Bourne Archive: FNQ: Hereward XXIV
http://boar.org.uk/ariwxo3FNQsupXXIV.htm Latest edit 25 Apr 2010.
Web page & commentary© 2007 R.J.PENHEY With thanks to the trustees of the Willoughby Memorial Library
The Bourne Archive
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De Gestis Herwardi Saxonis.
Quomodo Herwardus figulum se finxit ad regis curiam pergens, ut ibi exploraret quid circa illos agere vellent, et quosque delusit et nonnullos in curia regis occidit, incolumis reversus.
His itigur ita a rege ordinatis, sic insula de foris munita est, unde eis penitus omnis denegata est ingressionis facultas et egressionis libertas, quod eis inopinabile detrimentum doloris et timoris pene erat, nescientes quid contra illos actituri essent, vel modum expugnationis, quoniam novum debellandi genus regem didicisse circa eos audierunt. Qua de re inierunt consilium, aliquem ullo modo foras ad explorandum mittere debere. Nec ullum penitus idoneum invenientes, Herwardo tandem bonum visum est per se ad explorandum aut peregre proficisci, vel mutato habitu ire, licet multum renitentes omnes huic voluntati ejus resisterent. Ac denique profectus est, assumpta tamen secum sua equa Anglece Hyrundo vocata, quæ semper marcida erat et deformis aspectu, de qua superius et quantæ velocitatis ipsa fuerit retulimus, et quantum ad sustinendum laborem agilis. Egressus autem habitum mutavit, tonso crine et barba, lubricaque veste indutus, et obvio facto figulo, ollas illius accepit1 et figulum se finxit, ad regis curiam apud Brandune tendens. Quo perveniens nocte eadem, forte illo ad domum cujusdam viduæ pernoctatus, ubi illa venefica mulier de qua superius mentionem fecimus hospitata est, quæ ad internecionem illorum qui in insula sunt fuit adducta. Illuc vero nocte eadem Herwardus etiam illas colloquentes sibi invicem Romana linqua2 audivit, quomodo ad debellandum insulam artem vacare deberent, rusticum illum æstimantes, et inscium loquutionis. Porro in medio noctis silentio illas ad fontes aquarum in orientem affluentes juxta portum3 domus etiam egressas Herwardus percepit, quas statim sequutus est, ubi eas eminus colloquentes audivit, nescio a quo custode fontium responsa et interrogantes et sui expectantes in reversione denique pertinere illas satagebat, sed ejus conaminis diuturna prævenit mora ut majora semper et plus auderet. Summo autem mane exinde, assumptis ollis, Herwardus discessit, circumquaque penes curiam regis vagando clamabat more figulorum Anglica lingua, Ollæ! Bonæ ollæ et urnæ! omnia hæc fictilia vasa peroptima! Interea quippe a ministris in coquinam regis adductus est, ut ollas emerent. At quidam de præpositis villæ4 forte superveniens, viso illo statim intulit, nunquam se vidisse virum sic facie Herwardo consimilem nec instar staturam illius, sicut egens assimilari potest ingenuo et rusticus militi. Quod quidam audientes venerunt videre virum consimilem Herwardo, unde in aulam regis inter milites et tyrones adductus est ut eum viderent. Et diligenter intuitus, alii dicebant hominem tam mediocris staturæ non esse tantæ virtutis et fortitudinis sicut fama de eo vulgata aliique inquirebant ab ipso si illum nefandum virum Herwardum agnovisset vel vidisset. Quibus respondit: Utinam ille vir Belial nunc hic inter nos adesset, mihi præ cunctis mortalibus infestus, nunc ulciscerer ex eo. Nam mihi quandam vaccam abstulit et quatuor oves, omnia quæ mihi erant præter ollas et jumentum, unde huc usque mihi et duobus filiis sustentamentum vitæ fuit. Interea quippe prandium regis jussum est præparari, et Herwardus in coquinam recessit. Post prandium nempe ministri coci et garcones coquinæ cum eis, vinum et siceram ei dabant bibere ut eum inebriarent, illudentes eum in multis. Tandem madefacti vino, voluerunt ei coronam radere et barbam ejus eradicare, et ut ollas suas undique circumpositas ipsemet velata facie confringeret. Qui eorum illusionibus non obedire volens, unus accersivit et graviter cum percussit. Cui reconsignato ictu sub aure vicem illi reddidit, unde sicut exanimis cecidit. Quod videntes socii, in eum omnes cum tridentibus et furcis insurrexerunt, et arrepto de foco hastile,5 contra omnes sese protexit, uno eorum interfecto, plurimisque vulneratis. Quo facto, statim in palatio patefactum est, unde apprehensus custodiendum traditur. Dum ergo in custodia esset, rege cum suis ad venabula egresso, quidam e custodibus adveniens, in una manu compedes detulit, de quibus illum onerari minitatus est, et in alia deferens gladium ex vagina. Quem statim Herwardus arripuit, et de proprio ense in eum irruit , unde mortem gustavit, atque aliis ex eo usque ad interitum propinavit. A quibus siquidem per hoc liber effectus, per sepes et foveas6 extra clam ad superiorem curiam domus descendit, ubi jumentum suum reperit. Quo ascensus, quidam de pueris regis viso illo vocibus maledicis eum aggressus est, monens sociis ut eum ministris regis sequi repente facerent, elapsum eum a vinculis asserens. Cujus objurgantis verba Herwardus non ferens, quum ante illum contra seipsum offenderet, gladio eum transverberavit. Quo facto multi sequuti sunt eum, sed omnibus una erat persequutio tardior Herwardo vero fuga efficacior, insulam de Someresham7 pertransiens et sic vespertino tempore et in noctu lucescente luna et matutinali hora in insulam clam destino progressu perveniens. Ex illis quidem omnibus qui sequuti sunt eum, nullus verbum de eo audierat, nec signum aliquod viderat, præter unum qui forte ultra ad prædictam silvam6 progressus, ubi repente equus suus fessus succubuit, et ipse vix pedibus subsistere valuit, super quem fortuitu adveniens Herwardus in terram recumbentem peue7 sine anhelitu invenit. Quem statim Herwardus interrogat quisnam ipse est, et ille, unus ex ministris satellitum regis qui quendam fugitantem rusticum sequuti sumus a quo hodie unus e pueris regis dolo et custodes hominis illius perempti sunt. Nam si aliquid audieris et videris, pro Deo et gratia generositatis tuæ indica mihi. Nunc, inquit ille, quia pro Deo et gratia generositatis conjurando requiris, scito me ipsum esse quem interrogas. Et nunc, ut verius me ipsum agnoscas, et verissime te mecum esse loquutum domino tuo regi asseras, gladium tuum pro signo et lanceam amittes, fidemque dabis, ut hæc ita illi recenses, si ex vita gaudere peroptas. Ille autem prædictus servus tandem reversus sicut ex fide promiserat regi peroravit, admirantibus cunctis de Herwardo et rege etiam eum magnanimum contestante et præclarissimum militem.
The Exploits of Hereward the Saxon.
How Hereward dressed up as a potter and went to the King’s court to spy out what they meant to do ; and how he cheated them, and slew some in the King’s court, and returned unharmed.
These things being arranged by the
King, the Isle was so guarded from the outside that almost all power of going
in or coming out was stopped ; and this was an unlooked for source of grief and
alarm, since they did not know what the King’s men were going to do against
them, nor what plan of attack was being formed, since they heard that the King
had learnt some new fashion of making war. And so they decided that they ought
somehow or other to send a man outside the Isle to explore. But finding no one
quite fit for the purpose, at last it seemed good to Hereward to go himself in
disguise, although all objected strongly and opposed his decision. And at last
he set out, taking with him his mare called in English Swallow, a creature
always lean and ugly in appearance, whose speed we have described before, and
how ready she was to undergo fatigue. As he went out he changed his dress, cut
his hair and beard, and put on a dirty coat : and, meeting a potter, he took1
his pots, and assuming the character of a potter made his way to the King’s
court at Brandon. Arriving there the same night, as it happened he spent the
night at the house of a widow, where that witch, of whom we have made mention
above, dwelt, the witch who was fetched to destroy the men of the Isle. There,
at night, Hereward heard the women talking to each other in the Roman language2,
how they were to contrive to vanquish the Isle, regarding him as a rustic
unacquainted with the language. In the middle of the night Hereward saw them go
out in silence to a spring of water that flowed towards the east near the
of the house, so he followed them immediately, and heard them at a distance
conversing, questioning, and getting replies from some unknown guardian of the
spring ; and he was designing to cut them off as they returned, but their
lengthy stay prevented the design, but left him to undertake more and more
magnificent deeds of daring. Next morning Hereward took up his pots and
departed, and roaming all about the King’s court kept crying out in potter’s
fashion, in English, “Pots! pots! good pots and jars! first class earthenware!”
Meanwhile he was taken by some servants into the King’s kitchen, so that they
might buy some pots. But one of the overseers of the town4
coming by chance, on seeing him, cried out at once, that he had never seen a
man so like Hereward in face, nor so like him in bearing, as far as a poor man
could resemble a gentleman, or a country labourer a soldier. Some men hearing
this came to look at the man so like Hereward, and so he was taken into the
King’s hall among the soldiers and recruits, for them to see. Looking intently
upon him some said that a man of such moderate height could not be possessed of
so much valour and courage as common report assigned to Hereward ; while others
asked him if he knew or had ever met that scoundrel? To whom he made answer, “I
wish that man of Belial were now here among us, a man hated by me more than
anybody, for now I would wreak my vengeance on him. For he carried off a cow of
mine, and four sheep, and everything I had except my pots and beast, whereby
hitherto I have supported myself and my two sons.” But now the King’s dinner
was to be got ready, and Hereward went back to the kitchen. After dinner the
servants and cooks, and the kitchen-boys with them, offered him wine and strong
drink to make him drunk, and made great fun of him. At last mellowed with wine,
they wanted to shave his head and pull out the hairs of his beard, and to
blindfold him and so make him break his own pots which they put all about the
ground for the purpose. As he was disinclined to submit to their jests, one man
drew near and gave him a severe blow. But he returned the blow under the ear to
such effect that he fell to the ground as it were dead. His companions seeing
this, rose against Hereward with three-pronged forks and pitchforks, so he
seized a brand5 from the hearth and defended himself against them all,
killing one man and wounding many more. This was forthwith made known in the
palace so that he was apprehended and delivered into custody. While then he was
in custody, the King having just gone out with a hunting party, one of the
keepers came up, bringing fetters in one hand, with which he threatened him to
be loaded, and in the other hand holding an unsheathed sword. At once Hereward
seized him, and fell upon him with his own sword, so that he tasted death ; and
after him Hereward killed several others. And being thus set free from these
people, over hedges and ditches6 he went down to the upper court
of the house, where he found his beast. As he was mounting, one of the King’s
boys saw him and upbraided him in bad language, giving warning to his
companions to pursue him at once with the servants of the King, declaring that
he had escaped out of chains. Hereward could not put up with his scolding
words, and when he put himself in his way struck him through with his sword.
Whereupon many pursued him, but the pursuit of all was too slow, and the flight
of Hereward too fast ; and passing through the
The only person to have witnessed the events of this chapter in their near entirety was Hereward, himself. The report can therefore best be accounted for as having been told by him to Leofric the Deacon, who then put it into the third person. Details like King William’s admiration may have come from this source – modesty is not mentioned as one of Hereward’s virtues but in the likely event that the story was compiled significantly later; sources from the king’s court could have added that information.
This is the chapter in which his
The present chapter and Chapter II make it clear that though sturdy, Hereward was not a large man, neither was he equipped on this occasion, with a soldier’s arms or mail, except to the extent that he may have carried his opponent’s weapons with him. His pots were left behind. The mare was therefore, not especially burdened. The only question lies in how or whether he got mare and saddle together. A poor potter will not have had grooms rushing to attend to his mount, so she was probably left saddled. She had been left from fairly early morning to early afternoon. Presumably, she had found some forage.
It seems that Hereward knew or thought,
that the blockade would prevent his entry by a more direct and obvious route so
he went past the Isle and doubled back hoping that, early in the morning,
William’s guard on this unexpected route would be less alert and beyond the
timely reach of messengers warning of his escape. A route into the Isle directly
from Somersham is not one of which we would think today, as it is blocked by
the Bedford Rivers
but these are a feature from the seventeenth century. On the western extremity
of the Isle, the road through Sutton is certainly, still directed toward
Somersham until redirected by the
Chapters XXIII and XXIV are
paralleled in Liber Eliensis Book 2, chapter 106 (Fairweather), though the night ride is there,
glossed over. Hereward’s indirect route back into the Isle from
1. ↑ The translation of accepit as ‘he took’ gives an impression of possible robbery. In Classical Latin, the word could equally well, perhaps better, be translated as ‘he received’, ‘he got’ or ‘he accepted’. But accipio also means ‘I treat or deal with’. In other words, we could be considering the negotiation of a purchase rather than a theft. This would leave a less harsh impression on the reader’s mind. (Langenscheidt) The word used by the Liber Eliensis at this point is suscipio: ‘quas suscipiens ab eo, tulit eas in umeris suis’. (Fairweather footnote 513) In this case, the meanings given by Langenscheidt include ‘I take’ but their tone is of a gentle nature. Had Hugh been thinking of robbery, he had the verbs capio and rapio available for use but he selected neither. Further, he was using Medieval Latin, which had had time to develop towards the modern English version of accipio as ‘I accept’.
2. ↑ An apparent printer’s error which should read lingua (tongue or language).
5. ↑ The Classical Latin meaning of hastile is ‘spear shaft’. In Hugh’s Medieval Latin, its meaning seems to have drifted to the extent of including a medieval culinary spit. This would much more closely resemble a spear than would a brand; though either might be to hand at the kitchen fire [FWP]. Langenscheidt gives hastile as spear-shaft, spear, shaft, stick. Collins proposes shaft, spear, javelin and vine prop.
6. ↑ This makes it fairly clear that in Hugh’s mind, fovea meant ditch rather than a pitfall trap. Though, the Devil’s Ditch lay across his route and this is an old defensive demarcation of an early Dark Age boundary. See also Chapter XXIII, note 1.
7. ↑ The ‘island of Somersham’ probably refers to the fact that the village (TL360779) stands on a low eminence, rising to seven metres in the village, which is surrounded to the north, east and south by former fens, though that to the south was a minor one. The use of this expression would imply that Hereward did not enter the village itself.
8. ↑ The
‘aforesaid wood’ adequately translates prædictam silvam but no wood had
been mentioned earlier. It may be that Hugh had the forest, the hunting ground
to which King William had gone, tacitly in his mind when he made the reference [FWP]. However, this is not a convincing explanation as the
king set out for his hunting from
By the time Hereward had reached
the wood, his passage by Somersham has been mentioned so he appears to have
just entered the fen adjacent to the
Though dated 1665, Blaeu’s map does not show the
seventeenth century modifications to the fen drainage and appears to owe much
to Saxton’s atlas, of which the relevant plate is dated 1576. That too, shows
the two woods and their causeway associations. Both maps clearly show river
crossings at Erith and Aldreth. Though Saxton’s map is 500 years later than the
events of our story, the important points are that it was made before the
modern drainage pattern was imposed and that the modern settlement pattern was
established well before Hereward was born. Unlike