The Dream of Mordecai Referenced Again in the Alliterative Morte Arthure

Simon Armitage has translated the Alliterative Morte Arthure into modern English alliterative verse in The Death of Arthur. It mostly deals with the story of Arthur’s forces fighting the Emperor Lucius. In the poem, this is very excitingly told and moves right along, although most of us will remember Malory retelling it at excessive length. So forget Malory and read this instead!

There’s also a different account of Arthur’s death (not a surprise given the title), but I haven’t gotten there yet.

The interesting bit, which I have just added to the Wikipedia article for everyone’s convenience, is that once again we have a medieval Arthurian work where we see references to Mordecai’s dream, in one of the longer versions of the Book of Esther!

And here’s the original text of Arthur’s dream of a dragon from the west fighting a giant bear from the east up in the sky. (I don’t know why this never came up during the Cold War, btw.)

In this case, Arthur’s two philosopher clergymen quickly interpret the dream as meaning that Arthur is the scary dragon who wins the day. (Good Christian dragons for the win!) And it’s reasonable, because Arthur is the Pendragon, and as noted in the connected Mordecai-referencing stories of Merlin and Vortigern and of Lludd and Llewelys, the symbol of Wales was a red dragon.

The Armitage translation, The Death of Arthur, is awesomely done, so check it out, too! I am listening to the audiobook on Overdrive (courtesy of my local library); but it may also be available on Hoopla, Amazon’s subscription service, Amazon Prime borrowing, etc.

The king was in a grete cogge with knightes full many,
In a cabane enclosed, clenlich arrayed;
Within on a rich bed restes a little,
And with the swogh of the se in swefning he fell.

Him dremed of a dragon, dredful to behold,
Come drivand over the deep to drenchen his pople,
Even walkand out the West landes,
Wanderand unworthyly over the wale ythes;
Both his hed and his hals were holly all over
Ounded of azure, enamelled full fair;
His shoulders were shaled all in clene silver
Shredde over all the shrimp with shrinkand pointes;
His womb and his winges of wonderful hewes,
In marvelous mailes he mounted full high.
Whom that he touched he was tint forever!
His feet were flourished all in fine sable
And such a venomous flaire flow from his lippes
The flood of the flawes all on fire seemed!

Then come out of the Orient, even him againes,
A black bustous bere aboven in the cloudes,
With ech a paw as a post and paumes full huge
With pikes full perilous, all pliand them seemed;
Lothen and lothly, lockes and other,
All with lutterd legges, lokkerd unfair,
Filtered unfreely, with fomand lippes –
The foulest of figure that formed was ever!
He baltered, he blered, he braundished thereafter;
To batail he bounes him with bustous clawes;
He romed, he rored, that rogged all the erthe,
So rudely he rapped at to riot himselven!

Then the dragon on dregh dressed him againes
And with his duttes him drove on dregh by the welken;
He fares as a faucon, frekly he strikes;
Both with feet and with fire he fightes at ones.
The bere in the batail the bigger him seemed,
And bites him boldly with baleful tuskes;
Such buffetes he him reches with his brode klokes,
His breste and his brayell was bloody all over.
He ramped so rudely that all the erthe rives, 79
Runnand on red blood as rain of the heven!
He had weried the worm by wightness of strenghe
Ne were it not for the wild fire that he him with defendes.

Then wanders the worm away to his heightes,
Comes glidand fro the cloudes and coupes full even,
Touches him with his talones and teres his rigge,
Betwix the taile and the top ten foot large!
Thus he brittened the bere and brought him o live,
Let him fall in the flood, fleet where him likes.
So they thring the bold king binne the ship-borde,
That ner he bristes for bale on bed where he ligges.

Then waknes the wise king, wery fortravailed,
Takes him two philosophers that followed him ever,
In the seven science the sutelest founden,
The cunningest of clergy under Crist knowen;
He told them of his torment that time that he sleeped:
“Dreched with a dragon and such a derf beste,
Has made me full wery, as wisse me Our Lord;
Ere I mon swelt as swithe, ye tell me my swefen!”

“Sir,” said they soon then, these sage philosophers,
The dragon that thou dremed of, so dredful to shew,
That come drivand over the deep to drenchen thy pople,
Soothly and certain thyselven it is,

That thus sailes over the se with thy seker knightes.
The coloures that were casten upon his clere winges
May be thy kingrikes all, that thou has right wonnen,
And the tattered tail, with tonges so huge,
Betokens this fair folk that in thy fleet wendes.
The bere that brittened was aboven in the cloudes
Betokenes the tyrauntes that tormentes thy pople
Or elles with some giaunt some journee shall happen,
In singular batail by yourselve one;
And thou shall have the victory, through help of Our Lord,
As thou in thy vision was openly shewed.
Of this dredful dreme ne drede thee no more,
Ne care not, sir conquerour, but comfort thyselven
And these that sailes over the se with thy seker knightes.”

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