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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 56



the rocks and hazel-bushes. But as it began to draw towards day, Uther commanded the consuls and princes to be called together, that he might consult with them in what manner to assault the enemy. Whereupon they forthwith appeared before the king, who commanded them to give their advice; and Gorlois, duke of Cornwall, had orders to deliver his opinion first, out of regard to his years and great experience. “There is no occasion,” said he, “for ceremonies or speeches, while we see that it is still night: but there is for boldness and courage, if you desire any longer enjoyment of your life and liberty. The pagans are very numerous, and eager to fight, and we much inferior to them in number; so that if we stay till daybreak, we cannot, in my opinion, attack them to advantage. Come on, therefore, while we have the favour of the night, let us go down in a close body, and surprise them in their camp with a sudden assault. There can be no doubt of success, if with one consent we fall upon them boldly, while they think themselves secure, and have no expectation of our coming in such a manner.” The king and all that were present, were pleased with his advice, and pursued it. For as soon as they were armed and placed in their ranks, they made towards the enemies’ camp, designing a general assault. But upon approaching to it, they were discovered by the watch, who with sound of trumpet awaked their companions. The enemies being hereupon put into confusion and astonishment, part of them hastened towards the sea, and part ran up and down whithersoever their fear or precipitation drove them. The Britons, finding their coming discovered, hastened their march, and keeping still close together in their ranks, assailed the camp; into which when they had found an entrance, they ran with their drawn swords upon the enemy; who in this sudden surprise made but a faint defence against their vigorous and regular attack; and pursuing this blow with great eagerness they destroyed some thousands of the pagans, took Octa and Eosa prisoners, and entirely dispersed the Saxons.

Chapter 19. Uther, falling in love with Igerna, enjoys her by the assistance of Merlin’s magical operations.

After this victory Uther repaired to the city of Alclud, where he settled the affairs of that province, and restored peace everywhere. He also made a progress round all the countries of the Scots, and tamed the fierceness of that rebellious people, by such a strict administration of justice, as none of his predecessors had exercised before: so that in his time offenders were everywhere under great terror, since they were sure of being punished without mercy. At last, when he had established peace in the northern provinces, he went to London, and commanded Octa and Eosa to be kept in prison there. The Easter following he ordered all the nobility of the kingdom to meet at that city, in order to celebrate that great festival; in honour of which he designed to wear his crown. The summons was everywhere obeyed, and there was a great concourse from all cities to celebrate the day. So the king observed the festival with great solemnity, as he had designed, and very joyfully entertained his nobility, of whom there was a very great muster, with their wives and daughters, suitably to the magnificence of the banquet prepared for them. And having been received with joy by the king, they also expressed the same in their deportment before him. Among the rest was present Gorlois, duke of Cornwall, with his wife Igerna, the greatest beauty in all Britain. No sooner had the king cast his eyes upon her among the rest of the ladies, than he fell passionately in love with her, and little regarding the rest, made her the subject of all his thoughts. She was the only lady that he continually served with fresh dishes, and to whom he sent golden cups by his confidants; on her he bestowed all his smiles, and to her addressed all his discourse. The husband, discovering this, fell into a great rage, and retired from the court without taking leave: nor was there any body that could stop him, while he was under fear of losing the chief object of his delight. Uther, therefore, in great wrath commanded him to return back to court, to make him satisfaction for this affront. But Gorlois refused to obey; upon which the king was highly incensed, and swore he would destroy his country, if he did not speedily compound for his offence. Accordingly, without delay, while their anger was hot against each other, the king got together a great army, and marched into Cornwall, the cities and towns whereof he set on fire. But Gorlois durst not engage with him, on account of the inferiority of his numbers; and thought it a wiser course to fortify his towns till he could get succour from Ireland. And as he was under more concern for his wife than himself, he put her into the town of Tintagel, upon the sea-shore, which he looked upon as a place of great safety. But he himself entered the castle of Dimilioc, to prevent their being both at once involved in the same danger, if any should happen. The king, informed of this, went to the town where Gorlois was, which he besieged, and shut up all the avenues to it. A whole week was now past, when, retaining in mind his love to Igerna, he said to one of his confidants, named Ulfin de Ricaradoch: “My passion for Igerna is such, that I


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