Gregory of Tours' History of the Franks

HERE BEGINS GREGORY'S FIRST PREFACE

   With liberal culture on the wane, or rather perishing in the Gallic cities there were many deeds being done both good and evil: the heathen were raging fiercely; kings were growing more cruel; the church attacked by heretics, was defended by Catholics; while the Christian faith was in general devoutly cherished, among some it was growing cold; the churches also were enriched by the faithful or plundered by traitors - and no grammarian skilled in the dialectic art could be found to describe these matters either in prose or verse; and many were lamenting and saying: "Woe to our day, since the pursuit of letters has perished from among us and no one can be found among the people who can set forth the deeds of the present on the written page." Hearing continually these complaints and others like them I [have undertaken] to commemorate the past, order that it may come to the knowledge of the future; and although my speech is rude, I have been unable to be silent as to the struggles between the wicked and the upright; and I have been especially encouraged because, to my surprise, it has often been said by men of our day, that few understand the learned words of the rhetorician but many the rude language of the common people. I have decided also that for the reckoning of the years the first book shall begin with the very beginning of the world, and I have given its chapters below.