By Hartmann von Aue
Translated by Robert Levine
My heart has often made my tongue flexible, so that it spoke much that gained the approval of the world. My heart followed the dictates of my young and foolish years, but now I know one thing for certain: the man who is led astray by the devil's vassals and who sins in his youth is wrong to think: "You are still young ‑all your trespasses can be atoned for later; you can repent when you grow older." The chance for repentance can easily be lost, should his plan be upset by fate; then bitter death may put a swift end to his intentions and to his life. An exile from grace, he has made a poor choice. Had he been born Adam's son, with Abel, and had his soul remained spotless until Judgment Day, even so he would not have paid too dear a price for eternal life, which has neither beginning nor end. Now that I know this I should like to make the truth known, to perform the will of God, and also to lighten somewhat the heavy burden of my sins, which I have brought upon myself through the vanity of words. Of this I have no doubt: as God demonstrated to us through the example of one man, in this world no man's sin is so great that he cannot be freed from it entirely if only he repents in his heart, and never again commits that sin.
Of such a man I shall now tell you: his guilt was so great, that merely to hear of it is painful, but for one reason one must not keep silent about it: sinners whom the devil has led astray should know from this story that, if they have any wish at all to increase God's flock and to return to the path of blessedness, they should abandon doubt, which destroys so many. But he who ponders his deadly sins, and gives up hope that God will have mercy on him, who does not believe that he can be saved, goes against the Law. His true behavior towards God should be to pray and to repent. But the bitter sweetness leads his feet astray onto the easy path, which has no rocks or difficult ascents, neither moors, mountains, or forests, and which is neither too hot nor too cold. One travels easily there, it leads to eternal death. But the path of blessedness is both difficult and narrow. One must travel its entire length, climbing, wading, swimming, until he manages to leave behind this alien land and reaches his sweet goal.
This same path one man was fortunate enough to find; he escaped in time from the clutches of the murderer. They beat him down, tore at his mind, and inflicted terrible wounds. The desolation of his soul was great. They left him lying scarcely conscious, half dead. God, however, had not laid aside his customary mildness, and he sent the man these two garments: hope and fear; God granted them as a protection for him and for all sinners; fear of death, and hope of eternal life. Fear prevented him from lying down, but he would have been lost, had not hope made it easier for him to sit up, although somewhat shakily. In addition he was strengthened by faith and repentance. They helped cleanse him of blood, pouring oil and wine into his wounds. The balm is both comfort and trouble. The oil is grace, the wine is the Law; a sinner needs them to cure his illness. God's grace thus found him and took him by the hand, raised him on his mild shoulders and took him mercifully home. His mortal wounds were bound, he was whole again, and afterwards he became a mighty champion of Christendom.
I still haven't told you what the wounds were from which he so narrowly escaped, and how he received the wounds, and how he escaped eternal death. These details will be listened to with interest by all those who labor under a mountain of guilt: God will glad receive those who seek his protection. His mercy is so great that he will not abandon even the worst sinner. There is no sin of which a man cannot cleanse himself completely, with the exception of despair; that is a mortal affliction, which brings eternal destruction; then no man can soften fate, or repent.
He who wrote this story, putting it into German, was Hartmann von Aue. Here now the marvelous story of the holy sinner begins.
There is a part of France called Aquitaine, which lies not far from the sea. The lord of that land had been presented by his wife with two extraordinarily beautiful children, a son and a little daughter. But their mother died shortly after she gave them life, and when the children were ten years old, death took î their father too. When the king understood that he was about to die, he behaved as wise men do, sending immediately for the best, most trusted men in his land, to put the care of his soul and of his children into their hands.
When his kinsmen and liegemen had assembled before him, he looked at his children. They were both so extremely beautiful that even the hardest‑hearted woman would have had to smile with pleasure to look at them, The king's heart was filled with anguish; his suffering was so great that a stream of tears fell from his eyes onto the bedclothes. He said: "Nothing can be done, we must now part. I might have lived in great joy with the two of you, until old age came upon me. Such a hope is now destroyed, for death has me in his grip." Then he shook the hands of the leading men of his country, who had come there for his sake. Among these noblemen there was great lamentation and weeping; they behaved the way true courtiers should when lamenting their dear master.
When he saw the children crying, he said to his son: "Why are you crying, my son? My land and great repute are now yours. But I fear very much for your sister. My regret comes too late, but ít is especially grievous to me that all my life I have not taken better care of you: I did not behave like a proper father." He took them both by the hand and said: "Son, see to it that you keep in mind your father's last instructions. Be true, firm:, merciful, modest, bold, and good. Behave decorously ‑‑ display strength before the mighty, be generous to the poor. Treat your own people honorably; win strangers over to you. Associate with wise men; avoid the foolish. Above all, love God, and rule lawfully. I place in your hands the care of my soul, and this child, your sister. Take good care of her, be a good brother, and things will go well for you both. May God in his pity for me look after you two." Speech and the beating of his heart were taken from him then,) and the companionship of his soul and body was severed. Men and women lamented him, and he was buried as befits the ruler of a land.
Now that the two noble children had lost both parents, the young prince tried to take care of his sister as best he could, according to his solemn promise. He spared neither effort nor expense to please her, and he never gave her cause to blame him. His solicitude was such that he never denied her whatever clothes or finery she might want. In all things they felt themselves bound closely together. Seldom apart, they always remained happily at each other's side. They were inseparable at the table, and everywhere else. Their beds stood close enough together that they might see each other. It cannot be denied that he looked after his dear sister as a true brother should, and the love she felt for him was even firmer. They were very happy.
When the devil, who lies bound in hell because of his pride and envy, saw their happiness, he became annoyed. Their bliss seemed too great, and he behaved in his usual manner: when anything good happens to men, the devil always becomes enraged, and he does not refrain from spoiling it. Therefore he made efforts to rob them of their joy and honor, to turn their happiness to sorrow. He urged the young prince to press his love for his sister too far, until his proper feelings became perverted ones. The first thing that led his mind astray was love, the second was his sister's beauty, the third was the arrogance of the devil, the fourth was his immature mind, which fought against him on the devil's side, until he was brought (to the point of sleeping with his own sister. Alas: oh God, how the trickery of the hell‑hound deceives us: Why does God allow the devil to perpetrate so many tricks against the work of his own hands, creatures fashioned after his own image?
When the young man began, at the behest of the devil, to think of performing the terrible sin, night and day he kept up the loving behavior towards his sister that had previously been his custom. But the simple child was blind to his desire; in her simplicity and innocence she did not know what she had to protect herself against, and she let him do what he would. The devil never let him go until his purpose was accomplished. He waited until one night when the maiden lay asleep in her bed; her brother, however, was not asleep. Foolishly
he stood up and slipped over to her bed; he removed the covers so carefully that she was unaware of his presence until he had entered the bed and taken her in his arms. Alas: what did he want there? He would have done better to have remained alone in his own bed. They both lay there unclothed, with only the blanket as
covering. When she awoke, she found herself in his embrace, her mouth and her cheek lying devilishly close to him. Then he began to fondle her, with more, persistence than he had shown in public. Now she understood that his caresses were in earnest, and she said: "What is this, my brother, what are you doing? Don't let the devil win over your mind. Why are you struggling with me?" She thought to herself: "If I keep still, then the devil will have his way, and I shall become my brother’s bride. If I cry out, then we shall have lost our honor forever." This thought kept her from crying out while her brother struggled with her; he was too strong and she too weak, and he heedlessly brought the game to an end. Their closeness was now too great. Then everything was still. That same night she became pregnant.
Now, inflamed with the devilish temptation, they began to take pleasure in their sin. They could hide their crime until the sister felt, as women often can, that she was pregnant. Then her joy became grief, and she could not hide her feelings, she looked so distraught. Their great intimacy created their great plight; had they kept out of each other's way, they would have spared each other such grief. Let every man be warned by this example not to be too intimate with his sister or with his kin: it leads to shameful deeds that everyone should despise.
When the young man saw the sudden change in his sister, he took her aside and said: "Dearest sister, tell me, you look so tormented, what is troubling you? I've noticed that you look very sad, and very unlike your usual self." Now she sighed from the depths of her heart; her face showed grief and woe. She said: "You are right, I am miserable, my brother, I am dead, body and soul. Ah, poor woman that I am, why was I born? For you I have abandoned God and mankind. The crime that we have kept hidden from the world until now can no longer be hidden. I would keep myself from saying anything, but the child I carry will make the truth known." Now the brother helped his sister to mourn; his lamentation exceeded hers.
In this unfortunate case Lady Love behaved with her customary wretchedness; she always sees to it that pain follows passion. They too found their honey mixed with gall. The young man began to weep, laying his head in his hands like one heavy with grief. His honor was in the balance, but his sister's suffering grieved him even more than his own troubles. She looked at her brother and said: "Behave like a man. Stop crying like a woman, that won't relieve our sorrow. Let's find some way out; although we can have God's grace no longer, because of our sin, at least our child should not be lost (thus the devil will not get all three of us). We have often been told that a child should not bear the sins of his father. No, the child should not lose the grace of God because we have fallen into hell; it bears no guilt for our evil deed."
Now his spirits began to rise; he sat thoughtfully and quietly for a while, then he said: "Sister, listen, I have a plan to help us hide our shame. I have in my hand a very experienced man who can give us good counsel. My father on his deathbed recommended him to me, for he was also his counselor. We'll ask his help ‑‑ I'm sure of his trustworthiness ‑‑ and we'll follow his advice: then our honor will be preserved.
The woman took cheer from the plan, as far as she was able to in her unhappy situation; she could never again know total happiness. What would previously, in her sinless state, have saddened her, now gladdened her: at least she would no longer need to weep. Pleased by the plan, she said: "Send now for the man who is to advise us, brother, for my time is approaching."
He was sent for quickly, and the messenger swiftly brought him back. He was received graciously, and led into a room where they might be alone, to ask his advice. The young man said: "I have not called you to court for trivial reasons; I know of no man living in this land in whom I can place more trust. Since God has graciously made you trustworthy and wise, let us benefit from His gift. We want to reveal to you a secret which threatens our honor. May your advice, with the help of God, free us from this danger." Then they both threw themselves at his feet. The old man said: "Sir, this greeting would be excessive even if I were your peer. Please stand up sir, and let me hear your bidding, which I shall never neglect. Tell me your purpose in calling me here, and what it is that is disturbing you. You are my hereditary lord; do not doubt that I will give you the best advice I can."
Now they told him what had happened. Immediately he joined them in weeping for their grief; he was extremely sympathetic to them both, and he consoled them
as one should console a friend who suffers fatal misfortune.
The young man said to his councilor: "Sir, we very much need a plan by means of which my sister can give birth to the child in secret. Perhaps I should leave the country until the child is born, so that our shame may more surely be hidden."
The wise man said: "My advice is this: you should call to your court all the powerful men in your country both the young and the old, those who were your father's councilors. Tell them that for the glory of God you are going to seek the Holy Sepulcher. Then make us swear allegiance to the lady (no one will refuse), and give control over the country to her while you are away. In this way you will atone for your sins as God urges you to do; since your body sinned, your body should do penance. Should death overtake you, the oath of allegiance to your sister will prove to have been a wise precaution. Rely on my influence with the other nobles; since I am the oldest and most respected among them, they will follow my example, I shall take your sister home with me, and I shall take all the necessary precautions that she may give birth to the child without anyone knowing. May God see to it that you cone back home safely, sir; I place all my trust in Him for your return. Begin your journey now and you will have God's blessing. But I do not advise your sister to withdraw from the world, giving up the kingdom. She can better atone for her sins by remaining here as ruler of the land. She can help the poor with goods and with compassion, if she remains on the throne. If she has no worldly goods, she can only have good intentions. How can her good intentions, without wealth, help anybody? What good is good will without wealth, or wealth without good will? Good will can do something without wealth, but together they are more effective. Therefore it seems to me best that she have both wealth and good (and will, so that she may fulfill her good intentions by means of that wealth. Thus she may satisfy God with her good will, her body, and her wealth. I advise you to do the same." This advice seemed good to them both, and they carried it out immediately.
The vassals were sent for: when they had arrived and heard their lord's request, they complied with it. The young prince entrusted his sister to the old man, and prepared to depart. He shared with his sister the goods he had inherited from his father; then, with sorrowful hearts, they parted. Had they not feared God, they would rather have endured the scorn of the world than have parted from each other. Their great grief was apparent; I hope ,I never experience pain equal to that felt by those lovers when they had to part from each other. Happiness was as far from them as fire is from ice. To separate was the last thing they wanted to do; his heart remained with her, and hers with him. Necessity demanded their painful separation; they would never see each other again.
Then the wise man brought the girl to his house, where she was very well treated. His wife was a woman completely given in thought and in deed, to performing God's will. No woman could have led a better life. With true womanly excellence, she helped to conceal her mistress' misfortune' and to arrange the birth so that no one was aware of it. The woman bore a song the holy sinner, with whose entire life this story is concerned. He was a marvelous child. At his birth only the two women were present. The lady's husband was called, and when he looked at the child, he agreed with the women that such an extraordinary child had never before come into the world.
Now they considered among themselves how they could conceal the child. They said that it would be a shame to lose such a beautiful child; on the other hand it had been born in sin so great that they could not know what plan to adopt, unless God made it clear to them. They put the decision into God's hands, that he might keep them free from all wrong‑doing. They took the proper path in finding a solution, for whoever leaves things in the hands of God will never do any wrong.
They decided that it would be best to set the child afloat in the sea, and they did not delay. The wise man secretly put together a sturdy little casket, the best that could be made for the purpose. The little child was laid in it, while many tears flowed; they wrapped him in the finest silks. They also put twenty gold marks, as I understand, in the little boat with him, to provide for his upbringing, if God allowed him to reach land.
A tablet of magic bone, adorned with gold and precious stones (according to what I have read), and finer than any I have ever had, was brought to the child's mother. On it she wrote as fully as she could the child's parentage, for she hoped that God might bring him to a Christian land. She wrote the following: "The child is of noble birth; she who gave him birth was his aunt, his father was his uncle; to conceal this crime, he was cast adrift on the sea.°' She wrote more: "The child should be baptized and this money should be used for his upbringing. If the man who finds him is a Christian, he should see to it that the money increases (by investing it), and he should teach him to read and write, and he should preserve the tablet so that when the child becomes a man he can himself read in it his whole history. Then he will not suffer from the sin of pride, and he will become so good that his whole mind will be turned to God. Then his goodness will atone for his father's sins, and he will also think of the woman who brought him into the world: both his father and his mother needed this to escape eternal death. But she named neither his country nor his people, neither his race nor his homeland; It was good to hide that from him.
When the message was finished, the tablet was placed next to the child in the casket. Then it was shut up with such care that no harm could come to the child for two or three days on his journey over the sea either from rain wind, or from the turbulence of the waves. They carried the baby down to the sea one night, since they had no need of daylight. Finding a stout, empty ship, they tearfully placed the little sea‑farer in it. Then sweet Christ, in his exceeding goodness, sent as good a wind as could be wished for. As soon as he was placed in the boat, the child floated away.
You know very well that a man who has never experienced either true joy or deep grief does not have the ability to describe these states of mind as well as the man who is thoroughly conversant with them. I am a stranger to both, having always followed a middle course; I have experienced neither joy nor pain. Therefore I cannot reveal the suffering of the woman as well as I should be able to do, painting it with vivid details; the burden of her grief would have taxed the strength of a thousand hearts.
The sufferings that this one woman bore were three‑fold, each one of which would have been enough for the hearts of many women. The first grief was that which she bore for the sin of having lain with her brother. The second was the weariness resulting from giving birth to the child. The third' however, was the fear created in her by anxiety about her dear child, whom she had sent forth on the wild, wind‑driven sea; she did not know what had happened to him, whether he had survived or lay dead. She had been born for a severe fate, for these three griefs were not all. A few days later she experienced the worst unhappiness of her life, when the terrible news that her brother was dead came to her. He had died of grief.
At the time that he was separated from his sister, as the wise man advised, the brother became sick, overcome by the bonds of love, and he had to break off the journey he had undertaken to please God. His longing for his sister increased to the point that he was inconsolable, and his body withered. It is often said that women love more truly than men; it is not true, however, as this example shows. He had fewer misfortunes to endure than she, but one grief alone, the pain he felt at the loss of his love, was enough to kill him. She had four times the number of misfortunes, but she remained alive. Terrible longing seized him, and he died of a broken heart.
After she received news of her brother's death it was three days before she could go to church. Bitterly weeping, she came forth and buried her brother and her husband. Since she was the ruler of the land, and the news spread to all the surrounding countries, many powerful lords from near and far asked for her hand in marriage. Her birth, appearance, possessions, youth, beauty, accomplishments, modesty, and virtuous mind made her worthy of a noble husband. But all the suitors were refused. She had given her love to a great hero, the dearest man to whom the name of man had ever been given.'. For him she adorned her body as a woman who loves truly should do for an excellent man whom it pleases her to please. Although it is not customary for a woman to woo a man, she wooed him continually with her heart and with her mouth: the man she wooed was dear God. Since the time that the devil's connivance had robbed her of the grace of God, she had been so frightened that she had renounced all joy and all comfort for the sake of His grace. Night and day she prayed and fasted, refrained from sleeping, gave alms, punishing herself until her body's health was in danger. She underwent true repentance, which frees one from all sins.
Not far from her a noble, powerful lord lived, equal in rank to her, who wanted her to marry him. After he had gone through the proper courting procedures, by sending messages and making promises, and she had refused him, he thought he might win her by another plan: with fighting and threats he attacked her and laid waste her land. He won all her finest cities and strongholds, and pressed her so hard that at length only the capital city remained in her hands. Continually under siege, it would have also been lost, had not gracious God through his mercy prevented that from happening.
Now let us leave this part of the story, and tell what happened to the lady's child, whom the wild winds carried where God willed, towards life or towards death. Our gracious Lord God granted him protection, even as he mercifully protected Jonah, lodged in the belly of a whale for three days and three nights. He suckled the child until it safely reached land.
After two nights and one day the child was washed up on an island, according to the will of God. In that place there was a monastery, ruled by a holy abbot. By his order two fishermen were out fishing very early that morning. The wind was roaring so, that they could catch nothing. They turned back to shore, and on the return trip they came upon the child's boat floating on the dangerous waters. They wondered greatly how the boat had gotten so far without a crew. They came close enough to see the little casket lying inside. They took it out of the boat, into their own, and let the other boat float free.
The storm was so violent that they became very worried. They did not have the opportunity to look into the casket, but they thought that they might more comfortably look at what they had found once they were back on land. They threw back their cloaks and rowed for land. The abbot happened to be taking a solitary walk on the beach and he looked to see what luck the fisherman had had. They seemed to him to be returning too early. He said: "How did it go? Did you catch anything?" "Dear sir, we went too far out on the wild sea. We barely escaped with our lives:" He replied: "Let the fish bé'! Thank God that you have come back safely." The abbot then asked them to tell him what that little casket, covered with their cloaks, was. His question troubled them, and they asked why a great man would bother about the affairs of poor people; they became very uncomfortable. The abbot reached forward with his staff, removed the clothing, and saw the little casket. He said: "Where did you get that?" Now they thought of many evasions with which to deceive the abbot and to withhold their find from him, and they would have succeeded had God in his love not made him aware. As the abbot left off his questioning, and turned to go back to the monastery, the child cried very loudly, and thus made known his presence to the holy man. The good man said: "there is a child within the casket, tell me, for the love of God, where did you get it? How did it cone into your hands? By God, you'd better let me know." After a moment's reflection, they told him what I have already told you, how they found him on the sea. He ordered them to lift the child from the sand, and to loosen his wrappings. Then he saw lying there an extraordinary gift, a child more beautiful, his heart told him, than any he had ever seen.
The exiled orphan, since he had no knowledge of danger or fear, smiled beautifully at the abbot. When he read the tablet which told of the child's birth, and which asked that the child be baptized and brought up with the money that accompanied him, he kept its contents quiet. Bowing down before God, he raised his hands and face to heaven, and praised God for his discovery and for the health of the child.
They found the child wrapped in fine Alexandrian silk. only these three knew the secret, it was to spread no further. The fishermen, according to the story, were brothers, and they both had to swear to the abbot that they would never repeat the story.
The brothers were of unequal fortune, one was poor and the other powerful. The poor one lived close to the monastery, the other about a mile away. The poor one had many children, the rich one had only one daughter, and she was married.
The abbot came to an agreement with both brothers; the poor one was to take care of the child and bring it up near the monastery. If anyone should ask where the child was from, he was to lie, and say that his brother's daughter had given it to him (he couldn't think of a better ruse). Now, until mealtime and the mass were over, they were to look after the child; then they were to ask the abbot if he would be so kind as to baptize the child himself, and thereby to earn God's grace and favor. The plan was a good one.
Now the abbot took the child's belongings, the money and the silk cloth, and gave the poor brother, who was to take care of the child, two marks, with which he was to provide for the child's rearing. To the other brother he gave one mark, as payment to keep the secret. The rest of the money the holy man looked after himself: he protected it for the child very well, investing it and thereby increasing it considerably.
The poor fisherman did not delay; he did exactly as the abbot told him. At noon he took the child in his arms, and, together with his wife, as is the custom among peasants, he went to the monastery. When he saw the abbot and his brother together, he said: "Sir, my brother's daughter and her husband, who are devoted to you, send you this child. It ís their firm belief that he will achieve a blessed life, if you yourself baptize him, and if you are so good as to give him your name.°" The request amused the monks; they said: "Ah, by God, see how well this peasant knows how to recite a little speech." The abbot, however, was pleased with the speech, as a humble man should be. When he looked upon the child, he said: "It is a very beautiful child: since you are of God's house, we should certainly not deny your request." He told them to bring the child to the baptismal fount, where he picked him up and called him after his own name: Gregorius.
When the child had been baptized, the abbot said: "since I now have become his spiritual father, I shall always treat this beautiful little child like my own son, as I hope to be saved." Then he bid the fisherman take loving care of the child, saying: "Take good care of him for me, and I will reward you for it." His two marks were a great help in obtaining good treatment for the child. The abbot let few days go by without observing himself how the child was being treated.
After the fisherman and his wife had carefully looked after the child for six years, the abbot himself took charge of the boy and brought him into the monastery. He dressed him according to the custom of the place, and saw to it that he was taught to read and write. How eagerly he took up studies conducive to spiritual worthiness and excellence: How eagerly he did his master's will, without being beaten, merely by being asked. The blessed child was not slow to ask questions about everything that is worthwhile knowing.
He caught up so quickly with children who had begun three years before he, that the teacher himself swore that he had never seen such a wise and worthy child. Although in years a child, in understanding he was a man. By the time he was eleven years old, the child Gregorius was better than any Latínist anywhere. In the following three years his mental abilities grew so that he mastered divinity, the study of the wisdom of God. Whatever was brought to his attention that was healthy for the body and the soul, he fastened on. Then he studied law, and the child became extremely skillful in legal matters. He would have learned even more had he not been prevented in a way I shall now tell you about.
The fisherman suffered greatly from poverty; his tillage was the sea, and its yield was not often great. He had only his catch of fish to prevent himself and his children from starving, before he found Gregorius. But his life became easier as soon as he had been given the two golden marks: his livelihood and his comfort increased considerably. However,, his foolish wife gave him no peace with her continual questioning. Day and night she tried all her tricks, trying to find out where the money came from. She swore him many an oath before she finally found out from him where he got the gold. When she found out that no one knew who Gregorius was, she said no more. In fact she kept the secret until he was fifteen years old.
Lady Happiness had been very kind in every way to the boy; he was handsome strong, faithful, trustworthy, and patient. He had a strong character and knew how to behave at court. He had a gentle, friendly manner, not a scornful one. He won new friends every day, and never lost one. He knew how to bear joy and sorrow properly. He was eager to learn, and generous with his possessions. He was bold when he should be bold, and discreet when discretion was called for, and as unassuming as a child, though his wisdom was that of a man. He never went back on his word, and he never did anything without careful consideration, following the dictates of his reason. He never had need to be ashamed of anything he did. He sought God's grace and wisdom in everything he did, and he obeyed His commandments. God granted him the highest physical and spiritual accomplishments. Gregorius lacked nothing that would bring a man praise in this world; he had been made into a splendid human being. Everyone who saw him said that no fisherman's child had ever been born so blessed by fortune; they thought it too bad that his birth did not equal his gifts, and they frequently used to say that had Gregorius been of noble birth, he would have ruled a mighty land.
One day while young Gregorius was with his playmates, a strange thing happened. Unintentionally he caused the fisherman's child to cry, something he had never done before. The boy ran crying from him. When his mother heard her child approaching in tears, she ran to meet him. She was very frightened, and cried
out: "Ah, why are you crying so?" "Gregorius hit me." "Why did he hit you?" "Mother, I don't know." "Tell me, did you do anything to him?" "Mother, God knows I didn't." "Where is he now?" "There by the sea." She said: "Ah, poor me: This conceited fool: Have I brought him up so that he can beat my child before our very eyes? It is not right for our family that I should endure an insult from someone who has no family at all. That you should be beaten by a vagabond troubles me deeply. If one did not have to overlook such behavior for the love of God, one could not endure ít very long. No one even knows who he is. Woe is me, what was in his mind? The devil brought him here to plague my soul. Now I know what this poor foundling has in mind. Why didn't he take care to keep his shame a secret? He would have been better off. Damn the fish for not eating him when he was tossed about on the sea. Luckily for him, he came into the hands of the abbot. Had the charitable abbot not taken him from your father, then God knows the child would be far more humble with us. He would be driving the oxen and the pigs. When your father found him on the cold sea, he was foolish to let him fall into the hands of the abbot, instead of using the child for his own profit, as was his perfect right, by making him his own servant.
Gregorius, when he had struck the child, was very sorry, and ran after him to the house. He ran quickly, because he feared that the child would turn his foster mother against him. Now he heard her shouting within the house, and he remained outside in the street, until he had heard her accusations, and until it was revealed to him that he was a stranger in the land, as she repeated several times. His joy was buried in new sorrow. Whether these revelations were true or false troubled him greatly, and he ran immediately to the cloister, where he found the abbot. Gregorius took the good man apart from the others, and said: "Dear sir, I cannot thank you enough with words, as I should like to do. Until the end of my life I shall pray to him who lets no good deed go unrewarded that he reward you with the crown of heaven. Such a prayer is proper for me, for you honored me, a foundling from some other country, above all your household, Unfortunately, I have been deceived, and am not what I thought myself to be. Therefore, in God's name, dear father,, let me depart. I must and shall seek difficulties, as is proper for an exiled child. My foster‑mother revealed to me, in a fit of anger, that I am a foundling. If I had always to hear this reproach, it would take my body and soul from me. I shall never again hear it, for I do not expect to stay here any longer. I'm going to find a land where no one knows my past. I have knowledge and ability, and will get along well, if God wills. I fear shame so, that I should prefer complete isolation to remaining here any longer: shame drives me forward. Women are so talkative that whatever is told to one will be told to three or four, and then to everyone in this land.°' The abbot said: "Dear child, listen, I shall advise you as my own beloved child whom I raised from an infant. God has been good to you, and has lovingly bestowed upon you physical and spiritual gifts, so that you may turn your life to either shameful or honorable purposes. Now you yourself must choose in this struggle between two choices: either to save your soul or to lose it. Choose now. My son, be true to yourself, and follow my teachings (thus will you choose noble instead of shameful behavior); don't hurry into anything that you might later regret. You are a fortunate young man, blessed with many gifts, and you have made a good beginning; people in this land think highly of you. Listen to me, my child, Do not abandon your pious ways. You are learned: I am old and will soon be laid to rest. I have arranged for the members of our monastery to choose you abbot after my death. Now, why should the babble of a foolish woman bother you? I doubt that such words will ever pass her lips again.
Gregorius said: "Sir, your behavior toward me has been truly Christian; you have insured your salvation by the good example you have set for me. But my youthful spirits are now so upset, that I cannot follow it. Three things drive me sorrowfully from this land. The first is the shame which I feel at the woman's reproach. This is the second thing that drives me forth: I now know that I am not the fisherman's child. What if my family is of such rank that I should become a knight, had I the will and the means? God knows I have always wanted to become a knight, if I only had been a man of means and of noble birth. Sweet honey is bitter for the man who does not know how to enjoy it. You have lived the sweetest life that God grants in this world to a man : whoever has chosen that life properly for himself is born blessed. I would perhaps remain here forever, if I had the will to, but unfortunately I do not. My thoughts turn to knighthood."
"My son, your words are hard; for God's sake change your mind. Whoever alienates himself from God and turns to knighthood may lose his body and his soul, because of the many transgressions possible in a worldly life. Everyone, man or woman, who turns from God, will transgress and be delivered in bondage to hell. My son, I chose you for one of God's children; if I find that you are one of them, I shall be happy forever." Gregorius answered: "Knighthood is the life, properly pursued, can best lead to salvation. A knight can fight for God better than a monk without vocation." "My son, I am now troubled for you do not understand what knighthood is. When they see how clumsily you ride, you will have to suffer the taunts of other knights. Dear son, for God's sake, do not leave." "Sir, I am a young man, and can learn what I do not know. Whatever I put my mind to, I learn very quickly." "Son, many‑knights" have spoken to me: whoever has been at school until his twelfth birthday, without ever having ridden a horse, will always ride like a monk. You are well suited to become a child of God, and to be a member of the choir: the cowl suits no man better."
"Sir, put it to the test and give me the equipment of a knight. If knighthood does not suit me, then I shall submit and put the cowl on again. Sir, they told you the truth: he who wishes to be a knight must work at ít. Since I was a child, I knew that truth here in my heart: the thought never left me. I tell you, since the time that I could tell evil from good, my mind was set on knighthood. In my thoughts I was not merely a Bavarian or a Frank: in my thoughts I sat on my horse more nobly than the knights of Rennegau, Brabant, or Haspengau: Sir, whatever I know from books I shall never regret, and I should like to know more. Whenever anyone proposes that I read a book, in my mind I am riding in a tourney., Whenever anyone shows me a book, I yearn for knighthood in my heart, and my thoughts play against a shield. I have always longed to exchange my stylus for a spear, my quill for a sword. My thoughts were never happier than when I sat on a horse, a shield about my neck, a lance in place, galloping along. My thighs are relaxed and bent so that I can dig my spurs into the horse, not in his flanks or in his shoulders, but just a finger's breadth behind the cinch. My legs fly close to his mane; if anyone, saw me, he would think that I looked like a picture in the saddle Effortlessly I ride with the proper bearing, and I hold the reins lightly, playfully, and when I ride to combat with my spear, I know how to guide my horse with both hands. When I ride against my opponent, I never fail to aim for the center of his shield. Now help me, dear abbot, to make my dreams of knighthood a reality; then you will have done well by me."
"Son, you have told me many things, in plain German, that make me wonder, believe me; your words are Greek to me: You did not learn these things from your school‑teacher. But wherever you got these ideas from, it is clear to me that you are not a true monk. I shall stand in your way no longer. God grant that things go well for you, and may He grant you salvation through knighthood."
Now the abbot grave him the silk that he had found next to him in the little
boat; there was no better silk in the land. He saw that Gregorius was anxious, and so he outfitted him as quickly as possible with the equipment of a knight. However, now that Gregorius was a knight, tire abbot did not tell him about his tablet and his gold. Re loved him so that he hid them from him, in an attempt to trick him into staying. He thought: "Since he is now a knight, but has no wealth, perhaps he will heed my advice and choose to live here in comfort." He made the attempt, saying: "Stay here with me, dear son. I shall arrange for you a fine marriage, that will make possible for you everything you might desire for a good life. Now that you've become a knight, your poverty must distress you. What good is knighthood if you don't have the money to enable you to do anything? In none of the lands to which you go will you be known: you have neither family nor possessions. You see, poverty will stand in your way. Change your mind and stay:; it will be to your advantage."
Gregorius said: "Sir, don't trouble yourself any further. If T wanted comfort instead of honor, T would follow your advice and give up my ideal; I have been happy here. Wealth is a burden for many a man, who, unaware of what it is like to be without it, squanders his goads. A poor man, if he is intelligent, would never do such a thing, for he must rely entirely on himself to gain wealth. How else could he better himself? If he gains wealth, he becomes a happy man, honored throughout the land. It's not my fault that I am poor. You see before you everything I inherited from my father. Lady Luck has fled from me, and I have no way to earn her favor except through my own accomplishments. But surely T can earn ît: She does not deny her favor to anyone who strives nobly to attain it. One must struggle through suffering to win happiness. I have no doubt that if I am a thoroughly good man I shall win her love. But if I turn away like a coward from difficulties, then I should not live three days more. What should I be without honor? If I win wealth and honor by overcoming difficulties by means of my own intelligence and manliness, then I certainly shall be more valued than the man who squanders his patrimony. Why do I need more than I now have? My horse is good, my servants capable and faithful, my equipment the best. And now I must stop talking: sir, thank you very much for all you've done, but permit me now to take my leave."
"My son, I do not wish to stand in your way any longer, although your leaving pains me, but I see that you are in earnest. Come with me now, dear son: I would like to show you what of yours I still have." Then the good man, weeping copiously, led Gregorius to a room furnished with silk, and he gave him the tablet in which he could read about his past. Gregorius was both sad and happy. He was sad because he wept for the sin in which he was born. On the other hand he was glad of his noble birth and of his wealth, of which he had known nothing previously.
Then the good man who had been his master spoke: "Son, now you have what until now I have kept from you: your tablet has revealed these things to you. I have looked after the gold according to your mother's wishes; with God's help I have increased its value. Unless I'm mistaken, we have made for you one hundred fifty marks from the seventeen original marks. I gave three marks, and no more, to the men who brought you from the sea. All this is yours: If you use it wisely, you can live well." Weepingly Gregorius answered him: "Ah, dear sir, I have fallen so low, without any guilt of my own. How shall I win God's grace after these sins which are written on this tablet before me?" "My dear son, I will say this to you: trust me, give up your plan; if you continue to pursue knighthood, you will see that the burden of your sins will increase daily, and you will never be saved. Therefore avoid the error you are about to commit, and instead serve God here. He has never failed to recompense such service. Son, offer your prayers to him here, and buy with your short earthly life eternal life. This is my advice, son." "Alas, sir, now my longing for the world is greater than before. I shall never again rest, `I shall always be a wanderer, until God ís gracious enough to tell me where I come from and who I am." "Son, may He who made you in His image guide you, since you have rejected my advice."
A ship was prepared for him and stocked with provisions: food, money, and clothes. The abbot did not leave Gregorius until he boarded the ship. As great as the difference in their ages, so great was the pain of their partíng for them both. They could not take their eyes off each other until they could no longer see each other because of the broad sea between them.
The exile now set his heart and stretched his hands towards Heaven and prayed fervently that our Lord might send him to a land in which his journey might find some purpose. He commanded the sailors to give the sails to the winds, and to let the ship travel without using the rudder wherever the wind took it. A strong wind arose, which drove them steadily on; after a very few days they were driven by a storm to the land of Gregorius' mother. As I mentioned earlier, the country had been burned and pillaged. Only the capital city remained in her hands, and it was under siege. When he saw the city, Gregorius commanded his sailors to set sail for it and to land there.
When the citizens of the town saw the ship coming, they got their weapons ready to defend themselves against the ship. But Gregorius made friendly signals with his hands and asked the inhabitants why they were disturbed. They all wondered greatly whence this lord had come who knew nothing about their position.
One of their leaders explained to him what had happened, as I have already told you. When he understood their trouble, he said: "I've come to the right place. I asked God to bring me to a place where I might find a proper task for a warrior so that I might not waste my youth in idle ness. If it please my lady, I shall gladly fight for her." Now they saw that he was distinguished both in body and in his equipage, and they eagerly found lodgings for him. The queen was pleased with her guest, even before she had seen him. Gregorius found a fine welcome. The man who gave him lodging was an excellent man, one of the best in the city. Anything he wanted he received, and he paid for it generously. The amount of money he dispensed was generous, but not wasteful; he was a welcome guest.
When he heard that the queen was beautiful, young, and unmarried, and that she had caused the troublesome war by refusing to marry the prince, and that she had determined never to marry, Gregorius was eager to see her. He asked what might be the best way of getting to see her. She heard the report of his excellent appearance, and she was anxious to see him, something that had been granted to few previous visitors. For this was her customary behavior: to show her deep grief (she held joy in contempt) she let no one, rich or poor, stranger or fellow countryman, see her, except in church where she continually prayed:, prayer was her rest and her food.
His host advised Gregorius to ask the queen's steward to bring him to a place from which he might see the queen. The steward agreed, and in a few days took him to early mass, leading him to a place from which he could see the queen. The steward said to the queen: "Lady, give your greeting to this man, he can serve you well." She received her child like a stranger: his heart was also blind to the fact that this was the lady who had carried him in her womb.
Now she looked carefully at him, and longer than she had ever looked at any other man, because of the clothing he wore. Looking closely, she said to herself that the silk was the same that she had given to her child, and that the garment of the stranger in material and color was exactly like it: either they were the same, or one hand had made both. It reminded her of her grief. The queen pleased Gregorius very much, as a faultless woman should please a man. The stranger pleased her better than any man had ever done. Thus were the plans carried out of the one who seduced Eve to betray God's command.
The good woman now entrusted Gregorius to the steward, and she departed. He left his heart with her, and was now even more anxious to win honor and fame, because he had seen her. He now thought himself happy. Every day knightly deeds were carried on before the city, whatever a man's heart could desire, either on horse or on foot. Such employment appealed to him, and he quickly made a name for himself. Whenever the citizens rode against their enemy, no matter how badly they did, he seldom let an opportunity go by to lend a hand, as a result of which he was honored above all. He continued fighting until he was an accomplished knight, both with the spear and with the sword. W4en he had become a master of the craft through daily exercise, and was sure that he was superior, that he had courage, strength and all the skills of a knight, then his satisfaction was great. How little danger bothered him: He was a hailstorm to his enemies, the first to attack, the last to flee.
The Roman prince who was laying waste and burning the land was famous for his prowess; he was stronger than any other man. He had had until now such success that everyone agreed that he was the best knight ín the land. It was his custom to ride alone to joust before the tower, in knightly fashion. Whenever a bold warrior rode out to joust against him, the prince captured, him within sight of the citizens, without showing a sign of fear. He had been so successful that no one remained who would challenge him when he rode out. Gregorius thought it shameful that one man had rendered an entire army defenseless. He thought: "I have noticed that a man who loves to play draughts as long as he has the money to play, thinks himself fortunate to find equal combat; he also thinks himself lucky to find unequal combat. Now I have the chance to play, and if I wish, to test my poor accomplishments against one greatly accomplished. If I win, I shall have honor and wealth forever. Now I am unknown, and I continually and tirelessly seek to try my luck, so that I may gain glory. I don't know what the outcome will be: if I do not risk my life, I shall be considered womanish, and shall never be distinguished. Shall I oppose this prince with God's help? I know that I have the strength and the courage. I shall venture my small worth in the field. No one will grieve much if he kills me. If I win, I shall be forever rich in honor. Everyone knows that I would rather die for a good cause than lead a shameful life."
Gregorius decided not to wait another day; for God and for honor he wanted either to lose his life or deliver the guiltless woman from the hands of the prince who had taken her land from her. He told his decision only to one man, who could help him or hinder him ‑‑all‑powerful God. He wished to tell no one else.
In the morning, at daybreak, he heard an early mass, and then prepared to ride to battle. He called his host, who helped him leave the city. He asked him earnestly to watch for his return, and to admit him into the city, whether he came as a winner or as a loser. Then the brave man rode over the field to the tent in which he knew the prince to be. The brave prince saw him and armed himself, and no one else. His men called for his horse quickly, fearing that his antagonist might escape.
When Gregorius saw him coming, he decided upon a wise plan of action; very cleverly he fled from the prince toward his own people in front of the tower. There he waited for him, so that if he got the better of the prince, the prince's army could not help him. Many knights and ladies sat on the walls and battlements of the town; they wanted to see who would win. The young man delayed no longer. Both knights rode across the battlefield, eager to face each other. Hardly had they set their lances underneath their arms when their horses came together. The spears were short and thick, and did little harm, shattering against each other while the knights remained in their saddles. They did not forget the swords at their sides. They fought like two equally matched men, neither of whom would retreat out of cowardice an inch . Only luck and skill could decide this battle.
When they had fought a long time with swords, brave Gregorius pressed his opponent so strongly, that he was able to pull him by the bridle close to the city's tower. The gate was still shut, and they were not swift to let him in. The prince's army saw what had happened, and rushed to their lord's assistance. When the residents of the city saw them, they dashed out the gate, and the battle that followed was more hard‑fought than any battle before or since between so many people. Gregorius held on to his prisoner and, like a true knight, brought him in. The gate was shut. Those outside made a mighty assault, but soon gave up.
Fortunate Gregorîus that day won great honor, freeing his mother's land from a great affliction, by means of his courageous hand. His renown was so great that no decent man failed to praise him; on the contrary, they honored him greatly. The lady and her land had, by means of his helping hand, escaped destruction. All the ignominy they had suffered was erased, as they had asked. and prayed for, and they received the assurance from the prince that in the future he would do them no further injury. He kept his word.
When the suffering land had been freed from this oppression, and once again had its freedom, the leaders of the country were afraid of the trouble they might again have to undergo in case of another similar attack. They said that their great land would suffer badly with an unmarried woman as its ruler, "and if we had a king, no one could do us any harm." They quickly got up the following plan among themselves: they would ask the queen to choose for herself a husband worthy of her. Such an action would work out well for everyone. They knew very well that she had chosen for the love of God to renounce all men. But she did wrong; her life would be wastefully used, if she intentionally let such a fine land go to waste because of the lack of an heir. Their advice was that she would do better by the world and by God if she married and had an heir. This was considered the best plan: a proper marriage is the best life God has granted in this world. After listening to their good arguments, she followed their advice and request that she take a husband ‑‑ she did it out of piety towards God. Thus the leaders of the country got their way, and they agreed to leave the choice of a man to her. After some consideration, she thought that no man would please her more than the man God had sent to free her land and her thoughts were entirely of him, Gregorius her son, who very soon thereafter became his mother's husband. The devil had his way.
When she told the nobles her decision, they were very pleased, and they took him for their ruler. There never was greater joy than that which the queen and her husband found with each other when they were married in loving faith; but grief was to follow. Gregorius was a good ruler, famous for his goodness. Whatever might be given to any man to live a happy life in this world, he had in abundance. But his fall was swift.
He protected the country so well, that whoever attacked it was deprived both of his honor and of his possessions. Gregorius had great courage, and had he not refrained for the sake of God, he might have conquered all the surrounding countries. But he took care to conduct himself with measure; he wanted no more than to serve God's will; he had no further desire. The tablet (with his history) he always kept secretly hidden in his castle, where no one knew it was. Every day he read in it his sinful history, painful to behold, of his birth, and of the burden of sin of his mother and father. He prayed to our lord Gad to have pity on them, and he was unaware of the guilt in which he himself lay; night and day he committed sin with his mother, thereby giving sorrow to God.
In the castle there was a maid, who was very alert; she noticed Gregorius' grief in the course of cleaning the room in which the tablet lay. He had chosen a certain time each day to give vent to his grief, and he never missed a day. The maid noticed when she passed him that he went happily into the room, but came out of it sadly, with reddened eyes.
Now she began continually to try to discover exactly the source of his sorrow. One day she slipped into the room behind him when he entered the room for his customary grieving. When she got in, she hid herself and carefully watched his mournful distress as he read the tablet, as he customarily did. After he had cried and prayed a long time, he dried his eyes, and thought that this secret was kept from the world. But the maid had discovered it; she watched where he laid the tablet.
When he had finished his lament, the maid quickly went to her lady and said: "Lady, what is the distress in which my lord finds himself, but which does not distress you?" The lady said: "What do you mean? He was very happy a few moments ago when he left me. What could he have heard since he left me that could have made him unhappy? Had he heard anything he would not have kept it from me. Nothing has happened to make him weep, surely you must be mistaken." "Lady, unfortunately I am not. Truly I saw him today grieving deeply, so that it pierced my heart." "Ah, it was always your way, and you have told me many grievous things; you never bring good news. You would have done better to keep quiet than to tell me these lies which give me such pain." "Lady, this is not a lie. To my sorrow, I tell you the truth." "Ah, do you mean it?" "Yes, he is troubled. I thought you knew more about it. Lady, what can it be, that he does not tell you about it; he has never hidden anything from you before. My lady, whatever ít is, it troubles him deeply. I have noticed it often, and now I am sure that he is suffering from some great grief which he has told to no one. Since he took over the rule of this land, he has let no day go by without going early in the morning to hide himself alone in his room. Although he goes in looking happy, when he at last comes out he looks deeply troubled. I never saw this so clearly as today. When I saw him go in, I stole in behind him and hid myself to watch what he did. I saw him in great distress, and I saw that he had something in front of him on which words were written. As he read the words he beat himself on the breast, and made many genuflections, his eyes raised towards heaven. I never saw a man weep more bitterly. From these observations I conclude that his heart is full of grief. It seems to me certain that such a courageous man would weep as I saw him weep today only because of some heartfelt grief."
The queen, greatly disturbed, said: "0h, my dear master; What could be so troubling him? I had no idea of his suffering; he is young, healthy, and wealthy; I gladly obey his wishes in all matters in which he should be obeyed. If any woman has a better man, I can't believe it, for God knows no better man was ever born. Oh, poor wife that I am; Any good I have or have ever had comes from his worthiness. What suffering has he met with in his youth that I now hear you telling me? Tow advise me, since he has kept this trouble secret from me, how I can discover the source of his trouble without disturbing our relationship. I fear that if I ask him to tell me, I shall lose him. I know very well that if the trouble and grief were things he could tell me about, he would not keep silent an instant. I do not want to know anything against his will. If I can find out what is troubling him, then perhaps I can help him or even remove the cause. It has never before happened that he kept either his joy or his sadness from me; therefore I think that he would be most unwilling to tell me this."
"Now, I have a plan," said the maid, by means of which you can discover what you want to know without offending him. While I was watching him bewail his grief, I marked the place carefully, in order to be able to show it to you. When he had finished weeping and beating his breast, he quickly hid the object he held before him in an opening above him in the wall. I noted its position carefully. If you wish (the king has gone hunting), my lady, I can lead you to the place and show you it; then you can see and know what ís written there. It cannot be otherwise than that something about his troubles is written on that which he has hidden there.
When Gregorius had gone hunting in the woods, as was his custom, the queen quickly followed the maid's advice, and went to where she found the tablet; she immediately recognized it as the same one she had given to her child, as you who have been listening to this story have already been told. And as she read in the tablet that she was drowned again in the deepest waves of mortal sin, she experienced complete misery. She beat her breast and tore her lovely hair. She thought that she had certainly been born to burn in hell, and that God had scorned the heart‑felt penance she had endured for her previous sins (about which I have previously told you) because He had allowed the devil's plan to be carried out ‑ - she had fallen into the depths of sin.
The sun of her happiness was covered by deadly black night. I think that her heart would have broken from grief had she not been heartened by a slim hope in which she placed all her trust. She thought, "Suppose that this tablet has come into the possession of my husband in some other way than I think? If God sent my son safe to land, whoever found him might have sold the tablet and the clothes to my husband. Until I know the truth, this will be all my hope." She called for a messenger and sent him for her husband.
The messenger quickly found his master, and said to him: "Prince Gregorius, if you ever again want to see my mistress alive, come quickly or you will be too late. I left her in great distress." Gregorius was very much disturbed, and said: "My friend, what are you saying? I just left her healthy and happy." "Yes, sír, but something has just happened." They stayed no longer in the woods, but rode quickly back home. They ate nothing until they got home (take my word. for it), where his joy came to an end. When he saw his wife, he beheld a painful sight. Grief had taken the rosy color from her cheeks; her beauty had completely gone; she was the color of death. His joy completely disappeared. Great was the lament; two such lovers had never been seen by the eyes of men.
The holy sinner said: "My lady, what is wrong?" She could scarcely answer; sobs stifled her voice. She spoke in half words: "Sir, I have good reason to grieve." "What is troubling you, my wife?" "Ah, sir, ít is too much. I want to lament to God that I ever came into the world. My luck has been hard. God cursed the hour in which I was born. Misfortune has conspired against me constantly; a thousand griefs of the heart have befallen me for every joy I’ve had. Sir, you must tell me who your parents are. The time for this question was earlier; I fear that I am asking it too late."
"Lady, I know well why you lament; someone has told you that I am of base parentage. If I knew who had so troubled you, I would not rest until I had killed him. He's better keep hidden. Whoever he is, he has lied. I am the son of a prince. But do not be angry, we must say no more of this now; I can tell you no more."
The lady answered him: "That's not the trouble. I would never give a civil look to a man who said anything unpleasant about you; he would get no friendly response from me. But I fear that we are too closely related." She took the tablet out and asked: "Are you the man (hide nothing from me) written about here? If so, then the devil's plan has buried our souls and our bodies. I am your mother and your wife."
Now tell me what was going on in the mind of the holy sinner. He was overwhelmed with grief. He directed his anger at God, saying: "This is what I prayed to God for, that I might be led to the place where I might look with joy upon my dear mother. Oh mighty, merciful God, you have granted my request in a way far different from what I desired. I had hoped in my heart for a splendid, loving reunion, but now the sight of her has led to my eternal grief; I should have remained far from her rather than to have come home in this way."
I'm sure that Judas was not more miserable when he hanged himself than these two now were. David's grief was not greater when he received the news that Saul and Jonathan had been killed, and his own son Absalon also, the most beautiful man any woman ever bore. Whoever could suggest the full range of their grief and pain is more skillful than I. I believe that words cannot indicate what they felt. Their distress brought them close to Death; had he come they would have greeted him as a welcome guest. Their bodies and souls were united in a common grief. What man or woman ever suffered a fate so severe, so completely without hope? Their souls feared damnation, and their bodies feared to be parted from their souls. God almighty has created between the body and the soul a divided but unloosenable bond. Whatever is good for the body does the soul no good, and whatever is good for the soul troubles the body. Now both parts suffered: that was a double death.
Seeing their great grief, the weeping lady said: "Ah, I am a cursed woman: Many make their bodies suffer so that their souls may be saved: and their souls are saved. Many neglect their souls for the sake of their bodies, and they live comfortably in this world. I cannot and shall not say that my body has been fortunate, but my soul also is lost. Thus God's burning hatred has fallen upon me more than on any damned soul. I marvel that the earth, after the carnal sin my body has committed, can still hold me. My son‑husband, can you tell me (you have read many books) if there is any way I can rely upon to atone for such sins, so that hell may be somewhat more bearable for me than it is for so many others?"
"Mother," said Gregorius, "Do not speak like that anymore, it ís against God's wishes. Do not lose hope in God: he will preserve you. I have read the consoling words that God has genuine compassion for all sins that are repented. Your soul is not so corrupt that you could not find forgiveness îf your eyes are wet only once with the tears of heartfelt repentance, believe me. Remain here in your land. Let your body go hungry and cold; banish comfort and joy. You should continue to rule over your land not for the sake of worldly glory, but to use your goods to perform God's will. Certainly it is harder for someone who has had an extremely comfortable life to renounce his wealth than) it is for someone who has never had anything. Since you are a woman who has sinned, let your body's daily penitence pay for your sins: deprive your body of everything that pleases it most. Keep your body in the chains of repentance. Share the wealth of your land with the poor; then you will find the comfort of God's pity. Endow a monastery wherever your councilors advise; thus you may soften God's wrath, which we brought upon ourselves. I shall also repent, dear wife and mother; these are the last words I shall ever speak to you. Let us try to bring it about that God will reunite us in His kingdom. I shall never again see you; we should have separated earlier. Now let country, wealth, and the secular life be renounced." He removed his costly clothing and left the land in a shabby garment.
The noble beggar was denied all good fortune except this ‑‑ that he bore all his suffering gladly. In his heart he wanted God to send him into a waste land, where he might repent until the day he died. He endured his suffering gladly. He avoided men, streets, and the open field; the poor man always chose to make his way through the wilderness. He waded across rivers; shoeless A he walked through woods and over heaths, keeping his vow not to eat for three days.
A narrow path next to a lake led into a valley. The lifeless man followed it until he saw a small house': there the poor man turned to rest. A prosperous fisherman lived there. The penitent man asked him in the name of God for shelter, but the fisherman treated him very badly. Looking at Gregorius" fine body, he shook his head and said: "Ah, you clever rogue: If I were foolish enough to give a glutton like you shelter, you big churl, your word would be valueless, and as soon as my wife and I were asleep tonight, you would kill us both for our money.
Ah, how badly the world does to allow in its midst such shameful wretch, so many useless fellows who never honor God, and who plunder the people. A broad field is the solution for your poverty. A hoe and a harrow in your hand would be more fitting for you than to go begging. The bread you consume (may the devil take you for it, you glutton) was hard earned. Your strength is a source of shame: Quickly, get away from my house:"
Now it was very late, but the sinner took the abuse untroubled, and gladly. The good man answered: "Sir, what you have told me is true. It is wise for a man to exercise caution în his own house." He bid him good night and went serenely on his way. He was glad to hear the abuse, and he praised God for having been treated so badly. He would gladly accept whatever disgrace and suffering might be inflicted on his body. Had the vulgar fisherman struck him angrily on his back, he would gladly have endured it, had ít lightened the burden of his sins.
The wife of the unkind fisherman felt pity for Gregorius. She did not think that he was out to deceive them. Her eyes filled with tears when her husband berated him for his modest request. She said: "It is not true that this man is bad; I can tell from his appearance. May God refrain from punishing you. You have done a shameful thing, which may threaten your soul's salvation. You know very well that your house is very far from any other house. If our Lord has now sent a messenger to you to make you think of your soul's salvation, then you should have given this man a better reception. Remember this: no beggar has ever come here since we began to live here, except this poor man, who has received no help. A man who depends as you do for his livelihood upon luck, should keep God in mind. I advise you, so help you God, to let me call the beggar back. The way is hard, and he cannot move fast enough to avoid spending the night in the woods. If the wolves don't eat him, which can easily happen, he will have to lie there hungry and miserable. Let me keep him here." Thus she gently changed the fisherman's mind, so that he allowed her to go after the wandering man quickly, to call him back.
When she brought hit him back, she prepared the fisherman's evening meal. To make up for the ill treatment the fisherman had given without any cause to the noble beggar, his wife wanted to please him, and she placed before him her best food. Mindful of his oath, he declined her offerings, no matter how much she urged him. She brought him a crust of oat‑bread and a drink of spring water. He told the woman that his sinful body was scarcely worthy of the food. When the fisherman saw the wretched meal, he sneered and said: "Ah, that I should see this: I am thoroughly familiar with swindlers and swindles. You didn't come to us for such a miserable meal. Your cheeks do not show the ravages of thirst or hunger; they are plump and red. No one has ever seen such an imposing figure; you did not get that way on bread and water. You have straight thighs, well‑arched feet, straight, long toes, clean, smooth fingernails. The bottoms of your feet should be broad and torn, like a pilgrim's. Your legs have no marks on them -- they have not gone bare long. They've survived contact with frost and wind very well. Your hair is smooth and well cared‑for, and your body is like a glutton's. Your arms and bards are unmarked. They're so white and even that you must take care of yourself far differently in your hiding‑place from the way you present yourself here. I have no worry that you will not make up for today's discomforts tomorrow. You know a better place to find whatever you wish, where you can (God knows) easily relieve all your misfortune, and where oat‑bread and spring water never touch your mouth."
The good man received these words graciously, and hoped that it pleased God that he endured the insults of such a low‑born fellow. Gregorius said nothing until the fisherman asked him who he was. He answered: "Sir, I am a man who cannot look upon the enormity of his sins; I seek, to find favor in the eyes of God, a place in this waste where my body can do penance until I die. Today is the third day since I renounced the world and began to wander in the wilderness. I have not met another human being here. Since my path has now led me to you, perhaps I can ask for advice and help. If you know a place nearby that might suit my purposes, a solitary rock or a cave, show it to me: you will be doing a good deed."
The fisherman answered him: "If that's what you want, don't worry. I'll bring you quickly to the place. I know of a rock nearby, out on this lake you can suffer considerably there. If we should happen to bring you there, you can spend a miserable time there lamenting your fate. It is a desolate place. If you are intent upon repenting, I have a good plan. For a long time I have had a pair of leg‑irons which I will give you so that you can fasten your body to that rock.
In case you should regret your step, you will nevertheless have to remain there. The rock is shaped in such a way that even a man whose feet are free would have difficulty betting down it. If you mean what you say, go to sleep and get up early; then take your leg‑irons and get into my boat, since I go fishing before day‑break. I'll gladly take you over to the rock, and help you up onto it, and bind your legs with the shackles so well that you will grow old there and never more trouble me on this earth`. I'm sure of that." The fisherman spoke in scorn, but the advice was to Gregorius' liking.
The man of ill‑will persisted in denying Gregorius a place to stay in his house. The wife could not persuade him to let Gregorius sleep inside the house. Like a doggy, he was driven out the door, and there he gladly remained. That night he spent, against his usual custom, in a little hovel than which none could be smaller. It was a roofless ruin. The prince had such lodgings as would have been unfit for the least of his servants. He found within the but very little, neither straw nor any kind of bedding. The good woman brought in some rushes for his bed. Then he carefully stowed away the iron fetters and his tablet, so that he might find them early in the morning.
He rested very little that night. He gave himself up to prayer until weariness over came him. By the time he fell asleep, it was nearly day. His host had come out to go fishing: he was ready early, as was his custom. Now he called to his guest who was fast asleep because of his great weariness, and who consequently didn't hear him. The fisherman called again, saying: "I knew that this deceiver's words were not spoken in earnest. I shall not call you again." Then he went down to the lake.
When the good woman saw this happen, she woke him up and said: "If you wish to go, my good man, hurry: My husband is about to set out." He did not need to be told again: he was very afraid of being left behind, and he was also very glad in his heart that the fisherman had to take him to the rock, as he had promised. Happiness and grief both made him hurry so, that he forgot the tablet that he always carried with him. He took the iron fetters and went after the fisherman.
He called to him in God's name to wait for him. Sullenly, the fisherman brought him to the isolated rock; there he bound Gregorius' feet in the iron fetters and said: "Here must you grow old. The devil led you here by his craftiness; you will never come back." He threw the key into the lake and said;:; "I know this for certain: whenever I find the key on these deep waters, then you will be sinless and a saved man." He left him there.
Poor Gregorius now remained on the solitary rock, helpless. He had no place to rest, the sky was his roof. Against frost and snow, wind and rain, he had no protection but the grace of God. His only clothing was a linen shirt; his arms and legs were bare. He had taken with him two‑weeks supply of food, after which God knows he would have died of hunger, and I speak the truth, had not Christ sent to him the Holy Ghost who protected him and kept him alive. I'll tell you what his food was: A bit of water dripped from the rock; he dug a small hole under it which could hold one drink. According to what I've been told, the hole was so small that the drippings of a whole day scarcely filled it. The unfortunate man drank it. Thus he lived seventeen years. Many people do not believe this; I think they are wrong. For God all things that he wills are possible; nothing is too great a wonder for him.
When the blessed man had sat alone on the solitary rock for 17 years, and God had forgiven him his great sin and was graciously inclined towards him, the Pope died, according to my sources, in Rome. Immediately every Roman tried to obtain the great power and wealth of the office for one of his own relatives. The struggle became so complicated that they could not, because of envy and ambition, decided to whom to give the papal throne. Finally they all decided to leave the choice to God, that he might make known through his grace the one most fitting to be their leader. They set about accomplishing their purpose by giving alms and praying. When He heard their request, God responded with His grace. One night he gave his answer to two wise men of Rome, whose nobility and integrity were so great, that their word was as good as an oath. While they were at their separate prayers, the voice of God told them to call the Romans together early the next day, and to let them know what God's will was in respect to their leader. The voice said that an unknown man had been sitting on a solitary rock in Aquitaine. For 17 years, that the Pope's throne should be given to him, and that his name was Gregorius. That God revealed this to both of them means that the testimony of one man would not have had sufficient weight. Neither of them knew that the other had also been told of God's will during the night, until they met and learned it from each other. Then they did what they had been told to do; each confirmed what the other said, and the Romans believed their words. They rejoiced in God. The two old men were then sent as messengers into the land of Aquitaine, to find the good man and to bring him back.
They were troubled by the fact that they did not know the name of the rock on which Gregorîus was sitting. In doubt they rode into the land. Whenever they went they eagerly asked for information, but no one could tell them anything. Then, from deep within their hearts, they beseeched Him who listens to everyone who calls for His aid. God told them that whoever would find the man would have to seek in the wilderness. They went on until they came to the mountain ín the wilderness next to the lake. It troubled them that they did not know where to find the man they were looking for. They moved through the wilderness from fields into woods. They wandered without a path, according to intuition, until the third day. Then, to their great joy, they came upon a path: it was overgrown with grass and untrodden, and it led them to a neck of land where the fisherman lived whom I previously told you,. about, the one who had received the holy man in his need so badly. He had out of spitefulness placed Gregorius on the rock where he now sat, had chained his legs with iron fetters. When the two old men saw the little house, they judged it good luck that after their discomforts they might spend the night in peace.
As was their custom, they had brought with them enough food, both wine and bread, to satisfy their needs, and whatever else they thought necessary for the trip. The fisherman received his guests joyfully, since they were so well provisioned. He knew he might benefit from treating them well, so he took great care to look after their needs. He did this more for his own profit than out of goodness of heart. He received them more graciously than he had received the man without possessions, the pure Gregorius: he thought that there was no need to treat Gregorius well.
After they had become comfortable, the fisherman said to his guests: "°I am very fortunate to be visited by such fine people: I caught a very fine fish today." and he laid the fish on the table in front of his guests. He had not misled them: the fish was long and fat ‑‑ he would have liked`to have gotten a good price for it. The bargain was quickly accomplished; his guests ordered one of their servants to pay the fisherman, and then they asked him to disembowel the fish; he did so while they watched. The greedy man found in the belly of the fish the key of which you have already heard, with which he imprisoned Gregorius so spitefully seventeen years previously, and which he threw into the sea, saying that whenever he found the key ín the waves of the lake, Gregorius would be free from sin. When he found the key in the fish, he immediately recognized now deluded he had been, and he began to tear his hair. I would have helped him, had I been there, in spite of my extreme dislike for him. After he had torn out a considerable amount of hair; and had beaten his breast, his guests asked him what might be bothering him that he was making such an extraordinary lamentation. He began telling them truthfully about his guest Gregorius, and he told them the whole story. I think it would be superfluous to recite to you the whole story again; I could do no more than repeat myself. The messengers were very glad to discover that the story was about the man to whom God had directed them and whom He had chosen to be Pope.
When he had made his confession openly to them, the fisherman threw himself at their feet, imploring their aid to atone for his sin. When they saw that the poor man was truly repentant, they took pity on him, assuring him that he might more easily be forgiven for his sin, if he led them the next morning to Gregoríus' rock. The two old men saw his eyes fill with tears, and the hot tears fall on his grey beard. He said: "What good will the trip do us? I shall gladly bring you there, but the journey will be useless. I am sure that he has been dead a long time. I put him into mortal danger on that solitary rock. A man alone could never survive there. You should not think or hope that we shall find him alive; if cold winds and frost have not killed him, he will have perished from hunger." But they knew God's power is so strong and infinite that he could very well protect one whom He had chosen from all dangers. They urged him to take them on the short trip, and he immediately agreed.
Early the next morning they went to the rock. Strenuously they rowed to reach the rock, and they looked to see where Gregorius, the living martyr, might be. Did they find an extremely handsome man, who seemed to be suffering very little either from hunger, cold, or poverty, and who in body and in clothing was well provided for, so that no one was his superior, either in precious jewels, silks, or gold, a very gracious man, a man whose shining eyes and golden hair would have given you great pleasure to look upon, with a well‑trimmed beard; a man who was so elegant ín every way that he seemed ready to go to a dance, whose trousers were extremely fashionable? Such a man they did not find there. But I'll tell you what they did find. When they began to look at the solitary rock they found the good, purehearted man. Out of embarrassment he wanted to escape, for he was stark naked. But he could not move quickly, since he had fetters on both feet. He fell down on the rock, trying to cover himself. When he saw them coming, he covered himself with a small plant, out of a sense of shame. In such a state they found the man beloved of God, a beggar on earth, but highly honored by God, rejected by men, but pleasing to heaven.
The hair of the poor man's head and beard had grown very long, and was matted against his skin. Once his hair had been combed beautifully, il now it had become filthy through his suffering. Formerly his cheeks had been red mixed with white, and finely rounded, now they had become dark and shrunken, and his complexion was pale. Formerly his eyes were bright and clear, and his mouth was shaped for joy; now his mouth was pale and cold,, and his eyes, like red holes as a result of the privation he had suffered, were overhung with long eyebrows. His limbs, once strong and big, were now down to the bone: his areas and legs were so thin that God had to take pity on him.
The chains which had bound him night and day, had cut through the flesh of his feet right to the bone, so that the wound always flowed with fresh blood. This was his constant affliction, not to mention the other things he suffered. I think he was like a linen cloth spread over thorns; one could have counted all his bones, large and small, through his skin. Although the man beloved of God had undergone great physical suffering, the Holy Ghost had always been his companion and His power was so great, that Gregorius had not lost any of the wisdom he had gotten from his teachers and from his books. When they who had come looking for him)had seen him; An the condition I just described, so wretched in body, they pitied him so that a flood of tears, like rain, flood onto their clothes. They beseeched him by God's law to let them know whether his name was Gregorius.
Because they asked so urgently, he let them know that his name was Gregorius. Now they told him why they had come, as you have already been told., that one night God had made his selection known to both of them, that He had named Gregorius as the one chosen to be His vicar on earth.
What they told him pierced his heart, and the godly man lowered his head to the earth. Tearfully he spoke, without looking at them: "If you are Christians, honor God and leave me quickly. I am so dishonored, that I should never have the pleasure of looking upon any human being with my sinful eyes. God knows, my body is so impure that I must rightly remain alone until I die. The price I pay here on earth is that my soul be overcome with grief. But if I lived among you, my sins would make good people suffer. My guilt is so great that the sound of my cursed voice and the corruption of my bare feet would make trees, grass, and all green things shrivel. That the sweet air which gives life to the world and the soft rain and the wind should touch me as though I were free from sin, and that the brilliance of the sun should stoop to shine upon me as upon any other man – my body is unworthy of such grace. To want me for your leader is a bad joke. Instead, I have deserved to be scorned and despised by our lord God, rather than to receive the glory and honor that belongs to a pope. I can't do much good in Rome; I bring no happiness for you with me. Look at my body; it is not fit to undertake a high office. If I ever knew how a leader should behave, by now I have forgotten, I have grown unaccustomed to people; gentlemen, see for yourselves, the mind, body, and behavior necessary for the great office ís certainly not mine. I would not be a fitting pope. Good people, may your appearance here today contribute to my salvation; have pity on the wretch that I am, remember me to God. We know from His message, that whoever prays for a sinner purifies himself. Now it is time we parted. What good will it do you? You've woken the devil in me. I have enjoyed this interlude too much. I've been living here seventeen years without seeing any human being. I am afraid that I shall have to pay for the joy which speaking with you has given me, before Him who allows no sin to go unatoned."
Then he stood up and wished to go. But the two men implored him in God's name, and with terrible oaths, to sit still and listen further to them. They convinced him that they were speaking the truth, by means of solemn oaths and asseverations. He said: "I was a vessel filled with sinful shame when I was first chained to this rock, by means of these chains that you see about my legs. No matter how great a man's sin, the merciful power of Him who broke open hell ís greater. If our Lord God through his mercy has truly forgiven my many sins, and if I am now free of sin, then he must give a true sign, or I must end my life on this rock. He must send back to me the key with which I was so firmly fastened here, or I shall never move from this place.
Now the fisherman tearfully fell on his knees before him, and said: "Dear sir, I am that same sinful man who did this wrong to you. I am the wretched lost soul who received you scornfully;, I gave you abuse instead of bread; I abused you terribly. That night I gave you a foul reception. I have grown old without having atoned for my sin, and my soul is troubled. The trip which I undertook so readily I should be ashamed of; I must repent. I carried out your command, but I did it out of mockery. I brought you out to this rock, chained your limbs to it, and threw the key into the sea, never giving you another thought. Yesterday my sinful hand found the key in a fish. These gentlemen saw it; this is the sign you asked for.
He unlocked the chains, and the old men shared their priestly garments with Gregoríus. When he was dressed, they led the sinless man from the desolate rock. The strength of his body had considerably diminished, and they remained that night with the fisherman, whose grief was great. He sought forgiveness for the great. sin he had done in receiving Gregorius scornfully. His great grief, contriteness, and flood of tears washed away the stain of his sin, and his soul was purified. When Gregory, as I told you earlier in the story, was still in a sinful state, the fisherman received him in his house inhospitably, supplying him with miserable lodgings for the night, and in the morning, when he set out, Gregoríus forgot to take his tablet. Nothing troubled him more, the entire time he sat on the rock. Now he thought of it, and he urged the fisherman in God's name to give it to him if he had found ît; thus the burden of his sins might be lightened. The fisherman said: "Alas, I have never seen it. But tell me, where do you leave it, and how did you come to forget it?" Gregorius said: "I left it in the little but where I slept. When I got up in the morning, I was terribly worried that I had been left behind; I jumped out of bed and hurried after you, unfortunately too quickly to remember to take the tablet." The fisherman said: "What use would it be to look for the tablet where you left it? It must have fallen to pieces a long time ago. Alas, dear lord, that but remained standing hardly twelve weeks more after you left. It was knocked down, and I burned it all, roof and walls. I behaved cruelly towards you: had the but been able to withstand the wind and the rain, you would not have spent the night there`. Where it stood, wild grass, nettles, and weeds now grow." The man beloved of God sighed, and prayed for help. he would not leave the place without finding the tablet. Then they began to tear up the weeds and debris with rakes and pitchforks, and He who is the source of grace granted a great sign to good Gregorius~‑‑ he found his tablet, as fresh and new as on the day it came from the hand of the woman who wrote it. They who saw it had joy and fear; weeping, they said that he was truly a holy man; they were not wrong.
On the next day, as they set out on their trip to Rome, they had frequent evidence that this pure man was under the protection of God, night and day. No danger befell them on the trip. He himself provided their food so plentifully, that their food‑containers were full no matter how much they took out of them, until they came to Rome.
Now I'm going to tell you about a mark of grace. Three days before their arrival, Rome was filled with a huge sound; all the bells of the city began to ring spontaneously, letting the people know that the arrival of their pope was imminent. Everyone knew by this sign that Gregorius was a holy man. They all went out on the three-day journey towards Aquitaine to meet him. They traveled across the fields for the honor of God‑,.clad in wool and barefoot, they carried their relics. Gregoríus heard their joyful greeting, their praise and their song. The road was lined with many sick people, who had come because they believed that he might cure them. And many were cured by a sign from his hand. Wherever he went, his good will, his hand, his word, or a touch of his garment relieved people of their suffering. Great Rome joyfully received its ruler. The city was fortunate, for no pope had ever been chosen who might better heal the wounds of the soul.
Possessed of the teachings of the Holy Ghost, he was well equipped to lead a righteous life. He had an intense concern for justice. A ruler should be humble (the poor will then be taken care of), and yet prepared to show his strength against the unjust. If one of the devil's kin does not usurp the throne, the Papacy can be a powerful force for good. These are the two requisites for good: wisdom and humility. One should chastise the sinner with mild rebuke when he freely repents. The law is very severe for the sinner, so that his body will not be able to endure the punishment for not repenting. If a man who tries to repent is given a severe penance to perform, he may very well despair, and renounce God, becoming the devil's servant. Accordingly, mercy is more important than the letter of the law. Gregorius knew how to care for souls so that sinners were saved and justice was done. Because of his firm teaching, the honor of God was great throughout the Roman Empire.
His mother, his aunt, his wife (the three had one body) heard in Aquitaine that the new Pope offered great consolation for sinners. She sought him out for help in her state of deadly sin, so that she might be freed from the burden of her sin. When she saw him, and as she spoke her request, the good woman was entirely unaware that the Pope was her son. She too had suffered so since they had separated, that the strength and color had gone out of her body. He did not recognize her until she told him her name and that she was from Aquitaine. In her confession she told him no more than he already knew. Immediately he knew that this was his mother. The good, true man thanked God that He had granted his prayer so completely; for he saw that she was truly repentant. Gregorius welcomed his mother, and was, very glad that he had been fortunate enough to see her before she died, and that he might now, in her old age, advise her on the care of her soul and body. She still did not recognize him. Very tactfully he said to her: "Lady, for the love of God, tell me, have you ever heard any news of your son, is he alive or dead?" She said, "Sir, I have not. He was so tormented with remorse that I cannot believe he is still alive." He said: "With God's help you may see him again; tell me, do you think you would still recognize him?" She said: "If my mind were clear, I would certainly recognize him if I saw him." He said: "How, tell me what I ask you, would it be painful or joyful, if you could see him again?" She said: "You can be sure, I have no pleasures or joys in life, neither my body nor my goods ‑‑ I am a poor woman: the only joy that could possibly happen to me in this world would be to see him once again.°' He said: "You can be sure I have good news for you. I saw him not long ago, and he swore to me by God that no one was dearer to him than you." "Dear sir," she said, "Is he still alive?" "Yes he is." "How can it be?" "He is well and is here," "May I see him, sir?" "Yes, he is not far." "Sir, let me see him." "Lady, that can easily be done; if you want to see him, you need wait no longer. Dear mother, look at me: I am your son and your spouse. Although my sins were great, God has forgiven them, and He has given me this great office. It was by his bidding that I was called to Rome. I have given up myself soul and body to him."
Thus the poor woman was repaid for the pain she had had. God granted them both great joy, and they were never again separated until they died (they both died on the same day). Everything that Gregorius had told her to do in the way of repentance when he left her land she had done; with her body, her goods, and her repentant soul. In the years that remained they lived in Rome together, dedicating their lives to God. There were never two such chosen children of God. Gregorius also brought it about that his father might share with him the land of eternal joy. He who has a place in that kingdom is happy.
From this meaningful story, which tells about sinners who, after incurring great shame, found grace in the eyes of God, no one should take a pattern far evil behavior. A man who has wandered from God should not think: "Now I can relax and indulge myself ‑‑ how can I be damned? Since these two, after such a great sin, were saved, there will be help for me. If it has been determined that I shall be saved, I will be saved." The man whom the devil betrays into sinning by such a hope will become the devil's prisoner. And if his sin is small, nevertheless such a way of thinking will result in thousands of sins from which he can longer be freed. The sinful man should take a holy man as his model, no matter
how much he has sinned, so that he may know that he can be forgiven if he truly repents and atones for his sins.
Hartmann, who has produced this poem, out of love for God and for you, wishes all you who hear and read this poem, to grant him the following payment: pray for him, that he may have the good fortune to see you again in heaven. Let us send forth the holy sinners as our spokesmen for our suffering, so that we in this alien land may reach our salvation, as they did. May God help us. Amen.