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dictes and sayings of Socrates, wherein I find that my said Lord hath left out certain and divers conclusions touching women. Whereof I marvel that my Lord hath not written them, ne what hath moved him so to do, ne what cause he had at that time; but I suppose that some fair lady hath desired him to leave it out of his book; or else he was amorous on some noble lady, for whose love he would not set it in his book; or else for the very affection, love, and good will that he hath unto all ladies and gentlewomen, he thought that Socrates spared the sooth and wrote of women more than truth; which I cannot think that so true a man and so noble a philosopher as Socrates was should write otherwise than truth. For if he had made fault in writing of women, he ought not, ne should not, be believed in his other dictes and sayings. But I perceive that my said Lord knoweth verily that such defaults be not had ne found in the women born and dwelling in these parts ne regions of the world. Socrates was a Greek, born in a far country from hence, which country is all of other conditions than this is, and men and women of other nature than they be here in this country. For I wot well, of whatsoever condition women be in Greece, the women of this country be right good, wise, pleasant, humble, discreet, sober, chaste, obedient to their husbands, true, secret, steadfast, ever busy, and never idle, attemperate in speaking, and virtuous in all their works—or at least should be so. For which causes so evident my said Lord, as I suppose, thought it was not of necessity to set in his book the sayings of his author Socrates touching women. But forasmuch as I had commandment of my said Lord to correct and amend where I should find fault, and other find I none save that he hath left out these dictes and sayings of the women of Greece, therefore in accomplishing his commandment—forasmuch as I am not certain whether it was in my Lord's copy or not, or else, peradventure, that the wind had blown over the leaf at the time of translation of his book—I purpose to write those same sayings of that Greek Socrates, which wrote of the women of Greece and nothing of them of this royaume, whom, I suppose, he never knew; for if he had, I dare plainly say that he would have reserved them specially in his said dictes. Always not presuming to put and set them in my said Lord's book but in the end apart in the rehearsal of the works, humbly requiring all them that shall read this little rehearsal, that if they find any fault to arette it to Socrates, and not to me, which writeth as hereafter followeth.
Socrates said that women be the apparels to catch men, but they take none but them that will be poor or else them that know them not. And he said that there is none so great empechement unto a man as ignorance and women. And he saw a woman that bare fire, of whom he said that the hotter bore the colder. And he saw a woman sick, of whom he said that the evil resteth and dwelleth with the evil. And he saw a woman brought to the justice, and many other women followed her weeping, of whom he said the evil be sorry and angry because the evil shall perish. And he saw a young maid that learned to write, of whom he said that men multiplied evil upon evil. And he said that the ignorance of a man is known in three things, that is to wit, when he hath no thought to use reason; when he cannot refrain his covetise; and when he is governed by the counsel of women, in that he knoweth that they know not. And he said unto his disciples: "Will ye that I enseign and teach you how ye shall now escape from all evil?" And they answered, "Yea." And then he said to them, "For whatsoever thing that it be, keep you and be well ware that ye obey not women." Who answered to him again, "And what sayest thou by our good mothers, and of our sisters?" He said to them, "Suffice you with that I have said to you, for all be semblable in malice." And he said, "Whosoever will acquire and get science, let him never put him in the governance of a woman." And he saw a woman that made her fresh and gay, to whom he said, "Thou resemblest the fire; for the more wood is laid to the fire the more will it burn, and the greater is the heat." And on a time one asked him what him semed of women; he answered that the women resemble a tree called Edelfla, which is the fairest tree to behold and see that may be, but within it is full of venom. And they said to him and demanded wherefore he blamed so women? and that he himself had not come into this world, ne none other men also, without them. He answered, "The woman is like unto a tree named Chassoygnet, on which tree there be many things sharp and pricking, which hurt and prick them that approach unto it; and yet, nevertheless, that same tree bringeth forth good dates and sweet." And they demanded him why he fled from the women? And he answered, "Forasmuch as I see them flee and eschew the good and commonly do evil." And a woman said to him, "Wilt thou have any other woman than me?" And he answered to her, "Art not ashamed to offer thyself to him that demandeth nor desireth thee not?"
So, these be the dictes and sayings of the philosopher Socrates, which he wrote in his book; and certainly he wrote no worse than afore is rehearsed. And forasmuch as it is accordant that his dictes and sayings should be had as well as others', therefore I have set it in the end of this book. And also some persons, peradventure, that have read this book in French would have arette a great default in me that I had not done my devoir in visiting and overseeing of my Lord's book according to his desire. And some other also, haply, might have supposed that Socrates had written much more ill of women than here afore is specified, wherefore in satisfying of all parties, and also for excuse of the said Socrates, I have set these said dictes and sayings apart in the end of this book, to the intent that if my said lord or any other person, whatsoever he or she be that shall read or hear it, that if they be not well pleased withal, that they with a pen race it-out, or else rend the leaf out of the book. Humbly requiring and beseeching my said lord to take no displeasure on me so presuming, but to pardon whereas he shall find fault; and that it please him to take the labour of the imprinting in gree and thanks, which gladly have done my diligence in the accomplishing of his desire and commandment; in which I am bounden so to do for the good reward that I have received of his said lordship; whom I beseech Almighty God to increase and to continue in his virtuous disposition in this world, and after this life to live everlastingly in Heaven. Amen.
First Edition (1483). Prologue
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 overthroweth 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.