King Alfred’s Old English Version of St. Augustine’s Soliloquies Part 6

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_R._ _Behold, I know that thou hast to-day the lord whom thou trustest in all things better than thyself; and so also hath many a servant who hath a less powerful lord than thou hast; and I know that thou hast also many friends whom thou trustest well enough, though thou dost not trust them altogether so well as thou dost thy lord. How seemeth it to thee now, if thy lord should tell thee some news which thou never before heardest, or if he should say to thee that he saw something which thou never sawest? Doth it seem to thee that thou wouldst doubt his statement at all, because thou didst not see it thyself?_

[Sidenote: 60.29–61.29]

_A._ _Nay, nay, verily; there is no story so incredible that I would not believe it, if he should tell it. Yea, I even have many companions, whom, if they should say that they themselves saw or heard it, I would believe just as well as if I myself saw or heard it._

_R._ _I hear now that thou believest thy lord better than thyself, and thy companions quite as well as thyself. Thou dost very rightly and very reasonably, in that thou hast such good faith in them. But I would that thou shouldst tell me whether Honorius, the son of Theodosius, seem to thee wiser or more truthful than Christ, the Son of G.o.d._

_A._ _Nay, verily nay; nowhere near! But methinks that it is difficult for thee to compare them together. Honorius is very good, although his father was better; the latter was very devout and very prudent and very rightly of my lord’s kin; and so is he who still liveth there. I will honor them just as a man should a worldly lord, and the others of whom thou didst formerly speak just as their masters, and as one should the king who is the King of all kings, and the Creator and Ruler of all creatures._

_R._ _Now I hear that the Almighty G.o.d pleaseth thee better than Theodosius; and Christ, the Son of G.o.d, better than Honorius, the son of Theodosius. I blame thee not that thou lovest both, but I advise thee to love the higher lords more, for they know all that they wish and can perform all that they wish._

_A._ _All that thou sayest is true. I believe it all._

_R._ _Now I hear that thou trustest the higher lord better. But I would know whether it seem to thee that thy worldly lords have wiser and truer servants than the higher lords have. Trustest thou now thyself and thy companions better than thou dost the Apostles, who were the servants of Christ Himself? Or the Patriarchs? Or the Prophets, through whom G.o.d Himself spake to His people what He would?_

_A._ _Nay, nay; I trust not ourselves so well, nor anywhere near, as I do them._

[Sidenote: 61.30–62.30]

_R._ _What spake G.o.d then more often, or what said He more truly through His Prophets to His people than about the immortality of souls? Or what spake the Apostles and all the holy Fathers more truly if not about the eternity of souls and about their immortality? Or what meant Christ, when He said in His Gospel: ‘The unrighteous shall go into eternal torments, and the righteous into eternal life’? Now thou hearest what said Christ and His Apostles; and I heard before that thou didst doubt nothing of the word of Honorius and his servants. Why doubtest thou, then, about the words of Christ, the Son of G.o.d, and those of the Apostles, which they themselves uttered? They spake to us more of such like words than we can count, and with many examples and proofs they explained it to us. Why canst thou, then, not believe them all, and why saidst thou before that thou wert their man?_

_A._ _So I say still, and say that I believe them, and also know exactly that it is all true that G.o.d either through Himself or through them said; for there are more of these occurrences in the holy books than I can ever count. Therefore I am now ashamed that I ever doubted about it, and I confess that I am rightly convinced, and I shall always be much happier when thou dost convince me of such things than I ever was when I convinced another man. All this I knew, however, before; but I forgot it, as I fear also that I shall this. I know also that I had so clean forgotten it that I should never have remembered it again, if thou hadst not cited me clearer examples, both about my lord and about many parables._

_R._ _I wonder why thou couldst ever suppose that men’s souls were not eternal, for thou clearly enough knewest that they are the highest and the most blessed of the creatures of G.o.d; and thou knowest also clearly enough that He alloweth no creature entirely to pa.s.s away so that it cometh to naught–not even the most unworthy of all. But He beautifieth and adorneth all creatures, and again taketh away their beauty and adornments, and yet again reneweth them. They all so change, however, that they pa.s.s away, and suddenly come again and return to that same beauty and to the same winsomeness for the children of men, in which they were before Adam sinned. Now thou canst perceive that no creature so fully pa.s.seth away that it cometh not again, nor so fully perisheth that it doth not become something. Now that the weakest creatures do not pa.s.s away entirely, why then supposest thou that the most blessed creature should entirely depart?_

[Sidenote: 62.30–63.34]

_A._ _Alas! I am beset with wretched forgetfulness, so that I can not remember it as well as before. Methinks now that thou hadst explained it to me clearly enough by this one example, though thou hadst said nothing more._

_R._ _Seek now in thyself the examples and the signs, and thou canst know well what thou before wouldst know, and what I explained to thee by the concrete examples. Ask thine own mind why it is so desirous and so zealous to know what was formerly, before thou wert born, or ever thy grandfather was born; and ask it also why it knoweth what is now present and what it seeth and heareth every day; or why it wisheth to know what shall be hereafter. Then I suppose it will answer thee, if it is discreet, and say that it desireth to know what was before us for the reason that it always existed since the time that G.o.d created the first man; and therefore aspireth to what it formerly was, to know what it formerly knew, although it is now so heavily weighed with the burden of the body that it can not know what it formerly knew. And I suppose that it will say to thee that it knoweth what it here seeth and heareth, because it is here in this world; and I suppose also that it will say that it wisheth to know what shall happen after our days, because it knoweth that it shall ever be._

_A._ _Methinks now that thou hast clearly enough said that every man’s soul ever is, and ever shall be, and ever was since G.o.d first made the first man._

_R._ _There is no doubt that souls are immortal. Believe thine own reason, and believe Christ, the Son of G.o.d, and believe all His sayings, because they are very reliable witnesses; and believe thine own soul, which always saith to thee through its reason that it is in thee; it saith also that it is eternal, because it wisheth eternal things. It is not so foolish a creature as to seek that which it can not find, nor wish for that which doth not belong to it. Give over now thy foolish doubting. Clear enough it is that thou art eternal and shalt ever exist._

[Sidenote: 63.34–64.35]

_A._ _That I hear and that I believe and clearly know, and I am rejoiced as I never was at anything. Now I hear that my soul is eternal and ever liveth, and that the mind shall ever hold all that my mind and my reason gathered of good virtues. And I hear also that my intellect is eternal.

But I wish yet to know what I before asked about the intellect: whether it shall, after the parting of the body and the soul, wax or wane, or shall stand still in one place, or do as it before did in this world–for a time wax, then for a time wane. I know now that life and reason are eternal, albeit I fear that it shall be in that world as it is here in children. I do not suppose that the life there shall be without reason, any more than it is here in children; in that case there would be too little winsomeness in that life._

_R._ _I hear now what thou wouldst know, but I can not tell thee in a few words. If thou wilt know it clearly, then shalt thou seek it in the book which we call_ De Videndo Deo. _In English the book is called_ Of Seeing G.o.d. _But be now of good cheer, and think over what thou hast now learned, and let us both pray that He may help us, for He promised that He would aid every one who called on Him and rightly wished it; and He promised without any doubt that He would teach us after this world that we might very certainly know perfect wisdom and full truthfulness, which thou mayest hear about more clearly in the book which I have before named to thee_–De Videndo Deo.

_Here endeth the anthology of the second book which we call_ Soliloquies.

BOOK III

_Then said I: Now thou hast ended the sayings which thou hast selected from these two books, yet hast not answered me about what I last asked thee, to wit, about my intellect. I asked thee whether, after the parting of body and soul, it would wax or wane, or whether it would do both as it before did._

_R._ _Did I not say to thee before that thou must seek it in the book which we then spake of? Learn that book, then thou wilt find it there._

_A._ _I do not care now to study all that book; but I would that thou tell me that[12] … the glory of the good, that their own torment may seem the more to them, because they would not by their Father’s advice merit the same honors while they were in this world. And the good see also the torments of the wicked in order that their own glory may seem the more. The wicked see G.o.d as the guilty man who is condemned before some king; when he seeth him and his own dear ones, then seemeth to him his punishment the greater. And so also the dear ones of the king see their punishment, so that their honors always may seem to them the greater. No man ought to suppose that all those that are in h.e.l.l have like torments, nor that all those that are in heaven have like glory; but every one hath according to his merits, punishment as well as glory, whichever he is in. The like have their like. Moreover, it is not to be supposed that all men have like wisdom in Heaven; for every one hath it in the measure which he here merited. As he toileth better here and better yearneth after wisdom and righteousness, so hath he more of it there; likewise more honor and more glory. Hath it now been clearly enough explained about wisdom and about the vision of G.o.d?_

[12] A break in the MS.

[Sidenote: 66.5–67.9]

_A._ _Yea; truly enough I believe that we need not lose aught of the wisdom which we now have, although the soul and the body part. But I believe that our intellect shall thereby be very much increased, though we can not all know before Doomsday what we would know. Howbeit I believe that after Doomsday naught will be hidden from us, neither of that which is in our days, nor of that which was before us, nor of that which shall come after us. Thou hast now related to me many examples, and I myself have seen in the writings of the sacred books more than I can reckon, or even can remember. Thou didst show me also such reliable testimony that I can do nothing else but believe it; for if I believe not weaker testimony, then know I very little or naught. What know I except that I wish we knew about G.o.d as clearly as we would? But the soul is weighed down and busied with the body so that we can not, with the eyes of the mind, see any thing just as it is, any more than thou canst see at times the sun shine, when the clouds shoot between it and thee, although it shineth very brightly where it is. And even though there be no cloud between thee and it, thou canst not see it clearly just as it is, because thou art not where it is; nor can thy body be there; nor can thy bodily eyes come any nearer there, nor even see that far. Not even the moon, which is nearer us, can we see just as it is. We know that it is larger than the earth, and yet it doth not seem at times larger than a shield on account of the distance. Now thou hast heard that we can not with the eyes of the mind ever see any thing of this world just as it is; yet from the part of it which we see we must believe the part which we do not see. But it is promised us beyond any doubt that, as soon as we come out of this world and the soul is released from the prison of the body, we shall know every thing which we now desire to know, and much more than the ancients, the wisest of all on the earth, could know. And after Doomsday it is promised that we may see G.o.d openly–yea, see Him just as He is; and know Him ever afterwards as perfectly as He now knoweth us. There shall never be any wisdom wanting to us. He who granteth us to know Himself will conceal naught from us. Howbeit we shall know then all that we now wish to know, and also that which we do not now wish to know. We shall all see G.o.d, both those who here are worst, and those who here are best. All the good shall see Him, to their comfort, and joy, and honor, and happiness, and glory; and the wicked shall see Him just the same as the good, though to their torment, for they shall see[13] … might or could in this world, or whether they had any remembrance of the friends whom they left behind in this world._

[13] Omission in the MS.

[Sidenote: 67.9–68.10]

_Then answered he his own thoughts and said: Why supposest thou that the departed good who have full and complete freedom shall know what they wish to know, either in this present life or in that to come? Why supposest thou that they have no memory of their friends in this world, inasmuch as the wicked Dives feared the same torments for his friends in h.e.l.l as he had merited? It was he whom Christ spake of in His Gospel that besought Abraham to send Lazarus the beggar to him that he, with his little finger, might place a drop of water on his tongue and therewith cool his thirst. Then said Abraham: ‘Nay, my son; but consider that thou didst withhold from him all comforts when ye were both in the body, thou having every good, and he every misfortune. He can not now do more for thy comfort than thou wouldst then do for him.’ Then said the rich man: ‘Abraham, if that can not be, send him to my five brethren who are still on the earth where I was, that he may tell them in what punishment I am, and may admonish them to take warning not to come hither.’ Then said Abraham: ‘Nay, nay; they have the books of the holy Fathers with them on earth. Let them study them and believe them. If they do not believe them, neither will they believe Lazarus, though he come to them.’_

[Sidenote: 68.11–69.14]

_Now we can hear that both the departed good and the wicked know all that happeneth in this world, and also in the world in which they are.

They know the greatest part–though they do not know it all before Doomsday–and they have very clear remembrance of their kin and friends in the world. And the good help the good, every one of them another, as much as they can. But the good will not have mercy on their wicked friends, because the latter do not wish to depart from their evil, any more than Abraham would not pity the rich man who was his own kin because he perceived that he was not so humble to G.o.d as he ought rightly to be. The wicked, then, can neither do their friends nor themselves any good, because they were formerly, when they were in this world, of no aid either to themselves or to their friends who had pa.s.sed away before them. But it shall be with them even as it is with men, who are in this world brought into the prison of some king and can see their friends all day and ask about them what they desire, albeit they can not be of any good to them, nor the prisoners to them; they have neither the wish nor the ability. Wherefore the wicked have the greater punishment in the world to come, because they know the glory and the honor of the good; and all the more because they recall all the honor which they had in this world; and moreover they know the honor which those have who shall then be left behind them in this world._

[Sidenote: 69.14–70.5]

_Howbeit the good, then, who have full freedom, see both their friends and their enemies, just as in this life lords and rulers often see together both their friends and their enemies. They see them alike and know them alike, albeit they do not love them alike. And again the righteous, after they are out of this world, shall recall very often both the good and the evil which they had in this world, and rejoice very much that they did not depart from their Lord’s will, either in easy or in hidden things, while they were in this world. Just so some king in this world may have driven one of his favorites from him, or he may have been forced from the king against both of their wills; then hath he many torments and many mishaps in his exile, yet he may come to the same lord whom he before was with, and there be much more worshipful than he was. Then he will recall the misfortunes which he had there in his exile, and yet not be the more unhappy. But I myself saw or_ [_believed_] _what more untrustworthy men told me than those were who told what we are seeking. Must I not needs do one of two things–either believe some men or none? Methinks now that I know who built the city of Rome, and also many another thing which existed before our day, all of which I can not sum up. I know not who built the city of Rome for the reason that I myself saw it. Nor even know I of what kin I am, nor who my father or mother was, except by hearsay. I know that my father begat me and my mother bare me, but I do not know it because I myself saw it, but because it was told me. Howbeit not so trustworthy men told that to me as those were who said that which we now for a long time have sought for; and still I believe it._

_Therefore methinks that man very foolish and very wretched who will not increase his intelligence while he is in this world, and also wish and desire that he may come to the eternal life, where nothing is hid from us._

_Here end the sayings which King Alfred collected from the book which we call in…._

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