A Voyage of three Ambassadors from England to Constantinople and the East, about the year 1056.
Upon the holy festival of Easter, King Edward the Confessor, wearing his royal crown, sat at dinner in his palace of Westminster, surrounded by many of his nobles. While others, after the long abstinence of the lent season, refreshed themselves with dainty viands, on which they fed with much earnestness, he, raising his mind above earthly enjoyments, and meditating on divine things, broke out into excessive laughter, to the great astonishment of his guests. But no one presuming to inquire into the cause of his mirth, all kept silence till dinner was ended. After dinner, when the king had retired to his bed-chamber, to divest himself of his robes, three of his nobles, Earl Harold, an abbot, and a bishop, who were more familiar with him than any of the other courtiers, followed him into the chamber, and boldly asked the reason of his mirth, as it had appeared strange to the whole court that his majesty should break out into unseemly laughter on so solemn a day, while all others were silent. “I saw,” said he, “most wonderful things, and therefore did I not laugh without cause.” And they, as is customary with all men, became therefore the more anxious to learn the occasion of his mirth, and humbly beseeched him to impart the reason to them. After musing for some time, he at length informed them, that seven sleepers had rested during two hundred years on Mount Ceelius, lying always hitherto on their right sides; but that, in the very moment of his laughter, they had turned themselves over to their left sides, in which posture they should continue asleep for other seventy-four years, being a dire omen of future misery to mankind. For all those things which our Saviour had foretold to his disciples, that were to be fulfilled about the end of the world, should come to pass within those seventy-four years. That nation should rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there would be in many places earthquakes, pestilence, and famine, and terrible apparitions in the heavens, and great signs, with great alterations of dominion; wars of the infidels against the Christians, and victories gained by the Christians over the unbelievers. And, as they wondered at these things, the king explained to them the passion of the seven sleepers, with the shape and proportion of each of their bodies, which wonderful things no man had hitherto committed to writing; and all this in so plain and distinct a manner, as if he had always dwelt along with them.