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Geoffrey of Monmouth History of the Kings of Britain

 
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Geoffrey of Monmouth
History of the Kings of Britain
page 55



the end of which was a globe of fire in form of a dragon, out of whose mouth issued forth two rays; one of which seemed to stretch out itself beyond the extent of Gaul, the other towards the Irish Sea, and ended in seven lesser rays.

Chapter 15. A comet presignifies the reign of Uther.

At the appearance of this star, a general fear and amazement seized the people; and even Uther, the king’s brother, who was then upon his march with his army into Cambria, being not a little terrified at it, was very curious to know of the learned men, what it portended. Among others, he ordered Merlin to be called, who also attended in this expedition to give his advice in the management of the war; and who, being now presented before him, was commanded to discover to him the signification of the star. At this he burst out into tears, and with a loud voice cried out, “O irreparable loss! O distressed people of Britain! Alas! the illustrious prince is departed! The renowned king of the Britons, Aurelius Ambrosius, is dead! whose death will prove fatal to us all, unless God be our helper. Make haste, therefore, most noble Uther, make haste to engage the enemy: the victory will be yours, and you shall be king of all Britain, For the star, and the fiery dragon under it, signifies yourself, and the ray extending towards the Gallic coast, portends that you shall have a most potent son, to whose power all those kingdoms shall be subject over which the ray reaches. But the other ray signifies a daughter, whose sons and grandsons shall successively enjoy the kingdom of Britain.”

Chapter 16. Pascentius and Gillomanius are killed in battle

Uther, though he doubted of the truth of what Merlin had declared, pursued his march against the enemy, for he was now come within half a day’s march of Menevia. When Gillomanius, Pascentius, and the Saxons were informed of his approach, they went out to give him battle. As soon as they were come within sight of each other, both armies began to form themselves into several bodies, and then advanced to a close attack, in which both sides suffered a loss of men, as usually happens in such engagements. At last, towards the close of the day, the advantage was on Uther’s side, and the death of Gillomanius and Pascentius made a way for complete victory. So that the barbarians, being put to flight, hastened to their ships, but were slain by their pursuers. Thus, by the favour of Christ, the general had triumphant success, and then with all possible expedition, after so great a fatigue, returned back to Winchester: for he had now been informed, by messengers that arrived, of the king’s sad fate, and of his burial by the bishops of the country, near the convent of Ambrius, within the Giant’s Dance, which in his lifetime he had commanded to be made. For upon hearing the news of his death, the bishops, abbots, and all the clergy of that province, had met together at Winchester, to solemnize his funeral. And because in his lifetime he had given orders for his being buried in the sepulchre which he had prepared, they therefore carried his corpse thither, and performed his exsequies with royal magnificence.

Chapter 17. Uther Pendragon is made king of Britain.

But Uther his brother, having assembled the clergy of the kingdom, took the crown, and by universal consent was advanced to the kingdom. And remembering the explanation which Merlin had made of the star above-mentioned, he commanded two dragons to be made of gold, in likeness of the dragon which he had seen at the ray of the star. As soon as they were finished, which was done with wonderful nicety of workmanship, he made a present of one to the cathedral church of Winchester, but reserved the other for himself, to be carried along with him to his wars. From this time, therefore, he was called Uther Pendragon, which in the British tongue signifies the dragon’s head; the occasion of this appellation being Merlin’s predicting, from the appearance of a dragon, that he should be king.

Chapter 18. Octa and Eosa are taken in battle.

In the meantime Octa the son of Hengist, and his kinsman Eosa, seeing they were no longer bound by the treaty which they had made with Aurelius Ambrosius, began to raise disturbances against the king, and infest his countries. For they were now joining with the Saxons whom Pascentius had brought over, and sending messengers into Germany for the rest. Being therefore attended with a vast army, he invaded the northern provinces, and in an outrageous manner destroyed all the cities and fortified places, from Albania to York. At last, as he was beginning the siege of that city, Uther Pendragon came upon him with the whole power of the kingdom, and gave him battle. The Saxons behaved with great gallantry, and, having sustained the assaults of the Britons, forced them to fly; and upon this advantage pursued them with slaughter to the mountain Damen, which was as long as they could do it with day-light. The mountain was high, and had a hazel-wood upon the top of it, and about the middle broken and cavernous rocks, which were a harbour to wild beasts. The Britons made up to it, and stayed there all night among


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