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The Golden Legend: 

[Note: To make the text as useful as possible to readers, the Golden Legend is available at this site in multiple forms: very large files for each of the volumes, and by chapter.  See the Golden Legend Main Page/Index for other volumes or chapter length files.]


THE holy and blessed Doctor S. Jerome saith this authority: Do alway some good work, to the end that the devil find thee not idle. And the holy Doctor S. 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 story of the Recuyel of Troy, the Book of the Chess, the History of Jason, the History of the Mirror of the World, the fifteen books of the 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 nyste what work to begin and put forth after the said works tofore made; and forasmuch as idleness is so much blamed, as saith S. Bernard the mellifluous Doctor, that, she is mother of lies and stepdame of virtues, and that 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 lickerous meats and viands for his belly. And the holy S. Bernard, aforesaid, saith in an epistle: When the time shall come that it shall behove us to render and give account of our idle time, what reason may we render, or what answer shall we give when in idlenesse 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 S. 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 notory 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 tofore, 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 other two books which were not in the English hook, and therefore I have written one out of the said three books, which I have ordered otherwise than the said English Iegend is, which was before 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 they 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.

And forasmuch as this said work was great and over chargeable to me to accomplish, I feared me in the beginning of the translation to have continued it because of the long time of the translation, and also in the imprinting of the same, and in manner half desperate to have accomplished it, was in purpose to have left it after that I had begun to translate it, and to have laid it apart, ne had it been at the instance and request of the puissant, noble, and virtuous Earl, my lord William, Earl of Arundel, which desired me to proceed and continue the said work, and promised me to take a reasonable quantity of them when they were achieved and accomplished, and sent to me a worshipful gentleman, a servant of his, named John Stanney which solicited me, in my lord's name, that I should in no wise leave it, but accomplish it, promising that my said lord should during my life give and grant to me a yearly fee, that is to wit, a buck in summer and a doe in winter, with which fee I hold me well content. Then at contemplation and reverence of my said lord I have endeavoured me to make an end and finish this said translation, and also have imprinted it in the most best wise that I could or might, and present this said book to his good and noble lordship, as chief causer of the achieving of it, praying him to take it in gree of me William Caxton, his poor servant, and that it like him to remember my fee. And I shall pray unto Almighty God for his long life and welfare, and after this short and transitory life to come into everlasting joy in heaven; the which he send to him and me and unto all them that shall read and hear this said book, that for the love and faith of whom all these holy saints have suffered death and passion. Amen.

And to the end each history, life and passion may be shortly found, I have ordered this table following, where and in what leaf he shall find such as shall be desired, and have set the number of every leaf in the margin:


The Golden Legend or Lives of the Saints. Compiled by Jacobus de Voragine, Archbishop of Genoa, 1275.  First Edition Published 1470. Englished by William Caxton, First Edition 1483, Edited by F.S. Ellis, Temple Classics, 1900 (Reprinted 1922, 1931.)

This chapter is from: Volume 1: The Golden Legend

Scanned by Robert Blackmon. [email protected].

This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright. Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No permission is granted for commercial use.

© Paul Halsall, September 2000
[email protected]

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