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Full text of "The political prophecy in England"

COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY STUDIES IN ENGLISH 



THE POLITICAL PROPHECY 
IN ENGLAND 



COLUMBIA 

UNIVERSITY PRESS 

SALES AGENTS 

NEW YORK : 

LEMCKE & BUECHNER 
30-32 WEST 27TH STREET 

LONDON : 

HENRY FROWDE 
AMEN CORNER, E.G. 

TORONTO : 

HENRY FROWDE 
25 RICHMOND STREET, W. 



THE POLITICAL PROPHECY 
IN ENGLAND 



BY 



RUPERT TAYLOR, Ph.D. 




THE COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PRESS 

1911 
All rights reserved 



fj? 

\V\CJ 



Copyright, 1911 
BY THE COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PRESS 

Printed from type July, 1911 



PRESS OP 

THE NEW ERA PRINTINC COMPANY 
LANCASTER. PA. 



This Monograph has been approved by the Department of Eng 
lish in Columbia University as a contribution to knowledge worthy 

of publication. 

A. H. THORNDIKE, 

Secretary. 



TO MY FRIEND, 

MR. VICTOR FITCH BONSALL 

OF NEW YORK CITY, 
THIS BOOK IS RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED. 



PREFACE 

No study of the political prophecy as a literary form has 
hitherto been published. The present work, therefore, opens a 
new field for investigation by students of literary history. In 
The Political Prophecy in England I have attempted only to 
show the general history of the type in England, with some 
reference to Continental activity in the same field, and make no 
pretense of detailed study. In fact, a thorough study of the 
subject is impossible at this time, for available material is too 
scanty and the whole field too large. I have, however, em 
bodied in the book the results of my investigations in special 
subjects, such as the sources for Geoffrey of Monmouth's Book 
of Merlin, the date of Adam Davy's Dreams and the person of 
Adam Davy himself, and the interpretation of Thomas of 
Erceldoune. I do not pretend in any case to have written the 
final word. 

I wish here to express my thanks to Mr. H. F. Schwarz, Dr. 
F. A. Patterson, Dr. F. H. Ristine of Columbia University, and 
Professor Mabel Buland of the University of Puget Sound for 
valuable references given me in the course of my investiga 
tions. I wish also to acknowledge my indebtedness to the 
librarians of Columbia, Harvard, Yale, Cornell and Johns 
Hopkins, to the Bodley Librarian, to the Comptroller of The 
Clarendon Press, and to the authorities of the British Museum 
and the Bibliotheque Nationale. I am also indebted to Pro 
fessors J. L. Gerig and Raymond Weeks of Columbia Uni 
versity, to Mr. Mark Skidmore and to Miss L. Vimont for 
assistance in transcribing the old French printed in Appendix 
I. Special thanks are due Professor H. M. Ayres who has 
kindly advised me during the writing of the book, to Pro 
fessor G. P. Krapp with whom I began this work in 1907 
and to whom I owe many valuable suggestions, and to Pro 
fessor W. W. Lawrence who has been in charge of the investi 
gation since 1908. For assistance in reading the proof I am 
indebted to Professors Krapp and Lawrence, and to Mr. B. P. 
Adams of The Literary Digest. RUPERT TAYLOR. 

NEW YORK CITY, 
May 15, 1911. 

ix 



SYNOPSIS OF THE DISSERTATION 



CHAPTER I 

THE INTRODUCTION OF THE POLITICAL PROPHECY INTO ENGLAND WITH 
GEOFFREY OF MONMOUTH'S The Book of Merlin: OTHER POLITICAL 
PROPHECIES OF THE TWELFTH CENTURY IN ENGLAND. 
I. Statement of the subject scantiness of the material difficulty of 

the subject bibliography in a footnote. 
II. General definition of the type. 

1. It deals with political affairs. 

2. It must have literary form this necessity excludes the prophecy 

of the Witches in Macbeth and that of Peter of Pomfret. 

3. The methods of delivering the prophecies. 

a. Direct. 

b. Symbolical. 

1. The Sibyllic type persons are referred to by the 

initial letters of their names. 

2. The Galfridian. 

III. Definition of the Galfridian type date of introduction c. 1135. 

1. The peculiar use of animal figures. 

a. Explanation and quotation. 

b. How the use here differs from the use of similar figures 

in the fable and in the allegory. 

Here the animal names are mere cloaks or disguises for 
real individuals. In the fable the animals are chosen 
to typify traits of character common to many men, and 
the whole story is told to point a moral In the allegory 
the animals are personifications of abstract ideas. 

2. Other devices used to obtain obscurity. 

Here the second essay of Bridlington, which treats the subject 
fully, is discussed. 

3. Devices used to induce belief in the authenticity of the proph 

ecies. 

a. Actual history is retold as actual prophecy before the 

fictitious portion begins. 

b. Prophecies were attributed to men of recognized authority 

as scholars, such as Bede, Gildas, etc., or to men reputed 
to be prophets, such as Merlin or Thomas of Erceldoune. 

IV. The Book of Merlin. 

i. The original version seems not to be extant Geoffrey seems 
to have included much the same material in the Historia 
(Book 7). 

xi 



Xll 

What appears here and what is quoted by Ordericus Vitalis 
must serve for the reconstruction. 

2. Description of the seventh book of the Historia. 

a. The general introduction Cap. I. 

b. The dedicatory epistle Cap. II. 

c. The prophecies Cap. Ill and IV. 

3. These prophecies are really a collection. 

a. Geoffrey always uses the plural noun. 

b. Repeated motives. 

1. The dragon motive three quotations. 

2. Mention of other repetitions. 

4. The date of The Book of Merlin. 

a. Before December 1135 a passage quoted by Ordericus 

Vitalis in a chapter of Historia Ecclesiastica written 
before that date. 

b. Internal evidence. 

The last historical event that can be identified is the 
sinking of the White Ship danger of interpreting epi 
sodes Eagle-of-the-Broken-Covenant passage cannot refer 
to the war between Stephen and Matilda because it was 
written before the war arose. Caution necessary in the 
use of internal evidence thus gained. 

5. The Libellus Merlini used by Ordericus was perhaps the original 

Book of Merlin how the Libellus differed from the 
Historia. 

a. Colors of the dragons interchanged. 

b. Minor textual variances. 

c. Perhaps furnished with notes or a commentary. 

V. Consideration of Geoffrey's sources for The Book of Merlin post 
poned to the following chapter in order to discuss the other 
prophecies of the same century. 
VI. The Vita Merlini. 

1. The prophecy of Merlin here is a re-working of material in The 

Book of Merlin. 

2. The Prophecy of Ganieda. Pure forgery, but written in ac 

cordance with the conventions of the type. 

VII. Geoffrey of Monmouth's importance in the history of the political 
prophecy in England. 

1. He introduced the type in The Book of Merlin. 

2. He set the example for literary forgery of prophecies Ganieda. 
VIII. John of Cornwall's Seven Kings, another version of the same material 

as The Book of Merlin but independent of it. Comparison of the 
two prophecies. Some original Welsh phrases in the commentary. 
IX. The Collection made by Giraldus Cambrensis altogether different 
from the material in the Book of Merlin Giraldus claims to have 
translated from the Welsh. 



xiii 

CHAPTER II 
THE SOURCES OF The Book of Merlin 

I. Warning that the question of the sources of The Book of Merlin 
must be kept distinct from the question of the lost * British Book.' 
II. The material in The Book of Merlin was new to England political 
prophecies in England antedating it. 

1. Saints' Visions. 

2. The Omen of the Dragons from Nennius. 

3. The Vision of Edward the Confessor. 

III. The Book of Merlin was not a continuance of local tradition the 

source must be sought elsewhere. 

1. Brandl's theory that Geoffrey forged. 

2. Geoffrey's own statement that he translated from the Welsh. 

IV. Refutation of Brandl. 

1. Examination of The Book of Daniel and the XV Signa ante 

Judicium which Brandl names as models for The Book of 
Merlin. 

2. Other possible sources. 

a. Biblical prophecies cursory treatment to show that there 

is little or no resemblance. 

b. Classical prophecies the same manner of treatment except 

in the case of the Oracula Sibyllina more detailed men 
tion because the Sibyllic prophecies are all derived from 
this collection. 

c. Early medieval prophecies. 

1. Traditional themes growing out of the Oracula Sibyllina. 

a. The end of the World. 

b. Fifteen Signs before the Judgment. 

c. Anti-Christ. 

d. The Last King of Rome. 

1. Methodius. 

2. Adso. 

3. Appearance of the same prophecy in England. 

2. Continuance of the Sibyllic tradition in the West the 

Prophecy of Sibyl Tiburtina. 

3. Animal prophecies preceding The Book of Merlin. 

a. The Vision of Childerich. 
(> The Anchorite's Vision. W 
c. The Vision of the Five Beasts. 

3. Conclusion The peculiar characteristics of the Galfridian type 

were not affected by the Classical, Biblical, or Sibyllic proph 
ecies, though Geoffrey himself must have known a good part 
of the material. His refusal to copy it must have been delib 
erate. He could at most have got only a suggestion from 
the last three prophecies discussed. Such a point would be 



XIV 

difficult to prove. Time to consider the evidence in behalf of 
Geoffrey's own statement. 
V. Geoffrey's own statement supported. 

1. Reasons for not taking Geoffrey's statement unsupported. 

a. Reputation for mendacity incurred by the failure of scholars 
to find Archdeacon Walter's ' British Book.' 

1. Remarks of William of Newburgh in this connection 

so far as the prophecies are concerned William admits 
that Geoffrey translated from the Welsh real import 
of William's remarks shown in a footnote his chief 
anger is directed against the Welsh for perpetuating 
the Arthurian myths. 

2. Although the British Book has not yet been found 

scholars no longer insist that Geoffrey forged his 
material, but admit that he had some source Geoffrey 
not the first to associate Merlin with the Arthurian 
story the name Merlino in Italy in the nth century 
Godfrey of Viterbo and Geoffrey compared in 
footnote. 

2. Evidence in behalf of Geoffrey's statement. 

a. External evidence. 

1. William of Newburgh. 

2. John of Cornwall's independent version of the same 

material translated from a Welsh original. 

3. Collection made by Giraldus from Welsh originals 

shows that similar material existed in Welsh. 

b. Internal evidence. 

1. Merlin a prophet in Welsh predictive poems. 

2. The Cadwalader-Conan episode common to the 

Welsh poems and The Book of Merlin. 

3. The resemblance between the animal-symbolism in 

The Book of Merlin and the animal-epithets of Welsh 
poetry. The animal-epithet shown to be as old as 
Gildas (details in note). This point is treated in 
detail as furnishing very strong evidence. 

c. Conclusion the evidence points to Welsh origin. 

CHAPTER III 

THE MAJOR MONUMENTS OF THE ENGLISH TRADITION : SCOTTISH, WELSH, 
AND IRISH PROPHECIES 

I. The Six Kings to follow King John. 

1. History 'of the prophecy comes from material in The Book of 

Merlin details to be studied in an appendix. 

2. The prophecy paraphrased. 

II. The Prophecy of John of Bridlington. 



XV 

1. Authorship unknown, attributed to John of Bridlington. 

2. Date (1362-1364) how arrived at internal evidence issue 

taken with Thomas Wright. 

3. The plan of the prophecy contents of the introductory essays. 

4. Conventions observed in writing the prophecy symbols are few 

translation of a typical passage. 

5. Relation of the poem to other prophecies. 

a. caput Martis antedates Bridlington. 

b. Earlier prophecies that contain Callus as a symbol for 

France or for the King of France. 

c. The Cock in the North an adaptation of material taken 

from Bridlington with additions. 

d. The Prophecy of the Fishes metrical translation of a 

long episode from Bridlington. 

III. The English Becket. 

1. General description seems to be a fragment of a longer poem. 

2. Contents. 

3. The two versions. 

4. Relation to the Six Kings at times rather close. 

IV. The Erceldoune Cycle. 

1. The romantic elements. 

2. The prophecies. 

3. The traditional material. 

4. Relation to other prophecies. 

a. The Harleian Erceldoune. 

b. The Northumbrian Ballad (no better name). 

5. The date of the poem. 

Later than ^88 perhaps before August 1400 Brandl's argu 
ment to place it 1400 shown to be unsound his interpretation 
of the symbols faulty and inconsistent. 

6. Authorship unknown. 

Note on the real Thomas of Erceldoune no evidence that he 
ever produced anything beyond weather predictions issue 
taken with Murray. 
V. Scottish prophecies. 

1. Latin prophecies relating to Scottish affairs. 

2. The Whole Prophesie of Scotland, a collection chief attention 

given to 

a. The Cock in the North Brandl's interpretation unsatisfac 

tory mention of the following: 

b. Bertlington. 

c. Rymour. 

d. The Sibyl. 

VI. Brief notice of Welsh prophecy after Geoffrey of Monmouth. 
VII. Passing review of Irish prophetic material nothing of importance. 



XVI 

CHAPTER IV 
RELATION OF THE PROPHECIES TO POLITICAL EVENTS 

I. Wide credence given secular prophecies in the Middle Ages. 
II. Close relation of the prophecies to history. 

1. The prophecies form a vaticinal chronicle of English history. 

2. The prophecies most numerous in times of political crisis. 

3. Re-interpretation of old prophecies. 

a. Commentary on The Book of Merlin by Alanus de Insulis. 

4. Fulfillment of prophecies constantly expected. 

5. Enduring power of the prophecies as shown by the Giraldian 

Collection (c. 1190-1651). 

III. Classification of prophecies according to relation to political affairs. 

1. Literary prophecies those written merely as exercises to narrate 

history in terms of prophecy and to express the writer's 
own feelings, but with no intention of influencing opinion 
or the course of events. 

a. Geoffrey's Book of Merlin and Prophecy of Ganieda. 

b. Earlier versions of the Six Kings. 

c. The English Becket, etc. 

2. Propagandist prophecies those written with the intention to 

influence opinion and to direct the course of events. 

a. Mention of prophecies previously discussed. 

1. Erceldoune. 

2. isth century version of Six Kings, etc. 

b. Adam Davy's Dreams. 

1. Contents. 

2. Author new material. 

3. Date original work issue taken with O. F. Emerson. 

c. Ampulla prophecies ascribed to Becket. 

d. Prophecies in Lilly's Monarchy or no Monarchy. 

IV. Actual influence exerted on political history by prophecies. 

1. Direct evidence. 

a. The Tripartite Convention. 

b. Welsh Rebellion against Henry VIII. 

2. Indirect evidence. 

a. Testimony of Chroniclers. 

b. Laws passed against the dissemination of Prophecies. 

1. Two laws by Henry IV. 

2. Henry VIII. 

3. Edward VI. 

4. Elizabeth. 

c. Violations of these laws two instances discussed. 



XV 11 

CHAPTER V 
THE DEVELOPMENT AND THE DECLINE OF THE POLITICAL PROPHECY 

I. Change in language used in the prophecies. 

1. Earliest prophecies were in Latin, but Latin prophecies were 

used even to the end of the sixteenth century. 

2. A few prophecies appear in French either translated into 

Latin or some English dialect. 

3. Prophecies in the vernacular the Here-prophecy as early as 

1190. 
II. Annotations and commentaries on prophecies. 

III. Re-writing and re-working of older material. 

IV. No particular literary form ever came to be recognized as best 

suited to vaticinal expression. 

1. Prose prophecies. 

2. Verse prophecies various kinds of verse forms used. 
V. Change in the use of symbols. 

1. Arbitrary symbols in the earlier prophecies the symbols were 

chosen arbitrarily perhaps some metaphorical significance at 
the time. 

2. Traditional and conventional symbols originally arbitrary Ed 

ward the Second is always the Goat. 

3. Heraldic after the rise of heraldry men were frequently spoken 

of by the names of the animals that appeared in the coat- 
armor. 

4. Several kinds of symbols may be used in one and the same 

prophecy The English Becket, etc. 
VI. Prophecies other than the Galfridian in England. 

1. Sibyllic Prophecies. 

a. H. patre. 

b. Hempe. 

The method was never applied in England as on the Continent. 

2. Prophecies which show a combination of the Sibyllic and Gal 

fridian types. 
Six Letters to Save Merrie England. 

3. Freak Prophecies. 

a. Dice prophecies. 

" When six shall up and sink (cinque) shall under." 
VII. Change in the narrative style. 

1. Purely symbolic prophecies in The Book of Merlin the action 

is told entirely by the use of animal symbols. 

2. Straightforward narrative with no ambiguity. 

a. Here. 

b. Pseudo-Greener, etc. 

3. Straightforward in parts, symbolic in parts. 
The English Becket. 



XV111 

4. Rhetorical prophecies in which the desired amount of ambiguity 

and obscurity is gained without recourse to symbols but by the 
use of metaphorical, figurative, and highly-colored language. 
The Scottish Merlin, as quoted by Lilly. 

5. Paradoxical prophecies 
Harleian Erceldoune. 

6. Prophetic pictures quite a common class. 

Lilly's pictures in Monarchy or no Monarchy relation to the 
Six Kings. 

7. Decadent prophecies of the seventeenth century. 

William's Prophecy quoted in a note as a fair example of the 

absurd kind. 
VIII. The decadence of the prophecy 

1. Growing popularity of astrology which gradually supplanted the 

prophecy. 

a. Annual prognostications. 

b. Almanacs. 

2. Adverse legislation previously discussed. 

3. Growing freedom from superstition. 

4. Opposition on the part of men of influence and scholars. 

a. Bacon. 

b. Earl of Northampton. 

c. John Spencer. 

5. Ridicule of the type by means of parodies and burlesques. 

a. Piers Ploughman 2 instances. 

b. " When Asses grow Elephants," by Sir John Harington. 

c. Shakspere in Lear. 

d. Dekker in The Raven's Almanac, etc. 
IX. Influence of the type on English Literature. 

1. The same method of narration used by Greene in James the 

Fourth. 

2. Custom of using a man's heraldic emblem for the man. 

a. James Howell Fables. 

b. Gower in Cronica Tripartita. 

c. Skelton. 

d. Spenser, etc. 

3. Convention of introducing prophecies into epics borrowed from 

Italy (Ariosto). 

a. Spenser Merlin from the Cave in the Faery Queen. 

b. Milton Michael from the Mount in Paradise Lost. 
X. Summary of main points in the preceding chapters. 

1. Geoffrey's importance. 

2. Welsh origin of the Galfridian type of prophecy. 

3. Major monuments. 

4. Historical relations and political influence of the type. 

5. The flowering time and causes for the decline. 



xix 

CHAPTER VI 
THE GALFRIDIAN TYPE OF PROPHECY IN OTHER COUNTRIES THAN ENGLAND. 

I. The way prepared for Geoffrey by Nennius and the Omen of the 

Dragons, and by the early forms of the Arthurian legend. 
II. Quotations from The Book of Merlin by Continental writers of i2th 
and 1 3th centuries. 

1. France. 

v a. Ordericus Vitalis. 

b. Geoffrey de Breuil. 

c. Alanus de Insulis. 

d. Suger, etc. 

2. Italy. 

The evidence is chiefly indirect 

a. Great popularity in i3th century points to some knowledge 

of the material in the twelfth century. 

b. English soldiers of Richard the First's army could easily 

have spread the material. 

c. Prophetic material known in Provence in twelfth century, 

and could easily have crossed into Italy with other 
Provengal literature. 

3. Germany and Iceland mention scanty material. 

4. Dissemination of the twelfth and thirteenth century manu 

scripts some perhaps to these countries as early as the 
twelfth century (note). 

III. Translation of The Book of Merlin. 

1. Iceland Merlinus Spa. i2th century. 

2. Indirect evidence for German, Dutch, and Provencal. 

3. Waurin's isth century French version in a Chronicle of British 

Kings. 

a. Description of contents. 

b. Date. 

IV. Local prophecies of European countries attributed to Merlin and 

written according to the Galfridian conventions. 

1. France. 

a. Fragments in chronicles. 

b. Richard of Ireland's collection. 

c. Echoes in Deschamps' poems. 

2. Italy. 

a. Hugh of Bariol and Peter of Apulia. 

b. Joachim. 

c. Miscellaneous i3th century prophecies ascribed to Merlin. 
V. Galfridian prophecies on the Continent attributed to other prophets 

than Merlin a direct borrowing from England since the 
native Continental type was the Sibyllic. 
i. Germany. 

John of Toledo. 



XX 

2. France. 

a. Prophecies quoted by Deschamps. 

b. Profetie d'Orval. 

c. Epistre de Sibille. 

3. Italy discussion confined to i3th century prophecies because the 

wealth of material is embarrassing. 

a. Sibyl Erithrea pure Galfridian despite the name detailed 

account of the contents. 

b. Sibyl Samia. 

c. Michael Scotus. 

VI. The Continental Collection, ascribed to Merlin contains prophecies 
of all kinds that have been described themes belonging to 
many collections and to many countries contains material 
of the twelfth, thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth centuries in 
dialog form. 

1. Two versions 

a. French by Richard of Ireland. 

b. Italian of the fourteenth century. 

2. Origin 

Each Ms. tells a different story Sanesi considers it Italian. 

3. Quoted by Robert of Brunne in England. 
VII. Interchange of prophetic material. 

1. English prophecies known on the Continent and used there. 

a. Deschamps Vane pesant. 

b. Six Kings. 

c. Foreign prophecies dealing with English affairs. 
Unicornus de occidentali plaga. 

2. Foreign prophecies known in England. 
Brief and scanty mention. 

VIII. History of the type on the Continent the same phenomena of devel 
opment and decline. 

1. False attribution professional prophets. 

2. Opposition to the prophecies. 

a. Decree of the Council of Trent. 

b. Laws of Henry the Third of France. 

c. Montaigne's Essay on Prognostications. 

IX. Popular religious prophecies brief mention two recurrent themes : 

1. The Returning Hero who should be a political Savior. 

a. Arthur. 

b. Barbarossa. 

c. Sebastian of Portugal. 

2. The Last King of Rome. 



THE POLITICAL PROPHECY IN ENGLAND 



CHAPTER ONE 

The introduction of the political prophecy into England with Geoffrey 
of Monmouth's Book of Merlin; Other prophecies of the twelfth century 
in England. 

The political prophecy as a type of English literature has 
thus far received little attention. Nothing has been written on 
the subject as a whole except a few general statements based 
on hasty generalizations and insufficient acquaintance with the 
material. Passing references to the prophecies are made in the 
various manuals and histories of English literature. 

Only a few of the prophecies have been edited. 1 Most of 

1 The bibliography of the subject is very slight. The following books 

and articles exhaust it except for general remarks in manuals of literary 

history, and references in various treatises. 

A. Brandl, Thomas of Erceldoun, Berlin, 1880. 

The Cock in the North. Poetische Weissagung auf Percy Hotspur, 
in Sitsungberichte der Konigliche Preussichen Akademie der IVissen- 
schaften, Berlin, 1909, pp. 1160-1189. 

James A. H. Murray, The Romance and Prophecies of Thomas of Ercel- 
doune, London, 1875, E. E. T. S., 61. 

F. J. Furnivall, Adam Davy's Dreams about Edward the Second, London, 
1878. E. E. T. S., 69. 

J. Rawson Lumby, Some Early Scottish Prophecies, in Bernardus de Cura 
rei familiaris, London, 1870. E. E. T. S., 42. 

A. Schultz, Die Sagen von Merlin, Halle, 1853; discusses the early 
prophecies attributed to Merlin and prints the Vita Merlini. 

W. E. Mead, Various Forms of the Merlin Legend, in Merlin, Vol. I, 
London, 1899. E. E. T. S., 10, 112. 

H. de la Villemarque, Myrdhin, Paris, 1862, discusses the early use of 
Welsh prophecies and touches on the question of Merlin as a prophet. 
As Villemarque is not very reliable, his statements must be care 
fully verified. 

Thomas Wright, John of Bridlington, in Political Poems relating to Eng 
lish History composed during the period from the accession of Edward 
2 1 



those that have been printed are hidden away in appendices 
and notes to other books. The difficulty in the way of a 
thorough study of the field and the different monuments lies 
in the fact that most of the material necessary for such study is 
yet in manuscript form and is inaccessible to many students. 
Until this material is carefully sifted and studied in detail it is 
unwise to attempt absolute and final pronouncement on any 
part of the subject. The purpose of this present study, there 
fore, is to set forth the facts as they have been gleaned from 
the material available, and to serve as a general introduction 
to the whole field. 

The term political prophecy needs no explanation as to its 
general import. Everyone will understand it as applying to any 
expression of thought, written or spoken, in which an attempt 
is made to foretell coming events of a political nature. For the 
purposes of study from the point of view of literary history, 
however, it is necessary that the prophecies be written in some 
literary form. This presupposes an existence beyond the 
immediate time of composition; for oral prophecies, as a rule, 
are given on the spur of the moment, and therefore are tem 
porary in that they, concern matters of immediate import, the 
outcome of which is near. Such prophecies as that delivered by 
Peter of Pomfret do not meet this requirement and therefore 
do not enter into consideration here. This requirement, how 
ever, does not preclude the oral transmission of written pro 
phecies, or the composing of oral prophecies according to the 
conventions of the written form. Moreover, the prophecies 
when written must observe the ordinary conventions of narra 
tive writing; the usual literary political prophecy reads very 

the Third to that of Richard the Second, Rolls Series, 2 vols., London, 

1859-61, xxix-liv, 123-215. 
Ancient Scotch Prophecies, Bannatyne Club Publications, 44, Edinburgh, 

1833. Merely a reprint with no editorial comment. 
H. L. D. Ward, Catalogue of Romances in the British Museum. Vol. I, 

pp. 203-338, contains a description of several prophecies that have 

not yet been printed, and has proved of great assistance in the course 

of this study. 

No mention is made here of those prophecies that have been printed 
in notes and appendices to other books without any editorial comment. 
Such information is given in the notes as each prophecy is mentioned. 



much like history written in the future tense. Accordingly, 
the show of kings in Macbeth is not to be regarded as belong 
ing properly to this study, for it observes the rules of dramatic 
exposition, not of narrative composition. Prophecies, however, 
may be quoted by characters in a play; Peele's Edward the 
First, for instance, abounds in them. 

Literary political prophecies differ very much in the manner 
in which the vaticination is delivered. If the events are fore 
told simply and directly without any attempt to disguise them 
and to make the description obscure, the method may be called 
direct. The language may be figurative and obscure, but the 
main issue remains clear. This is the usual method of the 
Biblical prophecies. An excellent example is Isaiah's prophecy 
against Damascus : 2 

" Behold Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be 
a ruinous heap. 

" The Cities of Aroer are forsaken : they shall be for flocks, which 
shall lie down, and none shall make them afraid." 

But the desire for obscurity and ambiguity frequently leads 
to the adoption of certain disguises for the characters in a 
prophecy. A vaticinal method in which such devices are used 
may be called symbolical. For instance, " The Ass of Wicked 
ness shall succeed, swift to fall upon the workers of gold but 
slow against the ravening of wolves." 3 Most of the secular 
prophecies are symbolical, though the language employed is 
itself usually bare of ornament. 

The prophetic symbols used are not always the same, and 
therein lies another difference. The European prophecies 
earlier than the twelfth century use one kind of symbols, the 
English prophecies use another. In the European prophecies 
the author was content to use only the initials of the characters 
with whom he was dealing. This method may be called 
Sibyllic, for it first appears in the celebrated Oracula Sibyllina. 

2 Isaiah, 17; 1-2. 

3 From the Prophecy of Merlin in Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia 
Regum Brittaniae textual edition, ed. J. A. Giles, London, 1844, p. 124; 
most recent translation by Sebastian Evans, Temple Classics, London, 
1904, p. 178. 



The most distinctive feature of the English method is the use 
of animals and birds instead of men and women. An English 
prophecy containing this peculiar symbolism reads very much 
like some animal story. There is, however, this difference ; the 
animals are constantly felt to represent individual men and 
women who are never lost sight of behind the mask, even if 
their identity is unknown. This amounts, really, ,to little more 
than giving animal names to men and women. This vaticinal 
method may be called the Galfridian, for it is used extensively 
for the first time by Geoffrey of Monmouth in The Book of 
Merlin. Other symbols are used in it, but they can best be 
observed in the progress of the study. 

The reign of Edward the Second is thus described in one of 
the prophecies written when the genre was in its most flourish 
ing period: 4 

"And after this dragone shal come a gote out of a Kar, pat shal haue 
homes & berde of siluer : and pere shal come out of his noseprelles a 
drop J>at shal bitoken hunger & sorw, & grete dep of pe peple : and miche 
of his lande in pe beginning of his regne shal be wastede. This goot shal 
go ouer into Fraunce, & shal oppon the floure of lif and of dep. In his 
tyme pere shal arise an Egle in Cornewaile pat shal haue feperes of 
golde, J>at of pride shal be wipouten pere in all pe lande : and he shal 
despise lordes of blode : and after, he shall flee shamefully by a Bere 
at Gauersiche : and after shal bene made brigges of men oppon pe costes 
of pe see : and stones shal fall f ram castelles, and meny opere tounes 
shal bene made pleyne : and a bataile shall bene done uppon an Arme of pe 
see in a felde ordeynede as a shelde: and at pat bataile shal dye meny 
white hedes : wherf ore pat bataile shal bene callede * pe white bataile.' 
And the forsaide Beere shal done pis goote michel harme, and it shal bene 
oute of pe Soupwest . . . ; and he (the Goat) shal avenge him oppon 
his enemys, prouS conseil of ij oweles, pat ferst shal bene in peril forto 
bene undone : but pe olde owel shal wende ouer pe se into a straunge 
lande, and pere he shal duelle unto a certayne tyme : and after, he shal 
come ageyne into pis lande . . . : and at pe last, pe goot and pe oweles 
shullen come atte Bur up Trent, and shullen wende ouer: and for drede, pe 
Bere shal flee, and a swan wip him, for his company, to Bur towarde pe North, 
& pere pai shal bene wip an harde shoure. And pan pe swan shal bene slayne 
wij? sorwe, and pe Beere taken & beheuedede alper nexte his neste, pat 
shal (stand) uppon a broken brigge, up wham pe sone shal caste his beemes : 
and meny shal him seche, for vertu pat from hym shal come. In pat tyme 

*The Brut, E. E. T. S., 131, ed. F. W. D. Brie, London, 1906, vol. I, 
P. 73 ^ 



shal dye, for sorw and care, a peple of his lande, so )?at meny shal bene 
oppon him J?e more bolder afterward. And J?o ij owles shullen do miche 
harme to }>e forsaide floure of lif, and here shul lede in distresse, so Jat 
she shal passe ouer into Fraunce, forto make pees bituene Je gote & J>e 
floure delice : and J?ere she shal duelle to a tyme J>at her sede shal come 
to seche her : and J?ere J>ai shul bene til a tyme }?at )>ai shul ham clo]?e 
wij> grace : and J>ai shul seche the Owelyn, and put ham unto despitous 
de]?. And after shal J?is goot bene brougt to disese : and in Crete anguisshe 
and sorwe he shal leve al his lif." 

This use of animal-symbolism is unique. Animal figures 
occur in medieval allegory, such as the Questing Beast in 
Malory's La Mort D' Arthur, but they are personifications of 
abstract ideas. In the saints' visions fiends and demons fre 
quently take the shape of beasts and monsters, and attempt to 
frighten the holy men with their hideous shapes and their 
terrible howling. Animals occur in the bestiaries and their 
supposed natural traits suggest moral reflections. The beast 
fable, also, employs animals ; but there the animal, or bird, 
represents some type of man, and the story is told to bring out 
some truth of human nature. In all there is more or less 
tendency to abstractness ; the figures in the beast fable are 
individual and concrete enough, but they are used to exemplify 
abstractions. In the prophecies every figure is individual and 
concrete without any trace of abstractness. The animal name 
is but a mask behind which the individual hides incognito. 
This concreteness and individuality of each figure is the 
peculiar and distinguishing characteristic of the symbolism. 

It must not be supposed that the means of prophetic disguise 
were limited to a single method. On the contrary numerous 
devices were employed. What various tricks were used can 
well be realized from the commentator's account of those 
employed in the Prophecy of John of Bridlington. Ten 
methods in all are recognized, but some seem in large part 
repetitions of others. The first is the use of arbitrary names, 
by which is meant the adoption of certain arbitrary symbols. 
All the examples quoted are animal names. The second is 
accidental designation, or the use of names derived from some 
incident in the life of the individual referred to or from some 
peculiarity in manners, person, name, surname, or arms. 



6 

William La Zouche is referred to by the Latin word, susplcor, 
and Lord Percy as penetrans. Both instances are merely puns 
on the names. The third method the commentator calls equi 
vocation, the use of equivoque or ambiguity. For instance, the 
word cancer may stand for the crab, for the Sign of the 
Zodiac so-named, or, according to the first method, for the 
King of Scotland. The fourth is the use of metaphor, as when 
ships are spoken of as horses and their rigging as bridles. The 
fifth is the use of words made from Roman numerals; letters 
which stand for a numerical expression are so combined as to 
form words, such as Milvij which stands for ML VII, or Cucull 
which stands for CCLXI. The sixth method is etymologised 
translation, by which is meant the translation of the component 
parts of an English compound word. Thus Herthf ord becomes 
terra vada and Mortimer mare mortis. The seventh is the use 
of enigma, and can best be understood by quoting. The line, Si 
qws taurum, caput amputat, Inde fit aurum (if anyone cuts off 
the head of a bull, gold is made thereby) affords an excellent 
example. The amputation is not to be performed on the bull 
but on the word taurum, and the word aurum results. The 
eighth is the division of words, and is fortunately of rare 
occurrence, for it only adds to confusion worse confounded. 
A word is introduced between the parts of another word that 
should follow or precede it. 5 The ninth is the use of ambiguous 
words. The tenth is simply abbreviation . 

The ten devices just described, all of which are used in The 
Prophecy of John of Brldllngton, make up a very elaborate 
scheme of prophetic composition. Not all are used at the 
same time in the other prophecies. The first, which amounts 
to the use of animal names, is most frequently employed. The 
other devices are used variously, some in one prophecy, some in 
another. The vision machinery is occasionally employed, as in 
The Dreams of Adam Davy about Edward the Second, without 
these various tricks of disguise and without any ornament of 
style save obscurity of language. 

Besides the various devices of disguise others were used to 
make the prophecies more credible. One of these was a com- 

6 Falsus non stabit, Phi et lippus fugitabit. (Bridlington II, v.) 



bination of fact and fiction, usually a characteristic of the 
more extensive monuments. The writer dated his prophecy 
earlier than the real time of composition and retold historical 
facts as a part of the genuine prophecy. The greater part of 
The Prophecy of John of Bridlington is a truthful account of 
historical events and the prophetic part is but a small portion 
of the whole. It was expected that the reader, finding the first 
part true, would consider the whole inspired and accept the last 
part as unquestionable. Furthermore, the prophecies were 
sometimes attributed to famous scholars of an older time, as in 
the case of Bede and Gildas; to popular saints as those of 
Thomas a Becket and John of Bridlington ; or to men already 
reputed as prophets, as Merlin and Thomas of Erceldoune. 
The same prophecy is frequently attributed to various persons. 

Such writing as has just been described was almost unknown 
in England before the twelfth century. Some episodes in the 
visions of the saints might be termed prophetic, but they were 
rarely concerned with political affairs and contained no animal 
symbols. St. Cuthbert, it is true, had foreseen in a vision the 
death of a king of Denmark. St. Dunstan had uttered a few 
prophetic sentences concerning Ethelred the Unready, but 
they were of a general nature and foretold no particular event. 
Exception to the general statement must be made, however, 
in the case of two productions before the twelfth century, the 
so-called Vision of Edward the Confessor and The Omen of 
the Dragons. 

The Omen of the Dragons is a part of that mass of fiction that 
gathered about the Arthurian story. It belongs more properly 
to the Romance of Merlin, and is one of its oldest fragments. 
It is first told by Nennius. 6 According to the story, Vortigern 
wished to build a tower on Mt. Heremus and got together 
material on the spot for it, but on three occasions what had 
previously been collected disappeared in one night. The king 
was advised by his wise men that before the foundations would 
stand, the spot would have to be sprinkled with the blood of a 
child born without a father. Messengers sent throughout the 
kingdom in search of the prodigy returned with Ambrosius. 

8 Nennius, 40-43. 



He, however, on learning why he had been brought to the court 
told the King that his blood would be useless, and said that he 
would explain the phenomenon in another way. With the 
King's permission he commanded the pavement to be torn up, 
whereupon a pool containing two vases was disclosed. When 
the vases were opened a folded tent was discovered, in which 
were two sleeping serpents (or dragons), one red, the other 
white. The two dragons awoke and began a terrible combat 
which ended in the complete rout of the white dragon. Am- 
brosius interpreted the white dragon as the Saxons who had 
recently been introduced into the country, and the red dragon 
as the Britons. The contest between them typified the long 
struggle for supremacy between the two peoples, and the 
victory of the red dragon meant the final triumph of the 
British. 

The Vision of Edward the Confessor is not important, but it 
must be mentioned here as being an early example of vaticinal 
literature in England. It is first found in an anonymous life 7 
of Edward the Confessor dedicated to his widow, who died in 
1074, and occurs in all the redactions. It purports to have been 
delivered to the king by two holy men whom he had known in 
Normandy. It runs, " If a green tree is cut in the middle and 
the part lopped off is moved three jugera from the stem, when 
the part moved away shall of its own accord and without the 
aid of any human hand unite itself to the trunk and begin to 
flourish and bear fruit, then for the first time can a respite from 
such great evils be hoped for." 8 

The credit of really introducing the political prophecy into 
England belongs to Geoffrey. 9 His three books, The Book of 

1 H. R. Luard, Lives of Edward the Confessor, Rolls Series, London, 
1858, p. 431- 

8 J. H. Ramsey in The Foundations of England, London, 1898, Vol. I, 
p. 502, gives an altogether wrong impression of this vision by mistrans 
lating, although the Latin on the page of Luard's Lives to which he refers 
is plain enough. The Latin is, " tune primum tantorum malorum sperari 
poterit remissio," which he translates, " then shall the end be." 

9 The known facts of Geoffrey's life are few. He was a nephew and 
foster son of Uchtryd, Archdeacon and later Bishop of Llandaff. The 
family was Welsh and, through the marriage of Uchtryd's daughter, Ang- 
harad, to Jorwerth ap Owen ap Caradoc, Lord of Usk, was connected with 



9 

Merlin, the Historia Regum Brittaniae, and the Vita Merlini 
are each of great importance in English literature, but only the 
first and last concern this study. 

The Book of Merlin has not come down to the present day. 
Its contents are only to be inferred from the fragments quoted 
by Ordericus Vitalis, and from the prophecies as they now 
stand in the Plistoria, where they form the seventh book. This 
book consists of four chapters : the first is a preface, or prolog, 
in which Geoffrey says that he suspended work on the Historia 
to make public an edition of Merlin's prophecies, being urged 
thereto by Bishop Alexander of Lincoln and others whom he 
does not name; the second chapter is a dedicatory epistle to 
Bishop Alexander ; the third and fourth contain the prophecies. 
Obviously the preface was not a part of the original work, but 
the dedicatory epistle was. 

The vaticinal matter does not begin at once with the opening 
of the third chapter. The Omen of the Dragons had been 
begun in the last chapter of the preceding book, but had been 
interrupted by the prolog and the epistle. It is resumed at the 
point where the dragons awake and begin their combat. The 
King requests Merlin to explain the portent of the dragons. 
Merlin obeys and gives much the same account as had appeared 

one of the princely families. It is conjectured from Geoffrey's signatures 
that his father's name was Arthur. His family and his patrons, Bishop 
Alexander of Lincoln and Earls Robert and William of Gloucester, all be 
longed to the party of the Empress Matilda. His name with that of his 
friend, Archdeacon Walter of Oxford, is signed to three documents, the 
first in 1129, the others in 1138. His Book of Merlin, as will be shown 
later, was produced before December, 1135. The first recension of the 
Historia, now lost, was produced as early as 1139. In February, 1152, he 
was ordained priest and consecrated Bishop of St. Asaph's. He died at 
Llandaff in 1154, apparently without ever entering upon his bishopric. He 
was evidently a member of the Norman party among the Welsh. His 
family must have been of prominence to have obtained such preferment 
as was given him and his uncle. Geoffrey himself was known to men of 
power and influence, and may have been in touch with courtly circles. 
For the known facts consult Ward, Catalog of Romances, vol. i, p. 203, 
and Anglia, XXIV, 383. For a different view as to the early date of the 
Historia, consult R. H. Fletcher, Two Notes on the Historia Regum Brit 
taniae of Geoffrey of Monmouth in Publications of the Modern Language 
Association, Vol. 16, p. 461-474. 



10 

in Nennius's version, but he goes further and prophesies the 
future of Britain until the end of the world. After a period of 
oppression the Britons (the Red Dragon) prevail under the 
leadership of 'The Boar of Cornwall' (Arthur). Historical 
events, actual or legendary, up to the time of the Norman 
Conquest are described briefly and indefinitely, and with little 
symbolism. During this period ' the German Worm ' rises 
again with the aid of ' the Wolf of the Sea,' religion is ' done 
away with,' famines and various misfortunes befall the chosen 
until ' he that shall clothe himself in the brazen man ' brings 
them assistance, a ' Blessed King ' fits out a navy, a second 
period of desolation and a second German invasion follow, and 
finally vengeance comes upon the ' German Worm ' for his 
treason. Then follows the coming of the Normans, which is 
referred to as ' the decimation of Neustria.' 

A more detailed account of events begins with the reference 
to the Norman Conquest. Thereafter the animal-symbolism, 
which had been used sparingly, is the regular form of expres 
sion. After William the Conqueror, who is mentioned very 
indefinitely, 'two dragons' (William the Second in England, 
Robert the Second in Normandy) succeed, of whom one is 
slain by the arrow of envy and the other returns under the 
shadow of a name. 10 Then the 'Lion of Justice' (Henry the 
First) succeeds. The various events of his reign are de 
scribed figuratively. After him seems to come a King Sextus, 
but there is no preparation for the numbering. 11 He is suc 
ceeded by the ' Lynx/ under whom the Normans lose their 
power and the kingdom reverts to the descendants of Brute, 
the rightful owners. The overthrow of the Norman power is 
thus foretold : 12 

" Of him (Sextus) shall issue forth the Lynx that seeth through all 
things, and shall keep watch to bring about the downfall of his own race, 
for through him shall Neustria lose both islands and be despoiled of her 

10 Evans, p. 175; Giles, 120-121. 

11 " Thence forward from the first unto the fourth, from the fourth unto 
the third, from the third unto the second the thumb shal be rolled in oil. 
The sixth shall overthrow the walls of Hibernia and change the forests into 
a plain." (Evans, 176; Giles, 122.) 

12 Evans, p. 176; Giles, 122-123. 



11 

ancient dignity. Then shall the men of the country be turned back into 
the island for that strife shall be kindled among the foreigners. An old 
man, moreover, snowy-white, that sitteth upon a snowy-white horse shall 
turn aside the river Periron and with a white wand measure out a mill 
thereon. Cadwallader shall call into Conan, and shall receive Albany into 
fellowship. Then shall be slaughter among the foreigners: then shall the 
rivers run blood : then shall gush forth the fountains of Armorica and shall 
be crowned with the diadem of Brutus. Cambria shall be filled with 
gladness and the oaks of Cornwall shall wax green. The island shall be 
called by the name of Brutus and the name given by the foreigner shall 
be done away with." 

Much the larger portion of the prophecy follows the passage 
just quoted, but, since it defies interpretation and is too long, it 
must be passed over here. Attention should be called, however, 
to the closing passage, which is very curious. It is a descrip 
tion of the end of the world expressed in astrological terms. 
A short quotation will suffice to show the character of the 
whole. 13 

" Stillbon of Arcady shall change his shield, and the helmet of Mars 
shall call unto Venus. The helmet of Mars shall cast a shadow, and the 
rage of Mercury shall overpass all bounds. Iron Orion shall bare his 
sword. Phoebus of the ocean shall torment his clouds. Jupiter shall tres 
pass beyond his appointed bounds, and Venus forsake the way that hath 
been ordained unto her. The malignity of Saturn the star shall fall upon 
the earth with rain of heaven, and shall slay mankind as it were with a 
crooked sickle. . . . The tail of the Scorpion shall breed lightnings, and 
the Crab fall at strife with the Sun. The Virgin shall forget her maiden 
shame, and climb up on the back of the Sagittary. The chariot of the 
Moon shall disturb the Zodiac, and the Pleiades shall burst into tears and 
lamentations." 

These prophecies of Merlin are to be considered as a collec 
tion rather than as a continuous whole. A careful reading of 
them reveals a repetition of certain motives, each with the 
slight variations that are to be expected in contemporary ver 
sions of the same material. One that occurs not infrequently 
is a combat between a man and a dragon, in which the man 
climbs upon the dragon's back and vanquishes it. 

" But a giant of iniquity shall arise that shall daunt all by the keenness 
of his eyes. Against him shall rise up the dragon of Worcester, and shall 

13 Evans, 188; Giles, 129-130. 



12 

strive to bring him to naught. And in the battle shall he prevail against 
the Dragon, who shall suffer oppression under the wickedness of the con 
queror. For he shall mount upon the Dragon, and putting off his garment 
shall sit upon him naked. The Dragon shall bear him aloft, and swinging 
his tail shall beat him upon his naked body. Then shall the Giant, again 
renewing his strength, pierce his gullet with his sword, and at last shall the 
Dragon die poisoned, entangled within the coils of his tail. After him shall 
succeed the Boar of Totness." 14 

Only six lines further begins the confused account of a struggle 
seemingly between dragons and men. Towards the close 
occurs the same motive: 15 

" A fifth shall succeed unto them that are slain, and by various devices 
shall break the residue in pieces. Upon the back of one shall he climb 
with at sword and sever his head from his body. Then, putting off his 
garment, shall he climb upon another and grasp his tail with his right 
hand and his left, for naked shall he vanquish him against whom when clad 
he might nought prevail. The rest shall he torment and drive them all the 
kingdom round." 

Further a similar motive occurs : 16 

" Then shall two follow the sceptre, unto whom shall the horned Dragon 
minister. The one shall come in iron, and upon a flying serpent shall he 
ride. With his body naked shall he sit upon his back, and with his right 
hand shall he lay hold of his tail." 

These passages relating to the dragon are all worked into the 
context with some appearance of continuity, which may, how 
ever, be due to the care either of the original compiler or of 
the translator himself. Other recurring motives are the nest 
ing of birds, periods of moral depravity, famines, and pestil 
ences. Similar groups of related passages are to be found. 
For instance, the motive of the tree with the three branches 17 
resembles very much in form the motive of the three Fountains 
of Winchester, 18 but the details of the two are different. 
Certain animal symbols recur as if they are to be applied to the 
same person. The ' Ass of Wickedness ' at the end of the third 

"Evans, 184; Giles, 127. 

16 Evans, 185; Giles, 128. 
19 Evans, 186; Giles, 129. 

17 Evans, 178; Giles, 123. 

18 Evans, 179; Giles, 124. 



13 

chapter may also be the ' Ass ' that calls to the ' Goat with the 
long Beard ' in the next chapter. The whole body of the pro 
phecy is made up of what might be called episodes which vary 
in length from one to several sentences. Each episode could 
be separated from the context and circulated as an independent 
whole with very little loss of meaning. Such separation and 
independent circulation did in fact take place, as fragments 
quoted not only by writers in England but also by writers in 
other countries show. It was of such fragmentary bits that the 
original was probably put together. 

The date of The Book of Merlin is uncertain. Internal evi 
dence, contrary to what one would expect, furnishes little 
assistance. At first sight the student is tempted to interpret 
portions of the prophecy in terms of his own later knowledge, 
to assign a date for them, and to credit Geoffrey with them 
because the interpretations fit so well. But one must be on his 
guard against such hasty interpretations, for they are frequently 
incorrect. For instance, the passage, " Albany shall be moved 
unto wrath, and calling unto them that are at her side shall 
busy herself in the shedding of blood/' 19 would seem to refer 
to the Battle of the Standard, which was fought in 1137. But 
such cannot be the case, for this passage occurred in the 
original Book of Merlin and, as will be shown later, must have 
been written before December, 1135. A passage in the Sextus- 
episode, " Two cities shall he robe with two palls," 20 might be 
explained as referring to the creation of new bishoprics by 
Henry the first, Ely in 1109 and Carlisle in 1133. But the 
passage occurs too late in the context to be given such inter 
pretation. The last historical event that can be identified with 
certainty is the drowning of Henry's children in the disaster 
of the White Ship in II2O. 21 

19 Evans, 176; Giles, 122. This passage must be a fragment coming down 
from the time of William the Conqueror or from earlier conflicts between 
the Britons of StrathClyde and the Scots. It cannot belong to the time 
of Henry the First, for perfect peace existed between England and Scot 
land during his reign. 

20 Evans, 176; Giles, 122. 

21 " The Lion's whelps shall be transformed into fishes of the sea." 
Evans, 175 ; Giles, 122. 



u 

The most concrete piece of evidence bearing upon the date 
of The Book of Merlin is external. Ordericus Vitalis in his 
Historia Ecclesiastic a 22 quotes from a book he calls Libellus 
Merlini a long passage which is almost identical with a portion 
of the prophecies as they stand in the Historia of Geoffrey. 
The chapter in which this long quotation occurs must have 
been written before the death of Henry the First in December, 
1135, for it contains a reference to him as being King of Eng 
land. The Libellus Merlini, or The Book of Merlin, must 
therefore have been written after 1120 and before the end of 
1135. It is presumed to have been an edition of the proph 
ecies alone. Its size may be surmised from the fact that 
the part quoted covers in the text of the Historia a page and a 
half octavo, 23 and is called by Ordericus "brief extracts from 
Merlin's book." The quotation begins with the coming of the 
Normans, "A people in wood, and jerkins of iron," and ends 
with the accession of the ' Lynx,' who is called 'The Pest' 
because of a manuscript reading lues for lynx. 

The Libellus Merlini from which Ordericus quoted evi 
dently differed somewhat from the version of the prophecies 
in the Historia. It seems to have been provided with a com 
mentary, or interpretation, at least for some passages, echoes 
of which occur in Ordericus's application of the ' Decimation 
of Neustria ' to the massacre of Prince Alfred and his attend 
ants at Guilford, and in the explanation given for the passage, 
" Two dragons shall succeed." These interpretations may, 
however, be original with Ordericus; for at the close of the 
chapter he says that he does not intend writing a commentary 
on Merlin, but that he could if he chose. The Libellus may 
have begun with the Omen of the Dragons, as this story is told 
in indirect discourse by Ordericus immediately before he quotes 
directly from the prophecies. The fact that Ordericus changes 
the colors of the dragons shows that he was not quoting from 
Nennius, to whose work he had referred the reader in the pre 
ceding paragraph. His original, however, was closer to the 
version of Nennius than that which is found in the Historia, 

22 Historia Ecclesiastica, Book 12, cap. 57. 

23 Giles, 121-122. 



15 

for Ordericus frequently uses the same words as occur in 
Nennius's account but which are not found in the Historic. 
The lynx-lues difference between the Libellus and the Historia 
has been mentioned. Other differences occur, but they are of 
minor importance. The passage, " Woe unto thee, Neustria, 
for the brain of the Lion shall be poured upon thee," is 
omitted, 24 but it is a late interpolation in the Historia. 

Geoffrey of Monmouth's third book, the Vita Merlmi, 25 is 
important in this study for two prophecies it contains, one 
delivered by Merlin, the other by Ganieda. It deals with the 
life of Merlin and contains details so different from those 
given in the Historia that legends of two Merlins arose, one 
the Ambrosius Merlin of the Historia, the other Merlin 
Silvester, or Caledonicus. All this is very interesting and 
important in the history of the Merlin Romance, but the 
Romance is not the subject of this study. Details relating to 
it must, therefore, be omitted. 

The prophecy of Merlin in the Vita covers the period from 
the reign of Maelgwyn past Geoffrey's own time into the 
reign of Sextus and stops where the most symbolic part of 
The Book of Merlin begins. 26 For the ground covered it goes 
into greater detail than the earlier prophecy, but contains few 
animal symbols. Some symbols are common to both prophecies, 
such as the 'Boar of Cornwall' and the 'Wolf of the Sea.' 
There is also occasional repetition of motives, such as the 
girdling of men with the teeth of animals. Much of the proph 
ecy is merely veiled allusion, and could have been composed 
by Geoffrey himself. There is apparently more reflection of 
actual history in the passages referring to the attacks of the 

24 This passage refers to the embalming of Henry the First's body. 
Evans, 175; Giles, 122. 

26 For a discussion of the authorship, which has been disputed, see Ward, 
loc. cit., Vol. I, p. 278. This new work is dedicated to Robert de Chesney, 
Bishop of Lincoln after the death of Geoffrey's former patron, Bishop 
Alexander. After the death of his earlier patrons Geoffrey needed a new 
one, and chose one in touch with the court of Stephen. 

28 Line 581 to line 680. Geoffrey may have stopped here from pruden 
tial motives, for by doing so he omitted the prophecy on the overthrow 
of the Normans. 



16 

Scots on the Britons, to the destruction of the cities, and to 
the assumption of arms by prelates. But beyond this closer 
relation to history there is nothing of real importance in it so 
far as the history of the type is concerned. It does not profess 
to be a translation of another Welsh version of the material, 
and there is no reason to consider it as such. It is perhaps only 
a re-working of old material by Geoffrey himself with some 
additions and interpolations of vaticinal fragments not con 
tained in the Book of Merlin. 

The Prophecy of Ganieda 27 though shorter, is much the 
more important of the two so far as the history of the genre 
is concerried. In it actual history is written as prophecy in 
accordance with the conventions of the Galfridian type. The 
events described occurred in the war between Matilda and 
Stephen. Two * Lions/ two ' Moons/ and an ' Armorican 
Boar ' wage one battle ; another is fought between ' Stars ' and 
' Wild Beasts/ This application of the Galfridian conventions 
to actual history purely as a literary exercise, independent of 
any real prophecy, is an early modification of the original type. 
It set an example that was frequently followed in the succeed 
ing centuries. 

Shortly after the death of Geoffrey of Monmouth there 
appeared another version of the same material which he had 
used in The Book of Merlin. This was The Prophecy of 
Ambrosius Merlin concerning the Seven Kings, 28 a Latin poem 
in one hundred and thirty-nine hexameters accompanied with 
a dedicatory epistle to Robert de Warelwast, bishop of Exeter, 
at whose request the poem was written. It purports to be a 
literal translation from the Welsh. Several Welsh place-names 
and phrases are quoted in the accompanying commentary; in 
three places 29 they seem to have stood in the original. In the 
commentary references are made to historical events up to the 
accession of Henry the Second in December, 1154, after an 
interregnum of six weeks, which is also referred to in the 

27 Line 1474 to line 1518. 

28 Printed, Carl Greith, Spicilegium Vatlcanum, Frauenfeld, 1838, p. 99 f; 
also, Viilemarque, Myrdhin, p. 417. 

29 Lines 18, 65, 92. 



17 

seventieth line of the poem. The reference in the commentary 
to Prince William, Henry's oldest son, helps to fix the date as 
1155, for the child died in the early months of 1156. The trans- 
lation is attributed, in the dedicatory epistle, to John of Corn 
wall, a rather prominent scholar of the time, who was credited 
with a knowledge of Welsh. 30 

The author passes over the history of the island before the 
Norman Conquest, saying, in his dedication, that this earlier 
material can be found well set forth elsewhere. He begins his 
poem with the coming of the Normans and ends it with their 
expulsion and the restoration of the Welsh. Between these 
limits the material is much the same as in The Book of Merlin. 
The same symbols are used in both except the ' Boar ' for 
Henry the Second, a symbol not used by Geoffrey. At first 
glance there seems little difference between the two versions, 
for they cover the same ground and use practically the same 
material, but a careful comparison of them shows certain 
differences. 

In The Book of Merlin the prophecy is pure narrative; in 
The Seven Kings it is in the form of question and answer. 31 
There is a bare suggestion of this in the Vita Merlini where 
Merlin delivers his prophecy in response to a question from 
Ganieda. The narrative portion of The Seven Kings is fre 
quently interrupted by apostrophes, addresses, and ejaculations 
expressive of personal emotion and interest in the events nar 
rated, as, for instance, the lengthy address to Cornwall as 
Domus Arturi. 32 In fact, the poem begins with an address to 
the Saxons as Eurus and a prophecy against them in the second 
person. In the poem, also, the number of years is given for the 

30 See the article on John of Cornwall, Dictionary of National Biography, 
1892, vol. 29, p. 435. 

31 There are six of these questions coming at unequal intervals, (a) Line 
10. Instaurans nostros princeps quot vixerit annosf, asked to determine the 
length of William the First's reign, (b) Line 52. Tune vides pecoris 
raptus per plana Reontisf Sed quid ages contra? (c) Line 64. Quae sua 
conditiof quae spes in semine nostrof (d) Line 91. Et quid tarn sero 
fatali pendere castro? (e) Line 108. Haec ferit, ipsa facit, cur Neustria 
segnius hausitf These questions aid, in one way or another, in carrying 
forward the narrative. 

33 Beginning with line 51. 
3 



18 

reign of each of the first four kings, but Stephen is allowed 
two years too many. After Stephen the years are not given for 
any reign. 33 The prophet in The Seven Kings continually 
identifies himself with the Welsh, and frequently uses such 
adjectives as "our" and such expressions as "our people" in 
referring to the Welsh. There is nothing of all this in The 
Book of Merlin. 

There is a further difference, also, in the wording and 
arrangement of the material. As a rule, the sense of the two 
versions is the same, but the phraseology is different. The 
sinking of the White Ship is a good instance. Geoffrey's Latin 
for this episode reads, 

Catuli leonis in aequoreos pisces transformabuntur** 

John renders this same episode in this fashion, 

et Catulos Albania luget ademptos. 
Heu! pelagi f acinus quod tertius extulit annus. 55 

Similar differences are to be found throughout the two 
translations. John of Cornwall's rendering frequently seems to 
be the clearer ; as for example in the ' Eagle of the Broken 
Covenant ' passage. In the Book of Merlin this reads : " This 
(a bridlebit, not mentioned by John) shall the Eagle of the 
Broken Covenant gild over and the Eagle shall rejoice in her 
third nesting." According to The Seven Kings the passage 
should read, "The Broken Covenant (lex) will call the Eagle 
with the Cub into anger." The Eagle's third nesting is not 
mentioned until fifteen lines later. Other divergences in favor 
of greater clearness are to be found in John's version. It is 
useless to go further into these details in this place. It is 
sufficient to point out some typical differences characteristic 
of all. 

Details which remain the same in the two versions are fre- 

33 This would indicate that the original was put together early in 
Stephen's reign, and that the reference to Henry's accession was a later 
addition made without changing the number of the years allotted to 
Stephen. 

3 * Giles, 122. 

35 Lines 31-32. 



19 

quently shifted in their order; as for example the events 
recounted as occurring during the reign of the Lion of Justice 
(Henry the First). According to Geoffrey the account runs: 36 

" The Lion of Justice shall succeed at whose roaring the towers and 
dragons of the island shall tremble. In those days gold shall be wrung 
forth from the lily and the nettle, and silver shall flow from the hooves 
of them that low. They that go crisped and curled shall be clad in 
fleeces of many colors, and the garment without shall betoken that which 
is within. The feet of them that bark shall be cropped short. The wild 
deer shall have peace, but humanity shall suffer dole. The shape of com 
merce shall be cloven in twain : the half shall be round. The ravening 
of kites shall perish and the teeth of wolves shall be blunted. The Lion's 
whelps shall be transformed into fishes of the sea, and his Eagle shall 
build her nest upon mount Aravius. Venedotia shall be red with mother's 
blood and six brethren shall the house of Corineus slay. The island shall 
be filled with nightly tears. . . ." 

This is rendered by John of Cornwall thus : 37 

" But the Lion of Justice restrains the talons of kites and the teeth of 
wolves, and makes woodlands and harbors safe everywhere. Whenever he 
roars, the towers which the Sequana washes, and each island of dragons 
tremble even under the ocean. Then he who is crisped shall put on cloaks 
of various colors, and the garment shall not protect the misdeed of a 
changeable mind. Then gold shall be wrung from the narcissus and the 
thorn, and shall flow from the horns of the flocks. Therefore, willingly 
or not, the barker makes peace with the deer on penalty of a lopped foot. 
The image of the nummus is cut : then also succeeds the shape of the 
round half. Then the renowned bird (elsewhere the Eagle) makes her 
nest upon Aravius and Albany grieves for the lost cubs. Alas the villainy 
of the sea which the third year brought forth ! He was famous whom it 
moves not with its threefold wildness. In the six Frenchmen, the blood 
of one mother, the Throne (of Arthur, Cornwall), sadly red, bewails so 
many deaths, so many misfortunes and says, ' Normandy, do you know what 
is being done ? Lately I grieved, lately I poured out my vitals. With these 
miseries you solaced our misfortunes. Island, you are drenched in tears.' " 

The Seven Kings contains within the same limits more 
material than The Book of Merlin. The two versions are 
practically the same to the end of the passages quoted. Then in 
The Book of Merlin come the episodes of the ' newcomers,' ' he 
who possesses through impiety/ ' the awakening of Albany to 

38 Evans, 175; Giles, 121 f. 
37 Line 1 7 f. 



20 

wrath/ 'the forging of the bridlebit/ and 'the Eagle of the 
Broken Covenant/ all of which is covered in The Seven Kings 
in three lines. In both versions the war against the Bulls 
follows. After this episode John of Cornwall introduced 
thirteen lines referring to Welsh affairs that are not mentioned 
by Geoffrey. This interpolation is followed by the episode of 
' the helmeted one ' which had preceded the ' Broken Covenant ' 
in The Book of Merlin. Then comes the confusion of the 
numbers which Geoffrey put immediately after the war against 
the Bulls. Another interpolation of sixteen lines intervenes 
before the episode of Sextus which had followed the numbers 
in The Book of Merlin. The achievements of Sextus agree in 
both, but The Seven Kings contains the fuller account of them. 
In both Sextus is succeeded by the Lynx and the downfall of 
the Normans. John barely mentions the Lynx, but describes 
at more length the expulsion of the foreigners. 

John of Cornwall was not versifying Geoffrey's book. There 
is no instance of his taking a phrase from The Book of Merlin. 
His interpretations and renderings of many passages differ 
very much from Geoffrey's. This could be accounted for only 
by the supposition of forgery on his part. But his standing in 
his own time and his reputation for a knowledge of Welsh 
forbid the imputation. It is assumed on the strength of his 
own statement that he had a Welsh original. It is certain that 
his poem contains more references to contemporary Welsh 
prophecies than The Book of Merlin. The Cadwallader-Conan 
episode is common. The mention of events occurring at the 
Theivi and at Reon in connection with the coming of Cad- 
wallader and Conan 38 brings the poem into relation with the 
Afallenau, the Hoianau, and the Kyvoesi Myrdin, all Welsh 
predictive poems of the same century. 39 The three hundred 
and sixty-three years, spoken of at the end of the poem as the 
golden age of Welsh liberty, seem to correspond to the three 
hundred and three years assigned Cadwallader in the Kyvoesi 
Myrdin. None of these poems, however, is the original of 

38 Lines 118-120. 

39 See these poems in W. F. Skene, The Four Ancient Books of Wales, 
Edinburgh, 1868. 



21 

this version. But the evidence got from all indicates the exist 
ence of some common material which was used freely in vari 
ous poems with other material peculiar to each poem. 

There are indications of yet another twelfth century collec 
tion of prophecies, if Giraldus Cambrensis is to be trusted. 
Giraldus was greatly interested in political prophecies and 
quoted them at every opportunity. He even proposed making 
the third book of the Expugnatio Hibernica a collection of 
them. He says in his preface to this book that prophecies attri 
buted to Merlin Silvester, or Caledonicus, were sung by Welsh 
bards ; but that he had difficulty in obtaining them, because 
they were rarely committed to writing. However he found a 
copy of them at Nevin on the West coast of Carnarvonshire 
during the itinerary through Wales with Archbishop Baldwin 
in 1 1 88. Henry the Second seems to have shared his interest 
and to have encouraged him in his work. The collection found 
at Nevin was greatly corrupted by interpolations, additions, and 
adaptations made by the bards. Giraldus called Welsh scholars 
to his aid and sought to free the text from corruptions, but he 
was not entirely successful, if he does interpret one fragment 
correctly as applying to Becket. This may, however, be an old 
prophecy that had been revived and warped to the desired 
interpretation. Martyrs lived and) died in the British Isles 
before Thomas a Becket defied his King. 

A collection of prophecies under the name of Merlin Sil 
vester, or Caledonicus, and sometimes called The Prophecy of 
the Eagle, is found in several manuscripts of the thirteenth 
century. 40 Three of the episodes contained in it are quoted by 
Giraldus and referred to Merlin Silvester. 41 Two more are 
quoted on the authority of Melingus Hibernicus. Ward sug 
gested that this collection was compounded of sentences from 
the Expugnatio, but granted that the case may have been the 
reverse. The latter seems more likely, since the two collections, 
which appear in the manuscript as one, both refer to events 

40 Printed in A. Schultz's edition of the Historia, 1854, P- 4^3, as a note 
to chapter 18 of book 12. 

41 See the discussion in Warde, loc. cit., vol. I, p. 293 f. Giraldus after 
quoting these fragments says that they are to appear in the vaticinal book. 



22 

of the twelfth century and were most probably put together 
before 1200. Furthermore, the collection contains three lines 
of the Here Prophecy* 2 which can be dated approximately 
1190. There is no proof that it is the collection made by 
Giraldus, but hereafter, since old names were frequently 
applied to new material after 1200, it will be called the 
Giraldian Collection for the sake of clearness. 

The first part of this Giraldian Collection is short and little 
more than a succession of vatic symbols. The invasion of Ire 
land and Henry the Second's quarrels with his children are 

43 Zan zu seches in here hert yreret, 

Zan sulen Hengles in }>re be ydeled 
Zat ban sale into Hyrlande alto lade waya ; 
Zat hozer in to Poile mid pride bileve ; 
Ze thirde in harye haughen hert all ... ydreghen. 

(Benedict of Peterborough, Chronicle of the Reigns of Henry II and Rich 
ard I, ed. Win. Stubbs, Rolls Series, 2 vols., London, 1867, vol. 2, p. 139.) 
This prophecy was said to have been found written on tablets of stone 
and erected on a house at Here given Ralph Fitz Stephen by Henry the 
Second. Roger of Hoveden (translation by H. T. Riley, 2 vols., London, 
1853, vol. 2, p. 170) quotes the same prophecy and reads wreke for the 
lacuna in the last line. 

The last three lines are identical with the last three clauses of an episode 
in the Giraldian Collection, which runs thus : 

"In ultimis diebus albi drachonis semen jus trifarium spergetur, pars in 
Apuliam tendens orientali gaza locupletabitur, pars in Yberniam descendens 
occidua temperie delectabitur, pars vero in patria permanens vilis et inanis 
reputabitur." 
The identity of the two cannot be doubted. 

The English version is written as verse, but it neither rhymes nor allit 
erates. It would seem therefore a line for line translation of verse in some 
other language. The three Latin clauses in the episode quoted seem 
metrical, and doubtless belonged to the original. If placed metrically they 
read, 

"Pars in Apuliam tendens orientali gaza locupletabitur 
Pars in Yberniam descendens occidua temperie delectabitur 
Pars in patria permanens vilis et inanis reputabitur." 

Even this arrangement presents some difficulties, for the lines do not agree 
in the" position of the accents and are clearly not written in a quantitative 
meter. They seem, however, to contain a detritus of a former metrical 
form. A close study of the various manuscripts might reveal a more 
uniform version. 



23 

almost the only historical details. Geoffrey's Lynx is men 
tioned in it The Lion may also represent Geoffrey's Lion of 
Justice, for it seems to stand for Henry the First. The Boar is 
used for Henry the Second as in The Seven Kings. With these 
exceptions the prophecy is independent of the others. The 
other symbols are a sombre dragon, a ram with delicate fleece, 
a kinglet, a sea-crab, the whirlwind that overthrows Ireland, 
a Fifth whose chariot is rolled into the place of the Fourth, a 
fiery ball from Eurus, and a spark from this ball. Some of 
the prophecy can be interpreted in terms of actual history, but 
the possibility of such interpretation does not prove it written 
after the events it seems to narrate. The danger of such a 
conclusion has been pointed out in the study of The Book of 
Merlin. The conquest of Ireland is not described any more 
definitely than in the 1135 announcement concerning Sextus. 
The prophecy is best considered genuine, so far as indepen 
dence of actual history is concerned, with interpolations con 
cerning Henry the Second's family dissensions. 

The second part of The Giraldian Collection is also short. It 
covers the reign of Stephen and is chiefly concerned with the 
wars between him and the opposing faction of the empress 
Matilda and her son. The prophecy begins with the succession 
of the albus rex et nobilis <in Brittania (Stephen) after the 
death of the Lion of Justice and ends with the accession of the 
Eagle's Chick (pullus Aquilae, Henry the Second). The Lion 
of Justice and the Eagle's Chick are perhaps echoes of The 
Book of Merlin in which the Lion of Justice was used for 
Henry the First and the Eagle in two places where it can be 
interpreted as the Empress. This prophecy seems to have been 
made after the events described had taken place. It is, there 
fore, important as showing how early the conventions of the 
form were used with original material without the necessity of 
translating from the Welsh. It also shows that symbols which 
had become traditional, such as the Conquest of Ireland and the 
use of the Eagle for Matilda, were used as common property 
by any one who wished to treat them so. 

This chapter has shown that at some time between the 
years 1120 and 1135 Geoffrey of Monmouth produced The 



24 

Book of Merlin and thereby introduced into England a new 
type of literature. In 1156 another version of the same 
material was made by John of Cornwall. In 1188 Giraldus 
Cambrensis found on the West coast of Wales an altogether 
different collection of prophecies attributed to Merlin Silvester, 
or Caledonicus, who had become distinguished from Ambrosius 
Merlin of The Book of Merlin and of the Histona. The testi 
mony of Giraldus shows that prophecies attributed to Merlin 
were common in Wales and that they were sung by the bards, 
who corrupted them greatly. Geoffrey, John, and Giraldus, all 
professed to translate from the original Welsh, and each spoke 
of the difficulty he encountered in his work. Geoffrey and John 
undertook to translate at the bidding of learned and cultivated 
bishops. Giraldus was encouraged by Henry the Second him 
self. Material so introduced could scarcely have failed to 
become popular. By the end of the thirteenth century political 
prophecies had struck deep root in England, and, as later 
chapters will show, the Galfridian type, which had originated 
in England, had spread to other countries. 

The importance of Geoffrey of Monmouth in the history of 
the political prophecy in England cannot escape notice. Al 
though he did not originate his material, yet the credit for 
making it accessible to England and to the Continent is due 
him. Furthermore, by The Prophecy of Ganieda he set the 
example for the creation of new prophecies from new material 
but written according to the conventions of the prophecy as 
found in The Book of Merlin. Attention must now be turned 
to the question of the origin of the type, which was postponed 
in this chapter. It will therefore be discussed in the next 
chapter. 



CHAPTER TWO 
THE SOURCE OF The Book of Merlin 

The source of The Book of Merlin has never been deter 
mined Two theories in regard to the matter are possible; 
either that Geoffrey forged the prophecies himself, or that he 
told the truth in saying that he translated them. Scholars and 
critics who doubted the veracity of Geoffrey's remarks about 
' the lost British book ' carried their skepticism so far as to 
disbelieve his oath in regard to the prophecies. Professor 
Brandl 1 does not allow the existence of any original, but says 
that Geoffrey forged them with The Book of Daniel and The 
Fifteen Signs before the Judgment as models. Since this 
opinion was first expressed, no one has controverted it. But a 
careful comparison of these with The Book of Merlin leads one 
to believe that Professor Brandl wrote from general impres 
sions rather than from any accurate information gained by 
special investigation of the subject. 

It has been shown that the peculiar feature of The Book of 
Merlin is the use of animal figures to represent living individ 
uals. Whatever likeness there is between Geoffrey's work and 
The Book of Daniel consists in the use of symbols that seem to 
resemble each other. But the likeness ends here, for the 
figures used in the two prophecies are really dissimilar. Pro 
fessor Brandl failed to discriminate between them before he 
delivered his opinion. In The Book of Daniel the animals are 
all monsters. They represent not individuals but nations, and 
are therefore abstractions. For instance, the ram and the he- 
goat in the eighth chapter represent the Persian Empire and 
the Empire of Alexander the Great respectively. The four 
horns that rise on the head of the goat in the place of the single 
horn stand for the four kingdoms founded on the ruins of 
Alexander's Empire. The little horn that sprouts from one of 

1 A. Brandl in Paul's Grundriss, Strassburg, 1893, 2; i; 621. 

25 



26 

them represents a king of one of the four. In The Book of 
Merlin the animals are not monsters, however much their 
behavior may differ from that of real animals. They are not 
abstract ideas personified, but, on the contrary, representations 
of actual individuals. 

As for the legend of The Fifteen Signs before the Judgment, 
no resemblance between it and The Book of Merlin can be 
found. The only part of The Book of Merlin that contains 
anything but the characteristic animal-symbolism is the close, 
which has been quoted from. It is an astrological description 
of astronomical phenomena to occur at the end of the world, 
and can fulfill only one Sign, the disorders in the Heavens. 
The drought mentioned at the beginning of the passage and the 
resurrection of the dead at the close answer to two other signs, 
but they can scarcely be considered results of any influence, for 
they were commonplaces of medieval theology, and as they 
stand in The Book of Merlin are episodes too insignificant to 
count. The rising of the sea above the mountains, the sinking 
of the sea from sight, the return of the sea to its original level, 
the congregations of the sea-animals, the warring of the rocks 
together, the earthquake, the levelling of the hills, the madness 
of men, the return of the saints, the birth of children with gray 
hair, the coming of Anti-Christ, the dripping of blood from 
trees and shrubs, all of which occur in one or another form of 
the legend, 2 are not mentioned, referred to, or even alluded to in 
any way in The Book of Merlin. Geoffrey did not forge The 
Book of Merlin with The Fifteen Signs before the Judgment 
as a model. 

It may be argued that if Geoffrey did not use The Book of 
Daniel and The Fifteen Signs before the Judgment, he may 
have drawn from the large body of vaticinal literature that had 

3 The various forms of the legend are shown in the following discussions 
of it : (a) H. E. Sandison, Quindecim Signa ante Indicium, Herrig's Archiv, 
New Series, Vol. XXIV, p. 73 f., Brunswick, 1910. (b) G. Nolle, Die 
Legende von den fiinfzehn Zeichen vor dem jungsten Gerichte, Beitrage zur 
Geschichte der Deutschen Sprache und Literatur, Vol. VI, Halle, 1879, 
p. 413 f. (c) G. Grau, Quellen und Verwandtschaften der dlteren German- 
ischen Darstellung des jiingsten Gerichtes, Morsbach's Studien zur Eng- 
lischen Philologie, XXXI, Halle, 1908. 



27 

preceded him. This consists of the Biblical, the classical, and 
the early medieval prophecies. A careful investigation of it, 
however, reveals as little influence on The Book of Merlin as 
those just discussed. 

The average reader would undoubtedly think first of the 
Biblical prophecies as those most likely to be imitated by one 
wishing to forge a prophecy. Professor Brandl thought first 
of The Book of Daniel because animal figures appear in it. 
Other books of the Bible which might occur to one for a similar 
reason, or because they use some kind of symbolism that 
impresses the mind of the reader for its obscurity, are Isaiah, 
Ezekiel, and the Apocalypse. In the books of Jeremiah, Hosea 
and the so-called Minor Prophets the vaticinal method is that 
of simple and direct statement, although the language is fre 
quently figurative and ornate. This method is not wanting in 
the three first named. In The Book of Isaiah the symbolism 
consists chiefly of allegory and parable. A good instance is 
the description of God's wrath against the Israelites and his 
purpose in regard to them, as set forth in the parable of the 
vineyard that produced only wild grapes. 3 Animal names 
occur in the allegory which tells of the peace that shall attend 
the advent of Christ, but they are used as metaphors; they 
can in no sense be considered as prophetic symbols. 4 What is 
true of The Book of Isaiah is true of The Book of Ezekiel, but 
the latter contains allegorical visions also. However, the same 
dearth of animal figures used as prophetic symbols is notice 
able. In one passage Pharaoh is called ' The Great Dragon/ 
but the name is only a metaphorical epithet. 5 

In The Apocalypse of St. John the Divine the prophecy is in 
the form of a vision. Besides the material that is purely pro 
phetic the book contains preaching against heresy and an exhor 
tation to repentance. In the vision itself are many angels 

3 Isaiah, V; 5-6. 

* " The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb and the leopard shall lie down 
with the kid : and the calf and the young lion and the f atling together : and 
the lion shall eat straw like an ox." (Isaiah, XI ; 6.) 

5 " Behold I am against thee, Pharaoh, King of Egypt, the great dragon 
that lieth in the midst of his rivers which hath said, My river is mine own 
and I have made it for myself." (Ezekiel, XXIX; 3.) 



28 

passing to and fro on various missions, a black sun, a red moon, 
falling stars, an earthquake, and monsters in abundance. These 
monsters include locusts that looked like horses prepared for 
battle, having hair of women, teeth of lions, and tails of 
scorpions each with a sting : a red dragon with seven heads and 
ten horns, each head crowned: a beast of the sea with seven 
heads and ten horns, each horn crowned : and a beast with two 
horns of a lamb speaking as a dragon. In the sixth chapter in 
connection with the opening of the seals, four horses are 
described naturally, but they are allegorical personifications 
respectively of Conquest, Riot, Justice, and Death. 6 

This discussion of Biblical prophecies should be sufficient to 
show wherein they differ from The Book of Merlin. Both use 
animal-symbolism, but in the former the animals, when used, 
are monstrous personifications 6f abstractions; in the latter 
they are life-like and represent individuals. 

The vaticinal literature of Greece and Rome is of slight 
extent, perhaps because of the great attention each country 
gave to the various kinds of divination. It is composed largely 
of oracles given by different deities or by persons supposedly 
endowed with prophetic insight. Geoffrey of Monmouth could 
have known very little of it, and if he had known the whole 
body, he could have got very little help from it. In Rome this 
literature consisted of the famous Sibylline Books, the Carmina 
Marciana,, the Oracles of Begoe, and the Books of Veil. Of the 
last two nothing is known but the name. The Sibylline Books, 
as far as can be judged from the few extant fragments, were 
chiefly admonitions to adopt certain rituals to expiate some evil 
or to avert some threatened calamity. The Carmina Marciana 
were only vague and indefinite warnings that contained no 
symbolism. The Greek Oracles of the classical period were 
usually very short and direct. They were frequently evasive, 

6 What has been said of the orthodox books of the Bible is also true of 
the apocryphal books. They contain nothing that could have helped Geof 
frey. The Book of Esdras is typical. " But if the Most High grant thee to 
live, thou shalt see that which is after the third kingdom to be troubled : 
and the sun shall suddenly shine forth in the night and the moon in the 
day: and blood shall drop out of the wood." (Esdras II, v; 4.) Monsters 
similar to those in The Apocalypse are also found in this book. 



29 

misleading, or deliberately enigmatic, but contained little 
symbolism. Such was the doubtful assurance given Croesus 
that if he crossed the Halys he would put an end to a great 
kingdom. Another typical oracle is that given the same 
Croesus bidding him flee when a mule should become king of 
the Persians, which was fulfilled in Cyrus the Great, the son 
of a Persian father by a Mede mother. 7 

One collection of Greek Oracles 8 deserves some detailed 
mention, not because of any influence it exerted on Geoffrey of 
Monmouth, but because it is the source of the kind of prophetic 
writing which was most popular in his day and which he would 

T These prophecies or oracles are as a rule very short and do not attempt 
to foretell a long sequence of events in the future. Occasionally bits of 
symbolism are to be found, but they are usually to be explained as puns. 
A good example is that recorded by Herodotus relating to Cypselus, the 
tyrant of Corinth : 

" An eagle will nest in rocks and bring forth a strong and brutal lion 
and he will knock the knees from many. Now be advised in these matters, 
ye Corinthians who dwell about the beautiful Peirene and towering 
Corinth." (Herodotus, V, 92.) 

The pun is on the word aietos, meaning eagle, and Aetion the father of 
Cypselus. Lion is rather a metaphor than a prophetic symbol. A similar 
oracle, attributed to Phaennos, tells of the victory won by Attalus, King 
of Pergamus, over the Gauls in 270 B.C. In it Attalus is spoken of as 
descended from the illustrious race of the bull, but Tauros, bull, seems to 
have been the usual cognomen of the family. 

Another oracle of Phaennos addressed to Lysimachus, King of Thrace, 
contains a bit of symbolism not so easily explained : 

" O King of the Thracians, you will receive a city among flocks. You 
will raise to honor a great and dangerous lion who will at some time stir 
the fatherland to its foundations: he will take the land without trouble. 
And I say that you shall not be made glorious by the sceptral honors, 
but that you shall fall from the king's estate when dogs surround you. 
You will arouse a terrible sleeping wolf. He will not willingly put his 
neck beneath the yoke. Then the wolves of Bithynia will inhabit the land 
according to the foreordinance of Zeus. ... So the law of the gods com 
mands when a fierce wolf will undergo the hard yoke of fate." 

The lion and the wolf of this prophecy have both been identified as 
Seleucus, King of Syria, but the interpretation is doubtful after the very 
beginning. 

8 For a detailed discussion of vaticination in Greece and Rome consult 
A. Bouche-Leclerc, Histoire de la Divination dans I'Antiquite, Paris, 
1882, 4 vols. 



30 

probably have adopted had he been in search of a model. They 
are the so-called Oracula Sibyllina. As the collection stands 
to-day, it consists of a Proemium and twelve books numbering 
from one to eight and from eleven to fourteen inclusively. 9 
It was begun, apparently, by a nameless Alexandrian Jew in 
the second century B.C. during the wars of Antiochus Epi- 
phanes against the Jews, and was continued at various times 
by various writers, Jewish and Christian, to a period shortly 
after the death of Odenathus in 268 A.D. 10 The last books 
were evidently written by a Jew who still believed in the 
possible political resurgence of his people. 

The earliest form of the Oracula Sibyllina was written to 
encourage the Jews in a time of danger from a political enemy, 
and promised them not only victory in the war but also the 
ultimate triumph of their religion. The writer shrewdly turned 
the weapons of his foes against themselves by writing in Greek, 
adopting the form of the Sibylline Oracles, and attributing his 
work to a Sibyl. The prophecies spoke of the Jews' hope in a 
coming Messiah. The early Christians, coming in contact with 
this material and considering the Messianic prophecy fulfilled, 
accepted the rest as genuine and ranked the Sibyl with the 
greatest of the Hebrew prophets. In the Dies Irae the Sibyl 
is coupled with David. Quotations from the first eight books 
are frequent in the writings of the Church Fathers for four 
hundred years, but after the fourth century the Greek scholars 
and theologians seem to have given the Oracula little credence. 
In the West, however, the belief in them lingered longer. St. 
Augustine in the sixth century quoted with admiration the 
famous acrostic of Christ in the eighth book. Sedulius, a 
Prankish monk of the ninth century, collected the fragments 
scattered in the writings of the Church Fathers. The type 
must have been familiar in the tenth century, for in that cen 
tury Luitprand applied the adjective Sibyllini to certain proph 
ecies he saw at Constantinople. 

The Oracula Sibyllina is a disorderly mixture of hymns, 

9 The eighth book is long and contains what would be books nine and ten, 
if so divided. 

10 Oracula Sibyllina, ed. C. Alexandre, 2 vols., in 3 parts, Paris, 1841-69. 



31 

ecstatic and mystical writing, historical narrative, and prophecy. 
For instance, the first and second books, written rather late, 
are really one poem of the Cursor Mundi kind, and like it nar 
rate the history of the world from the Creation. Judaistic and 
Christian theological ideas are strangely confused throughout 
the whole a confusion due to the heterogeneous origin of the 
various parts. The beginnings of many legends popular during 
the Middle Ages, such as the story of Anti-Christ, and The 
Fifteen Signs before the Judgment, are also to be found here. 
Political events are often told in the guise of prophecy, and 
pure prophecy occurs not infrequently. Various vaticinal 
methods were used. Direct prophecy abounds. At other times 
the disguise is so slight that it is really nothing more than a 
kind of poetic allusion or a bit of ornamental description. Such 
a case is the reference to the Romans, 11 " There will be the 
rule of another kindgom, white and many-helmeted, from the 
western sea, which will rule much land and cause consternation 
to many." 

Since this passage was written during the Roman supremacy, 
disguise was hardly necessary. A king is often referred to by 
his number in his dynasty. "Even until the seventh kingship 
over which will rule the King of Egypt who will be of the 
Greek race," refers simply to the seventh Ptolemy. In the 
earlier books prophecy connected with individuals is sometimes 
made by simple reference to a man and his deeds without nam 
ing him. In such fashion Vespasian, or Titus, is referred to as 
a champion of Rome who will come into Syria, set fire to a 
temple, slay many with the darts of war, and kill the Jews in 
their own city of the wide-streets. 

The method of prophetic disguise peculiar to the Oracula 
Sibyllina begins early in the fifth book and is usual in the later 
books that deal very much with political affairs. It consists in 
referring to a man by the initial of his name expressed by that 
letter's numerical value in the Greek system of numerical no 
tation. ' The first king will be one who sums up two tens with 
his initial ' refers to Caesar, since Kappa, with which the Greek 
form of the name begins, represents the numerical value of 

11 Oracula Sibyllina, III, 175 f. 



32 

twenty. In like fashion Claudius is later referred to as twenty, 
Tiberius as three hundred, and Caligula, whose real name was 
Gaius, as three. The list might be prolonged indefinitely. An 
exception to the general rule is made in the case of Augustus, 
who is called the first letter of the alphabet, and in the case of 
Hadrian, who appears as the man named for a sea, the Adriatic. 
This initial-reference so characteristic of the Oracula Sibyl- 
Una was popular late into the Middle Ages. But the numerical 
element was discarded in the West as soon as the Greek system 
became unfamiliar, for the Latin numerical system contained 
too few characters to meet all occasions. Therefore, instead 
of translating the initials into numerical equivalents, the 
initials themselves were retained. This method of initial- 
reference has already been defined as the Sibyllic. 

Two cases of astrological prediction occur in the collec 
tion. The first of these is a passage in which the Ethiopians 
and Indians are told not to be frightened when Taurus and 
Gemini are in ascendance, and Virgo and the Sun in conjunc 
tion. 12 The second is an account of the end of the world, and 
resembles in a general way the close of The Book of Merlin. 
Its astrological nature is apparent at once; otherwise the 
animal figures contained in it would be incomprehensible. 

" I saw the threats of the sun burning among the stars 
And the terrible wrath of the moon in lightning flashes. 
The stars were in labor with battle and God turned to the conflict. 
Great flames stood in the place of the sun. 
Lucifer leaped upon the back of the Lion and gave battle. 
The two-horned moon changed her phase ; 
Capricorn smote the foot of the young Bull 
And the Bull deprived Capricorn of the day of return. 
Orion no longer allowed Libra to remain stationary. 
Virgo changed places with Gemini in Aries. 

The Pleiades shone no longer and the Dragon declined the girdle. 
Pisces slipped into the baldric of the Lion 
And Cancer did not remain, for he feared Orion ; 
The Scorpion traversed the tail of the Lion 
And the Dog fled from the heat of the sun. 
Aquarius lighted the strength of the greater star. 
Heaven itself was aroused so that it disturbed the combatants 

12 Oracula Sibyllina, V, 206 f. 



33 

And threw the stars headlong to the earth ; 

These falling swiftly into the Ocean's bath 

Burned the whole world, and heaven itself was devoid of stars. 1 * 

Genuine animal-symbolism occurs at two places in the last 
two books of the Oracula Sibyllina. These two passages are 
the only ones that bear any resemblance to The Book of Merlin 
except its close, and they occur in books that seem to have 
been little known before the nineteenth century. 1 * The longer 
passage is really quite short; the animal names in the other 
are metaphorical rather than symbolical. The first is the 
longer and runs: 

" Then will rule the insolent Romans two princes, men swift in war ; 
one will have the number seventy (Valerian) : the other will be the third 
number (Galienus) and then the haughty bull digging the earth with his 
hoofs and stirring the sand with his horn will inflict many evils on the 
dark crawling serpent (Sapor, King of Persia) dragging away his tail 
with his scales, and then he will die. Then will come after him another 
well-horned stag (Macrianus) thirsting on the mountains, longing to have 
in his stomach the arrow-shooting quarry. Then a dreadful Sun-sent Lion 
(Odenathus) will come breathing fire, and will destroy the well-horned 
and active stag and the great arrow-shooting quarry, the archer, the he- 
goat, which sends out many whistling sounds. The Lion will rule 
Rome. . . ," 15 

The second example is a reminiscence of this, and is more a 
matter of metaphor, as has been said. It runs : 

" But there the Lion, vanquisher of Bulls, bold with strength, with a 
fearful mane, will scatter the whole flock and the keepers, and no strength 
will be left them, unless young dogs swift of foot follow the Lion through 
the wooded valleys. And a Dog followed him, killing the flock. Then 
will rise a four-syllabled king, bold in strength, signified by the unit, whom 
the iron hand of Mars and the wild rage of a jealous enemy will soon 
slay." 18 

13 Oracula Sibyllina, V, 510. The translation here is line for line of 
the original. 

"Only the first eight books were printed before 1817 when Cardinal 
Maio printed book XIV. How much was known of the last four books be 
fore that time is uncertain. The earliest reference to them found in this 
study was by J. Wolf, Lectionum Memorabilium Centuriae, Lavingae, 1660?, 
2 vols., I, p. 73. Here he speaks of ai Vatican ms. containing all fourteen 
books. It is not impossible that these passages are late interpolations. 

15 Oracula Sibyllina, XIII, 155-169. 

18 Oracula Sibyllina, XIV, 12 f. 
4 



34 

Following this passage the Sibyl continued in the usual 
method, and named a long list of emperors who never reigned. 
Passing references are made to a wolf, a lion and lioness, and 
a mighty ram. 

One of the most common themes in the Oracula Sibyllina 
is the Fall-of-Rome motive, which was dear to both Christians 
and Jews, but for different reasons. To the Jew it meant the 
possible revival of his national existence, and therefore it was 
eagerly prophesied. But the Christian had never known a 
national existence, and, having no national traditions, he natu 
rally regarded Rome as the incarnation of governmental 
authority. To him the dissolution of the great Roman Empire 
meant the end of the world and the fulfillment of his hopes 
for the coming of his ideal Prince and the founding of the 
spiritual kingdom. Consequently, on every promising occa 
sion the Christians prophesied the fall of the empire and the 
immediate end of all things temporal. 17 Around what was at 
first a simple statement of the impending catastrophe grew up 
a mass of theological doctrine that was long popular and was 
later developed into The Fifteen Signs before the Judgment. 
These signs as enumerated in the Oracula are the Fall of 
Rome, disorders in the heavens, the birth of children with 
gray hair, the return of the ten tribes, the return of Elias, the 
reign of a woman, and the coming of Anti-Christ. 

The origin of the legend of Anti-Christ is uncertain. Its 
first appearance in Christian literature seems to be in Paul's 
Epistle to the Thessalonians It was later combined with 
the story of Nero's escape to Parthia, whence he was expected 
to return and regain possession of Rome. Nero made an 
excellent Anti-Christ. The identification with him was in 
time forgotten, but his storied abode in Parthia gave Anti- 
Christ a permanent place of origin in the East. The adoption 
of Christianity as a state religion modified the legend, for the 
Empire now became the champion of Christianity, and the 
success of Anti-Christ meant the defeat of a Christian prince 

17 Prophesied on the extinction of the Caesarian house ; at the time of 
the Fall of Jerusalem ; and on other similar occasions. 

18 Thessalonians, II, 2-3. 



35 

and the overthrow of a Christian government. To avoid this 
a new legend arose that the last king of Rome would not be 
conquered by Anti-Christ, but that at the birth of the Prince 
of Evil he would go to Jerusalem and renounce his power at 
the foot of the Cross. This is the so-called Last King of 
Rome prophecy. 

The prophecy concerning the Last King of Rome is first 
found in the Eastern Empire 19 in the writings of the Pseudo- 
Methodius 20 and in the apocryphal apocalypses of Daniel. 21 
In the Book of Methodius the prophecy is very simple. In the 
seventh millenary the Ishmaelites rise and sweep victoriously 
over a large part of the world. "Then suddenly a King of 
the Greeks or Romans will leap upon them, and he will be 
aroused as a man from drunkenness whom men had considered 
as dead and useful in no way." This king and his sons con 
quer the Ishmaelites and rule in peace until the nations whom 
Alexander had shut behind the Black Sea break their bonds 
and invade the Empire. The King overcomes them, and 
retires to Jerusalem where he lives until Anti-Christ appears. 
He then climbs Golgotha, hangs his crown upon the Cross, 
surrenders his kingdom to God, and dies. Anti-Christ then 
rules for a time, but is slain by God himself before the Judg 
ment. This prophecy reappears in the apocalypses, but the 

19 Kampers, Kaiserprophetieen and Kaisersagen in Mittelalter, Historische 
Abhandlungen, VII, Munich, 1895, p. 214, endeavors to establish a similar 
secular prophecy among the Romans. He argues from the Apollo-prophecy 
in Vergil's Fourth Eclogue, the Daphne-Constantinia coins of Constantine's 
reign, the phoenix-engravings on the tombs of the Roman Emperors, and 
the prophecy made to the Emperor Tacitus that a descendant of his would 
subdue the world and return his power to the Senate after living 120 years. 
This last prophecy is the only important detail, but Kampers fails to show 
that it had any but an ephemeral existence, or gained any permanent cre 
dence. 

20 E. Sackur, Sibyllinische Texte und Forschungen, Halle, 1898, p. 55. 
The Book of Methodius exists only in a Latin translation from the Greek. 
The oldest ms. was written in France and dates from the eighth century. 
Internal evidence shows that the Book belongs to the seventh century. 

21 (a) P. G. Kalemkiar, Der Siebente Vision Daniels, Wiener Zeitschrift 
fur Kunde Morgenlands, Wien, 1892, VI, 109-36, 227-40. (&) A. Vassiliev, 
Anecdota Graeca-Byzantina, 2 vols., Moskow, 1893, vol. i, p. 33 * 



36 



traditional material has undergone some modifications and 
new material has been introduced. Occasional bits of animal- 
symbolism are found such as the one quoted by Luitprand, 
" The Lion and his son will pursue the onager," but they occur 
only in fragments. No sustained or consistent animal-alle 
gory is attempted. 22 

The Last King of Rome was known in France as early as 
the eighth century, as the manuscrpit of Methodius shows. 
In the next century Adso 23 in his letter to Queen Gerberga on 
Anti-Christ retold the prophecy with a purely local variation 
to the effect that the Last King would belong to the Prankish 
dynasty. The reason for this variation is to be found in the 
political history of the time. The imperial crown of Charle 
magne had passed from the Franks to the Germans, but the 
Franks never forgot their hereditary claim and were con 
stantly looking for an opportunity to regain their lost honors. 
This prophecy crops up later in England, being applied to 
Edward the Third in accordance with his claim to the French 
crown. 

The Sibylline tradition lingered long after the Oracula 
Sibyllina had lost its hold, and bore fruit in a long prophecy 
ascribed to the Sibyl Tiburtina. It was perhaps a continuance 
of the unorthodox Sibylline material of the Roman Empire, 
which left such scanty traces. 24 Procopius offers incontro 
vertible evidence that similar material existed at Rome after 
the fall of the city. 25 He mentions one that is especially note- 

22 Byzantine prophecy was not confined to these visions of Daniel. Other 
prophecies were attributed to Stephen of Byzantium. In the eleventh 
century some Oracles were atributed to Leo the Philosopher who has been 
confused with the Emperor of the same name. They consist of a series of 
sixteen pictures representing the future, each with a metrical interpreta 
tion which occasionally contains bits of animal-symbolism. 

23 Sackur, Sibyl. Texte, has shown that the C.-Passage relating suppos 
edly to an emperor with that initial is an interpolation.. Kampers and 
others who have looked for a seventh century Byzantine prophecy of a 
Constans are advised to study Vassiliev, loc. cit., I, 39, where they will 
find a prophecy of a king whose name will be the thirtieth letter, Lambda. 
Here is certain ground with no necessity for guess-work. 

24 This material has all been collected by Alexandre, Oracula Sibyllina, 
vol. 3, p. 107 f. and can be studied there to advantage. 

25 Procopius, Gothic Wars, I, c. 19. 



37 

worthy in this connection 26 as current in Carthage. It is to 
the effect that Gamma would expel Beta and Beta again expel 
Gamma. This is the Sibyllic method after its simplification. 
A century later the Sibyl is heard of in France. Fredegar's 
chronicle contains two entries 27 relating to the Sibyls, both 
of which passages are found in the oldest manuscript. The 
first is a mere mention of Sevilla (Sibylla) and Europhile 
(Herophile, one of the classic Sibyls) as having repute in 
Samos. The second is a purely local prophecy on the Aus- 
trasian queen, Brunehilde, and is atrributed to Sevilla. It 
runs, " A Bruna coming from Spain before whose sight many 
nations will perish." Sedulius put in his collection of the 
Oracula Sibyllina some that are Arian in tendency and are 
not found in the orthodox collection, and must have another 
source. In the tenth century Luitprand 28 describes the Greek 
apocalypses of Daniel as Sibyllini and must therefore have 
been familiar with some Sibylline material. A prophecy relat 
ing to Gerbert of Rheims, who became Pope Sylvester the 
Second, makes use of the Sibyllic method of initial-reference. 
It reads, "Transit ab R. Gerbertus ad R. post papa vigens 
R." 29 

The Prophecy of Sibyl Tiburtina exists in several versions 
of different dates, one of which is attributed to Bede, 30 but it 
seems not to be older than the eleventh century. All versions 
differ somewhat in references to affairs in Western Europe. 31 

28 Procopius, Vandal Wars, I, c. 18. 

27 Fredegar, Chronicle, II, c. 19; III, c. 50. 

28 Luitprand, Legatio, c. 40. 

29 Ordericus Vitalis, Historia Ecclesiastica, book I, c. 24. " Gerbert goes 
from R (Ravenna, his birthplace) to R (Rheims, where he became bishop), 
afterwards living as Pope in R. (Rome)." 

80 For different versions see: P. Ewald, Neues Archiv, 6, p. 249 f . ; G. 
Waitz, Neues Archiv, 8, p. 172-175; F. Gerss, .Forschungen zur Deutschen 
Geschichte, 19, p. 373; R. Usinger, Forschungen z. D. Gesch., 10, p. 621 f . ; 
Godfrey of Viterbo, Pantheon, book 10; Migne, Patrologiae Latinae, 90, col. 
1181 f. for version attributed to Bede. 

31 Frequent allusions are made to affairs in the East, and are obviously 
out of place in a prophecy dealing with German kings and Lombard princes. 
Some Byzantine original may be at the bottom of the trouble. Byzantine 
material may have entered Europe through Italy and have been combined 
with the Sibyllic tradition of the West. Benso of Alba, Panegyricu$, I, 
c. 15, applies a Byzantine prophecy to Henry the Fourth of Germany. 



38 

The method of the prophecy, aside from the narrative portions, 
is Sibyllic initial-reference. No animal figures of any kind 
are introduced, a fact which is very important, for this was 
the most popular and widespread prophecy at the time The 
Book of Merlin was produced. The traditional material re 
lating to the Last King, the renunciation in Jerusalem, Anti- 
Christ, and the uprising of Gog and Magog is given a very 
prominent place in the prophecy. 

Three short prophecies are to be found which contain animal 
symbolism: The Vision of Childerich; The Anchorite's Vision; 
and The Vision of the Five Beasts. 

The Vision of Childerich dates from the early eighth cen 
tury. 32 According to the story, Basina, wife of Childerich the 
Merovingian, on her wedding night sent her lord out thrice 
into the night to see what he could see. The first time he saw 
a lion, the second a bear and a unicorn, the third time wolves, 
dogs, and other small animals. This vision was supposed to 
portray the history of the Merovingian dynasty. The lion is 
easily identified as Clovis, the bear and unicorn as Dagobert 
and his son, the * small deer ' as the ' Do-Nothing ' kings of 
later generations. The prophecy is remarkable as antedating 
the extinction of the dynasty. 

The Anchorite's Vision 33 is a prophecy of the twelfth cen 
tury relating to the affairs of Normandy. It is a vision of a 
fair meadow full of flowers and protected by a wild horse 
from the cattle that stand on the borders. The horse dies, 
and a lascivious heifer of the flock undertakes the governance 
of the meadow, but the cattle destroy it. The meadow is 
interpreted as Normandy, the flowers the churches, the wild 
horse William the Bastard, the cattle the enemies of Nor 
mandy, and the heifer as Robert Curthose. 

The Vision of the Five Beasts 3 * belongs to the same century. 

32 Fredegar, Chronicle, III, c. 12. This prophecy is found in the oldest 
manuscript which was written in 715, as B. Brusch has shown in the intro 
duction of his edition of Fredegar for Monumenta Germaniae, 1888. 
(Introd., p. 9 f.) 

^Ordericus Vitalis, Historia Ecclesiastica, book V, c. 10. This chapter 
was written, as internal evidence shows, in 1126. 

34 Neues Archiv, 37, p. 600, printed from Codex Vaticana 1348, twelfth 
century. 



39 

Five beasts, a flame-colored dog, a tawny wolf, a white horse, a 
black hog, and a gray wolf, representing five kings who come 
from the North, are tied by ropes to a small hill in the west 
whence comes a voice. Anti-Christ appears with the last. 

This closes the survey of vaticinal literature before 1135. 
The survey has shown nothing that resembles the Merlin 
prophecies except fragments which it is not certain Geoffrey 
knew, three short prophecies two of which belong to the same 
century, and The Omen of the Dragons described in the pre 
ceding chapter. Otherwise the material and the vaticinal 
method of The Book of Merlin were new. Furthermore, the 
survey has shown that the Sibyllic method was universally 
employed in such writing during the Middle Ages. It has also 
shown what traditional material, such as the Anti-Christ and 
Last-King-of-Rome themes, was popular and was constantly 
used. The Book of Merlin contains no reference to this ma 
terial and no suggestion of it. This omission must have been 
deliberate on the part of the writer, for Geoffrey certainly 
knew all these theological legends. The story of Anti-Christ 
had been popular throughout Christendom from the earliest 
centuries. The Last-King-of-Rome story with the attendant 
Renunciation-in- Jerusalem, had been familiar to the French 
since the ninth century, and must have been known in England 
at an early date. Geoffrey certainly knew of the Sibyl as a 
prophet, for he refers to her twice in the Historia as such. 
In one place 35 he says that Alan consulted her prophecies with 
those of Merlin and the Eagle in regard to Cadwallader. In 
another place 36 he makes Hoel in a speech refer to a prophecy 
of the Sibyl that Britain should give another Emperor to 
Rome. 37 " The Prophecy of Sibyl Tiburtina was the most im 
portant long prophecy nearest his own day, and because of its 
popularity is the one he would probably have imitated. 38 It is 
certain that he did not imitate it. 

39 Evans, 324 ; Giles, 227. 

36 Evans, 256; Giles, 177. In this last passage Geoffrey used the Latin 
word vaticinia, but in the former passage the word carmen. 

37 This may be an echo of the Last King of Rome. 

88 A twelfth century version is found to-day in the British Museum 
(Ward, loc. cit., I, 192-3.) 



40 

The only resemblances to The Book of Merlin in the older 
prophecies occur in occasional passages, or are in very short 
and unimportant individual pieces. It might be argued that 
Geoffrey got from these few cases some suggestions which he 
developed and elaborated. Such a point would be hard to 
prove. Before adopting such a view it would be only just to 
examine the evidence in favor of Geoffrey's own statement. 

The evidence against Geoffrey of Monmouth's word has 
been spoken of. In reality it is no evidence at all, but only 
distrust. The failure of scholars to find Archdeacon Walter's 
British Book 39 prejudiced critics and scholars against Geof 
frey. They have refused to take his word unsupported by 
other evidence, and have quoted with delight William of New- 
burgh's attack on Geoffrey's veracity as proving their point. 
So far as William of Newburgh's remarks prove anything, 
they prove that Geoffrey had originals of some kind for the 
Arthurian stories. William's real charge is not that Geoffrey 
lied, but that he had been unscholarly in accepting tradition 
as fact. 40 William acknowledges that Geoffrey translated the 
prophecies from the Welsh. He says further, however, that 

89 There is nothing to show that The Book of Merlin was a part of the 
' British Book.' There is really no indication as to the form of the original. 
Geoffrey says that he translated from the ' British ' (de Britannico in 
Latinum, Giles, 119). This might indicate that his original came either 
from Wales or from Brittany. In the prophecy the new dynasty that 
succeeds the Norman is clearly Breton. This episode may be referred to 
a Breton source. But if the rest of the prophecy is Breton it has been 
localized in England, for the places named in it are all in the British 
Isles. A more reasonable explanation is that the material came from 
Wales, and that Geoffrey may have known it from his boyhood. Scraps 
from several sources may have got into the collection. 

40 See translation of Newburgh's Chronicle by Jos. Stevenson, in The 
Church Historians of England, vol. 4, part 2, London, 1856, p. 398 f. It is 
really a serious mistake for any writer to quote only a passage from 
William's remarks in this connection, for a wrong impression is created. 
William's chief anger is directed against the Welsh, whom he evidently 
did not love, for devising the fable of Arthur and a past glory. The 
stock passage always quoted in reference to Geoffrey is misleading, unless 
it is studied in its context. William is really finding fault with Geoffrey 
for perpetuating what he considers lies and what he thinks Geoffrey should 
know were lies. 



41 

many people believed that Geoffrey edited them to fit the truth 
and added guess-work of his own. 

Although the " British Book " has not been found, scholars 
no longer insist that Geoffrey forged his material. The pres 
ence of Arthurian names in Italy in the early twelfth century 
proves the existence of Arthurian material independent of 
Geoffrey's book. 41 Even the name that most concerns this 
study, Merlin, occurs in Italy in U28, 42 early enough to dis 
prove the statement that Geoffrey was the first to use it. 43 
The prominence of Merlin in the Uther-Igerne story as told 
by Godfrey of Viterbo 44 shows that Geoffrey was not the 

41 V. P. Rajna, Gli Eroi Brettoni nell' Onomastica Italiana del secolo XII, 
Romania, 1888. 

"I. Sanesi, Storia di Merlino, Bergamo, 1898, xii. In May 1128 Galdia, 
wife of Merlin deceased, endowed the monastery of S. Salvatore, Taone. 
Her husband must have been born at least about the year noo. 

43 W. Lewis Jones, The Arthurian Legend, Cambridge History of English 
Literature, i, p. 298. 

44 Godfrey of Viterbo, Pantheon, Monumenta Germaniae, XXII. Godfrey 
heads the eighteenth chapter of the Pantheon, De Anglis et Saxonibus. 
He takes up the story of Britain with the accession of Constans the Monk, 
and concludes with the marriage of Uther and Igerne, saying that their 
son will be Arthur. He differs from Geoffrey of Monmouth in the names 
of the characters and in the details of the action. 

Godfrey does not use the same spelling as Geoffrey, and sometimes 
changes the name altogether. Vortigern he calls Voltigern ; Vortimer, Vol- 
gimer; Horsus, Orsus but apparently Orso, Orsonis, in oblique cases; 
Hengist loses the initial H. ; Merlinus is sometimes shortened to Merlus 
for metrical reasons ; Igerne becomes Hierna ; the Picts appear as Quirites. 
The name Rowena does not occur, but in its stead he uses Angria, taken, 
he says, from the name of the country which was so called before Pope 
Gregory substituted an L for an R. Angria is perhaps a pun on Delra, 
one of the divisions of the old Northumbrian kingdom. Dux Cornubiae 
represents Gorlois, who is not named ; Ulfin of Ricaradoc, the friend who 
advised the king to consult Merlin and who went with him to Tintagel, 
gives place to an unnamed Medicum Gothorum, whom Uther consulted 
while the fever of love was on him. No name is given Igerne's castle of 
Tintagel. 

Godfrey changes very much the genealogy of the Pendragon dynasty. 
He makes Uther and Aurelius the sons of Diocletian's colleague Maxi- 
mianus, who, he says, had been sent to govern Britain. This is a two-fold 
mistake. The Maximianus sent to Britain was quite another man and in 
no way connected with the Pendragons, who were the sons of Constantine 



42 

first to connect Merlin with the Arthurian material. This has 
not, I believe, been pointed out before. 

The problem of the ' British Book ' has been touched on here 
only as it concerns Geoffrey's reputation for veracity. It is 

of Brittany. Constans the Monk he makes the uncle instead of the elder 
brother of Uther and Aurelius. 

In the Pantheon the Saxons under the leadership of Orsus and Engistus 
are called into the country by Vortigern at the advice of an unnamed Saxon, 
and one of them slays Constans. The Britons, not liking the growing 
supremacy of the Saxons, elect Volgimer king. He defeats the Saxons, but 
the war is interrupted by Voltigern's attempts to make peace. The war 
is continued, and results in the defeat and flight of the Germans. They 
return after a time, and renew the struggle. Volgimer is defeated, and 
flees to the forest where he is said to have died of poison. Voltigern mar 
ries Angria, the sister of Engist and Orsus, and makes peace. In the 
Historia the Picts are introduced into the kingdom by Vortigern, and a 
Pict slays Constans. The coming of the Saxons follows Vortigern's acces 
sion. The marriage with Rowena takes place shortly after the landing of 
the Saxons. In the British outbreak Vortimer is successful and rules 
supreme until he is poisoned by Rowena. 

Godfrey introduces the building of Vortigern's tower with no introductory 
explanations. Apparently it is built at the king's caprice, for no mention 
is made of the treachery of the Germans or to the massacre of the Britons. 
The account of the instability of the works agrees with that in the His 
toria, but the Latin phrasing is never the same. The search for the ' boy 
born without a father' and the finding of Merlin is told in the same way 
in both books. But in the Pantheon Merlin does not confront the Mages, 
who are put to death. They escape in the Historia. Merlin's explanation 
of the causes for the falling of the tower is given in greater detail, but 
agrees in the main with Geoffrey's account. There is, however, no hint of 
anything under the pool, and the appearance of the dragons is something of 
a surprise. No reference is made to the rock and the tent which conceal 
the dragons in the Historia. The dragons do not fight each other, but 
devastate the country until one is killed by Uther who gets thereby the 
surname Pendragon. The King and Queen in alarm ask Merlin to explain 
the portent of the dragons. He says that they represent Uther and Aurelius 
who are finally to get possession of the country. No such explanation is 
given in the Historia. 

Immediately after the episode of the dragons and Merlin's interpretation 
follows a brief account of the war between Voltigern and the sons of Con- 
stantine, in which Voltigern is killed. Angria, aided by Orsus and Engistus, 
continues the hostilities, but finally agrees to a peace, and is granted the 
government of the Marine Fields. Aurelius becomes king, and although 
a Manichean in religion, proves to be a good ruler. He is succeeded by 



43 

constantly suggested by the question of the sources of The 
Book of Merlin, but the two issues must be kept separate. 
Except as here indicated, the ' British Book ' does not concern 
The Book of Merlin in any way. Its existence is important 
only as establishing the possibility that Geoffrey could and 
would tell the truth. It makes Geoffrey's own statement more 
credible. The evidence in support of his statement deals with 
quite other matters. This evidence is drawn both from external 
and internal sources, and leads unmistakably to the conclusion 
that The Book of Merlin was translated from a Welsh source 
of some kind. 

It has been shown already that William of Newburgh, who 
is so frequently quoted against Geoffrey, says clearly that 

Uther. In the Historia there is no mention of Rowena after the poisoning 
of Vortimer. Horsus furthermore was slain in the war against Vortimer. 
Aurelius was not a heretic, but a devout and orthodox Christian who cared 
for the rebuilding of the churches destroyed by the Saxons. 

Godfrey omits many events in the reign of Uther. The first event re 
counted is Uther's meeting with Hierna, wife of the Duke of Cornwall, at 
the Easter festival. The Duke arose frightened at the King's attentions, 
and Hierna fled. War ensued between the King and the Duke. Uther 
fell sick with love of Hierna, and consulted a Gothic doctor, who failed to 
find the cause of the distemper. Merlin was then called. He diagnosed 
the case properly, and proposed the magic disguise to effect the King's 
desires. According to the Historia, Uther was not sick, but consulted 
Ricaradoc concerning means of gaining his end, and Ricaradoc recom 
mended that Merlin be called. 

Merlin and Uther went alone to Hierna's castle which was some distance 
from that in which the Duke was staying. The Duchess welcomed the 
King in the semblance of the Duke, who told her that he was hard beset, 
but that he had one day of rest. They dined together, and then retired. 
Before parting the next morning they exchanged tokens of their affection. 
After leaving the Duchess Uther heard that Gorlois had been killed. 
Later Hierna came out into the meadow to make terms with the King, 
and told him that she had a brave husband at home. Uther then told her 
the truth, and finally persuaded her to marry him. The meeting of the 
Duchess and the disguised King in the castle is described in detail. Tn 
the Historia it is barely mentioned. Uther learns the news of his enemy's 
death from messengers who came to the castle to inform the Duchess of it. 
The messengers are naturally much amazed to see her sitting beside one in 
the Duke's semblance. Uther returns to his army to hear what had hap 
pened, and later goes back to Igerne and persuades her to marry him. 



44 

Geoffrey translated the prophecies of Merlin, which constitute 
The Book of Merlin. Further support is lent Geoffrey's claims 
to translation by the existence of The Prophecy of Ambrosius 
Merlin concerning the Seven Kings, which was translated by 
John Cornwall from a Welsh source independent of Geoffrey's, 
but which contained much the same material. This original is 
also lost, but similar material actually existed in Wales during 
the same century and was attributed to Merlin, as Giraldus 
bears undisputable testimony. Giraldus also makes it plain that 
these prophecies were common property and were used by the 
people and the bards alike. Such evidence should be conclusive 
of itself. 

Unfortunately none of the Welsh originals for the transla 
tions of Geoffrey, John, and Giraldus are extant. But other 
Welsh poems of a predictive nature ascribed to Merlin have 
survived. They present at least one problem of some difficulty, 
for all of the manuscripts are of later date than 1135. It is, 
however, certain that they contain material that is much older. 
It is not unreasonable to infer that the poems which discuss 
early historical events antedate the twelfth century. 45 In The 
Dialogue between Merlin and Taliessin* 5 Myrdin (the Welsh 
cognate of Merlin) appears as a prophet conversing with 
Taliessin and foretelling the future. This poem ends rather 
significantly for the present study : 

Since I, Myrdin, am next after Taliessin, 
Let my prediction become common. 

A group of predictive poems relating to Cadwallader mention 
Merlin as a prophet. These refer to the expected return of 
Cadwallader and his alliance with Conan of Brittany. 46 An 
echo of this legend is found in The Book of Merlin in the 

48 W. F. Skene, The Four Ancient Books of Wales containing The Cymric 
Poems attributed to the Bards of the Sixth Century, 2 vols., Edinburgh, 
1868, vol. i, p. 222, 225. Volume one contains essays on various subjects 
connected with these poems and translations of the poems themselves. The 
Welsh texts and notes are in volume two. 

"Geoffrey takes no cognizance of this legend in the Historia, for he 
chronicles the death of Cadwallader in chapter 18 of book twelve. For 
the political relations of this story consult Villemarque, loc. cit., passim. 



45 

passage, " Cadwallader shall call unto Conan and receive 
Albany into his fellowship." But a more intimate relation 
exists between The Book of Merlin and the Welsh poems. The 
distinguishing feature of the former is the unusual animal- 
symbolism. Something very similar to this is found in the 
kind of epithets bestowed by the bards upon their patrons, as 
Urien, ' Eagle of the Land/ The fact that Gildas 47 uses the 
same kind of epithet in his Epistle shows that it occurs in 
Welsh literature from the earliest times. If, as Skene 48 sug 
gested, Maglocune and Cuneglas are referred to in Poem XVII 
of the Red Book of Hergest as ' The Dragon from Gwynedd ' 
and ' The Bear from the South/ the continuance of the epithets 
so late and the substitution of them for the names of the kings 
would strengthen the conclusion. This substitution of the 
epithet for the person occurs as early as the sixth century, for 
Gildas refers to Boadicea as the ' deceitful Lioness ' without 
naming her, and to the mother of Constantine as ' the unclean 
Lioness of Damnonia.' This is what has happened in the case 
of the prophecies. The epithet has been used as a vatic symbol. 
Similarly, in the Welsh poems preserved, the epithet is fre 
quently used without the man's name but with no prophetic 
intention. 

In The Book of Merlin the animals employed as symbols, 
once or oftener, are the Boar, the Lion, the Eagle, the Lynx, 
the Goat, the Ass, the Hedgehog, the Heron, the Fox, the Wolf, 
the Bear, the Dragon, the Bull, and the Owl. Not all of these 
are used as epithets in the poems examined. Some epithets are 
found in the poems that are not employed in the prophecies. 

The animal names common to the poems and the prophecies 
are used in various ways in the poems. The Bear is applied 
directly as an epithet to Adan and to Cyndylan, and as a simile 

47 Gildas addresses Constantine as ' the tyrannical whelp of the unclean 
Lioness of Damnonia/ Aurelius Conans as * the Lion's Cub,' Cuneglass as 
' the bear and charioteer of the bear,' and Maglocune as * the dragon of 
the island.' Novatus, a persecutor of the Christians he calls 'black Hog.' 
In the historical part of the Epistle he calls Porphyrius ' mad Dog,' and 
refers to Boadicea as the * deceitful Lioness.' He also likens Vortipore to 
the leopard, pardo similis. 

48 Skene, vol. i, p. 213. 



46 

to Caradawg ' whose stroke in battle was like the woodland 
boar's,' and to Bleiddiad who had the ' aspect of a boar.' The 
Lion is used as a symbol for an unnamed chief in The Satis 
faction of Urien, and is applied to another nameless prince 
about to be baptized, in Poem XVII of The Book of Taliessin. 
It is used several times in the Gododin poems symbolically for 
other unnamed kings. The Eagle is used in the same poems 
as a symbol for a nameless king whose descendant is referred 
to as ' Grandson of the Eagle of Gwydien,' and in an address 
to Urien for that king himself. It is also bestowed as an epithet 
upon Urien. The Wolf is used as a symbol in the Cuhelyn and 
Poem XIV of The Black Book of Caermarthen, and as an 
epithet with the names of Brann, Ceawy, and Cyndylan. The 
Bear is the epithet of Cynan and Cadwaladyr. It is found as a 
symbol in Poem XVII of the Red Book of Hergest, in the 
Hoianau, and in Poem LIII of The Book of Taliessin. The 
Dragon is used as the epithet of Angor, and as a symbol in 
Poem XVII of The Red Book of Hergest, in Poem LIII of 
The Book of Taliessin, and in the Gododin poems. The Bull, 
Bull of the Battle, Bull of the Conflict, occurs more frequently 
than any previously mentioned. It is used as the epithet of the 
Privet in The Battle of the Trees, of Llwid Llednais in The 
Verses of the Graves, and of Eithynin in the Gododin poems, 
in the Gorchan of Tudviwch, in The Verses of the Graves, and 
in Poem XXXIII of The Black Book of Caermarthen. This 
enumeration, except in the first case, does not include the 
similes and metaphors in which the animal images are used. 
A similar use of animal imagery and epithets is to be observed 
in the tales of the Mabinogion. But sufficient citations have 
been made to show clearly the relationship. 

The Book of Merlin contains several obscure passages in 
which the symbolism is effected partly by the use of trees and 
forests. The passage telling of the expulsion of the foreigners 
is followed by the sentence, " Cambria shall be filled with 
gladness and the oaks of Cornwall wax green." 49 One sentence 
further is the passage, " From Conan shall issue forth the war 
like Boar that shall try the sharpness of his teeth in the forests 
of Gaul. For the greater oaks shall he stub each one, but unto 

49 Evans, 177; Giles, 123. 



47 

the smaller shall he grant protection." 50 Towards the close of 
the third chapter is the allegory of the tree with three branches, 
the North wind, and the birds. 51 In the fourth chapter is an 
account of the nesting of the Heron of Calaterium in an oak on 
a mountain in the Valley of Galabes. 52 Later, after an over 
flow of the Thames, a conflict between the oaks of the forest 
and the rocks of the Gewissi is described. 53 The prophecy also 
narrates the transformation of three thundering bulls into 
trees. 54 All these passages seem utterly unintelligible until 
one finds that in The Battle of the Trees the conflict is described 
as if the opposing parties were really trees. In The Spoils of 
Taliessin, furthermore, the Oak is used as the symbol for the 
prince addressed by the poet. These forests, oaks, and other 
trees may thus be interpreted as referring to individuals. The 
Oak, in one of whose branches the Heron nests, may refer to 
some family into which the Heron, a princess, marries. The 
Branch of the Oak would then be the husband. 

It has been shown that Geoffrey of Monmouth did not 
imitate any of the continental prophecies that preceded The 
Book of Merlin. It has been shown, furthermore, that external 
evidence indicates very clearly that Geoffrey translated The 
Book of Merlin from the Welsh. Internal evidence has shown 
a close relation between the conventions of the prophecies and 
the conventions of Welsh poetry. But none of the Welsh 
poems preserved is the original of The Book of Merlin. The 
repetition of motives throughout the prophecies seems to indi 
cate that the original was a collection of fragments, or episodes, 
that had been put together with as much continuity as possible. 
Since prophetic fragments were sung by the bards, as Giraldus 
says, they were in all probability metrical. If the arrangement 
of the material in The Seven Kings is an indication, this 
original was perhaps in dialog form, and contained apostrophes, 
and ejaculatory expressions of the prophet's emotioits. But 
beyond this little can be determined of the form of the original. 

50 Evans, 177; Giles, 123. 

51 Evans, 178; Giles, 123-4. 
53 Evans, 181 ; Giles, 125. 

53 Evans, 183; Giles, 127. 

54 Evans, 186 ; Giles, 128. 



CHAPTER THREE 

THE MAJOR MONUMENTS OF THE ENGLISH TRADITIONS; 
WELSH, SCOTTISH AND IRISH PROPHECIES 

It is not practicable to continue the study of the prophecies 
chronologically, for they soon become too numerous and too 
short, and deal with too many different things to be treated 
and discussed in a general study. Attention can be given only 
to the major monuments that rose during the flourishing period 
of the type. These are The Prophecy of the Six Kings to 
follow King John, The Prophecy of Thomas a Becket, The 
Prophecy of John of Bridlington, and The Prophecy of Thomas 
of Erceldoune. In the form in which these prophecies have 
come down, they belong to the latter half of the fourteenth or 
to the early fifteenth century. The Six Kings and Erceldoune 
prophecies are older in their origin. After the fifteenth century 
it became the habit to collect several prophecies into one, or to 
give new material lengthier treatment. 

The Prophecy of the Six Kings to follow King John, 1 hence 
forth to be referred to as The Six Kings, presents a more con 
tinuous literary history than the others, for it is derived ulti 
mately from The Book of Merlin. It appears at its different 
stages in Latin, Anglo-French, and English. An English ver 
sion in riming verse is very important because of its historical 
connections, for it is the prophecy that was used against Henry 
the Fourth by the Percy-Glendower faction, the ' skimble- 
skamble stuff' of Shakspere. It purports, as its name implies, 
to foretell the events in the reigns of the six kings who suc 
ceeded fting John. 

The account of the kings begins with the Lamb of Win 
chester (Henry the Third). According to Merlin, this Lamb is 
to have a white chin, sothefast lips, and a heart wherein Holi- 

1 Printed as an appendix in Jas. Hall's edition of Laurence Minot's Poems, 
London, 1887. Echoes of this prophecy are found in two of Minot's poems. 

48 



49 

ness is written. While he is truand, an insurrection is to be 
raised in his realm by a wolf of a strange land, but it is to be 
quelled by the aid of a Red Fox from the Northwest. At 
his death his heir shall be in a strange land, and the realm shall 
abide for a time without a ruler. 

The Lamb is to be succeeded by his heir, the Dragon (Ed 
ward the First), whose disposition is of mercy and severity 
mingled. This Dragon shall have a beard like a Goat and a 
sweet breath. He is to frighten Wales from North to South, 
and conquer many countries. A people of the Northwest, led 
by a wicked Greyhound, shall make an incursion into the 
country, but they shall be defeated by the side of the sea, and 
dwell for a time in many perils as stepchildren. This Dragon 
shall foster a Fox that shall raise a war against him not to be 
ended in his time. This Dragon in his lifetime is to be con 
sidered the best knight in the world, and is to die on the borders 
of another country. Then shall the land dwell in trouble as a 
stepchild without its mother. 

After the Dragon shall succeed a Goat (Edward the Second) 
who has horns of silver and silk, and a beard like a buck; 
whose breath betokens hunger, death of the people, loss of 
land, and much other trouble ; and in whose days, Merlin says, 
whoredom and adultery shall be prevalent. This Goat shall 
come out of Carnarvon and go to another country to get the 
Flo wer-of -Life (Isabella of France). During his reign so 
many people shall die that strangers shall be bold against him. 
Upon an arm of the sea a battle shall be fought in a shield- 
shaped field. A Bear of the Goat's blood shall raise war against 
him. The Goat, clad in a Lion's skin, shall at first make resis 
tance successfully with the aid of a people from the Northwest, 
and avenge himself on his enemies. But he shall end his days 
in pain and sorrow. In his time shall flourish an Eagle of 
Cornwall, named Gaveston, who shall die for his pride and 
presumption. 

After the Goat shall come a Lion (Edward the Third), who 

shall be fierce and terrible in heart, whose countenance shall 

be full of pity and justice, whose breast shall be a slaking of 

thirst for those that love peace and rest, whose tongue shall 

5 



50 

speak truth, and whose bearing shall be meek as any lamb. In 
the beginning of his reign he shall have trouble to punish mis 
creants, but he shall at length make his people as meek as a 
lamb. He shall be called Boar of Prosperity, Nobility, and 
Wisdom. He shall come out of Windsor, and shall go through 
four lands whetting his tusks. He shall go even to the Holy 
Land without opposition. Spain, Aragon, and France shall 
acknowledge his power. He shall whet his tusks against the 
gates of Paris, and shall wear three crowns before he dies. He 
shall meet his end in a far country and be buried beside three 
kings. 

After the Lion, or Boar (for he is called both in the poem) 
shall come an Ass (Richard the Second) with leaden feet, a 
steel head, a brass heart, and an iron skin. This Ass shall 
govern his land in rest and peace, and shall be praised for his 
well doing. Then he shall give his land into the governance of 
an Eagle, who shall govern it well until, overcome with pride, 
he is slain by the sword of a brother. The control of affairs is 
then to revert to the Ass, who rules well and in whose time all 
good things are plentiful. 

Afterwards a Mole (Henry the Fourth) shall be ruler of the 
land. This Mole shall have a hide as rough as a goat's skin, 
and shall be accursed of God for his misdeeds. He shall be 
greatly praised until he is overcome with pride. Then shall a 
Dragon raise war against the Mole. A Wolf, seeing the 
Dragon hard pressed, shall come to the Dragon's aid. Then 
both shall be joined by a Lion from Ireland. This combination 
is then to defeat the Mole and drive him from the land, leaving 
him only an island in the sea where he shall pass his life in 
great sorrow and strife, and finally lose his life by drowning. 
England shall be divided into three parts between the Dragon 
and the Lion and, it would seem, the Wolf, who, however, is 
not mentioned in the partition. Then shall England be known 
everywhere as the Land of Conquest, and the heirs of England 
lose the heritage. 

The framework of The Six Kings is taken from Geoffrey of 
Monmouth's The Book of Merlin. King John was identified 
by various chroniclers as the Lynx of the earlier prophecy 



51 

under whom Neustria (Normandy) should lose both the 
islands. John's loss of Normandy fulfilled this prophecy in an 
inverse manner. But the overthrow of the Normans and the 
restoration of the native dynasty remained unaccomplished. 
According to The Book of Merlin Conan succeeded the Lynx. 
This part of the prophecy was passed over, and the Lamb of 
Winchester substituted for Conan with no explanation. For 
the Boar who was to stub short the Oaks of Gaul, according to 
the earlier work, the Dragon was substituted. The Goat, the 
Boar, and the Ass are identical in both prophecies, but the 
Mole is not to be found in the earlier one. Beyond the mere 
identity of certain symbols the two have little in common, al 
though the main theme of the Goat episode in The Book of 
Merlin is mentioned in The Six Kings. The Boar in the latter 
seems to be a combination of the Boar who was to stub the 
Oaks of Gaul, and the Boar of Commerce in the former. 

It is not to be expected that all versions of this prophecy 
should agree in minor details. Just as this poem differs from 
The Book of Merlin, so the versions differ from each other. 
Some contain more material than others. Some agree in gen 
eral subject matter but not in minute details. In some cases 
genuine history has caused a correction of earlier mistakes. 
Detailed study, however, is impracticable in this place and has 
therefore been relegated to an appendix. 2 The consideration 
of this poem's importance in political history must be postponed 
to the next chapter which deals with the interrelation between 
history and the prophecies. 

The Prophecy of John of Bridlington 3 is, perhaps, the most 
interesting example of the genre because of its length and 
elaborateness, and the artistic care with which every little 
detail of the plan has been worked out. It is a Latin poem 
provided with a commentary, a dedicatory epistle, and three 
introductory essays, or preambles as they are called by the 

2 See Appendix i. The date of this poem is uncertain. It is found 
first in a fifteenth century manuscript, but the vague description of the end 
of Edward the Second's reign would indicate that it was written before his 
death in 1327. 

3 Thomas Wright, Political Poems and Songs, London, 2 vols. Rolls Series, 
1859, vol. i, p. 123 f. 



52 

writer himself, all likewise in Latin. Since the commentator 
gives the impression that he is not the author of the poem, 
it was first thought that two men were concerned with the 
prophecy. John of Bridlington was accredited with the vati- 
cinal portion; a certain John Ergome with the commentary, 
dedication, and essays. 4 But there seems no valid reason for 
doubting that both parts are the work of one man whose name 
is unknown. 

The date can be fixed with fair accuracy. The work is dedi 
cated to Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford, Essex, and 
Northampton, Constable of England, and Lord of Brecknock, 
who succeeded to these honors in 1161 and died in iij2. 5 The 
poem must have been written between these dates. A refer 
ence 6 to the visit of David Bruce to Edward the Third shows 
that it must have been written later than 1163. An allusion to 
an irregular election of an Archbishop of Canterbury 7 would 
seem to place the date of composition before 1366 when Simon 
de Langham was chosen, 8 apparently with no irregularity, to 
succeed Archbishop Islip, who had just died. Langham was, 
however, deposed in 1368, a fact which answers well to an 
alternative mentioned in the commentary on the passage relat 
ing to the Archbishop. If the reference were to this event, 
the poem would have to be dated later than 1368. But the 
author of the prophecy would then be anticipating somewhat, 
for the other events described in the same stanza all took place 
in 1363. This episode of the Archbishop is best considered a 
case of genuine prophecy accidentally fulfilled. The fact that 
no historical event later than 1363, unless perhaps this obscure 
matter relating to the Archbishop, is referred to leads to the 
conclusion that the prophecy was written about 1364. 

The introductory essays are interesting in themselves. The 
second of these enumerating the various tricks of prophetic 
disguise has been discussed in the first chapter of this study. 
The third is little more than a brief outline of the poem. In 

4 Supra. 

5 Dictionary of National Biography, vol. 5, London, 1886, p. 310. 
9 Bridlington, III ; iii. 

''Bridlington, III; iii. 

8 Diet. Nat. Biog., vol. 29, 1892, p. 74; vol. 32, 1892, p. 99. 



53 

the first the commentator says that there are four things 
(causae) to be observed in regard to the prophecy: the events 
it narrates, and the various customs and manners it discusses 
(accidentia) ; the method of composition (causa formalis) ; 
the origin of the prophecy (causa efficiens) ; lastly, the purpose 
with which the prophecy was written (causa finalis). 

The accidentia he explains as the events of war; the cus 
toms and manners of the realm, such as the obedience paid 
the laws, contempt and neglect of the laws, lust, avarice, and 
other vices and virtues; the manners of the lords and coun 
cillors of the king and of the whole people ; lastly, the matters 
that concern the whole people, such as changes in costume, 
changes in the coinage, pestilences, famines, and similar calami 
ties. As to the causa formalis three things are to be noticed : 
the literary form, which is verse instead of prose ; the manner 
of presentation, which is by means of obscure, prophetic 
(prophetialis) terms; and the order of events, in which the 
past is narrated and the future is forteold. The causa efficiens, 
says the commentator gravely, is the Holy Spirit which, accord 
ing to the general opinion, dictated the prophecy in a vision to 
a regular canon, who committed it to writing. In regard to 
the causa finalis three things are to be observed. The first is 
the benefit to be derived from the knowledge of prophecies, 
for he who knows prophecies is forewarned for his own bene 
fit, can warn his friends, and will be prepared to share in any 
prospective good fortune. The second is the satisfaction which 
comes to a man from three sources : because he knows some 
thing of which his fellows know nothing; because by knowing 
one prophecy he is the more able to interpret others ; because 
he can appreciate thereby the love of God who took pains to 
forewarn him. The third thing to be observed is the honor that 
is obtained by the knowledge of prophecies. Men who are 
acquainted with them have more knowledge than other men, 
and because of this superior knowledge are considered more 
fit to rule. 

The plan of the prophecy is very methodical. It is divided 
into three sections (divisiones) . Each section is divided into 
chapters (capitula) which are so short that they are really 



54 

stanzas. The first section, after an introductory stanza, nar 
rates the events from the accession of Edward the Second to 
the preparations for the battle of Crecy ; the second covers the 
sixteen years from 1344 to 1360; the third begins with the 
year 1360 and professes to tell the history of the Black Prince 
as King of England until he is acknowledged King of France. 
This last section contains the matter that is purely vaticinal. 
A commentary is provided for each chapter, but in later ver 
sions was discarded with the result that any desired interpre 
tation was given any passage. 

The various tricks of disguise used in this poem have been 
discussed in the first chapter. For so long a prophecy the 
animal symbols are comparatively few. None of the symbols 
are taken from The Book of Merlin, as in The Six Kings, 
except the Goat which stands for Edward the Second. Edward 
the Third is constantly spoken of as the Bull, taurus, except 
once when he is called the Kite, milvus. David Bruce, the 
King of Scotland, is called the Crab, cancer, because he had at 
crucial moments a habitual tendency to retrograde action. 
The Black Prince after his accession is called the Cock, gallus. 
This is perhaps a pun on the two meanings of the Latin word 
gallus, for the prophet declares that the French in his reign 
submit to the English and accept him as king. The commen 
tator says in the second essay that gallus is used for the King 
of France. 9 On different occasions various noblemen of Eng 
land are referred to more or less indefinitely as oxen, gray old 
dogs, lions, calves, leopards, and bears. The allies of the 
Scottish King in a war against England prophesied for the 
last years of Edward the Third's reign are called by the names 
of fishes, such as the Turbot, rumbus, which is used for the 
King of Denmark. 

The poem contains a great deal of etymologizing in that 
the component parts of an English compound word are fre 
quently translated into Latin ; thus mare mortis for Mortimer. 

9 Neither Philip, John, nor Charles is spoken of in the poem as gallus. 
But the plural galli often occurs for the French, who are also called 
Franci. The phrase pulli gallorum occurs often enough to indicate that 
galli means cocks. 



55 

The parentage of Edward the Third is made very obscure by 
the use of this trick. The Latin of the passage runs, 

Ex hirco taurum redimita per aurum, 
Ex auris aurum ventis componitur. 

Hircus, the Goat, stands for Edward the Second. Redimita 
per aurum is a phrase used for Isabella of France, the mother 
of Edward the Third. Ex auris aurum is a phrase used for the 
son, aurum, of wealthy parents, duris. Ventis aurum is an 
etymologizing of Windsor, Edward the Third's birthplace; 
ventis translates the English winds, aurum the final or, which 
is taken to be French. The Duke of Lancaster becomes 
longum castrum. Cams vicus stands for the Earl of Derby, 
terra vada for the Earl of Hereford. The Battle of Halidon 
Hill is referred to as a battle at mons sacer, the Battle of 
Mountjoy in France as at mons gavisus. Frons ursina is hard 
to recognize as Berwick, which the commentator calls Bear- 
front also. The punning translation of names, such as pene- 
trans for Percy, is a similar trick. 

Because of its numerous conventions the poem almost defies 
adequate translation, for in most cases the ambiguity of the 
original cannot be preserved. The line 10 

Milvi caedentur, cuculi silvis capientur, 

taken from the account of the Scottish invasion of England 
during the later years of Edward the Third's reign, is an 
example. The trouble lies with milvi and cuculi which are not 
really substantives but numerical symbols confusedly arranged. 
Thus milvi stands for MLVII, and cuculi for CCLXI. 

A better idea of the poem can be got from connected passages. 
The second chapter of the second section is typical of the 
whole. As nearly as it can be translated, it runs thus : 

" Now wars increase, thrice three battles arise : Thou Maid, Dear Star 
of the Sea, bear Thou the standard. Twice dux shall strike vix with 
three hundred allied (MCCCLXVI). The false Phi. (Philip) will flee, 
he will not aid the fallen. A King, a Duke, and a Soldier become common 
after the slaughter. The heads of ducum (either nobles or MDCX) 
adorned with jewels will be broken: no one shall save his life by yielding 

10 Bridlington, III: vi. 



56 

his jewels. No one crosses the Glad Mountain (Mountjoy) without dis 
aster: the Grandmaster himself shall not be saved. The horns of the 
just shall be against the Galli, and the English shall delight in the delicacy 
of the grape. Striving to destroy the English lands by war, the plough 
(culter) will be a witness. David, the adulterer, will be ruined. Sus- 
picor, the priest, (Zouche) and penetrans (Percy) true to his name, will 
penetrate the bowels of the Scottish warriors. Wide wounds will be made 
with the narrow sword. For Luke, the physician, will not be friendly to 
the Scots (a reference to a battle fought on St. Luke's Day.) For with 
the Devil as chief they will be conquered on Luke's Day. At nova villa 
with the cross as a witness (Neville's Cross) will they lie hidden without 
light. Victory will not be slow with a small band, clean in mind, when 
Christ carries the standard. The holy horned ones (bishops whose mitres 
were horned), mute as to Divine Law, shall be safe this time under the 
shield. And it shall not be unsaid that the Scots paid their tribute." 

The difficult question of indebtedness to other prophecies 
now arises. It has been shown that the animal symbols are 
not taken from The Book of Merlin. The greater part of the 
poem is evidently a tour de force. The writer, however, may 
have made some use of existing materials, but the evidence on 
the point is very slight. The Cock was employed in vaticinal 
literature as a symbol for France or the King of France as 
early as 1358, at least eight years earlier than the composition 
of this poem. 11 The Crab was used in the Giraldian Collec- 

11 " Herwib acordib Merlyn Ambrose bat such angusche is nyge for as 
by hem in J?e tyme of be myscheif of >e kok bab we clepe fraunce 
}>at schal be distroyed by J?e sixte of irlond be witt is our kyng wib his 
children." The Last Age of the Church, ed. J. H. Todd, Dublin, 1840, p. 
xxxiii. This was written in the year 1356 according to the date given in 
the context, p. xxxi. The unknown author quotes four lines from the 
prophecy known from the opening words as Gallorum levitas. Gallus is 
used for France in the Versus Northmannie. 

Anglia transmittet leopardum lilia Galli 

Qui pede calcabit cancrum cum fratre superb o 

Ungues diripient Leopardi gallica regna 

Circulus invictus circumdabit unde peribunt 

Anglia regnabit vasconia parta redibit 

Ad juga consueta leopardi ftandria magna 

Flumina concipiet que confundent genetricem 

Lilia marcescent leopardi posse vigebit 

Ecclesie sub quo libertas prima redibit 

Huic babilon metuet circis (?} omnibus vanterit 



57 

lion, but its interpretation is unknown. It is used as a symbol 
for the King of Scotland in the Versus Northmannie. 11 The 
Bull had occurred frequently in The Book of Merlin, but no 
instance of its use for Edward the Third has been found in 
the course of this study. The unusual method of expressing 
numbers had been used before. The Latin prophecy beginning, 

" Tolle caput Mortis bis cancri luna suum dat 
Hiis ter junge decem tercaput adde iovis? 2 

is an example. The two lines express in a round-about way 
the year 1283 for which the prophecy was written. Examples 
of Latin numerals so arranged as to form words have not been 
found elsewhere. 

Bridlington is interesting also for its relationship to later 
prophecies. The Cock in the North beginning 

" Quen J?e cokke in }>e northe has biggid his neste 
And buskid his bryddes and bowned him to fle " 

seems to take its beginning from the two lines 

" Tempore brumali gallus nido boreali 
Pullos unabit, et se volitare parabit. 1 * 

But the resemblance 15 between the two passages does not prove 

Aeon Jerusalem Leopardi posse redempte 
Ad cultum fidei gaudebunt se redituras 

(Ms. in British Museum, Arundel 57, f. 4. a.) 

This prophecy is older than 1320. It is quoted in an exposition of sev 
eral prophecies in the same manuscript beginning on the next folio. 
This date is given in the second line of the exposition. Ward (Cat. i, 
308) thought the date should be 1340, basing his conclusion on an erasure 
in the date. The erasure does not prove that the date given fe 
incorrect, for the original may have been wrong. Mistakes are frequently 
erased. A reference to Robert Bruce as still alive, a few lines further, 
shows that the exposition must have been written before his death in 
1329. 1320 cannot be far wrong. 

"Ward, loc t cit.,l, 311. 

13 See note i, chapter i. 

14 Bridlington, III, ix. 

15 This resemblance was noted by Brandl (The Cock in the North, 1177) 
who considers the English lines a translation from the Latin, since the un 
known author of The Cock in the North refers in his poem to Bridlington. 



y 



58 

the English a translation of the Latin. The Latin verses 
might equally as well have been translated from an English 
original which has also served as the basis of The Cock in the 
North. The Prophecy of the Fysshes 16 is certainly a close 
metrical adaptation in English of the account of the war made 
on the Bull and his allies by the Crab and his allies, who are 
all fishes. 

Thomas a Becket, during the fourteenth and fifteenth cen 
turies, was credited with numerous prophecies. Many of these 
are in Latin, and concern the ampulla found in the Tower of 
London by Richard the Second. These are closely connected 
with the political events attending Richard's deposition, and will 
therefore be discussed in the next chapter. Some prophecies 
relating to the reign of Edward the Third and attributed to 
Becket are contained in an alliterative poem written in the 
vernacular. 17 In the manuscript the poem is entitled Saint 
Thomas of Canterbury. Its abrupt beginning, " Thomas rides 
from Rome," and the contents of the first fifty lines might indi 
cate that it is a part of a longer poem which dealt with the 
travels of Thomas a Becket. There is a much longer version 
of the poem in a Northern dialect, perhaps Scottish, which, 
however, lacks the first twenty-eight lines. 18 The shorter will 
be referred to as the Hatton version, from the manuscript in 
whicfi it is found, and the longer for a similar reason, the 
Cambridge version. The two differ somewhat in minor details, 
but the substance is the same as far as the Hatton extends. 
The poem was apparently written shortly after the Battle of 
Poitiers in 1356, for this is the last historical event that can be 
identified in it. 19 

The passage the poet seems to attribute to the prophet does not occur in the 
Bridlington prophecies, and nothing like it is to be found there. Besides 
this mere mention of the name there is no proof that the author knew any 
thing of Bridlington, though its popularity makes it probable. This resem 
blance was noted in this study two years before Brandl's publication. 
"Printed, Brandl, The Cock in the North, Sitzb., 1187. 

17 Ms. Bodleian, Hatton 56, 4Sa-46b. 

18 Printed by Lumby, Bernardus de Cura rei familiaris, from Ms. Cam 
bridge, Kk, 5. For Hatton version see Appendix 2. 

19 Brandl, Paul's Grundriss, Strassburg, 1892, II, 661, thinks it written to 
refresh confidence in the aging Edward the Third. 



59 

According to the poem, Becket left Rome and went to Pisa 
where he found masons at work upon a tower of alabaster near 
a neglected shrine of the Virgin. Thomas called the attention 
of the master workman to the shrine and the image of the 
Virgin within it, and gave him money to provide means of 
pilgrimage to it. From Pisa he went to Basel where he 
entered a church to celebrate mass. But when he reached for 
his missal, he discovered that he had left it at Rome. While 
he was at a loss to know what to do, a wonderful book fell 
upon the altar. When he left the church he found that some 
one had stolen his bridle, whereupon he bade the people get him 
another. From Basel he went to Avignon where he knelt and 
kissed the ground, and in reply to a question from young 
Warrenne prophesied that the place should at some time be the 
seat of the papacy. 

The material dealing with English affairs begins with 
Becket's arrival as Poitiers whither he went from Avignon and 
where he was entertained in the house of a burgess. He 
asked who owned a castle he saw under construction, and was 
told that it was being built at the command of King Charles. 
Thereupon Thomas began to prophesy. There shall come, 
he said, two Boars from England and ruin the tower and the 
town, of whom one shall do much damage to the king and put 
him to flight, and the other pasture himself in the choicest 
fields of the kingdom. The people who heard these wonderful 
words reported them to King Charles, but he declined to cease 
the work ' for drede of a boar/ The Boar, said Thomas, shall 
be born of French and English blood and shall be matchless 
on earth. Thomas then went out into the fields and bade the 
masons build three crosses. At the first cross the King of 
France, said he, shall fall and lose his crown, at the second 
Archbishops and other church dignitaries shall die, at the 
third the crown shall fall in a battle of beardless boys. Young 
Warrenne made game of the prophecy and vexed Thomas 
sorely. Here the Hatton version ends. 

The Cambridge version continues for one hundred and four 
lines further, and describes in greater detail the Boar's career 
in France. The burning of Abbeville and the battles of Mount- 



60 

joy, Caen, Calais, and Valois are mentioned. Then an invasion 
of the Boar's realm by a King from the North and the Boar's 
revenge at Berwick are prophesied. After the capture of 
Berwick a battle is predicted at Boulogne in which a two- 
headed Bird with fifty thousand men sides with the enemy. 
The capture of Paris and the defeat of the Bird follow. After 
wards, said the Saint, the Boar shall win Milan, Lombardy, 
and the Bird's three crowns, and then go on a crusade to the 
Holy Land, whence (it seems) he is not to return. After his 
departure the land is to be ruled by women or be desolated by 
a pestilence. Marvels such as red rain occur until the people 
recognize Christ. Sir Edmund of Abingdon, who has not been 
mentioned previously, interrupts by remarking upon the late 
ness of the hour. An angel in blue bids Becket close the book, 
from which it now appears that he had been reading, and car 
ries it up to Heaven. Becket and his companions resume their 
journey. So the poem closes. 

Neither version of this poem is complete. Even a composite 
of the two would seem incomplete. The very beginning is 
abrupt. The reference to Becket's companions without previ 
ous description might indicate that a portion of the poem has 
been lost, in which the circumstances of the travels were 
described and the experiences of the party in Rome narrated, or 
perhaps that the original of both versions was a transcript or 
paraphrase of a part of a longer work. Such tags as 'this 
book tells' would indicate that the writer had his eye on a 
larger work. 20 Neither version is a part of the other, for they 
differ too frequently and too widely. The Hatton version 
names at first two Boars, which can stand only for Edward the 
Third and the Black Prince. The Cambridge version mentions 
only one Boar. According to it King Charles abandons the 

20 Cf. lines 40 and 41 Hatton Version ; 

" This Thomas went on his wey as he wele myght 
ij days journey as }?e boke tellis." 

At times these references to ' The Book ' are made to the Book of Prophe 
cies from which Becket is reading. Of course one knows that it was a 
convention of Middle English poetry to refer to a mythical Book as author 
ity. This reference may amount to nothing more. 



61 

work at Poitiers, and Becket finishes it in order that the Boar 
may have a place of rest when he invades France. The proph 
ecy regarding the tower is not made by Becket, but is found 
by the workmen engraved mysteriously on a stone. A prayer 
of Becket's to Our Lady is different in the two. 

This poem is more closely related to the Six Kings than to 
the other prophecies discussed in this chapter. In both the 
Boar is used for Edward the Third with the combined charac 
teristics of the two Boars in The Book of Merlin. But in this 
prophecy the metaphor of the Boar and his tusks is carried 
further in the references to the damage done by the tusks. 
The beginning of the Boar's reign is described in both proph 
ecies in similar terms. According to The Six Kings, 

" He sail have trey and tene in biginning, 
To chistise misdoers of wrang lifing. 
And als thurgh felnes sej>in sail he seke, 
Till he have made be folk als lamb to be meke " ; 

according to the Becket prophecy, 

" This bore in his barnhede shall many noians abide 
& in ]?e myddes with peynes be prikked on every side 
J?is bore shall he makeless for mercy him folowes 
after J>at he pas the pase of many grete sorowes." 

Both allow the Boar three crowns but not the same ones. In 
The Six Kings they seem to be the crowns of Spain, France, 
and Aragon. In the Becket prophecy they are not named, but 
they seem to be won from the two-headed bird: 21 The Crusade- 
episode, deriving originally from the Last-King-of-Rome 
story, is found in both, but this poem makes more detailed men 
tion of Famagosta, Cyprus, and Jaffa as places visited on the 

21 The Two-headed Bird probably stands for the Emperor of the Holy 
Roman Empire, who is referred to as the Eagle in another prophecy on the 
French Wars, The Prophecy of the Lion, the Lily, and the Son of Man. 
A version of this was printed by Todd, Last Age, p. Ixxxiv. The Eagle 
from the East comes at first to the aid of The Son of Man (Edward the 
Third, according to an interpretation in a manuscript described by Ward, 
Cat. I. 318) but loses his crown to the Lily (France). When the Lily lost 
it, the Son of Man was crowned with it. In this prophecy, the Son of 
Man takes the cross and makes a crusade to the Holy Land. 



62 

way. The greater part of the prophetic material, however, 
seems to have been written for the occasion. Other animal 
symbols than the Boar are few. The King of France is 
referred to by name as Charles, but which of the French Kings 
so named one cannot say. 22 

Thomas of Erceldoune has received more attention than 
any of the poems just discussed because of the romantic 
material in the first fytte, but the prophetic material in the 
third and fourth fyttes has been neglected. The reason for 
this neglect is probably that too little English vaticinal literature 
has been published to give much assistance in studying, and 
that material for the study of the romance has been easily 
accessible. The question as to the origin of the romantic 
material does not concern this study, and must, therefore, 
be passed over. 23 

According to the story, Thomas, while lounging under a 
tree by Huntlybanks one fine morning in May, saw a lovely 
lady come riding towards him holding three grayhounds in a 
leash. He mistook her for the Virgin, and ran to meet her at 
Eildon Tree. He accosted her as the Queen of Heaven, but 
was told that she was quite a different personage. Then 
Thomas, overcome with her beauty, entreated her love, which 
she granted. But she lost her beauty in consequence and 
required Thomas to do penance by accompanying her and 
dwelling with her one year. Accordingly, she led him into an 
underground passage at Eldonhill knee-deep in water. After 
three days she brought him into a beautiful orchard, the fruit 

23 The only Charles that ruled in France after the Carolingians and before 
the accession of Charles the Fifth in 1364 was Charles the Fourth, the last 
of the Capetians in the direct line, whose death in 1328 was one cause of 
the Hundred Years' War. It was, perhaps, this name Charles that led 
Lumby to think the poem referred to the wars of Henry the Fifth. The 
name may have been substituted in the fifteenth century for some other 
name that stood there originally. The poem may have been used in the 
fifteenth century to glorify Henry the Fifth, but it was undoubtedly written 
much earlier. 

23 Those who are interested in the romantic features will find an excellent 
treatment of the subject in Josephine M. Burnham's A Study of Thomas of 
Erceldoune, Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, 
vol. 23, p. 375 f. 



63 

of which she forbade him to pluck. There she bade him halt 
and look at a castle in the distance, which she gave him to 
understand was her home. While she spoke, she underwent a 
transformation and regained all her lost beauty. After blow 
ing her horn she led the way to the castle, where she and 
Thomas were heartily welcomed. Thomas dwelt in the castle 
in happiness until one day the lady told him that it was time to 
return. He prepared himself for the journey, and followed 
her back to Eldonhill. But as the Lady turned to leave him, 
he asked her to give him a token and to tell him a wonder. 
She gave him the prophecies. 

The events prophesied in the second fytte are historical and 
can be easily identified. The battles of Halidon Hill, Falkirk, 
Bannockburn, Kinghorn, Duplin Moor, Hexham, Durham, and 
Otterburn are named or referred to in evident terms. The 
younger Baliol, David Bruce, and Robert Steward are named 
as kings of Scotland at different times. Symbols are few. The 
Goshawk is used for David Bruce, the Raven for Edward the 
Third, and the Tercelet for Baliol and various unnamed Scots. 

The events prophesied in the third fytte are unhistorical. 
A battle is prophesied at Spinkard Clough where the Scots 
are victorious, and another at Pentland Hill, after which the 
English invade France. Apparently they return to worry 
Scotland, and fight three great battles, the first between Seton 
and the sea, the second on Claydonsmoor or Gladsmoor, the 
third at Sandy ford. At the second battle three kings are slain, 
and a raven comes flying over the moor followed by a crow. 
At the third battle the English seem from the context to be led 
by a Bastard from the South. This Bastard is to die in the 
Holy Land. At the time of his death Scotland is to be in a 
deplorable condition. The lords of the land are all slain, and 
their heiresses marry their former servants. Thomas then asks 
after Black Agnes of Dunbar, who had once put him in prison, 
and is told that she will meet an inglorious fate in London. 
The Lady after this prophecy says farewell and leaves him. 
The poem closes with a short supplication to Christ ' to bring us 
to Thy hall on high/ As in the second fytte symbols are few, 
being limited to a Raven, a Crow, and a Bastard. 



64 

The vaticinal matter in the second fytte is easily enough 
understood, and was evidently manufactured for the occasion. 
The five battles, the three kings, the Raven, the Crow, and 
the Bastard in the third fytte are not so easily explained. They 
seem unhistorical, at least they have not been identified. They 
do not occur in the earlier prophecies, but are important epi 
sodes in later versions of this same material made as late as 
15 15. 24 The expectation of the battles lasted long. Barnet 
(i47i) 25 and Prestonpans (i745) 25 were both identified as 
Gladsmoor. Spinkard Clough was considered fulfilled in 
Pinkie Cleugh (i546). 25 The three kings, who are here name 
less, appear in the later versions as the Kings of Spain, Den 
mark, and Norway. Bridlington's prophecy concerning the 
assistance given the King of Scotland by the King of Denmark 
may have helped to perpetuate this particular episode. A short 
passage found in only one manuscript 26 describes the armorial 
bearings of four great lords who take part in the war against 
the Scots ; the first bears a red lion in his banner, the second a 
ship with a golden anchor, the third a wolf carrying a naked 
child in his mouth, and the fourth a bear bound to a stake. 27 
In some versions the number of these lords is increased to eight, 
but these four remain the same. In the other versions also they 
are not enumerated together, but appear at different parts of 
the narrative. The Raven and the Crow are found only in 
some, but the Bastard occurs in all. 

The poem contains only one episode that shows the influence 
of earlier material. The Lady in describing the hopeless con 
dition of Scotland after the Battle of Sandyford, bursts into 
tears and says, 

" Bot for ladyes, sail wed laddys ynge, 

When ]?air lordes ar ded awaye. 
He sail hafe stedes in stabill fed, 

24 See Murray, Thomas of Erceldoune, Appendices i, ii and iii, and 
Brandl, Thomas of Erceldoun, p. 118, for these variant versions. 

25 Murray, supra, xlii, xliii, Ixxviii. 

28 Thornton Manuscript, Murray, supra, p. 38. 

27 Brandl, supra, p. 140, endeavors to identify these lords, but can fix with 
certainty on only one symbol, the Bear and the Staff, which stands for 
Warwick. None of the other symbols fit exactly the heraldic bearings of 
the families he names. 



65 

A hawke to here appon his hand, 
A lufly lady to his bedd : 

His elders byfore had no land." 28 

This is a development of a line in an older prophecy attributed 
to Thomas of Erceldoune, who had made it in answer to a 
question of the Countess of Dunbar as to when the Scottish 
wars should cease. His answer runs : 29 

" When people have made a king of a capped man ; 
When another man's thing is dearer to one than his own ; 
When Loudyon is Forest, and Forest is field ; 
When hares litter on the hearth stone ; 30 
When Wit and Will war together; 

When people make stables of churches, and set castles in styes ; 
When Roxburgh is no burgh, and market is at Forwylie ; 
When the old is gone and the new is come that is worth nought ; 
When Bannockburn is dunged with dead men ; 
When people lead men in ropes to buy and sell ; 
When a quarter of ' indifferent ' wheat is exchanged for a colt of ten 

marks ; 

When pride rides on horseback, and peace is put in prison ; 
When a Scot cannot hide like a hare in a form that the English 

cannot find him ; 

When right and wrong assent together ; 
When lads marry ladies ; 31 

When Scots flee so fast that for want of ships they drown themselves ; 
When shall this be ? Neither in thy time nor in mine ; 
But (shall) come and go within twenty winters and one." 

In its setting and framework this poem resembles very much 
a Northumbrian ballad relating to the Scottish wars. 32 The 
story is related in the first person by a traveler. The fairy 

28 Brandl, supra, 114; Murray, supra, 44. 

29 This is a modernized version printed by Murray, p. Ixxxvi. The orig 
inal is printed at page xviii. Murray apologized for the modernized version, 
saying that he had been asked so frequently what the older version meant 
that he considered it necessary. 

30 Referred to by Andrew Lang in Ballade of Autumn, Ballades in Blue 
China, London, 1888, p. 48. 

31 Lads in its original meaning of ' farm-hand,' Murray, Ixxxvi. 

32 Printed Langtoft's Chronicle, Rolls Series, London, 1866, 2 vols., vol. 
2, appendix from a manuscript of the late thirteenth or early fourteenth 
century. See also Ward, I, 300. 



66 

motive is introduced, but the fairy is a ' little man ' and not a 
' lady gay/ The ballad begins, 

Als y yod on ay Monday 

bytwene Wyltinden and Walle 
Me ane aftere brade waye 

ay litel man y mette withalle, 
The leste that evere I, sothe to say, 

oither in boure oither in halle; 
His robe was noithere grene na gray, 

but alle yt was of riche palle." 

The dwarf bade the traveler stop and wait for him. When the 
two had met, the dwarf led the way into a beautiful garden 
where lords lolled at ease and ladies sang in the corners. The 
traveler interrogated his guide concerning the Scottish wars 
and their result. He was told that a Mole was in Scotland on 
guard, and that a Boar lay south of the Humber, bound fast in a 
pasture by fools and watched by the Mole. At length the Boar 
should escape from his den, but he was to be held long by a 
Leopard. After a great battle fought south of the Tweed the 
Boar should win the land, although the Lion should go to fetch 
it. T beside an L connected with Ed as a thread should be 
the bailiffs. 

This ballad is unsatisfactory in every way, for little can be 
made of it. The stanzas and the lines seem badly confused 
and disarranged. But it shows one thing, a prophecy dealing 
with Scottish Wars was written in ballad meter and with a fairy 
motive introduced. Nothing in the ballad, however, is repeated 
in Thomas of Erceldoune. The dwarf-motive occurs in two 
later versions of the same material, The Prophecie of Thomas 
Rymour* 3 and The Prophecies of Rymour, Beid, and 
Marlyng. 3 * In both the visit to the garden is omitted, and the 
prophecy occurs as a vision. Both contain references to the 
battles of Gladsmoor, Sandyford, and the one between Seton 
and the sea. 

It has been said previously that the romance in Thomas of 
Erceldoune had received the most study. Professor Child 35 

" Murray, Erceldoun, p. 48. 

34 Supra, p. 52. Cf. the opening stanza of the ballad, The -wee, wee man. 

35 Quoted by Murray, supra, p. xxvi. 



67 

once wrote that the second and third fyttes were additions to 
the romance made by an unskillful hand. Murray dissented. 36 
Si,nce the later versions of Erceldoune omit the romance and 
revert to the setting of the ballad, it seems probable that the 
earliest form contained only the vaticinal elements, and that the 
romantic elements were a later addition. It is true that the 
Lady appears in the later poems clad in much the same fashion 
as in this poem, but she is the Queen of Heaven and makes no 
prophecy. The second fytte can easily be explained as the 
necessary amount of history told as prophecy, such as was con 
ventional in vaticinal writing. It is true that no part of the 
prophetic material in the ballad recurs in these later poems. 
But the printed version is incomplete, and is, perhaps, not the 
only version. 37 

The date of Thomas of Erceldoune is uncertain. Murray 
and Brandl concur in the view that it was written in 1400. 
Murray 38 bases his conclusions on his interpretation of the 
passage, 

" Tell me of this gentill blode 

Wha sail thrife, and wha sail thee? 

Wha sail be kynge, wha sail be nane, 
And wha sail welde J>is north countre ? " w 

He thinks this a question as to the conflicting claims of the 
Bruce and Balliol families, which would not have been made 
after the extinction of the Balliols. The passage probably 
refers to the Bruce-Baliol quarrel, for it comes early enough in 
the second fytte which deals with the Wars of the Scottish Suc 
cession. But it seems scarcely sufficient evidence to prove the 
date. 

Brandl's theory is much more elaborate. He finds 40 that the 

38 Supra, xxvi. 

37 Cf. " betwene the walcoen & the wall 

this lytyll man mett with me, 
tolde me this proffecy all, 

And what tyme it shuld be." The last stanza of The Proph- 
isies of Rymour, Beid, and Marlyng. 

38 Murray, Thomas of Erceldoune, xxv. 

39 Brandl, Thomas of Erceldoun, p. 94. 

40 Brandl, supra, 30. 



68 

key to the whole prophecy is contained in next to the last 
stanza of the first fytte which reads : 

" Ferre owtt over gone mountane graye, 

Thomas, my fawkon bygges his neste, 
A fawkon is an erons praye, 
Forthi in na place may he rest." 

He understands this as referring to a conflict between two 
birds, and finds that all the symbols in the poem are taken 
from the names of birds. He interprets the Heron as Henry 
the Fourth, who while Duke of Lancaster had been referred 
to in political poems under the symbol. In other prophecies 
of this same period Henry was called aquila, ' egle,' and 
' fawkon.' The Bastard ' born in South England ' Brandl con 
siders also a bird and likewise interprets it as Henry the 
Fourth, but he finds no examples of its use for the same man 
in other political poems. If the Heron is a king of England, 
it is evident from the lines quoted that the falcon must be a 
king of Scotland. Finding that David Bruce is called in the 
prophecy Falcon and Goshawk, 41 Brandl considers his inter 
pretation proved correct. Since the battles named in the third 
fytte never occurred in any historical invasion of Scotland, he 
reaches the conclusion that the poem must have been written 
before Henry's invasion in August, 1400. He then argues that 
it must have been written after Henry's accession and while 
there was a rumor of the invasion, and fixes the date as 1400. 
The poem may have been written in 1400. There is no satis 
factory proof either that it was or was not written then. One 
must confess, however, that Brandl's theory is not very satis 
fying. Its plausibility lies in the degree of correctness with 
which the symbols have been interpreted. Its weakness lies in 
the interpretation of the poem. In the longer prophecies, such 
as those described in this chapter, great consistency is observed 
in the use of symbols, only one being used for one individual. 
This is true also of the shorter prophecies. A poet who could 

41 Brandl, supra, 101. 



69 

plan so carefully the contents of the three fyttes 42 and could 
announce so neatly at the close of the first the key to the con 
tents of the other two, would in all likelihood have taken pains 
not to confuse the symbols. He has done this in the second 
fytte. But if Brandl's theory be correct, this passage fn the 
first fytte and the whole of the third fytte would be inconsistent 
with the second and the symbols would be used confusedly. 
The Falcon, 43 if it represents the King of Scotland as Brandl 
supposes, would have to be applied to three different men, 
David the Second, Robert the Second, and Robert the Third. 
The Heron would apply to only one man, Henry the Fourth. 
In the poem, 43 the Falcon is used only for David the Second. 
His conqueror, Edward the Third, is not called the Heron but 
the Raven. It is rather strange, too, that the Heron should be 
used in this key-note passage as a symbol for a man who is 
never again called by it, but who is called by another entirely 
different symbol, the Bastard, when he is introduced. Brandl's 
theory is interesting, but it does not solve the problem. 

Another obstacle to dating the poem at 1400 is the lack of 
continuity in the narration of events. Throughout the his 
torical parts with one exception the narrative is continuous 
down to the Battle of Otterburn with which the second fytte 
closes. According to the order of events in the prophecy, four 
great battles and an invasion of France occur before the acces 
sion of Henry the Fourth, if the Bastard be Henry the Fourth. 
It is rather strange that the author was so untrue to history, 
if he wrote in 1399 or 1400 after the time for which these 
events had been prophesied. The only battle predicted to 
follow the Bastard's accession is Sandyford, One might avoid 
the difficulty to some extent by referring these battles to 
Richard the Second's invasion of Scotland in 1185 a rather 
doubtful explanation, but he cannot so easily explain the 
invasion of France. Futhermore, Brandl himself confesses 
that these five battles are all unhistorical. 

42 It is worthy of notice that the poet, while he devoted fifty-nine stanzas 
to the romance according to Brandl's reconstructed text, divided the proph 
etic portions rather nicely, giving forty-four stanzas to the second fytte and 
forty-three to the third. 

43 Line 448; Brandl, supra, 101 ; Murray, supra, 28. 



70 

If none of the five battles or the invasion of France is an 
echo of actual events, the last historical event described in the 
poem is the Battle of Otterburn in 1388. An interval of twelve 
years in which four of the great battles are fought intervenes 
before the accession of Henry the Fourth, 'The Bastard,' in 
1400. Since the battles are not historical, the third fytte must 
obviously have been written before the time for which the first 
of them was prophesied, and therefore before the year 1400. 
It might be argued that the accession of the Bastard should come 
at the beginning of the fytte and precede all the battles, but 
there is no manuscript authority for such an arrangement. 
Furthermore, one of the fundamental conventions of the genre 
would be violated, for in all the prophecies the imaginary events 
are described as immediately following the real. In this poem 
an awkward interval of twelve years would fall between the 
real and the fictitious. It is not sufficient to say that the real 
purpose of the poem is to narrate only the history of the wars 
between England and Scotland. Such is not the case, for 
Richard's invasion of Scotland is not mentioned and an irre 
levant invasion of France is introduced. Moreover, the events 
in the second fytte are told as if the point of view was from 
Scotland, but in the third fytte the main interest is in England 
and in English affairs. It is thus seen that any interpretation 
of the poem which depends upon the identity of the Heron or 
the Bastard with Henry the Fourth is unsatisfactory. If the 
third fytte is purely vaticinal and the Heron in the key-note 
passage is not Henry the Fourth, the fytte is best considered a 
' melange of traditional prophecies ' that could have been made 
at any time, and from which no evidence in regard to the date 
can be drawn. The poem was written after 1388. As there is 
no evidence to show that it was written after 1400, it was prob 
ably written before that year. The date cannot be fixed more 
accurately from the evidence now at hand. 

The author of the poem is unknown. Brandl supposed 44 
him to have been an inhabitant of Northern England. 

Murray 45 thinks him a Scot and is inclined to believe that he 

/ 

44 Brandl, Thomas of Erceldoun, 42. 

45 Murray, Thomas of Erceldoune, xxvi f. 



71 

may have put into his poem some prophecies made originally 
by the real Thomas of Erceldoune. 46 

The four prophecies discussed in this chapter represent in 
many ways the genre at its climax. As was said in the begin 
ning of this chapter the prophecies after 1500 become too 
numerous to be discussed at any length. Many of them will 
be mentioned in connection with the later chapters of the study. 
Attention must now be turned to Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, 
although the prophetic material of these countries can be 
treated only in the most cursory fashion. 

The date at which Scottish prophecy began cannot now be 

46 A real Thomas of Erceldoune seems to have existed in the latter part 
of the thirteenth century. In 1199 (or 1194 as Murray says) Thomas de 
Ercildoun, son and heir of Thomas Rymour de Ercildoun, deeded to 
Trinity House, Soltra, the lands which he had inherited from his father in 
Ercildoun. Thomas Rymour de Ercildoun occurs as a witness to a grant 
made to Melrose Abbey by Petrus de Haga who lived about 1220. This 
Thomas is said to have foretold the death of Alexander the Third of 
Scotland in 1286. The Harleian prophecy, quoted above, anticipating the 
Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, is said to have been made by Thomas 
twenty years earlier. These four dates comprise all the evidence, and the 
last two are traditional. 

The prediction of the death of King Alexander was made in answer to a 
question put him by Dunbar, the Earl of March, as to what another day 
would bring forth. Thomas fetched a sigh and said to this effect : " Alas 
for tomorrow, a day of calamity and misery ! Before the twelfth hour 
shall be heard a blast so vehement that it shall exceed all those that have 
yet been heard in Scotland ; a blast which shall strike the nations with 
amazement, shall confound those who hear it, shall humble what is lofty, 
and what is unbending shall level to the ground." The news of the King's 
death announced at dinner the next day was interpreted as the blast fore 
told by Thomas. One easily sees that the prophecy is only a weather 
forecast. The story seems not to be older than the fifteenth century, and 
is first told by Bower in his continuation of Fordun (Murray xiii). It 
shows only that Thomas was a weather-wise hanger-on of the Dunbar 
family. The earliest reference to Thomas and his prophecies is made 
by Barbour (The Bruce, II, 85 f.) in connection with the murder of the 
Red Comyn. Thomas, whoever he was, wherever and whenever he lived, 
very early got a reputation for prophetic skill. Tradition assigned him 
certain prophecies. No more can be said. There is not the slightest evi 
dence that he had any literary ability. The attribution of Sir Tristrem 
to him is only an attempt to unite a bookless author and an authorless 
book. 



72 

determined. Barbour's account of the vaticinal tapestry made 
by St. Margaret naturally inspires doubt. According to it 47 
this saintly queen had made a picture of Edinburgh castle repre 
senting a man scaling the wall, with the motto, Gardes vous de 
Frangois, which was interpreted as predicting the capture of 
Edinburgh by a man named Frangois or Francis. Some early 
prophecy must have been circulated under the name of Thomas 
of Erceldoune, as frequent references are made by fourteenth 
century writers to such predictions. 

The earliest extant prophecies dealing with Scottish affairs 
are in Latin, and relate to the wars of the Scottish Succession. 
They present a singular difficulty, because, being in Latin, one 
can tell only by the general tone whether any one of them is 
Scottish or English in origin. Frequently the reader is uncer 
tain whether a prophecy was written by the English, or by the 
English party among the Scots themselves. The Latin poem 
beginning, 48 

Ecce dies veniunt, Scoti sine principe fiunt, 

relating to the deposition of Baliol, and the final overthrow of 
the Scottish kingdom is obviously English in sentiment, and 
may easily be referred to English authorship. The poem, like 
wise in Latin, beginning, 49 

Regnum Scotorum fuit inter caetera regna, 

outlining the history of Scotland to the accession of John 
Baliol and prophesying the final defeat of the English inter 
saxosum fontem castrumtfwe nodosum seems to be Scottish in 
origin. Another prophecy ascribed to Sibylla is found with it 
and may be a continuation of it. According to Sibylla a king 
of the North should greatly afflict the Scots. The aliens in 
Scotland were also to perish through the trickery of the Scots. 
In the war a French leader was to fall by the sword of his 
brother. At length the Welsh were to make a compact with 

47 Barbour, Bruce, x, 737-755. 

48 Langtoft, Rolls Series, vol. 2, p. 448 f. 

49 Pinkerton, Enquiry into the History of Scotland, London, 1789, p. 499 f. 
A version slightly different is printed in Wright and Halliwell's Reliquiae 
Antiquae, vol. 2, 26, 246. 



73 

the Scots and regain control of the island restoring the old 
name as the Eagle had predicted. 50 These verses are fre 
quently attributed to Gildas who, according to this version, 
drew his inspiration from Christ. The order of the episodes 
does not remain the same in all the versions. 

Prophecies in the Scottish dialect seem not to have existed 
before the fifteenth century. The extant versions are even 
more recent. They were collected at the time of James the 
Sixth's accession to the English throne, and printed in 1603 as 
The Whole Prophesie of Scotland?'*- The prophecies in the 
collection are attributed to Merlin, Bede, Bridlington (spelled 
Bertlington), Thomas Rymour, Waldhave, Eltraine, Sibylla, 
Banister, and Gildas. They deal with the history of Scotland 
in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and employ the usual 
animal-symbolism, which seems to consist both of heraldic and 
of arbitrary symbols. Some of the prophecies are in allitera 
tive long lines, some in rime, some in combination of rime and 
alliteration. One is in prose. With the exception of a few 
in Latin that cover about two pages they are written in Scottish. 
In arranging the collection some attempt seems to have been 
made to preserve a roughly chronological order in regard to 
the events narrated. 

The first prophecy in the collection has no title, but is 
attributed to Merlin in the first line. The reference in the fifth 
line to the calling to Cadwallider of Cornwall and to the defeat 
of the Wolf out of Wales, after which the events of the 
prophecy occur, connect it with some particular prophecy that 
has not come to notice. Cadwallider is certainly an echo of 
traditional material. The real prophecy begins with the 
supremacy of the Lion in the North, and the defeat of the Bear 
by a Storm from the South and the Bear's death in a foreign 
land. Then a Freik fostered far in the South (apparently 
James the First) returns to the kith and governs it to the dis 
comfort of the Crab and other banished nobles. The death of 
the king in a fen after a reign remarkable for the covetous- 

80 In a Latin prophecy against Edward the Third (Reliquiae Antiquae, 
vol. 2, p. 25) this overthrow of the English seems predicted for 1381. The 
compact between Wales and Scotland occurs in later prophecies. 

51 Reprinted for the Bannatyne Club, vol. 44, Edinburgh, 1833. 



74 

ness of the chief ruler is then predicted. By far the greater 
part of the prophecy follows. It is perhaps to be regarded as 
portraying a chronological succession of events, but any in 
terpretation is doubtful and difficult because of the obscurity of 
the symbols. 

After the fall of the Freik seven years of trouble were 
prophesied. The Crab and the Cock however escaped the 
danger. The Raven with his rouping frightened many from 
Caithness to Cornwall. The Gled climbed to great power and 
became careless of his lord, the Lion. The Graip wished to 
grasp absolute power. The crowing of the Cock announced 
his coming and frightened everyone, especially the false Fox 
and the Fulmart. A conspiracy was formed by the Raven, 
the Rook, the Kid, and the Buck. The Birds of the Raven 
plundered Lothian, and did great harm to the abbeys on the 
Tweed. A period of lawlessness prevailed for five years when 
no man trusted another, not even the father his son or the son 
his father. But peace was finally established by a council 
called for the purpose, which however did not last long. An 
Eagle's nesting in a forest disturbed the peace. War was re 
newed, and a battle fought in the North beside a stock cross 
which was so completely covered with corpses that the Crow 
could not tell where the cross stood. Then a Wolf became 
watchman and remained faithful to his lord, the Lion. A 
great fleet was got together under the command of the Three 
Leopards and a fleur de lys. Then a Hunter came from the 
South and won a battle in Fife. 52 

After an interruption the prophecy is resumed with a version 
of the Cock in the North. The ballad meter is discarded after 
the first twelve lines. The Cock built his nest in the North 
and then prepared to flee, but Fortune at the last moment seems 
to have favored him. The Moon rose in the Northwest and a 
Lion, the strongest and best in Britain since Arthur's days, was 
set free. A dreadful Dragon came to the aid of the Lion, but 

63 The succession of events is interrupted at this point by a prophecy 
concerning what should happen when the moon was full and when the 
crags of Tarbat fell into the sea. The writer of the prophecy then pre 
sents as proof of his veracity the statement that he had seen the books 
of Merlin, Bede, and Banister, and had found that they agreed. 



75 

the Bear, apparently the leader of the opposing faction, was 
joined by a Bull and a Bastard. A Leopard of native stock, a 
Horse, an Antelope, a Bear, a Brock, and a proud Prince par 
ticipated in the conflict, which seems to have taken place ' twixt 
Seton and the sea.' The Lion was injured but victorious in 
the end, and captured the Fox, the Fulmart, the Piper, the Pie, 
and the friends of the Fox. 'Troy untrue' (England) 
trembled for dread of a dread man, for the commons welcomed 
him and gave him the key to the realm. The Sun and the 
Moon both shone bright and proceeded safely on their courses, 
as Bridlington, Banister, Merlin, Thomas Rymour, and others 
had prophesied. Then it was reported that the Saxons had 
chosen a king. A dead man rose and was cared for by a young 
knight, who won a battle in Surrey, went on a crusade, and 
died in the Vale of Jehosaphat. 53 

53 Brandl's edition of the English Cock in the North has already been 
mentioned. He thinks the poem was written in Northern England at the 
time of the Percy-Glendower rebellion. The Cock he understands as a 
symbol for Hotspur, the Moon for the House of Percy, the Dragon for 
Glendower, the Bull for the Nevilles, the Star of Bethlehem for a comet 
that appeared in 1402, and the Lion for Douglas and the Scottish auxiliaries. 
But here he stops with his work of interpretation half done. One would 
like to know the originals of the Boar (Bear in the Scottish version), the 
Bastard, the Leopard, the Mole (not in the Scottish), the Mermaiden (not in 
the Scottish), the Eagle, the Antelope, the Bear, the Bridled Horse, the Proud 
Prince, the Fox, the Fulmart, the Picard (Piper in the Scottish), the Pie, 
the friends of the Fox, and the Dead Man. In both versions the Lion is 
victorious and reigns in peace the rest of his life, a strange prediction to 
be made by any Englishman if the Lion represented Douglas or any other 
Scottish power. The Cock and the Moon are completely forgotten after 
the first two stanzas and can in no way be considered the heroes of the 
prophecy. They are really of no more importance than the others, the Fox 
and the Fulmart for example. The reference to London and the English 
Nation as ' Troy Untrue ' would be more consistent from a Scot or Welsh 
man. Furthermore, an English writer of a prophecy on English affairs 
would scarcely consider it necessary to refer to the English people as ' The 
Saxons.' The Bastard is found as a symbol in this prophecy which must 
have been written, if Brandl is correct in his conjectures, about the same 
time as Thomas of Erceldoune. In the latter he interpreted the figure as a 
symbol for Henry the Fourth, for whom it could as easily stand in this 
prophecy, but he does not so interpret it. 

Since the interpretation of the poem from the point of view of English 



76 

Every prophecy in The Whole Prophecy of Scotland is in 
teresting, but space for detailed study of each is lacking. 
Episodes are repeated with slight variations in the different 
poems. References to the battles of Gladsmoor, Sandyford, 
and ' twixt Seton and the sea ' are frequent. The Prophecy 
of Bertlington contains an interesting episode : 

affairs breaks down, and since the English version is undeniably in a 
Northern Dialect, it seems not unreasonable to suppose that the poem is 
originally Scottish. If the Scottish authorship is granted, it becomes more 
easy to understand the poem. The hero is clearly the Lion. In other pre 
dictive poems of this same collection the Lion is invariably used as a 
heraldic symbol for the King of Scotland. If the poem were English, the 
Lion would have to represent Henry the Fourth, and would be an exception 
to the other English prophecies. If the Lion is the King of Scotland, his 
victory is then perfectly reasonable. The Cock and the Moon then become 
only two participants in a war against the king instead of the protagonists, 
which they would have to be if Brandl were correct, and which they clearly 
are not. Furthermore, the Cock occurs at least twice before in the earlier 
part of the Scottish prophecy in company with the Fox and the Fulmart, and 
plays the part of a mischiefmaker. If the poem is Scottish, the reference to 
' Troy Untrue ' and to ' The Saxons ' is much more rational. 

If Brandl's interpretation is discarded and the poem acknowledged to be 
Scottish, there is no indication of the date until a proper interpretation is 
found. The present version may be as old as the English version, or even 
older. 

The Cock in the North may have been the prophecy which Deschamps 
had in mind when he wrote in his ballade Contre I'Angleterre, 

L'aigle venrra des marches d'Aquilon, 

O ses poicins, seoir en Northumbrie; 

D'un autre Us passera le lion 

O ses cheaulx, plains de forsenerie; 

Deux lieux prandra qui aront seigneurie 

Et destruiront le Nort crueusement ; 

Et le pais qui anciennement 

Put renommez d'aventures aussi 

Se doit tourner a leur destruisement, 

Tant qu'on dira: Angleterre fut cy. 

The following stanza predicts an alliance between Scotland, France, and 
' li ancien Breton ' to the undoing of England. The last lines of the 
stanza quoted seem to echo the end of The Six Kings, 

(Cf. Eustache Deschamps, Oeuvres Completes, ed. Le Marquis de Queux 
de Saint-Hilaire, Anciens Textes Frangais, vol. i, Paris, 1878, p. 106.) 



77 

" Of Bruce's left side shall spring out a leaf 
As neer as the ninth degree, 
And shall be flemed of faire Scotland, 
In France farre beyond the sea, 
And then shall come again riding, 
With eyes that many men may see, 
At Aberladie he shall light, 
With hempen holters and hors of tree, 
On Gosford greene it shall be scene, 
On Gladsmoor shall the battle be, 
Now Albanie thou make thee boun, 
At his bidding be thou prompt 
He shall deil both towre and towne, 
His guifts shal stand for ever more." 

Later in the prophecy occurs a theme afterwards united with 
this: 

" The Frenche wife shall beare the Sonne 
Shal welde al Bretane to the sea, 
And from the Bruce's blood shall come 
As neere as the ninth degree." 

Lord Hailes analyzed this prophecy, and showed that it was 
intended originally for John, Duke of Albany, the grandson 
of James the Second. 5 * 

The Prophecie of Thomas Rymour deals with the battles of 
Flodden and Pinkie, and closes with the prediction that the 
French Wife's Son should become King of Britain. It begins 
with the narrator's account of his meeting with a bairn upon 
the way and the vision he saw of a tilting match between Saint 
Andrew and Saint George, which was interrupted by the inter 
vention of the Virgin. The bairn delivered the prophecy in 
answer to a question from the narrator as to the meaning of 
the vision. James the Fourth is referred to as the Red Lion. 
The Scottish and English leaders are called by heraldic symbols. 
Allusion is made to the story that James the Fourth did not 
die at Flodden, and to the expectation of his return. 

The rest of the prophecies in the collection, except the 
last, do not call for special comment. The last- is attributed to 

51 Hailes, Remarks on the History of Scotland, Chapter III which deals 
with Thomas of Erceldoune. Published in Annals of Scotland, 3 vols., 
Edinburgh, 1819, vol. 3, p. 41 f. 



78 

the Queen of Sheba in her character of Sibyl. It seems to 
have been written by a person acquainted with The Six Kings. 
The conflict between the Wolf, the Dragon, and the Lion is 
described. The ' Moldwerp accursed of God' is one of the 
figures. But new material fitting the different subject is intro 
duced and given the chief importance. 

The Scots seem to have learned to write prophecies from 
the English model. They used the same kind of symbols in the 
same manner. On occasions they borrowed their material and 
adapted it to their own purposes whenever they wished. They, 
perhaps, gave something to the English in the original 
Erceldoune legend and in The Cock in the North. The acces 
sion of James the Sixth to the throne of England seems for a 
time to have fulfilled the Scottish prophecies. But they were 
not forgotten, and were brought to light when the changed 
political fortunes of the Stuarts gave an excuse and the need 
for the prediction of a bright and glorious career in the indefi 
nite future. 

It is now time to give the attention to Welsh prophecies. It 
has been shown in the second chapter of this book that the 
Welsh had predictive poems dealing with events earlier than 
Goeffrey's translation of Merlin's prophecies, but that none of 
the extant Welsh poems is the original of the translation. It 
was % shown also by the testimony of John of Cornwall and 
Giraldus Cambrensis that collections of prophetic sayings 
ascribed to Merlin existed in the twelfth century, and by the 
evidence of Giraldus that fragments of these prophecies were 
in the mouths of all Welshmen. In the course of the discus 
sion as to Geoffrey's sources occasion arose to speak of certain 
of the Welsh predictive poems that may have antedated The 
Book of Merlin. 

The poems classed by Skene 55 as Predictive Poems relating 
to Cadwaladyr are largely traditional; that is, they do not con 
tain references to events of the twelfth or following centuries. 
They deal chiefly with the return of Cadwaladyr, his coalition 
with Conan, and the victory of their combined forces over the 
English. This theme, as was shown in the second chapter, be- 

68 Skene, Four Ancient Books, i, pp. 436-446. 



79 

came traditional and was echoed in The Book of Merlin. It 
is also repeated in the Welsh poems that contain references to 
later events, which Skene 56 has classed as Poems which contain 
references to Henry, or the Son of Henry. Some of them, as 
the Afallenau, seem to be newer versions of old material. The 
method of the prophecy in these poems is not the Galfridian 
but the direct. An exception to this statement should be made 
in the case of such traditional symbols as the Bear of Deheu- 
barth which occur at rare intervals. None of the symbols 
found in The Book of Merlin can be identified in these poems. 

Stephens 57 speaks of other predictive poems which he dates 
later than 1135. They are the Arymes Prydain Vawr (The 
Destiny of Great Britain), Armes (The Oracle), and a poem 
attributed to Meugant and forming the link of connection 
between Cadwaladyr and Conan. So little is said of these 
poems, however, that nothing can be determined concerning 
the prophetic method used in them. According to the few 
indications one can get, it was not the Galfridian. 

The Prophecy of the Eagle at Salisbury, as The Giraldian 
Collection is frequently called, exists in a Welsh version. 58 
'A prediction of Merlin before Arthur is referred to in the 
Historia but is not given. It exists in a Welsh form. 58 The 
Book of Merlin was translated into Welsh with the rest of the 
Historia. 59 The Prophecy of Merddin Emrys occurs in the 
Hengwrt Manuscripts with other prophecies in Welsh, Eng 
lish, and Latin. 60 Unfortunately this material has not been 
accessible for this study. The Welsh had prophecies relating 
to political events echoes of which can be got in the poems of 
the bards. lolo Goch addressed a poem to Owen Glendower 
in which, in its English translation, this couplet occurs, 

" Let hundreds swell their voices high 
In him fulfilling prophecy." 61 

56 Supra, i, 462-496. 

67 Stephens, Literature of the Kymry, p. 285 f. 

68 Supra, p. 313 f. 

59 Ward, loc. cit., i, p. 256. 

60 See Charles Wilkins, A History of the Literature of Wales from 1300 
to 1650, Cardiff, 1884, p. 202 f. for list of Hengwrt Ms. 

61 Translated by Howel W. Lloyd, Y Cymmrodor, vol. 6, p. 98. 



80 

The bards saw in the death of Prince Edward of Lancaster 
and in Henry Tudor's becoming the representative of the 
Lancastrian dynasty the fulfillment of the prophecies of Mer 
lin and Taliessin that a Welshman would be crowned in Lon 
don. They recalled the mysterious prognostications, the 
brudiau, which foretold that the name of the Welsh deliverer 
would be Owen. 62 Rhys ap Griffith used in his uprising 
against Henry the Eighth a prophecy that James with the Red 
Hand and the Ravens should conquer England. Red Hand 
refers to the mythical Owen Llawgoch, Ravens to the family of 
Dynevor to which Rhys belonged. 63 This fragment shows a 
use'of the Galfridian method. Sir John Harington quotes in 
his Tract on the Succession to the Crown (i6o2) 64 two Welsh 
prophecies which he paraphrases for the English reader. The 
second was made in the time of Henry the Eighth, but the first 
was written before the time of Sir John's great-grandfather. 
It promised that a babe marked with a Lion, who should be 
crowned in his cradle, should unite all the island and recover 
the Holy Cross. 

Despite the scantiness of this material there is evidence that 
the writing of prophecies flourished in Wales as well as in 
England. The Welsh bards in their adulatory poems to their 
patrons refer to prophecies promising a great career for the 
patron. There was little necessity for the Welsh to prophesy 
after Bosworth Field, for their fondest hopes were realized in 
the conquest of England by Henry Tudor, a Welshman, and 
his accession to the throne of England. 

How early the Irish contracted the habit of writing prophe 
cies is not known. Prophecies exist which are attributed to 
men who lived as early as the second century after Christ, such 
as the two ascribed to Conn 'of the hundred battles' (died 
157), Conne's Ecstacy, and The Champion's Ecstacy. 65 As 
a rule, however, the prophecies are attributed to the Irish 

62 W. L. Williams, A Welsh Insurrection, Y Cymmrodor, vol. 16, p. 5 f. 

63 Supra, p. 33- 

64 Reprinted for Roxburgh Society, vol. 99, London, 1880. 

65 Eugene O'Curry, Lectures on Manuscript Sources of Ancient Irish 
History, Dublin, 1878, p. 385. 



81 

Saints, of whom St. Moling and St. Columcille are accredited 
with the greater number. It is almost needless to say that these 
attributions are forgeries, for references to actual events show 
that the predictions were written at much later times. Some 
of them show evidence of being put together as late as the 
eighteenth century. 66 But they refer most frequently to events 
during the Danish and Anglo-Norman invasions. Those con 
taining references only to the Danish Wars are usually prod 
ucts of the tenth and eleventh centuries. They contain little 
or no symbolism of the kind that is peculiar to the Galfridian 
type, so far as one can judge from descriptions of them and 
from short quotations. 67 

Giraldus Cambrensis testifies that the Irish had written 
prophecies in his day. He says, "The Irish may be said to 
have had four prophets, Melingus, Braccanus, Patrick, and 
Columcille whose books written in Irish are still extant." 68 
These prophecies said, it seems, that Ireland would be wholly 
subdued by the English scarcely before the Judgment Day. 
Giraldus quotes in substance a prophecy of St. Columba to the 
effect that a desperate battle should be fought at Down in which 
so much Irish blood should be shed that men pursuing the Irish 
would wade in blood up to their knees. According to Giraldus 
another prophecy 69 of this Saint's concerning a broken and 
needy man who should come to Down was fulfilled in John de 

66 Supra, p. 418. 

67 The transformations of Monann in the Irish tale, The Voyage of 
Brann have, perhaps, echoes of this animal-symbolism. 

Stanza, 53. He will be in the shape of every beast 
Both on the azure sea and on land, 
He will be a dragon before hosts at the onset, 
He will be a wolf of every great forest. 

54. He will be a stag with horn of silver 
In the land where chariots are driven, 
He will be a speckled salmon in a full pool, 
He will be a seal, he will be a fair-white swan, 
Voyage of Brann, Kuno Meyer and Alfred Nutt, London, 1895, i, 24-26. 

68 Giraldus Cambrensis, Expugnatio Hibernica, ii, c. 34. 

69 Giraldus Cambrensis, Expugnatio Hibernica, i, 30, 33. 



82 

Courcy, who kept by him a volume of Irish prophecies at 
tributed to St. Columba. Giraldus also quotes episodes from 
the prophecies of Melingus 70 concerning a great whirlwind 
from the East that should lay low the Oaks of Heremon, 
concerning the submission of the princes of Ulster, and con 
cerning the coming of a man who should be the forerunner of 
a greater man. The prophecies of Merlin relating to Irish 
affairs 71 are best regarded as Anglo-Norman and not Irish in 
origin. 72 

70 Supra, ii, 16. 

71 Supra, i, 3, 16, 30, 33, 45; ii, 16, 30, 31, 32. 

72 Attention might be called to Nicholas O'Kearney's The Prophecies of 
St. Columbkille, Maeltamlacht, Ultan, Seadhna, Coireall, Bearcan, etc., 
Dublin, 1856, for a modern version of many of the older prophecies. Those 
in this volume are, with the exception of the ones attributed to St. Malachi, 
direct, and have little or no relationship to the Galfridian type. The Proph 
ecies of St. Malachi relate to the succession of the Popes. They are, 
however, Galfridian, but the consideration of them belongs to the chapter 
on the Galfridian type in other countries than England. 



CHAPTER FOUR 
THE RELATION OF PROPHECIES TO POLITICAL EVENTS 

The life of the Political Prophecy in England extended from 
the early twelfth century to the late seventeenth century. This 
endurance in vigor and strength for so long a time was caused 
by a constant and continuous interest. The type made its ap 
pearance under the auspices of men of authority, and throve 
under the encouragement of the mighty. The Book of Merlin 
was written at the request of a scholarly bishop by a man who 
later became a bishop, and in its various forms was dedicated 
to a bishop, to the son of a king, and to a prince who later 
became king. The Seven Kings was written by a famous 
scholar. The Giraldian Collection was made by one of the 
most cultivated men of his time at the instance of the king 
himself. Richard the First 1 sent to consult Joachim, an Italian 
monk who was reputed a prophet. Bishop Grosseteste 2 seems 
to have been interested in prophecies, for Adam de Marisco 
sent him several. Froissart bears witness to the Englishman's 
interest in prophecies in his time. An English gentleman once 
entertained him by showing him a book of prophecies and 
reading him selections from it. Froissart 3 also tells of the 
interest taken by the royal family in a prophecy which was 
interpreted to mean that John of Gaunt's descendants would 
at some time occupy the throne. Richard the Second 3 showed 
a great interest in prophecies. Henry of Monmouth, the later 
Henry the Fifth, made a pilgrimage to the shrine of Bridling- 
ton, who was regarded as the patron saint of the Lancastrians 
because the prophecies attributed to him were interpreted 

1 Benedict of Peterborough, R. S., vol. 2, p. 151 f. Abbot Joachim visited 
Richard at Messina and expounded to him passages from the Apocalypse. 

2 J. S. Brewer, Monumenta Franciscana, R. S. London, 1858, vol. 2, pp. 
146-7. The work sent was Joachim's Exposition of the Apocalypse. 

3 John Webb, Archaeologia, vol. 20, p. 260, 264 f . 

83 



84 

favorably to Henry the Fourth. 4 The members of the York 
family were devoted to prophecies. Vaticinations found their 
way into the State Papers of Henry the Eighth. 5 Bishop Lati- 
mer in 1536 sent Lord Cromwell a Latin prophecy because he 
knew that the minister ' loved antiquities.' 6 Many prophecies 
were addressed to Elizabeth and received by her. The 
Prophecy of Grebner, given her by the author, found its way 
to the Library of Trinity College, Cambridge, as will be shown 
later. 

Interest in the type was not confined, however, to the great, 
but was shared by the common people as well. There is no 
valid reason for doubting that bits of prophecies were circulated 
orally among the people of England as they were in Wales. 
It is true that there is little evidence to support such a state 
ment beyond the almost certain inference that a movement of 
such endurance and of such importance must have struck root 
deeply. Popular interest is unmistakable after the introduc 
tion of printing. Beginning with Wynkyn de Worde's A Lytel 
Tretys of the Byrth and Prophecyes of Merlin in I5io, 7 
prophecies of Merlin were issued at frequent intervals through 
out the rest of the period. 8 Many of the later prophecies seem 
to have been nothing more than pamphlets or chap-books. 
Thomas Hey wood's The Life of Merlin (1641) is interesting in 
this connection, although it is a worthless piece of hackwork. 9 

As a result of such widespread interest the Englishman of the 

*]. H. Wylie, History of England under Henry the Fourth, 4 vols., Lon 
don, 1884-98, vol. 3, p. 334. 

5 F. J. Furnivall, Ballads from Manuscript, Ballad Society, London, 1868- 
72, vol. i, p. 316. 

6 G. E. Corrie, Sermons and Remains of Hugh Latimer, Parker Society, 
Cambridge, 1845, p. 375. 

7 Reissued by him in 1524 and by John Hawkins in 1533. See Meade, 
Outlines of the Merlin Legend, supra, p. Ixxiii f. 

8 See The Catalog of Printed Books in the British Museum under the 
heading Merlin. 

9 The full title is The Life of Merlin, sirnamed Ambrosius, his Prophisies 
and Predictions interpreted: and their Truth made good by our English 
Annals. Heywood adapts very freely The Six- Kings as far as it extends, 
and then forges his material. Each stanza is followed by several pages 
of interpretation. 



85 

late Middle Ages and early Renaissance seems to have been 
proverbial for his love of secular prophecies and his belief in 
them. " The inglishmen gifis ferme credit to diverse prophane 
prophesies of Merlyne, and til uthir corrupit vaticinaris, to 
quhais ymaginet verkis thai gyve mair faitht nor to the 
prophesie of Ysaye, Egechiel, leremie, or to the evangel," con 
temptuously wrote the author of The Complaint of Scotland 
in I549. 10 Commines in France sixty years earlier had made 
a similar taunt against the English when he insinuated, in his 
account of the meeting between Louis the Eleventh of France 
and Edward the Fourth of England, that the English were 
provided with a prophecy for every occasion. The evidence 
sustains the taunts of the foreigners, for prophecies were both 
popular and powerful. "Their practical influence throughout 
Wales and England was very extensive. Like the books of 
the Italic Cumaean Sibyl they were applied to on grave occa 
sions; they gave sanction to doubtful claims, or animated 
revolutionary attempts ; and were always considered in a state 
of progressive accomplishment. As these awful denunciations 
respected political vicissitudes and were directed to rulers as 
well as to the community they excited the interest of all orders 
of society ; and, when they were cited, at once amazed the gap 
ing multitude and ' with fear of change perplexed monarchs.' " n 
Edward the Fourth consulted prophecies when in doubt, 12 and 
partly on the strength of a doubtful threat contained in one 
sent a brother to execution. 13 Noblemen, if they belonged to 
the great political houses, 14 collected prophecies relating to the 
fortunes of their families or kept books containing prophecies 
concerning the history of the realm. 15 Ambassadors prefaced 

10 The Complaynt of Scotland, E. E. T. S., extra series, 1-7-18, London, 
1872, p. 82. 

11 Webb, Archaeologia, xx, 252. 

12 Martin du Bellay, Memoir es, ed. M. Petitot, Paris, 1827, p. 246. 
"Shakspere, Richard HI, I, i. 

"Earl of Northampton, A Defensative against the Poyson of Supposed 
Prophecies, London, 1620, p. 125. Cf. Ms. Cotton. Vesp. E. VII (Ward, 
i, 246). This Ms. seems to be a collection of prophecies made by some 
member of the Percy family or an adherent. 

15 Froissart, XII, 14, 32. Cf. Webb, Archaeologia, xx, 264 f. 



their addresses or pressed their claims with quotations from 
suitable prophecies. 16 Books of prophecies were chained to 
desks in many libraries, and regarded with respect and venera 
tion. 17 

The relation of the prophecies to political events is constant 
and close. The preceding chapter has shown that it was a 
convention of the genre to make a review of actual history 
in prophetic guise before proceeding with the prophecy proper, 
though the shorter pieces on account of their narrow com 
pass commonly omit the review of the past. Because of this 
convention the prophecies furnish at the same time a very good 
vaticinal chronicle of English history from the Conquest to the 
Commonwealth, and an excellent record of the sentiments of 
the people at different times. The old Vision of Edward the 
Confessor was supposed to have foretold the coming of the 
Normans. The Book of Merlin brings the sequence of events 
down into the reign of Henry the First. Ganieda's Prophecy 
in the Vita Merlini covers the civil war between Stephen and 
Matilda. The Seven Kings leaves Henry the Second on the 
throne. This king's troubles with his sons are told in the 
Giraldian Collection. The reign of Richard the First is repre 
sented by the Here Prophecy and by the verses beginning 
Cedrus alta Libani Neustria's loss of the islands, foretold 
in The Book of Merlin, was realized during the reign of King 
John. The Six Kings, extending really to seven kings in its 
fullest and latest version, 19 furnishes material to some time 
after the accession of Henry the Fifth. Numerous prophecies 
relate to the Wars of the Roses, among which might be men 
tioned Asinus Coronatus, Vulpes et Luna. 20 The Prophisies 
of Rymour, Beid, and Marlyng carry the chronicle to some 
time past the Battle of Flodden in 1515. The break with the 
old religion is recorded in the piece beginning, " When Rome is 
removed into England." The Hempe Prophecy carries the 
enumeration of monarchs through Elizabeth. The accession of 

18 Mezeray, Histoire de France, I, 384. (Webb, supra, p. 253.) 

17 Northampton, Defensative, p. 118. 

18 Ward, loc. cit., i, 314. 

19 Ward, loc. cit., i, 322, no. 24. 

20 Ward, loc. cit., i, 319. 



87 

James fulfilled in a way many Scottish prophecies. Lilly's 
interpretation of the second part of The Giraldian Collection 
closes the chronicle with the execution of Charles the First and 
the establishment of the Commonwealth. 

Many other prophecies might be added to this list. It is to 
be noticed that they become more numerous at times of crisis 
or when patriotic emotion was deeply moved. The French 
wars of Edward the Third gave rise to numerous vaticinations. 
The events of these wars were reflected in Becket, The Six 
Kings, and Bridlington. The same ground is covered by the 
Latin prophecy called The Lion, the Lily and the Son of Man. 21 
The Prophecy of Joachim, 22 beginning Egredietur unicornis de 
plaga occidentali, is on the same period but from the viewpoint 
of the continent. The Scottish Wars are reflected in The Six 
Kings, the Erceldoune cycle, the Northumbrian ballad "Als I 
yod on Monday," and in many Latin prophecies some of which 
were described in the preceding chapter. The events leading 
to the deposition of Richard the Second and following the ac 
cession of Henry the Fourth called forth many prophecies. 
Among these maybe mentioned the Ampulla Prophecy ascribed 
to Becket, Filius Aquilae, revivals of Sextus Hibernicus, ver 
sions of Asinus Coronatus 23 the Ve Regalibus 2 * the later ver 
sions of The Six Kings, The Prophecy of the Fishes, and, if 
Brandl's theory be true, Erceldoune and The Cock in the North. 
Prophecies seem to have been numerous at the time of the 
Armada. Many were written while the great Civil War was 
in progress or after the execution of the king. 

The chroniclers, historians, and other people who took any 
interest in the genre were quick to see this close relation to 
actual history, as is shown by the fact that fresh interpretations 
of old prophecies were constantly made during the period. 
The Book of Merlin was scarcely produced before The 
Prophecies of Merlin were edited with annotations and interpre- 

^Todd, Last Age, Ixxxiv. 

23 Bartholomew Cotton, Historia Anglicana, ed. H. R. Luard, R. S., Lon 
don, 1859, pp. 239-240. 

23 Webb, Archaeologia, xx, 257, prints several of these prophecies. 
21 Webb, supra, p. 256. 



88 

tations. 25 John of Cornwall's Seven Kings was provided with 
a commentary. Before the end of the twelfth century a monu 
mental interpretation of The Book of Merlin had been written 
by Alanus de Insulis, who was one of the most learned men of 
the century, if he was one with Alain de. Lille, the author of De 
Planctu Naturae." 16 Internal evidence shows that this interpre 
tation was probably written between 1174 and 1179. The 
commentary is divided into seven books. The first discusses 
the question whether Merlin was a Christian and answers it in 
the affirmative. The second contains a consideration of the 
genuineness of Merlin's inspiration. The author concludes that 
God made use of Merlin to predict the future as in the case of 
Job, Balaam, Cassandra, and the Sibyls. In the third book 
Alanus takes up the question of Merlin's paternity and dis 
misses the incubus-story, saying that the mother had invented 
it to hide her own shame. The remaining four books contain 
the interpretation of the prophecies. Actual history affords 
the author material down into the reign of Henry the Second. 
After this point he continues with the prophecies, and attempts 
to show what sort of things they foretell and to prove these 
events possible, though he forecasts nothing in particular. In 
terpretations of certain episodes are found in this book for 
the first time 27 so far as could be determined in this study. 
The book seems to have been fairly well known and the 
author to have enjoyed a reputation for great wisdom. Rupe- 
scissa 28 is said to have used this book as a basis for a com 
mentary which Telesphorus professed to have used. 

The chroniclers also formed the habits of quoting prophe 
cies as fortelling events or happenings which they were narrat 
ing. Ordericus Vitalis set the example. Several examples 
from Giraldus Cambrensis were quoted in the preceding 
chapter. Frequently a chronicler seems to have taken the 

25 Lincoln Cathedral Ms. A. 46, 12 c. Described by H. Schenkel in 
Biblioteca patrum latinorum Britannica, Kais. Akad. D. Wissensch. Sitzb. 
philos. hist. Klasse, vol. 131, Wien, 1894, P- 61. 

26 Histoire Litteraire de France, vol. 16, p. 417 f. 

27 For instance, the episode relating to the 'newcomers' (Evans, 175; 
Giles, 122) interpreted as applying to Stephen. 

28 Kampers, Kaiserp., p. 237. 



89 



prophecy and the interpretation from some predecessor's ac 
count of the same thing. Matthew Paris quotes several frag 
ments in this way. 29 The episode, " The half shall be round," 30 
is quoted by Higden, Trivet, Rishanger, and Walsingham, not 
to mention others, and occurs in the Brut y Twysogion, under 
date of 1279. The episode relating to the slaughter of the 
Bulls by the Lion's Cubs was referred by Roger of Hoveden 
and Benedict of Peterborough to the revolt of young Henry 
against Henry the Second. These are only typical instances; 
other prophecies as well were quoted when occasion served. A 
Latin prophecy on Sextus Hibernicus, beginning Ter tria lustra 
tenent cum semi temp or a sexti is quoted in the Eulogium His- 
toriarum with linear interpretations. 31 Adam of Usk quoted 
Bridlington, The Girddian Collection, and The Book of Merlin. 
The list might be carried to a greater length. 

The life of a prophecy, it is evident, was not limited to a few 
years following its production. Many episodes in The Book 
of Merlin survived for centuries. The second part of The 
Giraldian Collection was translated into English and used as a 
genuine prophecy three hundred and fifty years after its first 
appearance. A popular prophecy was not allowed to die. 
Fulfillment of various episodes in it was expected and 
announced on the slightest occasion. A prophecy that had 
proved untrue was revised so as to conform to historical fact. 
The Six Kings was for two hundred years interpolated and 
revised, Sextus Hibernicus, or Hiberniae, was confidently 
expected for even a longer time. How a germ of a prophecy 
could grow has been made evident in the case of Erceldoune. 

History made the prophecies by furnishing them the material 
to deal with. The early examples of the type established the 
form and its conventions. The truly vaticinal portions were 
first intended to give only an imaginary portrayal of what might 
happen in the future. The events predicted were indicative of 
the writer's wishes and desires, or reflected the spirit and senti 
ments of the times. The earlier prophecies are therefore to be 

29 Matthew Paris, Chronicle, R. S., vol. 2, p. 4, 388, 463 ; Chron. Maj., 
vol. i, p. 260. 

30 Evans, 175; Giles, 121. 

31 Eulogium Historiarum, R. S., vol. i, p. 417 f. 



90 

considered exercises in a clearly defined literary genre, written 
to satisfy a desire to produce something like that which some 
one else had done and to give play to the writer's speculative 
ingenuity. Ganieda's Prophecy, which is pure history, can be 
nothing but a literary exercise. The Book of Merlin, inas 
much as it is a translation, belongs in the same category. It is 
true that Geoffrey included in it the Cadwalader-Conan episode 
which promised the expulsion of the foreigners and the restora 
tion of Welsh hegemony, but no one accuses him of any sinister 
motives against the Norman dynasty. The Prophecy of the 
Fishes, which is nothing but a translation and adaptation of two 
chapters of Bridlington, must also be considered a literary 
exercise. 

The events predicted in these literary prophecies concern 
either the personal career of the king and the nation only 
incidentally as it is represented by the king, or the national 
interests of the people as a whole. Becket deals chiefly with 
the King of England, for whom it foretells a brilliant and 
glorious career of universal victory which ends in a success 
ful Crusade. The same can be said of The Lion, the Lily, and 
the Son of Man. In Anglia transmittet Leopardum* 2 the King 
is still of chief importance, but the interests of the nation as 
represented in the person of the king are given more attention. 
On the other hand the Latin Verses against Edward the Third, 
a Scottish prophecy, is concerned with the national sentiments 
of the Scots. They are promised not only freedom but also 
complete triumph and perpetual supremacy over their foes. 
The king does not enter into it. Bridlington because of its 
elaborateness and complexity of form must be regarded as a 
literary prophecy. But it is rather encyclopedic in its scope. 
In addition to narrating actual events and to picturing the 
possible future the writer recorded the faults of the king and 
the miseries of the people. But he did this rather to admonish 
the king, for he predicted the king's ultimate repentance and 
reformation. 

The present writer cannot subscribe to the belief that every 
political prophecy was written with some particular and well- 

32 Printed in note 1 1 to chapter three. 



91 

defined purpose in view. Brandl thinks that Becket was written 
to restore confidence in the aging Edward the Third. Such 
may be true. But it is highly improbable, one must confess, 
that a king whose armies abroad had just won a conspicuous 
victory at Poitiers and whose army at home had recently re 
taken Berwick should need the assistance of a prophecy to 
regain the confidence of his subjects. The Anglo-Norman 
version of The Six Kings dates as early as the late thirteenth 
century. Actual history is portrayed as far as the reign of 
Edward the Second. Thereafter the account of events is pure 
prophecy. But the events predicted in each reign relate to the 
personal career of the king, and are not of a nature to influ 
ence opinion in a crisis unless they might be quoted in favor of 
some monarch during some insurrection. 

It is difficult, in the case of any single prophecy, to say that 
it was never used to influence opinion in behalf of any political 
faction. The absence of any record of such use is no proof. 
All that can be done is to take cognizance of those cases in 
which the records furnish evident proof, and to consider the 
others according to the purpose for which they were written, 
as far as one can judge from an examination of their contents. 
Many prophecies which were produced merely as literary 
exercises were afterwards quoted as bearing upon a given 
situation and as promising a definite result. The Cadwalader- 
Conan episode was used innocently enough by Geoffrey, but 
detached from The Book of Merlin, it was perhaps circulated 
among the Welsh to further the ambitious designs of princes 
who wished to be recognized as the Cadwalader of the proph 
ecy. The prediction concerning Edward the Third that he, as a 
Boar, should whet his tusks against the gates of Paris seems 
to have been known in France and to have been used by the 
French faction allied to him. 33 Episodes from The Book of 
Merlin relating to a victorious maiden who should dry up the 
poisonous wells of Winchester 34 and to a damsel who should 
come out of the Forest of Canute 35 were applied by the French 

33 Froissart, Oeuvres, ed. Baron Kervyn de Lettenhove, 25 vol. Brussells, 
1870-77, vol. 17, p. 216. 

34 Evans, 179; Giles, 124. 
33 Evans, 179; Giles, 124. 



92 

to Jeanne d'Arc. 36 The episode in The Book of Merlin seeming 
to foretell the coalition of Scotland and Wales and their victory 
over England 37 lingered into the sixteenth century. It is used 
in most of the Scottish Latin prophecies in conjunction with the 
episode promising the restoration of the ancient name to the 
island. A form of it, " King James with the Red Hand and the 
Ravens shall conquer all England," was used in the rebellion of 
Rhys ap Griffith in I53I. 38 The Filius-Aquilae episode from 
the Giraldian Collection,, written originally with reference to 
Henry the Second, was revived in the interest of Henry the 
Fourth, who in other prophecies was frequently called the 
Eagle. Glendower in his letters to foreign princes seeking 
their assistance referred to prophecies which he seemed to ful 
fill, but he did not name or quote them. 39 Numerous other 
instances might be mentioned, particularly in the later period 
in the case of such episodes as The French-Wife's-Son and 
The Cock in the North, but these are sufficient to make the 
point clear. 

The prophecies were written at first purely as literary exer 
cises. After they had been in existence some time they were 
quoted as bearing upon certain political issues. But in the 
course of time when factions grew up in the government of 
England and political rivalry became more intense, prophecies 
were written and circulated deliberately as active political pro 
paganda. They were either completely new creations, or 
revivals of old material revised to fit the exigencies of the occa 
sion and the interests of the faction they were designed to 
further. As such they were used by certain factions in the 
government, or by the government itself, in support of certain 
policies. 

One of the earliest propagandist prophecies is the poem 
which is called, for want of a better name, Adam Davy's Five 

36 Villemarque, Myrdhin, p. 323 f. 

37 Evans, 175; Giles, 122. 

38 W. L. Williams, A Welsh Insurrection, Y Cymmrodor, vol. 16, p. 33. 

39 A. G. Bradley, Owen Glendower and the Last Struggle for Welsh Inde 
pendence, London, 1901, p. 161. 



93 

Dreams about Edward the Second.* It is properly a series of 
visions. Although it contains no animal-symbolism it is inter 
esting because it is evidently propagandist. 

The dreams cover a period extending over a year. In the 
first dream Davy saw King Edward crowned with gold stand 
ing before the high altar of Canterbury and strongly assailed 
by two armed knights who beat the king severely. The king 
endured the blows without returning them, but suffered no 
wound. When the two knights had gone, four radiant bands 
of light, red and white, sprang from his temples far and wide 
into the country. This dream occurred on Wednesday before 
the Feast of St. John (August 29). 

On Tuesday night before All Saints' Day (November i) 
Adam dreamed that the king was chosen Emperor of Christen 
dom (Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire). A second dream 
apparently on the same night (the author counts the next dream 
the third of the series) showed the king clad in a gray cloak, 
without shoes and hose and with bloody legs, riding as a pilgrim 
towards Rome where he soon arrived. This dream seems 
to have caused Davy some anxiety, for at the sight of the 
king's legs, which were red as blood, his heart wept for great 
dread. 

The next dream occurred some six weeks later on a Wednes 
day night before St. Lucy's Day. Davy thought that he was in 
Rome, and that he saw the Pope and King Edward, clad in 
gray, both newly ' dubbed.' The Pope wore his mitre, the king 
the crown of the Holy Roman Empire. This dream closes with 
the prayer that the king might overcome his enemies and 'all 
wicked Saracens in every place.' 

The fourth dream occurred on ' worthingnight.' 41 Davy 
dreamed that he came into a chapel of the Virgin, and that he 
saw Christ unloose His hands from the cross and declare that 
He was going on a pilgrimage with the king who should, con- 

40 Edited by F. J. Furnivall, E. E. T. S., 69, London, 1878: reprinted by 
O. F. Emerson, A Middle English Reader, New York, 1905, pp. 227-232. 
Emerson omits do, the last word in line 18, p. 231, and all of what should 
be line 3, p. 232. 

41 This date has not yet been identified. 



94 

quer the heathen. The Virgin declared that the Saviour's will 
was hers, and prayed God to attend the king night and day. 

On Wednesday in l clean Lent' a voice bade Adam, who 
describes himself at this place as Marshal of Stratford-at-Bow, 
write down these visions and show them to the King. He 
demurred because of the darkness, but light from Heaven 
showed him the way, and he set forth eastward. 

On Thursday next the birthday of the Virgin (Septembers), 
it seemed to Adam that an angel took the king by the hand. 
The king stood before the altar clothed in red, and red in coun 
tenance. Two other points the author says are not shown in 
the poem, but that he will disclose them only to the king. The 
angel came to him and threatened him with punishment unless 
he told this dream. 

Very little is known of this poem. It has no title in the 
manuscript. The king Edward has been identified as Edward 
the Second because in the poem he is addressed as King of 
England and Prince of Wales. The first and third Edwards 
never bore the second title. The ill-fated son of Henry the 
Sixth and Margaret of Anjou never became king. Edward 
the Fourth was never called Prince of Wales. The prophecy 
could not have been written about Edward the Fifth. The 
poem is older than the sixteenth century. Edward the Second 
is the only king that answers all requirements. 

No exact date has ever been set for the poem, but Emerson 4 - 2 
seems to have expressed the general opinion when he said that 
it was probably written soon after Edward's accession to the 
throne in 1307. The reason for such dating seems to be 
that after the first years of the reign no one in his right 
senses would have prophesied such a brilliant future for 
Edward the Second. But this is really no reason at all. There 
is danger at this late day, especially in the case of prophecies, 
of seeing things too much in perspective. Edward's contem 
poraries did not all consider him weak and inefficient. He had 
friends and supporters who came to his assistance in the 
time of trouble. Many of them had doubtless never heard the 
stories told of him, and many who had heard did not believe. 

42 Emerson, supra, p. 314. 



95 

The first difficulties with Thomas of Lancaster were rather the 
result of family quarrels. Lancaster was the king's cousin, and 
the queen's uncle by the half-blood, and except the king was the 
only Prince of the Blood grown to man's estate. An enthusi 
astic partisan of the king who was ignorant of the stories or 
disregarded them could under the circumstances have proph 
esied almost anything. 

The predictions which seem so highly improbable are that 
Edward should become Holy Roman Emperor, and that he 
should make a successful crusade. Neither of these would 
have appealed to the patriotic Englishman of that time as so 
very unlikely. Richard of Cornwall, brother of Henry the 
Third, had been elected Emperor after the death of Henry 
the Fifth by one faction of the Electorate, and had actually 
exercised sovereign power in a part of Germany. Edmund of 
Lancaster, the uncle of Edward the Second, had been elected 
King of Sicily, but had never made any effort to make good his 
election. As for the second prediction, the age of crusades had 
not entirely passed. Edward the First had been on a crusade 
when his father's death left the throne vacant for him. Eng 
lish kings as late as Henry the Fourth dreamed of recovering 
the Holy Sepulchre. 

The prediction regarding the election as Emperor becomes 
less unreasonable when one recalls the state of affairs in Ger 
many. At the death of Albert the First in 1313, Lewis of 
Bavaria was elected by one faction, Frederick of Austria by 
another. Both exercised the imperial authority in their respec 
tive domains until 1322 when Frederick was defeated and 
captured by Lewis. Even then Pope John XXII refused to 
acknowledge Lewis, and declared the imperial office vacant. 
It was, therefore, quite possible to prophesy the election of an 
Emperor who should be acceptable to the Pope. Such is just 
the prophecy that is made in the Dreams where the king is 
described as being on friendly terms with the Pope. 43 

43 A wilder prophecy is made of Edward the Second in the Exposition 
of the Verses of Gild as concerning the prophecy of the Eagle and the 
Hermit, ms. Arundel 57, 5 a. This pretends to be an interpretation of sev 
eral prophecies, but is really a prophecy itself. The date 1320 is given in 



96 

The date of the poem cannot be determined with any great 
certainty. Adam's prayer that the king should be victorious 
over his enemies would certainly indicate that the poem was 
written after the opposition to the king had become rather 
strong. Gaveston was beheaded in 1312. Lancaster became all 
powerful in 1314. The election of Edward as Emperor is 
more reasonable if prophesied to occur after the death of the 
Emperor Albert in 1313. Pope Clement the Fifth, who died 
the following year, recognized neither Lewis nor Frederick. 
The seventy-sixth line of the poem, " BoJ? hij hadden a newe 
dubbyng," seems to imply that the pope who should consecrate 
the King in his new dignity had himself been crowned only 
recently. Clement the Fifth died in 1314, but no successor was 
elected until 1316 when John XXII was chosen. If this line 
has anything to do with papal politics, it was probably written 
during the interregnum. The consecration according to the 
Dreams took place in Rome. But the new Pope when elected 
resided in Avignon, the second of the Babylonian Captivity 
which had been begun by his predecessor in 1305. The author 
would seem to have written with the expectation that the new 
Pope when chosen would reside in Rome. 

Nothing has so far been known of the author except what 
can be got from the poem itself. He gives his full name, Adam 
Davy, once and speaks of himself twice as Adam the Marshal 
of Stratford-at-Bow. In both instances he speaks as if he 

the piece itself. References to Robert Bruce in the context show that 
it must have been written before Bruce's death in 1329. The Queen must 
be Isabella of France, for she is called Gallica. 

According to this prophecy, Edward the Second should make his eldest 
son King of Scotland. He was to quarrel with the king of France, make 
war on him, conquer him, and make one country of the two kingdoms. 
Shortly after the Queen was to die. Edward was then to marry a German 
princess who should become the mother of a mighty soldier whom Merlin 
had called ' the Lynx penetrating all things/ Edward was later to make an 
invasion of Spain and after conquering it, to pass over into Africa. After 
conquering all Africa, the Holy Land, Persia, and Babylon, he was to 
be met at Tholmaida by envoys from the Pope asking him to become Holy 
Roman Emperor. He was not only to receive this title, but was also to 
become Emperor of Constantinople as well and master of the world. The 
rest of the prophecy concerns his sons after his death. 



97 

were a well-known person. He was at one time supposed to 
be the author of other poems that occur in the same manuscript, 
but this view has now been discarded. An Adam the Marshal, 
seemingly a man of some importance, is mentioned in the 
Patent Rolls at the close of Edward the First's reign and during 
that of Edward the Second. On March 6, 1306, license was 
granted for the alienation in mortmain by Adam le Mareschall 
of Cirencester to the master and brethren of the Hospital of St. 
John the Baptist, Cirencester, of a messuage and a moiety of a 
virgate of land in Cirencester, Northcote, and Preston. On 
July 26, 1313, pardon for a fine of two hundred pounds was 
granted the abbot and convent of Cirencester for acquiring in 
mortmain in the preceding reign small parcels of lands, tene 
ments, mills, shops, and messuages with their appurtenances in 
Cirencester from a number of men among whom Adam le 
Mareschall is mentioned. On October 24, 1315, a similar 
pardon for a similar offense was granted the abbot and con 
vent of Cirencester. Adam le Mareschall is again one of the 
men from whom land and property were acquired. A com 
mission of oyer and terminer dated May 16, 1316, names Adam 
le Mareschall as one of a company who with the Abbot of Cir 
encester hunted rabbits on lands at Tillbury, Gloucestershire, 
belonging to Peter de Brewosa. 

So far there is nothing to connect Adam the Marshal with 
the court or with Stratford. He seems to have had property in 
Circencester and the neighborhood, and to have been on 
friendly terms with Adam de Brokenborough, Abbot of Ciren 
cester. A patent of September 28, 1314, granting safe conduct 
until Christmas for Walter de Gawey and Adam le Mareschall 
whom Henry de Beaumont was sending on business to the 
Isle of Man, brings him into greater prominence. Henry de 
Beaumont was a kinsman both of the King and of the Queen. 
Edward had made him King of Man in 1312. Adam le Mare 
schall must have been a trustworthy man of some importance to 
have been sent on such a mission. Another patent dated April 
21, 1316, shows that he and Sir Robert de Bardleby became 
surety that certain traders sent out by Stephen Aleyne, a 
prominent London merchant, would not take the goods to the 
8 



98 

enemy. Bardleby was a judge, one of the keepers of the 
great seal, and otherwise a man of importance. The last refer 
ence to Adam le Mareschall is in one of three complaints 
entered by Alice Burnell of Worcestershire, January 12, 1324, 
in which he is named as one of a large party that trespassed on 
two manors of hers. Although the complaint does not make 
the explicit statement, this seems to have been another hunting 
party. 

These facts do not show that Adam le Mareschall was the 
Adam Davy of the Dreams. They do not connect him in any 
way with Stratford-at-Bow. In fact the only place with 
which he is shown to have been connected is Cirencester. The 
grants of land in Cirencester were all made in the reign of 
Edward the First as the records show. It is not impossible 
that he had entered the court shortly before Edward the First's 
death or shortly after the accession of Edward the Second. He 
was a man of importance in 1314. He was considered reliable 
surety in 1316. He may have been a married man and have 
lived in Stratford, since women were not allowed to live at 
court unless they held some official position. 4 * Stratford was 
at that time a village across the river Lea, five miles from St. 
Paul's. What official position he held at court cannot be de 
termined. If the name Marshal was official, it would indicate 
that he held office in the Marshalsea, perhaps as knight mar 
shal of the hall. 45 Whoever he was and wherever he lived, 
he was a devoted adherent of his king. 

Adam Davy's Dreams is not a Galfridian prophecy, but at 
tention has been given it because it is so obviously propagandist, 
and because so little has hitherto been known of its author. 
Among the Galfridian prophecies, with which this study is 
mainly concerned, the Erceldoune cycle were in all probability 
propagandist. Murray pointed out that the passage relating to 
the Battle of Bannockburn predicted an English victory in 
earlier versions. He thought it not unlikely that this episode 
in its original form had been written and circulated among the 

44 King Edward II's Household and Wardrobe Ordinances A. D. 1323 ed. 
F. J. Furnivall, London, 1876 for Chaucer Soc., p. 56. 

45 Supra, 21. 



99 

English troops on the eve of battle in order to refresh their 
courage and confidence. The poem as it stands is anti-Scottish 
in sentiment, and may perhaps have been written to browbeat 
the Scots. If so, episodes irrelevant to the main theme have 
got into the third fytte. 

The Scottish prophecies in Latin, previously discussed, must 
be considered political propaganda, for they are so strongly 
patriotic in sentiment and use traditional material in such a 
manner that one must believe they were written not only to 
encourage the Scots, but also to intimidate the English. The 
French-Wife's-Son theme seems to have originated in an at 
tempt to influence opinion in favor of Albany. It was used 
during the later years of Elizabeth, perhaps, to strengthen the 
popular conviction that James the Sixth of Scotland was the 
rightful heir to the throne of England. 

The fifteenth century version of The Six Kings 4 is interest 
ing because of its connection with actual politics. Even the 
Anglo-French version had prophesied the league of the Lion, 
the Wolf and the Dragon. But the special application was 
made by the Percies, Glendower, and Mortimer, who hoped that 
this part of the prophecy had been accomplished in the 
Tripartite Convention, 47 and that the rest of it would be 
realized in a great victory over Henry the Fourth. Such use 
of this material was all the more effective because the prophecy 
was old and venerable, and because it fitted the situation so 
well. 

The Ampulla Prophecy** ascribed to Becket, has some 
foundation in real history. Richard the Second while rum 
maging in the Tower among the relics of his father found a 
brazen ampulla with a Latin prophecy attached to it. Accord 
ing to the story, Becket during his exile from England spent 
some time in Sens. One night the Virgin Mary appeared to 
him in a vision carrying this ampulla filled with oil. She told 
him that the reigning dynasty of England would become ex 
tinct, and that the founder of the new dynasty, who would 

46 This version was paraphrased in the third chapter of this study. 
4T Wylie, Henry the Fourth, vol. 2, p. 379. 
48 Archaeologia, xxjf , p. 264, 5, 6. 



100 

wear an eagle on his breast, would be anointed at his corona 
tion with oil from this ampulla. Richard seems to have been 
greatly affected by the prophecy, for he insisted on a second 
coronation with oil from the ampulla. But the Archbishop 
refused, taking the stand that one coronation was enough for 
any king. Richard was not satisfied, and would not let the 
relic out of his keeping. He took it with him to Ireland. 
However, on his return at Chester he gave it into the care of 
the Archbishop, who used the oil from it to consecrate Henry 
the Fourth. 

Events attending the course of the Puritan Revolution and 
the overthrow of the monarchy called forth a number of 
prophecies from both factions. The Cavaliers seem to have 
revived a prophecy attributed to Grebner concerning Charles 
the son of Charles, and to have used it for all that could be 
got from it. Another prophecy of the Northern Lion was 
applied by the Royalists to the exiled Charles the Second. A 
third prediction related to a Northern King that should con 
quer Europe and win a great battle in the Valley of Jehosaphat. 
Two of these prophetic books, one falsely attributed to Greb 
ner and published in 1648, the other called The Future History 
of Europe and published in 1650, seem to have been rather 
effective weapons. William Lilly, who had been court as 
trologer but had become a Parliamentarian, felt called upon to 
refute them. He accordingly published in July, 1651, Mon 
archy or No Monarchy in England, which was intended to 
settle the vaticinal dispute. 

Monarchy or no Monarchy is very interesting to the student 
of political prophecies. It was written in all seriousness, and 
intended by its writer as the final word on a vital and most 
important topic. In it Lilly analyzes the prophecies which had 
been interpreted favorably to the Royalists, and shows to his 
own satisfaction that the interpretations were wrong. He then 
quotes other prophecies, interprets them, and convinces him 
self at least that the Fates had determined to allow England no 
more kings. He follows this vaticinal portion of the book with 
a treatise on the life of Charles the First, and closes the 
volume with some pictures in which, according to his own state- 



101 

ment, he endeavored to portray the history of England for 
several centuries. The main points he considered it necessary 
to decide, he says in his preface, were whether any more kings 
should reign in England, and whether the Commonwealth 
should be permanent. 

Lilly directs his attention first to the P seudo-Grebner Proph 
ecy of 1648. The real Paul Grebner had, during a visit to 
England in 1582, given Queen Elizabeth ' a faire manuscript in 
Latin, describing therein the future history of Europe, here and 
there limming in water colors some principal passages.' The 
Queen gave it to Dr. Nevill, clerk of the closet, who in turn 
gave it to the Library of Trinity College, Cambridge. In this 
book Grebner had written a prophecy concerning a Northern 
King Charles, the son of Charles, who should conquer Spain 
and greatly weaken the power of the Pope. This Charles was 
to have a popish wife. The P seudo-Grebner changed this 
prophecy to say that a Northern King Charles should reign 
whose wife should be a popish princess named Marie, but that 
he should be very unfortunate. His people should choose 
another commander, an Earl, to rule over them for the space 
of three years or thereabout. After the Earl should come 
another commander, a Knight, not of the same family, who 
should trample all things under his feet. After him the people 
should choose no one at all. But Charles the Son of Charles 
with the aid of Denmark, Scotland, Sweden, Holland, and 
France should overthrow his adversaries, regain the kingdom, 
and be greater than Charles the Great. Lilly shows that only 
part of this prophecy written after the event, the choice of the 
Earl of Essex as Lord General, had been fulfilled, and that the 
passage relating to the choice of the Knight was untrue. 

The Future History of Europe was published in 1650 seem 
ingly to correct the mistakes made in 1648. The prophecies in 
it were attributed some to Grebner, some to Baudensis, and one 
to Merlin Caledonicus. It pretended to foretell the history of 
Europe from 1650 to 1710. In the latter year the beginning of 
the Fifth Monarchy was predicted to occur. The Pseudo- 
Grebner was used to show that the young prince, later Charles 
the Second, should be a universal conqueror, and that he should 



102 

establish this Fifth Monarchy. Baudensis was quoted as 
prophesying much the same thing. Lilly refutes this vaticinal 
argument by showing that the younger Charles, if he fulfilled 
the prophecy, would have to live to be one hundred and one 
years old, a thing not likely to occur. He even goes so far as 
to say that no King of Scotland ever lived sixty years. Another 
prophecy of Baudensis was quoted in this work, but Lilly shows 
that it was grossly misinterpreted, and that it was really un 
favorable to the Scottish king. 

A prophecy attributed to the Scottish Merlin was also quoted. 
Lilly translates it in part thus : 

" Those times being past, the tayle of the Virgin shall enter the Lyon, 
and Scorpio shall ascend the backe of Sagitary; the Northern kingdoms 
shall be wasted by Reapers, the Southern Principalities shall end in dust, 
and the powers of the Island Monarchies without either Bridle or Souldier 
shall be harnessed. Cruell wars shall be scattered by winds, and quell'd by 
a revengeful Hayle ; whose beginning were by a staffe, their growth and 
continuance by Bastards. The Sunne itself shall play on a Timbrel clad 
with a vermillion coat, and the Moone with dun buskins, shall amble to the 
faire. Laughest thou, oh King? ... All these things shall scarce be accom 
plished, when a Prince of royall stocke shall come forth crowned from the 
Northerns parts, as to his owne people unexpected, but desired by foreign 
ers ; who because he shall beare a rampant Lyon, shall therefore be called a 
Lyon." 

A glorious career ending in a great victory in the Valley of 
Jehosaphat and the establishment of the Kingdom of Fugitives 
is predicted for him. Lilly insists that this is a prophecy of the 
last days, and that it therefore does not apply to Charles. 

After riddling the two books that had aroused his anger, 
Lilly then proceeds to quote from the genuine Grebner and to 
show that it cannot relate to English affairs. The Charles was 
meant by Grebner to apply to the king of Sweden. He also 
quotes other prophecies by Grebner, one by Capestranus, and an 
astrological prediction on the conjunction of Saturn and 
Jupiter in July, 1623. He then invades the enemy's country 
and quotes what he considers genuine Scottish prophecies, 
and interprets them favorably to the Commonwealth. These 
were taken largely from The Whole Prophecy of Scotland. 

After the Scottish prophecies Lilly passes to English proph- 



103 

ecies. He quotes some short predictions, among them the 
Hempe prophecy. The most significant thing in the whole 
book, however, is The Prophecy of the White King, attributed 
to Merlin Ambrose and introduced as part of the argument. 
According to Lilly's translation it reads : 

" When the Lyon of Ryghtfulness is dead, then shall rise a White King 
in Brittaine, first flying, and after riding, after ligging downe, and in this 
ligging down, hee shall be lymed, after that hee shall be led. And there 
shall be shewed whether there be another King. Then shall be gadered to- 
gather much folk, and He shall take helpe for him. And there shall 
bee Merchandise of Men, as of a Horse or an Ox. There shall bee sought 
helpe, and there shall none arise, but bed for head. And then shall one 
gone there the Sun ariseth, another there the Sun gone downe. After 
this, it shall be said by Britain (King is King) King is no King: after this 
hee shall raise his head, and he shall betaken him to be a King. Bee many 
things to done, but wise men reading, . . . , and then shall a rang of 
Gleeds, and ever each hath bereaving, hee shall have it for his owne. And 
this shall last seven years, loe Ravening and shedding of blood. And 
Ovens shall be made like Kirkes or churches. After, then shall come 
through the South with the Sun, on Horse of Tree, the chicken of the 
Eagle sayling into Brittaine, and arriving anone to the house of the Eagle, 
hee shall shew fellowship to them beasts. After a year and a half shall 
be war in Britain. Then shall a sooth be nought worth, and every man 
shall keepe his thing, and gotten other mens goods. After the White 
King feeble shall goe towards the West, beclipped about with his folke 
to the olde place been running water. Then his enemies shall meet him, 
and March in her place shall be ordained about him, an Hoast in the 
manner of a shield, shall be formed, then shall they tighten on Ovenfront. 
After the White King shall fall into a Kirkyard, over a Hall." 

This seems to have been quoted from a version belonging to 
Lady Poston. Immediately after it Lilly quotes one not so full. 
Its agreement with the second part of the Giraldian Collection 
is very close. Lilly is scholar enough to give variant readings 
of some episodes from different versions. He had used at least 
three. The first version reads suspiciously as if it had been 
edited for the occasion. But Lilly himself may have been inno 
cent. It is important to notice that the second oldest prophecy 
was translated and used in 1651 as serious and incontrovertible 
evidence in a political argument. 

It has been said that history made the prophecies by furnish 
ing them with material. In some cases prophecies helped make 



104 

history. It is always difficult to determine how much the com 
plications of a situation or the result of a crisis was due to 
them. One wisely hesitates without convincing proof to say 
that any particular event or series of events was caused directly 
by some prophecy. But one can affirm with safety that proph 
ecies were potent factors in English political affairs, and that 
their influence seemed constant until the middle of the seven 
teenth century. They were used seriously during the Common 
wealth period. In Wales their influence was very strong. The 
Welsh cherished their prophecies, and brought them out on the 
least occasion to hail some expected redeemer of their race. 
They not only quoted them, but they believed them. An ambi 
tious chief by circulating a suitable and appropriate prophecy 
could easily gain adherents to his cause. Englishmen on more 
than one occasion had prophecies to thank for disorders in 
Wales. 49 In England predictions, if not the moving cause of 
uprisings, seditions, and rebellions, certainly helped to compli 
cate the situation by arousing in the rebels false hopes, even 
certainty of victory. 50 They were certainly influential in the 
troublous times leading to the deposition of Richard the Second 
and in the rebellions during the early years of Henry the 
Fourth's reign. Percy, Glendower, and Mortimer, doubtless 
did not believe that Fate and Merlin had decreed the Tripartite 
Convention among them, but they were undoubtedly quite will 
ing to believe that the prophecy of the Lion, the Dragon, and 
the Wolf had thereby been fulfilled, and were glad to make the 
best of what argument and justification the prophecy afforded 
them. 

Particular instances of the direct influence of prophecies are 
difficult to find. Such direct influence must have been exerted 
from time to time, as can be judged by the laws which the 
various monarchs of England passed prohibiting the circula- 

49 Vita Edwardi Secundi auctore Malmesberiensi in Chronicles of the 
Reigns of Edward 1 and Edward II, R. S., vol. 2, p. 218; The Political 
History of England, Hunt and Poole, vol. 3, by T. F. Tout, London, 1905, 
p. 268. 

50 J. A. Froude, History of England, 12 vols., Longmans, Green, and Co., 
London, 1898, vol. 4, p. 451 for a prophecy used in Kett's Rebellion and its 
influence. 



105 

tion of prophecies. The first laws that have come to notice in 
the course of this study were passed in the reign of Henry the 
Fourth. A law was passed in 1402 against the wandering 
Welsh minstrels who 'by their ' divinations and lies were the 
cause of the insurrection and rebellion in Wales.' 51 A law of 
1406 against the Lollards recites among the complaints against 
the sect that they had published false prophecies which pre 
dicted the overthrow of the King, the Princes, and the Lords 
Temporal and Spiritual. 5 - This law among other things pro 
hibited the use of such false prophecies under penalty of im 
prisonment without bail and of severe punishment upon 
conviction. 

The use and effectiveness of political prophecies as political 
propaganda had become so great in the course of the fifteenth 
and early sixteenth centuries that Henry the Eighth felt it 
necessary to prohibit them. Accordingly he made it a felony 
without benefit of clergy 'to declare any false prophecy upon 
occasion of arms, fields, letters, names, cognizances, or 
badges.' 53 This law was repealed at the accession of Edward 
the Sixth in a general act repealing all felonies of the previous 
reign. It was re-enacted three years later with the penalty for 
the first offense, one year's imprisonment and the forfeiture of 
ten pounds, and for the second offense, the forfeiture of all 
one's goods and imprisonment for life. 54 This was repealed at 
Mary's accession in a general act similar to the one passed at 
Edward's accession, and was not re-enacted. Elizabeth, how 
ever, had not been on the throne long before she saw the need 
of a similar law and passed one. This act is very interesting 
as it rehearses the causes for its passage. 

" Forasmuch as sithence the expiration and ending of the statute made 
in the time of King Edward the Sixth intituled An Act against fond and 
fantastic prophecies, divers evil disposed persons, inclined to the stirring 
and moving of factions, seditions and rebellions within the realm, have been 
more bold to attempt the like practice in feigning, imagining, inventing and 
publishing of such fond and fantastical prophecies, as well concerning the 

51 Rotuli Parliamentorum, vol. 3, p. 508. 
53 Supra, vol. 3, p. 583 f. 
53 Statute 33 Henry VIII, c. XIV. 
"Statute 3, 4 Edward VI, c. XV. 



106 

Queen's Majesty as divers honourable personages, gentlemen and others 
of this realm, as was used and practised before the making of the said 
statute, to the great disquiet, trouble and peril of the Queen's Majesty and 
of this her realm. 

II For remedy whereof, be it ordained and enacted by the authority of 
this present Parliament, 

" That if any person and persons, after the first day of May next com 
ing do advisedly and directly advance, publish and set forth by writing, 
printing, signing or any other open speech or deed, to any person or per 
sons any fond, fantastical or false prophecy, upon or by occasion of any 
arms, fields, beasts, badges or such other like things accustomed in arms, 
cognizances or signets or upon or by reason of any time, year or day, 
name, bloodshed or war to the intent thereby to make any rebellion, in 
surrection, dissension, loss of life or other disturbance within this realm 
or other the Queen's dominions ; That then every such person being thereof 
lawfully convicted according to the due course of the laws of this realm, 
for every such offense shall suffer imprisonment of his body for the space 
of one year, without bail of mainprise, and shall forfeit for every such 
offense the sum of ten pounds." 65 

Further clauses provide that for the second offence the 
offender shall be imprisoned for life and forfeit all of his 
property, one half going to the Queen, the other half to the 
prosecuting witness. The prosecution, however, had to be 
begun within six months after the offense had been committed. 

These laws did not go unviolated. One of the charges against 
Rhys ap Griffith in his trial for treason was that he had caused 
to be circulated the prophecy on James, the Red Hand and the 
Ravens. The Duke of Buckingham seems also to have been 
accused of relying too much on these fond, fantastical proph 
ecies. The Duke of Norfolk at his trial in I57I 56 was accused 
of keeping by him a prophecy which was interpreted to mean 
that Elizabeth should lose the throne, that he should marry 
Mary of Scotland, and that his children by her should inherit 
the throne. This prophecy is in Latin, and uses the traditional 
animal symbolism. It runs, 

" In exaltatione lunae leo succumbet, et leo cum leone conjungetur, et 
catuli eorum regnabunt." 

At the trial it was translated and interpreted thus : 

155 Statute 5 Elizabeth, c. XV. 

BS Jardine, Criminal Trials, London, 1832, vol. i, p. 175. 



107 

"At the exaltation of the moon (Percy of Northumberland) the lion 
(Elizabeth) shall be overthrown; then shall the lion (Norfolk) be joined 
with the lioness (Mary), and their whelps shall have the kingdom." 

According to Hickford's deposition read at the trial, this 
prophecy was originally five or six lines long. 

The instances in which prophecies were used as political 
propaganda and the laws passed by the English kings against 
the use of them show very forcibly how deeply the genre had 
penetrated into the life and thoughts of Englishmen. In the 
course of the study it has been necessary to discuss prophecies 
which contain little or no animal-symbolism. It is now time 
to study the genre in the course of its development and to 
observe the phenomena that marked its rise, flourishing period, 
and decline. 



CHAPTER FIVE 

THE DEVELOPMENT AND DECLINE OF THE POLITICAL 
PROPHECY 

The origin of the prophecy has now been, discussed, and 
the more important examples of the type have been described 
at some length. The relation between the prophecies and the 
political history of England has also been shown. It is now 
time to consider the genre as a whole, and to observe the 
phenomena that attended its development and its decline in 
England. 

The prophecy shared with the other types of English litera 
ture in the progress from Latin through Anglo-French to 
expression in some form of vernacular English. It made its 
first appearance on English soil in Latin, into which it had 
been translated from the Welsh. Those prophecies which date 
from the twelfth or early thirteenth century are, with the 
exception of the Here Prophecy, in Latin. In the thirteenth 
century, especially towards its close, prophecies are found in 
Anglo-French. The vernacular prophecy gained strength in 
the fourteenth century, and thereafter English came to be 
more and more the usual means of vaticinal expression. The 
linguistic periods of the prophecies, however, cannot be marked 
so sharply. The writing of prophecies in Latin continued into 
the reign of James the First, and Latin prophecies were printed 
and interpreted as late as 1651. The French forms were more 
ephemeral, few if any surviving the fifteenth century, for very 
obvious reasons. Latin was the language of the learned and 
endured for centuries as such. But when the inhabitants of 
England ceased to speak French, few of them read French. 
What was interesting to them in their Anglo-French literature 
was translated either into Latin or into some English dialect. 
All three dialects of Middle English are represented. Prophe 
cies in English are found as early as c. 1190, as in the case of 

108 



109 

The Here Prophecy, but they are not frequent until after the 
beginning of the fourteenth century. 

From the beginning the prophecies were accompanied by 
notes and interpretations, or served as bases for elaborate com 
mentaries. The Book of Merlin seems to have had these notes. 
John of Cornwall made a commentary for his Seven Kings. 
The Lincoln Cathedral interpretation of Merlin's Prophecies,. 
and the elaborate work by Alanus de Insulis have already been 
referred to. The Exposition of the Eagle's Prophecy has also 
been mentioned. This list continues to the very end of the 
seventeenth century. When no other commentary was pro 
vided, marginal or interlinear notes frequently supplied the in 
formation needed for an understanding of the prophecies. 

In the preceding chapters reference has been made to the 
re-writing and re-working of older material. Heywood, for 
instance, in writing his Prophecies of Merlin took material 
from The Book of Merlin and The Six Kings, and combined 
it with material gathered from various sources or got from his 
own invention. 1 The Cock- in- the- North motive lasted long. 
Arising perhaps from a couplet in Bridlington, it found its 
way into various English and Scottish poems of the fifteenth 
and sixteenth centuries, and re-written as a ' Prince out of the 
North ' was used in the Jacobite Rebellions in the eighteenth 
century. The Last-King-of-Rome story, relating to the suc 
cessful crusade of an English king and his death in the Holy 
Land, was used in prophecies from the thirteenth century on, 
and was applied to Edward the Second, Edward the Third, 
Henry the Fourth, Henry the Fifth, Henry the Eighth, Charles 
the Second, and the Stuart Pretenders. 

No particular literary form ever came to be recognized as the 
only proper medium of vaticinal expression. The only quality 
the prophecies had in common was obscurity. Latin prose was 
used for The Book of Merlin, The Giraldian Collection, The 

1 Material from The Six Kings is used beginning with Edward the First, 
but Richard the Second is called a Kid instead of the Ass of Wickedness, 
and Henry the Fourth a Fox instead of the Accursed Mole. The prophecy 
made by Henry the Fifth that Windsor should lose what Monmouth should 
gain is worked into the account of his reign. After the time of Henry 
the Fifth Heywood makes the best of what material he finds at his hand. 



110 

Exposition of the Eagle's Prophecy, and numerous short pieces. 
The Latin version of The Six Kings is in prose as is Asinus 
Coronatus. Prose is also used in the Anglo-French version of 
The Six Kings. John of Cornwall, however, chose to put his 
version of Merlin's prophecies into metrical form, using as his 
medium of expression the Latin hexameter. Bridlington, like 
many short vaticinal pieces in Latin, was written in leonine 
lines. Vernacular prophecies are in both prose and verse, 
those in verse using various metrical forms. Becket may 
serve as an example of those written in alliterative long lines. 
The Six Kings is written in riming couplets which, however, 
cannot be scanned easily. The prevailing line seems to be 
iambic and octosyllabic, but the first unstressed syllable and the 
unstressed syllable occurring after a strong pause are some 
times omitted. Adam Davy's Dreams is also written in riming 
couplets in what seems to be tumbling-measures. The ballad 
stanza was very popular, especially after the close of the four 
teenth century. One of the earliest analogs of Erceldoune is 
the Northumbrian ballad which has already been described. 
Erceldoune and its later versions, The Cock in the North and 
its revisions, and several poems in The Whole Prophecy are 
written in the ballad stanza. The Prophecy of the Fishes is 
written in an intricate stanzaic form which combines rime and 
alliteration, but the position of the riming lines varies in each 
stanza. A closer study of the prophecies would perhaps reveal 
greater metrical variety, but the cases cited are sufficient to 
show that this variety exists. 

One of the most noticeable phenomena in the history of the 
Galfridian prophecy is the change in the symbols. Those in 
The Book of Merlin were arbitrary. If one could trace them 
to their Welsh originals he might find that they were petrified 
metaphors used in much the same way as the Welsh epithets 
which were studied in the second chapter. However, from the 
point of view of English literary history the animal names are 
purely arbitrary and mean nothing. Some of these arbitrary 
symbols were remembered and applied to the same individuals 
for several generations. They then became conventional. At 
times the symbols fit the character of the man. Henry the 



Ill 

Third, who was a pious and good man though a weak king, 
is called the Lamb. Edward the Second was uniformly re 
ferred to as the Goat. Those who called Richard the Second 
the Ass of Wickedness were perhaps his enemies, and those 
who called him the Lamb his friends. This, however, is pure 
supposition and must not be pushed too far. Sextus, though 
not an animal name, became a purely conventional symbol. 
The ' Lynx seeing through all things,' applied for a time to 
John, survived to be used as a conventional, traditional, and 
arbitrary symbol in The Exposition of the Eagle's Prophecy. 
The use of the Crab for the King of Scotland in this same 
piece antedates Bridlington, and is another instance of the 
arbitrary symbol that became conventional. These conven 
tional symbols lasted until 1651. The Son of the Eagle was 
then interpreted as the Prince who later became Charles the 
Second. 

Not infrequently a symbol was used with some special 
significance where it first occurred, but later lost its significance 
and became conventionalized. Such seems to be the origin of 
The Cock in the North. This was perhaps only a translated 
pun used in Bridlington for the King of France and applied to 
the Black Prince. When this Prince failed to become King of 
France, the symbol was conventionalized and made traditional. 
Even after the symbol itself was dropped the expectation of a 
Prince from the North remained. The history of the Leaf- 
from-the-left-side-of-Bruce and the French-Wife's-Son, both 
of which were later combined, is much the same. 

The obscurity of the prophecies was due in large measure 
to uncertainty as to whom the symbols represented. A key 
was necessary for the understanding and explanation of them. 
Such obscurity defeated their purpose to some extent. The 
difficulty in recognizing the man behind his vaticinal mask was 
too great. The situation, however, was relieved by the rise 
of heraldry 2 which afforded for every prominent man a symbol 
that was readily intelligible. The earliest prophecy contain 
ing heraldic symbols that has been found in the course of this 

2 Heraldry was practised in England as early as the reign of Richard 
the First ; how much earlier is uncertain. 



112 

study dates perhaps from the middle of the thirteenth century. 
It is a prophecy attributed to Merlin in The History of Fulk 
Fitzwaxrine? Merlin is here said to have prophesied that a 
Wolf would come out of the White-Land and overcome the 
Leopard. By the Wolf was meant Fulk, who bore on his 
shield a wolf's head with four teeth exposed; by the Leopard 
King John, who bore ' the leopards of beaten gold.' Earlier in 
the History it had been said that the Wolf would first drive 
out the Boar. This was perhaps Morris FitzRoger, who was 
defeated by the hero and who is described earlier in the book 
as bearing two boars of gold on a shield of green. Few 
examples of heraldic symbols are found in the thirteenth cen 
tury. After the beginning of the fourteenth they occur more 
frequently. The Latin prophecy beginning Anglia transmittet 
Leopardum is an example. In it the Leopard which appeared 
on the shield of the King of England was used for the King 
himself, and the Lily by a similar figure of speech for the King 
of France. In Becket the imperial Eagle was used for the 
Emperor himself. The Lily came to be used as a conventional 
symbol for France or her King, but the kings of England were 
more often known by their individual crests or badges. 
Richard the Third, for instance, was referred to as the White 
Boar, which was his special cognizance. 

Prophecies containing symbols derived from heraldry only 
are rare. The Merlin prophecies in The History of Fulk 
Fitzwarine are good examples. Another seems to be a six 
teenth century collection called Metrical Prophecies.^ A Bear, 
a Dragon, an Eagle, a Falcon, a White Horse, the Cock of the 
North, a Wolf, and a Water-Bogie appear in the course of the 
narrative. Marginal explanations are given for all but the last 
three. The Cock of the North may stand for Henry the 
Eighth, who took the Cock as his crest. The other two may 
well be heraldic, since all but the Cock plainly are. A super 
scription to The Metrical Prophecies shows that the copy was 

3 The History of Fulk Fitzwarine, ed. T. Wright, London, 1855. This 
is an Anglo-French prose romance that dates from the early fourteenth 
century. Wright and Ward (Cat. i, 501) think it originally metrical and 
composed c. 1254. The prophecy is in verse. 

* Reliquiae Antiquae, II, 12-13. 



113 

made on July 19, 1552. A short introduction shows that the 
prophecy as it there occurs was meant for the same year. It 
must be older, for the ruler of the country is spoken of as a 
king who should beget on a poor maiden a flower ' that schalle 
warne alle kinges as he leste every ow r ere.' 

As a rule both arbitrary and heraldic symbols are found in 
the same prophecy. The more important characters in The 
Six Kings are given arbitrary names, but Gaveston is called 
the Eagle of Cornwall, for he bore eagles on his shield. Both 
kinds of symbols are used in Bridlington. Edward the Third 
is the Bull, Prince Edward the Cock, the King of Scotland the 
Crab, not to mention others. But various other animal names 
that occur in the prophecy are explained in the notes as repre 
senting nobles who bore such animal figures in their coats of 
arms. Brandl attempts to interpret some of the symbols in 
Erceldoune as heraldic emblems, such as the Heron and the 
Bastard, regarding the Falcon, the Raven, the Tercelets, and 
the Crow as arbitrary names. The same is true of his interpre 
tation of The Cock in the North. The Bull and the Moon are 
taken to stand for the Earls of Westmoreland and Northum 
berland respectively. An attempt to explain the Cock as 
heraldic presents a difficulty which became characteristic of 
this particular kind of symbol. The trouble with animal names 
taken arbitrarily was that the mask hid too well the person it 
was meant to disguise. With heraldic symbols the difficulty 
lay, when heraldry was far advanced, in determining which of 
perhaps a hundred cocks or a hundred lions was meant. 6 

Certain of the arbitrary symbols were conventionalized and 
made traditional. The same thing occurred in the case of cer 
tain heraldic symbols. The Lion was used for several genera 
tions of Scottish Kings. When it was found necessary to dis 
tinguish it from other lions, it was called the Red Lion, as in 
the Rymour Prophecy in The Whole Prophecy. Similarly, 
though less frequently, the Leopard was used for the English 

6 The use of heraldic symbols despite the prohibition of Henry the 
Eighth, Edward the Sixth, and Elizabeth flourished, and continued into the 
nineteenth century among the Scottish Highlanders. Prophecies of a High 
land Seer, C. F. Gumming, in Eclectic, vol. 105, p. 696. 
9 



114 

Kings, perhaps only for the first three Edwards. The Dragon, 
derived from the ensign of Cadwalader, could represent any 
Welsh Prince. In the episode of the Mole in The Six Kings 
it was interpreted as applying to Glendower who, as a 
champion of the Welsh, had adopted the Dragon for his 
standard. The Lily represented any King of France. In like 
manner certain symbols recur for different leaders in different 
generations of the great noble families. The Moon (tuna) 
was used for the leader of the Percies in the fifteenth century 
Asinus Coronatus. It was used for the leader of the same 
family in the prophecy quoted against the Duke of Norfolk 
at his trial in 1572. The Bear, originally the crest of the 
Beauchamp Earls of Warwick, was used in the fifteenth 
century for Richard Neville, who became Earl of Warwick by 
marrying the Beauchamp heiress, and in The Metrical Prophe 
cies for Dudley, Earl of Warwick, who had no ancestral right 
to the Bear as a crest. Because of this use of conventionalized 
symbols it is frequently necessary to have some idea of the 
date of a prophecy before one can interpret it properly. 

Attention has thus far been given only to those prophecies 
which use the Galfridian method of animal symbolism. It 
would be a mistake, however, to suppose that English political 
vaticinations were written in no other method. Several 
prophecies relating to English affairs may be called Sibyllic 
according to the conventional initial-reference of this type of 
prophecy. This difference exists between the English and the 
Continental Sibyllic prophecies. On the continent the 
prophecy proceeded as any historical narrative, giving some 
attention to details but with initials used for names of persons. 
But in England the prophecies written according to the Sibyllic 
method were short, concise and compact. For instance, one 
two lines long, which was attributed to Becket, runs thus : 

H. Patre submarcet post R. reget J. qui relicto 9 
E. post H. rex fit. E. post E., postea mira. 

6 Ward, loc. cit., i, 314. 

Cf. Upan's Prophecy (Lilly, loc. cit., 36) 

To tell the truth, many one would wonder 
Charing Crosse shall be broken asunder 



115 

In some cases the initials were combined to form words. An 
excellent example of this kind is the so-called Hempe Prophecy, 
quoted by Bacon in his essay Of Prophecies. It seems to 
have been very popular, for it occurs frequently with only 
slight variations. In one version it reads, 

" After Hempe is sowen and growen 
Kings of England shall be none." 7 

H. stood for Henry the Eighth, E. for Edward the Sixth, M. 
and P. for Mary and Philip of Spain, and the last E. for 
Elizabeth. 

An interesting combination of the Sibyllic and the Galfridian 
methods is found in the poem, Six Letters to Save Merry Eng 
land* The narrator while walking in Cheapside saw a lady 
embroidering a garment with twelve letters which she said 
were to save merry England. The letters were five R's, two 
E's, W, F, M, Y, S. Three of the R's stood for three men 
named Richard, one for the Rose (which the editor interprets 
as the White Rose of York), and one for the Ragged Staff 
(the badge of the Earl of Warwick). One E. stood for 
Edward, the other for the Eagle (the badge of the Earl of 
Salisbury). M. represented the Earl of March, W. the Earl 
of Warwick, S. the Earl of Salisbury, and F. the Fetterlock 
(the badge of Edward the Fourth). All these, said the lady, 
work together for King Edward's weal and the destruction of 
treason. The use of initials makes the prophecy Sibyllic. 
But since four of the letters stand for heraldic badges, they 
are vaticinal symbols and make the prophecy in part Galfridian. 

One finds, furthermore, curious prophecies which do not ful 
fill the requirements of either the Galfridian or the Sibyllic 

P. shall preach, R. shall reach, S. shall stand stiff 
P. presbytery, R. Roundhead, S. souldier. 
and also (Lilly, loc. cit., 57) 

Accursed in E. Norman's heire, 
England's crown shall never wear. 
E. Elizabeth. 

7 Harington, Trad on Sue., p. 17. 

8 F. J. Furnivall, Political, Religious, and Love Poems, E. E. T. S., O. S. 
15, p. i f. 



116 

type. 9 Two very interesting prophecies, which are worked 
into one poem in a manuscript among the state papers of 
Henry the Eighth, 10 make use of dicing terms. The poem 
runs as follows; 

" Then quater shall a-Ryse 
and set uppe sise, 

Then England shal bee in paradyse. 

When trey and quater ys myswente, 

Then all England shall bee shente, 

Then shall ye have a newe parliament ; 

Then cinq (sise ?) shall a-Ryse, and cinq shall undre, 

A ded man shall a-Ryse, And that shal bee greate wondre ; 

He that (is) dedde and buryed in sight shall a-Ryse agayn and lyve 
in land, In comforting of a yonge knyght 

That Fortune hath chosyn to be his feer. u 
" Whan sise ys the best caste of the dyesce 

And oon beryth uppe sise 

Then England ys paradysce. 

But when cinq and quater bee set a-syde, 

The worde of sise shall sprynge full wyde ; 

But when deuce put owte trey, Then ys all shente, 

for than we shall have a newe parliament. 

Yet sise shall uppe, and ace shall undre ; 

When dedde men Ryse, It shal bee greate wonder. 

The Lyon, the Redrose, and the flower de Luce, 

The Locke shall undo deuse, 

Yet sise shall bere the price, 

And ace shall help therto." 12 

9 In the nineteenth century at the time of the Franco-Prussian War many 
numerical prophecies were published. (Cf. Notes and Queries, series 4, 
vol. 12.) In these, certain combinations of certain numbers gave the date 
of a supposedly eventful year. It is needless to say that they are unin 
telligible without a key. 

10 F. J. Furnivall, Ballads from Ms., p. 318 f. 

11 Cf. two lines from The Prophesie of Marlyng in The Whole Prophecy : 

Syce shall up, and sink shall onder. 

the ded shall rise, and worke great wonder. 

12 The date 1450 is written at the close of another version in Ms. Har- 
leian 7332. The Sink and Fire Prophecy seems to be a corrupt version of 
this. " The synke & the fyre shal be guylgully bought. And when the fyre 
standythe under the synke ! then stands England without a rightous kyng 
but the vi shal shall (sic) upp & the synk shall under 

When did men ryse there wylbe moche wonder" 

(Notes and Queries, series 4, vol. 12, p. 223 : cf. The Best Cast of the Dice, 
Notes and Queries, he. cit., p. 443.) 



117 

The remaining lines of the prophecy contain nothing interest 
ing. The typical animal-symbolism creeps into it sufficiently to 
make the prophecy Galfridian. 

Just as the kind of symbols changed, so the manner of carry 
ing on the narrative changed. In The Book of Merlin animal 
names were usually employed but not exclusively. Sometimes 
other symbols were used, as in the case of the tree with three 
branches, and in the case of the three fountains of Win 
chester. But the whole piece reads very much like a beast- 
tale. The material is condensed, and the episodes follow each 
other compactly in rapid succession. Few episodes that are 
not meant to express pure action are introduced. 13 The same 
is true of The Giraldian Collection,, and, to a less extent, of 
The Seven Kings. The Cock in the North and The Prophecy 
of the Fishes are both written in the Galfridian method. As 
late as 1572 this method was preserved in its purity in the 
prophecy used against the Duke of Norfolk. 

On the other hand, prophecies are found which are straight 
forward narrative without symbols. Prophetic obscurity is 
obtained by slight allusions more or less indefinite to the events 
and conditions which the given piece attempts to portray. The 
Here Prophecy, though brief, is an excellent and early example, 
for in it only a suggestion of the situation is given. The 
Grebner and the Pseudo-Grebner prophecies are both straight 
forward narratives with no attempt at disguise. The obscurity 
lies in faint allusion and slight suggestion. The events pre 
dicted, such as wars between countries and the fall of great 
cities, are plain and unmistakable enough. 

Some prophecies combine the symbolical and direct methods. 
The vaticinal part of Becket is imbedded in pure narrative of 
travel. The battles of Caen and Mount joy and the burning 
of Abbeville are foretold without any attempt at vaticinal 
disguise. In Bridlington the symbolical parts are only a small 
portion of the whole. The internal affairs of the realm, the 
taxes, the plague, the various miseries and sufferings of the 

13 An exception must be made in the case of the episode, " The half shall 
be round," which relates to the coinage of Henry the First, and similar 
episodes. 



118 

people, the misconduct of the king, all are told without re 
course to symbols. In Erceldoune many elements are fused. 
The first fytte with its romance motive is irrelevant to this 
study. The second fytte is largely simple and direct narrative. 
Even in the third fytte the symbols are few. In fact, one 
coming to Erceldoune without a fair knowledge of the genre 
might have some justification for not considering it an example 
of the type. Many of the prophecies quoted by Lilly contain 
only one or two symbols while the rest is direct statement. 
It would be a mistake, however, to suppose that the type in its 
purity did not survive to the end of the period. 

Other pieces are to be found which avoid prophetic symbols 
altogether or use them sparingly, and which gain the requisite 
amount of uncertainty by employing figurative, metaphorical, 
and highly colored or bombastic language. The old Vision of 
Edward the Confessor, described in the first chapter of this 
book, is an allegory though expressed somewhat simply. The 
meaning is rather hard to comprehend, and the application is 
difficult to make. The prophecy attributed by Lilly to the 
Scottish Merlin and quoted in the preceding chapter is written 
in vivid, and very figurative language. These are not to be 
regarded as purely literary efforts with no reference at all to 
political history. The highly ornate and rhetorical Latin style 
of Bridling ton is analogous. In fact, Bridlington except for 
the occasional animal-symbolism would be an excellent example 
of this rhetorical class. 

There are also prophecies which have no rhetorical elabora 
tion and in which the events are not described in direct style, 
and which have no symbols. The effect is sometimes gained 
by the use of paradox and by narrating as fact things which 
seem impossible. The Harleian prophecy of Erceldoune, quoted 
in full in the third chapter, is such. The wedding of lads 
with ladies was something supposedly impossible because of 
the difference in social rank. The ending of the war whenever 
the hare should kittle on the hearth-stone was something of a 
paradox. It must be said that few examples of these para 
doxical prophecies have been found in the course of this 
study. This class lent itself to parody and burlesque as will 
be shown later. 



119 

Prophetic pictures constitute another very interesting kind 
of prophecies. The vaticinal tapestry said by Barbour to have 
been made by Saint Margaret has been mentioned in the review 
of Scottish prophecies. The earliest pictures of this kind that 
have come to the notice of the present writer are The Oracles 
of Leo the Philosopher,^ which date from the eleventh century 
and relate to Byzantine affairs. Pictures of this kind became 
very popular on the continent during the fifteenth and sixteenth 
centuries, and series of them were published by men of author 
ity as philosophers. They were known in England as early as 
1586, when the Earl of Northampton 15 speaks of them as if 
they were quite common. William Lilly devoted the last twenty 
pages of his Monarchy or no Monarchy to nineteen pictures 
in which he attempted to prefigure the history of England for 
several hundred years beyond his own time. These pictures 
were not without imitators. 

The first of Lilly's pictures are concerned with the Puritan 
Rebellion. The second of the series, for instance, by the repre 
sentation of two prelates tumbling from their pulpits shows 
the overthrow of the Established Church. The sixth with its 
four starving and dying cows obviously was meant to show a 
famine. A plague is evidently predicted in the eighth which 
shows several shrouded bodies, a pest-house, and two men dig 
ging graves. The Fire of London was anticipated by the 
thirteenth which pictures a city in flames. In several pictures 
there seems evidence that Lilly knew the episode in The Six 
Kings relating to the Mole, the Wolf, the Dragon, and the Lion. 
In the tenth picture the Mole is seen approaching the crown. 
In the twelfth the Mole, the Dragon, and the Lion figure. 
Rivers of blood, apparently shed in the strife between the Mole 
and the Dragon, are seen in the fourteenth. In the fifteenth the 
Wolf and the Lion are shown embracing each other most 
joyously, while the Mole seems to be in great distress. The 
seventeenth picture shows the Lion, the Wolf, and the Dragon 
ruling the land, and the Mole and his family dead. 

14 K. Krumbacher, Geschichte d. byzantinischen Literatur. Munchen, 
1891, p., 249, 402. For the pictures see Migne, Pat. Graecae, 107, 1130, 
1151- 

15 Earl of Northampton, Defensative, c. CXXIII. 



120 

In 1651 the Galfridian prophecy was plainly decadent. 
Those examples which represented the type in its vigor and 
purity were usually survivals from the earlier centuries. One 
cannot deny, however, that vaticinal pieces, such as The 
Northern Lion, quoted by Lilly, are to be found with Galfri 
dian elements, but in comparison with the original form as 
exemplified in The Book of Merlin they seem weak and at 
times almost puerile. 16 No long sustained work like The Book 
of Merlin, Bridlington, Erceldoune, or The Six Kings was 
produced. The most important production so far as length is 
concerned is The Whole Prophecy, which is but a collection of 
older material. The Sibyllic prophecy attributed to Becket, 
The Hempe Prophecy, The Mars Prophecy, 17 and similar pieces 
are certainly emasculated specimens. Prophecies too fre 
quently degenerated into merely local predictions, such as that 
quoted by Lincoln in Sir Thomas More 18 ' that Lincoln should 
be hanged for London's sake.' Many similar things can be 

16 Cf. the exquisite absurdity of William's Prophecy (Lilly, 69). 

Christ went to court some seven years since 

and there he left his Asse. 
The Courtiers kickt him out of doores, 

because there was no grasse. 
The Beast went mourning ever since, 

and thus I heard him Braye; 
Although there was no grasse at court, 

they might have given me Haye. 

But sixteen hundred fourty one 
Who ere shall live that day 
Nothing shall see within that court, 
But only grasse and Hay. 

And then you may be sure, 

The yeare that next ensues, 

One silly Asse shall be more worth 

Than all the Horse ith' Mewes. 

17 Mars Puer Alecto Virgo Vulpes Leo Nullus. 
Henry 8 Edward 6 Mary Elizabeth James i Charles i 

(Lilly, 56) 

Sir Thomas More, Act III, Sc. i, line 47 ed. Tucker Brooke, The 
Shakespeare Apocrypha, Oxford, 1908. 



121 

found in Nixon's Cheshire Prophecies. For the animal- 
symbolism, which was impressive in a way, vulgar prodigies 
were used. Instead of a glorious Dragon one was to expect a 
' Miller with two thumbs.' The prodigies are usually charac 
teristic of local prophecies. 

One reason, perhaps, for this decadence was the fact that 
another outlet for vaticinal inclinations was found in the 
growing popularity of astrology. Astrological predictions and 
prognostications appear in England early in the sixteenth 
century. 20 A Prognostication was printed in black letter for 
Richard Banckes in 1523. An Almanac and Prognostication 
for 1530 by Caspar Laet the Younger was printed in English at 
'Antwerp in 1530. Another for the following year by the same 
man was printed in London. Thereafter almanacs, prognosti 
cations, astrological predictions, and books on astrology become 
very frequent. Professional astrologers such as Arise Evans, 
John Dee, Richard and John Harvey, Dr. Simon Forman, Sir 
George Wharton, H. Johnsen, John Booker, John Case, Coley, 
Lilly, and Partridge rose to positions of power and influence 
in the nation. 21 

The nature of these astrological predictions may be inferred 
from Grebner's prophecy on the conjunction of Saturn and 
Jupiter, July, 1623 : 22 

" i. Divers sinister events shall seeme to conspire together for the 
crossing of a great Prince, who by opposing the common People, shall in 
the end drive them to Sedition. 

" 2. The Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the House Celestial, called 
that of Death, doth portend that some Prince shall be detained prisoner, 
to the great disadvantage of his affaires of Estate. 

" 3. Upon the first quarter of the Moon, which shall be the 27. of Feb 
ruary is foretold, That some King or Prince shall undertake a voyage of 
great consequence without certainty of return, which at the best shall both 
be later than expectation, and after the enduring of many miseries. 

19 Notes and Queries, series 4, vol. 3, p. 609; The Palatine Anthology, 
London, 1850, p. 161 f. 

20 Englishmen had known something of astrology at a much earlier date. 
Robert of Torigny, Chronicle, R. S., London 1889, p. 283, quotes an astro 
logical prediction of 1179. 

21 See these names in Dictionary of National Biography. 
23 Lilly, 27 f. 



122 

" 4- He which shall stand on the top of Fortune's wheel, let him look 
warily to his feet for fear of slipping ; because so great a fall is threatened 
him, as shall procure his utter ruine ; which shall astonish those who have 
climbed up into the seats of honor unworthily. 

" 5. A monarch that hath betrusted his affaires of great Consequence 
to the direction of one, who was no way capable of so weighty a charge, 
shall be sensible of the great fault he hath committed, whereof he shall too 
late repent. 

" 6. The stirrers and Incendiaries of Sedition shall make residence in 
the Houses of Kings and Princes. 

" 7. War deferred through want of money. 

" 8. The Land and Town Geminist shall bewaile the want of her Sun. 

" 9. Here shall be great levying of Souldiers for the execution of some 
stratagem, but all shall turn to nothing; for the sudden departure of a 
great Personage shall cause much Murmuring and Discontent. 

" 10. Men disguised shall desire that their outward semblance may make 
shew of that which they are not, and shall be Authors of many particular 
combats in the Land Geminist." 

The Prognosticall Judgement of the Great Conjunction 
which shall happen the 28the of April, by Robert Tanner, 
entered in the Stationers' Register under date of March n, 
1583, seems to have been much the same kind of thing. The 
conjunction referred to was doubtless one between Saturn and 
Jupiter. Another book on the conjunction of these planets 
was entered April 12 of the same year. 

The annual prognostications popular in the seventeenth 
century began very early, and were at first mere proverbial 
weather predictions. A set of prognostications in Latin, dating 
from the first half of the eleventh century, relate to the signs 
of the weather as shown by the sun and moon. 23 In another set 
the weather is foretold from its state on certain days of the 
year, one of which is the second of February. 24 In still another 
the state of the weather during the different seasons is fore 
told according to the day of the week with which the year 
begins. For instance, if the first day of the year is Sunday, 
the Winter will be mild, Spring windy, Summer and Autumn 
dry. But if the first day of the year is Saturday, it will be a 
bad year for everybody. 25 Such seems to have been the simplest 

23 Rel. Antiq., i, 15. 

24 Supra, 93. 

25 Ms. Cotton. Vesp. D., 14. 



123 

form of the annual prognostication, a general and proverbial 
statement of weather signs. This came in time to result in 
prophecies that attempted to predict the events of the year for 
which they were cast. 26 These events included perhaps 
political affairs and the phenomena of the weather. The com 
bination of this annual prognostication with the astrological 
prediction gave the Elizabethan almanac, from which the alma 
nac of the present day is directly and legitimately descended. 

Unfortunately, the present writer has not been able to exa 
mine the Elizabethan almanacs that are extant. It is possible, 
however, to judge of the contents of the average specimen 
from the descriptions given in entries in the Stationers' 
Register, and from burlesques on the form. Gayle's Almanac 
and Prognostication, licensed in 1566 and again in 1567, con 
tained information concerning surgery. An Almanac for the 
Months was licensed in 1563 by Owen Roger. Joachim Hew- 
brighfs Almanac and Prognostication, licensed in 1566, was 
published ' with the breffe and profytable Rule for marynours 
to know the ebbes floodes Sowndynges landynges Markes and 
Dangers/ An Almanac with the Names of the Kynges, 
licensed in 1566, evidently contained bits of historical informa 
tion. Dernyll's Merry Prognostication for 1567 may have been 
a joke-book. The Raven's Almanac, licensed to Laurence Lyle 
July 7, 1608, contained predictions of famines, plagues, and 
civil wars. 

It is possible to reconstruct for present purposes the typical 
almanac from Dekker's Raven's Almanac, which is evidently a 
burlesque of the last book mentioned in the preceding para- 

26 Prophecies of the regular Galfridian type were written for certain 
years. The Tolle caput Martis is an excellent example. Its earliest form 
dates from the late thirteenth century at the time of the expected birth 
of the prince who later became Edward the Second. In the Exposition 
of the Eagle's Prophecy definite dates are set for some of the happenings 
predicted therein. In the Latin Prophecies against Edward the Third 1381 
is given as the exact date for the extinction of his dynasty. Several 
prophecies each for a special year are contained in Ms. Cotton. Vesp. E. 



124 

graph.- 27 If the contents of the book, burlesque as it is, furnish 
a guide, one would infer that the usual almanac of the time 
contained an epistle to the reader, the astrological figure of the 
Signs of the Zodiac, and a dissertation on the influence exerted 
by the signs on the different parts of the body, predictions for 
the twelve months, each introduced by a quatrain of dietary 
advice, a list of the festivals and Saints' Days in each month, 
the time of sunrise and sunset for each day, predictions for the 
four seasons and the names of diseases peculiar to each season 
with the appropriate remedies, the distinctive characteristics of 
people born in each season, and perhaps short illustrative 
pieces of narrative. 

The reasons for the decadence of the type are not far to 
seek. The stringent laws passed by the Tudors, and continued 
by their successors, against the use of prophecies had a strong 
and lasting effect. What prophecies survived this judicial 
ordeal had few Galfridian elements. The growing freedom 
from superstition had its influence as well on the belief in all 
kinds of prophecies. People were likely to be more skeptical 
and to doubt the inspiration of those who set themselves up, or 
were set up by others, as prophets. Merlin's reputation had 
been failing not only in England but also in the rest of Europe 
since a decree of the Council of Trent had been passed against 
him, and since his prophecies has been listed in the Index 
Expurgatorius. Men of intellect ceased to believe the proph 
ecies, however much the vulgar may have cherished them. 
Bacon in England and Montaigne in France each devoted an 
essay to preaching against prophecies and prognostications. 

Bacon's essay, Of Prophecies, the thirty-fifth in the collected 
series, is rather short, for he treats the subject in a very 
desultory way. He says in the beginning: 

27 Dekker's title-page reads : The Raven's Almanac Foretelling of a Plague, 
Famine and Civill Warre. That shall happen this present yeare 1609, 
not only within this Kingdome of Great Britaine, but also in France, Ger 
many, Spaine, and other parts of Christendome. With certaine Remedies, 
Rules and Receipts, how to prevent, or at least to abate the edge of these 
universal calamities. London. Printed by F. A. for Thomas Archer, and 
are to be solde at his Shop in the Popeshead-Pallace nere the Royall 
Exchange. 1609. 



125 

" I mean not to speak of divine prophecies : nor of heathen oracles : nor 
of natural predictions : but only of prophecies that have been of certain 
memory, and from hidden causes." 

He calls to mind several classical prophecies and dreams, 
such as the prophecy of Caesar's Ghost to Brutus regarding 
Philippi. He then speaks of prophecies in England and quotes 
Hempe. He also quotes another which antedated the Armada 
but was supposed to have predicted it. In closing he says : 

" My judgment is, that they ought all to be despised ; and ought to serve 
but for winter talk by the fireside. Though when I say despised, I mean 
it as for belief ; for otherwise, the spreading, and publishing of them is in 
no sort to be despised. For they have done much mischief ; and I see 
many severe laws made to suppress them. That that hath given them 
grace, and some credit, consisteth in three things. First, that men mark 
when they hit, and never mark when they miss ; as they do generally of 
dreams. The second is, that probable conjectures, or obscure traditions, 
many times turn themselves into prophecies ; whilst the nature of man, 
which coveteth divination, thinks it no peril to foretell that which indeed 
they do but collect. . . . The third and last (which is the great one) is, 
that almost all of them, being infinite in number, have been impostures, and 
by idle and crafty brains were combined and feigned after the event 
passed." 

The Earl of Northampton had indeed gone farther than 
Bacon in his opposition to prophecies. In the DefensaUve** he 

28 Northampton wrote the book while he was in retirement at St. Alban's 
in 1583 and dedicated it to Sir Francis Walsingham. (See Diet. Nat. Biog., 
vol. 28, p. 29, ed. 1892.) The author incurred the suspicion of treason and 
heresy in the book and was sent to the Fleet in 1583. In the second edi 
tion the Defensative contains an Epistle Dedicatory, a letter To the Reader, 
and thirty-six chapters of varying length. The whole makes a book of three 
hundred and thirty pages. Who was responsible for the augmentation and 
division into chapters of this edition has not been learned. The title page 
of this second edition is a fair indication of its contents and its writer's 
attitude. It reads : A Defensative against the poyson of supposed Prophe 
cies. Not hitherto confuted by the Pen of any Man, which being grounded, 
either upon the warrant and Authority of Old Painted Bookes, Expositions 
of Dreames, Oracles, Revelations, Invocations of damned Spirits, Judicials 
of Astrologie, or any other kinde of pretended knowledge whatsoever, De 
futuris contingentibus ; have been causes of great disorder in the Common 
wealth, especially among the simple and unlearned people. Very needful 
to be published, considering the great offence which grew by most palpable 
and grosse errors in Astrologie. Written by Henry Howard, late Earle of 



126 

takes the position that prophecies are 'but the scum of pride 
and the dregs of ignorance/ that prophecies cannot alter God's 
law, and that God himself through the instrumentality of a 
chosen few reveals what he wishes to have known. The Earl 
rejects every prophecy that has no Biblical authority, and 
accepts those in the Bible in a spirit that smacks somewhat of 
a necessity to avoid a charge of infidelity. He rejects ' what 
soever kind of prophecy which presumes to divine or aim at 
any future accident whose means are not already set on work ; 
but merely to come without the knowledge of the next most 
natural and most proper causes/ He first endeavors to deter 
mine the causes that prompt men to pry into the future. He 
finds them to be: first, 'scruples of suspect and jealousy im 
planted by Satan ' ; secondly, diffidence and deep mistrust in 
God ; thirdly, ' vain and rash credulity/ which he calls the nurse 
of error; fourthly, 'curiosity to search and hunt for deeper 
knowledge, after future causes and affairs of the Common 
wealth, than God pleases to make known by ordinary means/ 
After showing how unworthy are the things which give rise to 
desire for divination he proceeds to refute some arguments 
that had been advanced in favor of prophecies. The fact that 
so many people would not have believed in prophecies without 
good grounds, he insists is no proof at all, saying that human 
nature was always prone to please itself with shadows and 
conceits, and that truth is justified by weight, not by number. 
To those that heed prophecies because they make men more 
wary in abstaining from offence (an argument advanced in the 
introduction to Bridlingtori) , he says that a man may not do 
evil in the hope of good results, that experience shows more 
people puffed up with pride than reclaimed from the rage of 
sin, and that warnings of our frail and slippery state are not 
so rare and dainty that one need repair to the closets of false 
oracles. The author then discusses all the methods of divina 
tion and proves by the precept of ancient philosophers and of 

Northampton, Lord Privy Seale, etc. Now newly revised and divided into 
divers severall Heads and Chapters. Printed by John Charlewood, servant 
to the right honorable Philip Earle of Arundel, 1583. And reprinted by 
W. Jaggard, and to be sold by Matthew Lownes in Pauls churchyard, at 
the signe of the Bishopshead, 1620. 



127 

the Church Fathers that these methods are really nonsense. 
He denies inspiration for secular prophecies but affirms it for 
the religious prophecies. The book is disappointing in that it 
bears so little on English material, but deals largely with 
examples taken from Biblical and Classical history. 29 

Opposition to belief in prophecies was shown not only by 
adverse legislation and long arguments, but also by parodies, 
satires, and burlesques on the type. This method of attack 
was begun as early as the third quarter of the fourteenth cen 
tury. It is used twice in the B- and C-texts of Piers the Plow 
man. The first example occurs in the third passus: 

" Non levabit gens contra gent em gladium. etc. 
And er bis fortune falle ' fynde men shal J?e worste, 
By six sonnes and a schippe * and half a shef of arwes ; 
And J>e myddel of a mone * shal make J>e jewes to torne, 
And saracenes for J>at sigte ' shulle synge gloria in excelsis &, 
For Makomet & Mede * myshappe shal bat tyme." (Lines 321-327) 

The second occurs at the end of the sixth passus: 

" Ac I warne Sow, werkemen * wynneth while S e mowe, 
For hunger hiderward ' hastest hym faste, 
He shal awake with water * wastours to chaste. 
Ar five S re be fulfilled ' such famyn shal aryse, 
Thorowgh flodes and bourgh foule wederes * fruits shul faille 
And so sayde saturne * and sent Sw to warne ; 
When S e se be sonne amys * and two monkes hedes, 
And a Mayde have be maistrie * and multiplie bi eight, 
banne shal deth withdrawe * and derthe be justice, 
And dawe be dyker " deye for hunger, 
But if god of his goodness * graunt us a trewe." (Lines 322-332) 

These passages sound very much as if they were deliberate 
parodies of actual prophecies then popular. 

29 Compare John Spencer, A Discourse Concerning Vulgar Prophecies, 
London, 1665. Spencer accepts the inspiration of the Biblical prophecies 
but denies it for the others. He says that secular prophecies have a bad 
influence on Church and State and that belief in them weakens the under 
standing and produces ill consequences in common life. He shows that 
secular prophecies are forgeries, and proves to his own satisfaction that 
divine prophecy has ceased. The treatment of the subject, though perhaps 
considered scholarly in its day, is superficial and shallow. He adds little 
to what Northampton said almost a hundred years before. 



128 

The parody of the paradoxical vaticination is represented 
by Sir John Harington's epigram, A Prophesie Asses shall 
grow Elephants : 30 

" When making harmful gums, unfruitful glasses, 
Shal quite consume our stately Oaks to ashes; 
When Law fills all the land with plots and dashes, 
When land long quiet, held concealed passes. 
When warre and truce playes passes and repasses, 
When monopolies are given of toys and trashes; 
When Courtiers marre good clothes with cuts & slashes, 
When Lads shall think it free to lie with Lasses, 
When clergy romes to buy, sell none abashes, 
When foul skins are made fair with new found washes, 
When Prints are set on work with Greens and Nashes, 
When lechers learn to stir up lust with lashes, 
When plainnesse vanishes vainnesse surpasses, 
Some shall grow Elephants, were known but Asses." 

This is at the same time a parody on the prophetic form and 
a satire on the manners of the times. 

The Elizabethan dramatists as a rule disapproved of the 
widespread credence given prophecies, and not infrequently 
gave voice to their disapproval. Peele in Edward the First 
takes pains to show how Llewelyn was misled by prophecies 
which always came true in a way he had not expected. Maxi 
milian in Fletcher's play, The Prophetess, speaks opinions 
which, though in keeping with the spirit of the play, seem to 
be an attack on prophecies and prophets. He says: 

" Inspired with full deep cups, who cannot prophesy ? 
A tinker, out of ale, will give predictions: 
But who believes?" (Act I, scene iii.) 

He goes further in his tirade and attributes the prophecies 
to the active malice of the Devil himself. Shakspere intro 
duced into King Lear a parody on the paradoxical prophecy, 
and showed by the words he puts into the mouth of the speaker 
his contempt for the whole tradition from Merlin down. The 
Fool says : 

" He speak a Prophesie ere I go : 
When Priests are more in word, than matter; 

30 Sir John Harington, Epigrams, I, 83. 



129 

When Brewers marre their malt with water; 
When Nobles are their Taylors Tutors, 
No Heretiques burn'd, but wenches Sutors ; 
When every case in Law, is right; 
No Squire in debt, nor no poore Knight ; 
When Slanders do not live in Tongues ; 
Nor Cut-purses come not to throngs; 
When Usurers tell their Gold i' th' Field, 
And Baudes, and whores, do Churches build, 
Then shall the Realme of Albion, come to great confusion ; 
Then comes the time, who lives to see't, 
That going shal be us'd with feet, 

This prophecie Merlin shall make, for I live before his time." 

(Act III, scene ii.) 

The Raven's Almanac by Dekker has been mentioned, and 
some idea of its content given. It is everywhere a deliberate 
parody and burlesque, and in places contains satire on the 
manners of the times. For instance, the Epistle is a satire on 
the life of the fashionable young men of the day. The expla 
nation of the zodiacal symbols is at the same time a burlesque 
and a satire on the absurdity of astrology. The plagues inci 
dent to the year are described in the same fashion. In the 
course of the almanac two stories are told which are satires 
on women and monks. In this book Dekker was killing 
several birds with one stone, using a burlesque of the type 
to satirize numerous abuses of the age. 

One result of the long popularity of the Galfridian prophecy 
in England was that Englishmen became familiar with that 
style of narration in which symbols not really allegorical are 
used for real living individuals. This familiarity enabled 
Robert Greene to use in James the Fourth a bit of narrative in 
which the names of animals are used for the names of people. 
Sir Cuthbert Anderson at the close of the play in explaining 
what had befallen Queen Dorothea says : 

" A tender Lyons whelpe, 
This other day came stragling in the woods, 
Attended by a young and tender hinde, 
In courage hautie, yet tyr'd like a lambe. 
The Prince of beasts had left this young in keepe, 
To foster up as lovemate and compeere, 
10 



130 

Unto the Lyons mate, a naibour friend ; 

This stately guide, seduced by the fox, 

Sent forth an eger woolfe, bred up in France, 

That gript the tender whelp, and wounded it, 

By chance, as I was hunting in the woods, 

I heard the moane the hinde made for the whelpe; 

I took them both, and brought them to my house. 

With charie care I have recured the one ; 

And since I know the lyons are at strife 

About the losse and dammage of the young, 

I bring her home; make claime to her who list." 

The two Lions are the Kings of England and Scotland who 
each bore a lion in his coat-of-arms. The Whelpe is of course 
Dorothea, daughter of the King of England. Nano is the 
hind, Ateukin the Fox, Jacques the Wolf. A change of tense 
of the first ten lines from the past to the future would make 
the passage a good Galfridian prophecy. 

The same style of narrative was used by James Howell in 
his Apologs. 31 The second Apolog, called The Great Council 
of the Birds, narrates briefly and obscurely the events leading 
up to the execution of Charles the First. The Eagle once 
called a general assembly of the birds to hear complaints that 
the Birds of Prey were doing much damage to the flocks. 
The complainants forced the execution of the Griffin, and then 
falling upon the Pies drove them away. At length a rebellion 
was raised against the Eagle, and many of the flocks deserted. 
But the Bird with the Golden Wings, the Falcons, the Chough, 
the Ravens, the Martlets, the Swan^ the Birds of the Moun 
tains, and the Ostriches remained faithful. Among the de 
serters were the White and the Green Dragons. Desertion 
continued until at last Philomela, the spouse of the Eagle, 
took fright and fled also. As a rule these different bird- 
names stand for the noblemen in whose coat-armor the figures 
appeared. For instance, the Bird with the Golden Wings is 
the Marquis of Hertford, the Swan the Earl of Worcester, 
the Griffin the Earl of Strafford. The Pies are the Bishops, 
and the Mountain Birds the people of Wales. The Eagle is 
used metaphorically for the King, Philomela for the Queen. 

81 James Howell, Apologs, or Fables Mythologized, London, 1661. 



131 

A similar use of flower-names occurs in the third Apolog 
called The Parlement of Flowers. 

Heraldic symbols used for the names of men run riot in 
Gower's Cronica Tripertita. No names of men occur in the 
first part, and few in the later parts. If a symbol is not given, 
the name is etymologized, as in Bridlington. A change of 
tense, as in the passage from James the Fourth, would make 
the whole work an excellent Galfridian prophecy. 32 

Examples might be multiplied. The use of a man's heraldic 
emblem for his own name came in time to be very common. 
It was a convenient means of indirect but readily intelligible 
reference. It appears not only in prophecies and long nar 
ratives but in shorter pieces and dedications as well. Skelton 
in his poem Against the Scottes uses the symbols in the account 
of Flodden: 

"The Whyte Lyon, there rampatmt of moode, 
He ragyd and rent out your hart bloode ; 
He the Whyte, and ye the Red, 
The Whyte there slew the Red starke ded." 33 

Spenser uses the same convention in Daphnaida, the elegy he 
wrote on Lady Douglas Howard. In the dedication he says: 

" Therefore I doe assure myself that no due honour done to the Whyte 
Lyon, but will be most grateful to your Ladyship, whose husband and 
children do so surely participate with the bloud of that noble family." 

In the course of the poem he speaks of Lady Douglas as ' an 
ancient Lion's haire,' and as 

" A faire young Lionesse, 
White as the Native Rose before the chaunge." 

It will be shown in the next chapter of this study that the 
Galfridian prophecy was transplanted to the Continent, where 

33 The Swan is used throughout for Thomas of Gloucester, the Bear for 
the Earl of Warwick, the Horse for the Earl of Arundel, the Moon for 
the Percies, the Boar for the Veres of Oxford, not to mention others. 
Beauchamp of Bridgenorth is called Baro Pans Aquilonis, Nicholas Brem- 
bel Tribulus. 

33 The White Lion is the Earl of Surrey, the Red Lion the King of 
Scotland. These animal figures appeared on the respective shields of 
the two men. 



132 

it took root and flourished. In Italy a very interesting con 
vention grew out of the type, and was introduced into England 
somewhat as an exotic. It was the convention of introducing 
into the romantic epic a prophecy favorable to the author's 
patron. Thus in Orlando Furioso Bradamante visits the 
cave of Merlin and hears his voice prophesying the future of 
her descendants, whom Ariosto makes the house of Este. 
Spenser imitated this in The Faerie Queen. In the third canto 
of the third book he makes Merlin prophesy the future of the 
family founded by Britomart and Artegall. The family, of 
course, was the Tudors, and the patron he wished to flatter 
Elizabeth herself. The prophecy is in the main direct, but 
a few symbols are used, such as the Raven for the Danes, the 
Lion of Neustria for William the Conqueror, and the Castle 
(Castile) for Philip of Spain. Milton accepted the convention 
but modified it to suit his peculiar purpose. In the eleventh 
book of Paradise Lost Michael takes Adam up to a high hill, 
and sets before him a vision of events until the time of the 
flood. In the twelfth book the course of events is continued 
until the time of Abraham. At this point the vision ceases, and 
Michael explains to Adam Christ's mission 1 on earth. 

In closing the study of the political prophecy in England 
a few words should be said by way of summary. Between the 
years 1120 and 1135 Geoffrey of Monmouth introduced into 
England a new type of literature, the political prophecy which 
he got by translating some prophecies of Merlin from the 
Welsh. The kind of prophecy he introduced, the Galfridian, 
was characterized by an unusual kind of animal-symbolism, 
which continued to be its most marked peculiarity even to its 
latest days. Geoffrey had countless successors each of whom 
used the type to suit his own purposes. Some wrote prophe 
cies as literary exercises; others wrote them as political 
propaganda. In both literature and politics the influ 
ence was far-reaching. In literature, for instance, they 
produced the conventions of using heraldic symbols for men 
and their families, and of introducing prophecies into romantic 
and religious epics. In politics their influence if not directly 

* Ariosto, Orlando Furioso, Canto III, stanza 17 f. 



133 

responsible for countless rebellions and insurrections at least 
was a potent factor. This influence was exerted from the 
twelfth century even to the middle of the seventeenth century. 
Although other types of prophecy such as the Sibyllic, the 
direct, and the rhetorical were used the Galfridian was always 
predominant. In the course of time the English people began 
to outgrow this superstitious confidence in prophecies, and the 
type naturally declined. Parodies, burlesques, satires, and 
adverse laws became abundant, until the Galfridian type dis 
appeared. Prophecies continued to be written after the year 
1700, but they observed other forms and other conventions. 



CHAPTER SIX 

THE GALFRIDIAN PROPHECY IN OTHER COUNTRIES THAN 

ENGLAND 

The history of the political prophecy in England has been 
discussed, and the existence of vaticinal literature on the Con 
tinent before 1135 has been shown. It is now time to study 
the Continental prophecies after 1135. The English Galfridian 
type spread to other countries and maintained itself there side 
by side with the native Sibyllic type. It became known to 
the people of Western Europe through quotations and trans 
lations of The Book of Merlin and grew so popular that they 
accepted Merlin as their own and attributed purely local 
prophecies to him. They early adopted the type itself and 
wrote prophecies attributed to other prophets than Merlin but 
conforming to conventions of the type. The wealth of material 
supplied by this part of the subject is embarrassing, for only a 
brief survey is possible here. In presenting the material the 
quotations and translations of The Book of Merlin will be 
discussed, then the local prophecies attributed to Merlin, and 
lastly those written according to the Galfridian method. This 
discussion will be followed by general observations on the 
history of the type on the Continent. 

Merlin's reputation as a prophet was not long confined to 
England. His prototype, Ambrosius, whose name was com 
bined with his own, had long been known through the work of 
Nennius. The story of the white and red dragons must 
have been familiar to readers in Western Europe long before 
Geoffrey produced The Book of Merlin or the Historia. The 
name Merlino^ was known in Italy as early as the late eleventh 
century. It is not certain that Geoffrey was the first to as 
sociate Merlin with the Arthurian story. Godfrey of Viterbo 2 

1 See note 42, Chapter 2. 

2 Note 44, Chapter 2. 

134 



135 

gives a version of the story that differs in many ways from 
Geoffrey's, and makes Merlin a participant in the action. It 
would seem that there was in existence another form of the 
story, independent of Geoffrey's, and that it must have served 
as the source of Godfrey's version. At any rate, Western 
Europe was to some extent prepared to receive the prophecies 
contained in The Book of Merlin, especially since they were 
combined with the familiar dragon-story. It is a significant 
fact, furthermore, that the earliest notice of The Book of 
Merlin comes not from an English but from a Continental 
source. 

Merlin and his prophecies were known in Normandy as 
early as H35- 3 By the end of the century, however, The Book 
of Merlin had penetrated to Central France, and was respect 
fully received by statesmen, scholars, and chroniclers alike. 
Fragments from it were often quoted either in the original 
Latin or in translation. Alanus de Insulis 4 knew it at first 
hand before 1179. Geoffrey de Bruil in his Chronicle, written 
c. 1183, quotes as a ' Vaticinium Ambrosii Merlini' the passage 
relating to the Eagle, 5 and says that it was thought to have been 
fulfilled in the marriage of Matilda with Henry the Fifth of 
Germany. Suger, the eminent statesman and minister of 
Louis the Seventh, in his biography of this king 6 quotes at 
length from the Lion-of- Justice passage, ending with the 
Nesting of the Eagle. He calls Merlin veracious, and says 
that not one word of the prophecy has proved untrue. In the 
next century William Brito 7 quotes the passage concerning 
' the Lynx penetrating all things,' and applies it to King John. 
This author refers to the passage regarding the taxes of 

3 Chapter i. How much earlier than 1135 they were known is uncertain. 
The last event narrated by Odericus before he quotes from the prophecies 
is the death of Duke Robert Curthose, in February, 1134. 

* See Chapter 4. 

"Geoffrey de Bruil, Chronicle, Pertz, Mon. G. H. XXVI, 201 f. c. 43. 
The passage quoted runs, ' Aquila ejus super Aramnum nidificabit.' (Giles, 

122.} 

6 Suger, Oeuvres Completes. Ed. A. Le Coy de la Marche, Paris 1867, 

P. 54 * 

''Chronicle. Ed. H. Francois Delaborde, Paris, 1882 (Soc. de I'Hist. 
Franc.}, p. 293. 



136 

Henry the First. Geoffrey's Latin reads, "In diebus illis 
dwum ex lilio et urtica extorquebitur, et argentum ex ungulis 
mugientum manabit" William writes, 8 

" Olim dominabitur Anglis 
Argento urticas et lilia qui spoliabit." 

Alberic Trium Fontium quotes twice the passage relating to 
the ' favor of newcomers.' In Italy in the thirteenth century 
Salimbene refers to the passage relating to the Goat and the 
Castle of Venus. His words are, " Surget yrcus Veneri castri, 
qui alienum gallum abiciet, federabitur aquilcmi, colligabit 
sibi aquilam" 9 The passage in the Historia runs, " Succedet 
hircus Venerei castri aurea hob ens cornua, et argent earn bar- 
bam" Nothing is said of the Cock or Eagle. A passage 
from The Giraldian Collection relating to the murder of Becket, 
'the son shall slay the father in the womb of the mother/ 
is quoted by Baldwin Ninovensis 10 and Philip Mouskes. 11 

In Italy the record is not so clear, but indirect evidence 
leads to the conclusion that the Book of Merlin must have 
been known there during the latter part of the twelfth century. 
The dragon-story was known, and Merlin's name associated 
with it, as Godfrey of Viterbo's account shows. Joachim of 
Fiore 12 was said by Salimbene to have made in 1196 an 
exposition of the prophecies of the Sibyl and Merlin. These 
Dicta Merlini, if ever written, have been lost. Italians of the 
twelfth century, however, had every opportunity of knowing 
the Galfridian collection, especially after Alanus had written 
his elaborate commentary. It is quite within the range of 
possibility that members of Richard the First's crusading army 
spread the prophecies or news of them during their stay in 
Southern Italy. Information concerning them may have come 
in from Provence where they were certainly known early in 

8 Philippidos. Book VIII, 1. 906, ed. ibid., Paris, '1885, p. 244. 

9 N. A., vol. 15, 175. 

10 Chronicon in Corpus Chronicorum Flandriae, ed. J. J. de Smeo, 2 vols., 
vol. 2, Brussels, 1841, p. 712. 

11 Mouskes. Chronique ed. Le Baron de Reiffenberg, 2 vols., Brussells, 
1836-38, Vol. II, p. 260. 

u Holder-Egger, Neues Archiv d. Gesch. f. alter, d. Gesch., 15. 



137 

the next century. 13 Evidence abounds for the thirteenth cen 
tury although the present writer has found no quotations from 
Geoffrey's collection in Italian writers. Prophecies ascribed 
to Merlin are frequent. Many prophecies answering the re 
quirements of the Galfridian type are found. Merlin himself 
was quoted in disputes as having equal authority with Daniel 
and Isaiah. 

The evidence for Germany is even scantier. Godfrey of 
Viterbo may have spread some knowledge of Merlin and the 
prophecies during his residence there, but this is merely a possi 
bility. The commentary on The Book of Merlin by Alanus de 
Insulis may have helped, since Alanus was a famous scholar and 
his works may reasonably be supposed to have interested other 
scholars in Western Europe. The redactors of the Chronicle 
of Alberic Trium Fontium knew at least the two prophetic 
fragments quoted therein. 14 Richard of Ireland, a member of 
Frederic the Second's court, produced some Prophecies of 
Merlin, which, however, have no relation to Geoffrey's Col 
lection. They concern Italian affairs, and were probably 
written in Italy, not in Germany. 

Interest in Merlin was not confined to the Continent. 15 The 

13 Chronicle of the Albigensian War, asc. to William of Tudela, ed. 
Paul Meyer, 2 vols. ; Paris, 1879, v l 2 > P- J 93 n - 

"Pertz. Mon. Ger. Hist., XXIII, 631-950, under the years 1136, 1138. 

15 The early manuscripts containing the Historia with the Prophecies in 
the Seventh Book or the Prophecies separate from the Historia are widely 
scattered. Of twenty-eight manuscripts of the Historia (Hardy T. D. 
Descriptive Catalogue of Materials Relating to the History of Great 
Britain and Ireland to the end of the reign of Henry Vlllth. R. S., 1862, 
London, vol. i, p. 341 f.) dating from the twelfth century two are 
found in the Library of the cole de Medicine at Montpellier, one in the 
Library at Lille, one in the Christiana Library of the Vatican, one in the 
Laurentian Library in Florence, and one in the Monastery of Saint Mary 
in Florence. Of twenty-nine manuscripts of the Historia belonging to 
the thirteenth century six are in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, one 
belongs to the Library of St. Genev'eve in the same city, one is in the 
Vatican, one in Berne, one in Brussels, and one in Stockholm. Hardy 
mentions only a few manuscripts that contain the Prophecies alone. 
He shows two of the thirteenth century and one of the fourteenth cen 
tury in the Bibliotheque Nationale. These manuscripts doubtless have 



138 

Book of Merlin made its way to Iceland very early, and 
was translated into Icelandic by Gunnlaug Leifson, who died 
in 1218 or I2I9. 16 This Icelandic translation brings up the 
question of other translations of The Book of Merlin. The 
various redactors of the Historia omitted the prophecies be 
cause they could make nothing of them. Wace spoke for all 
when he wrote after the account of the dragon : 17 

" Done dist Merlins les profesies 
Que vous aves sovent oies 
Des rois, qui a venir estoient 
Qui la terre tenir devoient. 
Ne voil son livre translater, 
Quant jo nel' sai entepreter; 
Nule rien dire ne volroie 
Qu' essi ne fu com jo diroie.' m 

The prophecies are not found in the Arthurian Romances, 
not even in the Romance of Merlin\, where one would most 
expect them to occur. The Merlinusspa, as the Icelandic ver 
sion is called, is a poem inserted in the Bretasogur, but it is 
older than the context in which it occurs. 19 It consists of two 
parts, the first containing the fourth chapter of Geoffrey's 
second book, the second answering to Geoffrey's third chapter. 
"The first four strophes of what ought to be Part II rein- 
troduce Merlin, as if he was quite unknown to the reader; 
and this perhaps led Hauk Erlendsson to consider it as 
Part I." 20 

Geoffrey's Prophecies of Merlin were translated into Bour- 

not been in these libraries ever since the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, 
but in all probability some of them reached the various countries shortly 
after they are written. 

19 Ward, loc. cit., i, 304. 

17 Wace, Roman de Brut, 1. 7729 f. Ed. Le Roux de Lincy, 2 vols., 
Rouen, 1836. 

18 The prophecies were turned into Anglo-French and inserted into 
some mss. of Wace, as in a ms. belonging to Mr. D'Arcy Hutton. 
(Societe des Anciens Textes Frangais, Bulletin, 1882.) 

19 Eugen Mogk, Paul's Grundriss, 1909, 2, i, 2, p. 711; H. G. Leach, De 
Libello Merlini, Modern Philology, vol. VIII, p. 607 f. Leach thinks that 
Lincoln may have served as the point of exchange. 

20 Ward, i, 305. 



139 

bon French in the fifteenth century by Jehan Wauquelin, or 
Waurin, of Mons. Waurin made at the request of his nephew, 
Waleran de Mons, a collection of the chronicles of England, 
and began his work by translating Geoffrey's Historia. 2i He 
says in the General Prolog that he determined about the year 
1455 to undertake the work, and to bring it down to the 
coronation of King Henry the Fifth. 22 The Collection of 
Chronicles is divided into five volumes, of two or more books 
each, and each book into several chapters. The whole of 
Geoffrey's seventh book is contained in three chapters, begin 
ning with the fifty-fifth, of the second book of the first volume. 
After translating the Prolog and the Epistle, Waurin inter 
jects a few remarks of his own. He says : 

" What marvel then that I, feeble and dark through the obscuration of 
the flesh, which binds and oppresses my faculties, and increases the dul- 
ness of my poor and idle intellect, should put forward my excuses, most 
legitimate, when apologies are offered by this high Latinist, whose thoughts 
glow with harmonious colours and with golden words of Tullian splen 
dour, his rhetorical excellence making my talent shrink as does the eye 
before the solar ray, covering itself with its lids. By ambiguous ecstacy, 
yea and the suspended construction of the sentences, and especially in 
those prophecies where Merlin gives his meaning by poetic fiction and 
under a metaphorical covering, which are unintelligible to my under 
standing, and invisible through the opacity of my body, for they exceed 
its capacity, and then by stronger reason it is very difficult to expound 
them in appropriate French, as the abundant and ready eloquence neces 
sary is not given me. But, nevertheless, my native Bourbon language, 
though rude, shall well suffice, please God, to make known, as best I can, 
the sense of the author, explaining it where it is obscure, more largely 
than his words suffice to convey the meaning. And even as regards those 
prophecies where the sense is obscured by a metaphorical and fallacious 

21 Edited with a translation by William Hardy, R. S., 1864. 

22 Hardy printed from a fifteenth century manuscript in the Imperial 
Library at Paris, now in the Bibliotheque Nationale. According to a 
statement made at the close of a manuscript in the British Museum 
(Ward I, 251) the work was begun on July 25, 1445, at the request of 
Monsieur de Croy. This seems to have contained only the translation of 
the Historia and may therefore have been an earlier work. The continu 
ation to the time of Henry the Fifth may have been begun in 1455 as the 
French manuscript says. But the statement at the close of the English 
manuscript may have been made by the scribe on his own authority. 
Ward makes no mention of Hardy's edition of the whole work. 



140 

covering, I will explain them in easy and intelligible French, according 
to the extent of the faculty of my small intellect, by clear and distinct 
exposition ; wherefore I pray all those who may read this book, that if 
they find in it anything badly said they will pardon it, and for what is 
good they will give God the praise." 23 

In dealing with the prophecies Waurin translates an episode, 
and then expounds it. He does not interpret any episode 
after the Conquest in the light of history. His explanations 
are usually childish, ludicrous, or absurd. 24 He moralizes at 
every opportunity. His rendering of his original in some 
places indicates that he used a text different in minor details 
from that printed by Giles. For instance, he translates the 
beginning of the Lion-of- Justice episode, " The lion shall suc 
ceed to the leopard of gladness, through whose roaring the 
Gallic towers and the barons of the isles shall tremble." Later 
he speaks of this Lion as the Lion of Justice. The Leopard 
of Gladness is not mentioned in Giles's text. The latter also 
reads ' dragons of the isles ' which Waurin may have deliber 
ately changed in his translation in order to save the trouble of 
interpreting it. He makes Sextus a foreign chief from Ire 
land, who has the character of a Lynx. The successor of the 
Lion of Justice he makes the old man of Periron. Similar 
divergences occur throughout. 

No other translations of The Book of Merlin have been 
found in the course of this study, though some may exist. Col 
lections of prophecies attributed to Merlin are rather frequent, 
but one must see them before he can know what they contain. 
For instance, one large collection, which will be discussed later, 
was made up on the Continent and translated into several 
languages, but it has nothing in common with The Book of 
Merlin. The same is true of the Romance of Merlin. What 
the fifteenth century German " Bearbeitung " of Merlin 25 con 
tained does not appear from the brief description of it. 

By the end of the twelfth century Merlin's fame as a prophet 
had become universal in Western Europe and The Book of 
Merlin was known either through quotations or by general 

^Hardy, trans., vol. i, p. 200. 

24 Cf. his explanation of the Damsel of the Damneian Forest. 

25 Greith, Spicilegium Vaticanum, p. 86. 



141 

repute. France and Italy adopted him, and attributed to him 
prophecies relating to local affairs. This was the second step 
in the spread of the influence of the Galfridian prophecy which 
had arisen in England, the domestication of the type in foreign 
countries. 

In France the evidence consists mainly of single sentences 
quoted by chroniclers or by other writers. Mouskes 26 quotes 
or alludes to two; one is to the effect that the Lord of Hal 
berdiers would die at Martiaus, which was accomplished in the 
death of Henry, the son of Henry the Second: the other says 
that at Limoges should be forged the chain with which the 
tyrant coming from England should be chained, a prophecy 
which was supposedly accomplished in the death of Richard 
the Second at Limoges. Johannes Longus in the Chronicle of 
St. Bertin 27 quotes a prophecy of Merlin that the upright lion 
should die on Monteveltris. This was applied to the death of 
King Louis in 1226. Another French prophecy attributed to 
Merlin in the thirteenth century occurs in Regits d'un Menes- 
tral de Reims. 28 It declared that two Lions of France should 
die at Montpensier. 

During the thirteenth century a French version of the 
prophecies of Merlin was produced. According to a statement 
in the manuscript they were translated from the Latin by 
Richard of Ireland. After Richard had begun his work, 
Frederick the Second had occasion to test the truth of the 
prophecies, and, finding them true, encouraged him to continue 
his work. In the French manuscript they follow the Roman 
de Merlin?* According to Ward's description 30 of a version in 
an English manuscript^ the prophecies are scattered among 
chivalrous romances. The origin of the Latin source for this 

26 Philip Mouskes, ed. Reiffenberg, Brussells, 1836-38, 2 vols. ; vol. 2, 
p. 272, 312. 

27 Johannis Iperii, Chronicon St. Bertini, XLVI, part 21, in Martene and 
Durand Thesaurus Novus, Tome III, Paris, 1717, c. 207. 

28 Remits d'un Menestral de Reims. Nalatis de Waelles. Paris, 1876 
(Soc. de 1'Hist. Fran.), p. 174. 

29 Les Manuscripts Francois de la Bibliotheque du Roi. Ed. Paris, vol. I, 
Paris, 1836, p. 129 f. 

30 Ward I, 371 f. 



142 

translation seems unknown. It served as the basis of a larger 
collection which appears in French and Italian, and which was 
very frequently printed in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. 
This collection for convenience will henceforth be called The 
Continental Collection. Discussion of it, however, must be 
postponed to another paragraph. Froissart may have referred 
to it when he wrote that a prophecy relating to a coming 
savior of France was to be found in the thirty-eighth chapter 
of Merlin's prophecies. 31 

One thing is clear. Merlin was well known as a prophet 
in France during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. 
Deschamps in a ballade, Contre FAngleterre, 32 written in 
1385, names Merlin with Bede and the Sibyl as having 
prophesied a French victory over the English. The prophe 
cies of Merlin were said to have been consulted by Du Guesc- 
lin before the battle of Auray. 33 

If the local French material attributed to Merlin is some 
what scanty, evidence of Merlin's influence in Italy is 
abundant. Italians adopted the Welsh prophet as their own, 
and placed him in their esteem among the prophets of estab 
lished reputations. In a dispute that occurred in 1248 at the 
Minorite convent at Hyeres between Hugh of Bariol and Peter 
of Apulia, Hugh quoted Merlin's prophecies as of equal weight 
with Isaiah's. 34 When Peter objected, saying that it was 
wrong to quote Merlin, an unbeliever, Hugh exclaimed : " You 
lie, and I can prove it. Does the Church reject the prophecies 
of Balaam, or Elihu, or Caiaphas, or the Sibyl, or Merlin, or 
Methodius? Good things must not be scorned, even though 
they come from a bad teacher." 

The exposition of Merlin's prophecies which Salimbene said 
was made by Joachim of Fiore has been mentioned earlier in 
this chapter. Prophecies ascribed to Merlin were common 

31 Chroniqueurs et Trouveres Beiges, Brussels, 1869, 8, 418. 

32 Deschamps, Oeuvres Completes. Ed. Marquis de Queux de St. Hilaire, 
vol. i, Paris, 1878, p. 106. 

^Pradiere, La Bretagne Poetique, Paris, 1872, p. 93. 

34 T. L. Kington, History of Frederick the Second, vol. 2, London, 1862, 
p. 477, quoting Salimbene. Referred to by Ward, loc. cit. i, 372. 



143 

enough in the thirteenth century. The Verba Merlini, which 
were quoted by Hugh of Bariol, are at least as early as 1248. 
They are short, and relate to Frederick the First, Henry the 
Sixth, and Frederick the Second. The emperors are desig 
nated by their initials according to the Sibyllic method. 
Animal names occur, but they are more metaphors than vati- 
cinal symbols. Frederick the First is described as 'in pills 
agnus, in villis leo'; Frederick the Second as 'inter capras 
agnus laniandus 3 \ a son of his is promised he shall be a 
1 leo rugiens ' among his brothers. Thomas of Pavia 36 
quotes another prophecy of Merlin concerning Henry the 
Sixth, but it has not been found in any collection attributed 
to Merlin. Salimbene quotes at length the Versus Merlini, 
a poem sixty lines long and containing predictions on various 
Italian cities. So far as can be determined from the ten lines 
quoted by Holder-Egger, the prophecies contained in the Ver 
sus were not Galfridian. 

Genuinely Galfridian is the Profetia Merlini beginning post 
galli fugam, which dates from the late thirteenth century. 38 
The action begins with the flight of the Cock into France 
(galli fugam in Galliam). A city known by the name of its 
river grows proud, and is besieged; all Liguria trembles; the 
Dragon is attacked ; Emilia is brought to her former weakness. 
Then a Wicked Boar departs, slaying some of his captives, 
and taking others with him. His Chick (pullus), born of a 
concubine, is captured, and put in prison in the Nest of Phi 
losophers. This seems to bring on a general war. The Cock 
returns, and temporary peace is made. But war is renewed in 
which the Cock, the Lion, the Asp, the Wolf, C, a Bull, a 
Goat, a Fox, a Mare, and a Lamb, all seem to take part. 

Similar to this is the Profezia Merlini inventa et rescripta a 
quodam antiquo libra which is found in a fifteenth century 
manuscript. According to it there should come from the dis- 

35 Holder-Egger, Neues Archiv, 30; 379; ibid., 15; 175. 
38 Pertz, Scriptores Rerum Germaniae, Thomas Tuscus, XXII, 515. Re 
ferred to by Holder-Egger. 

37 Holder-Egger, N. A., 30 ; 378 f. 

38 Sanesi, supra, p. cv, printing from Cod. Laurenz., Pent. XVIII, sin. 
89 Kampers, 151. 



144 

tant mountains a Lion with a forked tail, who had wedded an 
Eagle. He should call to his assistance a swift Forest Leopard. 
A Bear, a Wolf, several Dogs, and a Fox all join in the action, 
which seems confined to Lombardy, centering around Milan 
and Verona. A note interprets the Lion as Robert of Naples. 

Three prophecies in Italian are found in manuscripts 40 
written at Florence in 1442 according to a statement made at 
the end of each. Two deal with the same material, one being 
a longer and more complete version than the other. Both are 
said to have been delivered by Merlin to Master Anthony, who 
wrote them down. The third is said to have been dictated to 
Master Basil. All three are in dialog form; the scribes put 
questions, and the sage makes his prophecies in answer to them. 
Galfridian symbols are used in all. In the longer of the 
Anthony prophecies the explanation of each symbol follows it 
in brackets, and a key to all is added at the end of the proph 
ecy. Here the Cock represents the Pope, the Lion Florence, 
the Prancing Horse Arezzo, the Panther (Pantera) Lucca, the 
Wolf Sienna, the Bear Pistoia, the Wild Goose Orvieto, the 
Panther (Lonza) Paris, the Viper Tuscany, the Leopard 
Viterbo, the Unicorn Lamagna, the Tail of the Black Eagle the 
nobles of Rome, and the Elephant Rome herself. In form 
these prophecies resemble very much the Continental Collection, 
and may perhaps occur in it. They contain references to the 
Champion, who also appears in the Collection. 

Before going further it is well to review here the Continental 
prophecies of the twelfth century, in order that one may see 
clearly how new the Galfridian form was to Western Europe. 
The chief pieces of vaticinal literature then current were the 
Book of Methodius, various versions of the Last-King-of-Rome 
story, and the Prophecy of Sibyl Tiburtina, in which the details 
did not remain constant. The general method of all these 
prophecies was the Sibyllic initial-reference. If animal names 
occurred, they were used as metaphors, and not as Galfridian 
vatic symbols. The Sibyl's repute was widespread. Proph 
ecies were freely attributed to her in the various countries. 

In Germany the Sibyllic tradition lingered long, and found 

40 Sanesi, cvi f. 



145 

expression as late as the fourteenth century in the Sibillen 
Boich* 1 This is a poem of a thousand and forty lines, which 
combines the stories of the Queen of Sheba and of the Holy 
Rood. The first part deals with the history of the Rood Tree 
from the time of its planting on Adam's grave until the 
building of Solomon's Temple, at which time the Tree was 
used as a bridge. The second part tells of the Sibyl's visit 
to Solomon. Coming once to this bridge, she turned aside 
and waded the stream, whereupon as a reward for her 
consideration her web foot was changed to a human foot. 
When asked by Solomon why she refused to cross the bridge, 
she gave him the history of the Tree until the Crucifixion. The 
third part contains Solomon's questions and her prophetic 
answers, and gives a history of the world to the Judgment. 
Some manuscripts contain here an interpolation, written in true 
Sibyllic method of initial-reference, which narrates briefly the 
history of Germany from the time of Emperor Adolf, 1298, 
to Charles the Fourth, 1349. Vogt 42 thinks the poem written 
before the time of Charles whose name he considers an interpo 
lation in the prophecy. In an earlier version victory is promised 
to Frederick of Austria. This must have been written before 
the latter's defeat in 1322. In the Chronik des Stiftes S. Simon 
und Judas 4 * of the thirteenth century reference is made to a 
prophecy of a Sibyl that there should come a king who should 
rule the Roman Empire like a fox, possess it like a lion, and 
guard it like a dog. The old Prophecy of Sibyl Tiburtina dealt 
to some extent with the German Emperors to Henry the Sixth, 
and belongs to the twelfth century. Still earlier than this Otto 
of Freising had quoted in his Chromcon* 4 the celebrated 
acrostic of the Sibyl, and had added to his account of it the 
statement that the Sibyl was said to have prophesied the 
Trojan War. 

Local Galfridian material in Germany is scarce. What the 

41 L. Schade, Geistliche Gedichte, Hanover, 1854, P ' 2 9 J f- 

42 Vogt, Ueber Sibyllen Weissagungen, Beitr'dge zur Geschichte deutschen 
Sprache und Literatur, vol. 4, Halle, 1877, p. 48 f. 

43 L. Weiland in Monumenta Germanica Historica, Deutsche Chroniken 
11, paragraph 1 3. 

** In Scriptores Rerum Germaniae, Hanover, 1867, p. 65. 
11 



146 

Bearbeitung, previously referred to, contains, the present writer 
does not know. The prophecy said to have been sent to Ger 
many by Cardinal John of Toledo contained Galfridian 
symbols. The Lion of France represented Charles of Anjou, 
the Eagle's Chick Conradin, and the Branch from the Root 
Frederick of Antioch. Another prophecy, found in the Chronik 
Ebensdorfers, 45 seems to be another version of the same 
material. The Lion, the Eagle, the Eagle's Chick, a Leopard, 
and the Branch from the Root appear in it. The final victory 
is promised the Branch (here, however, Radix ex radice) who 
seems to represent Frederick of Austria. Doubtless other 
material exists. The piece which was described in the second 
chapter of this study as A Prophecy of the German Emperors 
is sometimes attributed to Saint Hildegard, and considered a 
German prophecy. 46 Her death in 1178 gives an approximate 
date for it, if it be considered hers. 

In France, as was shown in the second chapter of this study, 
prophecies were attributed to the Sibyl from an early date. 
Fredegarius quoted one concerning Brunehild. Sedulius made 
a collection of the Sibyl's prophecies. The Book of Methodius 
was known through a Latin translation. An interpolation into 
Adso's De Anti-Crist o brought Frenchmen into contact with 
the C., or Constans, Prophecy that the last King should 
bear the name Constans or a name beginning with C. 
Kampers 47 says that this prophecy was applied to Charles Con- 
stantine, the son of Louis the Blind, and shows that the Sibyl 
Tiburtina named the descendants of Boso of Aries after Louis. 
The Sibyl's repute was established. Deschamps names her 
with Bede and Merlin in the ballade, Contre I'Angleterre, as a 
prophet of indisputed authority. A prophecy on French affairs 
entitled L'Epistre de Sibille, was written in the fourteenth 
century. 48 It begins, however, in good Galfridian fashion, " la 
lupart en assaillant la roiaume de France!' A prophecy on 
Henry the Fourth was attributed to the Sibyl, but although it 

45 Kampers, 128. 
^Vogt, loc. cit., p. 93. 
" Kampers, p. 45 f. 
48 Ward, I, 222. 



147 

does not contain Galfridian symbols, it is not written according 
to the genuine Sibyllic method of initial-reference. 

The French do not seem to have been so deeply interested in 
prophecies as the English and the Italians until rather late; at 
least, the evidence that shows interest is somewhat scanty. 
According to this evidence the writing of prophecies in the 
Sibyllic method did not survive the twelfth century in France. 
L'Epistre de Sibille is really a Galfridian prophecy. In fact, 
the French seem to have adopted the Galfridian method exclu 
sively when they wished to use symbols. The fragmentary 
thirteenth century prophecies of the Lion who should die at 
Montveltris, and of the two Lions who should die at Montpen- 
sier have been referred to earlier in this chapter. They con 
form to the Galfridian type. The prophecies of the cerf volant 
and the dne pesant, quoted by Deschamps 49 are additional 
examples. The Prophetic d'Orval, written in 1544 by Phillip 
Olivarius, spoke of the Eagle, the White Flower, the Cock, and 
the Lion. The Prophecy of St. Cezaire, found in the Mirabilis 
Liber, treated among other things of a Black Eagle and a Lion 
from a Far Country. The Prophecies of Merlin speak of a 
Bird to be hatched in a tree, a Beast from the deserts of Baby 
lon, and a Fish from the River Jordan. Nostradamus in his 
Centuries used animal symbols very freely. 

In Italy the Sibyllic tradition, which had always been very 
strong, produced The Prophecy of Sibyl Tiburtina, which is 
chiefly concerned with Italian affairs. It was re-written or 
continued from time to time, one continuation extending to the 
time of Godfrey of Viterbo in the late twelfth century. The 
stories of the other Sibyls were never forgotten. When a fresh 
impulse was given to vaticinal writing by the coming of Geof 
frey's Merlin, new prophecies were written and attributed to 
other Sibyls. Throughout the Middle Ages and well into the 
Renaissance, the Sibyl, or Sibyls, was held in high repute, and 
prophecies attributed to some Sibyl were printed. It has 
already been shown that Hugh of Bariol referred to the Sibyl 
as being received by the Church as a genuine prophet. 

*Oeuvres Completes, I, 164; II, 57~58. 

50 Published as a part of the Bibliotheque de Romans, Paris, 1775. 



148 

Among the new prophecies written after the advent of 
Merlin, the Prophecy of Sibyl Erithrea?'*- holds an important 
place. It, however, continued the Sibyllic tradition only in its 
name ; in the treatment of its material it is genuinely Galfridian. 
According to Salimbene it is the Expositio Sibille written in 
1196 by Joachim of Fiore at the request of the Emperor Henry 
the Sixth, and dedicated to him. This cannot be quite true, 
for internal evidence shows that it must have been written in 
the second half of the thirteenth century during the civil wars 
attending the extinction of the Hohenstaufen dynasty. Need 
less to say, it is the work of the Minorites in Italy who foisted 
it on the dead Joachim. He had dedicated to the Emperor 
Henry an Exposition of the Apocalypse. 

According to a caption at the beginning, the Prophecy of 
Sibyl Erithrea was taken from the Vasilographos (the Imperial 
Book), which Sibyl Erithrea of Babylon made at the request of 
the Greeks during the Trojan War, and which Vedoxa trans 
lated from Chaldaic into Greek. A certain Eugenius of Sicily 
then translated it from the Greek into Latin. It begins, " You 
ask me, Illustrious People of the Greeks, to commit to writing 
the Greek fortunes and the Phrygian disasters, and what Fate 
has in store for the noble progeny of Laomedon, the excellent 
leader Dioneus, and the House of Teucer, and the young 
woman in dispute." 52 The Sibyl grants the request, and pro 
ceeds to tell the history of the world from the Fall of Troy to 
the Judgment. Animal symbols are freely used. But a new 
convention is adopted, perhaps at a suggestion from The Book 
of Daniel. The number of years allotted a ruler is shown by 
the number of feet attributed to the animal which stands as a 
symbol for him. 

After mentioning the heroes of the Trojan War, the proph 
ecy treats briefly the career of Alexander the Great, calling 
him the Goat, perhaps at a suggestion from The Book of Daniel. 
Hannibal is then mentioned, and the rise of Rome told. 

51 Holder-Egger, N. A., 15, p. 146 f. 

63 Exquritis me, o illustrissima turba Danaum, quatinus Graios eventus 
Frigiasque ruinas in scriptis referam, quidve proli Laumedontidi nobillis- 
sime : quid Dioneo duci pollitissimo, quid Teucricis edibus iuvenceque liti- 
gii predestinatum existat. 



149 

Pompey and Caesar are called Lions, Augustus the Peaceful 
Bull. The next event mentioned is the establishment of the 
Church by Constantine. It is told thus : " But the days shall 
come in which the virtue of cleansing will be shown in the 
waters, and a royal Lion (Constantine) shall be changed into 
a Lamb who will enlighten the world and overthrow king 
doms. A Cock, sitting on a few eggs (Pope Sylvester), shall 
be clothed in the spoil of the Lion, and black shall be changed 
into red." The transfer of the Empire to Constantinople is 
then mentioned, and the history of the Comnenian dynasty 
told. The narrative is occasionally broken by references to 
Charlemagne, Frederick the First, and Constantia of Sicily, 
the wife of Henry the Sixth. Attention is then given to 
Frederick the Second, and the narrative continues with the 
history of Italy under him and his descendants. The commen 
tary breaks off with Conrad the Fourth, erroneously called 
Conrad the Second. 

This version is rather long. A shorter one 53 was made by 
the followers of Joachim, called Joachites by Holder-Egger, 
perhaps by Hugh of Die who Salimbene says was interested in 
these prophecies. After the introduction, it begins with the 
establishment of Christianity, and follows the longer version 
with some omission and much condensation. The phrasing is 
often very different from that of the longer Prophecy. 

Salimbene quotes a Prophecy of the Sibyl Samia. 5 * This is 
very short and indefinite in its statements. "A young Lion 
shall arise and seek the mountain peaks. He shall be joined by 
a Fox, and be clad in the skin of a Leopard." It ends, " Honor 
shall be turned into shame, and the joy of many into sorrow." 

The Galfridian method is used to some extent in the Proph^- 
ecy of Michael Scotus. 55 This is a Latin poem of eighty-seven 
lines, which attempts to tell the history of various cities in 
Northern Italy. Serpents, vipers, dragons, the Cub of Verona, 
and a Griffin take part in the action. Most of the prophecy, 
however, is direct. The symbols occur only in passages of one 
or two lines. 

63 N cues Archiv, 30, 523. 
**Neues Archiv, 15, 177. 
66 Neues Archiv, 30, 358 f. 



150 

Other prophecies dealing with Italian affairs belong to the 
Galfridian type. One 56 relates to a Northern Eagle who should 
come into Liguria, and build there his nest. At the same time 
there should be two Husbands, one the Lawful, the other the 
Adulterous. At the Eagle's coming the Lawful Husband 
should flee, and not be found. Then a Gallic Lion should rise 
against the Eagle, and strike his head, whence a great war 
should arise. The Lawful Husband should return, and place 
the Lion in his kingdom, thus restoring peace. 

Another prophecy 57 tells of a Griffin born in France, who 
should come into the East dragging a long tail. The Emperor 
should find a Viper among the Caverns. The Leopard should 
arise with the Eagle of the North, and a general war should 
follow, in which the Leopard should be the victor. The spirit 
of this prophecy seems to be Anti-Papal, for the Church is 
called ' pars diabolica quae Ecclesia vocdbltur! 

It is now time to take up the question of the Continental 
Collection of Merlin's Prophecies. This Collection had ap 
peared first in the thirteenth century in French by Richard of 
Ireland, who was said to have translated it from the Latin 
at the request of Frederick the Second. According to a state 
ment in the French manuscript it was first in Latin, and was 
then translated into French by Richard of Ireland. Sanesi, 58 
however, insists that these prophecies are not to be considered 
French material at all, saying that they are Italian in author 
ship, place of composition, and contents. All this is quite true, 
for they were produced at Frederick the Second's court, by his 
secretary. According to a fifteenth century manuscript in 
Italian, 59 Richard translated the Prophecies while in Catania, 
and sent a French version to the King of France, a Saracen, or 
Arabic, version to the Sultan of Babylon, and the Latin version 
to the Pope. It is impossible to determine anything about the 
original. The Collection seems to have existed only in the 
French form until 1379 when it was translated from the 
French, according to a statement in the Italian version, into 

69 J. Wolf, Lectionum, I, 602. 

57 J. Wolf, Lectionum, I, 602. 

58 Sanesi, Iviii. 

59 Sanesi, xli. 



151 

Italian from a book belonging to Piero di Giorgio Delfino. 60 
The earliest printed edition was the Italian version, published 
at Venice in 1840. The French version was published twice 
in 1498 at Paris. A Spanish version was published at Burgos 
in the same year. 61 

The French collection published in I526 62 is a medley of 
material of all sorts. The prophecies contained in it resemble 
only slightly and in very few instances those found in Geof 
frey's Historia. The compiler seems to have worked from 
some original, for constant references are made to it, such as 
"le compte dit." The prophecies quoted at various places in 
the prose Romance of Merlin seem to belong to this cycle. 
The Collection begins with a piece of narrative in which it is 
shown that Merlin is in Galicia in the room of Master Tholo- 
mer, and that he is reflecting. Tholomer begins to ask ques 
tions. " Of what are you thinking so long? " he asks. Merlin 
replies, " I am thinking of the countries that shall be in the 
world 1277 after the birth of Christ." 64 He then speaks of the 
corruptness of the world, and prophesies the approach of Anti- 
Christ, who is always called the Dragon, or the Dragon of 
Babylon. This prophecy for 1277 is immediately followed by 
one for 1489. No respect is had for chronology. Prophecies 
of all kinds and of all countries are loosely jumbled together, 
and crammed into the book. The prophetic strain is frequently 
interrupted by long pieces of narrative, of which some relate 
to the careers of Merlin, Tholomer, and Antony, and others 
are really romances of chivalry, something like the episodes in 
Malory's Mort D' Arthur. 

The material embodied in this Collection was not absolutely 
unknown during the centuries before it was printed. Several 
prophecies written in the characteristic dialog form but with 
more animal symbols have been described in this chapter. It 
has just been said that the prophecies in the prose Romance of 

60 Sanesi, L f . 

61 Brunet, Manuel de Libraire, Paris, 1862, III, 1657 f. 

62 No earlier edition could be consulted for this study. 

63 E. E. T. S., I, 305, 316, 4355 H, 3i5. 

64 The Birth of Christ is always referred to thus; la chose qui jadis 
nasquit aux parties de Jerusalem. 



152 

Merlin belong to this cycle. This Collection was known in 
England in the early fourteenth century. Robert of Brunne 
in his Story of England, after telling of the fight between the 
two dragons, omits the prophecies, saying : 65 

" J>enne seyde Merlyn many thynges, 
What yn bis lond schuld tide of kynges, 
bat are in Blase bokes write, 
bey at hauyt, mowe hit wyte 
And in Tolomer & sire Amytayn ; 
byse hadde Merlynes bokes playn, 
ffor byse bre write his prophecyes, 
And were his maistres in ser partyes." 

He says further that he has not wit to undo the knots that 
Merlin knit, for he spoke in such a way that till that thing 
happened, nobody knew it. Blase, perhaps, corresponds to 
Basilius, who wrote down one of the 1442 prophecies. The 
editor of Robert queries Auntayn for Amytayn, and is probably 
correct. 

The practice of writing prophecies by means of pictures was 
not unknown on the Continent. Paracelsus published a series 
of thirty-two with accompanying explanations, which were 
originally written in German, but which were translated into 
Latin with a marginal gloss by David Sebram of Neuburg. 66 
Animal figures occur in some of the pictures. Heraldic 
symbols also are used, as the Lily for France. A prophetic 
picture seems to have engaged the interest of different wise 
men. Carion and Capistranus both made explanations, which, 
however, proved untrue. 67 

There is noticeable throughout the period extending from 
the second quarter of the twelfth to the end of the seventeenth 
century an interchange of prophetic material. European 
prophecies were known in England, but they seem not to have 
been turned to any local use. Among these may be mentioned 
the Prophecy of Sibyl Samia, the Flyting Verses between 
Frederick the Second and the Pope, the Methodius prophecies, 

85 F. J. Furnival in Rolls Series, London, 1887, I, 288 f. 
68 Wolf, loc. cit., II, 484-501. 
67 Wolf, loc. cit., I, 824, 825. 



153 

and the vaticinal lines beginning, Gallorum levitas. The 
prophecy of the Unicorn from the West, if not an English 
production, may also be added to the list. It is a rare instance 
of a foreign prophecy dealing with English affairs. 

Quotations from Geoffrey's collection in European writings 
have already been discussed in this chapter. Froissart knew 
something of The Six Kings, for he tells an instance of a 
Frenchman's quoting the episode that the Boar of Commerce 
should whet his tusks against the gates of Paris as proof that 
Edward the Third should capture Paris. 68 He also quotes the 
Triangle Prophecy which was current in England during the 
reign of Richard the Second. 69 But Deschamps offers more 
interesting examples. In his ballade, Contre I'Angleterre he 
quotes a prophecy to the effect: 

" L'aigle venrra des marches d'Aquilon; 
O ses poucins, seoir en Northumbrie: 
D'un autre les passera le lion 
O ses cheaulx, plains de forsenerie 
Deux lieux prandra qui aront seigneurie 
Et destruiront le nort creusement ; 
Et le pais, qui anciennement 
Fut renommes d'aventures aussi 
Se doit tourner a leur destruisement 
Tant qu'on dira; Angleterre fut cy." 

These lines seem echoes of The Six Kings and of The Cock 
in the North. In another ballade 71 he speaks of the Ass with 
the Leaden Foot, certainly a reminiscence of the Six Kings. 
Rupescissa 72 had spoken of a great English King who should 
win the Holy Sepulchre, an episode in the career of Edward 
the Third, according to The Six Kings. 

On the Continent more frequently than in England vaticinal 
works were published under the names of contemporary men, 
who set themselves up as prophets either because of some 



88 Froissart, 17, 216. 
68 Froissart, 16, 351. 



70 Oeuvres Completes, i, 106. 

71 Oeuvres Completes, i, 164; II, 57-58; VII, 244. 

"Brown, Fasciculus Rerum, London, 1609. 2 vols. vol. 2, appendix, 
494 *. 



154 

special divinatory powers possessed by themselves, or because 
of their ability to interpret prophecies already in existence. 
False attribution, as in the case of Joachim of Fiore, must, how 
ever, be guarded against. Without any discussion as to the 
genuineness of the attribution, the names of men who were 
known on the Continent as prophets by reason of vaticinations 
produced under their names may be mentioned here. 73 In 
Italy among others were Telesphorus da Cosenza, Michael da 
Leone, Anselm da Marsica, Dolcino, and Ardenta da Parma, 
if one does not include among the Italians Michael Scotus, the 
astrologer of Richard the Second. In France may be named 
Richard Roussat, Pierre Turrel, Jean Muller, Michel Pirus, 
John de Rupescissa, Phillippe Olivarius, and Nostradamus, 
some of whom were professional astrologers. In Germany 
may be mentioned Gamaleon, Alfresant, Lichtenberger, Carion, 
Capistranus, Grebner, Paracelsus, Wolfgang Aytinger, Veit 
Arnpeck, Grunpeck, and Paul of Middleburg. Of all these 
Grebner is the only one concerned to any degree with the his 
tory of the prophecy in England. The pictures of Paracelsus 
have been discussed. Nostradamus has been mentioned as 
using Galfridian symbols. With the exception of these men 
and Carion, Capistranus, and Rupescissa the present writer has 
no first-hand information, and does not know what their books 
contained. 

Opposition to these secular prophecies was aroused on the 
Continent as well as in England. Belief in them was prevalent 
over Europe in the fourteenth century. 74 Effective opposition 
seems not to have been aroused until in the sixteenth century. 
The attacks came from various quarters. The Prophecies of 
Merlin were put on the list of proscribed books in the Index 
librorum prohibitorum according to a rule passed by the 
Council of Trent that books relating to fortune-telling, sooth 
saying, divination, augury, astrology, magic, or prophecy 
should be condemned. 75 Other prophecies were put on the 
same list. In France, "political prophecies through the 

73 See Kampers, von Dollinger, and Chevalier passim. 

74 F. Tocco II Savonarola e la Profezla, in Vita Italiana nel Rinasci- 
mento, Milan, 1899, 236268, passim. 

75 Index Librorum Prohibitorum, Venice, 1564, f. 7 b., 17 a. 



155 

medium of almanacs grew so alarming, and possibly personal 
in their character, that Henry the Third of France forbade 
such to be inserted therein, which prohibition was repeated by 
Louis the Thirteenth as late as 1628. At a much earlier date 
every almanac had to be stamped with the approval of the 
Bishop of the Divorce before publication." 76 

Like Bacon in England, who treated of Prophecies in one 
of his Essays, Montaigne in France devoted an Essay to Prog 
nostications. 77 His attitude is one of contempt. He calls to 
mind the madness of Francis Marquis of Saluzzo, who was 
misled by a belief in what Montaigne called ' fond prognos 
tications,' which then throughout Europe were given out to the 
advantage of the Emperor Charles the fifth. Montaigne says 
further : 78 " I see some that studie, plod and glosse their Alma- 
nackes, and in all accidents alleage their authoritie. ... I 
think not the better of them, though what they say proove 
sometimes true." In characterizing the prophetic style he says, 
"But above all, their dark, ambiguous, fantasticall, and 
propheticall gibrish, mends the matter much, to which their 
authors never give a plain sense, that posterity may apply what 
meaning and construction it shall please unto it." 

The different nations of Europe had different prophecies to 
fit individual needs. In addition to these national prophecies 
were others not touched upon in this study. They were chiefly 
religious in content, and concerned themselves with the affairs 
of the Church, such as the prophecies of Rupescissa. Two 
themes, however, recur time and again in the different countries, 
sometimes combined into one. They are The Returning Hero 
who should be a political savior, and The Last King of Rome. 
The expectation of a political savior misled the Jews at the 
time of Christ. The Nero-saga, which the Christians identified 
with the Anti-Christ theme, served the Romans for a return 
ing hero. In the Byzantine Empire the theme was combined 
with the Last-King-of-Rome to make the L.-prophecy, mis- 

76 Samuel Briggs, The Origin and Development of the Almanack, in 
Western Reserve and Northern Ohio Historical Society Tracts, 1887, no. 

69, PP. 435-477- 

77 Montaigne's Essays, trans, by John Florio. London, 1901, i, 55. 
Ibid., i, 57. 



156 

called the Constans-prophecy, from Methodius down to the. 
fifteenth century. On British soil it concerned itself with 
Arthur and Richard the Second. In Germany it became the 
Kaiser-saga centering around Barbarossa. In Portugal as late 
as the seventeenth century it was associated with the memory 
of King Sebastian, and was used to encourage the Portugese 
to hope for freedom and separation from Spain. 79 A similar 
prophecy was said to be current in Servia at the time of the 
recent revolution which changed dynasties, and put King Peter 
on the throne. 

Much has been said from time to time of the Last-King-of- 
Rome theme, the origin of which was discussed in the second 
chapter. It existed in both the Eastern and Western Empires. 
The first modification of it was made in France, where the 
belief was current in the ninth century that the Last King 
should be a Frenchman. In England a further modification 
made him an Englishman. The English version seems to have 
been accepted for a time, at least by some few people, on the 
Continent, if the prophecy of Rupescissais to be considered any 
indication. The French version was revived in the fourteenth 
century. A further modification of it promised that the Last 
King should be named P., 80 who was identified by Lichten- 
berger as Philip of Austria, the son of Maximilian by Mary 
of Burgundy, a French Princess. 81 

79 J. von Dollinger, Der Weissagungsglaube und das Prophetenthum in 
der Christlichen Zeit, Historiches Taschenbuch, series 5 vol. i, Leipzig, 
1871, 259 f., p. 280. 

"Veit Arnpeck quoted by Kampers, 165; Wolfgang Aytinger, Kampers, 
183. 

81 Lichtenberger according to Kampers, 182. 



^V-i 

- 



APPENDIX I 

THE SIX KINGS TO FOLLOW KING JOHN 

It was shown in the third chapter of the present study that 
The Six Kings is derived originally from certain phrases in 
The Book of Merlin. Besides these phrases there are four 
other versions of the same material. The oldest seems to be a 
Latin version found in ms. Harleian 6148. The second in 
time is an Anglo-French version in ms. Harleian 746. The 
other two are English versions, of which one is in prose and 
the other in verse. The prose form is found in The Brut. 
The verse form has already been discussed in the third 
chapter. 



THE LATIN VERSION 

Vaticinium cuiusdam spiritus tempore regis Johannis. 

Harleian 6148. A manuscript of the early seventeenth cen 
tury containing prophecies written down by Sir Richard St. 
George, Clarenceux and headed " De quibusden vaticiniis ex 
vetusto libro manuscripto." (Ward, loc. cit., i, 211.) This 
version would seem to have been made before Edward the 
First's conquest of Scotland, at least before the accession of 
Edward the Second. 

(Orietur draco de asino qui in bracchio suo potentissimo 
suos & mulos et raptores superabit rex fidellisimus erit pius 
deo et hominibus placens terram superbie conculcabit et re- 
cuperabit) 1 . Extincto 2 herede regnans glorians in malicia 
perplexus inquietudine minuetur et dies eius (anticipabitur) 
anticipabunt veneno, exiit agnus a Wintonia lanam habens 
albam et labia veracia et scriptum corde suo sanctitas, agnus 
ille construct deo domum quandam aspectus pulcherrimi sed 
non perficiet suo tempore versus finem regni eius, et cum 

1 These lines have been erased in the ms. but are still legible. 

2 In the margin, Rex H 3tius Agnus. 

157 



158 

obierit erit semen eius in terra extranea et sic demorabitur 
terra sine pastore pro tempore sed tempus erit satis breve. 

Post 3 tempus agni succedet ei draco misericordie mixti fero- 
citati barbam habens capream dantem umbram universali terre 
anglie, qui incolas custodiens a frigore et calore unum pedem 
suum ponet in Wik et alterum in London amplectur sibi tres 
habitationes et os suum appariet versus Walliam et faciet earn 
tremere cum gente terre illius ob timorem eius alas suas ex- 
tendet in plures patrias hanelitus eius erit tarn dulcis quod 
plures veniet aliegenas qui alias ei guerram suscitarent et fer- 
rent multa damna, tempore suo current rivi sanguinis et con 
struct muros quod gravabit semen eius. 

Post 4 mortem draconis succedet capra argentea habens cornua 
et barbam ut austurcium et ex naribus eius exibit nebula orig- 
nans dolorem et grave dampnum famis et . . . 5 mortalitatem 
et amissionem partis terre illius, initio regni illius erit luxuria 
sordescens et putrescens vigens in duabus nobilibus statubus et 
mediocribus pari forma tempore suo peribit magna pars populi 
terra sua in dolore et erumpnia et quod aliegene prestantiores 
erunt super eum, tempore suo fluvius oste clarescet et parebit 
quod ardeat, bellum quoddam erit in campo paratum ut scutum 
super Bracchium maris et post bellum sese gentes amitterent 
grosso modo velut pisces maris, et in bello illo morientur quam 
plures albores capitum propter quod nuncupatur album bellum 
quamdiu perseverat capra in tribulationibus et inquietudine erit 
vita illius et in arumpnia transitus eius, et post dies demora 
bitur terra nimis repleta aliegenis et in magna tribulatione erit 
terra post mortem eius. Cum autem desierit esse capra suc 
cedet Aper 6 caput gestans aureum, cor leoninum, affectum 
pietatis vultus eius erit requies fidelibus, pectus eius erit ex- 
tinctio scitis qui scitum pacientur loquela eius habebit laudem 
difelitatis gestus eius humilis ut agnella, inicio regni sui satis 
tedii pacietur ad justificandos infideles et malefactores terrae 
suae. Aper ille per medium ferocitatis cordis sui compellet 

8 In the margin, Rex Ed primus Draco. 

* In the margin, rex Ed 2ds Capra. 
6 1 cannot decipher this word. 

In the margin, Rex Ed stius Aper. 



159 

lupum devenire agnum et vocabitur per universam orbem Aper 
caritatis ferocitatis et nobilitatis in Justicia erit humilis ut 
agnus. 

Apro illi succedet asinus 7 habens pedes plumbeos caput 
asseret cor aneum pellem quasi ferream dura bestia erit iste et 
in tempore suo erit terra valde pacifica inicio regni sui edifi- 
cabit fideles erit clamor eius audietur per univeram orbem. 
Asinus pro fidelitate sua amittet magnum partem terrae suae 
per quendam lupum terribilem qui regnabit et asinus dabit 
dominium terrae suae cuidam aquile regnans vero bene se guber- 
nabit usque as tempus quo superbia ipsius superabit. Heu. 
Heu. quod obibit per gladium fratris sui. 

Post asinum veniet talpa 8 ore dei maledicta superba misera 
et turpida vindicta cadet super earn pro peccatis antefactis, 
elata et maliciosa erit, terra revertetur ad asinum et aprum et 
ipse Gubernabit totam terram in pace dum vixerit et remanebit 
terra repleta omnibus bonis. 

Aper 9 ille exibit a Win et exibit exacuens dentes suos per iiij 
terras et audacter perficiet agenda sua circumcirca Jherusalem. 
hispania tremet et titillabit a timore eius, in Aragonia et in 
Francia ponet omnium 10 suum et magna cauda sua requiescat 
in Anglia ubi natus erat. Aper ille dentes suos acuet supra 
muros parisiae, Albania titillabit ob timorem, Aper ille diu 
durabit ad duas villas anglie faciet aper ille rivulos sanguinis 
et cerebri discurrere et prata virida in rubea transmutabit, aper 
ille recuperabit quicquid antecessores sui perdiderunt per uni- 
versas terras et gestabit tres coronas antequam obierit, ipse 
quoque reducet quandam terram in magnam subjectionem sed 
ispa revelabitur non tamen in tempore suo. Aper satis amplius 
conquestabit quam aliqui antecessores suores antequam fecer- 
unt. Omnes in hoc mundo se sibi melenabunt et terras suas 
conservabit in pace bona dum, in terra aliena morietur, et ob 
nobilitatem eius inter tres reges sepulietur. 

7 In the margin, rex Ri 2d Asinus. 

8 In the margin, rex H qtus talpa. 

9 In the margin, Ed jtius. This part was evidently written later than the 
preceding and added to it. The material contained in it is worked into the 
context of the later versions. 

10 1 can make nothing else of the manuscript here. Omnium is evidently 
not the right word in this place. 



160 

B 
MERLIN'S PROPHECY OF THE Six KINGS 

Harleian 746. A ms. of the thirteenth century. Written on 
the first fly leaves of a collection of treatises in Latin and 
French, chiefly legal, the first of which is the Tractatus de 
Legibus of Ranulph Glanvis, written in the thirteenth century. 
The volume appears to have belonged to Hugh Obthorp, of 
Baston, co. Line., in the fourteenth century, and subsequently 
to John Warner, chaplain of Sutton, co. Lincoln. (Ward, he. 
cit., i, 309.) 

I comencent asqunes des prophecies et des mervailes que 
Merlin dit en son temps d'engleterre Et des rois ke unt este 
puis le temps que le roi Henri d'arain nasqui a Wincestre Et 
des rois que serrount bones et males moles et dures 

Un aignel vendra hors Wincestre qu'avera blaunche launge 
et levers veritables et avera escrit en son quoer saint Cel aignel 
ferra une mesone de dieu que serra de bele veue mes ele ne 
serra parfete en son temps En la fin de son regne vendra un 
lou d'estrange terre et habitera en son regne si lui ferra mout 
grant damage et levera grant guerre mes au fin serra 1' aignel 
meistre et veincra le lou par 1'eide d'un rouge gopil que vendra 
hors de northest et le lou enveiez Et apres eel temps ne vivera 
gers Taignel Et a eel houre qu'il morra serra son semail en 
estrange terre si demorra la terre saunz pasturel jusques a un 
temps mes le temps serra court Apres son temps vendra un 
dragon de merci modlee et de fierte et avera barbe com chevre 
que dorra umbre a Engleterre si le gardera de f roit et de chaut 
si mettera un de ses pies en Wik et 1'autre en Lond Si em- 
bracera trois habitatouns et overa sa bouche de vers gales et 
la fera mout fremer de pour cue la hidour de so bouche Ces 
orailes se tendreunt en plusours pais. Sa aleine serra si douze 
que venkera meint d'estrange terre que li leverount guerre et 
lui ferrount grant damage En son temps corrount de sauncs 
et il ferra sours que nuera son s. 11 . . . Apres eel temps vendra 
un poeple hors de Northwest que serrount amenes par un 
mauvus leverer que morrount a grant dolour souz ceste de mer 

11 A wrinkle in the page here obscures the word in the photographs from 
which I transcribe. 



161 

saunz nombre En son temps sera le solail rouge com saunz a 
veue de tut le monde si signefiera la grant mortalite du sauncs 
que serra espandu de Cristiens par cop d'espeie. Ceux gentz 
demorrount orphanins jusques a un temps et en plousours 
autres ennuez. Celi dragon norira un gopil que li menera grant 
guerre. En la fin de sa vie ne serra pas finie en son temps mes 
tous ses enemis veincra si serra tenus de nobles so 12 . . . d'autre 
terre si demorra . . . pasturel si ploraunt des oiz por sa mort 
alias serra . . . com d'une gentz orphanins que remeindrount 
en terre de gaust Apres sa mort vendra un chevre que avera 
corns d'argent et barbe com hostour et istera de ses narils une 
broume que signefiera does et grant damage famine et mortalite 
des gentz et perte de terre En le comencement de son regne 
lecherie serra orde et puneise en son temps des grantz Dames 
et des mennes grantment Icelui chevre vendra hors de Car et 
irra en paenie si quera flour de vie En son temps morrount a 
doel et a grant dolour un poeple de sa terre par quei ceux 
d'estrange terres serrount en bandes sur lui En son temps 
serrount fait forteresses des armes la fosse dou ler peres chomu 
si serrount pleines la ou chasteux soleint estre En son temps 
serra ouse esclari et parira quele arde E un bataille serra en 
chaunp taille com estu sur bras de mer Et apres eel bataille 
si perderount les gentz en gros com poissonns E a eel bataille 
morrount mout des blanches testes si serra apelle la blaunche 
bataille Un ours ferra a eel chevre mout de mal que serra de 
son saunc et le chevra perdera mout de sa terre taunque a un 
temps que hunte li veincra si vestira d'un pel d'un Icon et 
regainera ce qu'il avera avaunt perdu et plus 

Et un poeple grant vendra de Northwest que lui ferrount 
entrelier et lui serrount cheremuz et doutez et lui vengerount 

12 The right hand corner of the manuscript is mutilated so that the end of 
the first 3 lines on each page is lacking. In the Brut this passage reads : 
" This dragoun shal bene holden in his tyme the beste body of al be worlde ; 
et he shal dye bisides be Marche of a straunge lande; and be lande shall 
duelle f aderlesse wibouten a gode gouernoure ; and me shal wepe for his deb 
fram be He of Shepe vnto be haven of Marcill ; wherfore, ' alias ' shal bene 
be commune songe of the faderles folc, bat shal ouerleuen in his land 
destroiede." (The Brut, p. 73.) 
12 



162 

de ses enemis et il vivera tout son temps en enui et en travaille 
et en paenie morra 

Et apres sa mort demorra la terre mout repleine des aliens 
si avera la terre grant trebulation apres sa mort E en le temps 
de eel chevre avaunt dit surdra un Egle de Cornwaile et avera 
pennes d'or et finira en Gavaru Apres eel chevre vendra un 
sengler que avera la teste sen et quoer de Icon regard de pite 
son visage serra repos as malades sa poitrine estaunchemente 
de soif a ceux que soif averount sa parole loaunge de leaute 
son port humble com aignel. En son temps en comencement 
de son regne avera grant onnui a justicier les de leaux mefe- 
saunz Celui sengler parmi le fier quoer qu'il avera ferra le lou 
devenir aignel si serra apelle par tote le monde sengler de saunte 
et de fierte et de noblesse En dreiture humble com aignel Cel 
sengler vendra hors de Winde et irra en anguissanz ces dentz 
par quater terre et ferra hardiment ces qu'il avra a faire jusques 
a Burgh de Jherusalem Espanie tremblera de poure de lui 
Aragoun estrevera En France mettera 13 . . . posera en Engle- 
terre ou il f uist nee 1 * ... en anguisera ces dentz sur les portes 
de Paris. Alemanie fremera de pour de lui Celui sengler 
durera meint temps a deux villes en Engleterre Celui sengler 
ferra russeaux de sant Et cervel et verte pres rouge Cel 
sengler regainera quanquez ces auncestres unt avaunt perdu 
En totes terres si portera trois corounes avaunt qu'il moerge 
so mettera une terre en grant subjection me ele relevera noun 
pas en sa vie Cel sengler conquerra plus que unques nul de 
son saunc en iceste munde Tous lui enclineront et les terres 
tendra en bon poes en sa vie Si murra en estranges si serra 
por sa noblesse enterre entre les trois rois 

Apres eel sengler vendra un asne et avera pies de plum et 
teste d'asser quoer de arren et pelecon fere durre beste serra 
En son temps serra la terre mout en pees Et en le comence 
ment de son regne si enedifiera Oue serra sa crie par tout le 

13 The Six Kings poem must guide us here. The passage reads, 
" In France sail he sett his heuid biforn. 

His tail sal rest in Yngland whare he was born." (1. 170) 
The Brut reads wing for head and omits the last clause. 
"Neither The Brut nor the poem gives assistance here. 



163 

munde Cel asne perdera par sa lechite un grant partie de sa terre 
par un lou hidous mes il regnera si dorra a un Egle seignurire 
de ces terres Cel egle se governera bien taunquez a un temps 
que orguile lui surmuntera alias quel damage car il murra par 
le espeie son frere la terre rercherre a Tasne et celui governa la 
terre repleine de touz biens 

Pres eel assne vendra un talpe maudit serra de la bouche 
dieuz orguilous cheteif et coward serra pel avera come chevre 
vemaunte cherra sur lui par pecches avaunt fetes horrible et 
malveis serra En le comencement de son regne avera 
mult . . . 15 leaute vers lui de touz biens et serra en grant 
loaunge jusques a un temps que orguil li sur muntera et' vil 
pecche . . . 16 surdra un dragun que serra mut. Perillous 17 
et mut horrible et movera grant guerre de vers la talpe Cele 
guerre serra funde sur un piere Cel dragoun aqueilera en sa 
compaigne un lou vendra hors del West et movera guerre de 
vers le talpe de sa part si lierount le dragoun et le lou ensemble 
oue un leon que vendra hors d'irlaund que se compaignera a 
eux Lors tremblera Engleterre com foil de sapine E en eel 
temps avera le talpe mout grant pour si quoilera son poeple si 
serra descomfit a grant dolour En son temps trebocherount les 
chasteux sur Thames Esi para que sauerne secche por les 
corps que de dens giserount Les quatre chefs . . . 18 corrount 
de saunc mountaingnes leverount . . . 19 s'enfuera por pour 
Le dragoun le cha . . . - 20 et le leon le terre demorra saunz 

15 The poem reads, 

" In J>e land sal be at his biginning, 
Plente of none and all o]>er thing." 

The Brut reads, " In >e ferst ere of his regne he shal haue of al gode grete 
plente in his lande, and toward him also. 

16 The poem and The Brut read Then in this place. 

17 The poem reads, " ful fell et ful scharp " ; The Brut, " ful fers." 

18 The Brut reads, " ]?e iiij chief nodes of Engeland." 
"The poem reads, in this place, 

" J?e grete hilles for drede clouen sail be, 
And J>e moldwerp for ferd sail oway fle." 

The Brut omits the passage entirely. 

20 The Brut, " and J?e dragoun, J?e lyoun and J?e wolf, him shaldryuen 
away." 



164 

Pasturel . . . 21 n'avera fors que la neef ou il estoinz 
et . . . 22 retret de la mer et il dorra les deux parties de sa 
terre et la tierte . . . 23 partie en pees Si vivera en grant 
dolour . . . 24 Enson temps devendra le chaunt lain froit 
Si morra . . . 25 mort en son chemin de vers pecche quar il 
serra en fl . . . 26 son semail devendra por touz jours en 
estranges terres . . . <2T serra la terre d'engleterre departie en 
trois entre le Dragoun et le lou et le leon si serra tost en apres 
cele temps terre de conqueste. E si finerount les heirs d'engle 
terre hors de heritage. 

Besides these four versions of The Six Kings material, 
another very interesting form of it is found in the poem 
entitled John the Hermit in Ms. Hatton 56, f . 43 a-44 b. The 
author of this poem has taken material from every episode in 
the complete version and written a poem centering around 
only one figure, the Ass. I do not print this poem because 
it is long and would add little in this place to the history of 
The Six Kings, but I hope to publish it at some future date 
and to use it as the basis of a more complete study of the 
whole material. 

21 The Brut, " and J>e Moldewerpe shal haue no maner power, saf onely a 
shipp." 

22 The Brut, " and after ]?at, he shal come to lande when J>e see is 
wij>draw." 

23 The poem, " }>e twa partes sail he gif oway of J?at land." 

24 The poem, " In were et wandreth." 

25 The Brut, " for he shal bene drenchede in a flode of J?e see." 

26 The Brut, " for euermore." 



165 
APPENDIX II 

SAINT THOMAS OF CANTERBURY 

Ms. Hatton 56, f. 45-46 b. Bodley Library 

Thomas rides from rome J?e man J>at right kennes 

he fares forth by a faire towne Pise it is hotyn 

There fyndes he masons upon a toure makand 

A belfry of alabastre }>ere belles shul hengyn 

Thomas to Je work went ware was sone 

Of a lovely Image of our lady J?at he most loved 

Sho was tired in a tabernacle & no man of hyr toke hede 

Than Thomas called the maistre mason Jat ]?e work makid 

Sey sir by mi fay whi hast bou so lowe set 

This semely lady with hir son prince of al other 

have here xx marc & make many for to sit 

closid in a caruell riche. feire for to se 

And whan Thomas was boune to pas to J?e Image he se. 

Byleve wele my lady with bi son so fre 

And be my frend lady where so I go 

The Image looated & al the toure after bowed 

& So it hangyth yit on held ; I say be for sothe 

Thomas busked til a burgh basile is hotyn 

A siker citie for soth in Almayn it stands 

This kene clerk of Canterbery faris til a kirke 

byddes graithe hym an auter & dresses hym to synge 

As he was busked & boun his boke ban hym lakked 

and seid he forgate it at rome with J>e pope right 

and my weddid brother wele worthe hym ever 

As he had made his mone mary him herd sone 

and lete fal on be auter a ferly feire boke 

with lomyned lies laughan upon hym 

like kyndly clerk myght rede it hym selve 

Thomas takys be boke & mary with hert thankes. 

(Here the printed version begins.) 
Of bat jewel bat was hym taken for bat ilk lady. 

This poem continues for seventy-two lines, but I do not 
consider its differences from the printed version important 
enough to justify publishing the remaining lines. 



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