Part VIII: From Arthur to Cadwalader

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

This work may be freely reproduced, stored and transmitted, electronically or otherwise, for any non-commercial purpose.
Conditions and Exceptions apply.


The reign of Constantine

Constantine, loved by the Britons, ruled the realm;

Most dear to them, of great worth they held him.

Now, Mordred had two strong and powerful sons,

And they had learned of how it fared with Arthur,

And of how their father had been robbed of life,

And how the Britons were suffering many an ill.

The brothers spoke together, and gathered men,

Those knights they thought best of the survivors,

And assembled a host drawn from this land,

To slay Constantine, and so rule in his stead.

On hearing this Constantine was full of wrath,

And sent his messengers throughout the land,

Bidding all who could fight to aid their king.

Thirty thousand youngsters gathered to him,

Whom he, there and then, dubbed as knights.

With those who had survived the great battle,

He commanded a good sixty thousand men.

Mordred’s sons heard of this, and took counsel,

They decided the one should march on London,

While the other would advance to Winchester,

And there each would await the king’s arrival,

And fight him, if he came, with all their might.

But, ere they could, things happened otherwise.

Constantine slays the sons of Mordred

Those who guarded the burgh heard of the plan,

And met there in a husting, and took counsel,

And chose to hold with Constantine the king.

And reject Mordred’s son, who wrought so ill.

Mordred’s son sought sanctuary at the altar,

But Constantine pursued him, and caught him,

And, with his sword, the king struck off his head.

And thus, filled with wrath, the monarch spoke:

‘Lie there, you villain; and the Devil take you!

Now slay swiftly, men, all those you find here.’

Many obeyed, and soon wrought the slaughter.

Then King Constantine, the ruler of this land,

Had the trumpets blown, gathered in his host,

And then took the road that led to Winchester.

Forth with him went the Britons out of London,

And came to Winchester, and soon entered in.

Melion viewed them, that was Mordred’s son;

He fled; he too sought sanctuary in a church,

Where, at once, he found refuge near the altar.

Constantine, with his sword, struck off his head,

Drenching Saint Amphibal’s altar with blood,

And then caused all Melion’s men to be slain.

Then was Constantine ruler of the kingdom,

And bliss was in Britain, and there was peace.

Here was concord and freedom among the folk,

The laws maintained that held in Arthur’s day.

The reign of Conan

But, all the same, it lasted but a little while,

For Constantine the king ruled but four years.

He was slain; his folk bore him to Stonehenge,

And there they laid him, beside his ancestors.

Then was Conan raised up here, and made king;

The most wicked man the sun e’er shone upon.

Constantine’s sister’s son, he poisoned his uncle,

And so betrayed the rightful heir to the realm,

And with poison he murdered his uncle’s sons.

He broke the peace, his men fought against him,

And he sought ill-relation with his two sisters.

The burghs in this land all fell into great ruin;

The people of the land were greatly troubled.

Then he fell from his steed, and thus he died;

And all the folk here were better for his death.

The reign of Vortiporus

After these happenings, Vortiporus became king.

Then the Saxon folk came sailing to this land.

And they wrought much harm beyond the Humber,

Capturing, or slaying, all those they came near.

Vortiporus the Fair, then gathered his forces,

And marched against, and felled the Saxon men,

And drove many thousands back to the sea-roads,

Terrified them, and expelled them from the land,

So that, in his days, they ne’er again came hither.

His reign lasted seven years, and then he died.

The reign of Malgus

Malgus, the keen, he then held all this realm,  

That was the fairest man that e’er was born,

Except for Adam, and Absalom, books say.

He graced his palace with many a brave knight.

There all the swains held themselves like thanes,

And his servants had the manners of swains,

And no discourteous man dared seek his court.

He ruled all the lands that had come to him,

And then was all this Britain filled with bliss,

And the realm bore the fruit of his kingship.

He cared not for wealth, gave it to his knights;

None might scorn him for aught but one thing,

He loved that which is loathsome to our creed,

For women he forsook, and he favoured men;

His men loved men, and found women hateful.

So that many thousand fair ladies left this land,

And made their way thus into other countries,

For it seemed a shame to them they were scorned.

Nonetheless, through all, he proved a fine king.

The reign of Carric

Next, came one of his kindred, named Carric,

And held the realm, though he dwelt with woe.

Though brave and strong, he failed to prosper,

For invaders from abroad destroyed the realm.

Though this king was born of a noble line,

He was treated with derision and contempt,

They called him not Carric, but Saxon Cynric,

And many a book still shows us his name so.

The folk began to hate him, and deride him,

And sang scornful songs about this hated king.

There was civil war throughout this country,

And the Saxon tribes soon sailed to our shores,

And took up station here beyond the Humber.

Now, there was in Africa a powerful ruler,

He was named Anster, and had two brave sons,

Gurmund the elder, and Gerion the younger.

The old king died, for his days were now past,

And he left his realm to Gurmund his dear son.

But Gurmund wished it not, and refused it,

And, thinking otherwise, gave it to his brother,

Saying he’d not rule any realm he’d not won

With the sword, and in battle, yet he would gain

Such a kingdom or lack that same for evermore.

Gurmund of Africa raises an army

Now, this Gurmund was a mighty champion,

The strongest man that any had looked upon.

And he sent his messengers to many a land,

To Macedonia, and Turkey, and Babylonia,

And into Persia, and Arabia, and Nubia,

And summoned the youths from heathendom,

Telling them to take up their worthy weapons,

For he’d dub them knights, and lead them forth,

And seek a realm such warriors might win.

They rallied to Gurmund from many a land,

Many a heathen, many a son of noble men.

When his host had gathered, and was counted,

A hundred and sixty thousand men were there,

Above and beyond the front ranks of archers,

And the men of attendant crafts and trades.

Forth went Gurmund with his endless host;

To the sea they came, and the wind was fair.

Into the ships, went all those heathen warriors.

Seventeen were the king’s sons that boarded,

Eight and twenty the offspring of mighty earls,

And seven hundred the vessels in the vanguard,

Forth, o’er the waves, passed that mighty army,

And all the islands that rose up before them

King Gurmund took and held in his own hand.

Many a king he fought that longed for peace,

While all the realms he gazed upon he won.

Gurmund reaches Britain; the Saxons deceive Carric

And then, at the last, he came to Ireland,

Conquered the land and slew the people,

And was named the king there of that land.

Then he made the crossing to this country,

And sailed in force, and reached Southampton.

Now, in the northlands, beyond the Humber

Dwelt six chieftains out of Hengist’s kindred,

And they heard tidings of Gurmund the king,

And oft gave thought to what they might do,

How they might betray their oath to Carric,

And slay the Britons by some wicked ploy.

The Saxons thus sent messengers to Carric,

Saying they wished to forge a peace with him,

As they’d rather have Carric than Gurmund,

That foreign king, if Carric wished for peace,

And granted them the land once held before,

That Vortigern the king had granted Hengist,

When he wed the latter’s beloved daughter.

They would send him tribute from their lands,

And hold Carric to be their darling monarch.

This they would pledge, by yielding hostages.

Carric believed their lies, and gave them peace.

Then was King Carric betrayed upon a day,

And Carric was ever after mocked as Cynric;

With contemptuous speech men derided him,

Yet Carric had truly believed the Saxons’ lies.

The Saxons send messengers to Gurmund

Meanwhile the Saxons sent word to Gurmund:

‘Hail to you Gurmund, hail great heathen king,

All hail to your people, and your noble knights.

Saxons are we, of the best of all those folk

That Hengist brought hither from Saxon lands,

And we dwell in Britain beyond the Humber.

You are a heathen king, we, heathen warriors.

Carric is a Christian king, and hateful to us.

If you will but take this land into your hand,

We will fight, and at full strength, beside you,

And slay Carric, and drive all his knights away,

Grant this and we’ll yield six thousand pounds

To your coffers every year, and be your men,

And render our noble sons to you as hostages.

If it be your will thus to come and lead us,

And make this covenant, and so confirm it,

We will ally with yourself, and none other.

And hold you our king, on land and water.’

Gurmund the keen broke forth in speech:

‘Make ready the fleet, for forth we will go!’

Gurmund joins the Saxons and battles with Carric

They hauled on the ropes, and raised the sails,

And forth they began to voyage, o’er the waves,

And so, they journeyed to Northumberland,

And spoke there with the Saxons, in friendship,

And all swore they would hold to their covenant.

Once Gurmund had joined with the Saxon folk,

They gathered together their countless forces,

And marched upon Carric, king of this land,

While singing of that monarch, contemptuously.

Carric now summoned the Britons to his side,

Who came at need, knowing no better counsel.

Many the folk that did so, forming a vast host,

And oft they fought Gurmund’s host, in battle,

For ne’er did Gurmund seek peace, while Carric,

Though despised by his enemies, grew fiercer,

And if his army had equalled that of Gurmund,

The latter, and his host, would have been lost,

But ever Gurmund’s host waxed with new men,

While Carric’s waned, as his troops were slain.

Gurmund drove Carric’s forces far and wide,

Till Carric shut himself tight in Cirencester.

There he had gathered all that he possessed

Of his kingdom’s grain, heightening the walls.

Now, Gurmund learnt of this; thither he rode,

And surrounded Cirencester in a close siege.

Gurmund thus held the country in his hand,

The forts he burned, the burghs he consumed,

The Britons he slew, and ruin was in the land.

Christian monks he tormented in many a wise;

His followers made whores of noble women.

He razed the churches, and slew the priests,

The clerics he killed, all those that he found,

Murdered the children, and hung the knights,

And ravaged the country in many a manner.

The wretched folk that could left their homes,

Some went into Wales, some into Cornwall,

Some sailed for Ireland in fear of Gurmund,

And they dwelt as slaves there in servitude,

And all their kin ne’er came hither again.

Some fled o’er the sea, and entered Brittany,

And dwelt in that land they called Armorica,

Some into Neustrie, that we call Normandy,

And so, the Britons lost rule of this kingdom.

And Gurmund laid siege still to Cirencester,

With Carric inside, and all of his warriors;

Woe was to the people that yet were living!

Isemberd, a French noble, joins Gurmund

One day, Gurmund rode forth for the chase;

With his heathen thanes he went a hunting.

There came one riding to Gurmund the king,

He was named Isemberd, France his country,

He the son of Louis that ruled that kingdom.

His father had driven him forth from the realm,

And had banished him from every place there,

So, he’d fled to this land, to Gurmund the king.

He had, in company, two thousand horsemen,

And he swore to become King Gurmund’s man.

Worse he could not have done, Christ he forsook,

Ere he went forth to the Devil, and heathendom.

Now both men marched out with a mighty host,

To strengthen the siege gripping Cirencester.

The siege of Cirencester

Carric’s men launched sorties from the burgh,

Deploying all their strength, slaying thousands,

Heathen hounds all, despatching them to Hell.

Carric, a fine warrior, maintained the fight,

And to his utmost strength held Cirencester,

So that Gurmund ne’er could do him harm,

Till a stratagem, from within, betrayed him.

Gurmund built five forts around Cirencester,

Three were held by a trio of heathen knights,

While he held one, and Isemberd another.

He added a tower to his, with a fine chamber,

And therein entertained himself as men did,

And had his idol there, that he worshipped.

On a day, he and his folk were passing blithe,

Drunk with wine, when a heathen appeared,

Cursed be he, and spoke to Gurmund the king:

‘Tell me, Lord Gurmund, powerful as you are,

How long will you tarry here outside the burgh?

What will you grant, if I render you the place,

And all that’s within, for you to do your will,

Leaving all that is there in your possession?’

Then answered Gurmund, that mighty king:

‘I will grant you an earldom, to hold forever,

If you can deliver me the burgh right soon.’

They so agreed, and few knew of that same.

Carric is defeated and flees into Wales

The heathen knight rose and sought out nets,

Close was their weave wrought, fine the mesh,

And spread about seeds, and husks, oat chaff,

On which many a passing sparrow alighted,

And at the first throw he caught full many,

And gathered them up, their wings unharmed.

Then he gathered nuts, removed the kernels,

And placed tinder inside the hollow shells,

And set the flammable contents smouldering

And tied the closed shells to the sparrows’ feet.

Then he let a host of these sparrows loose,

And the birds flew to their nests in the burgh,

Under the eaves, into the thatch, and all about,

And as the sparks flew, the birds crept inward,

And the night-breeze blew, swelling the flames,

And the burgh began to burn, in many a place,

Both east and west, and woe to the Britons there!

They fled into one quarter to escape the fire,

But the flames rose higher, before and behind.

Gurmund had war-horns and trumpets blown,

Fifteen thousand warriors roused to their blast.

The town burnt, and the Britons sought escape,

They leapt from the walls, and the foe slew them.

Nowhere is it spoken, or writ in any book,

That a finer people were e’er destroyed so,

As that army of Carric, the King of Britain.

The fire burned all night, the blaze endless.

The fight was done, the flames spread o’er all.

Carric the king saw that he was conquered,

Then he stole away, as if mortally wounded.

Thus, all silently, he crept from his people,

And westward went, into the land of Wales.

And in that manner vanished from his realm.

None knew what became of him thereafter,

Except once a knight came riding to court,

And brought Gurmund tidings of the man,

Saying he was gathering troops in Ireland,

And would come hither after to wage war.

But none ever heard he brought it to issue.

Gurmund conquers the realm

Thus was Cirencester and that region wasted,

And Gurmund raised as king of all this land,

The burgh being captured by that stratagem,

Burnt by the fires that the sparrows brought.

For many winters after, in common speech,

The place was known as Sparrow-chester,

And, through that deed, some so call it still.

Thus, was that wealthy burgh sadly ruined,

And Gurmund now commanded this realm,

A heathen man that scorned all Christendom,

And there was woe and sorrow at what befell.

Gurmund razed the minsters, hung the monks,

Sliced lips from knights, teats from maidens,

Blinded the priests, and injured all the people,

Warriors yet in the town he had dismembered,

And went on to savage all that was Christian.

After Cirencester he progressed to London,

And there he gathered folk in a great husting,

For there came the Saxon leaders in this land,

Countless of them becoming Gurmund’s men.

They swore oaths and he gave them this land

To hold on his behalf, now that he was king.

And the king commanded all that did love him

To slay all those Britons they chanced to find,

Unless they would live in thraldom thereafter,

And forsake the Mass for the heathen rite;

If so, they might live as slaves in this land.

The origins of the English

By Germany, lay the realm of the Angles;

There lived the folk that Gurmund chose,

Those to whom he gave all of this kingdom,

As he had promised if they gained the land;

For the oath he had sworn he now fulfilled.

Since Angles they, and their realm, were called,

The name they later went by was the English,

And called this land, in their hands, England.

When Brutus first came into this kingdom,  

It was named Britain, and its people Britons,

And so it was called until the Angles came.

Many the townships and lands and dwellings,

They renamed, so as to shame the Britons,

Taking their lands and setting them in hand.

Gurmund granted all this and then departed.

The period of five realms

The conquerors gathered, then, in London,

To choose a king to govern this kingdom,

And yet could not agree whom that should be,

And argued angrily, and chose variously,

Such that five kings they raised to rule the land.

Each king robbed the others of all he could,

Living in amity or in enmity, turn by turn,

And so, in this manner, long years went by,

When Christianity in this land was unknown,

For ne’er was a Mass sung, nor a bell rung,

Nor a church hallowed, nor a child baptised.

Pope Gregory and the Angles

There was in Rome a pope of God’s election,

Who was named Gregory, loved by the Lord.

One day, when he was speeding on a journey,

He entered into a street that led from Rome,

And saw three fair men of the English nation,

Tight bound, to be sold, and the price was told.

The Pope asked the three from whence they came,

And the one replied, and he was exceeding fair:

‘Heathens are we, and hither were we brought,

And we were sold from the land of the Angles,

And we will be baptised, if you’ll but free us.’

Then Gregory, beloved of the Lord, felt pity,

And spoke these words, out of his goodness:

‘Truly you Angles are most like to angels,

Being the fairest of all folk that are living!’

The Pope then set to asking them questions,

Concerning their land, and laws, and their king,

And they told him of everything they knew.

And he had them freed, and he baptised them,

And returned, shortly, to his seat in Rome.

Augustine’s mission to England (597AD)

Gregory summoned one of his cardinals,

The noblest of clerics, named Augustine,

And communed with him, and spoke thus:

‘Augustine if you go, with truth in mind,

To England, and to this Ethelbert its king,

And preach God’s Gospel, it shall be well.

And I will give you forty good companions.

Tomorrow, go set yourself upon the way.’

Forth went Augustine, with all the clerics

That Gregory had chosen to grant him,

And he landed in this country, at Thanet,  

And went up to the king’s court in Kent.

So, he progressed, and reached Canterbury,

A place that seemed to him most pleasant.

And there, found Ethelbert this land’s king.

He brought him tidings of the heavenly king,

Speaking the Gospel’s words to the monarch

Who listened intently, and received them well,

So that he yearned to dwell in Christendom.

Ethelbert and his knights were then baptised.

He began to build a church most exceeding fair,

To the Holy Trinity, and thereby wrought well.

Augustine went forth south, and west, and north,

Through all England, and turned it towards God.

Clerics he instructed, and churches he raised,

Healing the sick, through the Saviour’s might,

And returning southward, came to Dorchester,

Where dwelt the worst of folk in all this land.

He told them of God’s laws and they scorned him.

He spoke about Christendom, and they grimaced.

The founding of Cerne Abbey

They advanced on Augustine where he stood,

His clerics all about him, speaking of Christ

The Son of God, as was e’er his custom there;

Hung mullets’ tails on his cope, ill-advisedly;

Thronged alongside him, hurling fishbones,   

And likewise threw sharp stones, to shame him;

Scorned him, and drove him from that place.

They were odious folk, and he was angered.

He travelled some five miles from Dorchester,

And he came to a hill, that was tall and fair,

And there he knelt, and he offered a prayer,

Asking God to bring vengeance on those folk

Who’d dishonoured him with shameful deeds.

Our Lord above heard, and wrought vengeance

On those wretched folk that scorned Augustine.

He set upon them mullets’ tails, to shame them;

They were disgraced, all who bore those tails,

And folk called them ‘mugglings’ after the fish,

The mullets or ‘muggles’, whose tails they bore.

And every free man yet speaks ill of those same,

And English freemen, in many a land, blush

For that scornful deed; many a good man’s son,

That ne’er dwelt there, is called base for that same.

Now, Augustine tarried there, fast by that hill,

With those clerics that came with him from Rome.

They called on the Lord, who granted us the light,

In their sorrow and woe; it shamed them full sore,

That those wicked folk had brought them disgrace,

And Augustine thought he’d now return to Rome,

And complain to Gregory, the Lord’s apostle,

Of how the Dorchester folk had received him.

But the very night when he chose to set forth,

Our Lord appeared to him, naming him rightly,

By his true name, and right glad then was he.

‘What think you, Augustine, dearly beloved?

Would you return to Rome? Leave not this land!

For you are most dear, and I am beside you,

And so, to my heavenly realm you shall come;

A place is prepared; there your soul shall be.

So spoke our Lord with Augustine his priest.

Once Augustine had seen the Lord in vision,

And heard the command that he’d been given,

And the Lord had returned to heaven, he knelt,

Praying, on the spot where he had seen Him,

And, weeping, he called on the heavenly King,

Asking for grace from the Lord, the Almighty,

And his folk all bowed them down to the earth.

By the spot, where he knelt, he fixed his staff;

There he knelt, and addressed his companions,

And they liked his discourse, exceedingly well.

When he had spoken of what the Lord had said,

He took up his staff to go to his lodging there.

He plucked out the staff, and water leapt forth,

The fairest well-stream that flows on this earth.

Before this, none lived there or had a dwelling,

But soon folk flocked to Augustine the good.

By his leave, in that place, many now gathered.

And began to build there, beside that fair water,

For many regained, there, health from that stream.

The place he called Cernel, from the Latin ‘cerno’,

‘I see’ in English, with ‘el’ the Hebrew for God;

Which makes ‘I see God’ when all’s set together.

And the name Cerne shall stand to the world’s end,

Derived, as the word is, from that godly naming,

Honouring the spot upon which the Lord stood,

All His angels by Him, as he spoke to Augustine.

Augustine Christianizes Britain

Augustine went far and wide throughout Britain,

He baptised the kings, he baptised their chieftains,

He baptised the earls, and baptised the barons,

He baptised the English, and baptised the Saxons,

And set those in our lands, between God’s hands.

Then was he content to have brought folk bliss.

In the North, a deal of land was held by Britons;

They had built many a fort to resist the English,

But among them were monks, in large numbers.

Augustine found elsewhere several good bishops

That sang the Mass truly, one the archbishop

That had his seat at Caerleon; while Bangor

Possessed an abbey with monks innumerable,

And Dinoth, of noble line, was the abbot there;

He had sixteen hundred monks, in seven halls,

And others moreover, all bold Britons by birth.

Seven British bishops scorn Augustine

Augustine sent writs to these seven bishops,

And bade them come soon to speak with him,

Do obedience there, and receive the eucharist,

For he was their superior in all of this land.

As the Pope’s legate, he was the primate here,

And he did all on behalf of the Pope in Rome.

The bishops were rude, and gave him answer:

‘We priests are not beholden to Augustine,

For we are noblemen, and high in this land.

And hold our sees from our own archbishop,

An excellent priest, who dwells in Caerleon,

Who was granted his rule by Pope Gregory,

And with true worship he holds his diocese.

Ne’er shall we bow to Augustine, a stranger,

For he, and his company, prove our enemies,

For he has come here, and baptised the king,

The prince, the atheling, of those of Kent,

Ethelbert, the noblest amongst the Saxons.

Here he has found all those heathen hounds

That came with Gurmund from Saxon lands,

All of whom he baptises and ‘sends to God’,

Who, without right, now hold our kingdoms.

Christians are we all, of a Christian people,

As our elders were three hundred years ago,

While they but newly adhere to our creed,

Whom Augustine has baptised and accepted.

Therefore, we resent, and will ne’er obey, him.

And ne’er in this life shall we befriend him.’

Now Augustine soon heard tidings of all this,

Of the hostile answer that the bishops gave,

And the scorn in which those Britons held him.

Then was he troubled, and most sad at heart,

And made his way to court, and to the king,

And to Ethelbert, King of the East Angles,

Complained of the hostile British bishops,

And how they scorned to accept his authority.

The king, greatly angered, swore to slay them.

And so, he did, afterwards, and full swiftly.

The sack of Leicester

Ethelbert, in Kent, was king of all the land,

And one of his kindred was named Aluric,

Wickedest of all kings, in Northumberland.

And he counselled that they should be slain,

While the bishops knew naught of his mischief.

Ethelbert sent messengers through the land,

As Aluric did throughout Northumberland,

And they gathered a great host of warriors,

To destroy the Britons, and slay the bishops.

They marched to Leicester and besieged it,

Knowing one Brochinal dwelt there within,

Who was a British earl, and a stalwart knight.

Brochinal readied his men, and issued forth

And set out to battle with Ethelbert’s force,

But was soon slain and his soldiers captured.

So, the king’s army entered into Leicester,

And there they slew all those they came nigh,

Then declared they would march into Wales,

And slay all the Britons found dwelling there.

The clerics petition Aluric, and are slaughtered

Aluric was resting himself, content in Leicester,

Where there came to seek him monks and hermits,

The white canons, bishops, and other clerics,

Marked out by God, who now knelt before him.

They begged him, out of their mighty yearning,

To make peace with them, for love of the Lord,

And let them alone, to live here in this land,

And they would pray for him to God on high.

Then that wickedest of kings gave his reply:

‘Hark to me, go, in company, into the field,

And I will send word to you of what shall be,

In accord with what my counsellors advise.’

Forth went the monks, and priests of the Mass,

Forth went the canons, and the other clerics,

Forth went all that sought peace with the king.

And had petitioned him, for the love of God.

So, there, on a broad field outside the burgh,

Those folk assembled, and sorrow was theirs!

For King Aluric had decided, scorning counsel,

That he would fell all these folk to the ground.

Five hundred knights, and nine hundred on foot,

With huge battle-axes, he ordered to that field,

And they slew every innocent that came nigh.

Fifteen hundred and sixty-five folk they slew,

Good book-learned men; death came to them,

And the tidings of this ill flew far and wide.

The Britons defeat Aluric

There were three worthy nobles, in this land,

Around whom the Britons swiftly rallied.

Baldric the brave, he was Earl of Cornwall,

The highest of the nobles among their folk,

And he held all of Devon, too, in his hands,

Where the waters of the Exe flow to the sea.

Cadwan, the bold, was king in North Wales;

In South Wales, Margadud, the fairest of men.

(The Britons ruled those lands, for many a year,

Till Athelstan the Strong, king of this land,

Subdued them, driving them from the Tamar,

So, they ne’er thereafter possessed Cornwall.

And from the fertile land all along the Severn,

From its upper reaches to the rolling sea.

For in Malvern, by the Severn, Margadud lay,

With all his folk, and Athelstan advanced there.

Then the King of the English held them fast,

And, in battle, drove them beyond the Wye,

Seizing all between the rivers Wye and Severn,

And so, dispossessing them of this realm.)

Margadud the bold, Baldric, and Cadwan,

Gathering an army, an innumerable host,

Marched on Northumberland’s King Aluric,

Fought hard with him, and felled his forces.

And Aluric was wounded most sorely there,

For immeasurable was that fierce conflict,

And Baldric the earl was hewn to pieces.

Ten thousand brave knights fell in that battle,

Ten thousand bold Britons fell to the sword.

And seventeen thousand English and Saxons,

Were hewn in pieces, their host so lessened,

While King Aluric fled to Northumberland,

Wounded so sore his folk were full of woe.

Cadwan is made king and reconciles with Aluric

Cadwan and Margadud, with all their forces,

Marched forth to Leicester, and took the burgh,

And they called all in this land to a husting.

There the English gathered, and the Saxons,

And there the Britons made bold Cadwan king,

So that all bowed to him that were before him.

In Northumberland, Aluric’s wounds were healed.

Though he suffered in mind the loss of his men,

Still filled with his sorrow at his folk’s defeat.

Aluric heard constant tidings of King Cadwan,

Menaced by that monarch to him most hateful.

He sent messengers to Scotland and the North,

Seeking for knights, and all that might fight,

Begging them for help, in his hour of need.

Cadwan gathered men from all this country,

While all of Wales he rallied to his cause,

And then marched forth to Northumberland.

Aluric heard of this, and moved against him,

Till they were encamped but two miles apart,

Then the hosts advanced as if they would fight.

The earls, barons, bishops, and learned men

Knew that if they all met together in battle,

Many a man in that conflict would be slain.

And they bethought them what they might do.

They made a pact to respect a day’s peace,

Whereon both sides spoke in amity together,

And decided that the kings should reconcile.

Thus, the two kings sought a reconciliation,

And they embraced together and full often.

Those kings in peace and friendship embraced,

The earls embraced as if they were brothers,

The swains rejoiced; the thanes all full of bliss.

Aluric was king then north of the Humber,

While Cadwan was overlord in the south,

And the hosts, on either side, were content.

Ne’er was it read of, nor was heard in song,

That any two monarchs were such friends,

For all that the one possessed was the other’s,

And each to each was dearer than a brother.

Both were soon wed, and often met together;

They married at one time, and begat sons,

Who were born together on the same day,

Both mutually loved, and likewise nurtured.

The sons of Cadwan and Aluric

Now, these two children grew and thrived,

And their parents were happy, and content.

To confirm the love between their fathers,

They were well-taught and raised together,

Dressed alike and, like to their two fathers,

A mutual love they bore, wondrous to see.

And so, they lived till they were fully grown.

They rode their steeds in lovely knightly garb,

And proved their great strength many a time.

Their weapons strong, they yet broke shafts,

And smiting with their swords dealt smart blows.

Soon their two fathers led them to Brittany,

The land that was known then as Armorica,

And with much display and great rejoicing.

There the two sons were both dubbed knights.

Within a few years, both the lads’ fathers died,

And the pair became kings of their two realms,

Each holding the lands his father held before.

Now Canterbury, that rich burgh, was the see

Of an archbishop that was exceeding good,

And he forbade either king to wear the crown,

Till he came himself to set one on their head.

The command of the archbishop was obeyed.

Cadwalan held the land south of the Humber,

And he was Cadwan’s son; Edwin, the other,

Held all the lands beyond Humber northwards,

As princes they were raised, and sworn kings,

But their crowns forbore, in the Lord’s name.

Cadwalan is crowned

Cadwalan often thought what he might do,

Now that their two fathers were both dead.

Their friendship lasted for but seven years,

For Cadwalan held many a strong castle,

And the greater sovereignty thus was his.

Cadwalan, therefore, marched to London,

And sent his men to seek the archbishop,

Commanding him to come there full soon.

The king received him, and he was content,

For he met the good archbishop at the door,

Crying: ‘You are welcome!’ as he did so,

Treating him lovingly, calling him ‘my lord’.

He acknowledged the Lord above, rightfully,

And spoke of the creed, and of God’s favour,

All his speech with the archbishop was good,

The king asking him, pleasantly and often,

To crown him as such in this his kingdom.

On the appointed day the folk assembled,

And there they crowned Cadwalan their king.

Great was the joy throughout London town.

Edwin asks that his coronation be allowed

Edwin knew naught of this; when he heard,

He was angered at heart, and railed against it:

‘War will I wage, and slay Cadwalan’s folk,

All that I find alive, that follow the false king!’

He gathered an army, many a thousand men,

Readying them to ravage this side of Humber.

Knights of worth betook themselves to counsel,

All the wisest men then dwelling in his lands,

Who soon advised King Edwin their master,

To send messengers to Cadwalan the king.

And beg him of his grace, as his dear brother,

And for the mutual love their father’s bore,

That he should be crowned King of the North.

His people would retreat beyond the Humber,

And live in peace, and nevermore maraud,

If he might be crowned king before the Lord,

And he would love Cadwalan, upon his life,

And be ready to lend him aid, in every need.

Cadwalan, King in the South, said of this:

‘I learn of my dear brother Edwin’s request,

And will think upon it, and give him answer,

As to whether I’ll grant him that same or not,

In accord with what my counsellors advise.’

A day was set upon which they would meet,

Without any knowing more of his decision.

They rode to a ford, on the day appointed,

Douglas Water was the name of the river;

There the meeting took place between them.

Edwin sought to persuade King Cadwalan

To allow his coronation; he’d love him ever.

The monarch’s counsellors spoke together,

Some advised that he do so, some decried it.

Some wished it to happen, others demurred.

As the wise nobles began their speeches,

He dismounted from his steed in a meadow,

Then the king sought sleep, as they conferred.

A knight of the chamber sat down beside him,

The king’s sister’s son; Brian was his name.

He raised the king’s head, laid it in his lap,

And combed the monarch’s hair as he slept;

The king began to sleep, and Brian to weep.

And the tears ran down o’er the king’s face.

This woke the king, whose eyes oped in fear;

His cheeks felt moist, he thought that he bled.

Then with a swift glance he perceived Brian,

And saw the warrior weeping over his king.

Then Cadwalan the king, asked this of Brian:

‘What ails you, dear nephew, that you weep so?

You are of worth; are these not woman’s ways?

Tell me, swiftly, how do things go with you?’

Then Brian the best of knights, answered him:

‘Weep we should; we prove vile that were noble,

Now that you contemplate what’s ne’er been done,

That two kings should be crowned in this land.

And so, we must weep that before were noble,

For honour is lost, where once virtue reigned!’

Cadwalan, king of the land, hearkened to this;

Brian’s speech stirred him to wrathful action.

And in haste he sent messengers to Edwin,

And bade him depart quickly from his realm:

‘For, upon my life, ne’er shall he be crowned.

If he seeks it further, I shall forbid that same,

Seize his Northumberland, and strip him bare.

I shall have all his lands; he shall bow to me.’

He receives Cadwalan’s answer

This answer was brought to Edwin, the king,

And he was then angered wondrously much,

Like a wild boar in the wood ringed by hounds,

And these the words he returned, in his wrath:

‘By the Lord that granted us the light of day,

And by all the sacred temples there in Rome,

I shall wear the crown; he shall buy it dearly,

And suffer therefrom the greatest of all ills!

He shall have waste and wilderness enough,

And feel sorrow in mind over his lost honour.’

And so, it came about, full soon thereafter.

They threatened each other with dire words,

And, promising deeds as dire, then departed.

Edwin and Cadwalan war with one another

Edwin was a warrior, and his men were bold,

Cadwalan a worthy knight, and full of might.

Edwin prepared for war beyond the Humber,

Cadwalan, as wrathful, returned to London.

Then the war began, they rode and they ran,

They harried, burned, slew all that was nigh.

Woe to the commoners that dwelt in the land!

Cadwalan, in London, had assembled his host,

And had sent his messengers to many a realm.

Fifty thousand noble knights he gathered there,

To wreak his will, while Edwin, in the north,

Sent likewise to Denmark, Scotland, Galloway,

That owed allegiance, and gathered in his men,

Till he’d sixty thousand troops, eager to fight.

Cadwalan marched towards Northumberland.

He passed the Humber, and wrought much harm,

Wasting the lands that Edwin held in hand,

Edwin was unafraid, and spoke forthrightly:

‘Let him be accounted naught that aids us not;

Show the wild boar’s heart, the raven’s cunning,

And go teach this king that we are yet alive.’

He gathered his troops, the trumpets sounded,

And he marched forth to where Cadwalan lay.

The knights from either side clashed together,

Spears were broken, shields shattered in hand,

Helms were hewn, as steel breastplates failed,

Saddles were emptied, wretched warriors fell.

Came a clamour from the folk; the ground shook,

The streams ran red with blood, as faces paled,

The ranks of Britons broke, mischief among them.

Harsh blows they dealt all day until the evening,

Then Cadwalan fled, with Edwin in pursuit.

Cadwalan flees to Ireland

Cadwalan with his knights, fled through the night.

A mere five hundred were left, of his company.

They rode for Scotland, sorrow at their left hand.

And Edwin followed after, with fifteen thousand.

Bold were his thanes, making good their threat.

An innumerable host followed Edwin’s army,

As they drove Cadwalan north, from day to day.

And truth to tell, they thought soon to slay him.

Cadwalan fled to the coast, and gathered a fleet,

Ships he hired with precious gold and treasure.

And the fleet began to lay a course for Ireland,

And made harbour safely there after the voyage.

Ireland then was in the hands of a mighty king.

He was called Gille Patric, a noble warrior.

He received Cadwalan courteously with a kiss,

And granted him the freedom of his kingdom.

Edwin seizes Brian’s sister

Let us leave Cadwalan, and return to Edwin,

Who slew the folk here, and burned the burghs.

Castles he razed, his troops wrought much harm,

While all Cadwalan’s lands he promptly seized.

Then Edwin’s spies returned and brought tidings,

(And woe to those men that ever they were born!)

Tidings of a fair maiden, Brian’s comely sister,

Loveliest of women; who dwelt at Winchester.

Edwin with his host marched upon the castle;

As soon as he came there, he seized the maid,

And noble knights accompanied her to York.

The chamberlain brought her to the king’s bed.

The king was unwise to seize that lovely maid,

For the woman was evermore King Edwin’s foe.

Cadwalan sails for England

There dwelt at his court a clerk out of Spain.

He was named Pelluz, and learned in all lore.

Many a secret thing he gazed on, by his craft,

In the sun, and the stars, and the ocean depths.

He knew the calendar of the moon and winds,

And where the fish swam, and the worms crept.

Cadwalan had soon gathered troops in Ireland,

And set sail with his fleet, and his mighty host.

Pelluz, afar, beheld his voyage, in the stars,

He foresaw his advance upon Edwin the king,

And taught how the latter might save the realm.

By ship and shore Cadwalan sought this land,

But Edwin went before, and closed the havens;

Through Pelluz’ foresight the fleet was barred.

Woe now to Cadwalan that he was ever born,

For he played the traitor to his sworn brother,

And yet to himself he did the greater harm!

Cadwalan called to him all his noblest knights,

And said that he would sail now to Brittany,

To the king there whose name was Salomon.

For he would welcome him with open heart,

For they were, both the twain, of one kindred,

Britons both, and both were likewise troubled.

Cadwalan took ship, and sailed upon the waves,

And set forth o’er the sea, sorrowful in mind.

To Yarmouth, and the Isle of Wight they came,

Like it or not, and there were forced to anchor,

On account of the wind that blew against them.

There the king, Cadwalan, felt most unwell,

With an ill fever that robbed him of his health.

After nine days, the king was much weakened,

And greatly desired venison as nourishment.

He summoned Brian his kinsman, saying:

‘If I have not venison soon, I shall be dead!’

Brian cures the king’s illness

Brian, oft troubled, was ne’er more so than then.

He summoned the huntsmen with their hounds.

O’er the fields and through the woods they ran,

But no deer were to be found for all their wiles,

Ne’er a hart nor a hind could they stir there.

The king, impatient, sent messengers to Brian.

Dear was the king to him, and sorrowful was he.

Oft, he bethought himself what he might do,

And this he conceived and he thought it good:

He took hold of a keen, well-whetted blade,

And took a slice of flesh from his own thigh,

Roasted it, swiftly, and bore it to the king.

‘Hail to you, Cadwalan, my sovereign lord.

I have brought you the finest venison of all,

That e’er on any board was served to a king.

Approach, and eat, for it shall prove a cure.’

The king sat on his bed, his barons about him.

He ate of the roast meat, and soon was eased.

He began to sweat, and the sickness to pass,

And within five nights he was sound again,

And ne’er did he know what Brian had done.

Cadwalan sails to Brittany

The king was sound, and his folk were blithe.

The wind was favourable, they raised the sails,

The ships made headway, and the minstrels sang.

Kind was the weather, and the sea was calm;

The wind and tide now bore the fleet onward.

At Ridelet he came ashore, with joyful song,

Which is there yet, twixt Dinan and the sea.

So soon as he arrived, Salomon received him,

And most courteously; they were blithe together.

There, all winter, Cadwalan was entertained,

And then came Lent, and the days lengthened.

He began to fill his ships with countless warriors.

Thus did Cadwalan but, far-off, Pelluz knew it,

Through his magic arts, viewing the starry skies.

By many a thing on earth and in the heavens,

He forewarned Edwin of the fleet and the host.

Brian sails for England, to remove Pelluz

Cadwalan was in Brittany, with Salomon its king,

His cousin, his aunt’s son, and most dearly loved.

And he heard it often said that Pelluz the wise,

That came from Spain, had warned King Edwin

Concerning future events that would transpire.

Cadwalan was troubled, and spoke with Brian,

Who was as dear to him, and they took counsel,

And decided that, while this Pelluz was alive,

Cadwalan could not covertly enter Britain.

Brian prepared to journey there, taking care

To provide himself with much silver and gold,

And countless treasures of many a varied kind.

He filled mighty casks with a wealth of goods;

To sea he went, and voyaged o’er the waves,

And among the casks was many a tun of wine,

And, once in harbour, he let his wine be tasted,

And behaved as if he were a wealthy merchant.

He entered Barbefleet, landing at Southampton,

One, there, had good wine drawn from his tuns,

And dealt it courteously to those that gathered,

Rich and poor alike, and so was loved by all.

After a seven-night he spoke with his knights,

Who were all feigning likewise to be merchants,

For a well-walled earth-house they had hired,

And within that cellar they’d stored their tuns.

They gave their lord a false name, Kinebord,

While he feigned to be a merchant from Spain.

They claimed he would range o’er the country,

And seek where he might freely sell his wine.

Forth at eve he went, with one of his knights,

And came swiftly to London, and Westminster,

Where he sought tidings of Edwin the king.

They told him that the king was now at York,

With a host of men, and in comfort enough,

So, he travelled north, with one companion,

Leaving London secretly, in wrathful mood.

He journeys to Edwin’s court at York.

After travelling for a seven-night or so,

He met a pilgrim with a staff in his hand,

Who had journeyed in haste from the court.

Brian asked his business; he told his tale,

All that he chose, and after was persuaded

To exchange clothes; both went their way.

Brian, dressed as a pilgrim, found a smith,

And asked the smith to make an iron tip

To replace that from his staff he had lost.

Three days he dwelt there beside the forge,

The smith performing all they had agreed,

Forging a tip that was both long and strong;

Sharp was the end, and marvellous the staff.

Staff in hand, he now journeyed o’er the land,

And so, he then soon arrived at Edwin’s court.

Brian went here and there, but could not gain

Any news of his fair sister’s whereabouts,

Being careful not to enquire at the court.

He enters the court, dressed as a poor pilgrim

Come the morning, when the Lords sends light,

The king caused all in need, therein, to be fed.

All the poor folk of the city were summoned,

And hundreds upon hundreds soon appeared.

Brian went forward with the other wretches,

While giving a show of halting like one lame,

In the tattered garments of a man lowly born.

The crowd pushed him around, strange it felt;

His staff by his side he sat amongst those folk.

The king, and his attendants, stooped to serve.

The queen and her maidens bore folk drink.

Then it transpired that Galarne, Brian’s sister,

Approached the queen with a drinking bowl,

And recognised her brother in the pilgrim.

Seeming poor she knew that he was noble.

As soon as she saw him, she came forward,

And drew a fine ring from off her finger,

And set that ring of bright gold in his hand.

Then said Galarne, that kind and lovely maid:

‘Take this gold poor man, and God go with you,

Buy yourself warm garments gainst the cold.’

Thus, Brian realised that his sister knew him,

And with these words Brian the good replied:

‘The Lord that gave us daylight, reward you,

That deign to give such treasure to the poor!’

Then Galarne sat down betwixt two windows,

And, hidden there, she spoke with her brother,

And it warmed her heart to grant him tidings.

She pointed out Pelluz, the clerk from Spain,

And he gazed on the enemy he most hated.

After speaking thus, the siblings separated,

For not for their weight in gold would either

Let the king or a courtier find them together,

Since they’d be taken, and beheaded or hung.

Brian slays Pelluz, and awaits Cadwalan at Exeter

The folk had eaten and rose from their seats,

Amidst a drunken clamour, in that sudden din.

Pelluz was near, and bore the monarch’s cup.

Brian approached the man who’d done him ill,

His staff in hand, yet half-hidden by his cloak.

Thus, drawing nigh, he appeared behind Pelluz,

And, midst the throng, he thrust him in the back,

Such that the tip leapt forth from out the breast;

Then loosed his grip, to hide among the crowd.

Forth he went with the folk, all safe and sound.

And went swift from that place, heading south.

Thus, he journeyed far, till to Exeter he came,

Where he met a company of his bold knights,

Who asked him eagerly of how he’d fared.

Brian greeted them fulsomely and told them

That Cadwalan would bring a mighty host,

Composed of warriors from many a realm,

Such that Edwin would not dare attack him,

Nor rest easy in any burgh wherein he lay.

The men of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset heard,

And great was their bliss that they were alive.

Brian sent messengers swiftly to Brittany,

And in his letters informed King Cadwalan

Of all that he had done, and of Pelluz’ death,

Bidding him come in force to this our land.

And the king did so as swiftly as he might.

Brian sent messages also to Southampton,

And had his treasure brought, and those men

That would gather to his cause, to Exeter.

Thus, steadfast warriors manned that burgh.

Cadwalan gathers an army and sails for Britain

Cadwalan, hearing the news, was full blithe.

Assembling a fleet of three hundred ships,

He equipped them all, and gathered his troops.

And Salomon summoned men far and wide,

And forth he too sailed with his bold Bretons,

In two hundred good ships, aiding his kinsman.

The wind was favourable, the weather fine,  

The vessels raised their sails and set forth,

Travelling o’er the waves as they desired.

They came to Totnes, that bold pair of kings,

Salomon the good, and Cadwalan the brave,

All the folk on land joyful at their coming.

The battle before Exeter, against Penda of Mercia

Now, in the Midlands reigned a king called Penda,

Who governed the folk there under Mercian law.

And he loved King Edwin, and Edwin loved him,

And ever this Penda counselled Edwin at need.

Now King Penda heard that Brian held Exeter,

And he sent far and wide and gathered a host.

And he went forth, and he marched to Exeter,

With countless warriors, and besieged the town.

Brian the brave, with a good two hundred men,

Lay fast within, and there defended the burgh.

Tidings then came to Cadwalan, at Totnes,

Of how Brian was thus besieged, in Exeter.

He had the trumpets blown, gathered his men

And marched forth on the road to that place.

He ordered his troops into three divisions,

And full of battle-anger he called to them:

‘Every good knight, now, march on outright,

For we are well-armed, a most goodly host,

And bring help to Brian who is dear to me,

Ere they can kill him and show his corpse,

And slay his comrades, before slaying us!’

So, they began to ride, bold lances to glide,

Clubs were shattered, and shafts were shivered,

Shields of bright gold were swiftly splintered.

Fell the brave knights, faces drained of blood,

On the wide field died those that were fated.

The streams ran dark red and exceeding full.

Then, earls were no greater than mere churls,

And seven thousand men of Mercia perished.

Then, the fair standards toppled to the earth,

Shields were cast aside, and the ground rang.

Penda is captured and held at Exeter

Now the wretched survivors took to flight,

And with all his might Cadwalan pursued,

And with his own hand he took King Penda,

Mildburg’s grandfather, Maerwal’s father.

Penda, he captured, and they bound him tight,

And guarded him fast, deep within Exeter.

Penda, it seems, was wondrously unharmed,

And Cadwalan treated him in goodly manner,

He was well fed, and his chamber fine and fair.

After a seven-night, Penda called for a knight,

That was a wise man of his, and full eloquent,

To share of his counsel, in his hour of need;

He besought this knight to seek of Cadwalan,

That was his sovereign now, to set him free,

And, for the love of God, he would be his man,

And he, and his, would exalt him night and day.

The knight went forth to Cadwalan the king,

(Blessing be on him, for a good man and true)

And where the king was, he greeted him fair:

‘Hail to you, Cadwalan, that is my sovereign,

King Penda sent me, that lies bound in prison,

For he seeks your mercy, now and evermore.

And he will be your man, and his son hostage,

And acknowledge you as lord, as your vassal,

And where’er you are be ready at your need.

For he will defend you gainst any man born!’

Cried Cadwalan the keen, king in the south:

‘If Penda will hold to what he now promises,

And renders up his son, his gold and treasure,

And will be true to me, and work me no harm,

And ne’er betray me, out of sheer wilfulness,

Then I will agree to what he now seeks of me.’

The good knight replied: ‘Lo, may I now thrive,

By standing surety, and my hundred comrades,

On penalty of our land, and our silver and gold.

And, for your grace and mercy, he will do more,

He has a fair sister that dwells there in Dover,

The fairest woman the bright sun shines upon.

Louis, the King of France, desires her greatly,

And this maid Helen he would have for queen;

Le Mans he would grant her as a wedding gift.

And I say as true as if I were your own brother,

That you would do well to take her as your own,

And through her gain the love of all her kindred,

And win the whole kingdom to your own hand,

Dwelling in this land, ruling it as your realm.’

Then granted him answer Cadwalan the king:

‘It is in my mind to do as you so advise me.

If, under Christ, you arrange this covenant,

I shall give you all of Devon for your reward,

And if she will wed me, let her come quickly.’

Cadwalan weds Helen of Mercia, and makes peace with Penda

The knight, and his troop, rode to Dover castle,

That stands by the shore, and led forth Helen,

The wondrous fair; to Winchester they led her,

Where was much bliss, and the folk full blithe.

There, King Cadwalan came forth to meet them,

There, was a rich wedding and joy unbounded;

He married the maiden, and took her to his bed,

And in the morning, when folk began stirring,

The king confirmed the terms of the covenant,

And sent a troop of knights forth, to greet Penda,

And grant him his freedom from Exeter castle,

And bid him, with love, come now to London.

King Penda came there, and was nobly received,

And Cadwalan the keen embraced him warmly,

And Penda became his man, to his great honour.

Then were the Londoners the blithest of people.

Cadwalan marches against Edwin

Not long thereafter, Cadwalan traversed the land

Granting freedom and peace to all that loved him,

Taking the lives of all those who countered him,

And all of their kin, taking what they held dear.

The king he marched north towards the Humber

And wasted the land with the utmost destruction.

Of this, Edwin heard, and all those that he loved,

And he went in dread of the deeds of Cadwalan.

He sent messengers forth now, to Saxon lands,

And he sent into Demark, and into Norway,

Into Wales and Scotland, and to far Orkney,

Galloway and Iceland, Friesland and Gothland,

Where men were keen, bidding them gather armed,

Ready to drive forth the Britons that harmed him,

For once they had hewn the Britons to pieces,

He’d set, in their hands, realms in his kingdom,

Which he would distribute as king of the land.

Yet little he knew of what would befall them!

Edwin gathers an army

There gathered to Edwin, by sea and by land,

All manner of folk, and from many a country,

Seven kings were there, and six brave princes,

Seventeen earls, and of knights sixty thousand.

Ne’er was a man born that could count the rest,

None of any burgh, nor that spoke any tongue,

And nor has it been said, nor in any book read,

That so great a host ever gathered in England.

Edwin now marched forth with his vast army,

And Cadwalan met him with his mighty host.

Edwin is slain at the Battle of Hatfield Chase (near Doncaster, 633AD)

At Hatfield they fought, stout shield against shield;

Twelve miles about is the weald they call Hatfield.

Edwin, on his side pitched camp, and made ready,

Set bounds, ranking the troops, raised his standard.

King Cadwalan the keen, soon came against him,

There rushed together, brave men beyond number.

There, they fought fiercely, and those so fated fell,

The brooks and streams running red with their blood.

Mischief unbounded, knights died, helms resounded,

Shields and lances shivered; bold warriors perished;

Fifty thousand brave men, their menace was ended!

There, did Edwin’s host have the worst of the fight,

And Edwin himself, the most wretched of kings.

There, was Edwin killed, and his sons, the twain;

The seven kings fell, the princes six were slain.

The earls, the barons, the knights and the churls.

The swain and the lowest lad met with one fate,

Of neither the great nor the less they had mercy;

From all, was stolen life, and the light of day.

Oswald, kin to Edwin, succeeds him

Edwin’s youngest son, he fled from that fight;

Fair was the man, Osric that prince’s name.

He had for companions but a hundred knights.

They hid in the woods and dwelt there as outlaws,

Burnt Cadwalan’s fields, and brought him harm,

Slaying his good folk thus, in many a wise.

Now Cadwalan the king heard how Edwin’s son,

This Osric, dwelt in the woods like an outlaw,

And sent a contingent of warriors to find him.

Who sought him out, and then fought with Osric,

And slew that prince, and all his companions.

Thus was Cadwalan the blithest of warriors,

For he was called king now of all the English,

And Penda and other lords served under him.

Cadwalan had slain the fairest of Edwin’s kin,

Except one, Oswald, bold in the Lord’s sight.

He was of Edwin’s kindred, and dear to him,

Now the noblest lord among all of his people.

Oswald took, in both hands, all of Edwin’s lands;

Earls and warriors, all now became his men,

And he was the high king beyond the Humber.

Cadwalan heard this, and he said to his earls:

‘Now, gather an army from all of my kingdom.

Oswald claims lordship of all I have conquered,

Fate shall bring on him the bitterest of evils.

By this realm, I shall slay him, felling his host,

And all those that come of his line, I’ll destroy,

So, shall he be taught, for stealing a kingdom;

I’ll lower his pride, that most hateful of men!’

Cadwalan and Penda move against Oswald

King Cadwalan gathered his host from this land,

And, eager for battle, marched towards Humber.

Oswald, the Lord’s appointed, heard the news,

And collected his forces, but, avoiding a fight,

Though loth to flee, marched away northwards,

Cadwalan pursuing, yet failing to catch him.

Now Cadwalan, a foe of the Scots, was troubled,

For he had caused harm to the folk in the north.

He thought to turn back now, being cautious,

And delivered command of his forces to Penda,

His vassal king, to drive Oswald, Edwin’s kin,

Forth from this country, he himself retreating,

Leaving Penda behind to work the expulsion.

Once Oswald heard that Cadwalan was absent,

He thought to march boldly against King Penda,

Who, in turn, conceived a plan to deceive him.

He sent word to Oswald, the king in the north,

Saying he wished to meet him in friendship,

And establish a peace, as his brotherly ally.

And then would return to Cadwalan the king,

And leave to Oswald that realm and the land.

Penda deceives Oswald and slays him

They set a day, and a place, to make peace,

And full soon the two leaders met together.

Oswald, the chosen of God, came there first

Camped on the site, now called Heavenfield,

And raised up there a mighty cross on high,

And bade all his warriors fall to their knees.

Then he prayed to the Lord to grant His grace,

Forgive their misdeeds, and bless the peace,

And if Penda broke that peace, to avenge it.

As the prayers ended, came Penda, riding,

That king most deceitful, and thus he spoke:

‘Oswald, fair greeting, and joy be upon you!

Keep your realm, but send now silver and gold,

A hundred fine hawks, and a hundred hounds,

A hundred steeds, and gold-embroidered weeds,

All in tribute, now, to Cadwalan the king,

And so, reconcile to him, and make peace,

And I will ensure that the friendship thrive.

And there is one thing more you might do,

So that the peace might ne’er be undone,

Call two true men to counsel beside us,

And I will call two, that are wise, to me.’

Then he rode out into the field that deceiver,

And Oswald too lacking a sword or shield,

And Penda drew his sword and slew Oswald.

This was Saint Oswald that Penda murdered;

Then he fled away swiftly with all his army.

Oswald’s men saw, and they pursued outright,

And slew many, fighting with all their might,

Such that Penda found it hard to thus depart,

Though escape he yet did, that arch-deceiver.

Oswy succeeds Oswald

Penda went south to find King Cadwalan.

And told the king of all that had happened.

The monarch liked it well but for one thing,

The treachery, of which he’d soon repent.

Now Oswald, that was slain, had a brother,

One, but no other, and his name was Oswy,

A steadfast man whom the north made king,

Since woe was on them for their lord’s death.

Now Oswy took in hand his brother’s realm.

He had cousins, the proud sons of his uncles,

Men of ambition, envious of his kingship,

Foes that thought to kill him for the kingdom.

But Oswy showed his mettle, a stern warrior,

And drove all that envied him from the land,

Chasing them southwards o’er the Humber,

So that none yet remained of those he hated.  

They, in turn, made their way to King Penda,

And complained to him of Oswy the new king,

That had driven them forth from their country.

And they besought Penda, the king of Mercia,

To aid them in their cause, and destroy Oswy;

And they would be his men and honour him,

If he would but hang Oswy, or behead him.

Then answered Penda, the king of Mercia:

‘You need not ask, for I am this Oswy’s foe,

I that slew Oswald, the bravest of knights.

Yet Oswy his brother is a knight as bold,

No whit timid, that would seek to slay me,

So go we to Cadwalan, lord of this land,

And if he will send men from out his realm,

Proven knights out of Cornwall, and Wales,

And silver, and gold, I will fight this Oswy,

Drive him from hence, to his people’s shame,

And put one to the sword whom I must hate!’

The gathering at Whitsuntide

So, they made their way to King Cadwalan,

And to that same they came with their request,

And told the king all that they’d have him do.

Now this befell at the time of Whitsuntide,

When the king had summoned all to London,

All that sought peace and concord with the king.

There came kings and chieftains, earls, barons,

Bishops came thither, and book-learned men,

Whether rich or poor, thither all folk came,

Of every manner of folk that loved the king.

The king wore his crown, and the folk felt joy,

For he was a man most true, and truth upheld.

When the people were all gathered together,

Up stood King Penda before King Cadwalan,

And, thus, he began, with a deceitful speech:

‘Lord we are come as summoned, all your men,

Both Britons and Englishmen, earls and barons,

Knight and clerks, and we kings, your underlings.

Though Oswy is not here, who would not so do,

Nor obey your commands, but seeks your harm.

None is so proud as he, who scorns your court.

But if you would grant me leave, and permit me,

And aid me by tendering me your stout forces,

And as much treasure as seems good to you,

I will march swiftly and cross o’er the Humber,

And render Oswy the most wretched of kings.

For there shall be ne’er a place he can find

Whence I’ll fail to extract him, dead or alive.

This seems good to me, and if you will not,

The worse for you, for Oswy will shame you.’

Then answered him King Cadwalan the keen:

‘Penda, I tell you, that Oswy is ill and abed,

Or else foreign invaders are come to his land,

For he’d ne’er refuse to ride here as I asked,

Summoning all in peace, friendship, love.

Now go aside Penda, while I and my earls

Commune together and seek good counsel

As to whether to grant that which you ask,

And I will send swift messengers to Oswy,

And summon him to come here, to my realm.’

Penda went aside, an earl as his companion,

While Cadwalan remained amidst his host.

Thu spoke Cadwalan, King of the English:

‘You, in this meeting hall, are all my men,

And you have heard what Penda has to say,

And how he will fight Oswy and destroy him,

If, to aid him, I will lend him troops of mine.

I would have you advise me, as is needed,

Whether I should let this Oswy be destroyed,

Or have him summoned, and, if he refuses,

Go there, and conquer him with all my host.’

Then a Welsh king among them was roused,

The king named Margadud, may he be cursed,

For he brought harm, ever, upon the English!

South Wales was his realm, and thus he spoke:

‘Hear me, Cadwalan; this I now advise you,

What you have spoken is no good counsel.

Long ago Brutus came here, and our kindred,

And they were noble knights, his Britons,

And this land they conquered and possessed.

And, Britain it was named while it was theirs,

Yet now we folk only own land in the west,

Where we Britons have dwelt many a winter.

Then came the English with their evil ways,

That through guile and cunning won this land,

And, betraying their true lord and his people,

Gave the king a heathen queen of Saxon lands,

Whose folk we hate, and through her ruined us.

So have the English kept us from our lands,

Such that we never since could obtain them.

King Penda is English, this Oswy is the same;

Let the hounds perish, gnawing at each other,

Let dog eat dog; let their whelps, about them,

Tear at each other, till not one is left alive!

Should Oswy win, advance and lay him low,

Seize his land and people, and erase his laws.

And if Penda prevails, he and his are yours.

Thus, you will have all England in your hand,

And all the honour; you alone will conquer,

And live your life, thereafter, as you wish,

With never a foe left to dare trouble you.’

Then called out one that was bold in counsel:

‘Hark to me Cadwalan, now hark a while,

There is no better counsel than Margadud’s,

If you should heed it not, the worse for you,

For all your people will later wish you had.’

After this Briton’s speech, Penda was recalled,

And Cadwalan granted him all he had sought.

Then Penda was blithe, and exceeding joyful,

And Penda and his knights took to the saddle,

And made their way towards Northumberland.

Penda and Oswy meet in battle (the Battle of the Winwaed, 655AD)

Oswy heard that King Penda now sought him,

Readied his forces, and marched against him.

Full stern was the battle that they now began.

Fiercely they fought; fierce enemies were they,

And countless the men that fell upon that field.

The afternoon passed, and the sun was setting,

When Oswy was slain, and so deprived of light,

With a son, and an uncle, and five of his earls;

Nine thousand were his warriors slain that day.

His folk were the less, but Penda was wounded,

And wended his way to Mercia, and his land.

The death of Cadwalan

Now Oswy had another son named Osric,

And he was fostered at Cadwalan’s court.

Osric asked to become Cadwalan’s man,

As one should, and possess his father’s land.

Cadwalan granted him all that he besought,

And gave the father’s realm into his hand,

Bidding him have and hold that land, in joy.

Cadwalan did good deeds, as was his nature,

And he was the king here forty-seven years.

Yet, in going to London to gladden its folk,

He ate a quantity of fish at the feast there.

And ere all was eaten felt a grave disorder.

Seven nights and a day he lay in sickness,

Till it came to pass that the king was dead.

In London he was buried; woe to the people!

The reign of Cadwalader, last king of the Britons

Cadwalan had a son, named Cadwalader,

Penda’s sister’s son, royally descended,

And, after his father, this son held the realm.

He was kindly, and his people loved him,

A goodly knight, but a stern one in a fight,

Yet in his day great sorrow befell the nation.

First, the harvest failed o’er all the kingdom,

And corn was scarce, and the people starved,

Until you might journey for a seven-night,

And not find, anywhere, a loaf to purchase.

In town, and countryside, the people sorrowed,

And there was none that was free from hunger.

When this ill had long afflicted the kingdom,

There came another sorrow, and full soon;

The cattle suffered from the murrain fever.

Where the churl’s oxen once drove his plough,

Now he brought homewards only half his team,

And some brought home one, and others none,

And these ills lasted long, all through the land.

And then the deepest sorrow cloaked this realm,

For a plague fell on the folk; earls, barons died,

Thanes and swains, the clergy and the laymen,

The old and young, the women and the weak,

Till the people could scarce bury their dead,

For plague e’en took them on the burial ground,

And the quick and living died amongst the dead;

And thus, it befell throughout the English lands.

Folk fled the realm then, sailed from every shore,

Till many a hundred townships were deserted,

And few were the folk that traversed the land.

Woe to Cadwalader, the king, in his kingdom!

He could not flee for shame, nor dared to stay.

Cadwalader flees the plague; a Saxon host arrives

Yet, despite the shame, he thought how to leave.

He took his treasure then, and his dearest friends,

And passed south-east o’er the sea, to Brittany,

And, there, found lodging with Alain, the king,

That was the son of Salomon, that goodly man,

Who loved King Cadwalan while he yet lived.

Alain the king received Cadwalader, graciously,

And granted him, in that realm, all that he wished.

So, full eleven years Cadwalader remained there;

For eleven years the plague here ran its course.

There was hunger and drought, people starved,

And great the mortality, throughout all the land.

Folk fled to the woods, lived among the rocks,

Slept in caves, and fared like the wild creatures.

They lived on herbs and roots, nuts and berries,

Lacking ought else; when the twelfth year came,

The plague abated, and the people stirred again,

Quit the sun and rain, and returned to the burghs.

They met in council and discoursed among them,

Then sent they messengers into the Saxon lands,

And made the death-toll known to their kindred,

And how they’d survived, for the plague abated,

And rebuilt the towns, and how the land was fair.

They bade them come, gold and silver yet remained,

And the Britons had been driven from the kingdom,

And dared not mingle yet with the English folk.

The Britons, they know naught of these messengers.

The noble Saxons heard the news they had brought,

And fifty thousand armed men sailed to England;

With their wives and children to this land they came.

Full three hundred ships came in that first surge,

Then folk in much smaller groups of six to sixty.

With them came Athelstan who was their leader,

Whom they crowned in London and made king.

Edward the king had begat him on his concubine.

Athelstan was the first Englishman to rule all here.

Crowned and anointed, England was all his own,

And afterwards he dwelt here for sixteen years.

Athelstan’s tribute to Saint Peter’s

It had happened in earlier days, some time before,

That there was a noble king, here, named Inne.

This English lord went to Rome, to the Pope,

And there he gladly sought Saint Peter’s altar,

Bringing his precious treasures as an offering.

And more that lord did in Saint Peter’s honour:

For every house of a husbandman and his wife

The king granted a penny to Saint Peter’s House.

Inne was the first man that began this custom.

When Inne the king died, his laws were erased,

And the tribute ceased for five and sixty years,

Till King Athelstan had reigned here for fifteen.

He journeyed to Rome and kissed the Pope’s feet,

Greeted him fair, and the same tribute granted

That Inne, the king, had offered long before,

And so, things have stood since in this realm;

And, in the Lord’s name, may they long continue.

Cadwalader hears the news in Brittany

Fresh tidings came to Cadwalader in Brittany,

Where he dwelt with Alain the king, his kin,

That Athelstan had come to this land of ours,

From Saxon lands, and made the realm his own.

And how he’d appointed moots and hustings,

And set the boundaries of shires and chases,

Sanctioned baron’s courts, named the hundreds,

And renamed the townships in the Saxon tongue.

And how he had set up guilds and their powers,

And raised new churches after the Saxon manner.

Men gave him the tidings thus, from all England.

King Cadwalader sorrowed that he was yet alive;

He wished he had died, rather than hear all this.

Sorrow was in his heart; sorrowful were his folk.

He spoke with his comrades how he might go

To fight with Athelstan, and obtain his rights,

And regain his realm, and retain it in his hand,

That this Athelstan now held, yet not rightfully.

Some counselled him to war, and others to peace,

Whereby he might hold his lands of Athelstan.

Deigning not to be his man, Cadwalader gathered

All the men and ships that he could command,

And thought to attack England in full force.

Cadwalader’s vision

When that his host was gathered, and the fleet,

The wind blew southerly, and met their need.

Then said the king: ‘Now, load the ships in haste!’

He himself went to church to work God’s work,

And there he heard the high priest give the Mass.

The king knelt down and called on Jesus Christ,

And prayed to the Lord on high, that rules our fate

That he be sent a token from the Lord himself,

If that were pleasing to the Heavenly Judge,

As to whether the fleet should sail now or no.

And as he prayed, he fell into a light slumber,

And he felt joy of the Lord, who grants daylight.

The king dreamt, as he knelt there, slumbering,

That a man, one wondrous fair, stood before him,

And he spoke these words to the King of Britain:

‘Awake Cadwalader, whom Christ holds dear!

Make ready to journey, but go straight to Rome,

And there you will find the Pope, best of priests,

And the Pope will shrive you of this worldly life,

Such that all your sins will fall away from you,

And so, you will be clean, all through God’s will,

Of all those sins, by the great power of our Lord;

And when you die, thereafter, you’ll go to heaven.

Yet nevermore shall you possess fair England,

But the Saxons they shall hold all of those lands,

And nevermore shall British folk possess them,

Until the time shall come that has been declared,

The day that Merlin, the prophet, once foretold.

Then shall the Britons come once more to Rome,

Draw your bones from beneath the marble stone

And bear them forth with them, amidst much joy,

Wrapped in cloth of silver and gold, to Britain.

Then will the Britons once again prove bold,

All they do shall be in accord with your will,

And all shall be bliss in Britain once again,

With fine weather and fair harvest, as they wish.’

Then Cadwalader awoke, wondering at his dream,

Strangely troubled, as to what it might betoken.

Often, he communed, and sought men’s counsel,

And told his dream to Alain, king of that land,

He that was King Cadwalader’s nearest kindred.

Alain sent his messengers through all the land,

And caused the wisest scholars to be summoned,

And told them all of King Cadwalader’s vision.

Then they took counsel, and they too communed,

And advised him to do as God had commanded.

He left his fleet and folk, his way, his own will,

And called on Yuni and Yvor, both dear to him.

Yvor was his stepson, and Yuni his sister’s son,

And they were both knights, and great in might.

Then spoke Cadwalader, that was King of Britain:

‘Yvor and Yuni, you that are both of my people,

Hearken to my advice, and you ne’er shall rue it.

From heaven came to me a sign from the Lord,

And I must go now to Rome, to Pope Sergius,

And I, and my wife, he shall bless and shrive,

And there shall we live our days out to the end,

Whene’er that may be; you’ll see me no more.

Here and now, I grant you the realm of Wales.

All of the land that still standeth in my hand.

And take you all this host and go to that land,

And hold it in joy, while you can so defend it.

And I entreat you both, by the Lord in heaven,

That you must love each other like brothers,

And hold you the realm till you both have end,

Possessing it in joy, and your sons thereafter.

Yuni, this was my destiny, as you now know,

For Merlin the wise he prophesied my death,

Of which his words spoke, and of all my fate.

And the wise Sibyl set it down, in her book,

That I would do as the Lord wished of me.

Now go your ways, both, and fare you well!’

Cadwalader dies in Rome (In 700AD, or as late as 704AD, according to Layamon)

Cadwalader journeyed till he came to Rome,

And there he came before Sergius the Pope,

And he shrove Cadwalader, King of Britain.

The king dwelt there but two years and a half,

Then there came on him sickness, as God willed,

Eleven days ere May he departed this our life,

And his soul rose up to seek the heavenly king.

His bones are locked full fast in a golden chest,

And there they shall remain till the time comes

That Merlin the wise foresaw in the olden days.

Layamon’s Coda

Let us return to Yuni, and to Yvor his cousin.

Who now gathered a force from all of Brittany;

And forth they voyaged with five hundred ships.

And, in no time, arrived on the coast of Wales.

The Britons were scattered midst rocks and hills,

In churches, monasteries, woods and mountains.

But soon they heard that ten times fifty vessels,

All filled to the very gunnels with bold Britons,

Had come to those shores with Yuni and Yvor.

Those Britons then gathered to the Welsh lands,

And followed their laws there, and their customs.

And there they dwell yet, and shall for evermore.

The English kings now ruled this realm of ours,

While the Britons lost this land, and this nation,

So that they nevermore held the kingship here.

That day has not yet come; yet, come what may,

What happens shall e’er happen as God so wills!


The End of Part VIII, and of Layamon’s ‘Brut’