THE DREAM OF MAXEN WLEDIG
Translated by Lady Charlotte Guest
MAXEN WLEDIG was emperor of Rome, and he was a comelier
man, and a better and a wiser than any emperor that had been before him. And one
day he held a council of kings, and he said to his friends, "I desire to go
to-morrow to hunt." And the next day in the morning he set forth with his
retinue, and came to the valley of the river that flowed towards Rome. And he
hunted through the valley until mid-day. And with him also were two-and-thirty
crowned kings, that were his vassals; not for the delight of hunting went the
emperor with them, but to put himself on equal terms with those kings.
And the sun was high in the sky over their heads, and the heat was great. And
sleep came upon Maxen Wledig. And his attendants stood and set up their shields
around him upon the shafts of their spears to protect him from the sun, and they
placed a gold enamelled shield under his head; and so Maxen slept.
And he saw a dream. And this is the dream that he saw. He was journeying
along the valley of the river towards its source; and he came to the highest
mountain in the world. And he thought that the mountain was as high as the sky;
and when he came over the mountain, it seemed to him that he went through the
fairest and most level regions that man ever yet beheld, on the other side of
the mountain. And he saw large and mighty rivers descending from the mountain to
the sea, and towards the mouths of the rivers he proceeded. And as he journeyed
thus, he came to the mouth of the largest river ever seen. And he beheld a great
city at the entrance of the river, and a vast castle in the city, and he saw
many high towers of various colours in the castle. And he saw a fleet at the
mouth of the river, the largest ever seen. And he saw one ship among the fleet;
larger was it by far, and fairer than all the others. Of such part of the ship
as he could see above the water, one plank was gilded and the other silvered
over. He saw a bridge of the bone of the whale from the ship to the land, and.
he thought that he went along the bridge, and came into the ship. And a sail was
hoisted on the ship, and along the sea and the ocean was it borne. Then it
seemed that he came to the fairest island in the whole world, and he traversed
the island from sea to sea, even to the furthest shore of the island. Valleys he
saw, and steeps and rocks of wondrous height, and rugged precipices. Never yet
saw he the like. And thence he beheld an island in the sea, facing this rugged
land. And between him and this island was a country of which the plain was as
large as the sea, the mountain as vast as the wood. And from the mountain he saw
a river that flowed through the land and fell into the sea. And at the mouth of
the river he beheld a castle, the fairest that man ever saw, and the gate of the
castle was open, and he went into the castle. And in the castle he saw a fair
hall, of which the roof seemed to be all gold, the walls of the hall seemed to
be entirely of glittering precious gems, the doors all seemed to be of gold.
Golden seats he saw in the hall, and silver tables. And on a seat opposite to
him, he beheld two auburn-haired youths playing at chess. He saw a silver board
for the chess, and golden pieces thereon. The garments of the youths were of jet
black satin, and chaplets of ruddy gold bound their hair, whereon were sparkling
jewels of great price, rubies, and gems, alternately with imperial stones.
Buskins of new cordovan leather on their feet, fastened by slides of red gold.
And beside a pillar in the hall, he saw a hoary-headed man, in a chair of
ivory, with the figures of two eagles of ruddy gold thereon. Bracelets of gold
were upon his arms, and many rings were on his hands, and a golden torque about
his neck; and his hair was bound with a golden diadem. He was of powerful
aspect. A chess-board of gold was before him, and a rod of gold, and a steel
file in his hand. And he was carving out chess-men.
And he saw a maiden sitting before him in a chair of ruddy gold. Not more
easy than to gaze upon the sun when brightest, was it to look upon her by reason
of her beauty. A vest of white silk was upon the maiden, with clasps of red gold
at the breast; and a surcoat of gold tissue upon her, and a frontlet of red gold
upon her head, and rubies and gems were in the frontlet, alternating with pearls
and imperial stones. And a girdle of ruddy gold was around her. She was the
fairest sight that man ever beheld.
The maiden arose from her chair before him, and he threw his arms about the
neck of the maiden, and they two sat down together in the chair of gold: and the
chair was not less roomy for them both, than for the maiden alone. And as he had
his arms about the maiden's neck, and his cheek by her cheek, behold, through
the chafing of the dogs at their leashing, and the clashing of the shields as
they struck against each other, and the beating together of the shafts of the
spears, and the neighing of the horses and their prancing, the emperor awoke.
And when he awoke, nor spirit nor existence was left him, because of the
maiden whom he had seen in his sleep, for the love of the maiden pervaded his
whole frame. Then his household spake unto him. "Lord," said they,
"is it not past the time for thee to take thy food?" Thereupon the
emperor mounted his palfrey, the saddest man that mortal ever saw, and went
forth towards Rome.
And thus he was during the space of a week. When they of the household went
to drink wine and mead out of golden vessels, he went not with any of them. When
they went to listen to songs and tales, he went not with them there; neither
could he be persuaded to do any thing but sleep. And as often as he slept, he
beheld in his dreams the maiden he loved best; but except when he slept he saw
nothing of her, for he knew not where in the world she was.
One day the page of the chamber spake unto him; now, although he was page of
the chamber, he was king of the Romans. "Lord," said he, "all the
people revile thee." "Wherefore do they revile me?" asked the
emperor. "Because they can get neither message nor answer from thee as men
should have from their lord. This is the cause why thou art spoken evil
of." "Youth," said the emperor, "do thou bring unto me the
wise men of Rome, and I will tell them wherefore I am sorrowful."
Then the wise men of Rome were brought to the emperor, and he spake to them.
"Sages of Rome," said he, "I have seen a dream. And in the dream
I beheld a maiden, and because of the maiden is there neither life, nor spirit,
nor existence within me." "Lord," they answered, "since thou
judgest us worthy to counsel thee, we will give thee counsel. And this is our
counsel; that thou send messengers for three years to the three parts of the
world, to seek for thy dream. And as thou knowest not what day or what night
good news may come to thee, the hope thereof will support thee."
So the messengers journeyed for the space of a year, wandering about the
world, and seeking tidings concerning his dream. But when they came back at the
end of the year, they knew not one word more than they did the day they set
forth. And then was the emperor exceeding sorrowful, for he thought that he
should never have tidings of her whom best he loved.
Then spoke the king of the Romans unto the emperor. "Lord," said
he, "go forth to hunt by the way thou didst seem to go, whether it were to
the east, or to the west." So the emperor went forth to the hunt, and he
came to the bank of the river. "Behold," said he, "this is where
I was when I saw the dream, and I went towards the source of the river
And thereupon thirteen messengers of the emperor's set forth, and before them
they saw a high mountain, which seemed to them to touch the sky. Now this was
the guise in which the messengers journeyed; one sleeve was on the cap of each
of them in front, as a sign that they were messengers, in order that through
what hostile land soever they might pass no harm might be done them. And when
they were come over this mountain, they beheld vast plains, and large rivers
flowing there through. "Behold," said they, "the land which our
And they went along the mouths of the rivers, until they came to the mighty
river which they saw flowing to the sea, and the vast city, and the many-coloured high towers in the castle. They saw the largest fleet in the
world, in the harbour of the river, and one ship that was larger than any of the
others. "Behold again," said they, "the dream that our master
saw." And in the great ship they crossed the sea, and came to the Island of
Britain. And they traversed the island until they came to Snowdon.
"Behold," said they, "the rugged land that our master saw."
And they went forward until they saw Anglesey before them, and until they saw
Arvon likewise. "Behold," said they, "the land our master saw in
his sleep." And they saw Aber Sain, and a castle at the mouth of the river.
The portal of the castle saw they open, and into the castle they went, and they
saw a hall in the castle. Then said they, "Behold, the hall which he saw in
his sleep." They went into the hall, and they behelcl two youths playing at
chess on the golden bench. And they beheld the hoary-headed man beside the
pillar, in the ivory chair, carving chessmen. And they beheld the maiden sitting
on a chair of ruddy gold.
The messengers bent down upon their knees. "Empress of Rome, all hail!
Ha, gentles," said the maiden, "ye bear the seeming of honourable men,
and the badge of envoys, what mockery is this ye do to me?" "We mock
thee not, lady; but the Emperor of Rome hath seen thee in his sleep, and he has
neither life nor spirit left because of thee. Thou shalt have of us therefore
the choice, lady, whether thou wilt go with us and be made empress of Rome, or
that the emperor come hither and take thee for his wife?" "Ha,
lords," said the maiden, "I will not deny what ye say, neither will I
believe it too well. If the emperor love me, let him come here to seek me."
And by day and night the messengers hied them back. And when their horses
failed, they bought other fresh ones. And when they came to Rome, they saluted
the Emperor, and asked their boon, which was given to them according as they
named it. "We will be thy guides, lord," said they, "over sea and
over land., to the place where is the woman whom best thou lovest, for we know
her name, and her kindred, and her race.
And immediately the emperor set forth with his army. And these men were his
guides. Towards the Island of Britain they went over the sea and the deep. And
he conquered the Island from Beli the son of Manogan, and his sons, and drove
them to the sea, and went forward even unto Arvon. And the emperor knew the land
when he saw it. And when he beheld the castle of Aber Sain, "Look
yonder," said he, "there is the castle wherein I saw the damsel whom I
best love." And he went forward into the castle and into the hall, and
there he saw Kynan the son of Eudav, and Adeon the son of Eudav, playing at
chess. And he saw Eudav the son of Caradawc, sitting on a chair of ivory carving
chessmen. And the maiden whom he had beheld in his sleep, he saw sitting on a
chair of gold. "Empress of Rome," said he, "all hail!" And
the emperor threw his arms about her neck; and that night she became his bride.
And the next day in the morning, the damsel asked her maiden portion. And he
told her to name what she would. And she asked to have the Island of Britain for
her father, from the Channel to the Irish Sea, together with the three adjacent
Islands, to hold under the empress of Rome; and to have three chief castles made
for her, in whatever places she might choose in the Island of Britain. And she
chose to have the highest castle made at Arvon. And they brought thither earth
from Rome that it might be more healthful for the emperor to sleep, and sit, and
walk upon. After that the two other castles were made for her, which were
Caerlleon and Caermarthen.
And one day the emperor went to hunt at Caermarthen, and he came so far as
the top of Brevi Vawr, and there the emperor pitched his tent. And that
encamping place is called Cadeir Maxen, even to this day. And because that he
built the castle with a myriad of men, he called it Caervyrddin. Then Helen
bethought her to make high roads from one castle to another throughout the
Island of Britain. And the roads were made. And for this cause are they called
the roads of Helen Luyddawc, that she was sprung from a native of this island,
and the men of the Island of Britain would not have made these great roads for
any save for her.
Seven years did the emperor tarry in this Island. Now, at that time, the men
of Rome had a custom, that whatsoever emperor should remain in other lands more
than seven years, should remain to his own overthrow, and should never return to
So they made a new emperor. And this one wrote a letter of threat to
There was nought in the letter but only this. "If thou comest, and if thou
ever comest to Rome." And even unto Caerlleon came this letter to Maxen,
and these tidings. Then sent he a letter to the man who styled himself emperor
in Rome. There was nought in that letter also but only this. "If I come to
Rome, and if I come."
And thereupon Maxen set forth towards Rome with his army, and vanquished
France and Burgundy, and every land on the way, and sat down before the city of
A year was the emperor before the city, and he was no nearer taking it than
the first day. And after him there came the brothers of Helen Luyddawc from the
Island of Britain, and a small host with them, and better warriors were in that
small host than twice as many Romans. And the emperor was told that a host was
seen, halting close to his army and encamping, and no man ever saw a fairer or
better appointed host for its size, nor more handsome standards.
And Helen went to see the hosts, and she knew the standards of her brothers.
Then came Kynan the son of Eudav, and Adeon the son of Eudav, to meet the
emperor. And the emperor was glad because of them, and embraced them.
Then they looked at the Romans as they attacked the city. Said Kynan to his
brother, "We will try to attack the city more expertly than this." So
they measured by night the height of the wall, and they sent their carpenters to
the wood, and a ladder was made for every four men of their number. Now when
these were ready, every day at mid-day the emperors went to meat, and they
ceased to fight on both sides till all had finished eating. And in the morning
the men of Britain took their food, and they drank until they were invigorated.
And while the two emperors were at meat, the Britons came to the city, and
placed their ladders against it, and forthwith they came in through the city.
The new emperor had no time to arm himself when they fell upon him, and slew
him, and many others with him. And three nights and three days were they
subduing the men that were in the city and taking the castle. And others of them
kept the city, lest any of the host of Maxen should come therein, until they had
subjected all to their will.
Then spake Maxen to Helen Luyddawc. "I marvel, lady," said he,
"that thy brothers have not conquered this city for me." "Lord,
emperor," she answered, "the wisest youths in the world are my
brothers. Go thou thither and ask the city of them, and if it be in their
possession thou shalt have it gladly." So the emperor and Helen went and
demanded the city. And they told the emperor that none had taken the city, and
that none could give it him, but the men of the Island of Britain. Then the
gates of the city of Rome were opened, and the emperor sat on the throne, and
all the men of Rome submitted themselves unto him. The emperor then said unto
Kynan and Adeon, "Lords," said he, "I have now had possession of
the whole of my empire. This host give I unto you to vanquish whatever region ye
may desire in the world."
So they set forth and conquered lands, and castles, and cities. And they slew
all the men, but the women they kept alive. And thus they continued until the
young men that had come with them were grown grey-beaded, from the length of
time they were upon this conquest.
Then spoke Kynan unto Adeon his brother, "Whether wilt thou
rather," said he, "tarry in this land, or go back into the land whence
thou didst come forth?" Now he chose to go back to his own land, and many
with him. But Kynan tarried there with the other part and dwelt there.
And they took counsel and cut out the tongues of the women, lest they should
corrupt their speech. And because of the silence of the women from their own
speech, the men of Armorica are called Britons. From that time there came
frequently, and still comes, that language from the Island of Britain.
And this dream is called the Dream of Maxen Wledig, emperor of Rome. And here