Imprimis, as concerns the authenticity of these tales perhaps the less debate may be the higher wisdom, if only because this Nicolas de Caen, by common report, was never a Gradgrindian. And in this volume in particular, writing it (as Nicolas is supposed to have done) in 1470, as a dependant on the Duke of Burgundy, it were but human nature should he, in dealing with the putative descendants of Dom Manuel and Alianora of Provence, be niggardly in his ascription of praiseworthy traits to any member of the house of Lancaster or of Valois. Rather must one in common reason accept old Nicolas as confessedly a partisan writer, who upon occasion will recolor an event with such nuances as will be least inconvenient to a Yorkist and Burgundian bias.
The reteller of these stories needs in addition to plead guilty of having abridged the tales with a free hand. Item, these tales have been a trifle pulled about, most notably in “The Story of the Satraps,” where it seemed advantageous, on reflection, to put into Gloucester’s mouth a history which in the original version was related ab ovo, and as a sort of bungling prologue to the story proper.
Item, the re-teller of these stories desires hereby to tender appropriate acknowledgment to Mr. R.E. Townsend for his assistance in making an English version of the lyrics included hereinafter; and to avoid discussion as to how freely, in these lyrics, Nicolas has plagiarized from Raimbaut de Vaqueiras and other elder poets.
And—“sixth and lastly”—should confession be made that in the present rendering a purely arbitrary title has been assigned this little book; chiefly for commercial reasons, since the word “dizain” has been adjudged both untranslatable and, in its pristine form, repellantly outre.
You are to give my titular makeshift, then, a wide interpretation; and are always to remember that in the bleak, florid age these tales commemorate this Chivalry was much the rarelier significant of any personal trait than of a world-wide code in consonance with which all estimable people lived and died. Its root was the assumption (uncontested then) that a gentleman will always serve his God, his honor and his lady without any reservation; nor did the many emanating by-laws ever deal with special cases as concerns this triple, fixed, and fundamental homage.
Such is the trinity served hereinafter. Now about lady-service, or domnei, I have written elsewhere. Elsewhere also I find it recorded that “the cornerstone of Chivalry is the idea of vicarship: for the chivalrous person is, in his own eyes at least, the child of God, and goes about this world as his Father’s representative in an alien country.”