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DIALOGUE OF COMFORT AGAINST TRIBULATION

by St. Thomas More

with modifications to obsolete language by Monica Stevens

______________________________


PUBLISHED 1951
BY SHEED AND WARD, LTD.
110/111 FLEET STREET,
LONDON, E.C.4
AND
SHEED AND WARD, INC.
830 BROADWAY,
NEW YORK, 3

______________________________


NOTE

This edition of the Dialogue of Comfort has been transcribed from
the 1557 version as it appears in Everyman's Library. The Everyman
edition is heartily recommended to readers who would like to taste
the dialogue in its original form.

The first plan was to change only the spelling. It soon became
evident that the punctuation would have to be changed to follow
present usage. The longest sentences were then broken up into two
or three, and certain others were rearranged into a word order
more like that of today. Nothing was omitted, however, and nothing
was added except relative pronouns, parts of "to be," and other
such neutral connectives. Finally, obsolete words were changed to
more familiar equivalents except when they were entirely clear and
too good to lose. Thus "wot" became "know" but "gigglot" and "galp
up the ghost" were retained. Words that have come to have a quite
different meaning for us, such as "fond" and "lust" were replaced
by less ambiguous ones--wherever possible, by ones that More
himself used elsewhere.

The text has not been cut or expanded, re-interpreted or edited.
Any transcription seems to involve some interpretation, conscious
or otherwise, but an effort has been made to keep it to a minimum.
Passages that seemed to make no sense have therefore been left
unaltered. If other readers find solutions for them their
suggestions will be welcomed.

This is not in any sense a scholarly piece of work. That would
require a very different method, as well as a far more thorough
knowledge of sixteenth-century English. It would be a most
commendable undertaking, but it might result in an edition for the
learned. This one is for everyone who has the two essentials,
faith and intelligence, presupposed by Anthony in Chapter II.

MONICA STEVENS

Middlebury, Vermont.
Feast of St. Benedict, 1950.

______________________________


BOOK ONE

VINCENT: Who would have thought, O my good uncle, a few years
past, that those in this country who would visit their friends
lying in disease and sickness would come, as I do now, to seek and
fetch comfort of them? Or who would have thought that in giving
comfort to them they would use the way that I may well use to you?
For albeit that the priests and friars be wont to call upon sick
men to remember death, yet we worldly friends, for fear of
discomforting them, have ever had a way here in Hungary of lifting
up their hearts and putting them in good hope of life.

But now, my good uncle, the world is here waxed such, and so great
perils appear here to fall at hand, that methinketh the greatest
comfort a man can have is when he can see that he shall soon be
gone. And we who are likely long to live here in wretchedness have
need of some comforting counsel against tribulation to be given us
by such as you, good uncle. For you have so long lived virtuously,
and are so learned in the law of God that very few are better in
this country. And you have had yourself good experience and assay
of such things as we do now fear, as one who hath been taken
prisoner in Turkey two times in your days, and is now likely to
depart hence ere long.

But that may be your great comfort, good uncle, since you depart to
God. But us of your kindred shall you leave here, a company of
sorry comfortless orphans. For to all of us your good help,
comfort, and counsel hath long been a great stay--not as an uncle
to some, and to others as one further of kin, but as though to us
all you had been a natural father.

ANTHONY: Mine own good cousin, I cannot much deny but what there
is indeed, not only here in Hungary but also in almost all places
in Christendom, such a customary manner of unchristian comforting.
And in any sick man it doth more harm than good, by drawing him in
time of sickness, with looking and longing for life, from the
meditation of death, judgment, heaven, and hell, with which he
should beset much of his time--even all his whole life in his best
health. Yet is that manner of comfort to my mind more than mad when
it is used to a man of mine age. For as we well know that a young
man may die soon, so are we very sure that an old man cannot live
long. And yet there is (as Tully saith) no man so old but that, for
all that, he hopeth yet that he may live one year more, and of a
frail folly delighteth to think thereon and comfort himself
therewith. So other men's words of such comfort, adding more sticks
to that fire, shall (in a manner) quite burn up the pleasant
moisture that should most refresh him--the wholesome dew, I mean,
of God's grace, by which he should wish with God's will to be
hence, and long to be with him in Heaven.

Now, as for your taking my departing from you so heavily (as that
of one from whom you recognize, of your goodness, to have had here
before help and comfort), would God I had done to you and to others
half so much as I myself reckon it would have been my duty to do!
But whensoever God may take me hence, to reckon yourselves then
comfortless, as though your chief comfort stood in me--therein
would you make, methinketh, a reckoning very much as though you
would cast away a strong staff and lean upon a rotten reed. For God
is, and must be, your comfort, and not I. And he is a sure
comforter, who (as he said unto his disciples) never leaveth his
servants comfortless orphans, not even when he departed from his
disciples by death. But he both sent them a comforter, as he had
promised, the Holy Spirit of his Father and himself, and he also
made them sure that to the world's end he would ever dwell with
them himself. And therefore, if you be part of his flock and
believe his promise, how can you be comfortless in any tribulation,
when Christ and his Holy Spirit, and with them their inseparable
Father, if you put full trust and confidence in them, are never
either one finger-breadth of space nor one minute of time from you?

VINCENT: O, my good uncle, even these selfsame words, with which
you prove that because of God's own gracious presence we cannot be
left comfortless, make me now feel and perceive how much comfort we
shall miss when you are gone. For albeit, good uncle, that while
you tell me this I cannot but grant it for true, yet if I had not
now heard it from you, I would not have remembered it, nor would it
have fallen to my mind. And moreover, as our tribulations shall
increase in weight and number, so shall we need not only one such
good word or twain, but a great heap of them, to stable and
strengthen the walls of our hearts against the great surges of this
tempestuous sea.

ANTHONY: Good cousin, trust well in God and he shall provide you
outward teachers suitable for every time, or else shall himself
sufficiently teach you inwardly.

VINCENT: Very well, good uncle, but yet if we would leave the
seeking of outward learning, when we can have it, and look to be
inwardly taught by God alone, then should be thereby tempt God and
displease him. And since I now see the likelihood that when you are
gone we shall be sore destitute of any other like you, therefore
methinketh that God bindeth me of duty to pray you now, good uncle,
in this short time that we have you, that I may learn of you such
plenty of good counsel and comfort, against these great storms of
tribulation with which both I and all mine are sore beaten already,
and now upon the coming of this cruel Turk fear to fall in far
more, that I may, with the same laid up in remembrance, govern and
stay the ship of our kindred and keep it afloat from peril of
spiritual drowning.

You are not ignorant, good uncle, what heaps of heaviness have of
late fallen among us already, with which some of our poor family are
fallen into such dumps that scantly can any such comfort as my poor
wit can give them at all assuage their sorrow. And now, since these
tidings have come hither, so hot with the great Turk's enterprise
into these parts here, we can scantly talk nor think of anything
else than his might and our danger. There falleth so continually
before the eyes of our heart a fearful imagination of this terrible
thing: his mighty strength and power, his high malice and hatred,
and his incomparable cruelty, with robbing, spoiling, burning, and
laying waste all the way that his army cometh; then, killing or
carrying away the people thence, far from home, and there severing
the couples and the kindred asunder, every one far from the other,
some kept in thraldom and some kept in prison and some for a
triumph tormented and killed in his presence; then, sending his
people hither and his false faith too, so that such as are here and
still remain shall either both lose all and be lost too, or be
forced to forsake the faith of our Saviour Christ and fall to the
false sect of Mahomet. And yet--that which we fear more than all
the rest--no small part of our own folk who dwell even here about
us are, we fear, falling to him or already confederated with him.
If this be so, it may haply keep this quarter from the Turk's
invasion. But then shall they that turn to his law leave all their
neighbours nothing, but shall have our goods given them and our
bodies too, unless we turn as they do and forsake our Saviour too.
And then--for there is no born Turk so cruel to Christian folk as
is the false Christian that falleth from the faith--we shall stand
in peril, if we persevere in the truth, to be more hardly handled
and die a more cruel death by our own countrymen at home than if we
were taken hence and carried into Turkey. These fearful heaps of
peril lie so heavy at our hearts, since we know not into which we
shall fortune to fall and therefore fear all the worst, that (as
our Saviour prophesied of the people of Jerusalem) many among us
wish already, before the peril come, that the mountains would
overwhelm them or the valleys open and swallow them up and cover
them.

Therefore, good uncle, against these horrible fears of these
terrible tribulations--some of which, as you know, our house hath
already, and the rest of which we stand in dread of--give us, while
God lendeth you to us, such plenty of your comforting counsel as I
may write and keep with us, to stay us when God shall call you
hence.

ANTHONY: Ah, my good cousin, this is a heavy hearing.



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