Pico Della Mirandola - Pico's Twelve Rules

Pico's Twelve Rules




Whoso to virtue esteemeth the way
Because we must have war continual
Against the world, the flesh, the devil, that aye
Enforce themselves to make us bond & thrall,
Let him remember that choose what way he shall
Even after the world, yet must he need sustain
Sorrow, adversity, labour, grief, and pain.




Think in this wretched world's busy woe
The battle more sharp & longer is I wis
With more labour and less fruit also
In which the end of labour labour is:
And when the world hath left us after this
Void of all virtue: the reward when we die
Is nought but fire and pain perpetually.




Consider well that folly it is and vain
To look for heaven with pleasure and delight.
Sith Christ our Lord and sovereign captain
Ascended never but by manly fight
And bitter passion, then were it no right
That any servant, ye will yourself record,
Should stand in better condition than his lord.




Think how that we not only should not grudge
But eke be glad and joyful of this sight,
And long therefore although we could not judge
How that thereby redound unto us might
Any profit, but only for delight
To be conformed and like in some behaviour
To Jesu Christ our blessed Lord & Saviour.


As often as thou dost war and strive,
By the resistance of any sinful motion,
Against any of thy sensual wits five,
Cast in thy mind as oft with good devotion
How thou resemblest Christ: as with sour potion
If thou pain thy taste: remember therewithal
How Christ for thee tasted eysell[41] and gall.


If thou withdraw thine hands and forbear
The raven of any thing: remember then
How his innocent hands nailed were.
If thou be tempt with pride: think how that when
He was in form of God: yet of a bond man
He took the shap and humbled himself for thee
To the most odious and vile death of a tree.


Consider when thou art moved to be wrath
He who that was God, and of all men the best,
Seeing himself scorned, scourged both,
And as a thief between .ii. thieves thrust
With all rebuke and shame: yet from his breast
Came never sign of wrath or of disdain,
But patiently endured all the pain.


Thus every snare and engine of the devil
If thou this wise peruse them by and by:
There can be none so cursed or so evil
But to some virtue thou mayst it apply.
For oft thou shalt: resisting valiantly
The fiend's might and subtle fiery dart:
Our Saviour Christ resemble in some part.




Remember well that we in no wise must
Neither in the foresaid spiritual armour
Nor any other remedy put our trust,
But only in the virtue strength of our Saviour:
For he it is by whose mighty power
The world was vanquished & his prince cast out:
Which reigned before in all the earth about.

In him let us trust to overcome all evil,
In him let us put our hope and confidence,
To subdue the flesh and master the devil,
To him be all honour and lowly reverence:
Oft should we require with all our diligence
With prayer, with tears, & lamentable plaints
The aid of his grace and of his holy saints.




One sin vanquished look thou not tarry,
But lie in await for another every hour,
For as a wood[42] lion thee send our adversary
Runneth about seeking whom he may devour:
Wherefore continually upon thy tower,
Lest he thee unpurveyed and unready catch,
Thou must with the prophet stand & keep watch.




Enforce thyself not only for to stand
Unvanquished against the devil's might,
But over that take valiantly on hand
To vanquish him and put him unto flight:
And that is when of the same deed thought or sight
By which he would have thee with sin contract
Thou takest occasion of some good virtuous act.


Some time he secretly casteth in thy mind
Some laudable deed to steer thee to to pride,
As vain glory maketh many a man blind.
But let humility be thy sure guide,
Thy good work to God let it be applied,
Think it not thine but a gift of his
Of whose grace undoubtedly all goodness is.




The time of battle so put thyself in preace[43]
As though thou shouldest after that victory
Enjoy for ever a perpetual peace:
For God of his goodness and liberal mercy
May grant the gift, & eke thy proud enemy,
Confounded and rebuked by thy battle,
Shall thee no more haply for very shame assail.


But when thou mayst once the triumph obtain
Prepare thyself and trim thee in thy gear
As thou shouldst incontinent fight again,
For if thou be ready the devil will thee fear:
Wherefore in any wise so ever thou thee bear
That thou remember and have ever in memory
In victory battle in battle victory.




If thou think thyself well fenced and sure
Against every subtle suggestion of vice,
Consider frail glass may no distress endure,
And great adventurers oft curse the dice:
Jeopard not too far therefore an ye be wise,
But evermore eschew the occasions of sin,
For he that loveth peril shall perish therein.




In all temptation withstand the beginning:
The cursed infants of wretched Babylon[44]
To suffer them wax is a jeopardous thing:
Beat out their brains therefore at the Stone:
Perilous is the canker that catcheth the bone:
Too late cometh the medicine if thou let the sore
By long continuance increase more & more.




Though in the time of the battle and war
The conflict seem bitter sharp and sour,
Yet consider it is more pleasure far
Over the devil to be a conqueror
Then is in the use of thy beastly pleasure:
Of virtue more joy the conscience hath within
Than outward the body of all his filthy sin.


In this point many men err for negligence,
For they compare not the joy of the victory
To the sensual pleasure of their concupiscence,
But like rude beasts unadvisedly
Lacking discretion they compare & apply
Of their foul sin the voluptuous delight
To the laborious travail of the conflict & fight.


And yet alas he that oft hath known
What grief it is by long experience
Of his cruel enemy to be overthrown,
Should once at the least wise do his diligence
To prove and assay with manly defence
What pleasure there is, what honour peace & rest
In glorious victory triumph and conquest.




Though thou be tempted despair thee nothing:
Remember the glorious apostle Saint Paul
When he had seen God in his perfect being,
Left such revelation should his heart extol,
His flesh was suffered rebel against the soul:
This did almighty God of his goodness provide
To preserve his servant from the danger of pride.


And here take heed that he whom God did love,
And for his most especial vessel chose,
Ravished into the third heaven above,
Yet stood in peril lest pride might him depose:
Well ought we then our hearts fence & close
Against vainglory the mother of reproof,
The very crop and root of all mischief.


Against this pomp & wretched world's glose
Consider how Christ the Lord, sovereign power,
Humbled himself for us unto the cross:
And peradventure death within one hour
Shall us bereave wealth riches and honour:
And bring us down full low both small & great
To vile carrion and wretched worms' meat.


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