Front Page Titles (by Subject) THE THIRD BOOK. - The Prose Works of John Milton, vol. 2
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THE THIRD BOOK. - John Milton, The Prose Works of John Milton, vol. 2 
The Prose Works of John Milton, With a Biographical Introduction by Rufus Wilmot Griswold. In Two Volumes (Philadelphia: John W. Moore, 1847). Vol. 2.
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THE THIRD BOOK.
This third book having to tell of accidents as various and exemplary as the intermission or change of government hath any where brought forth, may deserve attention more than common, and repay it with like benefit to them who can judiciously read: considering especially that the late civil broils had cast us into a condition not much unlike to what the Britons then were in when the imperial jurisdiction departing hence left them to the sway of their own councils; which times by comparing seriously with these latter, and that confused anarchy with this interreign, we may be able from two such remarkable turns of state, producing like events among us, to raise a knowledge of ourselves both great and weighty, by judging hence what kind of men the Britons generally are in matters of so high enterprise; how by nature, industry, or custom, fitted to attempt or undergo matters of so main consequence: for if it be a high point of wisdom in every private man, much more is it in a nation, to know itself; rather than puffed up with vulgar flatteries and encomiums, for want of self-knowledge, to enterprise rashly and come off miserably in great undertakings.
† [Of these who swayed most in the late troubles, few words as to this point may suffice. They had arms, leaders, and successes to their wish; but to make use of so great an advantage was not their skill.
To other causes therefore, and not to the want of force, to warlike manhood in the Britons, both those, and these lately, we must impute the ill husbanding of those fair opportunities, which might seem to have put liberty so long desired, like a bridle, into their hands. Of which other causes equally belonging to ruler, priest, and people, above hath been related: which, as they brought those ancient natives to misery and ruin, by liberty, which, rightly used, might have made them happy; so brought they these of late, after many labours, much bloodshed, and vast expense, to ridiculous frustration: in whom the like defects, the like miscarriages notoriously appeared, with vices not less hateful or inexcusable.
For a parliament being called, to address many things, as it was thought, the people with great courage, and expectation to be eased of what discontented them, chose to their behoof in parliament, such as they thought best affected to the public good, and some indeed men of wisdom and integrity; the rest, (to be sure the greater part,) whom wealth or ample possessions, or bold and active ambition (rather than merit) had commended to the same place.
But when once the superficial zeal and popular fumes that acted their new magistracy were cooled, and spent in them, straight every one betook himself (setting the commonwealth behind, his private ends before) to do as his own profit or ambition led him. Then was justice delayed, and soon after denied: spite and favour determined all: hence faction, thence treachery, both at home and in the field: every where wrong, and oppression: foul and horrid deeds committed daily, or maintained, in secret, or in open. Some who had been called from shops and warehouses, without other merit, to sit in supreme councils and committees, (as their breeding was,) fell to huckster the commonwealth. Others did thereafter as men could soothe and humour them best; so he who would give most, or, under covert of hypocritical zeal, insinuate basest, enjoyed unworthily the rewards of learning and fidelity; or escaped the punishment of his crimes and misdeeds. Their votes and ordinances, which men looked should have contained the repealing of bad laws, and the immediate constitution of better, resounded with nothing else but new impositions, taxes, excises; yearly, monthly, weekly. Not to reckon the offices, gifts, and preferments bestowed and shared among themselves: they in the meanwhile, who were ever faithfullest to this cause, and freely aided them in person, or with their substance, when they durst not compel either, slighted and bereaved after of their just debts by greedy sequestrations, were tossed up and down after miserable attendance from one committee to another with petitions in their hands, yet either missed the obtaining of their suit, or though it were at length granted, (mere shame and reason ofttimes extorting from them at least a show of justice,) yet by their sequestrators and subcommittees abroad, men for the most part of insatiable hands, and noted disloyalty, those orders were commonly disobeyed: which for certain durst not have been, without secret compliance, if not compact with some superiors able to bear them out. Thus were their friends confiscate in their enemies, while they forfeited their debtors to the state, as they called it, but indeed to the ravening seizure of innumerable thieves in office: yet were withal no less burdened in all extraordinary assessments and oppressions, than those whom they took to be disaffected: nor were we happier creditors to what we called the state, than to them who were sequestered as the state’s enemies.
For that faith which ought to have been kept as sacred and inviolable as any thing holy, “the Public Faith,” after infinite sums received, and all the wealth of the church not better employed, but swallowed up into a private gulf, was not ere long ashamed to confess bankrupt. And now besides the sweetness of bribery, and other gain, with the love of rule, their own guiltiness and the dreaded name of Just Account, which the people had long called for, discovered plainly that there were of their own number, who secretly contrived and fomented those troubles and combustions in the land, which openly they sat to remedy; and would continually find such work, as should keep them from being ever brought to that Terrible Stand of laying down their authority for lack of new business, or not drawing it out to any length of time, though upon the ruin of a whole nation.
And if the state were in this plight, religion was not in much better; to reform which, a certain number of divines were called, neither chosen by any rule or custom ecclesiastical, nor eminent for either piety or knowledge above others left out; only as each member of parliament in his private fancy thought fit, so elected one by one. The most part of them were such, as had preached and cried down, with great show of zeal, the avarice and pluralities of bishops and prelates; that one cure of souls was a full employment for one spiritual pastor how able soever, if not a charge rather above human strength. Yet these conscientious men (ere any part of the work done for which they came together, and that on the public salary) wanted not boldness, to the ignominy and scandal of their pastorlike profession, and especially of their boasted reformation, to seize into their hands, or not unwillingly to accept (besides one, sometimes two or more of the best livings) collegiate masterships in the universities, rich lectures in the city, setting sail to all winds that might blow gain into their covetous bosoms: by which means these great rebukers of nonresidence, among so many distant cures, were not ashamed to be seen so quickly pluralists and nonresidents themselves, to a fearful condemnation doubtless by their own mouths. And yet the main doctrine for which they took such pay, and insisted upon with more vehemence than gospel, was but to tell us in effect, that their doctrine was worth nothing, and the spiritual power of their ministry less available than bodily compulsion; persuading the magistrate to use it, as a stronger means to subdue and bring in conscience, than evangelical persuasion: distrusting the virtue of their own spiritual weapons, which were given them, if they be rightly called, with full warrant of sufficiency to pull down all thoughts and imaginations that exalt themselves against God. But while they taught compulsion without convincement, which not long before they complained of as executed unchristianly against themselves; these intents are clear to have been no better than antichristian: setting up a spiritual tyranny by a secular power, to the advancing of their own authority above the magistrate, whom they would have made their executioner, to punish church-delinquencies, whereof civil laws have no cognizance.
And well did their disciples manifest themselves to be no better principled than their teachers, trusted with committeeships, and other gainful offices, upon their commendations for zealous, (and as they sticked not to term them,) godly men; but executing their places like children of the devil, unfaithfully, unjustly, unmercifully, and where not corruptly, stupidly. So that between them the teachers, and these the disciples, there hath not been a more ignominious and mortal wound to faith, to piety, to the work of reformation, nor more cause of blaspheming given to the enemies of God and truth, since the first preaching of reformation.
The people therefore looking one while on the statists, whom they beheld without constancy or firmness, labouring doubtfully beneath the weight of their own too high undertakings, busiest in petty things, trifling in the main, deluded and quite alienated, expressed divers ways their disaffection; some despising whom before they honoured, some deserting, some inveighing, some conspiring against them. Then looking on the churchmen, whom they saw under subtle hypocrisy to have preached their own follies, most of them not the gospel, time servers, covetous, illiterate persecutors, not lovers of the truth, like in most things whereof they accused their predecessors: looking on all this, the people which had been kept warm a while with the counterfeit zeal of their pulpits, after a false heat, became more cold and obdurate than before, some turning to lewdness, some to flat atheism, put beside their old religion, and foully scandalized in what they expected should be new.
Thus they who of late were extolled as our greatest deliverers, and had the people wholly at their devotion, by so discharging their trust as we see, did not only weaken and unfit themselves to be dispensers of what liberty they pretended, but unfitted also the people, now grown worse and more disordinate, to receive or to digest any liberty at all. For stories teach us, that liberty sought out of season, in a corrupt and degenerate age, brought Rome itself to a farther slavery: for liberty hath a sharp and double edge, fit only to be handled by just and virtuous men; to bad and dissolute, it becomes a mischief unwieldy in their own hands: neither is it completely given, but by them who have the happy skill to know what is grievance and unjust to a people, and how to remove it wisely; what good laws are wanting, and how to frame them substantially, that good men may enjoy the freedom which they merit, and the bad the curb which they need. But to do this, and to know these exquisite proportions, the heroic wisdom which is required, surmounted far the principles of these narrow politicians: what wonder then if they sunk as these unfortunate Britons before them, entangled and oppressed with things too hard and generous above their strain and temper? For Britain, to speak a truth not often spoken, as it is a land fruitful enough of men stout and courageous in war, so it is naturally not over fertile of men able to govern justly and prudently in peace, trusting only in their mother-wit; who consider not justly, that civility, prudence, love of the public good, more than of money or vain honour, are to this soil in a manner outlandish; grow not here, but in minds well implanted with solid and elaborate breeding, too impolitic else and rude, if not headstrong and intractable to the industry and virtue either of executing or understanding true civil government. Valiant indeed, and prosperous to win a field; but to know the end and reason of winning, unjudicious, and unwise: in good or bad success, alike unteachable. For the sun, which we want, ripens wits as well as fruits; and as wine and oil are imported to us from abroad, so must ripe understanding, and many civil virtues, be imported into our minds from foreign writings, and examples of best ages; we shall else miscarry still, and come short in the attempts of any great enterprise. Hence did their victories prove as fruitless, as their losses dangerous; and left them still conquering under the same grievances, that men suffer conquered: which was indeed unlikely to go otherwise, unless men more than vulgar bred up, as few of them were, in the knowledge of ancient and illustrious deeds, invincible against many and vain titles, impartial to friendships and relations, had conducted their affairs: but then from the chapman to the retailer, many whose ignorance was more audacious than the rest, were admitted with all their sordid rudiments to bear no mean sway among them, both in church and state.
From the confluence of all their errors, mischiefs, and misdemeanors, what in the eyes of man could be expected, but what befell those ancient inhabitants, whom they so much resembled, confusion in the end?
But on these things, and this parallel, having enough insisted, I return to the story, which gave us matter of this digression.]
The Britons thus, as we heard, being left without protection from the empire, and the land in a manner emptied of all her youth, consumed in wars abroad, or not caring to return home, themselves, through long subjection, servile in mind,* slothful of body, and with the use of arms unacquainted, sustained but ill for many years the violence of those barbarous invaders, who now daily grew upon them. For although at first greedy of change,† and to be thought the leading nation to freedom from the empire, they seemed awhile to bestir them with a show of diligence in their new affairs, some secretly aspiring to rule, others adoring the name of liberty, yet so soon as they felt by proof the weight of what it was to govern well themselves, and what was wanting within them, not stomach or the love of license, but the wisdom, the virtue, the labour, to use and maintain true liberty, they soon remitted their heat, and shrunk more wretehedly under the burden of their own liberty, than before under a foreign yoke. Insomuch that the residue of those Romans, which had planted themselves here, despairing of their ill deportment at home, and weak resistance in the field by those few who had the courage or the strength to bear arms, nine years after the sacking of Rome removed out of Britain into France,‡ hiding for haste great part of their treasure, which was never after found.§ And now again the Britons, no longer able to support themselves against the prevailing enemy, solicit Honorius to their aid,∥ with mournful letters, embassages, and vows of perpetual subjection to Rome, if the northern foe were but repulsed.¶ He at their request spares them one legion, which with great slaughter of the Scots and Picts, drove them beyond the borders, rescued the Britons, and advised them to build a wall across the island, between sea and sea, from the place where Edinburgh now stands to the frith of Dunbritton, by the city Alcluith.** But the material being only turf, and by the rude multitude unartificially built up without better direction, availed them little.†† For no sooner was the legion departed, but the greedy spoilers returning, land in great numbers from their boats and pinnaces, wasting, slaying, and treading down all before them. Then are messengers again posted to Rome in lamentable sort, beseeching that they would not suffer a whole province to be destroyed, and the Roman name, so honourable yet among them, to become the subject of Barbarian scorn and insolence.‡‡ The emperor, at their sad complaint, with what speed was possible, sends to their succour. Who coming suddenly on those ravenous multitudes that minded only spoil, surprise them with a terrible slaughter. They who escaped fled back to those seas, from whence yearly they were wont to arrive, and return laden with booties. But the Romans, who came not now to rule, but charitably to aid, declaring that it stood not longer with the ease of their affairs to make such laborious voyages in pursuit of so base and vagabond robbers, of whom neither glory was to be got, nor gain, exhorted them to manage their own warfare; and to defend like men their country, their wives, their children, and what was to be dearer than life, their liberty, against an enemy not stronger than themselves, if their own sloth and cowardice had not made them so: if they would but only find hands to grasp defensive arms, rather than basely stretch them out to receive bonds.§§ They gave them also their help to build a new wall, not of earth as the former, but of stone, (both at the public cost, and by particular contributions,) traversing the isle in a direct line from east to west, between certain cities placed there as frontiers to bear off the enemy, where Severus had walled once before. They raised it twelve feet high, eight broad. Along the south shore, because from thence also like hostility was feared, they place towers by the sea-side at certain distances, for safety of the coast. Withal they instruct them in the art of war, leaving patterns of their arms and weapons behind them; and with animating words, and many lessons of valour to a faint-hearted audience, bid them finally farewell, without purpose to return. And these two friendly expeditions, the last of any hither by the Romans, were performed, as may be gathered out of Beda and Diaconus, the two last years of Honorius. Their leader,* as some modernly write, was Gallio of Ravenna; Buchanan, who departs not much from the fables of his predecessor Boethius, names him Maximianus, and brings against him to this battle Fergus first king of Scots, after their second supposed coming into Scotland, Durstus, king of Picts, both there slain, and Dioneth an imaginary king of Britain, or duke of Cornwall, who improbably sided with them against his own country, hardly escaping.† With no less exactness of particular circumstances he takes upon him to relate all those tumultuary inroads of the Scots and Picts into Britain, as if they had but yesterday happened, their order of battle, manner of fight, number of slain, articles of peace, things whereof Gildas and Beda are utterly silent, authors to whom the Scotch writers have none to cite comparable in antiquity; no more therefore to be believed for bare assertions, however quaintly drest, than our Geoffrey of Monmouth, when he varies most from authentic story. But either the inbred vanity of some, in that respect unworthily called historians, or the fond zeal of praising their nations above truth, hath so far transported them, that where they find nothing faithfully to relate, they fall confidently to invent what they think may either best set off their history, or magnify their country.
The Scots and Picts in manners differing somewhat from each other, but still unanimous to rob and spoil, hearing that the Romans intended not to return, from their gorroghs or leathern frigates‡ pour out themselves in swarms upon the land more confident than ever; and from the north end of the isle to the very wall’s side, then first took possession as inhabitants; while the Britons with idle weapons in their hands stand trembling on the battlements, till the half-naked barbarians with their long and formidable iron hooks pull them down headlong. The rest not only quitting the wall, but towns and cities, leave them to the bloody pursuer, who follows killing, wasting, and destroying all in his way. From these confusions arose a famine, and from thence discord and civil commotion among the Britons; each man living by what he robbed or took violently from his neighbour. When all stores were consumed and spent where men inhabited, they betook them to the woods, and lived by hunting, which was their only sustainment.§ To the heaps of these evils from without were added new divisions within the church.∥ For Agricola the son of Severianus, a Pelagian bishop, had spread his doctrine wide among the Britons, not uninfected before. The sounder part, neither willing to embrace his opinion to the overthrow of divine grace, nor able to refute him, crave assistance from the churches of France: who send them Germanus bishop of Auxerre, and Lupus of Troyes. They by continual preaching in churches,¶ in streets, in fields, and not without miracles, as is written, confirmed some, regained others, and at Verulam in a public disputation put to silence their chief adversaries. This reformation in the church was believed to be the cause of their success a while after in the field. For the Saxons and Picts with joint force,* which was no new thing before the Saxons at least had any dwelling in this island, during the abode of Germanus here, had made a strong impression from the north. The Britons marching out against them,† and mistrusting their own power, send to Germanus and his colleague, reposing more in the spiritual strength of those two men, than in their own thousands armed. They came, and their presence in the camp was not less than if a whole army had come to second them. It was then the time of Lent, and the people, instructed by the daily sermons of these two pastors, came flocking to receive baptism. There was a place in the camp set apart as a church, and tricked up with boughs upon Easter-day. The enemy understanding this, and that the Britons were taken up with religions more than with feats of arms, advances after the paschal feast, as to a certain victory. German, who also had intelligence of their approach, undertakes to be captain that day; and riding out with selected troops to discover what advantages the place might offer, lights on a valley compassed about with hills, by which the enemy was to pass. And placing there his ambush, warns them, that what word they heard him pronounce aloud, the same they should repeat with universal shout. The enemy passes on securely, and German thrice aloud cries Hallelujah; which answered by the soldiers with a sudden burst of clamour, is from the hills and valleys redoubled. The Saxons and Picts on a sudden supposing it the noise of a huge host, throw themselves into flight, casting down their arms, and great numbers of them are drowned in the river which they had newly passed. This victory, thus won without hands, left to the Britons plenty of spoil, and the person and the preaching of German greater authority and reverence than before. And the exploit might pass for current, if Constantius, the writer of his life in the next age, had resolved us how the British army came to want baptizing; for of any paganism at that time, or long before, in the land we read not, or that Pelagianism was rebaptized. The place of this victory, as is reported, was in Flintshire,‡ by a town called Guidcruc, and the river Allen, where a field retains the name of Maes German to this day. But so soon as German was returned home,§ the Scots and Picts, (though now so many of them Christians, that Palladius a deacon was ordained and sent by Celestine the pope to be a bishop over them,) were not so well reclaimed, or not so many of them, as to cease from doing mischief to their neighbours,∥ where they found no impeachment to fall in yearly as they were wont. They therefore of the Britons who perhaps were not yet wholly ruined, in the strongest and south-west parts of the isle,¶ send letters to Ætius, then third time consul of Rome, with this superscription; “To Ætius thrice consul, the groans of the Britons.” And after a few words thus: “The barbarians drive us to the sea, the sea drives us back to the barbarians: thus bandied up and down between two deaths, we perish either by the sword or by the sea.” But the empire, at that time overspread with Huns and Vandals, was not in condition to lend them aid. Thus rejected and wearied out with continual flying from place to place, but more afflicted with famine, which then grew outrageous among them, many for hunger yielded to the enemy; others either more resolute, or less exposed to wants, keeping within woods and mountainous places, not only defended themselves, but sallying out, at length gave a stop to the insulting foe, with many seasonable defeats; led by some eminent person, as may be thought, who exhorted them not to trust in their own strength, but in divine assistance. And perhaps no other here is meant than the foresaid deliverance by German, if computation would permit, which Gildas either not much regarded, or might mistake; but that he tarried so long here, the writers of his life assent not.* Finding therefore such opposition, the Scotch or Irish robbers, for so they are indifferently termed, without delay get them home. The Picts, as before was mentioned, then first began to settle in the utmost parts of the island, using now and then to make inroads upon the Britons. But they in the mean while thus rid of their enemies, begin afresh to till the ground; which after cessation yields her fruit in such abundance, as had not formerly been known, for many ages. But wantonness and luxury, the wonted companions of plenty, grow up as fast; and with them, if Gildas deserve belief, all other vices incident to human corruption. That which he notes especially to be the chief perverting of all good in the land, and so continued in his days, was the hatred of truth, and all such as durst appear to vindicate and maintain it. Against them, as against the only disturbers, all the malice of the land was bent. Lies and falsities, and such as could best invent them, were only in request. Evil was embraced for good, wickedness honoured and esteemed as virtue. And this quality their valour had, against a foreign enemy to be ever backward and heartless; to civil broils eager and prompt. In matters of government, and the search of truth, weak and shallow; in falsehood and wicked deeds, pregnant and industrious. Pleasing to God, or not pleasing, with them weighed alike; and the worse most an end was the weigher. All things were done contrary to public welfare and safety; nor only by secular men, for the clergy also, whose example should have guided others, were as vicious and corrupt. Many of them besotted with continual drunkenness, or swollen with pride and wilfulness, full of contention, full of envy, indiscreet, incompetent judges to determine what in the practice of life is good or evil, what lawful or unlawful. Thus furnished with judgment, and for manners thus qualified both priest and lay, they agree to choose them several kings of their own; as near as might be, likest themselves; and the words of my author import as much. Kings were anointed, saith he, not of God’s anointing, but such as were cruellest; and soon after as inconsiderately, without examining the truth, put to death by their anointers, to set up others more fierce and proud. As for the election of their kings, (and that they had not all one monarch, appears both in ages past and by the sequel,) it began, as nigh as may be guessed, either this year† or the following, when they saw the Romans had quite deserted their claim. About which time also Pelagianism again prevailing by means of some few, the British clergy too weak, it seems, at dispute, entreat the second time German to their assistance; who coming with Severus, a disciple of Lupus, that was his former associate, stands not now to argue, for the people generally continued right; but inquiring those authors of new disturbance, adjudges them to banishment. They therefore by consent of all were delivered to German; who carrying them over with him,† disposed of them in such place where neither they could infect others, and were themselves under cure of better instruction. But Germanus the same year died in Italy; and the Britons not long after found themselves again in much perplexity, with no slight rumour that their old troublers the Scots and Picts had prepared a strong invasion, purposing to kill all, and dwell themselves in the land from end to end. But ere their coming in, as if the instruments of divine justice had been at strife, which of them first should destroy a wicked nation, the pestilence, forestalling the sword, left scarce alive whom to bury the dead; and for that time, as one extremity keeps off another, preserved the land from a worse incumbrance of those barbarous dispossessors, whom the contagion gave not leave now to enter far.* And yet the Britons, nothing bettered by these heavy judgments, the one threatened, the other felt, instead of acknowledging the hand of Heaven, run to the palace of their king Vortigern with complaints and cries of what they suddenly feared from the Pictish invasion. Vortigern, who at that time was chief rather than sole king, unless the rest had perhaps left their dominions to the common enemy, is said by him of Monmouth, to have procured the death first of Constantine, then of Constance his son, who of a monk was made king, and by that means to have usurped the crown. But they who can remember how Constantine, with his son Constance the monk, the one made emperor, the other Cæsar, perished in France, may discern the simple fraud of this fable. But Vortigern however coming to reign, is deciphered by truer stories a proud unfortunate tyrant, and yet of the people much beloved, because his vices sorted so well with theirs. For neither was he skilled in war, nor wise in counsel, but covetous, lustful, luxurious, and prone to all vice; wasting the public treasure in gluttony and riot, careless of the common danger, and through a haughty ignorance unapprehensive of his own. Nevertheless importuned and awakened at length by unusual clamours of the people, he summons a general council, to provide some better means than heretofore had been used against these continual annoyances from the north. Wherein by advice of all it was determined, that the Saxons be invited into Britain against the Scots and Picts; whose breaking in they either shortly expected, or already found they had not strength enough to oppose. The Saxons were a barbarous and heathen nation, famous for nothing else but robberies and cruelties done to all their neighbours, both by sea and land; in particular to this island, witness that military force, which the Roman emperors maintained here purposely against them, under a special commander, whose title, as is found on good record,† was “Count of the Saxon shore in Britain,” and the many mischiefs done by their landing here, both alone and with the Picts, as above hath been related, witness as much.‡ They were a people thought by good writers to be descended of the Sacæ, a kind of Scythians in the north of Asia, thence called Sacasons, or sons of Sacæ, who, with a flood of other northern nations came into Europe, toward the declining of the Roman empire; and using piracy from Denmark all along these seas, possessed at length by intrusion all that coast of Germany,§ and the Netherlands, which took thence the name of Old Saxony, lying between the Rhine and Elve, and from thence north as far as Eidora, the river bounding Holsatia, though not so firmly or so largely, but that their multitude wandered yet uncertain of habitation. Such guests as these the Britons resolve now to send for, and entreat into their houses and possessions, at whose very name heretofore they trembled afar off. So much do men through impatience count ever that the heaviest, which they bear at present, and to remove the evil which they suffer, care not to pull on a greater; as if variety and change in evil also were acceptable. Or whether it be that men in the despair of better, imagine fondly a kind of refuge from one misery to another.
The Britons therefore with Vortigern,* who was then accounted king over them all, resolve in full council to send embassadors of their choicest men with great gifts, and, saith a Saxon writer, in these words desiring their aid; “Worthy Saxons, hearing the fame of your prowess, the distressed Britons wearied out, and overpressed by a continual invading enemy, have sent us to beseech your aid. They have a land fertile and spacious, which to your commands they bid us surrender. Heretofore we have lived with freedom, under the obedience and protection of the Roman empire. Next to them we know none worthier than yourselves: and therefore become suppliants to your valour. Leave us not below our present enemies, and to aught by you imposed, willingly we shall submit.” Yet Ethelwerd writes not that they promised subjection, but only amity and league. They therefore who had chief rule among them,† hearing themselves entreated by the Britons, to that which gladly they would have wished to obtain of them by entreating, to the British embassy return this answer:‡ “Be assured henceforth of the Saxons, as of faithful friends to the Britons, no less ready to stand by them in their need, than in their best of fortune.” The embassadors return joyful, and with news as welcome to their country, whose sinister fate had now blinded them for destruction. The Saxons, consulting first their gods,§ (for they had answer, that the land whereto they went, they should hold three hundred years, half that time conquering, and half quietly possessing,) furnish out three long galleys,∥ or kyules, with a chosen company of warlike youth, under the conduct of two brothers, Hengist and Horsa, descended in the fourth degree from Woden; of whom, deified for the fame of his acts, most kings of those nations derive their pedigree. These, and either mixed with these, or soon after by themselves, two other tribes, or neighbouring people, Jutes and Angles, the one from Jutland, the other from Anglen by the city of Sleswick, both provinces of Denmark, arrive in the first year of Martian the Greek emperor, from the birth of Christ four hundred and fifty,¶ received with much good-will of the people first, then of the king, who after some assurances given and taken, bestows on them the isle of Tanet, where they first landed, hoping they might be made hereby more eager against the Picts, when they fought as for their own country, and more loyal to the Britons, from whom they had received a place to dwell in, which before they wanted. The British Nennius writes, that these brethren were driven into exile out of Germany, and to Vortigern who reigned in much fear, one while of the Picts, then of the Romans and Ambrosius, came opportunely into the haven.** For it was the custom in Old Saxony, when their numerous offspring overflowed the narrowness of their bounds, to send them out by lot into new dwellings wherever they found room, either vacant or to be forced.†† But whether sought, or unsought, they dwelt not here long without employment. For the Scots and Picts were now come down, some say, as far as Stamford, in Lincolnshire, whom perhaps not imagining to meet new opposition, the Saxons, though not till after a sharp encounter, put to flight;‡‡ and that more than once; slaying in fight,§§ as some Scotch writers affirm, their king Eugenius the son of Fergus.∥∥ Hengist perceiving the island to be rich and fruitful, but her princes and other inhabitants given to vicious ease, sends word home, inviting others to a share of his good success. Who returning with seventeen ships, were grown up now to a sufficient army, and entertained without suspicion on these terms, that they “should bear the brunt of war against the Picts, receiving stipend, and some place to inhabit.” With these was brought over the daughter of Hengist, a virgin wonderous fair, as is reported, Rowen the British call her: she by commandment of her father, who had invited the king to a banquet, coming in presence with a bowl of wine to welcome him, and to attend on his cup till the feast ended, won so much upon his fancy, though already wived, as to demand her in marriage upon any conditions. Hengist at first, though it fell out perhaps according to his drift, held off, excusing his meanness; then obscurely intimating a desire and almost a necessity, by reason of his augmented numbers, to have his narrow bounds of Tanet enlarged to the circuit of Kent, had it straight by donation; though Guorangonus, till then, was king of that place; and so, as it were overcome by the great munificence of Vortigern, gave his daughter. And still encroaching on the king’s favour, got further leave to call over Octa and Ebissa, his own and his brother’s son; pretending that they, if the north were given them, would sit there as a continual defence against the Scots, while himself guarded the east.* They therefore sailing with forty ships, even to the Orcades, and every way curbing the Scots and Picts, possessed that part of the isle which is now Northumberland. Notwithstanding this, they complain that their monthly pay was grown much into arrear; which when the Britons found means to satisfy, though alleging withal, that they to whom promise was made of wages were nothing so many in number: quieted with this a while, but still seeking occasion to fall off, they find fault next, that their pay is too small for the danger they undergo, threatening open war, unless it be augmented. Guortimer, the king’s son, perceiving his father and the kingdom thus betrayed, from that time bends his utmost endeavour to drive them out. They on the other side making league with the Picts and Scots, and issuing out of Kent, wasted without resistance almost the whole land even to the western sea, with such a horrid devastation, that towns and colonies overturned, priests and people slain, temples and palaces, what with fire and sword, lay altogether heaped in one mixed ruin. Of all which multitude so great was the sinfulness that brought this upon them, Gildas adds, that few or none were likely to be other than lewd and wicked persons. The residue of these, part overtaken in the mountains were slain; others subdued with hunger preferred slavery before instant death; some getting to rocks, hills, and woods, inaccessible, preferred the fear and danger of any death, before the shame of a secure slavery;† many fled over sea into other countries; some into Holland, where yet remain the ruins of Brittenburgh, an old castle on the sea, to be seen at low water not far from Leyden, either built, as writers of their own affirm, or seized on by those Britons, in their escape from Hengist;‡ others into Armorica, peopled, as some think, with Britons long before, either by gift of Constantine the Great, or else of Maximus, to those British forces which had served them in foreign wars;§ to whom those also that miscarried not with the latter Constantine at Arles, and lastly, these exiles driven out by Saxons, fled for refuge. But the ancient chronicles of those provinces attest their coming thither to be then first when they fled the Saxons; and indeed the name of Britain in France is not read till after that time. Yet how a sort of fugitives, who had quitted without stroke their own country, should so soon win another, appears not, unless joined to some party of their own settled there before.∥ Vortigern, nothing bettered by these calamities, grew at last so obdurate as to commit incest with his daughter, tempted or tempting him out of an ambition to the crown. For which being censured and condemned in a great synod of clerks and laics, partly for fear of the Saxons, according to the counsel of his peers, he retired into Wales, and built him there a strong castle in Radnorshire,* by the advice of Ambrosius a young prophet, whom others call Merlin. Nevertheless Faustus, who was the son thus incestuously begotten, under the instructions of German, or some of his disciples, for German was dead before, proved a religious man, and lived in devotion by the river Remnis, in Glamorganshire.† But the Saxons, though finding it so easy to subdue the isle, with most of their forces, uncertain for what cause, returned home: whenas the easiness of their conquest might seem rather likely to have called in more; which makes more probable that which the British write of Guortimer. For he coming to reign,‡ instead of his father deposed for incest, is said to have thrice driven and besieged the Saxons in the isle of Tanet; and when they issued out with powerful supplies sent from Saxony, to have fought with them four other battles, whereof three are named; the first on the river Darwent, the second at Episford, wherein Horsa the brother of Hengist fell, and on the British part Catigern the other son of Vortigern. The third in a field by Stonar, then called Lapis Tituli, in Tanet, where he beat them into their ships that bore them home, glad to have so escaped, and not venturing to land again for five years after. In the space whereof Guortimer dying, commanded they should bury him in the port of Stonar; persuaded that his bones lying there would be terror enough, to keep the Saxons from ever landing in that place: they, saith Nennius, neglecting his command, buried him in Lincoln. But concerning these times, ancientest annals of the Saxons relate in this manner. In the year§ four hundred and fifty-five, Hengist and Horsa fought against Vortigern, in a place called Eglesthrip, now Ailsford in Kent, where Horsa lost his life, of whom Horsted, the place of his burial, took name.
After this first battle and the death of his brother, Hengist with his son Esca took on him kingly title,∥ and peopled Kent with Jutes; who also then, or not long after, possessed the Isle of Wight, and part of Hampshire lying opposite. Two years after¶ in a fight at Creganford, or Craford, Hengist and his son slew of the Britons four chief commanders, and as many thousand men; the rest in great disorder flying to London with the total loss of Kent. And eight years** passing between, he made new war on the Britons; of whom, in a battle at Wippeds-fleot, twelve princes were slain, and Wipped the Saxon earl, who left his name to that place, though not sufficient to direct us where it now stands. His last†† encounter was at a place not mentioned, where he gave them such an overthrow, that flying in great fear they left the spoil of all to their enemies. And these perhaps are the four battles, according to Nennius, fought by Guortimer, though by these writers far differently related; and happening besides many other bickerings, in the space of twenty years, as Malmsbury reckons. Nevertheless it plainly appears that the Saxons, by whomsoever, were put to hard shifts, being all this while fought withal in Kent, their own allotted dwelling, and sometimes on the very edge of the sea, which the word Wippeds-fleot seems to intimate. But Guortimer now dead,‡‡ and none of courage left to defend the land, Vortigern either by the power of his faction, or by consent of all, reassumes the government: and Hengist thus rid of his grand opposer, hearing gladly the restorement of his old favourer, returns again with great forces; but to Vortigern, whom he well knew how to handle without warring, as to his son-in-law, now that the only author of dissension between them was removed by death, offers nothing but all terms of new league and amity.
The king, both for his wife’s sake and his own sottishness, consulting also with his peers not unlike himself, readily yields; and the place of parley is agreed on; to which either side was to repair without weapons.—Hengist, whose meaning was not peace, but treachery, appointed his men to be secretly armed, and acquainted them to what intent. The watchword was,* Nemet eour saxes, that is, draw your daggers; which they observing, when the Britons were thoroughly heated with wine (for the treaty it seems was not without cups) and provoked, as was plotted, by some affront, dispatched with those poniards every one his next man, to the number of three hundred, the chief of those that could do aught against him, either in counsel or in field. Vortigern they only bound and kept in custody, until he granted them for his ransom three provinces, which were called afterward Essex, Sussex, and Middlesex. Who thus dismissed, retiring again to his solitary abode in the country of Guorthigirniaun, so called by his name, from thence to the castle of his own building in North Wales by the river Tiebi; and living there obscurely among his wives, was at length burnt in his tower by fire from Heaven, at the prayer,† as some say, of German, but that coheres not; as others, by Ambrosius Aurelian; of whom, as we have heard at first, he stood in great fear, and partly for that cause invited in the Saxons. Who, whether by constraint or of their own accord, after much mischief done, most of them returning back into their own country, left a fair opportunity to the Britons of avenging themselves easier on those who staid behind. Repenting therefore, and with earnest supplication imploring divine help to prevent their final rooting out, they gather from all parts, and under the leading of Ambrosius Aurelianus, a virtuous and modest man, the last here of the Roman stock, advancing now onward against the late victors, defeat them in a memorable battle. Common opinion, but grounded chiefly on the British fables, makes this Ambrosius to be a younger son of that Constantine, whose eldest, as we heard, was Constance the monk; who both lost their lives abroad usurping the empire. But the express words both of Gildas and Bede assure us, that the parents of this Ambrosius having here borne regal dignity, were slain in these Pictish wars and commotions in the island. And if the fear of Ambrose induced Vortigern to call in the Saxons, it seems Vortigern usurped his right. I perceive not that Nennius makes any difference between him and Merlin; for that child without father, that prophesied to Vortigern, he names not Merlin, but Ambrose; makes him the son of a Roman consul, but concealed by his mother, as fearing that the king therefore sought his life: yet the youth no sooner had confessed his parentage, by Vortigern either in reward of his predictions, or as his right, bestowed upon him all the west of Britain; himself retiring to a solitary life. Whosever son he was, he was the first,‡ according to surest authors, that led against the Saxons, and overthrew them; but whether before this time or after, none have written. This is certain, that in a time when most of the Saxon forces were departed home, the Britons gathered strength: and either against those who were left remaining, or against their whole powers the second time returning, obtained this victory. Thus Ambrose as chief monarch of the isle succeeded Vortigern; to whose third son Pascentius he permitted the rule of two regions in Wales, Buelth and Guorthigirniaun. In his days, saith Nennius,* the Saxons prevailed not much: against whom Arthur, as being then chief general for the British kings, made great war, but more renowned in songs and romances, than in true stories. And the sequel itself declares as much. For in the year four hundred and seventy-seven,† Ella, the Saxon, with his three sons, Cymen, Pleting, and Cissa, at a place in Sussex called Cymenshore, arrive in three ships, kill many of the Britons, chasing them that remained into the wood Andreds Leage. Another battle was fought‡ at Mercreds-Burnamsted, wherein Ella had by far the victory; but Huntingdon makes it so doubtful,§ that the Saxons were constrained to send home for supplies. Four years after died Hengist,∥ the first Saxon king of Kent; noted to have attained that dignity by craft, as much as valor, and giving scope to his own cruel nature, rather than proceeding by mildness or civility. His son Oeric, surnamed Oisc, of whom the Kentish kings were called Oiscings, succeeded him, and sate content with his father’s winning, more desirous to settle and defend, than to enlarge his bounds: he reigned twenty-four years. By this time Ella and his son Cissa besieging Andredchester,¶ supposed now to be Newenden in Kent, take it by force, and all within it put to the sword.
Thus Ella, three years after the death of Hengist, began his kingdom of the South-Saxons;** peopling it with new inhabitants, from the country which was then Old Saxony, at this day Holstein in Denmark, and had besides at his command all those provinces, which the Saxons had won on this side Humber.†† Animated with these good successes, as if Britain were become now the field of fortune, Kerdic another Saxon prince, the tenth by lineage from Woden,‡‡ an old and practised soldier, who in many prosperous conflicts against the enemy in those parts had nursed up a spirit too big to live at home with equals, coming to a certain place, which from thence took the name of Kerdic-shore,§§ with five ships, and Kenric his son, the very same day overthrew the Britons that opposed him; and so effectually, that smaller skirmishes after that day were sufficient to drive them still further off, leaving him a large territory. After him Porta another Saxon,∥∥ with his two sons Bida and Megla, in two ships arrive at Portsmouth thence called, and at their landing slew a young British nobleman, with many others who unadvisedly set upon them.¶¶ The Britons to recover what they had lost, draw together all their forces, led by Natanleod, or Nazaleod, a certain king in Britain, and the greatest, saith one; but with him five thousand of his men Kerdic puts to rout and slays. From whence the place in Hantshire, as far as Kerdicsford, now Chardford, was called of old Nazaleod. Who this king should be, hath bred much question; some think it to be the British name of Ambrose; others to be the right name of his brother, who for the terror of his eagerness in fight, became more known by the surname of Uther, which in the Welsh tongue signifies Dreadful. And if ever such a king in Britain there was as Uther Pendragon, for so also the Monmouth book surnames him, this in all likelihood must be he. Kerdic by so great a blow given to the Britons had made large room about him; not only for the men he brought with him, but for such also of his friends, as he desired to make great; for which cause, and withal the more to strengthen himself, his two nephews Stuff and Withgar, in three vessels bring him new levies to Kerdie-shore.* Who, that they might not come slugglishly to possess what others had won for them, either by their own seeking, or by appointment, are set in a place where they could not but at their first coming give proof of themselves upon the enemy; and so well they did it, that the Britons after a hard encounter left them masters of the field.† About the same time, Ella, the first South-Saxon king died; whom Cissa, his youngest son, succeeded; the other two failing before him.
Nor can it be much more or less than about this time, for it was before the West-Saxon kingdom, that Uffa, the eighth from Woden, made himself king of the East-Angles;‡ who by their name testify the country above mentioned; from whence they came in such multitudes, that their native soil is said to have remained in the days of Beda uninhabited.§ Huntingdon defers the time of their coming in to the ninth year of Kerdic’s reign: for, saith he,∥ at first many of them strove for principality, seizing every one his province, and for some while so continued, making petty wars among themselves; till in the end Uffa,¶ of whom those kings were called Uffings, overtopped them all in the year five hundred and seventy-one; then Titilus his son,** the father of Redwald, who became potent.
And not much after the East-Angles, began also the East-Saxons to erect a kingdom under Sleda, the tenth from Woden. But Huntingdon, as before, will have it later by eleven years, and Erchenwin to be the first king.
Kerdic the same in power, though not so fond of title, forbore the name twenty-four years after his arrival; but then founded so firmly the kingdom of West-Saxons,†† that it subjected all the rest at length, and became the sole monarchy of England. The same year he had a victory against the Britons at Kerdic’s ford, by the river Aven: and after eight years,‡‡ another great fight at Kerdic’s leage, but which won the day is not by any set down. Hitherto have been collected what there is of certainty with circumstance of time and place to be found registered, and no more than barely registered, in annals of best note; without describing after Huntingdon the manner of those battles and encounters, which they who compare, and can judge of books, may be confident he never found in any current author, whom he had to follow. But this disease hath been incident to many more historians: and the age whereof we now write hath had the ill hap, more than any since the first fabulous times, to be surcharged with all the idle fancies of posterity. Yet that we may not rely altogether on Saxon relaters, Gildas, in antiquity far before these, and every way more credible, speaks of these wars in such a manner, though nothing conceited of the British valour, as declares the Saxons in his time and before to have been foiled not seldomer than the Britons. For besides that first victory of Ambrose, and the interchangeable success long after, he tells that the last overthrow, which they received at Badon-hill, was not the least; which they in their oldest annals mention not at all. And because the time of this battle, by any who could do no more than guess, is not set down, or any foundation given from whence to draw a solid compute, it cannot be much wide to insert it in this place. For such authors as we have to follow give the conduct and praise of this exploit to Arthur; and that this was the last of twelve great battles which he fought victoriously against the Saxons.
The several places written by Nennius in their Welsh names* were many hundred years ago unknown, and so here omitted. But who Arthur was, and whether ever any such reigned in Britain, hath been doubted heretofore, and may again with good reason. For the monk of Malmsbury, and others, whose credit hath swayed most of the learneder sort, we may well perceive to have known no more of this Arthur five hundred years past, nor of his doings, than we, now living; and what they had to say, transcribed out of Nennius, a very trivial writer yet extant, which hath already been related; or out of a British book, the same which he of Monmouth set forth, utterly unknown to the world, till more than six hundred years after the days of Arthur, of whom (as Sigebert in his chronicle confesses) all other histories were silent, both foreign and domestic, except only that fabulous book. Others of later time have sought to assert him by old legends and cathedral regests. But he who can accept of legends for good story, may quickly swell a volume with trash, and had need be furnished with two only necessaries, leisure and belief; whether it be the writer, or he that shall read. As to Arthur, no less is in doubt who was his father; for if it be true, as Nennius or his notist avers, that Arthur was called Mab-Uther, that is to say, a cruel son, for the fierceness that men saw in him of a child, and the intent of his name Arturus imports as much, it might well be that some in after-ages, who sought to turn him into a fable, wrested the word Uther into a proper name, and so feigned him the son of Uther; since we read not in any certain story, that ever such person lived till Geoffrey of Monmouth set him off with the surname of Pendragon. And as we doubted of his parentage, so may we also of his puissance; for whether that victory at Badon-hill were his or no, is uncertain; Gildas not naming him, as he did Ambrose in the former. Next, if it be true as Caradoc relates,† that Melvas, king of that country which is now Somerset, kept from him Gueniver his wife a whole year in the town of Glaston, and restored her at the entreaty of Gildas, rather than for any enforcement that Arthur with all his chivalry could make against a small town defended only by a moory situation; had either his knowledge in war, or the force he had to make, been answerable to the fame they bear, that petty king had neither dared such affront, nor he been so long, and at last without effect, in revenging it.—Considering lastly how the Saxons gained upon him every where all the time of his supposed reign, which began, as some write,‡ in the tenth year of Kerdic, who wrung from him by long war the counties of Somerset and Hampshire; there will remain neither place nor circumstance in story, which may administer any likelihood of those great acts, that are ascribed to him. This only is alleged by Nennius in Arthur’s behalf,§ that the Saxons, though vanquished never so oft, grew still more numerous upon him by continual supplies out of Germany. And the truth is, that valor may be overtoiled, and overcome at last with endless overcoming.
But as for this battle of mount Badon, where the Saxons were hemmed in, or besieged, whether by Arthur won, or whensoever, it seems indeed to have given a most undoubted and important blow to the Saxons, and to have stopped their proceedings for a good while after. Gildas himself witnessing, that the Britons, having thus compelled them to sit down with peace, fell thereupon to civil discord among themselves. Which words may seem to let in some light toward the searching out when this battle was fought. And we shall find no time since the first Saxon war, from whence a longer peace ensued, than from the fight at Kerdic’s Leage, in the year five hundred and twenty seven, which all the chronicles mention, without victory to Kerdic; and give us argument from the custom they have of magnifying their own deeds upon all occasions, to presume here his ill speeding. And if we look still onward, even to the forty-fourth year after, wherein Gildas wrote, if his obscure utterance be understood, we shall meet with every little war between the Britons and Saxons.* This only remains difficult, that the victory first won by Ambrose was not so long before this at Badon siege, but that the same men living might be eyewitnesses of both; and by this rate hardly can the latter be thought won by Arthur, unless we reckon him a grown youth at least in the days of Ambrose, and much more than a youth, if Malmsbury be heard, who affirms all the exploits of Ambrose to have been done chiefly by Arthur as his general, which will add much unbelief to the common assertion of his reigning after Ambrose and Uther, especially the fight of Badon being the last of his twelve battles. But to prove by that which follows, that the fight at Kerdic’s Leage, though it differ in name from that of Badon, may be thought the same by all effects; Kerdic three years after,† not proceeding onward, as his manner was, on the continent, turns back his forces on the Isle of Wight; which, with the slaying of a few only in Withgarburgh, he soon masters; and not long surviving, left it to his nephews by the mother’s side, Stuff and Withgar:‡ the rest of what he had subdued, Kenric his son held; and reigned twenty-six years, in whose tenth year§ Withgar was buried in the town of that island which bore his name. Notwithstanding all these unlikelihoods of Arthur’s reign and great achievements, in a narration crept in I know not how among the laws of Edward the Confessor, Arthur, the famous king of Britons is said not only to have expelled hence the Saracens, who were not then known in Europe, but to have conquered Friesland, and all the north-east isles as far as Russia, to have made Lapland the eastern bound of his empire, and Norway the chamber of Britain. When should this be done? From the Saxons, till after twelve battles, he had no rest at home; after those, the Britons, contented with the quiet they had from their Saxon enemies, were so far from seeking conquests abroad, that by report of Gildas above cited, they fell to civil wars at home. Surely Arthur much better had made war in old Saxony, to repress their flowing hither, than to have won kingdoms as far as Russia, scarce able here to defend his own. Buchanan our neighbour historian reprehends him of Monmouth, and others, for fabling in the deeds of Arthur; yet what he writes thereof himself, as of better credit, shows not whence he had but from those fables; which he seems content to believe in part, on condition that the Scots and Picts may be thought to have assisted Arthur in all his wars and achievements; whereof appears as little ground by credible story, as of that which he most counts fabulous. But not further to contest about such uncertainties.
In the year five hundred and forty-seven,∥ Ida the Saxon, sprung also from Woden in the tenth degree, began the kingdom of Bernicia in Northumberland; built the town Bebenburgh, which was after walled; and had twelve sons, half by wives and half by concubines. Hengist, by leave of Vortigern, we may remember, had sent Octave and Ebissa, to seek them seats in the north, and there, by warring on the Picts, to secure the southern parts. Which they so prudently effected, that what by force and fair proceeding, they well quieted those countries; and though so far distant from Kent, nor without power in their hands, yet kept themselves nigh a hundred and eighty years within moderation; and, as inferior governors, they and their offspring gave obedience to the kings of Kent, as to the elder family. Till at length following the example of that age, when no less than kingdoms were the prize of every fortunate commander, they thought it but reason, as well as others of their nation, to assume royalty. Of whom Ida was the first,* a man in the prime of his years, and of parentage as we heard; but how he came to wear the crown, aspiring or by free choice, is not said. Certain enough it is, that his virtues made him not less noble than his birth in war undaunted and unfoiled, in peace tempering the awe of magistracy with a natural mildness, he reigned about twelve years.
In the mean while Kenric in a fight at Searesbirig,† now Salisbury, killed and put to flight many of the Britons; and the fourth year after at Beranvirig,‡ now Banbury, as some think, with Keaulin his son, put them again to flight. Keaulin shortly after succeeded his father in the West-Saxons. And Alla, descended also of Woden, but of another line, set up a second kingdom in Deira, the south part of Northumberland,§ and held it thirty years; while Adda, the son of Ida, and five more after him, reigned without other memory in Bernicia: and in Kent, Ethelbert the next year began.∥ But Esca the son of Hengist had left Otha, and he Emeric to rule after him; both which, without adding to their bounds kept what they had in peace fifty-three years. But Ethelbert in length of reign equalled both his progenitors, and as Beda counts, three years exceeded. Young at his first entrance,¶ and unexperienced, he was the first raiser of civil war among the Saxons; claiming from the priority of time wherein Hengist took possession here, a kind of right over the later kingdoms; and thereupon was troublesome to their confines: but by them twice defeated, he who but now thought to seem dreadful, became almost contemptible. For Keaulin and Cutha his son, pursuing him into his own territory,** slew there in battle, at Wibbandun, two of his earls, Oslac and Cneban. By this means the Britons, but chiefly by this victory at Badon, for the space of forty-four years, ending in five hundred and seventy-one, received no great annoyance from the Saxons: but the peace they enjoyed, by ill using it, proved more destructive to them than war. For being raised on a sudden by two such eminent successes, from the lowest condition of thraldom, they whose eyes had beheld both those deliverances, that by Ambrose and this at Badon, were taught by the experience of either fortune, both kings, magistrates, priests, and private men, to live orderly.
But when the next age,†† unacquainted with past evils, and only sensible of their present ease and quiet, succeeded, strait followed the apparent subversion of all truth, and justice, in the minds of most men: scarce the least forestep or impression of goodness left remaining through all ranks and degrees in the land; except in some so very few, as to be hardly visible in a general corruption: which grew in short space not only manifest, but odious to all the neighbouring nations. And first their kings, amongst them also the sons or grandchildren of Ambrose, were foully degenerated to all tyranny and vicious life whereof to hear some particulars out of Gildas, will not be impertinent. They avenge, saith he, and they protect, not the innocent, but the guilty; they swear oft, but perjure; they wage war, but civil and unjust war. They punish rigorously them that rob by the high-way; but those grand robbers, that sit with them at table, they honour and reward. They give alms largely, but in the face of their almsdeeds, pile up wickedness to a far higher heap. They sit in the seat of judgment, but go seldom by the rule of right; neglecting and proudly overlooking the modest and harmless, but countenancing the audacious, though guilty of abominable crimes; they stuff their prisons, but with men committed rather by circumvention than by any just cause.
Nothing better were the clergy, but at the same pass, or rather worse than when the Saxons came first in; unlearned, unapprehensive, yet impudent; subtle prowlers, pastors in name, but indeed wolves; intent upon all occasions, not to feed the flock, but to pamper and well-line themselves: not called, but seizing on the ministry as a trade, not as a spiritual charge; teaching the people not by sound doctrine, but by evil example; usurping the chair of Peter, but through the blindness of their own worldly lusts, they stumble upon the seat of Judas; deadly haters of truth, broachers of lies; looking on the poor Christian with eyes of pride and contempt; but fawning on the wickedest rich men without shame: great promoters of other men’s alms, with their set exhortations; but themselves contributing ever least: slightly touching the many vices of the age, but preaching without end their own grievances, as done to Christ; seeking after preferments and degrees in the church, more than after heaven; and so gained, made it their whole study how to keep them by any tyranny. Yet lest they should be thought things of no use in their eminent places, they have their niceties and trivial points to keep in awe the superstitious multitude; but in true saving knowledge leave them still as gross and stupid as themselves; bunglers at the Scripture, nay, forbidding and silencing them that know; but in worldly matters, practised and cunning shifters; in that only art and simony great clerks and masters, bearing their heads high, but their thoughts abject and low. He taxes them also as gluttonous, incontinent, and daily drunkards. And what shouldst thou expect from these, poor laity, so he goes on, these beasts, all belly? Shall these amend thee, who are themselves laborious in evil doings? Shall thou see with their eyes, who see right forward nothing but gain? Leave them rather, as bids our Saviour, lest ye fall both blindfold into the same perdition. Are all thus? Perhaps not all, or not so grossly. But what availed it Eli to be himself blameless, while he connived at others that were abominable? Who of them hath been envied for his better life? Who of them hath hated to consort with these, or withstood their entering the ministry or endeavoured zealously their casting out? Yet some of these perhaps by others are legended for great saints.
This was the state of government, this of religion among the Britons, in that long calm of peace, which the fight at Badon-hill had brought forth. Whereby it came to pass, that so fair a victory came to nothing. Towns and cities were not reinhabited, but lay ruined and waste; nor was it long ere domestic war breaking out wasted them more. For Britain,* as at other times, had then also several kings: five of whom Gildas, living then in Armorica at a safe distance, boldly reproves by name: first, Constantine, (fabled the son of Cador, duke of Cornwall, Arthur’s half, by the mother’s side,) who then reigned in Cornwall and Devon, a tyrannical and bloody king, polluted also with many adulteries: he got into his power two young princes of the blood royal, uncertain whether before him in right, or otherwise suspected: and after solemn oath given of their safety the year that Gildas wrote, slew them with their two governors in the church, and in their mother’s arms, through the abbot’s cope which he had thrown over them, thinking by the reverence of his vesture to have withheld the murderer. These are commonly supposed to be the sons of Mordred, Arthur’s nephew, said to have revolted from his uncle, giving him in a battle his death’s wound, and by him after to have been slain. Which things, were they true, would much diminish the blame of cruelty in Constantine, revenging Arthur on the sons of so false a Mordred.
In another part, but not expressed where, Aurelius Conanus was king: him he charges also with adulteries, and parricide; cruelties worse than the former; to be a hater of his country’s peace, thirsting after civil war and prey. His condition, it seems, was not very prosperous, for Gildas wishes him, being now left alone, like a tree withering in the midst of a barren field, to remember the vanity and arrogance of his father, and elder brethren, who came all to untimely death in their youth. The third reigning in Demetia, or South Wales, was Vortipor, the son of a good father; he was, when Gildas wrote, grown old, not in years only, but in adulteries; and in governing, full of falsehood and cruel actions. In his latter days, putting away his wife, who died in divorce, he became, if we mistake not Gildas, incestuous with his daughter. The fourth was Cuneglas, imbrued in civil war; he also had divorced his wife, and taken her sister, who had vowed widowhood: he was a great enemy to the clergy, high-minded, and trusting to his wealth. The last, but greatest of all in power, was Maglocune, and greatest also in wickedness: he had driven out, or slain, many other kings, or tyrants, and was called the Island Dragon, perhaps having his seat in Anglesey; a profuse giver, a great warrior, and of a goodly stature. While he was yet young, he overthrew his uncle, though in the head of a complete army, and took from him the kingdom: then touched with remorse of his doings, not without deliberation, took upon him the profession of a monk; but soon forsook his vow, and his wife also; which for that vow he had left, making love to the wife of his brother’s son then living. Who not refusing the offer, if she were not rather the first that enticed, found means both to dispatch her own husband, and the former wife of Maglocune, to make her marriage with him the more unquestionable. Neither did he this for want of better instructions, having had the learnedest and wisest man, reputed of all Britain, the instituter of his youth. Thus much, the utmost that can be learnt by truer story, of what past among the Britons from the time of their useless victory at Badon, to the time that Gildas wrote, that is to say, as may be guessed, from 527 to 571, is here set down altogether; not to be reduced under any certainty of years.
But now the Saxons, who for the most part all this while had been still, unless among themselves, began afresh to assault them, and ere long to drive them out of all which they maintained on this side Wales. For Cuthulf, the brother of Keaulin,* by a victory obtained at Bedanford, now Bedford, took from them four good towns, Liganburgh, Eglesburgh, Bensington now Benson in Oxfordshire, and Ignesham; but outlived not many months his good success. And after six years more,† Keaulin, and Cuthwin his son, gave them great overthrow at Deorrham in Gloucestershire, slew three of their kings, Comail, Condidan, and Farinmaile; and three of their chief cities, Gloucester, Cirencester, and Badencester. The Britons notwithstanding, after some space of time,* judging to have outgrown their losses, gather to a head and encounter Keaulin, with Cutha his son at Fethanleage; whom valiantly fighting, they slew among the thickest, and, as is said, forced the Saxons to retire.† But Keaulin, reinforcing the fight, put them to a main rout; and following his advantage, took many towns, and returned laden with rich booty.
The last of those Saxons, who raised their own achievements to a monarchy, was Crida, much about this time, first founder of the Mercian kingdom,‡ drawing also his pedigree from Woden. Of whom all to write the several genealogies, though it might be done without long search, were in my opinion to encumber the story with a sort of barbarous names, to little purpose. This may suffice,§ that of Woden’s three sons, from the eldest issued Hengist, and his succession; from the second, the kings of Mercia; from the third, all that reigned in West Saxony, and most of the Northumbers, of whom Alla was one, the first king of Deira; which, after his death, the race of Ida seized, and made it one kingdom with Bernicia,∥ usurping the childhood of Edwin, Alla’s son; whom Ethelric, the son of Ida, expelled. Notwithstanding others write of him, that from a poor life, and beyond hope in his old age, coming to the crown, he could hardly, by the access of a kingdom, have overcome his former obscurity, had not the fame of his son preserved him. Once more the Britons,¶ ere they quitted all on this side the mountains, forgot not to show some manhood; for meeting Keaulin at Woden’s-beorth, that is to say, at Woden’s mount in Wiltshire;** whether it were by their own forces, or assisted by the Angles, whose hatred Keaulin had incurred, they ruined the whole army, and chased him out of his kingdom; from whence flying, he died the next year in poverty, who a little before was the most potent, and indeed sole king of all the Saxons on this side the Humber. But who was chief among the Britons in this exploit had been worth remembering, whether it were Maglocune, of whose prowess hath been spoken, or Teudric king of Glamorgan, whom the regest of Landaff recounts to have been always victorious in fight; to have reigned about this time, and at length to have exchanged his crown for an hermitage; till in the aid of his son Mouric, whom the Saxons had reduced to extremes, taking arms again, he defeated them at Tinterne by the river Wye; but himself received a mortal wound.†† The same year with Keaulin, whom Keola the son of Cuthulf, Keaulin’s brother, succeeded, Crida also the Mercian king deceased, in whose room Wibba succeeded; and in Northumberland, Ethelfrid, in the room of Ethelric, reigning twenty-four years. Thus omitting fables, we have the view of what with reason can be relied on for truth, done in Britain since the Romans forsook it. Wherein we have heard the many miseries and desolations brought by divine hand on a perverse nation; driven, when nothing else would reform them, out of a fair country, into a mountainous and barren corner, by strangers and pagans. So much more tolerable in the eye of heaven is infidelity professed, than Christian faith and religion dishonoured by unchristian works. Yet they also at length renounced their heathenism; which how it came to pass, will be the matter next related.
[† ]The following paragraphs, within crotchets, have been omitted in all the former editions of our author’s History of Britain, except that published in the collection of his works, 1738, 2 vol. folio, and the subsequent edition in quarto.
[* ]Gild. Bede. Malins.
[† ]Zozim. l. 6.
[‡ ]Post Christ. 418.
[§ ]Ethelwerd. annal. Sax.
[∥ ]Gildas. Post Christ. 422.
[¶ ]Diaconus, l. 14.
[** ]Bede, l. 1. c. 2.
[‡‡ ]Post Christ. 423.
[§§ ]Bede, ibid. Gildas.
[* ]Blond. Sabellic.
[† ]Buch. l. 5.
[‡ ]Gildas, Bede.
[¶ ]Post Christ. 426. Prosp. Aquit. Matth. West. ad ann. 446.
[* ]Post Christ. 430.
[† ]Constant. vit. German.
[‡ ]Usser. Primod. p. 333.
[§ ]Post Christ. 431. Prosp. Aquit. Athelwerd.
[∥ ]Florent. Gild. Bede.
[¶ ]Malmsbury, l. i. c. i. p. 8. Post Christ. 446.
[† ]Post Christ. 447. Constant. Bede.
[† ]Post Christ. 448. Sigon. Gildas.
[* ]Malms. l. 1.
[† ]Notitiæ imperii.
[‡ ]Forent Wigorn. ad. an. 370.
[* ]Ethelwerd. Malmsb. Witichind. gest. Sax. l. 1.
[¶ ]Post Christ. 450. Nennius. Malms.
[†† ]Henry Huntingd.
[§§ ]Bed. Nen.
[* ]Gildas, Bed. Nenn.
[† ]Primord. p. 418.
[‡ ]Malms. l. 1. c. 1.
[§ ]Hunting. l 1.
[∥ ]Nenn. Malmsb.
[§ ]Post Christ. 455. Bede. Ethelwerd. Florent. Annal. Sax.
[∥ ]The kingdom of Kent.
[¶ ]Post Christ. 457.
[** ]Post Christ. 465.
[†† ]Post Christ. 473.
[† ]Min. ex legend St. Ger. Galfrid. Monmouth.
[‡ ]Gildas. Bed.
[† ]Post Christ. 477. Sax. an. Ethelw. Florent.
[‡ ]Post Christ. 485. Florent.
[∥ ]Post Christ. 489. Malms. Bed. l. 2. c. 5.
[¶ ]Post Christ. 492. Camden.
[** ]The kingdom of South-Saxons.
[†† ]Bed. l. 1. c. 15 and l. 2. c. 5.
[‡‡ ]Sax. ann. omn.
[§§ ]Post Christ. 495.
[∥∥ ]Post Christ. 501 Sax. an omn. Huntingdon.
[¶¶ ]Post. Christ. 508. Ann. omn. Huntingd. Camden. Uss. Primord.
[* ]Post Christ. 514. An. omn.
[‡ ]The kingdom of East-Angles.
[§ ]Malmsb. l. 1. c. 5. Bed. l. 1. c. 15.
[∥ ]Huntingd. l. 2. p. 313, 315.
[¶ ]Bed. l. 2. c. 15.
[** ]Malms. l. 1. c. 6.
[†† ]Post Christ. 519.
[‡‡ ]Sax. ann. omn. 527.
[† ]Caradoc. Llancarvon. vit. Gild.
[‡ ]Malms. antiquit. Glaston. Post Christ. 529.
[§ ]Primord. p. 468. Polychronic. l. 5. c. 6.
[† ]Post Christ. 530. Sax. an. omn.
[‡ ]Post Christ. 534.
[§ ]Post Christ. 514.
[∥ ]Post Christ. 547. Annal. omn. Bed. Epit. Malms.
[† ]Post Christ. 552. Annal. omn.
[‡ ]Post Christ. 556. Camden.
[§ ]Post Christ. 560. Annal Florent.
[∥ ]Post Christ. 561.
[** ]Ann. omn. Post Christ. 568.
[* ]Primord. p. 444.
[* ]Post Christ. 571. Camden. Annal. omn.
[† ]Post Christ. 577.
[* ]Post Christ. 584.
[‡ ]The kingdom of Mercia. Huntingd. Matt. Westm.
[§ ] Malmsb. i. 1. c. 3.
[∥ ]Florent. ad ann. Post Christ. 559
[¶ ]Post Christ. 588. Annal. omn.
[** ]Post Christ. 592. Florent. Bed. l. 2. c. 3. Malms. Florent. Sax. ann.
[†† ]Post Christ. 593.