“Thou shalt come up above.” “A very fair creature, a little Child—nimble and lively, whiter than lily”
Afore this time I had great longing and desire of God’s gift to be delivered of this world and of this life. For oftentimes I beheld the woe that is here, and the weal and the bliss that is being there: (and if there had been no pain in this life but the absence of our Lord, methought it was some-time more than I might bear;) and this made me to mourn, and eagerly to long. And also from mine own wretchedness, sloth, and weakness, me liked not to live and to travail, as me fell to do.
And to all this our courteous Lord answered for comfort and patience, and said these words: Suddenly thou shalt be taken from all thy pain, from all thy sickness, from all thy distress and from all thy woe. And thou shalt come up above and thou shalt have me to thy meed, and thou shalt be fulfilled of love and of bliss. And thou shalt never have no manner of pain, no manner of misliking, no wanting of will; but ever joy and bliss without end. What should it then aggrieve thee to suffer awhile, seeing that it is my will and my worship?
And in this word: Suddenly thou shalt be taken,—I saw that God rewardeth man for the patience that he hath in abiding God’s will, and for his time, and [for] that man lengtheneth his patience over the time of his living. For not-knowing of his time of passing, that is a great profit: for if a man knew his time, he should not have patience over that time; but, as God willeth, while the soul is in the body it seemeth to itself that it is ever at the point to be taken. For all this life and this languor that we have here is but a point, and when we are taken suddenly out of pain into bliss then pain shall be nought.
And in this time I saw a body lying on the earth, which body shewed heavy and horrible, without shape and form, as it were a swollen quag of stinking mire. And suddenly out of this body sprang a full fair creature, a little Child, fully shapen and formed, nimble and lively, whiter than lily; which swiftly glided up into heaven. And the swollenness of the body betokeneth great wretchedness of our deadly flesh, and the littleness of the Child betokeneth the cleanness of purity in the soul. And methought: With this body abideth no fairness of this Child, and on this Child dwelleth no foulness of this body.
It is more blissful that man be taken from pain, than that pain be taken from man; for if pain be taken from us it may come again: therefore it is a sovereign comfort and blissful beholding in a loving soul that we shall be taken from pain. For in this behest I saw a marvellous compassion that our Lord hath in us for our woe, and a courteous promising of clear deliverance. For He willeth that we be comforted in the overpassing; and thatHe shewed in these words: And thou shalt come up above, and thou shalt have me to thy meed, and thou shalt be fulfilled of joy and bliss.
It is God’s will that we set the point of our thought in this blissful beholding as often as we may,—and as long time keep us therein with His grace; for this is a blessed contemplation to the soul that is led of God, and full greatly to His worship, for the time that it lasteth. And [when] we fall again to our heaviness, and spiritual blindness, and feeling of pains spiritual and bodily, by our frailty, it is God’s will that we know that He hath not forgotten us. And so signifieth He in these words: And thou shalt never more have pain; no manner of sickness, no manner of misliking, no wanting of will; but ever joy and bliss without end. What should it then aggrieve thee to suffer awhile, seeing it is my will and my worship?
It is God’s will that we take His behests and His comfortings as largely and as mightily as we may take them, and also He willeth that we take our abiding and our troubles as lightly as we may take them, and set them at nought. For the more lightly we take them, and the less price we set on them, for love, the less pain we shall have in the feeling of them, and the more thanks and meed we shall have for them.
“The Charity of God maketh in us such a unity that, when it is truly seen, no man can part himself from other”
And thus I understood that what man or woman with firm will chooseth God in this life, for love, he may be sure that he is loved without end: which endless love worketh in him that grace. For He willeth that we be as assured in hope of the bliss of heaven while we are here, as we shall be in sureness while we are there. And ever the more pleasance and joy that we take in this sureness, with reverence and meekness, the better pleaseth Him, as it was shewed. This reverence that I mean is a holy courteous dread of our Lord, to which meekness is united: and that is, that a creature seeth the Lord marvellous great, and itself marvellous little. For these virtues are had endlessly by the loved of God, and this may now be seen and felt in measure through the gracious presence of our Lord when it is [seen]: which presence in all things is most desired, for it worketh marvellous assuredness in true faith, and sure hope, by greatness of charity, in dread that is sweet and delectable.
It is God’s will that I see myself as much bound to Him in love as if He had done for me all that He hath done; and thus should every soul think inwardly of its Lover. That is to say, the Charity of God maketh in us such a unity that, when it is truly seen, no man can part himself from other. And thus ought our soul to think that God hath done for it all that He hath done.
And this sheweth He to make us to love Him and nought dread but Him. For it is His will that we perceive that all the might of our Enemy is taken into our Friend’s hand; and therefore the soul that knoweth assuredly this, he shall not dread but Him that he loveth. All other dread he setteth among passions and bodily sickness and imaginations. And therefore though we be in so much pain, woe, and distress that it seemeth to us we can think [of] right nought but [of] that [which] we are in, or [of] that [which] we feel, [yet] as soon as we may, pass we lightly over, and set we it at nought. And why? For that God willeth we know [Him]; and if we know Him and love Him and reverently dread Him, we shall have peace, and be in great rest, and it shall be great pleasance to us, all that He doeth. And this shewed our Lord in these words: What should it then aggrieve thee to suffer awhile, sith it is my will and my worship?
Now have I told you of Fifteen Revelations, as God vouchsafed to minister them to [my] mind, renewed by lightings and touchings, I hope of the same Spirit that shewed them all.
Of which Fifteen Shewings the First began early in the morn, about the hour of four; and they lasted, shewing by process full fair and steadily, each following other, till it was nine of the day, overpassed.
“All was closed, and I saw no more.” “For the folly of feeling a little bodily pain I unwisely lost for the time the comfort of all this blessed Shewing of our Lord God”
And after this the good Lord shewed the Sixteenth [Revelation] on the night following, as I shall tell after: which Sixteenth was conclusion and confirmation to all Fifteen.
But first me behoveth to tell you as anent my feebleness, wretchedness and blindness.—I have said in the beginning: And in this [moment] all my pain was suddenly taken from me: of which pain I had no grief nor distress as long as the Fifteen Shewings lasted following. And at the end all was close, and I saw no more. And soon I felt that I should live and languish; and anon my sickness came again: first in my head with a sound and a din, and suddenly all my body was fulfilled with sickness like as it was afore. And I was as barren and as dry as [if] I never had comfort but little. And as a wretched creature I moaned and cried for feeling of my bodily pains and for failing of comfort, spiritual and bodily.
Then came a Religious person to me and asked me how I fared. I said I had raved to-day. And he laughed loud and heartily. And I said: The Cross that stood afore my face, methought it bled fast. And with this word the person that I spake to waxed all sober and marvelled. And anon I was sore ashamed and astonished for my recklessness, and I thought: This man taketh in sober earnest the least word that I might say. Then said I no more thereof. And when I saw that he took it earnestly and with so great reverence, I wept, full greatly ashamed, and would have been shriven; but at that time I could tell it no priest, for I thought: How should a priest believe me? I believe not our Lord God. This [Shewing] I believed verily for the time that I saw Him, and so was then my will and my meaning ever for to do without end; but as a fool I let it pass from my mind. Ah! lo, wretch that I am! this was a great sin, great unkindness, that I for folly of feeling of a little bodily pain, so unwisely lost for the time the comfort of all this blessed Shewing of our Lord God. Here may you see what I am of myself.
But herein would our Courteous Lord not leave me. And I lay still till night, trusting in His mercy, and then I began to sleep. And in the sleep, at the beginning, methought the Fiend set him on my throat, putting forth a visage full near my face, like a young man’s and it was long and wondrous lean: I saw never none such. The colour was red like the tilestone when it is new-burnt, with black spots therein like black freckles—fouler than the tilestone. His hair was red as rust, clipped in front, with full locks hanging on the temples. He grinned on me with a malicious semblance, shewing white teeth: and so much methought it the more horrible. Body nor hands had he none shapely, but with his paws he held me in the throat, and would have strangled me, but he might not.
This horrible Shewing was made [whilst I was] sleeping, and so was none other. But in all this time I trusted to be saved and kept by the mercy of God. And our Courteous Lord gave me grace to waken; and scarcely had I my life. The persons that were with me looked on me, and wet my temples, and my heart began to comfort. And anon a light smoke came in the door, with a great heat and a foul stench. I said: Benedicite Domine! it is all on fire that is here! And I weened it had been a bodily fire that should have burnt us all to death. I asked them that were with me if they felt any stench. They said, Nay: they felt none. I said: Blessed be God! For then wist I well it was the Fiend that was come to tempest me. And anon I took to that [which] our Lord had shewed me on the same day, with all the Faith of Holy Church (for I beheld it is both one), and fled thereto as to my comfort. And anon all vanished away, and I was brought to great rest and peace, without sickness of body or dread of conscience.
- “disese.” ↵
- “uggley.” ↵
- a “bolned quave of styngand myre.” ↵
- “swifie” = agile, quick. ↵
- “sharply.” ↵
- “beleveth.” ↵
- “full blissful … mor than.” ↵
- i.e. promise, proclamation. ↵
- “behoting.” ↵
- i.e. the exceeding fulness of heavenly bliss. ↵
- See note 8 above. ↵
- “diseases” = discomforts, distresses. ↵
- “wilfully.” ↵
- “bounden” = beholden. ↵
- “his.” ↵
- “him.” ↵
- i.e. the soul. ↵
- i.e. the soul. ↵
- “langiren.” ↵
- “inderly” = inwardly; so de Cressy; (Collins has “drolly”). ↵
- “sadly” = solidly, soberly. ↵
- “evisid aforn with syde lokks hongyng on the thounys” (or thowngs, or thoungs). Bradley’s Dictionary of Middle English—thun(?)wange = temple, evesed p. ple of efesian = to clip the edges (cf. eaves). The Paris MS. however reads: “His hair was rede as rust not scoryd afore, with syde lockes hangyng on the thouwonges.” S. de Cressy gives this as: “his hair was red as rust not scoured; afore with side locks hanging down in flakes.” ↵