Gaufridi de Monemuta
The Life of Merlin
By Geoffrey of Monmouth
translated by Basil Clarke, in The Life of Merlin. Cardiff: UWP, 1973. (OOP)
Facsimile edited by Mary F.E.K. Jones
I set myself to sing of the madness of the bard of prophecy, an entertaining tale of Merlin. Guide my pen, Robert, glory of the bishops; for we know that Philosophy has filled you with its holy nectar and made you universally learned, so that you might prove yourself the foremost teacher in the world.
Approve, then, my project, and be ready to be more indulgent to this poet than was that other whom you have just succeeded, attaining an honour well-deserved.
Everything conspired to win that honour for you-your principles, your upright way of life, your birth, your fitness for the place: clergy and people alike supported you. That is why lucky Lincoln is now in the seventh heaven.
Indeed, it might well have been yourself whom I would wish to embrace in a noble poem. But I am not the man for it: no, not even if Orpheus and Camerinus and Macer and Marius and Rabirius of the great voice were all to sing through my mouth and the Muses were my accompanists. But, Sisters, you are used to singing with me; so let us to the song before us. Sound the lyre!
Now, many years and many kings had come and gone. Merlin the Briton was famous throughout the world as king and prophet. He was law-giver to the proud South Welsh, and he foretold the future to their leaders.
A time came when it happened that a quarrel arose among several of the princes of the realm. In a savage war they had ravaged the unoffending populace in city after city. Peredur, prince of the North Welsh, was campaigning against Gwenddolau, who ruled the kingdom of Scotland. The day fixed for battle had arrived, and the commanders had taken the field. Their troops had begun the struggle, and on both sides alike men fell in the tragic slaughter.
Merlin had come to the war with Peredur, and so, too, had Rodarch, king of the Cumbrians, fierce fighters both. They killed the enemy before them with their dread swords; and three brothers of the prince, who had followed him to the wars, were everywhere in the fight, killing, and destroying the battle lines. So fiercely and impetuously did they rush through the dense ranks that they were soon struck down and killed.
Merlin, you grieved at that sight, and your sad lament was heard throughout the army, as you lifted up your voice in these words:
"Surely a malignant fate cannot have been so vindictive as to take from me all these my companions, men such that many a king and many a distant kingdom have stood in fear of them till now?
"O man's uncertain fate, death ever near, ever with power to strike him with its hidden lance and drive the poor life from his body!
"O glory of youth, who will now stand by my side in battle to turn back the princes who coixie to do me ill and their hordes that press upon me?
"Brave youths, your very bravery has taken from you your sweet years, your sweet youth itself. A moment back, and you were tearing through the formations in battle array, striking down all opposition. Now you lie heavy on the earth, red with fresh blood.'
So with fast-running tears he mourned amid the strife and wept for his heroes. The terrible fighting ceased not, the lines of battle clashed, foe fell to foe. Blood flowed on every side, and the people of both nations died.
At last the Britons rallied their scattered forces and drew together. Together they made an armed rush across the field, attacked the Scots, dealt wounds and laid them low. They did not slacken until the enemy battalions turned away and fled among the by-ways. Merlin called his companions from the battle-field and instructed them to bury the brothers in. a richly decorated chapel. He mourned for his heroes; his flooding tears had no end. He threw dust upon his hair, tore his clothes and lay prostrate on the ground, rolling to and fro. Peredur and the other princes and commanders offered comfort. He would not take their comfort and rejected their entreaties. So for three long days he wept, refusing food, so great the grief that consumed him.
Then, when the air was full with these repeated loud complainings, a strange madness came upon him. He crept away and fled to the woods, unwilling that any should see his going. Into the forest he went, glad to lie hidden beneath the ash trees. He watched the wild creatures grazing on the pasture of the glades. Sometimes he would follow them, sometimes pass them in his course. He made use of the roots of plants and of grasses, of fruit from trees and of the blackberries in the thicket. He became a Man of the Woods, as if dedicated to the woods. So for a whole summer he stayed hidden in the woods, discovered by none, forgetful of himself and of his own, lurking like a wild thing.
But when winter came and took all the plants and the fruit on the trees, and left him nothing to live upon, he poured out these complaints in a pitiful voice:
"O Christ, God of heaven, what shall I do? What place is there on earth where I can live? I see there is nothing here to eat--no grass on the ground, no acorns on the tree.
"Nineteen were the apple trees which once stood here with their fruit: they stand so no longer. Who, who has stolen them from me? Where have they gone so suddenly? Now I see them, now not. So Fate both supports and opposes me, letting me see and preventing me from seeing.
"Now the apples fail me, and all else besides. The forest stands leafless, fruitless. It is a double affliction: I can get no cover from the leaves or nourishment from the fruit. Winter and the rainstorms borne on the south wind have taken them, every one. If I happen to find turnips deep in the ground, hungry swine and greedy boars rush up and snatch the turnips from me as I pull them up out of the soil.
"Wolf, dear companion, YOU used to wander along the byways of the forest and through the glades with me: you scarcely get across the field. Harsh hunger has weakened both you and me. You lived in these woods before me, and age has turned you grey first. You have nothing, know not your next meal. I wonder at it, for the forest pastures abound in goats and other creatures you might take. Perhaps it is just that your hateful burden of years has deprived you of strength and prevented you hunting. All that is left to you is to fill the air with howling, your wasted frame sprawled flat on earth."
So he continued aloud as he went about among the undergrowth and dense hazels. The sound reached a passer-by, who turned aside towards the source of the speech he heard. He found the place and he found the speaker. But Merlin saw him, and was off. The traveller followed, but could not keep up with the fugitive. So he returned to his route and continued on his business; but he was touched by the plight of the man who had fled.
Then this traveller fell in with another man, who was from the court of Rodarch, king of Cumbria. Rodarch's wife was Ganieda, a beautiful woman with whom he lived most happily: she was Merlin's sister. Distressed by what had happened to her brother, she had sent retainers to the woods and the depths of the countryside to bring him back. It was one of these who came upon the traveller. The traveller at once went up to him, and as soon as they met they began to talk. The man sent to look for Merlin asked if the other had seen him in the woodlands and valleys. The traveller said, yes, he had seen such a man among the dense-wooded valleys of the Forest of Calidon; but when he had tried to sit and talk with him, he had rushed off among the oak trees.
As the traveller finished this tale, the messenger set off into the woods. He searched the deepest valleys, he crossed high mountains, he penetrated the most secluded places, seeking his man everywhere. There was a spring on the very top of a certain mountain, surrounded on all sides by hazels and dense thorns. Merlin had settled there, and from that place he could watch the whole woodland and the running and gambolling of the creatures of the wild.
The messenger climbed up and quietly reached the summit, in search of his man. At length he saw the spring and Merlin sitting on the grass beyond it, complaining in this manner:
"O ruler of all, how happens it that all the seasons are not the same, distinguished only by their four numbers? As things are, the spring is bound by its own laws to provide the leaves and flowers; summer gives us the crops and autumn the ripe fruit. Then follows icy winter, which devours and lays waste all the others and brings again the rain and snow. It suppresses everything and causes damage with its storms. It will not let the earth produce its multi-coloured flowers, nor the oaks their acorns, nor the apple trees their russet apples. Would there were no winter, no white frost! Would it were spring or summer--and the cuckoo back in song, and the nightingale, who softens sadness with her tender air, and the turtle dove keeping her chaste devotion. Would that the other birds, too, were singing their harmonies in the fresh foliage to delight me with their warbling, while the earth refreshed, with flowers fresh, breathed out its scent from under the green turf, and springs ran babbling all around, and the pigeon among the leaves nearby kept up its drowsy cooing and brought sleep."
The messenger, who had been listening to the prophet, here interrupted his lament by strumming on the guitar he had thought to bring with him in order to catch the madman's attention and calm him. So his fingers sounded a plaintive strain, plucking out the measure on the strings, while he lay hidden behind the prophet and sang softly:
"O the deep moan of mourning Guendoloena, the piteous tears of weeping Guendoloena! I grieve for Guendoloena dying in despair. No woman in Wales more beautiful-beyond goddesses in fairness, beyond the privet petal, the rose in bloom, beyond the lilies of the field! The splendour of spring shone in her alone, the beauty of the stars was held in her two eyes, gold glittered in her glorious hair.
"All this has gone: gone the grace, the delicate bloom, the snowy splendour of her flesh. She is not what once she was, but worn with weeping. She knows not where the prince has gone, whether living still or dead. She lies sick with sorrow, faded utterly in the dissolution of long grief.
"Ganieda is in tears by her side, complaining no less, mourning her lost brother, comfortless. One for a brother, one for a husband weeps. Their tears together flow, and time in sadness passes. They eat not, sleep not, wander unrefreshed by night through thorny ways, so great is the grief which grips them.
"So once Sidonian Dido mourned, when the fleet weighed anchor and Aeneas hastened on his way. So once poor Phyllis sighed and wept when Demophoon failed his appointed hour. So Briseis cried, Achilles lost.
"Now wife's and sister's tears together fall, and grief burns ever deep within their tortured hearts.'
This was the song the messenger sang to his plaintive strings; and with his air he soothed the listening prophet to calmness and to sympathy with the singer.
Suddenly the prophet sprang up, accosted the young man with a lively greeting and begged him to sound his instrument once more and play again the lament he had just played. So the singer plucked at the strings of his instrument and picked out the song, as he was asked, a second time. Little by little, as he played, he coaxed the madman to put by his wild mood under the sweet spell of the cytharum [guitar].
So Merlin came to himself, recollected what he had been, and thought of his madness with astonishment and loathing. His normal state of mind returned, and his power of feeling, too. His reason thus restored, he could sigh aloud at the names of his sister and his wife and be moved by their devotion. He begged to be taken back to the court of King Rodarch. His companion agreed. They set off at once from the woods and came in cheerful company together to the city of the king.
Then the queen was glad to have her brother again, and his wife overjoyed at her husband's home-coming. They vied in kissing him, flinging their arms about his neck in deep affection. The king, too, welcomed the returned wanderer with every due honour; and all the nobles who thronged the palace celebrated in the city.
But when Merlin saw such crowds of people there, he could not bear them. He went mad; and once more his derangement filled him with a desire to go off to the forest, and he longed to slip away. At that, Rodarch ordered him to be held under guard and music to be played on the guitar to calm his madness. He went sadly to him and begged and prayed him to be reasonable, to stay with him and not hanker after the forest and an animal life under the trees, when he might wield a royal sceptre and rule a nation of warriors. The king promised, besides, that he would make him many gifts. He ordered clothes to be brought, and hunting birds, and dogs and fast horses; gold, glittering gems and cups wrought by Wayland in the city of Segontium. All this Rodarch brought to the prophet, urging him to stay and forget the woods.
But the prophet rejected the presents in these words: "Let these things go to lords hard-pressed by poverty, such as are not content with modest living but covet everything. But I put above these things the woodland and spreading oaks of Calidon, the high hills, the green meadows at their foot-those are for me, not these things. Take back such goods, King Rodarch. My nut-rich forest of Calidon shall have me: I desire it above all else."
At last, finding that no gift would detain this sullen man, the king ordered him to be stoutly chained to prevent him setting off for the forest wilderness, if freed. The prophet felt the chains about him, and saw no way to be free to get to the woods of Calidon. He immediately fell into a gloom and stayed silent. His face lost its liveliness: not a word, not a smile would he vouchsafe. Just then the queen was walking through the hail looking for the king. He greeted her graciously as she approached, took her by the hand and begged her to sit down. He put his arm about her and kissed her; and in doing so he turned his head and saw a leaf hanging caught in her hair. So he reached up, pulled it out and threw it on the ground, with a cheerful joking word to his wife.
The prophet turned his eyes on this scene, and laughed. It made the men standing nearby turn to look at him in surprise, since he had been refusing to laugh. The king was also surprised, and pressed the madman to account for his unexpected laughter; and he reinforced his words with many gifts.
Merlin stayed silent, and avoided an explanation of his laughter. Rodarch continued to press him more and more, adding presents to prayers. At length the prophet grew angry at his generosity and said: "A gift is what a miser loves and a grasping man works hard to get. Such men are corruptible by presents and will turn their shallow minds whichever way they are told, because what they have is not enough for them. But for me the acorns of pleasant Calidon are enough, and the sparkling streams that run through fragrant meadows. Let the miser take his gifts: gifts do not buy me. Unless I get my freedom and may go back to the green woodland valleys, I shall refuse to explain my laughter."
So, since Rodarch had failed to change the prophet's mind by any gift or discover why he had laughed, he ordered the chains to be struck off at once and gave him permission to leave for the forest wilderness, so as to make him willing to give the explanation for which the king was eager. Merlin, his spirits rising because he could now leave, then said:
"The reason I laughed, Rodarch, was that in one and the same act you earned both approval and disapproval. When just now you pulled out the leaf the queen unknowingly had in her hair, you were more faithful to her than she had been to you when she crept into the undergrowth, where her lover met her and lay with her. As she lay there, a leaf fallen by chance caught in her loosened hair. You plucked it out, unknowing."
The moment Rodarch heard this grave charge, he was filled with gloomy anger. He turned his face from her and cursed the day he had married her. But she, unperturbed, hid her shame behind a smile and addressed her husband thus:
"Why so gloomy, my love? Why so angry over this, and so unjust in your blame of me, and why do you believe a lunatic who muddles lies and truth together because he is out of his wits? Anyone who believes him becomes many times more fool than he. Now watch, and, if I am not mistaken, I shall prove that he is talking nonsense and has not told the truth."
Among many others in the hall there was one particular boy. This clever woman noticed him and then and there thought of an ingenious trick to show up her brother. She called the boy over and asked her brother to predict the death the boy would die. So her brother said to her: "Dearest sister, when he is a man, this lad will die by falling from a high rock."
The queen smiled at this, and then told the boy to go away, take off the clothes he was wearing and put on others, and cut off his long hair. She told him that he was then to come in again, looking like another person. The boy did what he was told, for he returned to them in different clothes, as instructed. After a little while, the queen once more appealed to her brother, saying, "My dear, tell your sister what the death of this one will be."
Merlin said, "When this boy grows up, he will meet a violent death in a tree though misjudgment."
So he spoke. The queen, addressing her husband, said, "Has this false prophet been able to deceive you so far that you could think I had committed such a great crime as this? If you consider how much sense there is in what he has just said about this boy, you will realise that what he has said about me has been made up so that he can be off to the woods. As if I would do such a thing! I shall keep my bed chaste, and chaste shall I ever be while there is breath in me. I showed him up in questioning him about the boy's death. I shall now show him up again: you must watch and judge." So saying, she whispered to the boy to go out, dress himself in woman's clothes and then come back. He soon after slipped away and quickly carried out her instructions. He returned dressed in woman's clothing, looking like a girl. He came and stood in front of Merlin, to whom the queen said jokingly, "Well, brother, tell me of the death of this girl."
"Girl or not," said her brother to her, "she will die in a river."
This made Rodarch laugh loudly at his powers of reasoning. For to a question about the death of a single boy he had given three predictions. Consequently, he thought Merlin had spoken falsely about his wife, and would not believe him. He bitterly regretted having believed him earlier and having condemned his wife. Seeing this, the queen forgave him. She kissed and caressed him and made him happy again.
Meanwhile Merlin was thinking of his journey to the woods: he left the house and ordered the gates to be opened. But his sister came and stood in the way. Her eyes brimmed with tears as she begged him to remain with her and put aside his wild ideas. But he was determined and would not give up his plans. He continued to try to open the doors and strove to leave. He raged, he fought, and his raging forced the servants to open. At last, when all had failed to turn him from his resolution to leave, the queen sent for Guendoloena, who was elsewhere, to come as quickly as possible to see him depart. She came, she went on her knees to beg her husband to remain. But he rejected her pleas-he would not stay, and he would not look at her in his usual cheerful way. She was hurt; she dissolved into tears, tore her hair, scratched her cheeks and collapsed on the ground as though dying.
At the sight of this the queen said to him, "See, it is Guendoloena, dying for you here-what shall she do? Is she to re-marry? Do you tell her to remain as a widow?--or to go with you wherever you travel? She will go with you to the forest and will be happy to live in the green forest clearings, if only she can keep your love."
To this speech the prophet replied, "[Sister, I do not want a cow that pours water in as broad a stream as the Virgin's Urn in flood. Nor shall I change my care as Orpheus once did when Eurydice gave her baskets to the boys to hold before she swam across the sandy Styx.] I shall remain clear of both of you and undestroyed by love. So let her have her due chance of marriage and choose of her own accord whom she shall wed. But let the man who weds her take care he never gets in my path or comes near me. Let him tread another road. For should it chance he meets me, he may feel my flashing sword. Yet when the day comes for the solemn joining in marriage and the elaborate banquet is set before the guests, I myself shall be there, provided with fine gifts, and shall endow Guendoloena handsomely when she is given away in marriage." He finished speaking, and, saying farewell to each of them as he went, set out for the woods he loved: no-one stopped him. Guendoloena stayed sadly watching in the doorway, the queen beside her. Both were moved by the fate of their dear one. They thought how remarkable it was that a man deranged should have so much secret knowledge and that he had been aware of his own sister's love affair. Still, they thought he had lied about the boy's death, in speaking of three deaths when he ought to have spoken of only one. So for many long years his pronouncement seemed an empty one, until the boy himself reached manhood. Then its force became universally apparent, and many were convinced.
While hunting with a pack of dogs, the youth saw a stag hiding in the forest undergrowth. He unleashed the dogs: at the sight of the stag they tore upwards along the rough tracks, filling the air with their baying. He spurred his horse in pursuit, directing the huntsmen by sounding his horn and by shouting, and urged them to come on with greater speed.
There was a high hill, ringed with rocks, with a river running across the plain at its foot. The quarry crossed the hill and fled towards the river in search of its usual type of cover. The young man pressed on and took a straight course over the mountain, looking for the stag among the scattered rocks. But, in his headlong course, his horse happened to slip and went over a high precipice, and its rider plunged down the steep cliff slope into the river. But he fell in such a way that one foot caught in a tree and the rest of his body was submerged in the flowing stream. So then, he fell-he was drowned-he hung from a tree; and by his triple death he proved the prophet a true one.
Merlin had entered the forest and was living an animal life, existing on frozen moss in the snow, in the rain, in the angry blast. Yet that satisfied him more than administering the law in cities and ruling over a warrior people. Meanwhile, as the years were slipping past and her husband was still leading this sort of life among his woodland flock, Guendoloena became legally promised in marriage. It was night, and the horned moon was shining brightly; all the lights of the vault of heaven were glittering. The air had an extra clarity, for a bitterly cold north wind had blown away the clouds, absorbed the mists on its drying breath and left the sky serene again. The prophet was watching the stars in their courses from a high hill.
He was out in the open, talking to himself and saying: "What means this ray from Mars? Does its new ruddy glow mean a king dead and another king to be? I see it so. Constantine has died and by an evil chance his nephew Conan has seized the crown through the murder of an uncle and is king. Highest Venus, you sail along within your prescribed bounds in company with the sun in his path beneath the zodiac: what now of your twin ray cutting through the ether? Does its division foretell the parting of my love? Such is the ray that speaks of love divided. Perhaps Guendoloena has abandoned me, now that I am away. Perhaps she is happy in the close embrace of another man. So I lose, another wins her. My rights are taken from me while I linger here. Indeed, a laggard lover loses to the lover who is not a laggard nor absent but near and urgent. Yet I bear no grudge. She may marry now the time is right, and with my permission enjoy a new husband. When tomorrow dawns, I will go and take with me the present I promised her when I left."
So saying, he set off round all the woods and clearings, and organized a herd of stags into a single line; so, too, with does and with she-goats. He seated himself on a stag, and at the coming of the day he set off, driving his lines before him. So he came with speed to the place of Guendoloena's wedding. Arriving there, he made the stags stand quietly outside the gates, then shouted, "Guendoloena, Guendoloena, come out! What presents are looking for you!" Guendoloena came quickly, all smiles, and was astonished to see a man riding a stag and it obeying him, astonished that so many animals of the wild could be brought together and that he alone was driving them before him like a shepherd accustomed to taking his sheep to pasture.
The bridegroom was standing at a high window, looking in amazement at the rider on his seat; and he broke into a laugh. When the prophet saw him and realised who he was, he promptly wrenched off the horns of the stag he rode. He whirled the horns round and threw them at the bridegroom. He crushed the bridegroom's head right in, knocking him lifeless, and drove his spirit to the winds. In a moment the prophet dug his heels into his stag and set it flying and was on his way back to the woods. The incident brought out retainers from every corner, and they followed the bard in hot pursuit across country. But he went at such a pace that he would have reached the forest unscathed had it not been for a river in his path. While his beast was bounding across the torrent, Merlin slipped and fell into the fast current. The servants ranged themselves along the bank and captured him as he swam. They brought him home, bound him and handed him over to his sister. The captured prophet turned surly, wanted to go off to the woods and fought to get loose. He would not smile or take food or drink; his gloom made his sister gloomy, too. Rodarch saw him losing all cheerfulness and refusing to taste the fine meals prepared for him. So in pity he ordered him to be taken out into the city among the people in the market place, hoping that he would be cheered up by the visit and by the sight of the various novelties on sale there. He was taken out, and on the way from the palace he saw a badly dressed servant in front of the gates. He was the doorman, and he was asking the passers-by in a quavering voice for money to buy clothes. The prophet stopped and laughed in astonishment at the poor man. He went on further and saw a young man with new shoes in his hand purchasing leather patches. The prophet laughed again; but he would go no further through the market place to be a spectacle for the people he was looking at. He longed for the forest, often looked back towards it, and tried in spite of refusals to go in that direction.
On reaching home, the servants told the story of his two laughs and of his attempt to return to the woods. Rodarch wanted to know what his laughter meant and promptly issued orders for his release, and gave him permission to go back to his familiar woods if he would explain his laughs.
Merlin, recovering his spirits, answered, 'The doorman in front of the gates was sitting in shabby clothes and was begging passers-by to give him money for buying clothes. Yet all the time he was secretly rich, for he had a secret hoard of coins under him. So I laughed. Turn up the earth beneath him; you will find coins which have been hidden there a long time. From there they took me further on to the market place, and I saw a man buying shoes and with them the patches to repair and renew them when worn and holed by use. I laughed again: the poor fellow will be in no position to use his shoes, or fix the [extra] patches on them later. He is already rowned and floating in to the shore. Go and look for yourself: you will see."
To check his words Rodarch ordered his men to make an immediate search all along the river and to hurry back and tell him at once if they saw such a drowned man by the shore. They carried out the prince's instructions, and on their tour of the rivers they found the drowned youth on a desolate strand. They returned home and told the king.
Meanwhile the king had had the doorman moved and had dug and turned up the earth and found a hoard secreted beneath the surface. In high spirits he congratulated the prophet.
After this incident the prophet was anxious to be off to his familiar woods: he hated the people in the city. The queen advised him to stay with her and delay his return to his beloved forest until the white winter frosts, now not far ahead, had abated. When summer returned once more with its delicate fruit, he could live on them in a season of warmth.
He rejected this: he cared little about the cold in his eagerness to be away, and told her: "Why, my dear sister, do you strive so hard to hold me back? Neither winter with its storms, nor the chill north wind when it rages with savage blast and lashes the flocks of bleating sheep with sudden hail-shower, nor the south wind when it stirs the waters with falling rain will be able to deter me from seeking the forest wildernesses and the green glades. I riced little: I shall be able to endure the frost, and in summer it will be bliss to lie under leafy trees among the fragrant flowers. Still, food might fail me in winter. So raise me a house, send me retainers to serve me and prepare meals in the time when the earth refuses its grain and the tree its fruit. Before the other buildings build me a remote one to which you will give seventy doors and as many windows, through which I may see fire-breathing Phoebus with Venus, and watch by night the stars wheeling in the firmament; and they will teach me about the future of the nation.
"Let there be as many secretaries trained to record what I say, and let them concentrate on committing my prophetic song to paper. Come here often yourself, dear sister, and you will be able to stay my hunger with food and drink."
With these words he hurried off to the woods. His sister obeyed him, for she built the hall as prescribed and the other houses and all else he had commanded her. But while there were still apples and the sun rose higher in the heaven, he was happy to live under the leafy trees and wander in the forest where breezes caressed the rowans.
Then winter, harsh tempestuous winter, came to strip forest and earth of all their produce, and with the coming of the rains food might have failed him. Hungry and heavy of heart he used to come to his hall. There the queen would often come to visit him, happy to serve him both food and drink. He would dine from the varied dishes, and soon after rise, with a compliment to his sister; then he would wander through the house gazing at the stars, and sing in this manner of the future that he knew would be:
"O the madness of the Britons! Their universal affluence leads them to excess. They are not satisfied with peace. A Fury goads them on. They engage in civil war and family feuds. They allow the churches of the Lord to go to ruin, and drive the holy bishops out into distant lands. The nephews of the Cornish boar disrupt everything. They lay ambushes for each other and put one another to death with their evil swords: they cannot wait to succeed lawfully, but seize the crown. The fourth after them will be crueller and harsher. A sea-wolf will engage him and defeat him and drive him in defeat across the Severn into wilder realms. This wolf will lay siege to Cirencester and by means of sparrows raze its walls and houses to the ground. He will then set off for France with a fleet, but will die by a king's spear.
"Rodarch is dying. After his death Scotland and Cumbria will quarrel long, until Cumbria is given over to a growing tooth.
"The Welsh will make war on Gwent, and afterwards on Cornwall, nor shall any law constrain them. (Wales will always enjoy spilling blood. Nation abominable to God, why do you enjoy spilt blood?) Wales will force brothers into fighting and condemning their own nephews to a foul death.
"Scottish forces will often cross the Humber, putting all opposition pitilessly to death: not with impunity, however, for their leader will be killed, he of the horse name and savage with it. His heir will be driven headlong from our frontiers. Scots, sheath the swords you bare too often. Your power will not prove a match for our fierce nation.
"Dumbarton will fall, with no king to re-build it for an age, until the Scot is defeated by a boar. Carlisle will be deprived of its pastor and stand vacant until the Lion's authority restores the staff of office to it. The towers and great palaces of Segontium will be torn down, and they will weep there until the Welsh go to their old domain.
"Porchester will see its walls lying broken in its harbour till a rich man with a fox's tooth re-builds them. The city of Richborough will also lie strewn along the harbour shore. It will be a man from Flanders in a crested ship who will restore them. The fifth from him will repair the walls of St David's, and through him, too, the pall lost for many years will be recovered. The City of the Legions will fall into your bosom, Sabrina. It will lose its citizens for a long age. When the Bear-in-Lamb comes, he will bring them back.
"Saxon kings will turn out citizens and hold their cities, lands and homes for a long time. Among these kings three dragons will three times wear the crown. Two hundred monks will perish in Leicester: the Saxon will overthrow the city's leader and leave the city empty within its walls. The first Angle to wear the crown of Brutus will restore the city which was emptied by that massacre.
"A savage nation will forbid the rite of anointing throughout the land and set up images of gods in the shrines of God. Later, Rome will restore God, with a monk's aid; and a holy priest will sprinkle God's shrines with holy water. He will rebuild the shrines, and their pastors will be set once more within them. Many of them will thereafter be obedient to the commands of divine law and earn their right to heaven. But an irreligious people frill of venom will break that peace, will violently confound right and wrong, will sell their sons and relatives into slavery in the far corners of the earth across the sea and incur the anger of the Thunderer.
"What an unutterable crime that man, whom the Creator of the universe made worthy of heaven in honourable liberty, should be roped and led to the sale like a cow!
"You wretch, who turned traitor to your lord when you came into the kingdom, you will attend to God. The Danes will come with a fleet, defeat our people and reign for a short while: they will be driven out and return home. Two men will administer them. A snake will forget its pact and strike them with its stinging tail instead of its garlanded sceptre.
"Then the Normans will come over the sea in wooden ships, bearing a face in front of them and a face at their back. Clad in their iron armour, they will make a violent attack with sharp swords on the Angles, kill them and win the field. They will bring many kingdoms under them and rule foreign nations for a time, till a Fury flying all around will infect them with its poison. Peace, faith and all honour will depart, and there will be civil war throughout the land. Man will betray his fellow, and friendship will not be found. Husbands will have no regard for their wives and will turn to whores: wives, regardless of their husbands, will mate with whom they wish. Respect for the church will dwindle, and the order will perish. Bishops will then bear arms, will then follow the military life, will set up towers and walls on sacred ground and give to soldiers what should go to the poor. They will be swept along by riches and follow the worldly path, and take from God what their holy office forbids them to take.
"Three will wear the crown, after whom will be that desire for new men. The fourth in power will be harmed by his clumsy piety until he puts on his father's clothes and so, girt with boar's teeth, crosses the shadow of the Helmeted Man. Four of those anointed will strive in turn for the supreme power; and two who win it will alternate on the throne in such a way as to tempt the French to start a fierce campaign against them. The sixth will overthrow the Irish and pull down their walls. By his piety and foresight he will re-establish our people and cities.
"All this I once predicted at greater length to Vortigern when I was explaining to him the mystic battle of the two dragons as we sat on the bank of the drained pool. But now, dear sister, go home and attend to the dying king. Bid Taliesin come. I have much I wish to discuss with him, since he has only recently returned from Brittany, where he has been enjoying the sweets of learning under the wise Gildas."
Home went Ganieda and found Taliesin returned, the prince dead and the court in mourning. She collapsed in tears into the arms of her friends, tearing her hair and crying out:
"Weep with me, women, the death of Rodarch. Mourn for a man whose like earth has not been known to produce before in our age. He was a lover of peace, for he so administered a warrior people that there was no violence between man and man. He treated the holy priest with due consideration and made the rule of law available to high and low alike. He was generous, gave much away, kept but very little. He was all things to all men, doing all that was right and proper: flower of knights, glory of kings, pillar of the kingdom!
'Woe is me, alas, for what you were, now given untimely to the gnawing worm; and your body moulders in the grave. After fine silken sheets, is this the bed made ready for you? Will the fair flesh and royal limbs indeed be hidden under the cold stone, and you become but dusty bones?
"Yet so it is. So runs the sad lot of man throughout the ages: there is no returning to the earlier prime. There is no profit in the intermittent glory of the passing world, a painful deception even for the great. The bee smears its honey where it later stings; so the world's glory turns again and deceives those it has caressed, piercing hard with its unwelcome sting.
"Excellence is a brief thing, transient in its nature. All advantage passes away like running water. What if the rose blushes? What if white lilies bloom? What if a man, a horse, or all the rest be fair? These are questions for the Creator, not for the world.
"Happy, then, are those who are resolute in piety and service to God and take leave of the world. Christ, who created all, whose reign is endless, will grant them everlasting glory. Therefore I take leave of you--you noble chiefs, you high walls and household gods, you my sweet children, and all that is of this world. I shall live in the woods by the side of my brother and with my black cloak around me worship God with a happy heart." In these words she paid due tribute to her husband, and she inscribed this verse on his tomb:
'Rodarch the Generous, none in the world more generous,
A great man lies quiet in this little urn.'
In the meantime Taliesin had come to visit the prophet Merlin, who had sent for him to learn what winds and rain-storms were. For both these were blowing up at the time, and the clouds were gathering. Taliesin, with the aid and direction of Minerva, gave the following explanation.
'The Creator produced out of nothing four elements to be the causative principle in the making of things and at the same time to be the material for them, when conjoined in a concordant manner. There was the Heaven, which he embellished with stars. It is set above and envelops everything in the way a nutshell encloses a nut. Then he gave the Air, fitted for the production of sounds. By means of it day and night make the heavenly bodies visible.--Then, the Sea, which encompasses the earth, and, making four circuits, so stirs up the air with its mighty recoil as to generate the winds, which are held to be four in number. He established the earth, which stands by its own strength and is not easily moved. It is divided into five zones. The middle zone is uninhabitable because of the heat, and the two outer zones are avoided because of the cold. He allowed the other two to have a temperate climate. These are the zones where men, birds and the herds of wild beasts live.
"He added clouds to the sky to give the sudden rains whose gentle showers cause the fruits of the trees and of the earth to grow. With the help of the sun, the clouds are filled like water-skins by the rivers through the operation of a mysterious law. Then, when driven by the force of the winds, they rise on high into the upper atmosphere and discharge the water they have taken up. This is the origin of rainstorms, the origin of snow and of round hailstones, when a cold moist wind begins to blow, penetrating the clouds and forcing out the water into whichever type of shower it is forming. Each of the winds takes its nature from its relation to the zones at its birth.
"After the firmament, where he fixed firm the bright stars, he established the ethereal heaven. He designated it as the place for the assemblies of angels whom the noble contemplation and wonderful sweetness of God refresh down the ages. He also embellished it with the stars and the dazzling sun, appointing the law whereby a star could move on an exact course through the part of the heaven assigned to it.
"Afterwards he placed beneath these the airy heaven, glowing with the lunar body. The high spaces of this heaven are thronged with bands of spirits who are considerate towards us or cheerful with us, according to our moods. It is their practice to carry men's prayers up through the air, to beg God to deal sympathetically with them, and to convey God's will through a dream or a voice or through other signs by which they may acquire understanding.
"But the space down below the moon is full of evil demons skilled in deception, who tempt and cheat us. They frequently make themselves a body out of air and appear to us: the consequences are many and various. Indeed, they even have intercourse with women and make them pregnant, an immoral fatherhood.
"In this way he populated the heavens with a three-part order of spirits, intending that they should look after every individual thing and renew the world by renewing the seed of things.
"He divided the sea into different types, to facilitate the development of natural forms from out of it by production over a long period. So one part of the sea is hot, another cold, and the other, which takes its moderate temperature from the other two, provides us with food.
"The hot sea goes round a gulf where live vicious races of people. As it swirls on, the currents divide and it separates off the zone of hell, getting hotter and hotter. Criminals go down there, those who have neglected God and rush on where their perverse will leads them, eager to ruin what they are forbidden to harm. A stern judge stands there balancing his scales, and to each one he allots his due and just deserts.
"The other sea, which is freezing, rolls along its trimmed beaches, which it first produces from the nearby mist, when the beams of Dione's star mix with it. The Arabs believe that this star creates sparkling jewels when it passes through the sign of the Fishes and flickers down on the sea. These gems do good to their wearers by their intrinsic power, curing many and keeping them healthy. Their Maker has, as with all things, divided them into different types, to enable us to decide their kind and their known powers from form and colour.
"The proximity of the third type of sea which encircles our globe brings us many benefits. It feeds fish, produces a great deal of salt and bears to and fro the vessels which carry our trade and allow a poor man to become rich by quick profit-making. It makes the adjacent land fertile and produces food for the birds which, it is said, derive from it as do fish, though the laws of their functioning are not the same. The birds can transcend the ocean more than can the fish, and fly easily up from it into space.
"But its moisture affects fish and keeps them below the surface and does not permit them to live in the dryness of the open air. Their Maker has divided up fish also into types, assigning a specific nature to each different type; and because of this they have long been a source of wonder as well as an aid in sickness.
"For example, it is said that the mullet inhibits the sexual urge, but leads to blindness if eaten constantly. The one called thymallus after the herb thyme has such a scent that it betrays any fish that regularly feeds on it; and so all the fish in the river become similarly scented.
"Murenas are said to be all of the female sex and lack seminal fluid. Yet they reproduce by copulation and multiply through fertilization by the seed of a different creature. Snakes often gather along the shore which they frequent. These snakes make a seductive hissing sound to tempt out the murenas, and intercourse then takes place normally.
"Another remarkable fish is the echinus. It is only six inches long, but when it attaches itself to a ship, it holds the ship as fast on the high seas as if it were aground, and prevents it proceeding until it lets go: a power for which it is feared.
"Men are also often afraid to steer a ship close to the fish known as the sword-fish when they see it swimming near, because it causes damage with its sharp beak. If it is taken, it promptly holes the ship and, by cutting into it, causes it to sink as the water suddenly swirls in.
'The serra is a danger to hulls because of its crests. It sticks these into the hull while swimming beneath the ship. It causes the damaged hulls to sink into the waves, and it is to be feared for its crest as if it were a sword.
"There is a sea-dragon which is said to have poison beneath its fins, and puts any who catch it in great peril. Every time it strikes it makes the wound serious by injecting its poison.
"The torpedo is said to be another type of mortal peril. Anyone who touches it while it is still alive is at once afflicted with a torpidity of the arms, the feet and the rest of the body. His limbs lose their normal function and feel dead, so virulent its secretion normally is.
"God allotted the sea to these and to the other fishes. He also created further worlds among his waves which men inhabit because of their reputation for fertility, the earth producing abundantly from the rich soil there.
"Britain is considered first and best among these. It offers of its bounty every manner of thing. It yields crops which year by year contribute their noble gifts of grain for man's use; woodlands and pastures where honey drips; airy mountains and broad green meadowlands; springs and rivers; fish, cattle and wild creatures; fruit trees; jewels and precious metals; and all else that creative Nature can supply.
"In particular, there are health-giving springs whose hot waters do the sick good and provide welcome baths for them-after which, their illness subsiding, they are soon sent away well. Bladud so established these baths during his reign, and he named them after his consort Alaron. Because of the medical properties of the water, they are useful in most kinds of disease, but especially for women's disorders, as the water has frequently demonstrated.
"Close to this island lies Thanet, which is rich in many things--but lacks dangerous snakes; and it is an antidote to poison to drink wine in which Thanet earth has been mixed.
"Our ocean also divides the Orkneys from us. These islands, separated by the flowing tides, number thirty-three. Twenty of them are unworked, the rest cultivated.
"Thule gets its name, 'Furthest Thule', through the sun, on account of the solstice or stop which the summer sun makes there. At that point the sun's rays turn away so as to provide no illumination beyond. The sun thus takes away the daylight, so that ever through the endless night the air begets shadows, and in addition its coldness makes the sea hard and sluggishly unnavigable by ships.
"The island which after ours is held to be superior to all is Ireland, for its happy fertility. It is larger; it possesses no bees, no birds (save a very few), and is entirely unsuitable for snakes to breed in. In fact, if sonic earth or a stone from there is taken to another place and added to the soil, it destroys serpents and bees as well.
"The island of Gades lies adjacent to Herculean Gades. A tree native to this place has a bark from which a gum drips. Pieces of glass become gems when smeared with it.
"The Hesperides are said to have a watchful dragon which (the story goes) guards golden apples among trees.
"The Gorgades are inhabited by goat-bodied women, and these women are said to run faster than hares.
"Agyre and Ciryse are reported as bearing gold and silver as easily as Corinth does ordinary rocks.
"Ceylon blooms happily on its fertile soil. It has two crops a year--two springs, two summers: twice do men gather the grapes and other fruit. It is also most attractive on account of its shining jewels.
"Tiles produces flowers and foliage which flourish in an eternal spring.
"The Island of Apples [i.e. Avalon--MJ] gets its name 'The Fortunate Island' from the fact that it produces all manner of plants spontaneously. It needs no farmers to plough the fields. There is no cultivation of the land at all beyond that which is Nature's work. It produces crops in abundance and grapes without help; and apple trees spring up from the short grass in its woods. All plants, not merely grass alone, grows spontaneously; and men live a hundred years or more.
"That is the place where nine sisters exercise a kindly rule over those who come to them from our land. The one who is first among them has greater skill in healing, as her beauty surpasses that of her sisters. Her name is Morgen, and she has learned the uses of all plants in curing the ills of the body. She knows, too, the art of changing her shape, of flying through the air, like Daedalus, on strange wings. At will, she is now at Brest, now at Chartres, now at Pavia; and at will she glides down from the sky on to your shores.
"They say she had taught astrology to her sisters--Moronoe, Mazoe, Gliten, Glitonea, Gliton, Tyronoe, and Thiten,--Thiten, famous for her lyre.
"It was there we took Arthur after the battle of Camlan, where he had been wounded. Barinthus was the steersman because of his knowledge of the seas and the stars of heaven. With him at the tiller of the ship, we arrived there with the prince; and Morgen received us with due honour. She put the king in her chamber on a golden bed, uncovered his wound with her noble hand and looked long at it. At length she said he could be cured if only he stayed with her a long while and accepted her treatment. We therefore happily committed the king to her care and spread our sails to favourable winds on our return journey."
To this Merlin replied: "My dearest friend--how great a burden has the kingdom borne since then, with the pact broken, so that it is not what it once was. Through unhappy circumstances the nobles have been led away and turned to rend each other's vitals. They upset everything, and so prosperity has left the country: all goodness has gone. Those who live in the cities will abandon their walls in despair. For the Saxon, warlike and ferocious, descends on us, savagely overthrows our cities and ourselves once more, and will violate God's law and his house. Indeed, God suffers this disaster to come upon us because of our crimes, as a punishment for our folly."
He had not finished speaking before Taliesin broke in: "Then the people must send someone to call on our leader to return in a fast ship. If he has recovered, he can exercise his old vigour to fend off the enemy and re-establish the nation in its old state of peace."
"No," Merlin replied. "This is not the way the invader will leave, once he has fixed his talons in our land. Before that time comes, he will have conquered our kingdom and our people and our cities, and kept them under by force of arms for many years. Three of our men will resist with great bravery, however; they will kill many of the invaders and in the end overcome them. But they will not complete their task. It is the will of the most high Judge that the British shall be without their kingdom for many years and remain weak, until Conan in his chariot arrive from Brittany, and that revered leader of the Welsh, Cadwalader.
"They will create an alliance, a firm league of the Scots, the Welsh, the Cornish and the men of Brittany. Then they will restore to the natives the crown that had been lost. The enemy will be driven out and the time of Brutus will be back once more. The natives will administer their own cities by the time-hallowed laws. They will once again undertake the subjection of distant kings and make a vigorous effort to bring these kingdoms under their sway."
"None will then be left of those who are now alive," said Taliesin, "and I think there is no-one who has seen more savage civil wars than you."
Merlin said, "Indeed, that is the truth. For I have lived long and seen much our own folk turning on one another, and the chaos the barbarian brings.
"The greatest crime I remember is the betraying of Constans and the flight of his two small brothers, Uther and Ambrosius. At once the kingdon was enveloped in war for lack of a leader. Vortigern, governor of Gwent, began leading out his forces against all regions in an effort to win the leadership over them, and he inflicted misery and destruction on the innocent population. At length he seized the crown in a sudden attack, killed many of the nobility and forced the submission of the whole of the kingdom.
"But the blood-relatives of the brothers began, in high resentment at this, to put all the cities of this ill-omened prince to the flame and to harry his kingdom with their fierce armies: they allowed him no chance of peaceable possession. Disturbed by his inability to deal with the rebellion, he arranged to bring men from afar into his fighting force to enable him to emerge to meet his enemies.
"Soon bands of fighting men arrived from all over the world and he welcomed them. In particular, the Saxons sailed in in curved ships and brought their helmeted troops to his service.
"Their leaders were two aggressive brothers, Horsa and Hengist, who later did great damage to the nation and its cities by their black treachery. For they won over the prince by obsequious service; and so, when the nation was next stirred up over a quarrel, they were easily able to overpower the king, and they then viciously turned their forces against the people. They broke their word when they killed by calculated deceit the nobles as they sat assembled together to make a peace treaty with them. They drove the prince across the snowy mountain heights. This was the future of the kingdom as I had begun to prophesy it to him.
"After this the Saxons went about firing the homes of the people and attempting the complete subjugation of the country. But Vortimer saw the great danger the kingdom was in and the expulsion of his father from the palace of Brutus. He took the crown with the people's approval, and attacked the savage tribe which was crushing them. After many clashes he forced the Saxons to retreat into Thanet, where the fleet that had brought them was lying. But in their flight the war-lord Horsa and many others met their deaths at the hands of our men. The king pursued them and besieged them in Thanet by land and from the sea. He was unsuccessful, however, because the Saxons suddenly seized possession of their fleet, broke out in a violent sortie and made their way across the ocean and very quickly regained their own land.
"Vortimer gained a world-wide reputation for himself as a ruler after his defeat of the enemy in this victorious campaign; and he ran the administration of his own kingdom with measured restraint.
"But Hengist's sister Renua could not accept his success and burned with indignation. Concern for her brother turned her into a vindictive stepmother. She concocted a poison under cover of deceit, gave it to Vortimer to drink and so caused his death. She promptly sent word overseas to her brother to come back with sufficiently large forces to overcome our warrior people. This, then, he did; and so great were his forces that he was able to grow fat on the loot he took from all and sundry; and he went about burning throughout the land.
"Through all this Uther and Ambrosius were in Brittany with King Budic: they had now taken to arms and were proved in war. They had gathered round them troops of varied origins for an expedition to their native land, to put to flight the hordes now intent on wasting the country of their father.
"So they committed their ships to wind and tide and landed to protect their fellow-citizens. They drove Vortigern in flight through the kingdom of Wales, cornered him and burned him and his tower together.
"They at once turned their swords on the Angles: they met them many times in battle and beat them often, but on the other hand they often suffered defeat by them. Finally, during a hand-to-hand encounter, our men made a great effort in an attack which inflicted severe losses on the enemy. They killed Hengist, and by Christ's will they triumphed.
"After these events, clergy and people approved the presentation of the kingdom and its crown to Ambrosius. His reign was marked by consistent fairness of administration, but after four lustrums had passed he became the victim of his doctor's treachery and died through drinking poison.
"His younger brother Uther succeeded him. At first he was unable to maintain the peace of the realm; for the unscrupulous tribe of Saxons, who were now always likely to return, came in their usual hordes and caused general devastation. Uther fought them in a number of savage encounters, beat them and drove them out: their ships took them back across the ocean. Soon the campaign was over and he had established peace. He had a son born to him who later became a great man and second to none in worth. His name was Arthur, and he held the kingdom for many years after his father Uther had died. This cost much toil and great distress and the death of many men in numerous campaigns. For a pagan people came from Angla at a time when the prince Uther lay ill; and they conquered by the sword all the territories of our native land that lie beyond the Humber.
"Arthur was a boy, and in his youthful inexperience he was unable to check these great forces. He took the advice he had from both the clergy and the people and sent word to Hoel, king of Brittany, with a request that he would come to his support in a fast fleet. Common blood and affection were the ties between them, which put each under an obligation to support the other in trouble.
"Hoel soon gathered fighting men from all parts for the campaign and brought many thousands with him over to us. He joined forces with Arthur, broke the enemy by continual attack and inflicted terrible losses on them. His help gave Arthur confidence and power in handling all his troops when he took the offensive against the enemy. At last he defeated them and forced them back to their own country. Then he settled his own kingdom through the moderation of his laws.
"Soon after this struggle he subdued the Scots and, changing the direction of his campaign, the war-like Irish. He overcame all nations in the expeditions he led. He brought into subjection both the Norwegians who lived far across the broad seas and the Danes whom he sought out with his dreaded fleet.
"He brought the people of France under his rule after killing Frollo, to whose care the country had been committed by those in power at Rome. He even fought and defeated the Romans themselves when they were preparing a campaign against his kingdom. He killed the procurator Lucius Hiberius, who had become the colleague of Emperor Leo and had come on the Senate's orders to bring the French territories back under its authority.
"During this time the faithless and foolhardy guardian of our realm, Modred, had begun to take over the kingdom and to carry on an unlawful love affair with the king's wife. The king, it is said, had entrusted the kingdom and the queen to Modred's care when about to leave on a campaign against his enemies overseas. When the report of this great crime reached his ears, he gave up his intended campaign and returned home, landing with many thousands of men. He attacked his nephew and drove him abroad in flight. There this man of treachery gathered Saxon troops from all quarters and began a battle against his prince. But he was tricked by the evil race on whom he had relied in his large enterprise, and he was killed.
"How great was the slaughter of men and the sorrowing of mothers whose sons had fallen in battle there!
"On that field also the king was mortally wounded and left the kingdom. As you have described, he sailed with you over the water and came to the palace of the nymphs.
"Each of the two sons of Modred intended to seize the kingdom for himself: so they fought, and each in turn murdered his near kin. Then the king's nephew, Prince Constantine, rebelled violently against them, and harried their supporters and their cities; and when they were brought low and had both met a harsh death, he assumed the crown and took over the management of the nation. His peace did not last; for his kinsman Conan organised a formidable campaign against him. Conan caused general destruction, killed the king and seized the territories over which he now exercises a weak and witless control."
As he was speaking, retainers rushed up and told him that a new spring had broken out at the foot of the nearby mountain and that streams of pure water were already gushing out, running far down the hollow of the valley and swirling noisily as they rippled on their way across the pastures.
They both rose immediately to go and see this new spring as soon as possible. Merlin sat down again on the grass when he had seen it and admired the place with its flow of clear water, much taken with the way it rose from out of the soil. After a while he felt thirsty and bent over the stream: he drank freely and bathed his temples in the water. As the liquid passed through the internal passages of stomach and bowels and settled the humours of his system, he suddenly recovered his mental balance and came to himself, losing all trace of madness. Feeling long dormant in him returned also; he became and remained the same man as he had been before-healthy and whole once more, now that his reason was restored. He lifted his face towards the heavens in praise of God and proclaimed his praise aloud in this devout address:
"O king, by whom the frame of the starry sky stands established; through whom the earth with happy seed and the sea give forth and cherish their children and provide for man repeatedly out of their abundant fertility; by whose aid feeling has returned to me and the error of my mind has vanished!
"I was taken out of my true self, I was as a spirit and knew the history of people long past and could foretell the future. I knew then the secrets of nature, bird flight, star wanderings and the way fish glide. This distressed me and, by a hard law, deprived me of the rest that is natural to the human mind. Now I am myself again, and I feel strong in me that life with which my spirit had always filled my limbs.
"So, father on high, for this I should be gratefully obedient to you, to to proclaim your full praises from a full heart, happily bringing my happy offerings. Doubly has your generous hand brought aid to me especially, in giving me a new spring from out of the green earth. Now I have the waters that I needed, and by my drinking of them my brain has regained its health once more.
"But, my dear friend, whence comes the power that causes this new spring to break out and bring me, insane and deranged as I have been till now, back to my own self?"
Said Taliesin: "The bountiful Director of the universe divided flowing waters into types and then allotted to each type its particular powers as a regular benefit for the sick.
"There are springs, rivers and lakes all over the world which constantly provide relief for many through their special properties. The health-giving waters of the fast-flowing Tiber run through Rome: men say they are a sure treatment to heal a wound. Another Italian source is called Cicero's Spring. This heals all kinds of damage to the eye.
"The Ethiopians also are believed to have a pool which glistens like oil when poured over the face. Africa has a spring usually known as Zema: drinking from it gives the voice an immediate sweetness of tone.
"Lake Clitorius in Italy makes one tired of wine. Those who drink from the spring Chios are said to grow dull. The land of Boeotia is said to have two springs, drinking from one of which makes people forgetful: the other makes them remember. This same country contains a lake of such terrible potency that it produces mad rage and an excessive lust. The spring of Cyzicus suppresses sexual activity and the desire for it.
"In the country of Campania, it is said, flow rivers which make barren women fertile on their drinking from the stream. These rivers are also said to abate mad rages in men. The land of the Ethiopians has a spring with red waters. Whoever drinks of it will come back raving. The spring Leinus always prevents miscarriages. Sicily has two springs, the first of which induces sterility; but the other has the happy effect of making girls fertile.
"Two streams of Thessaly have profound effects. A sheep drinking from one of them turns black: if it drinks from the other, white. If it drinks from both, it spends the rest of its life with a mottled fleece.
"The lake Clitumnus is one found in the land of Umbria: it is said that it sometimes produces great oxen; and in the Reatine Marshes horses' hooves become suddenly hard as they make their way across the sands. In the Asphalt Lake of Judaea bodies cannot sink at all as long as life remains in them, On the other hand, there is the pool Syden in the land of India where things will not keep afloat but sink at once into the depths. It is the Aloe lake where no thing sinks and everything floats, even lumps of lead. The spring Marside also forces stones to swim.
"The river Styx flows out of a rock and kills those who drink of it: Achaea is the witness of such deaths.
"The spring of Idumaea is said to change the colour of its water four times over a period, by a remarkable arrangement. It has a sequence of murky-then green-then blood-red; and it then turns into a beautifully limpid flow. Each of these phases is said to keep its colour for three months, year in year out.
"The Trogodytic lake is the one whose water comes out bitter three times a day, and three times with a pleasantly sweet taste.
"Torches which have gone out are said to catch light in the spring of Epirus and, conversely, to give up their light.
"The springs of the Garamantes are said to be so cold by day, but so hot all night by contrast, that it is not possible to get near on account of the cold or the heat. There are also warm waters whose heat is a danger to many people. These waters acquire their heat as they pass through alum or sulphur: these two contain a principle of fire, a welcome property in treatment.
"God assigned to waters these and other properties to bring quick relief to the sick and to demonstrate the power and greatness of the Creator in nature, in working thus within it.
"I consider these waters here to be health-giving in the highest degree, also, and, I consider, they were able to effect that sudden cure just now because the new stream broke out in the following way. Previously these waters were flowing underground through lightless caverns, like very many others which are said to run there below. Perhaps their emergence is due to the presence of an obstruction, or a fall of stones or earth; and I expect that they were finding their way back to their proper course when they gradually seeped through the soil and provided the spring. You see many which flow out like that, to return underground and keep within their own caverns once more.
While they were thus engaged, the story was spreading everywhere about the new spring which had broken out in the woods of Calidon and about the man who had been cured after drinking from it, though he had been deranged for a very long time and had been living in these same woods like a wild animal. Consequently, chieftains and other leaders soon came to see and also to congratulate the prophet on being cured by the water. They told him in detail how matters stood in the country; and he was asked to resume his kingly position and continue his previous fair administration of his people.
But he said, 'Young men, at my time of life this cannot be demanded of me. I am now reaching old age, and it so enfeebles my limbs that with my slackened strength I can scarcely get across the fields. I have by now enjoyed a sufficiently long and happy period during which exceptional prosperity, with a liberal endowment of wealth, has smiled on me.
"There stands in that wood an oak, rugged and full of years, now so worn by the passing of all-devouring time that its sap is failing and it is rotting through. I saw this tree when it had just begun to grow, and I saw the acorn from which it sprang as it chanced to fall, while a woodpecker perched above it and watched the branch. Here I have seen that acorn grow unaided, observing every detail. I felt a deep respect for it standing there in the clearing, and I marked the spot in my memory.
"I have lived long, then, and by now the weight of my years has told on me. I will not reign again. While I remain under the green leaves of Calidon, its riches shall be my delight-a greater delight than the gems that India produces, or all the gold men say is found along the banks of the Tagus, or the corn of Sicily, or the grapes of pleasant Methis--more pleasing than high towers or wall-girt cities or clothes redolent of Tyrian scents. Nothing can please me so, nothing can tear me from my Calidon, ever dear to me, I feel. Here I will be while I live, happy with fruit and herbs: and I will purify my flesh with pious fasting, to enable me to enjoy endless everlasting life.'
While he was speaking, the chieftains caught sight of long lines of cranes passing in a curving flight across the sky. [They circled in an order by which a certain letter could be seen in the arrangement of the flock in the liquid air above.] In astonishment the chieftains asked Merlin to tell them just why it was that the birds flew in this manner.
After a moment Merlin said to them, "The Creator of the universe assigned to birds, as to many other things, their own special nature: this I have learnt during the many days of my life in the woods. So, then, the nature of cranes is such that if large numbers are present during their flight, they dispose themselves, as we often see, in one or another arrangement. The call of one among them serves to warn them to keep the order of flight and not to let the formation break up and disrupt the traditional figure. When that bird grows hoarse and gives up, another one takes its place. They keep watch at night; and the sentinel bird holds a pebble in its claw to make sure of not falling asleep. When they see anybody, they rouse up with a sudden clamour. In all of them the feathers turn black as they age.
"Eagles, who get their name from their acute sight, are said to have vision so much more powerful than all other birds that they are capable of staring at the sun without flinching. They dangle their young in its rays in order to find out (by the avoidance of the sunlight) whether there is one of inferior constitution among them. They hover over water at mountain-top height and spot their prey in the deep under the surface. Then they immediately dive fast through space and seize the fish, as accords with the nature of fish.
"The female vulture avoids intercourse and often (strange to tell) conceives and produces young without fertilization by a mate. She flies high, like the eagle, and with nostrils distended senses a corpse far off across the sea. Her flight is slow, but not through revulsion, as she goes over to it to fill herself on the prey that satisfies her. This same bird lives to a hundred years in full vigour.
"The stork's croaking voice is a messenger of spring. This bird is said to look after its young with such extreme devotion that it strips its breast bare by pulling out the feathers. When winter comes, these birds are said to avoid the storms by flying off to the shores of Asia, with a crow as guide. Its chick feeds it when it grows weak in age, because it fed the chick at the period when it needed that care.
"The swan surpasses all other birds in the sweetness of its song when it is dying. It is a bird much welcomed by sailors. Men say that in the Hyperborean region this bird will approach close, at the sound of a guitar happening to be played along the shore. 'The ostrich deserts her eggs, but lays them under the sand so that they may be looked after when she herself is no longer looking after them. So it happens that these birds are hatched by the sun instead of by their mother.
'When the heron is afraid of rains and tempests, it flies up into the clouds to avoid such dangers. So when sailors see it flying high into the sky they say it is a warning of imminent rain-storms.
"In Arab lands the ever-unique phoenix rises with a renewed body, by a divine dispensation. When it is growing old, it goes to a place which has been heated up by the sun. There it makes a great heap of spices and builds a pyre which it kindles into flame by rapidly fluttering its wings. It settles itself on top and is completely consumed. The ash from its body creates a bird, and in this fashion the phoenix is renewed for ever.
"The cinnamolgus fetches cinnamon when it wants to nest, and it builds its nest on a high trunk. Men set themselves to knock the heap down from there with feathered projectiles, their custom being to send it for sale.
"The halcyon is a bird which haunts sea-shore pools and builds its nests during the winter. While it is hatching, the sea is calm for seven days, the wind falls and storms die and hold off, to provide peace and quiet for the bird.
"The parrot is thought to produce human speech in its own tones, when not looked at directly: it mixes 'Hallo' and 'How d'you do?' with funny remarks.
"The pelican is a bird which usually kills its brood and laments for three days in a confusion of grief. Finally it pecks at its own body with its beak, cutting into the veins and letting out streams of blood with which it sprinkles the young birds and brings them to life.
"When the diomeds emit their mournful cry of lamentation, they are said to be foretelling the sudden death of kings or great dangers to the kingdom. When they see anyone, they can tell at once what kind he is--a barbarian or a Greek. They approach a Greek playfully, flapping their wings and chirruping happily. They circle the others and make hostile dives, going at them with a fierce cry as at enemies.
"The memnonids are said to undertake a long flight every fifth year to the tomb of Memnon, to mourn for the prince who was killed in the Trojan war.
"The splendid hercynia grows a wonderful feather which on a dark night burns like a lamp-flame and lights the way if carried in front of a traveller.
"When the woodpecker is nesting, it pulls out of the tree nails and wedges that no-one has been able to dislodge, and the place around resounds with its blows."
As he finished speaking, a madman came up to them unexpectedly--or perhaps fate had brought him. He filled the forest air with a terrible noise, made threatening gestures and foamed at the mouth like a wild boar. They quickly caught this man and made him sit down, to get some laughter and jokes out of what he would say.
The bard looked at him more attentively, realized who he was, and gave a deep sigh which came right from his heart, saying: "This was not how he once looked when we were in the flower of our youth. At that time he was a strong handsome soldier, in whom the nobility of royal descent was patent. I had him and many others as the companions of my prosperity: I was considered to be lucky, and was, to have such good friends.
"One day we happened to be hunting in the high mountains of Arwystli and came to a spot under an oak whose spreading branches stretched towards the sky. A spring was flowing there in a circle of green grass: its water was good for drinking. All of us were parched; so we sat and drank greedily of the pure spring stream. Then we saw fragrant apples lying on the soft grass of the familiar bank of the spring. The man who had first come upon them quickly gathered them and gave them to me, laughing over our unexpected present. I handed the gift of apples round my friends but left myself without any, because the pile was not large enough. Those who had received apples laughed and called me generous. Then they eagerly fell to and ate them up, complaining that there were so few.
"In a moment a pitiable madness seized this man here and all the others. Soon they were out of their minds, bit and scratched each other like dogs, screamed, foamed at the mouth and rolled demented on the ground. Then they dispersed and went off, filling the air with their pitiful howlings, like wolves.
"I think that these apples had been a gift intended for me, not for them; and I later learnt that this was so. At that time there was living in those parts a woman who had previously been attached to me and had fulfilled her love with me for many years. After I had discarded her and refused to cohabit with her, she soon developed a vicious determination to harm me; and when her scheming had failed to discover any other approach, she placed the poison-smeared gift at the spring by which I was to return, intending by this trick to cause me distress, should I happen to find the apples in the grass and eat them. A happier chance preserved me from them, as I have just explained. But now, I beg you, get this man to drink the clear healing water from this spring so that, if he is capable of recovering his sanity, he may do so and come to himself. Then he can work with me in the Lord among these groves for the remainder of his life."
So the nobles did this, and, when he had taken the water, the man who had arrived mad recovered; and the moment he was cured, he recognised his friends.
Then Merlin said, "You who have for many years lived and gone about the wild places like a beast, without a sense of shame, you must now continue steadfastly in the service of God, who has restored you to being the man you now see you are. And now that you have your reason back, do not flee from the green groves you haunted in your derangement, but stay with me: then you may make up for all the time stolen from you by the distorting mania, in the service of the Lord. All I have I shall share with you from now on as long as each of us may live."
To this Maeldin--that was his name--replied, "Venerable father, this is not a thing I refuse. I will gladly stay with you in the woods and serve God with my whole mind as long as my trembling limbs are governed by that vital spirit for which I shall give thanks under your guidance."
"I too shall stay with you and make the third,' said Taliesin, "turning away from the traffic of the world. I have spent long enough in empty living; now the time has come to recover myself, and you shall lead me.
"But you, my lords, away to defend your cities! It is wrong that you should disturb our quiet with your talk. You have acclaimed our friend enough."
The chieftains departed. The three remained, and with them a fourth--Ganieda, the prophet's sister, who had finally taken to their way of life also. She had been leading a retired life since the death of the king. She who till now had been the queen of a large nation under the appointed law, now found nothing pleasanter than living in the woods with her brother. She, too, was from time to time exalted in spirit to sing often of the future of the kingdom. So, one day when she stood in her brother's hall and gazed at the house and at its windows glittering in the sun, she uttered these dark sayings out of a dark heart:
"I see the city of Oxford filled with helmeted men, and holy men and holy bishops bound on the decision of the Council. [The hepherd will look at the high battlements of his castle and he will be forced to unlock it without advantage and to his own hurt.] I see Lincoln walled in by a fierce army and two men shut within. One of them escapes, to return to the siege with a wild people and their chief to defeat the fierce host after capturing their commander.
"O what a terrible thing it is for stars to capture the sun, under which they sink down without the compulsion of military force. I see two moons in the air near Winchester, and two lions acting with excessive ferocity; a man looking at two men, and another man at as many again, and standing face to face in readiness for battle. The others arise and make furious and bitter attacks on the fourth man; but none of them prevails. For he stands firm, holds out his shield while fighting back with his weapons, and suddenly emerges as the victor over his triple foes. He drives two of them across the frozen wastes of the north, while granting the other one the pardon he begs. So the stars flee throughout the field.
"The Boar of Brittany, under the protection of an antique oak, takes away the moon, swords brandished behind backs. I see two stars battling with wild beasts under the hill of Urien, where the men of Deira and themen of Gwent came together in the reign of the great Coel. How the men drip with sweat and the ground flows with blood, as wounds are inflicted on foreigners! A star collides with another and falls into the shadow, hiding her own light when light is renewed.
"Alas for the terrible famine which falls on the people and grips their bellies and drains their limbs of strength. It starts from Wales, goes out to the furthest parts of the kingdom and forces the unhappy population to go overseas. The calves flee that used to live on the milk of Scottish cows now dying in the dread pestilence.
"Normans--go! No longer take your armies of violent soldiery through our native kingdom. There is nothing left to fill your maw: you have eaten up everything that creative nature has till now produced out of her fertile bounty. "Christ, succour your people! Curb the lions, put a stop to war, and give the kingdom peace and quiet."
She did not end with this, and her friends listened in amazement. So also did her brother, who after a while went up to her and congratulated her in kindly words, saying, "Sister, is it you the spirit has willed to foretell the future? He has curbed my tongue and closed my book. Then this task is given to you. Be glad of it, and under my authority declare everything faithfully."
We have brought the song to an end. So, Britons, give a laurel wreath to Geoffrey of Monmouth. He is indeed your Geoffrey, for he once sang of your battles and those of your princes, and he wrote a book which is now known as the 'Deeds of the Britons'--and they are celebrated throughout the world.
Cotton Vespasian E iv