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glish by Master Benet Burgh, late Archdeacon of Colchester, and high canon of St. Stephen's at Westminster, which ful craftily hath made it in ballad royal for the erudition of my lord Bousher, son and heir at that time to my lord the Earl of Essex. And because of late came to my hand a book of the said Cato in French, which rehearseth many a fair learning and notable examples, I have translated it out of French into English, as all along hereafter shall appear, which I present unto the city of London.
Unto the noble, ancient, and renowned city, the city of London, in England, I, William Caxton, citizen and conjury of the same, and of the fraternity and fellowship of the mercery, owe of right my service and good will, and of very duty am bounden naturally to assist, aid, and counsel, as far forth as I can to my power, as to my mother of whom I have received my nurture and living, and shall pray for the good prosperity and policy of the same during' my life. For, as me-seemeth, it is of great need, because I have known it in my young age much more wealthy, prosperous, and richer, than it is at this day. And the cause is that there is almost none that intendeth to the common weal, but only every man for his singular profit. Oh! when I remember the noble Romans, that for the common weal of the city of Rome they spent not only their moveable goods but they put their bodies and lives in jeopardy and to the death, as by many a noble example we may see in the acts of Romans, as of the two noble Scipios, African and Asian, Actilius, and many others. And among all others the noble Cato, author and maker of this book, which he hath left for to remain ever to all the people for to learn in it and to know how every man ought to rule and govern him in this life, as well for the life temporal as for the life spiritual. And as in my judgement it is the best book for to be taught to young children in school, and also to people of every age, it is full convenient if it be well understood. And because I see that the children that be born within the said city increase, and profit not like their fathers and elders, but for the most part after that they be come to their perfect years of discretion and ripeness of age, how well that their fathers have left to them great
quantity of goods yet scarcely among ten two thrive, [whereas] I have seen and know in other lands in divers cities that of one name and lineage successively have endured prosperously many heirs, yea, a five or six hundred years, and some a thousand; and in this noble city of London it can unneth continue unto the third heir or scarcely to the second,—O blessed Lord, when I remember this I am all abashed; I cannot judge the cause, but fairer ne wiser ne better spoken children in their youth be nowhere than there be in London, but at their full ripening there is no kernel ne good corn found, but chaff for the most part. I wot well there be many noble and wise, and prove well and be better and richer than ever were their fathers. And to the end that many might come to honour and worship, I intend to translate this said book of Cato, in which I doubt not, and if they will read it and understand they shall much the better con rule themselves thereby; for among all other books this is a singular book, and may well be called the regiment or governance of the body and soul.
There was a noble clerk named Pogius of Florence, and was secretary to Pope Eugene and also to Pope Nicholas, which had in the city of Florence a noble and well-stuffed library which all noble strangers coming to Florence desired to see; and therein they found many noble and rare books. And when they had asked of him which was the best book of them all, and that he reputed for best, he said that he held Cato glosed for the best book of his library. Then since that he that was so noble a clerk held this book for the best, doubtless it must follow that this is a noble book and a virtuous, and such one that a man may eschew all vices and ensue virtue. Then to the end that this said book may profit unto the hearers of it, I beseech Almighty God that I may achieve and accomplish it unto his laud and glory, and to the erudition and learning of them that be ignorant, that they may thereby profit and be the better. And I require and beseech all such that find fault or error, that of their charity they correct and amend it, and I shall heartily pray for them to Almighty God, that he reward them.
Now then I will finish all these fables with this tale that followeth, which a worshipful priest and a parson told me lately. He said that there were dwelling in Oxford two priests, both masters of art, of whom that one was quick and could put himself forth, and that other was a good simple priest. And so it happened that the master that was pert and quick, was anon promoted to a benefice or twain, and after to prebends and for to be a dean of a great prince's chapel, supposing and weening that his fellow the simple priest should never have been promoted, but be alway an Annual, or at the most a parish priest. So after long time that this worshipful man, this dean, came riding into a good parish with a ten or twelve horses, like a prelate, and came into the church of the said parish, and found there this good simple man sometime his fellow, which came and welcomed him lowly; and that other bad him "good morrow, master John," and took him slightly by the hand, and asked him where he dwelt. And the good man said, "In this parish." "How," said he, "are ye here a soul priest or a parish priest?" "Nay, sir," said he, "for lack of a better, though I be not able ne worthy, I am parson and curate of this parish." And then that other availed his bonnet and said, "Master parson, I pray you to be not displeased; I had supposed ye had not been beneficed; but master," said he, "I pray you what is this benefice worth to you a year?" "Forsooth," said the good simple man, "I wot never, for I make never accounts thereof how well I have had it four or five years." "And know ye not," said he, "what it is worth? it should seem a good benefice." "No, forsooth," said he, "but I wot well what it shall be worth to me." "Why," said he, "what shall it be worth?" "Forsooth," said he, "if I do my true diligence in the cure of my parishioners in preaching and teaching, and do my part longing to my cure, I shall have heaven therefore; and if their souls be lost, or any of them by my default, I shall be punished therefore, and hereof am I sure." And with that word the rich dean was abashed, and thought he should do the better and take more heed to his cures and benefices than he had done. This was a good answer of a good priest and an honest. And herewith I finished this book, translated and printed by me, William Caxton, at Westminster in the Abbey, and finished the 26th day of March, the year of our Lord 1484, and the first year of the reign of King Richard the Third.
CHAUCER'S CANTERBURY TALES
Great thanks, laud, and honour ought to be given unto the clerks, poets, and historiographs that have written many noble books of wisedom of the lives, passions, and miracles of holy saints, of histories of noble and famous acts and faites, and of the chronicles since the beginning of the creation of the world unto this present time, by which we be daily informed and have knowledge of many things of whom we should not have known if they had not left to us their monuments written. Among whom and in especial before all others, we ought to give a singular laud unto that noble and great philosopher Geoffrey Chaucer, the which for his ornate writing in our tongue may well have the name of a laureate poet. For to-fore that he by labour embellished, ornated, and made fair our English, in this realm was had rude speech and incongruous, as yet it appeareth by old books, which at this day ought not to have place ne be compared among, ne to, his beauteous volumes and ornate writings, of whom he made many books and treatises of many a noble history, as well in metre as in rhyme and prose; and them so craftily made that he comprehended his matters in short, quick, and high sentences, eschewing prolixity, casting away the chaff of superfluity, and shewing the picked grain of sentence uttered by crafty and sugared eloquence; of whom among all others of his books I purpose to print, by the grace of God, the book of the tales of Canterbury, in which I find many a noble history of evitry state and degree; first rehearsing the conditions and Ahe array of each of them as properly as possible is to be sa»Vd. And after their talts which be of nobleness, wisdom, gentleness, mirth and also of very holiness and virtue, whersin he finisheth this said book, which book I have diligently overseen and duly examined, to that end it be made according unto his ovn making. For I find many of the said books which writers have abridged it, and many things left out; and in some place have set certain verses that he never made ne set in his book; of which books so incorrect was one brought to me, 6 years past, which I supposed had been very true and correct; and according to the same I did so imprint a certain number of them, which anon were sold to many and divers gentlemen, of whom one gentleman came to me and said that this book was not according in many place unto the book that Geoffiey Chaucer had made. To whom I answered that I had made it according to my copy, and by me was nothing added ne minished. Then he said he knew a book which his father had and much loved, that was very true and according utrto his own first book by him made; and said more, if I would imprint it again he would get me the same book for a co,l>y, howbeit he wist well that his father would not gladly depart from it. To whom I said, in case that he could get me su<h a book, true and correct, yet I would once endeavour me fto imprint it again for to satisfy the author, whereas before by ignorance I erred in hurting and defaming his book in divers places, in setting in some things that he never said ne made, and leaving out many things that he made which be requisite to be set in it. And thus we fell at accord, and he full gently got of his father the said book and delivered it to me, by which I have corrected my book, as hereafter, all along by the aid of Almighty God, shall follow; whom I humbly beseech to give me grace and aid to achieve and accomplish to his laud, honour, and gloiy; and that all ye that shall in this book read or hear, will of your charity among your deeds of mercy remember the soul