How that the Sowle
Answeryth to Synderesys and He to the Sowle Ageyne
`What arte thou', quod I, `that thus spekyst to me.' `Yf thou haue mynde', he sayd, `of the lady16 that made the sermon, whiche that bare the yerd, the besme and the maylet: she [16r] made of me remembraunce. For she told that there was a worm bred and norysshed within thyn herte, whiche that must be broken with labour of sore contrycyon by offyce of this maylet. And thenne she cleped me the worm of conscyence, for wel she knewe and wyst that alwey lyke a worm I am woned to byte & to rounge them that wronge theym selue, whiche that lysteth not to set hond ne for to touche my venemous tayle, ne for to bryse ne for to beten it with this forsayd maylet.
`My self I am that same tayle and worm whiche that thou hast nought smyten ne bruysed as thou sholdest, but hast cowardly to thy grete desauantage cherysshyd it and sparyd, soo that it is woxen now wonder grete, bytterly pryckyng.
`That shalt thou know herafter, for sykerly thou hast made thy conscyence soo large, that nedes must this worm wexen therafter. And yf that thy conscyence had ben more streyte, this tayl ne shold so be ouerwoxen, for in a place streyte of nature may no thyng ouerpassen mesure in wexyng.'
`Thou seyst', quoda
I, `that thou art a worme,
and so thou semyst wel. I wyl ayene the haue skilful excepcyon, soo that
in myne accusement thou owest nought be admytted,
for thou art of so foule a nature, ne myght not ben
acceptyd to accuse me, that am the ymage and the
lykenesse of the Souerayne Lord. And sothly, litel
set this Lord by this ymage yf he suffred suche a
deformed worm bringe hym in to iugement and for to
haue audyence in this accion ayenst him.'
Thenne answerd this tailed worm `Yf so wereb that thou haddest kept and gouerned that ymage and noble resemblaunce whiche thou receyuedest of the Souerayne Lord, other whan it was blemysshed by synne haddest by penaunce hastely reformed it, thenne myghtest thou ayenst me haue had a good excepcyon for vnsuffysaunt & vnworthy to haue accused the, ne I my self ne none other shold ne myght haue had ony cause or quarel ageynst the.
`But thou art al deformed and defygured by many foule synnes & forfetys by ful wycked werkes, vnthryfty and euyl wordys, fowle horryble and shameful thoughtes of thy wycked herte whiche thou ne hast not al dyskeuered ne shewid in confession as thou sholdest. And soo by thy fowle corrupt lustes and desyrous, whiche ben to me ful clerly discouerd, I see the fynally that thou ne myht not ayenseye me, ne shalt not be so hardy ne so bold to make none excepcyon. For I shal proue openly in presence of this Court that thou art moche more horryble and fowler than am I, for in me is ther no maner of euyl, but that thy self hast causyd. Yf that I [16v] am foule, that thou hast made thy self, that by thyn owne wretchyd mysdedes soo oftymes hast troubled me and dysesed, and brought in grete heuynesse and peyne an honderd tyme and ofter in the wyke. For me ne woldest thou neuer byleue, nouht with standynge that I haue put al my power and my tyme dyspendyd in the that canst me no thanke, so that I may wel, & haue skylful cause to, accuse the, and thou no place ne lyberte shalt haue to make ayenst me none excepcyon at alle.'