Bourne Archive: FNQ: Hereward Contents         Latest edit 12 Mar 2011.   

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De Gestis Herwardi Saxonis.


This is a series of episodes illustrating the behaviour and bearing of Hereward, the renowned soldier: as transcribed by S.H. Miller and presented by W.D. Sweeting as a supplement of the quarterly journal, Fenland Notes and Queries. It is presented here by chapter, each in three parts: Miller’s Latin transcription, Sweeting’s English translation and my commentary. The Latin version is presented entire and without comment. Sweeting’s English version is similarly presented but with his footnotes. Latin and English are each on its respective web page. Charles Kingsley’s rewriting of the story is on the Gutenberg site. Lieutenant-General Harward’s book on Hereward, his ancestry and descendants is on the Cornell University site. This has clearly been scanned by text-reading software which was not fully up to the task without subsequent proof-reading.


Title Page and introductions


I             Here begins the preface of a certain work concerning the exploits of Hereward the renowned knight.

II            Of what parents Hereward was born, and how from his boyhood he increased in the splendour of his deeds, and why he was driven forth by his father and country; whence he was surnamed “The Outlaw”.

III          How Hereward slew a great bear, from which he earned a position amongst the Knights where he was staying.

IV          How he overcame a certain tyrant, and took his famous sword.

V            Of the war which took place in Ireland, and how Hereward slew the leader of the opposite army with seven comrades in the midst of his men.

VI          How Hereward in disguise was sent by his lord to a wedding, where he achieved a praiseworthy action, in killing the bridegroom, and carrying off the bride and conveying her to his lord.

VII         How he endured shipwreck on his return from Ireland, and in Flanders, being a second time overwhelmed by a storm, he there changed his name.

VIII        Of his first fighting in Flanders, from which, and from his daily deeds of valour, he was at length discovered, when much enquiry was made as to who such a man could be, or whence he could come.

IX          How Hereward overcame a famous soldier, and led him safe and sound to his companions.

X            How Hereward is beloved by a certain girl, for whose sake he went forth to combat, and there with his men proved victorious.

XI          Wherefore Hereward with a certain leader was sent into Scaldemariland with an army, and how he overcame the army in front.

XII         Of the second war at Scaldemariland, and how the nation advanced to the fight, and with what arms : and how Hereward arranged his army against them.

XIII       Where Hereward got a mare of very great speed, and a colt of conspicuous beauty, and what he underwent on the road.

XIV        How he returned to his country and to his father’s house, where he found that his brother had been slain the day before, and of the grand vengeance he took the same night.

XV         For what reason some fled from him in alarm ; and whence he chose for himself men of war.

XVI        For what reason he wished to be made knight in the English manner, and where he was made knight.

XVII      How he was sought out by a certain man who desired to kill him, and how Hereward slew him.

XVIII     Why Hereward departed again into Flanders, where he soon performed some noteworthy deeds.

XIX       How on his return to England his men gathered themselves together to him, on his giving the signal which he had arranged at his departure.

XX         How the men in the Isle of Ely sent for Hereward ; and how on the road he found out an ambush of the Earl of Warenne.

XXI       How the King attempted to take the Isle, where he nearly lost his entire army ; while no man, except one brave knight, entered it.

XXII      Of a soldier who went into the Isle, and resolved to be the first to give information to the King about the Isle and its inhabitants.

XXIII     What they did when they were disheartened about the Isle, and how the King was disposed to make peace with them, unless some of his own men had dissuaded him.

XXIV     How Hereward dressed as a potter and went to the king’s court to discover what they intended and how he cheated them and killed some in the king’s court and returned unharmed.

XXV      How Hereward disguised himself as a fisherman and cheated the king a second time, how the king attacked the isle and about the islanders’ means of defence.

XXVI     How and wherefore the men of Ely made an agreement with the king; upon which Hereward wanted to burn the church and town.

XXVII   How Hereward was reduced to such straits that he slew with his own hands his excellent horse : and how next he overcame the army of five provinces.

XXVIII  How Hereward took vengeance on the Abbot of Burgh.

XXIX     Of a vision and a marvellous occurrence seen by Hereward.

XXX      No title. (The feast, the fugitive and the privy.)

XXXI     How Hereward’s wife assumed the habit of a nun at Crowland.

XXXII   How Hereward overcame a certain very eminent knight in single combat.

XXXIII  How Hereward went to the King’s court with his soldiers.

XXXIV  How he fought with a soldier of the King’s court, and overcame him.

XXXV   How Hereward was accused by Robert de Horepol and put into prison.

XXXVI  How Robert of Horepol made a good report of Hereward to the King.

Additional Material

The Latin Text

Sweeting’s English Translation

The rise and decline in the use of Latin

Understanding Chapter I (the writing of The Gesta Herwardi)

Understanding Chapter VI (the wedding in Ireland)

Links to information on the politics of the Netherlands in the eleventh century

Ship design around 1100

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