To The Reader
The Golden Asse
by Lucius ApuleiusAdlington's translation, 1566
To the Reader
When that I had (gentle Reader) slightly here and there runne over the pleasant and delectable jeasts of Lucius Apuleius (a man of antient descent, and endued with singular learning) written in such a franke and flourishing stile, as he seemed to have the Muses at his will, to feed and maintaine his pen. And when againe I perceived the matter to minister such exceeding plenty of mirth, as never in my judgement the like hath been shewed by any other, I purposed according to my slender knowledge (though it were rudely, and farre disagreeing from the fine and excellent doings now adayes) to translate the same into our vulgar tongue, to the end that amongst so many sage and serious works (as every man well nigh endeavour daily to encrease) there might bee some fresh and pleasant matter to recreate the mindes of the Readers withall. Howbeit, I was eftsoones driven from my purpose by two causes: First, perceiving that the Author had written his work in so darke and high a stile, in so strange and absurd words, and in such new invented phrases, as hee seemed rather to set it forth to shew his magnificencie of prose, than to participate his doings to other. Secondly, fearing least the translation of this present Booke (which seemeth a meere jeast and fable, and a Worke worthy to be laughed at, by reason of the vanity of the Author) might be contemned and despised of all men, and so consequently I to be had in derision, to occupie my selfe in such frivolous and trifling toyes. But on the other side, when I had thoroughly learned the intent of the Author, and the purpose why hee invented so sportfull a jest, I was verily perswaded that my small travell should not onely be accepted by many, but the matter it selfe allowed and praised of all. Wherefore I intend, God willing, as nigh as I can, to utter and open the meaning thereof, to the simple and ignorant, whereby they may not take the same, as a thing only to jest and laugh at (for the fables of æsop and the feigning of Poets were never written for that purpose) but by the pleasantnesse thereof bee rather induced to the knowledge of their present estate, and thereby transforme themselves into the right and perfect shape of men. The argument of the book is, how Lucius Apuleius the Author himselfe travelled into Thessaly, being a region in Greece, where all the women for the most part bee such wonderfull Witches, that they can transforme men into the figure of brute beasts: Where after he had continued a few dayes, by the mighty force of a violent confection hee was changed into a miserable Asse, and nothing might reduce him to his wonted shape but the eating of a Rose, which after the indurance of infinite sorrow, at length he obtained by prayer. Verily under the wrap of this transformation is taxed the life of mortall men, when as we suffer our mindes so to bee drowned in the sensuall lusts of the flesh, and the beastly pleasure thereof (which aptly may be called the violent confection of Witches) that wee lose wholly the use of reason and vertue, which properly should be in man, and play the parts of brute and savage beasts. By like occasion we reade, how divers of the companions of Vlysses were turned by the marvellous power of Circe into swine. And finde we not in Scripture, that Nabuchadnezzar the ninth King of Babylon, by reason of his great dominions and realmes, fell into such exceeding pride, that he was suddenly transformed of Almighty God into an horrible monster, having the head of an Oxe, the feet of a Beare, and the taile of Lion, and did eat hay as a Beast. But as Lucius Apuleius was changed into his humane shape by a Rose, the companions of Vlysses by great intercession, and Nabuchadnezzar by the continual prayers of Daniel, whereby they knew themselves, and lived after a good and vertuous life: so can we never bee restored to the right figure of our selves, except we taste and eat the sweet Rose of reason and vertue, which the rather by mediation of praier we may assuredly attaine. Againe, may not the meaning of this worke be altered and turned in this sort: A man desirous to apply his minde to some excellent art, or given to the study of any of the sciences, at the first appeareth to himselfe an asse without wit, without knowledge, and not much unlike a brute beast, till such time as by much paine and travell he hath atchieved to the perfectnesse of the same, and tasting the sweet floure and fruit of his studies, doth thinke himselfe well brought to the right and very shape of a man.
Finally, the metamorphosie of Lucius Apuleius may be resembled to youth without discretion, and his reduction to age possessed with wisedome and vertue.
Now since this booke of Lucius is a figure of mans life, and toucheth the nature and manners of mortall men, egging them forward from their Asinall forme, to their humane and perfect shape, beside the pleasant and delectable jests therein contained, I trust if my simple translation be nothing accepted, yet the matter it selfe shall be esteemed by such as not onely delight to please their fancies in reading the same, but also take a patterne thereby to regenerate their minds from bruitish and beastly custome. Howbeit I have not so exactly passed through the Author, as to point every sentence according as it is in Latine, or so absolutely translated every word as it lieth in the prose, (for so the French and Spanish translators have not done) considering the same in our vulgar tongue would have appeared very obscure and darke, and thereby consequently loathsome to the Reader, but nothing erring as I trust from the true and naturall meaning of the Author, have used more common and familiar words, yet not so much as I might doe, for the plainer setting forth of the same.
But howsoever it be, gentle Reader, I pray thee take it in good part, considering that for thee I have taken this paine, to the intent that thou mayest read the same with pleasure.