Fifteenth Century Prose and Verse
Author: Various
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Archbishop. And so the Archbishop asked me, "How I understood here CHRYSOSTOM?


William. And, certain, I was somewhat afraid to answer hereto; for I had not busied me to study about the sense hereof: but lifting up my mind to GOD, I prayed Him, of grace. And, as fast, as I thought how CHRIST said to his apostles, When, for my name, ye shall be brought before judges, I will give into your mouth, wisdom, that your adversaries shall not against say [gainsay]; and trusting faithfully in the Word of GOD, I said, "Sir, I know well, that many men and women have now swearing so in custom, that they know not, nor will not know that they do evil for to swear as they do: but they think and say, that they do well for to swear as they do; though they know well that they swear untruly. For they say, 'They may by their swearing, though it be false, [a]void blame or temporal harm; which they should have, if they swore not thus.'

"And, Sir, many men and women maintain strongly that they swear well, when that thing is sooth that they swear for.

"Also full many men and women say now that 'It is well done to swear by creatures, when they may not (as they say) otherwise be believed.'

"And also full many men and women now say that 'It is well done to swear by GOD and by our Lady, and by other Saints; for to have them in mind!'

"But since all these sayings are but excusations [excuses] and sin, methinketh, Sir, that this sentence of CHRYSOSTOM may be alleged well against all such swearers: witnessing that these sin grievously; though they think themselves for to swear in this foresaid wise, well. For it is evil done and great sin for to swear truth, when, in any manner, a man may excuse him without oath."

Archbishop. And the Archbishop said that "CHRYSOSTOM might be thus understood."

A Clerk. And then a Clerk said to me, "Wilt thou tarry my Lord no longer! but submit thee here meekly to the ordinance of Holy Church; and lay thine hand upon a book, touching the Holy Gospel of GOD, promising, not only with thy mouth but also with thine heart, to stand to my Lord's ordinance?"

William. And I said, "Sir, have I not told you here, how that I heard a Master of Divinity say that, in such a case, it is all one to touch a book, and to swear by a book?"


Archbishop. And the Archbishop said, "There is no Master of Divinity in England so great, that if he hold this opinion before me, but I shall punish him as I shall do thee, except thou swear as I shall charge thee!"


William. And I said, "Sir, is not CHRYSOSTOM an ententif Doctor?"

Archbishop. And the Archbishop said, "Yea!"

William. And I said, "If CHRYSOSTOM proveth him worthy great blame that bringeth forth a book to swear upon, it must needs follow that he is more to blame that sweareth on that book!"

Archbishop. And the Archbishop said, "If CHRYSOSTOM meant according to the ordinance of Holy Church, we will accept him!"

A Clerk. And then said a Clerk to me, "Is not the Word of GOD, and GOD Himself equipollent, that is, of one authority?"

William. And I said, "Yea!"

A Clerk. Then he said to me, "Why wilt thou not swear, then, by the Gospel of GOD, that is, GOD's Word; since it is all one to swear by the Word of GOD and by GOD Himself?"

William. And I said, "Sir, since I may not, now, otherwise be believed but by swearing, I perceive, as AUGUSTINE saith, that it is not speedful that ye, that should be my brethren, should not believe me: therefore I am ready, by the Word of GOD (as the LORD commanded me by His Word), to swear."

A Clerk. Then the Clerk said to me, "Lay, then, thine hand upon the book, touching the Holy Gospel of GOD; and take thy charge!"

William. And I said, "Sir, I understand that the Holy Gospel of GOD may not be touched with man's hands!"

A Clerk. And the Clerk said I fonded [fooled], and that I said not truth.

William. And I asked this Clerk, "Whether it were more to read the Gospel, or to touch the Gospel?"

A Clerk. And he said, "It was more to read the Gospel!"


William. Then I said, "Sir, by authority of Saint JEROME, the Gospel is not the Gospel for [through] reading of the letter, but for the belief that men have in the Word of GOD; that it is the Gospel that we believe, and not the letter we read: for because the letter that is touched with man's hand is not the Gospel, but the sentence that is verily believed in man's heart is the Gospel. For so Saint JEROME saith, The Gospel, that is the virtue of GOD's Word is not in the leaves of the book, but it is in the root of reason. Neither the Gospel, he saith, is in the writing above of the letters; but the Gospel is in the marking of the sentence of Scriptures.

"This sentence approveth Saint PAUL, saying thus, The Kingdom of GOD is not in word, but in virtue. And DAVID saith, The voice of the LORD, that is, His Word, is in virtue. And, after, David saith, Through the Word of GOD, the heavens were formed; and in the Spirit of His mouth is all the virtue of them. And I pray you, Sir, understand ye well how DAVID saith that, in the Spirit of the mouth of the LORD is all the virtue of angels and of men"?

A Clerk. And the Clerk said to me, "Thou wouldst make us to fond with thee! Say we not that the Gospels are written in the Mass book?"

William. And I said, "Sir, though men use [are accustomed] to say thus, yet it is unperfect speech. For the principal part of a thing is properly the whole thing: for, lo, man's soul that may not now be seen here, nor touched with any sensible thing, is properly Man! And all the virtue of a tree is in the root thereof, that may not be seen; for do away with the root, and the tree is destroyed! And, Sir, as ye said to me, right now, GOD and His Word are of one authority; and, Sir, Saint JEROME witnesseth that CHRIST, Very GOD and Very Man, is hid in the letter of his Law; thus also, Sir, the Gospel is hid in the letter!

"For, Sir, as it is full likely many divers men and women here in the earth touched CHRIST, and saw him, and knew his bodily person; which neither touched, nor saw, nor knew ghostly his Godhead: right thus, Sir, many men now touch, and see, and write, and read the Scriptures of GOD's Law, which neither touch, see, nor read effectually the Gospel. For as the Godhead of CHRIST, that is, the virtue of GOD, is known by the virtue through belief; so is the Gospel, that is CHRIST's Word!"

A Clerk. And a Clerk said to me, "These be full misty matters and unsavoury, that thou showest here to us!"

William. And I said, "Sir, if ye, that are Masters, know not plainly this sentence, ye may sore dread that the Kingdom of Heaven be taken from you! as it was from the Princes of Priests and from the Elders of the Jews."

A Clerk (? Malveren). And then a Clerk, as I guess MALVEREN, said to me, "Thou knowest not thine equivocations! for the 'Kingdom of Heaven' hath diverse understandings. What callest thou the 'Kingdom of Heaven' in this sentence, that thou shewest here?"

William. And I said, "Sir, by good reason, and sentence of Doctors, the Realm of Heaven is called here, the understanding of GOD's Word."

A Clerk. And a Clerk said to me, "From whom, thinkest thou, that this understanding is taken away?"

William. And I said, "Sir, by authority of CHRIST himself, the effectual understanding of CHRIST's word is taken away from all them chiefly which are great-lettered [learned] men, and presume to understand high things, and will be holden wise men, and desire mastership and high state and dignity: but they will not conform them to the living and teaching of CHRIST and of His Apostles."

Archbishop. Then the Archbishop said, "Well, well, thou wilt judge thy sovereigns! By God! the King [HENRY IV.] doeth not his duty, but he suffer thee to be condemned!"

* * * * *


A Clerk. And then another Clerk said to me, "Why, on Friday last, that was [August 5, 1407], counselledst thou a man of my Lord's, that he should not shrive him to Man, but only to GOD?"

And with this asking, I was abashed; and then, by and by, I knew that I was surely betrayed of a man that came to me in prison [? at Saltwood Castle] on the Friday before, communing with me in this matter of confession: and, certain, by his words, I thought that this man came then to me of full fervent and charitable will. But now I know, he came to tempt me and to accuse me. GOD forgive him, if it be His holy will!

And with all mine heart, when I had thought thus, I said to this Clerk, "Sir, I pray you that ye would fetch this man hither! and all the words, as near as I can repeat them, which that I spake to him on Friday in the prison, I will rehearse now here, before you all, and before him."

Archbishop. And, as I guess, the Archbishop then said to me, "They that are now here, suffice to repeat them. How saidest thou to him?"


William. And I said, "Sir, that man came and asked me of divers things; and after his asking, I answered him, as I understood that good was. And, as he shewed to me by his words, he was sorry for his living in Court, and right heavy for his own vicious living, and also for the viciousness of other men, and specially of priests' evil living; and herefore, he said to me with a sorrowful heart, as I guessed, that he purposed fully, within short time, for to leave the Court, and busy him to know GOD's Law, and to conform all his life hereafter.

"And when he had said to me these words, and others more, which I would rehearse and [if] he were present, he prayed me to hear his confession.

"And I said to him, 'Sir, wherefore come ye to me, to be confessed of me? Ye wot well that the Archbishop putteth and holdeth me here, as one unworthy either to give or to take any Sacrament of Holy Church!'

"And he said to me, 'Brother, I wot well, and so wot many others more, that you and such others are wrongfully vexed; and herefore I will common [commune] with you the more gladly.'

"And I said to him, 'Certain, I wot well that many men of this Court [i.e., the Archbishop's], and specially Priests of this household [Chaplains], would be full evil a paid, both with you and me, if they wist that ye were confessed of me!'

"And he said that he cared not therefore, for he had full little affection in them! and, as methought, he spake these words and many others of so good will and of so high desire for to have known and done the pleasant Will of GOD.

"And I said then to him, as with my foresaid Protestation, I say to you now here, 'Sir, I counsel you for to absent you from all evil company, and to draw you to them that love and busy them to know and to keep the precepts of GOD; and then the good Spirit of GOD will move you for to occupy busily all your wits in gathering together of all your sins, as far as ye can bethink you; shaming greatly of them, and sorrowing heartily for them. Yea, Sir, the HOLY GHOST will then put in your heart a good will and a fervent desire for to take and to hold a good purpose, to hate ever and to fly, after your cunning and power, all occasion of sin: and so then wisdom shall come to you from above, lightening with divers beams of grace and of heavenly desire all your wits, informing you how ye shall trust stedfastly in the mercy of the LORD, [ac]knowledging to Him only all your vicious living, praying to Him ever devoutly of charitable counsel and continuance, hoping without doubt that if ye continue thus busying you faithfully to know and keep his biddings, that He will, for He only may, forgive you all your sins!'

"And this man said then to me, 'Though GOD forgive men their sins, yet it behoveth men to be assoiled [absolved] of priests, and to do the penance that they enjoin them!'


"And I said to him, 'Sir, it is all one to assoil men of their sins, and to forgive men their sins: wherefore since it pertaineth only to GOD to forgive sin, it sufficeth in this case, to counsel men and women for to leave their sin, and to comfort them that busy them thus to do, for to hope stedfastly in the mercy of GOD. And againward, priests ought to tell sharply to customable sinners, that if they will not make an end of their sin, but continue in divers sins while that they may sin, all such deserve pain without end. And herefore priests should ever busy them to live well and holily, and to teach the people busily and truly the Word of GOD; shewing to all folk, in open preaching and in privy counselling, that the LORD GOD only forgiveth sin. And therefore those priests that take upon them to assoil men of their sins, blaspheme GOD; since that it pertaineth only to the LORD to assoil men of all their sins. For, no doubt, a thousand years after that CHRIST was man, no priest of CHRIST durst take upon him to teach the people, neither privily nor apertly, that they behoved needs to come to be assoiled of them; as priests do now. But by authority of CHRIST's word, priests bound indured [hardened] customable sinners to everlasting pains, [those] which, in no time of their living, would busy them faithfully to know the biddings of GOD, nor to keep them. And, again, all they that would occupy all their wits to hate and to flee all occasion of sin, dreading over all things to offend GOD, and loving for to please Him continually; to these men and women, priests shewed how the LORD assoileth them of their sins. And thus CHRIST promised to confirm in heaven, all the binding and loosing that priests, by authority of his Word, bind men in sin that are indured therein; or loose them out of sin here upon earth that are verily repentant.'

"And this man hearing these words, said that he 'might well in conscience consent to this sentence. But,' he said, 'is it not needful to the lay people that cannot thus do, to go shrive them to priests?'


"And I said, 'If a man feel himself so distroubled with any sin, that he cannot by his own wit, avoid this sin without counsel of them that are herein wiser than he; in such a case, the counsel of a good priest is full necessary. And if a good priest fail, as they do now commonly, in such a case; Saint AUGUSTINE saith that a man may lefully comon [lawfully commune] and take counsel of a virtuous secular man. But, certain, that man or woman is overladen and too beastly, which cannot bring their own sins into their mind, busying them night and day for to hate and for to forsake all their sins, doing a sigh for them, after their cunning and power. And, Sir, full accordingly to this sentence, upon mid-Lenton Sunday, two years [March 29, 1405], as I guess, now agone, I heard a Monk of Feversham, that men called MOREDOM, preach at Canterbury, at the Cross within Christchurch Abbey, saying thus of Confession: As through the suggestion of the Fiend, without counsel of any other body than of themselves, many men and women can imagine and find means and ways enough to come to pride, to theft, to lechery, and to other divers vices: in contrary wise, this Monk said, since the LORD GOD is more ready to forgive sin than the Fiend is or may be of power to move anybody to sin, then whoever will shame and sorrow heartily for their sins, [ac]knowledging them faithfully to GOD, amending them after their power and cunning, without counsel of any other body than of GOD and himself, through the grace of GOD, all such men and women may find sufficient means to come to GOD's mercy, and so to be clean assoiled of all their sins.' This sentence I said, Sir, to this man of yours, and the self words, as near as I can guess."

Archbishop. And the Archbishop said, "Holy Church approveth not this learning."

William. And I said, "Sir, Holy Church, of which CHRIST is head in heaven and in earth, must needs approve this sentence. For, lo, hereby all men and women may, if they will, be sufficiently taught to know and to keep the commandments of GOD, and to hate and to fly continually all occasion of sin, and to love and to seek virtues busily, and to believe in GOD stably, and to trust in His mercy stedfastly, and so to come to perfect charity and continue therein perseverantly: and more, the LORD asketh not of any man here now in this life. And, certain, since JESUS CHRIST died upon the cross wilfully to make men free; Men of the Church are too bold and too busy to make men thrall! binding them 'under the pains of endless curse,' as they say, to do many observances and ordinances, which neither the living nor the teaching of CHRIST, nor of his Apostles approveth."

A Clerk. And a Clerk said then to me, "Thou shewest plainly here thy deceit, which thou hast learned of them that travail to sow popil [tares] among wheat! But I counsel thee to go away clean from this learning, and submit thee lowly to my Lord, and thou shalt find him yet to be gracious to thee!"

Another Clerk. And as fast, another Clerk said to me, "How wast thou so bold at Paul's Cross in London, to stand there hard, with thy tippet [cape] bounden about thine head, and to reprove in his sermon, the worthy Clerk ALKERTON, drawing away all, that thou mightest! Yea, and the same day at afternoon, thou meeting that worthy Doctor in Watling street, calledst him, 'False flatterer, and hypocrite!'"


William. And I said, "Sir, I think certainly, that there was no man nor woman that hated verily sin and loved virtues, hearing the sermon of the Clerk of Oxford, and also ALKERTON's sermon, but they said, and might justly say, that ALKERTON reproved the Clerk untruly, and slandered him wrongfully and uncharitably. For, no doubt, if the living and teaching of CHRIST chiefly and his Apostles be true, nobody that loveth GOD and His Law will blame any sentence that the Clerk then preached there; since, by authority of GOD's Word, and by approved Saints and Doctors, and by open reason, this Clerk approved all things clearly that he preached there."

A Clerk. And a Clerk of the Archbishop said to me, "His sermon was false, and that he sheweth openly, since he dare not stand forth and defend his preaching, that he then preached there."


William. And I said, "Sir, I think that he purposeth to stand stedfastly thereby, or else he slandereth foully himself and many others that have great trust that he will stand by the truth of the Gospel. For I wot well his sermon is written both in Latin and in English; and many men have it, and they set great price thereby. And, Sir, if ye were present with the Archbishop [i.e., of CANTERBURY, in whose presence he was then standing] at Lambeth, when this Clerk appeared; and were at his Answer before the Archbishop: ye wot well that this Clerk denied not there his sermon; but, two days, he maintained it before the Archbishop and his Clerks."

Archbishop or a Clerk. And then the Archbishop, or one of his Clerks said (I wot not which of them!), "That harlot [at this time applied to men also] shall be met with, for that sermon. For no man but he, and thou, and such other false harlots, praiseth any such preaching."

Archbishop. And then the Archbishop said, "Your cursed sect is busy, and it joyeth right greatly to contrary and to destroy the privilege and freedom of Holy Church."

William. And I said, "Sir, I know no men travail so busily as this sect doth, which you reprove, to make rest and peace in Holy Church. For pride, covetousness, and simony which distrouble most Holy Church, this sect hateth and flyeth, and travaileth busily to move all other men in like manner unto meekness and wilful poverty and charity, and free ministring of the sacraments: this sect loveth, and useth, and is full busy to move all other folks, thus to do. For these virtues owe all members of Holy Church to their head, CHRIST."

A Clerk. Then a Clerk said to the Archbishop, "Sir, it is far day, and ye have far to ride to-night; therefore make an end with him, for he will none make! But the more, Sir, that ye busy you for to draw him towards you, the more contumax [contumacious] he is made, and the further from you."

Malveren. And then MALVEREN said to me, "WILLIAM! kneel down, and pray my Lord, of grace! and leave all thy fantasies, and become a child of Holy Church!"

William. And I said, "Sir, I have prayed the Archbishop oft, and yet I pray him, for the love of CHRIST! that he will leave his indignation that he hath against me; and that he will suffer me, after my cunning and power, for to do mine office of priesthood, as I am charged of GOD to do it. For I covet nought else, but to serve my GOD to His pleasing, in the state that I stand in, and have taken me to."

Archbishop. And the Archbishop said to me, "If, of good heart, thou wilt submit thee now, here, meekly to be ruled, from this time forth by my counsel, obeying meekly and wilfully to mine ordinance, thou shalt find it most profitable and best to thee for to do thus. Therefore, tarry thou me no longer! Grant to do this, that I have said to thee now, here, shortly; or deny it utterly!"


William. And I said to the Archbishop, "Sir, owe [ought] we to believe that JESUS CHRIST was and is Very GOD and Very Man?"

Archbishop. And the Archbishop said, "Yea!"

William. And I said, "Sir, owe we to believe that all CHRIST's living and his teaching is true in every point?"

Archbishop. And he said, "Yea!"

William. And I said, "Sir, owe we to believe that the living of the Apostles and the teaching of CHRIST and of all Prophets are true, which are written in the Bible for the health and salvation of GOD's people?"

Archbishop. And he said, "Yea!"

William. And I said, "Sir, owe all Christian men and women, after their cunning and power, for to conform their living to the teaching specially of CHRIST; and also to the teaching and living of his Apostles and of Prophets, in all things that are pleasant to GOD, and edification to His Church?"

Archbishop. And he said, "Yea!"

William. And I said, "Sir, ought the doctrine, the bidding, or the counsel of anybody to be accepted or obeyed unto, except this counsel, these biddings, or this counsel may be granted and affirmed by CHRIST's living and his teaching, or by the living and teaching of his Apostles and Prophets?"

Archbishop. And the Archbishop said to me, "Other doctrine ought not to be accepted, nor we owe not to obey to any man's bidding or counsel; except we can perceive that this bidding or counsel accordeth with the bidding and teaching of CHRIST and of his Apostles and Prophets?"


William. And I said, "Sir, are not all the learning and biddings and counsels of Holy Church means and healthful remedies to know, and to withstand the privy suggestions and the apert temptations of the Fiend; and also ways and healthful remedies to slay pride and all other deadly sins and the branches of them; and sovereign means to purchase grace, for to withstand and overcome all fleshly lusts and movings?"

Archbishop. And the Archbishop said, "Yea!"

William. And I said, "Sir, whatsoever thing ye or any other body bid or counsel me to do; according to this foresaid learning, after my cunning and power, through the help of GOD, I will meekly, with all mine heart, obey thereto!"

Archbishop. And the Archbishop said to me, "Submit thee then, now, here, meekly and wilfully to the ordinance of Holy Church, which I shall shew to thee!"

William. And I said, "Sir, according as I have here, now before you, rehearsed, I will now be ready to obey full gladly to CHRIST, the Head of all Holy Church, and to the learning and biddings and counsels of every pleasing member of Him."

Archbishop. Then the Archbishop striking with his hand fiercely upon a cupboard, spake to me, with a great spirit, saying, "By Jesu! but if thou leave such additions, obliging thee now here without any exception to mine ordinance, ere that I go out of this place, I shall make thee as sure as any thief that is in the prison of Lantern. Advise thee now, what thou wilt do!" And then, as if he had been angered, he went from the cupboard where he stood, to a window.

And then MALVEREN and another Clerk came nearer me, and they spake to me many words full pleasantly, and another while they menaced me and counselled full busily to submit me, or else they said I should not escape punishing over measure; for they said I should be degraded, cursed, and burned, and so then damned!

Malveren and a Clerk. "But now," they said, "thou mayest eschew all these mischiefs, if thou will submit thee wilfully and meekly to this worthy Prelate, that hath cure of thy soul! And for the pity of CHRIST!" said they, "bethink thee, how great clerks [PHILIP DE REPINGTON] the Bishop of LINCOLN, HEREFORD, and PURVEY were, and yet are; and also B[OWTON] that is a well understanding man: which also have forsaken and revoked all the learning and opinions that thou and such others hold! Wherefore, since each of them is mickle wiser than thou art; we counsel thee for the best, that, by the example of these four Clerks, thou follow them, submitting thee as they did!"


A Clerk. And one of the [Arch]bishop's Clerks said, then, there, that "he heard NICHOLAS HEREFORD say, that 'since he forsook and revoked all the learning and opinions of the Lollards, he hath had mickle greater favour and more delight to hold against them; than ever he had to hold with them, while he held with them.'"

Malveren. And therefore MALVEREN said to me, "I understand and [if] thou wilt take thee to a priest, and shrive thee clean, forsake all such opinions, and take thy penance of my Lord here, for the holding and teaching of them, within short time thou shalt be greatly comforted in this doing!"

William. And I said to the Clerks, that thus busily counselled me to follow these foresaid men, "Sirs, if these men, of whom ye counsel me to take example, had forsaken benefices of temporal profit and of worldly worship, so that they had absented them and eschewed from all occasions of covetousness and of fleshly lusts; and had taken them to simple living and wilful poverty: they had herein given good example to me and many others to have followed them. But now, since all these four men have slanderously and shamefully done the contrary, consenting to receive and to have and to hold temporal benefices, living now more worldly and more fleshly than they did before, conforming them to the manners of this world; I forsake them herein, and in all their foresaid slanderous doing!


"For I purpose, with the help of GOD into remission of all my sins and of my foul cursed living, to hate and to fly privily and apertly, to follow these men! teaching and counselling whomsoever that I may, for to fly and eschew the way that they have chosen to go in, which will lead them to the worst end, if, in convenient time, they repent them not, verily forsaking and revoking openly the slander that they have put, and every day yet put to CHRIST's Church. For, certain, so open blasphemy and slander, as they have spoken and done in their revoking and forsaking of the Truth, ought not, nor may not, privily be amended duly. Wherefore, Sirs, I pray you that ye busy you not for to move me to follow these men in revoking and forsaking of the Truth and Soothfastness! as they have done, and yet do; wherein by open evidence, they stir GOD to great wroth, and not only against themselves, but also against all them that favour them or consent to them herein, or that comoneth [communeth] with them, except it be for their amendment. For whereas these men first were pursued of enemies, now they have obliged them by oath for to slander and pursue CHRIST in his members! Wherefore, as I trust stedfastly in the goodness of GOD, the worldly covetousness, and the lusty living, and the sliding from the truth of these runagates [renegades] shall be to me, and to many other men and women, an example and an evidence to stand the more stiffly by the Truth of CHRIST.

"For, certain, right many men and women do mark and abhor the foulness and cowardice of these aforesaid untrue men, how that they are overcome, and stopped with benefices, and withdrawn from the truth of GOD's Word, forsaking utterly to suffer therefore bodily persecution. For by this unfaithful doing and apostasy, of them specially that are great lettered men, and have [ac]knowledged openly the truth; and now either for pleasure or displeasure of tyrants have taken hire and temporal wages, to forsake the Truth and to hold against it, slandering and pursuing them that covet to follow CHRIST in the way of righteousness: many men and women therefore are now moved. But many more, through the grace of GOD, shall be moved hereby, for to learn the Truth of GOD, and to do thereafter, and to stand boldly thereby."


Archbishop. Then the Archbishop said to his Clerks, "Busy you no longer about him! for he, and others such as he is, are confeder[at]ed so together, that they will not swear to be obedient, and to submit them to Prelates of Holy Church. For now, since I stood here, his fellow sent me word that he will not swear, and that he [WILLIAM of Thorpe] counselled him that he should not swear to me But, losell! in that thing that in thee is, thou hast busied thee to lose this young man; but, blessed be GOD! thou shalt not have thy purpose of him! For he hath forsaken all thy learning, submitting him to be buxom [submissive] and obedient to the ordinance of Holy Church; and weepeth full bitterly, and curseth thee full heartily for the venomous teaching which thou hast shewed to him, counselling him to do thereafter. And for thy false counselling of many others and him, thou hast great cause to be right sorry! For, long time, thou hast busied thee to pervert whomsoever thou mightest! Therefore as many deaths thou art worthy of, as thou hast given evil counsels. And therefore, by Jesu! thou shalt go thither where NICHOLAS HEREFORD and JOHN PURVEY were harboured! and I undertake, ere this day eight days, thou shalt be right glad for to do what thing that ever I bid thee do!

"And, losell! I shall assay if can make thee there, as sorrowful as, it was told me, thou wast glad of my last going out of England [in 1397]. By St. Thomas! I shall turn thy joy into sorrow!"

William. And I said, "Sir, there can nobody prove lawfully that I joyed ever of the manner of your going out of this land [the Archbishop had been banished]. But, Sir, to say the sooth, I was joyful when ye were gone! for [ROBERT DE BRAYBROOKE] the Bishop of LONDON (in whose prison ye left me!) found in me no cause for to hold me longer in his prison; but, at the request of my friends, he delivered me to them, asking of me no manner of submitting."

Archbishop. Then the Archbishop said to me, "Wherefore that I yede [went] out of England is unknown to thee! But be this thing well known to thee! that GOD, as I wot well, hath called me again and brought me into this land, for to destroy thee and the false sect that thou art of! as, by God! I shall pursue you so narrowly that I shall not leave a step of you in this land!"

William. And I said to the Archbishop, "Sir, the holy prophet JEREMY said to the false prophet HANANIAH, When the word, that is, the prophecy, of a prophet is known or fulfilled; then it shall be known that the LORD sent the prophet in truth!"

Archbishop. And the Archbishop, as if he had not been pleased with my saying, turned him away-ward, hither and thither, and said, "By God! I shall set on thy shins a pair of perlis [? pearls], that thou shalt be glad to change thy voice!"

These and many more wondrous and convicious [railing] words were spoken to me; menacing me and all others of the same sect, for to be punished and destroyed to the uttermost.

And the Archbishop called then to him, a Clerk; and rounded with him [whispered in his ear], and that Clerk went forth: and soon he brought in the Constable of Saltwood Castle, and the Archbishop rounded a good while with him.


And then the Constable went forth, and then came in divers secular [laymen]; and they scorned me on every side, and menaced me greatly. And some counselled the Archbishop to burn me by and by [at once]: and some others counselled him to drown me in the sea, for it is near [at] hand there.

A Clerk. And a Clerk standing besides me there, kneeled down to the Archbishop, praying him that he would deliver me to him for to say Matins with him; and he would undertake that, within three days, I should not resist anything that was commanded me to do, of my Prelate.

And the Archbishop said that he would ordain for me himself.

And then, after, came in again the Constable and spake privily to the Archbishop.

And then the Archbishop commanded the Constable to lead me forth thence, with him: and so he did.

And when we were gone forth thence, we were sent after again.

And when I came in again before the Archbishop, a Clerk bade me kneel down, and ask grace, and submit me lowly, and I should find it for the best.

William. And I said then to the Archbishop, "Sir, as I have said to you, divers times, to-day, I will wilfully and lowly obey and submit me to be ordained ever, after my cunning and power, to GOD and His Law, and to every member of Holy Church; as far forth as I can perceive that these members accord with their head, CHRIST, and will teach me, rule me, or chastise me by authority specially of GOD's Law."

Archbishop. And the Archbishop said, "I wist well, he would not, without such additions, submit him!"

And then, I was rebuked, scorned, and menaced on every side; and yet, after this, divers persons cried upon me to kneel down and submit me: but I stood still, and spake no word.

And then there was spoken of me and to me many great words; and I stood, and heard them menace, curse, and scorn me: but I said nothing.

Archbishop. Then a while after, the Archbishop said to me, "Wilt thou not submit thee to the ordinance of Holy Church?"

William. And I said, "Sir, I will full gladly submit me, as I have shewed you before."

And then, the Archbishop bade the Constable to have me forth thence in haste.


And so then I was led forth, and brought into a foul unhonest prison, where I came never before. But, thanked be GOD! when all men were gone forth then from me, and had sparred [barred] fast the prison door after them, by and by [immediately] after, I therein by myself busied me to think on GOD, and to thank Him of His goodness.

And I was then greatly comforted in all my wits, not only for that I was then delivered, for a time, from the sight, from the hearing, from the presence, from the scorning, and from the menacing of my enemies: but much more I rejoiced in the LORD, because that through His grace, He kept me so, both among the flattering specially, and among the menacing of mine adversaries, that without heaviness and anguish of my conscience, I passed away from them. For as a tree laid upon another tree overthwart or on cross wise, so was the Archbishop and his three Clerks always contrary to me, and I to them.

Now, good GOD! (for Thine holy name and for the praising of Thy most blessed name, make us one together), if it be Thy will, by authority of thy Word that is true perfect charity: and else not! And that it may thus be, all that this writing read or hear, pray heartily to the LORD GOD! that He (for His great goodness that cannot be with tongue expressed) grant to us and to all others, that in the same wise and for the same cause specially, or for any other cause be at [a] distance, to be knit and made One in true Faith, in stedfast Hope, and in perfect Charity. Amen.

+ Thus endeth the Examination of Master William Thorpe.+

And hereafter followeth his Testament.

19 Sept. 1460.


MATTHEW, an Apostle of CHRIST and his gospeller, witnesseth truly in the Holy Gospel, the most holy living and the most wholesome teaching of CHRIST. He rehearseth how that CHRIST likeneth them that hear his words and keep them, to a wise man that buildeth his house upon a stone, that is a stable and a sad [firm] ground.

This house is man's soul, in whom CHRIST delighteth to dwell, if it be grounded, that is, stablished, faithfully in his living, and in his true teaching, adorned or made fair with divers virtues, which CHRIST used and taught without any meddling of any error, as are chiefly the conditions of charity.

This foresaid stone is CHRIST, upon which every faithful soul must be builded, since upon none other ground than upon CHRIST's living and his teaching, nobody may make any building or houseing wherein CHRIST will come and dwell. This sentence witnesseth PAUL to the Corinthians, shewing them that nobody may set any other ground than is set, that is, CHRIST's living and his teaching.

And because that all men and women should give all their business here in this life to build them virtuously upon this sure foundation, Saint PAUL [ac]knowledging the fervent desire and the good will of the people of Ephesus, wrote to them comfortably, saying, Now ye are not strangers, guests, nor yet comelings, but ye are the citizens and of the household of GOD, builded above upon the foundament of the Apostles and Prophets. In which foundament, every building that is builded and made through the grace of GOD, it increaseth or groweth into a holy temple; that is, everybody that is grounded and builded faithfully in the teaching and living of CHRIST is therethrough made the holy temple of GOD.

This is the stable ground and stedfast stone, CHRIST! which is the sure corner-stone fast joining and holding mightily together two walls. For through CHRIST JESU, mean or middle Person of the Trinity, the Father of Heaven is piteous or mercifully joined and made one together to Mankind: and through dread to offend GOD, and fervent love to please him, men be unseparably made one to GOD, and defended surely under His protection.

Also this foresaid stone CHRIST was figured by the square stones of which the Temple of GOD was made. For as a square stone, wheresoever it is cast or laid, it abideth and lieth stably; so CHRIST and every faithful member of his Church, by example of him, abideth and dwelleth stably in true faith and in all other heavenly virtues, in all adversities that they suffer in this Valley of Tears. For, lo, when these foresaid square stones were hewen and wrought for to be laid in the walls or pillars of GOD's Temple, none noise or stroke of the workmen was heard. Certain, this silence in working of this stone figureth CHRIST chiefly, and his faithful members, which by example of him have been, and yet are, and ever to the world's end shall be, so meek and patient in every adversity, that no sound nor yet any grudging shall any time be perceived in them.

Nevertheless this chief and most worshipful corner-stone, which only is ground of all virtues, proud beggars reproved! but this despite and reproof CHRIST suffered most meekly in his own person, for to give example of all meekness and patience to all his faithful followers. Certain, this world is now so full of proud beggars which are named priests; but the very office of working of priesthood which CHRIST approveth true, and accepteth, is far from the multitude of priests that now reign in this world.

For, from the highest priest to the lowest, all (as who say) study, that is, they imagine and travail busily how they may please this world and their flesh. This sentence and many such others dependeth upon them, if it be well considered; either GOD the Father of heaven hath deceived all mankind by the living specially and teaching of JESUS CHRIST, and by the living and teaching of his Apostles and Prophets; all else all the Popes that have been since I had any knowledge or discretion, with all the College of Cardinals, Archbishops, and Bishops, Monks, Canons, and Friars, with all the contagious flock of the comminalty of priesthood, which have, all my life-time and mickle longer, reigned and yet reign and increase damnably from sin into sin, have been and yet be proud obstinate heretics, covetous simoners [trafficers in ecclesiastical preferments], and defouled adulterers in the ministering of the Sacraments, and especially in the ministering of the Sacrament of the Altar.

For, as their works shew (whereto CHRIST biddeth us take heed!) the highest priests and Prelates of this priesthood challenge and occupy [hold] unlawfully temporal lordships. And for temporal favour and mede, they sell and give benefices to unworthy and unable persons; yea, these simoners sell sin! suffering men and women in every degree and estate, to lie and continue, from year to year, in divers vices slanderously. And thus, by evil example of high priests in the Church, lower priests under them are not only suffered, but they are maintained to sell full dear to the people for temporal mede, all the Sacraments. And thus all this foresaid priesthood is blown so high, and borne up in pride and vainglory of their estate and dignity, and so blinded with worldly covetousness, that they disdain to follow CHRIST in very meekness and wilful poverty, living holily, and preaching GOD's Word truly, freely, and continually; taking their livelihood at the free will of the people, of their pure almose [alms], where and when, they suffice not (for their true and busy preaching) to get their sustenance with their hands.

To this true sentence, grounded on CHRIST's own living and teaching of his Apostles; these foresaid worldly and fleshly priests will not consent effectually. But, as their works and also their words shew, boldly and unshamefastly these foresaid named priests and Prelates covet, and enforce them mightily and busily, that all Holy Scripture were expounded and drawn according to their manners, and to their ungrounded [unwarranted] usages and findings. For they will not (since they hold it but folly and madness!) conform their manners to the pure and simple living of CHRIST and his Apostles, nor they will not follow freely their learning. Wherefore all the Emperors and Kings, and all other lords and ladies, and all the common people in every degree and state, which have before time known or might have known; and also all they that now yet know or might know this foresaid witness of priesthood; and would not, nor yet will enforce them, after their cunning and power, to withstand charitably the foresaid enemies and traitors of CHRIST and his Church; all these strive, with ANTICHRIST, against JESU! And they shall bear the indignation of GOD Almighty without end, if in convenient time they amend them not, and repent them verily; doing therefore due mourning and sorrow, after their cunning and power.

For through presumptions and negligence of priests and Prelates (not of the Church of CHRIST, but occupying their prelacy, unduly in the Church, and also by flattering and false covetousness of other divers named priests), lousengers, and lounderers are wrongfully made and called Hermits; and have leave to defraud poor and needy creatures of their livelihood, and to live by their false winning and begging in sloth and other divers vices. And also of these Prelates, these cokir noses [?] are suffered to live in pride and hypocrisy, and to defoul themselves both bodily and ghostly.

Also by the suffering and counsel of these foresaid Prelates and of other priests, are made vain, both Brotherhoods and Sisterhoods, full of pride and envy; which are full contrary to the Brotherhood of CHRIST, since they are cause of mickle dissension: and they multiply and sustained it uncharitably, for in lusty eating, and drinking unmeasurably and out of time, they exercise themselves. Also this vain confederacy of Brotherhoods is permitted to be of one clothing, and to hold together. And in all these ungrounded and unlawful doings, priests are partners and great meddlers and counsellors.

And over this viciousness, hermits and pardoners, ankers [anchorites], and strange beggars are licensed and admitted of Prelates and priests for to beguile the people with flatterings and leasings [falsehoods] slanderously, against all good reason and true belief; and so to increase divers vices in themselves, and also among all them that accept them or consent to them.

And thus, the viciousness of these forenamed priests and Prelates, has been long time, and yet is, and shall be cause of wars, both within the realm and without.

And, in the same wise, these unable [useless] priests have been, and yet are, and shall be, the chief cause of pestilence of men, and murrain of beasts, and of bareness of the earth, and of all other mischiefs, to the time that Lords and Commons able them through grace for to know and to keep the Commandments of GOD, enforcing them then faithfully and charitably by one assent, for to redress and make one, this foresaid priesthood to the wilful poor, meek, and innocent living and teaching, specially of CHRIST and his Apostles.

Therefore all they that know, or might know the viciousness that reigneth now cursedly in these priests and in their learning, if they suffice not to withstand this contagious viciousness: let them pray to the LORD heartily for the health of his Church! abstaining them prudently from these endured [hardened] enemies of CHRIST and his people, and from all their Sacraments! since to them all that know them, or may know, they are but fleshly deeds and false: as Saint CYPRIAN witnesseth in the first Question of Decrees and in the first Cause. Ca. Si quis inquit.

For as this Saint, and great Doctors witness there, that not only vicious priests, but also all they that favour them or consent to them in their viciousness, shall together perish with them, if they amend them not duly: as all they perished that consented to DATHAN and ABIRAM. For nothing were more confusion to these foresaid vicious priests, than to eschew them prudently in all their unlawful Sacraments, while they continue in their sinful living slanderously, as they have long time done and yet do. And nobody need to be afraid, though death did follow by any wise or other, for to die out of this world without taking of any Sacrament of these foresaid CHRIST's enemies: since CHRIST will not fail for to minister himself all lawful and heal-ful sacraments, and necessary at all time; and especially at the end, to all them that are in true faith, in steadfast hope, and in perfect charity.

But yet some mad fools say, for to eschew slander they will be shriven once a year and comuned [receive the Sacrament] of their proper priests; though they know them defouled with slanderous vices. No doubt, but all they that thus do or consent, privily or apertly, to such doing, are culpable of great sin; since St. PAUL witnesseth that not only they that do evil are worthy of death and damnation, but also they that consent to evil doers. Also, as their slanderous works witness, these foresaid vicious priests despise and cast from them heavenly cunning that is given of the HOLY GHOST. Wherefore the LORD throweth all such despisers from Him, that they use nor do any priesthood to Him. No doubt then, all they that wittingly or wilfully take, or consent that any other body should take any Sacrament of any such named priest, sinneth openly and damnably against all the Trinity, and are unable to any Sacrament of health.

And that this foresaid sentence [opinion] is altogether true unto remission of all my sinful living, trusting steadfastly in the mercy of GOD, I offer to Him my soul!

And to prove also this foresaid sentence true, with the help of GOD, I purpose fully to suffer meekly and gladly my most wretched body to be tormented, where GOD will! and of whom He will! how He will and when He will! and as long as He will! and what temporal pain He will! and death! to the praising of His name, and to the edification of His Church. And I, that am most unworthy and wretched caitiff, shall now, through the special grace of GOD, make to Him pleasant sacrifice of my most sinful and unworthy body.

* * * * *

I beseech heartily all folk that read or hear this end of my purposed Testament, that, through the grace of GOD, they dispose verily and virtuously all their wits, and able, in like manner, all their members for to understand truly and to keep faithfully, charitably, and continually all the commandments of GOD, and so then to pray devoutly to all the blessed Trinity, that I may have grace with wisdom and prudence from above, to end my life here, in this foresaid Truth and for this Cause in true faith and steadfast hope and in perfect charity, AMEN.

* * * * *

Here endeth, sir [the Reverend] WILLIAM THORPE's Testament on the Friday after the Rood Day [Holy Rood-day, or Exaltation of the Holy Cross, falls on Sept. 14th], and the twenty [? nineteenth] day of September, in the year of our Lord a thousand four hundred and sixty.

And on the Sunday [August 7th] next after the feast of Saint PETER that we called Lammas Day [August 1st] in the year of our Lord a thousand four hundred and seven, the said sir WILLIAM THORPE was accused of these points, before written in this book, before THOMAS ARUNDELL, Archbishop of CANTERBURY, as it is said before.

And so was it then betwixt the Day of his Accusing, and the Day that this was written three and fifty years; and as mickle more as from the Lammas [August 1st] to the Woodmas [September 19th].

Behold the end!

The strength of a tale is in its end.

Here followeth The Examination of the Lord Cobham.

[The following is but an abridgement of the Story of Sir JOHN OLDCASTLE: respecting which, Miss L. TOULMIN SMITH has recently published, in the Anglia for April 1882, THOMAS OCCLEVE's Ballad against Lord COBHAM and the Lollards, in 1415.]

+ The Belief of the Lord Cobham.+

Be it known to all men! that in the year of our LORD a thousand four hundred and thirteen, in the first year of King HENRY the FIFTH; the King gave to [THOMAS ARUNDELL] the Bishop of CANTERBURY, leave to correct the Lord COBHAM.

And because no man durst summon him personally, the Archbishop set up a Citation on his Cathedral Church door on the Wednesday [September 6, 1413] next before the nativity of our Lady [September 8th] in the foresaid year: and that Citation was taken down by the friends of the Lord COBHAM.

And, after that, the Bishop set up another on our Lady Day [September 8, 1413]; which also was rent down.

And because he came not to answer on the day assigned in the Citation, the Bishop cursed him for contumacy.

And the Lord COBHAM seeing all this malice purposed against him, wrote this Belief that followeth, with his own hand; and noted [signed] it himself; and also answered to Four Points put against him by the Bishop: and he went to the King, supposing to get of him good favour and lordship.

* * * * *

+ The Belief.+


Sept. 1413.

I believe in GOD the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth; and in JESU CHRIST His only Son our Lord, which was conceived of the HOLY GHOST, born of the Virgin MARY, and suffered death under PONTIUS PILATE, crucified, dead, and buried. He went down to hells. The third day He rose again from death. He ascended up into heavens. He sitteth on the right hand of GOD, the Father Almighty. From thence, He is to come to judge the quick and dead.

I believe in the HOLY GHOST, all Holy Church, the Communion of Saints, forgiveness of sins, uprising of flesh, and everlasting life. Amen.

* * * * *

And for to declare more plainly my soothfastness in the belief of Holy Church, I believe faithfully and verily, that there is but one GOD Almighty; and in this Godhead and of this Godhead be Three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the HOLY GHOST; and these Three Persons be the same GOD Almighty.

Furthermore, I believe that the Second Person of this most blessed Trinity, in most convenient time before ordained, took flesh and blood of the most blessed Virgin, our Lady Saint MARY, for the redemption and salvation of mankind; that was lost before, for ADAM's sin.

And I believe that JESU CHRIST our Lord, which is both GOD and Man, is head of all Holy Church; and that all those that be, and shall be saved, be members of this most Holy Church. Which Holy Church is departed [divided] in three parts. Of the which, one part is now in Heaven; that is to say, the saints that in this life live accordingly with the most blessed Law of CHRIST and his living, despising and forsaking the Devil and his works, the prosperities of this world, and the foul lust of the flesh.

The second part is in Purgatory, abiding the mercy of GOD, and purging them there of their sins; of the which they have been truly confessed in deed, or else in will to have been.

The third part of this Church is here in Earth, the which is called the Fighting Church; for it fighteth, every day and night, against the temptation of the Devil, the prosperity of this false failing world, and the proud rebellion of the flesh against the soul. This Church is departed [divided] by the most blessed ordinance of GOD into three Estates; that is to say, Priesthood, Knighthood, and Commons: to every Estate of the which, GOD gave charge that one should help another, and none destroy other.

As to Priests, they should be most holy and least worldly; and truly living as near as they could, after the example of CHRIST and his Apostles. And all their business should be, day and night, in holy example of living, and true preaching and teaching of GOD's Law to both the other parts. And also they should be most meek, most serviceable, and most lovely in spirit, both to GOD and man.

In the second part of this Church, that is Knighthood, be contained all that bear the sword by the law of Office: which should maintain GOD's Law to be preached and taught to the people; and principally the Gospel of CHRIST; and truly to live thereafter. The which part should rather put themselves to peril of death, than to suffer any Law or Constitution [referring to the Constitutions of ARUNDEL in 1408] to be made of man, wherethrough the freedom of GOD's Law might be letted to be preached and taught to the people, or whereof any error or heresy might grow in the Church. For I suppose fully that there may come none heresy nor error among the people, but by false Laws, Constitutions, or teachings contrary to CHRIST's Law, or by false leasings [lies].

Also the second part should defend the common people from tyrants, oppressors, and extortioners: and maintain the Clergy, doing truly their office, in preaching, teaching, praying, and freely ministering the Sacraments of Holy Church. And if this Clergy be negligent in doing this office, this second part of the Church ought, by their office that they have taken of GOD, to constrain the Clergy in due wise, to do their office in the form that GOD hath ordained to be done.

The third part of this Fighting Church oweth [ought] to bear good will to Lords and Priests, truly to do their bodily labour in tilling the earth, and with their true merchandise doing their duties that they owe both to Knighthood and to Priesthood, as GOD's Law limiteth; keeping faithfully the commandments of GOD.

Moreover, I believe all the Sacraments of Holy Church for to be meedful and profitable to all that shall be saved; taking them after the intent that GOD and Holy Church have ordained.

And for as mickle as I am slandered falsely in my Belief in the Sacrament of the Altar, I do all Christian men to wit, that I believe verily that the most blessed Sacrament of the Altar is very CHRIST's body in form of bread; the same body that was born of the blessed Virgin our Lady Saint MARY, done on the cross, dead, buried, and on the third day rose from death to life, the which body is now glorified in heaven.

Also I believe that all GOD's Law is true; and who that liveth contrary to this blessed Law, and so continueth to his life's end, and dieth so breaking the holy commandments of GOD, that he shall be damned into everlasting pains. And he that will learn this most blessed Law, and live thereafter, keeping these holy commandments of GOD, and endeth in charity shall have everlasting bliss.

Also I understand that this followeth of Belief, that our Lord JESU CHRIST (that is both GOD and Man) asketh no more here in earth, but that he obey to him after the form of his Law, in truly keeping of it. And if any Prelate of the Church ask more obedience than this, of any man living; he exalteth himself, in that, above CHRIST: and so he is an open Antichrist.

Also these points I hold as of Belief in especial.

And in general, I believe all that GOD wills that I believe, praying, at the reverence of Almighty GOD, to you my liege Lord [HENRY V.] that this Belief might be examined by the wisest and truest Clerks of your realm: and if it be truth, that it might be confirmed, and I to be holden for a true Christian man; and if it be false, that it might be damned [condemned], and I taught a better Belief by GOD's Law; and I will gladly obey thereto.

* * * * *

This foresaid Belief, the Lord COBHAM wrote; and took it with him, and offered it to the King [HENRY V.], for to see: and the King would not receive it, but bade him take it to them that should be his judges.

And then the Lord of COBHAM offered to bring before the King, to purge him of all error and heresy, that they would put against him, a hundred Knights and Squires.

And also he offered to fight with any man, Christian or heathen, that would say he were false in his belief; except the King and his brethren.

And after, he said "He would submit him to all manner [of] correction, that any man would correct him, after GOD's Law."

And notwithstanding all this, the King suffered him to be summoned personally, in his own [the King's] chamber.

And the Lord of COBHAM said to the King, that he had appealed to the Pope from the Archbishop; and therefore, he said, "he ought not to take him for his judge": and so he had there his Appeal ready written, and shewed to the King.

And therewith the King was more angry, and said, "He should not pursue his appeal: but rather he should be in ward till his appeal were admitted, and then (would he or not!) he should be his judge!"

And thus nothing of all this was allowed; but, because he would not swear to submit him to the Church, and take what penance the Archbishop would enjoin him, he was arrested, and sent to the Tower of London to keep his day that the [arch]bishop assigned him in the King's Chamber.

And then he made the Belief aforesaid, with the Answer to Four Points that now follow, to be written in two parts of an Indenture.

And when he came to answer; he gave that one part to the [arch]bishop, and that other part he kept to himself.

* * * * *

The Indenture of the Lord Cobham.


I, JOHN OLDCASTLE Knight, and Lord of COBHAM, will that all Christian men wit, how that THOMAS of ARUNDELL, Archbishop of CANTERBURY hath not only laid it to my charge maliciously, but also very untruly, by his Letter and his Seal written against me in most slanderous wise, that I should otherwise feel and teach of the Sacraments of the Holy Church; assigning in special the Sacrament of the Altar, the Sacrament of Penance, and also in Worshipping of Images, and in Going on Pilgrimages, otherwise than feeleth and teacheth the universal Holy Church. I take Almighty GOD to witness, that it hath been, and now is, and ever, with the help of GOD, shall be, mine intent and my will to believe faithfully and truly in all the Sacraments that ever GOD ordained to be done in Holy Church.

And, moreover, for to declare me in these points aforesaid.

I believe that the most worshipful Sacrament of the Altar is very CHRIST's body in form of bread: the same body that was born of the blessed Virgin our Lady Saint MARY, done on the cross, dead and buried, and the third day rose from death to life; the which body is now glorified in heaven.

Also as for the Sacrament of Penance, I believe that it is needful to every man that shall be saved, to forsake sin, and to do due penance for sin before done, with true confession, very contrition, and, due satisfaction, as GOD's Law limiteth and teacheth; and else, may he not be saved; which penance I desire all men to do.

And as for Images, I understand that they be not of Belief, but they were ordained (since Belief was given of CHRIST) by sufferance of the Church for to be Kalenders to laymen, to represent and bring to mind the Passion of our Lord JESU CHRIST, and [the] martyrdom and good living of other Saints. And that who so it be, that doeth the worship to dead images that is due to GOD; or putteth hope, faith, or trust in help of them as he should do to GOD; or hath affection in one more than in another: he doth in that, the great sin of Idolatry.

Also I suppose this fully, that every man in this earth is a Pilgrim towards Bliss or towards Pains. And he that knoweth not, nor will not know, nor keep the holy commandments of GOD in his living (albeit that he goeth on pilgrimage in all parts of the world), and he die so, he shall be damned. And he that knoweth the holy commandments of GOD and keepeth them to his end, he shall be saved; though he never in his life, go on pilgrimage as men use [are accustomed] now to Canterbury, or to Rome, or to any other place.

* * * * *


This Belief indented, containing the foresaid Belief with these foresaid Answers, he took to the Bishops when he came to answer [in the Chapter House of St. Paul's] on the Saturday next before Michaelmas in the year beforesaid [September 23, 1413].

And whatsoever the Bishops asked him, he bade them look what his Bill said thereto; and thereby he would stand to the death. Other answer gave he not that day: but the Bishops were not quieted herewith.

And the Archbishop bade him take avisement [counsel] till Monday [September 25th] next following, to answer to this point:

If there remained material bread in the Sacrament of the Altar, after the words of consecration?

And in the meantime, he perceived that the uttermost malice was purposed against him, howsoever he answered: therefore he put his life in GOD's hand, and answered thus, as followeth.

This is the judgement and sentence given upon Sir JOHN OLDCASTLE Knight and Lord of COBHAM, the Monday [September 25th] next before Michaelmas Day, at the Friar Preachers's [the Dominican Friary within Ludgate] in London, in the year of our Lord, a thousand, four hundred and thirteen.

[THOMAS ARUNDELL] the Archbishop of CANTERBURY, [RICHARD CLIFFORD] the Bishop of LONDON, [HENRY BEAUFORT] the Bishop of WINCHESTER, [BENEDICT NICOLLS] the Bishop of BANGOR; Master JOHN WITNAM, Master JOHN WHITEHEAD [both of New College, Oxford], Doctors of Divinity; Master PHILIP MORGAN, Master HENRY WARE, Master JOHN KEMP, Doctors of [Canon] Law; and sir [Rev.] ROBERT WOMBEWELL, Vicar of St. Lawrence in the Jewry; Master JOHN STEVENS, Master JAMES COLE, Notaries: with the Four Orders of Friars, and many other Clerks, deeming and convicting him for an heretic and a cursed man.

The Archbishop made all these Clerks, both Religious and Secular, to swear upon a book, that they should not, for love or favour of the one party, nor for any envy or hatred of the other party, say, nor witness but the truth.

And the two foresaid Notaries were sworn also to write and to witness the words and process that were to be said on both the parties, and to say the sooth if it otherwise were.

After this, the Lord of COBHAM came, and was brought before them all, to his Examination, and to his Answer.

* * * * *


Then the Archbishop said to him, "Lord of COBHAM, ye be advised well enough of the words and Process that were said to you, upon Saturday last past, in the Chapter House of Paul's: the which Process were now too long to rehearse. Then I proffered to have assoiled [absolve] you (for ye were accursed!) of your contumacy and disobedience to Holy Church."

Then said the Lord COBHAM forthwith, "GOD saith, Maledicam benedictionibus vestris, that is to say, 'I shall curse your blessings!'"

Then said the Archbishop, "Sir, then I proffered to have assoiled you, if ye would have asked it; and yet I do the same!"

Then said the Lord of COBHAM, "Nay, forsooth, I trespassed never against you! and therefore will I not do it."

And with that, he kneeled down on the pavement, and held up his hands and said, "I shrive me to GOD! and to you all, Sirs! that, in my youth, I have sinned greatly and grievously in lechery and in pride, and hurt many men, and done many other horrible sins; Good Lord! I cry Thee, mercy!"

And therewith weepingly, he stood up again and said, "Here, for the breaking of GOD's Law and His commandments, ye cursed me not! but for your own laws and traditions, above GOD's Law: and therefore it shall be destroyed."

Then the Archbishop examined the Lord of his Belief. And the Lord of COBHAM said, "I believe fully in all GOD's Law, and I believe that it is all true! and I believe all that GOD wills that I believe."

Then the Archbishop examined him of the Sacrament of the Altar, how he believed therein?

The Lord of COBHAM said, "CHRIST upon Shere [or Shrive or Maunday] Thursday [the day before Good Friday] at night, sitting with his disciples at the Supper, after that he had supped, he took bread and giving thanks to the Father, he blessed it and brake it, and gave it to his disciples saying, Take, and eat ye of this, all! This is my body that shall be betrayed for you! Do you this, in the remembrance of me. This I believe!" said he.

Then the Archbishop asked him, "If it were bread after the consecration, and the sacramental words said?"

The Lord of COBHAM said, "I believe that the Sacrament of the Altar is very CHRIST's body in form of bread; the same body that was born of the Virgin MARY, done on the cross, dead and buried, and the third day rose from death to life: which body is now glorified in heaven."

Then said one of the Doctors of the Law, "After the sacramental words said, there remaineth no bread but the body of CHRIST!"

Then the Lord of COBHAM said to one, Master JOHN WHITEHEAD, "You said to me in the Castle of Cowling [Lord COBHAM's home], that the host sacred was not CHRIST's body: but I said, 'It was CHRIST's body!' though Seculars and Friars hold each one against other in this opinion."

Then said they, "We say all that it is GOD's body!"

And they asked him, "Whether it were material bread after the consecration?"

Then said the Lord, "I believe it is CHRIST's body in form of bread. Sir, believe ye not thus?"

And the Archbishop said, "Yea!"

Then the Doctors asked him, "Whether it were only CHRIST's body after the consecration, and no bread?"

And he said to them, "It is CHRIST's body and bread. For right as CHRIST was here in manhood, and the godhead hid in the manhood: so I believe verily that CHRIST's flesh and his blood is hid there in the form of bread."


Then they smiled each on other, deeming him taken in heresy; and said, "It is an heresy!"

The Archbishop asked him, "What bread it was?" and the Clerks also, "Whether it were material or not?"

Then the Lord said, "The Gospel speaketh not of this term material; and therefore I will not! but say, it is CHRIST's body and bread! For the Gospel saith, Ego sum panis vivus qui de coelo descendi, that is to say, "I am quick bread that came down from heaven." For as our Lord JESUS CHRIST is Very GOD and Very Man; so the most blessed Sacrament of the Altar is CHRIST's body and bread."

Then they said, "It is an heresy, to say that it is bread after the consecration and the sacramental words said, but only CHRIST's body."

The Lord said, "Saint PAUL the Apostle was as wise as ye be! and he called it bread; where he saith thus The bread that we break, is it not the partaking of the body of the LORD?"

Then they said, "PAUL must be otherwise understanded; for it is an heresy to say, that it is bread after the consecration, but only CHRIST's body: for it is against the determination of the Church."

Then they asked him, "Whether he believed not in the determination of the Church?"

And he said, "No, forsooth! but I believe all GOD's Law, and all that GOD wills that I believe; but not in your law nor in your determination: for ye be no part of Holy Church, as openly your deeds shew; but very Antichrists, contrary to GOD's law. For ye have made laws for your covetousness."

"This," they said, "was heresy: not for to believe in the determination of the Church."


Then the Archbishop asked him, "What was Holy Church?"

He said, "I believe that Holy Church is the number of all them that shall be saved; of whom CHRIST is head: of the which Church, one part is in Heaven, another in Purgatory, and the third here in Earth. This part here, standeth in three degrees and estates, Priesthood, Knighthood, and the Comminalty, as I said plainly in my Belief."

Then the Archbishop said to him, "Wot you who is of this Church? It is doubt to you who is thereof? Ye should not judge!"

The Lord said, "Operibus credite! justum judicium judicate!" that is to say, "Believe ye the works! judge ye rightful judgement!"

Also he said to them all, "Where find ye by GOD's Law, that ye should set thus upon any man, or any man's death, as ye do? But ANNAS and CAIAPHAS sat and judged CHRIST; and so do you!"

Then said they, "Yes, Sir, CHRIST judged JUDAS!"


The Lord of COBHAM said, "No, CHRIST judged not JUDAS! but he judged himself, and went and hanged himself: but CHRIST said, Woe to him, as he doth to many of you! For since the venom was shed into the Church; ye followed never Christ, nor ye stood never in perfection of GOD's Law!"

Then the Archbishop asked him, "What was that venom?"

The Lord said, "The lordships and possessions. For then, cried an angel, 'Woe! woe! woe! This day is venom shed into the Church of GOD!' For before that time, there many martyrs of Popes; and since I can tell of none! but, sooth it is, since that time one hath put down another, and one hath slain another, and one hath cursed another, as the Chronicles tell; also of much more cursedness."

Also he said, "CHRIST was meek, and the Pope is proud. CHRIST was poor and forgave; the Pope is rich and a man-slayer, as it is openly proved. And thus this is the nest of Antichrist, and out of this nest cometh Antichrist's disciples, of whom these Monks and Friars be the tail."

Then said [RICHARD DODINGTON] Prior of the Friars Augustines, "Sir, why say ye so?"

And the Lord of COBHAM said, "For as ye be Pharisees, "divided," and divided in habit [dress]; so ye make division among the people. And thus these friars and monks with such others be the members of the nest of Antichrist."

And he said, "CHRIST saith, Woe be to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye close up the Kingdom of Heaven before men: for, sooth, ye enter not yourselves! nor ye will not suffer them that would, to enter in! And thus, ye be the disciples of Antichrist! For ye will not suffer GOD's Law to go through, nor to be taught and preached of good priests; which will speak against your sins, and reprove them: but of such that be flatterers, which sustain you in your sins and cursedness."

Then said the Archbishop, "By our Lady! Sir, there shall no such preach, that preacheth dissension and division, if GOD will!"

Then said the Lord of COBHAM to the Archbishop, "CHRIST saith that there shall be so great tribulation, as never was since the beginning. And this shall be in your days! and by you! for ye have slain many men, and shall more hereafter: but CHRIST saith, Except that those days were shortened, no flesh should be saved: but hastily GOD will short[en] your days! Furthermore, Bishops, Priests, and Deacons be grounded in GOD's Law: but not these other Religious [Monks and Friars] as far as I can wit."

* * * * *


Then a Doctor of Law, one Master JOHN KEMP, put to him these four Points that follow:

"The faith and determination of Holy Church touching the blessed Sacrament of the Altar is this. That after the sacramental words be said of a priest in his Mass, the material bread that was before, is turned into CHRIST's body, and the material wine that was before, is turned into CHRIST's very blood: and so there remaineth in the Sacrament of the Altar, no material bread nor material wine; the which were there, before the saying of the sacramental words. Sir, believe you this?"

The Lord of COBHAM said, "This is not my belief. For my belief is, as I said to you before, that the worshipful Sacrament of the Altar is very CHRIST's body in form of bread."

Then said the Archbishop, "Sir JOHN! ye must say otherwise!"

The Lord of COBHAM said, "Nay, if GOD will! but that it is CHRIST's body in form of bread, as all the common belief is."

The Doctor [JOHN KEMP] said, "The second is this, The Holy Church hath determined that every Christian man living bodily upon the earth oweth [ought] to be shriven to a priest ordained by the Church, if he may come to him. Sir, what say ye to this?"

The Lord answered and said, "A sick man and sore wounded had need to have a sure Leech and a true, knowing his cure; and therefore a man should be principally shriven to GOD; and else his confession is nought. And a man should rather go and be counselled with a good priest that knoweth GOD's Law, and liveth thereafter; than with his own priest, if he were an evil man, or with any other such."

The Doctor said, "The Third is this, CHRIST ordained Saint PETER to be his Vicar in earth, whose See is the Church of Rome; ordaining and granting that the same power that he gave to PETER should succeed to all PETER's successors, the which we call now the Popes of Rome: by whose power in the Church particularly and specially, be ordained Prelates as Archbishops, Bishops, and other degrees; to whom Christian men owe [ought] to obey after the law of the Church of Rome. This is the determination of the Church."

To this, he answered and said, "Who that followeth next PETER in living, is next him in succession: but your living refuseth poor PETER's living, and many other Popes that were martyrs in Rome that followed PETER in manner of living; whose conditions ye have clean forsaken, all the world may know it well!"

The Doctor said, "The fourth point is this. Holy Church hath determined that it is meedful to a Christian man, to go on pilgrimages to holy places; and there especially to worship holy relics of Saints, Apostles, Martyrs, Confessors, and all Saints approved by the Church of Rome."

To this, he said, "It were enough to bury Saints fair in the earth; but now Saints that be dead, be compelled to beg for covetousness! the which in their life, hated covetousness and begging. But I say to you all, and know it for a truth, that with your shrines and idols, and your feigned absolutions and indulgences, and your temporalities, ye draw to you all the richesse of this world."


"Why Sir," said one of the Clerks, "will ye not worship images?"

"What worship?" said the Lord.

Then said Friar [THOMAS] PALMER [Warden of the Minorites], "Sir, ye will worship the Cross of CHRIST that he died on?"

"Where is it?" said the Lord.

The Friar said, "I put case, Sir, that it were here before you!"

The Lord said, "This is a ready man! to put to me a question of a thing, that they wot never where it is? And yet I ask you, What worship?"

A Clerk said, "Such worship as PAUL speaketh of, that is this, GOD forbid me to joy, but in the cross of our Lord JESU CHRIST."

Then said the Lord, and spread his arms abroad, "This is a very cross!"

Then said the [HENRY BEAUCLERC] Bishop of LONDON, "Sir, ye wot well! that he died on a material cross."

Then said the Lord, "Our salvation come in only by him that died on the cross, and by the material cross. And, well I wot, that this was the cross that PAUL joyed on, that is, in the Passion of our LORD JESU CHRIST."

The Archbishop said, "Sir JOHN! ye must submit you to the ordinance of the Church!"

The Lord said, "I wot not whereto?"

* * * * *


Then the Archbishop read a bill of his judgement, and convicted him for a heretic.

After the reading of the bill, the Lord said, "Though ye judge my body, I hope to GOD! that He will save my soul!" and he said that he "would stand to the death, by these things beforesaid; with the help of JESU!"

And then he said to all the people, "Sirs, for GOD's love! be well ware of these men! for they will beguile you else! and lead you blindlings into hell, and themselves also! For CHRIST saith, 'If one blind man lead another, both fall into the ditch!"

And after this, thus he prayed for his enemies, and said, "LORD GOD! I beseech thee, forgive my pursuers! if it be thy will!"

* * * * *

And then he was led again to the Tower of London: and thus was the end.

* * * * *


While the Lord of COBHAM was in the Tower, he sent out privily to his friends; and they, at his desire, informed and writ this bill that followeth next, commending it to the people, that they should cease the slanders and leasings that his enemies made on him.

For as mickle as Sir JOHN OLDCASTLE, Knight and Lord of COBHAM, is untruly convicted and prisoned, and falsely reported and slandered among the people by his adversaries, that he should otherwise feel and speak of the Sacraments of Holy Church, and especially of the blessed Sacrament of the Altar, than was written in his Belief, which was indented and taken to the Clergy, and set up in divers open places in the city of London: Known be it to all the world that he never varied in any point therefrom; but this is plainly his Belief, that all the Sacraments of Holy Church be profitable and meedful to all them that shall be saved, taking them after the intent that GOD and Holy Church hath ordained. Furthermore he believeth that the blessed Sacrament of the Altar is verily and truly CHRIST's body in form of bread.

Truth long-hid now is disclosed.

Praised be GOD! Amen.

On Translating the Bible.

[Chapter XV. of the Prologue to the second recension of the Wycliffite Version. Attributed to JOHN PURVEY.]

On Translating the Bible.

[Chapter xv. of the Prologue to the second recension of the Wycliffite Version. Attributed to JOHN PURVEY.]

c. 1385-90.

How every man should con and keep the scripture, and holy writ is the scripture of peoples, as Jerome saith.

For as much as Christ saith that the gospel shall be preached in all the world, and David saith of the apostles and their preaching, "the sound of them yede out into each land, and the words of them yeden out into the ends of the world," and eft David saith, "the Lord shall tell in the scriptures of peoples, and of these princes that were in it," that is, in holy church, and as Jerome saith on that verse, "holy writ is the scripture of peoples, for it is made, that all peoples should know it," and the princes of the church, that were therein, be the apostles, that had authority to write holy writ, for by that same that the apostles wrote their scriptures by authority, and confirming of the Holy Ghost, it is holy scripture, and faith of Christian men, and this dignity hath no man after them, be he never so holy, never so cunning, as Jerome witnesseth on that verse. Also, Christ saith of the Jews that cried "Hosanna" to him in the temple, that though they were still, stones should cry, and by stones he understandeth heathen men, that worshipped stones for their gods. And we English men be come of heathen men, therefore we be understood by these stones, that should cry holy writ, and as Jews, that is interpreted knowledging, signify clerks, that should knowledge to God, by repentance of sins, and by voice of God's hearing, so our lewd men, suing the corner-stone Christ, may be signified by stones, that be hard and abiding in the foundation; for though covetous clerks be wood by simony, heresy and many other sins, and despise and stop holy writ, as much as they may, yet the lewd people crieth after holy writ, to con it, and keep it, with great cost and peril of their life. For these reasons and other, with common charity to save all men in our realm, which God would have saved, a simple creature hath translated the bible out of Latin into English. First, this simple creature had much travail, with divers fellows and helpers, to gather many old bibles, and other doctors, and common gloses, and to make one Latin bible some deal true; and then to study it of the new, the text with the glose, and other doctors, as he might get, and specially Lyra[27] on the Old Testament, that helped full much in this work; the third time to counsel with old grammarians and old divines, of hard words, and hard sentences, how they might best be understood and translated; the fourth time to translate as clearly as he could to the sentence, and to have many good fellows and cunning at the correcting of the translation. First, it is to know, that the best translating is out of Latin into English, to translate after the sentence, and not only after the words, so that the sentence be as open, either opener, in English as in Latin, and go not far from the letter; and if the letter may not be sued in the translating, let the sentence ever be whole and open, for the words owe to serve to the intent and sentence, and else the words be superfluous either false. In translating into English, many resolutions may make the sentence open, as an ablative case absolute may be resolved into these three words, with covenable verb, the while, for, if, as grammarians say; as thus, the master reading, I stand, may be resolved thus, while the master readeth, I stand, either if the master readeth, etc., either for the master, etc.; and sometimes it will accord well with the sentence to be resolved into when, either into afterward, thus when the master read, I stood, either after the master read, I stood; and sometime it may well be resolved into a verb of the same tense, as other be in the same reason, and into this word et, that is, and in English, as thus, arescentibus hominibus prae timore, that is, and men shall wax dry for dread. Also a participle of a present tense, either preterite, of active voice, either passive, may be resolved into a verb of the same tense, and a conjunction copulative, as thus, dicens, that is, saying, may be resolved thus, and saith, either that saith; and this will, in many places, make the sentence open, where to English it after the word, would be dark and doubtful. Also a relative, which, may be resolved into his antecedent with a conjunction copulative, as thus, which runneth, and he runneth. Also when a word is once set in a reason, it may be set forth as oft as it is understood, either as oft as reason and need ask; and this word autem either vero, may stand for forsooth, either for but, and thus I use commonly; and sometimes it may stand for and, as old grammarians say. Also when rightful construction is letted by relation, I resolve it openly, thus, where this reason, Dominum formidabunt adversarii ejus, should be Englished thus by the letter, the Lord his adversaries shall dread, I English it thus by resolution, the adversaries of the Lord shall dread him; and so of other reasons that be like. At the beginning I purposed, with God's help, to make the sentence as true and open in English as it is in Latin, either more true and more open than it is in Latin; and I pray, for charity and for common profit of Christian souls, that if any wise man find any default of the truth of translation, let him set in the true sentence and open of holy writ, but look that he examine truly his Latin bible, for no doubt he shall find full many bibles in Latin full false, if he look, many, namely new; and the common Latin bibles have more need to be corrected, as many as I have seen in my life, than hath the English bible late translated; and where the Hebrew, by witness of Jerome, of Lyra, and other expositors discordeth from our Latin bibles, I have set in the margin, by manner of a glose, what the Hebrew hath, and how it is understood in some place; and I did this most in the Psalter, that of all our books discordeth most from Hebrew; for the church readeth not the Psalter by the last translation of Jerome out of Hebrew into Latin, but another translation of other men, that had much less cunning and holiness than Jerome had; and in full few books the church readeth the translation of Jerome, as it may be proved by the proper originals of Jerome, which he glosed. And whether I have translated as openly or openlier in English as in Latin, let wise men deem, that know well both languages, and know well the sentence of holy scripture. And whether I have done thus, or nay, ne doubt, they that con well the sentence of holy writ and English together, and will travail, with God's grace, thereabout, may make the bible as true and as open, yea, and openlier in English than it is in Latin. And no doubt to a simple man, with God's grace and great travail, men might expound much openlier and shortlier the bible in English, than the old great doctors han expounded it in Latin, and much sharplier and groundlier than many late postillators, either expositors, han done. But God, of his great mercy, give to us grace to live well, and to say the truth in covenable manner, and acceptable to God and his people, and to spill not our time, be it short, be it long, at God's ordinance. But some, that seem wise and holy, say thus, if men now were as holy as Jerome was, they might translate out of Latin into English, as he did out of Hebrew and out of Greek into Latin, and else they should not translate now, as them thinketh, for default of holiness and of cunning. Though this replication seem colourable, it hath no good ground, neither reason, neither charity, for why this replication is more against saint Jerome, and against the first seventy translators, and against holy church, than against simple men, that translate now into English; for saint Jerome was not so holy as the apostles and evangelists, whose books he translated into Latin, neither had he so high gifts of the Holy Ghost as they had; and much more the seventy translators were not so holy as Moses and the prophets, and specially David, neither they had so great gifts of God, as Moses and the prophets had. Furthermore holy church approveth, not only the true translation of mean Christian men, steadfast in Christian faith, but also of open heretics, that did away many mysteries of Jesus Christ by guileful translation, as Jerome witnesseth in a prologue on Job, and in the prologue of Daniel. Much more let the Church of England approve the true and whole translation of simple men, that would for no good in earth, by their witting and power, put away the least truth, yea, the least letter, either tittle, of holy writ, that beareth substance, either charge. And dispute they not of the holiness of men now living in this deadly life, for they con not thereon, and it is reserved only to God's doom. If they know any notable default by the translators, either helpers of them, let them blame the default by charity and mercy, and let them never damn a thing that may be done lawfully by God's law, as wearing of a good cloth for a time, either riding on a horse for a great journey, when they wit not wherefore it is done; for such things may be done of simple men, with as great charity and virtue, as some, that hold them great and wise, can ride in a gilt saddle, either use cushions and beds and cloths of gold and of silk, with other vanities of the world. God grant pity, mercy, and charity, and love of common profit, and put away such foolish dooms, that be against reason and charity. Yet worldly clerks ask greatly what spirit maketh idiots hardy to translate now the bible into English, since the four great doctors durst never do this? This replication, is so lewd, that it needeth no answer, no but stillness, either courteous scorn; for the great doctors were none English men, neither they were conversant among English men, neither in case they could the language of English, but they ceased never till they had holy writ in their mother tongue, of their own people. For Jerome, that was a Latin man of birth, translated the Bible, both out of Hebrew and out of Greek, into Latin, and expounded full much thereto; and Austin, and many more Latins expounded the bible, for many parts, in Latin, to Latin men, among which they dwelt, and Latin was a common language to their people about Rome, and beyond, and on this half, as English is common language to our people, and yet this day the common people in Italy speak Latin corrupt, as true men say, that han been in Italy; and the number of translators out of Greek into Latin passeth man's knowing, as Austin witnesseth in the 2nd book of Christian Teaching, and saith thus, "the translators out of Hebrew into Greek may be numbered, but Latin translators, either they that translated into Latin, may not be numbered in any manner." For in the first times of faith, each man, as a Greek book came to him, and he seemed to himself to have some cunning of Greek and of Latin, was hardy to translate; and this thing helped more than letted understanding, if readers be not negligent, forwhy the beholding of many books hath showed oft, either declared, some darker sentences. This saith Austin there. Therefore Grosted saith, that it was God's will, that divers men translated, and that divers translations be in the church, for where one said darkly, one either more said openly. Lord God! since at the beginning of faith so many men translated into Latin, and to great profit of Latin men, let one simple creature of God translate into English, for profit of English men; for if worldly clerks look well their chronicles and books, they should find, that Bede translated the bible, and expounded much in Saxon, that was English, either common language of this land, in his time; and not only Bede, but also King Alured, that founded Oxford, translated in his last days the beginning of the Psalter into Saxon, and would more, if he had lived longer. Also French men, Beemers[28] and Bretons have the bible, and other books of devotion and of exposition, translated in their mother language; why should not English men have the same in their mother language, I can not wit, no but for falseness and negligence of clerks, either for our people is not worthy to have so great grace and gift of God, in pain of their old sins. God for his mercy amend these evil causes, and make our people to have, and con, and keep truly holy writ, to life and death!

But in translating of words equivocal, that is, that hath many significations under one letter, may lightly be peril, for Austin saith in the 2nd book of Christian Teaching, that if equivocal words be not translated into the sense, either understanding, of the author, it is error; as in that place of the Psalm, the feet of them be swift to shed out blood, the Greek word is equivocal to sharp and swift, and he that translated sharp feet, erred, and a book that hath sharp feet, is false, and must be amended; as that sentence unkind young trees shall not give deep roots, oweth to be thus, plantings of aoutrry shall not give deep roots. Austin saith this there. Therefore a translator hath great need to study well the sentence, both before and after, and look that such equivocal words accord with the sentence, and he hath need to live a clean life, and be full devout in prayers, and have not his wit occupied about worldly things, that the Holy Spirit, author of wisdom, and cunning, and truth, dress him in his work, and suffer him not for to err. Also this word ex signifieth sometimes of, and sometimes it signifieth by, as Jerome saith; and this word enim signifieth commonly forsooth, and, as Jerome saith, it signifieth cause thus, for why; and this word secundum is taken for after, as many men say, and commonly, but it signifieth well by, either up, thus by your word, either up your word. Many such adverbs, conjunctions, and prepositions be set oft one for another, and at free choice of authors sometimes; and now they shall be taken as it accordeth best to the sentence. By this manner, with good living and great travail, men may come to true and clear translating, and true understanding of holy writ, seem it never so hard at the beginning. God grant to us all grace to con well, and keep well holy writ, and suffer joyfully some pain for it at the last! Amen.


[27] Nicolaus de Lyra.

[28] Bohemians.

Dialogue between a LORD and a CLERK upon Translation.

[From TREVISA'S Translation of HIGDEN'S Polychronicon.]

Dialogue between a Lord and a Clerk upon Translation.

From Trevisa's Translation of Higden's Polychronicon.

1387 ?

THE LORD.—Sith the time that the great and high tower of Babylon was builded, men have spoken with divers tongues, in such wise that divers men be strange to other and understand not others' speech. Speech is not known but if it be learned; common learning of speech is by hearing, and so alway he that is deaf is alway dumb, for he may not hear speech for to learn. So men of far countries and lands that have divers speeches, if neither of them have learned others' language, neither of them wot what other meaneth. Though they meet and have great need of information and of lore of talking and of speech, be the need never so great, neither of them understandeth other's speech no more than gagling of geese. For jangle that one never so fast, that other is never the wiser, though he shrew him instead of 'good-morrow'! This is a great mischief that followeth now mankind; but God of His mercy and grace hath ordained double remedy. One is that some man learneth and knoweth many divers speeches, and so between strange men, of the which neither understandeth other's speech, such a man may be mean and tell either what other will mean. That other remedy is that one language is learned, used, and known in many nations and lands. And so Latin is learned, known, and used, specially on this half Greece, in all the nations and lands of Europe. Therefore clerks, of their goodness and courtesy, make and write their books in Latin, for their writing and books should be understood in divers nations and lands. And so Ranulphus, monk of Chester (Ralph Higden), wrote in Latin his books of Chronicles, that describeth the world about in length and in breadth, and maketh mention and mind of doings and deeds of marvels and wonders, and reckoneth the years to his last days from the first making of heaven and of earth. And so therein is great and noble information and lore to them that can therein read and understand. Therefore I would have these books of Chronicles translated out of Latin into English, for the more men should them understand and have thereof cunning, information and lore.

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