from there.’

Then answered the king: ‘Merlin, a strange thing

You say: that, thence, none can bear the stones,

Nor had any man e’er the strength to do so?

How, then, am I to have them borne from there?’

Then Merlin replied to the monarch’s question:

‘Nay, nay, my lord king, it was said of yore,

That better is craft than strength, art than power,

For men may gain by craft, where power fails.

Gather your army, and sail forth to that isle,

And lead a goodly host when you go there,

And I’ll go with you, and enhance your honour.

Ere you return, you shall have all your wish,

And the stones you shall carry to this land,

And they shall be borne to the burial-place,

And grace the ground in which your kindred lie.

And you yourself, your bones shall rest therein,

There shall you rest, once your life is ended.’

Thus said Merlin, then afterwards sat silent,

As though he would depart from this world.

So, the king had him led to a fair chamber,

To rest in comfort there as long as he wished.

Aurelius the king then summoned a husting,

From all of the lands that he held in his hands,

And bade men speak, being needful of counsel.

His noble barons, gathered there, advised him

To follow the counsel that Merlin had offered.

Uther leads the expedition to Ireland

Yet they would not have the king lead them forth,

Rather chose, as their leader, Uther the good.

Then, fifteen thousand knights, fully-armed,

All bold Britons, were chosen to follow him.

That mighty host, once gathered, sailed forth,

In the finest of vessels that travelled the sea,

And they journeyed on till they came to Ireland.

There the brave knights entered on the haven,

They went ashore, and Ireland they gazed on.

Then spoke Merlin, and these were his words:

‘See you that great mound, all you brave warriors,

That hill so high it nigh touches the heavens?

There is the wonder, called the Giant’s Ring,

That, unlike to all else, came out of Africa.

Come pitch your tents, over all these fields,

For here we shall rest, for a full three days,

Then on the fourth day we shall march hence,

Towards that great hill, and perform our will.

But ere that rest, while gathering our strength,

Making ready the weapons we shall need.’

So was it done, and the warriors rested there.

Powerful the king that ruled then in Ireland,

Gillemaur his name, the lord of the people.

News reached him that the Britons had landed,

He summoned his people from all of Ireland,

And threatened to drive these invaders forth.

When he learned what it was the Britons wanted,

And that they came but to bear away the stones,

Gillemaur scorned them, and made mock of them,

And declared that they were but foolish fellows,

That had dared the wide waves, to sail thither,

As if there was not good stone in their own land.

By Saint Brendan he swore, they would have none,

For love of the stones, they would win the worst,

The blood would be spilt from out their bellies.

And that would teach them to go seek for stone!

‘And thereafter, I shall make sail for Britain,

And tell King Aurelius these stones I’ll defend,

And unless he sits still, and obeys my will,

I will fight him in battle there, in his land,

Lay waste the roads, make many a wilderness,

And widows enough, for all their men shall die!’

The Britons encounter King Gillemaur in battle

Thus, did that king unwisely play with words,

Yet all would prove otherwise than he wished.

His army once ready, then forth they marched,

Until they came to where the bold Britons lay.

The armies met together in fierce encounter,

Full fiercely they fought, and the fated fell.

The Irish fought naked, Britons in armour;

There, the Irish fell, and covered all the field.

Then King Gillemaur turned about and fled,

With but a score of his warriors, into a wood.

Bereft of honour, steel felled his Irish folk.

Thus was the king shamed, his boasting ended,

Watching, from the wood, as his people fell.

The Britons beheld the dead upon the field,

Seven thousand lay there, all robbed of life.

The Britons went over the field to their camp,

And looked to the state of their brave weapons,

And there they rested, as Merlin had bade them.

Upon the fourth day, they began their march,

And, all well-armed, they travelled to that hill,

Where stood the wondrous work, great and strong.

The knights went up, and down, and all about it,

And, earnestly, they beheld the marvel set there,

Those thousand knights, clad and fully-armed,

While all the others guarded the ships at anchor.

Then Merlin spoke, and to the knights he cried:

‘Knights you are strong, the stones broad and long,

You must draw near, and use force upon them.

You must wrap all such about with ship’s-rope,

And shove and heave, using all your strength,

With tree-trunks, that are both great and long.

Advance to one stone, fresh and well-prepared,

And, using all your strength, try if it will stir.’

Yet Merlin knew before how it would be.

The knights advanced, in all their strength,

And laboured greatly, yet lacked the power,

Such that never a single stone would stir.

Merlin gazed at Uther, the king’s brother,

To him, Merlin the prophet said these words:

‘Uther, gather your knights, and draw back,

Then let all of you stand about, and look on,

And stand you still, such that no warrior stirs,

Till I say to you what next shall be done.’

Uther gathered his knights, and drew back,

So that none remained close to the stones;

A stone’s throw, indeed, was their distance.

The Giant’s Ring is re-erected at Stonehenge

Then Merlin went, diligently, about his task.

Thrice he went around, within and without,

And his lips moved, as if telling of his beads.

Thus did Merlin there, then he called to Uther:

‘Uther come swiftly, and all your knights too,

And take up these stones, leave not one behind,

For you may lift them all, lightly as feathers,

And carry them carefully down to the ships.’

They bore off the stones as Merlin counselled,

Loaded them aboard, and shortly sailed forth.

And so, they journeyed back to this our land,

Brought the stones to the wondrous wide plain,

Tis broad and pleasant, that lies by Amesbury,

Where Hengist’s folk slew the Britons with knives.

Merlin raised the stones, as they’d stood before,

Through his craft that no other man possessed;

For ne’er before was a man born so wise,

That could place those stones, and rear them high.

So, the tidings came to the king, in the north,

Of Merlin’s craft, and of Uther his brother,

And how they were safely returned to this land,

And the stones, placed aright, raised on high.

Then the king was wondrously blithe at heart,

And had all the nobles called to a husting,

Summoning from far and wide, o’er the land,

All his folk, full joyous, to meet at Amesbury,

Where they should gather, on Whitsunday.

Thither came then the monarch, Aurelius,

And all his people gathered there about him.

And, on Whitsunday, he gave a mighty feast,

Of which this book will tell to you the story.

Tents were pitched there on the broad plain;

Nine thousand fair tents on the wide weald.

On that Whitsunday, there the monarch lay,

There he bore his crown, high on his brow;

He hallowed the place, that they call Stonehenge.

For a full three days, the monarch lay there.

And, on the third day, he honoured his people.

He appointed two bishops, men saintly and good,

Dubric to Caerleon, and Sampson to York.

Both men were holy, and favoured by God.

Then the folk departed, on the fourth day,

And so, all things stood for a space of time.

Pascent allies himself with King Gillemaur of Ireland

Pascent was a wicked man, Vortigern’s son,

And this same Pascent had fled into Wales,

And there as an outlaw he dwelt and wrought.

He feared, nonetheless Aurelius and Uther,

So, ships he chartered, and sailed the flood,

Reaching Germany, with five hundred men.

There he gained allies, and gathered a fleet,

And he voyaged forth, and came to this land,

Entering the Humber, and doing much harm.

But he dared not long remain in that place,

For the king marched thither, and Pascent fled,

Over the sea-flood, landing thus in Ireland.

He soon came before the king of that land,

And, sore of heart, he greeted King Gillemaur:

‘Hail to you, Gillemaur, chief among men,

To you am I come; I am Vortigern’s son,

For my father, Britain’s king, loved you ever.

And if you would agree to be now my ally,

And avenge my father, and avenge your folk

That Uther slew, and the stones he has stolen,

I would grant to you, one half of my kingdom.

Moreover, I heard, when I was o’er the sea,

That King Aurelius is plagued with sickness,

And lies in Winchester, confined to his bed,

And this I say you may believe, for it is true.’

Pascent and Gillemaur forged a compact there,

And oaths they both swore, countless many,

That they would hold this land in their hands.

Oaths are sworn, yet full oft are they broken.

The king gathered a host from all this land,

To the shore went Gillemaur and Pascent,

And boarded their ships, and forth they sailed.

Forth they sped swiftly, to Meneva they came,

That in time became a town exceeding fair,

That all men, indeed, now call St. David’s.

There they were pleased to reach safe haven;

The ships made land; the knights filled the strand.

Then said Pascent, addressing Gillemaur:

‘Now, King Gillemaur, here are we both arrived.

Half this realm I shall place in your two hands,

For a knight’s son comes to me from Winchester,

And he tells me Aurelius will soon be dead;

The sickness is under his ribs, he will not live.

Here we’ll avenge our kin, and win his realm,

And all shall be for the best, that we perform.’

News of this reached the king at Winchester,

That Pascent and Gillemaur had brought a host.

The king then called for Uther, his dear brother:

‘Uther, summon the knights from all this land,

Go march to meet our foes, and drive them forth.

So would I do, were I not sick and suffering,

And if I may soon be sound, I shall follow you.’

Uther did all the king, his brother, bade him,

And brought Pascent, at St. David’s, much woe,

And brought much sorrow to King Gillemaur.

He conspires with Appas to assassinate Aurelius

Britain they over-ran, they harried and burnt

While Uther summoned a host from this land,

And it was long ere he was ready to march.

Pascent held in his own hand all West Wales,

And on a day, when all his people were blithe,

Appas arrived, that the Fiend conveyed there,

To Pascent he said thus: ‘Come nearer to us,

And I will tell you now of most joyful news.

I was at Winchester, amongst your enemies,

Where the king lies sick, and sorrowful at heart.

What do you say but that I should thither ride,

And delight you by slaying the monarch there?’

Then Pascent drew closer, and answered him:

‘Appas, I promise you, now, a hundred pounds,

If you can please me so, as to slay that king,’

And they there agreed to work that treachery.

Appas went to his room, and planned the deed,

And he was a heathen, come from Saxon lands.

He dressed himself as a monk, shaved his crown,

And then he ventured forth with two companions,

Journeyed the while, and so entered Winchester,

Seeming like to a holy man, that heathen devil.

He went to the gate of the burgh where the king lay,

And greeted the gatekeeper with God’s greeting,

And bade him go haste to the monarch and say:

That Uther his brother had ordered him hither,

The best leech that there was in any kingdom,

That could ever a sick man cure of his illness.

Yet the wretch, in saying so, lied to the king,

For Uther was erstwhile gone with his army,

And never had Appas seen him, or been sent.

But the king thought it true, and believed him.

Who would have thought the man a traitor?

Yet next his body he bore a leather cuirass,

And that was concealed by a haircloth habit,

And o’er his head Appas wore a black cowl,

And he’d smeared all his face as if with coal.

He knelt to the king and his speech was full mild:

‘Hail to you, Aurelius, noblest of monarchs,

Uther has sent me, that is your own brother,

And here by the grace of God, have I come,

For I shall soon heal you, and make you whole,

Through the love of Christ, nor aught do I ask,

Neither gift of land, nor of silver or gold,

For I heal the sick out of love for our Lord.’

Now the king heard this and he was delighted,

For who in middle-earth would have thought

That the man who stood there was but a traitor?

Then Appas took up a glass-vessel anon,

And he had the king fill it with his urine.

He took back the glass, and viewed it closely,

And held it forth before all the king’s knights,

And then spoke this Appas the wicked traitor:

‘I would have you believe, ere tomorrow eve,

The king shall be whole, all-healed at his wish.’

Then were they blithe, all there in that chamber.

Appas went into another, and there he devised

A poisonous drink, and therein was scammony.

Then he entered outright amongst the knights,

And cinnamon he shared out amongst them,

And ginger, and liquorice gave them widely,

And they took his gifts, and were much deceived.

Then he fell on his knees there, before the king,

And said to him: ‘Lord, now drink of this draught,

But a small part only, and you shall be cured.’

And the king drank deep, the poison he quaffed,

And, when he had drunk, the leech laid him down.

Then this said Appas to the knights of the chamber:

‘Wrap the king well, that he sweat out the sickness,

For I say, despite all, your king shall be well,

And I’ll go to my lodgings and speak to my men,

And I, without fail, shall return at midnight,

And bring fresh leechcraft that swift shall heal him.’

The death of Aurelius Ambrosius (530AD, if the comet described here was Halley’s Comet)

Forth went the traitor; the king yet did slumber;

Appas, at his lodgings, now spoke with his men,

And, as secretly planned, he sped from the town.

On the stroke of midnight, the household knights

Sent six of their men to where Appas had lodged,

To seek him, and bring him at once to the king.

They found he’d flown, the Fiend bore him away,

And the men returned where the monarch lay,

And made known to all the traitor’s departure.

Then was there seen an ocean of sorrow,

Knights fell to the ground, longing for death,

Great the lament, and the heart-felt groans there,

Many a word of grief uttered, full many a cry.

They ran towards the bed, and beheld the king.

There he lay, slumbering yet, sweating greatly,

The knights woke the king with their weeping,

And they spoke to him, in most gentle voices:

‘Lord, how is it with you, how is your illness?

For the leech has departed, without your leave,

Fled from the court, and has left us wretched.’

The king replied: ‘I am much swollen and sore,

And, unless I find ease, I shall soon be dead.

So, I ask outright, of you my faithful knights,

To go, greet Uther, that is my own brother,

And bid him hold all my realm in his charge.

May God, at all times, make him a good king.

And bid him take note, to ever think aright,

A father to the poor, an ease to the wretched,

That he may keep the kingdom in his hands.

And, when I am dead, take counsel together,

And to Stonehenge then forthwith bear me,

Where lie my kindred, slain by the Saxons.

Send for the bishops, and book-learned men,

And gold and silver give freely for my soul,

And lay me to the east, within Stonehenge.’

Then he spoke no more; for the king lay dead,

And the knights did all that he’d commanded.

Merlin explains what the comet betokens

Now, was Uther in Wales, and all unaware,

For, he’d heard naught of the king’s demise.

Yet he had beside him the prophet Merlin,

As he marched towards the foe in this land.

Uther lay yet in Wales, midst the wilderness,

Preparing to march, and to battle Pascent.

As the evening fell, the moon shone bright,

It’s light nigh as bright as broad sunlight,

And Uther saw afar a most marvellous star.

It seemed broad and wide, of wondrous size,

And it shed a terrible gleam, in its shining.

A comet they call such, the Latin cometa,

And a glow most fierce blazed from the star;

And the tail of that glow was a noble dragon,

And from its mouth there came flames enow.

Two of these flames were unlike to the rest,

One flared towards France, the other, Ireland,

And that towards France, it was bright indeed,

For as far as Mont Aiguille spread that token!

From that to the west, shone seven bright rays.

Now Uther beheld this, but made little of it,

Yet grieving at heart, he was strangely fearful,

As were all of the noblemen in his great host.

Uther called Merlin, bade that he come to him,

And these were the mild words that he spoke:

‘Merlin, Merlin, dear friend, now prove yourself,

And interpret for us this strange star that we see,

For I know not what in this world it betokens;

Unless you say otherwise, back we must ride.’

Now, Merlin stood still and silent, awhile,

As if he were labouring deeply, in dream,

And those who saw this with their own eyes

Said that he twisted and turned, like a worm.

At length he did wake, and began to quake,

And then these words uttered Merlin the wise:

‘Woe, woe, comes now to this earthly realm,

Many a great sorrow, to trouble the people.

Where are you Uther? Stand before me now,

And much I will tell you of sorrow to come.

For dead is Aurelius, noblest of monarchs,

And joins that other, Constance your brother,

Whom treacherous Vortigern once betrayed.

Now Vortigern’s kin have murdered Aurelius,

Leaving but you, as the heir to the kingdom.

Hope not for counsel from those who are dead,

But think of yourself, that inherit the realm,

For seldom those fail who trust to themselves.

A great king you will be, a leader of men,

Arm your knights now, in the dark of night,

That we may issue forth with the morning.

For, before Meneva, there shall you battle,  

And, ere you go, great slaughter shall make.

There shall you slay Pascent and Gillemaur,

And many a thousand that fight beside them,

For the star that we see from afar, in truth,

Betokens the death of Aurelius your brother,

Before it the dragon glows, like to no other.

And its flames betoken you, yourself, Uther;

You shall have this land, and firm shall rule.

Wondrous the flame out of the dragon’s mouth;

Two its tongues that burn with wondrous light.

The one stretches far, southwards o’er France,

Betokening a powerful son, to be born to you,

Who shall gain many a land in fierce battle,

For he, in the end, shall rule many a people.

The other that stretches west, wondrous bright,

Betokens a daughter that shall be dear to you,

And its seven rays, those seven fair gleams,

Shall be sevens fair sons born to that daughter,

Who will win to their hands many a kingdom,

As powerful at sea, as they shall be o’er land.

Now you have heard of me all that will aid you;

Go swiftly, forthwith, and march to battle.’

And then he fell silent, as if he would sleep.

Uther defeats Pascent and Gillemaur, at St. David’s

Up rose Uther, he that was wary and wise,

And ordered his knights forthwith to mount,

And ordered them swiftly towards Meneva,

With their weapons to hand, and ready to fight.  

In the vanguard went a chosen band of knights,

Seven thousand a-horse, brave men and active;

In the middle ranks, seven thousand good men,

Fine-looking fellows, bold knights at the ready,

While, in the rear, rode forth eighteen thousand,

And there went besides many thousands on foot,

Far more than the tongue of man might tell of.

Forth they went swiftly and came to Meneva.

There, Gillemaur beheld Uther advancing,

And he ordered his men to arms, in a moment.

Some gripped knives, they all fought half-naked,

Strange their look, or grasped spears in their hands,

Or slung great battle-axes o’er their shoulders.

Then King Gillemaur said an unwise thing:

‘Here is King Uther, that is Aurelius’ brother,

He will ask for peace, and not fight with me.

His swains ride foremost, set we against them,

And pay no heed, though you slay the wretches.

For Constantin’s son, shall become my man,

And will grant to Pascent all of the kingdom,

Let him live, and go, bound close, to my land.’

So spoke the king, but far other would follow.

Uther’s knights were swiftly in the township,

Set it ablaze, and fought the enemy fiercely,

Their swords at work among the naked Irish.

The latter, seeing the Britons make advance,

Replied in kind, yet nonetheless were beaten.

They called to their king: ‘Wretch, where are you?

Why are you not here, but let us be destroyed?

Pascent, your ally, stands by and watches on.

Come in all your strength, now, and aid us!’

Gillemaur heard them, and his heart was sore.

With his Irish knights, he entered on the fight,

And Pascent beside him, both the pair ill-fated.

When Uther saw that Gillemaur was present,

He rode towards him, and struck him in the side,

Till his spear drove home, and pierced the heart.

Then he sped on by, and he overtook Pascent,

And Uther, the good, uttered these few words:

‘Hold fast now, Pascent, for Uther is upon you!’

He struck then at his face, and downed the man,

Sent the steel through his mouth, a strange meal,

Such that his sword-point pierced to the ground.

Then cried he: ‘Pascent lie here, this land is yours!

Such is your fate; Britain you grasp, though dead.

Here you may dwell, with Gillemaur, your ally.

Hold the land close now, for I grant it freely,

So that you long may dwell amongst us here!’

So said Uther, and afterwards he charged on,

And drove the Irishmen through flood and fen.

A host he slew, that had landed with Pascent,

Some fled to the sea, climbed aboard their ships,

And perished there, in a storm, midst the waves.

So ended the fight with Pascent and Gillemaur.

He is crowned King of Britain

Once the battle was over, Uther then returned,

And marched his troops towards Winchester.

While on the open road, coming towards him,

He encountered three knights, and their squires.

As they reached him, they greeted him warmly:

‘Hail to you Uther, this kingdom is your own!

Dead is Aurelius, the noblest of monarchs,

Who, dying, gave this realm into your hands.

He bade you rule well, and pray for his soul!’

Then Uther wept; full wondrously he mourned.

Forthwith into Winchester, the king now rode.

There all the burghers stood before the burgh,

And loud their piteous cries, as they grieved.

As soon as they beheld him, they called out:

‘Uther, your favour, now and for evermore.

Our king we have lost; woe is ours therefore.

You are his brother, nor had our king another,

Nor had he a son to reign o’er us, moreover.

So, take the crown, since it is now your right,

And we will hold you as our lord, and aid you,

With our goods and weapons, as best we might.’

Uther heard them, ever both wise and wary,

And received the realm, his brother being dead.

He took the crown, that became him so well,

For, indeed, a worthy monarch he became,

Wrought good laws, and loved his people well.

Once he began to rule, and chose his ministers,

Merlin departed, and no man knew whither,

Nor knew what became of him, in this realm.

The king felt woe, and so did all his knights,

And all his household mourned Merlin’s going.

So, the king caused men to ride far and wide,

And offered gold and treasure to any traveller,

That knew where he might find him in this land.

He praised him often, but of him he heard naught.

The two dragon-banners

Uther bethought him of what Merlin had said,

Midst his campaign, when they were in Wales

And viewed the dragon, unlike to all others;

And of the prophecy that Merlin had told him.

And the king was saddened, sorrowful at heart,

For he lacked, in life, no dearer a man ever,

Not even Aurelius, that was his brother.

So, he had wrought two great dragon-banners,

With two gold images, for love of Merlin,

So great was the longing he had for his presence.

When they were done, the one went with him,

Wherever he might lead his army, in this land,

And was borne as his standard in every battle.

The other he gave most nobly to Winchester,

Into the bishop’s see, to hold there in its stead.

And he set there his spear that men might bear

Thet banner of the dragon, midst their processions.

The Britons viewed then the banners he had made;

And from them Uther, who thus bore the dragon,

Took the name they gave him, Uther Pendragon;

Pendragon in British, Dragon’s-Head in English.

Octa and his followers revert to heathendom, and besiege York

Now Uther ruled well, but of Merlin heard naught,

And this Octa heard, where he dwelt in the north

With Ebissa his brother-in-law, and with Ossa,

Whom Aurelius had sent there, to live in peace,

Having granted them sixty hides of fertile land.

Octa had the truth of the news that came there,

Of Aurelius’ death, and now of Uther’s kingship.

And he summoned to him all his nearest kindred,

And there they took note of their ancient customs,

Swearing that they would no longer be Christians,

And, in husting, agreed to live as heathens again.

Then came together, of dead Hengist’s kindred,

Six thousand five hundred, now heathen, Saxons,

And swiftly the news travelled through the land

That Octa’ Hengist’s son, was Christian no more,

Nor were all those Aurelius had granted peace.

Then Octa sent many a messenger into Wales,

To gather the Irish that had fled from Uther,

And had hidden when King Gillemaur was slain,

With the Germans who had escaped to the woods

When the British despatched their leader Pascent,

And marched them out of Wales, and to Scotland.

More and ever more came to combine with Octa;

Once gathered, there were over thirty thousand,

Of Hengist’s kindred not counting the women.

After that host was met, they fared forth again,

And took in hand the land beyond the Humber,

And that was a wondrous host upon the march.

They fared south until they had come to York,

And those heathen folk rode about the walls,

And besieged the city thus, upon every side.

And so occupied the land right unto Scotland,

For all that they saw they counted their own.

But Uther’s knights, that were in the fortress,

Defended then the city from within its walls,

Such that the heathens could not enter there,

Nor has any heard of warriors that did better.

As soon as Uther learned of the siege of York,

He gathered an army, drawn from all the realm,

And marched his men swiftly towards the city,

Until he had reached the place where Octa lay.

Octa led his troops to the battlefield, in strength;

There men hewed hardily, and helms resounded,

And all that field was drenched with their blood,

And many a heathen soul sank down to Hell.

Yet when the day was done, all turned to evil,

For the heathen folk now gained the upper hand,

And, with a show of strength, routed the Britons,

And they drove them to a hill that was fortified.

Uther, faring the worse, withdrew to the hilltop,

Having lost a good seven hundred of his knights.

The hill that he occupied was named Dunian,

And that was all o’ergrown with a dense wood,

And the king was there with very many men,

While Octa besieged them, both night and day.

Woe to the Britons, enclosed thus all about!

Woe to Uther that he had not seen before

The lie of the land, and better understood!

Often, they took counsel, in their great need,

As to how to defeat this Octa, Hengist’s son.

Earl Gorlois of Cornwall counsels King Uther

There was an earl, Gorlois, a brave man truly;

He was a fine knight, and King Uther’s man.

Famed was he, that great Earl of Cornwall,

For wisdom, for excellence in every way.

Uther, who was gloomy at heart, addressed him:

‘Hail to you, brave Gorlois, lord among men!

You are my own man; greatly I respect you,

For you are a noble knight, and full of wisdom.

My folk I set in your hands, to work your will.’

Then, with heavy brow, King Uther Pendragon

Fell silent, and left Gorlois to speak his counsel.

Then answered Gorlois courteously, but plainly:

‘Uther Pendragon, why does your head hang low?

For God alone knows better than we e’er do,

And he will bestow honour on whom He wishes.

Let us but promise in life not to betray Him,

Take wise counsel, and think on our misdeeds.

Let each man here confess his sins, forthwith,

And absolve others, as if he were their brother,

Let every true knight do penance for his sins,

And give fair promise to God to amend them.

Then, at midnight, let us make ready to fight,

Though these heathen dogs think us yet besieged.

Octa, Hengist’s son, thinks us all but defeated.

His men lie in the field, closed in their tents.

Weary of bearing weapons, now they slumber.

Soon, careless, they will sleep; let us fare forth.

At midnight we may go freely, and then advance,

In deepest silence, down from this hill, upon them.

Let none here be such a fool as to utter a word,

Nor be mad enough to blow upon his war-horn,

But rather in silence we shall steal upon them,

And, ere they are aware, we shall overcome them.

We shall advance on them, and bring ill tidings,

Let every man use all his strength against them,

And so, drive these foreigners from our lands,

And uphold the right, through the good Lord’s might.’

Then all the host did as Gorlois now bade them,

Each man confessed his sins, and swore amends,

Promising he’d do good, all evil he’d forsake.

At midnight, the knights took up their weapons,

And then Uther led them, silently, from the hill,

And his knights descended silently, behind him,

And they went among the tents there, in the field,

And, employing all their might, slew the enemy.

They slew o’er the field the folk with flaxen hair,

Disembowelling the wretched Saxon warriors.  

Many fell there, amidst that fierce destruction.

And there was Octa captured, brave Hengist’s son,

His brother-in-law Ebissa, and Ossa his friend.

The king had those three shackled with iron chains,

And set them in the hands of sixty bold knights,

Men strong in a fight, to guard them in the field,

While he himself went forth, midst great clamour,

And Gorlois, the fair, rode forth there at his side.

Their knights slew every foeman they could find,

Some crept, on their hands and knees, to the woods,

And, that morrow, were the most wretched of men.

Octa was led, bound still in his chains, to London,

While Ebissa and Ossa, they ne’er knew such woe.

Uther subdues the north, then marches to London

The battle being done, King Uther went forth,

His mood being blithe, into Northumberland,

And then to Scotland, and set all in his hands,

And ensured that all was peaceable and quiet,

And a man might travel the land, gold in hand.

He established a wider peace than any leader,

Since the days when the Britons first came here.

After a time, Uther marched south to London,

And he was there at Easter, midst his good folk;

London town gave thanks for Uther Pendragon.

And he sent his messengers o’er all the realm,

He summoned the earls, he summoned the churls,

And the bishops, and all the book-learned men,

Thanes and swains to London, to Uther the king.

To Uther Pendragon, their king, in London town.

The noble and the wealthy swift gathered there,  

With their wives and their children as commanded.

With Gorlois, and many a knight beside him,

The high king listened there to a godly Mass,

And all rejoiced in their Uther Pendragon.  

After the Mass, in the great hall they gathered,

Trumpets were blown, then the board was spread,

And the folk ate and drank; bliss was upon them.

There, sat Uther, the king, set in his lofty seat,

And against him Gorlois, that excellent knight,

He, the Earl of Cornwall, with his noble wife.

Uther casts his gaze on Igraine, the wife of Gorlois

Once the earls were all seated for their feast,

The king took close notice of Igraine, the fair,

The Earl Gorlois’ wife, she the loveliest of all.

Often, he glanced at her, with a roving eye,

Often, he sent his cup-bearer to that table,

And full often he gazed upon her and smiled.

She replied, though I know not if twas love.

Now the king was not so wise or so cautious,

That he could conceal his thoughts from others,

And the king was so long about this business,

That Earl Gorlois felt wrath; he was angered

By the king’s attentions to his wife, Igraine.

The earl and all his knights now rose forthwith,

And, wrathfully, went forth with the woman.

Uther the king saw this, and was most sorry,

And sent twelve knights to go after Gorlois,

To bid him come, and swiftly, to the king,

And do right by his king, and confess his fault

In shaming the monarch, and quitting the feast,

For he, the Earl, and his knights were far from right,

For the king was most favourable towards him,

And but wished to drink the health of his wife;

While, if he’d not return, and confess his guilt,

The king would pursue him with all his might,

And take from him his land, his silver and gold.

Gorlois, the lord of men, received this message,

And the earl, most full of wrath, his answer gave:

‘Nay, the Lord so help me, that grants us light,

I’ll not return, nor will I make peace with him,

For never shall he bring shame upon my wife.

Tell Uther the king to find me at Tintagel,

If he will ride, then I will abide him there,

And there it shall go hard if he be not shamed.’

Forth rode the Earl, and, mightily aggrieved,

Showed himself greatly angered by the king,

He, and his thanes, muttering many a threat,

As yet unknowing of all that would befall.

Gorlois confines Igraine to his castle at Tintagel

The Earl returned to his realm of Cornwall,

Where he held two castles, both tight enclosed;

And these were fine forts built by his ancestors.

To Tintagel he sent his wife, Igraine the fair,

And she was the best and truest of all women,

And Gorlois confined her closely in that place.

Now, Igraine was sad and sorrowful at heart,

That so many men, through her, were in danger,

For the Earl sent messengers o’er all of Britain,

And he bade every brave man gather to him,

For gold and silver and many another gift,

Telling them to come to him at Tintagel,

And summoned his own knights there outright.

When all the bold thanes had gathered there,

His army was full fifteen thousand strong,

And they were all enclosed within that fortress.

There, upon the sea-strand it stands, Tintagel,

Fronted by cliffs, and so may not be conquered,

By any, except those within are starved to death.

The Earl took seven thousand men and marched,

Passing from that place to another castle,

Leaving Igraine, in Tintagel, with eight thousand,

For those warriors were needed, day and night,  

To guard that castle well, keeping watch in turn.

The Earl held the other, with his own brother.

Now, Uther learned of this, the king of this land,

That Gorlois had gathered a host, hot for war,

So, the king summoned an army from his realm,

From all this land that he held in his two hands,

And many and varied the folk that met together

And marched to London, to join there with the king.

Then Uther Pendragon fared forth from the town,

And he and his knights travelled into Cornwall,

Passing o’er the river that’s named the Tamar,

And marched to the castle held by Earl Gorlois.

He besieged the castle, with all the men he had,

And often they attacked the walls in strength,

Together they tried to scale them, and many fell.

For seven nights the king besieged that place,

His men met with woe, and naught was gained,

A full seven-night lasted that wondrous fight.

When Uther the king saw that naught went well,

He bethought him time and again what he might do,

For Igraine was as dear to him as his own life,

While Gorlois was, of all that lived, most loathsome,

And all things seemed dark to him in this world,

Because he might not have that which he wished.

The king had by him an old, and learned, man,

He was a wealthy noble, wise in stratagems;

Ulfin was his name, and most experienced was he.

The king raised his eyes, and looked upon this Ulfin,

Sorrowful his gaze, and his mood greatly troubled,

Then said Uther Pendragon to Ulfin the knight:

‘Ulfin grant me your counsel, else I shall die,

Since I feel such longing for the fair Igraine.

Keep my secret; and your counsel, dear Ulfin,

I will follow in private, and public when I may.’

Then answered Ulfin to his monarch’s words:

‘Now I have heard my king speak great folly!

You love this Igraine, and you do so in secret;

The woman is dear to you, the lord loathsome;

You would consume his land, and ruin him,

Slay the man, and destroy his kith and kin.

Think you in such ill manner to win Igraine?

If so, she would behave as no woman does,

Holding love sweet that comes cloaked in dread!

But if, indeed, you do love this same Igraine,

Then keep it secret, and send her golden gifts,

And woo her lovingly, and with fair request.

For it yet remains in doubt if you can win her,

Since Igraine is chaste, and a woman most true,

As was her mother, and others of her line.

In truth, I tell you, dearest of kings to me:

You must do otherwise if you would gain her.

For yesterday a good hermit came to me,

And swore on his life that he knew the place

Where Merlin rested each night under heaven,

And oft talked with him, and of spells he spoke.

And if we might have but use of Merlin’s art,

Then you may have all that you would wish.’

Uther Pendragon was softened in his mood,

And answered: ‘Ulfin, your counsel is good.

I’ll give thirty acres of land into your hands

If you thus employ Merlin to work my will.’

Uther Pendragon seeks the aid of Merlin

So Ulfin searched the land, and among the folk,

And after some little while he found the hermit,

And then, in haste, brought him before the king.

Uther offered the hermit seven acres of land,

If he could find Merlin, and bring him there.

And the hermit journeyed then far to the west,

Into the wilderness there, to a mighty wood,

Wherein he had dwelt for many a winter past.

And full often he had met with Merlin there.

As soon as he entered, he came upon Merlin,

Standing beneath a tree, and went towards him.

Merlin saw the hermit, and hastened to him;

Joyfully they embraced, in friendly greeting.

The said Merlin, a person of great wisdom:

‘Tell to me, my friend, why you did not say

That you were journeying to see the king;

Though I soon knew, when I first missed you,

That it was to Uther Pendragon you had gone.

And I know too how the king answered you,

And what he offered you to bring me there.

For Ulfin found you, and led you to the king,

And Uther gave him full thirty acres of land,

While it was but seven acres, he offered you.

Now, Pendragon yearns for this Igraine the fair,

Gorlois’ wife; full wondrously he desires her.

Yet he’ll not win her, while the world endures,

Unless he employs some stratagem of mine,

For there’s no truer woman upon this earth.’

Merlin prophesies the reign of Arthur

‘Nonetheless, he shall have the fair Igraine.

And beget on her one that will rule widely,

The son he will beget shall prove wondrous.

His fame will ne’er die, while the world lasts.

While this world stands, his glory will endure,

He shall rule over all the knights of Rome,

And all will bow to him that dwell in Britain.

Of him shall the minstrels endlessly sing,

Upon his courage, noble poets shall feed,

On draughts of his blood, shall men be drunk,

From his eyes, fiery embers forth shall fly.

Each finger of his hand, a sharp steel brand,

Before his face, strong stone walls will tumble,

And barons give ground, and standards fall.

So shall he fare o’er the lands, everywhere,

Conquering the folk, establishing the laws.

These are my prophecies of the king to come

One born of Uther Pendragon and Igraine,

Though this prophecy is now our secret,

For neither Igraine nor Uther knows of it,

Nor that of Uther Pendragon he shall rise,

For he that will rule is, as yet, unbegotten.

But Lord, since it is your will I should go,

To stand before the king’s goodly host,

I shall obey your words, and shall depart,

For love of you, greeting Uther Pendragon,

And you shall have the land he grants, in hand.’

Thus, they spoke; the hermit began to weep,

Fondly they embraced, and so they parted.

Merlin went south, on paths known to him,

And proceeded forthwith to seek the court.

As soon as Uther saw him, he approached.

Cried Uther Pendragon: ‘Merlin, you are welcome!

All the counsel of my lands is in your hands,

So, you might give advice, in my great need.’

Uther then told Merlin of all that he wished,

And how Igraine was the dearest to him of all.

And how Gorlois, her lord, was the most loathsome:

‘And, if I have not your counsel, I shall die!’

He performs his magic

Then answered Merlin: ‘Summon Ulfin here,

And grant him then his thirty acres of land,

And give the hermit also what you promised.

For I’ll not take of you land, silver, or gold,

Since I am in counsel the most skilled of men,

And If I owned aught would possess less art,

While all you long for, that shall come to pass,

For I have spells that will be to your liking,

And shall change your looks to those of the earl,

In his speech and actions amongst the people,

Likewise, your horse and clothes; so, shall you ride.

When Igraine sees you, all will be well with her.

There she lies in Tintagel, all fast enclosed.

And there’s no knight so powerful, of any land,

That could by strength open Tintagel’s gate,

Unless those within were dying of starvation.

But here’s the truth of what I now say to you:

At all times you shall appear to be the earl,

And I will seem to be that fine knight Britael,

Who is an excellent man, and the earl’s steward.

Now, Jurdan is the earl’s knight of the chamber,

And I will make Ulfin like to this same Jurdan,

Then you will be earl, I, Britael, and Ulfin

Shall seem like to your knight of the chamber.

Go this night, follow my counsel everywhere.

This night, shall fifty knights with spear and shield

Stand all about your tents to guard those same,

Such that ne’er a man alive shall draw near you,

For if any man should, his head they will have.

And say to all the knights, your goodly thanes,

That your blood is being let, and you rest there.’

These things progressed in the manner prescribed.

Forth went the king, yet naught of it was known,

And with him forth went Ulfin and wise Merlin.

And they took the roadway that led to Tintagel.

They came to the castle, and called, familiarly:

‘Unbar the gate, for here the earl would enter,

Gorlois, your lord, and Britael his steward,

And Jurdan his knight; all night we journeyed.’

The guard cried aloud; knights ran to the wall,

Called to Gorlois, and thought they saw the earl.

Then all were active, and raised the castle-gate,

And let their lord within, abandoning all fear,

For certain they were that all would go blithely;

Yet, through Merlin’s stratagem, he was within,

And likewise, Uther, and his good thane Ulfin.

Uther, in the likeness of her husband, is welcomed by Igraine

Igraine came forth to meet her wedded lord,

And spoke these words, in familiar speech:

‘Welcome, my lord, who is dearest to me,

And greetings also good Jurdan and Britael.

Have you then in safety parted from the king?’

Then said Uther, sounding like to Gorlois:

‘Great is the host with Uther Pendragon,

And I have, by night, stolen from the fight.

For I longed for you, who to me are dearest.

Go to my chamber, see that the bed is made,

And I will rest here, for the space of a night,

And all day tomorrow, to please my people.’

Igraine departed, and saw the bed was made,

The which was spread with an ornate cover.

Her lord approved, and into the bed he went,

Then Igraine lay down by Uther Pendragon.

Igraine thought, all the while, he was Gorlois,

Nor ever guessed that it was Uther the king.

The king dealt with her as man with woman;

With the dearest of women, he had to do,

And he begat on her a most wondrous son,

The noblest of kings that was e’er amongst us,

And he was named Arthur, famed among men.

Igraine knew not who it was that she embraced,

Thinking ever it was her own lord, Gorlois.

It was not long before the daylight entered.

Then Uther’s brave knights heard the tidings

That the king had departed from his army.

And said the knights, though it was untrue,

That the king had fled, for dread of the earl.

Yet all was untrue that they said about him,

Though they spoke much of Uther Pendragon.

Meanwhile his knights defeat Gorlois

Then said the king’s barons and all the earls:

‘When Gorlois learns all that has transpired,

That our king has departed and left the host,

He will arm forthwith and march to the fight,

And many a fierce thane fell us to the ground.

Then were it better that we had not been born.

So let the trumpets blow and our host gather.

Cador the brave shall bear the king’s standard.

Heave on high the dragon, before our people,

And march with our forces towards the castle.

And Earl Aldolf shall be our mighty leader,

And we will obey him as if he were the king,

And thus, being in the right, with Gorlois fight.

Yet if he will speak with us, and sue for peace,

Then may we all in honour go from hence.

Then our men will have no cause to scorn us,

Saying that we through cowardice have fled.’

All his countrymen praised this same counsel.

They blew the trumpets, gathered in their host,

And up on high was heaved the peerless dragon.

Then many a bold man slung shield on shoulder,

Many a brave man marched towards the castle

Wherein Earl Gorlois lay, and all his army.

He in turn gathered his men, the trumpets blew,

They leapt to their steeds; the host began to ride,

And full swiftly his knights had passed the gate,

And attacked the enemy, as they met together.

Those who were fated fell, and found the earth,

There was much bright bloodshed, many harmed,

While amidst the fight they slew the Earl Gorlois.

His men began to flee, and the others followed,

And entered the castle, and thrust deep within.

And then the two sets of forces battled there,

Inside the walls, the fight lasting all that day,

Yet ere the day was gone, the battle was won,

And ne’er a king’s swain but was made a thane.

Uther hears the news of Gorlois’ death

The tidings were carried swiftly to Tintagel,

Into that castle, where King Uther now lay,

News that their lord, Gorlois, was slain indeed,

And all his soldiers, and the castle captured.

The king heard this while in amorous play,

And he leapt from the chamber like a lion.

Then said King Uther, following these tidings:

‘Be still, be still, my knights throughout the hall!

Here am I, in the flesh, your lord Gorlois,

Jurdan my chamberlain, Britael my steward.

I, and they, have withdrawn from out the fight,

Hither we came, as you see, and are not slain!

Now while you summon up the host, I’ll march,

I and these knights will make entry to a burgh,

Meet with Uther, and if he speaks not of peace

Then I will avenge myself upon him, nobly.

Bid Igraine not mourn me, then bar the gates,

For I leave forthwith, and bid you thus farewell.’

Igraine surrenders the castle of Tintagel

Merlin went first, with the bold thane, Ulfin,

Then Uther Pendragon, from Tintagel town,

And through the night they rode till it was light.

When they came to where the king’s host lay,

Merlin returned Uther to his own likeness,

So that the host of knights knew their sovereign,

And many a brave Briton was filled with bliss.

Then was there bliss enough in all of Britain,

And the horns blew, and the minstrels chanted,

And every knight was dressed in brightest garb.

Three days Uther Pendragon dwelt in camp,

And on the fourth he returned to Tintagel.

He sent his wisest thanes to the castle there,

With greetings to Igraine, fairest of women,

And gave token of what they had said in bed,

Ordering her to surrender the castle swiftly,

There being no other counsel; her lord was dead.

Thus, Igraine still believed that it was the Earl

Had sought his people, and had slept with her,

And that among them Uther had never been.

The knights within communed and took counsel,

And resolved not to defend the fortress longer,

And thereupon they lowered the drawbridge,

Delivering all that place to Uther Pendragon.

The birth of Arthur

Then stood all this kingdom in Uther’s hands,

And Uther took Igraine the fair, as his queen,

While Igraine was with child by Uther the king,

All through Merlin’s craft, ere they were wed.

The appointed time arrived; and Arthur was born.

Once on Earth, he was taken by the elven folk,

With strong magic they enchanted him about,

Blessed him with strength to be the finest knight,

And, another thing, to be wealthy among kings,

And a third, which was that long would he live,

Then they granted the prince virtues most noble,

Such that he was the most generous man alive.

These gifts the elves gave, and the child thrived.

After Arthur, his sister, the blessed maid, was born,

And she was named Anna, that maiden blessed,

Who later married Loth, the Lord of Lothian,

And she was, in Lothian, that people’s lady.

Octa and his comrades are freed, and leave the country

King Uther lived long, a life of great bliss,

In peace and quiet, freely within his kingdom.

When he was old, a sickness came upon him,

That drove him to his bed, gravely ill was he.

Seven years in sickness lay Uther Pendragon.

Then the worst Britons were much emboldened,

And, free of dread, they wrought most wickedly.

Octa Hengist’s son, who was taken at York,

Along with Ebissa, and his comrade Ossa,

Still lay close-bound in the tower of London,

Twelve knights guarding them day and night,

Who were much wearied with guarding them.

Now, Octa heard tell of the king’s illness,

And spoke with the soldiers who stood guard:

‘Hark to me, knights, hear what I make known,

We lie here, close-bound, in London town,

And you have watched over us many a day.

Better were we if we were on Saxon land,

And wealthy than wretchedly prisoned here.

If you will accomplish everything I desire,

I will give you land, and silver and gold,

So that you might live richly in this land,

And live out your lives as you think best.

Ne’er shall you receive such gifts from Uther,

For he will soon die, and his folk be ruined,

And you win neither one thing nor the other.

Rather think you good men, and so pity us;

Think what you would wish if you were bound

And yet would live in your own land in bliss.’

Octa often spoke so to these same knights,

And they gathered and took counsel together,

And then to Octa said: ‘We shall do your will.’

Oaths they swore, promising not to break them.

On a night when the wind was blowing aright,

Forth went the knights at midnight, secretly,

And then they freed Octa, Ossa and Ebissa.

Down the Thames they went, and reached the sea.

Forth they passed o’er the waves to Saxon lands.

Their kinfolk there, gathered to them in strength,

And marched through those lands dear to them,

And they were promised land, silver and gold.

He returns with an army

Then Octa bethought him what he might now do.

He thought to return here, and avenge his father.

So, he gathered to him an innumerable army,  

And to sea they went, threatening this country.

To Scotland they came, and scorched the fields.

The Saxons were cruel; many a Scot they slew,

And razed three hundred townships to the ground,

And countless were the folk within they killed.

The tidings of all this came to Uther the king,

Who was exceeding grieved, most wondrous so.

And he sent to Lyonesse, unto his dear friends,

Greeting Loth his son-in-law, wishing him well,

And commanded him to take the realm in hand,

The knights and freemen, and lead them freely,

A vast host, according to the laws of the land.

He commanded his knights to obey this Loth,

And look on him kindly, like to their sovereign,

For as Loth was an excellent lord in a fight,

And was ever most generous to every man,

He delivered to him command o’er all this land.

Now Octa made war, and Loth fought against him,

And often Loth gained ground, and often lost it,

For the Britons were rebellious and full of pride,

And they lacked respect, because of the king’s age,

And looked contemptuously on Loth the earl,

And they executed all his orders right badly.

And of two counsels cared for their own more.

These tidings were carried to the old king,

How that his nobles scorned and despised Loth.

The battle at St Albans

Now, in this same history, will I tell to you

What Uther, the sovereign, set himself to do.

He determined to go, himself, to find the host,

And see with his own eyes how they behaved.

So, he caused to be brought a horse-drawn litter,

And gathered a large escort from his kingdom,

Bidding them, on pain of death, to move swiftly,

Not sparing life or limb, and avenge his shame.

‘And if there is any will not come in haste,’

Said he, ‘I’ll have his head or I will hang him!’

Full swiftly to the court the warriors came.

Not a one dared linger, whether high or low.

The king forthwith assembled all his knights,

And marched to Verulam, that is St Albans;

To Verulam came King Uther Pendragon.

Now Octa was in the town, with all his men,

Then was Verulam a most revered place,

For Saint Alban was there deprived of life,

Though, later, that burgh fell and many died.

King Uther now lay without, and Octa within.

Uther’s army advanced towards the walls,

And his thanes then attacked them, furiously,

Though they could not displace a single stone,

Nor, despite all their force, could do it harm.

Blithe indeed was Hengist’s son Octa, then,

Seeing the Britons draw back from the walls,

And retreat sorrowfully towards their tents.

Then said Octa, to his son-in-law Ebissa:

‘Here is Uther the lame come to Verulam,

And will battle with us here from his litter!

He thinks with but a crutch to beat us down!

But tomorrow at dawn let our knights arise,

Open the castle gates, and win this realm,

We’ll not be penned by but one lame man!

Forth we shall ride on our goodly steeds,

And advance on Uther and fell all his folk,

For all are fated to fall that he brings here.

Take us the lame man then, and bind him fast,

And hold the wretch till the king is dead.

Thus, shall we treat his limbs that are sore,

And heal his bones, within bonds of steel.’

So said Octa, to his comrade Ebissa,

But it happened otherwise than he planned.

That morrow, at dawn, they unbarred the gates,

For up there rose Octa, Ossa and Ebissa,

And ordered their knights to prepare to fight,

To unfasten the gates, and open up the burgh.

Then Octa rode out, and many a man after,

And there, with his bold warriors, came to grief.

For Uther saw him making his fierce advance,

And he sought to fell that army to the ground.

Uther shouted loudly to rouse his warriors:

‘Where are you my Britons, my bold thanes?

Here is the day now come, the Lord will aid us,

And seek out this Octa that hopes to bind me.

Think of your ancestors, fierce in the fight,

Think of the honour I’ve e’er brought you.

Let not these heathen foes enjoy your homes!

Let not these ravenous hounds seize your land!

I will pray to the Lord that gave us daylight,

And to the saints that are sanctified in heaven,

That He may grant me succour upon this field.

Now march swiftly, and may the Lord help us,

May God in all his power protect my thanes!’

The knights began to ride, the spears to glide,

Broad lances broke, and shields were shattered,

Bright helms were split apart, and brave men fell.

The Britons were bold, and eager for the fight,

And the heathen hounds were felled to the ground.

There, was this Octa, Ebissa, and Ossa slain,

There, were seventeen thousand sent to Hell,

While many more escaped towards the north.

All that day did King Uther and his knights

Slay or capture all those that came their way;

At last, when evening fell, the thing was done.

And then his warriors sang with all their might.

These were the words of their gladsome song:

‘Here is Uther Pendragon come to Verulam,

And he has beaten Octa, Ossa, and Ebissa,

And laid down the law in the Saxons’ lands,

Such that their kin shall tell of it in story,

And make song of it among the Saxon folk.’

Then was Uther blithe, most exceeding glad,

And he spoke to his men, whom he held dear,

And these were the words of Uther the old:

‘The Saxons accounted me of little worth,

My illness they mocked with scornful words,

For on a mere horse-litter was I borne here.

They said I was half-dead, and my folk asleep,

And yet now here is a wonder in this land,

The dead king has slaughtered all the quick,

Or driven them forth, scattered to the wind,

And so let the Lord’s will be done, hereafter!’

The Saxons seek to murder the king, in Winchester

The Saxons fled as swiftly as they had come,

All those that had retreated from the battle,

Halting not till they’d returned to Scotland,

And Colgrim, the fair, they made their king.

He was of Hengist’s kin, and dear to him,

And Octa too loved him while he yet lived.

The Saxons, downhearted, kept to Scotland,

While Colgrim rebuilt his army in that land,

Yet they thought to work their wicked craft

And, in Winchester, kill Uther Pendragon.

And woeful it was that it should happen so!

The Saxons gathered and, in council, said:

‘Let us send six knights, men active and wise,

Skilled in spying, to enter Uther’s court,

And, in poor men’s guise, dwell nearby the king,

And let them, each day, go with the other folk,

To seek the king’s dole, as if they were infirm,

And hearken to all the people as they go by,

To learn if by any craft, or by day or night,

They might draw close to Uther in that town,

And by some means assassinate the monarch.

Then, would our will be wholly accomplished,

And we care naught for Constantin’s kindred.’

And so, the six knights went forth in daylight,

And, in wickedness, did harm in Uther’s court,

For they sought the dole, as if they were infirm,

And they learned the nature of the king’s illness,

And so found a means to put the king to death.

They met a knight who had come from the king,

And he was of Uther’s kin, and dearest to him.

They called to him in a most humble manner:

‘Lord, we are wretched men in this ill world,

Who once were accounted wealthy and noble,

Until the Saxon invaders brought us down,

And bereaved us of all our fond possessions.

Now we chant prayers here for Uther the king,

With never a morsel of meat in our dishes,

For neither fish nor flesh e’er comes our way,

Nor have we aught, to drink, but plain water.

Mere water serves for all, and so we are lean.’

Having heard these words, the knight returned,

And came before the king in the royal chamber,

He said to the king: ‘My lord, good health to you!

There sit six men, all like to each other in hue,

And all of that company are clad in hair-cloth.

They were once right noble thanes in this land,

And wealthy, but the Saxons have despoiled them,

Such that they are but beggars in this world now.

They have no bread, naught but water to drink,

So, they live among your folk, tell their beads,

And pray that you, their monarch, may live long.’

Then said Uther the king: ‘Let them come hither.

For I will clothe them, and I will feed them,

For love of the Lord above, while I yet live.’

The treacherous knights entered the chamber,

The king ordered that they be clothed and fed,

And saw that each had a bed at night to lie on.

While for their part they spied upon him closely,

Each seeking to find a way to kill the king,

Yet they could see no way to murder him,  

Nor by craft attack, and slay him, at any time.

Uther Pendragon’s murder

It chanced upon a time the rain rained down,

And a leech, who lay in the royal chamber,

Summoned a knight and sent him to the well

To set a guard upon it, and keep off the rain,

For the king might drink of no other water

But that of the cold well-spring which pleased him,

The best of all draughts to ease his sickness.

This speech of his, the six traitors overheard.

Quick to harm him, they went forth at night,

Straight to the well, and his harm they wrought.

For they had upon them six phials of poison,

Six phials of bitter poison they cast below,

Till all the well-spring was tainted within.

Then they were all blither than e’er before,

And back they went not daring to remain.

In time there came forth two noble knights,

Who bore in their hands two golden bowls.

They came to the well, the bowls they filled,

And then they returned to Uther the king,

Entering the chamber where he lay abed.

‘Hail to you, Uther, we are come!’ they cried,

And have brought what you have asked for,

Cold well-water, receive it now with joy.’

Up rose the king, and sat there upon his bed,

Drank the water, and soon began to sweat,

His pulse grew weak, his features darkened,

His stomach began to swell, right fit to burst.

No hope was there. Uther the king was dead,

As all now died that drank of the well’s water.

When the household knew of the king’s fate,

And of all the rest that had been poisoned,

A band of knights went down to the well,

And destroyed the source with painful labour,

And they heaped it o’er with earth and stones.

Then his folk took up the dead king’s corpse,

And bore him forth, grave-minded warriors,

To Stonehenge, there to lie by his brother.

And, side by side, those two dead kings lay.

Arthur is crowned king

Then the noblest lords they met together,

The earls, barons, and book-learned men.

They came to London to a great husting,

And the powerful thanes there took counsel,

And then sent messengers over the sea,

Into Brittany, who, there, sought out the best

Of all the youths that e’er was in this world,

And that was Arthur, the finest of knights,

And bade him come soon into his kingdom,

For Uther was dead, as Aurelius before him,

And no other son had Uther Pendragon,

That might after his time set out the law,

Rule the Britons, and govern with honour,

While as yet the Saxons were in this land,

Colgrim the keen, and his many kindred,

That oft wrought harm and injury on them.

Thus the Britons sent forth three good bishops,

And seven knights who were strong in wisdom.

To Brittany they came, and sought out Arthur,

‘Hail, Arthur,’ they cried, ‘noblest of warriors!

Pendragon, the king ere he died, declared,

That you should be ruler of his kingdom,

And defend the Britons, and make the law,

And aid your folk, as a good king should,

And drive their enemies from out the land.

He prayed then to the merciful son of God,

To grant help to you, so you might do good,

And receive the land from God’s own hand.

For dead, indeed, is King Uther Pendragon,

And you, Arthur, are his sole living son,

While dead too is Aurelius his brother.’

So, they spoke, the while Arthur was silent,

At one moment wan, most exceeding pale,

And then, he blushed, full moved at heart.

When he spoke, in turn, his words were good,

For thus said he, that noble knight, Arthur:

‘Christ, our Lord above, be an aid to me,

That I may, all my life, uphold God’s law!’

Now Arthur was a mere fifteen years old,

When these tidings were uttered before him,

Years well-employed, for he was well-taught.

He summoned his knights to him forthwith,

And bade his men make ready their weapons,

And saddle their horses, swift as they could,

For he would make the journey to Britain.

Those goodly knights went down to the shore.

From Mont Saint-Michel, the host set sail,

And twas at Southampton they disembarked.

Then Arthur, the strong, to Silchester he rode,

Such his choice, while the Britons gathered there.

Great was the bliss when he came to the burgh.

To the peal of the trumpets, and cries of joy,

There, the young Arthur was crowned their king.

The End of Part V of Layamon’s ‘Brut’