The fyrst part of this book that es
Of mon and of his wrechednes
Mon of foulest matere God wrought
When he maad alle thing of nought
Of erthe for to skilles to holde:
That oon is for that God so wolde
Of fulthe hym maken in despyte
Of Lucyfer whiche that fel so tyte
To helle for his syn of pryde
And of alle tho that fellen by syde,
For they shulde have more shenship
And the more sorowe when they toke kep
That mon of suche matere shuld dwel
In that place that they from felle.
¶That othur skil is to see
For mon shulde here the meker be
Ay when he thinketh in his thought
Of howe foule matere he is wrought.
God of his goodnes and his myght
Say that place in heven bryght
Voyde was maad by syn of pryde
And wolde hit fylle on every syde
Thorowe the vertue of mekenes
That even contrarye to pryde es.
Then may no mon thidur coom
Bot he that meke is and buxom.
As the gospelle us telleth ful ryght
How to the aposteles seyde God almyght:
Nisi efficiamini sicut parvulus iste
non intrabitis regnum celorum.1
He seyth, “bot if yee be meke and mylde,
That is to say as is this childe
Ye shul not entre by no way
To heven blys that lasteth ay.”
Then byhoveth a mon to seke
What may sounest make hym mek.
Bot no thyng may meke hym more
Then ofte to thinke as I sayde ore
Howe he is maad of foule matere
And is nought ellus bot erthe here.
Thus seyth a clerke as I now sey,
“What is mon bot erthe and cley
And poudur that with wynde brekes?”
Therfore Job thus to God spekes:
Memento queso quod sicut lutum feceris
me et in puluerem reduces me.2
“Lorde thinke,” he seyth, “thou madest me
Foule erthe and clay here for to be,
So shalt thou turne me ageyn
To erthe and poudur incerteyn.”
Then seyth oure Lorde God almyghty
Ageyn to mon ryght skilfully:
Memento homo quod cinis es et in cinerem reuerteris.3
“Think mon thou art askes nowe
And into askes turne shalt thowe.”
Then is mon no more to say
Bot askes poudur erthe and clay.
Of this shul uche mon ever ha mynde
And knowe his wrechednes of kynde,
That may be seen as I shew con
In alle partyes of lyvyng moon.
¶The lyf of mon casten may be
Sovereynly in tymes thre
That ben to oure undurstondyng
Bygynnyng, mydelage, and endyng.
Thus moun thre spaces be toolde
Of monnes lyvyng both yong and olde.
The fyrste bygynnyng of monnes lyfe
Is wrechednesse and wo and stryfe.
Therfore wole I nowe er I cees
Shewe yow what a mon fyrst es.
Of monnes fyrst bygynnyng
Som tyme was when mon was nought
Er he were geten and forthe ibrought,
Then was he geten as hit is knowen
Of monnes seed with syn sowen.
He is conceyved ryght synfully
Within his own modur body;
His herborow therin was dyght
As David seyth thes wordus ryght:
Ecce enim in iniquitatibus conceptus sum,
et in peccatis concepit me mater mea.4
“Lo,” he seyth, “as monkynde es
I am conceyved in wickednes,
My modur hath conceyved me
In mychel synne and caytifte.”
There dwelled mon in a dongyon
In stede of foule fylth and corrupcyoun,
Where he had noon othur foode
Bot foule glet and lipered bloode
And stynke and fylthe as I seyde ore
Therwith was he norysshed thore.
Aftur that when he forth coom
A doungeoun his modur wombe from
And was forthe borne to worldes lyght
Had he nouther strength ny myght
Nouthur to goo ny for to stonde
Ny for to crepe with foot ny honde.
¶Thus hath mon las myght then beeste
When he is boren so unhoneste,
For beest when hit is boren may go
And sone remeweth too and froo
Bot man hath no myght ther too
When he is boren so forto do;
He may nouther gong ny crepe
But lye and crye, crule and wepe.
Unnethe is childe boren fully
When he bygynneth to rore and crye.
By that crye mon may knowe thon
Whether hit be monn or wemon
When hit is borne hit cryeth wa.
Yif hit be mon hit cryeth “a,”
That is the fyrst letter of the name
Of oure formoure fadur Adame;
And if the childe a woman be
When hit is borne then seyth hit “e,”
The fyrste lettre that is of Eve
That bygon us fyrst to greve.
Therfore were maad on this maner
Thes versus that ben writen here:
Dicentes E vel A quotquot nascuntur ab Eva;
A dat Adam genitor E dedit Eua mater.5
“Al tho,” he seyth, “that comen of Eve
That ben alle men as we byleve,
When they be borne what so they be
Thei shul seyn outher ‘a’ or ‘e.’”
Then is this our bygynnyng
Of oure lyf sorowe and wepyng.
Oure wrechednes therto us styrus,
Wherfore Innocent seyth ryght thus:
Omnes nascimur eiulantes vt
nature nostre miseriam exprimamus.
He seyth, “we alle are bore wepand
And makyng sorowful semblande
To shewe the grete wrechednes
Of oure kynde that in us es.”
Thus atte the tyme of oure byrth
We make alle sorowe and no myrth.
Hidur we comen nakud and bare
And pore so shul we hethen fare;
On thes two shulde we thinke thonne
For thus seyth Job the holy monne:
Nudus egressus sum de utero
matris mee: nudus revertar illuc.6
“Nakud,” he seyth, “fyrst oute I com
Hidur my modur wombe from
And nakud so shal I turne away.”
So shal we alle at oure last day.
Thus is mon at his fyrst comyng
Nakud and bringeth with hym no thyng
Bot a slow that is wlatsome
Is his clothing at his first come.
Hit is nought bot a blody skynne
That he byfore was lapped inne
While he in his modur wombe lay;
That is foule thing for to say,
And fouler to here seyth the bok
And alther foulest on too look.
Thus is mon borne as ye moun se
In wrechednesse and caytyfté,
Yitte to lyven here bot fewe dayes
As Job here on this wyse sayes:
Homo natus de muliere breui viuens
tempore, repletur multis miseriis.7
He seyth, “mon borne of womanne
Lyvyng shorte tyme fulfild is than
Of many manere of wrechednesse.”
As Job seyth and ful sothe hitte esse,
For mon is borne to nought elles
Bot to travayle as Job telles:
Homo nascitur ad laborem sicut auis ad volatum.8
“Mon is borne to travayle ryght
As the foule is maad to flyght.”
Ful litul rest in this lyf es
Bot greet travayle and bysynes;
Also mon when he is borne
Is fendes sone and fro God lorne
Ay til he by grace may come
To bapteme and to Cristendome.
Thus moun men her bygynnynge se
Of wrechednes and caytyftee.
Of monnes mydel lyvyng
The secounde part of lyf men calleth
The myddelward that next aftur falleth
And recheth from the bygynnyng
Of monnes lyf to the laste endyng.
His bygynnyng ryght as I toolde
Is vyle and wrecched to behoolde,
Bot how fule he is afturwarde
Telleth a party seynt Bernarde:
Homo nichil aliud est quam sperma feti-
dum saccus stercorum et esca vermium.
Seynt Bernarde in his book tellus
How that “a mon is no thing ellus
Bot a foule slyme wlathsome in tong
And a sak ful of stynkyng dong
And wormes foode that they wol have
When he is deed and leyd in grave.”
Som folke ther ben ful feyr to seme
In syght withouten as men deme
And that sheweth not bot a skyn,
Bot who so myght see hem within
Foulere careyne myght never be
Then men myght then on hem see.
¶For certus whoso myght have syght
Or had so clere yghen or bryght
As hath a beest that men lynx calles
That may se thorowe thicke ston walles,
Then myght he se withouten doute
As wel withinne men as withoute.
Lytul lykyng shulde mon have thon
To byholde aftur womonne.
Yif he withinn syghe hire ryght
Wlatsome were she to his syght.
Thus foule withinne uche mon es
As this boke here berith witnes.
Thus may mon se on this manere
How foule the kynde of hym is here.
Therfore a mon is more worthie
That here is proude of his bodye
While he may thus hymself se
What he is, was, and shal be.
Bot proude mon to this ne taketh hede
For skil hym fayleth that shuld hym lede.
Whon he is yonge and loveth pleying
And eke hath ese and his lykyng
Or yif he be atte greet worsshepe
What he is he taketh no kepe.
Hymself then he knoweth leeste
And fareth as an unskilful beest
That his wille foloweth and nought ellus
As David in the sauter thus tellus:
Homo cum in honore esset, non intellexit. Comparatus
est iumentis insipientibus et similis factus est illis.9
“Mon when he in honoure is brought,
Ryght undurstondyng hath he nought.
Wel may he be lykened thonne
To a beest that noo skille conne.”
Therfore he that have skil and mynde
The wrechednesse thinketh of oure kynde
That is foule and ful wlathsoome.
For mon seeth of his body come
Fro above and fro bynethe
Miche fylthe and stynkyng brethe.
More stynke is noon harde ny nessh
Then the filthe of monnes flesshe
That may a mon both se and fele
Yif he beholde hymselven wele.
How foule he is to monnes syght,
Therfore seyth seynt Bernard ryght:
Si consideres diligenter quid per os quid per nares ceterosque
meatus corporis tui egreditur, vilius sterquilinium nunquam vidisti.10
He seyth, “yif thou the bysyly by se
And undurstonde what cometh fro thee
Thorow nese and mouthe contynuelye
And other places of thi bodye,
Fouler doungehul thou see nevere noon
Then monnes bodye of flesshe and boon.”
Alle the tyme that mon here lyveth
Noon othur fruyt his body geveth,
Though he lyve long or short whyle,
Bot thing ful wlatsome and ful vyle
As stynk, fulthe and no thing ellus
As Innocent thus seyth and tellus:
Herbas et arbores inquit investiga: ille de se
producunt flores, frondes, et fructus, et tu de te lendes
pediculos et lumbricos. Ille defundunt oleum vinum,
et balsamum, et tu de te sputum, vrinam, et stercus.
Ille de se spirant suavitatem odoris, et tu de te ab
hominationem fetoris. Qualis arbor talis fructus eius.
This grete clerke seyth in his book
“Byholde,” he seyth, “and wisely looke
Tho trees and herbes that here spryng
And what fruyt they here forthe bryng:
Herbes bryng forthe floures and seed
And trees fruyt with braunches to spreed,
And thow bryngest for thee of thi self here
Nytes, fleen, lyus, and vermyn sere.
Of hem spryngeth baume ful good
And oyle and wyne for monnes food,
Of the cometh alle foule thyngge
As urine ordure and spyttyngge
Of hem comen ful swete floures,
Of the stynke and evel savoures.
Suche as the tree is with the bowes
Such ben alle the fruyt that on hem growes.”
Evel tree may no good fruyt bere
As God seyth the good gardinere.
¶Mon is tree that stondeth not harde
Of whom the crop is turned dounwarde,
The rote towarde the firmament
As seyth the greet clerk Innocent:
Quid est homo secundum formam, nisi quedam arbor
eversa? Cuius radices sunt crines, truncus est caput
cum collo, stirpes est pectus cum alvo, rami
sunt ulne cum tibiis, frondes sunt digiti cum
articulis. Hoc est lignum quod a vento ra-
pitur, et stipulaque a sole siccatur.
He seyth, “Monnes shap is bot a tre
Turned dounward that up shuld be,
Of whom the rote that oute springeth
Is the heer that on hym hengeth,
The stok that nexte hym is growand
The heed with the necke to undurstand,
The goben of that tree sykurlye
Is the brest with the hoole bodye;
The bowes ben armes and hondes
With legges that on his feet stondes,
The braunches men may kyndly cal
The toos sothely with fyngres alle.
This is the tree that stondeth not fast
Blowen up with the wyndes blast,
And the body of this ilke tree
With the sonne may dryghed be.”
For mon that is both yong and lyght
Be he never so strong and wyght
And of face bryght and feyre,
Tene and sekenes may sone hym apeyre
His feyrnes and myght to abate
And make hym in ful symple staate
To chaunge alle fayre coloure
And make hym fade as doth the floure.
A floure that semeth feyre and bryght
With stormes fadeth and leseth myght,
Also eveles and greet mischeves
Comen to mon that here leves,
As dropesye, fever, and jaundyse,
Tysyke, goute, and sere maladyse
That doth hym myght and strengthe tyne
As stormes maken floures dwyne.
Wherfore a mon may lykened bee
To a fresshe floure on a tree,
That when hit is forthe ibrought
Weleweth and fadeth til hit be nought.
This shulde be then ensaumple to us
For Job in his book seyth thus:
Homo quasi flos egreditur et conteritur et fugit
velud vmbra, et nunquam in eodem statu permanet.11
“A mon,” he seyth, “as a floure bryght
Cometh forthe first unto oure syght
And fleeth sone passyng away,
As schadowe doth on someres day.”
Of this Davyd berith wittenes
In the sauter where writen es:
Mane sicut herba transeat, mane floreat
et transeat, vespere decidat indurat et arescat.12
The prophete seyth and soth hit es,
“Erly passeth mon as the gres,
Erly atte bygynnyng of the day
He florysshet and passeth away;
By hit be even hit is doune brought
Fadeth and falleth and turneth to nought.”
At the fyrste bygynnyng of mon
Nyne hundred wynter lyved he thon
As clerkes in her bokes beren wittenes,
Bot sythen wex monnes lyvyng lees.
God wolde that hit shulde so bee
For unto Noe thus seyde he:
Non permanebit spiritus meus in homine in eternum, quia caro
est, erunt que dies eius centum vigintorum annorum.13
“My gooste,” seyth he, “shal not ay dwel
In mone for he is flesshe and felle,
His dayes shul be to dwellen here
An hundred and twenty yeere.”
Bot so greet elde may noon now bere.
Monnes lyf may becomen shortere
For the complectioun of every mon
Is febeler now then hit was thon.
Bot for hit is nowe worse to se
Monnes lyvyng mot shortere be.
The lenger he lyveth thou trewly leve
The more his lyf shal here hym greve,
The lesse this lyf shal hym think swete
As in a psalme seyth the prophete:
Si autem in potentatibus octoginta anni,
amplius eorum labor et dolor.14
“Inne myghtes gyf fourescore yeer fal,
Her swynke is more and sorow with al.”
A mon ful ceeldom of that eelde
Hath hele or may hym selven welde.
Now bee mennes dayghes shortere
As Job telleth and wel smertere:
Nunquid paucitas dierum meorum finietur breui.15
He seyth, “my fewe dayes sere
Shul ende nowe in shorte tyme here.”
Fewe now fourty yeere con passe,
Fewer fiftye as som tyme was,
Bot sone when mon waxeth oolde
His kynde wexeth feble and coolde.
Then chaungeth his complectioun
His maneres and his condicioun
His herte is harde and eke hevy
His heede feble es and ful dusy
His goost then waxeth seke and sore
His face wrynkeleth more and more
His mynde is shorte when he thinketh
His nese droppeth his breth stynketh
His syght dymmeth he wexeth lothe
His backe croketh, stoupyng he goth;
Fyngres and toos of foot and hand
And alle his touches ben terembland.
Werke forfareth that he bygynnes,
His here mouten, his yghen rennes
His eres wex deef and hard to here
His touches fayleth to speke clere
His mouth draveleth his teeth roteth
His witte fayleth and ofte he doteth.
Lyght to greve and waxeth frowarde
Hym to turne fro wrath is ful harde.
He spieth and leveth sone a thing,
Looth to turne fro that trowyng,
Coveytouse and hard holdande.
His chere is dryghe and his semblande
Swyfte to speke on his manere
And loth and slow is for to here.
He preyseth oolde and haldeth hem wyse
And yong men hym lust wel despise.
He loueth oolde that er have bene
And lacketh tho that now are sene.
Seke he is and ofte gronyng
Oft grucchyng and ay pleynyng.
To oolde men thes kyndely fallen —
Propurtees of eelde clerkes hem callen —
Yute ben there moo then I have told
That fallen to men when thay are olde.
Thus may men se whoso con kenne
What maneres been of oolde menne.
Of monnes lyvyng
The ende of monnes lyf is harde
When he draweth to dethwarde,
When he is seke and alle doun lyse
And so feble he may not ryse.
Thenne are men alle uncerteyne
Whether he shal dyghe or ryse ageyn.
Bot yitte knowen som that ben slyghe
Yif he shal of that yvel dyghe
By certeyn tokenes as ye shul here
That byfallen when deth is nere.
His fronnt bygynneth doun to falle
And his browes goon doune with alle;
His lyfte yghe semeth welle lesse
And narower then the ryght yghe esse.
His nese cop is sharpe with alle,
Then bygynneth his chin to falle,
His pouns ben stille with out styryng,
His feet gyn coolde his body gyn clyng,
And yif ny deth is a yong monne
He waketh and may nought slepe thon.
Bot an oolde mon to deth drawynge
May not wake bot is ay slepyng.
Men sayen that alle thes tokenes sere
Ben of a mon when deth is nere.
While mon lyveth he is lyke monne,
When he is deed what is he thonne?
Thenne moun men her lyckenes see
Chaunged as hit had never ben hee.
When monnes lyf is atte the ende
On this maner shal he weende:
As he com naked and ful porely
The fyrste day from his modur body,
Nought he brought with hym that day
Ny no thyng schalle he bere away
Bot a wyndyng cloth oonly
That shal be wrappe his body.
Wrecchedly endeth the lyf of mon
Yif he byholde what he is thon
When that his lyf is wente away
Then is he nought bot erthe and clay.
To more corrupcyoun turneth he ageyn
Then any othur stynkyng careyn.
The foule corrupcyoun of his body
Yif hit shulde longe on erthe lye
Hit myght the eyre so corupte make
That men therof her deth myght take,
So vile hit is and violent.
Therfore the greet clerke Innocent
Seyth in his booke thus openly
Of the wrechednes of monnes body,
Quid enim fetidius humano cadauere?
Quid enim horribilius homine mortuo?
He seyth, “What may stynkynger be
Thenne monnes careyn in onne to se?
No thyng here es more uggelye
Then is a monnes dede bodye.”
When he is leyde in erthe den
Hit alle to gnawe shul wormes then
Tyl flesshe be fro the bones byten
For thus fynde we in bokes wryten,
Cum autem morietur, homo here-
ditabunt vermes et serpentes terre.16
The book seyth that “when a mon
Dyeth ther shul come to hym thon
Wormes and neddres ugly in syght
That flesshe of mon shul ha by ryght.”
Therfore in erthe mon shul sleepe
Among wormes on hym to crepe
And gnawe on that stynkyng carcays
That wryten es in book that seys,
Omnes enim in pulvere dormient
et vermes operient eos.17
“In poudur shal slepe everyche mon
And mony wormes shulde cover hem thon.”
For here is no mon so wyttye
So wit so feyre ny so myghtye,
Emperoure, duk, kyng, ny caysere
Ny noon that berith so greet state here,
Lerid ny lewed bond ny free
Nor ryche nor pore what so they be
Bot he shal turne at his laste day
To erthe and poudur alle away.
Wormes shul ryve hym al to sondur
And therfore have I myche wondur
That any mon unnethe wol see
What he was is, and shal bee.
Whoso wole in herte caaste
What he was and shal be at laste
And what he is while he is here
He shulde have ful lytul matere
Joy to make while he here dwelleth,
As a verfioure in metre telleth:
Si quis centiret quo tendit et unde veniret
nunquam gauderet set in omni tempore fleret.
“Whoso wole undurstonde and se
Whethen he coom and whidur shuld he,
He shulde not joy bot hit forsaake
And ever wepe and sorowe make.”
Whi is mon here then so myrye
And so tendre of his foule body
That shal be gnawen with wormes kene
And is so uglye then to be seen?
Whoso of hym thenne had a syght
When that wormes han hym dyght
And he alle bare is to the boon
So grisly syght say he never noon
As he myght seen on that careyn.
Wherof Seynt Bernard here wol seyn:
Post hominem vermis, post vermem fetor et horror,
sic in non hominem vertitur omnis homo.
“Aftur mon,” seyth he, “wormes he es,
Aftur wormes stynk and oglynes,
So shal uche mon turned be thon
Fro mon as nought unto un mon.”
Thus may uche mon thus wel se
What he is, was, and shal be,
What he is while [he] here lyveth
And what fruyt his kynde gyveth
Here may men see as wryten es
Mychel of monnes wrechednes,
And myche more yit myght men telle
Bot heron wole I no lenger dwel,
For forthermore nowe wole I loke
To the secounde part of this booke
In whiche there is undurstondynge
Of the worlde and worldly thinge.
Humankind; (see note)
may be cast
great (mickle); wretchedness; (see note)
grumble and weep
foulest of all to look on
fiend’s son; lost
disgusting in tongue (“so to say”)
who seem very fair
In outward appearance as men judge
reason; should him lead
nothing else; (t-note)
Nits, fleas, lice, and various vermin
piece (gobbet); assuredly
dropsy, fever, and jaundice
Phthisic, gout; various maladies
By the time it is evening
constitution (mixture of humors)
you truly believe
In [the] mighty if
goes to ruin
hair molts, his eyes run
grow deaf; (see note)
Easy to grieve; petulant
sees and believes at once
(i.e., reluctant to give up)
expression is dry; semblance
likes well to despise
these [things] naturally happen
Yet; more than; (see note)
falls completely down
left eye; smaller
nose tip; (see note)
shrivel (waste away)
must; their likeness
with nothing (full poorly)
Than; to look upon
tear; all asunder