Sunday, April 21, 2019

Who was Hengist's daughter?

A Presentment of Englishy ends with a poem that looks forward to the story of Vortigern, Hengist and his daughter.

The Matter of Britain
(Western Britain, 450 AD).

Mog the Magnificent
in his daub and wattle hut
lord of the scattered rocks
and the wind scarped ridge
watching the sheep he’s counted
penned on the wet hillside.
The members of his retinue
huddled round the fire,
dozing. The harper
droning stories of Vortigern
Hengist and Rowena.

They say it’s easier to look into the sun
Than look at her. They say,
she is the dawn and when she rises day begins.

Vortigern, traitor,
expert in evil,
skilled in deceit
sold his country
for a pagan witch.

Hengist, a cunning man,
a secret, silent, scheming
man, who pimped
his daughter for a crown
he could have seized.

But I was there when Rowena walked into the hall.
She lifted up the goblet, ‘Wes þu hal, Vortigern cyning’
and I swear, Hengist had pitched her at the son
at Vortimer. She swerved. She chose
and with that choice swerved history and Britain fell.

Anyone who reads A Presentment carefully will know that that last italicised section should not be taken seriously as historical fact.

But who was Hengist’s beautiful daughter?

In the next post, her earliest appearance in ‘The Matter of Britain’.  

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