Merlin is best known as the mighty wizard featured in Arthurian legend. The standard depiction of the character first appears in Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, and is based on an amalgamation of previous historical and legendary figures. Geoffrey combined existing stories of Myrddin Wyllt (Merlinus Caledonensis), a northern madman with no connection to King Arthur, with tales of Aurelius Ambrosius to form the figure he called Merlin Ambrosius.
Geoffrey's version of the character was immediately popular, and later writers expanded the account to produce a fuller image of the wizard. His traditional biography has him born the son of an incubus and a mortal woman who inherits his powers from his strange birth. He grows up to be a sage and engineers the birth of Arthur through magic. Later Merlin serves as the king's advisor until he is bewitched and imprisoned by the Lady of the Lake.
Merlin, as King Arthur's adviser, prophet and magician, is basically the creation of Geoffrey of Monmouth, who in his twelfth-century History of the Kings of Britain combined the Welsh traditions about a bard and prophet named Myrddin with the story that the ninth-century chronicler Nennius tells about Ambrosius (that he had no human father and that he prophesied the defeat of the British by the Saxons).
Geoffrey gave his character the name Merlinus rather than Merdinus (the normal Latinization of Myrddin) because the latter might have suggested to his Anglo-Norman audience the vulgar word "merde." In Geoffrey's book, Merlin assists Uther Pendragon and is responsible for transporting the stones of Stonehenge from Ireland, but he is not associated with King Arthur.
Geoffrey's composite Merlin is based primarily on two figures: Myrddin Wyllt, also called Merlinus Caledonensis, and Aurelius Ambrosius, a highly fictionalized version of the historical war leader Ambrosius Aurelianus. The former had nothing to do with Arthur and flourished after the Arthurian period. Supposedly a bard who went mad after witnessing the horrors of war, he was said to have fled civilization to become a Wildman of the Woods in the late 6th century. Geoffrey had this individual in mind when he wrote his earliest surviving work, the Prophetiae Merlini (Prophecies of Merlin), which he claimed were the actual words of the legendary madman. (See below)
Geoffrey's Prophetiae do not reveal much about Merlin's background. When he included the prophet in his next work, Historia Regum Britanniae, he supplemented the characterization with stories about Aurelius Ambrosius, taken from Nennius' Historia Brittonum. According to Nennius, Ambrosius was discovered when the British king Vortigern was trying to erect a tower. The tower always collapsed before completion, and his wise men told him the only solution was to sprinkle the foundation with the blood of a "child born without a father". Ambrosius was rumored to be such a child, but when brought before the king, he revealed the real reason for the tower's collapse: below the foundation was a lake containing two dragons who destroyed the tower by fighting.
Geoffrey retells this story in Historia Regum Britanniae with some embellishments, and gives the fatherless child the name of the prophetic bard, Merlin. He keeps this new figure separate from Aurelius Ambrosius, and to disguise his changing of Nennius, he simply and baldly states that Ambrosius was another name for Merlin. He goes on to add new episodes that tie Merlin into the story of King Arthur and his predecessors.
Geoffrey dealt with Merlin again in his third work, Vita Merlini. He based the Vita on stories of the original 6th century Myrddin. Though set long after his timeframe for the life of "Merlin Ambrosius", he tries to assert the characters are the same with references to King Arthur and his death as told in the Historia Regum Britanniae.
He is central to a major text of the thirteenth-century French Vulgate cycle, and he figures in a number of other French and English romances. Sir Thomas Malory, in the Morte d'Arthurpresents him as the adviser and guide to King Arthur.
Merlin's popularity has remained constant. He figures in works from the Renaissance to the modern period.
In The Idylls of the King, Tennyson makes him the architect of Camelot.
Mark Twain, parodying Tennyson's Arthurian world, makes Merlin a villain, and in one of the illustrations to the first edition of Twain's work, illustrator Dan Beard's Merlin is similar to Tennyson's.
Numerous novels, poems and plays center around Merlin. In American literature and popular culture, Merlin is perhaps the most frequently portrayed Arthurian character -
At base of Tintagel Island's cliff is Merlin's Cave suggested to be haunted by Merlin's ghost.
The earliest (pre-12th century) Welsh poems concerning the Myrddin legend present him as a madman living a wretched existence in the Caledonian Forest, ruminating on his former existence and the disaster that brought him low: the death of his lord Gwenddoleu, whom he served as bard. The allusions in these poems serve to sketch out the events of the Battle of Arfderydd, where Riderch Hael, King of Alt Clut (Strathclyde) slaughtered the forces of Gwenddoleu, and Myrddin went mad watching this defeat. The Annales Cambriae date this battle to AD 573, and name Gwenddoleu's adversaries as the sons of Eliffer, presumably Gwrgi and Peredur.
A version of this legend is preserved in a late 15th century manuscript, in a story called Lailoken and Kentigern. In this narrative, Saint Kentigern meets in a deserted place with a naked, hairy madman who is called Lailoken, although said by some to be called Merlynum or "Merlin", who declares that he has been condemned for his sins to wander in the company of beasts. He added that he had been the cause for the deaths of all of the persons killed in the battle fought "on the plain between Liddel and Carwannok." Having told his story, the madman lept up and fled from the presence of the saint back into the wilderness. He appears several times more in the narrative until at last asking Kentigern for the sacrament, prophesying that he was about to die a triple death. After some hesitation, the saint granted the madman's wish, and later that day the shepherds of King Meldred captured him, beat him with clubs, then cast him into the River Tweed where his body was pierced by a stake, thus fulfilling his prophecy.
Welsh literature has many examples of a prophetic literature, predicting the military victory of all of the Celtic peoples of Great Britain who will join together and drive the English Ð and later the Normans Ð back into the sea. Some of these works were claimed to be the prophecies of Myrddin; some were not, as for example the Armes Prydein. This wild prophetic Merlin was also treated by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his Vita Merlini which looks like a close adaptation of a number of Myrddin poems.
Geoffrey's account of Merlin Ambrosius' early life in the Historia Regum Britanniae is based on the story of Ambrosius in the Historia Brittonum. He adds his own embellishments to the tale, which he sets in Carmarthen (Welsh: Caerfyrddin). While Nennius' Ambrosius eventually reveals himself to be the son of a Roman consul, Geoffrey's Merlin is begotten on a king's daughter by an incubus. The story of Vortigern's tower is essentially the same; the underground dragons, one white and one red, represent the Saxons and the British, and their final battle is a portent of things to come. At this point Geoffrey inserts a long section of Merlin's prophecies, taken from his earlier Prophetiae Merlini. He tells only two further tales of the character; in the first, Merlin creates Stonehenge as a burial place for Aurelius Ambrosius. In the second, Merlin's magic enables Uther Pendragon to enter into Tintagel in disguise and father his son Arthur. These episodes also appear in many later adaptations of Geoffrey's account.
Somewhat later the poet Robert de Boron retold this material in his poem Merlin. Only a few lines of the poem have survived, but a prose retelling became popular and was later incorporated into two other romances. In Robert's account Merlin is begotten by a devil on a virgin as an intended Antichrist. This plot is thwarted when the expectant mother informs her confessor Blaise of her predicament; they immediately baptize the boy at birth, thus freeing him from the power of Satan. The demonic birth bestows upon Merlin an uncanny knowledge of the past and present, which is supplemented by God himself, who gives the boy a prophetic knowledge of the future.
Robert de Boron lays great emphasis on Merlin's power to change his shape, on his joking personality and on his connection to the Holy Grail. This text introduces Merlin's master Blaise, who is pictured as writing down Merlin's deeds, explaining how they came to be known and preserved. Robert was inspired by Wace's Roman de Brut, an Anglo-Norman adaptation of Geoffrey's Historia.
Robert's poem was rewritten in prose in the 12th century as the Estoire de Merlin, also called the Vulgate or Prose Merlin. It was originally attached to a cycle of prose versions of Robert's poems, which tells the story of the Holy Grail; brought from the Middle East to Britain by followers of Joseph of Arimathea, and eventually recovered by Arthur's knight Percival. The Prose Merlin was detached from that shorter cycle to serve as a sort of prequel to the vast Lancelot-Grail, also known as the Vulgate Cycle. The authors of that work expanded it with the Vulgate Suite du Merlin (Vulgate Merlin Continuation), which described King Arthur's early adventures. The Prose Merlin was also used as a prequel to the later Post-Vulgate Cycle, the authors of which added their own continuation, the Huth Merlin or Post-Vulgate Suite du Merlin. These works were adapted and translated into several other languages; the Post-Vulgate Suite was the inspiration for the early parts of Sir Thomas Malory's English language Le Morte d'Arthur.
Many later medieval works in also deal with the Merlin legend. For example, The Prophecies of Merlin and contains long prophecies of Merlin (mostly concerned with 13th century Italian politics), some by his ghost after his death. The prophecies are interspersed with episodes relating Merlin's deeds and with various Arthurian adventures in which Merlin does not appear at all. The earliest English verse romance concerning Merlin is Arthour and Merlin, which drew from chronicles and the French Lancelot-Grail.
As the Arthurian mythos was retold and embellished, Merlin's prophetic aspects were sometimes de-emphasized in favor of portraying Merlin as a wizard and elder advisor to Arthur. On the other hand in Lancelot-Grail it is said that Merlin was never baptized and never did any good in his life, only evil. Medieval Arthurian tales abound in inconsistencies. In the Lancelot-Grail and later accounts Merlin's eventual downfall came from his lusting after a woman named Nimue, the Lady of the Lake, who coaxed his magical secrets from him before turning her new powers against her master and trapping him in an enchanted prison (variously described as a cave, a large rock, an invisible tower, etc.) This is unfortunate for Arthur, who has lost his greatest counselor.
The name "Myrddin" may have arisen from the Roman-period Celtic name for a place in Wales, *Mori-dunon, meaning "sea fort". The name became Carmarthen (Caerfyrddin in Welsh), which can be loosely translated as "Fort of Moridunum", since a Caer is a fortified royal residence. It seems that the name was taken to mean "Caer of [some man called] Myrddin".
Some accounts describe two different figures named Merlin. For example, the Welsh Triads state there were three baptisimal bards: Chief of Bards Taliesin, Myrddin Wyllt, and Myrddin Emrys. It is believed that these two bards called Myrddin were originally variants of the same figure. The stories of Wyllt and Emrys have become different in the earliest texts that they are treated as separate characters, even though similar incidents are ascribed to both.
The scales of Libra will hang awry until Aries props them up with its curving horns.
The tail of Scorpio shall generate lightning, and Cancer will fight with the Sun.
Virgo shall climb on back of Sagittarius and so let droop its maiden blossoms.
The Moons chariot shall run amok in the Zodiac; the Pleiades will burst into tears. None of these will return to the duty expected of it.
Ariadne will shut its door and be hidden within its enclosing cloud banks.
In the twinkling of an eye the seas shall rise up, and the arena of the winds shall be opened once again. The winds shall do battle together with a blast of ill-omen, making their din reverberate from one constellation to another.
Merlin saith that in England shall be seen strange things, as preaching of traitors, great rain and wind, great hunger among the common people, great oppression of blood, great imprisonment of many men and great battle; so that there shall be few or no quiet place to abide in; the Prince shall forsake men of the church, Lords shall forsake righteousness, counsel of the aged shall not be set by; religious men and women shall be thrust out of their houses; the common people for fear shall not know which way to turn; parents shall be hated by their children, men of worship shall have no reverence of others; adultery shall abound among all; with more ill than I can tell of, from which God us defend." [From Sunday Prophecies of Merlin, Becket, and Others, Author Unknown, published in London in 1652.]
"Luxury shall overspread the land, and fornication shall not cease to debauch mankind. Famine shall then return, and the inhabitants shall grieve for the destruction of their cities. In those days the oaks of the forests shall burn, and acorns grow upon lime trees! The Severn sea shall discharge itself through seven mouths, and the river Usk burn for seven months! Fishes shall die in the heat thereof, and from them serpents will be born."
The baths of Badon [hot springs of Bath] shall grow cold, and their salubrious waters engender death! London shall mourn for the death of twenty thousand, and the river Thames shall be turned to blood! The monks in the cowls shall be forced to marry, and their cry shall be heard upon the mountains of the Alps."
"The seas shall rise up in the twinkling of an eye, and the dust of the ancients shall be restored." [From The History of the Kings of Britain, The Prophecies of Merlin by Geoffrey of Monmouth.]
The cult of religion shall be destroyed completely, and the ruin of the churches shall be clear for all to see. The race that is oppressed shall prevail in the end, for it will resist the savagery of the invaders.
The Boar of Cornwall shall bring relief from these invaders, for it will trample the necks beneath its feet. The islands of the Ocean shall be given into the power of the Boar, and it shall lord it over the forests of Gaul. The House of Romulus shall dread the Boar's savagery, and the end of the Boar will be shrouded in mystery. The Boar shall be extolled in the mouths of its peoples, and its deeds will be as meat and drink to those who tell tales.
Six of the Boar's descendants shall hold the sceptre after it, and next after them will rise up the German Worm. The Sea-wolf shall exalt the Worm, and the forests of Africa shall be committed to its care.
Religion shall be destroyed a second time and the sees of the primates will be moved to other places. London's high dignity shall adorn Durobernia, and the seventh pastor of York will be visited in the realm of Armorica.
Menevia shall be dressed in the pall of the City of the Legions, and the preacher from Ireland shall be struck dumb by a child still growing in the womb.
A shower of blood shall fall, and a dire famine shall afflict mankind. The Red One will grieve for what has happened, but after an immense effort it will regain its strength.
Calamity will next pursue the White One, and the buildings in its little garden will be torn down.
Seven who hold the sceptre shall perish, one of them being canonised. The bellies of mothers shall be cut open, and babies will be born prematurely.
Men will suffer most grievously, in order that those born in the country may regain power. He who will achieve these things shall appear as the Man of Bronze, and for long years he shall guard the gates of London upon a brazen horse.
Then the Red Dragon will revert to its true habits and struggle to tear itself to pieces. Next will come the revenge of the Thunderer, and every one of the farmer's fields will be a disappointment.
Death will lay hold of the people and destroy all the nations. Those who are left alive will abandon their native soil and will sow their seeds in the fields of others. A king who is blessed will fit out a navy and will be reckoned the twelfth in the court among the saints. The realm shall be deserted in the most pitiful way, and the harvest threshing floors will be overgrown once more by forests rich in fruit.
Once again the White Dragon shall rise up and will invite over a daughter of Germany. Our little garden will be stocked again with foreign seed, and the Red Dragon will pine away at the far end of the pool. After that the German Worm shall be crowned, and the Prince of brass will be buried.
limit was set for him, beyond which he was powerless to pass. For a hundred and fifty years he shall remain in anguish and subjection, and then for three hundred more he shall sit enthroned. The North Wind will rise against him, snatching away the flowers which the West Wind has caused to bloom. There will be gilding in the temples, but the sword's cutting edge will not cease its work. The German Dragon will find it hard to escape to its cavernous lairs, for vengeance for its treason will overtake it. In the end it will become strong again just for a short time, but the decimation of Normandy will be a sorry blow. There shall come people dressed in wood and in iron corselets who will take vengeance on it for its wickedness. This people shall give their dwelling back to the earlier inhabitants, and the destruction of foreigners will be clear for all to see.
The seed of the White Dragon shall be rooted up from our little gardens and what is left of its progeny shall be decimated. They shall bear the yoke of perpetual slavery, and they will wound their own mother with their spades and ploughshares. Two more Dragons shall follow, one of which shall be killed by the sting of envy, but the second will return under the cover of authority.
The Lion of Justice shall come next, and at its roar the towers of Gaul shall shake and the island Dragons tremble. In the days of this Lion, gold shall be squeezed from the lily-Bower and the nettle, and silver shall flow from the hooves of lowing cattle.
They who have had their hair waved shall dress in woolen stuffs of many colours, and the outer garment shall be an index of the thoughts within. The feet of they that bark shall be cut. Wild animals shall enjoy peace, but mankind will bewail the way in which it is being punished. The balance of trade shall be tom in half; and the half that is left shall be rounded off. Kites will lose their ravenous hunger, and the teeth of wolves will be blunted. The Lion's cubs shall be transformed into salt-water fishes, and the Eagle of Mount Aravia shall nest upon a summit.
Venedotia shall be red with the blood of mothers, and the house of Corineus will slaughter six brothers. The island will lie sodden with the tears of the night-time, and everyone will be encouraged to try to do everything. Those who are born later shall strive to fly over even the most lofty things, but the favour given to the newcomers will be loftier even than that.
Piety will frown upon the man who has inherited goods from the impious; that is, until he takes his style of dress from his own father. Girded around with a wild boar's teeth, he shall climb over the mountain summits and higher than the shadow of the Helmeted Man.
Albany will be angry: calling her near neighbours to her, she shall give herself entirely to bloodshed. Between her jaws there will be found a bit which was forged in the Bay of Armorica. The eagle of the Broken Covenant shall paint it with gold and will rejoice in her third nesting.
The cubs shall roar as they keep watch; they will forsake the forest groves and come hunting inside the walls of cities. They will cause great slaughter among any who oppose them, and the tongues of bulls shall they slice off. They shall load with chains the necks of the roaring ones and live again the days of their forefathers. Thereafter, from the first to the fourth, from the fourth to the third, from the third to the second shall the thumb be rolled in oil.
The sixth shall throw down the walls of Ireland and transmute its forests into a level plain. The sixth shall unite the different parts into one whole, and he shall be crowned with the head of a lion.
His beginning will yield to his own unstable disposition, but his end shall soar up towards those on high. He shall restore the dwellings of the saints throughout the lands and settle the pastors in places which befit them.
Two towns shall he cover with funeral palls and to virgins he will present virgin gifts. By doing this he will earn the favour of the Thunderer, and he will be placed among the blessed. From him there will emerge a She-lynx, and this will nose its way into all things and strive for the downfall of its own race. Because of the She-lynx Normandy will lose both its isles and be deprived of its former dignity. Then the island's inhabitants shall return to it, for a great dissension will arise among the foreigners.
A hoary old man upon a mow-white horse shall divert the River Periron, and above the stream he will measure out a mill with his white rod. Cadwallader shall summon Conanus and shall make an alliance with Albany. Then the foreigners shall be slaughtered, and the rivers will run with blood.
The mountains of Armorica shall erupt, and Armorica itself shall be crowned with Brutus' diadem. Kambria shall be filled with joy, and the Cornish oaks shall flourish. The island shall be called by the name of Brutus, and the title given to it by the foreigners shall be done away with. From Conanus there shall descend a fierce Boar, which will try the sharpness of its tusks in the forests of Gaul, for it will lop down all the larger oak trees, taking care to protect the smaller ones.
The Arabs shall dread this Boar and so shall the Africans, for the impetus of its onslaught will carry it into the remotest parts of Spain. Next after the Boar shall come the Ram of the Castle of Venus, with golden horns and a beard of silver.
It will breathe such a fog from its nostrils that the entire surface of the island will be overshadowed by it. In the days of the Ram there shall be peace, and the harvests will be plentiful because of the richness of the soil. Women shall become snake-like in their gait, and every step they take will be full arrogance.
The Castle of Venus will be restored, and Cupid's arrows will continue to wound. The source of the River Amne shall turn into blood, and two kings will fight each other at the Ford of the Staff for the sake of a Lioness. All the soil will be fruitful beyond mans need; and human beings will fornicate unceasingly.
Three generations will witness all that I have mentioned, and then the kings buried in the town of London will be disinterred. Famine will return, and death, and citizens will grieve for their townships. The Boar of Commerce shall come and call back the scattered flocks to the feeding ground which they have forsaken. Its breast will be as food to the hungry, and its tongue will assuage the thirst of those who are dry. From its mouth shall flow forth rivers which will water the parched gullets of men.
Then a Tree shall spring up on the top of the Tower of London. It will be content with only three branches, and yet it will overshadow the whole length and breadth of the island with the spread of its leaves. The North Wind will come as the Tree's enemy, and with its noxious breath it will tear away the third of the branches.
The two branches which are left will occupy the place of the one ripped off: this until one of them destroys the other by the very abundance of its leaves. This last branch will fill the place of the other two, and it will offer a roosting place to birds come from foreign parts. To birds native to the country it will seem harmful, for through their dread of its shadow they will lose their power of free flight. The Ass of Wickedness will come next, swift against the goldsmiths, but slow against the wolves' ravenous appetites. In these days the oaks shall burn in the forest glades, and acorns shall burgeon on the lime trees' boughs.
The Severn Sea shall flow forth through seven mouths, and the River Usk shall be boiling hot for seven months. Its fish will die because of the heat, and from them serpents will be born. The baths shall grow cold at Bath, and its health-giving waters shall breed death. London shall mourn the death of twenty thousand, and the Thames will be turned into blood. Monks in their cowls shall be forced into marriage, and their lamentation will be heard on the mountain peaks of the Alps.
Three springs shall burst forth in the town of Winchester, and the streams which run from them will divide the island into three parts. Whoever will drink from the first will enjoy long life and will never be afflicted by the onslaught of illness. Whoever will drink from the second shall perish from insatiable hunger: pallor and dread will be clear to see on his face.
Whoever will drink from the third shall die a sudden death. And it will not be possible for his body to be buried. In their effort to avoid so voracious a death, fit men will do their best to cover it over from layers of different materials, but whatever structure is placed on top will immediately take on the form of another substance. As soon as they are placed there, earth will be turned to stones, stones to liquid, wood into ashes, ashes into water.
However from a town in Canutes forest, a girl shall be sent to remedy these matters by her healing art. Once she has consulted all the oracles, she shall dry up the noxious springs simply by breathing on them.
Next, when she has restored her own strength by some invigorating drink, she shall carry the Forest of Caledon in her right hand, and in her left the buttressed forts of the walls of London. Wherever she passes she shall leave sulphurous footprints which will reek with a double flame.
The smoke from them will stir up the Ruteni and will provide food for the creatures who live in the sea. Tears of compassion shall flow from her eyes and will fill the island with her dreadful cries. He that will kill her shall be a stag of ten tines, four of which will bear golden coronets; the other six will be turned into the horns of oxen, and these horns will rouse the three islands of Britain with their accursed bellowing.
The Daneian Forest shall be wakened from its sleep and, burst into human speech, it shall shout, "Kambria, come here; bring Cornwall at your side! Say to Winchester, 'The earth will swallow you up. Move the see of your shepherd to where the ships come in to harbour.
Then make sure that the limbs which remain follow the head! The day approaches when your citizens will perish for their crime of perjury. The whiteness of your wool done you harm, and so too has the variety of their dye. Woe to the perjured people, for their famous city shall come toppling down because of them! The ships shall rejoice at such a great increase, and each one of them will be constructed out of the material of two. A Hedgehog loaded with apples shall rebuild the town and, attracted by the smell of these apples, birds will flock there from many different forests. The hedgehog shall build a huge palace and then wall it round with six hundred towers. London will view this with envy and will increase her own fortifications threefold.
The River Thames will surround London on all sides, and the report of that engineering feat will cross the Alps. The Hedgehog will hide its apples inside Winchester and will construct hidden passages under the earth. In that time the stones shall speak.
The sea over which men sail to Gaul shall be contracted into a narrow channel. A man on any one of the two shores will be audible to a man on the other, and the land mass of the island will grow greater. The secrets of the creatures who live under the sea shall be revealed, and Gaul will tremble for fear. Next a Heron shall emerge from the Forest of Calaterium and fly around the island for two whole years. By its cry in the night it will call all winged creatures together and assemble in its company every genus of bird.
They will swoop down on to the fields which men have cultivated and devour every kind of harvest.
A famine will attack the people, and an appalling death rate will follow the famine. As soon as this terrible calamity has come to an end, the accursed Bird will transfer its attention to the Calabes Valley and rise it up into a lofty mountain.
On its highest peak the heron will plant in an oak, and on the branches of the oak it shall build its nest; three eggs shall be laid in the nest, and from them will emerge a Fox, a Wolf, and a Bear.
The Fox will devour its mother and then put on an Ass's head. Once it has assumed this monstrous guise, it will terrify its brothers and drive them away to Normandy. In that country they will in their turn stir up the tusky Boar.
Back they will come in a boat, and in that way they will meet the Fox once more. As it begins the contest, the Fox will pretend that it is dead and will move the Boar to pity. Soon the Boar will go up to the Fox's corpse. and, standing over it, will breathe into its eyes and face.
The Fox, not unmindful of its ancient cunning, will bite the Boars left hoof and sever it completely from the Boars body.
Then the Fox will leap at the Boar and tear off its right ear and its tail and slink off to hide in the mountain caves. The deluded Boar will then ask the Wolf and the Bear to restore to it the parts which it has lost.
Once they have agreed to support the Boar, they will promise it two feet, two ears and one tail, from which they will manufacture a truly porcine member.
The Boar will agree to this and will stand waiting for the promised return of its parts.
Meanwhile the Fox will come down from the mountains and will metamorphose itself into a Wolf. Under the pretense of holding a conference with the Bear, it will approach that animal craftily and eat it up.
Then the Fox will change itself into a Boar and stand waiting for its brothers, pretending that it, too, has lost some of its members. As soon as they come, it will kill them with its tusk without a moments delay and then have itself crowned with a Lion's head.
In the days of the Fox, a Snake shall be born, and this will bring death to human beings. It will encircle London with its long tail and devour all there who pass by.
A Mountain Ox will put on a Wolf's head and grind its teeth white in the Severn's workshop.
The Ox will collect round itself the flocks of Albany and those of Wales, and their company will drain the Thames dry as it drinks.
An Ass shall call to itself a long-bearded Goat and then will change shapes with it. As a result the Mountain Bull will lose its temper: it will summon the Wolf and then transfix the Ass and the Goat with its horn. Once it has indulged its savage rage upon them, it will eat up their flesh and their bones, but the Ox itself will be burned up on the summit of Urianus.
The ashes of its funeral pyre shall be transmuted into swans, which will swim away upon dry land as though in water. These Swans will eat up fish inside fish and they will swallow men inside men. When they grow old they will take the shape of sea-wolves and continue their treacherous behaviour beneath the sea. They will sink ships and gather together quite a treasure house of silver.
Then the Thames shall begin to flow again. It will gather together its tributaries and overflow the confines of its bed. It will submerge nearby towns and overturn the mountains in its course. It will join to itself to the Springs of Calabes, filled as they are to the very brim with wickedness and deceit.
As a result, a number of mutinies will occur, and these will encourage the Venedoti to make war. The oaks of the forest shall band together and come into conflict with the rocks of the Gewissei.
A Raven will fly down with the Kites and eat up the bodies of the dead. An Owl will nest on the walls of Gloucester, and in its nest will be hatched an Ass. T
he Snake of Malvern will nurture this Ass and teach it many deceitful tricks. The Ass will put on a crown and then clamber above all that is most lofty and terrify the people with its hideous braying.
In the days of the Ass the Pacaian Mountains shall totter, and the country districts shall be deprived of their forest lands, for there shall come a Worm which will puff forth fire, and this Worm will burn up the trees with the breath which it exhales.
Out of the Worm shall come seven lions malformed with goats heads. With the fetid breath from their nostrils, they will corrupt married women and cause wives so far faithful to one husband to become common prostitutes.
The father shall not know his own son, for human beings will copulate wantonly as cattle do. Then indeed shall come a very Giant of wickedness who will terrify everyone with the piercing glance of his eyes. Against him will arise the dragon of Worcester, which will do its best to destroy him; but when they come to grips, the Dragon will be worsted and overwhelmed by its conqueror's wickedness, which will terrify everyone.
The Giant will climb on the Dragon, throw off all his clothes, and then ride upon it naked. The Dragon will rear the Giant up in the air and lash his naked body with its erected tail, but the Giant will recover his strength and cut the Dragons throat with his sword.
Finally, the Dragon will become entangled in its own tail and die of poison.
The boar of Totnes shall succeed the Giant and will oppress the people with grievous tyranny. Gloucester shall send a lion which will harass the raging Boar in a series of battles. This Lion will trample the Boar under foot and terrify it with its open maw. Finally the Lion will be at odds with all in the kingdom and climb up on the backs of the nobles.
A Bull will pursue the Lion through all the narrow byways of the kingdom, but in the end it will break its horns against the walls of Oxford. The Fox of Caerdubalum will wreak vengeance on the Lion and tear it up with its teeth. Then the Adder of Lincoln will coil round the Fox and announce its presence to the assembled Dragon with a terrifying hiss.
The Dragons will attack each other and tear each other to pieces.
A Dragon with wings will overwhelm the Dragon without wings, driving its venomous claws into the others muzzle. Two more Dragons will join the battle, and the one will kill the other. A fifth Dragon will replace the two dead ones and will destroy the two left alive by various stratagems.
It will climb on the back of one, holding a sword in its claws, and hack its head away from its body. Then it will cast its slough and climb on the second one with its opponent's tail in its right and left claws.
Naked, it will overwhelm the other; when fully covered, it will achieve nothing. It will torment other Dragons by climbing on their backs and will drive them round the kingdom.
Then a roaring Lion will intervene, terrifying in its monstrous cruelty. This Lion will reduce fifteen portions to a single entity, and by itself it will hold the people in its power. A Giant, snow-white in colour and gleaming bright, will beget a radiant people.
Soft living will enervate the leaders, and those under their command will be changed into beasts. In their number will arise a Lion, fat with human blood. A Man with a Sickle will act as the Lion's helper in the harvest, but when the man is perplexed in his mind, the Lion will destroy him.
The Charioteer of York will soothe the people. He will throw his master out and climb up into the chariot which he is driving. He will draw his sword and threaten the East, and he will fill with blood the ruts made by his wheels. Next he will turn himself into a Sea-fish and mate with a Snake which has attracted him by its hissing.
As a result, there shall be born three Bulls, which will glitter like lightning. They will eat up their pasture lands and then be turned into trees.
The first Bull will carry a whip made of vipers, and it will turn its back on the one born second. The second Bull will struggle to snatch the whip from the first, but the whip will be seized by the third. They will avert their gaze from each other until they have thrown away the poison cup.
A Farmer from Albany shall take their place, and down his back a Snake shall hang. He will spend his time ploughing the earth, so that the harvests of his homeland may grow white, but the Snake will busy itself in scattering poison to prevent the green corn from ever coming to harvest.
The population shall decrease through some deadly calamity, and the walls of the towns will come tumbling down. The City of Claudius will be proposed as a source of remedy, and this city will put forward the Foster-daughter of the Scourger. She shall come bearing a saucer of medicine, and in next to no time the island will be restored.
Two men shall hold the sceptre, one after the other, and a Horned Dragon will serve them both. The first man will come clad in iron and riding upon a flying Serpent. He will sit astride its back, with his body naked, and he will grasp its tail in his right hand.
The seas will be made turbulent by his cry, and he will strike terror into the second man. As a result, the second man will make an alliance with a Lion, but a quarrel will ensue, and they will fight. Each of the two will suffer greatly from the other's blows, but the animal's ferocity will enable it to win.
A man shall come with a drum and a lute, and he will soothe the Lions savageness. The various peoples in the kingdom will be pacified as a result, and they will encourage the Lion to take the saucer of medicine. As it sits in the dwelling allocated to it, it will examine the dose, but it will stretch out its hand toward Albany.
The regions of the north will be saddened by this, and they will throw open the gates of their temples.
A Wolf will act as standard bearer, and it will coil its tail round Cornwall. A soldier in a chariot will resist the Wolf and transform the Cornish people into a Boar. As a result the Boar will devastate the provinces, but it will hide its head in the depths of the Severn.
A man shall wrestle with a drunken Lion, and the gleam of gold will blind the eyes of the onlookers. Silver will shine white in the open space, causing trouble to a number of wine presses.
Men will become drunk with the wine which is offered to them; they will turn their backs on Heaven and fix their eyes on the Earth.
The stars will avert their gaze from these men and alter their accustomed course.
The harvests will dry up through the stars anger, and all moisture from the sky will cease.
Roots and branches shall change their places, and the oddness of this will pass for a miracle.
Before the amber glow of Mercury the bright light of the Sun shall grow dim, and this will strike horror into those who witness it. The planet Mercury, born in Arcady, shall change its shield, and the Helmet of Mars shall call to Venus.
The Helmet of Mars shall cast a shadow, and in rage Mercury shall overrun its orbit.
Iron Orion shall bare its sword.
The watery Sun shall torment the clouds. Jupiter shall abandon its preordained paths, and Venus desert its appointed circuits.
The malice of the planet Saturn will pour down like rain, killing mortal men as though with a curved sickle.
The twelve mansions of the stars will weep to see their inmates transgress so.
The Gemini will cease their wanton embraces and will dispatch Aquarius to the fountains.
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