Chapter 04

[ 04 ]

A Preface, Sung in Heroic Metre, to Which an Elegiac Section is Appended

There is an island, Crete (note 1) , called in olden times "hundred-towned," (note 2)
Fertile of field, fortunate, rich in treasure and population,
Encircled by the uninterrupted girdle of an immense whirlpool,
Generous with the profit of its varied wares.
And all around it, in different directions, are also many harbors
Entangled with boats of diverse function.
With great praise (note 3) it has begotten Daedalus, skillful
And knowing in the sciences, beyond what is sufficient.
At one time, fleeing the Minoan ramparts in a marvellous act,
He has fastened wings to himself with wax,
Supposing that he, though devoid of nimble wings, would be able to pass through the clouds,
Similar in all respects to a secure winged creature.
Imprudent fickleness has adopted as a partner his son,
Reckless, and fickle in action and agreement,
And Icarus has submitted his body to the father's wings,
Wishing to take after the father in his deeds, wearing the wings undaunted.
The father Daedalus, indefatigable, ascends towards the icy Great and Lesser Bear,
And then touches the ground with his feet.
At length, knowing the way to survive in those fortunate cold climes,
He has stood upon the Cumaean heights, (note 4)
He has erected and dedicated a noble temple to Phoebus,
And then has soon stripped off the salvation-giving wings.
The Daedalian offspring, less perfect in his skill,
Reckless of the coming danger, and passing higher,
Has approached more than is proper the steeps of the fiery (note 5) clime.
Soon the wax, dissolved from each feather, is liquid.
Notorious Icarus, sunk in the wave-sounding whirlpool,
Has given his name to the open sea he encountered.

It is to you that these portents relate and you that that fable has concerned,
With playful and facetious mimicking grimaces.
At the beginning you are drawing forward the great deeds both ofadult Dacians
And of youths, up to the time when Rollo reaches manhood
Whereas, quicker than Daedalus or Icarus
You are forsaking the low-lying lands, striving greatly towards the steeps,
While a difficult subject matter forces you, stupid,
To stretch out your wings to heaven, into the boundlessness.
If, through increased strength, you were to possess the ability
To match that desire which abides in your heart's mind,
If you understood the various harmonic qualities
Which preserve the interval in three steps,
You would be able with a sweetly-singing sound
To play the stringed cithara among the swans, with especially harmonic songs,
All eight modes which (fixed in the five tetrachords)
The fourth and fifth embrace
And which, once different tones have been mingled,
And unequal numbers have been considered,
Are formed from the dissonant content of the musical art,
For a 9/8 time closes the tone,
And a peaceful 3/4 time binds the fourth,
And a melodious 2/3 time ratifies the fifth,
According to the law of the arithmetical art.
The fourth, fifth and the octave
Can result from a doubled number,
The fifth and the octave from a tripled form,
And the octave from a quadrupled form.
Now I am stung and I am pricked and, quaking, I am goaded
And, trembling, I am violently shaken by very great rancors.
Behold, take this advice, advantageous to yourself,
Whereby, rescued from snares, you may be able to protect yourself rightly:
Let not, I pray, the imprudent games of the multitude compel you,
Let not, I pray, their thunderbolts urge you headlong.
Entrust your heart's intention to the thundering Lord,
That he might destroy their games, shatter their lightning flashes,
Gradually conduct you, defended, over the open deep
On the bountiful wings of the sevenfold breeze
And place you only in the fertile grove,
Sacred to Ceres and eradicated of shrub and flintstone,
And fertilize your understanding with rhetorical nectar
And likewise intoxicate it with harmonic metre.
Having thus obtained a hymn-singing voice, may you be able
To psalmodize on your lute, along with other lyres,
A lay for that patrician who is the eye of the blind (note 6) and the staff of the lame,
The ornament of the church and the sustenance of the poor,
The highest defender of the orphan and the exile and the destitute
And the wandering widow and the sacred order.

Although we have reached this spot with our feet full of sand
And have come along a muddy course and a difficult path,
We are endeavoring to extend our course even further,
But the newness of the subject matter tears us to pieces.
Assuredly it is a very great shame for us, wearied
By a very heavy weight, to abandon the bundle,
Indeed not to go forward and persist in our undertaking.
And it will be exceedingly facetious prating.
Come, bountiful spirit, you who have furnished words in the past,
Apportioning the gifts of your heavenly nectar,
And able to give form to all unformed things,
Inflame dull understandings, quickening them,
Blow here, I pray, and, beaming forth,
Slowly infuse the grottoes of my breast with poured out hopes,
Whereby I might be able to reach the high (note 7) peaks of a strength
Great enought to produce copiously things unattempted by any pen.
With your contribution, with your leadership, with your authorship,
I will briefly recount whatever I can in a prosaic recital.


1. Preferring the "Creta" of CC 276.

2. Preferring the "ECTAPOLIS" (Greek) of Rouen 1173 and other witnesses to the blank in the Berlin ms.

3. Preferring the "multa sat laude" of CC 276.

4. The town of Cumae on the island of Euboea.

5. Correcting the corrupt readings of all the manuscripts of Dudo from Dudo's source, Heiric of Auxerre's Vita Germani (MGH Poet. Lat. 3 ed. L. Traube pp. 488 - 489), which reads "empirii" (in Greek letters).

6. Preferring the "caecis" of CC 276.

7. Preferring the "alta" of CC 276.

Go to next chapter( English and Latin )
Go to next chapter( English )
Go to next chapter( Latin )
Go to the Index