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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
From Geoffrey of Monmouth’s ‘Historia Britonum’
The Arthurian Legends (Eighth to Twelfth Centuries)
 
Arthur Succeeds Uther, his Father, in the Kingdom of Britain, and Besieges Colgrin

UTHER PENDRAGON being dead, the nobility from several provinces assembled together at Silchester, and proposed to Dubricius, Archbishop of Legions, that he should consecrate Arthur, Uther’s son, to be their king. For they were now in great straits, because, upon hearing of the king’s death, the Saxons had invited over their countrymen from Germany, and were attempting, under the command of Colgrin, to exterminate the whole British race…. Dubricius, therefore, grieving for the calamities of his country, in conjunction with the other bishops set the crown upon Arthur’s head. Arthur was then only fifteen years old, but a youth of such unparalleled courage and generosity, joined with that sweetness of temper and innate goodness, as gained for him universal love. When his coronation was over, he, according to usual custom, showed his bounty and munificence to the people. And such a number of soldiers flocked to him upon it that his treasury was not able to answer that vast expense. But such a spirit of generosity, joined with valor, can never long want means to support itself. Arthur, therefore, the better to keep up his munificence, resolved to make use of his courage, and to fall upon the Saxons, that he might enrich his followers with their wealth. To this he was also moved by the justice of the cause, since the entire monarchy of Britain belonged to him by hereditary right. Hereupon assembling the youth under his command, he marched to York, of which, when Colgrin had intelligence, he met with a very great army, composed of Saxons, Scots, and Picts, by the river Duglas, where a battle happened, with the loss of the greater part of both armies. Notwithstanding, the victory fell to Arthur, who pursued Colgrin to York, and there besieged him.  1
 
Dubricius’s Speech against the Treacherous Saxons, of whom Arthur Slays Many in Battle

WHEN he had done speaking, St. Dubricius, Archbishop of Legions, going to the top of a hill, cried out with a loud voice, “You that have the honor to profess the Christian faith, keep fixed in your minds the love which you owe to your country and fellow subjects, whose sufferings by the treachery of the Pagans will be an everlasting reproach to you if you do not courageously defend them. It is your country which you fight for, and for which you should, when required, voluntarily suffer death; for that itself is victory and the cure of the soul. For he that shall die for his brethren, offers himself a living sacrifice to God, and has Christ for his example, who condescended to lay down his life for his brethren. If, therefore, any of you shall be killed in this war, that death itself, which is suffered in so glorious a cause, shall be to him for penance and absolution of all his sins.” At these words, all of them, encouraged with the benediction of the holy prelate, instantly armed themselves…. Upon [Arthur’s shield] the picture of the blessed Mary, Mother of God, was painted, in order to put him frequently in mind of her…. In this manner was a great part of that day also spent; whereupon Arthur, provoked to see the little advantage he had yet gained, and that victory still continued in suspense, drew out his Caliburn [Excalibur, Tennyson], and calling upon the name of the blessed Virgin, rushed forward with great fury into the thickest of the enemy’s ranks; of whom (such was the merit of his prayers) not one escaped alive that felt the fury of his sword; neither did he give over the fury of his assault until he had, with his Caliburn alone, killed four hundred and seventy men. The Britons, seeing this, followed their leader in great multitudes, and made slaughter on all sides; so that Colgrin and Baldulph, his brother, and many thousands more, fell before them. But Cheldric, in his imminent danger of his men, betook himself to flight.
  2
 
Arthur Increases His Dominions

AFTER this, having invited over to him all persons whatsoever that were famous for valor in foreign nations, he began to augment the number of his domestics, and introduced such politeness into his court as people of the remotest countries thought worthy of their imitation. So that there was not a nobleman who thought himself of any consideration unless his clothes and arms were made in the same fashion as those of Arthur’s knights. At length the fame of his munificence and valor spreading over the whole world, he became a terror to the kings of other countries, who grievously feared the loss of their dominions if he should make any attempt upon them…. Arthur formed a design for the conquest of all Europe…. At the end of nine years, in which time all the parts of Gaul were entirely reduced, Arthur returned back to Paris, where he kept his court, and calling an assembly of the clergy and people, established peace and the just administration of the laws in that kingdom. Then he bestowed Neustria, now called Normandy, upon Bedoer, his butler; the province of Andegavia upon Caius, his sewer; and several other provinces upon his great men that attended him. Thus, having settled the peace of the cities and the countries there, he returned back in the beginning of spring to Britain.
  3
 
Arthur Holds a Solemn Festival

UPON the approach of the feast of Pentecost, Arthur, the better to demonstrate his joy after such triumphant success, and for the more solemn observation of that festival, and reconciling the minds of the princes that were now subject to him, resolved, during that season, to hold a magnificent court, to place the crown upon his head, and to invite all the kings and dukes under his subjection to the solemnity. And when he had communicated his design to his familiar friends, he pitched upon the city of Legions as a proper place for his purpose. For besides its great wealth above the other cities, its situation, which was in Glamorganshire, upon the River Uske, near the Severn Sea, was most pleasant and fit for so great a solemnity; for on one side it was washed by that noble river, so that the kings and princes from the countries beyond the seas might have the convenience of sailing up to it. On the other side, the beauty of the meadows and groves, and magnificence of the royal palaces, with lofty, gilded roofs that adorned it, made it even rival the grandeur of Rome. It was also famous for two churches: whereof one was built in honor of the martyr Julius, and adorned with a choir of virgins, who had devoted themselves wholly to the service of God; but the other, which was founded in memory of St. Aaron, his companion, and maintained a convent of canons, was the third metropolitan church of Britain. Besides, there was a college of two hundred philosophers, who, being learned in astronomy and the other arts, were diligent in observing the courses of the stars, and gave Arthur true predictions of the events that would happen at that time. In this place, therefore, which afforded such delights, were preparations made for the ensuing festival. Ambassadors were sent into several kingdoms to invite to court the princes both of Gaul and all the adjacent islands … who came with such a train of mules, horses, and rich furniture as it is difficult to describe. Besides these, there remained no prince of any consideration on this side of Spain, who came not upon this invitation. And no wonder, when Arthur’s munificence, which was celebrated over the whole world, made him beloved by all people.
  4
  When all these were assembled together in the city, upon the day of the solemnity, the archbishops were conducted to the palace, in order to place the crown upon the king’s head. Therefore Dubricius, inasmuch as the court was kept in his diocese, made himself ready to celebrate the office, and undertook the ordering of whatever related to it. As soon as the king was invested with his royal habiliments, he was conducted in great pomp to the metropolitan church, supported on each side by two archbishops, and having four kings, viz., of Albania, Cornwall, Demetia, and Venedotia, whose right it was, bearing four golden swords before him. He was also attended with a concert of all sorts of music, which made most excellent harmony. On another part was the queen, dressed out in her richest ornaments, conducted by the archbishops and bishops to the Temple of Virgins; the four queens also of the kings last mentioned, bearing before her four white doves, according to ancient custom; and after her there followed a retinue of women, making all imaginable demonstrations of joy. When the whole procession was ended, so transporting was the harmony of the musical instruments and voices, whereof there was a vast variety in both churches, that the knights who attended were in doubt which to prefer, and therefore crowded from the one to the other by turns, and were far from being tired with the solemnity, though the whole day had been spent in it. At last, when divine service was over at both churches, the king and queen put off their crowns, and putting on their lighter ornaments, went to the banquet, he to one palace with the men, she to another with the women. For the Britons still observed the ancient custom of Troy, by which the men and women used to celebrate their festivals apart. When they had all taken their seats according to precedence, Caius, the sewer, in rich robes of ermine, with a thousand young noblemen, all in like manner clothed with ermine, served up the dishes. From another part, Bedoer, the butler, was followed with the same number of attendants, in various habits, who waited with all kinds of cups and drinking vessels. In the queen’s palace were innumerable waiters, dressed with variety of ornaments, all performing their respective offices; which, if I should describe particularly, I should draw out the history to a tedious length. For at that time Britain had arrived at such a pitch of grandeur, that in abundance of riches, luxury of ornaments, and politeness of inhabitants, it far surpassed all other kingdoms. The knights in it that were famous for feats of chivalry wore their clothes and arms all of the same color and fashion: and the women also, no less celebrated for their wit, wore all the same kind of apparel; and esteemed none worthy of their love but such as had given a proof of their valor in three several battles. Thus was the valor of the men an encouragement for the women’s chastity, and the love of the women a spur to the soldiers’ bravery.  5
 
After a Variety of Sports at the Coronation, Arthur Amply Rewards His Servants

AS soon as the banquets were over they went into the fields without the city to divert themselves with various sports. The military men composed a kind of diversion in imitation of a fight on horseback; and the ladies, placed on the top of the walls as spectators, in a sportive manner darted their amorous glances at the courtiers, the more to encourage them. Others spent the remainder of the day in other diversions, such as shooting with bows and arrows, tossing the pike, casting of heavy stones and rocks, playing at dice and the like, and all these inoffensively and without quarreling. Whoever gained the victory in any of these sports was awarded with a rich prize by Arthur. In this manner were the first three days spent; and on the fourth, all who, upon account of their titles, bore any kind of office at this solemnity, were called together to receive honors and preferments in reward of their services, and to fill up the vacancies in the governments of cities and castles, archbishoprics, bishoprics, abbeys, and other hosts of honor.
  6
 
Arthur Commits to His Nephew Modred the Government of Britain, and Engages in a War with Rome

AT the beginning of the following summer, as he was on his march toward Rome and was beginning to pass the Alps, he had news brought him that his nephew Modred, to whose care he had intrusted Britain, had, by tyrannical and treasonable practices, set the crown upon his own head. [Book xi., Chapters i. and ii.] His [Modred’s] whole army, taking Pagans and Christians together, amounted to eighty thousand men, with the help of whom he met Arthur just after his landing at the port of Rutupi, and joining battle with him, made a very great slaughter of his men…. After they had at last, with much difficulty, got ashore, they paid back the slaughter, and put Modred and his army to flight. For by long practice in war they had learned an excellent way of ordering their forces; which was so managed that while their foot were employed either in an assault or upon the defensive, the horse would come in at full speed obliquely, break through the enemy’s ranks, and so force them to flee. Nevertheless, this perjured usurper got his forces together again, and the night following entered Winchester. As soon as Queen Guanhumara [Guinevere] heard this, she immediately, despairing of success, fled from York to the City of Legions, where she resolved to lead a chaste life among the nuns in the church of Julius the Martyr, and entered herself one of their order….
  7
  In the battle that followed thereupon, great numbers lost their lives on both sides…. In this assault fell the wicked traitor himself, and many thousands with him. But notwithstanding the loss of him, the rest did not flee, but running together from all parts of the field, maintained their ground with undaunted courage. The fight now grew more furious than ever, and proved fatal to almost all the commanders and their forces…. And even the renowned King Arthur himself was mortally wounded; and being carried thence to the isle of Avallon to be cured of his wounds, he gave up the crown of Britain to his kinsman Constantine, the son of Cador, Duke of Cornwall, in the five hundred and forty-second year of our Lord’s incarnation.  8
 
 
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