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IV. THE REDEMPTION OF MANKIND BY MEANS OF CHRIST
Soon the Avenger God, Who possessed immeasurable power, angrily mounted His august throne, surrounded by a heavenly choir. His mind a-boil, He variously considered whether He should destroy the earth with His forked lightning, unleash the sea upon it, or take mud and manufacture a better humanity. Day and night those triple sisters stood by his side smiling, olive-garlanded Mercy stood on the right, her hands uplifted, and Justice, she who weighs everything in her fair scales, stood on the left with her sword drawn. Between them stood all-seeing Wisdom, capable of untying any inextricable not. Then Justice began, increasing His wrath with these words:
“Is any sin left undone? Is there no limit or ending? We purged the home of the celestial beings and the upper regions when we sent those spirits headlong down to black Tartarus. Now new contagions of crime have sprung up on the earth For now that fragile mud and base creation of vile clay into which You breathed the heavenly breath of life and endowed with a heavenly soul, so that he might be chief of the world and possess all government over the seas and land, to whom You have agreed to give heavenly citadels as if he were Your son, although wanton human nature has no more good things for which to hope, has now been led astray by the meed of empty praise, a dire hunger for fame, and mind-seducing transitory glory, at the urging of a tricksy snake, and also the enticing beauty of his wife, into thinking himself God’s equal, so that he cares not a fig for divine law, aspires to heaven and trample on God on Olympus. Oh the disgrace! The indelible stigma of an ungrateful mind! The peak of ambition, the extremity of pride! When accused of this crime, he shifted the blame onto God, and tried to fix the responsiblity on his Creator rather than pleading for forgiveness. Am I to think that this sinfulness can be expiated by any extraordinary atonement? Our laws do not permit the guilty to be spared their punishments. Nobody will escape paying me forfeits for his guilt:, be he a citizen of earth or Avernus, or a genius of the sky, without any distinction being made let him be seized. Come hither, come hither, you torches with your black heat. Come hither, you unhappy shades with your wounding flail. Come hither, all you Furies of Orcus. Fall upon them, defend the lands from such a great bane. The Furies, the torches, the confines of Tartarus exist as their punishments.”
Next Mercy, wetting her face with a copious flood of tears, humbly said these words: “Ruler of Olympus, if You have any room for entreaties and any fund of pity, make an end to these woes and have a thought for these weary things. Break off these punishments and do not vengefully brandish Your thunderbolt, I beg you. Recently, thanks to Your vengeful wrath, those spirits were consigned to the dark places. At this punishment Justice took wing in triumph, giving You praises that rang down through the centuries. But I, Mercy, the glory of heaven and the sovereign virtue, shall be oppressed by a cloud of base oblivion if there is no surviving hope of forgiveness and salvation. The Ruler of Olympia will gain a reputation for harshness and His inability to be swayed, and a pregnant harvest of praises will perish. Although, in accordance with the innate law of Your goodness all sin is forever hateful to You, You are bound by no law ordained by fait that obliges you to demand requital. For You have the power to grant amnesty as You wish. Furthermore, because You are sparing of Your wrath but quick to spare, to torment the evil, to give them harsh treatment and lay them low in death is something hateful to God. That is something not done in a headstrong passion, but is pursued after lengthy study and with a slow effort. But to heap the helpless with good things, to succor fallen, to have a care for those in affliction, to relieve those overwhelmed by hardship, this is the work of a divine mind, something the Ruler of heaven is eager to do, and He boasts He is always tireless regarding these things. And You should consider this no less, that this simple minded, earth-born woman did not conceive this mad sin by jerself, in her own mind and of her own initiative, but was seduced by the wiles of a snake. Being inexperienced in the ways of the world and artless, she succumbed to sin, whose swordpoint was wielded by that snake of Cocytus as he pierced her throat and breast, striving to run God through by stabbing a human side. For while that enemy was devoted to his hatred, while gnawing envy pricked his heart with its goads, and saw that God was immune to fate, the laws of time, or injury, he raged with wild anger and strove to shift the focus of his attack to God’s replica, concealing the lethal venom of his loathing. So let the snake atone for its crime, let it pay for its sin. Cast down flames mixed with pitch on its head from heaven, send a barrage of thunderbolts and overwhelm it with your blows. But at least have pity on Man, on Man whom devious error has led astray unawares, and do not abolish the entire race for the sin of a single man. Your goodness, the prestige of Your high name do not allow You to give over so many men to death, to send so many wretched ghosts down to Tartarus, to despoil heaven of so many of its citizens. For none of the shades who dwell among the marshes of Hell beneath a black night lift their voices to sound God’s praises. But if You look on mankind with a friendly eye, oh what praises await you, Father! Mortals will offer You gifts, dedicating elaborate temples. The garland-crowned bull will drench Your altars, a heap of incense will pour forth clouds of smoke, steaming guts will fill the priest’s platter, and men will weigh down heaven with their happy prayers.”
When sweet Mercy had made an end to these words, Wisdom, who can penetrate the riddles of things, who is skilled at resolving quarrels and disclosing grave matters, finally began to speak: “If there is any weight to my words, my sweet sisters, dearer to me than the light of life, hear me as I speak. Holy Justice demands punishment and thunders her wrath, and gentle Mercy demands pardon for these crimes, and they appear to be at loggerheads. It is not easy to calm these waves. Rather, we must take an arduous road, a path hitherto untrodden. Oh, it is a thing at which future ages will wonder!
“In the sight of the sea, the earth, and the glittering camps of the sky, for a moment of time that passed quicker than an hour in its swift-running car, while mankind wallowed in sin before the eyes and face of God, then it was God’s will to punish them and sacrifice them to the shades of Orcus. But it pleased Him to free them of their guilt by His own free act, and yet for them to pay their deserved forfeits. Then I, who search out hidden things and secret thoughts, reconciled you with a peace destined never to be broken.
“It was decreed (and God has not yet changed His mind) that a great Son of the great Father should leave His starry home, and, to the astonishment of nature, enter into the womb of a virgin, an unsullied shrine of chastity, and take on a human soul without stain, a human body without sin, in an inextricable bond, so as to atone for mankind’s blots of sins and punishments by His death. Oh what dangers of sea and land He will confront! What an army of cares will trouble His sick mind! He will inhabit humble huts, and a lowly stable will give him its hospitality. Sheep and cattle will be His companions, and a manger will serve as this great King’s cradle. Then, changing His homeland, He will conceal himself in the regions of Pharos, whence He will return and live on paupers’ fare, serving his father while thirty years pass, until He has been baptized and a voice from heaven sends Him on His august task.
“Then He will seek out solitary places, trackless with their thorny brambles, ignorant of the plow, and the horrid lairs of beasts, steep, rough, towering up towards the clouds with their high places, where he will dwell for twice twenty days and nights, sullying his mouth with no food. Quickly the report will spread throughout the regions of the Styx that the Son of God is come, that the realm of the Underworld is overthrown, and the master of darkness and night will enter the lists, ardently assembling a mass of weaponry against this holy Person. Seeing that he has acted in vain by assembling an army and rushing to war, and that he is wielding his arms in vain, soon he will take up three arrows in that hand of his which has laid low thousands, poisoned with the venom of the Styx. The first will go flying through the air with a hissing whisper, speaking of dire things: the Father has been overcome with forgetfulness of His Son, He is touched by no care, troubled by no concern that He has exposed Him to famine. So he has sent his Son the message that He should look out for Himself and search for food, and unless He use hard stone for His bread, death hangs over His neck with its deadly steel. When Satan sees that His sacred breast cannot be pierced by this dart, like a ship which cannot make harbor because the wind is blowing against it, he will trim his yards and linen sails and take a new tack: since he will be unable to sail a direct route, he will cleave the water on a curving course. Thus the Hellish snake, skilled at seduction by wiles and false images, will see he cannot obtain his goal at the first try, but must alter his course and strive for victory by a change of direction. He will say that the Father is vigilant, and has surrounded His Son with a dense throng of angels, but forbids Him to return by the route He knows: if will hurl Himself headlong from high atop a tower, He will be borne to the bottom unscathed. When this dart has been warded off by the admonitions of holy eloquence, the only thing remaining will be the seductive glory of this deceptive word. Oh the bold crime! He will lead Him through trackless wastes and plant him atop a lofty mountain whose peak strikes Olympus, where he will show him the wealth of the earth: now the fat farmland, the feasts of Ceres, now the happy meadows and glory of the fields, the honors of the genial fields, the fruit-bearing orchards and proud, heaven-rivalling houses, and what the Tagus and the gold-bearing Hermus roll along, and what saturates the land of Pharos with its prosperous mud made of whatever earth the ebbing sea carries away before your very eyes. Standing Him there, he will promise to give Him these things as a gift in freehold, if He will clasp him by the knees and humbly bow to pay him holy honors. But, unable to let this great sin, greater than all expiation, go unpunished, with a menacing voice He will damn the villain to the shades and the lightless realm.
“After the army sent from the banks of the Acheron shall have been routed, a new battle will brew up on earth, and new storms, and a vast sea of sorrows remain to be navigated. For He will wander, burdened by the weight of a poverty-stricken life, devoid of resources, homeless, and bereft of all things, very much tossed about by land and by sea. Although the predatory pack of beasts have caves for their lairs, and the birds which sail the skies have nests to raise their young, there will be no sweet bower for nature’s Creator, Who wields the reins of heaven and rules the world with His government, where He rest His weary limbs on a soft bed. He will not be granted the limited shade of a hut or a lowly cottage or hovel, or a tile roof as shelter from rain.
“Although He shall give evidences of His divinity when he banishes evil spirits from the bodies they trouble, when He calms the wrath of the angry sea and the south wind’s howling roar with His voice, when the waves of the blue water subside and kiss His feet, when He turns water into streams of wine, heals limbs foul with deadly leprosy, unblocks the canals of deaf men’s ears with His powerful word, opens the way for the voice and restores sight to eyes condemned to night, restores men at death’s doorway and breaks the iron yoke of death, yet He will not escape the darts of a jealous tongue. Not only the shirt-wearing common folk and the man who pronounces law from on high, clad in garments dyed with a Thessalian Meander of purple, but also those who wear the white fillets of a priest, will strive to befoul His reputation. They will summon Him on charges of consorting with a throng of criminals, routing the shades of Tartarus with the ruler of Erebus, indulging in gluttony, and living on a congenial diet. Finally, after three years and six months are completed in the performance of His holy ministry, they will punish Him with a dishonorable death by stretching the limbs of His body on a cross. If you doubt whether the responsibility for this punishment should be fixed on mankind’s great anger, on hatred sown in black night and the Stygian Pit, or be ascribed to God, I shall explain everything in its due order.
“The King of celestials and men (for He is the same to all), Who punishes all evildoing, since His son will have taken all human sin upon Himself, will decreethis punishment, not out of hatred for His Son, but because of His love of the law. But the spirits who dwell in rivers a-boil with sulphur and pitch and in the deep of night, and the earth-bred monsters will be inspired by depraved desire and ill-advised envy, since the ruler of Orcus will have heard that His Son is destined to come, in the fullness of years, for the destruction of Orcus: thus the Fates have decreed. He will be further enraged because spirits have been commanded to abandon the hospitality of the earth and be oppressed in a foul maelstrom, imprisoned by river-banks. His hair garlanded with snakes, sitting on his viper’s throne, provoking Erebus, Chaos and Acheron, he will address the sinful shades:
“‘Oh my companions, it is not enough for us to be visited with a simple punishment. It is not enough for us to be thrust out of our heavenly home and the regions of the sky. We are also banned from the humble earth, nor are we allowed to haunt human houses, beset their bodies in wretched ways, play our bloody games, drink from their guts and make them speak in voices. For a new Son sent down from highest heaven is banishing us to this foul, stinking Mephitic realm, where there is horror and perpetual wailing under the lash. So combine your efforts, put your heads together. We possess power and our hearts are pregnant with deceits. We have a thousand skills for mischiefmaking, our servants stand ready to receive our commands. An insatiable thirst for gold heats Iscariot above all others, he has a nature ready for every kind of wrongdoing as long as hope for gold gleams. I shall inspire him to crime by incurable fevers, and undertake to set in motion such great sins. You, my companions, must stimulate the lawgiving lords with hatred and love of praise, and also those who wear the sacred tiara: let offerings pile up on their altars, and the Temple smoke with incense. If His honor grows and His name is sanctified forever, we are doomed to live a dishonored life in the marsh of the Styx. If He is not destroyed, we are. If He does not exchange life for a bloody death, we wretches will be hounded by the bitter Fates.’
“When the ruler of Orcus has said these things, the shades of Cocytus, their hearts transfixed with rage, out of their love for sin will band together like a storm of hail and wield their Hellish weaponry, their black clouds to darken their hearts, their torches of wrath, their sweet poison of vengeance, their biting plague of envy, and their various turns and twists of devious fraud. The commander of Orcus and this black army will rage, fearsome with his monstrosity of avarice, fulminate with his armament, and inflame the heart of Iscariot with the lust for possession by means both right and wrong. He will not allow him to stretch out his body on a bed or indulge in sweet sleep, without squandering his master in exchange for a trifle of money. Armed with these things, the shapeless forms of Erebus will cavort through the midst of Jerusalem, throwing everything into confusion, and the sacred order of the senate and the bevy of priests, together with the lowly people, enraged in their minds. These rascals will conspire to remove Christ from the earth. And now the fatal appointed hour will have come, since this will be the day granted by all Olympus. Iscariot, the very architect of the scheme, accompanied by a band armed with spears and the strength of burning torches, will head for a well-watered valley and their customary company, where a suppliant Christ, all His body now spattered with blood, will assault heaven with His cries.
“There is a sacred field outside the walls of Jerusalem, a valley adjacent to a mountain verdant with olive trees, where a fruitful orchard thrives with its bejewelled covering. What sorrows He will imbibe, set in this secret place, and with what a cloud of evils will He be overwhelmed! Grief will besiege Him like a dense encirclement surrounds city walls, great grief will buffet Him with its harsh whirlwind, and fear of cold death will shake Him. Thrice He will roll on the ground, befouled by the dark dust, and will water his face with tears and raise his hands to high heaven, greatly exhort his Father to avert this dire wrath and not to allow him to be overcome by this iniquitous burden.
“Meanwhile the traitor Iscariot, the guide of the military band, will dare his great crime. He will give the signal to his men, not a signal such as stretched drums thump out in battle or when concave cymbals clang, and hoarse horns combine with a raucous note. He will take Him in his arms in an embrace and plant false kisses, put on a false face, and greet his Master. They will bind His hands in chains and tie His arms. Oh the sin! The very Father of nature Who built the walls of the world with His hands, will be led to His death, those hands bound behind His back; in His innocence He will be convicted of crime! The Judge Who gives all the world its laws will be found guilty and the Author of life will be bound to a tree of death! The mind cannot equal His sorrows in its meditation, nor can the tongue express them in its speaking. His royal face will be bruised by the blows of fists, His back will be furrowed by a knotted flail, saliva will befoul His face, His high temples will be bound by wounding thorns, and they will set the deadly wood on His shoulders, an insufferable burden. God come down from heaven (horrible to say), will bear His own cross. Wounded, He will travel around the fields, then turn His steps towards Golgotha, Golgotha, foul with gore, white with bones. There He will suffer no punishment in accordance with His nation’s way, but after the Ausonian fashion, nailed to the tree, a sad offering.
“For the Jews will have four punishmenst: either the death-dealing sword will cut down the guilty, or a shower of stones hurled by a hateful hand will overwhelm him, or unfriendly fires will feed on his limbs, or the choking of his throat will cut off the breath of life. But He will pay the penalty for other men’s crimes on the cross, a punishment fetched from the nation of Italy. This cruel death with its effusion of blood will atone for human wrongdoings, His slow death with its slow torment will redeem Man from Orcus, and in His unhappiness He will bless him with the happy enjoyment of the light.
“When He sees Himself abandoned to this unspeakable manner of death, He will call on His Father’s aid with a q2uerlous voice and commend His undamaged soul to his paternal Olympus, and a soldier will drive a lance through His lifeless ribs. Just as a stream of water is carried down from the summit of a steep mountain into a forked valley and the divided water resounds, so the fluid of His heart, the water mixed with blood, will gush forth from His side, strange to see, and will dye the unwelcome earth with its splash. But, although this gore will flow from all of His body, it will pour forth most vigorously from His heart, His hands and His feet, since all sin is invented in the heart, and what the heart has devised is performed by the hands and the foot. Finally, the all-seeing sun will behold His limbs, pierced by triple nails, wounded by the lance, His hair filled with dried blood, His face bloodied, and His body piteously livid. A shadow will cover His countenance and hide it with its dark shroud. The moon will hide her sleep-bringing rays in clouds, and perform the last rites of the dead while the stars mourn. The earth will quake, with a vast crash great stones will slide from their seats. Their graves broken asunder, the souls of the dead will seek their lost remains, and the broken laws of the world will come at a timid run and with their sad tunes and hoarse muttering mourn that their Father has succumbed to fate.
“So now you see the holy thoughts that rise up in Justice’s mind, how these punishment surpass human means of expiation. This is no mortal blood, nor are these just the wounds of an earth-born man. This is the blood of God. It is God’s side that the lance opens, the Father of life Himself is subjected to death’s laws, His legs pierced by nails. Such is the task of restoring Man’s lapsed salvation. If whatever punishment human sin or error will have deserved worldwide is justly compared to His death, the death will outweigh the punishment, to the same extent that the world’s machinery is greater than motes dancing in the sunlight or the water of the vast sea is greater than the drops of dew that water the grass. Therefore whenever Man will owe Justice a penalty, the Son of God will stand surety for his sin and pay off the sum, and will give him a clean slate without any remaining debt. So cease calling down avenging lightning from heaven or summoning up shades from Acheron to serve as your executioners. More than enough has been granted your vengeful wrath by His torment. Set aside your passion, cease complaining of the unpaid debts for sin, and look on mankind with a placid face.
“And you, Mercy, who with covered hands c ling to God’s knees and besiege heaven with your humble entreaty, make an end to your tears and free your mind of its cares. You are granted the full measure of your wish, mankind is retrieved from Orcus and placed in his heavenly home, to which he is akin. For the Son of God, the holy Lamb, will drench the altar with His blood, He will pour a libation to the Father of His pure, untainted blood. And as soon as He makes an offering, not of a heap of grain, the guts of cattle, or a harvest of Arabian incense, but by the merits of His life He will mark out a hitherto-untrodden, endless path to heaven. Hence for those who have sure faith in their hearts and are deeply wounded by repentance, from the place the morning sun rises to that where it sinks its car in the evening, the altar of mercy is available for all mortals.
“Nor should you be troubled that those men whom the breath of divine wind has restored are suffering harsh misfortunes on the earth: this deserves to be regarded as a medicine for their evildoing, not as a punishment, by which God may soften their hard hearts and wash them clean when they are filthy, and restrain the deadly plant of their vices. Therefore, although heaven’s mercy has rescued Adam from the punishments of Erebus and will at length raise him above the skies, nevertheless, since he ate of the sinful food, he must live his life amidst hard and harsh things. But the cause of this evil, thanks to its forked tongue and the poison it spews, that serpent of the Phlegethon, it will forever suffer the punishments of woeful Orcus. Thus your praiseworthy equity is no wise diminished, holy Justice, and the reputation of your praise remains intact, Mercy, and will publish your name throughout all the world.”
When she had said these things, the weighty products of her reason, the clouds of quarreling scattered and golden Peace showed its face, as does Phoebus when he reveals the sky with his life after a storm, lowering with its rainy southerlies, has taken away the light and covered the heaven with darkness. Thus the goddess, sweetly smiling, reconciled the sisters in the spirit of concord. They agreed with a firm pact, and Justice and Mercy took turns in kissing each other.
The Almighty nodded His agreement, and broke out in savage wrath when He beheld the face of the guilty serpent and its spotted back, saying, “You unhappy creature, the source of sin and the cause of all evil, hear the sentence I pronounce on you. I damn you to Hell for ever. You will creep along the ground, using curved motions on your belly, horrid for your spots and disgusting for your many coils. An object of hatred to one and all, you will live your life as an exile in trackless wastes, where you will inhabit thorny things and deserts filled with pumice. Your food and sustenance will be foul filth and the useless sweat of the land. And, since you have a heart teeming with Stygian venom, you who dwell in the darkness and the unlovely realm of Orcus, because a woman has made an unholy pact with you, I shall cast you down and consign you to deadly battles. Behold, I bring you eternal wrath and the eternal seeds of warfare, and I shall involve you in constant struggle against a Man born of woman. Nor will this quarrel be about a poverty-stricken kingdom: salvation itself is at stake, rule over heaven weighs in the balance. But He will have no need of triple brass or a breastplate, nor to shine with a golden shield that casts a dancing light with its star-like boss, nor to bear a death-dealing axe on His shoulders or clutch a spear in His hard hand. Rather I shall grant Him weapons from heaven’s armories, such as Simplicity, unpainted by any cosmetics, which will be a strong baldric when interwoven with Truth. Love of Truth will be His breastplate, triumphant Patience His greaves, trampling underfoot a thousand adversities, a thousand perils. Sure Faith will be His shield, impervious to any blow, and Hope, unbroken by evils and able to foresee the future, His helmet. Prophecies, set forth in Holy Writ, will serve as His deadly sword. Let vows and prayers finish off His work. Whoever shines in this armor will ward off every blow and all unfriendly darts.
“Then too, there will come a time in when this Man born of woman, the bane of the shadows of silent night, with His heavenly arms will challenge you to battle. Oh, how he will rush into the fight! What a likeness in Him! With what a whirlwind will He go to meet His foe! When He rises up in His fierceness against your father’s spear, feeble in your strike you will wretchedly sink your fangs in His ankles, but no higher, and only wound Him in His mortal parts. But when He, mighty in arms, ardently thunders in battle, lifting up and poising His wounded foot, He will stamp mightily upon your head, despoiling you of both kingdom and life, and dispatch you to Stygian Avernus for your punishment.”
Then, turning His eyes rightward where calm-faced Mercy stood, He chided Eve with these words, making her hope for pardon bright with His countenance: “You, created from your husband when his side was opened up, and, thanks to Me, ennobled by a proud marriage and mighty by land and by sea, only lesser than your husband in your government and blessed by an abounding river of grace, is this how you ill repay Me for My favors? Did you have no faith in My promises? Did My scorned commands go flying away on the breezes? Did neither death nor Tartarus hold any terror for you? Oh the shame! Oh the disgrace! A woman, fashioned out of earth, takes up arms against heaven and, allied with the tyrant of the Styx, she would nullify the government of Jehovah? Did a woman infect with the contagion of her sin and consign to death her incautious husband, her brother by nature, her father by the manner of her birth, her lord and master by the laws of marriage? So this punishment awaits you, that, having experienced the marriage-bed, you will carry in your womb, and I will vex you with constant pangs and hard suffering. There await you belching, arising from the belly’s foul cavern, the reflux of food going backward in its course, dizziness of the head, spinning in a misty whirl, a craving for dire dishes and strange diets and an unfriendly nausea when confronted with any manner of foodstuff. I shall vex you with perpetual ills, and constantly hound you with trouble when you are sick. Finally, when the moon has completed nine orbits and your womb carries a mature burden, about to bring its fruit to light, you will suffer slow contractions, a refusal of your womb to open, a difficult childbirth, and harsh labors. The dictates of marriage will add to these woes. It was sweet to defer to the companion of your bed. Now obeying your husband and growing accustomed to his masterly bridle will be a hard service, because you, a woman, dared sit at the helm and, with your cackhanded steering,you managed to wreck him on reefs and shoals. Although this will not be to your liking, My sentence stands thus. God’s fates confirm this with the everlasting strength of steel.”
Finally, He Who makes the heaven and earth to turn with His divine power addressed Adam with these words: “You, who were lately heaven’s most just darling, to whom I gave the enjoyment of unusual honor, for whom, conjoined with your wife, for her husband’s benefit surpassing the sun’s brightness in her golden splendor, I constructed a bridal bower, how heedlessly you forgot the grace of this deed! Thus you rashly dare eat that forbidden food, you glutton, strip God of His government, and promise yourself the wielding of heaven’s scepter? Does vile mud, its limbs quickened by the frail breath of life, wax so proud? Does it nurse such great mortal spirits in its breast? But it was your wife who infused your inmost marrow with this plague. For you placed such trust in her words and My commandments became mockeries and went flying off in the fleet winds. Therefore, because you opened your ears to your wife’s admonitions and plunged yourself into the mist and dark night of sinning, earth, the mother of harvests, which of her own free will opens the bosom of her fertile soil and teems with heavy corn-stalks, abounds with fruit-bearing forests and sweet Bacchus, will produce burrs and caltrops, briars and thorns, and will grow squalid with scabrous tufa and barren sand, and, unfortunate in her crops, will be most harsh in stingily offering you sustenance, nor will she freely open her bosom for human usage, but only when compelled by much care and art. Therefore you will be obliged to muck the lifeless earth with fat mud and steer your docile ox as you wear your boots, or break up its hard surface with your sturdy hoe. Then you will sow life-giving seeds in watered furrows, and, bent over, you will artfully break up clumps of glebe with your mattock or the heavier weight of your rake.
“When golden Ceres rises up as a shoot, your attentive labor will come into play. If the earth cracks with drought, you will bring in a sufficiency of water by ditching. If it grows too luxuriantly, you will send in your sheep to crop it. If a blight harms your plants, you will prune them by hand, trimming them with your steel or your fingernail. Finally, when the ripe grain grow grey, you will reap it with your sickle, cast it under the feet of your busy bull, grind it with a stone, soak it in water, and parch it. Oh what care and pain awaits you! Oh how often the sweat will flow from your body as the toilsome cycle of chores repeats itself! And — this is the extremity of your punishments and draws a last line to your affairs — pallid Death with her grim face and white hears, horrid for her black talons and clutching hands, who comes to all alike, will harvest your body with her savage steel. But, although all men must walk this path of death, death’s highway is not simple, the same doom does not await all men. A current of water will drown this man in its violent vortex, crackling fire will reduce that one to a black cinder, and the lively winds will bring down not a few with their awful gusts. Nor will Man be safe from your deceits, stepmother earth. Oh how many will be sent to their destruction by the steep precipices of cliffs! Fine, bold young men impelled by their ardor to be seen in battle, will close their eyes in eternal night, while a whizzing rain of steel rages,as the domed sky roars like thunder with terrific gunfire. And indeed, the body will attack itself in civil warfare. A storm of the head’s fluid will flow like rain and drown the heart, teeth will rot with scurf, pain will grip the gaping jaws, a gasping cough will shake the sides, a flood of salty fluid will infect the lungs which breathe in and out the fleeting breath of life with its sluggish viscous putrefaction. Quarreling Ceres and Bacchus will take up arms and fight a disreputable battle in the stomach. Often the liver will send rotten evils throughout the body. Often the spleen will becloud the brain with its pitch-black soot, make the entire region of the heart palpitate, and, while yet awake, manufacture dire dreams for itself. Why should I mention the gravel of the kidneys and knotty gout? Why tell you of the torments of a distended belly, and the griping winds of the twisty guts? For, since the filth of sin will inundate all the body and punishments pervade it all, every part will be diseased and pass many a day in pain. And the maelstrom of death, worse than them all, will remain, if repentance does not burn away all the seeds of stiff-necked sin and renewing grace does not reign in all your mind. And, Adam, although you flourish in the flower of your youth, a sad winter will cover your temples with white snow, ancient wrinkles will furrow your brow, your broken powers will languish in your ancient body. When death has ravaged your heart with its fatal steel, the earth will take you into its bosom, the earth that was the first beginning of your race, and decay will dissolve your body into a disgusting cinder.”
After He had spoken these words, He drew near and banished Adam from the borders of the Garden of Eden, dressed in the shaggy hide of a sheep or a goat, or the skin of a Libystian bear. An angel, fearful for his fiery sword, was set as a trusty guardian of the inaccessible garden. But God fulfilled His promise concerning His coming seed, first having foreshadowed by various images and figures the birth of His Son. Then, after the passage of forty generations, God’s dear Son took on a mortal frame and atoned for the blemishes of sin with His sacrificial death. And after Phoebus had thrice plunged his horses in the Iberian sea and just as often had renewed his fires in the eastern water, He was restored to life, ornamented by the trophies of His victory over death, and ascended above the golden temples of heaven. And at length as our Judge will consign sinners to the tearful shadows of Orcus, and bless us with the light of heaven.