Saturday, November 19, 2022

R. B. Parkinson, The Tale of Sinuhe and Other Ancient Egyptian Poems, 1940-1640 BC


Opening Passage: From The Tale of Sinuhe:

The Patrician and Count,
Governor of the Sovereign's Domains in the Syrian lands,
the True Acquaintance of the King, whom he loves,
the Follower, Sinuhe says,
'I was a Follower who followed his lord,
a servant of the Royal Chambers
and of the Patrician Lady, the greatly praised,
the Queen of Senwosret in Khnemsut,
the Princess of Amenemhat in Qanefru,
Nefru, the blessed lady.... (p. 27)

Summary: The Tale of Sinuhe has a reputation for being the greatest surviving literary work of the Egyptian Middle Kingdom, and it deserves it. Sinuhe is a courtier in the court of Pharaoh Amenemhat I. As part of his duties, he accompanies the king's son, Senwosret I, on a military mission to Libya. As they are returning, they meet messengers from the palace bearing terrible news: the king is dead. As Sinuhe's whole life had been centered on service to the king, it is as if his whole life comes crashing down, and he runs away. It is made very, very clear in the tale that he is not doing so out of any fear of Senwosret; not long after, he lauds the former prince in the very highest of terms. He is not afraid of any reprisal or anything specific at all. He does not in fact know why he runs away; it is like panic, but he himself cannot identify anything to cause panic, except this, that Amenemhat is dead. When he tries to explain himself later, he attributes his action to some god imposing it on him. In any case, he ends up in Upper Retjenu, that is probably somewhere in the hills and mountains of Lebanon or Syria, a place that the locals call Iaa. There he meets and becomes good friends with another king, Amunenshi. Iaa is a splendid place, "a good land" (p. 31) that has figs and wine and cattle in abundance. Sinuhe becomes a major figure among the tribes there and has a family, the children of which each become great leaders among the people. He becomes the primary commander of the king and he is never defeated.

It is fascinating that fleeing the good land of Egypt, Sinuhe comes not to a miserable land, but a land in some ways even more paradisial; in fleeing the honors of the Egyptian court, he becomes in some sense an even more important figure in another nation. But the thing of it is, Iaa is not Egypt. It is in a sense a false Egypt; for Sinuhe, it is in a sense a fall. He has done well, but he has done well in a land far from God. Because, of course, as an Egyptian, Sinuhe believes that the pharaoh is a living god. He has fled his god, for reasons he cannot even himself explain, and he has shut himself off from that divine source. And one of the divine powers is the Egyptian king is the latter's pull in the afterlife. Sinuhe is living in a paradise. But it is a barbarian paradise; he will die in barbarian lands. And he will not be buried with the splendors of an honorable Egyptian burial, providing him wealth and influence and power in the realm of death in the West; he will not be in the pharaoh's retinue or share in the pharaoh's glory, even as a distant servant. This is brought home when he is challenged in a duel to the death by a peerless champion from among the tribesmen. Sinuhe wins, and is showered with wealth and power and fame because of it. But here we find in the tale a long prayer in which he gives thanks to the mercy of whatever god had led him astray for saving him, a thanksgiving of victory that turns smoothly into a lament over how he will be buried so far from home. 

That god, whoever it was, perhaps has heard his prayer, because his fame has now grown so great that Pharaoh Senwosret hears about him and his story, and sends him a letter asking him to return, precisely so that he will no longer be a roaming stranger in the world but can be honored in Egypt and buried unto blessedness as can only be done in Egypt. Happily, Sinuhe returns home and is brought into the presence of the king. He is somewhat overwhelmed, but both the king and the king's family meet him with abundant good will and gladness, and he is given his proper life as a courtier. And he is given his proper death. The tale had begun as if it were a tomb inscription, giving his titles, and then, when Sinuhe wandered, it had wandered into another genre along with him; but now that he is returned, it too returns and becomes the kind of eulogy found on tomb inscriptions. Sinuhe has truly come home.

The Tale of Sinuhe is not long, but it manages to be immensely rich. It is a tale of redemption, the tale of a man living a divine life who wandered out of it. Though his life is still extraordinary -- one suspects that his service in the courts of Egypt had given him a wide variety of skills that could not but do well elsewhere -- it is no longer a divine life; it is not his life, it is not the life appropriate to him. It is a life that is ruled by death. But by divine grace, he is allowed to return and is even more blessed than before, in a life that is now blessed with immortality. I was expecting it to be interesting, but it was truly enjoyable to read it, and I think it absolutely deserves a place among the great literary works of human history.

In The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant, a merchant commoner, Khunanup, is attempting to get justice done; his goods have been stolen and he is trying to get the High Steward Rensi to punish the offender. However, unbeknownst to Khananup, Rensi has told the king about how eloquent he was, and the king has instructed Rensi to be silent about the case and record the peasant's words. Again and again Khananup comes and tries to get justice, his eloquence continuing but becoming more bitter as time passes. What he doesn't really understand, because he can't see, is that his repeated pleadings are in fact heard, and are being heard by a higher authority than the High Steward, and it is because of his pleadings, which seem fruitless to him, that he will succeed. He is, without really recognizing, praying to a god, after all; pharaoh is listening. In The Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor, the narrator is trying to comfort a passenger on the ship; they are apparently sailing back home to court, and for reasons that are not favorable to the passenger. In consolation, the narrator tells a story of shipwreck on a paradisial island, where a great serpent taught him how to endure death. The symbolism is generally thought to refer back to Egyptian myths of the creation of the world; the serpent's lesson is the lesson of history itself, because the problem of unexpected destruction is the problem of there being a world at all. But the passenger is unconvinced. What good does it do to hope for help when you are doomed? And if there is a further answer to this question, the tale does not give it to us.

The above three tales all get into deep metaphysical waters, and in a way that is very concise and concentrated. The Tale of King Cheops' Court (sometimes elsewhere called King Cheops and the Magicians) takes a different route. It has a more rambling, jokey quality to it, stringing together several tales. They are not random tales, however. The picture that emerges, indirectly, is of the infallibility of destiny but the fallibility of kings, and the consequent and crucial need to distinguish the false from the true, the merely apparent from the real.

The anthology then includes a number of monologues and dialogues: The Words of Neferti, The Words of Khakeperreseneb, The Dialogue of a Man and his Soul, and The Dialogue of Ipuur and the Lord of All. These are all various kinds of reflections on how far the world is from the way it should be. They might be thought of as diagnoses of social illness. The world is wrong, and filled with doers of wrong. On every side there is woe. The wise are given no place. Here and there are signs of something like hope; The Words of Neferti looks to a possible king to make things right, The Dialogue of a Man and his Soul looks to the afterlife. But even that is hope in a great darkness.

This contrasts with the last section of the anthology, on the Teachings, which are proverbial and aphoristic works about how we ourselves should act. Like the Discourses, they are concerned above all with doing Truth (ma'at), the fundamental principle of Egyptian ethics, but while the Discourses describe this negatively (by accounting how people fail to do Truth), the Teachings describe it positively, giving advice for how it can be done, usually in the context of fulfilling one's proper role in Egyptian society. The Teaching of King Amenemhat and The Teaching for King Merikare do it for the role of king; The 'Loyalist' Teaching seems to have in view courtiers and servants of the king, whose form of doing Truth consists in great measure of loyalty to the king, and this is true as well of the most famous of the Teachings, The Teaching of the Vizier PtahhotepThe Teaching of Khety was one of the most commonly transcribed works of the Middle Kingdom, and perhaps unsurprisingly because it is all about the extraordinary awesomeness of being a scribe, which of course is a position that in Ancient Egypt was at the overlap of the royal and priestly aspects of Egyptian life, being an immensely important office for purposes of government, involved in the semi-divine act of writing.

All of these works are old, and they come to us from old remains. Parkinson, who put together this anthology, included all the extant works of the Middle Kingdom that we have in sufficient form to understand what is going on. Nonetheless even the best preserved of them have obscurities, and several of them have significant chunks that have not survived to come down to us. So Parkinson also includes an appendix that looks at some of the tiny scattered fragments of other works. They are not enough to determine much about those works themselves. However, they do have value in giving us some sense of the literary production of the Middle Kingdom; in particular, they make clear that the works that have come down to us are far from being the only genres that were produced. When I did Craig Williamson's The Complete Old English Poems for the fortnightly book, I noted that what has survived is in fact a tiny sample of what we know to have been a vast literary treasury; the Anglo-Saxons took poetry extremely seriously, but time has eaten most of it. I suppose, though, one could say that the Anglo-Saxons produced so much poetry that even time has not yet been able to devour all of it. This is, if anything, more true of Ancient Egypt. The Middle Kingdom produced a vast cultural treasury. Time has eaten away most of it. But so much of a powerhouse was it, not even time has been able to eat it all. As the Great Pyramid of Khufu still stands, not yet consumed by the years, so too still stand some of its great writings.

Favorite Passages: From The Tale of Sinuhe:

...I found his Majesty on the great throne
in the portal of electrum.
Then I was stretched out prostrate,
unconscious of myself in front of him,
while this God was addressing me amicably.
I was like a man seized in the dusk,
my soul had perished, my limbs failed,
my heart was not in my body.
I did not know life from death.

And his Majesty said to one of these Friends,
"Raise him up, let him speak to me!" (p. 40)

From The 'Loyalist' Teaching ('l.p.h.' is an abbreviation for 'May he live, be prosperous, and healthy'; Atum and Khnum are maker-gods who make the bodies of men; Bastet is the cat-headed goddess who protects the land; Sekhmet is the lion-headed goddess who inflicts divine punishment):

The king is Sustenance; his speech is Plenty.
The man he makes is someone who will always exist.
He is the heir of every god,
the protector of his creators.
They strike his opponents for him.
Now, his Majesty is in his palace (l.p.h.!)--
he is an Atum of joining necks:
his protective might is behind the man who promotes his paower.
He is a Khnum of every limb,
the begetter and creator of the folk.
He is a Bastet who protects the Two LAnds:
the man who praises him will be sheltered by his arm.
He is a Sekhmet against the man who transgresses his command:
the man he disfavours will sink to distress. (p. 239)

From The Teaching of the Vizier Ptahhotep:

'Do not be proud because you are wise!
Consult with the ignorant as well as the wise!
The limits of art are unattainable;
no artist is fully equipped with his mastery.
Perfect speech is more hidden than malachite,
yet it is found with the maidservants at the millstones....' (p. 251)

Recommendation: The anthology as a whole is Recommended. The Tale of Sinuhe and The Teachings of Grand Vizier Ptahhotep are major works of world literature, and are Highly Recommended.


R. B. Parkinson, ed. and tr., The Tale of Sinuhe and Other Ancient Egyptian Poems, 1940-1640 BC, Oxford University Press (New York: 2009).

Friday, November 18, 2022

Dashed Off XXVIII

 ziran (lit. 'so of itself'): nature

"Every military government floats between the extremes of absolute monarchy and wild democracy." Gibbon
"The refinements of life corrupt while they polish the intercourse of the sexes. The gross appetite of love becomes most dangerous, when it is elevated, or rather, indeed, disguised by sentimental passion."

People are oppressed not by another's power but by imposed impediments to their own.

God as the common good of all common goods

To say that something is a complete society is not to say that it is not part of a broader society; all societies connect to other societies.

"Politically the societies of Western modernity are oligarchies disguised as liberal democracies." MacIntyre

The New Jerusalem is the eschatological fulfillment of all nations.

Manhood and womanhood are laid down in many layers.

the 'modern world' as a relatively depauperate population of spiritual practices

the cultural molting of philosophical ideas

fideistic beauty: pleases on being seen by intellect with virtue of faith
Fideistic beauty is a sign of truth discernible by faith.

Kant's df. of event (A192/B237): perception following another perception

deterministic structure but with locations (or possibilities, or permissibilities) rather than times

On the timescales at which the Church works, art and architecture are very good investments, even at considerable expense, and even allowing for maintenance expenses.

poetry as saying what the heart intends

Drawing is an exercise in multiple abstractions.

drawing a line vs. making a drawing of a line
(in the latter, the line is actually a shape or value-shape)

ritualistic behavior as a structuring of interior thought

aphorisms as slices of reasoning

"The modern world will have to fit in with Christmas or die." Chesterton

Maria porta caeli

pragmatism as magicalism

every existence an epiphany

being-in-the-Church as a form of being-in-creation

being created vs being in creation

conditionals as descriptions of illative potential

Every faithfulness is under the guise of some loyalty.

"Truth is meant to save you first, and the comfort comes afterward." Bernanos

It is a matter of considerable importance, and inadequately taken into account by both academic practices and philosophy of science that most scientific research will inevitably fail, that much that one does will mislead, and that there are always wrong assumptions.

'Publish or perish' inevitably becomes 'cheat and lie to get by'.

Gn 6:11 -- The world was filled with chamas.
cf. Micah 6:11; Ezk 7:11, 23; Am 3:10; Gn 16:5
-- plundering that leaves others without any recourse

diagrams as mediating notations

Of the six kinds of causes mentioned by neoplatonists (e.g., Olympiodorus), the paradigmatic and the instrumental are most essential (but not exclusive) to discussing intelligent causes in particular.

All evaluations presuppose principles of classification.

We go beyond mere tribalism by means of shared rituals.

necessity under ideal conditions, at the limit, in the final cause, as three different kinds

natural velleities as indirect indications of natural inclination

Inspired by wisdom, we aspire to it.

Even elicited natural desires, qua elicited, cannot be wholly in vain, although the end that fulfills them may be so eminenter rather than formaliter.

etiology : efficient cause :: allegory : formal cause :: anagogy : final cause

philosophy as the point between exitus and reditus, the point of exitus becoming reditus

"Prayer, considered in its essence, has a relation to the order of creation. In invoking the divine aid, we implore a continuation of the creative action, of which oblation is the perpetual memorial." Gerbet
"The superiority of the Christian religion properly so called over the primitive religion, consists principally in uniting us more closely with the Deity."
"The eucharistic communion is something intermediate between the union with the Deity granted to the just of old in this land of banishment, and that which saints enjoy in the celestial city."
"The precept which ordains the pardon of injuries, is the great mystery of Christian morality, as redemption is the great mystery of faith."

Substitution of one thing for another is one of the most essential elements of human society.

forms of apologetics
(1) evidential (the point is inferred from principles)
(2) mediational (the point is a principle that reconciles an opposition or tension)
(3) convergent (the point is a limit case of a series)

fear of the Lord & recognition of divine power

In the face of great difficulty, people generally become both harsher and more generous.

ecclesia: gathering of those summoned

Democracy only works when it arises out of the self-organizing of the demos.

conspiracy theories as arising from a taste for complaining

"Personal interest is often the standard of our belief, as well as of our practice...." Gibbon

philophronetic rites

It is remarkable how often people talk about the future to justify focusing only on the now.

necessary vs gratuitous means
means in which the end is achieved, means through which the end is achieved, means with which the end is achieved

Where and how to research/inquire next requires prudential regard for circumstances, and cannot be determined by rule.

"Every kind of intelligence is a fullness of forms." Proclus

"The foundations of chemical philosophy, are observation, experiment, and analogy. By observation, facts are distinctly and minutely impressed on the mind. By analogy, similar facts are connected. By experiment, new facts are discovered; and in the progression of knowledge, observation guided by analogy, leads to experiment, and analogy confirmed by experiment becomes scientific truth." Sir Humphry Davy

"No Cosmos is complete from which the question of Deity is excluded; and all Cosmology has a side turned towards Theology." Whewell

the intimate relationship between almsgiving and hope

the depravification of names

We can answer a question with an action. (e.g., "Do you have X?" can be answered by offering X.)

a high-trust society, reverent of its past, rich in fellow-feeling

Thursday, November 17, 2022

While We Commune, My Heart and I

 Be Quiet, Wind
by Charles G. D. Roberts 

 Be quiet, wind, a little while,
And let me hear my heart.
You chiming rivulet still your chant
And stealthily depart. 

 You whisperings in the aspen leaves,
You far-heard whip-poor-will,
You slow drop spilling from the rose--
You, even you, be still. 

 I must have infinite silence now,
Lest I should miss one word
Of all my heart would say to me--
Now, when its deeps are stirred. 

 Hardly I dare my breath to draw
Lest breathing break the spell,--
While we commune, my heart and I,
In dreams too deep to tell.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Doctor Universalis

 Today is the feast of St. Albert of Lauingen, Doctor of the Church; he is often known by the name he was given even in his own time, Albertus Magnus, Albert the Great. From his De corpore domini, on the Eucharist:

That it is nothing but grace is shown by the name, because it is and is named the Eucharist, which means "good grace". Although we receive grace in all the sacraments, there is in this sacrament the whole of grace, which we see, touch, and taste. Thus Zechariah 4.7 says about this sacrament, "And he will give equal grace to its grace." Whatever graces are scattered to be gathered in all the [other] sacraments and virtues, the whole is found here together in one grace. This is signified by the omer, which was the measure of the manna, which was sufficient for each one. [Exodus 16.16-17]

For the measure which is sufficient for man's salvation can only be that which contains the grace in which the whole Christ is contained....

[Albert the Great, On the Body of the Lord, Surmanski, OP, tr., CUA Press (Washington, DC: 2017) pp. 31-32.]

Monday, November 14, 2022

Two Poem Drafts


The world flows in, I ball it up,
I bounce it here and there;
I play with it like string and cup
and toss it in the air.

The world flows in, I shape it so,
I build with it like clay,
and then I outward let it flow,
returned to light of day.

The Words of Ameny

The collected words, the gathered verses,
the heart-searching utterances
of the priest of Elephantopolis,
Ameny son of Ankhu:

The realm is destroyed and none care;
none weep the end, nor do any speak it.
None are free from evildoing, no, not one;
all do it and all suffer it.
Some are learned enough to understand it;
none are roused enough to speak against it.
Everyone only loves their own utterances;
crooked of heart, all honest speech is abandoned.
Each mouth says only, "I want."
What past ages built is torn and ruined;
rebuke is answered with knife in the belly.

May Thoth, the god-appeaser, vindicate me;
may Khonsu, who reckons Truth, favor me;
may Irdes in the holy place defend me!
As for men, their hearts are selfish;
as for men, their hearts are unsteady.

The brother is unveiled as an enemy;
to find an honest man, one must find a stranger.
Every face is set against every face.
Evil roams the land; no end can be found to it.
Where is found recover for the sick?
Where is found wind for the sail?
Where is found homecoming after long journey?
Where is found the land where men are living gods?
Seek out the answer, even if you weep;
life is transitory, but the wise seek what endures.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Logres XI

 continuing Book II

Chapter 4

After the end of the tournament, Epiphany Eve having arrived, there gathered together all the great men of from around about, whether of the lay orders of knight and king or the holy orders of priest and bishop, for a trial of the sword. After the singing of Te Deum Laudamus, many barons and lords tried their hand, and all failed, until Arthur stepped up to the sword and drew it easy, giving it over to Bishop Bedwin. Then the house of Sir Ector, the houses of Duke Corneus and Sir Don, the houses of Sir Ulfius and of Sir Brastias, and all their supporters, as well as all the common people, stood with Arthur, but the other lords and barons were in great shock and disbelief, and then in great anger, saying that no one of such low degree was deserving to be king.

"Shall we be overgoverned by a boy of no blood?" they said to each other in wrath. "This is surely some trick."

But Bishop Bedwin said, with great hardness in his voice, "Though he were even a shepherd-boy, younger than his brothers, the Lord might raise him up, and what man is there who could gainsay it? But I shall show you. Arthur, take the sword and return it to the stone."

Arthur did as he was told. The barons and lords again tried to take it from the stone, but found it as fastly bound as it had been. Arthur, however, again drew it easily.

"Will you then be against the Lord's will?" said the bishop to the barons.

The barons and the lords were for the most part not moved, but wary of the influence of Sir Ector and of Duke Corneus, and not wanting to defy the Church directly in the presence of the common people, they said, "Good sir, we are not against the Lord's will, but surely the boy is not old enough yet."

To this, Bishop Bedwin replied, "The one who has chosen him knows who he is." But still the barons demanded that another trial be held at Candlemas. And some of the more clever among them added that by this means the trial could be witnessed by men from more distant lands. This was then agreed, and it was agreed as well that until then, ten knights should guard the sword, so that, day or night, there should always be five guarding it.

After all of this, Sir Don came to Bishop Bedwin and Sir Ector, saying, "We must take great care, or the boy may meet with a mishap that is not a mishap." From that moment on, Sir Kay, Sir Lucan, or Sir Bedivere was with Arthur, no matter the time and no matter the place. The three were the first of the Companions of Arthur.

Thus at Candlemas the trial was held again, with men coming from every part of every realm around. Again the barons and the lords attempted to draw the sword, and again Arthur drew it easily. The prelates and the common folk all shouted acclamation, saying, "Who shall deny that Arthur is the choice of the Lord?" 

But the barons and the lords replied, "Surely we must be sure that there is no better. Let the trial be held again, this time at Pascha, that any man who wishes to try may try it."

Bishop Bedwin said in response, "If we hold a trial yet again at Pascha, will you accept the choice?" And when they affirmed this, he granted their request.

Thus the trial was held again on Easter Eve, and again Arthur alone drew the sword. Bishop Bedwin spoke at length of the sobriety and prudence he found in Arthur. Then the barons and lords consulted among themselves and came to the bishop.

"What impediment to the Lord's choice do you bring this time? Surely the boy should already be crowned," the bishop said.

"We do not impede it at all," said the representatives of the lords, "but you have seen his character and we have not. Thus let him be crowned, if it be the Lord's will, but let it wait until Pentecost, that we may ourselves behold his character, and may also spend the time in prayer."

Thus Bishop Bedwin, having taken counsel with Arthur and Sir Ector, agreed that Arthur's crowning and sacring would be delayed until Pentecost. Then the barons and lords brought fine gifts to Arthur as tokens of good faith; but in reality, they wished to see if he could bought and bribed. However, all that they gave him, Arthur at the advice of Sir Ector gave away. Horses and fine tapestries he gave to knights, and jewels to merchants and their wives, and gold and silver to the poor, and his fame among the common people grew. And indeed, some of the lords and barons were won over by this, either because they themselves received gifts, or because they found him to be a noble young man in heart, or because they did not wish to cross directly one who was increasingly well liked.

Chapter 5

Thus all things continued until Whitsuntide. Again on Whitsun Eve, the sword was tried, and again only Arthur could draw it from the stone. But this time the Bishop Bedwin had ready the crown and the scepter and holy oil. In the view of the people and with the consent of the barons, he knighted Arthur. Then he adorned Sir Arthur with royal vestments, and bringing him before all, he said, "Here is the man God has chosen to be your king. But if any of you have reason why he should not be made king, let him now speak or else hold his peace." But none dared speak.

Then Bishop Bedwin, showing the sword to Sir Arthur, said,  "This is the sword with which you will keep justice in defense of the holy Church and to maintain right and the Christian faith. If you will, here before all the orders of Christendom, swear to God, and to our Lady, Saint Mary, and to Saint Peter and to all the saints, to save and uphold truth and peace in the land, and to use your power to keep justice, come forth and take this sword of your election by God."

Then Sir Arthur and many of the people were greatly affected and wept as Sir Arthur took the sword. He said, "As truly as God is Lord over all, may he grant grace and power to do as you have said." Then he was led to the altar and laid it thereon. Bishop Bedwin crowned and anointed him with the same rite that Bishop Fastidius had used for King Uther Pendragon. Then High Mass was sung, the first Mass of the reign of King Arthur.

When the people left the church, they marveled, because there was nothing where the stone of the sword had been.

Then King Arthur held court, and lords and barons and knights came to give their service. Many complaints were also brought to King Arthur of wrongs that had been done since the death of King Uther Pendragon, for many knights and ladies had been bereft of their lands. The king gave judgment in all such cases, and he became known for his fairness and impartiality. He also created the officers of his household; Sir Kay was made seneschal and steward, Sir Ulfius was made chamberlain, Sir Lucan was made butler, Sir Bedivere was made constable, and Sir Brastias was made warden of the north. Then King Arthur began establishing his magistracy over all the counties and lordships around Londinium, and even into Cambrian lands.

All things went well until the middle of August.

Chapter 6

In the middle of August, King Arthur held a great feast and royal court at Caerleon, and invitations were sent far and wide. There came King Lot of Lothian, King Urien of Rheged and Gore, King Caradoc Strongarm of Stangore, known far and wide as the husband of Queen Tegau Goldenhearted, King Yder the Elder of Scotland, and the young King Anguish of Ireland. There also came a king named Malaguin or Maelgwn, but known more often as the Tall King or the King of a Hundred Knights; he was the king who is known elsewhere to have at first opposed St. Padarn and St. Tydecho, but who eventually gave them lands and became a great supporter to them. And each of these kings came with their knights.

When they were all assembled, King Arthur showered gifts upon them and invited them to a great feast. But the kings, regarding him as being a beardless boy of low birth and not a suitable king for such a realm as Logres, held all that he gave them and all that he did in disdain. They refused his gifts, saying that they came instead to give him gifts, namely, a sharp sword between the neck and the shoulders. Then King Arthur withdrew to a strong tower in Caerleon and they besieged him. With King Arthur were five hundred good men. But with the six kings there were twenty-seven hundred knights.

For fifteen days the six kings besieged King Arthur, for the tower to which he had withdrawn was well victualed. And on the fifteenth day, Merlin came, showing himself with wonders and marvels in the town, so that rumor of him spread like fire all around. Hearing of this, the kings at the advice of King Urien sent for him. They met him at a palace on the banks of the river outside the town, in a tower that overlooked the water and had a view in the distance of the walls of Caerleon.

"What do you think of this beardless boy," asked King Urien, "whom the bishop of Trinovant has crowned a king without our license and without the assent of the people of the land? What do you propose as our best means of dealing with him?"

But Merlin replied, "Bishop Bedwin has done well, and could not have done better than he did."

The kings in turn responded, "How can it possibly be as you say? Many there are who are of higher lineage or of greater experience, many who are stronger or wiser. No man knows whence this boy comes, for Sir Ector is merely his foster father."

"You say what you wish were true," said Merlin, "but his lineage is higher than any of yours."

King Lot replied, "You have gone mad."

"This boy Arthur," said Merlin, "is the son of Uther Pendragon by Igraine of Tintagel."

"You are saying he is a bastard," the kings replied.

"Not so," said Merlin. "He was begotten after Gorlois had died and he was born in wedlock after Uther had married Igraine. I will tell you more than this. Those who oppose him, he will defeat. Even to his dying day, no one who rises against him shall have victory against him, though they had many more men, and much better men, than any that you are able to bring. He is, by right, the King of Britain."

Then some of the kings, such as King Urien and the King of a Hundred Knights, were disturbed. But King Lot, laughing in scorn, said to them all, "He lies. Is he not often said to be the Devil's son? Like his father, he lies."

Nonetheless, Merlin persuaded the kings that an embassy should be received under truce so that the matter might be discussed. Thus he went to the tower, where he was received joyfully by Sir Ulfius and brought to the king. 

Merlin told them all that had happened, and said, "Do not fear, my king. The days before you are difficult, but you will triumph. Go forth boldly, as a king and not as a supplicant, and answer them in all things as their lord and chieftain. For they will kneel before you, whether they will or nill."

to be continued