When his tale the Manciple had ended,
The sun from the south line had descended
So low that it was by my calculation
Not twenty-nine degrees in elevation.
The time was four o’clock then, as I guess, 5
For eleven feet (a little more or less)
My shadow was at that time and location
(Such feet as if my height in correlation
Into six equal segments would be hewn).
By then the exaltation of the moon 10
(That’s Libra) started steadily to ascend,
As we were entering a village end.
At this our Host, as he was wont to be
The leader of our jolly company,
Declared, “Lords one and all, as I see now 15
We’re lacking no more tales but one, and how
My judgment and decree have come to pass,
We’ve heard, I think, from every rank and class;
With all that I’ve ordained we’re nearly done.
I pray God give good fortune to the one 20
Who tells this tale, that it may be inspired.
“Sir Priest, are you a vicar,” he inquired,
“Or parson? By my faith, give true retort,
Be what you will but don’t break up our sport,
For every man but you his tale has told. 25
Undo your bag, let’s see what it may hold;
For by your bearing I would think, by glory,
You ought to knit up for us quite a story.
Tell us a fable, for cock’s bones, right now!”
The Parson answered right away, here’s how: 30
“You won’t get any fable told by me;
For Saint Paul, as he writes to Timothy,
Reproves those who abandon truthfulness
For fable-telling and such wretchedness.
Why should I sow by hand chaff to the breeze 35
When wheat I could be sowing if I please?
I say therefore that if you wish to hear
Virtuous matters, morals that are clear,
And if you’ll give me proper audience,
I’ll gladly, doing Christ all reverence, 40
Give you some righteous pleasure as I can.
But trust me well, I am a Southern man:
Romances I can’t tell, no ‘rum, ram, ruff,’
And rhyme, I hold, is hardly better stuff.
So if you please–I won’t gloss words, God knows– 45
I’ll tell for you a merry tale in prose
To knit up this whole fest, make end of it.
And Jesus, by his grace, send me the wit
To show you, while on this trip we engage,
The way of that most glorious pilgrimage 50
Called heavenly Jerusalem. And so,
If you will grant as much, at once I’ll go
Ahead now with my tale, for which I pray
For your assent. No better can I say.
“But nonetheless I put this meditation 55
Before all students for their emendation,
For I am not a learned man. I take
The meaning only, trust me well. I make
Therefore the statement first that my selection
I willingly submit to their correction.” 60
To this word we agreed without ado,
For, as it seemed, it was the thing to do
To end with something in a virtuous sense
And therefore gave him space and audience,
We bade our Host say to him that each one 65
Among us wished the tale might be begun.
And so our Host with that spoke for us all:
“Sir Priest,” said he, “good fortune you befall!
Tell us your meditation, but with haste,
The sun is going down, no time to waste; 70
Speak fruitfully, and that in little space,
And to do well may God send you his grace!
We’ll gladly hear what you may please to say.”
With that he spoke, proceeding in this way.
The Parson’s Tale
Jer. 6. State super vias, et videte, et interrogate de viis antiquis, que sit via bona, et ambulate in ea; et invenietis refrigerium animabus vestris, etc.
Our sweet Lord God of heaven who wishes no man to perish but wishes that we all come to the knowledge of him and to the blissful life that is everlasting, 75 admonishes us by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “Stand upon the ways and look, ask about the old paths (that is, the old opinions) where the good way is, and walk in that way, and you shall find refreshment for your souls, etc.”
Many are the spiritual ways that lead people to our Lord Jesus Christ and to the kingdom of glory. Of these ways, there is one most noble and appropriate that cannot fail any man or woman who through sin has gone astray from the direct way to the heavenly Jerusalem. 80 This way is called Penitence, about which man should gladly hear and inquire with all his heart–to know what Penitence is, why it is called Penitence, how many ways are the actions and workings of Penitence, how many kinds of Penitence there are, and which things belong and are necessary to Penitence and which things hinder it.
Saint Ambrose says that Penitence is the lament of man for the sins he has committed, and to do nothing more for which he should lament. And some Church Father says, “Penitence is the lamenting of man who sorrows for his sin and torments himself because he’s done evil.” 85
Penitence under certain circumstances is true repentance of a man who holds himself in sorrow and other pain because of his sins. To be truly penitent, he must first bewail the sins he has committed, and steadfastly purpose in his heart to confess and make satisfaction and never do anything more for which he should bewail or complain, and to continue in good works, for otherwise his repentance is of no use. For as Saint Isidore says, “He is a trickster and mocker and no true repentant who soon after does anything for which he ought to repent.” Weeping and not to cease sinning is of no use. 90 Men nonetheless hope that every time a man falls, be it ever so often, he may arise through Penitence if he only has grace. But let me tell you, that’s in very great doubt. For as Saint Gregory says, “He scarcely can rise out of his sin who is under the burden of evil habit.” So repentant people who stop their sinning, renouncing it before sin leaves them helpless, Holy Church considers sure of salvation. As for him who sins and truly repents in his last moments, Holy Church still hopes for his salvation, by the great mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, because of his repentance. But take the surer way.
Now that I’ve told you what Penitence is, you should understand that there are three functions of Penitence. 95 The first is that if a man is baptized after he has sinned, Saint Augustine says “he cannot begin a new pure life unless he’s repentant for his old sinful life.” For surely if he is baptized without penitence for his old sins, he receives the mark of baptism but not the grace nor the remission of his sins until he has true repentance. Another need for repentance is when men commit mortal sin after they have received baptism. The third is when men after their baptism fall from day to day into venial sins. 100 Of this, Saint Augustine says, “The penitence of good, humble people is the penitence of every day.”
There are three kinds of Penitence. One is solemn, another public, the third private. Solemn penance is in two ways. One way is to be put out of Holy Church during Lent, for such things as slaughtering children. The other is when a man has sinned openly, the sin being reported and discussed in the region, and then Holy Church by judgment constrains him to do open penance. Public penance is when priests enjoin men together in certain cases, perhaps to go on pilgrimages in only an undergarment or barefoot. 105 Private penance is that which men do time and again for secret sins, for which we shrive ourselves privately and receive private penance.
Now you shall understand what is suitable and necessary for true, perfect Penitence. This depends on three things: Contrition of Heart, Confession of Mouth, and Satisfaction. On this Saint John Chrysostom says, “Penitence constrains a man to accept patiently every punishment imposed, with contrition of heart, shrift of mouth, satisfaction, and exercise of all manner of humility.” This is fruitful penitence against three things by which we anger our Lord Jesus Christ: 110 delight in what we think, carelessness in what we say, and deeds that are wicked and sinful. Over against these wicked sins is Penitence, which may be likened to a tree.
The root of this tree is Contrition, which hides itself in the heart of him who is truly repentant, as the root of a tree hides itself in the earth. From the root of Contrition springs a trunk that bears branches and leaves of Confession and fruit of Satisfaction. As Christ says in his gospel, “Produce worthy fruit of Penitence”; for men will know this tree by its fruit, not by the root hidden in the heart of man or by the branches or leaves of Confession. 115 As our Lord Jesus Christ says also, “By their fruit you shall know them.” From this root springs also a seed of grace, which seed is the mother of security and is tart and tastes hot. The grace of this seed springs from God, through calling to mind judgment day and the pains of hell. “In fear of God,” as Solomon says, “man renounces his sin.” The heat of this seed is the love of God and the desire for everlasting joy. 120 This heat draws the heart of man to God and causes him to hate his sin. For truly there is nothing that a child savors so well as the milk of his nurse, and nothing is more abominable to him than that same milk mixed with other food. In the same way sin seems the sweetest thing of all to the sinful man who loves it, but from the time he steadfastly loves our Lord Jesus Christ and desires life everlasting, there is nothing more abominable to him. For truly the law of God is the love of God; as the prophet David says, “I have loved your law and hated wickedness and hatred.” He who loves God keeps his law and his word. 125 The prophet Daniel saw this tree in spirit, so to speak, right after the vision of King Nebuchadnezzar, whom he counseled to be penitent. Penance is the tree of life to those who receive it, and he who remains in true penitence is blessed; such is the opinion of Solomon.
In this Penitence of Contrition man should understand four things: what Contrition is, what moves a man to Contrition, how he should be contrite, and what Contrition’s benefit is to the soul. Thus it is: Contrition is the true sorrow a man feels in his heart for his sins, with firm purpose to shrive himself, do penance, and sin no more. According to Saint Bernard, this sorrow shall be “heavy and grievous, very sharp and poignant in the heart.” 130 First because man has offended his Lord and Creator; sharper and more poignant because he has sinned against his heavenly Father; and sharper and more poignant still because he has angered and sinned against him who redeemed him, who with his precious blood delivered us from the bonds of sin, from the cruelty of the devil, and from the pains of hell.
Six motives ought to bring man to Contrition. First, a man should remember his sins, and take care that that remembrance be in no way a source of delight; he should have great shame and sorrow for his sins. For as Job says, “Sinful men do deeds worthy of damnation.” And as Hezekiah says, “I’ll remember all the years of my life, in bitterness of heart.” 135 And God says in the Apocalypse, “Remember from whence you have fallen”; for before the time of your sin, you were children of God and members of the kingdom of God; but because of your sin you have become enslaved and vile, agents of the fiend, the hate of angels, the disgrace of Holy Church, food for the false serpent, and perpetual material for the fire of hell. And yet more foul and abominable because you trespass as often as does the hound who returns to eat his vomit. And fouler yet for your long continuance in sin and your sinful habits, for which you’re as rotten as a beast in his dung. Such thoughts make a man feel shame, not delight, for his sin, as God says by the prophet Ezekiel: 140 “You shall remember your ways, and they shall displease you.” Sins are truly the ways that lead men to hell.
The second motive that ought to make one loathe sin is this: “Whoever commits sin,” as Saint Peter says, “is a slave of sin”; sin puts a man in great servitude. That’s why the prophet Ezekiel says, “I went sorrowfully in loathing of myself.” Certainly a man should have loathing for sin and withdraw from that servitude and bondage. Look, what does Seneca say on the matter? “Even if I knew that neither God nor man would ever know, I would not stoop to sin.” And the same Seneca says, “I am born to greater things than to be enslaved by my body, or to make my body a slave.” 145 No man or woman can make a fouler slave of the body than to give that body to sin. Albeit the foulest churl or foulest woman living, and least of all in value, yet fouler would that body be, more in servitude. The farther a man falls, the more he is enslaved, the viler and more abominable to God and to the world. O gracious God, well should man loathe sin! Once free, through sin he’s now enslaved. Thus Saint Augustine says, “If you loathe your servant because he has transgressed or sinned, then loathe yourself when you have sinned.” 150 Regard your own value, don’t be vile to yourself. Alas! well should people loathe being servants and slaves to sin and be sorely ashamed of themselves, since God in his endless goodness has set them in high estate, or given them intelligence, strength of body, health, beauty, prosperity, and redeemed them from death with his heart’s blood, and they in return for his noble goodness requite him so unnaturally, so evilly, to the destruction of their souls. O God of goodness, you women of such great beauty, remember the proverb of Solomon: 155 “A fair woman who’s unchaste with her body is like a gold ring in a sow’s snout.” For just as a sow roots in any filth, she roots her beauty in the stinking filth of sin.
The third motive that should bring a man to Contrition is fear of judgment day and of the horrible torments of hell. For as Saint Jerome says, “Each time I think of judgment day, I tremble, for whenever I eat or drink or whatever else I do, the trumpet seems ever to sound in my ear: 160 ‘Rise up, you who are dead, and come to the judgment.'” O good God, a man ought greatly to fear such a judgment, “where we all shall be,” as Saint Paul says, “before the throne of our Lord Jesus Christ,” where he shall require an assembly in which none may be absent. Surely there will be no excuse for non-appearance in court, no defense will avail. And not only will our sins be judged, but also our works will be openly known. 165 And as Saint Bernard says, “No pleading shall avail, no trickery. We shall account for every frivolous word.” We shall have a judge who cannot be deceived or corrupted. And why? Surely all our thoughts are disclosed to him; neither prayer nor bribery shall corrupt him. Thus Solomon says, “The wrath of God will spare no one for prayer or for gift.” So at judgment day there’s no hope for escape. That’s why Saint Anselm says, “The anxiety of sinners will be great at that time. There the stern and wrathful judge shall sit above, and below the horrible pit of hell will be open to destroy him who must acknowledge his sins, shown openly before God and every creature. 170 There will be on the left side more devils than the heart can imagine, to drag and draw the sinful souls to the torments of hell. And within the hearts of men shall be the biting conscience, and everywhere outside shall be the world afire. Where then shall the sinner flee to hide? Certainly he may not hide, he must come forth and show himself.” For surely as Saint Jerome says, “The earth shall cast him out, and the sea also, and the air, which shall be full of thunder and lightning.” Now truly, whoever remembers these things, I guess, will not be turned by his sin to delight but to great sorrow for fear of the torments of hell. 175 Thus Job says to God: “Suffer, Lord, that I may wail and weep awhile before I go, without return, to the dark land covered with the darkness of death, to the land of misery and of darkness where there is the shadow of death, where there is no kind of order, only grisly dread that shall last forever.”
Look, here you may see that Job prayed for some respite, to weep, bewailing his trespasses, for truly one day of respite is better than all the world’s treasure. And inasmuch as a man may acquit himself before God by penitence in this world, not by treasure, he should pray to God to give him some respite, to weep and bewail his trespasses. For certainly all the sorrow that a man might have from the beginning of the world is little compared to the sorrow of hell. 180
That’s why Job calls hell “the land of darkness”; he calls it “land” or earth, understand, because it’s stable and shall never come to an end, and “dark” because he who is in hell is deprived of physical light. For surely the dark light from the ever-burning fire shall for him turn everything in hell to pain, for it shows him to the devils that torment him. “Covered with the darkness of death”–that is, he who is in hell shall lack the sight of God, for surely the sight of God is life everlasting. “The darkness of death” is the sins that the wretched man has committed that prevent him from seeing the face of God, just like a dark cloud between us and the sun. 185 “Land of misery,” because there are three kinds of wants, in contrast to three things in this world that living folks have: honors, pleasures, and riches. Instead of honor, in hell they’ll have shame and disgrace. For you well know that men call “honor” the reverence that man shows to man, but in hell is neither honor nor reverence. For certainly no more reverence shall be shown to a king than to a knave. That’s why God says by the prophet Jeremiah, “The same people who dspise me shall be despised.” Great lordship is also called “honor”; there no man shall serve another but with torment and harm. Great dignity and high social station are also called “honor,” but in hell they shall all be trampled upon by devils. 190 “The horrible devils,” God says, “shall come and go upon the heads of the damned.” And this is because the higher they were in this present life, the more they shall be degraded and trampled upon in hell.
Instead of the riches of this world they shall have the misery of poverty. And this poverty shall be fourfold. First, lack of treasures, of which David says, “The rich who with all their hearts embrace worldly treasure shall sleep in the slumber of death; nothing of all their treasure shall they find in their hands.” The misery of hell, moreover, shall be in lack of food and drink. For as God says by Moses, “They shall be wasted with hunger, and the birds of hell shall devour them with bitter death; the gall of the dragon shall be their drink, the venom of the dragon their morsels.” 195 Their misery shall furthermore be in lack of clothing; they’ll be naked in body except for the fire in which they burn and other foul treatment, and naked in soul with respect to all virtue, the soul’s clothing. Where then are the bright robes, soft sheets, and fine undergarments? Look what God says of them by the prophet Isaiah: “Under them shall be strewn moths, and their coverlets shall be worms of hell.” Furthermore, their misery shall be in lack of friends. For he is not poor who has good friends, but there is no friend in hell; neither God nor any creature shall befriend them, and each shall hate every other with mortal hate. 200 “The sons and daughters shall rebel against father and mother, and kindred against kindred, and they shall chide and despise each other,” both day and night, as God says by the prophet Micah. And the loving children, who formerly loved each other so carnally, would eat each other if they could. For how shall they love each other in the torments of hell, when they hated each other in the prosperity of life? Trust well, their carnal love was mortal hate; as says the prophet David, “Whoever loves wickedness hates his soul.” And whoever hates his own soul can certainly love no other person in any way. 205 So in hell is neither solace nor friendship, and the more carnal the kinships are in hell, the more cursing, the more chiding, and the more mortal hate among them. Furthermore they shall lack all sensual pleasures. For certainly these follow from the appetite of the five senses, which are sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. But in hell their sight shall be full of darkness and smoke, and thus full of tears, and their hearing full of lamentation and gnashing of teeth, as says Jesus Christ. Their nostrils shall be full of awful stench, and, as says Isaiah the prophet, “Their taste shall be full of bitter gall.” As for touch, their bodies shall be covered with “fire that shall never be quenched and worms that shall never die,” as God says by the mouth of Isaiah. 210
And lest they suppose they may die from pain, fleeing it by their death, they shall understand the words of Job: “There is the shadow of death.” Certainly a shadow has the likeness of that of which it is shadow, but it is not the same thing. Such is the pain of hell, it’s like death in its horrible anguish. How so? It constantly pains them as though they should die at once, but they certainly shall not die. For as Saint Gregory says, “For such wretched, miserable persons shall be death without death, end without end, lack without lack. For their death shall live forever, their end shall be always beginning, and their lack shall not fail.” 215 And thus says Saint John the Evangelist: “They shall seek death and not find it, they shall desire to die and death shall flee them.”
Job also said that in hell is no ruling order. For though God has created all things in right order, there being nothing without order or unnumbered, they who are damned are not at all in order and maintain no order, for the earth shall bear them no fruit. As the prophet David says, “God shall destroy the fruit of the earth to deprive them,” neither shall water give them moisture, nor the air refreshment, nor fire light. 220 For as Saint Basil says, “God shall give the burning fire of this world to the damned in hell, but the light clear and bright he shall give to his children in heaven,” just as the good man gives meat to his children and bones to his hounds. Because there is no hope of escape, Saint Job finally says, “horror and awful dread shall dwell in hell without end.”
Horror is always fear of harm to come, and this dread shall dwell in the hearts of those who are damned. They have therefore lost all their hope for seven reasons. First, God who is their judge shall show no mercy toward them; they may not please him or any of his saints; nor may they give anything to be ransomed; 225 nor may they have voice to speak to him; nor may they flee from torment; nor may they have within them, to deliver them from that torment, any goodness to show. Thus Solomon says, “The wicked man dies, and when he is dead he shall have no hope of escaping from torment.” Whoso would then well understand these torments, and carefully consider how he deserves these very torments for his sins, should certainly be more inclined to sigh and weep than to sing and play. For as Solomon says, “Whoever had knowledge of the torments established and decreed for sin would lament.” “That same knowledge,” as Saint Augustine says, “makes a man lament in his heart.” 230
The fourth point that should move a man to Contrition is the sorrowful awareness of the good he has omitted to do here on earth, and also the good he has lost. Truly his good works are lost whether he did them before falling into mortal sin or while he lay in it. Surely the good works he did before falling into sin have all been rendered null and void by his frequent sinning, and the good works he did while he lay in sin are utterly dead with respect to eternal life in heaven.
The good works, then, that have been nullified by frequent sinning, the ones that he did while loved by God, shall never be recovered without true penitence. 235 Thus God says by the mouth of Ezekiel that “if the righteous man turns from his righteousness and works wickedness, shall he live?” No, all the good works he has done shall never be remembered, for he shall die in his sin. Here’s what Saint Gregory says on the subject: “We should understand this above all, that when we commit deadly sin, it is useless to recall and recite the good works we have done before.” Truly the effect of deadly sin is such that we can’t depend on any good deed done before to gain eternal life in heaven. 240 But good works nonetheless revive, they come again, helping to gain eternal life in heaven, when we have contrition. Truly, though, the good works that men do while in mortal sin, inasmuch as they were done in mortal sin, shall never return to life. For surely that which never had life can never regain it. Still, though they in no way assist in obtaining eternal life, they do help to reduce the severity of hell’s torments, or to get temporal riches, or to have God sooner enlighten and kindle the heart of the sinner that he might repent. They also help accustom a man to do good works, so that over his soul the fiend may have less power. 245 So the merciful Lord Jesus Christ wills that no good work be lost, it shall be of at least some use. But inasmuch as good works done by men while living good lives have all been nullified by later sin, and all good works men do while in mortal sin are utterly dead with respect to everlasting life, well may the man who has done no good sing that new French song, “Jay tout perdu mon temps et mon labour.”
For certainly sin deprives a man of both good nature and the goodness of grace. The grace of the Holy Spirit truly acts like a fire that cannot be idle; for fire ceases to exist as soon as it ceases its function, and just so grace ceases to exist as soon as it ceases its function. 250 Then the sinful man loses the goodness of glory, promised only to good men who labor and work. Well may he be sorry, then, who owes his whole life to God from beginning to end and has no goodness with which to pay God his debt for his life. Trust well, “He shall have to account,” as Saint Bernard says, “for all the goods given to him in this present life, and for how he has spent them; not so much as a hair of his head shall perish, nor one moment lapse of his time, that he shall not have to account for.”
The fifth thing that should move a man to Contrition is remembrance of the passion suffered by our Lord Jesus Christ for our sins. 255 For as Saint Bernard says, “While I live I’ll remember the hardships that our Lord Christ suffered in preaching, his weariness in toiling, his temptation when he fasted, his long vigils when he prayed, his tears shed in pity for good people, the woe and the shame and the filth that men said to him, the foul spittle that men spat in his face, the filthy scowls and the buffets men gave him, the insults he received, the nails with which he was nailed to the cross, and all the rest of the passion he suffered for my sins and not at all for any guilt of his own.”
And you should understand that in man’s sin is every manner of order or orderly arrangement turned upside down. 260 For it’s true that God, reason, sensuality, and the body are ordered so that each of these four things should have lordship over the others. That is, God should have lordship over reason, and reason over sensuality, and sensuality over the body. But truly when man sins, this whole orderly arrangement is turned upside down. So when the reason of man will not be subject or obedient to God who is his lord by right, it loses the lordship it should have over sensuality and also over the body. Why? Because sensuality then rebels against reason, that’s how reason loses lordship over sensuality and the body. 265 Just as reason is rebel to God, sensuality is rebel to both reason and the body.
And certainly this disorder and rebellion our Lord Jesus Christ redeemed with his dear precious body, and hear in what way. Inasmuch as reason is rebel to God, man deserves to have sorrow and die. Our Lord Jesus Christ suffered this for man, after being betrayed by his disciple and arrested and bound, so that his blood burst out at each nail in his hands, as says Saint Augustine. Inasmuch as man’s reason, moreover, won’t subdue sensuality when it may, man deserves to have shame. And for man our Lord Jesus Christ suffered this, when they spat in his face. 270 Furthermore, inasmuch as man’s wretched body is rebel to both reason and sensuality, it deserves to die. And this our Lord Jesus Christ suffered for man on the cross, no part of his body free from great pain and bitter passion. And Jesus Christ suffered all this who never sinned. It may therefore be reasonably said of Jesus: “I am too much afflicted for the things for which I never deserved punishment, and too much defiled by disgrace that man deserves to have.” So the sinful man may well say, as says Saint Bernard, “Curst be the bitterness of my sin, for which so much bitterness must be suffered.” For it was certainly because of the diverse disorders of our wickedness that the passion of Jesus Christ was ordained, in accordance with diverse things. 275 Man’s sinful soul, in coveting temporal prosperity, is certainly deceived by the devil, and in choosing carnal pleasures is scorned by deceit; it’s tormented by impatience with adversity, spat upon by servitude and sin’s subjection, and at last is finally slain. For this disorder of sinful man was Jesus Christ first betrayed; he was bound who came to unbind us from sin and punishment. He was then scoffed at who should only have been honored in all things. Then his face, which all mankind should desire to see–the face in which angels long to look–was evilly spat upon. Then he was scourged who had no guilt at all. Then finally he was crucified and slain. 280 Thus accomplished was the word of Isaiah: “He was wounded for our misdeeds and defiled for our felonies.” Now since Jesus Christ took upon himself the pain of all our wickedness, sinful man should much weep and bewail that for his sins God’s Son of heaven should endure all this pain.
The sixth thing that should move a man to Contrition is the hope of three things: forgiveness of sin, the gift of grace to do well, and the glory of heaven with which God shall reward a man for good deeds. And inasmuch as Jesus Christ gives us these gifts through his generosity and noble goodness, he is called Iesus Nazarenus rex Iudeorum. Iesus means “savior” or “salvation,” through whom men should hope to have forgiveness of sins, which is properly salvation from sins. 285 That’s why the angel said to Joseph, “You shall call his name Jesus, who shall save his people from their sins.” And on this point Saint Peter says, “There is no other name under heaven that is given to any man by which he can be saved, but only Jesus.” Nazarenus is the same as “flourishing,” by which a man should hope that he who gives him remission of sins shall also give him grace to do well. For in the flower is the hope of fruit in time to come, and in the forgiveness of sins is the hope of grace to do well. “I was at your heart’s door,” says Jesus, “and called that I might enter. He who opens to me shall have forgiveness of sin. I will enter into him by my grace and sup with him” for the good works he shall do, which works are the food of God, “and he shall sup with me,” through the great joy that I shall give him. 290 Thus shall man hope, on account of his works of penance, that God shall give him his kingdom, as he promises in the gospel.
Now a man should understand how his contrition should be. I say that it shall be universal and total; that is, a man shall be truly repentant for all the sins he’s committed in the pleasure of his thoughts, for pleasure is perilous indeed. There are two kinds of consent. One is called consent of feeling, when a man is moved to sin and takes long pleasure in thinking about that sin; his reason well perceives it’s a sin against God’s law, yet his reason doesn’t restrain his sinful pleasure or appetite, though he sees perfectly well its irreverence. Though his reason doesn’t actually consent to committing the sin, some authorities say that such long dwelling pleasure is most perilous, be it ever so little. 295 A man should also sorrow, especially for all he has ever desired, with full consent of his reason, against the law of God, for then without doubt there is mortal sin in consent. For surely there’s no mortal sin that isn’t first in man’s thought, afterwards in his pleasure, and then in consent and deed. So I say that many men never repent or confess such thoughts and pleasures but only great sins outwardly committed. Wherefore such wicked thoughts and pleasures, I say, are subtle beguilers of those who shall be damned. Man ought to sorrow, moreover, for his wicked words as well as for his wicked deeds, for surely to repent one sin and not all, or to repent all sins except one, is useless. 300 For certainly God Almighty is wholly good, and he therefore forgives all or nothing. That’s why Saint Augustine says, “I certainly know that God is enemy to every sin.” So shall he who persists in one sin have all his other sins forgiven? No.
Contrition, furthermore, should have extraordinary sorrow and anxiety. Then God shall show complete mercy. Therefore when my soul was anxious within me, I remembered God, that my prayer might go to him.
And contrition must be continuous, one must intend steadfastly to confess and to amend his life. 305 For truly as long as contrition lasts, a man may hope for forgiveness; from this comes hatred of sin by which he destroys sin, as much as he can, in both himself and others. Thus says David: “You who love God hate wickedness.” For trust well, to love God is to love what he loves and hate what he hates.
The last thing that men should understand about contrition is this: in what way is contrition of use? I say that it sometimes delivers a man from sin; thus “I said,” says David (that is, “I faithfully resolved”), “that I would confess, and you, Lord, remitted my sin.” And just so, contrition is useless without a firm purpose to confess if one has opportunity, just as confession or satisfaction without contrition is of little worth. 310 Contrition, moreover, destroys the prison of hell, makes weak all the strengths of the devils, and restores the gifts of the Holy Spirit and of all good virtues. And it cleanses the soul of sin, delivering the soul from the pain of hell, from the company of the devil, and from sin’s servitude, and restoring it to all spiritual blessings and to the company and communi on of Holy Church. Furthermore, it makes him who was a son of wrath into a son of grace. And all these things have been proved by holy writ. So he who would pay attention to these things would surely be wise; truly he should never in his life desire to sin but should give his body and all his heart to the service of Jesus Christ and thereby do him homage. For truly our sweet Lord Jesus Christ has spared us so mercifully in our sins that if he didn’t have pity on man’s soul, a sorry song we all might sing. 315
Explicit prima pars Penitencia et sequitur
secunda pars eiusdem
The second part of Penitence is Confession, which is a sign of contrition. Now you shall understand what Confession is, whether or not it should be done, and which things are appropriate to true Confession.
First you should understand that Confession is true showing of sins to the priest. “True” means that one must confess all the circumstances that he can relating to his sin. All must be said, nothing excused, hidden, or covered up, and don’t boast of your good works. 320
It’s necessary, moreover, to understand where sins come from, how they increase, and what they are.
Saint Paul says this about the origin of sins: “Just as by man sin first entered the world, and through that sin death, so death entered all men who sinned.” And this man was Adam by whom death entered the world, when he broke God’s commandments. Thus he who was first so mighty that he shouldn’t have died became one who had to die whether he wished to or not, like all his progeny in this world, who sinned in that same man. Consider, when Adam and Eve, in the state of innocence, were naked without shame in Paradise, 325 how the serpent, wiliest of the beasts that God had created, said to the woman: “Why did God command you not to eat of every tree in Paradise?” The woman answered, “We eat of the fruit of the trees of Paradise, but truly of the fruit of the tree in the middle of Paradise God forbade us to eat, we are not to touch it, lest perchance we die.” The serpent said to the woman, “No, no, you shall not die, truly! God knows that on that day when you eat thereof, your eyes shall open and you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” The woman then saw that the tree was good for eating and fair to see, a pleasure to the eyes. She took the tree’s fruit and ate it, and gave some to her husband and he ate, and at once the eyes of both were opened. And when they knew they were naked, they sewed a kind of breechcloth from fig leaves to hide their sexual organs. 330 There you may see that deadly sin is first suggested by the devil, manifested here by the serpent; afterward comes delight of the flesh, shown here by Eve; and then the consent of reason, shown here by Adam. For trust well, though the fiend tempted Eve or the flesh, and the flesh took delight in the beauty of the forbidden fruit, certainly until Adam or reason consented to the eating of the fruit he still remained in the state of innocence. We took from Adam the same original sin: for we are all physically descended from him and engendered by vile and corrupt material. When the soul is put in our body, original sin is incurred right then, and what was first only affliction of concupiscence is afterward both affliction and sin. Therefore we are all born sons of wrath and everlasting damnation were it not the baptism we receive that takes away our guilt. But truly the affliction dwells with us with respect to temptation, and that affliction is called concupiscence. 335 When wrongfully disposed or ordered in man, this concupiscence makes him sinfully covet, having eyes for earthly things, being covetousness of the flesh, and through pride of being covetousness of high places.
Now speaking of the first kind of covetousness, that is, concupiscence, according to the law of our sexual organs, made lawfully by God in his righteous judgment, I say that inasmuch as man disobeys God who is his Lord, the flesh disobeys him through concupiscence, called also nourishment of sin and cause of sin. So all the while that a man has the affliction of concupiscence within him, he cannot help but be sometimes tempted and moved in the flesh to sin. This will not fail as long as he lives. It may well grow feeble and fail by virtue of baptism and by the grace of God through penitence, 340 but it shall never be so fully quenched that he won’t be sometimes inwardly moved, unless chilled by sickness, the evil enchantment of sorcery, or cold drinks. For behold what Saint Paul says: “The flesh strives eagerly against the spirit, and the spirit is against the flesh; they are so contrary and so strive that a man may not always do as he would.” This same Saint Paul, after his great penance in water and on land (in water night and day in great peril and pain, on land in famine, thirst, and cold, without adequate clothing, and once almost stoned to death), yet said: “Alas, I, miserable man! who shall deliver me from the prison of my miserable body?” And Saint Jerome, when he had long lived in the desert with no company but wild beasts, with no food but herbs and water to drink, and no bed but the naked earth, so that his flesh was as black as an Ethiopian’s because of the heat and almost destroyed by the cold, 345 said that lechery burned and boiled throughout his body. Therefore I know very well that they are deceived who say that they are not tempted carnally. Witness Saint James the Apostle, who says everyone is tempted through his own concupiscence, that is, each of us has reason and cause to be tempted by the nourishment of sin that is in the body. Thus says Saint John the Evangelist: “If we say that we are without sin, we deceive ourselves and truth is not in us.”
Now you shall understand how sin grows or increases in man. First there’s the nourishment of sin that I spoke of before, that same fleshly concupiscence. 350 After that comes the suggestion of the devil, that is, the devil’s bellows, with which he blows in man the fire of fleshly concupiscence. After that, a man considers whether or not to do as he is tempted. If he withstands and turns aside the first enticing of his flesh and the devil, it’s not sin. If it so happens he doesn’t do this, he immediately feels a flame of delight. Then it’s good to beware and keep well on one’s guard or he’ll fall right away into yielding to sin; then he’ll sin if he has time and place. Here’s what Moses said on this matter and the devil: “The fiend says, ‘I will keep after the man by wicked suggestion, I will ensnare him by the stirring of sin. I will choose my quarry or prey by deliberation, and accomplish my desire with delight. I will draw my sword in the consenting.'” 355 For as surely as a sword separates something in two, consent separates God from man. “‘Then I will slay him with my hand in his sinful deed,’ says the fiend.” For certainly man is then utterly dead in his soul. Thus is sin accomplished by temptation, delight, and consent, and then the sin is called actual.
In truth there are two kinds of sin: either venial or mortal. When man loves any creature more than Jesus Christ our Creator, truly it is mortal sin. Venial sin is when man loves Jesus Christ less than he should. The commission of this venial sin is truly quite perilous, for it diminishes more and more the love men should have for God. So if a man burdens himself with many such venial sins, though he sometimes unloads them with confession, gradually they will certainly diminish all the love that he has for Jesus Christ. 360 In this way venial passes directly into mortal sin. For surely the more a man burdens himself with venial sins, the more he is inclined to fall into mortal sin. So let’s not neglect to discharge ourselves of venial sins. As the proverb says, “Many small make a great.” And heed this example. A great wave of the sea sometimes comes with such violence that it sinks a ship. The same harm is sometimes done by the small drops of water that enter through a little crack in the bilge and into the bottom of the ship, if men are so negligent that they don’t bail in time. So although there’s a difference between the two kinds of sinkings, the ship is still sunk. So it sometimes goes with mortal sin, and harmful venial sins when they multiply so greatly in a man that the same worldly things that he loves and through which he venially sins are as great in his heart as the love of God, or greater. 365 So the love of anything that is not set in God or done principally for God’s sake, though a man love it less than God, is a venial sin. And it’s mortal sin when the love of anything weighs as much or more in the heart of man as the love of God. “Deadly sin,” says Saint Augustine, “is when a man turns his heart from God, the supreme goodness that may not change, and gives his heart to something that may change and vary.” And surely that means everything save God in heaven. For truly if a man gives to a creature the love that he owes to God with all his heart, as much of his love as he gives to that creature he steals from God; and therefore he sins. He is a debtor to God but doesn’t pay all his debt, which is all the love of his heart. 370
Now since man understands generally what venial sin is, it’s appropriate to tell specially of sins that many a man perhaps doesn’t consider to be sins and thus doesn’t confess, though they truly are sins, as these clerks have written. Every time a man eats or drinks more than is sufficient to sustain his body, he is certainly sinning. It’s also a sin when he speaks more than needed. Also when he doesn’t hear graciously the complaint of the poor. Also when he’s in good health and, without reasonable cause, won’t fast when he should. And when he sleeps more than needed, or for the same reason is late for church or other charitable acts. Also when he uses his wife without the principal desire of engendering to the honor of God, or with the intent of paying to his wife the debt of his body. 375 Also when he won’t visit the sick and the prisoner if he may. Also if he loves his wife or child or some other worldly thing more than reason requires. Also if he flatters or blandishes more than he should for any necessity. Also if he reduces or withholds his alms to the poor. Also if he prepares his food more sumptuously than needed or eats too hastily because of fondness for delicious food. Also if he tells idle tales at church or at God’s service, or if he speaks idle words of folly or wickedness, for he shall account for it at the day of judgment. Also when he promises or gives a pledge that he will do things that he may not perform. Also when he thoughtlessly or in folly slanders or derides his neighbor. Also when he wickedly suspects something that he knows isn’t true. 380 These things and more without number are sins, as Saint Augustine says.
Men should now understand that although no earthly man may avoid all venial sins, one may curb himself by the burning love that he has for our Lord Jesus Christ, and by prayers and confession and other good works, so that it only disturbs a little. As Saint Augustine says, “If a man loves God in such a way that everything he does is truly in and for the love of God, because he burns with the love of God, a venial sin will annoy a man who is perfect in the love of Christ as much as a drop of water will annoy or hurt a furnace full of fire.” Men may also curb venial sin by receiving devoutly the precious body of Christ, 385 also by receiving holy water, by almsgiving, by general confession or Confiteor at mass and at compline, and by blessing of bishops and of priests and other good works.
Explicit secunda pars Penitencia
Sequitur de Septem Peccatis Mortabilibus et
dependenciis circumstanciis et speciebus
Now it is necessary to tell of the Seven Deadly Sins, that is, the capital sins. They all run on one leash but in different ways. They are called capital because they are the chief ones, the sources of all other sins. The root of these seven sins is Pride, the general root of all sins, for from this root spring certain branches, as Wrath, Envy, Accidie or Sloth, Avarice or (to common understanding) Covetousness, Gluttony, and Lechery. And each of these capital sins has its branches and twigs, as shall be told in the following sections.
Though no man can fully count the number of twigs and sins that come from Pride, I’ll show part of them as you will see. 390 There is Disobedience, Boasting, Hypocrisy, Disdain, Arrogance, Impudence, Haughtiness, Insolence, Contemptuousness, Impatience, Strife, Contumacy, Presumption, Irreverence, Perverse Obstinancy, Vainglory, and many another twig I cannot set down. Disobedient is he who disobeys the commandments of God, his sovereigns, and his spiritual father. A boaster is he who boasts of the evil or the good he has done. Hypocrite is he who doesn’t show himself as he is and shows what he is not. Disdainful is he who disdains his neighbor, that is, his fellow Christian, or who disdains to do what he should. 395 Arrogant is he who thinks that he has the good things in him that he doesn’t, or believes that he deserves to have them, or who judges himself to be what he isn’t. Impudent is he who for pride has no shame for his sins. Haughtiness is when a man rejoices in evil he has done. Insolent is he who despises all others in comparison with his own worth and his knowledge, speech, and bearing. Contemptuousness is when he may suffer neither master nor equal. 400 Impatient is he who will not be taught by or reproved for his vice, and who by strife knowingly makes war upon truth and defends his folly. Contumax is he who through his indignation is against every authority or power of those who are his rulers. Presumption is when a man undertakes an enterprise that he should not or may not do, and this is called audacity. Irreverence is when men do not honor those whom they should, but in turn wait with expectant desire to be reverenced. Perverse obstinancy is when a man defends his folly and trusts too much in his own intellect. Vainglory is to have pomp and delight in his temporal rank and to glorify himself in this worldly estate. 405 Jangling is when a man speaks too much before people, when he clatters like a mill and pays no attention to what he’s saying.
Yet there is a private sort of Pride that expects to be greeted first before greeting another though the latter may be worthier. He also expects or desires to sit in a higher place at table, to precede another in walking, kissing pax after mass, or being censed, or to precede his neighbor to the offering, or to do similar things contrary to propriety, all because he aims in the proud desire of his heart to be magnified and honored before the people.
Now there are two kinds of Pride, one within man’s heart and the other without. All that I’ve said and more belong to the Pride in man’s heart; the other kinds of Pride are without. 410 Yet one kind of Pride is a sign to the other, just as a tavern’s pleasant leafy arbor is a sign of the wine in the cellar. And this is noted in many things such as speech, bearing, and outrageous states of dress. If there had been no sin in clothing, Christ certainly would not so soon have noted and talked about the clothing of that rich man in the gospel. And Saint Gregory says that “precious clothing is blameworthy because of its costliness, softness, and newfangledness, and for its excess or inordinate scantiness.” Alas! can men today not see the sinful, costly states of dress, particularly the excess or immoderate scantiness? 415
As for the first sin, that of excessive clothing, it is expensive to the detriment of the people, not only in the costly embroidery, the ostentatious notched ornamentation, the undulating vertical strips, the coiling decorative borders, and such waste of cloth in vanity, but also in the costly fur in their gowns, so much punching with blades to make holes, and so much slitting with shears. Furthermore, the excessive length of these gowns, trailing in the dung and the mire, on horse as well as on foot, both of men and of women, is such that all that trailing cloth is in effect wasted, consumed, threadbare, and rotten with dung, rather than given to the poor, to their great loss. And that is in various ways; that’s to say, the more the cloth is wasted, the more it must cost the people for its scarcity. 420 And furthermore, if they were to give such punched and slit clothing to poor people, it would not be suitable to wear because of their estate, nor sufficient to relieve them from inclement weather.
On the other hand, to speak of the horribly immoderate scantiness of clothing, there are these short cut coats or short jackets that for their brevity, and with wicked intent, don’t cover men’s shameful members. Alas! some in their tight pants show their protruding shape, their horrible swollen members, till you’d think they had a hernia. And their buttocks look like the hind end of a she-ape at full moon. Moreover, the wretched swollen members that they show through newfangled clothing, in dividing their hose into white and red, make it look like half their shameful private parts were flayed. 425 And if they divide their hose into other colors, such as white and black, or white and blue, or black and red and so forth, then it seems by the variance of colors that half their private parts might be corrupted by Saint Anthony’s fire, or by cancer, or by some other mischance. The hindmost part of their buttocks is a real horror to see. For certainly that foul part of their bodies where they purge their stinking ordure they show people proudly in contempt of decency, the sort of decency that Jesus Christ and his friends took care to show during their lives. Now as to the outrageous dress of women, God knows that though the faces of some of them seem chaste and gracious enough, they indicate lechery and pride in their arrangement of apparel. 430 I don’t say that style in the clothing of a man or a woman is unsuitable, but certainly excessive or immoderately scanty clothing is blameworthy.
The sin of adornment or ornamentation may also be found in riding, as in too many elegant horses, fair, fat, and costly, being kept for pleasure. And many a base rogue is kept because of them; there’s also overly sumptuous harness such as saddlebags, cruppers, poitrels, and bridles covered with precious cloth and rich bars and plates of gold and silver. Thus God says through the prophet Zechariah: “I will confound the riders of such horses.” These people take little note of the riding and harness of God’s Son of heaven, when he rode upon the ass with no other trappings but the poor clothes of his disciples. Nor do we read that he ever road on any other beast. 435 I say this with regard to the sin of excess and not to sensible style. Pride, moreover, is notably found in maintaining a great retinue when of little or no profit, especially when that retinue, in the insolence of their high or official position, are cruel and abusive to the people. Certainly such lords sell their authority to the devil in hell when they support the wickedness of their retinue, as do people of low degree such as those who keep hostelries and support theft by their servants in many kinds of deceits. 440 Those kinds of people are the flies that seek honey or the hounds that seek carrion. Such people strangle their authority, and the prophet David says this about them: “Let death come upon their authority and let them go down alive into hell, for in their houses are iniquities and wickedness and not the God of heaven.” Certainly they may make amends, but just as God gave his blessing to Laban by the service of Jacob and to Pharoah by the service of Joseph, God will give his curse to authorities who support their servants’ wickedness unless they come to amendment.
Pride in one’s table appears very frequently, for certainly rich men are invited to feasts and poor people are turned away with rebuke. The excess appears in the different kinds of food and drink, particularly those foods baked in pastry shells and serving dishes, with flames of burning spirits and painted and castellated with paper, all such waste that it’s an outrage to imagine. 445 Also in utensils so precious and music so elaborate that a man is stirred all the more to pleasures of lust. If he thereby sets his heart less upon our Lord Jesus Christ, it is surely a sin, and certainly the pleasures might be so great in this case that through them a man might easily fall into sin that is mortal. Truly the kinds that arise from Pride, when they arise from premeditated evil, considered and planned, or from habit, are without doubt mortal sins. When they arise from unpremeditated weakness, and as suddenly disappear, I guess they’re not mortal although they’re grave sins.
Now men might ask where Pride comes from. I’d say that sometimes it springs from the good things bestowed by nature, sometimes from the benefits bestowed by fortune, and sometimes from the blessings bestowed by God’s grace. 450 To be sure, the good things bestowed by nature consist either in goods of the body or goods of the soul. The goods of the body are health, strength, agility, beauty, nobility of birth, and freedom. The goods of the soul are good intellect, acute understanding, subtle ingenuity, native ability, and good memory. Benefits bestowed by fortune are riches, high degrees of lordships, and people’s praise. The blessings bestowed by God’s grace are such things as personal knowledge, power to endure spiritual suffering, benignity, virtuous contemplation, and withstanding temptation. 455 For a man to pride himself in any of these goods is great folly. Considering the good things bestowed by nature, God knows that sometimes we have by nature as much harm as profit. Bodily health, for example, departs very quickly and is often the cause of the sickness of our souls. The flesh, God knows, is a great enemy to the soul, so the more healthy the body the more we’re in danger of falling. To take pride in the strength of one’s body is foolish as well. For the flesh strives eagerly against the spirit, and the stronger the flesh the sorrier will the soul be. And on top of all this, bodily strength and worldly rashness drive a man very often to peril and disaster. 460 To take pride in one’s nobility also is folly. Often the nobility of the body destroys that of the soul; we are in any case all from one father and one mother, we are all of one nature, rotten and corrupt, both the rich and the poor. Truly only one kind of nobility is praiseworthy, that which adorns a man’s spirit with virtues and moral qualities and makes him a good Christian. Trust well, whichever man sin has mastery of is a perfect slave to sin.
Now there are general signs of nobility such as avoiding vice, debauchery, and servitude to sin in word, work, and manner; practicing virtue, courtesy, and purity; and being liberal, that is, generous in moderation, for that which surpasses moderation is folly and sin. 465 Another is to remember kindnesses one has received from other people. Another is to be benign to one’s good subordinates; as Seneca says, “There is nothing more appropriate to a man of high estate than graciousness and pity. When these flying insects that men call bees make their king, they choose one that has no prick to sting with.” Another is for a man to have a noble and diligent heart to accomplish highly virtuous deeds.
Now certainly for a man to pride himself in the blessings of God’s grace is also outrageous folly, for the gift of grace that should have directed him to goodness and remedy directs him to poison and ruin, as says Saint Gregory. 470 Surely also a man who prides himself in the benefits bestowed by fortune is a very great fool. For sometimes he who was a great lord in the morning is a miserable wretch before nightfall. And sometimes a man’s riches are the cause of his death; his sensual pleasures are sometimes the cause of the grave malady from which he dies. Indeed, popular approbation is sometimes too false and fickle to trust–today they praise, tomorrow they blame. The desire to have the people’s approbation has caused the death, God knows, of many an eager man.
Remedium contra peccatum Superbie
Since you understand what Pride is, what its parts are, and where it comes from, 475 you shall now understand Pride’s remedy, which is humility and meekness. That is the virtue through which a man has true self-knowledge, not esteeming nor respecting himself with regard to his just deserts but being always aware of his moral weakness. Now there are three kinds of humility: of heart, of mouth, and of deed. Humility of heart is of four types. One is when a man considers himself worth nothing before God of heaven. Another is when he despises no other man. The third is when he doesn’t care if men think him worthless. The fourth is when he isn’t sorry for his humility. 480 Humility of mouth is also fourfold: moderate speech, humility of speech, confession with one’s own mouth that he’s just as he thinks he is in his heart, and praise for rather than belittling of another man’s goodness. Humility in deeds is of four kinds as well. The first is when one puts other men before himself. The second is to choose the lowest place in every way. The third is to assent gladly to good counsel. The fourth is to accept gladly the decision of one’s sovereign or whoever is in higher degree. Certainly this is a great act of humility.
Sequitur de Invidia
After Pride I will speak of the foul sin of Envy, which according to the philosopher is “sorrow over another man’s prosperity”; and Saint Augustine says it is “sorrow over other men’s good fortune and joy over other men’s misfortune.” This foul sin is directly against the Holy Ghost. Although every sin is against the Holy Ghost, goodness belongs naturally to the Holy Ghost, so Envy, coming naturally from malice, is naturally against that goodness. 485 Now malice has two species: one is hardness of heart in wickedness, or such blindness of the flesh that man isn’t aware or doesn’t think he’s in sin, which is the hardness of the devil. The other species of malice is when a man wars against truth when he knows it’s the truth, and when he wars against the grace that God has given his neighbor. And all this concerns Envy. Certainly, then, Envy is the worst sin that can be. Any other sin is only opposed to one special virtue, but Envy is against all virtues and all goodness. For it is sorry for all the goodness of one’s neighbor, making it different from all other sins. There is scarcely any sin that doesn’t have within it some delight, but Envy has within it only anguish and sorrow. 490
The kinds of Envy are three. The first is sorrow over another man’s goodness and prosperity, and since prosperity is naturally a matter of joy, Envy is a sin against nature. The second kind of Envy is joy over another man’s misfortune, and that’s naturally like the devil who always rejoices in man’s suffering. From these two kinds comes backbiting, and this sin of backbiting or detraction has certain parts as follows. Sometimes a man praises his neighbor with wicked intent, for at the end he always makes a wicked point, makes a “but,” more deserving of blame than the rest is worthy of praise. The second kind is when the backbiter with wicked intent turns upside down all the goodness of a man’s action or words. 495 The third is to belittle the goodness of his neighbor. The fourth kind of backbiting happens after men speak well of someone; the backbiter, despising him whom they praise, will say, “By my faith, there’s another man better than he.” The fifth kind is gladly to consent and listen to the evil that men speak of other people. This is a great sin that constantly increases in proportion to the backbiter’s wicked intent.
After backbiting comes grumbling or complaining; sometimes it springs from impatience with God and sometimes with man. It’s with God when a man grumbles against the pain of hell, poverty, loss of property, or rain or storm; he grumbles either that scoundrels have prosperity or that good men have adversity. 500 All these things a man should suffer patiently, for they come from the just judgment and ordering of God. Sometimes grumbling comes from avarice, as when Judas grumbled against Mary Magdalene when she anointed the head of our Lord Jesus Christ with her precious ointment. This kind of muttered complaint is like a man grumbling about the goodness that he himself does or what other people do with their property. Sometimes complaining comes from Pride, as when Simon the Pharisee grumbled against Mary Magdalene when she approached Jesus Christ and wept at his feet for her sins. And sometimes grumbling arises from Envy, as when one discloses a man’s private misfortune or accuses him falsely of something. 505 Servants often complain, grumbling when their lord bids them do lawful things. As they dare not openly refuse to obey their lord’s commandments, for sheer spite they will speak ill and grumble, complaining in private. Men call these words the devil’s Pater noster; though the devil never had any Pater noster, the ignorant folk give it such a name. Sometimes it comes from Anger or private hate, which nourishes rancor in the heart as I shall refer to hereafter. Then comes bitterness of heart, through which every good deed of one’s neighbor seems bitter or displeasing. 510 Then comes discord that dissolves all sorts of friendships. Then comes scorn of one’s neighbor although he does ever so well. Then comes accusation, when a man seeks a pretext to annoy his neighbor, which is like the craft of the devil who waits night and day to accuse us all. Then comes malignity through which a man annoys his neighbor privately if he can; if he can’t, nevertheless his wicked will shall not fail to burn his house secretly, or poison or slay his beasts, and such things as that.
Remedium contra peccatum Invidie
I will now speak of the remedy for this foul sin of Envy. First and foremost is the love of God, and loving one neighbor’s as oneself, for truly the one may not exist without the other. 515 And trust well that in the name of your neighbor you shall understand the name of your brother, for we all have physically one father and one mother, that is, Adam and Eve, and one spiritual father, God of heaven. You are obliged to love your neighbor and desire for him all goodness. Thus God says, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” for salvation both of life and of soul. Moreover, you shall love him in word, including kindly admonition and chastisement, and comfort him in afflictions, and pray for him w