“Afin que les entreprises honorables
et les nobles aventures et
faicts d’armes soyent noblement enregistres et conserves, je vais
traiter et raconter et inventer ung galimatias.”
THE DIZAIN OF QUEENS OF THAT NOBLE MAKER IN THE FRENCH
NICOLAS DE CAEN, DEDICATED TO THE MOST ILLUSTRIOUS ISABELLA OF PORTUGAL,
OF THE HOUSE OF THE INDOMITABLE ALFONSO HENRIQUES, AND DUCHESS DOWAGER
OF BURGUNDY. HERE BEGINS IN AUSPICIOUS WISE THE PROLOGUE.
A Sa Dame
Inasmuch as it was by your command, illustrious and exalted lady, that I have gathered together these stories to form the present little book, you should the less readily suppose I have presumed to dedicate to your Serenity this trivial offering because of my esteeming it to be not undeserving of your acceptance. The truth is otherwise: your postulant approaches not spurred toward you by vainglory, but rather by equity, and equity’s plain need to acknowledge that he who seeks to write of noble ladies must necessarily implore at outset the patronage of her who is the light and mainstay of our age. I humbly bring my book to you as Phidyle approached another and less sacred shrine, farre pio et saliente mica, and lay before you this my valueless mean tribute not as appropriate to you but as the best I have to offer.
It is a little book wherein I treat of divers queens and of their love-business; and with necessitated candor I concede my chosen field to have been harvested, and scrupulously gleaned, by many writers of innumerable conditions. Since Dares Phrygius wrote of Queen Heleine, and Virgil (that shrewd necromancer) of Queen Dido, a preponderating mass of clerks, in casting about for high and serious matter, have chosen, as though it were by common instinct, to dilate upon the amours of royal women. Even in romance we scribblers must contrive it so that the fair Nicolete shall be discovered in the end to be no less than the King’s daughter of Carthage, and that Sir Dooen of Mayence shall never sink in his love affairs beneath the degree of a Saracen princess; and we are backed in this old procedure not only by the authority of Aristotle but, oddly enough, by that of reason.