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From The Canterbury Tales:
The Parson's Tale

Explicit secunda pars Penitencie, et sequitur tercia pars eiusdem.

§ 92       The thridde partie of Penitence is Satisfaccioun, and that stant moost generally in almesse and in bodily peyne. Now been ther thre manere of almesse: contricion of herte, where a man offreth hymself to God; another is to han pitee of defaute of his neighebores; and the thridde is in yevynge of good conseil and comfort, goostly and bodily, where men han nede, and namely in sustenaunce of mannes foode. And tak kep that a man hath nede of thise thinges generally: he hath nede of foode, he hath nede of clothyng and herberwe, he hath nede of charitable conseil and visitynge in prisone and in maladie, and sepulture of his dede body. And if thow mayst nat visite the nedeful with thy persone, visite hym by thy message and by thy yiftes. Thise been general almesses or werkes of charitee of hem that han temporeel richesses or discrecioun in conseilynge. Of thise werkes shaltow heren at the day of doom.
§ 93       Thise almesses shaltow doon of thyne owene propre thynges, and hastily and prively, if thow mayst. But nathelees, if thow mayst ant doon it prively, thow shalt nat forbere to doon almesse though men seen it, so that it be nat doon for thank of the world, but oonly for thank of Jhesu Crist. For, as witnesseth Seint Mathew, capitulo quinto, "a citee may nat been hyd that is set on a montayne, ne men lighte nat a lanterne and put it under a busshel, but men sette it on a candle-stikke to yeve light to the men in the hous. Right so shal youre light lighten bifore men, that they may seen youre goode werkes, and glorifie youre fader that is in hevene.
§ 94       Now as to speken of bodily peyne, it stant in preyeres, in wakynges, in fastynges, in vertuouse techynges of orisouns. And ye shul understonde that orisouns or preyeres is for to seyn a pitous wyl of herte, that redresseth it in God and expresseth it by word outward, to remoeven harmes and to han thynges espiritueel and durable, and somtyme temporele thynges; of whiche orisouns, certes, in the orison of the pater noster hath jhesu crist enclosed moost thynges. Certes, it is privyleged of thre thynges in his dignytee, for which it is moore digne than any oother preyere; for that Jhesu Crist hymself maked it; and it is short, for it sholde be koud the moore lightly, and for to withholden it the moore esily in herte, and helpen hymself the ofter with the orisoun, and for a man sholde be the lasse wery to seyen it, and for a man may nat excusen hym to lerne it, it is so short and so esy; and for it comprehendeth in it self alle goode preyeres. The exposicioun of this hooly preyere, that is so excellent and digne, I bitake to thise maistres of theologie, save thus muchel wol I seyn; that whan thow prayest that God sholde for yeve thee thy giltes as thou foryevest hem that agilten to thee, be ful wel war that thow ne be nat out of charitee. This hooly orison amenuseth eek venyal synne, and therfore it aperteneth specially to penitence.
§ 95       This preyere moste be trewely seyd, and in verray feith, and that men preye to God ordinatly and discreetly and devoutly; and alwey a man shal putten his wyl to be subget to the wille of God. This orisoun moste eek been seyd with greet humblesse and ful pure; honestly, and nat to the anoyaunce of any man or womman. It moste eek been continued with the werkes of charitee. It avayleth eek agayn the vices of the soule; for, as seith Seint Jerome, "by fastynge been saved the vices of the flessh, and by preyere the vices of the soule."
§ 96       After this, thou shalt understonde that bodily peyne stant in wakynge; for Jhesu Crist seith, waketh and preyeth, that ye ne entre in wikked temptacioun. Ye shul understanden also that fastynge stant in thre thynges: in forberynge of bodily mete and drynke, and in forberynge of worldly jolitee, and in forberynge of deedly synne; this is to seyn, that a man shal kepen hym fro deedly synne with al his might.
§ 97       And thou shalt understanden eek that God ordeyned fastynge, and to fastynge appertenen foure thinges: largenesse to povre folk; gladnesse of herte espiritueel, nat to been angry ne anoyed, ne grucche for he fasteth; and also resonable houre for to ete; ete by mesure; that is for to seyn, a man shal nat ete in untyme, ne sitte the lenger at his table to ete for he fasteth.
§ 98       Thanne shaltow understonde that bodily peyne stant in disciplyne or techynge, by word, or by writynge, or in ensample; also in werynge of heyres, or of stamyn, or of haubergeons on hire naked flessh, for Cristes sake, and swiche manere penances. But war thee wel that swiche manere penaunces on thy flessh ne make nat thyn herte bitter or angry or anoyed of thyself; for bettre is to caste awey thyn heytre, that for to caste awey the swetenesse of Jhesu Crist. And therfore seith Seint Paul, "clothe yow, as they that been chosen of God, in herte of misericorde, debonairetee, suffraunce, and swich manere of clothynge"; of whiche Jhesu Crist is moore apayed than of heyres, or haubergeouns, or hauberkes.
§ 99       Thanne is discipline eek in knokkynge of thy brest, in scourgynge with yerdes, in knelynges, in tribulaciouns, in suffrynge paciently wronges that been doon to thee, and eek in pacient suffraunce of maladies, or lesynge of worldly catel, or of wyf, or of child, or othere freendes. Thanne shaltow understonde whiche thynges destourben penaunce; and this is in foure maneres, that is, drede, shame, hope, and wanhope, that is, desperacion. And for to speke first of drede; for which he weneth that he may suffre no penaunce; ther-agayns is remedie for to thynke that bodily penaunce is but short and litel at regard of the peyne of helle, that is so crueel and so long that it lasteth withouten ende.
§ 100       Now again the shame that a man hath to shryven hym, and namely thise ypocrites that wolden been holden so parfite that they han no nede to shryven hem; agayns that shame sholde a man thynke that, by wey of resoun, that he that hath nat been shamed to doon foule thinges, certes hym oghte nat been ashamed to do faire thynges, and that is confessiouns. A man sholde eek thynke that God seeth and woot alle his thoghtes and alle his werkes; to hym may no thyng been hyd ne covered. Men sholden eek remembren hem of the shame that is to come at the day of doom to hem that been nat penitent and shryven in this present lyf. For alle the creatures in hevene, in erthe, and in helle shullen seen apertly al that they hyden in this world.
§ 101       Now for to speken of the hope of hem that been necligent and slowe to shryven hem, that stant in two maneres. That oon is that he hopeth for to lyve longe and for to purchacen muche richesse for his delit, and thanne he wol shryven hym; and as he seith, hym semeth thanne tymely ynough to come to shrifte. Another is of surquidrie that he hath in cristes mercy. Agayns the firste vice, he shal thynke that oure life is in no sikernesse, and eek that alle the richesses in this world ben in aventure, and passen as a shadwe on the wal; and , as seith Seint Gregorie, that it aperteneth to the grete righwisnesse of God that nevere shal the peyne stynte of hem that nevere wolde withdrawen hem fro synne, hir thankes, but ay continue in synne; for thilke perpetueel wil to do synne shul they han perpetueel peyne.
§ 102       Wanhope is in two maneres; the firste wanhope is in the mercy of Crist; that oother is that they thynken that they ne myghte that longe persevere in goodnesse. The firste wanhope comth of that he demeth that he hath synned so greetly and so ofte, and so longe leyn in synne, that he shal nat be saved. Certes, agayns that cursed wanhope sholde he thynke that the passion of Jhesu Crist is moore strong for to bynde than synne is strong for to bynde. Agayns the seconde wanhope he shal thynke that as ofte as he falleth he may arise agayn by penitence. And though he never so longe have leyn in synne, the mercy of Crist is alwey redy to receiven hym to mercy. Agayns the wanhope that he demeth that he sholde nat longe persevere in goodnesse, he shal thynke that the feblesse of the devel may nothyng doon, but if men wol suffren hym; and eek he shal han strengthe of the help of God, and of al hooly chirche, and of the proteccioun of aungels, if hym list. Thanne shal men understonde what is the fruyt of penaunce; and, after the word of Jhesu Crist, it is the endelees blisse of hevene, ther joye hath no contrarioustee of wo ne grevaunce; ther alle harmes been passed of this present lyf; ther as is the sikernesse fro the peyne of helle; ther as is the blisful compaignye that rejoysen hem everemo, everich of otheres joye; ther as the body of man, that whilom was foul and derk, is moore cleer than the sonne; ther as the body, that whilom was syk, freele, and fieble, and mortal, is inmortal, and so strong and so hool that ther may no thyng apeyren it; ther as ne is neither hunger, thurst, ne coold, but every soule replenyssed with the sighte of the parfit knowynge of God. This blisful regne may men purchace by poverte espiritueel, and the glorie by lowenesse, the plentee of joye by hunger and thurst, and the reste by travaille, and the lyf by deeth and mortificacion of synne.

Chaucer's Retraction