Part VI: King Arthur to the gathering at Caerleon

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

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Arthur’s nature and character

When Arthur was king, twas a wondrous thing,

How generous he was to each man alive,

And the best of knights, most wondrous keen,

A father to the youngest, a balm to the old,

And yet with the foolish most wondrous stern.

All ill deeds to him were a loathsome thing,

While the right was, to him, endlessly dear.

All his cupbearers, and his chamber-thanes,

Sported gold-cloth on their backs and beds.

Never a cook had he that was not champion,

Nor ever a knight not the boldest of thanes.

The king ruled his folk, and all were in bliss,

In such fair things, he surpassed all kings,

In the strength of his realm, and its treasure,

And such his virtues all men knew of him.

Thus, Arthur was good, beloved of his people,

And his kingdom famed throughout the lands.

He pledges to drive the Saxons from Britain

Now the king held a great husting in London,

And his noblemen, they all journeyed there,

The rich and the poor, to honour their king.

When all had gathered, in countless number,

Up rose Arthur, the best and noblest of kings,

And had the reliquaries brought before him,

And the king knelt three times before them,

While his people awaited what he might say.

He raised his right hand, and swore an oath,

That upon his life, and by no man’s law,

Would the Saxons here e’er know bliss,

Nor own good land, nor hold pagan rites,

But as enemies he would drive them forth,

For they’d slain a king, Uther Pendragon,

His father, and mighty son of Constance,

As they’d slain Aurelius, Uther’s brother,

And so, they were the most loathed of folk.

Arthur forthwith summoned his wise knights,

And, whether they loathed or liked the oath,

They swore they would hold true to Arthur,

And avenge Pendragon whom Saxons slew.

Arthur sent his writ wide, o’er all the realm,

Summoning all the knights he could gather,

Demanding they all come soon to the king,

And he would liberally grant them good land,

And further endow them with gold and silver.

Arthur makes war on Colgrim

Forth the king fared with a mighty host,

And that wondrous army advanced to York,

Where he lay one night, then marched outright,

On the morrow, to where Colgrim would be,

And all his friends and companions with him.

Now since Octa was slain and deprived of life,

Who was Hengist’s son, out of Saxon lands,

Colgrim was the noblest Saxon yet living,

Succeeding Hengist, and Horsa his brother,

And Octa, and Ossa, and their ally Ebissa.

Colgrim then ruled the Saxons in these days,

By authority, counsel, and his fierce strength;

Many the warriors that marched with Colgrim.

Colgrim heard tidings of Arthur the king,

Who advanced upon him, to do him harm,

And Colgrim thought as to what he might do.

He gathered his knights from out of the north.

There came together all the Scottish people,

Joined with the Picts and Saxons, in force.

Men of many a tribe thus followed Colgrim.

Then forth he marched with a countless host,

Against Arthur, by far the noblest of kings,

Thinking to slay this monarch, in his land,

And fell his ranks of knights to the ground,

And thereby take the kingdom for his own,

Upon the death of this young King Arthur.

Forth marched Colgrim and his warriors,

And advanced till they approached a river,

Named the Douglas Water, slaying many.

But there came King Arthur against him,

His brave warriors full ready for battle.

At a broad ford, the hosts met together;

Fiercely their bold champions attacked,

And many an ill-fated man met his doom.

There was much bloodshed, woe was rife,

Many a shaft was shivered, good men fell.

Arthur viewing the field was most uneasy.

The monarch bethought him what he might do.

He retreated somewhat o’er the wide plain.

Then was Colgrim glad, and all of his host,

Thinking they saw their foes about to flee.

They thought King Arthur fell back from fear,

And followed, o’er the river, in their madness.

He addresses his troops mid-battle

When Arthur saw Colgrim cross the water,

And draw near to him, his side the river,

Spoke Arthur thus, that noblest of kings:

‘See you, my Britons, how the foe draws close,

Colgrim the strong, he of the Saxon lands,

Our greatest enemy, may Christ destroy him!

His kindred once slew our forefathers, here,

But the day is now come the Lord appointed,

That he shall lose his life and his comrades,

Or we ourselves shall die: he must be slain,

And the Saxon warriors here meet with woe.

We must take true revenge for our friends.’

Arthur raised up his shield before his breast,

And rushed forward, howling like a wolf,

As it leaps, from the woods hung with snow,

And seeks to savage the sheep, as it pleases.

As he charged, he called to his own dear knights:

‘Advance you, swiftly now, my brave thanes,

Charge them now, as one, and we’ll all do well,

Forth they will fly like the topmost boughs,

When the furious wind blows full strength.’

O’er the field went thirty thousand shields,

And smote hard at Colgrim, the earth shaking.

Spears were shattered, shields were broken,

And many a Saxon was felled to the ground.

Colgrim is defeated at the ford, and flees to York

Colgrim saw sorrow was now upon him,

He the finest warrior out of Saxon lands.

He was forced to flee, as swift as he could,

And his steed, in its might, bore him forth,

O’er the flood, saving its rider from death.

The Saxons sank deep, woe o’er took them.

Arthur turned his spear, altered direction,

And hindered them from leaving the ford.

There the Saxons drowned, seven thousand,

Some were driven, as a wild crane oft is,

In a moorland fen, when denied the air

By the swift hawks that pursue it closely,

And, hounded by the dogs among the reeds,

Finds neither are good, nor land nor flood,

For fierce hawks smite, and the hounds bite,

And then is the royal bird near to its death.

Colgrim sped, right swiftly, o’er the fields;

Hr rode furiously, till he came to York.

He entered in, then the gates were barred,

Ten thousand within, fine townsmen there.

Arthur pursued, with his thirty thousand,

Marched straight towards York, a mighty host.

And besieged Colgrim who stoutly defended.

Baldolf comes to his brother Colgrim’s aid

Seven nights before, had Baldolf the fair,

His brother, sailed south, and camped by the shore,

Where one Childric dwelt, amongst his people.

This Childric was powerful, a local chieftain,

Who in Germany held fine lands of his own.

When Baldolf heard, as he lay near the sea,

That the king was besieging Colgrim in York,

He gathered a force of seven thousand men,

All bold fellows who lived near the coast,

And they took counsel and chose to ride forth,

Leaving Childric behind, to aid his brother.

Fight against Arthur, and destroy his army.

Baldolf swore, in anger, to be Arthur’s bane,

And possess the realm himself with Colgrim.

Baldolf waited not for Childric, but marched,

North he went, day by day, with his host,

Till they came to a wood in the wilderness,

Some seven miles from King Arthur’s army.

Baldolf thought to ride, with his seven thousand,

To attack by night, fell his force, and slay him,

But all happened otherwise than he hoped,

For a British knight was in Baldolf’s force,

Who was kin to Arthur, Maurin by name.

Now Maurin, went through woods and fields,

Until he came nigh to King Arthur’s tent,

And once within, he said this to the king:

‘Hail to you, Arthur, noblest of monarchs!

I am come hither, that am of your kindred.

Baldolf has come, with many a fighting man,

Thinking to slay you, with your host, by night,

To rescue his brother, who is disheartened,

But the Lord, in his might, He will prevent it.

Send forth Cador, now, the Earl of Cornwall,

And with him bold knights, the good and brave,

Full seven hundred of your strong champions,

And I will counsel them, and show them how

They may fall like wolves upon this Baldolf.’

Cador, Earl of Cornwall, goes against Baldolf

Forth went Earl Cador, and his band of knights,

And he came to where Baldolf was encamped,

And his men then advanced, from every side,

Slaying or capturing all that they came nigh.

Full nine hundred foemen, all told, they slew.

Baldolf had retreated to save his own life,

And fled through the wilds wondrous swiftly,

Sadly, abandoning his host of warriors,

And yet fled so far north that he issued forth

Where Arthur lay, midst his host, in the field,

Besieging York, much to Arthur’s surprise.

Colgrim with his Saxons still held the burgh,

And Baldolf bethought him what he might do,

Seeking a means by which he might enter,

And join Colgrim, his brother, dearest to him.

Baldolf resorts to a ruse to gain refuge in York

Baldolf shaved his beard, so his face was bare,

And half his head of hair, as men shave a fool.

He had once learned to play the harp as a child;

He entered the king’s host, and began playing.

Many a man struck him with his stick, harshly,

Treating him much as the fool that he seemed,

And all that encountered him scorning the man,

For none there deemed that this might be Baldolf,

Rather that here was a fool to humour them.

He went to and fro, till the troops in the city

Learned that Baldolf was here, Colgrim’s brother.

They lowered a rope then, which Baldolf grasped,

And drew him upwards, till he clambered within.

Such then was the stratagem Baldolf employed.

Then was Colgrim blithe, and all of his knights,

And they began threatening Arthur the king.

Arthur was beside himself, fooled by his ploy.

Greatly angered, he ordered his men to arms,

Thinking through battle to conquer York city.

Arthur receives news of Childric’s actions in Scotland

As Arthur prepared to assault the high walls,

Came one Patrick, a wealthy Scottish thane,

Of that land a noble, who called to the king:

‘Hail to you, Arthur, the noblest of Britons,

I bring you news of the chieftain, Childric,

Strong is he, most powerful, furious, and bold.

He has sailed north, and landed in Scotland,

Burns our homes, and takes the land in hand.

He leads a brave host, all the strength of Rome,

And when in his cups the man boasts aloud

That you’ll ne’er withstand his sudden attack,

Whether in woodland, or field, or in any place,

And, if you oppose him, he’ll bind you fast,

Destroy your people, and conquer your realm.’

Arthur knew woe but ne’er worse than this,

And so, he retreated a while from the burgh,

Summoning his knights to counsel, at need,

His barons, and earls, and the holy bishops.

He bade them advise as to how he might

Preserve realm and honour; with his army,

Fight to fell this Childric, and all his forces,

And prevent him from bringing Colgrim aid.

The Britons, gathered about him, answered:

‘Let us march to London, and let him follow,

And if he rides against us, let him feel woe,

For he and the whole of his host shall be slain.’

Arthur approved of all that his people urged,

And forth he marched till he reached London.

He seeks aid from Howel of Brittany his kin

Now Colgrim, in York, was awaiting Childric,

While Childric began now his march to the north,

And took in hand thus a vast tract of land.

He gave Scotland’s realm to a thane of his,

While he gave Northumberland to his brother.

Galloway, and Orkney, one of his earls held.

He himself ruled from Humber to London,

Determined to grant no mercy to Arthur,

Except Uther’s son now became his man.

Arthur dwelt in London with his Britons,

He summoned warriors from all the land,

Instructing each warrior to come to London.

Then was England subject to every harm,

There was woe and weeping, and lament,

While hunger and strife haunted each place.

Arthur sent out two knights of his, by sea,

To Howel his kin, dearest of men to him,

And best of knights, who ruled in Brittany.

And he bade him come to help him, swiftly,

For Childric had much of this land in hand,

With Colgrim and Baldolf both aiding him,

Thinking to drive Arthur out of this land,

And rob him of his right to the kingdom,

Whose kin would meet with shame and harm,

Their honour forever lost in this world,

And then were it better he’d not been born.

Howel, Brittany’s ruler, heard this news,

And at once he summoned his messengers,

Bidding them mount their steeds speedily,

And ride to France to the free knights there,

And say that they must come now, quickly,

In all their strength, to St. Michael’s Mount,

All those who wished to win silver and gold,

And win great honour in this world’s realm.

Into Poitou, thus, he sent his trusted knights

While others rode swiftly towards Flanders.

On to Touraine, two bold envoys hastened,

And others of his household to Gascony,

Summoning men to St. Michael’s Mount,

Promising fine gifts, ere they set out to sea,

So, they might more blithely quit the shore,

And reach Britain, led there by Howel the fair,

Bringing aid to Arthur, the noblest of kings.

Howel reaches England

Two weeks had passed since the envoys left,

And Howel’s fleet darkened the sea, like hail.

Two hundred vessels were then fit to sail,

And, once full of folk, forth they voyaged,

The wind and the wave both in their favour,

Till they all made anchor at Southampton.

Forth from the ships sprang the men, in fury,

Clad in breastplate and helm, swarmed ashore,

Their spears and shields covering the field.

Many a bold Briton had taken up arms so,

And, upon their lives, they all swore aloud,

That they would wreak on Childric the strong,

Brave though he might be, a deal of harm.

And if he should fail to flee to Germany,

But chose to remain, and fight against them,

His folk would leave here their dearest things,

Their heads, hands, bright helms, and friends,

And sink down to Hell, those heathen hounds.

King Arthur was in London when he heard,

That noblest of kings, of Howel’s landing,

That he had come ashore at Southampton,

With thirty thousand knights, a great host.

So, Arthur marched towards him, blithely,

And met there with the troops of his kindred.

Together they met, and the folk were glad,

And the two men kissed there and embraced,

And then disposed their respective armies.

The pair had, thus, two fine sets of forces,

Howel leading his knights, thirty thousand;

Arthur forty thousand, under his command.

The combined armies march to Lincoln and attack Childric

Forthwith, the two armies marched northwards,

Towards Lincoln city, besieged by Childric,

Though the latter had as yet gained but little,

For there were within seven thousand men,

Brave warriors, guarding it, night and day.

Arthur marched with his host to the burgh,

And he commanded his men to move quietly,

And steal through the countryside in silence,

Foregoing the cry of war-horns and trumpets.

Arthur chose a knight, both bold and wary,

And sent him to his dear folk in Lincoln,

To tell them that he’d be there at midnight,

And with him brought many a brave knight:

‘When you hear a din, throw back the gates,

Come forth from the burgh, and fell your foes,

And smite Childric the strong,’ said the man,

‘For we Britons shall give them a tale to tell.’

At midnight, with the moon high in the south,

Arthur marched with his host to the burgh,

His warriors moving as softly as thieves,

And advanced till they saw Lincoln’s walls.

Then Arthur the keen, called out to his men:

‘Where are you, my knights, my warriors?

Behold Childric’s tents, there, on the field,

With Colgrim, and Baldolf, in full strength,

These German troops that would do us harm,

These Saxon folk, sworn to bring us sorrow,

They that killed the noblest of my kindred,

Constance, and Constantin, and my father

Uther Pendragon, and Ambrosius my uncle,

And full many a thousand of our fair kin.

Go we to meet them, and attack their ground,

Avenge our kinfolk, and the realm they ruled.

Now come ride forthwith each warrior-knight.’

Arthur set forth, and the host began moving,

As if they rode, thus, to the world’s ending.

They drove hard, in among Childric’s tents,

And loud, their leader, Arthur, Uther’s son,

Cried to his men, as becomes a martial king:

‘Now help us, Mary, God’s gentle mother!

I pray that your Son may aid and succour us!’

At his cry the warriors lowered their spears,

Turned again, and pierced and slew all by.

The foe marched against them, from the burgh,

Yet, ere they fled there again, were destroyed,

Or, if they fled to the woods, were slaughtered.

Wherever they rode the king’s warriors slew.

Ne’er was a greater battle told of, in Britain,

Where mischief and slaughter were so rife.

Wretched were those who invaded this land.

Death was all around, and the ground ran red.

Childric retreats to the woods

Now Childric lay there, within Lincoln Castle,

That was newly-wrought, and now well-manned,

While Baldolf and Colgrim stood at his side,

Watching their warriors hurled to the ground.

Yet, clad in their armour, they fled the place,

Quitting the castle, as men lacking courage,

And fled forthwith to the woods of Caledon.

Beside those chieftains went seven thousand,

Leaving forty thousand slain on the field,

Robbed of life, all scattered over the ground.

Then Arthur, the noblest of kings, perceived

That Childric had flown, towards Caledon,

With Colgrim and Baldolf, his companions,

Into the deepest woods, into the high holm.

So, Arthur pursued, with sixty thousand men,

The knights of Britain, and surrounded them.

On the one side, they felled the woods around,

Swiftly, tree upon tree; while on the other side,

He besieged the foe for three days and nights,

And great the plight that the enemy were in.

Colgrim weighed the danger of starvation,  

For neither they nor their horses had food,

And thus spoke Colgrim to Childric the chief:

‘Tell me, Lord Childric, why do we cower here?

Why should we not ride forth with our host,

And fight worthily with this monarch, Arthur?

Better dead, and beneath the earth, in honour,

Than to perish, in this place, from starvation,

For, so sorely it grieves our folk, it will slay.

Or send to King Arthur again, and seek peace,

Grant the king hostages, beg for mercy,

And freely seek friendship thus with the king.’

Childric listened, where they stood, on the wall,

And thus, he answered, with sorrowful voice:

‘If it be Baldolf’s will, your fair brother,

And that of the rest of our comrades here

To seek peace and friendship with this Arthur,

Then I’ll act according to your counsel.

For Arthur is deemed noble in all this land,

Dear to his men, and born of a royal line,

For is he not Uther Pendragon’s son.

And it oft comes to pass, in many a land,

Where knights contend, that they who win

All that they gain at first, lose thereafter.

So now; yet prosper we may, if we live.’

The knights replied forthwith: ‘This counsel,

We praise, for what you say is said wisely.’

He and his allies seek to make peace with Arthur

Forthwith they sent twelve knights to Arthur,

Where he lay in his tent, beyond the woods.

And their leader spoke, loud was his voice:

‘Peace, Arthur, for we would speak with you.

Our chieftain, Childric, he has sent us here,

As did Baldolf his kin, and Colgrim, likewise.

Now, and for evermore, they beg for mercy,

And will be your men, and uphold your honour,

Grant you hostages, and hold you their lord,

In dearest manner, if they may now but leave,

And, granted their lives, depart to their land.

For here we have met but sorrow and woe,

And left our friends dead upon Lincoln field;

Sixty thousand lie here, that you have slain.

And, should it be your will that we set sail,

Ne’er shall we come here, to your land, again;

Ne’er shall we return, while this world lasts!’

Then Arthur laughed, in triumph, and cried:

‘Thanks be to the Lord, who wields our fate,

That Childric the strong wearies of Britain.

He thought to divide it freely among his men,

And to drive myself forth from my country,

Holding me as naught, and possess the realm,

To slay my kindred, and destroy my people.

But his fate is that of the fox, that is bold,

And rules the weald, and feasts on his prey,

He climbs the hill, and seeks midst the rocks,

And he makes a den there, in the wilderness.

Fare whoever may fare there, he cares not,

Thinking himself the boldest of creatures.

But when the huntsmen ride under the hill,

With their hounds, and horns, and loud cries,

When they halloo, and the hounds give tongue,

Then they drive that fox over dale and down.

He flees to the holm, his den midst the cliffs,

And, into the depths of that hole, he now flees.

And there is the bold fox robbed of all bliss,

As the men dig to reach him from every side,

Then is that proud creature most wretched.

So goes it with Childric, the rich and strong,

For I’ve driven him now to naked death,

To where I may hang the man, or behead him.

Yet I would make peace with him, let him speak,

Neither hang nor behead but receive his pleas.

I must have hostages, of your noblest families,

And war-horses and weapons, ere you depart,

Then you wretches may go and seek your ships,

And sail o’er the sea to your own Saxon lands,

And there live worthily in your own country,

And tell the tale of how Arthur has set you free,

For the sake of my father’s soul, and my own,

And, for love of liberty, solace poor wretches.’

Thereby did Arthur the king gain less honour,

Yet none, there, dared counsel him otherwise,

Though of this he repented, not long thereafter.

Childric and his men leave Britain

Childric came from hiding, to Arthur the king,

And became Arthur’s man, as did his knights.

Four and twenty-hostages Childric delivered,

All of them hand-picked, true noblemen born.

And his men forewent their steeds and armour,

Their spears, their long-swords and their shields.

All the weapons they owned to they surrendered.

They began to march forth, and reached the sea,

Where their ships still lay at rest on the shore.

The weather was fine, the wind in their favour,

As they freed their longships from the sands,

They left the land behind, ran with the waves,

Till not a stretch of the coast could they see.

The deep was as calm as they might desire;

They raised the sails, and glided side by side;

Yet the warriors swore to return, and often,

To wreak a revenge for their dead kindred,

To waste Arthur’s realm, to slay his people,

Take his fortresses, and so work their will.

Thus, they sailed, o’er the waves, till they came

To a tract of sea twixt England and Normandy,

And then they veered, turned their ships about,

Such that they came to Totnes by Dartmouth,

And so, blithely, made their approach to shore.

Childric’s host returns and ravages the south

Once they had landed, the folk there they slew,

Driving the churls out that tilled all the fields,

Hanging the knights that sought to defend them.

Their wives they slew, and the maidens too,

And cast all the learned men into the flames.

All of their households they downed with clubs,

Razing the fortresses, ravaging all about.

The churches they razed; oh, woe to the folk;

E’en suckling babes they drowned in the water!

The cattle they herded-in, slaughtering all,

And carried the carcasses off to be roasted,

Killing, and eating, all those they came nigh.

They sang of the fate of Arthur the king,

Claiming they’d won a home for themselves,

One which they’d hold fast in their hands,

And, winter and summer, there they would dwell.

And if Arthur dared come fight against Childric,

They would make a bridge of that king’s back,

And take the bones of that noble monarch,

Tie those bones together with golden ties,

And lay them down at the hall’s threshold,

Where men entered and left, to honour

Childric the strong, Childric the powerful!

This was their burden, the shaming of Arthur,

But shortly thereafter things befell otherwise.

The shame was theirs, for all of their boasting,

As ever it is, where men act as did these folk.

Childric their chieftain gained all that he saw,

All Somerset he conquered, and all of Dorset,

And destroyed the folk who dwelt in Devon,

And Wiltshire, too, treated to fierce enmity;

He conquered all the land, to the sea-strand.

Then at the last he had the trumpets blown,

And all the war-horns, and gathered his host.

Forth he would march, Bath would besiege,

And the town of Bristol he would surround.

This he threatened as they marched to Bath,

And there they came, and besieged the castle,

While the warriors within defended bravely.

Armed to the teeth, they mounted the walls,

And resisted the power of Childric the strong.

There was the chieftain, and Colgrim his ally

With Baldolf the brother, and many another.

King Arthur knew naught of this, in the North;

He traversed Scotland, and held it in his hand,

The Isle of Man, Orkney, Galloway, Moray,

And all of the land and the islands thereabout.

For Arthur had thought it a most certain thing

That Childric would sail on, to his own land,

And nor was he like to return to this realm.

When the tidings came to Arthur the king,

That Childric had come again to these shores,

And was now in the south, wreaking havoc,

Then said Arthur, the noblest of monarchs:

‘Alas, alas that I chose to spare Childric

Rather than having him starve in the wood,

Or, hacking him, with sharp steel, to pieces.

My reward he grants me for my good deed,

But, by the Lord who grants us the daylight,

That man shall reap the most bitter of fates.

Hard for him it shall go; his bane I will be.

And this Colgrim too, and Baldolf I’ll slay,

And all of their people, death they will suffer.

If the King of Heaven will grant it me,

I shall avenge all whom they have killed.

As long as life lingers, here in my breast,

And He, that made sun and moon, allows,

Ne’er shall this Childric deceive me more.’

Arthur determines to slay Childric

Then Arthur cried allow to his followers:

‘Where be you, my knights, bold and brave?

To horse, to horse, my band of warriors,

And we shall march swiftly south, to Bath.

Raise high the gallows tree, and bring forth

All the hostages before our goodly host,

And they shall hang in the air above us.’

There he saw slain four and twenty youths,

All those noble sons of the German race.

Then came fresh tidings to Arthur the king,  

That Howel his kinsman lay ill, in Clud,

And so, sorrowfully, he left him behind.

Forth he rode swiftly to the plain by Bath,

And there he alighted, with all his knights,

And he ordered them to don their armour,

Then he split his force into five divisions.

Once all were clad, and rightly disposed,

He donned his armour, fashioned of steel,

An elven smith had wrought with his arts,

And that was Wygar, the skilful maker.

His shanks he covered with hose of mail.

At his side he hung Caliburn, his sword,

Wrought with magical skill in Avalon.

High on his head he set his helm of steel,

With many a gemstone set there in gold.

Uther the king’s it was, its name Goswhit,

And wrought unlike to every other helm.

He hung about his neck a precious shield,

Its name in the British tongue was Pridwen,

Thereon was engraved, traced all in gold,

A richly wrought image of God’s mother.

His spear, its name Ron, he took in hand,

And fully armed so, leapt upon his steed.

Then they beheld, that stood there, at his side,

The finest warrior that e’er took the field.

For ne’er saw any man a fairer knight

Than Arthur, that king of noblest race.

Then Arthur called out, in a loud voice:

‘Lo, here before us, are these heathen dogs,

The loathliest of all things in our land,

That, through wickedness, slew our ancestors.

Now shall we march upon them, and slay them,

And we shall avenge our kin most worthily,

Slay those who brought shame upon our realm,

Come voyaging o’er the waves to Dartmouth.

All of them are foresworn, all shall mourn,

All shall be slain, with the good Lord’s aid!

March we now swiftly onwards, together,

As quietly as if we brought them no ill.

Ere we attack them, I shall give the sign;

Foremost of all, this same fight I’ll begin.

Now let us ride, and o’er the land we’ll glide,

And let none, on pain of death, make a sound.

But go we quickly, and may the Lord aid us!’

Then Arthur, the mighty king, began to ride

And headed onward, o’er the weald, to Bath.

The battle at Bath (Mount Baden)

Then tidings came to Childric the strong,

That Arthur came with his host, prepared to fight.

Childric and his bold knights leapt to the saddle,

Grasping their weapons, feeling the foe’s hatred.

Soon Arthur gazed on them, that noblest of kings,

He saw the heathen chieftain riding towards him

With seven hundred knights, all ready for battle.

Childric himself came on, at the head of his men,

While Arthur too rode forward, leading the host.

Arthur the bold, took his spear, Ron, in hand,

Lowered the bare shaft, that strong-minded king,

Urged his steed to the charge, so the earth rang,

And, clasping his shield to his breast, in his rage,

He smote Earl Borel sore, and pierced his chest,

So, the heart was sundered; then called aloud:

‘The foremost are ours; may the Lord now aid us,

And the heavenly Queen, she that bore our Lord!’

Then once more Arthur cried, that noblest of kings:

‘Now, at them, at them, our labour is well-begun!’

The Britons laid on, as men should on the wicked,

Dealing them bitter blows with axe and sword,

There, full two thousand fell, of Childric’s men,

While Arthur scarcely lost a knight of his own.

Then were the Saxons the most wretched of folk,

Then were those Germans a most woeful people.

King Arthur wrought destruction with his blade,

For all at whom he smote were swiftly conquered.

The king was in a rage as great as some wild boar

Meeting with tame swine among the beech-trees.

Childric perceived this and swiftly sought to flee

Over the Avon, to save himself from danger,

But Arthur pursued him, and like a lion in anger,

Drove him to the water, where many were slain.

Two thousand five hundred drowned in its depths,

Until the Avon’s stream was bridged with corpses.

Childric crossed with fifteen hundred warriors,

Thinking to reach the coast beyond, and sail.

Arthur saw Colgrim climb to the highest hill,

That stands above Bath, and after him Baldolf,

With his remaining force; seven thousand knights.

They thought to make a stand upon the hillside,

Defend themselves nobly, and do Arthur harm.

When Arthur saw where Colgrim made his stand,

Then that great king called loudly to his troops:

‘Advance, my knights, advance upon the hill,

For yesterday this Colgrim was boldest of all,

But now he is placed as is the mountain goat

That wields his horns in fight on the clifftops,

When the wolf attacks him where he stands.

Though the wolf be alone, outside the pack,

And there be five hundred goats in the fold,

The wolf will be among them and savage all.

So shall I this day, destroy this fellow, Colgrim,

For I am the wolf, and he, the goat, shall die.’

Then Arthur, that noblest of kings, spoke on:

‘Yesterday was Baldolf bold among warriors,

But now he’s upon the hill, and see the Avon,

See how the silvery fish lie there in the flow!

Though set about with steel, their life is taken,

Like scaly shields, dyed with gold, they float;

They float there, steel fins like bladed spears.

What wonders now are come to this our land,

Such goats upon the hill, fishes in the stream!

Yesterday was Childric bravest of chieftains,

Now, hunter turned hunted, horns pursue him.

He flies o’er the wide weald, with his hounds,

And both Bath and the hunt he leaves behind;

He flies from his herd of deer, that we shall kill,

Render his threats naught, and uphold our right!’

Even as he spoke these words, Arthur, the king,

Raised his shield on high to defend his chest,

Grasped his spear, and spurred his charger on.

Nigh-on as swift as a flock of birds will soar,

Five and twenty thousand martial warriors,

Fiercely-armed, rode in strength to the hill,

And smote Colgrim’s men with mighty blows,

While Colgrim there received the Britons’ charge,

And felled a good five hundred to the ground.

Arthur, that finest of kings, viewed the field,

And was wondrously angered at what he saw,

And thus, cried out, Arthur, that noble man:

‘Where be you, my Britons, my bold knights?

Here, stand before us our chosen enemies.

Come my brave fellows, fell them to the earth!’

He gripped his sword and struck a Saxon knight,

And cleft him with his bright blade, to the teeth,

Then he smote another, that same man’s brother,

Such that the head, in its helm, fell to the ground.

While his third fierce blow sliced a man in two.

Then were the Britons mightily emboldened,

And laid their heaviest blows on the Saxons,

With their long spears, and their strong swords,

So that the Saxons stumbled to their deaths.

There, hundred upon hundred sank to earth,

Thousand upon thousand littered the ground.

Arthur slays Colgrim and Baldolf

Though Colgrim saw King Arthur advancing,

Hampered by the dead, he could not flee,

While Baldolf fought on beside his brother.

Then Arthur called out, with a mighty cry:

‘Her am I, Colgrim! We’ll contest the realm,

And divide the land, ne’er to your own liking!’

Even as he spoke, he raised his sword on high,

Brining it down hard upon Colgrim’s helm,

And clove it through, and through the collar,

Till the blade was lodged in Colgrim’s chest.

Next, he dealt a blow, sidewards, at Baldolf,

And with his left hand he struck off his head,

Then Arthur, that noble king, laughed aloud,

And, thus, he began to speak in playful words:

‘Lie there Colgrim, you that climbed on high.

Baldolf, your brother, lies there by your side.

Grasp, if you can, this kingdom in your hands,

Its dales and downs, and all its goodly people!

Wondrously far you clambered up this hill,

As if you would scale the high heavens above.

Yet now you must to Hell, to seek your kin,

And greet there Hengist, boldest of warriors,

Ebissa, Ossa, Octa, all of your kindred’s host,

Where they dwell, winter and summer alike,

While we shall live here in this land in bliss,

Praying that your souls there may never rest.

Here, by the walls of Bath shall your bones lie!’

He then sends Earl Cador to deal with Childric

Then Arthur the king, called to Cador the keen,

He that was Earl of Cornwall, a valiant knight:

‘Hark to me Cador, being of my own kindred,

Now is Childric flown, and will seek to sail,

Thinking to come, in safety, some other time.

But take you of my host five thousand men,

And go forthwith, and follow day and night,

So that you reach the coast ere Childric may.

And all that you may win there, do so in joy,

For if you do him ill, and slay that chieftain,  

Why, then I will place all Dorset in your care.’

As soon as the noble king uttered these words,

Cador issued forth like a spark from the fire,

With full seven thousand following the earl.

Cador the bold, with his kindred about him,

Rode o’er the wealds, through the wilderness,

Through dales, o’er downs, o’er the rivers.

Knowing the swiftest paths of that country,

He rode by the shortest route towards Totnes,

By day and by night till he reached that town.

While Childric knew naught of his coming.

Cador thus reached the coast before Childric,

And had all the churls there, those savvy folk,

Take up their staves, and spears, and cudgels,

And sent them all to hide in the ships’ holds,

And lie low so Childric knew naught of them,

But when his men came, and sought to board,

To grasp their cudgels, and smite them hard,

And then with staves and spears slay them all.

The churls did all that Cador had asked of them,

Into the vessels went those valiant warriors,

A hundred and fifty men, or so, in every ship,

Then Cador the bold withdrew into a wood,

Five miles from the vessels in their harbour,

And his men hid themselves, and lay silent.

Childric soon came marching o’er the weald,

Hastening to embark, and then flee this land.

As soon as Cador the bold had him in sight,

And trapped between his force and the churls,

Then the Earl cried, in a loud voice, to his men:

‘Where be you now, my brave, bold knights?

Think on what Arthur, our king, commanded,

Ere we left his presence, and rode from Bath.

Behold where Childric seeks to flee this land,

And sail for Germany where his kinfolk dwell,

There to raise a host, and return once more,

To avenge Colgrim and his brother Baldolf,

Who lie dead; yet he will not if we deny him.’

With those words the Earl began the advance,

Riding forth swiftly, while stern was his mood.

His men leapt from the borders of the wood,

Pursuing Childric the strong and powerful.

Childric’s knights turned, and looked behind,

And saw the banners winding o’er the weald,

Five thousand shields gleaming o’er the field.

Then was Childric most sorrowful at heart;

That powerful chieftain uttered these words:

‘There rides Arthur the king who’d slay us all.

Let us march to the ships, and sail forth swiftly,

And then let the waves take us where they will.’

Once he’d ceased to speak, he sped on quickly,

While Cador, the bold earl, came on behind.

Childric and his knights came to the harbour,

They sought to embark there, and so quit this land,

But the churls aboard ship raised their cudgels,

Heaved them on high, and brought them down,

And many a knight with their clubs they killed;

Their spears and staves felled them to the ground,

While Cador’s knights slew them from behind.

Cador slays Childric on Teignwick (Highweek) Hill

Now, when Childric saw that all had gone awry,

All his bold warriors were being slaughtered,

He sought to retreat to a hill, exceeding great,

Not far from which there flows the river Teign.

The hill is named Teignwick; Childric fled there,

Swift as he might, with four and twenty knights,

Earl Cador saw how all fared, his foe retreating,

And, quick as he could, Earl Cador then pursued,

And soon was on their heels, and overtook them.

Then cried Earl Cador, the finest of warriors:

‘Wait, Childric, wait; Teignwick you shall have!

And, heaving high his sword, Childric he slew.

Many of the foe now fled, and sought the water,

And, deep in the river Teign, there they perished.

Earl Cador slew all those that he found alive;

Those crawling to the wood were still destroyed.

Once Cador had slain them, and held the field,

He made a peace in the land, that long held good.

And though a traveller might bear golden torcs,

Ne’er a man dared to hedge him round with evil.

Arthur relieves the besieged Howel in Clud (Strathclyde)

Arthur had now fared forth into Scotland,

For Howel was in Clud, and fast besieged.

The Scots, by cunning, had ringed him round,

And if Arthur had not soon come to relieve him

Then Howel had been taken, and his folk slain.

But Arthur came promptly, and in full strength,

And the Scots fled into Moray with their host.

Earl Cador had marched to Scotland, to Arthur,

And both of them now proceeded into Clud,

And found Howel there was in good health,

For he had been fully cured of his sickness,

And great was the bliss that was in that place.

The Scots now in Moray sought to dwell there

And they sent many a boastful word abroad,

And said that they would now rule that land,

While Arthur must remain there under siege,

For Arthur would ne’er dare come against them.

When Arthur, who knew no fear, heard all this,

All that the Scots had said in scornful speech,

Then said Arthur, the bold, greatest of kings:

‘Where are you, Howel, noblest of all my kin,

And you, Cador the bold, out of Cornwall?

Let the trumpets blow, and gather in our host,

And at midnight we shall march to Moray,

And there, on the field, shall much honour win.

If the Lord wills, who grants us mortals light,

We shall make of them a sorry tale to tell,

Ending their boasting, slaying all that host.’

King Arthur marches on the Scots in Moray

And so, at midnight, Arthur arose forthwith,

And the great war-horns were blown aloud,

And knights began to rise, with sober mien.

With a mighty host he marched into Moray;

And before him went thirteen thousand men,

With the fiercest warriors, in the vanguard.

After them came Cador, the Earl of Cornwall,

With seventeen thousand good fighting men;

And next came Howel with his fine warriors,

With his one and twenty thousand champions;

Then came Arthur himself, noblest of kings,

With seven and twenty thousand following.

The shields, there, gleamed in the dawning light.

Word then came to the Scots where they were.

That Arthur, the king, was nearing their land,

Marching speedily, with innumerable men.

Then were they fearful, that before were bold.

Swift, they fled to the water, full of marvels,

For there in middle-earth was a wondrous mere,

A broad marshland filled with reeds and fens,

With fish, and water-birds, and ill things too.

Wide was this lake and, there, Nixies bathed;

There, elven sprites played midst the dark pools.

Sixty islands rose above those wide waters,

And on each was a strong and rocky height,

On which eagles, and other great birds, nested.

This was the rule, when any king should come,

Whenever an army marched into that country,

Then those great birds all rose into the sky,

Many a thousand of them, and fought there,

Then were the folk sure that woe was theirs,

Woe from some host that came to their land.

Full two or three days, the birds would war,

Ere any host of strangers reached that place.

And, wondrous to tell of, into that wide lake,

Fell sixty streams, from dale and high down.

Through the deep vales these waters poured,

And no man could ever find their outflow,

Except that a stream at one end descended,

And ran from the lake, in silence, to the sea.

The Scots were scattered, most wretchedly,

Over those many islands in the marshland,

Arthur’s men made boats and rowed to them,

And slew countless many, going to and fro,

While others starved to death where they lay.

Arthur with all his host camped to the east,

Howel, the good, lay on the southern side,

Cador, the noble earl, guarded the north,

While lesser nobles held the western shore.

They held the Scots on their isles, for sots,

Where they lay, fast enclosed, in the marsh,

Sixty thousand, of their foes, met with woe.

Arthur repels Gillemaur of Ireland

Then came the King of Ireland to harbour,

To aid the Scots by slaying Howel’s men.

The Irish camped twelve miles from Arthur,

The noble king, who, hearing of their landing,

Gathered a host of men and marched thither,

Seeking Gillemaur where he’d set foot on shore.

Arthur fought with him, and gave no quarter,

And felled a mass of Irishmen to the ground.

Gillemaur, with twelve ships, fled these shores,

And, much diminished, sailed back to Ireland,

While Arthur slew all his foes he could find.

Then he returned to the lake where he had left

Howel, the fair, his kinsman, the most noble

Lord in Britain, excepting the noblest, Arthur.

Arthur found Howel encamped beside the lake,

And the warriors of that host rejoiced greatly

Greeting Arthur and praising his great deeds.

There Arthur rested for two days and nights.

The aftermath of Arthur’s campaign in Moray

The Scottish dead littered the rocky isles;

For many a thousand had died of starvation,

Or were slain, of those most wretched folk.

On the third day, at dawn, it showing fair,

All the priests and clerics came to that place,

Three wise bishops, most learned in the texts,

The clerks and hooded monks in vast number,

And the canons, many and good, of the land,

Bearing all the noblest relics of that country,

To seek Arthur’s mercy, and to sue for peace.  

Thither too came the women that dwelt there,

Bearing their infants, wailing, in their arms.

They wept their countless tears before Arthur

Tore at their yellow hair, cut off their tresses,

And, before his folk, scattered them at his feet.

Then, scratching at their faces till they bled,

Well nigh naked, they supplicated the king,

Seeking mercy, as one, in their wretchedness:

‘Great king, we are the most woeful on earth,

We seek mercy, in the God of Mercy’s name.

Our men they are no more, starved or slain,

By weapons or by drowning, or otherwise.

Our children are fatherless and comfortless.

You are a Christian, as are we Scots, here,

While your Saxon foe are but heathen hounds.

They came to this land, and slew full many,

And we obeyed them lest they do more harm,

For we had none who might treat with them.

They brought us sorrow, as you have here.

The heathens hate us, Christians bring woe;

What will become of us?’ they asked the king.

‘Grant us the lives of those who yet may live,

Upon the stony isles, increase your honour,

Through your grace to us folk, for evermore.

Lord Arthur, our king, free us from bondage,

For you have seized and conquered all this land,

We kneel at your feet; all remedy lies with you.’

Arthur, noblest of all kings, heard their plea,

Their weeping, and lament, and endless sorrow,

And so, he took counsel there within his heart,

Found pity there, and granted what they sought,

Gave the folk life and limb, and land to hold.

For he had the trumpets blown, to call the Scots,

And the men crept from the rocks to the boats,

And so, they came to the shore from every side.

They were suffering greatly from lack of food,

And swore oaths they promised not to break,

And, also, they gave hostages to King Arthur,

Becoming, by these tokens, the king’s men.

Then the folk began to scatter and depart,

Each to the place where they had their dwelling,

And Arthur made peace there, and the king said:

‘Where are you my kinsman Howel, dear to me?

Behold this great marsh where the Scots perished.

Behold those lofty trees, and the eagles in flight.

Innumerable fish are swimming in these pools,

Behold those islands scattered about the fen.’

Howel marvelled at the sight of its splendours,

And he wondered greatly gazing at the flood.

And then spoke Howel, that lord of noble race:

‘Since I was born, I ne’er saw such a vision,

As I now behold, stretching before my eyes.’

All the Britons gazed on, and wondered greatly.

The Elven Pool and the Enchanted Loch

Then said Arthur, that noblest of monarchs:

‘Howel, my kinsman, dearest of men to me,

Listen while I speak of a greater wonder,

Of which I shall tell you, and truth I speak.

At the edge of this marsh, where is the outlet,

Is a certain little pool, the wonder of men,

It is in length four and sixty palm-widths,

And measures in breadth five and twenty feet,

Five feet its depth; twas dug by elven folk.

Four-cornered, it holds four kinds of fish,

With each kind gathering in its own corner,

And none may choose to swim to any other.

No man born is of such keen understanding

That can comprehend, howe’er long he lives,

What stops the fish from exchanging places,

For naught separates the four but clear water.’

Then Arthur, noblest of kings, spoke further:

‘Howel, where this land borders on the sea,

There lies a lake whose waters are enchanted,

For, when the tide is full, and the waves roar,

And the sea pours swiftly in to fill the lake,

Yet the loch’s water never gains in height.

But when the tide ebbs, and the sea is calm,

And all seems in its former place, once more,

Then the loch swells, and its waters darken,

And leap to a height that is exceeding great,

Overflow its shores, and terrify the people.

And if any man, in ignorance, comes there,

And witnesses this marvel by the sea-strand,

If he looks towards the loch, he shall be safe;

The flood will pour by, and yet harm him not,

He may stand there for as long as he wishes,

And receive no injury from the lake-waters.’

Then said that lord of Brittany, noble Howel:

‘Now have I heard a thing most wonderful,

And wondrous is the Lord that wrought it all.’

Arthur departs Scotland

Then cried Arthur, the noblest of all kings,

‘Blow the trumpets, as loudly as can be,

Tell my knights that I will march forthwith.’

The trumpets and the war-horns were blown,

Bliss was in the host, at that proclamation,

For each was glad to return to their own land.

The king forbade them all, on pain of death,

To show themselves so mad, or so unwise,

As to break the king’s peace; if any did so

Whate’er he was, twould prove his own doom.

Upon those very words, the army marched,

The warriors singing many wondrous songs,

Of Arthur the king, his lords, and captains,

Saying, in song, though the world last long,

Ne’er would there be such a king as Arthur,

Nor an emperor, nor chieftain, in any land.

He re-establishes the church and law

Arthur matched to York, with a wondrous host,

And he dwelt there six weeks to people’s joy.

The walls of the burgh there had been shattered,

Childric had razed the churches, and the halls.

Then the king called a worthy priest, one Piram,

For he was a man most wise in book-learning.

‘Piram, my own priest, it shall go well with you’

Said the king, and took a relic, good and holy,

And gave it to Piram, granting him much land,

And in his hands placed the archbishop’s staff.

So Piram, a priest before, was archbishop now.

Then Arthur told him to raise churches anew,

And restore the rites as they had been before,

Take charge of God’s folk, and treat them justly.

And he told his lords and knights to judge aright,

And the ploughmen to till the fields once more,

And each man to give fair welcome to another.

And whosoever failed to do King Arthur’s will

He would be driven naked to the flames,

And, if but a base fellow, the man should hang.

Then Arthur, the noblest of kings, commanded

That every man who had suffered loss of land,

Bereft of it through some means of affliction,

That he should come before him right swiftly,

Whether high or low, and have again his own,

Unless he had been a foul traitor to his lord,

Or so forsworn the king should deem him lost.

There came to him three brothers, royally born,

Loth, Angel, and Urien were those fine three.

They came to the king, and knelt before him:

‘Hail to you, Arthur, noblest of all kings,

And with your lords also may all be well!

We three are brothers, of a line of kings,

Yet our rightful realms lost from our hands,

For the heathen warriors have left us poor,

Wasting all Lothian, Scotland and Moray.

So, we pray to you now to lend us your aid,

And, of your grace, be merciful towards us.

Grant us our own lands, and we shall love you,

And hold you as our lord, in all those places.’

Arthur, the noblest of kings, listened closely

To all that these fair knights had requested,

And felt compassion in his heart, and said:

‘Urien, be my man, and so hold Moray,

And you shall be called the king of that land,

And be high in my host among the warriors.

And to Angel I grant the whole of Scotland,

To hold it in hand, from father to son given;

Be king in that realm, and become my man.

And you, Loth, who are my own dear friend,

God keep you; take my sister now to wife,

And the better it shall be for you and yours.

I grant you Lothian, that land rich and fair,

And shall add fine land beside the Humber,

A realm that is worth a full hundred pounds.

For when Uther, my father, ruled the realm,

Greatly he loved his daughter, ever his care,

And she, my dear sister, has borne two sons,

The dearest children to me in all this land.’

Now Walwain was the one, but a little child,

As was the other, young Mordred his brother.

Woe that she bore him, great the harm in store!

Arthur now wended his way to London town,

Leading his host, and held a husting there,

And settled the laws that held in elder days,

All the sound laws that stood then among us,

Such that all were at peace, secure and free.

Arthur weds Guinevere

Thence he went to Cornwall, to Cador’s realm,

And he found there a maiden exceeding fair,

This maid’s mother was of a line of Romans,

Kin to Cador that bestowed on him the maid,

And he welcomed the maid, and cared for her.

She was of Roman ancestry, of a noble line,

Nor in any country was there a maid so fair

In speech or deed, or with such fine manners.

She was named Guinevere, noblest of maids.

Arthur wed her, and loved her wondrous much;

The maiden he wed, and took her to his bed.

Arthur was in Cornwall for all that winter,

All for the love of Guinevere, fairest of all.

He decides to invade Ireland

When the winter was gone, and summer came,

Arthur bethought himself what he should do,

So that his mighty army should not lie idle.

To Exeter he marched at the midsummer feast,

And held a gathering there of his noblemen,

And told them that he would go into Ireland,

And win all that kingdom to his own hand.

Unless King Gillemaur was to come to him,

And speak to him fairly, and seek for peace,

He would deal ill to him, and waste that realm,

With fire and steel, working a hostile game,

And slay the folk there that stood against him.

To the words he spoke, the folk answered fair:

‘Lord King we are ready to go, at your word,

And ride abroad, wherever, as you may need.’

Many a bold Briton, there, bristled like a boar,

Showing the wrath brewing in his thoughts.

They went to their lodgings, knights and men,

Polished their armour, and readied their helms,

And rubbed down their steeds with linen cloths,

Curried their coats, shod their hooves with steel.

Those men of courage shaped both horn and bone,

Wrought steel darts, and thongs good and strong,

Some flexed their spears, as some readied shields.

Arthur made it known, throughout the realm,

That all brave knights should gather forthwith,

Those who would not, deserved to lose a limb,

While those who came gladly would grow rich.

Seven nights after Easter when they’d fasted,

All the host embarked, then the vessels sailed,

And a favourable wind bore them to Ireland.

Arthur marched through the land, destroying,

Slaying the folk, and seizing herds of cattle,

While ordering the churchmen left in peace.

Tidings came to Gillemaur, king of that isle,

That Arthur was there and wrought much harm.

He gathered the people from his whole realm,

And marched his Irish warriors to the fight.

Forth they went till they came against Arthur.

That noble king and his knights, fully-armed,

Advanced to meet them, in countless number.

They were clad in armour, the Irish half-naked,

Bearing spears and axes, and sharpened stones.

King Arthur’s men let fly many a fierce dart,

And slew the Irish folk; there, full many fell.

Arthur captures King Gillemaur

The Irish failed to stand firm, thousands fled,

King Gillemaur himself departing in great haste.

Arthur followed him close, and detained the king,

He grasped by the hand, the king of all that land.

Then Arthur the noble warrior sought lodging,

Happy to have King Gillemaur beside him.

For, now, did Arthur, the noblest of monarchs

Display his merciful and amicable nature,

Causing Gillemaur to be clothed most richly,

And sit beside him, and eat at his left hand.

Gillemaur drank the wine, though sour to him,

Yet when he saw that Arthur was most glad,

Though sad at heart, he uttered these words:

‘Lord Arthur, peace to you, grant me my life,

And I will be your man, and my three sons

I’ll give you as hostages, to do your will.

Grant me your grace, and I will do yet more,

I will give many wealthy lads as hostages,

Sixty fine youths, sons of the rich and mighty.

Grant me your grace, and I will do yet more,

Each year I’ll send you seven thousand pounds,

From out this land, and sixty marks of gold.

Grant me your grace, and I will do yet more,

Steeds with their trappings, hawks, and hounds,

All the rich treasures of my land, I’ll give you.

And if you so do, upon the sacred relics

Of Saint Columba, he that did God’s will,

And Saint Brendan’s head, that God hallowed,

And Saint Bride’s right foot, holy and blessed,

And many a relic that has come from Rome,

I’ll swear to you that I will not deceive you,

But I will love you, and hold you as my lord,

Yourself the king, myself your underling.’

Arthur the noblest of all kings, on hearing this,

Smiled, and answered him with gracious words:

‘Be glad Gillemaur, grieve not in your heart;

You are wise, for better it will be for you.

One should e’er welcome wisdom in a man,

And you, for your wisdom, shall not do worse.

And the more you offer the better all shall be.

Here, forthwith, before all my noble knights,

I’ll forego half of your treasure and your gold,

But you shall be my man, and half, each year,

Of all that you promised, you shall send to me.

Half the number of steeds, and half the weeds,

And half the number of hawks and of hounds,

That you have offered I’ll relinquish to you.

But I will have in hand your noble hostages,

Your lords’ sons, those dearest of all to them,

To hold you to your word, and you shall dwell,

With every honour, in your rightful kingdom,

Nor shall the king, with impunity, wrong you.’

So spoke King Arthur, the noblest of all kings.

Arthur gains the fealty of the King of Iceland

Now that Arthur held all Ireland in his hand,

And its king’s three sons he held as hostages,

King Arthur spoke thus to his lords and knights:

‘Go we to Iceland, and there take it in hand.’

The host sailed, and to Iceland then they came;

Its king was named Aelcus, the lord of that isle.

He heard these tidings of Arthur, the monarch,

And, acting wisely, he came forth to greet him,

Swiftly enough, and with but sixteen knights,

And bearing, in his hand, his golden sceptre.

As soon as he saw Arthur, he knelt before him,

And, fearful of that monarch, he said to him:

‘Welcome King Arthur, welcome my lord!

Here I give, into your hand, all of Iceland,

You shall be high king, I your underling.

I shall obey you, as a man obeys his master,

And become your man, and render my dear son,

He is named Escol, and may you honour him,

And dub him knight, as your man; his mother,

My wife, she is the King of Russia’s daughter.

And every year I will pay a tribute to you,

Seven thousand pounds of silver and gold,

And be ready, at need, to join your council.

And this I will swear to you upon my sword,

For its hilt holds the noblest relic of this land,

And, do as I will, I shall ne’er be false to you.’

Arthur, noblest of kings, gave ear to all this:

He was temperate whene’er he had his way,

Yet exceedingly severe with his enemies.

Arthur heard the mild words of this chieftain,

Granted his request, and accepted his pledge,

Under oath, and with the hostages as offered.

Likewise, that of Gonwais of Orkney

Then the king of the Orkney Isles, Gonwais,

A bold and courageous heathen warrior,

Heard that Arthur the king sought his land,

And was sailing there with a mighty fleet.

Gonwais came to meet him, with his knights,

And gave all the Orkneys into Arthur’s hand,

All the two and thirty islands that lie there,

And paid homage to him with great reverence.

Then he pledged to Arthur, before his people,

To send full sixty ships, at his own expense,

To London, each year, with their haul of fish.

This he affirmed, and rendered up hostages,

Swearing fine oaths that he’d ne’er renege.

Then he took his leave, and departed saying:

‘Lord, farewell, I will come whene’er I may,

For you are now my lord, dearest of kings.’

Likewise, that of Doldanim of Jutland

Arthur did all this, but would yet do more.

He sent envoys with messages to Jutland,

Greeting the ruler there, one Doldanim,

Bidding him come to meet him in haste,

And bring his two sons, and be his man:

‘And if you choose to do not as I demand,

I will send sixteen thousand fighting men

Who will waste your land, and slay your folk,

And control the Orkney Isles as they see fit,

And bind you captive, and bring you to me.’

The king on hearing Arthur’s harsh threats,

Clad himself swiftly in his finest clothes,

And made his way towards Arthur the king,

With hounds, and hawks, and noble steeds,

And much silver and gold, and his two sons.

Once there, Doldanim the good uttered this:

‘Hail to you, Arthur, noblest of all kings,

Hither I bring two hostages, my two sons,

Their mother, my queen, is of noble line,

For I won her, with spoils, out of Russia.

I will be your man, and render up my sons,

And send you tribute each year as promised,

I will send to London seven thousand pounds.

This will I swear, and ne’er will I prove false,

But be your man, the honour is the greater,

And ne’er seek to deceive you, evermore.’

Likewise, that of Rumareth of Winetland (Wendland?)

King Arthur then sent envoys to Winetland,

To Rumareth, its king, and let him know

That he held all of Britain and Scotland,

Orkney and Ireland, Iceland and Jutland.

He summoned the king, with his eldest son,

And would drive him forth, if he came not,

Or if he captured him, behead or hang him,

Ravage his country, and destroy his people.

Rumareth, rich king of Winet, heard this,

And was fearful as those other kings before.

Loath to him were these words of Arthur’s,

But he nonetheless hearkened to the call,

And took his son, and twelve good earls,

And went to seek Arthur, the noble king,

Knelt at his feet, and greeted him fairly:

‘Hail to you, Arthur, noblest of Britons!

Here am I, Rumareth, King of Winetland.

Much have I heard of your great valour,

For which you are famous, brave monarch.

Many a realm you have won to your hand,

No ruler of any land can withstand you,

Not emperor, king or chieftain, in battle,

For, in all you begin, you work your will.

Here am I come, bringing my eldest son,

To set in your hand myself and my realm,

And my dear son here, and all my people,

My wife, my goods, and all that I possess.

If you will forego all fierce attack upon me,

You shall be my king, and I your underling.

I shall pay, in tribute, five hundred pounds,

And that same will find each and every year.’

Arthur returns to Britain

King Arthur granted him peace as he desired,

And afterwards gathered to him all his knights,

And said he would now return to this country,

To be with Guinevere, his most lovely queen.

The trumpets were blown, the army massed,

And marched to the ships; the men were blithe.

The wind was in their favour, the weather fine,

Pleasing them well; to Grimsby thus they came.

The noblemen of this land all heard the news,

The queen had tidings of Arthur, her king,

Saying he was safe, and that he’d prospered.

Then was there in Britain, much joyfulness,

Playing of harps and fiddles, and brave song.

The trumpets, and the pipes, sounded loudly,

The poets chanted boldly of Arthur’s deeds,  

And of the great honour that he had gained.

Folk gathered together, from many a place,

And far and wide, the people thus rejoiced.

All those that Arthur saw submitted to him,

Rich or poor, as plentiful as fallen hail,

And not a Briton but was made wealthy by it.

Now one might tell of how Arthur remained,

At peace, in justice and amity, twelve years.

None fought with him, nor did he make war,

Nor was there e’er such bliss in any country.

Ne’er did any man know such a time of joy,

As King Arthur knew then, as did his people.

A quarrel at the Christmas feast

Hear my tale, wondrous though it may seem.

On a day near Christmas, Arthur lay in London,

And guests from every realm gathered there,

From Britain, Scotland, Ireland and Iceland,

And all the lands Arthur held now in sway,

All the knights and thanes, and all their swains.

And there were seen there seven sons of kings,

With seven hundred men, amid Arthur’s folk.

Each of them was full of pride, and thought

That he was the best of all his companions;

The folk were of many lands, and jealous,

Each man thought himself above all others.

There, trumpets were blown, the tables laid,

And servants brought water in golden bowls,

Then soft towels, all of white silken thread.

Arthur was seated, by Guinevere, the queen.

Next the earls and barons took their places,

And then the knights, according to their rank.

The noblemen passed the meat to the knights,

Thence to the thanes and swains at the board,

And then the porters too sat down to feast.

Midst some a quarrel began; blows were rife,

First, they hurled loaves of bread at each other,

And then the silver bowls, yet filled with wine,

Until fists began to pound on chests and necks.

A young man leapt up, one born in Winetland,

Who had been rendered to Arthur as a hostage,

For he was son to Rumareth, Winetland’s king.

Thus said this young knight to Arthur the king:

‘Sire, retire to your chamber, with the queen,

And we will settle our quarrel with these folk.’

As he spoke so, he leapt towards the table,

Where sharp knives lay before the sovereign.

He took up three, and then with one of them,

He smote the knight that had begun the fight,

And sent the man’s head rolling on the floor.

He swiftly slew another, that man’s brother,

And seven he had slain ere swords were drawn.

The fighting spread; each man smote another,

Much blood was shed, and mischief was rife!

Then the king came forth from his chamber,

And a hundred armoured, helmeted nobles,

Each with a blade of steel in his right hand.

Then cried Arthur, the noblest of all kings:

‘Seat yourselves, swiftly, on pain of death!

He who will not so, shall as swiftly die.

Let the corpse be taken of him that began it,

Set a chain about it, and draw it to the moor,

And so cast it in the marsh, where it may lie.

And let all his nearest kin, that can be found,

Have their heads struck from their shoulders,

And the women that are his nearest kindred,

Let their noses be cut off, their beauty spoilt,

Let all their fair comeliness go to destruction.

For thus will I deal with all that villain’s line.

And if I ever hear tell, from this day forth,

That any of my folk, be they high or low,

Cause strife with regard to this same quarrel,

Nor gold nor treasure shall serve for a ransom,

Nor fine armour, nor steeds, shall redeem him,

For he shall be drawn to pieces by my horses,

Or beheaded, as the traitor deserves by law!

Bring me the relics, and I will swear thereon,

And so shall all that were present at this fight,

Earls, barons, knights, and break not your oath.’

First Arthur swore, who was noblest of kings,

Then the earls and barons, thanes and swains,

That ne’er would they stir such conflict again.

Men took up the dead and carried them forth,

Then the trumpets were blown, full loudly.

Willing or not, each took water and towel,

And, once hands were laved, sat to the table,

In their dread of Arthur, the noblest of kings.

Cupbearers thronged, and the minstrels sang,

Harps sounded, and all the folk there rejoiced.

The making of the Round Table

Full seven nights thus, the people were treated,

Then, so it’s said, Arthur went to Cornwall,

There a skilled craftsman met with the king,

And, once before him, he greeted the monarch:

‘All hail, to you, Arthur, the noblest of kings!

I am your man, though much have I travelled,

A craftsman in wood, of much wondrous skill.

News is abroad that men fought at your board;

On a midwinter’s day many a man fell there,

For their angry mood wrought murderous play,

Their pride would win them the highest seat.

Now a table I’d make you, exceeding fair,

That would easily seat a good hundred or more.

Side by side, so no knight seemed the highest.

When you journey, it might then go with you,

To be set where you wish, as you might decide.

Ne’er would you fear, to the world’s end, ever,

That some fierce knight might engender a fight,

For the high and the low shall there be equals.’

So timber was brought, and the work was begun,

And in four weeks or so the same was finished.

On a high-feast day the knights were assembled.

And Arthur himself sat down first to the board,

Then he ordered the host of knights to be seated.

When all there were seated to address the feast,

Each spoke to another, as brother to brother;

All sat round about, none were seated without.

Every manner of knight was accommodated,

Seated side by side, both the high and the low.

None might boast of superior food or drink,

Than his comrades had, that were seated there.

For this was the table that Britons yet boast of,

For they tell many tales of Arthur, the king,

As will many a man that respects another,   

Making a legend of one who is dear to him,

Granting him honour, more than he is worth.

None is so ill a friend will not boast of him.

Yet often if enmity comes between men,

The one man will speak ill there of the other

Though he were the best that ate at his board.

The one he now hates is then last, to his mind.

What minstrels sing, though, is not always lies,

For this is the truth respecting King Arthur,

That ne’er was a king of such virtues before,

For all that is written of here, that befell him,

From beginning to end, it certain and true,  

And no more nor less were his kingly deeds.

The Britons so loved him, they boasted of him,

And uttered many things respecting Arthur,

That ne’er came to pass in this world’s realm!

Yet there are marvels enough to tell of him,

Who would speak but truth of Arthur the king.

Then was Arthur exalted, his people most fair,

Such that no knight that was much-esteemed,

Well-noted for his manners, and for his deeds,

In England or Wales, in Scotland or Ireland,

France or Normandy, Denmark or Flanders,

Nor any land on this side of Mont Aiguille,

Was now thought a fine knight, his deeds aught,

Unless he knew of, and could speak of Arthur,

And of his noble court, and of his weapons,

And of his modes of dress, and his horsemen;

And could speak, and sing of the young king,

And of his knights, of their strength in battle,

And of their wealth, and how it became them.

For then was he welcomed in every realm,

Where e’er he came, even in mighty Rome,

And to all that heard tell of this King Arthur,

He seemed to them a fine and wondrous king.

Of Merlin’s prophecies and Arthur’s fate

For thus was it prophesied ere he was born,

By Merlin that was a great seer in this world,

That a prince would be born of Uther’s line,

That poets would make a board of his deeds,

And fair minstrels sit to eat, and dine at will,

And draw draughts of wine from his valour,

And drink and make revel, both day and night,

Assured of a fine theme till the world’s end.

And he prophesied more of things to come,

Saying that all would kneel at Arthur’s feet.

And Merlin spoke of a greater marvel still,

Of the great depths of woe at his departure,

And that no Briton would believe his death

Could be till the coming of Judgement Day,

When the Lord will judge all Christian folk.

Nor can we speak otherwise of his dying,

For Arthur himself said to his brave Britons,

In Cornwall there, where Walwain was slain,

And he himself was harmed wondrous much,

That he’d fare thence to the Isle of Avalon,

To Argante, the fair, who’d heal his wounds.

And once he was all whole, he would return.

This the Britons believe: that he will so do,

And e’er they look for when he might return,

As he promised them, ere leaving this realm.

Arthur agrees to an expedition into France

While Arthur was yet powerful in this world,

A wise king, at peace, and loved by his men,

With many proud knights mighty in courage,

His folk spoke to him of a wondrous venture,

For thus the gathering said to their high king:

‘Lord Arthur, we would venture into France,

And win all the land there to your own hand,

Drive out the Frenchmen, and slay their king,

Take their forts, and garrison them with Britons,

And rule then, in strength, all that fair country.’

Then answered Arthur, the noblest of kings:

‘I’ll do as you wish, but visit Norway first,

And take my brother-in-law, Loth, with me,

He whom I love, he that is Walwain’s father,

For tidings have come to me from Norway

That Sichelin, who was king there, is dead,

And to Loth he has bequeathed his kingdom.

For he is bereft of either son or daughter,

And Loth is his sister’s son; well, it befalls.

I shall crown Loth as the Norwegian king,

And instruct him how to govern the people.

Then, after doing so, I say, I shall return,

And ready the army and pass thence to France,

And if the king denies me, and seeks not peace,

I will fight him, and topple him to the ground.’

He first visits Norway to install Loth as king there

So, Arthur had the horns and trumpets blown.

And summoned to the shore his bold Britons.

Many a good ship was anchored in the flood,

And full fifteen hundred set out from land,

And flew o’er the waves as if borne on wings,

Setting their course thus, full sail, for Norway.

Swiftly reaching the land, they made harbour

And disembarked, in strength, upon the shore.

Arthus sent messengers o’er all the country,

And ordered all to render up Loth their king,

For if they would not then he must slay them.

The lords of Norway sent envoys in reply,

To tell the monarch that he must depart:

‘And, if you will not, woe you shall find here,

For it shall ne’er come to be that our folk

Will e’er accept a foreigner, here, as king.

Though Sichelin be dead, yet we shall choose

One from the many here, at will, to rule us,

And this is the truth: no other shall we have.

Either go your ways, and turn you homeward,

Or, this day a seven-night, prepare to fight.’

The lords of Norway held to their counsel,

That a king they would have of their own folk,

For they held Sichelin’s wishes as pure folly;

None but their own man should rule them ever.  

‘Rather we’ll choose Riculf, the powerful earl,  

And we will raise him up to be our monarch,

As it pleases us to do, and gather our forces,

March on Arthur, and conquer him in battle.

Loth we shall hunt and harry from our land,

If we fail to destroy him also, in the fight.’

They took Riculf, and raised him to the throne,

Though Norway’s realm was not his by right,

And they summoned a host from everywhere.

For his part Arthur marched about the realm,

Passed o’er the land, and destroyed the towns,

Rich spoils he took, and many a man he slew.

Arthur defeats Riculf

Riculf swiftly marched against King Arthur;

The hosts met together, and battle began.

The Britons advanced, and sorrow was rife,

Bright blades were plucked from their sheathes,

Faces grew pale, and heads flew to the field,  

Men set lances to breasts, strong armour shattered,

The bold Britons pierced shields, and warriors fell.

And so, while it was yet light, lasted the fight.

To east and west the Norwegians were driven,

Whether twas north or south Norwegians fell.

Bold were the Britons, Norwegians they slew,

Full five and twenty thousand felled to earth,

While Riculf their king lay dead on the field.

But few of the foe were left, to sue for peace.

Arthur looked at Loth, who was dear to him;

The noble king called to his brother-in-law:

‘Loth, my close relation, come hither to me.

Now I do grant you all of this kingdom here.

You shall hold it for me, as your protector.’

Then came Walwain there, Loth’s eldest son,

From the Pope in Rome, one named Supplice,

Who had raised him and dubbed him a knight.

Well, was it that Walwain was e’er born,

For he was noble-minded and full of virtue,

He was e’er generous, and the best of knights.

All Arthur’s men were greatly emboldened,

Now Walwain the brave had come to the host,

And Loth, his father, was confirmed as king.

He then sails to Denmark

Then Arthur spoke with Loth, and bade him

Keep the peace, and in peace love his people,

And to slay all violent men that broke the law.

Then Arthur, the noble king, called to his knights:

‘Where are you, my Britons? We march forthwith.

Prepare my good ships anchored by the shore.’

And all the knights did as Arthur commanded.

When the fleet was ready, Arthur fared to sea,

And with him went all his Norwegian thanes

And his bold Britons, sailing o’er the waves.

The noble king next came ashore in Denmark,

And had his tents pitched wide o’er the fields,

And trumpets blown to announce his coming.

In Denmark, then, there ruled a mighty king,

He was named Aescil, the lord of the Danes.

He saw that Arthur had won all that he willed.

Aescil the king bethought what he might do,

For loth would it be to him to lose his knights.

He saw that he might not withstand Arthur

By marshalling the forces that he possessed.

He sent greetings therefore to Arthur the king,

And hounds and hawks, and the finest steeds,

Silver, and red gold; his words most prudent.

And he did more, did Aescil the noble king,

He sent messages to Arthur’s noblest lords,

And prayed them to intercede at court for him,

So that he might become King Arthur’s man,

Saying that he would render his son hostage,

And send a tribute each year from his realm,

A boatload of gold, treasure and rich garments,

Its hold filled to the top; this he’d guarantee,

For he would swear that he’d not prove false.

Arthur, noblest of kings, heard these tidings,

Amid his knights, that Aescil the Danish king

Would be his underling, and without a battle.

Then the noble monarch was much gladdened,

And, thus, he gave answer, with mild words:

‘Tis well for the man that shows his wisdom,

And wins peace and amity, with friendship,

Who, when he sees that he is bound about,

His beloved realm doomed to destruction,

Skilfully loosens the bonds that hold him.’

He summoned the king and his eldest son,

And the King of Denmark came promptly.

What Arthur willed the king sought to fulfil,

So, they met together, and were reconciled.

Arthur proceeds to France

Then said Arthur, the noblest of all kings:

‘I’ll fare now to France with my brave host.

I’ll take nine thousand knights from Norway,

And nine thousand more from Denmark too.

Eleven hundred shall I have from Orkney,

And from Moray full three thousand men.

Five thousand shall be mine from Galloway,

Full eleven thousand more out of Ireland,

While thirty thousand of my bold Britons,

Shall I have, in force, to march before me;

From Jutland too ten thousand warriors,

And from Frisland five thousand, in my host,

To add to Howel’s bold men in Brittany.

With all these I shall seek to enter France,

And, by the Lord, I will muster yet more,

For from all the lands that I have in hand,

I will summon every man that can fight,

On pain of life or limb if he should not,

And they will go with me to battle Frolle,

Who was born in Rome, of a Roman line,

And is King of the French; he shall be slain!’

Forth went Arthur, till he came to Flanders.

The land he won, and garrisoned with men,

Thence to Boulogne, took the land in hand,

And marched his men deeper into France.

Arthur ordered his knights to take naught,

Wherever they went, unless they did aright,

And paid its price, as purchased by the king.

Frolle, in France, heard of Arthur’s coming,

And how he won all that he looked upon,

For whoever met his eyes yielded to him.

Then was Frolle, the king, greatly afraid.

At the time when all this was transacted

The land of the French was known as Gaul,

And Frolle had come from Rome to France.

And every year sent tribute from his land,

A thousand pounds of silver and red gold.

Now Frolle, that was the ruler of France,  

Heard of the woe that Arthur had brought.

And he sent messengers direct to Rome

And bade the Roman people to advise him

Of how many thousand knights they’d send

That he might better fight against this Arthur,

And drive the mighty monarch from his land.

A host of knights rode forth them from Rome,

Full five and twenty thousand entered France.

Frolle, midst his host, heard of their coming,

And he and his army marched to meet them,

So that both, brave and keen, made together,

An immense and powerful force, set for battle.

He encounters Frolle leading the French and Roman troops

Now Arthur, noblest of kings, heard of this,

Gathered his men, and advanced against them,

And ne’er was there any king alive on earth,

That e’er commanded such a force as his,

For he led the bravest men from all his lands,

So many men that he knew not their number.

Both sides couched their lances, and charged,

Rushing together with great speed and strength.

All day fierce and mortal blows were rife,

Warriors wrought ruin, or fell to the earth.

And many a fierce fighting man ate dust.

Helms resounding, many an earl quoted:

‘Shields shivered; men were doomed to fall.’

Then called Arthur, noblest of kings, aloud:

‘Where be you, my Britons, my bold knights?

The day goes forth, the foe stands against us;

Let us attack them, with sharp spears enough,

And teach them now the road back to Rome!’

At King Arthur’s words, his knights spurred forth,

Man after man, as a fire spreads its sparks.

Fifty thousand men followed their monarch;

Brave those warriors galloping to the fight.

Frolle, they smote, amidst his armoured host,

And put him to flight there, he and all his folk,

And Arthur slew countless riders of his force.

Then, towards Paris, Frolle the powerful fled,

And, sorrowing at his plight, barred the gates,

And, sad at heart, these the words he uttered:

‘Far better for me, if I had ne’er been born’

Then was heard sore lament, through all Paris,

The burghers trembled, reinforced the walls;

The gates they strengthened, to sorrowful cries.

Food they gathered, all that was thereabouts,

And bore it into to the city, from every side.

Thither came all that fought alongside Frolle.

The siege of Paris

Arthur now heard, that noblest of all kings,

That Frolle, with all his forces, lay in Paris,

And boasted that Arthur he’d well withstand.

Arthur, undaunted, marched straight to the burgh,

Raised all his tents, and laid siege to the walls.

Four weeks and a day he did so, on every side.

The folk that lay there within were sore afraid.

The burgh was full, and soon the food was gone.

After four weeks, with Arthur camped about,

There was endless suffering within that city,

Its wretched people starving and lamenting;

Great was the weeping and the sore distress.

Frolle was asked to make peace with Arthur,

To become his man yet retain his honour,

To bow to the realm of Arthur the strong,

And save the folk in the city from starvation.

Frolle the great-hearted freely gave answer:

‘Nay, by the God above who makes our fate,

Ne’er shall I be his man, nor he be my king.

For myself, I’ll fight; God defend the right!’

Then Frolle the great-hearted added, freely:

‘Nay, by the Lord that grants us light of day,

Ne’er will I yearn or seek for Arthur’s grace,

But I’ll dual against him, in single combat,

Man against man, before all my people,

Hand to hand, with Arthur, the mighty king.

Whichever’s the weaker will prove the lesser,

Who lives shall make his friends the happier,

And whichever gains the better of the other,

Shall win the other’s land to his own hand.

This I will undertake, if Arthur will do so,

And all of this I will swear upon my sword.

And hostages I will yield, three royal sons,

As pledges, against this same agreement,

That I will ne’er violate it, upon my life.

For better it is to lie dead before my folk,

Than that I should see them die of starvation,

While many a man we have lost in battle,

Fifty thousand lie dead upon the ground,

And many a good woman is now a widow,

Many a child bereft of father, or comfort,

And my folk are gripped now by hunger.

Tis better then to deal between ourselves,

And to win or lose this kingdom in fight,

And the better man to gain it honourably.’

Frolle sent twelve knights with his message,

Forthwith, to ride to Arthur the great king,

To ask if he would hold to such agreement,

And win the kingdom with his own hand,

Or be slain, to the harm of his own people,

The winner to hold France in his power.’

When Arthur, noblest of kings, heard this,

Ne’er was he so blithe in his life before,

For he liked these words of Frolle the king,

And this the answer of Arthur the good:

‘Fair the words of Frolle, king of France;

Better it is that we two contest his realm,

Than that more of our brave knights be slain.

This challenge I accept before all my people,

And, on the day I’ll set, will do his bidding,

And that shall be tomorrow, before our men,

In single combat, and let the worse man fail.

And if either retracts, and betrays his pledge,

Let him be named a recreant in both realms,

And let men sing then of that worthless king,

That swore so, and yet his knighthood forsook.’

Arthur agrees to fight Frolle in single combat

Frolle, the king of France, received his answer,

That Arthur himself would risk single combat.

Now Frolle was both grave and firm by nature,

And had issued the challenge before his knights,

And now might not for shame disgrace himself,

And deny the offer he’d made within the burgh,

Though, in truth, despite his words, he’d thought

That Arthur would balk at, and refuse, the fight.

For if Frolle, the King of France, had known

That Arthur would respond to his challenge

He’d not have sent it for a ship full of gold.

Nonetheless, Frolle was keen for the combat,

Tall was he, and strong, and of serious mind,

And replied that he’d be there on the morrow,

Upon the isle, in the midst of the river,

Which is the centre of the burgh of Paris:

‘There will I fight, and so maintain my right,

Mounted, and clad in armour, as a knight,

Let tomorrow be the day: and win who may!’

This answer Arthur, the noble king, received,

Saying that Frolle would maintain his right,

And ne’er was he so blithe in all his life.

Arthur began to laugh, and he cried aloud:

‘Now it seems Frolle will fight, tomorrow;

The place he chooses, the isle in the river,

And it becomes a king to hold to his word.

Let the trumpets blow and tell my warriors,

So that every man may pray for me tonight,

Asking the Lord, who wields our every fate,

To preserve me from Frolle, this fierce foe,

And with his right hand defend my honour;

And, should I win this kingdom for my own,

Every poor knight of mine shall be the richer,

And twill prove that tis the Lord’s work I do.

Now may He help me to perform all well;

Let the Heavenly King on high stand my aid,

For Him will I praise, the while I yet do live.’

All the long night men chanted by candlelight,

Loudly the clerics sang holy psalms of God.

When the morrow dawned, folk began to stir,

Arthur the strong took his weapons in hand,

He dressed him in a fine-woven linen shirt,

A cloth tunic, and precious armour of steel,

And set upon his head a most goodly helm.

At his side hung his fine sword Caliburn;

He wore steel greaves, spurs upon his ankles.

Well-armoured indeed, he mounted his steed,

And his squire handed him his fine rich shield,

It was stoutly made, and plated with ivory.

In his hand was placed the shaft of his lance,

With a fine-wrought steel spear-head at its tip,

Carmarthen-made, by Griffin the armourer,

That was Uther’s, who was king here before.

When the king was weaponed, he advanced,

Boldly he rode, for all that were there to see,

And, since the world was made, none has told

That e’er so fine a knight e’er rode a steed,

As Arthur, the king, he that was Uther’s son!

Brave chieftains rode there, behind the king,

Four thousand bold warriors formed the van,

Noble fighting-men all clad in polished steel,

Bold Britons, bristling with fierce weapons.

After them came Walwain, with five thousand,

And after them came a further sixty thousand;

Many a brave-hearted Briton brought up the rear.

The roll-call of Arthur’s commanders

There was Angel the king, Loth and Urien,

And there was Urien’s son, named Yvain,

There was Kay, and Bedivere, and Howel

The King of Brittany commanding his host,

Cador was there, that was eager for battle,

And Gillemaur the strong, King of Ireland,

King Gonwais that was Orkney’s darling,

With Doldanim the keen, out of Gothland,

And Rumareth the strong, of Winet land,

And King Aescil, the champion of Denmark.

He slays Frolle in the duel

Fok there were on foot, many a thousand,

So many that ne’er lived there a man so wise

That could tell those thousands in any tongue,

Except he owned the wisdom of the Lord,

Or had the wit and knowledge Merlin had.

Arthur marched forth with his countless host,

Until to the walls of Paris burgh he came.

On the west side of the river, there he lay,

To the east was Frolle, with his great force,

Ready to fight Arthur, before his knights.

Arthur called for a boat, and stepped aboard,

Gripping his shield, armed, and with his steed,

The boat was driven, firmly, from the shore,

To the isle, where he and his charger landed.  

Then his men that were there, as commanded,

Held the boat from drifting, upon the wave.

Frolle likewise called a boat, though uneasy

That he had ever thought to fight with Arthur.

He went forth then to the isle, fully-armed,

And stepped ashore, leading his good steed.

Then his men that were there, as commanded,

Held the boat from drifting, upon the wave.

Upon the isle, but those two kings remained.

There might you have seen the folk afeared,

That now lined the river-banks on either side.

Some watched from walls, the roofs of halls,

Some lined the parapets, adorned the towers,

To behold the deadly combat of their kings.

Arthur’s men humbly prayed to God the good,

And his Holy Mother, for aid and victory,

While others simply prayed there for their king.

Arthur grasped the saddle, mounted his steed,

While Frolle, armour-clad, performed the same,

Each man at his end of that isle in the river.

They couched their lances, those royal knights,

Urging on their steeds, those goodly warriors.

Ne’er in any land was there e’er one so wise

That might have foreseen which would conquer.

For both were brave, and skilful, and eager,

And exceeding great in their skill and might.

They spurred their steeds, and met together

So fiercely their horses’ hooves raised sparks.

Arthur smote Frolle, high on his tall shield,

Whose good steed nigh leapt into the flood.

Arthur drew his sword, in its tip death lay,

He charged at Frolle as his mount recovered,

And sought to bring their combat to an end,

But Frolle grasped his long spear in his hand,

And weighing up his foe as he drew near,

He struck Arthur’s charger full in the chest,

So, the lance sank deep, and Arthur tumbled.

A cry rose from both sides, the heavens rang;

The Britons would have started for the isle,

If Arthur had not leapt swiftly to his feet,

Grasped his strong shield, adorned with gold,

And with it defended himself from Frolle.

The latter drew and raised his good sword,

And rushed upon Arthur in fierce attack,

Striking hard at the British king’s shield,

So that it shattered, and fell to the field.

Arthur’s helm was struck, the steel gave way,

And a wound he received, four inches long,

That, being no more, failed to hurt him sore,

Though the blood ran down o’er his breast.

Now Arthur was most wrathful, in his heart,

And he swung Caliburn, with all his might,

Smiting Frolle on the helm with that blade,

So that he split both helm and head in two,

With the steel below, till it reached his chest.

Frolle fell on the grass, and his spirit fled.

Then the Britons rejoiced, their voices loud,

While their enemies sought swiftly to flee.

Arthur enters Paris

Arthur, the strong, now returned and landed,

There, the noblest of kings called to his kin:

‘Where are you, Walwain, dearest of men?

Command these Romans to depart in peace;

Let each enjoy his home as God intended.

And hold to peace, on pain of life or limb.

And I order that on this day, seven-night hence,

They shall march together, and attend on me,

For if they do so, the better it shall serve them.

They shall pay homage to me, with honour,

And I will be sovereign over all their realm,

And will set just laws among their people.

For, now, the Roman laws shall cease to hold,

Those laws that were observed under Frolle,

Whose corpse lies on the isle, deprived of life.

Shortly his kin shall hear the news in Rome,

With tidings of King Arthur, for I’ll go there,

To raze their walls, and remind them of Belin,

Who led the Britons there, conquered them,

And won the lands that were held by Rome.’

Arthur then rode to the gate before the city,

And the magistrates of the place came forth

To conduct the king, and all his men, within.

They delivered up the fortress and the halls,

They delivered up to him the whole of Paris,

And there was bliss among the English folk.

Then, on a day that King Arthur appointed,

All the menfolk of that city became his men.

Arthur divides his forces: Howel conquers the central realms

King Arthur divided his whole force in two.

Half he gave to Howel, and bade him march,

With a mighty host, to conquer all the land.

Howel did all that his monarch commanded,

He conquered Berry and all the lands about,

Anjou, Touraine, Auvergne, and Gascony,

And all the towns and villages they owned.

Now, Guitart was the duke who ruled Poitou,

Who’d ne’er submit, but stood against him,

He sought not peace but countered Howel,

And, oft, he felled our folk, and oft retreated.

Howel wasted the land, and slew its people.

When Guitart, the lord of Poitou, realised

That his whole nation would be ruined,

He and his host forged a peace with Howel,

And he became noble Arthur’s own man.

Arthur was gracious, and loved him dearly,

And bade him enjoy his realm, under him.

Full nobly Howel succeeded in his task.

Arthur completes the immediate conquest

Arthur held France, and settled it freely.

He set his force to march o’er that land,

To Burgundy, which he then set in hand.

And afterwards he fared into Lorraine,

And over all that land he had dominion.

All that he came upon submitted to him,

And thence he turned once more to Paris.

Once Arthur had established a true peace,

And all was settled, and the folk prospered,

He ordered all his longest-serving knights,

Those who were, of old, his companions,

To come to him, and garner their reward.

To some he gave land, some gold and silver,

Some received castles, others rich attire.

He bade them go in joy, and cease to sin,

Forbidding them weapons, in retirement,

And bade them love God truly in this life,

That He might grant them sight of paradise.

There to enjoy their bliss, midst the angels.

All the older knights left for their estates,

While the younger stayed with their dear king.

For nine years King Arthur governed France,

And yet afterwards he governed it no longer,

Though while he was there, the folk prospered;

Many a proud noble bowed humbly before him.

And rewards his knights

At Easter, when the folk had finished fasting,

Arthur gathered his great noblemen together,

All of his highest lords that were in France,

And those in the many realms that lay about.

There he affirmed those noblemen’s rights,

Such that each had what he’d richly earned.

For thus said Arthur, the noblest of all kings:

‘Kay, you that are my steward, attend to me,

Here I grant you Anjou, for your great deeds,

And all of the rights its ownership entails.

Next, kneel to me, Bedivere, my cup-bearer,

I grant you Neustrie, the nearest to my lands.’

Neustrie was then how Normandy was named,  

And these two earls were the closest to Arthur.

More, said Arthur, the noblest king there was:

‘Come hither, Howeldin, my own kinsman,

Take you Boulogne, and hold it, prosperously.

And Borel, wise and wary knight, come hither,

Here I grant you Le Mans, and with all honour;

Hold it, as prosperously, for your good deeds.’

Thus, he dealt out, to men he thought worthy,

His most lordly lands, according to their deeds.

Then were blithe speeches, in Arthur’s halls,

Then was harping and song, all bliss among.

Arthur returns to London

When Easter was gone, with April, from the city,

When the grass was long, and the ocean calm,

And men spoke of the month of May in town,

Arthur gathered his folk, and rode to the shore,

And readied his ships, till all were of the best,

And sailed to this land, and so came to London.

To London town he came, to the people’s bliss.

All was blithe there, all that now met his eyes.

And loud they chose to sing of Arthur the king

And of the great honour the monarch had won.

Many a man kissed his son, and cried welcome,

Daughters their mothers, brothers their brothers,

Sisters kissed sisters; their hearts full softened.

In a hundred places, the people lined the way,

Asking may a question of those who’d returned,

And the knights boasted of victories, and spoils.

None, howe’er skilful with words they might be,

Could tell half the joy that possessed the Britons.

Each fared as he wished throughout the kingdom,

Travelling freely from burgh to burgh, happily.

And, thus, things stood in that same wise, a time,

For bliss was in Britain under that noble king.

He declares his wish to be crowned at Caerleon

Once Easter was gone, and summer come to town,

Then Arthur took counsel with his noblemen,

And said that he would be crowned at Caerleon,

And his folk were to gather there at Whitsunday.

In those days, men thought no place, where’er,

As fair, nor as famed, as Caerleon on Usk,

Unless it was that rich city men called Rome.

And many a good king’s man in this our land,

Held it richer than Rome, Caerleon’s burgh,

And that the Usk was the finest of all rivers.

Meadows were there, full broad, by the burgh,

There, were fish and fowl, and many a fairness,

And a wondrous host of wild deer in the woods.

There, all forms of mirth a man might think of.

But ne’er has it thrived thus since Arthur’s day,

And ne’er shall, twixt this day and doomsday.

Some books say the burgh was then bewitched,

And, truth to tell, the thing may indeed be so,

In that burgh stood two most noble minsters,

One of Saint Aaron, holding many a relic,

And one of Saint Julian, martyred with him,

His standing high with the Lord, and therein,

Many a holy nun, many a high-born woman.

The bishop’s seat was sited at Saint Aaron,

Wherein was many a canon of the Church,

And those canons were famed far and wide.

There was many a fine clerk, full of learning,

Much skill they used to observe the heavens,

To gaze at the stars above, both far and near,

And that craft of theirs is named Astronomy.

Oft they told the monarch of things to come,

Made known to him the future of his realm.

Such was Caerleon’s burgh, rich in wealth;

There, much bliss, while active was its king.

The End of Part VI of Layamon’s ‘Brut