Vortiger's Demise; The Battle of Salisbury; and The Death of Pendragon
VORTIGER'S DEMISE; THE BATTLE OF SALISBURY; AND THE DEATH OF PENDRAGON: FOOTNOTES1 mystily, obscurely.
3 mynde of, concern with.
4 drive, drove.
6 fenisshe, wish.
7 wele, wish.
14 deffende, forbid.
20 arivage, landing place.
21 dissese, discomfort.
31 agein, between.
34 seth, since.
41 estates, social classes.
43 garnysshed, prepared.
44 entré, entry.
45 somowned, named.
46 ordenaunce, plan.
50 oste, host.
70 sarazins, heathens.
71 sye, saw.
75 bataile, army.
79 well, gallant.
84 hoill, wholely.
90 sacred, consecrated.
91 quynsynne, fifteenth day.
93 surnonn, surname.
96 sewde, showed.
99 Ne shall thow, Will you not.
110 charge, carry.
111 wight, weight.
113 Suffer, Wait.
115 aquyte, fulfill.
120 liggynge, lying.
121 worthen, go.
123 dressed [hem], arranged them.
127 discure, disclose.
130 knowinge, wisdom.
131 enmy by nature, i.e., fiend; yove, gave.
133 lorn, lost.
134 her volunté, their desire.
139 suffraites, hardships.
140 Jues, Jews.
142 seide, this same; lower of, reward for.
144 diserte, desolation.
148 disese, suffering.
154 departed, divided; voyde, empty.
158 hight, was called.
161 convenable, alike.
164 behote, promise.
170 ordenaunce, control.
176 owen, ought.
VORTIGER'S DEMISE; THE BATTLE OF SALISBURY; AND THE DEATH OF PENDRAGON: NOTESVortiger's Demise; The Battle of Salisbury; and The Death of Pendragon
[Fols. 13v (line 34)_20r (line 14)]
This section of the PM depicts several important events that are also found in Geoffrey of Monmouth (Thorpe, pp. 186_204) — the burning of Vortiger's tower, the battle against the Saxon invaders, the death of Pendragon (called Aurelius by Geoffrey), and Merlin's marvelous feat of moving and erecting the stones of Stonehenge. However, the two works differ considerably in their treatment of these events.
Summary Based on EETS 10, pp. 41_54.
1 the Boke of Prophesyes. Incorporated into Geoffrey of Monmouth's The History of the Kings of Britain is a section devoted exclusively to the prophecies of Merlin (Thorpe, pp. 170_85). It was originally written as a separate work, and the reference here is undoubtedly to a work of this kind.
3 the sarazins. Throughout the PM the Saxon invaders of Britain are frequently referred to as the sarazins, occasionally as the Danes, and sometimes simply as the "heathen people."
19 yef ye will do my counseile. This is the first time in the work that Merlin serves as a military strategist. Later on he fills this role frequently, for King Arthur and for others.
44 Tamyse. The Thames River does not pass very close to the area in which this battle is supposed to occur, the Salisbury Plain. But the geography of Arthurian literature often bears only a faint resemblance to actual fact.
55-56 go betwene hem and the aryvage. Merlin's strategy is to cut off the Danes' escape route by positioning half the British army between the Danes and
58 a dragon all reade fleynge up in the ayre. The red dragon that Merlin says will appear in the sky is apparently a peculiar astrological or meteorological phenomenon (a comet, perhaps?). It is not clear whether Merlin causes it to happen or if he simply knows that it will happen. In any case, it provides a connection between the red dragon of Vortiger's tower and the golden dragon image that Uther (and later Arthur) will employ as their battle standard.
89 Logres. In general in the PM, Logres refers to a city, and very likely to London. More commonly in Arthurian literature, however, Logres refers to the geographical area roughly equivalent to modern-day England. According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, this name derives from Locrinus, the eldest son of Brutus, who was the legendary founder of Britain. Brutus gave Locrinus that portion of the island; he gave Kamber, his second son, the area of Wales (Kambria); and he gave Albanactus, his youngest son, Scotland (Albany).
104 Sende after the grete stones. Merlin's bringing the stones of Stonehenge from Ireland is described at much greater length by Geoffrey of Monmouth and Wace, and in those earlier works the stones are brought for a different purpose. Indeed in Geoffrey, Aurelius is still alive at the time that Merlin performs this feat. In the PM, in contrast to the earlier accounts, there is no mention of the fact that the stones were believed to have medicinal properties.
119-120 they sholde be dressed upright. Merlin is credited not only with the feat of moving the stones of Stonehenge but also with devising and implementing their final architectural design. The fact that Merlin believes they will seme feyrer (look more attractive) if they are standing upright brings to mind the important Neolithic stone circle at Arbor Low in Derbyshire, where the stones in the stone circle lie flat on the ground.
143 this knyght whiche hadde taken oure Lorde down. The "knight" is Joseph of Arimathea, and he is being introduced here as the first of the Grail knights, a line of knights entrusted with the keeping of the Holy Grail. The episode briefly described here is a section from the larger narrative that recounts the history of the Holy Grail.
148 make a table. The author is intent on establishing a parallel between this table and the one used by Jesus and his Disciples at the Last Supper. The building of this second table by Joseph of Arimathea anticipates the creation of yet a third table, the famous Arthurian Round Table. These three tables replicate each other, and, taken together, they reflect the concept of the Holy Trinity.
173 Cardoll, in Walys. The city of Cardoll in Wales, though one of the most famous cities in Arthurian literature, cannot be finally identified. It might be logically associated with Cardiff, but it is more likely that it corresponds to the ancient Roman fortress of Caerleon, a "city" that Geoffrey of Monmouth describes in The History of the Kings of Britain at great length (Thorpe, pp. 226-27).
175 I shall go before and make the table. There is great variation in medieval accounts concerning the origin of the Round Table. The Round Table is completely absent from Geoffrey of Monmouth, making its first appearance in Wace's Roman de Brut (lines 9,994_10,005), where it was established by Arthur, not Uther. In Layamon's Brut, following an unruly upheaval at court, the Round Table was fashioned by a Cornish carpenter at Arthur's request. Here, Merlin creates the Round Table for Uterpendragon, and the table is explicitly linked to the story of the Grail. In later versions of the story, including Malory's, the table was passed from Uther to King Leodegan, Guenevere's father, and then passed back again to Arthur as a part of Guenevere's dowry.
[Vortiger's Demise; The Battle of Salisbury; and The Death of Pendragon]
[Summary. Vortiger leads his forces to Winchester to face the sons of Constance, and
Merlin goes to Blase, who records what Merlin tells him in his book. When Pendragon and
Uther arrive with their army, most of the people desert Vortiger and hold with the broth-
ers. Vortiger retreats to his tower, pursued by the brothers. They set fire to the tower,
killing Vortiger and his followers.
Pendragon, having been made king, wages war against the Danish invaders. Hearing
of the wondrous boy Merlin, Pendragon sends for him. Merlin amazes the messengers,
who fear they have spoken with the devil. Pendragon goes himself to see Merlin, leaving
Uther in command. Merlin also amazes Pendragon with his prophetic and shape-shifting
abilities. Merlin informs Pendragon that Uther has just slain Aungier, the leader of the
Danes. Pendragon asks Merlin to return with him, and Merlin says he will come in eleven
days. Merlin then goes to see Blase.
On the eleventh day Merlin appears at court, disguised as a messenger from Uther's
mistress. When Merlin reveals who he really is, the brothers are delighted. They promise
to follow Merlin's advice, and Merlin says he will come whenever they want him. Pendragon
asks Merlin how to defeat the Danes. Merlin says to offer them safe-conduct if they will
leave Britain. Ulfin and other knights carry the message to the Danes, who attempt to
bargain; Merlin refuses to negotiate. The Danes finally agree, and they leave Britain.
An envious baron tries to trick Merlin into making erroneous predictions. Merlin pre-
dicts that the man will die by a combination of breaking his neck, hanging, and drowning.
This comes about when the baron is thrown from his horse while crossing a bridge. The
people say that anyone who disbelieves Merlin is a fool; they begin recording his prophe-
cies in a book. Fols. 13v (line 33)-18r (line 10).]
Than began Merlin to speke so mystily, wherof the Boke of Prophesyes is made.
And after come Merlin to the kynge and to Uter his brother and seide to hem
pitously, "I love moche yow and youre wurship. Have ye no mynde of the sarazins
that ye drive oute of the londe after the deth of Aungis?" And thei seide, "Yesse,
full wele. But why sey ye?" Quod Merlin, "I sey for this: that they sey thei shull
never fenisshe till thei have avengid the deth of Aungis. And thei have assembled
a grete power, and wele to conquere this londe be force."
When the kinge and his brother herde this, thei merveiled gretly and axed of
Merlin, "Have thei so grete power to holde party ageyn oures?" And he ansuerde
ageyn, "Every man that ye have defensable, they have tweyne. Therfore, but ye
be wisely ruled, ye shull be distroied and lese youre reame." Quod the kynge,
"We wil be ruled be youre counseile." And than he axed, "When trowe ye that
they shull come?" And Merlin seide, "The eleventh day of Juyne; and noon ne
shall this knowe saf ye two; and I deffende yow to speke therof, but do as I shall
yow counseile. Sende after alle youre peple and make hem the grettest joye and
feste that ye may, and comaunde hem to be the laste day of Juyn on the playn of
Than seide the kynge, "Shall we suffer hem to aryve withoute deffence?" And
Merlyn seide, "Ye, yef ye will do my counseile; and suffer hem to come as fer as
ye may fro theire arivage. And so shall ye kepe hem two dayes, and thei shull
have grete dissese for lakke of water. And the thirde day ye shull with hem fighten.
And yef ye do thus, ye shull have the victorye."
Than seide the two brethern, "I pray yow telle us yef eny of us shall dye in that
bataile." And Merlin ansuerde, "Ther is nothynge that hath begynnynge but it
moste have endynge. Ne no man ought to be dismayed of deth, to resceyve it as he
oweth to do. And therfore I will that ye bringe the hiest reliques that ye have, and
ye shull bothe swere to do as I shall sey yow, for yowre profite and youre wor-
ship; and than shall I boldely telle yow how ye shul be governed."
And thei swore as Merlin dide devise. And when they were sworn, Merlin seide
unto hem, "Ye have sworne that in this bataile ye shull be gode men and true,
agein God and youreself. Ne noon may be trewe to hymself but he first be trewe
to God. And loke ye be trewly confessed for that ye shull fight ageyn yowre enmyes.
And after, have no doute to overcome theym, for thei have no bileve in the Trinité.
And wite ye wele that seth Cristendom come first into this ile, was never so grete
bataile, ne never shall in youre tyme. And also, knoweth wele that ther oon of
yow two moste nede passe in this bataile. Therfore eche man ordeyne for his
moste worship that he can, ageins that he cometh before his Lorde. And [knoweth]
that oon of yow moste go to Hym. And therfore goth in soche wise that ye may
have His love when ye come to His presence."
Thus ended the counseile of Merlyn. And the two brethern understode what he
hadde seyde, and sente after alle the estates of theire londe. And when thei weren
alle come, thei yaf hem grete yeftes. And the kynge hem praide to make hem
garnysshed of theire armes and of horse; and also the laste weke of Juyn to be
redy, in the entré of the playnes of Salisbury, upon the river of Tamyse, to diffende
the reame. And thus it lefte till the day that was somowned. And the two brethern
ageyn their burghes and townes made gode ordenaunce, as Merlin dide hem
And at Pentecoste thei heilde courte upon the rivere, and ther were many
riche festes. Ther thei were so longe till thei herden that the Danoyse weren arived.
Than the kynge sente to prelates of the Churche that every man of the oste sholde
be confessed, and every man to foryeven other and be in charité and clene lyf.
Than seide Pendragon to Merlin that tydinges were come: the Sarazins weren
arived. And Merlin seide it was trewe. Than the kynge axed what was his counseile
to do. And Merlin seide, "Ye shall tomorowe sende thedir that oon half of youre
peple; and when they be come from their arivage, than go betwene hem and the
aryvage. And youre peple shulde holde hem so shorte that ther ne shall be noon
of hem but thei wolde fayn be theras thei come fro. And thus shull ye do two
dayes. And the thirde day, whan ye se a dragon all reade fleynge up in the ayre,
than boldly fight with hem, for ye shall have the vyctorye."
At this counseile were no mo but Pendragon and Uter. And when thei hadde
herde this thei were gladde. And than seide Merlin, "I will go; and be ye right
sure of this that I have yow seide. And thenke to be gode men and gode knyghtes."
Thus thei departed, and Uter made redy his felishep to go betwene hem and the
ryver. And Merlyn come to hym and seide, "Thenke to do wele, and have no
drede, for thow shalt not dye in this bataile." When Uter herde this, he was gladde
in herte. Than Merlin went to his maister Blase in Northumbirlonde and tolde
hym many thinges that he wrote in his boke.
Uter and his peple rode till thei come betwene the Danes and theire shippes,
and kept hem two dayes that thei myght never ryde. The thirde day the kynge
come so nygh that that oon myght se that other. Whan the sarazins saugh the two
hostes, thei were gretly dismayed, and sye wele that thei myght not repaire to
their shippes withoute grete bataile.
Than shewde the sign in the ayre that Merlin hadde seide, and than the Danes
hadden grete drede. And the kynge seide to his peple, "Now upon hem in all that
we may." And whan Uter saugh the kynges bataile, and the Danes assembled, he
sette upon hem as vigorously or more. In that bataile was grete mortalité on bothe
parties, but the hethen peple hadde moche the werse.
And ther Pendragon did merveloise knyghthode amonge his enmyes, and so
dide Uter, but I may not telle alle their well dedis. But Pendragon was ther deed,
and many another gode baron, wherof was grete pité and losse to the Cristen partye.
And as the boke witnessith, Uter venquysshed the bataile, and ther ne ascaped
noon of the sarazins but that thei weren deed or taken.
And thus ended the bataile of Salisbury wheras Pendragon was deed. And so all
the londe [was] lefte hoill to Uter his brother. He made geder alle the Cristen that
weren deed, and made hem to be beried in a place bi themself, and areised his
brothers tombe moche hier than eny of the tother, and lete write upon eche beryinge
place his name that lay under. But on his brother wolde he nought write, for he
seide who that them beheilde myght wele undirstonde that he was chief lorde.
Than Uter wente to Logres and alle the prelates of the Cherche, and ther was he
sacred and crowned. And thus was Uter kynge of the londe after the deth of his
brother Pendragon. And the quynsynne after that, Merlyn come to courte, and
grete was the joye the kynge made to hym. And than seide Merlyn to Uter, "I will
that thow have surnonn of thi brother name. And for love of the dragon that appered
in the ayre, make a dragon of goolde of the same semblaunce."
And the kynge dide do make this dragon in all the haste he myght, like to the
dragon that sewde in the ayre. Than he lete sette it on a shafte instede of a baner,
and lete it be born before hym in every bataile at alle tymes when he sholde fight.
And thus was ever after he cleped Uterpendragon. And Merlyn abode with hym
longe tyme after, till on a day that Merlyn hym axed, "Ne shall thow do no more
to the place in the playn of Salesbury wheras thy brother is buried?"
And the kynge ansuerde, "What wilt thow that I do, for I will do even as thow
wilte devise?" Quod Merlin, "I will that thow ordeyne ther soche a thinge as shall
endure to the worldes end." And the kynge seide, "Telle me in what wise, and I
will do it with gode will." Than quod Merlin, "Sende after the grete stones that
ben in Irlonde, and make hem to be brought in thy shippes, and I shall go to shewe
them whiche I will have that thei shull brynge."
Than Uterpendragon sente vesselles grete plenté, and Merlin hem shewde the
stones that were grete and longe, and seide, "Lo, these ben the stones whiche ye
ben come fore." And when they hem saugh, they it helden for a grete merveile,
and seide it was a thynge impossible to charge, they were of soche gretnesse and
wight. And in their vessellis they seiden sholde they not come, yef God wolde.
And so thei returned to the kynge and tolde the merveile, and the kynge than
seide, "Suffer till Merlyn come."
And when Merlyn was come, the kynge hym tolde like as his men hadden seide,
and Merlin seide, "Sith it is so that they may not hem hider bringe, I shall aquyte
me of my promyse." And than Merlin made by crafte of his arte to bringe the
stones that weren in Irlonde to the playn of Salesbury. And the kynge and moche
peple wente to se the merveile. And when thei saugh the grete stones, thei seiden
that all the worlde ne myght not hem remeve. And Merlin badde they sholde be
dressed upright for thei sholde seme feyrer so than liggynge. And the kynge seide
that myght no man do, saf only God. Than seide Merlyn, "Let me worthen therwith,
and I shall aquyte me of the covenaunt that I made." And so all the labour [was]
lefte to Merlyn. And he dressed [hem] as thei ben yet over the beryinge place of
Pendragon, and ben yet cleped the Stonehenges.
And than come Merlin to Uterpendragon, and hym served longe tyme and moche
hym loved. And so on a tyme he toke the kynge in counseile and seide, "Sir, I
moste discure to yow the hiest counseile that ye herde ever, and that thinge that I
shall of speke shall be right straunge. And I requyre yow that ye it not discure to
no man lyvynge." And the kynge graunted his requeste.
Than seide Merlin, "I will that ye wite that the knowinge that I have cometh be
the enmy by nature, and oure Lorde that is almyghty above alle thynge hath yove
me witte and memorye to knowe grete partye of thynges that be to come. And by
this sovereyn vertu, the enmye hath me lorn that with the plesaunce of God they
shull never have power over me at her volunté. And sir, now ye knowe fro whens
I have this power. And I will telle yow a thinge that God will that thow shalt do.
And whan ye knowe what it is, loke ye performe it to His plesier. Sir, ye ought
well to knowe that God come in to erthe to save mankynde, and also, as ye well
knowe, He made a soper, and seide to Hys apposteles, 'Oon of yow shall me
betrayen.' Sir, many povertees and grete suffraites suffred oure Lorde her in erthe
for oure sake, and many shames that the Jues Hym diden. And after that, He suffred
bitter deth for us upon the Crosse, and a knyght axed His body when He was deed
upon the seide Crosse. And it was graunted hym of Pilate in lower of his servyse.
"Sir, it fill after that, this knyght whiche hadde taken oure Lorde down of the
Crosse, that he was in a waste contree full of diserte, and moche of his lynage.
And sir, upon hem fill a grete famyne and hunger, and thei complayned to the
knyght that was thier maister. And he prayde oure Lorde to shewe His mercy to
hem, and to shewe some demonstraunce that they myght be conforted of their
grete disese. And oure Lorde hym comaunded to make a table, in the name of that
table at the whiche He was sette in the house of Symond leprouse, and bad hym
take the vessell whiche that he hadde and sette it upon the table; and cover the
table with white cloth, and also the vessell, all save the parte toward hym. Sir, this
vessell was brought to this seide knyght by oure Lorde Jhesu Criste whyle he was
in prison forty wynter, hym for to comforte. And, sir, by this holy vessell were
departed the company of gode and evell. And also at this table was ever a voyde
place that betokeneth the place of Judas theras he satte at the soper, whiche he
lefte whan [he] herde that oure Lorde seide that worde for hym, whan He seyde
that he that ete with Hym sholde Hym betrayen. Thus lefte Judas the place voyde
till that oure Lorde set ther another that hight Matheu. This Matheu was sette in
that place to fille up the nombre of twelve apostles.
"Sir, this place that was voyde at the table of Joseph betokeneth the place that
Matheu fulfilde, and sir, thus be these two tables convenable. And thus hath oure
Lorde filled the werke of man. And sir, the peple that were therat cleped this
vessell that thei hadden in so grete grace the Graal. And yef ye do my counseile,
ye shall stablisshe the thirde table in the name of the Trinité. And I behote yow,
yef ye do this, therby shall come to yow grete honour and grete profite of youre
soule. And also, it shal be a thynge that moste shall be spoken of thourgh the
Thus seide Merlyn to Uterpendragon, wherof he was well plesed. And [he]
seide to Merlin, "I will that oure Lordes wille be performed in all that is in me, in
all thynge that be to His wille. And all I putte in youre ordenaunce." And than
was Merlyn gladde, and seide, "Sir, loke where ye plese beste that it be sette."
"Certes," quod the kynge, "whereas thow wilte, and theras thow trowest it be
moste oure Lordes wille." And Merlyn seide, "It shall be at Cardoll, in Walys,
and make ther thy feest at Pentecoste. And array thee to make gode chere and to
yeve grete yeftes. And I shall go before and make the table, and whan thow arte
come, I shall setten them that owen therat to sitten."
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