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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 58



them into Germany, and occasioned great fear over the kingdom. For there was a report of their great levies in Germany, and the vast fleet which they had prepared for their return to destroy the island: which the event verified. For they returned in a great fleet, and with a prodigious number of men, and invaded the parts of Albania, where they destroyed both cities and inhabitants with fire and sword. Wherefore, in order to repulse the enemies, the command of the British army was committed to Lot of Londonesia, who was a consul, and a most valiant knight, and grown up to maturity both of years and wisdom. Out of respect to his eminent merits, the king had given him his daughter Anne, and entrusted him with the care of the kingdom, during his illness. In his expedition against the enemies he had various success, being often repulsed by them, and forced to retreat to the cities; but he oftener routed and dispersed them, and compelled them to flee sometimes into the woods, sometimes to their ships. So that in a war attended with so many turns of fortune, it was hard to know which side had the better. The greatest injury to the Britons was their own pride, in disdaining to obey the consul’s commands; for which reason all their efforts against the enemy were less vigorous and successful.

Chapter 22. Uther, being ill, is carried in a horse-litter against the enemy.

The island being by this conduct now almost laid waste, the king, having information of the matter, fell into a greater rage than his weakness could bear, and commanded all his nobility to come before him, that he might reprove them severely for their pride and cowardice. And as soon as they were all entered into his presence, he sharply rebuked them in menacing language, and swore he himself would lead them against the enemy. For this purpose he ordered a horse-litter to be made, in which he designed to be carried, for his infirmity would not suffer him to use any other sort of vehicle; and he charged them to be all ready to march against the enemy on the first opportunity. So, without delay, the horse-litter and all his attendants were got ready and the day arrived which had been appointed for their march.

Chapter 23. Octa and Eosa, with a great number of their men, are killed.

The king, therefore, being put into his vehicle, they marched directly to Verulam, where the Saxons were grievously oppressing the people. When Octa and Eosa had intelligence that the Britons were come, and that the king was brought in a horse-litter, they disdained to fight with him, saying, it would be a shame for such brave men to fight with one that was half dead. For which reason they retired into the city, and, as it were in contempt of any danger from the enemy, left their gates wide open. But Uther, upon information of this, instantly commanded his men to lay siege to the city, and assault the walls on all sides; which orders they strictly executed; and were just entering the breaches which they had made in the walls, and ready to begin a general assault, when the Saxons, seeing the advantages which the Britons had gained, and being forced to abate somewhat of their haughty pride, condescended so far as to put themselves into a posture of defence. They therefore mounted the walls, from whence they poured down showers of arrows, and repulsed the Britons. On both sides the contest continued till night released them from the fatigue of their arms, which was what many of the Britons desired, though the greater part of them were for having the matter quickly decided with the enemy. The Saxons, on the other hand, finding how prejudicial their own pride had been to them, and that the advantage was on the side of the Britons, resolved to make a sally at break of day, and try their fortune with the enemy in the open field; which accordingly was done. For no sooner was it daylight, than they marched out with this design, all in their proper ranks. The Britons, seeing them, divided their men into several bodies, and advancing towards them, began the attack first, their part being to assault, while the others were only upon the defensive. However, much blood was shed on both sides, and the greatest part of the day spent in the fight, when at last, Octa and Eosa being killed, the Saxons turned their backs, and left the Britons a complete victory. The king at this was in such an ecstasy of joy, that whereas before he could hardly raise up himself without the help of others, he now without any difficulty sat upright in his horse-litter of himself, as if he was on a sudden restored to health; and said with a laughing and merry countenance, “These Ambrons called me the half-dead king, because my sickness obliged me to lie on a horse-litter; and indeed so I was. Yet victory to me half dead, is better than to be safe and sound and vanquished. For to die with honour, is preferable to living with disgrace.”

Chapter 24. Uther, upon drinking spring water that was treacherously poisoned by the Saxons, dies.

The Saxons, notwithstanding this defeat, persisted still in their malice, and entering the northern provinces, without respite infested the people there. Uther’s purpose was to have pursued them, but his princes dissuaded him from it, because his illness had increased since the victory. This


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