John Lydgate.

Lydgate and Burgh's Secrees of old philisoffres. A version of the 'Secreta secretorum' online

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B 3 fi3M 023




edited by
Robert Steele


Extra Series, 66



Millwood, New York

Unaltered Reprint produced with the permission of the
Early English Text Society

A U.S. Division of Kraus-Thomson Organization Limited

Printed in Germany

Incites 4 «Ift IhiltMfrefi.

(£ifrn ^Erita, lxti.







foitb Infrobwttioit, got^s, anb ^bssarj,








H. H. S.


(Edra Strics, Lxvi.




Forewords ••• ••

Appendices :

I. Documents relating to LyJgate

II. The IX properties of wine, by Lydgate

in. In praise of Lydgate by Burgh

IV. Specimen of MS. Add. 14408

Ltdg.^te and Burgh's 'Secrees of old Philisoffres '

1. The Prolog

2. here is the fourme of the Epistil that kyng Alysaundre sent

to his maister Aristotiles ... .•• •••

3. Thanswere of Aristotilees •• ;••

4. This Rubryssh rehersith name of the philisoffire Callid philip,

bom in parys, which was translator of this book ...

5. here the Translator resortith ageyn to set in a p7-ologe, on this


6. here folowith the secuwd pistil that kyng Alysaundre sent to

his maistir Aristotiles

7. To telle of hym the Genealogie which translated this book

8. Here is the Epistil of the translator

9. Of foure maner kynges diuers of disposicion

10. How Aristotil declarith to kyng Alisa^ndre of the stoonys

II. how kyng Alisawndre must prudently Aforn conceyve in his

providence ...

12. how Witt of Sapience or of discreciown may be parceyvid in a

kyng or a pn/nce ... ••• ••• •••

1 3. how a kyng shuld be Religious

1 4. how a kyng shulde be arrayed lych his Estat

15. how this vertu Chastite apperteyneth wel in a kyng

16. how it longith to a kyng oonys in the yeer to shewe hym in

his Estat Royal

17. Of his dewe observaunce that longith to a kyng

18. how solace and disport longith to a kyng

19. What appartenyth also to his glorye

20. The Similitude of a Kyng ...

2 1. how a kyng shulde be gouerayd in al maner of wedrys














22. how a kjmg shuld be mercyable 37

23. It longith to a kyng specially to kepe his promys 37

24. how stodye & clergye shuld be promotyd in a kyngdome ... 37

25. how a kyng hovith to haue a leche to kepe his body ... 38

26. how a kyng shuld be gouemyd in Astronomye 39

27. Next folowith the vtilite of the helthe of a kyng 39

28. how mechil a-vayl is co?np?-ehendid in the diligence of a good

leche ... ... ... ... ... ••• ••• 39

29. A special Epistil to the Singuleer helthe of a prynce ... 40

30. To conserve hele aftir a mannys Complexion 40

31. how a kyng must take keep whan he shal rests and whan he

shal sleep ... ... ... ... ... .•• ... 40

32. how a leche shal gouerne a prynce slepyng & wakyng ... 41

33. Of the foure .sesowns of |)e yeer I gyn?<e at veer 42

34. Next than folowith the sesown Callid Estas 43

35. Tlianne folowith after the Thridde sesown callid Autumpne 45

36. The fourthe determynacioMn of the foure eesowns of the yeer 46

37. here deyed this translator and nobil poete : and the yonge

folowere gan his prologe on this wyse ... ... ... 48

38. how a kyng shal conserve natM?-al hete & helthe of body ... 51

39. Aristotil writ in A pistil to Alisauwdre which hurt the body 52

40. how the body is devided into foure principal pa?ties ... 58

41. The secund principal part of the body ... ... ... 54

42. The Thrydde principal party of the body 55

43. The fourthe principal parte of the body 56

44. An Ensample how a kyng shulde be inquisitiff to knowe

diue?-s Oppynyowns of lechis or of phisiciens ... ... 57

45. How profitable is to knowe diuersite & kyndes of metes &

drynkes ... ... ... ... ••• ••• ••• 58

46. The knowyng of watrys, and which be moost profitable ... 59

47. Of knowynges of vynes, & noynges & bowntes of them ... 61

48. Here specially preyseth wyn, and techith a medycyn ageyn

droMnkenesse of it ... ... ... ... ... ••• 63

49. Of the Rightwisnesse of a Kyng and of his Counseil ... 64

50. Of a kynges Secretary 73

51. What a kynges massageer oughte to bee ... 74

52. Of Equiperacio?m of Sogettys and Conservacio?m of Justice 75

53. Of the govemaMUce of Bataylle ... ... .•• ••• 76

54. Of the Crafft of physynomye, and the ymage of ypocras ... 78
NOTES ... .•• ••• ••• ^7

nrnsjaiuv ... ... IIJ


§ i. The Interest of the Poem, p. vii.

§ ii. Authorship of the ' Sccreta Score-
torum,' p. vii.

§ iii. Arabic Texts, p. viii.

§ iv. The 1st Latin Translation, p. ix.

§ V. The 2nd Latin Translation, p. x.

§ vi. The printed Latin Text, and the
Versions, p. xi.

§ vii. Works fotoruled on the ' Secreta
Secretonim,' p. xii.

§ viii. The ' Secreta Secretorum ' in Eng-
lish, p. xui.

§ ix. The Mamtscripts, p. xiv.
§ X. The Text itsed by Lydgate, p. xv.
§ xi. Summary of its History, p. xv.
§ xii. The Life of Lydgate, p. xvi.
§ xiii. The Life of Benedict Burgh, p. xvii.
§ xiv. Remarks on the Poem, p. xviii.
§ XV. The Metre of the Poem, p. xviii.
§ xvi. The Rhyme, p. xix.
§ xvii. General Characteristics of Lyd-
gate s Language, p. xx.
§ xviii. Concluding Remarks, p. xxi.

§ i. The poem, printed for the first time, which the Society ofi'ers to
the public, has a double interest — as the last work of Lydgate it shows
clearly the changes which have come over the language during a life-time
devoted to writing — and as a translation of the Secreta Secretorum it
brings us before one of the key-books of medieval literature.

I have endeavoured in the following pages to give some account of the
Secreta Secretorum and its history, to summarise what is known of the
authors of this translation, and, though relieved of much of the work
which would otherwise have fallen upon me by the work of another editor
in this series (Dr. Schick), to add some remarks on the language and
I>eculiarities of the poem.

The text printed is that of Sloane 2464. It is the fullest and the
earliest copy we possess. 'So emendation is made without the authority
of the other MSS., and these are carefully noted.

§ ii. The Secreta Secretorum is attributed to Aristotle, and is said to
have been written in answer to the request of Alexander. The prince,
absent on an expedition, writes to the philosopher, desiring his presence,
with the aim of learning that secret doctrine which the Eastern mind looks
for from every teacher. Aristotle unable to go to him, and unwilling
either to communicate his doctrine openly, or to disoblige his pupil and
patron, writes him a treatise, * de Regimine Principum,' intimating at the
same time that his secret teaching lies hid there under a veil. The work,

viii § iii. Arabic Texts.

as we have it, ifi doubly divided — into ten books of very unequal length,
and into chapters numbered consecutively.

As may be thought, no Greek text corresponding with this work has
been found, though certain portions of it have been drawn from Greek
sources. The work itself professes to be translated from Greek into
Chaldee (which generally means Syriac) and thence into Arabic, and
accordingly our earliest texts are Arabic. There are, however, signs of
acquaintance with Greek names in the work. A knowledge of the con-
nection between ^sculapius and the sun, and the descent of Aristotle
from the .^culapides are clearly shown by the choice of finding a ^IS.
of Aristotle's dealing with health in a temple dedicated by .^culapius
to the Sun. I may be allowed to suggest too that there may be some
connection between the fact that Asclepiades did write on Alexander
the Great (Arrian vii. p. 477, Ed. 1668) and this legend. The Syrian
origin of our work is rendered probable by the finding of the book at
Antioch (L 443), by the attribution of the astrological chapters to Cyprian
(1. 1189), who was a noted magician and a native of the Syrian Antioch
in the 3rd century, — afterwards a Christian, Bishop of Carthage, saint,
and martyr under Diocletian, and by the fact that Bar Hebraeus (Greg.
Abulpharagus), in his Hist. Dynast. VI., Oxon, pp. 56, 86, speaks of a
Syriac work of Philemon on Physiognomy — translated from the Greek —
and compares him to Hippocrates. Philemon I take to be Polemon, not
the PhUo quoted by him. I have come upon Greek sources for two
different tracts in the work. Caps, xlix — li (L 1660 — 1771) are a
translation of a letter, " ad valetudinem tuendam," sent by Diodes
Caristes (b.c. 320) to Antigonus, which is preserved for us by Paulus
Aegineta. (I quote from Lugd. 1589. 8°., p. 109). Lib. X (L 2465—
2723) is founded on the work of Polemon, an early Avriter on Physiognomy
and commentator on Aristotle. He is quoted by Origen (150) contra
Cdsrnn, L (Cantab. 1677. 4°, p. 26.) His work is included by Franzius
in his Scriptores Physiognomice Veteres. (Altenburg, 1780. 8°). Hermo-
genes is Hermes Magnus, the legendary author of all science, but I cannot
find the quotations in any of the works attributed to him that I know.

§ iii. Arabic Texts. There are two forms of the Arabic text in.Eugland,
one short, as in the British Museum Add. 7453. 75v° to 76v»., and another
longer, as in Bodl. MS. Laud A. 88. I have seen no other MSS. in
England, though doubtless many exist, but they abound in foreign
libraries. It is especially noteworthy that one of the Vatican MSS. is
Avritten in Syriac characters, when we remember that the work is com-
piled In Syriac from Greek sources, and translated thence by the author.

§ iv. The First Latin Translation. ix

Its Arabic name is * sirr alasrar.' T find it impossi' 1 ' to s:iy, without
an actual comparison of several texts, whether the shorter Arabic form is
merely a part of the longer, or whether the Arabic text grew, as we shall
find the Latin one did. There is some reason for holding the latter view.

Some little difficulty is caused to the student by the fact that two
Johns have been translators of this book — a Syrian Christian, and a
Spanish physician. I have not endeavoured to make the distinction in
the sidenotes, which are intended to represent what was in Lydgate's
mind when he wrote, reserving for this introduction any discussion of the
matter. We learn from the Arabic that the author of the treatise is
Jahja Ibn al Batrik (or John, son of Batrik).^ Lydgate, following the
Latin texts, which confuse him with Johannes Hispalensis, calls him
' John, a spanyol born, .... And Callyd sone / of Oon patricius ' (IL
604, 609).

The author, there can be little doubt, was one of the school of Syriac
Christian physicians, so celebrated in the early days of Muhammedan
rule. His accuracy (relatively speaking) in dealing with medical matters,
his reliance on astrology as a means of diagnosis and prognosis (a tradition
brought into Europe at a later period by the school of Saleme), and his
inclusion of alchemy and the occult properties of gems as a quite suboi-di-
nate feature of the treatise — all these point him out as a medical man of
the 8th or 9 th century.

The prologue (11. 1—133) and the two letters (134—210) are usually
attributed in English works to a later translator of the book into Latin.
They are, however, found in the Arabic text, which begins, ' God prosper
the Emir-al-Muminim ' (the leader of the true believers), as well as in
the early Hebrew translation. In the Latin text they are headed, ' The
prologue of a certain doctor recommending Aristotle.^

§ iv. The first Latin translation. The Arabic of John, son of Batrik,
was first translated into Latin by Johannes Hispalensis for ' Teophina,
queen of the Spaniards.' ^ The Secreta Secretorum is thus one of the few
books which Avere translated directly from Arabic into Latin, without
passing through the Hebrew. I have found his translation in a 14th
century MS. in the British Museum (A'Mit. 26,770), where it .>ccupies
two small quarto leaves, and in eight other MSS. there. In the printed
editions it is expanded into Caps, xxxiv to xlv, and forms the basis of
lines 1261 — 1491 of our text. It consists of a short treatise on the rules

' Thongh the attribution of the translation to him is itself believed to be a
disguise of the real compiler.

■* Who appears in Sloane 405 as Charesie.

X § V. The Second Latin Translation.

of health, and of another on the four seasons of the year. In his Intro-
duction, Johannes quotes the Arabic title as ' tursesar,' ^ and speaks of
finding the book in the Temple of the Sun, written in letters of gold,
and of bearing it home to translate, as in 11. 610 — 637, but into Latin,
not Arabic.

1 have been unable to trace ' Teophine ' in any of the genealogies of
Spanish rulers, but Johannes Hispalensis is well known.^ He was John
Avendeath, a converted Jewish physician, who translated (about 1135 —
1142) from Arabic into Latin a number of works principally of a medical
and astronomical character, and is connected with Spain by the fact that
another of his works, a treatise on arithmetic, ' de alg&rismo,' was trans-
lated for Raimund, Archbishop of Toleto. A monograph on his works
will be found in the works of Steinschneider, and an Alchemical tract
of Arabic origin bearing his name is found in the Sloane MS. 212.

§ V. The second Latin translation. Toward the close of the next
century, another translation direct from the Arabic was made by Philip
Tripolitanus (or Philip Clericus) enlarging that of Johannes Hispalensis.
He used the longer Arabic text, which included, besides the above, the
prologue ' in praise of Aristotle,' the letter and answer respecting Persia,
the prologue of Jahja Ibn al Bateik, and the chapters on The final inten-
tion of kings. Astronomy, Precious stones and talismans. The four parts
of the body, The knowledge of foods, waters, and wines. Baths, Venesec-
tion, Justice, The choice of officers, secretaries, messengers, and counsellors,
and, lastly, on Physiognomy. This translation is dedicated to Guido, a
man of Valence, Bishop of Tripoli, or as some copies have it, to Guido
de Vere, Bishop and Metropolitan of Valence. Steinschneider in his
monograph on the Secreta Secretorum (Jahr. f. rom. u. engl. Lit., xii.
4, p. 366) places Guido a.d. 1204, on the strength of an old deed of
that year naming G. bishop of Tripoli, but this name has been otherwise
ascertained to be Gaufridius. The lists of Bishops give us three bishops
of Valence, called Guido (990—995, 1016—1025, 1272—1274), and one
bishop of Tripoli in 1279. Porster places him about 1150 or 1210, if
he was bishop of Tripoli.

^ The forms the Arabic words sirr alasrar assume will give some idea of the diffi-
culty one meets with in connecting Middle Age Latin forms with their Arabic original.
I have found tuosesar, cirotesar, curoscesca, tymessar, cyrcttsar, tyralaceare, cyra-
laurar, dyalicerar, cyralacerar.

2 See Brechillet-Jourdain, " Hechcrches stir dr Aristotle." The reading Charesi*'
(SI. 405) suggests Tarasia d. of Alfonso VI, king of Leon and Castile, mother of the
1st king of Portugal, who reigned in his place 1112—1128, and died Nov. 1130. U
was not unusual to style the daughter of the Kiui; of Sjiain, Queen. The date of this
translation would then be 1128—1130, a date conhrmed by thexreface, which indicates
that it is one of his first translation^.


§ vi. Tlie printed Latin Texts, and the Versions. xi

The question of date might be attacked m this way ; there are two
stories in the Secreta Secretorum, that of the poison-maiden, and that of
the Jew and Muhammedan. If either of these are met with before the
thirteenth century, it would seem to follow that the Secreta was translated
fully at some earlier period. It requires, of course, wide experience to
assert a negative, but I believe the former story first appears in the Gesta
Bomanorum,^ and the latter in Gower.^ Michael Scot (t before 123ri)
quotes the Sec. Sec. in his Physiognomy, and there is no doubt that
Eoger Bacon (in 1*?56) knew parts of the work which were not translated
by Johannes Hispalensis, for he quotes part of the second letter of Aris-
totle, and makes constant references to the work, as well as using the title
familiarly in other connections. It was also known to Albertus Magnus

We may then attribute to the 12th or 13th century this translation,
and certain parts of the shorter printed Latin text which have no Arabic
original. These are 11. 330—476, 477— G02, 638—735 (a distortion of
the second letter of Aristotle to Alexander), and 736 — 973 (Of the four
manners of kings touching largesse) : which we may attribute to Philip
of Tripoli, who was undoubtedly a Frenchman and most probably of
Paris, as tradition asserts.

§ vi. The printed Latin texts, and the versions. From this period the
work spread over Europe ; and as it grew in popularity it expanded in
size ; chapters were added on such subjects as tournaments, others were
enlarged, and translations into various languages were made. As I have
before remarked, only one of these — the Hebrew — was taken from the
Arabic, the others being made from Latin texts. These are numerous. I
have myself examined thirty in the British Museum, and a little search
would doubtless bring to light many more, both there and elsewhere.
There are iwo main types, though every old copy differs from the others.

^ Burton's Anatomy of Mela-ncholy refers to the story, naming Poms as the king,
and gives (wrongly) Q. Curtius as authority.

^ As these stories are not told in our text, there will be no harm in summarising
them here. The Queen of the South {Nicomedia in the early Spanish version, India
in the Latin, The Kino of India in the Arabic and Hebrew,) fed a fair daughter on
poison from the day of her birth, and sent her at maturity as a present to Alexander.
Aristotle warned him of his danger, and pressed him to submit a malefactor to her
embrace. As the latter died on the spot, Alexander sent her away. The other tale
treats of a discussion on religion in which the Jew summarises his religious duties,
and restricts his obligations to those of his own faith. The Muhammedan declares
'lit he is bound to regard all men as brothers, whereon the Jew, who is walking, asks
iiim to give him a ride. When the Jew is mounted he rides away, and the Muham-
medan thus abandoned in the desert calls on God to assist him in the danger brought
on ity fulfilling his duty. Going further he comes on a lion standing beside his mule,
and the rent carcase of the Jew. See the prose translation, Lamb. 501.

xii § vii. Worhs founded on the ' Secreta Secretorum!

The shorter has about sixty chapters, the longer over one hundred.
Sloane 2413 is about the best MS. The printed copies, again, following
the MSS. fall into two main classes. Grenville 7925 and 520 d. 5 (2),
Louvain 1485. 4°, are good examples of the shorter form ; 7306. a. 16
and 520. a. 12, Paris 1520. 12^ are typical of the complete book.

There are MS. commentaries on the work attributed to Bacon,^ Scot,
and other medieval writers, who all seem to have taken it quite seriously,
and to have aided in spreading its fame. A copy existed some years ago at
Holkham which belonged to Edward II. But a better proof of the book's
popularity exists in the number of translations. Of these there are extant
a very early Spanish, four Italian, and five French independent versions
from the Latin. One of the latter is said to have been made in the 12th
century, and so would be of special interest ; but it is not yet printed.^
I believe there are also some early German translations.

§ vii. Worls founded on the ' Secreta Secretorum.^ A work of this
nature, so suitable to the habits of thought of the writers of medieval
times, naturally gave rise to a host of imitations and emendations.
Already in the 12th century, Giraldus Cambrensis had written a work
De Instructione Principis, which exists in MS. in the British Museum,
Cotton Julius B. XIII., an epitome of it being found in Titus. C. XII. 8.
It is doubtful whether this was not an independent work in its inception :
but the work of Egidio Colonna De Regimine Principum (a copy of Avhich
exists in. Bibl. Eeg. 4. D. IV. 4) is clearly based on the Secreta Secre-
torum in very great measure. Hoccleve's translation of this — his Rege-
ment of Princes or De Regimine Principum — is well known, and was
edited for the Eoxburghe Club in 1860.^ Two treatises are ascribed to
Innocent III. (ob. 1216), De Administratione Principum, and De Erudi-
tione Principum : one to Thomas Aquinas, De Regimine Principum, ad
Reg. Cyjpri : and one to Guill. Peraldi, De Eruditione Principum. Simon

1 In MS. Corp. Christ. 149. Bodl. (Tanner) 116, f. 1—15.

' It is attributed to Petrus de Abernuu, and is found in Bibl. Nat. 25407 (olim

Not. Dame 5, or 277), fol. l73^ 196. I have met with the following lines :
Priinez sacicz ke icest trcttez Le grant, le fiz Phelippe le rei,

Est le secrd de secrez numez, Le fist en sa graunt vielesce

Ke Aristotle le philosophe ydoine, Quant de cors cstrcit enfieblesce,

Le fiz Nichomache de Macedoine, Pus qu'il ne pout pas travailler

A sun deciple Alisandre en bonefei, Ne al rei Alisandre repeirar.

and Epilogue

Me ore priez, pur Deu amur, Ke de Men fere li doint sa grace :

En ceste fin pur le translatur E a nics tuz issi le face,

De cest livre, ke Pierre ad nun, Ke Ic regnc pussum merir,

K'estreit est de cest de Abernun, Ke done a sucns a sun plcisir. Amen.

3 Dr. Furnivall's edition of it from the Harleian MS. 4866, for the E. E. T. S. is

now ready for the printers.

§ viii. The ' Secreta Secrciorum.' § ix. The Manusconjpts. xiii

Islip, Archbishop of Canterbury (ob. 136G) wrote, while secretary to
Edward III., a treatise of this nature, entitled, Speculum Edwardi III.:
and, to mention no others, Ximenes, a Spanish bishop about 1400, wrote
in Spanish, Cresta, i.e. de Regiment de Princeps. Such a list proves the
importance of the Secreta Secretorum in the history of literature.^

§ viii. The ' Secreta Secretorum' in English. Our author's translation
does not by any means stand alone in English ; and perhaps a short
description of its compeers may not be out of place. Excluding Gower's
use of it in Bk. VII. of his Cor/fessio Amantis and Hoccleve's (in 14:12),
the first separate Englishing of known date we have is the Secreta
Secretorura in English, addressed to Jas. Butler, Earl of Ormond, Lord
Deputy of Ireland, by Jas. Young, circ. 1420. It is long and rambling,
omitting parts of the work, and inserting historical examples. Holmes,
from whose notes much of the preceding paragraph is taken, says that
the translation exists in MS. Bodl. Rawlinson 490. It will be printed
for the Society with the two other prose-renderings named below.

A portion of a prose translation begun by John Shirley, in his old
age, exists in the British Museum MS. 5467, f. 211. It is taken from
the French, and dedicated to Henry VI. An anonymous early prose
translation is in MS. 18. A. vii, in a handwriting of about 1460, written
on parchment. It is a shortened Englishing of the French text of Harleian
219, and is printed, together with another anonymous prose translation
from the Latin (Lambeth MS. 501), for purposes of comparison. The
latter translation seems to date from the end of the 14th century, and
is thus the earliest we have. Both will be printed, Warton (II. 313)
describes still another, published in 4°, by Robt. and Wm. Copland in
1528, entitled, 'The Seo'et of Aristotyle icith the Governcde of Princes,
and ever// vianer of Estate, &c.' The order of the Sec. Sec, and much of
its matter is made use of in Ocia Imperialia by Heydon, in his Temple
of Wisdom, Lond. 1663, 8^°. Lastly, the Physiognomy is reprinted in a
tract in the British Museum 519. a. 12 (3). London, 1702, 12°.

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