The Serpent's Nature
There is a worm⁶ in the world, well man knoweth him;
Adder is its name, and thus he reneweth him.
When he is crippled and twisted, and weakened with age,
He fasteth until his skin slacketh, ten days fully,
So that he is lean and feeble, and with difficulty moveth;
He creepeth forth like a cripple, his craft thus revealing,
Seeketh out a stone that hath a hole in it,
Narrow, but he forceth him with great hardship through it;
For his fell⁷ here he leaveth, his flesh forth creepeth.
He walketh towards the water where he will drink deep;
But he speweth out first all of the venom
That in his breast is bred since his birth-time;
He drinketh afterwards deeply, and thus he reneweth him.
Know, Christian man, what thou Christ didst promise,
At the kirk door, where thou wert christened.
Thou didst promise to believe on Him and to love His laws,
To hold in thine heart the commands of Holy Church.
If thou hast broken this, then hast thou harmed all;
Thou perishest and witherest in attaining life eternal.
Made aged art thou, out of all bliss, like the snake in this world.
Renew thyself, therefore, as doth the adder;
It is thy need.
Confirm thee in fasting, and fill thee with virtues,
And help those poor men that are living about thee.
Deem not thyself worthy to look upon the door
That leadeth heavenwards, but walk upon earth,
Merciful among men. No pride feel thou,
Pride nor men's vices, but cease thou from sinning.
Pray grace for thee ever, both by night and by day,
That thou mayest find mercy for thy misdeeds.
This life betokeneth the path that the adder passeth over,
And this is the hole in the stone that thou must go through;
Leave thy foulness behind thee, as the adder doth his skin;
Go thou then to God's house, the gospel to hear there,
Which is the soul's drink for the quenching of sins.
But first say thou in shrift thy sins to the priest,
Free thyself of thy breast-filth, and confirm thy covenant,
Make fast in thy heart what thou first didst promise.
Thus art thou young and new; henceforth be thou true.
The devil need not compel thee, for he may not harm thee,
But he fleeth from thee, as the adder from the naked.
Against the clothed is the adder courageous, and the devil clever in sins;
Ever the sinful man he will beset,
And against all mankind he holdeth war and strife.
What if he have leave from the Lord of heaven
To harm us, as once he did our elders now dead?
Let our body be afflicted, but shelter we the soul,
Which is like to our head; let us protect it worthily.
- Medieval English Verse and Prose, Early Thirteenth Century, Roger Sherman Loomis and Rudolph Willard; Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc, 1948
What sort of future would you have for you and yours?
The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar;
it shall never go out. - Leviticus 6.13
"But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody." - Bob Dylan