Excerpt: The Battle of Bladone

… Notwithstanding the faith they [The Saxons] had sworn, and the hostages they had given, they agreed to shift their sails in order to return to Britain, and managed so that they arrived at the port of the Couthonisians (Totnes), ravaging and destroying all along the sea coast as far as the Severn sea, after which they went through the country, making great havoc of men, women, and children, without sparing any of whatever condition they might be, after which they took their way towards Pague, and besieged the city of Bladone (Bath). These things being made known to the valiant King Arthur, he was greatly surprised at the detestable iniquity of the Saxons, so he took immediate vengeance on their hostages; and abandoning the war which he had undertaken for the subjugation of the Scots and Picts, he determined to go at once to raise the siege of Bladone (Bath), and to crush the pagan traitors without mercy. King Arthur was in great trouble and sorrow at leaving his nephew, King Hoëlus, lying very ill in the city of Aclud; but he hastened, so that in a short time he entered the province of Surmeseteuse (Somerset), in which the siege was being carried on; and when he came in sight of the army of the enemy, he was filled with wrath, and began to threaten them in these or the like words: – “These cruel men, called Saxons, have disdained and refused to keep the faith which they solemnly swore to me before God and my Creator; but in the maintenance of my own faith vowed and sword, I will, with His help, avenge to the utmost of my power the blood of my loyal citizens by their faithless blood. You then, my knights, my followers, and my friends, take up your arms, and let us with all our might attack these traitors, over whom, with the help of Jesus Christ our Lord, we shall certainly obtain the victory, and His shall be our glory.”

When King Arthur had thus spoken to encourage his knights, the holy sage Dubricius, archbishop of Caerleon, being upon a little mound which adjoined the camp, began in this wise to address the knights of the army in a soft and pleasing voice: – “O ye men, ennobled by the profession of Christianity, knights of Jesus Christ our Saviour, keep before your eyes the sight of your country and fellow-subjects, and think that it will be to you a matter of great reproach and eternal infamy if you allow these pagans, so full of detestable treachery, and do not resist their fury with all your might. Fight, then, for your country have no fear of death, for if you die here, you will no more suffer either grief, or pain, or tribulation, for to die for our country and our faith is certain of our souls; truly, whoever shall suffer death for sacrifice before the God of paradise, because he follows the footsteps of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, who disdained not to give His life for His brethren. If then any of you suffer death in this battle, that death shall be given him as penance and full absolution of all his sins and offences.” After these words had been spoken and the benediction of the good archbishop had been received, each in joyful mood hastened to arm himself without further delay, and to obey the command of the holy man Dubricius. Arthur then equipped himself in notable and excellent armour, as became the majesty of so great a king; he put on his head a noble helmet resplendent with fine gold, on which the image of a flying dragon as a crest was skillfully set, then placed he on his shoulders his shield, called Pridgem, on which was engraven the image of the glorious Virgin Mary, whom, prompted by the remembrance of her likeness, he often invoked to his aid. Afterwards he girt on his good sword Caliburn, which had been forged in the isle of Avalon, and in his right hand he took his lance Ronth, which added much to the splendour of his appearance, for it had a long broad blade, while at the same time it was easily managed in battle. When King Arthur and his men were armed and equipped, he marshaled his troops and led them to attack the miscreant Saxons, who were drawn up in a circle according to their custom. When the battle began, the onset was very cruel and severe, for the Saxons fought desperately the whole day, so that many a good Christian there perished. King Arthur perceiving this, and that the day was now declining, began with great vigour to collect his people on the top of a hill, which would serve them as a castle and fortress for the night; but in getting up he lost many of his men, for the Saxons, who were on the summit of this hill, inasmuch as they had a stronger run upon the Britons who were ascending, were enabled to do them the greater injury. Nevertheless, the Britons, though with great labour, succeeded in dislodging the enemy, gained the summit of the hill, again joined battle with their adversaries, and with renewed courage and fresh heart fought most valiantly, resisting bravely with all their force. Although the Saxons were dislodged from this hill, the battle was still pretty equal on all sides, for they fought desperately everywhere, and thus passed the greater part of the day; Arthur was very angry at this, and he was amazed that they continued to resist, and that he had not been able to obtain the victory; so grasping his good sword Caliburn, and crying aloud, Holy Mary! he rushed with great force into the ranks of the enemy, slaying them and scattering their ranks, invoking the while the divine aid; at a single blow he severed from their bodies the souls of all those within his reach, nor did he cease to fight till, with his good sword Caliburn, he had killed 470 men.

The Britons, seeing their leader thus acquit himself, being inflamed with anger, followed him and broke the ranks of the enemy by a desperate effort, slaying them on all sides. In this defeat fell the Duke Colgrinus, and Baltucus his brother, and many thousand pagans were slaughtered and killed there. But Duke Cedric of Germany, seeing the misfortune of his companions, turned and fled for his life.


by John de Wavrin

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