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GILDAS On the Ruin and Conquest of Britain

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GILDAS
On the Ruin and Conquest of Britain
page 17



whole country, and to take possession of it, as of old, from one end to the other. But yet they derived no advantage from this intelligence ; for, like frantic beasts, taking the bit of reason between their teeth, they abandoned the safe and narrow road, and rushed forward upon the broad downward path of vice, which leads to death. Whilst, therefore, as Solomon says, the stubborn servant is not cured by words, the fool is scourged and feels it not : a pestilential disease mortally affected the foolish people, which, without the sword, cut off so large a number of persons, that the living were not able to bury them. But even this was no warning to them, that in them also might be fulfilled the words of Isaiah the prophet, "And God hath called his people to lamentation, to baldness, and to the girdle of sackcloth; behold they begin to kill calves, and to slay rams, to eat, to drink, and to say, * We will eat and drink, for to-morrow we shall die.' " For the time was approaching, when all their iniquities, as formerly those of the Amorrhseans, should be fulfilled. For a council was called to settle what was best and most expedient to be done, in order to repel such frequent and fatal irruptions and plundexings of the abovenamed nations. § 23. Then all the councillors, togetherwith that proud tyrant Gurthrigern [Vortigern], the British king, were so blinded, that, as a protection to their country, they sealed its doom by inviting in among them (like wolves into the sheep-fold), the fierce and impious Saxons, a race hateful both to God and men, to repel the invasions of the northern nations. Nothing was ever so pernicious to our country, nothing was ever so unlucky. What palpable darkness must have enve* loped their minds—darkness desperate and cruel! Those very people whom, when absent, they dreaded more than death itself, were invited to reside, as one may say, under the selfsame roof. Foolish are the princes, as it is said, of Thafheos, giving counsel to unwise Pharaoh-A multitude of whelps came forth from the lair of this barbaric lioness, in three cyuls, as they call them, that is, in three ships of war, with theii sails wafted by the wind and with omens and prophecies favourable, for it was foretold by a certain sooth* sayer among them, that they should occupy the country to which they were sailing three hundred years, and half of


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