The Celtic Literature Collective

Of G(r)ado, a most valiant Knight Walter Map - The Courtier's Trifles
Bodl. MS. 851


ADMIRE in due measure G(r)ado as a firm rock among tempests, for he, in the midst of hope and fear, balanced himself so evenly, while performing the labours of a Hercules, as not to fall with shame into the reproach of either extreme. He was the son of a king of the Vandals, whose kingdom he had left in his boyhood, not fleeing the demands of his fatherland or the discipline of his father; but having a mind greater than the world, he scorned the confinement of his paternal borders. After attaining an adequate knowledge of books, he turned him to arms and subdued the monsters of the whole world. And although he was not a prodigy like Hercules in regard to his giant stature, nor like Achilles in regard to his nature half-divine,: he fully deserveth to be extolled not with lower titles of praise, but, by reason of his prowess, with even greater ones of valour and of strength. Thor¬oughly trained in battle and skilled in the chase of fish and birds and beasts, he shone so brightly in both war and peace that he was said to be ignorant of nothing. Although a troop of armed men could hardly resist the sword in his right hand, he was a lover of peace and ever its worthy champion. He wandered through all the world, and took part everywhere in far-famed contests, always carefully weighing the claims of both sides, so as to redress wrong and uphold right. And because he never withdrew from any undertaking, nor, by ever refusing to act, proved recreant to his vows, he was said to have all wisdom by those of whatever kingdom he spoke the tongue.

By the fortunate frequency of the successes of his whole life, he seemed to win obedience, just as if ‘every living and moving thing’ obeyed his will with full understanding. Coming into our island of England, he saw Offa, a most valiant king, of the age between boyhood and youth—a most happy period, if one could only recognize its happiness, but our whole life glideth by in such wise that our eyes do not perceive present happiness, but are open only to the past. This king had shut up the Welshmen in a small corner of their Wales and had surrounded them with a ditch which is still called from his name (Offa’s Dyke), and, crossing or passing which, they were made to atone and to moan by the loss of a foot. He had brought his kingdom, by the dint of great toil and zeal, to the highest pitch of prosperity, and had won as his wife the daughter of the Emperor of the Romans. We have heard of many marriages between Romans and English that ended in the tears of both, and this match was one of these. Romans on missions from the emperor had come frequently to Offa, and, enriched by him, had returned full of praise of king and kingdom. When Rome beheld these in the shining glory of their garments and gold, it was straightway aglow with innate avarice. Nor need we marvel, for the name ‘Roma’ is formed from the first letters of the definition both of avarice and of itself, that is, it is made up of the letters R and O and M and A, and the definition, along with the word itself, is Radix omnium malorum, avaricia. Covetous Romans suggested, therefore, to their lord, the Emperor Cunnan (Conrad)—of whom a monk had said, at the sight of his deformity, ‘Lord Cunnanus is nothing except Cunnus and anus’—that, because Rome was deservedly the head of the world and the mistress of all nations, England should be made a fief instead of free; nor did they cease from inciting him to that end until they finally brought him to their own pitch of avarice. But only one thing restrained them from beginning the attack—they were well aware that Gado was still alive, the arch defender of all innocence, and that it would be impossible to begin so arduous an undertaking anywhere, either far or near, without his being called in for the defence of justice. The emperor sighed for a long time for this consummation, and the Romans sighed along with him, but they kept their counsel well. In total ignorance of these plans, Offa sent away Gado, whom he had kept near him for a very long time in his constant regard and full reverence; and Gado carried away with him not as much as he could but as much as he would’ of wealth. With this heavy meed of treasure he left England for the farthest Indies, summoned thither by breathless messengers and anxious letters just as if he were a sword in the hand of the Lord, the avenger of all injuries to which he was bidden. Since he was thus dwelling in the uttermost parts of earth, the memory: of him waxed fainter among the Romans; and there were even those who feigned to the emperor the manner and place and time of Gado’s death, to still his fear of attacking the English.

Then the forces of the empire were levied by the weightiest proclamations, and a numerous, indeed innumerable, army was led in an unforeseen attack upon Offa and his English—I mean, unforeseen by them, but foreseen by God. For Gado, having speedily adjusted the difficulties of the Indi, was hastening home by sea to his father’s kingdom, but since the winds were contrary to his wishes, though favour¬able through God’s will to the aid of English, he, as defender and friend, was borne on the same day to the same shore as the assailants and enemies. He presented himself to Offa, and, having gathered forces, abode near by at Colchester, where it is reported that Helen, the finder of the Cross of Christ, was born; and hither his messengers re¬turned to him bearing a refusal of the peace which he sought. Gado, therefore, seeing the battle im¬minent, perceived that he had been borne thither by the Lord, and willingly obeyed His hest. Now he prepared himself for the work in hand, and, putting on the costly garments which he always wore, and accompanied by a hundred picked knights, he hied him to the tent of the emperor. The first who beheld him was struck with all wonder, and, eager to be his messenger to the emperor, announced the approach of a man of might, grey-haired, silk-clad, like unto the angels and already glorified by God, and with him some hundred knights, the best, it seemed, from all quarters of the world, the bravest and the fairest. It must be noted that Gado always had in his train at least a hundred. In great alarm at these reports, the emperor, well aware of what had happened, stood dumfounded, and accused his councillors of betraying him into coming. And lo, Gado, appearing in their midst, asked, ‘Is the coming of his Imperial Majesty peaceful?’ The emperor replied, ‘What is that to thee, who never abidest at home? But is thine own coming peaceful, thou who huntest strifes and contentions throughout the world?’ Then Gado, ever a man of the staunchest heart and of steadfast truth, gently replied: ‘Peaceful, because with the grace and virtue of God, innocence will have peace. In calling me “hunter of strifes” thou dost not err, for, ever ready at the summons, I eagerly track them out, and when I find them, destroy them with all my strength. I hate the makers of discords and shall never be their friend, unless they cease from fomenting them.’ With these words he left the tent, and, joining those who were awaiting him without, he saluted the Romans and departed. He did not salute them because he loved them or wished to be saluted in turn, but he took pleasure in recalling the proper usage, for no consideration of courteous habit must be omitted, lest there result forgetfulness of good manners which so easily slip away; whence it cometh about that customary courtesy must be paid even where it is not due, and happy is he who preserveth good manners by frequent use. The Romans wondered and feared, because the knights of Gado were famous for their lofty height and splendid presence as well as for their rich dress, and were superior not only to themselves but to all men whom they had ever seen.

Gado hastened at once to Offa, bringing to him as much hope and security as he had brought dread and distrust to the Romans, and, apprised of his right and of the wrong done him by the invaders, he put on his own armour and then moved the army forward to a just combat, He stationed the king and his whole host, with the exception of five hundred picked men, in the middle of the city in a large and empty place. He himself with only his own men hastened straightway to the gate which was first exposed to the attacks of the enemy, and he put in command of the gate next to him a youth of highest rank, the king’s nephew, Suanus by name, with the aforesaid five hundred picked men. When the first phalanx of the Romans came, they avoided in fear Gado, and concentrated all their attacks upon Suanus, but he sustained these assaults with such valour, and resisted them with such resolution, that, disbelieving the eyes with which they had seen Gado elsewhere, they thought that they had found him here in person; and they strove to overwhelm with an excess of numbers the men whom all their warlike efforts could not master. At length, of their phalanxes two were put to flight in disorder, and of the five hundred of Suanus, two hundred had fallen. Before the three hundred survivors could recover from their weariness, a fresh phalanx of five hundred rushed upon them. When Suanus sent a knight to Gado with a request for aid, he was told to fight on bravely. He obeyed without pro¬test and rushed upon the enemy with so little regard for them, and bore himself with such confidence into their midst that it seemed not a conflict, but the flight of lambs before wolves or of hares from dogs; and he pressed on, going beyond the gate, slaying them clear to their fourth line. Red with mortification, however, because he had asked for aid, Suanus counted life cheap, and was ashamed to come back from the enemy, and, by his death, he prepared to redeem the reproach of cowardice, until Gado, in pity, commanded him to draw back. Suanus, not consulting his own wishes but pru¬dently obeying his superior, left the gate at Gado’s behest and hastened to his king. Then the enemy, like a great ‘force of water at the breaking of a dam,’ rushed into the gate, confident of triumph, but Offa met them bravely in the market-place, and they dashed against a mighty rock of resistance. In the rear, Gado threatened them through the same gate, and, like a sharp sickle among the reeds, he rushed through the middle of the unhappy wretches, leaving a wide swath wherever he went. The Romans, caught in a trap, fell back and were felled, and, because the conquered had no hope, nor the conquerors any fear, the victors disdained to pursue and Gado recalled the king. The Romans, who had begun the war, were granted peace, and in ships bestowed by the king they carried their dead with them to Rome for burial.

Map, Walter. Master Walter Map's book, De nugis curialium (Courtier's trifles). trans. Frederick Tupper and Marbury Bladen Ogle. London: Chatto & Windus, 1924.

Back to Latin British Texts
Back to Welsh Texts
Back to CLC