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Prik of Conscience: Part Three: Of Death and of the Pain that With Him Goes


1 Know it to be a communication with death. Ecclesiasticus 9:20

2 O death, how bitter is the remembrance of thee to a man that hath peace in his possessions! Ecclesiasticus 41:1, not exact

3 Lines 355–56: But you like men shall die: and shall fall like one of the princes. Psalm 81:7

4 Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth, before the time of affliction come. Ecclesiastes 12:1 (which reads “adflictionis” for “visitacionis”)

5 For there is no one in death, that is mindful of thee. Psalm 6:6

6 Lines 417–18: Thou that liftest me up from the gates of death, that I may declare all thy praises in the gates of the daughter of Sion. Psalm 9:15

7 Having a desire to be dissolved and to be with Christ. Philippians 1:23

8 The day of death [is better] than the day of one’s birth. Ecclesiastes 7:2

9 Blessed are the dead, who die in the Lord. Apocalypse 14:13

10 All her persecutors have taken her in the midst of straits. Lamentations 1:3 (with “persecutores” for “inimici”)

11 Lines 676–77: For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed: nor hidden, that shall not be known. Luke 12:2, with “absconditum” for “occultum”

12 All our justices [are] as the rag of a menstrous woman. Isaias 64:6. The verse is widely quoted in commentaries, but is not traced in Isidore.

13Lines 894–95: In all thy works remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin. Ecclesiasticus 7:40


Abbreviations: CT: Chaucer, Canterbury Tales; MED: Middle English Dictionary; OED: Oxford English Dictionary; PL: Patrologia Latina, ed. Migne.

27–28 See the prose treatise “Life of Soul,” trans. Schaffner.

46 Thenne bodyly that spareth nowhore. Cotton Galba E.ix makes better sense: “Þan bodily ded þat nane will spare” (ed. Morris, line 1711).

71 Compare Ezechiel 18:32: "For I desire not the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God, return ye and live" and 33:11: "I desire not the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way, and live."

115 An apocryphal detail that appears in Middle English lyrics and Passion narratives such as The Passion of Our Lord when describing Christ’s agony in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:39–44): “As vre louerd hine ybed, he bi-gon to swete / That blod com adun of hym, dropes swythe grete” (lines 161–62 in Morris’ Old English Miscellany, p. 42).

124 Compare Walther, Proverbia Sententiaeque 15195a: “Mors rapit omnia . . .”

184 See Genesis 2:24.

205–06 St. Bernard, Tractate on Morals (PL 182:843B–C).

224–45 Compare Jeremiah 17:8, and the commentary of Abraham ibn Ezra on Deuter­onomy 20:19: “When you besiege a city a long time, in making war to capture it, you must not destroy her trees by thrusting an axe against them. You may eat of them, but do not cut them down, for man is a tree of the field, to come before you in the siege” (trans. Schachter, pp. 92–93). Trees growing from bodies can be found in the Quest of Seth for the oil of mercy when Seth plants seeds in Adam’s mouth that grow into the tree that eventually becomes the cross (see Quinn, Quest), and in various images of the Tree of Jesse that represent Christ’s lineage (Isaias 11:1–3). None of these sources correspond exactly to this passage.

237 occupyde. See MED occupien (6.c).

263–64 St. Bernard, Tractate on Morals (PL 182:843B).

275–78 Augustine, Enarrationes in Psalmos (PL 37:1606).

293–94 Augustine, Sermon 39 (PL 38:241).

313–14 Not traced.

322 Drede deth the lasse hym thar. hym is dative of agency functioning as a subject. Thar here, in line 456, and in 4:222 is from the Old English verb thurfan, “to need.”

337–38 Augustine, Sermon 220 (PL 39:2153). See also Sermon 257 (PL 39:2221).

361–62 The story of the Heavenly Rebellion and the Fall of the Angels was constructed around a network of biblical verses: Isaias 14:12–13, Matthew 25:41, Luke 10:18, 2 Peter 2:4, Jude 6, Apocalypse 12:7–12. In the preceding psalm verse “princes” (line 368) refers to one of the orders of the angels (see above 2.43 ff.). This idea figures largely in the English cycle plays.

377–78 “There is no man who in his death thinks of thee.” Cotton Galba E.ix reads more positively: “‘Lord’ he says, ‘þat man es noght / In dede þat of þe here has thoght’” (ed. Morris, lines 2082–83). The negative reading is more in keeping with the context of Psalm 6.

380 Deth of soule. Compare “lyf of soule” above (3.28).

423–26 The gates of the daughters of Zion are a “poetic way of referring to the people of Jerusalem” (Ladouceur, Latin Psalter, p. 72), though here the daughters are glossed as Scripture. The “sight of peace” is a corruption of the Hebrew meaning of “Jerusalem,” the “possession of peace.”

441–42 Augustine, City of God, chapter 11 (PL 41:25).

449–50 Augustine, Sermon on Christian Discipline (PL 40:676), though without the reciprocal verse on good dying by bad living.

456 Thar. See above, note to line 322.

459 Cato, Distichs 4.22.2 (Walther, Proverbia Sententiaeque 18027).

493–94 N.b., Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36–39).

523 Seynt Martyne. Probably St. Martin of Tours (d. 397), whose life was written by his contemporary Sulpitius Severus. Chapters 6, 21, and 24 describe several encoun­ters between St. Martin and the Devil. The next example concerns Bernard of Clairvaux, founder of the Cistercian order.

531 chalange. See MED chalengen (4.a), citing this line.

557 The appearance of the Devil at the Crucifixion and the following request by Mary to be spared such a visitation are apocryphal, but the Devil’s role during the Passion is suggested by Luke 22:3–4 (when Satan enters Judas Iscariot), Luke 22:53 (when Jesus refers to “the power of darkness” as he is arrested) and Hebrews 2:14–15 (when Paul speaks of how Christ was incarnated and crucified to destroy “Death, that is, the Devil”). See Kelly, Satan, pp. 100–03, 126–27. See also the N-Town “Assumption of Mary” for a lively dramatization of such a fiendish moment.

603 The Devil works only through God’s permission. See Job, chapter 1, and compare The Pardoner’s Tale, CT VI(C)848.

692 Saint Anselm (d. 1109), archbishop of Canterbury and prominent theologian, is best known for his ontological arguments to prove the existence of God in the Proslogium and the Monologium.

719 May no mon be there ageyne. That is, no one may go back to remedy previous sins.

754–55 Not Augustine of Hippo but Augustine of Canterbury; the phrase appears in a letter from Gregory I to the latter, as quoted in Peter Chanter’s >i (PL 205:219d). The lines are closely paralleled in Gregory’s Moralia in Job (PL 76:780c). An erroneous “non” is canceled before “sunt” in line 754.

769 Ecclesiastes 9:1, quoted in Gregory’s commentary on Kings (PL 79:390A), Innocent III’s Sermon 32 (PL 217:591D), and elsewhere.

776–77 Isidore, Sententiarum libri tres, 3.19 (PL 83:694B; not exact).

784–85 Compare Philippians 2:12, the basis of Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling.

794–99 Bernard, Tractatus de interiori domo (PL 184:525A).

818 Compare Chaucer’s description of the Parson in the General Prologue: “If gold rust, what shall iron do? / For if a preest be foul, on whom we truste, / No wonder is a lewed man to ruste” (CT I[A]500–02). See Whiting, Proverbs G304.

836–39 Augustine, Sermon 97 (PL 38:589; not exact).

840–45 The “state” refers to the spiritual, not physical, condition of the individual. The form to be taken by the heavenly body was often debated, one position being that the heavenly body should be that of a thirty-three-year-old (construing the age of thirty-three as the fully formed prime of life, the age of Christ at his death, and close to the halfway point of the seventy-year lifespan promised by Psalm 90:10). In the classical afterlife, one assumes the body one has at the exact point of death (e.g., the condition of Deiphobus in Aeneid 6.651–57).

863 A further debate (revolving partially around the fate of the rich man in Luke 16:19–31 and the fate of the penitent thief in Luke 23:43) extended to the status of the body after one’s particular judgment at the point of death as opposed to the general judgment at the end of time, when body and soul shall be reunited. The reassembly of body parts in the valley of dry bones was taken as a prefigu­ration of this reunification (Ezechiel 37; but see also 1 Corinthians 15:35–55 and Prik 4.293–304).

881 For the origin and significance of purgatory in medieval thought, see Le Goff, Birth of Purgatory.


Abbreviations: see Explanatory Notes

186 othur. There is a slanted mark (pen slip?) over the “o.”

205 reveretur. The manuscript reads reuerteur.

231 fote. The word is very faint and appears to have been erased.

262 Bernard. The manuscript reads Bernad.

411–12 Lines 411 and 412 are reversed in the manuscript but make better sense in this order.

476 seith is. The scribe has written around a sewn-up hole.

507 at his. The scribe has written around a sewn-up hole.

529–30 These lines are written around a damaged part of the manuscript, as is also the case with lines 570–71 on the verso.

570–71 See note to lines 529–30, above.

754 nostra sunt. “non” is subpuncted for deletion between these two words.

770 mon. The manuscript reads mo.

784 Quis. The word is very faded.

805 A large section of the bottom margin of folio 39 is torn and missing, affecting lines 805 and 836 and the first word in line 832.

888 mouthe. The “o” is written above the line.

894–95 nouis-/sima. The scribe adds an extra “s” at the line break (nouis-/ssima).

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The thrid part that is of deth
And of peyn that with hym geth

Deth is moste dred thing her
In this worlde as bok con lere
For here ny is no creature lyvyng
That hit ne is of deth dredyng
And fleeth deth while hit may
Bot aftur hit is dethes pray.
Beuté and strengthe he abates
Chaungyng sone myghtes and states.
Ageynes hym may no mon stonde
Wherso he cometh in any londe.
Ageynes hym non helpe may rede
That is to sey the bodyly dede.
Alle that have lyf shul hit fele
This uche mon owe to leve wele.
¶By name of deth mon here allone
May undurstonde mo dethes than one;
As dyverse clerkes in bokes reden
Thre dethes ther ben that men dreden:
Oon bodyly that thorowe kynde es,
An othur goostly, the thrid endelees.
Bodyly deth that is kyndely
Of soule partyng is fro the body
The whiche is bothe bittur and harde
As ye moun heren afturwarde.

Of goostly deeth

Gostly deth parteth with syn
God and monnes soule atwyn.
A soule is lyf of monnes body
So lyf of soule is God almyghty
And as the body withouten doute
Is deed when the soule is oute
The soule of mon is deed also
When God departed is ther fro.
Where syn is the devel is of hel
And where he is God wole not dwel
For dedely syn the devel and he
Bothe in oon stude moun not be.
When soule wounded is with syn
God is oute the devel is inne;
Anentes God that soule is deed
While they dwellen in that stede
And as the body may be slayn
With wepen that mon con ordeyn
So is the soule sleyn withinne
Wherfore God mot fro hitte twyn.
¶Thenne goostly deth is dred more
Thenne bodyly that spareth nowhore
In also myche as the soule namely
Is more worthi then the body.
Though the soule with syn be deed
Fro God almyghty that is hire heed
Yitte may hit lyve and be pynede
Bot the body is dedly by kynde.
Of bodyly deth is no geyn turnyng,
Of ertheley thing hit is endyng
And ryght entre and way hit es
To joy or pyne that is endelesse.
¶And yif the soule with syn be slayn
Hit may be grace quicken ageyn
And the goostly woundes of syn
By penaunce may be hole within.
For God is ryghtwise and myghtye
Ful of godenes and of mercye,
To turne to mon redier is hee
Then any mon to hym wole bee
For though bodyly deth that greveth
Be ordeyned to mon that here leveth,
Deth of soule wilneth not hee
Of no mon though he synful bee.
For lyf of soule more hym payeth
Then doth deth as hymselfe sayeth:
Nolo mortem peccatoris sed vt magis conuertatur et viuat.
“I wole not deth of synful monne
Bot that he turne hym and lyve thonne.”
Then may synful that so is slayne
Turned be and lyven ageynee.

Of endelesse dethe et cetera

Endeles deth is deth of helle
That is moost bitour and felle.
Helle is holden an hidus stede
The whiche is ful of endeles dede
And of peyn that never shul blyn,
For noon may dyghe that is therin.
Yif they myght dyghe as we here may
Delyvered of alle peyn were thay,
They shul fele mony dethes brayde
And ever lyve as I eer sayde
For deth of helle is ever dyghyng
And eke a deth that is ever lyvyng.
Helle deth is noon othur to say
Bot pyne and sorow lastyng ay
That soules felen withouten ende
That to that grisly stud shal wende
Of thes two may thou fynde and looke
In the syxte parte of this booke
Whiche speketh of peynes of hel
Wherfore of that nowe nile I telle.

Of bodily deth

Of bodyly deth I wole speke more
That entre is as I sayde oore
To lyf or deth withouten ende
As in this partye is contende.
Bodyly deth mony here dreden
For two skiles nomely we reden,
Oon is for peyn that with hym geth
When deth assayleth mon and sleeth;
That othur is when the lyf shal ende
He not whidur that he shal wende.
In doute he is and uncerteyn
Whether he shal to joye or peyn
Bot howso he thereaftur fare
The peyne of deth is harde in care.
Alle that deeth han in her mynde
Therfore dreden hitte by kynde,
And so hit semeth as seith the boke
When God in monhede that he toke
Byfore that he dyghed on roode
For drede of deth he swet blod;
He wiste er he therto shuld pas
What the peyne of deth then was.
Therby moun men wete ryght wele
That peyne of deth is harde to fele.
Uche mon may on deth have wondur
For alle thing hitte breketh onsondur
As hit sheweth by dyverse wayes.
Therfore the holy mon thus sayes,
Mors soluit omnia.
“The deth,” he seyth, “louseth alle thing,”
Of monnes lyf hit maketh endyng.
Deth is sotel and ryght pryvé
Wheche openly no mon may se
And for no mon may seen hitte
Ther may no mon know ny witte
Ny ymagine what hit es
Of what shap ny what licknes,
Bot what hit is sothely to say
Whoso wole witen here he may.
¶Deth is twynnyng with greet strif
Fro body the soule that is his lyf
And as a mon may wyte ful wele
Merkenes is nought kindely to fele,
Bot over alle where no lyght esse
Propurly is called merkenesse,
Ryght so deth is nothing ellus
Bot rape of lyf as clerkes tellus;
Wheresoever that lyf fayleth
There is deth that so assayleth.
This deth that men moun dryghe in haste
When lyf fayleth they mooste taaste.
¶Foure skilles fynde I in steede
Whi men aught this deth to drede:
On for peyn of deth so felle
Is more then any tonge may tel
That uche mon shal fele within
Er body and soule parten atwyn;
Anothur for that he shalle see
Develes aboute hym that shul be.
The thrid for counte that he shal yeelde
Of alle his lyf in youthe and eelde;
The ferthe for he is uncerteyne
Whether he shal to joye or peyn.
To thes foure whoso taketh hede
Hym aught greetly deth to drede.
Of two of thes byfore I spake,
Now wole I to two othur take;
Of two I spake fyrste generally
Now othur two wole I specyfy.

The fyrste dreed of deth

Fyrst men aught deth to drede in herte
For the peyne that is so smerte
That is the laste stour atte the ende
When the soule shal forthe wende.
A deolful partyng hit is to telle
For ay wole thay togedur dwelle
And nouther wole othur forgoo
So myche love is bytwene hem two;
The more thaat two togedur loven
As mon and wyf often prooven
The more sorowe and mournyng
Shal be atte here depaartyng.
¶Bot body and soule with the lyf
Loven more then monne and wyf
Whether they here lyve wele or ille
That is for mony dyverse skille.
Oon skil is as yee moun see
Whi they wolden togedur be
For wittenes God on holy writte
Bothe hem togedur he knytte;
Anothur for that oon ne may do
Nought bot the othur helpe therto;
The thrid for thay togedur shul come
Byfore god on the day of doom;
The ferthe when thay becom thidur
They shul ay aftur dwell togidur.
Therfore her peyn is in greet care
When eyther shal from othur fare.
This partyng may be calde the deth
That flutteth abouten as hit geth
In alle londes both fer and nere
Of alle this worlde he hath powere.
Where that he cometh noon shal lyve
For preyer ny gifte that he may gyve
For love ny awe is noon spared;
Deth to no degré hath rewared.
Ryche nor pore hyghe nor lowe
Bot he the lyf wole fro hem drawe,
Deth ne hath mercye of no wyght,
As Seynt Bernard seith ful ryght:
Non miseretur mors inopie, non reveretur di-
uiciis, non sapiencie, non moribus, non etati.
“Deth of poverté no pyté haas
Nor to ryche no rewarde taas.”
He doth no frensship ny favoure
To knyght ny kyng nor emperour,
To poop, bysshope, nor prelaate
Ny to noon othur of greet astate,
To religiouse nor to seculeer
For over al he hath poweer.
Thorow his hondes alle shal pas
As Salamon sayde that wyse was,
Communionem mortis scito propheta.1
“Wyteth,” he seyth, “that deth esse
Comune to alle more and les.”
Thus shal he viseten uch mon
And yit noon discreven hym con
There is noon undur heven ryche
That con telle what deth is lyche.
¶Bot peyn of deth that alle shul fele
A philisophur descreveth weele:
He lyckeneth monnes lyf to a tree
That grewed yif hit myght so bee
Out of a monnes herte to spryng
And wrapped were with herte stryng,
The crop oute at his mouthe he bere
And to uche fote a rote faste were
And every veyn of his body
Had a roote fastened ther by;
Uche toe and fyngur on hand
Had a roote ther inne growand
And every lyme on uche a syde
With dyverse rotes were occupyde,
And yif that tree then were pulled oute
At ones with alle the rotes aboute
The rotus shuld then rise therwith
Evere veyn, senewe, and lyth
A more peyne couthe no mon cast
Then hit were while that hit laste,
And yit the peyn of deth is more
And feller to feelen then hit wore.
Therfore uche mon as I seyde
Aught to drede the dethes breyde
For good and evel shul hit taste
Bot evel owe to drede hit maaste,
For drede of deth is moost within
A mon that here is ful of synne.
Therfore the prophete in a steede
Speketh thus unto the deede,
O mors quam amara est memoria tua homini iniusto.2
“A thou grysly deth,” seyth hee,
“Ful bittur is the mynde of thee
Unto the synful mon noomly,”
That for syn is peyne worthy.
Ordeyne hym shuld mon ther ageyn
For that tyme is uncerteyn
And no mon may hit forloke
As seith Bernard in his booke:
Quid incercius hora mortis invenitur, quid
autem in rebus humanis cercius est morte?
He seyth, “what is more certeyn
To monne then is the deth sodeyn,
And what is more uncerten thing
Then the tyme of dethes comyng?”
Therfore mon shulde him redy make
Byfore that deth com hym to take,
Put hym byfore and deth byhynde
That deth mon so redy fynde.
Wherfore Austyn the holy mon
Seyth thus as I nowe shew con:
Nescis qua hora veniet mors, semper
vigila, vt quod nescis quando veniat, paratum
te inveniat cum veneris et ad hoc forte nes-
cis quando veniat vt semper paratus scis.
“Mon thow knowest not,” seyth he,
“When the comyng of deth shal be,
Wake ay as thou had no knowyng
Of tyme of dethes sodeyn comyng,
That thou be waken at his come
Redy to God and ful buxome;
For thou ne knowest thi deth day:
Therfore moste thou be redy ay.”
Then is good oure lyf so caste
As every day were oure laste
And ordeyne us to lyve als wele
As we uch day the deth shuld fele
And not abyde tyle deth us pyne;
Therfore thus seyth seynt Austyne,
Latet ultimus vt observentur omnes dies sero
parantur remedia cum mortis iminent pericula.
“Monnes laste day is hud,” he seys,
“For he shulde kepe al othur days;
Ful late men ordeyne remedy
When perel of deth cometh sodenly.”
For yif a mon that onredy es
Be taken with deth in wykednes,
Turne ageyn then may he nought
To amende that he myswrought
In that staat he was in thoo;
So shal he have when he is go,
For when the deth is at the gaat
To amende then is ful laat.
Deth fro mon his mynde reveth
And no kynde witte hym leveth.
Then shal he fele suche peyn and drede
That he shal think on no mysdeede
Bot on his peyne and nought elles,
As the clerke Seynt Austyn telles:
Totam animam timor mortis sibi vendicat vt
nec de peccatis sibi libeat cogitare.
“When drede of deth assayleth mon
He chalangeth the soul so thonne
That hym lusteth to have no thought
Of his synnes that he hath wrought.”
Therfore uche mon amend hym here
Er deth com or his messangeer;
For whoso wole thus be war
Drede deth the lasse hym thar.
His messager calle I sekenes
That cometh byfore as ofte felte es,
That sekenes then so monne pyneth
That therfore his mynde he tyneth
For he ne shal thinke on nought ellus
Bot on the peyne that with hym dwellus.
Bot when deth cometh afturwarde
Then shal he feele more haarde
In suche drede mon shal be set;
Hymselfe and God he shal forget
And that is skil for he wolde nought
While he had hele have God in thought
Therfore his mynde shal he tyne
For ryght so seyth Seynt Austyne:
Hic animadversione percutitur peccator, vt moriens
obliviscatur sui, qui dum viueret oblitus est Dei.
He seyth “the synful as is writen
That with peyne of deth is smyten
For the peyne that he may drye
Forgeteth hymself when he shal dyghe,
That while he lyved here bodylye
Forgaat his loorde God almyghtye.”
Mony synful han here no grace
Of tyme of repentaunce ny space
For while they lyve they ha no mynde
On God bot forgeete hym as unkynde;
Therfore hit is resoun and ryght
That God hem reve mynde and myght.
Thus shul they dye and heven tyne
And be put to endles pyne
That so to God are uncorteyse
As Davyd in the sauter sayse:
Vos autem sicut homines moriemini
et sicut vnus de principibus cadetis.3
“As men,” he seyth, “yee shul dye al
And as oon of the princes falle.”
Ye shul dyghe on the same manere
As dyen men in this worlde here
As spiritus that fro heven felle
And sithen he caste ryght into hel.
Therfore to mon hit were wisdome
Hym to repente er then deth come
And thinke on God in this lyf here
As seyth the prophete on this manere:
Memento creatoris tui antequam veniat tempus visitacionis tue.4
“Thinke on God and have thin thought
In hym that maad the fyrst of nought
While thou lyvest er that tyme be
That he with deth wole viset thee.”
When that deth assayleth a mon
He may not thinke on God thon.
Deth his mynde fro hym breketh
As Davyd thus to God speketh:
Quoniam non est in morte qui memor sit tui.5
“Lorde,” he seyth, “that mon is nought
That in his deth of thee hath thought.”
But men may undurstonde therby
Deth of soule for syn nomly
He that hath God in his thought ay
In deth of soule syn he ne may.
He that of God is myndelees
Hit semeth that he in soule ded es.
God viseteth us in mony a steed
There we may fele tokenes of deed;
Therfore me thinke this lyf semeth
More deth then lyf as clerkes demeth
For as the boke beruth wittenesse
Fyrst when a mon borne esse
He bygynneth to deth to drawe
And feleth mony dethes thrawe,
As dyverse eveles when they falle
That men moun dethes throwes calle
And dyverse pereles and eveles nomly
That comen to men ofte sodeynly.
Oure byrthe here thenne is bygynnyng
Of deth that is oure laste endyngge.
Therfore the more we waxen oolde
The more oure lyf may deth be toolde,
For while we here be lyvyngge
Uche day are we here dyghyngge.
Thenne is this lyf no thyng ellus
But a deth as clerkus teell us
And to othur lyf wende we nought
Til deth this lyf to eende ha brought.
Bot when this lyf is brought to ende
We wute not whidur we shul wend,
Whethur we shul to wele or wo
Bot to that oon nede most we go.
Unto good men deth is way
To blysse of heven that lasteth ay,
And to ille men hit is entree
To pyne of helle that ay shal be;
Therfore Davyd that was holy
Speketh thus to God almyghty:
Qui exaltas me de portis mortis vt annunciem
omnes laudaciones tuas in portis filie Syon.6
“Loord,” seyth David, “thou arte hee
That fro the gates of deth lyft mee
That I may shew over al thyng
Sovereynly alle thi preysyng
In the gaatus of the doughter Syon.”
Whiche clerkes say that con theron
Is holy writte that God fyrste chees
By whiche men comen to syght of pees.
By gatus of deth as men moun see
The gatus of hel moun tokened be
Fro whiche God lyfte us day and nyght
To shewe his preysyng and his myght,
To serve hym and his werkes wyrch
In studefaste trouthe of holy chirch,
So that we may aftur weende
To syght of pees withouten eende.
Bot alle that wolen into that steede
Mot hethen passe by bodyly deed.
That deth to tho men nis not ille
That here lyven aftur Goddes wylle
And studfastly in that lyf dwelles
And therfore Seynt Austin telles,
Mala mors putanda non est quam vita bona precessit,
neque enim facit malam mortem quod sequitur ipsam mortem.
“No mon shulde evel deth wene
Where goode lyf byfore hath bene,
Nought maketh evel deth to taste
Bot that that deth foloweth maste.”
And that is syn that men wol do
As Seynt Austyn seyth yit therto,
Non potest male mori qui bene vixit
et vix bene moritur qui male vixit.
He seyth, “he may not evel deth fele
That in Goddes lawe hath lyved wel,
And unnethe may men se by skil
Hym dyghe wel that hath lyved il.”
Bot he that hateth this lyf lykyng
Thar not drede the dethes comyng
For aftur deth no peyne hym deres
As Catoun seyth in this veers:
Non metuit mortem qui sit contempnere vitam.
He that con wel this lyfe despyse
Thar drede the deth on no wyse.
As martires that the deth here sought
By this lyf thay setten nought
And othur holy yeerned to dyghe
To be with God in heven hyghe,
As hore bokus tellen to us
For so dyde Poule that seyde thus:
Cupio dissolui et esse cum Christo.7
“I wolde,” seyth he, “loused be away
Fro this worlde and with Crist be ay.”
Holy men thought this lyf bot wast
For thi they yeerned to God ful fast
And wylned eende of her lyf dayes,
Forthi the holy mon thus sayes:
Melius est dies mortis quam dies nativitatis.8
“Bettur,” he seith, “is day of deed
Then day of byrthe may stond in steed.”
When good men dyen they goo to rest
There here lyf shal be the beest
When the soule fro the body swippes
As Joon seyth in the apocalyppes:
Beati mortui qui in domino moriuntur.9
“Blessed be thay that bodylye
Here dyghen in God Almyghtye.”
Tho be alle that here moun ende
In good lyf for they shul wende
To joyful blysse in heven on hyghe
Ful weel is hem that so may dyghe,
Bot though holy men dyghe wele
Dethes peyne most they feele
Therewith here to be pynede
Hem ow to drede it then by kynd
For so did God in his monhed
Forthi aught uche mon hit to dred.

The secound drede of deth

The secounde skil as I ere red
Whi deth is so greetly dred
Is for the grysly syght of fendes
That man shal see when his lyf endes,
For when the lyf endeth of mon
Fendes shul gedre aboute hym thon
To reve fro hym his soule away
To pyne of helle that lasteth ay,
As wode lyouns shul thay faare
And on hym grysly raumpe and star
And bitturly upon hym bleere
And hidously do alle hym to feere.
They wole stande at his last endyng
Alle in wanhope hym for to bryng
With the skiles that they wole make
And with ferdenesse that he shal take.
Hydouse syghtes they wole shewe hym
To make his chere grysly and grym;
This shal we se with goostly yghe
In peyne of deth that he shal dryghe.
Therfore the prophete Jeremye
Speketh thus in his prophecye:
Omnes inimici eius apprehenderunt eam inter angustias.10
“Lo,” he seyth, “among his greet anguyse
Shulen hym take hys enemyse.”
No wondur though the fende come thon
In tyme of deeth to synful mon
Hym to tempte and for to pyne
When he come to Seynt Martyne
In tyme of deth at his last daye
Hym to tempte and to affraye.
¶And als we reed of Seynt Bernarde
That when he drowe to deth warde
The feend that is grysly and grym
To hym come and tempted hym,
And askud hym by what ryght
That he wolde chalange heven bryght.
Bernarde answered thus mekelye,
“I know that I am unworthye
By my deserte to haven hitte
When I oute of this worlde shal flit.
Bot my loorde Ihesu ful of myght
That oweth hit by double ryght
Oon by his fadur heritage
An othur for our avauntage
Thorowe ryght of his passyoun
That he tholed for oure raunsom.
That oo ryght frely graunted he me
That othur to hymselfe helde he
Of this ryght chalange I heven by skil
As the lawe of his mercye wole.”
When the fende herde hym thus say
Alle discoumfete he wente away.
The holy mon when this was doon
Turned ageyn to hymselfe soon
And gaf the goste to God dyende
And sone the soule to heven wende.
And yitte is more wondur to tel
That God suffered the fende of hel
Apered to hymselfe of myghtes most
Tho he wolde dyghe and yelde the gost,
As doctours tellen of holy writ
In bokes where men may fynde hit.
Then semeth hit wele that God wol thus
Suffre the fend to appere to us
In tyme of deth at oure laste ende
When soule fro the body shal wende,
Sithe holy men that lyved here ryght
Moost not dyghen withoute that syght.
Ny his modur that he loved more
Fro that syght was not forbore,
Bot Cryst grauntid at hire askyng
That in tyme of hire passyng
The syght of hem shuld hire not dere
Ny her foulnesse shuld hire fere.
¶Thus be we certeyn and oute of were
That fendus shal at oure ende appere.
A ful greet peyne to us shal be
The syght of hem when we hem se,
They are so blaake seyth the boke
And so lodly upon to looke
That alle the men of myddelerde
Of that syght shul ben aferde.
For alle that lyven in this lyve
Couthe not so lothely thing descrive
Ny by witte ymagine ne deme
As they in tyme of deth shul sene.
So sly peyntoure never non was
Though he alle othur in sleyght couth passe
That couthe ymagyne hore uglynesse
Or peynt a poynte of hore lykenesse,
For in this lyf ther may no monne
Hem see in fourme as they be thonne.
¶For yif they had suche powere
In that fourme to shewe hem here
Oute of witte they wolde men fray
So orrible and so foule aren thay.
So hardy mon certes is noon
Ny never was in blood ny boon
That sye a fende in his shap ryght
Bot he for fere of thatte syght
Shulde dyghe or ellus lese his witte
Als sone as he had seen hytte.
Bot in suche fourme I undurstand
Apere they to no mon lyvande
Unto the tyme that deeth bee neere
So God restreyneth her powere,
Ny they may not tempte ny greve
Forthermore then thay have leeve.
Bot when deth assayleth monne
In foulest wyse appere thei thonne,
Uche mon therfore dredyng be
Ageyn the tyme he shal hem se.
¶Nowe wole I shewen apertelye
Wherfore that they ben so oglye:
When they weren aungelles bryght
As tho that dwellen in heven lyght
Fro that place for synne they felle
And foul develes bycomen in helle.
So foule were they maad with synne
That thay shulde ever be hardened inne.
Ne had thay synned they shuld ha bene
Aungelles as thay were fyrste sene;
Nowe are thay foul and ful ogly
By fylyng of her synne namely.
Thus is syn more wlatsoome
Then any devel fro helle may come
For thing is fouler that may fyle
Then thing fyled and more vyle.
Whi clerkes sey that ben conyng
That synne is mooste orrible thing,
For yif a mon myght se his synne
In kynde lykenesse that he is inne
For fere he shulde sonner hit fle
Then any devel that he myght se.
Here may men se and undurstand
Howe foule is syn and how fyland;
Bot for men knowe not what hit es
Therfore thay drede hit wel the lesse,
Bot and the synful seyghe withoute
Howe foule syn is to bere aboute
Shulde he never be in lykynge
Tyl he delyvered hym of that thyng.
Sythe the fende hath his foulnesse
Of fylthe of syn that fylyng esse
Then aught the soule of mon withinne
Be foul that soyled is with synne.
Therfore owe mon whereso he wendes
More drede syn then syght of fendes;
When they appere at his last day
His syn shal be fouler then thay
Of whiche mon ne wole hym shryve
Ny repente hym in his lyve.

The thrid drede of dethe

The thrid skil to oure knowyng
Why men dreden dethes comyng
Is for acounte streyte and harde
Of alle oure lyf that is frowarde
That we shul yeelde in Goddes syght
Als wele of wronge as of ryght,
Of alle tymes passed away
Fro oure bygynnyng to oure last day.
Alle shale then be shewed and sene
Good dede and evel foule and clene,
Bytwene fendus and bryght aungelles
And be rehersed the boke so telles.
They shul dysputen alle oure lyf
With greet discorde and myche stryf:
The aungelles shul reherce the good
The fende the evel with egre mood
Alle the werkes that we here wrought
Bytwene hem too shul oute be sought
And uche a thought and uche a wylle
As wel the good as the ylle,
And uche worde that spoke ha we
Good or evel whetherso hit be,
Alle shal be toolde as I seyd are
Evel ny good shal thay non spare
Bot only synne that clensed is here
And good dede doon on good manere.
Therfore God seyde in the gospelle
Ryght on this wyse as I shal telle:
Nichil opertum quod non reueletur
nec occultum quod non sciatur.11
Nought here is so pryvely hyd
That openly then ne shal be kyd
No pryveté is that toucheth to mon
That hit ne shal be wyste thonne.
Then mot we byde, we shul not fle
Tylle alle oure lyf examined be
And alle oure dedus good and ille
Discussed ben at Goddes wylle.
Then shul we se oure syn onely
And what we are therfore worthy,
Then shul we knowe and se in syght
Whethur we have doon wrong or ryght
And whiche we deden parfytely here
And whiche were doon on evel manere.
¶Seynt Ancelme the boke tellus us
Speketh to the soule and seyth thus:
“Wreched soule what may thou say
When thou fro the body passest away,
Thenne thee behoveth acountes yelde
Of alle thi lyf in youthe and eelde.
Yee ‘waylaway’ shal ben thi song
For thi tyme spendud wrong
Both in werke in woorde and wille
Tho thou myght helpe thou helde thee stil,
Thou haddeste doon many a synful dede
To greve God haddest thou no drede
And when thou seest alle thi trespas
Then shal thou sey ‘allas allas.’
When thi lyf is alle thorow sought
To the leest thing that ever thou wrought
And alle that thou didest in thi lyve
Of whiche thou coudest thee never shryve.
Then shale be shewed unto thee
Foul and ogly onne to see
Of whiche thou shalt ha more drede.
Then of tho thou coudest here reede
And som thing that thee thought don wele
Foul synne then thou shal hit feele.
Thenne most thou receyve soone
Aftur dedus that thou haste doone
That is outhur joye or elles peyne
May no mon be there ageyne.
Thus shal uche mon at his endyng
Be put to an harde rekenyngge
There shal no synne unrekened be
Though hit be never soo pryvee;
Alle the good dedus that thu haste don
Anentes thi synnes be bot foon.”
¶And als I fynde thre skiles whi
That no mon may tryste sykurly
In his good dedus that he doth here
These thre skilles are good to bere.
¶Oon is for alle good thyngus
That here be good on God sprynges,
Alle good dedus then that are wrought
Been Goddes dedus and oures nought
Bot alle synnes that we may knowen
Comen of us and are oure owen.
Withouten God we synne soon
Withouten hym is no good dede doon.
¶Anothur skil is als forthy
For we are often here more redy
An hundreth sythes for to synne
Thenne o good dede to bygynne;
Therfore we moun reken and reede
A thousand synnes to oo gode dede.
¶The thrid skil is to telle amonge
For oure dedus ben ofte don wrong,
Not in manere as they shulde be
That is for lacke of charytee
And alle oure synnes aren certeyn
And by resoun worthye peyne
For bot oure good dedus certeynly
We wote not what we are worthy;
Therfore shulde we hem not preyse
For Seynt Austyn thereof thus seyse:
Mala nostra sunt pura mala set
bona nostra non sunt pura bona.
“Oure ille dedus ful ille are wrought
Bot oure good dedus ful good are nought.”
Herto Ysydore accordeth thus
A noble clerke and seyth to us,
Omnes iusticie nostre sunt quasi pannus menstruate.12
“Alle oure ryghtwysnesse are seen
As fouled clothe of thing unclene.”
Certeynly therfore wote noon
Howe he shal fare when he is goon
Bot we shul trow withouten were;
He shal fare wel that wel doth here.
Bot sykur be we not in thes dayes
Forthi the holy mon thus sayes:
Nescit homo vtrum sit dignus odio vel amore.
“Certeyn,” he seyth, “yit wot mon nought
Though he have myche good here wrought
Whethur he be worthy aftur his dede
Love to have or Goddes haterede.”
In his boke Ysydree sheweth us
Acordyng thertoo and seyth thus:
Seruus dei dum bonum agit utrum
sit ei ad bonum incertus est.
“He that ay is Goddes servande
When he doth good with tong or hande
Uncerteyn he is yit in that thought
Whether hit to hym be good or nought.”
Therfore oure lyvyng here is harde
As seyth the holy mon Bernarde:
Quis, sine trepidacione et timore
hanc vitam ducere potest?
“Who,” he seyth, “may this lyf lede
Withouten trembelyng or drede?”
For though a mon aforce hym ay
To doo the good that he may
Yit moun his dedus be so wrought
That in hap God alloweth hem nought.
Therfore seynt Bernarde pleyneth hym here
On his owen lyf on this manere:
Terret me tota vita mea, qua diligenter
discussa apparet aut peccatum aut
rilitas, et si quid in ea fructus videtur,
est aut similacrum aut imperfectum
aut alio modo corruptum, vt possit
aut non placere deo aut displicere.
Seynt Bernarde here to us sayeth:
“Alle my lyf here me affrayeth
Yif that hit fully discussed bee,
Hit semeth nought ellus unto me
Bot outher syn that the soule dereth
Or bareyne thing that no fruyt bereth,
And yif therin any fruyt seme
Hit may by skil be thus to deme
Outher feyned thing to shewe in syght
Or thing that is not demed aryght,
Or hit is elles corupte with synne
That is to say fyled withinne
So that outher may hitte nought
Plese God that so is wrought
Or in happe hit hym myspayeth,”
As the holy mon Bernard sayeth.
What may synful mon say thon
When he that was so holy a mon
Couthe no fruyt in his lyf see?
Thenne aught synful dredyng be
Of his lyf that is uncleene
In whiche no fruyt may be sene.

The ferthe drede of deeth

The ferthe skil and the last to tel
Whi men dreden deth so felle
Is for noon wote whidur to wend
To joye or peyne at his last end.
Therfore aught both yong and oolde
For thes skilles drede that I toolde,
Bot when the fende and aungelles
Oure lyf have pleted as the boke telles
And discussed as hit shalle be
Thenne we sothely here and se
Oure certeyn dome that we shul have
Whethur we shul be dampned or save
And outher wende to joy or pyne
As seyth the doctour seynt Austyne:
Bene unusquisque de die nouissimo
formidare debet quia unum quemque in
quo inuenerit suus dies cum de hoc seculo
egreditur in die nouissimo indicatur.
“Uche mon shal passen away
Shulde ha drede of his laste day
For in suche staat as he is thon
As at his endyng deth fyndeth mon
So shal he be demed at his ende
When he shal oute of this world wend.”
Therfore oure laste day that shal fal
Oure day of dome we may hit cal,
Bot on the general day of dome
With oure bodyes we shul come
Byfore Jhesu that myghtful kyng
That shal thenne jugge alle thyng.
Then shal he deme alle nacioun
And make a fynal declaracioun
Of alle domes byfore shewed
In tyme of deth to lerud and lewed.
The body shal wende to that stede
That soule is demed to afture dede
And thenne outher ha joy togedur
Or ful sorowe when thei com thedur,
And evermore aftur togedur dwel
Whethur they go to heven or helle
Bot in erthe shul be the bodyes alle
Tyl the day of doom shul falle.
¶Bot als sone as the soule namly
Thorowe deth is past fro the body
Hit shal be demed aftur the werkes
To joye or peyn as seyn thes clerkes.
The synful shal goo to helle
Withouten ende in peyne to dwelle
And clene soules shul go up evene
Withouten lettyng into hevene.
Bot mony soules that are save
Or they come thene mot peyne have
In purgatory and dwelle therinne
Tyl they be clensed of here synne;
That be shryven and not clensed here
There shul they be purged cleere
For in heven may no soule be sene
Tyl hitte of synne be clensud clene
With penaunce here as clerkus wote
Or in purgatory wyth fyre hote.
And soules that are clensed here
With almesdede and penaunce sere
Aungelles shul wysse hem the way
To heven blys that lastuth ay.
Therfore uche mon clense hym wel
Er he the deth comyng feele
With shryfte of mouthe and repentaunce
With almesdede and with penaunce,
So that deth fynde hym clene of syn
When the body and soule shul twyn
And kepe hym here from alle folyse
As seyth Salomon in this wyse:
In omnibus operibus tuis memorare nouis-
sima tua et in eternum non peccabis.13
That is on Englysshe thus to say,
“Thenke upon thine endyng day
When thou shal any werke bygyn
And never,” he seyth, “shalt thou syn.”
Thenke thou shal dygh and nost when
Ny in what staate thou shal be then
Ny thou wotest never in what stede
Thou shal dyghe ny on what deede.
Therfore at morowe when thou seest lyght
Thenke that thowe shal dyghe er nyght
And als at even yif thou be wyse
As thou shuldest not with lyf aryse.
For seynt Austyn seyth in a boke
Lete ever thyn herte on thi laste day lok.
Whoso wole thynke on this manere
And also make hym redy heere
Of alle synnes clense hym wele
Er he the deth comyngge feele.
Then may he passe awaye lyghtlye
From bittur peynes of purgatorye
And come to blysse of heven bryght
There evere is day and never nyght.
¶The thridde parte of this booke is sped
That speketh of deth as I have redde;
The ferthe parte nowe to specyfye
Speketh of the peynes of purgatorye
Where soules suffren peynes harde
Aas men may heren aftur warde.
Mony speke ofte and in booke reede
Of purgatorye bot fewe hit dreede,
For mony wote not what hit es
Therfore they dreden hit wel the les.
Bot and they knewen what hit wore
I trowe they wolden drede hit sore
And for mony ha no knowyngge
Of purgatory ny undurstondyng
Therfore wole I speke a partye
In this lyf of purgatorye,
Fyrste to shewe yowe what it es
And in what stude as bokes witnes
And what peynes are thereinne
And whech soules gon thidur and for what syn,
And what thing is moste certeyne
That hem may helpe and slake of peyn
Of thes syxe poyntes now wol I rede
And this ferthe part hereof speede.

can teach
there is no

physical death
ought to believe well

second spiritual

may hear

(see note)



must from it separate
is [to be] dreaded
nowhere; (see note)
To the degree that the soul

is no turning away


by; live



(see note)

in hell
held [to be]; place

in hell


place; go

I will not speak

entrance; before

For two reasons namely we read
with him goes

knows not


manhood that he took
died on the cross
sweat; (see note)
knew before he thereto should pass

may men know


(see note)

subtle and very secret

nor understand


Whoever wishes to know hear he may

know full well



reasons; place


in two
A second [reason]

the account





(see note)




[a] reward


(see note); (t-note)





experience; (see note)


covered; (see note)


fiercer (more cruel)


ought to dread it [the] most




(see note)

[To] put himself first
[So] that death find the man ready

(see note)



wait; destroys

(see note)


too late


leaves him no kind of intelligence

nothing else

(see note)

The less need he has to fear death (see note); (see note)



for this reason

(see note)



reave from them


(see note)

(see note)

for sin namely; (see note)





must needs we go


(see note)
who know such things

may be signified

work’s work

desire [to go] to that place

(see note)


(see note)


the pleasures of this life
Needs not dread; (see note)

(see note)

Need dread death in no wise

holy [ones] yearned to die



stand in stead

where their

may end

they ought to dread
(see note)

reason; earlier suggested (advised)


mad; behave
romp and stare
cause; fear
charges (reasons)

face horrible and grim

in his great distress

torment (persecute)
(see note)

drew toward death


lay claim [to]; (see note)


owns it (heaven)

endured; ransom


To appear

(see note)



doubt: (t-note)




craft could surpass


[could] see; true


(see note)



should have been


Therefore; cunning


As for the men [who]

But if the sinful saw from outside

defiling is

ought a man




with bitter


Nothing; privily
be known then
must we bide

(see note)

Then it behooves you to yield accounts


through searched


to look on

know about

According to the deeds
go back over [them] again; (see note)


Compared to thy sins [will be] but few
also; reasons
trust securely

bear [in mind]


The second; is also therefore

than one
take into account

among [other things]

For except for our

(see note); (t-note)

no one knows

trust; doubt


(see note)

(see note)

(see note); (t-note)

force himself always

by chance

(see note)

either; harms

by reason; deem



Could; (see note)

none know

these reasons dread what


truly hear


(see note)

Each man [who]; (see note)



learned and ignorant


(see note)


in that place must suffer

Those who; shriven

(see note)

make known to them

confession of mouth; (t-note)



die; [you] know not when
nor in what deed


But if

in part


set forth

Go To Part 4 Of Purgatory where Souls are cleansed of their Folly