O Lord holy,
the world has command:
O Lord holy,
Lord, to you
and praise be given;
greatest Lord, supreme and worthy,
eternal glory, and everlasting reign.
and Prudence, Young Men,
seem in appearance to be a sensible and prudent young man, tell me please, how
does this mortal Life seem to you, that men prize so much? How do you
understand it? I desire your opinion: for I too would live in a way that, when
it comes to an end, I do not find myself, as happens to
many, deceived by false hope.
I cannot fully
satisfy your desire, because my unripe years have not brought me to see much on
this subject: yet as I have been able to sense from afar and through what I
have learned from wise men who have examined it with perceptive eyes; it seems
to me that it is a show and appearance of vanity; a fine clothing that covers
the deformity of the feeble body: and a grassy meadow that hides in its green
herbage the poisonous snake. And you, what would you say it was?
I am still
unskilled but I would say it was a narrow field but full of hard stones: a
leafy wood, but full of sharp thorns: a shady hill, but full of high rocks,
and, in short, a great forest, but full of forest beasts.
I would call it
a vale of weeping: a fountain without thoughts: a river swollen with tears: and
a sea stormy with misery.
I again, if I
am sensible, find that this life of ours is like a bubble in the water, that suddenly disappears: like vapour in the air,
that is quickly lost: and like the flower that in the hedge wilts in a moment.
I liken it to
an old house threatened with ruin: to a high tower built on sand: to a tree
with many branches, but without roots.
To me it seems
a ship without a rudder: old age without a stick: a horse without a bridle: and
a blind man without a guide.
I compare it to
order disordered: to quietness disquieted: to weariness that is useless: to
health that is unhealthy: and to wealth that is poor.
Say then that
it is beauty deformed: honour dishonoured: ambition anxious: height
precipitous: and nobility obscure.
Add that it is
a sack with a hole: a vessel that is empty: a mirror that is stained: and a
window that is broken.
Do not miss out
that it is a golden hook with bait: a sharp thorn-bush that pricks: a bitter
apple that disgusts: and a cup of wine that makes drunk.
In fact it is a
journey full of snares: a city full of discord: a kingdom divided: a principate that is a tyranny: and a pilgrimage that is
Say too that it
is a castle in the air: a ship in the middle of the sea: a cloud against the
sun: and a wind that passes and turns not.
Agree and say
that it is a dark whirlpool, where many sink: a narrow sea, where many are in
danger: an ocean without harbour, where one sails at great risk.
it is a cavern of snakes: a cave of thieves: a grotto of murderers: and a
refuge of malefactors.
Do you not see
that it is a town square full of rumours: a winding street full of errors: and
an old wall full of cracks.
Call it, then,
a yoke that is not pleasant: a weight that is not light: and a chain that is
Or really it is
pitch that is daubed: mud that sticks: and dust that blinds.
Surely it is a
desert of sand: a wilderness that is terrible: a country uninhabited.
Do you not
think that it changes like the moon?
That it passes
by like a courier? That it turns like a wheel?
And yet it is
clear that it is a city of blood: a lusting of the flesh: a pleasing of the
eyes: and pride of heart.
it a love of fools: a desire of the
pleasure of the impassioned.
Name it a table
that is poor: a cistern that is cracked: a bed that is hard: and a chest that
Liken it to a
Siren that sings: to a harlot that sports: to a magician that charms.
Hold it as
sorrow that laughs: laughter that weeps: content that laments.
And I, to tell
you its name, say that it is a deceitful life: a dead life: a death that
and a Hell for
And I conclude
that this miserable life is nothing else but a funeral procession of living
bodies: a most rapid race for death: and a noble appearance for the worms.
And in fact to
this Worldly Life all titles can be given, and more unworthy names, that all
agree are best.
Now tell me, if
it is so, whence does it arise that many hold it in such esteem, and enjoy it
so much that they would wish never to die?
because sins have obscured their view, and placed a veil over their eyes so
that they cannot understand the truth of things: and so taking false for true
and bad for good they are deluded amid their errors: and then death comes and
takes them where they find they have in their hands nothing but wind, or rather
torments, and punishment.
Indeed how very
unhappy are men who live in this way, for they sleep soundly in mistaking such
danger. O how well they would do if some time they should wake up from so
mortal a lethargy!
O what, O what
salvation there would be for all people if they would start to consider beyond
the outward appearance, the miseries and imperfections of this deceiving life!
For by being too fond of its false beauties, it comes to an end (a terrible
thing) and disappears in the sorrows of Hell, and in the cruel arms of death.
happiness there would be for everyone if they rose from the senses to where
Intellect is! And would see that not riches, not Pleasure, not honour content
the heart in this life, but only good that is found with God: and they would
discover that Time flies in the winking of an eye: and with true Counsel they
would learn that this little light of life passes in a moment: that the Body
with its senses always worries the Soul for love of the mire. That Paradise
shines over their heads. That Hell burns under their feet. That the World
deludes and deceives, and Life entices and kills. And that in fact whatever
fights bravely on earth against the insults of temptations of the enemy, wins
eternal and glorious crowns in Heaven.
Most true. For
knowledge and understanding of what is due from you is most important,
depending on that sum of all things; from which it follows that some have taken
this into consideration. And see that now in this place there will be
represented a living and wonderful example that will show our conclusions to be
true: and the same things will be seen to happen as is shown figuratively as
human people, while with new and strange images they will delight, at the same
time will serve as an idea in which each one will be able to see and form a
picture in the heart, in which he will clearly recognise that this Life, this
World, these earthly grandeurs are truly dust, smoke and shadow: and finally
that there is nothing else that is firm or great but virtue, the grace of God,
and the eternal Kingdom of Heaven. But see an old man comes to start the
matter. Let us give place and leave.
So let us do.