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The History of the Kings of Britain

The History of the Kings of Britain

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Published by: arek52 on Sep 17, 2010
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Geoffrey of Monmouth
History of theKings of Britain
translated by
Aaron Thompson
with revisions by
 J. A. Giles
In parentheses PublicationsMedieval Latin SeriesCambridge, Ontario 1999
Book I.Chapter 1. The epistle dedicatory to Robert earl of GloucesterWhilst occupied on many and various studies, I happened to lightupon the History of the Kings of Britain, and wondered that in theaccount which Gildas and Bede, in their elegant treatises, had given ofthem, I found nothing said of those kings who lived here before theIncarnation of Christ, nor of Arthur and many others who succeededafter the Incarnation, though their actions both deserved immortal fame,and were also celebrated by many people in a pleasant manner and byheart, as if they had been written. Whilst I was intent upon these andsuch like thoughts, Walter, archdeacon of Oxford, a man of greateloquence, and learned in foreign histories, offered me a very ancientbook in the British tongue, which, in a continued regular story andelegant style, related the actions of them all, from Brutus the first king ofthe Britons, down to Cadwallader the son of Cadwallo. At his request,therefore, though I had not made fine language my study, by collectingflorid expressions from other authors, yet contented with my ownhomely style, I undertook the translation of that book into Latin. For if Ihad swelled the pages with rhetorical flourishes, I must have tired myreaders, by employing their attention more upon my words than uponthe history. To you, therefore, Robert earl of Gloucester, this workhumbly sues for the favour of being so corrected by your advice, that itmay not be thought to be the poor offspring of Geoffrey of Monmouth,but when polished by your refined wit and judgment, the production ofhim who had Henry the glorious king of England for his father, andwhom we see an accomplished scholar and philosopher, as well as a2
Geoffrey of Monmouth
brave soldier and expert commander; so that Britain with joyacknowledges, that in you she possesses another Henry.Chapter 2. The first inhabitants of Britain.Britain, the best of islands, is situated in the Western Ocean, betweenFrance and Ireland, being eight hundred miles long, and two hundredbroad. It produces every thing that is useful to man, with a plenty thatnever fails. It abounds with all kinds of metal, and has plains of largeextent, and hills fit for the finest tillage, the richness of whose soilaffords variety of fruits in their proper seasons. It has also forests wellstored with all kinds of wild beasts; in its lawns cattle find good changeof pasture, and bees variety of flowers for honey. Under its loftymountains lie green meadows pleasantly situated, in which the gentlemurmurs of crystal springs gliding along clear channels, give those thatpass an agreeable invitation to lie down on their banks and slumber. It islikewise well watered with lakes and rivers abounding with fish; andbesides the narrow sea which is on the Southern coast towards France,there are three noble rivers, stretching out like three arms, namely, theThames, the Severn, and the Humber; by which foreign commoditiesfrom all countries are brought into it. It was formerly adorned with eightand twenty cities, of which some are in ruins and desolate, others arestill standing, beautified with lofty church-towers, wherein religiousworship is performed according to the Christian institution. It is lastlyinhabited by five different nations, the Britons, Romans, Saxons, Picts,and Scots; whereof the Britons before the rest did formerly possess thewhole island from sea to sea, till divine vengeance, punishing them fortheir pride, made them give way to the Picts and Saxons. But in whatmanner, and from whence, they first arrived here, remains now to berelated in what follows.3

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