Normannicus Draco

Summer 1167. The Breton rebels are struggling to oppose the English army, and King Henry II’s troops seem to be about to prevail. In the middle of the conflict, one of the rebels, Rolland de Dinan, turns to desperate measures: he sends a letter to King Arthur, now king of the Antipodes, asking for his support. He soon receives a reassuring reply: Arthur is ready to fight, he will never let his people face the enemy alone and is about to challenge King Henry with a bewitched army that no one can defeat… How will the Plantagenet deal with this unexpected threat? To find out how the story ends, read the most striking lines of the Normannicus Draco, a remarkable chronicle written in verse by Stephen of Rouen, monk at the abbey of Bec (Normandy), in 1169.
After these events, King Henry moves against the Breton leaders rebelling against him with a strong army.
Meanwhile, the King of England
Henry II
meets some of the Bretons in armed combat and having tamed them, he instructs them to stay within their territory. While he is still there, he wears down the enemy, lays them low, presses in: the Bretons flee across fords and across forests.
Interea Britonum quosdam rex Anglicus armis941XVII.Quod post hec Henricus rex contra quosdam Britonum principes sibi rebelles cum ualida manu pergit.
appetit, et domitos in sua stare iubet.
Dumque moratur ibi, terit hostes, opprimit, arcet:
diffugiunt Britones per uada perque nemus.
Arthur’s steward, Rolland,
Rolland de Dinan (†1187), one of nobles who took part into the rebellion against Henry II
also at the time consul of the Bretons, sends these words to his king:
A letter of Rolland, a certain earl of the Bretons, sent to Arthur, once king of Brittany, who was at that time dwelling in the Antipodes, which informs him that Henry, king of England, has invaded his lands; wherefore, he should either come to his people’s aid, or send armed troops soon.
Rolland to Arthur, thrice king.
Stephan’s Arthur is king of Britanny, England and Francia.
Henry, fierce in arms, drives your people to take up arms.
Arturi dapifer, Rollandus, consul et isdem945
tunc Britonum, regi dirigit ista suo:‘Arturo regi trino Rollandus. In armisXVIII.Epistola Rollandi, cuiusdam comitis Britonum, ad Arturum, olim Britannie regem, missa, qui tunc apud Antipodes degebat, insinuans quod Henricus Anglie rex terras eius inuaserat; quare uel ipse in auxilium suorum ueniret, uel legiones armatas cicius transmitteret.
efferus Henricus pellit ad arma tuos.
And so, quickly come to the aid of your people, o far-sighted one, you who alone seen as king and lord. Either come yourself, or send forces here, or call war and death upon that young stripling. Farewell’.
Prouidus ergo tuis, quorum tu solus haberis949
et rex et dominus, auxiliare cito.
Aut per te uenias, aut mittas huc legiones,
aut iuueni manda bella necemque. Vale.’
Arthur reads these words, fumes, is furious, boils with rage, and sends back to his Rolland a message as follows:
Arthur’s letter to the abovementioned Rolland, and the fact that Arthur held a parley about these matters with his whole army at the Antipodes.
‘Arthur to Rolland. A mighty wind is breaking up into breezes and has for a long time now resisted stirring any gusts.
Hec legit Arturus, frendet, furit, estuat ira,953
Rollandoque suo scripta remittit ita:‘Arturus Rollando. Magnus uentus in aurasXIX.Epistola Arturi ad predictum Rollandum. et quod super his cum toto exercitu suo apud Antipodes Arturus colloquium habuit.
soluitur, et renuit tollere flabra diu.
Henry’s attack is known to me: there is nothing to fear. He will be hearing sad news from Rouen: his mother is dying. Cloto holds the distaff, Lachesis the thread, Atropos
Latinised names of the three Parcae, who in classical mythology presided over men’s lives
draws and cuts it, and indeed she slips away from life.
Impetus Henrici michi notus: nil timeatur.957
Audiet a Rodomo tristia: mater obit.
Cloto colum, Lachesis filum tenet, attrahit, occat
Atropos, et uitam deserit illa quidem.
He will leave off from the Bretons, nor will be able to bear the agony, because nothing in the world is dearer to hm than she is. Nonetheless, I think it is worthwhile sending him a letter, so that he knows who Arthur is and leave my people alone.
Desinet hic Britones, nec quibit ferre dolorem,961
Nam nichil in mundo carius extat ei.
Attamen huic nostras apices michi mittere dignum,
ut sciat Arturum, deserat atque meos.
But if such a young man of such greatness scorns my words, as Lucius
Lucius Hiberius, the Roman procurator defeated by Arthur
has discovered, he will suffer for it. Farewell.’With that, Arthur summons his comrades and sends orders to the arrogant king / to leave the Bretons alone and pay to these words:
Si uero iuuenis tantus despexerit ista,965
Lucius ut sensit, perferet iste. Vale.”
Hinc uocat Arturus socios, regique superbo,
ut Britones linquat, mandat, et ista legat.
Letter of Arthur, king of the Bretons, to Henry king of the English, in which he declares war upon him, if he does not leave Brittany, where he recalls that he is king of the Bretons, king of the English, and king of the Franks, in which he also describes the war he fought against Lucius Hiberius, Roman captain, and all the army of Italy in Francia, and how he killed Lucius himself; then he fought another battle against his nephew Mordred, who had invaded England, in which he killed him, and there he was wounded, but he was anointed with magical herbs and still lives.
‘The great Arthur, eternal by a rule of fate to the young Henry, what he thinks he has deserved: a person of innate uprightness and manly spirit takes for granted that he will first declare war and then wage it.
XX.Epistola Arturi regis Britonum ad Henricum regem Anglorum, in qua bellum ei indicit, nisi Britanniam reliquerit, ubi commemorat quod rex Britonum, rex Anglorum, rex Francorum fuerit, ubi eciam bellum describit quod contra Lucium Hiberium romanum principem et totum Italie exercitum in Francia gessit, eumdem Lucium peremit; deinde contra Modredum nepotem suum, qui Angliam inuaserat, aliud bellum habuit in quo ipsum interfecit, ibique uulneratus sit, sed herbis fatalibus perunctus adhuc uiuit.‘Arturus magnus, fatorum lege perhennis,969
Henrico iuueni, quod meruisse putat.
Naturalis habet probitas animusque uirilis
ut prius indicat prelia, deinde gerat.
For he would consider it beneath him to kill like robbers do, whose way of murdering by cunning is consistent with the deceit of their felony. He lays down a challenge, by his lights displays his weaponry, his troops, and the nature of his warlike vigour, is keen to make peace.
Dedignatur enim prosternere more latronum,973
quorum stat sceleris fraude necare dolo.
Prouocat, ostentat pro uiribus arma, cohortes,
que sibi bellica uis, pacificare studet.
Such was Alexander’s strength and Caesar’s courage, and this has always been my way of dealing with war. I have fought many battles, and have always I always everywhere won praiseworthy triumphs with armed forces.
Talis Alexandri uirtus, et Cesaris ardor,977
usus et iste michi semper ad arma fuit.
Conflictus uarios habui, laudisque triumphos
uiribus armatis semper ubique tuli.
I laid the Britons low in war and I subdued the English, I tamed the puffed-up necks of the Franks under my yoke. By this means I alone have worn the three crowns of a triple realm: in these lands none has been my equal.
Substraui Britones armis, Anglosque subegi,981
Francorum domui turgida colla iugo.
Sic triplicis regni diademata tunc tria gessi
solus, in his terris par michi nemo fuit
Vainly you boast of your riches, valour or armies: I far outstrip altogether everyone that the world has to offer. The great Assyrian king,
cannot be compared to me that one who first who subdued the nations with his sword.
Frustra te iactas opibus, uirtute uel armis:985
hos superexcello, quos simul orbis habet.
Non michi magnus rex assirius equiparetur,
primus qui populos subdidit ense sibi.
Nor was the Chaldean
The great Assyrian king: Sennacherib (†681 BC).
The Chaldean: Nebuchadnezzar (642-562 BC)
who brought down the Jewish walls strong enough to drive such might people from their land. Nor the Macedonian,
whom the sun and his sister rightly sang of as master of the world through the vision of a drenched tree.
Sed nec Caldaicus iudaica menia sternens,989
plebes tam ualidas pellere sede ualens.
Nec Macedo, mundi dominum quem solque sororque
arboris infusi lumine iure canunt.
Nor the one glittering with weapons,
The macedonian: Alexander the Great (356-323 BC).
The one glittering with weapons: Julius Cesar (100-44 BC)
whom the Angle first endured, might of the sons of Romulus, glory of the city’s deity. Nor this devout one,
the emperor Constantine (274-337), whose mother, Helena, according to medieval legend came from Colchester
to whose mother Colchester gave birth, whom that holy water cleansed of leprosy.
Nec radians armis, quem primum pertulit Anglus994
Romulidum uirtus ingeniique decus.
Nec pius hic cuius genuit Colecestria matrem,
abluit a lepra quem sacer ille latex.
Nor that glory of leaders,
Charlemagne (742-8140)
who alone among the Franks subdued the citadels of the Romans with his sword. Nor this Rollo
of yours, who tamed Frankish necks, nor the duke who took the crown of the English.
Rollo (†928/933) the Viking leader who became the first duke of Normandy.
The duke: William the Conqueror (†1087), seventh duke of Normandy, who conquered England in 1066.
Nec decus ille ducum, qui solus Francigenarum999
arces Romuleas subdidit ense sibi.
Nec tuus hic Rollo, domuit qui Francica colla;
nec dux Angligenum qui diadema capit.
Which of these overcame with his valour as many king and such ones as I did by my own strength alone? I brought the Gallic realms in subjection. Rome is shaken by rage, orders evil wars, slaughters.
Horum quis uirtute sua reges superauit1003
tot tantosque simul quot mea sola manus?
Gallica regna michi subieci. Roma furore
concutitur, mandat bella nephanda, neces.
It urges me to restore to it the lands of the English then under my rule, it demands harsh tribute. Disregarding these two orders, I send back two messages in just a few words: ‘I do not fear Rome, and I owe her nothing.’
Vt sibi restituam terras hortatur, ab Anglis1007
tunc sub iure meo dura tributa petit.
Que duo contemnens, uerbis breuibus duo mando:
‘Romam nec timeo, debeo nilque sibi.’
At such a reply that weighty senate fumes and laments that its authority has dwindled away. Lucius Hiberius, consul noble in battle, is chosen, along with the might of Romulus, and
Responso tali furit arduus ille senatus,1011
Imperiumque suum deperiisse gemit.
Lucius Hiberius, consul preclarus in armis,
eligitur, uires Romuleeque simul
he provides from gold, whatever is enough to arm so many of the captains of Rome and such great forces. The whole Roman world, with all the lands subject to it, assembles, remembering Caesar’s battlese.
Romulidis ducibus tot uel tantis aciebus1015
preparat ex auro quicquid ad arma satis.
Cum sibi subiectis terris Romania tota
conuenit, armorum Cesaris ipsa memor.
The world follows her: like a fierce torrent, she flies over the Alps; helmeted might seeks out Arthur. Greece, vigour, intellect, all the glory of philosophy comes full of pride with leaders and columns.
Hanc sequitur mundus, ceu torrens turbidus, Alpes1019
transuolat; Arturum uis galeata petit.
Grecia, uis, sensus, decus omne philosophie,
cum ducibus, cuneis, tota superba uenit.
Mother of languages, brave Babylon, rushes on, does not know what that barbarian is saying to her. So also Egypt is there, formerly the fount of knowledge about astrology, but now it cannot see its sorrowful battles in the stars.
Linguarum mater, properat Babilonica uirtus,1023
nescit quid sibimet barbarus ille sonet.
Sic Egiptus adest, olim fons astrologie,
nec uidet in stellis tristia bella sibi.
Medea, along with the Persians, did not consult magic skills so as to be able to know beforehand the doubtful outcome. Africa, famous for the wars of Jugurtha,
allusion to the ‘Jugurthine war’, fought between Rome and the King of Numidia, Jugurtha, between 112 and 106 BC
directs the crafty Numidians this way: no one is equal to them in deceit.
Media, cum Persis, magicas non consulit artes,1027
ut casus uarios ante notare queat.
Affrica, Iugurte bellis famosa, dolosos
dirigit huc Numidas, nec sibi fraude pares.
Libya together with the Syrians, with Spain, Parthia and Crete, assemble, prepare arms for mighty forces. The courage of Bithynia, and all of Boeotia too with the Phrygians, looking to deal out death to all.
Libia cum Syris, Hispania, Parcia, Creta1031
conueniunt, magnis uiribus arma parant.
Bithinie uirtus, simul ipsa Beocia tota
cum Phrigiis temptat tradere cuncta neci.
When these great races have banded together, so courageous each king directs, reins in and holds back his people. So that I do not seem a liar to you, in recounting my deeds you can see their names written down along with their peoples.
Gentibus his tantis tam fortibus associatis,1035
regum quisque suam dirigit, arcet, habet.
Ne tibi mendosus uidear relegens mea gesta,
horum cum populis nomina scripta uides.
Twice seven they were, but what we lacked was that Spirit who rules over all that is peaceful and makes men peace-loving. They come in haste to restrain Arthur with their bonds, but Samson
Arthur is compared to the biblical Samson, whose hair, in which the secret of his strength lay, was tied to a loom by his lover Delilah, while he was sleeping (Judg. 16).
breaks the leash and is therefore in a rage.
Bis septem fuerant, aberat sed Spiritus ille1039
qui pacata regit pacificosque facit.
Arturum properant propriis constringere loris,
sed licium Sanson rumpit, et inde furit.
What am I waiting for? Arthur, ready to fight the whole world, flies across sea, across sandbanks, readies his weapons. The army of the Bretons, weapons glinting, follows him, the noble united host of the English comes too.
Quid moror? Arturus cum mundo preliaturus1043
per mare per Syrtes aduolat, arma parat.
Hunc sequitur Britonum rutilans exercitus armis;
nobilis Anglorum iuncta phalanga uenit.
Wales follows behind, all of Ireland moves forward too, both illustrious nations at that time and equal in ferocity. So too the valour of Scotland, and likewise Norwegian soil, no less in its prowess, gathers armed men.
Walia pone subit, ruit hinc Hibernia tota,1047
gens utraque nitens tunc feritate pari.
Scotica sic uirtus, simul et Norwegia tellus
congerit armatos, nec probitate minor.
Wealthy Gaul, the violent people of Saxony, Denmark illustrious for its Northmen, come in abrupt haste. Relying on these columns and on this crowd of kings and counts, Arthur prepares war and death for his enemies.
Gallia prediues, gens Saxonie uiolenta,1051
Dacia Northmannis clara, repente ruunt.
His fretus cuneis regum comitumque cateruis,
hostibus Arturus preparat arma, neces.
Reaching Autun, the other army, along with Lucius himself, sets its fearsome camps. Arthur sends word to the Romans to leave for their own lands: otherwise, he will stir up bloody battles.
Augustidunum ueniens, exercitus alter1055
horrida castra locat, Lucius ipse simul.
Arturus mandat propriis discedere terris
Romulidas: si non, bella cruenta ciet.
Lucius claims that the Bretons are bold but quick to flee on foot, says his weapons are a threat to their forces. Arthur heard this, he himself disposes his fine troops, and makes for the encampments the enemy has set up.
Lucius audaces Britones pedibusque fugaces1059
asserit arma suis uiribus esse minas.
Audiit Arturus, preclaras ipse phalanges
ordinat, ac hostis castra locata petit.
Then he takes a stand in the valley, where the legions have passed by, and through the middle of the battlelines he stands in the way of their path. Either a way must be opened by for the Romans with sword-point,or the very valley will furnish a spacious tomb for them.
Occupat hinc uallem, qua transitus est legionum,1063
per medias acies hic sibi restat iter.
Aut uia Romanis iam ferro facta patescat,
aut eadem uallis larga sepulcra dabit.
Lucius realises that Arthur has already taken control of the valleys, and is at first fearful and then takes counsel with his commanders. Although enemy numbers are not as great as those of the Romans, Arthur’s prowess was a terrifying prospect to them all.
Lucius Arturum cognoscens preripuisse1067
ualles, hinc metuit, consulit inde duces.
Hostilis numerus Romanis sit licet impar,
Arturi probitas omnibus horror erat.
Now the kings and now the troops speak out against going into battle, the Romans say that the flight was to blame: they, experienced in war, superior in number and strength, have been handed over to slaughter, few and stunned.
Dissuadent bellum tum reges tumque cohortes,1071
Romani referunt id scelus esse fuge:
se bellis doctos, numero, uirtute priores,
paucos et stolidos stragibus esse datos.
The next day dawns, the glory of war preoccupies the Romans, the right to their homeland and their fierceness the Bretons. On this side the earth rings with shouting, on that side the troops run at one another: this one rushes forward, that one rampages with a sword.
Crastina lux oritur, Romanos gloria belli,1075
at Britones patrie ius feritasque tenet.
Insonat hinc tellus clamoribus, inde phalanges
concurrunt; ruit hec, ensibus illa furit.
The king himself had arranged the armed battle-formations rather carefully, but Lucius came with a ragged line. When the fighting was over and a great part of the day spent, the valley was dreadful with countless corpses.
Cautius armatas acies rex ipse locarat,1079
ordine confuso Lucius ipse uenit.
Bello consumpto magna sub parte diei,
innumeras strages horrida uallis habet.
When the battlelines were already partly cut down, partly worn out, the Bretons and the wrath of Rome clashed. On this side oriental valour, imperial too, the allied glory of the Romans stepped forward.
Partim iam cesis, partim fessis aciebus,1083
iunguntur Britones Romuleusque furor.
Hinc orientalis uirtus, simul imperialis,
gloria Romulidum consociata uenit.
On the other side the fierceness of the people of the west and the proud Bretons stand fast, as well as the prophet’s boar of Cornwall. On each side the enemy rages, vigorous in its prowess: presses, parries, overwhelms, drives on.
Occidue gentis feritas, Britonesque superbi1087
stant hinc, Cornubie uatis aperque simul.
Partibus alterutris furit hostis, comprimit, arcet,
obruit, impellit, qui probitate uiget.
Upon kings, captains, warlike ardour descends. The mind shudders to recall what madness was there. Here, at this point, its not foot-soldiers, but the utmost strength of kings, that is felled and fells: flees at the same as putting to flight.
In reges, proceres, descendit bellicus ardor.1091
Que fuit hic rabies, mens memorare fugit.
Hic iam non peditum sed regum maxima uirtus
sternitur et sternit: dum fugit ipsa fugat.
The fierce king had given orders that one part of the legion should lie hidden to assist its comrades with fresh forces. Arthur raises the banner: then the same legion immediately rushes on, like a lion springing from its cave.
Iusserat in latebris fore de legionibus unam1095
rex ferus, ut sociis afforet ipsa recens.
Eleuat Arturus signum: tunc ipsa repente
aduolat, ut cauea prosilit ipse leo.
The earl of Gloucester, this column’s leader, come down from the hills, appears like lightning. He comes from behind, and in fact the king had turned all faces towards himself: already an appalling slaughter has got underway.
Claudiocestrensis consul, dux agminis huius,1099
collibus elapsus, fulminis instar adest.
A tergo uenit is, nam uultus torserat in se
rex: oritur cedes iam miseranda satis.
Together with the Gauls, the Bretons cut down the Roman troops at sword-point; all around the leaders fall in the carnage. Arthur flashes out, the ardour and wrath of the Bretons rages on, the vigour of the Romans and the raw aggression of their leaders stands up to it.
Cum Gallis Britones concludunt ense phalanges1103
romuleas; proceres undique cede ruunt.
Fulminat Arturus, Britonum furit ardor et ira,
obstat Romulidum uis procerumque manus.
The terrifying face of war, blood flowing on all sides, corpses lying piled high their limbs cut off. Now the king yearns to stay his hand from such great slaughter, but the fearsome Lucius begins to rage with his sword in his hand.
Horrida bellorum facies, cruor undique manat,1107
corpora dissectis artubus alta iacent.
Cladibus his tantis iam parcere rex cupiebat,
sed furit horrendus Lucius ense, manu.
And so the vigorous king surrounds and harries him with his own band of leaders, and himself grows more savage. Thus, as the Macedonian surrounds the marsh, a pride of lions rushes towards the swords and spears and falls:
Hunc igitur uirtus regalis cingit et urget,1111
cum ducibus propriis seuit et ipse magis.
Sic Macedo stagnum dum cingit, turba leonum
in gladios, hastas, irruit atque ruit,
he whom the Bretons’ might could not overcome with sword a spear runs through, and so that lion falls. The Romans flee, kings and leaders are put to flight, pain more than fear cause them to flee.
quem Britonum uirtus gladio superare nequibat,1115
transforat hunc hasta, sic ruit ille leo.
Romani fugiunt, reges proceresque fugantur,
hos magis ipse dolor quam metus ille fugat.
The leaders on both sides labour to carry off the dead man’s corpse; but the king prevails and siezes hold of it. Then all the rest flee through the towns and cities, the forest swallows some of them up, the gloomy marshes kill others.
Prostrati corpus proceres utrique laborant1119
ut rapiant; at rex preualet idque tenet.
Diffugiunt alii tum per castella, per urbes,
hos saltus retinet, hos uada ceca necant.
Arthur sets aside the fallen bodies of his allies, and then gives them over to graves in holy places. The others he gives orders to be buried in the fields, mercifully considerate of the Romans’ honour, indeed of his own.
Separat Arturus sociorum corpora cesa,1123
sarcofagis donat per sacra deinde loca.
Cetera per campos tumulari iussit, honori
omulidum clemens consulit, immo suo.
Next he instructs the leader’s body to be brought and he sends it to the Romans, at the same time has on this message delivered:‘Arthur to Rome. Take the tribute you asked for, or rather tributes, rewards befitting your threats.
Precipit afferri tunc corpus principis, illud1127
Romulidis mittit, mandat et ista simul.
‘Arturus Rome. Petiisti, sume tributum,
immo tributa, tuis premia digna minis.
You are longing to defeat Arthur, but he defeated you. Receive what I am sending: here you have a noble corpse. The earth covers all the rest: you will know how many are missing. For my blade cannot count them.
Arturum superare cupis, sed te superauit.1131
Accipe que mitto, nobile corpus habes.
Cetera terra tegit, numerabis quot sibi desint.
Nam meus hos mucro dinumerare nequit.
Constantine ruled you, and his mother; our mighty England begot them both. In imitation of them, by force of arms I demand the rights of the English, I who wear the crown of the English realm.
Te Constantinus possedit, mater et eius:1135
protulit hos ambos Anglia nostra potens.
Hos imitans, armis Anglorum iura reposco,
Angligeni regni qui diadema gero.
If you submit to me meekly, farewell; if you do not, I am readying weapons with terrible-sounding forces.’After the enemies had been cut down and put to flight this way and that, Arthur prepares to take Rome, begins the journey.
Si michi subdaris paciencius, ipsa ualeto;1139
si non, horrisonis uiribus arma paro.’
Hostibus hinc cesis Arturus et inde fugatis,
ut Romam capiat, preparat, instat iter.
Lo, the king’s faithless nephew, Mordred, vigorous in battle, seizes the crown of the English at that moment. The king had entrusted the queen and the realm to him, while he set about slaughtering and routing the Roman hosts.
Perfidus ecce nepos regis Modredus, in armis1143
strenuus, Anglorum tunc diadema rapit.
Huic rex reginam, regnum commiserat, altos
Romulidum cuneos dum necat atque fugat.
Mordred makes the two things entrusted to him his own property. Arthur hears of this, and forthwith comes in haste across the sea-swell. Mordred counters Arthur with great forces; after countless men have died, that same faithless man flees.
Qui commissa duo proprium ius efficit. Audit1147
Arturus, tumidum transuolat inde fretum.
Excipit Arturum cum magnis uiribus ille;
innumeris cesis, perfidus ipse fugit.
But not leaving off what he began, he takes up arms again. Revives his troops, sets harsh battles in motion. Arthur flies at him, arrays his legions; rash Mordred comes with like ferocity.
Nil tamen a cepto desistens, arma resumit,1151
restaurat cuneos, prelia seua mouet.
Aduolat Arturus, legiones ordinat; audax
Modredus simili cum feritate uenit.
He takes up weapons with sixty thousand men, since his uncle was superior in strength and number. This rash boar of Cornwall devours the enemies; when countless men have been cut down, that same faithless man flees.
Cum sexagenis hic milibus arma capessit,1155
ut patruus maior ui numeroque fuit.
Deuorat hic hostes aper audax Cornubiensis;
fusis innumeris, perfidus ille ruit.
The traitor knows thereby that he is inferior to his uncle; once their leader has been overthrown, the faithless rabble flees. The king leaves the sceptre to his relative Constantine,
Constantine, the son of Cador of Cornwall, Arthur’s kinsman and successor.
and savagely he expels Mordred’s twins.
Se patruo noscit sic traditor ille minorem;1159
principe prostrato, perfida turba fugit.
Rex Constantino cognato sceptra relinquit,
Modredi geminos depulit iste ferus.
Then the wounded Arthur seeks out his sister’s herbs, which the sacred isle of Avalon holds. The eternal nymph, Morgana,
Morgan le Fay, for the first time regarded as Arthur’s sister.
receives her brother, heals, nourishes, tends him and makes him immortal.
Saucius Arturus petit herbas inde sororis,1163
Auallonis eas insula sacra tenet.
Suscipit hic fratrem Morganis nimpha perhennis,
curat, alit, refouet, perpetuumque facit.
Rule over the Antipodes is given to him; bewitched, unarmed, warlike he stands, fears no battles. Thus he rules the hemisphere below, and his share of the other half of the world glints with weapons.
Traditur Antipodum sibi ius; fatatus, inermis,1167
belliger assistit, prelia nulla timet.
Sic emisperium regit inferius, nitet armis
altera pars mundi dimidiata sibi.
This neither Alexander’s ardour, nor Caesar’s could achieve, that the upper half of the world should tolerate their rule. The Antipodes tremble at Arthur’s authority, decreed by fate, the world below is subject to him.
Hoc nec Alexandri potuit, nec Cesaris ardor,1171
ut superum tellus sic sua iura ferat.
Antipodes huius fatalia iura tremiscunt;
inferior mundus subditus extat ei.
He speeds away to the realms above, at times he hastens back to the depths; since they seek his authority, that mighty ruler lives everywhere. You can see who Arthur was and is. Yet I do not say this as a boast, but I open up sacred matters for you.
Euolat ad superos, quandoque recurrit ad ima;1175
ut sua iura petunt, degit ubique potens.
Quis fuit Arturus uel quis sit, cernis. At ista
non iactando loquor, sed tibi pando sacra.
Anyone who wants to know them more fully, may read my deeds that he of Monmouth
Geoffrey of Monmouth.
sang about, speaking truthful things. The book of Gildas, the Wise,
The work that lists Arthur’s battles is actually the ninth-century Historia Brittonum
recounts my battles; when he reports that there were twelve, he is only mentioning the chief of them.
Plenius hec qui scire cupit, mea gesta reuoluat,1179
que Monemutensis uera loquendo canit.
Dinumerat mea bella liber Gilde sapientis;
cum duodena refert, maxima sola notat.
How many my hand alone wiped out in the twelfth battle
The battle of Mount Badon
rings out from Gildas’s eloquent words not mine: three times ten times ten, three times one hundred, three times twelve, one hundred times two, and add also four.
Quot mea sola manus prostrauerit in duodeno,1183
non mea, sed Gilde lucida uerba sonant:
ter decies deni, ter centum, ter duodeni,
cencies et bini, quatuor adde simul.
Just one attack on Arthur’s part sent all those to hell: this will be the story told to those who are timid in war-time. Number, read, note, consider the battles of the ancients: soon you will see that yours are just a game.
Impetus hos unus Arturi misit ad Orcum,1187
in bello timidis fabula talis erit.
Prelia priscorum numera, lege, cerne, recense;
quod tua sint ludus, protinus ipse uides.
The fine wars between the kings of the French and kings of the English: I know about them, and they make my men laugh. So now I command you: quit the Breton strongholds. My people scorns another man’s yoke.
Regum Francigenum cum regibus Angligenarum1191
splendida bella scio: risus at inde meis.
Nunc igitur mando: Britonum castella relinque.
Respuit alterius gens mea ferre iugum.
Lately I came from the Antipodes because of you; passing through the Cyclades I have borne many battles. The Indians along with the Parthians, looking to block our path, we cut down in the fields of the Arabs, where they are now buried.
Nuper ab Antipodum pro te tellure recessi,1195
per Cicladas ueniens prelia multa tuli.
Indos cum Parthis, itiner nostrum prohibentes,
in campis Arabum fudimus, hosque tegunt.
Because my warband, bewitched and impenetrable by weapons, can slaughter everything, renders every route passable. Thus fierce Aeacides,
Achilles, grandson of Aeacus, king of Aegina and father of Peleus.
if that one part of his body had also been untouchable would have lived a long life.
Nam fatata cohors, at impenetrabilis armis,1199
quelibet obtruncat, peruia cuncta facit.
Sic ferus Eacides, si corporis inuiolata
pars sibi quoque foret, degeret ipse diu.
Look, my fleet is here, but a fleet that is wholly everlasting is landing on well-known shores, is carrying weapons. That you and the king of the French hold what is by rights mine, my natural love and mercy can tolerate.
En mea classis adest, sed classis tota perhennis1203
littoribus notis appulit, arma gerit.
Quod mea iura tenes simul et rex Francigenarum,
hoc innatus amor fert pietasque mea.
Why I bear this, I would long since have said, but in truth the celestial fates prevent me from knowing the reason. When the wars of the Antipodes have been stilled and put to sleep, I will make a ferocious appearance, and the world itself will gnash its teeth.
Id quare paciar, tam longo tempore farer,1207
sed michi nota quidem celica fata uetant.
Bellis Antipodum pacatis atque sopitis,
apparebo ferus, orbis et ipse fremet.
Then the four corners of the world’s mass will yield to us, the earth will tremble at our rule, in subjection. To avoid seeing this come to pass, yield to my commands, so that I leave your realms free for you and your sons.
Mundane molis tunc nobis climata cedent,1211
imperium nostrum terra subacta tremet.
Ne tamen id uideas, te iussis supprime nostris,
ut tibi uel natis regna quieta sinam.
For I, reviving my weary troops, dwell in the woods of Cornwall, and pitch camp close by. If you fear and revere my orders, and submissively obey, farewell now. If not, I am declaring war upon you.’
Ipse quidem siluas, fessas refouens legiones,1215
incolo Cornubie, proxima castra loco.
Si mea iussa times et amas, et pronus obedis,
iam ualeas. Si non, nuncio bella tibi.’
That King Henry had Arthur’s letter read in front of his nobles in the forest of the Bretons, and what he said about it.
The English king, to whom the forest of the Bretons was giving shelter, reads these words, Not at all afraid, smiling at his companions, he said: ‘Alexander the Great, while trying hard to find out what was Darius
Darius III (380-330 BC), King of Kings of Persia.
might and prowess, took off into exile.
Rex Anglus legit hec, Britonum quem silua tenebat.1219XXI.Quod rex Henricus epistolam Arturi coram proceribus suis in silua Britonum legi fecerit, quidque de ea dixerit.
Subridens sociis, nil pauefactus, ait:
‘Magnus Alexander Darii dum scire laborat
que uis, que probitas, ut peregrinus abit.
Then the king, as a lone beggar, meets the other king, and the latter asks whether Alexander is known to him.“I know him – says the king – he is brave, noble in arms, and also a philosopher and a man of the utmost prowess.”
Obuiat hinc regi rex pauper solus, at ille1223
querit, Alexander si sibi notus erat.
“Est michi notus – ait rex – audax, clarus in armis,
idem philosophus ac probitatis apex.”
Then Darius hands over his own letters full of threats, and gives instructions that the wildman must seek out his homeland. He requests that the letters are delivered to Alexander, and the other man swears that the letters will come into Alexander’s hands.
Porrigit hinc apices proprios plenosque minarum,1227
mandat ut ille ferus rura paterna petat.
Orat Alexandro deferri, iurat et ille
ipsius in manibus scripta futura fore.
Then the poor traveller goes back to his companions, and turned back into enemy bursts out laughing and his nobles with him. Skilled in the rules of engagement, he arranges his battle-lines, by which almost the entire earth has been brought into subjection.
Hinc socios repetit pauper peregrinus, et hostis1231
soluitur in risum, tunc proceresque sui.
Ordinat hinc acies, bellorum iure peritus,
tota quibus tellus pene subacta fuit.
He declares war on Darius, and after many have been killed, while Darius is fleeing through the forest, he rushes on with sword in hand. Arthur’s present ferocity is in imitation of Darius: he is looking to frighten us with his letter and his threats.
Indicit bellum Dario, multisque peremptis,1235
per siluas Darius dum fugit, ense ruit.
Arturi Darium presens feritas imitatur:
nos terrere cupit carmine necne minis.
He cut down the Romans and we can’t deny that nor the fact that in these parts nobody was equal to him. He was king of the Bretons, king of the English, also king of the French, we know that many realms indeed were placed under him.
Romulidas strauit, nec possumus inficiari1239
inque locis istis par sibi nemo fuit.
Rex Britonum, rex Anglus erat, rex Francicus idem,
scimus plura quidem subdita regna sibi.
The rule of the Antipodes is his, he is reviving the bodies of his weary legion, he is pitching camp close by.Darius lies in the woods, struck down dead: this one perhaps longs to die in like manner.
Antipodum sibi iura fauent, fesse legionis1243
corpora nunc refouet, castra propinqua locat.
In siluis Darius percussus morte sopitur,
is forsan simili iure perire cupit.
That Lazarus in the Bible twice submitted to death’s fearful rule: Arthur could also die, unless the fates grant him otherwise. He is sending orders that I leave the Bretons, whom the Norman jurisdiction gave to me. If I refuse, war will be readied, he says.
Lazarus ille necis subiit bis iura tremenda:1247
ni sibi fata darent, posset et iste mori.
Ut Britones linquam, quos dant normannica iura,
mandat. Si renuo, bella parantur, ait.
So that he does not think that I hold him in contempt, I will now send back a letter, and perhaps he will be softened by force of reason.’
Letter of this King Henry to Arthur, saying that he wants to keep Brittany under his rule.
‘To the great Arthur, eternal by the law of the fates, the young Henry sends moderation along with fierceness.
Ne se contempni reputet, nunc scripta remittam,1251
mitior is forsan ui rationis erit.’XXII.Epistola eiusdem Henrici regis ad eumdem Arturum, quodque Britanniam sub eius imperio tenere uelit.‘Arturo magno, fatorum lege perhenni,
Henricus iuuenis, cum feritate modum.
Although to restrain actions with words is a wise man’s way, I want it to be our covenant. The prowess of noble Arthur is praised everywhere: I know that he has been a mighty flash of lightning at arms.
Actus cum uerbis moderari, dum sapientis1155
sit proprium, nostrum pignus id esse uolo.
Nobilis Arturi probitas laudatur ubique:
noui quod fuerit fulgur ad arma potens.
He who provokes him to arms, since Arthur is fated to live on, will lose his right to the throne, will also meet his downfall. A while back the glory of the Roman realm discovered this. Lucius waged pitiful wars on Arthur.
Hunc, cum uiuat adhuc fato, qui prouocat armis1159
perdet iura throni, corruet ille simul.
Comperit hoc dudum Romani gloria regni,
Lucius Arturi tristia bella tulit.
He who shuns peace-treaties, endure wars of this kind: what we want and don’t want are always the same thing. Normandy was Rollo’s, and all of Brittany; he got them from the French as part of a peace-treaty.
Talia bella ferat qui pacis federa uitat,1163
Nostrum uelle manet nolleque semper idem.
Neustria Rollonis fuit, atque Britannia tota;
has a Francigenis federe pacis habet.
I am the heir by twin right: what I demand by right, both birth and reason confer; law supports it, indeed commands that it be so. You angrily demand that I depart from the Bretons, but anger becomes mindless range when it is lacking in reason.
Heres iuris ego gemini: quod iure reposco,1167
dat genus et ratio; lex fauet, immo jubet.
Ut linquam Britones mandas iratus; at ira
fit furor insipiens, dum racione caret.
Your people shy away from bearing the yoke, but that of the Normans has borne and bears now and will carry more weightily hereafter. He who kicks against the goad is pricked twice: he suffers what he is trying to avoid, feels it more sharply.
Gens tua ferre iugum cauet, at Normannigenarum1171
pertulit et perfert hoc grauiusque feret.
Qui contra stimulum pugnat, bis pungitur ille,
quod uitat patitur, durius illud habet.
The rumour flies abroad that Mathilda, that imperial brilliance, has died; I am her only son: the fates snatched the other two. See! Since you have insisted upon it, since rumour brings sad news, as you wish it, so I yield to your demands forthwith.
Fama uolat, Mathildis obit, lux imperialis,1175
unicus huius ego; fata tulere duos.
En quia mandasti, quia confert fama dolorem,
ut tuus fert animus, amodo cedo tuis.
But I yield only for the time being; because the whole land of Brittany is to be restored both to me and to my sons. But let’s keep it under your authority and your peace: authority for you, peace for us and for the whole land.
Cedo sed ad tempus; nam tota Britannica tellus1179
tum michi tum natis est referenda meis.
Hanc sub iure tuo, sub pace tua teneamus:
ius tibi, pax nobis, totaque terra simul.
And since you are conceding this, may your life be everlasting, for mine will be everlasting by Christ’s authority.’
Hec quia concedis, ualeat tua uita perhennis,1183
nam mea sub Christi iure perhennis erit.