The aim of this little book is to give general readers some idea of the subject and spirit of European Continental literature in the later and culminating period of the Middle Ages—the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries.
It goes without saying that translations and selections are, in general, inadequate to the satisfactory representation of any literature. No piece of writing, of course, especially no piece of poetry, can be perfectly rendered into another tongue; no piece of writing can be fairly represented by detached portions. But to the general English reader Continental Mediaeval literature, so long as it remains in the original tongues, is inaccessible; and translations of many entire works are not within easy reach.
What translation and selection can do in this case, is to put into the hands of the ordinary student of the Middle Ages sufficient material for forming an estimate of the subjects that interested the mediaeval mind and the spirit in which they were treated. And this is what the general reader desires. Matters of form and expression—the points that translation cannot reproduce—belong, of course, to the specialist.