pg 2[PROLOGVS]aINCIPIT PROLOGVS HISTORIE ANGLORVM CONTEXTE AB HENRICO HVNTENDVNENSI ARCHIDIACONO, ANNO GRACIEb MILLESIMO CENTESIMO TRICESIMOc QVINTOa1
1Cum in omni fere litterarum studio dulce laboris lenimen2 et summum doloris solamen dum uiuitur insitum considerem, tumd delectabilius et maioris prerogatiua claritatis historiarum splendorem amplectendum crediderim. Nichil namque magis in uita egregium, quam uite calles egregie indagare et frequentare. Vbi autem floridius enitescit uirorum fortium magnificentia, prudentium sapientia, iustorum iudicia,e temperatorum modestia, quam in rerum contextu gestarum? Audiuimus quidem quid Homericam laudans historiam Flaccus intimauerit, dicens,
Cantorh siquidem et Crisippus, circa morum doctrinam philosophantes, multis codicibus desudarunt,4 Homerus autem uelut speculo eliquans prudentiam Vlixis, fortitudinem Agamennonis, temperantiam Nestoris, iusticiam Menelai,5 et econtra imprudentiam Aiacis, debilitatem Priami, intemperantiam Achillis, iniusticiam Paridis, honestum et utile,6 et his contraria, lucidius et delectabilius philosophis historiando disseruit.
pg 42Sed quid in alienis moramur? Vide quomodo sancta doceat historia morum instituta, dum Abrahe iusticiam assignat, Moysi fortitudinem, Iacob temperantiam, Ioseph prudentiam. Et contra dum Acaba iniusticiam, Ozie inualitudinem, Manasse intemperantiam, Roboam imprudentiam demonstrat. Presertim, O Deus bone, quante humilitatis fax est, quod sanctus Moyses, Deum se protegentem et ulciscentem ut ab hostibus suis auerteret, thuris odorationem cum fratre admouens,7 in medium periculi terribilis se iniecit, et pro Maria se blasphemante lacrimas effudit, et pro maliuolis semper orando sudauit!8 Quante benignitatis lux est, quod Dauid Cusib lesus9 et irritatus ab eo uehementer, unum et persequentem et debilem, armatus et comitatus et fortissimus contra feriri prohibuit, et postea uictor et regno restitutus ultionem fieri in eum non permisit!
Sic etiam in rebus gestis omnium gentium et nationum, que utique Dei iudicia sunt, benignitas, munificentia, probitas, cautela et his similia, et contraria, non solum spirituales ad bonum accendunt et a malo repellunt, sed etiam seculares ad bona sollicitant et in malis minuunt. Historia igitur preterita quasi presentia uisui representat, futura ex preteritis imaginando diiudicat. Habet quidem et preter hec illustres transactorum noticia dotes, quod ipsa maxime distinguat a brutis rationabiles. Bruti namque homines et animalia unde sint nesciunt, genus suum nesciunt, patrie sue casus et gesta nesciunt, immo nec scire uolunt. Quorum homines quidem illosc infeliciores iudico, quia quod bestiis ex creatione, hoc illis ex propria contingit inanitione, et quod bestie si uellent non possent, hoc illi nolunt cum possint. Sed de his iam transeundum est, quorum mors et uita, sempiterno dotanda est silentio.10
Hec ergo considerans, huius regni gesta et nostre gentis origines, iussu tuo presul Alexander,11 qui flos et cacumen regni et pg 63gentis esse uideris, decurrenda suscepi. Tuo quidem consilio Bede uenerabilis ecclesiasticam qua potui secutus historiam, nonnulla etiam ex aliis excerpens auctoribus, inde cronica in antiquis reseruata librariis compilans,12 usque nostrum ad auditum et uisum preterita representaui. In quo scilicet opere sequenda et fugienda lector diligens dum inuenerit, ex eorum imitatione et euitatione Deo cooperante melioratus, michi fructum afferet exoptabilem. Plerumque etenim ad ipsam morum puritatem iuxta callem directum historia resiliuimus.13
Nichil autem sine diuina inuocatione incipientes, Deo inuocato incipiamus.
- 1aAdonaib est trissilabum in hebreoca 14
- 2Od Adonaie15 opifex, pastor, susceptio nostra,
- 3Principium rerum, uegetatio, finis earum,
- 4Hoc opus aspira, deduc finique precamur:
- 5Hoc opus in patribus quod es ipse parens operatus,
- 6Iudicio gentes et regna leuansque premensque,
- 7Iudicio nunc occulto, nunc uero patenti,
- 8His penas dum complerent sua crimina tardans,
- 9His penas cum complessent sua crimina librans.
- 10Quicquid enim reges, quicquid populi meditentur
- 11Vt faciant, si perficiunt, fieri facis illud.
- 12Pacificansque malumque creans, testante propheta,16
- 13Ens solus, tantusque manens quantus uoluisti,
- 14Ex quo, per quem sunt, in quo sunt omnia solo.
- 15Tuque pater patrie,17 princeps a rege secundus,
- 16Presul Alexander, si que perscripsimus apta,
- 17Laude tua niteant, minus apta precamur ut aptes.
- 18Hic reges populosque uides, quos alea fati
- 19Extulit et pressit, sed ab his metire futura.
- pg 820Aspice, magne pater, quo deuenere potentes,
- 21Aspice quam nichili sit honor, lux, gloria mundi.
pg 3[PROLOGUE]HERE BEGINS THE PROLOGUE OF THE HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH PEOPLE, COMPILED BY HENRY, ARCHDEACON OF HUNTINGDON, IN THE YEAR OF GRACE 11351
1It is my considered opinion that the sweetest relief from suffering2 and the best comfort in affliction that this world affords are to be found almost entirely in the study of literature, and so I believe that the splendour of historical writing is to be cherished with the greatest delight and given the pre-eminent and most glorious position. For nothing is more excellent in this life than to investigate and become familiar with the course of worldly events. Where does the grandeur of valiant men shine more brightly, or the wisdom of the prudent, or the discretion of the righteous, or the moderation of the temperate, than in the context of history? Indeed, we have heard what Horace said, in praise of Homeric history, that it 'defines what is noble and what is infamous, what is proper and what is not, more fully and better than Chrysippus and Crantor'.3 Whereas Crantor and Chrysippus sweated to produce many volumes of moral philosophy,4 Homer showed, as clearly as in a mirror, the prudence of Ulysses, the fortitude of Agamemnon, the temperance of Nestor, the justice of Menelaus, and on the other hand, the imprudence of Ajax, the feebleness of Priam, the intemperateness of Achilles, the injustice of Paris,5 and in his narrative he discussed what is right and proper6 more clearly and agreeably than the philosophers.
pg 52But why do we linger among strangers? See how sacred history teaches the moral code, giving the attributes of justice to Abraham, fortitude to Moses, temperance to Jacob, and prudence to Joseph, and showing their opposites—injustice in Ahab, feebleness in Uzziah, intemperateness in Manasseh, and imprudence in Rehoboam. Especially, O good God, what a shining example of humility, that holy Moses, having joined with his brother in offering sweet-smelling incense to God,7 his protector and avenger against all his enemies, flung himself into the midst of terrible danger, and shed tears for the slanderous Miriam, and always laboured in prayer for those who wished him ill!8 What a beacon of clemency that David, wounded and enraged by Cushi [recte Shimei],9 would not have him slaughtered when he was alone, hard pressed and weak, and he, David, was strongly armed and attended by his retinue; and later, when he was restored victorious to his throne, he would not permit vengeance to be taken on [Shimei].
Yes, indeed, in the recorded deeds of all peoples and nations, which are the very judgements of God, clemency, generosity, honesty, caution and the like, and their opposites, not only provoke men of the spirit to what is good and deter them from evil, but even encourage worldly men to good deeds and reduce their wickedness. History therefore brings the past into view as though it were present, and allows judgement of the future by representing the past. The knowledge of past events has further virtues, especially in that it distinguishes rational creatures from brutes, for brutes, whether men or beasts, do not know—nor, indeed, do they wish to know—about their origins, their race and the events and happenings in their native land. Of the two, I consider those brutish men to be the more wretched, because what is natural to beasts comes to brutish men from their own mindlessness, and what beasts would not be capable of, even if they wished to be, such men, even if capable, do not desire. But now we must pass over those whose life and death are to be consigned to perpetual silence.10
With these considerations in mind, therefore, and at your command, Bishop Alexander,11 I have undertaken to narrate the pg 73history of this kingdom and the origins of our people, of which you are regarded as the highest and most splendid ornament. On your advice I have followed the Venerable Bede's Ecclesiastical History where I could, selecting material also from other authors and borrowing from chronicles preserved in ancient libraries,12 and I have described past events down to the time of our own knowledge and observation. In this work the attentive reader will find what to imitate and what to reject, and if, by God's help, he becomes a better person for this emulation and avoidance, that will be for me the reward I most desire. Truly, it is quite common for the path of history to lead us straight back to moral purity.13
But as we can begin nothing without making an appeal to God, let us commence by calling on Him:
(Adonai has three syllables in Hebrew)14
O Adonai,15 our creator, shepherd and defender, source, quickener and end of these things, we pray Thee to favour this work and guide it to its close: this work which Thou, our Father, hast Thyself brought about among our fathers , raising up and putting down peoples and kingdoms by Thy judgement, that operates sometimes secretly and sometimes openly, delaying the punishment of some until they finish their crimes, and hurling punishment at others when their crimes are complete. For whatever kings or peoples plan to do , if it is accomplished, it is by Thy action, Who makest peace and createst evil, as the prophet attests,16 a unique entity, remaining as great as Thou hast desired, from Whom and by Whom and in Whom Alone, all things exist.
And we pray you, Bishop Alexander, father of the fatherland,17 prince second to the king , that anything we have written well may be brightened by your praise, and that you will better what is less good. Here you see kings and peoples whom the lottery of fate has raised up and put down, but judge the future by them. See, great father, what has become of the pg 920powerful : see how the honour, the lustre, the glory of the world come to nothing.
HERE ENDS THE PROLOGUE ADDRESSED TO ALEXANDER, BISHOP OF LINCOLN