This is the Epystel
that Grace Dieu
Sendeth to the Sowle
I, Grace, Quene and Heuenly
As depute by the Souerayne Kyng eterne
In Erthe alowe to be theyr guydresse
That lyste the redy weyes for to lerne,
In pylgremage thy selue to gouerne,
Tretyng with yerd of lore and discipline,
To the that hast and must ben one of myne.
Hit is me done to knowe and vnderstande
That thylke Dethes sergeaunt Maladye
The hath arest, and haldeth now in hande,
Oppressyng the, not knowynge the, for why
I wyl therfore as for thy remedy
Ordeyne in my best maner wyse
That thou be hoole and of thy bed aryse.
I haue ben with the whan thou knewe it nought,
Enserchyng, loo, thy pounceb of conscyence,
By whiche I knowe the ynnermost of thy thought.
Thou hast thy selue with veray neclygence,
And also for defaute of dylygence,
Nought takyng hede vnto thy gouernaunce,
Thy selue brought in anguysshe and greuaunce.
[19r] Thou hast with surfet, leuyng sobyrnesse,
Ful greuously encombred thy courage
In lust, dyspendyng al thy besynesse
Syth thou were a childe of tender age.
That now the doth ful grete disauauntage,
Wherfore the nature of thy maladye
Wyl aske sothely a flobotomye.
Also I see that ful art thou withynne
Of corrupt humour al aboute y spred,
That renneth ay bytwene flesshe & skynne,
That causyth that thou kepyst now thy bed.
Thyne ydlenes and slouthe hath this y bred.
Thou hast not swette oute of thyn eye a tere,
Whiche thyng to the ful necessary were.
For yf thou myghtest dayes two or thre,
With mynd vpon thy fowle wretchydnesse,
Haue suche a swete, it wold auayle the,
For leue it wel, I saye the expresse,
But yf thou doo the rather besynesse
With suche a swete thy selue to amende,
This maladye wol of the make an ende.
Take hede now, and to thy self conuerte,
And see what wretchydnes is the withynne
Er Deth take out thy lyf of thyn herte.
Doo by my red anone that thou begynne
To make the clene of al thy sory synne
As fer as thou can thenke or aspye,
And wesshe them oute with teres of thyne eye.
For yf the Deth sodenly the assayle,
Byleue it wel, he spareth no persone.
With hym to trete, it may no thyng auayle.
On the hath he no pyte, though thou grone
Compleyntes. Sothely, he rewardeth none,
But buskyth yow vnto pyttes brynke;
On this I rede thou besyly bethynke.
[19v] Take hede and here how to euery wyght
Within forth he clepyth pryuely:
Arayeth yow, and be al redy dyght,
For I wyl come - byleue it sekerly -
Ere ye be ware, parauenture sodenly.
And me byforne ther may no prayer spede,
And none wyl I spare for no mede
Byholde and see how his messagers
Now in a wayte ben layd for the!
Seest thou not Age with his whyte heres
Hath hyd hym self ful nye, canst thou not see?
And Maladye hath the arest, parde!
Herest thou not how they cryen lowde alway:
`What eyleth vs to tary thus al day?'
How ofte haue I warned the byfore -
Somwhyle aperte, somwhyle pryuely -
That redy sholdest thou haue be euermore.
Witnesse vpon thy self, I saye the why
Thou myght the not excuse vtterly:
Synderesys, she knoweth euery dele;
She wyl be thyn accuser, wyte it wele!
Anenth me, that alwey wold the throwe
Ful folyly thou hast thy self mystake,
For thou byhete this, wotest thou wel ynowe,
That al thy foly woldest thou haue forsake,
And woldest thy selue very clene make,
Puttyng thy flesshe vnder subiectyon,
To be gouerned after good reson.
But sykerly euery dele reuerse
Vsurped hath hyr owne lady ryght
By hyr delyte and lustes ful dyuerse,
Oppressyng hyr wyth al hyr mayn and myght.
A foole is he, as semyth by my syght,
That by lore ne wylle his frend y knowe,
Tyl that he in meschyef be ouerthrowe.
[20r]But now I rede take good entent and kepe,
Puttyng awey thy slomber and thy slouthe.
A foole is he that leyth hym self to slepe
To whome is y sprunge veray sterre of Trouth.
How ofte hast thou refused fro thy youthe
To here me? And sone hast thou foryete
My lusty songes, very hony swete.
Now sey me by thy feyth where thou be he,
Alone of woman in this world y bore,
So clene of wem, that no thyng nedeth the
To weyle ne to wepe thy synnes fore?
Nay sykerly, and me forthynketh sore
That thou ne canst nought thy wretchednesse,
Thy synne, thy surfet and thy vnthryftynesse.
An hard conflycte of bataylle the withynne
hou felen myght, but yf thou be vnwyse,
How that thy sowle asayled is with synne,
And vndercast thou art of his malyce,
And subiect thou hast made thy self to Vyce,
Whiche that of God Iuge Omnipotent
Condempnyd is withouten iugement.
A shame hath he that at the checker pleyeth
When that a pawn seyth to the kyng `checkmate'.
And shame it is whan that thy ghoost obeyeth
Vnto thy flesshe, that shold obeye algate
Vnto thy ghoost. And now, though it be late,
Yet help thy self, and cast her vnder foote,
Or thou art lost, ther is none other bote.
In batayl, as it often hath betyd,
A myghty man to falle, hit is no shame,
The fyrst tyme, the second, and the thyrd,
And ryseth wel, this hald I but a game.
But hugely me thynketh he is to blame,
And worthy as a fool to be repreuyd,
That nought enforcyd hym to be releuyd.
[20r] Now Youthe may no lenger the excuse,
For Age is come, and chalengeth his place.
Yeld thy promysse, I wyl it nought refuse.
A foole is he that dysobeyeth Grace
And is to me ward fallen in trespace,
And castyth hym nought amendys to make;
Suche one: What wonder is though I forsake!
Ful long haue I byden and susteyned
To haue amendys of thy forfeture,
And er this tyme I haue me not compleyned.
I may no more thy wretchednes endure!
I rede the doo thy besynesse and cure.
Amende thy self, it is ynow to me;
That is the amendys that I aske of the.
Now chese thy port, at whiche thou wilt arriue.
But two ther ben: of Solace and Dystresse.
At one thou myght thy seluen kepe alyue
And euer abyde in ioye and lustynesse.
That other port is care and wretchednesse.
Here cometh Deth, and yf that he the smyte,
Ther nys no leche that may thy lyf respyte!
See now thy self that thou hast no defense;
Aboue thy hede the swerd is redy drawe!
I rede that thou loke thy conscyence,
How thou hast lyued ayenst the Lordys Lawe,
And after this another wey thou drawe,
That al thy tyme in foly hast dyspendyd;
Yet at the last lete it be amendyd!
How oftyme haue I the told and taught
The worthynesse of vertu and the mede?
How ofte haue I the fro the clothes caught
Of Sathanas, yet tokest thou none hede?
But now beware, and nought withouten nede,
For sykerly the bowe is bent ful sore
To smyte the; thenne may I doo nomore.
The byrd that syngeth on the braunche on hye
And sheweth hym self a lusty iolyuet,
Vnto the deth is smyten sodenly -
Er he be ware - or take with a net.
I haue the sayd how Deth the hath assett,
And wel vndermyned is thy wal;
But thou beware, ful greuous is thy fall!
Allas, what thynkest thou, what wylt thou seyne
In thylke Day of Angre and of Drede
Vnto the hye Iuge Souereyne?
What doest thou, man, why takest thou none hede?
Yf thou wylt be releuyd in thy nede,
What helpyth it thus to telle and preche?
But shewe thy sore to me, that am thy leche,
And I the shal auoyde of thy fylthe,
Receyuynge the anone vnder my cure.
I shal the brynge of redynesse the tylth,
Soo that thow shalt thy selue wel assure
That whan thy flesshe is leyd in sepulture
Thou shalt be lyft vp in to Heuen Blysse;
Eternal myrthes shalt thou neuer mysse.