Life of Saint Illtud
§10. Of the awakening of the king and of his grant of habitation.
When these things had been said by the angel, the king, corrected from his maliciousness, was aroused from sleep, declaring to those who heard them such words as these, 'O servant of God, most blessed Illtud, I grant thee this solitude freely for a high and heavenly recompense. I have seen a vision useful to us both, an angel's voice commanding that it is by no means right that thou shouldst quit this valley. As long as I shall reign, I shall not offend thee; most freely mayest thou hold this district. Appoint husbandmen over thins territory, for this territory is meet to be cultivated, and there is none more fertile throughout the country. Tilled it abounds in harvests; it is seen to be flowing with honey and fragrant with flowers. Italy is fertile, abounding in fruits of the earth, this is more abundant and more temperate without its excessive heats. Too much cold does not destroy the crops, superfluous heat does not parch the fruits. It speedily ripens them at a suitable time; the reapers rejoice, more joyful than the reapers of Italy. Rejoice thou, therefore, to abide in such a territory; thou oughtest to rejoice, so I prophesy, for innumerable folk will rejoice in thy manner of life. So profitable a manner of life was not in these regions; thou wilt preach, directing wanderers by thy heavenly doctrines. Magistral care has been granted thee by the bishop, this also I concede and confirm by royal grant. Your school will be revered, vassals will serve thee and all born in the country. Many will flow together from divers parts, may they be instructed in liberal education. Although thou art now unknown thou wilt be known, I shall make thee known, and thou wilt be glad.' Then the placid saint Illtud, not more joyful but holding himself under control, gave thanks to almighty God, and cheerfully accepting what the king offered, beseeching the divine clemency that it would condescend to pity unto the forgiveness of the past crimes which he committed. After that that the angel had said such things, the king was mollified from wrath by the angelic reproof. He returned to his own court, magnifying and praising the omnipotence of the supreme Creator through the open miracles which he had seen.
§11. Of the establishment of agriculture and the great number of his household.
venerable abbot, Illtud, being at that time hindered by none, remained at peace.
He tills and sows, he reaps and lives by his own labour. He appoints labourers,
cultivators of husbandry throughout his fields. They increase seed, they duly
perform labours with great profit. He feeds the poor, he covers the naked, he
visits the sick and those cast into prison. He had a hundred in his household,
as many workmen, clerics, and a hundred poor persons daily. He was hospitable,
most ready, never refusing hospitality to those who required it. He gave
bountifully whatever was put in his hands, not entrusting it to any guardians to
be kept. In his bountiful heart there was no hurtful pride, but rather humility,
kindness, and pure and undefiled religion. Very many scholars were attracted to
him, of whose number these four, to wit, Samson, Paulinus, Gildas and Dewi (that
is, David) studied with him, instructed in wisdom, and others, very many, like
His affairs increasing prosperously, and he having taken ecclesiastical orders and, moreover, having received the order of monk through his holiness and grace, and being appointed abbot the venerable man appointed fifty canons, who at suitable times and fixed hours visited the church, having each of them his prebend, to wit, each his own homestead with profits, which were given by the people to keep in memory their souls. Yearly rents were paid to the abbot; what was paid he divided by common custom. Yearly entertainments were prepared for him; and to what was prepared he invited a multitude of poor people, whom regularly he bade to partake of it, until what was bestowed ran short.
§13. Of the breach of the ditch, the sea rushing in, and of the recession of the sea, and of the springing of a well by mean of saint Illtud.
Such agreeableness of position as the aforesaid pleased him who dwelt there, level grounds on every side surrounding a plain, and a wood unfelled between. Yet he was troubled by the frequent inundation of the sea and a fluvial approach towards his cemetery. Therefore moved by grief and fear, lest it should invade and occupy further the whole valley, he built an immense dyke, a mixture of mud and stones, which should beat back the inrushing wave, that was wont to swell beyond measure, the river only having room to flow to the sea through the middle of it. After the work was done the force of the waves broke the dyke. A second time he renovated it, and the second operation the surge broke anew. A third time he repeated the task, nor did the repetition avail, but came to ruin. Saint Illtud grieved, sayin such words as these, 'Here I will dwell no longer; most willingly I might wish it, but troubled on account of this marine molestation I shall not be able. It will destroy my buildings, it will flow into the oratories which we constructed laboriously.' He invokes and beseeches the heavenly Protector for aid, to consider how he might avoid quitting the convenient place which he had chosen. In the meanwhile, arranging to withdraw on the morrow, the preceding night whilst he anxiously slept an angelic voice addresses the sleeper in this wise, 'I command thee and forbid thee to leave what thou wishest to leave, for God is not willing that thou shouldst withdraw from this valley, because your praye have been heard by the supreme Auditor, who delivers all who confide in him and pray. He will deliver thee from this injurious and troublesome anxiety. Tomorrow, after that thou comest from the oratory, take thy bachall and hasten thy steps towar the restless sea, which thou shalt drive back by divine power from thy threatening bachall. It will fly before thee continuously without return of flow, going again to its wonted quarters, as a fugitive will fear before a pursuing enemy.' So in the early morning, as the angel had commanded him in his sleep, he took his course to the wave-driven sea. He began to go forward, the sea began to retreat, as though it were become capable of feeling and life. Its wavering became still, and its stopping-place was on the shore. And when the shore showed dry, he pierced it with his bachall, and thereupon as quickly a very clear fountain flowed out and one beneficial for expelling sicknesses, which continues to flow without deficiency, and, what is more wonderful, although it is near the sea, it emits fresh water. These things being performed, the most blessed Illtud kneeling prayed to the Lord of heaven, saying, 'I beg of thee, Creator supreme, and Giver of all gifts, who confirmest thy gifts with increase, that on this shore may be the boundary of the sea, and that it return not to that place, where I have chosen the fixed seat of my dwelling. Let not hurt, let it not disturb, here may it rest, here may there continue a landing-place for ships.' Thus it happened as he asked, because that marshy land having become dry was fertile for agriculture, and what was not arable, the clergy had in meadow and fodder abundance for cattle. Then the elect servant of God returned, giving thanks to almighty God, and living quietly and prosperously, free from the disturbance, which through the power of God and the prayer found blameless of the most holy Illtud no longer plagued or hurt him, he himself saying words of this sort concerning the marvellous performance, 'No am I able to dwell here, I was desirous to go away, I do not wish it now. The sea will not disturb me; after the neighbourhood had been overwhelmed, it has receded. Wherefore I was very fearful; from henceforth there is no room for fear. I wish to build, wherefore I am not fearful.'
§14. Of the complaints of the corn-filching birds held in custody by their scarers.
In the autumn, when the crops were ripening, birds began to destroy the corn of saint Illtud and to leave the ears almost empty. When he discovered this, saint Illtud grieved for his loss, and ordered his scholars to guard the corn every day in their turn by constantly casting stones throughout the whole day with a sling. Now the disciple Samson, when he was taking his turn, wishing from good will (or obedience) to fulfil his master's command, kept guard as best he could; nevertheless I prevailed not to keep the corn safe and intact. He seeks divine counsel and help that he might confine the multitude of birds, not knowing how otherwise to defend the corn on account the swarm of destroyers. He consulted with himself, inspired by divine counsel, and found by reflexion what ought to effect it. It was given to him from heaven to drive the birds from the corn without their flying. They try to fly and are unable by any exertions. The kindly Samson, seeing this, compelled them to withdraw before him of their own will, like tame animals. Driven they came to the open barn door and entered; like horses or sheep they precede those that follow, like sheep or horses they become gentle as they progress. The birds remain in complete confinement held without a net. Divine power, which keeps the stars in their order, tamed them. They caw mournfully, hungry, they fast, they pour forth mournful songs in a merited prison. There was lamentation in this company for the liberty they sought, they repented of having so greatly wasted the corn. Illtud frees the multitudes grieved with their imprisonment. They injured him no more after the performance of these wonders.
§15. Of the election of Samson to be a bishop and of the springing up of a fountain from his tears and of the conveyance of his body by divine command.
After this miracle had become known everywhere, messengers came from Letavia (that is, Lesser Britain, Brittany) to elect Samson, a most noble youth and blameless in all his life, and to appoint him when elected bishop of Dol, also to ask leave of his master Illtud for him to go, because of the tranquil confidence which he enjoyed amongst his countrymen, for at that time the aforesaid church needed an episcopal representative. He being asked was unable to refuse. Grieving and weeping he prepared to migrate with the messengers, though preferring to live in subjection under the master's rod than to enjoy pontifical honour in the altitude of an ecclesiastical see. Whilst he rested a little time in the upper part of the valley, talking with his teacher about many past affairs, dwelling on his last words for solace before parting from the society of his instructor, he began to shed tears, until his tears fell to the ground in an excessive tearful flow, whence a fountain burst forth on the spot, and flowed out, running down as the flow of a river, which was called by the name of the same wondrous Samson. Also, on account of the extraordinary love which he had for his dearest teacher, he ordered that his body after death should come should be brought to the monastery of saint Illtud and buried in his general and delightful cemetery. These things being so done, they proceeded to Dubricius, bishop of the church of Llandaff, that from him he might receive the first ecclesiastical orders and the diaconate. And while he was being ordained, there appeared to the pontiff Dubricius and to the abbot Illtud a pigeon, whiter than snow, sitting (or standing) on the head of the young man at his ordination. After these things he sailed, ordained, to Letavia, and was elevated to the episcopal chair according to catholic custom. And after the appointed end of his life, his body was placed in a sarcophagus, which a strong wind put in motion and lifted up and conducted seawards with very swift movement by divine power. Then it came upon the waves, darting along like a flying coot, and descending touched land safe and sound, like a ship crossing, in Illtud's harbour (or creek). The Lord performed what he wished to accomplish, because he had promised concerning his body, to wit, that it should be conveyed and buried in that same cemetery. In the meantime sailors seeing and smelling the odoriferous sarcophagus, informed saint Illtud what wonderful thing they had seen. And he, remembering the last charge of his most beloved Samson respecting his body, wept and prayed and went hurriedly in sorrow to the sea harbour. Then the body was taken and honourably carried by the clergy, and buried in the midst of quadrangular stones standing upright in the cemetery, a stone cross being placed above and the insignia of a bishop inscribed below, whose soul rests free from future burning.
§16. Of the visit of the wife of saint Illtud, and the loss of her sight, and its recovery through the same saint.
The wife formerly of the blessed Illtud, named Trinihid, the chastest of women, passed her life subject to chastity on account of separation from her husband, desiring no conjugal intercourse, so her mind strove, so was the bent of her intention, constant in prayer, temperate in speech, keen on every good work. Christ was consolation to her, Christ was nourishment, daily at the ninth hour she broke her fast on barley bread and water. She rejected courses of food, she tasted no sweet fare. Love of the holy Trinity was her sweetness, which she enjoyed inwardly. She liked mountain solitude, and elected to dwell there, there she built a dwelling, she founded an oratory, where most faithfully she prayed to the Lord Redeemer. She prayed constantly, being found blameless and irreprehensible in all her manner of life, remaining a nun, comforting innumerable widows and nuns and poor people in her charge. In the meantime she desired to visit saint Illtud, and, undertaking the journey, she visited him, when she saw the industrious digger, of muddy countenance owing to his constant delving; leanness too had attenuated the contours of his countenance. She sought from him sweet discourse, her request displeased him who heard it, being sought he returned no response, he did not wish to see her or to be seen, nor to hear her discourse or be heard. She beheld his mean garb, clothed as he was with goat's hair and skins, not as she had seen him formerly, a handsome soldier. Owing to her improper visit she lost her sight, she grieved heavily to have lost it deservedly. Nevertheless saint Illtud, being asked, implored the Lord's compassion that she might recover her former vision. His prayers being heard by God, she saw clearly; afterwards she returned corrected by such a correction. Nevertheless her countenance was not afterwards so fair as before, affected with spots and pallor, and pallid as though ill with fever. Therefore she remained in the aforesaid place, never again visiting saint Illtud, because she was unwilling to displease God and the most beloved of God.
§17. Of the steward, Cyflym, who melted like wax before fire, because he had offended Illtud.
The steward of Meirchion king of the Glamorgan folk was a malevolent person, Cyflym by name, which in Latin means totus acutus, very acute, really living up to this which he was called. For most sharply he accused the king's subjects to king Meirchion in order that they might lose their goods; he protected none who ought to be protected. His stewardship was hateful to all, his whole life was abominable. He frequently displeased the abbot Illtud, he also annoyed his clergy. Many things unjustly snatched away by him he feigned to have been demanded by his master, the latter being ignorant of the matter and not having given the order. He was angry with all, and all spoke ill of him; he a single individual, whom his own evil deeds condemned, was most harsh against all. He exalted himself by controlling the bishop's office; nay rather he kept himself back, because he loved villainy. Yet the man exalted by evil doing is restrained and thrust back, remaining in danger. Dangerous was his governance while seeking to rule; he governed not whilst he himself overthrew those whom he first ought to govern and direct. He deserved, therefore, to be overthrown whilst he caused the saint to be afflicted, who, when afflicted by the malevolent man was pacifically courteous. But God, the supreme avenger, caused him to melt like wax softened and melted by heat of fire, and so to cease from his malice, he not appearing any more, for he had wished the holy and most free Illtud to become tributary and to send his tributes to the king's fortress. He a man who enjoyed greatest liberty was unwilling to suffer these things of his own accord, or to allow so great an injury or to be angry, but poured forth diligent prayers that God might grant pardon to the malevolent man. For he strove to fulfill the gospel precept which thus enjoins, 'Pray for those who persecute and speak evil of you', and again, 'Blessed are they who suffer persecution for righteousness' sake.'
§18. Of the flight of the man of God to a cave owing to king Meirchion's persecution.
The sacrilegious steward having melted away, king Meirchion was moved with excessive wrath, wishing to kill the innocent man Illtud, and to destroy the place and its clergy, as he greatly repented having permitted the occupying of the waste, for he preferred rather the beasts to dwell there than that the elect servants of God should do service in honour of the holy and undivided Trinity. He speedily takes arms, he bids his soldiers arm themselves, and armed they proceed together to the holy place and endeavour to take revenge both on the abbot and the occupants of the place. These things being heard, the most blessed Illtud shunned the malevolent troop, shunning both it and the excited people, who caused hindrance to his prayers. He wished to shun them, going afar off on the earth, and feared to be sought and found, and being found to be brought back again unwillingly to his abbacy. He seeks everywhere for secret security, where he might hide his face. After inquiring he arrives at length at the bank of the river Ewenny, where he saw a very secret cave. Seeing it, he entered, and occupied it for the space of one year and for the space of three days and nights in addition. The whole night he lay on a cold stone, as he desired, so fulfilling such a penance as he had imposed on himself, as if he were saying, 'This stone for a bed is placed beneath my breast, this is my delight, I will lie down in accordance with the divine will; pleasant will be the blessed reward which will come to one who is blessed, a reward laid up in heaven for me, when I shall reach it.'
§19. Of the heavenly food in the cave, and the general lamentation after Illtud, and of the bell sent to him by saint David which sounded at God's direction, and of his return from cave to monastery.
The blessed Illtud prayed then incessantly, fasting daily. Every ninth hour there was sent to him from heaven one loaf of barley bread, and one portion of fish, wherewith he was refreshed. After a temperate meal he visited a neighbouring well, drawing water for himself in the hollow of his hands, as Paul and Antony, the first hermits, performed their drinking. Then he returned to the cave, guarding against being seen by anyone at his entering. He was diligently looked for in woods and in forests, and in the retreats of deep valleys, and was not found after assiduous searchings. As long as he lay hid so, the powerful were distressful, not knowing whither he had gone, the poor and the widows mourned miserably, exclaiming, 'Who will be our protection? Who with overflowing heart will dispel our poverty? He gave bountifully, to no one did he refuse his substance. Affectionately he administered assistance to all who asked aught of him, for indeed he was the general stay of all the needy. He grieved with those who grieve, he rejoiced with those who rejoice. Incessantly he sowed apostolic precepts, multiplying the seed a hundredfold. To those who were to be punished and to those who had suffered punishment he was a frequent source of relief, redeeming them by prayer and fasting and bounteous gifts. If he still lives in this world, he is held fast in a subterranean prison. If he has quitted this life, may he live, as we do wish, in eternal repose. While such things and many others were being said, a certain wayfarer passed by, who was a messenger of Gildas the historian, carrying a brazen bell made by the same Gildas, that he might bear it for presentation to saint Dewi (that is, David), the bishop, in memory of past fellowship and love. As he passed by the cave which was near the public road, the bell sounded, being moved without human agency. Saint Illtud, hearing the sweet sound, came up to the person who was carrying it, and swung it thrice being pleased with its very sweet melodiousness, asking the man where he was going, or where he was carrying that beautiful thing, superior to gold. He answering says, 'I go and am carrying this bell to saint Dewi (or David) at the bidding of the renowned Gildas.' Having thus spoken, he went on his way, and arriving at the Valley of Mynyw, presented the bishop with the gift as mentioned. Being presented with the bell, he shook it; it rendered no sound with the motion. The bishop, wondering at that marvel, asked the messenger whether it had been moved or tested by anyone along the way during his messengership. He being asked told him what had happened as above, and the bishop believed it to be truly told, saying, 'I know that our master, Illtud, wished to possess it for the sweetness of its sound, but he was unwilling to ask for it, hearing that it was to be sent to me by the donor, Gildas. God is unwilling that I should have this. Return without delay to the cave, and restore to saint Illtud the thing meant for him which he desired.' The messenger returned to Illtud, and executed the bishop's order, leaving there the occupant lonely, were it not for the frequent visitation of angels. Afterwards the messenger mentioned in the monastery what he had seen and what had happened to him. When these things were heard, the monks joyfully went to the aforesaid place, and there they found their most beloved abbot. The brethren rejoice in the discovery of their most pious abbot, and he too rejoices, knowing that he could not be found nor have returned except by the divine will. All their compatriots assembled, giving thanks for the return of their master, saying such things as these, 'Heretofore were we sad, now are we joyful and secure from every adversity and peril. We fear none besides God who is to be feared in this refuge. No one will dare to oppose us under so great a rule. Kings and princes will obey the virtuous abbot; this monastery will be first among the monasteries of this pagus, cantref. Our joys lay hid in a secret cave, they do not spread throughout our borders without past sorrow. That cave was not dark but full of light, for while Illtud occupied it, it ceased not to shine with angelic splendour.'