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75

“Let me have length and breadth enough,

With a green sod under my head;
That they may say, when I am dead,

Here lies bold Robin Hood.”

80

These words they readily granted him,

Which did bold Robin please :
And there they buried bold Robin Hood,

Within the fair Kirkleys.

WILLIAM CAXTON

Preface to Translation of Æneid After divers work made, translated, and achieved, having no work in hand, I sitting in my study where as lay many divers pamphlets and books, happened that to my hand came a little book in French, which lately was translated out 5 of Latin by some noble clerk of France, which book is named

Æneidos, made in Latin by that noble poet and great clerk, Virgil. Which book I saw over, and read therein how, after the general destruction of the great Troy, Aeneas departed,

bearing his old father Anchises upon his shoulders, his little 10 son Iulus on his hand, his wife with much other people follow

ing, and how he shipped and departed, with all the history of his adventures that he had ere he came to the achievement of his conquest of Italy, as all along shall be showed in this

present book. In which book I had great pleasure because 15 of the fair and honest terms and words in French; which I

never saw before like, nor none so pleasant nor so well ordered; which book as it seemed to me should be much requisite to noble men to see, as well for the eloquence as the

histories. 20 How well that many hundred years past was the said book

of Æneidos, with other works, made and learned daily in schools, especially in Italy and other places; which history the said Virgil made in metre. And when I had advised me in this said book, I deliberated and concluded to translate it into English; and forthwith took a pen and ink and wrote 25 a leaf or twain, which I oversaw again to correct it. And when I saw the fair and strange terms therein, I doubted that it should not please some gentlemen which late blamed me, saying that in my translations I had over curious terms, which could not be understood of common people, and de- 30 sired me to use old and homely terms in my translations.

And fain would I satisfy every man, and so to do took an old book and read therein, and certainly the English was so rude and broad that I could not well understand it. And also my

Lord Abbot of Westminster did lately show me cer-35 tain documents written in old English, for to reduce it into our English now used. And certainly it was written in such wise that it was more like to Dutch than English, I could not reduce nor bring it to be understood. And certainly our language now used varieth far from that which was used 40 and spoken when I was born. For we Englishmen are born under the domination of the moon, which is never steadfast but ever wavering, waxing one season and waning and decreasing another season.

And that common English that is spoken in one shire 45 varieth from another, insomuch that in my days happened that certain merchants were in a ship in Thames for to have sailed over the sea into Zealand, and for lack of wind they tarried at Foreland, and went to land for to refresh them. And one of them named Sheffield, a mercer, came into a 50 house and asked for meat, and especially he asked after eggs and the goodwife answered that she could speak no French, and the merchant was angry, for he also could speak no French, but would have had eggs, and she understood him not. And then at last another said, that he would have 55 eyren"; then the goodwife said that she understood him well.

Lo, what should a man in these days now write, eggs or eyren? Certainly it is hard to please every man because of

diversity and change of language. For in these days every 60 man that is in any reputation in his country will utter his

communication and matters in such manners and terms that few men shall understand them. And some honest and great clerks have been with me and desired me to write the most

curious terms that I could find; and thus between plain, 65 rude, and curious I stand abashed. But in my judgment the

common terms that are daily used are lighter to be understood than the old and ancient English. And forasmuch as this present book is not for a rude uplandish man to

labour therein nor read it, but only for a clerk and a noble 70 gentleman that feeleth and understandeth in feats of arms,

in love, and in noble chivalry, therefore in a mean between both I have reduced and translated this said book into our English, not over-rude nor curious, but in such terms as shall be understood, by God's grace, according to my

75 copy.

SIR THOMAS MALORY

How Arthur was Chosen King

(From Morte Darthur, Book I) So in the greatest church of London, whether it were Paul's or not the French book maketh no mention, all the estates were long or day in the church for to pray. And when matins and the first mass were done, there was seen in 5 the churchyard, against the high altar, a great stone four square, like unto a marble stone; and in midst thereof was like an anvil of steel a foot on high, and therein stuck a fair sword naked by the point, and letters there were written in

gold about the sword that said thus:--"Whoso pulleth out 10 this sword of this stone and anvil, is rightwise king born of all England.” Then the people marvelled, and told it to the Archbishop.

"I command," said the Archbishop, "that ye keep you within your church and pray unto God still, that no man touch the sword till the high mass be all done.” So when 15 all masses were done all the lords went to behold the stone and the sword. And when they saw the scripture some assayed, such as would have been king. But none might stir the sword nor move it. “He is not here,” said the Archbishop, “that shall achieve the sword, but doubt not God 20 will make him known. But this is my counsel," said the Archbishop, "that we let purvey ten knights, men of good fame, and they to keep this sword.” So it was ordained, and then there was made a cry, that every man should assay that would, for to win the sword. And upon New Year's 25 Day the barons let make a jousts and a tournament, that all knights that would joust or tourney there might play, and all this was ordained for to keep the lords together and the commons, for the Archbishop trusted that God would make him known that should win the sword.

30 So upon New Year's Day, when the service was done, the barons rode unto the field, some to joust and some to tourney, and so it happened that Sir Ector, that had great livelihood about London, rode unto the jousts, and with him rode Sir Kay his son, and young Arthur that was his nourished brother; 35 and Sir Kay was made knight at All Hallowmass afore. So as they rode to the jousts-ward, Sir Kay lost his sword, for he had left it at his father's lodging, and so he prayed young Arthur for to ride for his sword. "I will well,” said Arthur, and rode fast after the sword, and when he came home, the 40 lady and all were out to see the jousting.

Then was Arthur wroth, and said to himself, “I will ride to the churchyard, and take the sword with me that sticketh in the stone, for my brother Sir Kay shall not be without a

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