Archipresbyter Leo.

The wars of Alexander: an alliterative romance translated chiefly from the Historia Alexandri Magni de preliis online

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An Alliterative Romance

re-edited by
Walter W. Skeat


Extra Series, 47


Unaltered Reprint produced with the permission of the
Early English Text Society

A U.S. Division of Kraus-Thomson Organization Limited

Printed in Germany

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§ 1. The three fraf^monts in alliterative verse of the Eomanco of
Alexander. § 2. Fragments A and B belong to the same version :
Eragment C is hero printed. § 3. Stevenson's edition of MS.
Ashmole 44. § 4. A gap in the story in that MS. ; supjilied
from the Dublin ^IS. § 5. Plan of the present edition. § G.
Numbering of the lines. § 7. Description of MS. Ashmole 44 ;
discussion of the dialect. § 8. Description of the Dublin MS.
D. 4. 12 ; part 1 : Piers the Plowman. § 9. Part 2 : Alexander,
and other contents. § 10. Dialect of the poem further discussed.
§ 11. Both MSS. printed in full; results of comparing them.
§ 12. Method adopted by the translator of the Latin text. § 13.
Conjectures as to the date and dialect of the present version.
The Glossarial Index ix

The Wars of Alexander.

Passus I. Introduction. Anectanabus, king of Egj^pt, is master
of astronomy and magic. Egypt is invaded by Artaxerxes. By
making ships of wax, Anectanabus discovers that his fleet is
being defeated. He disguises himself, and flees to Macedonia.
The god Serapis prophesies the future defeat of the Persians.
The Egyptians raise to Anectanabus an image of black stone ... 1

Passus II. During the absence of Philip, Anectanabus visits queen
Olympias, and tolls her that the god Ammon will appear to her
in a dream. Anectanabus visits Olympias by night in the form
of a dragon. He causes Philip to see in a dream his queen
embraced by Ammon. A seer tells Philip that the queen's child
will conquer the world. He returns to Macedon, where Anec-
tanabus appears in a dragon's form at a feast. Omen of the bird
who laid an egg in Philip's lap ... ... ... ... ... 7

Passus III. Prodigies at the birth of Alexander. His appearance
described. His youth, how passed. Anectanabus predicts his
own death at the hands of his own son. The prediction is
accomplished when Alexander causes his death by drowning.
Olympias mourns over the fate of Anectanabus ... ... ... 17

Passus IV. A wild carnivorous horse is brought to Philip.
Alexander tames him, and sets out on his first expedition against
Nicholas, king of Peloponnesus. Nicholas insults Alexander,
who slays him, and returns home. Philip takes a second wife,
named Cleopatra. Alexander interferes, and Philip is reconciled
to Olympias ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 27

Passus V. Darius demands tribute from Philip, which Alexander
refuses. Pausanias rebels against Philip, and wounds him
mortally, Alexander appears, slays Pausanias, and buries Philip.



Accession of Alexander, who addresses his army, and chooses old
and experienced soldiers to accompany him. He conquers Chal-
cedon, Italy, and Africa. lie shoots a huge hart, and offers
sacrifice to Amnion. He sees Serapis in a dream, who prophesies
that ho will be invincible. lie builds Alexandria 42

Passus VI. Alexander finds the black image of his father Anec-
tanabus. Ho attacks Tyre, but meets with a stout resistance.
The bishop of Jerusalem refuses him aid. The * foray of Gaders.'^
Deeds of Meleager and Sampson. Balaan of Tyre destroys
Alexander's siege-works. Alexander renews them, assaults and
takes TjTe, and kills Balaan ... ... 58

Passus VII. Alexander approaches Jerusalem. Jaudas the bishop,
and the inhabitants, receive him with great honour. Alexander
kneels to God, and visits Solomon's temple. The prophecy of
Daniel. Alexander grants Jaudas a boon. Darius scornfully
sends Alexander three playthings ... ... 78

Passus VIII. Darius sends Alexander an insulting letter. Alex-
ander likens him to a yelping cur that cannot bite, and sends
him a defiant letter in return. Darius says Alexander wants a
whipping, and again reproves him. The token of the glove full
of seeds. Olympias falls ill, and Alexander determines to return
to her 96

Passus IX. Alexander sends Darius a purse full of pepper. He
defeats Amonta in a three-days' battle, who flees to Darius.
Alexander goes to Sicilj^ and Phrygia, and praises Homer,
lleturning to Macedonia, he finds his mother healed. He sets
out for Persia, takes Abandra, comes to the Water of Winter,
and advances to Thebes, which is taken and burnt. The oracle
as to its rebuilding. Clytomachus fulfils it, and rebuilds the
city 114

Passus X. Alexander sends a summons to Athens, ^schylus
counsels the Athenians to resist him, but Demosthenes persuades
them to submit. Alexander forgives the Athenians. The Spar-
tans resist him, but in vain. Darius is alarmed. Alexander's
parable of the wolf and the sheep. He is healed of a fever
by Philip the physician. He crosses the Euphrates, destroying
the bridges behind him ... 132

Passus XI. Darius collects an army. Great battle. A Persian
wounds Alexander, who pardons him. Darius flees. Alexander
seizes Darius' treasure, wife, and children. Darius writes to
Alexander, warning him against over- confidence. Alexander
replies. Porus is unable to help Darius. Eodogars, mother of
Darius, advises him to submit. Lament of Darius 152

Passus XII. Alexander goes to Susa, and bids his men cut
branches and carry them. Ammon tells Alexander to visit the
camp of Darius. Ho crosses the river Granton alone, visits the
hostile camp, and abstracts three gold cups from the tables.
Anepo recognises him, and gives the alarm. He seizes a torch,
mounts his horse, and flees, crossing the Granton on the ice, and
escaping safely 166

1 ' (7(zrf?vs.' says M.Paul Meyer, 'is Gaza;' not Kedesh, as conjectured in the
note to 1. 1193.

Passus Xin. Decisive battle of the Granton (Granicus). Defeat
and flight of Darius. He writes to Alexander, -who bids him
submit. The Greeks find the tomb of Ninus, and free some
Persian prisoners. Darius sends to Porus for help. Two knights
lay a plot against Darius; they attack him, and ho falls ... 178

Fassus XIV. Alexander comes to Susa, and finds Darius wounded.
lie laments over him. Their last conversation. Death of Darius,
and accession of Alexander to the throne of Persia. Description
of the throne of Darius. Proclamation by Alexander. He
beheads the murderers of Darius, and weds Eoxana 190

Passus XV. Porus defies Alexander, who returns the defiance.
Porus assembles a great army, with unicorns, elephants, and
scythed chariots. Alexander frightens the elephants by a
stratagem. Porus takes to flight 206

Passus XVI. Alexander discovers the great wealth of India.
Letter to him from the queen of the Amazons, and his reply.
He makes a treaty with them ... ... ... 212

Passus XVII. Porus raises another army. "Want of water. A
knight offers water to Alexander, which he pours on the ground.
The army comes to a castle in a river. It is assailed by scorpions,
snakes, dragons, lions, boars, savages, mice, bats, and red birds.
They advance to Bactria, and the country of the Seres. Single
combat between Alexander and the gigantic Porus, who is slain 216

Passus XVIII. Alexander comes to the isle of Gymnosophists, who
ask him for immortality, which he cannot gfve them. He comes
to a dark desert, a hot river, and a dried lake. A monster slain.
Elephants, bearded women, amphibious people, and rhinoceroses.
Great storm of four winds. A cold valley, with sparks of fire.
They arrive at the Ganges. Letter of Alexander to Dindimus
the Brahman, with the parable of the lighted torch. Eeply of
Dindimus 223

Passus XIX. Eeply of Dindimus continued. Description of the
Hfe of the Brahmans. Their moderation, contentment, absti-
nence, truthfulness, love of peace, life in caves, and dislike of
play 231

Passus XX. The same continued. Dindimus accuses the Greeks,
and condemns the stories concerning the Grecian gods, and their
vain worship. The Greeks have as many gods as they have
limbs, and each god presides over a limb. Dindimus threatens
the Greeks with future torment ... ... ... ... ... 235

Passus XXI. Alexander reproves Dindimus, and accuses the
Brahmans, whom he condemns as miserable and foolish. Dindi-
mus replies, declaring that the Brahmans wisely despise gold and
riches. Alexander replies, and calls them wretched prisoners.
He rears a pillar of marble, to mark the end of his march ... 241

Passus XXII. Alexander and his host leave the Ganges. They
come to a wood full of giants, who are slain by them. An
uncouth monster appears, and is caught and burnt. Alexander
comes to the trees which wax and wane in a day. He and his
host climb a huge mountain, and are attacked by dragons,
dromedaries, and snakes. They are nine days in a dark valley.
They encounter a basilisk, which Alexander destroys by a



stratagem. Alexander ascends a cliff covered with diamonds,
and arrives at the house of the Sun ... ... ... 245

Passus XXTII. Alexander finds in the temple a god reclining on
a bed, who asks him if he wishes to learn his fate from the trees
of the Sun and Moon. lie replies in the affirmative, and, with
two companions, is guided through a wood to a tree bare of
leaves, on which sits a phoenix. The Sun-tree is like gold; the
Moon-tree like silver. The Sun-tree prophesies that Alexander
will not return home. The Moon-tree tells him he will die in
twenty months. He bewails his fate, and returns to his host,
lie erects two pillars of marble 251

Passus XXIV. He comes to the Precious Land, wherein dwells
queen Candace, who sends him presents. The wife of her son
Candoil is stolen by the king of Bebrik. Candoil goes to Alex-
ander for help, and is received by Ptolemy, who has been com-
manded to personate Alexander, who is himself disguised as
Antiochus. The pretended ' Antiochus ' rescues Candoil's wife,
and goes with Candoil to visit Candace, who receives him with
favour ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 257

Passus XXV. Candace calls Alexander by his true name, and
tells him he is in the power of a woman. Page of Alexander,
who is pacified by Candace. Caratros, another son of Candace,
says he must have Alexander's life. Candoil interferes, and the
brothers quarrel. Alexander pacifies them, and all are recon-
ciled. Candace dismisses Alexander. Ho consults an oracle,
and asks Serapis to say by whose hand he will die. Serapis will
not tell him. Alexander and his host come to the valley of
crowned snakes, who kill some of his men. He mounts Buce-
phalus, and has a great fight with griffins. The host cross the
river of reeds in barges. Account of a strange kind of sirens . . . 264

Passus XXVI. Alexander encloses twenty-two kings, including
Gog and Magog, within a mountain. He comes to the ocean at
the end of the world, turns westward, and reaches the Eed Sea.
He ascends into the air in an iron car raised by four griffins.
He descends into the sea in an air-tight glass vessel. The host
encounter various strange beasts. Death of Bucephalus, who is
buried in a costly tomb. Appearance of strange white birds.
Alexander conquers Babj^lon. He writes home to his mother
and Aristotle 270

Passus XXVII. Description of the great throne in Babylon,
inscribed with the names of all the countries conquered by
Alexander. \_End of the poem'] ... ... ... ... ... 275

The Story continued. Epitome of the remainder of the story,
taken from the Historia de Preliis ... ... ... ... ... 276

The Story of Alexander : A prose fragment from MS. Dublin
D. 4. 12 279

Notes 285

Notes on the " Story of Alexander " 317

Glossarial Index, and Index of Names 310


§ 1. Op tlie various Middle-English prose and verse translations
of the Eomance of Alexander the Great, only those which are in
alliterative verse will be here discussed. As to these, I have already-
explained, in my Preface to " Alexander and Dindimus," that there
are tliree such poems, all fragmentary, which I denote by the letters
A, B, and C. These poems are as follows :

A. A fragment preserved in MS. Greaves 60, in the Eodleian
Library, beginning — " Yee \ai lengen in londe • Lordes and oofer."
This was edited by me for the E. E. T. S. in 18G7, being printed in
the same volume with William of Palerne, pp. 177 — 218. It has
never been printed elsewhere.

B. A fragment preserved in MS. Bodley 2G4, beginning —
" Whan ])is weith at his wil * wed?<nng hadde." This was edited
by Mr. Stevenson for the Eoxburghe Club in 1849, and re-edited by
me, Avith numerous corrections, &c., for the E. E. T. S. in 1878,
Avith the title "Alexander and Dindimus."

C. A fragment preserved in MS. Ashmole 44, in the Bodleian
Library, of which a portion is also found in MS. Dublin D. 4. 12.
It begins — " When folk ere festid & fed • fayn Avald pai hert'," and
was also printed in 1849 by Mr. Stevenson, and in the same volume
as the last, but from the Ashmole MS. only, Avithout any con-
sultation of the Dublin MS. This fragment C is the one Avhich is
re-edit(id in the present volume, and to Avhich, for the sake of dis-
tinction, I have given the title of " The Wars of Alexander," because
it follows the Latin text entitled " Historia Alexandri Magni regis
Macedonie de preliis " more closely than either A or B does.

§ 2. With respect to fragments A and B, I must refer the reader
to the Preface to " Alexander and Dindimus " for fui ther information.
It is sufficient to say here that Dr. Trautmanu has shcAvn, from


internal evidence, that these two fragments are by the same author,
and belong to a poem which, when complete, must have been of
very great length. Fragment C, here edited, is wholly independent
of these, in the sense that it was written by a different translates
"Whatever it has in common with them is due to their common
source. Accordingly, the remarks below refer to fragment C

§ 3. Of the two MSS. containing this fragment C, viz. MSS.
Ashmole 44, and Dublin D. 4. 12 — which will henceforth be called
simply the Ashmole and Dublin MSS. — the former is the more im-
portant, partly because it contains a much larger portion of the story,
and partly because it is more correctly written. It was printed by
Mr, Stevenson in full, and has thus become known, being frequently
cited by Dr. Morris and other writers, whilst it has also been
made use of by Matzner and Stratmann in their Middle-English
Dictionaries. ^Ir. Stevenson's text (like that of his edition of
fragment B) is by no means free from faults, and was doubtless
printed from an imperfect transcript, without due collation of the
proof-sheets with the MS. itself.^ Thus in 1. 15, he prints " forwart "
for " ioTwith," and " ettitlis " for " ettillis," though the latter word
is rightly given in the Glossary. In 1. 16, he has "o3efulle3t" for
" a^efullest," and so on. In some cases the errors are still more
sorious ; as in 1. 70, where " it semyd " is turned into " or myd," and
in 1. 417, where "sweuy?i" appears as "sodeyn." Nevertheless, the
transcription was, in general, well made, and a little more caution
would have given us a faithful text throughout, excepting in such
minute particulars as the use of ]> for th, & for and, and the mode of
expressing contractions. The chief defects of the edition, after all,
are due to the fact that the Dublin MS. was not consulted. Mr.
Stevenson does, indeed, mention it, but says that he only knew of it
through the kindness of Sir F. Madden, who had made a note that
it commenced with 1. 678 of the Ashmole text, and ended with 1.

^ Such a collation would have detected the omission of two whole lines in
the transcript, viz. 4002* and 4733.

2 L. 3425 of the present edition. As it is always my endeavour to keep to
old numberings of lines, for the sake of reference, I must explain how this


§ 4. It is surprising to find that Mr. Stevenson edited the
Ashmole text without ever discovering that there is a great gap in
the story. He prints 1. 723, which is the first line on leaf 13 of the
Ashmole MS. (as now numbered), as if it immediately followed L
722, which is the last line on the back of fol. 12. Yet 1. 722 forms
a part of a speech of Anectanabus, and 1. 723 a part of a speech of
Alexander; and, according to the Ashmole MS., Anectanabus drops
out of the romance in the middle of uttering a sentence, and is no
more heard of, whilst a king of Peloponnesus, by name Sir Nicholas,
jumps into the story without any introduction, and is at once found
in the midst of an angry parley with Alexander. A moderate
attention to the progress of the story shews us at once, that the
Ashmole MS. must, at this point, have lost one or more leaves, and
we now know that it has, in fact, lost just two leaves, or 122 lines.
The discovery of the precise state of the case was made by Mr.
Ilessels in 1874, after a careful examination of the Dublin MS., and
comparison of it with Stevenson's edition. He found that the very
passage required to fill up the gap occurs in full in that ^.IS., which,
notwithstanding its incompleteness at the beginning and end, supplies
this very material contribution to the continuity of the story. Even
now, the conclusion of the Romance is wanting, since the Ashmole
MS. has lost a few leaves at the end also. After making this
discovery, Mr. Hessels made a transcript of the entire MS., and
kindly consented to assist me in editing the Romance. Owing to
pressure of other work, he resigned to me the preparation of the
Notes and Glossary, and expressed the wish that my name alone
should appear upon the title-page ; but so much of the work was
done by us jointly, that it is best to describe more fully the method
of editing adopted by us.

§ 5. In the first place, a collation of Stevenson's edition with the
Ashmole MS. was made by Mr. George Parker ; and, as that
edition was printed without any punctuation, the punctuation was

difference arose. It was because it escaped my notice that 1. 3028 in Stevenson
is immediately followed by 1. 3030 ; so that, after following his numbering for
more than 3000 lines, I was thus, to my regret, thrown out. There are other
Blight differences further on, as explained at p. xiii, but the difEerence in the
numbering never amounts to more than one line.


added by myself. Meanwhile, the Dublin IMS. was transcribed by
Mr, Hessels, and both texts, thus prepared, were sent to press, and
printed in full. In general, the Ashmole text occupies the left-hand
page, and the Dublin text the right-hand page ; but, throughout tho
first 21 pages and the last 71 pages, the Ashmole text occupies both
pages, to save space. The word Ashmole or Dublin is printed at the
top of every page, to prevent ambiguity. The gap in the Ashmole MS.
is shewn by leaving a part of pp. 24 and 32 blank, as well as an entire
blank on pp. 26, 28, and 30 ; and further on, a gap in the Dublin MS.
is similarly shewn by leaving blank a part of pp. 197 and 201, and a
blank on p. 199. Considering that the exact reproduction of the
MSS. is, after all, the chief duty of editors, Mr. Hessels and myself
have paid very close attention to this point. The proof-sheets were
carefully compared with both j\ISS. by both of us separately, and we
venture to think that the texts are faithfully reproduced in the
minutest particular. Every tag and curl has been carefully watched,
and notice is given in the foot-notes whenever a word is miswritten,
or corrected, or supplied in the margin. The head-lines, side-notes,
and Xotes were prepared by me, and I accept the responsibility for
them, but they have had the great advantage of revision by Mr.
Hessels. As regards the Glossary, tlie shape in which it now
appears is due to myself; but it was chiefly prepared by Miss
Wilkinson, who has kindly assisted me on other occasions (par-
ticularly in the glossaries to my selections from Chaucer), and was
much augmented by Mr. Hessels, who added to it numerous words
and forms, chiefly from the Dublin MS., and also underwent the
great labour of verifying all the references, which will, we believe,
be found to be correct throughout. The preparation of this Glossarial
Index has occupied a long time, and has delayed the appearance of
the edition for some years ; but, now that Dr. Murray's Dictionary
is passing through the press, it seemed highly desirable to make the
references as full as possible.^ We also owe to Mr. Hessels the
transcript of the very brief prose "Story of Alexander," which is

^ Mr. Stevenson's Glossary, consisting of 12 pages, is rather a poor per-
formance, aiid contains several false forms. Havins:, for example, printed
"forwart" for " forwit/t" in 1. 15, his Glossary has '' Forwart, to promise."


here printed for the first time, from the Dublin MS., at pp. 279 —

§ 6. One great defect, in nearly all copies of poems in alliterative
metre, is caused by the liability of the scribe to lose his place, and to
miss one or more lines here and there. The Ashmole MS. is the
more carefully written of the two, but (in addition to the gap con-
tained in the lines numbered 733* to 844*), it misses ten other lines.
In order to avoid much deviation from Stevenson's numbering of the
lines, these extra lines are here denoted by asterisks, and are called
respectively, lines 1633*, 1766* 1767*, 2168*, 2538*, 2724*, 2842*
2980*, 3167*, and 3267*. The Dublin MS. (in addition to the gap
caused by the loss of leaf 40, 11. 3296—3356) has lost 30 lines, viz.
911, 1227, 1333, 1334, 1745, 1749, 1804, 1822, 1874—7, 2012,
2120—5, 2143, 2317, 2318, 2328, 2373, 2380, 2386, 2440,2519,
2721, and 2808. Unfortunately, I did not discover, till too late, that
Stevenson's printer missed counting a line after 1. 3028, so that from
that point to 1. 4733, the number of each line in this edition is one less
than in his. Here Stevenson misses a line which I have supplied,^ thus
bringing the numbering right. Unluckily, his printer again missed
counting a line after 1. 4933, so that from this point to the end the
number of each line in this edition is again one less than in his.
My last line (5677) is the one formerly caUed 5678.^ This will not
give much trouble to readers who refer to this volume for words
mentioned by Matzner and Stratraann, but it is best to explain how
the difference arose. An old numbering, even if faulty, should be
adhered to, where possible, for the sake of convenience of reference.
I shall describe the MSS. more particularly.

§ 7. Eespecting the Ashmole MS. 44, there is not much to be
said, Nothing is known of its history previously to its acquisition
by Ashmole. Mr. Stevenson dates it, no doubt correctly, at " the
middle of the fifteenth century," and says that " it is on paper,
written by a hand coarse, rough, and irregular, without any attempt
at neatness, and without much regard to accuracy. The errors into
which the scribe has fallen seem to indicate, in some instances, that

1 Stevenson also misses a line after 1. 4002, but I have called it 1. 4002*.

2 See also note 1 on p. 56, explaining why Stevenson's 1. 1098 disappears.


he was unable to read correctly the copy which he had before him,
while others would appear to shew that he wrote from dictation."
I have not observed any passages of the latter kind ; and I think
that the above description, though fairly indicating the general
condition of the MS., errs somewhat on the side of severity. I
should say that the scribe aimed at being both neat and regular,
though his success in attaining to these is not of the highest order.

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