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Artegal And Elidure
A Poem by William Wordsworth, unwittingly about Arthur.
William Wordsworth composed the following poem around 1815, following Geoffrey of Monmouth and the Bruts (which likely draw post-date Geoffrey and draw quite a bit from him) to frame his narrative of the poem.
WHERE be the temples which, in Britain's Isle, For his paternal Gods, the Trojan raised? Gone like a morning dream, or like a pile Of clouds that in cerulean ether blazed! Ere Julius landed on her white-cliffed shore, They sank, delivered o'er To fatal dissolution; and, I ween, No vestige then was left that such had ever been. Nathless, a British record (long concealed In old Armorica, whose secret springs No Gothic conqueror ever drank) revealed The marvellous current of forgotten things; How Brutus came, by oracles impelled, And Albion's giants quelled, A brood whom no civility could melt, "Who never tasted grace, and goodness ne'er had felt." By brave Corineus aided, he subdued, And rooted out the intolerable kind; And this too-long-polluted land imbued With goodly arts and usages refined; Whence golden harvests, cities, warlike towers, And pleasure's sumptuous bowers; Whence all the fixed delights of house and home, Friendships that will not break, and love that cannot roam. O, happy Britain! region all too fair For self-delighting fancy to endure That silence only should inhabit there, Wild beasts, or uncouth savages impure! But, intermingled with the generous seed, Grew many a poisonous weed; Thus fares it still with all that takes its birth From human care, or grows upon the breast of earth. Hence, and how soon! that war of vengeance waged By Guendolen against her faithless lord; Till she, in jealous fury unassuaged Had slain his paramour with ruthless sword: Then, into Severn hideously defiled, She flung her blameless child, Sabrina,—vowing that the stream should bear That name through every age, her hatred to declare. So speaks the Chronicle, and tells of Lear By his ungrateful daughters turned adrift. Ye lightnings, hear his voice!—they cannot hear, Nor can the winds restore his simple gift. But One there is, a Child of nature meek, Who comes her Sire to seek; And he, recovering sense, upon her breast Leans smilingly, and sinks into a perfect rest. There too we read of Spenser's fairy themes, And those that Milton loved in youthful years; The sage enchanter Merlin's subtle schemes; The feats of Arthur and his knightly peers; Of Arthur,—who, to upper light restored, With that terrific sword Which yet he brandishes for future war, Shall lift his country's fame above the polar star! What wonder, then, if in such ample field Of old tradition, one particular flower Doth seemingly in vain its fragrance yield, And bloom unnoticed even to this late hour? Now, gentle Muses, your assistance grant, While I this flower transplant Into a garden stored with Poesy; Where flowers and herbs unite, and haply some weeds be, That, wanting not wild grace, are from all mischief free! A KING more worthy of respect and love Than wise Gorbonian ruled not in his day; And grateful Britain prospered far above All neighbouring countries through his righteous sway; He poured rewards and honours on the good; The oppressor he withstood; And while he served the Gods with reverence due Fields smiled, and temples rose, and towns and cities grew. He died, whom Artegal succeeds—his son; But how unworthy of that sire was he! A hopeful reign, auspiciously begun, Was darkened soon by foul iniquity. From crime to crime he mounted, till at length The nobles leagued their strength With a vexed people, and the tyrant chased; And, on the vacant throne, his worthier Brother placed. From realm to realm the humbled Exile went, Suppliant for aid his kingdom to regain; In many a court, and many a warrior's tent, He urged his persevering suit in vain. Him, in whose wretched heart ambition failed, Dire poverty assailed; And, tired with slights his pride no more could brook, He towards his native country cast a longing look. Fair blew the wished-for wind—the voyage sped; He landed; and, by many dangers scared, "Poorly provided, poorly followed," To Calaterium's forest he repaired. How changed from him who, born to highest place, Had swayed the royal mace, Flattered and feared, despised yet deified, In Troynovant, his seat by silver Thames's side! From that wild region where the crownless King Lay in concealment with his scanty train, Supporting life by water from the spring, And such chance food as outlaws can obtain, Unto the few whom he esteems his friends A messenger he sends; And from their secret loyalty requires Shelter and daily bread,—the sum of his desires. While he the issue waits, at early morn Wandering by stealth abroad, he chanced to hear A startling outcry made by hound and horn, From which the tusky wild boar flies in fear; And, scouring toward him o'er the grassy plain, Behold the hunter train! He bids his little company advance With seeming unconcern and steady countenance. The royal Elidure, who leads the chase, Hath checked his foaming courser:—can it be! Methinks that I should recognise that face, Though much disguised by long adversity! He gazed rejoicing, and again he gazed, Confounded and amazed— "It is the king, my brother!" and, by sound Of his own voice confirmed, he leaps upon the ground. Long, strict, and tender was the embrace he gave, Feebly returned by daunted Artegal; Whose natural affection doubts enslave, And apprehensions dark and criminal. Loth to restrain the moving interview, The attendant lords withdrew; And, while they stood upon the plain apart, Thus Elidure, by words, relieved his struggling heart. "By heavenly Powers conducted, we have met; —O Brother! to my knowledge lost so long, But neither lost to love, nor to regret, Nor to my wishes lost;—forgive the wrong, (Such it may seem) if I thy crown have borne, Thy royal mantle worn: I was their natural guardian; and 'tis just That now I should restore what hath been held in trust." A while the astonished Artegal stood mute, Then thus exclaimed: "To me, of titles shorn, And stripped of power! me, feeble, destitute, To me a kingdom! spare the bitter scorn: If justice ruled the breast of foreign kings, Then, on the wide-spread wings Of war, had I returned to claim my right; This will I here avow, not dreading thy despite." "I do not blame thee," Elidure replied; "But, if my looks did with my words agree, I should at once be trusted, not defied, And thou from all disquietude be free. May the unsullied Goddess of the chase, Who to this blessed place At this blest moment led me, if I speak With insincere intent, on me her vengeance wreak! "Were this same spear, which in my hand I grasp. The British sceptre, here would I to thee The symbol yield; and would undo this clasp, If it confined the robe of sovereignty. Odious to me the pomp of regal court, And joyless sylvan sport, While thou art roving, wretched and forlorn, Thy couch the dewy earth, thy roof the forest thorn!" Then Artegal thus spake: "I only sought, Within this realm a place of safe retreat; Beware of rousing an ambitious thought; Beware of kindling hopes, for me unmeet! Thou art reputed wise, but in my mind Art pitiably blind: Full soon this generous purpose thou may'st rue, When that which has been done no wishes can undo. "Who, when a crown is fixed upon his head, Would balance claim with claim, and right with right? But thou—I know not how inspired, how led— Wouldst change the course of things in all men's sight! And this for one who cannot imitate Thy virtue, who may hate: For, if, by such strange sacrifice restored, He reign, thou still must be his king, and sovereign lord; "Lifted in magnanimity above Aught that my feeble nature could perform, Or even conceive; surpassing me in love Far as in power the eagle doth the worm. I, Brother! only should be king in name, And govern to my shame; A shadow in a hated land, while all Of glad or willing service to thy share would fall." "Believe it not," said Elidure; "respect Awaits on virtuous life, and ever most Attends on goodness with dominion decked, Which stands the universal empire's boast; This can thy own experience testify: Nor shall thy foes deny That, in the gracious opening of thy reign, Our father's spirit seemed in thee to breathe again. "And what if o'er thy bright unbosoming Clouds of disgrace and envious fortune past! Have we not seen the glories of the spring By veil of noontide darkness overcast? The frith that glittered like a warrior's shield, The sky, the gay green field, Are vanished; gladness ceases in the groves, And trepidation strikes the blackened mountain-coves. "But is that gloom dissolved? how passing clear Seems the wide world, far brighter than before! Even so thy latent worth will re-appear, Gladdening the people's heart from shore to shore; For youthful faults ripe virtues shall atone; Re-seated on thy throne, Proof shalt thou furnish that misfortune, pain, And sorrow, have confirmed thy native right to reign. "But, not to overlook what thou may'st know, Thy enemies are neither weak nor few; And circumspect must be our course, and slow Or from my purpose ruin may ensue. Dismiss thy followers;—let them calmly wait Such change in thy estate As I already have in thought devised; And which, with caution due, may soon be realised." The Story tells what courses were pursued, Until king Elidure, with full consent Of all his peers, before the multitude, Rose,—and, to consummate this just intent, Did place upon his brother's head the crown, Relinquished by his own; Then to his people cried, "Receive your lord, Gorbonian's first-born son, your rightful king restored!" The people answered with a loud acclaim: Yet more;—heart-smitten by the heroic deed, The reinstated Artegal became Earth's noblest penitent; from bondage freed Of vice—thenceforth unable to subvert Or shake his high desert. Long did he reign; and, when he died, the tear Of universal grief bedewed his honoured bier. Thus was a Brother by a Brother saved; With whom a crown (temptation that hath set Discord in hearts of men till they have braved Their nearest kin with deadly purpose met) 'Gainst duty weighed, and faithful love, did seem A thing of no esteem; And, from this triumph of affection pure, He bore the lasting name of "pious Elidure."
Wordsworth was unknowingly writing about King Arthur himself.
A KING more worthy of respect and love
Than wise Gorbonian ruled not in his day;
And grateful Britain prospered far above
All neighbouring countries through his righteous sway;
He poured rewards and honours on the good
Gorbonian, the historical Garbanian ap Coel rules well.
"He died, whom Artegal succeeds—his son;
But how unworthy of that sire was he!
A hopeful reign, auspiciously begun,
Was darkened soon by foul iniquity."
Gorbonian dies, and is replaced by Artegal, who the original lists as Artegal's older brother, and in Wordsworth his father.
Artegal is Arthwys ap Mar, one of the most compelling candidates for the historical start of the legendary King Arthur. Arthwys is not Garbanian ap Coel's son or brother, but instead his Great-Nephew. Artegal's early reign is dangerous to the nobles, as he treated them poorly.
From crime to crime he mounted, till at length
The nobles leagued their strength
With a vexed people, and the tyrant chased;
And, on the vacant throne, his worthier Brother placed.
He enriches himself, and his friends, until he is deposed.
He wanders in exile, finding himself in the forest of Calaterium
From that wild region where the crownless King
Lay in concealment with his scanty train,
Supporting life by water from the spring,
And such chance food as outlaws can obtain
This exile to Calaterium seems to be a veiled memory of Cat Coit Celidon, or The Battle of The Forest of Celidon, one of Arthur's battles from Nennius' work Historia Brittonum. Perhaps this is a memory of a Pyrrhic victory?
The royal Elidure, who leads the chase,
Hath checked his foaming courser:—can it be!
Methinks that I should recognise that face,
Though much disguised by long adversity!
The brothers reunited, we are given Artegal's brother's name, Elidure. This is Arthwys ap Mar's son Eliffer
Elidure, overjoyed at finding his brother by chance on a hunt, reconciles with him
But is that gloom dissolved? how passing clear
Seems the wide world, far brighter than before!
Even so thy latent worth will re-appear,
Gladdening the people's heart from shore to shore;
The Story tells what courses were pursued,
Until king Elidure, with full consent
Of all his peers, before the multitude,
Rose,—and, to consummate this just intent,
Did place upon his brother's head the crown,
Relinquished by his own;
Then to his people cried, "Receive your lord,
Gorbonian's first-born son, your rightful king restored
Elidure abdicates in favor of his Brother.
The reinstated Artegal became
Earth's noblest penitent; from bondage freed
Of vice—thenceforth unable to subvert
Or shake his high desert.
Long did he reign; and, when he died, the tear
Of universal grief bedewed his honoured bier.
Artegal becomes a pious ruler, redeemed by his brother's kindness.
Thus was a Brother by a Brother saved; With whom a crown (temptation that hath set Discord in hearts of men till they have braved Their nearest kin with deadly purpose met)
'Gainst duty weighed, and faithful love, did seem
A thing of no esteem;
And, from this triumph of affection pure,
He bore the lasting name of "pious Elidure.
Wordsworth, just like Geoffrey before was unknowingly writing about the man that very likely was the beginning of the Arthur legend, Arthwys ap Mar. Geoffrey himself has kings of the various Brythonic kingdoms mixed amongst unrelated figures with no particular worry of chronology. The big part of interest with this story, other than the beautiful poem that sprang from it, is that in one of the few instances within Geoffrey's work we see a string of kings that is corroborated elsewhere.
Morydd, Gorbonion, Artegal, and Elidure, correspond with descendants of the historical King Coel of Northern Britain. Morydd being Mar ap Ceneu, Gorbonion being Garbanian ap Coel, Artegal being Arthwys ap Mar, and Elidure, Eliffer ap Arthwys.
This string of kings with parallels amongst the Coeling doesn't end there however, Eliffer's sons Peredur and Gwrgi appear as Peredur and Owain (using the Bruts names for them instead of Geoffrey's latinised versions), as well as Arthwys' brother Einion. While that is not to say that the narrative spun here first by Geoffrey then poetically expanded by Wordsworth is true, it does give us some interesting clues that are otherwise lost. I have proposed that this story is a preservation of a lost Northern Kings list or chronicle.
We know from the annals and poetry that Peredur and Gwrgi died in 580, losing Ebrauc to the Angles, which gives us an end point, anything listed after is likely not from the same chronicle, which probably outlined the kings of Ebrauc or 'High-Kings' of the north specifically.
The big important piece of information here is that there is an interpolation within an otherwise father/son transfer of power (according to the genealogies). The historical Garbanian, the King of Bryneich at his time, is shoved in between Mar and Arthwys here. This is an interesting layer, as later tradition holds that Arthur's father died when he was young, and is either fostered or crowned at an early age. Could it be that Garbanian reigned shortly as a co-king with Arthwys or as regent or even usurper?
A telling thing here is Nennius' battle list, where a string of the middle battles seems to take place in central Bryneich, and then on to Ebrauc itself. These two incidents paint a potential civil war, with Arthwys taking Ebrauc back from Garbanian. These battles are misremembered by Nennius as against the Saxons, whereas the likely places of them paint a picture of mixed battles sometime against the Angles, and sometimes against fellow Britons. Maybe Geoffrey's Archgallo/Artegal may be a misremembered version of these too.
Regardless, It is interesting to note that both Geoffrey and Wordsworth may have been speaking of the first Arthur all along without even realizing it. Wordsworth poem stands as a beautiful ode to the bond between brothers even today.