The Celtic Literature Collective

Arthur and Kaledvwlch
Llanstephan MS 201
late 14th century her a portion of his kingdom whilst he lived. And a short time afterwards he caused a feast to be prepared for the nobles of the island, and at the feast he married Eigyr and made peace with the kinsmen of Gwrleis and all his allies. Gwrleis had two daughters by Eigyr, Gwyar and Dioneta. Gwyar was a widow, and after the death of her husband Ymer Llydaw (she dwelt) at her father’s court with her son, Hywel. Now Uther caused Lleu, the son of Cynvarch, to marry her, and they had children, two sons, Gwalchmai and Medrawd, and three daughters, Gracia, Graeria, and Dioneta. The Duke’s other daughter, Uther caused (to be sent) to the Isle of Avallach, and of all in her age she was most skilled in the seven arts. Now when the feast was over and all had taken their leave, Merlin drew near Uther and spoke to him thus, “Lord,” said he, “in sooth it was by my aid that thou didst obtain thy will in all places up to the present, now therefore pay me for my pains as thou didst promise.” “Gladly will I pay thee,” said Uther. “Sir,” said Merlin, “Eigyr is now with child since the night thou didst sleep with her in Tintagel Castle, and whatever heir thou dost have, he will not be recognised in the island as thine, since he was conceived before marriage. Therefore conceal this matter well until the child be born, and then let (the child) be given unto me, and I will cause him to be nurtured with care in secret so that neither thou nor thy lady shall be put to shame, and possibly this heir may rule the kingdom after thy day.” And at night in bed Uther spoke to Eigyr in the manner Merlin had taught him. “It seemeth to me,” said he, “ that thou art with child.” “Sir,” said Eigyr, “thy protection I crave, and I will speak the truth. When I was in the castle of Tintagel, and thy army lay around the castle where Gwrleis was, there came in unto me three men in form like unto Gwrleis, and he slept with me that night, and when he went away the following day he left me with child.” “The best counsel that I wot is to be silent,” said Uther, “until the birth (of the child) and then will I send it to a place where it will be lovingly nurtured.” And this they agreed upon until such time as a handsome son was born, and a messenger took (the child) to the court of Kynyr Varvoc, Lord of Penllyn, and with him letters from Uther and Merlin. And when he came to the court, he placed the had before Kynyr and he gave him the letters, and Kynyr opened them and read the following words: “Uther Pendragon, chief of the Britons, sendeth greetings and true lordship to Kynyr Varvoc, may thy presence know that I was commanded in my sleep to go outside the door of my chamber and whatever living being I saw there, was I to cause to be nurtured lovingly, therefore command I thee to upbring the lad we found there, whom we are now sending to thee, and thy wife shall suckle him and provide another nurse for thine own son.” And when Kynyr had read the letters, he took the lad and caused him to be baptized by the name of Arthur, and he nurtured him until he was fourteen years old in all ways as he had been commanded. Uther Bendragon ruled this island for . . . years altogether and he had a daughter born of Eigyr called Anna, and in the fourteenth year in the week of the feast of Martin came the end of Uther Bendragon as is related in the History of the Britons.

And after Uther’s death the nobles of the isle met together at Caer Vuddai in the presence of the Archbishop Dyfric to take counsel with him as to whom they should make king to rule over the kingdom, and to see who in point of birth and morals and strength was worthy to be king, for they doubted not that Uther had died leaving no heir of his body except a daughter. And indeed necessity urged them to this, seeing that the Saxons whom Vortigern had settled in the island had no sooner heard of the death of Uther than they sent messengers to Germany to fetch their kinsmen, and they overcame the island from the mouth of the Humber to the sea of Caithness. And when Dyfric had heard of the peril and misery of the kingdom he felt compassion for the people, and he summoned the bishops of the kingdom and their chiefs and beseeched them in the name of God to choose a king. And thereupon they began to speak anew and straightway each one chose his own kinsman or his greatest friend, so that through their disagreement there was none who could receive the honour by common consent. Thereupon Dyfric reflected upon the tribulation of the people and thought of the words of Christ in the Gospel, “every kingdom that is divided within itself shall be destroyed,” and he perceived that the rich angered the poor, and the strong oppressed the weak, and the wicked despised the righteous from the want of justice and government. And thereupon they agreed to ask Merlin whom they should elect as their king, for he had advised them on two previous occasions.

Thereupon Merlin said that it was not fitting that he should interfere iii so important and wrath-provoking an affair as that, “yet”, said he, “I will give you counsel if you will abide by it”. Then they promised to abide by his counsel. “Sirs”, then said Merlin, “Uther Pendragon died after Martinmass, and it is now near Christmas corresponding to the day on which Christ time only son of God came to the world, born of our lady Mary the virgin, of the great love of the people, who is Lord of Lords and King of Kings, to whom the weak and strong pay obedience, from whom none that oppose him can flee, who looketh not at the outward forms of men, but judgeth them by their hearts ; now therefore gather ye all together and cleanse yourselves by that appointed time amid come together to the church, and pray to God in all innocence that lie may make clear who is worthy to reign over you, and if you trimly trust in Him, your desire will be granted. For he said entreat, take, seek and ye shall find.” Amid when Merlin had made this speech he asked the consent of time nobles to go to his own country. And thereupon they thanked him much for his advice and beseeched him to stay with them over the Christmas, but he tarried not and did not promise to return for that occasion because of an appointment that he had with the bishop Blasius, his confessor and the scribe of all his prophecies. And so Merlin went to his own country. And on Christmas Eve the whole nation came together, the weak and strong, rich and poor, and thither also Kynyr Varvoc and Kai his son came, and Arthur knew not but that Kynyr was his father, and he honoured him in the way that a son should honour his father. And when the first cock crew they all did arise arid go into the church, and the Archbishop began the service and requested everybody to pray to God as Merlin had advised. And after matins the Archbishop enrobed for the first mass, and said to time people: “Sirs”, said he, “three things are needful for us, salvation for our souls, success for our bodies, and a king to reign over us, and there is no way of obtaining any one of these by our own power, therefore pray to him in whose name everything is done and without whom nothing can be done, and if he hearkeneth not let everyone repeat five times time prayer which Christ taught his disciples.” And when these words had been said mass was sung until after the gospel and then the dawn broke and those who had said mass first went outside the church to a level plot within the gates of the monastery: and they beheld in the midst of this plot a great four square stone of colour like unto marble, and in the stone there stuck a sword pointwise as firmly as if it grew out of the stone. And about time sword verses were written in golden letters, as follows:

The meaning of the verses is this: This sword is a sign to point out a worthy king in the sight of God. None shall pull this sword out except one by the aid of God. And when they had read this writing they sent messengers into the church to tell the Archbishop of this event. Thereupon the Archbishop thought that God had sent that sign and forthwith he wont towards the place where the stone was, and the common people with him, and he sprinkled holy water over it, and they worshipped God, and ordered five of the best clerks and five of the laymen to take charge of the stone until mass was finished, and they returned to the church singing praises to God. And when mass was over they returned to the place where the stone was, and quarrelled amongst one another who first should pull the sword or who had the first right to attempt to pull the sword from the stone. Some demanded this because of their power, others on account of their comeliness and strength, others because of the numbers of their kinsmen. Thereupon Dyfrig, seeing their envy, said to the people, “O, my friends, we should rejoice together before God to-day for he, out of his infinite mercy from his high throne in heaven has hearkened to our prayer. Therefore do I beseech and command you with all the power God has given me, that none draw nigh to this holy sign to dishonour it. Let us pray God that he show us who shall be king to reign over us, and doubtless we could not, did we wish, prevent God from carrying out his will, let us therefore wait patiently for him whom God hath chosen for he cannot be deceived by gifts nor menaced by threats: he asks of man naught but his heart, for the service of man made he the world and all that is in it, and man was made to serve him”. Then went they into the church for evening mass, and when the mass was done, they returned to the place where the stone lay, and Dyfrig said to the nobles of the kingdom, “Sirs, greatly ought ye to pay thanks to Christ in that he hath shown ye a sign like unto that which he shewed the disciples when he was going to his passion, and he said to them, ‘he that hath no sword let him sell his garment and buy one. One of the disciples said unto him, here are two swords. It is enough, said Christ’. By the one sword is understood spiritual possession in the hands of the prelates of the church who should warn the people that they have sinned, and release them when repentant of their sins. By the other sword is to be understood the power of the lords of the earth who should succour the weak, punish the cruel, and maintain justice with the sword which God hath shown unto you this day”. And when he had said these words Dyfric chose fifty men and two hundred of the chief men of the kingdom and commanded them from the oldest to the (next) oldest to try and pull the sword from the stone, and none of them could withdraw it. And then Dyfric commanded all of them one after time other to withdraw the sword if they could, and there was none at that time that could do so. Then did Dyfric command time ten men to take charge of the stone until......., and commanded everyone to come to that place on that day. And when they had come together at that time they told the Archbishop that they would not leave the city or its neighbourhood until they knew who should be king over them. And when they had heard the mass and everybody was in good spirits they went to joust and tourney, and the people of the city went to watch the play even the ten men who had charge of the stone. Kai, the son of Kynyr, who had been knighted on the previous Allhallowmass had come there to win his spurs. And behold at the end of the play tumult and commotion arose amongst them and they smote each other lustily, and thereupon Kai broke his sword near the crosspiece and he sent Arthur to his lodging to fetch another sword. Amd when Arthur came near unto the lodging he could find no way to enter because of the people who were watching the play. And sad at heart he returned as far as time gate of the monastery, and there he spied the sword and the stone with nobody in charge, and he reflected that he had not attempted to withdraw the sword, and should he he able to draw time sword he would give it to his brother Kai instead of the one which he had broken in the play. And he dismounted and took hold of the handle of the sword and pulled it out without difficulty, and hid it under his armour and brought it to Kai. And when Kai saw the sword he recognized it and shewed it to his father, and said, “I am the king! I am time king! I have pulled the sword from the stone!” But when Kynyr saw this he disbelieved Kai and the three of them went to the place where the stone was, and Kynyr asked Kai how he obtained the sword Then he thought it wicked to anger his father, and said that Arthur had given him the sword. Thereupon Kynyr questioned Arthur and he told him the truth how he had withdrawn the sword. “Put the sword in the place thou hadst it”, said Kynyr. And this Arthur did without difficulty. Then Kynyr asked Kai to withdraw the sword and he could not. “Withdraw the sword”, said Kynyr to Arthur, and Arthur did it immediately and then placed it back in the stone. And the three went into the church. And Kynyr took Arthur between his hands, and said to him in this wise, “O thou my beloved son what honour wouldst thou grant to me were I to make thee king of this Kingdom.” “Sire father”, said Arthur, “what of wealth God giveth to me in this world, I will not share with thee but give it all into thy keeping.” “Then”, said Kynyr, “thy foster father am I, and thou takest me to be thy natural father. Yet know I not the father who sought thee nor the mother who bore thee into time world.” Then Arthur wept and said, “O Lord God what wanted I in this world and I am without hope as one coming alone from the earth, why return not I now to the earth again”. Then said Kynyr to Arthur, “I caused thee to be baptized and called Arthur, and nurtured thee, and if God gives thee honour thou oughtest to share it with me and remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom”. “Take me as thy son”, said Arthur, “and I will do what thou askest.” “I request thee”, said Kynyr, “to make Kai my son seneschal of thy kingdom and that he lose not his office on account of anything that he shall say or do. For should he be ill-bred it is not his fault but thine, for thou wast suckled by his mother, and he, because of thee, was suckled by a mean alien woman.” And Arthur promised Kynyr all this, and then Kynyr told the Archbishop, “I have a son who is not yet knighted, who begs that he he allowed to try to withdraw the sword.” Then the Archbishop commanded everybody to come to the place where the stone was, and when they had all come to­gether Kynyr asked Arthur to place the sword in Dyfric’s hand, and this he did without trouble. Then Dyfric took Arthur by the hand and led him towards the Church, singing praises to God. Thereupon the earls and barons were angered, amid they said amongst one another, “this man cometh of lowly blood, whereas we are of the blood of Uther Pendragon, how, therefore, can we suffer this man to reign over us”. Kynyr was standing with Arthur and the common people, and opposite him were all the earls and barons. Now, when Dyfric perceived their envy, he said to them, “were we all opposed to the elect of God, that which God wills must needs be”. Then Arthur placed timhe sword in the stone again, and Dyfric ordered everybody to pull it out if they could, but none could. Then did they delay until Candlemas, and on that day did they all try to with­draw the sword, and none could do so. Then Dyfric commanded Arthur to bring the sword to him, and this Arthur did. Then did the mighty men of the kingdom ask that the matter might be delayed until Easter to see if it were possible to find a person of higher rank than Arthur. And on the eve of Easter, when they had come to­gether, Dyfric asked them if they wished Arthur to be their king. Then straightway everybody said, let him be king over us, a deliverer and a protector. And the next morning the earls and the barons drew nigh unto Arthur and said unto him in this wise. “Sir as thou wilt be king over us, accept our homage, give us land, and at Whit­suntide we will crown thee. Give us a reply of thine own on this”. “That will I”, said Arthur, “I will neither accept homage, nor give land, nor take land from anyone until I am crowmmed, and joyfully will I wait for the crown, for I never thought of receiving any honour,except such as God should give me”. And when they could not deceive him in that way they sent many presents to him to see if he were greedy of riches and inclined to be miserly. But Arthur understood that, and he accustomed himself amongst them until Whitsuntide, so that some feared him and others loved him above all in the kingdom. And on Whit Saturday he was knighted and many others were knighted in his honour. And the next morning a royal robe was placed upon him, and he was brought to the place where lay the stone and sword. Then Dyfric said to him, “Sir, here are the laws that thou must keep, valiantly must thou maintain the Catholic Faith, the church of God, and the weak and the poor, honour God and the saints as much as thou art able, hearken to thy counsellors patiently, make good laws, punish the wicked. And if thou promisest to do these things, take the sword that God hath sent thee as a token of love of thee and strength to us”. Then Arthur fell on his knees and raised his hands and said, God give me grace to direct my thoughts and deeds to his praise, and for the good of my own soul, and strength to govern you. Then he took the sword in his hand and went into the church and sat in time royal chair, and the Archbishop placed the crown on his head, and the sceptre in his hand. And when mass was over they went out to seek the stone, and the stone was never seen from that time onwards, and then they feasted. And hence Arthur went to do battle and to govern the kingdom as is set forth in the history of the Britons. And Arthur kept the sword while he lived, and it was called Kaletvwlch. So endeth this story.

Davies, J.H. "Arthur a Kaledvwlch: a Welsh Version of the Birth of Arthur (From a Fifteenth Century M.S., with Translation)." Y Cymmrodor: Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion. v. 24. London: Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, 1913.

A few comments; first, the author of this seems equally familiar with the de Boron/Vulgate version (i.e. Merlin), wherein we have the origin of the sword in the stone; as well as being familiar with Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain, particularly in the insistance of identifying the archbishop with St. Dubricius (here with his Welsh name Dyfrig). Also, Kai's father is named Kynyr, which fits with the Welsh version of the tales.

Second, there is an interesting emphasis on the "common people" who are present and support Arthur, while the barons do not; moreover, part of Arthur's oath is to uphold and protect the common people, while it is the barons who attempt to trick him out of land before he is crowned. It's an interesting use of class issues in this tract, dating from the 14th century, but with much older material.