HOW THE VIRTUES OF ABSTINENCE AND PATIENCE RISE IN THE
WHEN Leah saw that Rachel her sister made great joy of these two bastards born
of Bilhah her maiden, she called forth her maiden Zilpah, to put to her husband
Jacob; that she might make joy with her sister, having other two
bastards gotten of her maiden Zilpah. And thus it is seemly in man's soul for
to be, that from the time that reason hath refrained the great jangling of
imagination, and hath put her to be underlout to God, and maketh her to bear some fruit in helping of
her knowing, that right so the affection refrain the lust and the thirst of the
sensuality, and make her to be underlout to God, and so to bear some fruit in
helping of her feeling. But what fruit may she bear, ought but that she learn
to live temperately in easy things, and patiently in uneasy things? These are
they, the children of Zilpah, Gad and Asher: Gad is abstinence, and Asher is
patience. Gad is the sooner born child, and Asher the latter; for first it
needeth that we be attempered in ourself with discreet abstinence, and after
that we bear outward disease in strength
of patience. These are the children that Zilpah brought forth in sorrow; for in
abstinence and patience the sensuality is punished in the flesh; but that that
is sorrow to the sensuality turneth to much comfort and bliss to the affection.
And therefore it is that, when Gad was born, Leah cried and said: "Happily"; and therefore Gad is cleped in the story
"Happiness," or "Seeliness."
And so it is well said that abstinence in the sensuality is happiness in the affection. For why, ever the less
that the sensuality is delighted in her lust, the more sweetness feeleth the
affection in her love. Also after when Asher was born, Leah said: "This shall
be for my bliss"; and therefore was Asher
called in the story "Blessed." And so it
is well said that patience in the sensuality is bliss in the affection. For
why, ever the more disease that the sensuality suffereth, the more blessed is
the soul in the affection. And thus by abstinence and patience we shall not
only understand a temperance in meat and drink, and suffering of outward
tribulation, but also [in] all manner of fleshly, kindly, and worldly delights, and all manner of disease, bodily
and ghostly, within or without, reasonable or unreasonable, that by any of our
five wits torment or delight the sensuality. On this wise beareth the
sensuality fruit in help of affection, her lady. Much peace and rest is in that
soul that neither is drunken in the lust of the sensuality, nor grutcheth in the pain thereof. The first of these is gotten by Gad and the latter by Asher. Here it is to wete that
first was Rachel's maiden put to the husband or the maiden of Leah; and this is
the skill why. For truly, but if the jangling of the imagination, that is to
say, the in-running of vain thoughts, be first refrained, without doubt the
lust of the sensuality may not be attempered. And therefore who so will abstain
him from fleshly and worldly lusts, him behoveth first seldom or never think
any vain thoughts. And also never in this
life may a man perfectly despise the ease of the flesh, and not dread the
disease, but if he have before busily beholden the meeds and the torments that
are to come. But here it is to wete how that, with these four sons of these two
maidens, the city of our conscience is kept wonderfully from all temptations.
For all temptation either it riseth within by thought, or else without by some
of our five wits. But within shall Dan deem and damn evil thoughts by sight of
pain; and without shall Gad put against
false delights by use of abstinence. Dan waketh within, and Gad without; and also their other two
brethren helpen them full much: Naphtali maketh peace within with Dan, and
Asher biddeth Gad have no dread of his enemies. Dan feareth the heart with ugsomeness of hell, and Naphtali cherisheth it with behighting of heavenly bliss. Also Asher helpeth his
brother without, so that, through them both, the wall of the city is not
broken. Gad holdeth out ease, and Asher pursueth disease. Asher soon deceiveth
his enemy, when he bringeth to mind the patience of his father and the behighting of Naphtali, and thus oft times ever
the more enemies he hath, the more matter he hath of overcoming. And therefore
it is that, when he hath overcome his enemies (that is to say, the adversities
of this world), soon he turneth him to his brother Gad to help to destroy his
enemies. And without fail, from that he be come, soon they turn the back, and
flee. The enemies of Gad are fleshly delights; but truly, from the time that a
man have patience in the pain of his abstinence, false delights find no woning
 Underloute, participle of
Underluten (O.E. Underlutan), "to stoop beneath," or "submit to."
Cf. Wycliffe's Bible, Gen. xxxvii. 8: Whether thow shalt be oure kyng,
oither we shal be undirloute to thi bidding?"
 Dixit: Feliciter. Gen. xxx. 11
 Felicitas. Harl. MS. 674 adds:
"whether thou wilt."
 The MSS. have: "selyness."
 Gen. xxx. 13 (Vulgate): Hoc pro
 Murmurs, complains. Cf. Chaucer, The
Persones Tale, ed. Skeat SS 30: "After bakbyting cometh grucching or
murmuracion; and somtyme it springeth of impacience agayns God, and somtyme
agayns man. Agayns God it is, whan a man gruccheth agayn the peynes of helle,
or agayns poverte, or los of catel or agayn reyn or tempest; or elles gruccheth
that shrewes han prosperitee, or elles for that goode men han adversitee.
 Pepwell adds: at the least willingly.
 Pepwell reads: "put down."
 Promises. Latin: fovet
 A curious mistranslation: "Sed Aser hosti
suo facile illudit dum partem quam tuetur, alta patientiae rupe munitam
conspicit" (Benjamin Minor, cap. 33).