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put out to sea, and under the good guidance of Mercury have arrived in
your kingdom.
The king, at the name of Mercury, looking earnestly upon them,
asked them what religion they professed. We worship, replied
Hengist, our countrys gods, Saturn and Jupiter, and the other deities
that govern the world, but especially Mercury, whom in our language we
call Woden, and to whom our ancestors consecrated the fourth day of
the week, still called after his name Wodensday. Next to him we worship
the powerful goddess, Frea, to whom they also dedicated the sixth day,
which after her name we call Friday. Vortigern replied, For your
credulity, or rather incredulity, I am much grieved, but I rejoice at your
arrival, which, whether by Gods providence or some other agency,
happens very seasonably for me in my present difficulties. For I am
oppressed by my enemies on every side, and if you will engage with me
in my wars, I will entertain you honourably in my kingdom, and bestow
upon you lands and other possessions. The barbarians readily accepted
his offer, and the agreement between them being ratified, they resided at
his court. Soon after this, the Picts, issuing forth from Albania, with a
very great army, began to lay waste the northern parts of the island.
When Vortigern had information of it, he assembled his forces, and went
to meet them beyond the Humber. Upon their engaging, the battle
proved very fierce on both sides, though there was but little occasion for
the Britons to exert themselves, for the Saxons fought so bravely, that the
enemy, formerly so victorious, were speedily put to flight.
Chapter 11. Hengist brings over great numbers of Saxons into Britain:
his crafty petition to Vortigern.
Vortigern, therefore, as he owed the victory to them, increased his
bounty to them, and gave their general, Hengist, large possessions of
land in Lindesia, for the subsistence of himself and his fellow soldiers.
Hereupon Hengist, who was a man of experience and subtilty, finding
how much interest he had with the king, addressed him in this manner:
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Geoffrey of Monmouth
Sir, your enemies give you disturbance from all quarters, and few of
your subjects love you. They all threaten you, and say, they are going to
bring over Aurelius Ambrosius from Armorica, to depose you, and make
him king. If you please, let us send to our country to invite over some
more soldiers, that with our forces increased we may be better able to
oppose them. But there is one thing which I would desire of your
clemency if I did not fear a refusal. Vortigern made answer, Send your
messengers to Germany, and invite over whom you please, and you shall
have no refusal from me in whatever you shall desire. Hengist, with a
low bow, returned him thanks, and said, The possessions which you
have given me in land and houses are very large, but you have not yet
done me that honour which becomes my station and birth, because,
among other things, I should have had some town or city granted me,
that I might be entitled to greater esteem among the nobility of your
kingdom. I ought to have been made a consul or prince, since my
ancestors enjoyed both those dignities. It is not in my power. replied
Vortigern, to do you so much honour, because you are strangers and
pagans; neither am I yet so far acquainted with your manners and
customs, as to set you upon a level with my natural born subjects. And,
indeed, if I did esteem you as my subjects, I should not be forward to do
so, because the nobility of my kingdom would strongly dissuade me
from it. Give your servant. said Hengist, only so much ground in the
place you have assigned me, as I can encompass with a leathern thong,
for to build a fortress upon, as a place of retreat if occasion should
require. For I will always be faithful to you, as I have been hitherto, and
pursue no other design in the request which I have made. With these
words the king was prevailed upon to grant him his petition; and
ordered him to despatch messengers into Germany, to invite more men
over speedily to his assistance. Hengist immediately executed his orders,
and taking a bulls hide, made one thong out of the whole, with which be
encompassed a rocky place that he had carefully made choice of, and
within that circuit began to build a castle, which, when finished, took its
name from the thong wherewith it had been measured; for it was
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afterwards called, in the British tongue, Kaercorrei; in Saxon, Thancastre,
that is, Thong Castle.
Chapter 12. Vortigern marries Rowen the daughter of Hengist.
In the meantime, the messengers returned from Germany, with
eighteen ships full of the best soldiers they could get. They also brought
along with them Rowen, the daughter of Hengist, one of the most
accomplished beauties of that age. After their arrival, Hengist invited the
king to his house, to view his new buildings, and the new soldiers that
were come over. The king readily accepted of his invitation, but
privately, and having highly commended the magnificence of the
structure, enlisted the men into his service. Here he was entertained at a
royal banquet; and when that was over, the young lady came out of her
chamber bearing a golden cup full of wine, with which she approached
the king, and making a low courtesy, said to him, Lauerd king wacht
heil! The king, at the sight of the ladys face, was on a sudden both
surprised and inflamed with her beauty; and calling to his interpreter,
asked him what she said, and what answer he should make her. She
called you, Lord king, said the interpreter, and offered to drink your
health. Your answer to her must be, Drinc heil! Vortigern accordingly
answered, Drinc heil and bade her drink; after which he took the cup
from her hand, kissed her, and drank himself. From that time to this, it
has been the custom in Britain, that he who drinks to any one says,
Wacht heil! and he that pledges him, answers Drinc heil!, Vortigern
being now drunk with the variety of liquors, the devil took this
opportunity to enter into his heart, and to make him in love with the
damsel, so that he became suitor to her father for her. It was, I say, by
the devils entering into his heart, that he, who was a Christian, should
fall in love with a pagan. By this example, Hengist, being a prudent man, [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]