VORTIGER'S TOWER: FOOTNOTES1 reden, rode.
5 fell, cruel; hente, seized; yaf, gave.
6 wape, weep; myssey, revile.
7 cleped, called; wrecche, wretch.
12 ageyn, towards.
15 wiste, knew
16 moste, must.
18 preve hem, test them.
19 disese, injury.
21 abaissed, abashed.
23 be forsworn, break their promise.
24 herberewe, lodge.
29 alyght, dismounted.
32 gabbe, lie.
33 lesynge, falsehood.
36 fadom, fathom.
40 letted, prevented.
44-45 trowed that that, believed that which.
48 foundement, foundation.
50 heer, here.
52 bourdinge, playing.
57 evereche, every one; lever, rather.
59 wote, knows; talent, intentions [to slay him].
68 yove, given.
69 wende, thought; siker, certain.
71 sef, except.
74 selve, same.
76 moche, great; travayle, toil; leyser, leisure.
86 ycleped, called; maister, religious instructor.
90 Tho, Then.
91 fer, distant.
92 me hoveth, it behooves me.
95 comaunde, commend.
96 witholde, restrain.
99 yede, went.
101 carl, churl, peasant.
102 shone, shoes; clowte, mend.
108 wyte, know; sewed, pursued.
116 abasshed, amazed.
118 her, their.
119 beere, bier.
123 Ye se, Do you see.
126 wethet, know.
136 her felishep, their company.
137 reden, rode.
144 juyse, justice.
146 hardely, boldly.
150 ne wolde, had not wished.
154 wetith, know.
155 devynour, diviner.
158 apertly, openly.
160 will2, wish.
161 thereas, where.
168 lever a be, rather have been; aventure, uncertainty.
169 waraunte, protect.
170 salued, hailed.
173 do seche me, saught me.
174 sle, be slain.
180 thideras, where.
189 fole, fool.
191 fonde, found; sorte, divinations.
192 do, caused.
200 make, tell.
201 lesynge, lie.
209 reade, red.
210 fele, feel; peyseth, weighs (presses).
211 bruyt, turmoil.
213 plegges be quyte, pledges be fully paid.
227 goteres, gutters, drains.
229 felen togeder, collide.
245 do thee to wete, want you to know.
246 tokenynge, meaning.
252 semed, thought.
253 plegges be quyte, promises be kept.
254 Tho, Then.
256 the peple semed, it seemed to the people; reade, red.
257 brente, burned.
267 reame, realm.
268 suerté, promise.
269 sorted, made divinations.
273 made yow semblance, showed you.
274 for, because of.
278 respited, saved.
281 entermete, practice; will, wish.
283 delyvered, saved.
288 with, provided that.
289 conne me no magré, bear me no grudge.
304 kylde, killed.
305 shewe semblaunce, make it seem.
312 do thee to wite, caused you to know.
318 warante, protection.
320 see, sea.
321 heir, their; dedist, caused.
VORTIGER'S TOWER: NOTES
[Fols. 8r (line 11)-13v (line 33)].
For the events surrounding Vortiger's rise to power and his ill-fated attempt to build an impregnable citadel, the author of the PM adapts materials from several earlier sources, sometimes altering them in significant ways. His handling of the story of King Constantine and his three sons appears somewhat muddled, at least in comparison with the accounts found in Geoffrey of Monmouth (Thorpe, pp. 150-69) and Wace (lines 7491-7710), where the three sons are named Constans, Aurelius Ambrosius, and Uterpendragon. In the PM King Constantine is called Constans, and his sons are identified as Moyne, Pendragon, and Uter. Later on in the PM an explanation is offered for the conflation of the names Uter and Pendragon.
The story of Vortiger's tower is found in Nennius's Historia Brittonum (sections 40, 42, 47, 48). Nennius's account includes the wisemen's suggestion that the foundation of the tower will not hold unless it is sprinkled with the blood of a fatherless boy; and it also describes the pair of dragons whose struggles prevent the tower from standing. In Nennius, however, the fatherless boy is not specifically identified as being Merlin. The versions of the story contained in Geoffrey and Wace more closely parallel the one in the PM, but major differences remain.
Summary Based on EETS 10, pp. 23-30.
67 this werke that I have begonne. Blase is referring to the book that Merlin has commissioned him to write, in which he will record all the things that Merlin periodically tells him, events that will lead up to and include the Grail story. It should be noted that neither Geoffrey nor Wace includes the figure of the holy Hermit named Blase (or Blaise or Blasy). References to a hermit that Merlin occasionally visits do occur in Layamon's Brut, but the author of the PM appears not to have known Layamon's work.
101 a carl that hadde bought a payre of stronge shone. Two minor incidents of a prophetic kind occur on the road as Merlin and his companions make their way to Vortiger. In the first incident Merlin laughs when he sees a man with a new pair of shoes, for he knows the man will die before he can wear them. In the second, Merlin laughs when he sees a priest chanting before a funeral procession, because he knows the dead child is the priest's own son, though the weeping husband does not know it. Somewhat analogous incidents occur in Geoffrey of Monmouth's Vita Merlini (lines 490-532), a work which the author of the Prose Merlin probably did not know. It is more likely that he was familiar with stories of this kind from popular oral tradition.
208 two dragons. The fighting dragons, one red and one white, originate in Nennius and occur also in Geoffrey of Monmouth and Wace. It should also be noted that the pseudo-historical tale from the Mabinogion, "Lludd and Llevelys," provides an explanation of how the dragons came to be buried in the ground in the place where Vortiger wishes to build his tower. The relationship between the tale in the Mabinogion and the accounts in Geoffrey of Monmouth and Wace is unclear.
280 swere never to entermete of that arte. Geoffrey of Monmouth and Wace have nothing to sayconcerning the fate of Vortiger's wisemen, whose flawed acts of divination had placed Merlin's life in jeopardy. But here Merlin has them renounce their practicing of the black arts, confess themselves, and
receive penance. Thus Merlin is presented as being compassionate towards the very ones who had plotted his death.
285 the significaunce of the two dragons. The meaning attributed to the two dragons here departs significantly from that proposed by Geoffrey of Monmouth (Wace omitted any interpretation). Whereas Geoffrey has the red dragon representing the British nation and the white dragon representing the Saxons,
here the red dragon betokens Vortiger and the white dragon stands for the surviving sons of Constans.
[Summary. The story now concerns Constance, King of the Britons, and his sons Moyne
Pendragon, and Uther; and the treacherous deeds of Vortiger, Constance's steward.
After a long reign, King Constance dies and is succeeded by his son Moyne. The hea-
then Danes take this opportunity to invade Britain. Because King Moyne is unable to re-
pulse them, the people begin to turn against him. The barons want Vortiger to become
king, but he says that he will not do this as long as Moyne is alive, a remark that leads
some of his followers to murder the king. Vortiger feigns anger at Moyne's murder but
accepts the throne. Mistrusting Vortiger, Constance's two remaining sons flee to Benoye
in Gaul. Vortiger executes Moyne's killers, angering their friends and causing them to
rebel; Vortiger drives the rebels out of the kingdom.
Now the people realize that Vortiger is a vicious tyrant. They rise against him, and
Vortiger requests help from the Danes. Vortiger marries the daughter of Aungier, the Danish
leader. Fearing his own people and fearing the surviving sons of Constance, Vortiger
begins building a mountain stronghold. But when his tower reaches a certain height, the
walls tumble down. Vortiger's wisemen cannot explain this marvel, but seven of them tell
Vortiger he must find a seven-year-old boy born without an earthly father. The boy's blood,
they say, will strengthen the tower's foundations. Search parties are sent out to find such
a boy. They are instructed to kill him and bring back his blood. Fols. 8r (line 10)-10r (line 15.]
Thus thei reden in oon company, alle four, till on a day that thei passeden thourgh
a feelde beside a town wherein were grete plenté of children that therin were
pleyinge. And Merlyn, that knewe well that these four com to inquere after hym,
drough hym towarde oon of the richest of the company, for that he wiste hym
moste fell and hasty. He hente his staf and yaf this childe a grete buffet. And
anoon, this othir began to crye and wape and to myssey Merlyn, and reproved
hym with a lowde voyce, and cleped hym mysbegeten wrecche and faderles.
When these messagers herden this, thei com toward the childe that was wepynge
and axed hym whiche was he that hadde smyten hym. And he hem ansuerde, "It is
the sone of a woman whiche never knewe who hym begat, ne never man cowde
telle of his fader."
And when Merlyn herde this, he com ageyn them laughinge and seide, "I am
he that ye seche, and he that ye be sworn ye sholden sle, and brynge my blode to
Kynge Vortiger." And [whan] thei herden hym thus sey, thei were sore a-merveyled
and axeden hym, "Who hath tolde thee this?" Quod he, "I wiste it er ye were
sworn." Quod thei, "Than moste thow come with us." "Nay," quod he, "I doute
that ye will me sle." And yet he knewe well that thei hadde therto no talant, but he
seide that for to preve hem better.
Quod Merlyn, "Yef ye will graunte me that ye shull not do me disese, I will go
with yow, and also telle why the tour may not stonde." And when thei herde that,
thei were more abaissed than before. "Truly," quod thei, "this childe is merveilouse,
and grete pité it were hym to sle." And eche of hem seyde that hem were better to
be forsworn than to sle this childe.
Than seide Merlyn, "Ye shull come herberewe theras is my moder, for I may
not go with yow withoute takynge leve of here, and also of a gode man which is in
the same place." Thei seide, "We will go where that thow wilte."
Thus brought Merlyn the messagers of the kynge to his moder place, and when
Merlyn come into the house, he comaunded that thei sholde have gode chere.
When thei were alyght, he brought hem before Blase and seide, "Se hem here that
I tolde sholde come to seche me to sle." And [he] seide to them, "I pray yow that
ye sey the trouthe before this gode man, why that ye beth sente, and wite ye well
yef ye gabbe enythynge, I know it wele inough." And thei ansuerde, "We will no
Quod Merlin to Blase, "Maister, understonde well what thei sey." Quod the
massanger: "We be with Kynge Vortiger, whiche hath begonne to make a stronge
toure. And when the werke of this tour is thre or four fadom of height, it may not
holde, but synketh in an hour all that is wrought in thre monthis. Wherefore the
kynge is angry and wroth, and he dide sende after clerkes to knowe the cause
that his werke may not holde."
"Ye," quod Merlin, "but noon of the clerkes ne cowde se the cause that letted
the werke to holde. But thei sien how I was born and how that I myght hem
distroie, and so thei dide acorde that I sholde be slayn and seide that the kynges
werke sholde stonde yef he myght have the blode of the childe born withoute
fader. And when Vortiger herde this, he heilde this a grete merveile, and trowed
that that the clerkes seiden [was] trewe. And the clerkes charged the kynge that in
no maner he sholde not se me alyve; but as sone as I were founde, that I sholde
withoute respite be slain, and my blode to be brought to be putte with the morter
in the foundement of the tour, and by that thei seiden it sholde holde. Vortiger, by
their techynge, toke twelve messagers and made alle twelve to swere that thei
sholde me sle and bringe with hem my blode. And of these twelve be heer four
whiche, when ye were met, passeden thourgh the feild where childern were
bourdinge, and I, that knewe ye come me for to seche, smote oon of my felowes,
for I wiste well he wolde sey of me the werste that he knewe in his anger. And
therfore I it dide, that this gode man shulde fynde me trewe of that I hadde seide.
Now, maister," quod Merlin to Blase, "axe hem yef it be so as I sey."
"Truly," seide Blase, "it were grete pité hym to sle, for yef he lyve he shal be
right wise." "Certes," seide evereche of the messagers, "I hadde lever be disherited
than he hadde resceyved deth thourgh me, and he hymself seth that he knoweth
all thynge, wote yef therto we have talent or noon."
Than thei cleped in ageyn Merlyn, that was gon oute at dore. And Blase seid to
hym how thei badde hym axe yef he wiste that thei hadden talent hym to sle. And
Merlyn lowgh and seide, "I wote well now thei be nothynge in will therto." Quod
thei, "Wilt thow go with us?" And Merlin seide, "Ye, with gode will, yef ye will
promyse me truly to brynge me before the kynge, and that ye ne suffer noon other
to do me harme ne disese, er I have with hym spoken." And thei hym graunted.
Than seide Blase, "I se well that thow wilt now leve me. What wilt thow that I
shalle do of this werke that I have begonne?" "That shalle I telle thee," quod
Merlin. "Thow woste well that oure Lord hath yove me so moche witte and
memorye that he that wende to be siker of me hath failed of his purpos, and I
moste go in to that contré fro whiche these be come to fecche me. And ther shalle
I be the beste beleved man that ever was, sef all only God that is Almyghty. And
thow shalt come thider to make an ende of the werke. But thow ne shalt not come
with me, but by thy self, and axe after a londe that is cleped Northumbirlonde.
And that contré is full of grete forestis and full wylde to them of the selve contré.
Ther thow shalt abide, and I shall come to thee and telle thee all the mater that
longeth to thi werke. And moche is thy travayle, and thow shalt have gode leyser;
and as longe as the worlde dureth shall thi boke gladly ben herde. And wite thow
well that my grete traveill shall not be byfore this kynges courte. This kynge, to
whom all my grete traveill shall be, and the traveile of Grete Breteyne, his name
shal be Arthur. Thow shalt go thider, as I have told thee, and I shall often come to
thee and brynge soche tidinges as thow shalt put in thi boke. And wite it well,
peple shul be glad ever to heiren it. For shul but fewe thinges be don but in no
place, but therin shal be a partye. And thi boke shal be cleped while the worlde
endureth the Boke of the Seynt Graal."
Thus spake Merlyn with his maister, and taught hym how he sholde do. He
ycleped hym "maister" for that he was maister to his moder. When the gode man
herde Merlin thus speke, he was glad and seide, "What thow wilte comaunde me,
I am redy to do it."
Thus Merlyn made hym redy to go and seide to the messengers, "I will go take
leve of my moder." Tho he brought hem theras was his moder and seide, "Feire
moder, heire ben come men of fer contrees for to seche me, and I will go by youre
leve. For me hoveth to yelde thee to Jhesu Criste, of that He hath yove me power.
And that I may not do but I go thider as thei shullen lede me. And Blase, youre
maister, also shall go, and moste we bothe departe fro yow at this tyme."
"Feire sone," quod she, "to God I comaunde yow, for I knowe not yef it were
wisdome to witholde yow or noon. But yef it were youre plesier, I wolde that
Blase sholde abide." "Dame," quod he, "it may in no wise ben." Thus toke Merlyn
leve of his moder and wente with the massengers; and on the tother side Blase
departed and yede in to Northumberlond, ther Merlin had him comaunded.
And the massagiers rode forth till thei come thourgh a town in whiche was a
market. And when thei were passed thorugh thei overtoke a carl that hadde bought
a payre of stronge shone, and also stronge lether to clowte hem with. And when
Merlyn sye the carle, he began to laughe. The messagiers axed hym wherfore he
lough. "I laugh," quod he, "at this cherl that hath bought hym so stronge shoone,
and also clowte lether, and I telle yow certeynly that he shal be dead before he
com fully to his howse."
And when thei herde that, thei heilde it a grete merveile and seide thei wolde
wyte yef that were trewe. Than two of them sewed hym, and other two abode with
Merlyn. They hadde not folowed the cherl half a myle that thei fonde hym deed in
myddell of the wey, and his shone aboute his nekke. Than thei returned and overtoke
hir felowes and tolde hem the merveyle that thei hadde seien.
"Forsothe," quod thei, "grete foles were the clerkes that so wise a man wolde
have slayn." "In faith," quod the oon, "I sholde suffer grete myschef er he had eny
harm." And so thei seiden all four that Merlyn ne herde it not. And when thei were
come to Merlyn, he thanked hem of that they hadde seide, and that [thei] wolden
hym so moche gode. And thei were gretly abasshed and seiden, "We may nought
sey ne do but this childe knowes it."
Thus thei riden forth her journeis till thei come withinne Vortigers power. And
as thei passed thourgh a town, they saugh a deed childe on a beere born to chirche
to be beried. And after the corse was made grete doel and wepynge. And when
Merlyn saugh the wepynge and sye the preste and the clerkes wente synginge
before, he gan to laugh and seide to his felowes, "I se a merveile." And thei axed,
"What?" Quod Merlyn, "Ye se that gode man that maketh this grete sorowe?"
And thei seide, "Ye." "And se ye not the preeste that singeth al before?" Quod
thei, "We se hym well." "Forsothe," quod Merlin, "he ought to make the sorowe
that the tother gode man maketh, for wethet it well that the childe is the prestes
sone. And the other man wepeth and hath more cause tolaugh." Quod thei, "How
may we knowe that it be so?" "Goth to the moder and axe whi she doth wepe. And
she will sey for her sone that is deed. And ye shall sey, it is not hir sone but the
prestes sone that so hye singeth. And than shall ye heere what she will sey."
The massagers wente to the woman and toke her in counseill and seide as Merlyn
hadde hem taught. And when the woman herde hem so say, she was abaisshed,
and seide, "Seres, for Godes love, mercy! I se wele I may not to yow lye, thowgh
I wolde, for that ye sey is trewe. But I beseche yow, telle it not my housbonde, for
than he wolde me sle." And when thei hadde herde this merveile, thei turned and
overtoke her felishep and seiden as thei herde.
And than thei reden forth till they come a journey fro thens ther Vortiger was.
Than seide two of the messagers to Merlin, "We shall go before to the kynge and
telle hym that we have founden. Now yeve us counseile how thow wilte we shall
sey, for I trowe he will blame us that we have not thee slayn."
"Sirs," quod Merlyn, "Sey as I shall telle yow, and ye shal be well excused. Ye
shull go to Vortiger and sey that ye have me founden, and sey I shall telle hym
truly the cause whi his tour may not stonde. With this condicion: that the clerkes
have the same juyse that thei hadde ordeyned for me. And also sey hym I can telle
hym why the clerkes wolde have me deed. And when ye have seide thus, doth
hardely that he yow comaundeth."
With that the messagers departed and come to Vortiger. And when he sye them
he was gladde, and axed anoon how they hadde spedde. "Sir," seide thei, "in the
beste wise that we may." Than thei cleped the kynge in counseile and tolde how
thei hadde found Merlyn. And also they seide, yef he hymself ne wolde, thei
sholde him never have founden.
"Of whiche Merlin," seide the kynge, "speke ye? Sholde ye not have sought the
fadirles childe and have brought me the blode of hym?" "Sir," thei seide, "that
same is Merlin that we of speke to yow. And wetith it wele that he is the wisest
man and the beste devynour that is, saf only God. And sir," seide thei, "right as ye
made us to swere to do youre comaundement, all that was don and seide he cowde
wele telle us at oure firste metynge. And he tolde us also that theclerkes ne knewe
not the cause why that youre tour may not stonde. But he shall telle yow apertly.
And many other grete merveiles hath he us shewed be the wey, and hath us sente
for to wite yef ye will with hym speke. And yef ye will we shull sle hym, for two
of oure felowes beth thereas he is."
"Yef ye," quod the kynge, "will take upon youre lyves that he shall telle me
whi my toure fallith, I will not that he be deed." "We will undertake it," quod thei.
"Than go fecche hym," quod the kynge.
The messagers yede their wey and the kynge rode after hem. When Merlin saugh
the messagers he seide to them, "Ye have plegged me upon youre lyves that I
shall have no drede of deth." And thei ansuerde, "Thou seiste trewe, for [we]
hadde lever a be in grete aventure than thow sholdest dye, and that oon moste us
nedes do." "I shall waraunte yow," quod Merlin, "of that ye have undertake."
Thus thei rode forth till thei mette with the kynge, and anoon Merlin hym salued and
seide, "Sir kynge, lete me speke with yow in counseile." Than the kynge
drough apart and called hem that he hadde brought with hym.
"Sir," quod Merlyn, "thow haste do seche me for thi toure that may not stonde
and comaundeste me to sle, be counseile of thy clerkes that seide the toure sholde
holde by vertu of my blode. Thei have not seide the trouth. But yef thow wilte
graunte me to do to hem the same that thei wolde do to me, I will telle the cause
whi it falleth, and also I shall teche thee how thow shalt make it to stonde and
And Vortiger ansuerde, "Yef thow do as thow seiest, I will do with hem as
thow wilte." "Than," quod Merlin, "go we thideras this toure is in makynge, and
make the clerkes be brought theder, and I shall axe hem whi the toure doth falle,
and so mayst thow hier ther ansuere." Than thei wente to the place ther the toure
sholde be made, and the clerkes were sente fore and come before the kynge.
And whan thei were come, Merlyn made oon to axe of hem whi that that toure
fill; and thei ansuerde, "We knowe no cause whi it fill, but we can telle what shall
make it for to holde." And then seide the kynge, "Ye tolde me a merveillouse
thynge, that I sholde do seche a childe born withouten fader, and I wote not how
he myght be founden."
Than spake Merlyn and seide to the clerkes, "Sirs, ye holde the kynge a fole,
that thus make hym seche a man that is born withouten fader, and ye no do it
nothynge for his profite. But ye dide it for this, that ye fonde in youre sorte that ye
shulde be deed thourgh hym, and for drede therof have ye do the kynge to
understonde that I sholde be slayn, and my blode be putte in the foundement of
the toure, and that sholde make it to laste and holde. Thus ye thought to sle hym
be the whiche ye sholde be brought to the deth as be youre sorte."
When thei herde the childe telle hem that thei supposid no creature hadde
knowen, thei weren abasshed and wiste wele that thei sholde deye. Than Merlin
seide to the kynge, "Now may ye knowe whi these clerkes wolde have me slayn:
nought for to holde youre toure but for theire sorte seyde thei sholde dye for me.
Now axe hem yef this be true, for thei sholde not be so hardy before me to make
yow no lesynge."
"Seith he trewe?" quod the kynge. "Sir," seide the clerkes, "ye, truly. But we
merveile wherby he myght this knowe. Wherfore we beseke yow graunte us to
live, that we may see that he shewe the trowth whi the toure fallith, and yef he can
telle the remedye." "Certes," quod Merlyn, "have ye no drede to dye before ye se
the cause that the toure doth falle, and that the werke may not laste."
"Sir kynge," quod Merlin, "understonde, and I shall telle thee. Under this erthe
is a grete water, and under that water be two dragons that see no sight. So is that
oon reade and that other white. And above them is two grete flat stones, and when
thei fele that the werke peyseth hevy upon them, they turne hem, and the water
maketh so grete bruyt that all that is made aboven it moste nede falle. Now lete
loke yef this be trewe or no. And yef it be founde that this be [the] cause that the
werke stondeth not, lete my plegges be quyte, and the clerkes in blame, that of all
this ne knewe nothinge."
"Certes," quod Vortiger, "yef this be as thow seist, than art thow the wisest
man of the worlde. Now telle me how this erthe may be hadde awey." And Merlin
seide, "In cartes and on mennes nekkes."
Anoon the kynge made come laboreres, and Merlin comaunded that the clerkes
sholde be wele kepte. And so wrought the laboreres that thei hadde awey the
erthe, and fonde the water, and dede it to laden oute, and lete the kynge wite how
thei hadden don. The kynge come thider gladly and brought with hym Merlin.
When he com thider, he beheilde the water that was grete, and cleped two of his
counsellers and seide, "This childe is right wise that knewe this to ben heere, and
yet seith that ther ben two dragons under, and I will knowe the soth, whatsoever it
Than the kynge cleped Merlyn and seide, "How shall we have this water awey?"
Quod Merlyn, "Lete make goteres into the diches." Than were the diches made,
and the water to renne oute. And Merlyn come to Vortiger and seide, "As soone
as these dragons felen togeder, thei will fighten strongely, and that oon shall sle
that other. Therfore, send after alle the gode men of thi londe to se the bataile, for
it hath grete significacion."
Than sente Vortiger after alle the worthy men of his londe, clergie and other.
And when thei were alle comen, Vortiger tolde hem the merveiles that Merlin
hadde shewde and of the two dragons how thei shulde fight. Than seide oon to
another, "It is gode to be seen." And they axed the kynge yef he knewe whiche
sholde have the better. And the kynge seide he hadde not yet tolde.
Whan the water was all voided, thei saugh the two stones that were upon the
two dragons. The kynge axed how thei myght be hadde awey, and Merlyn seide,
"Full wele, for they will never meve till eche of hem fele other, and than shull thei
fight till that oon muste dye." The kynge axed, "Whiche shall have the victorie?"
"In the fightynge," quod Merlyn, "is grete signifiance whiche I may not telle,
but gladly I will telle thee before three worthi men." Than Vortiger cleped thre
men that he moste truste inne, and Merlyn axed, "Be these thre men wele of thi
counseile?" And he ansuewerde, "Ye." "Than may I telle before them that thou
demandest. I do thee to wete," quod he, "that the white shall sle the reade. But
first shall he have grete peyne, and in that he shall sle hym is grete tokenynge to
hym that can it understonde. But I will sey no more till the bataile is at an ende."
Then yede the peple to oon of the stones and leften it up and founde the white
dragon. When the peple saugh hym so grete and hidouse thei hadde grete drede.
Than wente thei to the tother ston and drough it awey; and than thei were more
aferde than before, for it was moche greter and semed more feirce. And as Vortiger
semed, he moste overcome that other. And Merlin seide to the kynge, "Now lete
my plegges be quyte." "So be thei," seide the kynge.
Tho spronge up the two dragons and foughten togeder with teeth and feet, and
never herde ye of so stronge bataile betwene two bestes, ne so crewell fight. And
so thei foughten to mydday, and the peple semed that the reade sholde overcome
the white, till that the white threwe so moche fiere and flame that he brente up the
reade, and so was he deed. Than the white leide hym down to reste for werynesse,
and ne lived after but thre dayes. And thei that this syen seyde that never so grete
merveile hadde be seyn beforn.
And Merlin seide to the kynge, "Now mayste thow make thi toure as grete and
large as thow wilte, for it shall no more falle." Than comaunded Vortiger the
werkemen to make up the toure the strengest that myght be devised. And often
axed Vortiger of Merlyn the significance of the two dragons. And he seid, "It was
the tokenynge of thinges that were don and also of thinges that were to come, and
yef thow wilte ensure me that thow shalt do me noon harme heere in audience of
this peple, ne suffer noon other to do me harme in thy reame, I will telle the
significacion." And Vortiger made hym soche suerté as he wolde.
Quod Merlin, "Bringe hethir thy counsell and the clerkes that sorted of this
toure." The kynge dide as he comaunded. When thei were come, Merlyn spake to
the clerkes and seide, "Ye were foles in youre art, that wolde not aquite yow as
trewe men; and therfore ye be worthi to have as ye have deserved. And ye sawgh
wele how I was bore. And he that shewed yow that made yow semblance that ye
sholde be deed for me; and that dide he for sorowe that he hadde loste me, and
therfore he wolde that ye hadde me putte to deth. But I have soche a goode Lorde
that He shall me deffende yef it be His plesier, and I shall make hym a lyer, for ye
shull never for me be deed, yef ye will me graunte to do that I shall yow sey."
And when they herde hym sey that thei sholde be respited fro deth, thei were
gladde and seiden, "What that thow comaundest we shall do it, for we se well that
thow arte the wisest man that liveth." Quod Merlin, "Ye shull swere never to
entermete of that arte, and I will that ye be confessed and take youre penaunce so
that youre soules be not dampned." And thei hym thankeden and seide thei sholde
don his comaundement. Thus delyvered Merlin the clerkes whiche made hym to
be sought for to be putte to deth.
Vortiger com to hym and seide, "Telle me the significaunce of the two drag-
ons." "The reade dragon," quod Merlin, "betokeneth thee, and the white dragon
signifieth the sones of Constance." When Vortiger herde this, he was ashamed.
And Merlin seide, "Yef thow wilte, I will sey more, with that thow conne me no
Vortiger seide, "Here ne is no man but of my privé counsell. And therfore I will
thow telle me all the trouthe." "I tolde thee," quod Merlin, "that the reade signifieth
thee, and I shall telle thee how the children of Constance were yonge and tender,
after the deth of their fader. And yef thow were soche as thow oughteste to have
ben, thow sholdeste have kepte hem and yeven hem counseile ageins alle erthly
men. And well thow knowest that thow haste their heritage wrongfully; for when
thow knewest the peple loved thee, thow drowest thee abakke for to helpe them in
their nedes. And when eny of the londe complayneth to thee for the kynges inno-
cence, and seiden thei wolden thow sholde take upon thee to be kynge to defende
the reame fro their enmyes, thow ansueredest covertly, and seidest thow myghtest
not while Kynge Moyne was livinge. And thei that thow seidest this to undirstoden
wele that thow woldest have hym deed. And therfore thei slowen their kynge. But
thei leften two brethern, the whiche fledde into straunge londe for drede of thee.
And so were thow made kynge, and yet thow holdest their heritage with wronge.
And when thei hadden kylde the Kynge Moyne, thei come before thee. Thow
madest hem to be distrowied, to shewe semblaunce as thow hadde forthought the
Vortiger undirstode wele that Merlyn hym tolde and wist wele that he tolde
hym the trouth, and seide, "I se well that thow art oon of the wisest men of the
worlde. Wherfore, I pray thee to yeve me counseill in this cas, and also telle me
on what deth I shall dye."
Quod he, "Yef I telle thee that I wil not sey the betokenyng of the two dragons.
I do thee to wite that the reade dragon signifieth thee; in that he was so grete and
hidouse, betokeneth thee and thy grete power. And the white dragon betokeneth
the two childeren that be fledde for drede of thee. And that thei foughten so longe
togeder, betokeneth that thow haste so longe kepte their herytage with wronge.
And that the white dragon brente the redde dragon betokeneth that the two brethern
shull brenne thee with theire power. And therfore I ne trowe not that this toure
shal be thy warante, but that thow shalt dye by hem."
When Vortiger undirstode this, he gan to wrathe and axed hym, "Where ben
these children?" Quod Merlyn, "Thei be in the see, with grete strengthe of peple,
and come into heir londe to take vengaunce on thee. For thei seyn thow dedist
their brother to be slain. And wite it wele that thei shall aryve withinne thre monthes
withoute eny faile."