THE
ENGLISH CHARLEMAGNE ROMANCES

CAXTON'S INTRODUCTION

   Saynt Poul, doctour of veryte, sayth to vs that al thynges that ben reduced by wrytyng ben wryton to our doctryne, And Boece maketh mencion that the helthe of euery persone procedeth dyuercely. Thenne sythe it is soo that the cristen feyth is affermed and corrobered by the doctours of holy chyrche, Neuertheles the thynges passed dyuersley reduced to remembraunce engendre in vs correction of vnlauful lyf. For the werkes of the auncient and olde peple ben for to gyue to vs ensaumple to lyue in good & vertuous operacions digne & worthy of helth, in folowyng the good and eschewyng the euyl. And also in recountyng of hye hystoryes1 the comune vnderstondyng is better content to the ymagnacion local than to symple auctoryte to which it is submysed2. I saye this gladly3, For oftymes I haue been excyted of the venerable man messire henry Bolomyer, Chanonne of Lausanne, for to reduce for his playsyr somme hystoryes as wel in latyn & in romaunce as in other facion wryton, that is to say of the ryght puyssaunt, vertuous, and noble Charles the Grete, kyng of Fraunce and emperour of Rome, Sone of the grete Pepyn: And of his prynces & barons, As Rolland, Olyuer, and other, touchyng somme werkes haultayne doon & commysed by their grete strength & ryght ardaunt courage, to the exaltacyon of the crysten fayth and to the confusyon of the hethen sarazyns and myscreaunts, whiche is a werk wel contemplatyf for to lyue wel. And bycause the sayd Henry Bolomyer hath seen of thys mater and the hystoryes dysioyned wythoute ordre, therfore at his request, after the capacyte of my lytel entendement, And after thystoryes and mater that I haue founden, I haue ordeyned this book folowyng. And it myght soo haue ben that yf I had ben more largely enformed4 and al playn I had better made it, For I haue not sayd ony matere, but I haue therof ben enformed, Fyrst by an autentyke book named myrrour hystoryal5, as by the canonnes and somme other bookes whiche make mencyon of the werke folowyng. And by cause I may haue a lytel parte of honourable foundement I shal touche of the first Crysten kyng of Fraunce. For the moste parte of this book is made to thonour of the Frenssh men and for prouffyte of euery man, and after the desyre of the redar and herer there shalle be founden in the table all playne the mater of whyche the persone shal haue desyre to here or rede wythoute grete atendacyon, by the playsyr of god, to whome I submytte al myn entente to write no thyng that ought to be blamed ne but that it be to the helthe & sauacion of euery persone.
Thenne for as moche I late had fynysshed in enprynte the book of the noble & vyctoryous kyng Arthur, fyrst of the thre moost noble & worthy of crysten kynges, and also tofore had reduced into Englisshe the noble hystorye & lyf of Godefroy of Boloyn kyng of Iherusalem, last of the said iij worthy, Somme persones of noble estate and degree haue desyred me to reduce thystorye and lyf of the noble and crysten prynce Charles the Grete, kyng of Fraunce & emperour of Rome, the second of the thre worthy, to thende that thystoryes, actes, & lyues may be had in our maternal tongue, lyke as they be in Latyn or in Frensshe. For the moost quantyte of the people vnderstonde not Latyn ne Frensshe here in this noble royame of Englond. And for to satysfye the desyre & requeste of my good synguler lordes & specyal maysters and frendes I haue enprysed and concluded in my self to reduce this sayd book in to our Englysshe, as all alonge and playnely ye may rede, here, and see in thys book here folowyng, besechyng al them that shal fynde faute in the same to correcte and amende it, And also to pardone me of the rude & symple reducyng. and though so be there be no gaye termes, ne subtyl ne newe eloquence, yet I hope that it shal be vnderstonden, & to that entente I haue specyally reduced it after the symple connyng that god hath lente to me, wherof I humbly & wyth al my herte thanke hym, & also am bounden to praye for my fader and moders soules that in my youthe sette me to scole, by whyche, by the suffraunce of god, I gete my lyuyng I hope truly. And that I may so do & contynue I byseche hym to graunte me of his grace, and so to laboure and occupye my self vertuously that I may come out of dette & dedely synne, that after this lyf I may come to hys blysse in heuen. AMEN.

Explicit

  1. "hye hystoryes:" Fr. histoires haultaines.
  2. Fr. lentendement comun est mieulx content a retenir pour la ymaginacion localle, a la quelle il est subzmis
  3. "gladly:" Fr. volontiers.
  4. Fr. peult estre que je ieusse bien este informe
  5. See Introduction.