AFTER solempne and wise writeres of arte and of science, þat hadde swettnesse and lykynge al hir*. [her, α., Cx.] lyf tyme to studie and to trauaille aboute konnyng and knowleche of kyndeliche*. [kyndley, Cx. (not α.)] þinges and aboute sobernesse and redinesse of þewes, þey be worthy to be*. [ben, Cx. where the same use of n is frequent, both in the infinitive and indicative.] hiȝeliche and solempliche*. [and solempliche] Wanting in Cx.] i-preysed,*. [i-preysed] I preised, MS., and α.; and similarly elsewhere. The prefix wanting in Cx., both here and ge|nerally.] as þey it were putting and medlynge to gidre profiȝtes*. [profiȝt, α.] and swetnes, þat*. [þat] Wanting in Cx, and placed in our MS. and α. immediately after 'þey' (theugh), just preceding.] write and left vs write*. [i write, α.] mer|uailles and wondres, greet berynge and dedes of oure forme fadres,*. [forn-faders, Cx.] of stalworthe wyt,*. [wight, Cx.] wise and worthy, and of dyuerse manere men þat were in olde tyme. Page 5, vol.1
For in þe makynge and*. [of, Cx.] bookes of stories, þat is to vs i-sent and byqueþe by grete besynesse of þe writers of cro|nicles,*. [cronykes, Cx. α.] blaseþ and schyneþ clerliche þe riȝt rule of þewes, ensaumple of leuynge, clensynge*. [knowyng, Cx.] of goodnes, þe metynge of þe þre waies of þe þre vertues of deuynyte, and þe metynge of foure weies of þe foure chief*. [principal, Cx.] vertues of þewes of real cloþynge. Of þe whiche þinges our litel konnynge myȝte nouȝt take knowleche, noþer*. [ne, Cx.] folwe þe foure,*. [fourth, Cx.] but besines of writers to oure vnkunnynge hadde i-holde and i-streyned*. [shadde and stremed, Cx.] mynde of olde dedes. For why schort lyf, dul witte, and slowe vnderstondynge, and ydel occupacioun letteþ vs to knowe many þinges; forȝetingnes all wey kypinge þe craft of a stepdamme, he*. [he] wanting in Cx. (not α.).] is enmy of mynde. Also now, in our tyme, art, sciens and lawe al were i-falle, ensample of noble dedes were nouȝt i-knowe; nobilite and faire manere of spekynge were all i-lost; but þe mercy of God had i-ordyned vs of lettres in remedie of*. [of þe, α.] vnparfiȝt|nesse of mankynde.
I praye who schulde now knowe emperours, wonder of philosofres, oþer*. [or ellys, Cx.] folwe þe apostles, but hir*. [theyr, Cx., here and frequently; here, α.] noble dedes and hir wonder werkes were i-write in stories and so i-kept Page 7, vol.1 in mynde? Who schulde knowe Lucilium, but Seneca in his pistles hadde i-write his dedes? Writinge of poetes is more worthy*. [worth, Cx., α.] to preisynge of emperoures þan*. [þat, MS.; than, Cx.] al þe welþe of þis worlde, and riches*. [rychesses, Cx.] þat þey welde*. [welded, Cx.] while þey were alyue. For storie is wytnesse of tyme, mynde of lyf, messager of eldnesse;*. [oldnesse, α.] story weldeþ passyng doynges, storie putteþ forþ hire*. [her, Cx.] professoures. Dedes þat wolde be lost storie ruleþ;*. [reneweth, Cx.; renweth, α.] dedes þat wolde flee out of mynde, storye clepeþ*. [callith, Cx.] aȝen;*. [aȝe, α.] dedes þat wolde deie, storye kepeþ hem euermore.*. [for euermore, α.]
Wherfore, among oþere noble trauaillours of þe þre pathes*. [Cx. here inserts instead of 'and' the clause 'arne mooste worthy to ben praysed;' thus altering the con|struction of the sentence.] and faire florischers and hiȝteres*. [embelysshers, Cx.] of wordes and of metre, þat haueþ of here trauaille greet pryse i-gete, we mowe nouȝt ful preyse hem, þat in stories*. [historyes, Cx, here and fre|quently.] meteþ and discryueþ all þe worlde wyde. But wiþoute eny drede þey schulleþ fonge *. [schulleþ fonge] shall resseyue, Cx.] her mede of hym þat rewardeþ and quyteþ al þat wel worcheþ.*. [werke, Cx.]
By þe worþynesse and ensaumple of so worþy writeris i-spiȝt and i-egged,*. [so worþy . . . i-egged] noble wryters that herto fore haue wreton, Cx.] nouȝt bostynge of myn owne dedes noþer skornynge ne blamynge of*. [of] om. α.] oþer men dedes, I haue y-kast and y-ordeyned, as I may, to make and to write a tretes, i-gadered of dyuerse bookes, of þe staat of þe ylonde of Britayne, to knowleche of men þat comeþ after vs. Page 9, vol.1
Þan special frendes*. [lordes, Cx.] þat knewe myn entent [and]*. [Added from Cx. and α.] had likynge*. [desyre, Cx.] to knowe greet men dedes, prayed me besiliche, þat I schulde also write þe famous stories and acounte þe ȝeres from þe bygynnynge of þe world anon*. [worlde vnto, Cx.] to oure tyme.
Þoo toke I hede þat þis matir, as*. [as] was, MS. and α.; corrected from Cx.] laborintus, Dedalus*. [his hous, α.] hous, haþ many halkes and hurnes, wonderful weies, wyn|dynges and wrynkelynges, þat wil nouȝt be vnwarled,*. [be unwarled] lyghtly be opened and shewed, Cx.] me schamed and dradde to fynde*. [fynde] take on me, Cx.; founde, α.] so grete and so gostliche*. [ferdful, Cx.] a bone to graunte. For ydelnesse and sleuþe letteþ grete werkes þat men wolde worche; my witt is ful luyte*. [lytil, Cx.] to vnwralle*. [vnwynde, Cx.] þe wrappyinges of so wonder*. [wonderful, Cx.] werkes: þe matire is large, writers þerynne beþ*. [beeþ, α.] many, and greet for fulnesse þerof; now men beþ*. [So also α.] al sad and takeþ þe lasse hede and liȝtliche wolde flaterie*. [wolde flaterie] wolde fynde fawte, Cx.; flatþe, α.] vppon þis symple foode,*. [werke, Cx.] and, as enemyes, whette her tunges and bende hire browes. Of suche men spekeþ Gregory Nazianzenus, þat willeþ liȝt|liche blame defauȝtes of oþere men, and goodnesse nouȝt soþelich*. [so liȝthliche, α.] folwe. Al þis ich hadde in mynde, and also I Page 11, vol.1 knewe myn owne pouert, and schamede and dradde after so noble spekers, þat sownede as trompes, to putte forþ my bareyn speche, hosnes*. [hoose, Cx.] and snochynge, as who so*. [om. α.] roteþ*. [recheth, Cx.] vp moolberyes and serueþ likerous men, þat lyueþ in lik|ynge, wiþ soure grapes.
Ȝif*. [For yf, Cx., α.] after þe trauaille*. [laboure, Cx.] of Hercules, and after þe strif, ioustes, and turnementis*. [tourneyes, Cx.] of Olympy, a pigmey boskeþ hym to bataille and array hym to fiȝte, who myȝte þanne leue to laughe? Also who wolde schoute to skorne, ȝif I pipe wiþ an otene reed, and vnhiȝte so noble a matire wiþ gris|baitinge,*. [mowing, Cx.; om. α.] gruntynge and whistelynge, after so noble spekers þat sownede at þe beste; and of hem faire facounde and resonable*. [renable, Cx., α.] speche, folowed and streynede*. [folowed and streynede] flowed and stremed, Cx. (stremed also in α.)] all her lyf tyme? But ich*. [I., Cx] haue wel in mynde what Booz seide to Ruth þat was schamefast, and lase*. [leese, Cx.; laas, α.] vp þe eeres after his ripe men, "No man," he seide, "þe schall wraþþe;" and to his ripe men he seide, "Ȝif ȝe*. [she, Cx. (not α.), probably rightly.] wole wiþ ȝow rype, forbedeþ hir nouȝt; and here fore to lose*. [leese or gleyne, Cx.; lese, α.] no man schal lette." Þe poet, also, Mantuanus Maro Virgilius, as Isi|dorus seiþ, Eth. libro decimo, and Horatius, as seiþ Hugutio Pysanus, In derivationibus*. [diuinacionibus, Cx.] suis, capitulo peruiso: "Whan enemyes despised Horacius and bere hym an*. [on, α.] honde þat he Page 13, vol.1 hadde i-take som of Omeres [vers],*. [Homeres versis, Cx.; vers added from α.] and i-medled among his and cleped*. [called, Cx.] hym a gaderere of old wrytynges, he answerde and seide, 'It were wel*. [right, Cx.] greet strengþe to wreste a mace oute of Hercules honde.' "
Þerfore I pray þat no man me blame, þei ich*. [þeiȝ, α.] fare as sonnd and askes;*. [asshes, Cx.; askeþ, α. (and MS. originally).] þat*. [for, Cx. The true reading is probably 'for þat.'] þouȝ þei beeþ*. [be, α.] dym and foule hym self, other þinges þey clenseþ and makeþ schyne*. [schene, α.] ful briȝt; and meny oþer þinges þat þey haueþ not in hem self, ȝeueþ*. [ȝeueþ] yet yeuen, Cx.] to oþere. So saiþ þe prophete*. [poet, α.] Satiricus, "I fare as the whetston*. [as a weston, α.] þat makeþ yren sharpe and kene." Item, Gregorius in suo Pastorali seiþ, "I haue peynt a wel faire man, and am my self a foule peyntour." Þerfore I truste on þat charite þat Gregorie spekeþ of in his Omelye, þat wiþ*. [wytte, Cx. The sense requires ȝeueþ.] vertues and strengþe, þat vnkunnynge denyeþ; and auntre me in to þe rype,*. [þe rype] repyng, Cx.] þat is ful of trauaille and wa|kynge, oute caste,*. [in caas, βCx.; on caas, γ (rightly); oncas, α.] despised of envious men and proude, and ȝit I hope profitable*. [profitable] it shall be prouffy|table, Cx.] to good*. [goode, α.] studiers and meke. I schal entre in to þe feeldes of oure forme fadres,*. [forn-faders, Cx.] and folwe Page 15, vol.1 þe rype men, ȝif ich may any wyse leese and gadre me som eres þat rype men schedeþ and skapeþ of here hondes; oþer, nameliche, ȝif I myȝte*. [and gadre me. . . . I ȝif myȝte] wanting in Cx.] gadre somwhat of þe crommes þat falleþ of lordes bordes, þat somtyme were fulfilled and left hir*. [here, α. (and so often.)] relif to hir children. And also ȝif I myȝt gadre eny scrappes of þe releef of þe twelf cupes,*. [vij. kipes or lepes, Cx.] and somwhat putt to and eche*. [eche] encrece, Cx. (not α.)] writinge of auctours, as a dwerf sittynge on a geauntis nekke; wher þoruȝ ȝongelynges*. [þorw ȝong peple, α.] mowe be brouȝt to lore and gretter men to vse*. [vse] So Cx.; vice. MS.; vys, α.] and to besynesse i-spyed,*. [i-spyed] sette, Cx.] þat þey mowe be enformed and i-tauȝt by þis schort tretys, þat haueþ nouȝt i-seie þe grete volyms and large, þat beeþ of stories i-write, nouȝt sotilte of sentence, noþer faire florischynge of wordes, but swetnesse of deuocion of þe matire schal*. [that, Cx. (typ. error for that shal?)] regne in þis book. In þe whiche book and tretys wel nyh al problemys and questiouns of þe wiseste men beeþ*. [beþ, α. (but also beeþ elsewhere.)] i-planted; also many þinges þat beþ nouȝt i-write in oþer bookes, ich haue i-gadered of þe comyn, as þey it were of a storye, and i-write in þis tretis, for me*. [for me] by cause men, Cx. (not α.)] schulde hem knowe after oure time. For somdel by malice of enemys, somdele by slouþe*. [þe sleuþe, α.] of writeres, know|leche Page 17, vol.1 of greet dedes*. [So α.; dredes, MS.] is so nyh loste and forȝet, þat skars|liche bare names of places we haueþ now*. [not, Cx.] in mynde.
Þey feynynge and sawes of mysbileued and lawles*. [So Cx. and α.; lawes of, MS.] men, and wondres and merueillis of dyuerse contrees and londes be i-planted in þis book, suche serueþ and is good to be knowe of Cristen men. Virgile souȝt gold of wit and wisdom in þe fen of Ennii þe poete, and þe children of Israel, in hire goynge into þe londe of byheste, spoilled þe Egipcians. Þat is in oþer bookes i-write welwyde and parcel mele i-plaunted, here it is i-putte togidre in rule and in ordre; so merþe to sadnesse and heþen to Cristen, euerich among oþere, þat straunge stories beeþ so abregged, schorted and i-lengþed þat þe storie is hool,*. [and, Cx.; hool and soþnesse, α.] in sooþnesse nouȝt i-chaunged. Neuerþeles*. [notheles, α.] more certeyn som is i-holde þan oþir. For Augustinus, de Civitate Dei, seith: "We schul trowe and worschippe þe miracles of God and nouȝt hem despreue by despitusoun."*. [disputicion, Cx.; despitesoun, α.] Wondres beþ not al to be vntrowed: for Hieronymus seiþ,*. [Hieronymus seiþ] somme telle, Cx.] "Meny wondres þow schalt fynde þat þou woldest nouȝt bileue,*. [So Cx.; i leue, MS.] and ȝit þey beeþ ful sooþ: kynde may not doo aȝenst God, Lord of Page 19, vol.1 kynde." Also of many þinges that seemeþ ful sooþ, noþeless skilfulliche me douteþ.*. [me douteþ] it is to be doubted, Cx.] Isidorus, Eth., quinto decimo, seiþ: "ȝif resoun is vncertayne of þe buildynge of the citee of Rome, what wonder þey men be vncerteyn of the buldynge of oþer citees and townes? Wherfore we schulle not blame*. [make blameres, α.] makeres and writeres of stories, þat dyuersliche spekeþ and writeþ; for longe passynge of tyme and elde of dedes makeþ hem vnknowe and writers to erre." Þerfore Hieronymus seiþ, "It is semeliche to trowe*. [beleue, Cx.] her sawes þat wiþseiþ*. [So α.; wiþ seiþ, MS.; gaynsaye, Cx.] nouȝt oure byleue noþer sooþ|nesse that is knowe."
Wherfore in þe writynge of þis storie I take nouȝt vppon me to aferme for sooþ*. [trouthe, Cx.] all þat I write, but such as I haue seie*. [y-seie, α.] and i-rad in dyuerse bookes, I gadere*. [So α, and Cx.; gadered, MS.] and write wiþ oute envie, and comoun to oþere men. For þe apostel seith nouȝt, "All þat is write*. [y-write, α.] to oure lore is sooþ," but he seiþ "Al þat is i-write to oure lore*. [to oure lore] for oure doctryine and loore, Cx. (α has various words omitted.)] it is i-write." And þei I take it of oþer menis, I clepe þis storie myn; and for þat Page 21, vol.1 I write oþer whiles myn owne wordes and sentens of olde men, þe auctores þat*. [I sette, or something similar, seems to be omitted. β inserts I only after þat and omits it before take; γ is much burnt, but seems to have þat y wryte in þe bygynnyng. This reading at any rate completes the sense.] in the firste bygynnynge of þis book I take for schelde and defens, me for to saue and schilde*. [kepe, Cx.] aȝenst enemyes þat me wolde despise strongly*. [strangely, Cx.] and blame; first for my self and for myn owne name I write þis letter [R].