William Langland's The vision of Piers Plowman
William Langland

Passus 17

"I am Spes, a spie,' quod he, "and spire after a knyght
     17.001
That took me a maundement upon the mount of Synay
     17.002
To rule alle reames therewith--l bere the writ here.'
     17.003
"Is it asseled?" I seide. "May men see thi lettres?'
     17.004
"Nay.' he seide. "I seke hym that hath the seel to kepe--
     17.005
And that is cros and Cristendom, and Crist theron to honge.
     17.006
And whan it is asseled so, I woot wel the sothe--
     17.007
That Luciferis lordshipe laste shal no lenger!'
     17.008
" Lat se thi lettres,' quod I, "we myghte the lawe knowe.'
     17.009
He plukkede forth a patente, a pece of an hard roche,
     17.010
Whereon was writen two wordes on this wise yglosed; Page  208
     17.011
Dilige Deum et proximum tuum--
     17.012
This was the tixte trewely--I took ful good yeme.
     17.013
The glose was gloriously writen with a gilt penne:
     17.014
In hiis duobus mandatis tota lex penhet et prophete.
     17.015
" Is here alle thi lordes lawes?' quod I. " Ye, leve me,' he seide.
     17.016
"And whoso wet cheth after this writ, I wol undertaken,
     17.017
Shal nevere devel hym dere, ne deeth in soule greve.
     17.018
For though I seye it myself, I have saved with this charme
     17.019
Of men and of wommen many score thousand.'
     17.020
" He seith sooth,' seide this heraud, " I have yfounde it ofte.
     17.021
Lo! here in my lappe that leeved on that charme--
     17.022
Josue and Judith and Judas Macabeus,
     17.023
Ye, and sixti thousand biside forth that ben noght seyen here!'
     17.024
" Youre wordes arn wonderfulle,' quod I tho. " Which of yow is trewest,
     17.025
And lelest to leve on for lif and for soule?
     17.026
Abraham seith that he seigh hoolly the Trinite,
     17.027
Thre persones in parcelles departable fro oother,
     17.028
And alle thre but o God--thus Abraham me taughte--
     17.029
And hath saved that bileved so and sory for hir synnes,
     17.030
He kan noght siggen the somme, and some arn in his lappe.
     17.031
What neded it thanne a newe lawe to brynge,
     17.032
Sith the firste suffiseth to savacion and to blisse?
     17.033
And now cometh Spes and speketh, that hath aspied the lawe,
     17.034
And telleth noght of the Trinite that took hym hise lettres--
     17.035
To bileeve and lovye in o Lord almyghty,
     17.036
And siththe right as myself so lovye alle peple.
     17.037
"The gorne thit gooth with o staf--he semeth in gretter heele
     17.038
Than he that gooth with two staves, to sighte of us alle.
     17.039
And right so, bi the roode, reson me sheweth
     17.040
It is lighter to lewed men o lesson to knowe
     17.041
Than for to techen hem two, and to hard to lerne the leeste!
     17.042
It is ful hard for any man on Abraham bileve, Page  209
     17.043
And wel awey worse yit for to love a sherewe.
     17.044
lt is lighter to leeve in thre lovely persones
     17.045
Than for to lovye and lene as wel lorels as lele.
     17.046
Go thi gate, 'quod I to Spes; "so me God helpe,
     17.047
Tho that lernen thi lawe wol litel while usen it!'
     17.048
And as we wenten thus in the wey, wordynge togideres,
     17.049
Thanne seighe we a Samaritan sittynge on a mule,
     17.050
Ridynge ful rapely the righte wey we yeden,
     17.051
Comynge from a contree that men called Jerico--
     17.052
To a justes in Jerusalem he [j]aced awey faste.
     17.053
Bothe the heraud and Hope and he mette atones
     17.054
Where a man was, wounded, and with theves taken.
     17.055
He myghte neither steppe ne stande, ne stere foot ne handes,
     17.056
Ne helpe hymself soothly, for semyvif he semed,
     17.057
And as naked as a nedle, and noon help abouten.
     17.058
Feith hadde first sighte of hym, ac he fleigh aside,
     17.059
And nolde noght neghen hym by nyne londes lengthe.
     17.060
Hope cam hippynge after, that hadde so ybosted
     17.061
How he with Moyses maundement hadde many men yholpe;
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Ac whan he hadde sighte of that segge, aside he gan hym drawe
     17.063
Dredfully, bi this day, as doke dooth fram the faucon!
     17.064
Ac so soone so the Samaritan hadde sighte of this leode,
     17.065
He lighte adown of lyard and ladde hym in his handes,
     17.066
And to the wye he wente hise woundes to biholde,
     17.067
And parceyved by his pous he was in peril to dye,
     17.068
And but he hadde recoverer the rather, that rise sholde he nevere;
     17.069
And breide to hise boteles, and bothe he atamede.
     17.070
With wyn and with oille hise woundes he wasshed,
     17.071
Enbawmed hym and bond his heed, and in his lappe hym leide,
     17.072
And ladde hym so forth on lyard to Lex Christi, a graunge
     17.073
Wel sixe mile or sevene biside the newe market;
     17.074
Herberwed hym at an hostrie and to the hostiler called, Page  210
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And [quod], " Have, kepe this man, til I come fro the justes,
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And lo here silver,' he seide, "for salve to hise woundes.'
     17.077
And he took hym two pens to liflode as it weere,
     17.078
And seide, "What he [moore spendeth] I make thee good herafter,
     17.079
For I may noght lette,' quod that leode--and lyard he bistrideth,
     17.080
And raped hym to Jerusalemward the righte wey to ryde.
     17.081
Feith folwede after faste, and fondede to mete hym,
     17.082
And Spes spakliche hym spedde, spede if he myghte
     17.083
To overtaken hym and talke to hym er thei to towne coome.
     17.084
And whan I seigh this, I sojourned noght. but shoop me to renne,
     17.085
And suwed that Samaritan that was so ful of pite,
     17.086
And graunted hym to ben his groom. "Graunt mercy,' he seide,
     17.087
"Ac thi frend and thi felawe,' quod he, "thow fyndest me at nede.'
     17.088
And I thanked hym tho and siththe I hym tolde
     17.089
How that Feith fleigh awey and Spes his felawe bothe
     17.090
For sighte of the sorweful [segge] that robbed was with theves.
     17.091
" Have hem excused,' quod he, "hir help may litel availle:
     17.092
May no medicyne under molde the man to heele brynge--
     17.093
Neither Feith ne fyn Hope, so festred be hise woundes,
     17.094
Withouten the blood of a barn born of a mayde.
     17.095
And be he bathed in that blood, baptised as it were,
     17.096
And thanne plastred with penaunce and passion of that baby,
     17.097
He sholde stonde and steppe--ac stalworthe worth he nevere
     17.098
Til he have eten al the barn and his blood ydronke.
     17.099
For wente nevere wye in this world thorugh that wildernesse
     17.100
That he ne was robbed or rifled, rood he there or yede,
     17.101
Save Feith and [myselve and] Spes [his felawe],
     17.102
And thiself now and swiche as suwen oure werkes.
     17.103
" For Outlawe is in the wode and under bank lotieth,
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And may ech man see and good mark take
     17.105
Who is bihynde and who bifore and who ben on horse-- Page  211
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For he halt hym hardier on horse than he that is a foote.
     17.107
For he seigh me that am Samaritan suwen Feith and his felawe
     17.108
On my capul that highte Caro--of mankynde I took it--
     17.109
He was unhardy, that harlot, and hidde hym in Inferno.
     17.110
Ac er this day thre daies, I dar undertaken
     17.111
That he worth fettred, that feloun, faste with cheynes,
     17.112
And nevere eft greve gome that gooth this ilke gate:
     17.113
0 Mors ero mors tua &c.
     17.113
"And thanne shal Feith be forster here and in this fryth walke,
     17.114
And kennen out comune men that knowen noght the contree,
     17.115
Which is the wey I wente, and wher forth to Jerusalem;
     17.116
And Hope the hostilers man shal be ther [an helyng the man lith],
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And alle that feble and feynte be, that Feith may noght teche,
     17.118
Hope shal lede hem forth with love, as his lettre telleth,
     17.119
And hostele hem and heele thorugh Holy Chirche bileve
     17.120
Til I have salve for alle sike--and thanne shal I returne,
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And come ayein bi this contree and conforten alle sike
     17.122
That craveth it or coveiteth it and crieth therafter.
     17.123
For the barn was born in Bethleem that with his blood shal save
     17.124
Alle that lyven in Feith and folwen his felawes techynge.'
     17.125
"A, swete sire!' I seide tho, "wher I shal bileve--
     17.126
As Feith and his felawe enformed me bothe--
     17.127
In thre persones departable that perpetuele were evere,
     17.128
And alle thre but o God? Thus Abraham me taughte;
     17.129
And Hope afterward he bad me to lovye
     17.130
O God with al my good, and alle gomes after,
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Lovye hem lik myselve--ac Oure Lord aboven alle.'
     17.132
"After Abraham,' quod he, "tat heraud of armes,
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Sette faste thi feith and ferme bileve;
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And as Hope highte thee, I hote that thow lovye
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Thyn evenecristene everemoore eveneforth with thiselve. Page  212
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And if conscience carpe therayein, or kynde wit eyther,
     17.137
Or eretikes with arguments--thyn hond thow hem shewe:
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For God is after an hand--yheer now and knowe it.
     17.139
"The Fader was first as a fust with o fynger foldynge,
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Til hym lovede and liste to unlosen his fynger
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And profrede it forth as with a pawme to what place it sholde.
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The pawme is purely the hand, and profreth forth the fyngres,
     17.143
To ministren and to make that myght of hand knoweth;
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And bitokneth trewely, telle whoso liketh,
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The Holy Goost of hevene--he is as the pawme.
     17.146
The fyngres that fre ben to folde and to serve
     17.147
Bitoknen soothly the Sone, that sent was til erthe,
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That touched and tastede at techynge of the pawme
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Seinte Marie, a mayde, and mankynde laughte:
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Qui conceptus est de spiritu sancto &c.
     17.150
"The Fader is thanne as a fust with fynger to touche--
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Quia ""Omnia traham ad me ipsum &c''--
     17.151
Al that the pawme parceyveth profitable to feele.
     17.152
Thus are thei alle but oon, as it an hand weere,
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And thre sondry sightes in oon shewynge.
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The pawme for he put forth fyngres and the fust bothe,
     17.155
Right so, redily, reson it shewith,
     17.156
How he that is Holy Goost Sire and Sone preveth.
     17.157
And as the hand halt harde and alle thyng faste
     17.158
Thorugh foure fyngres and a thombe forth with the pawme,
     17.159
Right so the Fader and the Sone and Seint Spirit the thridde
     17.160
Halt al the wide world withinne hem thre--
     17.161
Bothe wolkne and the wynd, water and erthe,
     17.162
Hevene and helle and al that ther is inne.
     17.163
Thus it is--nedeth no man to trowe noon oother--
     17.164
That thre thynges bilongeth in Oure Lord of hevene,
     17.165
And aren serelepes by hemself, asondry were thei nevere, Page  213
     17.166
Namoore than may an hande meve withoute fyngres.
     17.167
"And as my fust is ful hand yfolden togideres,
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So is the Fader a ful God, formour and shappere---
     17.169
Tu fabricator omnium &c--
     17.169
And al the myght myd hym is in makynge of thynges.
     17.170
"The fyngres formen a ful hand to portreye or peynten;
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Kervynge and compasynge is craft of the fyngres.
     17.172
Right so is the Sone the science of the Fader
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And ful God as is the Fader, no febler ne no bettre.
     17.174
"The pawme is pureliche the hand, hath power by hymselve
     17.175
Otherwise than the writhen fust, or werkmans ipe of fyngres;
     17.176
For the pawme hath power to putte out the j ntes
     17.177
And to unfolde the fust, for hym it bilongeth,
     17.178
And receyve that the fyngres recheth and refuse bothe
     17.179
Whan he feleth the fust and the fyngres wille.
     17.180
"So is the Holy Goost God, neither gretter ne lasse
     17.181
Than is the Sire or the Sone, and in the same myghte,
     17.182
And alle are thei but o God, as is myn hand and my fyngres,
     17.183
Unfolden or folden, my fust and my pawme--
     17.184
Al is but an hand, howso I turne it.
     17.185
"Ac who is hurte in the hand, evene in the myddes,
     17.186
He may receyve right noght--reson it sheweth;
     17.187
For the fyngres that folde sholde and the fust make,
     17.188
For peyne of the pawme, power hem failleth
     17.189
To clucche or to clawe, to clippe or to holde.
     17.190
"Were the myddel of myn hand ymaymed or ypersshed,
     17.191
I sholde receyve right noght of that I reche myghte;
     17.192
Ac though rny thombe and my fynges bothe were toshullen Page  214
     17.193
And the myddel of myn hand withoute male ese,
     17.194
In many kynnes maneres I myghte myself helpe
     17.195
Bothe meve and amende, though alle my fyngres oke.
     17.196
"By this skile,' he seide, I se an evidence
     17.197
That whoso synneth in the Seint Spirit, assoilled worth he nevere,
     17.198
Neither here ne elliswhere, as I herde telle--
     17.199
Qui peccat in Spiritum Sanctum &c--
     17.199
For he priketh God as in the pawme, that peccat in Spiritu[m] Sanctu[m].
     17.200
For God the Fader is as a fust; the Sone is as a fynger;
     17.201
The Holy Goost of hevene is as it were the pawme.
     17.202
So whoso synneth ayeyns the Seint Spirit, it semeth that he greveth
     17.203
God that he grypeth with, and wolde his grace quenche.
     17.204
"For to a torche or a tapur the Trinite is likned--
     17.205
As wex and a weke were twyned togideres,
     17.206
And thanne a fir flawmynge forth out of bothe.
     17.207
And as wex and weke and warm fir togideres
     17.208
Fostren forth a flawmbe and a fair leye
     17.209
[That serveth thise swynkeres to se by anightes],
     17.210
So dooth the Sire and the Sone and also Spiritus Sanctus
     17.211
Fostren forth amonges folk love and bileve,
     17.212
That alle kynne Cristene clenseth of synnes.
     17.213
And as thow seest som tyme sodeynliche a torche--
     17.214
The blase therof yblowe out, yet brenneth the weke--
     17.215
Withouten leye or light, that [lowe] the macche brenneth;
     17.216
So is the Holy Goost God, and grace withoute mercy
     17.217
To alle unkynde creatures that coveite to destruye
     17.218
Lele love or lif that Oure Lord shapte.
     17.219
"And as glowynge gledes gladeth noght thise werkmen
     17.220
That werchen and waken in wyntres nyghtes,
     17.221
As dooth a kex or a candle that caught hath fir and blaseth,
     17.222
Namoore dooth Sire ne Sone ne Seint Spirit togideres
     17.223
Graunte no grace ne forgifnesse of synnes
     17.224
Til the Holy Goost gynne to glowe and to blase; Page  215
     17.225
So that the Holy Goost gloweth but as a glede
     17.226
Til that lele love ligge on hym and blowe.
     17.227
And thanne flawmeth he as fir on Fader and on Filius
     17.228
And melteth hire myght into mercy-- as men may se in wyntre
     17.229
Ysekeles in evesynges thorugh hete of the sonne
     17.230
Melte in a mynut while to myst and to watre.
     17.231
"So grace of the Holy Goost the greet myght of the Trinite
     17.232
Melteth to mercy--to merciable and to noon othere.
     17.233
And as wex withouten moore on a warm glede
     17.234
Wol brennen and blasen, be thei togideres,
     17.235
And solacen hem that mowe [noght] se, that sitten in derknesse,
     17.236
So wol the Fader foryyve folk of mylde hertes
     17.237
That rufully repenten and restitucion make,
     17.238
In as muche as thei mowen arnenden and paien;
     17.239
And if it suffise noght for assetz, that in swich a wille deyeth,
     17.240
Mercy for his mekenesse wol maken good the remenaunt.
     17.241
And as the weke and fir wol maken a warm flaumbe
     17.242
For to murthen men with that in merke sitten,
     17.243
So wole Crist of his curteisie, and men crye hym mercy,
     17.244
Bothe foryyve and foryete, and yit bidde for us
     17.245
To the Fader of hevene foryifnesse to have.
     17.246
"Ac hewe fir at a flynt foure hundred wynter--
     17.247
But thow have tache to take it with, tonder or broches,
     17.248
Al thi labour is lost and al thi long travaille;
     17.249
For may no fir flaumbe make, faille it his kynde.
     17.250
So is the Holy Goost God and grace withouten mercy
     17.251
To alle unkynde creatures--Crist hymself witnesseth:
     17.252
Amen dico vobis, nescio vos &c.
     17.252
"Be unkynde to thyn evenecristene, and al that thow kanst bidde--
     17.253
Delen and do penaunce day and nyght evere,
     17.254
And purchace al the pardon of Pampilon and Rome,
     17.255
And indulgences ynowe, and be ingratus to thi kynde,
     17.256
The Holy Goest hereth thee neght, ne help may thee by reson; Page  216
     17.257
For unkyndenesse quencheth hym, that he kan noght shyne,
     17.258
Ne brenne ne blase clere, for blowynge of unkyndenesse.
     17.259
Poul the Apostel preveth wheither I lye:
     17.260
Si linguis hominum loquar &c.
     17.260
" Forthi beth war, ye wise men that with the world deleth,
     17.261
That riche ben and reson knoweth--ruleth wel youre soule;
     17.262
Beth noght unkynde, I conseille yow, to youre evenecristene;
     17.263
For manye of yow riche men, by my soule, men telleth,
     17.264
Ye brenne, but ye blase noght, and that is a blynd bekene!--
     17.265
Non omnis qui dicit Domine, Domine, intrabit &c.
     17.265
" Dives deyde dampned for his unkyndenesse
     17.266
Of his mete and his moneie to men that it nedede.
     17.267
Ech a riche, I rede, reward at hym take,
     17.268
And gyveth youre good to that God that grace of ariseth.
     17.269
For that ben unkynde to hise. hope I noon oother
     17.270
But thei dwelle ther Dives is dayes withouten ende.
     17.271
"Thus is unkyndenesse the contrarie that quencheth, as it were,
     17.272
The grace of the Holy Goost, Goddes owene kynde.
     17.273
For that kynde dooth, unkynde fordooth--as thise corsede theves,
     17.274
Unkynde Cristene men, for coveitise and envye
     17.275
Sleeth a man for hise moebles, with mouth or with handes.
     17.276
For that the Holy Goost hath to kepe, tho harlotes destruyeth--
     17.277
The which is lif and love, the leye of mannes body.
     17.278
For every manere good man may be likned to a torche,
     17.279
Or ellis to a tapur, to reverence the Trinite;
     17.280
And whoso morthereth a good man, me thynketh, by myn inwit,
     17.281
He fordooth the levest light that Oure Lord lovyeth.
     17.282
"Ac yet in manye mo maneres men offenden the Holy Geost;
     17.283
Ac this is the worste wise that any wight myghte
     17.284
Synnen ayein the Seint Spirit--assenten to destruye
     17.285
For coveitise of any kynnes thyng that Crist deere boughte. Page  217
     17.286
How myghte he aske mercy, or any mercy hym hel
     17.287
That wikkedliche and wilfulliche wolde mercy aniente?
     17.288
"Innocence is next God, and nyght and day it crieth
     17.289
""Vengeaunce ! Vengeaunce! Foryyve be it nevere
     17.290
That shente us and shedde oure blood--forshapte us, as it semed:
     17.291
Vindica sanguinem iustorum .''
     17.291
Thus "" Vengeaunce, vengeaunce!'' verrey charite asketh;
     17.292
And sith Holy Chirche and charite chargeth this so soore,
     17.293
Leve I nevere that Oure Lord wol love that charite lakketh,
     17.294
Ne have pite for any preiere [that he pleyneth ther].'
     17.295
"I pose I hadde synned so, and sholde now deye,
     17.296
And now am sory that I so the Seint Spirit agulte,
     17.297
Confesse me and crye his grace, God that al made,
     17.298
And myldeliche his mercy aske--myghte I noght be saved?'
     17.299
"Yis,' seide the Samaritan, "so thow myghte repente
     17.300
That rightwisnesse thorugh repentaunce to ruthe myghte turne.
     17.301
Ac it is but selden yseighe, ther soothnesse bereth witnesse,
     17.302
Any creature be coupable afore a kynges justice,
     17.303
Be raunsoned for his repentaunce ther alle reson hym dampneth.
     17.304
For ther that partie pursueth the peel is so huge
     17.305
That the kyng may do no mercy til bothe men acorde
     17.306
And eyther have equite, as holy writ telleth:
     17.307
Numquam dimittitur peccatum &c.
     17.307
Thus it fareth by swich folk that falsly al hire lyves
     17.308
Yvele lyven and leten noght til lif hem forsake.
     17.309
Drede of desperacion thanne dryveth awey grace,
     17.310
That mercy in hir mynde may noght thanne falle;
     17.311
Good hope, that helpe sholde, to wanhope torneth-- Page  218
     17.312
Noght of the nounpower of God, that he ne is myghtful
     17.313
To amende al that amys is, and his mercy gretter
     17.314
Thanne alle our wikkede werkes, as Holy Writ telleth--
     17.315
Misericordia eius super omnia opera eius--
     17.315
Ac er his rightwisnesse to ruthe torne, som restitucion bihoveth:
     17.316
His sorwe is satisfaccion for [swich] that may noght paie.
     17.317
"Thre thynges ther ben that doon a man by strengthe
     17.318
For to fleen his owene hous, as Holy Writ sheweth.
     17.319
That oon is a wikkede wif that wol noght be chastised:
     17.320
Hir feere fleeth hire for feere of hir tonge.
     17.321
And if his hous be unhiled, and reyne on his bedde,
     17.322
He seketh and seketh til he slepe drye.
     17.323
And whan smoke and smolder smyt in his sighte,
     17.324
It dooth hym worse than his wif or wete to slepe.
     17.325
For smoke and smolder smerteth hise eighen
     17.326
Til he be bler eighed or blynde and [the borre] in the throte,
     17.327
Cogheth and curseth that Crist gyve hym sorwe
     17.328
That sholde brynge in bettre wode, or blowe it til it brende!
     17.329
"Thise thre that I telle of thus ben to understonde:
     17.330
The wif is oure wikked flessh that wol noght be chastised,
     17.331
For kynde clyveth on hym evere to contrarie the soule.
     17.332
And though it falle, it fynt skiles, that "" Frelete it made,''
     17.333
And ""That is lightly foryyven and foryeten bothe
     17.334
To man that mercy asketh and amende thenketh.''
     17.335
"The reyn that reyneth ther we reste sholde
     17.336
Ben siknesses and sorwes that we suffren oughte,
     17.337
As Poul the Apostle to the peple taughte:
     17.338
Virtus in infirmitate perficitur.
     17.338
And though that men make muche doel in hir angre,
     17.339
And ben inpacient in hir penaunce, pure reson knoweth
     17.340
That thei han cause to contrarie, by kynde of hir siknesse; Page  219
     17.341
And lightliche Oure Lord at hir lyves ende
     17.342
Hath mercy on swiche men, that so yvele may suffre.
     17.343
"Ac the smoke and the smolder that smyt in oure eighen,
     17.344
That is coveitise and unkyndenesse, that quencheth Goddes mercy.
     17.345
For unkyndenesse is the contrarie of alle kynnes reson;
     17.346
For ther nys sik ne sory, ne noon so muche wrecche
     17.347
That he ne may lovye, and hym like, and lene of his herte
     17.348
Good wille, good word--bothe wisshen and wilnen
     17.349
Alle manere men mercy and foryifnesse,
     17.350
And lovye hem lik hymself, and his lif amende.
     17.351
"I may no lenger lette!' quod he, and lyard he prikede,
     17.352
And wente awey as wynd--and therwith I awakede.
     17.353