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Bulfinch's Mythology: The Age of Chivalry

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Author Topic: Bulfinch's Mythology: The Age of Chivalry  (Read 615 times)
Jana Chand-Medlock
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« Reply #45 on: October 27, 2009, 01:09:21 am »


Leir, who next reigned, built Leicester, and called it after his
name. He had no male issue, but only three daughters. When grown
old, he determined to divide his kingdom among his daughters, and
bestow them in marriage. But first, to try which of them loved him
best, he determined to ask them solemnly in order, and judge of the
warmth of their affection by their answers. Goneril, the eldest,
knowing well her father's weakness, made answer that she loved him,
"above her soul." "Since thou so honorest my declining age," said
the old man, "to thee and to thy husband I give the third part of my
realm." Such good success for a few words soon uttered was ample
instruction to Regan, the second daughter, what to say. She therefore,
to the same question replied, that "she loved him more than all the
world beside"; and so received an equal reward with her sister. But
Cordeilla, the youngest, and hitherto the best beloved, too honest
to profess in words more than she felt in her heart, was not moved
from the solid purpose of a sincere and virtuous answer, and
replied: "Father, my love towards you is as my duty bids. They who
pretend beyond this flatter." When the old man, sorry to hear this,
and wishing her to recall these words, persisted in asking, she
still restrained her expressions so as to say rather less than more
than the truth. Then Leir, all in a passion, burst forth: "Since
thou hast not reverenced thy aged father like thy sisters, think not
to have any part in my kingdom or what else I have";- and without
delay, giving in marriage his other daughters, Goneril to the Duke
of Albany, and Regan to the Duke of Cornwall, he divides his kingdom
between them. Cordeilla, portionless, married the prince of France,
who shortly after succeeded his father upon the throne.
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Jana Chand-Medlock
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« Reply #46 on: October 27, 2009, 01:09:33 am »

King Leir went to reside with his eldest daughter, attended only
by a hundred knights. But in a short time his attendants, being
complained of as too numerous and disorderly, are reduced to thirty.
Resenting that affront, the old king betakes him to his second
daughter; but she, instead of soothing his wounded pride, takes part
with her sister, and refuses to admit a retinue of more than five.
Then back he returns to the other, who now will not receive him with
more than one attendant. Then the remembrance of Cordeilla comes to
his thoughts, and he takes his journey into France to seek her, with
little hope of kind consideration from one whom he had so injured, but
to pay her the last recompense he can render,- confession of his
injustice. When Cordeilla is informed of his approach, and of his
sad condition, she pours forth true filial tears. And, not willing
that her own or others' eyes should see him in that forlorn condition,
she sends one of her trusted servants to meet him, and convey him
privately to some comfortable abode, and to furnish him with such
state as befitted his dignity. After which Cordeilla, with the king
her husband, went in state to meet him, and, after an honorable
reception, the king permitted his wife Cordeilla to go with an army
and set her father again upon his throne. They prospered, subdued
the wicked sisters and their consorts, and Leir obtained the crown and
held it three years. Cordeilla succeeded him, and reigned five
years; but the sons of her sisters, after that, rebelled against
her, and she lost both her crown and life.
Shakespeare has chosen this story as the subject of his tragedy of
King Lear, varying its details in some respects. The madness of
Lear, and the ill success of Cordeilla's attempt to reinstate her
father, are the principal variations, and those in the names will also
be noticed. Our narrative is drawn from Milton's History; and thus the
reader will perceive that the story of Leir has had the
distinguished honor of being told by the two acknowledged chiefs of
British literature.
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Jana Chand-Medlock
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Posts: 115

« Reply #47 on: October 27, 2009, 01:09:47 am »


Ferrex and Porrex were brothers, who held the kingdom after Leir.
They quarrelled about the supremacy, and Porrex expelled his
brother, who, obtaining aid from Suard, king of the Franks, returned
and made war upon Porrex. Ferrex was slain in battle, and his forces
dispersed. When their mother came to hear of her son's death, who
was her favorite, she fell into a great rage, and conceived a mortal
hatred against the survivor. She took, therefore, her opportunity when
he was asleep, fell upon him, and, with the assistance of her women,
tore him in pieces. This horrid story would not be worth relating,
were it not for the fact that it has furnished the plot for the
first tragedy which was written in the English language. It was
entitled Gorboduc, but in the second edition Ferrex and Porrex, and
was the production of Thomas Sackville, afterwards Earl of Dorset, and
Thomas Norton, a barrister. Its date was 1561.
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Jana Chand-Medlock
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Posts: 115

« Reply #48 on: October 27, 2009, 01:09:58 am »


This is the next name of note. Molmutius established the Molmutine
laws, which bestowed the privilege of sanctuary on temples, cities,
and the roads leading to them, and gave the same protection to
ploughs, extending a religious sanction to the labors of the field.
Shakespeare alludes to him in Cymbeline, Act III, Sc. I.:-

"Molmutius made our laws;
Who was the first of Britain which did put
His brows within a golden crown, and called
Himself a king."
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Jana Chand-Medlock
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Posts: 115

« Reply #49 on: October 27, 2009, 01:10:25 am »


the sons of Molmutius, succeeded him. They quarrelled, and Brennus was
driven out of the island, and took refuge in Gaul, where he met with
such favor from the king of the Allobroges, that he gave him his
daughter in marriage, and made him his partner on the throne.
Brennus is the name which the Roman historians give to the famous
leader of the Gauls who took Rome in the time of Camillus. Geoffrey of
Monmouth claims the glory of the conquest for the British prince,
after he had become king of the Allobroges.
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Jana Chand-Medlock
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Posts: 115

« Reply #50 on: October 27, 2009, 01:10:37 am »


After Belinus and Brennus there reigned several kings of little
note, and then came Elidure. Arthgallo, his brother, being king,
gave great offence to his powerful nobles, who rose against him,
deposed him, and advanced Elidure to the throne. Arthgallo fled, and
endeavored to find assistance in the neighboring kingdoms to reinstate
him, but found none. Elidure reigned prosperously and wisely. After
five years' possession of the kingdom, one day, when hunting, he met
in the forest his brother, Arthgallo, who had been deposed. After long
wandering, unable longer to bear the poverty to which he was
reduced, he had returned to Britain, with only ten followers,
designing to repair to those who had formerly been his friends.
Elidure, at the sight of his brother in distress, forgetting all
animosities, ran to him, and embraced him. He took Arthgallo home with
him, and concealed him in the palace. After this he feigned himself
sick, and, calling his nobles about him, induced them, partly by
persuasion, partly by force, to consent to his abdicating the kingdom,
and reinstating his brother on the throne. The agreement being
ratified, Elidure took the crown from his own head, and put it on
his brother's head. Arthgallo after this reigned ten years, well and
wisely, exercising strict justice towards all men.
He died, and left the kingdom to his sons, who reigned with
various fortunes, but were not long-lived, and left no offspring, so
that Elidure was again advanced to the throne, and finished the course
of his life in just and virtuous actions, receiving the name of the
pious, from the love and admiration of his subjects.
Wordsworth has taken the story of Artegal and Elidure for the
subject of a poem, which is No. 2 of "Poems founded on the
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Jana Chand-Medlock
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Posts: 115

« Reply #51 on: October 27, 2009, 01:10:53 am »


After Elidure the Chronicle names many kings, but none of special
note, till we come to Lud, who greatly enlarged Trinovant, his
capital, and surrounded it with a wall. He changed its name, bestowing
upon it his own, so that thenceforth it was called Lud's town,
afterwards London. Lud was buried by the gate of the city called after
him Ludgate. He had two sons, but they were not old enough at the time
of their father's death to sustain the cares of government, and
therefore their uncle Caswallaun, or Cassibellaunus, succeeded to
the kingdom. He was a brave and magnificent prince, so that his fame
reached to distant countries.
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Jana Chand-Medlock
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« Reply #52 on: October 27, 2009, 01:11:07 am »


About this time it happened (as is found in the Roman histories)
that Julius Caesar, having subdued Gaul, came to the shore opposite
Britain. And having resolved to add this island also to his
conquest, he prepared ships and transported his army across the sea,
to the mouth of the river Thames. Here he was met by Cassibellaun,
with all his forces, and a battle ensued, in which Nennius, the
brother of Cassibellaun, engaged in single combat with Caesar. After
several furious blows given and received, the sword of Caesar stuck so
fast in the shield of Nennius, that it could not be pulled out, and,
the combatants being separated by the intervention of the troops,
Nennius remained possessed of this trophy. At last, after the
greater part of the day was spent, the Britons poured in so fast
that Caesar was forced to retire to his camp and fleet. And finding it
useless to continue the war any longer at that time, he returned to
Shakespeare alludes to Cassibellaunus, in Cymbeline:-

"The famed Cassibelan, who was once at point
(O giglot fortune!) to master Caesar's sword,
Made Lud's town with rejoicing fires bright,
And Britons strut with courage."
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Jana Chand-Medlock
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« Reply #53 on: October 27, 2009, 01:11:32 am »


Caesar, on a second invasion of the island, was more fortunate and
compelled the Britons to pay tribute. Cymbeline, the nephew of the
king, was delivered to the Romans as a hostage for the faithful
fulfilment of the treaty, and, being carried to Rome by Caesar, he was
there brought up in the Roman arts and accomplishments. Being
afterwards restored to his country, and placed on the throne, he was
attached to the Romans, and continued through all his reign at peace
with them. His sons, Guiderius and Arviragus, who make their
appearance in Shakespeare's play of Cymbeline, succeeded their father,
and, refusing to pay tribute to the Romans, brought on another
invasion. Guiderius was slain, but Arviragus afterward made terms with
the Romans, and reigned prosperously many years.
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Jana Chand-Medlock
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« Reply #54 on: October 27, 2009, 01:11:50 am »


The next event of note is the conquest and colonization of Armorica,
by Maximis, a Roman general, and Conan, lord of Miniadoc or
Denbigh-land, in Wales. The name of the country was changed to
Brittany, or Lesser Britain; and so completely was it possessed by the
British colonists, that the language became assimilated to that spoken
in Wales, and it is said that to this day the peasantry of the two
countries can understand each other when speaking their native
The Romans eventually succeeded in establishing themselves in the
island, and after the lapse of several generations they became blended
with the natives so that no distinction existed between the two races.
When at length the Roman armies were withdrawn from Britain, their
departure was a matter of regret to the inhabitants, as it left them
without protection against the barbarous tribes, Scots, Picts, and
Norwegians, who harassed the country incessantly. This was the state
of things when the era of King Arthur began.
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Jana Chand-Medlock
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Posts: 115

« Reply #55 on: October 27, 2009, 01:12:28 am »

The adventure of Albion, the giant, with Hercules is alluded to by
Spenser, Faery Queene, Book IV., Canto XI.:-

"For Albion the son of Neptune was;
Who for the proof of his great puissance,
Out of his Albion did on dry foot pass,
Into old Gaul that now is cleped France,
To fight with Hercules, that did advance
To vanquish all the world with matchless might;
And there his mortal part by great mischance
Was slain."
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Jana Chand-Medlock
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« Reply #56 on: October 27, 2009, 01:13:21 am »


WE shall begin our history of King Arthur by giving those
particulars of his life which appear to rest on historical evidence;
and then proceed to record those legends concerning him which form the
earliest portion of British literature.
Arthur was a prince of the tribe of Britons called Silures, whose
country was South Wales,- the son of Uther, named Pendragon, a title
given to an elective sovereign, paramount over the many kings of
Britain. He appears to have commenced his martial career about the
year 500, and was raised to the Pendragonship about ten years later.
He is said to have gained twelve victories over the Saxons. The most
important of them was that of Badon, by some supposed to be Bath, by
others Berkshire. This was the last of his battles with the Saxons,
and checked their progress so effectually that Arthur experienced no
more annoyance from them, and reigned in peace, until the revolt of
his nephew Modred, twenty years later, which led to the fatal battle
of Camlan, in Cornwall, in 542. Modred was slain, and Arthur, mortally
wounded, was conveyed by sea to Glastonbury, where he died, and was
buried. Tradition preserved the memory of the place of his interment
within the abbey, as we are told by Giraldus Cambrensis, who was
present when the grave was opened by command of Henry II. in 1150, and
saw the bones and sword of the monarch, and a leaden cross let into
his tombstone, with the inscription in rude Roman letters, "Here
lies buried the famous King Arthur, in the island Avolonia." This
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Jana Chand-Medlock
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Posts: 115

« Reply #57 on: October 27, 2009, 01:13:56 am »

story has been elegantly versified by Warton. A popular traditional
belief was long entertained among the Britons that Arthur was not
dead, but had been carried off to be healed of his wounds in
Fairy-land, and that he would reappear to avenge his countrymen, and
reinstate them in the sovereignty of Britain. In Wharton's Ode a
bard relates to King Henry the traditional story of Arthur's death,
and closes with these lines:-

"Yet in vain a paynim foe
Armed with fate the mighty blow;
For when he fell, the Elfin queen,
All in secret and unseen,
O'er the fainting hero threw
Her mantle of ambrosial blue,
And bade her spirits bear him far,
In Merlin's agate-axled car,
To her green isle's enamelled steep,
Far in the navel of the deep.
O'er his wounds she sprinkled dew
From flowers that in Arabia grew.

There he reigns a mighty king,
Thence to Britain shall return,
If right prophetic rolls I learn,
Borne on victory's spreading plume,
His ancient sceptre to resume,
His knightly table to restore,
And brave the tournaments of yore."

After this narration another bard came forward, who recited a
different story:-

"When Arthur bowed his haughty crest,
No princess veiled in azure vest
Snatched him, by Merlin's powerful spell,
In groves of golden bliss to dwell;
But when he fell, with winged speed,
His champions, on a milk-white steed,
From the battle's hurricane
Bore him to Joseph's towered fane,*

In the fair vale of Avalon;
There, with chanted orison
And the long blaze of tapers clear,
The stoled fathers met the bier;
Through the dim aisles, in order dread
Of martial woe, the chief they led,
And deep entombed in holy ground,
Before the altar's solemn bound."

* Glastonbury Abbey, said to be founded by Joseph of Arimathea, in a
spot anciently called the island or valley of Avalonia.
Tennyson, in his Palace of Art, alludes to the legend of Arthur's
rescue by the Fairy queen, thus:-

"Or mythic Uther's deeply wounded son,
In some fair space of sloping greens,
Lay dozing in the vale of Avalon,
And watched by weeping queens."
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Jana Chand-Medlock
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« Reply #58 on: October 27, 2009, 01:14:13 am »

It must not be concealed, that the very existence of Arthur has been
denied by some. Milton says of him: "As to Arthur, more renowned in
songs and romances than in true stories, who he was, and whether
ever any such reigned in Britain, hath been doubted heretofore, and
may again, with good reason." Modern critics, however, admit that
there was a prince of this name, and find proof of it in the
frequent mention of him in the writings of the Welsh bards. But the
Arthur of romance, according to Mr. Owen, a Welsh scholar and
antiquarian, is a mythological person. "Arthur," he says, "is the
Great Bear, as the name literally implies (Arctos, Arcturus), and
perhaps this constellation, being so near the pole, and visibly
describing a circle in a small space, is the origin of the famous
Round Table." Let us now turn to the history of King Arthur, as
recorded by the romantic chroniclers.
Constans, king of Britain, had three sons, Moines, Ambrosius,
otherwise called Uther, and Pendragon. Moines, soon after his
accession to the crown, was vanquished by the Saxons, in consequence
of the treachery of his seneschal, Vortigern, and growing unpopular
through misfortune, he was killed by his subjects, and the traitor
Vortigern chosen in his place.
Vortigern was soon after defeated in a great battle by Uther and
Pendragon, the surviving brothers of Moines, and Pendragon ascended
the throne.
This prince had great confidence in the wisdom of Merlin, and made
him his chief adviser. About this time a dreadful war arose between
the Saxons and Britons. Merlin obliged the royal brothers to swear
fidelity to each other, but predicted that one of them must fall in
the first battle. The Saxons were routed, and Pendragon, being
slain, was succeeded by Uther, who now assumed, in addition to his own
name, the appellation of Pendragon.
Merlin still continued a favorite counsellor. At the request of
Uther, he transported by magic art enormous stones from Ireland, to
form the sepulchre of Pendragon. These stones constitute the
monument now called Stonehenge, on Salisbury Plain.
Merlin next proceeded to Carlisle to prepare the Round Table, at
which he seated an assemblage of the great nobles of the country.
The companions admitted to this high order were bound by oath to
assist each other at the hazard of their own lives, to attempt
singly the most perilous adventures, to lead, when necessary, a life
of monastic solitude, to fly to arms at the first summons, and never
to retire from battle till they had defeated the enemy, unless night
intervened and separated the combatants.
Soon after this institution, the king invited all his barons to
the celebration of a great festival, which he proposed holding
annually at Carlisle.
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Jana Chand-Medlock
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Posts: 115

« Reply #59 on: October 27, 2009, 01:14:26 am »

As the knights had obtained the sovereign's permission to bring
their ladies along with them, the beautiful Igerne accompanied her
husband, Gerlois, Duke of Tintadiel, to one of these anniversaries.
The king became deeply enamored of the Duchess, and disclosed his
passion; but Igerne repelled his advances, and revealed his
solicitations to her husband. On hearing this, the Duke instantly
removed from court with Igerne, and without taking leave of Uther. The
king complained to his council of this want of duty, and they
decided that the Duke should be summoned to court, and, if refractory,
should be treated as a rebel. As he refused to obey the citation,
the king carried war into the estates of his vassal, and besieged
him in the strong castle of Tintadiel. Merlin transformed the king
into the likeness of Gerlois, and enabled him to have many stolen
interviews with Igerne. At length the Duke was killed in battle, and
the king espoused Igerne.
From this union sprang Arthur, who succeeded his father, Uther, upon
the throne.


Arthur, though only fifteen years old at his father's death, was
elected king, at a general meeting of the nobles. It was not done
without opposition, for there were many ambitious competitors; but
Bishop Brice, a person of great sanctity, on Christmas eve addressed
the assembly, and represented that it would well become them, at
that solemn season, to put up their prayers for some token which
should manifest the intentions of Providence respecting their future
sovereign. This was done, and with such success, that the service
was scarcely ended, when a miraculous stone was discovered, before the
church door, and in the stone was firmly fixed a sword, with the
following words engraven on its hilt:-
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