¶ Lustneth, alle, a lutel throwe,
Ye that wolleth ouselve yknowe.
Unwys thah Y be,
Ichulle telle ou, ase Y con,
Hou Holy Wryt speketh of mon:
Herkneth nou to me!
The holy man sayth in is bok
That mon is worm ant wormes kok,
Ant wormes he shal vede;
When is lif is hym byreved,
In is rug ant in ys heued
He shal foule wormes brede.
The fleyhs shal rotie from the bon,
The senewes untuen everuchon,
The body shal tofye.
Ye that wolleth that sothe ysuen —
Under grases, ther hue buen,
Byholdeth wet ther lye!
Mon is mad of feble fom,
Ne hath he no syker hom,
To stunte allewey stille;
Ys ryhte stude is elleswher —
Jesu, bring us alle ther
Yef hit be thy wille.
The fleysh stont ageyn the gost.
When thou shalt deye ner thou nost,
Nouther day ne nyht.
On stede ne sitte thou ner so heye,
Yet, alast, thou shalt deye.
Greyth the whil thou myht!
In false wonyng is monnes lyf.
When Deth draweth is sharpe knyf,
Do the sone to shryve.
For yef thou const loke ariht,
Nast thou nothyng bote fyht
Whil thou art alyve.
Nou thou hast wrong, ant nou ryht;
Nou thou art hevy, ant nou lyht;
Thou lepest ase a roo.
Nou thou art sekest, ant nou holest;
Nou thou art rychest, ant nou porest —
Nis this muche woo?
Thy fleysh ne swyketh nyht ne day;
Hit wol han eyse whil hit may,
Ant the soule sayth, “Nay,
Yef Ich the buere to muche meth,
Thou wolt me bringe to helle-deth,
Ant wo that lesteth ay.”
Thus hit geth bituene hem tuo —
That on saith, “Let!” That other seyth, “Do!”
Ne conne hue nout lynne.
Wel we mowe alle yse:
The soule shulde maister be,
The pris forte wynne.
Ne be thou nout thi fleysh uncouth;
Loke wet cometh out of thy mouth
Ant elleswher wythoute.
Yef thou nymest wel god keep,
Ne fyndest thou non so fyl dung heep
Ant thou loke aboute.
Nou thou hast in that foul hous
A thyng that is ful precious;
Ful duere hit ys aboht.
Icholde the ful wilde ant wod
Yef thou lesest so muche god,
Ant yevest hit for noht.
Mon, be war ant eke wis:
Yef thou fallest, sone arys;
Ne ly thou none stounde.
With al thi myhte thou do this,
Thy soule sit — ant soth hit ys —
Blysse, Ichave yfounde.
Mon, thou havest wicked fon
(The alreworst is that on),
Here nomes Y shal telle:
Thyn oune Fleysh, thy worldes fend
That best shulde be thy frend,
That most doth the to quelle.
Thou clothest him in feir shroud,
Ant makest thy fomon fat ant proud,
Yef Y durste seyn.
Thou dest thyselve muche wrong;
Thou makest him bo fat ant strong
To fyhte the ageyn.
Do my counsail ant my reed:
Withdrah hym ofte of is breed,
Ant yef him water drynke;
Ne let hym nothing ydel go,
Bote pyne do hym ant wo,
Ant ofte let hym swynke.
Coveytise of mony thyng
The World the bringeth, in fleish lykyng,
Ant yeveth the more ant more.
Fals he is ant feyr he semeth:
Arlebest, when he the quemeth,
He byndeth the fol sore.
Thenne shal he go to notht:
Nast thou nothing hyder ybroht,
Ne nout shalt buere wyth the.
Thou shalt alone go thy wey,
Withoute stede ant palefrey,
Withoute gold ant fee.
Lucifer, that foule wyht,
That wes himselve so feyr ant bryht,
Thurh prude fel to helle.
With foule wille ant foul thoht,
He fondeth bringe the to noht,
Ant the forte quelle.
Thench that he the nes nout god,
He wolde have thyn huerte blod —
War the for his hoke!
Do nou ase Ichave the seyd,
Ant alle thre shule ben aleyd
With huere foule croke.
Yef thou seist my spel ys hard,
That thou ne mist this foreward
Holde ne dreye.
A lutel thyng Y aske the:
Sey me soth, par charite,
Therof that thou ne lye.
Wher beth hue byforen us were?
Lordes, ledyes, that hauekes bere,
Haden feld ant wode?
The ryche ledies in huere bour,
That wereden gold on huere tressour,
With huere bryhte rode?
Hue eten ant dronken ant maden huem glad;
Huere lyf al with joie ylad;
Me knelede huem byfore.
Hue beren huem so swythe heye,
Ant in a twynglyng of an eye,
So hue buen forlore!
Wher bueth hue, thy wedes longe?
This muchele murthe, joie ant songe?
This hauekes ant this houndes?
Al that weole is wend away,
Ant al is turnd to “weylaway,”
To monye harde stoundes.
Huere parais hue maden here,
Ant nou hue liggeth in helle yfere —
That fur huem berneth ever!
Stronge y pyne, ant stronge in wo,
Longe is ay, ant longe ys o —
Out ne cometh hue never!
Yef the Feond, the foule thyng,
Thourh wycked werk other eggyng,
Adoun hath the ycast,
Up ant be god champioun!
Stond ant fal no more adoun
For a lutel blast.
Tac the rode to thy staf,
Ant thenke on him that for the gaf
His lyf that wes so luef.
He hit gef, thou thonke hym;
Ageyn thy fo, such staf thou nym,
Ant wreke the on that thuef!
¶ Listen, everyone, for a moment,
You who want to know yourselves.
Though I be unwise,
I’ll tell you, as I know,
How Holy Writ speaks of man:
Hearken now to me!
The holy man says in his book
That man is worm and food for worms,
And worms he shall feed;
When his life is stolen from him,
In his rib and in his head
He shall breed foul worms.
The flesh shall rot from the bone,
All the sinews come unbound,
The body shall decay.
You who want to see the truth —
Under grass, there they are,
Behold what lies there!
Man is made of feeble froth,
He doesn’t have a stable home,
To pause ever still;
His proper place is elsewhere —
Jesus, bring us all there
If it be your will.
The flesh stands against the soul.
You’ll never know when you shall die,
Neither day nor night.
In seat no matter how high you sit,
Still, in the end, you shall die.
Prepare while you can!
In false housing is man’s life.
When Death draws his sharp knife,
Go soon to confession.
For if you might see truthfully,
You are nothing but a battle
While you are alive.
Now you’ve done wrong, and now right;
Now you’re heavy, and now light;
You’re restless as a roe.
Now you’re sickest, and now healthiest;
Now you’re richest, and now poorest —
Isn’t this quite woeful?
Your flesh won’t toil night or day;
It wants comfort whenever it may,
And the soul says, “No,
If I allow you too much leisure,
You’ll want to bring me to hell-death,
And woe that lasts forever.”
Thus it goes between them two —
That one says, “Stop!” That other says, “Do!”
They’re not able to quit.
Truly we must all perceive:
The soul should be the master,
So as to win the prize.
Be not unseemly in your flesh;
Watch what comes out of your mouth
And out from other places.
If you pay very good attention,
You’ll never find so foul a dung heap
If you look about.
Now you have in that foul house
A thing that’s very precious;
Quite dearly is it purchased.
I think you extremely wayward and mad
If you lose so much good,
And give it away for nothing.
Man, be wary and also wise:
If you fall, quickly get up;
Don’t lie down for an instant.
If you do this with all your power,
Your soul shall sit — and true it is —
In bliss, I have discovered.
Man, you have wicked foes
(The worst of all is that one),
Their names I shall reveal:
Your own Flesh, your worldly foe
Who best should be your friend,
He does the most to kill you.
You clothe him in a fair garment,
And make your enemy fat and proud,
If I may dare say.
You do yourself great wrong;
You make him both fat and strong
In order to fight against you.
Follow my counsel and my advice:
Often withhold from him his food,
And give him water to drink;
Don’t allow him to be idle at all,
But cause him pain and suffering,
And often make him toil.
Greediness for many things
The World brings you, in fleshly desire,
And gives you more and more.
False he is and fair he seems:
Most of all, when he pleases you,
He binds you very sorely.
Then shall he change to nothingness:
You’ve brought nothing hither,
And shall bear nothing with you.
You’ll go your way alone,
Without steed or horse,
Without gold or money.
Lucifer, that evil creature,
Who was himself so fair and bright,
Through pride fell to hell.
With evil will and evil intent,
He plots to bring you to nought,
And to make you die.
Should he think you’re not good,
He’ll plan to have your life-blood —
Beware of his hook!
Do now as I’ve advised you,
And all three shall be allayed
With their wicked tricks.
If you say my teaching is hard,
That this contract you’re unable
To hold or perform,
A little thing I ask of you:
Tell me truly, for charity,
That you won’t lie about it.
Where are they who before us went?
Lords, ladies, who bore hawks,
Ruled field and wood?
The rich ladies in their bowers,
Who wore gold on their hairnets,
With their bright complexions?
They ate and drank and pleased themselves;
They led their lives entirely in joy;
Men kneeled before them.
They bore themselves so very proudly,
And in a twinkling of an eye,
Thus are they gone!
Where are they, your sumptuous robes?
This plentiful mirth, joy and song?
These hawks and these hounds?
All that wealth is gone away,
And all is turned to “wailaway,”
To many difficult times.
They made their paradise here,
And now they lie in hell together —
That fire burns them forever!
Fiercely in pain, and fiercely in woe,
Long is ever, and long is always —
Escape may they never!
If the Fiend, the evil thing,
Through wicked deed or urging,
Has cast you down,
Get up and be a good champion!
Stand and fall down no more
For a little setback.
Take the cross as your staff,
And remember him who for you gave
His life that was so precious.
He gave it, you must thank him;
Against your foe, grab such a staff,
And avenge yourself on that thief!
(see note); (t-note)