BOOK THE SECOND.
AS travelers, who have lost their way by night, gaze ever towards the east
for the first rays of light and hope, so we who grope in the darkness of
antiquity must direct our eyes to the land of the rising sun, whence learning
and life itself first sprang.
Listen then to a romance of the East.
Danaus, King of Greece, had fifty sons, whom he married to the fifty
daughters of his brother Ægistus, King of Egypt. But soon these women
thirsted for dominion, and conspired secretly to slay their husbands and
to rule in their steads. But the youngest and the most beautiful had a
tender heart, which crept from her lips in words of warning to her father
and her spouse. Then they were all seized and set adrift in ships upon
the sea, which after many storms bore them in safety to a large and uninhabited
Here they staid and named it Albion, after Albina their eldest sister,
and here they maintained themselves by the chase, killing the deer and
the boars, and wild bulls, and large birds which they found in the forests
with arrows and bolts, and bowstrings, and snares and pitfalls.
And while filled with meat and drink, and with lustful thoughts, they
lay sleeping on the ground covered with the skins of wild beasts, dark
brooding spirits swept towards them from the sky, and encircled them with
their shadowy arms, and intoxicated them with their flaming breath
By these were born huge and hideous giants which soon bore others, till
they filled the whole land with a strange and fierce crew.
MEANWHILE Troy had fallen: the wanderings of Eneas were past: and Ascanius
had died leaving behind him his son Silvius.
The son of Silvius loved a maid, who became pregnant. Then the wise
men and women of the land were sent for, and all those who knew songs of
magic art. They cast. their lots and found sorrowful spells: that a child
would be born through whom both his father and mother would suffer death:
that through their death he would be driven from the land, and after a
long time would be crowned with honor.
His mother died as she gave him to the world, and the child, whom they
named Brutus, when he had become a youth, shot his father through the breast
a-hunting the deer.
His kindred banished him from the land, and he sailed sadly over the
sea-streams into Greece where he headed an insurrection against Pandrasus
the king, and with such success that the king offered him all his ships,
and treasures, and Imogen his only daughter if he would consent to seek
So Brutus, with his followers, like Eneas of old, sailed forth upon
the waters in search of a new land.
After two days and two nights the sea became blue: the wild waves were
hushed: they came to a desolate island: its inhabitants had been slain
by the pirates: the timid deer coursed over its wasted shores.
But they found there a marble temple, and within the fair and beautiful
image of Diana.
Brutus with twelve wise men, and with Gerion, his priest, entered the
temple while his followers remained without. He bore a vessel of red gold
in his hand: it was filled with wine and with the milk of a white hind
which he had killed. Having kindled a fire by the altar, he walked around
it nine times. He called to the goddess beloved of his heart: he kissed
the altar and poured the wine and milk upon the fire.
"Lady Diana! loved Diana! High Diana!" he cried. "Help me in my need.
Teach me whither I may go and wherein I may dwell. And there I will make
thee a lofty dwelling and honor thee with great worship.
Then he spread the hide of the white hind upon the altar, and kneeling
upon it fell asleep. In his dreams he beheld Diana floating towards him
with sweet smiles. She laid her hands like a wreath of flowers upon his
Beyond Gaul in the west thou shall find a winsome land: therein thou
shalt prosper. Therein is fowl: there is fish: there dwell fair deer: there
is wood: there is water: there is much desert: grim giants dwell in the
land. It is called Albion.
For thirty days and thirty nights they sailed past Africa and over the
lake of Silvius, and over the lake of Philisteus: by Ruscikadan they took
the sea, and by the mountain country of Azare. They fought with the pirates,
and gained from them such treasures that there was not a man in the fleet
who did not wear gold and pall. And by the pillars of Hercules they were
encompassed by mermen who sing songs so sweet that mariners will rest slothfully
on their oars, and listen to them for days without wearying of their songs
to hear--these impeded them much with their wicked crafts, but they escaped
In a peaceful sea, and among the playing fish they came to Dartmouth
in Totnes. There the ships bit the sands, and with merry hearts the warriors
It happened after many days that Brutus and his people were celebrating
holy writs, with meat, with drink, and with merry glee sounds: with silver
and with gold: with horses and with vestments.
Twenty strong giants descended the hills: trees were their clubs: in
the centre of their foreheads was a single eye vivid as the blue ice. They
hurled huge stones and slew five hundred of the Trojans. But soon the fierce
steel arrows of the Trojans whistled through the air, and blood began to
spurt from their monstrous sides. They tried to fly; but those darts followed
them swift and revengeful, as birds of prey winged with the dark feathers
Nineteen were slain and Geog-magog, their leader was brought bound before
Brutus, who ordered a wrestling match to be held between the giant and
Corineus, a chieftain of his army.
A mighty crowd gathered upon the downs by the sea-cliff.
Corineus and the giant advanced towards each other, they yoked their
arms and stood breast to breast. Their eyes gushed blood, their teeth gnashed
like wild boars, their bones cracked. Now their faces were black and swollen,
now red and flaming with rage. Geog-magog thrust Corineus off his breast
and drawing him back broke three of his ribs with his mighty hand. But
Corineus was not overcome, he hugged the giant grimly to his waist, and
grasping him by the girdle swung him over the cliff upon the rocks below.
Which spot is called "Geog-magog's leap" to this day. And to Corineus,
the conqueror, was given a dukedom, which was thence called Corinee and
Brutus having conquered the giant off-spring of the treacherous sisters,
built a New Troy, and erected temples to the great Diana, and caused her
to be worshipped throughout the land.
Which was named Britain after Brutus, the first man who set foot
upon its shores.
FABLES are seldom actual impostures. They are usually truths disguised
in gaudy or grotesque garments, but so disguised that the most profound
philosophers are often at a loss how to separate the tinsel from the gold.
But even when they remain insolvable enigmas, they are, at least, to
be preferred to the etymological eurekas and tedious conjectures with which
antiquarians clog the pages of history, and which are equally false and
My fable of Albion is derived from the ancient chronicles of Hugh de
Genesis, an historiographer now almost forgotten, and is gravely advanced
by John Hardyng, in his uncouth rhymes, as the source of that desire for
sovereignty which he affirms to be a peculiarity of his own countrywomen.
The story of Brû or Brutus was first published by Geoffrey of
Monmouth, and was generally supposed to have been a monkish fabrication,
till it was discovered in the historical poems of Tyssilia, a Welsh bard.
It is worthy of remark that the boys of Wales still amuse themselves
by cutting out seven enclosures in the sward, which they call the City
of Troy, and dance round and between them as if in imitation of the revolution
of the planets.
In a poem by Taliesin, the Ossian of Wales, called The Appeasing, of
Lhudd, a passage occurs, of which this is a literal translation:
"A numerous race, fierce, they are said to have been,
Were thy original colonists, Britain, first of isles,
Natives of a country in Asia, and the city of Gafiz
Said to have been a skilful people, but the district
Which was mother to these children, warlike adventurers
on the sea;
Clad in their long dress, who could equal them?
Their skill is celebrated, they were the dread of Europe."
This is strong evidence in favor of the Phnicians, at that time the pirate-scourges
of the sea, but in the Welsh triads, or traditional chronicles, we read
"The first of the three chieftains who established the colony was
Hu, the Mighty, who came with the original settlers. They came over the
Hazy Sea from the summer country, which is called Deffrobani, that
is where Constinoblys now stands."--Triad 4.
It maybe possible to reconcile these contradictions of history in its
simplest state, to which I might add a hundred from later writers.
We learn fromJosephus that the Scythians, were called Magogi
by the Greeks, and it is probable that these (who certainly did migrate
to Britain at a remote period) were the real aborigines, and the race alluded
to in the fourth Triad. That then the warlike race of Taliesin also migrated
from another region of the East, and that their battles with the Scythians
gave rise to the fables of Brutus and Magog; for it was a practice, common
enough with illiterate nations, to express heroes in their war-tales by
the images of giants.
This superstition is somewhat borne out by the assertion of Tacitus
and other classical writers, that at the time of Cæsar's invasion,
there were three distinct races in Britain, especially contrasting-the
red-haired, large-limbed, and blue-eyed Celts of the North, with the Silures
of Devon, Cornwall, and the Cassiterides or Scilly Isles, who had swarthy
faces and dark curly hair, like the Iberi of Spain.
But let us pass on from such dateless periods of guess-work, to that
in which The White Island first obtained notice from those philosophers,
and poets, and historians, whom now we revere and almost deify.
THE north of the island was inhabited by wild hordes of savages, who lived
upon the bark of trees, and upon the precarious produce of the chase; went
naked, and sheltered themselves from the weather under the cover of the
woods, or in the mountain caves.
The midland tribes were entirely pastoral. They lived upon the flesh
and milk which their flocks afforded them, and clothed themselves in their
While the inhabitants of the south, who had been polished by intercourse
with strangers, were acquainted with many of the arts of civilization,
and were ruled by a priesthood which was second to none in the world for
its learning and experience.
They manured their ground with marl, and sowed corn, which they stored
in thatched houses, and from which they took as much as was necessary for
the day and having dried the ears, beat the grain out, bruised it, and
baked it into bread.
They ate little of this bread at their banquets, but great quantities
of flesh, which they either boiled in water, or broiled upon the coals,
or roasted upon spits. They drank ale or metheglin, a liquor made of milk
and honey, and sat upon the skins of wolves or dogs.
They lived in small houses built in a circular form, thatched with rushes
into the shape of a cone; an aperture being left by which the smoke might
Their dress was of their own manufacture. A square mantle covered a
vest and trousers, or a deeply-plaited tunic of braided cloth; the waist
was encircled by a belt, rings adorned the second finger of each hand,
and a chain of iron or brass was suspended from the neck. These mantles,
at first the only covering of the Britons, were of one color, with long
hair on the outside, and were fastened upon the breast by a clasp, with
the poorer classes by a thorn.
The heads were covered with caps made of rushes, and their feet with
sandals of untanned skin; specimens of which are still to be met with-of
the former in Wales, of the latter in the Shetland Isles.
The women wore tunics, wrought and interwoven with various colors, over
which was a loose robe of coarser make, secured with brazen buckles. They
let their hair flow at freedom, and dyed it yellow like the ladies of ancient
Rome; and they wore chains of massive gold about their necks, bracelets
upon their arms, rings upon their fingers.
They were skilled in the art of weaving, in which, however, the Gauls
had obtained a still greater proficience. The most valuable of their cloths
were manufactured of fine wool of different tints, woven chequer-wise,
so as to fall into small squares of various colors. They also made a kind
of cloth, which, without spinning or weaving, was, when worked up with
vinegar, so hard and impenetrable, that it would turn the edge of the sharpest
They were equally famous for their linen, and sail-cloths constituted
a great part of their trade.
When they had finished the linen in, the loom, they had this curious
method of bleaching it:
The flax having been whitened before it was sent to the loom, the unspun
yarn was placed in a mortar where it was pounded and beaten into water;
it was then sent to the weaver, and when it was received from him made
into cloth, it was laid upon a large smooth stone, and beaten with broad-headed
cudgels, the juice of poppies being mingled with the water.
For scouring cloths, they used a soap invented by themselves, which
they made from the fat of animals and the ashes of certain vegetables.
Distinct from these southern tribes, were the inhabitants of the Cassiterides,
who wore long black garments, and beards falling on each side of their
mouths like wings, and who are described by Pliny as "carrying staves with
three serpents curling round like Furies in a tragedy."
It is probable that the nudity of the northern nations did not proceed
from mere barbarous ignorance. We know that savages are first induced to
wear clothing, not from shame, but from vanity; and it was this passion
which restrained them from wearing the skins of beasts, or the gaudy clothes
of their civilized neighbors.
For it was their custom to adorn their bodies with various figures by
a tedious and painful process. At an early age, the outlines of animals
were impressed with a pointed instrument into the skin; a strong infusion
of woad, (a Gallic herb from which a blue dye was extracted) was
rubbed into the punctures, and the figures expanding with the growth of
the body retained their original appearance. Like the South-Sea Islanders
they esteemed that to be a decoration which we consider a disfigurement,
and these tatooings (which were used by the Thracicans and by the ancient
inhabitants of Constantinople, and which were forbidden by Moses, Levit.
xix. 28.) were only displayed by Southern races as a kind of war-paint.
Like the Gauls, who endeavored to make their bright red hair rough and
bristly not for ornament, but as a terror to their enemies, these Britons
on the day of battle flung off their clothes, and with swords girded to
their naked sides, and spear in hand, marched with joyful cries against
Also upon certain festivals they, with their wives and children, daubed
themselves from head to foot with the blue dye of the woad and danced in
circles bowing to the altar.
But the Picts, or painted men, as the Romans named them, colored themselves
with the juice of green grass.
Hunting was their favorite exercise and sport, and Britain which was
then filled with vast swamps and forests afforded them a variety of game.
The elephant and the rhinoceros, the moose-deer, the tiger and other
beasts now only known in Eastern climes, and mammoth creatures that have
since disappeared from the face of the earth made the ground tremble beneath
their stately tread. The brown bear preyed upon their cattle, and slept
in the hollow oaks which they revered. The hyenas yelped by night, and
prowled round the fold of the shepherd. The beaver fished in their streams,
and built its earthen towns upon their banks. And hundreds of wolves, united
by the keen frosts of winter, gathered round the rude habitations of men
and howled from fierce hunger, rolling their horrible green eyes and gnashing
their white teeth.
Their seas abounded with fish, but since they held water sacred they
would not, injure its inhabitants for they believed them to be spirits.
I will now consider the primeval state of trade in Britain, now the
greatest commercial country in the world.
It was periodically visited by the Phnicians, a crafty and enterprising
nation whose commerce embraced the whole of the known world, from the frozen
borders of Scythia to the burning coasts of Africa and Hindostan; whose
vessels like the Spanish galleons and our own East Indiamen of old were
equipped equally for trade or war; who robbed the weak with their drawn
swords, and the strong with their cunning arts; who traded with Arabia
for spices and precious stones; with Damascus for the Mesopotamian white
wool, and for wine of Aleppo, a beverage so costly that it was drunk by
kings alone: with Juda for fruits of the soil, corn, grape-honey, oil
and balm; with Armenia for mules and chariot-horses, flocks and herds;
with the shores of the Baltic for amber; with Spain for minerals; with
the Euxine for tunny-fish; with India for the cinnamon of Ceylon, for cotton
garments and for steel which sold in Arabia for twice its weight in gold,
and of which the Damascus blades so celebrated in the middle ages were
It was not long before they discovered the lead and tin mines of Cornwall
and the Cassiterides, which would appear (from several flint-headed tools
called celts lately discovered within them) to have been worked
by the Britons themselves.
And as they were wont to exchange the pottery of Athens for the ivory
of Africa, and live Jews for the gold and jewels of the Greeks, so they
bartered salt, earthenware and brazen trinkets with the Britons for tin,
lead, and the skins of wild beasts.
It was the policy of the Phnicians (in which they were afterwards imitated
by the Dutch) to preserve their commercial secrets with the greatest jealousy,
and to resort to extremes in order to protect their interests. Although
they had supplied tin and amber for several years to the Greeks, Herodotus,
who had visited Tyre, could only obtain very vague accounts as to the countries
from which they had been obtained, and on making inquiries respecting cinnamon
and frankincense, was explicitly informed that the first was procured by
stratagem from the nests of birds built upon inaccessible crags, and the
latter from a tree guarded by winged serpents.
There-is also the story of the master of a Phnician trader from Cadiz
to the Cassiterides, who finding himself followed by a Roman ship ran his
own vessel ashore preferring death to discovery. The Romans were also shipwrecked,
and were drowned, but the patriot escaped to tell his tale at Tyre, and
to receive from a grateful state the value of his cargo and an additional
In spite of these precautions, either by accident, or by the treachery
of some renegade Phnician, or from the colony of Phocians at Marseilles,
the Greeks discovered the secret about three hundred years before the Christian
Thus monopoly being ended, the commerce of the Britons was extended.
and improved, and after the descent of the Romans they exported not only
tin and lead, but also gold, silver, iron, corn, cattle, slaves hunting-dogs,
pearls, and those wicker baskets which Martial has immortalized in his
It also appears that chalk was an article of their trade, by this inscription
which was found with many others near Zeland, A. D. 1647-
OB MERCES RECTE CONSER
VATAS SECVND SILVANVS
NEGO X TOR CRETARIVS
V. S. L. M.
To the Goddess Nehalennia
For his goods well preserved
A chalk merchant
Willingly performed his merited vow.
Before describing the religion and superstitions of our earliest ancestors,
which will bring me to the real purpose of this book, I will add a few
remarks upon their manners and peculiarities.
Curiosity, which is certainly the chief characteristic of all barbarous
and semi-barbarous nations, was possessed by the Celts in so extraordinary
a degree that they would compel travelers to stop, even against their wills,
and make them tell some news, and deliver an opinion upon the current events
of the day. They would also crowd round the merchants in towns with the
same kind of inquiries.
But the great failing of these Celts was their hastiness and ferocity.
Not content with pitched battles against their enemies abroad, they were
always ready to fight duels with their friends at home. In fact, the end
of a British feast was always the beginning of a fray; two warriors would
rise and fight each other with such sang-froid that Athenus wrote
in astonishment, Mortem pro joco habent, "They turn death into a
joke;" and it was from these spectacles that the Romans conceived and executed
the idea of gladiatorial entertainments.
They feared nothing these brave men. They sang as they marched to battle,
and perhaps to death. They shot arrows at the heavens when it thundered;
they laughed as they saw their own hearts' blood gushing forth.
And yet they were plain and simple in their manners; open and generous,
docile and grateful, strangers to low cunning and deceit, so hospitable
that they hailed the arrival of each fresh guest with joy and festivities,
so warm-hearted that they were never more pleased than when they could
bestow a kindness.
Their code of morals, like those of civilized nations, had its little
contradictions; they account it disgraceful to steal, but honorable to
rob, and though they observed the strictest chastity, they did not blush
to live promiscuously in communities of twelve.
This extraordinary custom induced Caesar to assert that they enjoyed
each other's wives in common; but in this he is borne out by no other authorities,
and, indeed, there are many instances of this kind among barbarous nations,
who love, apparently, to hide their real purity with a gross and filthy
Richard of Circencester (probably alluding to Bath the aqu solis
of the ancients) mentions, however, some salt and warm springs used by
the ancient Britons, from which were formed hot baths suited to all ages,
with distinct places for the two sexes; a refinement which was unknown
And Procopius writes:--
"So highly rated is chastity among these barbarians, that if even the
bare mention of marriage occurs without its completion, the maiden seems
to lose her fair fame."
Having thus briefly sketched the condition and employments of the early
Britons--having proved that our ancestors were brave, and that their daughters
were virtuous, I will now show you those wise and potent men of whom these
poor barbarians were but the disciples and the slaves.