To the Right Honourable and Mighty Lord, THOMAS EARLE OF SUSSEX, Viscount Fitzwalter, Lord of Egremont and of Burnell, Knight of the most noble Order of the Garter, Iustice of the forrests and Chases from Trent Southward; Captain of the Gentleman Pensioners of the House of the QUEENE our Soveraigne Lady.
After that I had taken upon me (right Honourable) in manner of that unlearned and foolish Poet, Cherillus, who rashly and unadvisedly wrought a big volume in verses, of the valiant prowesse of Alexander the Great, to translate this present booke, contayning the Metamorphosis of Lucius Apuleius; being mooved thereunto by the right pleasant pastime and delectable matter therein; I eftsoones consulted with myself, to whom I might best offer so pleasant and worthy a work, devised by the author, it being now barbarously and simply framed in our English tongue. And after long deliberation had, your honourable lordship came to my remembrance, a man much more worthy, than to whom so homely and rude a translation should be presented. But when I again remembred the jesting and sportfull matter of the booke, unfit to be offered to any man of gravity and wisdome, I was wholly determined to make no Epistle Dedicatory at all; till as now of late perswaded thereunto by my friends, I have boldly enterprised to offer the same to your Lordship, who as I trust wil accept the same, than if it did entreat of some serious and lofty matter, light and merry, yet the effect thereof tendeth to a good and vertuous moral, as in the following Epistle to the reader may be declared. For so have all writers in times past employed their travell and labours, that their posterity might receive some fruitfull profit by the same. And therfore the poets feined not their fables in vain, considering that children in time of their first studies, are very much allured thereby to proceed to more grave and deepe studies and disciplines, whereas their mindes would quickly loath the wise and prudent workes of learned men, wherein in such unripe years they take no spark of delectation at all. And not only that profit ariseth to children by such feined fables, but also the vertues of men are covertly thereby commended, and their vices discommended and abhorred. For by the fable of Actaeon, where it is feigned that he saw Diana washing her selfe in a well, hee was immediately turned into an Hart, and so was slain of his own Dogs; may bee meant, That when a man casteth his eyes on the vain and soone fading beauty of the world, consenting thereto in his minde, hee seemeth to bee turned into a brute beast, and so to be slain by the inordinate desire of his owne affects. By Tantalus that stands in the midst of the floud Eridan, having before him a tree laden with pleasant apples, he being neverthelesse always thirsty and hungry, betokeneth the insatiable desires of covetous persons. The fables of Atreus, Thiestes, Tereus and Progne signifieth the wicked and abhominable facts wrought and attempted by mortall men. The fall of Icarus is an example to proud and arrogant persons, that weeneth to climb up to the heavens. By Mydas, who obtained of Bacchus, that all things which he touched might be gold, is carped the foul sin of avarice. By Phaeton, that unskilfully took in hand to rule the chariot of the Sunne, are represented those persons which attempt things passing their power and capacity. By Castor and Pollux, turned into a signe in heaven called Gemini, is signified, that vertuous and godly persons shall be rewarded after life with perpetuall blisse. And in this feined jest of Lucius Apuleius is comprehended a figure of mans life, ministring most sweet and delectable matter, to such as shall be desirous to reade the same. The which if your honourable lordship shall accept ant take in good part, I shall not onely thinke my small travell and labour well employed, but also receive a further comfort to attempt some more serious matter, which may be more acceptable to your Lordship: desiring the same to excuse my rash and bold enterprise at this time, as I nothing doubt of your Lordships goodnesse. To whome I beseech Almighty God to impart long life, with encrease of much honour.
From Vniversity Colledge in Oxenforde, the xviij. of September, 1566.
Your Honours most bounden,