The Sowle Asketh a
Question of Quantite of the Sowle
Capitulo Visesimo Sexto
Thenne was I in doute, and
asked hyr this demaund. `Me
semeth', quod I, `for certeyne that suche a sowle
shold ben huge of quantite, that soo myght
comprehenden in it self soo many huge thynges, as ye
haue here rehercyd.'
`Soothly nay', quod she. `But vnderstande me thus: I haue told the to what semblaunt and lykenes the sowle of man is fourmed after his owne Creatoure, of whome Holy Writte saith in this wyse: he is the myrrour69 withoute wem or spot, in whiche ony creature that [71v] reson hath, may behold his owne visage. Wherfore, sith that the soule is fourmed to his lykenes, somme maner of correspondence or relacion must nedes ben bytwene tho two that ben y lyke, ryght as ther is maner of conuenyence bytwene the thynge that is sene in the myrroure, and that other that is sene withouten.
`And nought for thy, hit nedeth nought that the myroure be soo grete as is the figure representid therynne, but in a ful lytel myrroure thou myght see as grete an ymage as in another that is double more. And though the myrrour be broken in to an honderd pyeces, yet in euery pece myght thou see the same figure hoole, wherfore it nedeth nought to saye that the sowle of quantite be nother more ne lesse, for also moche lyght may the sonne sende in to a litel hows whiche hath in euery side skars a mannes lengthe, as he may in to the halle of Westmynstre. And herby myght thou felen that this capacyte of the sowle requyreth no quantite of hym seluen, saue only in vertue and in power, and of worchyng, for the sowle is nought bodely.
`But quantite is an accident only appropred to bodyly thynges, and no thyng to ghoostly thynges, for yf it soo were that sowles were bodyly, thenne must they nedes be more or lesse after the bodyes whiche that they ben ynne, and as the body wexeth, so must the sowle, and right so, yf hit amenused. soo shold the grete men be the wiser than the lytel, and haue gretter wyt. But oftyme is proued the contrarye, for why the wit ne sheweth not the bodely quantite.'
`Sith so it is thenne', quod I, `that sowles haue no quantite, than ben they al euene, and per consequens theyr wyttes shold ben euen y lyke, and euenly shold they comprehenden al maner of semblaunces. But they doo not soo, as ye wyteth well, for somme ben ther founden that vnnethes ony thynge mowe comprehenden, but ryght as a beest.'
`Sothe hit is', quod she, `that sowles ben euen in here beyng. But in vertu and in power they ben ful dispereyle, and ful dyuersly they conprehenden, somme of them soner, and somme moche later, after that they haue inpedymentes of theyr disposicion. For some myrroure is moche clerer than somme other, and a clere myrroure wyll more playnly represente the fourmes of semblaunces of thynges sette before it, than wylle another that is fowle and spotty. Ryght so a sowle to whiche is yeue a wel complexyoned body, and of more subtile mater comprehendeth moche better than doth the sowle of another body, the whiche is complexyoned and formed of more ruder mater, eyther of thylk that reicheth nought [72r] to lerne. Therfore, what euer peyne and besinesse that he put vpon his lernyng who that ought conne, suche thynges ben lettes and inpedymentes to the sowle, soo that he ne shalle nought lyghtely comprehenden.
`And soothe it is that moche worse he comprehendeth ioyned to the body than when he is dysseuered. For conioyned, as Salamon seith70, the corruptible body, be it neuer so subtyle & so wel disposid, yet it agreueth and oppressith the sowle, & letteth hym of his kyndely worchyng. But dysseuered he may applyen hym self soo nyhe to his ensample, that is the Blessyd Trynyte, by clere speculacion withouten empechement. He may therynne behold and see as in the Souerayne Myrroure, as moche as he can desire for to knowe, for soothly fro a blysful sowle shalle no thyng be hyd, al be it neuer so subtyle and so hyhe that he wyll desiren, that ne shall be shewed hym. For this Souerayne Myrrour comprehendeth al, and in hym is al thyng representid, so that he vysiteth al his creatures, and by his excellence of power enhabyteth them euerichone.'
`Lady', quod I,`after myn aduys, the sowle may not so visiten euery parte in that maner wyse, ne enhabyten al thynges lyke as doth the Souerayne Trynyte, wherfore, as semeth me, there fayleth moche of these resemblaunce bytwene the sowle of man & this ensample that is the Souerayne Godhede.'
`Certes', said this angel, `in his propre nature and in his kyndely maner he may seken & encerchen euery place. Ne no thyng is there, that he can desire that he ne may it knowen as in potence that is kyndely power. And therfore it is, that he resteth nought to seken euery side, chaungyng his purpoos fro place to place, vysytynge by ymagynacion alle the world aboute. Ne no thynge is, in whiche he ne dwelleth and enhabyteth for a tyme. But dwellen longe he ne may nought, for where that goth his wylle, ther gothe he therwith, ther he enhabyteth, & ther he dwelleth ther as is his delyte and his thought for the tyme.
`Loo, this hath euery sowle in power, but nought al in worchyng, some more and some lesse, after their disposicion, as is afore said. Also I may seye more felyngly to thyne experyence. As Seynt Austyn techeth, ryght as God hym seluen is in his world whiche that he wrought and made at his plesaunce - and no place is voyde fro his myghty presence - ryght soo dwelleth the sowle in his propre body as in his propre world, whiche God hath formed and putte hym therynne. Ne no place is there in the body, but he be there al hoole.
`And for to taken this [72v] ensample more plenarly: ryght as God is pryncipally in Heuen, yf clerkes ne lyen nought, right soo moost principally and ententifly is the sowle set in the brayne, and sithe in the herte, withoute deceyuynge of ony other partye, wherfor I seye the for soothe, that hooly & entyerly the sowle is within his owne world hoole in euery place for the tyme and paryode bifore ordeyened of the First Maker. And soo were thou thy self within thy worlde, wherof thou haddest for the tyme the hole gouernaunce vnder thy Lord God as chyef lord of the fee, to whome, yf thou haddest done thy due seruyse, no doute thou haddest noughta be deceysed so greuously, ne cast so sore in damage. And sykerly ther was no lymme within the body, ne no place so pryue, where thou ne claymedest right and heldest thy possession, and all was it hooly in thy gouernaunce.
`So thenne I seye, & wel maye, that what so euer the body hath done, he hath hit done by the, be it good or bad, & moch dele by thyn excitacion, wherfore more pacyently thou owest for to bere thy peyne & torment whiche thou suffrest now.'
`Ye tellyn me', quod I,`a merueylous tale, sith ye haue said that the sowle is withouten quantite, and after ye affermen that ther is noo membre soo lytell, in whiche he nys al hole & entierly to geders. And this, me thynketh, may not be but he were of partees purified in many places.'