The Firste Prolog bigynnethe here in to þis Story of mony Cronicles.
AFTER the nowble wryters of artes, to whom hit was a pleasure in this life presente to fixe theire studies and laboures abowte the knowlege of thynges and virtues mo|ralle, thei ar to be enhaunsede and exaltede by merite with grete preconyes, as makenge a commixtion of a thynge profitable with a swetenesse mellifluous, whiche haue de|riviede to men succedenge thro the benefite of scripture thexcellent gestes of men precedenge. Page 5, vol.1
For in the contexte historicalle the rewle off lyvenge and forme of vertues moralle, and the incentiue of manhode, ȝiffe grete resplendence thro the diligence of croniclers. Also the triuialle of the vertues theologicalle and quadriuialle of the cardinalle vertues, to comprehende the knowlege of whom oure insufficience sufficethe not, withowte the sollicitude of writers scholde transfude to vs the memory of thynges of antiquite. For schort lyfe, a slawe sawle, and a slipper memory lete vs to knowe mony thynges, obliuion schewenge helpe, an enmye alleweies and a steppe moder to the memory. For in this tyme presente artes and lawes scholde falle vtterly, thexemplares of acciones spectable scholde not be patent, the ornate eloquence scholde peresche, but that diuine mi|seracion hath prouided vse of letters in to the remedy of the imperfeccion of man.
What man scholde haue perfecte knowlege of em|peroures, meruaile of philosophres, and folowe thapostles, but that the actes of writers made theym nowble? There|fore Page 7, vol.1 a story is the testimony of tymes, the memory of life, hauenge in possession dowerys preeminent, renewenge as thro immortalite thynges like to peresche, beynge as in a maner a conseruatiue perpetualle to thynges mortalle.
Wherefore y, wyllenge to folowe the descriptores of the storye quadriuialle, and as provocate thro thexemple of theim, intende to compile a tretys of the state of the yle of Breteyne, excerpte of diuerse labores of auctores. Page 9, vol.1
Whiche labore expressede to my felawes hauenge inop|pinable appetite to beholde gestes of antiquite, y was movede thro the importune instance of theyme to compile somme thynges of the famose storyes of the worlde from the creacion of man vn to oure age, not oonly after the [folio 17b] ordre of tymes, but also after the supputacion of euery yere congruent.
Attendenge the intricacion inextricable of this labor pre|sente as of the mase of Dedalinus [y] am preyede to attempte hit withowte drede; aduertenge ofte tymes slawthe to mete men thenkenge grete thynges, and the insufficience of my wytte, and the obnubilous and clowdy processe of this mater y-desirede, perauenture men in these dayes attend|enge but litelle the obsequy of deuocion as thei be wonte, scholde take disdeyne of this liȝhte meyte. Of whom Gregorius Naz[i]anzen spekethe, seyenge, "Suche men reprove liȝhtely straunge thinges, but vnnethe with grete difficulte thei folowe goode thynges." Wherefore y seenge the poverte Page 11, vol.1 and insufficience of my connynge after so splendidious laboures dredde to proferre a raw thynge with bareyne eloquence and to purpose as a thynge bytter to so mellifluous delices.
What man wolde not laȝhe and also haue in derision, if that a pigmei scholde make him redy to conflicte after the labores of Hercules and after the actes Olimpicalle plenerly finischede? What man wylle not haue me in derision inten|denge to decoloure the maieste of soe highe mater after so nowble wryters? Neuerthelesse y remembre the dicte of Booz to Ruth gedrenge cornes remaynenge behynde the backes of men scherenge, seyenge, "Noo man schalle be gre|vous to the." Also the Poette Mantuan Maro Virgilius, as Isidorus rehersethe, Eth. lio decimo, or elles Flaccus Horatius, as Hugo Pisanus wylle in his Derivationes (capitulo perviso), when hit was seyde in obprobry to hym of his enmyes and aduersaries, that he scholde take some versus of that nowble Page 13, vol.1 and laureate poete callede Homerus, and adde or inmixte theym vnto his werkes and labores, and callede by that a compilator of olde thynges, he ansuerede seyenge that hit was a signe of grete strenȝhte to take the mace from the honde of Hercules.
Preyenge that noo man haue indignacion thauȝhe y bere asches or sonde, whiche semenge as thynges impure and wontenge lyȝhte be wonte to yelde pure materes and fulgent, lyke as somme thynges be wonte to ministre to other thynges that thei haue not in theyme selfe. Whereof the poete Satiricus seythe "I schalle vse to make a knyfe scharpe in the maner of a whetteston." And Seynte Gregory in his Pastoralles, "Y a fowle peynter haue made a feyre man in picture." Wherefore y presumenge of that charite, whiche, as Seynte Gregory seythe in an Omely, ministrethe strenȝhtes, schalle prosecute my processe, pera|uenture contemptible to fastidious men, but as y iugge not vnprofitable to goode studentes. Makenge an entre in to [folio 18a] the feldes of olde men, folowenge the scherers after my Page 15, vol.1 power, gedrenge the eres of cornes remanent, or elles cromes fallenge from the table of lordes, whiche replete lefte frag|mente to theire childre and successores, gedrenge the litelle partes to men hungre of the fragmentes of the cophinnes remanent, schalle adde somme thynge to the labores of auc|tores. Thro whiche labour lytelle men schalle not be inducede oonly to doctrine but also grete men schalle be prouocate to exercise, that men whiche haue not seen so large volumes of this mater may be instructe by this compendious labor, where y say not that subtilite of sentence or mellifluous eloquence schal be expressede in hit, but sinceritie of deuo|cion schalle schewe obsequy to the matere. In whom alle|moste alle the problemes of grete men be seyde, and mony other thynges not founde in the bokes of auctores whom y have excerpede, as in a maner as a story by vse quotidian and experience of theyme; in parte thro*. [The text is corrupt.] the knowlege of mony thynges, parte thro the violence of hostilite, and parte Page 17, vol.1 is adempte and loste þro the slawthe of wryters, so that vnnethe the bare names of places be saluede. Thauȝhe the figmentes of gentiles and dictes of ethnikes be inmixte to this werke thei do seruyce to the Cristen religion and feythe. For it was lawefulle to Virgille the nowble poette to seche the golde of sapience in the cleye of Ennius the poete, and to the childer of Israel goenge in to the londe of promission to spoile men of Egipte. In whom alle thinges excerpte of oþer men ar*. [ar] as, Harl. MS.] broken in to smalle membres, but concorporate here lini|amentally; thynges of disporte be admixte with saddenes, and dictes ethnicalle to thynges religious, that the ordre of the processe may be obseruede, that to my power the integrite of trawthe schalle not feynte. For egalle certitude may not be holden by alle thynges and in alle thynges. For after Seynte Austyn, de Civitate Dei, diuine miracles ar to be meruailede and to be worschipped, not worthy to be discussede by disputacion. Thynges to be meruaylede be not in alle maneres to be taken to discredence, sythe Seynte Ierom seythe, "Thow schalle*. [So Harl. MS.] fynde mony thynges incredible and not lyke, and neuerthelesse thei be trewe. Truly there is noo thynge more preualent ageyne the dominy of nature Page 19, vol.1 then that nature." Neuerthelesse a dubitacion may be movede probably in mony thynges, where certitude dothe not appere to be variaunte. Isidorus seythe, Ethi. libro xvo, [folio 18b] "If that certeyne reason appere not of the construccion of the cite of Rome, hit is not mervayle if a dubitacion be movede in the oppinion of theyme. Wherefore we awe not to condempne commentatores and wryters of storyes spekenge diuersely, for the antiquite þer of causethe erroure. For hit is conueniente to ȝiffe feithe and credulite to the dictes of those men, after Seynte Ierom, the religion of whom schew|ethe not preiudice to vertues neiþer seythe contrary to the trawthe y-knowen."*. [y knowen, Harl. MS., and simi|larly elsewhere; here always print|ed conjunctim.] If eny thynge be founde disso|naunte to feithe auþer diuerse or straunge to vertues in this werke, hit schalle be ascribede raþer to the tyme then to man. Wherefore y make not to me by alle thynges perelle of trawthe to be ordeynede in this spekenge of storyes, but takenge parte withowte envye thynges of diuerse auctores whom y haue redde. For Seynte Paule seythe, "That alle thynges wryten be not trewe, but alle thynges wryten be wryten to oure doctrine." And thauȝhe y take the wordes of other men, y make hit myne that y pro|ferre Page 21, vol.1 other while of the sentence of olde men by my wordes, vsenge the auctores whom I schalle wryte in the begynnenenge of the booke as a schelde and defense ageyne men movenge contrarious thynges. When the compilator spekethe, the letter shall be proscribede in this forme folowenge [R].