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by heroic things, the lofty figures in his country's past. This enthusiasm makes Layamon a poet; it makes the temper of his work epic and national. The fire and vigour of the old English battle poetry may be dimmed in the Brut, but they flash out in passages comparable to the descriptions of the fighting in Maldon or Waldhere ; the alliterative measure, though more freely handled, recalls the iron ring of the verse of Beowulf, at times we are "out of sight of land," and have glimpses of the sea " where nikeres bathe," or " a sea wondrously
' wild and bitterly enraged," where are “labouring ships," and
hail and rain," and waves that ran as if towns there were burning." No poet after the Conquest can claim a larger share of the ancient spirit of Anglo-Saxondom than this “our English Ennius.” None of the later days better recalls the heroic age in language, in style, in poetic animation, in love of great deeds than the gentle Worcestershire priest, who links the England of Beowulf with that of Chaucer.
This monument of patriotic zeal was probably executed about the beginning of the thirteenth century, and is usually assigned to the year 1205. It is extant in two MSS., one perhaps thirty or forty years earlier than the other. For all its length and diversity of theme, it contains--so English is it-singularly few words of French origin, not a hundred in all, a fact the more surprising since its main source is a French chronicle, the Brut of Wace, which purports to relate the history of Britain from the destruction of Troy till the seventh century. " Layamon," wrote the author of himself, “ began to journey wide over this land, and procured the noble books which he took for pattern. He took the English book that Saint Bede made, another he took in Latin, that Saint Albin made, and the fair Austin who brought baptism in hither; the third book he took and laid there in the midst, that a French clerk made, who was named Wace, who well could write, and he gave it to the noble Eleanor, who was high King Henry's queen. Layamon laid before him these books, and turned over the leaves; lovingly he beheld
* A title transferred, by Sir Frederick Madden, from Robert of Gloucester to a poet with a far stronger claim upon it. Of Sir Frederick Madden's version of the Brut I have made free use in the following pages.
them-may the Lord be merciful to him! Pen he took with fingers, and wrote on book skin, and the true words set together, and the three books compressed together.”
It appears doubtful whether Layamon owes anything to the writers he mentions except Wace, who had in turn derived his narrative from Geoffrey of Monmouth. Wace's fifteen thousand lines he expands to more than twice their number, and though from this French original he unquestionably drew the bulk of his matter, so copious were his additions—derived no doubt from sources, including oral traditions, to which as a dweller on the Welsh border he had access—so rich his vocabulary, so spirited his style, so imaginative his temper, that Layamon's is throughout an English book, marked by originality of almost the highest or creative type and possessed of the secret of interest beyond any of his successors in chronicle.
It is not easy to give briefly an idea of this mighty book, the greatest between the Conquest and Chaucer, which tells the whole story, legendary and real, of Briton and Saxon from the fall of Troy to the conversion of England. It relates how Brutus, a descendant of Æneas, after many adventurous wạnderings found in the isle of Leogice a temple of marble lofty and spacious, and within an image of the Lady Diana, very noble,
queen of all the woods on earth.” Entering alone, bearing in his hand a vessel of red gold full of wine mixed with the milk of
а. a hind he had slain, Brutus called upon the goddess to counsel him whither he should lead his people. Then he took the hide of the hind and spread it on the floor of the shrine and slept there. And as he slept it seemed to him that the Lady Diana beheld him lovingly, and laid her hand upon his head and said: " Beyond France thou shalt find in the West a winsome land, surrounded by the narrow sea. Thereon thou shalt prosper. There is fowl, there is fish, there dwell fair deer; there is wood, there is water, there is much desert. The land is most winsome ; springs there are fair; giants most strong dwell in the land ; Albion is the land named, but men there are none. Thereto shalt thou go and a new Troy make there ; there of thy kin shall royal progeny arise, and over all lands shall they have fame." And
when he awoke Brutus promised the Lady Diana a shrine all of red gold in the new land.
And so Brutus and his men departed, going ever north and west. Over the lake of Silvius and over Philisteus and over Malva they sailed, and through the Pillars of Hercules, which
tall posts of strong marble stone," and they saw the mermen whose song no man is ever weary of hearing “ be the day ever so long," till to land they came in Spain. And from Spain to Armorica they sailed, and to a most fair river the Loire, and there in haven they lay several days and viewed the people. And thereafter fighting arose, and Brutus and his men harried Armorica till the French were beaten, and then blowing his horn he assembled his company, and to the coast they marched, and with a favourable wind on a calm sea, where “ the wild fish played,” they voyaged till they came to Dartmouth in Totnes, and the ships grounded upon the sand. And in this land they found twenty strong giants, Geomagog their chief. And nineteen they slew, and Geomagog they took alive, and Corineus, their strongest man, made a trial of his strength with the giant in wrestling. A grim combat it was, breast against breast, bones there cracked," "there was full little wanting that Corineus was not overcome,” and “evilly he was marred.” Nevertheless he took heart and strengthened his arms, and hugged Geomagog that his back brake, and mightily heaved him up and hurled him over the cliff where they fought. And then in the land, the giants being dead, Brutus and the Trojans settled, and built houses and towns, and sowed and reaped and mowed the meadows, and after Brutus, its first ruler, was the land named Britain.
Then of many kings and peoples the chronicle proceeds to tell—of the Huns, and of Silvius, King of Lombardy, who sent over to King Ebrane for his daughters, because his knights found
the women of Lombardy odious to them,” of the wars that raged incessantly, and of the chiefs who partitioned the land in the days when Romulus built Rome. And many a tale it tells like that of the “
sea-weary men,' evilly clad and naked they were, and nothing cared who their limbs saw," driven from Spain and
found by King Gurguint off the end of Orkney, who craved a land for dwelling, for they had had “many harms, hunger, and much thirst, many conflicts, many strifes on the wild water seven years, upon whom Gurguint had pity and sent them into Ireland, “where no man ever was since Noah's flood had passed over it; or like that of the monster out of the sea, from Ireland-ward, a beast most wonderful," " the folk it terrified, towns it ravaged," until Morpidus, huge and tall, cruel in fight, who when in wrath with any man on the spot would him slay, but so soon as he became calm, did all that men bade him," went forth against the monster with sword and quiver full of arrows, a bow most strong, a long spear, at his saddle an axe, and at the other side a knife, and “ rode on his steed as if he would go mad," and his arrows all he shot, and smote the beast in the neck with his spear so that the shaft brake, and “the beast uprose" and rushed on the steed and bit him through the breast, whereupon the king drew his sword and smote the beast upon the head-bone so that the hilt broke in his hand, and the beast undid his jaws and bit the king in the middle, and so the fight was done, both king and monster dead.
And many hundred winters after Gurguint arose a king, Alfred, England's darling," and wrote the law in English that was before in British, and hereafter with his Romans Julius Caesar came," who conquered all the lands that he looked on with eye," "five and fifty kingdoms," who made the calendar that denotes the months of the year, a keen knight, over all middleearth renowned, the wisest man of the world's empire.” To Britain came Caesar and suffered defeat, though “like a wild boar he fought," and slew an hundred men, so labouring in the battle that“ he was all lathered in sweat," and among those with whom he fought was Nennius, whom he smote with his sword so that it bit into the opposing shield, but could not be withdrawn, and Androgeus coming to the help of Nennius Caesar relinquished his brand and turned to flight, and with Nennius, who died of his wound, that sword was buried. " The steel brand was very broad and very long, thereon were engraven many kinds of letters, on the hilt was engraven that the sword was called in Rome Crocea Mors, so the sword hight, because it had much might.” And after his defeat Caesar went to Boulogne, where he built a tower
wonderfully fair," never was there any tower that was built with craft so good as the tower of Otheres. Sixty hundred knights might sit in the bottom of the tower, and the top of the tower a knight might cover with his mantle.” Thirteen months abode he there, and then into France he went and established his cities, and after with great armies yet a second time Caesar sailed to Britain in six hundred ships wonderfully great, and again suffered defeat, but at length the Britons yielded and paid tribute, and Caesar returned to Rome. Then Cassibelaune made a great feast for all his folk,
merry was the day.” Two hundred cooks were in the king's kitchen, and no man may tell all the waiters. Were slain for this meal twelve thousand good oxen and thirty hundred harts and as many hinds, of the fowl kind no man may it tell. And all the wealth and all the gold that was over all this king's land, it was assembled at the service.
Afterwards king succeeded king, and at the time our Lord was born came other emperors of Rome, Claudius and Severus, who built the strong dyke, to keep out the Picts from the north, from sea to sea, and a wall exceeding crafty, and set knights to guard it day and night. And there came also excellent men out of Rome who told of the worship of Christ, and of Peter, and what he did in Rome and of his martyrdom, and many of the Britons received baptism, and those who would not the king, Luces, caused to be slain. And bishops caused the heathen temples to be cleansed, the heathen vestments cast out of doors, and the images burnt with fire, and hallowed the temples in the Saviour's name, and set bishops to direct the folk and archbishops and clergy to rule.
But when the Romans went to their ships, and left the Britons to defend themselves, there were in London dreadful cries, weeping, and sorrow. And the two Earls of Norway, Melga and Wanis, heard the tidings, and with an innumerable army broke through the wall and harried the Britons with fire and sword. And the Britons sent messengers to Rome to bid the Romans come quickly, but they answered they would never