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   Famous Prefaces.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
Prologue to Golden Legend
 
First Edition (1483)
 
William Caxton
 
 
THE HOLY and blessed doctor Saint Jerome saith this authority, “Do always some good work to the end that the devil find thee not Idle.” and the holy doctor Saint Austin saith in the book of the labour of monks, that no man strong or mighty to labour ought to be idle; for which cause when I had performed and accomplished divers works and histories translated out of French into English at the request of certain lords, ladies, and gentlemen, as the Recuyel of the History of Troy, the Book of the Chess, the History of Jason, the history of the Mirror of the World, the 15 books of Metamorphoses in which be contained the fables of Ovid, and the History of Godfrey of Boulogne in the conquest of Jerusalem, with other divers works and books, I ne wist what work to begin and put forth after the said works to-fore made. and forasmuch as idleness is so much blamed, as saith Saint Bernard, the mellifluous doctor, that she is mother of lies and step-dame of virtues, and it is she that over-throweth strong men into sin, quencheth virtue, nourisheth pride, and maketh the way ready to go to hell; and John Cassiodorus saith that the thought of him that is idle thinketh on none other thing but on licorous meats and viands for his belly; and the holy Saint Bernard aforesaid saith in an epistle, when the time shall come that it shall behove us to render and give accounts of our idle time, what reason may we render or what answer shall we give when in idleness is none excuse; and Prosper saith that whosoever liveth in idleness liveth in manner of a dumb beast. and because I have seen the authorities that blame and despise so much idleness, and also know well that it is one of the capital and deadly sins much hateful unto God, therefore I have concluded and firmly purposed in myself no more to be idle, but will apply myself to labour and such occupation as I have been accustomed to do. and forasmuch as Saint Austin aforesaid saith upon a psalm that good work ought not to be done for fear of pain, but for the love of righteousness, and that it be of very and sovereign franchise, and because me-seemeth to be a sovereign weal to incite and exhort men and women to keep them from sloth and idleness, and to let to be understood to such people as be not lettered the nativities, the lives, the passions, the miracles, and the death of the holy saints, and also some other notorious deeds and acts of times past, I have submised myself to translate into English the legend of Saints, which is called Legenda Aurea in Latin, that is to say, the Golden Legend; for in like wise as gold is most noble above all other metals, in like wise is this legend holden most noble above all other works. Against me here might some persons say that this legend hath been translated before, and truth it is; but forasmuch as I had by me a legend in French, another in Latin, and the third in English, which varied in many and divers places, and also many histories were comprised in the two other books which were not in the English books; and therefore I have written one out of the said three books, which I have ordered otherwise than the said English legend is, which was so to-fore made, beseeching all them that shall see or hear it read to pardon me where I have erred or made fault, which, if any be, is of ignorance and against my will; and submit it wholly of such as can and may, to correct it, humbly beseeching them so to do, and in so doing they shall deserve a singular laud and merit; and I shall pray for them unto Almighty God that He of His benign grace reward them, etc., and that it profit to all them that shall read or hear it read, and may increase in them virtue, and expel vice and sin, that by the example of the holy saints amend their living here in this short life, that by their merits they and I may come to everlasting life and bliss in Heaven. Amen.  1
 

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