ere followeth the Life of Saint Brandon.
Saint Brandon, the holy man, was a monk, and born in Ireland, and there he was abbot of a house wherein were a thousand monks, and there he had a full strait and holy life in great penance and abstinence, and he governed his monks full virtuously. And then within short time after, there came to him a holy abbot that hight Birinus to visit him, and each of them was joyful of other. And then Saint Brandon began to tell to the abbot Birinus of many wonders that he had seen in divers lands, and when Birinus heard that of Saint Brandon, he began to sigh and sore weep, and Saint Brandon comforted him the best wise he could, saying: Ye come hither for to be joyful with me, and therefore for God’s love leave your mourning and tell me what marvels ye have seen in the great sea-ocean that compasseth all the world about, and all other waters come out of him which runneth in all parts of the earth. And then Birinus began to tell to Saint Brandon and to his monks the marvels that he had seen, full sore weeping, and said: I have a son, his name is Mervok, and he was a monk of great fame, which had great desire to seek about by ship in divers countries to find a solitary place wherein he might dwell secretly, out of the business of the world, for to serve God quietly with more devotion, and I counselled him to sail into an island far in the sea, beside the mountain of stones which is full well known, and then he made him ready and sailed thither with his monks. And when he came thither he liked that place full well, where he and his monks served our Lord full devoutly.
And then Birinus saw in a vision that this monk Mervok was sailed right far eastward in the sea, more than three days’ sailing, and suddenly to his seeming there came a dark cloud and overcovered them, that a great part of the day they saw no light, and as our Lord would, the cloud passed away and they saw a full fair island, and thitherward they drew. In that island was joy and mirth enough, and the earth of that island shined as bright as the sun, and there were the fairest trees and herbs that ever any man saw, and there were many precious stones shining bright, and every herb there was full of flowers, and every tree full of fruit, so that it was a glorious sight and a heavenly joy to abide there. And there, there came to them a fair young man, and full courteously he welcomed them all, and called every monk by his name, and said that they were much bound to praise the name of our Lord Jesu, that would of his grace show to them that glorious place where is ever day and never night, and this place is called Paradise terrestrial. By this island is another island wherein no man may come, and this young man said to them: Ye have been here half a year without meat, drink, or sleep, and they supposed that they had not been there the space of half an hour, so merry and joyful they were there. And the young man told them that this is the place that Adam and Eve dwelt in first and ever should have dwelled here, if that they had not broken the commandment of God. And then the young man brought them to their ship again, and said they might no longer abide there, and when they were all shipped, suddenly this young man vanished away out of their sight. And then within short time after, by the purveyance of our Lord Jesu Christ, they came to the abbey where Saint Brandon dwelled, and then he with his brethren received them goodly and demanded them where they had been so long, and they said: We have been in the land of Behest tofore the gates of Paradise, whereas is ever day and never night, and they said all that the place is full delectable, for yet all their clothes smelled of that sweet and joyful place.
And then Saint Brandon purposed soon after for to seek that place by God’s help, and anon began to purvey for a good ship and a strong, and victualled it for seven years. And then he took his leave of all his brethren and took twelve monks with him, but ere they entered into the ship they fasted forty days and lived devoutly, and each of them received the sacrament. And when Saint Brandon with his twelve monks were entered in to the ship, there came other two of his monks and prayed him that they might sail with him, and then he said: Ye may sail with me, but one of you shall go to hell ere ye come again, but not for that they would go with him. And then Saint Brandon bade the shipmen to wind up the sail and forth they sailed in God’s name, so that on the morrow they were out of sight of any land. And forty days and forty nights after they sailed plat east, and then they saw an island far from them, and they sailed thitherward as fast as they could, and they saw a great rock of stone appear above all the water, and three days they sailed about it ere they could get into the place, but at the last by the purveyance of God they found a little haven and there went aland every each one. And then suddenly came a fair hound, and fell down at the feet of Saint Brandon and made him good cheer in his manner, and then he bade his brethren be of good cheer, for our Lord hath sent to us his messenger to lead us into some good place. And the hound brought them into a fair hall where they found the tables spread, ready set full of good meat and drink. And then Saint Brandon said graces, and then he and his brethren sat down and ate and drank of such as they found, and there were beds ready for them, wherein they took their rest after their long labour.
And on the morn they returned again to their ship, and sailed a long time in the sea after, ere they could find any land, till at last by the purveyance of God, they saw far from them a full fair island, full of green pasture, wherein were the whitest and greatest sheep that ever they saw. For every sheep was as great as an ox, and soon after came to them a goodly old man, which welcomed them and made them good cheer, and said: This is the island of sheep, and here is never cold weather, but ever summer, and that causeth the sheep to be so great and white; they eat of the best grass and herbs that is anywhere. And then this old man took his leave of them and bade them sail forth right east, and within short time by God’s grace, they should come in to a place like Paradise, wherein they should keep their Eastertide.
And then they sailed forth, and came soon after to that land, but because of little depth in some places, and in some places were great rocks, but at the last they went upon an island weeping to them that they had been safe, and made thereon a fire for to dress their dinner, but Saint Brandon abode still in the ship, and when the fire was right hot and the meat nigh sodden, then this island began to move, whereof the monks were afeard, and fled anon to ship and left the fire and meat behind them, and marvelled sore of the moving. And Saint Brandon comforted them and said that it was a great fish named Jasconye, which laboureth night and day to put his tail in his mouth, but for greatness he may not. And then anon they sailed west three days and three nights ere they saw any land, wherefore they were right heavy, but soon after, as God would, they saw a fair island full of flowers, herbs, and trees, whereof they thanked God of his good grace, and anon they went on land, and when they had gone long in this they found a full fair well, and thereby stood a fair tree full of boughs, and on every bough sat a fair bird, and they sat so thick on the tree that unnethe any leaf of the tree might be seen. The number of them was so great, and they sang so merrily that it was a heavenly noise to hear, wherefore Saint Brandon kneeled down on his knees and wept for joy, and made his prayers devoutly to our Lord God to know what these birds meant.
And then anon one of the birds fled from the tree to Saint Brandon, and he with flickering of his wings made a full merry noise like a fiddle, that him seemed he heard never so joyful a melody. And then Saint Brandon commanded the bird to tell him the cause why they sat so thick on the tree and sang so merrily ; and then the bird said: Sometime we were angels in heaven, but when our master Lucifer fell down into hell for his high pride, we fell with him for our offences, some higher and some lower after the quality of the trespass, and because our trespass is but little, therefore our Lord hath set us here out of all pain, in full great joy and mirth after his pleasing, here to serve him on this tree in the best manner we can. The Sunday is a day of rest from all worldly occupation, and therefore that day all we be made as white as any snow for to praise our Lord in the best wise we may. And then this bird said to Saint Brandon: That it is twelve months passed that ye departed from your abbey, and in the seventh year hereafter, ye shall see the place that ye desire to come to, and all these seven years ye shall keep your Easter here with us every year, and in the end of the seventh year ye shall come into the land of Behest. And this was on Easter day that the bird said these words to Saint Brandon, and then this fowl flew again to his fellows that sat on the tree, and then all the birds began to sing evensong so merrily that it was a heavenly noise to hear. And after supper Saint Brandon and his fellows went to bed and slept well, and on the morn they arose betimes, and then these birds began matins, prime, and hours, and all such service as christian men use to sing. And Saint Brandon with his fellows abode there eight weeks, till Trinity Sunday was passed, and they sailed again to the island of sheep and there they victualled them well, and sith took their leave of that old man, and returned again to ship. And then the bird of the tree came again to Saint Brandon and said: I am come to tell you that ye shall sail from hence into an island wherein is an abbey of twenty-four monks, which is from this place many a mile, and there ye shall hold your Christmas, and your Easter with us, like as I told you, and then this bird flew to his fellows again. And then Saint Brandon and his fellows sailed forth in the ocean, and soon after fell a great tempest on them in which they were greatly troubled long time, and sore forlaboured, and after that they found by the time, and sore forlaboured, and after that they found by purveyance of God an island which was far from them, and then they full meekly prayed our Lord to send them thither in safety, but it was forty days after ere they came thither, wherefore all the monks were so weary of that trouble that they set little price by their lives, and cried continually to our Lord to have mercy on them, and bring them to that island in safety. And by the purveyance of God they came at the last into a little haven, but it was so strait that unnethe the ship might come in, and after they came to an anchor, and anon the monks went to land. And when they had long walked about, at the last they found two fair wells, that one was fair and clear water, and that other was somewhat troubly and thick. And then they thanked our Lord full humbly that had brought them thither in safety, and they would fain have drunk of that water, but Saint Brandon charged them they should not take without licence. For if we abstain us a while our Lord will purvey for us in the best wise. And anon after came to them a fair old man with hoar hair, and welcomed them full meekly and kissed Saint Brandon, and led them by many a fair well till they came to a fair abbey, where they were received with great honour and solemn procession with twenty-four monks, all in royal copes of cloth of gold and a royal cross was before them. And then the abbot welcomed Saint Brandon and his fellowship, and kissed them full meekly, and took Saint Brandon by the hand and led him with his monks into a fair hall, and set them down arow upon the bench, and the abbot of the place washed all their feet with fair water of the well that they saw before, and after, led them into the fraitour and there set them among his convent. And anon there came one by the purveyance of God which served them well of meat and drink, for every monk had set before him a fair white loaf, and white roots and herbs, which was right delicious, but they wist not what roots they were. And they drank of the water of the fair clear well that they saw before when they came first aland, which Saint Brandon forbade them. And then the abbot came and cheered Saint Brandon and his monks, and prayed them eat and drink for charity; for every day our Lord sendeth a goodly old man that covereth this table and setteth our meat and drink tofore us, but we know not how it cometh, ne we ordain never no meat ne drink for us, and yet we have been eighty years here, and ever our Lord, worshipped may he be, feedeth us. We be twenty-four monks in number, and every ferial day of the week he sendeth to us twelve loaves, and every Sunday and feast-day twenty-four loaves, and the bread that we leave at dinner we eat at supper, and now at your coming our Lord hath sent to us forty-eight loaves, for to make you and us merry together as brethren. And always twelve of us go to dinner whiles other twelve keep the quire, and thus have we done these eighty years, for so long have we dwelled here io this abbey. And we came hither out of the abbey of Saint Patrick in Ireland, and thus as ye see our Lord hath purveyed for us, but none of us knoweth how it cometh, but God alone, to whom be given honour and laud world without end. And here in this land is ever fair weather, and none of us hath been sick sith we came hither. And when we go to mass, or to any other service of our Lord in the church, anon seven tapers of wax be set in the quire and be lighted at every time without man’s hand, and so burn day and night at every hour of service, and never waste ne minish as long as we have been here, which is eighty years. And then Saint Brandon went to the church with the abbot of the place, and there they said evensong together full devoutly, and then Saint Brandon looked upward toward the crucifix, and saw our Lord hanging on the cross, which was made of fine crystal and curiously wrought. And in the quire were twenty-four seats for twenty-four monks, and the seven tapers burning, and the abbot’s seat was made in the midst of the quire, and then Saint Brandon demanded of the abbot how long they had kept that silence, that none of them spake to other, and he said: These twenty-four years we spake never one to another. And then Saint Brandon wept for joy of their holy conversation. And then Saint Brandon desired of the abbot that he and his monks might dwell there still with him. To whom the abbot said: Sir, that may ye not do in no wise, for our Lord hath showed to you in what manner ye shall be guided till the seven years be fulfilled, and after that term thou shalt with thy monks return into Ireland in safety, but one of the two monks that came last to you shall dwell in the island of ankers, and that other shall go quick to hell. And as Saint Brandon kneeled in the church he saw a bright shining angel come in at the window, and lighted all the lights in the church, and then he flew out again at the window unto heaven, and then Saint Brandon marvelled greatly how the light burned so fair and wasted not. And then the abbot said that it is written that Moses saw a bush all on afire and yet it burned not, and therefore marvel not hereof for the might of our Lord is now as great as it ever was.
And when Saint Brandon had dwelled there from Chrisunas even till the twelfth day was passed, then he took his leave of the abbot and convent and returned with his monks to his ship, and sailed from thence with his monks toward the abbey of Saint Illaries, but they had great tempests in the sea from that time till Palm-Sunday, and then they came to the island of sheep, and there were received of the old man, which brought them to a fair hall and served them. And on ShereThursday after supper he washed their feet and kissed them, like as our Lord did to his disciples, and there abode till Saturday, Easter-even, and they departed and sailed to the place where the great fish lay, and anon they saw their caldron upon the fishes back, which they had left there twelve months tofore, and there they kept the service of the resurrection on the fishes back, and after, they sailed that same day by the morning to the island whereas the tree of birds was, and then the said bird welcomed Saint Brandon and all his fellowship, and went again to the tree and sang full merrily, and there he and his monks dwelled from Easter till Trinity Sunday as they did the year before, in full great joy and mirth. And daily they heard the merry service of the birds sitting on the tree. And then the bird told to Saint Brandon that he should return again at Christmas to the abbey of monks, and at Easter thither again, and the other deal of the year labour in the ocean in full great perils, and from year to year till the seven years be accomplished. Anrl then shall ye come to the joyful place of Paradise and dwell there forty days in full great joy and mirth, and after, ye shall return home into your own abbey in safety, and there end your life, and come to the bliss of heaven, to which our Lord bought you with his precious blood. And then the angel of our Lord ordained all thing that was needful to Saint Brandon and to his monks in victuals and all other things necessary, and then they thanked our Lord of his great goodness that he had showed to them oft in their great need, and then sailed forth into the great sea ocean, abiding the mercy of our Lord in great trouble and tempests.
And soon after came to them an horrible fish which followed the ship long time, casting so much water out of his mouth into the ship that they supposed to have been drowned, wherefore they devoutly prayed God to deliver them of that great peril. And anon after, came another fish greater than he, out of the west sea, and fought with him, and at the last crave him into three pieces, and then returned again. And then they thanked meekly our Lord of their deliverance from this great peril, but they were in great heaviness because their victuals were nigh spent; but by the ordinance of our Lord there came a bird and brought to them a great branch of a vine full of red grapes, by which they lived fourteen days, and then they came to a little island, wherein were many vines full of grapes, and they there landed and thanked God, and gathered as many grapes as they lived by forty days after, always sailing in the sea in many storms and tempests, and as they thus sailed, suddenly came flying towards them a great grip which assailed them and was like to have destroyed them. Wherefore they devoutly prayed for help and aid of our Lord Jesu Christ. And then the bird of the tree of the island where they had holden their Easter tofore, came to the grip and smote out both his eyes, and after slew him, whereof they thanked our Lord, and then sailed forth continually till Saint Peter’s day, and then sang they solemnly their service in the honour of the feast. And in that place the water was so clear that they might see all the fishes that were about them, whereof they were full sore aghast, and the monks counselled Saint Brandon to sing no more, for all the fishes lay then as they had slept. And then Saint Brandon said: Dread ye not, for ye have kept by two Easters the feast of the Resurrection upon the great fishes back, and therefore dread ye not of these little fishes. And then Saint Brandon made him ready and went to mass, and bade his monks to sing the best way they could, and then anon all the fishes awoke, and came about the ship so thick that unnethe they might see the water for the fishes, and when the mass was done all the fishes departed so as they were no more seen. And seven days they sailed always in that clear water.
And then there came a south wind and drove the ship northward, whereas they saw an island full dark and full of stench and smoke, and there they heard great blowing and blasting of bellows, but they might see nothing, but heard great thundering, whereof they were sore afeard, and blessed them oft. And soon after there came one starting out all burning in fire, and stared full ghastly on them with great staring eyes, of whom the monks were aghast, and at his departing from them he made the horriblest cry that might be heard, and soon there came a great number of fiends and assailed them with hooks and burning iron malles, which ran on the water, following their ship fast, in such wise that it seemed all the sea to be on fire. But by the pleasure of our Lord they had no power to hurt ne grieve them ne their ship, wherefore the fiends began to roar and cry, and threw their hooks and malles at them. And they then were sore afraid, and prayed to God for comfort and help, for they saw the fiends all about the ship, and them seemed then all the island and the sea to be on fire. And with a sorrowful cry all those fiends departed from them and returned to the place that they came from. And then Saint Brandon told to them that this was a part of hell, and therefore he charged them to be steadfast in the faith, for they should yet see many a dreadful place ere they came home again. And then came the south wind, and drove them farther into the north, where they saw a hill all of fire, and a foul smoke and stench coming from thence, and the fire stood on each side of the hill like a wall all burning. And then one of his monks began to cry and weep full sore, and said that his end was come, and that he might abide no longer in the ship, and anon he leapt out of the ship into the sea, and then he cried and roared full piteously, cursing the time that he was born, and also father and mother that begat him, because they saw no better to his correction in his young age, for now I must go to perpetual pain. And then the saying of Saint Brandon was verified that he said to him when he entered; therefore it is good a man to do penance and forsake sin, for the hour of death is uncertain. And then anon the wind turned into the north and drove the ship into the south, which sailed seven days continually, and they came to a great rock standing in the sea, and thereon sat a naked man in full great misery and pain, for the waves of the sea had so beaten his body that all the flesh was gone off, and nothing Ieft but sinews and bare bones. And when the waves were gone, there was a canvas that hung over his head which beat his body full sore with the blowing of the wind, and also there were two ox tongues and a great stone that he sat on, which did him full great ease. And then Saint Brandon charged him to tell him what he was, and he said: My name is Judas that sold our Lord Jesu Christ for thirty pence, which sitteth here thus wretchedly, howbeit I am worthy to be in the greatest pain that is, but our Lord is so merciful that he hath rewarded me better than I have deserved, for of right my place is in the burning hell, but I am here but certain times of the year, that is, from Christmas to twelfth day, and from Easter till Whitsuntide be past, and every feastful day of our Lady, and every Saturday noon till Sunday, that evensong be done, but all other times I lie still in hell in full burning fire, with Pilate, Herod, and Caiaphas, therefore accursed be the time that ever I knew them. And then Judas prayed Saint Brandon to abide still there all that night, and that he would keep him there still, that the fiends should not fetch him to hell. And he said: With God’s help thou shalt abide here all this night; and then he asked Judas what cloth that was that hung over his head, and he said it was a cloth that he gave to a leper, which was bought with the money that he stole from our Lord when I bare his purse, wherefore it doth to me full great pain now, in beating my face with the blowing of the wind, and these two ox-tongues rhat hang here above me I gave them sometime to two priests to pray for me, them I bought with mine own money, and therefore they ease me because the fishes of the sea gnaw on them and spare me, and this stone that I sit on, lay sometime in a desolate place where it eased no man, and I took it thence and laid it in a foul way where it did much ease to them that went by that way, and therefore it easeth me now, for every good deed shall be rewarded and every evil deed shall be punished. And the Sunday, against even, there came a great multitude of fiends, blasting and roaring and bade Saint Brandon go thence that they might have their servant Judas, for we dare not come into the presence of our master but if we bring him to hell with us. And then said Saint Brandon: I let not you to do your master’s commandment, but by the power of our Lord Jesu Christ I charge you to leave him this night till to-morrow. They said: how darest thou help him that so sold his master for thirty pence to the Jews, and caused him also to die the most shameful death upon the cross? And then Saint Brandon charged the fiends by his passion that they should not noy him that night. And then the fiends went their way roaring and crying towards hell, to their master the great devil, and then Judas thanked Saint Brandon so ruthfully, that it was pity to see, and on the morn the fiends came with a horrible noise, saying that they had that night suffered great pain because they brought not Judas and said that he should sufler double pain the six days following, and they took then Judas, trembling for fear, with them to pain. And after, Saint Brandon sailed southward three days and three nights, and on the Friday they saw an island, and then Saint Brandon began to sigh, and said: I see the island wherein Saint Paul the hermit dwelleth, and hath dwelled there forty years without meat and drink ordained by man’s hand. And when they came to the land, Saint Paul came and welcomed them humbly. He was old and foregrown, so that no man might see his body, of whom Saint Brandon said weeping: Now I see a man that liveth more like an angel than a man, wherefore we wretches may be ashamed that we live not better. Then Saint Paul said to Saint Brandon: Thou art better than I, for our Lord hath showed to thee more of his privities than he hath done to me, wherefore thou oughtest to be more praised than I. To whom Saint Brandon said: We be monks, and must labour for our meat, but God hath provided for thee such meat as thou holdest thee pleased, wherefore thou art much better than I. To whom Saint Paul said: Sometime I was a monk of Saint Patrick’s Abbey in Ireland, and was warden of the place whereas men enter into Saint Patrick’s purgatory, and on a day there came one to me, and I asked him what he was, and he said: I am your abbot Patrick, and charge thee that thou depart from hence to-morn early to the seaside, and there thou shalt find a ship into which thou must enter, which God hath ordained for thee, whose will thou must accomplish. And so the next day I arose and went forth and found the ship, in which I entered, and by the purveyance of God was I brought into this island the seventh day after. And then I left the ship and went to land, and there I walked up and down a good while, and then, by the purveyance of God, there came an otter, going on his hinder feet, and brought me a flint stone and an iron to smite fire with, in his two foreclaws of his feet, and also he had about his neck great plenty of fish, which he cast down before me and went his way, and I smote fire, and made a fire of sticks, and did seethe the fish by which I lived three days, and then the otter came again and brought to me fish for other three days, and thus he hath done these fifty-one years, through the grace of God. And there was a great stone, out of which our Lord made to spring fair water, clear and sweet, whereof I drink daily, and thus have I lived one and fifty years. And I was forty years old when I came hither, and am now one hundred and eleven years old, and abide till it please our Lord to send for me, and if it pleased him I would fain be discharged of this wretched life. And then he bade Saint Brandon to take of the water of the well, and to carry into his ship: For it is time that thou depart, for thou hast a great journey to do, for thou shalt sail to an island which is forty days sailing hence, where thou shalt hold thine Easter like as thou hast done tofore, whereas the tree of birds is, and from thence thou shalt sail into the land of Behest, and shalt abide there forty days, and after return home into thy country in safety.
And then these holy men took leave each of other, and they wept both full sore, and kissed each other; and then Saint Brandon entered into his ship and sailed forty days even south in full great tempest, and on Easter even came to their procurator, which made to them good cheer as he had beforetime, and from thence they came to the great fish, whereon they said matins and mass on Easter day, and when the mass was done the fish began to move and swam forth fast into the sea, whereof the monks were sore aghast which stood upon him, for it was a great marvel to see such a fish, so great as all a country, for to swim so fast in the water, but by the will of our Lord this fish set all the monks aland in the paradise of birds, all whole and sound, and then returned to the place he came from. And then Saint Brandon and his monks thanked our Lord of their deliverance of the great fish, and kept their Easter-tide till Trinity Sunday, like as they had done beforetime, and after this they took their ship and sailed east forty days.
And at the forty days end it began to hail right fast, and therewith came a dark mist which lasted long after, which feared Saint Brandon and his monks, and they prayed to our Lord to keep and help them. And then anon came their procurator and bade them to be of good cheer, for they were come into the land of Behest. And soon after that mist passed away, and anon they saw the fairest country eastward that any man might see, and it was so clear and bright that it was a heavenly sight to behold, and all the trees were charged with ripe fruit, and herb full of flowers. In which land they walked forty days, but they could see none end of that land, and there was always day and never night, and the land temperate, ne too hot ne too cold. And at the last they came to a fair river, but they durst not go over, and there came to them a fair young man and welcomed them courteously, and called each of them by his name, and did great reverence to Saint Brandon, and said to them: Be ye now joyful, for this is the land that ye have sought, but our Lord will that ye depart hence hastily and he will show to you more of his secrets when ye come again into the sea, and our Lord will that you lade your ship with the fruit of this land, and hie you hence for ye may no longer abide here, but thou shalt sail again into thine own country, and soon after thou comest home thou shalt die. And this water that thou seest here departeth the world asunder, for on that other side of this water may no man come that is in this life, and the fruit that ye see here is alway thus ripe every time of the year, and always it is here light as ye now see, and he that keepeth our Lord’s hests at all times shall see this land ere he pass out of this world. And then Saint Brandon and his monks took of that fruit as much as they would, and also took with them great plenty of precious stones, and then took their leave, and went to ship weeping sore because they might no longer abide there. And then they took their ship and came home into Ireland in safety, whom their brethren received with great joy, giving thankings to our Lord which had kept them all those seven years from many a peril and brought them home in safety, to whom be given honour and glory, world without end. Amen. And soon after, this holy man Saint Brandon waxed feeble and sick, and had but little joy of this world, but ever after his joy and mind was in the joys of heaven. And in a sbort time after he being full of virtues, departed out of this life to everlasting life, and was worshipfully buried in a fair abbey which he himself founded, where our Lord showeth for this holy saint many fair miracles. Wherefore let us devoutly pray to this holy saint that he pray for us to our Lord that he have mercy on us, to whom be given laud and honour and empire, world without end. Amen.