Layamon (fl. c. 1200) was an English poet known only for his epic Brut, arguably the first great poem to be written in Middle English; it introduced such legendary kings as Arthur, Cymbeline and Lear to English literature. Layamon's name is also given in the forms Laзamon, Lazamon and Lawman.
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Line-numbers refer to the Caligula Ms. text, as published in the Early English Text Society edition. Page-numbers and translations are from Sir Frederic Madden (ed.) Brut; or, Chronicle of Britain (London: Society of Antiquaries, 1847).
- Betere is liste þene ufel strenðe.
for mid liste me mai ihalden þat strengðe ne mai iwalden.
- Better is art, than evil strength; for with art men may hold what strength may not obtain.
- Line 8590; vol. 2, p. 297.
- Þa þe Arður wes king hærne nu seollic þing.
he wes mete-custi ælche quike monne.
cniht mid þan bezste wunder ane kene.
he wes þan yungen for fader þan alden for frouer.
and wið þan vnwise wunder ane sturnne.
- When Arthur was king – hearken now a marvellous thing – he was liberal to each man alive, knight with the best, wondrously keen! He was to the young for father, to the old for comforter, and with the unwise wonderfully stern.
- Line 9945; vol. 2, p. 413.
- Yurstendæi wes Baldulf cnihten alre baldest.
nu he stant on hulle & Auene bi-haldeð.
hu ligeð i þan stræme stelene fisces.
mid sweorde bi-georede heore sund is awemmed.
heore scalen wleoteð swulc gold-faye sceldes.
þer fleoteð heore spiten swulc hit spæren weoren.
Þis beoð seolcuðe þing isiyen to þissen londe.
swulche deor an hulle swulche fisces in wælle.
- Yesterday was Baldulf of all knights boldest, but now he standeth on the hill, and beholdeth the Avon, how the steel fishes lie in the stream! Armed with sword, their life is destroyed; their scales float like gold-dyed shields; there float their fins, as if it were spears. These are marvellous things come to this land; such beasts on the hill, such fishes in the stream!
- Line 10638; vol. 2, pp. 471-2.
- And ich wulle uaren to Aualun to uairest alre maidene.
to Argante þere quene aluen swiðe sceone.
& heo scal mine wunden makien alle isunde.
al hal me makien mid haleweiye drenchen.
And seoðe ich cumen wulle. to mine kineriche.
and wunien mid Brutten mid muchelere wunne.
- And I will fare to Avalun, to the fairest of all maidens, to Argante the queen, an elf most fair, and she shall make my wounds all sound; make me all whole with healing draughts. And afterwards I will come to my kingdom, and dwell with the Britons with mickle joy.
- Line 14277; vol. 3, p. 144.
- By reason of Arthur's position as its climax as well as of the long line of other traditional heroes, events and associations, and of its breadth of treatment, simplicity, intensity, enthusiasm, accord with the supernatural, vitality of imagination, elevation and sometimes nobility and religious feeling, the poem is the nearest thing we have to a traditional racial epic.
- J. S. P. Tatlock The Legendary History of Britain (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1950) p. 485.
- Even the British Arthur becomes an Englishman, a Germanic hero, brave, daring and open-handed. We are in a world of feasts and vaunting speeches, flytings and lusty battles, fierce deeds and bloody humour, with the Fiend, the Adversary of Man, always round the next corner.