The Golden Legend
|←Saint Sylverster||The Golden Legend by , translated by William Caxton
Saint Paul the Hermit (vol. 2)
First Edition 1483, reprint edited by F.S. Ellis, Temple Classics, 1900|
This follows the scanned version at  but adds a missing page.
Here followeth, the Life of S. Paul the first Hermit. S. Paul which was the first hermit as S. Jerome writeth, was in the time of Decius and Valerianus, emperors, the year of the incarnation of our Lord two hundred and fifty-six. This holy man, S. Paul, saw men for christian faith cruelly tormented, wherefore he fled into the desert. Among whom he saw two cruelly tormented. The first for that he abode firmly in his faith, the judge did do anoint all his body with honey and did do bind his hands behind him on his back, and so did him be set in the heat of the sun for to be bitten and stung of flies and wasps; that other that was young he made him to be in a right soft bed between two sheets, among flowers and delectable roses and herbs sweet smelling, and therein he was bounden so that he might not move him. After, he made an harlot, a ribald, come to him alone for to touch his members and his body, to move to lechery. Finally, when the voluptuosity of his flesh surmounted him, and he might not defend himself ne his members, he bit off a piece of his tongue and spit it in her visage, which always enticed him to lechery by touching and by kissings, and so he voided the temptation fleshly, and the ribauld also, and deserved to have laud and victory. In this time S. Paul, tofore said, was young, about sixteen years of age, and dwelt in Thebaid which is a part of Egypt, with his sister Maurice. And when he saw the persecutions of christian men, he departed and became an hermit so long and so many years, that he was old one hundred and thirteen years. In this time S. Anthony was a hermit in another desert and was then ninety years of age. And on a time he thought in himself that in the world was none so good ne so great an hermit as he was himself. Hereupon came to him a revelation as he slept that, beneath all, low down in that desert was an hermit better than he, a nd that he ought to go and see this holy man. Anon after the next day he took his staff by which he sustained him, and began to go through the desert, and it happed that he met a person which was half above, an horse, and beneath, a man whom the fables of the poets call centaurs. And anon made tofore him the sign of the cross, and demanded of him where this holy man the hermit dwelt, and he showed to him the way on the right ride, and anon vanished away from him. It is not certainly known if this beast was a beast of the desert or the devil in figure of a beast. After this, S. Anthony met with a monster in a valley bearing the fruit of a palm-tree crooked, and he had in his forhead horns, and hislegs and feet like a goat of the woods, and anon he made tofore him the sign of the cross. This beastial man gave S. Anthony the fruit of the palm tree, and S. Anthony demanded of him what he was, and he answered: I am mortal and dwell in desert, and the Saracens call us Sacraros. I am a messenger of our company, we pray thee that thou pray the Lord for us. We know well that the Saviour of the world is come, and his reknown is spread through the world. And because hereof no man shall have doubtance, all men lnow that in the time of Constantine the emperor, such a man was brought into the city of Alexandria tofore the people, and when he was dead his body was filled with salt against the heat of the sun, and was sent to the emperor to Antioch for a marvel. But return we to our matter: S. Anthony had great labour in going by the desert whereas was no way. Finally he found a she-wolf which was brought him by the will of God unto the hermitage of S. Paul, but as soon as he knew S. Anthony came, hastily he shut his door. And S. Anthony prayed him for charity that he would open it to him, and said: Thou wottest well who and wherefore I am come, I know well I am not worthy to render and give to thee anything for thy labour, nevertheless I shall not depart from hence unto the time that I have seen thee. At last he opened the door, and sith interembraced each other, and each of them did reverence the other. And S Paul demanded of the estate of the world and of the governance, and if the christian faith were spread and used over all. And whiles they were thus talking a crow came flying and brought to them two loaves of bread ; and when the crow was gone S. Paul said: Be thou glad and joyful, for our Lord is debonair and merciful, he hath sent us bread for to eat. It is forty years passed that every day he hath sent me half a loaf, but now at thy coming he hath sent two whole loaves, and double provender. And they had question together until evensong time which of them both should entame or begin to take of the bread. At the last the bread departed even between their hands, and then they ate, and drank of the well or fountain. After graces said they had all that night collation together. On the morn said S. Paul: Brother, it is long sith that I knew that thou dwelledst in this region and in this country, and God had promised to me thy company, I shall now shortly die and shall go to Jesu Christ for to receive the crown to me promised, thou art come hither for to bury my body. When S. Anthony heard that, anon he began tenderly to weep, and wailed, praying that he might die with him and go in his company. S. Paul said: It is need yet that thou live for thy brethren, to the end that they by the ensample of thee be made firm and taught; wherefore I pray thee return to thine abbey and bring to me the mantle which Athanasius the bishop gave to thee for to wrap in my body. Then S. Anthony marvelled of this, that he knew of this bishop and of this mantle, and after durst nothing say, but did to him reverence, like as God had spoken to him, and weeping kissed his feet and his hands and came again to his abbey with great travail and labour, for he had from that one part to that other many journeys and foul way, through hayes and hedges, woods, stones, hills and valleys, and S. Anthony of great age and feeble of fasting, and not strong ne mighty.
This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.