The Text      

Here is contained the life of
John Picus, Earl of Mirandula,
a great lord of Italy, an excellent
cunning man in all sciences,
and virtuous of living; with divers
epistles and other works of the
said John Picus, full of great
science, virtue, and wisdom,
whose life and works be worthy
and digne to be read and often to
be had in memory.


Unto his right entirely beloved sister
in Christ, Joyeuce Leigh, Thomas More
greeting in our Lord.
It is, and of long time hath been, my well-beloved sister, a
custom in the beginning of the New Year friends to send between
presents or gifts as the witnesses of their love and
friendship, and also signifying that they desire each to other
that year a good continuance and prosperous end of that lucky
beginning. But commonly all those presents that are used
customably all in this manner between friends to be sent be such
things as pertain only unto the body, either to be fed or to be
clad or some other wise delighted, by which it seemeth that their
friendship is but fleshly and stretcheth in manner to the body
only. But forasmuch as the love and amity of Christian folk
should be rather ghostly friendship than bodily, since that all faithful
people are rather spiritual than carnal (for as the Apostle saith:
"We be not now in flesh, but in spirit, if Christ abide in us"), I therefore,
mine heartily beloved sister, in good luck of this New Year have
sent you such a present as may bear witness of my tender love and
zeal to the happy continuance and gracious increase of virtue
in your soul; and whereas the gifts of other folk declare that they
wish their friends to be worldly fortunate, mine testifieth that I
desire to have you godly prosperous. These works, more profitable
than large, were made in Latin by one John Picus, Earl of

Mirandula, a lordship in Italy, of whose cunning and virtue we need
here nothing to speak, forasmuch as hereafter we peruse
the course of his whole life, rather after our little power slenderly,
than after his merits sufficiently. The works are such that
truly, good sister, I suppose of the quantity there cometh none
in your hand more profitable, neither to the achieving of temperance
in prosperity, nor to the purchasing of patience in
adversity, nor to the despising of worldly vanity, nor to the
desiring of heavenly felicity, which works I would require you
gladly to receive, ne were it that they be such that for the goodly
matter, howsoever they be translated, may delight and please any
person that hath any mean desire and love to God, and that yourself
is such one as for your virtue and fervent zeal to God cannot
but joyously receive anything that meanly soundeth either to the
reproach of vice, commendation of virtue, or honor and laud
of God who preserve you.
JOHN PICUS of the father's side descended of the worthy lineage
of the Emperor Constantine by a nephew of the said emperor
called Picus, by whom all the ancestors of this John Picus
undoubtedly bear that name. But we shall let his ancestors pass, to
whom, though they were right excellent, he gave again as
much honor as he received, and we shall speak of himself,
rehearsing in part his learning and his virtue. For these be the
things which we may account for our own, of which every man
is more properly to be commended than of the nobleness of his
ancestors, whose honor maketh us not honorable. For either
they were themselves virtuous or not; if not, then had they none
honor themselves, had they never so great possessions, for honor

is the reward of virtue. And how may they claim the
reward that properly belongeth to virtue, if they lack the virtue that the
reward belongeth to? Then, if themselves had none honor, how
might they leave to their heirs that thing which they had not themselves?
On the other side, if they be virtuous and so, consequently,
honorable, yet may they not leave their honor to us as inheritance
no more than the virtue that themselves were honorable
for. For never the more noble be we for their nobleness if ourselves
lack those things for which they were noble. But rather the
more worshipful that our ancestors were, the more vile and
shameful be we if we decline from the steps of their worshipful
living, the clear beauty of whose virtue maketh the
dark spot of our vice the more evidently to appear and to be the
more marked. But Picus, of whom we speak, was himself so
honorable, for the great plenteous abundance of all such
virtues, the possession whereof very honor followeth as a
shadow followeth a body, that he was to all them that aspire to honor
a very spectacle, in whose conditions, as in a clear polished mirror,
they might behold in what points very honor standeth;
whose marvelous cunning and excellent virtue, though my rude
learning be far unable sufficiently to express, yet forasmuch as, if
no man should do it but he that might sufficiently do it, no man
should do it -- and better it were to be unsufficiently done than
utterly undone. I shall therefore, as I can, briefly rehearse you his whole
life, at the leastwise to give some other man hereafter that can do
it better occasion to take it in hand when it shall haply
grieve him to see the life of such an excellent cunning man so
far uncunningly written.
Of his Parents and Time of his Birth.
In the year of our Lord God, 1463, Pius the Second
being then the general Vicar of Christ in his church, and Frederick,
the third of that name, ruling the empire, this noble man was born,
the last child of his mother Julia, a woman come of a noble

stock, his father hight John Francis, a lord of great honor
and authority.
Of the Wonder that Appeared before his Birth.
A marvelous sight was there seen before his birth. There
appeared a fiery garland standing over the chamber of his
mother while she travailed, and suddenly vanished away, which
appearance was peradventure a token that he, which should that
hour in the company of mortal men be born, in the perfection
of understanding should be like the perfect figure of that
round circle or garland and that his excellent name should
round about the circle of this whole world be magnified, whose
mind should always as the fire aspire upward to heavenly things, and
whose fiery eloquence should, with an ardent heart, in time to come
worship and praise Almighty God with all his strength; and as that
flame suddenly vanished, so should this fire soon from the eyes of
mortal people be hid. We have oftentimes read that such
unknown and strange tokens hath gone before or followeth the
nativities of excellent, wise, and virtuous men, departing, as it
were, and by God's commandment severing the cradles of
such special children from the company of other of the common
sort, and showing that they be born to the achieving of some great
thing. But to pass over other, the great Saint Ambrose: a
swarm of bees flew about his mouth in his cradle, and some entered
into his mouth, and after that issuing out again and flying
up on high, hiding themselves among the clouds, escaped both
the sight of his father and of all them that were present; which
prognostication one Paulinus making much of, expounded it to
signify to us the sweet honeycombs of his pleasant writing,

which should show out the celestial gifts of God and should lift
up the mind of men from earth into heaven.
Of his Person.
He was of feature and shape seemly and beauteous, of stature
goodly and high, of flesh tender and soft, his visage lovely and
fair, his color white intermingled with comely reds, his
eyes grey and quick of look, his teeth white and even, his hair
yellow and not too picked.
Of his Setting Forth to School and Study in Humanity.
Under the rule and governance of his mother, he was set to
masters and to learning, where with so ardent mind he labored the
studies of humanity that within short while he was, and not
without a cause, accounted among the chief orators and
poets of that time, in learning marvelously swift and of so ready
a wit that the verses which he heard once read he would again
both forward and backward, to the great wonder of the hearers,
rehearse, and over that would hold it in sure remembrance;
which in other folks is wont commonly to happen contrary, for they
that are swift in taking be oftentimes slow in remembering, and
they that with more labor and difficulty receive it, more fast and
surely hold it.
Of his Study in Canon.
In the fourteenth year of his age, by the commandment of his
mother, which longed very sore to have him priest, he departed

to Bononie to study in the laws of the Church, which when he
had two years tasted, perceiving that the faculty leaned to nothing
but only mere traditions and ordinances, his mind fell
from it. Yet lost he not his time therein, for in that two years, yet
being a child, he compiled a breviary or a sum upon all the
decretals, in which, as briefly as possible was, he comprised
the effect of all that whole great volume and made a book, no slender
thing to right cunning and perfect doctors.
Of his Study in Philosophy and Divinity.
After this, as a desirous ensearcher of the secrets of nature,
he left these common trodden paths and gave himself whole to
speculation and philosophy, as well human as divine. For the
purchasing whereof, after the manner of Plato and Apollonius, he
scrupulously sought out all the famous doctors of his time,
visiting studiously all the universities and schools, not only through
Italy but also through France. And so indefatigable labor gave
he to those studies that, yet a child and beardless, he was both
reputed and was indeed both a perfect philosopher and a perfect
Of his Mind, and Vainglorious Disputations at Rome.
Now had he been seven years conversant in these studies when,
full of pride and desirous of glory and man's praise (for yet was he
not kindled in the love of God) he went to Rome, and there, coveting
to make a show of his cunning and little considering how
great envy he should raise against himself, nine hundred questions he

proposed of divers and sundry matters, as well in logic and
philosophy as divinity, with great study picked and sought
out as well of the Latin authors as the Greek, and partly fetched out of
the secret mysteries of the Hebrews, Chaldees and Arabians, and
many things drawn out of the old obscure philosophy of
Pythagoras, Trismegistus, and Orpheus, and many other things
strange and to all folk, except right few special excellent
men, before that day not unknown only but also unheard of.
All which questions in open places, that they might be to all people
the better known, he fastened and set up, offering also himself
to bear the costs of all such as would come thither out of far
countries to dispute. But through the envy of his malicious
enemies, which envy, like the fire ever draweth to the highest, he
could never bring about to have a day to his disputations appointed.
For this cause he tarried at Rome an whole year, in all
which time his enviers never durst openly with open disputations
attempt him, but rather with craft and sleight and as it were with
privy trenches enforced to undermine him, for none other
cause but for malice and for they were -- as many men thought --
corrupt with a pestilent envy. This envy, as men deemed, was
especially raised against him for this cause, that where there were
many which had many years, some for glory, some for covetousness,
given themselves to learning, they thought that it should haply
deface their fame and diminish the opinion of their cunning if so
young a man, plenteous of substance and great doctrine, durst
in the chief city of the world make a proof of his wit and his
learning, as well in things natural as in divinity, and in many such
things as men many years never attained to. Now when they
perceived that they could not against his cunning anything
openly prevail, they brought forth the serpentines of false

crime and cried out that there were thirteen of his nine hundred questions,
suspect of heresy. Then joined they to them some good
simple folk that should of zeal to the faith and pretense of religion
impugn those questions as new things and with which their
ears had not been in ure. In which impugnation, though some of
them haply lacked not good mind, yet lacked they erudition
and learning -- which questions notwithstanding, before that,
not a few famous doctors of divinity had approved as good
and clean, and subscribed their names under them. But he, not
bearing the loss of his fame, made a defense for those thirteen questions,
a work of great erudition and elegant and stuffed with the
cognition of many things worthy to be learned. Which work he
compiled in twenty nights; in which it evidently appeareth not
only that those conclusions were good and standing with the
faith, but also that they which had barked at them were of folly
and rudeness to be reproved. Which defense, and all other
things that he should write, he committed, like a good Christian
man, to the most holy judgment of our Mother Holy Church.
Which defense received, and the thirteen questions duly by deliberation
examined, our Holy Father the pope approved Picus and tenderly
favored him, as by a bull of our Holy Father, Pope
Alexander VI, it plainly appeareth. But the book in which the
whole nine hundred questions with their conclusions were contained, forasmuch
as there were in them many things strange and not
fully declared and were more meet for secret communication
of learned men than for open hearing of common people, which
for lack of cunning might take hurt thereby, Picus desired himself
that it should not be read. And so was the reading thereof
forbidden. Lo, this end had Picus of his high mind and proud
purpose, that where he thought to have gotten perpetual praise,
there had he much work to keep himself upright, that he ran
not in perpetual infamy and slander.

Of the Change of his Life.
But, as himself told his nephew, he judged that this came thus to
pass by the especial provision and singular goodness of Almighty
God, that by this false crime, untruly put upon him by his evil
willers, he should correct his very errors, and that this should be
to him, wandering in darkness, as a shining light in which he
might behold and consider how far he had gone out of the way of
truth. For before this he had been both desirous of glory and
kindled in vain love and held in voluptuous use of women.
The comeliness of his body, with the lovely favor of his
visage, and therewithal his marvelous fame, his excellent
learning, great riches, and noble kindred, set many women
afire on him, from the desire of whom he not abhorring,
the way of life set aside, was somewhat fallen into wantonness. But
after that he was once with this variance wakened, he drew back
his mind, flowing in riot, and turned it to Christ. Women's blandishments
he changed into the desire of heavenly joys, and despising
the blast of vainglory which he before desired, now with all
his mind he began to seek the glory and profit of Christ's
church, and so began he to order his conditions that from thenceforth
he might have been approved, an though his enemy were
his judge.
Of the Fame of his Virtue and the Resort
unto him Therefore.
Hereupon shortly the fame of his noble cunning and excellent
virtue both far and nigh began gloriously to spring, for
which many worthy philosophers, and that were taken in number
of the most cunning, resorted busily unto him as to a market of
good doctrine, some for to move questions and dispute,

some, that were of more godly mind, to hear and to take the
wholesome lessons and instruction of good living, which lessons
were so much the more set by in how much they came from a
more noble man and a more wise man and him also which had
himself some time followed the crooked hills of delicious pleasure.
To the fastening of good discipline in the minds of the
hearers, those things seem to be of great effect which be both of
their own nature good and also be spoken of such a master as is
converted to the way of justice from the crooked and ragged path of
voluptuous living.
The Burning of Wanton Books.
Five books that in his youth of wanton verses of love with other
like fantasies he had made in his vulgar tongue, altogether, in
detestation of his vice passed and lest these trifles might be
some evil occasion afterwards, he burned.
Of his Study and Diligence in Holy Scripture.
From thenceforth, he gave himself day and night most fervently
to the studies of scripture, in which he wrote many noble books
which well testify both his angelic wit, his ardent labor,
and his profound erudition, of which books some we have and
some, as an inestimable treasure, we have lost. Great libraries -- it is
incredible to consider with how marvelous celerity he read
them over and wrote out what him liked. Of the old Fathers of the
Church, so great knowledge he had as it were hard for him to
have that hath lived long and all his life hath done nothing else but
read them. Of these newer divines, so good judgment he had that it
might appear there were nothing in any of them that were
unknown to him, but all things as ripe as though he had all their

works ever before his eyes. But of all these new doctors he
especially commendeth Saint Thomas, as him that enforceth himself
in a sure pillar of truth. He was very quick, wise, and subtle in
disputations and had great felicity therein, while he had that high stomach.
But now a great while he had bid such conflicts farewell and
every day more and more hated them and so greatly abhorred
them that, when Hercules Estensis, Duke of Ferrara, first by
messengers and after by himself, desired him to dispute at
Ferrara, because the General Chapter of Friars Preachers was
held there, long it was ere he could be brought thereto; but
at the instant request of the duke, which very singularly loved
him, he came thither, where he so behaved himself that was
wonder to behold how all the audience rejoiced to hear him, for
it were not possible for a man to utter neither more cunning
nor more cunningly. But it was a common saying with him
that such altercations were for a logician and not meetly for a
philosopher. He said also that such disputations greatly profited
as were exercised with a peaceable mind to the ensearching of
the truth in secret company without great audience. But he
said that those disputations did great hurt that were held openly
to the ostentation of learning and to win the favor of the common
people and the commendation of fools. He thought that utterly
it could uneath be, but that with the desire of worship
which these gazing disputers gape after there is with an inseparable
bond annexed the appetite of his confusion and rebuke
whom they argue with, which appetite is a deadly wound to the
soul and a mortal poison to charity. There was nothing passed
him of those captious subtleties and cavillations of sophistry, nor again

there was nothing that he more hated and abhorred, considering
that they served of naught but to the shaming of such other
folk as were in very science much better learned and in those trifles
ignorant, and that unto the ensearching of the truth, to which he
gave continual labor, they profited little or naught.
Of his Learning Universally.
But because we will hold the reader no longer in hand, we will
speak of his learning but a word or twain generally. Some
man hath shone in eloquence, but ignorance of natural things
hath dishonested him; some man hath flowered in the knowledge
of diverse strange languages, but he hath wanted all the
cognition of philosophy; some man hath read the inventions of
the old philosophers, but he hath not been exercised in the new
schools; some man hath sought cunning, as well philosophy as
divinity, for praise and vainglory and not for any profit or
increase of Christ's church. But Picus all these things with equal
study hath so received that they might seem by heaps as a plenteous
stream to have flowed into him. For he was not of the
condition of some folk, which to be excellent in one thing set all
other aside, but he in all sciences profited so excellently that
which of them soever ye had considered in him, ye would have
thought that he had taken that one for his only study. And all
these things were in him so much the more marvelous in that he
came thereto by himself with the strength of his own wit, for the
love of God and profit of his church, without masters; so that we
may say of him that Epicurus the philosopher said of himself,
that he was his own master.

Five Causes that in so Short Time brought him
to so Marvelous Cunning.
To the bringing forth of so wonderful effects in so small
time, I consider five causes to have come together: first, an incredible
wit; secondly, a marvelous fast memory; thirdly,
great substance, by the which, to the buying of his books as well Latin
as Greek and other tongues, he was especially helped. Seven thousand ducats he
had laid out in the gathering together of volumes of all manner of
literature. The fourth cause was his busy and indefatigable study.
The fifth was the despising of all earthly things.
Of his Conditions and his Virtue.
But now let us pass over those powers of his soul which
appertain to understanding and knowledge, and let us speak of them
that belong to the achieving of noble acts; let us as we can declare
his excellent conditions, that his mind inflamed to Godward may
appear, and his riches given out to poor folk may be understood,
to the intent that they which shall hear his virtue may have
occasion thereby to give especial laud and thanks therefor to Almighty
God, of whose infinite goodness all grace and virtue cometh.
Of the Sale of his Lordships and Alms.
Three years before his death, to the end that, all the charge and
business of rule or lordship set aside, he might lead his life in rest
and peace, well considering to what end this earthly honor and
worldly dignity cometh, all his patrimony and dominions, that is

to say, the third part of the earldom of Mirandula and of Concordia,
unto John Francis, his nephew, he sold, and that so good
cheap that it seemed rather a gift than a sale. And all that ever he
received of this bargain, partly he gave out to poor folk, partly
he bestowed in the buying of a little land to the finding of him and
his household. And over that, much silver vessel and plate with
other precious and costly utensils of household he divided among
poor people. He was content with mean fare at his table, howbeit
somewhat yet retaining of the old plenty in dainty viands and
silver vessels. Every day at certain hours he gave himself to
prayer. To poor men always, if any came, he plenteously gave out his
money, and, not content only to give that he had himself ready,
he wrote over that to one Jerome Benivenius, a Florentine, a well
lettered man whom for his great love towards him and the integrity
of his conditions he singularly favored, that he should with his own
money ever help poor folk and give maidens money to their
marriage, and always send him word what he had laid out that
he might pay it him again. This office he committed to him
that he might the more easily by him as by a faithful messenger
relieve the necessity and misery of poor needy people such as himself
haply could not come by the knowledge of.
Of the Voluntary Affliction and Paining
of his own Body.
Over all this, many times -- which is not to be kept secret -- he
gave alms of his own body. We know many men which, as Saint
Jerome saith, put forth their hand to poor folk, but with the
pleasure of the flesh they be overcome; but he many days, and
namely those days which represent unto us the Passion and death that

Christ suffered for our sake, beat and scourged his own flesh in
the remembrance of that great benefit and for cleansing of his
old offenses.
Of his Placability or Benign Nature.
He was of cheer always merry and of so benign nature that he was
never troubled with anger, and he said once to his nephew that
whatsoever should happen (fell there never so great misadventure),
he could never, as him thought, be moved to wrath but if his
chests perished in which his books lay that he had with great
travail and watch compiled. But forasmuch as he considered that
he labored only for the love of God and profit of his church, and that he
had dedicated unto him all his works, his studies and his doings, and
since he saw that, since God is almighty, they could not miscarry but if
it were either by his commandment or by his sufferance, he
verily trusted, since God is all good, that he would not suffer him to
have that occasion of heaviness. O very happy mind, which none
adversity might oppress, which no prosperity might enhance;
not the cunning of all philosophy was able to make him
proud, not the knowledge of the Hebrew, Chaldee and Arabic
language, besides Greek and Latin, could make him vainglorious;
not his great substance, not his noble blood could blow
up his heart, not the beauty of his body, not the great occasion of sin,
were able to pull him back into the voluptuous broad way that leadeth
to hell. What thing was there of so marvelous strength that might
overturn the mind of him, which now, as Seneca saith, was got
above fortune -- as he which as well her favor as her malice
hath set at naught that he might be coupled with a spiritual knot
unto Christ and his heavenly citizens.

How he eschewed Dignities.
When he saw many men with great labor and money desire and
busily purchase the offices and dignities of the Church (which are nowadays,
alas the while, commonly bought and sold) himself
refused to receive them when two kings offered them. When another
man offered him great worldly promotion if he would go to
the king's court, he gave him such an answer that he should
well know that he neither desired worship nor worldly riches, but
rather set them at naught that he might the more quietly give himself
to study and the service of God. This was he persuaded, that to a
philosopher and him that seeketh for wisdom it was no praise
to gather riches but to refuse them.
Of the despising of Worldly Glory.
All praise of people and all earthly glory he reputed utterly for
nothing. But in the renaying of this shadow of glory he labored
for very glory, which evermore followeth virtue as an inseparable
servant. He said that fame oftentimes did hurt to men
while they live, and never good when they be dead. So much only
set he by his learning, in how much he knew that it was profitable
to the Church and to the extermination of errors. And over
that, he was come to that prick of perfect humility that he little
forced whether his works went out under his own name or not,
so that they might as much profit as if they were given out
under his name. And now set he little by any other books save
only the Bible, in the only study of which he had appointed himself
to spend the residue of his life, saving that the common
profit pricked him when he considered so many and so great

works as he had conceived and long travailed upon, how they
were of every man by and by desired and looked after.
How much he set more by Devotion
than Cunning.
The little affection of an old man or an old woman to Godward,
were it never so small, he set more by than by all his
own knowledge as well of natural things as godly. And oftentimes
in communication he would admonish his familiar
friends how greatly these mortal things bow and draw to an
end; how slipper and how falling it is that we live in now; how
firm, how stable it shall be that we shall hereafter live in, whether
we be thrown down into hell or lifted up into heaven. Wherefore he
exhorted them to turn up their minds to love God, which was a
thing far excelling all the cunning that is possible for us in this
life to obtain. The same thing also in his book which he entitled
De Ente et Uno lightsomely he treateth, where he interrupteth the
course of his disputation and turning his words to Angelus Politianus,
to whom he dedicateth that book, he writeth in this wise:
"But now behold, O my well-beloved Angel, what madness holdeth us.
Love God, while we be in this body, we rather may than either
know him or by speech utter him. In loving him also we more
profit ourselves, we labor less and serve him more; and yet
had we liefer always by knowledge never find that thing that we
seek than by love to possess that thing which also, without love,
were in vain found."
Of his Liberality and Contempt of Riches.
Liberality only in him passed measure, for so far was he from
the giving of any diligence to earthly things that he seemed

somewhat besprent with the freckle of negligence. His friends
oftentimes admonished him that he should not all utterly
despise riches, showing him that it was his dishonesty and
rebuke when it was reported -- were it true or false -- that his
negligence and setting naught by money gave his servants occasion
of deceit and robbery. Nevertheless, that mind of his, which
evermore on high cleaved first in contemplation and in the ensearching
of nature's counsel, could never let down itself to the consideration
and overseeing of these base, abject, and vile earthly trifles.
His high steward came on a time to him and desired him to receive
his account of such money as he had in many years received
of him and brought forth his books of reckoning. Picus
answered him in this wise, "My friend," saith he, "I know well ye
have might oftentimes and yet may deceive me and ye list;
wherefore the examination of these expenses shall not need. There is
no more to do; if I be aught in your debt I shall pay you by and by,
if ye be in mine pay me, either now if ye have it, or hereafter if
ye be now not able."
Of his Loving Mind and Virtuous Behavior
to his Friends.
His lovers and friends, with great benignity and courtesy, he
entreated, whom he used in all secret communing virtuously
to exhort to Godward whose godly words so effectually
wrought in the hearers that where a cunning man -- but not so good
as cunning -- came to him on a day for the great fame of his
learning to commune with him, as they fell in talking of virtue he

was with two words of Picus so thoroughly pierced that forthwithal
he forsook his accustomed vice and reformed his conditions.
The words that he said unto him were these: "If we had evermore
before our eyes the painful death of Christ which he suffered
for the love of us, and then if we would again think upon our
death, we should well beware of sin." Marvelous benignity and
courtesy he showed unto them, not whom strength of body or
goods of fortune magnified, but to them whom learning and
condition bound him to favor. For similitude of manners is a
cause of love and friendship; a likeness of conditions is, as
Apollonius saith, an affinity.
What he Hated and what he Loved.
There was nothing more odious nor more intolerable to him
than, as Horace saith, the proud palaces of stately lords. Wedding
and worldly business he fled almost alike. Notwithstanding,
when he was asked once in sport whether of those two burdens
seemed lighter and which he would choose if he should of
necessity be driven to that one, and at his election, which he stuck
thereat a while, but at the last he shook his head and a little smiling
he answered that he had liefer take him to marriage, as that thing in
which was less servitude and not so much jeopardy. Liberty above
all things he loved, to which both his own natural affection
and the study of philosophy inclined him, and for that he was always
wandering and flitting and would never take himself to any certain

Of his Fervent Love to God.
Of outward observances he gave no very great force. We
speak not of those observances which the Church commandeth
to be observed, for in those he was diligent, but we speak of those
ceremonies which folk bring up, setting the very service of God aside,
which is, as Christ saith,) to be worshipped in spirit and
in truth. But in the inward affections of the mind he cleaved to
God with very fervent love and devotion. Sometimes that marvelous
alacrity languished and almost fell, and eft again with
great strength rose up into God. In the love of whom he so
fervently burned that on a time as he walked with John Francis,
his nephew, in an orchard at Ferrara, in the talking of the love of
Christ, he broke out into these words, "Nephew," said he, "this will I
show thee, I warn thee keep it secret; the substance that I have
left, after certain books of mine finished, I intend to give out to
poor folk, and fencing myself with the crucifix, barefoot walking
about the world in every town and castle I purpose to
preach of Christ." Afterwards, I understand, by the especial commandment
of God, he changed that purpose and appointed
to profess himself in the Order of Friars Preachers.
Of His Death.
In the year of our redemption, 1494, when himself
had fulfilled the thirty-second year of his age and abode at Florence, he was
suddenly taken with a fervent access which so far forth crept into

the interior parts of his body that it despised all medicines and
overcame all remedy and compelled him within three days to
satisfy nature and repay her the life which he received of her.
Of his Behavior in the Extremes of his Life.
After that he had received the Holy Body of our Savior,
when they offered unto him the crucifix, that in the image of Christ's
ineffable Passion suffered for our sake, he might ere he
gave up the ghost receive his full draught of love and compassion
in the beholding of that pitiful figure as a strong defense
against all adversity and a sure portcullis against wicked spirits,
the priest demanded him whether he firmly believed
that crucifix to be the image of him that was very God and very man:
which in his Godhead was before all time begotten of his Father, to
whom he is also equal in all things, and which of the Holy Ghost, God
also, of him and of the Father coeternally going forth, which three
Persons be one God, was in the chaste womb of our Lady,
a perpetual virgin, conceived in time, which suffered hunger,
thirst, heat, cold, labor, travail, and watch, and
which at the last for washing of our spotty sin contracted and
drawn unto us in the sin of Adam, for the sovereign love that
he had to mankind, in the altar of the cross willingly and
gladly shed out his most precious blood; when the priest inquired
of him these things and such other as they be wont to
inquire of folk in such case, Picus answered him that he not only
believed it but also certainly knew it.
When that one Albertus, his sister's son, a young man both of
wit, cunning, and conditions excellent, began to comfort him
against death and by natural reason to show him why it was not to
be feared but strongly to be taken as that only thing which maketh
an end of all the labor, pain, trouble, and sorrow of this
short, miserable, deadly life, he answered that this was not the chief

thing that should make him content to die, because the death determineth
the manifold incommodities and painful
wretchedness of this life, but rather this cause should make him
not content only but also glad to die, for that death maketh an
end of sin, inasmuch as he trusted the shortness of his life
should leave him no space to sin and offend. He asked also all
his servants' forgiveness if he had ever before that day offended
any of them, for whom he had provided by his testament
eight years before: for some of them meat and drink, for
some money, each of them after their deserving. He showed also
to the above named Albertus and many other credible persons that the
Queen of heaven came to him that night with a marvelous fragrant
odor, refreshing all his members that were bruised and frushed
with that fever, and promised him that he should not utterly die. He
lay always with a pleasant and a merry countenance, and in the
very twitches and pangs of death he spoke as though he beheld
the heavens open. And all that came to him and saluted him, offering
their service, with very loving words he received, thanked,
and kissed. The executor of his movable goods he made one
Antony, his brother. The heir of his lands he made the poor
people of the hospital of Florence. And in this wise, into the hands
of our Savior he gave up his spirit.
How his Death was taken.
What sorrow and heaviness his departing out of this world
was, both to rich and poor, high and low, well testifieth the
princes of Italy, well witnesseth the cities and people, well recordeth
the great benignity and singular courtesy of Charles, king
of France, which as he came to Florence, intending from

thence to Rome and so forth in his voyage against the realm of
Naples, hearing of the sickness of Picus, in all convenient haste he
sent him two of his own physicians as ambassadors both to visit
him and to do him all the help they might. And over that sent
unto him letters subscribed with his own hand full of such
humanity and courteous offers as the benevolent mind of such
a noble prince and the worthy virtues of Picus required.
Of the State of his Soul.
After his death -- and not long after -- Jeronimus, a Friar
Preacher of Ferrara, a man as well in cunning as holiness of
living most famous, in a sermon which he rehearsed in the
chief church of all Florence, said unto the people in this wise: "O
thou city of Florence, I have a secret thing to show thee which is
as true as the Gospel of Saint John. I would have kept it secret
but I am compelled to show it, for he that hath authority to
command me hath bid me publish it. I suppose verily that
there be none of you but ye knew John Picus, Earl of Mirandula,
a man in whom God had heaped many great gifts and singular
graces; the Church had of him an inestimable loss, for I suppose
if he might have had the space of his life prolonged he should
have excelled, by such works as he should have left behind him,
all them that died this eight hundred years before him. He was wont to be
conversant with me and to break to me the secrets of his heart:
in which I perceived that he was by privy inspiration called of
God unto religion. Wherefore he purposed oftentimes to
obey this inspiration and follow his calling. Howbeit, not being
kind enough for so great benefices of God, or called back by the
tenderness of his flesh, as he was a man of delicate complexion,

he shrank from the labor, or thinking haply that the religion
had no need of him, deferred it for a time; howbeit this I
speak only by conjecture. But for this delay I threatened him
two years together that he would be punished if he forslothed that
purpose which our Lord had put in his mind. And certainly I
prayed to God myself (I will not lie therefor) that he might be
somewhat beaten to compel him to take that way which God had
from above showed him. But I desired not this scourge upon
him that he was beaten with. I looked not for that. But our Lord had
so decreed that he should forsake this present life and leese a part
of that noble crown that he should have had in heaven. Notwithstanding,
the most benign Judge hath dealt mercifully with
him, and for his plenteous alms given out with a free and
liberal hand unto poor people, and for the devout prayers which
he most instantly offered unto God, this favor he hath: though
his soul be not yet in the bosom of our Lord in the heavenly
joy, yet is it not on that other side deputed unto perpetual
pain; but he is adjudged for a while to the fire of purgatory, there
to suffer pain for a season, which I am the gladder to show you
in this behalf, to the intent that they which knew him, and such in
especially as for his manifold benefices are singularly beholden
unto him, should now with their prayers, alms, and other suffrages,
help him." These things this holy man Jerome, this
servant of God, openly affirmed, and also said that he knew
well if he lied in that place he were worthy eternal damnation.
And over that, he said that he had known all those things within a
certain time, but the words which Picus had said in his sickness
of the appearing of our Lady caused him to doubt and to fear lest Picus

had been deceived by some illusion of the devil, inasmuch as the
promise of our Lady seemed to have been frustrated by his death. But
afterwards, he understood that Picus was deceived in the equivocation
of the word, while she spoke of the second death and everlasting,
and he undertook her of the first death and temporal. And after
this the same Jerome showed to his acquaintance that Picus had after
his death appeared unto him all compassed in fire, and showed unto him
that he was suchwise in purgatory punished for his negligence and
his unkindness. Now, since it is so that he is adjudged to that fire from
which he shall undoubtedly depart unto glory, and no man is sure how
long it shall be first, and maybe the shorter time for our intercessions,
let every Christian body show their charity upon him to
help to speed him thither where, after the long habitation with the
inhabitants of this dark world, to whom his goodly conversation
gave great light, and after the dark fire of purgatory in which
venial offenses be cleansed, he may shortly, if he be not already,
enter the inaccessible and infinite light of heaven, where he may in the
presence of the sovereign Godhead so pray for us that we may the
rather by his intercession be partners of that unspeakable joy which
we have prayed to bring him speedily to. Amen.
Here endeth the life of John Picus, Earl of Mirandula

The Argument and Matter of the First Epistle of Picus
unto his Nephew John Francis.
It appeareth by this epistle that John Francis, the nephew of
Picus, had broken his mind unto Picus and had made him of
counsel in some secret godly purpose which he intended to
take upon him; but what this purpose should be, upon this
letter can we not fully perceive. Now after that he thus intended,
there fell unto him many impediments and divers occasions
which withstood his intent, and in manner letted him and pulled him
back, wherefore Picus comforteth him in this epistle and exhorteth
him to perseverance, by such means as are in the epistle
evident and plain enough. Notwithstanding, in the beginning of
this letter, where he saith that the flesh shall, but if we take good
heed, make us drunk in the cups of Circe and misshape us into
the likeness and figure of brute beasts -- those words, if ye perceive
them not, be in this wise understood. There was sometime
in - - - - - a woman called Circe which by enchantment, as
Virgil maketh mention, used with a drink to turn as many men
as received it into divers likeness and figures of sundry beasts,
some into lions, some into bears, some into swine, some into
wolves, which afterwards walked ever tame about her house and
waited upon her in such use or service as she list to put unto
them. In like wise, the flesh, if it make us drunk in the wine of
voluptuous pleasure or make the soul leave the noble use of his
reason and incline unto sensuality and affections of the body, then
the flesh changeth us from the figure of reasonable men into the
likeness of unreasonable beasts, and that diversely, after the convenience
and similitude between our sensual affections and the brutish
properties of sundry beasts -- as the proud-hearted man into

a lion, the irous into a bear, the lecherous into a goat, the
drunken glutton into a swine, the ravenous extortioner into a
wolf, the false deceiver into a fox, the mocking jester into
an ape. From which beastly shape may we never be restored to
our own likeness again until the time we have cast up again
the drink of the bodily affections by which we were into these
figures enchanted. When there cometh, sometimes, a monstrous
beast to the town, we run and are glad to pay some money
to have a sight thereof; but I fear if men would look upon themselves
advisedly, they should see a more monstrous beast nearer home,
for they should perceive themselves by the wretched inclination to
divers beastly passions changed in their soul not into the shape
of one but of many beasts, that is to say, of all them whose brutish
appetites they follow. Let us then beware, as Picus counseleth us, that
we be not drunken in the cups of Circe, that is to say, in the sensual
affections of the flesh, lest we deform the image of God in our
souls, after whose image we be made, and make ourselves worse
than idolaters. For if he be odious to God which turneth the image
of a beast into God, how much is he more odious which
turneth the image of God into a beast?
John Picus, Earl of Mirandula, to John
Francis his Nephew by his Brother,
Health in him that is very Health.
That thou hast had many evil occasions after thy departing
which trouble thee and stand against the virtuous purpose that
thou hast taken, there is no cause, my son, why thou shouldst either
marvel thereof, be sorry therefor, or dread it. But rather how
great a wonder were this, if only to thee among mortal men the way

lay open to heaven without sweat, as though that now at erst the
deceitful world and the cursed devil failed, and as though thou
were not yet in the flesh, which coveteth against the spirit; and
which false flesh (but if we watch and look well to ourselves) shall
make us drunk in the cups of Circe and so deform us into
monstrous shapes of brutish and unreasonable beasts. Remember
also that of these evil occasions the holy apostle Saint James saith
thou hast cause to be glad, writing in this wise: Gaudete, fratres,
cum in temptationes varias incideritis, "Be glad," saith he, "my
brethren, when ye fall in divers temptations" and not causeless.
For what hope is there of glory if there be none hope of victory, or
what place is there for victory where there is no battle? He is called
to the crown and triumph which is provoked to the conflict, and
namely to that conflict in which no man may be overcome against
his will and in which we need none other strength to vanquish
but that we list ourselves to vanquish. Very happy is a Christian man,
since that the victory is both put in his own free will and the reward
of the victory shall be far greater than we can either hope or
wish. Tell me, I pray thee, my most dear son, if there be aught in
this life of all those things the delight whereof so vexeth and tosseth
these earthly minds. Is there, I say, any of those trifles in the getting
of which a man must not suffer many labors, many displeasures,
and many miseries ere he get it? The merchant thinketh himself
well served if after ten years sailing, after a thousand incommodities,
after a thousand jeopardies of his life, he may at last have a little the
more gathered together. Of the court and service of this world,
there is nothing that I need to write unto thee, the wretchedness
whereof the experience itself hath taught thee and daily teacheth. In
obtaining the favor of the princes, in purchasing the friendship

of the company, in ambitious labor for offices and honors,
what an heap of heaviness there is! How great anguish, how much
business and trouble, I may rather learn of thee than teach ye,
which, holding myself content with my books and rest, of a child
have learned to live within my degree, and, as much as I may
dwelling with myself, nothing out of myself labor for or
long for. Now then, these earthly things slipper, uncertain,
vile, and common also to us and brute beasts, sweating and panting we
shall uneath obtain; and look we then to heavenly things and
godly, which neither eye hath seen nor ear hath heard nor heart
hath thought, to be drawn slumbering and sleeping maugre our teeth,
as though neither God might reign nor those heavenly citizens
live without us? Certainly if this worldly felicity were got
to us with idleness and ease, then might some man that shrinketh
from labor rather choose to serve the world than God. But now
if we be forlabored in the way of sin as much as in the way of
God, and much more, whereof the damned wretches cry out,
Lassati sumus in via inquitatis, "We be wearied in the way of wickedness,"
then must it needs be a point of extreme madness if we
had not liefer labor there where we go from labor to reward,
than where we go from labor to pain. I pass over how great
peace and felicity it is to the mind when a man hath nothing that
grudgeth his conscience nor is not appalled with the secret twitch
of any privy crime. This pleasure undoubtedly far excelleth all the
pleasures that in this life may be obtained or desired. What thing is
there to be desired among the delights of this world, which in the

seeking weary us, in the having blindeth us, in the losing paineth
us? Doubtest thou, my son, whether the minds of wicked men be
vexed or not with continual thought and torment; it is the word
of God, which neither may deceive nor be deceived, Cor impii
quasi mare fervens quod quiescere non potest,"The wicked
man's heart is like a stormy sea, that may not rest." There is to him nothing
sure, nothing peaceable, but all things fearful, all things
sorrowful, all things deadly. Shall we then envy these men? Shall
we follow them, and, forgetting our own country, heaven, and our
Heavenly Father, where we were freeborn, shall we willfully
make ourselves their bondmen, and with them wretchedly living
more wretchedly die, and at the last most wretchedly in everlasting
fire be punished? Oh the dark minds of men! Oh the blind
hearts! Who seeth not more clear than light that all these things
be, as they say, truer than truth itself? And yet do we not that
that we know is to be done. In vain we would pluck our foot out of
the clay, but we stick still. There shall come to thee, my son, doubt it
not, in these places namely where thou art conversant, innumerable
impediments every hour which might fear thee from
the purpose of good and virtuous living and, but if thou beware,
shall throw thee down headlong. But among all things the
very deadly pestilence is this: to be conversant day and night
among them whose life is not only on every side an allective to
sin, but over that all set in the expugnation of virtue under
their captain the devil, under the banner of death, under the
stipend of hell, fighting against heaven, against our Lord God
and against his Christ. But cry thou therefore with the Prophet,

Dirumpamus vincula eorum et projiciamus a nobis jugum ipsorum,
"Let us break the bands of them and let us cast off the yoke
of them." These be they whom, as the glorious apostle Saint Paul
saith, our Lord hath delivered into the passions of rebuke and to
a reprovable sense, to do those things that are not convenient,
full of all iniquity, full of envy, manslaughter, contention,
guile, and malice, backbiters, odious to God, contumelious,
proud, stately, finders of evil things, foolish, dissolute,
without affection, without covenant, without mercy; which
when they daily see the justice of God, yet understand they not
that such as these things commit are worthy death -- not
only they that do such things but also they which consent to the
doing. Wherefore, my child, go thou never about to please them
whom virtue displeaseth, but evermore let these words of the
apostle be before thine eyes, Oportet magis Deo placere quam
hominibus, "We must rather please God than men." And remember
these words of Saint Paul also, Si hominibus placerem, servus
Christi non essem, "If I should please men I were not Christ's servant."
Let enter into thine heart an holy pride, and have disdain to
take them for masters of thy living which have more need to
take thee for a master of theirs. It were far more seeming that
they should, with thee by good living, begin to be men than thou
shouldst with them, by the leaving of thy good purpose, shamefully
begin to be a beast. There holdeth me sometimes, by Almighty God,
as it were even a swoon and an insensibility for wonder when I
begin in myself, I wot never whether I shall say, to remember
or to sorrow, to marvel or to bewail the appetites of men, or,
if I shall more plainly speak, the very madness. For it is verily a
great madness not to believe the Gospel, whose truth the blood

of martyrs crieth, the voice of apostles soundeth, miracles proveth,
reason confirmeth, the world testifieth, the elements
speaketh, devils confesseth. But a far greater madness is it, if
thou doubt not but that the Gospel is true, to live then as though
thou doubt not but that it were false. For if these words of the
Gospel be true, that it is very hard for a rich man to enter the
kingdom of heaven, why do we daily then gape after the heaping
up of riches? And if this be true, that we should seek for the
glory and praise, not that cometh of men, but that cometh of
God, why do we then ever hang upon the judgment and opinion
of men, and no man recketh whether God like him or not? And if
we surely believe that once the time shall come in which our Lord
shall say, "Go ye cursed people into everlasting fire," and again, "Come
ye my blessed children, possess ye the kingdom that hath been
prepared for you from the forming of the world," why is there nothing
then that we less fear than hell, or that we less hope for than
the kingdom of God? What shall we say else, but that there be many
Christian men in name but few in deed. But thou, my son, enforce
thyself to enter by the strait gate that leadeth to heaven and take no
heed what thing many men do, but what thing the very law of
nature, what thing very reason, what thing our Lord himself
showeth thee to be done. For neither thy glory shall be less if thou be
happy with few, nor thy pain more easy if thou be wretched with
many. Thou shalt have two especially effectual remedies against
the world and the devil, with which two, as with two wings, thou
shalt out of this vale of misery be lifted up into heaven; that is to say,
almsdeeds and prayer. What may we do without the help of God,
or how shall he help us if he be not called upon? But over that,

certainly he shall not hear thee when thou callest on him, if thou
hear not first the poor man when he calleth upon thee. And verily it
is according that God should despise thee, being a man, when thou,
being a man, despisest a man. For it is written, "In what measure that
ye mete, it shall be meted you again." And in another place
of the Gospel it is said, "Blessed be merciful men, for they shall
get mercy." When I stir thee to prayer, I stir thee not to the prayer
that standeth in many words, but to that prayer which in the
secret chamber of the mind, in the privy closet of the soul,
with very affect speaketh to God, and in the most lightsome darkness
of contemplation not only presenteth the mind to the Father
but also uniteth it with him by unspeakable ways which only they
know that have essayed. Nor care I not how long or how short
thy prayer be, but how effectual, how ardent, and rather interrupted
and broken between with sighs than drawn on length with
a continual row and number of words. If thou love thine health, if
thou desire to be sure from the grins of the devil, from the
storms of this world, from the await of thine enemies; if thou
long to be acceptable to God, if thou covet to be happy at the
last -- let no day pass thee but thou once at the leastwise present thyself
to God by prayer, and falling down before him flat to the
ground with an humble affect of devout mind, not from the
extremity of thy lips but out of the inwardness of thine heart cry
these words of the Prophet: Delicta juventutis mee et ignorantias
meas ne memineris, sed secundum misericordiam tuam
memento mei propter bonitatem tuam Domine, "The offenses of
my youth and mine ignorances remember not, good Lord; but
after thy mercy, Lord, for thy goodness remember me." What thou
shalt in thy prayer ask of God, both the Holy Spirit which prayeth
for us and eke thine own necessity shalt every hour put in thy
mind; and also what thou shalt pray for, thou shalt find matter

enough in the reading of holy scripture, which that thou wouldst
now, setting poets, fables and trifles aside, take ever in thine hand,
I heartily pray thee. Thou mayest do nothing more pleasant to God,
nothing more profitable to thyself, than if thy hand cease not
day nor night to turn and read the volumes of holy scripture.
There lieth privily in them a certain heavenly strength, quick and
effectual, which with a marvelous power transformeth and changeth
the reader's mind into the love of God, if they be clean and lowly
entreated. But I have passed now the bounds of a letter, the
matter drawing me forth and the great love that I have had to thee,
both ever before and especially since that hour in which I have had
first knowledge of thy most holy purpose. Now to make an end
with this one thing, I warn thee (of which when we were last
together I often talked with thee) that thou never forget these two
things: that both the Son of God died for thee, and that thou shalt also thyself
die shortly, live thou never so long. With these twain, as
with two spurs, that one of fear, that other of love, spur forth thine
horse through the short way of this momentary life to the reward of
eternal felicity, since we neither ought nor may prefix ourselves
any other end than the endless fruition of the infinite goodness, both
to soul and body, in everlasting peace. Farewell, and fear God.
The Matter or Argument of the Epistle
of Picus to Andrew Corneus.
This Andrew, a worshipful man and an especial friend of
Picus, had by his letters given him counsel to leave the study of
philosophy, as a thing in which he thought Picus to have
spent time enough and which, but if it were applied to the use of
some actual business, he judged a thing vain and unprofitable;
wherefore he counseled Picus to surcease of study and put himself

with some of the great princes of Italy, with whom, as this
Andrew said, he should be much more fruitfully occupied than
always in the study and learning of philosophy. To whom Picus
answered, as in this present epistle appeareth, where he saith these
words, "by this it should follow that it were either servile or at
the leastwise not princely to make the study of philosophy other
than mercenary;" thus he meaneth: mercenary we call all those
things which we do for hire or reward. Then he maketh philosophy
mercenary and useth it not as cunning but as merchandise
which studieth it not for pleasure of itself, or for the instruction
of his mind in moral virtue, but to apply it to such
things where he may get some lucre or worldly advantage.
John Picus Earl of Mirandula
to Andrew Corneus, Greeting.
Ye exhort me by your letters to the civil and active life, saying
that in vain, and in manner to my rebuke and shame, have I so
long studied in philosophy, but if I would at the last exercise that
learning in the entreating of some profitable acts and outward
business. Certainly, my well-beloved Andrew, I had cast away both
cost and labor of my study if I were so minded that I could
find in my heart in this matter to assent unto you and follow your
counsel. This is a very deadly and monstrous persuasion
which hath entered the minds of men, believing that the studies
of philosophy are of estates and princes either utterly not to be
touched, or at leastwise with extreme lips to be sipped, and
rather to the pomp and ostentation of their wit than to the culture
and profit of their minds to be little and easily tasted. The
words of Neoptolemus they hold utterly for a sure decree, that

philosophy is to be studied either never or not long; but the
sayings of wise men they repute for japes and very fables, that
sure and steadfast felicity standeth only in the goodness of the
mind and that these outward things of the body or of fortune little
or naught pertain unto us. But here ye will say to me thus: "I am
content ye study, but I would have you outwardly occupied also.
And I desire you not so to embrace Martha that ye should utterly
forsake Mary. Love them and use them both, as well study as worldly
occupation." Truly, my well-beloved friend, in this point I gainsay
you not; they that so do I find no fault in nor I blame them
not, but certainly it is not all one to say we do well if we do so,
and to say we do evil but if we do so. This is far out of the way,
to think that from contemplation to the active living -- that is to say,
from the better to the worse -- is none error to decline, and to
think that it were shame to abide still in the better and not
decline. Shall a man then be rebuked because that he desireth
and ensueth a virtue only for itself, because he studieth the
mysteries of God, because he ensearcheth the counsel of nature,
because he useth continually this pleasant ease and rest, seeking
none outward thing, despising all other thing, since those
things are able sufficiently to satisfy the desire of their followers?
By this reckoning, it is a thing either servile, or at the leastwise not
princely, to make the study of wisdom other than mercenary.
Who may well hear this, who may suffer it? Certainly he
never studied for wisdom which so studied therefor that in
time to come either he might not or would not study therefor. This
man rather exercised the study of merchandise than of wisdom.
Ye write unto me that it is time for me now to put myself

in household with some of the great princes of Italy, but I see well
that as yet ye have not known the opinion that philosophers have
of themselves, which, as Horace saith, repute themselves kings of
kings; they love liberty, they cannot bear the proud manners of
estates, they cannot serve. They dwell with themselves and be
content with the tranquillity of their own mind; they suffice
themselves and more; they seek nothing out of themselves; the
things that are had in honor among the common people,
among them be not held honorable. All that ever the voluptuous
desire of men thirsteth for, or ambition sigheth for, they
set at naught and despise. Which while it belongeth to all men,
yet undoubtedly it pertaineth most properly to them whom fortune
hath so liberally favored that they may live not only well
and plenteously but also nobly. These great fortunes lift up a
man high and set him out to the show, but oftentimes as a
fierce and a skittish horse they cast off their master. Certainly
always they grieve and vex him and rather tear him than bear
him. The golden mediocrity, the mean estate, is to be desired,
which shall bear us as it were in hands more easily, which shall
obey us and not master us. I therefore, abiding firmly in this
opinion, set more by my little house, my study, the pleasure of
my books, the rest and peace of my mind, than by all your kings'
palaces, all your common business, all your glory, all the advantage
that ye hawk after, and all the favor of the court.
Nor I look not for this fruit of my study, that I may thereby hereafter
be tossed in the flood and rumbling of your worldly business,
but that I may once bring forth the children that I travail on; that I
may give out some books of mine own to the common profit

which may somewhat savor if not of cunning yet at the leastwise
of wit and diligence. And because ye shall not think that my
travail and diligence in study is anything remitted or slacked, I
give you knowledge that, after great fervent labor with much
watch and indefatigable travail, I have learned both the Hebrew
language and the Chaldee, and now have I set hand to overcome
the great difficulty of the Arabic tongue. These, my dear friend, be
things which to appertain to a noble prince, I have ever thought
and yet think. Fare ye well. Written at Paris the 15th day of October,
the year of grace 1492.
The Argument of the Epistle following.
After that John Francis, the nephew of Picus, had (as it
appeareth in the first epistle of Picus to him) begun a change in his
living, it seemeth by this letter that the company of the court where
he was conversant, diversely, as it is their unmannerly manner,
descanted thereof to his rebuke, as them thought, but, as truth
was, unto their own. Some of them judged it folly, some called it
hypocrisy, some scorned him, some slandered him; of all
which demeanor (as we may of this epistle conjecture) he wrote
unto this Earl Picus, his uncle, which in this letter comforteth and
encourageth him, as it is in the course thereof evident.
John Picus Earl of Mirandula to Francis
his Nephew Greeting in the Lord.
Happy art thou, my son, when that our Lord not only
giveth thee grace well to live, but also that while thou livest well he
giveth thee grace to bear evil words of evil people for thy living
well. Certainly, as great a praise as it is to be commended of them
that are commendable, as great a commendation it is to be reproved

of them that are reprovable. Notwithstanding, my son, I
call thee not therefore happy because this false reproof is worshipful
and glorious unto thee, but for because that our Lord Jesus Christ --
which is not only true but also truth itself -- affirmeth that
our reward shall be plenteous in heaven when men speak evil
to us and speak all evil against us lying for his name. This is an
apostle's dignity: to be reputed digne before God, to be defamed
of wicked folk for his name. For we read in the Gospel of Luke
that the apostles went joyful and glad from the council
house of the Jews because God had accepted them as worthy to
suffer wrong and reproof for his sake. Let us therefore joy and be
glad if we be worthy so great worship before God that his worship
be showed in our rebuke. And if we suffer of the world anything
that is grievous or bitter, let this sweet voice of our Lord be our
consolation: Si mundus vos odio habet, scitote quia priorem me
vobis odio habuit, "If the world," saith our Lord, "hate you, know
ye that it hated me before you." If the world, then, hated him by
whom the world was made, we most vile and simple men, and
worthy, if we consider our wretched living well, all shame and
reproof, if folk backbite us and say evil of us, shall we so grievously
take it that lest they should say evil we should begin to do evil?
Let us rather gladly receive these evil words, and if we be not so
happy to suffer for virtue and truth as the old saints suffered
beatings, binding, prison, swords, and death, let us think at
the leastwise we be well served if we have the grace to suffer
chiding, detraction, and hatred of wicked men, lest that if all
occasion of deserving be taken away, there be left us none hope of
reward. If men for thy good living praise thee, thy virtue certainly,
in that it is virtue, maketh thee like unto Christ; but in that it is

praised it maketh thee unlike him, which for the reward of his
virtue received the opprobrious death of the cross; for which, as
the Apostle saith, "God hath exalted him and given him a name that
is above all names." More desirable is, then, to be condemned of
the world and exalted of God, than to be exalted of the
world and condemned of God. The world condemneth to life,
God exalteth to glory; the world exalteth to a fall, God condemneth
to the fire of hell. Finally, if the world fawn upon thee,
uneath it may be but that thy virtue, which all lifted upward should
have God alone to please, shall somewhat unto the blandishing of the
world and favor of the people incline. And so, though it lose nothing
of the integrity of our perfection, yet it loseth of the reward,
which reward, while it beginneth to be paid in the world where
all thing is little, it shall be less in heaven, where all thing is great. O
happy rebukes, which make us sure that neither the flower of our
virtue shall wither with the pestilence blast of vainglory, nor our
eternal reward be diminished for the vain promotion of a little
popular fame! Let us, my son, love these rebukes, and only of the
ignominy and reproof of our Lord's cross let us like faithful
servants with an holy ambition be proud. "We," saith Saint
Paul, "preach Christ crucified, which is unto the Jews despite, unto
the Gentiles folly, unto us the virtue and wisdom of God." The
wisdom of this world is foolishness before God, and the folly of Christ
is that by which he hath overcome the wisdom of the world, by
which it hath pleased God to make his believing people safe. If that
you doubt not but that they be mad which backbite thy virtue,
which the Christian living, that is very wisdom, reputeth for
madness, consider then how much were thy madness if thou
shouldst for the judgment of mad men swerve from the good

institution of thy life, namely since all error is with amendment
to be taken away and not with imitation and following to be
increased. Let them therefore neigh, let them bawl, let them bark;
go thou boldly forth thy journey as thou hast begun, and of their
wickedness and misery consider how much thyself art beholden to
God, which hath illumined thee sitting in the shadow of death, and
translating thee out of the company of them which like drunken
men without a guide wander hither and thither in obscure
darkness, hath associated thee to the children of light. Let that
same sweet voice of our Lord always sound in thine ears: Sine
mortuos sepelire mortuos suos, tu me sequere, "Let dead men alone
with dead men, follow thou me." Dead be they that live not
to God and in the space of this temporal death laboriously purchase
themselves eternal death. Of whom if thou ask whereto they
draw, whereto they refer their studies, their works, and their
business, and finally what end they have appointed themselves in
the adoption whereof they should be happy, either they shall have
utterly nothing to answer or they shall bring forth words repugnant
in themselves and contrary each to other, like the raving of
Bedlam people. Nor they wot never themselves what they do, but
like them that swim in swift floods, they be borne forth with the
violence of evil custom as it were with the boisterous course of the
stream. And their wickedness blinding them on this side, and the
devil pricking them forward on that side, they run forth
headlong into all mischief, as blind guides of blind men, till that
death set on them unawares, and till that it be said unto them that
Christ saith in the Gospel, "My friend, this night the devils
shall take thy soul from thee. These goods then that thou hast

gathered, whose shall they be?" Then shall they envy them whom they
despised, then shall they commend them that they mocked,
then shall they covet to ensue them in living when they may not,
whom when they might have ensued they pursued. Stop therefore
thine ears, my most dear son, and whatsoever men say of thee,
whatsoever men think on thee, account it for nothing, but
regard only the judgment of God, which shall yield every man
after his own works when he shall show himself from heaven
with the angels of his virtue, in flame of fire, doing vengeance
upon them that have not known God nor obeyed his Gospel,
which, as the Apostle saith, shall suffer in death eternal pain, from
the face of our Lord and from the glory of his virtue, when he shall
come to be glorified of his saints and to be made marvelous in all
them that have believed. It is written, Nolite timere qui corpus
possunt occidere, sed qui animam potest mittere in gehennam,
"Fear not them," saith our Lord, "that may slay the body, but fear
him that may cast the soul into hell." How much less, then, be they to
be feared that may neither hurt soul nor body? Which if they now
backbite thee living virtuously, they shall do the same nevertheless
if, virtue forsaken, thou were overwhelmed with vice, not
for that vice displeaseth them but for that the vice of backbiting always
pleaseth them. Flee if thou love thine health, flee as far as thou
mayest their company and, returning to thyself, oftentimes
secretly pray unto the most benign Father of heaven, crying with
the Prophet: Ad te Domine levavi animam meam: Deus
meus in te confido, non erubescam, etiam si irrideant me inimici
mei. Etenim universi qui sperant in to non confundentur. Confundantur
iniqua agentes supervacue. Vias tuas Domine demonstra
mihi, et semitas tuas edoce me. Dirige me in veritate tua, et
doce me: quia tu es Deus Salvator meus, et in te sperabo tota die,

that is to say, "To thee, Lord, I lift up my soul, in thee I trust; I shall not
be shamed, and though mine enemies mock me. Certainly all they that
trust in thee shall not be ashamed. Let them be ashamed that
work wickedness in vain. Thy ways, good Lord, show me, and
thy paths teach me. Direct me in thy truth, and teach me, for
thou art God, my Savior; in thee shall I trust all the day." Remember
also, my son, that the death lieth at hand. Remember that
all the time of our life is but a moment and yet less than a moment.
Remember how cursed our old enemy is, which offereth
us the kingdoms of this world that he might bereave us the kingdom
of heaven; how false the fleshly pleasures which therefore
embrace us that they might strangle us; how deceitful these
worldly honors which therefore lift us up that they might throw
us down; how deadly these riches which the more they feed us
the more they poison us; how short, how uncertain, how shadowlike,
false, imaginary it is that all these things together may bring
us, and though they flow to us as we would wish them. Remember
again how great things be promised and prepared for
them which, despising these present things, desire and long for
that country whose king is the Godhead, whose law is charity, whose
measure is eternity. Occupy thy mind with these meditations
and such other that may waken thee when thou steepest, kindle
thee when thou waxest cold, confirm thee when thou waverest, and
exhibit the wings of the love of God while thou laborest to heavenward,
that when thou comest home to us -- which with great
desire we look for, we may see not only him that we covet but
also such a manner one as we covet. Farewell, and love God, whom
of old thou hast begun to fear. At Ferrara, the 2nd day of July, the
year of our redemption, 1492.

The Interpretation of John Picus upon this
Psalm, "Conserva Me Domine."
Conserva me Domine quoniam speravi in te. Dixi Domino:
Deus meus es tu, quoniam bonorum meorum non eges. Sanctis
qui sunt in terra mirificavit voluntates suas. Multiplicate sunt
infirmitates postea acceleraverunt. Non congregabo conventicula
eorum de sanguinibus: nec memor ero nominum eorum
per labia mea. Dominos pars hereditatis mee et calicis mei: tu es
qui restitues hereditatem meam michi. Funes ceciderunt michi in
preclaris: etenim hereditas mea preclara est michi. Benedicam
Dominum qui tribuit mihi intellectum: insuper et usque ad noctem
increpuerunt me renes mei. Providebam Dominum in conspectu
meo semper, quoniam a dextris est michi ne commovear.
Propter hoc letatum est cor meum et exultavit lingua mea,
insuper et caro mea requiescet in spe. Quoniam non derelinques
animam meam in inferno: nec dabis sanctum tuum videre corruptionem.
Notas mihi fecisti vias vite: adimplebis me leticia
cum vultu tuo. Delectationes in dextera tua usque in finem.
Conserva me Domine,
"Keep me, good Lord." If any perfect man look upon his own
estate there is one peril therein, that is to wit, lest he wax proud of
his virtue, and therefore David, speaking in the person of a righteous
man of his estate, beginneth with these words, Conserva me
Domine, that is to say, "Keep me, good Lord;" which word, "Keep
me," if it be well considered, taketh away all occasion of pride.
For he that is able of himself anything to get is able of himself
that same thing to keep. He that asketh, then, of God to be kept in
the state of virtue, signifieth in that asking that from the beginning
he got not that virtue by himself. He, then, which remembereth
that he attained his virtue not by his own power but

by the power of God, may not be proud thereof but rather humbled
before God, after those words of the Apostle: Quid habes
quod non accepisti? "What hast thou that thou hast not received?"
And if thou hast received it, why art thou proud thereof, as
though thou hadst not received it? Two words, then, be there
which we should ever have in our mouth: that one, Miserere mei
Deus, "Have mercy on me, Lord," when we remember our vice;
that other, Conserva me Deus,"Keep me, good Lord," when we
remember our virtue.
Quoniam speravi in te,
"For I have trusted in thee." This one thing is it that maketh us
obtain of God our petition, that is to wit, when we have a full hope
and trust that we shall speed. And if we observe these two things
in our requests, that is to wit, that we require nothing but that which is
good for us, and that we require it ardently with a sure hope that
God shall hear us, our prayers shall never be void. Wherefore,
when we miss the effect of our petition, either it is for that we ask
such thing as is noyous unto us, for, as Christ saith, we wot never
what we ask. And Jesus said, "Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name,
it shall be given you." This name Jesus signifieth a savior, and
therefore there is nothing asked in the name of Jesus but that is
wholesome and helping to the salvation of the asker; or else God
heareth not our prayer because that, though the thing that we
require be good, yet we ask it not well, for we ask it with little
hope. And he that asketh doubtingly, asketh coldly. And therefore Saint
James biddeth us ask in faith, nothing doubting.
Dixi Domino: Deus meus es tu,
"I have said to our Lord: my God art thou." After that he hath
warded and fenced himself against pride, he describeth in these

words his estate. All the estate of a righteous man standeth in
these words, Dixi Domino, Deus meus es tu, "I have said to our
Lord, my God art thou." Which words though they seem common
to all folk, yet are there very few that may say them truly.
That thing a man taketh for his god that he taketh for his chief
good; and that thing taketh he for his chief good, which only
had, though all other things lack, he thinketh himself happy,
and which only lacking, though he have all other things, he thinketh
himself unhappy. The niggard, then, saith to his money, Deus
meus es tu, "My god art thou." For though honor fail, and health
and strength and friends, so he have money he thinketh himself
well. And if he have all those things that we have spoken of, if
money fail, he thinketh himself unhappy. The glutton saith
unto his fleshly lust, the ambitious man saith to his vainglory,
"My god art thou." See then how few may truly say these words, "I
have said to our Lord, my God art thou." For only he may truly
say it which is content with God alone; so that if there were offered
him all the kingdoms of the world and all the good that is in
earth and all the good that is in heaven, he would not once offend
God to have them all. In these words, then, "I have said to our
Lord, my God art thou," standeth all the state of a righteous man.
Quoniam bonorum meorum non eges,
"For thou hast no need of my goods." In these words he showeth
the cause why he saith only to our Lord, Deus meus es tu, "My God
art thou." The cause is for that only our Lord hath no need of
our goods. There is no creature but that it needeth other creatures,
and though they be of less perfection than itself, as
philosophers and divines prove, for if these more imperfect

creatures were not, the other that are more perfect could not be.
For if any part of the whole university of creatures were destroyed
and fallen to naught, all the whole were subverted. For certainly one
part of that university perishing, all parties perish, and all creatures
be parts of that university; of which university God is no
part, but he is the beginning, nothing thereupon depending. For
nothing truly won he by the creation of this world, nor nothing
should he lose if the world were annihilated and turned to
naught again. Then only God is he which hath no need of our
good. Well ought we certainly to be ashamed to take such thing
for God as hath need of us -- and such is every creature. Moreover,
we should not accept for God, that is to say, for the chief goodness,
but only that thing which is the most sovereign goodness of
all things -- and that is not the goodness of any creature. Only therefore
to our Lord ought we to say, "My God art thou."
Sanctis qui sunt in terra ejus mirificavit voluntates suas,
"To his saints that are in the land of him, he hath made marvelous
his wills." After God should we especially love them which
are nearest joined unto God, as be the holy angels and blessed
saints that are in their country of heaven. Therefore, after that he
had said to our Lord, "My God art thou," he addeth thereunto that
our Lord hath made marvelous his wills, that is to say, he hath
made marvelous his loves and his desires towards his saints that
are in the land of him, that is to wit, in the country of heaven, which
is called the land of God and the land of living people. And verily
if we inwardly consider how great is the felicity of that country
and how much is the misery of this world, how great is the goodness
and charity of those blessed citizens, we shall continually desire
to be hence, that we were there. These things and such other when
we remember, we should evermore take heed that our meditations

be not unfruitful, but that of every meditation we should always
purchase one virtue or other; as, for example, by this
meditation of the goodness of that heavenly country we should
win this virtue, that we should not only strongly suffer death and
patiently, when our time cometh, or if it were put unto us for
the faith of Christ, but also we should willingly and gladly long therefor,
desiring to be departed out of this vale of wretchedness that
we may reign in that heavenly country with God and his holy saints.
Multiplicate sunt infirmitates eorum, postea acceleraverunt,
"Their infirmities be multiplied, and after they hasted." These
words the Prophet speaketh of wicked men. By infirmities he
understandeth idols, and so it is in the Hebrew text. For as good
folk have but one God whom they worship, so evil folk have
many gods and idols, for they have many voluptuous pleasures,
many vain desires, many divers passions, which they serve. And
wherefore seek they many sundry pleasures? Certainly for because
they can find none that can set their heart at rest, and for that, as the
Prophet saith, wicked men walk about in a circuit or compass
whereof there is none end. Now after these words, "Their idols
be multiplied," it followeth, "after they hasted;" that is to say, after their
idols -- after their passions and beastly desires -- they run forth
headlong unadvisedly, without any consideration. And in this be
we taught that we should as speedily run to virtue as they run to
vice, and that we should with no less diligence serve our Lord God than
they serve their lord the devil. The just man considering the
estate of evil folk determineth firmly with himself -- as
we should also -- that utterly he will in no wise follow them; and
therefore he saith:
Non congregabo conventiculam eorum de sanguinibus nec
memor nominum,
"I shall not gather the congregation of them from the blood, nor

I shall not remember their names." He saith "from the blood" both
because idolaters were wont to gather the blood of their sacrifice
together and thereabout to do their ceremonies, and also for
that all the life of evil men forsake reason, which standeth all in
the soul, and follow sensuality, that standeth all in the blood.
The Prophet saith not only that he will not gather their congregation
together from the blood, that is to say, that he would do no
sacrifice to those idols, but also that he would not remember
their names, that is to say, that he would not talk nor speak of the
voluptuous delights which are evil peoples' gods, which we
might yet lawfully do: showing us by that that a perfect man should
abstain, not only from unlawful pleasures, but also from lawful,
to the end that he may altogether wholly have his mind into heavenward
and the more purely intend unto the contemplation of
heavenly things. And forasmuch as some man would peradventure
think that it were folly for a man utterly to deprive himself
from all pleasures, therefore the Prophet addeth,
Dominus pars hereditatis mee,
"Our Lord is the part of mine inheritance," as though he would
say "Marvel not though I forsake all thing to the intent that I
may have the possession of God, in whom all other things also be
possessed." This should be the voice of every good Christian man:
Dominus pars hereditatis mee, "God is the part of mine inheritance."
For certainly we Christian people, to whom God is
promised for an inheritance, ought to be ashamed to desire
anything besides him. But for that some man might haply repute
it for a great presumption that a man should promise himself
God for his inheritance, therefore the Prophet putteth thereto,

Tu es qui restitues hereditatem meam michi,
"Thou, good Lord, art he that shall restore mine inheritance
unto me," as though he would say, "O good Lord, my God, I know
well that I am nothing in respect of thee, I wot well I am unable to
ascend by mine own strength so high to have thee in possession,
but thou art he that shalt draw me to thee by thy grace, thou art
he that shalt give thyself in possession unto me." Let a righteous
man then consider how great a felicity it is to have God fall unto
him as his inheritance. It followeth in the psalm:
Funes ceciderunt michi in preclaris,
"The cords have fallen to me nobly." The parts and lots of
inheritances were of old time meted out and divided by cords
or ropes. These words, then, "the ropes or cords have fallen to me
nobly, " be as much to say, "as the part or lot of mine inheritance is
noble. " But forasmuch as there be many men which though they
be called to this great felicity -- as indeed all Christian people are -- yet
they set little thereby and oftentimes change it for a small
simple delight, therefore the Prophet saith suingly,
Hereditas mea preclara est michi,
"Mine inheritance is noble to me," as though he would say, "that
as it is noble in itself so it is noble to me, " that is to say, "I
repute it noble, and all other things in respect of it I repute,"
as Saint Paul saith, "for dung. " But forasmuch as to have
this light of understanding whereby a man may know this gift
that is given him of God to be the gift of God, therefor the
Prophet ensuingly saith,

Benedicam Dominum qui tribuit intellectum,
that is to say, "I shall bless our Lord, which hath given me
understanding." But insomuch as a man oftentimes intendeth
after reason to serve God, and, that notwithstanding, yet sensuality
and the flesh repugneth, then is a man perfect when that not his
soul only but also his flesh draw forth to Godward, after those
words of the Prophet in another psalm: Cor meum et caro mea
exultaverunt in Deum vivum, that is to say, "My mind and my flesh
both have joyed in the living God." And for this the Prophet saith here
Et usque ad noctem increpuerunt me renes mei,
"My reins (or kidney) hath chidden me unto the night," that is to
say, my reins, in which is wont to be the greatest inclination to
concupiscence, not only now inclineth me not to sin but also
chideth me, that is to say, withdraw me from sin unto the
night, that is to say, they so far forth withdraw me from sin
that willingly they afflict and pain my body. Affliction is in
scripture oftentimes signified by the night, because it is the
most discomfortable season. Then ensuingly the Prophet showeth
what is the root of this privation, or taking away of fleshly
concupiscence in man, saying,
Providebam Deum semper in conspectu meo,
"I provided God always before my sight." For if a man had God
always before his eyes as a ruler of all his works, and in all his works
should neither seek his own lucre, his glory, nor his own
pleasure, but only the pleasure of God, he should shortly be perfect.
And forasmuch as he that so doth prospereth in all things, therefore
it followeth,

Ipse a dextris est michi ne commovear,
"He is on my right hand that I be not moved or troubled." Then
the Prophet declareth how great is the felicity of a just man, which
shall be everlastingly blessed both in body and in soul; and therefore
he saith,
Letatum est cor meum,
"My soul is glad," knowing that after death heaven is made ready for
Et caro mea requiescet in spe,
"And my flesh shall rest in hope," that is to say, that though it joy
not by and by, as in receiving his glorious estate immediately after
the death, yet it resteth in the sepulchre with this hope, that it
shall arise in the Day of Judgment immortal and shining with
his soul. And also the Prophet more expressly declareth in the
verse following, for where he said thus, "My soul is glad," he addeth
the cause, saying,
Quoniam non derelinques animam in inferno,
"For thou shalt not leave my soul in hell." Also where the Prophet
said that his flesh should rest in hope, he showeth the cause,
Nec dabis sanctum tuum videre corruptionem,
"Nor thou shalt not suffer thy saint to see corruption," that is to
say, "Thou shaft not suffer the flesh of a good man to be corrupted. "
For that that was corruptible shall arise incorruptible. And forasmuch
as Christ was the first which entered paradise and opened the
life unto us, and was the first that rose again and the cause of
our resurrection, therefore these words that we have spoken of
the resurrection be principally understood of Christ, as
Saint Peter, the apostle, hath declared; and secondarily, they may be
understood of us, in that we be the members of Christ, which only
never saw corruption, for his holy body was in his sepulchre
nothing putrefied. Forasmuch, then, as the way of good living

bringeth us to perpetual life of soul and body, therefore the
Prophet saith,
Notas michi fecisti vias vite,
"Thou hast made the ways of life known unto me." And because
that all the felicity of that standeth in the clear beholding and
fruition of God, therefore it followeth,
Adimplebis me leticiis cum vultu tuo,
"Thou shalt fill me full of gladness with thy cheer." And for that our
felicity shall be everlasting, therefore he with,
Delectationes in dextra tua usque in finem,
"Delectation and joy shall be on thy right hand for ever;" he saith
"on thy right hand" because that our felicity is fulfilled in the vision
and fruition of the humanity of Christ, which sitteth in heaven on
the right hand of his Father's majesty, after the words of Saint
John: Hec est tota merces, ut videamus Deum, et quern misisti
Jesum Christum, "This is all our reward, that we may behold
God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent," to which reward he
bring us that sitteth there and prayeth for us. Amen.
Whoso to virtue esteemeth hard the way
Because we must have war continual
Against the world, the flesh, the devil, that aye
Enforce themself to make us bond and thrall,
Let him remember that choose what way he shall
Even after the world, yet must he need sustain
Sorrow, adversity, labor, grief, and pain.
The Second Rule.
Think in this wretched worldes busy woe
The battle more sharp and longer is iwis,

With more labor and less fruit also,
In which the end of labor labor is,
And when the world hath left us after this
Void of all virtue, the reward when we die
Is naught but fire and pain perpetually.
The Third Rule.
Consider well that folly it is and vain
To look for heaven with pleasure and delight.
Since Christ our Lord and sovereign captain
Ascended never but by manly fight
And bitter Passion, then were it no right
That any servant, ye will yourself record,
Should stand in better condition than his lord.
The Fourth Rule.
Think how that we not only should not grudge
But eke be glad and joyful of this fight
And long therefor, although we could not judge
How that thereby redound unto us might
Any profit, but only for delight
To be conformed and like in some behavior
To Jesu Christ our blessed Lord and Savior.
As often as thou dost war and strive,
By the resistance of any sinful motion,
Against any of thy sensual wittes five,
Cast in thy mind as oft with good devotion
How thou resemblest Christ, as with sour potion
If thou pain thy taste, remember therewithal
How Christ for thee tasted eisell and gall.

If thou withdraw thine handes and forbear
The ravin of anything, remember then
How his innocent handes nailed were.
If thou be tempt with pride, think how that when
He was in form of God, yet of a bondman
He took the shape and humbled himself for thee
To the most odious and vile death of a tree.
Consider when thou art moved to be wroth
He who that was God, and of all men the best,
Seeing himself scorned and scourged both,
And as a thief between two thieves threst
With all rebuke and sham; yet from his breast
Came never sign of wrath or of disdain,
But patiently endured all the pain.
Thus every snare and engine of the devil
If thou thiswise peruse them by and by
There can be none so cursed or so evil
But to some virtue thou mayst it apply.
For oft thou shalt, resisting valiantly
The fiendes might and subtle fiery dart,
Our Savior Christ resemble in some part.
The Fifth Rule.
Remember well that we in no wise must
Neither in the foresaid espiritual armor,
Nor any other remedy put our trust,
But only in the strength of our Savior,
For he it is by whose mighty power
The world was vanquished and his prince cast out
Which reigned before in all the earth about.
In him let us trust to overcome all evil,
In him let us put our hope and confidence

To subdue the flesh and master the devil,
To him be all honor and lowly reverence;
Oft should we require with all our diligence
With prayer, with tears, and lamentable plaints
The aid of his grace and his holy saints.
The Sixth Rule.
One sin vanquished, look thou not tarry,
But lie in await for another every hour,
For as a wood lion, the fiend, our adversary,
Runneth about seeking whom he may devour;
Wherefore continually upon thy tower,
Lest he thee unpurveyed and unready catch,
Thou must with the prophet stand and keep watch.
The Seventh Rule.
Enforce thyself not only for to stand
Unvanquished against the devil's might,
But over that take valiantly on hand
To vanquish him and put him unto flight;
And that is when of the same deed, thought or sight
By which he would have thee with sin contract,
Thou takest occasion of some good virtuous act.
Sometime he secretly casteth in thy mind
Some laudable deed to stir thee to pride,
As vainglory maketh many a man blind.
But let humility be thy sure guide,
Thy good work to God let it be applied,
Think it not thine but a gift of his
Of whose grace undoubtedly all goodness is.
The Eighth Rule.
In time of battle so put thyself in preace
As though thou shouldst after that victory

Enjoy for ever a perpetual peace,
For God of his goodness and liberal mercy
May grant the gift, and eke thy proud enemy,
Confounded and rebuked by thy battle,
Shall thee no more haply for very shame assail.
But when thou mayest once the triumph obtain
Prepare thyself and trim thee in thy gear
As thou shouldst incontinent fight again,
For if thou be ready the devil will thee fear,
Wherefore in any wise so even thou thee bear
That thou remember and have ever in memory
In victory battle, in battle victory.
The Ninth Rule.
If thou think thyself well fenced and sure
Against every subtle suggestion of vice,
Consider frail glass may no distress endure,
And great adventurers oft curse the dice;
Jeopard not too far therefore an ye be wise,
But evermore eschew the occasions of sin,
For he that loveth peril shall perish therein.
The Tenth Rule.
In all temptation withstand the beginning;
The cursed infants of wretched Babylon
To suffer them wax is a jeopardous thing;
Beat out their brains therefore at the stone,
Perilous is the canker that catcheth the bone,
Too late cometh the medicine if thou let the sore
By long continuance increase more and more.

The Eleventh Rule.
Though in the time of the battle and war
The conflict seem bitter, sharp and sour,
Yet consider it is more pleasure far
Over the devil to be a conqueror
Than is in the use of thy beastly pleasure;
Of virtue more joy the conscience hath within
Than outward the body of all his filthy sin,
In this point many men err for negligence,
For they compare not the joy of the victory
To the sensual pleasure of their concupiscence,
But like rude beasts unadvisedly
Lacking discretion they compare and apply
Of their foul sin the voluptuous delight
To the laborous travail of the conflict and fight.
And yet alas he that oft hath known
What grief it is by long experience
Of his cruel enemy to be overthrown,
Should once at the leastwise do his diligence
To prove and assay with manly defense
What pleasure there is, what honor, peace and rest
In glorious victory, triumph and conquest.
The Twelfth Rule.
Though thou be tempted, despair thee nothing,
Remember the glorious apostle Saint Paul
When he had seen God in his perfect being,
Lest such revelation should his heart extol,
His flesh was suffered rebel against the soul;
This did Almighty God of his goodness provide
To preserve his servant from the danger of pride.
And here take heed that he whom God did love
And for his most especial vessel chose,

Ravished into the third heaven above,
Yet stood in peril lest pride might him depose;
Well ought we then our heartes fence and close
Against vainglory, the mother of reprief,
The very crop and root of all mischief.
Against this pomp and wretched worldes gloss,
Consider how Christ the Lord, sovereign power,
Humbled himself for us unto the cross,
And peradventure death within one hour
Shall us bereave wealth, riches and honor
And bring us down full low both small and great
To vile carrion and wretched wormes meat.
The pleasure little and short. The fear of impenitent
The followers grief and departing
heaviness. Eternal joy, eternal pain.
The loss of a better thing. The nature and dignity of man.
This life a dream and a The peace of a good mind.
shadow. The great benefits of God.
The death at our hand and The painful cross of Christ.
unaware. The witness of martyrs and
example of saints.
The Twelve Weapons have we more at length Declared
as Followeth.
The Pleasure Little and Short.
Consider well the pleasure that thou hast,
Stand it in touching or in wanton sight,

In vain smell or in thy lickerous taste,
Or finally, in whatsoever delight
Occupied is thy wretched appetite;
Thou shalt it find, when thou hast all cast,
Little, simple, short and suddenly past.
The Followers' Grief and Heaviness.
Any good work if thou with labor do,
The labor goeth, the goodness doth remain;
If thou do evil with pleasure joined thereto,
The pleasure which thine evil work doth contain
Glideth his way, thou must him not restrain;
The evil then in thy breast cleaveth behind
With grudge of heart and heaviness of mind.
The Loss of a Better Thing.
When thou laborest thy pleasure for to buy,
Upon the price look thou thee well advise,
Thou sellest thy soul therefor even by and by
To thy most utter dispiteous enemies;
O mad merchant, O foolish merchandise,
To buy a trifle, O childish reckoning,
And pay therefore so dear a precious thing!
This Life a Dream and a Shadow.
This wretched life, the trust and confidence
Of whose continuance maketh us bold to sin,
Thou perceivest well by experience,
Since that hour in which it did begin,
It holdeth on the course and will not lin,
But fast it runneth on and passen shall
As doth a dream or shadow on the wall.

Death at our Hand and Unware.
Consider well that ever night and day,
While that we busily provide and care
For our disport, revel, mirth and play,
For pleasant melody and dainty fare,
Death stealeth on full slyly and unware;
He lieth at hand and shall us enterprise
We not how soon nor in what manner wise.
Fear of Impenitent Departing.
If thou shouldst God offend, think how therefore
Thou were forthwith in very jeopardous case,
For haply thou shouldst not live an hour more
Thy sin to cleanse, and though thou hadst space,
Yet peradventure shouldst thou lack the grace;
Well ought we then be feared to done offense
Impenitent lest we departen hence.
Eternal Reward, Eternal Pain.
Thou seest this world is but a thoroughfare,
See thou behave thee wisely with thine host;
Hence must thou needs depart naked and bare,
And after thy desert look to what coast
Thou art conveyed at such time as thy ghost
From this wretched carcass shall dissever;
Be it joy or pain, endure it shall for ever.
The Nature and Dignity of Man.
Remember how God hath made thee reasonable
Like unto his image and figure,

And for thee suffered pains intolerable
That he for angel never would endure.
Regard, O man, thine excellent nature;
Thou that with angel art made to been equal,
For very shame be not the devil's thrall.
The Peace of a Good Mind.
Why lovest thou so this brittle worldes joy?
Take all the mirth, take all the fantasies,
Take every game, take every wanton toy,
Take every sport that men can thee devise:
And among them all on warrantise
Thou shalt no pleasure comparable find
To th' inward gladness of a virtuous mind.
The Great Benefits of God.
Beside that God thee bought and formed both
Many a benefit hast thou received of his,
Though thou have moved him often to be wroth
Yet he thee kept hath and brought us up to this,
And daily calleth upon thee to his bliss;
How mayst thou then to him unloving be
That ever hath been so loving unto thee?
The Painful Cross of Christ.
When thou in flame of the temptation friest,
Think on the very lamentable pain,
Think on the piteous cross of woeful Christ,
Think on his blood beat out at every vein,
Think on his precious heart carved in twain,

Think how for thy redemption all was wrought;
Let him not lose that he so dear hath bought.
The Witness of Martyrs and Example of Saints.
Sin to withstand say not thou lackest might,
Such allegations folly it is to use;
The witness of saints, and martyrs' constant fight
Shall thee of slothful cowardice accuse;
God will thee help if thou do not refuse,
If other have stand or this thou mayst eftsoon,
Nothing impossible is that hath been done.
To love one alone and contemn all other for that one.
To think him unhappy that is not with his love.
To adorn himself for the pleasure of his love.
To suffer all thing, though it were death, to be with his love.
To desire also to suffer harm for his love, and to think that
hurt sweet.
To be with his love ever as he may, if not in deed, yet in thought.
To love all thing that pertaineth unto his love.
To covet the praise of his love, and not to suffer any dispraise.
To believe of his love all things excellent, and to desire that all
folk should think the same.
To weep often with his love, in presence for joy, in
absence for sorrow.
To languish ever, and ever to burn in the desire of his love.
To serve his love, nothing thinking of any reward or profit.

The Twelve Properties we have at length more openly
expressed in Ballad as it Followetb.
The first point is to love but one alone,
And for that one all other to forsake,
For whoso loveth many loveth none;
The flood that is in many channels take
In each of them shall feeble streames make,
The love that is divided among many
Uneath sufficeth that every part have any.
So thou that hast thy love set unto God
In thy remembrance this imprint and grave:
As he in sovereign dignity is odd,
So will he in love no parting fellows have;
Love him therefore with all that he thee gave,
For body, soul, wit, cunning, mind and thought,
Part will he none, but either all or naught.
The Second Property.
Of his love, lo, the sight and company
To the lover so glad and pleasant is,
That whoso hath the grace to come thereby
He judgeth him in perfect joy and bliss,
And whoso of that company doth miss,
Live he in never so prosperous estate,
He thinketh him wretched and infortunate.
So should the lover of God esteem that he
Which all the pleasure hath, mirth and disport,
That in this world is possible to be,
Yet till the time that he may once resort
Unto that blessed, joyful, heavenly port,

Where he of God may have the glorious sight,
Is void of perfect joy and sure delight.
The Third Property.
The third point of a perfect lover is
To make him fresh to see that all thing been
Appointed well and nothing set amiss
But all well fashioned, proper, goodly, clean,
That in his person, there be nothing seen
In speech, apparel, gesture, look or pace
That may offend or minish any grace.
So thou that wilt with God get into favor
Garnish thyself up in as goodly wise
As comely be, as honest in behavior,
As it is possible for thee to devise;
I mean not hereby that thou shouldst arise
And in the glass upon thy body prowl,
But with fair virtue to adorn thy soul.
The Fourth Property.
If love be strong, hot, mighty and fervent,
There may no trouble, grief, or sorrow fall,
But that the lover would be well content
All to endure and think it eke too small,
Though it were death, so he might therewithal
The joyful presence of that person get
On whom he hath his heart and love yset.
Thus should of God the lover be content
Any distress or sorrow to endure,
Rather than to be from God absent,
And glad to die, so that he may be sure
By his departing hence for to procure,

After this valley dark, the heavenly light,
And of his love the glorious blessed sight.
The Fifth Property.
Not only a lover content is in his heart
But coveteth eke and longeth to sustain
Some labor, incommodity, or smart,
Loss, adversity, trouble, grief, or pain,
And of his sorrow joyful is and fain,
And happy thinketh himself that he may take
Some misadventure for his lover's sake.
Thus shouldst thou, that lovest God also,
In thine heart wish, covet and be glad
For him to suffer trouble, pain and woe,
For whom if thou be never so woe bestead,
Yet thou ne shaft sustain, be not adread,
Half the dolor, grief and adversity
That he already suffered hath for thee.
The Sixth Property.
The perfect lover longeth for to be
In presence of his love both night and day,
And if it haply so befall that he
May not as he would, he will yet as he may
Ever be with his love, that is to say,
Where his heavy body nil be brought
He will be conversant in mind and thought.
Lo in like manner the lover of God should,
At the least in such wise as he may,
If he may not in such wise as he would,
Be present with God and conversant alway,
For certes, whoso list, he may purvey,
Though all the world would him therefrom bereaven
To bear his body in earth, his mind in heaven.

The Seventh Property.
There is no page or servant, most or least,
That doth upon his love attend and wait,
There is no little worm, no simple beast,
Ne none so small a trifle or conceit,
Lace, girdle, point, or proper glove strait,
But that if to his love it have been near,
The lover hath it precious, lief and dear.
So every relic, image or picture
That doth pertain to God's magnificence,
The lover of God should with all busy cure
Have it in love, honor and reverence
And specially give them preeminence
Which daily done his blessed body wurche,
The quick relics, the ministers of his church.
The Eighth Property.
A very lover above all earthly thing
Coveteth and longeth evermore to hear
The honor, laud, commendation and praising,
And everything that may the fame clare
Of his love; he may in no manner
Endure to hear that therefrom mighten vary
Or anything sound into the contrary.
The lover of God should covet in like wise
To hear his honor, worship, laud and praise,
Whose sovereign goodness none heart may comprise,
Whom hell, earth, and all the heaven obeys,
Whose perfect lover ought by no manner ways
To suffer the cursed words of blasphemy,
Or anything spoken of God unreverently.
The Ninth Property.
A very lover believeth in his mind
On whomsoever he hath his heart ybent,

That in that person men may nothing find
But honorable, worthy and excellent,
And eke surmounting far in his intent
All other that he hath known by sight or name,
And would that every man should think the same.
Of God likewise so wonderful and high,
All thing esteem and judge his lover ought,
So reverence, worship, honor and magnify,
That all the creatures in this world ywrought
In comparison should he set at naught,
And glad be if he might the mean devise
That all the world would thinken in like wise.
The Tenth Property.
The lover is of color dead and pale;
There will no sleep into his eyes stalk;
He savoreth neither meat, wine, nor ale;
He mindeth not what men about him talk;
But eat he, drink he, sit, lie down, or walk,
He burneth ever as it were with a fire
In the fervent heat of his desire.
Here should the lover of God ensample take
To have him continually in remembrance,
With him in prayer and meditation wake,
While other play, revel, sing, and dance:
None earthly joy, disport, or vain pleasance
Should him delight, or anything remove
His ardent mind from God, his heavenly love.
The Eleventh Property.
Diversely passioned is the lover's heart;
Now pleasant hope, now dread and grievous fear,

Now perfect bliss, now bitter sorrow smart;
And whether his love be with him, or elsewhere,
Oft from his eyes there falleth many a tear,
For very joy, when they together be,
When they be sundered, for adversity.
Like affections feeleth eke the breast
Of God's lover in prayer and meditation,
When that his love liketh in him rest
With inward gladness of pleasant contemplation,
Out break the tears for joy and delectation;
And when his love list eft to part him fro,
Out break the tears again for pain and woe.
The Twelfth Property.
A very lover will his love obey,
His joy it is and all his appetite
To pain himself in all that ever he may,
That person in whom he set hath his delight
Diligently to serve both day and night
For very love, without any regard
To any profit, guerdon or reward.
So thou likewise that hast thine heart yset
Upward to God, so well thyself endeavor,
So studiously that nothing may thee let
Not fro his service any wise dissever;
Freely look eke thou serve that thereto never
Trust of reward or profit do thee bind,
But only faithful heart and loving mind.
Wageless to serve, three things may us move:
First, if the service self be desirable,
Second, if they whom that we serve and love

Be very good and very amiable,
Thirdly, of reason be we serviceable
Without the gaping after any more
To such as have done much for us before.
Serve God for love, then, not for hope of meed;
What service may so desirable be
As where all turneth to thine own speed?
Who is so good, so lovely eke as he
Who hath already done so much for thee,
As he that first thee made, and on the rood
Eft thee redeemed with his precious blood?
O holy God of dreadful majesty,
Verily one in three and three in one,
Whom angels serve, whose work all creatures be,
Which heaven and earth directest all alone,
We thee beseech, good Lord, with woeful moan,
Spare us wretches and wash away our guilt
That we be not by thy just anger spilt.
In strait balance of rigorous judgment,
If thou shouldst our sin ponder and weigh,
Who able were to bear thy punishment?
The whole engine of all this world, I say,
The engine that enduren shall for aye,
With such examination might not stand
Space of a moment in thine angry hand.

Who is not born in sin original?
Who doth not actual sin in sundry wise?
But thou, good Lord, art he that sparest all,
With piteous mercy tempering justice;
For as thou dost rewardes us devise
Above our merit, so dost thou dispense
Thy punishment far under our offense.
More is thy mercy far than all our sin;
To give them also that unworthy be
More godly is, and more mercy therein.
Howbeit, worthy enough are they, pardie,
Be they never so unworthy, whom that he
List to accept, which wheresoever he taketh
Whom he unworthy findeth worthy maketh.
Wherefore, good Lord, that aye merciful art,
Unto thy grace and sovereign dignity
We silly wretches cry with humble heart;
Our sins forget and our malignity,
With piteous eyes of thy benignity
Friendly look on us once, thine own, we be,
Servants or sinners whether it liketh thee.
Sinners, if thou our crime behold, certain,
Our crime the work of our uncourteous mind,
But if thy gifts thou behold again,
Thy gifts noble, wonderful and kind,
Thou shalt us then the same persons find
Which are to thee, and have be long space
Servants by nature, children by thy grace.

But this thy goodness, wringeth us, alas,
For we whom grace had made thy children dear
Are made thy guilty folk by our trespass;
Sin hath us guilty made this many a year.
But let thy grace, thy grace that hath no peer,
Of our offense surmounten all the preace,
That in our sin thine honor may increase.
For though thy wisdom, though thy sovereign power,
May otherwise appear sufficiently
As thinges which thy creatures every hour
All with one voice declare and testify,
Thy goodness yet, thy singular mercy,
Thy piteous heart, thy gracious indulgence
Nothing so clearly showeth as our offense.
What but our sin hath showed that mighty love
Which able was thy dreadful majesty
To draw down into earth from heaven above
And crucify God, that we, poor wretches we,
Should from our filthy sin ycleansed be
With blood and water of thine own side,
That streamed from thy blessed woundes wide?
Thy love and pity, thus, O heavenly King,
Our evil maketh matter of thy goodness,
O love, O pity, our wealth aye providing,
O goodness serving thy servants in distress,
O love, O pity, well nigh now thankless,
O goodness, mighty, gracious and wise,
And yet almost vanquished with our vice.
Grant, I thee pray, such heat into mine heart
That to this love of thine may be equal;
Grant me from Satan's service to astart,

With whom me rueth so long to have be thrall;
Grant me, good Lord and Creator of all,
The flame to quench of all sinful desire
And in thy love set all mine heart afire,
That when the journey of this deadly life
My silly ghost hath finished, and thence
Departen must without his fleshly wife,
Alone into his Lordes high presence,
He may thee find, O well of indulgence,
In thy lordship not as a lord, but rather
As a very tender loving father.
Imprinted at London by John Rastell
dwelling at the Fleet Bridge at the Abbot
of Winchcombe, his place.

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