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Layamon or Laghamon (pronounced /ˈleɪə.mən/; Middle English: Laȝamon, Laȝamonn), occasionally also written Lawman was a poet of the early 13th century and author of the Brut, a notable English poem of the 12th century that was the first English language work to discuss the legends of Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Layamon describes himself in his poem as a priest, living at Areley Kings in Worcestershire. His poem provided inspiration for numerous later writers, including Sir Thomas Malory and Jorge Luis Borges, and had an impact on medieval history writing in England.
Print-era editors and cataloguers have spelled his name in various ways including "Layamon", "Lazamon", or "Lawman". Brown University suggests that the form "Layamon" is etymologically incorrect, while The Fifth International Conference on Laȝamon's Brut at Brown University mentions: "BL MS Cotton Caligula A.ix spells it "Laȝamon" (the third letter is called a "yogh"). BL MS Cotton Otho C.xiii spelled it "Laweman" and "Loweman". [1]



Brut (ca. 1190) is a Middle English poem compiled and recast by the English priest Layamon. It is named for Britain's mythical founder, Brutus of Troy. It is contained in the MS. Cotton Caligula A ix, written in the first quarter of the 13th century, and in the Cotton Otho C xiii, about fifty years later (though in this edition it is shorter). Both exist in the British Museum.

The Brut is 16,095 lines long and narrates the history of Britain. It is largely based on the Anglo-Norman Roman de Brut by Wace, which is in turn inspired by Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, though is longer than both and includes an enlarged section on the life and exploits of King Arthur. The rhyming style is the alliterative verse line style commonly used in Middle English poetry.



  • Cannon, Christopher . The Grounds of English Literature, Chapter 2. Oxford University Press. 2004. ISBN 0-19-927082-1
  • Lewis, C. S. The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1964.
  • Loomis, Roger S. "Layamon's Brut" in Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages, Roger S. Loomis (ed.). Clarendon Press: Oxford University. 1959. ISBN 0-19-811588-1
  • Ackerman, Robert W. Backgrounds to Medieval English Literature. 1st. New York: Random House, Inc., 1966.
  • Everett, Dorothy. "Laȝamon and the Earliest Middle English Alliterative Verse." Essays on Middle English Literature. Ed. Patricia Kean. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1978.
  • Solopova, Elizabeth, and Stuart D. Lee. Key Concepts in Medieval Literature. 1st ed. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.
  • Barron, W. R. J., Weinberg, S. C. (2001) Ed., & trans. Layamon's Arthur: The Arthurian Section of Layamon's Brut (lines 9229–14297). Exeter: Exeter University Press ISBN 9780859896856 (first published by Longman 1989)
  • Tiller, Kenneth J. (2007)Layamon's Brut and the Anglo-Norman Vision of History University of Chicago Press ISBN 9780708319024

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Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Layamon (fl. c. 1200) was an English poet known only for his epic Brut, arguably the first great poem to be written in Middle English; it introduced such legendary kings as Arthur, Cymbeline and Lear to English literature. Layamon's name is also given in the forms Laзamon, Lazamon and Lawman.




Line-numbers refer to the Caligula Ms. text, as published in the Early English Text Society edition. Page-numbers and translations are from Sir Frederic Madden (ed.) Brut; or, Chronicle of Britain (London: Society of Antiquaries, 1847).

  • Betere is liste þene ufel strenðe.
    for mid liste me mai ihalden þat strengðe ne mai iwalden.
    • Better is art, than evil strength; for with art men may hold what strength may not obtain.
    • Line 8590; vol. 2, p. 297.
  • Þa þe Arður wes king hærne nu seollic þing.
    he wes mete-custi ælche quike monne.
    cniht mid þan bezste wunder ane kene.
    he wes þan yungen for fader þan alden for frouer.
    and wið þan vnwise wunder ane sturnne.
    • When Arthur was king – hearken now a marvellous thing – he was liberal to each man alive, knight with the best, wondrously keen! He was to the young for father, to the old for comforter, and with the unwise wonderfully stern.
    • Line 9945; vol. 2, p. 413.
  • Yurstendæi wes Baldulf cnihten alre baldest.
    nu he stant on hulle & Auene bi-haldeð.
    hu ligeð i þan stræme stelene fisces.
    mid sweorde bi-georede heore sund is awemmed.
    heore scalen wleoteð swulc gold-faye sceldes.
    þer fleoteð heore spiten swulc hit spæren weoren.
    Þis beoð seolcuðe þing isiyen to þissen londe.
    swulche deor an hulle swulche fisces in wælle.
    • Yesterday was Baldulf of all knights boldest, but now he standeth on the hill, and beholdeth the Avon, how the steel fishes lie in the stream! Armed with sword, their life is destroyed; their scales float like gold-dyed shields; there float their fins, as if it were spears. These are marvellous things come to this land; such beasts on the hill, such fishes in the stream!
    • Line 10638; vol. 2, pp. 471-2.
  • And ich wulle uaren to Aualun to uairest alre maidene.
    to Argante þere quene aluen swiðe sceone.
    & heo scal mine wunden makien alle isunde.
    al hal me makien mid haleweiye drenchen.
    And seoðe ich cumen wulle. to mine kineriche.
    and wunien mid Brutten mid muchelere wunne.
    • And I will fare to Avalun, to the fairest of all maidens, to Argante the queen, an elf most fair, and she shall make my wounds all sound; make me all whole with healing draughts. And afterwards I will come to my kingdom, and dwell with the Britons with mickle joy.
    • Line 14277; vol. 3, p. 144.


  • By reason of Arthur's position as its climax as well as of the long line of other traditional heroes, events and associations, and of its breadth of treatment, simplicity, intensity, enthusiasm, accord with the supernatural, vitality of imagination, elevation and sometimes nobility and religious feeling, the poem is the nearest thing we have to a traditional racial epic.
    • J. S. P. Tatlock The Legendary History of Britain (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1950) p. 485.
  • Even the British Arthur becomes an Englishman, a Germanic hero, brave, daring and open-handed. We are in a world of feasts and vaunting speeches, flytings and lusty battles, fierce deeds and bloody humour, with the Fiend, the Adversary of Man, always round the next corner.
    • Gwyn Jones, in Wace and Layamon (trans. Eugene Mason) Arthurian Chronicles (London: Dent, [1912] 1976) p. xi.

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