THE LIFE OF ST. ILLTUD
Here begins the Life of Illtud, Abbot, November 6.

1. Of the union of his parents and the birth of the boy.

   Victorious Letavia (that is, Lesser Britannia, Brittany), a rich and successful province, powerful in arms, none greater in warlike fame, took its origin from its mother, Britannia. The daughter was taught by the mother; full success in war attends the daughter. British princes full of vigour, noble leaders, but formerly most noble heirs; afterwards being disinherited they lost their own, as aliens. Of these Bicanus was distinguished, a most famous soldier, illustrious by race and in military prowess. All his kindred were descended from conspicuous princes, but none was less of those who went before, for as the first were, so too was the last. Born so high and so famous from such, he must needs rejoice, because he came of most noble ancestors. He flourished and excelled in the service of his king, loved by king and queen, for they all magnified him, lavishing praises. So great a man of highest nobility desired to marry and to be succeeded by sons; he fulfilled his wish, marrying the daughter of Anblaud, king of Britannia, Rieingulid, called by this British name; when latinized it means regina pudica, modest queen. The most worthy name was bestowed in accordance with her desert, for before legal marriage she clung not to another attachment. Despising games, keeping to her chamber, she ever obeyed her mother's behest. For whatever she said was apt, and in everything she did she acted advisedly, an excellent maiden, without reproach, marriageable, of ripe age, worthy of a husband. The people knew not of any more worthy of betrothal. Therefore messengers crossed the Gallic sea, they bring back the maiden, as a pearl precious and excelling in beauty, and her whom they brought back most lovely and most docile they entrust to the aforesaid prince in nuptial honour. These things being legally performed, as lawful wife she conceived, and after conception happily brought forth a son, as a fruit-bearing tree gives forth a most excellent blossom. In baptizing the boy and after the washing of regeneration the infant was named Iltutus, Illtud, to wit, ille, he, who is tutus, safe, from every fault. Blameless was he in the five stages of life, praised and beloved by all his fellow-citizens. His parents vowed to dedicate him to literature, and they dedicate him so vowed to be instructed in the seven arts. After instruction and after the knowledge taught was known to him, he laid aside the study of literature, applying himself to military training, not forgetting, however, through any negligence, anything which he had learnt. He was a man of such memory that once hearing an instruction of his master, he retained it in his heart ever after. To him were fully given the five keys, whereby he was wisely able to make known the unknown. None was more eloquent throughout Gaul than Illtud, the soldier, in discoursing philosophic eloquence.

2. Of his visit to the court of king Arthur and Poulentus.

   In the meantime the magnificent soldier hearing of the magnificence of his cousin, king Arthur, desired to visit the court of so great a conqueror. He left what we call Further Britannia, Brittany, and arrived by sailing, and here he saw a very great company of soldiers, being also honourably received in that place, and being rewarded as regards his military desire. His desire to receive guerdons being also satisfied, he withdrew very pleased from the royal court. Journeying he came to Poulentus, king of the Glamorgan folk, accompanied by his very honourable wife, Trynihid. The king, perceiving that he was a court soldier and honourable retained him with much affection, loving him before all of his household and rewarding him bounteously. So he remained with very great honour until he merited to be chosen and to preside over the royal household. He ruled the household without any strife, a peaceful governor and second from his master. Gospel precepts were stored (or hidden) in the soldier's breast; incessantly he strove to recount them to those keeping them. The things recounted directed the hearers to perfect works; the perfect works raised those who fulfilled them to a heavenly reward. A soldier he was outwardly in soldier's dress, but inwardly the wisest of British-born. Wherefore he was by king Poulentus made master of the soldiers for his very fine fluency and incomparable mind. No contemporary could be compared with him for his intelligence; this has been proved and confirmed by the testimony of learned men.

3. Of the household of king Poulentus, which the earth swallowed up, and of the promise made to adopt the clerical habit after military service at the advice of St. Cadog.

   It happened on a certain day, when he was conducting the royal household for hunting through the territory of saint Cadog, while it rested, it sent to the renowned abbot in stiff terms that he should prepare for it a meal, otherwise it would take food forcibly. Saint Cadog, although the message seemed to him improper owing to the harshness of the words, as though demanding tribute from a free man, nevertheless sent to the household what sufficed for a meal. This having been sent, the household sat down with a will to take the meal, but the willing came short of the eating. For on account of the unlawful demand and sacrilegious offence the earth swallowed up theunrighteous throng, which vanished away completely for such great iniquity. But Illtud the soldier and master of the soldiers escaped, because he would not consent to the unjust demand, nor was he present in the place where the household had been in order to wait for the food, but was far off holding a she-hawk which he frequently let go and incited after birds. When Illtud saw this miracle he feared; being affected after the sight with compunction for past faults, he hastened his steps to saint Cadog, inquiring and asking counsel of him on his knees to make amends for what faults he had done. And he, becoming to him a salutary counsellor, advised him first to set aside the secular habit, then to seek again the clerical habit which he had discarded, and to serve the supreme Creator for the rest of his life for the sake of eternal repayment. He humbly obeyed the advice given, promising firmly to perform it in the future. Then having returned to king Poulentus, he, having received permission, withdrew himself from secular service. Then the king grieving, the queen too, and all, owing to his withdrawal, he came at length to the margin of the river Naudauan, accompanied by his wife and his armour-bearers. It was summer time, wherefore from a reed-thicket he constructed a covering that it might not rain on his bed. The horses pasture in the meadows, and both lie down in the night sleeping through drowsiness, their eyes being heavy.

4. Of the first arrival of an angel to admonish Illtud.

   While he slept an angel suddenly stood before him, admonishing him with these admonitions. 'Thou wast formerly a very celebrated soldier, rewarded by many kings. But now I bid thee to serve the King of kings and no more to love transitory things. Remember how thy parents dedicated thee to a clerical pursuit; thou didst study, devoted to a divine comradeship. Then thou didst despise what was not despicable, giving thyself to spear and sword. These (other) arms were not given thee from an armoury, but the five keys were conferred on thee under tutorship. Therefore seek again what thou hast left, lest thou be taken, caught by the plots of an unseen foe. For the plotter is nigh, who tries to beguile thee, desiring with all effort to damn thee. He sees thee, thou seest not him with the bodily eye; unless thou be on thy guard and ward him off, he will be able to destroy thee. Be not therefore unwary and deceived by the enemy of God and men, for he envies the inhabitants of earth and of heaven, because he lost his heavenly seat. He, fiercer than a lion, swifter than a bird, invisible poisoner, steals and takes away; and what he takes he refuses to restore; under punishment he punishes. Banish poison after medicine like a physician, that no scar appear after healing. Love of wife also possesses thee that thou turnest not to the Lord. What, pray, is carnal love but a horror and the source of sins? One who loves much burns as the burning of fire, a hurtful thing, an odious thing which leads to punishment. Let it not burn thee, neither let lust incite thee, a beast of poison. Thy wife is comely, but better is chastity. Who would choose for such to forgo things eternal? For if thou shouldst see her naked, thou wouldst not love her as before. Look on this woman and after sight thou wilt then esteem her of less worth. What profit and how lucrative the felicity in such intercourse? He who shall abstain and forbear from sexual unions, shall be exalted and set on an everlasting seat. To-morrow when thou hast risen, quickly betake thyself to a certain woody valley towards the west, where thou shalt have a dwelling-place. For so is the will of God, since that place is convenient, very fertile, and habitable. For this cause have I come from the supreme Creator, being sent on this message, to announce such things with good will. I have announced the things to be announced for fulfilment and let there be no delay in fulfilling them.'

5. Of his arrival to lead the eremitical life in the Hodnant valley, and of his mode of life in conformity with the angelic exhortation.

   After these words the angel disappeared. After a little while saint Illtud, having waked, recalled to memory the angelic discourse, and also revolved in his mind that precept of the Lord, 'He who loves father and mother, brothers and sisters, wife and children, more than me, is not worthy of me' and so forth. Meditating on such things, he bade his wife rise; he commanded her on rising to see to the horses, the moon's light then shining, that he might know how they had been kept by their keepers that night. She went out naked with her hair loose that she might see, and that she might fulfil what the angel had ordered. She returned after the inspection, and on her return the blessed Illtud saw her naked body, the blowing wind dispersing her hair about her woman s side. He grieved when he looked at it; he deemed the female form as of little value; he deeply regretted having loved such a thing. He vows to leave her; he promises to fulfil his vow in words of this kind, 'The woman now of little worth, once beloved, agreeable, a daughter of luxury, fatal source of ruin, breeds punishment, because if anyone have loved it the now beautiful form of a woman becomes exceeding loathsome.

6. Of his first dwelling in the valley of Hodnant.

   These things being done as related, the aforesaid woman wished to enter the bed; Illtud drove her off so wishing as the poison of a serpent, declaring he was leaving her, and saying 'Thou shalt not cling to me further.' He reached out to her her clothes; she putting on what was handed to her sat down, yet although clothed she feigned with trembling heart that she was cold, that by this plea she might lie again in the bed by his side. But he knew the reason to be feigned; he strengthens his purpose with the firmness of virtues; he gains the victory. A solitary wayfarer, whom God accompanied, having abandoned all secular things, he kept on his way until he arrived at the aforesaid valley, called Hodnant, which not without reason means in Latin uallis prospera, prosperous valley. About it stood no mountains or steep unevenness, but a most fertile open plain. There was a very thick wood, planted with diverse trees, which was the crowded abode of wild beasts. A very pleasing river laved its two banks, and wells intermixed with rills along their pleasing courses. After he had rested and examined everything, the delectable spot pleased him, as the angel had indicated before in dreams. Here is the woody grove, a sunny spot to those who tarry there; here too about the plains is rich fertility. Through the midst there runs a flowing stream of waters. This I know may be said, it is the most beautiful of places.

7. Of the penance imposed on him, and of the reception of the clerical habit, and of his manner of watching and fasting, and of the first building of a church, and of the sow seen with six porklings.

   Such things having been seen and being pleasant to him, the servant of God, the most blessed Illtud, went to Dubricius, bishop of Llandaff, who imposed penance on him for past faults. He shaved his beard, he cut his hair, he blessed his crown. Then, having taken the clerical habit in accordance with the angelic command as revealed in the dream, he returned tonsured to the same place, building at once first a habitation, the bishop Dubricius marking out the boundary of a cemetery, and in the midst, in honour of the supreme and undivided Trinity, the foundation of an oratory, where he had previously seen the lair of a sow and porklings. These having been duly marked out, he founded a church, a quadrangular rampart of stone being made above the surrounding ditch. After these things were done and before they had been undertaken, he watched and fasted assiduously, he prayed without ceasing, expending his goods bounteously on all who asked. He worked with his own hands, a most religious hermit, not trusting in the labours of others. In the middle of the night before mattins he used to wash himself in cold water, remaining so as long as the Lord's Prayer could be said three times. Then he would visit the church, kneeling and praying to the omnipotence of the supreme Creator. So great was his religion that he was never seen engaged in any business except in God's service. His whole concentration was on Holy Writ, which he fulfilled in daily works. Many to be taught resorted to him; they were trained to a thorough knowledge in the seven arts.

8. Of the stag tamed by saint Illtud, and of the king's wonderful meal on fish and water.

   When king Meirchion, surnamed the Wild, was one day hunting, he set his hounds on a stag. Roused, it ran on in flight until it entered the sleeping place of saint Illtud, as if seeking sanctuary with him after the manner of men. After entering, it lay down tamed at the feet of the astonished man, wearied on account of the dogs and full of fear. The barking dogs, however, were waiting outside for it to come forth, but then ceased from their barkings. The king on hearing the last bark followed up, wondering greatly at the sudden cessation of barking. On coming up he arrived at the hermitage, beholding there the hounds quiet and the stag, and, what was more wonderful, that from a wild animal it had become tame and domestic. He was very angry with the occupant, because without his permission he had occupied the waste, which in his judgement was more fit for hunting. He began to demand the stag, but what was demanded saint Illtud was unwilling to surrender, yet he conceded leave of entrance, if he would accept of it. He, filled with respect on seeing the very great piety of the most blessed man and such great wonders performed before him in person, although angry, entered not in, but rather bestowed on him the gift first presented from heaven, which he gratefully accepted. The same stag, tamed by saint Illtud, drew vehicles, and in the vehicles timber for building. After these things the aforesaid king, being hungry, desired to breakfast, whom saint Illtud invited to a breakfast. Being invited he descended humbly, and sat down, pacified from the madness which was wont to possess him. He sent a servant to a neighbouring pond to catch fish; he straightway drew in in his net a fish fat and fine of good weight. Taken and broiled they placed it before the king; when placed before him he would not taste it, because it seemed to him unbecoming that it should be placed before him without bread and salt. But Illtud not having that hour bread and salt, prayed (or said), saying, 'The author of all creatures, and the giver of gifts, is able to bring it to pass that, if thou shalt taste what is placed before thee, thou shalt have from me, in the fish so tasted, what thou desirest to have.' These requests being heard, the king dared not rebelliously refuse, but did eat, and had the tastes of divers kinds of foods in one sort. Having had enough and being thirsty he asked jeeringly for wine or mead to be set before him. But he, lacking both, ordered a draught of well water to be given him, and offered again the same prayers, which he had uttered before, that the desire of the asker should be fulfilled from a drink of water. He drank; the drink pleased him, and the tastes of divers liquors, especially wine and mead, he found in water alone.

9. Of the coming of an angel to admonish king Meirchion and for his reproof.

   After the wonderful drinking the aforesaid king slept in sleep; to him sleeping came an angel from heaven, admonishing and rebuking. The angel reproved him, saying, 'Thou hast been hither to a mad and very wicked king, and remainest so now. Amend, so I advise thee, and defer not thy amendment. Thou wouldst rather that useless beasts should dwell here than worshippers of God, who ought to occupy it. Forbid them not, but permit them to remain to cultivate this destined and conceded place. If thou refuse to concede what ought to be conceded, thou shalt be destroyed without length of days and without progeny. Grant them therefore leave to remain, because this valley shall be inhabited to the end of time. Who would dare to offend and to expel a most religious man and one engaged in the catholic life from his desired abode? God has chosen him and sent him hither, that he might serve him in the eremitical life. He will, moreover, be an abbot, venerable, distinguished, and exalted. Whososoever shall injure him, unless he amends, will perish for ever. Beware, therefore, lest thou perish; from now let thy obstinacy do him no injuries. Goliath of old was very stark, yet humble childhood overcame the most brave. He employed spear and sword, but David a tiny sling in battle. The small boy confiding in the supreme Conqueror, was victor by trusting to a cast of a sling in his hands. So this Illtud, the most humble servant of God, trusts that he may conquer by humility so as to remain here and to possess secure stability. He fights not with visible arms, he strives better with invincible virtues. A virtuous man, not fearful in a contest, he drives off his foes in the armour of righteousness. None throughout the whole of Britannia is holier than the most blessed one present, because he lives according to rule in accordance with monastic rule. Many will be brought together by his manner of life, he will be a refuge and a support, like a pillar supporting a standing house. His protection will be inviolable with kings and with princes in this kingdom. Kings and princes will heed his instruction, subject peoples will abide by his counsel. Pacific and more gentle than a gentle dove, he will give light as a most bright candlestick, and as a lamp.'