Polydore Vergil.

Polydore Vergil's English history, from an early translation preserved among the mss. of the old royal library in the British museum online

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pounded and intermedlied partlie with Greeke^ pardie with the
Troian antiquitie \ but, howesoever the case standetbe, they speake
not soe smotheUe nor pleasantlie as the Englishe people. For
Weldiemen as I suppose speak more in the throate ; but con-
trariewise Englishmen, resemblinge more the Latinistes, drawe
theire voice onelie a litle within their lippes^ which sounde is
pleasaunte and likinge to the hearer. And thus much I mynded to
entreate of Walles^ beinge the thirde parte of Englonde ; ther ^
remayneth the fourthe^ which men call Comewall. i

This province hath his beginninge westwarde, on that side the The dyi-
ile which boundethe toward Spaine; towardes the easte th^^P^®^'
bredthe thereof conteineth Ixxx. miles, extending a little beyonde
Saint Germaines, the which towne, being not altogether obscure,
is planted on the right hande, where the greatest breadthe sur-

(*) Gonirye people, initflin*



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14 HISTORY OF ENGLAND.

mountethe not xx miles ; for this litle plotte of the soyle on the
right hand is limited with the ocean shore ; on the lefte hand
with that arme of the sea which (as above we rehearced) enterethe
the lande even unto Chiepstow^ and somewhat in fasshion like
an home. At the first fronte is narrow, afterward in more ample
wise it runnethe beyonde Sainte Oermaines. On the easte side
it borderithe on Englonde; on the sonthe, weste, and northe
it is compassed of the ocean sea. The earthe thereof is verie bar-
raine, yielding fruites rather throughe the industrie and travayle
of the tillers thereof, then of the owne goodness. Yet therein
is greate plentie of blacke and white leade, or otherwise tinne, in
the digginge whereof the cheefe living of those contrimen con-
sistethe. In that onelie part of this ilonde even unto this presente
continueth the nation of Britons, which in the beginning, havinge
thether excourse owt of Fraunce, did occupie the ilonde (if they are
to be credited which firmelie assevere that the firste inhabitantes
of Britaine came owte of Armoricke, that is to say litle Britayne,
as hereafter wee will make rehersall). This maye seme a good token
thereof, that the Comishe men use the same speeche which those
me^ have that they comonlie call Brittishe Britons ; that also is
a good testimonie which I have redde in an ancient booke of monu-
mentes, wherein I have founde for Comewall not Comubia,butCor-
nugallia, whoe showlde saye the name were fourmed of an home,
whose figure it represen tithe, and of Fraunce, of which it receaved the
firste inhabitantes, the derivacion of which name canne in no wise
mislike mee. This is for a certaintie, that their tongue greatlie
difiTerethe from the Englishe, and in manie thinges agreethe with
the Welche, for divers thinges are common to theim bothe ; yet
this is the difference, that when the Welchman speakethe the
Comishe man doth not so well understand the whole sence and
sentence as certeyne woords therein, so that wee maie easilie per-
ceave that these three kindes of people do no more understand
one the other then the Scotts, of whome the inhabitauntes of the
sowthe are discrepante in language from the northe parties, a



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THE FIRST BOOK. 15

thinge somewhat to be woondered at that in one ilond there
shoulde bee suche dirersitie of tongues. Comewall is under the
diooesse of £xcitre«

Hetherto have I spoken severallie of the division of Britaine, that^
in disclosinge the nature of the whole bie his members, wee mighte
the easier make true demonstration thereof, which is this in effecte.

It is moste evident that the proportion of the whole contrie of T^e dia-

^ * , cnption of

Britaine is triangular or three-squared, for it haihe three comers whole
and three sides, one towards the easte, an other boundinge west- ^'l**"®*
warde, and theie bothe runninge in lenght towardes the northe
are one bothe sides muche the longeste. The third side, beinge
southMrarde, is a great deale shorter then the other two, because
the ilonde it self is much more longe then broade : so that the
other twayne are proportionall to the lenght thereof, and this laste
to the breadthe. I meane there whereas ether the He beginneth
most broade or otherwise endeth moste narrow, that is to weete
northewarde. The firste comer thereof estward is at Dovor and
Sandwich in Kente, from whence the passage into Fraimce con-
teinethe xxx. miles to Callice or Bononie, that is to saye, townes on
the Frenche shore, the one beinge xx. miles distant from the other,
whereunto allmoste all shippes are wonte to repaire. At this Cal-
lice, or as the common people saye Bononie, is the porte Icius,
whose name is allmoste nothinge differing from the towne, for now
beinge termed Callice haven it semeth to have encreased the name
throughe the towne adjoyninge. From this nooke, which buttethe
over agaynste Fraunce, that ende of the ilonde runneth forthe to
the third comer northewarde, beinge in Scotland; which, albeit it
somewhat enclineth towards Germanic, yet hathe it no lande juste
againste it, but is as it weare restreigned into a narrowe streight
and comer. The shore of this side is wondemshe voied of havens,
beinge in lengthe dcc. miles ; but the other side, which is next to
this lienge sowtheward, havinge his excourse from the firste comer
in Kente againste the weste partes, even unto the other corner on
the lefte hande, endeth on the uttermost shore in Comewall. This



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16 HISTORY OF ENGLAND.

side is at it were tlie froonte and &ce of the whole Ilonde^ which
in all this space, as a man woulde saie spreddinge the armes to
ether of the comers, showeth forthe a broade breste, beinge here
in deede moste broade, for from Dovor to Saincte Michaell's pro*
montorie, which is on the uttermoste frontiers of ComewaU, it is
supposed to be ccc. miles, on which side are havens of greate fame,
and shippes moste safelie doe there stande at rode. Finallie, from
this comer on the lefte hande, the other and thirde side takethe
his beginninge (which goinge toward Spaine westward, on the
which side Irelond hathe place between Spaine and Britaine), and
so with manie windinges of the shore passinge bie Walles (which is
placed betwene) toumethe towardes the northe, even juste to the
thirde comer; in which discourse, conteininge the space of d.ccc.
miles, it knitteth uppe and endethe the Ilonde, for beyonde it there
is nothinge but the mayne ocean sea.

On that side allso there are havens of greate safetie, from whence
yee maie saile to Irelonde in one daie : but somewhat lesse if yow
pass out of Walles thither, for if you saile to Waterforde,the border-
inge towne of Irelonde, it is like to the passage betweene Calioe
and Dovor, or lide more ; but of all other the passage betweene
Scotland and Irelonde is leste, as we have sayd before. From this
the laste corner even to Antowne, being the uttermoste towne to-
ward the sea southward, whereof it seemeth to be called Southeham-
toune, between the other two comers of Kent and Cornwall, as it
were with a streight line, menne measure the whole lenght of the
Ilonde, affirminge it to oonteyne d.ccc. miles, even as the bredthe
from Saynt Davides to the towne called Hyermouthe, which is the
uttermoste parte of the ile estewardes, amountethe to the somme
of Gc. miles. For, as it was declared before, it is broade on the
southe side, which we have accounted the firste froonte thereof, and
exceadinge narrowe in the ende, soe that the whole compasse of this
Ilonde rownde about comprehendith no more then xviij. hundred
miles, and bie that meanes ij. hundred lesse then Caesar surmised.
There are manie litle iles adjacent to Brytayne, and ij. of indifferent



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THE FIRST BOOK. l7

fame disjoyned firom it with a narrow sea, in quantitie not unlike :
the one called the Isle of Wighte, lienge agaynst the sowth bancke The He of
of Englonde, from whence, in the neareste place, it is distant but ^^
iiij. miles, in somme other places vij., in others xij. miles. The
writers of most auncient yeares doe reporte it in portrature to be
like an egge, for from the este westward it is longe, conteyninge
xzx. miles ; the bredthe, extendinge from the sowthe northewarde,
is scarselie xij. miles. It is well furnished with inhabitantes,
beinge Englishemen, and is annexed to Winchester dioces. Ves-
pasiane, in times paste, beinge sente into Britayne bie the em-
perour Claudius, is thowght to be the firste which brought it under
the Romayne empire. The other Uond, beinge somewhat famous,
is the Isle of Mone, or Man bie the exchaunge of one letter, which ^ ^^^ o'
one the northe side enclinethe towarde Scotlande, sowthe-esteward Man.
towardes Englond, on the weste towardes Irelonde. In olde
time, whensoever there appeared decrease or ebbe in the ocean,
which at all times dothe rage and swells it was divided with so
small a sea, and was so neare unto the lande, that a man might
have gonne thereunto without shippinge, which thinge (as Cor-
neUus Tacitus recordethe) was donne of the Romaines, who, in
the xiiij^. booke of his histories, and in the life of Julius Agricola,
affirmethe, that first Paulinus Suetonius, and after that himselfe,
Julius Agricola, embassadors of Britayne, did bie force of armes and
marciall prowes vanquishe the He of Mone, beinge of greate
puissaunce, throughe the inhabitantes, and a redie refuge for
roges and ronnawayes ; neverthelesse when thei minded to geve
their firste assaut they, laienge aside all burdens (which might
hinder suche an enterprise), sente before the moste likelie men of
their armie, who bothe beste knewe the shalloe places and were
moste experienced in swimminge, that thei might succor and guide
the reste of the hoste swimminge in the deper places of the water,
at the which feate the men of the ile being astonished, which
missed the navie and looked for the munition of there sea, of
a sodeyne required truce of Agricola. But, as the same man
CAlfD. soc. D



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18 HISTORY OF ENGLAND.

writethe, Paulinas finished not there his exploitores with such
facilitie or like expedition^ who when he had passed over there sea^
sodainlie beefore the shore apeared divers bandes of the inhabi-
tantes, well addressed with their weapons, the women runninge
emong the men in terrible attire like ghostes with their heare
spredde abroade, with fire brandes in their hands, and theire
preestes, beinge Druides, that is to say, of hethen religion, sainge
their accursed prayers, and holdinge uppe their handes towardes
heaven. This straunge sight soe apalled thecoradge of the Romishe
souldiers, that at the firste, as thowgh their limmes had beene
starcke, they weare not able to withdrawe them or to save their
bodies unwounded ; yet at the lenght, partlie of their owne motion,
partlie through the encoraginge of their captayne Paulinus, beinge
perswaded not to feare a madde and effeminate companie, they
hoysed their standardes, and joyninge in battayle destroyed all
that they mette. Thus the people of the ile beinge overcomme,
Paulinus ordeyned there a garison, at whose commandement their
wooddes were cut downe, beinge dedicated to monstrous supersti-
tions, for in them the people of the ile thought it lawful and
acceptable to God to make tiieir altars smell of the bloode of their
captives, and to aske oracles of their goddes with the entralles of
men.

But nowe we will retoume to our former purpose. The Scottes
were lordes of this ile in the beginninge; the space lienge
betweene them is lesse then xzyj. miles, in our memorie; it is
inhabited bothe of Irishemen and Englishe, which have in use
both there languages; but the Earle of Darbie, a worthie lorde
of the Englishe nobilitie, hathe it in his jurisdiction, well knowne
throughe the residence of his busshop. But see what

the tracte and continuance of tyme maye doe; the ile is nowe more
then XXV. mile from anie land, which in times paste was scarselie
one mile distante. Where it commeth to passe that there ar
some which dare affirme that yt is the lie of Mone which men
call Anglesea, beinge neare unto Walles and in the diocesse



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TUB FIRST BOOK. 19

of Bangore; the nature of which place even at this daye is suche
(accordinge to Tacitus) as wee declared that shore to bee, which
is betweene the lie Mone and that which is adjoined.

But let us make digression to that Brittayne, which we call He retor-
England, that we may declare what the nature and q^aUties ^^^^^^^^
thereof was in our time. The wether oommonlie cloudie inter- of Inglond.
medeled with showers and so mutche the lesse cowlde; the night
season verie bright and in the uttermoste northe partes so shorte
that there is smalle distance betweene the ende of the former daye
and beginninge of the daye succeedinge ; the dayes in sommer are
verie longe, and this is the reason thereof, hie cause the iland
lieth farre under the northe poincte, about the which the sonne,
taking a longe race under the erth estward throughe the north
parte, most neades tarie longe therein, even as in winter it is longe
hidden while it runneth into the este through the south,
J^I have diligentlie noted at London, a cittie in the south partes
of the riolme, that the nighte is scarslie v. houres in lenghthe in
soommer when as the sonne is at his highest reache. The contrie
it selfe at all times of the yeare verie temperat, noe sowemes
or eveU savor of the aire, insomuche that diseases raine seldom,
and consequentlie lesse use of phisicke then in other places.
Whearebie it commeth to passe that manie men live in divers places
an hondred and tenne years, yea some size skore, albeit emonge
artificers and husband men it is receaved as a prescripte that thei
should sweate hie noe meanes. Never are there erthequakes, and
lightening verie seldom. The grownde is luxurient and frutefull ;
besides come and pulse, of the owne accorde bringing forthe all
kinde of matter, saving firre and (as Ceesar saithe) beeche trees, with
diverse other, as olives, which are woonte to growe in whotter soyles;
but yt is well knowne that nowe there are beeches eche where in
the londe. Thei plante vines in there gardins, rather for covert
and commoditee of shaddowe then for the fruite, for the grape
seldom commeth to ripenes excepte an hotte summer ensewe.
They sowe rye, wheate, barlie, and oates, in theire dewe season, for



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20 HISTORY OF ENGLAND.

they have noe other kinde of graine nor other pulses then beaens
and peason; the come shootethe soone uppe^ but nothinge soe
soone ripeth^ the abowndanoe of moisture bothe in the earthe and
wether is cause of them bothe. There come and pulse as soone
as it is ripe is carried forthwith in to the bame with eare and
huske, and are so preserved till they thincke goodde to thresshe
it or breake it accordinge to there exigence. The earthe^ as wee
have reherced, is not apte for wines^ but instede thereof thei use ale
or beare made of barley, beinge a drincke bothe commodius and
pleasaunt to them which are accustomed thereunto ; nevertheles
thei have wines owte of France, Spalne, and Candie. Theire
pleasaunt woodds are well replenished with apples and acomes or
maste ; thei have plenti of delicius rivers, pleasauntlie wateringe
there feldes. It is straunge to bee towlde, yet verie trewe, that
these floodds, Thamis, Humber, and divers other, are not easlie
augmented with rayne ; it maye wellbe for this cause, hie reason
the erthe is verie sandie it drinkethe mutche water. There are
manie hills cleane voide of treese and springges, bringing forthe
thinne and shorte grasse, yeat suche as exceedinge well feadeth
there sheepe, abowte the which in white flockes they wander day
and night; and whether it bee throwghe the mildnes of the sire or
goodnes of the grownde they of all other beare the moste softe and
finest fleeces, but that is to bee asscribed to the barraines of there
downes, as Yirgil witnessethe in the iij. booke of his Georgicks, in
this wise :

Avoyd all sharpe and thornie wooddis,
If care thow take of wooll,
With deving burrs and briers rowghe.
And growndes with fodder full.

And, notwithstanding that of all others Englishe wooll is the beste,
yet the olde writers make noe mention thereof, for Virgil dothe
honor Miletus, a citte in Asia, as cheefe in that poincte, in the iiij.
booke allso of his Georgickes, after this manner ;



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THS FIRST BOOIt. 21

'Within the chamber of deepe lloodde the mother harde t sowne, lidetiu li

Whome rownde abowte ih» Nimphee did toie wool! of Miletoi towne. a citle of

Afia.

And likewise Columella, whoe flowrished under thempire of
Claudius, aboute the liij. yeare of our salvation, in his vij. booke
of howsbandrie, speaketh thus of sheepe then being of greatest
price and estimation* The sheepe (saiethe he) of Miletus, of
Apulia and Calabrie weare reputed of our men to be of excellent
kinde, and of all other the beste are abowte Tarent : nowe the
Frenche sheepe are thowghte more precius, the cheefe of theim
bdng folded in the bare feeldes abowte Altina, Parma, and
Mutina. This is his sentence, and surelie Plini in his viij. booke
of the nature of cattaile is all moste of the same judgement, where-
bie wee maye easilie gather that the auncient Brittons and
Englishemenn tooke noe regarde of suche bestes as beare fleece, but
ether verie latelie, or at leaste wise after the time of Plinie, trans-
portinge theire wooU bie Frenchemen ( being there nexte neigh-
bowrs) to other nations, bie the which meanes it commethe to passe
that even as yeat the Italians call the Englishe wooU French, as
whoe shoulde saye Fraunce did bringe forth the same, and thus
bie litel and littell men becam more industrius, for the hke desier
of wooU beegane to encrease emong the Scotts; albeit their fleese is
muche cowrser. But I will retire to me former purpose.

Trulie this is woorthie the admiration, that thes sheepe receave
noe drinke besides the dewe of the aire, insomutche that expe-
rience teaching how hurtfuU drincking is for them thei are for
the nonce kepte of theire shepherds from water. This fleece
maie justlie bee alluded to the golden fleece wherin the chefe
richis of the people consistithe; for great plentie of gollde and
silver is yearlie of occupiers brought in to the realme, especiallie
for suche merchandise which there perpetuaUie remaneth, bie cause
all men are forbedden to carrie it into enie other lande. Soe
that I suppose there is in noe nation greater riches, for, besides
the exceading sommes of monnie which eche wheare runneth
throughe the handes of biers and sellers, and the plate dedicated



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22 HISTORY OF ENGLAND.

to theire churches^ the valeue whereof is incredible, there is
allmoste noe man so neadie but for the dailie furniture of his table
hathe his saltesillers, cuppes, and spones of silver, with manie and
divers kindes of vessells, eche manne accordinge to his estate.
England is well, stored with all kinde of beastes, besides asses,
mules, cammels, and elephants, but there is engendered nether
enie venemus beastes nor raveninge, excepte foxes, and in old
time woolves (as another place shall suffice to reherce), bie the
which meanes there cattayle dothe freelie stray with oute harme all
moste with oute attendant keeper ; for a man maye see heardes of
oxen and horses, yea flockes of sheepe, daylie wanderinge and
nightlie, throwghe hills and vales, throughe common feeldes lefte
open for pasture, and throughe suche severall grownde as everie
neyghboure maye take the commoditee therof in feeding his cat-
tayle after the come is gathered in ; and for this cause have their
horses there stones cutte oute, that being made geldings, thoughe
thei grase abrode, yet they maye contente them selves with lesse
rowme or rovinge ; a great companie of theire horses doe not trott,
but aumble, and yet neither trotters nor aumblers are strongeste,
as strengthe is not allwaie incident to that which is more jentil or
lesse coragius. Their oxen are of like nature, wherefore manie of
them at once are yoked in one plowe or carte (for bothe the
earthe is tilled and carres drawen aswel with oxen as horses),
which allso stande men in noe small steede as towchinge the bear-
inge of burdens. Their oxen and wethers are beasts as it weare
of nature ordayned for feastinge, whose fleshe allmost in noe place
is of more plesaunt taste, but beafe is peereles, especiallie being a
fewe dayse pondered with salte ; nether is it enie mervayle, for
that beaste once releaced from laboringe is kepte uppe for there
common feadinge ; in fine, the cheefe foode of the Englisheman
consisteth in fleshe; nether emong them doe those oxen lacke
there commendacion which after longe travayle are killed in theire
age, albeit there fleshe is harder then the other. They have an
infinite nomber of birdes, as well fostered in the howse as breeding
in their woodds.



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THE FIRST BOOK. 23

The Kentishe hennes are the greateste ; greene geese beefore
they have caste there downie fethers are reputed as a daintee
banqueting disshe^ butt afterward not soe goodd. Of wilde burdes
Uiese are moste delicate, partriches, phesaunts, quayles, owsels,
thrusshes, and larckes. This laste burde in winter season, the
wether not being to owtragios, dothe waxe wonderus fatte, at
which time a wonderful! nombre of them is caughte, soe that of
all others they chefle gamishe menus tables: there are allso
swannes in there lakes and rivers, not soe small a pleasure to the
beeholder as a great greefe of minde. Crowes and chowghes are
eyerie daye in the morning earlie harde clattering in theire kinde.
In noe cuntrie is there a greater multitude of crowse ; being soe
harmefull a kinde of birdes, yet are thie spared in that lande, bie
cause thei eate woormes and other vermin, whereof the contrey is
the fidler in that it is verie moyste ; but in other respectes thei
are muche more hurtful, for thei doe not onlie devoure corne
when it is ripe, but even as it groweth they pull up the sead with
there bill, soe that at suche times the housbonde menu are com-
pelled to apoynt boyse to drive them awaye with bowe and
arrowse, when with showtinge and clamore thei will not bee
feared. And for as mutch as herons are wonte afterwarde to
builde in there neastes, therefore, these unhappie wretches are
permitted to breede about the mannures of noble men, which
delighte in the game of haukinge for herons, and thus crowse have
free accesse to there highe trees, where with moste commonlie
there houses are beesett the better to avoide tempestuos blastes;
bie these means thei endure to the greate damage of the husbonde-
men. In consideration whereof, within our I'emembrance, an acte
of parliament was promulged that suche crowes bie all meanse
sbowld bea destroyed, a rewarde beinge assigned to the destroien
There aboundethe likewise all sortes of fishe, the names of the
moste of them dissenting from the Latine (for these fisshes which
in Latine and Italion are farre otherwise termed), are commonlie in
use with them, as gomards, whitings, mullets, turbots, bremes,



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24 HISTORY OP ENGLAND.

macharels (somwliat the lesse esteemed for theire naturall driness)^
schaddesj allso being yen base bothe in relishe and estimation ;
finallie, sturgion and pike^ which fishe^ as in times paste^ it hathe
ben taken for an abjecte^ soe now thought verie precius emonge
Englishemen, for, being taken owte of the fennie waters, and trans-
posed into store pondes^ and ther purged of the muddie savor^
and being fedde with littell eales and other frie^ groweth into a
great fattnes, and after that peradventure being broughte into the
market to be sowld, if for the sale neade shall require, hathe his
bellie opened with a knife to shewe the fatte ; but if it soe fall
owte that hee bee nott sowlde (that which is most to be wondered
at) hee dieth not of the wownde, butt hathe it sowed upp with
threade, and within shorte space is healed with the slime touch-
inge of littell fresshe water fisshes. Osheters in noe place are
ether more plentuos or better. More, this region bringethe forthe
gowlde, silver, blacke leade and white, that is to saie, tinne and
copper. Iron allso growethe in the costes bordering on the sea,
thowghe nothing plentuoslie. Finallie, it hathe allso maigarites
and jeate. Thus muche breefelie of the goodd temperature of
the aire and grounde. Now I purpose sumwhat to disclose the
fourme and disposition of the menne.



Online LibraryPolydore VergilPolydore Vergil's English history, from an early translation preserved among the mss. of the old royal library in the British museum → online text (page 3 of 30)