Troy Book: Prologue


8-10 The allusions here are to the humors, of which there are four: phlegm, sanguine (blood), choler, and melancholy. Each humor is marked by specific conditions of temperature and moisture, which contribute to its influence on human behavior. Phlegm is cold and moist and seated in the liver; it has a clammy, inhibiting effect upon behavior that leads to equanimity or sluggishness and dullness. Sanguine is hot and moist and is seated in the heart; its character is usually cheerful, passionate, or aggressive. Choler is hot and dry, and is gathered in the gall; it helps natural heat and the senses, but also leads to anger. Melancholy is cold and dry; situated in the spleen, it makes one reflective and morose, but is a curb to the two hot humors. Although Mars is choleric - hot and dry and filled with anger and rage - his melancholic humor restrains him somewhat.

11 fyré. Bergen emends to fyry; see 2.3748 and 4.3155.

19-20 The planets are more at home in some houses (mansions) of the zodiac than others. Lydgate indicates that Mars is most influential when residing in the tenth mansion, Capricorn, but he is weak and troublesome when in Taurus, the second mansion. It was on his visit to Taurus that he made love to Venus and was weakened and exposed by Vulcan to ridicule amongst the gods. See note to line 23.

22 Vulcanus. MS: Wlcanus.

23 meschef. The mischievous bedding of Mars and Venus is told in Ovid's Ars Amatoria 2.561-92 and became a favorite literary topic throughout the Middle Ages. See Chaucer's elaborate dramatization of the "visit" in his "Complaint of Mars" and "The Complaint of Venus." Gower tells the story in his discussion of the jealousy of lovers, Confessio Amantis, 5.635-725. Both draw upon Jean de Meun's Roman de la Rose, lines 13847-14186.

38 Othea is a goddess of wisdom and instructor to Hector; see Christine de Pisan's Epistle of Othea.

40, 46 Clio and Calliope. Lydgate invokes the same Muses that Chaucer did in his telling of Book 2 (Clio) and Book 3 (Calliope) of Troilus and Criseyde, as if to gain the support of history (Clio) and eloquence (Calliope) in the unfolding of his great Troy story.

41 Pernaso. MS: Pernasa. A mountain near Delphi, sacred to Apollo and the Muses. Pegasus broke open the spring of the muses, whose waters sustain the arts. See note to line 44.

42 Elicon. Mount Helicon, a favorite haunt of the Muses which rivalled Parnassus for that honor. Lydgate follows Chaucer in making Helicon a well on Parnassus.

43 stremys. MS: stemys.

44 Caballyn. Lydgate's source is the Prologue to Persius's Satires: "Nec fonte labra prolui caballino / nec in bicipiti somniasse Parnaso / memini, ut repente sic poeta prodirem" (lines 1-3). Chaucer uses the same source for his various references to Parnassus (Franklin's Tale, V.720; Troilus and Criseyde 3.1810; The House of Fame, line 521; Anelida and Arcite, line 16). Persius is alluding to the Hippocrene - the well, as Lydgate says in the next line, "[t]hat sprang by touche of the Pegasee." Persius is ironic in treating the tradition of poetic inspiration associated with Helicon and Parnassus. His phrase "labra prolui" is a consciously exaggerated way of saying "drink." "Caballino" is a term taken from popular speech and applied sarcastically to Pegasus (hence "the nag's well"). Lydgate evidently missed the intended irony and took fons caballinus as a conventional epithet.

51 Parchas and Furies. The Parcae are the Roman goddesses of Fate - Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos - derived from the Greek Moirai. The Furies (Erines) - Tisiphone, Allecto, and Megaera - are chthonian powers who inflict retribution for wrongs and blood-guilt, especially in the family.

52 Cerberus. The watchdog of Hades, born of Typhon and Echidna, along with the Hydra and Chimaera. Hesiod gives him fifty heads, but most medieval versions designate three heads. Orpheus charmed him with his music, thereby succeeding in passing by him without harm.

53 In a number of instances I have followed Bergen, who adds a final -e to regularize the meter of Lydgate's verse. For example, here the MS reads: best, which I print as beste. See also the following instances: Prologue: trouthe (116), myghte (130), dirke (143), nere (159), grete (174), Withoute (178), pleyne (194), Withoute (204), grete (240), trouthe (259), trouthe (288), veyne (290); Book 1: grete (66), rekeles (82), herte (151), moste (157), londe (726), syghte (785), scharpe (798), Troye (811), hadde (931), Withoute (990), alle (1058), myghte (1059), helpe (1077), grete (1103), truste (1106), grete (1111), mente (1121), schippe (1149), graunte (1157), myghte (1189), oughte (1844), yeve (1847), grete (1935), myghte (2002), caste (2006), herte (2011), herte (2027), faire (2093), herte (2107), shulde (2122), hole (2134), goode (2885), beste (2971), oughte (3230), hoole (3244), nekke (3279), raughte (3306), moste (3352), brighte (3391), scharpe (3401), doute (4054), herde (4063), horse (4086), felte (4090), Nadde (4106), rede (4157), horse (4160), scharpe (4162), herte (4167), scharpe (4183), horse (4197), grete (4256), myghte (4290), scharpe (4300), scharpe (4306), newe (4379), broughte (4382), goode (4401), firste (4426); Book 2: wante (144), weye (192), heyghte (519), longe (685), highte (736), alofte (907), schulde (933), stronge (949), myghte (959), righte (1818), herte (1826), newe (1838), herte (2327), trouthe (2367), hire (2400), game (2412), brighte (2418), myghte (2430), brighte (2459), righte (2509), grete (2591), moste, (2597), faste (2659), herke (2711), righte (2791), herte (2798), feste (3440), feste (3462), joye (3479), stronge (3502), newe (3531), herte (3546), herte (3566), hoote (3583), oughte (3626), weye (3633), hadde (3639), hadde (3642), brighte (3664), herte (3721), righte (3749), moste (4702), myghte (4739), hymsilfe (4752), myghte (4757), moste (4876), myghte (4877), myghte (6579), faste (6586), consumpte (6621), hadde (6649), grete (6658), hadde (6660), juste (6694), stonde (6707), alle (6716); Book 3: dirke (4), durste (7), myghte (556), herte (571), silfe (593), scharpe (764), myghte (775), myghte (790), laste (792), horse (808), truste (827) scharpe (831), grete (841), myghte (877), herte (881), lefte (986), highte (996), horse (1022), worthinesse (1045), herte (1053), wolde (1061), firste (1062), myghte (1064), stronge (1075), scharpe (1091), truste (1896), herte (1921), durste (1943), nadde (1967), yonge (2043), wylde (2136), faste (2294), brighte (2667), dirke (2676), brighte (2681), stronge (2697), gayne (2736), sente (3109), righte (3118), myghte (3134), myghte (3197), myghte (3204), fulle (3207), Thilke (3235), herte (3737), goode (3741), myghte (3839), fulle (3877), herte (3919), holde (3966), happe (4032), myghte (4066), hidde (4101), gonne (4111), helpe (4145), shulde (4183), myghte (4211), hoole (4234), gilte (4237), laughe (4292), secte (4356), fulle (4406), myghte (4902), thoughte (4918), nexte (4918), felle (4925), herte (4967), routhe (4989), assente (4997), herte (5045), myghte (5089), myghte (5112), myghte (5158), myghte (5222), sharpe (5266), caste (5283), myghte (5284), myghte (5304), grete (5312), thoughte (5313), thoughte (5316), beste (5317), myghte (5318), roughte (5319), myghte (5320), awayte (5386), wente (5416), brighte (5486), salte (5531), myghte (5590), myghte (5672), brenne (5722); Book 4: fulle (191), alle (267), thinge (301), righte (323), routhe (579), myghte (600), wente (629), herte (648), thoughte (651), knowe (654), hadde (700), muste (710), roughte (720), herte (812), myghte (829), grete (844), herte (853), Eleyne (888), thridde (890), righte (906), trowe (983), stonde (993), shulde (1024), Eleyne (1050), moste (1086), brighte (1089), myghte (1181), fledde (2036), hadde (2063), faste (2068), faste (2076), myghte (2082), grete (2111), myghte (2112), myghte (2124), soughte (2164), fulle (2690), brighte (2712), helpe (2719), stronge (2748), hoole (3139), shulde (3164), sharpe (3192), grete (3229), hoole (3820), durste (3840), wolde (3854), myghte (3936), salte (3939), myghte (3958), stinte (3971), myghte (3972), maille (4304), sharpe (4332), myghte (4413), grete (4417), myghte (5107), alle (5159), faire (5225), hadde (5587), grete (5631), nexte (5702), myghte (5709), false (5739), wolde (5741), treste (5763), holde (5783), stonde (5784), graunte (6067), grete (6199), thoughte (6307), lefte (6354), myghte (6402), shadde (6408), durste (6430), wiste (6434), yonge (6474), herte (6502), wolde (6544), fynde (6875), myghte (6881), myghte (6914), grete (6917), hadde (6922), oughte (7048), grete (7070), myghte (7082); Book 5: queynte (1811), alle (1848), longe (1851), ilke (1854), grete (1909), platte (1923), gonne (1954), hadde (1965), Caste (1968), tolde (1978), myghte (1996), herte (2066), myghte (2080), beste (2109), Thilke (2112), herte (2116), hevynesse (2117), shulde (2120), alle (2140), herte (2168), wolde (2168), herte (2184), herte (2192), yonge (2209), trouthe (2216), hemsilfe (2267), trowe (2286), thilke (2938), myghte (2971), platte (2984), silfe (2996), moste (2998), geyne (3009), myghte (3034), shulde (3048), myghte (3105), silfe (3128), righte (3141), hente (3154), longe (3241), grete (3256), wexe (3305), silfe (3330), helpe (3350), oughte (3406), brighte (3423), hadde (3502), Awaite (3555); Envoy: beste (12).

54-68 In his invocation, Lydgate describes his task as "making" (fashioning verse in a technical sense) rather than original poetic composition and as rhetorical amplification (see below Pro.324-52). He subsequently (Pro.245- 323) seeks to distinguish the truth of chronicle histories from the deceitful, invented fables of the poets, along the lines sketched out by Benoît (lines 45-70 and 110-16) and Guido (4.204 and 276).

63-75 An extended modesty trope of the poet apologetically standing to correction. See also Pro.379-84.

74 My lordes bydding. That is, at the pleasure of Henry V, Lydgate's patron. See Introduction, pp. 7-9.

81 fyn. MS: fynde.

84 vertuous besynesse. See Chaucer's Second Nun's Prologue: "leveful bisynesse" (VIII.5) and "feithful bisynesse" (VIII.24).

89 Vygecius. Flavius Vegetius Renatus, whose military manual Epitoma rei militaris (written between 383 and 450) remained an authority into the eighteenth century on Roman military practices.

95 eldest sone. Henry, Prince of Wales, later Henry V; Shakespeare's Prince Hal.

104 Brutus Albyoun. The phrase echoes "The Complaint of Chaucer To His Purse," a supplication to King Henry IV, where the poet addresses the king as "conquerour of Brutes Albyon" (line 22). In Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of England, Brutus, a descendant of Aeneas, conquers Albion to establish his rule on the island, hence the name Britain.

109 Guido. Guido delle Colonne, whose Historia destructionis Troiae is Lydgate's source.

115 in Latyn and in Frensche. Bergen questions whether Lydgate knew any French version of Guido first hand (4:211).

124 Fourtene complete. Lydgate began the poem in 1412, during the reign of Henry IV, and completed it in 1420.

126 Lydgate's astronomical reference recalls the calculations mentioned in the Canterbury Tales in the introduction to The Man of Law's Tale (II.1-14), The Nun's Priest's Tale (VII.3187-97), and The Parson's Prologue (X.1-9).

133 cold. MS: coldyng.

141 upryst. MS: upright.

146 Sagittarie. The mansion of Sagittarius, the ninth house in the astrological scheme of time. Lydgate names it as if it were an inn where Apollo might spend the night.

149 auctours. MS: auntours.

150 Of the dede the verreie trewe corn. MS: Of the dede of the verreie trewe corn. In medieval scriptural and literary exegesis, wheat and chaff commonly distinguish verbal ornament from the interior meaning of a text; see Chaucer's The Nun's Priest's Tale: "Taketh the fruyt, and lat the chaf be stille" (VII.3443).

168-70 Torti, p. 174, observes that these lines echo Troilus and Criseyde 1.365-69, where Troilus recalls seeing Criseyde in the temple.

172 slayen. MS: slayn. In a number of instances I have supplied a medial vowel or ending inflection where the meter and syntax require it. See also dirked for dirk (175); Book 1: Ageynes for Ageyn (182), sythen for syth (241), growen for growe (783), Ageynes for Ageyns (862), hastily for hastly (959), bryngen for bryng (1097), dawenyng for dawnyng (1155), femynynyté for femynyte (1860), Kyndely for Kyndly (1877), restreynen for restreyn (1879), freelté for frelte (1923), schewen for schew (2023), trewely for trewly (2063), Ageynes for Ageyns (2099), hooly for hool (2862), douteles for doutles (2930), trewely for trewly (2946), hennes for hens (2976), slayen for slayn (4113), Ageynes for Ageyns (4150), douteles for doutles (4203), pereles for perles (4282), amonges for among (4413), rudenesse for rudnesse (4331); Book 2: douteles for doutles (554), dayes for day (572), citezeyns for citzeyns (782), pleies for pleis (792), conquerouris for conquerous (857), chaunteplure for chauntplure (914), lasten for last (989), nounsureté for nounsurte (1892), douteles for doutles (2298), loveres for lovers (2519), Amonges for Among (3481), seyen for seyn (3564), Ageynes for Ageyns (3578), wisten for wist (3720), douteles for doutles (4709), pereles for perles (4710), joyneden for joynden (4748), gruccheth for grucche (6529), seyth for sey (6529), whiles for whils (6606), hennes for hens (6629); Book 3: trewely for trewly (2078), kyndely for kyndly (2087), Ageynes for Ageyns (2668), genterye for gentrye (3214), rekeles for rekles (3873), hennes for hens (3923), Ageynes for Ageyns (3953), ageynes for ageyns (4157), Ageynes for Ageyns (5018), sureté for surté (5088), broughten for brought (5234), rekeles for rekles (5383), pereles for perles (5384), namely for namly (5478), slayen for slayn (5523); Book 4: namely for namly (289), Ageynes for Ageyns (691), Ageynes for Ageyns (857), Ageynes for Ageyns (863), putten for putte (925), Ageynes for Ageyns (980), casten for cast (1029), Douteles for Doutles (1098), hennes for hens (1133), rekeles for rekles (1139), Ageynes for Ageyns (1145), Ageynes for Ageyns (1158), rekeles for rekles (1174), trewes for trews (2029), dawenynge for dawynge (2049), helpeles for helples (2736), endelonge for enlonge (2778), slayen for slayn (3109), disaray for disray (3913), stonden for stonde (3943), slayen for slayn (4392), slayen for slayn (4411), slayen for slayn (4431), douteles for doutles (5174), Ageynes for Ageyns (5236), ageynes for ageyns (5250), sithen for sith (5565), Ageynes for Ageyn (5577), haddest for hast (5665), behyght for hyght (5747), offeringe for offringe (6050), neghebour for neghbour (6140), yborn for born (6143), conspiracioun for conspiracoun (6321), myghtestow for myghtstow (6449), Ageynes for Ageyns (6510), gilteles for giltles (6767), Ageynes for Ageyns (6781), slayen for slayn (6808), Endelong for Endlong (6857), gilteles for giltles (6890), nayades for naydes (6987), hennes for hens (7015); Book 5: ymade for made (1812), letuaryes for letuarye (1994), soules for soule (2038), yblent for blent (2082), hevynesse for hevynes (2117), slayen for slayn (3342), slayen for slayn (3349), douteles for doutles (3415), avouterye for avoutrye (3559); Envoy: benyngely for benyngly (60), Ageynes for Ageyns (105).

220 trouth. Bergen reads trouthe.

224 the keye of remembraunce. See Chaucer, The Legend of Good Women F 26.

227 and. MS: of.

229 Crop and rote. See Troilus and Criseyde 2.348 and 5.1245. Pearsall (1970, p. 99) remarks that Lydgate uses this phrase as well as "sours and welle" to indicate the full realization of a virtue, quality, or vice; see 3.4935 and Env.1.

230 Stace. Publius Papinius Statius (45-96 A.D.), author of the Thebaid, which tells the story of Oedipus and his sons. Chaucer's Criseyde reads such a romance of Thebes to pass the time at the beginning of Book 2 of Troilus and Criseyde. After Troy Book, Lydgate wrote The Siege of Thebes under the fiction that he joins the Canterbury pilgrims on their return journey and is asked to tell the first tale.

246 cronycleris. Bergen emends to cronyculeris.

263 veyn. Bergen emends to veyne.

286 is. Accepting Bergen's addition.

290 Reyseth. MS: Rysed.

293 fame blowe. Lydgate's phrase recalls Chaucer's description of the rock of ice on which the palace of Fame stands (The House of Fame, line 1139) and the satirical and skeptical treatment of fame and renown later in The House of Fame, lines 1567-1867.

298 many worthi knyght. Bergen emends the phrase to many a worthi knyght.

303 it. MS: he. I follow Bergen's emendation so that the obscure speech rather than Ovid ensnares the readers who see it. entriketh. Lydgate describes Ovid's writing in the same way as the fountain of Narcissus in the Roman de la Rose; see Romaunt of the Rose, line 1642.

309 Here and in Chaucer's The House of Fame (line 1468) and Troilus and Criseyde (1.394), Lollius is presented as an authority on the Trojan War. Modern scholars believe that medieval poets knew Lollius as an author because of an error in the manuscript tradition and subsequent references to Horace, Epistulae 1.2.1-2, which make it seem as if Lollius were the greatest of the authors on the Trojan War instead of Maximus Lollius, whom Horace addresses in his poem.

316 Lydgate makes the same claim for the essential agreement of the chronicles that is commonly adduced for the unity of the Bible.

319 Cornelius. Cornelius Nepos (c. 99-c. 24 B.C.) was one of the first writers of biography. His De viris illustribus deals with famous people, both Roman and foreign.

320 Salustius. Gaius Sallustius (c. 85-35 B.C.). Sallust was a Roman Tribune forced out of office by Caesar, who in retirement became an historian and dealer in moral commonplace. Lydgate alludes, perhaps, to his Historiae or possibly to his Bellum Catilinae or his Bellum Iugurthinum.

324-52 Lydgate here gives a list of topics that can be used for rhetorical amplification.

al. Accepting Bergen's addition.

333 Or. MS: Of.

344 lengest dide. MS: dide lengest.

348 strif. MS: stif.

366 hathe. Bergen reads hath.

373 excellest. MS: excellent.

377 whom. Lydgate uses this syntactic device again at 2.1038, 3.3829, and 5.1916.
Print Copyright Info Purchase

Troy Book: Prologue

from: Troy Book: Selections  1998













































































O Myghty Mars, that wyth thy sterne lyght
In armys hast the power and the myght
And named art from est til occident
The myghty lorde, the god armypotent,
That wyth schynyng of thy stremes rede
By influence dost the brydel lede
Of chevalry as sovereyn and patrown,
Ful hoot and drye of complexioun,
Irows and wood and malencolyk
And of nature brent and coleryk,
Of colour schewyng lyche the fyré glede,
Whos feerce lokes ben as ful of drede
As the levene that alyghteth lowe
Down by the skye from Jubiteris bowe
(Thy stremes ben so passyng despitous,
To loke upon, inly furious,
And causer art wyth thy fery bemys
Of werre and stryf in many sondry rewmys),
Whos lordschype is most in Caprycorn
But in the Bole is thy power lorn
And causer art of contek and of strif;
Now for the love of Vulcanus wyf
Wyth whom whylom thou wer at meschef take,
So helpe me now, only for hyr sake,
And for the love of thy Bellona
That wyth the dwellyth byyownd Cirrea
In Lebyelonde upon the sondes rede;
So be myn helpe in this grete nede
To do socour my stile to directe
And of my penne the tracys to correcte
Whyche bareyn is of aureat lycour
But in thi grace I fynde som favour
For to conveye it wyth thyn influence,
That stumbleth ay for faute of eloquence
For to reherse or writen any word;
Now help, O Mars, that art of knyghthod lord
And hast of manhod the magnificence.
And Othea, goddesse of prudence,
This wirke t'exsplyte that ye nat refuse
But maketh Clyo for to ben my muse
Wyth hir sustren that on Pernaso dwelle
In Cirrea by Elicon the welle,
Rennyng ful clere wyth stremys cristallyn
And callyd is the welle Caballyn
That sprang by touche of the Pegasee.
And helpe also, O thou Calliope,
That were moder unto Orpheus
Whos dites wern so mellodyus
That the werbles of his resownyng harpe
Appese dyde the bitter Wyrdys scharpe
Bothe of Parchas and Furies infernal
And Cerberus so cruel founde at al;
He coyede also beste, foule, and tree.
Now of thy grace be helpyng unto me
And of thy golde dewe lat the lycour wete
My dulled brest that wyth thyn hony swete
Sugrest tongis of rethoricyens
And maistresse art to musicyens;
Now be myn help t'enlumyne with this wirk
Whyche am beset with cloudis dym and dirk
Of ygnoraunce, in makyng to procede,
To be lusty to hem that schal it rede.
Also in hert I am so ful of drede
Whan prudent lysters herto schal take hede,
That in makyng more skylle can than I,
To whom I preie ful benignely
Of her goodnesse to have compassioun
Wher as I erre in my translacioun.
For God I take hyghly to wyttenesse
That I this wirk of hertly lowe humblesse
Toke upon me of entencioun,
Devoyde of pride and presumpcioun,
For to obeie withoute variaunce
My lordes byddyng fully and plesaunce,
Whiche hath desire, sothly for to seyn,
Of verray knyghthod to remembre ageyn
The worthynes, yif I schal nat lye,
And the prowesse of olde chivalrie
By cause he hath joye and gret deynté
To rede in bokys of antiquité,
To fyn only vertu for to swe
Be example of hem and also for to eschewe
The cursyd vice of slouthe and ydelnesse.
So he enjoyeth in vertuous besynesse
In al that longeth to manhood, dar I seyn;
He besyeth evere, and therto is so fayn
To hawnte his body in pleies marcyal
Thorugh excersice t'exclude slouthe at al,
After the doctrine of Vygecius:
Thus is he bothe manful and vertuous,
More passyngly than I can of hym write.
I wante connyng his highe renoun t'endite,
So moche of manhood men may in hym sen.
And for to witen whom I wolde mene -
The eldest sone of the noble Kyng
Henri the Firthe, of knyghthood welle and spryng,
In whom is schewed of what stok he grewe;
The rotys vertu thus can the frute renewe;
In every part the tarage is the same,
Lyche his fader of maneris and of name,
In sothefastnesse, this no tale is,
Callid Henry ek, the worthy prynce of Walys,
To whom schal longe by successioun
For to governe Brutys Albyoun,
Whyche me comaunded the drery pitus fate
Of hem of Troye in Englysche to translate,
The sege also, and the destruccioun,
Lyche as the Latyn maketh mencioun,
For to compyle and after Guydo make,
So as I coude, and write it for his sake,
By cause he wolde that to hyghe and lowe
The noble story openly wer knowe
In oure tonge, aboute in every age,
And ywriten as wel in oure langage
As in Latyn and in Frensche it is,
That of the story the trouthe we nat mys
No more than doth eche other nacioun:
This was the fyn of his entencioun.
The whyche emprise anoon I gynne schal
In his worschip for a memorial.
And of the tyme to make mencioun
Whan I began of this translacioun,
It was the yere, sothely for to seyne,
Fourtene complete of his fadris regne,
The tyme of yere, schortly to conclude,
Whan twenty grees was Phebus altitude,
The hour whan he made his stedis drawe
His rosen chariet lowe under the wawe
To bathe his bemys in the wawy see,
Tressed lyche gold, as men myghte see,
Passyng the bordure of oure occian;
And Lucyna, of colour pale and wan
Hir cold arysyng in Octobre gan to dyght
T'enchace the dirknesse of the frosty nyght
In the myddes of the Scorpion;
And Esperus gan to wester doun
To haste hir cours ageyn the morwe graye;
And Lucifer, the nyght to voyde awaye,
Is callyd than, messanger of day,
Our emysperye to put out of affraye
Wyth bright kalendis of Phebus upryst schene
Out of the boundis Proserpina the Quene
Wher Pluto dwelleth, the dirke regioun,
And the Furies have her mansioun;
Til after sone Appollo lyst nat tarie
To take sojour in the Sagittarie.
Whyche tyme I gan the prolog to beholde
Of Troye Boke, imade be dayes olde,
Wher was remembrid of auctours us beforn
Of the dede the verreie trewe corn
So as it fil severid from the chaf,
For in her honde they hilde for a staf
The trouthe only, whyche thei han compyled
Unto this fyn - that we wer nat begyled
Of necligence thorugh foryetilnesse.
The whiche serpent of age by processe
Engendred is fersly us t'assaille,
Of the trouth to make us for to faille;
For nere writers, al wer out of mynde,
Nat story only but of nature and kynde
The trewe knowyng schulde have gon to wrak
And from science oure wittes put abak,
Ne hadde oure elderis cerched out and sought
The sothefast pyth, to ympe it in oure thought
Of thinges passed, fordirked of her hewe
But thorugh writyng thei be refresched newe,
Of oure auncetrys left to us byhynde
To make a merour only to oure mynde
To seen eche thing trewly as it was,
More bryght and clere than in any glas.
For ner her writyng nowe memorial,
Dethe with his swerde schulde have slayen al
And ydymmed with his sodeyn schoures
The grete prowes of thise conquerouris
And dirked eke the brightnesse of her fame
That schyneth yet by report of her name;
For unto us her bokes represent
Withoute feynynge the weie that thei went
In her daies, whan thei wer alyve.
Ageyn the trouthe whoso evere stryve
Or counterplete or make any debate,
The sothe is rad of highe or lowe estate
Withoute favour, whoso list take hede.
For after deth clerkis lityl drede
After desert for to bere witnesse
Nor of a tyraunt the trouthe to expresse,
As men disserve withoute excepcioun;
With lak or prys thei graunt hem her guerdoun.
Wherfore me semeth every maner man
Schulde be his live in al that ever he can
For vertu only eschewe to don amys,
For after dethe, pleynly as it is,
Clerkis wil write, and excepte noon,
The pleyne trouthe whan a man is goon.
And by olde tyme for her writing trewe
Thei cherisched werne of lordes that hem knewe
And honoured gretly in tho dawes;
For they enacted and gilte with her sawes
Her hyghe renoun, her manhood and prowes,
Her knyghthood eke and her worthynes,
Her tryumphes also and victories,
Her famous conquest and her songe glories;
From poynt to poynt rehersyng al the trouthe
Withoute fraude, necligence, or slowthe
Thei dide her labour and her besynesse.
For elles certeyn the grete worthynesse
Of her dedis hadde ben in veyn;
Fordirked age elles wolde have slayn
By lenthe of yeris the noble worthi fame
Of conquerours and pleynly of her name
Fordymmed eke the lettris aureat,
And diffaced the palme laureat
Whiche that thei wan by knyghthod in her dayes,
Whos fretyng rust newe and newe assayes
For to eclipse the honour and the glorie
Of highe prowes whiche clerkis in memorie
Han trewly set thorugh diligent labour
And enlumyned with many corious flour
Of rethorik, to make us comprehende
The trouth of al, as it was in kende;
Besied hem, and feythfully travaylled
Agayn al that that age wolde assaylled,
In her bokes everythyng iset,
And with the keye of remembraunce it schet,
Whiche lasteth yet and dureth ever in oon.
Recorde of Thebes that was so long agoon,
Of whiche the rueyne and distruccioun
Ye may beholde by gode inspeccioun,
Crop and rote, right as it was indede;
On Stace loketh, and ther ye may it rede:
How Polynece and Ethiocles,
The brether two, ne kowde nat lyve in pees
Til Thebes was brought unto ruyne,
And al the maner how thei dide fyne,
The deth also of worthi Tydeus;
And how Edippus with teris ful pytous
Wepte oute his eyne and al his drery peyen;
And how the smokys departid wer in tweyen
At the fest of fires funeral.
In grete Stace ye may reden al:
The fyre engendered by brotherly hatrede,
Wherthorugh that deth was the cruel mede
In verray sothe of many worthi man
Lyche as myn auctor wel reherse can;
Of Troye also that was of latter yeres,
By dillygence of cronycleris
Ye may beholde in her wrytyng wel
The stryfe, the werre, the sege, and everydel,
Ryghte as it was, so many yeres passyd.
Whos story yit age hath nought diffaced,
Nor cruel deth with his mortal strokys;
For maugre deth, ye may beholde in bokys
The story fully rehersed new and newe
And freschely floure of colour and of hewe
From day to day, quyk and no thyng feynt.
For clerkys han this story so depeynt
That deth nor age by no maner weye
The trouthe may not maken for to deye,
Albe that somme han the trouthe spared
In her writyng and pleynly not declared
So as it was nor tolde out feithfully
But it transformed in her poysy
Thorugh veyn fables, whiche of entencioun
They han contreved by false transumpcioun
To hyde trouthe falsely under cloude,
And the sothe of malys for to schroude,
As Omer dide, the whiche in his writyng
Ifeyned hathe ful many divers thyng
That never was, as Guydo lyst devise,
And thingys done in another wyse
He hathe transformed than the trouthe was
And feyned falsly that goddis in this caas
The worthi Grekis holpen to werreye
Ageyn Troyens, and howe that thei wer seye
Lyche lyfly men amonge hem day by day.
And in his dites that wer so fresche and gay
With sugred wordes under hony soote
His galle is hidde lowe by the rote,
That it may nought outewarde ben espied.
And al for he with Grekis was allied,
Therfor he was to hem favourable
In myche thing, whiche is nought commendable
Of hem that lyst to demen after ryght;
For in makyng, love hath lost his syght,
To yeve a pris wher noon is disserved.
Cupide is blynde, whos domys ben observyd
More after lust than after equité
Or after resoun, how the trouthe be.
For singulerté and false affeccioun
Reyseth ful ofte by veyne lausioun
A man to worschip that disserveth noon,
By false reporte; and thus ful many oon
Withoute merit hath his fame blowe,
Wher of another the renoun is unknowe,
That in armys hath mervelles wrought
Of whom paraunter speketh no man nought;
For favour only is fostered more than ryght,
That hyndered hath many worthi knyght.
Ovide also poetycally hath closyd
Falshede with trouthe, that maketh men ennosed
To whiche parte that thei schal hem holde;
His mysty speche so hard is to unfolde
That it entriketh rederis that it se.
Virgile also for love of Enee
In Eneydos rehersyth moche thyng
And was in party trewe of his writyng,
Exsepte only that hym lyst som whyle
The tracys folwe of Omeris stile.
And of this sege wrot eke Lollius,
But toforn alle Dares Frigius
Wrot moste trewly after that he fonde,
And Dytes eke of the Grekys lond.
They were present and seyen everydel,
And as it fel they write trewe and wel,
Eche in his tonge by swyche consonaunce
That in her bokys was no variaunce,
Whiche after wern unto Athenes brought
And by processe serched oute and sought
By dillygence of oon Cornelius
Whyche was nevewe unto Salustius,
Of Rome yborn, whiche dide his dever dewe
Hem to translate and the tracys sewe
Of thise auctours by good avisement.
But bycause he sette al his entent
For to be brefe, he lefte moche behynde
Of the story, as men in bokys fynde -
The firste mevyng and cause original
What was the gynnyng and rote in special;
Ne how thei come by lond or by navie;
How firste the sparke was kyndeled of envie
Atwyxe Grekis and hem of Troye town,
Of whiche Cornelye maketh no mencioun,
Or her schippes nor of her vitaille;
Nor how that Grece is called Gret Ytaille
And the lasse, as bokys verrefye,
Is named now the londe of Romanye;
What noumbre of kynges and of dukes went
Towarde the sege, al of oon assent,
To wynne worschip and for excersise
Of armys only in ful knyghtly wyse,
Abydyng there to sen the versioun
Of the cité and noble Yllyoun;
Nor what the maner was of her armure;
Nor at the sege who lengest dide endure;
In what wyse eche other dide assaile;
Nor how often thei metten in bataille;
How mony worthi loste ther his lyf
Thorough olde hatrede wrought up with newe strif;
Nor of her dethe he dateth nat the yere,
For his writyng was particuler;
Withoute frute he was compendious,
This forseyde Romeyne, this Cornelius.
Wherfore but late in comparisoun
Ther was an auctour of ful highe renoun
That besied hym the tracys for to swe
Of Dite and Dares, and cast hym nat transmwe
In al the story a worde as in sentence
But folweth hem by swyche convenience
That in effecte the substaunce is the same;
And of Columpna Guydo was his name,
Whiche had in writyng passyng excellence.
For he enlumyneth by crafte and cadence
This noble story with many fresche colour
Of rethorik, and many riche flour
Of eloquence to make it sownde bet
He in the story hathe ymped in and set,
That in good feythe I trowe he hath no pere,
To rekne alle that write of this matere,
As in his boke ye may byholde and se.
To whom I seie, knelyng on my knee:
Laude and honour and excellence of fame,
O Guydo maister, be unto thi name
That excellest by sovereinté of stile
Alle that writen this mater to compile.
Whom I schal folwe as nyghe as ever I may
That God me graunt it be unto the pay
Of hym for whom I have undertake
So as I can this story for to make,
Preynge to alle that schal it rede or se
Wher as I erre for to amenden me,
Of humble herte and lowe entencioun
Commyttyng al to her correccioun,
And therof thanke; my wille is that thei wynne
For thorugh her support thus I wil begynne.

rays of red light

(see note)
Angry and mad
hot (burnt)
like the burning coal; (see note)

lightning that strikes
inwardly angry
cause; fiery
war; realms
(see note)
Taurus (the bull); lost
Venus; (see note)
once; (see note)

Mars's sister (goddess of war)
you; beyond Cirra (near Delphi)
land of Lybia; red sands
stylus (writing instrument)
written words
empty; golden fluid

always for lack

(see note)
Clio (the muse of history); (see note)
(see note)
Syria; Helicon; (see note)
(see note)
(see note)
Calliope (muse of epic poetry)

songs were
(see note)
(see note)
He (Orpheus) calmed; beast; (see note)
(see note)

[You] sugar tongues


how to proceed in composition
lively to them who
(see note)
Who know more art in composition

(see note)


For the purpose; pursue; (see note)

(see note)
pertains to
He is active; eager
use; in warlike deeds

Vegetius; (see note)

lack the skill; to commend
know whom I mean
(see note)

power of the stock
truthfulness; falsehood
also; Wales

(see note)

gather; versify; (see note)

were known

(see note)

undertaking at once; begin
historical record

(see note)

degrees; (see note)

beams; wavy sea

the moon
prepare; (see note)

Hesperus; to set in the west

the morning star
hemisphere; alarm
harbingers; rising brightly; (see note)
territory of

soon; it pleases
(see note)

(see note)
true grain; (see note)
fell cut
their hands; held

end; deceived

if there were no

searched; (see note)
the substance of truth; implant

were not their
(see note)
darkened; showers

also; reputation

argue against; dissension


have a rightful claim
value; them their reward

leave out

were valued by
those days
gilded; their proverbs


would have been
Darkened; otherwise

Obscured also; golden

ornamentation rust again; attacks


nature; (see note)
Busied themselves; worked

(see note)
ruin; (see note)

Branch and root (i.e., the whole thing); (see note)
Statius; (see note)
Oedipus's sons Polynices and Etiocles


eyes; pain

Through which; reward
full truth

chroniclers; (see note)

so long ago

again and again

alive; not at all invented


empty; (see note)
transferring materials

desire to injure; cloak
chose to explain

wage war
living; them
bitterness; deeply hidden


them who wish to judge
composing; blinded him
ascribe worth
whose judgments follow; (see note)

what the truth is

praise; (see note)
honor who

trumpeted; (see note)


(see note)

ensnares; (see note)

traces (ideas)
(see note)
according to what
Dictys also
saw everything
as it happened
with such agreement
their; (see note)

Cornelius Nepos; (see note)
nephew; (see note)
proper obligation
follow the written words
(see note)

Which was the beginning; source


food; (see note)

land of Italy

the citadel of noble Ilium (Troy)

(see note)

many a worthy man
(see note)

follow the written words
Dictys; determine not to alter


insert; (see note)
believe; equal
subject matter


(see note)

(see note)
compose in verse




Go To Book One