A Peyne for
Fast by this companye yet
sawe I more: how two and two to geders were leyd
vppon couches full of sharp thornes, and fire
vndernethen, that brente them in euery side, &
in theyr couches were grete foyson
of todes and serpentes, hydous and wonder huge, and
many other fowle wormes, that greuous is to telle.
These wormes byten and styngen them so sore in euery
side, no man knoweth the peyne, but he that hath assayed.
Of these myn angel told me shortely. `These ben', quod he, `peple of dishoneste, I can nought sey fully how fowle and abhomynable. And wite it wel, that these it ben, that so horrybly stynken at alle tymes to me and my felaushyp, for they haue lyued ful vnhonestly in fowle lustes of flesshely filthe, both pryue and aperte, for whiche they ben punysshed ryght fowle and greuously.'
There also sawe I a wondre grete pytte that stank ful greuously, al ful of vermen, and other horribilite of pytche and sulfur, and brennynge fyre, the grete horrour therof may not be lykened ne declared by no maner of example, ne thought of mannes herte. Huge multitude was there of moche dyuerse peple in grete peyne and torment. Somme hanged by hookes, and somme by [56v] roopes, somme were brayned with betels, and somme beten with staues and many other instrumentes, with whiche they were tormentid.
There was in that pyt a wonder hydous crye, and an huge noyse, and thus I herde hem seye. `Alas, wretchyd caitifs! Where to were we borne, for to be dampned and peyned in suche greuous torment! We couthe neuer byleuen ne trowen, for sothe, that men haue said vs, whiche that repreuyd vs and vndertooke vs of oure cursid lyuynge. They told vs what meschyef shold vs betyde for oure fowle synnes, but al was for nought; we held it but a iape. And now we deyen here for oure wronge werkes, and oure deth is withouten deth, for it hath none ende.'
In euery side myght I here suche noyse and crye, that moche it lothed me. Euerywhere sowned `allas!'. And the fowle fendes alwey ronne ful besily, and broughten moo suche caitifs and cast them in the pytte, that was so ful of al maner of meschyef.
`Now, what seyst thou' quod myn aungel. `Thou hast sene a lytell parte of Helle: many hydous peynes and greuous tormentes, wherfore, yf thou were wyse, thou haddest grete cause to thanken and gloryfyen oure Lord Ihesu Crist euer withouten cessynge, that he ne suffred the thus to be dampned, ne thus to be tormentid.'
`Hyhe thankes and honour', quod I, `to that Gracious Lord. But now I beseke yow that ye telle me of these last peynes that ben in this depe and horryble pyt, whiche I haue now sene.'
`This pytte', quod he, `is the chyef and the manoyr of Helle, that is clepyd Abissus, in whiche is soo moche multitude of peple, that thou hast not sene as yet the honderd parte of them. This is cleped the Caudron and the pytte of Helle, and many other names hit hath, wherof I recke but lytel at this tyme. But thou shalt vnderstande that in this pyt ben paynyms and heretykes, and other wycked tyrauntes and mysbileuynge men that pursueden Hooly Chirche, that ben dede withouten conuersion and veray repentauncea of their wickednesse. Ther ben also other fals Crysten that breken Goddes hestes.
`And they also, that purseweth and disclaundreth good trewe techers of Ihesu Cristes Lawe, that wold nought that the fruyt of Holy Scripture were knowen to the peple, lest them seluen shold be despised for theyr fowle vyces, that listeth nought to lyuen after Goddes Lawe, ne done as he taught, but after their fowle desyres. Therfore ben they cast in this fowle pytt, and thyder ben they dampned withouten redempcion euer withouten end
`Here shalle they lye in peynes and torment, in stynke and [57r] corrupcion euer perdurable, & when that oure Lord shal renewe the world, al their brennyng & stynkyng & other horrible peynes shal eke be renewed, and al the filth thatb may be foundec in euery other place, shal be cast therto.'
`A wonderd merueylous thyng is this', quode I, `in myn vnderstandyngf , hou that this iugementg may be acountidh rihtwys, that only for a dedely synne done but one tyme, the synfull shold be dampned to eternal tormenti of this horrible peyne, or that a man shold bewepen euer withouten ende the werke or the purpos of a werk with full consent of hert, that was not contynued the space of an houre.'
`The synnes, quodj myn angel, ben not considered only after the tyme in which they were contynued, but they ben after the displesauncek which He taketh therof, to Whom is the trespas, for He to Whom this trespas is done, is Infynyt in al maner wyse: Infynyte Good, Infynyte Wyse & Infynyte Myghty, Infynyte Vertuous & Infynyte Perdurable.
`Thenne is synne to Hym in al contrary, for it is infynyte euyl, infynyte foly, infynyte feblenesse, infynyte wretchidnes. And though that it seluen haue no very beyng, yet is it ryght that it be infinytely punysshed. And wyte it wel, that Adam was not dampned sympelly for etyng of the Appel, but for the disobeisauncel of God. For soth, it is as wryteth Seynt Austyn: synne is nought elles but a tornyng awey of affection fro good enchaungeablem to other good, flyrtynge and varyable. Withouten fayle the appel that Adam ete was good in itself, and leeful for to be eten, had not God forboden it. But when that Adam torned his affection fro Goddes wylle, that is vnchaungeable, and set it in lust of the appel, ther he fylle in synne. And after seyeng of the Sawter: concepit dolorem43, ther bigan the sorowe conceyued in the sowle. But yet this synne was nought to the deth. And when he consentith to the etyng: parturiit iniusticiam44; thenne was the synne as a worme quyck in the hert, and soo he was pregnaunt of vnrightwisnesse and sool disobeysaunce , and this was dedely synne. But whan he took and ete it: peperit iniquitatem45; he brought forth the cursid worme of wyckednessse, that neuer may be slayn bifore the worldes ende.
`Sithe it so is, thenne, that Adam thus lyghtely for this inobedyence withouten more was dampned, with alle his yssue, and the dede in it self was nought sownyng to euyll, but leeful to be done, had it nought be forbode, & this dede done but ones & in a litel tyme, how shall thenne another ben excused that is by the sheddyng of Cristes blood raunsond fro that synne, & knoweth the [57v] perylle of synne by techyng of Holy Chirche, and neuertheles wyttyngly and wylfully he falleth in wel worse than euer Adam dyd, & namely they that multyplyen theyr synne euer more and more, & for werkes and wordes of penauncen vsen wordes of blasfemy, bostyng & auauntyng of theyr folye with horryble othes, scornynge and dysclaundryng al tho, that counseyleth them to better, it is ful grete merueyll yf they euer come to Grace.
`Thenne seye I thus: for as moche as the offence of synne is ageynst hym that euer is perdurable, and for the forberynge of ioyeo is behyght perdurable ioye, but he that neuer wylle neyther obeyen to the Lord, that may done what he wyll, neyther in hope of perdurable ioye, good skyle it is that he be punysshed with perdurable peyne. Andp sothe it is, that a synner, yeuen al to lust, wold fayne contynue that lusty lif euer withouten ende if it were possible, therfore the synne is rewardyd after that lust that is vnmesurable.
`Also man maye ful smartely & in a litel tyme make a contract, that nedes mote enduren al his lyues space, soo doth a wretche consentyng to synne. That foly is perfourmed in a lytel tyme, but the bargeyn is perpetuel peyne.
Many other examples myght be made in thys mater, but these as now suffysen. Wherof thanke God & yeue hym preysynge & worship that thou arte nought ordeyned to so moch meschyef.'
`Yet of oneq thyng that ye seiden', quod I, `am I moche in doute: that synne shold be a tornyng of affection to a chaungeabler good, syth synne is the worst thyng possyble.'
`Seynt Austyn', quod myn aungel, `meneth only of the grounde of synne, whiche is nought elles but a good thynge desordeynly desyred ageynst Goddes wylle.
`Now vnderstand I wel', quod I, `that he that sleeth a man dothe that dede for somme good thynge, that weneth for to haue therby whiche he desyreth, and soo other synnes. But worshypped be that Blysfull Lord euer withouten ende, that he wolde vouchesauf of his habondaunt Grace for to sauen & exempten me of soo moche meschyef. For by the rygour of rightwisnesse, I sholde haue be dampned, for my cause was so feble, and in it self nought able to meyntene. I owe also for to thanken yow, that ben my trewe gyde, that ye wold soo moche labouren to shewen me the peynes of Helle, withouten entryng therynne my self either felyng or torments , I shalle thankt yow also with al myn hole affectionu thatv ye me haue gouerned & kept in to this tyme, thatw now I fele & see that the peynes which I felt before haue not so moch myht ayenstx me as they had, & my fardel is not so grete; the half is abated.