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From The Canterbury Tales:
The Parson's Tale

Heere bigynneth the Persouns Tale.

§ 1        Oure sweete lord God of hevene, that no man wole perisse, but wole that we comen alle to the knoweleche of hym, and to the blisful lif that is perdurable, amonesteth us by the prophete Jeremie, that seith in thys wyse: "stondeth upon the weyes, and seeth and axeth of olde pathes (that is to seyn, of olde sentences) which is the goode wey. And walketh in that wey, and ye shal fynde refresshynge for youre soules, etc." Manye been the weyes espirituels that leden fold to oure lord Jhesu Crist, and to the regne of glorie. Of whiche weyes, ther is a ful noble wey and ful covenable, which may nat fayle to man ne to womman that thurgh synne hath mysgoon fro the righte wey of Jerusalem celestial; and this wey is cleped penitence, of which man sholde gladly herknen and enquere with his herte, to wyten what is penitence, and whennes it is cleped penitence, and in how manye maners been the acciouns or werkynges of penitence, and how manye speces ther been of penitence, and whiche thynges apertenen and bihoven to penitence, and whiche thynges destourben penitence.
§ 2        Seint Ambrose seith that penitence is the pleynynge of man for the gilt that he hath doon, and namoore to do any thyng for which hym oghte to pleyne. And som doctour seith. "penitence is the waymentynge of man that sorweth for his synne, and pyneth hymself for he hath mysdoon." Penitence, with certeyne circumstances, is verray repentance of a man that halt hymself in sorwe and oother peyne for his giltes. And for he shal be verray penitent, he shal first biwaylen the synnes that he hath doon, and stidefastly purposen in his herte to have shrift of mouthe, and to doon satisfaccioun, and nevere to doon thyng for which hym oghte moore to biwayle or to compleyne, and to continue in goode werkes, or elles his repentance may nat availle. For, as seith Seint Ysidre, "he is a japere and a gabbere, and no verray repentant, that eftsoone dooth thyng for which hym oghte repente." Wepynge, and nat for to stynte to do synne, may nat avayle. But nathelees, men shal hope that every tyme that man falleth, be it never so ofte, that he may arise thurgh penitence, if he have grace; but certeinly it is greet doute. For, as seith Seint Gregorie, "unnethe ariseth he out of his synne, that is charged with the charge of yvel usage." And therfore repentant folk, that stynte for to synne, and forlete synne er that synne forlete hem, hooly chirche holdeth hem siker of hir savacioun. And he that synneth and verraily repenteth hym in his laste, hooly chirche yet hopeth his savacioun, by the grete mercy of oure lord Jhesu Crist, for his repentaunce; but taak the siker wey.
§ 3        And now, sith I have declared yow what thyng is penitence, now shul ye understonde that ther been three acciouns of penitence. The firste is that if a man be baptized after that he hath synned, Seint Augustyn seith, "but he be penytent for his olde synful lyf, he may nat bigynne the newe clene lif." For, certes, if he be baptized withouten penitence of his olde gilt, he receyveth the mark of baptesme, but nat the grace ne the remission of his synnes, til he have repentance verray. Another defaute is this, that men doon deedly synne after that they han receyved baptesme. The thridde defaute is that men fallen in venial synnes after hir baptesme, fro day to day. Therof seith Seint Augustyn that penitence of goode and humble folk is the penitence of every day.
§ 4        The speces of penitence been three. That oon of hem is solempne, another is commune, and the thridde is privee. Thilke penance that is solempne is in two maneres; as to be put out of hooly chirche in-lente, for slaughtre of children and swich maner thyng. Another is, whan a man hath synned openly, of which synne the fame is openly spoken in the contree, and thanne hooly chirche by juggement destreyneth hym for to do open penaunce. Commune penaunce is that preestes enjoynen men communly in certeyn caas, as for to goon peraventure naked in pilgrimages, or barefoot. Pryvee penaunce is thilke that men doon alday for privee synnes, of whiche we shryve us prively and receyve privee penaunce.
§ 5        Now shaltow understande what is bihovely and necessarie to verray perfit penitence. And this stant on three thynges: contricioun of herte, confessioun of mouth, and satisfaction. For which seith Seint John Crisostom "penitence destreyneth a man to accepte benygnely every peyne that hym is enjoyned, with contricioun of herte, and shrift of mouth, with satisfaccioun; and in werkynge of alle manere humylitee." And this is fruytful penitence agayn three thinges in which we wratthe oure lord Jhesu Crist: this is to seyn, by delit in thynkynge, by reccheleesnesse in spekynge, and by wikked synful werknyge. And agayns thise wikkede giltes is penitence, that may be likned unto a tree.
§ 6        The roote of this tree is contricioun, that hideth hym in the herte of hym that is verray repentaunt, right as the roote of a tree gydeth hym in the erthe. Of the roote of contricioun spryngeth a stalke that bereth braunches and leves of confessioun, and fruyt of satisfaccioun. For which Crist seith in his gospel: "dooth digne fruyt of penitence"; for by this fruyt may men knowe this tree, and nat by the roote that is hyd in the herte of man, ne by the braunches, ne by the leves of confessioun. And therfore oure lord Jhesu Crist seith thus: "by the fruyt of hem shul ye knowen hem." Of this roote eek spryngeth a seed of grace, the which seed is mooder of sikernesse, and this seed is egre and hoot. The grace of this seed spryngeth of God thurgh remembrance of the day of doom and on the peynes of helle. Of this matere seith Salomon that in the drede of God man forleteth his synne. The heete of this seed is the love of God, and the desiryng of the joye perdurable. This heete draweth the herte of a man to God, and dooth hym haten his synne. For soothly ther is nothyng that savoureth so wel to a child as the milk of his norice, ne nothyng is to hym moore abhomnyable than thilke milk whan it is medled with oother mete. Right so the synful man that loveth his synne, hym semeth that it is to him moost sweete of any thyng; but fro that tyme that he loveth sadly oure lord Jhesu Crist, and desireth the lif perdurable, ther nys to him no thyng moore abhomynable. For soothly the lawe of God is the love of God; for which David the prophete seith: "I have loved thy lawe, and hated wikkednesse and hate"; he that loveth God kepeth his lawe and his Word. This tree saugh the prophete Daniel in spirit, upon the avysioun of the Kyng Nabugodonosor, whan he conseiled hym to do penitence. Penaunce is the tree of lyf to hem that is receyven, and he that holdeth hym in verray penitence is blessed, after the sentence of Solomon.
§ 7        In this penitence or contricioun man shal understonde foure thynges; that is to seyn, what is contricioun, and whiche been the causes that moeven a man to contricioun, and how he sholde be contrit, and what contricioun availleth to the soule. Thanne is it thus: that contricioun is the verray sorwe that a man receyveth in his herte for his synnes, with sad purpos to shryve hym, and to do penaunce, and neveremoore to do synne. And this sorwe shal been in this manere, as seith Seint Bernard: "it shal been hevy and grevous, and ful sharp and poynaunt in herte." First, for man hath agilt his lord and his creatour; and moore sharp and poynaunt, for he hath agilt hys fader celestial; and yet moore sharp and poynaunt, for he hath wrathed and agilt hym that boghte hym, that with his precious blood hath delivered us fro the bondes of synne, and fro the crueltee of the deve, and fro the peynes of helle.
§ 8        The causes that oghte moeve a man to contricioun been sixe. First a man shal remembre hym of his synnes; but looke he that thilke remembraunce ne be to hym no delit by no wey, but greet shame and sorwe for his gilt. For Job seith, "synful men doon werkes worthy of confusioun." And therfore seith Ezechie, "I wol remembre me alle the yeres of my lyf in bitternesse of myn herte." And God seith in the Apocalipse, "remembreth yow fro whennes that ye been falle"; for biforn that tyme that ye synned, ye were the children of God, and lymes of the regne of God; but for youre synne ye been woxen thral, and foul, and membres of the feend, hate of aungels, sclaundre of hooly chirche, and foode of the false serpent; prepetueel matere of the fir of helle: and yet moore foul and abhomynable, for ye trespassen so ofte tyme as dooth the hound that retourneth to eten his spewyng. And yet be ye fouler for youre longe continuyng in synne and youre synful usage, for which ye be roten in yore synne, as a beest in the dong. Swiche manere of thoghtes maken a man to have shame of his synne, and no delit, as God seith by the prophete Ezechiel: "ye shal remembre yow of youre weyes, and they shuln displese yow." Soothly synnes been the weyes that leden folk of helle.
§ 9        The seconde cause that oghte make a man to have desdeyn of synne is this: that, as seith Seint Peter, "whoso that dooth synne is thral of synne"; and synne put a man in greet thraldom. And therfore seith the prophete Ezechiel: I wente sorweful in desdayn of myself. Certes, wel oghte a man have desdayn of synne, and withdrawe hym from that thraldom and vileynye. And lo, what seith Seneca in this matere? He seith thus: "though I wiste that neither God ne man ne sholde nevere knowe it, yet wolde I have desdayn for to do synne." And the same Seneca also seith: "I am born to gretter thynges that to be thral to my body, or than for to maken of my body a thral." Ne a fouler thral may no man ne womman maken of his body that for to yeven his body to synne. Al were it the fouleste cherl or the fouleste womman that lyveth, and leest of value, yet is he thanne moore foul and moore in servitute. Evere fro the hyer degree that man falleth, the moore is he thral, and moore to God and to the world vile and abhomynable. O goode God, wel oghte man have desdayn of synne, sith that thurgh synne, ther he was free, now is he maked bonde. And therfore seyth Seint Augustyn: if thou hast desdayn of thy servant, if he agilte or synne, have thou thanne desdayn that thou thyself sholdest do synne. Tak reward of thy value, that thou ne be foul to thyself. Allas! wel oghten they thanne have desdayn to been servauntz and thralles to synne, and soore been ashamed of hemself, that God of his endelees goodnesse hath set hem in heigh estaat, or yeven hem wit, strenghte of body, heele, beautee, prosperitee, and boghte hem fro the deeth with his herte-blood. That they so unkyndely, agayns his gentilesse, quiten hym so vileynsly to slaughtre of hir owene soules. O goode God, ye wommen that been of so greet beautee, remembreth yow of the proverbe of Salomon. He seith: "likneth a fair womman that is a fool of hire body lyk to a ryng of gold that were in the groyn of a soughe." For right as a soughe wrotheth in everich ordure, so wroteth she hire beautee in the stynkynge ordure of synne.
§ 10        The thridde cause that oghte moeve a man to contricioun is drede of the day of doom and of the horrible peynes of helle. For, as Seint Jerome seith, "at every tyme that me remembreth of the day of doom I quake; for whan I ete or drynke, or what so that I do, evere semeth me that the trompe sowneth in myn ere: 'riseth up, ye that been dede, and cometh to the juggement.'" O goode God, muchel oghte a man to drede wich a juggement, ther as we shullen been alle, as Seint Poul seith, biforn the seete of oure lord Jhesu Crist; whereas he shal make a general congregacioun, whereas no man may been absent. For certes there availleth noon essoyne ne excusacioun. And nat oonly that oure defautes shullen be jugged, but eek that alle oure werkes shullen openly be knowe. And as seith Seint Bernard, "ther ne shal no pledynge availle, ne no sleighte; we shullen yeven rekenynge of everich ydel word." Ther shul we han a juge that may nat been deceyved ne corrput. And why? for, certes, alle oure thoghtes been discovered as to hym; ne for preyere ne for meede he shal nat been corrupt. And therfore seith Salomon, the wratthe of God ne wol nat spare no wight, for prevere ne for yifte; and therfore, at the day of doom, ther nys noon hope to escape. Wherfore, as seith Seint Anselm, "ful greet angwyssh shul the synful folk have at that tyme; Ther shal the stierne and wrothe juge sitte above, and under hym the horrible pit of helle open to destroyen hym that moot biknowen his synnes, whiche synnes openly been shewed biforn God and biforn every creature; and in the left syde mo develes that herte may bithynke, for the harye and drawe the synful soules to the peyne of helle; and withinne the hertes of folk shall be bitynge conscience, and withoute forth shal be the world al brennynge. Whider shall thanne the wrecched synful man flee to hiden hym? Certes, he may nat hyden hym; he moste come forth and shewen hym." For certes, as seith Seint Jerome, "the erthe shal casten hym out of hym, and the see also, and the eyr also, that shal be ful of thonder-clappes and lightnynges." Now soothly, whoso wel remembreth hym of thise thynges, I gesse that his synne shal nat turne hym into delit, but to greet sorwe, for drede of the peyne of helle. And therfore seith Job to God: "suffre, Lord, that I may a while biwaille and wepe. Er I go withoute returnyng to the derke lord, covered with the derknesse of deeth; to the lond of mysese and of derknesse, whereas is the shadwe of deeth; whereas ther is noon ordre or ordinaunce, but grisly drede that evere shal laste." Loo, heere may ye seen that Job preyde repit a while, to biwepe and waille his trespas; for soothly oo day of respit is bettre than al the tresor of this world. And forasmuche as a man may acquiten hymself biforn God by penitence in this world, and nat by tresor, therfore sholde he preye to God to yeve hym respit a while to biwepe and biwaillen his trespas. For certes, al the sorwe that a man myghte make fro the bigynnyng of the world nys but a litel thyng at regard of the sorwe of helle. The cause why that Job clepeth helle the "lond of derknesse"; understondeth that he clepeth it "lond" or erthe, for it is stable, and nevere shal faille; "derk", for he that is in helle hath defaute of light material. For certes, the derke light that shal come out of the fyr that evere shal brenne, shal furne hym al to peyne that is in helle; for it sheweth him to the horrible develes that hym tormenten. Covered with the derknesse of deeth, that is to seyn, that he that is in helle shal have defaute of the sighte of God; for certes, the sighte of God is the lyf perdurable. The derknesse of deeth been the synnes that the wrecched man hath doon, whiche that destourben hym to see the face of God, right as dooth a derk clowde bitwixe us and the sonne. Lond of misese, by cause that ther been three maneres of defautes, agayn three thynges that folk of this world han in this present lyf, that is to seyn, honours, delices, and richesses. Agayns honour, have they in helle shame and confusioun. For wel ye woot that men clepen honour the reverence that man doth to man; but in helle is noon honour ne reverence. For certes, namoore reverence shal be doon there to a kyng than to a knave. For which God seith by the prophete Jeremye, thilke folk that me despisen shul been in despit. Honour is eek cleped greet lordshipe; ther shal no wight serven other, but of harm and torment. Honour is eek cleped greet dignytee and heighnesse, but in helle shul they been al fortroden of develes. And God seith, "the horrible develes shulle goon and comen upon the hevedes of the dampned folk." And this is for as muche as the hyer that they were in this present lyf, the moore shulle they been abated and defouled in helle. Agayns the richesse of this world shul they han mysese of poverte, and this poverte shal been in foure thynges: in defaute of tresor, of which that David seith, "the riche folk, that embraceden and oneden al hire herte to tresor of this world, shul slepe in the slepynge of deeth; and nothyng ne shal they fynden in hir handes of al hir tresor." And moore-over the myseyse of helle shal been in defaute of mete and drinke. For God seith thus by Moyses: they shul been wasted with hunger, and the briddes of helle shul devouren hem with bitter deeth, and the galle of the dragon shal been hire drynke, and the venym of the dragon hire morsels. And forther over, hire myseyse shal been in defaute of clothyng; for they shulle be naked in body as of clothyng, save the fyr in which they bree and othere filthes; and naked shul they been of soule, as of alle manere vertues, which that is the clothyng of the soule. Where been thannne the gaye robes, and the softe shetes, and the smale shertes? Loo, what seith God of hem by the prophete Ysaye: that "under hem shul been strawed motthes, and hire covertures shulle been of womres of helle." And forther over, hir myseyse shal been in defaute of freendes. For he nys nat povre that hath goode freendes; but there is no frend, for neither God ne no creature shal been freend to hem. And everich of hem shal haten oother with deedly hat. The sones and the doghtren shullen rebellen agayns fader and mooder, and kynrede agauns kynrede, and chiden and despisen everich of hem oother bothe day nad nyght, as God seith by the prophete Michias. And the lovynge children, that whilom loveden so flesshly everich oother, wolden everich of hem eten oother if they myghte. For how sholden they love hem togidre in the peyne of helle, whan they hated everich of hem oother in the progenitee of this lyr? For truste wel, hir flesshly love was deedly hate, as seith the prophete David: "whoso that loveth wikkednesse, he hateth his soule." And whoso hateth his owene soule, certes, he may love noon oother wight in no manere. And therfore, in helle is no solas ne no freendshipe, but evere the moore flesshly kynredes that been in helle, the moore cursynges, the more chidynges, and the moore deedly hate ther is among hem. And forther over, they shul have defaute of alle manere delices. For certes, delices been after the appetites of the fyve wittes, as sighte, herynge, smellynge, savorynge, and touchynge. But in helle hir sighte shal be ful of derknesse and of smoke, and therfore ful of teeres; and hir herynge ful of waymentynge and of gryntynge of teeth, as seith Jhesu Crist. Hir nose-thirles shullen be ful of stynkynge stynk; and as seith Ysaye the prophete, "hir savoryng shal be ful of bitter galle"; and touchynge of al hir body ycovered with "fir that nevere shal quenche, and with wormes that nevere shul dyen," as God seith by the mouth of Ysaye. And for as muche as they shul nat wene that they may dyen for peyne, and by hir deeth flee fro peyne, that may they understonden by the word of Job, that seith, "ther as is the shadwe of deeth." Certes, a shadwe hath the liknesse of the thyng of which it is shadwe, but shadwe is nat the same thyng of which it is shadwe. Right so fareth the peune of helle; it is lyk deeth for the horrible angwissh, and why? For it peyneth hem evere, as though they sholde dye anon; but certes, they shal nat dye. For, as seith Seint Gregorie, "to wrecche caytyves shal be deeth withoute deeth, and end withouten ende, and defaute withoute failynge. For hir deeth shal alwey lyven, and hir ende shal everemo bigynne, and hir defaute shal nat faille." And therfore seith Seint John the evaungelist: "they shullen folwe deeth, and they shul nat fynde hym; and they shul desiren to dye, and deeth shal flee fro hem." And eek Job seith that in helle is noon ordre of rule. And al be it so that God hath creat alle thynges in right ordre, and no thyng withouten ordre, but alle thynges been ordeyned and nombred; yet, nathelees, they that been dampned been nothyng in ordre, ne holden noon ordre. For the erthe ne shal bere hem no fruyt. For as the prophete David seith, "God shal destroie the fruyt of the erthe as fro hem; ne water ne shal yeve hem no moisture, ne the eyr no refresshyng, ne fyr no light." For, as seith Seint Basilie, "the brennynge of the fyr of this world shal God yeven in helle to hem that been dampned, but the light and the cleernesse shal be yeven in hevene to this children"; right as the goode man yeveth flessh to his children and bones to his houndes. And for they shullen have noon hope to escape, seith Seint Job atte laste that "ther shal horrour and grisly drede dwellen withouten ende." Horrour is alwey drede of harm that is to come, and this drede shal evere dwelle in the hertes of hem that been dampned. And therfore han they lorn al hire hope, for sevene causes. First, for God, that is hir juge, shal be withouten mercy to hem; and they may nat plese hym ne noon of his halwes; ne they ne may yeve no thyng for hir raunsoun; ne they have no voys to speke to hym; ne they may nat fle fro peyne; ne they have no goodnesse in hem, that they mowe shewe to delivere hem fro peyne. And therfore seith Salomon: "the wikked man dyeth, and whan he is deed, he shal have noon hope to escape fro peyne." Whoso thanne wolde wel understande thise peynes, and bithynke hym weel that he hath deserved thilke peynes for his synnes, certes, he sholde have moore talent to siken and to wepe, than for to syngen and to pleye. For, as that seith Salomon, "whoso that hadde the science to knowe the peynes that been establissed and ordeyned for synne, he wolde make sorwe." "Thilke science, "as seith Seint Augustyn, "maketh a man to waymenten in his herte."
§ 11        The fourthe point that oghte maken a man to have contricion is the sorweful remembraunce of the good that he hath left to doon heere in erthe, and eek the good that he hath lorn. Soothly, the goode werkes that he hath lost, outher they been the goode werkes that he wroghte er he fel into deedly synne, or elles the goode werkes that he wroghte while he lay in synne. Soothly, the goode werkes that he dide biforn that he fil in synne been al mortefied and astoned and dulled by the ofte synnyng. The othere goode werkes, that he wroghte whil he lay in deedly synne, thei been outrely dede, as to the lyf perdurable in hevene. Thanne thilke goode werkes that been mortefied by ofte synnyng, whiche goode werkes he dide whil he was in charitee, ne mowe nevere quyken agayn withouten verray penitence. And therof seith God by the mouth of Ezechiel, that "if the rightful man returne agayn from his rightwisnesse and werke wikkednesse, shal he lyve?" Nay, for alle the goode werkes that he hath wroght ne shul nevere been in remembraunce, for he shal dyen in this synne. And upon thilke chapitre seith Seint Gregorie thus: that "we shulle understonde this principally; that whan we doon deedly synne, it is for noght thanne to rehercen or drawen into memorie the goode werkes that we han wroght biforn. For certes, in the werkynge of the deedly synne, ther is no trust to no good werk that we can doon biforn; that is to seyn, as for to have therby the lyf perdurable in hevene. But nathelees, the goode werkes quyken agayn, and comen agayn, and helpen, and availlen to have the lyf perdurable in hevene, whan we han contricioun. But soothly, the goode werkes that men doon whil they been in deedly synne, for as muche as they were doon in deedly synne, they may nevere quyke agayn. For certes thyng that nevere hadde lyf may nevere quykene; and nathelees, al be it that they ne availle noght to han the lyf perdurable, yet availlen they to abregge of the peyne of helle, or elles to geten temporal richesse, or elles that God wole the rather enlumyne and lightne the herte of the synful man to have repentaunce; and eek they availlen for to usen a man to doon goode werkes, that the feend have the lasse power of his soule. And thus the curteis lord Jhesu Crist ne wole that no good werk be lost; for in somwhat it shal availle. But, for as muche as the goode werkes that men doon whil they been in good lyf been al mortefied by synne folwynge, and eek sith that alle the goode werkes that men doon whil they been in deedly synne been outrely dede as for to have the lyf perdurable; wel may that man that no good werk ne dooth synge thilke newe frenshe song, "jay tout perdu mon temps et mon labour." For certes, synne bireveth a man bothe goodnesse of nature and eek the goodnesse of grace. For soothly, the grace of the Hooly Goost fareth lyk fyr, that may nat been ydel; for fyr fayleth anoon as it forleteth his wirkynge, and right so grace fayleth anoon as it forleteth his werkynge. Then leseth the synful man the goodnesse of glorie, that oonly is bihight to goode men that labouren and werken. Wel may he be sory thanne, that oweth al his lif to God as longe as he hath lyved, and eek as longe as he shal lyve, that no goodnesse ne hath to paye with his dette to God to whom he oweth al his lyf. For trust wel, he shal yeven acountes, as seith Seint Bernard, of alle the goodes that han be yeven hym in this present lyf, and how he hath hem despended; in so muche that ther shal nat perisse an heer of his heed, ne a moment of an houre ne shal nat perisse of his tyme, that he ne shal yeve of it a rekenyng.
§ 12       The fifthe thyng that oghte moeve a man to contricioun is remembrance of the passioun that oure lord Jhesu Crist suffred for oure synnes. For, as seith Seint Bernard, whil that I lyve I shal have remembrance of the travailles that oure lord Crist suffred in prechyng; his werynesse in travaillyng, his temptaciouns whan he fasted, his longe wakynges whan he preyde, hise teeres whan that he weep for pitee of good peple; the wo and the shame and the filthe that men seyden to hym; of the foule spittyng that men spitte in his face, of the buffettes that men yaven hym, of the foule mowes, and of the repreves that men to hym seyden; of the nayles with whiche he was nayled to the croys, and of al the remenant of his passioun that he suffred for my synnes, and no thyng for his gilt. And ye shul understonde that in mannes synne is every manere of ordre or ordinaunce turned up-so-doun. For it is sooth that God, and resoun, and sensualitee, and the body of man been so ordeyned that everich of thise foure thynges sholde have lordshipe over that oother; as thus: God sholde have lordshipe over resoun, and resoun over sensualitee, and sensualitee over the body of man. But soothly, whan man synneth, al this ordre or ordinaunce is turned up-so-doun. And therfore, thanne, for as muche as the resoun of man ne wol nat be subget ne obeisant to God, that is his lord by right, therfore leseth it the lordshipe that it sholde have over sensualitee, and eek over the body of man. And why? For sensualitee rebelleth thanne agayns resoun, and by that way leseth resoun the lordshipe over sensualitee and over the body. For right as resoun is rebel to God, right so is bothe sensualitee rebel to resoun and the body also. And certes this disordinaunce and this rebellioun oure lord Jhesu Crist aboghte upon his precious body ful deere, and herkneth in which wise. For as muche thanne as resoun is rebel to God, therfore is man worthy to have sorwe and to be deed. This suffred oure lord Jhesu Crist for man, after that he hadde be bitraysed of his disciple, and distreyned and bounde, so that his blood brast out at every nayl of his handes, as seith Seint Augustyn. And forther over, for as muchel as resoun of man ne wol nat daunte sensualitee whan it may, therfore is man worthy to have shame; and this suffred oure lord Jhesu Crist for man, whan they spetten in his visage. And forther over, for as muchel thanne as the caytyf body of man is rebel bothe to resoun and to sensualitee, therfore is it worthy the deeth. And this suffred oure Lord Jhesu Crist for man upon the croys where as ther was no part of his body free withouten greet peyne and bitter passioun. And al this suffred Jhesu Crist, that nevere forfeted. And therfore resonably may be seyd Jhesu in this manere: "to muchel am I peyned for the thynges that I nevere deserved, and to muche defouled for shendshipe that man is worthy to have. And therfore may the synful man wel seye, as seith Seint Bernard, "acursed be the bitternesse of my synne, for which ther moste be suffred so muchel bitternesse." For certes, after the diverse disordinaunces of oure wikkednesses was the passioun of Jhesu Crist ordeyned in diverse thynges, as thus. Certes, synful mannes soule is bitraysed of the devel by coveitise of temporeel prosperitee, and scorned by deceite whan he cheseth flesshly delices; and yet is it tormented by inpacience of adversitee, and bispet by servage and subjeccioun of synne; and atte laste it is slayn fynally. For this disordinaunce of synful man was Jhesu Crist first bitraysed, and after that was he bounde, that cam for to unbynden us of synne and peyne. Thanne was he byscorned, that oonly sholde han been honoured in alle thynges and of alle thynges. Thanne was his visage, that oghte be desired to be seyn of al mankynde, in which visage aungels desiren to looke, vileynsly bispet. Thanne was he scourged, that no thyng hadde agilt; and finally, thanne was he crucified and slayn. Thanne was acompliced the word of Ysaye, "he was wounded for oure mysdedes and defouled for oure felonies." Now sith that Jhesu Crist took upon hymself the peyne of alle oure wikkednesses, muchel oghte synful man wepen and biwayle, that for his synnes goddes sone of hevene sholde al this peyne endure.
§ 13       The sixte thyng that oghte moeve a man to contricioun is the hope of three thynges; that is to seyn, foryifnesse of synne, and the yifte to grace wel for to do, and the glorie of hevene, with which God shal gerdone man for his goode dedes. And for as muche as Jhesu Crist yeveth us thise yiftes of his largesse and of his sovereyn bountee, therfore is he cleped Jhesus Nazarenus Rex Judeorum. Jhesus is to seyn saveour or salvacioun, on whom men shul hope to have foryifnesse of synnes, which that is proprely salvacioun of synnes. And terfore seyde the aungel to Joseph, thou shalt clepen his name Jhesus, that shal saven his peple of hir synnes. And heerof seith Seint Peter: "ther is noon oother name under hevene that is yeve to any man, by which a man may be saved, but oonly Jhesus." Nazarenus is as muche for to seye as "florisshynge," in which a man shal hope that he that yeveth hym remissioun of synnes shal yeve hym eek grace wel for to do. For in the flour is hope of fruyt in tyme comynge, and in foryifnesse of synnes hope of grace wel for to do. "I was atte dore of thyn herte," seith Jhesus, "and cleped for to entre. He that openeth to me shal have foryifnesse of synne. I wol entre into hym by my grace, and soupe with hym," by the goode werkes that he shal doon, whiche werkes been the foode of God; "and he shal soupe with me" by the grete joye that I shal yeven hym. Thus shal man hope, for his werkes of penaunce, that God shal yeven hym his regne, as he bihooteth hym in the gospel.
§ 14       Now shal a man understonde in which manere shal been his contricioun. I seye that it shal been universal and total. This is to seyn, a man shal be verray repentaunt for alle his synnes that he hath doon in delit of his thoght; for delit is ful perilous. For ther been two manere of consentynges: that oon of hem is cleped consentynge of affeccioun, whan a man is moeved to do synne, and deliteth hym longe for to thynke on that synne; and his reson aperceyveth it wel that it is synne agayns the lawe of God, and yet his resoun refreyneth nat his foul delit or talent, though he se wel apertly that it is agayns the reverence of God. Although his resoun ne consente noght to doon that synne in dede, yet seyn somme doctours that swich delit that dwelleth longe, it is ful perilous, al be it nevere so lite. And also a man sholde sorwe namely for al that evere he hath desired agayn the lawe of God with perfit consentynge of his resoun; for therof is no doute, that it is deedly synne in consentynge. For certes, ther is no deedly synne, that it nas first in mannes thought, and after that in his delit, and so forth into consentynge and into dede. Wherfore I seye that many men ne repenten hem nevere of swiche thoghtes and delites, ne nevere shryven hem of it, but oonly of the dede of grete synnes outward. Wherfore I seye that swiche wikked delites and wikked thoghtes been subtile bigileres of hem that shullen be dampned. Mooreover man oghte to sorwe for his wikkede wordes as wel as for his wikkede dedes. For certes, the repentaunce of a synguler synne, and nat repente of alle his other synnes, or elles repenten hym of alle his othere synnes, and nat of a synguler synne, may nat availle. For certes, God almyghty is al good; and therfore he foryeveth al, or elles right noght. And heerof seith Seint Augustyn: "I wot certeynly that God is enemy to everich synnere; and how thanne, he that observeth o synne, shal he have foryifnesse of the remenaunt of his othere synnes? Nay. And forther over, contricioun sholde be wonder sorweful and angwissous; and therfore yeveth hym God pleynly his mercy; and therfore, whan my soule was angwissous withinne me, I hadde remembrance of God that my preyere myghte come to hym. Forther over, contricioun moste be continueel, and that man have stedefast purpos to shriven hym, and for to amenden hym of his lyf. For soothly, whil contricioun lasteth, man may evere have hope of foryifnesse; and of this comth hate of synne, that destroyeth synne, bothe in himself, and eek in oother folk, at his power. For which seith David: "ye that loven God, hateth wikkednesse." For trusteth wel, to love God is for to love that he loveth, and hate that he hateth.
§ 15       The laste thyng that men shal understonde in contricioun is this: wherof avayleth contricioun. I seye that somtyme contricioun delivereth a man fro synne; of which that David seith, "I seye," quod David (that is to seyn, I purposed fermely) "to shryve me, and thow, lord, relessedest my synne." And right so as contricion availleth noght withouten sad purpos of shrifte, if man have oportunitee, right so litel worth is shrifte or satisfaccioun withouten contricioun. And mooreover contricion destroyeth the prisoun of helle, and maketh wayk and fieble alle the strengthes of the develes, and restoreth the yiftes of the hooly goost and of alle goode vertues; and it clenseth the soule of synne, and delivereth the soule fro the peyne of helle, and fro the compaignye of the devel, and fro the servage of synne, and restoreth it to alle goodes espirituels, and to the compaignye and communyoun of hooly chirche. And forther over, it maketh hym that whilom was sone of ire to be sone of grace; and alle thise thynges been preved by hooly writ. And therfore, he that wolde sette his entente to thise thynges, he were ful wys; for soothly he ne sholde nat thanne in al his lyf have corage to synne, but yeven his body and al his herte to the service of Jhesu Crist, and therof doon hym hommage. For soothly oure sweete lord Jhesu Crist hath spared us so debonairly in oure folies, that if he ne hadde pitee of mannes soule, a sory song we myghten alle synge.

Explicit prima pars Penitentie




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The Parson's Tale (§§ 16-23)