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26. THE GUILE, AMBITION, AND DEATH OF CARASSIUS
Meanwhile, as the kingdom became a province there were some who remembered due allegiance to the empire, who wanted everything to turn out well, who in fact were always too friendly with the opposition. But so it happens whenever a diverse people, ill unified, is gathered into one nation. One man, with inconsistent counsel, insists on a variety of approaches to resistance, as if suffering an exchange of substance. As the glass, if shaken, shows its dregs, but once settled restores them to the bottom, so it is in times of political turmoil. While matters stood thus in Britain, every man being set against every other in secret sedition at home, behold! One young Briton, Carassius, of humble origins, not nobly born yet large-souled and fit for great enterprises, eager to magnify his name, went to Rome and persuasively addressed the senate, presenting the reasons for his coming. He related much concerning himself (he had no lack of eloquence) and his homeland, but spoke mournfully. He said that other nations were a constant danger to Britain, that the Romulus-born Britons suffered much undeservedly, that one finds safety only in a large fleet, that it was a sad thing to be made the prey of other nations. “The island has no other walls,” he said. “Take away the walls and in no way can a city be safe.” He got them to assign him a ship, promised great things, saying he wanted to relieve his country of such great afflictions. He swore an oath in words; then the grave senate, signing the documents, decreed in his favor. How easy is it to deceive the believing? He fooled the senate and turned all this to his country’s harm. He returned to the British, their senate gave orders, a fleet was built — now hear what happened next. Having outfitted his ship, did he now make a show of driving the enemy from his country’s shores, or did he flee? Far from it: slaughter, arson, theft, rapine — with such he managed to turn everything to suit his own pleasure. For he either seized any ships that sailed in British waters or destroyed them if they refused to be taken. He would press into his navy any local men he found in villages he attacked. Thus the supply of young men collected grew quickly and became an army. And as his strength grew, so did his pride: honor is ambition’s dry kindling.
Ambition is an endless dropsy: he who was until lately a commoner now craved a crown. This evil did not for long hold back the troops and allies he had already prepared to use and to share his spoils. He invaded Britain, scattered the Romans, and while he fought fiercely against them, you fell, Basianus. Once their leader was dead, he finished off the others, and soon, the Romans driven off, he succeeded to the throne. Fortune did not long smile on these undertakings, Alectus was sent to restore the Britons to Rome. He entered supported by three legions and sat in judgment on all the remaining British noblemen. He slaughtered those he knew had gone over to the usurper; he bestowed honor and riches on those he found faithful. Virtue rejoices to be distinguished from vice, as happens when the right rewards go to the good, penalties to the evil. When the former tyrant attacked to preserve himself, he was killed; victorious Alectus held the throne. Certainly this is what it means to deceive a senate or to acquire kingdoms with underhanded tricks. This is the reward of wickedness; a fall follows the summit; when pride goes before, ruin follows after. With fierce war Asclepiodotus Duke of Cornwall attacked Alectus on his throne. After many defeats had been inflicted on both sides the duke killed the king, seizing the scepter for himself. Cole went to war with Asclepiodotus, whom he killed soon after, so becoming king. Here is the lesson of kingship’s glory, how short and transitory it is: king today, tomorrow a puff of smoke, a shade, nothing.
27. CONSTANTINE THE GREAT
King Constantine the Great was born into the royal family of Helen, beautiful daughter of Coel. He was Great in name, greater in virtues, and placed world rule under the rule of the Britons. How could he have become anything but Most Great, whose parentage on both sides was so outstanding? Constantius was his father, of Roman extraction: his mother was of British descent. His father was an exceptional man, wise, hard-working, bold; she was pleasant, beautiful, chaste, pious. Powerful in warfare, he overcame the brave Spaniards; she won over the divine Muses with her artistic talents. He was devoted to grand and daring deeds; she was learned and eloquent in speech. He was the terror, she the delight of the world; he chose the shield, she the cross. Could a child sprung from these help retain the stature that he acquired from his very origins? That there could be inconstancy or a lack of virtue in great minds is not credible.
When the son began his reign, far be it from him to let his merits decline from his parents’; to balance their gifts with his indebtedness he took the virtues inherited from both and doubled them. He restored peace to the world and put down tyrants; he broke up heretical quarrels in the Church. God so looked to the comforting of the world that, when it was all in terrible flames, at an opportune moment King Constantine appeared in the world so that His benefits might flow forth to the world. It is one thing to hold in check the fury of a kingdom, but to take on the lightning bolts of the world is no easy thing. It is one thing to put out the first sparks, but something else when the flames have grown higher. It is one thing to put down rebellions at home, but who can hold in check the lords of the world? It is one thing to put out fires that some scribbler scatters around foolishly, but quite otherwise with those of Arius. Constantine did all these things; whatever in him was good or exceptional you should learn to do also.
Maxentius was now causing trouble at Rome. He oppressed the powerful and robbed citizens of their wealth. He leveled God’s churches, spurned the laws, deprived good men of honor, being more indulgent to the wicked than the upright. The Tyrant preyed as much on the dignified matron as on the spotless virgin, girl, and those whom he did not himself abuse he handed over to be defiled by coarse soldiers. Sometimes he would put rude lechers up to this wickedness. While this wild boar with his quick-gnashing teeth polluted all the soil of Italy with blood and slaughter, the Roman people wrote to the Britons that the great King of Britons should hasten to their aid. The great king took counsel as to his actions — a fearful case did not allow for long delays. He fit out ships and set sail across the sea until (proud Rome) he came to your walls. He landed his ships, while Maxentius was readying his whole army to hold him back. When the battle lines had formed and fighting broke out everywhere, when the sound of the curved trumpet gave the call to arms, behold! in the middle of the sky a fiery cross flashed before the King of Britons, more resplendent that the sun’s rays: on it this motto appeared in Greek, "In this is victory," which was borne out in what followed. For God was present in the battle, heaven fought for the saints: both armies moved to the Milvian Bridge. Maxentius was overcome and drowned in the river; then and there he paid the price for his wickedness, getting what he deserved.
Beneath the sign of the cross King Constantine was borne into the city, and henceforward he was lord of the city and the world. Rome was his seat, Thrace was that of Licinius. Victorious Constantine at first warned him to stop mistreating Christians and stirring up war in the eastern parts of the empire, then he issued threats; but Licinius went on playing with fire as before. The victor went against him with all his power, gathering all the armed forces to put a stop to Licinius. They say that he passed Rome to Sylvester’s care in the meanwhile (Valla has denied this, but I will not tarry over his proof). He conquered Licinius near Adrianopolis, now called Dissa, yet did not kill him. The vanquished opponent fled to Bithynia, then starting a second war he was again beaten by his adversary, whose wife Constantia pleaded for his life, that he might remain permanently secure in Thessalonica. He undertook new plots, however, but at that point died at the hands of a private soldier. Constantine set up the imperial seat at Byzantium and built a new city on this ancient royal seat.
The Devil had not yet given up, for there arose out of these tyrannies and slaughters a new hydra of heresy. It spread everywhere like a cancer, and its author Arius insinuated himself into the hearts of the common people. He defended these pagan absurdities and did so unmasked, for madness has an appearance of Religion. He asserted that Christ had two natures, as though in saying such things he wanted the rest of the faith to stand. He said that Christ was the Father when He was not the Son: further he claimed that the λόγος was out of nothing. He denied that Christ was coeternal and equal with God the Father. Being a crafty-minded man he promoted these and many such things, and not only said but taught them. He boasted he could prove these ideas of his, the teachings of error, from sacred scripture. Indeed, he said, “This is written: As the Father told me, so also I say, and again, The Father is more powerful than I. And I keep with what He gave Me, and Let this cup pass from Me, yet as God wills, not I. And What He has given to Me, no one can take away and I come here not to seek to do My own bidding but that of the Father.” Perhaps these things have the appearance of reasoning, but we do not find that orthodox faith is thus. For the thing must be distinguished as well as the person; one thing holds true as far as He is a man, another as far as He is God. And at the time this was not the only heresy being heard, but the Manichean madness was raging throughout Asia. The first attacked the divine nature, the second quite excluded and abolished the human. The wise prince meanwhile reflected to himself upon these matters, what ruinous evil they meant for his kingdoms. He considered that this would unleash a serious schism in the Church, and that security depended on unity in religion. He destroyed both schisms together, lest while he was attending to one the other might double its strength.
Sometimes the flight from evil leads into evil, when the end of one evil is the origin of another. If there is too much cold or heat in the human body it fares poorly: inevitably the result is rheum, coughing, fever, cramps, pustules; winter does not freeze nor does summer’s heat beat down incessantly, but God mitigates both with spring. Perfection lies not in extremes, prodigality and avarice are equally vices. If a shoe is larger than the foot it hurts, if smaller, it blisters; comfort is to be found in between. Virtue is the mid-point between vices, whatever exceeds diminishes, and when something loses strength it gains it. Virtue avoids what is, like Scylla and Charybdis, too little or too much; it stands sufficient between the two. Constantine was not ignorant of this: with the sword he cut away the wounded parts to keep them from infecting the rest. But since Arius had spread his message throughout the world and more serious evil had arisen then, he called the Council of Nicaea, at which he himself sat with the others and at no higher level than they. Kings may learn from him not to be wholly involved with war, but also to attend to the sacred Muses. It is said that Caesar, Alexander, Cyrus, and countless princes of earlier times were of like mind. Therefore, not inappropriately, the poets have imagined that Minerva is goddess of learning and warfare alike. The warlike horse of Bellerophon brought forth Hippocrene, the Muses’ sacred fountain, with his hoof. Truly absurd, indeed Turkish, is the opinion that the Muses weaken the noble soul. I admit that they forbid savagery; whoever wants to be uncivilized should abstain from the Muses and go live with the Satyrs. Strength without wisdom runs headlong to ruin; he is best who knows, and does, many things. Unless you do, what good is it to know? Let virtue be practical: knowing is for your own sake, doing is for others. This great man was stirred by both alike: and he dared to pursue what he knew, to the immediate destruction of heretics.
Pious Athanasius was at the Council, the foremost priest of the faith there, an able man in learning, eloquence, and wisdom; and he refuted Arius with great authority, turning whatever he asserted against him. The heretic was banished: Constantia soon after persuaded Constantine to recall him from exile. This was done, and a new council met at Tyre, and there he ordered it to be stricter in its new edicts. He established all the issues that were to be determined, so his wife’s persuasion prevailed: but while the great man was hurrying there he died. Thus the best God willed that a worse end not come from this beginning. Arius miserably discharged his bowels into a foul sewer, so that wickedness might not work its way unharmed. The Council of Tyre was dissolved, the world turned away from this filth, more attentive from that time on to the pure faith.
28. ON MAXIMIAN, WHO SUBDUED THE KINGDOM OF ARMORICA AND CALLED THE CONQUERED PLACE BRITANNIA, WHICH EVEN TODAY IS CALLED LITTLE BRITAIN
Maximian took the heiress of the British throne as his wife after Caradocus had courted her for him. Raised to this new status, he gathered troops and ships, and crossed the sea to the kingdom of Armorica. He laid waste cities, drove people from the countryside, and like a torrent flattened anything that came in his path. He conquered the Armoricans and from that time on required that these people be called Britons rather than their own national name. The lamb does not fear the wolf or the deer the savage lion more than the Gauls feared you. Conquered Germany grudgingly yielded to your power, Maximian.
He set up the imperial throne at Treves, then went to Rome, and at Rome, Gratian, put you to flight, and unless I am deceived, Valentinian, killed you; nor was this the last of his deeds. Meanwhile, the Pelagian heresy was now growing everywhere, poisoning the British as well. But you, Germanus, reconverted the lapsed Christians, and you, upright Lupus, also repaired their faith.
29. ON VORTIMER, EXCELLENT SON OF AN EXECRABLE FATHER
The king died and powerful men fought to succeed him: one attacked another, another attacked someone else. Vortiger nevertheless was consumed with hope for the throne, and it was scarcely a secret that he was soon in line for it. He put the monk Constans forward as king, safely taking advantage of the man’s simple-mindedness. He made overtures to the King of the Picts, winning them over to his will by gift-giving. The king was killed by the suborned Picts and Vortiger killed them under the appearance of doing justice. The criminal punished the criminals, thereby enabling himself to carry on his evil plots among the people. He was author and avenger of this murder, but the gods would not allow such evil to lie unpunished forever. Accordingly, he got the crown by force, fraud, and murder, sent for Hengist, and showed favor to the Saxons. But when the murder had at last been found out, the lords deposed the villain Vortiger from his throne. Vortimer, enthroned once his father had been cast out, was a good king, truly noble. From the father’s vices the splendid virtues of the son shone brightly, as white does when contrasted with black. He drove savage Hengist from his native shores, renewed his people, and put the Saxons to flight. His cruel stepmother, however, took him from our midst (o cruelest of crimes!) by giving him poison.
30. ON AURELIUS AMBROSIUS’ VICTORIES AGAINST THE SAXONS AND VORTIGER
Vortiger returned to the kingdom and at his wife’s urging called Hengist back from exile. Hengist again came here filling the wide sea with countless Saxon ships. Here, under the guise of a pretended treaty, he slew with sword 460 barons. He took Vortiger and imprisoned him until he could get what he wanted: a wolf was a wolf’s prey. Then he went on the attack everywhere, slaughtering the British everywhere, slaughter and terror were everywhere. When things had come to this pass, the Britons requested that Aurelius put their kingdom under his protection, and he did so. In short time he surrounded Vortiger and his headquarters with an army and burned everything to the ground. With Eldol’s support Ambrosius then vanquished, scattered, and killed all the Saxons. With Eldad’s counsel, like Samuel in Agag, Eldol had Hengist beheaded. He put an end to the rest of the fighting, besieged Octa and his kinsman Eosa; both were allowed to live. Aurelius spoke with Merlin and desired to know how a monument to the murdered barons might be built. He buried the dead lords and as an eternal tomb for them built the Giants’ Ring. Pascentius, Vortiger’s son, again started a war; though beaten on the battlefield, he succeeded by cunning. One Aeopa, pretending that he was a doctor, administered poison to Aurelius as he lay ill at Winchester. At his entombment, lest so famed a ruler die unnoticed, a comet shone in the heavens.
31. ON THE PROPHECIES OF MERLIN
If any reader wishes to know whether the Britons were philosophers, mathematicians, or astronomers, he should read about you, Merlin. You consulted the bright stars, experimented with medicinal herbs and with metals. And you studied the winged creatures’ flight, examined the beasts’ entrails, and what didn’t you do to amaze the world? You knew the past and future, told prophetic tales, and sang of many strange things, clouding over your prophetic words so no one would be able to know them without divine illumination. There is no need to commemorate these things in my verse because they are already sung throughout the world.
32. ΟΝ UTHER PENDRAGON’S VICTORIES OVER THE SAXONS
Savage Octa and Eosa, rebels, took up arms again, but Uther captured both in their camp. Once they were defeated the whole nation rejoiced, and all the people hoped to throw off the Saxon yoke. Uther went to London, was crowned here, imprisoned Octa and Eosa. With glad rites he celebrated Easter, all the people joined in, and every citizen enjoyed the holidays. The nobles then joined in groups from every region, organs played with lyre and trumpet. Among the nobles coming here was Gorlois Duke of Cornwall and with him his wife, more beautiful than the other women. Uther fell deeply in love with her, the Duke was insulted, and against the king’s will they both suddenly went back to Cornwall. The king sent for them, the duke refused to come, and they made ready for war; from being moved by love, they were moved by wrath. The duke fortified his towns, building an invincible fortress where he secluded the fair Igern. But Merlin furnished assistance (thus art is frustrated by art) and the king enjoyed his pleasure. Taking on the outward appearance of the duke, he enjoyed Igern, and a concealed union begot Arthur. While the king was out of his country pursuing his love of venery, at home others were destroying his kingdom with treachery. For the sinfulness of the king teaches his people how to be wicked; and by his example they think any wickedness is permitted. Fierce Octa and Eosa secretly broke out of prison then and fled to their supporters to prepare for new battles. There was an ancient city, then called Verulam in the Brigantine language, by no means unknown. Proud of its strength, fortified walls, and high towers, it dared to raise its standards against Uther. It brought Eosa and Octa over to its side, thinking that through wickedness evil would be made safe.
A great defeat of royal troops occurred then, bad luck in a good cause. Uther, to find out about it, although ill and weak at the time, got up from his sickbed. He ordered that a litter be readied for him in which he could more easily enter the midst of his enemies. Octa beheld him with great indignation, and Eosa laughing said, “What good is this? Will this be a battle with feeble shadows? Is this air more healthy for a sick man than for anyone else? Are we so weak that this half-dead man dares to rouse us into battle with feeble threats? Maybe the old man would rather die in war than peace! So be it — an easy thing: anyone could kill him.”The British king took this bombast and long taunt of Eosa lightly, as was fitting. For majesty and anger do not go well together; he rarely has good judgment who is easily moved by wrath. He ignored the scoundrels’ quarrelsome words, more intent on things at hand, keeping to his plan so as to accomplish what he was doing. On his litter he went around to his squadrons positioned here and there, supporting any unit that needed it. Here he divided his ranks, here he brought men forward, here sent them back, here moved them up with entreaties, here with praise, here with threats. He left nothing untried, moved every stone, to ward off his enemy’s attacks and traps. With swords and shields the Britons scaled Verulam’s high walls on ladders. They killed some with swords, some with stones, some with missiles from their catapults, some, where the defense was weakest, they burned to death. The Britons rejoiced, then fear struck the rebels, and because there was no safety for these wretches in the city they abandoned their fortress and sent assault troops onto the open battlefield: fury found its weapons. King Pendragon pursued more stoutly and soon there was hope of damping the hostile flames. Little more needed to be done: Eosa fell between fighting and fleeing, fierce Octa was killed after him. Once victory was assured, the king sounded his triumphal hymns and spoke: “I would rather win half-dead than be beaten in good health.” Not long after, however, Uther died of a deadly poison because of Saxon treachery
33. ON THE MAGNIFICENCE AND MAGNANIMITY OF THE MOST NOBLE KING ARTHUR
Whoever refuses to admire the ancient Britons should read about the royal deeds of Arthur. His father was Uther Pendragon. Both famous, O how alike they were, father and son! The son’s virtues were innate from his roots, like eagle’s from eagle’s, lion’s from lion’s. He set up the first knightly order and allowed his knights to establish it as the Round Table. There was such magnificence then in the British court, such nobility, glory, ceremony, honor, that noblemen came from afar, and kings from all parts of the world, to see Arthur. As he exceeded others in ceremony, so too in war, and unless it was in Arthur’s name there was no fame then. His sword was Caliburn, his spear was Ron, with them he killed the monster Ritho. Indeed, he did more than can be told in our song or in the space allowed me. Enough to say he was Arthur: in this name he was feared and loved by unnamed races. This nation survived with his aid; magnanimous kings and dukes fell with his stroke. He killed King Sertorius of Libya and the King of Bithynia, and beheaded both with his sword. Lucius Tiberius died in this battle, in whom the apex of Roman glory then stood. The dead man was brought to Rome for the senate to see what British glory was. King Arthur declared that no other tribute should be expected, beyond the one he had exacted in the corpse of the dead man. When he had accomplished these things, he wanted to go to Rome, but Modred kept him home with sedition. He pursued this man, violent with sword and fire, receiving and giving many defeats, and after Modred had been killed he himself died. But he who kills his enemy is victor even if he dies. Dying slowly from his wound, noble Arthur was thus taken up into heaven, the glory of Brut’s nation.
34. ON THE FOUR SUCCEEDING KINGS
After him Constantine, Connan, Vortiper, and after these Malgo had the royal scepter. The last, had he not been a Sodomite, would have been the equal of the former princes. But the powerful men’s example easily spread to the people and they had crime worse than crime itself.
35. ON THE CIVIL WARS OF THE BRITONS
When once the sun has risen to the mid-point of its course, it declines slowly toward its resting place. Thus it happens in empires: once they have reached their zenith they undergo their ends like everything else. Nothing is eternal in the sublunary world, and what is valued today reverts to worthlessness tomorrow. God who from eternity always sees everything that falls wants this to be the state of human affairs. This nation, which had long been the glory of the world, this nation which was feared by other nations, harbored civil war in its heart as a result of enjoying too much good fortune. It fell headlong in its fate, and like Thyestes, not knowing its own children, devoured them. She who formerly attacked others now turned her remaining destructive force against her own womb. She who had once been happy was now sad, most sad indeed, and her injuries oppressed her more grievously in that she had once been happy. As when varying winds do battle on the sea and Boreas pierces the sea itself with his breath, and a ship is tossed now here, now there in the storm, having no place to anchor itself securely, it is led to rocks, sandbars, and threatening shores, and the sailor cannot get his bearings, and one man, all hope lost, boats shattered, escapes in a lifeboat, as another, dashed against a reef, becomes food for fishes, and another, because it means less to lose one’s goods than one’s life, throws his possessions into the sea: so in nations when there are civil wars, there is no peace, no prosperity, no security.
Once the order of things is subverted, everything is turned upside down, law is neglected, loyalty is broken. Honor is cast off, virtue silenced, sobriety is a crime: unless you do wrong you suffer. The king suspects his people, the people their king, each deceives in plotting against the other. Here Britons pillaged Britons, and one friend another. Here a servant laid plots against his master. Here a father pursued his offspring, a son his father; a daughter here cut her mother’s throat, a wife her husband’s. A baby was murdered here while nursing at his mother’s breast, here a mutilated wife was dragged by her hair. Here a priest lay stabbed at the holy altar, a chaste, unwilling virgin was here defiled. Everyone, willingly or not, became a soldier; fearing wars, people waged wars: each one’s safety lay with his sword. No one would rather be forced than force; in strength it is better to inflict wrong than to endure it. The judge avoided the bench, was afraid to be feared. During war the law keeps silence and seeks from others the help it once gave them. The queen did not rest secure in her chamber, nor did the king on his throne command what he wished. The face of the state was dirty, as if all the earth had been drawn back into ancient chaos. Everywhere there was lamentation, sobbing, cries. Everyone showed misery, no one would show mercy. God’s churches sat empty, and where there had been sacred rites and assemblies none stirred but the owl. Nycticorax built her nest in the pulpit, kites sat on the bells, and filth lay all about the city. The frightened townsman fled to the woods; thieves lived in the towns, and worse, brute animals. No one pressed the grapes, no plowman tilled the fields, the shepherd abandoned his harmless sheep. One man sowed the corn, another reaped it; one accumulated gold, another wasted it; one grazed his cattle, another ate them. Idle fellows enjoyed your buildings since yours was a bare subsistence beneath an empty heaven. One shyster after another wore out your purple robes while you shivered unclothed — or I err, wandering. The glutton consumed your corn right before your eyes, a huge banquet, while you yourself starved. "Did you hide the treasure?" (You dare not ask, "Did you steal it?") You don’t know where to put it and are afraid to keep it. Take arms? You don’t know whom to join with. Refuse to? O where will you hide when you become the prey of every enemy? Do you want to live? nothing is more uncertain among your enemies. Do you want to die? Who helps wretched men to die? Alas, in recounting the troubles of civil war I would despair if I did not lack the heart for it.
36. ON AUGUSTINE, SENT BY GREGORY THE GREAT TO BRITAIN
In the meanwhile the kingdom was divided up and what had been under one king was placed in the hands of several. Holy Augustine was sent to the Britons to sanctify them and the Saxons with sacred religion. They say that at Bangor in those days there was a famous monastery, made great with many honors; the holy abbot Dinothius presided there, he who outshone all others in talent, eloquence, and faith. Here lived two thousand one hundred holy monks who offered sacrifice and prayers to God. No monastery produced as many students as were within Bangor’s walls. Pious Augustine asked them to preach the gospel to the Saxons with them. Dinothius reluctantly heard this request to collaborate (for he was a proud-hearted man). “Will we, most excellent father,” he said, “give God’s sacred truths to Saxon swine? On the contrary, what you want does not seem right for us to accept. Who would put a free man’s neck into a yoke? We are not subject to you, but if you are inclined to such a project, go ahead, as you wish, our lot is not yours; you follow your path and let us take our own,” he said. “We are not so miserable (although we are thoroughly miserable) that we Britons need your aid. It is shameful to be enslaved to your enemies, troublesome to appease them, unacceptable to support them: not to have been a harm to them does harm.”
With sad countenance Augustine him kindly and remained firmly silent about the things that displeased them. When Ethelbert King of Kent heard this he grew angry and readied his army. "To think that Augustine has been scorned, that the Angles have been taken for nothing, and what is worse, by monks! Who could bear this," he said, "unless he were a dead body, tongueless and heartless?" His fury allowed him no delay: he persuaded Edelfrid, then King of Northumbria, to assist him. His armies were outfitted and he brought his legions, readied for war, to fight on the fields of Chester. Bromael the consul there, to protect the monks, went to war against the enemy and endured the first assault of the war. Twelve hundred monks died by the sword there. O how sweet was their salvation in dying thus! Martyrdom depends on the cause, not the penalty, and the better the cause the less the penalty. Edelfridus the victor, triumphing with the slaughter of the monks, moved his headquarters to Bangor’s soil. But the fortunes of war do not last long: at Bangor’s walls the victor was vanquished. For Blederic Duke of Cornwall routed him as he was exulting and made him take shameful flight. Thus does fortune return to those cast down and depart from the proud: he who stands still, let him look to see that he is not falling.
37. ON CADWALLO’S RULE
After many battles and the dangers of prolonged warfare that the Britons had been waging with the Saxons, Edelfridus and Cadvannus agreed upon peace, and remained as long as they lived. Both swore to this treaty of friendship and pledged their word with sureties. King Salomon then ruled in Armorica; the one king entrusted his offspring to him as did the other. There they were brought up from early boyhood. What youth took in at its beginning remained. Salomon saw to it that, since they were equal in age and honors they should be as alike as possible in their way of living. They pursued exactly the same skills in arms, athletics, learning, archery, and the javelin. In this way Salomon King of Little Britain had them raised, as befits those born to rule. For he was a very grave old man, in whom royal life was lived as uprightly as possible. A wise man who did not enjoy the name of Salomon in vain, so astute was he intellectually. Precepts are of no avail where example does not shine forth. He who is evil can scarcely make another man good. From the beginning he taught them to worship God in his manner and to render each person his due (this is what justice means). They should not be troublesome, nor be in company with such men, not be too open-handed or tight-fisted. Cadwallo accomplished much of distinction with Salomon, nor was Edwin inferior. In short, each advanced so far in virtue that you could hardly know whether the one or the other was foremost. At last, their parents now dead, they went from Salomon’s court to their fathers’ kingdoms on well-rigged ships.
Edwin ruled the northern shores across the Humber. Cadwallo held the other lands under his sway. Everything proceeded peacefully among the Britons, and there was a firm bond of fast love, until at last Cadwallo, relying on the counsel of Brian, made unloving wars against Edwin. During them he eventually was beaten and after many battles retreated, forced into a disgraceful flight. Edwin meanwhile laid waste the Britons with sword and fire — what does anger not dare and do? Cadwallo often set out to return, but the augur Pellitus would frustrate the king’s undertakings with his auguries. He was indeed, it is said, knowledgeable of things to come, and well-versed in the courses of stars and birds. When the British king saw how he had been deceived, and how foolish it would be to hope for victory, he again sailed to Armorica, beaten, his army disbanded, begging assistance from Salomon. When Salomon had heard the petitions and laments of Brut’s offspring, he spoke as follows.
38. SPEECH OF SALOMON KING OF THE ARMORICAN BRITONS TO CADWALLO KING OF GREATER BRITAIN
“Splendid young men (for you are the subject of my complaint), I sympathize with you in your overthrow. How has it happened that ancient Britons, driven out by mere Angles, are seeking outside help? Do I call you Britons, descended from the root of Troy? Can I believe you are Priam’s, the Dardanian race? How foully declined from your ancestors, to be so reviled, so vanquished, so fugitive! These men were able to conquer princes of Dacia, Picts, Gauls, Germans, Libyans, and Romans. But you? By your forefathers, a most invincible nation, that was given to you which you ill deserved, he said. Your forefathers’ battles stretched out the bounds of their empire to the great walls of Rome. In you there is nothing of that pristine strength, no conquests to protect, so far are you from your forebears. Only the power of Rome could overcome them, and this would not have happened had it not been for secret sedition at home. You cowardly rascals, even in open war the very Saxons beat you, and not with spear but with swords. Those men had been a terror to nations who knew them, and the world shook on hearing the name of Britons. You are now a tavern and marketplace joke with old men and children, and chattering old women ridicule you. You also, Cadwallo, brought up in our court, a boy who at my instruction drank deep of Mars, who often in your youthful years with us brought back such great trophies of your soldiering: whether wielding the pike or casting the spear through the air, or spurring on the proud horses. How far have you departed from your old self. In arms you were first, now you are last in rank: or have you forgotten your race, your teacher, and the court where you first drew your nourishment? Tell me now, how does this forgetfulness of yourself and us come about? Why are you exiled? Great-souled prince, gather up your fallen spirit, a better God approaches when fortune falls away.”
39. CADWALLO’S ANSWER TO SALOMON
“You raise objections to many things, illustrious king, about me and my homeland, and I admit to every kind of misdeed. So please do not think me vain (although unjust fortune has laid me low) if I deny the most obvious charges. And far be it from me to fabricate a story for you, who see all with acute judgment, especially now, prince, when I ask your help in dire straits. Fate has made me wretched, but not foolish. True it is, I do not dispute, we were beaten by the Angles, and now, vanquished, we endure exile: I admit it. We are fugitives from our homeland, have lost our cities, forts, households, and everything else dear to us: I admit it. The deeds of the ancient Brigantes are most famous, and we have lapsed from our forefathers: I admit it. Britons were the delight and terror of the world, but we disgrace our fatherland: I admit it. We are a joke to the whole world, you say: I admit it, and anything more that can be said. Yet we have not forgotten you, though I confess, king, that we are less suited to compare ourselves with your own merits. In adversity only power has suffered: the mind cannot be taken away without death. The mind is the man, as the saying goes, the will determines whether an act is good or evil.
“You recall many things for me which I do not deny are true; but consider the intentions and occasions behind the facts. We are conquered, but how? Was it not the fortunes of war? Can we stand in the way of the angry gods? We fled, vanquished: yet as men who did not wish to surrender, but nourished by new hope of being able to return. We tried to return but Aeolus prevented it, driving our reluctant boats where he pleased. Can we force the hostile winds? Or divert Neptune’s angry threats? The things that lie outside ourselves are out of our control — for example, being conquered, losing, or dying. Some things are owing to Nature, others to chance, for whether we suffer these things or not is God’s doing. Willing and not willing are properly our own: will holds the master’s place in our bodies. To stand, sit, less or more, to go, stay, passion and feeling, hope, fear, anger, grief: these are properly our own. Do we will to conquer? That lies with us, but that we are conquered lies elsewhere.
“But unless it is concealed from you what provokes God’s just wrath and what makes our country miserable, attend, I pray, to this: I shall briefly report the reason for our exile, the evil behind our overthrow, and the people’s offenses against the fatherland. For often the downfall of a prince and kingdom proceeds from the people. Religion is despised; those who ought to be shining examples of piety are, rather, sinks of iniquity. Once polluted water gets into the spring, who can hope the water will be otherwise in the rivers? The seat of justice has become a commodity: favor of the powerful is purchased with gold, not goodness. Public reverence wipes away minor faults, and dignity walks unsuspected of crime. Kings give ready ear to flatterers who look after their own interests, not the kingdom’s. And just as the sun is darker when the clouds pass over it, and makes the land cooler with its rays, so the flatterer, who is clearly the cloud of the court, shuts out others who deserve much better. So neither virtue, nor the pursuits of Mars or the Muses, nor learning receive what they deserve from the king’s rays. The cloud grows thicker from the vapors drawn up, and such people obtain their strength from fume and filth. The cloud is dispersed in wind, thunder, and lightning; these men give birth to rivalries, strife, open war. Add, moreover to these faults the court pitfall of haughtiness, luxury, venery. Virtue and vice are weighed equally, vice does not hang more weighty in the balance. Go into the countryside, the plowman becomes prey to the greedy landlord, the splendor at court is maintained by the country’s hardships. The commons becomes a sponge: every evil starts in the royal court, from which it flows into the commons. Just as when there is an illness in the head it descends into the healthy limbs and from there weakens the rest of the body, so injustice spreads from the prince’s court and into the countryside. The example does even more harm than the evil. Vice smiles at vice, virtue walks in darkness scorned and neglected.
“These are the evils of our country, it grieves me to say: the morbid tokens, I admit, of corruption. But you should know that they originated when I was a child in our fathers’ time, while I was far away. And I should not be blamed for what I neither did nor could prevent. Everything unjust proceeded from our ancient forebears to reach a saturation point in our time. I call you gods to witness whether I have deserved this; may you only forgive my long-broken covenant. But just as the transgressions of untamed youth often do not burden the times, but when accumulated are apt to stir up the greybeards (old age being less likely to endure these things), so it is in kingdoms: for the crime of the present may perhaps in a later time receive expiation. When either the kingdom is in discord or the king is a child, these evils will erupt to the downfall of the nation. From such things, king, have these calamities now poured down upon me. I am blamed for committing another’s crimes. This is why I fled, a beaten man, why I wander thus in exile, why I beg, hope for, your aid.”
40. SALOMON TO CADWALLO
“I am very moved by your reasons and am thus prepared to support you and stand fast with you. You lacked luck, not courage, Cadwallo, and having borne adversity well, you deserve good fortune. No man becomes truly miserable unless by his own accord: if you do something under coercion the fault lies with fate, not with you. Whoever is forced does not do, but suffers; it is not up to you to will further; the gods govern power. As quickly as you overcame me with words, Cadwallo, so quickly, I hope, will you be able to overcome your enemies.”
There was no delay: an army was enlisted. To prevent the augur Pellitus from informing Edwin of their plans, Brian hastened to Britain in disguise to get the augur out of the way, which happened as follows. The augur chanced to leave Edwin’s gates where the other, pretending to be a beggar, killed him. He then escaped unrecognized to Exeter; Peanda pursued him and surrounded Exeter hoping to capture him. Cadwallo, meanwhile, invaded with his ships, defeated his enemies, and once the army was scattered the leader was captured. Peanda swore that from that time on he would be the Saxons’ perpetual enemy, desiring to show his loyalty on the battlefield. Cadwallo continued fighting with Edwin. Edwin collected the Saxons all together in arms, and they marched in union. Both men pressed their troops on; finally the victory was Cadwallo’s, and the Saxons fell. Stalwart Edwin, bane of the Britons, was killed at a place commonly known as Hedfield. After him Offridus ruled, after him Cadwan, both of whom the victor killed in a similar way. Now Oswald became ruler of the northern parts; the Britons harassed him with sword and fire. A wall stood between the Britons and Scots (Severus built it). On one side the Scots’ territory, on the other side the Britons’ was bounded. Cadwallo sent Oswald fleeing here, Peanda followed, and after many battles killed him. Thus, as in Cadmaean battles, Saxons died exchanging wounds with Saxons. By now Cadwallo had had his fill of both good and bad luck and had learned to better endure both kinds. He grew ill, the Britons grieved, but it is a pointless sadness that hopes to bend the fates. Lachesis will not change her decrees on account of healing herbs, tears, prayers, or threats. Burdened with illness, not old age or weakness, nor was his illness a familiar one, noble Cadwallo was transported to the heavenly courts, the last glory, splendor, and honor of Brut’s race.
41. ON THE END AND WRETCHEDNESS OF THE BRITONS
Cadwallader his son succeeded to the kingdom, in whom the eradication of the British line was accomplished. Now tears, not song, are called for, cruel famine followed war, devouring plague followed famine. Thus evils were piled on evils, one calamity passed into others, as God ordained. Although slow, God’s revenge is sure, often with constant intensity, sometimes at a relenting pace. Now Phoebus returned into Cancer, now Sirius burned the fields, and the water in the midst of the rivers dried up. Earth withheld her fruits, no grass covered the fertile meadows, the forest stood bereft of its locks. In one place a herd of cattle died, in another a shepherd and his flock, here a father or son, here a boy and an old man. A nurse ate her child here, nor did this suffice: to satisfy her hunger she vainly cut off her own flesh. Trembling earth herself gaped with open mouth to devour those whom she could not feed. And whatever famine had left untouched, anything remaining, a black plague consumed. Plague and famine are related words in Greek, limos and loimos, because through them, as through war, God’s wrath is avenged. The divine powers punish an impure world with these three, their method of afflicting the human race.
When war is not fitting they try famine; they do not stop there, for those whom they cannot break with famine they try with pestilence. It encroaches little by little at first, like cancer, but then it speeds up, until at last the disease is striking everywhere. The first fear is slight, but it grows more serious increasing daily, its strength increasing as it spreads. Swift contagion attacks from every quarter throughout the kingdom, snatching away young and old alike. It does not spare the tender child or the old woman, is no respecter of wit or beauty. It does not distinguish between the golden courts of kings and the huts of shepherds but works its cruelty on both. No balm can protect beauty, no salve strength, no fumes can guard the brain, no false hair the head. No medicine is strong enough, neither amomian ointment nor marjoram gives relief, and sacred myrrh is powerless. Unguents and elixirs cannot benefit the sick: the disease is worse than anything art can aid. While the doctor is consulting the patient, he himself drops dead; while the nurse is tending the child, she is the one to perish. Friends and acquaintances do not visit each other: fear disrupts the obligations of friendship. Those who flee the towns die in the empty fields; those who flee the countryside die in the town squares. Decaying corpses infect the pure air with their stench: no one digs graves for the dead. The shepherd deserts his sheep, the merchant his ships, the farmer his plows, the beasts their fields, the birds the air, the fish the water, the king his throne, the nobles the court, the people their towns; there is no place where they can live.
O pitiful Britons! O people, O times! For who is so iron-hearted but that he will soften with tears on speaking of these things? In a far away land is a people across the Severn, in recent times known among themselves as Cambrians. Theirs is a mountainous country, yet full of rivers and even valleys; nor does it make itself unpleasant to farmers. The remnant of Britons fled here from the armies, since they could not live safely on their native shores. Here they concealed themselves in hideaways and thickets, wherever safety was to be found. The king himself went to Armorica and presented himself to Alan, who held the throne now that Salomon was dead. Meanwhile, Britain lay uninhabited; no one coveted it for a prize; the first man who dared could have it. At last, when the plague had subsided, wild Saxons made their way here in countless ships. From sea to sea the Saxons filled the bare land with a new people. When the king of the Britons had heard of this, he greatly desired to see his ancient country. Yet as he turned this over in his mind long and deeply (for he thought of nothing else now, night and day), he heard an angelic voice come down from heaven: “Let not the king of the Britons visit his country until, an age will come — this Merlin predicted — when the Britons may again seek their abandoned land. In the meantime, Cadwallader, I beg you to go to Rome. There Pope Sergius will receive you as a guest. Let the British not look for any return, but henceforward you may pity them as an unfortunate people. Only through the merits of faith will the land be allowed to be the homeland of your British people, and that will be in a time to come.”
He told King Alan what had occurred and asked what he thought of such a mysterious thing. He in turn consulted the sayings of the prophetic Sibyl and pored over Merlin’s and Aquila’s books to determine whether something might be found in these writings that would adequately fit these revelations. All the writings agreed: seeing this, Alan persuaded Cadwallader to go to Rome for new advice. Leaving his country, he went to Rome where Sergius received him grandly and with kind hospitality. There, in a short time, the king being taken with a sudden illness, he departed from the remnants of his flesh for heaven.
42. APOSTROPHE AT THE PRESENT TIME
Cadwallader’s shade to the nymph Alethia
“In heaven’s name, where am I? And where am I borne? how brought back? After so many nights, so many ages gone by, a thousand years passed beneath the gates of Avernus? Who calls me forth at last from the infernal shades? Who compels miserable me to visit the mortal world, and makes me unwillingly enter the abode I left behind? Wasn’t it enough for me to remove my crown and take my vows privately to the supreme God? How am I called back to my native places after funeral rites and being washed in Lethean springs? Whom do I see? Who follows me? Whoever you are, unhappy one, do not touch me: I am no mortal, but a shade.”
THE NYMPH ALETHIA
“Pardon me if I seem perhaps troubling for you. I am a nymph — do not scorn the gentle nymphs. I dwell now in the cities, now in the country, visit the meadows sometimes, the green forests, or move about the court of kings, even in churches. I am the daughter of time, to whom Britain was given in infancy, that she might drink in the teachings of the holy faith and good morals: for from her first morsels, whatever she took in stuck fast and kept its original savor. But say who you are. Where are you going and where did you come from? Why is it so painful for you to see your native shores? Whoever you are, I am not afraid, nor should I be feared in return. I am a nymph — do not scorn the gentle nymphs.”
“I am the man, if you would know, Cadwallader, once king of the Britons, who willingly gave up my scepter and kingdom. By angelic command I was compelled to go to Rome and lived out the rest of my life securely in praying. And when the last lines of my sad life were drawn I was thrust down into the fearful shades. There Cerberus first met me at the gates, porter of hell, guardian of the shades, that three-formed dog. With his terrifying howls he demanded the customary bit of food. Once this is thrown into his mouth he gives entrance to the traveler. I entered dark Avernus’s threshold. There an old man met me, far advanced in years, of filthy countenance, beard hanging down to his feet, eyes staring beneath his rigid brow: with unkempt hair and aged wrinkles, this was he who transports dead souls by boat across the Stygian marsh, hell’s ferryman who, horribly in a loud, deep voice, calls the waiting souls to his shore. Once I had crossed shade-bearing Avernus, a vast and gloomy abyss opened out in the thick mist, filling my ears with frightening lamentation. Here they dropped tears, there struck their breasts in vain. Here some tore their hair, others gnashed their teeth; Pallor stood helpless here, there Starvation sat, on either side of Horror. Ixion turned about here, Sysiphus pushed his stone; here a vulture gnawed at Titius, there Tantalus stood forever thirsting, never gratifying his hunger. On the right Orestes was beset by the Furies. Here Nero, who so long polluted the world with human blood, filled his gullet with putrid fluid. And Caligula, who cruelly wrought many sufferings on Christians, was himself struck with ever-flailing whips. Heliogabalus stood here, Sardanapalus there, leprous, covered with ulcers, fetid; now they knew the wages of luxury, what it is to indulge the belly. Nestorius, Donatus, and Arrius were there on the left, forever roasted in inextinguishable fire; here the Monachi were condemned to eternal darkness and ever-boiling waters: here lay a merchant, there a lawyer, a porter, and a courtier were met on equal terms. Learned, illiterate, wealthy, poor, depraved and deprived, spendthrift and miser were bound up in the same chains. Rustic and prince, there was no discrimination anywhere, the noise was fearful, mourning and sobbing everywhere.
“While things were thus, someone knocked at Pluto’s gates. One of the mortals this appeared to be, I know not who. It is unusual for mortals to enter the Stygian caverns if the shade has not departed the body. At one time the victor over monsters was able to do this, and they say that Orpheus took Eurydice from here with the sound of the tortoise-shelled lyre; Hades yields no other examples. But whoever he was he dared to beat boldly on the gates, surrounded by Furies, a man of pale countenance, hair down to his shoulders, uneven teeth, unusually thin-bearded, body tall yet slender, promising its strength not in itself but in the use of arms. As one not readily inclined to speak, yet bold, here he spoke: ‘You, O venerable powers of Erebus, hear our plea, and if you are not oblivious to mortals, I beg you to hasten to aid them in misfortune. An island lies in the midst of the sea called England by its natives, formerly Britain, and it wishes to be so-called again. Once the mother of religion, it is now its cruel stepmother. Once it was an anchor of the orthodox faith, but now it is the lurking-place of heretics, prison-house of Saints; to sum up in one word, almost Gehenna itself. From here Wycliffe spread his teachings in the world, after him Jerome of Prague and Huss, and then Zwingli, and that great threat to the Pope, Luther. After these an intolerable throng of sects polluted the world; there was no lack of kings who would diligently cultivate those errors, and the viper took its cruel counsel from the asp. But unless my hopes deceive me, their actions will not go unpunished. In your name, in that of the Fates, the shades, the marshy Styx, and if there can be any greater name, I swear again and again that I will not cease until I have avenged this wickedness. The King of the Britons, his dear wife, and the royal offspring, the nobility and the fathers of the nation, the flower of the land will all alike be sent into Tartarean shades. Royal pomp will not rescue them, nor the glory of the brilliant court, nor the splendor of gold and purple. Neither their great faith nor their wisdom will protect them: they will all at once, I say, be sent into the Stygian flood. The kingdom’s face must be changed: everything will be carried away, if only you will favor my undertakings with your good will: and if something yet worse could be added to these things, it would suit me.’
“When he had spewed forth these words, Aeacus rising from his high throne began to speak thus: ‘Where are you from, whoever you are? Or how may I dignify such an unjust man with the name of a mortal, perpetrator of an evil deed. I won’t delay; you seek our aid in vain, wicked man. Could you think that we would be sponsors of crimes, we who are forever obligated to firmly punish human sinfulness, to inflict penalties on wrongdoers? You are mistaken: it is proper for a judge to be untainted with any wrong: pure of heart, hands unsoiled, blindly impartial, and one who does not shrink from the right out of either envy or love. Is this the way you enact your judgments on pitiful humanity, so that everyone hopes he can corrupt the judge and direct him from the right path with a prayer, a price, or a threat? That’s not Aeacus’s way: you will see as much quite soon if you don’t give this project up. Is it so simple a matter to decide a kingdom’s fortunes and at one stroke eradicate the magnates and leaders of the nation? To eliminate king, queen, and royal children in a fiery flash? To betray a nation as spoil to foreign nations? And this from Christians? What, I ask, is more savage? Indeed, what is more horrible — and could the Turks be drenched in more blood? But persist in your errors and that kingdom will grow rich with countless souls; evil men like you will increase great Pluto’s kingdom.’ He spoke, and suddenly disappeared into the darkness: the other turned away as one frustrated in his evil hopes, dumbstruck by the anger kindled in the judge. Nymph, you know to the letter those things that happened in the underworld: tell me, nymph, what followed next.
“You tell me of wonders, and I in turn will tell you of other wonders: now listen. This villain whom you described with several distinguishing marks is named Catesby, of gentle lineage. He was the wicked contriver of this crime that you expound (if doubtfully, as though beneath a cloudy mist). This man, long plotting the overthrow of king and kingdom, took steps to carry it out. There is a place where laws against the criminals of the land are drawn up. Here the king, prince, queen, and their splendid court were to meet on the fifth of November; here, too, the nobility, the holy fathers, the luminaries of the law, and a number of the gentry elected from all parts of the land. But that man, so as to prevent what the king intended, joined to himself like-minded accomplices to carry out this outrage: they were watchful lest someone detect their plan, and swore an oath of complete silence. First they secretly made excavations beneath the recesses of the earth: this was not satisfactory. Soon another approach had to be taken, and there was no lack of determination for the scheme: underneath the place where the great meeting of the kingdom would sit lies a secret room, scarcely penetrated by the sun, and lying so far within that it was seen by few. Here, here, I say (but my tongue trembles to say the rest), they filled thirty-six barrels with gunpowder; they dispersed these so as to increase the damage from them; and to keep them from being seen they hid them under pieces of wood and iron, insuring that the powder would double its force thus weighed down. While they were thus threatening imminent destruction and there was nothing more to do but light a fire, the plot failed. The king suspected from a note that some such evil was afoot: how or when it would happen he did not know. Some of the notable men went to investigate but found nothing, and returned without suspecting anything. The king, however, whose mind had better judgment, and who from his early years was not unaccustomed to this kind of danger, did suspect a trap. He had them go back to explore more carefully whether or not deadly gunpowder was laid there for destruction. The mind often prophesies dangers to come and fears what it does not know. And now the day had come when the king and all his company were going to Parliament (as it is called). The searchers quietly went down into the storage room the night before, where Fawkes was to prepare everything to the last detail. Lord, Lord! was there ever before so diligent a man in so horribly wicked an affair, and so faithful and devoted to evil, and so undaunted? My Muse is dumbstruck to recall what that man did so fearlessly.
“He was captured. Nothing further was accomplished. Then he came to the court to be gazed at like a monster; he was not afraid on that account. Then he was placed in the king’s presence; he never changed his expression but was the same toward everyone wherever he went. He was taken to the Tower, his crime did not bother him; rather, he was sorry the evil had been thwarted. He was so brazen-faced, iron-willed, and adamant-hearted that he would not soften in any way, nor could anyone goad him out of his alarming boldness. Meanwhile, now that the plot was exposed, the other conspirators quickly took flight from the city into the country, there to stir up such fighting as they could. The battle was short and the victory slight. Catesby himself, the two Wrights, and Percy were killed in this battle, such as it was, as men who preferred to be killed to escape the law rather than to be captured while fighting: so much did their consciences terrify them. The others, since they could not resist, surrendered. Confessing their wrongdoing, they underwent just judgment, and having been convicted of high treason under the nation’s laws, they received penalties lighter than their crime. For no penalty is adquate to such wickedness, not the hook, not the wheel, not the brazen ox of the Syracusan tyrant. This was not the end of their crimes, not the last of their evils; perhaps their rash fury moved them to throw themselves headlong into this evil. But if I should tell you that there was a certain distinguished, learned, wise, religious man, an older man with titles, learning, seriousness, and long years, who indeed could have been a reverend bishop, and that he was the perpetrator of this crime, would you not wonder? But thus it was.
“There is a certain ambitious type of man dangerous to kings and fatal to those who believe him. By a contrived name (yet vainly) such men call themselves Jesuits, and dare impudently abuse the sweet name of Jesus, which is most sacred. It is a new order, vain, fantastical, and proud, not known to the world before, for (to tell the truth) it has scarcely existed seventy years. You were of this order, Garnet, and of this kind: for who is more serious than you, but who is a greater criminal? Who is more religious in external forms? But if you consider the soul, who is more seditious inside? Who knew better, did worse? You grew old in shame and treachery as in years: for throughout thrice six years there was never any treason without you, nor were you without treason, always prepared to destroy your country, less an actor than an author, lending advice, not action. But he who instructs and he who does a thing are equally at fault. You played the fox in hiding, but were careful to make others play the lions. If someone objects that he is unpersuaded of this, and that your only crime was in concealment, I answer, whoever does not prevent a crime when he can, aids and abets it. Surely in affairs of kings keeping silent is often a capital crime: for the prince’s well-being precedes the kingdom’s well-being. Let the cattle lose their herdsman, or the sheep their shepherd, or the ship its keel in a storm, all these cannot help go astray or die. How much more is this true, I ask, when the kingdom loses its prince? Nor was this crime killing only the king, but the king’s offspring. Nor just this, but doing away with the government and the kingdom itself. And sudden death would have the effect of being able to kill not only bodies but also souls.
“Heavens above, what an abyss and sea of wickedness this was! Now the French massacre, Cataline’s conspiracy, Caesar’s murder, and the destruction of Britain’s magnates wrought through deceit by cruel Hengist — these and any other cruel, grim, and horrible events that the world has brought into the sunlight, or will bring, are only trifles beside this unspeakable crime. Their ambition was (and I readily believe it) to surpass these other outrages with this crime. Such was once the desire of insane Herostratus, that man who burned down the Temple of Diana at Ephesus. Often the English people, with troubled souls, prayed for a king who could ensure their lasting peace with an heir, and when the voices of the nation were heard, behold! A king was given to us without discord. And he was neither a serpent who would destroy the people, nor Aesop’s roofbeam, who would allow the people greater presumptions of equality. Our king is not a Nero, Otho, Galba, or Vitellius, but a Constantine, a Trajan, and that Josias whom the Scriptures often call to mind, a religious man frequenting God’s churches, adorning them at great expense. Guardian of justice, anchor of the laws, refuge of peace, rich in the gifts of wit, eloquence, learning: exceptionally chaste in body, kind in heart. How lucky it has been that nature did not make him a harsh man; he is a blessing because he does not know how to be a tyrant. Liberal, generous, repaying good deeds to the deserving. In such a prince it is not too much praise to call him a frugal man — it little profits a king to be parsimonious. Why do I tarry over slight things? Scarcely a whole age is sufficient to depict rightly his extraordinary gifts of mind. But (terrbile to say it) however long he had been wished for, this beloved of the people, the wide world’s wonder, model to other kings was condemned (heavenly powers!) to sudden death. What could be worse even if he were lustful, impious, unlearned, senseless, and a tyrant?
“But finally may we hear what excuse they have for these actions? Perhaps they say the king promised favors to their own people — a pretext, but say it is so. And suppose that someone has promised a sword to Titius, and afterward Titius becomes insane. Must the promise to Titius then be kept? Not at all. If an heir has once determined to kill his father, does he not deserve to be disinherited? Who will deny it? Every kind of injury they receive, which they complain about long and often, has come from themselves. No one can be done a wrong by himself. They have made themselves a law, which if intemperate no wonder, since it was created from fire and brimstone; if too coarse, know that it was made out of iron and faggots. This argues that their offspring is legitimate in that it imitates the parent in its birth. But what of the tender little prince and his brother? How have they, the queen mother, the nobility, and the members of the government deserved this, I ask? The prince, whose infant age cancels out envy, whose face banishes wrath, in whose countenance something — I know not what — royal and loveable shines forth beyond the ordinary, in whom majesty contends with love: was he more to be feared or adored? In him both were manifested. Anyone who sees him loves him, even a Turk or an Indian, and sings in admiration of manly endowments beyond his age. Nevertheless, those men among us whom, by contrast, the harsh Caucasus bred, no matter how he was revered for his real or expected qualities, wanted him to die by fire. Add to this that even the innocent baby Duke Charles, though he would have escaped the explosion, was to be murdered by the sword. Age, rank, or sex was not to be spared. Nemesis was to rage everywhere in the flames. To prevent the queen from bearing more life, unbearable death was ordered for her, surrounded by her ladies in waiting, radiant among the female chorus, beautiful, heroic. Finally, they hated the magnates of the nation since these stood with strength in the path of their wickedness, and because, as is right, they were loyal to king and kingdom. These they despised and sought to torture with all the pains they could, to the point of death and, if possible, beyond. Nor did they stop here, but were pledged to the cruel murder of the thrice reverend fathers and leaders of law, learning, and divinity: the first because they would punish their crimes and cruelties, the others because they refute their schismatical vanities, fictitious trifles, and false dogmas. They planned these and many more evils, but all in vain, since these things, both things planned and things accomplished, had been much earlier written down accurately with a blessed pen by him whose business it was to know about them thoroughly, one who could recount their deeds more accurately than anyone. But not to seem long winded, I pass over this for brevity’s sake.
“The sun has never seen a more horrible act, or at least one that (to tell the truth) came nearer to being an act. But the Lord of kings protects the king and his kingdom. What men plan, God averts. Vain is that counsel of men that God Himself does not support. See! The condemnation of wickedness turns against its very head. Evil makes its way back to its authors, and those who hoped that others would die in flames perish in fire themselves. Those who expected that the limbs of the nobility would be hurled through the air have now been killed, their own bodies dismembered, not standing on the spot their hopes had promised, but in the air, food for crows, a stench hanging on them, a spectacle for the silly multitude. Thus, people who desire to undermine their country’s laws pay the penalty of those laws — not, I admit, what they deserve, but those which a gentle king has commanded and which custom requires. ‘The evil plan brings the greatest evil upon the planner.’”
“Is this Roman religion, to kill kings? To divide the loyalty of the people? To betray nations? To play with the truth by equivocation?
A series of poems in Parerga (nos. 35-43) offer parallel sentiments on Rome. Rome, how far have you declined from what you were? You were the measure and model to other realms in generous justice, faith, piety, religion. Now you lie, a cesspool of wickedness, and you pollute the world with your murders. These, indeed, are the seeds of your ambition, which, too blinded by vain desire of illicit gain, regards neither God’s nor man’s laws, nor honor, but depending on no limits set by justice turns all to the nation’s general ruin. Is this what Jesuits advocate? Are these the values they instill in their students? In these days one scarcely deserves to be called a Romanist unless he dares to be a traitor to his country: wickedness occupies the seat of the faith, and what was formerly a matter of persuasion is now one of compulsion, as if religion, which binds hearts together and forms the feelings, were now a mask of deceit or the handmaid of tyranny. Whoever wants to build up his adherents, I willingly allow it: but let it be with prayers, not with force or blood. O how degraded you show yourself, Rome! In ancient times the Senate sent forth from their city in chains the fugitive who offered to kill Pyrrhus, even though Pyrrhus was an enemy. After the Pharsalian war sent conquered Pompey to the banks of the Nile, Achillas stabbed him while he was there looking for help, and presented the dead man’s head to Caesar, for he wickedly hoped to obtain Caesar’s favor by doing this. But the great man, refusing to countenance so unworthy a wrong in any way, at once ordered Achillas to be taken from his presence. I pass over Epaphroditus who killed Nero with a sword, though Nero was a monster of the human race and a tyrant and was condemned to the yoke in the ancient manner. Although Epaphroditus did this at Nero’s entreaty and command, when he made public what he had done in secret, the Senate sentenced him to death as soon as they knew of this. Such was the ancient virtue and glory of Rome. How unlike you! If unbaptized men behaved this way, what of you Christians? If they acted thus toward their enemies, what should you owe your princes?
“But in those days the golden age led the way, now this age of brass is running down. Now nothing happens in the Church without simony, nothing but schisms that are either too cold or hot. It suffices merely to play at having faith, regardless of how well you have lived. If you go to the court ambition rules there, gluttony, envy, faction, debauchery for flattery’s sake — even beggarliness is esteemed there. Most certainly he who is bothered by having to beg can never be a courtier. He cannot be at peace with himself. The nobility itself hunts too much after profit; it neglects honor: but honor and mercenary pursuit cannot coexist. Do you think the law court will be without wrongdoing, more sacrosanct than anyone else? Ah, no: the seats of justice have gone on sale; can anyone then hope justice will stay intact? What is corrupt in the egg grows more corrupt in the chick: quarrels, litigiousness, and violence flow from this source, and the richer one is the more confidently he presses his suit. Now a delay is thrown in so that the destitute, weary from the burden of the suit may depart: now on the other hand there is an unheard-of speeding-up of the award of damages. Thus, cases of the powerful prosper once money changes hands, while cases of the weak decline.
“Finally, let our eyes turn from this to the citizens and cities. Here there is nothing but fraud, perjury, usury, prostitution, scheming, drunkenness, debauchery, wantonness. With these people to defraud is to be wise and to be wise is insane. It is a worthless breed of humanity that is wise in nothing but profit-making. In short, the whole world is just a pack of wickedness. Here thieves rob strangers, here they cut throats at night; here an atheist ridicules the Holy Word. Here a father lays snares for his children, children for their fathers; as one learns here, the world falls toward annihilation, and all goes from bad to worse. Why, then, do I tarry here among the living? I can live much more safely in Stygian dwellings. So farewell, it is best for me to leave: I ask my leave to go, Nymph, and give it in return.”
He spoke, and once more descended into shadowy Hades.
43. THE AUTHOR TO HIS BOOK
Here I depict neither the dolphin in the woods nor the wild boar in foaming waves, but I sing of deeds as they were, one by one. I have cut out ostentatious language so I would not appear vainglorious. My concern has been to deliver history truthfully, so that neither the present nor a future age could reproach me. It is for the reader to believe it or not. Go, and wherever you wander in the world do not grow fearful, perhaps, book, you will bear witness for me after I die. And do not be afraid of what this or that person will say about you. Every person is master of his own choice. However, as far as you are able, flee from the vain, seek out the modest. One will love you, one perhaps will scorn you, but either one may read you. Your task is to be of benefit to others, not to gain their favor for yourself. Have no concern for yourself, your care should be to please others.
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