IN refashioning, for the pleasure of readers of the twentieth century, these versions of ancient tales which have given pleasure to story-lovers of all centuries from the eighth onward, I feel that some explanation of my choice is necessary. Men's conceptions of the heroic change with changing years, and vary with each individual mind; hence it often happens that one person sees in a legend only the central heroism, while another sees only the inartistic details of mediæval life which tend to disguise and warp the heroic quality.
It may be that to some people the heroes I have chosen do not seem heroic, but there is no doubt that to the age and generation which wrote or sang of them they appeared real heroes, worthy of remembrance and celebration, and it has been my object to come as close as possible to the mediæval mind, with its elementary conceptions of honour, loyalty, devotion, and duty. I have therefore altered the tales as little as I could, and have tried to put them as fairly as possible before modern readers, bearing in mind the altered conditions of things and of intellects to-day.
In the work of selecting and retelling these stories I have to acknowledge with most hearty thanks the help and advice of Mr. F. E. Bumby, B.A., of the University College, Nottingham, who has been through-out a most kind and candid censor or critic. His help has been in every way invaluable. I have also to acknowledge the generous permission given me by Mr. W. B. Yeats to write in prose the story of his beautiful play, "The Countess Cathleen," and to adorn it with quotations from that play.
The poetical quotations are attributed to the authors
from whose works they are taken wherever it is possible. When mediæval passages occur which are not thus attributed they are my own versions from the original mediæval poems.
M. I. EBBUTT