Preface to Eneydos

By William Caxton

Edited by Jack Lynch

The text comes from William Caxton's Eneydos; the full title from the colophon is Here fynyssheth the boke yf Eneydos, compyled by Vyrgyle, which hathe be translated oute of latyne in to frenshe, and oute of frenshe reduced in to Englysshe by me wyll[ia]m Caxton, the xxij. daye of Iuyn. the yere of our lorde. M.iiij.Clxxxx. The fythe yere of the regne of kynge Henry the seuenth. This is just a diplomatic transcription that follows the original as closely as HTML will permit.

After dyuerse werkes made / translated and achieued / hauyng noo werke in hande. I sittyng in my studye where as laye many dyuerse paunflettis and bookys. happened that to my hande cam a lytyl booke in frenshe. whiche late was translated oute of latyn by some noble clerke of fraũce whiche booke is named Eneydos / made in latyn by that noble poete & grete clerke vyrgyle / whiche booke I sawe ouer and redde therin. How after the generall destruccyon of the grete Troye, Eneas departed berynge his olde fader anchises vpon his sholdres / his lityl son yolus on his honde. his wyfe wyth moche other people folowynge / and how he shypped and departed wyth alle thystorye of his aduentures that he had er he cam to the achieuement of his conquest of ytalye as all a longe shall be shewed in this present boke. In whiche booke I had grete playsyr. by cause of the fayr and honest termes & wordes in frenshe / whyche I neuer sawe to fore lyke. ne none so playsaunt ne so wel ordred. whiche booke as me semed sholde be moche requysyte to noble men to see as wel for the eloquence as the historyes / How wel that many honderd yerys passed was the sayd booke of eneydos wyth other werkes made and lerned dayly in scolis specyally in ytalye & other places / whiche historye the sayd vyrgyle made in metre / And whan I had aduysed me in this sayd boke. I delybered and concluded to translate it in to englysshe And forthwyth toke a penne & ynke and wrote a leef or tweyne / whyche I ouersawe agayn to corecte it / And whã I sawe the fayr & straunge termes therin / I doubted that it sholde not please some gentylmen whiche late blamed me sayeng yt in my translacyons I had ouer curyous termes whiche coude not be vnderstande of comyn peple / and desired me to vse olde and homely termes in my translacyons. and fayn wolde I satysfye euery man / and so to doo toke an olde boke and redde therin / and certaynly the englysshe was so rude and brood that I coude not wele vnderstande it. And also my lorde abbot of westmynster ded do shewe to me late certayn euydences wryton in olde englysshe for to reduce it in to our englysshe now vsid / And certaynly it was wreton in suche wyse that it was more lyke to dutche than englysshe I coude not reduce ne brynge it to be vnderstonden / And certaynly our langage now vsed varyeth ferre from that. whiche was vsed and spoken whan I was borne / For we englysshe men / ben borne vnder the domynacyon of the mone. whiche is neuer stedfaste / but euer wauerynge / wexynge one season / and waneth & dyscreaseth another season / And that comyn englysshe that is spoken in one shyre varyeth from a nother. In so moche that in my dayes happened that certayn marchaũtes were in a ship in tamyse for to haue sayled ouer the see into zelande / and for lacke of wynde thei taryed atte forlond. and wente to lande for to refreshe them And one of theym named sheffelde a mercer cam in to an hows and axed for mete. and specyally he axyd after eggys And the goode wyf answerde. that she coude speke no frenshe. And the marchaũt was angry. for he also coude speke no frenshe. but wolde haue hadde egges / and she vnderstode hym not / And thenne at laste a nother sayd that he wolde haue eyren / then the good wyf sayd that she vnderstod hym wel / Loo what sholde a man in thyse dayes now wryte. egges or eyren / certaynly it is harde to playse euery man / bycause of dyuersite & chaũge of langage. For in these dayes euery man that is in ony reputacyon in his coũtre. wyll vtter his cõmynycacyon and maters in suche maners & termes / that fewe men shall vnderstonde theym / And som honest and grete clerkes haue ben wyth me and desired me to wryte the moste curyous termes that I coude fynde / And thus bytwene playn rude / & curyous I stande abasshed. but in my Iudgemente / the comyn termes that be dayli vsed ben lyghter to be vnderstonde than the olde and aũcyent englysshe / And for as moche as this present booke is not for a rude vplondyssh man to laboure therin / ne rede it / but onely for a clerke & a noble gentylman that feleth and vnderstondeth in faytes of armes in loue & in noble chyualrye / Therfor in a meane bytwene bothe I haue reduced & translated this sayd booke in to our englysshe not ouer rude ne curyous but in suche termes as shall be vnderstanden by goddys grace accordynge to my copye. And yf ony man wyll enter mete in redyng of hit and fyndeth suche termes that he can not vnderstande late hym goo rede and lerne vyrgyll / or the pystles of ouyde / and ther he shall see and vnderstonde lyghtly all / Yf he haue a good redar & enformer / For this booke is not for euery rude dna vnconnynge man to see / but to clerkys and very gentylmen that vnderstande gentylnes and scyence ¶ Thenne I praye alle theym that shall rede in this lytyl treatys to holde me for excused for the translatynge of hit. For I knowleche my selfe ignorant of connynge to enpryse on me so hie and noble a werke / But I praye mayster Iohn Skelton late created poete laureate in the vnyuersite of oxenforde to ouersee and correcte this sayd booke. And taddresse and expowne where as shalle be founde faulte to theym that shall requyre it. For hym I knowe for suffycyent to expowne and englysshe euery dyffyculte that is therin / For he hath late translated the epystlys of Tulle / and the boke of dyodorus syculus. and diuerse other werkes oute of latyn in to englysshe not in rude and olde langage. but in polysshed and ornate termes craftely. as he that hath redde vyrgyle / ouyde. tullye. and all the other noble poetes and oratours / to me vnknowen: And also he hath redde the ix. muses and vnderstande theyr musicalle scyences. and to whom of theym eche scyence is appropred. I suppose he hath dronken of Elysons well. Then I praye hym & suche other to correcte adde or mynysshe where as he or they shall fynde faulte / For I haue but folowed my copye in frenshe as nygh as me is possyble / And yf ony worde be sayd therin well / I am glad. and yf otherwyse I submytte my sayd boke to theyr correctyon / whiche boke I presente vnto the hye born my tocomynge naturell & souerayn lord Arthur by the grace of god Prynce of Walys Duc of Cornewayll. & Erle of Chester fyrst bygoten sone and heyer vnto our most dradde naturall & souerayn lorde & most crysten kynge / Henry the vij. by the grace of god kynge of Englonde and of Fraunce & lord of Irelonde / byseching his noble grace to receyue it in thanke of me his moste humble subget & seruaũt / And I shall praye vnto almyghty god for his prospero{us} encreasyng in vertue / wysedom / and humanyte that he may be egal wyth the most renõmed of alle his noble progenytours ¶ And so to lyue in this present lyf / that after this transitorye lyfe he and we alle may come to euerlastynge lyf in heuen / Amen: