THE HISTORY OF RICHARD RAYNAL SOLITARY
ROBERT HUGH BENSON
PATRI.REVERENDISSIMO *. *****. ******. *.*.*. ET CVIDAM.NESCIENTI HVNC.LIBRVM D.
How Sir John visited Master Hermit: and found him in contemplation
Of the Word from God that came to Master Hermit: and of his setting out
How Master Richard fared: how he heard Mass in Saint Pancras' Church: how he came to Westminster: and of his colloquy with the Ankret
How Master Richard saw the King in Westminster Hall: and of the Mass at Saint Edward's Altar
How Master Richard cried out in Westminster Hall: and of his coming to a Privy Parlour
Of Master Richard's speaking with the King's Grace: and how he was taken for it
Of Master Richard's second speaking with his Grace: and of his detention
Of the Parson's Disquisition on the whole matter
How Master Richard took his meat: and of Master Lieutenant's whipping of him
Of the Second Temptation of Master Richard: and how he overcame it
Of the Dark Night of the Soul
How Sir John went again to the cell: and of what he saw there
How one came to Master Priest: how Master Priest came to the King's Bedchamber: and of what he heard of the name of Jesus
Of Sir John's Meditations in Westminster Palace
How Master Richard went to God
Of his Burying
In the winter of 1903-4 I had occasion to pass several months in Rome.
Among other Religious Houses, lately bought back from the Government by their proper owners, was one (whose Order, for selfish reasons, I prefer not to specify), situated in the maze of narrow streets between the Piazza Navona and the Piazza Colonna; this, however, may be said of the Order, that it is one which, although little known in Italy, had several houses in England up to the reign of Henry VIII. Like so many other Orders at that time, its members moved first to France and then to Italy, where it has survived in penurious dignity ever since.
The Religious were able to take with them at the time of exodus, three and a half centuries ago, a part of the small library that existed at the English mother-house, and some few of these MSS. have survived to the present day; many others, however, have certainly perished; for in the list of books that I was looking over there one day in March, 1904, I observed several titles, of which, the priest-librarian told me, the corresponding volumes have disappeared. To some half-dozen of these titles, however, there was appended a star, and on enquiring the meaning of this symbol, I was informed that it denoted that a translation had been made into French and preserved in the library.
One of these titles especially attracted my attention. It ran as follows: VITA ET OBITUS DNI RICARDI RAYNAL HEREMITAE.
Upon my asking to see this and its companions, I was conducted to a dusty shelf in the little upstairs book-room, and was informed that I might do as I pleased there for two hours, until the Ave Maria rang, and the doors would be locked.
When the librarian had gone with many nods and smiles, I took down these half dozen books and carried them to the table by the window, and until Ave Maria rang I turned their pages.
The volume whose title had especially attracted my attention was a quarto MS., written, I should suppose from the caligraphy, about the end of the sixteenth century; a later hand had appended a summary to each chapter with an appropriate quotation from a psalm. But the book was in a shocking condition, without binding, and contained no more than a fragment. The last page was numbered "341," and the first page+ "129." One hundred and twenty-eight pages, therefore, were certainly lost at the beginning, and I know not how many at the end; but what was left was sufficiently engrossing to hold me standing by the window, until the wrinkled face of the priest looked in again to inform me that unless I wished to sleep in the library, I must be gone at once.
On the following morning by nine o'clock I was there again; and, after an interview with the Superior, went up again with the keys in my own possession, a quantity of foolscap and a fountain-pen in my hand, and sandwiches in my pocket, to the dusty little room beneath the roof.
I repeated this series of actions, with the exception of the interview, every day for a fortnight, and when I returned to England in April I took with me a complete re-translation into English of the "Vita et obitus Dni Ricardi Raynal Heremitae," and it is this re-translation that is now given to the public, with the correction of many words and the addition of notes, carried out during the last eighteen months.
* * * * *
It is necessary to give some account of the book itself, but I will not trouble my readers with an exhaustive survey of the reasons that have led me to my opinions on the subject: it is enough to say that most of them are to be found in the text.
It is the story of the life of one of that large body of English hermits who flourished from about the beginning of the fourteenth century to the middle of the sixteenth; and was written, apparently for the sake of the villagers, by his parish-priest, Sir John Chaldfield, who seems to have been an amiable, devout, and wordy man, who long outlived his spiritual son. Of all the early part of Master Richard Raynal's life we are entirely ignorant, except of the facts that his parents died in his youth, and that he himself was educated at Cambridge. No doubt his early history was recorded in the one hundred and twenty-nine pages that are missing at the beginning. It is annoying also that the last pages are gone, for thereby we have lost what would probably have been a very full and exhaustive list of the funeral furniture of the sixteenth century, as well as an account of the procession into the country and the ceremonies observed at the burial. We might have heard, too, with some exactness (for Sir John resembles a journalist in his love of detail) about the way in which his friend's fame began to spread, and the pilgrims to journey to his shrine. It would have been of interest to trace the first stages in the unauthorised cult of one as yet uncanonised. What is left of the book is the record of only the last week in Master Richard's life and of his death under peculiar circumstances at Westminster in the bed-chamber of the King.
It is impossible to know for certain who was this king, but I am inclined to believe that it was Henry VI., the founder of Eton College and King's College, Cambridge, whose life ended in such tragedy towards the close of the fifteenth century. His Queen is not mentioned from beginning to end, and for this and other reasons I am inclined to particularise still more, and conjecture that the period of which the book treats must be prior to the year 1445 A.D., when the King married at the age of twenty-three.
Supposing that these conjectures are right, the cardinal spoken of in the book would be Cardinal Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester, and cousin of the King.
All this, however, must be doubtful, since the translator of the original English or Latin appears to have omitted with scrupulous care the names of all personages occurring in the narrative, with one or two unimportant exceptions. We do not even know in what part of the country Sir John Chaldfield held his living, but it appears to have been within thirty or forty miles of London. We must excuse the foreign scribe, however; probably the English names were unintelligible and barbarous to his perceptions; and appeared unimportant, too, compared to the interest of the mystical and spiritual experiences recorded in the book.
Of these experiences it is difficult to write judiciously in this practical age.
Master Richard Raynal appears to have been a very curious young man, of great personal beauty, extreme simplicity, and a certain magnetic attractiveness. He believed himself, further, to be in direct and constant communication with supernatural things, and would be set down now as a religious fanatic, deeply tinged with superstition. His parson, too, in these days, would be thought little better, but at the time in which they lived both would probably be regarded with considerable veneration. We hear, in fact, that a chapel was finally erected over Master Raynal's body, and that pilgrimages were made there; and probably, if the rest of the work had been preserved to us, we should have found a record of miracles wrought at his shrine. All traces, however, of that shrine have now disappeared—most likely under the stern action of Henry VIII.—and Richard's name is unknown to hagiology, in spite of his parson's confidence as regarded his future beatification.
It is, however, interesting to notice that in Master Raynal's religion, as in Richard Rolle's, hermit of Hampole, there appears to have been some of that inchoate Quietism which was apt to tinge the faith of a few of the English solitaries. He was accustomed to attend mass devoutly and to receive the sacraments, and on his death-bed was speeded into the next world, at his own desire, by all the observances prescribed by the Catholic Church. His attitude, too, towards the priesthood, is somewhat uncharacteristic of his fellows, who were apt to boast with apparent complacency that they were neither "monk, friar, nor clerk." In other matters he is a good type of that strange race of solitaries who swarmed in England at that time, who were under no vows, but served God as it pleased them, not hesitating to go among their fellows from time to time if they thought themselves called to it, who were looked upon with veneration or contempt, according to the opinion formed of them by their observers, but who, at any rate, lived a simple and wholesome life, and were to some extent witnesses to the existence of a supernatural Power at whose bidding (so they believed) they were summoned to celibacy, seclusion, labour, and prayer.
It is curious also to trace through Sir John's fanciful eyes the parallels between the sufferings of Master Richard and those of Christ. Of course, no irreverence is intended. I should imagine that, if Sir John were put on his defence, he would say that the life of every true Christian must approximate to the life of Christ so far as his spirit is identified with the Divine Spirit, and that this is occasionally fulfilled even in minute details.
It is unnecessary to add much more in this introduction—(for the story will tell its own tale)—beyond saying that the re-translation of the French fragment into English has been to me a source of considerable pleasure. I have done my best to render it into the English of its proper period, including even its alliterations, while avoiding needless archaisms and above all arbitrary spelling. But no doubt I am guilty of many solecisms. I have attempted also to elucidate the text by a number of footnotes, in which I have explained whatever seemed to call for it, and have appended translations to the numerous Latin quotations in which Sir John indulges after the manner of his time. I must apologise for these footnotes—(such are always tiresome)—but I could think of no other way by which the text could be made clear. They can always be omitted without much loss by the reader who has no taste for them.
Sir John's style is a little difficult sometimes, especially when he treats in detail of his friend's mystical experience, but he has a certain power of word-painting (unusual at his date) in matters both of nature and of grace, and it is only when he has been unduly trite or obscure that I have ventured, with a good deal of regret, to omit his observations. All such omissions, however, as well as peculiar difficulties of statement or allusion, have been dealt with in foot-notes.
With regard to the function of the book, at any rate since its first translation into French, it is probably safe to conjecture that it may have been used at one time for reading aloud in the refectory. I am led to make this guess from observing its division into chapters, and the quasi-texts appended to each. These texts are of all sorts, though all are taken from the Book of Psalms; but their application to the matter that follows is sometimes fanciful, frequently mystical, and occasionally trite.
If the book receives any sympathy from English readers—(an eventuality about which I have my doubts)—I shall hope, at some future date, to edit others of the MSS. still reposing in the little room under the roof between the Piazza Navona and the Piazza Colonna in Rome, to which I have been generously promised free access.
I must express my gratitude to the Superior of the Order of —— (to whose genius, coupled with that of another, I dedicate this book), for giving me permission to edit his MS.; to Dom Robert Maple, O.S.B., for much useful information and help in regard to the English mystics; and to Mme. Germain who has verified references, interpreted difficulties, and assisted me by her encouragement.
Cambridge, Feast of SS. Peter and Paul, 1905.
How Sir John visited Master Hermit: and found him in contemplation
Protexit me in abscondito tabernaculi sui.
He hath protected me in the secret place of His tabernacle. —Ps. xxvi. 5.
[The Ms. begins abruptly at the top of the page.]
... It was at vespers on the fourth day afterwards, being Corpus Christi, that saint Giles, as I suppose, moved me to visit Master Richard. So I put on my cap again, and took my furred gown, for I thought it would be cold before I came home; and set out through the wood. I was greatly encouraged by the beauty of the light as I went down; the sun shone through the hazels on my right, and the roof of leaves was a fair green over my head; and to right and left lay a carpet of flowers as blue as the Flanders' glass above the altar. I had learnt from Master Richard, though he was thirty years my younger, many beautiful lessons, and one of them that God's Majesty speaks to us by the works of His almighty hands. So when I saw the green light and the gold and the blue, and the little flies that made merry in the way, I took courage.
At the lower end of the wood, as you know, the path falls down steeply towards the stream, and when it has left the wood there are meadows to right and left, that were bright with yellow flowers at this time. In front the stream runs across the road under hazels, and where the chapel is still a-building over his body, on the left side, with its back against the wood stood his little house.
I will tell you of all this, as I saw it then; for the pilgrims have trampled it all about now, and the stream is all befouled and the banks broken, and the trees cut down by the masons that came to make the second chapel where Master Richard was wont to bathe himself, against the fiend's temptations at first, and afterwards for cleanness' sake, too—(for I never heard of a hermit as cleanly as was this young man, soon, and in spite of his washings, by the prayers of our Lady and saint Giles, to be declared among the blessed servants of God.)
The meadow was a fair circle of grass; with trees on every side but on this where the gate stood. It sloped to the stream that ran shallow over the stones, and down across it from the cell to the pool lay the path trampled hard by Master Richard's feet; for he had lived there four years at this time since his coming from Cambridge. Besides this path there was another that circled the meadow, and it was on this that he walked with God. I have seen him there sometimes from the gate, with his hands clasped, fingers to fingers, and his eyes open but seeing nothing; and if it had not been for the sin in my soul (on which God have pity!) I might have seen, too, the heavenly company that often went with him and of which he told me.
Before the hut lay a long garden-bed, in which the holy youth grew beans in their season, and other vegetables at other times; for it was on these, with nuts from the hazelwood, and grasses of which I know not the names (though he has told me of them many times), with water from the stream, that he sustained his life.
On either side of the hut stood a great may-tree; it was on account of these that he had built his little house here, for he knew the properties and divine significations of such things.
The house itself was of wattles, plastered with mud from the brook, and thatched with straw. There was a door of wood that he leaned against the opening on this side when he prayed, but not when he slept, and a little square window high up upon the other side that looked into the green wood. It is of that same door that saint Giles' new altar was made, for the house fell down after his going, and the wind blew about the mud and the sticks, and the pilgrims have now carried all away. I took the door myself, when I came back and had seen him go through the heavenly door to our Lord.
The house within was a circle, three strides across, with a domed roof like a bee-hive as high as a man at the sides and half as high again in the centre. On the left lay his straw for a bed, and above it on the wall the little square of linen that he took afterwards with him to London, worked with the five precious wounds of our Saviour. On the right hand side was a wooden stool where he sat sometimes to pray and on the wall against it a little press that held some bottles within, and in another shelf some holy relics that are now in the church, and in another his six books; and above, upon the top, a little cross with our Lord upon it, very rude; for he said that the eyes of the soul should not be hindered by the eyes of the body, and that our Lord showed Himself often to him more clearly and truly than a craftsman could make Him. Above the window was a little figure of the Mother of God, set there, he told me, above the sight of the green wood, because she was the mother of all living, and had restored what Eve had spoiled.
I cannot tell you, my children, of the peace of this place. The little house, and indeed the whole circle of the meadow set about with trees, was always to me as a mansion in paradise. There were no sounds here but the song of the birds and the running of the water and the wind in the trees; and no sight of any other world but this, except in winter when the hill over against the hut showed itself through the branches not three hundred paces away. On all other sides the woods rose to the sky. I think that the beasts knew the peace of the place. I have seen often a stag unafraid watching Master Richard as he dug or walked on his path; the robins would follow him, and the little furry creatures sit round him with ears on end. And he told me, too, that never since he had come to the place had blood fallen on the ground except his own when he scourged himself. The hunting-weasel never came here, though the conies were abundant; the stags never fought here though there was a fair ground for a battlefield. It was a peace that passed understanding, and what that peace is the apostle tells us.
Here I came then on Corpus Christi evening, thirty years ago, as the sun was near its setting behind the gate through which I came, and my shadow lay half-across the meadow before me.
* * * * *
It appeared to me that somewhat was amiss, but I knew not what it was: I was a little afraid. Master Richard was not to be seen, but his door was wide, so I thought he would not be praying. As I came up the path I saw something that astonished me. There was a circle of beasts about the hut, little conies that sat in the sunlight and shadow, without feeding, though it was the time for it; and as I came nearer I saw other beasts. There was a wild cat crouched in the shadow of the hazels moving his tail from side to side; a stag with his two does stood beneath a beech-tree, and a boar looked over the bank against which stood the hut.
They did not move as I came up and looked in at the door.
This is what I saw within.
The holy youth was seated on his stool with his hands gripping the sides and his eyes open, and he was looking towards the image of our Saviour on the right-hand side.
You have seen his holy and uncorrupt body, but in life he was different to that. He was not above twenty years old at this time, and of a beauty that drew men's eyes to him. [This is the exact phrase used of Richard Rolle, hermit of Hampole.] His hair was as you know it; a straight, tawny, nut-brown head of hair that fell to his shoulders; and he had the cleanest line of face that ever I have seen.
His hair came low upon his straight forehead; his nose was straight, with fine nostrils; he had a little upper lip on which grew no hair, a full lip beneath very short, and a round cleft chin; his eyebrows were dark and arched; his whole face smooth and thin, and of an extraordinary clean paleness; he had a curved throat turned to a pale brown by the sun, though the colour of his body, I have heard it said, was as white as milk. He was dressed always in a white kirtle beneath, and a brown sleeveless frock over it of the colour of his hair, that came to his ankles, and was girt with a leather band. He went barefoot, but carried a great hat on his shoulders when he walked. He moved slowly at such times, and bore himself upright. His hands were fine and slender, and were burned brown like his face and his throat.
I tell you that I have never seen such a wonderful beauty in mortal man; and his soul was yet more lovely. It is no wonder that God's Majesty delighted in him, and that the saints came to walk with him. He was like neither man nor woman. He had the grey eyes of a woman, the mouth and chin of a man, the hands of a matron, and the figure of a strong virgin. I was always a little man, as you know, and when I walked with him, as I did sometimes, the top of my cap came just beneath his ear.
Master Richard, as I have said, was seated now on his stool, with his knees together, and his hands gripping the sides of his seat. His chin was a little thrust out, and he was as still as a stock. This I knew, was the manner in which sometimes he entered into strong contemplation; and I knew, too, that he would neither hear me nor see me till he moved. So I watched him a moment or two, and I grew yet more afraid as I watched; for this is what I saw:
Down from his temples across his cheeks ran little drops of sweat on to his brown frock, and that though it was a cool evening, and his spade was hung on its peg beneath the window. (It was the spade that you have seen in the church with a cross-handle polished by his holy hands.)
I looked for a while, and I grew yet more afraid. It seemed to me that there was somewhat in the cell that I could not see. I looked up at the window but there was nothing there but the still green hazel leaves; I looked at his bed, at the smooth mud walls and floor, at the domed roof, and, through the hole in the centre, where the smoke escaped when he made a fire, I could see leaves again and the evening sky. Yet the place was full of something; there was something of energy or conflict, I knew not which: some person was striving there.
Then I was suddenly so much afraid that I dared not stay, and I went back again along the path, and walked at the lower end of the meadow beside the stream.
Of the Word from God that came to Master Hermit: and of his setting out
Vias tuas, Domine, demonstra mihi: et semitas tuas educe me.
Shew, O Lord, Thy ways to me: and teach me Thy paths.—Ps. xxiv. 4.
There are, as you have learned from me, and I from Master Richard Raynal, a trinity of natures in man. There is that by which he has to do with the things of matter—his five wits; that by which he has to do with God Almighty and the saints—his immortal soul and her powers; and, for the last, that by which he has to do with men—his lower understanding, his mind, his power of speech, and the like. Each nature has its proper end, though each ministers to the other. With his ears he hears God's Word, with his immortal soul he perceives God Almighty in what is seen with the eyes; with his understanding he comprehends the nature of flowers and the proper time to sow or reap. This trinity may be devoted to God or the fiend.... It is not true, as some have said, that it is only with the soul that God is perceived or served, and that the other two are unclean. We may serve God by digging with the hands, by talking friendly with our neighbour, and by the highest of all which is contemplation.
This is what Master Richard did, following the Victorines but not altogether. He strove to serve God alike in all, and I count his life, therefore, the highest that I have ever known. He said that to dig, to talk over the gate with a neighbour, and to contemplate the Divine Essence, were all alike to serve God. He counted none wasted, for God Almighty had made the trinity of natures in His own image, and intended, therefore, a proper occupation for each. To refuse to dig or to talk was not to honour contemplation; and this he said, though he said besides that some could not do this through reason of finding that one distracted the other. I count, however, that his own life was the hardest, for he did all three, and did not suffer one to distract another.
The most difficulty of such a life is to know when to follow one and when the other, when to dig, when to speak, and when to contemplate; and he would tell me that for this there are two guides that God Almighty sends—the one is that of exterior circumstance, and the other that of an interior knowledge, and he would follow that which cried the louder. If he desired to contemplate and a neighbour came to talk with him; if he perceived the neighbour clearly he would give over his contemplation; if not he would continue to contemplate. Again, if the imagination of a spade came mightily before him, or if he remembered that the sun would soon be up and his beans not watered, again he would give over his contemplation and dig or carry water.
For this there is needed one thing, and that a firm and quiet simplicity. He would do nothing till his mind was quiet. The friend of God must be as a little child, as the gospel tells us, and when the soul is quiet there is no difficulty in knowing what must be done. The first business then of a solitary's life is to preserve this quiet against the fiend's assaults and disquiet. And, I think, of all that I have ever known, Master Richard's soul was the most quiet, and most like to the soul of a little child.
As I walked now beside the stream I knew very well that it was for this that he was striving in contemplation: the sweat that ran down his cheeks was the sign of the fiend's assault, and I knew that I had done well to come. I had followed, as Master Richard himself had taught me, that loud interior voice.
So I strove to become quiet myself; I signed myself with the cross, and cried softly upon saint Giles to pray for me to God's Majesty that I might know what to say and do. Then I placed myself, as I had learned, at the divine feet; I looked at the yellow flowers and the clear running water and the open sky, and presently I was aware that all was silence within and without me. So I waited and walked softly to and fro, until Master Richard came to the door of his hut.
He stood there for a full minute, I suppose, with the sun on his face and his brown frock and broad white sleeves, before he saw me; for I was in the shadow of the hazels. Then he waved his hands a little, and came slowly and very upright down the path in the middle, and as I went towards him I saw the beasts had gone. They were content, I suppose, now that their master was come out.
He came down the path, very pale and grave, and knelt as usual for my blessing, which I gave; then he kissed my skirt as he always did with a priest, and stood up.
Now I will try to tell you all that he said as he said it.
* * * * *
We went together without speaking, to the hut, and he brought out the stool into the sunlight and made me sit upon it, and sat himself upon the ground beneath me, with his hands clasped about his knee, and his bare feet drawn beneath him. I could see no more of him but his brown hair and his throat, and his strong shoulders bent forward. Then he began to speak. His voice was always grave and steady.
"I am glad you are come, Sir John; I have something to ask you. I do not know what to do. I will tell you all."
I said nothing, for I knew what he wished; so I looked down across the meadow at the hazels and the pigeons that were coming down to the wood, and desired saint Giles to tell me what to say.
"It is this," he said. "Four days ago I was in contemplation, down there by the stream. The sensible warmth of which I have told you was in my heart; as it has been for over one year now, ever since I passed from the way of illumination. I think that it had never been so clear and strong. It was our Lord who was with me, and I perceived Him within as He always shows Himself to me; I cannot tell you what He is like, but there were roses on His hands and feet, and above His heart and about His head. I have not often perceived Him so clearly. His Mother, I knew, was a little distance away, behind me, and I wondered why it was so, and the divine John was with her. Then I understood that He was lonely, but no more than that: I did not know why. I said what I could, and then I listened, but He said nothing to me, and then, after a while, I understood that it was under another aspect that He was there; that there was one in his place, crowned with gold instead of roses, and I could not understand it. I was astonished and troubled by that, and the warmth was not so strong at my heart.
"Then He was gone; and I saw the stream again beneath me, and the leaves overhead, and there was sweat on my forehead.
"When I stood up there was a knowledge in my heart—I do not know whether from our Lord or the fiend—that I must leave this place, and go to one whom I thought must be the King with some message; but I do not know the message."
* * * * *
My children, it was a dreadful thing to hear that. He had never spoken so since his coming four years before, except once when he was in the purgative way, and the fiend came to him under aspect of a woman. But he had been in agony then, and he was quiet now. Before I could speak he spoke again.
"I said that I could not go; that God Almighty had brought me here and caused me to build my house and given me the meadow and the water and the beasts as my friends—that I was neither monk nor friar nor priest to be sent hither and thither—that I could not go. I cried on Him to help me and shew me His will; and then I went to dinner.
"Since that time, Sir John, the warmth has left me. I see the flowers, but there is nothing behind them; and the sunlight, but there is no heavenly colour in it. My mind is disquiet; I cannot rest nor contemplate as I should. I have been up the stairs that I have told you of a thousand times; I have set myself apart from the world, which is the first step, until all things visible have gone; then I have set myself apart from my body and my understanding so that I was conscious of neither hands nor heart nor head, nor of aught but my naked soul; then I have left that, which is the third step; but the gate is always shut, and our Lord will not speak or answer. Tell me what I must do, Sir John. Is it true that this is from our Lord, and that I must go to see the King?"
* * * * *
I was sick at heart when I heard that, and I strove to silence what my soul told me must be my answer.
"It has persevered ever since, my son Richard," I said?
He bowed his head.
"There is no savour in anything to me until I go," he answered. "This morning as I looked from over the wall upon the sacrament, my eyes were blinded: I saw nothing but the species of bread. I was forced to rest upon the assent of my faith."
Again I attempted to silence what my soul told me. It was the very power that Master Richard had taught me to use that was turning against what I desired. I had not known until then how much I loved this quiet holy lad with grave eyes—not until I thought I should lose him.
"There is no sin," I said, "that has darkened your eyes?"
I saw him smile sideways at that, and he turned his head a little.
"My sins are neither blacker nor whiter than they have always been," he said; "you know them all, my father."
"And you wish to leave us?" I cried.
He unclasped his hands and laid one on my knee. I was terrified at its purity, but his face was turned away, and he said nothing.
I had never heard the wood at that time of the evening so silent as it was then. It was the time when, as the lax monks say, the birds say mattins (but the strict observants call it compline), but there was neither mattins nor compline then in the green wood. It was all in a great hush, and the shadows from the trees fifty paces away had crept up and were at our feet.
Then he spoke again.
"Tell me what your soul tells you," he said.
I put my hand on his brown head; I could not speak. Then he rose at once, and stood smiling and looking on me, and the sunlight made a splendour in his hair, as it were his heavenly crown.
"Thank you, my father," he said, though I had not spoken one word.
Then he turned and went into the hut, and left me to look upon the green woods through my tears, and to listen to a mavis that had begun to sing in one of the may-trees. I knew he was gone to make ready.
* * * * *
The sun had quite gone down before he came out again, and the shadows were like a veil over the land; only the yellow flowers burned hot like candle flames before me.
He had four books in his hand and a little bottle, his hat on his shoulders, and the wooden sandals on his feet that he had worn to walk in four years before when he came to us. His little linen picture of the five wounds was fastened over his breast with thorns. He carried across his arm the second white-sleeved kirtle that he had, and his burse was on his girdle. He held out two of the books to me.
"These are for you, my father," he said; "the book of hours and the Regula Heremitarum I shall take with me, and all the rest of the mobills and the two other books I shall leave at our Lord's disposal, except the bottle of Quintessence."
I took the two books and looked at them.
There was Master Hoveden's Philomela, and a little book he had made on Quinte Essence.
"But you will need them!" I cried.
"I carry Philomela in my heart," he said, "and as for the Quinte Essence I shall have enough if I need it, and here is the bottle that holds that that has been made of blood.—The fifth—being of gold and silver I have not. Argentum et aurum non est mihi." ["Silver and gold I have none." (Acts iii. 6.)]
(That was the little bottle that I have told you of before. It was distilled of his own blood, according to the method of Hermes Trismegistus.)
"If I do not return," he said, "I bequeath all to you; and I wish six masses to be said; the first to be sung, of Requiem; the second of the five wounds; the third of the assumption; the fourth of all martyrs with a special memory of saint Christopher; the fifth of all confessors with a special memory of saint Anthony, hermit, and saint Giles, abbot; the sixth of all virgins with a special memory of saint Agnes."
You understand, my children, that he knew what would come to him, and that he had foreseen all; he spoke as simply as one who was going to another village only, looking away from me upon the ground. (I was glad of that.)
I begged of him to bid good-bye to his meadow.
"I will not;" he said, "I bear it with me wherever I go."
Then he took me by the arm, carrying his shod staff in his other hand, and led me to the gate, for I was so blinded that I stumbled as I went.
Once only did I speak as we passed upwards through the dark wood.
"And what will be your message," I asked, "when you come to the King?"
"Our Lord will tell it me when I come thither," he said.
We went through the village that lay dark and fast asleep. I wished him to go to some of the houses, and bid the folks good-bye, but he would not.
"I bear them, too, wherever I go," he said.
After we had adored God Almighty in the church, [That is, God present in the Blessed Sacrament.] and I had shriven the young man and blessed him, we went out and stood under the lychgate where his body afterwards rested.
It was a clear night of stars and as silent as was once heaven for the space of half-an-hour. The philomels had given over their singing near a month before, and it was not the season for stags to bray; and those, as you know, are the principal sounds that we hear at night.
We stood a long time listening to the silence. I knew well what was in my heart, and I knew presently what was in his. He was thinking on his soul.
He turned to me after a while, and I could see the clear pallour of his face and the line of his lips and eyes all set in his heavy hair.
"Do you know the tale of the Persian king, Sir John?"
I told him No; he had many of such tales. I do not know where he had read them.
"There was once a king who had the open eyes, and he looked into heaven and hell. He saw there two friends whom he had known in the flesh; the one was a hermit, and the other another king. The hermit was in hell, and the king in heaven. When he asked the reason of this, one told him that the hermit was in hell because of his consorting with the king, and the king in heaven because of his consorting with the hermit."
I understood him, but I said nothing.
"Pray for me then, Sir John," said Master Richard.
Then we kissed one another, and he was gone without another word along the white road.
How Master Richard fared: how he heard Mass in Saint Pancras' Church: how he came to Westminster: and of his colloquy with the Ankret
Abyssus abyssum invocat: in voce cataractarum tuarum.
Deep calleth on deep: at the noise of Thy flood-gates.—Ps. xli. 8.
The tale of his journey and of his coming to London he told me when I saw him again at the end. He spoke to me for over an hour, and I think that I have remembered near every word, but I cannot write down the laughter and the tears that were in his voice as he told me.
As he went along the road beneath the trees and the stars, carrying his kirtle, with his books and other things in his burse, and his hat on his shoulders, he was both happy and sorry.
There are two kinds of happiness for mortal men: there is that which is carnal and imperfect and hangs on circumstances and the health of the body and such like things; and there is that which is spiritual and perfect, which hangs on nothing else than the doing of the will of God Almighty so far as it is known, so that a man may have both at once, or either without the other. Master Richard had the one without the other.
At first he could not bear to think of what he had left behind him—his little quiet house and meadow and the stream where he washed, and the beasts and men that loved him; and he threw himself upon the other happiness for strength. By the time that he had arrived at the ford he was so much penetrated by this better joy that he was able to look back, and tell himself, as he had told me, that he bore with him always wherever he went all that he had left behind him. It was ever his doctrine that we lose nothing of what is good and sweet in the past, and that we suck out of all things a kind of essence that abides with us always, and that every soul that loves is a treasure-house of all that she has ever loved. It is only the souls that do not love that go empty in this world and in saecula saeculorum. He thought much of this on his road, and by the time that he had come so far that he thought it best to sleep by the wayside, the warmth had come back that had left him for four days.
He went aside then out of the road to find a hazel thicket, and by the special guidance of God found one with a may-tree beside it. There he groped together the dead leaves, took off his burse and his hat and his girdle and his brown habit, and laid the habit upon the leaves, unpinning the five wounds, and fastening them again upon his white kirtle. Then he knelt down by the may-tree, and said his prayers, beginning as he always did:
"Totiens glorior, quotiens nominis tui, JESU, recordor." ["I glory, so often as I remember Thy Name, JESU."]
Then he repeated the Name an hundred times, and his heart grew so hot and the sweetness in his month so piercing that he could scarce go on. Then he committed himself to the tuition of the glorious Mother of Christ, and to that of saint Christopher, saint Anthony, hermit, and saint Agnes, virgin, and lastly to that of saint Giles and saint Denis, remembering me. Then he said compline with paternoster, avemaria, and credo, signed himself with the cross, and lay down on his kirtle—specialissimus, darling of God—and drew the second kirtle over his body for fear of the dews and the night vapours; and so went to sleep, striving not to think of where he had slept last night. (He told me all this, as I have told you.)
He awoke at dawn in an extraordinary sweetness within and without, and as he walked in his white habit beneath the solemn beech-trees, his soul opened wide to salute the light that rose little by little, pouring down on him through the green roof. The air was like clear water, he said, running over stories, brightening without concealing their colours; and he drank it like wine. He had that morning in his contemplation what came to him very seldom, and I do not know if I can describe it, but he said it was the sense that the air he breathed was the essence of God, that ran shivering through his veins, and dropped like sweet myrrh from his fingers. There was the savour of it on his lips, piercing and delicate, and in his nostrils.
He set out a little later after he had washed, following the road, and came to a timber chapel standing by itself. I do not know which it is, but I think it must have been the church of saint Pancras that was burned down six years after. The door was locked, but he sat to wait, and after an hour came a priest in his gown to say mass. The priest looked at him, but answered nothing to his good-day (there be so many of these idle solitaries about that feign to serve God, but their heart is in the belly). I do not blame the priest; it may be he had been deceived often before.
There was a fellow who answered the mass, and Master Richard knelt by himself at the end of the church.
When mass was over the two others went out without a word, leaving him there. He said ad sextam then, and was setting out once more when the priest came back with a jug of ale and a piece of meat and bread which he offered him, telling him he would have given him nothing if he had begged.
Master Richard refused the meat and the ale, and took the bread.
The priest asked him his business, and he said he was for London to see the King.
The priest asked him whether he would speak with the King, and he told him Yes if our Lord willed.
"And what have you to say to him?" asked the priest.
"I do not know," said Master Richard.
The priest looked at him, and said something about a pair of fools, but Master Richard did not understand him then, for he had not heard yet the tale that the King was mad or near it.
So he kissed the priest's skirt, and asked his blessing; then he went down the steps to the little holy well (which makes me think it to be saint Pancras's church) and drank a little water after signing himself with it and commending himself to the saint, and went on his way. The sun was now high and hot, but he told me that when he looked back at the turn of the path the priest was at the gate in the full sun staring after him.
Of his journey that day there is not much to relate. He went by unfrequented ways, walking sedately as his manner was, with devotion in his heart. An hour before noon a woman gave him dinner as she came back from taking it to her husband who burned charcoal in the forest, and asked him a kiss for payment when he had done his meal, sitting on a tree, with her standing by and looking upon him all the while. But he told her that he was a solitary, and that he had kissed no woman but his mother, who had died ten years before, so she appeared content, though she still looked upon him. Then as he stood up, thanking her for the dinner, she caught his hand and kissed that, and he reproved her gently and went on his way again.
For many miles after that it was the same; he saw no man, but only the beasts now and then, walking beneath the high branches in the sylvan twilight, over the dead leaves and the fern, and seeing now and again, as he expressly told me, for it seemed he had some lesson from it, the hot light that danced in the open spaces to right and left.
He saw one strange sight, which I should not have believed if he had not told me, and that was a ring of bulls in a clearing that tossed something this way and that, one to the other: he drove them off, and found that it was a hare, not yet dead, but it died in his hands. He told me that this verse came to his mind as he laid the poor beast down under a tree; Circumdederunt me vituli multi: tauri pingues obsederunt me, ["Many calves have surrounded me: fat bulls have besieged me" (Ps. xxi. 13)] and there is no wonder in that, for it is from a psalm of the passion, and it was what befell him afterwards, as you shall hear.
Soon after that he bathed himself in a pool, for he was hot with walking, and desired to be at his ease when he saw folk again; and he dipped his sandals, too, to cool them.
Then he went in his white kirtle a little, until his hair was dried, and when the heat of the day began to turn he was aware that he was coming near to a village, for there was a herd of pigs that looked on him without fear.
The village was a very little one, but it stood upon a road, and here he had his first sight of the town-folks, for as he rested by a gate a company of fellows went by from the wars. I suppose that they were lately come from France (maybe from Arfleet [that is, Harfleur]), for he told me that there were pavissors among them—the men with the great shields called pavices which are used only in sieges from the wooden castles that they push against the walls of the town. They were stained with travel, too, and were very silent and peevish. There were all sorts there besides the pavissors—the men-at-arms in their plate and mail-shirts, the archers in their body-armour and aprons, and the glaivemen [Glaives were a kind of pike, but with long carved cutting-blades. Bills had straight blades.] with the rest. He said that one company that rode in front had the sign of the Ragged Staff upon their breasts, by which he learned afterwards that they were my lord Warwick's men. [The Ragged Staff was the emblem of Lord Warwick.]
One cried out to him to know how far was it to London, but he shook his head and said that he was a stranger. The fellow jeered and named him bumpkin, but the rest said nothing, and looked on him as they passed, and two at the end doffed their caps. They were about two hundred, and one rode in front with a banner borne before him; but it was a still hot day, and Master Richard could not see the device, for the folds hung about the staff.
He saw other folks after that here and there, although he avoided the villages where he could; but he got no supper, and an hour before sunset he came to the ferry over against Westminster. The wherries were drawn up on the beach, and he came down to these past Lambeth House, wondering how he was to get over.
He besought one man for the love of Jesu to take him over, but he would not; and another for the love of Mary, and a third for the sake of the Rood of Bromholm, [a famous relic of the True Cross.] and a fourth for the love of saint Anthony. And at that they laughed at him, coming round him and looking on him curiously, and crying that they would have all the saints out of him before Avemaria, and asking to know his business. When he told them in his simplicity that he was to see the King, they laughed the more, and said that the King was gone to be a monk at saint Edmond's, and that he had best look for him there.
Then he asked yet another, a great fellow with a hairy face and chest, to take him over for the love of saint Denis and saint Giles, and the fellow swore a great oath, elbowed his way out of the press that were all staring and laughing, and bade him follow.
So he got into the boat and sat there while the man carried down the oars, and all the rest crowded to look and question and mock. He told me that he supposed at the time that all the folks looked at him for that they were not used to see solitaries, but I do not think it was that. I tell you that one who looked a little on Master Richard would look long, and that one who looked long must either laugh or weep, so surprising was his beauty and his simplicity.
* * * * *
When they were half-way over the fellow told him which was the abbey church, and Master Richard said that he knew it, for that he had seen it four years before when he came under our Lord's hand from Cambridge, and that he would ask shelter from the monks.
"And there is an ankret [an ankret was a solitary, confined to one cell with episcopal ceremonies.], is there not?" asked Master Richard.
The man told him Yes, looking upon him curiously, and he told him, too, where was his cell. Then he put him on shore without a word, save asking for his prayers.
I cannot tell you how Master Richard came to the ankret's cell, for I was only at Westminster once when Master Richard went to his reward, but he found his way there, marvelling at the filth of the ways, and looked in through the little window, drawing himself up to it by the strength of his arms.
It was all dark within, he told me, and a stench as of a kennel came up from the darkness.
He called out to the holy man, holding his nostrils with one hand, and with the other gripping the bars and sitting sideways on the sill of the window. He got no answer at first, and cried again.
Then there came an answer.
There rose out of the darkness a face hung all over with hair and near as black as the hair, with red-rimmed eyes that oozed salt rheum. The holy man asked him what he wished, and why did he hold his nostrils.
"I wish to speak with your reverence," said Master Richard, "of high things. I hold my nostrils for that I cannot abide a stench."
The red eyes winked at that.
"I find no stench," said the holy man.
"For that you are the origin of its propagation," said Master Richard, "and dwell in the midst of it."
It was foolish, I think, of the sweet lad to speak like that, but he was an-angered that a man should live so. But the holy solitary was not an-angered.
"And in God's Majesty is the origin of my propagation," he said. "Ergo."
Master Richard could think of no seemly answer to that, and he desired, too, to speak of high matters; so he let it alone, and told the holy man his business, and where he lived.
"Tell me, my father," he said, "what is the message that I bear to the King. It may be that our Lord has revealed it to you: He has not yet revealed it to me."
"Are you willing to go dumb before the King?"
"I am willing if God will," said Master Richard.
"Are you willing that the King should be deaf and dumb to your message?"
"If God will," said Master Richard again.
"What is that which you bear on your breast?"
"It is the five wounds, my father."
"Tell me of your life. Are you yet in the way of perfection?"
Then the two solitaries talked together a long while; I could not understand all that Master Richard told to me; and I think there was much that he did not tell me, but it was of matters that I am scarce worthy to name, of open visions and desolations, and the darkness of the fourth Word of our Saviour on the rood; and again of scents and sounds and melodies such as those of which Master Rolle has written; and above all of charity and its degrees, for without charity all the rest is counted as dung.
Avemaria rang at sunset, but they did not hear it, and at the end the holy man within crept nearer and raised himself.
"I must see your face, brother," he said. "It may be then that I shall know the message that your soul bears to the King."
Master Richard came out of his heavenly swoon then, and saw the face close to his own, and what he said of it to me I dare not tell you, but he bitterly reproached himself that he had ever doubted whether this were a man of God or no.
As he turned his own face this way and that, that the failing light might fall upon it, he said that beneath him in the little street there was a crowd assembled, all silent and watching the heavenly colloquy.
When he looked again, questioning, at the holy old man, he saw that the other's face was puckered with thought and that his lips pouted through the long-falling hair. Then it disappeared, and a grunting voice came out of the dark, but the sound of it was as if the old man wept.
"I do not know the message, brother. Our Lord has not shewed it to me, but He has shewed me this—that soon you will not need to wear His wounds. That I have to say. Oremus pro invicem." ["Let us pray for one another."]
* * * * *
The crowd pressed close upon Master Richard as he came down from the window, and, going in the midst of them in silence, he came to saint Peter's gate where the black monks dwell, and was admitted by the porter.
How Master Richard saw the King in Westminster Hall: and of the Mass at Saint Edward's Altar
Revelabit condensa: et in templo ejus omnes dicent gloriam.
He will discover the thick woods: and in His temple all shall speak His glory.—Ps. xxviii. 9.
Master Richard did not tell me a great deal of his welcome in the monastery: I think that he was hardly treated and flouted, for the professed monks like not solitaries except those that be established in reputation; they call them self-willed and lawless and pretending to a sanctity that is none of theirs. Such as be under obedience think that virtue the highest of all and essential to the way of perfection. And I think, perhaps, they were encouraged in this by what had been said of themselves by our holy lord ten years before, for he was ever a favourer of monks. [This may have been Eugenius IV., called Gloriosus. If so, it would fix the date of Richard at about 1444.] But Master Richard did not blame them, so I will not, but I know that he was given no cell to be private in, but was sent to mix with the other guests in the common guest-house. I know not what happened there, but I think there was an uproar; there was a wound upon his head, the first wound that he received in the house of his friends, that I saw on him a little later, and he told me he had had it on his first coming to London. It was such a wound as a flung bone or billet of wood might make. He had now the caput vulneratum, as well as the cor vulneratum [wounded head ... wounded heart.] of the true lover of Jesus Christ.
* * * * *
He desired, after his simplicity, on the following morning, to speak with my lord abbot, but that could not be, and he only saw my lord at terce before mass, afar off sitting in his stall, a great prelate with his chain, and with one who bore a silver wand to go before him and do him service.
He prayed long in the church and at the shrine, and heard four or five masses, and saw the new grave of the Queen in the midst of the lady-chapel [This may have been Queen Katharine, whose body was afterwards moved.], and did his devotions, hoping that our Lord would show him what to speak to the King, and then went to dinner, and after dinner set out to Westminster Hall, where he was told that the King could be seen that day.
He passed through the little streets that lay very nastily, no better than great gutters with all the filth of the houses poured out there, but he said that the folks there were yet more surprising, for these were they who had taken sanctuary here, and were dwelling round the monastery with their wives and children. There were all sorts there, slayers of men and deer, thieves, strikers of the clergy suadente diabolo ["at the devil's persuasion"—a technical phrase], false-coiners, harlots, and rioters; all under the defence of Religion, and not suffered to go out but on peril of being taken. He had a little company following him by the time that he came to the gate, some mocking and some silent, and all looking on him as he went.
When he came to the door of the hall the men that stood there would not let him in until he entreated them. They told him that the King was now going to dinner, and that the time was past, so he knew that it was not yet his hour to give the message that he knew not. But they let him in at last, and he stood in the crowd to see the King go by.
There was a great company there, and a vast deal of noise, for the audiences were done, and the bill-men were pushing the folks with their weapons to make room for the great men to go by, and the heralds were crying out. Master Richard stood as well as he could, but he was pushed and trampled about, and he could not see very well. They went by in great numbers; he saw their hats and caps and their furred shoulders between the crooked glaives that were gilded to do honour to the King, but there was such a crying out on all sides that he could not ask which was the King.
At last the shouting grew loud and then quiet, and men bowed down on all sides; and he saw the man whom he knew must be the King.
He had a long face (as I saw for myself afterwards), rather sallow, with a long straight nose and small, full mouth; his eyebrows were black and arched high, and beneath them his sorrowful eyes looked out on the people; he was bowing his head courteously as he came. On his head he wore a black peaked cap of velvet; there was ermine at his collar and a gold chain lay across his shoulders.
Now this is what Master Richard saw with the eyes of his body, but with the eyes of his soul he saw something so strange that I know not how to name or explain it. He told me that it was our Saviour whom he saw go by between the gilded glaives, as He was when He went from Herod's hall. I do not understand how this may be. The King wore no beard as did our Saviour, he was full fourteen years younger at that time than was Jesu Christ when He suffered His bitter passion. They were of a height, I suppose, and perhaps the purple that the King wore was of the same colour as that which our Lord had put on him, but that was all the likeness that ever I could see, for the King's hair was black and his complexion sallow, but our Lord's was corn colour, and His face white and ruddy. [A reference, I suppose, to Cant. Cant. v. 10.] And, again, the one was but a holy man, and the other God Almighty although made man for our salvation.
Yet perhaps I did not understand Master Richard aright, and that he meant something else and that it was only to the eyes of the soul that the resemblance lay. If this is so, then I think I understand what it was that he saw, though I cannot explain it to you, any more than could he to me. There be some matters so high that no mouth can tell them, heart only can speak to heart, but I can tell you this, that Master Richard did not mean that our Lord was in the hall that day as He is in heaven and in the sacrament of the altar; it was something else that he meant.... [There follows a doctrinal disquisition.]
* * * * *
When Master Richard came out from the hall, he told me that he was in a kind of swoon, but having his eyes open, and that he knew not how he came back to the guest-house. It was not until he knocked upon the door that he saw that the crowd was about him again, staring on him silently.
The porter was peevish as he pulled him in, and bade him go and cut wood in the wood-house for his keep, so all that afternoon he toiled in his white kirtle at the cutting with another fellow who cursed as he cut, but was silent after a while.
Yet, when supper and bed-time came and Master Richard had assisted at compline in the abbey-church, still he knew not what the message was to be on Monday, when he would see the King and speak with him.
On Sunday he did no servile work, except that he waited upon the guests, girt with an apron, and washed the dishes afterwards. He heard four masses that day, as well as all the hours, and prayed by himself a long while at saint Edward's shrine, hearing the folks go by to the tilting, and that night he went to bed with the servants, still ignorant of what he should say on the next day.
I am sure that he was not at all disquieted by his treatment, for he did not speak of it to me, except what was necessary, and he blamed no one. When I saw the porter afterwards he told me nothing except that Master Richard had worked well and willingly, and had asked for other tasks when his were done. He had asked, too, for a plenty of water to bathe himself, which he did not get. But whether he were disquieted or no on that Sunday, at least he was content next day, for it was on the next day at mass that our Lord told him what was the message that he was to deliver to the King.
There was a Cluniac monk from France who had obtained leave to say mass at the shrine of the Confessor, and Master Richard followed him and his fellow to the altar at five o'clock in the morning to hear mass there and see his Maker. [This is the common mediaeval phrase. Men did not then bow their heads at the Elevation.]
He knelt down against the wall behind the high altar, and began to address himself to devotion, but he was distracted at first by the splendour of the tomb, the porphyry and the glass-work below, that Master Peter the Roman had made, and the precious shrine of gold above where the body lay, and the golden statues of the saints on either side. All about him, too, were such marvels that there is little wonder that he could not pray well for thinking on them—the kings that lay here and there and their effigies, and the paved steps on this side and that, and the fair painted glass and the high dark roof. Near where he knelt, too, he could see the great relic-chest, and knew what lay therein—the girdle of our Blessed Lady herself, mirror of chastity; the piece of stone marked by Christ's foot as He went up to heaven; a piece of the Very Rood on which He hanged; the precious blood that He shed there, in a crystal vase; the head of saint Benet, father of monks. [Surely not!] All these things have I seen, too, myself, so I know that they are truly there.
Behind him, as he kneeled on the stones, sounded the singing of the monks, and the noise of so much praise delighted him, but they ended soon, and at Sanctus his spirit began to be rapt into silence, and the holy things to make heaven about him.
He told me that he did not know what befell him until it came to the elevation of the sacring: only he knew that his soul was filled with lightness and joyousness, as when he had walked in the wood at dawn three days before.
But as he lifted up his hands to see his God and to beat upon his breast, it appeared to him, he said, as if his feet rested again on some higher place: until then he had been neither on earth nor in heaven.
Now there was no visible imagination that came to him then; he said expressly that it was not so. There was none to be seen there but the priest in the vestment with his hood on his shoulders, and the frater conversus [that is, the lay brother.] who held the skirt and shook the bell. Only it appeared to him that the priest held up the Body for a great space, and in that long time Master Richard understood many things that had been dark to him before. Of some of the things I have neither room nor wit to write; but they were such as these.
He understood how it was that souls might go to hell, and yet that it was good that they should go; how it was that our Saviour was born of His blessed Mother without any breaking of her virginity; how it is that all things subsist in God; in what manner it is that God comes into the species of the bread. But he could not tell me how these things were so, nor what it was that was shewed him.... [There follow a few confused remarks on the relations of faith to spiritual sight.]
There were two more things that were shewed him: the first, that he should not return home alive, but that his dead corpse should be carried there, and the second, what was the tidings that he should bear to the King.
Then he fell forward on his face, and so lay until the ending of the mass.
How Master Richard cried out in Westminster Hall: and of his coming to a Privy Parlour
Eructavit cor meum verbum bonum: dico ego opera mea regi.
My heart hath uttered a good word: I speak my works to the king.—Ps. xliv. 1.
It would be about half an hour before the King's dinner-time, which was ten o'clock, that Master Richard came again to the hall.
There was not so great a press that day, and the holy youth was able to make his way near to the barrier that held back the common folk, and to see the King plainly. He was upon his seat beneath the cloth-of-estate that was quartered with the leopards and lilies, and had his hat upon his head. About him, beneath the scaffold on which he sat were the great nobles, and my lord cardinal had a chair set for him upon the right-hand side, on the step below the King's.
All was very fair and fine, said Master Richard, with pieces of rich stuff hanging upon the walls on this side and that beneath the windows, and, finest of all were the colours of the robes, and the steel and the gold and the white fur and the feathers, and the gilded glaives and trumpets, and coat-armour of the heralds.
There was a matter about to be concluded, but Master Richard could not tell what it was, for there was a din of talking all about him, and he saw many clerks and Religious very busy together in the crowd, shaking their fingers, lifting their brows, and clacking like rooks at sunset—so the young man related it. There were two fellows with their backs to him, standing in an open space before the scaffold with guards about them. One of the two was a clerk, and wore his square cap upon his head, and the other was not.
The King looked sick; he was but a young man at that time, not two years older than Master Richard. He was listening with his head down, to a clerk who whispered in his ear, kneeling by his side with papers and a great quill in his hand, and the King's eyes roved as he listened, now up, now down, and his fingers with rings upon them were arched at his ear. My lord cardinal had a ruddy face and bright holy eyes, and sat in his sanguine robes with his cap on his head, looking out with his lips pursed at the clerks and monks that babbled together beyond the barrier. He was an old man at this time, but wondrous strong and hearty.
At the end the King sat up, and there was a silence, but he spoke so low and quick, with his eyes cast down, and the shouting followed so hard upon his words, that Master Richard could not hear what was said. But it seemed to content the clerks and the Religious [King Henry VI. was a great favourer of ecclesiastics.], for they roared and clamoured and one flung up his cap so that it fell beyond the barrier and he could not come at it again. Then the two prisoners louted to the King, and went away with their guards about them; and the King stood up, and the cardinal.
Now this was the time on which Master Richard had determined for himself, but for a moment he could not cry out: it seemed as if the fiend had gripped him by the throat and were hammering in his bowels. The King turned to the steps, and at that sight Master Richard was enabled to speak.
He had not resolved what to say, but to leave that to what God should put in his mouth, and this is what he cried, in a voice that all could hear.
"News from our Lord! News from our Lord, your grace."
He said that when he cried that, that was first silence, and then such a clamour as he had never heard nor thought to hear. He was pushed this way and that; one tore at his shoulder from behind; one struck him on the head: he heard himself named madman, feeble-wit, knave, fond fellow. The guards in front turned themselves about, and made as though they would run at the crowd with their weapons, and at that the men left off heaving at Master Richard, and went back, babbling and crying out.
Then he cried out again with all his might.
"I bring tidings from my Lord God to my lord the King," and went forward to the barrier, still looking at the King who had turned and looked back at him with sick, troubled eyes, not knowing what to do.
A fellow seized Master Richard by the throat and pulled him against the barrier, menacing him with his glaive, but the King said something, raising his hand, and there fell a silence.
"What is your business, sir?" asked the King.
The fellow released Master Richard and stood aside.
"I bring tidings from our Lord," said the young man. He was all out of breath, he told me, with the pushing and striking, and held on to the red-painted barrier with both hands.
The King stooped and whispered with at cardinal, who was plucking him by the sleeve, for the space of a paternoster, and the murmuring began to break out again. Then he turned, and lifted his hand once more for silence.
"What are the tidings, sir?"
"They are for your private ear, your grace."
"Nay," said the King, "we have no private ear but for God's Word."
"This is God's Word," said Master Richard.
There was laughter at that, and the crowd came nearer again, but the King did not laugh. He stood still, looking this way and that, now on Master Richard, and now on the cardinal, who was pulling again at sleeve. It seemed as if he could not determine what to do.
Then he spoke again.
"Who are you, sir?"
"I am a solitary, named Richard Raynal," said the young man. "I come from the country, from ... [It is most annoying that the name of the village is wanting.] Sir John Chaldfield, the parson, will undertake for me, your grace."
"Is Sir John here?" asked my lord cardinal, smiling at the clerks.
"No, my lord," said Master Richard, "he has his sheep in the wilderness. He cannot run about to Court."
There was again a noise of laughter and dissent from the crowd of clerks, and my lord cardinal smiled more than ever, shewing his white teeth in the midst of his ruddy face.
"This is a witty fellow, your grace," said my lord cardinal aloud to the King. "Will your grace be pleased to hear him in private?"
The King looked at Master Richard again, as if he knew not what to do.
"Will you not tell us here, sir?" he asked.
"I will not, your grace."
"Have you weapons upon you?" said my lord cardinal, still smiling.
Master Richard pointed to the linen upon his breast.
"I bear wounds, not weapons," he answered; which was a brave and shrewd answer, and one that would please the King.
His grace smiled a little at that, but the smile passed again like the sunshine between clouds on a dark and windy day, and the crowd crept up nearer, so that Master Richard could feel hot breath upon his bare neck behind. He committed his soul again to our Lady's tuition, for he knew not what might be the end if he were not heard out.
* * * * *
Well, the end of it was as you know, it was not possible for any man with a heart in his body to look long upon Master Richard and not love him, and the King's face grew softer as he looked upon that fair young man with his nut-brown hair and the clear pallour of his face and his pure simple eyes, and then at the coarse red faces behind him that crept up like devils after holy Job. It was not hard to know which was in the right, and besides the brave words that had stung the clerks to anger had stung the King to pity and pleasure; so the end was that the guards were bidden to let Master Richard through, and that he was to follow on in the procession, and be gently treated, and admitted to see the King when dinner was done.
* * * * *
So that, my children, is the manner in which it came about that my name was cried aloud before the King's presence, and the cardinals and the nobles, in Westminster Hall on the Monday after Deus qui nobis. [So the collect of Corpus Christi begins. It was a common method, even among the laity, of defining dates.]
Of Master Richard's speaking with the King's Grace: and how he was taken for it
Et nunc reges intelligite: erudimini qui judicatis terram.
And now, O ye kings, understand: receive instruction, ye that judge the earth.—Ps. ii. 10.
They searched Master Richard for weapons, in spite of what he had said, when they had him alone in a little chamber off the King's closet, but not unkindly, after what had been ordered, but they found nothing beneath the white kirtle save the white skin, and nothing in the burse but the book of hours and a little pen-knife, and the bottle of Quinte Essence. One of them held that up, and demanded what it was.
"That is the cordial called Quinte Essence," said Master Richard, smiling.
They thought it to be a poison, so he was forced to explain that it was not.
"It is made from man's blood," he said, "which is the most perfect part of our being, and does miracles if it is used aright."
They would know more than that, so he told them how it was made, with salt, and set in the body of a horse, and afterwards distilled, and he told them what marvels it wrought by God's grace; how it would draw out the virtues and properties of things, and could be mixed with medicines, and the rest, as I have told to you before. That is the bottle you have seen at the parsonage.
But they would not give it back to him at that time, and said that he should have it when the King had done talking with him. Then they went out and left him alone, but one stood at the door to keep him until dinner was over.
It was a little room, Master Richard said, and looked on to the river. It was hung with green saye, and was laid with rushes. There was a round table in the midst of the floor, and a chair on this side and that; and there was an image of Christ upon the rood that stood upon the table. There was another door than that through which he had been brought from the hall.
Master Richard, when he was left alone, tried to compose himself to devotion, but he was too much distracted by all that he had seen, until he had said ad sextam, and then he was quieter, and sat down before the table, looking upon the rood, and he did not know how long had passed before the King came in.
* * * * *
My children, I like to think of Master Richard then; it was his last peaceful hour that he spent until near the end when I came to him. But the peace of his heart did not leave him (except at one time), in spite of all that happened to him, for he told me so himself. Yet, save for the little wound upon his head, he was clean of all injury at this time, and I like to think of him in his strength and loveliness as he was then, content to give his tidings from our Lord to the King, and to abide what was to follow.
As the clock beat eleven, the King came suddenly through from his parlour, but he was not alone: my lord cardinal was with him.
As Master Richard knelt down on the floor to do them homage, he observed the King's dress: it was not as that of the other great men, for the King loved plain dress, and folks said that the clothing he would have liked best to wear was a monk's cowl or a friar's frock (and I doubt not that there be many a monk and friar, and clerk too, who would have been glad to change with him, for not every Religious man has a Religious heart!).... [There follows a little sermon on Vocation.]
The King's dress was a plain doublet with a collar of ermine, and over it a cloak of royal purple lined and trimmed with fur, but cut very plainly with a round cape such as priests wear. He had the collar of Sanctus Spiritus over his shoulders, his cap on his head, with a peak to it, and little plain round shoes (not like those pointed follies that some wear, and that make a man's foot twice as long as God made it by His wisdom). My lord cardinal was in his proper dress, and bore himself very stately.
The King bade Master Richard stand up, and himself and my lord sat down in the two chairs beside one another, so that half their faces were in shadow and half in light. Master Richard saw again that the King looked somewhat sick, and very melancholy.
Then the King addressed himself to Master Richard, speaking softly, but with an appearance of observing him very closely. My lord, too, watched him, folding his hands in his lap.
"Now tell me, sir," said the King, "what is this tidings that you bear?"
Master Richard was a little dismayed at my lord's coming: he had thought it was to be in private.
"It was to your ear alone, your grace, that I was bidden to deliver the message," he said.
"My lord here is ears and eyes to me," said the King, a little stiffly, and my lord smiled to hear him, and laid his hand on the King's knee.
That was answer enough for the holy youth, who was attendant only for God's will; so he began straightway, and told the King of his contemplation of eight days before, and of the dryness that fell on him when he strove to put away his thoughts, and of his words with me who was his priest, and his coming to London and an the rest. Then he told him of how he heard mass at saint Edward's altar, and how at the elevation of the sacring our Lord had told him what tidings he was to take.
The King observed him very closely, leaning his head on his hand and his elbow on the table, and my lord, who had begun by playing with his chain, ceased, and watched him too.
Master Richard told me that there was a great silence everywhere when he had come to the matter of saint Edward's altar; it was such an exterior silence as is the interior silence that came to him in contemplation. There appeared no movement anywhere, neither in the room, nor the palace, nor the world, nor in the three hearts that were beating there. There was only the great presence of God's Majesty enfolding all.
When he ceased speaking, the King stared on him for a full minute without any words, then he took his arm off the table and clasped his hands.
"And what was it that our Lord said to you, sir?" he asked softly, and leaned forward to listen.
Master Richard looked on the sick eyes, and then at the ruddy prelate's face that seemed very stern beside it. But he dared not be silent now.
"It is this, your grace, that our Lord shewed to me," he began slowly, "that your grace is not as other men are, neither in soul nor in life. You walk apart from all, even as our Saviour Christ did, when He was upon earth. When you speak, men do not understand you; they take it amiss. They would have you make your kingdom to be of this world, and God will not have it so. Regnum Dei intra te est. ['The kingdom of God is within thee' (from Luke xvii. 21.)] It is that kingdom which shall be yours. But to gain that kingdom you must suffer a passion, such as that which Jesu suffered, and this is the tidings that He sends to you. He bids you make ready for it. It shall be a longer passion than His, but I know not how long. Yet you must not go apart, as you desire. You must go this way and that at all men's will, ever within your portans stigmata Domini Jesu. ['Bearing the marks of the Lord Jesu' (from Gal. vi. 17.)] And the end of it shall be even as His, and as His apostles' was who now rules Christendom. Cum senueris, extendes manus tuas, et alius te cinget, et ducet quo tu non vis. ['When thou shalt be old thou shalt stretch forth thy hands; and another shall gird thee, and lead thee whither thou wouldst not' (John xxi. 18.)] And when you come before the heavenly glory, and the blessed saints shall ask you of your wounds, you shall answer them as our Lord answered, 'His plagatus sum in domo eorum qui diligebant me.'" ["With these I was wounded in the house of them that loved me" (Zach. xiii. 6.)]
* * * * *
When Master Richard had finished speaking, his head and body shook so much that he could scarce stand, or see the King plainly, and by this he perceived for a certainty that God was speaking by him. But he was aware that my lord cardinal was standing up with his hand outstretched and an appearance of great anger on his face. For indeed those were terrible things that Master Richard had said—that he should foretell the King's death in this manner, and all the sorrows that he should go through, for, as you know, all these words came about.
Yet it seemed that something restrained my lord from speaking till the other was done; but when Master Richard went back a step, shaking under the spirit of God, my lord burst out into words.
Master Richard could not understand him; there was drumming in his ears, and the sweat poured from him, but when sight came back he observed my lord's face, red with passion, turning now to him, now to the King, who sat still in his place; his white eyebrows went up and down, and his scarlet cape and his rochet flapped this way and that as he shook his arms and cried out.
When he had done there was silence again for a full minute. Master Richard could hear the breathing of one in the gallery without.
Then the King rose up without speaking, but looking intently upon the young man, and still without speaking, went out from the room, and my lord went after him.
When Master Richard had stood a little while waiting, and there was no sound (for the door into the King's parlour was now shut again), he turned to the other door to go out; for he had delivered his message, and there was no more to be said.
The man that kept the door, and whose breathing Master Richard had heard just now, barred the way, and asked him his business.
"My business is done," said Master Richard, "I must go home again."
"And the King?" asked the fellow.
"The King and my lord are gone back into the parlour."
There was no cause to keep Master Richard any longer, so the fellow let him past, and he went down the gallery and the stairs towards the court that opened upon the hall.
But before he reached the door, there was a great tumult overhead, and a noise of men moving and crying, and Master Richard stayed to listen. (I had almost said that it had been better if he had not stayed, but made his way out quickly and escaped perhaps; but it is not so, as I now believe, for our Lord had determined what should be the end.)
Two fellows came running presently down the stairs up which Master Richard was looking. One of them was a page of my lord's, a lad dressed all in purple with the pointed shoes of which I have written before, and the other the man-at-arms that had kept the door. The lad cried out shrilly when he saw him standing there, and came down the steps four at a leap, with his hands outstretched to either wall. Master Richard thought that he would fall, and stepped forward to catch him, but the lad recovered himself on the rushes, and then, screaming with anger, sprang at the young man's throat, seizing it with one hand, and striking him in the face again and again with the other.
For an instant Master Richard stood amazed, then he caught the lad's hands without a word and held them so, looking at the man-at-arms who was now half-way down the stairs in his plate and mail, and at others who were following as swiftly as they could. In the court outside, too, there were footsteps and the sound of talking, and presently the door was darkened by half a dozen others, who ran up at the tumult, and all in a moment Master Richard found himself caught from behind and his hands pulled away, so that the lad was able to strike him again, which he did, three or four times.
So he was taken by the men and held.
Master Richard could not understand what the matter was, as he looked at the press that gathered every moment on the stairs and in the court. So he asked one that held him, and the page screamed out his answer above the tumult of voices and weapons.
So Master Richard understood, and went upstairs under guard, with the blood staining his brown and white dress, and his face bruised and torn, to await when the King should come out of the fit into which he had fallen, and judge him for the message which he had brought.
Of Master Richard's second speaking with his Grace: and of his detention
Abscondes eos in abscondito faciei tuae: a conturbatione hominum.
Thou shalt hide them in the secret of Thy face: from the disturbance of men.—Ps. xxx. 21.
I scarcely have the heart to write down all that befell Master Richard; and yet what it pleased God's Majesty that he should suffer, cannot displease Him to write down nor to think upon.... [There follows a curiously modern discussion on what I may call the gospel of Pleasure, which is a very different thing from the gospel of Joy. The former, as Sir John points out, disregards and avoids pain, the latter deals with it. He points out acutely that this difference is the characteristic difference between Greek and Christian philosophy.]
Master Richard was taken back again by two of the men-at-arms into the parlour where he had lately seen the King, and was allowed to stand by the window, looking out upon the river, while one fellow kept one door, and one the other.
He strove to keep quiet interiorly, keeping his eyes fixed upon the broad river in the sunshine and the trees on the other side, and his heart established on God's Will. He did not know then what kind of a fit it was into which the King had fallen, nor why it was that himself should be blamed for it; and when he spoke to the men they gave him nothing but black looks, and one blessed himself repeatedly, with his lips moving.
There came the sound of talking from the inner room, and once or twice the sound of glass on glass. Without it was a fair day, very hot and with no clouds.
Master Richard told me that he had no fear, neither now nor afterwards; it seemed to him as if all had been done before; he said it was as if he were one in a play, whose part and words are all assigned beforehand, as well as the parts and words of the others, by the will of the writer; so that when violence is done, or injustice, or hard words spoken, or death suffered, it is all part of the agreed plan and must not be resisted nor questioned, else all will be spoiled. It appeared to him too as if the ankret in the cell were privy to it all, and were standing, observing and approving; for Master Richard remembered what the holy man had said as to the five wounds marked upon the linen, and how he would not need to wear them much longer.
* * * * *
After about half-an-hour, as he supposed, the voices waxed louder in the other room; and presently one came out from it in the black dress of a physician. He was a pale man, shaven clean, a little bald, and very thin. It was that physician that died last year.
He said nothing, though his face worked, and he beckoned sharply to Master Richard.
Master Richard went immediately across the floor and through into the further room.
There were a dozen persons gathered there, all staring upon the King, who sat in a great chair by the table. Two or three of these were servants, and the rest of them, with my lord cardinal, the nobles that had been in the palace at the time of the King's seizure. My lord cardinal was standing by the chair, very stern and anxious-looking; and all turned their faces, and there was an angry whisper from their mouths, as the young man came forward and halted; and the physician shut to the door.