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Appendix 1: Sources


1 The manuscript reads sche this. Perhaps the translator is attempting to indicate that the Latin demon­strative hanc is feminine.

2 The manuscript reads here I spokene.

3 There may be a word missing in the text here; Horstmann suggests “desire.”

4 Excerpted from Thomas H. Bestul’s edition (2000).

5 Transcribed from the manuscript.

6 Wynkyn de Worde’s translation here reads “Sothly he is both in us and in us,” but this is clearly a mistranslation of the Latin.

7 Excerpted from A. Lauer’s edition.

8 C. Horstmann, Yorkshire Writers, prose texts vol. 1, pp. 110–12; verse text vol. 2, pp. 455–56; Smart, Some English and Latin Sources and Parallels, pp. 34–35.

The following excerpts have been reedited for this volume unless otherwise noted. For full citations to complete editions of the extracted texts, see the bibliography.


The passage which clarifies the uncertain reading of line 347 appears frequently in both prose and verse texts of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries; examples of both are given here. The Gesta Romanorum (Deeds of the Romans) was a very popular text which survives in a large num­ber of manuscripts, and may well be the source for the line, though it appears fre­quently in lyrics of the period as well.


This is redde in the Cronycles of Rome that in the tyme of Antynyane the Emperour in the Citee of Rome befille [happened, befell] a grete pestilence of men and bestes and grete hungre in all the Empire. The comons risen agayn [against] her lordes and agayn her emperour.

The Emperour desired to wite [know] the cause of the tribulacions and diseases and, disposed hym forto putte a remedie agayn the forsaid disease, he called to hym foure wise Philisophers forto shew hym the cause of the grete vengeaunce.

Of the whiche philisophers the first said thus, “Gifte [reward, bribery] is domesman [judge] and gile [guile, deceit] is chapman [merchant], the grete hold no lawe, servantes have none awe.”

The second said, “Witte [wit, skill, craft] is turned to trechery, and love into lechery. The holy day into Glotonye, and gentrie [gentility] into vilanye.”

The third said, “Wise men are but scorned, and wedowes be sore yerned [harassed]; grete men are but glosed [flattered], and smale men born downe and mysloved [disliked, hated].”

The fourthe said, “Lordes wexen [become] blynde and kynnesmen ben unkynde; dethe out of mynde, and threwthe [truth] mayh no man fynde.”




Gift is made domesman,
Gyle is made chapman,
Lordes ben lawles,
And children ben awles.
Witte is torned to trechery,
Love is torened to lecher,
Pleye is torne to vilany,
And haliday to gloteny.
Olde men ben skorned,
Wymmen ben wowed.
Riche men ben pleasid,
And poremen ben diseasid.
Wise men ben blynde,
And kynrede is unkynde.
The dede is out of mynde;
Trew friende can noman fynde.
Reward (Bribery); judge
Guile; merchant

without awe or reverence
Wit (Skill, Craft)

Sport (Play)

wooed (harassed)


kindred (family)


The source material for the play which is printed here does not include the Bible, from which a number of passages derive. In particular, the opening conversation between Wis­dom (Christ) and Anima relies heavily on the love-poetry of the Canticles, from which several direct quotations are taken.


The Orologium Sapientiae (Timekeeper of Wisdom) by the German mystic Heinrich Suso (c. 1295–1366) provided a substantial part of the first section of the play. The author did not use Heinrich’s Latin text, but rather the anonymous English translation which was produced in the mid-fifteenth century under the title The Sevene Poyntes of Trewe Love and Everlastynge Wis­dame. At least eight complete manuscripts of the English version survive, as well as five partial texts, and it was printed by William Caxton in 1491. The correspondence between the two texts is often very close; the playwright frequently preserves both the vocab­ulary and the sentence structure of the treatise. The passages printed here represent the closest corres­pondences between the two texts; a comparison of the play with its source is in­structive from the point of view both of the author’s use of the wording of the treatise as well as of his omissions. Also, many of the play’s biblical quotations (both canonical and apocryphal) are taken directly from the English translation of Heinrich rather than from the Vulgate Bible or other standard sources. The text given here is taken from Oxford Bod­leian Library, MS Douce 114, fols. 89v–148r.

(MS Douce 114, fols. 93r–94r; compare Wisdom, lines 1–79)

The maystere [teacher], everlastynge Wisdam, seyde, “First of the properté of the name and the love of everlastynge Wisdam, and how the discyple schalle have hym in felynge of that love bothe in beternesse and in swetnesse. First, if thou wolt wite [know] the properté and resone of my name, thou schalt understande that I am clepede [called] of hem that livene in erthe everlastynge Wisdam. The whiche name is most convenient and best acordynge to myne nobleye [nobility]. For thoughe hit so be that everye persone of the Holye Trinité taken by hit-selfe is Wisdam, and alle the persones to-gydere one everlastynge Wisdam, neverthelese, for als miche [much] as Wisdam is properlye applyede to the Sone and also hit falleth [pertains] to him by resone of his generacione [birth] specialye [espe­cially], therefore the bylovede Sone of the Fadere is takene and under­stande in that manere significacione of Wisdame custumablye [usually], nowe as Godde and nowe as manne, nowe as he that is spouse of his Chirche and nowe as sche that is spouse and wyfe of everye chosene soule, that maye seye of everlastyng Wisdam in thees wordes of the Boke of Wisdam: “Hanc amavi et exquisivi a juventute mea et quesivi eam sponsam mi assumere, et amator factus sum forme illius.” That is to seye, “She1 I have loveded and I have utterlye souhte fro [from] myne youthe and I have desyrede for to have to mye spouse, and I am made a lovere of hir forme and schappe [appearance].” And also in the selfe [same] book thus, “Super salutem et omnem pulcritudinem dilexi sapienciam et proposui pro luce habere illam, venerunt mi omnia bona pariter cum illa.” “Abovene heele [health] and alle bewté I have lovede Wisdam and I have purposede for to have hir as for mye lihte, and alle godes [good things] have comene to me with hir.” Also of mye worthinesse hit is writen thus: “Sapiencia speciosior est sole et super omnem disposicionem stellarum luci comparata invenitur prior, candor est enim lucis eterne et speculum sine macula divine majestatis et ymago bonitatis illius.” That is to seye, “Wisdam is feyrere thanne sonne and in comparisone of hir to liht she is foundene [found] passynge above alle the disposicione [display] of ster­res, she is forsothe the bryhtnesse of ever­lastynge liht and the mirrour without of Goddes majesté and the ymage of his godenesse.” Also thus: “Melior est sapiencia cuntis opibus preciosissimis et omne desiderabile non potest ei comparari, longitudo dierum in dextra ejus et in sinistra illius divicie et gloria.” “Wisdam is bettur thanne alle manere of moste preciouse godes, and alle that may be desyreded may not be in comparisone lyke to hir; the lengh of yeres is in hire right syde and in hir lift [left] seyde richesses and joye.”

And thus miche [much] touchygne the propreté and the worthenesse of mye name. But nowe, tochinge my love, beholde with a joyefulle mynde how hable I am to be lovede, howe lovelye to be clippede [embraced] and kyssede of a clene soule. O blessede is that soule to wham [whom] is grauntede in alle here lyfe, thouhe [though] it be but one tyme, to feele that hit be so. And thouh hit be so that deth falle [happen] therebye, hit schalle not be to him grevouse. For, sothelye, I am ever redye to him that lovethe me for to love ayene­warde [in return], and with him I am present in chirche and atte borde [meal], in the weye and in cloyster and in the market, so that there is no place but that there is present charité of Godde; for amonge alle othere spouses the goddelye Wisdam hath this sengulere [unique] propreté that sche may be present overalle to the desyre of hire lovere, and alle the sihynges [lamentations] for hire and desyres and all maner dedes and servyses sche as present knoweth anone. Also the sengulere prerogatyfe [ad­vantage] of mye godenesse and love is so grete that, whoso tasteth therof thouh hit be but one lytele drope, aftere that he schalle halde alle the lustes and lykynges of the worlde but as dritte [dirt]. Mye love descharges [absolves] hem [them] that beth overleyde with the hevé birthene [burden] of sinnes, hit purifyeth and maketh clene the conscience, hit strengtheth the mynde and the soule, hit gevith fredam to hem that beth parfyte, and cow­pleth [joins] and knitte hem [them] to here [their] everlastynge beginnynge. And what more — whoso taketh me into [as] his spouse and loveth me above alle thinge, he lyveth with tranquillyte and reste, he deeth [dies] with sykernesse [certainty (of salvation)], and in a manere he biginneth here the blisse and the joyes that schole [shall] laste ever worlde withoute ende.

We spekene manye thinges and yite [yet] we faylene [fail] in oure wordes, for the hye worthinesse of mye love there maye none tunge of menne ne of aungeles pleynlye telle; hit maye be in experience felt, but hit may not be fullye tolde or spokene, and therefore alle thees wordes of the makynge of goddelye love beth but as sodenlye rathere owt caste than in effecte plenerlye [more clearly] fulle spokene.

Thenne seyde the discyple to himselfe thus, “O Lorde Godde, howe manye gode thinges have2 sovereynlye [supremely] fayre and worthi spouse! Why thanne makest thou dissimu­lacione or feynynge, whye assayest [test] not whether thou mayht have hire in to thi amyke [friend] or love? O, howe blessede were thou if thou mihteste wede [marry, wed] hir and have hir into [as] thi spouse! For thou art yonge and able to love, and ther maye none herte so clene be so solitarye by lakke of love. Wherefore nowe in fulle delibera­cione I have utterlye sette that I schalle putte myeselfe to the deth, so that I maye hir gete in to amyke and spouse of me.”

And thanne everlastynge Wisdam with a gladde and graciose chere [coun­tenance] godelye salvede [greeted] hym and seyde schortlye [briefly] in thees wordes, “Fili, prebe mi cor tuum.” “Sone, giffe me thi herte!”

(MS Douce 114, fols. 91r–92r; compare Wisdom, lines 100–04)

This passage appears somewhat earlier in the treatise than the previous one. Here, the Disciple describes the various schools of worldly wisdom in which he has previously studied prior to discovering the School of True Divinity, and the passage explains the — otherwise slightly odd — line in which Anima asks Wisdom to “Teche me the scolys of your dyvynyté” (line 100). The line can be understood approximately by taking “scolys” to mean “doc­trines,” but its background in this passage makes the author’s choice of word much clearer. The passage also provides a direct source for lines 101–04.

There was sumtyme a devout discyple of Wisdam, the whiche aftere that in his youthe hadde gone to diverse scoles and lerede sere [many] sciences of mannus [man’s] doc­trine and worldlye wisdam, aftere he cam to more age and was towchede bye3 to the trewe love of oure Lorde Jhesu, him thouhte miche [much] veyne [unprofitable] travayle [labor] in the forseyde sciences, wherefor he preyede continuelye and devoutlye to Godde, that he wolde not suffre him to departe from this lyfe til he cam to the knowe­lechyng and the kunynge [understanding] of sothefast [true] and sovereyne philosophye. And in the mene tyme as he went fro [from] studye to studye and fro scole to scole, sechynge bisilye that [that which] he desirede, but in none manere sothefastlye [truly] fyndynge but onelye as a ymage or a liknesse thereoffe, befelle upon a tyme, as he was in hees devoute meditaciones and preyeres, there aperede to his siht as hit were a wondere grete and large rounde hous like to the spere [sphere] of the firmamente, alle of brihte schinynge golde, sette alle aboute with fayre preciouse stones, in the whiche hous, that was departede [separ­ated] in the middes, there were tweyn [two] mansiones, one above and anothere benethene [below], and eche of hem continede diverse doctours and maystres and wondere fele [many] disciples accordyng to hem. In the nethere [lower] mansione were maystres and discyples of alle naturele sciences and of alle craftes undere sonne, the wheche alle haddene [had] as hit were a manere [kind of] veyle upon here faces, and amonge the grete swinke [labor] and travayle that they haddene eche off heme [them] in his science and craft, thei were com­fortede with a manere of swete drinke, the whiche quenchede not fullye here thriste; but hit, generynge [producing] a manere of dryenesse, made hem more thristlewe [thirsty] and more.

And whan the forseyde disciple hadde abedene [remained] a while in thoo [those] scoles and tastede of here drinke, his stomake overturnede and beganne to have a vomyte. Wherefore he laft thoo scoles and forsoke thees sciences, and went up to the seconde man­sione, the whiche was wondere feyre and diverse-maner curioselye depeyntede [painted] and arayede [decorated]. And whanne he come thereto and stode before the dore, he fonde ther this manere superscripcione, “This is the scole of sothfaste [true] divinyté, where the mays­tresse [mistress] is everlastynge Wisdam, the doctrine is verité and trewth, and the ende everlastynge felicité.” And whanne he hadde radde [read] this superscripcione, in alle hast he entrede in to that scole, coveitynge [desiring] with alle his inwarde desyre to be made a discyple of that scole, wherebye he hopede to come to that ende that he hadde longtyme desyrede.

But in this scole were thre ordres bothe of discyples and of doctours. Summe setene [sat] on the grounde bye the dore, the wheche lakkedene [lacked] trewe taste of divinyté and haddene here beholdynge [vision] and siht to [on] thoo [those] thinges that were without­forthe [external]. Thei that were of the secounde ordre, profytede not ferventlye, but in a manere semede [seemed] as thei stodene stille. But thei that were of the thridde ordre, setene [sat] nihe [near] the maystre and thei, drinkynge the water of helefulle [health­ful, tending towards salvation] Wisdam that came out of his mouthe, thei were made so drunkene that thei foryetene [forgot] hemselfe [themselves] and alle othere worldlye thinges, havynge here [their] hertes and here eyene [eyes] ever upwarde to the mayster and fer­ventlye ravischede in to his love and hevenelye thinges.

And whenne the discyple hadde bisilye [carefully] beholdene thees thinges, he was gret­lye awondrede, and namelye of that thinge that in one scole and of one sothfastnesse [truth] ther was so grete diversité and unliknesse in manye maystres and discyples. And thanne he herde, as him thouhte [it seemed to him], a voyce, spekynge to him in thes manere wordes, “Thoo [Those] thre ordres that thou hast seene, beth thre manere of studiying and techynge holye writte [scripture]. The first manere is fleschelye, and that havene thei that bene copiose and habundant in the letterere [lettered] science [knowledge] without the spiryte, the wheche the more kunynge [understanding] that thei bene, the more thei bene blowne [inflated] and fillede with pryde, and bene noyes [harmful] both to hemselfe and to othere, the wheche sekene not in here kunynge [knowledge] Goddes wirchepe and lovynge or to soule-hele [salvation] and edificacione of hemselfe and othere, but thei bisiyne [con­cern] hem [them] onelye about here owne worldlye promocione [advancement]. The secounde manere of lerenynge and techynge holye writ is bestelye [brutishly], and that is in hem that in scole-excersyse in a symple manere sechene thoo thinges that bene nedefulle to soule-hele, but thei beth necligente and slowe to profyte in the fervour of charité and love to Godde and hevenelye thinges. The thridde manere is spirituele and gostlye, and that is in hem that with alle here mihtes and hertlye affecciones travayle [labor] and bysyene [busy] hem to gete thoo thinges that longene [belong] to perfeccione, so that, as here understand­ynge pro­fyteth in kunynge [understanding], so here [their] soule and here affeccione be fillede with the Wisdam of God­de, the wheche tastene and beholdene the swetnesse of oure Lorde, and be [by] here kunynge of holye write techene and ledene hemselfe and othere in to blessede ende.”

Wherefore the forseyde discyple, levynge alle the tothere [others], soverenlye [particu­larly] desyrede to have his abidynge and dwellynge with hem, and offrede him to be with hem [them] a trewe discyple of that hevenelye maystre, everlastynge Wisdam. And so he, neyhinge [drawing near] to the mayster, beganne to speke to him in this manere, “O thou sovereyne and everlastynge Wisdam, sithene hit is so that alle menne by kynde [nature] de­syrene [desire] for to have kunynge, and in thee, universele prynce and auctor [creator] of kynde, alle manere tresores of wisdam and kunynge beth hidde, and also thou art makere of alle thinge and hast alle manere of science and alle thinge thou seest and knowest. Therefore I aske of thee with a gredye [greedy] desyre of alle mye hert that thou opune to me the tresoreye of thi sovereyn Wisdam, and that compendioslye [thoroughly] and in schorte [brief] wordes, for thei that nowe bethe lovene and haveth likynge in schorte speche, and of makynge bokes is none ende — alle the worlde is fillede with dyverse doctrines, and there beth a twosende [thousand] manere of livynge: one liveth in this man­ere and anothere in that manere. Ther beth so manye bokes and tretees [treatises] of vyces and vertues and of dyverse doctrynes, that this schort lyve schalle rathere have an ende of anye manne thanne he maye owthere studye hem or rede hem. Wherefore, thou everlastynge sovereyne Wisdam, I desyre and aske of thee that thou teche me in schort manere that hevenelye divinité, the whiche without errour standeth in thi Wisdam and in trewe love of thee, blessede Jhesu.”

The mayster, everlastynge Wisdam, answerede thus, “Mye dere sone, wille thou noht savere [take pleasure] in kunynge to hye [too much], but drede [beware]! Here me nowe and I schalle teche the thinges that beth [will be] profitable to thee. I schall give thee a chosen gifte, for myne doctryne schalle be thi lyfe. Wherefore, takynge oure biginnynge of helefulle [healthy, tending toward salvation] disciplyne at the drede of Godde, the wheche is the be­ginnynge of Wisdam, I shalle teche thee by order seven poyntes of mye love, whereinne stant [stands] soverene Wisdam and the perfeccion of alle gode and rihtwis [righteous] lyvynge in this worlde.”

B. Walter Hilton’s The Scale of Perfection4

The fourteenth-century mystic Walter Hilton (c. 1330–1396) studied law, probably at Cam­bridge, before entering the priesthood and becoming an Augustinian canon at the abbey of Thurgarton, Nottinghamshire, where he is likely to have become head of the abbey. His spiritual treatise The Scale of Perfection is a comprehensive manual for living a holy life, focusing in particular on the idea that the soul must be purified of all sin before union with God is possible. Although addressed to a Carthusian recluse, it became one of the most pop­ular works of devotional literature in English before the Reformation of the sixteenth century.

Book 2, Chapter 1 (compare Wisdom, lines 103–06)

And in the bigynnynge, yif [if] thou wole [will] witen [know] pleynli what I mene bi this image, I telle thee forsothe [in truth] that y undirstonde not ellis but thyn owen soule; for thi soule and my soule and everi resonable soule is an image, and that a worthi image, for it is the ymage of God, as the apostel seith: Vir est ymago dei (1 Corinthians 11:7). That is, man is the image of God and maad to the image and to the liknesse of Him, not in bodili schap [form] withoutin, but in the myghtes [powers] of it withinne, as Holi Writ seith: Formavit deus hominem ad similitudinem suam (Genesis 1:27). That is, oure Lord God schoop [formed] in soule man to the ymage and the liknesse of Him. This is the ymage that I have spoke of and schal speken of. This ymage, maad to the liknesse of God in the first schap­ynge [forming] was wondirli [wonderfully] faire and bright, fulle of brennynge [burning] love and goostli [spiritual] light. But thorugh synne of the first man Adam it was disfigured and forschapen [deformed] into anothir liknesse . . .

Book 2, Chapter 2 (compare Wisdom, lines 109–24)

Now is it sooth [true] mankynde, that was hool [whole] in Adam the first man, trespaced agens [against] God so wondir grevousli whanne hit forfetide the special biddynge [com­mand] of God and consentide to the fals conceile [counsel] of the feend [devil], that it deservide rightwiseli [justly] for to have be departid [separated] from Him and dampned to helle withouten ende — so fer forth [to the extent], that stondinge the rightwisenesse of God [were the righteousness of God to stand], the trespaas myght not be forgeven but yif [unless] amendis and ful satisfaccioun were first maad therfore. But this amendes myght no man make that was man oonli and come out of Adam by kyndeli [natural] generacion, for this skile [reason], for the trespas and the unworschipe [dishonor] was endeles gret, and therfore it passide [surpassed] mannys myght [power] for to make amendis for it. And also for this skile: he that hath trespaced and schal make amendis, hym bihoveth gyve [it is necessary for him to give] to hym that he trespacide unto al that he oweth though that he hadde not tres­paced, and also over [beyond] that, hym bihoveth gyve him sumwhat [something] that he oweth not, but oonli [only because] for that he trespacid. But oonly mankynde hadde not [nought] wherwith he myght paie God for his trespaas, over that he ought [owed] Hym. For what good dede that man myght doon in bodi or in soule, it was but his dette. For everi man oweth [is obliged], as the Gospel seith, for to love God with al his herte and al his soule and alle his myghtes; and betere myght he not doo than this. And neverthelees this deede suf­ficed not to the reformynge of mankynde, ne [nor] this myght not he doon but yif he hadde first be reformed. Than nedid it [it was necessary] that yif mannys soule schulde be reformed and the trespaas maad good, that oure Lord God Hymsilf schulde reforme this image and make amendis for this trespaas, syn [since] that no man myght. But that myght He not doo in His Godhede, for He myght not, ne ought not, make amendis bi suffrynge of peyne in His owen kynde [nature]. Therfore it nedide that He schulde take the same mankynde that hadd trespaced, and bicome man; and that myght He not by the comon lawe of kyndeli [natural] generacion, for it was impossibile Goddis sone to be born of a touchid [touched (sexually)] woman. Therfore He moste bicome man thorugh a gracious [i.e., through grace] gen­eracioun, bi wirkynge of the Holi Goost, of a clene [pure] gracious maiden, oure Ladi Seynt Marie. And so was it doon. For oure Lord Jhesu Crist, Goddis sone, bicam man, and thorugh His precious deeth that He suffride made amendis to the Fadir of hevene for man­nys [man’s] gilt. And that myght He wel doon, for He was God, and He oughte [owed] not for Hymsilf, but for as mykil as He was man born of the same kynde that Adam was that first trespacede. And so, though He ought not for His owen persone, for Himsilf myght not synne, neverthelees He ought it of His free wille for the trespas of mankynde, the whiche kynde He took for savacioun [salvation] of man of His endeles merci. For sooth [truth] it is ther was nevere man that myght yelde to God onythinge of his owene that he ought not, but oonli this blissid man Jhesu Crist. For He myght paien [pay] thingis that He oughte not as for Himsilf, and that was not but o [one] thynge: and that was for to gyve His preciouse liyf [life] by wilfull takynge of deeth for love of sothfastnesse [truth]. This ought He nout [owed He not]. As mykil good as He myght doo to the worschipe [honor] of God in His liyf, was al but dette. But for to take deeth for love of ryghtwisenesse [righteousness], He was not bounden therto. He was bounde to rightfulnesse, but He was not bounden to dyen. For deeth is oonli a peyne [punishment] ordeyned of God to man for his owen synne; but oure Lorde Jhesu synned nevere, ne He myght not synnen, and therefore He oughte [was obliged] nought for to dien. And yit wilfulli He diede, than paid He to God more thanne He oughte [owed]. And syn [since] that was the beste manere [kind of] deede and most worthi that evere was doon, ther­fore was it resonable that the synne of mankynde schulde be forgyven, in as mykil [much] as mankynde had founden a man of the same kynde withoutin weem [blemish] of synne, that is Jhesu, that myght make amendis for the trespaas doon and myght paien oure Lord God al that he oughte, and overmore [moreover], that he oughte not. Thanne siththe [since] oure Lord Jhesu, God and man, diede thus for savacion of mannys soule, it was rightful that synne schulde be forgyven and mannys soule, that was His image, schulde mow be [be able to be] reformyd and restorid to the first likenesse and to the blisse of hevene.

Book 2, Chapter 6 (compare Wisdom, lines 125–30)

Two maner of synne maken a soule to lese the schap [image] and the liknesse of God. That oon is callid original, that is the first synne. That othir is callid actuel [actual, i.e., sins actively com­mitted, as opposed to inherited original sin] synne, that is wilfulli doon. Thise two synnes putten a soule fro the blisse of hevene and dampnen it to the eendeles pyne [pain] of helle, but yif it be thorugh grace of God reformed to His liknesse, or [before] it passe hens out of this lif. Neveretheles, two remedies there aren agens thise two synnes, bi the whiche a for­schapen [deformed] soule mai be restored ageyn. Oon is the sacrament of baptym [baptism] agens the origynal synne; anothir is the sacrament of penaunce agens the actuel synne. The soule of a childe that is born and is uncristened, bicause of the origynal synne hath no lik­nesse of God; he is not [nothing, naught] but an image of the feend and a brond [firebrand] of helle. But as soone as it is cristened, it is reformed to the ymage of God, and thorugh vertu of feith of Holi Chirche sodeynli is turned fro the liknes of the feend and maad like to an angel of hevene.

Book 2, Chapter 13 (compare Wisdom, lines 133–48)

For thou schalt undirstonde that a soule hath two parties. The toon is called the sensualité; that is the fleschli feelynge bi the fyve outeward wittes [senses], the whiche is comoun to man and to beest. Up [Of] the whiche sensualité, whanne it is unskilfulli [irrationally] and unor­dynateli [improperly] rulid, is maad the image of synne, as I have bifore seid, for than is the sensualité synne, whanne it is not rulid aftir resoun. That tothir [other] partie is callid reson, and that is departid [divided] on two — the overe [upper] partie and the nethere [lower] partie. The overe is likned to a man, for it schulde be maister and sovereyne, and that is propirli the ymage of God, for bi that oonli the soule knoweth God and loveth God. And the nethere is likned to a woman, for it schulde be buxum [obedient] to the overe partie of resoun, as a woman is buxum to man. And that liyth in knowynge and rulynge of ertheli thinges, for to use hem discreteli aftir nede and for to refuse hem whanne it is no nede; and for to have ai [always] with it thyn iye [eye] upward to the overe partie of resoun, with drede and with reverence for to folwe it.

Book 2, Chapter 12 (compare Wisdom, lines 148–70)

Fair is mannys soule, and foule is a mannys soule. Fair in as mykil [much] as it is reformed in trouthe to the liknesse of God, but it is foule in as mykil as it is yit medelid [mingled, mixed] with fleschli felynges and unskilful [irrational] stirynges of this ymage of synne. Foule with­outen as it were a beest, faire withinne like to an angel. Foule in feelynge of the sensualité, fair in trouthe of the resoun. Foule for the fleschli appetite, faire for the good wil. Thus fair and thus foule is a chosen soule, seiynge Holi Writ thus: Nigra sum, sed formosa, filie Ierusalem sicut tabernacula Cedar et sicut pelles Salomonis (Canticles 1:4). I am blak, but I am fair and schapli, yee doughteris of Jerusalem, as the tabernaculis of Cedar and as the skynnes of Salomoun. That is: Yee angelis of hevene, that aren doughteres of the highe Jerusalem, wondreth not on me, ne dispice [despise] me not for my blak schadwe, for though I be blak withoute bicause of my fleschli kynde, as is a tabernacle of Cedar, nevertheles I am ful fair withinne as is the skyn of Salomon, for y am reformed to the likenesse of God. Bi Cedar is undirstonde myrkenesse [darkness], and that is the devyl. Bi tabernacle of Cedar is undir­stonde a reprevid [condemned] soule, the whiche is a tabernacule of the devyl. Bi Salomon, that bitokeneth peseble [peaceable], is undirstonden oure Lord, for He is pees and pesible. Bi the skyn of Salomon is undirstonden a blissid aungel, in whom oure Lord woneth [dwells] and is hid, as lif is hid withinne the skyn of a quyk [living] bodi, and therfore is an angel likened to a skyn.

Thanne mai a chosen soule with meke trust in God and gladnesse in herte seie thus: Though I be blak bicause of my bodi of synne, as is a reprevid [condemned] soule that is the tabernacle of the feend, neverthelees I am withinne wel faire thorugh trouthe and good wille, like to an angil of hevene. For so seith he in anothir place: Nolite considerare me quia fusca sum, quoniam decoloravit me sol (Canticles 1:5). That is: Biholdeth me not for y am swart [dark], for the sunne hath defaded me. The sunne maketh a skyn swart onli withoute and not withinne, and it bitokeneth this fleschli liyf. Therfore seith a chosen soule thus: “Repreve me not for y am swart, for the swartenesse that y have is al withouten, of touchynge and of berynge this ymage of synne. But it is nothinge withinne.” And therfore soothli, though it be so that a chosen soule reformed in feithe dwelle in this bodi of synne, and feele the same fleischli stirynges and use the same bodili werkes as doth a tabernacle of cedar, so fer forth [to the extent] that in mannes dome [judgment] ther schulde no difference be bitwixe that oon and that tothir — neverthelees withinne in here soules is there ful grete diversité, and in the sight of God is there ful grete twynnynge [separation].

Book 1, Chapter 12 (compare Wisdom, line 231)

The knyttyng and the festenynge of Jhesu to a mannys soule is bi good wille and a greet desire to Hym oonli, for to love and for to have Hym and see Him in His blisse.

Book 2, Chapter 31 (compare Wisdom, lines 1122–45)

For now bi the grace of oure Lord Jhesu schal y speke a litil as me thenketh more openli of reformynge in feelynge — what it is and how it is maad, and whiche aren goostli feelynges that a soule receyveth.

Neverthelees first, that thou take not this maner of spekynge of reformynge of a soule in feelynge as feynynge or fantasie, therfore I schal grounden it in Seynt Poules wordis, where he seith thus: Nolite conformari huic seculo, sed reformamini in novitate sensus vestri (Ro­mans 12:2). That is: Ye that aren thorugh grace reformed in feith, conforme yow not henneforward [henceforth] to maneres of the world, in pride, in covetise, and in othere synnes; but be ye reformed in newehede [newness] of youre feelynge. Loo, heere thou maist see that Seynt Poul speketh of reformynge in feelynge; and what that newe feelynge is he expounneth in anothir place thus: Ut impleamini in agnicione voluntatis eius, in omni intellectu et sapiencia spirituali (Colossians 1:9). That is: We praien God that ye mowen [may] ben fulfilled in knowynge of Goddis wille, in al undirstondyng and in al maner goostli wisdom; that is, in reformynge in feelynge. For thou schalt undirstonde that the soule hath two manere of feelynges: on withoute of the fyve bodili wittes, anothir withinne of the goostli wittes, the whiche aren propirli the myghtis of the soule, mynde, reson, and wille. Whanne thorugh grace thise myghtes aren fulfilled in al undirstondinge of the wille of God and in goostli wisdom, than hath the soule newe gracious feelynges. That this is sooth, he schewith in anothir place thus: Renovamini spiritu mentis vestre, et induite novum hominem, qui secundum deum creatus est in iusticia, sanctitate, et in veritate (Ephesians 4:23–24). Be yee now renued in the spirit of youre soule; that is, ye schullen ben reformed not in bodili feelynge ne in imaginacion, but in the overe partie [upper part] of youre resoun. And clothe yow in a newe man, that is schapen aftir God in rightwisenesse, holinesse, and soothfastnesse. That is, your reson, that is propirli the ymage of God thorugh grace of the Holi Goost, schal be clothid in a newe light of soothfastenesse [truth], holynesse, and rightwisenesse [righteousness] and thanne is it reformed in feelynge. For whanne the soule hath perfight [perfect] knowynge of God, than is it reformed. Thus seith Seynt Poul: Exspoliantes veterem hominem cum actibus suis; induite novum, qui renovatur in agnicione dei, secundum ymaginem eius qui creavit eum (Colossians 3:9–10). Spoile [Despoil] yousilf of the oolde man with alle his deedis; that is, casteth fro yow the love of the world with alle wordli maneris. And clothe you in a newe man; that is, ye schullen be renewed in the knowynge of God aftir the liknesse of Hym that made yow.

Book 2, Chapter 9 (compare Wisdom, lines 1154–60)

Of this reformynge in feith speketh Seynt Poul thus: Justus autem ex fide vivit (Hebrews 10:38). The rightwise [righteous] man lyveth in feith. That is, he that is maad rightful [just] bi baptym or penaunce, he lyveth in feith, the whiche sufficeth to savacion and to heveneli pees, as Seynt Poul seith: Justificati ex fide, pacem habemus ad deum (Romans 6:1). This is, we that aren righted [justified] and reformed thorugh feith in Crist han pees and acord maad atwixe God and us, not agenstondynge [withstanding] the vicious feelinges of oure bodi of synne.

Book 2, Chapter 26 (compare Wisdom, lines 1160–64)

Thus seith Hooli Writ: Vobis qui timetis domini orietur sol iusticie (Malachi 4:2). The trewe sunne of rightwisenesse [righteousness], that is, oure Lord Jhesu, schal springe to yow that dreden Him; that is, to meke [meek] soulis that meke [humble] hemself undir her even Cristene [fellow Christians] bi knowynge of here [their] owen wrecchidnesse, and casten hemsilf doun undir God bi noghtynge [rendering as nothing] of hemsilf in here owen substaunce thorugh reverente drede and goostli biholding of Him lastandli [constantly], for that is perfight [perfect] mekenesse.


Hilton rejected the idea that the life closest to God was that of the cloistered monk or hermit, supporting instead the notion that the best life is a “mixed” life devoted to service and prayer in the world rather than withdrawal from it. Lucifer’s arguments in favor of the mixed life, intended to draw Mind, Will, and Understanding away from a monastic existence, are largely drawn from Hilton’s discussion, although based on a very superficial reading of it.

Chapter 27 (fol. 356r, col. 1; compare Wisdom, lines 401–29)

And I halde [maintain] that hit is good to thee for to use this maner in what devocion that thou be, that thou hange [remain] not longe ther-upon, outhur [either] for to putte fro [from] thee thi mete [food] or thi slepe in tyme, or for to [di]sese [harm] any othur man unskilfuli [unreasonably]. Omnia tempus habent: Al thing hath tyme (Ecclesiates 3:1). Chapter 1 (fol. 353v, col. 2)

Thou schalt not utturli [entirely] folwe thi desyre for to leve [abandon] ocupacions & bisynes of the world whuch are nedeful to use in rulyng of thi sel[f] & of al othur that are under thi keping, & geve thee hol[i] [entirely] to gostly [spiritual] occupacion in preyers & meditacions as hit were a monk or a frere [friar] or eny othur mon that were not bounde to the world be [by] children & servauns as thou art: for hit falleth [is appropriate] not to thee; yif [if] thou do so, thou kepest not the ordre of charité. Also, yif thou woldest utterli leve gostli occupacion, nomeli [that is] aftur the grace that God hath geven to thee, & sette thee holliche [entirely] to bisynes of the world, to fulfillyng of actif lyf, as fully as anothur that never feled devocion, thou leosest [will lose] the ordre of charité, for thi stat [estate] asketh for to do bothe, in diverse tymes.

Chapter 2 (fol. 353v, col. 2)

Thou schalt medle [mix] the werkes of actif lyf with gostly werkes of contemplatyf lyf, and then dost thou wel. For thou schalt o [one] tyme with Martha be bisy for to ruile & governe thin houshold, thi children, thi servauns, thi neighebors, and thi tenauntes. Yif [If] thei do wel, cumforte hem therin & help hem; yif thei don uvel [evil], tech hem to amende hem & chastise hem. And thou [schalt] also loke & knowe wysli that thi thinges & thi worldly godes be [by] rightly kept be thi servauntes, governed & trewely dispendet [spent], that thou might the more plenteuousli with hem fulfille the dedes of merci to thin evencristen [fellow Chris­tians]. A nothur tyme thou schalt with Marie leve the bisynes of the world & sitte doun at the feet of ur Lord be mekenes in preyers & holy thoughtes & in contempla­cion of him as he geveth thee grace.

Chapter 5 (fol. 354r, cols. 1–2)

Oure Lord for to stere [direct] sum men to use this medled [mixed] lyf, tok upon him self the persones of such maner of men, bothe of prelates & curates of holy chirche & of othur such as are disposed as I have seid, and gaf to hem ensaumple [example] be his owne worchyng [deeds] that thei schulde use this medled lyf as he dude [did]. O [One] tyme he comuned [communed] & medled [mixed] with men, schewyng to hem his dedes [of] merci, for he taught the unkonnyng [uneducated] by his preching, he visyted the seke & heled hem of heor [their] sores, he fedde the hungri & cumforted hem that were sori [grieving]. Anothur tyme he lafte [left] the conversacion of al worldly men & of his disciples also & went alone in to desert upon the hulles [hills] & contyn[u]ed al the night in preyers as the gospel seith. This medled lyf schewed ur Lord in him self to ensaumple of hem that han [have] take the staat [condition] & the charge of this medled lyf, that thei schulde o [one] tyme geve hem to bisynes of worldly thynges in resonable nede, & to werkes of actyf lyf in profyt of heor [their] evencristne [fellow Christians] whuch thei have cure [care] of; anothur tyme geve hem hol[i] [entirely] to contemplacion be devocion in preyer & in meditacion . . . .


The Meditationes are probably not by St. Bernard, although most medieval manuscripts of the text attribute it to him; the work provides the principal source for the idea that the earthly powers of the soul form a trinity: Mind, Will, and Understanding or, as the treatise phrases it, “memoria,” “intelligencia,” and “voluntas.” The work’s popularity is attested both by its extensive use by Pietro Alighieri, Dante’s son, in his commentary on the Paradiso dating from about 1340, as well as by the publication of an English translation in 1496 by Wynkyn de Worde, The Medytacyens of Saynt Bernarde. Both the Latin text and English translation are included here, since it is likely that the author was working from the Latin text.

1. Multi multa sciunt, et se ipsos nesciunt. Alios inspiciunt, et se ipsos deserunt. Deum quaerunt per ista exteriora, deserentes sua interiora, quibus interior est Deus. Idcirco ab exterioribus redeam ad interiora, et ab inferioribus ad superiora ascendam: ut possim cognoscere unde venio, aut quo vado; quid sum, vel unde sum; et ita per cognitionem mei valeam pervenire ad cognitionem Dei. Quanto namque in cognitione mei proficio, tanto ad cognitionem Dei accedo. Secundum interiorem hominem tria in mente mea invenio, per quae Deum recolo, conspicio, et concupisco. Sunt autem haec tria, memoria, intelligentia, voluntas sive amor. Per memoriam reminiscor: per intelligentiam intueor; per voluntatem amplector. Cum Dei reminiscor, in memoria mea eum invenio, et in ea de eo et in eo delector, secundum quod ipse mihi donare dignatur. Intelligentia intueor quid sit Deus in se ipso; quid in Angelis, quid in sanctis, quid in creaturis, quid in hominibus. In se ipso est incomprehensibilis, quia principium et finis: principium sine principio, finis sine fine. Ex me intelligo quam incomprehensibilis sit Deus; quoniam me ipsum intelligere non possum, quem ipse fecit. In Angelis est desiderabilis, quia in eum desiderant prospicere: in sanctis est delectabilis, quia in eo assidue felices laetantur: in creaturis est admirabilis, quia omnia potenter creat, sapienter gubernat, benigne dispensat: in hominibus est amabilis, quia eorum Deus est, et ipsi sunt populus ejus. Ipse in eis habitat tanquam in templo suo, et ipsi sunt templum ejus: non dedignatur singulos, neque universos. Quisquis ejus meminit, eumque intelligit ac diligit, cum illo est.

2. Diligere eum debemus, quoniam ipse prior dilexit nos, et ad imaginem et similitudinem suam nos fecit, quod nulli alii creaturae donare voluit. Ad imaginem Dei facti sumus; hoc est, ad intellectum et notitiam Filii, per quem intelligimus et cognoscimus Patrem, et accessum habemus ad eum. Tanta cognatio est inter nos et Dei Filium, quod ipse imago Dei est, et nos ad imaginem ejus facti sumus; quam cognationem etiam ipsa similitudo testatur, quoniam non solum ad imaginem, sed et ad similitudinem ejus facti sumus. Oportet itaque id quod ad imaginem est, cum imagine convenire, et non in vacuum nomen imaginis participare. Repraesentemus ergo in nobis imaginem ejus in appetitu pacis, in intuitu veritatis, et in amore charitatis. Teneamus eum in memoria, portemus in conscientia, et ubique praesentem veneremur. Mens siquidem nostra eo ipso ejus imago est, quo ejus capax est, ejusque particeps esse potest. Non propterea ejus imago est, quia sui meminit mens, seque intelligit ac diligit; sed quia potest meminisse, intelligere, ac diligere a quo facta est: quod cum facit, sapiens ipsa fit. Nihil enim tam simile est illi summae Sapientiae, quam mens rationalis, quae per memoriam, intelligentiam et voluntatem in illa Trinitate ineffabili consistit. Consistere autem in illa non potest, nisi ejus meminerit, eumque intelligat, ac diligat. Meminerit itaque Dei, ad cujus imaginem facta est; eumque intelligat, diligat, atque colat, cum quo potest semper esse beata. Beata anima, apud quam Deus requiem invenit, et in cujus tabernaculo requiescit. Beata quae dicere potest: Et qui creavit me, requievit in tabernaculo meo (Ecclesiastes 24:12). Negare siquidem requiem coeli ei non poterit.

3. Cur ergo nos deserimus, et in his exterioribus Deum quaerimus, qui apud nos est, si nos velimus esse apud eum? Revera nobiscum est, et in nobis: sed adhuc per fidem, donec videre mereamur per speciem. Novimus, inquit Apostolus, habitare Christum per fidem in cordibus nostris (Ephesians 3:17): quia Christus in fide, fides in mente, mens in corde, cor in pectore. Per fidem ergo recolo Deum creatorem; adoro redemptorem, exspecto salvatorem. Credo videre in omnibus creaturis, habere in me ipso; et, quod his omnibus ineffabiliter jucundius atque beatius est, cognoscere in se ipso. Patrem namque et Filium cum sancto Spiritu cognoscere, vita est aeterna, beatitudo perfecta, summa voluptas. Oculus non vidit, nec auris audivit, nec in cor hominis ascendit, quanta claritas, quanta suavitas, et quanta jucunditas maneat nos in illa visione, quando Deum facie ad faciem videbimus; qui est lux illuminatorum, requies exercitatorum, patria redeuntium, vita viventium, corona vincentium. Ita in mente mea quamdam imaginem illius summae Trinitatis invenio: ad quam summam Trinitatem recolendam, inspiciendam, et diligendam, ut ejus recorder, ea delecter, et eam complectar et contempler, totum id quod vivo, debeo referre. Mens imago Dei est, in qua sunt haec tria: id est memoria, intelligentia et voluntas. Memoriae attribuimus omne quod scimus, etiamsi non inde cogitemus. Intelligentiae tribuimus omne quod verum cogitando invenimus, quod etiam memoriae commendamus: voluntati, omne quod cognitum et intellectum, bonum et verum esse expetimus. Per memoriam Patri similes sumus, per intelligentiam Filio, per voluntatem Spiritui sancto. Nihil in nobis tam simile Spiritui sancto est, quam voluntas vel amor sive dilectio, quae excellentior voluntas est. Dilectio namque donum Dei est, ita quod nullum hoc dono Dei est excellentius. Dilectio namque quae ex Deo est, et Deus est, proprie Spiritus sanctus dicitur, per quam charitas Dei diffusa est in cordibus nostris (Romans 5:5), per quam tota Trinitas in nobis habitat.

The English version is printed from Wynkyn de Worde’s version, printed in 1496 (STC: 1917; sig. Bi, Aiii). A few minor printer’s errors have been silently corrected.

How man by knowledge & understondynge of hymselfe maye knowe God, and how the soule of man is the ymage of God.

1. Many there ben that know & understonde many other thynges, & yet they knowe not theyr owne selfe. They take moche hede [pay much attention] to other, but they loke not well to themselfe. They leve theyre inwarde & goostly thynges, and seke God amonge out­warde thynges, the whyche is within theym. Therfore I shall come fro [from] those thynges that ben [are] outwarde to inwarde thynges, & from inwarde thynges I shall lyft my mynde to thynges above, that I may knowe wherof I came, and whether I go, what I am, and wherof I am. And so by knowlege of myself, I may ascende & come to the knowlege of God, for the more I proyffyte in knowlege of my self, the more nygh [near] I drawe to the knowlege of God.

On the inward mannys behalfe I fynde thre thynges in my soul wherby I remembre, beholde & desyre my lorde God. The whiche ben, the mynde, the understondynge, & wyl or love. By the mynde I remembre Him; by the understondynge I beholde Him goostly [spir­itually]; and by wyll or love I love and desyre Him. Whan I remember God I fynde in Hym in my mynde, & fele therin in Him swetnesse & plesyre of Hym, lyke as he vouchesaufe [grants] to gyve me. By the understondynge I beholde in Hym what He is in Hymself, what in holy angellys, and what in His blessyd sayntes, what in His creatures, & what in mankynde. In Hymselfe He is incomprehensyble for He is both begynnynge & ende: Begyn­nynge without begynnynge, & ende wythout ende. By myself I understonde how He is com­prehensyble whan I may not atteyne to understondynge and knowlege of my self whome He hath made. In holy angellys He is plesaunt and desyderable [desireable], for theyre desyre is alwaye to beholde Hym. In sayntes He is delectable, for they happy & blessyd delyte them in Hym contynually. In creatures He is mervelous, for by his myghte & power He createth all thynges the whiche He governeth moost wysely, & dystrybutyth moost benyngnely: In mankynde He is amyable & lovely, for He is theyr God & they ben His people. And He dwelleth with theym as in His owne temple and they ben the temple of Hym. Who somever [Whoever] hath mynde and thynketh on Him, understondeth Him and loveth Hym, He is with hym.

2. Sothely [truly] we owe [ought] to love Hym moche, syth [since] He hath loved us soo moche & made us after His owne ymage & lyknes & soo hath He done to none [no other] erthly creature. Sothely it behoveth [is appropriate] that the thynge that is made after an ymage to be accordynge and lyke to the ymage or symylytude that it is fourmed after, and not to have unworthely the name of an ymage in vayne. Therfore lete us shewe in us thymage [the image] of Hym in desyrynge of peas and regardynge of trouth. Lete us holde and kepe Hym by perfyte love and charyté in our mynde. Let us bere Him in our conscyence and to Hym presente in every place lete us do due reverence and worshyppe.

Our soul sothly is the ymage of God, for asmoche as it is apte and mete to take and receyve Hym and maye [perhaps] be partener of Hym. It is the ymage of Hym, not only that it remembreth itselfe, understondyth or loveth itselfe, but by cause it maye remembre, un­derstonde, and love Hym. whiche made it. And whan it soo dooth, thenne is it wyse, for sothly there is no thynge more lyke to the hyghe wysdome of almyghty God, than is a reson­able soule, whyche by mynde, understondynge and love resteth in the blessyd Trynyte. In whiche she [i.e., the soul] maye not reste and abyde, but yf she remembre Hym, under­stonde and also love Hym.

But yf she thynke dylygently on her lorde God, after thymage of Whome she is created and made. And understonde, love, honoure, and worshyppe Hym wyth Whome she maye eternally abyde and reste in perfyghte Joye and blysse. Sothly that soule is ryghte happy and blessyd in whome oure Lorde fyndeth restynge, and in whoos tabernacle He dwelleth and resteth. That is an happy soule that maye saye, “My Lorde & maker hath restyd in my tabernacle.” Soothly He shal not deny to such a soule the everlastynge reste of heven.

3. O, why thenne loke we not in our self, but seke [seek] our Lorde amonge outwarde thynges, the whyche is with us yf we wyll be with Him? Sothly He is both with us and in us,6 but that as yet is by fayth, unto suche tyme as we maye deserve to see Him clerly. “We knowe,” sayth the apostle, “that by fayth Cryste abydeth in our hertes.” By fayth I remembre my maker, I worshyp my mercyfull redemer, and abyde [await] my savyoure. I byleve that He lyveth in all creatures, that He dwelleth within me. And also I truste to knowe Him in Himself, the whiche is moche more blyssfull & Joyfull than all thyse ben [are], for sothly to knowe perfytely the Fader, the Sone, & the Holy Goste in everlastynge lyfe, perfyte blysse & exced­ynge plessyre [pleasure], for the mortall eye hath not sene, ne eere [ear] herde, ne mannys herte understode clerly and perfytly how moche clernesse, how moche Joye, how moche swetnes we shall have in that blessyd syghte whan we shall beholde face to face Him that is the lyght of all bryghte thynge, the refuge and reste of travelers & labourers, the receyver and keper of them that torne to Him, the very lyfe to all that lyve, and the crowne of theym that overcome theyre goostly [spiritual] enmyes. Thus I fynde in my soule the ymage of the hygh & gloryous Trynyte, to the whiche moost hyghe & gloryous Trynyte I owe [ought] to referre and orther [order] all my lyfe, that I maye remembre Hym and putte my playsyre & contemplacyon in Hym. The soule is the ymage of almyghty God the whiche con­teyneth thre thynges, the mynde, the understondynge, & wyl. To the mynde we attrybute & put all thynge that we lerne or know though we thynke not alway theron. To the under­stondynge we attrybute all that we knowe is true, the whiche also we commende & putte to our mynde. By the mynde we ben resemblyd & lyke to the Fader, by understondynge to the Sone, & by wyll or love to the Holy Goost, for there is no thynge in us more lyke to the Holy Goost than is the wyll, or so precyous that there is noo gefte [gift] of God, and it is true love, for true love is the gefte of God more noble & excellente than it is, for true love that cometh of God, and is God Himself, is properly called the Holy Goost by whome the love of God is diffused & sprad [spread] in our hertes, and by whome all the holy & blessyd Trynyte dwelleth and abydeth in us.

E. Anonymous, Tractatus de interiori domo, seu de conscientia ædificanda, Migne, PL vol. 184, col. 511a–b (compare Wisdom, lines 213–18)

Like the Meditationes, this treatise on the conscience was attributed during the Middle Ages both to St. Bernard and to Hugh of St. Victor, though it is probably not by either one of them. Wisdom’s author used it as a source for his description of Will.

Nam inter omnia Dei dona, quae ad salutem hominis spectare videntur, primum et prin­cipale bonum, bona voluntas esse cognoscitur, per quam imago similitudinis Dei in nobis reparatur. Primum est, quia a bona voluntate bonum omne inchoatur. Principale est, quoniam bona voluntate nihil hominibus utilius datur. Quidquid homo facit, bonum esse non potest, nisi ex bona voluntate procedat. Sine bona voluntate omnino salvari quispiam non potest: cum bona voluntate nemo perire potest. Voluntas bona nec dari potest invito, nec auferri nisi volenti. Voluntas hominis est potestas Dei. Voluntas hominis est, quia velle in voluntate hominis est; et ideo totum meritum in voluntate est. Quantum vis, tantum mereris. Quantum crescit voluntas tua bona, tantum crescit meritum tuum. Fac igitur magnam bonam voluntatem tuam, si vis habere magnum meritum.

For among all the gifts of God that appear to be directed towards man’s salvation, the first and principal is known to be a good will, through which the image of God’s likeness is restored in us. It is first because everything good begins from a good will. It is principal, since nothing is given more useful to men than a good will. Whatever a man does cannot be good unless it proceeds from a good will. It is completely impossible for anyone to be saved without a good will; with a good will, no one can perish. Good will cannot be given to anyone against their will, nor can it be taken away unless they wish it. The will of man is the power of God. It is the will of man, because wishing rests in a man’s will, and for this reason all merit is in the will. As much as you wish, so much you deserve. As your good will grows, so does your merit. Therefore make your good will great, if you wish to have great merit.

F. St. Bonaventure’s Soliloquies7

The Soliloquies of St. Bonaventure are in themselves strongly dramatic, consisting of a dialogue between man (Homo) and his soul (Anima).

OPERA OMNIA, VOL. 8, P. 42 (compare Wisdom lines 309–23)

Anima: Eia, mi Domine Deus, quantum ego infelix et misera diligere debeo Deum meum, qui me creavit, cum non eram; redemit, cum perieram, et de multis periculis liberavit me; quando errabam, reduxit me; quando ignorabam, docuit me; quando peccabam, corripuit me; quando contristabar, consolatus est me; quando iam pene desperabam, confortavit me; quando steti, tenuit me; quando cecidi, erexit me; quando ivi, duxit me; quando veni, suscepit me.

Soul: Woe to me, my Lord God, how much ought I, unhappy and wretched, to love my God, who created me when I did not exist, who redeemed me when I had perished, and freed me from many perils; when I strayed, he brought me back; when I was ignorant, he taught me; when I sinned, he corrected me; when I was sad, he consoled me; when I was on the point of despair, he comforted me; when I stood, he held me; when I fell, he lifted me up; when I went, he led me; when I came, he received me.

OPERA OMNIA, VOL. 8, P. 41 (compare Wisdom lines 1106–10):

[Homo:] Revertere adhuc, o anima, Christus in cruce te expectans habet caput inclinatum ad te deosculandam, habet brachia extensa ad te amplexandam, manus apertas ad remunderandum, corpus extensum ad se totum impendendum, pedes affixos ad commanendum, latus apertum ad te in illud intromittendum. Esto ergo, o anima, iam columba nidificans in foraminibus petrae. . . . Haec Bernardus.

Yet return, O Soul, Christ is waiting for you on the Cross. His head is bent down to kiss you, his arms are stretched out to embrace you, his hands are open to forgive, his body is stretched out to hand himself over entirely, his feet are fixed in order to remain with you, his side is open for you to enter into it. O soul, be now a dove building her nest in the open­ings of the rock. . . . This [is the end of the quotation from] Bernard.


This anonymous text survives in both English and Latin versions. Horstmann printed several English versions, both in prose and in verse but, as Smart pointed out, the Latin text contained in Gonville and Caius College MS 140/80 is closer to the Wisdom text than any of the English versions.8 An excerpted text is given here from that manuscript, since the Wisdom playwright ignores the lengthy commentary which accompanies each of the “points.”

Hic continentur novem virtutes quas Dominus noster Jesus Christus cuidam sancto viro volenti deo servire necnon devote facere que placent ore suo revelavit sibi dicens primo, “Da pauperibus meis unum denarium in vita tua quia mihi hoc plus placet quam si dedisses post vitam tuam montes aureos in monetam compositos.” . . .
Secunda virtus. Emitte unam lacrimam pro peccatis tuis et pro amore meo sive passione mea et hoc plus placet mihi quam si plorares tantam aquam quanta continentur in mari pro rebus mundanis . . . Casiodorus . . . ait, “Fletus est cibus animarum coroboracio sensuum absolucio peccatorum refeccio mencium lavacrum culparum. . . .
Tercia virtus. Sustine dulciter et pacienter unum verbum durum et probosum de proximo tuo et magis mihi placet quam si disciplinares corpus tuum cum tot virgis quot possunt crescere super unam arborem vel dietam terre. . . .
Quartus gradus. Vigila una hora pro me et cicius placebit mihi quam si mitteres ultra mare duodecim milites sepulcrum meum vindicaturos. . . .
Quinta virtus. Habeas pietatem et compassionem de proximo tuo inope vel infirmo et hoc enim frequencius mihi placet quam si jejunares xl annis qualibet ebdomada per tres dies in pane et aqua. . . .
Sexta virtus. Ne dicas sermonem tradiciosum vel fraudulentum de proximo tuo set taceas pro amore meo et amplius mihi placet quam si ambulares per viam nudis plantis quod cursus sanguinis sequeretur vestigia pedum tuorum. . . .
Septima virtus. Ne instiges nec excites proximum tuum ad malum set omnia convertas in meliora et hoc mihi placet quam si semel in die ascendens in celum. . . .
Octava virtus. Frequenter desideres et interroges me et hoc mihi plus placet quam si mater mea et omnes sancti orarent pro te. . . .
Nona virtus. Diligas me solum super omnia et hoc mihi plus placet quam si ascenderes unam columpnam plenam novaculis acutis ita quod caro tua scineretur in particulas irrecuperabiliter in futurum. . . . Item Gregorius in Pastoralibus ait, “Nichil est preciosius deo virtute dileccionis.” . . .

Here are the nine virtues which our Lord Jesus Christ revealed by his mouth to a certain holy man who wished to serve God and do piously what pleases Him, saying first, “Give a penny to my poor during your life; that pleases me more than if you were to give mounds of gold coins after your death.” . . .
Second virtue. Shed a tear for your sins and for my love or my passion and that pleases me more than if you were to weep as much water as is contained in the sea for worldly things. . . . Cassiodorus . . . says, “Weeping is food for the soul, a strengthening of the senses, a release from sins, a sustenance for the mind, and a washing away of guilt.” . . .
Third virtue. Endure calmly and patiently a hard and abusive word from your neighbor and that pleases me more than if you were to discipline your body with as many rods as might grow on a tree or within a day’s journey. . . .
Fourth degree. Watch one hour for me and that will please me more than if you were to send twelve avenging soldiers across the sea to my sepulcher. . . .
Fifth virtue. Have pity and compassion on your needy and sick neighbor and that pleases me more than if you were to fast three days in each week for forty years on bread and water . . . .
Sixth virtue. Do not say hateful or false things about your neighbor, but be silent for my love and that pleases me more than if you were to walk on the road with bare feet until a track of blood followed the trail of your feet. . . .
Seventh virtue. Do not incite or press your neighbor to evil, but turn everything to good, and that pleases me more than if on that same day you ascended to heaven. . . .
Eighth virtue. Ask of me and pray to me often, and that pleases me more than if my mother and all the saints prayed for you. . . .
Ninth virtue. Love me alone above all things, and that pleases me more than if you were to climb a pillar set with sharp razors so that your flesh was torn apart into small pieces which could not be joined together again. . . . Note: Gregory, in his “Pastoral Care” says, “Nothing is so precious to God as the love of virtue.” . . .

Go To Appendix 2: Music